Short Ribs in Green Curry Paste
The weather was strange here over the weekend (a mixture of warm in the day with cold and sometimes rainy nights). I decided to do a strange mixture of a dish to go along with that.
Braised Short Ribs (traditionally a winter dish) in a Spicy Thai Green Curry Paste (a dish I personally enjoy during the summer months).
- 6 short ribs, trimmed of all fat. Salt and Pepper, Brown well on all sides.
- Add curry paste (see below), water to just come to the tops of the ribs, cover and simmer slowly until tender (2-3 hours). Uncover and (if needed) reduce liquid until desired thickness is reached.
- Add vegetables (I used baby canned corn and straw mushrooms, just because that's what I usually do). Cook another 10 minutes.
- (Optional) Add 1 can coconut milk. Cook until warmed and reduced as needed.
Green Curry Paste
- 2 serrano or thai bird chilies, deseeded
- 4 anahiem chilies, deseeded
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1 T minced ginger
- 1 T minced garlic
- 1 T commerical curry powder
- 1 T ground cumin
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1-2 T fish sauce
- 1/2 bunch cillantro
Grind in a food processor until very smooth. I add the ingredients in the order listed and try to get a good chop before adding the liquid ingredients. I add the cillantro at the end to avoid completely destroying it.
This weekend I suddenly remembered that a had a bag of leftover Deep Fried Truffles sitting in the freezer. It's an excellent thing to realize that you can heat up a small pan of oil, pop half a dozen of them out, and 30 seconds later you have a real neat snack. Let us not talk of the hour of prep that goes into making the batch, shall we? Or of the monster from the black lagoon coating of egg, flour, and bread crumbs you end up with on your hands. Instead, let us all think of only the good things that come from molten deep fried chocolate!
This reminds me of a funny story. Melissa was over at a friends house. The friend suddenly says, "Oh! Let's make cookies!" The friend then proceeds to remove from the freezer home-made yet frozen rounds of cookie dough, all ready for the oven. All of those in attendance marvel at the idea. Cookies! Quickly! Ready when you are, right there in your own freezer. I can just see Melissa's little moue as she responds, "oh, we only have fish heads in our freezer."
Because, of course, Derrick is like all chefs. He hoards those remains of fish, meat, and even vegetables in order to make stock. One meal's fish isn't enough, so you need to freeze them until you have collected enough. And as wonderful as it can be to have fish soup prepared on a cold winter night; it's probably just not the same as ready made cookies. Even worse, if you thought about cookies and ran into the kitchen, there at eye level you would have a red snapper head confronting you.
In my mind I can just see Melissa standing before the open freezer. Sigh. Fish heads again? Darn.
I've been recently experimenting with Minor's stock base. I picked up a tub (about the size of a yogurt container) each of chicken and beef from the local Costco.
These are very concentrated bases with a minimum of salt added. You probably use 1/4 of a spoonful to make 2-3 cups of stock. The results aren't nearly as good as using homemade, obviously, but they are much better than one normally would expect. I find them useful for weeknight rice making where I'd like something more flavorful of water.
Made a mushroom gravy with a very brown roux and some of the beef base -- I was surprised how well it turned out, in a mid-west cheap steakhouse kind of way. But I'll admit that before it was done I did toss in a few cubes of my oxtail glace to give it that extra mouthfeel.
Maybe that was cheating.
There has been some speculation that 100% of cajun recipes begin with the instructions, "First, you make a roux...". It's an important part of the cuisine, and when a cajun cook says "roux" they usually mean "brown roux."
I've always been pretty lazy with my brown roux making. I usually use a higher fire under the pot than most would approve of, and the roux browns fairly quickly but unevenly. As a result, one can almost never get the dark color (mahogony or chocolate) that most of the time you want for a really rich gumbo or (as was the case last night) jambalaya.
But, for some unknown reason, I decided to keep the fire at a low to medium low, and cooked the flour out very slowly. I had some work going on in the other room, so I kept jumping back and forth to the kitchen to give the roux a stir. It takes almost 45 minutes to make a deep brown roux this way. With the low heat, you really can get it very brown without burnt spots.
To make the rest of the dish, I removed the roux from the pan and cooked down sliced smoked sausages (from the previous weekend's BBQ), diced celery, onion, and bell pepper and a bit of tomato paste. I then returned the roux to the dish, and whisked in the liquid -- 2 cups of chicken stock, 1/2 C white wine, and water to make a total of around 4 cups. Seasoning was whorchester sauce, tabasco, thyme, salt and black pepper.
I cooked the sauce/stock out for about 10-15 minutes. Roux based sauces need around 30 minutes of cooking to avoid gritty or pasty mouthfeel, and rice takes 20 minutes to cook, so I added time on the front end. Then 1 C of long grain rice went in, the cover went on, and it cooked over very low heat for the remainder of the time. I tossed in a handful of rock shrimp right at the end, they only take a minute or two.
You know what? That long cooked roux really does make a difference. Rats.
I've been messing about with various ways of cooking tri-tip. I've normally done it in a fairly basic offset cooking method -- sort of half smoked and half grilled. But I've heard some people talk about cutting steaks from the tri-tip and grilling it more like a flank steak.
Tonight, I messed about with that. I'm not sure I'm all that thrilled with the result just yet. I think I didn't have the fire high enough, and need to go for more of a medium rare instead of the (quite) rare that I normally cook my steaks to. I think lesser cuts of meat need a bit more heat to help break down the fibers.
In other 3-sided cooking news, made up a batch of chocolate scones. Cut them into traditional (triangular) wedges, but this time used cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate as I normally do. Overall, still turned out an excellent weeknight desert. I wish that I had picked up some strawberries -- which is my favorite way to serve these.
A common ingredient that I like to use in desserts is Citrus Curds. The most traditional, of course, being Lemon Curd. However, all manner of cirtus juices make curds. The method is simple, and adds a great flavor and texture to fruit based recipes. "Curd" is really sort of an unpleasant name for this dish, which is actually a very thick sweet-tart fruit filling that is very smooth with no "clumps" at all.
