I've long been an admirer of both Julia Child and Jacques Pepin so naturally I just had to own Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, the companion cookbook to their television series of the same name. I was glad to get the chance to put it into use last night.
Julia's Special Spice Blend
Spices to add in equal amounts (1 tsp or 1 TBSP): ground bay leaf, cloves, mace, nutmeg, paprika, thyme
Spices to add in equal amounts (1/2 tsp or 1/2 TBSP): allspice, cinnamon, savory
Spice in double amount (2 tsp or 2 TSBP): ground white pepper
I didn't happen to have either the bay leaf or savory on hand, but it came out very well in any case, and I made more than enough to use it again.
Julia's Sauteed Pork Chops
2 center-cut pork chops
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Julia's Special Spice Blend
1/4 cup dry white French vermouth
1/2 cup flavor brown stock
a sprig of fresh savory or thyme or pinch of dried herbs
1 tsp chutney
1 TSBP butter
I used beef stock (Julia has a recipe on page 42, but I didn't have time to do that), and for the pinch of dried herbs tossed in some herbs de provence. I also replaced the chutney with 1 tsp of raspberry jam.
At least 1/2 hour in advance of cooking, trim chops of excess fat. To season the chops: rub lightly with a few drops of vegetable oil, sprinkle with salt, and then rub in the spice blend, using about 1/2 tsp of the mixture in all. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Set the frying pan over moderately high heat and film the bottom with oil. Pat chops dry and saute until brown - about 4 minutes per side. Pour the vermouth and stock into the pan, add herbs, cover and adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer. Cook about 5 minutes, turn chops, and cook another five minutes. Remove chops to side dish and boil down the pan juices until syrupy. Add chutney, simmer a moment, and then return chops to pan for basting. Remove pan from heat, plate the chops. Swirl butter into sauce, pour over chops, and serve.
Saturday night's main entree... (which I served minus the olives and made the stock from a bouillon cube)
Chicken with Tomato and Feta Cheese Sauce
from Bon Appetit (March 1996)
2 TBSP olive oil
3 large shallots, chopped
2 tsp dried oregano
4 boneless chicken halves
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with added puree
1 14-1/2 ounce can low-salt chicken broth
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup chopped brine-cured olives (such as Kalamata)
Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and oregano and saute until shallots are tender, about 5 minutes. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken and saute until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken. Add tomatoes and broth and bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. Boil sauce until thickened, approximately another 5 minutes. Mix in cheese and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes.
And I served it with....
Sesame Orzo with Charred Scallions
from Gourmet (August 1995)
1 TBSP sesame seeds
3/4 cup orzo
2 tsp sesame oil
1 bunch scallions cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
In a dry small heavy skillet cook sesame seeds over moderate heat until golden brown - about 4 minutes. In a 3-quart saucepan bring 2 quarts salted water to boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente. Drain orzo and rinse under cold water. Drain again and add sesame seeds. In an 8-inch non-stick skillet heat oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Saute scallions until lightly charred and tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir into orzo and season with salt and pepper.
The next afternoon I had the remaining sauce over the leftover orzo. While the sauce buried the sesame, it was still quite tasty. I recommend trying the sauce as an alternative on pasta.
For Thursday night's meal, I tried out something from a cookbook that my parents gave me for Christmas a couple years back: The Complete Wok & Stir-Fry Cookbook edited by Linda Doeser.* At first glance, this book looks rather unprepossessing. In this case the old adage is true....the cover doesn't in any way represent the quality of the recipes and techniques inside.
Stir-Fried Beef in Oyster Sauce
1 lb rump steak
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP cornflour
3 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP chopped garlic
1 TBSP chopped ginger
8 oz mixed mushrooms (straw, oyster, shiitake)
2 TBSP oyster sauce
1 tsp granulated sugar
4 spring onions, cut into short lengths
freshly ground black pepper
2 red chillies, cut into strips
Slice the beef, on the diagonal, into long strips. Mix together soy sauce and cornflour, stir in beef and marinate 1-2 hours. Heat half the oil in the wok (or frying pan). Add garlic and ginger and fry until fragrant. Stir in beef. Cook about two minutes and set aside in separate bowl. Heat remaining oil, add mushrooms, and cook until tender. Return beef to wok. Add oyster sauce, sugar, and pepper. Mix well. Add the spring onions. Mix together. Serve garnished with strips of chilli.
*I tried to find this cookbook online and had little luck, though the editor appears to have a significant backlist of other work. I have absolutely no idea where my parents stumbled across it. The best I can do is Ultimate Wok & Stir-Fry Cookbook, perhaps an updated version?
Finally back in the kitchen! Here's what I made last night. I'm not exactly sure where this recipe came from originally - it's in my folder of online printouts, so I suspect I picked it up at a recipe site about a year or so ago. I wish I could take credit for it myself as it turned out to be lovely.
4 shoulder lamb chops
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp thyme
salt & pepper, to taste
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 TBSP butter
Rub lamb chops with rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. Sear chops 3 minutes per side and remove to warm oven to finish cooking. Add shallots to skillet and cook 1 minute. Stir in vinegar, then broth; cook until reduced by half - about 5 minutes. Remove and swirl in the butter. Pour over chops and garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs.
Of course, I just happened to have fresh rosemary and fresh thyme on hand, so I used those instead. And I also thickened the sauce with a spoonful of sour cream rather than using the butter. I must admit I rather expected it to be tangier due to the vinegar, but the shallots cooked down so nicely that the sauce came out sweeter than anticipated. It went with the lamb wonderfully.
It's been a busy couple of weeks, which I largely blame on RWA National. Sadly, it's kept me from the kitchen, in all but the most expedient ways. However, it did afford me the opportunity to rediscover a restaurant or two, and to revisit a favorite.
