Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Æbleskiver

As a kid I loved day trips to the tourist-trap known as Solvang, for one big reason: æbleskiver! These Danish goodies are little eggy puffs of air, made in a specialized cast-iron pan. Lucky me, Alex got me just such a pan! This dough would also make fantastic pancakes or waffles if you don't have the pan.


I used this æbleskiver recipe from a Danish enclave in MN at Lutsen, but I cut it in half for two people. They recommend allowing 7 puffs per person, which is handy because that's how many fit in a pan. The recipe below makes ~18 puffs.

For the technique, watch this video from Solvang:


1 c. buttermilk
2 eggs, separated
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. oil
1 pinch salt
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Whisk together the yolks, sugar, oil, and salt in a large measuring cup with a pour spout. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and then add it to the liquid ingredients. Whisk until very smooth. Gently fold in the egg whites.

Heat the pan over medium heat. You want it to give you a little sizzle when you pour in the dough, but not too hot or the æblesiver will cook too quickly. Add a small pat of butter to each hole and swish it around with a pastry brush, brushing some butter on the flat surfaces as well.

Pour batter into each hole until its about 90% full. Use a skewer or knitting needle (which you will use later for flipping them) to cut the batter between pours. By the time you finish filling the holes it will be almost time to start turning them.


Use your skewer to loosen the edges of the dough, and then turn each puff 90° onto its side. Then go through and rotate them two more times so that they cook in sphere shape (go watch the video to see how this is done). You can continue to brown and turn them if they aren't golden enough.

In Solvang they're typically served with raspberry jam and powdered sugar, but you can put any tasty thing you like. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Beef Udon


Nothing like a beefy hot bowl of noodles on Christmas Eve! I was able to make this with odds and ends I had on hand. You can top it with whatever vegetables and things you have. I had only a small piece of lean beef, but if you have something with more bones and cartilage you'll get more flavor. You could also use pork or chicken.

6-8 oz beef
1/2 yellow onion, with skin
1" knob of ginger
2 garlic cloves
8 black peppercorns
2-3 dried shiitake mushrooms
2" piece of kombu (optional)
6 c. water
2 Tbsp. oil

1-2 tsp. dashi granules
2 Tbsp. rice wine or sherry
3-4 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. rice vinegar

salt and sugar to taste

2 bundles dried udon noodles
3 green onions, sliced thinly

Garnish ideas:
1 carrot, julienned
2 leaves Chinese cabbage
poached eggs
1/4 c. soft tofu, in cubes
Pickled daikon (takuan)
7-spice powder (shichimi togarashi)


Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in the base of your pressure cooker, and sear the outside of the beef. Add the yellow onion, ginger, peppercorns, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, kombu, and water. Pressure cook for 20 minutes.

Release the pressure and strain out the ingredients, saving the beef. Slice the beef for later use. Season the broth with the dashi, soy sauce, etc...

Meanwhile, cook the udon noodles according to directions. At its simplest, serve the noodles, sliced beef, broth, and green onions with a drizzle of sesame oil.

To fancy it up, prepare the garnish. I recommend briefly sauteeing the carrots and cabbage in some oil, sesame oil, and a dash of soy sauce. Feel free to get creative with what you put on top!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Moroccan Style Kufta in Tomato Sauce

This is a recipe from Melanie/Melanie's host family here in Rabat. It's pretty easy, and makes a delicious, warm and hearty meal.

Ingredients:
Kufta balls:
1 # ground beef
1 tsp cumin
1/2-1 tsp tahmiira (Moroccan mild pepper powder, a bit different but replaceable with a mix of mild paprika and cayeanne)
2 Tbsps minced Italian parsley
Salt
Pepper

Sauce:
3-4 medium tomatoes, skinned and seeded, diced (this is how tomatoes are usually prepared for Moroccan recipes, whether cooked or salads)
1/2 tsp tahmiira
1/2 tsp cumin
3 Tbsps minced Italian parsley
Salt
Pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp salad oil

Steps:

Before starting on the kufta, get the sauce cooking in a large skillet. Heat the oil on medium heat, then add the tomatoes. When the tomatoes start releasing their juice, add the spices, then turn it down to a simmer.

While the sauce is simmering, combine the ingredients for the kufta, then form into balls about 1" in diameter.

