Monday, December 27, 2010

Chinese steamed and roasted duck

Christmas dinner was comprised of Tyler Florence’s version of Peking duck, a marvelous pilaf Peter made, and creamed mustard greens. For the duck recipe, enter the title above into Google and you’ll be taken to the link for it at the Food Network. It is a bit labor intensive, but delicious in the end. Sorry for the funky picture. I didn’t photo the duck until after dinner and had to prop up a half duck to make it look appetizing. And appetizing it was.

On a different topic, my last post – lobster mac and cheese – is about to take an interesting twist. I had a comment from one of my followers bemoaning the fact that, due to an allergy, he couldn’t make the dish for himself and his wife. On the assumption that it might be a shellfish allergy and allow for the consumption of other types of fish, it occurred to me that a cod or salmon mac and cheese might be a possibility. Then I found a 1 lb. package of frozen calamari at Safeway the other day. Calamari mac and cheese will be on its way soon!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Lobster mac and cheese

For us the holiday season is all about special meals. Christmas Eve dinner was my project: lobster mac and cheese with a side of roasted baby bok choy.

Several years ago Denver restaurateur/chef Frank Bonanno won “Top Chef” on the Food Network. He sealed the deal on the final episode by trotting out his signature lobster mac and cheese. I subsequently found two recipes via Google, both attributed to him. To my dismay, they were quite different from one another. I made this 2 times before and was never quite satisfied. So this time around I just thought and thought about it and came up with a version that was exactly what Peter and I slavered over in our minds. It’s a little unorthodix (no béchamel), but unique unto itself.

I left the claw meat intact so that I could mount it on top of the finished dish (just for fun). We found some orecchiette pasta (“little ears”) at Sunflower Market. There were no instructions about how long to cook it. I tested it earlier in the day – 15 minutes to the perfect al dente (a long time, don’t you think?).
Mascarpone brought creamy texture to this party but not much flavor. That's where the smoked mozzarella came in, adding just the right touch of cheesiness without overwhelming the lobster flavor.
Here it is:

Lobster mac and cheese
1 lobster (about 1 ½ lbs.), steamed, cooled, and meat removed
½ cup white wine
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 large shallot, minced
pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1 more tbsp butter
1/3 cup smoked mozzarella, grated
6 oz. pasta, cooked in salty water

Place the wine, vinegar, shallot, pepper, 2 tbsp butter, and cream in a large sauté pan. Bring to a simmer and let it reduce by 1/3 to ½ . Stir in the mascarpone, mozzarella and additional butter. Add the lobster meat (except the claw meat).

Try to time the cooking of the pasta so that it’s ready to spider into the sauce right at this moment. Drop the lobster claw pieces into the pasta water to warm them. Stir everything together to coat with the sauce. Serve in heated bowls and top with a piece of claw meat.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Beef "muffins" a la Stevie

I am in debted to Mary of One Perfect Bite for some advice about making a rice panade as an alternative to bread panade. Her method calls for the rice to be pureed, but I didn’t want to have to wash the food processor (lazy slut that I am), so I mashed the rice with a potato masher. It worked just fine.

I never buy ground beef at the supermarket. There are two reasons for that: first, a cheap cut of round or chuck can save some money when found in the manager’s special bin; second, there is little chance of ecoli contamination in a chunk of beef as opposed to pre-ground meat. My method is to boil some water and immerse the beef hunk in it for 30 seconds. Contamination can only exist on the surface of the meat and this defeats it entirely.

One thing about home-ground meat is that it can hold together less well when made into a burger. Therefore I’ve settled on making “muffins” instead of traditional burgers. They bake up in 15 minutes and, yeah, they’re sorta like meatloaves, but no matter, they taste great.

As for the enoki mushrooms, I used the remains of them just because they were languishing in the vegetable drawer in the fridge. Substitute any other mushrooms you may have, or just leave them out.
A word about the side dishes: broccoli roasted with some Shiaoxing rice wine, Chinese black vinegar and olive oil; and mashed potatoes with Muenster cheese (extraordinary).

Beef “muffins” a la Stevie
1 lb. beef chuck or round, any cut will do
2 tsp olive oil
2 scallions, white and greens parts finely chopped
2/3 cup enoki mushroom stems, chopped
2/3 cup cooked rice
¼ cup grated cheese, any kind you have
salt and pepper to taste

Grind the beef yourself after “purifying” it for 30 seconds in boiling water. Put it in a large bowl.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan. Add the scallions and mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool. Then add them to the beef.

Puree the rice or, as I did, smash it with a potato masher. Add it to the beef along with the cheese and salt and pepper. Roll up a 1” ball and microwave it for 20 seconds. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your taste.

Spray a muffin tin (6 holes in mine) with Pam. Divide the beef mixture equally in the muffin tin.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the muffins for 15 minutes. Let rest for 5 and then chow down.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Redemption! Pork belly redux.

