Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Great Meal: Pork and Onion Confit on Polenta with Sides

This was a great meal, pork confit and onion confit on top of creamy polenta with glace de viande sauce, served with Spanish garlic soup and mushrooms in sherry and garlic sauce.

The downside?  This takes a lot (A LOT) of prep before hand, and you have to manage your time and space using all four burners.  In addition to the stuff made well ahead, make sure you have all the mise en place for the mushrooms ready.

So the first step is to make your glace de viande; it's a beast of a recipe and it'll take you a couple of days, but most of that time is just sitting around while things simmer.  It also makes a lot and it freezes well.

Next, you'll need to make the pork confit and onion confit; both of these can be made ahead, keep well, and will make more than you need.

The next longest thing, and one you can't make ahead is the creamy polenta, which I'm just swiping from Emeril, but I halve the recipe, use sour cream instead of creme fraiche, and add a splash of cream.  Once you get this started, start up your garlic soup; you'll want to get to the point where the broth is in and everything except the eggs and the toasted bread have been added to the broth.  Now just cover it and keep it warm.

Eight to ten minutes before the polenta is done, start up the mushrooms.

In the last five minutes of making the polenta, bring the soup to a gentle simmer and crack the eggs in to gently poach (you may have to flip them toward the end of poaching - you want the whites cooked and the yolks runny).  Immediately after that, melt just a little pork confit fat into a small skillet, add a small handful of the onion confit, followed shortly by a larger handful of the pork confit.  You just want to get this warm, any more and you'll dry out the pork.

Plate the polenta, add the pork and onion on top, then toss 2T of glace de viande and a little over 1 T of butter into the skillet from the pork and combine it.  Spoon the mushrooms out on to the plate, and drizzle the glace over the pork and onions.  Ladle up the soup, making sure to get an egg, whole, in the bowl, and top with a piece of toasted bread.

Mushrooms in Sherry and Garlic Sauce

Rich, earthy, and just a little spicy; this is an easy to make tasty side dish.

1 lb mushrooms, in 1/4" slices
3 T olive oil
2 t flour
2 shallots, minced
6-7 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 T chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 C dry sherry
1/4 C beef broth
heavy pinch crushed red pepper, or to taste
lemon juice
1 t smoked paprika

Preheat the oil over high heat, and saute the mushrooms, shallots, and garlic for 2 minutes.
Remove the mushrooms and garlic and reserve; add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes to make a roux.  Add the broth, sherry, red pepper, paprika, and a squeeze of lemon juice, and whisk to include the roux. 
Add the reserved mushroom mixture back into the pan and simmer for a couple of minutes. 
Taste and adjust salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Sprinkle with the parsley, toss, and serve.

As written this could be a little hard to cook properly (you'd need a big skillet and a lot of heat), so it might be a good idea to halve the recipe.  This would probably also allow you to make the roux without removing the mushrooms from the pan.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Belgian Waffles

Crispy exterior, soft and fluffy interior, these are just about the perfect classic waffle.  You'll have to get up a little earlier and put some effort in to it, but it's well worth it as long as your friends and family leave you some.  Of course if you tell them how much butter is in this you'll be more likely to get some...

1 pkg. dry yeast
2 C lukewarm milk (preferably whole)
4 eggs, separated
1 t vanilla
2 ½ C sifted flour
½ t salt
1 T sugar
½ C melted butter

Sprinkle yeast over milk and stir to dissolve.
 Beat egg yolks and add to yeast mixture with vanilla.
Sift together flour, salt and sugar; add to liquids. 
Stir in melted butter and combine thoroughly.
Let mixture stand in a warm place about 45 minutes or until mixture doubles. 
Beat egg whites until stiff; carefully fold into batter.
The amount you'll need for your waffle iron will vary, but should be around a cup, and this should make 5.

French Apple Cobbler

A classic apple cobbler with a golden slightly crispy topping.  This one is also a hit made in a dutch oven in a camp fire.

