Friday, September 8, 2017

Roasted Vegetable Salad


Eggplant, Fairy Tale Hybrid, , large

We had visited a local farmers' market last weekend. One of the farmers had these really cute fairy tale eggplants. These are small, variegated eggplants - about 2 -3 inches in length. Very tender and delicious, with none of the bitterness associated with the more conventional Italian eggplants. They are best cooked roasted in a hot oven with some good oil and shallots. We also roasted cherry tomatoes and shishito peppers from the garden. At the same farmers' market, there was a stall selling interesting salad greens. So we bought some Mizuna for the salad. A lemon juice/rice wine vinegar based vinaigrette, grilled bread (home made that day, of course) and there was dinner. Yup it did get the "we can serve this to people" accolade, so I was pretty happy with the result.

Ingredients

2 1/2 lbs fairy tale eggplant, sliced in half lengthwise
1 lb cherry tomatoes, halved pole to pole
1 large shallot, finely minced (divided use)
1 1/2 cups olive oil (divided use)
30 shishito peppers
1t dry mustard (e.g. Coleman's)
1/2t freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
1 head mizuna
2 slices country bread, brushed with olive oil and grilled
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 350 (fan assisted) or 375(conventional). Add 1/2 the chopped shallots to 1/4 cup of olive oil. Swirl to coat. Add the eggplants and shishitos. Place the tomatoes, eggplant (cut side up) and shishitos on a wire rack over a sheet pan. Make sure that all of the oil/shallot mixture is spread over the eggplants. Roast in the oven for 15-20  minutes until the eggplants are softened and slightly brown. The shishitos will cook slightly before the eggplants, so watch them carefully. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile make a vinaigrette, combining the mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper, remaining shallots, and remaining oil.

Spread the mizuna in a serving bowl and pile on the roasted vegetables. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the warmed vegetables  (you will use maybe 1/4 of the made up vinaigrette - save the rest for other salads). Hand the grilled bread separately.  Serve with a crisp white wine (in my case the "On the White Keys" from Arietta. Madame had a South African Sauvignon Blanc from Spier. 







Monday, August 14, 2017

Salads for the arayes

In this post, I described the amazing Lebanese sandwiches - arayes. To go with them we made a couple of salads. Water melons, tomatoes and local feta seemed to be the way to go. Home made yogurt, home grown mint made a good tzatziki. All in all pretty tasty. The dishes were:

Watermelon, watercress, feta and pistachio salad
Cucumber, tomato and onion salad
Tzatziki

The tzatziki quantities are approximate. Also, the tzatziki needs at least 2 hours in the refrigerator for the flavors to combine.

Ingredients - Watermelon salad

3 cups cubed watermelon (cubed like this)
1 bunch watercress
5 oz feta chopped into 1/4" cubes
1 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
6T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the best finishing oil you have)
Coarse salt to taste

Method

Combine everything except the salt. Add the coarse salt just before serving, so that the juices don't run out of the melon.

Ingredients - Cucumber, onion, tomato salad

A few lettuce leaves 
3 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded, 14" pieces
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 slice of white onion, 14" thick chopped finely
juice of 1/2 lemon
4T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (again the best that you have)
Coarse sea salt added just before serving.

Method

Line a salad bowl with the lettuce leaves. Combine tomatoes, cucumber, onion in a bowl, add the lemon juice. Just before serving, toss in some coarse salt and stir. Add to the serving bowl that has the lettuce leaves liner.

Ingredients - Tzatziki

3 cloves garlic - mashed to a paste
1 1/2 cups strained (Greek) yogurt
Handful of mint leaves chopped finely
3T white wine vinegar
1t tahini
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the best you have)
salt to taste

Method

Mix the garlic into the yogurt. Add the mint leaves, vinegar, tahini and oil. Stir throughly and check the seasoning. You may need to add a little salt. Chill for at least 2 hours.




arayes - aka lamb-a-dillas


We saw a recipe for arayes in Cooks Illustrated this week. The idea looked so good that we just had to try it. When I described it to a dinner companion (a Texas Boy) on Friday evening, he said that just like quesadillas only with lamb. Hence the name.
The result is a really crispy, slightly smoky sandwich which can be eaten out of hand.  But it also makes a substantial meal. Because the recipe makes quite a few of these, we needed some victims (aka volunteers) to try them out. They came, they ate (and, I think, they liked). If not there was always the MacDonald's on the way home. Even though they are Kiwis, they are far too polite to tell me if they had to stop on the way.
We served them with a couple of salads and some tzatziki. They turned out ( the arayes, not the guests) as well as expected. And there are left overs!
The salads will be described in another post. Suffice it to say that the Coppell Farmers' Market was a source. And especially the la-ti-da farms feta.

Ingredients

1 large white onion cut into pieces
1 cup oregano (leaves and stalks)
1/2 cup lemon thyme (leaves and stalks)
zest and juice of one lemon
1T whole cumin seeds
1T whole coriander seeds
2t black pepper corns,
2t coarse sea salt
1t red pepper flakes
1/2" cinnamon stick
1/4 cup good (but not best) olive oil
1 T smokey paprika
2 lbs lamb leg, cut into 3/4" cubes. Chilled in the freezer for 30+ minutes.
6 x 6" pitas

Method

Pulse the onion, oregano and lemon time in the food processor until the onion is quite small. 8 or so pulses. You may need to scrape it down. Turn out into a bowl.
Grind the spices finely in the spice grinder, adding the coarse salt as that helps to grind them. Add the ground mixture, paprika, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil to the onion/herb mixture.
Mince (grind for my American friends) the lamb twice using the coarse die. You need to do it twice because the lamb fat is unevenly distributed. The second grinding distributes it better.  I added a couple of table spoonfuls of the onion mixture to the grinder at the end to encourage all of the meat to come through.
Mix the lamb with the onion mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Use hands (mine are now really soft) or a silicone spatula.
Chill the lamb mixture for a while (at least an hour)
2 hours before cooking, slice the pitas in half (I use a serrated knife for this) horizontally. So for each pita you have two 6" disks of pita.
Mound the lamb mixture in the center of a pizza half, spread almost to the edge and top with the other half of the same pita.

Squeeze flat and wrap in cling wrap, refrigerate for a couple of hours. 
When ready to cook, fire up the grill (I used the Primo) with so that the coals have a nice ash coating. Grill the sandwiches directly over the coals until the pitas a crispy. Turn the pitas over and grill on the second side.  Time on the grill is about 7 minutes per side 

Remove from, slice into quarters and serve immediately.



Friday, August 4, 2017

We can serve this to chefdave

While on vacation with Dave Gilbert and friends this summer, he made a vegetable curry using Thai red curry paste. It was outstanding. Even better it was easy enough to add some kind of protein or filler to it and have a substantial meal. It was easy to do, so I thought a reprise would be in order.

Little did I know that there was an accolade from Madame that is even higher than "We can serve this to people". This dish garnered a "We can serve this to Chef Dave". So I figured it should be added here so I remember what we did.

Ingredients - Curry Base

1 can coconut cream (No, not sweetened coconut cream a la Coco Lopez)
2 small cans of Thai red curry paste
1 white onion, cut into spoon sized pieces pole to pole
2 cilantro bunches (stalks and leaves separate)
2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced very thinly
4 kaffir lime leaves sliced in to thin strips
1 can coconut milk
3T Fish sauce
2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3" cubes
2 lbs carrots cut into 1/3" cubes
2 large egg plants , peeled and diced into 1/3" cubes. Also dice the peeled trimmings into a very fine dice, they will thicken the dish.

Method - Curry Base

Skim the thickest cream from the can of coconut cream into a large Dutch oven. Heat over low heat until it breaks down and becomes oily. Immediately add the curry paste from the cans and stir while frying the paste. Add the onion, cilantro stalks, ginger, and kaffir lime leaves and sweat for about 10 minutes - until the onion has softened. add the remainder of the coconut cream can and all the coconut milk + the fish sauce. Stir until combined. Add the potatoes and the carrots and enough water just to cover. Simmer for about 10 minutes - until the potatoes are nearly cooked.
Meanwhile prepare the egg plant. After 10 minutes add the egg plant to the pot, stir to mix and simmer with the lid on for a few minutes (until the eggplant is cooked and the potatoes are soft, but not mushy). Some of the egg plant will disappear and thicken the liquid, while some will maintain integrity.