When the tomatoes have cooked down, you can either continue cooking in a skillet, adding the kufta balls to the sauce, or you can shift everything to a pressure cooker. Either simmer until the kufta balls are cooked through, or pressure cook for about 15 minutes (everything's cooked in pressure cookers here, it's the secret to tajine). Eat with good bread that will absorb the sauce, preferably Moroccan round loaves of bread.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spaghetti in tomato sauce



I have learned a lot about making pasta in the last 2 years or so; it is not a coincidence that this overlaps with my having very little time to contribute to the blog. I'd like to illustrate what I now know about the "true" italian approach to pasta with a dish from the menu of the restaurant where I currently work, Delfina.

This dish has, approximately, 4 ingredients. It is also one of the signature dishes of a well-regarded restaurant which has served dozens of them every single day of its 12 year history, which should indicate that the devil is going to be in the details. It is officially listed on the menu as "Spaghetti with plum tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and peperoncini"

Ingredients:

Spaghetti: This is a dry pasta dish. Texture-wise, the sauce adds little more than mouth-feel, so everything depends on the noodle itself. The industry standard for Italian dry pasta is Rustichella d'Abruzzo. I think you can find it retail at fancy-pants grocery stores, or online. De Cecco is pretty decent too. And there is no reason not to use Barilla or equivalent; as always, make sure you cook it properly.

Tomato sauce: The only cheat in the "4 ingredients" is in the tomato sauce, which is itself comprised of 3 ingredients. For tomatoes, again the gold standard is Alta Cucina; whole-peeled San Marzano plum tomatoes, canned with a good amount of basil. According to the image on the front of the can, they are delicious enough to eat plain, on a fancy plate while wearing a suit. They are also astonishingly cheap, running a few bucks for a big 29 oz can, which would make you a couple quarts of sauce. Adequate subsitutes are Red Gold, or pretty much any similar imported canned tomato, using San Marzanos or equivalent, and in whole-peeled form.

Ingredients 2 and 3 are onion and garlic, and the technique for the sauce could hardly be simpler. Sweat chopped onion and garlic in oil until fully cooked but not colored. Smash up the canned tomatoes by hand, add them to the pot, and cook on low until reduced by about a third. This is your sauce.

EVOO: Simple: use the very best EVOO you feel like buying. At Delfina we use a rare boutique small batch Tuscan oil called Stephen Singer, which costs $27 for 750ml, or just over $1 per ounce. You probably do not have this at home; I know I don't. Buying decent oil in a big 1.5L can is generally the best bet, especially if you know somebody in a restaurant who can buy you one can out of a case, giving you an awesome wholesale price. The best brand you can generally find in normal grocery stores for a somewhat affordable price is Frantoia, usually running around $18 for a liter.

Peperoncini: This is fancy Italy-speak for chile flake. Delfina makes its own, by roasted a sheet tray of Arbol chiles until deep brown and aromatic, and then breaking them up into a rustic flake product by hand, which involves gas masks and extreme risk of irritated mucus membranes. At home? Toast a couple chile pods in a pan or in the oven until your kitchen makes you want to cry, let them cool, and roughly break them up or chop them.

The only other ingredient is whole fresh basil leaves.

Technique: I will give a full recipe first, with more in-depth notes below.

Blanche your spaghetti in boiling water until it is just tender enough to bend. Reserving the pasta water, remove the noodles to a saute pan, along with "enough sauce." Add to the pan a hearty pinch of salt, and a very scant pinch of chile flake.

We could call this stage one; at the restaurant, this brings the dish to "pre-fire" status.

To cook the pasta: Add to the saute pan enough of the pasta water to cover the noodles, but only just. Bring the pan to a boil and maintain it over maximum heat. At the very beginning, be careful with the noodles as they are still brittle and too much worrying will break them up into a mess of noodle-shards. But, once they become more supple, you need to constantly move the pasta and the pan to prevent them sticking to one another or to the pan, and the keep the sauce from burning around the edges.

What you are attempting to do over the course of this procedure is find the intersection of having 0 additional liquid remaining in the pan and a perfectly cooked noodle. As it cooks, you will want to add small additional amounts of the pasta water if you think the sauce will dry out and burn before the pasta finishes cooking; but if you add too much, by the time that water has been reduced out of the sauce, your pasta will be hammered. This is only easy to do once you have made the dish, say, 100 times. Working a pasta station, you hit that milestone around week two. At home? Either be content to perfect this over a couple years, or start eating lots and lots of spaghetti.

