Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Monday Mole

Sunday evening I made a batch of chicken mole using mole paste that one of Andrea's former coworkers brought us. We ate it on Monday night.

Dinner was nothing fancy, just a nice chicken mole, some pintos, and rice. Very good indeed.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sunday Night: Fish baked in parchment

Periodically I get the overwhelming urge to do something "fancy" for dinner. This usually ends up resulting in something that's ok, but not great. Last night was no exception to this generality.

I started with a couple of Lachsforellen filets and a couple of good size shrimp. I laid each filet on a piece of parchment; seasoned with salt, pepper, and freshly ground coriander; added a layer of thinly sliced lemon; added a layer of yellow turnip and carrots cut into matchsticks; added a butterflied shrimp; topped with another slice of lemon and a bit more matchsticked veggies. I sealed this whole package up and wrapped in a supplemental layer of foil (my en papillotei technique is far from perfect), then baked it at 180C for about 30 minutes. After opening the packages, I added a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley and thin slices of orange that had been cooked in some reducing orange juice.

The result looked very nice and tasted fine. The fish wasn't especially flavorful (this is my second try with Lachsforellen, I think I should give up on the farmed trout), but the shrimp was good. The veggies were nice as well.

As sides we had fingerling potatoes halved and roasted with olive oil, and brussels sprouts, sauteed in olive oil. Those were both really nice, and both way more in my usual style of cooking. :-)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Nanorestaurant Review: Jay's Indian (Basel)

We weren't impressed, but then our standards for Indian are pretty high.

  • Food: acceptable, but overpriced. When they tried to get fancy/creative it didn't really work
  • Service: ok
  • Atmosphere: not so great - despite having a reservation we were stuck sharing a 4-top with another couple. They were irritating and she smoked. The room was nice though.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wednesday Night: Soup

Neither of us wanted to eat lasagna for a fourth night in a row, so last night I made soup.

250g chunk of beef chuck
2 l water/stock (I used half chicken stock, half water)
1 beef boullion cube
1 bay leaf
6 pepper corns
2 branches thyme
2 sprigs parsley
a pinch of herbs de provence
1 stalk celery, cut into 4 pieces (to fish them out)
1 leek, white bits only, cut into chunks
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, cut into chunks
1/4 celery root, cut into chunks
1/2 turnip, cut into chunks
1 small head wirsing (savoy cabbage), cut into 8ths.

Put all the ingredients except the cabbage in a pot and bring to a gentle boil. Cook until the beef starts to get tender. Add the cabbage and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until it also is tender.
Taste, add a slug of soy sauce, taste, and adjust seasonings with soy sauce and/or salt.

We ate this with some nice bread and were not at all unhappy.

Monday Night: Radicchio Trevisano

The radicchio (cooked with bacon following the recipe in Hazan) was actually a side I made to go with the lasagna, but it's so fantastic looking that I had to do a post with a picture:

I guess it's also important to say that it tasted very nice: the trevisano isn't nearly as bitter as normal radicchio.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sunday Lasagna

Yesterday I made a pan of lasagna bolognese following the recipe in Hazan. Between making the ragu and the green pasta, that's an all-day cooking experience, but it's well worth it.

As a side we had sauteed broccoli rabe (found at the market on Saturday). The bitterness of the rabe contrasted beautifully with the richness of the lasagna

Some notes:

  1. The pasta recipes in Hazan don't call for enough flour. I know that there's variability in eggs and the like, but being off by a factor of around 2 is just not right. She claims that you get one pound of pasta from 1.5 cups flour and 2 large eggs. Those must be dry, heavy eggs. [Edit, 2 March 2009: Something must have gone wrong, following the Hazan recipe for standard pasta works just fine.]
  2. I find plain bechamel to be overly boring, so I added a bit of white pepper and nutmeg to it.
  3. Note to my future self: those sheets of pasta get bigger when you cook them, not smaller. So keep that in mind when sizing them.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday Granola

Bittman had an article a couple of weeks ago about making your own granola that was very appealing to me. I have yet to find a breakfast cereal here that I'm 100% happy with, so doing some granola-making experiments seems like a good idea.

I followed the Bittman recipe pretty faithfully, using 6 cups oats, 300gm mixed seeds (a package of sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, buckwheat, and poppy sees intended for spreading over salads), 1 cup grated coconut, and 3/4 cup honey. After baking and cooling, I added 200-250 gm mixed raisins and sultaninen.

Preliminary results are positive; tomorrow's breakfast will tell the true story.

Saturday: Beef Tongue Hash

Yesterday I was flipping through How to Cook Meat and I found a recipe for a hash made with beef tongue, turnips, and chard. Since the recipe sounded great, I knew all the ingredients were readily available, and I've been wanting to try cooking with tongue, it was imperative that this hash be made. Andrea took some convincing, but eventually agreed to humor me.

