Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
I am a city girl, so don't encounter game meat a lot. But I have uncles and a sister who hunt and usually get "their elk" every year. Some of that meat finds its way into my mom's freezer, and
I am a city girl, so don't encounter game meat a lot. But I have uncles and a sister who hunt and usually get "their elk" every year. Some of that meat finds its way into my mom's freezer, andmom gave me a package of frozen elk meat a while back. I finally got around to cooking it a couple of nights ago.
I've never done anything with elk other than grill steaks, and I thought they had given me steaks. But the 2-lb package contained several 3/4” slices of meat, and I wasn’t sure where on the animal they were from. It looked to me like round steak.
What was important to me was to do a good job, one that honored the hunted and the hunter. In thinking about how to prepare them, I first considered that I wanted to minimize gaminess. If you don’t eat game much, that characteristic can really get to you. So first I made a paste of orange zest, juniper berries, ground coriander, salt, and fresh rosemary and sage. Spread that over all of it and put it in the fridge to chill for two days.
Next I had to consider the cooking method. Elk is very lean. I considered what meats I already knew about that were like elk, and I realized that veal is similar in structure as it is very lean. As the meat was cut across some muscle groups there was silverskin running across the pieces. Silverskin is not like other connective tissue – you can cook it forever and it will still be a rubber band. So some cutting into smaller pieces was going to have to happen. Okay: like veal, not steaks or chops, smaller pieces. That meant the meat needed to be cooked with moisture to get tender. So braising was the appropriate method. I settled on something that turned out a lot like Swiss steak.
I wiped off most of the rub, trimmed the meat of silverskin and then dredged it in flour. I used a “jacquardizer” with 47 razor-sharp blades to run across both sides of the meat. This worked the flour into the meat a little more and provided more tenderizing. It is similar to using the edge of a saucer to pound floured round steak. Then I cut the ½” thick cutlets into 1” squares and tossed them in the flour left from the dredging. From here on it was a pretty classic braising job: brown all of the meat in a dutch oven (two batches) and remove from the pan. Put in one chopped onion and sweat that while scraping up all the brown fond from browning the meat. Add ½ cup of water to speed it up. Then add 1 clove of minced garlic and a can of diced tomatoes with juice. Put the meat back into the pan and bring it to a simmer. Put into a 350-degree oven for an hour, serve over egg noodles.
It was very good. The flavor of the marinade can through and the orange and juniper flavor with the tomatoes was a real treat. It really did look like swiss steak, really tender meat (“like buttah”) with a nice gravy of the tomato juice and meat juices thickened with the flour. Dave was very happy to take what little was leftover for lunch the next day.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Monday, October 05, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
When I broke down the whole tenderloin last weekend, I saved the “good” fat and all the random meat trimmings and froze them together in a one pound package. I am thawing that today with the intention of grinding it together with thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, and garlic for burgers.
The plan is to make very thin patties and sandwich some crumbled gorgonzola between two patties. With tomato and some baby romaine on whole wheat buns, I am looking forward to a very good dinner.
Yesterday the ground pork mixed with a jerk seasoning paste made good sausage balls. Why were they not meatballs, you ask. I beat this mixture in the mixer until the myelin threads developed to bind the mixture together without any “fillers” like breadcrumbs and “binders” like egg. We roasted the sausage balls in the oven. I made a spicy mango-coconut sauce with fresh mango, unsweetened grated coconut, jalapeno, onion, fish sauce, soy sauce, habanero sauce, salt and long pepper. Simmered the sauce for a while then added the meatballs and let that simmer together while the party we took them to got started. I paired the spicy sausage and sauce with a “malted milk punch” that included dark rum. The pairing was received very well. In addition we brought along some malted milk balls and it was funny to watch everyone munch those right down. And the sausage balls? Not a single one was left. I love it when a plan comes together.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I love it when halibut is in season. It is robust enough to take to many cooking methods but is delicate enough in flavor to work in so many different dishes. Today I am rubbing it with olive oil, salt, and white pepper and roasting it at 500 degrees for about 15 minutes, then serving it with a mango salsa I made. The salsa includes mangoes, tomato, sweet onion, jalapeno, and some cider vinegar. I shall add some cilantro just before serving.
With the fish I am making a simple fried rice, with scallions and carrots. Already have cold cooked medium-grain rice on hand. Add a salad with a vinaigrette that has a drop of sesame oil in it, and we have a nice pan-Asian themed meal.
Dessert will be brie with pears and a bit of port.