The basic proportions are:
- about 1/2 C citrus juice (two large lemons)
- 1 C sugar
- 3 whole eggs
- 1/8-1/4 pound butter
- zest of cirtus, if desired
(makes about 2-3 C of curd)
Combine the sugar, eggs, and juice. Whisk to combine, then place in either a heavy pan with curved sides, or (what I usually use) a large stainless steel mixing bowl. Put on a medium heat and stir continuously with a heat proof spatula, scraping the sides as you stir. When the mixture begins to steam or become obviously hot, pay extra attention. The transition from liquid to thickened sauce happens fairly quickly at this point. When thickened to a very thick sauce or very light pudding consistancy, remove from heat, and immediately add the solid butter, stirring rapidly to remove excess heat. Stir to encorporate the butter, which at the same time will cool the curd and prevent over cooking. Continue stiring until all of the butter is "melted". If using zest, add at the end and stir in. Place in a non-reactive bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and chill until needed. As the curd cools, it will become less liquid as the butter returns to a more solid phase.
You can overcook a curd and make it curdle, however the acid raises the curdling point of the eggs a fair amount which reduces this chance. The first time you make a curd you are more likely (out of fear) to undercook it rather than ruin it by overcooking. An undercooked curd is still fine, it just won't be as "solid".
I find that using a bowl directly allows easier control of the heat (here's a case where a heavy pan is a disadvantage -- as soon as I remove the bowl from the heat it begins to cool rapidly). Some recipes call for melting the butter first. Again, I add it at the end because it gives me a cold item to add to the finished curd to help lower the temperature once I think it has thickened enough.
As I mentioned, lemon is traditional. But lime, orange, grapefruit, and tangerine (which I have too many of in my yard) all make excellent curds. You can add non-citrus juice like pomegranate to change the color a bit. It is best to stick with fruits that are quite high in acid. You can make more than one and combine them in desserts -- particularlly nice in plated presentations.
What can you do with curds?
Well, one of the easiest things it to simply use it as a sauce for fruit and berries. Another excellent use is to spread it on commercial pound cake. It's not a bad topping for fruit flavored ice creams or sorbets either.
Some slightly more fancy options include using it as a filling for a baked tart shell, and then topping with additional fruit. If you have a deeper pie shell, consider whipping cream and then folding 50/50 cream and curd together to make a filling.
Going still more nuts: Baked puff pastry squares, triangles, or other interesting shapes, can be layered with the curd and fruit to make a stacked plated dessert. Surround with additional berries, top with some whipped cream, and you're impressing the neighbors!
Curds also go well with ginger or spice cakes or cookies. For breakfast, scones, pancakes, or waffles are nice if you also include fruit.
And making it all the more merry is the fact that you can keep curds for several weeks in the fridge if you keep them tightly covered.
Okay, if you are a real Indian cook, please don't read this. I'll be the first to admit that my "Indian" cooking only grazes the surface of what can be a simply incredible cuisine. But, if you (like me) are just someone trying to "follow along" you might find this interesting.
Yesterday, I BBQed some "tandorri chicken". I place that in quotes because a) I don't really know how to spice this dish properly, and b) BBQ/smoking is really no substitute for a real "tandor" cooker. I marinated the chicken in yougurt, cumin, cillantro, and a commerical "tandorri chicken" mix. The later is an easy way to get the red color, as it contains powdered food dye. If you want to be traditional, you mix the spices yourself and buy powdered red food coloring. I figure that for the casual foodie a commercial mix (I use Sharwood's) is no better or worse than adding powdered red coloring.
But for me, the real treat is the next day. My favorite "Indian" dish is "chicken tikka masala". My understanding is that this is kind-of-sort-of based on a real Indian dish known as "butter chicken." But at this point, it has become so bastardized that you really can't tell where one ends and the other begins. For me, no matter, the combination of Indian spices with a heavy cream sauce is hard to pass up. My version always starts with "tandorri chicken" that I have offset smoked on the grill. For the sauce, I use a combination of standard Indian spices "garam masala" plus lots of cumin and corriander seed. I also add any extra yougurt marginade that I used for the chicken. I heat this up in a pan with heavy cream, and cook on low heat until it has obviously become a sauce. The chicken I large dice and re-heat in the sauce. Garnish can be cillantro, cashews, both, or neither.
The reality for me is that this 2nd day dish turns out to be much better than I get at the majority of Indian places. The reason is that I'm using a slow-ish smoked chicken, which adds amazing flavors to the dish. I suspect that in India, likewise chicken tends to be cooked over wood or charcoal fired ovens, whereas here in the states the vast majority of places use gas. I don't blame my $7.95 all-you-can-eat buffet friends, mind you. I'm just saying that when I have the time to make it myself, it is one heck of a treat.
To offset the heavy cream of this dish, I also used up some cubed lamb I had in the freezer in a run towards "lamb vindaloo." Again, I'm not even close to the real thing, which has much more heat, and much more mustard components. I used the recipe you'll find first if you hit Google (ie, Google for "lamb vindaloo" and pick any of the top 20 links). It turns out to be from Esquire (1986-ish) and is an acceptable start. I didn't have any tamarinde in the house, so I swapped out some tomato paste and apricot jam. The Esquire recipe also omits potatoes (which I require in a vindallo so I added one large, diced medium, and added it 30 minutes before serving) and underestimates the cooking time for the lamb (they say 30 minutes, 1:30 is more reasonable). So, I braised the lamb for an hour, and then added diced potatoes and cooked for another 30 minutes.
The only interesting thing about this version is that it points out a basic concept for vindaloo. You slow cook onions, garlic, and ginger together to form the start of the sauce. Spanish and Mexican cooks might notice this as similar to a "sofrito" (sp?), which is a common basis for dishes from that background. It just goes to show you that nothing is new under the sun -- just about ever culture has at one time or another employeed every method.
Anyway, with a quick cookup of some basmatti rice, it was a heck of a good quick, but not really authentic, Indian meal. Let the hate-email start!
Carol made a chicken pot pie the other night and it reminded me that I didn't think I'd ever made one before. So, tonight I threw together a very unknowing pie.
For the filling I used:
- 4-5 raw skinless chicken thighs, medium cubed
- 2-3 raw skinless chicken breasts, medium cubed
- 2 carrots, small dice
- 1 stalk celery, small dice
- 8 mushrooms, thin slice
- 2 cans of commercial chicken broth (gasp!)
