March 28, 2006

Lamb Risotto with Pine Nuts

Last Thursday I treated myself to Leg of Lamb a la Julia Child -- yum. And then on Saturday I used some of the leftovers for what I've been calling Mediterranean Tacos. Again, very tasty. Tonight I finished off the leftover meat with....

Lamb Risotto with Pine Nuts

1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 shallot, diced
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 oz. left over marinated lamb, cubed
parmigiano reggiano
1 TBSP toasted pine nuts

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a small sauce pan. In another larger saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add shallot. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add rice, stirring constantly. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time and continue to stir as it evaporates. When rice begins to look creamy, add lamb to heat through. Continue cooking until rice is al dente. Remove from heat and add parmesan to taste and pine nuts.

Notes: I'm getting bold. This is the first risotto dish of my own design. And it came out pretty darn well. The pine nuts really worked in this. I might, if I made it again, be tempted to replace the parmesan with some other cheese, my instinct would be something stronger, perhaps gorgonzola or even feta. I'm also proud of myself for getting three meals out of that leg of lamb.

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March 20, 2006

Scallop Sauce

Scallop Sauce with Olive Oil, Garlic and Hot Pepper
from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
adjusted for 2 servings

1/2 pound bay scallops
4 TBSP olive oil
1/2 TBSP garlic, minced
1 TBSP chopped parsley
red pepper flakes, to taste
4 ounces spaghetti
1/4 cup unflavored bread crumbs, toasted

Wash the scallops in cold water, pat dry and cut into pieces 3/8 inch thick.

Put the olive oil and garlic in a saucepan, turn on the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until garlic becomes colored a light gold. Add the parsley and hot pepper. Stir once or twice, then add the scallops and one or two pinches of salt. Turn the heat up to high, and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, stirring frequently until the scallops lose their shine and turn a flat white. Do not overcook the scallops or they will become tough. Taste and correct for salt and hot pepper. If the scallops shed a lot of liquid, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and boil down the watery juices. Return the scallops to the pan, turn them over quickly, then turn off the heat.

Toss thoroughtly with cooked drained pasta, add the bread crumbs, toss again, and serve at once.

Notes: Well.... I didn't fall in love with this one. It was okay, but nothing special. The texture from the bread crumbs certainly made it interesting, but I'm not sure it was entirely in a good way. So, I don't think I'll be making this one again.

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March 17, 2006

James Beard Award Nominees

On March 16th, the James Beard Foundation released the nominations for this year's finalists for their sought-after award. The actual awards ceremony and reception will be held on May 8, at an event celebrating "the culinary legacy of New Orleans." A portion of the admission price will be donated to a charitable fund established to support the rebuilding of New Orleans’ restaurant community.

The full list and press release are: here.There are a couple of nominees already on my wishlist: Jill Norman's The Cooks Book (nominated in the General Cooking Cateogry) and Bones by Jennifer McLagan (from the Single Subject category). I'll have to take a look at a few more of those listed. The list of finalists has also turned me on to a new website: Leite's Culinaria.

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March 14, 2006

Corsican Brined Pork Chops

Corsican Brined Pork Chops
from The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert

1/8 cup kosher salt
1 1/2 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp crushed juniper berries
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cracked black peppercorns
1/8 tsp dried sage
1 bay leaf, crumbled
2 center cut pork chops
3/4 TBSP olive oil
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 TBSP vermouth
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/8 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp finely slivered fresh basil

In a large bowl or container, combine salt with sugar and 1/2 cup hot water; stir until dissolved. Add 2 cups cold water, the thyme, juniper berries, coriander, peppercorns, sage, and bay leaf. Put the chops in the brine, cover and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.

Drain the pork chops. Pick any whole spices off the meat and discard. Pat the chops dry with paper towels.

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep nonstick or black cast-iron skillet until it shimmers. Add the pork chops and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to a plate and season with pepper.

Pour off any fat from the skillet. Add the chicken stock and vermouth and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, orange juice, and garlic and simmer 5 minutes.

Return the pork chops to the skillet, turn to coat with the sauce, and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the pork is tender and fully cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chops to a platter, cover, and keep warm.