On Thursday the 18th, I had the opportunity to take a client to La Bonne Soupe. This is a cosy little place with homestyle French food - soups, crepes, fondue, and so forth. I can best describe it as comfort food with heart. Unassuming from the street, the upstairs level (my preference) has hanging plants that lend the room an air of French country. Opting to skip my favorite - the best onion soup I've ever eaten Stateside - I had "La Canadienne": a crepe filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and scallions. Magnifique!
The next day, another client and I lunched at Limoncello. It had been some time since I had the opportunity to enjoy this lovely light place, and I was relieved to find its quality as high as ever. The service is so good one feels like visiting royalty, which is not a bad thing as this place is not easy on the wallet - but the food is worth every penny. After introducing my client to the pleasure of carpaccio, we both indulged in a plate of "Zuppa di Pesce Alla Marsigliese" - a delightfully spiced thick bouillabaisse.
On the way home, Michael treated me to a reward for the grueling weekend of work: We stopped in New Haven for dinner at one of my favorite places: Istanbul Cafe on Crown Street. Authentic Turkish cuisine featuring some wonderful shish kebabs. We bracketed the meal on either side with Sigata Borek (an appetizer made of rolled filo dough stuffed with feta) and delicious baklava - my absolute favorite dessert. Having each had our own serving of the latter, I couldn't resist the luxury of splitting yet another helping. I really must learn to make it myself.
Seems to me that I've been making the same salmon dish for quite some time now: an appealing recipe with a dijon and garlic sauce. It's certainly popular around here. But tonight I felt like doing something different. So I hunted around and found a dish purportedly from Chef White of Canada's New Brunswick Algonquin Hotel. Since he's a Scot, I can well believe that he'd create a Scotch-based recipe like this.
Roasted Cedar Plank Salmon
2 pound salmon filet
3 TBSP vegetable oil
1 1/2 TBSP soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/3 cup scotch whiskey
1 TBSP brown sugar
Place salmon in a long shallow dish. Mix together all ingredients and pour over the salmon filet. Marinate 1/2 hour. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the cedar plank (I got the chance to use the one that Deb gave me) directly on the oven rack and bake for 8-10 minutes (wood will smell toasty). Remove the plank and rub with a thin coating of olive oil. Place salmon directly on plank - skin side down - and roast for about ten minutes. Serves 4-6.
I really like how this came out. However, I don't know whether it was my oven, my plank, or what -- but it took me closer to 25 minutes for the salmon to bake sufficiently.
Last night's experiment was another Jennifer Original...
Spiced Steak with Feta
2 blade steaks about 1/3 lb. each
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp basil
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 oz. feta cheese
Combine seasonings, and press onto both sides of steak. Shake lightly to remove excess. Spray grilling surface (I used my grill pan) with olive oil. Grill steak - about five minutes per side (cover if possible). Remove steak from heat and lest rest an additional five minutes. Slice thinly across the grain. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and serve. 2 servings.
Assessment: Too much oregano; not enough garlic -- but still thought it quite tasty. Next time, will try 3/4 tsp oregano and 2 tsp garlic powder. Basil was just right. Another idea: mix in a diced shallot with the feta. Also, may try a marinade version with diced garlic, basil, oregano, and olive oil instead of using a spice rub.
Chicken with Herbed Balsamico in Foil
a Jennifer Original
1/2 boneless chicken breast per serving
portabello mushrooms, sliced
freshly grated parmesan cheese
Wrap all ingredients for individual servings in foil. At present, I'm still fudging all the measurements. I'd guess it's probably a TBSP each of the vinegar and oil, a handful of mushrooms, maybe a tsp of basil, 2 tsp of garlic, and 1/8 cup of cheese (all per serving). Place foil packets in baking dish in 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.
I particularly like this one because wrapping everything up in the foil to bake keeps the chicken extra-moist and cooks all the flavors in.
By request on July 4th, I served Yogurtlu Basti. This time, I got to use my brand new cardamom from a recent Penzey's order. It proved to be much, much stronger, so I decided next time to adjust the recipe down to 1/2 tsp cardamom. What a difference fresh spices can make!
Similar to last time, I had leftover yogurt, so I followed up the next day by making Mediterranean Tacos as well. Since I was headed out to MA that day, I packed it and brought it along, which worked out quite well. And I got some more taste-testers into the bargain who seemed to agree that the dish was worthy.
Last night's dinner came from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Of course, her recipe calls for the tiny yet tasty rib lamb chops. I find them far too dear at the local butcher's, so I opted to use shoulder chops instead, and thus had to adjust the cooking slightly - rather than simply frying them, I moved them to the oven afterwards. Here's my version of the recipe:
2 shoulder lamb chops (about 1 lb)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten lightly in pie dish
1 cup plain bread crumbs
Turn the chops on both sides in the grated parmesan and knock off excess. Dip meat in the egg and then turn in the bread crumbs, once again shaking off extra crumbs.
Pour oil about 1/4 inch deep in skillet. Once oil is hot, fry chops about three minutes per side to get a crispy golden crust. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and remove to a 350 degree oven for approximately 12 minutes baking for a medium-rare finish.
Tonight...another one from The Herbfarm Cookbook...
1 large bunch oregano sprigs
12 3-inch sprigs English thyme
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 2-pound flank steak
Marinating: Roughly strip the large stems from the fresh herbs. Stir all ingredients but steak together. Turn steak in marinade to coat. Cover and marinade (minimum 6 hours).
Grilling: Remove steak and wipe off excess marinade. Grill over very high heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Assessment: Very yummy. But maybe just the tiniest touch too salty for me. Might not need salt in addition to the soy sauce, perhaps. But it got better with every bite, so really can't complain. If you're a carnivore, this is definitely one to try out.