Thursday, December 31, 2009

Holy Mole!

One of my culinary loves is the mole. Spicy, sweet, rich. Despite this, I have never attempted to make it myself. A few months ago, we watched an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives that featured moles from the Red Iguana restaurant. One in particular – the Mole Negro -  required more than two dozen ingredients – needless-to-say, this is exactly the kind of cooking challenge I enjoy – but it was too complicated to write-down completely at the time. However, for Christmas, I received “More DD&D”, which contained this recipe (pp. 237-238). I hope you’re as inspired as I was.

The Method
Some recipes are really exercises in preparation and organization. This mole requires a well-stocked pantry. I had to make a few substitutions here – after researching the acceptable alternates. It contains almost 30 ingredients, but none needs any extensive prep.


In order of appearance, by column (L to R):

  • 7 pasilla negro chiles (guajillo as substitute)
  • 6 mulatto chiles (ancho as substitute)
  • 1 quart hot water
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 1 flour tortilla, roughly torn
  • 1 overripe banana/plantain
  • 1 small poblano chile, stemmed/seeded/chopped
  • 5 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled/chopped
  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 C raisins
  • 6 whole sprigs of epazote (I used 1 TB dried)
  • 3 whole springs cilantro
  • 1/3 C walnuts, roasted/chopped
  • 1/3 C salted peanuts (I used peanut-only peanut butter)
  • 2 ounces Mexican chocolate (I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 avocado leaf (Nope, couldn’t find one – maybe an avocado rind next time?)
  • 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. anise seeds
  • 3/4 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 3/4 tsp. dried whole thyme
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 C sugar (I also added 2 TB dark brown sugar)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  1. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chiles (pasilla and mulatto).
  2. Soak the dried chiles in hot water for 20 minutes (keep the water).
  3. Heat 1/4 C oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat.
  4. Toast the tortilla in the oil until golden brown.
  5. Add the banana/plantain, poblano, tomatoes, garlic, onion, raisins, epazote, and cilantro.
  6. Sauté until poblano and onion are soft.P1010010
  7. Add the nuts, chiles and their soaking water, chocolate, bay leaf, avocado leaf, and all the spices (peppercorns through cinnamon stick).
  8. Simmer for 10 minutes.P1010012
  9. Remove the bay leaf and clove. (Finding the clove was a minor miracle, but doing so in under 20 seconds told me this sauce was preordained for gastronomical greatness.)
  10. Transfer the very hot mole to a blender and puree until smooth. You want it to be the consistency of tomato sauce. Add water if necessary.
  11. Heat 1/4 C oil in the deep pot over high heat.
  12. Carefully pour the mole into the pot. (This is very dangerous, as the sauce is thick and slurpy – it likes to pop and sputter.)
  13. Stir in the sugar and then salt to taste.
  14. Simmer for 15 minutes – partially covered to reduce splattering.P1010014 
The Results
Magnificent. I lightly seasoned and browned several chicken breasts then cooked them in the simmering mole for 15 minutes or so. We ate these sliced in homemade tortillas with a few refried beans, lettuce, and fresh avocado.

The sauce hits you with some initial sweetness and a little heat in the front of your mouth. After a few seconds, the heat travels back and becomes deeper, but the chocolate and toasted nuts suddenly appear, too. You could probably discern many of the primary ingredients, if you set your mind to it.

Moles are a treasure. This one seems especially forgiving because of the number and variety of ingredients. I’m dreaming of variations already…but for now, we have plenty of leftovers.


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Sunday, December 27, 2009

CSA Week 17

While you may believe in Santa Claus (and I hope you do), you cannot imagine my disappointment this morning when I realized that we’d forgotten to collect our CSA share this week. With family in town and everyone recovering from a long Christmas day of eating, talking, and – yes – more eating, it didn’t even occur to me to head to the market.

We have enough left0vers to feed ourselves for the next three weeks, but I am sadden to know my eggs and veggies had to be sent to another home.

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Radishes 3.0

Well, somehow I failed to report on a third way to prepare red radishes, which has further ensconced these as a family favorite. I stumbled upon this recipe in the the Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash (p. 241).

The Method

  1. Prepare a marinade of the following:
    • 2 TB soy sauce
    • 2 TB white vinegar
    • 1 TB sugar
    • 2 TB sesame oil
  2. Add up to 4 C of thinly sliced radishes.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
The Results
IMG00694-20091207-1816 We ate these with homemade chili. They would be wonderful by themselves, too.

The sesame oil makes the difference. It has almost a creamy, nutty flavor and complements the crunch and spice of the radishes.

We have leftover radishes from Christmas Even hors d'oeuvres that I have marinating now in the fridge. Yum!

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Just between Us

We’ve known each other long enough for me now to entrust you with my very favorite way to prepare chicken. I learned the general approach from my mom, and have developed my own version.

First, I recommend that you buy a whole chicken (hen, fryer, or roaster is fine) rather than pay the per-pound premium for pre-cut. With a sharp knife and a bit of patience, you can save yourself $1-$2 – plus relearn some high school biology.
Second, you need to inherit as I did (or buy) a large cast iron skillet for this recipe to work. I am fortunate to own three of various sizes. This dish uses the largest – a 13-14” behemoth weighting close to 10 pounds.

