Friday, December 29, 2006

Ragoose

We made a sort of ragout from the goose meat. First, of course, we fished (fished?) out the goose skin and fried that for grivenes / gribenes / greebenes / grivns, spell it how you will, the crispy scraps of poultry skin, sprinkled with kosher salt (what else): essentially a goose potato chip.
Then fried onions in some saved goose fat, sprinkled with just a bit of flour for a roux, added some chopped goose meat, red wine for sauce, and the goose vegetables at the end.
Licked the platter clean.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Two More out of Seven Fishes

Next day: an appetizer of octopus, and a luxurious shrimp salad made with whole shrimp, chipotle remoulade, and a little chopped onion, yellow bell pepper, and celery. Disguising the fact that it's still all leftovers.

Two out of Seven Fishes

It was Boxing Day and all the guests had departed, so a perfect time to bring out the tasty leftovers from the Feast of Seven Fishes. Bluefish is time-sensitive and doesn't keep long, so that was first on our plates, just cold with a squirt of lime. Then a mouthful of the skate with caper butter. And to freshen it all, Napa Cabbage Slaw with Blue Cheese, made with a tangy cider vinegar dressing, from our friend Kathy's recipe.

Your goose is cooked

Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat.
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.

Another first. Always wanted to try a traditional goose for Christmas dinner.
We began with a wild goose chase. I called up Jungle Jim's on the Thursday before Christmas to make sure they had geese. "Sure, lots!" I was told. Well, put one aside anyway. "No need. I got a fresh shipment coming in tomorrow." And, of course, when we arrived on Saturday, we were told that they'd sold out of geese on Friday. After raging and gnashing of teeth (and a kind offer of six ducks to equal one goose, from the guy who sold me the veal breast, below), we returned laden with fish, but gooseless. While Dad and I put the fish away, Barbara kindly ran out to the local grocery store, where she'd priced geese before. And behold, it befell in those days, that the checkout guy hath said unto her, "$47.93 for a goose? That's ridiculous! Sell it to you for ten bucks." Truly a Christmas miracle.
Goose is just like duck, only more so. We followed Julia's method of steaming the goose in a closed roaster with just a cup of water for an hour, then pouring off the fat--six cups of fat. (It was very appropriate that the roaster in question - labelled "Savory" - was a legacy from our dear friend Bob, whose birthday was around Christmas, and who always loved such celebratory meals.) Made a sausage and sage dressing from the last of the duck bread (also appropriate). After stuffing the goose (with a lemon in the neck as a stopper to hold the stuffing in), we roasted it closed and bottoms up for an hour, over cut-up turnips, carrots (crudités from the festival of fish), and the last of the shallots, then bosom side up and open for another 30 minutes to crisp the skin.
The meat is all dark, dense, and despite the steaming, still covered in a layer of fat. The vedge had braised in the goose grease. A little Cumberland sauce (Thanks, John and Priscilla!) on the side. Delicious, but to be frank, there's really just not a lot of meat on a goose. One will just about do for four people, tops.
Had it with another bottle of Paradigm, a merlot (Thanks, JoDee and David), so it was a family feast.

Post-game analysis. I think next time I do a goose, I'll cook it like a duck, i.e. break it down completely beforehand and cut off the breast meat. Roast the legs in a high oven and sauté the breast in thin slices. There's no meat in the wings except a thin strip between the ulna and the tibia. However, on Boxing Day, we simmered the carcass and rendered out 2 more cups of goose fat. It's easy to see why the fat was so prized: it's abundant, semi-liquid even when cold, and very pure. So now we've got lots of schmaltz and our stock for some time to come is going to be Goose Juice.

As Apicius said, "De goosibus non est disputandum": There's no denying, them geese is tasty.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Seven fishes


Christmas Eve
We had Barbara's cousin Eric, his family, friends, and other machatunim (people you're related to but it would take a genealogical chart and your mother-in-law to detail exactly how) over for Sette Pesci, the traditional Italian Christmas Eve fest of seven fishes, because none of us are Italian. Barbara has a childhood memory of Karen's dad, Ralph, doing twelve fishes! But maybe the scungilli (conch) just seemed like five extra.
Here are our seven:
1. Boiled shrimp with classic cocktail sauce (kid friendly)
2. Lox with cream cheese (kid friendly)
3. Little crab cakes with a chipotle remoulade (semi-kid friendly).
4. Octopus (not kid friendly): Still trying to recreate the octopus at Fino in London. Boiled the baby cephalopods for an hour to tenderize, sliced, then fried with a healthy shot of pimentón della Vera (see posts for Sept. 1 and Oct. 6). Added lemon juice.
5. Brandade. This was a new one for us: bacalà--salt cured dried cod--reconstituted by soaking in water for 24 hours, then ground with garlic and whipped with olive oil and cream. Served with lots of crudités* for dipping. Delish--close to whitefish salad but more primeval.
*Pronounced Crud-ites, the inhabitants of the ancient kingdom of Krud (and weren't they all)
The great advantage was that most of these could be prepared the day before.
6. Skate with black butter. Wish I had a picture of the skate, which is truly primordial in its ugliness. Very easy to prepare however. Just dropped the skate wing into the court bouillon left over from cooking the shrimp. About 20 minutes later, remove to a cutting board. The slimy yet spiky skin peels right off, and you simply scrape the rich meat off the central cartilage. For beurre noir, heat butter till it begins to brown, then add lots of capers. Fry them and add a shot of lemon juice. Pour over fish.
7. Baby blues. Possibly Barbara's favorite fish - they match her eyes. So glad we found two little bluefish at Jungle Jim's. Tossed them into a 400º oven, with the new probe in the thickest part. When it beeped at 125º (leaving us free to talk with friends), arranged them on a platter to look like Pisces (which they are) and anointed with Barbara's basil oil.

For those who were either fed up with fish or still hungry by this time, there was a huge platter of baked ziti; in fact, they were campanelli drenched in tomato sauce thickened with pureed sun-dried tomatoes, then layered with mozzarella and parmesan.
We ate the smaller cold dishes while nattering around the house. Then al tavola! for the big hot fish. Barbara expertly flensed the blues. Everyone tried everything. The kids tried most things that didn't have suckers.

For desert, more of the piña colada cake (we're officially out of lady fingers now), lovingly frosted with whipping cream, and biscotti: pistachio and cranberry (green and red for Christmas), and hazelnut-chocolate chip (both from the 1992 Gourmet that we keep with the cookbooks). Tobias had brought a rosé dessert wine, SoloRosa, that went perfectly with them.

Veal breast

Sat. 23 Dec.
Poitrine de veau, actually, more a petto di vitello, since the recipe is Italian (Marcella Hazan), but in fact it differs nary a whit from the French version.
We went with Holt's father out to Jungle Jim's for the full jungle experience. Besides the fish for the Sette Pesci, we bought a veal breast. This is a bony, fatty cut of meat, but one of the best ways to have veal. There's much less waste than you might think and at $1.99/lb. we buy one every time we go to Jungle Jim's. This also accounts for the superabundance of veal stock that we have in the freezer.
You can stuff a veal breast very easily, just by running a knife under the ribs (a Mr. Sparafucile taught me that trick). Fill with spinach, bread crumbs, etc. But even simpler is just to roast it at the People's Temperature, whole, covered, with a little garlic and rosemary, adding a cup of wine at the start. After an hour toss in your choice of root vedge. Cook for another hour. The cool thing is, as the meat braises, it auto-Frenches, that is, the meat pulls back from the ribs. Cut between the ribs (that's easy), and then locate the corresponding point on the chine, to separate into ribs (that may take a bit of force). We served that last of the yard chard on the side, with the vedge and pan juices.

Grilled romaine salad

Friday 22 Dec.
Had this at Bacaro in Champaign-Urbana (blog for Oct. 13), so we decided to recreate it at home. It seems to be a Bobby Flay invention. I found a couple of recipes on the net, but forgot to bring them home, so just winged it. But the concept ain't exactly that difficult.
Find a nice head of romaine lettuce. Pull off any floppy leaves. Cut in half, paint with olive oil, and toss on the grill cut side down first. Flip after about 3 minutes, and grill on the curved side for 3 minutes more. It chars nicely, the leaves don't curl up much, and the grill marks look cool. Cover with a Caesar dressing (anchovies and parmesan), top with fried-up duck bread* croutons - they'll fall off, but who cares - and sprinkle with more grated parmesan. Had it with a few slices of the cold rare lamb.

*Duck bread, an explanation. Our favorite BBQ joint, Mr. Pig at Findlay market, does fine ribs and a fabulous brisket (not always available and so a more desired treat). They include a couple of slices of spongy white bread draped over the plate of ribs. However generous the act, let's face it, Spongy White Bread is 1) the worst name for a rapper ever, and 2) fit only to be fed to the ducks in Burnet Woods, hence the culinary term "duck bread." To be honest, sometimes the ducks are so well-fed and fussy that they won't eat it either. I've just submitted the term "duck bread" to UrbanDictionary. Let's see if they'll take it.
Update: They have! It's now an official bit of urban slang: Duck bread.

