Sunday, January 23, 2011

Slightly hot stuff--variations on a theme

I can eat chili any time of the year, but it is especially nice when it's really cold out. Since my last batch wasn't very hot, I thought I'd modify my basic chili recipe. Here's what I came up with:  

2 Bottles Newcastle brown ale
2 pounds of stew beef in large chunks
2 cans black beans
3 cans chopped tomatoes with diced chiles
2 large onions finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 long hot pepper finely chopped
1 jalapeno finely chopped
1 cubanelle pepper, also finely chopped
2 heaping Tablespoons chili powder
2 heaping Tablespoons cumin
scant teaspoon of cayenne
scant teaspoon of vinegar (helps bring out the flavor in the black beans)
scant teaspoon of cinnamon

One of the advantages about working from a home office is I can take my lunch hour to work on dinner if I choose. Chopping and throwing everything in the Dutch oven took about half an hour.  I kept it on low for the better part of five hours, then turned up the heat just slightly and took the lid off, stirring often so it didn't stick to the bottom.

The end result was something to be proud of. It had a slow burn towards the end of the bite. I considered it mildly spicy, my sweetie considered it medium-low. We brought a serving to Austin the former landlord and he deemed it delicious. At least I think so, his mouth was full.

Questions? Comments? Death threats? Your personal variations? I'd love to hear from you!

Next week: a touch of the Irish!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bay-Leaf Crusted Pork

This week's recipe comes again from the The Perfect Pantry. There's a lot of neat recipes in there and I'm sure I'll be going back.  In doing some browsing around, found this pork roast recipe, which challenged me to think of bay leaves as more than something to be fished out of stews, soups and sauces before eating.

8 garlic cloves, peeled
8 dried bay leaves
Coarse salt and ground pepper I have a salt grinder with variable settings like the one pictured here. It's a beautiful thing.
4 medium onions, peeled (root ends left intact), each cut into 8 wedges
3 Tbsp olive oil I used Truffle oil, I thought the earthiness would work well.
1 pork rib roast with 8 ribs (4 1/2 to 5 pounds), backbone removed, ribs Frenched (*see note, below) My roast didn't actually have ribs and weighed closer to three pounds, but I kept the proportions the same.
2 cups fresh parsley leaves I didn't pack it too tightly

1 cup Dijon mustard 

Preheat oven to 375°F. Using a chef's knife, finely chop garlic and bay leaves together. Gather into a pile; sprinkle with 2 tsp coarse salt and 1/2 tsp ground pepper. Using the flat side of the knife blade, mash mixture into a paste. Set aside.

I used my half-moon chopper for this, because it's easy to blend herbs together or herbs with garlic in this case. I also didn't quite get a paste out of it, so I added a little truffle oil. I was able to pick up some very small bottles of it for around fifteen dollars and it has a delightful earthy flavor.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss onions with 2 Tbsp oil; season with salt and pepper. Push onions to the edges of baking sheet. Place pork in center of sheet, fatty side up; rub top with remaining oil, and press on garlic mixture, coating evenly.

Even though I had a smaller roast that was in the recipe, I think I'll do ten and ten instead of eight and eight. I didn't have quite enough to cover all of the roast and I chopped everything very finely.

Roast, dabbing occasionally with pan juices, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of meat (avoiding bones) registers 140°F (temperature will rise 10 to 15 degrees as roast rests), 65 to 75 minutes. (If browning too quickly, tent loosely with aluminum foil.) Transfer roast and onions to serving platter; let rest, loosely covered with foil, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, blend parsley and mustard until smooth; season with salt and pepper.

This came out delicious. Very juicy pork, the bay leaves and the garlic permeated it well, even though the fatty layer. My sweetie said it was the best pork he'd had in the last twelve months, and that includes a bite of the chop I had at John Besh's steakhouse in New Orleans. Who am I to argue with that?

Questions? Comments? Death threats? A recipe for me to try? I'd love to hear from you!

Next week I'm making chili and I think I'm stealing a variation from Austin the former landlord. He made a batch this weekend that included Italian sausage as well as stew meat and it was just lovely. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy Birthday to Knives, Fire and Fun!

First off, I'd like to thank all my readers for sticking with me over the past year. Especial thanks to Beki, Squid, Heather, Sarah and Andral who are among my first subscribers, frequent commenters and generally supportive human beings. 

