Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Leftover Pig and Potatoes

Tuesday 27 March
Nuked some of Barbara's Butt (and was she steamed!). Steamed the new potatoes too. Ate the one with the other.

Caviar on Spaghettini, and Fresh Artichokes

Monday 26 March
Holt gets giddy when he sees the first artichokes of spring at Findlay Market. While waiting for them to pressure cook for 20 minutes (toss the lime you use for rubbing the cut areas of the artichokes into the pressure cooker), we made one of the simplest dishes on earth: caviar on spaghettini (or angelhair).
Cook the spaghettini. Melt a TBSP or two of butter in a bowl in the microwave, toss the spaghettini in it. Add a squirt of lemon. Put on heated plates, and top with caviar. This is particularly nice with American golden caviar. Still, if you drop by with a tin of beluga, you're always welcome.
When the artichokes were tender, we dipped their hot leaves into salsa verde - the Italian, not the Mexican one: fresh parsley, oregano, and garlic chives from the garden, chopped up with capers and lime juice. Then de-choke, and sop the heart in what's left of the sauce. It's better if it runs down your chin.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Crab Cakes

Sunday 25 March
We were feeling crabby. Haven't had crab cakes since the Feast of Seven Fishes.
Two cans crabmeat, a few brown bread crumbs from the trimmings of nice Kathy's nice bread, a little mayo to bind, shallots, celery, and the magic ingredient: a tsp of Dijon mustard. Pat together, dip in finer breadcrumbs, and brown in oil.
Served on a romaine, arugula, and tomato salad, with a dollop of mayo seasoned with lime juice and a dab of adobo from a can of chipotles. And each crabcake was crossed with chives like a great la-di-da poofter.
Very good, if not the Platonic crab cakes made by our friend, Ginger.

Barbara's Big Ol' Butt

Saturday 24 March
Holt was upstairs wrestling with TurboTax (thanks, Holt! No, really, THANKS!), so I handled dinner. This way of treating pork shoulder/Boston butt has become one of my specialties, as you can tell from the name. Its main virtue is, it takes five minutes to coat with spices, ten more to brown, and then cooks nicely by itself for four hours or more. Its second virtue is the wealth of doubles-entendres you can make ("now you know why most men like big butts," etc.)
So here are the spices to mix together for your dry marinade:
1/2 tsp. each of dry mustard, paprika, and thyme
1/4 tsp. each of savory, white pepper, and sage (if you're using dried)
a pinch each of nutmeg and ground cloves
1 bay leaf, shredded; if you're using fresh sage, chop up about 6 large leaves.
You can rub your butt with this (see?) and chill it overnight. Or you can do it right before cooking, with not much difference.
Now haul out your covered dutch oven, heat some oil in it, and sear the butt on all sides. Then deglaze the pan with a generous TBSP. each of liquid smoke and Worcestershire sauce. Chop up a couple of cloves of garlic and throw them in the bottom of the pan too. Cover it tight, and put it in a 325-degree oven for four hours or so. Open it occasionally to flip it around and make sure there's some liquid in there; if not, top up with more of the above, or a little white wine. By the last half hour, you should be able to shred the meat apart to soak in the bottom juices, and pull the bone right out.
Usually we just plonk some potatoes, turnips, and onions in this to simmer along for the last hour and get tender, but today's accompanying vedge was some nice small fennel bulbs from the market. They looked a bit wonky (spots of frost damage) but inside they were perfect. So braised them in thin slices with butter and water. They cooked beautifully, with all the water absorbed in only about ten minutes. Served on the side, decorated with fennel sprigs but not the usual grated romano topping, which would have conflicted with the pork savor.
There - it's immortalized. Now you can always find my butt, which is more than I can say for myself sometimes.

Steak with Asparagus

Friday 23 March
Just that. Roasted the asparagus (there was a sale on asparagus; can you tell?) at 500º, flipping intermittently, while grilling the steak. Served with a knob of gorgonzola butter. Yum.

Risotto with Shrimp and Asparagus

Thursday 22 March
A lovely risotto (which we haven't had since November.
Peel a mess (OK a pound) o' shrimp; keep the shells. Boil sliced asparagus (stems first, tips later - you know) in about 3 cups water. Fish them out while still a bit crisp. Boil the shrimp in the same water until just pink. Fish (get it?!) them out too. Boil the shrimp shells (by the shrimp shore) in that same water. Now you got you some stock.
Make a basic risotto: 1/4 cup onion sautéed in your good-ish olive oil, then add a cup of rice and stir to coat each grain. Then add the asparagus-shrimp-shell stock (though a sieve, unless you like it extra-exoskeletal) a half-cup at a time. When it gets absorbed add more stock. Then a tub of frozen chicken stock, too. Stir lazily while watching "Ugly Betty." When every grain is meltingly tender, put in the asparagus and shrimp and warm them up.
This was phenomenally tasty.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hash Wednesday

