Archive | October, 2012

Good Things from the Earth: Roasted Root Vegetables

30 Oct

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

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

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

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

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.

Aside

Introducing: Mr. U.

18 Oct

My husband gets big billing on Planned Overs.  He is always referred to as “Mr. U.” or “my husband”.  I do this because it’s not his blog, this is the internet, and I don’t want his identity made easily searchable on my blog, although it isn’t a big secret who we are.  We’ve been married over 20 years.

Some notes on Mr. U.:

  • He cooks.  Really well.  When I started dating him, I opened the door to his fridge expecting some sort of bachelor desertland of ketchup and beer.  Not so.  There was every bizarre condiment and ingredient known to man jammed in there, including Chinese bean paste.  I knew this could be the start of something beautiful.  His words on this are that if you like to eat, you need to learn to cook.  Amen.  Don’t let this fool you into thinking there wasn’t also beer in there, because there definitely was.
  • He eats.  Like me, he will eat just about anything.  He isn’t concerned with “What kind of meat’s in that?”  He’s not a meat and potatoes guy at all and in particular, he likes nothing better than a big bowl full of noodles from a Japanese, Vietnamese or Chinese restaurant.  In short, he isn’t picky.  He will eat whatever is planned for dinner without complaint, even on one famous occasion when we had literally no food and no money and I made lasagna out of canned pumpkin and some lasagna noodles.  When reminded of this event, he still claims that he liked that meal.
  • He appreciates the artistry of food.  I love that my husband understands that a great restaurant is theatre.  Sometimes you just have to splurge on some really great theatre tickets and enjoy the show.
  • He doesn’t like me to watch him cook.  He always thinks I think he’s doing it wrong.  It’s very hard for me not to offer advice when I see him doing something that could be done more efficiently.  Now I just say, “you want me to leave now, don’t you?”  He’s never turned that offer down that I can remember.
  • He mixes a great cocktail.  I’ll post a few of these as asides for your pleasure.
  • He works from home.  This means that we can have a roasted chicken on a weeknight if I truss it in the morning and leave it for him to put in the oven at 4 p.m.  It also means I can send him an email saying, “I forgot to defrost the ___!” and he will pull it out for me and save the day.
  • We share cooking and cleaning responsibilities.  I’m not saying this just for him to get some good press.  I write about planning meals and grocery shopping and so on because I’m better organized than he is.  More often than not, he is the one who actually does the shopping, or who finishes cooking the Frozen Overs.  In this case, I say, “Thank you for cooking dinner” and he says, “Thank you for cooking dinner.”

He’s also a talented artist and an avid reader of everything, including cereal boxes.  You can check out his literature and reading blog, Dispatches from Outer Libraria, on WordPress.

Frozen Overs – Curry

16 Oct

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

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.

Natural Colors for Fun Foods!

14 Oct

I have an allergy to Red Dye #40, known as Allura Red AC in Europe.  As time goes by, I meet more and more people with the same allergy plus additional food dye allergies.  It’s in more things than you would think. (Seeing Red!)

One of the big culprits for food dyes is ‘fun foods’, by which I mean candies and baked goods.  I have found a good source for natural-based colors at India Tree.  I don’t have children, so can’t say if it’s a good idea to offer kids ‘fun colors’ at home that they cannot enjoy outside of the home.  I would be a little bit cautious with this approach as I think it could be difficult to explain to a young child why colored sprinkles are ok at home but not anywhere else.  I was recently able to connect two parents I know whose children have food coloring allergies so that they can compare notes more effectively.  As an adult, it’s a pretty easy thing for me to manage.

Of course, I use my red dye allergy to my advantage and typically just refuse any baked goods that are offered to me, including a pink (inside and out!) wedding cake I made for my nephew’s wedding last year.  I imagine my allergy excuse has saved me a number of calories over the years!

Mango and Tomato Salad

7 Oct

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.

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