Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cooking for Thanksgiving : Part 1

The Swiss still aren't advanced enough to have Thanksgiving Thursday off, so we're doing it on Sunday instead. Here's the status of preparations so far (otherwise I'll definitely forget something in the forecast chaos tomorrow):

Apero stuff:

  1. two types of prepared olives: greek olives with harissa and mixed olives with fresh herbs
  2. pickled zucchini (from the store, I cheat)
  3. mushrooms with garlic, bacon, sherry, rosemary, and thyme
  4. one salsa with garlic and piri piri peppers cooked until golden in olive oil, then emulsified with crushed tomatoes, salt, sweet paprika, a pinch of sugar, and sherry vinegar.
  5. one salsa with garlic pasted with salt, piquillo peppers, apple juice, parsley, liebstoeckel (lovage), olive oil, salt, hot paprika, sweet paprika, and crushed tomatoes.
  6. two kinds of self-roasted almonds: salt, cumin, hot paprika; salt and raclette spices
  7. salted peanuts tossed in a pan with honey and a bit of cayenne (this is a new one that seems quite promising)
  8. an homage (of sorts) to my grandmother: pimientos and cheese made with diced Tilsiter cheese, chopped piquillos, mayo, a dash of tabasco, and a splash of cider vinegar.
Main course stuff:
  1. The bread for the stuffing (Ruchbrot) is diced and air drying. The stock (chicken stock, celery, onion, dried porcini, sage, liebstoeckel (lovage), parsley, bay leaf) is made and in the fridge
  2. The pumpkin soup: potimarron, chicken stock, leek, carrots, cardamom, ground ginger, white pepper. It's made and waiting. Maybe this will get some cream tomorrow, maybe not.
  3. Oven roasted green beans, following the Cooks Illustrated technique.
Final preparations to come tomorrow...

Thursday: Beans and greens

We're getting escarole in the biokiste again, so it's time for beans and greens to come back onto the menu; not something that makes either of us particularly sad. :-)

Thursday was escarole, white beans, and sausage (saucisson neuchateloise, diced). With the usual additional bits: leeks, garlic, tomato paste, white wine, carrots.

mmm, beans and greens.

Of course just the escarole as a main dish wasn't sufficient greens, so we had a green salad with it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tuesday: Bread gratin

I'm not quite sure what it was, but something fixed the idea of doing a bread gratin in my mind. Since we didn't have any leftover bread laying around, I had to go out and buy some; now we have bread leftover from making a leftover bread dish.

The dish: cook some sliced leek in olive oil with a bit of diced turnip, sliced peppers, finely chopped celery, and some finely chopped smoked bacon. Add tomato paste, chicken stock, black pepper, and sweet paprika. Adjust seasonings (a bit salty is correct) and pour over bread cubes. Mix well, then transfer to an olive-oiled gratin dish and toss in a 175C oven. Meanwhile, saute some diced chicken (I had breast pieces leftover from making stock, so that's what I used) over high heat. Top the gratin with the cooked chicken and some grated cheese (I used Emmenthaler) and put back in the oven until the cheese is bubbly.

To accompany this I cut a couple of small hard squashes (from the biokiste) in half, cleaned them out, and then baked them. We ate them with a bit of butter and some raclette spices. Great stuff.

Of course we had a green salad.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday: Chinakohlpfanne

Another "let's use up a bunch of vegetables" dinner.

For the main dish: brown 300g of mixed ground meat and set aside. Cook two sliced leeks in rapeseed oil until they soften. Add back the meat and a Tbs or so of flour. Stir in the flour and cook for another couple of minutes. Add 2dl or so of chicken stock, a pinch of lemon zest, some marjoram, black pepper, hot paprika, and some salt and bring to a simmer. Add a head of napa cabbage that has been chopped into 2cm pieces, a couple of diced (5mm) carrots, mix well and let simmer uncovered until the napa is fully cooked. Adjust seasonings and serve.

As a side we had steamed potatoes.  And a big green salad.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday: pumpkin-leek soup, slow cooked chicken breasts on spinach

These were a couple of dishes driven by the contents of the fridge.

For the soup start a bit of chopped garlic, diced carrot, and sliced leek in rapeseed oil and cook this until the leeks soften. Add chicken stock, diced pumpkin (again, not clear what type), freshly crushed fennel seed, and herbs de provence and let it simmer until the pumpkin is cooked. Puree with the stick blender, adjust seasonings, and serve.

For the greens: cook some finely chopped garlic and onion in olive oil until the onions take on a bit of color. Add a good amount of marsala and let it reduce down almost to nothing. Add spinach, paprika (both sweet and hot varieties), ground cumin, and salt and let cook until the spinach has shrunk and most of the liquid is gone. Add almond slivers and set aside.

For the chicken: season a whole skin-on chicken breast. Sear this skin-side down in a heavy pan. Take a pre-heated plate from the pre-heated (90C) oven and spread the spinach in an even layer. Top with the chicken breast (skin-side up, of course), insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, and put back in the oven. Cook until the internal temperature is 70C, about an hour. Serve on pre-warmed plates.

