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Good Things from the Earth: Roasted Root Vegetables

30 Oct IMG_9954

Short and simple:

1 huge parsnip
4 carrots
3 beets
1 shallot, minced
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Peel and cut the vegetables. Toss with shallot, olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes, depending on size. Beets will be slowest to cook, so manage the cut size accordingly. Eat the whole plate, ignoring everything else that was served for dinner that night. Talk about how good it was.

Servings: 2 (because Mr. U. insisted that I share, otherwise 1).

Clockwork Orange Pekoe

26 Oct IMG_9938

One of my husband’s original cocktail creations and a personal favorite of mine.

  • 2 oz. (Glenlivet 12 year) Whiskey, Scotch
  • 1 oz. Triple Sec (Cointreau)
  • 1 oz. Vermouth, red
  • 1/2 oz. Bitters, blood orange
  • 2 dashes Bitters, Angostura

Combine ingredients in glass.  Stir and add copious quantities of ice.

For the love of pears

23 Oct Pear Tart

We love pears.  I was looking for an easy pear tart recipe and came across this one on epicurious.  Few ingredients, tout simple, and it cooks while you are eating dinner, so it’s perfect for guests.

For dinner timing – make the dough during a lull period, even the day before and leave it to rest in the refrigerator.  You can roll the dough out to the right size AHEAD of time if you like, dust it with flour, put it between two sheet of parchment paper and stick the whole thing in the fridge.  Much easier to deal with at the final moment.  You’ll want to start the pears 20-25 minutes before dinner service and then you can just pop the whole thing in the oven just before you sit down.

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:  Cast iron skillet or other all-metal skillet that can go into the oven.

Here is the link for the original recipe for Carmelized Upside Down Pear Tart.

The pastry recipe is listed separately on epicurious as “Pastry Dough“.  Very elegant, I think.

Pastry Dough:

  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 3/4 stick (6 T. or 3/8 cup) cold unsalted butter
  • 2 T (1/8 cup) vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 to 4 T ice water

Blend the flour, butter, shortening and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender until most of the mixture resembles coarse meal with some small butter lumps.  If you have naturally warm hands, you should use a food processor or pastry blender.

Drizzle 2 T ice water over and gently stir until incorporated.  Squeeze a small handful to see if it holds together, if not add more ice water, just a bit at a time until it does hold.  Do not overwork.

The recipe calls for working the fat into the dough by smearing on the counter.  I didn’t bother doing that.  I’ve been working with pastry dough long enough to know when it’s just right.

Flatten to 5″ disk and refrigerate at least 1 hour OR just go ahead and quickly work it into a circle big enough for your skillet and refrigerate between two layers of parchment.

Pears:

  • 4 firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425F.

Heat butter in a 9-10 inch oven-safe skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides.  Stir in sugar (it will not dissolve and it will be lumpy and look like the proportions are wrong).  Add pears, cut sides up, in a circle with wide ends toward the edge of the skillet.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and cook, undisturbed, until the sugar begins to caramelize.  Note the recipe says ‘deep golden caramel’, but reading the reviews some people said it got very burned in the oven, so I tested the caramel with a spoon – when just barely starting to turn, but clearly in a caramel form (smell and taste), I moved on to the next step.  Be careful tasting caramel – it’s smoking hot and will burn you!

I did not cool the pears in the skillet as the recipe said.  I just draped the pastry over the hot pairs and popped it straight into a preheated oven.  Baked 30 minutes and it was perfect.

Cool 5 minutes on a trivet, then, using two pot holders, put a plate over the skillet and invert it QUICKLY so the caramel doesn’t ooze out everywhere – including on you, because you can easily get burned.  Let it cool just a minute before serving.  Yummy!

