Thursday, May 29, 2008

Smoked Duck and Salad

Sunday May 25

It wouldn't be Memorial Day Weekend if The Man of the House didn't get to play with charcoal briquettes. Holt obeyed the tradition, but instead of hamburgers with lighter-fluid sauce, which he expects to get at the departmental cookout tomorrow, he smoked a duck.

It was pretty much as here, even down to the herb branches adding their own savor (as Barbara has to keep pruning the herbs, we always have a supply on hand).

The first day's meal was perfect slices of the breast, served with a salad made from garden lettuce and arugula, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and red onion, dressed with our own basil oil and tarragon vinegar. Another lovely day outdoors, in the fragrance, and with the products, of our "Floreamus" garden.

Post-Julius Caesar Bloody Roast Beef

Saturday May 24

This afternoon, we joined our friend Kathy at nearby Burnet Woods for a picnic and performance by the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. It is not often that you get to drink wine and munch sandwiches, cherry tomatoes, carrots, grapes, and Kathy's tasty chocolate gem cupcakes made with puréed dates, as you watch a fine Julius Caesar, staged very cleverly in an open-air bandshell, with guest cameo by a prominent local hummingbird.

We mention this because the leftover sandwiches, cut into quarters, also served as pre-dinner appetizers. They were made of Holtbread, of course, and the fillings came from Findlay Market: chicken salad from Mike's Meats (unfortunately, not our favorite smoked chicken salad, which they've stopped making for some reason, but just the regular); and delicious salmon lightly-smoked right there - the guy who makes it has been giving out samples, and we were sold on first taste.

The roast beef made a suitably bloody main course, done as here, richly crusted o'er with thyme, pepper, and salt.

Despite the fact that it's spring, we roasted the vegetables in the pan: tiny redskin potatoes, shallots, carrots, and parsnips.

We bathed our tongues, not our hands, in the bloody gravy, which was just as well.

Gnocchi Tartufati e Fontina

Friday May 23

Though making fresh potato gnocchi and finding good Italian-style fontina are both difficult, Trader Joe's has both, and makes this complicated-sounding dish actually quick and simple. Come to think of it, the black truffle oil came from TJ's too, so it's not even that expensive.

Start boiling the water for a tray of TJ's gnocchi. In the meantime, heat butter, about 4 ounces grated fontina, and a good glug of heavy cream in a pan until thick and smooth. Keep it ready on low, and also have a warm bowl or casserole, with a spoonful of black or white truffle oil in it, standing by.

Boil gnocchi for 4-6 minutes, until they float and taste done. Drain, and then toss in the bowl with truffle oil, adding more if you feel like it. Then toss the fontina sauce in on top of that, and mix. Serve hot and immediately.

We made this very Italian meal at the very Italian hour of 10 PM, after getting home from the chi-chi Spring opening at the Contemporary Art Center. It took minutes, and hit the spot left empty by a long "performance" piece about pasta salad.

The only thing that would improve this would be shaving some fresh truffles over the top, the way we had it at Paris (not the city, the restaurant in Trastevere).

Poulet Célestine

Thursday May 22

The Lyonnaise dish we've done before.
There's good reason why it's a classic, and sometimes you just want chicken and mushrooms.

Vichyssoise au Cresson with Smoked Salmon Sandwiches

Wednesday May 21

Though we've done Vichyssoise, either plain or with watercress or sorrel, several times since starting the blog, it strikes me that we've never given the exact (or in our case, inexact) recipe. So here it is.

Leeks (or failing to take a leek, just onions) sautéed in a mess of butter.
To which add:
thinly sliced potatoes (Yukon Golds really do work best for this). Sure you can peel them if you want to, but we prefer a less raffiné approach (i.e. butt-lazy).
Add the cress. Since it's all going to get whizzed in any case, you needn't be over-exquisite about removing the stems.
Cover with the minimum amount of water. And lots of salt.
Cook till tender.
Cool a bit and grind up in the Robot Coupe.
Add milk to get the right consistency. Plus lots of white pepper.
Cool in fridge.
Then add as much cream as you have.
More salt.
A nice bit is to drizzle on some lines of cream into each bowl and then make feather patterns with a knife (like a great la-di-dah . . .).

