Thursday, January 31, 2008
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
And to think I used to have to go to a great Vietnamese restaurant to have something this good! If I ever needed a rationalization for this whole food obsession I'm afflicted with, being able to cook, then eat, something this complex and satisfying at home would be right up there near the top of the list. For me, one of the biggest rewards to this cooking learning curve I'll more than likely always be climbing is knowing I can take seemingly complicated recipes, from a country whose cooking has always been an unexplored part of my personal cooking world, look at them, break it down, and find it really isn't that difficult. And it can be REALLY delicious.
I was looking up recipes at epicurious because I wanted to whip up something new with chicken thighs, my favorite part of the bird. I find the chicken breast is so white bread and boring, the leg so fifth grade and KFC. The thigh though is meaty, flavorful, and meant for braising. Which is what this recipe basically is...a quick, easy, and very rewarding braise. I love playing with unfamiliar ingredients, and just knowing I now have a jar of Thai red chili paste in the fridge is exciting. Or that I'm banging on lemongrass stalks with the side my knife to bring out their flavor is pretty darn satisfying! We had this with a side of rice to help soak up all the delicious sauce, and as further reward there's leftovers for tonight!!
*** *** ***
Ca ri ga (Chicken curry with sweet potatoes)
adapted from epicurious:
The recipe and introductory text below are excerpted from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham:
"True to the Vietnamese style of curry-making, this recipe is milder and lighter than Indian or Thai curries. You can make this with chicken stock, but the coconut milk adds body and enhances the overall flavor. Depending on my mood and the time of year, I sometimes serve this with a warmed baguette (a French influence) instead of steamed rice. Other times, I just make the curry with more broth and serve it with rice noodles. Like other curries, it's delicious the next day."
Servings: Makes 4 servings.
3 tablespoons curry powder, preferably Three Golden Bells brand
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 pounds skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 to 3 teaspoons ground chili paste (or dried chili flakes), or to taste
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 lemongrass stalks, cut into 3-inch pieces and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled, cut into 3 slices and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 cup fresh chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth
3 carrots, peeled, cut on the diagonal into 2/3-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
1 medium sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup Asian basil leaves, cut in half
8 sprigs cilantro, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 scallions, chopped
1. Combine 2 tablespoons of the curry powder and the salt in a bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat the meat evenly. Set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Heat the oil in a medium pot over moderate heat. Add the shallot, garlic, chili paste and the remaining 1 tablespoon curry powder, and stir until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the chicken and cook until the edges of the pieces are golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass, ginger and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Add the carrots and cook for 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk, onion and sweet potato and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with Asian basil, cilantro and scallions, and serve.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
But enough digression. The point is a photo, and meatloaf's tendency to look like something you shoveled out of your front yard. This recipe from the latest Gourmet really tasted good with all it's unusual ingredients....bacon, prunes, cider vinegar, allspice...and both w and I were suitably impressed, and satisfied. Not quite up to my all-time favorite, Alton Brown's Good Eats Meatloaf, but still well worth the effort. But man, my photos sucked. Even the photo from the magazine isn't that great. So disregard these visuals, and know that if you want a new twist on the common hunk of ground meat, this is well worth trying!
The Gourmet version, probably the 36th try.
My real world version. Looks sketchy, tastes great!
*** *** ***
Meatloaf with bacon & prunes
from Gourmet Magazine
makes 6 servings with leftovers
1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices firm white sandwich bread)
1/3 cup whole milk
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium celery rib, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 lb bacon (about 4 slices), chopped
1/2 cup pitted prunes, chopped
1 1/2 lb ground beef chuck
1/2 lb ground pork (not lean)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Garnish: cooked bacon (optional)
1-Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
2-Soak bread crumbs in milk in a large bowl.
3-Meanwhile, cook onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low, then cook until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Add to bread-crumb mixture.
4-Finely chop bacon and prunes in a food processor, then add to onion mixture along with beef, pork, eggs, and parsley and mix together with your hands.
5-Pack mixture into a 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a 13- by 9-inch shallow baking dish or pan.
Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatloaf registers 155°F, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Cooks' note: Cooked meatloaf keeps, chilled, 3 days.
BB note: I thought the meatloaf was a little too moist, and didn't slice as cleanly as I would have liked. Next time I make it, I think I would not soak the bread crumbs in milk, and mix them in dry. The veggies, prunes, bacon fat, Worcestershire and cider vinegar to me add plenty of moisture.
