Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Buckwheat/mushroom ravioli with oxtail ragu

I didn’t write down what I did to make mushroom filling for homemade buckwheat ravioli, but the pasta recipe is available from 2/3/10. The ragu is from 3/26/10. The combination of the two is the stuff legends are made of.

Just thought I’d post this photo for the fun of it.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Every time I make posole I do it differently. My first posole post was way back to 9/30/08. I start with a list of what I have to contribute to it. This time it was some great big pork loin chops (on the bone) that were quite fatty. Trimming the fat and cutting the meat into ½” pieces was a start.

I had 1 pasilla pepper (a dried one) and a bag of the kind of dried red peppers you see ristras made from. Instead of rehydrating the peppers, I broke them up with my hands and extracted the seeds. Then I pulverized them in our spice grinder. All I needed to buy was an Anaheim pepper and some broth.

One problem cropped up: it was spicy, perhaps too spicy for Peter – perhaps too spicy for me, although my tolerance level is pretty high. The solution: after some thought I went out and bought a second can of hominy and added some more broth. Problem solved.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ lbs cubed pork (from chops or shoulder)
½ medium onion, diced
1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and diced
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 dried pasilla pepper, seeded and pulverized in a spice grinder
2 dried red Mexican peppers, seeded and pulverized
1 & 1/2 15 oz. can hominy, white or yellow, drained and rinsed
20 oz. or more chicken stock
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano

Heat the olive oil in a good-sized pot. Add the pork and stir to prevent sticking. Cook the pork, stirring often, until most of the pink has disappeared.

Add the onion and Anaheim pepper. Add salt and pepper and saute 4 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and dried peppers and stir. Saute 2 minutes.

Add hominy, thyme and oregano. Add enough chicken stock to get the consistency you want. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a slow simmer, cover the pot and simmer slowly for 1 hour.

Check the pork for tenderness and let it go longer if you think it’s necessary. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary.

If you can make this a day ahead, that’s a good thing.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Oxtail ragu over pappardelle pasta

Peter got oxtails from the manager's special bin at Safeway. At first I thought I would make papardelle noodles from scratch, but realized I was over-extending myself in terms of available time. Called Whole Foods. They had them. Problem solved.

Oxtail ragu over pappardelle pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
3 lbs. oxtails
salt and pepper
½ onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 rib celery, diced
4 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 cup frozen peas
all-purpose flour
papardelle noodles or rice

In a large stew pot, heat the olive oil until hot.

Season oxtails well with salt and pepper. Brown them well (in batches if necessary) on all sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add more olive oil if necessary and brown the onion, carrot and celery, stirring often. Allow 15 minutes for this. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute.

Add oxtails back to the pot. Add broth. Add bay leaves, thyme and oregano. Bring to a boil. Cover and bake for 2 ½ - 3 hours until the meat is falling off the bones. This can be done a day ahead.

Skim as much of the fat off the top as possible, or let the pot come to room temperature and then refrigerate until the fat congeals. Then skim it off.

When ready to eat, remove the oxtails from the liquid and bring it to a boil. Whisk in 2 tsp flour for each cup of liquid and simmer until thickened slightly. Add peas.

When the pieces of oxtail are cool enough to handle, strip the meat from them. Return meat to the pot and heat through.
Cook pappardelle according to package directions. Ladle oxtail ragu over noodles or rice to serve.

Butter poached chicken thighs

This is not the healthiest recipe I’ve ever made, but I was in the mood for it and lazy enough to do it (it took very little attention).

We had this container of Montreal grill seasoning for chicken. It’s been in the pantry for years but still had a nice aroma. Any other seasoning a person wants is perfect to substitute. Frankly just brining and peppering would be adequate.

Butter poached chicken thighs
4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
black pepper
other seasoning you enjoy

Trim the thighs of excess fat and skin and brine them for 2-3 hours. Rinse thoroughly under cold water, dry with paper towels and set aside for 30 minutes to come to room temperature. Then season them with some pepper and other seasoning – your choice.

In a saute pan large enough to hold all 4 thighs without crowding, melt the butter in the oil over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, add the thighs skin side down. When they have browned nicely (5-6 minutes), turn them skin side up, cover the pan, reduce heat to low (you want the butter to just barely bubble), pour yourself a cocktail and go watch “Millionaire.”

