Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chinese Barbecue Chicken Makes Another Appearance

By repeated requests, today we revisited Chinese barbecue chicken.  I used Char Sui Sauce (see previous post) and a little dark soy sauce to marinate the chicken drumsticks yesterday.  As an added flavor penetration tactic, I made a cut in each of the drumsticks, length-wise, at the thickest part of the meat.  This also helps to cook the drumsticks more quickly.  Instead of baking and brushing, I decided to marinate and grill.   As the sun permitted, the chicken went outside on the Weber grill, along with sliced eggplant.  Snap peas, which were still at their peak at the farmers market, made it to the table as well.  I decided to wok fry them with a little chopped garlic.  The girls preferred the baked chicken, as previously made, over grilled.  Corn was fabulous as were the snap peas.  Why are the snap peas so good?  They have a meaty shell, tender peas inside, and are crunchy and sweet.  Go out and get some at your local farmers market!  As we enter the natural height of fresh vegetables in our area, there's no need to do much with the ingredients.  Enjoy them as they are and let their true colors shine.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Grilled Veal Shoulder, Saffron Linguini with Peas, Scallions and Mint

After a few days off from the Buffet, I'm finding it difficult to get on the track again.  It seems the most exciting post lately was from Chris and the makers of Easy Mac.  I'm lucky Easy Mac never existed when I was in college.  It seems a bit more dangerous than the Top Ramen we used to zap in the microwave after a night out.  But then again, there was the $5 Dominos pizza that was guaranteed to arrive within 30 minutes.  Oh, those were fun times.

But on with the Buffet.  Once again having no idea what to do and really being spoiled from not having to purchase one grocery item for several days, I walked the aisles of the market with no plan.  Veal sparked an interest, and looking at my options, I decided to go cheap.  What to do with veal shoulder?  Seems braising would be the way to go, but it is summer... well, kind of.  I thought I'd take a chance and marinate and grill.  
The veal shoulder was marinated in a mixture of vermouth, sweet n spicy mustard, minced shallots, olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.   Grill over high heat for a couple minutes a side. 

I had purchased some homemade pasta from a farmers market today.  It was Spanish Saffron pasta and I followed the recipe that came with the pasta which contained butter, vermouth, chicken stock, fresh peas (also purchased from market), scallions and mint from my garden.  The peas were once again so sweet and tender.  Plucked at the peak of their season right here in the Yakima Valley.  Totally fabulous!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Mary Buffet was closed :(

Guest posting by Chris
With Mary gone for the weekend and the buffet closed it was time to hit up the trusty freezer for leftover pizza and the other standby staple from the good folks at Kraft, easy mac.  When did Kraft decide it was too much to ask us to add butter, milk and dried cheese mixed together in our own container?  And if they are going to go this far why no self contained stir spoon included?  You mean you want me to add water and use my own spoon?  Who cares as long as it shortens my time back to guarding the couch.  For the pizza, remove plastic wrap stick in oven.  Take out when the smell makes your mouth water.  For the easy mac, yell to living room that if kids are hungry they will find easy mac in the drawer if they are not full from the snacks and soda they have been consuming nonstop since wheels up on Mary's airplane.  Come to think of it the old way of making mac and cheese was pretty easy too just remind them to add butter and milk when you yell.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grilled Prawns Wrapped in Prosciutto

And that is really all there is to it.  Clean and devein your prawns, wrap in thinly slice prosciutto and grill.  If you want to go wild, marinate the prawns in a little olive oil and lemon juice for 15  minutes or so before you wrap them.  

With the prawns, I served buttered snap peas from the farmers market yesterday.  They were blanched and buttered like the English peas were last night.  The snap peas were plump and meaty and oh so sweet!  Summer, the best time for taking it easy and enjoying things just the way they are.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Jack Daniels meets Copper River Sockeye Salmon, While Peas and Potatoes Take the Cake

This recipe from the Junior League's cookbook, Simply Classic, is such an easy but so delicious salmon recipe.  It contains bourbon (Jack Daniels), brown sugar, soy sauce, green onions and vegetable oil.  I like to marinate it for a little longer so that when you grill it, it's almost got a candy glaze over it from the brown sugar and bourbon.  Rich, melt in your mouth salmon!  Chris makes salmon skin chips with the skin that sticks to the grill once you take the salmon off.  Yummy crunchy salty goodness.