To finish: Take about 4 medium sized basil leaves and tear them all rustic-like. Add the basil and a medium dash (say, 3/4 oz) of your chosen olive oil. Toss the pasta over the heat until the basil just wilts and the oil is fully emulsified into the sauce.

Serve as is, or, if you are a barbarian, with some sort of hard aged cheese grated on top.

1) Do not salt your pasta water: Yes, every recipe for pasta ever includes the redundant "large pot of heavily salted water." We will be using that pasta water to adjust the consistency of the pasta as it cooks in the pan with the sauce, so if it is salted, you will almost invariably be screwed by the time the pasta is fully cooked. You do, therefore, need to salt the sauce itself liberally at the beginning in order to give the salt a chance of penetrating into the pasta. Get a feel for how to add 90% of the salt the dish needs at the beginning so you have a bit of wiggle room to adjust at the end. This is something like a big 3-fingered pinch, when using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, and making a single portion. Mortons is denser (i.e. more saltiness-per-pinch) so be careful if that is your brand of choice.

2) Barely cook your pasta in the pot of water: I also directed you only to blanche the noodles in the water, until they bend enough to fit in your saute pan. The purpose of this method is to allow a perfectly tuned sauce with a perfectly cooked noodle, and for virtually 100% of the starch from the pasta to remain in the final sauce, allowing for the ideal mouth-and-noodle-coating texture which we want.

3) Enough sauce?: For a large order of spaghetti, we use something like 7 dry ounces of noodles with 6 ounces of cooked tomato sauce. That said, the consistency of the sauce varies enormously, and I am not even certain about the portion for the noodles. Basically, imagine that you want a sauce which thoroughly coats all the noodles, without any residual tomato gunk left in the bowl after you have eaten; once you get an eye for it, you're really looking for the tint of the noodle itself.

The quantity of chile flake is difficult to describe or measure. It is something like a fraction of a single chile pod. The idea is not for the final dish to be spicy by any measure, but for the warming perfume of the chile to penetrate the palate in a hardly perceptible fashion.

Good luck, knowing that true dedication requires making a 4-ingredient dish several hundred times until you can, happening upon an in-progress pasta, immediately ascertain from an arm's length whether it needs more or less water, more or less tomato, and approximately how much longer until it has to cook.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cowboy Chili

Some say beans don't go in chili. I think this guy would eat anything in front of him.

We're home on the range tonight, or is it the Donner Pass? Being stuck inside during a historic snowstorm calls for improvisation, or in this case, a return to basics. Meat? Check. Dried chilis? Check. Can o' beans? Check. Chili here we come!

2 lbs. ground or finely chopped beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. bacon grease (you can also add some bacon)
3 dried ancho chilis
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
2 Tbsp. salt
1 can of chili beans (optional) or 1 can tomato sauce
water

Honestly, I was out of chili powder, so I had to make the chili sauce from scratch. I added the beans mainly for liquid, but you could use tomatoes instead (or in addition).

Brown the meat in the bacon grease, seasoning it with some salt and black pepper. I like to pressure cook it for 10 minutes to make it more tender.

Cut the chilies open (kitchen scissors are good for this) and scrape out the seeds and remove the stems. Cover with just enough water to submerge and simmer for 10 minutes. Save the chili water and place the drained chilies in a blender or food processor with the garlic, black pepper, cumin, oregano, and 1 Tbsp. salt. Blend until smooth, adding just enough of the chili water to make a thick sauce. If the chili water tastes too bitter, use plain water instead.

Drain most of the excess liquid and fat off of the meat. Add the onions and chili sauce, and stir to coat. Add the chili beans with their liquid, and/or the tomato sauce. If the chili is too thick, add some water. Adjust the salt to taste.

I made mine all fancy-like with some chopped onions, peppers, cheddar cheese, and Yankee corn bread. I'm not sure if the cowboys would be appalled or if they would just gobble it up.

Roasted Bananas?

While roasting trays of mixed vegetables one day, I had the bright idea of trying another approach to cooking fruit. I like it so much better cooked, and it seems much easier to digest. Here is what I did:

2 greenish bananas, sliced
1 tbsp butter, melted

Toss the banana slices with the butter gently (I did it all in the cast iron pan used to melt the butter). Spread them out into a single layer. Bake at 350 for a total of 1 1/2 hours, separating and flipping every half hour. Remove from pan to storage bowl and cool.

Once these are cool, they are 1)really ugly, and 2)incredibly delicious. They become caramelized and sweet the longer they cool. Use them in yogurt or in shakes. One thousand times more delicious that plain bananas!

Turkey and Sweet Potato Curry

More turkey leftovers?

I found this in the Star Tribune around Thanksgiving, and it is quite delicious and a nice change from the usual turkey Tetrazinni approach. I tweaked a few ingredients and made it as shown below:


2 TBSP finely grated fresh ginger
2 TBSP finely chopped garlic
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or more, if you like it hotter)
2 tomatoes chopped*
2 TBSP curry powder
2 TBSP garam masala
1 cup yogurt
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 lb. chopped cooked turkey (or chicken, or cooked meat of any kind)
1 TBSP olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 lb. chopped cooked sweet potatoes
3 TBSP brown sugar (this can be left out or reduced if your left over sweet potatoes are already sweetened.
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 small can (5.6 oz, or 165 ml) coconut milk (or half and half)

Put ginger, garlic, pepper flakes, tomatoes*, curry powder, garam masala, yogurt and cilantro into a deep bowl and stir to combine. Add turkey, toss well, cover, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. I like to use big ziploc bags for this step; they are airtight and take up less room in the fridge. And you can wash them and reuse them for years! (Mine said: mixed green beans, 2008 on it)

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Stir in turkey and marinade, sweet potatoes, sugar, salt, and coconut milk; cook until heated through. Transfer to a large bowl and serve. (This is one of those dishes that they bring you in an Indian restaurant and all the polite diners get this look on their face that says, "Gee, that's not much food. What a ripoff." But it is really rich and delicious!)

* I didn't have tomatoes, so I substituted 1 TBSP tomato paste and 1/2 cup water. It tasted just fine, but you may prefer to use tomatoes for the variety of textures they provide).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pumpkin Pie

Making pumpkin pie from scratch is all well and good (I see I have a very elaborate recipe for it in my notes), but sometimes you just need/want an easy pie. This is my version of a basic recipe using canned goods. It is for a deep-dish pie crust, so you will have extra if you are using a standard pan.

Before...
...After!

Preheat the oven to 425°

1 unbaked pie crust
1 can pumpkin
1 can evaporated milk
2 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
1/2 c. plain yogurt
3/4 c. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. salt

Roll out the crust and place it in your pie pan. Blend together the pie filling ingredients. Pour the ingredients into the crust. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350° and bake for another 40-50 minutes, or until it looks mostly set. Cool on a rack for at least 2 hours before slicing. I love pie!

Chicken Creole Style

This recipe comes from the galley copy of the meat version of The Schwarzbein Principle. With salt added, of course (and a few other tweaks). I also use bone-in chicken breasts, which takes longer but produces juicier results. Allow some time for marination.

Served with Twice-Baked Potatoes. I removed the chicken from the bone after cooking.

4 bone-in chicken breasts
1/3 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. dry sherry
4 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried cumin
2 Tbsp. chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. black pepper

Combine the ingredients in a dish suited to marinating (or ziploc bag). Place the chicken in the dish and spoon the marinade over, making sure to get some under the skin. Marinate at least one hour, mixing once or twice.

Preheat oven to 350°. Place the chicken breasts in a greased baking dish and bake until the chicken is tender and reaches an internal temperature of 165°, 60-75 minutes. Baste frequently while baking.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

There is no worthier cause for burning your tongue than biting into a twice-baked potato. They're a bit of a hassle to make, but the payoff is delicious, and makes great leftovers. They can be seasoned any way you like--this is for a bacon jalapeño version.


6-7 medium russet potatoes
3 strips cooked bacon, chopped very fine
3 Tbsp. butter
3/4 block cheddar cheese, grated and divided
1 egg
1-2 jalapeños, seeded and diced fine
3 green onions, chopped fine
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Heat oven to 400.

Wash potatoes thoroughly and prick with a fork. Bake potatoes for 40-50 minutes, or until they are tender inside.While they are still hot, cut them in half, and scoop out the insides into a bowl (hold them with a hotpad). Place the skins on a greased baking sheet.

Mash the potato well, and add in the remaining ingredients (reserving 1/3 of the cheese for garnish), and mix well. Plop the mashed potato filling back into the skins, smooth down, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Return to the oven for 15 minutes, then broil for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and browned. Careful, they're hot!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Couve Mineira aka Green Spaghetti

These greens (translation: miner's kale) are traditionally served as a side to feijoada, a rich Brazilian black bean and meat stew (similar to cassoulet), often with orange slices. However, they make a great side-dish for nearly anything. Preparing the greens is laborious, but the rest of the cooking is easy.