Come back in 30 minutes. Make a little cut next to the bone to see if they are cooked. They probably are.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gentle pork chops

Peter got us a huge package of pork loin chops (on the bone) from the Manager’s Specials bin at Safeway the other day. They were pretty big, about ¾ lb. each and were ¾” thick. Only two of them were of a quality for serving straight up. The other four were pretty well laced with sinew and fat. I trim them off the bone and make posole or something. In the meantime, into the freezer they went.

My success at pan-frying pork chops has been variable. I thought long and hard and decided a gentle braise could be the way to go. This was a highly successful recipe. The chops were tender and juicy and very flavorful.

One odd ingredient I had was a McCormack’s mix of black and red pepper. Just use black and red separately.

Here’s an oddity: are you as unsure as am I what is meant by “medium” or “medium high” heat on your electric stove. Here’s what I’ve settled on: the dial on my stove goes from 1 to 10. 5, right at the bottom 6 o’clock position, is what I call “medium high.” 4 is my “medium” and 3 my “medium low.” It works for me.

Oh, the accompaniments were a small salad and a wedge of leftover potato galette.

Gentle pork chops
2 large bone-in pork loin chops, 3/4” thick
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
½ tsp smoked paprika (or 1 tsp sweet paprika)
black pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
1/3 cup beef stock

Trim the chops of excess fat. Brine them in 2 cups of water into which you’ve dissolved 2 tbsp kosher salt, and stirred in 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper. Put this into a zip-lock bag and refrigerate for at least 2, and better, 3 hours. Remove from the fridge, rinse very well under cold water, and set aside 30 minutes before cooking.

Sprinkle one side of each chop with paprika, black and red pepper. If using smoked paprika, only season 1 side with it, otherwise this stuff can hijack the dish. NOTE: no added salt!

Heat the oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the butter threatens to brown. Add the chops, seasoned side down. Season the up side now with paprika and/or more peppers. After 2 minutes turn the chops over. Continue sauteing for just another minute or minute and a half.

Carefully add in the beef stock, reduce heat to medium low, cover the pan and let it simmer slowly for 6-8 minutes. Check for doneness by slicing into the meat at its thickest part next to the bone. It probably needs more time. I just kept checking at 2 minutes intervals until I saw that it was only a bit pink in there.

Remove to a cutting board and cover with foil.

Raise the heat to medium high and bring the pan juices to a boil. Reduce to about 2 tbsp and drizzle over the chops to serve.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Peter's pizza

Am I gradually abdicating responsibility for this blog to my partner? No. He loves to cook as much as I do and from time to time I step aside and let him lead the way.

He’s been making pizzas for years and, in the last few years, has honed his method to perfection. I sat him down and had him recite the steps.

We’ve been using pizza dough from Sunflower Market here in Denver. It’s a fine product, fine enough in fact that we don’t even consider making our own.

I help out by getting the pizza onto the peel and into the oven and then adding ingredients to it toward the end of the cooking time. Our appetites are such that a 14” pizza divided into 4 quarters is good for two meals (sometimes with a little bit of salad, as was the case last night).

Peter’s pizza
large ball pizza dough
¼ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
14 oz. Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4” thick
2-3 oz. prosciutto, sliced thin
1 cup baby arugula
1 cup grated cheese (choose from among smoked mozzarella, goat mozzarella or fontina)

Preheat the oven with the pizza stone at the lowest position at 450 degrees for 60 minutes.

Put the dough ball in a large bowl which has been lubricated with cooking spray. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Put a 2-cup measuring cup into the microwave with 1 ½ cups of water in it. Nuke 5 ½ minutes. Quickly remove the cup of water and stick the bowl with the dough in. Leave it alone for 2-3 hours until dough has doubled in volume.

Transfer dough to floured surface and roll out to 13-14” circle. Liberally coat your pizza peel with cornmeal and transfer the dough to it. Re-roll as necessary to even out the circle. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour.

Core the tomatoes and slice them into ¼” rounds. Place them on a double thickness of paper towels and sprinkle them lightly with kosher salt. After an hour press the tops of the tomatoes with another double thickness of paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.

Stir the garlic and olive oil together in a small bowl and brush it onto the dough.

Toss the arugula with a little olive oil to keep it from burning.

Arrange tomato slices evenly over the dough. Brush them with any remaining garlic oil.
Bake for 10 ½ minutes.

Slide the pizza stone out far enough to arrange the prosciutto and cheese on the pizza. Bake for 3 ½ minutes.