From the farmers market over the weekend, I got a large bag of English Peas.  I asked the vendor if they were good, to which he only replied, try one.  I did, and said to him... I guess that says it all.  I shelled and blanched them in water and immediately rinsed them in cold water.  Warm them up with a little butter and a sprinkle of salt.  No need to mess with a good thing.
I couldn't help myself... I dug a few more potatoes out of the garden to make mashed new potatoes.  Peel and boil the potatoes until tender.  Mash and combine with hot cream and melted butter.   Chris said he could eat a meal with just the peas and mashed potatoes.  Those of you who know him, know what a big compliment to the veggies that is.  We had a long discussion of why these taste so much better than even grocery store organic veggies.  Home grown or farmers market fresh, picked at their natural height, eaten's the best way to go!

I am in love and a little bit obsessed with the farmers market.  I think it's because I wish I had the space to grow all of these things myself.  Today, I drove down to the Columbia City farmers market just so I could get more of those snap peas.  And while there, picked up these flowers whose beauty I thought I must share. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chicken Under a Stone

Inspired by a meal our friends cooked up at Whidbey Island a couple of years ago, this cooking method has taken a solid place in our chicken grilling repertoire.  Grilling the chicken under a couple of heavy bricks or, in our case, blue stone, results in faster and more even cooking.  Plus, it looks cool.  
I marinated one whole deboned chicken in orange juice, lemon juice, white wine, honey, a little soy, olive oil, garlic, and herbs from the garden... parsley, thyme, basil and rosemary.  I put my chicken in the marinade this morning and took it out of the refrigerator about an hour before grilling it.  

Wrap your bricks or stone in heavy duty foil.  Heat the stone on the grill first.  Grill the chicken over medium heat laying the stone on top of the chicken.  Chris flipped the chicken a few times basting each time and replacing the wrapped stone on top.  Be careful the skin does not catch fire.  Garnish with lemon slices.  Between the 4 1/2 of us, the chicken was devoured.  Yum!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Homemade Fettucini with Morels, Caramelized Shallots and Snap Peas

Gotta get 'em while you can.  While fresh morels are in season, I was compelled to pick up some more when we were at the farmers market yesterday.  The snap peas in all their bright green glory called my name as well.  So, somewhat in the same vein as the appetizer from Saturday night, tonight, I am making the pasta version.

I made fresh egg fettucini in the same manner as previous posts.  

For the rest...
Blanche snap peas and cut into 1" sections
Caramelize sliced shallots in butter
Toast pumpkin seeds in a pan set over medium-low heat
Grate a mixture of parmesan and mizithra cheeses

Saute morel mushrooms in a bit of butter until well softened.  Add about 3/4 cup of stock.  I used a little porcini mushroom stock.  Toss in snap peas and saute for a couple more minutes, then add in a couple tablespoons of butter.  Keep warm.

Boil pasta for 90 seconds, drain, drizzle a little olive oil to pasta from sticking together.  Toss pasta with morels, snap peas, and add in the shallots, pumpkin seeds and grated cheese.  All of the ingredients shined.  I loved the pumpkin seeds for a little bit of crunch, the morels were meaty, the snap peas were like candy, and the shallots added just the right amount of sweet and savory.  

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day Steak and Poutine

From Chris' homeland comes one of his favorite dishes, poutine.  It has been one of the dreariest days in June I can remember, but it has given us the ticket to ride our couch and enjoy a few of the 6+ hours of U.S. Open Golf coverage on TV.  So, what better way to round out this day than steak and poutine.  

I cut my fries a little thicker than usual, about 1/3" by 1/3".  I used Idaho russets and soaked them in cold water after cutting until ready to use.  Fry the potatoes twice to achieve a soft pillowy center and crispy shell.  Drain and dry the potatoes, and fry in batches if you have to.  I did.  I fried mine in two batches for the first fry at 235f for about 5 minutes each batch.  Then heat your oil up to 350f and fry again until golden and crispy, another 5 minutes.  For the second batch, I fried all the potatoes together.  As soon as you lift them out of the oil, sprinkle with kosher salt.  This is the only way to get salt to adhere to the potatoes.  
To make the fries into poutine, you will need fresh cheese curds and a good gravy.  We stopped in at the Broadway Farmers Market and picked up some curds from Mt. Townsend Creamery among a few other items.  I made the gravy using drippings from the pan seared steak, a little flour, and some beef stock.  After searing our steaks, I made a little roux with the fat left in the pan.  To that I added beef stock.. that's it.  
To assemble the poutine, lay out your fries, top with cheese curds, then ladle on the gravy.  Ooh la la.  
For our steaks, I went back to Rain Shadow Meats at Melrose Market and picked up a couple of rib eye steaks.  They had two types, one from Painted Hills in Oregon and one from Thundering Hooves in Walla Walla, Washington.  The difference between the two, we were told, was corn and grain fed at Painted Hills, while grass fed at Thundering Hooves.  Of course we had to do a side by side comparison.  The Painted Hills has more marbling, which we like, but the Thundering Hooves looks richer.  

