Thursday, January 25, 2007

Poulet en Saupiquet

Wednesday Jan. 24 -
This is a simplified and de-chicken-livered version of the recipe in Mireille Johnston's Cuisine of the Sun. We used chicken thighs, browned them in oil, and added chopped onions, garlic, and anchovies. Once that simmered, covered, for about 15 minutes, we threw in rosemary, thyme, chopped niçoise-style olives, parsley, and capers, and let that go until the chicken was tender. Then we opened it up and boiled the sauce down. We also steamed up some sugar-snap peas to go on the side. A savory mess, as we say.

Roast Beef Redux with Brussels Sprouts and Shallots

Tues. Jan. 23 -
We have no problem with plain old cold sliced roast beef with your choice of condiments, and neither does Liz, who came to dinner (her choice: horseradish). It helps to have a hot vegetable along with it, so we sautéed some quartered brussels sprouts and halved shallots in duck fat, then braised them with a few veal stock cubes, covered.
With the meal we drank Liz's gift, Kinkead Ridge Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon: quite a nice drop, especially when you consider that it's made in Ohio, not too far from Cincinnati!

Eggplant Curry

Monday Jan. 22 -
Barbara's Fear and Loathing Cookbook contains a multitude of eggplant recipes, stretching back to early years when after a summer of archaeology in Turkey, land of patlican, she came home and gave an eggplant party. Not only did all the cooked dishes include eggplant in some shape or form, but there were eggplant cookies - actually just eggplant-shaped marzipan cookies dyed purple and green. F&L's basic eggplant curry - with toasted mustard seeds, turmeric, and a dash of cayenne - tastes a little tame to us nowadays, so we spiced it up a bit with more of everything, plus loads of ground coriander, cumin, and red chile. You sauté the onions and spices in oil, then add the eggplant and lots more oil and keep cooking until it gets soft. Toward the end, we added sugar-snap peas for a green contrast and cooked five minutes more, till the peas were tender. Serve with a dollop of yogurt, any chutney you choose, or just alone.

Roast Beef

Sun. Jan. 21 -
Barbara's mother was (to tell the truth) a terrible cook, but she could make a mean roast beef. We followed her method, which was basically the same as that in new Joy. Get a three-pound bottom round roast, dust it with salt and pepper (she used garlic powder too), and throw it in a 450-degree oven for ten minutes. Then reduce the heat to around 300 degrees and let it cook a little more than an hour, until the interior temperature reaches 135 - Holt used his new probe thermometer, which is still a fun toy as well as a good kitchen tool. Tent the roast under aluminum foil and let it rest for ten minutes, while you deglaze the pan with red wine for a sauce, and steam a quick vegetable; ours was a basket of tiny yellow patty-pan squashes from Madison's at Findlay market, a welcome forecast of spring, or of someone's greenhouse, on a day when we hadn't gone out at all except to shovel snow. Slice the roast as thin as humanly possible and serve in a puddle of sauce, or as the Department of Redundancy Department puts it, "au jus gravy."

Potage au cresson

Sat. Jan. 20 -
This is the classic creamy potato soup usually called Vichyssoise, but with the addition of a chopped bunch of fresh watercress; then puréed and served hot. It's the thing to do on a winter day when you need warm comfort food but also crave the fresh greens that are so rare in this season. Holt likes to marble the top by dribbling lines of heavy cream across each bowl and running a knife back and forth across them.


Friday Jan. 19 -
No, seriously. Sometimes you just need a good, juicy hamburger, and since the hamburger haven of Barbara's childhood, Meyer's in Jackson Heights, closed thirty years ago, if you want a burger close to that ideal, you have to do it yourself.
Of course, there must be fries - in this case, oven-fries. Holt made them of yukon golds cut into wedges, rolled in goose-fat, salted, and roasted at 450 degrees. Barbara made the approximation of Meyer's grilled onions - actually, they're sweated under very low heat in a covered pan until they caramelize, and are dusted with salt and paprika. You set those aside and cook the hamburgers themselves in the same pan; they're just regular 20-percent-fat ground beef as it comes out of the styrofoam tray, shaped into patties without pressing or working too much. Serve on a toasted English muffin, with the onions and huge amounts of ketchup on top. Hamburger heaven.

