Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chicken, Egg and Rice

There's something so fabulous about a complete meal in a bowl.  What I love about it is a bit of this and a bit of that.  The variety is a big attraction, but so is the opportunity to use up any goodies lying around in the fridge.  We decided we had to do another round of smoking today... a shorter session of smoked chicken legs and drumettes.  After three sessions with the smoker, one thing became clear, the chicken was stealing the show.  So I brined the chicken for a couple of hours in a  simple water, brown sugar and kosher salt mixture.  Chris smoked the chicken for 2 hours at 225f.  We also threw on a few whole bell peppers as a test.

Quite simple really, the bowl consisted of short grain rice, smoked chicken, smoked peppers, a fried egg, and an assortment of pickled vegetables.  Yummy smokey chicken!

And speaking of chicken... a few new chick pics.  Seems wrong to put them in the same post, but I love my chickens.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

All Day Smoked Beef Brisket

Chris fired up the Weber smoker at 8:30 this morning, early enough for a Saturday that he set it up last night so that all he had to do was wake up and light it this morning.  It was early enough that neighbor came down to make sure our house wasn't on fire.  Our morning looked something like this...smoker wafting gentle plumes of cherrywood smoke, dog lying on the couch next to me on the patio watching the chickens intently, chickens pecking away at their morning treat of cabbage, Chris studying his brisket recipe and sipping coffee, Stella telling Pacino what a good boy he is, Maggie sleeping in, and me typing on my laptop.  It was a good morning.  

For the brisket:
One 4lb beef brisket, with some fat left on top
1 Cup beef stock

Last night, Chris put a healthy coating of dry rub on the brisket and place it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.  This morning he lit the huge mound of charcoal and waited for them to grey.  Once they were grey, he placed several large cherrywood chunks on top of the coals.  The water pan was filled, and then the brisket went on, fat side up.  The smoker was kept at 225 for the entire smoking session.  More coal was added to the smoker throughout the day to maintain the temperature.  The brisket was left on for about 6 hours and then was placed in foil wrap with the 1 cup of beef stock and returned to the smoker for another 2 hours.  After that, at 5:00pm, the brisket was removed, wrapped in large towels and placed in a cooler to keep warm, while keeping it from cooking further, until we were ready to eat. 

We had our brisket on a potato bun with pickled cucumbers, carrots, and fennel, ginger scallion sauce, and a little bbq sauce.   Can't complain.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

And Then There Were Four

We decided to add a 4th chicken to our flock.  By we, I mean the girls and I.  Chris, being out of the country and unavailable for consult, was denied a vote.  Pacino, well, we know his position, so he was not consulted.  Once a flock is established, it is difficult to introduce a new member.  You may wonder, how difficult could it be?  Well, suffice it to say, I spent more than a few sleepless hours worrying about Bailey, our sweetest chicken of the group.  It may be that I obviously need larger problems to occupy my mind, but one could consider it being a good thing that I don't.  It could also be that I'm becoming a little obsessed.  As my friend said to me today, "we may need an intervention here", but I've been given the chance to see if I can right my ship first.  
Last Monday, the new chick came home.  I named her Bailey.  She's an Americauna, a sweet bird, likes to be held, and flies onto my shoulder when I open the coop door.
The first few days, Bailey gets pecked at by Rosie, the kingpin, as I call her.  Rosie eats where and what she wants, stands where she wants, and sleeps where she wants.  And Bailey is not welcomed by Rosie like a bully picking on the new kid.  For the rest of the week, either Bailey or Rosie has to be separated from the flock, but by Friday, they have all learned to get along.  Bailey is still a bit of a loner, but hangs with the rest of the chicks more and more each day.  I am sleeping better lately.
Now, let's talk about the new coop.  Like any good construction project, it's always more than you planned for.  Oh, we'll just get a simple coop built, I say.  But as soon as I start delving into the project, it always escalates.  Our wonderful carpenter, who just rebuilt our deck, got talked into building my new coop, probably at a weak moment, taken off guard.  By the way, if anyones needs a new deck.. he's your guy.  After his experience with me, I'm not sure he'll build you a coop though.  It is a little more work than I would have thought, and therefore I am exponentially happier that I did not try to build it myself.    