A bit of patience and sensible effort has turned my sow’s ear into the proverbial silk purse. As I mentioned yesterday, by removing the shoe leather skin from the pork belly and simmering it in it’s own broth for nearly 3 hours, it transformed itself, about which Peter said, “So this is why pork belly is such a big deal”.

The photo doesn’t make it crystal clear what is pork and what is the vegetation part of the cassoulet. If you think of a clock, the long piece pointing to number 2 is pork, as is the smaller chunk at 10 o’clock. Fatty, yes. Succulent, yes. Expensive, no (just under 6 bucks for what will be 3 total dinners).

I nearly broke my arm patting myself on the back. Will I do pork belly again? Maybe, just maybe.

Success! ... and FAILURE!

My pork weekend

Let’s start with the success – pork stew. I had 1 1/3 lbs of pork cubes which I got for a song at Safeway. I don’t even remember how I made this beyond chopping onion and putting it in a pot with the pork and some guajillo peppers I ground in our spice grinder. Then added broth, salt and pepper and simmered it for about 3 hours until the pork was tender. Served over rice it was almost like a delicacy.

The more important discovery is just how amazing baby bok choy is when roasted instead of sauteed or steamed. 400 degree oven for 15 minutes coated with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and some of the guajillo chile powder. The leafy ends get crispy and melt in your mouth.

Now, FAILURE time.
I decided to try my hand at pork belly. We got a slab of it at the Asain market for only $2.18 per lb. I studied several recipes, blended ideas together, and ended up with hockey pucks of pork that would not be recommended to anyone with dentures. The skin, instead of being crispy, was like shoe leather. The meat, instead of being melt-in-your-mouth succulent, was dry and chewy. We ate some of it in the form of a cassoulet (carrot, potato, lentils, onion) and then the next day I tried to resurrect what was left by simmering it in broth for a few hours. That worked and what remains is indeed succulent. I cut off all that darned skin. I won’t give up though. There’s got to be a better way.

No picture, it’s too humiliating.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shrimp and scallop "muffins"

It was time for an Asian-inspired dinner. I love making seafood burgers. I’ve done them many times with shrimp and catfish. This time it was shrimp and scallops. Two sides dishes: rice flavored with scallion and Chinese sausage; and homemade kimchi.

The challenge with these types of fish cakes is getting a texture that will hold together well in the sauté pan. Usually chopping the fish in a food processor gets you a pretty sticky result and no egg is necessary as a binder. I didn’t want to use egg and instead baked these cakes in a muffin pan. They came out light a fluffy. With a dipping sauce of some soy sauce, Shiaoxing wine, and some wasabi, there were lovely.

If you’re interested in my kimchi, you’ll find it in this blog. As for the rice, it was simply a matter of chopping up scallion and the Chinese sausage, sautéing the rice with them in the pan in just a bit of oil for a couple of minutes, adding the liquid (half chicken stock and half water) and letting the rice cook in the normal fashion. That’s all there is to it.

So, on to the fish cakes:

Shrimp and scallop "muffins" (makes 4)
8 oz. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
8 oz. scallops
1 or 2 scallions, white and green parts chopped fine
2 tbsp unseasoned breadcrumbs
2 tbsp mayonnaise
Shiaoxing cooking wine
Soy sauce
Wasabi (to taste)

Cut the shrimp and scallops into equal-size pieces, about ½” each. Put them in the food processor with the scallions and pulse to combine. You don’t want a puree. Think of it as a fine chop along with the two elements coming together.

Put the mixture into a bowl and stir together with breadcrumbs and mayonnaise.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a muffin pan with Pam.

Divide the mixture into 4 “muffins”. Bake for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, mix together soy, wine and wasabi. Put it into a small dipping bowl.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Giant meatballs with angel hair pasta and basil pesto

What? That doesn't look like meatballs. Well, it's not. I just had to share a photo of Peter's very first souffle which he made last night using some of my wok-smoked turkey sausage, broccoli and cheese. It's a straightforward souffle recipe which you can find in a million places. Now on to the main event:

It seems odd going back and finding my own recipe for meatballs on this blog – don’t know why that is. The original was for pork meatballs. This time it was beef. But all the same flavorings worked with it.

To me the brandade is the defining ingredient. It gives the meatballs a lightness and moistness that otherwise can be elusive.

One wrinkle in my plans was getting a call to request a showing of the house from 4:30 to 5:30 last evening. But I got everything ready to go and was able to honor the request. It meant potentially having to have the meatballs in the oven when the realtor arrived. It turned out ok timewise.

I’m including one of the simplest recipes in the world, for sauté baby spinach (down below).

Giant meatballs with angel hair pasta and basil pesto
1 lb. beef chuck, home ground
3 oz. bread, cut into small pieces
3 oz. heavy cream or milk (or a combination)
2 egg yolks
3 scallions, white and green parts chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp flour
salt and pepper to taste
7 oz. angel hair pasta
parmesan cheese and parsley for garnish

Made a brandade by soaking the bread in cream and/or milk.