I made a sauce by sauteing minced shallots in butter, then added rosemary, thyme, sage and bay leaf.  Then pureed it in the blender with beef stock and returned to a sauce pan to reduce a bit.  After boiling for a few minutes, I added a few tablespoons of brandy and simmered a bit longer.  To finish, of course, a dollop of cream and boiled a bit to thicken.  
In a heavy cast iron pan, I pan fried the steaks.  Salt and pepper the steaks generously.  Over medium heat, fry the steaks in a little bit of oil, about 5 minutes each side, depending on how well you like your steaks and how thick they are.  

The grass fed had more beef flavor.  It wasn't gamey, just tastes like beef.  That first bite was a line in the sand on what we have normally eaten and what is grass fed.  Both were equally tender, but to be honest, we liked both, yet not one dramatically over the other.  The verdict?  We like a good steak!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Chris!

The birthday dinner is always one with a little pressure to please.  Being a lover of food, I am always dismayed at how seldom we do go out to eat.  As a friend said to me, isn't it a method of research?  As much as I'd like to, I cannot expect to grow without venturing outside of my bubble.  Though as we age, we are more and more home bodies.  And the more I cook, the more difficult it is to draw us out of our little homey cave.  This is the conundrum.  

So tonight, something new, something old, and the happiness to share another year in this great place we call home.
Morel Mushrooms, Snap Peas, New Potatoes and Poached Egg
This, my attempt at recreating the dish we had at Sitka and Spruce the other night, was delightfully rich and bright.  At Sitka, there was discussion of whether there was cream in the sauce.  I was so sure there was, I said I'd eat my shoe if there wasn't.  We never received confirmation from the kitchen, but if there wasn't any cream in their sauce, there is some new magical ingredient or method I am not aware of.  Surprisingly, I found fresh Washington morel mushrooms at Uwajimaya.  They never fail to carry unexpected produce to a point where I now quite expect to find the unexpected.  

Saute morel mushrooms until just softened.  Add in a bit of veal stock an bring to a simmer.  Add a dollop of heavy cream and return to simmer until slightly thickened.  Turn heat off until you are ready to assemble your plate.  In a separate pan, blanche snap peas until tender and shock in a ice water bath to stop cooking and maintain the bright green color.  Drain and slice into 1/2" pieces crosswise.  Add to morel mushrooms.  
The new potatoes were my addition.  I couldn't stop myself from digging my hands into the soil to see if any potatoes were developing in my garden.  I pulled out a couple each of yukon gold and pontiac red.  I cleaned and peeled the red potatoes, cut them into 1/2" squares and boiled them until tender.   Add to morel mushrooms and peas and season to taste with with salt and pepper.
Poach eggs in water with a teaspoon of distilled vinegar.  As soon as you put your eggs in the water to poach, turn the heat back on for the morels and snap peas to bring just to simmer.  Assemble your plate with a the morels, snap peas and sauce first and then lay the poached egg on top.  

Seared East Coast Scallops, Asparagus, Sabayon and Honey Sherry Butter
Scallop sashimi has become one of my favorite sushi items.  This scallop dish we had at Sitka had the scallops seared rich golden brown on the outside, but basically rare on the inside.  Heaven!  Their dish was served with green asparagus, but I could not resist trying white asparagus for my version.

For the honey sherry butter, I mixed together honey, sherry vinegar and butter in a small sauce pan.  Warm slightly.
Prepare the sabayon sauce before cooking the asparagus and scallops.
1/3 cup clam juice
3 tbsp vermouth
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 egg yolks
1 garlic clove, minced
Combine clam juice and vermouth in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, and add lemon juice.  In a little warmed olive oil, add garlic and let cook slowly for a few minutes until garlic is softened.  Drain garlic from oil.  I save the oil and used it for the scallops.  Whisk egg yolks and garlic together in a heat proof bowl and then slowly whisk in the clam juice mixture.  Put the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk until the sabayon is thick and creamy.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.
Blanche asparagus in salted water until tender.  
Salt and pepper large sea scallops.  Using a heavy cast iron pan heated until smoking, add just a touch of oil and sear scallops for about 1 minute or less per side.  Gently press down on the scallops to assure an even browning. 
Spoon a little sabayon onto your plate, top with asparagus and then scallops.  Drizzle with a bit of the honey sherry butter.
Go back to green asparagus, I say.  Prettier for the plate and more flavor too.  And, my pan was not hot enough... get it to uncomfortably hot, and then lay the scallops on the pan.   Restraint, it's the only way to accomplish raw on the inside, seared on the out.

