Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Monday's Leftovers

We still had a bunch of braised beef and sauce leftover from Saturday, so in order to have at least a bit of variety, last night I converted it into a topping for baked potatoes.

To make the topping I browned half a pound of quartered mushrooms in olive oil then added the remaining sauce, some frozen peas, and the rest of the braised beef (diced). After simmering for 10 minutes, this was ready to go.

To bake the potatoes, I used the technique from JPFF (four minutes on high in microwave, turn over, another four minutes on high, 12-15 minutes in a 450 degree oven), which works very very well.

The remaining sour cream/horseradish/dill sauce complemented this quite nicely, as did the green salad we had on the side.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Saturday Night: Listening to McGee

For dinner I did braised beef, bratkartoffeln, steamed broccoli, and a green salad. The theme for the first two entries on this list was: "take standard recipes and follow McGee's suggestions to refine them."

So for the braised beef I used a crossrib roast from our cow and a recipe from How to Cook Meat, but I used McGee's suggestion of putting the browned meat + veggies + cold stock in a cold oven and heating it at 200 for two hours to do an initial heating, then raising the temp to 250 until fork tender,then letting the meat cool a bit in the sauce. I think this works better when the meat is completely immersed in liquid, which wasn't achievable with any of my pots without using an insane amount of liquid (I need to remember that I can do this type of braise in one of the ceramic bowls... those are narrow and deep enough to work). Ah well, it still turned out great and the color of the meat certainly was a lot better. I also did my usual "homogenize the sauce with the stick blender" trick, because I really like that. The combination of the sauce + the beef + the dill-horseradish-sour cream sauce is excellent.

For the potatoes, I followed McGee's suggestion of starting the potatoes in cold unsalted water and very slowly bringing it to a boil. With Yukon gold potatoes, this gives an amazing texture that stands up really well in the browning phase of making bratkartoffeln.

That McGee is a real smarty-pants. :-)

Saturday Breakfast: Crepes

I followed the recipe in Bittman for the batter and we filled them with country ham and aged gouda, goat cheese and chives, and as a sweet closer, apple butter.

I'm going to have to remember how easy it is to make crepes, because they are awfully nice.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Friday Pasta Friday! Pasta!

Andrea requested pasta last night (we'd been doing rice all week), so pasta we made. We had spags with mushroom sauce, italian sausage, steamed broccoli with "lemogrette", and a big green salad.

For the sauce I used 4 or 5 cloves of sliced garlic, a diced onion, some finely diced country ham, canned tomatoes, mixed dried mushrooms (from TJ's), red wine, crushed chili pepper, rosemary, and marjoram. I followed the standard prep approach and let things simmer for a good hour.

We ate the sauce over spags, topped with a good hit of parsley, freshly grated parmesan, and a drizzle of truffle oil (to complement the mushrooms). We had the sausage (pan fried) on the side.

The lemogrette (my new word for a vinaigrette made with lemon juice instead of vinegar) for the broccoli consisted of a small clove of garlic made into a paste with salt and allowed to stand for 5 minutes or so to mellow, good olive oil, and meyer lemon juice. This emulsified quite easily and went really well with the broccoli and a grind of black pepper.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Wednesday: Sablefish

I had a fish craving yesterday, so I went to the fish market at lunchtime. Next to the stuff they always have (halibut, snapper, salmon, ling cod), there were a few sablefish fillets. I haven't cooked sablefish before, and I'm not sure that I've eaten it, but there was a voice in the back of my head telling me that I wanted to buy those fillets. Sometimes I ignore that voice, but those fillets weren't just intriguing - they looked really good.

So I get home with my sablefish and google for a bit to find out what the internet thinks I should do with it and I find out that sablefish is also called black cod. That starts to pull up associations from the back brain: black cod... Nobu... miso! (Apropos nothing: "black cod, nobu, miso, plum!" may be my new mantra for the next couple days.)

