Thursday, March 27, 2008

chorizo, egg & raisin tacos

A while back this Serious Eats "dinner tonight" post caught my eye...chorizo, egg and raisin tacos. Sounded interesting, flavor-wise, and simple...perfect for a weeknight.

It IS easy. The only thing I really did different than the Serious Eats' method was I soaked my raisins in tequila instead of boring old water. I also made pico de gallo to top them. No need for a recipe, because it's pretty much cook some onions, chorizo and raisins, check for seasoning, add eggs, put on tortilla. eat. If you'd like more egg, use more egg. More sausage? you get it.

These were good! I had some for breakfast the next morning, too. Fun!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

jack's sandwich of awesome

This is a sandwich I've decided to call "Jack's Sandwich of Awesome." He's made it quite a few times, but I've never bothered to give it a name. I just bothered to eat the heck out of it because it's so...awesome.

Here's the low-down on Jack's Sandwich of Awesome: blend up some fresh rosemary, fresh garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper to form kind of a paste. Rub it all over a flank steak. Grill flank steak until it is rare to medium rare. Slice steak against the grain into thin strips. Put it on some good crusty bread (here we used ciabatta rolls), top it with gorgonzola cheese and mixed greens that have been tossed with balsamic vinegar & olive oil. Pass out cold from the awesomeness.

Friday, March 21, 2008

An update and a chimp

Hey St. Louis! Remember how I wrote about Trevor Corson's visit to the Lou? Here's his recap of the visit to our fair city...complete with our lovely brown river, our holiness and our listening abilities.

And since we're kinda sorta on the subject of sushi, here are two completely hilarious videos that I just had to is Japanese and about noodles, and the other is a cartoon about fish and they are totally related the the Trevor Corson update, you see...yeah...that's the ticket!

First up, everyone's favorite chimp (trust me, he will be) Pan Kun and his bulldog companion James make noodles! Well, James isn't much help. But Pan Kun is amazing!

And then there's this..."I don't like fish." Ha!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

an Irish feast!

On St. Patrick's Evening I made and Irish feast that any leprechan would have been proud of.

It all started with my decision to brine my own Corned beef. I've made bacon, afterall, so this was just natural, you know? And like the bacon, I turned to Ruhlman. Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn, to be exact. A book I've raved about here before, and will continue to rave about because it is teh awesome. Anyway, the corned beef process went something like this:

Make the brine:

1 gallon water
2 cups kosher salt
½ cup sugar
5 tsp. pink salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp pickling spice (as I was picking up individual spices, I spotted the already mixed pickling spice, and, being that it was way cheaper, used that. I did add a few more peppercorns and whole cloves, though, because I had them on hand I thought a little extra spice couldn't hurt)

Combine brine ingredients in a pot large enough to hold the brisket comfortably. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool to room temp, the refrigerate until it’s fully chilled.

Place the brisket (Ruhlman's recipes calls for 5 lb., but I just got a 2.5 lb. one) in the brine and weight it down with a plate to keep it summerged. Refrigerate for 5 days. Remove the brisket from brine and rinse thoroughly under cool running water.

Cook the brisket...The book says to cover the beef with water, add 2 tablespoons of pickling spice, bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for about 3 hours. In order to have dinner ready at a decent hour, I employed my crockpot to do the cooking while I was at work. So, cover meat with water in crock-pot, add 2 Tablespoon pickling spice, and cook on low for 7-8 hours. Next time I will wait for a weekend so I can cook it on the stove and keep my eye on it. The crockpot overcooked it a bit...not that it was overly dry or anything, it just fell apart when cut, and I'd like to try and get sandwich slice-able results.

Yes, this was a bit more expensive than buying a pre-packaged corned beef from the grocery store, which are deeply discounted during the week around St. Pat's. It was worth it, though. Not only is it satisfying and fun to brine/cure your own meat, it tastes so much better!

Knowing that the liquid that corned beef was cooking in was super-flavorful, I poured it into a large pot filled with fingerling potatoes, a cabbage cut into quarters, big hunks of onion, some garlic cloves and a couple shallots. I added a bottle of Guinness Extra Stout to the pot, and water to cover everything, and simmered it all on the stove while I prepared other components of my big giant Irish feast (say 45 minutes to an hour). Now those were some tasty tasty veggies!

Next up was some Irish Soda Bread. The St. Louis Post Dispatch ran this recipe for "Mary Degnan's irish Soda Bread," with golden raisins and caraway seeds. I had to try intriqued me. I'm glad I did, for it was easy to make, and REALLY really good! Here's the recipe:

Mary Degnan's Irish Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups golden raisins
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
2 large eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. (I used a round glass casserole)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Make a well in the center, and add the eggs, buttermilk and melted butter. Mix well.

Transfer to the prepared pan; bake about 1 hour, until the top is golden and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

And as if corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and bread were not enough, I simply HAD to make a souffle. You see, I have this book out from the library called Full on Irish: Creative Contemporary Cooking by Kevin Dundon. His recipe for individual Potato and Cabbage Soufflés caught my eye. You may have noticed that I've been trying to learn and practice classic techniques. Not only would this recipe give me an excuse to make my first soufflé, it also requires a béchamel sauce. So, even though I had way too much food already, I went for it. It was the hardest thing I made all night...quite a few steps. Rewarding, though!

