Thursday, December 30, 2010

My tummy hurts...

Tonight started with a healthy salad and then plummeted into an abyss of overly rich food. Actually the true start wasn't exactly heart friendly either. Christmas-time brought some Stilton (English blue cheese) straight from London and some smoked German sausage my way. That was my baseline for the evening. And it was delicious.
Wife Zube's sister made a bedazzling salad of arugula, bacon (obviously), cucumber, cheese, red pepper, and red onion. And that was the end of healthy.
I have made my own version of mussels that are a combination of a TK recipe and from Fore Street (a downtown Portland restaurant). Basically your typical two pound bag of mussels gets cooked in a heavenly mixture of a stick of butter(!), thyme, roasted garlic, white wine, almonds, and dijon mustard. Nice and light...
We then finished with Michael Symon's Chicken, Rosemary, and Chevre Mac n Cheese. Which has only a couple of ingredients: chicken, rosemary, pasta, goat cheese, and 32 oz of heavy cream! It is a succulent delight so hold your judging eyes until they feast on it. The recipe for this doosie is located somewhere in the depths (albeit not that deep) of this blog.

I need to go to bed.

Monday, December 20, 2010

First snow storm of the year and a 10 min drive is at 50 and counting. *sigh*

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

For all you food dorks like me out there

Alinea at Home has a post about tips for designing her new kitchen which I skimmed through but then caught a very interesting food nugget at the bottom. Harvard School of Applied Engineering and Science does a class on the science of cooking. As in let's make a mathematical formula that can empirically explain how egg proteins denature (read that as "cook") when certain levels of heat are applied. Blah, blah, blah. Okay that part is not really interesting to us chemical/mathematical mortals but the next link was! They have guest lecturers from molecular gastronomy restaurants! Alinea is a molecular gastronomic restaurant so they had Grant Achatz (the chef/owner) come speak on what he does. His food gets critized for being too un-food like and he has some crazy combinations on the same plate. In the video though he goes through the thought process on how he arrives at the finished product.

Grant Explains It All

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pork chops, sherry, and dates

For the last three Turkey Days I have been evolving a squash, date, and walnut dish that inevitably leads me to have excess dates on hand. The only dish I have in my culinary arsenal is wrapping them in bacon, drizzling with honey, and roasting them into succulent nuggets of pristine gastronomic delight. And while that is a solid way to consume said dates, it just doesn't feed the masses. This year however I am putting an end to that silliness.

I plunked around in my cookbooks and came up with a date and Madeira wine recipe for guinea fowl in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I am fresh out of guinea fowl and Madeira, but I do have some sherry on hand. Hey, they're both fortified wines right? I also have some pork chops from Windy Hill Farms in the freezer as well. Close enough in my book.

So like most other protein with pan sauce recipes we start by getting the pan hot and then getting a nice brown on the chops and fond in the pan. When I flipped the chops I also buried a couple of cloves and bay leaves under them and put the pan in a 350F oven. After 8 minutes or so (really I have no idea how long, but "8 minutes or so" sounds much better then the truth) the pan came out of the oven and the chops removed to a plate to rest. I feel slightly tempted to make a very bad pun about the chops being tired from jumping around in the pan, because saute translates into jumped. But I won't do that.

Now we move on to the pan sauce part. I put a couple pieces (half inch by one inch) of orange zest and half a cup of Sherry into the hot pan and deglazed the fond (repetition technique here, I am embedding fond into your subconscious) using the zest as a sort of organic scrubby pad. This also does a nice job of distributing the oils in the zest throughout the dish. The same idea as wiping a martini glass rim with a twist. Once this boiled a bit I added some turkey stock, chopped dates, and a few small pieces of cinnamon stick and let it all reduce down. Once the sauce came together I plated it all up and we dined.

Three things:
1) I used turkey stock because we just had Turkey Day and the carcass was used to make stock. If you didn't do this or make soup with it then shame on you. *finger waggling*

2) The original reason why I had dates in the first place is for a squash, walnut, date dish. I needed sides to go with the chops so we had sauteed onions and arugula in a walnut vinaigrette and roasted butternut squash.

3) In all honesty this came out okay. Not superb or tear-inducing. I admit I was neglectful of the sauce. I should have reduced the wine down more before adding the stock, and the seasoning was underdone. Next time...

Quickie food notes

Once again Michael Ruhlman has a great post on small gadgets that make a huge difference in the kitchen. Just like most things in life the same goes for cooking; the proper tools make it that much more fun/easy.

Ruhlman's blog

Yankee magazine also did a really neat article on a small town in Northern-ish Vermont called Wolcott. It is how the town has gone green/self-sustainable/locally sourced/etc and is succeeding at it.

Wolcott Vermont in Yankee magazine

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why turkey is like Chinese take-out

Turkey Day has come and passed, tummies have been stuffed, and pants un-done to make room for more pie. It is great to sit down and know that an amazingly high percentage of the rest of our country is doing the same thing with basically the same food on the same day. Pretty uniting, eh?
I have decided that turkey is magical. Magical in the same way that Chinese take-out containers are; you know the white ones that rice comes in? Yeah, the little box that makes you disappointed that "that was all you got" somehow spills forth enough rice to feed a small third world country. Don't know how they do it, but its magic for sure. Turkey's magic is still food-based but it comes in the form of enticing you even deeper into the pits of gluttony. It isn't malevolent, but simply wants to share all it's tryptophanic delights with you and it only has a day or two to accomplish this.

This is actually the answer to the question that we all mutter/curse/whine at some point on Turkey Day: "Why did I eat so much?" Turkey magic. Duh!

For me personally the magic while at the table is pretty standard, but its later that the juice (or perhaps gravy is more appropriate in this situation) really gets poured on. The turkey is still on the counter or tented under foil in the fridge. Purely wonderful elves have done the dishes and family/guests are spread throughout the house making very odd digestion noises, sometimes no so quietly. And then you hear this quiet voice in your ear, that little knock-knock on your psyche. Come eat me. Next thing you know someone walks into the kitchen and catches you chomping madly with both hands actually in the fridge ripping chunks of cold meat from the carcass. Your shoulders are probably hunched, feet spread for balance, and one eye is open wider than the other. You might be taking the time to salt the turkey before consuming but really you are throwing pinches of salt in your mouth and mixing a la minute.

Nine guests and a twenty-three pound bird equals turkey sandwiches for days and days. And the beauty is that only three ingredients are required: turkey, bread, and mayo. Sure there are an almost infinite number of possibilities (squash makes an awesome spread) but let's not fall into the trap of over-complicating matters. Simple is perfect and it keeps the magic alive.