Monday, May 28, 2012

Smoked Chicken

At Costco the other day, I bought the first Copper River Sockeye Salmon I'd seen for sale.  I brought it home, brined it for two days, then laid it out on a rack, drizzled some honey over each piece, and put it in the refrigerator to dry for an additional day.  We made an unplanned trip to Whidbey for one night and hence was not able to smoke the salmon as I originally planned.  So, today, it was do or toss?  So, we decided while we're smoking the salmon, might as well throw some chicken on there for dinner.

One 3 1/2 pound chicken, plus additional chicken wings

For the brine:
3 cups hot/boiling water
4 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 sprigs fresh tarragon
10 sage leaves
enough ice cubes added to water to make 4 total cups

Combine the hot water with remaining ingredients, except ice.  Use a large spoon to stir and press on the herbs until the salt and sugar are dissolved.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  Then add enough ice to the mixture to make a total of 4 cups of liquid.
Using poultry or kitchen shears or just a good ole knife, split the chicken through the back and flatten it out, cracking the breast bone if necessary to flatten it.  Place the whole chicken plus any additional wings in a large bag along with the brine.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 8.  
Chris pulled out our Weber smoker, but you could do this on a regular charcoal grill.  Light the charcoal and smoke the chicken using indirect heat.  On a smoker, this is the only way to do it. On a grill, light the charcoal on one side of the grill and put the chicken on the opposite side away from the charcoal.  Soak some wood chips to spread across the charcoal once they have greyed.  On the smoker, we used large wood chunks.  Smoke the chicken, maintaining a temperature of 175-200 for about 2 hours.

The chicken was smokey, sweet and juicy.  
The salmon, fabulous as well.  I used the same brine recipe from a previous post.
Speaking of chicken, a photo update of Pacino and the chickens.  Almost in harmony, until one gets nervous and runs off.  Then Pacino is definitely thinking the chase is on.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bacon and Egg Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage

Here's a different  look at that fabulous Ravioli dish I fell in love with from Osteria Mozza.  I picked up a few helpful tips from the cookbook a friend gave me, and we are off and running.  A visit to a farmer's market this past weekend yielded some raw milk ricotta and raw milk butter, both from Sea Breeze Farm.  The ricotta is the best ricotta I have tasted.  It is full of flavor and sweet, unlike so many other ricottas I've had.  The raw milk butter was a impulse purchase after hearing another customer rave about it.

For the pasta, you can buy prepared fresh pasta sheets, or make you own.  I used just a slightly different recipe today.

2 1/4 cups baking flour
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
I used a standing mixer and a hook attachment to knead the dough for about 10 minutes.  Then put the dough out onto a floured wood block and continued to knead with my hands for another few minutes.  I then wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and let rest at room temp for a couple of hours before using my Kitchenaid attachment to roll out the pasta.  I rolled it to the #6 setting this time.  I find laying the dough out on flour sack towels makes it easiest to handle.

For the filling (this made enough for 6 ravioli and I did this particular amount only because that's the amount of ricotta I had)

10 oz Raw Milk Ricotta
5 oz thinly sliced, then roughly chopped Pancetta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2-3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
Fry the pancetta until very crispy.  Drain on paper towels and let cool.
Mix together all of the filling ingredients.  Use enough cream to attain the consistency of soft serve ice cream.  The filling can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.
To make the ravioli, cut the pasta sheets into approximately 6" x 6" pieces.  You will need 12 in total.   With the extra pasta, I cut it and dried it for another use.  Roll the filling into 6 equal balls.  Place each one onto the center of one pasta piece.  Press it down a little to form a disk.  Then using the back of a tablespoon, press a little well in the center of the disk.  
Here, you will need 6 eggs.  Break open the egg, separate the yolk from the white and reserve the white.  Place the yolk into the middle of the ricotta mixture.  Repeat for each of the ravioli, but you don't need to reserve any more egg whites. 
Brush the edge of the pasta sheet with the egg white, place another pasta sheet on top.  Seal the edges and surround the filling with the top past sheet by cupping your hands around it.  
You can either use a shaped cutter, or a rolling pasta cutter to cut the ravioli into either a square or round.  Repeat for each ravioli.
The ravioli can also be made several hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.  I placed them on a baking sheet with a towel under the ravioli and covered them with a towel.