Broccoli and anchovy pasta

Thurs. 21 Dec.
A light dish for the run-up to Christmas, and a good thing to do with the winter green of broccoli. Cut off the stems of the brocs, trim off the tough outer bark, and cut the interior into batons. They're really quite tender, more tender even than the florets, which you cut into small pieces.
Sauté them all in olive oil. Add two big cloves of chopped garlic and 8 or so anchovy fillets. Toss everything so it gets coated. When the garlic starts to color, add 1/2 cup of white wine and cover. This steams the florets and the wine and oil make a nice sauce. Serve over penne with lots of cheese.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lamb redux

Left-over lamb. Sliced the roast thinly and set out on a plate so it could warm up. Meanwhile, boiled a small bunch of parsnips and potatoes. Beat with cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg. The parsnips add a brighter, sweeter note to the tatties. Heated up the lamb in the microwave, just enough to take the chill off (45 sec. + 30 sec. seems to have done the trick). Made emergency lamb gravy and poured into the caldera of Mr. Parsnip and Ms. Spud.

Here's how to make quick gravy for meat when you don't have the brown bits from roasting. Did this for the deep fried turkey at Thanksgiving, too.
Trim any fat that the meat provides, dripping, what have you, Then trim off about a half cup of the crustiest outer bits of skin or meat. Sauté in the fat, adding more oil or butter, if necessary. When the meat is fried, you've created your own instant brown bits! Add just a bare sprinkle of flour to make a roux and brown that thoroughly, too. Then pour in your liquid--stock, white wine (for poultry), red wine for the lamb, plus any juices from the plate. Voila!

Penne with salami and zucchini

See the post for
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2006
A perennial fave.

Stuffed leg o' lamb

The apostrophe is part of the flavoring. Normally, I buy legs o' lambs and bone them myself, then make scotch broth out of the bones and trimming, but this was too good a buy ($3.99/lb.) to pass up. The disadvantage was that whatever machine did the deboning out in Australia* made a real butchery of it. Big flaps of meat flapping meatily everywhere. Nonetheless, decided to do it stuffed. We had a frozen tub of chard cooked with garlic and bacon left over from the last chard harvest. So in it went, after suitable squeezing. Some ingenious lamb bondage with clove hitches sealed the deal (mostly).
Popped it in the oven at 375º. And we finally played with my new toy! The remote sensing oven thermometer, a birthday present (Thanks, Dad!), worked a treat. I plugged it into the lamb, set the gizmo for 125º, and we sat down on the couch with a glass of wine and read companionably until the buzzer went off. Set the lamb on the sideboard to rest for 15 minutes. All right, 10. I just couldn’t wait and the house was filled with lamby smells. Perfectly cooked to nice pinky medium rare, and the salt in the chard filling had seasoned the lamb.
Lamby, how I love ya, how I love ya. My dear ol' lamby.

*Most prepositions at the end of a sentence: a young girl in her room on the second floor complains to her father about his choice of bedtime story: "What did you bring that book that I didn't want to be read to out of up for?" Now let us imagine that the book was about Australian cricket: "What did you bring that book that I didn't want to be read to out of about over after over out in Down Under up for?" Cheating? You betcha!

Tilapia with salsa

Sunday was quick fish. Lynne L. had left some pleasantly ferocious and virulently green salsa in our fridge, perfect for tilapia, which, let's face it, is dull but worthy. So we just dredged the fillets in seasoned cornmeal and fried they little fishy butts off. Removed to heated plates, and poured the last of the salsa into the pan. DO NOT INHALE! Served on the side of the fish with a few fried zuke batons with garlic. And where did this fiery fiesta, this hot habañero, this salacious salsa come from? Why Athens, Ohio, of course. Yeeeeee-haaaaa!
http://www.casanueva.com/index.html

Monday, December 18, 2006

Latkes

For the second night of Hanukkah. Barbara's family is of the savory rather than the sweet persuasion—when it comes to latkes, that is (boy, that was a close one). A small onion to about five smallish potatoes. I follow Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food. The key is to throw the grated potatoes into cold water instantly (these keeps them from discoloring and removes excess starch). Squeeze dry, and then add the onion and egg. Fry in miraculous oil. Serve with yogurt strained through cheese cloth. If you're making this the main course of a meal (and we are), top with lox and capers.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A going-away party for Lynne

Our good friend Lynne is leaving the tropical paradise of Cincinnati for Florida, so Jack and Shari threw her a going-away pot-luck party. Lots of tasty food: baked ham and turkey, delicious eggplant from Kathy (soy-sauce, ginger marinade), a great Salat Olivier (Russian chicken salad) from Steve, yummy butternut squash (I never found out whose), three other salads, plus lots of stuff I've unfortunately forgotten. For dessert a splendidly moist carrot cake from Chuck.


We brought an experiment, something, of course, you're never supposed to do. I wanted to try to create a Piña Colada tiramisù, a sort of we're-just-back-from-the-Caribbean-&-you're-going-to-Florida theme, and mostly because I had all these frozen ladyfingers. I found a recipe online for a coconut and pineapple filling, which I'll never use again because it did not set up. I did an emergency rescue by adding some gelatin dissolved in rum, to turn it into a Bavarian. I would have added the rum in any case, but now my ethnicities were all screwed up: an Italo-Caribbean-Bavarian co-production. But now it solidified quite nicely and besides, with enough rum, who cares?

Since it was also the first night of Hanukkah, I made our challah menorah. (Why Hanukkah but challah, you ask? Tradition!) I read years ago in Gourmet that Zabar's was selling challah menorahs, and though I've still never seen one of theirs, I decided to create one. Basically a two-tiered challah with nine balls of dough for the candles. Not as high, but in some ways even more impressive, is to make three braids of three strands each, join them together, but fan out the ends for the candles. Looks rather harp-like (or hydra-like if you’re of a morbid frame of mind, and you know you are).
Below are some pictures of how to do a challah braid if you've never done one. The clue is to think "middle." So take the right-most strand and bring it over to the middle. Then left to the middle, then right, then left. I usually leave the starting knot only loosely pinched, because you can often tighten up the look after you've made the complete braid.

And the finished product. Taa-daa!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Roast pork hash

The last slices of roast pork from Saturday, but this time, we really made a hash of it. You can either hash by hand if you have the time and feel like meticulously chopping everything up in tiny little cubes, or use the robot-coupe, which is faster and more accommodating to those who are already hungry. Guess which method we use most often.
So: chop up two onions and salt, and start them frying in oil in a big, broad, oven-proof pan. While they're cooking, chop up a couple of big potatoes, peeled or not, as you choose. Add them to the pan, and shuffle them about to let them and the onions cook on all sides. Then add three or four cubes of frozen stock, preferably of the same type as the meat to be hashed, but others will do, or even water, ad lib. Cover the pan and let the potatoes steam and become tender. Chop up the pork, mince a handful of fresh parsley and sage leaves, and add all that last. Stir about to mix, pat down, and run under a hot broiler for four or five minutes, to get the top brown. Serve with HP or sauce Americaine, i.e. ketchup (which we used up the last of, in making BBQ sauce).

Chili, reprise

Sunday's chili left over, but Holt made fresh cornbread muffins to go with it. The cornbread recipe is from my work in progress, The Fear and Loathing Cookbook, and uses both baking soda and baking powder, but I can't remember where I cribbed it from.

Napas

Napa sausages, that is, from Kroeger's in Findlay Market. These are flavored with wine and peppers on the inside, and so: wine, peppers, and onions on the outside.
We still miss their garlic metts.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Barbecued pork and creamed leeks

One of our quick meals out of (mainly) leftovers, in this case the scrappy bits of roast pork from Saturday, "pulled," shredded, and anointed with every bit of old barbecue-like sauce, ketchup, and Worcestershire we had. Accompanied by our new favorite, creamed leeks, cited often in the pages below.

Chili

No, not Cincinnati chili - we are not so acclimated to this place, and anyway, that's just Greek makaronia me kyma with a couple of odd garnishes. Holt insists on his Southwestern heritage when it comes to chili. So we pressure-cooked some pinto beans to start them off, and then let them simmer on the stove for hours, while Barbara tended them and gardened intermittently. When the beans have almost sucked up all the liquid they can take, a can of crushed tomatoes gets stirred in. Ground beef (or venison, if David had any to spare) is fried separately, with chopped onions, and then seasoned with heaps of ground coriander, cumin, and purest chile de Nuevo Mexico. Finally, beef and beans are combined, and simmered along with the secret ingredient, a generous splash of red wine vinegar. Shhhh…don't tell anyone. It's delicious.

Pork Roast with Winter Vegetables

Saturday was an ideal day for a big roast beast, for many reasons. Holt wanted to try out the new probe thermometer his Dad gave him for his birthday; Philip was coming to dinner, so we wanted to serve something American and generous; and it was a cold, blustery day. Of course, pig is the typical beast to roast here in Porkopolis, and happily enough, pork sirloin was on sale at IGA. Holt seasoned it Italian style, by stuffing garlic slices and rosemary leaves (garnered by Barbara before the plants went into hibernation) into slits poked into the meat. Then he strewed the vegetables - onions, turnips, carrots, later some parsnips - around the roasting pan and shoved it all into the oven at the People's Temperature.
We had some drinks and snacks when Philip arrived, and then went out into the cold for the Clifton Carriage Rides: two patient Percherons towed a carriage of willfully merry Cliftonites around a couple of blocks, accompanied by jingly bells and Christmas carols (if anyone knew or could read the words). Of course, when we got back, the alarm on the probe thermometer had already gone off, so Holt didn't get to hear it. But the roast was juicy, the vegetables roasted to a turn, and the dessert, of Graeter's coconut chip with the last of Michael's gingered pears, was a sweet, though cold, finish.