- 6 T butter
- 2 T flour
I ran up a quick sauce of the flour, butter, and broth and then seasoned it with pepper, sage, rosemary, thyme, and parsley. Salt wasn't needed because the broth was plenty salty. I tossed the rest of the ingredients (all raw) with the sauce in a large souffle dish. The filling was about 1.5-2 inches below the top edge.
For the crust, I used
- 2 C flour
- 1/4 butter (salted, so if using unsalted, add salt)
which I ran up in the Kitchenaid until large pebbles of butter remained and then ran in about 1/4-1/2 C cold water until it came together. I made it pretty soft rather than a "pie crust" type dough. Rolled it out to about 1/2 inch thick, and tucked the resulting disc down onto the pie. Poked 3 large holes in to let out steam and juices. Which was needed. See below.
Baked at 350 for an hour. Poured off extra liquid into a pot. Continued cooking for another 30 minutes. Removed from oven and again poured off more liquid. Reduced liquid in pot while allowing pie to cool. Dished up pie with extra gravy poured on top. I probably could have skipped this last step, but I am a complete whore when it comes to thick sauces...
The part that I think worked well was having the ingredients at small sizes, but raw, and then cooking the pie all together for a long-ish time.
Tastewise: flavorful. Chicken-y. Crust: more of a dumpling, but still very nice. Next time: either more flour or less broth in the filling. Not a bad first shot, however.
And you may ask yourself: why didn't I make this before?
I'm fiddling around with a lamb recipe right now. By fiddling I mean that I've pretty much figured it out and there's no real reason to keep making it other than the fact that I've got lamb and am hungry.
The basic lamb part is a frenched rack of lamb, seasoned with thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper and then smoked-grilled over cherry wood. The wood has a nice flavor to it, and has the added bonus of turning the exposed bones a really cool looking red-ish wood color. It's pretty much just 20-25 minutes on a medium fire, so more or less "set and forget."
Last night I made a varient in which I used an Indian flavored rub, and served the lamb with basmati rice, and a tikka masala style sauce.
With the oil leftover from yesterday's fries, I decided to make a Saint Louis specialty -- toasted raviolli. Since it was a weeknight, these happened to be purchased from a local producer, Lucca.
I made the basic marinara myself, however. And the parmesan was real. And the basil was from my garden.
Take frozen raviolli. Dip in flour. Dip in egg wash. Dip in bread crumbs (I used fresh, but dry work OK as well). Place on tray and return to freezer. When well frozen, fry in 350 degree oil until GBD (golden, brown, and delicious) -- around 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve.
Carol liked 'em. I thought I put too much bell pepper in the marinara and maybe should have made it a bit less chunky. But it certainly looked cool on the plate!
Had a great day at work, so I decided to make myself some steak and fries. I've read recently a bunch of stuff about folks using Yukon Gold potatoes for making French Fries, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
Yukon Golds are a medium-waxy potato, so they make great oven baked potatos and pretty good mashed. They also have a natural buttery flavor, so lots of people like them due to that. But, they also are too low in starch to make good fries. While they crisp up nice on the outside, they lack that nice fluffy interior that French Fries must have. So, back to Russetts for me.
The steak, on the other hand, was excellent. An Angus Rib Eye, grilled with a very heavy sea salt and a quick grind of pepper.
Served it with a hotel butter:
- whip up 1 pound of butter in a mixer then add:
- 1 fine minced shallot
- some minced chives
- some fine chopped fresh thyme
- juice of 1 lemon
Great stuff. Wrapped in plastic wrap in a log shape, it keeps in the fridge for several weeks, or can be frozen for ages. Excellent on all manner of broiled or grilled meats, baked chicken, etc. Basically an instant butter sauce any time you need it. Made it up fresh today, I'll be using it over the next few weeks.
- Leftover rice from gumbo
- Leftover rib meat from BBQ (cubed)
- Extra egg
- green onion (bias cut)
- extra carrot (small cube)
- extra celery (small cube)
- extra ginger (minced)
- some mushrooms I picked up at the store
The leftover smoked sausage from the party was combined with some of the leftover green onions and leftover bell peppers. Duck and Chicken stock were used as the base, along with a classic brown roux.
I came home early today to work on some code that required uninterupted time. While I was working I let a chicken brine (and then smoke) for dinner.
Brinning is the current technique-du-jour for the home chef, and while I've never thought that it elevated meats from normal to amazing (perhaps I've just been careful how I cooked meats always) I will admit that it helps. And it also gives you a margin of error with the cooking. And, for smoked meats that margin is handy. So, on to the chicken...
- 2 qts water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- juice of 8 tangerines (can you tell I have a tree that's making too many?)
- 6 stalks of fresh oregano (can you tell I just trimmed the herb garden?)
- 2 shots hot sauce
Spatchcock (I'm sure I'll explain that later, or google for it if you must) and brine one chicken for about 1.5-2 hours.
Prepare a BBQ with coals to the side. Add wood chunks of your choice (hickory in my case) and offset-roast (with the dark meat nearer to the fire) for a total of 1 hour 15 minutes or until done. Add wood and/or charcoal as required during this time (I did this twice, with 3-4 more chunks of wood per addition).
Serve with couscous and pine nuts.
Oh heck. I'm trying to be coy. Who am I kidding? It was freakin' amazing. The skin was a dark brown from the smoke. The meat was tender but moist, yet the skin was also crispy. There were red smoke rings in the meat, but you could taste the tagnerines and spices and oh-crap it was good!
Can you tell? It is spring in California and a young man's (yeah, right!) thoughts turn to BBQ! I'm thinkin' of havin' Carol and the kids over later this week for another run of the Recipe for 5-ways to Heck Baby Back Ribs that I'm working on. There is just about nothing I like better than to sit quietly and watch the smoke rise from the kettle and/or smoker -- knowing that in just a while I (and my honored guests) will be feasting on things most of the country can only dream about (and yeah, if you live in the BBQ-belt and get God Fearing Brisket from out-back of the local 7-11 you can just shut yo mouth :-) ).
The kids are quite the BBQ experts now, pointing out the smoke rings in the product and noting "that's not barbeque, that's grilling" at kid-inappropriate times. Heah. I've infected another generation.
I have no idea why I've been craving beans of late. But it finally got to the point that I just had to make them, even though beans are supposed to be hours worth of cooking -- and work has been recently keeping me there until close to 8 or 9 every night.