When ready to cook, heat a large pot of salted walter to boil.  Depending on the size of your pot, use one or two pots or cook the ravioli in turn, knowing the first batch will cool as you cook the second batch.  Not optimal, but works.  
Boil the ravioli for 3-4 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the ravioli and blot on a towel to remove excess water before placing onto your serving dish.

As the water is coming to boil and the ravioli are cooking, brown the butter.  
You will need 2/3 to 3/4 cup of butter and 8-10 sage leaves.
Place the butter and sage in a shallow pan over medium high heat, swirling it until it is evenly browned, about 3-5 minutes.  
To serve, ladle the brown butter over the ravioli and place one or two sage leaves on top of each ravioli.  Grate a mound of Parmigiano Reggiano on top.  Rich and divine!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Crispy Chicken Wrapped Prosciutto with Mushrooms and Ramps

A couple of weekends ago, we ventured to Portland, OR for an overnighter and had dinner at Le Pigeon.  It was a lovely cozy restaurant with a small menu of well executed dishes.  I ordered the Lobster Stuffed Chicken which, to my dismay, quickly became Stella's meal after my first bite.  She ordered the Gnudi, which I still enjoyed happily on exchange.  The chicken had been deboned and formed into one whole piece, with the lobster in the middle, and crispy skin all around the outside.  When we returned to the hotel, I got on my laptop, and after a few clicks, ordered myself some Transglutaminase, or meat glue.  

So, here I am with meat glue in hand, and on my way to deboning my chicken.  It's difficult to explain, in brief, the process for this.  A starting point is a sharp fillet or boning knife.  With this chicken, you are winding up with two halves, so our work is a little easier.  
One 3 1/2 pound chicken
1 tsp of transglutaminase
2 slices of prosciutto (not too thin, but not so thick either)

Start at the breast, cutting it lengthwise down the middle.  I use the tip of the knife it run it against the breast bone, around the wishbone, keeping the small drumette in tact with the breast meat.
When you reach the thigh bone as you work down towards the back, pull the leg back so that it pops out of the socket.  Slide the tip of the knife in between the bone and the socket and carefully cut it away.
Flip the chicken around and cut lengthwise along the middle of the back bone.  Run the knife along with backbone towards the breast bone until it runs into the top half of the chicken and the meat is fully released from the bone.  
Cut the wing portion off from the drummette attached to the breast.  Reserve the wings to make stock.
To remove the leg bone, cut along the thigh bone and onto the drumstick bone until the whole bone is revealed.  Make a circular cut around the base of the drumstick.  Pull the bone of the drumstick away from the meat and use the tip of the knife to cut the bone away.  Do the same for the drumstick and remove the entire bone.
Repeat this for the other half of the chicken.  I used all of the bones to make chicken stock.

Pull the tenderloins off the breasts and cut out the tendons.  Check the chicken to make sure there are no bone bits, sinew, or veins.  Place the tenderloins on the chicken leg/thigh.
Place the chicken onto two separate large pieces of plastic wrap.  

Working with each half at a time, and about 1/2 tsp of meat glue, sprinkle 2/3 of it onto the chicken in a  light dusting.  Use your fingers to spread it evenly all over.  Lay the prosciutto on top of the breast meat, and then sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of the meat glue on top of the prosciutto.  
Lay the leg meat over top of the beast, wrapping any extra skin around the outside of the breast.  Use the plastic wrap to help gather the chicken in and roll it tight until all of the meat is contained within the skin of the chicken.  Repeat this with the other half of the chicken.
When both sides are wrapped in plastic, take another large piece of plastic and roll the two sides together as tightly as you can.  This will help form a more uniform and tubular piece of chicken.  
Put the chicken in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, take the chicken out about 30 minutes before cooking.  Unwrap the chicken and like magic, it will have formed into one solid piece of goodness.
To cook the chicken:
Heat oven to 500.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat.  When it is almost starting to smoke, add 2 tbsp grape seed oil.  
Make sure the chicken is dry, blot with paper towels.  Salt and pepper the chicken. 
Carefully lay the chicken into the skillet, breast side down.  Sear and brown it on the one side.  Then flip it over and sear it on the leg side.  
Place the chicken in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes until chicken is crispy and deep golden brown.  
Remove from the oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

For the sauce:
1 cup of chicken demi glace
1/4 cup heavy cream

For the chicken demi glace, I made a stock with the chicken bones, carrots, thyme sprigs and onion.  I strained the stock and then cooked it down to 1/6 of its original volume.  Chicken concentrate!   To make the sauce simply add the cream to the chicken demi glade and bring to a simmer for a few minutes.
For the ramps:
Blanche in boiling water for about a minute.  Then shock with ice water.  Drain and dry a bit.
Melt 2 tbsp of butter and sauté until softened and lightly browned.

