Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I just noticed something!

Visitors to this blog are probably wondering why I only have these oval red serving dishes. Well, the truth is, I have a ton of dishes, and any number of serving dishes of varying sizes. But I really love these Emile Henry dishes and use them all the time. I have 2 ovals, a small covered terrine, a pie dish, and a big casserole.
And one more note on the funky green woven trivet - I think it was a wedding gift or Christmas gift from an Alaskan relative. It's big, so I can carry hot things on it, even though it is funky and doesn't match anything.

NOLA Style BBQ Shrimp

The other night we had this shrimp while flipping between the Oscars and the replay of the Carling Cup on Setanta.

I adapted this recipe from a number of internet sources, but have tweaked it to make it just perfect for us:

I use a 1 1/2 lb bag of large frozen uncooked shrimp for 3 people as a main dish. I have used unpeeled as well as peeled/tail-on. I get whatever is available. I am sure it would be awesome with head on/unpeeled fresh too, if that is your thing.

Serve with plain white rice to soak up the sauce & salad on the side. Crusty bread is good too for soaking up the juices.

1 or 2 lemons, sliced (depending on the size of your lemons)
kosher salt
dried or fresh rosemary
dried oregano (fresh seems too strong)
cayenne pepper

1 stick butter
3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs Crystal hot sauce (or Tabasco/Frank's/Red Rooster, whatever)
6 cloves minced garlic

Preheat oven to 400
Layer lemon slices in a baking dish (9x13 or oval)
Sprinkle the lemon slices with the salt, herbs & cayenne
Layer the shrimp on top & sprinkle the shrimp with the salt, herbs & cayenne
In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the garlic, Worcestershire & hot sauce
Pour the butter mixture over the shrimp
Bake 15-20 minutes until the shrimp turn dark pink

Enjoy over rice, or in bowls with crusty bread

Monday, February 25, 2008

Thanks, Amateur Gourmet!!

This post from Adam at Amateur Gourmet inspired me to make the same thing. The photo of his reminded me of a dish we had on our trip to Japan. We went to this place in Roppongi called China Cafe 8 that was supposedly the best place for Peking duck. They roast the duck, bring it to your table & carve off the breast and then take the carcass away.
We were like, "hey, we weren't done with that!" But then a few minutes later, after we polished off the pancakes & duck, they brought back a stir fry type thing that used up the rest of the meat and skin. And then some weird soup with the bones & fat, but we didn't eat that, it had a strange medicinal taste.
So anyway, I was so busy last week with work that I never made it down to the 99 Ranch Market for duck legs & the optional lemongrass. So I used big chicken legs that were on special at the local Fresh and Easy. I also used 2 carrots because I had these sad little carrots that needed to be used up. Boy did the house smell good! And it was so easy, it was done right when the guys came home from baseball practice. Perfect with some rice. Too bad we were all out of sake.

Burger Night

I am a bit behind on this post, these pictures were sitting on the camera with the science fair project photos. Now that is behind us, so I can tell you about the awesome dinner we collaborated on last weekend. We wanted really good burgers, so off we went to Whole Paycheck. We scored some nice ground beef and ground buffalo, some sweet onions, and some muenster cheese. Forgetting that their bread (specifically things like HAMBURGER BUNS) leave much to be desired, we just picked the best looking organic rolls they had. The Grillmaster Husband mixed the meats and added some of his secret brisket rub as well as some of the ends of the sweet onions minced up. This was all cooked on our grill/smoker over hardwood charcoal (no gas grill here!).
The Grillmaster also roasted an anaheim chile and some pears and made this delicious relish. Dark beer and onions were also part of this. He doesn't write down recipes, so I wouldn't even know where to start!

While cooking up some organic applewood smoked bacon (I haven't started my own bacon project yet --- coming soon!) I brought out the deep fryer and made beer batter onion rings. Note to self. Next time use a pan instead of the deep fryer - the first batch of rings sunk to the bottom of the basket and all stuck there. The solution was to cook 3 at a time and make sure that they floated right away. What a pain!! But, still a million times better than frozen. I should have taken photos of the mess, hehe.

I am certain that this meal beats Red Robin/Islands/The Counter any day of the week!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Weeknight Cooking

In the years before I finally got this consultant job and started working exclusively from home, I would board a train to Los Angeles at 6:30am and would return home between 5:30 and 6pm every day. While keeping me caught up on books and magazines, this commuting was really cutting into my cooking time. I amassed a collection of 10 minute preparation meals that I could have on the table fairly quickly. This one for chicken sausage and butternut squash is great, I got it from Epicurious (via Bon Appetit) and it couldn't be easier!! I use chicken/apple sausage and already cut up squash from Trader Joe's, lots of garlic, and fresh herbs.

