Saturday, November 26, 2011

Family Reunion at the Daily Grill

Friday 18 November
We were actually able to grab a dim sum lunch today, at the branch of the much lauded Yank Sing on Stevenson Street, only a few blocks from the ASOR hotel.  Though their turnip cake was not outstanding, they had excellent soup dumplings, minced chicken in pinked-edge lettuce cups, and scallion rolls, here in the foreground, which we've never seen anywhere else but seem to be a Chinese take on spanakopita.

That evening, we met with Barbara's family at the Daily Grill, right across the street from our hotel.  It's a chain, but has the friendly feel of an original. 
It was mainly Ungers, Barbara's grandmother's family.  Most (Gail, Susan and her husband Kem, Judy, her husband Scott, and kids Aaron and Melanie) were from the SF area, but Aunt Phyllis had driven down all the way from Oregon. 

We were a big, rowdy, happy crowd, enjoying our choice of white and red wine.  We started by splitting an endive salad, then went on to a 16 oz ribeye steak with peppers and onions on top, accompanied by garlic mashed potato, and "chicken under a brick" with rice pilaf and spinach with onions and mushrooms.  There were many stories, many laughs, and some late harvest Viogner and Chardonnay for dessert.  Eventually we had to  head across the street to the Westin, as Barbara's paper was the next day, but we loved our San Francisco family reunion. 

Sam's Grill in San Francisco

Thursday 17 November
San Francisco is supposed to be a great town for food, but when we began to search our Chowhound-approved options, we found that many of these places were far away, closed outlandishly early, or were only open for lunch.  But we called Sam's Grill (opened 1867) and were told that the kitchen would close as late as 8:45, so we scuttled uphill and down to get there in time. 
We asked for a booth, and got one - the sort that have curtains and a doorbell for calling the waiter, probably very naughty in the 1890s.  All the waiters had rich Italian accents, and the menu made good reading, referring to "oyster pirates like the young Jack London."
We started with Acacia chardonnay 2008 and a dozen oysters - good, though the shucker left too much muscle attached, and they were tilted so that they spilled their juices.  Instead of the usual ketchup and horseradish, they were served with Worcestershire - so we just used a drizzle of lemon, as usual.
Our mains: Petrale (sole) meuniere, very sweet and tender floured fillets in lemon sauce, and the amazing boned rex (sole) a la Sam, seemingly hundreds of tiny boned fillets, more resilient than the petrale, cooked simply with parsley and garlic.  There was also excellent tartar sauce, but it was too rich for the fish, so we dipped our roasted potatoes and sourdough bread instead.
On the way home, one street guy said Barbara was "rockin' that haircut," and a street poet accompanied us wishing we would adopt him.  We loves San Francisco.

Leftover Pumpkin Casserole

Wednesday 16 November
We had to take a late plane for the ASOR meetings in San Francisco, so before we left, we ate the rest of the pan of Sunday's Chilean Pumpkin Casserole.  Filling, and still sincere.

Pork Medallions with Roasted Baby Artichokes

Tuesday 15 November
Once again we got the package of baby artichokes from Kroger, but this time we had Dora the Explorer around to supervise the preparation. 

It was done much as before, but the pork scaloppine were dotted with fresh thyme and sage, untouched by flour or capers.

Chicken with Beets and Sweets

Monday 14 November
Having eaten the breasts of our roast chicken on Saturday, we had the thighs and drumsticks today, reheated and served with a new take on Beets and Sweets.
The beets had been baked in the oven while the pumpkin casserole was roasting, as usual.  The sweet potato was just peeled, sliced into batons, tossed in oil and salt, and roasted in a 425º oven for about a half hour.  Then we cut the beets into similar batons, tossed the two together, and dressed them in the Moroccan fashion that Daniel and Junko taught us.
Savory and sweet, can't be beet.

Chilean Pumpkin Casserole

Sunday 13 November
In our usual fashion, we bought a sincere pie pumpkin from a Findlay Market farmer, and it served as a table centerpiece and cat amuser up until Halloween.
Yesterday, we cut it open and roasted it in the chickeny oven, in preparation for today's meal, adapted from the butternut squash version of Mollie Katzen's original Moosewood cookbook. 

