Monday, October 29, 2012

Soy Braised Beef with Scallions and Carrots

It's another braised meat night.  I like to think of this as the Chinese version of boeuf bourguignon, only no bourguignon.  Served with rice and wok fried nappa cabbage and tofu, all is good on a dark fall night.

2.5-3 lbs Beef Chuck roast
2" piece of ginger, sliced into 4 pieces
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 onion, sliced
1 ripe pear, peeled, seeded, sliced
1 Star anise
1 cup apple cider
1.5 cups water
1/2 cup rice wine
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
2 bunch scallions, cleaned and cut in half cross-wise
4-5 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 Tbsp white vinegar

Combine apple cider, water, wine and soy.  
Cut beef into large, approximately 3" x 3" pieces.  In a large dutch oven, heat just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot.  Brown the beef on all sides.  Do this in batches so not to crowd the pot.  Remove beef to a pan as you go.  Once finished, discard all but 1 tbsp of the oil.
Saute the ginger, garlic and onion over medium high heat until onion is just softened.  
Add the pear and star anise.  Saute for one minute longer.
Deglaze the pot with the cider water mixture.  Bring to a simmer.
Add the beef back to the pot.
Cover and simmer for about 1 hour.
Add the scallions and simmer for another 40 minutes.
Add the carrots and vinegar and simmer for another 20 minutes.
The beef was fabulous and tender.  I saved the extra sauce for a beef noodle soup base.  Yum!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Braised Veal Shoulder with White Wine and Mushrooms

There's no doubt fall is upon us.  It's dark dark when I wake up in the morning and dark dark before dinner time.  It feels damp out even when it's not raining and the leaves are turning and shedding from the large wisteria that gives us privacy from our neighbors above.  The squirrels are digging and hiding their stock all around our garden and I go out daily to find the garlic bulbs I've planted inadvertently unearthed by them.  Stella's had another birthday, her 13th, and Halloween is just around the corner.  It's time to cozy up and braise some meat.

3 pounds boneless veal shoulder
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove smashed
1 sprig rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
several sage leaves
2 cups white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound white button mushrooms, thickly sliced

If veal pieces are large, cut each one in half for serving purposes.  Generously salt and pepper the veal and dust with flour.  
Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add 2 tbsp oil and brown the veal on all sides.  Do this in batches so not to crowd the pot.  Remove onto a dish/pan.
In the same pot, saute the vegetables until softened and lightly browned. 
Deglaze with the wine and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
Add the chicken stock and herbs and bring to a boil.  
Return the veal to the pot.  Cover and simmer for 60-90 minutes or until veal is fork tender.
Remove the veal from the pot to a pan and tent with foil.
Strain the stock from the pan and discard the solids.  Return the stock to the same pot and bring to a boil to reduce and thicken slightly. 
Meanwhile saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil until browned.  Add the mushrooms and the veal back to the stock in the pan and simmer until the veal is heated through.
Serve with a good crusty bread or in our case, mashed potatoes.  Happy fall!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tofu Salad

We had a really nice meal the other night at Mojimi on Capitol Hill and surprisingly, one of my favorite items was their tofu salad.  But truthfully, everything we had was really really good.  The menu there is expansive, so it will take several visits to break it down.  We look forward to making it happen.  

1 12oz package extra soft tofu
Daikon sprouts
Micro greens or pea vine sprouts
Thinly sliced red onion
Finely diced tomato

For the Dressing:
1 1/2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tsp mirin
1 tsp plum sauce
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper

Combine dress ingredients and whisk together.  
Slice tofu into 1/2" thick squares
Put a little of the dressing on the center of your serving dish.
Lay the tofu over top.
Sprinkle some of each of the red onion, micro greens, daikon sprouts, tomato over top.
Drizzle some of the dressing over top.
This is so fresh and clean, don't let the tofu turn you off if you are not a tofu lover.  The extra soft tofu is like eating luscious silk and takes on whatever flavor you marry with it.

Duck Prosciutto, Want Some?

That night that I dragged Stella to the store to buy chicken livers for my roasted crispy chicken dinner, there was a man behind me in the check out line with 2 ducks and 2 packages of duck fat.  I looked back and said, "you are making something good!"  I assumed there was going to be duck confit involved, but he added that he was also making duck prosciutto.  Whaaaat?  Duck prosciutto?  What's that all about?  I finished my check out process and then left.  On the way to the car, I said to Stella that I should have inquired further.  I loaded my bag into the car and then said that if I saw him coming out, that I was definitely going to have to stalk him down and question him further.  Stella would not let that kind of crazy behavior ensue, so I was left with sorting it out on my own.

Of course, what happened next was an immediate return to the store to buy duck.  I searched around locally, but was only able to find Pekin duck breasts, not the larger Moulard duck breasts which I thought would be better for prosciutto.  So, I went for the easy to procure Pekin duck breast from Uwajimaya.