The coop is made of cedar, with a cedar shake roof.  It is as sturdy as you would want your own house to be.  I hope the happy new home the chickens now have will aid in producing plentiful and delicious eggs for our family.  If not, check back in a bit... there may be a chicken coop for sale!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Crab Ravioli

The kids are in camp, I have finished securing the chicken coop, it is raining outside, and I am alone in my house today.  It's a good day for ravioli making.
I was all set to make sweet potato ravioli and then a friend called and made a drive by, freshly caught crab, drop off.  Am I a lucky girl or what?  So, crab ravioli it will be today.

1.5 lbs dungeness crab meat, excess liquid squeezed out
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
pinch of paprika

Mix all ingredients together. 
I made my pasta sheets with "00" flour today, so I'm looking forward to seeing if that makes a discernible difference.  Alternatively, you can buy fresh pasta sheets.  Place a little round of filling leaving enough space between each round to seal the ravioli.  Use a rolling cutter or just a regular knife to cut the ravioli into squares, or rectangles, doesn't really matter.
Boil for 2-3 minutes.  Brown some butter and quick saute some peas for the sauce.
The pasta was firm, the crab fresh, the butter, well, buttery, and the peas added the perfect sweetness to the ravioli.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Good 'Ole Chicken Slider

With Chris out of town all last week, I took a good week off serious cooking.  It felt good.  As fast as I think I am in the kitchen, making a nice dinner every night sure does take up some time.  More than the actual time cooking, is the time spent thinking, planning, and purchasing.  Between the family, the dog, and now the chickens, there sure are a lot of mouths to feed and clean up after.  It was a busy week here and so a good opportunity to have a little break.

The freeze on chicken cooking comes to an end with tonight's chicken sliders.  I used chicken legs and thighs and ground them with my Kitchenaid attachment.  I included just a little bit of fat from the chicken in the grind for juiciness and flavor. 

1.25 lbs ground chicken
1/2 lb ground crimini mushrooms (I put the mushrooms in with the chicken as I ground it)
1/2 small sweet onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane
1 tbsp finely minced fresh sage
1 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
1 tsp salt
freshly grated black pepper  

Mix everything together and loosely pack into patties.  It will be quite soft and loose with the mushrooms and grated onion in the mix.  Chris grilled the chicken burgers on the gas Weber.  

I topped mine with basil mayonnaise, made simply with mayo and finely chopped fresh basil, then some lettuce, tomato and avocado slices.  Served with a side of beet and arugula salad, it was a lovely summer meal.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Potato, Caramelized Onion, Rosemary and Fontina Pizza

A request was made for grilled pizzas tonight.  I went to my go to pizza dough recipe from the owner of Co. in NY with a couple of modifications.  I also used "00" flour tonight, so it'll be interesting to see if we can taste a difference.

Makes four 12-inch pizza crusts

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast 
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ cups luke warm water

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt together
Gently stir together yeast and water until yeast is dissolved.  Add water to the flour and stir until blended (the dough will be very sticky). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 12 to 24 hours in a warm spot, about 70°.  This timing is preferable, but I've also made the dough in as short as 6 hours and it's been fine.  I made today's dough this morning.

Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a floured work surface. You will need plenty of flour on your hands to work the dough as it will be very sticky.  Fold the dough over on itself once or twice,  and divide it into 4 equal pieces shaping each into a ball.  Either cover with a clean towel or with plastic wrap and let rise for another 2 hours.
The plastic wrap will stick a little to the dough, but it will come off with a little prying.

Stretch, toss or roll your dough into a round, about 12 inches.  I've baked mine on a super hot pizza stone, on metal mesh wired pizza pans, and tonight it will be on the grill.. unless it rains.  I usually par bake the dough at 425 for a minute or two just until the dough is set.  I find this makes the dough easier to dress and achieve the right cooked consistency.

For the potato pizza:
Slice skin on yukon gold potatoes, preferably small ones, into 1/8" thick slices.  Toss with olive oil and spread onto a baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast the potatoes at 425 until softened.  This will only take 5-7 minutes.  

