Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Italian Sausage and Butternut Squash Ravioli

Does it feel busy out there?  I am feeling a little worse for wear after a day of running around in the driving rain.  On my mental menu for the night was ravioli, which felt like a herculean effort to  accomplish today.  A variation on my previous posting of butternut squash ravioli, this one puts the pork into the ravioli.  

1 Small butternut squash
2/3 lb Mild Italian sausage
1 cup grated cheese (I used equal parts parmesan, pecornio romano, mizithra, and fontina)
1 tbsp spreadable brie, or mascarpone, or cream cheese
2 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Slice butternut squash in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds.  Roast in the oven cut side down in a pan at 425f for 25-30 minutes.  I overcooked mine.  Having to leave the house, I turned the oven off and left it in there only to return too late.  This made the squash a little too soft and mushy.  I scooped out the flesh and let it drain in a sieve so the excess liquid could run out.  Cook sausage and break apart into small bits while cooking.  Combine squash and sausage with remaining ingredients.  
I used ready made fresh pasta sheets, 8 sheets in total, which made 40 large ravioli in total.   You could make whatever size you like, but the size of the sheets I had made it easy to lay out the spoonfuls of filling in 2 rows of 5.  I brushed all the edges with water before laying the top pasta sheet and used a rolling cutter to cut the ravioli.

I decided to make a little tomato sauce to go with.  
1 - 28oz can San Marzano whole tomatoes
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
splash of cream

Chop or puree the tomatoes in a blender.  Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large sauce pan.  Saute the onions and garlic until softened.  Add the carrots and celery and stir to combine.  Turn heat down to medium low, cover and let cook for about 5 minutes.  Add in the tomatoes, stir to combine.  Once again, I got distracted and let it simmer for about 50 minutes.  It worked out ok, just a thicker sauce.  Simmer the sauce for only 30 minutes for a regular thickness.   Finish with a splash of cream.
The ravioli was fabulous, if I may say so, and really did not need the tomato sauce.  May have been really good with just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of grated parmagiano reggiano.  The tomato sauce was special on its own and could have been saved for a simple spaghetti.  But you know us, we never turn down a sauce.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pan Fried Petrale Sole with Crab and Saffron Bisque

Well hello.  A week off from posting and my creative cooking brain has completely checked out.  This was the first year in maybe the last two decades that I have not cooked Thanksgiving dinner.  I have to say, I missed it.  I did, however, roast a turkey the Friday before we left on our trip and the leftovers are still frozen ready for the bonus turkey pot pies to be made.  While away, we realized how much we love our home cooked meals.  It's all what you're accustomed to, I guess.  And as you might have noticed, we normally don't eat out much.  Tonight, a little fish to start off the week.  

1 Whole cooked dungeness crab
2 cups water
2 slices ginger
2 scallions
1/4 tsp tomato paste
pinch of saffron
1/4 cup heavy cream

Remove crab meat from the shell.  Reserve crab meat and  bring to room temp when ready to serve.  Make a broth by combining the shells with the water, ginger and scallions.  Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve.  Discard shells.  I decided to add a little tomato flavor and had tomato paste in my fridge.  So, added in 1/4 tsp tomato paste.  If you do not and don't want to open a whole can, add a tomato when you are making the broth with the crab shells, etc.  Bring the broth back to a light rolling boil and reduce to 3/4 cup.  Add saffron and cream and bring to a light boil and reduce slightly.

1 lb Petrale sole fillets

Season the sole with salt and white pepper.  Pan sear the sole with a little olive oil, about 1 minute or less per side.  Top sole with a good amount of crab meat and ladle bisque over top. The sole was wonderful, but once again, sauce is king.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pappardelle with Duck Confit and Mushrooms

I had a little duck craving yesterday and purchased some prepared duck confit legs made by Grimaud Farms.  Salad?  Quinoa?  Risotto?  I decided on pasta.  I also saw some duck rillettes, and had visions of a complete duck extravaganza.  But then thought better of it.  How much rich food can a body take?  Ours, obviously, are accustomed to taking a large hit, but as we head into the holiday stretch, I feel I should keep it in check.. just a little bit.  So, a small duck feast tonight, but enough flavor to satisfy the craving.
1 Pkg (2 legs) of Duck Confit
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, I used a mixture of shiitake and chanterelle, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp Madeira
2 tbsp cream
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp julienned fresh sage
1/2 lb of dried pappardelle
2-3 tbsp olive oil
zest and juice of 1/2 small lemon 

Saute the mushrooms and garlic in a little bit of olive oil over medium high heat until softened.  Turn heat down the medium, add Madeira and sage and continue to saute until Madeira is evaporated.  Then add cream and parsley and mix well.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation of the duck confit is per the instructions on the box.  Bake in oven at 400f for about 10-15 minutes until heated through and skin is crispy again.  I brought the duck to room temp before baking.  Shred the duck and set aside and keep warm.