Serving/Finishing

Once the base is made,m it can be used to cook a variety of proteins. In the Bahamas, we used some of the fish that the guys caught in the afternoon. Also possible to use chicken, or if you want the full vegetarian experience, some soaked chick peas (garbanzo beans).
It is a matter of slicing the fish or chicken (about 4 oz per person) very thinly and immersing in the hot curry. The fish/chicken are cooked, by simmering in a matter of minutes.  If using chickpeas, the same approach is adopted, but no slicing. They take a little longer, especially if they are a bit firm to start with. No quantity is given here, but for 2 people, one small (14oz) can would work for 2 people.

Serve with a squeeze of lime juice and finely minced cilantro leaves.



Monday, July 24, 2017

The 40th Birthday Pig



A group of friends were in Spanish Wells (Bahamas) to celebrate one of the party's 40th birthday. The birthday dinner was to be a hog, cooked in a china box. The hog and the box were shipped up a couple of days before on a ferry from Nassau. Even though there were several chefs and a couple of of wannabees (myself included in the wannabees), I was the only person with any kind of experience of a china box. I have a friend in Dallas who has one, so asked him for advice once all the piece parts had arrived. He injects his with a flavorful liquid - we didn't have that luxury. We decided to brine ourfs - after all we had a giant brine source right outside the back door. The house was on the beach.

We didn't have all of the required apparatus, so there were some interesting "make do" activities. The first question was how to get the thing flavorful since we were fresh out of injection tools. Then how to manage the china box, acquire charcoal, etc.



Because the meat is not directly over the coals, it is OK to use match light or lighter fluid. The nasty petroleum fumes don't get into the meat. Since I couldn't locate a chimney, we used match light. Of course having to make sure we didn't lose eyebrows, arm hairs, local vegetation while working with it. I don't think that the headline, "Man sets fire to Spanish Wells while using a china box" would have been ideal.

Ingredients

For the brine

4 large white onions roughly chopped, skin and all
6 large carrots unpeeled, roughly chopped
6" piece of ginger, roughly chopped
1/2 cup red pepper flakes
2 gallons tap water
2 gallons sea water
50 lbs ice
5 lbs salt (3 Morton's table salt tubs at 1lb 10 oz each)

For the hog

1 ~40 lb hog, dressed with liver, heart, lungs, kidneys removed and split. In a cooler with 20 lbs of ice to keep it cool while the brine is being made.
8 small cans of Thai red curry paste
1 cup oil (we had olive, but any neutral oil will do.
4 cups Carolina mustard mop sauce


Method

The Brine

Note that there is no sugar in this brine since that will tend to burn in the china box.
Put the onions, carrots, red pepper flakes, ginger and tap water into a large sauce pot. Bring to a simmer and add the salt. Stir to dissolve. This will make a very concentrated brine. Add the sea water. stir and allow to cool.
In a cooler, add 30 lb of ice - to cover the hog. Then pour over the cooled brine. This will dissolve a considerable amount of the ice (especially as it was pretty warm outside). As the ice melts, it dilutes the brine, but if the cooler is effective enough it doesn't hurt. In fact with a long brining time like this, it does no harm to become a little more diluted.
Leave the hog in the brine for 15 - 18 hours. It becomes a battle of allowing it to come to air temperature and dry out a bit prior to cooking vs the flies. We ended up sealing the china box with the hog inside and then checking periodically to shoo away the flies. Also put some of the offal out for the flies to discover - an old trick I learned in Malaysia, growing up where refrigeration was less advanced than it is now.

The Hog

Combine the Thai red curry paste with the olive oil and mix thoroughly. With a few hours to go before cooking, remove the hog from the brine and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Rub the skin and the interior with any flavorants you want. We used the Thai curry on one half and the Carolina mop sauce on the other.


Place the hog in the box, and cover with foil to keep the flies off it. Do not put the lid on the box yet - not until it is hot. About 3 1/2 hours before time to eat, pile up 14 lbs of charcoal onto the lid of the China box (still not placed onto the box) and light the charcoal. We used match light so it became quite the conflagration.
Once the flames have died down, spread the coals with a metal spatula, so they become even. We didn't have a spatula, so I used a large saucepan lid.

After an hour add another 6 lbs of charcoal - remember this was match light. I treasure my eyebrows, so adding match light charcoal to an already very hot lid was an advanced maneuver. The trusty saucepan lid came into play.

After another 30 minutes remove the lid and turn the hog over. Rub the interior with your chosen rubs. By this time the skin was nearly done. But the inside was still pretty raw. Then after another hour, repeat the charcoal addition procedure. This time it didn't catch, so we needed to improvise a long taper (rolled up paper towel) to light it from a suitable distance. The small cigarette lighter would have been much to close for comfort.

After one more hour, we tuned the hog over one more time to dry off the skin some more and to crisp it up. 

We didn't have a thermometer at hand, so had to rely on the old, "How loose are the joints, and what does a piece of meat cut off the haunches taste like? method".





She was done, so with much ceremony she was transferred inside and this was the result.The assembled company found her much to their liking.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

This was one of those warm Texas evenings, a bottle of rosé , pita chips and the great outdoors kinds of recipes. We had a few red peppers, some pine nuts, olives, capers, anchovies and "secret ingredient" lying around. So of course a dip was the answer. Served with an Argentinian rosé (Pinot Noir).  Bagel chips as an accompaniment and we had very happy tummies.
It turns out that there are quite a lot of ingredients in this. But we happened to have them all to hand.

Ingredients

3 Red Peppers - roasted and cut into pieces
1/2 cup pine nuts - toasted
2T olive oil (not extra virgin - it becomes bitter with the use of the immersion blender)
1 salt packed anchovy
6 Niçoise olives, pitted
1T capers rinsed and drained
1t Habanero vodka (aka secret ingredient). May substitute any hot pepper sauce, but if vinegared, reduce vinegar in overall recipe
2T Sherry vinegar
Salt to taste

Method

Place all the ingredients except the vinegar and salt into the immersion blender's beaker and pulse until almost smooth. Crunchy peanut butter texture is what you are aiming for.
Taste once the desired texture is attained. Add salt (if necessary) and sherry vinegar to taste.
Chill and serve with pita chips

Saturday, April 15, 2017

One Dish Asparagus

Asparagus and Mushrooms - A Light Dinner

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course
Time 15 minutes
Skill Easy

This dish came about because asparagus is so good this time of year - and we wanted a quick and easy one dish meal. Mushrooms and asparagus are a match made in heaven. Some shallots and a couple of eggs, oh my!

You can use plain white button mushrooms, creminis, shiitakes, or any other exotic mushrooms for this. Be careful of the woody stems of shiitake mushrooms though.

The clever bit of this recipe is that the liquid from the mushrooms steams the asparagus and the eggs. If using white mushrooms you probably won't have to add any water.

You can, of course add any herbs/spices that interest you. I think a little nutmeg would be nice. Could also see thyme (a natural complement to mushrooms) being a nice addition.

Ingredients

1 T neutral (I used olive) oil
1 Medium shallot diced very finely
12 oz Mushrooms (sliced) - 1/4" (5 mm) thick slices. Use the stems too, but see caution above
1/4 t cayenne pepper (optional)
2T Dry sherry or white vermouth
3 T water (if necessary)
1 lb Fresh asparagus 1 1/2" (3 cm) pieces cut on the bias
2 - 4 whole chicken eggs
Salt/pepper to taste

Method

Heat the oil in a medium (8") skillet. I prefer not to use non-stick, but that is a preference. Add the shallots and sweat for a minute or 2 until they are translucent.
Add the mushrooms to the skillet and sprinkle a little salt over them to encourage them to release their liquid. cook briefly (3 or 4 mor minutes) until the mushrooms have wilted and given up some of their liquid.  Add the cayenne (if using) and stir to incorporate. Add the sherry or vermouth.
Place the asparagus stalks on top of the mushroom/shallot mixture and put a tight fitting lid onto the pan. Steam for 30 seconds. Add the asparagus tips and, again, place the lid on and steam for a further minute. Check the liquid and if the pan is looking dry, add up to 3T water.
Break the eggs and individually place the eggs on top of the asparagus. Keep the eggs well separated, The recipe will accept up to 4 eggs, but you may not want to do that many.
Place the lid back on the skillet and allow the contents to steam for 3 1/2 more minutes - until the egg whites are set and the yolks are the consistency you want. The asparagus will be just cooked
Remove the lid adjust the seasoning to your taste. Serve immediately, making sure that any juices in the bottom of the pan are scooped up and drizzled over the dish.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Brisket rub

We recently bought a new ceramic outdoor "grill". We have had a medium sized Big Green Egg for a while, and we also had a propane based gas grill next door to it. The propane just got to be too much of a pain, so we abandoned it and bought a Primo XL oval ceramic grill to put in its place. That means we can now do 2 whole beef briskets at a time - not that we need to very often. But at this time of the year it is necessary as we give briskets to the police, fire department, home owners' association security group, local TV stations and others. Also we do a big event on the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) where we always serve brisket and pork.

