Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fowl Play

I'm very new to the sous vide process and had originally looked at it with some skepticism. Then Nexx made a few things with it and won me over. My first experiment with it was chicken breasts (and chicken tastes more like chicken when you cook it in the immersion circulator), but the flavorings I added didn't take as well as I wanted so it didn't get blogged. This time, I attacked the ingredients with more gusto. 

This was a labor-intensive day, but it was worth it overall. We cooked a pair of duck breasts. In the bag with each one went:


  • 2 teaspoons of chopped ginger
  • 3 green onions, split lengthwise
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • the peel of half an orange (I use a vegetable peeler for this)
  • 5 cloves pan-roasted garlic (like I said, labor-intensive. This took a while, but the kitchen smelled fabulous. When I made the chicken, I used raw garlic and it didn't cook enough to release its aromatic flavors)
Note to Kate: make sure you have the garlic salt instead of the garlic powder. Yes this can be (and was) added afterwards, but it should have been in there in the first place.

Duck takes 2 hours for medium rare. I don't recall what site Nexx gets his temperature settings from (look for an entry from him about his adventures with the sous vide method soon). A quick search found me this page, which I like because it also has the thickness of your meat to take into consideration.

While the duck cooked, I sautéed 8 ounces of mushrooms (this was a mix, I recommend shitake if they are affordable in your area) in the oil that I cooked the garlic in, added a about a teaspoon each of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.

The duck came out two hours later and went into a hot pan for a good sear. Crispy duck fat is like elevated bacon (and no nitrates!). While it was resting (do this for at least five minutes, more is not bad), I put 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, filled the pan with bok choi, and stirred it until it wilted and started turning a lovely bright green.

About bok choi: Wash it thoroughly. Then do it again. Grit is not fun and hurts your teeth.

Once wilted, I added rice vinegar and red pepper flakes. Taste as you go to get it just as  you like it.

Slice duck into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Plate your meat and vegetables. Add salt and additional red pepper.

For next time (and there will definitely be a next time), we'll take the juices and make a pan sauce, plus top everything with green onions.





Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Light Summer Pasta--Linguine With White Clam Sauce

I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. I've made linguine with clams before, but I've never actually researched a recipe. I may very well be missing a basic ingredient (if you know, it, please comment here). Regardless, this came out delicious and I hope you enjoy it as much as Nexx and I did. This serves 4.


  • 12 ounces of clams. I used canned because I am too lazy to shuck clams. The brand I bought had them chopped roughly instead of minced and I liked the variety in size and texture a lot. Reserve 2 teaspoons of juice from the cans.
  • 3/4 cup of dry white wine
  • 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice--this worked out to be 1.5 lemons
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 5 cloves of garlic (or more. Next time there will be more)
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
First, draft a sous chef to chop the parsley. This gives you time to put everything else together. Thank you sweetie!

Pour the wine and lemon juice into a small saucepan. Add your garlic, your clams and (something I will do next time) 2 teaspoons of clam juice. Make sure your liquid covers your clams. Add the salt and pepper and stir well. Set heat to simmer and stir every couple of minutes.

Start your pasta water boiling. If you feel like it, make a salad. I cut some small cucumbers into spears and we nibbled on those while we waited for everything to be assembled.

Cook the linguine according to your package directions. Reserve a cup of the pasta water to improve stickiness. Drain the pasta, put back in the pot. Add your clam mixture, and gently toss to incorporate. I have a set of tongs that is silicone-coated and they worked great for this. Add your parsley, some pasta water if you need to. Serve with lemon wedges on the side. 

Nexx thought some cheese could be a good garnish, and I will definitely have that prepared for next time.

The leftovers were a little sticky, and there was more garlic flavor, so maybe less pasta water and more lemon/wine mixture.

Questions? Comments? Love to hear from you!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Make-Ahead Breakfast Muffin

I'd heard of egg muffins before and I've had baked eggs. These seemed a good idea because I tend to be in a rush in the morning before work, and these reheat in 30 seconds, are satisfying to chew and are filling too.

I came across this recipe (hat tip to the author!), and immediately thought of ways to improve it to my tastes. I also made half a recipe because I wanted to make sure I would like them before I committed to using a dozen eggs.

So the base recipe is


  • 6 eggs
  • 6 ounces of your favorite breakfast meat
  • 2 ounces cheese 
  • 1/2 Cup of chopped onion
  • 3 teaspoons of water
I used 2 bun-sized sausages that had habaneros in them, and a sharp cheddar cheese. Instead of shredding the cheese as the original recipe said, I cut it into small chunks. This way we got a bigger taste of gooey cheese in some bites. To go with the habaneros, I put in a teaspoon of dried cilantro and 1/4 teaspoon of oregano. The herbs got lost, I'm afraid. I blame the habaneros.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. If you don't have an oven thermometer, get one. Apologies for repeating myself, but I can tell you from experience it makes a huge difference. My oven is 50 degrees F cooler than what it says on the readout.

