Monday, April 19, 2010

Roman Soup

I was shocked to see I hadn't posted this soup, which is one of my stand-by favorites. It's similar to 'Italian Wedding Soup', but I leave out the pasta and I call it Roman because it contains ingredients that the Romans would have had before contact with the Americas.

A big batch of meat broth, ~6-8 cups
A pound of ground meat, I like to combine turkey and beef
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
Fresh parsley, ~1/2 c. chopped finely
2 cups blanched kale, chopped (or other greens: see below)
Salt and pepper
A dash of white wine vinegar

Grind 1/2 of the onion and the garlic in a food processor or chop it very finely--almost pureed. Combine it with the meat and parsley and form into tiny meatballs. Bring the broth to a boil and drop the meatballs in, gently making sure they don't stick to the bottom. When they rise to the top, cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the onions, kale, and seasonings and simmer 5 more minutes. Go heavy on the black pepper--the Romans loved that stuff.

You can spice this more if you like, but I like to keep it simple. Don't add the kale raw or it will make the soup too bitter. You can use any other greens that you like, and the more tender ones won't need to be blanched. I like escarole or kommatsuna for this soup too.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chicken Congee

Congee is rice porridge, and is the Asian equivalent to chicken soup as a home-made remedy. It's easy to digest, versatile, and comforting. You can put virtually anything in it, but usually it contains some aromatics (ginger, green onions, celery), a small amount of protein (chicken, shrimp), some seasonings (white pepper, sesame oil, soy sauce), and a LOT of water or broth. You can also add green vegetables. I find most recipes include ginger at the very least. This recipe is great when you're feeling under the weather.
This is congee with ginger, smoked turkey (just for flavor, removed the bone later), bouakham nam sausage, tea eggs, tofu, and fried shallots. It's like Chinese penicillin!

My rice cooker has a setting for congee, but it can easily be made on the stove. You can start with raw or cooked rice, with the latter being much faster. The consistency is a matter of preference and depends on how much liquid you add (you can always thin it out more, so start thick).

1 c. raw rice or 2 c. cooked
~8 c. water
2 chicken wings and/or 1/2 c. raw chicken, cubed
1/2 c. Chinese (or regular) celery, chopped
1 thumb-sized knob ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 c. goji berries (optional)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 dash fish sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 dash light soy sauce
2 green onions, sliced thin

Place the rice, water, chicken, celery, ginger, goji berries, salt, white pepper, and fish sauce in a heavy-bottomed pot on the stove. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is broken down and the porridge is the consistency of thin oatmeal. If it seems too thick while cooking, add more water. I'm not sure how long this takes since I use my rice cooker, but it should be about 1 hr for raw rice, 30-40 minutes for cooked rice.

When the congee is finished, stir in the sesame oil, soy sauce, and green onions. Salt to taste. Serve as-is, or garnish with crispy fried shallots, chili garlic sauce, or whatever you like.

There are probably as many congee recipes out there as people in China, so look around for more recipes if you like it. They can be as simple as rice+water, or be complex main-dishes with many ingredients.

Note: I bought the goji berries on a whim (they are pretty cheap) and it turns out they are very nutritious and add a nice color to congee. They don't have much flavor when cooked, so don't worry if you don't have any (and don't substitute them with cranberries!).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wheat-tacular no-knead bread

This was an experiment I did last night to try to make a somewhat crunchier version of no-knead bread using ingredients I already had in the cupboard. It wasn't as crunchy as I'd thought it would be, but it was amazingly delicious. I was going to call it "multi-grain" but since almost everything in it is based on wheat (except the oats) it's really "multi-permutations-of-the-same-grain." But mostly importantly, it's delicious.

1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. oats
1/4 c. bulgur
1/4 c. shelled wheat/wheat berries
2.25 c. white flour
2 tsp. salt (this is really important for the taste)
1/4 tsp. yeast

1.75 c. water (the grains in here can be quite thirsty)

Night before:
Mix everything together (dry ingredients first, then the water), cover with plastic.

Day of:

Heavily flour a cutting board, then use a floured spatula to get the muck out onto a cutting board. Flour the top of the blob, then flatten it a bit. Fold each edge into the center (left,right,top,bottom) adding more flour if/when necessary to keep the dough from sticking to everything it touches. Let rest 5 minutes if you're into that kind of thing (I forgot this step, and it turned out fine).

Coat a cotton, non-terrycloth kitchen towel in something that the bread won't stick to - I recommend corn meal, since I have had better results with that than with flour. Flour your hands well, and quickly shape the dough into a ball, then place the ball seam down on the towel. Put the towel+dough into a bowl to rise.

In 1.5-2 hours, or after the dough has approximately doubled, preheat the oven to 475. Put a dutch oven with a lid (or a similar heavy lidded oven friendly container) in when you turn it on, so that it gets preheated with the oven. When it's the right temperature, scoop the bread from the bottom and invert it into the vessel, so the seam side is on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes covered, then reduce temperature to 425 (I didn't do this, but many recipes suggest it) and cook uncovered until the crust is browned to your liking.

Remove, cool, and enjoy.

The loaf resting:

The all important crumb shot:

Tasso ham

While we're dry-rubbing-and-grilling...

I got this recipe from the chef at la Grassa, and used it for the Tasso ham sandwiches we sold at the Summit IRA release party. This is an easy one to keep in the memory bank for when you to need to pack a wallop of flavor, cajun style.

1) Obtain fresh ham or other whole cut of pork (despite being a recipe for ham, shoulder is actually ideal due to superior marbling.) Cut the meat against the grain into long, thin strips.

2) Bury the strips of meat in a cure of 1 part salt: 2 parts sugar. Ensure the meat is covered on all sides. Allow it to cure for no more than 8 hours; this is intended to be a quick cure.

3) Rinse the cure off the meat and pat it dry. Make the dry rub:

2 parts white pepper
1 part ground chile
1 part marjoram (thyme or oregano work equally well here)
1 part ground allspice

Cover the meat in the rub. Grill, slow roast, or, ideally, hot-smoke the meat. Make sandwiches, soup, etc.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Montreal Steak Rub

Grilling season has arrived! Here's a simple and popular rub that has delicious results. Sure, you can just buy the seasoning mix, but when you have a spice cabinet that can't fit one more jar, it's better to just make your own mixtures. Most of the recipes I've seen online called for dill weed, but I used dill seed, which probably has more flavor anyway. No measurements...just use The Force.

Kosher salt
black pepper
garlic powder
ground coriander
dill seed (or weed)
red pepper flakes

Pat steaks dry. Sprinkle with rub. Wrap steaks tightly in plastic wrap and allow to season for at least 1 hr. Grill or pan fry on medium high heat until cooked to your liking. These would be great with the fingerling potato recipe below.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Finger potatoes cooked in butter with garlic

This is obviously just a very simple way to cook finger potatoes, but I wasn't sure if it would work, and it did, so I figured I'd post it.

1 # or so finger potatoes, washed well
2 Tbsp butter (or more!)
~1 Tbsp salt
3-4 Peeled whole cloves of garlic
Pepper to taste
Optional but delicious:
Turnips, cut into similar sized chunks as the potatoes

Heat oven to 375. Combine everything in a baking vessel (I used a casserole pan), cover, and place in the oven. Every once in a while, you should shake the pan so that everything gets nicely coated in butter. Bake around 30-40 minutes - you want to err on the side of more cooked, since finger potatoes are better when they melt in your mouth and the skins get nice and crispy.

Serving Suggestion:

Thursday, April 1, 2010


And the living is easy