Pork steaks Modena style with potatoes

Friday
See blog for October 6, 2006. Thick pork chops with the bone in, tomato (canned), and sage. Makes a rich, dark gravy, which is perfect for pouring over a mound of garlic mashed potatoes. Potatoes, tomatoes, thanks New World (sorry about the smallpox and stuff).

Arugula & parsley pasta

Thursday
Stayed late for a lecture (Thera blew up in 1628 B.C. Deal with it!), so we were starved and needed something quick. The arugula, too, had wintered very nicely, so we did a variant on Ms. Williams' pesto (see post for Oct. 24, 2006). The parsley mellowed out the peppery taste of "The Last of the Arugula" (that beloved novel by Mary Renault). Hmm, more anchovies and garlic. Are we in a rut? No, remember Barbara was raised by a pack of wild Neapolitans.

Albacore steaks with chard

Wednesday
More steaks, if different phyla, and possibly the last of the chard from the yard. Barbara had carefully banked and mulched the garden before we left, so the bottom leaves of the chard were in surprisingly good shape. Just chopped and sautéed the ribs and leaves in oil, then covered till tender. Served with a shot of lemon, a Greek touch. Sautéed the albacore in the cast iron pan for no more than 2 minutes a side. Drizzled basil oil over, for that Chef Willy on the yacht touch.

T-bone steak with ginger pureed carrots

Tuesday:
Our first full day back, and a simple grilled steak, brushed with a dab of soy sauce for extra flavor. Winter, and the fact that we hadn't gone to the market on Saturday, calls for earthy vegetables, i.e. stuff in the bottom of the drawer. So nice carrots. Chopped up, boiled in a little water, then puréed in the RobotCoupe with a knob of stem ginger in syrup (and a bit of the syrup), a prezzie from our friends John and Priscilla in Eynsham (just outside Oxford, in case you're in the neighborhood).

Pasta Puttanesca

On Monday we returned home, fat and happy. So a quick dish after a long drive: Pasta Puttanesca. Ran across it first in a restaurant review in Gourmet years ago and thought, "That can't possibly mean what I think it means." But yes, it is indeed "Whore's Sauce," or pasta alla prostitute. Etymology mercifully unknown, though I've always favored the idea that it got its name from the fact that everything goes into it. The constants are tuna, anchovies, and olives. Since this is a dish many of whose ingredients are or can be canned, it's perfect for winter.

So sauté garlic in olive oil plus some oil from a jar/can of anchovies. Add crushed tomatoes, lots of chopped black olives (though we had it once in a joint in the Campo dei Fiori topped with a single green olive), handful of capers, healthy shots of oregano, basil, and pepper. When thickened add a can of tuna (preferably in oil, but frankly the cheap stuff that's barely a step up from cat food will do just fine with so many other things to cover it up). Serve over spaghetti or what you will. Bizarrely, despite anchovies, capers, and tuna, the sauce often needs extra salt. Pasta Puttanesca is one of the great exceptions to the "no cheese with fish" rule, since otherwise it wouldn't be slutty enough, would it?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Smyrna, Tennessee: Sunday post-sermon Pot Luck

(Sun. 3 Dec. 06)
There couldn't be a more complete cultural shift. We went from the Seabourn Pride tastings to a real southern American pot luck at the Auburntown Church of Christ. This particular Agape had a galaxy of bean dishes, at least three pinto, one lima, and one green- with ham; the winner in that category was a bean soup with spicy sausage disks. There were two coleslaws, one normal and one pink; various creamy casseroles (cheese-noodle, cheese-rice, corn); lasagne; nachos; beef chili, pot roast, and a great spicy-sauced meatloaf; sausages with saurkraut; smoky-flavored pork loin (unpulled pulled pork?); crisp pickled chile peppers; ham biscuits; and two kinds of corn bread. All accompanied by swee'tea, of course. JoDee had hearkened to her mother's old saying and brought a plateful of pb&j sandwiches on white bread; sure enough, they disappeared in an instant. Her blueberry cobbler was also favored in the cobbler stakes (other entrants: cherry and raspberry), and there were tiny chocolate bundt cakes, a classic red velvet cake, and a jello mold (sine qua potluck non), among many desserty others. But at this point we gave up, and can only return our thanks to the fine cooks of the Auburntown Church.

End of the Cruise: Bridgetown, Barbados


(Sat. 2 Dec. 06)
Back in Barbados, we had to clear the cabin by 8 AM, and though the condemned couple then made a hearty meal in the Restaurant, we were soon thrown out of paradise. Since we were on a horrible airline at a horrible airport (Charlotte SC) at dinnertime, we will recount our last long lingering lunch instead.

At a shaded table at the Waterfront Café, overlooking the bridge, boats, and buildings of Bridgetown, we had Barbadian Pepperpot of long-cooked and well-spiced meat, and batter-fried flying fish hoagies, Barbados' answer to the po'boy. We eased the virulent pepper sauce for the fish with mayonnaise, and added cold Carib beers. Ahhh, vacation.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day Seven, Admiralty Bay, Bequia



(Fri. 1 Dec. 06)
Though this was a squally day, we liked green and friendly Bequia best of all the islands. We hiked for a swim at Princess Margaret Beach, passing Mimosa Cottage, where we want to retire, or at least vacation. This was our last night for the Veranda Café, though this time it was a more bistro-standard menu, with choices.
First course: both had escargots in standard garlic butter. Rather ho-hum, but we didn't want to press our liver luck with the mousseline of foie gras.
Soup: lobster bisque with a little lobster salad.
Salad: mesclun with goat cheese and bacon.
Main courses: sea bass Niçoise with tomato-lemon confit and fried caperberries; lamb chops Provençale with roasted vegetables and potato gratin.
Desserts: melted chocolate ganache cake with vanilla chantilly and brandy ice cream; roast pineapple with frozen yogurt and almond brittle.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day Six, Fort de France, Martinique


(Thurs. 30 Nov. 06)
Despite the romantic aura of To Have and Have Not, the dockside was grey and drizzly, and our morning snorkeling excursion rather lackluster. But that evening was our first chance to get the Tastings @ 2 menu at the Veranda Café. Seven complex dishes are served, and in the usual modernist mode, the diners are completely in the power of the chef. Luckily, Chef Willy was pleasant and easy to talk to, and the servers didn't blindfold us and make us inhale bubbles full of licorice essence.
First: Caviar on top of foggy potatoes (shot out of the thermo-whip); absolutely delicious, though the little lobster salad underneath was slightly out of tune.
Second: sushi rolls with centers of seared flank steak and barbequed salmon, and a duck confit pop, all with various sauces and dips.
Third: tea-smoked game (but what sort?) cleverly set up in a cafetière to produce bouillon pressé, served with chestnut spätzle; a honey-spiced squab and fig empanada; and a luscious cup of porcini and chestnut "cappucino."
Fourth: post-modern surf and turf, i.e. a tiny grilled beef tenderloin with mushrooms and truffled emulsion next to a "floating lobster" on pesto cream with red-pepper fondue and lime froth.
Fifth: sweet and sour apple snow and granny smith confit; a palate-cleanser.
Sixth: heavenly beignets stuffed with apricot jam, with calvados ice cream and shots of bittersweet chocolate milk. Deceptively innocent.
Seventh: the nightcap, orange amaretto. Sweet dreams.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day Five, Charlestown, Nevis


(Weds. 29 Nov. 06)
Once again, spent the early part of the day at an idyllic and deserted beach within walking distance of dockside (Penney's Beach, with the boat "Rescue the Perishing" anchored off-shore, having just sailed in from Derek Walcott) . This one had cheaper, colder, better beer than St. Barth's, nicer people, and playful cats (and crabs).

"Chef's Dinner" at the Restaurant was a progressive tasting menu:
First: Smoked duck breast (too bacon-like) with guava jam and papaya salad.
Second: Grenada conch and scallop chowder.
Third: oyster and shrimp gratin with (mmmm) lime sabayon.
Fourth: frozen sugar cane punch with grenadine essence.
Main courses: Creole sautéed flying fish fillet with a corn and rice cake, plantain chips, and a yummy green salsa; jerk-spiced pork filet with sweet potato and parsnip purée.
Dessert: banana rum cake (really a conical mousse with a ganache bottom) with coconut ice cream.
Cheese: Pain d'ange, Pont l'Eveque, and Roquefort, with nutmeg jelly.
Camerhogne spiced rum truffles.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day Four, Marigot, St. Martin.




(Tues. 28 Nov. 06)
The most exhilarating day, spent out sailing on America's Cup yachts, grinding and winching and being bossed around by people who actually know how to sail. We went aboard Canada II, and actually won the race on an abbreviated course, under the able guidance of Captain Paul ("the best thing about winning is gloating").


