Wednesday, November 22, 2006


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

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.


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.


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"):
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.
. . 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.


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.

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.