Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Sunday Dessert: Stewed Dried Fruit

I had a craving for something like this, but last time I tried something similar I used too many different kinds of fruit/the wrong kinds of fruit and the results were less than pleasing. This time I simplified:

Dried prunes, sliced
Dried berries (I have a package with a mixture of dried cherries, strawberries, cranberries, and blueberries)
Frozen peaches, chopped
ground cinnamon
fresh ginger, minced
Apple juice

Combine the fruit and spices in a bowl. Get the apple juice hot and pour it in. Add enough hot water to cover the fuit.
Allow things to sit for an hour or so, then bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes.
Serve over ice cream.

Sunday Night Dinner: Leftover Turkey with Mole Sauce

We had this Sunday night and served it with blackeyed peas and rice and a salad.

I threw the mole together Sunday morning and then let it sit for the rest of the day so that the flavors could meld. It's easy to assemble, but the part where you toast the chilis will fill your house with tear gas... you have been warned. :-)

The Mole
1 package each dried Pasilla, Guajillo, New Mexico, and Chipotle chilis
2 Tbs each cumin, coriander
3 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1-2 tsp ground oregano
2 Tbs each sweetened hot chocolate, unsweetened cocoa
manteca de color (a few Tbs)

Toast the chilis in a dry skillet in batches, then remove the stems and seeds. Toss the chilis in 1/2-1 cup of hot water, cover and let sit, stirring occasionally, until they are soft.
Toast the seeds and cinnamon in a dry skillet, then transfer to a blender and blend until powdered.
Add the rehydrated chilis and soaking water, the manteca and enough additional water to allow the blender to work. You want a thick paste.
Add the oregano, chocolate, and cocoa and stir well.
Allow the mole to stand for a while so the flavors can blend.

The Mole Sauce
1/2 c. mole
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, medium dice
1/2 c. red wine
2 Tbs dark soy sauce
Chicken stock

Combine the first five ingredients in a sauce pan and add enough of the stock to make a thick sauce. Cook over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes.

Leftover Turkey in Mole Sauce
Add chunks of leftover turkey to the mole sauce and cook over medium-low heat until the turkey is warmed through. Stir in a couple Tbs of sour cream and serve immediately.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Saturday Night: Thai Ginger Pork

Andrea requested something Asian, so here we go. :-)

The recipe was derived from the gai pad khing recipe in the Thai cookbook ("Muoi Khuntilanont's Thai Kitchen", http://www.makantime.com/muoi.htm is the best URL I can find for this now, it's been stable for a few years and isn't formatted too badly), but I used pork "sirloin" instead of chicken. The only real change I made was to freshen things up by adding a slug of microplane-grated ginger to each bowl just before serving.

Friday Night: Soup and Salad

It seemed like a good idea to have something relatively light that wasn't turkey on Friday, so we did soup and salad.

For the soup, I used up the last of the butternut squash that I had frozen and made Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Glazed Chestnuts (from FStoS). Instead of using creme fraiche, I used up the last of the buttermilk I had in the fridge. I'll have to try this recipe sometime "the right way", but the buttermilk was definitely a nice touch (and had the advantage of keeping things from getting out-of-control rich). The chestnuts were really tasty, and a nice touch, but they didn't really get tender like they were supposed to. Ah well...

Thanksgiving Wrapup

Most everything turned out really well. A couple of notes/things to remember:

  1. When using someone else's oven, be way more careful about monitoring that things are cooking evenly.
  2. The America's Test Kitchen trick of cooking the sweet potatoes mostly in their own liquid works really well and produces really tasty mashed sweet potatoes.
  3. Steve and Dianna's idea of buying a bunch of disposable storage containers before Thanksgiving and then sending everyone home with leftovers is really clever.
  4. I should make stuffing more often... it's good. Of course, I say this every thanksgiving.
Something to try in the future: the basic mushroom stuffing thing could probably be a main dish. Add pieces of pre-cooked turkey or chicken before baking.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Crazy Green Vegetable Soup

I made this to use up a bunch of vegetables that we got from Cati and Jon's CSA box this week. It really is an insane shade of green.