But, I remembered to start the beans soaking before leaving the house in the morning and I also remembered to make use of the most important bean-cooking tip. Use not nearly as much water to cook them as you think!
Beans are interesting in that they cook faster in less water. You have to keep them at least covered by it, of course, but in no way do you need to use a large pot. Mine got done in just over an hour!
Added some chicken stock, chilli powder, cumin, oregano, garlic, and onions to the batch. And I held off the salt until the end (this also speeds the cooking a bit). Oh yeah, and some really great chipolte salsa called "Bufalo".
I served it with homemade tortilla chips and some finely shredded very sharp cheddar cheese. Boy did it hit the spot.
As winter slowly gives way to spring, my thoughts begin to run to Sauvignon Blanc for drinking. It's a light, crisp, white wine (at least when it's the style I like best) and plays well with shellfish. Here's a rundown of the various regions and which ones I tend to have on hand.
The original is Sancerre from France. The style traditionally was tight and crisp and minerally. It also often had a "vegital" or "herbaceous" quality. The word most often used to describe it was "grassy". When taken to extremes, some said it smelled like "cat piss". The non-extreme variety is what I prefer. Unfortunately, a large number of French folk figured out that Americans prefer a most fruit-oriented taste and adjusted to produce it. One Sancerre that I regularly still buy that's fairly "old-school" is "Les Charmes" by Andre Vatane (sp?).
Californians are largely responsible for producting huge quantities of inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc of most often a citrus or other fruit flavored style. When well balanced with acid, I can drink this, but it's not my favorite. More grassy styles are often labelled "Fume Blanc" which is the same grape with a different marketting name. I enjoy the wines from Dry Creek and Murphy-Goode. The later's Fume Blanc is an especially good value. In general, I steer towards Sauvignon Blanc's from the Sonoma Valley in California. Unfortunately, the prices of all wines from this region have been inching up over the years.
New Zealand has recently been taking the Sauvignon Blanc world by storm, most notably with wines from the Marlbourgh region. Just about any Sauvignon Blanc from this region is excellent. Cloudy Bay is the landmark wine from the region and is responsible for "breaking" it in the minds of many wine writers. It's fame is starting to cause the price to creep up, however. Goldwater is another great one I'm a fan of, along with Villa Maria. Both of these are really value-priced. One interesting thing to note is that many of the New Zealand folks have started using screw-top openings for their Sauvignon Blanc. It's a low-risk approach, actually, as this wine isn't usually kept around for very long -- so while nobody really knows if screw tops are a smart idea for aging wine, it's safe here. And approximately 2% of all wine ends up being "corked" because of bad or contaminated cork closures.
South Africa also makes some very nice wines. I've become a fan of Maulderbach's (sp?) Sauvignon Blanc. It has a very distinctive label (a long vertical stripe the entire height of the bottle) and thus is easy to spot even though I can't properly spell the name. I think it's priced just a tad higher than I would ideally like -- but it's not so expensive that you shouldn't give it a try if you can find it.
So, the end of all of this explaination is that recently I've been so tired from work that when selecting between all of these excellent white wines to drink, the ones with the screwtop have been chosen more often than not because...well, they're easier to open.
As my father once said to a student in class -- "That's Pathetic!"
It was a nice day out Sunday, so while waiting for the Oscars to go on, and trying not to watch too much CNN, and observing the pool cleaner circling around, I decided to make my smoked or BBQed meatloaf.
This is a recipe that I normally use for weeknights, and make a great change from normal meatloaf. It also adds flavor to what is normally a rather sad selection of commercial meats available at a normal supermarket. And except for the cooking time -- it goes together very fast, allowing you time to clean, make sides, set the table, and monitor that pool cleaner.
- 1/2 to 2/3 beef chuck (4 lbs this time)
- 1/3 to 1/2 other meats, I used a pound of pork and a pound of lamb
- 1 C cooked rice, breadcrumbs or other binder
- 1 egg
- salt, pepper and whatever meatloaf seasonings you like
I almost alway use chuck because it has the right amount of fat in it. I've used veal, pork, lamb, dark meat chicken, turkey, and pork sausage at the other meats. For all but the sausage, I usually grind the meat myself unless I'm in a real hurry. This time, I had some leftover basmati rice, so I thought briefly about going with an Indian style flavor, but instead just used some mixed Italian seasonings that I got for free with my last Penzey's order.
After grinding, mix well to ensure combined. Form into a loaf and place in a disposable pan. I use half sheet pans, but have used pie plates for smaller sided loafs. I don't recommend using non-disposable pans as the smoke will certainly color them.
Build a medium fire on one side of your grill (I have a 22 inch Weber kettle). Once the coals have reduced, add a chunk or two of wood. Place the meatloaf in the pan on the other side of the grill. Cover. Let smoke without peeking for around half an hour, after this check the coals (adding another chunk of wood as needed) and turn the meatloaf to ensure even cooking.
I cook the meatloaf to around 160, which will carry over to 170 when removed from the grill. This is much more well done than I normally like meat, but the combination of pork and non-high quality meats make me want to do a fuller cook. This takes between 1.5 hours and two depending upon the size of the meatloaf, how hot you are running the fire, and how well cooked you decide you want to make yours.
Let rest for around 15 minutes and then slice. You should see a nice red smoke-ring on the outside.
Work has been completely kicking my butt recently. So the cooking front has been, well, face it. Pathetic. My only other excuse is this 24 pack of discount hamburger buns that I got at Smart & Final last weekend.
So this week it's been everything you could possibly imagine on a bun. Hamburger. Chicken. Turkey. Sausages. Homemade Mayo. Mustard. Cheese sauce. Egg Salad. BBQed Brisket. They've all turned out really nice and were quick to prepare. But I just can't handle even trying to write them up -- and the horror of someone needing to read it.
This weekend I'm thinking I may make a Cassoulet. I'm in need of some long slow cooked comfort food, that's for sure. I've also got some more sausages that need using up, along with some lamb. Oh, and did I mention the 10 pounds of beans that I broke down and bought at the Smart & Final?
