Monday, January 29, 2007

Thoughts on foie gras

I'm been deliberating for a few days now about whether to even mention this here, as it seems to be such a touchy subject. But dang it, I love foie gras. And I think it may be more humane to eat foie gras (from the right supplier) than it is to eat chicken. I even like it raw, now. I took a class on Friday night where we used about 7 pounds of foie, and it was just decadently wonderful. (Good thing I don't have a cholesterol test scheduled this week!) I learned how to sear it, which was a biggie for me. Also to make a mousseline, and to do a couple of raw preparations. (I had no idea how complimentary the textures of raw foie and perfectly ripe avocado are, and how well pomegranate works with that.) I'd already learned how to devein it last summer in another class. Now I feel prepared to deal with this luxury, if it ever comes my way. And a little birdie tells me it will, along about the middle of February...yum, yum.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Dinner party fun

Well, maybe cooking dinner for two of my good friends isn't quite a dinner party to some people, but it is to me. It's kind of a delayed birthday dinner for both of them so I want it to be special. So here's the menu: Mediterranean Ahi Tartare in Cucumber Boats Baby greens with lemon viniagrette, orange supremes, and tapenade North African-Spiced Lamb Shanks Mashed potatoes, roasted zucchimi Chocolate Creme Brulee Spiced palmieres and house brandied cherries And of course I am baking bread (as I write this). The good thing about this menu is that the lamb cooked yesterday, as did the custards. The ahi can be a little labor-intensive because you have to mince it, but that's not bad when you're only doing three portions. I just keep finding new ways to serve it. The lamb is an evolution of what I've done a couple of times now, and it's just the most wonderful braise. And the good thing is that I made extra, since Dave is traveling and I know he'll love having it for dinner when he gets home later this week. I'm serving a Cotes du Rhone with dinner, ought to work well and I know both of my friends like it. Should be a very fun evening. Guess I'd better get back to the kitchen!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New gadgets

Just bought a 45-blade meat tenderizer. So now I can make cube steaks, and also pork chop sandwiches. Gee, that sounds healthy ;-) but since it's winter my tummy craves comfort foods!I'm waiting for my Benriner rotary slicer, I have no idea why I bought it except that I've always coveted one. So I guess we're going to have lots of vegetable shreds and ribbons, and I can make shredded potato-wrapped fish fillets. It's fortunate that one thing Dave never begrudges me are kitchen gadgets! My favorite current gadget is a cheap juice extractor. Mostly right now it's for carrot-celery-apple juice for my breakfast, but I had the bright idea this week that I can use the leftover carrot and celery pulp as "fodder" for the mirepoix in a bolognese sauce, since that needs to be pulped anyway. We'll see how that goes later today. I'm also going to juice some cucumbers and make a gelee of them with lemongrass flavor to go with some oysters for a dinner party in March. I'm also thinking of a celery and green peppercorn ice as a shellfish accompaniment. So it will come in handy there, too.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Duck again?

Yep. Gotta face it, Dave loves duck and I think he'd eat it until he started quacking! Made duck confit this weekend, froze the breasts. Kind of a reverse of the usual routine. Also made duck glace, so now I have a nice supply of concentrated stock in the freezer. Poached some fingerling potatoes in duck fat to have with the confit legs, that was very nice.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Filet au Poivre

I did promise to talk about how we fixed that whole tenderloin we bought in Hawaii. Actually, this is what we often do to them at home, too. This recipe is courtesy of my friend Anne. After trimming, I cut one 6-inch roast from the middle, that's for the filet au poivre. For that, you mix up 2 t of kosher salt, two T of minced shallot, 2 T minced parsley, 2 t of herbes de provence, about a T of coarsely crushed peppercorns. Add enough olive oil to make a paste and smear it all over the roast. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to cook, bring meat to room temp and heat oven to 450. Roast for 20 minutes, or until internal temp is 120. Take out of the oven, put on a tray and put into the freezer for about an hour. Slice thinly and serve with horseradish cream. Yum. That's our traditional New Years Eve meal. I made another roast and stuffed it with sauteed shallots, minced parsley, and gorgonzola. Then roasted the same way, but took it to 125-130 internal temp. The chain and tips get to be teriyaki nibbles, and the rest were steaks. Almost too much beef for two people over two weeks.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The best calamari

While we were in Hawaii we ate at Bamboo, way up at the north tip of the island in Hawi. Boy, was it worth the trip. One thing we really like are fried calamari strips, and they had the best we've ever tasted. Simple preparation, done perfectly. They cut their own, dredge in cornstarch, egg, and panko. Then deep fry them. The house-made tartar sauce they serve includes pickled ginger (gari) and pineapple. Absolutely delicious. They also have a Thai coconut sauce that is great, so good that I bought their little cookbook for $5 so I could have the recipe. It's pretty complex with lots of ingredients but they say it keeps well. It would make rocks taste good, so I will have to try it out soon. They also have chicken potstickers that have peanut butter in the filling. I hear those are really good, but being allergic to peanuts I'll have to settle for the hearsay!

Friday, January 12, 2007

We're baaaack....

Mmm. I just love cooking in Hawaii. So many new things to try, and old favorites that only taste right with ingredients I can get there. And of course, the cool things that Costco only carries in Hawaii! Let's start with Costco. We were on the Big Island, so that means a store just north of Kailua town on the Kona side. My favorite thing there are the avocados, Sharwill grown right there on the island. They are firmer than Haas when ripe, and larger. Perfect texture for including in makizushi! Of course, for that you need fresh ahi and they carry that at Costco, too. Toss in a slab of pipikaula (Hawaiian beef jerky), a whole pork butt ($1.59/lb) for making kalua pork, and a tub of Hawaiian-style mac salad and you have all the basic makings for ono grinds (aka great meals). I'm a huge fan of plate lunch, so gotta have the mac salad. I always take along some rice, that way when I use it up I know I have a couple of pounds in the luggage for bringing home Kona coffee (oh, yeah, Costco has that, too). For the kalua pork, since I can't dig an imu (underground oven) at the condos where we stay you make it this way: for each 6-lb chunk of pork butt, rub it with 1T coarse salt (Hawaiian red alae salt is fun, but kosher is fine) and 1T of liquid smoke in the morning. Let it sit all day, then roast (covered) overnight at 225 degrees. I just use a big foil steam pan for 12-15 lbs of pork butt. Then when the meat is cool enough, shred it and pick out the fat at the same time. Bag it up and freeze some, keep some in fridge. This will feed four people generously for lots of things for two weeks. For a kalua pork plate lunch, use about 6 oz pork and a cup of shredded green cabbage, steam together for about 15 minutes. Serve with rice and mac salad. Other ways to use the pork: in a kalua pork quesadilla, you see these on menus all over the island but great homemade. Just some pork, sliced sweet maui onion (easy to get at one of the farmers markets all over the place), a little hot chile (ditto), some shredded jack cheese and of course flour tortillas (okay, yes I go to Safeway for those). You can use a bottled salsa, but why not chop up a papaya, some chile, some onion, and a little cilantro and have a fresh fruit salsa with it? Keeps several days. And you can change it up by adding some pineapple or even some apple bananas as the week goes on. We also use the kalua pork in BBQ pork sandwiches, toss some minced fresh pineapple and maybe some dark rum into the sauce for an island touch. More on all this later, next time I'll tell you what we do with the whole tenderloin we buy at Costco at the beginning of our trip...