Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Little Pre-Holiday Seared Foie Gras with Saba

Exhumed from our basement recently was an old bottle of Saba.  Chris came upstairs with it and asked, "can we drink this thing or what?"  No!  That's my bottle of Saba, which I bought to make with foie gras, well, at least a decade ago.  Having a basement in an old house like ours is both a blessing and a curse.  Our closet space is very limited, but our unfinished side of the basement is continually sustained as a stockpile of stuff.  Where else would we store our stuff if not for the basement?  But oh how easy it is to put more and more stuff down there?  Every once in a while, we go in earnest, to organize and clean out our stuff and more often than not, we come up with something that falls into the category of "I forgot we had that".

Saba is a sweet reduction of grape must, similar to balsamic vinegar, but cooked down even more.  I suppose I purchased it with full intention to find a lobe of foie gras, do a little searing and make a fig and Saba sauce to drizzle over top.  Yesterday, at Metropolitan Market, I came across a little package of foie gras and I did not pass it up.  We are a family of foie gras lovers.  I realize it can often be a controversial subject, so please stop reading now if you feel the urge to lambaste me for my love of foie gras.  In the distant past, I have purchased a full lobe of foie gras, which at the time was about $100.  It is something I certainly cannot afford to do often nor am I able to use it all in a timeframe where it would remain fresh.  The small package from Metropolitan Market is just enough to give each of us a decadent treat.

Season foie gras with salt an pepper.  Sear the foie gras, seasoned side down, in a cast iron skillet, heated over medium high heat, about 30-45 seconds per side.  Before you flip the foie gras over the first time, season the top with salt and pepper.  Remove foie gras to a plate lined with paper towel to drain excess fat.

In the same skillet, fry several pieces of sliced baguette until browned on both sides.  Remove bread slices.

Turn heat off and add 2 tablespoons of fig jam to the skillet, 2 tablespoons of Saba and a pinch of dried tarragon.  Then add 3 tablespoons of butter and stir and swirl to combine the butter.  The heat of the cast iron skillet is enough to go this 1 minute process with the heat off.

I served the foie gras with an arugula and pear salad with a simple olive oil and Saba vinaigrette along with the fried toasts.  The Saba was sweet and silky and held up to the long storage time.  The foie gras, super rich and luscious!  Welcome to the holiday eating season.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fig Jam

More figs from our tree and what to do?  I never made any jams this summer.  I kept thinking I would get to it, but it never happened.  So, fig jam it is.  It's definitely fall outside now, I've got a beef burgundy in the oven, and I'm watching a little NLF Playbook.  Jamming in between is just the right addition.  

1 ½ Pounds ripe fresh brown figs
1 Lemon
Juice from 1 lemon
1 ½ Cups sugar
⅓ Cup Cognac
¼ Teaspoon kosher salt

Cut the stems off the figs and discard.  Cut the figs into ½" sized pieces.
Use a vegetable peeler and remove the yellow part of the peel from the lemon.  Cut the peel into matchstick sized pieces.

Combine the figs, lemon peel, lemon juice, sugar, cognac and salt in a heavy saucepan.  Stir together and let stand at room temp for about an hour.  Stir about every 15 minutes.

Bring the mixture to boil over medium-high heat.  Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook until jam thickens, about 25-30 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Ladle the jam into clean jars.  I boil them before filling them and leave them in the hot water until ready to use.  Cover the jars with the lids.  Place jars into boiling water for 10 minutes.  Let jars cool completely.  Store in a cool dark place for up to one year.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

It Feels Like Fall - Baked Chicken With Cotija, Green Chilies, Chorizo and Roasted Figs

Fall is beautiful here in Seattle.  We've been having sunny but cool days which are my favorite.  My summer vegetable garden has been cleared and garlic has been planted for next year.  And something special has happened.  After 4 years, my fig tree is finally producing ripe figs.  On an early fall day, several years ago, I was on a walk with a friend when an elderly woman, who was outside gardening, asked if we wanted to try a fig from her tree.  She plucked two large ripe figs from the tree and they were amazing.  I was getting a fig tree.  Since planting my Turkish Brown fig tree, it has only produced tiny figs which never seemed to ripen and would remain green and hard until they fell off the tree.  It started out as a small three feet tall sapling.  It grew quickly and I've trimmed it back the last two years wanting to keep the tree smallish and manageable.  Now, when I had given up expecting any figs from the tree, we have been rewarded for our patience.  When Stella saw the colander of figs on the kitchen counter, and found out they came from our tree, she picked one up, squeezed it gently and said with glee, "they're so soft and plump!".  She then did a little happy squeeze of her hands and floated away.  Oh happy day.  I must find a way to incorporate them into our dinner tonight.