Scouring the kitchen turned up a few items that needed using, and I was waiting on the little man to replace my hot water heater, so a one pot meal it was to be:
- 2 homemade smoked sausage links, diced
- 2 shallots, minced fine
- 1 stalk celery, minced fine
- should have had some bell pepper, but I didn't
- 1 C white rice, uncooked
- 1 1/2 C tomato puree
- 1 C beef stock
- 1/2 C white wine
- 1 tsp wochestershire sauce
- a few shots of hot sauce
- 1 tsp thyme
- salt and pepper
- 8 medium shrimp, cut into pieces and coated in cajun spice mix
I sauteed the sausage in butter, then removed it from the pan and sauteed the veg in the remaining fat. Returned the sausage to the pan and added the rice. Once fully coated in the fat, I added all of the liquid/spice ingredients and brought it to a boil. Reduced the heat to low and covered. I let it cook about 20 minutes -- the rice wasn't quite done -- then let it go another 5. Added in the shrimp, stirred, turned off the heat, recovered the pot, and let the shrimp cook in the residual heat.
I'd forgotten how nice the spice/tomato flavor works here. The tossing of the shrimp in the spice was also a good idea -- it made them taste different than the rest of the dish and stand out.
This was easily enough food for two, so I'm thinking of using the leftovers in some kind of clever stuffing. Maybe chicken so that I can have pork, shrimp, and fowl all in one handy dish.
It was that kind of week, so last night I made Buffalo Chicken Wings. Not exactly at the cutting edge of the culinary world, but there you go.
- 2 dozen defrosted chicken wings, cut into 1st and 2nd sections
Fry in deep fat until very crispy and browned -- about 10-15 minutes. While that's going on, make the sauce.
- 2 T vinegar
- 1/2 small bottle of Frank's Hot Sauce
Bring to boil in pot. Then reduce to low and add
- 1/2 stick butter
Swirl/whisk to combine, remove from heat.
Place wings in a stainless steel bowl, pour on sauce, toss to coat.
The above is the "more authentic" and also my "lazy mode" version of wings. Like I said, it was that kind of week. When I'm feeling less lazy, I usually:
- brine the wings first in a spiced brine
- coat them in a seasoned flour
- add a very small amount of BBQ sauce to the sauce, and typically make it a bit more complex with the addition of more of a variety of hot sauces.
People are scared of deep fat frying, and I'll be the first to admit that there are plenty of things about it worth being scared of. A few tips:
- Use a large pot, never fill more than half full of oil
- Have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen -- you should have one anyway!
- A combination of a brass "spider" strainer plus a coarse strainer are a great way to get things out of the oil. Dip from the oil with the first into the later, holding the whole works above to make for easy draining.
- I have 3 large (1.5 gallon) bottles of salad oil. The first is new oil. The second holds strained oil that's only been used a few times (and is labeled "FRY" on the cap). The third is used oil that I need to toss (and is labeled "DUMP"). When the third is full, I cap it with the new cap, and shift all of the oils down (DUMP get dumped, FRY becomes DUMP, what's left of the fresh bottle becomes "FRY" and the new full bottle is, well, new)
- I have a deep fat thermometer, but after a bit you get pretty good at telling oil temperature by eye. I only use it when I'm preparing a more fancy recipe that calls for exact temperatures. Frying things at the proper temperature and draining well drastically reduces the amount of oil in the final product.
I really don't fry things all that often, but it's a good cooking skill to have. You can mix up the tastes and textures of dishes by having fried components as part of them.
I've been jonesing for lamb recently, but haven't had a good excuse to cook it. A whole boneless leg of lamb is almost four pounds of meat -- and somewhat difficult to use as leftovers. But on Friday I finally gave in and made some for Carol and myself.
In a food processor combine
- 4 red jalapeno peppers
- 1 bunch green onions
- juice of two lemons
- handful of cillantro leaves
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 T curry powder
- 2 T cumin
- 2 T paprika
- 1 T tumeric
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 C plain yogurt
- 5 drops red food coloring (you can omit this, but it does give the meat that classic red color in a way that the spices alone will not do)
Blend until smooth. Should be a lurid pinkish/orange color.
Unwrap the lamb (it often comes in a mesh bag), flattening it out. Open up the interior and butterfly the meat until a more or less even thickness. Flip over to the outside and shave off the majority of the thick fat and any silverskin.
Place the lamb in a marinade for at least 30 minutes, or up to two hours. I avoid leaving it too long because the acid in the lemons and yogurt can make the meat a bit mushy. Traditionally it is often marinated overnight, but then again, traditionally the lamb is also cooked well-done.
Build a fire on one side of your grill. I used chunk charcoal plus some tabasco wood barrel shavings (no real reason for the later other than I had them to hand). You want a medium high fire.
Shake off excess marinade from lamb. Grill lamb for 5-10 minutes per side, or until you have a nice brown color. Then move the lamb to the offset side of the fire, baste with remaining marinate, cover the grill, and cook to your desired done-ness. Medium will take about 20 minutes.
To serve with this I made saffron basmati rice (which will be used with the leftover lamb to make a berriani later this week).
And, what I call "hack" nann bread. I used a commercial bread dough, which I thawed well and cut into 8 pieces. I rolled these out flat and long -- I try to get them as thin as I can. I placed them directly on a baking stone in a 450 degree oven with the convection fan going. Turned once or twice with tongs to ensure even baking over about 10 minutes.
When the bread came out of the oven, just before serving I dipped each piece that was going onto the plate in clairified butter.
Other modifications to this can include adding seasame seeds, cillantro, garlic, poppy seeds, or other kinds of nuts to the top of the bread, either just prior to baking, or added after dipping in the butter. You can also roll these ingredients into the bread (after rolling thin, add the ingredients, fold over the bread, roll thin again). If you get real carried away with the toppings, you might want to bake on a sheet pan on top of the baking stone to avoid things getting onto the stone.
The bread is much better if you make it from scratch and include yogurt in the dough, but after a long week of work the "hack" approach works out fine.
I had a pretty good day at work yesterday, so I decided to reward myself with a slightly more complex dinner than I normally would make. But none of it was very difficult because of things I keep on hand.
Sauce Chasseur is the French parallel to the Italian cacciatori and means "hunter." Traditionally the sauce or dish contains things that a hunter would find while out on the hunt:
- herbs (most often tarragon)
- wine or liquor (from his flask, I expect).