Pan Fried Quail with Blackberry Sauce, Fresh Porcini Mushroom Risotto, Candied Snap Peas Birthday Boy Request 
Prepare the risotto first.  I have several posting for risotto, so I won't go through it again here.  The only difference is the substitution of fresh porcini mushrooms, which, you guessed it, I got from Uwajimaya.  
Then prepare the blackberry sauce.  This is a sauce I've made many times in the past, but always serving it with duck breast.  Good ol' Epicurious supplies this recipe.

Get your deboned quail from University Seafood and Poultry.  They sell them frozen, so I find myself picking some up whenever I am there and putting into my freezer for future use. 
Generously salt and pepper the quail on both sides.  In a hot cast iron pan over medium high heat, sear the quail in a little bit of oil until golden brown on both sides.  If needed, put quail into the oven on 425f for a few minutes.  That is, if you find your quail is well browned on the outside, but not cooked to your liking in the inside, you can finish it by putting it into the oven.
For the candied snap peas, blanche the peas and then heat them with melted butter and maple syrup.

On an overall prep note, in order to get these courses served up in quick order, I prepped everything I could ahead of time.  Blanche the vegetables, make the risotto ahead and finish with the cheese and mascarpone addition right before serving.  Even the sabayon was prepared and reheated when ready to serve.  I prepared the morel dish to the point of poaching the egg.  It is the best of both worlds, hence very restaurant kitchen friendly.  Feels like it was all cooked right before served, but the only way to accomplish restaurant service, is to be able to prep half ahead leaving the center stage item to be cooked right before serving.

Crack Pie - How Sweet It Is

Happy Birthday Chris!  Let's eat pie!  I've already written about Crack Pie back in April, after our trip to New York and our discovery of this magical dessert at Momofuku's Milk Bar.  I wanted to surprise Chris with a birthday dessert, and while thinking about chocolate molten cakes, teacup souffles, white chocolate something, Crack Pie suddenly charged into my head.  Remembering last time my pie was a little too soft and wet and sweet to a point that just thinking about it made my teeth hurt, I made a couple of adjustments to the recipe I found online from the LA Times.   

For the filling, I lowered the sugar content in the filling as follows:
1 1/4 cups sugar instead of 1 1/2
2/3 cup of brown sugar instead of 3/4
Next time I will try to go even less as it was still ultra sweet, but I wasn't sure how it would affect the consistency of the filling. 
For the bake time, I increased the baking at the lower temp (325f) by 5-7 minutes.  The recipe was for 2 pies.  One of my tins was 10" and the other 9", so the 9" one got slightly more bake time because of the slightly thicker filling.  I also added 1 tbsp of flour to filling mixture in hopes it would give it a little body.

When the girls discovered I was making Crack Pie, a celebratory dance was done.. apparently, so far, the most exciting discovery of the summer.  Crack pie, how we love thee...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