Apple Filling:
5 C tart apples, peeled, sliced thinly (I use granny smith)
3/4 C sugar
2 T flour
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 C water
1 T butter, softened
Lemon juice

1/2 C flour, sifted
1/2 C sugar
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 T butter, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten

Peel and slice the apples; I find this takes long enough that I end up tossing them with a little lemon juice to prevent browning.
In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients. Dot apples with 1 tablespoon butter.
Combine topping ingredients, beating until the batter is smooth
Dot batter in small spoonfuls over the apples, spacing evenly.  It will spread and brown during baking.
baking. Bake 35 to 40 minutes at 375° F or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Herbed Cheese Spread

There was a restaurant called The Heritage in Cincinnati that used to sell an herb mix for making cheese spread.  Well, the restaurant went out of business, but my mom loved the stuff enough that I sat down with my memory of the flavor and a bottle of the stuff that was more than a decade old and figured out how to make it.

1 2/3 t dried marjoram
2 1/2 t dried chives
5/16 t garlic powder
1 t thyme
1/4 t caraway
pinch of salt

Mix the ingredients together, and use 1.5 T of mix per 8 oz of cream cheese.  Or even better, use half again as much and mix 4 oz of soft goat cheese into the cream cheese.  Let the cheese and herb mix blend for at least a couple of hours.
The herb mix can also be made in large batches and kept in your spice cabinet.

Lamb Chops with Balsamic Reduction

Lamb chops aren't exactly cheap, so this is the kind of thing that I save for a special occasion.  I hate to admit that the first time I made this the special occasion backfired a bit; I'd made it for a girlfriend's birthday, but one who I was planning on breaking up with, just not on her day.  I got called out that evening and ended up killing the relationship, but I hope the meal at least blunted the blow.  I'd suggest serving it with rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes and some simple sauteed vegetables instead of a breakup.

a rack of lamb, about 2 lbs
4 T chopped garlic
4 T fresh rosemary, chopped
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1/4 c olive oil
1 c balsamic vinegar
2 T sugar
salt to taste


Separate the racks of lamb into double chops, french them if desired.
Combine garlic, rosemary, 1 t salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar; pour over the lamb chops and marinate 2+ hours in the refrigerator.
Remove the chops from the marinade, reserving the marinade.
Grill or broil the chops for a few minutes on each side until medium rare; meanwhile, add the sugar to the marinade and boil until reduced by half (or more if you want it thicker and stronger). This sauce should be served with the lamb chops.

Lentil and Rice Soup

A simple middle eastern soup.  I typically don't add the lemon juice to the soup, instead just serving it with a lemon wedge.

1 T olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 small hot pepper, finely chopped (or whole dried chile, removed before serving)
8 c chicken stock (veggie stock for vegetarians)
2 c toor dal, rinsed (or other split lentils)
1 t ground cumin
2 t ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of saffron (optional)
2 T basmati rice, uncooked
Splash of lemon juice (optional)
salt to taste

Heat oil in a saucepan and sauté onions and hot pepper over medium heat for 10 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil.
Cover and simmer for an hour or until the lentils are soft. Puree, then return to saucepan and reheat.

Mussels in White Wine

A simple preparation of mussels that lets them really shine.

20-30 mussels, appropriately cleaned and de-bearded
salt and pepper
1 T parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 C dry white wine
2 T olive oil
4 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t flour

Heat the oil in a large pan, saute shallots and garlic; stir in the flour and cook another minute or so.
Add everything except the mussels and simmer for several minutes, covered.
Add the mussels and cook until opened.

Curried Pork with Pickled Garlic

A rich Thai curry that gets an interesting kick from the pickled garlic.  I usually scale this one up to use a whole can of coconut cream.

1/4 lb lean pork, sliced in to thin strips
vegetable oil for sauteing
Chopped Thai chiles to taste (optional)
1-2 T red curry paste (start with one, you can add more if needed)
~1/2 C coconut cream
2 T fish sauce
1 t sugar
2 t lemon juice
4 cloves pickled garlic, minced (more if they are very small cloves)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T ginger, grated
heavy pinch turmeric

Saute garlic (not the pickled garlic), then add in red curry paste and chiles; saute for a minute.
Add in coconut cream and pork, cook until pork is done and coconut cream has reduced slightly.
Add in the rest, adjusting seasoning, and simmer for a minute or two to combine flavors.
Serve with rice.

Chipotle Chicken

Another guilty pleasure, but not quite as bad for you as the Creamy Chicken Curry.  This one can be pretty hot though; I had one girlfriend who loved it but turned bright red and had to have a big drink every time she ate it.