They rose and everything! Holy cow. Not too shabby for my first time. The only part that gave me troubles was the béchamel. With the roux and the 1 1/3 cup of milk it was still really really thick...more of a paste than a sauce. I know it was supposed to be thick, but this just seemed wrong, so I kept adding milk, and when that ran out I added some chicken stock, all while whisking away, until it was a thick sauce. It was successful...smooth and all that, so I think I did the right thing. Here's the recipe, with some of my own notes in italics:

Potato & Cabbage Souffle

½ stick butter
2 oz. white bread crumbs
2 oz. ground walnuts
8oz. smoked cheese, grated (such as gubeen) (I couldn't find such a thing...I used an Irish gouda-like cheese)
2 egg yolks
4 oz. savoy cabbage, finely shredded (I used regular old cabbage...since I bought it to go with the corned beef anyway)
4 oz. cooked potato peeled and grated
5 egg whites

For béchamel
1 stick butter
1 cup plain flour
1 1/3 cups milk (like I said, I used much more liquid than this...)
Salt and pepper

Prehet oven to 350. Grease 4 1 scant cup ramekins or oven-proof cups with butter and freeze until firm. Repeat 3 times in order to obtain a good coating. Mix together crumbs and nuts and use to lightly coat the final layer of butter

Make béchamel: melt butter in a pan. Slowly add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes a light colored roux. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, again whixking constantly, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes until thickened and smooth. Stir the cheese into the sauce then remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. Season to taste and fold in the egg yolks.

Heat the remaining knob of butter in a frying pan. Add the cabbage and potato and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, tossing occasionally. Fold into the thick béchamel and transfer to a large metal bowl.

Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until soft peaks have formed, then carefully fold into the cabbage mixture. Divide among the prepared ramekins and gently tap each one on the work surface to expel any air bubbles. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until well risen and lightly golden.

Whew! What a night! What a feast! What a fridge full of leftovers!!! it was fun, though, and delectable. And I had the help of Guinness, of course. Erin Go Bragh!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Squeeeee Take 2...An evening with Trevor Corson

Last night I got yet another chance to meet an author of a favorite food book. Yet another chance to act like a spaz, not unlike my experience meeting Micheal Ruhlman. But, hey is it my fault that the writers of these very interesting and informative and fun-to-read books also happen to be handsome men with adorable hair? Can you blame me?

Last night Trevor Corson was in town, doing a sort of sit-down/reading/talk at the Kitchen Conservatory. Trevor (yeah, we're totally on a first name basis now) is the author of The Zen of Fish, a fantastic book all about sushi, which I wrote about as part of my Summer Reading series here. He also wrote a book called The Secret Life of Lobsters, which I will be reading soon...because who can resist lobster erotica, really?

Pardon my haircut...I knew it was bad, but good lord! Oh, and as another aside, I have to admit something. All the way up until Sunday mroning, when I decided to watch some of the videos on his website (you must check out the lobster porn stand-up), I thought Trevor was Australian. I have no idea where I go that notion. Perhaps because one of the main stars of his book is an intense aussi named Zoran? Or was it because he just looks Australian (whatever that means)? And his name...Trevor Corson...seems that it should be pronounced with an Australian accent? No? So anyway, he's from D.C. I R SMRT.

It was a neat little gathering...a small group of about 15 people gathered around a table with Trevor, eating some yummy seafood dishes and talking sushi! He told us all about the very fascinating history of sushi. It was all stuff he covered in the book, for the most part, but I still found myself learning a lot. The book is almost a reference book, it is so packed with info, but somehow, it reads like a fun novel. That describes the evening well, too. There is so much to know about sushi...the history, the techniques, the fish, the rice, the etiquette...and Trevor was funny and engaging and relaxed talking about all of it. I wish I would have taken notes or something, so I could better list some of the fun things we talked about...vomit rice, the Japanese word for orgasm, how a ban of fire helped the rise of sushi, the very unfortunate sex life of the eel, drunk monks, non-Japanese sushi chefs, omakase, gaining your sushi chef's respect....and much much more.

I guess you'll just have to read the book.

SRSLY. you should read it. How can you say no to those smiling faces?

More info on my new buddy Trevor:
Interview on Serious Eats
Essay on how he came to write a book on Sushi
The Scrawling Claw, Trevor's blog
Lisa Hall, a friend of Trevor's from his lobster days who designs and makes jsewelry from seaglass. She made the bling you always see him wearing in photos. Pretty!

EDITED TO ADD: Trevor blogged about his trip to the STL and the honor of meeting me here!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ellie Krieger's Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and White Beans

Spring is coming, followed by summer. Which means that this tummy I've developed in the cold months has to go. Things like chicken & waffles and pancetta egg cups and hollandaise sauce don't help, so I'm gonna try and cut back on meals like that, and cook more healthy meals.

Back in January, I got the opportunity to meet Ellie Krieger and have her sign a copy of her book The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life at the St. Louis Food & Wine Experience. She was very nice! The book is great. There are so many recipes I want to try. I like her stuff because she uses real ingredients to make healthy meals....butter, cheese, olive oil...she just uses it in moderation.