Friday, January 25, 2008
*** *** ***
First, setting the scene, my Playa Escondida (hereafter known as P.E.) hideaway is the lower unit of the middle palapa in this view from the P.E. beach. If you click on the link above, it is the Sol 2 unit. Two private decks, an almost outdoor shower to the left, peace and joy within.....
and this view from my bed when I wake up.
now to the delicious parts............
Sayulita Fish Taco and an example of their culinary art. Not bad for two bucks!
Chilling on the beach at Don Pablo's in Sayulita, sipping cerveza and about to slam a fresh camaron quesadilla.
Deliciously fresh & citrusy shrimp & fish ceviche tostadas at El Casteño on the Sayulita beach. A buck twenty each?? Crazy!!
And here's a hot tip for anyone visiting Sayulita anytime in the future. I was looking up information about a tiny town about 8 miles north of Sayulita called San Francisco (aka San Pancho) that I had heard good rumblings about. I read in an online article about how one family in the village owns all the fishing boats and they also happen to be the proprietors of a local restaurant that was reputed to muy bueno. Local fishing monopoly? Great restaurant? Obviously, if you know anything about me, that's all I needed to hear. I grabbed the first taxi I could to find out first hand how fresh it could get. Ten minutes and 80 pesos later I wandered the streets of SF and found the sign for their small open air restaurant called La Chalupa (fyi: a block to the south of the main street, about one block east of the beach). While I was sitting perusing the menu, munching some chips with bright salsa fresca and sauce picante that were dropped on my table, a bunch of burly looking guys marched through the joint towards a back area carrying several huge ice chests. Ever curious, and wondering if maybe they held the key to my lunchtime happiness, I followed at a discreet distance...well, six feet anyway....and right behind the restaurant they started tossing the days catch onto this table where I watched this father/son team of fish filleters make quick work of several delicious looking creatures. Taking my cue that lunch had arrived, I ordered the pescado fritto, and was treated to the best $11 lunch (incl. cerveza) that maybe I have ever had. The fish was brilliantly fresh, cruspy on the outside, moist, juicy, not at all oily inside. Served with tortillas for some DIY tacos, this was what I was looking for. Remember: San Francisco...La Chalupa...fresh fish...happiness.....
Pescado Fritto @ La Chalupa
The kitchen at La Chalupa.....I LOVE it when great food comes out of simple places.
There were several other honorable mention food moments. A plate of butter and garlic/ginger/rosemary sautéed shrimp at the Sayulita Café. An awesome fresh shrimp omelette at P.E., where the food was dazzling at every meal (dinner was always four courses for $25!). And finally, the best dinner I had all trip, not coincidentally also at P.E. ...in fact I ordered it two nights in a row...was a crazily good chile en nogada (right), which is a large poblano chile stuffed with ground beef, raisins, carrots, onions, various spices and smothered in a richly satisfying walnut sauce with pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top, sitting on top of a bed of rice. Freakishly good. Nogada is traditionally a holiday meal in Mexico, and I've only had it a couple of times before and not for years. The P.E. version was the best ever.
In fact, if I could ever recommend a place to stay in Mexico, Playa Escondida would be right up at the top of the list. If you want privacy, beautiful beaches, great food, super comfy accommodations, and employees who seem genuinely happy to be working where they are, this is your spot. It's a 20-30 minute hike to town, and if you don't want to walk back, grab a taxi for 60 pesos ($6.00). Nova, Martha, Sergio, Manuel, and my man Alejandro (killer mojito, A!) were warmly welcoming, and when I got in the taxi to leave for the airport today, it was like leaving friends behind. Which I think is about as good as it can get.
Gracias, Alejandro....good luck in the future, amigo!
*** *** ***
And one of my favorite signs ever, from La Chalupa, on what to do in case of an earthquake. Near as I can tell, at least according to #5 making tea is not the thing to be doing right now, nor is doing a Michael Flatley "Lord of the Dance" imitation (#6). Ducking and covering never seems top get old (#7), and the age old advice to get your ass out of there (#9) always holds true!
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
And kicking back like this (YES, I do have shorts on! Otherwise those weird crisscross indents would scar my lily white ass).....
You can't blame a person for being a little unfocused. I'm spending a week down in Sayulita, Mexico, about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta. Needed an escape from the cold and wet of PDX, and with w going on a ski trip with a girlfriend, it seemed the perfect time for some "serious" getting in touch with myself. Which would be a lot easier if Sergio wasn't manning the beach bar here at Playa Escondida, distracting me with his cooler of ice cold Pacificos.
"Why yes, Sergio....Now that you mention it I'd love another Pacifico....."