Chicken in a Pot! (Poule au Pot Henri IV)

21 Oct IMG_9915

This recipe is from my favorite restaurant in Paris, which is “très sympa et on y mange bien” (very pleasant/nice and one eats well there).  This was the recommendation of the owners of an apartment I rented in the 1er, between the Louvre and Les Halles.  I will be in Paris in about 2 weeks, but I don’t think I’ll get to go there for a meal, unfortunately.  I don’t write French well at all, so if I made any mistakes, I apologize in advance.  I wanted to include the metric measurements since I had them and I’m sort of paraphrasing the original recipe at the same time because the ingredients were in a bizarre order.

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT NEEDED:  Covered dutch oven, cheesecloth, kitchen twine

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 pound chicken (1 belle poule de 2 kg environ), cleaned and rinsed
  • 1 pork belly (1 demi poitrine du porc, demi-sel) – see my note below.
  • 1/2 pound ground veal (250 g de veau haché)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork (250 g de porc haché)
  • 1 egg yolk (1 jaune d’oeuf)
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley, washed and minced (1 bouquet de persil, préalablement lavé et haché) – but the parsley bunches are bigger in the US, so I think 1/2 is fine
  • 2 large onions, 1 of which will be minced, the other peeled with 2 whole cloves stuck in it (2 gros oignons, dont 1 ciselé et l’autre piqué avec 2 clous de girofle)
  • 2# carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces (1 kg de carrottes)
  • 2# turnips, peeled and cut into large pieces (1 kg de navets)
  • 2 large leeks, cleaned and chopped into large pieces (2 gros poireaux)
  • 1 stalk of celery, rough chopped (1 branche de céleris) – I am confused as to whether this indicated a single stalk or an entire bunch.  I went with stalk.
  • 2# potatoes (1 kg pommes de terre)
  • 1 branch each of rosemary and fresh thyme (romarin et thym, laurier)
  • salt and pepper
  • mustard and cornichons, for serving (and please don’t skip these, as they really add to the flavor of the meal!)

Note:  It may be difficult for the American cook to find pork belly, especially the lightly-salted version that the French like to cook with.  Basically, it’s bacon – but I would not use American-style bacon as a substitute here.  If you can find fresh, unsalted pork belly at a butcher, you can soak it in brine for about 1 hour to make it ‘demi-sel’ (lightly salted).  If you cannot find it, I recommend using a small portion of pancetta (1/4 pound or so) and soak it in water while the chicken is cooking to remove much of the salt.  Chop it and add it.  It’s the closest thing you are likely to find to poitrine or lardons and don’t skip this as it adds a lot of flavor to the finished product!

Put the chicken in a large, covered pot, and fill about 3/4 with cold water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and let cook about 2 hours, skimming fat frequently.

Soak the pancetta if you are not using pork belly.

Meanwhile, combine pork, veal, minced onion, chopped parsley, egg yolk, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Mix well.  Note you should mince the onion very finely to make it easier to cut later – these onion pieces are too big!

Place on pieces of cheesecloth, roll up and secure with twine at ends and one or two place in the middle to secure the cheesecloth (making fresh pork/veal sausages).  Set aside.

After the chicken has cooked, add the vegetables EXCEPT the potatoes, the cheesecloth-cased sausages, the pork belly/pancetta, the rosemary and thyme.  Cook another 1 hour. Remove the meats and allow them to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, add the potatoes and let them cook another 20-30 minutes.

Remove the meat from the chicken and add back to the pot.  Slice the sausages and add back to the pot.  Slice the pork belly and add it back in as well.

Serve it steaming hot with a little pot of Dijon mustard and some cornichons.  Really.  Don’t skip the mustard, please!

This recipe makes enough for pretty much everyone you’ve ever met to have some.  Eat some now and freeze some for later – it’s such a yummy, flavorful chicken soup for a cold, rainy evening!

Blood Orange Bash

19 Oct IMG_9899

One of my husband’s original cocktail mixes.  This is right tasty.

I buy Italian Volcano blood orange juice in the produce section (not the juice section!) at Fresh Market.

We use Stirrings blood orange bitters, which are fairly sweet.

Pour Blood Orange juice into glass, then add remaining ingredients. Stir and top off with ice. Add a sprig of mint if desired.