All Right, I Give in - Braised Oxtail

With the official first day of summer around the corner, it still feels, at times, like winter here in Seattle.  My plans to charge forward in summer season cooking and leave the comfort foods behind, keeps getting stalled.  Chris has been asking for my braised oxtail and, today, yet another grey day, I gave in.  This oxtail is made in the same fashion as most other Chinese 'red cooked' meats.  Red cooked, meaning basically braised in soy, is a popular homestyle cooking method for otherwise tougher cuts of meat.  
Trim any fat off the oxtail and blanche in boiling water for a few minutes to remove any impurities.  Drain the oxtail and return to cleaned pan with 1/3 cup dark soy, 1/4 cup of cooking wine, a couple tablespoons of sugar, several garlic cloves, a few slices of ginger, and enough water to cover the oxtail.  Braise, simmering over low heat for 1 1/2 hours.  At that point, add in 2 bunches of cleaned scallions, cut in half cross-wise.  Cover and simmer for another 45 minutes. The oxtail should be very tender, almost falling off the bone.  Uncover, and bring to a rapid boil to thicken the sauce a bit if needed.  Rich, deep, flavorful.  Definitely a bowl of rice needed!
And by request for the girls, Cantonese fried chow mein.  Translated into 'two sides golden' noodles, meaning browned on both sides, these crispy and soft noodles are another favorite.  I submerged the noodles in boiling water for 30 seconds and drained.  Then in a non-stick pan, over medium high heat, I browned both sides of the noodles with a little oil.  Keep the noodles formed together, almost like a pancake and flip them only once.  This crisps and browns the outside layer of the cake of noodles and the center remains soft.  In a wok, I fried sliced onions, minced garlic, broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, shrimp and chinese sausage.  Then added oyster sauce, soy and water and brought to a boil and thickened with a mixture of corn starch and water.  The sauce should be enough to coat the noodles well.  I had maybe a full cup of sauce.  The huge plate of noodles were devoured by my kids in a manner that, I commented to them, was a little barbaric.  As I said to them, it's a compliment to me, but might be viewed as quite impolite to others.  

Melrose Market - a little gem

Last night I visited a wonderful new spot in Capitol Hill, Melrose Market.  Inside the market is Sitka and Spruce in its new open and airy space.  The food was fabulous and I'll be challenging myself to try and recreate a couple of items.  The building itself is still under some construction, but it is in keeping with its original charm.  Pictured above are the table at Sitka and the butcher shop, Rain Shadow Meats.  The meat there looked divine and I would have purchased some had it not been closed when we finished dinner.   Also open at the Market are The Calf and Kid, Artisan Cheese Shop, and Marigold and Mint organic flower and produce shop.  Soon to come are Homegrown, Sustainable Sandwich Shop, and word of a Wine Shop and Oyster Bar.  A lovely concept, one which I hope will continue to grow.  Melrose Market, a gem in a historic building. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What? Veal Kebabs

Seems like a waste, right?  But once again, wandering the meat counter, standing there long enough I was getting uncomfortable looks from the folks working there, I picked up some 'veal for stew'.  What was I thinking... I am not going to make stew at this time of year... although it does feel, at times, like winter out there.  So, what to do... I've always liked a good kebab.  

Could it be more easy?  Nope.  And I find myself asking, well, myself, does anyone want to read about how I took $4.99/lb veal chunks, marinated it in my favorite Very Yeri Teriyaki sauce, skewered it with onions, yellow bell peppers and crimini mushrooms, and grilled it?  Maybe not, but I remind myself as much as this could be entertainment for others, it is also my way of cataloging what I cook.  Maybe not exciting, but reality it is.  To the Very Yeri sauce, I added sweet soy sauce and sliced scallions.  You know my love for doctoring jarred sauces.  The flavor excellent, but as I suspected, and warned my family, the veal was chewy.  After all, it was meant for stew.  Our jaws got a workout, but it didn't stop us from enjoying some well marinated kebabs.  

Monday, June 14, 2010

Holy Moly, Cafe Lago Lasagna

I say holy moly because this is some labor intensive lasagna.  Cafe Lago may best be known for their delicate yet luscious lasagna.  Sweet marinara, ethereal pasta, little did I know what work it is to make.  I am not one unaccustomed to spending a day cooking, but perhaps it was the word lasagna that threw me off.  I've maybe only made 2 or 3 lasagnas in my lifetime, but somehow I was of the belief that it was a no-brainer.  Such is not the case with Cafe Lago's recipe.  

Part of the chore was trying to follow the recipe in every detail.  That in itself takes a lot of time.. constantly reading, going back, checking to make sure I'm doing it right.  Life is so much easier when you can wing it, which is my normal M. O.   I was doing my best to follow rule 2 and 3 from the recipe: 
Second rule: Don't cut corners. What would happen, say, if you cooked the ultra-thin pasta sheets all together instead of single piece by single piece? "Bad idea," Viladas responded in an eye-blink.