Last night I tried her Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic, and White Beans. The recipe called to me because it had lots of summer flavors...lemon, basil and tomatoes. Of course tomatoes are horrible right now, but I got some cherry tomatoes, which tend to be less-mealy than the regular ones. Also, this recipes calls for roasting the tomatoes, which really helps them get sweet and yummy.

Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic, and White Beans

3 large tomatoes, (about 2 lbs. I used 2 12 oz. bags of cherry tomatoes and one can of whole tomatoes)
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1(15 ounce) can cannellini beans (I used 2 cans)
1/2 pound penne pasta
2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Slice each tomato into 8 wedges and discard the seeds. Put the tomato wedges and garlic into a 9 by 13-inch roasting pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and a few turns of pepper. Roast in the oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

Drain the beans into a large colander in the sink. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta into the colander containing the beans, so the hot pasta water will warm the beans. Return drained pasta and beans to the pasta pot.

When the tomatoes are done, pick out the garlic cloves, squeeze the garlic out of the skin into a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add lemon juice, the remaining oil and salt and pepper, stir to combine. Pour the roasted tomatoes into the pasta pot, add the garlic mixture, the basil and additional salt and pepper, to taste. Toss to combine. Serve topped with the Parmesan.

It was easy, and the flavors were refreshing...sweet roasted tomatoes and garlic, tart lemon and creamy beans. Again, Ellie's recipe works for me! Here are some other times when I've made her recipes: Oven fried chicken thighs and Short-cut greens ; Oven fried chicken strips.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

chicken and waffles!

Friday night, Jack mentioned he wanted to deep fry something. I mentioned I wanted to try chicken and waffles, but we didn't have a waffle maker *hint hint*. Monday is my birthday, so we went shopping and Jack bought me a little waffle maker/sandwich maker device. We actually went with a little cheapy one, to see how often we would use such a thing. I'm not all that impressed with it, but if we find we use it a good deal, we'll upgrade.

So, yeah, we preceded to make Chicken & Waffles! I was in charge of the waffles, for which I just used Krusteaz Belgian Waffle mix. Jack was in charge of the fried chicken. He cut chicken breasts in half horizontally, sprinkled them with flour, dipped them in milk and dredged them in more flour, the fried them. Add some butter and pure maple syrup, and we have a California classic!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Simple Recipe's Chicken Piccata

The other night I made the Chicken Piccata from Simple Recipes. Though I wish I would have taken the time to pound my chicken out a little thinner, the results were very good. I mean, come on, there's capers in the sauce! How could you go wrong? I had it with some roasted brussel sprouts.

Monday, March 03, 2008

pancetta cups and hollandaise

Last week I took a class on making stocks and sauces. Since I needed an excuse to try my hand at Hollandaise, and Jack was inspired by not martha's bacon cups, we decided to make a decadent Sunday brunch incorporating both.

Jack made the pancetta cups by placing two slices of pancetta around the bottom of the cups on a muffin pan, then placing another muffin pan on top to hold them in place. He flipped the contraption over so it sat like a normal muffin pan, then cooked them in a 350ºF oven for about 10 minutes. He then took them out of the oven, carefully removed the top pan, and put the one pan with the cups on it back in the oven, bottoms up, to crisp up...about 5 more minutes. Then, he took the cups off their molds, placed them into muffin pan cups, added one egg to each, and baked them for about 10 minutes, until the egg whites were opaque, but the yolk was still slightly runny.

Meanwhile I was making my hollandaise using the following recipe and procedure:

6 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. water
12 oz. Butter-melted
2-3 tsp. Lemon Juice-fresh squeezed
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Fill a saucepan with 2" of water and bring to a boil. In a mixing bowl (stainless steel is best), stir together egg yolks and water and place over simmering water. Whisk continually until the become pale and ribbon-thick (The consistency of pancake batter). Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the melted butter. Add lemon juice and seasoning.

The Hollandaise turned out well. It was easier than I thought. I get intimidated by sauces, especially these classic ones. But it turned out smooth, silky and delicious. That recipe, though, makes way too much for just 2 people. I knew i should have halfed it, but it was my first hollandaise, and I was afraid that I might be messing with some sort of classical sauce science mojo, so I just followed it as written.

Making the hollandaise gave me such a warm fuzzy feeling, because I've just finished reading Julia Child's book My Life in France for the Kitchn's bookclub. The book is very inspiring, and I am looking forward to following Julia's lead and learn some more classic techniques.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

grilled salsiccia sandwiches

This weekend the weather is decidedly less wintry. Spring-like. So gorgeous. I needed this...our winter has been really depressing and yucky. I know it's not over yet (there is talk of snow tomorrow, even...), but at least we have a couple days of sunshine and open windows and flip-flop wearing and grilling!!!

Yup, Jack fired up the grill, and made us a nice little supper. He made some patties from salsiccia and grilled them, topped them with provolone cheese and onions and green peppers that had been sauteed in bacon grease. A simple dinner that made me see the light at the end of the winter tunnel.