The weather is supposed to be wonderful this weekend, with temps in the mid-70's, so I suspect we will be grilling beef all weekend. We got a whole beef tenderloin for $7.19/lb, an amazing price. I will break it down into a roast, steaks, and some kebab cubes and go from there wherever inspiration takes me.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Many cooking projects still in progress around here. The nine pounds of lobster (only 2 lobsters!) yielded enough meat for several meals, and I made some very nice stock, about three quarts, for lobster bisque. We already had sliced tail meat gently poached in clarified butter with some great bread. I have pasta sheets prepared and will make lobster ravioli with fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, and chives) and serve them with the bisque. I’ll make some extra and freeze them for a quick deluxe dinner. Before I make the bisque I will remove a cup or so of the stock and freeze it so that I can make a sauce for the extra ravioli.
Then there is the oxtail. They made a nice broth, and Dave was kind enough to pick all of the meat. I plan to make an oxtail hash with red potatoes and sweet onions, and serve it with a gravy made of some of the oxtail broth. I will then use the leftovers of that, hash and gravy, and add the rest of the broth to make oxtail soup and freeze that in containers for Dave’s lunches. You might have guessed by now that I like to start with a protein and create a series of meals out of it.
Finally, there is the Chicago Italian beef sandwich project. This one has only one outcome, the sandwiches. I went to Chicago a couple of years ago and fell in love with the Italian beef sandwiches. Dave grew up on them so has a very clear taste memory. I am using a recipe that sounds like it could deliver that taste. Yesterday I rubbed two bottom round roasts (about 5# total) with a mix of dried oregano and basil, onion and garlic powders, and crushed hot peppers. Then they got roasted over a pan of beef broth (in this case, commercial with a little of the oxtail broth added). They roasted to rare, and I shall slice them and reheat the meat in hot broth to put on sturdy rolls that can take an extra bath in the broth. The plan here is to run both roasts through my slicer, and package beef and broth for 2 sandwiches in a package to freeze.
Friday, April 24, 2009
It is a gloriously beautiful afternoon up here in the Great Northwest. A little bit cool but bright and sunny. My tulips are blooming up a storm – when you pack them close together in a pot they make a dense flash of color.
With mom in the hospital I haven’t been doing as much cooking as usual, at least until this afternoon. I was finally able to take my painkillers after spending time at the hospital and at physical therapy, so felt like I could tackle a couple of things. (I suppose I also felt more like cooking since mom is doing better.)
Last night I took my bread starter out of the fridge so it was ready to be used this afternoon. I mixed up the sponge for some multi-grain bread, and that is where I had my epiphany. I reasoned that since the sponge sits and rests and allows the white flour to absorb plenty of moisture, and I always hydrate my cut or rolled oats before adding them to the mix, that perhaps I would get an even better result if I put all the coarser grain ingredients into the sponge instead of later in the mixing stage and allow them to get a better chance at full hydration. So that is what I have done – added the whole wheat component (instead of the white flour component) as well as the flax and dark rye. And I put in some of the molasses so that the grain can absorb a little of that, too. The rolled oats I hydrated separately and then added them to the sponge. We shall see how that all turns out.
(And a side note: when I fed the starter and set it aside to grow a bit, I must have been too generous. It popped the top and overflowed onto the counter. The starter that ate Seattle!)
I’m definitely on a molasses kick right now. I had pulled down the bottle the other day to add some to my morning oatmeal and noticed a gingerbread cookie recipe on the back. I love soft and chewy molasses cookies and this looks like it might have that potential. I shall start with their recipe (done, and in the fridge to firm up before cutting) and see how I need to tweak it to get what I want. I plan to top the cookies with some coarse raw sugar. They will be a nice snack for watching baseball tonight.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
And I’ve got one more case of Masons
So I’m not gonna let that spoil, you know Not gonna let that spoil, the Midnight Canner
Okay, you either get that, or you don’t. You have to grok the Allman Brothers Band.
Yes, we were canning at midnight earlier this week. It started simply enough with a defrosted bag of homemade Italian sausage. I needed to do something with it, so I put it in a soup pot with a can of San Marzano tomatoes and some chicken broth, thinking that I’d add some peppers and onions from the freezer and cook it down for Dave’s lunches. But from there it became a “stone soup” project and took on the look and feel of minestrone. Some garbanzos, some green beans I’d blanched and frozen, assorted other vegetables, leftover onion soup. Then some farfalle. By this time I had over a gallon of something that tasted really good, no place in the fridge or freezer to keep it, and a ball game to go to. Dave and I agreed to keep it simmering on the stove and just pressure can it when we got home. And that is what we did.
That is how after midnight I was monitoring the pressure on a pot of five quarts of minestrone soup. And started channeling the Allman Brothers Band.
