Thursday, March 27, 2008

A fun thing....Shabu Shabu night

We have been pretty busy lately with Little League, community band, work, and other stuff that monopolizes our time. I haven't really tried anything new, or really anything old lately. I did make that chicken & sausage again from a few posts back - still awesome though should have used 2 sheet pans instead of a roasting pan for the doubled recipe. We actually went out to eat on Saturday to the Yard House at the Irvine Spectrum. Yes, I know... but we went early (like 5pm) so as not to have the typical Irvine Spectrum "experience". Had some tasty beers, wings & burgers (though the crab cake sandwich was kind of so-so).

I was sifting through some food pictures and found this one for Shabu-Shabu night. Before you think about going and spending $50/pp at Koji's or another type place, consider this: A plate of kobe grade beef is about $25-30 at Mitsuwa or any other Japanese market. Regular prime beef is even cheaper. One plate easily feeds the 3 of us (2 adults and a 9 year old). Add dipping sauces (ponzu & sesame), rice, tofu, bok choy, and noodles. Buy a $10 cooking pot and a $5 hot plate (though we will probably upgrade to the $20 butane cooker from the Japanese market soon - more BTUs). Don't forget the beer and/or sake!

The other piece of that salmon

As I mentioned in my previous post, the other piece of salmon was destined for Fennel Cured Salmon from Ruhlman & Polcyn's Charcuterie book. I didn't take any "before" pictures, it didn't really look that pretty... salmon covered in salt/sugar/fennel. And during the process it gives of a ton of liquid (making its own brine). I would definitely make this again. It was really fennel-y, but I don't mind that at all. It even turned out great with Costco skin-off farmed salmon. I bet it would be even better with good salmon! We enjoyed on Easter Sunday with little rye breads and creme fraiche. And champagne of course!
I made a huge piece so shared with friends - hopefully they will post their comments about it after they try it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cedar Planks & Salmon on sale at Costco, good thing!

I am lucky to be married to one of those guys that applies food to fire with always outstanding results.

This was a think, skinless piece of "Atlantic" salmon from Coscto (the other piece of which I have curing in a fennel cure.. more on that later this week hopefully). A spicy rub was applied, and then to top it off some fresh rosemary from the garden and some blueberry preserves. Just wonderful, as you can see:

Hopefully he remembers what he put on it for next time : )

No more boring pork chops!

For a long time I have read about brining stuff, but have honestly never really done it myself. I have been content with fairly blah pork chops and really do try to avoid boneless skinless tasteless chicken breasts. I always figure I can make some sort of sauce to make flavor. Well, count me converted now thanks to Polcyn & Ruhlman's book. This is just the beginning of the fun I plan with this book too!
I took some big bone in pork chops from Coscto and applied the Garlic Sage brine: a brown sugar brine with garlic, sage & juniper berries. I just pan roasted the chops and improvised a quick vermouth-mustard sauce (juniper+vermouth, get it?).
Even the 9 year old ate a whole chop.

Shrimp and Grits.. or Polenta..

We had an argument about grits vs polenta when we were eating this dish. I think it is interchangeably, especially when you are talking about good stone-ground grits, they are exactly the same as the good stone-ground polenta from the Italian market. I think the difference is that grits are cooked in milk and polenta typically isn't. I suppose our southern friends will weigh in on this. Either way, the last 2 attempts I have had have been met with pretty near failure. It seems I add just a bit too much liquid every time that makes them go from too thick to soupy, usually by adding about 1/2 cup additional liquid. It is a bit disappointing. Oh well. After seeing a No Reservations about South Carolina, I decided to try the East Bay Street Shrimp and Grits from the Lee Bros Southern Cookbook. I did take some liberties: I somehow had peeled/tail on shrimp instead of shell on, so I made the stock with just the tails - seemed to work out fine. And instead of the tomatillos that the Lee Bros call for (doesn't seem really southern but whatever...) I used a big can of whole tomatoes that I crushed with my hands before putting through the food mill. Oh, and I used a dried chile de arbol instead of a fresh jalapeno. I think it added an awesome smokiness to the finished dish. This was (except for the soupy-ness of the grits) a really delicious dish. Maybe next time I will get the grits right... should have used the white instant ones in my pantry maybe, hehe.

