Friday, July 30, 2010

Potato Croquettes

OK actually I call these potato patties (which might get confused with latkes), but you can be more lah-dee-dah and call this form of Operation Icebox 'croquettes'. It's really just a way to use leftover mashed potatoes.


leftover mashed potatoes
chives or green onions, minced
bacon bits (optional)
spices, salt & pepper
fat for frying

Combine the mashed potatoes together with whatever ingredients and seasonings you like. You can probably add cheese, but I don't because it makes a mess when frying.

Pan-fry the patties in fat until golden brown on each side. I use a nonstick pan and a shallow layer of fat, but you can go the whole 9 yards and deep-fry them if you like.

Your humble leftovers have now reached food Nirvana. Enjoy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Swedish Meatballs

Herd tu feegoore-a oooot hoo I nefer treeed mekeeng thees clesseec Meennesuta deesh beffure-a. It ceme-a oooot greet! Börk, börk, börk!

Ahem....what I mean to say is that this is delicious, especially served over mashed potatoes with lingonberries or cranberries and pickles on the side. It's a fair amount of work, but very worth it in the end. Veal mixed with beef will give the best texture--the velvetiness of the veal combined with the heartiness of the beef. If that's not an option, use pork instead. For two people, halve the recipe or freeze some of the meat for later.

1 lb ground veal (or pork)
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion
2 slices of white bread, crusts removed
~3 Tbsp. milk
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. allspice
pinch of nutmeg
copious butter and oil for frying

This goes best with a food processor. Chop the onions until very fine, almost puree. Mix in the meat and egg. Grind the white bread into breadcrumbs and mix it with the milk until just moistened, and allow to sit for a few minutes. Combine the meat and onion mixture with the spices and bread mush. I like to cook up a tiny bit at this point to test the seasoning.

Form the meat into tiny little meatballs (3/4" diameter) and place on a tray.

Heat the fat in a heavy-bottomed pot. I like to use mostly butter with a little oil in it to keep from scorching. Use a generous amount to keep the balls from sticking. Fry the meatballs in single layer, turning them so they brown evenly, removing with a slotted spoon when done. This will take more than one batch (~4 batches in a Dutch oven for a full recipe).

3 Tbsp. flour
1 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 c. low-sodium beef broth
dash of dry sherry
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. lingonberry/cranberry sauce or some sugar
salt to taste

Once the meatballs are cooked and removed from the pan, make sure there is several Tbsp. of fat left (or add more butter), and whisk in the flour. Allow it to bubble and brown for a couple of minutes, taking care not to scorch. Add in the broth and sherry (amounts are approximate--gauge based on how many meatballs you have). Simmer until the sauce thickens. If it does not thicken enough, stir in some mashed potatoes or a starch slurry. Remove from heat and stir in the cream. Adjust the flavor with the berry sauce or sugar, salt, and and possibly a dash of pickle juice.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thai Spicy Ground Beef Salad (aka Laab)

Here's another similar summer meat salad recipe, though this one has a roasty flavor from the toasted rice flour and dried chilies. You will wind up with enough rice flour to make this at least twice. You need a blender or food processor.

I got the recipe from Thai Food Tonight, which has many good recipes and helpful videos.

2 lb. lean ground meat: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, whatever
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. white rice, any kind
10-15 whole dried red chili peppers
1/2 cabbage: green, red, or savoyed (or leaf lettuce)
4 green onions, sliced thin
1/4 red onion, minced
1/4 c. fish sauce
1-2 limes, juiced
1 small bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
3-4 sprigs of fresh mint, washed and chopped (optional)

Roast the rice in a pan until it is dark brown (but not burnt). Allow it to cool. Grind it in a blender or food processor until it is the consistency of sand.

Roast the whole red chilis until they are dark but not burnt. Grind them up using the blender/food processor, or chop by hand using a knife. They should be the size of the flakes you find at pizza restaurants.

Put the water in a large wok or deep frying pan. Bring it to a boil. Add the meat and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Drain off any excess water and fat. Remove the pan from heat (no more cooking after this).

Add 2 Tbsp. of the roasted rice flour, the green and red onions, the fish sauce, the lime juice, and the cilantro and mint. Add the roasted chili flakes until the dish is at your desired spiciness level (it should be hot!). Serve warm or room temperature, with raw cabbage leaves or lettuce to use as scoops.

Tasty with sticky rice and radish salad.

NOTE: Ultimately the roasted rice flour is optional, and this is still good without it. It gives it a nice complex flavor, though, and absorbs any fat from the meat that would make the salad gross at room temp.

Hmong Chicken Salad

Clockwise from the left: young coconut juice, rice, chicken (actually turkey) salad, ripe papaya, papaya salad.