For a slightly more elegant style, I made the sauce as a reduction rather than thickening it with roux or other starch. This does require, however, homemade stock rather than canned or base-derived ones. Both contain salt which (as we shall see below) makes a straight reduction come out too salty.
A small amount of butter, chopped shallots, 4 small semi-dried shitaki mushrooms, a medium sprig of tarragon, peppercorns were heated in a small (2 1/2 C) pot. Once slightly cooked, I added about half a cup of wine, and a cup and a half of oxtail stock. Brought it to a boil, skimmed off the top and left it to simmer.
After half an hour of cooking, I strained out the liquid into a bowl, rinsed the pot, and returned the stock to it. This I left simmering and reducing. The final goal was about 4 tablespoons of sauce. You will note that I didn't add any salt -- the reduction obviously will concentrate that, so you want to leave it to the end. The other issue is that meat stocks contain salt from the meat, so they may be salty enough in heavy reductions.
While all of this was going on, an enormous potato was roasting in the oven at 375, having been poked all over with a knife and given a light coating of olive oil to make sure the skin came out crisp.
Once the potato was nearing completion (about an hour and 15 minutes) I heated up a heavy skillet with some rendered duck fat. Highest heat. Salted and peppered a 1.25 inch thick rib steak and added it to the pan. 5 minutes on side one, 4 on side two (with the heat reduced to medium at that point).
Placed the potato and steak on an extra large heavy plate, spooned the sauce around the steak, slit the potato and added a dollop of butter, salt, and pepper. I let it rest for 2 minutes before I couldn't take it any more and began to eat.
To drink, a 1999 S. Anderson Cab. It was a bit thin, so I didn't feel badly about drinking it so young.
I had a hankering for curry the other day, and more specifically coconut milk based curry. So, tonight, I made a beef curry in a Thai style. This is a quick throw together meal, except for the simmering time.
- 1 lb beef chunk, cut into 1 inch cubes
Brown these well in a 3 qt pot or pan. Meanwhile, in a food processor, grind up:
- 3 anaheim chilies, destemed and deseeded
- 2 serrano or thai "bird" chillies, tops cut off, seeds left in (I like heat, you can remove the seeds and ribs if you wish)
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1 inch cube of ginger, peeled
- handful of cillantro
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 T fish sauce
- 1 T cumin powder
- 1 T "curry powder"
- 1 T corriander powder
Blend well into a paste, then add half a cup of water and mix again until fully combined. Dump the resulting paste into the hot pan, once the meat is fully browned. Allow to sizzle for a moment, make sure the liquid level is up to at least 3/4 of the way up the meat -- covering the meat is OK. Add more water if needed.
Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pan. Let stew for 1.5 hours, or until the meat seems to be getting close to being done. Check for seasonings (mine needed some salt and more lime juice). Then add to the pot vegetables that you'd like. I used:
- 1 can mini corn (whee!), drained
- 1 can straw mushrooms, drained
- 1/2 lb fresh pea pods
Cover again and simmer until the vegetables are cooked close to your liking. Then add:
- 1 can coconut milk
Leave uncovered and let return to heat slowly. Don't boil it too briskly at this point or the fat may separate out of the coconut milk. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
I served it over basic steamed rice, and garnished the top with some more cillantro leaves. Had I been thinking when I was at the store, I'd have also used some crushed peanuts -- but I wasn't, and so I didn't.
I wrote a while back about trying out the "no cook" pasta method on my standard macaroni and cheese. My first attempt was a half-cooking approach due to fear of the unknown. It was unfounded -- raw works fine.
Last night I made my standard macaroni and cheese, with just a tad more liquid than normal. Stirred raw pasta into it (boy did it look and feel weird!), and baked as normal (I put a cover on for the first 20 minutes, but think I could have gotten away without it). The pluses are one less pot, and one less step. The only downside is that you do need to make sure the pasta is pretty well covered in sauce. The result thus went together in under 15 minutes because there was no waiting for water to boil and no waiting for the first cook time. I think I'll refine the amounts and baking time next and do a final recipe posting on the subject (I'm sure I've already worn out my welcome on this topic anyway).
To figure the amounts, I'm going to do an experiment where I cook a batch of pasta and see how much water is absorbed through normal cooking. This should give a "how much extra water to have per pound of pasta" for any given recipe. My guess is maybe half a cup of water per pound.
Tonight I made a long simmered "meat gravy" or "Italian Red Sauce." It's cold and overcast here in the Bay Area, so something warm and comforting made sense.
First, I browned:
- 2 pounds of fine chopped chuck steak "boneless short ribs"
- 2 pounsd of italian sausage, crumbled
- 1 large onion, minced fine
- 6 garlic cloves, miced fine
and then placed them in a large stock pot along with:
- 1 C red wine
- 3 medium cans tomato sauce
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 1 medium can worth of water
and then added:
- 1 bay leaf
and let it all simmer for two hours, uncovered, so that it reduced a bit as well. I hit it with a little bit of vinegar at the end to brighten up the long-cooked down flavors. Served it over rigatoni, which is still my favorite pasta after all of these years.
I did the browning using The World's Stupidest Sautee Pan (tm). I found it in my Amazon Gold Box for around $30. It's a 12 inch Emiralware pan. I needed another large pan, and figured at $30 it was worth it for an experiment -- Boy was I wrong!
It combines the worst of the two worlds of cheap and high end cookware. It has an incredibly heavy bottom of what appears to be 1/8 of an inch of copper and another 1/8 of an inch of stainless coated aluminum. This part is fine -- it does in fact heat up well and evenly distribute the heat over that part of the pan. But, having spent so much of the cost on the bottom, the sides are razor thin, plus this includes the bottom edge of the pan where it slopes upwards. It is impossible to heat the bottom to high-sautee without also scorching the sides. So, you get all of the weight of a high end pan (and it is heavy) with all of the burnt sides of a cheap one. Joe Bob says: don't check it out.
This is the third time I've attempted to use this pan, and from here on out I think I'm going to have to confine it to use as a roaster in the oven.
Yesterday I made up a batch of clam chowder. I love doing this, but it's only been recently that I started making it. I call this weeknight, but I usually make it on a weekend. It's pretty quick to go together. This time I timed myself -- 30 minutes from arriving home until things were already simmering.