I had a half brisket left over after the pre-Christmas deliveries so I took it to work. At work there is a group of young (and therefore always hungry) developers who like nothing better than BBQ (especially free BBQ). The 7 lbs of meat disappeared in about 15 minutes. And then there was the inevitable question (by some of the non-apartment dwellers who maybe planned to smoke their own meat) what is in the rub? In my kitchen there are no secrets. So here's what I do. You may find the units a bit odd, because they are expressed in "parts" not in any specific base. A part could be a teaspoon, a tablespoon, a cup, a gallon or whatever. But please note, all these are volume measures. I didn't weigh any of them. Also this rub is very suitable for beef, but I don't use it on pork - it is far too intense for pork.

Ingredients - All By Volume

20 parts kosher salt
6 parts jaggery (indian sugar_ or dark soft brown sugar
2 parts paprika (smoked is better)
2 parts black pepper (finely ground
1 part ground cumin
1/2 part garlic powder
1/2 part onion powder
1/4 part cayenne pepper

Note: The fractional parts could be a bit confusing. I could have multiplied it out and ended up with 80 parts of kosher salt. Somehow that would have looked a bit daunting.

And no the ingredients aren't terribly precise.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

GuacaTuna Redux

A while back (in 2009) I created a dish called Guacatuna. The idea was to replace the mayonnaise in tuna salad with mashed avocado. The texture was about the same, but the flavor was better. The mango added a little behind the scenes sweetness.

A couple of weeks I improvised on the idea and combined the avocado with a little mango - keying off this dish . Another success, I am pleased to say.

Ingredients

8oz Fresh Tuna
2 Avocados - flesh scooped out
1 mango - peeled and diced
2 pickling onions - minced (you could use 1/2 red onion, minced if you prefer)
1/2 habanero pepper
1/4 cup olive oil (you may not need all of it. It depends on the avocado)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped finely, Save some small leaves for garnish
a few cherry tomatoes halved
Pomegranate arils for garnish
salt/pepper to taste
coarse salt for crunch
Lettuce for serving, (Butter lettuce leaves or grilled romaine)

Method

Salt and pepper the tuna, then grill it over charcoal until the interior is light pink. Allow it to cool, and then flake into bite sized pieces.
Meanwhile, place the avocado, mango, habanero into the blender and pulse a few times. It will clog up, so thin with a little high quality olive oil. You want it to be smooth and the texture of mayonnaise.
Combine the tomatoes, cilantro, minced onion and tuna with the avocado mixture. Season the mixture to taste.
Serve on a bed of butter lettuce (or as we did with some grilled romaine). Garnish with the pomegranate and cilantro. Sprinkle a little coarse sea salt over the salad and serve immediately.
The wine that evening was the Spier Chenin Bland - which at < $10 per bottle is terrific value for a midweek supper.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Leeks, mushrooms, asparagus

I suppose this is one of those dishes where an exotic name (preferably in an obscure language) is appropriate. But I decided just to be prosaic. It's more one of those, "What do we have lying around?" kinds of dishes. It turned out well, and got the "We can serve this to people" accolade.
To get the asparagus to behave, I cooked the stem ends for a minute before adding the tips.

Ingredients

2T Unsalted butter
3 leeks, white and light green parts, rinsed, and chopped finely
6 oz mushrooms, sliced (We had some white and some cremini, so used both)
1 minced jalapeno pepper
12 oz fresh asparagus cut into 2" lengths
2 T Port (I would have preferred a medium dry sherry, but port was what I could find)
2T water
2 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved
salt/pepper to taste
Sea salt to sprinkle for extra crunch

Method

Melt the butter over low heat in a large skillet. Add the leeks and sweat them (adding a little salt) for 4 or 5 minutes, taking care not to brown them. Move the leeks to the edge of the pan, and place the mushrooms in the center, turning up the heat a bit. Cook the mushrooms until they have driven off most of their moisture. Combine the leeks and mushrooms, add the port and the asparagus stalks. Put the lid on the pan and steam gently for a minute or so. Add the water and the asparagus tips, steam for a further 2 minutes with the lid on the pan.
Turn off the heat and immediately add the cherry tomatoes. Stir to combine and serve.

We had this as a main course, but it would make an excellent side dish, perhaps in a warm salad, or as a bruschetta on grilled baguette slices. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mango and Avocado salad

A dinner party dish. It's all about the prep! It can be varied a bit too, depending on which accents you want. This time we used pomegranates - they are just coming back into season, it seems. Thanks Dana, for the prep.

Ingredients

1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into 1/3" chunks
1 shallot, finely diced
2 ripe avocados, peeled and cut into the same sized pieces as the mango
Juice of 2 limes (divided use)
1 Pomegranate (arils only)
High quality olive oil (amount varies depending on the ripeness of the fruit, but around 2T)
2 green lettuce leaves per person
1/2 cup roughly chopped roasted pistachios
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Ahead of time, prepare the mangoes, avocado, pomegranate and onion. Make sure you cover the avocado with the juice of one of the limes.
When ready to serve, combine the fruits and shallot into a bowl and add the juice of 1/2 the second lime. Add 1T of olive oil and taste - checking for consistency.  You may need more, so check carefully.
To plate, lay 2 lettuce leaves on the salad plate, spoon the salad mixture onto the leaves, sprinkle a little more olive oil over the dish, then top with the pistachios and add some coarse sea salt (for crunch). Grate a little pepper on each plate, and serve immediately. 

Lamb Shoulder Chops - Sous Vide and Grilled

It was dinner event time. We had a menu comprising an avocado/mango/pomegranate salad, lamb shoulder chops with salt baked potatoes, roasted tomatoes and roasted cauliflower. This was followed with lemon pots de creme.

This post is about the lamb chops. Shoulder chops are a bit awkward. The bones run in odd directions, but the flavor is fantastic. They can be a bit tough, so our old friends yogurt and sous-vide cooking come to the rescue.

Ingredients

2 cups plain yogurt
20 black peppercorns, lightly crushed
2t coriander seeds, lightly crushed
20 cardamom pods - seeds only, lightly crushed
5 inch piece of lemon grass - bruised
1t Szechuan pepper - bruised
3 cloves garlic, crushed
12 lamb shoulder chops (about 8lb)

Method

Combine the yogurt and spices in a small jug. Put the lam chops in vacuum bags (I used 3 bags, each with 4 chops). Divide the yogurt mixture evenly among the bags, Extract the air from the bags, and leave until ready
Set up the water circulator and water bath to a temperature of 134F (57C) and immerse the bagged chops for 4+ hours. This temperature get the chops to medium rare+. Shoulder meat needs to be a little more cooked than the tender lollipop chops.
The chops are finished on the grill. 
Heat the grill (we used the Big Green Egg) to a high temperature. Open the vacuum bags, and while still warm, pat the meat dry. Place the meat on the grill to brown - and get some slightly smoky flavor. 


Friday, September 9, 2016

A Shore Dinner

This recipe is adapted from a brilliant idea that we saw on an America's Test Kitchen episode. Prep time is minimal (10 minutes if you are moving slowly). Cook time is short (20-25 minutes) and the results are outstanding. You do need a tall, skinny stock pot, however. It needs to be skinny so the steam can permeate easily all the way through. Ours is an 8qt - sometimes called a pasta pot. Yes there is no liquid added.

Ingredients

1lb Kilebasa sausage - cut into 1/2" thick rounds
2 lbs mussels
3 lbs little-neck clams
2 lbs small red potatoes cut into 1" pieces
6 ears corn, outer leaves trimmed and cut in halves
salt/pepper as needed

Method

Place the kielbasa rounds in a single layer in the bottom of the cold pot. Wrap the mussels and clams in cheesecloth, and tie to make a bag. It makes then easier to remove when all is done. Put the cheesecloth bag on top of the kielbasa. Put the potatoes on top of the bag of mussels/clams. Put the corn halves on next. 