Thinly slice a small sweet onion.  Slowly saute in olive oil until caramelized.  Be patient, this will take a while, but worth the time.

Drizzle a little olive oil on your prepared dough, sprinkle with Fontina, place a layer of potatoes and some caramelized onions on top, and finish with a sprinkle of chopped fresh rosemary and freshly ground black pepper.  I used Fontina Valle D'Aosta, which is an Italian fontina made from the milk of Valdostana cows.  It must be raw milk and from a single milking.  It really does make a big difference, so if you can find it, use it.  

No grilling tonight, we thought.  A sprinkle of rain is all it took to put the oven and pizza stone into action, but half way through cooking, I noticed the oven sparking in the convection fan area, so off the oven went, and on the grill went.  

The dough was the best we've had.  Can it be attributed to the 00 flour?  Or just a happenstance resulting from a combination of haphazzard events?  The potatoes were sweet as were the caramelized onions and it was lovely. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Grilled Veal Chops with Mustard, Sage and Lemon Marinade

It felt like a good day for a little grilled veal chop.  Just trying to keep it simple and unbuttered and uncreamed.  So, grill it is.  

Marinate the veal chops in the following:
2 Tbsp garlic rosemary mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Remove from the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before grilling.  Sprinkle chops with just a bit of ground white pepper.  Grill over high heat until you desired temperature.  On the rare side for me, medium rare for the girls, 4-6 minutes per side.  Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.
With the chops, I served button mushrooms sauteed in olive oil, garlic and salt and a Fregola Sarda pasta with snap peas, olive oil, lemon juice and freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.  

Chick photos of the day... digging holes in the garden and fertilizing.
Rosie laying in Stella's lap

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wok Fried Flank Steak, Sweet Duck Egg, Pea Vines and Rice

Isn't anything with rice so fulfilling?  Add a good egg and it just elevates the whole dish.  Tonight a little wok fried beef, scrambled duck egg, quick fried pea vines and a good helping of white rice.  

1 Pound of flank steak, thinly sliced across the grain
1 tbsp minced lemongrass (the inner tender parts only)
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sweet soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine
Marinate the flank steak for about half an hour.

1 bunch scallions, sliced on the diagonal
4 tender celery stalks cut into matchstick pieces
2 tbsp hoisin sauce

Heat wok to smoking hot over high heat.  Add 2 tbsp vegetable oil and then the flank steak.  Fry until beef is seared on the outside.  Add hoisin sauce, scallions and celery and fry for a couple more minutes.  
I bought a half dozen fresh duck eggs from the farmers market on Sunday.  Beat 3-4 eggs together with a bit of sugar, a large pinch of salt and a splash of water.  Cook eggs in a medium fry pan until just solid.
Wok fry the pea vines in a little oil and salt until just wilted.  A word on pea vines.  When you buy them, you will likely have to rim off some of the tougher portions of the vines as well as the little tentacles, if you will at the top.  The way to tell what's tender is that it will break off easily when pinched with your fingers.  If you have to use a little muscle, then it's too tough.  

Besides the poor plating of the dish, it was really, really tasty.  I smiled at the sight of the girls giving up on their chopsticks and forking the rice slathered with the sauce into their mouths.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Barbecue Spare Ribs

Since we've gotten the chicks, there's been a little sensitivity to eating chicken in our house.  The first night we had the chicks, I had coincidentally soaked some chicken in buttermilk to make fried chicken.  Stella was not happy with me pointing out how the chicks would be able to smell the chicken frying and be afraid for their lives.  Chris then observed that we could put a deep fryer at the end of their ramp and they could just walk into the fryer like conveyor belt fried chicken.  My dad then emailed me and said he would like to eat my chicks, but would instead wait for the first egg.  I don't know what the chicks are thinking when Pacino is circling their coop, but I'm guessing they are smart enough to figure out it's not so he can snuggle with them.  Despite my talks with Pacino about us all just getting along, how the chicks love him, I love him, if he'd just settle down, he'd be a lot happier, Pacino still gets himself in a lather anytime any attention is shown to the chicks.  Surprisingly, it seems they know Pacino cannot and is not allowed to get at them.  But I digress, the reason for another pork meal, other than, well, we like pork, is giving the chicks a little reprieve from feeling like prey.