Too many? Really?

I don't think so...
I finally have a sec to catch up on a few posts. I've had my shamrock shake, am getting ready to start cooking the corned beef, and have checked up on my curing salmon.
Happy St Patrick's Day everyone!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What would I do with a Williams Sonoma gift card?

Oooh.... I just found out from this cool charcuterie blog, that Kate at The Clean Plate Club is giving away a $50 gift card to WS. That would pay for a bit more than 1/2 of the KitchenAid grinder attachment that I want so I can start making sausage. Woot! I do also need a big ceramic bowl for rising bread, the one I have has little chips in it. I am sure that $50 gift card would turn into a $200 purchase lol.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Nigella Lawson Chicken, Sausage & Sage Bake

I don't get Nigella. She's really perky, almost as annoying (but probably only because she is not on TV here as often) as Rachel Ray. But darn it if her recipes work (like even Ms. EVOO's do)!
I clipped this out of Food & Wine last March and like always never tried it. It is also on her website. So I pulled it out last week and made it for Friday dinner (did the marination prep while getting the bread sponge ready). I was really worried that it might be kind of blah.
I used 3 big chicken leg quarters, and 5 italian sausages. Other than that, pretty much the same. I used a sheet pan instead of getting out my roasting pan.
Here is the before....

And the after...

Big accolades from everyone! The chicken was nice and crisp skinned, the flavor of the sausages and chicken flavored the onions. We dipped bread right into the pan juices on the platter. This is "a keeper" as my son likes to say.

Great Ciabatta

For some reason my main go-to for bread baking, Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Bread doesn't have a method for Ciabatta so I pulled this one off of Epicurious last week. And, wow, did I make some killer bread!!

It does call for a sponge, which you can whip together the night before (I did while getting dinner ready on Thursday)

Then the next day just mix the sponge up with the rest of the ingredients
and you get a pretty sticky mess of dough
after a while though, after rising, shaping and rising again, you get this:
Isn't that wonderful?

The Incredible, Edible Egg!

Remember that? Hehe, I miss Saturday morning cartoons. Schoolhouse Rock, the hankering for a hunk of cheese guy, good times.
Back to the task at hand, Frittatas. I love them, my parents had a restaurant when I was growing up that served omlettes, quiche, crepes, frittatas, and stuff like that. Plus my dad's soups and some standard salads. I once made a frittata for a school project, I went in before school started & made it for my teachers for breakfast in the cafeteria kitchen.
Anyhow, I really like this one from Gourmet magazine in 2005, it is here on Epicuirous.
Simple, use frozen shredded potatoes (I know, but it is a weeknight thing!), green onions & cheese. The recipe calls for Boursin. Sometimes Boursin is a bit spendy (Trader Joes has a good price, other stores not so much), so I have substituted regular or herbed goat cheese (as I did here in this picture), or the same weight in grated sharp Tillamook cheddar. I can highly recommend that, it makes the frittata really puffy and nice. Of course any good Italian cookbook will have many variations, you can fill with pretty much anything from green beans to spaghetti! Green bean & parmesan make an outstanding combination. A salad and maybe some sliced prociutto is all you need with something like this.

And NO, do not spend the money on a special 2 part pan. Pop it under the broiler or in the oven until it is set, then just flip it carefully onto a plate.

My 9 year old loves goat cheese!

I know, it sounds pretty suspicious, but it is true. A while back (oh, like 2004!) I clipped a recipe from Epicurious for Orzo with Ham & Goat cheese. It's pretty good, and an easy weeknight meal. I hadn't made it in a pretty long time, but the other day my son said he missed it and could I make it. Yes, he asked for this dish when most of his classmates wouldn't eat orzo because they think it sounds gross. But give it a goofy name like ricey pasta or maybe Plankton Pasta (if you have kids you know what I refer to here!), and they are all over it. Well, maybe with velveeta but not good fresh goat cheese. Anyhow, I digress. This recipe is so simple, I used a Niman ham steak all chopped up and some squishy cheese. Yum!!
The best part according to the guys is that I usually stir it up once or twice after browning the top to get extra browned bits all stirred in.

Give it a try, it's really great!