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Today I am pressure canning Chili Colorado. An outcome from buying two chuck roasts on sale. Well-cooked but still firm pinto beans, red chile puree from dried chiles that came from New Mexico, 1” chunks of very tender stewed beef chuck. And some “warm” spices like cumin, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, cayenne. The chili is very spicy but not spicy hot. We have hot sauces (a couple of dozen) to add that to the diner’s preference. The canning part is a little messy but when you’re only canning one batch (up to seven quarts, in my case) it’s not really an overwhelming project. I made the chili yesterday and let it cook slowly overnight so canning is the only task today. I’m learning to make those accommodations; some lessons are more painful than others.
I will be happy to have some “jars of red” on the closet shelf to go with the chili verde. Green chili, red chili, green salsa, red salsa. I guess if I ever get to New Mexico for an “eating” trip I will have to answer the “red or green” question with “Christmas”.
Monday, April 06, 2009
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Passa-what? As I have learned in the past two days, passata is tomato puree. At least that’s the basic idea. Two things got me to this point: first, my darling husband got us a long-term loan of a pressure canner. Second, yesterday he was standing staring longingly at cases of roma tomatoes at the local restaurant food-supply store asking, “Have you ever made tomato puree, or sauce or something?” Well, not really because I don’t count being labor at a tomato-canning session against my will. Hey, are there that many 15-year-olds who are happy about being drafted into a marathon of tomato juice and steam? But I was game and told him that since we have the pressure canner we can, indeed, make something from those tomatoes.
Yesterday he washed and halved 22 pounds of tomatoes while I did a literature search in my cookbook library. Ah, tomato passata. And in a recipe for pressure canning novices! Put all the tomatoes in my biggest Calphalon pot and cook overnight. Today after cooling I ran them through the food mill attachment on my KitchenAid mixer. Oh, I forgot to mention that, didn’t I? I never would have agreed to do this if I didn’t already know that I have a mechanized food mill – none of that turn, turn, turn business for me.
The milling exercise only tood about an hour, if you don’t count setup and cleanup. And cleanup was a doozy, because there was tomato everywhere. Sort of like that butter-making incident I had a while back.
Right now I am cooking the puree down some more, I’d like it a little thicker. It will simmer very slowly overnight, then tomorrow I shall make my first foray into pressure canning. It’s not a worrisome thing; I use a pressure cooker all of the time. But still when you’re preserving food, you do have to be cautious in order to produce a safe and quality product and so I shall follow instructions carefully.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Very often one or two great ingredients can drive my cooking for several days. This week, beautiful avocados and poblano chiles are taking that role. I’ve always loved Mexican border food, and when I discovered “Santa Fe” or New Mexico-style cooking I was over the moon. Mind you, I’ve never been to New Mexico to eat. But I will be, for sure. My discovery came back in about early 1986 when I forgot to return a book club shipment notification and received, unwanted, “The Taste of Santa Fe” by Buckley Dent. There were no photographs, but boy, could I see what he loved to eat. From that I taught myself how to make flour and corn tortillas, tamales, and carnitas. With great carnitas and the broth from cooking the pork it was a short step to a great bowl of posole. You can use canned products for nearly all of the making of posole, in fact many cooks do, but of course when you can use some key fresh ingredients the brothy stew of meat, hominy, and chiles in a cumin and garlic-scented bath goes over the top. And you can use chicken thighs instead of pork if the mood strikes you.
Yesterday I made chicken carnitas. Today we have posole. How did I get there? Yesterday I threw half a dozen frozen whole chicken thighs into water to cover, added about a tablespoon of whole cumin, a couple of dried red chiles, and a few whole garlic cloves. Then I pulled three cups of rich chicken stock from the freezer and added that. All that cooked for about three hours then I strained the stock and picked and shredded the chicken. Stock, about five cups, went to the fridge. The chicken went for a quick sauté to get crispy edges, then rolled up in flour tortillas that I had trimmed to 10x6 from giant locally-made tortillas. (I go for authentic but I am also pragmatic; these days I can’t stand in the kitchen all day without a lot of pain so I don’t always make my own tortillas these days.) I brushed the flautas with oil and convection roasted them for about 20 minutes until they were GDB. Served them with some guac (my nod to St. Patrick’s Day) and green salsa mixed with sour cream.