Cook pappardelle according to package instructions.  Toss with olive oil, lemon zest and juice.  Then add in the mushrooms and duck and toss again.  Serve with freshly grated parmagiano reggiano.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Leek, Fennel and Potato Soup with Fried Wild Shrimp and Poached Egg

Another blustery day here in Seattle, and another good day for soup.  The various soups that are pureed are all excellent ways to get vegetables into my kids without the normal push back.  The soups hold for several days and are, in fact, better the second day.  The chilling and reheating of the soup intensifies the flavors.  

2 large leeks, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
6 small potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp brandy
6 cups chicken stock

In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the potatoes and saute for a few minutes.  I used a mixture of red and yukon gold left over from the garden.  Then add the leeks and fennel and saute for another 10 minutes until quite soft.  Deglaze with the brandy and then add in the chicken stock.  Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes.  Let cool a bit and puree in a blender.  Reheat to serve.  I served mine with a slice of crispy Nueskes bacon and a dollop of sour cream.  

You know I'm not finished with the bacon right?  With the fat rendered from frying the bacon, I fried some wild gulf coast pink shrimp.  Nothing else, just the shrimp.  I served the shrimp topped with a simple poached egg, some sauteed spinach and a hunk of Manoucher baguette, my favorite.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

So, here it is, the spatchcocked buttermilk roast chicken from the Essential New York Times Cookbook.  Chris happened to call home yesterday while I was prepping the chicken, and I told him I had to put him on speakerphone as I was spatchcocking and making a buttermilk brine.  Tell me more he said.  Am I becoming the 1-900 number for foodie porn?

Here is the recipe I found on the NY TImes website, which I followed to a T, brining the chicken in the buttermilk for a day and a half.  I flipped the bag with the chicken in it several times to ensure even coverage.  Roasting with the honey in the brine was as I suspected... a possible burn on the skin.  Really good... we always love a roast chicken.  The buttermilk changed the texture of the dark meat a bit too much, but was perfect for the breast meat.  Maybe less time in the brine next time.  Still, very delicious.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Roasted Pork Pizza

It's pizza night tonight, a meal that's been making it's way up the request line.  Every so often Stella asks "Co. Pizza?" with a gasp of hope.  How can I resist?  Always on the docket is the Flambe, but a new idea was born today with the appeal for something with hoisin sauce and scallions.  Stella suggested roast pork.  Genius.  

My favorite dough is from a recipe by Jim Lahey of Co. Pizza.  Having posted on this several times already, it's clear things haven't changed.  It is not only incredibly easy to make, it is incredibly good.  I par bake the dough, just a few minutes, before assembling the pie.  Set oven to 475f.  

I went to my favorite barbeque spot, King's Barbeque in the International District, to purchase the roast pork.  I asked for a leaner piece and asked them to give it to me whole so that I could cut it to the size I wanted.  For the pizza, I brushed the dough lightly with hoisin sauce, then topped it with simply the roast pork, sliced scallions and Beechers Flagship Cheddar cheese.  To finish the pizza, sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro.  You know it's good when the girls are trying to convince us not to have a slice, telling us we would not enjoy it.  Girls after my own heart! 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Roasted Lamb Chops with Creamy Grits

I love marinades.  It's like a little chemistry experiment each time you put one together.  I've been using a lot of rosemary and thyme lately because they are still growing well in pots outside in my backyard.  They are, anyway, classic herbs for any meat and combined with parsley and sage, well, good enough to name an album after.  A little sweet something always goes well with lamb, hence the brown sugar and mustard.  