At the Restaurant, we were hosted by the Entertainment Director and seated at opposite ends of the table, so we were not able to share our courses, for the first time in years!
First course: B, cured and roasted tiny slices of lamb loin, with mango coulis; H, twice-baked goat cheese soufflé with roasted garlic cream.
Soup: lobster bisque for both.
Salad: none, but I should have had the fingerling potatoes with quail eggs and bacon.
Main course: roasted venison tenderloin with foie gras sauce and mashed butternut squash for both.
Dessert: double chocolate cake for both.
Many fewer choices available, so pooh for sitting apart.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day Three, Gustavia, St. Barts.


(Mon. 27 Nov. 06)
Spent the afternoon swimming at Shell Beach, which was sandy salty fun (warm beer: four euros), but we felt the need for some elegance rather than the deckside barbecue on offer that evening. So back to the Restaurant.
First course: seared tuna, soba noodle, and seaweed salad in a cilantro dressing; corn and cream cheese tortellini topped with black truffle shavings, in a sweet corn broth.
Soup: artichoke with preserved lemon, with tiny potato croutons floating on top.
Salad: braised and raw endives with bits of sweet and sour apricots, in a lavender dressing.
Main course: cumin and coriander crusted sea bass with two sauces, carrot and parsley; calamari stuffed with shrimp forcemeat, with roasted peppers, arugula, and "pasta pearls" (Israeli couscous).
Dessert: poire tatin with caramel and ice cream; white chocolate/mocha mousse in a chocolate shell with bittersweet chocolate ice cream.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day Two.

(Sun. 26 Nov. 06)
The day was spent steaming steadily north through the Lesser Antilles, and acquiring our sea legs (not kamaboko, but a sense of balance). We attended a cooking demonstration by Chef Willy, who's in charge of the Veranda Café and likes to foam things up with CO2 in the modern food-as-science-experiment way.

Followed by a fascinating galley tour by executive Chef Markus (champagne and caviar snacks provided, of course).







That evening was the Captain's first-night celebration, so we wore formal attire for the party (smoked salmon hors d'oeuvres as well as the caviar) and dinner; several of the staff complimented Holt on his black-and-gold brocade Balinese jacket.
First course: caviar (what, again?) on a potato-shallot cake with remoulade; a torchon of foie gras with fruit terrine, roasted hazelnuts, and hazelnut brioche. Holt only had a mouthful of the latter, as he is of the opinion that even the best liver is still liver, and he says the hell with it; but he also said, on the record, that this was the best liver he's tasted.
Soup: duck broth with confit and vegetables, served in a coffee cup with a pastry crust over it. Cute, and good too.
Salad: grilled portobello mushroom with balsamic vinaigrette.
Main course: polenta-crusted lobster tail with corn purée and a tasty little lobster fritter; veal osso bucco with shallot confit and potato purée.
Dessert: this was where Seabourn service actually screwed up. For some reason, no one brought us dessert until the dining room was almost empty, so they apologized by bringing us - another dessert. The first was a trio of cremes brulées, the most memorable of which was basil-flavored; and the extra was a melting chocolate mini-cake with raspberry sorbet.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day One


(Sat. 25 Nov. 06)
As part of Holt's semicentennial celebration (see Birthday Dinner, below), I gave him a cruise vacation, which is one of the cleverest gift ideas I've ever had, since I got to go along too. He chose the Seabourn line for its small ships and excellent reputation for food, wine, and service - and boy, did it live up to the hype. We were greeted with champagne and fruit in our cabin, had some more after the lifeboat drill, and this continued for a full week. If you got hungry after breakfast, you could have brunch; then lunch; then fruit and smoothies on deck; tea and cakes at 4, hors d'oeuvres at 5, dinner in either the elegant large Restaurant or the bistro-like Veranda Café, and of course dessert; and someone would bring you more of pretty much any of these, or malossol caviar and champagne, anywhere, anytime.

So here's the dinner we sat down to as we set off from Bridgetown, Barbados.
First course: jumbo shrimp with cilantro, lime, and a hint of chile; crab cakes with a roasted red pepper coulis.
Soup: tomato and white bean, with crostini floating on top.
Salad: frisée with duck confit, with sherry shallot dressing.
Main course: scallops with bacon and braised cabbage in a juniper reduction.
Dessert: chocolate terrine with hazelnut parfait
Cheese: Caciotta al tartufo with a honey-apple syrup.

Taco Pizza

(Friday 24 Nov 06)

Okay, it sounds odd, but our niece Melanie hates regular pizza (something we had thought genetically impossible), and Becky wanted to provide one of her favs as a home-from-college treat. It's normal pizza dough spread with taco-seasoned ground beef, and is pretty tasty. Accompaniments: nachos--natch--and a green salad.

Thanksgiving, family-style and Top-chef style

(We've been on vacation for two weeks--more later--so here's the first installation of our catch-up)

This is the biggest family-and-food day of the American year, and we are fortunate to have an abundance of both, not to mention great cooks to produce said food.
Of course, the centerpiece is turkey: David lovingly injected two big birds with flavored butter and then deep-fried them using his special deep-fryer, which stands a nice long way from the house. This prevents fires, while any oil overflow - there will be lots - goes into a part of the grass you don't want to mow anyway. The turkey cooks in an amazingly short time, and is moist and tender with nice crispy skin.
JoDee first made her own classic southwestern cornbread, and then made that into two separate dressings, both sacred to Parker family traditions: sausage and oyster. These were true dressings, as they didn't get stuffed into anything - just you try deep-frying a stuffed turkey.
Joanna made mashed potatoes, rich with cream and butter.
Holt and I only had a little of our cranberry chutney to bring with us, so we made two pounds of cranberry-clementine sauce. Just those two ingredients ground up with lots of sugar, either raw or cooked - we did cooked.
Becky was the Pie Queen, providing pumpkin, pecan, and apple-pumpkin pies (the last surprisingly appley). Any cream left over from other uses got whipped to adorn these beauties.
Jo Linn made her famous buttermilk fudge, which is based on Uncle Plem's secret family recipe. Actually, it's not so secret, as he's given it out to all of us, but only Jo Linn has really gotten it right.
Oh, and there were fresh rolls and steamed broccoli, but who cares? A green vegetable is almost immaterial on the Thanksgiving table.

In the evening, after the statutory football games, we watched the Top Chef Thanksgiving Challenge on the Food Network. Several aspiring chefs were each ordered to produce one course of a "cutting-edge" Thanksgiving dinner, and after the usual competitiveness, bitching and crises, they produced a fairly lousy and uncoordinated (duh!) menu to be sneered at by Anthony Bourdain.
Since then, Holt and I have been putting our thoughts together on what we would have chosen to serve for this challenge. Given that we were in co-operation rather than competition, our job was much easier, and we were able to match and contrast flavors, textures, temperatures, and even states of the union. Not to mention that we didn't actually have to cook anything.
So, here's BARBARA AND HOLT'S CUTTING-EDGE THANKSGIVING DINNER.
Pumpkin bisque garnished with Maryland blue crabmeat;
Turkey breast California rolls with avocado, served with cranberry gelée, ginger relish, and wasabi mayonnaise;
Turkey-leg confit with caramelized onions under a cloud of Idaho potatoes (gassed through an iSi thermo-whip, for that El Bulli touch);
Butternut squash flan with candied pecans and crème fraiche.
Take that, Top Chef.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ham

Wednesday
The whole fam damily arrives on the day before Thanksgiving, and there is nothing better for feeding seventeen people than a big ol' ham. And sweet potatoes baked in their jackets. And broad beans with ham. And bread. And rolls. And cheesecake, because it's Joanna's birthday. Remember, this is the day BEFORE Thanksgiving.

Classic Roast

Tues.
JoDee, in her capacity as ÜberMutter, was taking two kids to fourteen events, and left the Classic Roast in the Classic Oven. The Roast Beast of Old Tennessee consists of a fine slab of beef, richly covered in the fat of sacrifice--as Homer sang--then slow cooked in a covered metal roaster, with potatoes, onions, apples, and carrots, until the meat and everything else falls apart. Makes its own gravy.

Birthday Dinner

Die Dove (pronounced dee doo-vah)
My birthday (never you mind which one--all right, 50th. There, happy now?)
JoDee and David did a feast for my birthday. The main dish was dove (actually many doves, all lovingly shot by David), breast boned out, cut into paillards, whacked flat, and each wrapped around a bit of onion and a slice of jalapeño. Each piece was then wrapped in a strip of bacon and secured with a toothpick (red counterintuitively indicating jalapeño-less bits, for the kids) and briefly broiled. Extraordinarily good. Dove, squab, roof chicken, rat with wings, what you will, it's red meat on the wing, so we had one of David's bottles of Paradigm (Cab Sauv 2001) with it. To follow, a slice of Red Velvet Cake. A Happy, Happy Birthday.

Lasagne

Sunday, drove to my sister JoDee's house (see above and below for her husband David the Hunter). After the trip, sat down to JoDee's vegetarian lasagne: spinach, tender slices of zucchini, and onion, in the usual lasagne noodles, tomato sauce and cheese. Not vegetarian on principle, mind you. She, too, holds to the aesthetic principle that any fool can follow a recipe, but it takes a cook to turn what you happen to have on hand into something amazing.

Provençal Billi Bi--sort of.

