January 30, 2006

Chicken Makhani

Casting around for a recipe to use with chicken thighs, which I don't normally buy, but they were at a great sale price last week.... I came across several mentions of Chicken Makhani, by turns claimed as an Indian and Pakistani dish. I read several different variations (some with alternate spices), including the one in the Indian cookbook on my shelf, and finally decided to be a little less than absolutely authentic since I didn't have a tandoor oven. Or fenugreek leaves. Hence, the version below. While reading (particularly through an eGullet thread), I saw claims that supposedly, Butter Chicken was invented at Moti Mahal in Delhi during the 1950s to use up leftover Tandoori Chicken. However, there are also some who say that it originated in the Punjab region (which is now part of Pakistan) sans fenugreek and with the added spice of green chilies in the finish.

Chicken Makhani AKA Butter Chicken

14 oz. of chicken thighs (skinless & boneless)
1/2 cup of almonds, ground
1 onion
2 tsp of garlic, crushed
2 tsp of ginger, crushed
1/4 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
1 tsp of red chili powder
1 TBSP of coriander powder
8 oz. pureed tomatoes (canned is okay)
1 TBSP of tomato paste
1/2 cup of plain yogurt, drained
3 TBSP of butter

Trim and cut the chicken into small cubes, cover and set aside. With a clean knife and board thinly slice the onions.

Heat a large saucepan or frying pan and melt the butter until it is frothy. Add the onions and the cinnamon to the pan and fry lightly. When the onions are soft stir in the crushed garlic and ginger. Then add the turmeric, chili powder and coriander powder, and saute over medium heat (2-3 minute or until the air begins to smell fragrant). The spices are fried first to release their maximum flavour and this really enhances the dish.

Add the cubed chicken and saute stirring constantly until the chicken has turned white. Pour in the ground almonds, pureed tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix thoroughly. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the yogurt and heat through. Serve over rice.

Notes: I did like how this came out, authentic or not. It had a nice blend of flavors. And the chicken was super tender. I didn't find out about the adding the chilies until it was too late to run back out and get them, so if/when I make it again, I will add those because I think it could use a bit more spice. The other possibility is kicking up the chili powder. I might also try the version from the Desi Cookbook. And I would love to learn how to make roti to serve alongside.

Posted by Jennifer at 9:43 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack
January 28, 2006

Sausage Frittata

Sausage Frittata
a Jennifer original

2 tsp olive oil
1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage
1/4 pound hot Italian sausage
1/4 cup feta cheese
6 eggs
1 TBSP oregano

In a medium frying pan, heat 2 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until done, about 4 or 5 minutes. Remove sausage and drain off any fat.

Whisk together eggs and oregano in separate bowl.

In a medium ovenproof skillet, distribute the sausage and feta evenly. Pour the egg mixture gently over all. Cover and cook until eggs are just beginning to set. Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Place the skillet under the broiler, 4 inches from heat, until eggs begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

Cut into wedges and serve.

Notes: I've only made one other frittata: Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese. I think that one had a better melding of flavors. If I were to experiment with this current variation again, I think I would use only sweet sausage, bump up the feta to 1/3 cup, and use about 1/2 the oregano. Still, the texture was good, and this initial attempt was tasty enough that the single leftover serving made a nice breakfast the next morning.

Posted by Jennifer at 10:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
January 20, 2006

Scallop and Shrimp a la Nage

James Peterson's Glorious French Food cookbook has a lot of technique information. However, overall it's not the easiest book for practical cooking. So, when I read about the scallops and shrimps a la nage, but needed a simpler approach, I did some hunting about and studied several other recipes

Cooking a la nage means poaching food, usually seafood, in a court bouillon. There are several different approaches to this style of dish. Jacques Pepin has a version done with red snapper. There are also a number of variations that use salmon. And many with shellfish, including shrimp, scallops, crawfish, and lobster.