8 Lamb Loin Chops
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
8-10 fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat Italian parsley leaves
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp Walla Walla sweet onion mustard (or other sweet mustard)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
Puree everything (but the lamb chops), in a small food processor until it becomes a paste.   Place lamb chops in a glass or ceramic baking dish and spread paste over all sides of the lamb.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for several hours.  If you are pinched for time, I'm sure an hour or so would be just fine.  Remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temp before cooking.
Heat oven to 450f.  Sear lamb over medium to medium high heat in a heavy cast iron pan with a little vegetable oil, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer the lamb back to the baking dish and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes for medium rare.

Maggie has been requesting creamy grits since last weekend when we had it with the hanger steak.  So, for my babe, more creamy grits tonight.  No Seckel pear in the house, so I substituted with Honeycrisp apple.  The lamb was tender and sweet.  But the best part of the meal tonight... Stella playing "Soak up the Sun" as I finish typing this.  

Friday, November 12, 2010

Braised Oxtail and Crimini Mushroom Risotto

It is the never ending question... what to have for dinner?  The weather we are having brings a lot of meals that are right in my wheelhouse.  Roasting, stewing, braising, hunker down and tuck right in, it's comfort food time.  As the days become dark so much earlier, I feel a sense of ease seeing a pot bubbling away on the stove, or a chicken roasting in the oven.  It's Friday, which means we get to sleep in tomorrow and tomorrow we are lucky enough to be free to do as we please.  So, it's time to get cozy, have that evening libation, and settle in for the night.  What better way to do it than with a hearty braised oxtail and mushroom risotto and a nice glass of red wine?
1.5 lbs Oxtails, preferably larger ones
2 shallots, minced
2 cups diced crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup red wine
1.5 cups beef stock
2 tbsp port
1 bay leaf

In a small braising cast iron pot, heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium heat.  Salt and pepper the oxtails and brown them in the pot.  Remove the oxtail and saute the shallots for a few minutes until softened.  Add in the mushrooms and saute for a few minutes more, until mushrooms are softened as well.  Deglaze the pot with the red wine, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot.  Add in the port, beef stock and bay leaf and return to a boil.  Return the oxtail to the pot, cover and simmer over low heat for about 2 1/2 hours, turning the oxtail occasionally.  The oxtail should be tender and easily pull away from the bone.  Remove oxtail from the braising sauce to a shallow dish and cover with foil or saran wrap until cool enough to handle.  Then remove and shred all the meat from the bone.  Return the meat to the braising sauce.  Let simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

Make your risotto with a combo of chicken and beef stock.  I used 1.5 cup carnaroli rice and used madeira instead of white wine.  When the risotto is nearly done, add in the braised oxtail and mushroom along with braising sauce.  Depending on how much risotto you are making, you may not need all of the oxtail.  Or, depending on what kind of ratio of rice to oxtail you want, you may use all of it.  Really, it's up to you and how you like it.  I, of course, used it all!  Finish with 1/4 cup mascarpone and 1/4 cup of grated parmesan.

I sauteed some pea shoots and plated the risotto on top.  Nice contrast of green and freshness to the heartiness of the risotto.  Sharks were abound during the removal of the oxtail meat.  I had to fight them off with my tongs.  The risotto was heavenly.  So, so good.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spicy Salt and Pepper Dungeness Crab

My mom is my Chinese food help hotline.  Whenever I have any questions, I always pick up the phone and have a little discussion with her.  Whether she's made the dish or not, it's always a gift to be able to bounce ideas off her.  There is always a plan to be formulated, whether it's a direct result of experience from making the particular dish, or just working our way through it via other dishes we've made.  I am fortunate to have such a resource.  
With my 'wing it' attitude, I have to admit, I often cannot remember how I've made something in the past.  Hence, the birth of the blog.  For tonight's crab, I wondered, is it right to steam it first?  Should I use corn starch or tempura mix?  Thank goodness, as usual, for mom.