Saturday was out last day at home before hitting the road for my Birthday, Thanksgiving, and THE CRUISE (see below). So this was a bottom of the vegetable bin soup, and turned out beautifully.
Took the one last leek, the three last zukes, and the two still OK tomatoes. Sautéed the sliced leek, added the cubed zukes and tomatoes, poured a slash of wine, flavored with thyme and a pinch or five of saffron. Then added a frozen block of bay scallops. Busted up said block as it unfroze. At the end, just as the busted-up scallops were turning opaque, added the last shot of cream in the fridge. I had a vague idea of where I was going with all this, but it wasn't until I was finished that I realized that what I had had in mind all along (in a sort of a Plato's Cave sort of way, sort of) was Billi Bi, the mussel soup of uncertain parentage and etymology. Yummies. We left with full stomachs and a clean fridge.
This was our last day at home for two weeks, so what follows will be mostly other people cooking for us, with our role mostly that of sous-chefs and galley slaves.

Southwest pork loin

On Friday, we had our friend, Lynne, over for a semi-impromptu- TGIF-CYJWTWATMIBPIA (Congratulations You've Just Won the Wiseman Award The Most Important Book Prize in Archaeology) supper.
We'd defrosted a small pork loin in the Cat Protection Device (a.k.a. the microwave. The device protects the thawing meat from the cat, rather than protecting the cat as such). Sort of had a SW vision, so smeared it with a paste of ancho chili in adobo (maybe 1 tsp) thickened with lots of ground cumin, coriander, a little salt, and thinned with half a lime's worth of lime juice and a glug of olive oil to make it spreadable. 45 minutes in a hot oven to cook and crust.
Let it sit for 10 unbearable minutes on the cutting board, then deglazed with white wine and the juices on the cutting board (Lynne directing traffic so that I got really most of the juice into the pan) to make a red chili gravy. Served with mashed potatoes (lotsa cream).
Graeter's Coconut Chocolate Chip and fresh pineapple for a more tropical dessert (see Sept. 1 for Graeter's).

Sole di Sicilia

This was a discovery made by Don Maguire molti anni fa. Don is a dean, classicist, archaeologist and old Turkey hand (the country, though since he and his wife, Fee, are brilliant cooks, probably the bird, too). He ran across a farm in Sicily, which sold all sorts of products, among which was one of the great gifts to man—Sole di Sicilia. When Don takes tours around, they usually stop there, without, as far as I'm aware, him getting the usual 20% cut (though he may take it out in trade). I tagged along one year, when Barbara was down a pit in Caesarea, and came back with a large jar, carefully wrapped in a shirt (white, of course). The shirt, when wrung out, was absolutely delicious. Enough, however, survived the leak to feed us for an age, and for me to attempt an recreation. So a very approximate recipe:
In a food processor, toss 4 cloves of garlic. Grind up with kosher salt (a KITCHEN SECRET®: when chopping garlic in a machine or even with a knife, add some salt. This absorbs the garlic juice and makes it easier to puree the cloves). Then add a couple of fistfuls of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, a handful of black olives, a palmful of capers, a finger of dried oregano, and a fingernail of red pepper. Grind up with olive oil, enough to make a sloppy paste.
Serve over pasta with gobs of parmesan. Yet another salt-fest.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Garbage Stew

This is an old Fear and Loathing Cookbook favorite, our way of getting a third meal out of one roast chicken. But what's left when you've eaten the breasts (first meal, with root vegetables) and legs/thighs (second meal, with risotto cakes and leeks)? The carcass, that's what, with lovely scraps to pull off it and save, along with the first meal's leftover roasted vegetables. Garbage stew takes two nights to make, but the first can be accomplished while you're cooking something else for dinner.
So, first night. You've denuded the carcass of the larger bits of chicken, so now make broth from it. Break it up and stuff it into a small pot with the requisite half onion, celery tops, and a few peppercorns, but just barely submerge it in water: you're not making soup, you're making just enough stock to envelop the stew. Let this cook at lowest simmer (one bubble, then another) for a couple of hours - have your dinner, do the dishes. When the broth looks rich and golden-green, strain it into a pyrex bowl. Put the broth into the fridge, and pick over what's left in the sieve for the last good scraps of chicken, and maybe a few onion shreds - limp but tasty. Save those with the other chicken scraps and vegetables.
Second night: the stew itself. Take the broth out of the fridge, and carefully lift the layer of schmaltz off its jellied surface with a fork. In a stewpot, melt the schmaltz, add a bit of oil, and sauté a chopped onion, then a couple of diced potatoes. Then add the broth and let the potatoes get lovely and tender while absorbing some liquid. Add a diced parsnip or three after 15 minutes or so. Finally, throw in your leftover chicken and vegetables, and let them marry and warm up.
The result is served in a bowl, and you eat it with a spoon, but it's definitely not soup. In fact, it's like the inside of a chicken pot pie, without the bother of a crust.

Artichokes

Four lovely globe artichokes from the nice people at the market.
Just neatly trimmed with scissors, leaving a half inch of stalk, rubbed with a lemon to keep from turning brown. Then into the pressure cooker (with the lemon) for 20 minutes from the time the cooker starts to rock.
Served with three dips: a dab of dill sauce; a bowl of mayo flavored with curry power and a tsp. of soy sauce; and, of course, garlic butter (the reason God created great snails).

Leftover chicken, risotto cakes and creamed leeks

Important notice to all readers.
I (Holt) put the blogs in the wrong order, accidentally giving the appearance that we have eaten chicken two nights in a row. The shame, the shame. I, with the help of the cadre's self-criticism sessions, take full responsibility. I will now go to the countryside to be re-educated and valiantly endeavor to fulfill the dictates of the Kitchen Congress.


We did "chicken and creamed leeks" about a month ago, but that was with uncooked chicken breasts. (Oh, the excuses we come up with for repeating ourselves!) For this one, we nuked the leftover chicken legs and thighs; re-fried the two leftover smoked-duck risotto cakes; and in a separate pan, sautéed fresh sliced leeks in butter and oil and just added cream when they were tender. No tarragon this time, but still ambrosial.

Roast chicken

We felt the need for comfort and there's nothing better on a wintery night than a nice roast chicken. So into a 400º oven went our big roasting pan, filled with 2 turnips in thickish slices, 4 onions ditto, 4 carrots ditto, 10 or so denuded cloves of garlic (half a head), sprinkled with kosher salt and thyme, on top of which went 1 nice chicken with some sprigs of rosemary under the breast skin. Roasted 45 minutes, then tossed in some parsnips, which cook much faster than the other vedge.
And now the secret (shhhh!) to a roast chicken with both legs and breasts done at the same time. At the 45 minute mark or so, when the temp is still c. 140º, cut the skin that hold the thighs to the body, and press down at the ball joint to splay the thighs. Let it cook the next 15 minutes or so, till the breast is about 160º. Let it rest out of the oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on how hungry you are. The thighs will be fully done too.

I've never seen this mentioned in any cookbook, but the reason the thighs never cook at the same time as the breast meat is because the heat can't get to them. I think only reason against doing this is esthetic prejudice: the chicken looks a bit immoral (gynecological perhaps to more delicate sensibilities), a "loose" bird. Hence the Victorian need to truss, to bind, to impose colonialist hegemony on the corporeal . . . help, I was briefly possessed by the spirit of Edward Saïd. Note, that even Julia Child eventually gave up on trussing the bird.
The result is a tasty bird, with a bunch of root vegetables that have auto-basted in the schmaltz. Deglaze with a tiny splash of white wine to get all the brown bits.
P.S. If you want to, you can stick a lemon up the chicken's butt.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Holy ravioli

One of the Cincinnati traditions we adore is the Ravioli Dinner at the Sacred Heart Church (otherwise known as "Scared Heart"): http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2004/04/04/tem_taste04martin.html
Since 1911, the church has been serving a full Italian dinner to three or four thousand people twice a year, on Palm Sunday and in mid-October. It starts at noon, but it's best to miss the first rush and hit it around 2. You still wait on line, with lots of friendly, hungry people; you get hit up to play the raffle; and then you hand over $9 (new price this year) and get a ticket to check off your menu preferences. The maitre d' is a guy in a "Kiss me I'm Italian" apron who's constantly yelling "I gotta six! Who's a six?! Go see that guy at Table Ten!" He sends you into the huge, noisy church hall, which is packed with long tables, even on the dais (painted with amazing murals: an archbishop, some guys in frockcoats, and maybe Mother Seton, plus a few Indians in front of a sunlit seascape - anyway, definitely not Cincinnati). You say hi to the twenty other people at your table, which if you're lucky, will include a nun or two (gets you the quickest service). A little kid with a big tray will take your ticket, fight his way over to the side window, and will bring you: a little green salad in a styrofoam cup; a huge plate of spinach and meat-stuffed ravioli drenched in red gravy and crowned with a meatball; a cup of ice cream, and a cookie. Of course, there's plenty of shaker parmesan and soft white bread on the table, and you can even buy wine, but after we first tried it, we generally BYOB. Also, you can get spaghetti, but with ravioli made by devout Italian volunteers, why would you?
As you stagger out (unless you've been smart and brought a tupper, so you can save half your ravioli to eat as dinner later), you can buy fifty ravioli in a box to take home and freeze. That's two meals for us, and tonight we had one of them. We made fresh tomato sauce out of the few garden tomatoes we picked before the frost and successfully ripened (most exploded). Just sautéd onion, garlic, the tomatoes, and lots of fresh oregano and dried basil leaves, again from the garden. The tomatoes were watery, so during the process we had to drain them, boil their juice down, and put them back in the pan. Their red and yellow made the sauce very vivid, also very fresh-tasting over the ravioli. We put a block of pecorino romano on a grater, not a shaker, on the table, but otherwise it was a very genuine experience.
Would you like a drop of wine, Sister?