21 March
Lynne and Tom came over to celebrate the Vernal Equinox and help us use up the last of the St. Paddy's Day corned beef. So once again, we all made a hash of it.
We already laid out the Theory of Hash back in December:
Corned beef is a classic hashing material, not just tasty but easy to cut into very tiny, perfect cubes. We also hand-chopped the onion, because running it through the Robot-Coupe often results in watery glop. The red-skinned potatoes, however, would have taken too long to steam if they were in cubes, so we processed them into shreds.
Barbara is the head Hashemite in this kingdom, so she presided over the mixing and cooking. She got out our biggest pan, the fourteen-incher, and gave the onions a brief fry in oil. The chopped potatoes then went in for a couple of minutes dry-fry, then 8 or 9 veal-stock cubes and cover the pan, to steam them and get them soft. In the meantime, we munched on bread, cheese, and olives. It takes quite a while to get those little red taters tender. Once they were, she sprinkled in minced fresh parsley and dried thyme, added the corned beef, stirred it up, and tasted it before salting and peppering. Then she patted it down and ran the pan under the broiler until it was brown. Results: perfect hash, if hash can be perfect.
Dessert was perfect too: Holt made apple crêpes with whipped cream. The basic crêpe (see below for UTOP-ia) recipe is
1 cup flour
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup water
3 eggs
Whisk the liquids into the flour (not the other way around) and let the batter sit for at least half an hour.
Then 1/4-1/3 cup in a small non-stick pan filmed with oil. The first pancake is always a trial run.
You can roll 'em, or get all Frenchified and fold 'em in quarters, then dust with powered sugar. We topped with chopped apples sautéed in butter with brown sugar and a shot or two of bourbon. Flambéed the sauce just for the hell of it. Then schlag-obers. So Franco-Austrio-American. Sounds about right.

Ravioli di baccalà

Tuesday 20 March
We had a final slurplet of the brandade left over from Saturday. What to do with it? Enter The Universal Theory of the Pancake.
The Universal Theory of the Pancake (hereafter UTOP-ia) states that all human cultures will at some point develop The Pancake or Pancake-Like Object. The purpose of the pancake is not only to serve as a container for the tiny scraps of valuable food you may have, but to stretch them, make them go further, and generally make you feel special about eating leftovers. Depending on the culture, and the general availability of meat, UTOP-ia states that the pancake may become the dominant, indeed the defining characteristic of the cuisine. Hence the tortilla for Mexico. An enchilada is protein in a tortilla, not to be confused with the burrito which is protein in a tortilla, not to be confused with the taco which is protein in a tortilla, etc. For France, the crêpe (see Weds.); for Jews, the kreplach; for Chinese, the pancake proper (in moo shu pork), gyoza, etc. All of these (except the kreplach) can be raised to high art forms. For the Italians, the raviolo!

Our recipe for basic pasta dough is straight from Beard on Pasta (Holt's plan for next year's Halloween costume).
1 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
pinch salt
1 TBSP olive oil
Process until the dough just comes together (add a sprinkle of water if necessary). You can tart this up with any herbs, flavors of your choice, so long as they're supple enough to be pressed into the pasta without tearing it up. But since the brandade is very salty, we wanted a simple contrast.

Same went for the sauce. Barbara made a very clean tomato sauce alla Modena: just tomatoes, white wine, and fresh sage, which cooked while we rolled out the pasta. Finished with a splash of balsamic vinegar, but it should be pretty thick, since the ravioli always contribute a little water of their own.

Rolling out the dough is the fun part, and one of the proofs that man (in the generic sense) was not meant to be alone. We had a pasta party a while ago with Ann and Harry, Kathleen and Steve, all elbows deep in flour, in an assembly line.
There are useful step-by-step illustrations HERE. The only real tricks are to fold the pasta over after the first roll (we keep rolling it until we reach number 5), and to saturate the ravioli mould with flour so the little ravels will pop out readily. The thicker edges of the pasta take about 5 minutes of brisk boilage to be truly al dente.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fava Bean and Spring Vegetable Soup

Monday 19 March
The first fava beans showed up at Madison's. Barbara has some seeds to plant this spring, but they are still a matter of hope and longing. We love fava beans here at the Department of Redundancy Department. Meanwhile Kroger had a special on asparageese.
The recipe is fairly basic from Epicurious, but a bit schizo since it calls for fresh spring vedge, but also fresh basil which is late summer.