Third, it is best to use a charcoal grill – although I have made it in a gas grill and in the oven.

The Method

  • One whole chicken, cut into serving pieces (I would suggest halving the breasts width-wise.)
  • 4 limes
  • 1 head of garlic, separated into peeled cloves
  • Seasoning – I prefer Penzey’s Southwest or Northwoods Fire spice mixes, and have made my own versions of this. I use 3-4 TBs.
  1. Put the juice, garlic cloves, and seasoning in a gallon ziploc bag. Squish to blend. You can add the lime rinds, too.
  2. Add the chicken pieces.
  3. Shake and turn the bag to coat all of the pieces.
  4. Allow marinade to set for at least an hour – 3-4 if possible.
  5. Prepare the grill as you would normally – with a pile of ~30 briquettes.
  6. After the grill is hot and ready for cooking, remove the chicken to a deep cast iron skillet skin-side down.
  7. Place the garlic cloves (and limes) on top of the chicken.
  8. Set the skillet on the grill screen directly over the coals.
  9. Close the grill for 45 minutes.
  10. Open the grill and use tongs to reposition the chicken pieces. (Turn once the skin has browned.)
    • NOTE: the skillet will fill with juices from the chicken and marinade during the first hour of cooking. I’ve always left these to cook off, although you could remove them. They help to caramelize the skin and flavor the meat, however; so I would leave them.
  11. Cook for another 20-30 minutes after turning. (The chicken will be done before you flip it, but I like to have it brown on all sides.)
The Results
IMG00718-20091221-1936 We eat this 3-4 times per month. The chicken absorbs the marinade and develops an almost-chewy caramelized texture on the outside. The best portions, in my opinion, are the back and wings. These don’t have much meat, but do become especially flavorful.
We served this with brown rice and OPO greens (steamed with radishes). [You can see the brown crispies from the skillet to the right – these include chunks of now-roasted garlic. Heaven!]

I don’t recommend using a juice or marinade with much sugar in it, as these tend to burn over such a high heat and long cooking time. For example, I have had difficulties in substituting orange juice for the limes.

You owe me one.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Leaving nothing behind

Having lived abroad and traveled to many countries, I’m keenly aware of the almost-unique American' propensity to use only select portions of fruits and vegetables. For example, greens – now a favorite in our family thanks to Orchard Pond Organics – are widely seen as a Southern staple, but are less commonly eaten in the North. However, in many places – particularly those in less developed regions around the globe – so much effort is required to grow food plants that all edible portions are used. (You can extend the same argument to the eating of offal, use of plant roots/branches to make tea or medicine, and the inclusion of vermin and insects in the diet.)

This week we received a beautiful set of broccoli heads. Attached to each was a set of deep green leaves. If you consider store-bought broccoli, you’ll note that it generally comes without leaves.

Our neighbor brought over some pork and venison sausage, which he had prepared after a recent successful deer hunt. It was smoked, and therefore had a deep, rich flavor.  I decided to brown it over high, dry heat, and serve broccoli and fresh bread along side.
I cooked the broccoli, along with its leaves, in the microwave – steaming it for only two minutes. While I can’t promise that my neighbor will share his sausage with you, I can highly recommend enjoying all of your broccoli – and buying it fully adorned whenever possible!


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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Roots of Happiness

I’m several days behind in blogging. We had the good fortune to host both families this past week. Nearly everyone joined us, and those who didn’t received plenty of food updates via text and email messages.
The week opened with the weather finally turning cooler and the holiday approaching, it was time for the quintessential winter dish: pot roast. Fortunately, there were plenty of root vegetables during the past two week’s OPO shares to add. And the general busyness of the season made this a perfect crock-pot dinner, which we shared with one set of parents who had driven down from Illinois.
The Method

  • One chuck/pot roast
  • Assorted root vegetables, roughly chopped (I used OPO carrots, rutabagas, and radishes, along with celery.)
  • Seasoned flour – I used salt, pepper, thyme, and cayenne pepper.
roast veggies
  1. Bring the roast to approx. room temperature.
  2. Dredge the roast in seasoned flour.
  3. Heat 2 TB oil and 2 TB butter over a high burner.
  4. Brown the roast on all sides. Remove to a plate.
  5. Leaving the fat in the pan, lightly brown the vegetables.
  6. Add the vegetables to the crock-pot.
  7. Add 1/2 C red wine.
  8. Stick 4 cloves into a whole, small, peeled onion; place in the crock-pot.
  9. Add 2 bay leaves.
  10. Place the roast on top of the vegetables.
  11. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. (In all honesty, it wasn’t done after 6 hours on high, so we allow it to cook on low until the next evening – about 25 hours.)
The Results
This is a very low-commitment dish. It takes only 15-20 minutes to prepare; then you simply allow the crock-pot to do its magic. We served this with brown rice. A fine meal.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

CSA Week 16

Our friends at Orchard Pond Organics has struggled with the constant rain over the past few weeks. They haven't been able to get into the field with the tractor. But this week's harvest is beautiful:
  • Carrots
  • rutabagas
  • broccoli
  • purple kale
  • and ??? (Jennifer twice told me the name of the small bunch of greens, but I forgot.)