Third rule: Try not to tinker. "If you put meat in this pasta, it totally ruins it," Viladas said.
But it seems I did tinker a little.  I kind of went half and half with their marinara recipe and mine.  I had a fair amount of fresh Roma tomatoes, so I used half fresh and half canned and I did not mill the tomatoes, I just pureed them in a food processor.  The food mill would have been even more work.  
I will be interested to see if the pasta is the same in taste and texture as the Marcella Hazan recipe I normally use.  Lago's uses water and a drizzle of olive oil in addition to eggs, while Hazan's is eggs only.  From a pre-cooked standpoint, I prefer the texture and feel of Hazan's.  But Lago's was easier to make because of the use of the food processor.   Since my rolling of the dough was not perfect to size, I found myself doing a little trimming with each sheet of pasta. But no big deal there.  
Other than that, I stayed on course and did as the recipe stated.  Once again, the sauce steals the show!  The lasagna was light and fluffy.  Stella said it tastes like cake!  If I had to pick, I'd say I prefer the all egg pasta.  More depth of flavor, better elasticity and body.  But not having tried lasagna with it, it's difficult to say whether it would have held up as well with the boiling and layering in large sheets.  Would I go to the trouble of making it all again?  I can't say for sure.  I could skip the ricotta and bechamel and go straight with the just pasta and marinara.  That is perfection in itself.
2nd Layer of ricotta mixture on

After 1st baking at 350f for 1 hour
Out of the oven after 2nd baking 350f for 1 hour

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Berkshire Kurobuta Bo Ssam

This may be the fourth or fifth time we've made bo ssam with David Chang's recipe (see earlier posting) and I have secretly not blogged about it every time.  We appear piggy enough as it is.  But the butcher at Uwajimaya, where I always get my whole boston pork butt, asked me one day what I was doing with it.  He suggested I try the Berkshire Kurobuta pork.  I have had the Kurobuta in other cuts but was skeptical with this particular recipe because I believed the bone in was an important detail and they only sold the Kurobuta pork butt boneless.  So, I am posting on the bo ssam again tonight only to report the outcome of the boneless Berkshire Kurobuta pork butt.  

First, let me preface this by saying we are not using our own oven and discovered, thankfully in time, that the oven we were using was set on celsius instead of fahrenheit.  Wanting to enjoy our day, Chris had come back to put the pork into the oven, which he set to 300.  Yet when we returned, again thankfully not too long after, it was to the smell of 'burning meat' as Stella called it.  We were perplexed as to what happened.  After a bit of troubleshooting, I discovered the oven must have been set to celsius.  

The pork roasted at 500f for about 40 minutes and then to 300f or 147c for 4 hours, and finally finishing at 450f or 241c for 10 minutes with a coating of brown sugar.  The initial 'browning' at the higher temp worked out fine.  Had it been any longer at that high temp, things would have been different.  And, the boneless factor allowed for shorter cooking time with a super tender, juicy, pull apart result.  It was every bit mind blowing, foodie porn, pork candy delicious.  We all moaned and groaned at its pure pork perfection.  It is a resounding yes on the Berkshire Kurobuta pork!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Roasted Pork and Potato Chips

So, I had this two and a half pound pork shoulder I had purchased from Whole Foods, primarily because it looked good.  I was searching for a new recipe to try out and then I realized it was just going to be the kids & I for dinner.  How are we going to eat this on our own?  I thought of tossing it into the freezer, where chances are, it may never find its way out again.  And then it dawned on me... the whole roast was only about $7.50 and that's pretty good for feeding three people.  So, pork roast it is.

Pork Roast with dijon mustard, balsamic, garlic and rosemary
One 2 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder
Rub roast generously with kosher salt.  Over medium high heat in a cast iron pan, sear all side of the roast starting with fat side down.  Make a paste like spread with dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, grated garlic and chopped rosemary.  Spread over seared roast and place in a 325f oven for 2 hours.  Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.  I made a gravy with the dripping from the roast, some chicken stock and a splash of brandy.  

Potato Chips
Thinly slice small russet potatoes to 1/16" thickness.  A mandoline works best.  Soak in icy cold water.  Par fry at 225f in a deep fat fryer or large pot of oil.  Strain on paper towels and then heat oil to 350f and fry again until golden brown.   Salt the potatoes right when they come out of the oil for the second time.  Otherwise, the salt will not adhere to the potatoes.

