Friday, December 30, 2011

Spaghetti, Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce, Mario's Italian Sausage and Roasted White Prawns

Tonight's meal started with these large wild white prawns I found at the store.  They looked so good, I had to buy them.  Then from there I decided to fall back on an old favorite... a tomato sauce pasta.  

14.5 oz can of crushed fire roasted tomatoes
4 Mario's Natural Italian sausage links, casings removed
1/2 Sweet onion, finely diced
2 Garlic Cloves, finely minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp heavy cream
1/3 cup fresh basil, roughly torn or chopped
8 Large, head on, wild white prawns, rinsed and dried, veins removed
2 Garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
2 Tbsp butter

In large rimmed pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat and sauté sausage until browned, breaking the links apart into small pieces.  Then add the onions and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent.  Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 5-7.  Add in the heavy cream and simmer for another few minutes.  Keep warm until ready to use.

For the prawns, melt the butter in a small pan.  Add in the garlic and heat until fragrant.  Place prawns onto a rimmed baking sheet, roasting pan, or cast iron skillet.  Lay shrimp in the pan and coat them with the butter and garlic.  Turn the broiler on in the oven and set the rack close to the top of the oven.  Roast the shrimp under the broiler for a minute or two a side.

Cook spaghetti.  Toss spaghetti with sauce and add the fresh basil at the same time.  Serve with prawns on top.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Quick Roast Chicken

Are we all tired of eating yet?  This is what I think every night and then, what do you know, I'm hungry again the next day.  I have to say, with all the extravagant eating over the holidays, my creative juices are not flowing as well.  When nothing else comes to mind, I always turn to a good ole roast chicken.  If pinched for time, this roast chicken is the way to go.  Simple, fast and delicious.  
1 Small organic natural chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds
2-3 Tbsp of butter, melted 
Fleur de sel

Heat oven to 500. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator about 1 hour before cooking.  When ready to cook, salt the inside of the chicken with some fleur de sel.  Truss chicken tightly so that the legs wrap tightly against the breast.  Brush with the melted butter.  You might not use all of it.  Then sprinkle generously with fleur del sel.  I used a heavy cast iron skillet to roast the chicken.  Place it in the middle rack of the oven.  Roast for 40-45 minutes until skin is deep brown.  Turn the chicken and brush with pan drippings additional butter, if you had any left over, a couple of times during roasting.  Remove from oven, let rest for 10 minutes before carving.   You will find there will be a lot of smoke coming from the oven because of the butter and high heat.  Clarified butter would help keep the smoke down.  Or, open some windows and get that hood vent going.  The chicken is worth it!

We have a new evening ritual.  After dinner, Stella and I will look at each other and say "let's go hug a chicken".  I don't know that our chickens want to be hugged before they turn in for the night, but we do it anyway.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Sweet Maggie Mei!

Our beautiful Maggie Mei turns 14 on Christmas.  She's our Mags, our Magaroo, our Magadoodle, and our sweet Roo Ha Ha.  She's our quiet strength, our deep thinker, our sea of mystery, and our seer.  Never demanding to be the center of attention, yet you cannot help but be drawn to her.  She walks softly through our lives, but touches us all with her kindness and care.  Beautiful inside and out, full of grace and acumen, Happy Birthday Maggie!
And what has Maggie wished for dinner?  A girl after my own heart... Veal, mushroom and sweet pea ravioli with browned butter and crispy sage.  A few longevity noodles tossed in, and we're off and running.  My most special baby girl.  The world I wish for you... you deserve it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Quick Pork Chop