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kale and cheese sandwich

I made this delicious sandwich for lunch today: kale, Lumberjack cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy, salami, and a little mustard. Crunchy, tangy, and a bit of spice.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

CSA Week 15

A cold, wet week and even more miserable Saturday morning, but the OPO folks were waiting for us at the farmers' market. The weather has kept them out of the field for the past several days. But, I learned, they did finally mow down the okra. (Hooray!)

This week's share offers some deeply-colored vegetables: perfect items for cooking warm dishes. Beautiful, aren't they?

  • collards
  • kale
  • carrots
  • turnip greens
  • radishes
  • broccoli leaves and heads
  • eggs

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Special spaghetti

Families give names to favorite dishes, often to designate their source or significance. My mom is a marvelous cook, so it would have been necessary to label almost everything "Mom's ____" when we were growing up. Instead, the identity of dishes by common-name alone was sufficient to evoke the desired response: craving. (Although a few dishes produce the opposite effect: Yorkshire pudding, for example. Sorry, Mom.)

Yet, even in such a food-positive family, some things stood apart. Special spaghetti is such a meal. Ridiculously easy, it holds a place among comfort foods in our family with few matches.

The Method

  1. Prepare 1# (box) of pasta. Spaghetti or linguini works well. Smaller diameter noodles do not. You can certainly use alternate varieties, such as farfalle, corkscrew, etc.
  2. Add 1 C frozen peas to the cooking water about halfway through. Alternately, you can heat these separately in the microwave.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, brown up to 1# of bacon. [Admittedly, I probably eat 3-4 slices before they can make it into the dish.]
  4. Roughly chop bacon slices. [You really only need 4-6 slices for the recipe. Keep the others for sandwiches...if there are leftovers.]
  5. In a bowl, combine:
    1. 3-4 eggs, beaten
    2. 1/2-1 C Parmesan cheese, freshly grated is best by far
    3. 1/4 C cream (optional)
  6. When the pasta is al dente, drain and return to the pot.
  7. Pour the egg mixture, bacon, and peas over the HOT pasta.
  8. Stir until the eggs are cooked - coating the pasta. You can place the pot over heat, if necessary. Do not overcook. Allow the eggs to remain a little creamy.
  9. Season with black pepper.

The Result

IMG00693-20091203-1934  Call this pasta carbonara. Call it Pasta Mama. We think special spaghetti is the perfect name.

Leftovers are wonderful for breakfast. Add a splash of milk or water when reheating, if the eggs seem dry.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

CSA Week 14

Our first CSA session is drawing to a close. Orchard Pond Organics is in its second year of operation, and is doing well I understand. They are looking ahead to the winter season. Mary reports they will have: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, rutabagas, and lettuce. The March of the Greens will be unrelenting, but I may release myself from the "new recipe" requirement. We are very excited for the Brussels sprouts - a favorite here.

Registration is open. $400 for a full share, $224 for a half.

OPO's hens are now laying, so they are providing the eggs themselves. The partnerships with Red Bridge (beef) and Sweet Grass Dairy are continuing. Oh, and they have honey, bread, and preserves on offer, too.

Week 14 saw a nice mixture of root vegetables and greens.

  • Bok choy
  • Rutabagas
  • carrrots
  • arugula
  • radishes
  • other greens (I failed to take a picture)
  • We also bought Red Bridge ground beef and a ribeye, along with two cheeses from Sweet Grass: a gouda and "Lumberjack" (a salty-tangy  cheese, a bit like a really good feta).

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Breakfast burritos

Having one's own meat grinder is a wonderful thing - especially if you love sausage. I woke up dreaming of a breakfast burrito. Having just received our OPO eggs and with cheese and flour tortillas in the fridge,  most of the key ingredients were at hand. We also had prepared some breakfast sausage during our recent sliders meal. The stage was set...

The Method (Breakfast Sausage ala Alton Brown)
  • 2# pork butt, diced into 1/2" pieces 
  • 1/4# salt pork, diced
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground 
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried sage leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary leaves
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp allspice (or nutmeg - still out)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

  1. Combine the seasoning and meat. 
  2. Place in the freezer for 1/2 hour to allow the meat to become firm.
  3. Grind.
The Results

If you haven't ever made your own sausage, it's an entirely different eating experience than store-bought varieties. The flavor is more subtle and the texture less uniform. It is also much less salty and tastes - in my mind - fresher, with an almost sweet undertone.

I don't need to relate the construction of a breakfast burrito: scrambled eggs, cheese, sausage, a bit of sour cream and salsa on the side. But - oh, wait - hash browns!  You have to add hashbrowns, too. Delicious - through-and-through!

The Method (Hashbrowns)

It's tempting to use frozen hashbrowns, but they take only a few minutes longer to make from scratch.
  1. Grate 2-3 large yellow potatoes (a cheese grater works beautifully)
  2. Grate 1/2 onion
  3. Combine the potatoes and onion.
  4. Squeeze handfuls of the mixture mercilessly over the sink. Remove as much water as you can.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Cook in a little oil and butter over high heat until golden brown.

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    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Fish Tacos 2.0

    With fewer greens this week and Thanksgiving just behind us, I was conjuring up a lighter menu. Fish tacos came to mind - especially after versions 1.0 and 1.5. Holding fast to my goal of not repeating recipes, I elected to create a less-fruity dish.