Sautéed onions (since the leeks were still pretty scrawny looking) with smallish carrot dice in the butter, then the last of the frozen goose juice from Christmas. Salt, pepper, and a pinch of dried basil from last year's crop. Tossed in the largest of the favas, then the asparagus stems, then the smaller beans, then the asparagus tips, all at about 4 minute intervals. Don't bother with cheese. Serve in the Becky bowls (Thanks, Becky!).
So a spring in our step and a spring in our bowls.

Corned Beef Sandwiches with Colcannon

Sunday March 18
The reason for making two corned beef briskets on St. Patrick's day becomes clear the day after. They shrink unbelievably while cooking. So you need at least one big one (ca. 4 lbs.) to actually slice and serve on the day, especially if you want to provide a doggy bag or two for your guests, and a whole nother brisket for sandwiches and hash for yourselves. In fact, cold corned beef sandwiches may be the only reason for ever boiling corned beef - as below, it's a Jewish thing.
So the next day, we did the obvious and made those sandwiches, with Holt's olive-oil bread, and slathered with mustard and cole slaw; sour pickles on the side. You should be drooling now; I am.
There was also leftover vedge, and the best solution to these particular sorts is Colcannon (Irish: cál ceannan, white head), known in England as Bubble-and-Squeak (write your own joke here). You chop up the leftover cabbage and mash it together with the soft potatoes and carrots, using cream or butter to grease the ways. Following the example of my good friend Phoebe, with whom I was snowed in one memorable week in Walla Walla, season this mush liberally with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne. Pile it in a buttered casserole and nuke the crap out of it; when it's hot, sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top and crisp it under the broiler for a couple of minutes.
Preparing the sandwiches takes a fraction of the time that the Colcannon does. You may have the patience to wait and eat the one with the other. We didn't.

Corned Beef and Cabbage and Friends

St. Patrick's Day
Every kiss-me-I'm-Irish website will tell you that corned beef and cabbage is NOT a typical Irish meal, but an American-as-chop-suey St. Paddy's Day innovation. And as I learned from Kathy when she and Russel came over to celebrate said holiday, both our Jewish mothers cooked it frequently. So who cares - it's a tradition! (Insert chorus from "Fiddler on the Roof" here.)
We started out with appetizers. Yes, there was Irish Shamrock cheddar, and Kathy made a lovely oatmeal bread, but a certain European-Union tone was added by Holt's Italian roast peppers and French brandade de morue (from our Christmas Eve feast, frozen), and Beck's or Dinkelacker beers.
We had been simmering two flat-cut corned beef briskets ($2.47/lb. at IGA) for three hours according to package directions (spices included), and during the appetizer course Holt threw some tiny whole red-skinned potatoes and chunks of carrot into the pot. About eight minutes before we wanted to eat, he took out the briskets to rest and put in the cabbage, cut into eight wedges. When the timer dinged, Holt piled the vegetables into the giant green (natch) cabbageleaf bowl and Barbara sliced the bigger corned beef (see below) for the giant green platter. Three kinds of mustard and horseradish were already on the table, for nose-singeing fun.
Dessert was a wonderful apple galette made by Kathy, and Irish coffee. Believe me, our Jewish eyes were smiling.

Mushroom and Cheese Soufflé, with a note on what we've eaten up to now.

Friday 16 March
A soothing sooful, which as the blog shows we haven't had in a while. As you might guess, sooful is how we pronounce "soufflé" around these here parts, and a five-egg one is perfect for two hungry people.
So sauté some mushrooms sliced thin in butter with salt and thyme. Set aside.
Make a stiffish béchamel (see below), with about 2 TBSP butter, 2 TBSP flour for the roux. Dribble in a cup of milk, beating all the while. Add pinch of nutmeg (pretty much essential for any white sauce) and white pepper. I added about 2 oz. of goat cheese while the béchamel was still warmish to give it that yuppie touch.
Then pause to whip the whites in my Kitchen Aid mixer (Thanks, Barbara!). My only trick for a sooful is to slop the beaten egg whites into a batter bowl on the side and use the deep mixer bowl for blending. You have to dirty yet another bowl, but the one with only the puffy whites in it cleans up more easily.
Then the egg yolks get whisked into the béchamel, which by now won't cook them, with a cup or so (ca. 8 oz.) of grated Colby-jack cheese, plus the mushrooms and their lovely juices. Fold in the whites, then slurp it all into the buttered and floured soufflé dish. It goes into a 400º oven, which you then turn down to 375º. 35 minutes gives you a lovely, puffy, mushroomy, crusty but still moist sooful.