Lightly scramble your ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Using a 1/3 Cup measuring cup, spoon your egg mixture into your muffin tin (grease it lightly unless you're using non-stick or silicone). Do what you can to make sure your mix-ins are evenly distributed without making too much of a mess.

You might be wondering why I added water to the recipe. The idea was to keep the eggs moist while baking and to make the texture lighter by also having steam help cook them. I think it worked pretty well.

Bake the muffins in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes. You'll also be able to see the muffins start pulling away from the edges of the tin, and if you insert a knife it will come out clean or with only a little moisture on it..

Put the muffin tin on a cooling rack for about ten minutes. Remove your muffins and serve. We had them with yogurt as a dessert , but the damn raspberries I bought on Friday went a bit off, so the yogurt was plain. You could also serve these with a side of fruit, or if you're not in a rush, a potato of some kind.

I got some good feedback from Nexx, which is always nice, and I have some for quick breakfast this week before I get on a crosstown bus. I live in the Theatre District, sometimes referred to as Midtown West, and the ride to where I work, which is near the United Nations, is a tad annoying. A full stomach will definitely have me in a better mood.

I plan on trying some variations. Manchego, onions, bacon, and rosemary. Possibly bacon, potato, onions, and cheddar. Right now, I'm staying out of the kitchen because Nexx is threatening to make flan.

Cheers!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer Pot Luck Dish: Quinoa Salad With No Kale Whatsoever

Apologies if I repeat myself, but I'm pretty fond of quinoa. When I first tried it, it was at a Trader Joe's and they were giving samples of it mixed with sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and basil and I loved the nutty tasty and pasta-like texture.

Today's recipe came out of my brain almost fully-formed. I've had characters come to me like then in writing the Bloody Murder Mysteries. Usually recipes take some more concentration to create.

You can make quinoa in a rice cooker, the ratio is the same. One part quinoa to two parts water. I don't have room in my kitchen for a rice cooker, so I make it on the stovetop.

  • 1 Cup quinoa. Measure it over the sink because the stuff can get everywhere if you're not careful.
  • 2 Cups water
  • 2 avocados, chopped. 
  • 1 cup red onion, chopped and rinsed (this keeps it from dominating the salad)
  • 4 green onions, green parts chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed. I recommend low-sodium.
  • 1 11-ounce can of corn, drained and rinsed if it's in liquid. I recommend something vacuum-packed
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 Cup of Olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried cilantro 
  • 6-8 limes
The quinoa I buy usually cooks for 25 minutes, but follow your package directions. You should see a white outline around the edge to indicate it is done.. Make the quinoa first so it can cool while you finish the chopping.

To mix the dressing:

Thoroughly juice 5 of your limes into the olive oil Add the salt, pepper, and cilantro. Put in a sealed container. I used old glass iced tea bottles. Shake the living hell out of it. Set aside.

When the quinoa is cooled stir in your vegetables. I use a rubber scraper for this. Add your dressing and stir well. Squeeze more limes to taste, and serve with more lime wedges.

This went to a pot luck alongside some tacos and I got some compliments, which I was happy to hear. Even someone who normally doesn't eat quinoa tried some. I was nice and left some at home for Nexx who wasn't feeling well that day.

If you try this, please let me know if you make any variations. I'd love to here them. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

So There Was Cheese Left Over From the Polenta

The challenge: Use up the tomatoes and the Grana Padano from the polenta before they go bad. The dish must be significantly different, because I avoid being boring at all costs. Sometimes I manage to succeed, so people tell me.

So, I considered and came up with this:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil (divided)
  • 1 13-oz can of artichoke hearts in water
  • 6 oz mushrooms (I get whatever it is on sale)
  • 1.5 tomatoes. These fit in my hand, and were slightly smaller than a baseball. If you don't play baseball, figure your average orange. If you don't eat oranges, I'll get back to you.
  • Cheese--Parm will work here. A mix of Parm and Romano would probably be delicious too. I had the leftover Grana Padano (this worked out to about 3/4 of a cup, and could easily be adjusted to more next time I make this)
  • 4 shallots
  • 1 pound of linguine
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Add 1 T of the olive oil in a sauté pan. Mince the shallots into very tiny pieces and add them to the oil. Bring the oil to medium heat and stir frequently until the shallots are brown. I went all the way to crispy, but this isn't necessary if you're short on time.

In between the stirring, drain the artichokes, roughly chop them (I put them in about four pieces each), rinse them and drain. Also pat dry with paper towels.

Don't forget about the shallots, give them a stir. Rinse and chop your mushrooms. Do the same for your tomatoes. Zest the lemon.

When the shallots are done, take them out of the pan and drain on a paper towel. Add the other Tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and then add your chicken breasts. Turn the breasts over every 5 minutes or so, and take the temperature of each breast in its fattest part. Take them out of the pan when the temperature reaches between 160 and 165. The chicken will be starting to get brown at this point. 