1 lb skinless boneless chicken breast, cubed
10 ½ oz. can cream of mushroom soup
6 oz. chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped, or a big can if you want to bring the pain
8 oz. sour cream
4 oz. milk
1 small onion, quartered and julienned
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced thin
1 Tbsp. olive oil
12 oz spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced

Cook the pasta, drain, set aside.
Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil, then add in the mushrooms and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add in the chicken and remove from the heat.
Combine mushroom soup, chipotle peppers, milk, sour cream, garlic powder, and black pepper in mixing bowl.
Combine all ingredients in 9 x 13 pan, and bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until bubbly, removing the cover during the last ten minutes of cooking.

Creamy Chicken Curry

Okay, this recipe is really a guilty pleasure from when I was a kid.  It's utterly horrible for you, and I would never think to call it Indian food, but it is kinda tasty.

1/2 cup butter
1 lg. onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 T curry powder
1/2 t coriander
3 C cubed cooked chicken
1 10 and 3/4 ounce can cream of chicken soup
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 C heavy cream
Cayenne if you want to up the heat level some

Melt the butter - saute the onion and celery until the onion is translucent.
Stir in 1 Tbsp curry powder and the coriander.
Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the chicken and 1 Tbsp curry powder; cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the soup, sour cream, whipping cream, and 1 Tbsp curry powder, and cook until bubbling.
Serve over rice.

Mexican Red Sauce

A smokey, fiery red sauce that is excellent on burritos and tacos, and is great spooned on to tortilla chips with lots of cheese and baked to make nachos.  If you make it with the larger can of chipotles this can get quite hot.

Large can crushed tomatoes
2 medium or 1 large onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Can of chipotles (7 oz for mild, 14 oz for hotter), chopped, with sauce reserved
bay leaf
2 capfuls liquid smoke
1-2 T cumin
2 T dried ground new mexico chiles
pinch of oregano
small handful sugar
splash of olive oil
cayenne if greater heat is desired

Saute the onion and garlic, then add everything else, with sufficient water to cover. 
Simmer for 1-2 hours, adding water when it starts to dry out. 
Cook to desired consistency, adjusting to taste.

Salsa Verde

A green tomatillo salsa that goes well on burritos and tacos, especially lighter flavored ones.  All amounts in this recipe are approximate, just taste it as you go and adjust to your heat tolerance.

1.5-2 lbs of tomatillos, peeled, cleaned, and chopped
1-2 medium onions, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
jalapenos to desired heat, finely chopped
2-3 t oregano
1/3 C white vinegar
1/2 C lime juice
half bunch of cilantro, cleaned, stems removed, and chopped finely
Splash of olive oil
small handful of sugar
1 bayleaf (optional)

Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until translucent; add the jalapenos and cook for another few minutes.
Add all ingredients except cilantro, with enough water to cover.  Simmer slowly for an hour or so, adding water if it starts to dry out.
Remove the bayleaf and puree (either with a stick blender or a food processor).
Cook to desired consistency, and during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking add the cilantro and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Sausage and Egg Casserole

A hearty breakfast casserole, good for feeding a group when you'd rather do the work the night before and just throw it in the oven.  I also know someone who made this with vegetarian chorizo and said it turned out well.

1 lb. raw breakfast sausage
6 eggs
6 slices of white or wheat bread torn into pieces
2 cups milk, preferably whole
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

Mix everything together with hands.  Butter a 9x12" baking dish and put mixture into dish.  Refrigerate overnight a minimum of 12 hours.
Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, checking occasionally to make sure it isn't drying out.

Scramble (Chex mix that's actually good)

For as long as I can remember the arrival of grandma's scramble was the herald of the holiday season.  It's really nothing more than a seasoned mix of nuts and cereal, but the end result is dangerously addictive.

2 lbs. Nuts, mixed
12 oz Wheat Chex
6 ½ oz Rice Chex
10 ½ oz Cheerios
6 ½ oz pretzel bits
5 ½ oz pretzel sticks

Mix the following together:
2 c. salad oil
3 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T onion salt, or a mixture of onion powder and salt
2 T garlic salt, or a mixture of garlic powder and salt

Pour the oil mixture over dry ingredients above in large roasting pan.  Bake at 250 degrees for two hours.  Stir with wooden spoon every 15 minutes.  You can also do this in a large stock pot which would allow you to just hold the lid on and shake it.