Place the ground meat in a large bowl and add: brandade, scallions, garlic, egg yolks, oregano, thyme, pesto, flour, and salt and pepper. Mix together thoroughly (your hands best, though messy). Form a 1” ball and microwave it for 20 seconds or so and taste it for seasonings. Adjust as desired.

Form the meat mixture into 4 balls, and refrigerate them for at least an hour to firm them up.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the meatballs on a “Pammed” cooking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and return to cooking pot. Toss with remaining basil pesto.

Serve in heated pasta bowls garnished with parmesan (to taste) and parsley. Top with the meatballs.

Simple sautéed spinach
12 oz. baby spinach
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
a few pinches each of powdered garlic and onion
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil and butter. Add spinach. Toss while it wilts. Season with onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. What could be simpler?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Four fairly fine fajitas

For years whenever I went to a Mexican restaurant I would order fajitas. I knew I was guaranteed to go home stuffed like a pig. No more. Now it’s just stuff oneself like a pig on chips and salsa before the food is even ordered.
The realization hit me that there was enough chicken, onion, some Napa cabbage, cheese and yogurt to make fajitas at home. Needed a few extra things: maybe refried beans, jalapeno, bell pepper. The jalapeno was just for me – Peter needs to avoid that kind of spice for the moment.So – quick trip to Safeway.
Four fairly fine fajitas
1 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
½ onion, cut into half moons
½ red bell pepper, cut into strips
4 oz. cabbage or lettuce, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz. leftover chicken or steak, shredded
1 can refried beans
1/2 jalapeno, cut into thin circles
½ avocado, sliced
yogurt or sour cream to garnish
4 flour tortillas
Heat the oil in a cast iron (or other heavy) skillet.Add the onions and bell pepper and cabbage (if using) and saute 3-4 minutes just to soften. Season with salt and pepper.Add the chicken and toss to heat through.Microwave the refried beans until hot.Wrap 4 tortillas in a kitchen towel and microwave for 30 seconds. Keep in the wrap until ready to assemble the fajitas at the table.Serve the chicken and veg in the skillet (on a good trivet to save your table). Assemble fajitas to taste with beans on the side and avocado and sour cream for garnish. (Or some shredded lettuce if you’re not using cabbage.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wok-smoked turkey sausage

A few years ago I saw Jacques Pepin make turkey sausage on an episode of “Emeril Live”. I think my favorite thing about it is the pistachios. This was truly an experiment to smoke the sausage instead of simmer it. Couldn’t think of any reason in the world why it wouldn’t work. With the benefit of my electronic temp probe it was easy to monitor the cooking.

Wok-smoked turkey sausage
1 lb. ground turkey (mixed white and dark meat is essential)
¼ cup fresh sage leaves,.chopped fine
¼ cup shelled pistachios
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp smoked paprika

Put everything into a large bowl and mix it thoroughly with your hands. Put it in the fridge to let the ingredients blend their flavors together. This can be an hour or two or a day. Jacques advocated storing it in the fridge for 3 days before cooking. I don’t have that much patience. Roll up a 1” ball and microwave it for 20 seconds to check for seasonings.

Form the sausage into a log and wrap it tightly with plastic. Then refrigerate.

After a day or two or three, remove the plastic. Wrap the sausage it in one layer of cheesecloth so that it will hold its shape.

Soak a large handful of woods chips in water for 30 minutes. Line your wok with 2 pieces of foil. Turn the heat to medium high (6 on my 1-10 dial). Place the turkey on a small piece of foil in a steamer basket and insert a temperature probe. Smoke the sausage for about 45 minutes, then transfer it to the 350 oven and bake until the temp 170 is reached. My electronic temp probe makes monitoring this quite easy.

Now, for those who ain’t gonna smoke this stuff, put your sausage log in a 1 gallon freezer bag and squeeze out all the air you can. Bring a large pot of water to boil, reduce to a simmer and put the bag into it. You may need to weigh it down with something to keep it submerged. Keep at a very, very slow simmer for one hour. Take it out of the water bath. Leave it undisturbed in the freezer bag and it will re-absorb some of the exuded liquid.

Now, what are you going to do with it? Beats me! It’s good for sliders, with eggs, with most anything.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Creamy puree of broccoli

Last night’s dinner was comprised of leftovers of the roasted chicken and gratin I posted yesterday. However, we had finished up the Chinese long beans, but I had a couple of broccoli crowns on hand. I am fussy about broccoli – I like it hot. For some reason broccoli doesn’t retain heat very well after cooking (steaming, e.g.). So I decided to make a creamy puree. Why? ‘Cause I had bought cream for the gratin and half of it remained in the fridge.

The result was a little soupy. Next time I won't use quite as much broth. Taste was good though.