Had some good bites....more on that tomorrow. Okay, maybe one teaser......
Chilaquiles in Paradise.....breakfast poolside at Playa Escondida!
Right now, trekking back in to town to gather more information at Sayulita Fish Taco (btw- based on preliminary investigation yesterday, the tacos are muy bueno!)...will gather further evidence today. Plus have heard tale of a plate of camarons that must be tasted to be believed. Must undertake exploration immediately!!
Saturday, January 19, 2008
She started me on the perfectly potent, tart-sweet Hendrick's Gimlet a couple of years ago, and it has rocketed to near the top of my favorite refreshing adult beverage list, coming in right behind the national drink of wineguyworld, the Negroni, and pushing an exquisite Tanqueray martini hard for second place. Mine at home don't quite reach the levels of perfection that I have at Castagna. After all, Suzanne has set the bar...and her bar...pretty high. But in a pinch at home when the need strikes, these work just fine!
*** *** ***
2 oz. Hendrick's Gin
1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup ( to make syrup put 1/2 cup water
Fill cocktail shaker with ice, add ingredients, shake very well, and strain into martini glass. Garnish with lime wedge.
Note: You can use any gin, but Hendricks just seems to have that perfectly balanced floral-herbal character that works magic here.
Friday, January 18, 2008
I would have at least hoped for high school sophomore level. I mean I want eat.drink.think. to be accessible, but I was hoping for something a little more erudite than less-than-GED level work. I mean I know I'm no fucking William Safire....oops, there it goes again, heading to 6th grade....but I guess I can take comfort that overly hormonal teenagers everywhere can get with me.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Who doesn't like good music playing while they're cooking? Get your kitchen groove on with this awesome song and video. A Dogg-y style mid-winter escape. And I dare you to stand still while this is playing....just be careful with that chef's knife! For better viewing, buy the "full strength" (read full screen & better video quality) version off of iTunes. It's $1.99 well spent!
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
That's why, to precede these hunks 'o flesh, I made an awesome new salad I picked up from my blogging pal Jaden's fabulous food site, Steamy Kitchen. If you've been paying attention, you feel my love of all things crabby when we're in the height of Dungeness crab season here in the NW. There was the silly good holiday crab pasta, the killer crab cakes, and now another new favorite thing to add to the repertoire. Jaden adapted this insanely fresh and delicious (and a snap to throw together) Fuji apple and crab salad from Crab: Buying, Cooking, Cracking by Andrea Froncillo and Jennifer Jeffrey. I grabbed a couple of live crabs on the way home from work from ABC Seafood to throw in the crab pot. After they succumbed to a bubbly demise, w and my sis were kind enough to shell them while I got the other edibles ready. This mix of fresh crab and Fuji apples was off the hook, and the Thai dressing was the perfectly piquant set off to the crab/apple/baby greens mix. It could be a main course all by itself with some crusty bread and a good bottle of Sancerre, but it rocked pretty hard as a warm-up to our steakage. You've gotta give this a taste while the crabbing is good. Thanks, J!!
*** *** ***
Crab/Fuji Apple Salad with Thai Dressing
adapted from Crab cookbook by Jennifer Jeffrey and Andrea Froncillo
serves 4-6 as first course
8 ounces fresh crabmeat (I used snow crab)
1 large Fuji apple, cored, julienned and tossed with a squeeze of fresh lime juice
4-6 cups mixed baby greens
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbl julienned fresh mint
Thai-Style Salad Dressing
3 tbl rice vinegar
2 tbl fish sauce
1 tbl sugar
1/4 tsp finely minced chili (leave seeds in if you like it hot)
juice of 1/2 lime
Prepare the dressing by combining ingredients and whisking. In a small bowl, combine crabmeat and apple and toss lightly with just a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Assemble plates by layering baby greens, a mound of crab/apple mixture. Top with fresh mint and freshly ground black pepper. Use a teaspoon to drizzle salad dressing onto the salad. Be careful not to use too much - you should have some dressing left over.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
w and I had that moment the other night, when searching for something new and delicious, I came across the following recipe in what ahs become over the years one of my go-to cooking inspirations, "The Dean and Deluca Cookbook". The recipes in here have been money so many times. An amazing Spanish white bean, lamb & chorizo stew; a great Bolognese; one of w's favorites, a simple dish of boned and broiled drumsticks with a perfect gremolata; and a slew of other hits. All of us who cook at home and explore new recipes have those moments where we go "WTF? Did they even cook this before they printed it?" With the DandD cookbook, it seems they actually did try everything, and nailed it down tight before committing it to print. Plus it is filled with explanations of why they do it that way and why this method works best.