Scatter the arugula over the pizza and bake for 1 minute.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

The best Reuben sandwiches you will never make

From wikipedia:

One account holds that Reuben Kulakofsky (sometimes spelled Reubin, or the last name shortened to Kay), a Lithuanian-born, Jewish grocer from Omaha, Nebraska, was the inventor, perhaps as part of a group effort by members of Kulakofsky's weekly poker game held in the Blackstone Hotel from around 1920 through 1935. The participants, who nicknamed themselves "the committee," included the hotel's owner, Charles Schimmel. The sandwich first gained local fame when Schimmel put it on the Blackstone's lunch menu, and its fame spread when a former employee of the hotel won a national contest with the recipe.
Other accounts hold that the reuben's creator was Arnold Reuben, the German-Jewish owner of the once-famous, now defunct Reuben's Delicatessen in New York, who, according to an interview with Craig Claiborne, invented the "Reuben special" around 1914.
A version of that story is related by Bernard Sobel in his book Broadway Heartbeat: Memoirs of a Press Agent and claims that the sandwich was an extemporaneous creation for Marjorie Rambeau inaugurated when the famed Broadway actress visited the Delicatessen one night when the cupboards were particularly bare. Some sources name the actress as Annette Seelos, and note that the original "Reuben special" sandwich did not contain corned beef or sauerkraut and was not grilled; still other versions give credit to Alfred Scheuing, Reuben's chef, and say he created the sandwich for Reuben's son, Arnold Jr., in the 1930s.

Recipes, recipes. So little time, so much food. I hadn’t planned to post this, but it was too good not to mention. If I seem a little smug about my homemade stuff, it’s because I am. Get some corned beef, cheese and sauerkraut from your market and these will be (almost) as good. Here in Denver we use a bread made by Udi’s. I don’t know how widely available it is, but a good rye will do just fine. Swiss cheese is as good as gruyere (gruyere being a kind of Swill cheese). Some mustard and/or horseradish instead of thousand island dressing is also a more than suitable substitute.

The best Reuben sandwiches you will never make
4 slices of your favorite bread
6 slices gruyere cheese
homemade thousand island dressing
homemade corned beef
homemade sauerkraut

Slather one side of the bread with dressing. Add some cheese. Add corned beef. Add sauerkraut. Top with a bit more cheese.

Heat your griddle. Use a stick of butter to grease it. Lay on the sandwiches. Cover with foil and weight with a teakettle. Cook 4 minutes. Turn, add more butter, flip the ‘wiches and cook 3 more minutes.

Peter's gorgonzola gnocchi

It’s Peter’s turn to shine, and shine he did with this amazing recipe! Sometime in the last few years we came across shelf-stable gnocchi in the pasta aisle. They’re not as good as homemade, but such a convenience that we’ve been happy with the compromise.

There is something incomparable about sitting down to a meal where you can’t stop going “ooh” and “ahh.” And then later in the evening you think back on it and say that out loud all over again. That’s how good this was (and is – we’re eating a second helping of the gnocchi tonight).

Gnocchi with bacon, spinach and gorgonzola

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

In a saute pan, heat (over medium) 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter.

Add: 2 slices thick-cut bacon which has been diced. Cook 5 minutes.

Add: ½ medium onion, thin-sliced. Cook 3 minutes.

Add: 2 large cloves minced garlic (or to taste). Cook 1 minute.

Add: 10 oz. IQF spinach (individually quick-frozen) which has been thawed and squeezed to get rid of as much water as possible.

Add: 8 oz. heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste, ½ tsp nutmeg, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Reduce heat and simmer a few minutes.

In another sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil until the butter is melted.

Add: ¼ cup homemade bread crumbs. Saute for a few minutes while the sauce finishes cooking.

When you think you’re about 4 minutes away from being done with the sauce, heavily salt the pot of water, toss in the gnocchi and boil until they float to the surface (3-4 minutes).

Remove sauce from the heat and stir in 4 oz. crumbled gorgonzola.

Use a spider to ladle the gnocchi into the sauce. If sauce seems to thick, add a bit of the gnocchi water. Toss well to coat and serve in heated bowls and topped with sautéed bread crumbs.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Melange rules the day

Yesterday I made another version of choucroute garni. Peter had picked up two different sausages, Johnsonville brats and Boulder (CO) breakfast sausages. We did a major shopping excursion and stocked up on necessities for the next week’s menus. We had leftover homemade sauerkraut and were saving the homemade corned beef for lunch today: Reuben sandwiches.