For the mushrooms, I used morels and king trumpet.  Saute them in a little butter as well.
Chicken bliss.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Baked BBQ Chicken

Here's a grilling alternative for BBQ chicken.  Start a day ahead with the brine to tenderize and season the chicken.  Make an easy sauce using a store bought bbq sauce as a base.  Cook it using two steps for even more flavor.

3 1/2 pounds of chicken legs and thighs
3 cups water
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

Stir the water together with remaining ingredients until salt and sugar are dissolved.  Combine with the chicken in a large zip lock bag and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about an hour before cooking.
When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the brine and dry with paper towels.
Turn oven onto 425f
Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add just a very small drizzle of oil, just enough to coat the pan.  Brown the chicken on all sides, in batches so not to crowd the pan.  
After browning, place the chicken onto a large baking pan.  Brush all sides of the chicken with the below sauce.  Bake the chicken, skin side up for about 25-30 minutes.

For the sauce:
1 cup barbecue sauce, I used a new one for me Trilby's BBQ Sauce
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 tbsp brown sugar
honey and additional spice if needed... 
After tasting Trilby's, I decided it was really good as is and did not need really anything.  The only thing I decided to do as add fried brown onions to it.  
Saute the onions in a little oil, over medium high heat, until they are deep brown and caramelized.  About half way through cooking, add the brown sugar.  When onions are browned, add the bbq sauce to it and bring just to a simmer.  Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use.

The girls liked their chicken with buttered spaghetti so they could mix it with a little of the residual barbecue sauce.  Good eatin'!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Garlic, Ginger Hoisin Ribs

It's about that time again.  Time for some ribs.  I'm trying out a new marinade tonight.  Hope it'll be a good one.

1 full rack of pork baby back ribs

1/4 cup finely chopped ginger
2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup light soy sauce
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp sriracha sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp grape seed oil
1 tsp sesame oil

On the back side of the ribs, there is a thin membrane.  Make a lengthwise slit between each bone just deep enough to cut through the membrane.
Combine all the marinade ingredients.
Place ribs and marinade into a large zip lock bag, seal, and turn a few times to evenly coat the ribs.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Take the ribs out of the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.
Turn you gas grill on to medium-high heat and allow grill to completely heat up before putting the ribs on.
Remove ribs from marinade and reserve the marinade.
Cook the ribs, with the grill lid open for 10 minutes per side, meatier side down first.  Baste the ribs with the marinade when you flip them.
Then shut the grill lid, turn the heat down to medium and cook the ribs for another 8 minutes per side.  Baste the ribs with the marinade again when you flip them.
Then turn the heat up to high, and finish with a sear on the meatier side for about a minute, basting again with the marinade.
Let the ribs rest for a few minutes before cutting them up into individual ribs.  Garnish with sliced scallions and chopped cilantro.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Creme Brûlée

Our sweet hens are providing us with eggs and more eggs.  After a short period of coop confinement in order to let my garden spring up a little, the chickens have been released to dig and scratch to their hearts content.  Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of dirt being kicked up.  Pacino, got his first free, unleashed time with the chickens and everyone came away unscathed.  Up until now, Pacino stood licking his lips whenever he saw the chickens.  I believe now, what he really wanted was to eat their poop and maybe just have a little fun chasing them around.  It will be a gradual intermingling of the chickens and Pacino, but I am hoping to get full integration by the start of summer. 
So all these eggs and what to do?  Ironically, my kids do not eat a lot of eggs in and of themselves.  If cooked with other items, like in fried rice, or used in baking, they are happily consumed.  To that extent, we are feast or famine around here on the egg supply.  Currently, we are in feast mode. 

Crème brulee is a favorite dessert in our house.  I don’t know why I don’t make it more often as it is quite easy to make and you can prepare them in advance.  Though this does not use up many eggs, some are better than none.