Ready for plating!
Which is a roundabout, overlong intro to this kick-ass dish of balsamic and porcini braised chicken thighs. This was stunningly good with rich, deep, intense, complex flavors. The sauce could not have been better or more satisfying, the thighs were perfectly moist and slightly crisp from the browning. Oh, and it is also way easy. The recipe calls for six thighs for six people. I would probably bump up the proportions, maybe eight or nine thighs and a corresponding increase in the other ingredients, because I guarantee some of your guests will be coming in for seconds. We made the six thigh dish for the two of us, had three left over with some sauce, and last night used the leftovers for an absolutely killer pasta (see bottom of post for hints). You've got to try this one, because as my friend Andrew says about his favorite ski runs, "This is SO sick"!
*** *** ***
Bone-In Chicken Thighs Braised with Balsamic Vinegar and Porcinis
from The Dean & Deluca Cookbook
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
6 large chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on
Salt and pepper to taste
5 garlic cloves, peeled
all-purpose flour for dredging
two 1/4" thick slices of slab bacon (see cooks notes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup fruity red wine
1/2 cup beef broth
3 tablespoons industriale (read: inexpensive) balsamic
1 tablespoon arrowroot dissolved in 2 teaspoons cold water
3/4 cup drained and chopped canned tomatoes (save extra from can for leftover pasta sauce)
1 tablespoon traditional balsamic (read: aged balsamic)
chopped fresh parsley for garnish
1.In a small bowl let the porcini soak in one cup hot water for 10 minutes, or until soft. Drain them well, strain the liquid, and reserve.
2.Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Chop two of the garlic cloves, adding a little salt, until a rough paste is formed. Cut a horizontal slit in each thigh, just above the bone, and divide the garlic-salt paste evenly among the six. Dredge the chicken thighs in the flour, shaking off excess, being careful not to lose the garlic-salt mix. In a large, heavy skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat, stirring, until browned and crisp. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towels. To the skillet add the chicken thighs, skin side down, and cook them, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until it is golden and crisp. Transfer the chicken with a slotted spoon to a plate, season it with salt, and discard the aft in the skillet.
3.Mince the remaining three cloves of garlic. Add the olive oil to the skillet, and cook the garlic over moderate heat for 1 minute. Add the reserved porcini liquid, wine, broth, and and 3 tablespoons of industriale balsamic. Increase the heat to high, and boil for 5 minutes. Add the arrowroot mixture in a stream, stirring. Stir in the tomatoes and add the chicken, turning it to coat with sauce. With chicken thighs in sauce skin-side up, reduce heat to moderately low and simmer the mixture, covered for 10 minutes. Stir in the porcini and bacon, and simmer, covered, for abut 10 more minutes (do not allow the sauce to become too thick.
4.When ready to serve, stir in the one tablespoon traditional balsamic vinegar, season to taste, and sprinkle the dish with chopped parsley.
*Cooks notes: We used bacon ends from the store, which the meat guy was too happy to give us, for about 99 cents a pound. They worked perfectly, and I'd recommend this money saving tip for any dish that calls for chopped bacon for flavoring. We served the thighs with polenta with some Parmigiano-Reggiano, and they went brilliantly together!
##### ##### #####
Leftover Chicken Thigh Pasta
All you need to do (assuming you have some leftovers!) is shred the meat off the thighs, add about five tablespoons of the leftover chopped tomatoes...you did save them, didn't you??...and heat the whole mess over low heat while the pasta water bois and the pasta cooks. Perfect with 1 pound dried fusilli or penne pasta.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Check it out. You will be laughing your asses off!
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Anyway, enough '70s TV drama rehash and celebrity chef character assassination. I consulted Molto Mario's cookbook, coincidentally titled Molto Mario, when I was in need of a new pasta fix, and both w and I were loving this killer mix of fresh tagliatelle with sausage, basil and the poor, neglected sun-dried, shaking off its kitchen cliché status and given a second chance in the limelight. As with most good pasta dishes this was incredible easy to throw together, the sausage, sun-dried tomatoes and basil matching up perfectly, lightly dressing the pasta. Fab stuff. Grab your Dallas DVD, feather your hair back in the perfect 1978 coif, load up a plate of this deliciousness, and be like, so 30 years ago!
*** *** ***
Tagliatelle with Sausage, Basil, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
adapted from Molto Mario
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
6 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
5 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 to 1-1/4 pounds fresh tagliatelle
12 fresh basil leaves
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving with pasta.