Stock (I used a mixture of ham and chicken stock)
Soup celery
Collard greens, chopped
Diced root vegetables (I used: carrots, baby turnips, parsnips, and potatoes)
Minced garlic
Diced, peeled eggplant

Simmer the soup celery for a while in the stock, until you're happy with the smell and flavor.
Add the collards and simmer until they are reasonably tender. Puree the stock; it'll now be that crazy green color.
Add the diced root vegetables and garlic. Simmer until the vegetables start getting tender, then add the eggplant. Simmer until done.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

More Thanksgiving Prep

Before the sink clogged, I made:

  1. the mushroom stock for the bread stuffing
  2. another batch of cornbread for the cornbread stuffing. Letting the oil get really hot does make a difference. This stuff (with the high cornmeal content) will work well for stuffing, but for eating on its own, I definitely prefer my usual cornbread recipe.
  3. a pot of stock from the ham bone (the country ham is finally finished!) to use in some vegetable soup I'm going to make tonight in order to use up CSA vegetables from Cati and Jon.

Thanksgiving Plumbing Curse

Last year it was the toilets at my sister's house... this year it's the kitchen drain at my house.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Sunday Dinner

Beef Bourguignon (recipe from Bourdain, with an extra slug of wine added at the end to liven things up) and boiled potatoes.

The one downside to this was that our house smelled like both beef stew and chocolate cookies. It was pretty weird to walk through.

Sunday's Prep Fest

I spent a lot of Sunday doing advance prep for Thanksgiving. Aside from getting most of the shopping done I:

  1. Made the Parker House Rolls and froze them (they need a couple of minutes of baking to finish anyway).
  2. Made some cornbread for the cornbread stuffing. I used the Bittman cornbread recipe since it has a higher ratio of cornmeal to flour, but the cornbread turned out... odd. I need to make another batch anyway in order to have a sufficient quantity, so I'm going to make sure that the weirdness isn't due to the oil temperature. We'll see
  3. Made a batch of Eierlikor to test out Andrea's mother's recipe.
  4. Andrea made the first big batch of Plätzchen to use up the egg whites and start getting ready for the holidays.


For Kurt and Cheryl's party on Saturday, I planned to make baba-ganouj with roasted red pepper. Then I got a bit over-enthusiastic with the hand blender and I ended up with something that tasted great, but that was way over-homogenized. One might even say "whipped".

1 eggplant
1 red pepper
3 cloves garlic
juice from one lemon
extra virgin olive oil to taste
cayenne, black pepper, ground cumin and salt to taste

Poke the eggplant a few times with a fork so that it doesn't explode, then put the eggplant and red pepper under the broiler (or near the top of a very hot oven). Turn every couple of minutes until they are nicely blackened. If the eggplant gets blacked before it's soft, transfer it to the oven to cook a bit longer. Put the pepper in a paper bag for a couple of minutes when you take it out (to steam), then peel, seed, and finely dice it. Peel and chop the eggplant.
While things are roasting, convert the garlic into paste, then transfer to a bowl and add the lemon juice, a couple Tbs olive oil, and the spices. Mix well.
Add the diced pepper and eggplant to the bowl and mix well. At this point you can mash the eggplant (to get what I regard as the proper texture), or homogenize the hell out of with a hand blender or food processor to get something with a texture more like mayo.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Chicken stir-fried with ketchup (Thursday dinner)

This is a Bittman recipe from the NYT. I served it with japanese sticky rice and steamed broccolli.

This bears some resemblance to sweet and sour chicken, but with a definite ketchup flavor. I thought the dish was great, particularly after I slathered it in sriracha, but Andrea had mixed feelings about it; that probably means more lunch leftovers for me! :-)

Random Vegetable Soup

I made this on Wednesday night to use up some vegetables that were in the fridge. And because I really liked that creamy mushroom soup from this weekend. And because it's nice to have soup on cold nights. It's multi-purpose soup!