Today I am making a quick posole. Posole means the stew but also the hominy that goes into it. I am using canned today, a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Frankly, I forgot to put the dried hominy on to soak yesterday. Six more chicken thighs into water with garlic, red chile, cumin and a cup of yesterday’s broth. That cooks for an hour or two then the same routine as yesterday: strain and shred. While it cooks I roast and peel two big fresh poblanos and dice them. Then chicken, poblanos, hominy and onion go back into the pot with today’s broth and the rest of the stock from yesterday. If it doesn’t look like there is enough green chile in it, I add a can of chopped green chile as well. Simmer for an hour or so and serve with diced avocado, jack cheese, chopped onion and flour tortilla crackers. For the crackers, brush pieces of tortilla with oil, sprinkle with salt, and convection bake at 425 for couple of minutes until just golden at the edges and crisp.
Tomorrow? Leftovers. Oh, darn.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I really do. It’s the ultimate stone soup. Throw in a handful of split peas for just pennies, three times as much water (by volume), a little salt and you have a fine soup. Add some thyme, some pepper, maybe a little hot sauce. Or use chicken broth instead of water. Even better, use a rich homemade chicken stock. And we haven’t even started talking about adding pork, usually pork with plenty of fat. Fry up some bacon, crumble it, and set it aside. Sauté some chopped carrots, onions, and celery (mirepoix) in the bacon fat, then add your stock/water, the split peas, and your seasonings. Be a little more careful about the salt because the bacon fat will add some. Cook the soup for about an hour then sprinkle the bacon bits over the top when you serve it. Of course there is the traditional ham hock, in which case you should sauté the mirepoix and then add the ham hock and plenty of water to cover. Do this first thing in the morning, and when you get home from work throw in a couple of handfuls of split peas. By the time you’ve changed into something comfy and unwound with a glass of viognier (about an hour), your soup will be ready for you. I don’t even bother picking the meat off of the ham hock until after having the “first day” soup. When you put it away for leftovers, that’s when you pick off all of the meat so you have a very different soup the second time around.
Today I got a little fancy with the vegetables and cut carrots and celery into brunoise, a very fine dice that is pretty in the soup and gives some texture contrast. I used some rich chicken stock I made from roasted chicken bones. It’s filling up the house with a nice comforting aroma, and I know Dave will smile when he walks in the door. He says he doesn’t really like split pea soup, but I know he’ll like mine.
Your investment accounts might look a little poor these days, but you can still eat rich on a budget.
Monday, February 16, 2009
The grocery store had roasting chickens for 79 cents per pound this week. I can’t resist a sale like that, and neither can Dave. I sent him off to the store and he brought back three five-pound birds. We are planning to roast all of them in our rotisserie oven (yes, it is from Ron Popiel and we like it just fine). They are so big that I will have to roast them one at a time. But before roasting the chickens have to go swimming. In brine, of course. The usual base recipe is ¼ cup each salt and sugar to a quart of water. I wanted more flavor in the brine so I took about a gallon of water and simmered it for 30 minutes with 2T dried rosemary, 2T dried thyme, 1T coriander seed, 2T mixed peppercorns, and two bay leaves. I also added in the salt and sugar for that gallon of water.
Now all the chickens are about to complete their little bath; they get a full 24 hours. They have been in a 20-gal capacity plastic tub with a lid, the same one that I use for making corned beef and pastrami. The tub is out of the deck with a lot of ice in it to keep the temperature under 40 degrees. That isn’t hard with all the salt in the water, and the outside temp is only 45 (it was near freezing overnight). I take an hourly temperature with my laser gun – with that “toy” I can absolutely say that I have an “arsenal of cooking tools.”.
I’ll get a picture of one of our roasted chickens later – for now I just have to figure out where I am going to put all the cooked chicken!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
…when you are making butter in a high-speed mixer. The whipped cream changes to butter in just a couple of seconds, not enough time to sprint across the kitchen and get the mixer turned off before something like this happens. I, too, was covered in buttermilk and butter bits. You can bet that during the second batch I never moved away from the mixer!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
We were walking through Uwajimaya the other day and Dave noticed some packages of veal bones in the freezer case. At first I was not swayed. Then I turned around and, Dave swears with a twinkle in my eye, I loaded five pounds into the cart. Why not? It's not hard to make good stock, just time-consuming. And time, I got.I'm using Jacque Pepin's "Complete Techniques" as my guide. Might as well learn from the best, right? Actually, I don't consider this learning as much as experience. I've made a lot of stock, a lot of good stock. Chicken, duck, beef -- but never veal. Tonight is the prep, roasting and starting the boil. I'll get to the first major skimming tonight before bed, and let it percolate the rest of the night. My plan is to reduce it at least to a demi-glace. Funny interlude here, Dave comes home, smelling nice roasty meat smells and thinking there is something good for him to eat tonight. Ah, too bad, it's only bones...
