Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chili for Christmas

Or sort of. Since Dave and I are off to Hawaii for Christmas this year, we're having a family get-together before we leave, and I'm making a pot of chili. I don't use ground meat in my chili. Instead I'm using a mix of meats for different textures -- chuck that will break down and shred, so I cut that in 1/2" pieces, and round for a little chew, cut into 1/4" dice. I do put beans in my chili, and cook them right in the stew without soaking. Since I want to cook it for several hours, there's plenty of time for the beans to get done, even with the salt and acid in the pot. And in fact they hold together better this way. I also use tomato, in the form of sauce and crushed tomatoes. This is a big batch, with 7 pounds of meat, six cups of onion, and a pound of dried beans. But I'm serving 12-14 with it. The good thing is that I get to ask everyone else to provide all the side dishes and garnishes, so I'm done with chopping after I get done with the chili. I'm making it today so we can reheat it tomorrow, always better the day after of course! Which reminds me, I'm taking a break from my computer for the entire time we're in Hawaii, so you won't see another entry here for about three weeks. But when I come back I'll have lots to say about what ingredients I found and how I used them, since we'll be in a condo and I get to keep cooking. Happy holidays to whoever out there reads this!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Using Tom Kha soup as a poaching liquid

Wanted to poach some snapper yesterday and had a hankering for some Thai flavor. One of my pantry staples is tom kha soup base, and I had a little coconut cream left over from making that Whiskey Crab Bisque. So I chopped up some red onion, some carrot, some boiling potatoes hanging around in the fridge (still trying to clean out some before vacation) and a sweet potato. Sauteed the veggies, then added a couple of tablespoons of tom kha paste, a cup of coconut cream, a can of chicken broth, and a can of water as well as the zest from a lime. Simmered about 15 minutes until the sweet potato was about done. Turned the heat to very low and laid the fish fillets on top, covered and let them sit about 15 minutes. Served with rice, it was very nice.

Fondue is fun

I made cheese fondue again this year for my wine groups' annual Champagne tasting. The tasting was fun this year partly because we had magnums, seemed to make it even more festive. Proportions for fondue are pretty simple, after reviewing 6 or 8 different recipies there wasn't much variance from 1 cup of white wine to 1 pound of cheese. I like tossing the cheese with a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch, I think flour ends up tasting too pasty. I've learned to be patient in stirring in the cheese, even though it starts out looking awful it works just fine in the end, especially if you remember to add a tablespoon of lemon juice since the additional acidity seems to help keep the cheese from clumping (I know, it has to do with denaturing the proteins in the cheese, right?). Final addition is a little kirsch mixed with some dry mustard and a grating of nutmeg. Seemed to go over well with the group, and makes me feel justified in having purchased a fondue pot a few years ago :)

Creamy soup with corn...not

Lesson learned the other day. Was using up some turban squash in soup, wanted a nice smooth puree. Also was just trying to clean out the fridge before leaving on vacation, so thought some fresh corn I had would be a nice addition. Taste-wise, it was. Used that along with some ground coriander, fresh ginger, and lemon. Blended it with a stick blender. But there's just no way to blend it enough to get rid of the bits of skin from the corn kernels. Have to use a fine disk on the food mill or a chinoise, way more trouble than I was planning. At least it tasted really good!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Looks like I'll have more artichokes

Last summer I wrote about my one lone little artichoke, harvested after tending a big pot of plants for two years out on our balcony. I thought that was the end of the story, and I gave up on artichokes. Just not much of an ROI! But... I had Dave clean out the pot, pull out all the dead leaves and such, a couple of months ago. I figured to dig out the dead roots and plant some herbs in there next spring. But, lo and behold, the roots are not dead. I now have five 4" tall artichoke plants growing in there. If they can make it through the winter with little or no attention from me, I guess I'll give it another go. I'm still leery, since I haven't figured out how to deal with the biggest pest problem, thousands of little black flying gnats or something that suck the leaves and kill them. Maybe that just means I need to do a little research.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Update to my ahi tartare recipe

I did the ahi tartare thing again this past weekend for a holiday party. Added some minced shallot to the mix, as my chives were looking pretty sad. And served it with cucumber slices, which I have to say was brilliant. Went great with the citrus tang of the preserved lemon, and the texture was a perfect match with the softness of the tartare. Yum. For about 12 oz of minced ahi, I added 1/2 of a preserved lemon, minced, and 1 T minced shallot, salt, and olive oil.