Sure enough, pretty much every recipe I can find for sablefish/black cod calls for miso. There's a recipe in BittmanWorld for black cod marinated in miso and mirin and then broiled that looks as comparable to all the others I found (except for the Nobu recipe at epicurious: that one calls for 2 to 3 days of marinating and I wasn't going to wait that long). I followed the recipe pretty much exactly (45 minutes of salting, 2 hours marinating time) except for quantity. I'll gush more later, but this dish is absolutely amazing.

As a starter we had cucumber soup with nori and tofu (also from BittmanWorld), using fresh tofu from the local Asian market. I hadn't tried the fresh tofu before either - it's really nice stuff. This soup would have been better with dashi, but I wasn't going to do that much work last night, so I just used chicken stock. It was still very good.

To go along with the fish I made sweet rice and a quick pickle with yellow turnips from the farmers market, rice vinegar, and mirin.

So, the fish. It was good. It was good enough to inspire me to write way more than I usually do. :-) The texture of the fish was almost like good scallops (the flakes of fish, not the whole fillets) and the combination of flavors (rich fish, sweet-salty-umami from the marinade/glaze) was magic. The one thing I'll change next time I do this recipe (and I will do it again) is that I'll garnish with pickled ginger. Bittman suggests grated fresh ginger that's been soaked in water and that was just too harsh for me. The turnip pickles went really well, but a bit of ginger would have been nice as well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tuesday's Augmented Leftovers

To add some zing to the rice I made to go with the last (or almost the last) of the goshtaba and the never-ending dal (continuing lentils?), I made a batch of turnip thuvaiyal following the "Choko Chutney/Chow Chow Thuvaiyal" recipe in Dakshin. The base recipe ended up being really tasty, but it got even better when I added a bit of lemon juice to brighten things up.

I'm pretty sure that we're going to be making thuvaiyals a lot more often. :-)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Paratha update

Keeping the parathas thicker (by not rolling them out so far) definitely is better.

They still ended up a bit dense/tough, but that's something I can try to address next time I make the dough (more water?).

Monday, January 23, 2006

Sunday Night: Indian

Last week Andrea requested Indian food, so last night I made a few things from BittmanWorld: Goshtaba (lamb meatballs cooked in milk and yogurt), Haaq (spinach cooked with hing), Dal, and Paratha.

Some individual notes:

  1. I wasn't overly thrilled with the goshtaba. I think the recipe calls for too much cardamom (maybe exacerbated by the fact that I ground it myself instead of using pre-ground). Something also went badly wrong with the sauce, which broke pretty much immediately. I expect yogurt-based sauces to break if they're cooked too enthusiastically, but this one was barely past warm at the time. It's not like the dish was actively bad, but I don't feel any need to repeat this any time soon.
  2. The haaq, which I made with small spinach leaves from the farmers market (not baby spinach, these have some bitterness to them), was very, very good. The combination of hing and greens is fantastic and we certainly will be doing that again.
  3. I think we rolled the paratha too thin. They were really good, a bit too close to tortillas for my taste. We'll have to leave the second batch a bit thicker tonight.
  4. Dal is always good, no further remarks needed. :-)

Sunday Miscellany

For lunch yesterday we had smoked salmon plates with chevre, capers, lemon, baguette, and a cucumber-onion-watermelon radish-lemon thyme quick pickle I made.

I started some turnip/watermelon radish pickles with an Indian note (toasted black mustard seeds, cumin seed, dried red chili, and curry leaves; a bit of sesame oil; cider and white balsamic vinegars). I made this one up, so we'll see how it turns out.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wednesday Night: Potato-Ham Gratin

Given that it's "winter", and we have that lovely country ham, it was pretty much mandatory that we have a nice potato-ham gratin. I'm not one to argue with mandatory gratins, so that's what I made last night.

yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (I used 4-5 cups of potato sliced with my ceramic slicer)
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced (again, with the ceramic slicer)
1/2 cup country ham, sliced thin and then chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
2 Tbs butter + extra for greasing the pan
1 Tbs sweet paprika
white pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 and butter a 9" square baking dish.
Heat the cream, milk, butter, paprika, and a couple good grinds of white pepper until they are just starting to boil (watch that it doesn't boil over).
Start building layers of potatoes in the dish, spooning small amounts of cream mixture over each layer.
After you've built a couple of layers, add the ham in one layer with some onions, spoon cream over it.
When the potatoes are finished, add another layer of onions and the rest of the cream mixture. If the liquid doesn't come to just below the top layer of potatoes, add more milk until it does.
Top the dish with half the cheese and mix the other half with some breadcrumbs. Top the cheese layer with that mixture.
Put the dish on a baking sheet (in case it bubbles over) and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is brown and the potatoes are cooked (you can check with a fork). If the top starts to get too brown, cover it loosely with foil.