Hey, it's not raining here and the gas Weber has been up on our deck for the winter months, so tonight, let's grill a quick pork chop.  Use a bone in pork loin or rib chop.  I prefer a rib chop.  More juicy.  I took them out of their packaging, placed them in the plastic bag I had used to put the package of chops in, and pounded the chops just to make them a bit thinner and to help tenderize them.  Then into a plastic zip lock bag they went with a simple brine of water, kosher salt and brown sugar.  Place into the refrigerator for an hour or two.  Drain and then dry on paper towels.  Mix together 2 tbsp dijon mustard, 2 tbsp sweet hot mustard, 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, 1 tsp olive oil and freshly ground pepper.  Brush onto the pork chops and grill to desired temperature.  Medium is good for me.
Served simply with roasted carrots from the garden and sautéed pea vines, the pork chop was a hit.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Scallop Crudo and Creamy Mushroom Pasta with Shaved Black Truffle

Last weekend when Chris and I were heading out for the night, I did my five minute mushroom cream sauce for the girls to have with pasta for dinner.  No recipe here really, just slice mushrooms, finely chop a clove of garlic, sauté until softened, add heavy cream, a pinch of salt, and some freshly grated pepper, lightly boil until slightly thickened.  That's it.  When we got home, the girls raved about it and subsequently requested it for dinner again.  Tonight I'm remaking the pasta with a couple additions.  I know every late fall, Uwajimaya will get a small shipment of fresh local black truffles.  Of all places to have truffles... I know, right?!  The ones I'd gotten were quite small, but they were the last two.  They may not be as good as the Burgundy black truffles, but they are more affordable and more easily obtained.  Our pasta tonight was made much the same way as last weekend but seasoned with truffle salt, and finished with a bit of shaved truffle on top.  Luscious.  
I had gone to a Patricia Wells dinner a few weeks ago.  It was an all truffle dinner highlighting recipes from her new Simply Truffles cookbook.  When she spoke, she gave the great advice to store your truffles with your eggs so that the truffles would impart their flavor onto the eggs.  So, of course.. fresh laid eggs, fresh truffles, I'm all in.  
To cut the richness of the pasta, I decided to do a little side of scallop crudo to start.  
5 Fresh, sashimi grade sea scallops, sliced crosswise either in half or thirds, depending on the thickness of the scallops
1 Meyer lemon, thinly sliced
2 small Thai chilies, very thinly sliced
1/4 tsp finely sliced scallion or chives
1 Tbsp grape seed oil
1/2 tsp light soy
1/4 tsp rice wine vinegar
pinch of sea salt

Mix together the oil, soy and vinegar.  
Lay the lemon slices in a single layer on a dish.  Lay the scallops on top.  Sprinkle with just a touch of sea salt, then the chilies and scallion.  Finish with a drizzle of the oil mixture on top.  Divine!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Saffron and Seafood Risotto

The countdown is on.  We are in full holiday swing... and the waistline shows it.  January is going to bring some harsh reality.  Wait, what am I saying?  Nothing ever changes in January.. really...  When complaining about my current state of the union, my mom explained to me that I am now middle aged and this is what happens when you're middle aged.  Dear sweet.  Luckily, I can always count on mom to try and make me feel better by blaming my situation on something out of my control.   At some point, I'm going to have to jump the track and get on a new one.  Give me strength!  In the meantime, what's wrong with a little rice and seafood?  Just ignore the small amount of cheese involved.

4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sprinkle of salt

1 Large shallot, finely minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 cups carnaroli rice
1/2 cup white wine
3-4 cups chicken stock, heated
Pinch of saffron
12 Large peeled and deveined wild shrimp
4 Large sea scallops, dried on paper towels
8 Clams, rinsed
8 Mussels, rinsed
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
1/4 Cup freshly grate Parmigiano  Reggiano

Make a sauce with the Roma tomatoes.  Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium low heat.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add in the tomatoes and turn heat up a bit until tomatoes begin to simmer.  Cover with a lid, turn heat down to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.

