Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Is fall here yet?

I know in many parts of the country, Fall is not only here, but Winter is upon you. However, here in Southern California we have been experiencing hot and dry conditions, temperatures in the 80s and 90s. It doesn't really inspire a lot of cooking, so I have been revisiting a lot of favorites. I had big ideas at the beginning of October to make a dent in my 4 Mario Batali books. I made carbonara, which I have done before, and finally got around to the "2 minute Sicilian Lifeguard Calamari" from the Babbo cookbook. I used my grandma's marinara sauce instead of his though, even made a double batch for pasta a few days before.
This was truly a quick dish: the pine nuts, currants, capers, and red pepper are quickly sauteed in some oil, the sauce added, and then the squid goes in and cooks fairly fast. Add to that some par cooked Israeli couscous, and the dish comes together literally in the 2 minutes inferred by the title. The couscous was toothsome, and the calamari was perfectly cooked.
It was a touch spicy though, since the initial sauce already has some crushed red pepper in it I think I added a bit too much. I have been heating up the house just about every other day baking a loaf of the "Artisan Bread in 5" bread, but other than that, motivation is slow to come. But, I did roast a chicken and some egpplant & squash last night that restored my faith in things. Tonight, braised cabbage & Lincolnshire sausages, maybe I will make the cool weather come quicker~

Monday, October 6, 2008

coq au vin

I think Bourdain puts it best..... "like the very best dishes, this is one of those that goes on the stove looking, smelling and tasting pretty nasty". Yep, I pulled this bowl of marinating chicken & aromatics out of the fridge, took the plastic wrap of the top and went, "blech". It smelled and looked pretty bad. But, after all was said and done it tasted pretty darn good.
I used the Les Halles Cookbook recipe, except that I substituted some big fat leg quarters that I had in the freezer. In retrospect, I probably could have cut down on the marination time because of that.
After marinating them in some merlot/cab blend or another (drinkable, eh...), some chopped up aromats and a bouquet garni overnight, I browned the chicken (kind of hard to tell with the purply skin, lol) and the veggies, then added the marinating liquid back to the pot (yes, I thought about the germy implications of this .. but realized it would all be slowly simmering for the next hour or so), and then prepared the garniture...
Fancy, huh? Thick bacon (since for some reason slab bacon is impossible to find around here), mushrooms browned in the bacon fat, and some browned pearl onions. Yes, I cheated and did frozen pearl onions. Next time I will invite you over to peel fresh ones.
Some fresh wine was then reduced in the onion browning pan down to a syrup, then the strained cooking liquid and garniture were added. Wow, wow, wow. The sauce for this was great on its own! The chicken was just ok, blah grocery store chicken, a tad overcooked (my timing was a bit off), but the sauce was really great with some buttered noodles.
Although we would have preferred rice and maybe some crusty bread next time instead. I guess I just don't get buttered noodles as a vehicle for sauce, it doesn't work for me.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Return to an old favorite

Fall is almost in the air here in Southern California (it was 100 degrees for a few days this week, hopefully for the last time) and today it was only about 80 or so. Time to fire up the BBQ for Flank Steak with Coffee & Black Pepper Marinade from Gordon Hamersley's Bistro Cooking at Home.
I had forgotten how much I really love this cookbook. Of course I was reminded when looking through it the other day, many pages are dog eared and stained! I first made this back when we were living in a condo in Santa Clarita - grilling was often a challenge there because of the wind! I think we had a Weber back then. Now with our trusty combo grill/smoker, no problem at all!
This bit of flank steak (which turned out to be a LOT bigger than I thought) was marinated in a cup of espresso, dijon mustard, garlic, shallot, balsamic, dark brown sugar, salt & pepper. For exact measurements, buy the book! You won't regret it!
Grilled to perfection by the grillmaster of the house (rare for flank steak
bien sûr), accompanied by a bordeaux, some haricot verts and a nice salad we had a perfect bistro meal. Of course, we were having it in the living room watching the Dodger game!