Yesterday, while talking to the man at the fish counter about the paella I was making last night, we got into a discussion about chorizo.  This led to him describing to me a chicken stuffed with Cotija cheese and green chilies and topped with chorizo.  Sold.  I'm thinking there's probably more to the chicken than we so quickly covered and it was definitely not supposed to be served with figs, but I had to work them in somehow.  

4 Boneless chicken breasts with skin on
1 Cup grated Cotija cheese
2 Tablespoons chopped green chilies, I used canned, fire roasted hatch chilies
¼ Cup finely diced dried/cured chorizo
Additional thinly sliced chorizo for garnish

Flour for coating:
½ Cup flour
1 Teaspoon kosher salt
¼ Teaspoon chili powder
¼ Teaspoon paprika
freshly ground black pepper

Make a sideways slit with a sharp knife into the middle of each chicken breast, cutting through until you reach near the other side, but not all the way through, to make a large pocket.  
Mix the Cotija, chilies and diced chorizo together.  
Stuff each chicken breast with the Cotija mixture and seal the opening with toothpicks.
Mix together the flour and seasonings.
Coat each chicken breast with the flour mixture.

Heat oven to 400f.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil.  Add chicken, skin side down first and brown the chicken completely.  
Place chicken onto a large baking pan and place in the oven.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked through and the Cojita is melted.

For the Figs:
8-10 figs, sliced in half lengthwise
Place figs onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
Drizzle figs with good quality balsamic vinegar.  Top with some grated Cotija cheese.  Sprinkle with just a wee bit of cayenne pepper and finish with freshly ground black pepper. 
Use the broiling function on your oven and place the pan under the broiler for a few minutes until the figs shrivel just slightly and the cheese melts.  
Serve chicken with the figs and a few slices of chorizo.
Happy Fall!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Thai Seafood Salad

I developed a serious craving for a seafood salad with lots of fresh ingredients, light and clean and full of flavour.  Must go with Thai.  I made a trip to Uwajimaya this morning to gather the necessary ingredients and plus some.  Uwajimaya continues to be my go-to spot for all seafood.  I came home with my salad ingredients, some hamachi collar which I marinated for tomorrow night's dinner and a couple of pieces of kasuzuke cod to go with my seafood buffet tonight.  Happy summer!

For the salad:
½ pound bay scallops
½ pound black cod, cut into small cubes
½ pound squid, cleaned and cut into thick rings
⅓ pound shrimp, cleaned and cut into small pieces if they're large, or left as is if small
5-6 ounces plum or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
½ cup cucumber
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons crispy shallots
Green leaf or butter lettuce for garnish/lining the plate

For the dressing:
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup fish sauce
3 tablespoons palm sugar syrup
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
freshly ground pepper
a few pepper flakes

For the poaching water:
6 cups water
¼ cup mirin
1 lime thinly sliced
¼ onion, sliced
5 slices of ginger
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Prepare a ice water bath.  Bring the poaching water to a boil.  Use a colander or large mesh spoon or skimmer to poach each of the seafood items separately. The bay scallops and black cod take maybe 60 seconds or less and the squid and shrimp maybe only about 30 seconds.  After poaching, immediately put each item into the ice water bath to stop cooking.
Drain and put onto a dish lined with paper towels.  
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.  I prepped this in the morning for use tonight.  