Cover the pot with its own lid. Place the pot on medium heat and cook for about 25 minutes. Check the doneness of the potatoes at about 22 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked the dish is ready. 
To serve, place the corn on a large platter, and then spread the potatoes, shellfish and sausage all around. Strain the liquid to remove any grit and serve separately.

We served it with a Spier Sauvignon Blanc, and home made, crusty bread.

This dish works because the hot air rising from the browning of the sausage hits the shellfish causing them to open slightly and drop their liquid. The liquid turns to steam cooking the potatoes and corn.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Watermelon and Halloumi

We did a Mediterranean themed party, so who better to turn to for inspiration than Michael Symon. So while this is actually using a Cypriot cheese, it fit the bill nicely.  It is a pretty simple recipe, but it tasted outstanding. None left :-(

Refreshing, tangy, tasty and pretty. You can find the original here. I didn't change it up much.

Ingredients

1 small shallot, minced
1 medium clove garlic mashed
kosher salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 T honey
1/2 cup high quality, extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
4 T chopped mint
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
24 x 1" diameter 3/8" thick rounds cut from the core of a seedless watermelon
24 x 1" diameter 3/8 thick rounds of halloumi
2T vegetable oil
Rice flour/water slurry to coat the halloumi

Method

Mash the garlic with a little salt to make a paste. Place the shallot and garlic in a bowl. Add the vinegar and honey, Mix well. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil. Add the almonds and mint, stir well.
Place the watermelon rounds in a single layer in the bottom of an 8x13 non reactive dish. Pour the mixed dressing over the watermelon. Allow to rest for at least an hour and up to 3.hours.
Coat the individual halloumi rounds with a little rice flour slurry. Heat up a cast iron pan over medium heat with the 2T of vegetable oil. Test temperature of pan with a few drops of water.
When hot enough, place the halloumi on the pan in a single layer. When you have laid out the last round, the first round will be ready to flip.
Once the halloumi rounds are cooked, remove from pan and place on top of the watermelon, serve immediately

Monday, April 11, 2016

Rhubarb

Rhubarb doesn't get as much visibility as it should here in Dallas, TX. When buying some yesterday I was asked by the cashier at the supermarket if it was like celery... But I digress.

It is a delicious stalk that needs very little attention - making it a great ingredient for smoothies, and pies - or for just plain snacking. And it is really simple to prepare.

Ingredients

2 1/2 lb Rhubarb, top and tailed, cut into 1" lengths
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar.

Method

Combine the rhubarb and sugar in a non-reactive sauce pan. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently until some of the juice has rendered out. Turn the heat down to low, put the lid on the pan and cook gently for about 15-20 minutes - until the rhubarb has softened.

Uses

Smoothie - equal volumes of chilled, prepared rhubarb (see above), Greek yogurt and ice. Blend until smooth. Add some strawberries if you want extra flavors

Pie filling - use the prepared rhubarb as a filling for a double crust pie or a simple crumble (crisp).

Eat out of hand. The sweet/tart taste of rhubarb makes a delicious snack on its own

Make a sauce to accompany pork. Perhaps add a dried plum to the prpared rhubarb, heat gently and puree.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Duck Salad

Madame and I were too lazy to go to the store - or even anywhere last Sunday. So fridge and freezer diving we went. What did we find?

Some left over frozen (raw) duck breasts, mushrooms, scallions, lettuce, avocados and oranges. Easy - let's make some pan fried duck with an orange/mushroom sauce that will serve as a dressing over the lettuce leaves. Served with a ZD 2001 merlot and we were in heaven. Sadly the 2001 ZD merlot is not easily available. They only made 1470 cases of it. We were lucky to find a bottle or too.

I would have preferred it if the duck breasts had had some fat on them, but beggars cannot be choosers. We made do!

Ingredients

3 T vegetable oil (divided use)
2 duck breasts - skin and fat removed, lightly seasoned with salt on both sides
Segments of 2 oranges
5 scallions, white and green parts only, sliced into 1/4" pieces
4 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced - about 6 slices per mushroom
1 avocado, diced 
a handful of lettuce leaves, torn
salt and pepper to taste

Method

Heat 1 T of oil in a large skillet until very hot. Add the duck breasts and leave undisturbed for about a minute and a half - essentially until they release from the pan. Turn them over and repeat. Set the duck breasts aside.
Add the remaining oil to the hot pan, followed by the scallions and mushrooms. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for a few minutes - until the mushrooms have wilted. Add the orange segments and any juice, return the duck breasts to warm up.
To serve, make a pile of lettuce n the plate. Pour over the pan juices. Slice the duck breasts thinly, mound on the lettuce and add the mushroom/scallion/orange pieces. Decorate with diced avocado. Grind a little black pepper over the dish.

Voila - about 25 minutes start to finish. It got the "We can serve this to people" accolade. Amazing what can be done with weird looking stuff in fridge and freezer. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Cooking with Kenji

Serious Eats/The Food Lab is one of my favorite sites to visit. Kenji applies scientific principles to experimentation with food. He went to MIT, so not surprising that he has a scientific bent.

There of us (all Chris's) went to a cooking demo/book signing at a local Central Market a couple of weeks back. It was all about breakfast. Some amazing hints, an entertaining lecture and delicious food. Too much to get into in detail (hint, buy the book), but now having seen his personality and approach I find the book even easier to comprehend.

The one thing I will mention is the mayonnaise. None of the drizzle slowly while whisking stuff. No use the stick blender and a tall container. Eggs/water/acid in the bottom, oil on top. Put in the stick, blend for about 20 seconds. Voila mayonnaise. One piece of great advice about the oil. Use a relatively neutral oil at the beginning. If you plan to add a fruity olive oil, then add it at the end and whisk it in by hand.

One of the Chris's had brought back some oil from Nice after a business trip. So of course we had to add that into the mayonnaise. Oh my.

We made some of the mayonnaise with a finely chopped garlic clove blended in. Served as a dip with some naan split open, drizzled with oil, sumac, and salt, toasted for 10 minutes in a 350 oven.

We also used the same garlic mayonnaise as a base for poached eggs on toast. Kenji also taught us an outstanding way to poach eggs. So, home made bread, garlic mayonnaise with poached eggs for supper on a Sunday. It doesn't get a lot better than that.

OTBN 2016

I have posted about Open That Bottle Night before. It was an idea started at the Wall Street Journal several years ago. The idea being that yu share special bottles of wine with friends, tell stories, eat and drink too much (sometimes) and generally have a fun time.
This year we had 11 people - including a special guest, Heather, who had been interning and taking classes in Europe last year. Having her tell us about her experiences working in all aspects of the trade in Burgundy was a real treat.
As usual, the wines were varied. The foods were delicious. The pairings very good and the stories even better. Of course there was drama too. Heather had a difficult afternoon, Cathy had had food poisoning earlier in the week, Chris F had been delayed with his mother in law. All in al it was amazing it all came together.
I had taken a class earlier in the week with Kenji from The Food Lab. He had demonstrated making mayonnaise using the stick blender. So of course I had to try it. Garlic mayonnaise on naan chips served with (of all things!) Cupcake prosecco and a  Cremant de Bourgogne. Heather had brought some creme de cassis from Dijon, so some had kir royales...But I digress.
OTBN 2016 wines

First Course

Chuck and Jeanine are from Louisiana and made an oyster stew/soup (still not sure what to call it - except fantastic). Oysters, artichokes in a creamy broth. And with it, something unusual. A white Chateau Neuf du Pape - Chateau La Nerthe. Mostly Roussane it had a wonderful crispness that cut through the richness of the soup. A terrific way to start the evening. Chuck and Jeanine had spent time in Chateau Neus du Pape and the neighboring town of Orange -where there is an outstanding Roman Theater.

Second Course

Scott and April brought their favorite Sushi - from Gui in Dallas. It is a special tuna roll that the owner makes up for them specially. We complemented it with the Chateau La Nerthe from the previous course - saving their wine for a later time. 

Third Course

Heather made a traditional Burgundian duck confit, served with a cassis sauce and duck fat roasted potatoes. While living in Beaune she befriended a local wine store and brought back some of the Morey-Saint-Denis for us all to try. An oysyanding pairing and some lovely stories from Heather about her time in Beaune.

Fourth Course

Chris and Erin made a Boeuf a la Bourgignon that was another hit. We ate well this evening. It had a lovely silkiness to it - lots of rich stock and a bottle of the Chateau de Beucastel in the dish, and another to taste with it. Another wonderful pairing. The wine had just enough tannin to cut into the richness and meatiness of the dish. Perfect balance. 

Fifth Course

We had decided on a cheese course. At Christmas last year two French colleagues (France and Benoit from the Franche-Comte region of France) had introduced us to Macvin du Jura as a pairing with Vacherin Mont d'Or. Macvin is a "vin de liqueur" - a drink made by adding a pomace brandy (or marc) to unfermented grape juice. It is quite oxidized and earthy. So pairing with the rich cheese was outstanding. We couldn't find another Vacherin, but we were able to find a Jasper Hill Farms Winnimere cheese instead. We pusched thinly sliced garlic into it, poured some of the Chareau d'Arlay macvin into it and baked it. Served with baguettes.

Intermezzo

Scott and April brought a delicious Del Dotto Cabernet Sauvignon for us just to roll around in our mouths. Oh my what a delicious, big, rich cab with amazing fruit and structure. We sipped that while letting everything else settle prior to dessert

Dessert

Cathy and Nacy brought some delicious chocolate mousse cakes and something new to me. The Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir from  the Russian River Valley. For me it was fascinating to have had the very traditional Morey-Saint-Denis from Burgundy and the very much more fruit forward, powerful Belle Glos. Entirely different expressions of the grape, but both absolutely delicious in their own way.

Epilog

This is probably the first time that Cupcake has ever been served in such exalted company. It was a fun evening with everyone telling their stories, laughing and generally letting their hair down. Each year we do one of these - with different people we are reminded what a great time can be had with everyone telling stories, bringing interesting wines and lovely food. Thanks to all who came.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Israeli CousCous Salad

This dish is adapted from something we saw on America's test kitchen. We tried it with the usual tweak here and there. Took it to a party and it was pronounced very good. For a change, the ingredients are measured by volume.
The recipe is a bit fiddly with lots of steps, but well worth it.

Ingredients

3T olive oil
2 Cups Israeli Couscous
2 1/2 cups water
2 Shallots sliced finely
1/3 Cup red wine vinegar
1/3 Cup granulated sugar
1 t Dijon mustard
Juice of 2 Meyer lemons
4T Extra Virgin Olive oil
2 bunches of aarugula (rocket). Not terribly precise I am sorry to say
1 bunch fresh mint
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
5 oz crumbled Feta
1 pomegranate - arils only
6 oz chopped, toasted pistachios
Coarse sea salt to taste

Method

Place the 3T olive oil and the couscous into a cold pan. Heat on medium until the coucous is lightly toasted.  Immediately add the water, stir and put the lid on. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes (could be a minute or 2 more or less) until the water has dissolved. Turn the heat off and leave covered for a few minutes
Combine the vinegar, sugar and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and leave until cool
Meanwhile make a dressing by combining the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and mustard in a large bowl.
When the couscous is cooked, lay out in a single layer on a sheet pan until completely cooled.
Wash the arugula and mint, remove the arugula stems. Place the couscous into the bowl with the dressing. Add the strained, pickled shallot. Toss quickly. Add the arugula and mint, toss again. Add the peas and pomegranate and toss again. Finally add the feta cheese and pistachios. Toss one final time. Shake some coarse sea salt over the salad and combine.
Serve after resting for a few mintes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

khachapuri - First attempt

A facebook friend had been traveling in Georgia (the country, not the US state) and mentioned that he had had a fabulous dish - called khachapuri. He suggested that I try making it. He knows that I am a sometime baker and so would relish the challenge.

This is the finished dish..

A small loaf of bread filled with gooey cheese and an egg baked in the hole. He was right, it is delicious - and pretty easy. The dough is a bit soft and wet, so it is tricky to handle, however.

Ingredients - Bread

1 t yeast
pinch of sugar
70 ml luke warm water
70 ml luke warm whole milk
15 ml olive oil
200 gm bread flour
5 gm kosher salt

Ingredients - Filling

200 gm queso fresco (or other soft crumbly cheese)
50 gm fresh goat cheese
a little milk to make the texture a paste
2 large eggs

Method

This bread has a lot of yeast for the amount of flour, so it has a tendency to rise very quickly. I retarded mine by keeping it in the fridge. Partly because we didn't eat it the day we expected to. It had to sit for 24 hours longer than anticipated.

Dissolve the sugar in the milk/water and add the yeast. Allow to become foamy - about 10 minutes

Mix in the flour, oil and salt and knead for about 5 minutes by hand. You may find you need to add a little more flour to stop it being too sticky.

Allow to rise until about double original volume. This is largely a temperature thing. If you do it in the fridge at 37F (2C) it takes about 24 hours.

When ready to bake, set a pizza stone (or upside down baking sheet) in the oven and preheat to 500F - yes it really is that hot. Allow to heat for at least 45 minutes.

Make the cheese mixture by creaming the cheeses - adding a little milk if necessary.

Shape the dough into 2 equal sized balls and roll each out until it is 10 inches (25cm) in diameter. I did it on parchment (greaseproof) paper.

Put 1/4 of the filling on the first round, leaving a margin of about 1" (2.5 cm) all the way around.

Roll one side of the circle towards the center. You want to stop about an inch (2.5 cm) before the center. Roll from the other side so you have a center channel. Twist the ends to make small knobs. 

You will have made little boats.

Divide the rest of the cheese mixture between the boats



Repeat with the other round.

Bake the boats on the pizza stone or baking sheet for 15 minutes. The cheese mixture will be all bubbly and gooey.

After 15 minutes, crack an egg into each boat - you may need to poke the filling first to make room for the egg. Return to the oven and bake for 4:30 - until the white is set, but the yolk is still runny.

Serve with a green salad - and in our case a glass of pinot noir. I would imagine that a really nice 
Belgian Trippel would go well. 


Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

We had a small event this year - but that didn't mean we skimped on anything. Serious Eats provided much of the inspiration, so although we didn't follow any of the recipes precisely, the essence was there.

The secrets were:

  • Home made cornbread
  • Sausage stuffing (dressing because it was outside the bird}
  • Low and slow sweet potatoes
  • Spatchcocked turkey - recipe here - no need to improve on perfection! I dry brined using 7T and 1T baking powder and followed the storage instructions from here.
  • Standard home made cranberry sauce - using bitter orange marmalade as a flavoring - from this blog post
For the Serious Eats recipes, please follow this link.and search for Thanksgiving. For our meal, please read on.

Cornbread

I was quite suspicious of this cornbread - it seemed awfully wet. But it came out spot on. There is no wheat in the recipe, so no gluten formation. Those friends of ours who have gluten issues are delighted.

Ingredients

15 oz yellow corn meal. We just used Quaker.
6 t baking powder
1t baking soda
2t kosher salt
1t sugar
2 1/2 cups buttermilk (we used left over from making our own butter)
1 stick unsalted butter - melted
3T rendered pork fat (from salt pork that we had rendered for a different dish)
3 eggs

Method

Preheat 10" cast iron skillet in a 375 degree oven. Whisk the eggs into the buttermilk and drizzle the melted butter whisking constantly. Mix the corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar thoroughly. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix quickly. Do not over mix. When the batter is mixed, grease the inside of the hot skillet with the pork fat. Pour the batter into the hot pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes - until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees.
Leave to cool in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack.

Sausage Stuffing (Dressing)

Because this is not stuffed into anything, I prefer to call it dressing. But either way it was pretty darned delicious. The Serious Eats recipe calls for sage sausage. No luck finding that here, so we substituted.

Ingredients

1 recipe bread pudding (as above) cut into cubes - about 3/4"
1 stick unsalted butter
12 oz sweet Italian sausage
12 oz hot Italian sausage
1 large yellow onion - diced
4 stalks celery cut into pieces the size of the onion dice. Any leaves are fine too.
3 cloves garlic - minced
A small handful of sage leaves - minced fine
3 1/2 cups turkey stock (we used frozen left over from a year ago, thawed) - divided use
4 eggs
1t habanero vodka (aka secret ingredient)
Kosher salt/pepper to taste. You won't need much because the sausage is well seasoned.
1/4 cup minced parsley. 