1 live Dungeness crab, weighing 1.5-2 lbs
1/2 cup tempura mix, I used Hime
2 Scallions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp Spicy Salt and Pepper (3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns, pinch of five spice powder)

Steam the crab for about 5-6 minutes.  This will not fully cook the crab, but will allow you to clean and work with it more easily, as well as fry it at a high temp for a short amount of time.  Once the crab is cool enough to handle, clean the crab and separate it into smaller pieces.  Alternatively, you can buy a whole cooked crab and have the fish monger clean it for you.
Dust the crab with the tempura mix.
Heat a couple cups of peanut or vegetable oil to 375f in a large wok.  Fry the crab for a couple of minutes.  Do this in batches if needed.  Drain on paper towels.
In your wok, add 2 tsp oil, and fry the scallion, garlic and ginger until fragrant.  Then add in the crab and the spicy salt and pepper, and mix quickly.  Salty, spicy, tongue numbing deliciousness.  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Little Sushi Night

Well, a lot of sushi night it really was.  No recipe to share here.  Just great fish, from my favorite spot to get sashimi grade seafood... Uwayjimaya.  Not as good as say, Nishino, who might have their fish flown in fresh, but for the home buyers, it's pretty darn good.
I was talking to a friend the other day about vitamin supplements and I was lamenting as I get older, the amount of vitamins I should be taking.  Can't we just eat the foods that give us those vitamins naturally, I asked.  So, tonight, a little replenishing of the Omega-3 Fatty Acids.  

 Sea Scallops layered with lemon slices and fleur del sel, my personal favorite
 Otoro Tuna with freshly grated wasabi root and soy and wasabi oil drizzle
Wasabi root, a true indulgence, was $69.95 a pound.  
 Salmon sashimi, a Stella favorite
 Super White Tuna with soy and wasabi oil drizzle
 Salmon Roll, a Maggie request
Ebi Nigiri, a Maggie favorite

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rigatoni with Field Roast Grain Italian Sausage

Over the years, I'd driven by the Original Field Roast  on S. Jackson here in Seattle at least a hundred times.  What caught my attention was the word 'roast' on their sign.  Ooh, what are they roasting and do they do it in the field?  How do I get in on that?  Little did I know it was an artisan vegan grain meat company.  At the store the other day, their package of sausages caught my eye, recognizing the name and logo from their sign.  Taking a closer look and talking to an employee from the store is what led to the realization my hopes for a big field roast were dashed.  But the employee did highly recommend the sausage, and so I purchased a package for our Monday dinner.  

The Italian Sausage contains eggplant, fennel, fresh garlic and red pepper.  Instructions were to peel casing before cooking and prepare either on the grill or brown in a saute pan with a little oil.  Avoid overcooking.  I decided to try it with my rigatoni and sausage marinara substituting this for the traditional sausage.  The only change I made was the addition of finely minced carrots and celery to the marinara sauce.

Maggie saw the plate of sausage pieces on the counter and asked to try a piece and reported it was quite good.  I did not tell her it was meatless.  I also tasted it in its bare form and have to say, yum.  In the sauce with the pasta, very delicious, but perhaps helped by the marinara and cream.  Either way, it all went down the gullet happily.  Still one of the kids' favorites.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Roast Chicken with Saffron Sauce and a New Favorite Word

There's always something to learn.  A friend gave me The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser.  It is a compilation of the most noteworthy recipes the New York Times has published over the years.  The night I got the book, I read the introduction and the timelines in the middle of each page marking historical food related events.  I was hooked.  The book is about 950 pages.  If history serves, I will likely only ever touch a small fraction of the recipes, but I already feel better just having the book in my possession.  The recipes are generally short, with cooks notes to clarify anything Hesser discovered while actually cooking from the original recipe.  My favorite part of the introduction is Hesser's approach to the recipes.  She talks about trusting the reader to make decisions on their own.  That recipes will turn out differently in the reader's kitchen than they did in her kitchen.  That recipes are inexact because everyone works differently and with different ingredients, skills, etc... I sing that same song.

So, I had a whole chicken in my refrigerator and thought I would try out my first recipe from this book.  On the first page of the Poultry and Game section is a listing of the recipes by category.  I went down the list of Whole Poultry and found a recipe for Roasted Buttermilk Chicken.  What caught my attention is my new favorite word, spatchcock.  All these years, I'd been prepping chickens this way, I never knew there was such a a great word for it.  When I Googled spatchcock, I found this great link to spatchcocking a chicken.  

Spatchcocking allows you to cook the chicken faster and more evenly than roasting or grilling the chicken in its whole form.  Taking out the backbone and laying the chicken flat to roast or grill means more surface area for heat to penetrate evenly.  How did I not know about this word earlier?