Put the chicken on a plate, cover it with foil and start the pasta water. Have a glass of wine. Go wake up your significant other. Kill about five minutes so when you cut the chicken its juice doesn't go all over the place. Trust me. It's a bitch to clean up. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Before you drain, set aside about 1/2 a cup of the pasta water. This will help saucify the dish. Is saucify a word? It is now. I'm suddenly reminded of a very young Laurence Fishburne in Apocalypse Now.

Lemon and Parmesan (and its relatives) sounds counter-intuitive, but it's a really neat combination.

Once the pasta is drained, put it back in the pot and put the heat to low. Add your vegetables, stir well, start gradually adding the cheese. Incorporate pasta water a little at a time (you may not use it all), until the sauce coats your pasta and vegetables. Finally add the chicken, lemon, and pepper. Serve immediately, with more red pepper to taste.

I was really pleased with how this came out, but it definitely needed more shallots. Nexx wanted a lower pasta-to-additions ratio, and I can see his point. I like pasta with additions. He prefers meat and vegetables with pasta.

I'm considering a few variations of this. I'd like to try adding basil. Another thought is bacon or pancetta. I can definitely do more vegetables.

If you try this, let me know!




Sunday, May 7, 2017

One of My Favorite Side Dishes--Cheesy Polenta

This might have been posted a little sooner, but Blogspot has removed the ability to schedule posts, which was one of my favorite features. This recipe already went out to two very special people already, and I hope all my readers enjoy it.

An easy meal I put together sometimes is sausage and peppers. If you're cutting back on fat, there are chicken varieties out there that are loads better than they were ten or even five years ago.

Pasta is a common side dish, but we ended up having pasta the previous evening and I always have quick-cooking polenta in the house. For the two servings today (and then I made another batch because yum), ingredients were as follows:

  • 1/4 cup of quick-cooking polenta
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • 1/2 cup of tomatoes--I used half sun-dried and half fresh
  • 1/2 cup of milk or cream
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese--I used Grana Padano, which is a relative of Parmesan and quite tasty
  • 1 Tablespoon capers, drained, rinsing optional (I love brine).
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano

Cook polenta according to package directions adding the butter when you stir the polenta into the water. When the polenta is cooked, leave the heat on low and stir in milk using a fork until there are no lumps. Add the tomatoes and spices, then stir in the cheese. Stir until the cheese is absorbed. Add capers and stir again, serve.

Yes, I used the word stir 5 times. You need to do it constantly because polenta will like to clump and we can't have that.

Leftovers can be fried for a delicious change in texture if you make more. 

I plan a variation as a side dish with steak or chicken. I figure sharp cheddar, green onions, and bacon will work really well with the tomatoes. 

If you try this, let me know!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Something Different: Guest Post: Artichoke Bread Pudding

My friend Ny posted this a while back and I just had to bring it here. I haven't tried it yet, but I drool every time I read it. Without further ado:

.............................................

Okay, so this isn't the quickest or lowest fat recipe. In fact, it involves a deep frying step. But the flavor rewards are exponential.


  • 6-8 slices hearty white bread or equivalent, dried out and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups chicken stock, veggie stock, or water
  • 2 14-ounce cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup diced shallot or onion (one fat shallot)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or less, I like nutmeg)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp hot pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried or 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 pasilla or cubanelle pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced (charred-and-peeled is optional but tasty)
  • 2 to 4 sundried tomatoes, diced
  • about 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper, jarred or fresh
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 2 cups diced semisoft cheese (I used a mix of cheddar, swiss, and gouda,
  • since that was what was in my fridge)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • Vegetable oil for frying


Grease a 2 quart baking pan and set aside. Turn the oven to 300F.

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat 2 inches of oil for frying. When it's hot enough, add the artichokes and immediately cover with a splatter screen -- it'll sputter a lot. Fry the artichokes on medium heat until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes (watch carefully for the last 5 minutes or so, as the transformation from bubbling to golden to burnt happens rapidly)

(You could skip this step but the browned savory flavor and creamy texture is so worth it. The tinny flavor of canning is entirely evicted. If you have fresh artichoke hearts, cook them through however you want, chop them, and use them that way.)

Meanwhile, in a 10 or 12 inch skillet, melt the butter, add the shallots, and cook over medium low heat until translucent. Add the salt, black and hot peppers, nutmeg, and thyme. Seed and dice the peppers and add them, and stir a bit and let continue to cook for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and let cook a couple more minutes.

Get a large mixing bowl, and place the bread and broth in it. When the veggies are thoroughly softened, add them (and ALL the butter) to the bowl. When the artichokes are cooked, drain them briefly on paper towels, then add them to the bowl. (Eat a couple. They won't stay crisp in the pudding, but they will be richly flavorful.)

When ready, mix everything that's in the bowl. Add the parsley, cheese and eggs, mix again, and scrape into the prepared pan. Press parchment paper on the surface and bake for an hour, until cooked through. Serve hot or let cool and cut up into squares. This reheats very well and keeps for several days in the fridge.