We ate this fantastic beast with the leftover fennel from the other night and a green salad.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tuesday Night: Baked Fennel

To go along with the leftover pork and cauliflower from Monday, I baked a fennel bulb (with beef stock and cheese) following a recipe in Bittman. I had made this before (pre-food blog), and we really liked it. This time the recipe just didn't work at all. I don't know if the fennel wasn't great or if I overcooked it or what, but the stock didn't get absorbed and we just had a soupy mess in the gratin dish.

It didn't taste bad, but it wasn't what either Andrea or I had been looking forward to.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Monday Night: Pork Cutlet on Mashed Cauliflower

The original JPFF recipe for this uses chicken breasts (poached in water/butter) as the protein. I was in more of a pork mood when we went shopping on Sunday, so I subbed for the chicken.

I used standard boneless thick pork loin chops, but I cut them through the middle and pounded them out a bit to get "cutlets", then brined them for an hour or so. Rather than poaching the cutlets (which seems like a bad idea), I sauteed them lightly in a bit of butter.

This was a really nice and speedy (aside from the brining) meal, but the plate could have used some color on it; next time I'll have to do a vegetable side or something.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A surprise

Yesterday Andrea and I were wandering around in the Mission District and I noticed several country hams hanging in the window of a meat market (The Fresh Meat Store). So I bought a Virginia country ham from a Chinese market in a primarily Mexican neighborhood in a Californian city; how very 21st century. :-)

I'm very excited.

Sunday Breakfast: Chilaquiles

For this breakfast I started with the chilaquiles recipe in BittmanWorld, but I made a couple of changes:

  1. I added bacon (mmmm bacon)
  2. Bittman's technique for the tortillas is a bit fussy, I just dried them in the oven, cut them into strips, stirred them around in the residual bacon fat, then let them crisp up for a couple more minutes in the oven.
  3. I did temper the eggs before adding all of the sauce, though I'm not sure this makes a huge difference.
This is a goodly amount of work for breakfast, but the results were mighty nice. Plus due to numerous social engagements this weekend it ended up being the only cooking I could do.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Brussels Sprouts Variation

We still had half a bag of brussels sprouts that I wanted to make last night. Rather than just whip up another batch of Bittman's simmered brussels sprouts, I decided to do a variation:

1/2 pound fresh brussels sprouts
olive oil
1/4 cup good bread crumbs
juice of one lemon
chopped parsley
salt and pepper

Trim the ends off the brussels sprouts, then cook them in boiling salted water for about 7 minutes - until they start to get tender. Transfer to a bowl of ice water.
Cut the sprouts in half down the middle (through the stem, not crosswise).
Heat a couple Tbs of olive oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer, then add the sprouts, cut-side down.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and let cook without stirring until the cut side of the sprouts gets nice and brown, 3-5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the bread crumbs and lemon juice. Cook until the lemon juice is evaporated and the crumbs start to brown.
Adjust seasonings and serve topped with parsley.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Wednesday's Spanish Dinner

We used some cod from the freezer (good old TJ's frozen seafood) to make a dish with cod, chickpeas, onions, and sherry from BittmanWorld. To go along with this I also made a batch of yellow rice (saffron rice), also from BittmanWorld. And, of course, we had a green salad.

I enjoyed both dishes a lot, but I remain a bit skeptical about saffron. It certainly adds a beautiful color and a distinct flavor to food, I'm just not 100% certain that I *like* that flavor. It seems to be slowly growing on me though, so maybe it'll be like white pepper (which I used to think was questionable, but now is great).