- 3 strips bacon, cut into slices
- 2 small onions, minced
- 2 celery stalks, minced
I render the fat from the bacon, remove the strips from the pan and reserve. Sweat down the onions and celery in the bacon fat, then add:
- 4 T butter
- 1/2 C flour
And stir to make a roux. To this, I add:
- 1/2 C white wine
- Drained liquid from a large (3 lb) can of chopped clams (about 3 C)
- 3 C water
- 1 bay leaf
Bring up to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Adjust liquid to consistancy you like. Then add:
- 3 Large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
Cook another 20-30 minutes. Then add:
- The reserved clams from the can (I usually lightly rinse them out to try to get rid of any grit)
Cook another 5-10 minutes. (You can actually let this simmer much longer. Clams are tender when cooked just a bit, or a long time. So, either cook them short or long, but not the middle. I usually let it cook for a while to both blend the flavors and break down the potatoes a bit).
- milk or cream, about 1/2 qt
Adjust seasonings. I usually add quite a bit more black pepper, a shot of hot sauce, and some paprika. You shouldn't boil the soup after adding the dairy as it can tend to break at that point.
With the chowder I made garlic bread from softened butter creamed with two whole heads of roasted garlic, hot sauce, paprika, and black pepper. I'll often also add cheese, but decided I didn't want that combination with seafood. Spread on halfs of bread and cook in a hot oven (450) until crispy and brown.
Appropriately enough, while eating this, we were watching Bravo's "Page to Screen" and the subject movie was Jaws.
Last night I made a marinated ribeye steak. I buy ribeyes from Costco, which has pretty good meat at excellent prices. The added bonus is that they generally cut their steaks quite thick compared to most supermarkets. I look for a ribeye with a very wide portion of meat above the "eye" section. This part is very well marbelled and is claimed by some to be the best cut of meat on the entire animal.
My standard steak marinade is:
- olive oil
- fresh thyme
- lemon juice
All mashed up.
My garlic was icky looking, so I used two whole shallots, and I didn't have any lemon, so I used a splash of red wine vinegar. Wizzed the entire thing up into a paste and spread on the steak overnight.
Grilled in a grill pan to rare, hit the top with a bit of clairified butter and ate.
Today I made mac and cheese and attempted (sort of) to do the "raw pasta" approach. I say attempted because I cooked the pasta halfway (6 minutes of a recommended 12 minute cooking time) -- what can I say, I'm lame and decided not to "risk" it even though I was the only one eating it this time.
I used a ridgged shell instead of elbow, because I'm not actually that big of a fan of traditional elbow. Boiled the pasta for 6 minutes, it was still incredibly raw. Kept a coffee mug of the cooking liquid to add to the sauce.
The sauce is a standard bechamel (butter, flour, cooked in a roux, then milk added). I was a bit shy of milk, so I added some water as well. Salt, pepper, and plain old yellow mustard (maybe a tablespoon) for color and flavor. I made it slightly runnnier than I want the final pre-cooking sauce to be. This is because the cheese will thicken it up, and it will also evaporate in the oven, again, thickening it.
About third of a pound of generic swiss cheese, and almost double that of sharp cheddar, shredded. Dump that into the sauce and stir until melted. The total amount of sauce came out to just shy of two quarts (this is for a pound of pasta). When the pasta was done cooking, I drained it and added the cup of water to the sauce. The result was very runny (much more so than I normally use with slightly more fully cooked pasta).
Dumped all of the pasta and sauce into a large casserole and shook it around a bit to make sure the sauce was even. I used to be all careful about layering in the sauce, then pasta, then more sauce etc. I've since learned it doesn't make a difference. The pasta is basically swimming in sauce at this point. It looks way too wet.
Topped it all with about two cups of fresh bread crumbs. I had some leftover olive oil fugasse from the other weekend and ground that up with some parmasagn cheese. I used a hefty helping of the mixture on the top -- I love the crunchy part on top of the smooth saucy pasta! Normally I add some melted butter to the crumbs, but this bread had a good amount of oil in it already.
Baked uncovered at 350 for 30-45 minutes. Should be well browned on top and very bubbly. Pretty forgiving on the time, actually. Came out basically the way all of my mac and cheese does (ie, I think it's great) -- so next time, I'll try no boiling of the pasta.
The order I list things about is actually wrong in terms of how I make it:
- preheat oven
- boil water
- melt butter, mix in flour and make roux
- add milk, stir, let simmer, add mustard, salt, pepper
- add pasta to water
- grate cheese and add to sauce, turn off heat
- butter casserole
- grind breadcrumbs
- drain pasta saving 1 cup liquid
Total time from start to getting it in the oven was about 10 minutes.
Tonight I made one of my favorite weeknight in the winter dinners. It's quick and easy and turns out (usually) great. The "quick" part only refers to the amount of time you spend in the kitchen -- you have to start three or four hours before you eat.
I brined a chicken in about a gallon of water and a cup of kosher salt. I added some thyme and sage and other chicken-appropriate flavorings to the water. After two hours in the brine, I dried off the chicken and let the skin air dry out for another 45 minutes. Then, I coated the chicken in a layer of rendered duck fat -- actually the fat I used came off of foie gras. The chicken went onto a V-rack in a roasting pan.
While the oven was coming up to 375, I medium cubed 4 or 5 small baking potatoes and placed them in the bottom of the pan, underneath and around the chicken. Baked for around an hour and 15 minutes. Towards the end, I hit the convection switch on the oven to ensure even browning (could probably have done this sooner, and wish I had -- for this chicken, which was on the small side, I also should have roasted at a slightly higher temperature for slightly less time.).
Pulled the chicken off to rest (and drained out any juices back into the pan). I removed the V-rack from the pan and returned the roasting pan back to the oven, cranking the heat up to 450. Every few minutes I shook the pan to make sure the potatoes were browning evenly. After 5 or 10 minutes, they were done, and I pulled the pan out. I scooted the potatoes to one side of the pan, tilted the pan, and left a heavy weight on the other side to keep them draining. Let them drain while I carved the chicken. Salted the potatoes. Plated with the chicken. Ate.
There are a million variations on this one. The seasoning is one. I've done BBQish, Mexican influenced, heavy on the rosemary versions. I've put spices into the potatoes. Sometimes I make a sauce -- light brown stock, or heavy dark stock with red wine, or white wine and mustard. I've used all kinds of potatoes on the bottom. Added mushrooms to them. I don't alway have duck fat, so I've used olive oil, butter, rendered chicken fat, bacon drippings. When I'm in a hurry I only brine for 30 minutes. Sometimes I don't brine at all and just heavily salt the chicken.