Apparently between the last time I made it an Friday, the 9 year old has decided he doesn't like butternut squash. One of his classmates must have told him it was yucky.

A Classic from Jacques Pepin

So I asked the guys what they would like me to make that we haven't had in a while. They both said, nearly at the same time, "Tarragon Chicken"!!

This is from Food & Wine (I think...might be Gourmet) from quite a while ago, I clipped it and inserted it in my notebook, didn't note the date, in fact I don't even have the full recipe. It accompanied an article about Pepin's biography.

The recipe calls for chicken breasts & whole legs, but I have adapted it for chicken thighs so will list it here with that adaptation (to stay away from copyright police):

2 TBS butter, softened
6 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (use boneless/skinless if you must)
salt & pepper
1/2 c dry white wine or vermouth
1/2 c chicken stock
Bouquet garni-2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme- tied in a bundle
1 small onion, halved (or 1/3 of a gigantic onion, which is what I had)
1 TBS flour
1 c heavy cream
1 TBS minced tarragon

Melt 1 TBS of the butter in a large skillet. Add the chicken skin side down & season with salt & pepper. Cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 10 minutes or so. Turn the chicken and spoon off all but about 2 TBS of the fat. Add the wine, stock, herbs & onion & bring to a boil.
Cover & simmer over low heat about 25 minutes until the chicken is done. Transfer the chicken to a plate & cover loosely with foil.
Discard the onion & herbs, boil the cooking liquid until reduced to about 3/4 cup.
While cooking liquid is reducing, blend the other TBS of butter with the flour to make a paste.
Whisk that paste into the cooking liquid until smooth and bring to a simmer. Add the cream & simmer over low heat until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the tarragon, add the chicken & any juices collected on the plate and simmer until heated through.
Add salt & pepper to taste, serve with white rice.

French comfort food!! Bon Appetit!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I am not an orangutan...

At least not according to Bourdain, which is high praise indeed. In the Les Halles cookbook, he espouses that "95% of roast chickens are the result of insensitive and murderous overcooking by food hating orangutans". He does have a writing style all his own, which is why his show is top rated (Food Network eat your heart out).

I like to roast a chicken at least once a month. It makes the house smell nice, it creates awesome leftovers, and gives me a carcass for stock making. Right now I have about 2 quarts of chicken stock and 2 quarts of beef stock in the beer fridge freezer, but more on that later.

Bourdain's method is simple, I use it interchangeably with the one from Hamersley's book. Rinse, season & add 1/2 a lemon & 1/2 an onion along with some herbs to the cavity, truss (it takes practice and I am getting better as you can see... sometimes I don't bother though) and pop some softened herb butter under the skin. Rub the outside with some plain butter too. Real butter of course! He puts this all on top of the giblets and the other 1/2 onion as a "rack" with some wine in the pan. Roast in a 375 oven about 30 mins, then crank to 450 for another 30 or so until the liquid out of the thigh runs clear. Let it rest 15 mins, then carve. Oh, and make a nice pan sauce out of that fond with some more wine and maybe some dark chicken stock or veal stock, finished with (yes of course) more butter.

Isn't that lovely?? Yes, I know I didn't cut the wing tips off that time. But now I do! I save them for stock in a ziploc in the freezer. Making hot wings from whole wings adds to this collection too.

Hamersley's version uses an olive oil/herb/lemon juice/mustard rub, roasted in the pan with some potatoes and onions (or I use shallots too). It is lovely as well but doesn't generate a pan sauce. Potatoes and onions cooked in the chicken fat & juices however are a huge bonus.

And something new I discovered through this month's article: To assist in the crispiness of the crust, let the salted chicken dry out in the fridge for a while before applying main seasoning & cooking, also cut some tiny slits in the backbone to let the excess fat drain out.