Method

Place the cut corn bread onto a sheet pan and bake in a 425 degree oven turning occasionally until the outsides are fairly dry and a little toasted. 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, wait for it to stop foaming then add the sausage. Cook the sausage, breaking it up with the wooden spoon until there is no more pink.
Add the onion, garlic and celery. Cook until the vegetables are soft (10 - 15 min(. Do not allow the vegetables to brown. Remove from the heat. Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of the stock.
Whisk together the remaining stock, the eggs, habanero vodka, and half of the parsley.
Place the sausage/onion mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the egg mixture and then add the cornbread. Transfer to a 9x13 baking pan (or a 10x14 oval pan) and cover with foil
You can leave it overnight in the fridge. It does firm up.
When ready to bake, cover with foil and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes. At least that is what the recipe said. I turned the oven up to 400 and it still took an hour for the insides to be properly heated through - probably because I started it out too cold from the fridge.. I had suspected this, so allowed extra time in the timetable anyway. (See this posting from several years ago). And because You want the internal temperature (in the centre) to be over 150 degrees.
Bring out of the oven 15 minutes before serving and sprinkle the rest of the parsley on top.

Sweet potatoes

The good folks at Serious Eats suggested that we warm the sweet potatoes in the circulator at 145 degrees for a couple of hours. Then bake them low and slow. I tried this a couple of days ago, and in a blind tasting we couldn't tell the difference. So ditched the circulator for the big day.
There are also schools of thought about texture. I like them not to be whipped. A rough mash texture. But YMMV

Ingredients

4 large sweet potatoes (Beauregards, garnets or whatever you can get your hands on).
16 sprigs of thyme
1T vegetable oil
1 stick (4 Oz) softened butter
1t habanero vodka (aka secret ingredient)
3T sweet sherry (we had some PX left over from another party, so used that. Good move!)

Method

Rub the skin of the sweet potatoes with oil, wrap them in foil with 4 thyme sprigs in each packet. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the 300 degree oven until the interior registers 208 degrees. The sweet potatoes should be quite soft.
Remove them from the oven, peel the sweeta potatoes into a large bowl. Beat in the butter and habanero vodka. Add the sweet sherry and beat some more. When the sweet potatoes have reached the desired consistency, transfer to vacuum bags and store in the fridge. To reheat, use the circulator set at 150 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Easier than trying to it on the stove top because you can setit and forget it..





Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Squash Salad

In the summer here in Texas there is an abundance of squash - zucchini, yellow squash, crook-neck, 8-ball and a host of others. Our trip to the farmers' market on Saturday yielded some nice, firm zucchini - about 6" long each. Zucchini can be annoying to cook - all that water has to be driven off before they will brown - and then all of a sudden they are black. If you don't drive the water off, they are all limp and mushy - almost able to be sucked through a straw. Am I making them sound appetizing yet? I thought not.

Then I saw this thing advertised. It is a spiralizer. Once you get past the "gluten free" hype and stop trying to pretend that strands of zucchini are pasta, the idea is quite handy. The tool is unnecessary - at least for this dish. A good old-fashioned vegetable peeler is all you need. But the spiralizer did spark some thinking.

The secret to this dish is your choice of olive oil. It would be revolting with a neutral tasting oil. We used a California Koroneiki oil, an oil with lots of peppery notes and a silky, buttery mouth feel.

Ingredients (2 Servings)

4 medium sized zucchini
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 T capers, rinsed and drained
A few sprigs lemon thyme, leaves only chopped finely
A few glugs of high quality, peppery extra virgin olive oil. Probably 1/4 cup
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt to taste
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
1 avocado diced into 1/4" pieces
Crunchy sea salt for finishing

Method

Peel the zucchini, and then slice into ribbons length wise using the vegetable peeler. Discard the core where the seeds are.
Add the tomatoes, capers, lemon thyme, olive oil and lemon juice to the zucchini slices in a bowl and toss to coat. Add the seasoning salt and pepper to taste, and toss again.
Place 1/2 the avocado onto each plate. Mound the squash salad over the avocado. Sprinkle  some coarse salt on the surfaceof the salad. Frind some pepper onto the plate to make it look interesting, serve immediately


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sous Vide corn on the cob

I have had this perpetual search for the best way to do corn on the cob. Kenji at Serious eats turned me on to an approach that turned out fantastic. It involves the vacuum sealer and the circulator. So worth it, and so easy - at least easy once you have the vacuum sealer and circulator!

Ingredients

2 Ears of fresh corn - shucked
2 T butter ( I used home made, cultured butter), but I suspect any would do.

Method

Place water in a large container and set up the circulator. Heat the water to 83C (181.4F). Place the shucked corn into vacuum bags. Ad 2T butter. Vacuum seal the bags and triple seal them.
Place the bags in the water bath at 83C for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, take the bags out of the water bath. Cut open the bags and serve the corn with a little coarse salt.
Serious Eats suggests adding some flavorings to the butter in the bag - we didn't this time, but may experiment later.

Caprese Salad

Kenji at SeriousEats makes some excellent points about Caprese salad. The keys are:

  • Use really fresh tomatoes
  • Use really fresh Mozzarella (none of that supermarket pizza topping Mozz.)
  • Use really fresh basil, and tear it. (From the garden is the best)
  • No vinegar
  • Fruity olive oil
  • Coarse salt.
So I made it his way tonight. Outstanding. I hadn't previously realized what a dulling effect vinegar has. It was so fresh, so tasty this way. I think there will be a lot more in our future.

Watermelon

This is just crazy good. The "Watermelon Ninja" demonstrates a no-mess way of cutting up watermelon. I can't do it any more justice than simply posting a link here.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pita Chips

Hardly worth writing about, one might think. But one would be wrong. You can buy some crisp, flavorless abominations in a bag - or you can make your own really simply. I tried using white and wholewheat chips. The white pita made far and away better chips. So here goes.

Ingredients

6 Plain white pita chips
6T olive oil
Salt to taste (about 1t)

Method

Pre-heat oven to 350F - 325 if using wholewheat pita. Cut each pita into 6 pie-slice shaped pieces. Open up each piece so that the inside is completely exposed.
Place the pita pieces rough side upwards on a wire rack over a sheet pan. Brush each piece with a little oil and then sprinkle on some salt. Place the loaded wire rack and associated sheet pan into the middle of the oven. Bake for about 11 minutes (slightly longer for whole wheat), turning the rack around front to back (not over) about 1/2 way through.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Cover.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Coleslaw with buttermilk dressing

Now that we make all of our butter, we are often left with buttermilk to spare. Because we culture the butter, the buttermilk has a bit of a tang. Ideal for coleslaw we thought. And we were right.

Ingredients - Dressing

1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise 
1/4 cup pickle juice
1 t hot sauce
2T cider vinegar
2T spicy brown mustard
salt/pepper to taste

Ingredients - Slaw

1 head green cabbage chopped into small pieces.
1/2 medium yellow onion, minced finely
3 large carrots, peeled and grated

Method

Make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients. Combine the cabbage, carrot and onion, add the dressing and toss.
Refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.


Simple but not easy - cacio e pepe

Some good friends introduced us to the Roman dish - Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and pepper - in this case black pepper). It has very few ingredients, is simple to make but everything has to be just right. I made it this evening as a rehearsal for an event next weekend. Madame (who generally sneers at anything pasta) was blown away by this. So thank you Rocco and Judy.

Ingredients

2T kosher salt
6 oz bucatini - preferably extruded through bronze nozzles to get that slightly rough texture - ideal for holding sauce
1 1/2 cups Pecorino Romano - salty sheep's milk cheese
3 T butter (divided use)
1 t cracked black pepper

Method

Bring 1 gallon of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until just shy of al dente (this is what makes it simple but not easy). Meanwhile, melt 2 T of butter in a large skillet. Add the cracked black pepper and toast the pepper until you can just smell it. Again, simple but not easy.
Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain the rest. Add the drained pasta to the butter/pepper skillet. Add all but a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, cook for a minute or so. Turn the heat down to low and add the cheese and remaining tablespoon of butter tossing quickly with tongs.
Serve in warmed bowls.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Grilled Romaine and peapod salad

The back story. We have decided to grow peas this year. And much to our surprise, they have started producing. Not a lot yet, but the young, tender freshly picked peas were just demanding to be eaten. So, what to do? Peas and mint are classic. Radishes provide a spicy bite, red peppers some extra sweetness, Romaine as a base and avocado/steamed eggs for richness. It all came together remarkably easily. Grilling the romaine really helped. Technically it wasn't grilled, but griddled on the ridged side of the cast iron griddle.