What we've eaten up to now:
Prompted by Andi's friend Susan's observation about the blog ("it sounds like you eat a lot of pork!!"), I got curious about how much we actually eat of what sort of things. It has been something over six months since we started blogging, so tonight's sooful seemed a good time for a half-year analysis. I went back through all the entries, assigned things by "main dish," and totted them up, though I left out restaurant meals and dinners that were made up of such varied things that you couldn't assign them to any particular category (e.g., antipasto - do three slices of genoa salami make it pork?).
Here are the results:
We had lamb 6 times.
Mainly vegetables (usually with cheese or egg, and not including pasta) 17 times.
Beef (and once veal) 23 times.
Pork, ham, sausages etc., 26 times.
Poultry (mainly chicken, but also duck, goose, turkey, dove, and pheasant) 28 times.
Fish/seafood 30 times.
Pasta 34 times.
This is a hell of a lot better balanced than I thought it would be, and I'm astounded that pork fell into fourth place. But then, it's almost Easter - in Porkopolis, that means it's time to buy a Schad's ham!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Pork Marsala with gingered carrots

The Ides of March
Quick and dirty, though not bloody. Sauté thin collops of pork, deglaze with dollops of marsala, add wallops of cream. On the side, grinded-up carrots with stem ginger and a dash of the syrup.
Ave Caesar!

Leftovers--I mean ¡Tapas!

Wednesday 14 March
We came back from the dentist with bright shiny teeth and began to think of things to get wedged in between them. So a couple of slices of Mr. Pig's slow-smoked brisket, the last pieces of the mac 'n' cheese 'n' ham, the last scoop of the chickpeas (now stew, not soup), the last smear of the green olive and artichoke tapenade Holt made months ago, a few marinated olives, and a bit of goat cheese on the last of the brown bread. The chickpeas, tapenade, and olives allowed us to call it tapas, rather than "cleaning out the refrigerator" or "limpiar la nevera" as we say in Spanish (literally "the snows are limpid"; Spanish is such a poetic language).
¡Viva España!

Tonno in agrodolce alla trapanese

Tuesday 13 March
There are a bunch of similar recipes from Sicily, where the sweet-sour sauce shows the influence of Arabic cooking (oh, crap, and we thought we were in trouble with Ann Coulter just for mentioning French sauces two days ago).
So cook some thinly sliced onions in olive oil. When limp and slightly brown, push to the back of the pan, and sear a nice piece a' tuna on both sides. Add the sauce, which is 1/2 cup white wine, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1 tsp sugar. Cover and cook just a few minutes to 120º max. (Real easy to overcook this, especially with frozen tuna steaks, which is what you get in Ohio.) You can tart this up any way you like: more sour/salt with capers; more sweet with raisins. Next time we're definitely going to add pignoli.
Viva Italia! And to hell with Ann Coulter.

Poulet à l'angevine

Monday 12 March
Chicken Anjou; nothing to do with pears. A tasty chicken with mushrooms dish from the old Larousse Treasury of Country Cooking, which we last did back in October.
We use more or less the same method, plus we added along with the onions the last of the shallots (about 8) peeled and halved. The white wine should I suppose be from Anjou, but was in fact Trader Joe's finest Sauvignon Blanc, as usual. Nonetheless, vive la France!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Steak 'n' Potatoes

Sunday 11 March
We're meat and potatoes kinda people. (OK, we're not.) But there were some tiny new red-skinned potatoes at the market. So we just grilled up a fine figure of a T-bone, smeared with a touch of soy sauce (hmmm…suspiciously foreign). Boiled the lil' taters whole, threw in some butter and some of the miraculous surviving parsley, chopped. Made a nice béarnaise (DEFINITELY foreign - call Homeland Security!) with white wine vinegar, shallots, tarragon, boiled down; then off heat, beat in 1 egg yolk and cold butter to emulsify. The sauce (TRAITOR!) was a little thinner than I like, but it went well with the meat . . . and the potatoes.

Savory (and Eternally Cooking) Chickpea Soup

Saturday 10 March
Thought we had chickpeas in our many jars of legumes. Didn't have chickpeas in our many jars of legumes. Barbara went to IGA. They didn't have dried chickpeas. Barbara went to Kroger. They had dried chickpeas. So we cooked chickpeas. Boy did we cook chickpeas. For hours and hours we cooked chickpeas. Still crunchy. Should've just pressure cooked the little bastards, which is what we wound up doing in the end. Don't know if the batch was old or just stubborn. In the end the results were delicious, though.
This is a Spanish soup from Barbara's days excavating there - the dig was in Mallorca, but the soup was modeled after one she had in a cheap restaurant in Barcelona. It made it into the Fear and Loathing Cookbook as "a thick, hearty peasant dish for thick, hearty peasants."
So in a PRESSURE COOKER, sauté
1 chopped onion, 2 minced cloves of garlic, in a little olive oil
Stir in 4-6 TBSP each of the holy duality of coriander and cumin, plus 1 tsp of turmeric, and treat as for an Indian dish: stir-fry the spices until they form a thick, aromatic paste. Then add
1 16-oz (okay, they're now 14.5 oz) can of tomatoes - diced, crushed, what-have-you.
1 lb. of dried chickpeas.
2 smoked Spanish style chorizo sausages, cut into chickpea-size bits.
Add enough water to make a soup.
Then PRESSURE COOK everything for 20 minutes after the top begins to make that hissing, spitting, rattling sound. No, wait, that’s just me.
If you don't have a pressure cooker, keep the soup simmering until the chickpeas are tender, however long that is; it may be hours. It would help if you had pre-soaked them the night before, but that would require forethought - and having chickpeas in one of your many jars of legumes. OR YOU COULD JUST GET THE CANNED KIND AND SAVE YOURSELF THE EFFORT.
Serve with rioja on a soft Spanish night. It really is delicious.