Stuffed mushrooms

Thursday Jan. 18 -
The Nice People had Nice Mushrooms at Findlay Market on Saturday. Holt thought he'd like a change from our usual stuffing of pig products (see THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2006) and filled them with a sauté of ground beef, onions, chopped-up fresh Roma tomatoes, and some whole-wheat breadcrumbs. Topped with romano, and served alongside some leftover vegetables from last Friday's chicken with champagne sauce.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sautéed Kielbasa and Red Cabbage (plus a bonus report on Cholesterol)

Weds. Jan. 17 -
Red cabbage, red apples, red wine, red wine vinegar. Result: PURPLE. Go figure!

And a Note about Cholesterol
Many of the readers of this blog (okay, both of you) have enquired what our cholesterol readings are. Well, Holt's last blood test had the hand-written note at the bottom "Your cholesterol readings are outstanding!" (this was meant in a good way), while Barbara had a blood test just after the Christmas Fat-Fest. Readings: LDL (bad) cholesterol, 79. HDL (good) cholesterol, 99. Total cholesterol level: 189. These are all in the normal/desirable range, and since we've been writing about dollops of heavy cream and goose-fat, you may ask why. Genetics? I come from a family prone to type-two diabetes and heart disease. Yes, we exercise, walk to work, and other than dinners, our meals are healthy verging on boring. But here's what we attribute it to:
WINE. Remember the French Paradox? Well, it's not just red any more. We don't know if resveratrol will turn out to be the fountain of youth or the deadliest poison known to science; probably both, one after the other. We just enjoy a bottle of wine with every dinner, and perhaps we should mention it more on the blog. Our standard table wine is currently "Two-buck Chuck," Charles Shaw Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Merlot, from Trader Joe's - still a buy at three bucks.

Chiles Rellenos with Pico de Gallo

Tues. Jan. 16 -
This recipe began life in Southwest Tastes, but it changes pretty much every time we cook it (see blog for TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2006). The cheap people at Findlay Market had some nice poblanos on Saturday. So I roasted them (the peppers, not the people) that afternoon, and had them ready and waiting. The filling was mostly Colby-jack with just a little goat cheese, and healthy shots of ground coriander and cumin. We use the RobotCoupe to grate the cheese, then use the chopping blade to mix in the goat. This makes a nice crumbly, pea-sized mixture, which you shape almost like modeling clay.
The winter Roma tomatoes were in pretty good nick, so I cubed them, added diced shallots (for a purply look), lots of coriander leaves, one clove of minced garlic and half a lime of juice. No ground spices, as I wanted the pico di gallo to be clear and colorful.
Filled the poblanos with the cheese innards, secured with toothpicks (a somewhat pointless task, really), dipped in a beaten egg, rolled in seasoned cornmeal, and fried in oil. The chiles always seem to have a triangular cross-section, so it's easy to roll each one over when one side is done.
Served on a bed of the pico de gallo. ¡Mucho con gusto!

Chicken and Asparagus with Thai Green Curry

Mon. Jan. 15 -
Holt was feeling a tad better, so we essayed a store-bought green curry paste. (We forget the brand name at the moment, but it had "Porn" in it. We tried to find out what "porn" might mean in Thai by googling "Thai Porn." We learned a lot, but not what "porn" might mean in Thai.)
The recipe's basically from The Thai Cookbook. First, cooked two chicken breasts, face down as it were, in thick coconut milk, i.e. the cream that rises to the top if you leave the can sitting undisturbed, plus some nam pla. Took out the bosoms, reduced the coconut milk till it was like butter and tossed in a heaping tablespoon of the green curry paste. Thought better of it when we remembered that we had no idea of the strength of this particular brand, and scooped out half of it. Fried the curry paste in the coconut fat. Then added the saved asparagus (in place of baby pea eggplants) and the "thin" coconut milk, i.e. the bottom half of the can. Covered and cooked till the asparagooses were tender, then uncovered and thickened up. Over rice. We ended up being glad we had removed half of the original spoonful of curry paste, because what was left made it nice and spicy; twice that would have been breathe-fire-through-the-nose spicy.

Tilapia with Fresh Sorrel

Sunday Jan. 14 -
We were going to make fish with Thai green curry paste, but Holt's stomach was a little uncertain, due to flu. So we made a sort of cena bianca, but with flavor. The tilapia fillets were just sautéed without coating and put on the plates, but then napped with a sauce made of fresh sorrel and parsley from the garden, stirred about in the fish-pan and deglazed with white wine and lime juice. Accompanying was braised thin-sliced fennel, dusted with romano cheese. Tasty, and easy to digest.

Penne alla Saffi

Saturday Jan. 13 -
See Wednesday Sept. 27. We got the asparagus for a dollar a bunch from the gonifs at Findlay Market. There was a bit of frost-damage to a few of the tips, so we had to use some of them that evening, but enough were left for a second meal. Under such emergency conditions, we relaxed our informal rule against having pasta (or anything else) two nights in a row.