You kind of have to play the salt amount by ear depending on whether the nuts are salted, but that's also why I generally prefer to use onion and garlic powder instead of salt.
I also tend to use less in the way of pretzels than this calls for and substitute corn Chex for wheat, but that's just personal taste.  The recipe above is how I grew up with it, where I would get annoyed getting to the end of it and find nothing left but wheat Chex, pretzel bits, and nuts I didn't like.

Chinese Shredded Beef, Country Style

This is a unique dish compared to what you usually see in a Chinese restaurant, but very good. It is fairly dry, however, so serve the rice on the side. 


1 lb beef, cut into strings
2 C chopped celery
2/3 C carrot, julienned
3 Fresh hot red peppers, seeded and julienned
8 T oil
1/2 t pepper, ground
1/4-1/2 t Sichuan peppercorns, ground
Drizzle of sesame oil

4 T soy sauce
1 T Chinese rice wine
1 t sugar
1 t ginger juice

Marinate the beef for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Heat 5 T oil in a wok, and fry the beef (with marinade) for 5 minutes over high heat, then 7 more over medium to medium low, stirring continuously. Remove to a bowl.  By this point the beef should be quite dry.
Heat 3 T oil in the wok, fry the red pepper; then add carrots, celery, and salt. Cook to desired doneness, then add beef back, stir to mix, then sprinkle sesame oil, Sichuan peppercorns, and pepper on top.

Spinach Salad

My dad's recipe for a simple spinach salad with a tangy dressing; I often serve this as a first course with Greek food.  This recipe does make FAR more dressing than you need though, so you might want to halve it and find something to do with the other half of the beaten egg.

1 bunch baby spinach, cleaned and de-stemmed
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
chopped onion
1/2 c sugar
1 T flour
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c vinegar
1/2 c water
1 c mayo
cooked, crumbled bacon (or pancetta)

Blend sugar, flour, egg, vinegar, and water together over medium low heat; if you think you managed to scramble the egg a little you'd want to run this through a wire strainer.
Add the mayo and beat to combine; this is the dressing for the salad. It should be rich, creamy, and a little tangy.
Present the rest of the ingredients separately and allow people to combine as they like.
This is a very basic recipe, and I usually add a few options; a little grated kefalotyri or even feta can be nice, as well as some olives. Play with it and see what you like.

Split Pea Soup

My dad's recipe for split pea soup; a perfect thing on a cold winter day.

1 lb bag of split green peas, rinsed and checked for rocks

2/3 cup coarsely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 parsley sprigs
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cans (14 oz ) chicken broth
1 smoked ham hock
Salt to taste

In a 3 1/2 quart kettle combine peas and 1 qt of water; bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes. Add water if necessary.
Add all the rest of the ingredients, and simmer covered for 1 1/2 hours. (I just cook it until everything breaks up.)
Remove the ham hock, and if you want trim the meat off of it and add it back to the pot.
Serve it up; I like to shake a little tobasco on it.

Steak au Poivre (Pepper Steak)

This is my favorite way to make steak: pepper encrusted steak cooked in the French style and served with a creamy pan sauce.  This works equally well with venison loin, and I typically serve it with some simple potatoes and sauteed asparagus; mushrooms also tend to pair well with the cream sauce.

1 good steak, I like strip steak, but you could use filet or other tender steak, but if you use a big one like t-bone you'll probably want to double the sauce
1 T coarsely cracked pepper
Vegetable oil, or other high smoke point oil
a splash cognac or dry sherry
2 T heavy cream
1 T dijon mustard
1 shallot, halved and sliced into half rings


Press the pepper into both sides of the steak and let it sit for a couple of hours.
Put some oil in a steel or cast iron skillet over medium high to high heat, and while the oil heats sprinkle salt on the steak to taste.  It's important to use a heavy skillet that isn't non-stick; this is going to be hot enough to destroy teflon.
When the oil is just short of smoking and the steak and sear the steak on both sides to desired doneness (which is medium rare).  Fight the temptation to poke, prod, and move the meat; you're going to flip this steak exactly once.  When it's on the second side and getting close to where you want it add the shallot into the pan around the steak.  Remove the steak to rest, leaving the shallot.
Deglaze the pan with the cognac or sherry, then tip the pan to ignite (or use a long lighter).  Be careful, the fireball can be impressive, and you probably like your eyebrows, but it does make this a good dish if you feel like showing off.  Whisk the bottom of the skillet to release the fond.
Add the cream and mustard; whisk to combine, cook for a couple of minutes, check the seasoning, then pour over steak and serve.