Also spend the quiet of Saturday (well, quiet except for Wagner's Meistersinger on the radio, which isn't really quiet at all) making roasted peppers. Blistered their butts under the grill, then topped with chopped garlic, capers, oregano, pepper, and kosher salt. Though they're really for lunch, they were just too pretty not to include. And they took less time than the chickpeas.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mac 'n' Cheese 'n' Ham

Friday 9 March
Had me an envie (as them Frenchies say) for a mustardy casserole. So mac 'n' cheese, possibly the most complicated simple dish in the American standard recipe collection: not complicated in terms of technique, it just dirties an unnecessary number of dishes and so is opposed to the true Fear and Loathing ethos. Still, the palate wants what it wants.

So while cooking 8 oz. of celantani, make a basic béchamel of 2 TBSP of butter, in which cook, but don't brown, 2 TBSP flour. Add, first in dribs then in drabs, about a cup of milk, whisking as it forms the paste and whisking even more as you add the rest of the liquid. (Yeah, it's probably better to heat it up and all that crap. Who's got time? And you dirty yet another dish. I just pour straight from the carton. Lumps are avoided by elbow work.)

The essence of a béchamel: thin (butter), then thick (flour), then thin (with milk, stock, etc.), then thick (with cooking), then thin (with whatever flavorings), then thick (with cheese, etc.).

Tossed in a scoop of our homemade mustard (coarse grain, à l'ancienne), a couple of oz. of goat cheese (for that yuppie touch), lots of finely cubed ham, even more lots of Colby/Monty Jack, then even more lots of the latter cheese on top. 20 minutes at the People's Temperature covered, 20 more uncovered, 5 minutes to settle. Gooey goodness.

Basque Chicken

Thursday 8 March
After our return from Athens, OH, we made poulet basquaise, Basque chicken, so called because it basques in its own juices. An old bistro standard. We had found some nice peppers at the market and still had the legs from the roast chicken.
Sautéed some long thin strips of onion, red pepper, yellow pepper in a little oil. Then 2 cloves chopped garlic. Added chopped tomatoes, a little salt and black pepper. I pulled the chicken legs in two with one Herculean jerk (no comments!), and buried them in the sauce. Covered loosely and cooked down. Tasted after about 20 minutes, but it still needed a little something extra. That something was about 1/2 tsp of the pimenton della Véra. Gave it just a subtle hint of heat and a different type of pepper.


Weds. 7 March
Barbara went up to the University of Ohio at Athens to give a lecture. Our hosts, Lynne and Tom, very kindly took us and fellow scholar Neil out afterwards to eat at a fun and pleasant restaurant called Stephen's - if you look at the website, we sat under the floating fat lady.
We started off with a classic mussels in white wine and garlic, and some more progressive shrimp done with sesame oil and sesame seeds over an Asian slaw. Then a medium-rare pepper-crusted sirloin (perhaps a little too chewy) with an artichoke and gorgonzola topping, plus an excellent rack of lamb, coated with a Indian spice crust and a mango raita for dipping. Tom brought the wine. Holt and Barbara helped drink the wine. It was all very convivial.

(I know this blog doesn't contain breakfasts, but Lynne also makes a cappuccino worthy of Rome.)

Penne with Portobellos

Tues. 6 March
Once again, we thought we ate this every other week, but it turns out that the last time was way back in September.
This dish is always better if you have fresh herbs from the garden. Parsley is just beginning to come back after February's icy spell, and the thyme never retreated, though it got a bit crisp. But I didn't dare clip the rosemary, huddled under its cloche. We'll see if it survives to season our next dish of portobellos.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Roast Chicken with a lemon up its butt

Monday 5 March
The essential recipe *here*. Since we are getting a tad more paranoid about the chicken's hygiene, I now mix up a small mound of kosher salt, pepper, and thyme, and keep in on the plastic chopping sheet to stuff in under the skin, so my hands needn't touch anything else while they're all chickeny.
Roasted the chicken, tossed in the last of the shallots after 30 minutes, then peeled and sliced parsnips 30 minutes after that, while I cut back the thighs. The probe thermometer in the thick of the thigh went off at 160º. Ten (all right, seven) unbearable minutes later, we were devouring the chicken. Served with a nice Vernaccia di San Gimignano: flowers on a flinty hillside.

