Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pollo alla Cacciatora alla Nigella alla...Sorta

Lately I have actually been getting up early enough on Sundays mornings to catch Nigella on the Food Network. It kind of chaps my hide that they only play her at 9:30 am on Sundays, without any re-runs, but they play Rachael Ray and such all the dang time. Same with Jamie Oliver's new's only on 8:30 on Saturday mornings! Is that really when his demographic is watching TV? Do they even want his show to succeed? O.K., enough of the ranting and on to some food.

So this past Sunday, Nigella made her "Express" version of Chicken Cacciatore. Looked easy and yummy, so I made it tonight. I strayed from her recipe, though, and mine wasn't quite AS express as her. But it was still pretty darn simple and really darn tasty.

Sorta-Nigella, Sorta-Iron Stef Chicken Cacciatore

-1/4 lb. bacon, chopped
-2 Tbsp. olive oil
-1 medium white onion, chopped
-5 garlic cloves, minced
-2 shallots, chopped
-2 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
-2 tsp. fresh thyme, stripped from stems
-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each cut into quarters
-1 tsp. celery salt
-3/4 cups white wine
-2 cans diced tomatoes
-2 Tbsp. sugar
-1 can cannelloni beans
-salt & pepper

In dutch oven, cook bacon in olive oil until brown. Add onions, shallots, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Cook until starting to soften. Add chicken pieces, in batches, getting some brown coloring on them. Sprinkle chicken with celery salt as you cook them. Once all the chicken is browned, but not necessarily cooked through, add everything back to the pot and add white wine. Scrape any yumminess from bottom of pot and bring everything up to a boil. Add tomatoes and sugar, cover and simmer for like 30-45 minutes. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as needed. Add drained cannelloni beans. Cook until beans are hot. If needed (I needed it) add a slurry of cornstarch and cold water to thicken. Serve over whole wheat egg noodles with freshly shredded pecorino romano cheese.

This was good tonight, but I have a feeling that tomorrow it will be even better. Three cheers for Chicken thighs!!!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lamb & Potato Stew

Here in the Lou we've been hit with sleet and freezing rain and other "wintery mix" precipitation. The streets are dangerous and being outside is a miserable experience. One of the news anchors called the stuff on the ground "Little pellets of DANGER!" Ha! Anyway, it was an evening that called for a hearty stew. I had just recently bookmarked this recipe for Greek potato stew. I loved the addition of kalamata olives! Of course, Jack wouldn't have been a very happy stew-eater unless I added some sort of meat. Lamb was the logical choice, right? I picked up what the store had...2 shoulder blade steaks. I don't know a lot about lamb, but these weren't very expensive, and they looked like they might be a good cut for stewing...a good amount of fat and connective tissue. Without further ado...

Lamb & Potato Greek-ish stew

1 Tbsp. olive oil
9 red potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 lamb shoulder blade steaks, cut up into bite size pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 medium onion, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup kalamata olives, sliced
16 oz. tomato sauce
2 cups stock
1 Tbsp. oregano
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper

Salt lamb. In a dutch oven, brown meat, including the bones, in olive oil. Add garlic, shallots, onion and oregano. Stir until they just start to soften. Add potatoes and stir to coat everything with flavor goodness. Add tomato sauce, stir to coat, then add stock and bay leaves. Simmer for like 45 minutes to an hour, until potatoes are soft. Serve with crumbled Feta cheese.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Making my own Chelada

Sometimes when I go on goofy road-trips with friends, I enjoy getting giant beers with paper bags at truck-stops to consume when we get to our destination. It's the classier side of iron stef. On a recent trip to the Ozarks with a huge group of my family, all ladies, I spotted cans of Budweiser Chelada. This is a a beer-Clamato mixture released last year, and I've been wanting to try it. Although it got less-than-stellar reviews from beer rating websites, and the mixture of beer, tomato and clam juice sounds odd to many, such combos have been a favorite in Mexico for generations.

And honestly, I kind of liked the Chelada! I think I liked the idea of it more than the actual product, as the Budweiser version seemed too salty, and I don't like the taste of Budweiser. You can hardly taste the beer, of course, but I knew I could improve on the beverage. So last night, that's what I set out to do. I got a better beer, opting for a Mexican beer, to, you know, represent. I got some Clamato (on sale! It's fate!), and some limes. My first attempt, about 60% beer, 40% clamato and two wedges of lime, was tasty, however no quite there. For the next one I added ice and a few drops of habanero Tabasco sauce. That made it pretty darn awesome! Like a bloody mary, but more refreshing and less thick. Also, fizzy! In my chelada, I could taste the beer, and the clamato had just the right amount of salty and veggie-ness.

This was fun!

My sis-in-law and me with my 2 by 4 of Chelada in a paper bag. Awesome to the max!

ETA: Speaking of awesome to the max, check out Benchilada's Chelada adventure on his adventuresome and hilarious video series "So You Don't Have To." Yeah...they don't seem to be as impressed with the combo of beer and Clamato as I was....