1.Bring large pot of water to boil, add 2 tablespoons salt
2.Meanwhile, in a large 10" or 12" sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the garlic and cook until lightly golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the sausage and sun-dried tomatoes and cook, stirring, until the sausage is cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Drain the fat from the pan, leaving about 2 tablespoons, then stir in the tomato paste and wine and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3.Drop the tagliatelle into the boiling water and cook until tender (with fresh pasta, this usually takes 2-3 minutes). Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the sun-dried tomatoes. Return to the heat, toss in the basil, stir gently for about 30 seconds. Serve immediately with grated Parmagiano.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
*** *** ***
Halibut With Nori Jam
adapted from David Myers
time: 20 minutes
FOR NORI JAM:
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 sheets nori, torn into small pieces
4 6 to 8 ounce skinless halibut fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons nori jam
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sliced chives.
1. For nori jam: In small saucepan, combine soy sauce, mirin, vinegar and 1 tablespoon of water. Bring to boil and add nori, stirring until nori is soft, about 30 seconds. Transfer to blender and purée until smooth. Return to pan and cook over medium heat until thickened and jamlike, 2 to 3 minutes.
2. For halibut: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season halibut with salt and pepper to taste. Place large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. When oil is very hot but not smoking, add fillets skinned side down and let them sit until browned on underside, about 3 minutes.
3. Transfer pan to oven and bake until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer fillets to warm platter and spread each fillet with about 1 teaspoon of nori jam. Sprinkle with lemon juice, and garnish with chives. Serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
That's why at dinner parties, sometimes it's good to cut loose, to throw something down on the dinner table that is kind of a "wow" moment. Just such a moment for self-aggrandizement came last Sunday when w had her friend Kathleen's birthday dinner at the house, along with a posse of her other pals. I asked what she wanted me to cook, and she said almost immediately "pork roast with grapes". I'd done this once before, early on in the courtin' days of bb & the lovely miss w, at a dinner party at the old pad, and it rocked and got raves around the table! So even though this is supposed to our month of only cooking new recipes, how could I turn her down. Saying no and sleeping alone seemed a foolish choice, so Pork & Grapes it was! Plus this dish gives me yet another chance to pull the Cadillac out of the garage, aka bringing the Le Creuset 9-1/2 quart oval French oven off the shelf. Can you say "heft"?!
The fabulous mustard-herb marinade
Browning my loin...ouch!
This was a recipe that came from the New York Times in a story by Jill Santopietro back in October of 2006. As she stated perfectly in this article "Grapes rarely get their moment in the culinary limelight, and it’s too bad, because they are perfectly designed for cooking: small and juicy with hints of both acid and sweetness." If any dish proves that statement, it's this one. Before I first made it, I was sure the grapes would turn to mush in the oven. Instead, they held their form, with the heat intensifying their sweetness while retaining the acidity, which was just what this deceptively rich pork dish needed. It comes together surprisingly easily, and offers up huge deliciousness reward and guaranteed "oohs" and "ahhs". Not that we care about that second part, of course!
*** *** ***
Roast Pork Loin With Grapes
adapted from the New York Times
1 3 to 3-1/2 pound boneless center-cut pork loin
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme, plus 6 whole sprigs
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary, plus 3 whole sprigs
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped sage, plus 3 whole sprigs
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
6 shallots, peeled and halved through the root
1 pound red seedless grapes, snipped into 6 small bunches
1/2 cup port
1/2 cup chicken stock.
1. Tie the pork loin with kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals. In a shallow dish large enough to hold the pork, whisk together the chopped herbs, mustard, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, teaspoon salt and teaspoon pepper. Add the pork and coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
2. One hour before cooking, bring the pork to room temperature. Scrape off and reserve the marinade, then season the meat with salt and pepper.
3. Place a roasting pan in the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place a large sauté pan over high heat. Add 2 more tablespoons of the oil and heat until smoking. Add the pork and sear about 4 minutes on each side, until well browned. Transfer fat side down to the roasting pan. Set the sauté pan aside. Rub the reserved marinade over the pork and top with half the butter and the herb sprigs. Place the pan in the oven and cook the meat for 75 minutes, or until the center reaches 125 degrees.
4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the potatoes, shallots and grapes with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. After the pork has cooked for 15 minutes, place the potatoes cut side down around the pork. Lay the grapes and shallots over the potatoes.
5. Drain the saute pan of fat and return to medium-high heat. When hot, add the port and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan. When nearly evaporated, add the chicken stock and return to a boil. Whisk in the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve set over a serving bowl. Cover and keep warm.