I could have titled this posting “The best choucroute you will never make,” simply because nobody else has exactly the same stuff in the fridge. Here’s how it came together.

I boiled red potatoes and carrots until tender. I braised 4 brats and 3 breakfast links along with some fresh, finely sliced cabbage. I threw in salt and pepper and some ground caraway seed. When the potatoes and carrots were done, I combined them with the sausage, topped the whole thing with some homemade sauerkraut, and let everything merge and meld. We nearly wet ourselves when we started sucking up this succulent mix, accompanied by some coarse-grain mustard as a condiment.

Why am I writing about this without a recipe? It’s “ideas” my friends. It’s all about ideas.

By the way, the artisanal sausage from Boulder was way less flavorful than the Johnsonville brats. Chemicals be damned. Sometimes it’s about the taste! We ate far more than we intended and have slotted in Monday’s dinner to polish off the rest (and there’s still a lot of it). Buon appetito!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

St. Pat's Day dinner

Having made my corned beef from a 7-bone chuck steak, it wasn’t very thick. I had to monitor the slow cooking so as not to overdo it. Turns out, unlike a piece of brisket which would have required maybe 3 hours, it needed only 1 1/2 hours to braise.

My homemade sauerkraut (cabbage plus some turnip) is a brand new flavor for me. I’m sure some would consider it too sour. Not I (said the little red hen). That book I keep referring to (“Wild Fermentation”) includes a recipe for sauerreuben, basically sauerkraut made entirely with turnips. Wow!

Potatoes, olive oil, butter, salt and pepper. That's all you need to make this beautiful galette. Melt the butter in a non-stick pan. Take it off the heat and spread the butter around cover the bottom. Use a mandoline and slice a large russett potato as thin as possible. Starting in the middle arrange the slices in an overlapping circle, using all the potato.
Put the pan back on the heat and turn it on to medium. Cook until the bottom is well-browned (maybe 10 minutes - careful not to let it burn). Shake the pan occasionally to keep the "rosette" loose from the bottom. When browned, slide out onto a plate. Melt more butter in the pan. Use a second plate to turn the galette over then slide it back into the pan and cook until the second side looks like the above photo and a knife slides easily into the thickest part. Fabulous and simple dish!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nothing special today

No recipe today – we’re eating leftovers for lunch and dinner. I’m working on plans for St. Patrick’s Day dinner which will include homemade corned beef, homemade sauerkraut and a potato galette. I look forward to sharing some pictures with you on Thursday.

Corned beef and sauerkraut turn out to be incredibly easy to make. I am making the corned beef, not from the traditional brisket, but from a 7-bone chuck steak. It takes only a few minutes preparation, 5 days in the fridge, and then some slow cooking on the next day’s afternoon. I’ve used various cuts of beef for this, though never this one. I optimistic that it will turn out well. If you’re interested, there’s a link on my 8/05/09 post.

Sauerkraut takes 10 minutes to prepare and several days to cure. The wrinkle this time is that (thanks to suggestions from the book “Wild Fermentation”) is the additional of some grated turnip. My post of 2/22/10 gives the recipe. The only difference here is the addition of the turnip.

I was surprised to learn from the proprietor of Denver’s St. Killian’s Cheese Shop (he’s Irish) that he doesn’t eat corned beef and didn’t have it while growing up in the old sod. It actually didn’t originate in Ireland. Who knew?

The galette will be very basic and traditional. I’ll take lots of photos. Til later…

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pork and black bean tacos

I had about 5 oz. of boneless pork country rib meat left over from another application. I’d been thinking about making gorditas (Mexican sandwiches. When I finished cooking the cubes of pork I turned it into, I had one basic problem. I feared that if I kept reducing the liquid in the pan it might intensify its spiciness to far. Then the 5 watt bulb went off in my head. Sandy had given me some of her prepared-from-scratch black beans. I did the step below of adding them to the pork. After they were mashed and simmered for a bit, the liquid thickened perfectly and the beans add a depth of flavor I didn’t even know was missing.

Please bear in mind that I brine all pork before cooking. I’ve posted about that and won’t do so again here. After brining and then rinsing I do not add more salt.

Now, about the gorditas. I have masa (corn flour) in the pantry. I tried making gorditas quite a while ago. Tried again this time – with not great results. So forget about that and just make tacos with this filling.