This was all really nice food, but I'm not convinced that the slow-cooking actually brought anything to the table this time. I think we'd have been fine with standard oven temperatures and paying careful attention.

Of course we also had a green salad.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nanorestaurant Review ReRevisited : Goldenes Fass (Basel)

Well, we'd been there twice before and really liked it, so going back after the new opening was a must. Sadly the new management seems to have ruined the place.

The room is still nice (though smoking is now allowed... what the hell?), and the service was fine, but the food has taken a giant step in the wrong direction. Dishes were still nominally creative, but the ingredient quality is down and the preparation is no longer nearly as careful.

It's sad when a good restaurant vanishes... two unhappy faces.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday: Sauteed fish topped with cherries

Driven by the presence of some dried cherries in the fridge (originally preserved cherries, these somehow managed to dry out completely without going bad) a couple pieces of hoki in the freezer, and a ton of lettuce that needed to be used.

Cook the lettuce with thinly sliced onion, chopped garlic, and butter until it's tender. Set aside.

Make the cherry sauce by putting the cherry mass in a pot with some butter and a bit of chicken stock, heat gently.

For the fish: coat each side with semolina that's been seasoned with salt and cayenne. Saute in clarified butter.

Serve the fish topped with cherries next to the lettuce.

Of course we had a green salad with this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday: Brussel sprouts with turnip, carrot, bacon, and chestnuts

Another recipe idea  from Using the Plot, I adapted it "a bit" by using turnips (which we had in the fridge) instead of parsnips (which we would have had to buy and which I'm a bit ambivalent about anyway).

Basic idea: brown some lardons in a big pan; add diced turnip and let it caramelize a bit and soften some; add carrot cut into matchsticks, and some minced garlic and cook another minute or so; add crumbled roasted chestnuts, some butter, and halved brussel sprouts (blanched and shocked first); grind in some pepper, adjust seasonings, and let it warm through before serving.

To go with this we had some thin pork chops that I did in the grill pan. These were mostly superfluous, as I think we would have both been perfectly happy eating a full plate of the sprouts.

Of course we had a green salad.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday: Choucroute

When we went to the market on Saturday, our usual sauerkraut source had the first batch we've seen this season (they said they had it last week, but we didn't see the telltale yellow tub). Happy days!

The first sauerkraut essentially requires that we do a choucroute. With just the two of us eating, the degree of extravagance that we can achieve has to be limited, but I was still able to put together something quite acceptable with salted bacon, smoked pork shoulder, and wienerli. Following the suggestion of the recipe in AFK, I added a diced apple to the cabbage as it was cooking. This was quite a nice touch as the sweetness of the apple played well with the general sour-saltiness of the dish.

Ah! Happy food!

of course there was also a green salad.

Saturday: Spinach-ricotta Gnocchi

This was basically a recipe from Using the Plot by Paul Merrett, which I have from the library. The original recipe is for dumplings, but Paul suggests an alternative use as gnocchi. Since there is a ton of spinach in the fridge and these sounded appealing, I gave them a try.

I did more or less a half recipe (only more or less since I didn't halve the egg yolk), so 125g ricotta, 250g spinach (blanched, shocked, and chopped into 2cm pieces), 65g flour, one egg yolk, parmesan. Preparation: beat the egg and ricotta together in a double boiler until they are warm and it's looking like the egg is ready to set. Stir in the grated parmesan. Stir in the flour. Stir in the spinach. Form dumplings with floured hands. Cook in boiling salted water.

I ate the dumplings with olive oil in which I had gently warmed a crushed clove of garlic and a piri piri chilli.

The flavor of these was good, but they were pretty raggedy looking. I think next time the spinach needs to be chopped more finely and mixed into the ricotta mixture before the flour. A bit of nutmeg also wouldn't hurt things.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday: risotto with savoy cabbage and veal

The idea for this came from a Kaltenbach recipe for Bundner risotto with wirsing. I deviated from this immediately because I substituted for the sausage with some veal stew meat we had in the fridge that needed to be used. Tja, not at all the same.

Start by browning 300g of veal in clarified butter. After deglazing the pan with white wine, add back the veal pieces along with a bit of beef bouillon, cover the pan, and let it simmer until the veal is tender. 
Meanwhile chop half a head of savoy cabbage into 2cm pieces and cook them in beef bouillon for 5 minutes. Drain the cabbage pieces and reserve the liquid.
In another pan, cook a minced onion in a Tbs or so of butter until it's glassy. Add a cup and a half of risotto rice, stir well, and toast for a couple of minutes. Add the cabbage and 3-4 cups of bouillon + the braising liquid from the veal (if it's not tender yet, pour out the liquid that's there and replace it with some bouillon), bring to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is al dente. Add more bouillon as necessary.

Serve topped with some intensely flavored hard cheese, I used Belper knolle.

To go with this delight I quick-pickled some turnips (toss with salt, press for a while, drain, rinse, and ring out; mix with sour-cherry vinegar and rapeseed oil).