You can make more than one of these at a time, just make sure you don't crowd the pan and multiply the sauce as necessary.

Zucchini and Lardon

A rich but simple side dish which can be served with a variety of  cuisines.

3 smallish zucchini, quartered and chopped
6-7 T salt pork, finely chopped (1/4" cubes)
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper to taste.

Throw the salt pork in a skillet (not non-stick), and saute until brown and crispy. Add the shallots and garlic, saute for a minute or so, add the zucchini, salt, and pepper. Cook until the zucchini is the desired texture.

Onion Confit

Onions slowly cooked down with wine and vinegar to the consistency of jam.  This makes a great condiment to put on pastrami sandwiches, or anywhere else you want to add a sweet onion flavor, and because you cook all the water out this stuff will keep just about forever in the fridge.

1.5 lbs sweet onion, quartered and thinly sliced
0.5 lbs yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/4 C white wine vinegar
1/4 C honey
1/2 C dry white wine
6 T unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter and cook the crap out of the onions, covered over medium heat, for ~40 minutes (you want them soft), stirring it occasionally.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook until the mixture almost dries out.

Spanish Garlic Soup

This is about as simple as a soup gets, but still tasty and a wonderful thing for a cold day.

4 C beef broth
1 T paprika (I like to use a mix of plain and smoked paprika)
6 cloves garlic, peeled and flattened with the side of a knife
4 slices French bread, about 1 cm thick
4 eggs
1/4 t cumin, ground
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and toast the garlic cloves until golden brown.  Remove the garlic and reserve, crushing it.  Use the oil to brown the bread on both sides, then remove and reserve the bread.

At this point if the bread has absorbed all of the oil you may need to add a little more; briefly cook the paprika and cumin in the oil, then add the broth and reserved garlic.  Simmer for a few minutes, then add the eggs and poach until set.  Add the toasted bread into the soup and serve.

Pork Confit

Pork cured in herbs then slowly poached in fat.  It may not be terribly good for you, but sometimes you have to indulge.  You can make this with either loin or shoulder, with loin being better for things like slicing to put on sandwiches, but if you want to make rillettes you're really going to need to make it with the shoulder.  This recipe is a slight modification of the one from Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn -- THE guide to curing meats, and as the weather gets colder and more suitable to hanging meat to dry, one you should definitely go buy.

2.5 lbs of pork loin, or 4 lbs if using shoulder cut in to four slices for loin, or cubed for shoulder
2 T kosher salt
3 bay leaves
6 T flat leaf parsley
4 T fresh sage
1.5 T black pepper, ground or crushed
4 T shallots
5 cloves garlic
1/2 t pink salt (insta cure #1, a mix of salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite)
enough fat to fully submerge the meat, preferably rendered duck fat, but lard will also work (at some point I also want to try using fat rendered from beef marrow bones when making stock/glace)

Food processor together the herbs, shallots, and garlic, then add in the salt, pink salt, and pepper and processor briefly.  Rub the meat with this mixture and refrigerate for three to four days.

Remove the meat and rinse off all the seasoning, then dry.  Melt the fat in a pot or dutch oven, add the meat, and bring just to a simmer; the meat must be fully submerged.  Remove from the heat and place in an oven preheated to 180-200 F.  Cook until fork tender, approximately 4 hours for loin, and 4-6 for shoulder.

At this point you can remove the meat and separate out the meat and the juices from cooking, making sure to reserve both.  The meat can be re-submerged in the fat and kept in the fridge for weeks or months (the original purpose of confit was to preserve meat), while the juices can be used as a seasoning for the meat, either mixed into rillettes or sprinkled onto the meat while pan searing.  If you do this with shoulder the juices will also have a considerable amount of gelatin, which helps to produce a rich velvety sauce.  Keep in mind that the juices and the meat will be fairly salty from the curing, so taste to make sure you don't over salt.  The fat can be reused, but again, it will pick up salt.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cast Iron