This made six 3 ounce servings.
2 cups heavy whipping cream
½ whole vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise, inside pulp scraped out
3 large egg yolks
¼ cup vanilla sugar, plus additional ¼ cups for finishing crust

Oven to 325f.  Heat the cream and vanilla bean and pulp in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat until boiling.  Remove from heat and remove the vanilla bean. 
Whisk egg yolks together with sugar until just beginning to lighten in color.
Carefully whisk the cream into the yolks a bit at a time to temper the yolks.  Then in a steady stream, pour the rest of the cream in stirring the mixture constantly.
Place 6 ramekins onto large baking pan.  Pour the mixture into the ramekins.  Place the baking pan into the oven.  Gently fill the pan with hot water, about half way up the sides of the ramekins.  You can do this before you place the pan in the oven, but I find it easier to lift and not splash the water into the ramekins doing it this way.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cream is set.  Remove from the oven.  Take the ramekins out of the water bath and allow to cool a bit.  Then place the ramekins into the refrigerator for at least two hours to chill and set.
When ready to serve, divide the other ¼ cup of sugar between the six ramekins, sprinkling each evenly.  Using a kitchen torch, or a welding torch like the one I have, brown the sugar on top.  Serve immediately.  

Cold Soba Noodles with Mentsuyu

A sunny day makes everything fine.  Along with yakitori tonight, I made these clean and simple soba noodles. 

This served about 6 as a side.
8 oz dried buckwheat soba noodles
1 carrot, peeled and grated
2 scallions, very thinly sliced
nori seaweed
toasted sesame seeds
1 1/2 cups mentsuyu

For the Mentsuyu:
Two 4" pieces of kombu (dried kelp)
1 1/4 cups soy sauce
1 cup mirin
1/4 cup superfine sugar
2 oz bonito flakes / Katsubushi

Rinse the kombu under cold water for about 15 seconds just to remove excess saltiness.  In a large saucepan, put the kombu in 3 1/2 cups of hot water.  Cover and leave for about an hour.
Then add the soy sauce, miring and sugar to the water and kombu and bring just to a boil over medium high heat. 
Add the katsubushi and boil for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit until all the flake have sunk to the bottom.
Strain the sauce into a bottle or jar and let cool, then store in the refrigerator.

For the noodles:
Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and add the soba noodles.  Stir to make sure the noodles don't stick together.  When the water comes to a boil, add a cup of cold water and bring back to a boil.    Cook according to package directions.
Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water to stop the noodles from continuing to cook.  Drain thoroughly.  
In each bowl place some noodles, and add the grated carrots.  Gently pour some mentsuyu around the edge of each bowl.  Garnish with sesame seeds, nori and sliced scallions.

On a side note, this episode of No Reservations is a must see.  I just happened to be watching it while making dinner tonight and coincidentally, it's an episode from Japan.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Soy Braised Duck

I had purchased a whole fresh duck yesterday when I bought the duck fat.  I was tempted to make duck confit having the fat on hand already from making the fries, but then thought better of it.  Part sanity, part laziness.  Instead, I decided to go this slightly less artery clogging route and make another one of my favorite Chinese duck recipes.  My best memory of this dish is actually of its second use as a leftover.  My grandfather would use the leftover sauce and bits of meat and make what he called beggar's rice.  It was a porridge or congee made up of the duck and whatever else might be leftover in the fridge.  I loved it.

1 Whole duck, trimmed of excess fat
6-10 Garlic cloves, depending on how large they are
3" Piece of ginger, cut into thick slices
1/2 Onion, sliced
4 Cups water
1/2 Cup dark soy sauce
1/3 Cup rice wine
1/8 Cup sugar
2 Bunches scallions, trimmed of roots, and left whole