2 Tbs butter
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 roasted acorn squash, scraped out of the peel
2 mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 red pepper, diced
1/4 cup country ham (that was the last of it... really!), fine dice
3 cups chicken stock (I had 1 cup of dark stock in the fridge, the other 2 cups are light)
1 splash (1/4 cup?) white wine
1 splash heavy cream
salt and pepper to tasted

Cook the butter in a pan large enough to hold the soup over medium-high heat until it foams. Add the onions and garlic, along with a big pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms and half of the red peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, for until the onion is translucent and the mushrooms start to brown (~5 minutes). Add the stock and squash, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Puree the mixture (I used the hand blender), then add the wine, the remaining red pepper, and the ham. Let this simmer for about 5 minutes, then stir in the cream, adjust seasoning, and serve.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Sunday Quickie

Since we were still feeling bloated from all the great food at brunch, last night was not the usual Sunday cooking fest. I just threw together a mexican-influenced thing with leftover roast pork shoulder, country ham, red pepper, onion, garlic, chilies and a sauce made from red wine vinegar, chix stock and ketchup. Served over rice with lots of hot sauce. mmm, simple and good.

Mmmmmmonkey Bread

I've been wanting to make the "Monkey Bread" recipe in the Bread Bible for a while now, but never had the appropriate occasion (enough people at a brunch/breakfast activity). Yesterday Jon and Cati had brunch with eight people, so I got my chance! And it was GOOD!

If you follow the timing in the recipe, there's pretty much no way you're going to have monkey bread any earlier than the middle of the afternoon. Since I think this is a breakfast dish, that's too bad. Also, the timing information at the beginning of the recipe is wildly misleading -- it takes at least two hours longer to make than what's listed up front -- so you can't draw any conclusions from that. My solution was to start the sponge on Saturday morning and let that mature until last afternoon, when I made the dough and did the first rise. The second rise was in the fridge overnight (I punched it down before going to bed). In the morning I warmed the dough up for an hour and then assembled the bread. Even starting at 7:00, the bread still wasn't ready until 11:00 or 11:30, but some of that was due to our cool kitchen (and some because it took me ~45 minutes to assemble the thing).

Still, the results, gooey with caramel and rum raisins and loaded with toasted pecans and butter was insanely good. I'll definitely do it again next time I get a chance.


Whole Foods has beef stock in a box that isn't half bad. It's not super salty and it actually tastes like beef. I started from there. I've never cooked with demi-glace, so I can't say how close this is to the real thing. There's definitely no gelatin in this and I figure that the flavor is pretty far off from the real stuff, but this still turned out to be damn good:

1 quart beef stock
1 cup red wine
1 chopped shallot

Heat the stock in a wide saucepan almost to a boil, then reduce the heat and hold it at a very light simmer.
Throw the wine and shallot in another pan over medium-high heat. Reduce down to 1/4 cup or less, then add to the stock.
Allow the stock to reduce until you have 1/2-1/4 cup, then strain.
That's it.

New cookbook in the mix/Saturday night meal

Thursday night I got a copy of Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. It looks like it's going to be one of those good ones.

Saturday I made "Mushroom Soup" and "Steak au Poivre" from the new book and they were both really, really good. This amazing sense of well-being came over me as I was eating. mmmm, the power of good food.

A couple of quick notes:

1) I used the hand blender on the mushroom soup. I figured there was no chance it would work on the onion slices and big pieces of mushroom. I was wrong. Boy was it cool to not have to deal with using a blender on the soup.

2) Even with my pseudo-demi-glace (see next post), the steak au poivre was mind-blowingly good. I do want to try the whole veal stock thing at some point, but it's nice to know that I can create something good using stock from a box.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Quickie Pasta Sauce (Survival cooking)

After going to Anthony Bourdain's book signing thing last night, we wanted something quick and easy. There is still country ham in the fridge and we've got tons of canned tomatoes, so here's what I did.

This takes <20 minutes start to plate.