6. When the pork is done, transfer to a cutting board. Cover lightly with foil and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve on a platter over the grapes, potatoes and shallots, accompanied by the sauce.
Cooks note: If potatoes aren't done when the roast registers 125*, pull the pork out and tent with foil, crank the heat up to 400*, and let everything roast for another 15 minutes. The potatoes should be done right when the roast is ready for carving.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
When you make this at home, find the best lamb you possibly can. Hopefully pasture raised, because in dishes like this the quality of the meat is so important. With all the other flavors happening around it....lemon, fig, saffron, & other spices....you don't want a too lamb-ey flavor dominating. As it turned out for us, it was a perfectly balanced dinner, served alongside some cous cous, and is one of those showoff meals that your guests will rave about. For wine I would recommend a big southern French red from the Rhone Valley or Languedoc. A California zin would also have the requisite up front fruit and body. Either way, pop those corks and grab your forks!
Lamb Stew with Lemon and Figs
adapted from epicurious.com
makes 6 servings.
1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1 2 1/2- to 3-pound boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil
2 onions (about 1 pound), thinly sliced
1 small lemon (preferably Meyer), ends trimmed, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 rounded teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup dried figs, stems trimmed, quartered lengthwise (about 4 ounces)
2 1/2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
Transfer yogurt to small bowl. Stir in mint; season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.)
Place 1/2 cup warm water and saffron in small bowl; let stand at least 20 minutes to infuse.
Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook lamb until brown on all sides, adding more oil as needed, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to large bowl. Pour all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot (or add 1 tablespoon oil if dry); heat pot over medium heat. Add onions; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add lemon, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne. Stir 1 minute. Add saffron mixture; stir, scraping up browned bits. Add tomatoes with juice, figs, and lamb with any juices to pot. Stir to coat. Add 2 1/2 cups broth.
Bring stew to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer until meat is tender, stirring occasionally and adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed if dry, about 1 1/2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and chill.)
Bring stew to simmer, thinning with more chicken broth if necessary. Divide stew among 6 plates; top each serving with dollop of minted yogurt.
Then there's this hilarious parody, because we all know this is the way it really works out (click image to enlarge)....
Saturday, January 05, 2008
* * * * * * * * * *
What IS going on in Iraq? Not in a larger geopolitical sense, but in the everyday lives of the U.S. soldiers and people who live in the chaos of that country? I'll be damned if I know, but I am finding out as I am sucked into freelance journalist/blogger Michael Totten's posts from Iraq's front lines. Michael is doing some of the best writing I've come across on this subject. One of his latest posts is an absolutely riveting piece on a day spent on patrol in Fallujah with a group of Marines. The fact that a non-affiliated writer/blogger is out there doing this kind of quality journalism....and oh, yeah, he could be killed at any time....is staggering.
Thanks to Portland's own Nancy Rommelmann, who's very smart blog also deserves your regular attention, for turning me on to Totten's work. Click on her name to check her out.
Pictures from Michael's post.
We've been making good use of this years crop. Especially intoxicating were the Meyer lemon sidecars made with pear brandy. In fact, we'll be having them again tonight since I find myself with some extra juice from the risotto below. Oh, yeah, the reason for this post is the continuation of the "Month of the New", and our latest excursion into the culinary unknown came courtesy of the aforementioned lemon tree and a recipe that I looked up months ago online and forgot where it came from (so if you're the creator and reading this, please don't be offended and think I'm trying to steal it for my own. Let me know and you'll get full credit. Oh, and thanks!). This was absolutely delicious, like another hit of spring or summer...the natural richness of the risotto set off against the sweet/tangy Meyer lemon and basil. It was even better the next day warmed up at work, rare for a risotto, when the somewhat assertive initial citrusy character had a chance to mellow and meld with the basil, onion, and celery. So be sure and make plenty so you'll have leftovers!
And for those of you who say "Risotto is SO much work, all that stirring." Please, give me a break. If you can't stand up and stir a pot for 15 or 20 minutes, then you'd be better off hopping in your car and hitting your nearest fast food drive through for your McShaker Salad and Filet-O-Fish at McDonald's or whatever the hell you debase yourselves with. For the rest of you, grab some beautiful Meyers at the store and rock this simple, easy, and satisfying risotto asap!
Meyer Lemon Risotto with Basil
6 first course servings
If you can't find any Meyer lemons, use regular (Eureka) lemons.