Fettucine with Porcini Ragu

Friday Jan. 12 -
Sounds like something you'd labor over for days, but in fact we just diced up the leftover pork and porcini stew and warmed it up with some cubes of veal stock to make it more saucelike. (See attached picture of the jellied essence of veal). On a Friday night, we didn't have the energy to make fresh pappardelle, so we used the broadest dried noodle we had.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Chicken in Champagne sauce

See post for Oct. 31, 2006.
Holt won a very nice award, complete with check, at this year's convention in San Diego. So we celebrated with a nice bottle of Champers (Taittinger, Domaine Carneros 2002: lots of yeasty, bready tastes). And with it chicken in champagne sauce. Don't worry, the actual cooking wine was Trader Joe's "Two Buck Chuck" Chardonnay (now $3). All the champagne went into us directly.

Pork and porcini

One of the great dishes for a cold night. It was served to us by Don and Fee (thanks, guys!), who got it from Marcella Hazan. This is one where Marcella's strictures are right. It does require real dried Italian porcini: expensive but absolutely necessary to the dark, woodsy flavor of the dish. Also, as porcini are "little pigs," it seems appropriate that they taste so good with pork - see
So, first soak a generous handful of dried porcini bits in hot water. Cut up a pound or so of pork (butt, shoulder, etc.) into biggish cubes and fry in a pan with olive oil, in two batches if necessary. (This is one of the occasions when we actually dirty two pans, rather than just frying in the bottom of the stew pot, since the meat really does need lots of space to brown). Remove the browned meat to your stew pot. Back in the pan, brown half a onion, chopped, in the leftover oil, then add one clove minced garlic. Deglaze with 1/2 cup of white wine and 1/4 white wine vinegar. Pour all that into the stew pot, together with the porcini water, filtered though a paper-towel-lined sieve. Chop up the porcini and a half pound of whatever other fresh mushrooms you have. We had a bag full of Bluefoot mushrooms that were a bit dry (perfect then for a stoo) but even basic old white button 'shrooms will soak up a lot of the porcini taste. Add a bay leaf, 3 anchovy fillets, a Tbsp. of marjoram, and 20 or so lightly crushed juniper berries for that boscaiolo flavor. I stress lightly crushed, since the juniper berries stay pretty hard, not unlike peppercorns, and all you want to do is smash 'em a bit to help release the essential oil. (At this point Julia would say that you can add gin for that juniper berry flavor; so you can, but just pour it into the cook).
Now walk away for 2-2 1/2 hours, until the pork becomes meltingly tender. Like most stoos, it's even better the next day. You can serve it and the gravy over polenta, but we think it's even better over mashed potatoes, that other great gift to the Old World.

Any friends visiting Italy are hereby requested to bring us back porcini. We bought a kilo the last time we there and managed to make it last for a couple of years, but we can't buy it wholesale here in the US, and those tiny packets are both stale and sinfully expensive. Any amount will be gratefully accepted. Give what you can to
Holt and Barbara Need Porcini

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

London Broil

Jan. 9
This is not our favorite cut of meat, but there was a lovely thick chunk of it on sale at Kroger's. We marinated it in Worcestershire and liquid smoke, then grilled it in the frequent-flipping fashion, while also sautéing sliced coins of parsnip in goose fat (for source, see Christmas, below). Oven-baked parsnips get tender so quickly that we were surprised when these didn't, but a splash of white wine and some simmer-time in the covered pan solved that. The steak rested in the meantime, and was then sliced thin and served with its own juices, avec choix de sauce Américaine ou HP (stands for Holt Parker). Chewy but good.

Home Again

Jan. 8
On our checklist of things to do before we leave the house to go on a trip - after "hide jewelry" but before "garbage out" - is "put bottle of white wine into fridge." So when we got back we had a nice cold bottle to enjoy, despite the fact that the heat was off and we had to drink it with our coats on while we waited for the temperature to rise to normal. After all the indulgences of the past weeks, we chose an easy, light dinner: penne with six cubes of pesto (see Sept. 26). There's no place like home.