Unsurprisingly the beef tongue started out looking like a big tongue:

Following the recipe, I boiled this with onions, bay leaves, cloves, and peppercorns for a couple of hours, until it was fork-tender. After cooking the tongue needed to be peeled:

That outer layer was quite leathery and easy to remove; the inner bit I did with a knife. After peeling, I diced the tongue so there are no more entertaining photos.

After boiling, the tongue was very tasty. It really reminded me of corned beef (which I loved as a kid). If these things weren't so huge (~1 kg) I could easily imagine cooking one of these to make sandwiches. Perhaps I should try that with veal tongue, which is considerably smaller.

The final mixture:
Unfortunately, my picture of the finished dish didn't come out. Ah well.

We ate the hash with a big green salad. This was some very good food.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A couple of wine notes

I forgot to note two other wines from this week.

Wuerzburger Abtsleite 2003 Riesling Kabinett. This was a gift from some friends and it wasn't to our taste. Even with the curry from earlier in the week, which is a magical place for a Riesling to be, it didn't work.

Falesco 2005 Vitiano Umbria: This wine is certainly going to get better with more time, but it's already pretty nice.

Wednesday Night: Frittata

Inspired to do a frittata by this week's "Splendid Table" and knowing that I wasn't going to find broccoli rabe at the Coop, I pulled a recipe for a zucchini basil frittata from Hazan. Aside from using taleggio instead of parmesan (yes! it's a completely different kind of cheese, but the Splendid Table recipe called for fontina and I liked the idea of a softer cheese), I pretty much stuck to the recipe. With very good results I might say.

I also "self-braised" a small head of raddichio with some smoked bacon.

and we had a green salad.

Wine: La Carraia 2004 Porticina Umbria. This wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sunday Dinner: Red-cooked chicken

This recipe is from BittmanWorld and I didn't monkey around with it too much.
The results are good, but perhaps a bit underspiced.

We also had a salad of very finely sliced napa, carrots, and cuke; dressed with fish sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. mmmm.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Saturday Night Japanese

Ok, really this is more Japanese-inspired than Japanese. For dinner I did cauliflower and celery root braised in dashi, sake, and soy sauce; quick-pickled napa cabbage with rice vinegar and sesame oil, breaded miso-marinated merlan (whiting) fillets, and short-grain rice.

The cauliflower/celery root thing was looking to be quite nice, but then I stopped paying attention for a bit too long and the pan went dry. This added a dark (not quite burnt) note to the flavor that was not what I was looking for. Ah well; it was still edible.

For the fish: I marinated the fillets in a mixture of light miso paste, sake, and rice vinegar for an hour or so. After rinsing off the marinade, I breaded the fillets (flour, egg, paniermehl) and then fried them in peanut oil. These guys were really excellent.

The miso-marinated fish gave me a powerful craving for broiled sablefish. I wonder what the odds of finding sablefish fillets here are.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tuesday Night: Grünkohl and Gratin

Two very nice winter dishes here.

The gratin was potato, celery root, and onion and was from a recipe in CPV. My only variation was to top it with bread crumbs during the last 20 minutes of cooking - Andrea requested a crust on the gratin, and she was right.

To prep the gruenkohl (basically collards), I washed and chopped it, then flash fried it with peanut oil in a pan where I'd already cooked some diced smoked bacon and a sliced leak. After the color darkened, I seasoned the greens, added a bit of chicken stock, covered the pan, and cooked for about another 30 minutes. For the last 15 minutes, I tossed in a couple of cervelas.

With a green salad this was very good. The gruenkohl was particularly nice; it could easily stand as a main dish if made with a bit more bacon. I definitely should find some alternative sausage if doing this again though; cervelas (at least the one from Coop) has a bit too much nitrite for my tastes.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sunday Night: Sauerkraut and Brisket

We picked up some more fresh sauerkraut from the market on Saturday and this time I successfully resisted the temptation to throw a bunch of pork in it and call it choucroute garni. Instead I modified a recipe from How to Cook Meat:

500 gm beef brisket (Siedfleisch), cut into 4 cm chunks.
peanut oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
100 ml dry white wine (I used Riesling)
4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
4 bay leaves
6 juniper berries
6 allspice berries
beef boullion cube
chicken stock

Season the beef and brown it well in the peanut oil. Set the beef aside and pour off the oil.
Add the butter and onions and cook, deglazing as you go, until the onions start to brown (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle over the flour and cook for another 5-10 minutes until it too starts to brown.
Stir in the wine and make sure all the good bits are dissolved from the bottom of the pot.
Add back the beef and all the remaining ingredients (add enough stock to get a stew consistency).
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer covered for a couple of hours, until the beef is nicely tender.
Serve hot.

I actually made the stew in the morning and let it sit all day. After reheating it, I added a small amount of fresh wine to brighten it up a bit (I actually forgot to do this in the pot and did it at the table instead, but that works too).