Creamy puree of broccoli
2 medium broccoli crowns, cut into small florets
1 tbsp unsalted butter
zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch each of garlic and onion powder
salt and pepper to taste

Steam the broccoli until tender. Puree in a food processor with the chicken stock.

Place the broccoli puree in a saucepan and reheat, adding butter to melt into it.

Season with salt and pepper, onion and garlic powders and stir in the cream and orange zest.

Heat until bubbling. Then serve.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chicken - I did it my way

I posted my method of preparing a spatchcocked chicken two times before. However, there were only 2 comments. One never knows if that is because nobody read it or it just wasn’t interesting enough. But I gotta tell you, chicken prepared this way is superb. It was this recipe that got me a mention in the Denver Post (at the top of this page).

As you know I cook some esoteric things. This is down home as it gets. Just chicken with some browning and some roasting. I know you don’t want to go to the trouble of brining. But if you do it once you’ll see the benefits.

Today is a double whammy. For a side I made another potato gratin, this time with mostly sweet potato combined with some russet. A very uncomplicated concoction: 1.25 lbs. potato (2/3 sweet, 1/3 russet, slice very, very thin with a mandolin3); cheese, paprika, salt and pepper, and some parmesan to brown under the broiler at the end. Into the oven at 350 along with the chicken. The taters took about 40 minutes.

This chicken looks pretty naked.

Chicken – I did it my way
1 whole fryer chicken
10 fresh sage leaves
black pepper
dried tarragon (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Cut down the side of the backbone and remove it. Save it for stock.

Brine the bird for 3 hours in a freezer bag in a bath of 2 cups of water, 2 tbsp kosher salt (1 tbsp if using table salt.

Remove from the brine, rinse well, and dry thoroughly with paper towels.

Gently loosen the skin and insert sage leaves under it in as many areas as you can reach. Sprinkle with black pepper and paprika on both sides.

In an oven-proof skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil. When the foam subsides, lay the chicken in skin side down. Brown it for 6-8 minutes. While it’s browning, scatter some tarragon (if using) over the top. Also pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees at this time.

Turn the chicken skin side up and baste it with some of the pan juices. Put the pan in the oven and roast until the thickest part of the breast (where the wings are attached) reaches 160 degrees. Last night it took about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 10-15 minutes before carving and serving.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Posole with a side of long beans

Limerick of the day:

I’m fond of the glory of taste.
No dish that I make is in haste.
It’s all in my head;
And even when dead,
I still will sauté, fry, and baste.

We’ve been making a conscious effort to wend our way through stuff in the pantry. After all, we don’t want to have to throw out a lot of perfectly good food when we move in about 6 weeks. I’ve been aware of a bag of dried hominy in there for some time. When we acquired a tube of chorizo (the uncooked kind) a few days ago, I knew posole was the solution for using part of it.

Under other circumstances I would use canned hominy. It tastes just fine and requires much less prep work. No matter – I did the work and the result was very good.

I soaked the hominy over night, changed the water, and simmered it for about two hours to finish it off. This is a hominy-heavy version of posole. But given how fond I am of hominy, that’s just fine with me.

Had I had it, I might have added some green pepper.

Now, a word about the long beans. They are available in Asian markets and come in dark green and yellow-ish varieties. They are more or less like green beans, though with a denser texture. You can cook them just the way you would string beans, blanched and stir-fried, steamed, you name it. They are fun because of their length. They aren’t expensive at all. A welcome diversion from the every-day.

5 minutes blanched and then stir-fried in a bit of oil with salt and pepper, oregano, garlic and onion powders, and a dollop of butter at the end was perfect.

2 pasilla peppers, seeded and torn into 1” pieces
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups cooked hominy
1 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
½ medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, sliced (or to taste)
4 oz. chorizo
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
chopped cilantro, chopped onion, and more oregano for garnish

Puree the pasilla peppers with some chicken broth. Place in a pot with the rest of the broth and the hominy.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan. Add the onion and cook until softened 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add the chorizo and cook through (6-8 minutes).

Combine the chorizo mixture with the broth and hominy. Season to taste with salt, pepper and oregano. Heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate until time to reheat and serve.

In a restaurant you will be provided onion, cilantro and oregano to garnish. This is entirely up to your taste.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Angel hair pasta with calamari

So – you buy frozen squid. Now what? The only way I’ve cooked them before was fried. I decided it was time to try something new. Years ago, Peter’s mother used to send us frozen calamari pasta sauce at Christmas time. It was okay, but only okay. I like this recipe because it calls for the quick-cooking method for the squid.

The recipe comes from Epicurious, and has been modified by yours truly. I changed the type of pasta and the type of tomatoes, left out raisins (just didn’t sound good to me), left out basil (it’s so expensive in those little boxes at the supermarket), left out pine nuts. I stripped it down to just the basics: tomato sauce, squid, capers, lemon zest, and little else.

Here’s a photo of the cute little squid devils.