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 c. country ham, diced
1/2 c. dry red wine
2 c. canned tomatoes + juice
1 c. frozen peas
salt, black pepper and pimenton to taste
coarsely chopped italian parsley

While the oil is heating in a pan, chop garlic. Toss the garlic into the hot oil and chop onion, stirring the garlic every once in a while until it's starting to brown. Add the onion to the pan and cook for a minute or two. Add the ham and cook for another minute.
Now is a good time to start the pasta water.
Add the wine to the pan and scrape up anything that might have stuck the pan. Reduce over high heat until the wine is basically gone. Add the tomatoes and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the tomatoes have broken down and/or the pasta is done. Adjust the seasonings and serve with a liberal sprinkling (maybe a Tbs or more per serving) of parley and a bit of grated hard cheese (parmesan or romano or whatever).

Thursday, November 11, 2004

mmm, leftovers

yep, no cooking at all so far this week. Hopefully tonight.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Kitchen tool recommendation

I got one of these hand blenders a couple of weeks ago and I'm really happy with it.

Aside from the base functionality, the little chopper (mini-food processor thing) is great. The ice crusher leaves something to be desired, but my blender works ok for that.

Habanero-Lime Salsa

I haven't actually tried this yet, but I wanted to get the recipe in before I forget the ingredients. This recipe is intended to be used as a topping for something else, I sure as hell wouldn't want to put this on chips.

4 habaneros, seeded
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 white onion, coarsely chopped
juice of two limes
1 tsp salt

Chop habaneros and garlic as finely as possible in a food processor. Add the onion and process more. Add the lime and salt and process longer. Throw everything in a bowl in the fridge for a while to "blend".

Chicken with Two Vinegars

Andrea, ever my enabler, convinced me that it'd be ok to go ahead and make chicken with two vinegars last night. So I did.

This is adapted from a Lucian Truscott recipe in the NYT a couple of years ago. Last night we had it with home-made pasta (cut into random sheets, like rags).

4 chicken breasts, skin on, bone in
3 Tbs olive oil
4 Tbs butter
1/4 c. each of red wine and champagne vinegars
4 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 c. chicken stock
6 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 c. heavy cream

Cut the chicken breasts in half and salt and pepper them liberally.
Heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet until the butter froths. Add the chicken skin-side down and brown all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and pour out all but 1 Tbs of the fat.
Add the vinegars and deglaze the pan. Add the shallots and cook until they are transluscent. Add the white wine and bring to a boil. Throw the chicken in, along with juices from the plate, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan.
Add tomatoes and stock and simmer until the tomatoes break down. Add heavy cream and reduce heat to low. Once the sauce boils, add the chicken pieces and allow them to simmer for a few minutes (turning frequently), until they are warm and coated with the sauce.

Serve with pasta or rice.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

We need more eaters

Andrea and I don't eat enough. :-)

My original plan was that today I'd make Chicken with Two Vinegars -- which I've been wanting to make for a couple of weeks now, but something always comes up -- but there is now such an enormous quantity of leftovers in the fridge that I can't, in good conscience, do it. So Chicken with Two Vinegars gets pushed again.


This was originally going to be my usual lime and cumin cabbage salad. Then I realized that there was still a bunch of leftover sour-cream dressing from the bitter greens earlier in the week. So I made up a coleslaw recipe.

Finely shred a head of white cabbage. Throw in a large bowl with 2 cups white vinegar and 1/2 cup salt. Put a plate on top of the cabbage and add enough water to the bowl to cover the cabbage. Weight the plate (so that it continues to hold everything down) and let everything sit like that for 3-5 hours, until the cabbage starts to get tender

Drain the liquid, wring out the cabbage by hand (take a double handful and squeeze out the liquid), and toss it in a bowl. Mix the leftover sour-cream dressing ~1:1 with mayo and add enough to the cabbage to make yourself happy. Toss well (this is most easily done with your hands), and serve.

Corn Flan

For this I followed a recipe from Bittman. The results were mixed. The custard itself is really nice, and the flavor is great, but the thing is way too loose. I think that there ended up being way too much liquid in the recipe relative to the amount of egg.

This can probably be solved by measuring the corn-milk recipe after it's been strained and adjusting everything to a standard custard proportion, whatever the hell that may be. :-)

Simple Pintos

1 1/2 cups dried pinto beans, picked through and rinsed.
pork fat (salt pork or bacon or fat from country ham... guess what I used)
1 tsp salt
Water to cover well

Throw everything in a pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for ~2 hours, until the beans are tender.