    The Method

    1. Use 1# tilapia filets
    2. Create a marinade:
      • juice of 1 lime
      • 1 tsp chili powder
      • 1/2 tsp fresh jalapeno, minced
      • 2 cloves garlic, minced
      • 1 tsp cumin
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • 1/2 tsp black pepper
      • 1/4 tsp oregano
      • 1/8 tsp cayenne
      • 1/4 tsp onion powder
      • 1/8 tsp ancho
    3. Marinate for 1/2 hour
    4. Cook in a little oil over high heat 


    The Results

    IMG00690-20091129-1740The more interesting part of this dish was the selection of toppings. Turning to the CSA and local farms, we added bok choy, cucumbers, and a hard goat's milk cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy. These offset the spiciness of the seasoning beautifully.

    Oh, and I marinated and cooked off a few shrimp, too. We served them in whole wheat burrito wraps and a few hard, yellow corn taco shells. A bright, fresh dish.


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    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Sliders, Grinders, and Chips

    As I mentioned a few weeks back, Orchard Pond Organics has partnered with local farms to provide grass-fed beef of varying cuts and cheeses. Junior Chef #1 decided that we should make "sliders" for dinner. This sounded like a terrific idea - any excuse to eat 3+ burgers at one sitting. But then came the wrinkle: not only were we to make ground beef sliders, but "bratger" sliders, too. I figured we should go all the way and make homemade potato chips, too. At some point, I figure the fat molecules glide over one another and straight through your body - never having a real chance at being absorbed. Then again, I'm an optimist.

    So we purchased 2# of Red Bridge ground beef along with our CSA share, then headed to the grocery store to buy pork, potatoes, and buns. I settled on a 3# nice Boston Butt, and decided to make breakfast sausage from half and bratgers from the other half.

    The Method (Bratgers)
    My first attempt at bratwurst burgers (bratgers) resulted in an overly-spiced sausage mix, and struggles with grinding the meat. After a quick Google search, I discovered that placing the seasoned meat in the freezer for a half-hour before grinding might address the latter problem. As for the seasoning, I decided to make do on my own.

    1. Cube 1# pork (1/2 - 1# pieces is fine).
    2. 3-4 slices salt pork, roughly chopped
    3. Create a brat spice mixture:
      • 1 tsp white pepper, ground
      • 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
      • 1/2 tsp allspice (I didn't have nutmeg, or I would have used that)
      • 1 tsp sage, ground/rubbed
      • 1/4 tsp coriander, ground
      • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
    4. Combine the meat and spices throughly.
    5. Place in freezer for 1/2 hour.
    6. Grind.
    The Method (Sliders)
    There's not much of a story to tell about preparing the beef sliders. I added a little salt and pepper, a shake of garlic powder, and 1 TB of horseradish to 1# of meat.
    I prepared 5 small patties from both the bratger and beef mixtures.
    1. Melt 2 TB butter on a griddle
    2. Add 1 onion, thickly sliced.
    3. Place the patties among the onions. Flatten with your spatula.
    We added blue cheese to a few of the beef sliders after flipping.
    The Method (Chips)
    swissmar-mandolineIf you don't own a mandolin, making homemade potato chips gives you the perfect excuse to buy one. They are not terribly expensive, and make the preparation of thinly-sliced veggies a snap. They consist of a sharp V-shaped blade set into a plastic or stainless steel surface. A hand guard allows you to work the food quickly across the blade without losing a finger. Some are adjustable to enable you to prepare julienne cuts, or to vary the thickness of the slices.

    We used russet potatoes and produced the thinnest slices possible (.75 MM).

    We fried these in 375 degree oil for 6-8 minutes per batch. (Don't overcrowd them.) We salted them lightly after draining on newspaper.

    The Results
    What is there not to love? Topped with the grilled onions, a little mustard, and a dab of pickle relish, sliders are tiny packets of finger-licking goodness. Better yet, we have leftovers - so they'll join us for another meal very soon. Sadly, none of the chips made it - in fact, none lasted but a few moments after hitting the newspaper. Starches receive no quarter here.

    The bratger seasoning was a marked improvement over the original version. And, yes, slightly freezing the meat made all the difference: it ground easily and didn't bind up or become gummy in the grinder.

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    CSA Week 13

    Fewer greens in this week's share than previously. We did receive a bunch of beautiful carrots. In addition, there was:

    • mustard greens
    • bok choy
    • arugula 
    • red radishes (gorgeous - sandwiches on the menu!)
    Somehow we missed taking a picture again. Trust me, everything looks very tasty!