Flaming Vegetables of Death! . . . with Teriyaki Pork

Sunday March 4th (Parade Day)
Had some nice peppers from the market, so decided to do them with some onions and the last fragment of zucchini in the Holy Wok (Thanks, Joel and Andi!), one of those flat-bottomed woks with large holes in it for grilling. Joel tosses the vegetables in a plastic bag with oil and spices before grilling them. Joel also has the brains to do this OUT OF DOORS! The oil, of course, as any fool could have foreseen, fell straight onto the open gas flame of the stove top, flamed up, filled the house with the rich aromatic smoke of sacrifice, and necessitated running all the fans and opening the back door in the dead of winter. The vegetables were mighty tasty, and surprisingly easy to find once we put on the night vision goggles, but on mature reflection, a thin film of oil on the wok itself would have done just as well.
While Holt was making his burnt offering, Barbara prepared the teriyaki pork. Make a marinade of the following ingredients: 5 tsps. soy sauce, 1 tsp. Shao Xing wine or sherry, a half-tsp. of sugar stirred in well until it dissolves, and a half-tsp. each of mashed garlic and mashed ginger root. Soak a couple of nice porkchops or medallions in that, until the smoke clears. Shake them free of marinade (but save it) and fry them, flipping frequently, for about five minutes in a pan filmed with oil. Pour the marinade back on top of them, cover, and lower the heat. Let them cook five or more minutes, until firm and done.

Chicken with Quince

Sat. 3 March
We bought a quince at Findlay Market, purely on spec. We had no idea what to do with it, but the literary associations (Shakespeare, Wallace Stevens, not to mention the Owl and the Pussycat) made it irresistible.
By coincidence, Barbara had picked up Claudia Roden's new book, Arabesque, at the library, which contained numerous recipes (just look for the picture of the quince on the cover). So from something simple to something very complex.
The quince turns out to be something like a pear that registers 9.5 on Moh's scale.

Here's how to prepare the quince. Boil it in water to cover for an hour. No, really, an hour. Then when it's cooled, cut in quarters, and cut out the still rock hard center (just as you would for an apple or a pear). Cut the quarters into 2 or 3 slices each. Fry in butter for about 2 minutes on each cut side until lightly browned. It's surprisingly aromatic, somewhere between Pears and Roses (our new rock group).
Now for the chicken.
We did this with 4 drumsticks and 2 thighs from a mutant chicken. Okay, a couple of packages of parts we had frozen.
1/2 lb. smallish shallots, peeled (don't cut in half!)
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp saffron
1 TBSP honey
Fry the onion in a little plain oil, on medium, till brown.
Stir fry the spices for a minute.
Add the chicken, and brown on all sides.
Add the peeled shallots.
Add 1 cup water.
Cook about 30 minutes, until the chicken is done (160º is the best internal temp. for chickens), flipping chicken bits half-way through.
Uncover, reduce sauce and add the honey.
Add fresh ground black pepper to balance the honey (taste after each addition).
Serve topped with the fried quinces (which we mentioned first, cuz it takes an hour, no really, an hour, to boil a quince).
Divine on a divan.
Add jug of wine, loaf of bread, thou.

Ravioli and pesto

Friday 2 March
We wanted something simple, so we busted into the freezer and retrieved a horded package of the Holy Ravioli, and five cubes of pesto (two for each of us, plus one for the pot).
The ravels take 35 minutes to cook through. We just added a half ladle of the cooking water to reconstitute the frozen pesto cubes. Pass the romano, please.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Persian Lamb braised in merlot (with rose and orange).

Thurs. March 1
In this case, Persian Lamb is edible, not astrakhan. A lovely simmered stoo with lots of wacky flavors, from the March 2007 Gourmet. The original recipe calls for blanching the orange peel, dissolving the saffron, and flouring the lamb, none of which is necessary. (Saffron never really does dissolve, and after two hours of braising, are you really going to be able to find intact saffron threads? Flouring is to protect the surface of delicate protein, like fish, but for lamb? The residual flour will help thicken the sauce, but so does two hours cooking.) Use a big dutch oven. Preheat the non-dutch (Belgian? Well, just plain ol' big heavy cookpot - ours is Chinese) to 325º.
So for two people:
2 lamb shanks (the foreshank, which is less meaty and cheaper, is perfect for this type of long simmer)
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
zest of 1 orange (cleverly reserved from the previous night's fish with blood oranges), cut into thin strips
(1 tsp lime zest)
1 piece of cinnamon stick
3 cups or so merlot
2 TBSP rose water
1/2 tsp saffron (crushed between your fingers, which will look and smell nice)
2 tsp honey
water, as and if necessary.