Scallop and Shrimp a la Nage

6 ounces large cooked shrimp
6 ounces scallops
1 oz olive oil
1 oz butter
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
1 oz cognac (or Armagnac)
1/2 cup vermouth
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Heat the oil and butter. Saute the shallot, garlic and thyme until shallot begins to soften. Add the shrimp and saute until half cooked. Add the scallops and salt and pepper and saute for 30 seconds. Flambe with the Armagnac and saute for another 20 seconds. Add the vermouth and vegetable broth and let simmer until reduced to half. Lower the heat and add the heavy whipping cream. Season as desired. Serve immediately.

Notes: This came out amazing. Even if I do say so myself. I'm usually one of the harshest critics of my cooking but I was just delighted with this. The texture of the soup, the taste. I'd like to try making it again, but perhaps one of the other versions next time.

Posted by Jennifer at 10:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
January 19, 2006

Braised Pork Chops

Braised Pork Chops
with Sage and Tomatoes
Modena Style

from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking

2 TBSP butter
1 TBSP olive oil
2 center cut pork chops, 1 inch thick
6 to 8 fresh sage leaves
black pepper
3/4 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up with their juices

Choose a saute pan that can contain all the chops without overlapping (the recipe calls for 4 chops originally). Put in the butter and oil and turn on the heat to medium high. When the butter foam begins to subside, turn the chops on both sides in flour, shake off the excess, and slip them into the pan together with the sage leaves. Cook the chops to a rich brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.

Add salt, pepper and tomatoes with their juice. Adjust heat to cook at a slow simmer, and cover the pan. Cook for about 1 hour, until the meat feels tender. Turn the chops from time to time while they are cooking.

By the time the pork is done, the sauce in the pan should have become rather dense. If it is too runny, transfer the chops to a warm serving platter and reduce the pan juices over high heat for a few minutes. Tip the pan and spoon off the fat. Pour the contents of the pan over the chops and serve at once.

Notes: I love braising. It's one of my favorite ways to cook meat. It always ends up so tender and full of flavor. This dish was on the subtle side; none of the flavors were strongly pronounced. But it was quite tasty.

Served with Chimney Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2004.

Posted by Jennifer at 10:46 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Chimney Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2004

A very good find for the lovely price of around $10. From the Marlborough region of New Zealand. I'm not very accomplished at reviewing wines. I know what tastes good to me. This had a nice full citrus thing going and I thought it was very refreshing.

Posted by Jennifer at 10:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
January 13, 2006

Shrimp & White Wine

Shrimp, with lemon, garlic, herbs and white wine

1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP white wine
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 pound shrimp
dash marjoram
1 TBSP parsley

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, white wine and garlic. Toss shrimp in mixture. Cover and let stand in refrigerator 20-30 minutes.

in a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 additional TBSP olive oil over medium heat. Remove the shrimp from the marinade, reserving marinade, and add to skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until bright pink. Remove the shrimp from the skillet. Add the marinade and marjoram. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp back to the skillet, heat through and toss with parsley. Serve immediately.

Notes: This came out light and lovely and was very easy to make. It could be served over rice or with pasta, but I had it straight up with some tasty garlic bread on the side.

Posted by Jennifer at 9:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
January 12, 2006

Lemon Ginger Cookies

These cookies are much like sugar cookies, but a bit cakier due to the chemical leavening. Lemon and ginger are a refreshing combination.

Lemon Ginger Cookies
from The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup for rolling
1 TBSP grated lemon zest
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup finely diced crystallized ginger

Sift together flour and baking soda into a medium bowl and set aside.

Using a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer, cream the butter on medium speed until pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Add the 3/4 cup sugar, lemon zest, ginger and salt. Cream on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle.

Add the egg and beat on low speed for 30 seconds, or until fully incorporated. Do not overbeat. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

On low speed, add the flour mixture. Beat until all the dry ingredients are incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the crystallized ginger and mix until just incorporated.