I also think that the fish recipe would benefit from having the garlic go in a bit earlier (Bittman recommends adding it in the last minute or two of cooking). I like that heavy garlic punch as much as the next guy, but in this case I think it began to overwhelm the more subtle flavor of the sherry on the chickpeas. Next time I make this I'll probably add the majority of the garlic with the onions (early in the process) and save a smaller amount to add at the end.

While I'm picking on the cod recipe: I wasn't overly pleased with the way the coating on the fish turned out. Bittman's instructions have you dredge the fish in flour, brown one side in the pan, then put the fish, browned side up, in a 300 degree oven to finish cooking. This leads to a nice top coating on the fish, but the bottom side is a bit slimy since it never has a chance to crisp up. This is probably inevitable unless you either brown both sides of the fish and put it in the oven on a rack or only dredge one side of the fish.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Tuesday Night Leftovers

To go along with the leftovers from last night's pasta gratin, I made a batch of simmered brussels sprouts from Bittman. And to think that I used to not like brussels sprouts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Monday Gratin

We had a goodly amount of braised beef left over from Sunday's ravioli, so last night I used that to make a pasta gratin. I made the sauce by sauteeing diced onion and garlic slices, adding canned tomatoes, some coarsely chopped dandelion greens, and the leftover beef, and seasoning with a bit of crushed red pepper. I used penne as the pasta and topped the gratin with a mixture of grated gouda, bread crumbs, and a drizzle of good olive oil.

The result was excellent. Pre-mixing the grated cheese with the breadcrumbs leads to a nice topping with distinct crunchy pieces of cheese. mmmm, crunchy topping.

To go with the gratin, I sauteed some (briefly steamed) broccoli in butter and mixed in a bit of dijon mustard and martini. We also had the requisite green salad.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sunday Night: Ravioli and Greens

We had friends over last night and did an Italian theme. We had ravioli filled with wine-braised beef (from our cow), spinach sauteed with mushrooms, some bread, a big green salad, and oranges with cream cheese (from JPFF, but using grated orange zest whipped into the cream cheese and a splash of brandy in the sauce) for dessert. The ravioli and spinach were inventions.

To make the ravioli:
Brown 1 pound of seasoned stew meat in olive oil. Deglaze the pan with half a medium onion, diced small. Add back the beef, four cloves minced garlic, 1-2 tsp minced fresh rosemary, and enough red wine (I used Nerello del Bastardo) to cover the beef. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the meat starts to get tender (1.5-2 hours). Add some stock if the liquid starts to get too low. Remove the lid and let it keep simmering until most of the liquid is gone and the beef is really tender (like you can mash it to threads with a spoon). Adjust seasonings and allow the beef to cool.
Make fresh pasta using only semolina flour (this was trickier than using AP or bread flour, but I think it was really worth it) and roll it out to the second to last notch, then form the ravioli. Cover them with a towel and let them sit until ready to serve. Cook the ravioli in salted water for 5-10 minutes (I didn't time this, I ended up eyeballing it).
For a sauce I made a batch of Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce with butter.
I served the ravioli atop a bed of sauce, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with a mixture of grated lemon zest and minced parsley.

For the spinach:
Finely dice 3 strips of good bacon and let them render over medium heat (don't brown the bacon). Add a good cup of quartered cremini mushrooms and continue to cook until they've given up their moisture. Add a pound of baby spinach that's been washed and then wilted in the microwave. Mix well, adjust seasonings, and serve.

This was a very nice meal.

Sunday Breakfast: Carrot Bread

I actually made this on Saturday and then let it sit until Sunday to "allow the moisture to redistribute" (an instruction from the recipe I'm skeptical about, but eh).

The base recipe was from The Bread Bible and, since it's for baking, I pretty much stuck to it. The only variation was to use diced prunes instead of raisins. We didn't have any raisins in the house and I like prunes, so it was either substitute or go to the store; and there's no question at all there.