Brown the lamb in just a film of oil in the dutch oven. (If you do flour it, use a sieve to get an even dusting, and add extra oil). Remove to a plate.
Fry up the dry stuff, until the onion is just brown.
Pour in the wet stuff. Put back in the meat stuff.
Cover and put the dutch oven in the oven oven.
Braise for 2 hours.
Check and see if it needs more liquid. Flip the meat.
Braise for another hour if necessary. Meat should be near falling off the bone.
Serve with rice.
The flavors are dark and deep. We made this the night before, braising for 2 hours. Then re-hotted it in the ovens (both dutch and other) for about an hour more the next night. Delicious.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Tilapia with blood oranges

Wednesday 28 Feb
We continued the fish fest with a lovely simple dish, originally for trout fillets, but which works nicely with any thin fish.
Dry the fillets and sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh thyme leaves (we had lemon thyme and lime thyme from the garden, which miraculously survived the zero temperatures and the ice storm). Pat to make adhere. Fry the fillets in butter and a touch of oil (to bring up the smoking point) on medium heat, till brown on each side and opaque in the middle. Remove to heated plates
Add another slice of butter. Sauté a minced shallot, add two blood oranges in sections (cut out any seeds), any thyme that didn't stick to the fish, plus a half a lemon's worth of juice, and a shot of lemon vodka (taste first to make sure it hasn't gone off--be terrible if the alcohol had gone bad). Reduce the sauce to almost a syrup. Then, off heat, Monty O'Burr (montez au beurre), that is, throw in a bit more cold butter and stir until just incorporated in the sauce. Pour over fishes.

Back Together! Gnocchi alla gorgonzola!

Tuesday 27 Feb
Barbara picked Holt up at the airport at 11:00 PM EST, i.e. 9:00 PM WST (Western Stomach Time). So an all but instant meal: gnocchi (from Trader Joe's, to keep up the California theme) in gorgonzola sauce. Melt a bit of butter, smash some gorgonzola into it, squish till melted, add cream, a bit of romano to take the edge off the gorgonzola, white pepper. Home sweet home.

Dinner apart! Part II

Monday 26 Feb.
After the lecture, the folks at Irvine took Holt out again to Sage restaurant. Though he hates to criticize as a guest of such nice people, he was forced to concur with his hosts' post-dinner assessment, that this was less successful. The kitchen may have been having an off night. The food was all right but nothing to blog home about.
(And that evening, Barbara made herself a bowl of tuna fish salad. Do you sense a theme here?)

Dinner apart!

Sunday 25 Feb.
Holt had to go to Irvine, CA, to give a lecture. So we dined apart for the first time since we started this blog, in fact the first time in years. The folks there treated Holt to a bang up supper at The Beach House, which, as it turns out, overlooks the beach, Laguna Beach, to be precise. Fish was the obvious theme. Lovely giant shrimp, if that's not an oxymoron (and who you calling oxy?), with a creamy dijon sauce. Then a swordfish, grilled, with a garlic and cilantro chimichurri sauce.* Served over mashed potatoes flavored with wasabi, and some nice crispy batons of carrots. Yummy. A glass of Jordan chardonnay went well with the fish and the conversation--think globally, drink locally.
(That evening, Barbara made herself two hot dogs and sauerkraut.)

*A recipe for chimichurri, which is an Argentine staple:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1 clove garlic
2 minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced herbs (coriander, basil, thyme or oregano
Salt and pepper
Let sit for a bit.

Boston Bluefish with tomato sauce

Sat. 24 Feb.
At Findlay Market we saw something labeled "Boston Bluefish." Not bluefish at all, but in fact a rather mild codlike thing, also called "saithe" or "pollock" (Pollachius virens), according to Alan Davidson's invaluable North Atlantic Seafood. Did this in a very straightforward sauce so as to get the true flavor of the fish.
The tomato sauce was just a little onion sweated in oil, a touch of garlic, two big pinches of basil, and a shayna punim (small pinch) of marjoram. Add half a glass of cheap white wine, and a small can of diced tomatoes. Reduce till thick. You then just slide the fillets into the sauce, cover, and poach for about 5 minutes. The fish gives off a little more liquid, so remove gently to plates, crank up the heat again, and re-reduce the sauce. Pour over. A fine wee fash, as we say in Scotland.
This recipe is among those in an article Barbara clipped from the Philadelphia Enquirer in 1990. It claims "50 recipes for fish," and has proved invaluable, as it lists the fish by type, and you can substitute any one of that type for any of the others, with adjustments for size and cooking time of course.
So here are the groups:
LEAN ROUND FISH: Black bass, catfish, cod, grouper, haddock, ocean perch, pike, pollock, pompano, porgy, roughy, scrod, sea trout, snapper, tilefish, whiting.
FATTY ROUND FISH: bluefish, salmon, shad, smelt, freshwater trout, tuna.
DENSE-MUSCLED FISH: mahi-mahi, monkfish, shark, sturgeon, swordfish.
FLAT FISH: flounder, fluke, halibut, sole, turbot.