6 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium red onion, finely chopped, about 1 to 1-1/2 cups
1 tender inner celery rib, finely chopped, plus 1/4 cup chopped leaves
1/2 Thai or Serrano chile, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup white vermouth
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons julienned basil leaves
1. Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, cover and keep hot. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion, celery rib and chile, season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the celery leaves and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring until glossy, about 1 minute.
2. Add the vermouth to the rice and simmer over moderate heat until almost absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the hot stock, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring constantly between additions, until most of the stock has been absorbed before adding more. The rice is done when it's tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes total. Stir in the 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, the mascarpone, the lemon zests and juices and the basil. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into bowls and serve, passing additional Parmesan at the table.
Cooks note: We had this as a main dish, but I agree with the first course use recommendation. Its bright freshness would be a perfect start to a dinner of braised or grilled hunks of meat.
Friday, January 04, 2008
In Wednesday's NY Times he wrote a fascinating column on heat in the kitchen that touches on how heat works, cooks food, wastes energy, flavors food, etc. Every home cook should read this, as it is as fascinating as it is informative. Who would think to pre-soak dry pasta, turn steaks on the grill more often, because "steaks and chops cook more evenly on high grill heat — and faster as well — if you become a human rotisserie and turn them not once or twice but as often as you can stand to, even dozens of times, every 15 or 30 seconds." Or that most cooks are "...often aiming a fire hose of heat at targets that can only absorb a slow trickle, and that will be ruined if they absorb a drop too much." Every home chef will learn something from this short essay, and most likely come away a better cook for it.
image from New York Times
Thursday, January 03, 2008
A quick note about last night's dinner: This was a really fresh, easy, and richly satisfying take on salmon. On a cold winter evening here in PDX, it was like a hit of summer with the grilled salmon topped by the bright lime butter and lime zest. It comes together in a snap, the little effort required is greatly rewarded, and it is absolutely dinner party worthy. We served it with Basmati rice and sautéed red chard and it killed. Plus, there's nothing like giving the finger to the nasty weather by firing up the grill in January!
Grilled Salmon with Lime Butter Sauce
from Gourmet Magazine
makes 6 servings.
6 (6-oz) pieces center-cut wild caught salmon fillet (about 1 inch thick) with skin
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lime zest
6 tablespoons lime butter sauce (see below)
Prepare grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas).
Season salmon all over with salt and pepper, then grill, flesh sides down, on lightly oiled grill rack (covered only if using gas grill) 4 minutes. Turn fillets over and grill (covered only if using gas grill) until just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes more. Sprinkle fillets with zest and top each with 1 tablespoon lime butter sauce.
Lime Butter Sauce
from Gourmet Magazine
It takes only 5 minutes to make this fantastic sauce.
Makes about 3/4 cup.
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
Purée garlic with lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. With motor running, add melted butter and blend until emulsified, about 30 seconds.
Cooks' Note: Lime butter sauce can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Stir before using. If making for two or four, cut back ingredients accordingly.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
You probably read a few posts ago about my deep and abiding love for Dungeness crab and all its sweetly satisfying pleasure that lies within its prettily pinkish carapace. Not to mention that smugness I feel at buying said goodness for about $5 a pound. Plus eating crab right out of the shell is one of those primal food pleasures that is really without equal. But for those of you who like me crave diversity in your crabbish comestibles, then this pasta is guaranteed to wow you, your family, and any lucky friends who get invited to partake. The sweet crab is perfectly set off by the faintly bitter radicchio, pungent garlic, and zesty lemon. So quick, so EASY, and insanely good!!
Linguine with Crab, Radicchio, and Garlic
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound linguine
3/4 to 1 pound fresh crab meat (from 2 whole crabs)
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 head radicchio, shredded
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Bring 6 quarts water to boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.
In a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, heat the oil until smoking. Add the shallots, garlic, and chiles and saute until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, then add the butter, and remove from heat. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, until just al dente, and drain.
Add the drained pasta to the pan with the wine mixture and return pan to heat. Add crab, radicchio, lemon zest, and scallion and toss until radicchio is wilted, about 1 minute. Pour into a warm serving bowl and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
I'm not sure how my shoe infatuation started, but friends are starting to spread vicious rumors about my edging up on shoe whore status. But this time I blame w, who spotted the clearance sale sign at Shoefly and dragged my not-so-reluctant and ready-to-be-newly-shod feet across the street. 40% off everything? I mean, come on, what could we do?! Two pairs for me and one pair for her, that's what! After that quick spending spree and a most satisfying lunch at Café Campagne, my favorite vacation lunch spot in town, we made our way back to the room at the Inn at El Gaucho. Located in the heart of the trendy-cool Belltown 'hood, this is a great, very comfortable small hotel. Plus we both thought our room (#9) with a view (that's the view out of our window at left) of Puget Sound was a great deal at a little under $200. Check it out and book at Seattle Super Saver for the best deal.