To flesh this out, we made open-faced sandwiches by toasting Holt's pane pugliese, spreading the toasts with cream cheese and chopped garden chives (with blossoms, it's that season), and topping them with Trader Joe's lox. A great combo, if we do say so ourselves (and we do, often).

Pigall's Four Star Menu

Tuesday May 20

We last went to Pigall's on Barbara's birthday, and our visits are usually for birthdays or anniversaries.
But this time Jean-Robert was celebrating Pigall's fourth consecutive Mobil Four-Star Award with something called the Four Star Menu. It was four courses for $40, with wine pairings for $20, and we were so there. So maybe we were commemorating Florry's birthday, a day late.

As always, we were seated at one of the two banquette tables in the back - either they remember that Holt likes a banquette, or they like how we look against that background. One of our staff of assiduous servers soon came with our amuse-bouche: a phyllo packet of duck confit with a hint of dried cherry (a typical Jean-Ro production), exploding with flavor, on a smear of wholegrain mustard sauce; a tiny salmon terrine with chopped radishes, cucumbers, and hardboiled egg; and an espresso-cupful of carrot soup with apple chantilly cream.

Once we'd been amused, we got serious with the second course. The menu had two options, so as usual, we each had half of each.
The shrimp salad with spring vegetables was very fresh-flavored (though I don't think of broccoli and cauliflower as spring vegetables); our server poured bright green broccoli/leek Vichyssoise around it from a teapot. It was served with a light, grassy Francis Blanchet 2006 Pouilly Fumé.
The other option was Indiana goat cheese ravioli with lamb shank, confit tomatoes and Pommery mustard. These were in fact the same lamb shank ravioli made with gyoza wrappers in lamb shank sauce we had at the birthday dinner last year, with very little sign of goat cheese inside at all. They were served with Lioco 2006 Sonoma Chardonnay, tasting all butter, no apple or oak; an odd pairing for something so meaty, but nice all the same.

Our third courses were:
a perfect, lightly browned skate wing on a raft of julienned carrots, mushrooms and spinach, all atop a circle of whipped potato and caramelized onion, ringed with a light vinegar cream sauce. This probably won the prize for best-done dish on the menu, and was paired with a Danjean-Berthoux 2005 1er Cru Givry, in good Pinot Noir style.
The meaty option was a savory, glutinous chunk of beef short ribs in basil red wine sauce, along with nice nubbly local grits, carrots, and zucchini. This came with the best wine, a rich, aromatic Dragon 2005 Cotes de Provence.

And finally, when we could hardly absorb any more, a jam-garnished plate of four tiny desserts: raspberry mousse in a chocolate cookie cup; apricot sorbet in a profiterole with ginger syrup; a tiny frangipane (again, Jean-Robert loves these) topped with almond ice cream and a mint leaf; and a miniscule warm honeycake. They came with some sparkling Jura from Jean-Robert's own label.

Congratulations, Jean-Robert, and thanks for letting even the non-wealthy (like us) have a good restaurant meal just for the fun of it sometimes.

Pork Medallions with Fennel, Red Onion, and Fennel

Sunday May 18

Madison's at Findlay Market has been getting good fennel bulbs in lately, so we did an easy variation on our own Pork with Fennel Three Ways.
The only change was adding sliced red onion to the sliced fennel bulb. Still good.

Crab Soufflé

Monday May 19

We used a half pound of TJ's good canned crabmeat in Saturday's poblanos rellenos, so the other half went into a crabmeat soufflé.

We did the same thing here, with the lovely lemon thyme, but this time remembered to preheat the oven.
Crabby goodness.

Crab Poblanos Rellenos with Two Roasted Salsas

Saturday May 17

This was Holt's brilliant idea, regardless of the fact that there's a crab-poblano recipe on the Food Network website. He thought it up on a Saturday at home, where we don't have web access, so there. And his is more authentically New Mexican, because theirs just stuffs raw peppers.