Tilapia with Sorrel Sauce

(See "Fish and Squish" Sept. 20)
This may be the first repeat since we started this blog, apart from grilling a steak and putting something on it. In fact, one of the reason for starting it was to keep track and to dispel my sense that we had had pasta al salmone every week.
So since we've had the first freeze, Barbara harvested the last of the sorrel, and we made the Troisgros Bros sorrel sauce again, on cornmeal-dusted tilapia. I forgot to "nap" the plates avec the sauce, so I quickly lifted each fillet and shoved the sauce in under. The last of the potato salad on the side. A cena bianca (said to be good for the digestion) ma non troppo.

Although actually, the Sept. 20 fish and squish was a plain, not a cornmeal-dusted, tilapia, so technically this is not a repeat.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Smoked duck legs with smoked duck risotto cakes

I think I actually smoked the duck in order to have the carcass for stock so I could make risotto, so I could make risotto cakes. Risotto cakes are one of the greatest leftovers in the world. Just spread any cold leftover risotto in an inch-thick layer, cut out rounds (or hearts for that romantic touch) with a cookie-cutter, coat with flour or bread crumbs to make a nice crust and fry in a little oil till browned and crunchy.
Before starting the cakes, I tossed the leftover duck legs in the cast iron skillet into a 475º oven. Poured off the excess fat, and deglazed with port wine in which a handful of dried cranberries had been left to return from suspended animation.
Smokin'!
. . and we've still got two leftover risotto cakes.

Smoked Pork Chops with Red Cabbage

The second half of the chops that were smoked after the duck. We sliced an onion and cut a half a red cabbage thin, as for cole slaw. In a big, deep pan, we fried the onion in oil until it was translucent, then added the cabbage (as much as the pan would hold, frying until it collapsed a bit and you could add more) along with a good shot of red wine. Then we slid the pork chops in and let the whole thing steam until the cabbage was tender. Slipped in two thin-sliced apples toward the end, along with a sprinkle of red wine vinegar, for that German sweet-sour taste.

Smoked duck risotto

I think I actually smoked the duck in order to have the carcass for stock so I could make risotto. Yesterday, while we were noshing on lovely meat log and potato salad, I started the stock with the duck frame and the usual bits o' onion, celery tops, and an odd number of pepper corns (always odd, like us). About four hours later, I was able to pick off nearly 1/2 lb. of duck meat and set the stock in the fridge.

The next evening, I removed the thin film of Duck Fat (who starred as Chin Ho, you may recall, in "Hawaii Five O"), and added a couple more scoops of duck fat frozen from the last time we braised a duck. Sautéed half a chopped onion in that, added a heaping cup and a half of Arborio rice to coat, and sat down for the next 45 minutes, while pouring in the duck stock bit by bit, and stirring lazily from time to time. The rice was thirsty so I added a tub of frozen chicken stock as well. You don't have to melt it in advance--just chuck the whole thing in the rice and when it's melted off enough, remove with your spoon; repeat as long as necessary. Stirred in the duck meat at the end and eccolo! Delish, as Rachel Ray keeps saying. We took out a tablespoon and tried mixing the risotto with some parmesan, but it ruined the pure smokosity of the taste, so we left it uncheesed.

(By the way, do not let them buffalo you about Arborio rice. Nice if you can get it, but you can make a great risotto with anything except brown and Uncle Ben's Perverted).

Leftover Meatloaf and Mashed Potato Salad

As mentioned below, about half the meatloaf was left over, so we just nuked it. It was served with a potato salad that I'd composed the night before, while the brussels sprouts were cooking. Unfortunately, I wasn't watching closely enough and Idahos boil up faster than Yukon golds, so they were a bit too soft. Nonetheless, I added the usual things: mayonnaise, some whole-grain mustard, minced shallots and celery, pepper and salt. The next night I had to add more mayonnaise and mustard, as the softer parts of the potatoes had melded in and formed a sort of mashed potato dressing. Maybe not the ideal potato salad, but hell, this ain't the county fair.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Smoked Pork Chops, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Holt had already smoked the pork chops after he smoked the duck (below), so they only needed to be rewarmed, which we did as part of the brussels sprouts preparation. We cleaned and quartered the sprouts, then steamed them. While that was happening, we fried up some chopped bacon and minced onions; when the bacon bits were crisp, the onions translucent, and the sprouts just underdone, we threw the sprouts in the bacony pan and let them fry and soak up some fat. We then sprinkled in a little white wine, rested the chops on top of the vegetables, covered the pan and let the whole thing steam until the chops were warmed through. When we put the chops on the plates, we tossed some sherry vinegar in the pan with the sprouts, which made them piquant and a good accompaniment to smoky flavors.

Meatloaf

Or as Holt's family says, "Meatenloafer." Also known around the house as "The Vasty Meat Log." There is no real recipe for this, as much of it depends on what's in the fridge and how much of each seasoning you like, but here are guidelines to Barbara's current version.

Beat an egg in a large bowl. Fold in about a pound and a half of ground beef. From here on, the beef should be mixed gently with a fork, just to distribute the ingredients, not squished together. Those ingredients include: a minced onion and less minced celery, perhaps a half cup of breadcrumbs, a couple of tablespoons of ketchup, a tablespoon each of barbecue sauce and sweet pickle relish, a dab of dry mustard and another dab of whole-grain mustard, pepper and salt. Turn this out onto a shallow pan and mold it (gently - again, no squeezing) into a long loaf about 3 inches high and 5 inches wide. You can rub the top with a little more ketchup or barbecue sauce. Bake it at 400 degrees for about a half hour, then at 350 until your instant-read thermometer says it's at 160, about 15-20 minutes. Take it out and LET IT REST for at least 5 minutes, otherwise it will fall into crumbles rather than slices. Serve with - you guessed it - more ketchup.

We had new yukon gold potatoes on the side, adorned with leftover vegetables from the Chicken in Champagne Sauce. There was still about half a meatloaf left over, so if we don't use it for lunch sandwiches (with sliced onion - mmmmm), it should appear again above.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

Ever since Jon and Lois had the risotto at Bacaro (see post for Oct. 13), I've wanted to do a smoked duck. Saturday was still mild and sunny, a nice day for some protracted cooking, since Saturday is my usual bread-making day. I bought a duck at the market and set up the smoker in the backyard. A smallish fire, lots of soaked mesquite chunks, and some water with thyme and rosemary branches in the dip-pan. The gods of the grill watched over it, because I got it off at exactly the right moment, about 2 1/2 hours, when the breast was medium rare, the skin crisp and a dark mahogany, and the legs still springy (to be used for another meal). Since the fire was still going, I tossed four rapidly defrosted pork chops on to smoke,* while we ate the duck with some plain boiled potatoes to suck up any extra fat.

* Emergency meat thaw (for chicken, pork, etc.): toss them straight into a sink full of water, and since they're in there, why not brine them with some kosher salt?

Grilled tuna

Just grilled all of the following: two nice thick tuna steaks, lightly dusted with rosemary and salt; portobello* mushrooms brushed with olive oil and thyme; and uno zucchino in splendid isolation, sliced in two, then sliced several more times in the same direction but just up to the stem, so each half can be fanned out on the grill. Yummy.

*Just overgrown crimini mushrooms: apparently renamed in the 80's. Not yet in the OED. The preferred form, judging by a google count is portObellO. Since it's just a marketing ploy in any case, perhaps we shouldn't care, but I find it more appealing to imagine the name was intended to invoke a Beautiful Port (after all, many a Portobello in the world), than a Beautiful Door.
Portobello

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fettucine with Sausage and Cream

The original of this was a Sausage Alfredo, courtesy of Anita Bernstein, but by the time you've mucked with it, it is related to Fettucine Alfredo only in having cream and cheese.

I know it seems like we've been eating nothing but sausage lately, but each type of sausage has been different,* and so have the recipes. This one was, as usual, created to use up something left over, viz., the half-roll of sausage not used to make Chicken in Champagne sauce, below. Bulk sausage is rather bland, so as we crumbled and fried it, we added a healthy sprig of chiffonaded fresh sage leaves. Then we doused it in cream, boiled it down a bit, and added more grated cheese to thicken. This is a nice quick recipe, as we were coming home hungry from a late lecture; if we had had time to make fresh pasta, it would have been nice over pappardelle, but fettucine are fine too.

*Cincinnati has a thousand words for 'sausage'. See Languagehat and
Languagelog's debunking of the gazillion Eskimo words for "snow."

Yard Sausage and Onions

Eckerlin Meats was one of the original businesses in Findlay Market, and they still carry lots of traditional Cincinnati delicacies - like goetta, which we won't go near. They sell a nice pepper-seasoned "yard sausage," and when I asked them what that meant, they said that it's a traditional name for a type of fresh Mettwurst, and that maybe the sausage was originally a yard long, or sold by the yard (it's not now). That is, they can't explain it, but it's good.