Remove small handfuls of the dough from the mixer and plop down the middle of a sheet of parchment paper, creating a log about 2 inches wide and 12 inches long. Fold the parchment over creating a sausage. Chill for at least 1 hour. At this point, the dough will keep nicely, tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer up to 1 month. (Thaw frozen dough at room temperature for 30 minutes.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust the rack to the lower third of the oven. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

When the dough has chilled, remove it from the parchment, pour the remaining 1/4 cup sugar onto the work surface, and roll the log in the sugar. Using a chef's knife, slice 1/3 inch thick rounds off the log. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake one sheet at a time for 12 to 15 minutes or until brown around the edges, turing the cookie sheet once halfway through the baking. Remove from the oven and carefully slide the parchment directly onto a work surface. Wait at least 5 minutes before serving or 30 minutes before storing in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature.

Notes: For the amount of steps involved, though none of them are individually difficult, I was hoping to get a cookie that was more of an eye-opener. However, the flavors here didn't quite stand out the way I'd hoped. And, even though this cookbook is an award-winning cookbook, I didn't find the recipe particularly readable. I also had some trouble cutting the dough once it was cold and lost several cookies that way before even baking them. In fact, at the moment, I think I'm far fonder of drop cookies...

Posted by Jennifer at 8:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
January 11, 2006

Breaded Pork

This recipe is taken from the author's mother, Clara, who made this during the World War II era while Spain was recovering from their Civil War of the 1930s.

Lomo Empanado de Clara Orozco
from La Cocina de Mama by Penelope Casas

White Sauce
2 TBSP unsalted butter
3 TBSP olive oil
6 TBSP flour
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

2 TBSP olive oil
1 pound pork tenderloin, cut in 3/8 inch slices
kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 TBSP grated cheese, such as Manchego or Parmesan
1 cup bread crumbs
olive oil for frying

To make the white sauce, melt the butter with the oil in a saucepan, add the flour and cook over low heat for a minute or two. Gradually stir in the chicken broth, milk, salt and pepper to taste, and nutmeg. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Cool, stirring occasionally.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and add as many pork slices as will reasonably fit. Quickly saute, until lightly browned and cooked through, sprinkling with salt and turning once. Remove to a warm platter and repeat with remaining pork.

Dip the meat slices in the white sauce, coating them completely on both sides. Place on a plate or tray and refrigerate until the sauce solidfies, at least 1 hour.

In a dish, beat the eggs, cheese and parsley with a fork. Dip the pork in the egg, then coat with the crumbs. Pour oil to a depth of 1/8 inch in a large skillet and heat to the smoking point. Reduce the heat to medium-high, add as many pork slices as will comfortably fit, and fry until lightly golden, turning once. Drain on paper towels and serve right away, or keep warm in a 200 degree F. oven

Notes: I made a half-batch, and used two thick boneless pork chopes, which I sliced in half, lengthwise. This turned out far more savory than I expected from the simple ingredients. Of course, the same could be said of the other recipe from this cookbook that I've tried: Grilled Lamb with Garlic. I'm beginning to think that I could grow quite fond of Spanish home cooking.

Posted by Jennifer at 8:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
January 8, 2006

Mango Mustard Seed Sauce

This delicious fresh sauce is great with grilled white meats and fish. Thinned with additional juice or stock, it can also be a dressing for a savory salad. (from the description in the cookbook)

Mango Mustard Seed Sauce
from Cooking One on One by John Ash

2 TBSP yellow or black mustard seeds
1 cup fresh mango puree
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp fragrant curry powder
1/2 cup grapefruit juice
2 tsp sherry vinegar
1 1/2 tsp hot pepper sesame oil
1 tsp honey
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Notes: I served this over grilled chicken that was seasoned with a little garlic and fresh ground pepper. The sauce had an unusual taste, and I'm not really sure the flavors melded smoothly together. I'm not convinced this was simply because I ended up using 1/2 tsp hot chile oil and 1 tsp sesame oil separately. This is the second recipe I've tried from this cookbook (the other was Chicken with Vinegar), and, so far, I'm not enthusiastic about it overall. It has a lot of good tips and techniques, but the tastes just don't quite work for me.