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    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Arugula Quiche

    A week's worth of eggs and greens greeted me when I returned home this past weekend. It also happened that we were responsible for preparing an apple pie for the Thanksgiving celebration in Junior Chef #2's class. That meant there was pie dough to spare. Time for quiche!
    The Method

    1. Preheat oven to 350.
    2. Saute chopped onions in a few TBs of butter.
    3. Add 5-6 C arugula, roughly chopped.
    4. Sprinkle with garlic powder (No, I still haven't bought fresh garlic.)
    5. Add a few leaves of lemon basil, lightly chopped.
    6. Add a few TBs of water to generate sufficient steam to wilt the arugula.
    7. Line an ungreased quiche pan with pie crust.
    8. Cover the bottom of the crust with grated cheese. I used a mixture of pepper jack, sharp cheddar in one quiche and only swiss in the other.
    9. Once the greens are tender, layer over the cheese.arugula quiche
    10. We added whole grape tomatoes to the blended cheese quiche.
    11. Beat 4 eggs with 1 1/2 C skim milk.
    12. Season with salt and pepper.
    13. Pour over the greens.
    14. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown.
    The Results
    This is such a simple and delicious dish. It takes only a few minutes, and is wonderful for any meal. The arugula held up nicely. It would have been even better with a whole wheat crust. Next time.

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    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Mac cheese and greens

    The combination of mac and cheese with greens has become a personal favorite. Comfort food pure and simple. This is a simple cover version of the original. I did add a little brown sugar and OPO radishes to the greens for variety - and, yes, peas in the mac and cheese (always peas).

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    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    CSA Week 12

    After three weeks of nearly full-time travel, I'm back in the kitchen. The rest of the home kitchen staff collected the CSA produce and cooked while I was away. 

    You can see three items apart from the usual array of greens:
    • carrots
    • green chilies
    • lemon basil (front center)

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    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Seafood Boil

    While this seafood boil doesn't involve any of the delicious produce we receive from Orchard Pond Organics, it is a favorite of friend and family alike. It's so easy, in fact, that I generally feel guilty for accepting any credit: Florida fresh seafood makes this dish what it is - Outstanding! (Admittedly, having access to high-quality seafood is also a luxury. The selection below cost $75 here plus $25 more of the other ingredients. I know it would be much more expensive in other locations.)
    To be fair, it also is not a boil but rather a "seafood steam." It requires little effort, but does work best if you stage the items as described.
    The Method
    seafoodpotPurchase a very large steamer pot. (I use a stainless steel pot, which holds 3...maybe 4 gallons.)  imageYou also need something to keep the food off the bottom of the pot during cooking. I use a folding steamer basket.  This works well in pots of varying diameters.

    1. Buy an assortment of seafood items (and accompaniments). Here is a typical list, serving 6 adults and 2 children:
      • 2-3# large wild shrimp (in the shell)
      • 1 doz. clams
      • 1 bag of mussels
      • 8 medium stone crab claws (in season)
      • 8 Alaskan King crab legs (these can be "steamed" in the microwave - thank you, Alton Brown, for saving me space in the pot).
      • 4 ears of corn (in the husk)
      • 6-8 new red potatoes, washed but unpeeled
      • 1-2# sausage (I use turkey kielbasa, andouille, and/or linguisa.)
      • 1 large onion, quartered
      • 1 box (bag) Zatarain's Crab Boil image(I have made my own several times with equally good effect.)
      • Two bottles of good, dark beer (I generally use Sam Adams or Bass. I would not use a porter or other high-sugar content beer, as it may burn or impart too strong-a-flavor to the seafood.)
      • You will also want a measure of good, unsalted butter, ketchup and horseradish (or just buy cocktail sauce), lemons, crab crackers (for the shells), napkins, and several large platters.

    2. A word of advice: you will be working inside a steaming pot during several steps. Be careful.
    3. First, place the spice packet into the pot and cover with the beer.
    4. Set the steamer basket on top. (You can also use a plate or pie tin set upon a ramekin, etc.)
    5. Shuck the corn - setting aside the husks for later. Add the potatoes.
    6. Bring pot to a boil. (Keep at a high boil throughout.) Cook for 10 minutes.
    7. Add the quartered onion and sausages.
    8. Cover with the corn husks.
    9. Cook another 10 minutes.  husks sausage
    10. Add the stone crab claws (and King Crab, if not microwaving). Cook 5 minutes.
    11. Add the shrimp and clams.
    12. Squeeze the juice of two lemons over the shrimp. Leave the lemon rinds in the pot. Cook until the shrimp just begin to turn pink (about 5 minutes).
    13. Add the mussels.
    14. Cook another 5-10 minutes, or until the mollusks open completely. fullpot
    15. Seek assistance of 2-3 friends to remove pot from stove. It will be heavy!
    16. Remove the items to several platters for serving.
    The Results
    Unadulterated seafood bliss. The beer imparts a little flavor, mainly to the corn and potatoes.  I set ramekins of melted butter (with a little lemon juiced added) around the table, along with homemade cocktail sauce. Everyone fends for themselves - although the Junior Chefs generally need some help with cracking the crab.
    You can keep leftovers from this. The mussels reheat well within a day or two; toss them with some pasta, Parmesan, and a little butter. Shrimp...well, there are plenty of ways to eat those. [Does anyone else's Blackberry leave lines in your photos?]remains

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    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Four corners and layers of flavor

    It's odd that I was in the mood for chicken. We eat little red meat and have chicken (or pork or seafood) for most meals. But chicken sounded perfect this weekend. Then there were the greens... Knowing that I have bags of fresh greens in the fridge led me to think about a variation on my fish + greens = goodness recipe in October.