Yard sausage doesn't go well with peppers but loves onions (it's German, not Italian). We fry it in a big pan, with the sausages in a ring around the outside while the onions caramelize in the center. When both are browned, we sprinkle it with a little white wine and cover it so the sausage cooks thorough and the flavors meld.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pasta with salami and zucchini

This sounds strange, but it's one of our standard pasta dishes. We found it in the first Frugal Gourmet cookbook, the one before he started traveling the world (if you know what I mean).

As you boil the water for penne (our default pasta), julienne two small zucchini into thin batons about an inch long. Do the same thing with an unsliced slab of Genoa salami until there are about as many salami batons as zucchini batons. Mince a clove or two of garlic, grate some pecorino romano (or similar), and get out the capers and heavy cream. Are you confused yet?

When the pasta is about 5 minutes from done, sauté the zucchini in a little olive oil, adding the garlic when it's a minute along, then the salami a minute after. Let them get comfortable together, then add the heavy cream, boiling to thicken. Sprinkle in a forkful or three of capers and thicken more with the cheese. Drain the pasta and toss it around in the pan with the rest of the stuff. Top with more cheese if you like.

I have no idea what part of Italy this might be from - maybe Brooklyn. The Froog got it from an uncle, I think, who was Italian by way of Armenia.

Halloween barbecue

On Sunday we went to see our cousins over in Indiana, which sounds like a great trek but is actually a half-hour drive - welcome to "the tri-state area." It was their neighborhood's annual Halloween Walk, in beautiful weather, and we all got to accompany Mulan - I mean Olivia - up a lane of specially-prepped trick-or-treat hosts as the kids filled their bags and we rubbernecked at their cute costumes. My prize went to a purple-and-green-garbed two-year-old whose mother claimed she was the sugar-plum fairy; I thought she was an eggplant. You can tell where my mind is.

Sheree had not only made ghost centerpieces and special spooky pins for all the guests to wear, but also Halloween appetizers: "old man's toes and old witch fingers" (i.e., seasoned breadsticks with painted almonds inserted as nails); "monster brains," a sort of guacamole served in a trepanned jack-o-lantern gourd; "petrified cheese log," melded blue cheese and cream cheese rolled in toasted sesame seeds; and "eyeballs" out of bocconcini mozzarella with a slice of green pimentoed olive across each one. Incredibly creative, fun, and delicious too.

After the walk, Eric got going on the grill, and there was no stopping him: there was every kind of marinated meat, including fresh tuna, chicken, pork loin, sausages, and of course hamburgers and hot dogs for the kids. With a break for a spirited game of soccer/volleyball with Sirena in the basement (where both of us got bopped several times - a warning not to play ball in confined spaces), we ate ourselves silly, though most of us were pretty silly already. Dessert consisted of scrumptious Bonbonnerie buttercream cakes Terri brought, and Holt's Alsatian apple tart, made with a local farmer's White Pippin and Arkansas Black apples artfully arranged in contrasting slices. You might think that there will be no need for Halloween candy after all that…but we'll see on Tuesday.

Chicken in Champagne sauce

Something to do with left-over champagne. All right, let's admit that no one in human history has ever had left-over champagne.
A favorite from the Larousse country cook book (see below for link). You would think that Poulet à la Champagnoise would be the most raffiné dish in the world. In fact, it's hearty farmhouse food, assuming that you are a hearty farmer in Champagne. The original recipe is for a whole roasted chicken with stuffing, but we adapted it years ago for chicken parts on the stove top. It's also the recipe that converted me to turnips. A noble vegetable, the neep.

You sauté a couple of strips of bacon cut into slivers, AND some crumbled sausage (1/2 a tube of basic bulk sausage). Season two chicken bosoms with thyme and then brown in the fat. Remove the chicken. Sauté a minced onion, a clove of garlic, and add two carrots and two turnips, peeled and cut into lovely juliennes (This is my favorite part of the cooking. There's a nice geometry to the knife work). The neeps soak up a fair amount of the sausage fat, but pour off any excess. Put back the bosoms, add 1/2 cup of left-over champagne (ha!) or white wine of your choice. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Then uncover, flip the bosoms, and cook down the sauce for 10 minutes more. It's incredibly rich, and incredibly good.

Grilled pork with bok choy

Sometimes the market planets come into alignment: Nancy at Shady Grove had nice little bok choy at the farmer's market last Saturday; there was a sale on loin pork chops at Keller's IGA, where the butcher will actually cut the chops an inch thick if you call him ahead of time; and this recipe was on Epicurious:
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/109791

We only made a few adjustments to the recipe. Even when you halve the amounts, there's way too much Szechuan bean sauce, so we only used about a tablespoon. Also, we made up the marinade in a platter, soaked the bok choy in it first, and then set the bok choy aside while we soaked the pork in the same platter, which means you don't have to reserve any un-porked marinade for the vegetable. Results were tasty, so this one's a keeper.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Grilled steak and fried mushrooms

'Nuff said.

Chowdah

Had me a hankerin' for some kind of soup with a smoky taste. I had no clearer vision than that but eventually realized that what I wanted was a chowdah. So with some hunks of ham I had left over from sandwiches and the reserved fish fillet (see, All is guided by the Left-Over) we made a nice chowdah. The basic chowdah base: onions fried in oil with smoky meat (usually bacon, in this case ham); potatoes in little cubes, flavored with thyme, salt, pepper. Then water just to cover. Cook on low till tender. Add the flaked fillet. Then a bit of milk, then a lot of cream. Bring all to just under a boil. The whole was deeply satisfying, if not a chowder that any Yankee would recognize, being mostly a ham and potato soup, with a tiny bit of fish floating around, which, after all, is what fish do best.

Fish tacos

Many of our dinners are inspired by having things left over from other dinners. This one arose from the chicken enchiladas meal, which left us four extra tortillas and some bottled salsa.

There seem to be as many fish taco recipes as there are fish. Some of the recipes we read said to batter and deep-fry the fish, but we'll wait to try that until January, when we go to San Diego, which claims to be America's center of fish tacos. We used tilapia fillets, marinated them in a little oil and lime juice with chopped jalapeno and fresh cilantro, plus a pinch of the famous chile de nuevo Mexico, and after waiting a while for them to soak that up, fried them quickly over high heat in a cast-iron pan. (They were a bit delicate - next time we'll try a thicker white fish like mahi-mahi, which could be grilled.)

We put the fillets on two plates, and these accompaniments on the table:
lettuce, from the garden
more fresh coriander, ditto
salsa, left over
crema (usually sour cream, but in this case, yogurt drained in a cheesecloth-lined sieve)
chopped red onion

We then nuked the tortillas for 30 seconds, and had fun putting various combinations together.

And we deliberately left over one unmarinated but fried tilapia fillet for the next day…

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Parsley-anchovy pasta

This was taught to me by the Divine Miss Williams, who just threw it together one winter evening when there was nothing else in the house. It is light but filling, and the green saltiness makes it perfect for a winter evening with a sore throat coming on (how do evenings get sore throats?). Incidentally, parsley keeps really well if you cut off the ends of the stems, set them in a jar of water (yes, like flowers), cover the leaves with a loose plastic bag, and put the whole thing in the refrigerator.

As below, you want twisty pasta, to hold the pesto-like sauce. While the pasta's boiling, mince 2-3 cloves of garlic and sauté it in a pan with a half-can of anchovy fillets and all the oil from the can, over medium heat until the anchovies dissolve. Now, you know those bunches of flat-leaf Italian parsley they sell in supermarkets? Take a whole one of those, strip off the leaves, and chop them up small. Add them to the pan and keep cooking - they'll wilt down to almost nothing. Help them along with a droozle of extra-virgin, and season them with salt (surprisingly, some anchovies aren't salty enough, at least for this salt monster) and lots of black pepper. Drain the pasta and toss it in the pan REALLY thoroughly, so the parsley goes into the twisty parts of the pasta and doesn't hold together in clumps; if necessary, add a touch more oil. Cover with heaping handfuls of grated pecorino romano or parmesan, either in the pan or on the plates, preferably both; and it helps to have a grater and a nubbin of cheese at the table, too.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fricassée de poulet à l'Angevine

Okay, so it's chicken and mushrooms in cream sauce, according to the Larousse Treasury of Country Cooking; probably very illuminating to anyone who's traveled through Anjou, which we have not (we like their pears, though). We simply owe it to the fact that the Nice People had nice mushrooms at a nice price at Findlay Market this past Saturday.
Take the chicken parts of your choice (we used thighs) and pat with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves. Brown them on both sides in a pan that holds them comfortably in one layer but not much else. Set them aside, and sauté some chopped onions for 5 minutes, then add thickly sliced mushrooms and keep them cooking until they become dark and have given up some of their juices. Take out the vegetables with a slotted spoon and put back the chicken, which takes some fancy platework if you're trying to keep from dirtying more than one plate. Add some white wine to the vegetable juices, cover, and lower the heat. Simmer for 45 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure there's enough liquid to keep the chicken happy. When it's tender and done, uncover and boil the juices down if necessary; add the vegetables and some cream, and reheat on high until the sauce is thick. Et voilà, as they probably say in Anjou.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Salmon with mustard-dill sauce

I planted a whole packet of dill seeds in the garden this summer, but was disappointed in the results: only two plants, both so scrawny and undersized that you couldn't cut much off them. Now it's time to use them up, as it's getting cold and they won't overwinter. And dill calls for salmon, as salmon (okay, the gravlax sort) calls for dill. So we dug a pair of salmon fillets out of the freezer and pan-fried them.
Holt found a new recipe for a dill-mustard sauce using dijon mustard, but the mustard was so strong you could hardly taste anything else, though we added twice as much dill as was called for. If we had do-overs, we would make a milder sauce, going back to one of the classics based on either mayonnaise or sour cream, and only a dab of mustard, so the dill flavor would stand out.
The Pepper People at Findlay Market had some just-born marble-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, so we boiled them with some tender green beans from the garden and had them on the side. I keep thinking that every cold snap means the last of the garden produce, but so far I've been wrong. Enjoyably so.