Unfortunately, I did not have the buttermilk in my house, nor the 1-2 days to soak the chicken in the buttermilk, so on with the original recipe I was planing for tonight.  Buttermilk Roast Chicken will make an appearance later.  Tonight, it's roasted spatchcocked chicken with a veal stock saffron sauce.

One 4-pound chicken
2 cups water
4 tbsp kosher salt
4 tbsp brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, smashed

Cut the backbone out of the chicken, as shown in the link above.  If you don't have kitchen shears that can cut through the back bone, use a sharp knife instead.  Flip the chicken over and press it flat.  Stir the salt and sugar in the water until they dissolve, then add in garlic.  In a large zip lock bag, combine the chicken and the brine and refrigerate for about two hours.  A quick mini-brine.  
Remove chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Place chicken in a roasting pan, skin side up, and place in a 420f oven.  Roast for approximately 50 minutes to one hour until skin is golden brown and liquid comes clear when you pierce the thigh.
Let chicken rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes before cutting.  For sauce, I brought 1 1/2 cups of veal stock to simmer with a few lime leaves.  YES, while at Whole Foods the other day, I found grown in the U.S. fresh lime leaves.  After reducing slightly, I added in a pinch of saffron threads.  Add the drippings from the chicken and thicken with a little mixture of corn starch and water.  Really, the chicken was fabulous on its own.  The mini brine made it sweet, and so tender and juicy.  You would not be disappointed with the chicken on its own.  But we would never turn down a sauce in our house.

Veal Stock

When I searched my own blog to copy and paste a veal stock recipe into my latest posting, I discovered that, wow, I really use a lot of veal stock!  Sometimes, it's as simple as using just a bit of water to deglaze a pan in which I just fried veal chops, and sometimes it's a bit more complex.  Today, as I was uttering to myself about whether I should rally and make a veal stock, Chris said, "um, what does that entail, boiling bones for a couple of hours?"  Well, when you put it that way...  In truth, it's just a little more complicated than that, but the effort versus reward ratio makes it well worth your time, especially since you can make a large batch and freeze in portions to use later.  When I looked up other recipes on veal stock, I found most requiring 10 plus hours of simmering, plus a long process of roasting the bones and the vegetables.  This may be the proper way to do it?  Or perhaps the recipe actually creates a demi-glace and not a stock.  Either way, it is a little too big of a time commitment me.  So, just a short posting here on my not too complicated veal stock.
2 lbs veal neck bones
1 lb veal stew meat (if you can buy quite meaty veal bones, get some more of those and skip the stew meat)
4 small carrots, peels and chopped
4 small ribs celery, I like to use the ones with leaves on top
1 small onion, chopped
several sprigs of fresh thyme
2 small sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 quarts water

Generously salt and pepper the veal bones and meat.  In a large stock pot over medium high heat, brown veal in a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  You will need to do this in batches.  Transfer to a dish as you finish.  Add the vegetables to the pan and saute them until they soften a bit.  Add in thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and then the water.  Bring water to a boil, then add back the veal.  Cover the pot and turn heat down to low.  Let simmer for about 3 hours.  Tip the lid to uncover slightly, turn heat up to medium, and boil for another 30 minutes.  Let cool a bit.  Skim off any fat that's floating on the surface and strain through a fine mesh sieve in batches.  Press the solids against the sieve to get all the excellent flavor out of them.  I don't cook down the stock too much.  I like the option to reduce as needed for each use.  Separate into smaller portions and refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze for several months.  I like to use small jelly jars.  Or, use ice cube trays to get more exact quantities needed for your recipe.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mt. Adams Grass Fed Hanger Steak, Creamy Grits, Endive Salad

Over the summer, I was given the opportunity to purchase some all natural grass fed beef from a friend of a friend who had raised two steers on a farm in Mount Adams.  Done and done!   The beef was going to be ready in the fall, and this Tuesday, I picked up my order.  Tonight, I'm testing out my first cut, the hanging tender, onglet, or otherwise known as the hanger steak.  When you are able to find this cut at the butcher, it will sometimes be trimmed up into narrow long steaks, or sometimes it will be in one whole, large piece.  Mine came in the one, whole piece.  No problem, just a little trimming to be done.  You could leave it whole, but there is a thin sinewy strip in the middle which will be tough and chewy.  So, be prepared for that.  