2 bunches of collard greens
3 shallots, or 1 small red onion sliced thin
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2-4 Tbsp. bacon fat or oil
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the greens thoroughly and remove the mid-ribs by grasping the leaves in one hand and the rib on the other, and ripping it out. Stack the leaves flat, 6-8 leaves at a time, and roll them up very tightly. Using a very sharp knife (or mandoline), slice across the roll of leaves in 1/8" strips to make a very thin 'spaghetti'.

Heat the fat in a large pan with a close-fitting lid. Add the garlic and shallots and stir until it they slightly start to brown. Add the greens and toss in the fat to coat. Add a generous pinch of salt and some black pepper and stir. Put the lid on and let it steam for a couple of minutes until the greens are softened but still bright green (the washing water from the greens helps to steam them). Serve as-is or with orange slices.

NOTE: I adulterate this recipe all the time. I like to add red pepper flakes to the oil and a few dashes of Tobasco at the end. If the greens are particularly bitter, I add a little sugar. They are also good with some lemon juice or vinegar added.

Red Pepper Pork Chops

This is a simple-yet-flavorful meal, perfect for a weeknight dinner. It helps if you can season the porkchops an hour or more ahead of time, but not required. Here I serve them over couscous, with Couve Mineira on the side. I used boneless pork chops, but you could use bone-in. In fact, this would probably be good with chicken breasts too. Make as many as you would like for dinner and leftovers--this is for 4 chops.

Serving Suggestion 1

Serving Suggestion 2

4 pork chops
3 Tbsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. Aleppo pepper flakes
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 medium red peppers, diced
3 shallots, minced
1/4 c. white wine
1/4 c. water or chicken broth
1 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Combine the seasonings and rub it on the pork chops (honestly, I just eyeball the seasonings and sprinkle them on directly). If you have thin chops, score the fat & silverskin layer on the edge at 3/4" intervals so that they don't warp and cook unevenly.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan to medium. Add the chops and cook about 10 minutes on each side (lower the heat if they are cooking too fast). Cook until the internal temperature is 155 (for the tiniest hint of pink) or 160 (for all white), and set them aside on a plate.

Add some more olive oil to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and add the shallots. Stir and cook for 2 minutes, then add the red peppers. Saute the vegetables so that they soften and caramelize slightly on the edges. Add wine and water/broth to deglaze the pan and simmer to create a sauce. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of sugar.

Serve the chops whole or sliced, with the pepper relish on top. If you don't have Aleppo pepper, you can use paprika, but take extra care to ensure it doesn't scorch.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Beef Barley Stew

This is an absolute classic--perfect for winter weather. Like most stew recipes, it can be adapted according to your ingredients. I think it pays to be methodical in your approach, but you can also throw everything in the crockpot the night before and still get much of the deliciousness. I prefer to use an enameled pot in a slow oven, because my malevolent crockpot burns things.

Before.

After.

Preheat oven to 300.

3 lb. chuck roast, cut into 1" chunks
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 medium celeriac root, diced
1 c. small button mushrooms
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. rosemary
2 bay leaves
fat for frying
1-1.5 quart water and/or broth
1/2 c. wine
1/2 c. pearled barley
parsley, chopped (optional)
salt to taste

Pat the meat pieces dry and place them in a bowl. Toss them with the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Heat the fat in a dutch oven until very hot (I like to use a combination of bacon fat and cooking oil). Fry the meat in batches, turning the pieces so that the edges brown and crisp, and remove them to a bowl.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions to the remaining fat. Stir them and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the brown bits from frying. Add the celeriac and carrots and continue stirring and scraping.

Add the flour to the pot and stir to coat the vegetables. Allow it to brown and sizzle slightly. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat again. Stir in the mushrooms, thyme, and rosemary.

Add the broth or water, the wine, and the bay leaves. Usually red wine is recommended, but I think white works well. Bring to a boil, making sure to scrape any remaining bits off the bottom of the pot. Once it comes to a boil, put the lid on and place it in the oven. Allow ~3 hours for the stew to cook.

After 2 hrs. add the pearled barley. The stew is finished when the meat is fall-apart tender. Adjust the salt to taste and chopped parsley. I found that as I stirred it the celeriac and barley broke down enough to thicken the soup nicely.

The soup can be kept warm until dinnertime by reducing the oven to 225.