Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stuffed Pork Rib Roast, Balsamic Mustard Glaze and Endive Salad

Some of my best cooking ideas are hatched as a last thought before going to sleep.  A discussion usually ensues with Chris whereby he makes several suggestions.  Some are good, some are left behind.  Then sometimes I throw out some outrageous idea just to see if anyone scoops it up.  The last words out of my mouth last night were, I'm going to take a whole pork tenderloin, cut a slit in the middle, stuff it with cheese, cover it with Nueskes bacon slices, and roast it.  Dear sweet.  Does that sound good or what?

Off to the store I went this morning to fulfill my dare.  I mean, really, I wasn't going to cook my pork in bacon, right?  Once at Whole Foods, and seeing that pork tenderloin was $11.99 a pound, (holy smokes) I opted for a rib roast at half the price.  These are juicy and flavorful enough, they don't need the bacon blanket, though I did wrestle with it for a few moments.  I decided to go with a more sensible route of a mustard coating since I was already going to stuff it with cheese.

1 Two pound pork rib roast
1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese, I used a Willamette Valley Farmstead Fontina
2 tbsp Beechers Blank Slate with Honey
1 tbsp fig jam
1/4 tsp kosher salt
few turns of the pepper grinder

Make a horizontal cut through the middle of the roast, but do not cut through all the way out the other end.  This will at least have one end well sealed so that the cheese does not ooze out when cooking.  Mix the remaining ingredients together and stuff into the middle of the roast.  Using a poultry needle and cooking twine, sew the cut end closed to help keep the cheese from spilling out.

For the glaze, mix together:
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
several turns of the pepper grinder
Coat the roast with the mixture and place in the refrigerator for an hour or so.  Remove roast from the refrigerator and bring to room temp before roasting.
Roast the pork in a 375f oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the pork, not the cheese portion, reads 145-155 depending on the doneness you like.  Let rest for about 10 before slicing.  I finished the plate with a drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar.
A little clean and simple endive salad makes a good accompaniment.  Wash and dry endive leaves.  Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts and a little roquefort.  Make a light dressing with grape seed oil, champagne vinegar, and just a touch of honey.  Drizzle dressing on top. 

Next time I will cut out a cavern into the pork to hold the cheese.  The slit was not enough space once the pork got to cooking.  The cheese oozed out nonetheless.  But I just scooped it up and put it on top of each chop.  Quite delicious actually.  We loved all the components.  Cavern next time, for sure!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wok Fried Geoduck or Perhaps Razor Clams with Ginger, Garlic and Scallions

Long have I wanted to cook some geoduck, but the cleaning of it had kept me at bay.  My childhood memory of my mom's geoduck dish and the geoduck sashimi I once had at Nishino, has kept my interest for it high.  Today, at my little seafood shop, Wong Tung Seafood, Inc., they had a little bag of freshly cleaned and sliced geoduck.  Well, it's my lucky day.  Or maybe not so much.  I was all ready to delight in my first cooking of geoduck until I opened the baggie.  Hmmm... this looks like razor clams cut into pieces.  I mean, I've cooked razor clams, but never geoduck.  But this looks a lot like the former and yet I've never laid hands on the cleaned latter.  What to think?  Was there a communication error, or a flat out mislead?  To be sure, I may have to break down and clean a geoduck myself.  
Rinse and dry the geoduck / razor clams on paper towels.  
2 tsp minced ginger
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
3 scallions cut into 2" pieces
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
corn starch and water mixed to thicken sauce

Heat wok over high heat with a little grape seed oil.  Toss in ginger, garlic and scallions until fragrant.  Then toss in geoduck / razor clams and fry for about 30 seconds.  Add in remaining ingredients and fry for another minute.  I think the jury is in... if that wasn't razor clams, it sure did a good impersonation of it.  It was delicious, but as Stella said... it tastes like nothing... but that yummy sauce.  Now I really need to go get a whole geoduck and cook it!

And full confession here, really trying to redeem my planned excellent geoduck post, I have to admit my greediness.  The geoduck was just a little tidbit.  To redeem the post, I share the actual main dinner of seared black cod, bacon dashi, pea sprout and oyster mushrooms. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Had an Impulse... Oxtail Rigatoni

And it's a beautiful day out there... what am I doing making oxtail?  It felt like a good idea on Monday when I bought them.  And they still are, but it also feels like we should break out the charcoal and celebrate this long awaited amazing warm day outside.  I'm having a little sticker shock at the price of oxtail these days.  It seems not long ago, they were almost giving them away.  Their rise in popularity must be driving up the price.  I think I learned that in Econ 101, oh, a few years back.