To make the risotto, heat olive oil in a large rimmed pan over medium heat.  Add shallot and sauté until it is softened and translucent.  Add in the rice and stir to incorporate.  Let cook for 30 seconds to one minute until rice begins to kind of whistle.  Deglaze pan with the wine, let simmer until wine is almost fully evaporated.  Add in the tomato sauce and the saffron, stir to combine and simmer until almost all liquid is evaporated.  Turn heat down to medium low, then start the chicken stock addition, one cup or less at a time, just enough to cover the rice.  Stir once, let simmer until almost all liquid is evaporated and repeat until rice is al dente, soft on the outside, but still a little firm on the inside.  
Add in the clams and the mussels and one last chicken stock addition and freshly grated pepper.  Stir to combine.  Turn heat up to medium, cover and cook until the clams and mussels open.
Meanwhile, salt and pepper the shrimp and scallops.  In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat a little grape seed oil over high heat.  Once the oil is nearly smoking, place the scallops and shrimp in the pan, being careful not to overcrowd the pan so that they will sear versus sauté.  Sear for about 1 minute per side.  Turn heat off.
Once mussels and clams open, remove lid, add in the mascarpone and the parmigiano and stir to incorporate.
To serve, dish out the risotto and place a few shrimp and a scallop on top.  It was delicious!  A little like a paella actually.  Loved it!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Steak and Eggs and A Few Onion Rings Too

We are full on in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  Every year my goal is to have all of my various chores, shopping, and errands done before the girls are out of school for a much awaited two week holiday break.  I had always envisioned life getting easier and less hectic as the girls got older.  But it is much the opposite.  My intent to have free time and hence time to laze around and truly enjoy the holidays, now requires much more effort in advance.  This entails a lot of running around, and so there's not been too may fancy or new meals lately.  Tonight's dinner is really no different, other than I thought it looked good enough to photo and share.

It is a grilled tenderloin steak with salt and pepper.  Simple.
Sauce made of sautéed shallots with sage, pureed with beef stock, simmered and then finished with a little cream and balsamic vinegar.
Poached Emerton coop fresh eggs.
Onion rings coated with a beer batter and fried.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Veal and Mushroom Campanelle

Friday night's leftovers made for a wonderful payoff Sunday supper.  I love what I call the payoff meal.  It's the prime rib roast left overs turned brown sauce pappardelle, the roast turkey turned turkey noodle casserole, or the roast duck turned duck and hoisin sauce pizza.  It's where sometimes the leftovers produce just as good or better of meal than the original.  I love prime rib, but Chris likes it because he knows he's going to get the payoff meal of the pappardelle a day or two later.  As a matter of fact, Maggie was not only excited about osso buco on Friday night, she asked if we could have veal ravioli tonight using the leftovers.  Time did not permit, so second choice is veal pasta.

I had maybe, I would guess, 8-10 ounces of left over veal shank, and about 2/3 - 3/4 cup of the sauce left over.  I shredded the veal and to that I added:
8 oz white button mushroom, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

Saute the mushrooms with salt and pepper and a little olive oil over medium high heat.  When mushrooms are softened, add the tomatoes and continue to saute until tomatoes are softened.  Then add in the veal and left over sauce.  Turn heat down to low, cover and let simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Then add in the cream and simmer until slightly thickened.  Stir in the basil and season, if needed, with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta.  I have been buying Lagana Pasta made by Ethan Stowell and Kaela Farrington when I haven't been making my own.  Cook the past on the al dente side as you will be adding it to the sauce to cook further.  Once the pasta is cooked, add to the sauce and stir to combine.  Simmer for just about 30 seconds or so, just long enough for the sauce to penetrate the pasta.

Serve with freshly grated parmesano reggiano.  I love the payoff!
Last night Maggie made us an Apple Tart using an Ina Garten recipe.  She added a crisp to the top using a combination of flour, brown sugar and butter.  It was fabulous!  Hallelujah! .... we have a baker in our family and she is wonderful!

And lastly, all four of our chickens are now laying eggs.  At times it is a take a number and line up for the nesting area.  Despite my efforts to create separate areas, they all want to lay in the same spot.  Sometimes it is less friendly and orderly, but such are the facts of life.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Oh Happy Day, Osso Buco

Oh happy day, it's Friday!  Maggie's school choir was performing at Figgy Pudding downtown tonight, our friend Marcel was coming to town for a visit, and I needed a good do ahead meal.  Maggie loves a good ossoo buco, but then again, we all do.  So, let's hunker down and enjoy some braised meat!