I prepared the breasts by rinsing them and drying them well on paper towels.  
Then, I combined: 2 1/2 Cups kosher salt
1/2 Cup brown sugar
In a glass or ceramic pan, place half the salt and sugar mixture on the bottom.  Lay the duck breasts on top, and then pour the remaining mixture over top.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24-48 hours, depending on the thickness of the duck breast, to cure the duck.  I had mine in for about 32 hours, which produced a slightly salty result.  Next time, I'll go with 24 hours.  
After curing, remove the duck from the salt mixture, rinse the salt off, and dry on paper towels.
Wrap the breasts individually in cheese cloth.  Tie tightly with string.
If you have an airy and cold basement, you can hang the breasts there to dry.  I opted to go with my refrigerator and rigged a couple of hanging lines.
Hang the duck for 6 to 10 days for the Pekin duck sized breasts.  The ones I had seemed particularly smalls, so 6 days was all it took.  But check on them daily by just lightly squeezing the duck feeling for any dry hard spots.  You don't want them to get too dry.
I chose to shrink wrap each one individually.  I'm not sure of the refrigerator shelf life, but I think we are good for a couple of weeks.  The rest I will freeze.
Serve slicing the duck very thinly.  It's salty and delicious and tastes like, well, duck prosciutto.    Yum!  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pan Fried Pork Chop Dinner

This is an essential "lunchbox" item in Taiwan.  A favorite of ours, this tender fried pork chop is usually served with rice, pickled vegetables and a soy sauce egg.  We're going to have this for dinner tonight.  

4 Pork rib chops
1 Clove garlic, crushed
1 Scallion, cut into 1" pieces
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
pinch of 5 spice
pinch of ground white pepper

Pound the pork chops to 1/4" thickness. 
Combine the remaining ingredients.  Place pork chops into a dish or zip lock bag. 
Pour marinade over pork.
Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
About 30 minutes to an hour before cooking, add 2 Tbsp corn starch and 1/4 cup rice flour to the pork chops and make sure you coat them evenly.
Set them onto a wire rack, cover and let sit at room temperature until ready to fry.  
Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add enough oil to fill the pan about 1/8" deep. 
Fry the pork chops until golden brown on both sides.  Let rest on a wire rack before serving.
I served the chops over rice along with wok fried pea vines and oyster mushrooms, soy sauce egg and braised bamboo shoots.  Good stuff!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Crispy Chicken, Toasted Brioche, Oyster Mushrooms, Spinach, Chicken Liver Mousse and Madeira Jus

It's generally true that if Chris goes out to dinner, he will return home with something I have to make.  This combination was so "Oh, yes" that I just went ahead and tried making it before tasting the original from Quinns Pub.  For the crispy chicken part, I went back to this roasted chicken recipe from an earlier post.  One addition I made was putting some herb butter between the skin and the meat of the chicken.  My herb butter consisted of butter, rosemary, thyme and sage that were all finely chopped. Toasted brioche seemed easy enough.  Buy a brioche roll and toast in the oven.  Saute some oyster mushrooms in olive oil.  Saute some baby spinach leaves in olive oil.  The chicken liver mousse and madeira jus were going to be just a bit more work.
Soon after we were married, I started collecting recipes, mostly from Chris' mom, and placed them in the guest book from our wedding.  When I started to think about making a chicken liver mousse, I remembered a recipe I got from her for Currant Studded Chicken Liver Pate.  This is the first, and really, only pate I've ever made.  It's been so long, I can't remember if I loved it or not, but I kept the recipe, so out it came for another go.

I cut the original recipe in half and made just a couple of changes:
3 Tbsp white wine
1 Tbsp cognac
1 Tbsp currants
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 Cup white button mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbsp green onions, chopped
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
6 oz Chicken livers
3 Tbsp very soft butter
2 Tbsp heavy cream

Soak the currants in the wine and cognac over night.  
At least 4 hours ahead, drain currants and reserve liquid
Melt the 1 1/2 Tbsp butter in a large skillet.  Saute the mushrooms, green onions, garlic and salt until softened.  Add the chicken livers and saute until brown on the outside and pink within.  
Stir in the reserved wine and currants. 
Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.  
Cool, then transfer to a food processor fitted with a metal blade. and process until smooth.
Add the 3 Tbsp softened butter, blend until smooth.
Pass the mixture through a sieve.
Clean the bowl of the food processor, and then return the mixture to it.  Add the cream and process for a couple minutes until mixture becomes a little lighter and airy - mousse like.
Place into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a 3-4 hours before using.
I dragged Stella to the store with me to buy the livers last night.  She asked me "why do you have to make something that's not good?"  So, apparently liver is not at the top of my kids' list of foods they want to consume.  While I was pressing the processed liver through the sieve, Maggie said, "what is that?", to which I replied, "chicken liver puree", to which she answered,  "aughh!  I thought that was chocolate pudding".  "That's like pate and I don't like liver anything."  Strike two for me.  Chris had better like this!