You know, one of the great things about blogger is you can view your stats.  What post is viewed the most, by how any people, how many people in each country visit your blog, etc.  By far, the most clicked on and viewed post is the one about the oxtail David Chang made on Anthony Bourdain's holiday cooking show.  Yes... of all things.  Well, that was some darn good oxtail.  So, I got to thinking what variation could I do?  
6 large oxtail pieces
1 pear, quartered
1 granny smith apple, quartered
1/2 onion, quartered
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 bay leaf
2/3 bottle red wine
2 cups beef stock
3 tbsp dark soy sauce

Salt and pepper the oxtail, place on a roasting pan, and roast at 500f until browned on all sides. This should only take 10-15 minutes with the high temp of the oven.  Meanwhile, combine all the other ingredients into a medium sized braising pot or dutch oven.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Add in the browned oxtail, reduce heat to low, cover and braise until the meat is pull of the bone tender, about 3 hours.  Flip the oxtail a couple of times trying to make sure they are submerged in the sauce.  Once tender, remove oxtail to a baking dish and cover until cool enough to handle.  Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve and return to pot.  Skim off any fat, or use a fat separator.  Bring the sauce back to a boil.  To the sauce, I added 2 carrots finely diced.  Simmer the sauce until carrots are just tender.  Then turn the heat up to reduce the sauce by about 1/3 to 1/2... depending on how much you have.  You want it thickened but not too dry. 

Once  the oxtail is cool enough to handle, remove the meat with a fork, shredding it with your fingers.  Return the oxtail to the sauce and reheat.  To finish, a smidge of cream found its way into the pot.  Serve over rigatoni or your pasta of choice.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Crispy Halibut

So, how about some halibut?  It's been a while and I purchased my filet on a whim.  Now, it's meal time and I have no plan.  So, I do my go-to thing, and marinate it in some light soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, scallions, ginger and a little white pepper.  Remove the skin from the filet and cut into smaller sections before placing in marinade.  Cover, refrigerate for about half an hour or so.  Remove from marinade, shake off excess liquid and dredge in flour.  Reserve marinade.  In heavy cast iron pan, heat a little grape seed oil over medium heat.  Fry halibut until golden on both sides.  Meanwhile, remove ginger and scallions from the marinade.  in a small sauce pan, fry the ginger and scallion until fragrant.  Add in the marinade plus 1/4 cup of water.  Simmer for a few minutes, strain the sauce to remove the ginger and scallions.  Return to pan and bring to a boil and then thicken with a corn starch and water mixture.  Serve with sauce ladled over halibut and a some fresh thinly slice scallions to garnish.  Not bad for a go to meal.  Nothing fancy, but a good solid piece of fish.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Coq au Vin Blanc

This is kind of the white wine version of the traditional coq au vin.  I like it because it tastes lighter even though I add a little cream at the end to the sauce.  My favorite memory of this dish is carting it up to Whistler for an apres ski meal.  It worked out well because most of the ingredients you need are already marinating with the chicken.  All you need is a little salt and pepper which most places you rent will surely have.  All of your prep work is already done so just pack a little pint of cream and you're set.  
1 Whole Chicken cut into 8 pieces
2/3 bottle of dry white wine
1 large carrot finely diced
2 celery rib finely diced
1/2 onion finely diced
Several sprigs of flat leaf parsley
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp mixed peppercorns

Combine all of the above in a large container, cover and refrigerate over night.  I had not planned this until I was at the store this morning.  So, my chicken went in about 9:15am.   It will be okay, but overnight is better.

Heat oven to 400f.  Remove and dry chicken on paper towels.  Strain the vegetable from the wine but reserve both.  Salt and pepper the chicken.  Heat a large fry pan over medium high heat.  Brown chicken, skin side down first.  Fry the chicken in batches so you don't crowd the pan.  Remove chicken to a large baking pan.  Once all chicken pieces are browned, place chicken in the oven to finish, about another 25-30 minutes.  I prefer this method to placing the chicken in the wine to cook because this keeps the chicken crispy and I prefer the resulting texture of the chicken.