One last note, Michael Ruhlman has a great post on his blog this week about compound butters, so don't even think about using the "compound butter bar" at Whole Paycheck!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A bit about baking

For ages, my excuse has always been "I don't bake" when it comes to desserts. But not long ago, I realized that maybe I do! I like to bake bread. Bread is really an inexact science, which is why I think I am more successful at it than, say, pie crust. I have tried, to the delight of my husband and child, many recipes and methods. Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads is a great resource. Chowhound's Home Cooking Board has led me to the infamous No Knead Bread, and the new 5 minute Artisan Bread. Cook's Illustrated has even stepped on the no knead bandwagon and has come up with their own version which adds beer & vinegar to the mix. I tried that one twice and was sort of "meh" about it. The simple crusty "5 minutes" bread really does give great results, and being able to keep dough for 4 loaves of it is really awesome - I have some hanging out right now ready to be baked tomorrow! I substituted 2 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour (not to be healthy or anything, I just happened to have it) and it resulted in a hearty, flavorful loaf.

I must say that there is some satisfaction to having freshly baked loaves around like the ones you see right above my profile. I can't for the life of me remember which method I used for those unfortunately. They might have been from Alton's show, but I am pretty sure they were just pain ordinaire from the Clayton book mentioned above.

Do yourself a favor, give home made bread a try!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Yes it is old fashioned...

Not only that, but it contains canned soup. I suppose if you want to be all gourmet you can make a bechamel instead. But really, this is part of history. My mother in law was given this recipe by one of the presidential daughters at a luncheon back in the 60s. My husband and his brother grew up with it, and my son adores it. Why mess with tradition.

Chicken Divan!

I usually microwave and then dice 2 big fat chicken breasts (or else I buy an 8oz pack of already cooked chicken chunks from Trader Joes), steam a bag of cut up broccoli florets (but not too much or it gets too mushy). Place the broccoli in the bottom of a casserole, add the chicken on top.

Mix 1 can of cream of chicken soup with ½ soup can of mayo, 3-5 Tbs curry powder and nearly all of a 4 cup package of grated cheese (I like to use a sharp cheddar). Stir this all together, pour over the casserole, and top with what is left of the cheese.

Cook uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes until the cheese on the top is nice and crusty. Serve over white rice.

Brocolli & Rice Soup

This is the Best…. Soup….. Ever. This is my dad's recipe. It is the perfect wintertime meal, I make this at least every other month from September to March.

1 onion chopped

2 crowns of broccoli chopped (or I use one bag of broccoli florets & chop them up a bit)
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1/2 cup rice
Parmesan cheese freshly grated - for garnish

Sautee the onion in a pot in some olive oil. Add the broccoli, stock & water. Sometimes you may need to add more or less water - taste it, make sure the broccoli is well covered. Bring to a simmer, add rice. Simmer uncovered until broccoli is tender & rice is done. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls, garnish with parmesan cheese.

My variation: before the parmesan, drizzle a dab of truffle oil or nut oil. I know it is over the top but who cares!

An Introduction

One of my first memories as a child was dad coming home from a day on the line. He always smelled like he had cooked with lard all day, I told him, “go away daddy you’re choke”. A lot of food writers talk about “taste memories” -- flash forward a few years, Christmas Eve, mid 70s. There were plates of cheese, salami, & olives. My grandmother made caponata, and my grandfather pickled green tomatoes as well as doctoring up store-bought olives with garlic, dried red pepper and oregano. Platters were stacked with fried calamari, cold shrimp, marinated octopus and roasted peppers. There would always be clam dip, the thick kind made with cream cheese, and Fritos, the kind you can just stand and eat in front of the fridge... On this particular occasion there was a big platter of raw oysters. Now, you wouldn’t think that a 6 year old would like raw oysters but you would be wrong. As was my great uncle Jack (who just in the past few weeks passed away), who told me “oh no honey you won’t like these” just before I slurped up a few. Even though I was pretty adventurous (I liked sweetbreads at a young age), there some really weird exceptions that make me laugh when I think back. For some reason I thought Mexican food was too spicy, so the only thing I would eat would be bean tostadas. Another thing that just curdled my stomach at the time (still does) was spinach noodles. I don’t think they even sell them anymore, but the dried spinach noodles to me always smelled like the pachyderm house at the zoo. Yuck. And can you believe I though I would be a vegetarian in college -- yeah, for about a minute!

Over the last 30 years I have gone from a precocious kid to a teenager that ate the standard teenager crap, to a college student too poor for anything but crap, to a busy professional with a serious cooking hobby. This has ballooned in to notebooks full of recipe clippings and lots of cookbooks. This blog is hopefully going to be a record of what I cooked, where it came from, and whether I would cook it again or not. I'll even try to keep it seasonal (I know, very trendy)

So, welcome to my blog , and in the words of Julia Child, “Bon Appetit!”