Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall arrives, so do comfort foods

This evening I’ve been making two comfort foods for future meals. We’ve gotten a couple of bunches of mustard greens in our CSA basket and also got some bunches of tatsoi, an Asian cabbage that looks quite a bit like a bald African violet. I pulled out a couple of the last chunks of my home-cured pork belly and made a stock with it, just a quick 30 minute visit with some water. Half of the pork belly I sliced down and put aside to brown on Saturday, it is beautiful and will make a great entrĂ©e. The rest I cut into lardons (1/4x1/4x1”) and put back in the pot with onion, garlic, a couple of dried red chiles, and all of the greens. Cooked it the old-fashioned way, for a couple of hours. Have adjusted the seasoning and that “pot likker” is really good. I’m thinking to have that with some cornbread later this week.

The other item is a Mediterranean roasted veg soup. This is part of all the eggplant, squash, onions, and tomatoes I diced and roasted a while back. Six cups of that were in the freezer so I put it in a pan with a quart of concentrated chicken broth, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, and salt. It has simmered for a couple of hours also, letting the vegetables add flavor to the broth and vice-versa. That will get put into freezer containers for Dave’s lunches. Sometimes I don’t even label those; we use a specific 2-cup container for those so sometimes he just gets to grab a container and be surprised, always pleasantly.

It continues to feel like fall here. It came so suddenly three days ago - 78 degrees one day, 60 the next. I have a lot of friends on Facebook who are complaining about it, but I don’t really mind. You see, it really doesn’t rain all that much in Seattle (more in Boston and Chicago, in fact) but we have many more cloudy days.

I have included a photo of our dinner from Monday. Those potatoes were twice-fried so they puffed up quite nicely, I guess they are pommes souffle, kind of neat. The Spanish “tortilla” of course is known as a frittata in Italy. Filled with homemade sausage, onions, and jack cheese. Those orange heirloom tomatoes are just so full of flavor and were a perfect accompaniment, just enough acid to balance out the fat of the sausage.

Back to package up my kitchen results.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another year, another birthday dinner

Tomorrow is Dave’s birthday. He’s not much on presents, but we do try to eat well on his birthday. This year he has opted for eating in instead of out. So I worked with him to develop a menu that includes many, not nearly all, of his favorite things. You know, some years it is duck, others lamb. This year it turns out is a pretty traditional steakhouse dinner, and I am pretty much making everything from scratch that can be, including the bread, the salad dressing, and the ice cream:

Mussels and clams steamed in white wine with baguette for dipping

Iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing and tomato concasse

Chateaubriand for two with green peppercorn-cognac sauce

Steamed haricot verte (skinny green beans)

Individual purple potato casseroles

Rich chocolate cakes with chocolate velvet ice cream

I have been doing shopping for the past two days and lots of the prep work today:

- Tomato concasse are little tiny cubes of tomato flesh, no skin, no pulp, no seeds. You fillet the tomato much as you skin a fish fillet, taking pieces of the tomato and running a knife between the skin and the flesh with your knife parallel to the board.

- The blue cheese dressing is a recreation of one Dave loves at one of our local restaurants, mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, grated garlic, minced parsley, minced chives, and lots of chunky blue cheese.

- Tonight I will “butcher” the meat. I bought a whole tenderloin as the price has dropped to $8/lb, and there is so little waste. For $50 I will get at least ten portions of meat for us, including trimming I can grind up for luxe hamburgers. We were watching an old rerun of “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home” and they were doing beef dishes. Jacques took the “head” of the tenderloin, wrapped a towel around it, and beat it with a pan to make the thickness even. Dave wants us to do that.

- I also still need to make the cooked part of the ice cream base tonight that blends semi-sweet chocolate, cocoa, and milk; tomorrow I will beat eggs and sugar with cream and blend both parts together. Have to do that in the morning. The ice cream will take about an hour in the machine then it needs six hours in the freezer to firm up.

- The cake is one that I’ve been making for years, it uses a dark chocolate mix but you don’t fix it according to the package. You add sour cream, oil, chocolate chips, and walnuts to it. It is usually baked in a Bundt pan but I am going to cook it in 8–oz Pyrex dishes. Only after making it for a dozen years or so did I see the recipe printed somewhere else, it was called (no kidding) Chocolate “Better than Sex” cake.

- I’ve picked out a Champagne to go with the first course and a Chateneauf-du-Pape we brought back from France for the main course.