For the sauce:
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste

While the chicken is roasting in the oven, saute the vegetables in the oil left from frying the chicken until slightly browned.  Stir in flour until well incorporated.  Deglaze with the wine and bring to a rapid boil for about 5 minutes.  Add in chicken stock and bring back to a light boil for another 5-7 minutes.  Strain sauce through a fine mesh sieve, pressing the solids to get out all their juices.  Discard the vegetables.  Return sauce to pan and boil lightly to reduce a bit, 5 minutes or so.  Add in cream and simmer for a few minutes more.  Serve chicken with sauce spooned around the chicken to maintain the crispiness of the skin.  Some sliced white mushrooms sauteed with a little lemon makes a good companion.  Another winner chicken dinner.  Leftover chicken cut into bite sized pieces make for a great pasta lunch!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Market House Pastrami

I'd forgotten that it was my justified day to make some corned beef brisket.  Really, so many good memories of corned beef and pastrami in our past.  Of course there's the New York deli pastrami sandwich..we like the peppery seasoning of the pastrami to the milder corned beef.  And the UW Husky tailgate where I first cooked up some Market House corned beef for Ruebens at the tailgate.  It was a little epic if I may say so.  I cooked the corned beef in beer, sliced it, then put it in a foil pan with some juices and topped with swiss cheese, then covered it in foil.  To the tailgate I also brought buns, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing.  We reheated the corned beef on a portable grill and the cheese melted so nicely on top.  Beers and Reubens at a tailgate... need I say more?

So, Market House Corned Beef is here in Seattle on Howell Street.  They sell, well, corned beef of course, as well as pastrami and a variety of sandwiches.  You can get the corned beef and pastrami in both raw and cooked forms.  But if you need a lot of either cooked, you best order ahead.  This year, I decided to go with pastrami instead of corned beef.  After the meatloaf experience last night, Stella found the pastrami, sealed in a plastic bag with its brining juices, and pulled it out asking "and whhhattt is thisss?"  Nothing to see here.... just put that back in the refrigerator.  

Per Market House's cooking instructions, I placed the pastrami in a dutch oven and braised it at 300f in the oven for about 4 hours (or until fork tender).  I added a bottle of Guinness for good measure as well as a bit of pickling spices that normally come with corned beef.  

For the cabbage portion, I decided to wok fry, instead of boil or add to the pastrami to braise.  This is my preferred way to have cabbage.. wok fry over high heat with just a bit of oil and salt.  For our starch, I made a gruyere tart.  Not the classic pairing, but it will appease the natives.  Meanwhile, for Chris, it was a pastrami sandwich with Swiss cheese, dark rye (thanks to my neighbor Anne) and some home made thousand island dressing.  The kids... still not won over, but the tart was a hit.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Meatloaf and a Little Salt

The idea of meatloaf was not received with open arms by my gals.  I must come up with a different name for it.  After all, they like sausages and hamburgers.  This is relatively the same concept, just different form.  Apparently, they don't like the idea of their meat in a loaf.  Though I'm a fan of meatloaf, I've never made it before.  So, I followed this recipe from  It is from David Burke's New American Classics.  Okay, must pause here and say dear sweet.   While going back to the recipe to link it into this post, I decided to read the reviews.  There is mention of how there must be a misprint in the recipe for the amount of salt to use and how it almost renders the meatloaf inedible.  Great.... nothing like trying to sell an inedible meatloaf to my kids.  

I just spent a considerable amount of time grinding my own steak and tediously following this recipe.  I am, by nature and lack of patience, not a good recipe follower.  Why didn't I read the reviews before hand?  Live and learn.  Hopefully, it will not be complete disaster.  I have to admit, that amount of salt seemed excessive.  But I do love salt and I dismissed my doubts.   I did however, make a couple of other edits to the recipe.  I added 4 oz of finely chopped white button mushrooms and left off the whole peeled garlic which was to be pressed on top of the meatloaf.  
Somehow, I wound up with 2 large meatloaves.  Stella formed one into the face of a dog, and I went conventional with a regular loaf shape, perhaps in an effort to prove meat in loaf form can be yummy too.  Well, that and the good for making sandwiches factor.  So we have it, dogloaf and meatloaf and apparently saltloaf too.

The judgement is in... yes, too salty.  Not inedible, but very salty even for the salt lover I am.  However, I think it will be good for sandwiches.  I didn't get any signatures on the dotted line from the girls.  It will be a work in progress.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Little Seafood Linguini with Vodka Cream Sauce

There is little that can go wrong when you combine vodka and cream to make a little pasta.  I bought a few seafood items this morning thinking I might make a rice dish of some sort.  In the back of my mind was also the opportunity to use up a couple freezer items, a few large shrimp and some sea scallops.  Paella perhaps... but in the end the lure of cream won.  The response I got from Maggie after finding out we were having seafood linguini with cream sauce was "all I have to know is cream!"  I even got a high five.