I defrosted the steak over a period of two days in the refrigerator.  Last night, I removed it from its wrapping and split the hanger steak in two, removing the sinewy strip in the middle.  I laid the strips on a plate, uncovered, in the refrigerator until tonight.  Make sure they remain dry, using paper towels to soak up any liquid that may escape from the meat.

The hanger steak is golden on its own.  It will be flavorful and delicious.  But as we are at the Emerton house, sauce is king.   The sauce.. what to do.  I spent a good amount of time contemplating this.  It's a good pastime anyway, driving, laying in bed, food shopping, showering.. all good opportunities to think about sauce.  In the end, I decided to do a port and mushroom sauce. 
I ground some dried porcini mushrooms in a coffee grinder and mixed it with truffle salt and coated the steak generously with the porcini truffle salt right before grilling.  Fry the steak over searing hot heat and serve it rare.  Hanger steak is very lean and as such will only be tender if it is not over cooked.  We used the cast iron skillet on top of our stove with a little bit of peanut oil.
For the sauce:
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 lb lobster mushrooms, finely diced
1/4 cup tawny port
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp butter
drizzle of white truffle oil
Saute the shallots in the butter until softened.  Add in mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are cooked through.  Deglaze pan with port, let boil for a minute, then add in beef stock.  
Transfer everything to a blender and liquify the sauce, blending for a good minute.  Be careful with using the blender when the liquid is hot.  It may blow the top off.  My blender has a steam releasing feature in the cap, so that I can blend hot liquids with abandon.  Return the sauce to a small sauce pan and let simmer for another 5-7 minutes.  When ready to serve, drizzle with a little white truffle oil.  The sauce WAS king.
With the steak, I served creamy grits with Seckel Pear and 12 mo Manchego.  Cook grits according to package instructions, using chicken stock.  Peel and finely dice the pears and saute in a little butter.  When grits are almost finished cooking add in the pear.  When ready to serve, stir in grated Manchego and a tablespoon of butter.
The salad tonight was simple, clean and crisp.  Lay out Belgian endive leaves, sprinkle with some bits of hazelnut and chunks of Maytag blue cheese.  Drizzle with a champagne vinegar vinaigrette, which is simply 3 parts olive oil to one part champagne vinegar and a drizzle of honey.  Finish with freshly ground black pepper.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pork Tenderloin, Fig and Sweet Onion Compote

Wow, it seems like I've cooked a lot of pork since I first began posting, but not yet a pork tenderloin.  Figs are still out in the markets, so I started thinking of other ways to use it.  Pork is always good accompanied by something a little sweet.  So, tonight a variation on a pork tenderloin I first had at Chris' parents house.  What I love about pork tenderloin, is well, it's tender, of course and it's not difficult to achieve a finely cooked result.  Just don't cook it too much.  Growing up, I remember always the warning of cooking pork to well done to kill off any possible parasites or food poisoning.  Nowadays, you can cook pork to medium rare, which I love, and be perfectly confident there will be no adverse effects.
Pork Tenderloin with Garlic and Herb Crust
1.5 lbs of pork tenderloin
2 garlic cloves, finely minced, or grated with a microplane
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
3 tsp olive oil

Mix garlic, rosemary, thyme, parsley, salt, pepper and olive oil together to make a paste.  I  had a 2 pack of tenderloin that weighed just over 2 lbs all together.  I decided to trim each end of the tenderloins in order to make a more uniform shape to achieve even cooking.  The small tail end is always too cooked and can become a bit dry, so I figured, it's best to leave to off anyway.  I wrapped and froze the end pieces to save for another use.  Perfect for Chinese cooking as often just a small bit of pork is needed.  There is usually a thin piece of silvery sinew covering part of the tenderloin.  Make sure you remove that with a sharp filet knife.  Coat the tenderloin with the paste, cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours.  Grill over medium high heat on a gas grill to medium rare or medium.