Green Curry Chicken with Snow Peas

Friday 23 Feb.
Another go at Thai Green Curry. Think I got it this time by using Barbara's technique. So first stir-fry the snow peas and remove to a platter. Then boil two chicken breasts, cut into small cubes, in the top coconut cream, flavored with a little laos powder. Remove the chicken chunks when just done through and put them on the platter. Now boil the coconut cream down till it's basically coconut butter, and stir fry 1 teaspoon of green curry paste in it. Then add as much of the bottom coconut milk as you need and a small splash of nam pla. When just about thick enough, toss back in the peas and chicken and hot up.
Yum! Which means "salad" in Thai.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Écrevisses au sauce Aurore, or Linguine O'Cajun

Thurs. 22 Feb.
As you might have guessed from the description of our abundant Mardi Gras boil below, we had some crawfish left over. What to do with squads of cold fully-armored cooked mudbugs? Use every bit of them that you can.
First, get all the tail meat out of them, using directions below, and set aside. Toss all exoskeleton parts, including unsucked heads, into a pot. Add water to barely cover, and boil it down for about a half an hour. In the meantime, boil water for pasta - we used linguine, but angel hair would be fine.
When the broth has taken all the flavor from the crawfish parts, strain it through a fine sieve (to eliminate even the skinniest bits of shell and mustard seeds) into a broad saucepan. Boil it down and concentrate it more. Add a dollop of heavy cream, and taste - if you like it, keep reducing it, or you can add a tiny squirt of tomato paste to make it a true sauce Aurore. Season with salt and/or white pepper as needed. When the pasta is done and the sauce is thick, throw the crawfish tails in the sauce to warm up, drain the pasta, and toss it all together.
Surprisingly elegant, and good enough for a special O'Cajun (okay, now I'm ashamed of myself).

Fettuccine with zucchini

Weds. 21 Feb.
This is an old James Beard recipe: The red peppers, green zukes, and white pasta are supposed to remind you of the Italian flag.
Sauté a big chopped onion in some EVOO.
Add a red pepper cut into thin strips, and a zuke (uno zucchino) cut into nice juliennes.
Add a smashed clove of garlic.
Add a small can of diced tomatoes.
And the secret ingredient: a dash of crushed red pepper.
Salt and a bit of white pepper.
Serve over fettuccine. You can grate on some romano if you want, but it really doesn't need it. Simplicity itself. The flavors are clean and individual.
We had, purely by accident, created a Lenten vegetarian meal. Our philosophy in religion is: All of the feasts, None of the fasts.

Louisiana Crawfish Boil

Mardi Gras
What else! We went down to Findlay Market as usual on Saturday, and they were having their own early celebration. Luken's Fish had a crawfish boil with little servings for everyone, and though it was completely without seasoning (what might have happened had Cajuns come way too far up the Mississippi), we were sold . . . sold a 5 lb. bag of crawfish, already cooked unfortunately, but still mighty fine as it turned out.
So here are the authentic recipes. You know they're authentic, cuz they're completely different.
You might need to cut the amounts a tad. Here's the Gumbopages recipe for the spice mix, and it's excellent. We just cut it half.

We followed their advice, cross-referencing with Emeril's from back when he was content just to be a cook, in Julia's Cooking with Master Chefs.
Here's what we did.
In a big pot filled with lots of water toss:
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoons whole allspice
1 tablespoons dill seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
4 bay leaves
(Sure you could tie it up into a bouquet garni, but since you're going to be in there up to your elbows, why bother?)
Bring it to a boil.
Open pot and inhale deeply.
Toss in :
A couple of potatoes, sliced into eighths.
2 onions, sliced into eighths through the root end.
3 mild andouille sausages, sliced into . . . slices.
4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled but cut in half.
1 lemon, cut in half.
Boil till the potatoes are almost done.
Toss in the frozen, precooked mudbugs.
Cook for about 5 minutes more, after the pot comes to a boil.
Didn't need any extra salt or spices, since the andouille had provided all it really needed.
Serve in bowls. With beer. And extra napkins. And a bowl for the detritus. And Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band.

How to eat a Crawfish:
Twist the body.
Suck the head.
Pinch the tail.
Eat the meat.
It's just that simple.