Ingredients

1 Dozen whole young pea pods (if fresh, then no need to blanch, but blanch in hot salty water for 15 seconds if store bought)
1/3 Shallot minced very finely (yes it really is that little)
6 Radishes sliced thinly. 
A bunch of mint (probably around 20 leaves) chopped small.
1 Diced red pepper (1/4 " dice)
1 t white sugar
4 T cider vinegar
1/2 t habanero vodka (or any other hot sauce to taste)
10 T neutral oil
2 T Finishing oil (I used a high quality extra virgin olive oil
1 Avocado cut into 1/2"  pieces
1 Romaine lettuce heart split in 2 pieces lengthwise and lightly oiled and seasoned with salt/pepper on the cut side.
2 eggs steamed like this (for 6:45 instead of 6:30 to get the yolks a little firmer) and peeled like this
Pepper to taste
Coarse sea salt to finish and provide crunch

Method

Make a vinaigrette combining the mint leaves, vinegar, sugar, both oils, hot sauce, and shallot. Leave to steep for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the vegetation.
Add the red pepper, radishes and pea podsto the vinaigrette and mix thoroughly.
Cook and cool the eggs.
Heat the griddle until it is "rocking hot". A drop of water on it will sizzle like fury. Place the romaine cut side down on the griddle surface and cook for a couple of minutes. You want a nice char on the cut surface. It will hiss and steam a bit. Turning on the vent hood would have been a great idea if I had thought of it soon enough.
Peel and dice the avocados. Slice the eggs in half.
Assemble the salad, pouring the veg laced vinaigrette onto the hot romaine hearts. Add the avocado and egg halves. A couple of grinds of pepper and a few coarse salt crystals finished it off.

Serve with a crisp, cold white wine. We served a Spier 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. 


Monday, April 27, 2015

Asparagus and Shiitake

This recipe is (very slightly) adapted from Americas Test Kitchen. The episode was broadcast a week or so ago, and can be found here. Slight modifications included adding some of our "secret ingredient" (aka habanero vodka) for some heat and the habanero floral flavors and poached eggs for added body.. This is a simple (but not necessarily easy) dish. It only takes a few minutes, but you do have to resist the urge to fiddle with it. I don't know how critical the quantities are - I probably had more shiitake than the original recipe called for, but that was fine by me!
The poached eggs are not in the original recipe, but poached egg yolks and asparagus are such a great combination.

Ingredients

14 oz bunch of asparagus (no more than 1/2" diameter) cut into 1 1/2" lengths. Woody bottoms removed
6 oz Shiitake mushrooms sliced into strips the same thickness as the asparagus
1 T Neutral oil
2T Soy sauce
1T finely minced (or grated) raw ginger
2T Dry sherry
1t Habanero vodka
1T Jaggery (indian brown sugar)
1t Toasted sesame oil
2T Water
2 Eggs, poached
2 Scallions (green parts) thinly sliced on the bias for garnish.

Method 

Heat the oil in a 12" non stick saute pan over high heat until almost smoking. (Thin wisps of smoke are OK). Add the asparagus/shiitake in a single layer, turn the heat down to medium and leave to fry while you make the sauce/glaze, and start to poach the eggs.
Whisk together the soy sauce, ginger, sherry habanero vodka, sugar, sesame oil and water in a small bowl. 
When the asparagus.shiitakes have been in the pan for 2 or 3 minutes, turn them over to cook on the other side. The idea is to get a little char on the asparagus. When they are charred all over, add the sauce, stir and cook to evaporate. The steam from the liquids will finish cooking the asparagus.
Pile into bowls and serve with a poached egg on top of each bowl.
Maybe garnish with some scallions (green parts).

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mixology Party

We decided that it would be fun to have a party that was themed around cocktails and food. Often hard to do because the flavors can clash. However after much conspiring with cocktail meister extraordinaire, Chris Dempsey, we came up with a menu and an approach that would work. Next trick was to find victims (I mean guests) who could be forced to try the food and drinks. Yup, we managed that too. So now we had to do it.
Chris has a portable bar, so it made setup really easy.


Photograph Courtesy of Andrea Willis


Photograph Courtesy of Jim Brewer
The cocktails were Caribbean inspired


Photograph Courtesy of Jim Brewer
so the food had to be as well.

This is the escabeche that we served with the Ginger in the Islands cocktail


Photograph Courtesy of Jim Brewer

for which this is the recipe http://seabirdskitchen.blogspot.com/2015/03/escabeche-or-escoveitch.html

The little numbers on the place cards were the initial seating positions. There were 14 people at 2 tables - 1 for 10 people and the "kids table" with 4 more. To make sure that the "kids" weren't left out, we wanted to make sure they were rotated into the grown-ups table. So, each place card had a number on the inside too. At the end of the course, the guests looked at the number on the inside of the card to see their next seat. Then adjourned to the bar where Chris made the next cocktail and talked about it. We scurried in the background clearing plates/making sure glasses were clean, etc. for the new seatings.

The napkins changed colors too - each course had one of the Jamaican flag colors.

The next course was a jerk pork dish - Usain Bolt's Aunt'a recipe no less. Served with red/yellow sweet potatoes and flour/corn dumplings. http://seabirdskitchen.blogspot.com/2015/03/jerk-pork.html

For dessert we made lemon pots au creme - but with a slight twist. We infused some star anise into the dish as well, and served the dish with pernod in small liqueur glasses and a single ice cube to get the cloudiness.


Photograph Courtesy of Andrea Willis

The basic pots au creme recipe is here - http://seabirdskitchen.blogspot.com/2012/09/lemon-pots-au-creme.html . The difference being 5 star anise pieces and rum instead of brandy. The recipe was scaled up to use a US quart of cream.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jerk Pork

This dish is, apparently, Usain Bolt's favorite. It is adapted from Jamie Oliver's recipe which in turn is inspired By Usain Bolt's Aunt Lilly. It is unbelievably rich, but very tasty. I guess that the sprinter requires a lot of calories. By the time you have added dumplings and yams (well in our case sweet potatoes) you have a potentially very high Calorie course. Again this was done for a good sized group of people, so the amounts look huge. Starting with 10lbs Pork Belly. Fortunately we have a good connection (Ali Morgan at rare edibles in Dallas). She was able to source a big piece of Berkshire pork belly for us. So big that I will be using some of it to make bacon.

Ingredients (marinade)

16 green onions (trimmed, but both the white and green parts)
2 heads garlic
3 Habanero peppers
24 stalks of thyme - leaves only
8 fresh bay leaves - no stalks
2 t ground cloves
2 t ground all spice berries
1 t ground nutmeg
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup Jamaican rum
2 T honey

Ingredients (bonus flavor)

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
12 whole allspice berries
1 habanero sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup water
1 t kosher salt

Ingredients (everything else)

10 lbs pork belly. Remove some of the exterior fat, but you do want to make sure that you leave plenty. Do remove the skin if the pork still has skin on.
6 large yellow onions sliced.
12 fresh bay leaves
6 lbs sweet potatoes (mixture of yellow and red) cubed into 3/4" cubes
8 oz AP flour
3 t baking powder
pinch salt
2 oz masa harina (corn flour, usually used for making tortillas)
1 cup water (for the dumplings)
2 oz unsalted butter
oil for frying (unmeasured, but generally shallow)

Method (marinade)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If it won't blend, add a little oil. 