Frozen Overs – Curry

16 Oct IMG_9527

This started out as a strange Southern-style curry dish that involved ketchup.  I learned it while working at Susannah’s Gourmet Pantry in Jacksonville, Florida.  This recipe is my own take on that one that I made more times than I can count.  It’s definitely nothing like authentic curry, but it’s good comfort food and it’s something my husband often reaches for in the freezer when sent down to ‘pull something out’.  He loves it especially with roasted cauliflower, chick peas and green peas, which is how I have been making it lately.

Ingredients (makes enough for 5 square GladWare trays 8″ x 8″ plus fillings:

  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 stick butter (I said this was a Southern thing, didn’t I?)
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 5 T. curry powder (I used Penzey’s Maharajah)
  • 2 T. cumin
  • 1 T. crushed ginger
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 quart (4 c.) vegetable stock
  • 1/2 gallon of milk
  • salt to taste

If using chicken, you will use 8-10 breasts for this much sauce.  For cauliflower and chickpeas, use 1 head cauliflower, roasted and 1 can of chickpeas, drained.

Saute onion in butter.  Add dry ingredients and cook for several minutes, stirring constantly.  Add tomato paste and then slowly add vegetable broth and milk to make a smooth but thin sauce.  Cook until thickened, at least 15 minutes at simmering temperature, stirring frequently.

(The red bits in the sauce are saffron.)

While it is cooking, roast the cauliflower at 400F in the oven.  I toss it in some olive oil and Creole seasoning first.  DO NOT roast cauliflower in GladWare.  Use a sheet pan.  This is what it looks like after it has been cooked and portioned into the GladWare.

Portion the cauliflower and chick peas into freezer pans.  You can also freeze this sauce by itself or add some chopped cooked chicken.  It’s nice to freeze it by itself so you can add leftover bits and bobs to it on a busy night.  I use zip lock bags, stack them in a pan until they are frozen and then move the frozen flat bags to a freezer shelf.

Portion the sauce over each pan.

Or just toss it together if you are going to serve it right away.  Mr. U. really likes green peas in this.  I don’t freeze them in the sauce because then they’ll get lost and possibly lose color.  I add them, frozen, when I reheat the sauce and it makes for a very pretty dish.

My cousin’s husband said this sounded good but wondered if you could add different things to it instead, like instead of the cauliflower and chick peas!

Serve with a fun group of condiments if you like.  This is how we served it at Susannah’s, but with a good curry powder and the right add-ins, I don’t find I need the condiments any more.  It is fun to serve it with the condiments, though, and I even got my picky brother-in-law to eat it that way.  Pictured are:  cilantro, scallion, peanuts, dates, raisins, chutney and toasted coconut.

Beef Short Ribs OR Why Don’t I Have a Proper Dutch Oven?

14 Oct Beef Short Ribs

Yesterday I decided I needed to make short ribs.  This may have something to do with the fact that I had boneless beef short ribs at a work function on Thursday night and I just needed to get a better fix.

Off we went to the grocery and also to Home Goods, where I picked out an amazing cast iron Dutch oven by Staub and immediately put it back because a) I can’t lift it with my bum shoulder and b) my pocketbook couldn’t lift the $180 (discounted!) price tag.  But it was beautiful.  I’m still coveting it.

Back to the recipe, which I made in my completely crappy, far-too-thin aluminum Dutch oven.  Did I mention that I need a proper Dutch oven?  I suppose you could do this in a slow cooker, but I have to say that I think the oven is more effective for this sort of thing.

Ingredients:

  • 12 beef short ribs
  • 1/4 cup flour, mixed with 1 T brown sugar, salt and pepper
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, core removed to be eaten while you cook, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 1# package of baby-cut carrots
  • 6 stems of celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs and 2 fresh thyme sprigs, tied with kitchen twine
  • 1 quart beef stock

Preheat oven to 300F.

Coat the short ribs with the flour and brown sugar mixture and brown in olive oil in the Dutch oven.  Reserve any remaining flour for later.  Remove from pan.