    I should confess that I also love crispy chicken skin, so cooking by steaming in a packet wasn't very appealing. Instead I decided to roast the chicken. How then to incorporate the greens? Certainly, they could be sauteed and stuffed in the bird, or perhaps laid underneath during cooking. I opted for the latter.

    The Method (Marinade)
    1. Combine:

      • 1 TB dried rosemary
      • 1 tsp ground black pepper
      • 1 tsp salt
      • juice from three oranges
      • juice from one lemon
      • 1/2 tsp mango powder

    2. Marinate chicken pieces for 2-3 hours.
    The Method (Greens)
    1. Render chicken skin. (You should have 3-4 TBs of fat.)
    2. Add 5-6 white radishes (peeled), 1 large carrot (roughly chopped), 1 large onion (roughly chopped).
    3. Add 2 TBs garlic, minced
    4. Add 1 TB ginger, minced
    5. Sautee until vegetables begin to brown.
    6. Add 5-6 C greens, roughly chopped (I used mustard greens and bok choy).
    7. Cook until the greens are wilted and almost tender.
    The Method (Chicken)
    1. Preheat oven to 350.
    2. Heat oil in a deep skillet until smoking hot.
    3. Brown the chicken on all sides. (Don't crowd the pan. The pieces will brown faster. I split one chicken into two batches.)
    4. In a roasting pan, layer in order:
      • the wilted greens and veggies
      • a thick layer of cooked brown rice
      • the chicken pieces
    5. Drizzle the remaining marinade over the chicken.
    6. Looking ahead to dessert, I partially cored and placed an apple in each corner of the roasting pan. I set a pat of butter inside the top of each apple.
    7. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the chicken is done. (I use a convection oven, which shortens the cooking time a bit.)
    The Results
    Everything was incredibly moist. The greens, much to my surprise, did not dry out at all. A few grains of rice around the edge of the pan were crispy. Orange infused the entire dish...but was not overwhelming. Rosemary was the most pronounced scent and flavor, but - again- not distractingly so. The apples absorbed the mix of flavors - bit of cinnamon would have been fine.

    image Next time, I would perhaps flip on the broiler for the last few minutes to crisp the chicken skin a bit more.  This would work well with fish (if it is firm fleshed and/or oily like salmon), beef, or pork. The addition of carrots was fine but not necessary, while the onions and radishes contributed to the overall flavor of the greens.

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    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    A plate of sunshine

    Growing attention is being given to the humane and health aspects of eating corn-fed beef and other industrialized types of meat. (Plenty of good sources, I like Michael Pollen among many others.) We do not limit our consumption to only organic, free-range, or other preferred animals. Perhaps we should, if only for reasons of taste. Eating grass-fed beef, as we did tonight with steaks from Red Bridge Beef, is a different experience than one normally has with supermarket meat.

    The distinction between grass- and corn-fed beef during our dinner-time conversation sparked an observation that we were really eating "sunshine." Meat is an inefficient  way to do this, of course, but eating locally-grown and free-range animals is a step in a positive direction. Plus, it is incredibly delicious! (With consideration for our vegetarian friends.)

    I failed to take a picture of the raw ribeyes. They were nicely marbled and possessed thick layers of fat in the proper places. Generally, I like to cook steaks on a charcoal grill, but wasn't feeling well-enough to spend the time in the cool air.

    The Method

    Thank you to my father-in-law for suggesting that we use a recipe he found for Outback's steak seasoning. I reduced the original proportions by half, because I was preparing only two steaks. The result was:

    • 4 tsps salt
    • 2 tsps paprika
    • 1 tsp ground black pepper
    • 1 tsp onion power
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
    • ½ tsp coriander
    • ½ tsp turmeric
    1. Bring steaks to room temperature.
    2. Season on both sides with seasoning mix.
    3. Melt 1 TB butter and 1 TB olive oil in a frying pan. Heat until smoking hot.
    4. Add steaks.
    5. Cook to preferred temperature. (Our preferences range from the rare side of Medium-Rare to the well side of Medium.)

    The Result

    steak We seldom have red meat, and even less often steak. These were marvelous. The flavor was - well - simply two-steps above anything you can find in the store (or nearly any restaurant): "deep" is the best descriptor.  The texture was soft...not quite buttery as would be a filet, but fork-tender. It was a steak to be savored bite-by-bite. The seasoning was excellent, too. I used about 2/3 of the mix on the two steaks, and would reduce it a bit further next time. I might also cut the coriander in half.

    Our now-regularly appearing salad of OPO mixed greens with a balsamic vinaigrette, OPO sweet potatoes (diced and boiled until tender), and caramelized onions rounded out the meal. Nothing fancy, but served with a glass of cabernet...the perfect way to forget how poorly I felt most of the day.

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    CSW Week 11

    The seasons are beginning to change, but apparently the okra continues its steady advance on humankind (or at least upon our CSA). Fortunately, our friends at Orchard Pond Organics ASKED if I would like okra this week. I politely (?) declined, but did accept their offer of additional salad greens. The younger man in line behind me opted for the ubiquitous green pods. I almost offered to run home and bring him the bag we have from last week's share, but he had gleefully trotted off before that idea had come to me.