Combine the dressing ingredients.
Toss all of the salad ingredients with the dressing, except the crispy shallots and lettuce.  You may not need all the dressing, use just enough to lightly coat the salad ingredients.
Line a plate with pieces of lettuce and top with the salad.  Serve with the crispy shallots on top.  Craving satisfied.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Grilled Costata Romanesco Zucchini

Tonight we're enjoying our first zucchini pick of the season.  We left for a couple of days and when we got home, these two were on the vines. 
I was so happy, but I think Chris was a little afraid he was going to actually have to eat them.  They weighed in at 1 pound 14 ounces each.  Certainly no prize winning weight, but I'm a proud momma.  It may seem like I'm bragging a bit (and I am) whenever I talk about veggies from our garden.  But I do feel a sense of pride and am just so happy when anything comes out of our little garden.  I mean, I grew it!  Isn't that so much fun?  The round one is a Ronde De Nice and the long one is a Costata Romanesco.  I'm grilling the Romanesco tonight to go with some flank steak and corn.

1 - 1 lb 14 oz zucchini or a few smaller zucchini

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light soy
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 ½ teaspoons sesame seeds
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Whisk ingredients together to make a vinaigrette.
Slice the zucchini cross-wise at an angle into ¼" thick slices
Toss the zucchini with ¾ of the vinaigrette and let sit for 10 minutes and toss again.
Prepare a hot grill.  Grill zucchini until is tender, but not too soft or soggy.

To finish: 
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions, green portion only

Sprinkle pine nuts and scallions over top of the zucchini.  If you'd like, drizzle a bit of the reserved vinaigrette over top as well.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Risotto with Extra Large Prawns and Fresh Shelled Peas

I harvested some shelling peas today from my garden.  Mine is a small garden, but I do try my best to maximize yield from that small space.  Being that the peas come to peak at varying times, there is not a huge amount to be harvested at one time.  So to get them while they are super sweet and tender, I have to enjoy a little at a time.  The good news is with the great weather we've enjoyed of late, I should be able to cycle through the peas and replant in time for another crop before the weather turns.  I wish you could taste the peas through your computer screen.  Like home grown tomatoes, the flavor of fresh off the vine, home grown, organic fresh peas are quite superior to those you might find at the store and much more so than frozen peas.  Even if you don't like peas, you'd appreciate the flavor and texture of these.  They are like delicate, crisp little candies.

Tonight's recipe is a re-do of an earlier crab risotto, substitute shrimp.  I add the peas at the very end so they do not cook, but rather just warm up a bit.  

For the risotto (Serves 4):
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 ¼ cup carnaroli or arborio rice
3 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup dry white wine
5-7 cups chicken stock, heated to simmer

16 extra large prawns, shelled and deveined
¼ cup mascarponi cheese

¼ cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
¾ to 1 cup freshly shelled peas
White truffle oil to finish

Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots and sauté until translucent.  

Add the risotto and saute until the rice is well incorporated and starting to make a slight whistling/crisping sound.  
Deglaze with the white wine and simmer until wine is almost completely evaporated.  
Begin adding the chicken stock, enough each time to just cover the rice.  Stir once and let simmer until the stock is almost completely evaporated.  Then add more stock.  Continue this process until rice is al denté.
Add the prawns and cook until they just start to turn red.  
Add the mascarpone and another 1/2 cup of stock.  Stir until well combined.  
Salt and pepper as needed.

Add the peas and parmigiano reggiano and fold in.
Serve the risotto with a drizzle of white truff
le oil and freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Crab Cakes with Sriracha Aioli Cream

Isn't every day a good day for crab cakes?  I have no revelations to share about crab cakes, just the obvious.  Use lots and lots of quality fresh crab and as little of other ingredients as possible.  You need a little something to impart some added flavor and something to hold the cake together.  Other than that, stay pure, step out of the way and let the crab shine.

1 pound lump dungeness crab meat
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
¼ cup sour cream
2 eggs
3 scallions, finely sliced
3 tablespoons finely diced orange bell pepper
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
2 tablespoons brandy
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika
pinch of cayenne

2 cups panko for coating 
A few tablespoons of butter for cooking

Combine all ingredients, except the panko, in a large bowl.  Gently stir together until well mixed.  

Form into 8 equal sized cakes.
Place the panko in a shallow dish and coat each crab cake.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.
Remove crab cakes from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Once heated add 2 tablespoons butter.  Once butter is melted, fry the crab cakes in batches, about 4-5 minutes per side until golden brown.  Add more butter as needed.