When I first conceived of this blog, I thought I'd be doing product comparisons as well as critiquing recipes in my own (hopefully) inimitable style. As I look back over the last year, I see some critiques, but more often, I see my own take on things, and a lot of recipes from the Wing-It school. I never did get around to comparing any products, and I'm okay with that. I've had a lot of fun, and I've decided to keep this going. I hope you'll stay with me.

Today's recipe comes from The Perfect Pantry. I came across it randomly browsing food sites and the Mexican Spiced Fish intrigued me (so did a pork roast recipe that will be next week, assuming I remember to take the pork out of the freezer).

I liked the looks of this because it was a very different take on fish--I'm so used to citrusy blends. It also used cinnamon in a savory fashion. So let's have a look:

3 1/2 lbs striped bass, cod stead or any non-oily white fish, cut into six portions. I used Chilean Sea bass, which was very rich and cut in very thick pieces. Next time, I'm thinking of using cod. I think it might take the marinade a little better.
2 T canola or vegetable oil 
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
12 oz tomatoes sliced I actually cut some cherry tomatoes into chunks
2 drained canned jalapeno chiles, rinsed and sliced, or 2 fresh jalapenos, seeded, ribs removed, rinsed.  I went with fresh
a few flat parsley leaves, for garnish

For the marinade:
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground annatto  I have not been able to find ground annatto, but I did come up with some seeds. They are very oily and very hard to pulverize, either in a mortar with a pestle or in my Cuisinart chopper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup mild white vinegar I used white wine vinegar which may have been a mistake
Kosher salt, to taste

Arrange the fish in a single layer in a shallow dish.
Make the marinade: With a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic and peppercorns. Add the oregano, cumin, annatto and cinnamon, and vinegar, and mix to a paste. Add salt to taste, and spread the marinade on both sides of the fish. Cover and leave in a cool place, or in the refrigerator on a very hot day, for one hour.

I don't know if my technique was off today, but I did not end up with a paste, but a liquid. Maybe more time with the mortar and pestle? I'm not quite sure.

In a flame-proof pan large enough to hold the fish in a single layer, pour in the oil and spread it to cover (use more oil if necessary). Place the fish in the dish, and top with the remaining marinade. Arrange the sliced onions, garlic, tomatoes and jalapeƱo over the fish.
Cover and cook over a low heat on the stovetop for 15-20 minutes, or until the fish is no longer translucent. Garnish with some flat-leaf parsley, if desired, and serve hot with rice.

 . . . . 

This was my second attempt at this dish. The first, I misread the amount of vinegar and added too much. It still made a tasty dish, but it wasn't the perfection I was seeking.

Today? Maybe I was off my game, I don't know. As I mentioned above, I didn't get a paste, I got a heavily spiced liquid. I also added more garlic than called for, and it didn't seem to be enough. The fish didn't absorb very much of the marinade and the flavors never quite gelled for me.

I'll try this again, but not for a while. If anyone tries it, I'd love to hear the results. Maybe I can figure out where I went wrong.

I do have to say the appetizer came out rather well. I roasted orange, red and yellow peppers along with an onion in a mix of olive oil, oregano, several grates of mixed peppercorns and a touch of salt. I served these with corn torillas and manchego cheese. 

Other comments? Questions? Birthday wishes? Let's hear them!

and as always, thank you for your support.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

In which Kate wonders if a voice-activated recorder might do her some good

Oh good, it's working today. I wanted to do an update last night, but for some reason, Blogspot wasn't cooperating, no matter which browser I tried it in.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I came across a recipe for spiced chick peas that involved cumin and lime and avocado and thought it sounded delicious (it's from another food blog and I'm waiting for permission to link to it). I showed the recipe to my sweetie the uber-carnivore. He said, "that would be really great with some shredded chicken."

Into a medium saucepan went the following:

Four chicken breasts
One bottle of beer
one minced jalapeno
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
a couple of teaspoons of cumin
a dozen grinds of mixed peppercorns

at least I think so. I kind of lost track of what I was adding. Hence the topic of today's post, I really need a better way to keep track of my wing-it recipes.

I brought the mixture to a boil, then turned the heat down and let it cook for about fifteen minutes. Afterwards, I broke apart the chicken with a pair of forks, but didn't completely shred it. I called it stewed, though one could also say poached. It turned out quite delicious and went well with the chick peas and some corn tortillas. I also had some leftovers over brown rice for lunch the following day. My sweetie didn't bother wish tortillas or rice for his second meal of it.

Questions, comments? A recipe to try? I'd love to hear from you:

Coming soon--a (hopefully) thoughtful anniversary post.