    This week's picture shows the share as it's received. Several delicious, recurring favorites were among the items:
    • mustard greens
    • mubuna (sp?) (Thank you to the OPO women for identifying this for me. Front center, below the eggplant.)
    • bok choy (two types)
    • salad greens (lots)
    • three baby eggplants
    • arugula
    • eggs
    image Sunday will need to be filled with aggressive cooking, or else Senior Chef #2 and the Junior Chefs will be stuck with plenty of edible leaves while I am away for another business trip.

    By the way, a quick word about washing greens. After trying several approaches, we have settled upon the triple-soak and spin. We fill the sink with cold water. Drop a load of leaves in and churn them about for a few seconds, then allow them to sit for a couple of minutes. Then spin them dry in the salad spinner, re-rinse (generally in the same water...the sand /dirt sinks). Repeat three times. This seems to produce the best results for storing (they last longer) and eating (no grit).

    If you have a better method, let me know!

    Finally, breakfast today - courtesy of Senior Chef #2 - was homemade french toast using the remaining Anadama Bread. Fabulous!

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    Beans, Bones, and Greens.

    As I have a few times previously, I found myself confronted with a backlog of greens. There was also the residual humerus from the stuffed pork shoulder to be addressed. Touring the pantry, however, I found few options for dried beans...until I stumbled upon a bag of lima beans. But, these were purchased from Winn Dixie perhaps 5-6 years ago.
    Would they still be good?
    They smelled fine and were uniformly firm. I decided to quick soak them and see. Finding no issues, I proceeded with the soup.
    The Method
    1. Place the dried beans (any type) in several cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cook for two minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to sit for 1 hour. Drain.
    2. Soak a handful of dried forest mushrooms in very hot water for 20-30 minutes.
    3. While the beans and mushrooms soak, brown pork bones in a deep pot. (You could have done this in the oven for an even deeper roasted flavor.)bone
    4. Scrounge three leftover Italian sausages from the freezer. (Why did I have three, single sausages in ziplocs? Why not just cook the extra link each time?)
    5. Brown the sausages along with the bones.
    6. Add six cloves of whole garlic, the mushrooms, 1 tsp dried thyme, a bay leaf, and enough water to cover the bones.
    7. Bring to a boil.
    8. Add the soaked beans.
    9. Add 6-8 cups of roughly chopped greens (bok choy and mabuna).
    10. Season with salt and pepper.
    11. Simmer for at least 1/2 hour. (I cooked this for 2+ hours.)
    12. Remove the bones - picking and adding any meat to the soup.
    The Result
    limasoup Mellow. The sharpness of the greens and roasted pork bones were discernible and the beans created a thick, creamy base. It was the perfect dish, served with a salad and slices of Anadama bread (freshly thawed and heated in the oven), for a cool fall evening. The Junior Chefs added hot sauce to their bowls partway through and reported it was delicious (my bowl was already empty).
    limasoupfinalOther things to try. I would certainly make this with other types of stock bones. It would also be worth adding tomatoes or tomato paste midway through cooking. Different varieties of beans would work well, too.

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    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    CSA Week 10

    A week of travel for work and plenty of activity at home has kept me away from cooking and the blog. Our week ten CSA share contained the usual suspects and a couple of less frequent items:
    • an array of greens (mustard, bok choy, mabuna)
    • salad greens
    • okra (hmmm...should I hope for a heavy frost?)
    • white radishes
    • broccoli
    I wasn't even in town to collect them from the farmers' market, but my kitchen staff obliged. Alas, we have no picture.

    We spent the week eating simple salads dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Junior Chef #1 has become quite proficient at preparing the dressing - in part because he likes the word "emulsify." We added thinly sliced radishes, too. There was some complaint that this precluded the creation of radish sandwiches. Epiphany becomes legacy.

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    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Stuffed Cider Pork Shoulder

    I recently saw a recipe for a smoked pork shoulder stuffed with blanched greens. While I like smoked meats, building an entire meal around a single smoked cut is tricky business. If the smoke is too strong, it could overwhelm the dish. Perhaps I'll try to smoke my own some time soon.

    Instead, I decided to work with a fresh pork shoulder, which I deboned myself. (That was a harder task than I anticipated. It did leave me with an excellent bone with which to make a pot of beans at a future date.)

    The marinade is also my own creation. I'm blogging prospectively. It's shaping up to be a two-day prep. We'll see how it turns out.

    The Method (Marinade)

    After deboning the shoulder, I realized that someone (Senior Chef #2) had made a fruit salad using the orange I intended to add to the marinade. This sparked a little innovation.

    1. Season the shoulder, laid out in a roasting dish:
      • Salt and pepper
      • Thyme
      • Allspice (ground)
      • 7-8 cloves
      • 6-7 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
      • 4 sticks of cinnamon
    2. What to use as liquid? I had once made pork loin roasted with granny smith apples. While we had no apples in the house to add to the marinade, we did have...
      • 2 bottles of hard, granny smith apple cider
    3. Cover the pan with foil. Marinade overnight. Flip the meat two or three times.
    4. Retain the marinade after removing the meat. Bring marinade to a boil and set aside to use as basting liquid when roasting the pork.


    The Method (Stuffing)

    I opted for a mixture of spicy greens to offset the sweetness in the cider and allspice.