Chilean Pumpkin Casserole

1 small pumpkin
1 cup chopped onion
2 -3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 -2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 -2 dashes cayenne pepper
1 cup red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 cup green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups grated coljack cheese
Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds, and bake cut sides up (why let all the liquid out?) at 425° for 45- 50 minutes until soft.  Lower heat to 350°, and let pumpkin cool.  Scrape pulp out of the shell, and mash up.
Meanwhile, sauté onion, garlic and spices in olive oil until onion is translucent.  Add peppers and salt, stir, cover and leave on low heat 5 min.  Mix beaten eggs into mashed squash, stir into pepper mixture, add cheese, and stir until incorporated.  Bake in 350° oven for about 20 mins. covered and 20 more uncovered. 
This was hearty and warming, making a fine main dish, though it would also be an okay side for a potluck.  What's more, it made enough for two meals.

Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Shallots

Saturday 12 November
We bought a nice plump Amish chicken from Charles Bare meats at Findlay Market (they have the freshest and cleanest fryers at the most reasonable price that we've found), and just roasted it according to our current practice, with halved shallots and sliced Yukon golds in the pan to soak up the fat.

Leftover Chili and Muffins

Friday 11 November
This was a numerically significant Veterans' Day, 11/11/11.  We spent it rather quietly, as it was a day off, and just had leftovers from Monday's dinner.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Linguiça Sausage, Onions and Peppers

Thursday 10 November
We are now making Linguiça sausages our standard purchase at Kroger &; Sons, as our previously-favored Napas have unfortunately gone downhill in quality and consistency.  Also, unlike the Napas, linguiças don't actually contain any bell pepper, so they contrast nicely with peppers fried on the side. 

Once again there were eye-watering red poblanos from Findlay Market, cut with some onions, green bell peppers from Sharon's garden, and red bell peppers.  In dreary fall weather, you need something to warm you up from the inside.

Leftover Meatloaf and Arugula

Wednesday 9 November
Almost any meatloaf qualifies as a good leftover, because you can either have it hot with some sort of gravy, or cold in a meatloaf sandwich (ideally with ketchup, onions, and pickles).  And remember, this was Saturday's Best Meatloaf Ever.  We decided to go hot, but we still wanted the ketchupy goodness, so we made a warm topping of caramelized onions, ketchup, paprika, and a dash of Worcestershire.  This went on top of the nuked meatloaf slices, and just for greenery's sake, we tossed up a salad of arugula, tomatoes, and sweet balsamic dressing.

Sorta Basque Chicken

Tuesday 8 November
We had two meaty chicken thighs left over from Friday, a little Serrano ham from Sunday, a passel of peppers (both red and green bell, plus some red poblanos), and some late garden bag-ripened cherry tomatoes.  All of it went into this Basque-inspired but completely inauthentic dish. 

We carefully removed and reserved the chicken skin, and shredded up the meat.  First we sizzled the pieces of skin in some olive oil in a skillet, to get them a mite crispy (the grievins effect); and for some anti-kosher anathema, then added the torn-up ham to crisp up too.  Removed them, and in the same pan sautéed a sliced onion, then some minced garlic, then the sliced peppers, first green, then poblanos, then red, with a careful touch of sweet pimenton, since the poblanos seemed spicy enough.  A little drench of white wine and the chicken shreds went in, and when everything was warm and happy, it was heaped on plates and topped with the crispy bits of chicken skin and ham.
As expected, the poblanos made this hothothot, so we wept as we ate, but we smiled as we wept.

Venison Chili

Monday 7 November
Sharon kindly gave us some V-burger, so we were inspired to make a big batch of chili, and have her and Liz over to help us eat it.  We made it much as before, but this time with no bell pepper (Liz is allergic).
Holt baked some wonderful cornbread muffins to go along, using this recipebut without the inclusions (onion, cheese, corn kernels, red peppers).  He used the coarse polenta cornmeal we got at Northside Farmers Market from a pleasant young woman with a mill, and it was terrific: very corny and a beautiful rough texture.
We also had a salad of greens gathered from Sharon's garden, and since the late arugula was very peppery and strong, dressed it with something to sweeten it: a spoonful of our own pesto, loosened with some white balsamic and a droplet of extra oil.
Dessert was our long-hoarded jar of Michael Clark's preserved pears in wine sauce.  Oh, and there was lots of red wine at all phases of the meal.