For the pork::
1 dried pasilla pepper
1 dried Mexican red chili pepper
5 oz. lean boneless pork, cut into 1” cubes
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
½ cup chicken stock
1 cup cooked black beans (2/3 of a 14-15 oz. can, rinsed)
Store-bought corn or flour tortillas
Chopped lettuce (any kind)
Grated cheese

Chopped tomato (optional)
Avocado (optional)

Remove the seeds and stems from the peppers and soak them in just enough hot tap water to cover for 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree them.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork. Brown slightly (about 5 minutes), stirring every minute or so then reduce heat to medium. Add pureed peppers with their liquid and the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat until the pork is tender (about 10 minutes).

Push the pork to the side of the pan. Add the beans and mash with a potato masher. Stir and bring back to a low simmer. The beans will thicken the dish in about 10 minutes. If there is too little liquid when you get to this step, add a bit more chicken stock.

To assemble:
Heat a griddle. Spray tortillas very lightly with cooking spray. When the griddle is hot, toss on the tortillas for just 1 minute per side.

Transfer to cutting board. Stuff with lettuce, cheese, pork, and avocado and tomato (if using). That’s all there is to it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Braised chicken drumsticks

We hadn’t eaten chicken for a couple of weeks. Don’t know why, just were into other things. I got a package of 6 legs yesterday for about $3. Seemed like a good deal. I decided to try a new cooking method – well, not new, just new to me: braising on the stovetop.

Braised chicken drumsticks
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
6 chicken legs, brined for several hours*
Chicken broth, enough to come halfway up the legs in a sauté pan
Montreal grill seasoning for chicken (or other seasoning you may have)
Pepper to taste

Heat the oil and butter in a sauté pan large enough to hold the legs without crowding too much. When the butter has melted add the drumsticks and brown all over, a total of about 6 minutes..

Add broth, seasoning and pepper to taste. (If you’ve brined the legs, don’t add more salt.) Bring to a simmer, cover and cook about 20 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a knife in the thickest part of the meat. If the juices run clear, they are done.

*To brine: dissolve 2 tbsp kosher salt in 2 cups of water; stir in 1 tbsp cracked black peppercorns. Place in a ziplock bag and then into a bowl to prevent leakage from doing any damage. 1 hour can be sufficient, but I like to go 3 hours or so and then not add salt. Before cooking, rinse them well and dry with paper towels.

A soup

Here’s another soup composed partly of leftovers and additions to round it out. As my e-mail pen-pal, Jen, put it, recipes are about “ideas.” Couldn’t agree more. Visit Jen’s blog; a link is just above this paragraph.

I would make a bet with anyone who cooks regularly that I could rummage through his/her fridge and freezer and find the basics for a soup. I mean, gosh, can’t you make a soup out of almost anything?

Ham and black bean soup
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ medium onion, diced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
Leftover black beans plus a 14.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 oz. hickory smoked ham, diced
1 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
2 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
1 dried pasilla pepper
½ Serrano pepper (or jalapeno), seeded and minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp smoked Spanish paprika

Remove the seeds from the pasilla pepper and reconstitute it in hot tap water for 30 minutes. Put it in your food processor with 1/8 cup of the beans and enough chicken stock to form a puree. (The pureed beans will lend texture to the soup.)

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. When hot add onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, stir, and sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes and stock and tortillas. Simmer until the tortillas dissolve.

Add all remaining ingredients including the pepper/bean puree, and simmer for 10 minutes. Eat. A nice hunk of crusty bread would be fun with this.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sandy's green chili

Introducing my friend Sandy. The last couple of New Year’s Days Sandy has brought a sample of her green chili for Peter and me to share. It’s very, very good, and after the most recent sample I suggested to her that I feature her on this blog.

Chili, like so many other dishes, is made a thousand different ways. I have my way, you have your way. This is Sandy’s way, although it came from a Hispanic school principal she worked for about 10 years ago. Sandy’s green chili has evolved, the inevitable consequence of not having a written-down recipe. Originally beans were not included. At some point potatoes were included, in the style of a green chili stew.

What Sandy put together this morning (with a minimal amount of assistance from me) included beans, in deference to the fact that I told her I had added some leftover beans to the chili she gave me this past January.

I certainly don’t expect you to follow this recipe – you can, and should, modify, expand, or ignore it all together.

