30 November 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Meal

Oddly enough, the day after Thanksgiving was when we decided to make a more traditional meal for the family. My brother-in-law's mom is a buyer for a food distributor and they routinely get big packages of food, in this case a pork roast. Or so we thought. After planning out the meal, herb-crusted pork roast, and prepping my herb paste and fresh bread crumbs, I open the package and find out they are cuts of pork. Oops! Oh well, I made a couple of adjustments and made them into rolls. Unfortunately, I did not forgo the breadcrumbs right away and ended up with a mess of fried bread at the bottom of my pan that I had to scrape off.

To accompany the pork, I made fluffy mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts with pine nuts and garlic, and for those not sprout-inclined, green beans blanched, then quickly sauteed in the leftover garlic oil.

Brussel sprouts are finally gone! Sort of...there were some leftovers of this dish, too. Potatoes put through the ricer make for extra fluffy and creamy potatoes.

Pork rolls resting after being browned on the stovetop, then put on a rack in the oven for 20 minutes.
Pork Rolls (adapted from Cook's Illustrated recipe)

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Herb paste
1/3 cup parsley
2 T freshly minced thyme
1 T fresh minced rosemary
6 T grated parmesan (I used parmigiano reggiano)
3 T olive oil
-Process until smooth, about 12-15 1-second pulses

To make the rolls
Depending on the type of pork you have, the meat may be flat enough to roll. I pounded mine out just a little bit to be able to roll it up easily. Some were easier than others. Dry off the cutlets then spread a generous amount of paste in the middle, roll and secure with twine. Some pieces may take 2 or 3 ties. You could also use toothpicks depending on the size of the cuts.

[Now, here's where I made my mistake. I put some paste on the outside of the rolls and attempted to put the breadcrumbs on them. First of all, that was the wrong move in the recipe itself, secondly, my gut was telling me that it was all going to fall off...but I did it anyway. Lesson learned. What you really want to do...]

Heat a couple of tablespoons in a pan over medium-high heat. Place the rolls in the oil and brown on all sides. In the meantime, have a cookie sheet lined with foil and a wire rack placed over it ready. Once the rolls have been browned, transfer to the wire rack and allow to bake in the 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Times may vary depending on the thickness of your meat. You want an internal temperature of about 150 degrees.

28 November 2010

A Very Spanish Thanksgiving

For our first Thanksgiving as Mr. and Mrs., we decided to go a little untraditional with Thanksgiving and give it a Spanish theme. We also ended up throwing it at someone else's house since I was housesitting for the weekend. As much as I wanted to celebrate in our own home, especially since we just moved in less than 6 months ago, who could pass up the chance to use a 6-burner gas range and two ovens?? I certainly couldn't. I'm going to let the pictures do the talking since there is so much to share.

Attempt #2 (?) at the caramel. Stupid epicurious.com recipe gave odd directions on how to make caramel, a way that was completely different than how I've made it in the past and look what happened...
...that's a cup's worth of sugar burnt onto the bottom of my pan from attempt #1. I eventually moved on from these directions 2 cups of sugar waste and 1 2nd degree burn later.
Using the Test Kitchen method and one I'm more familiar with, the 3rd time was a charm. Using 1/2 cup water and 1 cup of sugar, bring to a boil and simmer on medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved, careful not to let any of the sugar hit the sides of the pan as it goes in. Reduce the heat to medium-low when it starts to turn golden brown and stir slowly until a lovely shade of amber.
That's more like it.
The pumpkin flan right after coming out of the oven.
I added a few things to the spiced pumpkin seeds to adjust for the season. Shawn was such a fan, he thought they were a tapa, not just topping for the flan.

Toasting the pumpkin seeds in a little bit of grapeseed oil until they puffed.
My best attempt at burning the skin of the red pepper for making the sofrito for the paella. It sucks not having a gas range sometimes. Ok, all the time. Ideally, you should burn the skin until black, then wrap in a paper towel, wrap again in a dish towel and then into a plastic bag to sweat it so the skin comes off easily. Mine came off less than easily. Imagine that.
After peeling the pepper, I minced it and added to the minced onion that had softened in a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat, along with minced, peeled tomatoes (about 1/2 cup), and minced garlic. Mincing is important--can you tell? Let that soften up and absorb much of the moisture.