And, of course, we had a big salad.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wednesday : soy braised chicken

This was inspired by an older Bittman recipe for soy-braised pork (or chicken). I browned a couple chicken leg quarters nicely; added some thickly-sliced ginger and chopped garlic; cooked a couple of minutes; added soy sauce, mirin, and a bit of sugar; partially covered; and then let the chicken cook until it was done. No reduction of the liquid was necessary to get a nice sauce, but that's theoretically possible.

To go with this, I cooked some fairly tough lettuce with a bit of peanut oil until tender and then flavored it with a splash each of soy and ponzu sauce. This I served topped with a bit of sesame oil. 

To go along with it all we had Japanese sweet rice.

lovely, lovely food.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Saturday: Potato-leek soup, pasta with sauce bolognese

We had friends over for dinner, so this was a bit "fancier" than normal.

We started with a potato-leek soup (to use up leeks from the biokiste), followed that with pappardelle with sauce bolognese (the Jamie Oliver recipe), and then had a quick pear tarte (pie crust topped with sliced pears, sprinkled with brown sugar, served with creme fraiche).

All very nice food indeed.

Of course there was a big green salad.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Friday: Chicken on a bed of cornbread stuffing

I'd been looking forward all week to using the leftover cornbread to make stuffing. Last night's dinner was an excuse to eat stuffing.

For the stuffing: cook a diced onion and some diced quince in butter until the onion softens. Add some vegetable bouillon and a tsp or so of white balsamico. Cover and let simmer a couple of minutes. Crumble in some cornbread, add a grind of pepper, mix well and gently heat until it's warm through. Add a splash of Maggi and adjust seasonings.

For the dish: form the stuffing into a pile in a baking dish. Top with a spatchcocked mistkratzerli (small chicken, game hen, poussin, whatever), season the chicken well with salt and pepper, toss in a 175 degree oven until the chicken is done, 20-30 minutes.

As a side I cooked some spinach with diced bacon, garlic, and olive oil. This I livened up with a splash of red wine vinegar before serving.

Very nice food.

yes, green salad

Thursday: Sauteed vegetables

Thursday's goal was using up loads of veggies and the last of the smoked pork from Tuesday. Sauteed vegetables was a good way of accomplishing both.

In the mix were: leeks, potatoes, carrots, squash, and spinach. In addition to the diced smoked pork, I added lemon zest, a splash of dry vermouth, a bit of marjoram and a bit of savory.

We ate the vegetables with parboiled rice/wildrice mix.

Very nice stuff.

Of course there was also a green salad.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday: Bread gratin

The idea started with looking for a way to use up some stale bread leftover from this weekend. Other parameters that came into the decision making were the presence of some sage in the fridge and the apples sitting on the counter in the kitchen. From there it was just a matter of figuring out which type of smoked pork I was going to use, a decision that was made easy by the sale on smoked "rippli" at Coop this week.

Scramble a couple eggs with an equal volume (or maybe a bit more) of milk. Add some chopped sage, salt, black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Stir in some cubed (stale) bread and mix well. Add diced onion, diced apple, and diced smoked pork and transfer to a gratin dish. Grate on some more nutmeg, cover, and bake at 175C for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil, top with grated gruyere, and bake another 20 minutes or so, until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Serve hot.

Great stuff.

We ate this with a big green salad and some cauliflower I cooked in olive oil with chopped peppers.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Sunday: Chili and cornbread

Last night I did a pot of chili and a pan of cornbread. As usual, this made for a couple very happy people in our house.

[Administrivia aside for my amusement: this is post 1111]

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Saturday: Fishsticks

I'm not quite sure where the idea came from, but I ended up with a powerful craving for fishsticks yesterday, so that's what I made for dinner.

There was nothing complicated here: hoki fillets cut into sticks, seasoned, and then dredged through flour, egg, and fresh breadcrumbs before being shallow fried in peanut oil. I served these with a sauce from mayo, ketchup, finely diced cornichons, minced chives, and tabasco.

As a vegetable side I seasoned some diced squash (again, an unknown variety from the biokiste) with salt and white pepper, baked it with a bit of peanut oil, and then served it topped with toasted walnuts.

We also had steamed potato wedges topped with crumbled cheese (Belper Knolle) and a big green salad.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Friday's Big Salad

Last night we did a big dinner salad. The components were:

  • merguez
  • lardons of smoked bacon
  • sweet corn mixed with chilis, sweet paprika, black pepper, white balsamico, and rapeseed oil
  • flageolets mixed with minced onion, white balsamico, and rapeseed oil
  • shaved radish (long white radishes)
  • shaved fennel (tossed with salt and allowed to pickle for an hour, then rinsed, squeezed out, and mixed with white balsamico and rapeseed oil)
  • nussli dressed with a warm vinaigrette of bacon fat, rapeseed oil, and cheap balsamico 
  • croutons made a slice of zopf
To go with this we had a bit of rösti (from a bag).

Of course we didn't need to have a green salad. :-)