Angel hair pasta with calamari
14 oz. cleaned small squid, bodies and tentacles
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 14.5 oz. can Italian tomatoes
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp drained bottled capers, rinsed, patted dry, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb angel hair pasta
1 (1- by 1/2-inch) strip fresh lemon zest , finely chopped

Slice the squid tubes across into 1” pieces. If the tentacles are small, leave them whole. Otherwise cut them across in half.

Heat oil and butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add squid and sauté, stirring, 1 minute. Remove squid to a bowl.

Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, oregano and wine and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add capers and lemon zest and simmer, stirring, 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Stir in squid just before the pasta is finished cooking.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Liberally salt the water. Cook the pasta until al dente.
Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, transfer to the pan with the sauce, using tongs or a spider.

Add reserved cooking water if necessary and cook over moderately high heat, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle each portion with some olive oil and serve.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stir-fry of pork and preserved mustard tuber with rice packets in chard leaves

“Ravishing” is not a word I often use. But when I took my first bite of last night’s stir-fry of pork with preserved mustard tuber, that’s the word that leapt to mind. Inspired by a recipe in Fuchsia Dunlop’s book, “Land of Plenty”, it requires few ingredients and is super fast (once you’ve assembled the bits and pieces you need). I’m not going to post a recipe today, just wanted to share the concept: thinly sliced pork loin, mustard tuber, soy, Shiaoxing wine, scallion.

Dunlop spent years studying Chinese cooking techniques, traveling around that vast country and insinuating herself into restaurant kitchens both large and miniscule. Every one of her dishes that I’ve tried is both unique and distinct flavor and texture-wise.

My creative contribution to dinner was rice wrapped in Swiss chard. It’s supposed to be lotus leaves, but I couldn’t find them at my Asian market and ran out of time to find someone whose English would enable him/her to help me. Instead I used blanched chard. The resulting packets were somewhat delicate (requiring careful transfer from steamer to plate) but succulent nonetheless. Ingredients included enoki mushrooms, scallions, Chinese sausage, cooked rice, and some sesame oil. I would have preferred to use sticky rice, but couldn’t find any on short notice. That leaves another attempt with modified ingredients as something for another day.

Unlike the traditional rice packets served universally as part of a dim sum meal, the wrapper is edible (lotus leaf is not).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Miso noodle soup with seafood dumplings

I conjured up my own miso soup over the course of the last week. I knew I wanted fish balls. Then I found a modest package of udon noodles at my Asian market. Check! Miso I already had. Scallions I already had.

The fish “balls” turned out in the end to be more dumplings than balls. They were as light as air, but took a little creativity to prepare them. They were so delicate that the movement of even simmering soup broth threatened to cause them to disintegrate. So I put them on a baking pan and threw them under the broiler for 3-4 minutes. That firmed them up sufficiently so that they finished in the soup off the heat in just a couple of minutes.

The kombu (kelp seaweed) and bonito flakes were both present in the pantry.

So, here we go:

Miso noodle soup with seafood dumplings
4 oz. shrimp
4 oz. scallops
silken tofu (an amount in volume equal to that of the shrimp)
1-2 tsp chili/garlic paste (to taste)
4 cups water
a handful of kombu
1 cup bonito flakes
1 large or 2 medium scallions, white and green parts chopped fine
2-3 tbsp yellow miso paste
1 package (?? oz. udon noodles)

Cut the shrimp and scallops into ½” pieces. Put them in the food processor. Add the tofu and the chili paste and process nearly into a paste (a little texture is a good thing). Put a tsp worth into the microwave for 20 seconds to test for seasoning. Adjust as you see fit.

Spoon onto a lubricated piece of foil on a baking sheet. Preheat the broiler. When ready, broil the dumplings for 3-4 minutes.

Put the kombu and water into a large saucepan. Bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and remove the kombu with a slotted spoon. Add the bonito flakes and let them sit until they sink to the bottom of the pan. Strain the bonito out.

Above: the udon noodles and the dried bonito flakes.

Bring the broth back to a boil and add the udon noodles. Simmer 3 minutes. In the meantime, dissolve the miso paste in water. When the noodles are done, add miso in increments until you achieve the flavor you like. Add the dumplings and allow to sit off the heat for 3 minutes. Serve.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chipotle potato gratin

I saw a posting (whose I don’t remember) for a chipotle/adobo potato gratin a while back. Finally got around to making it on Sunday. It is a keeper. Once again I’m sharing a photo of what was left over after dinner. But you can see the browning of the cheese on top. We had enough to repeat the dinner on Monday.

The protein was lamb burgers and the vegetable was bok choy sautéed quickly in some butter and oil and dosed with a generous splash of Shiaoxing Chinese cooking wine. That’s all it took.

Chipotle potato gratin
1 lb. “new” white potatoes (or Yukon gold or russets)
3 tbsp chopped chipotle and adobo sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated cheese (we used a 4-cheese Mexican blend)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the center position.

Many people would parboil the potatoes. I chose not to. It made the baking take longer but I liked the texture of the final result.