We ate the stew over spaetzli with some caramelized carrots on the side and big green salad.

Wine: Baron de Höen Beblenheim 2005 Riesling (from Alsace). This is the same stuff I cooked with.

Saturday Night: Gnocchi with Leeks, Zucchini, and Bacon

Some random event gave me a gnocchi craving yesterday. Since I'd been wanting for a while to try sauteing gnocchi after they were cooked (Bratgnocchi?), I decided to satisfy the craving and the curiosity simultaneously.

Here's what I did (serves 2 as a main dish):

For the gnocchi:
400g gnocchi
olive oil

Cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water until they rise to the top of the water. Drain them well.
Heat a couple Tbs olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the drained gnocchi and a pinch of salt and cook, tossing infrequently, until the gnocchi are golden brown and crispy on the outside.

For the sauce/topping:
100g bulk smoked bacon, cut into lardons
olive oil
1 small zucchini, quartered and "diced"
1 leek, halved and thinly sliced

Cook the bacon in some olive oil over medium heat until it has rendered some fat and is nicely browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels.
Add the diced zucchini, raise the heat to medium high, sprinkle with a bit of salt, and cook until it softens some and starts to brown. remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Pour off most of the fat from the pan.
Add the leek, sprinkle with salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until it softens and starts to brown.
Just before serving, add back the zucchini and lardons, grind in some pepper, and heat through.

Serve the sauce over the gnocchi and top everything with chopped parsley.

This was a very nice, and relatively fast, meal.

We also had the standard green salad.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Thursday Night Risotto

Andrea was craving rice, so I made a mushroom risotto with butter, dried porcini, onions, white wine, and turkey stock (from the freezer). We ate the risotto topped with parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Our side was zucchini that I quarted, cut into 1 cm slices, then baked with salt, white pepper, and olive oil at 175C until they were nicely soft. The zucchini were quite sweet and flavorful, so this was a nice contrast to the dark flavors of the risotto.

Green salad!

Good food!

wine: Tedeschi Vineyards Lot #6 Zinfandel (1993). Good stuff!

Back home back home

We got back last night. Since neither of us were in the mood for anything particularly complex, I just seared some pork steaks, deglazed the pan with thinly sliced onions, sliced red pepper, and a bit of white wine, then finished the steaks in that sauce. This was very good stuff.

I also made a rösti from a bag (Coop bio rösti), which violates a few of my principles but we were both pretty tired. I'm happy to report that the rösti wasn't half bad.

1 Jan: Black-eyed peas

January 1 requires black-eyed peas, particularly when my mother is there, so that's what I made. I did the peas with smoked bacon, carrot, celery, bay leaves, and shallots (we were out of onion), and they were excellent. We also had spinach (greens are required too) and a big salad.

31 Dec.: Bouillabaise

For New Years eve we started with a cheese plate (I can't remember all the cheeses, but they were mostly goat cheeses), rilletes (goose), and raw oysters (with shallots in vinegar). The main course was bouillabaise following a recipe in BittmanWorld. My only real deviations from the recipe were to add celery greens and bay leaves during the cooking and to dump in some white wine. Fish varieties were monkfish, cod, and snapper. I also used large shrimp (~16-20 count) and clams (some French variety).

Very, very good stuff. The orange zest, fennel, saffron combination went fantastically with the fish.

Wine note: there was a magic pairing here between the bouillabaise and the Macon-Villages white (Patriarche Pere & Fils, Macon-Villages White 2004) we drank with it. I'm not sure which component of the bouillabaise paired so well or if it was the full combination, but this was one of those "wow, this is *perfect*" moments.

26 Dec: Pasta Bolognese

For this I followed the recipe in Hazan more or less without modification. This was my first go at this recipe and it lived up to my high expectations for Hazan recipes.

27 Dec: Sauteed Pork with Tomato Sauce

For this I cubed some boneless pork chops, seasoned and browned them, then finished them in a quick sauce made from onion, sweet paprika, coriander, cumin, onion, and tomato sauce. We ate this over brown rice, with a green salad.

Aside from the pork being a bit dry (my fault) and not hugely flavorful (ah... I'm too spoiled by Swiss meat), this was good.

Christmas Day: Split Pea Soup

This was a big pot of split pea soup (green split peas) with carrot, garlic, smoked bacon, veggie stock (bouillon), and herbs de provence. I also threw in a couple of boudin blanc in for the last bit of cooking.

We had a big green salad with this very good soup.

Christmas Eve: Beef Stew

Not being sticklers for tradition (and not having access to an oven in the flat in Avignon), we did "odd" things for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Christmas Eve was a beef stew with plenty of red wine (a Cotes du Rhone), smoked bacon, potato, celery root, onion, garlic, bay leaf.

We had a big salad and baguette with that and were not unhappy.

Holiday Catchup

We spent the holidays with my family in Avignon. There was no internet access in our flat, so I'll be playing catchup with the next few posts.