The only real trick to this recipe is not stirring the potatoes while they are cooking. Halfway through the cooking they will be soft, but the outsides not yet crispy enough to keep them together. If you try to stir them at this point, they'll just mush-up.
Today was a day of cooking hacks. Lots of "meals" made with leftovers, shortcuts, and various tricks.
First off in the morning was biscuits and gravy. I had fresh sausage around, but for the gravy I used some leftover chicken gravy (which is basically all milk and cream anyway) and hit it with some extra Penzy's Black and Red to send it up into the spice area. Very quick overall, and you more or less didn't taste the sage from the chicken. Mostly.
For lunch, I took some leftover tomato sauce from the week's chicken and made a pizza/focatia. The bread was a basic quick yeast dough with a fair amount of olive oil. A thin coat of the tomato sauce, some sliced smoked beef sausages, and a sprinkling of cheese. 45 minutes in a medium oven, slice, and eat while watching Clerks. Yeah, Kevin Smith kick. There was some hours of dough rising in there someplace.
For a treat, I made Almond Brittle. Had a big sack of uncooked almonds. Mixed up a batch of sugar syrup and started cooking it off. I let it go a bit too close to hard crack (my brand new candy thermometer seems to have discharged the battery), tossed in the almonds along with some salt and baking soda (supposed to help it foam up so you can spread it) and cooked down until the sugar re-melted. Spread out on a greased sheet pan, let it set up and then cracked it into eatable bits. As I said, I went a bit too far with the inital cooking, but it was a nice dark brown and very tasty. Next time, I'll reign in that first wave.
All in all, a very nice day of "casual kitchen." The week will become more involved. I'm BBQing on Christmas Eve, and Carol is making an elaborate Coke-brined pork leg for Christmas Dinner. Should be fun and interesting.
After a very tiring morning of holiday shopping (you can't call it a day when you get it all done before 1 PM) we needed something comfortable. I sent Carol out for beer and bread and attacked the kitchen myself.
A load of fresh onions was in the pantry, and there was still plenty of oxtail stock left (before long, expect an entry "Oxtail Stock" as I replenish the supply). Sweated down the thin-sliced onions for 45 minutes, and then added white wine, about a quart and a half of the stock, salt, pepper, and thyme. Let it all cook down for another hour. When it was properly thick and very dark, it still needed some sour, so I tossed in some brandy and a dash of red wine vinegar and let them cook out for another 15 minutes.
Thin sliced the toast, broiled it in the oven with some butter and Parmigiano Reggiano on top, and served it up in huge bowls. I had two helpings. I was beat, but Carol stayed up watching Chasing Amy. I managed to catch the first part of it -- "What's a nubian?"
Wednesday is cooking night for me. And TV night (although this time of year, it's bound to be repeats). If I'm lucky I'll have available:
- Junkyard Wars
- Gilmore Girls (TiVoed from Tuesday)
- Nova (ditto)
- Good Eats (Alton Brown is my hero, check out his book I'm Just Here for the Food)
- West Wing
- South Park
And if that list doesn't show off a whore-like attitude towards television, I don't know what will.
In any case, I usually cook with the more trashy shows in the background, and sit down to watch the better fare while eating. Tonight I'm going to make an Onion Tart with some leftovers from the party, and a "weed salad" with some greens I've got hanging about. I'll probably whip up a lemon dressing for the salad, as I have a pile of leftover lemons that will go to waste unless I start using them soon.
The Onion Tart is a nice quick recipe that also looks/tastes great. It's basically one that Michel Richard (he of the late "Bistro M" in San Francisco and "Citrus" in Los Angeles. Both of which I've eaten at. Both of which are closed. Sob. If you are around Washington DC, check out his "Citronelle".) showed off in a "Cooking with Julia" show. A round of puff pastry is rolled out, and then heavily docked in the middle. Onions are diced, then sweated slowly to cook through (15-20 minutes). After cooling a bit, sour cream or creme fraiche is mixed in. Salt, pepper, thyme are the seasonings. The resulting mixture is spread on top of the tart. Blanched bacon lardons are scattered on top. Baked at 375 for about 45 minutes.
It's simple, but impressive looking. The taste is a great blend of sweet, smokey, salty, and sour. The texture has the crunch of the puff pastry and the heavy custard-like thickness of the filling. If you've got the puff pasty on hand (I do, as I made it for the party, using two pounds of Plugra butter in the process) its delightfully fast and easy to put together.
I make a vegetarian version of this using one of my neatest "food hacks". Rather than bacon, I use cold smoked red bell peppers which I then slice into thin matchsticks. They sort of channel bacon in color and flavor, without being meat.
With additional leftover chicken thighs, what better to do than fried chicken. Actually, I enjoy a whole chicken fried better. My personal two favorite parts are the top half of the breast with the wing drummette still attached, and the thigh. With just all thighs, I would have done BBQ or some sort of grilled treatment, but the weather here is still too windy and rainy to deal with that.
No buttermilk in the house, so a combination of regular milk and Tabasco, along with sage and salt to form a brine. 45 minutes in the brine, and then drained. Dredged in flour, seasoned with some of my standard BBQ rub. Held on a rack for 5 minutes, dredged again, and then fried about 12 minutes per side.
With the scrappings from the pan and some of the extra flour I made a milk gravy. But, since I've still got lots of cream, I used cream instead of milk. Guess that would be cream gravy then. Mashed potatoes, and we're good to go!
Came home from a day of Christmas and Baby Shower shopping to find little in the fridge (still). Carol was coming over for a night of DVDs and wine, so I had to throw something together.
Found some unused cherry tomatoes, leftover chopped tarragon, some dubious mushrooms, and some chicken thighs in the freezer. Hmmm. Did a long simmered tomato sauce, added some frozen homemade chicken stock, more herbs, some white wine and let it all cook down for three hours.
Super-hot sautee of the chicken, then spooned the sauce around, into the oven for ten minutes. Hey! What's this! A bunch of real Parmigiano Reggiano! Onto the top, ten more minutes. Boil some rigatoni. Plate. Eat. Not too shabby.