San Diego Dining, Last Day

Jan. 7
The last day of any convention is still spent hurrying to papers, and also scrambling to see the friends you didn't get to see on previous days. Fortunately, we didn't have to rush back and teach (hearty laugh here for our colleagues who did), so we were able to relax a bit that evening and go out alone together, WITHOUT NETWORKING.
We wanted a hot spot, and Holt had forethoughtfully scanned the web and printed out the reviews. We settled on Café Chloe, again in the Gaslamp district, so walkable. It had a nice buzz even on a Sunday night, with Man Ray photos maintaining the bistro décor of place and people - apparently the well-dressed crowd wears black even in pastel San Diego. The waiters were pleasant and obliging without crawling into your lap. They brought us an appetizer of smoked trout cakes - good idea, that - on a bed of a fennel and Granny Smith apple slaw, with a sauce of crème fraiche, mayonnaise, capers and cornichons. To go with it, a bottle of Bannister Chardonnay 2003, from the Russian River valley, nice and varietal.
For main courses, we had sliced pork tenderloin in prune sauce, with baby green beans and carrots, and lusciously rare steak-frites with sherry butter and asparagus. Of course, the latter needed red wine, so we ordered a glass of Leal Syrah 2003 from San Luis Obispo, probably because the wine list described its overtones as "blueberry pie and dark chocolate." Not so's you'd notice, but that was in its favor. On the whole, we give San Diego a big plus, for food, climate, and everything.

San Diego Dining, Day Four

Jan. 6
Barbara's cousin David lives in San Diego, and as soon as it turned out that we were going to this convention, a big reunion was planned. Unfortunately cousin Gail, who was going to travel down from the Silicon Valley with her whole family, had to go in for knee surgery at the last minute; we missed them a lot. Nonetheless, on the chosen day we bravely crossed the street from the hotel and boarded the bright-red San Diego Trolley for a ride out to La Mesa, where David picked us up.
David, Sheila, and their sons Daniel and Ben live in a beautiful house on a hill - so beautiful, with decor so carefully chosen and well-arranged, that you wouldn't believe that two actual children and an even more actual black labrador (Buca) live in it, if you didn't see them standing right there in front of you. Though everybody had been out at Ben's soccer tournament until shortly before we arrived, tasty appetizers were instantly produced, wine was poured, and Sheila's hearty, satisfying beef stew (with good bread to sop up the sauce) soon appeared on the table. We had great conversation during the meal and after, with the kids holding up their end in a very mature fashion. And when everyone was yawning at bedtime, Sheila sent us home with a new-age, nukeable comforter, velvety and soft even when un-nuked. We thank her, David, Daniel, and Ben for a wonderful family time, a memorable contrast with the soulless ambition of even the best professional convention.

San Diego Dining, Day Three

Jan. 5
This was the first day of real paper sessions, so we had to have a boring lunch in the Marriott. But at dinner we, Kathy, Bert and Susann foraged out - okay, walked eight or ten blocks - to the Royal Thai restaurant. Fortunately, the group was congenial to ordering in the proper way, with everything available to share. Appetizers included a platter of fish-spam-filled crabcakes, shrimp salad, chicken saté, spring rolls, and various cups of spicy and unidentifiable things. Main courses were pad thai; deep-fried chee-chee duck; a dark and devilish melange of seafood (shrimp, scallops, mussels, squid) called the Red Sea (isn't that the name of every Ethiopian restaurant?); and "crying tiger beef" - nicely spiced and sliced flank steak. Not your usual Thai menu, and low-cost as well.

San Diego Dining, Day Two

Jan. 4:
The first part of the day was spent museuming and researching that echt San Diego specialty, the Fish Taco; we asked cab drivers, museum guards, even waiters in other restaurants. There was a good consensus for Rubio's, and Wahoo's received special mention, but we would have needed a car and lots of time to get to either. So we had a good example of the genre at the Tin Fish downtown, which also serves tasty waffle-cut fried potatoes and oddly sweet but edible coleslaw.
That evening's dinner was a party in honor of Larissa Bonfante, Barbara's undergraduate archaeology teacher, who had just won the AIA gold medal. Ili Nagy wisely organized the celebration in a beautiful condo complex away from the Marriott, and the food was superb: cold poached sides of salmon, asparagus, and various patés and quiches, accompanied by champagne and followed by petits fours. It was an actual celebratory dinner, rather than the mingy hors d'oeuvres we would have gotten at the hotel.