Holy blazes I'm posting a recipe! Almost hard to call this one, it's so easy. However, it's a valuable use for leftover chicken or turkey, and it's served cold or room temp, so it beats the heat.

2-3 c. leftover cooked chicken, shredded
1 handful beansprouts
4-6 green onions, sliced
1 large handful cilantro or culantro, sliced
1-3 hot chilies, sliced
juice of 1-2 limes, depending on size
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1-2 tsp. salt
~1 tsp sugar

I like to heat up the chicken a little so that the salad is warm, but you can make it cold if you like. In the picture I didn't have beansprouts, and it was still delicious. Just mix all the ingredients together and adjust the salt and sugar. If it isn't moist enough, add a little broth or water. It should be salty and zingy with a dominant cilantro flavor.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Dry rubbed grilled ribs

I thought I'd just post some outlines of how I like to do pork (spare)ribs. They take a lot of time to do right, but they turn out really well. I do the rub from memory more or less every time, but I find that certain things, like szechuan pepper, really add to it nicely.

Alex's Dry Rub:
1/2 c. brown sugar
1-2 Tbsp. Szechuan peppercorn, smooshed a bit in mortar and pestle
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp.+ salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 tsp. white pepper (I haven't tried this yet since I forgot, but it's probably a good addition)
1/4-1/2 tsp. cayanne pepper

Mix everything together, then coat the outside of the ribs. Let sit overnight wrapped in plastic wrap (unless you have a container large enough to hold a whole rack of ribs.

Cooking the Ribs:
So I know there are a lot of ways to cook the ribs, but the way I prefer is to just put them on the grill at a pretty low temperature for about 2-4 hours (the longer, the flakier the meat will be). It helps that my house has a fancy gas grill with a thermometer, so I can keep things pretty controlled. I just put the ribs straight on the grill, no tin foil, and I try to keep the temperature on the thermometer on the front of the grill between 250-300 degrees. I think you could probably replicate this in the oven, but if you're using coals I think you'll probably want to do some fancy stuff to make the heat more indirect.

It takes a long time, but it really doesn't need much attention - I turn the ribs every half an hour or so. The important thing is making sure to get everything started in time for the party.


I've always been a big fan of crumpets, and so I spent a few days looking around online for recipes. Someone else appears to have done the same, and this recipe is based on hers but is hopefully a bit clearer. It might be worth noting that I also halved her recipe.

Due to the need for risings, etc, I'm not sure if this is a great breakfast recipe or not. Maybe you could make it the evening before, and then refrigerate the dough, but I think the best approach is to make them whenever and toast them later.

First, and most importantly, you'll need something to cook the crumpets in - a circular cookie cutter is good. I've heard tuna cans suggested, but every can I've seen of that size has a special bottom that is made for better stacking but which you can't cut off. It's better to get something a bit larger, like a can for crushed pineapple, etc. I recommend having at least two.

2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. sugar
1 c. room temp milk (30 seconds in a microwave or so ought to do it)
1/2 tsp. yeast

1 tsp. warm water + 1/8 tsp. baking soda

More water

1. Make sure the milk is not too warm if you heated it, then add the sugar and yeast. You can wait for it to proof just to be sure. Mix the flour and salt, then combine. Whisk for a few minutes, then cover and place in a warm place.

2. Let rise until doubled, then whisk for a little bit to release the CO2, then add the water-baking soda mix, and let rise again.

3. When doubled again, or thereabouts (a full second rise probably isn't absolutely necessary), start warming the pan you plan to cook them in. I found that I had to keep the heat pretty low, so as not to burn the bottoms. I also had one of my nifty silicone brushes in a small glass with some oil to help grease things. Start adding water and whisking vigorously until the batter reaches the consistency of a thin, smooth pancake batter. You need the batter to spread out once you put it in the pan, and you might have to test the batter in the pan to make sure it's the right consistency.

4. Place the cookie cutters on the pan, and use something to grease them. Put a SMALL quantity of batter in each one - if you put in too much, you'll get English muffins. I think the ideal quantity is around 2 Tbsp or so.

5. When cooking the muffins, you have to wait until the tops are totally cooked - if you flip them too early, you'll end up smooshing out the all important holes and reduce the butter holding capacity of the crumpet. You'll be able to tell when the top is done cooking by the color. Also, hold in mind that this means the bottom will be cooking for a while - make sure it's not burning, but it's good for the bottom of the crumpet to be nicely crispy.

This crumpet needs to cook a bit longer.

Now it's ready to be flipped.

6. When the crumpet has produced all the holes it can make, remove the mold and flip and brown the top briefly.

Enjoy with plenty of butter and jam. Makes 10-20 depending on the size of your molds, etc.

And here they all are: