Sunday, March 4, 2012

TIP: Keeping Fresh

Any time that I want to keep a sauce or dip fresh in the fridge, I use plastic wrap.  The trick is to press the wrap into the sauce, not just over the top of the bowl, to minimize the oxidation.  I kept the Salsa Verde above in my fridge for four days before I took that picture.  Everything is still green, including the avocado chunks.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pork-Ginger Potstickers with Fire Sauce

Homemade Potstickers take some effort to prepare, but the flavor and texture are superior to anything I've ever had at a restaurant, and a lot cheaper too.  The advantage to homemade is in the texture: ground pork with little nuggets of ginger, garlic, and water chestnuts wrapped in a bite-sized won-ton with a salty/spicy dipping sauce create a flavorgasm of deliciousness.

When selecting a mixing bowl, I stand by my rule that you should always grab one size bigger than you think you need.  Remember to cook the pork until crumbly, drain the grease, and allow it to cool before you add it to the mix.  You can use a big spoon to stir, but I prefer to use my hands for that task.

Wrapping the potstickers is the time-consuming part of the preparation.  Kate can usually crank out about 60 in an hour.  We prefer the square won ton wrappers, but the round ones would work just as well.  Make sure to try and squeeze out all the air when you fold the wrapper over the filling.

The Fire Sauce is just a simple mix of three ingredients: Soy Sauce, White Vinegar, and Mongolian Fire Oil. It will separate if it sits too long, so give it a vigorous stir before you eat.

Before you start cooking, preheat the skillet over medium-high.  Add a dollop of oil and as many potstickers as will fit without touching, and let them brown for 2-3 minutes.  I like to use a metal spatula to gently separate them from the pan before I add the water to steam.

When you think they are ready, pour in the water and immediately cover the pan.  Wait until very little steam is still escaping (about 2 minutes), then remove the lid and remove the potstickers.  Kate and I like to eat them as they cook, but you could prepare them all before serving.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

This is one of the fastest and easiest enchilada dishes I know how to prepare, especially when I use the Rotisserie Chicken shortcut.  Most of the flavor comes from the onion, green chiles, and cilantro, but I like to add some jalapeno slices on top for a little more kick.

The filling and the sauce are nearly identical.  The filling has the chicken chunks and the sauce has some milk.  I find that each enchilada needs about two tablespoons of filling.

This is the arrangement that worked best for us.  Just make sure that you have one flat layer that fills whatever pan that you choose.  I don't care what the recipe says, be sure to use enough cheese to really cover the enchiladas and sprinkle a bit of chopped cilantro to add some color.  We finished cooking the dish by broiling it for two minutes so that the cheese was golden, brown and delicious.

Health Department Raid

Please read the following link:

As a foodie and an amateur chef, this story disgusts me.  I care deeply about the food I eat, and if you are following this page, I suspect that you do as well.  The kind of food that I like to eat is adventurous.  I know the risks that I assume when I prepare sausage or eat beef carpaccio.  The idea that serving such food to friends and family could even conceivably subject me to law enforcement contact is beyond the pale.

How do you feel about this story?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rotisserie Chicken

I know this isn't rocket science, but one of my favorite shortcuts when a recipe calls for cooked chicken is to buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and break it down at home.  The time saved by not cooking a whole chicken at home is worth the extra buck a pound.

Fifteen minutes of work, and I have perfectly cooked chunks of chicken and some bones and cartilage in a bag in the freezer for making stock.  But that's a different day...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cured Beef

Creamy and soft on the palate, with a rich, primal taste that finishes with a hint of rosemary, this is exactly what answers the call of the refined carnivore.  I wish my photo did justice to the ruby red color and white marbling, because a slice of this is art on the plate.  And it is effortless to make.

Total prep time for this is less than five minutes, plus a couple of days in the fridge to cure.  I used an electric knife to slice it thin, and fanned it on my plate.  My comment to Kate after eating my first slice: "This is what beef jerky aspires to."

Cornish Game Hens

Cornish Game Hens with an Apricot Glaze stuffed with Apricot and Pistachio Couscous.  This receipe is found in the Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer.  I discovered that my oven wasn't working after I had these little guys ready to go in, so they were actually made in the toaster oven!