Since it came up recently, it seems it's time to discuss cookware, or at least cast iron.  It's not what I reach for the most often, but it does have the advantage that it performs as well or better than many other materials in most applications, it's non-stick when properly seasoned (and you don't have to worry about scratching up the surface), it's nigh indestructible, and it's CHEAP.
The first thing that you have to keep in mind with cast iron though is that you won't be using it right out of the box, you'll have to season it first unless you're lucky enough to get some of the family heirloom stuff (see the indestructible comment, treat it right and it'll be around a lot longer than you are).  The process of seasoning is essentially creating a polymerized layer that's bonded to the iron of the skillet, much like teflon is a layer of polymer applied to a surface.  Before doing that though the skillet needs to be clean, so scrub it thoroughly with soap and water as well as steel wool; if you're doing everything right this will be the only time your cast iron ever comes in contact with soap.  Dry the pan thoroughly (wipe it out completely then let it sit for an hour), then coat the entire thing with a THIN layer of either shortening or vegetable oil; you really don't need much, just barely coat the whole surface.  Shove the thing upside down into a preheated 350 F oven for an hour.  Coat and bake a couple more times to get a good surface built up.  From here, if you really want to get a great surface, use it to deep fry; just leave it on the stove top with the oil in it and slap a lid on top when you're not using it.
As far as care goes, you can use metal utensils on it, get it screaming hot to temperatures that would destroy teflon, and in a pinch use it as a bludgeon without harming it, just DON'T EVER USE SOAP ON IT.  Soap will destroy the seasoning; when it comes time to clean it just stick it over high heat and get it really hot, then shove it under running water and scrub it down with steel wool that doesn't have soap in it.  That should get it plenty clean, then wipe it dry and rub just a little bit of oil into it for storage, and once you've spent a few months deep frying with it, the seasoning should be good enough that you don't need to worry about the oil.  I also generally try to avoid prolonged simmering of anything acidic in it the same way I would for aluminum or anodized aluminum, but that's more of a feeling that it could cause oxidation rather than any experience.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Stuffed Grape Leaves

The small rich stuffed grape leaves made in the Egyptian style with a yogurt sauce.  This is another fairly approximate recipe, and rolling the leaves can be somewhat difficult if you don't first see how to do it, but the main secret is to make sure that the filling is completely wrapped.  This is also quite a bit easier if you have a large pot with a colander insert as you need something to put pressure on the top of the leaves while they cook.

Potatoes, sliced approximately 1/4", enough to cover the bottom of the pot
6-7 large cloves of garlic, sliced lengthwise into several large slices each

Grape leaves:
1 large jar grape leaves, drained and rinsed (I typically make sure I have two on hand, you may need some of the second depending on the size of the leaves and how tightly you roll them)
3 lbs of ground beef (it's important that you don't use anything leaner than 80/20, it just won't taste right with lean beef)
~ 4 C of uncooked basmati rice
salt as needed

4 C plain yogurt
one good sized cucumber, peeled, seeded, and minced
6-7 cloves garlic (or to taste), minced
handful dried mint, or to taste

Mix the sauce ingredients, as these need time to blend in flavor.  Mix together the beef, rice, and salt.  Layer the potatoes on the bottom of the pot (these actually aren't typically eaten, they're just there to keep the grape leaves from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pot). 
Cut off the small piece of stem from the grape leaves, then trim them to an appropriate size. Most of the grape leaves will be big enough to cut in to 2 pieces (3 for large leaves, but the smaller the piece you cut the harder it is to roll). A small amount of the beef and rice mixture should be put in to the center of the piece of leaf and rolled so that it forms a stuffed cylinder approximately 5-6 cm in length and 2 cm or less in diameter. The filling should be completely wrapped in leaf so it doesn't leak out while cooking.  If you find leaves or pieces of leaves that have holes or are otherwise unsuitable for stuffing, set them aside as we'll need a layer or two of leaves to cover the top.
Do this for all the grape leaves and filling, placing them in the pot in circles so that they form solid layers of grape leaves (make sure to pack them tightly together). When a layer is complete put 6-8 slices of garlic between the grape leaves in the layer, then top with a layer of unstuffed grape leaves.
When you've used all of the filling top with another layer of unstuffed leaves, then pour in enough hot water to more than cover the top of the leaves and weight down the leaves (I usually use the colander insert with something like a pot of water on top of it for weight).  Simmer until the rice is done, approximately 30 minutes (pull a leaf out and test to make sure it's done).
Carefully pour off the excess water, and serve with the sauce.