I was able to make this earlier in the day and reheat it once we got home from Figgy Pudding.  
5 Cross cut veal shanks, about 5 lbs

2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1.5 cups finely chopped carrots
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves roughly chopped
2 dried bay leaves
several sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
several sprigs of fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh sage 
1.5 cups red wine
1/4 cup brandy
1.5 cups chicken stock
2 cups beef stock
4 plum tomatoes, chopped

Salt and pepper the veal shank and coat with flour, shaking off any excess.  Brown all sides of the shank in a large dutch oven with a few tablespoons of canola oil, adding more if needed.  Remove the shank and all but 1 tbsp of oil.  Tie together the thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley to make a bouquet garni.  Brown the mirepoix of chopped carrots, celery, and onion.  Then add in the garlic and bay leaf along with the bouquet garni.  Deglaze pan with wine, the brandy, followed by the chicken and beef stocks and then the tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, then  return the veal shanks to the pot.  Bring back to a simmer, cover and let simmer over low heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on the size of the shanks.  Check on them from time to time and turn or rotate them gently.  

Once veal shanks are tender, remove them from the pot onto a clean pan and cover with foil.  You don't want them sitting out, uncovered, as they will become dry on the outside.  Strain the liquid from the pot using a fine mesh sieve pressing on the solids to get all the flavorful juices from them.  Return the strained sauce to the pot and reduce the sauce a bit by letting it boil rapidly over medium high heat.  Adjust seasoning, salt and pepper as needed.  Return the shanks to the pot to reheat them.  For tonight, I just turned the heat off, placed the veal back in the sauce, and ladled the sauce over top before covering the pot.  Then when we returned home and were ready to eat, I reheated the veal to serve.  Braised meat... fabulous!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crispy Duck

This is one of my favorite ways to cook duck.  I can't help it, I love the crispy skin.  It is marinated, then steamed, allowed to cool, coated with corn starch, and then fried.  I did fail to plan properly and so did not get this marinating a day ahead.  No worries, as is my nature to experiment with food, I figured it was an opportunity to see if this process would work just as well.  I would normally keep the duck whole and marinate it overnight.  But about noon today, I cut the duck into 4 pieces and marinated it the following:

5 Scallions sliced into 1" pieces
1" Piece of ginger, thickly sliced, smashed, and then roughly julienned
3 tbsp rice wine
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
1 star anise, smashed

Place the duck onto a rimmed pan, skin side down, and salt the flesh side of the duck.  Then sprinkle with half of the scallions, ginger, peppercorns, and star anise.  Turn the duck over and repeat.  Then drizzle with the rice wine.  Carefully pick up the pieces of duck, trying to keep the spices on them, and place into a zip lock bag, along with anything that came off the duck and was left in the pan.  I'm hoping the zip lock bag will help the duck absorb the marinade faster.

Several hours later, about 3:30 in the afternoon, I steamed the duck for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  After steaming, discard any liquids/marinade and let the duck cool.  Brush the duck with light soy sauce and then dredge with cornstarch, pressing it in so it will stick to the skin.  Let the duck sit and dry on the counter until you are ready to fry it.  The duck is white when first covered with the cornstarch, but then the soy sauce and the liquids from the duck will wet the cornstarch into a dry paste, but not powdery any more.  

Fill a wok with 2 inches of oil.  Heat the oil to 375f and carefully place the duck pieces into the oil.  If the duck is dry, you should not get much oil splatter.  Turn the duck pieces over as needed to fry evenly until it is golden brown in color.  Drain the duck on paper towels and let rest for a few minutes until cool enough to handle.  Chop into small pieces and serve.  You will need a good heavy cleaver for this.  My mom is a surgeon when it comes to cutting up bone in duck.  It is truly amazing.  I am still honing that skill.

The duck was really good, but I have to say, not as flavorful as when it's been marinated overnight.  Nonetheless, we devoured it happily.