I served the hens with a salad of mixed greens, avacado, green onions, glazed pecans, dried cranberries or "Craisins" in the supermarket, grapes and gorgonzola crumbles with french vinagrette.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Beef Carpaccio

Beef Carpaccio is a household favorite.  It's actually pretty simple to prepare, and the flavor of the raw beef, lightly seasoned and served with an aggressive spring mix salad, fresh shaved Parmesan, and a few Caperberries is a treat that we reserve for special occasions.  If you can overcome your fear of raw beef, you won't be disappointed by the texture and flavor of this dish.

Start by slicing a filet of beef as thinly as possible.  You will have better results if the meat is almost frozen when you begin.  I find that using an electric knife really helps with this step.

In order to pound the meat as thinly as possible and not destroy it when you move it to the serving dish, make sure to put a layer of plastic wrap on your cutting board, then arrange the meat slices so that they are almost touching, then put another layer of plastic wrap over the top.  Gently pound the meat until it forms a single thin piece, then carefully remove the top layer of wrap.  Put your serving plate upside-down on top, and carefully flip the whole thing over.  Leave the (now) top layer of wrap on until you are ready to serve.

When tossing the salad, use the best olive oil and balsamic vinegar that you can afford.  Simple preparations like this demand the highest quality ingredients to really shine.

Lobster Bisque

Lobster Bisque is the second part of our Valentine's Day tradition.  The sweet chunks of lobster tail swimming in the rich broth paired with a crisp white wine make for a perfect second course, especially when the weather turns cold.  Start to finish it takes a few hours to make, but a lot of that time is downtime while the soup simmers on the stove, so it doesn't feel like a chore.

I use kitchen shears to cut the tails in half.  One cut along the back shell, one along the belly, and the third cut through the meat keeps it all intact without too much mess.  Once the meat is steamed, I use tongs to pull the steamer basket out, let the meat cool, and use my hands to gently separate the meat from the shells.  And save the liquid from the pot!

We are always surprised by how much flavor we get from sauteing and deglazing with wine, so be sure to give this step enough time to develop all the lobstery-goodness you're looking for.   We let the wine reduce until just a puddle was left before we added the stock.

We cheated a little here by using ketchup instead of tomato paste.  Once everything had simmered and we removed all the bay leaves, I used our immersion blender until the soup had a smooth glossy appearance.  The recipe calls for some cream, lemon juice, and salt to taste to finish the soup.  We always go a step further and throw in a splash of Worcestershire sauce and a few hits of Tabasco to really pull the whole thing together.

The final step is mostly for presentation, but it's also another opportunity to add a bit of flavor to the soup.  After you lightly saute the tails, deglaze the pan with a bit of brandy or cognac and pour the pan-sauce into the soup.  Since you'll be eating this with a spoon, be sure to cut the meat into bite-sized slices, and sprinkle a little paprika and fennel frond over the top for garnish.

Black Forest Tartlets with Chocolate Cherries

Chocolate-dipped cherries + cherry-cream filling + chocolate cup = tasty morsel.  They were fun to eat, but they took some time to assemble.  Worth it for a Valentine's Day dessert, but I don't think we'll be making these again anytime soon.

The first step was painting chocolate layers into little foil cups.  Kate did the first round and I did the second.  We made a dozen, and I promise that the one in the photo at the top is the best of the bunch.

The second step was dipping cherries in the same chocolate.  Easy enough, but I haven't learned the trick to cooling them without a flat puddle of chocolate attached to the bottom.

The third step was making the cherry filling.  It starts by dissolving gelatin in cherry preserves over low heat.  Then I whipped heavy cream until it had stiff peaks.  The tricky part is folding the mixture into the cream without losing the fluffiness.  My final product, as you can see, wasn't nearly as uniform or appetizing as the photos in the magazine.  Luckily, it still tasted good.

Once everything was chilled, I started assembly by using tweezers to remove the foil from the chocolate cups.  I then spooned a dollop of the cherry filling into the cup and topped it with a cherry.  Three to a plate and our holiday dessert was ready!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

TIP: Seeding a Tomato

Anytime a recipe calls for a seeded tomato, just remember to cut it across the equator, then use a finger to scoop out the seeds from each pocket.  I usually hold the tomato over the sink while I'm scooping.

Baklava Butter

This is something we whipped up last night in about five minutes: Baklava Butter.  It's sweet and nutty, and tastes great with just about anything.

Just add everything to your food processor and chop until it looks like the photo above.  Can't get easier than that!