Roast/char and skin four big poblanos as for any chile relleno recipe. Stuff with the following:
3 TBSP or so of shallot sautéed in butter
8 oz. good crabmeat
A little cornbread (found in the back of the freezer)
4 oz. jack cheese (ditto)
Roll in seasoned cornmeal, and fry until golden.

Since we still had a few dabs of tomatillo salsa from last Saturday, we served with some of that, and also some cherry tomato salsa that Holt whipped up on the spur of the moment. The nice part was, he first roasted the cherry tomatoes, so that they too had that concentrated flavor. Then grinded up with lots of coriander and a shot of lemon juice.
Con mucho gusto.

Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce

Friday May 16

This is a good summer dish when you've got scraps of leftover chicken (as, for example, the stuff strained and picked from the bones of Sunday's broth). As the original is from Szechuan, it's supposed to be spicy, but how much is your call.

First, boil up your noodles - usually we just use regular spaghetti - a little in advance. Cook them to taste, and then drain and rinse them immediately in cold water. If you do this in the evening, make it ice water until they're cool to the touch; if on the morning before the meal, put them in a bowl, toss them with a little oil (preferably sesame), and leave them in the fridge until you're ready for them. Actually, tossing with oil never hurts, even if you just cooked them.

Now mix up your sauce:
2 Tbsp. tahini
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. chili oil, or to taste
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar (can substitute white vinegar)
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. fresh ginger root, minced (we rub it on a microplane grater)
2 tsp. garlic, ditto
1 Tbsp. brewed tea, or water
salt to taste
Taste, and adjust seasonings to your preference. Toss noodles with sauce, taste and adjust again.

Top the platter of noodles with the aforementioned scraps of chicken, and any or all of the following: sliced cold boiled onions from said soup; scallions cut into thin shreds; chives; matchsticks of cucumber, red bell pepper, or carrots; bean sprouts; chopped cashews.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Shrimp San Pedro

Thursday May 15

After a hard, HARD day, some soothing shrimp seemed appealing to Holt's appetite. We got the recipe from the Southwest Tastes cookbook by Ellen Brown, which attributed it to the White Dove restaurant in Tucson. But it's strangely similar to this New Orleans recipe of the same name. Who had it first, we do not claim to know nor are we responsible for correcting attributions on this blog.

As usual, we changed the recipe. There's no reason to cook lovely shrimp and then leave them out to get rubbery. First of all we had some lovely tender asparagus, so we boiled up the smallest ones (cut on the diagonal), while sautéing scallion, then the scallions WITH their greens, and we used Israeli arrak rather than Pernod (it's what we had).
We added the arrak, flambéed it (who could resist?). Then removed to a plate. Added the cream, pink and green pepper corns, then sour cream. Then we tossed the shrimps and asparagus back in.
And we didn't serve it on pasta, because a pound of shrimp is all the two of us need.

Not-so-solid Food

Holt was going in for what is delicately called "a procedure" tomorrow (something like :oscopy), so he couldn't have any solid food. So he had to content himself with the (life-saving) hot chicken broth Barbara cooked up on Sunday, and some peach jello.

Barbara had a hamburger with fried onions, and hoped that the savory smell of meat wouldn't drive Holt mad. It didn't, but we didn't linger over the meal either.

Big-ass T-bone and Redskins

Tuesday May 13

Sounds like a hip-hop act, right? Well, it's only because we had one steak cut an inch and a half thick. We grilled it, with no added sauces beside a sprinkle of salt, and it was toothsome.

The potatoes were new baby redskins, just boiled until tender and anointed with sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh garden chives. Have we mentioned that when the forces of political correctness were making Miami University change the name of its football team, the Redskins, we put in the idea that they should simply change the mascot from an Indian to a potato. But they didn't go for it, and now it's the Redhawks. The poofters.