Slice the potatoes very, very thin on a mandoline. Peel them if you wish. I didn’t wish.

Heat the oil and butter in a cast iron skillet until the butter is melted. Add half of the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, spread half of the chipotle/adobo over them. Add half of the cheese. Repeat with a second layer. Add enough cream to come just to the top of the potatoes.

Bake until the potatoes are tender, the top browned, and the cream bubbling furiously, about 50-60 minutes. If necessary, reduce the oven to 300 about half way through. I found that to be advisable.

Killer kimchi

Pictured above: the finished kimchi nestling in the souffle dish I used to cure it.

I’ve posted a kimchi recipe before. But each time I make it there is a variation or many variations. You can make it with any kind of cabbage. You can make it spicy or mild. You can make it very salty or not so salty. You can buy it already made in Asian markets. But, as usual, there is a huge satisfaction reaped by making your own.

I use a soufflé dish to cure it in. It works well with a 1 lb. hunk of cabbage. This time I actually had to set aside some of the Napa cabbage, it wouldn’t all fit in the container. I made a chili garlic sauce of my own creation. It is hot as hell, and I used it sparingly in the kim chi. The reason to make your own chili/garlic sauce is that a commercial brand may have additives that will inhibit the curing process.

Killer kimchi
1 lb. Napa cabbage
brine (3 cups water in which 2 ½ tbsp kosher salt has been dissolved)
1 carrot, grated
2 oz. grated daikon radish (or some red radishes to taste)
2 scallions, rough chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped fine
2-3 tbsp grated ginger root
1 Thai bird chili, seeded and minced
2 tbsp homemade chili/garlic sauce (recipe below)

Slice the cabbage across at about 1/4” intervals. Place in a non-reactive crock. Toss with the carrot and daikon or radish. Pout the brine over it to just cover. Fill a plastic freezer bag with enough water to allow it to spread out and completely cover the surface of the nascent kim chi. Drape a kitchen towel over the crock and put it in a warm place for 24 hours.

Drain and reserve.the brine. Mix in the scallions, garlic, ginger, Thai chili and chili/garlic sauce. Replace the water bag and set aside in a warm place. Every 24 hours press the kimchi with your (clean) hands. It will be ready to eat after 5-7 days, at which point you can put it into the fridge.

*Chili/garlic sauce
4 dried red chili peppers, seeded
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp reserved brine
1 tbsp. tomato paste

Puree all ingredients with an immersion blender. Use sparingly as it will be hot, hot, hot.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Killer" kalbi

I have had short ribs in my freezer for a month and have been slobbering over the idea of kalbi, a Korean staple. It takes some time to marinate, but is well worth it. Now, if you have a grill (and it’s not too cold to use it), go ahead and cook them on it. I don’t have a grill and used my stovetop grill pan. It worked perfectly well.

This picture (posted once before) shows the cut of these ribs. In the lower portion you can see the small oval bones. In the upper, their thinness – about1/4”. I didn't take an "after" photo, too desperate to get to the table. Just imagine browned beef ribs.

I have lost track of where this came from. My apologies to Sandy, whoever and wherever you are.

Sandy’s Killer Korean Kalbi
2 lbs. cross-cut beef short ribs
3/4 cup grated onion
2 tbsp honey

Puree the onion in a food processor until it is almost liquid. Pour the grated onion over the beef and add the honey. Turn each of the ribs so they our all coated. Let sit for 2-3 hours to tenderize the beef. Drain the rpe-marinade liquid. You don’t have to scrape off the onion solids, but just get rid of the liquid.

Second marinade
5 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp honey
4 tbsp Chinese rice wine
2 tsp sesame oil
2 scallions, green and white parts minced
4 tsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp water
1 tsp ginger, grated
½ tsp dried red pepper flakes

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, then pour over the ribs. Marinate overnight.

Preheat a stovetop grill over high. Grill the kalbi very quickly, no more than 2 minutes per side.

Serve over rice.

Our accompaniment was egg noodles with artichoke hearts, butter and lemon juice. Very simple and very good.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dirty turkey rice cakes

Ok, lousy blurry picture. I just wanted to pick my fork back up and chow down.
Every now and then you go to the kitchen and do something that justs blows you away. In this case it was a collaborative effort. Peter and I wanted to do something fun with the considerable quantity of leftover dirty rice. Rice cakes was the solution. However, sometimes things like that are apt to fall apart in a saute pan when you try to turn them over. So … we got creative.

To the rice we added: 2 eggs, chopped turkey, parsley, parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese (maybe more stuff I don’t remember).

Decided to bake the cakes. Put a piece of foil on a small cutting board, sprayed it with Pam so we could just slide them onto a baking sheet.

Set the oven to 350 and put the baking pan in to heat up while the oven did same.

Baked the cakes for 25 minutes without turning them. Wonder of wonders, they were marvelous.