Cooking science is cool

I've always loved to understand how things work, so I guess my semi-addiction to "Good Eats" is really not a surprise. But what I like better, now, is reading Harold McGee, and Shirley Corriher, and "What Einstein Told His Cook." This last book, on loan from Gabe, is a good read because it's essentially a series of short essays answering "why" questions on a bunch of different topics. Usually that means I can pick it up and put it down with ease, but I kept reading last night until nearly 2am. Not good for me, but I was enjoying the education. Now I find that Harold McGee has a relatively new blog (www.curiouscook.blogspot.com) so I guess I have to keep an eye on that, too.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Using preserved lemons

A bit of a hitch in the cooking plans this week. I got really sick so only liquids for a few days. So a hold on the whiskey crab bisque, which is finally cooking today and smells incredible. It has corn and coconut milk in it, a wonderful combination. Recipe comes from cooking class so I can't really republish here, but suffice to say it has bacon, crab stock, coconut milk, onions, garlic, corn (and I added corn cobs to the broth, too), whiskey (I'm using Maker's Mark), and of course crab meat. Since it is a bisque, it's smooth before you add the crab meat. I think Dave is going to love it even if I might not be able to eat any until tomorrow. Anyway, I made preserved lemons a couple of months ago. I love them just plain, I was kind of raised on salty/sour stuff so I like that (so did my mom, when she tasted them at Thanksgiving she just swooned). But traditional recipes only use the peel. And I hate to have waste. With this liquid diet thing, I've discovered two ways to use the salty juice: - in chicken broth. Just a teaspoon or two in a 14 oz can of low-salt broth really perks up the flavor. Add some rice and cook for a while and you have a nice gruel for the bed-ridden! - in low-sodium vegetable juice (V-8). That was icky to me until I put in a fair amount of the lemon juice. Makes me think that when I get to really "drink" again I will have to try this stuff in a bloody mary!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Soup again

I think it must have been the weather. After raining every day except one during the month, we got quite the snowstorm right after Thanksgiving. And now I'm in a soup frame of mind. It started quite naturally with wanting to use up leftovers. That meant the fresh potatoes, leeks, and fennel I had in the pantry went into a nice potato soup. Then I added some of the smoked cured turkey breast from the week before, kind of a smoked turkey chowder. That was really good. Some of that now in the freezer. Then we get to the turkey stock, the first version. First I had to cook down the carcass from T-giving dinner, and made consomme out of that. Because I had spiced the turkey, and some of the skin was in the pot, it has an interesting aroma. Very nice. I took some of that and steeped a prune in it, and served it with homemade preserved-lemon tortellini. This was a riff on the duck/peach consomme with the same tortellini that we had at a Gypsy dinner. We really enjoyed that. Dave wasn't expecting the preserved lemon, so his mouth was pleasantly surprised. And the prune essence was nicely floral. The rest of the consomme is in the freezer for later. Then the second version of turkey stock. This was was because of those 2 $4 turkeys I got (about 19 lbs each!) that I took apart last Monday to cure the legs and breasts for more smoked turkey. I roasted the carcass and the wings and tossed it all into the pot overnight. That stock got onions and celery, and got strained. Then I made vegetable noodle soup with that. Good option for Dave's lunch all next week. Tomorrow, since Dungeness Crab is in season, I'm getting a bunch of it and making a Whiskey Crab Bisque. We made it in class a couple of weeks ago and it was great. So I am looking forward to doing that again.