Wild Boar Ravioli with Porcini Sauce

Monday May 12

This was our fifth, and last, variation on the wild boar loin that we started on last Saturday. It was made out of the cup or two of leftovers of Boar IV, Tuesday's combined stew.

We took the stew, including its potatoes, carrots, and juices, threw it in the Robo-Coupe, and chopped it up until it was fairly smooth. That made the filling for the ravioli, which we made in our usual fashion, as here.

The sauce was based on the one here. The marsala is the key ingredient, and we use veal broth cubes. Then we threw in whatever extra chopped boar didn't make it into the ravioli. That made the sauce thick, and more boar-y (not boar-ing).

And come to think of it, porcini means "little pigs" anyway, so we had wild pig ravioli with piggy sauce. I think this, and the original long-simmered stew, are the best boar recipes we got out of this experience.

Chicken Fajitas

Sunday May 11

This afternoon CET, our public TV station, went beyond its "all hits of the 50s and 60s" policy and broadcast the Metropolitan Opera production of Tan Dun's The First Emperor. We had listened to it on the radio and didn't like it much, but the splendor of the production, the beautifully mannered acting, and the overtones of Peking Opera made it a richer musical experience. Barbara stayed home to watch it, and also to make Holt some chicken broth for Wednesday (see above).

We've been falling down on saving chicken bones for broth, so we deliberately deboned a couple of split chicken breasts, put all the bones in the broth, froze one set of deboned breasts, and made the other into chicken fajitas.

The fajita recipe was totally off the cuff. We sliced the chicken breasts into strips, marinating them in oil and lemon juice (should be lime, but we're out of limes). We also sliced up a bunch of onions and red peppers. Then we fried them in oil, on high heat, in this order: onion, peppers, chicken. If you want a real recipe, this is the closest:

We had them with sour cream and yesterday's tomatillo salsa and guacamole, and they were yummy.

Mexican Appetizers and Fresh Corn and Poblano Casserole

Saturday May 10

I guess today was Cinco de Mayo x 2, because we found fresh tomatillos, poblanos, and avocados at 5 for $1 at Findlay Market today. There was also fresh bicolor corn, and though it comes from Florida, we couldn't resist. All it needed was a basket of corn chips, and we were throwing our sombreros into the air, firing our pistoles, and yelling "arriba" like a bad Mexican stereotype.

And soft-shelled crabs, which we had instantly for lunch on a bed of watercress.

The avocados were actually pretty good, with almost no wastage, so we made a batch of guacamole in Holt's traditional fashion: smash as many avocadoes as you have with lots of coriander leaves from the garden, cumin, a hit of garlic, and lime juice.

We usually do tomatillos as a salsa cruda, but this time there was a good recipe for a roasted version in the most recent Food & Wine. It concentrated the tomatillo flavor, and gave it a nice smoky overtone. We'll make this again.

We had these appetizers, with chips and white wine, out on the patio, looking out onto the garden where the first roses and irises are blooming together. Spring is nice here, on the three days that it doesn't rain.

We've done the main course recipe, which comes from new Joy, before.

Should have bought more corns, because this time we only had two cobs' worth of corn to the same proportions of the rest of the ingredients; I prefer the version with more corn, which also ends up deeper, and thus creamier, in our little casserole.

Penne alla Saffi Salmone

Friday May 9

This may be the last word in the race between Pasta alla Saffi and Pasta al Salmone for Most Popular Pasta in Holt and Barbara's House. That is, we made a combination of both, simply substituting slivered TJ's nova scotia lox bits for the usual ham in Saffi, minus of course, the cheese--otherwise it would have exploded as every Italian knows. Pasta al salmone with aspargus? Pasta alla Saffi minus ham plus lox? Yoou be the judge. It was pretty damn good.

Tom came over for dinner, so we added an extra treat and ended the meal with biscotti and wine.

Tilapia Pimenton with Piperade

Thursday May 8

We still have some Chinese tilapia fillets in the freezer, though Trader Joe's stopped selling Chinese imports some months ago. Still, our motto is, eat what you buy (or kill). So we decided to zip this bland fish up a bit by dredging it in flour seasoned with salt and Pimenton de la Vera. We then fried it in oil until golden.