The side dish of sautéed baby bok choy is something I wrote about a few days ago. The most basic recipe imaginable: 1 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp Chinese rice wine (Shiaxing). Toss the bok choy in the butter and oil for about 2 minutes. Add the wine. Keep tossing for another minute or two. Done!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey noodle soup

I don’t think I’ve ever failed to have turkey soup after Thanksgiving. It’s always different because of available ingredients. This time around there were roasted mushrooms to add to it. Other than that it was typical stuff: carrot, onion, celery, turkey (duh!), and noodles. I like the yolk-less ones. They are light and lovely. One thing about the noodles: so that they don’t absorb too much of the broth and become mushy, I cook them to order; just what I need for two servings at a time.

What you see above was a delightful Sunday lunch. Peter made a turkey waldorf salad and we plated it up side by side with some green papaya sauerkraut and sliced apple.

Turkey noodle soup
1-2 tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced thin
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and left intact
large pinches of salt and pepper to taste
½ cup mushrooms, quartered
2 cups each turkey and chicken stock
2 cups turkey, cut into 1/2” pieces
cooked egg noodles
1 tsp butter per serving

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and stock. Bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat. Let simmer 15 minutes. Add turkey meat and stir together. Remove from heat and allow to cool before refrigerating or freezing.

When ready to serve, boil the noodles in lightly salted water. Drain and place them in heated serving bowls. Add soup and mount in 1 tsp butter for each portion.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dirty rice

I have discovered two new favorite things: cooking rice with some onion and bell pepper, and a simple way to do baby bok choy. The bok choy method can be summer up in a single sentence.

Melt 2 tsp butter in 2 tsp olive oil (or vegetable oil); when hot, add the bok choy and saute a few minutes; add a generous splash of Chinese rice wine; that’s it.

In years past I have often discarded the turkey liver. Only because I had no particular use for it. This year was different. When I made giblet gravy with the heart and gizzard, I browned the liver along with them and then set it aside. My motivation? Dirty rice.

The essential ingredient for dirty rice is turkey or chicken liver. I added a bit of green pepper just to use it up. A bit of onion is nice but not required. Scallions would be good. The rice doesn’t look particularly “dirty”. It could have used 2 or 3 times as much liver. But no matter, I used what I had and the flavor was quite nice.

The protein is leftovers of the coffee-encrusted steak from a few days ago – still succulent.

Dirty rice
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp butter
¼ onion, chopped
¼ green bell pepper, diced
1 cup white rice
2 cups stock (turkey or chicken or both)
¼ cup cooked turkey or chicken liver
salt and pepper to taste
1 scallion, white and green parts, chopped fine

Heat the oil. Add onion and bell pepper and sauté over medium for 5 minutes. Stir in rice and sauté 2 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer, cover, and cook 20-25 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.

In the meantime, chop the liver into small pieces. When the rice is done, stir in the liver, season with salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasoning. Let it sit off heat for a few minutes, then serve.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Green papaya sauerkraut

What could be more NOT Thanksgiving than this. In fact I made the kraut last Thursday or Friday and it’s been “curing” ever since. I think it’s ready to eat.

I bought a green papaya when I visited my favorite Vietnamese market last week. I was going to make a traditional Thai salad with it, but the weather has been so chilly I wasn’t in the mood for it. Then I got an idea. A Google search confirmed what I suspected: you can make sauerkraut from green papaya.

With the aid of one of my favorite books, “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz, I started the sauerkraut using his simple method. I julienned the papaya with my mandoline, then layered it in a crock, sprinkling salt as I went along. To weigh it down I used a 1 gallon freezer bag filled with water. It’s been curing now for 4-5 days and is almost ready to eat. I’m thinking we’ll use it on turkey sandwiches later in the week.

There is no difference between making sauerkraut with regular green cabbage or napa except the vegetable itself. Green papaya is nice and crunchy and the crunch is retained during the curing (which is done at room temperature). This is better than any commercial sauerkraut I’ve ever had. It is infused with that wonderful quality, umami.

I’m remembering I did one thing special: I added about a half teaspoon of ground caraway seed after a couple of days.

Now, you might ask me “how much salt did you use?” Only a medium pinch on each layer. Can’t be more precise than that.

Monday, November 22, 2010

NOT tartare meatloaf

I just want to explain (I've done it before) that I feel a little guilty not reading posts about desserts (of which there have been many recently). I don't bake and I don't eat dessert. Just know that I'm still out here for all of you.

Sunday was a weird recipe day. I had some top round I thought I would turn into steak tartare. But after grinding the meat I wasn’t thrilled with its taste and texture. So I combined all the ingredients that would have accompanied the raw meat and turned it into a mini-meatloaf.

What you see is a little 3” x 4” loaf pan. I didn’t photo it after baking, I was too hungry. It was very good, if a little unusual.

The recipe called for a couple of anchovies, which I would happily have used – but I didn’t have any. To add that saltiness and umami I tossed in a couple of chopped tablespoons of Asian preserved mustard tuber.