Just about done. You can skip seasoning this much as it will be going into the paella, which will be seasoned later.
A guest is featured here on the blog. Michael made some amazing sherry chicken livers.
Sauteeing the onions and pancetta. Yum.
Chicken livers hot off the stove. He brought some mini toasts to pick it up, but we had to upgrade to the slices of Little T baguette...just couldn't get quite enough on the little toasts.
New Seasons called these Segovia style mushrooms. I just called them delicious. Very simple recipe, but very good. Yesterday we combined the leftovers livers and mushrooms into the Cuisinart, hit the button, and ended up with some incredible pate.
My first tarte tatin. My brother and sister hate pumpkin and always insist on an apple dessert. I decided it was important to keep it in the European family, so I made this French tart. I couldn't find a good pot holder in the foreign kitchen, so it got a little crisper on top than I would have liked, but it was good.
Flipped over--not quite as pretty as the picture, but definitely tasty. I am going to try a different strategy with the apples next time I make this dish. I think I could have smooshed in more.
Not much cooking in this picture, but had to get a shot of some of the great tapas we had before the main event. Spanish tortilla in the background, Little T baguettes, and apples, manchego and olives. The garlic-paprika aioli I made for the tortillas went fast.
The paella and costra innards before they went in.
My mama does it a little differently than most. Her paella starts with cooking the chicken, then sauteeing the rice before adding the chorizo. Either way, it turned out great.
As with risotto and most rice dishes, make sure your stock is hot before adding to the dish. I made a quick fish stock, then added the saffron before adding to the paella pan.
Made almost simultaneously...the costra. A very similar rice dish to the paella, but made with meat and scrambled egg is added mid-way through cooking. I'm used to there being more egg, but the basic concept is there.
The finished paella and costra resting before we dig in. I think I bought a little too much shellfish.
And to top off a fantastic day of eating, 3 desserts for 12 people. From the top, tarte tatin, pumpkin flan with spiced pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin cheesecake.
What are your Thanksgiving traditions? Do you do anything to mix it up every year? We may change the type of food at times, but we stuck with a few traditions--a puzzle (care of my brother this year), great food, wine and conversation. I am very grateful for such a wonderful day with my family and friends. I hope your day was just as spectacular!

11 November 2010

Gumbo & Burns

I spent this past weekend up in Seattle helping to get my mom ready for her shoulder surgery and spending some time with her and my family. Since surgery and medications are usually pretty rough for mom and I knew she wouldn't be eating anything very exciting for a few days (hello clear liquids and soft foods!), I wanted to make a special "last meal" for her. Given that our lovely fall weather has officially hit, I thought a soup would be nice, but wanted something with a little more kick, so I chose to make gumbo.

This was my first attempt with gumbo, but armed with my Cooksillustrated.com membership (thanks to my aunt Patty), I felt confident I could make it. It starts with a dark roux of vegetable oil and flour. I should really heed the warnings of my recipes. The first line of the recipe says, "Making a dark roux can be dangerous." Yes, the temperature reaches 400 degrees and higher and you are constantly stirring for 20 minutes. I did use a spoon with a long handle, but it didn't matter--I still got 3 pretty good burns. As my uncle used to tell me as I was attempting the Spanish way of making huevos fritos (fried eggs made by splashing hot oil over the top), "You wanna cook? Suck it up!" So, I did...until the pain got the best of me and I had to put my sister's hands at risk.

Luckily, in the end, all turned out well. And in re-reading this just now, I see that I shouldn't have made the shrimp stock at the same time as the roux...oops!

Simmering everything together until it gets a little thicker to hold up the rice

Add a good heap of white rice to serve, sprinkle parsley for good measure

Creole-Style Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo (www.cooksillustrated.com)
Serves 6 to 8. Published May 1, 1999.

Making a dark roux can be dangerous. The mixture reaches temperatures in excess of 400 degrees. Therefore, use a deep pot for cooking the roux and long-handled utensils for stirring it, being careful not to splash it on yourself. One secret to smooth gumbo is adding shrimp stock that is neither too hot nor too cold. For a stock that is at the right temperature when the roux is done, start preparing it before the vegetables and other ingredients, strain it, and then give it a head start on cooling by immediately adding ice water and clam juice. So that your constant stirring of the roux will not be interrupted, start the roux only after you've made the stock. Alternatively, you can make the stock well ahead of time and bring it back to room temperature before using it. Gumbo is traditionally served over white rice.

1 1/2 pounds small shrimp (51 to 60 count), shelled, and deveined (if desired), shells reserved
1 cup clam juice (one 8-ounce bottle)
3 1/2 cups ice water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (preferably bleached)
2 medium onions ,chopped fine
1 medium red bell pepper ,chopped fine
1 medium rib celery ,chopped fine
6 medium cloves garlic ,minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
3/4 pound smoked sausage , such as andouille or kielbasa, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
4 medium scallions , white and green parts sliced thin
Ground black pepper

1. Bring reserved shrimp shells and 4 1/2 cups water to boil in stockpot or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 20 minutes. Strain stock and add clam juice and ice water (you should have about 2 quarts of tepid stock, 100 to 110 degrees); discard shells. Set stock mixture aside.

2. Heat oil in Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed sauce-pan over medium-high heat until it registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir in flour gradually with wooden spatula or spoon, working out any small lumps. Continue stirring constantly, reaching into corners of pan, until mixture has a toasty aroma and is deep reddish brown, about the color of an old copper penny or between the colors of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, about 20 minutes. (The roux will thin as it cooks; if it begins to smoke, remove from heat and stir constantly to cool slightly.)

3. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, thyme, salt, and cayenne; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1 quart reserved stock mixture in slow, steady stream, stirring vigorously. Stir in remaining quart stock mixture. Increase heat to high; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, skim off foam on surface, add bay leaves, and simmer uncovered, skimming foam as it rises to the surface, about 30 minutes.

4. Stir in sausage; continue simmering to blend flavors, about 30 minutes longer. Stir in shrimp; simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Off heat, stir in parsley and scallions, adjust seasonings to taste with salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne; serve.

01 November 2010

Savory Fall Stew

The return of Sunday dinner! I had to make something autumnal and filling for handing out candy to the kiddos. This is seriously the perfect fall stew...for me at least. My friend and fellow foodie, Eve-Maridy, made this recipe for us for the first time for our annual Fall Fest this past October. After a very rainy day out at the Pumpkin Patch, it really hit the spot. Lots of fall vegetables make up the bulk of this dish, but the hot Italian sausage gives it an extra kick you don't see in a lot of stews. Surprisingly, it's a Martha Stewart dish. I'm not much of a fan of hers, but she makes some good stuff.

The challenge with this dish is in the preparation. Pearl onions are a pain to peel, so I recommend taking a garbage bowl (or, in our case, a compost bowl), a knife, and your onions, and plopping yourself in front of the TV for a bit. By the way, I'm Not There, the Bob Dylan documentary, is pretty good...at least from the 15 minutes I saw of it. Fennel, carrots, and parsnips are all pretty easy to prep, but the butternut squash is still a thorn in my side. I even looked up some techniques on peeling it, and you need a special peeler. Who has a serrated peeler on hand?? It was even more fun after the part that I peeled started to sweat, so it became slippery. But, armed with my $.99 knife from Fubonn, my regular peeler, and a lot of patience, I managed to peel the sucker. The results...

Recipe calls for cippolini, but pearl onions do the trick for half the price
Bundle of herbs from our garden (thank you previous tenants!)
Best part about this dish? I got to buy this sucker at New Seasons. I love me some brussel sprouts!
So worth the wait...and beautiful in our new yellow bowls!

Get the recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/savory-fall-stew.

Happy Belated Halloween!