Die Yuppie Scum Pasta

If you were eating in the 80s (and we bet you were), you probably got pretty tired of recipes that included The Yuppie Triad: sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and arugula. This recipe includes at least two, and optionally all three, of the above, but it's easy, quick, and uses things you may well have in the fridge. So forget your embarrassment for the days of shoulder-pads and BMWs.
Start the water boiling and cook some twisty pasta, maybe rotelle or cellentani. In a wide pan, boil down some cream. Chop up some sun-dried tomatoes; if they're dry, throw them in the cream first thing to soften, if they're sott'olio (as we get them in the big jars from Costco) they can go in a little later. Crumble in some plain goat cheese until the sauce is the consistency and flavor you like. When the pasta is done, drain it and toss it in the pan as usual.
Plate it out, and top it either with chiffonaded fresh basil (as we did, since we still have some in the garden) or chopped arugula (for that full yuppie experience).

Braised Fennel and Maiale ai due vini

Had a nice white bulb of fennel from the market, so did Marcella Hazan's simple braised fennel. (How can such a nice vegetable be an insult in Italian? Finocchio is not a nice thing to call a guy and it sounds even worse in Sicilian: finooch, as in "Of course they caught him with a choir boy. Everybody knows priests are all finooch!")
So take your gay vegetable--not that there's anything wrong with that--and trim off the stems. Cut in half, remove the core, and slice thinly. In a frying pan, sauté in some butter for a couple of minutes, but don't let brown. Then add stock, wine, water, what have you, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low c. 30 minutes, until almost all the stock, wine, water, what have you, is absorbed. You can top with parmesan, if you want. But save some of the little fronds for decoration. With fronds like these who needs anemones?
The pork is a nice variation on the standard veal marsala (see below for pork instead of veal: the other, other, other white meat). Take two thickish pork steaks, pat with thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Brown on both sides in butter (not olive oil for this dish). Add 1/2 cup marsala, 1/2 cup red wine, and 1 TBSP tomato paste. Cook covered till you no longer have pork sushi and the sauce is nice and thick. Pork and fennel are a natural match, despite the different sauces.

Enchiladas

We pride ourselves on being able to squeeze three or sometimes four meals out of a chicken. Part of it is our Depression childhoods--all right, our mothers'--part the engrained habits of having been starving artists in a garret in Paris--all right, hungry graduate students in New Haven and Cambridge--and part the sheer art form of extracting all the good out of a piece of protein. From one chicken we have a breast meal, a leg and thigh meal, then make stock or soup from the carcass, then pick the bones.
When you've accumulated enough meat bits, you can use them in my mother's enchiladas, handed down from hacienda to hacienda since--all right, probably from Southern Living, c. 1970.
2 parts grated cheese (Monty Jack or the like) to
2 parts chopped-up meat bits to
1 part minced onions
just enough yogurt to bind
Flavor with huge quantities of ground coriander, ground cumin, and chopped fresh coriander, plus a healthy shot of chile de Nuevo Mexico (Hatch for choice), and some salt.
Roll up in tortillas.
These can be nuked (c. 5 minutes), individually wrapped in tin foil for portability, frozen, etc. Best is open-baked, doused in salsa, with a dab of yogurt on top, for c. 40 minutes at the People's Temperature. This is one of the times when store-boughten salsa works better than fresh, since uncooked tomatoes tend to get too watery.
Serve with beer.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Frittata

I shouldn't have said that the Sausage, Chard and Potatoes (below) was the final meal of the bland sausages, since there was a lot of it, and some got left over. But the solution to many leftovers (even Spaghetti Carbonara!) is to turn them into a frittata. Simplicity itself: warm the leftovers on medium heat in a well buttered skillet, beat up some eggs (five does it for dinner for the two of us), pour eggs over leftovers, keep the heat low and let them start to set. In this case add some globs of goat cheese on top for extra flavor, then throw on abundant handfuls of grated parmesan or romano to help crust the top. When it's set on the bottom but not quite on top, run it under the broiler for 4-5 minutes until it's golden and puffy.

(The difference between an omelet and a frittata, is that you don't upset the eggs. Since the bottom is fixed in place by bottom heat, the broiler allows the top of the still slightly wet fritt to puff up--Science! Could Alton Brown do better? A rhetorical question.)

Soupe au Pistou or Summer into Winter

This is the perfect soup for autumn nights. It's from the old Julia Child The French Chef (the first book of the TV series), with the punctuated equilibrium form of evolution of any kitchen. Soak a mess o' white beans overnight (beans only come in a "mess o' "). Pressure cook for 15 minutes. Add spoon-sized cubes of carrot, onion (since you used all the gen-u-wine Frenchy leeks for creamed leeks and chicken), and rude--root--vegetables of your choice, in this case turnips. You can add green beans, etc., at this point. Pressure cook for 15 more minutes. Then stir in a pinch of saffron and a half doz. cubes of your previously frozen pesto. You get the last of summer with the basil and the first of winter with the rude vedge.
The great thing is, you can mess with this infinitely. It's the perfect bottom of the vegetable drawer soup: just add any tender vedge, like zucchini, after the pressure cooking. Tart it up with any thickener/starch you like: dry bread, pasta, rice, etc. JC adds tomatoes, but I think it fights with the pesto taste.

Antipasto

I know that Antipasto is supposed to be only a preliminary to the typical Italian three-course extravaganza, but sometimes we live dangerously and make a meal of it. So here's what went into it:
•Provolone (which we finally got from Krause's);
•Genoa salami (Krause's again; we were never able to find Genoa salami in Italy, but then we never went to Genoa, where it's doubtlessly known as "Salami di Milano");
•Roasted red peppers - Did these at the same time as we did the too mild chilies. I've tried the hold over a gas fire technique, but nothing beats just putting them under a broiler till blackened. Then in a paper bag to steam, then in water to cool off. The skins peel right off, and the peppers are tender. Top with minced garlic, chopped capers, mixed with olive oil, then thickened with oregano and kosher salt.
•Roasted asparagus - nice plump ones: put in a baking dish with regular veg oil (olive oli has too low a burning point) and put in a 500-degree oven for about 15 minutes, turning every so often till nicely browned, then douse with EVOO and salt--I guarantee you'll never bother to boil asparagus again;
•Artichoke hearts (straight from the giant Costco jar);
•Cherry tomatoes (from farmers' market and our garden - now that's more like it);
•Green olive and artichoke tapenade, which Holt made a while ago. It used up some poor-quality green olives that we'd bought by mistake and somewhat improved - but not enough - by soaking them in David Warda's wonderful balsamic, fresh herb, and orange peel marinade. The tapenade was great, though, and got spread onto:
•Holt's homemade Italian rye bread - yes, you read right (from Carol Field's The Italian Baker: one of the cleverest presents Barbara ever gave Holt). Made us think of an Alto Adige glockenspiel band we saw in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence one day; we called them "The Marching Pinocchios."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sausage, Chard and Potatoes

The final meal of the bland sausages, after Bangers and Mash and Sausages and Peppers. This one came out of a tidbit Barbara read in Food & Wine, about a dish composed of sausage, kale, and cannellini beans. No details, no recipe, and we had none of the required ingredients except the sausages. But instead of kale we could use rainbow chard from the garden, of which there was such an overflow that we gathered a bouquet of it for a table centerpiece.

In fact, we cooked that bouquet as follows.
Separate chard leaves from stems; chop stems up separately from leaves, which are torn up and rinsed, but not spun dry. In the biggest frying pan you have, sauté chard stems in oil for 3-4 minutes, then add leaves, which is what will take up all the room in the pan - it's like fresh spinach, which seems like a huge amount but cooks down to nothing. When the leaves have collapsed enough to give you some room, push the chard to the sides of the pan and fry the de-skinned, crumbled sausage in the center, in its own fat; don't mind if there's some chard liquid in there too. Then throw in some unpeeled, diced potatoes and fry those among the sausage fat for a bit. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and let the contents steam in the chard water, adding a little more water if it gets dry. When the potatoes are tender, taste, season ad lib with salt and pepper, and put the whole pan under the broiler for about 5-7 minutes, which will brown the sausages and crisp the edges of the potatoes.

This has certain hash-like qualities, though it's really farmhouse food of no particular country. I wish the chard stems kept their rainbow colors when cooked; guess I'll have to pick another bouquet for that.