To keep the slightly Spanish theme, we also sautéed up some sliced red and orange bell peppers, along with some fried onions. Gave the plate a little needed color, as well.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Fava Bean and Spring Vegetable Soup

Wednesday May 7

Fava beans and enormous leeks (here - take one!) were at Findlay market, so we made a delicious, light soup we've done before.
Used chicken stock instead of goose juice, parsley instead of basil, and left out the green beans. And new Joy says you should parboil the favas first and take off their skins, but we didn't. It was still fine.

Boar IV (Stew)

Tuesday May 6

At the end of the Kentucky Derby party, Holt took the remains of the (sinewy) whole boar loin, chopped them up small, and mixed them into the leftover wild boar stew. So today, all we had to do was add some chopped-up potatoes and extra liquid and simmer it for an hour and a half, and what do you know? Even the sinewy parts were now tender. Served with slices of polenta reheated in the skillet.

Pollack Veracruz

Monday May 5

We like to make a fish Veracruz for Cinco de Mayo, because the weather usually calls for something light. We found a number of recipes on the web, and chose this one as the most genuine, because the guy's restaurant is actually in Veracruz.

We didn't have a whole red snapper (this is Ohio, for god's sake), so we had to use (Jackson) pollack fillets, and skip the marinating step. Oh, and there is no way we would put in six pickled chiles. We used ONE HALF of one of our own home-grown-and-pickled jalapeños, and that was plenty, even for the Son of New Mexico himself.

Even styrofoam would taste good in the sauce that resulted, though.

Wild Boar Medallions with Pea-shot Fried Rice

Sunday May 4
More boar!

While he was preparing the wild boar for yesterday's party, Holt cut some thick medallions off the middle of the loin, to try doing them quick-cooked rather than slow-simmered.
This time, we cut them about 3/4 of an inch thick, marinated them in gin (no, wait, that was us) for that juniper flavor, and pan-fried them in a film of oil. Took them off at 140º by the instant read thermometer. Deglazed with another shot of gin and added the very last of the Cumberland sauce that John and Priscilla gave us (also washed out with a shot of gin).

We may be cooking some type of Texas trichinosis now, but them boys was tasty: meaty but not overdone.

Alongside, we reheated Sharon's perfect wild-rice pilaf by treating it as for fried rice, and topping it with a handful of fresh pea-shoots we had bought from the kids at Findlay Market. It was a good combo, especially considering that pea-shoots on their own cook down to nothing.

Kentucky Derby Party

Saturday May 3

Ever since the Divine Miss Williams introduced us to the custom, we have celebrated Kentucky Derby Day, the first Saturday in May. This time we had a crowd over for a potluck supper, featuring the traditional mint juleps (luckily there's a lot of mint to thin out in our garden) and elaborate hats (even Derbies).

As usual, we ran a pool: put a dollar in a hat (hopefully one nobody's wearing), choose a favored runner from another hat (ditto), plus a bonus long-shot of your choice (depending on how many people there are; we had eight for the 20 horses running). The winner takes home the lot, or the hat. Once our cat Timothy won, on a horse called Real Quiet; but this time Archie scooped the pool with Big Brown.

Then supper. We had put out a number of snacks, olives, nuts, etc., and of course wine and water, to keep from going julep-mad. Russel and Kathy brought wine and delicious pickled mushrooms, despite being in the midst of moving house. Liz made a creamy leek quiche, Archie and Sharon brought wild-rice and carrot pilaf, and Holt did a batch of polenta.

The centerpiece was wild boar loin, done two ways, both by Holt. The boar itself was provided by our huntin' brother-in-law, David, whose prowess with bow and with rifle we have celebrated throughout this blog; we love to cook the critters he shoots. This one was from Texas, I believe, weighed 350 lbs, and each side of the loin was about three pounds. So it was some big pig.