So here it is, my first guest chef on theobsessivechef.

Sandy’s green chili
3 lbs. pork tenderloin, cut into 1” cubes
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
10 tomatillos
4 cups finely chopped Hatch chilis, seeded and skinned of course
28 oz. can of Rotel spiced chopped tomatoes
1 ½ cups cooked black beans, from scratch with garlic, onions and Hatch chilis (or use a can of beans)
salt to taste
water as needed

Put the pork into a large stewpot – no oil necessary – with the garlic. Add a small amount of water. Stir periodically and when the water disappears add some more. Do this 5 times until the pork is largely cooked through.

In the meantime, boil the tomatillos in just enough water to barely cover them until they soften and are ready to fall apart. Drain them of most of the water and mash with a potato masher until nearly pureed. (I would think one could do this in a food processor.)

Combine the tomatillos with the pork, add the tomatoes and Hatch chilis, barely cover with water, and simmer for maybe an hour until the pork is tender. Stir in the beans and add salt to taste.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cold oil French fries

I prefer to post recipes that are my own creation. However, this one is worth sharing. When Peter and I saw this in our Cook’s Illustrated last summer we really wanted to try it. I kept putting it off. However, when we did fried squid for sandwiches (my post of 3/2/10), I cut up a potato and fried it in the used oil thinking that I could remove any fishy taste. The potato came out great and there was not a trace of fish taste. We ate it all. I strained the oil through cheesecloth and kept in cold (out on the porch) for a few days until we decided to try these fries last night.

I could have let them cook a few more minutes, but when I thought they were done I drained and salted them. They were soft/crispy and we were very happy with them. I’m still saving the oil and we will make them again real soon. Incidentally, the little ramekin next to the plate (which also includes our boned Cornish hens – posted today) contains homemade kimchi. I’ll be posting that today.

Easier French Fries

From Cook's Illustrated August 2009

2 1/2 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes (about 6 medium), scrubbed, dried, sides squared off, and cut length-wise in 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch batons (strips)

6 cups vegetable oil

1/4 cup bacon fat, strained, optional

Kosher Salt

1. Combine potatoes, oil, and bacon fat (if using) in large Dutch oven. Cook over high heat until oil has reached rolling boil, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, without stirring, until potatoes are limp but exteriors are beginning to firm, about 15 minutes2. Using tongs, stir potatoes, gently scraping up any that stick, and continue to cook, stirring ocacasionally, until golden and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Using skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer fries to thick paper bag or paper towels. Season with salt and serve immediately.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Baked kale, sausage and mozzarella pasta

If you don’t subscribe to, think about doing so. They send me a recipe every day – every now and then it inspires me. This one did so. Initially I completely rewrote it. Then, in the end, I went back to it and did an adaptation. The changes? I added Italian sausage, used canned tomatoes instead of fresh, my pasta is different, and because our neighborhood supermarket doesn’t carry radicchio or treviso, I used kale.

Strozzapreti is not easy to find. It’s also not easy to describe. Imagine 2” long x 1” side rectangles which have been twisted into almost a tubular shape. It’s a nice dense pasta which held up perfectly to the pre-cooking and then the baking. Use penne rigate or ziti as did the chow folks. Oh, I also used 2 tbsp olive oil instead of the butter their recipe called for. This casserole is a huge amount of food for Peter and me, probably enough for 4 dinners, but we’ll lunch off it over the next several days.

Baked kale, sausage and mozzarella pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced find
½ medium onion, small dice
3 Italian sausages, spicy or mild, casings removed and chopped up
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, broken up with your hands
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
½ cup heavy cream
salt and red pepper flakes to taste
1 pound strozzapreti, penne rigate (ridged) or ziti
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, in 1/4” dice
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange a rack in the upper third. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a healthy dose of salt and cook the pasta for ½ the time indicated on the package. Drain but do not rinse.

Heat the oil in the pot you cooked the pasta in over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic and sausage and sauté until the sausage is cooked through, stirring occasionally (about 7-8 minutes). Season with salt and red pepper flakes.

Add tomatoes and their juice and kale and simmer until the kale has wilted (8-10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Stir in the cream, taste for seasoning and adjust. Add the pasta and toss to combine thoroughly.