    1. Roughly chop 1# mustard greens.
    2. Dice 1 sweet potato (about 1 C).
    3. Bring several cups of water to a boil.
    4. Add the garlic, cinnamon sticks, and cloves from the marinade to the water.
    5. Blanch the sweet potato for 5 minutes.
    6. Use a slotted spoon to remove the sweet potato, cinnamon sticks, garlic, and cloves. porklayer
    7. Salt the liquid and return to a boil.
    8. Add the mustard greens and cook until tender (about 10 minutes).
    9. Drain the greens.
    10. In a bowl, mix the greens, 1 TB butter (melted), and one egg (beaten). porkwrap
    11. Season the stuffing with salt and pepper.
    12. Place a layer of greens followed by a layer of sweet potato over the butterflied pork shoulder.
    13. Roll the shoulder to enclose the stuffing. 
    14. Secure with butcher's string. 

    The Method (Roasting)

    I began by cooking this over indirect heat on the grill for 1 hour, skin-side down. The heat was a bit high (or I left it longer than I should have) and the skin crisped up very quickly.

    Next, I flipped the roast and basted it with some of the leftover marinade. (At this point, I add a few briquettes of charcoal to each side basket on my grill. I should have covered the meat with foil, but didn't.)

    When I next checked the meat (one hour later), the skin had browned considerably. I intended to make several shallow slices in it to allow the fat to cook down, but it was too hard to pierce easily. I managed to stab a few small slits and basted it. I added a few more pieces of charcoal.

    The roast cooked for a total of 3 hours (160 degrees internal temperature is fine). I was distracted and cooked it to 169 degrees. :(

    The Result

    This reminded me of pig roasts from my youth. The garlic and spices permeated the meat. It cooked longer than I would have liked and was a bit dry as a result.  The greens were exceptionally mild, even though I used mustard greens; and the sweet potatoes were equally understated but tender. porkdone0

    The Junior Chefs weren't happy with the amount of fat surrounding each slice. (This is either a boon or bane of pork shoulder - depending upon your fat-titude. I think, too, they were less happy with this cut of meat, because it is much more "gamey" than other types of pork (especially when roasted this way).

    The Senior Chefs enjoyed themselves (as did Chuck's best furry friend forever, Ticho, our Havanese). We agreed I should have cooked it for less time and basted it more frequently. Still, the spices and cider marinade worked very well. The meat had a smoked quality from the long roasting. Had I protected and scored the fat earlier on, I think it would have improved things overall.porkdone

    Served with brown rice. A solid dish. If you like pork shoulder, this is worth trying. Enjoy!

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    Boeuf et Porc: Tried and New

    It is an act of pure hubris to blog about making boeuf bourguinon. After the release of Julie and Julia earlier this year, I suspect there are thousands of folks who have made and waxed poetic about this dish. 

    You can find a scanned copy of the original recipe here on Knopf's website. This also provides the recipes for the brown-braised onions and sauteed mushrooms that accompany (and round out) this classic dish. I have made this before, so will provide only a few photos that show the major steps.

    (I decided to create a separate pork shoulder post, but I'm leaving reference to pork here because I like this post title.)

    The Method (Boeuf Bourguinon)
    Brown the beef. I used a top round roast, which I cut into chunks. It does make a difference if you buy good meat and dry each piece before searing.
    It is well-worth the time to prepare the mushrooms and onions in the way described in the recipes.
    I use a coffee-filter tied with twine to hold the herb bouquet in dishes like this. (You can see this in the onion picture.)
    The Result
    bbThere's little I could add to your imagination beyond what the recipe provides that could further convince you to take a few hours to prepare beef bourguinon.You deserve to eat this It was, in fact, so good - and late after a night of Halloween festivities - that I forgot to take the picture until mid-way through the meal.

    It is so rich, however, that we'll need to wait another couple of months before making it again.

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    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    Three for Three

    With family in town, who like to eat, today has been a frenzy of cooking. Three dishes in three hours.

    • Leek and Potato Soup
    • Boeuf Bourguinon (ala Julia Child)
    • Stuffed pork shoulder (ala moi)

    We'll deal with the second and third dishes in later posts.

    The Method (Leek and Potato Soup)

    With an hour's notice, I was asked to make soup for lunch. This is a simple recipe for that yields a creamy, fresh soup.

    1. Chop four slices of bacon into 1# pieces.
    2. In a soup pot, brown the bacon in 2 TBs of butter.
    3. To the pot, chop and add:
      • 3 large leeks
      • 1 large onion
      • 2 stalks celery
    4. Saute the vegetables - without browning - until tender.preleek0
    5. Add 2 quarts chicken stock.
    6. Add 5-6 potatoes, roughly chopped. (I used yellow potatoes, which resulted in a light green color to the soup.)
    7. Bring soup to a boil then simmer until the potatoes are tender (about 15-20 minutes).preleek
    8. Blend or mash the veggies to create a smooth soup. (I used a potato masher, leaving the pot on the stove.)
    9. Optional: add 1-2 C heavy cream at the end. If you do, however, the soup will not freeze well.

    The Result

    leeksoupEveryone enjoyed this light (we omitted cream), flavorful soup. I like mine with a heavy grind of black pepper. There's plenty for another meal.

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    Kudya Bwino Bwino (Eating Well) © 2009