The roast was pork-y, as Maggie said.  Luckily for me, I can make a mean gravy and we are all much more forgiving of anything served with gravy.  The chips were crispy and salty, just the way I like them.  Might I repeat the meal... roast, maybe... chips yes!  The pork was just fine, but nothing to write home about.  Maybe I wasn't in the mood, maybe I was just wiped out.  We are on the home stretch and summer is just a whisper away. Yay!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Pay Off Prime Rib Pappardelle

Sunday's Prime Rib dinner leftovers, becomes Wednesday's pasta special.  It's a double pay off really; the use of leftovers and the fact that this meal is almost ready made.  I sliced the leftover steak into thin pieces.  To make the sauce, I sauteed some sliced shallots and mushrooms and then added the extra gravy I had made.  Let simmer for a bit, add a splash of cream and bring back to a simmer.  Toss in the steak at the last minute, just to heat.  Serve over pappardelle with some freshly grated parmesan.  Chris and the kids love this meal more than the original prime rib dinner.  Sometimes if I want to get a little fancy, I add a few drops of white truffle oil or maybe some balsamic vinegar.  And really, you can do this easy meal with any leftovers if you have a little gravy.  Who doesn't like a bonus meal?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What is Ghee? and What Else Can I Throw at a Chicken?

I could not resist a little blurb on this discovery.  The words "Clarified Butter" is what caught my attention as I was pushing my cart through Costco.  I looked at the golden substance in this huge jar and immediately took a photo and sent it to Chris.  He responded, simply, "purchase".  I was quite tempted.  I picked it up, gave it a little turn upside down, a quick daydream of what I could do with this much clarified butter, and then set it back on the large mountainous stack.  A quick reality check and I was on my way to the check out counter.  Later, Chris asked me why I didn't buy it.  I said, it scared me.  I know well enough not to have 56 ounces of clarified butter in my house.  Of anyone we know, we might actually consume it all.
Ghee - read all about it in Wikipedia

I found myself rummaging around in my refrigerator again trying to figure out what to do with my whole chicken I had purchased from, where, Costco.  The 2 pack, organic, did again find its way into my cart.  I discussed with Mags what to do.  She really wanted gravy, but I was hoping to grill.  Chinese salted chicken came up, but that really does require overnight marinating.  So, I decided to use some nuoc cham sauce I had convinced my favorite pho restaurant to sell me.  It is basically, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, water and chili.  But theirs is excellent.  And in my uncontrollable desire to doctor things, I added a few more items.
1/2 Cup Nuoc Cham (Thai dipping sauce)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 roma tomato, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
Juice of one whole lime

I marinated the chicken for about an hour, which turned out to be fine.  We grilled the chicken basting it with the marinade and served with fired rice and wok fried bok choy.  The chicken was juicy and sweet and had a nice caramelization on the outside.  Thank goodness for chicken.  It always adapts to whatever you throw at it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mushroom and Pea Shoot Risotto with Roasted Pine Nuts and Brie

My day got away from me as I rushed to get some work done, crank out some home improvement chores and squeeze in some major to-do's before the kids are released from school for the summer.  That day is a day I've been looking forward to, but nonetheless, I feel the need to get as many things as possible checked off my list so we are unencumbered on our summer freedom.  A general mental inventory gave me the idea for tonight's dinner.  These are ingredients I had in my refrigerator and risotto is an easy to make at the last minute dish.  It is essentially a more sophisticated sounding one pot meal.  And when you break it all down, it really is just an, albeit fabulous, one pot meal. 

I won't type out another risotto recipe, primarily because I don't really have one.  But I will direct you to this scarce version of a recipe from an earlier post.  The only alterations are no addition of meat, but the addition of pea shoots, pine nuts and brie which are all incorporated into the risotto just before you are ready to serve.  The pea shoots are from my garden.  I toasted pine nuts in a pan on top of the stove and the brie was President's Spreadable Brie.  This brie has become a favorite of Chris' when he needs a little nibble when he arrives home.  Instead of the mascarpone cheese, I thought the brie would be a good addition.  And was it ever!  

As I sat down to eat, I decided to drizzle a little balsamic fig dressing, which turned out to be a splendid addition.   The risotto was every bit satisfying and rich yet clean tasting and fresh.  Just very, very good!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Supper Prime Rib

I've been craving prime rib lately and looking back, it's been almost four months since I last made it, so time to get it back in the rotation.  When my kids ask me what's for dinner, and I answer prime rib, they get a little excitement in their faces and then they realize I'm talking about a beef roast, not ribs.  That 'rib' in the name always gets them.  But they, like Chris, love a prime rib dinner mostly because of the brown sauce I make from the leftovers.  The pasta dinner a couple of days later is the real pay off for them.  For me, it's that lovely slice of rare rib roast with my horseradish sauce.