For the aioli cream:
⅓ cup sour cream
⅓ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Stir together all ingredients until sauce is smooth and fully blended.  Cover and chill until ready to use.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hamachi with Soy and Lemon AND Seared Ahi Tuna with Spicy Aioli

Wow, are we having some spectacular weather here in Seattle.  In all the years I've lived here, I cannot recall a stretch of weather in May to June like what we've had these past weeks.  It's been beautiful, mild and sunny days which is my absolute favorite.  We've already been grilling up a storm, so tonight we are swinging to the raw side of things and dialing up some sashimi.   Happy days!

I buy pretty much all of my sashimi at Uwajimaya.  I think they have a good rate of sell through on their seafood and I know them and they know me.  It's a good combo.  For both of these dishes, the fish, of course, is the star and what little I do to the fish is just a small light to enhance what is already fabulous.  So, getting a fresh piece of fish is key.

For the Hamachi:
I often debate with myself whether to buy the belly portion or the back portion.  I know the belly portion will be slightly better, but I go for the back portion because it is more uniform and thick.  It makes for better presentation.
Uwajimaya sells many types of sashimi already cut into blocks for easy slicing.  Depending how much I want to buy, I either buy the ready cut blocks or go for the cut to size pieces from the fish counter.  Blocks are more expensive because they have been trimmed up all nice and tidy.

For the soy and lemon sauce:
2 teaspoons grape seed oil
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon sugar
wasabi to your liking - I used ¼ teaspoon for the kids
a couple turns of the black pepper grinder
Whisk the ingredients together and set aside until ready to use.

Slice the hamachi into ¼ to ⅓ inch thick pieces.  I had about ¾ pound.
Lay them fanned out on a plate.
Drizzle the sauce over the hamachi.  
Finish with some finely sliced chives.
I served this with a little side of seaweed salad, which I bought pre-made, from Uwajimaya as well. 

For the Ahi Tuna:
For the spicy aioli
2 tablespoons mayonaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sriracha hot sauce
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon light soy sauce
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
Whisk all ingredients together and set aside until ready to use.

In a smoking hot pan, add just a few drops of grape seed oil.
Sear the tuna in all sides quickly.  I had a ⅓ pound piece.
Slice the tuna into ¼ to ⅓ inch thick pieces.

Lay the tuna on a bed of fresh arugula.
Drizzle with the spicy aioli and finish with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seed and crispy seaweed.  

One other thought is whether to serve the sashimi just slightly colder than room temp or cold right of the refrigerator.  We prefer just slighter colder than room temp.  The fish is just a bit more tender and has more flavor that way.  
Divine and devoured!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Braised Lamb Neck

I took a lamb butchery class earlier this week at The Pantry at Delancy in Ballard.  It was hands on, very informative, and gave me a renewed respect for butchers and the physical nature of butchery.  We used boning knives, cleavers and bone saws.  We used most every part of the lamb and at the end of it all, there was very little waste.  I loved it. I loved it for the technicality of it, for the education on uses for different parts of the lamb we don't normally see in the store, and that good butchery, like any other work when its done really well, is a true art.  

We each went home with a bag full of lamb and so tonight it's a little lamb fest at the Emerton house.  I marinated rib chops, shoulder chops and porterhouse chops in balsamic vinegar, honey, mustard, soy, rosemary, thyme and garlic to grill.  I was also fortunate to get some lamb necks which we were told are gaining popularity amongst chefs, like a new beef short rib. I also have in my freezer, plenty of ground lamb, and some boneless leg of lamb.  Pacino even got lucky with some lamb bones.  I couldn't wait to braise the necks.

For the lamb neck:
Salt and pepper and brown under the broiler.
Make a mirepoix onions, carrot, celery and shallot.
Smash and chop 2 heads of garlic.
In a small dutch oven, heat a little olive oil.  Sauté the mirepoix and garlic until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown.
Add a couple fresh bay leaves, a sprig of rosemary and a tablespoon of tomato paste.  Stir in and mix well. 
Then add 2 tablespoons of flour and stir to combine.
Deglaze with 1 ½ to 2 cups of red wine.  Stir in and bring to a boil. 
Add 1 ½ cups of beef stock and bring back to boil.
Add the lamb necks to the pot, cover, turn the heat down to low and braise for about 2 ½  to 3 hours, or until lamb is fork tender.  Serve with buttery mashed potatoes and a greek salad.  Excellent!