Fig and Sweet Onion Compote
1 Vidalia onion, or Mayan Sweet onion, quartered, and very thinly sliced
1 cup figs, finely diced
1/3 cup red or white wine, I've used both and they both work fine.  Tonight I used red.
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Melt 1 tbsp butter over medium heat and add onions.  Saute the onions and let them cook for about 7 minutes.  Once softened, add in wine, then vinegar and sugar.  Turn heat down to low and slowly cook, stirring occasionally, until all liquid is evaporated and onions are quite soft, about 20 minutes.  Add in figs and saute over medium until they are well incorporated.  At the last moment, I decided to add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to give it a little more depth.  Finish with another tablespoon of butter.  Serve hot or at room temp.  
Another party in your mouth, as coined by the kids.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kobe Beef Tri-Tip and Shiitake Mushroom and Lemon Risotto

I started marinating my steak two days ago.  Last night's dinner got away from me with a last minute outing, so it is now tonight's meal.  All the better.  Nothing wrong with a two day marinade.  Even more flavorful, even more tender, and less work for tonight.

2 lbs Kobe style tri-tip steak
1-1" piece of ginger, sliced 3 times and smashed
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 scallions, cut into 2" pieces
2 shallots, roughly chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp vegetable oil
Combine all ingredients in a zip lock bag, or container of some sort.  I like to go with the bag as it allows for flipping the meat easily and gives better coverage with less marinade.

Bring the steak to room temp before grilling.  Grill over medium high heat.  With the good marbling of the Kobe style beef, you want to make sure you grill it enough to allow the fat the soften/melt and permeate the meat.  It goes against the temperature I normally like my meat, but the marbling makes up for it in flavor and tenderness.

The risotto follows my basic recipe.  Just like fried rice, you can add any variety of ingredients to it, all cooking it in basically the same way.  I tried to think of a way to make it 'Asian' in taste to pair with the steak.

1 cup carnaroli rice (or arborio)
1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1.5 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp thai red curry paste
2 tsp light soy sauce
zest of half of a lemon
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup peas
3 tbsp chiffonade of basil
3-4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
splash of cream

Saute minced shallots and garlic in grape seed oil or veg oil. Once softened, add the mushrooms, then the risotto until you almost hear a whistling sound coming from the pan. Add the white wine and boil until the wine is almost fully evaporated. Then start the chicken broth addition. I put enough broth to cover the rice, wait until almost dry, and then add more and stir. Do this until rice is to the consistency you like it. I gave up trying to measure the exact amount of broth to rice. Just make sure you have plenty of broth.  Half way through, add in the curry paste and soy sauce.  Once the rice is almost finished, add peas and cream.  Incorporate, and wait until peas are heated through.  Then add in lemon zest and juice, parmesan and basil. 
Can't go wrong.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Good Day for Soup

Last night a friend said that today, it will feel like a fire hose has been turned on us.  Indeed it does.  And what a perfect day it is for a hearty soup.  On a day like today, even our dog snuggles in a little tighter, knowing perhaps his chances of a long walk are waning.  Every so often, he looks up and eyes me as if to say, are you made of sugar?  But I am more interested in breaking out my stock pot and stewing up a soothing stock and eventually, a hearty seafood soup.

For the stock:
2 lbs Chicken breast bones
1 lb pork neck bones
2 large dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 small onion, quartered
1, 2" piece of ginger, sliced into 3 pieces and smashed
2 whole scallions
1/4 cup rice wine
3 quarts water

In a large stock pot, over medium high heat, add about a tbsp of oil and brown all the bones.  Do this in batches.  Add in onion, ginger and scallions.  Return all bones to pot, deglaze with rice wine, and add in water and shiitake mushrooms.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to low and continue to simmer for 2 hours.
Let stock cool a bit and then strain through a fine mesh sieve.

For the soup:
6 cups stock (keep the remaining from above for another use)
1/2 lb live Manila clams
1/3 lb white prawns, peeled, deveined, and cut into 1/2 pieces
1/2 lb black cod, skin removed, and cut into 1/2" square pieces
4" x 4" piece of soft tofu, cut into 1/2" square pieces
1 egg white, beaten
2 tsp rice wine
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp light soy sauce
fresh cilantro to taste

Combine the egg white, rice wine and corn starch and mix well.  Add in prawns and cod and gently stir to coat them.  Bring stock to a boil over medium heat and add in tofu and soy sauce and let simmer for one minute.  Drain any excess liquid from the prawns and cod.  Add clams to the soup, bring back to a simmer, then carefully add in the prawns and cod.  Let simmer for another minute or so.  Add salt as needed.  Serve immediately with cilantro to garnish.

I always love the initial reaction my kids have to some foods.  Tonight, it went from a skeptical, what's this, to wow, this is good.  Tasty morsels swimming in rich broth.  A good day for soup!