Add the vegetables and saute until softened.

Deglaze with entire bottle of red wine.

Add beef stock, tomato paste and herbs.

Cover and bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Place Dutch oven on stove top on medium heat.  Skim off fat.  Beat some of liquid into remaining flour and add slurry back to the pot.  Cook until slightly thickened.  Serve with some crusty bread, mashed potatoes or noodles of some sort and another bottle of wine.

Sigh deeply.

Mango and Tomato Salad

7 Oct Mango and Tomato Salad

We’re in the last gasp of the good tomatoes, and the weather is getting colder, so this is a bit out of season, but worth a post anyway. Of course I got my wonderful produce from Daisy Mae’s Market in Cincinnati’s historic Findlay Market

Ingredients
2 tomatoes
1 mango
fresh basil, cut in very thin strips (chiffonade)
balsamic vinegar – quality counts!
cracked black pepper

Slice the tomatoes and the mango. Arrange in alternating pattern, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, top with basil and pepper.

NOTE: To slice the mango easily, remember that the pit is shaped similarly to the fruit. That is, a mango is a sort of egg-shape that is flattened on two sides, and the pit is also flat on two sides, following the contour of the fruit. Here’s a link to a good video on www.mango.org.

Planned Overs – Italian Roast Pork

3 Oct 20121003-062600

Minimal Active Cooking / Long Waiting Period (2-4 hours)

Cooking Sequence:
15 min active
2-4 hours waiting
15 min active

Equipment Needed:
· Metal Dutch Oven with tight lid (preferably) OR: Metal pot to sauté, then transfer to a covered dish to complete cooking

Ingredients:
4 to 5 lb boneless pork loin
Rosemary
Garlic, fresh
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil
1 bottle inexpensive, strong red wine
1 small can tomato paste
1 package sliced baby Portobello mushrooms (or buy them and slice them)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees if you have the luxury of cooking 3-4 hours. You can also choose to cook 2 hours at 350, but the result will be less tender.

20121003-062525.jpg

Heat 1-2 T. olive oil in bottom of metal Dutch oven over medium heat.
Chop the rosemary and garlic together. Mix in salt and pepper. Rub all over the pork loin.
Brown the pork loin in the olive oil, on all sides, about 5-8 minutes per side. Transfer to Dutch oven if not using one for browning step.
Pour the wine over the top.
Cover and put in the preheated oven.

Before serving, remove from the oven, put the Dutch oven on the burner (or transfer meat and juice back to your stove-top pot).
Add tomato paste and mushrooms.
Simmer until thickened, stirring to dissolve tomato paste.

20121003-062538.jpg

SERVE WITH:
Polenta (grits) – c’mon, don’t be shy!
1 c. grits or polenta
2 T. butter
2 c. milk
1 c. low salt chicken broth

Heat liquids until simmering, turn to stove to low. Add grits. Cook until tender and juices absorbed, stirring occasionally.

AND:
20121003-062546.jpg

Sautéed bitter greens (rapini, broccoli rabe…?)
1 bunch bitter greens
2 cloves garlic
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes

20121003-062553.jpg

PLANNED OVERS (Options)
Okay, it’s good, just eat the leftovers
Make Frozen Overs by slicing pork, covering with sauce, then freezing
Sandwiches

Salade Niçoise

16 Jun Salade 2

This is Day 2 of Planned Overs for Grilled Tuna.  We took this delightful dish to a picnic concert at Cincinnati’s Riverbend featuring Natalie Merchant.  While everyone around us ate sad-looking sandwiches, we had this bountiful feast that spilled off our paper plates.

Start with:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Hard-boiled egg (and if you’re going to make hardboiled eggs anyway, make some extras and we’ll make a beautiful egg salad tomorrow)

From Day 1, we had:

  • Grilled tuna
  • Grill fries
  • Green beans, steamed and shocked

I like to top this with Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette, or of course, homemade vinaigrette would be wonderful.

Natalie Merchant was funny and delightful, even singing a cover version of “Hey Jude”.

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