I normally add a bunch of other stuff to beans when I make them, but I forced myself to not do so this time. The results are really, really good. The ham fat really adds a great flavor to the beans.

Spicy Roasted Pork

4 lb pork shoulder roast (bone in)
For the marinade:
6 habaneros, seeded
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
Juice of 4 limes
1/2 c. orange juice
1/4 c. kosher salt
1/4 c. sugar
For roasting:
freshly ground black pepper
pasilla chile powder
chipotle chile powder
coarsely ground cumin
coarsely ground coriander
sweet paprika
manteca de color

Make the marinade: Throw the peppers and garlic in a food processor and process until very finely chopped. Add the onion and process more until finely chopped. Add the juices, salt, and sugar and pulse a few times to blend.
Marinate the roast: Put the pork and marinade in suitable container (I used a 1 gallon zip-loc bag) and let it sit for at least 4-6 hours. Turn it every once in a while and make sure that the roast is nicely covered in marinadey goodness.
Bake it: Preheat the oven to 350. Pull the roast out of the marinade and put it in a baking pan (preferably non-stick). Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of manteca de color. Sprinkly liberally with the other spices. Press the spices in. Flip the roast and repeat that process. Strain the remaining marinade and throw the pulp in the bottom of the pan (the liquid is too salty for my tastes, so I discard it... if you think it's ok, then skip the straining and add everything). Put the pan in the oven and bake for 3-4 hours (determine done-ness with a fork test). Check on the roast every half hour or so and spoon some of the liquid from the bottom of the pan over the roast. Add some water to the pan if it's getting dry.
Serve in slices, topped with a bit of the pan juices. Serve with tortillas, avocados, chopped 'tro and lime.

This didn't end up being as hot as I was hoping for, so for leftovers I'm going to supplement it with chopped habaneros with 'tro in lime juice.

Satuday's Cooking Extravaganza

After such a depressing week, the only thing to do was to do a bunch of cooking over the weekend.

A quasi-Mexican theme seemed reasonable, so I did: roasted pork, pintos, corn flan, and coleslaw.

I guess I'll do separate posts for each of those.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Sufferin' Survival Succotash!

I made this on Wednesday night to go along with leftover shepherd's pie. Of course it's got country ham in it. There are no lima beans, because I'm not so big on lima beans.

I had forgotten how good things like this can be.

~ 1 cup frozen peas
~ 1 cup frozen corn
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cubed country ham
~1/2 cup chicken stock
1-2 Tbs butter
salt, pepper and pimenton to taste

Throw everything except the butter in a pan, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the pepper and onion is soft (5-10 minutes). Add the butter and adjust the seasonings.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Election results comfort food

Jon and Cati came over to receive the bad news...

Dinner was: Shepherd's Pie with Sweet Potato Crust (from How to Cook Meat). I deviated a bit from the recipe and used half buffalo and half beef. I also put worcestershire sauce in the compound butter instead of A1 because I didn't want to end up with yet another bottle of sauce in the 'fridge door. It's a safe substitution anyway.

The salad was Bitter Greens with Sour Cream Dressing, from a Bittman column a few months ago. Here's a crappy link I found.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Sunday dinner

Sauteed mushrooms (chantarelles, shitake, and tree oysters, with a bit of dried porcini) served with hard polenta that I topped with mushroom syrup. This is pretty much a repeat of a dish from Sept. 29.


Made this at Jon and Cati's wine tasting thing on Saturday.

1 pint lemon sorbetto
4 Tbs vodka (ice cold)
1 c. cold Prosecco
4 Tbs whipping cream

Mash the sorbetto up in a metal bowl and whisk in the vodka. Whisk in the prosecco and cream, then throw the whole thing back in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to thicken up a bit.

This didn't end up being as thick as the stuff we had in Venice, but that can probably be remedied by cutting back on the prosecco. More experimentation will be required!

addendum to Sunday

Dessert was Bolzano Apple Cake, from a Scott Carsberg recipe in the NYT.

This was really good, but not particularly cakey. I'm not sure if I messed something off or if it's supposed to have a custardy texture. Still, it is delicious.