I followed my usual preparation of the roast by leaving it uncovered, in the refrigerator, for at least a day, but preferably 2.  This dry aging of the roast makes it more tender.  I took the roast out of the refrigerator about 1.5 hours before roasting to get it to full room temp.  A simple and generous coating of kosher salt and pepper on the top of the roast is all that's needed.  Roast at 450f for 15 minutes to get a nice sear on the outside and then turn the oven down to 325f for the remainder of the time.  For this size of roast, it's about 60 minutes, but the best way to assure proper cooking is an accurate meat thermometer.   Let rest about 15-20 minutes before slicing.

Using any drippings from the roast, I made a simple gravy.  Make a roux with a bit of the fat and some flour and then add beef stock and some red wine and bring to a boil.  Whisk to remove any lumps and bring to a rapid boil for a bit.  I always make extra gravy as the base for the pasta sauce to come.
Of course you can't have prime rib without potatoes, right?  One of my favorite potato recipes is also one of the simplest.  Peel yukon gold potatoes and cut into large pieces.  Boil until slightly softened.  Melt a couple tablespoons of lard in a baking pan in the oven.  Then add the potatoes to the hot fat, turning the potatoes around to make sure they are evenly covered with the fat.   And then I decided to add some rosemary to the mix.  Sprinkle with salt and roast at 425f until golden.  The potatoes were crispy on the outside, fluffy soft on the inside.  Delicious!
And tonight I decided to add a classic English pairing of Yorkshire Pudding.  I used this recipe from Epicurious.  Really good, I must say.  Stella poured a little gravy in the middle and ate it like a little soup cup.  
Then a few sauteed mushrooms on the side and we were off to the races.  The prime rib did not disappoint, but the surprise of the night was the Yorkshire pudding.  Really, a simple recipe, and a comforting addition to the meal.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saturday Nourishing the Body Nourishes the Soul

It is a glorious sunny day out there.  A light breeze, blue skies and when I woke this morning, I wanted to cook.  For me, cooking has alway been a sort of refuge, a way to get away.  When Chris and I were first married, we lived in a condo at the end of the Pike Place Market.  I worked at the other end of the market and would walk through it, to work and home every day.  My evening routine would be to shop for our dinner on my way home and making our meal was how I unwound my day.  So today I found myself in the kitchen looking for a little peace.  And as I'm typing this, I can hear the chatter of my girls as they make cookies for our dessert tonight.  It's a beautiful sound.

I went shopping knowing I would find inspiration once I got to the store.  I think my desire to make a big meal drew me to both seafood and a good steak.  For us greedy food lovers, surf and turf is always a good thing.

Garlic Butter White Prawns 
16 large fresh U15 wild white prawns
Lemon juice
White wine
Melted butter to baste

Clean, devein, and shell the prawns.  I cut them almost all the way through to flatten them.  Marinate them in some lemon juice and white wine for about 30 minutes.  Grill them brushing with the melted butter and some chopped garlic.

Miso Glazed Black Cod
1 Whole black cod, cleaned, head removed, almost 3 lbs
1/4 cup light miso
2 tbsp light soy
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake
2" piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
2 scallions, sliced diagonally
few sprinkles of sesame seeds

I filleted and de-boned the black cod.  Mix together miso, soy, mirin and sake.  Place cod in a large dish and pour marinade over top, then sprinkle with the ginger, scallions and sesame seeds.  I marinated the fish for about 6 hours.  Grill the fish on a piece of thick tin foil.  To finish, I took my flame torch and scorched the top.  I had thought of broiling the fish, but decided grilling was better.  However, grilling would not impart the searing on top, hence the flame torch.

Beef Tenderloin with Lemongrass, Ginger and Shallot Teriyaki
3 Beef Tenderloin Filets, just over 2 lbs total
1/2 Cup Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce
2 Lemongrass stalks, smashed and cut into 2" pieces
2" piece of ginger, smashed and roughly chopped
1 large shallot, smashed and roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

One of my favorite shortcuts to use is doctoring up bottled sauces.  Veri Veri Teriyaki is my favorite teriyaki marinating sauce.  My kids love it most on chicken.  I mixed the sauce with the lemongrass, ginger, shallot and pepper, placed it in a large zip lock bag with the beef tenderloin.    For smaller portions of steak, I split each large filet into 3 pieces.  Get your favorite grill guy/gal, and grill over high heat until medium rare.  

We had the prawns as an appetizer ad served the black cod and beef tenderloin with corn on the cob, grilled asparagus and easy yukon gold Potatoes Fondantes.

Food always brings us together in presence and in spirit.  For this I am thankful, for food nourishes our bodies and our souls.