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Injera is an Ethiopian flatbread that is used both as a plate and a spoon for their rich “wat” or stews. We are having a berbere-seasoned beef, butternut squash, and cashew stew tonight so I thought I would look into making a little injera. Normally I would not have bread, as it’s very high on the glycemic index, making it unsuitable for our diet. However, injera calls for two parts whole grain flour and one part white flour. So a little bit of it to soak up the juices from the stew will be okay. It is also somewhat acidic, which lowers the glycemic index even more as it changes the way that the body metabolizes the carbohydrates. In traditional Ethiopian cuisine, a layer of injera is laid down on a platter or right on the table, and the stew is spooned over it. More injera is served on the side, and each person uses the bread to pick up bites of the stew in a communal meal.
As I usually do when making something new, I did a literature search. To my dismay, none of my baking books mention injera and I don’t have any books on African cooking. I will have to rectify that; I checked on “The Good Cook” online (the Book of the Month Club for cooks) and they didn’t have any. I’ll work on that task later. An online search turned up a half-dozen recipes and so I got the concepts: a pretty sour batter, with a mixture of whole grain like wheat and buckwheat or teff with some white flour, that uses yeast and baking powder/baking soda. Some of the recipes call for letting the batter sit and ferment for up to three days. That signals to me that using my starter, which is nice and sour, would be an okay place to start. The batter is cooked like a crepe, and is supposed to be thicker than a crepe but thinner than a pancake, cooked only on one side and not browned. It is supposed to have lots of small bubbles that break on the surface, resulting in a sponge-like look and texture. Sort of like cooking a crumpet, if you know what crumpets look like.
The research leads me to the recipe I’ve come up with. A cup of starter, awakened with a cup of very warm water. A teaspoon of sugar, a half-teaspoon of yeast. One half cup each of rye, whole wheat, and AP flours. Whisk together. Add ¼ t of baking powder. Add enough more warm water to form a thick batter. Cover and let stand for an hour or so. Then when I am ready to cook, whisk in ½ t baking soda and ½ t salt. Cook in a 10” non-stick skillet (I am using my omelet pan). Heat over medium heat until a water droplet skitters across the surface. Pour in 1/3 cup of batter and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Look for bubbles to appear on the surface and then break. Remove when the bread is firm, before the bottom starts to brown. Of course you can use a different size pan, just modify the amount of batter you put in. Someday I may try to make a dinner-plate sized bread, like I got in a restaurant. As you can see from the photos it got the open bubbles just like it is supposed to.
One thing that fascinated me as I cooked the injera were the chemical reactions I knew were happening: I put the baking soda in right before cooking, so it was still reacting with the acidity of the batter and making bubbles, and more bubbles were created as the baking powder reacted to the heat of the pan. This was in addition to the bubbles from the yeast.
I am not claiming that this is authentic, as I am not Ethiopian nor did I learn it at my momma’s knee. But it does work, and it is like what I have been served in an Ethiopian restaurant. It made a great base for the stew.
A note on my recipe search: when I am looking for ethnic recipes, I start with www.recipesource.com. It used to be called S.O.A.R., the Searchable Online Archive of Recipes, and was hosted at Cal Berkeley. It started as an online database project. Anyone can submit recipes, and I have found that a lot of college students from outside the US who are hungry for “home cooking” post the recipes their mom gives them. It is one of many resources I use for recipe development.
This was dinner last night. We were near Uwajimaya, an Asian store that has great seafood. So of course I had to have some. W picked up a pound of rockfish (snapper) filets, half a pound of medium shrimp, and half a pound of beautiful bay scallops. I made the base by frying a tablespoon each of red and yellow Thai curry paste in the cream off a can of coconut milk, mashing the paste until it was smooth. Then added about 1.5 cups of chicken stock and 1.5 cups of coconut milk, one onion julienned, four pieces of dried galangal root, a couple of tablespoons of minced cilantro stems, one green onion sliced thin, a can of straw mushrooms and a large can of sliced bamboo shoots (both drained). I seasoned it with a packet of splenda, about 2 T of fish sauce, and about 2 T of lemon juice. I also steeped some dried lemongrass in boiling water and added that water, about a half cup, to the pot. That simmered for about 45 minutes while we cut the fish into 3” pieces and shelled the shrimp. (Then I took out half of the contents of the pot, about three cups, and set it aside to use in another meal, probably with chicken and zucchini.) The fish and shrimp went in for about six minutes, then I added the scallops and simmered another two minutes. When I tasted it I added a little salt and a T of lime juice. Then garnished with some chopped cilantro and green onion.
Unfortunately our diet doesn’t allow us to have the jasmine rice that would be perfect with this, but oh well. It was really good, the seafood was perfectly done, and the scallops were very tender and sweet.