Fresh Tuna Sauté with Ham-wrapped Asparagus

Sunday 6 November
Much of our cooking could be called "unwittingly elegant," witness this seat-of-the-pants effort.  It started when we scored some hothouse-grown asparagus from the Farmers' Market, plus some Serrano ham bought from Krause's on spec.  We roasted the asparagus at 500º until tender, then made little bundles and wrapped them in the tissue-thin ham.  
The protein was provided by a defrosted packet of Trader Joe's 'ahi tuna nuggets, marinated for ten or 15 minutes with olive oil, lemon juice, and oregano, briefly sautéed, and the pan deglazed with white wine.  This had no particular ethnicity, and we had no idea where we were going with it, but it worked.

Best Meatloaf Ever, and Sweet Potato Fries

Saturday 5 November
Though I usually dislike the "America's Test Kitchen" TV show, I got a couple of tips from them that helped me (i.e., Barbara) make the Best Meatloaf Ever.  One "secret" was to use half ground beef, half ground pork; the other was to make a panade, i.e. whiz up a bunch of saltines into about a half cup of crumbs in the robocoupe and then whip in about a quarter cup of milk and two eggs.  That got mushed into the meat.  Unfortunately, I don't know which secret made the big difference; both would have been anathema in the kosher home I grew up in. 
Otherwise, the seasonings went like thisthough I added about a quarter cup of wheat bran, since I thought the panade wasn't enough in the breadcrumb department.
We also made these sweet potato fries in a separate tray.  You don't need to mix the spices and oil beforehand and toss in a bowl, really, just lay the potatoes out on the tray, drizzle with oil, toss them about, premix the dry spices, sprinkle them on the potatoes, and toss again.
Served with lashings of ketchup.  Did I say?  Best.  Meatloaf.  Ever.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Roasted Chicken Thighs and Root Vedge

Friday 4 November
Dora likes to watch us make dinner every night, so she takes her position at the center of things (the interior of the dishwasher is also fascinating to our Explorer).  She doesn't much care where she sits, but the computer we run the recipes on is nice and warm, and her ass just fits on the track pad.

While she supervised, we got out a pack of 6 chicken thighs, and did a surprising new recipe, one we could almost see over her.
Thighs were roasted for 25 minutes, taken out and put in the toaster oven at 350º while the vegetables (plus some parsnips) roasted for another 25 minutes.  And by the way, no need to pre-toss the vedge with oil and salt mixture; wait until the chicken comes out, and just toss it in the pan with rendered fat, no more oil needed, and then toss salt mixture on.
Though the recipe sounded oversimplified and bland, it turned out golden, crispy and addictive.  This will become a standard.

Fettucine with Creamy Crab and Lemon-lime Thyme

Thursday 3 November
As it's a weeknight, we didn't have time to make fresh pasta, as we had twice before. 
So for extra interest, the herbs were included in the sauce: saute garlic and one third the thyme for a minute in butter, deglaze with lemon vodka, add cream to thicken, then rest of lemon and lime thyme and a sprinkle of white pepper.  Oh, and throw in the crab (the other half of the pound can from day before yesterday) at the end.
Tossed with hot fettucine, and the thyme added both green freshness and citrus tang to the lush crab.

Pork Chops and Chard

Wednesday 2 November
The chard in the garden is beautiful, but what to serve with it?  Out of the freezer came a pair of thick pork medallions, which we dusted with some leftover "poultry seasoning" from Cooking with Julia.  We just frequent-flipped them in butter and oil, then deglazed the pan with white wine for a sauce.
The chard recipe was adapted from a steakhouse classic; there are recipes that use fewer herbs, but in our opinion chard needs all the help it can get.
Creamed rainbow chard
1 large bunch Swiss chard, washed, leaves removed from the stem, stem and leaves chopped separately; leaves still wet.
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
ca. 3/4 cup heavy cream
1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme, de-stemmed
Salt and white pepper
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add chopped chard stems, then shallots, then garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, about ten minutes total. Stir in as many of the chard leaves as fit in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until you can add more, until all are done and tender.  Press and drain any extra liquid out of the pan.
Add cream (enough to make it as creamy as you want - you can't be precise when you only know it's a "large bunch!"), herbs, salt and pepper, and raise heat to thicken. 
At end, add Parmesan to taste, for creamy goodness next to the savory pork.  Hey, or maybe next time creamy gorgonzola chard!