1 lb Manila Clams
1/3 lb Fresh Rockfish Fillet
1/3 lb Calamari
1/3 lb Large Shrimp
1/4 lb Sea Scallops
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley 
3/4 cup cream
1.5 oz vodka
salt and pepper to taste

2/3 lb dry linguini
Cook linguini according to package instructions.

In a large saute pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Toss in garlic, stir, then add in clams, wait a minute, then add in rockfish, then shrimp and scallops.  Wait another minute and finish with adding the calamari.  Season with a little salt and pepper and saute for another minute.  You want everything par-cooked.  Then gently remove everything with a slotted spoon into a bowl, reserving the liquid.  Add the cream to the liquid in the pan and bring to a gentle boil.  Once the clams, fish, shrimp etc. have sat for a couple of minutes, more liquid will come out in the bowl.  Add that to the sauce as well.  Add in the vodka and return to a light boil to thicken the sauce slightly.  Not reducing the cream too much will keep the sauce on the lighter side... well as light as cream can be.  Add the seafood back into the sauce and bring back to a light boil for another minute or so until everything is cooked.  Ladle sauce on top of linguini and finish with a sprinkle of fresh parsley.  Surprisingly, the calamari was the favorite item amongst the girls.  And, cream is a wondrous thing.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wingin' it on Friday Night

Here at chez Emerton, we like a good bucket o' wings.  Tonight I'm combining our love for wings with our love for mandarin fried chicken and frying up some wings and giving them a quick swim in that fabulous sauce.  Oh happy day.

2 1/2 pounds of chicken wings and drumettes
4 cups luke warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt

Combine water, sugar and salt.  Stir to dissolve.  Place chicken in a large container or zip lock bag and pour in brine.  Cover/seal and refrigerate for 1-3 hours.  Remove chicken from brine.  Dry slightly.  Coat chicken in flour.  
Fry chicken in 350f oil until golden brown, drain on paper towels.

For the sauce:
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice wine
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp rock sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
ground white and black pepper to taste
1 tsp corn starch combined with 2 tsp water

3 scallions, chopped

In a large wok, heat about 1 tbsp oil and fry garlic and ginger until fragrant.  Add in soy, rice wine, vinegar, rock sugar, and stock/water.  Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes.  Add in white and black pepper.  Stir in corn starch and water mixture to thicken sauce and bring back to a boil.  Toss in chicken and chopped scallions and toss quickly just to coat the chicken.  The more time it spends in the wok, the less crunchy the chicken will be.  So a quick toss is all you want.
Oh, happy day indeed!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rainy Day Game Hens

We had a little rain today, to say the least.  A good day to roast a bird, or two.  As an experiment, I decided to stuff the game hens with risotto.  I made the risotto with portobello mushrooms and the extra pancetta I had from last night's quinoa, following my usual method for risotto.  There are several recipe posting from the past.  But basically, saute pancetta until crispy, then the shallots and sliced mushrooms until softened.  Add in risotto, then deglaze with white wine.  Cook risotto using a little chicken stock at a time, letting the stock evaporate between additions.  Finish with a little fontina cheese.  I only cooked the risotto to about 2/3 done as I thought it would cook further while the game hens are roasting. 
Rinse and dry the hens with paper towels.  Stuff the game hens with the risotto, truss and then salt and pepper them.  Brush them with a little melted butter and roast in a 400f oven breast side down for the first 10-15 minutes.  Turn over, brush breast side with a little more butter or if there are any pan drippings, use that.  Roast for another 30-40 minutes until the hens are golden and when leg is pierced, the juices run clear.

Of course there is a sauce. 
pan drippings from roasting hens (about 1 tbsp fat and as much juices are there might be)
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup veal stock
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 kaffir lime leaves
pinch of saffron

Simmer stocks with lime leaves and saffron for about 5 minutes.  Make a roux with the flour and fat from the pan drippings.  Whisk roux into the stocks, boiling over medium heat.  Salt and pepper to taste.  We are a family of sauce lovers.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Quinoa with Pancetta, Arugula and Caramelized Shallots

There's a few things happening in our house right now that's causing the buffet to take a break here and there.  I feel a bit like I'm running a cafeteria and there are feeding shifts because of everyone's varying schedules.  The big family meal is not happening most days, and so it will be, ebbs and flows in the Emerton kitchen.  

A simple little dish this is, but the can't go wrong ingredients makes the quinoa anything but simple tasting. 

Cook 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups chicken broth over low heat for about 12 minutes or until liquid has evaporated.  