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

pork & hominy chili

After a week of being under the weather, I finally felt like getting back in the kitchen. I made a chili with pork and hominy. It might actually be considered a posole. Either way, it was spicy and perfect for a cold night. Easy and healthy, too! Here's my recipe:

Pork & Hominy Chili

2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. boneless pork chops, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
1 yellow onion, cut into bite size pieces
1 jalepeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tblsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. mexican oregano
1 large (28 oz.) can of hominy, drained
1 large (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 small (14 oz.) can pinto beans
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
salt and pepper

1. Cook pork in vegetable oil until browned a bit. season with salt.

2. add onion, garlic, shallot and jalepeno and spices. Cook until everything is coated with spice and the vegetables start to soften.

3. Add hominy, stock, tomatoes, beans and bell peppers. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Simmer for at least 45 minutes. If desired, add a slurry of 2 Tbsps. corn starch and 2 Tblsps. cold water or stock and bring back up to a boil to thicken.

4. Serve with sour cream, pico de gallo, Queso Fresco and tortilla chips!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

mushroom soup and gougeres

Last night I made the mushroom soup from Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook. To go with it, I made gougeres...basically pate a choux with gruyere cheese added. Nummy.

Serious Eats has the soup recipe here, so I won't re-post it. However, I did add a shallot along with the onion, and I used dried thyme instead of flat-leaf parsley. This doesn't make a whole lot of soup, so if you like to make soup and freeze the leftovers, you should probably double the recipe.

For the gougeres, I used the basic recipe from Ruhlman's Elements, and added shredded gruyere to the batter before piping it out...about a cup and a half or so. After piping them out, I sprinkled more cheese on top, then baked them at 450 for 8-10 minutes. Simple!

Everything was good, as far as I can tell. I was catching a bit of a funk last night, which is now full-fledged. According to Tony, the soup gets better the next day. Well how about 2 days later? I'm hoping I'll feel better tomorrow and can actually taste things.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

sauceless hotwings

On Superbowl Sunday, Jack had a hankering for hot-wings. So did I. So we set about trying a new way to make them. Inspired by my oven fried chicken strips, Jack made a buttermilk-based marinade for the drummettes. The marinade was spicy...

Seriously hot...3 canned chipotles plus a couple tablespoons of the adobo sauce they came in, along with about 2 tablespoons of Habanero Tabasco sauce were pureed together and added to about 2 cups of buttermilk. We filled a dish with 2 dozen chicken drummettes and the marinade, and let them sit for about half an hour.

The wings were then taken out of the marinade, sprinkled with garlic powder, cayenne pepper and salt, then dredged in flour and deep fried in vegetable oil.

They were good. Perfectly fried, crispy on the outside, tender meat, good flavor. The thing that stumps us, though, is that they weren't at all spicy hot. You could taste the flavor of the habanero, but the heat was not there. We are not complaining...the outcome made us happy, and they will be made again for those occasions when guests aren't equipped with the tongues of steel we both have.

We do like the spicy, though, and are wondering why these lost that. The buttermilk seems the obvious dairy does tone down the burn. However, we both tasted the marinade, buttermilk and all before adding the wings, and agreed that it was smokin'. Any ideas?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Curried Butternut & Carrot Soup with Homemade garlic naan

Last night it was snowing. Instead of cursing winter, I decided to embrace it by making soup and bread. Yes! Bread!! I made naan bread, an Indian flat bread, from scratch! It was the first yeast bread I've ever made. I had to knead and let it rise and everything! It was scary for me, but not as hard as I thought it would be. It may have helped that naan is flat, so I didn't have to worry about having a perfectly risen loaf shape. Anyway, I used the recipe and technique from this post on Never Bashful with Butter. I wasn't sure about the garlic, but I went ahead and added it and I am sooo glad I did.

Here are my naan balls. The recipe made 21 for me:

Cooked naan:

As you can see, it was definitely a soup kinda night. A friend had made this soup the other day and I asked him for the jist of it becuase it was so yummy. I veered a little from his (for instance he used half & half and I used yogurt for creaminess), but I got some good tips and ideas. Here's recipe I ended up with:

Curried Butternut & Carrot Soup

4 cups butternut squash, cubed
2 cups carrots, cubed
1 medium onion, sliced thin
2 shallots, sliced thin,
5 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 cups stock (I used a combo of vegatable and chicken stocks)
3 Tbsp curry powder
1 orange, 1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. hot chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. powdered ginger
2 tsp. worstershire
2 tsp. hot sauce
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour

1. cook garlic, onion and shallots and curry powder in olive oil until soft and fragrant. Add in squash and carrots and a pinch or two of salt and cook until they are kinda sweaty. Add stock, thyme, orange zest, juice from the orange, worstershire and hot sauce. Simmer until veggies are soft and mashable...about 40 minutes.

2. Strain soup through a colander, separating the solids and liquid, reserving both. Put the liquid back in the pot. Add turmeric, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, ginger powder and pepper to the solids and puree in a food processor. Stir puree into the liquid, taste and adjust seasonings.

3. Make a blonde roux with the flour and butter. Add to soup. Simmer all this together for another 30 minutes or so.

4. Serve with plain yogurt that's been drained through cheesecloth for 30 minutes, or Greek yogurt, and naan bread.

It was kind of a lengthy cooking process, and I didn't eat until late. It was worth it though. Plus, I froze the naan in batches of 3, and froze the leftover soup, so I have meals ready to go next time the weather calls for soup and bread.