I think the bread turned out really well. I'll have to try it with raisins sometimes, but the prunes are awfully good.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Thursday: Chipotle Shrimp, Red Beans and Rice

On Wednesday I developed a craving for chipotle, specifically chipotle with shrimp. I'm not sure where that came from, but it was easy enough to satisfy: there's a good chipotle shrimp recipe in BittmanWorld. My only mod to the recipe was to use a couple canned tomatoes (+ juice) instead of fresh tomatoes since at this time of year fresh tomatoes aren't worth eating. Bittman leaves the chipotle quantity open, I used half a small can of chipotles. The resulting sauce is hot, but not deathly hot.

Since something like chipotle shrimp craves rice, but we've been eating a lot of rice already this week, I jazzed it up by making coconut rice. There's a recipe for Red Beans and Rice (West Indies style) in Jay Solomon's Taste of the Tropics that I based from. I didn't muck around with the red beans recipe, but I wanted strongly coconutty rice, so this is what I did there:

1 cup long-grain rice
2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup finely diced onion
4 small cloves garlic, minced
fresh thyme
crushed allspice, ground cumin
salt and black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy pan, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice is mostly tender, about 15 minutes. Check it occasionally to make sure stuff isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and let the rice rest for 5-10 minutes.

Jay suggests mixing the beans into the rice, I did not do this.

We had these two delights with a green salad and were very happy with the results.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

leftovers leftovers

The past few days have been full of leftovers... from leftover chicken soup to pot roast from the freezer (from the Italian dinner party back in May).

Hopefully tonight I'll have energy (stupid jet lag) to do something new.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Sunday Night: Soup and Sauteed Vegetables

Yesterday we picked up a whole chicken and I made a big pot of chicken stock from everything but the breast, which I poached in the finished stock. I shredded off the meat from the thighs, legs, and breast to make soup (dinner) and a chicken salad (waiting to be made) and strained the stock for soup.

For dinner I used a Mexican chicken and rice soup recipe from BittmanWorld and made up a big batch of sauteed vegetables (rutabaga, potato, carrot, parsnip, onion, garlic) with toasted cumin and coriander to accompany it.

Both the soup and vegetables were really good. Andrea's comment on the soup was dead on: "it's hearty, but still really fresh."

Luckily we have tons of leftovers. :-)

Catching up

We're back in the US.

I figure it's unlikely that I'm going to get around to detailed postings about the cooking on this trip, so I'll summarize:

  1. Andreas and Elke were moving into their new house in Hergenrath, Belgium; one night I did an Southeast Asian meal for the gang: a big pot of tom kha gai, a cabbage/lime slaw, chicken leg quarters with a lemongrass caramel, and sticky rice. The chicken and caramel thing actually turns out to be pretty good for a large group (and would work well for parties), because after browning the chicken pieces, they braise in the caramel sauce. Using leg quarters, this isn't a particularly time sensitive operation. A note to my future self: my standard short-grain rice prep trick may work with Japanese sweet rice, but it doesn't work well at all with Thai sticky rice.
  2. At Andrea's father's request, for Christmas Day I made "Rheinischer Sauerbraten", also known as "balsamic-braised pot roast" from How To Cook Meat. I added a marinading step with some bay leaves and a couple other spices, but I mainly did this to make it more of a "real" sauerbraten (which everyone knows has to marinade for a long time). After pureeing the sauce, I added some additional raisins before reducing it so that there would be visible raisins in the sauce. To accompany the roast I made red cabbage with apples and some spaetzle (from a bag, I wasn't about to make spaetzle for six from scratch).
  3. Another meal at Andreas and Elke's: Andrea wanted "something with rice, and vegetables", so Andreas and I collaborated on an improvised geschnetzeltes ("Belgier Geschnetzeltes" :-) using pork strips and a tomato-cream sauce with zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, garlic, and fresh parsley. Andreas tossed a whole habanero in the sauce while it was cooking, which was excellent. We ate this with rice.
  4. To ring in my birthday, we made a feuerzangenbowle on the night of the 28th so that we were ready to start drinking when midnight turned. It had been way too long since I had feuerzangenbowle.
  5. For our last night at Andrea's parents, I did kofte filled with feta cheese and served them with tzatziki, rice pilaf, and a green salad.
That's pretty much all I can think of right now.