Transfer to a 9” x 13” baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 10 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle both cheeses on top and bake uncovered for 10 more minutes until cheeses are melting and the casserole is bubbling. Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Yakisoba with duck and zucchini

Mark Bittman writes “The Minimalist” column for Wednesday’s NY Times Dining section. More often than not the recipes he posts are interesting. We’ve tried a number of them, always with happy results.

This one (which Peter and I adapted in order to use ingredients on hand) is so, so easy. Bittman actually encourages variations on the theme. Our duck breast (see post of 3/4/10) was copious enough to allow for plenty of leftovers to incorporate in our version. Any protein you have should work with this.

The noodles we had were from packages of ramen.

Yakisoba with duck and zucchini
1 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp mirin
Tabasco sauce, a few drops to taste
2 packages ramen noodles, cooked according to package directions; save or discard flavor packets
2 tsp sesame oil
1 ½ tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp minced ginger root
1 small zucchini, cut into matchsticks
2 cups hearts of romaine, roughly chopped
3 oz. duck breast, already cooked and thinly sliced (substitute chicken, beef, shrimp, etc.)
scallions for garnish, green and white parts

Stir together in a small bowl ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mirin and Tabasco.

After cooking the ramen, rinse the noodles under cold water, drain and toss with sesame oil. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add zucchini and romaine and stir; sprinkle with salt. Cook 1-2 minutes until the romaine has wilted slightly. Add noodles, sauce and duck and stir until everything is warmed through.

Serve with chopped scallions for garnish.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pan roasted duck breasts

I will take no credit for inventing this recipe. We had 2 duck breasts (“purchased” with my aforementioned upscale market gift card) which thawed overnight in the fridge. I acquired the recipe from FoodNetwork. I felt I needed a basic guide to the timing of the 3 steps involved. I made duck breasts quite some time ago and understood the technique.

I’m posting this in part because of how beautiful they look (not to mention how wonderful they tasted). Duck breasts aren’t cheap. Ours (had we paid for them) would have cost us $17.91! However, a special occasion calls for a special meal. I assure you you’ll pay through the nose at a restaurant for duck breast. And the preparation is so easy.

Another issue is leftovers. Peter and I both eat less than we used to (I am of a certain age after all) and if I have duck to save for another day, there is always the possibility of a sandwich, or a hash.

A word about the picture: I almost forgot to take it until I was well into the duck...yum. Accompaniments were smashed potatoes with bleu cheese and mushroom gravy and creamed turnip greens.

Pan roasted duck breasts (2 servings)
2 Muscovy duck breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

With a sharp knife score the fat of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern. Season the duck with salt and pepper. Warm a heavy bottomed ovenproof skillet over medium heat.

Place the duck breasts, fat side down, in the skillet to render off the fat, about 6 minutes. Reserve rendered duck fat.

Turn the duck breasts over and sear for 1 minute.

Turn the fat side down again and place the skillet into the oven to roast for 7 to 9 minutes, until breasts are medium rare. Let the duck breasts rest for 5 minutes then thinly slice.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Calves liver with onions and bacon

Not for everyone, calves liver with onions and bacon can be a wondrous thing. The liver came frozen in a 1 lb. package. The problem is that when you open the package the ¼” slices (4) are very delicate. It was tough getting them rinsed and dried, but once they went into the frying pan my troubles were over.

My apologies for the picture being a bit blurry. I was in a hurry to sit down and enjoy my repast.

The accompaniments are creamed turnip greens (blog post 2/21/10) and shiitake mushrooms and brown basmati rice (Peter’s contribution).

Calves liver with onions and bacon (2 servings)
½ medium onion, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 strips thick-cut bacon
8 oz. calves liver, carefully rinsed and dried on paper towels
salt and pepper to taste

Caramelize the onions in the oil and butter (this will take nearly 30 minutes). Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper while they cook.

In a non-stick sauté pan, fry the bacon to your desired degree of doneness. Remove and drain on a paper towel.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on the top of the liver slices. Invert them into the bacon pan in the bacon fat and then season the top sides. Keep the heat at medium high. Fry the liver for no more than 1 ½ minutes. Turn and fry another 1 ½ minutes. Serve immediately topped with onions and the bacon.

Squid roll sandwiches

I was reading a memoir (titled "Eating") by Jason Epstein the other day and when I got to his recipe for lobster rolls I went Bingo! See, we’ve had a package of little frozen squid I got at one of our Asian markets a while back. They were pretty cheap and there were enough of them to make four squid rolls.