I decided on spare ribs instead of my usual back ribs tonight and a brine versus a dry rub.
For the brine:
4 cups water
2 cups apple juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/8 cup kosher salt
Place spare rib rack in a large flat container or zip lock bag and submerge in brine.  Place in the refrigerator for about 6 hours.  

Without the time for a long day of smoking, and Chris being out of town, I chose to do a quick smoke on the Weber charcoal grill with indirect heat.  Soak some wood chips in water, hickory, applewood,  or whatever your preference.  I used applewood.  Light your charcoal in a chimney and once they have greyed on the outside, place them in a pile on one side of the grill.  Place the rib rack on the other side, bone side down.  Maintain a temperature of 325  in the grill.  Sprinkle the wood chips on top of the charcoal and keep the kettle covered for at least 45 minutes without opening the lid to get the full advantage of the smoke.  
I had planned to keep the ribs on for a total of 2.5 hours.  But then got a text (mid smoke) from Chris that he was going to get home by 8:00, so we waited for him for dinner.  It was going to be an extra hour before dinner, so I adjusted the temp of the grill down to about 300 for the next 2.75 hours.  They still would not be fall off the bone tender with this cooking time, but hopefully, they would be tender and juicy.
For the last couple of hours, I brushed the ribs with a mop sauce that is a combo of the Fish Sauce Vinaigrette I had left over from the cauliflower the other night and a few other additions.  
So, it's something like this:
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tbsp water
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
juice of half lime
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 serrano chili, minced
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp finely chopped peeled ginger
3 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp grapeseed oil

The ribs were smoky, tender and delicious.  Not at all bad for the short smoke time.  

Chick update... they are all back together now.  Ruby looks healed and un-pecked upon.  Pacino got some 'close' time with the chicks and we all lived to tell the tale.  

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ginger Scallion Noodles, Roasted Pork Belly, and Pickled Vegetables

It's just me and Maggie for dinner on a little date night tonight and she loves a good pork belly as much as I do.  After reading Lucky Peach, I've been having a noodle craving.  I'm going to get around to making some ramen at some point, but for tonight it's a simple noodle combined with some favorite ingredients perfect for a warm summer day.  

The ginger scallion sauce is David Chang's recipe:
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup finely minced peeled ginger
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
3/4 tsp sherry vinegar
3/4 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
Mix everything together and let sit at least 20 minutes and stir again before using.  It will also keep for a few days or even up to a week in the refrigerator.

I had a small piece of pork belly from Uwajimaya, again my favorite place to buy it because it has less fat and is more meaty, but you will have to remove the skin first or have the butcher do it.  I seasoned it generously with a mixture of equal parts kosher salt and sugar and set in the refrigerator for several hours.  If you planned ahead, you should do this the night before, but I had not, so a few hours will have to do.
Heat the oven to 450.  Drain an liquid that has come out of the belly, brush off any remaining excess salt/sugar and roast in the oven for 2 hours.  Turn the oven down to 250 and cook for another hour or so.  My oven retains heat really well, so it would take quite a while for it to cool on its own.  So, I usually pop the oven door open until it reaches 250.  
Let the pork belly rest about 15 minutes or so before slicing.

For any assortment of pickles combine:
1 cup piping hot water
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
6 tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp kosher salt
Prepare your vegetable and pack them into a jar, container, separately, and pour the brine over top.  I let them sit at room temp until cooled and then into the refrigerator.  These will keep for about a month in the fridge.  So, I always have some on hand to use whenever I'm looking for a little pop to something fresh.

For the soy sauce pickled shiitakes:
2 cups loosely packed cups of dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
3" knob of fresh ginger, peeled
Steep the shiitakes in boiling water for about 15 minutes, or until they are soft.  Remove the shiitakes and strain and reserve 1 cup of the steeping liquid.  Slice the shiitakes into 1/8" thick slices.  Combine the steeping liquid and remaining ingredients in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add the shiitakes and simmer covered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let cool, discard ginger, and pack shiitakes and as much liquid as needed to cover them into a jar or other container.  These will also keep for a month.  I had some on the side with a scrambled egg this morning for breakfast.