Posted by Jennifer at 7:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
January 6, 2006

Boursin and Fennel Seed Risotto

A number of recipes were considered for trying a new variation of risotto, among them "Champagne Risotto with Scallops", "Walnut Risotto with Roasted Asparagus" (that last ingredient unfortunately not being in season at the moment) and "Butternut Squash, Rosemary and Blue Cheese Risotto". I plan on trying all three at various points in the future.

I've been a big fan of boursin cheese for years. I love its creamy texture and rich taste, so I decided on the "Boursin and Fennel Seed Risotto," especially curious as it included no other cheeses (and I'm quite used to adding Parmigiano-Reggiano in every previous case of cooking risotto). Boursin, a cousin of some of the traditional norman triple creme and unripened cheeses, was created in 1957 by Francois Boursin, a cheesemaker in Normandy, France. His first variety, Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs (which is what I used), was inspired by a long-standing traditional dish: fromage frais (fresh cheese) served with a bowl of fine herbs, which allowed each person to create his or her own personally seasoned cheese. It was also the first cheese to advertise on the french TV in 1968. Its advertising slogan "Du pain, du vin et du boursin" (Bread, wine and Boursin) became one of the most famous of the french advertisement history.

Boursin and Fennel Seed Risotto
from Gourmet (February 1994)

1 shallot sliced
1 3/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
3/4 cup water
1 TBSP unsalted butter
3/4 cup arborio rice
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
3 TBSP dry vermouth or dry white wine
2 TBSP boursin cheese
2 TBSP minced fresh chives

In a small saucepan bring broth and water to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer.

In a heavy skillet, melt butter over moderately high heat and saute shallot about two minutes. Add rice and fennel seeds and stir until coated with butter. Add vermouth and cook, stirring, until absorbed. Continue cooking and add broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each portion of broth be absorbed before adding the next. When rice is creamy and al dente, remove pan from heat and stir in Boursin, chives, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 2.

Notes: The shallots were my addition. The fennel seed did give it an intriguing taste and texture. However, the sense of the boursin wasn't quite as strong as I had hoped and I would probably bump it up to 3 TBSP the next time I give this a try. Served with Cavit Collection Pinot Grigio 2004 (also used in the cooking).

This was very interesting, and I quite enjoyed it, though not as much as some of the others I've attempted. If I had to pick a favorite from among those so far, it would probably be Gorgonzola and Pear Risotto with Jasmine Tea Risotto with Sweet Peas and Shrimp running a very close second.

Posted by Jennifer at 11:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
January 1, 2006

Forecasting: December 2005

Happy New Year. May your cookbook collections grow and your culinary experiments delight. Here's some things to keep an eye out for that were listed as sold via various sources during the last month....

Kara Zuaro's I LIKE FOOD, FOOD TASTES GOOD: An Indie Rock Cookbook, recipes and related musings from indie rock groups including Death Cab for Cutie, My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, and Belle & Sebastian, to Hyperion.

Kelly Alexander and Cindy Harris's HOMETOWN APPETITES: The Life, Legacy, and Recipes of Clementine Paddleford, part biography, part cookbook, based on a James Beard Award-winning Saveur feature story about pioneer food writer Clementine Paddleford, who defined American cuisine by writing about what ordinary Americans were cooking at a time when most food writers were looking to European traditions, to Gotham.

Diane Morgan's THE DAILY GRILL: 150 Fast-Track Recipes for Weeknights at the Grill, making for no pots and pans to clean up and delicious weeknight grilling recipes ready in 40 minutes or less, to Chronicle.

Carlyn Berghoff and Jan Berghoff, with writer Nancy Ross Ryan's THE BERGHOFF FAMILY COOKBOOK: From Our Table to Yours, Celebrating a Century of Entertaining, sharing over 170 recipes from the oldest, single-family owned restaurant in the country (founded in 1898), to Andrews McMeel.

Notes: I am very tempted by the Indie Rock Cookbook, though I have a sneaking suspicion that my more recent musical choices are even more indie than those featured. And I have no idea what sorts of recipes to expect, though if it follows the song it will be: "Juicy burgers, greasy fries, turkey legs and raw fish eyes..."

Posted by Jennifer at 8:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack