Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chicken Provençal

Long story short, I knew I'd made something like this before, but I couldn't find a recipe anywhere...
So, I put something together based on what I could remember and what seemed *right*.
Sometimes you just have to go with what fits.

Well, after the fact I did indeed find where the recipe I was looking for came from.
It was in The New Best Recipe... and mine was similar, but not the same.
Needless to say, TNBR is a great book, and fairly scientific if you like that kind of cooking.

If you happen to like making up recipes or maybe doctoring them, there's a book called
It's kind of a book of lists... what goes with a certain ingredient, or what the common flavors are in a specific cuisine. For example, you could look up blueberries and find that cinnamon is a good partner. Look up "Jamaican" and find what common spices might be included.

It's good to have as a reference for those times when you need something, but aren't quite sure what it is. Good for inspiration.
Uh, no recipes though.

One thing I would like to address is the subject of anchovies.
Many people are horrified by these little fishes.
Why? I'm not quite sure.
They are intense little things, true. It's due to their preservation and packaging.
But, when a little is used appropriately, anchovy can be what makes something perfect (and you'd probably not even know that the one thing which was so key was this much maligned little fishy).
For instance, Caesar dressing and Worchestershire sauce wouldn't be what they are without anchovies.

I like to have a tube of anchovy paste in the fridge, just waiting.
This way you can just measure a bit out and it melts or blends right in to whatever you're making.

Chicken Provençal is great served with rice pilaf, polenta, or couscous. In fact, I think a bowl of rice with the sauce poured over the top is great (no chicken necessary).

Chicken Provençal
serves 4-8 (depending on who's eating)

8 chicken thighs, with skin and bones, trimmed of excess fat and skin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
5 large garlic cloves, minced
1 c white wine
1 c chicken broth
28 oz can of good-quality tomatoes, in tomato juice
1 1/2 T fresh thyme, minced
2 t anchovy paste
1 bay leaf

2/3 c black olives
2 1/2 T capers, drained (rinsed if they're packed in salt)

1 navel orange, washed (you need the zest)
1/4 c fresh minced parsley leaves

Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides.
Pour 1 1/2 T olive oil into a heavy-bottomed pan or dutch oven and heat over medium-high until the oil shimmers. Sear 4 chicken thighs, skin side down, until golden (about 5 minutes). Don't touch the chicken for at least 5 minutes! Remove the seared chicken to a plate or pan and repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken.
Pour off all but about 1 1/2 T of the oil that is left in the pan. Dump the diced onion into the hot oil and saute until soft and a little golden, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until you smell the garlic (this should only take a few seconds).
Add the white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it, dissolve and remove the fond, and add all that good flavor from the chicken you cooked a little earlier. Continue scraping, and cooking the wine and onions, about 5 minutes.
Add chicken broth, tomatoes and juice, anchovy paste, thyme, bay, 1 t salt, and 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and submerge chicken thighs into the sauce. Cover with a slightly cocked lid and continue simmering about 40 minutes.
Remove chicken thighs to pan with sides to rest a bit and cover with aluminum foil.
Bring the sauce to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes total to reduce the sauce a bit, adding the olives and capers after about 7 minutes.
While the sauce reduces, mince the parsley and grate the orange zest over the chopped leaves. Toss with fingers to combine the two.
Serve the chicken with the sauce and a sprinkling of orange-parsley over the top.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mango and Cardamom Lassi

In addition to masala chai, lassi is an Indian drink many people may know.
But I prefer my chai hot, and I can't say this is really hot chai weather.
And so, if I've a choice, lassi it is.

Instead of being a hot tea beverage, lassi is a refreshingly cool Indian yogurt drink...

If you're not familiar with mangoes, you can check for ripeness pretty much as you'd check ripeness on an avocado. It's also important to know they have a large, flat pit in the center of the fruit. The easiest way to break one down (in my opinion), is to cut down each side of the mango along the pit on either side of the stem. You're left with 2 halves of mango as well as a pit that's surrounded with fruit.
Hold one half skin-side down in your palm, and carefully cut down the length of the mango and all the way to the skin. Make another set of cuts perpendicular to the first set of cuts.
If you then turn the mango skin inside-out, the fruit separates and fans out. It's then much easier to remove.
Not wanting to miss the pulp that surrounds the pit, I peel this piece and cut any bits of fruit from around the pit.

Well, I suppose some people just use a spoon.
But this is definitely the way you want to go if you're making a fruit salad (which this is not).

I guess you could say it was the smoothie before "smoothies" were invented.

Mango and Cardamom Lassi
Based on a Jamie Oliver recipe
serves 3 (6-8 oz each)

1 c plain yogurt
1/2 c milk
1/4 c sugar
1 ripe mango
2 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed
1/2 c ice (I eyeball it and use 4 large ice cubes)
1/4 t vanilla (optional, nice but it sort of blocks some of the mango flavor)

Place all ingredients in a blender and whirr until the ice is incorporated, mango is pulverized and the drink is completely blended.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chocolate Meringues

Meringues are one of those versatile little things that are simple and don't require too much advance planning.

There's a good chance people already have what they need in their kitchen if they enjoy baking.

These are pretty chocolately for meringues, with the little bits of melted chocolate scattered throughout.

I like meringues best when they're crisp on the outside and slightly gooey in the center, so that's what I tried to go for here.

These can be dressed any way you like...

Chocolate Meringues
makes 6-8 individual-sized meringues

3 egg whites, room temperature
3/4 c granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 T cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 t white vinegar

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Whisk egg whites with a hand or stand mixer until frothy. Continue whisking while adding salt, and then he sugar in a slow and steady stream until incorporated. Increase the speed and continue to whisk until the meringue is stiff and glossy.
Fold in the chopped chocolate, sifted cocoa powder, and vinegar by hand with a rubber spatula. Make sure to fold everything gently but completely.

Spoon large dollops of meringue mixture onto a sheet pan covered with a sheet of parchment paper. Using the back of a spoon, spread the meringue into a circle about 4 inches in diameter with a slight indentation in the center about an inch from the edge all around.

Bake 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, or until the tops are dry and hardened.
Turn off the oven, leave the oven door open a crack, and let the meringues sit in the oven 1 hour. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder

This one makes a good base for a weekend meal. You know, on those Saturdays when you're doing everything and nothing, spending all day outdoors because you have to do yard work, mow the lawn... rake leaves.

If you just plan ahead a little you have dinner taken care of (instead of 'oh-no-it's-6PM-and-I-haven't-thought-about-dinner-and-now-I-haven't-a-clue-what-to-do-and-the-natives-are-restless').

It'll roast all day at a low heat.
And if it's roasted nice and slow, long and low, it'll just fall apart. That wouldn't happen if you needed dinner in a rush.
This meat won't cut in nice neat little slices. Instead it shreds very easily with a fork.
Perfect for tacos carnitas (maybe with fajita-style onions and peppers, some fresh cilantro, and tomatillo salsa).
I'm sure you could add BBQ sauce and make some pulled pork sandwiches...

The meat WILL have fat. You can trim some of it, but don't trim it all. Because the meat cooks a long time, it has the potential to dry out- the extra fat helps to keep it moist. Besides, much of it will melt off anyway.

Oh! And this is an instance where I would recommend using a disposable pan (especially if you use the grill). Honestly, it's a mess.

Slow Roasted Pork
makes a lot

7-8 lb. pork shoulder or boston butt, bone removed (ask the butcher- it's his job)

2 t fennel seeds
1 1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 t coriander seeds
1 1/2 t black peppercorns
1 T finely ground coffee
1 1/2 t cocoa powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground cumin
1 t dried oregano

2 lb yellow onions
3 T olive oil
1 1/2 t kosher salt

6 garlic cloves, minced
3 T minced fresh rosemary
Kosher salt
Olive oil

3 carrots
2 ribs of celery, each cut in half crossways

The day before you plan to cook:
In a dry pan over medium heat combine the fennel, coriander, black peppercorns, and red pepper flakes. Cook for a few minutes, tossing occasionally, until the spices color a bit and they release their toasty scent ("fumes" in the case of red pepper). Let cool.
Pulverize the spices along with the oregano in a mortar and pestle or with a spice grinder. Combine the spices in a small bowl with the coffee, cocoa, cumin, and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly and set aside.
Slice the onions in half and then slice each half into thin half-moons. Place the onions in a pan that has been preheated over medium heat with 3 T olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 t Kosher salt and saute the onions until they become translucent and a little golden (this will take several minutes). Set aside to cool.
With a sharp knife, score the top (fatty side) of the pork in 1 inch intervals and about 1/4 inch deep. Repeat the same cuts perpendicular to the first set of cuts so the pork is crosshatched on top.
Cut the pork shoulder lengthwise (starting where the butcher ended) so that it opens like a book. Be careful not to cut all the way across so you end up with two pieces of meat
Liberally sprinkle the inside of the "open" piece of meat with kosher salt.
In a small bowl combine half of the garlic and rosemary, 2 T of the spice rub, and 2-3 T olive oil to make a paste. Smear the paste over the salted pork and top with the now-cooled onions. "Close" the pork up over the onions and tie several times with kitchen twine so the onions stay sandwiched inside the meat. Liberally salt the meat all over the outside.
Mix the remaining garlic and rosemary, spice rub, and enough olive oil to once again form a paste. Rub the paste all over the outside of the pork. Place the carrots and celery in the bottom of a roasting pan to make a rack (the pan must be large enough to hold the pork). Lay the pork in the pan on top of the vegetables. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven or a grill (with a thermometer) to 275 degrees F.
Place the meat in the oven or grill and cook for about 3 hours, then remove the aluminum foil (set the foil aside for later use). Continue cooking for about 4 hours more, or until the meat is tender and falls apart when speared with a fork.
Remove the pork from the heat, cover with foil, and let rest 30 minutes.
Move the pork from the pan and onto a large cutting board or sheet pan. Shred the meat with two forks and mix so that the spices, bits of onion, and salt are distributed throughout.
Add BBQ sauce, eat with rice, or in a taco.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Watermelon, Feta, and Black Olive Salad

If everything is nice and fresh, this is fantastic summery salad. The flavors are unexpected, but they still work.

I've gone over this a few times, and I think I've tweaked it to where I like it...

The sprinkle of salt helps make the flavor pop and the melon sweeter, and the little bit of honey helps to tame the puckery lime.

Admittedly, this salad is not for everyone- there are certainly some assertive flavors in it.
But at the same time, if it's what you like, it's very refreshing.

If you're having one of those summery, outdoor, cool and casual dinners it may be what you want.

As colorful as it is, it would make a nice centerpiece.
No doubt it's pretty, but salads aren't just for looking at...

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

Watermelon, Feta, and Black Olive Salad
serves 8

4 lb. ripe, red, sweet watermelon
1 medium red onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
3 limes, juiced
1/3 c olive oil
1/2 T honey (or to taste)
2/3 c pitted black olives
8 oz feta cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 bunch of fresh parsley, leaves removed
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped (about 3 T)

To finish:
Kosher salt or fleur de sel
Freshly ground black pepper

Cube the watermelon into 1 1/2-2 inch chunks. Place in a large bowl and refrigerate.
Place the onion in a medium bowl and pour the lime juice over the top. Let the onion and lime juice marinate at least 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Pour the lime juice and onions over the watermelon. Add the olive oil, honey, parsley, mint, feta cheese, and olives. Toss gently but thoroughly so as not to break up the watermelon or feta cheese (clean hands may be best for this).
Lightly sprinkle some salt and give a good grinding of black pepper over the top of individual servings to finish.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Champagne Sabayon

A special-occasion dessert with a delicate and not-too-sweet flavor.

Can be served warm or cold.
If warm, the sabayon will be loose and raspberries juicy.
If cold, everything will be a bit more firm.

And of course, champagne vs. prosecco vs. "sparking wine" is dependent upon availability and budgetary restrictions...
But, they'll all work.

Champagne Sabayon with Raspberries
serves 6-8

6 lg egg yolks
1/2 c plus 1 T sugar
1/4 t salt
zest of 1 lemon
1 c champagne
2/3 c whipping cream
1 1/2 pt. fresh raspberries, gently rinsed

Place a couple inches of water in a medium saucepan and heat water to a simmer over medium heat.
In a large metal bowl, combine egg yolks, 1/2 c sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine.
Continue whisking and slowly add the champagne.
Place the metal bowl over the pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly for about 5 minutes. At first it will be frothy, but then the sabayon will become thick (like softly whipped cream) and triple in volume. Remove the bowl from over the simmering water and put aside on the counter to cool a few minutes.
Whisk the whipping cream and the extra 1 T sugar until the mixture forms soft peaks.
Gently fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the warm sabayon. Repeat with the remaining whipped cream.
Divide the clean raspberries among 6-8 small bowls and spoon the warm sabayon over the top.
Serve immediately or refrigerate at least an hour to serve cold.