For the Madeira Jus:
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 Cup madeira
3/4 Cup chicken stock
Remove the roasted chicken from the skillet/pan.  Remove all but 1 tbsp fat and add 1 tbsp of flour to make a roux.  Deglaze the skillet with 1/2 cup madeira.  Bring to a boil and using a whisk, blend the madeira and roux together until smooth.  Then add in the chicken stock and whisk together.  Add any juices that collect while the chicken is resting and let it all boil together for a minute.

Happy to be cooking fall meals again, and this one is a mainstay.  A little liver mousse with each bite adds a little more depth to the chicken.  The girls both tried it and confessed it was actually pretty good, but they are still trying to maintain their stance against liver.  Chris & I loved it!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Shepherd's Pie - Another Make-Ahead Meal

It's Monday again and we need another make ahead meal.  Last night we had some nice steaks and with the leftovers I decided to make a version of Shepherd's Pie.  To be honest, I'm not sure if this is remotely close to what Shepherd's Pie should taste like, but I am calling it that because I'm using chopped beef as the filling with mashed potatoes on top.  I hope it's good.
I took last night's beef, cut it into cubes, then chopped it up in a food processor.  
I browned the beef in olive oil, then added chopped onions and carrots.  
Then I added freshly chopped rosemary, thyme and sage.
Deglaze the pan with a tawny port and then add some beef stock and a little bit of milk.
Add a splash of Worcestershire.
Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Adjust seasoning, adding kosher salt and pepper as needed.
Allow to cool a bit. 
Add some peas to the mixture.
Fill small individual portion shallow dishes about half way up.
Cover with mashed potatoes.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

For the mashed potatoes, I used Yukon gold potatoes, cut them into 2-3" pieces and boiled them.  Once the potatoes are fall apart tender, drain, add cream and butter, more butter than cream and yes, until it seems unreasonable to be using so much butter, and mix together using a hand mixer.   Use a sliding scale for amount of butter to use.  How tasty do you want your potatoes?  The more tasty, the more butter you must use.  It's not what any of us want to hear, but it's the truth.  You could also use a potato ricer first to "mash" the potatoes, but I prefer to just throw the potatoes in with the butter and cream and whip them together.  Add salt as needed.
When ready to bake, heat oven to 400f.  Unwrap the pies and bake until pies are heated through and tops are slightly browned, about 20 minutes.
I must admit, this was better than anticipated.  I was not thrilled about dinner, but I ate every last scaping bite.  I will do chicken pot pies the same way...buttery mashed potatoes on top!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rigatoni with Fresh Tomato Sauce

With these warm days and sunshine we've had of late, my tomatoes have been ripening nicely.  Truly vine ripened, organic tomatoes, is there any better tomato to be had?  We have been enjoying them, as they ripen, in salads, in scrambled eggs, and on sandwiches and burgers.  Today was a big harvest and Maggie made the request for garden tomato sauce pasta.  With the start of high school and sports, Maggie is not home for dinner at least twice a week, so you betchya, I am more than happy to oblige.  
This is very simple and simply delicious.

5 cups, approx. of chopped fresh tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

Heat olive oil over medium low heat, then add the garlic and saute until softened.  Toss in the tomatoes and turn heat up to medium high.  Saute the tomatoes for a few minutes, add the salt and pepper, then cover and turn heat down to medium low.  Cook the tomatoes for another 5 minutes.  Uncover, turn heat up to medium high and cook for another 5 minutes to thicken the sauce slightly.  At this point, you can turn the heat off and reheat when ready to serve.  

Cook you choice of pasta.  I used Lagana fresh rigatoni.
At the insistence of Chris, I added a dollop of cream to the sauce.  So, add the cream and bring sauce to a rolling boil for a minute.  Then add the basil in at the last minute.  Depending on the type of pasta you are using, you can ladle the sauce over top or toss the pasta in with the sauce.  I tossed.
As Maggie said, "the Emertons know how to eat!"  Yes, we do.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Broiled Miso and Ssam Sauce Black Cod



Back to school usually brings more time for me, but tis not so this fall.  I was talking to a friend the other day about not having time for a nice home cooked meal many of the days each week and the need for prepare-ahead, quick-cook dinners.  Here's one where I prepped the fish before we left, and then once home again, broiled it for just a few minutes to serve.

Black cod steaks for fillets
2 tablespoons miso
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon ssam sauce (Korean sweet/hot sauce)

Mix the miso, mirin and ssam sauce together.  Brush the cod all over with the sauce.  Refrigerate until ready to broil.  
Broil for 2-3 minutes per side.

I served this with rice and wok fried baby choy sum.  If you eat rice, white or brown, often, it will be worth the investment to buy an electric rice cooker.  I can ready the rice, set it on a timer and have be ready when we need it.  It comes out perfectly every time and clean up is super easy.  I cut and washed the choy sum ahead of time and simply wok fried it in a little oil and salt.  
Fabulous fish.  I think you would wonder if the miso and ssam sauce would be too overpowering for the fish, but not so in my opinion.  Super tasty, and the fish is sturdy enough to hold its own.