Baklava with 3 nuts

My recipe for baklava made with a mixture of walnuts, almonds, and pistachios.  This makes an 11"x7" pan, and this is rich enough that it'll feed a small army, or 8 hungry foodies.  This recipe more than most is approximate, just taste it as you go.

phyllo dough
melted butter

Nut mixture:
Between 1 and 1 1/4 lb of nuts, evenly mixed between walnuts, almonds, and pistachios (I get unsalted unroasted nuts for the walnuts and almonds then roast them, and salted in shell pistachios)
1/4 C sugar
1 heavy t cinnamon
1/4 t ground clove
1/4 t ground cardamom
salt to taste, if using all unsalted nuts

Honey mixture:
1 1/4 C honey
1 1/4 C sugar
5/8 C water
2 cinnamon sticks
6-8 cloves
scant 1/2 t ground cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350.  Simmer the ingredients for the honey mixture together until syrupy, then kill the heat and allow to cool (remember, it will thicken as it cools).  When it's cool remove the cinnamon sticks and the cloves.

Food processor the nut mixture together, and you may have to work in batches as there's quite a bit of it.  You want small chunks but not powder.

Heavily butter each of eight layers of phyllo and put those in the bottom of the pan.  Add half the nut mixture, then add eight more buttered phyllo layers, then the rest of the nut mixture.  Add another eight layers of buttered phyllo on top.  Cut the top layer into diamonds a little over an inch on a side, and if you want to be fancy push a clove into the center of each diamond (this is removed before eating).  Bake until golden brown (approximately 20 minutes).  Remove and cool for 15 minutes before adding the honey mixture; cool another 3 hours before serving.

Toum, V1

This is an initial pass, modified from a recipe online, but I wasn't completely happy with the meringue-like texture that I got from this one (I could be biased, I despise meringue).  The next time I think I'm going to skip the egg white and add some lecithin as an emulsifier, though the acidity of the lemon juice may keep that from working well.  If the lecithin works it would also make this generally fridge stable unlike something with raw egg in it.

6 cloves garlic
3-4 T lemon juice (to taste)
salt to taste
1/4 C neutral flavored oil
2T cold water
1 egg white

Food processor the garlic, a pinch of salt, and 1 T of lemon juice together.  Add the egg white and processor some more.  Drizzle in half the oil while blending, then alternate slowly adding the lemon juice and the rest of the oil.  At the end add water while checking the consistency, and adjust the salt of necessary.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sushi Rice

The start to all good sushi and chirashi.

Sushi Rice:
2 2/3 C Japanese short grain rice, rinsed to remove starch
Water appropriate for your rice cooker plus a little (roughly 3 C on the stove top)
note card sized piece of kombu, wiped down with a damp cloth

Vinegar mixture:
1/2 C Japanese rice vinegar
1/4 C sugar
1 t salt

Heat the vinegar mixture until everything is dissolved, but without boiling. Allow to come to room temperature.
Cook the rice the kombu, then remove to a large bowl (preferably non-metallic), discarding the kombu, and allow to sit for several minutes to cool.
Add a small amount of the vinegar to the rice, pouring it on the back of the spatula to spread it, then cut it into the rice. Continue this until you've used all the vinegar; this mixes the vinegar in and separates the rice grains.

Miso Soup

Basic miso soup, but made so much better by using homemade dashi.

Miso soup:
2 Q water
1 - 1 1/2 oz bonito flakes
half a block firm tofu, in large dice
small handful wakame, rehydrated
5 note card sized pieces of kombu
~10 T miso paste (depending on taste and type used, I like a blend of white and red called awase)
small handful thinly sliced green onion

Place the kombu in the water and bring just to a light boil over medium. Remove the kombu and add the bonito, continue to cook until it just returns to a boil, or 10 seconds, whichever comes first, then kill the heat. Allow the bonito to soak for 15 minutes, or until the bonito sinks to the bottom, then strain out the bonito flakes. From this point you can hold the stock (dashi) until ready to make the soup. When you are ready bring the dashi to a gentle simmer, whisk in the miso, then add in the tofu, green onion, and wakame and give it another 30 seconds.