Crabcakes and Salad

Tuesday 1 November

Holt is the crabcake master, though the recipe changes every time.  This time he diced up a pair of tiny sweet orange bell peppers as well as celery and red onion.  The crab it got mixed into, as usual, was half a pound can of fresh clawmeat, plus a sprinkling of fine panko from the sieve, a dollop of mayonnaise, and a dab of Dijon mustard.  The fluffy panko that didn't make it through the sieve made up the breading, and then we fried them in canola oil.
On the side, arugula and bag-ripened tomatoes from the garden, dressed with the good Spanish olive oil and wine vinegar.  

Italian Stuffed Squash

Monday 31 October
A couple of little butternut squashes jumped into our bags at the Farmers' Market.  They solved the problem of what to do for Halloween, as they are sort of relatives of the pumpkin, and could spend some time roasting in the oven while we spent two hours outdoors (dressed as an undertaker and a pirate) welcoming some 175 trick-or-treaters.
This is what we normally do for stuffed squash.  But we needed to use what we had, which was Italian sausage and some leftover saffron rice.  So our seasoning took a cue from risotto alla zucca, browning onion with the sausage crumble, adding chopped parsley, and topping with parmesan. 

When we went in for dinner, we united the already-prepped stuffing with stuffers, topped them, and broiled them until they were hot.  And the results were tasty enough to keep us scraping until there was only a skin left.

Happy Return Steaks

Sunday 30 October
There are two choices on how to welcome home someone after an eight-hour drive: something long-simmered that you can just ladle out, or something you can cook in a minute.  Holt chose the latter, with two perfect little tenderloins.  He pan-fried them and some halved mini zephyrs (separate pans, of course), and topped them with rehydrated porcini mushrooms in their juice.

Note the finger wiping the plate; it went right into a mouth.  And later, we licked the plates clean.

Fettucine al Salmone

Wednesday 26 October
A quick off-the-cuff meal before going to CCM to see their production of Coram Boy.

Then, an interval while bureaucratic errands sent Barbara to Canada for three dinners.

Linguiça with Potatoes and Collards

Tuesday 25 October
Holt picked up some linguiça sausage from Kroger & Sons at Findlay Market, just because he was interested in the seasoning (marjoram and red wine, they said).  Almost all the recipes on the web are for soup, but he found this one that's sort of a Portuguese-style "frah" - without the eggs.
  Changes, though.  We were not thrilled by its addition of goat cheese and raisins, so we left them out; and we used two sausages, 3 medium potatoes, and the leftover collards from Friday's corned beef (which still contained some nice pickling spices).  We also played around with the cooking order a bit, adding smaller-diced potatoes just after the sausages, as they would take more time to cook than the onions and garlic, then throwing in some chicken broth and covering the pan so the potatoes could get tender.  Since the collards were fully cooked, they went in with the herbs at the end.
Verdict: delicious, though as usual with Epicurious recipes, it's nothing like what the author intended.  And the sausages are a keeper.

Classic Corned Beef Hash

Monday 24 October
We turned Friday's corned beef into a classic hash.  Since the meat was so perfect, we hand-chopped it, and its accompaniments of onions and Yukon golds, into nice dice.  We cooked it in our usual fashion, sautéing the vedge first, then letting it steam covered with some chicken broth until the potatoes were tender, and then mixing in the diced meat with plenty of thyme and parsley and broiling it in the oven until the top was brown.  

Red Poblanos Rellenos (again)

Sunday 23 October
We found more ripe red poblanos at Findlay Market, but thought we'd change up the dish slightly from the way we'd made them before.
So instead of tomatillos, we used ripe yellow tomatoes in our salsa.  But when we mixed in the fresh cilantro, the salsa turned green, so there was very little visible difference...

though the sweetness of the tomatoes did come through.

Swordfish and Saffron Rice

Saturday 22 October
We wanted a fairly sedate meal, so we defrosted a couple of swordfish steaks from Trader Joe's, and simply pan-fried them, topping them at the end with a sauce deglazed from the pan with lemon, then showered with the last of the garden basil leaves, and butter. 
On the side, some simple rice steamed up with saffron.  So soothing.