1 thick slice of pancetta, about 3 oz, cut into small chunks
2 small shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
about 1.5 cup baby arugula
zest and juice of half of a lemon
salt / pepper to taste

Saute pancetta until crispy.  Drain on paper towels, reserve fat left in the pan to saute the shallots.  Saute shallots with a couple teaspoons of the fat over medium low heat until caramelized and soft.  

Stir in pancetta and shallots into the quinoa.  When ready to serve, stir in the arugula, lemon zest and juice.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Birdseed and Chicken Skewers

I get sucked in by some of those catch words these days.  I saw this bag of multi-grain rice and the words "rich in dietary fiber" caught my attention.  Fiber, fiber, fiber, are you getting enough fiber in your diet?  I don't know, but I figured I should give this a try and see how it tastes.  When I opened the bag, it released a scent similar to birdseed, and when Chris saw me pouring it out, he said, "What's that stuff?  Looks like birdseed."  But into the rice cooker it went following the directions on the bag of 1 cup rice to 2 cups water and 1 tbsp cooking oil.  
To help out my rice experiment, I thought some well seasoned chicken skewers might be right.  

1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut into large bite sized pieces
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp oil
6-8 fresh kaffir lime leaves
1" piece of ginger
1 large shallot
2 lemongrass stalks
20 or so red basil leaves

Crumble the lime leaves in your hands to release the scent.  Slice the ginger and smash.  Cut the shallots into large piece and smash.  Cut lemongrass into 2" sections and smash.  Combine all the ingredients together in a large zip lock bag and let marinate overnight.

Soak bamboo skewers in water.  Skewer the chicken pieces.  Since it's still raining too hard outside to grill, I decided to broil the chicken.  Not as good, but still ok.  

I served the rice with pickled fennel, pickled carrots, some fresh cilantro and a poached egg on top along with roasted brussel sprouts.  Birdseed came out great.  Nutty and good texture.  Poached egg, can't go wrong.  Pickled vegetable, a favorite.  Brussel sprouts like candy to me.  Chicken always comes through.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mushroom Tart and a Little Lamb

I got an idea in my head about making a mushroom tart and haven't been able to shake it.  I mean puff pastry, mushrooms, caramelized shallots, and gruyere with a little reason needed right?  Just make one.  

No real recipe here.  I used a mixture of sliced white button, shiitake and portobello mushrooms sauteed in a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Caramelize thinly sliced shallots in olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grate some gruyere cheese and a little parmesan.  Par bake the puff pastry at 425f in the oven for 5 minutes.  I cut a slit around the perimeter of the puff pastry to help give it a little edge.  Spread mushrooms and shallots evenly on the par baked puff pastry then sprinkle with cheese.  Grind some fresh black pepper on top.  For proportions, let me just say, more is better.   Bake at 400f until cheese is bubbling.  Oh so fabulous!  
As a side to my tart, I bought some small lamb sirloin steaks.  Seems like we Emertons always like to have a little protein in our meal.  I marinated the lamb in balsamic vinegar and honey with a little salt and pepper.  They were pretty thin steaks, so I just pan seared over high heat for a couple minutes per side.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Seared Ahi, Wasabi Soy Butter, Crispy Rice

One of my favorite cooking memories is from a holiday in Maui when we were attending a friends' wedding.  Our kids were small and we had brought a small electric pan with us for our hotel room.  I'm sure our reasoning back then was budget and ease with small children.  We had bought some steaks from the small market close to the hotel and not wanting to buy a bunch of spices or sauces, I perused the condiment bar next to the ready to eat foods.  I came away with soy sauce packets, wasabi and pads of butter.  That night, I seared our steaks on the balcony of our hotel room and made a little wasabi soy butter sauce.  It was really good for so many reasons and truly showed simple is sometimes best.
Sprinkle fresh ahi tuna steaks with a little salt and pepper and then white and black sesame seeds.  Heat a heavy, well seasoned, cast iron pan or non-stick pan over high heat.  Add just a bit of grape seed oil.  Sear tuna quickly on both sides, maybe just a minute or so.  You want it seared on the outside and raw on the inside.  

To make the sauce, combine a little wasabi paste with light soy sauce and a little water.  Warm until just heated, not boiling.   Add small pieces of cold unsalted butter a little at a time until melted.  

For the crispy rice, I had left over white rice which I pressed into a round ring to shape.  Fry rice in butter or canola/vegetable oil until crispy.

Serve ahi widely sliced with a drizzle of sauce and fresh scallions to garnish along with some wok fried fresh shiitake mushrooms and sugar snap peas.