Method (pork)

Cut the pork into 1 12" cubes. Cover with 1/2 of the marinade and leave to sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 300F. Oil a saute pan, heat the pan until you just see some wisps of smoke. and start to brown the pork. At these quantities, you will want to work in batches. It is important to get the meat browned. Better to do in 3 or 4 batches than to overcrowd. Place the browned meat into a dutch oven with a tight fitting lid. With the last batch of meat, add the onions to the pan and stir, scraping the brown stuff off the bottom of the pan. Add a little salt at this stage. It helps the onions release some liquid which in turn deglazes the pan somewhat. Pick the meat pieces out and add them to the dutch oven. Continue to sweat the onions until they are soft. Add the rum and cook down. I suggest that you briefly turn the heat off, add the rum, and then turn it back on. You don't want the rum catching fire and spreading. When the rum is almost dry, add the remainder of the marinade. and 2 cups of water. Stir to combine.
Pour these contents over the browned meat in teh dutch oven. Stir well to combine. Cover and place in the oven for 3-4 hours. Check every now and again to make sure it has not dried out. It will release a lot of fat. Depending on your sensitivities, you may want to pour some of the fat off.
Meanwhile make the bonus flavoring by bringing the liquids to a boil, adding the flavorings, simmering for a few minutes and allowing to rest. Strain the liquid and discard the solids. The bonus flavorings are there to boost the flavor of the dish as it nears the end of the cooking time. This was not in the original recipe, but the long cooking time had dulled the flavors a bit, so this boosted it back up. Add the strained bonus flavors at about 30 minutes before serving
Also, about 30 minutes before serving remove the prok from the oven and crank up the heat to 400F, Bring the sweet potatoes to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain and dry. Heat the butter and a similar quantity of oil in an oven proof (not nonstick, and make sure the handle isn't plastic) saute pan. Transfer the sweet potatoes to the hot saute pan and place in the hot oven. They will take about 15-20 minutes to brown and cook through.
Make dumplings by combining the flour, masa harina, salt and baking powder together with the cup of water. You will have a sticky dough. Knead a few times, and form into a log about 1" in diameter. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Break off pieces of the dough about the size of a ping pong ball. Roll into a sphere and then flatten the ball into a disk. Boil the disks in the water for 12-15 minutes. They wil initially sink, but then float. I flip them over about 1/2 way through. They become nice and puffy.
Transfer the pork to a warmed dish - bringing as much or as little of the fat as you want. Do make sure you get the thick, tasty onions and other juices, though. Serve with the dumplings in the dish and the sweet potatoes handed separately.


Escabeche or Escoveitch

Or just pickled fish.
This is a large recipe that I haven't scaled back yet. It was a starter course for dinner for 14 people. And yes there were left overs. The fish was red snapper, procured from our local fish-monger - TJs on Oak Lawn in Dallas. I had the fishmonger fillet the fish and remove the skin and pin bones. A major time saver. The dish takes a long time to make - but is not particularly labor intensive. It has to rest, refrigerated at least overnight.

Ingredients

2 cups white wine vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t granulated sugar (I think raw sugar might be more interesting)
1 cup juilenned carrot
1 cup julienned daikon (not traditionally Jamaican, but was a decent substitute for chayote
1 habanero pepper sliced thinly into rings
12 allspice berries
1 large yellow (sweet) onion sliced into thin rings
Neutral oil for frying the fish.  May need to clean the pan between batches
3 1/4 lbs red snapper fillets
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup (more or less) seasoned flour (salt and black pepper seasoning)

Method

Bring the vinegar, water, salt and sugar to the boil. Add the carrot, daikon, habanero, allspice and onion. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes and set aside over very low heat to keep warm.
Rinse the fish fillets in water to which the lime juice has been added. This helps remove some of the fishy flavors. Dry the fish, cut the fish into 3/4" pieces and dredge in the seasoned flour.
Heat the oil in a large skillet until it is shimmering. Shake excess flour off the fish, then fry the pieces until nicely browned and almost cooked through (a couple of minutes/side). If you have to work in batches, at some point the flour from previous batches will start to burn and get nasty. When that happens, pour off the browned flour and oil. Wipe the pan and re-oil/reheat.
Place the cooked fish in the container in which you wish to serve it, and pour the reserved pickled carrot and daikon over it. Make sure that the liquid covers all of the fish and the vegetables are sitting on top. Cover the dish with cling wrap and refrigerate at least overnight or up to 24 hours.
Serve garnished with a sprig or 2 of thyme.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

OTBN 2015

We hosted another "Open That Bottle Night" event on February 28. Same format as usual - we asked our friends to bring a bottle of wine, a story about it and a dish that paired with it. And as usual, the guests stepped up.
The 2015 OTBN Wines


David and Sandra demonstrated the "MollyDooker shake" and shared a delicious bottle of "Carnival of Love 2011" paired with Sandra's Salmon Creole. The wine is 100% Shiraz, hard to find and bottled with nitrogen - so it doesn't age fast. The shake releases the nitrogen and replaces some of it with air, so the wine aerates fairly quickly. Fascinating mixture of flavors - all the usual Shiraz spice, but some warm, almost chocolatey notes. Quite the experience

Stephanie and Fabian told a hilarious story about mislaying a bottle of Sbragia, calling the winery, getting a new bottle and then discovering the original in the car. That was certainly our gain, the 2009 Sbragia Cabernet Sauvignon was outstanding. Paired with stuffed baby bella mushrooms - delicious.

Fred and Sarah brough a 2012 21 Gable Spier pinotage served with lamb sosaties.  Lesson learned - none of us knew that the South African pintoage (except Fred and Sarah of course!) is a cross created from the Cinsaut grape and the Pinot Noir grape in 1925. Cinsaut was known as Hermitage in South Africa - hence the name. Sosaties (or Malay hebabs) are lamb kebabs marinated with curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, bay leaves, vinegar, milk.... Then skewered with pieces of dried apricot between. Lots of mouth excitement there.

Rebecca regaled us with hilarious stories of her times in Italy - and brought a 2012 Barbera D'Alba from Bruno Giacosa. Paired with dates stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in pancetta and drizzled with truffle oil. Another winner of a pairing.

We made Guacatuna - tuna salad using creamy avocados, sweet chili, green onions, and fresh seared/rare tuna. Served on grilled home made bread, and topped with crunchy sea salt. The recipe is here. Served with the very flinty/minerally 2002 Vina Gravenia from Rioja. The wine had been shown at the TexSom conference in Dallas 5 years ago, and tasted well then. So as our last case dwindles, it seemed appropriate to share it with friends.

Before the serious event got started, we had some NV Cremant de Bourgogne from Val de Mer, and to finish a bottle of the extremely well priced Costieres de Nimes Perrieres  - a Carignan, Grenache, Syrah blend from the very southern Rhone. Some chocolates (M&Ms! and dark chocolate/pomegranate balls) went nicely too.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Devilled eggs - but the technique is important

I saw this video a couple of days ago, so immediately had to find an excuse to try it. It works as advertised (much to Madame's surprise).

Ingredients

4 large eggs
1 T mayonnaise
1t habanero vodka
1t sweet pickle juice
1T tarragon mustard
salt/pepper to taste

Method

Using this approach , cook the eggs for 10 minutes. Immediately plunge into iced water. Use the technique from the video to peel the eggs (and it works flawlessly). Scoop out the cooked yolks, mix with the remaining ingredients and reintroduce to the whites. Serve cold with some grilled bread.

You can, of course, add any flavorings to the egg mixture


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Soba noodle soup

After the success of the cold soba noodle salad, madame thought it would be nice to have a soup with soba noodles in it. I figured that cooking the noodles in the soup would probably make it cloudy, so I did things separately. Using the technique that I learned from Chef McDang - make a flavorful broth quickly and then cook the chicken in it. Similar technique to this. But I didn't have any lemon grass or galangal on hand.
Madame gave this the "We can serve this to people" accolade.

Ingredients


4 oz Soba noodles cooked for 4 1/2 minutes, drained and rinsed
3 cups water
1/4 cup fish sauce
4 kaffir (Thai) lime leaves
1 serrano pepper cut into thin rings (more or less according to desired spiciness)
6 green onions (white and green parts used separately
1 1" piece piece of ginger chopped (no need to peel, it will be strained out)
1 medium carrot cut into 1/4" cubes
3" daikon root peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (yes this really was between the 2 of us) sliced into thin strips
Cilantro leaves to garnish

Method

Place the water, fish sauce, lime leaves, serrano rings, green part of the green onions,
and ginger into a medium saucepot. Bring to a simmer, and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain and retain the broth.
Bring the broth to a simmer again, and add the carrot and daikon. After 30 seconds, add the sliced chicken and continue to simmer for about 3 minutes (until the chicken is cooked through).
Place some noodles in the bottom of a warmed bowl, and ladle over the chicken, broth, carrots, daikon. Garnish with some cilantro leaves.