One doesn't often get a chance to cook fresh (okay, flash-frozen) wild boar, so we trawled the web for recipes.
One, a gen-u-wine Eye-talian recipe was a disaster. It's intended for leg of boar and we assumed that it would work on loins as well. They were braised whole, as in several other recipes we'd seen and all I can say is that the guests very kindly refrained from resoling their boots with the resulting slices.
The recipe is here:
We only mention it to warn you: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
The problem is that wild boar has even less fat than a regular domestic pork and pork loins, too, are very easy to overcook and dry out. However, wild boar sushi was not a option.

The other recipe, where the boar is cut into big cubes and stewed worked a treat. It's from an organic farm in England,
In some ways it reminds us of our favorite pork stew with porcini from Marcella Hazan via Don and Martha. But no matter what you do, he meat is always going to be denser and chewier than regular pig.

There's a folk song that sums it up:

Razorback steak, razorback steak,
Lost all my teeth on that razorback steak.
It's tough as can be, made a man out of me.
Give me some more of that razorback steak.

If you think it's tender, you're crazy
You can't stick your fork in the gravy
Razorback steak, razorback steak,
Give me some more of that razorback steak.

We ended the whole shebang with Julie's scrumptious lime meringue pie. It went very well with the bourbon in the juleps.

Steak and Mushrooms Stroganoff

Friday May 2

While Barbara was wrestling the wild boar loin out of the freezer (more on that tomorrow), she found a lovely thick steak all the way at the back. That made dinner easy. We grilled it, flipping frequently, and managed to get those lovely crossed grill-marks on it.

We still had leftover sour cream, so our side dish was also simple: sauté a batch of sliced mushrooms, and when they're dark lower the heat and flip a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream on them. Stir and heat through. Serve on, or around, the steak.

Spanish Tortilla

Thursday May 1

This was more or less as Holt did it here (when he was alone) though now that we look at it, we forgot to mention that you beat the egg in step 4.
We sliced the potatoes with the Benriner, so they were whisper-thin and crisped up nicely. Not very Spanish (we guess?), but who cares.

Pork Saltimbocca and Italian Potato Salad

Wednesday April 30

Again, leftover prosciutto from Saturday's party led our minds (and appetites) to Saltimbocca. We did it this way, but used four large-ish pork medallions, pounded thin, to make two large sandwiches: first a layer of pork, then chopped sage leaves and white pepper, then prosciutto, then a slice of provolone, then more sage leaves and pepper, and the final pork on top. Dipped the whole thing in seasoned flour, and fried until golden. It was so good, no sauce was needed.

And what's Italian potato salad, you ask. It's the leftover new potatoes boiled in turmeric that didn't get turned into appetizers on Saturday, tossed with the roasted peppers (also from Saturday), chopped up, and their oil. And damn good it is.

Lamb and Turnip Hash

Tuesday April 29

We've done this before, more or less.
This time we didn't use the food processor, as the lamb was in very good shape and it would have been a shame to grind it. So we diced everything up into tiny little cubes. We used veal broth as our liquid, plenty of pepper and fresh thyme, but no parsley or oyster sauce. Again, it didn't brown much or stick together, but it was still damn tasty.

Lamb Soup with Roast Vegetables

Monday April 28

Barbara is officially the Queen of Broth, so yesterday, in the intervals of gardening, she made soup out of the lamb bone from Saturday's roast. She browned it and some chopped carrots, celery, and onions (in oil) in the oven for about a half hour, then covered them all with water and set them on the stove at the very lowest simmer for three hours or so. That gets all the good out of them, and throws off little or no scum. You can also put in extra vegetables as it simmers, in this case, chopped parsnips.

Once the soup was done and had cooled, she fished out the bone, picked all the meat off it, returned the meat to the pot, and put the whole pot in the fridge. Any extra fat congeals on the top and you can remove it, though in fact there was little fat on this at all.

So the next day, when the walk home was cold and rainy, we could just heave the pot onto the stove, throw in the leftover roast vegetables from Saturday's lamb roast, and have a delicious meal of hot soup.