Boil remaining sauce over high heat until the liquid is reduced to about a cup. Stir in the basil and pour the sauce over the chops.

Notes: My version is just a teensy bit altered from the one in the cookbook. I completely left out the olives, and used ground coriander instead of seeds as well as vermouth in place of white wine. But I did get to try out juniper berries for the first time. My only note would be to check the proportion of salt and sugar in other brine solutions as this was just a tad saliter than I wanted it to be. Otherwise, it tasted great and I want to be sure to use this cookbook more in the future.

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March 12, 2006

Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil

The night I got back from a long trip, my good friend Michael surprised me by cooking something out of one of my own cookbooks.....

Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil
from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1 large bunch fresh basil
2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, drained and cut up
5 garlic cloves, minced
5 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
1 pound pasta

Pull all the basil leaves from the stalks, rinse them briefly in cold water and shake off the moisture using a colander. Tear all but the tiniest leaves by hand into small pieces.

Put the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and several grindings of pepper into a saucepan and turn on the heat to medium high. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the oil floats free from the tomato. Taste and correct for salt. Turn off the heat and mix in the torn-up basil, keeping aside a few pieces to add when tossing the pasta.

Notes: Marcella warns the cook not to be alarmed by the amount of garlic in the recipe. Because it simmers in the sauce, it is poached rather than browned, and its flavor is subdued. Well, it tasted quite lovely to me, and I very much appreciated the treat. I'll certainly make it again myself sometime.

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March 11, 2006


The Hairy Lemon

Met up with C.E. Murphy for a couple days in Dublin. Our first stop was a pub known as the Hairy Lemon on Lower Stephen Street near the Green (where I also got to stop off and buy some lovely tea from Bewley's). I had the most marvelous Irish stew with a very tasty brown bread and a baked potato on the side (as my companion said - they like potatoes with their potatoes here!).

Foley's Pub

Had a very proper Irish breakfast here. And glad to finally get one. I even tried the blood pudding (but I still can't quite make myself get through it). We also ended up back here in the evening and got the best Scottish floor show Ireland has ever seen. I had a proper pint of cider and Catie had a Bailey's while we enjoyed the live performer and the singing along.

Elephant and Castle

Photo Credit: C.E. Murphy

Originally, we'd thought to have dinner at the Tea Room, but upon reviewing the menu decided we just weren't in the mood for something that was trying that hard. So we strolled through the Temple Bar area and stopped to ask directions to a CD shop we were looking for and someone mentioned the Elephant and Castle, which I had heard of before. We decided to head over there and it turned out to be a lovely choice. First we split a goat cheese and tomato tart that was absolutely perfect. And then we both decided to just go with burgers (they had a bunch of different ones listed). I ordered the stilton, which as Catie said came with an absolutely absurd piece of cheese. Have a little cheese with your burger? We had a grand time and though the place got rather crowded, I'd definitely recommend it for good solid comfort food at reasonable prices. I had creme brulee for dessert. It's the one I find second hardest to resist. (Turns out they also have a location in New York that I'll have to try out though the menu isn't even vaguely the same.)

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March 3, 2006

Pork Chop with Tomato Compote

Pork Chop with Tomato Compote

1 TBSP oilve oil
5 oz. fresh baby spinach
2 boneless pork chops, trimmed

1 TBSP olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 tsp garlic, minced
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400F. Heat oil for pork in a skillet and saute the spinach in same skillet for about 1 minute, or until just wilted. Cut a pocket in each pork chop and stuff with wilted spinach. On medium heat, brown pork chops in skillet, about two minutes per side. Transfer pork to oven for an additional 8 minutes.

While pork is cooking, add additional olive oil to skillet. Saute shallot and garlic for about two minutes. Add the tomato and saute for two more minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce to a glaze. Serve tomato compote over pork.

Notes: I'm going to say that this was inspired by and somewhat resembles a recipe by Antony Worrall Thompson. There is a similarily named recipe posted on the BBC Food site. However, it is lacking some ingredients and instructions, so I had to make a few things up as I went along. I served it alongisde Tangy Mashed Potatoes (a house favorite) from One Potato, Two Potato. We declared it good (though I may want to season the spinach with something while wilting next time).