I don’t expect any of you are going to make this, but it is kind of interesting. So, just for the record:

NOT tartare meatloaf
8 oz. ground steak (whatever cut you have)
2 tbsp chopped preserved mustard tuber
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
1 chopped scallion (green and white parts)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

Everything gets mixed together and put into a small loaf pan. Then 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven (I used our convection toaster oven) does the trick.

Fried tilapia with baked potato and edamame

(The following is in homage to Ogden Nash)

Cooking of tilapia
Is never at all sloppia.
With potato and some soy
A bounty of much joy.

Eating dinner on my own again last night lead me to an impulse menu plan. I couldn’t think what I wanted, or rather there were too many things I wanted. So I went to Safeway and spotted tilapia filets at the fish counter. Bingo. I determined to do the flour, egg and breadcrumb thing and shallow fry them. When I say shallow fry I just mean that there’s only about ¼” of oil in the pan and it doesn’t cover the top of the fish when you’re doing one side at a time.

No recipe necessary here. I got the oil screaming hot and fried the fish for 2 minutes on side one and 1 minute on side two. It was scrumptious.
My sides were the remains of a bag of edamame out of the freezer, simmered in a little water, drained, and dressed with butter, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper. No salt.

The baked potato I prepared in our convection toaster oven. 400 degrees for 1 hour. It was a white potato, not a russet and the final texture was soft and creamy as opposed to flaky. It received some butter, salt and pepper.

All in all I had one splendid feast.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Haiku ham and rice

A dangerous theme has developed here. I used to write haiku a lot. I used to write limericks a lot. I love doggerel (and dogs). I just had to look over my shoulder to see where Scooper (the King Charles Spaniel) was. He’s sacked out on a papasan chair next to me. He’s adjusting to the time change. It’s so dark by the time we finish dinner and do the dishes that his interest in an evening walk has waned. I take him out anyway – he just needs it at the age of 12+. But enough about him. Back to me.

I love those slices of ham you can find in every supermarket. You know, the oval ones with the little round bone in the middle. That’s the inspiration today.

Sometimes I just dream stuff up. It usually doesn’t result in a nightmare. In this case something unusual happened: the resulting repast tasted exactly the way I had imagined it.The onset of fall weather has me in a comfort food mode. Time for poetry.

Ham slice in baked rice
As leaves drop and wind is chilled
Eat well - take comfort

Haiku ham and rice
1 tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, cut into half moons
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
black pepper
pinch salt
pinch black pepper
½ tsp each garlic powder and onion powder (or to taste)
1 slice ham, bone and excess fat trimmed away, otherwise left whole
1 cup white rice
2 cups chicken stock

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add onion, green pepper, garlic and onion powders, pinch salt and pinch black pepper. Saute just until the onion and pepper begin to soften, 3-4 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to coat with the contents of the pan. Lay the ham slice on top. Add the stock. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cover and took 20-25 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Serve with an additional vegetable.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Haiku short rib stir-fry

Kalbi is my friend
I’d climb Mt. Fuji for it
Or have it at home

Ok, this one’s a bit complicated. So I don’t expect you to want to make it. At its heart it’s just a stir-fry – with some exotic ingredients. The picture above is the final product, still in the wok, ready to serve. The white cubes are konnyaku (more about that later). The yellow strips are bamboo pith (also, more later).

The best thing I can tell you is that I barbecued (braised) my short ribs for an hour and a half with plenty of onion, soy, Chinese cooking wine, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and other stuff I don’t even remember now.

This isn’t true kalbi (Korean short ribs), which is made by marinating the beef for a long time and grilling it for 2 minutes per side. Perhaps you’ve had it in a Korean restaurant sometime.

The noodles came from the refrigerator section of my Chinese supermarket. The package said they were suitable for lo-mein, although the noodles we typically associate with lo-mein are better.

Look closely at the picture of the (still frozen) slices of short ribs. Instead of being cut with long bones, they are cut across about ¼” thick. In the lower part of the picture you can make out the little ovals of bone along the top and middle of the meat.

Konnyaku is made from yams. It resembles tofu, but only in the way it looks. It has no taste, but absorbs flavors from everything around it, similar to what tofu does. I don’t know how to describe the texture. When you bite into it it gives some resistance, but then is soft. It’s a fun thing, though I think I won’t buy it again.

The bamboo pith: yep, it’s from bamboo, comes dried, and needs re-hydration, which is what you see it undergoing in hot water above. It’s slightly chewy and brings (like the konnyaku) only texture to the party.

On the plate you see (from the top, clockwise) scallions, garlic, grated carrot and the pith. Up in the left hand corner is the konnyaku soaking in water. It comes that way, just like tofu.

This was fun and delicious. The mise en place took a bit of time, but what else was I going to do after combing through drawers throughout the house, cleaning out crap in anticipation of our move.

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