They are really easy to fry. The only thing I don’t like about deep-frying fish is that the oil is only good for fish afterwards. However, by storing the oil outside (it’s plenty cold enough here) overnight, we were able to have these for two lunches.

Peter made a lovely dressing for the sandwiches. It’s a little tartar sauce-like in that it’s has some dill pickle in it. Anyone should be able to come with some stuff to mix with mayo to make a good sauce. Some catsup, or some mustard, or some horseradish – be inventive.

The only other thing that goes into these is some lettuce – romaine in our case.

Squid roll sandwiches (4 servings)
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
2 tbsp dried basil or parsley
14 – 16 oz. baby squid, cleaned
Finely ground sea salt
Vegetable oil, enough for 3” in a pot suitable for deep-frying
1 baguette or other sandwich rolls
Your favorite mayo-based condiment
Romaine lettuce leaves

Heat the oil to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal and dried herbs.

Cut the bodies of the squid into 1/2:” rings, leaving the tentacles whole. Divide the squid into 4 equal portions. Work with 1 portion at a time.

Dredge the squid in the dry ingredients and shake off the excess. Carefully place the squid in the oil. Fry for 1 minute 15 seconds only. Immediately fish them (pun intended) out with a spider and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with sea salt (to taste).

It’s helps to have someone else to assemble the sandwiches so you can concentrate on the squid. Repeat with the other 3 portions of squid.

Sandwich assembly. If using a baguette (you could use hotdog rolls, of course), cut it into four pieces and slice open leaving a “hinge” on one side. We like to pull out some of the soft interior. Slather with your condiment, add a romaine lettuce leaf and pack in the squid. That’s it!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Choucroute garni

I could barely wait for my homemade sauerkraut to be ready. I gave it 10 days (the last 3 in the fridge) and then plunged in to this recipe. I kept it very simple. Few ingredients and a relatively short prep. Assuming you will be buying sauerkraut instead of making it, don’t buy it in a can off the shelf. Your supermarket should have some in bags in the refrigerated pickle area.

Also, don’t rinse it – the whole flavor profile for this dish comes from the briny liquid.

Choucroute garni
4 medium red potatoes, quartered
2 large or 4 medium carrots, cut into 2” pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
½ medium onion, sliced
4 of your favorite sausages (brats are good, but Italian are not)
salt and black pepper to taste
20 oz. sauerkraut
Chicken stock if necessary
Grainy mustard and/or prepared horseradish as garnish
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with the potatoes and carrots in it. Parboil the veg for 8 minutes over medium heat. Drain and set aside.

In the meantime heat oil and butter in a pot large enough to hold veg and sausages in (nearly) a single layer. Saute the onion and sausages for about 5 minutes, turning the sausages so that they get some color on all sides.

Nestle the carrots and potatoes into the pan, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and top with the sauerkraut and its brine. Add enough stock so that there’s about ½” liquid in the pan.

Bring to a simmer, cover the pan, and go away for 30 minutes. The potatoes and carrots should now be tender. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool completely. When it’s time to eat, reheat the casserole over medium heat. You certainly can eat it right away, but the flavors will develop better if it can sit. Make it day ahead and refrigerate overnight if you wish.

Serve with grainy mustard and/or prepared horseradish on the side.

Sauerkraut and duck bisque

At first blush this might sound bizarre. But with some leftovers of choucroute garni, to take care of, this idea popped into my head. I probably should have labeled this in my category of "you will never make."

So that I don’t have to keep typing that French name, I’ll refer to this as a casserole. Mine included sausages, potatoes, carrots, onions, and, obviously, sauerkraut.

Pull out all of the sauerkrant and finely chop it. Put the vegetation, along with the liquid, into a food processor and puree. If you need more liquid, add some chicken stock. Put the puree and the sauerkraut back in the pan, heat it through and taste for seasonings. That’s all there is to it.

A word about sauerkraut: mine was homemade, not something that everyone is going to bother with. Don’t buy sauerkraut in a can off the shelf. Rather, get some in the refrigerator section. It usually comes in a plastic bag. Next tip: don’t rinse it unless you feel you must. Rinsing will remove a great deal of the flavor and the juice the sauerkraut’s in is the primary flavoring of the casserole.

I had 3 oz. of duck breast left from 2 days ago. I sliced in thin and, so that it would stay pink in the center, put the slices in the bottom of heated serving bowls before pouring the bisque over them.

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