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March 2, 2006

Winter-Spiced Molten Chocolate Cake

Winter-Spiced Molten Chocolate Cake
from Bon Appetit (January 2004)

2 1/2 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 2/3 TBSP unsalted butter
1/3 teaspoon ground coriander
1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/6 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/12 teaspoon ground cloves
1/12 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 TBSP all purpose flour

Generously butter 3/4-cup ramekins or souffle dishes. Stir chocolate, butter, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and white pepper in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Cool slightly. Whisk egg, egg yolk, and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Whisk in powdered sugar, then chocolate mixture, then flour. Transfer batter to prepared dishes, filling to top and dividing equally. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 425F. Bake cakes until batter has risen above dish, top edges are dark brown, and centers are still soft and runny, about 15 minutes, or about 18 minutes for refrigerated batter. Run small knife around cakes to loosen. Allow cakes to rest in dishes 5 minutes. Using hot pad and holding dish very firmly, place plate gently atop 1 cake and invert onto plate. Repeat with remaining cakes. Dust with powdered sugar. Served with fresh raspberries.

Notes: Of course, we needed a dessert that would compete with the main course of Rabbit Stifado. I had to adjust this recipe quite a bit as it was originally intended to make 8 cakes, and I only have two of the jade ramekins (my mother gave them to me for Christmas, and yes, I would like more of them). The quality of the chocolate is key here, especially to balance out the kick from the spices. I used Scharffen Berger. I was surprised that these came out so well on my first attempt at something like this. Surprised, and pleased. Not your ordinary molten chocolate cake. I'd definitely make them again.

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Rabbit Stifado

Rabbit Stifado

1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
4-6 grains allspice (or ¼ tsp ground)
1 stick cinnamon
4 bayleaves
1 orange, zested
1 large rabbit (or 2 small), jointed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup red wine
1 pound pearl onions, peeled
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp honey
Salt and pepper

In a bowl, mix the vinegar, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, bay and orange zest. Add the rabbit, stir to make sure the meat is well covered, then leave to marinade overnight or for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Take out the rabbit bits and dry on kitchen towel. Heat the oil in a casserole, and fry the rabbit, a few pieces at a time, until golden all over. Once browned, put all the rabbit bits in the casserole, add the marinade, wine, onions, tomato puree and honey, then add water to cover and bring to a simmer on the stove-top. Transfer to the oven for an hour and a half or so, until the meat is falling off the bones. Check the juices for seasoning, and if necessary reduce to an intensity you like.

Notes: The recipe I adapted this from came from the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper. In the article, Matthew Fort claimed to develop this version of the dish after having something like it on Corfu in a taverna. As for me, I first tasted this dish at Molyvos in New York, and have heard that their recipe appears in their cookbook. Otherwise, it appears to be a closely guarded secret as I couldn't turn up any other versions online. Someday I will have to try Molyvos' version and compare the two, but in the meantime this came out very well, and provided that something out of the ordinary which I was looking for in creating a memorable birthday dinner. I also got to christen my Le Creuset casserole dish -- and it came out marvelous. Plus, I ate the leftovers for lunch a few days later, and they were still tasty and tender and quite good.

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March 1, 2006

Forecasting: February 2006

Some more new culinary books on the distant horizon....

Photographer Melanie Dunea's MY LAST SUPPER, a collection of portraits of fifty world class chefs - including Eric Ripert, Mario Batali, and Marcus Samuelsson - with descriptions and recipes for the meal they would have if they could have only one more, with an Introduction by Anthony Bourdain, to Bloomsbury.

Author of Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors Lizzie Collingham's book on the history of food in WWII, to the Penguin Press and Penguin UK.

Chef Noel Stein's RESTAURANTEUR, about the inner workings of the restaurant industry, including descriptions of a kitchen's hierarchy and the diva antics of celebrity chefs, to Barricade, for publication in fall 2006.

THE NANTUCKET TABLE author Susan Simon's LA CUCINA LOMBARDA, of Italy's Lombardia region, with four-color photography throughout, to DK Publishing.

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