We wandered around the neighborhood, checked out Pike Pace until late afternoon, then walked up to Quinn's, the gastropub/hotspot recently opened by Restaurant Zoe owners Scott and heather Staples. We were coincidentally going to Zoe later for dinner, so it was fun to check out the other Staples venture. Quinn's is modeled on the Euro gastropub, meaning cozy, dark, with great food, beers, & whiskeys to soothe ones soul. I had tucked into a perfect Manhattan while w had a glass of fizzy prosecco. We snacked on a couple of exceptional apps: a plate of duck rillete surrounded by a spicy-smokey harissa sauce, and a cute little plate of meatball sliders....big yums to both!
Meatball sliders backed with duck rillette at Quinn's!
After that start, we were more than ready to ponder dinner, so a quick cab ride back to the hotel where we grabbed our dinner wine we brought with us (a stunning '95 Caprili Brunello di Montalcino Riserva), made a short four block walk to Restaurant Zoe, where we were warmly welcomed. I LOVE Zoe. I had been there a couple of years before and had a staggeringly good meal, and reading reviews of equal recent praise had me hungering for a return trip. Zoe has an exceptionally comfortable, perfectly lit dining room, ad provided the choice backdrop to settle in ad enjoy or cocktails, a couple of La Pommettes, their super-delish take on a classic French 75. After working our way through two starters, a salad, and our two entrees, I can happily report that they are still serving some of the best chow in town. Where to begin with the highlights...how does Crispy Kurobota Pork Belly Confit and a Grilled Spicy Octopus sound? Well, I can tell you how they tasted: fucking awesome! The pork belly (picture at right) was melt in your mouth tender, with some nice savory porky chew, and the octopus was a small tentacle grilled to perfection with a blood orange vinaigrette. We spit their Beet & Mushroom Salad which they thoughtfully put on two plates (without us asking!). It was amazing, beautifully composed with its base of quinoa topped with a mix of citrus, chopped mushrooms and beets and arugula with a thyme-shallot vinaigrette. Of course there was more to come, me being the boy who can't say no, or when, or stop, especially where food is concerned. So to table came w's plate of East Coast Sea Scallops with winter squash, smoked bacon, oyster mushrooms, and black lentils. This dish absolutely killed. A plate of perfectly balanced food perfection. One of the best plates of food either of us have had all year. Crazy!! I had their just right tender Braised Beef Short Rib, (which is seemingly on ever restaurant menu these days...with good reason, too, because it's usual really good!). This was good, except for the too prominent hit of horseradish which slightly overwhelmed the rest of the plate. When we mentioned this to our waitress, she agreed and said she'd mention it to the kitchen, which was nice to hear. After these two plates, w's eyes were starting roll back in her head, but how could we not order their hazelnut panna cotta? Fantastic! I had told out waitress when we ordered it that I couldn't decide between it and their tempting butterscotch custard, so that service angel, when she delivered our check, also brought a little bowl of the custard on the house. I love stuff like that!
Hey, it's the next day already. We had to leave early to get back to Portland and get ready for a New Year's do at our friends J&K's, but I had noticed some raves for a Vietnamese place called Green Leaf, which opened at 11. This seemed the perfect counterpoint to our night of indulgence at Zoe. We checked out, hopped in the car, made our way to the "International Zone" where a ton of Asian joints are, and had a fantastic lunch for so little money that it bordered on ridiculous. Absolutely a must stop, and don't you dare miss their appetizers of Ban Xeo, a Vietnamese pancake made with a coconut batter and filled with sprouts, pork & shrimp (or tofu), and eaten wrapped inside green leaf lettuce leaves;, and the Dao Hu Nuong (above), which looked like three grilled tofu popsicles accompanied by a great sweet & sour dipping sauce. I ordered the lemongrass shrimp which was good, but w again rocked the table with her dish of Bun Dac Biet, which is a combo vermicelli which she declared to be one of the best vermicelli she had ever had. High praise because vermicelli is how she grades her Vietnamese joints. This hit it hard! So good, complex, and satisfying. Stuffed again, our wallets lightened by only thirty bucks for all that goodness, we made our way back to PDX, again thanking the Gods of all that is edible for being able to have these incredible dining experiences...wow!!!