San Diego Dining, Day One

Jan. 3:
It's so nice to travel from wintry, land-locked Cincinnati to a sunny place on the ocean. The only thing that would have made San Diego yet more marvelous would have been NOT having to go to a convention, give a paper, or attend other people's papers. But in that case, we wouldn't have gotten to go.
The omens were not good for dinner that night: we had booked an evening with our friend Brian, whose professional responsibilities are ten times as onerous as both of ours put together, and who takes them seriously, yet. By the time we had dragged him away from the reception after his talk, it was after nine P.M. and restaurants in the area were closing like clams - not what we expected of a seaport/resort. The result: we had to head back to the Marriott's "sports pub." Now, this didn't bother Brian, who hadn't eaten all day, and has certain traits in common with Calvin Trillin's "Man with the Naugahide Palate" (sic - I checked the spelling in American Fried). But we hate dining with televisions and medleys of 80s music blaring all around us, and sports pubs don't generally supply much beyond that, beer and burgers - okay for lunch, not dinner. But this pub, DW's, wasn't that bad, especially once the bottle of Chardonnay arrived. We had adequate crabcakes, and the horseradish-crusted salmon with mesclun greens was actually very good.
What helped maintain our equilibrium was that we'd had a very elegant lunch at JSix (named for its location in the neighboring Gaslamp district) earlier in the day. There had been a small starter of rich red Ahi tuna tartare, followed by a plate of crusted snapper on mashed potatoes, and a dish of clams and spicy sausage in a red sauce on fresh angel-hair pasta. A pinch of salt was needed on everything but the latter - the chef is a local-food fanatic, and it seems to me that they often undersalt, unless they're Maldenites pushing the native fleur de sel. The wine was Sokol Blosser Evolution, rather like a Viognier. So to paraphrase Sydney Smith, "Fate (i.e. the sports bar) cannot harm us, - we have dined to-day."

Left-over leftovers

Jan. 2
A refrigerator clean-out before we left for our annual professional convention. The less said the better. One good point: it didn't include bacalà.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year's Eve

Julie came over for New Year's Eve to help us finish our left-overs. So caviar, champagne, smoked salmon, cream cheese, toasted bread for appetizers. Then "La Morue en Raïto." This—can I be frank here?— was a disaster. The idea is a green sauce over fried slices of salt cod. I took this from The Cuisine of the Sun: a fabulous cookbook, but not this recipe.
Now, the bacalà had been soaked for a full day in various changes of water and was had just the perfect residual saltiness for the brandade on Christmas Eve, tempered, I suppose, by the oil and milk. However, when fried, and then topped with a parsley, caper, and olive sauce, it was close to inedible. Way too many saline objects going on there. The recipe called for capers or cornichons, and I don't think the cornichons would have helped either. Other recipes added anchovies! Visions of the salt monster from Star Trek Season I. The Cuisine of the Sun also called for red vermouth as the cooking liquid. With some misgivings I followed the recipe closely, but wooooo! The vermouth clashed with everything, and the result was so salty that it pretty much stripped all the water molecules from my throat and upper esophagus. The Italian version is bacalà al verde which layers the bacalà with potatoes. That should spread the salt about a bit. In some ways, however, it might have been a life saver. In my desperate thirst, I pounded down quarts of water, rather than champagne, which might account to the fact that I woke up with very little headache. Then again, it might have been the Milk Thistle pills that Julie brought over on a friend's recommendation. Clearly a scientific review is called for, where we get drunk on champagne with the Milk Thistle pills, without Milk Thistle pills, with water plus Milk Thistle pills, with water minus Milk Thistle pills, and compare the four resulting hangovers.
Julie also brought a lovely salad (and champagne) which helped clear our palettes for the lasagnoid object, i.e. more baked ziti.
Biscotti, eggnog with extra shots of Barbadian nog, and more champagne completed the night.
Merry 007 to all.

Grand Goosoulet

A cassoulet is the thing for left-over goose. Remember by ancient French tradition (and nobody's more traditional than the ancient French) a cassoulet must contain mutton . . . or roast pork . . . or ham . . . and sausages . . or not . . . or tomatoes . . . or not . . . topped with bread crumbs . . . or not. Even the duck or goose is optional. In other words, the cassoulet must contain whatever you got a lot of . . . plus beans. Makes it out kind of meal. Here's a fun article on the cassoulet wars.

So ours: Soaked white beans the day before, then pressure cooked them. We fried some onions and garlic in the goose fat plus thyme, fried some kielbasa (recommended substitute for Toulouse sausages) in that, tossed the fry up into the mess of beans. Needed more liquid so added a can of tomatoes. Put into an oven in the giant cast iron Dutch oven (Thanks, Barbara!) and baked for an hour. Delicious, but to tell the truth, I'm not sure the sausages added that much to it.

Pasta al salmone

Pasta al salmone
See the post for 22 Sept. 2006.