Rinse and dry the duck with paper towel.  Lightly score the fat on the breast side of the duck.   Heat oven to 500f.  I used the Aero Broil function on my oven as it conducts the heat from the top of the oven thereby aiding in searing the duck.  Convection would work as well.  Place the duck onto a baking pan and roast the duck in the oven 20 minutes, until the skin is lightly browned.
Meanwhile, prepare the braising sauce.
In a large dutch oven or heavy cast iron pot, heat 1 tbsp of oil.  Saute the garlic, ginger and onion until fragrant.  Then add the soy, wine, sugar and water and bring everything to a simmer.
Add the duck to the sauce, breast side down first, return to a simmer and cover the pot.  Turn heat down to medium low/low and continue to simmer the duck.  Baste the duck from time to time so that the back side, which is out of the sauce, does not dry out. Simmer for a total of 1 hour.
Turn the duck over to back side down, cover and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. 
Add the scallions, turn heat up a little, cover and continue to simmer for another 45 minutes total.  During that time, once the scallions have softened, push them down into the sauce and use a ladle or large spoon to spoon the sauce over the duck.  
Using a large metal spatula and tongs, very carefully remove the duck from the pot onto a large deep platter.  It will be fall apart tender. Cover with foil while you reduce the sauce.
Turn the heat up to high and using the tongs, remove the ginger pieces from the pot.  Keep the sauce at a rolling boil for about 7-10 minutes.  Turn heat off and skim off fat from the top.
Spoon the sauce over the duck and lay the scallions around the sides.
Serve with rice and wok fried greens, like baby bok choy.
Delicious duck and I look forward to my beggar's rice.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pan Roasted Rib Steaks with Porcini Rub and Bordelaise Sauce, Duck Fat Fries

My, have the years flown by.  Tonight's Anniversary dinner is per Chris' request of steak and duck fat fries.  Okay, duck fat fries.. pretty straight forward and pretty well stand alone perfect.  Steak is an area that allows for some creativity.  I spent the morning racking my brains on what to do and came up with this combination.  Too much?  Perhaps.  I couldn't decide on whether to go with rub or sauce.  In the Emerton household, sauce is king, but we all like a good rub as well, right?  Hence, here we have both.
First the steak.  I went with 2 large, just over a pound each, bone-in rib eye steaks.  I like a large lip on the steaks, which is where I think most of the flavor is.  Others opt for a larger eye.  The lip if the outer edge around the eye of the steak. It is well marbled and more tender.  Start by tying each steak to help hold its shape while cooking and to aid in even cooking.
For the rub:
1/3 cup ground dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 oz)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Mix all together.  
Generously coat each steak, all sides.  Place the rub into a large rimmed dish and press the steak down into the rub making sure all sides are evenly coated.
Place the steaks onto a platter and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 4-6 hours.  Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.
For the Bordelaise Sauce:
1 cup red wine, I used a Cabernet Sauvignon
1/3 cup sliced shallots
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/3 cup sliced mushrooms
10 sprigs flat leaf Italian parsley
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp sliced garlic
6 black peppercorns
1 1/3 cups veal stock
2 tbsp cold butter
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, shallots, carrots, mushrooms, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and garlic and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cover and let simmer for about 3 minutes.  Then uncover and continue to simmer until almost all of the liquid is evaporated.
Add the peppercorns and veal stock, cover and bring to a simmer for another 3 minutes.  Then uncover and continue to simmer until the sauce is reduced by about half.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a small saucepan.  Salt and pepper to taste.  The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated for a few days up to this point.
To finish, stir in the butter until just melted.

To cook the steaks:
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  Place the steaks into the pan and let sear for a few minutes, adjusting the heat so that it does not burn.  With the sugar in the rub, if the heat is too high, the steaks will burn instead of caramelize.  Sear the steaks on both sides first, then turn the heat down slightly to finish cooking, about 15-20 minutes total for medium rare.
For the Duck Fat Fries:
2 (or more) Russet potatoes
5 cups rendered duck fat
fine sea salt to taste
Cut the potatoes into thin matchsticks, about 1/8" x 1/8" thick pieces.  Soak in cold water for at least one hour and up to several hours, changing the water once or twice.
In a large cast iron pot, heat the duck fat to 300f for the first frying of the potatoes.  Fry the potatoes in batches so not to overcrowd the pot.  Once the potatoes are just losing their opaqueness, carefully remove them and drain on paper towels.  Once you are finished with all of the potatoes, heat the fat up to 375f.  Add the fries to the fat and cook until they are crispy and golden brown.  Remove from oil and sprinkle immediately with fine sea salt.
It turns out the rub was king.  No sauce needed, but for maybe a bit of balsamic vinegar to complete.  The duck fat fries were divine.  Roll me into bed.