My addition to the ginger scallion noodles is a sesame soy sauce combining sesame paste, light soy, a bit of sugar and a little white vinegar.  

Cook your noodles according to the package instructions.  I used cold fresh store bought ramen noodles.  Run under cool water after cooking to keep them from sticking together.  Toss with a spoonful of ginger scallion sauce, ladle a little sesame soy sauce and top with your favorite pickled vegetables (mine were cucumbers, carrots and shiitakes), and a few slices of pork belly.  Noodle craving satisfied!

Oh, and chick update...
Ruby had a broken tail feather yesterday and Allie and Rosie were pecking at the spot where she had bled a little.  I guess once a chicken smells blood, it will continue to peck at the spot, sometimes until the other chicken dies.  So, we had to separate them yesterday and today other than the times when they had free range of the garden.  They are so close, they did not like being separated.  They snuggled up to each other with the wire mesh partition between them.  So sweet.
Another sweet observation is that they like to dig a hole in the dirt, lay in it, and rustle their feathers and flip dirt on themselves.  Bird bath!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fried Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

I am always looking for good side dishes to serve with grilled meats in the summer.  I found this little gem in my Momofuku cookbook.  In Chang's book, you can make it with either brussels sprouts or cauliflower.  I went with cauliflower.  Here's the sprout version on Epicurious, just substitute cauliflower and it's the same recipe.  His recipe also gives you the option of frying or roasting.  I went with the fried version... just to check it out since I'd never fried cauliflower before.  All of the sacrifices I make for the blog, right?
I made the dressing and puffed rice ahead of time, so all that was needed at the time of eating was a quick fry session.  The roasted version would make it even easier for entertaining as it would not need the tending to that frying does.  
With my side of fried cauliflower, I served grilled teriyaki marinated short ribs and a macaroni salad reminiscent of the lunch we had at the Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina, Maui.  The cauliflower was fresh tasting and delicious.  I dare say it might be better roasted.  I loved the fish sauce vinaigrette and the toasted puffed rice an ingenious addition. 

Oh, and chick pics of the day...
Rosie nestled in Stella's hands
Allie perched on Maggie's finger
Ruby on my lap
Getting a treat
The girls roosting on our deck chairs

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Three Chicks

These chicks are not for eating.  But, we are hoping for some tasty eggs sometime in the near future.  Chickens have been on my list of "things to talk Chris into" for some time and I saw my opening a few weeks ago with a casual comment he made about a chicken coop he saw in a magazine.  It was a sliver of light, and I ran with it.  

We brought our girls home last Monday at 3 weeks old.  Rosie is a Brahma, Allie is a Silver Laced Wyandotte and Ruby is a Buff Orpington.  As with any babies, it's been a mixed bag of excitement, concern and trial and error.  We've had the girls inside, outside, babysat already and today they will spend their first night in their outside coop.  

Our biggest challenge so far is acclimating our Springer Spaniel, Pacino, to the chicks.  He is at a frenzy anytime we pay any attention to them, not unlike an older sibling when a new baby arrives.  But apparently, the bird dog in him, something I had not fully thought about, is an undeniable contributing factor to his interest in them.  Oops.... my visions of idyllic back yard chickens lying on Pacino's back in the sun is not exactly coming to fruition.  Before we had gotten the chicks, I took Pacino to our neighbors', who also have chickens, to see what his reaction would be.  Unbeknownst to them, they were our guinea pigs.  Pacino showed no interest at all.  So, I thought, green light!  As we slowly familiarize the chickens and Pacino, only time will tell how this story will bloom.

In the meantime, Pacino whimpers as he is forced to sit, leashed by my side, as the chicks get their well deserved time wandering the back yard.  Today the chicks will spend their first full day and night in the coop.  No doubt I will lie in bed wondering how they are.  In the works are plans for a larger coop and a chick cam so that I can monitor the chicks from my iPhone.  I will post periodic updates on the chicks and sneak in a photo here and there and anxiously await  our first eggs.
 Chicks arrive home
 Their first meal
 Rosie does a little self maintenance
 Rosie and Ruby check out the patio
 Rosie showing her wings
The girls in their coop