Sunday, December 30, 2007

Royal Foodie Joust - January 2008



Okay, since my aforementioned taste of culinary victory at (the now-defunct) Paper Chef has fanned my competitive flames, I'm giving it a go in the Royal Foodie Joust over at the Leftover Queen's joint. My best work has always been under pressure, which is a good thing since I only found out about this yesterday and only have until Tuesday to get my shit together and make some magic happen.

This month's theme ingredients are pomegranate, pistachio and mint. Here's where it gets eerie: I have just purchased a half a lamb from my hobby-farmer boss who just took his wee little bebbehs to slaughter last week. The three ingredients lend themselves so beautifully to other Moroccan flavors that I couldn't have picked better partners for lamb if I tried. Imagine my glee!

Although I've drooled over many a tagine in my time (Ikea has great cheap ones), I've never been able to justify buying one because I only make this kind of food once or twice a year and have limited shelf space in my kitchen. I usually end up preparing my lamb by giving it a good massage of my dry rub - toasted cumin seed, coriander seed, cinnamon stick and an allspice berry or two, all whizzed up in my spice grinder and mixed with a bit of fresh-ground pepper and good, smoky paprika, and then grilling it in my cast-iron grill pan for a nice maillard and finishing to a rosy medium-rare in the oven. Sometimes I like to serve it this way with home-made lavender or quince jelly, depending on the season. Since I've never been a proponent of fixing what ain't broke, I'm gonna just stick to what I know this time.

Caveats: Unfortunately, my 18lbs of bleating goodness is still at the butcher, but time's a wastin'! I ended up having to buy some lamb from the store to save time. Also, I have been unable to locate pomegranate molasses ANYWHERE (except the intarwebs) so I made my own interpretation by simmering pomegranate juice into a viscous reduction. ALSO, I didn't want to buy confit lemons when I already had a bag of fresh ones, so I simply roasted fresh lemons with sea salt and olive oil until browned and slumpy. Now that I've got that off my chest...

And so I present to you, my inaugural entry in the Royal Foodie Joust. Game on!


Pistachio-Crusted Lamb with Mint Pistou and Pomegranate Reduction
A dry rub of Moroccan spices gives smokiness to the pistachio crust, while the mint and pomegranate enhance the flavors with cool and tart. Serves 4 generously.

2.5 lbs. lamb leg steak (remove from fridge an hour before starting)
3/4 c shelled pistachios, crushed or chopped
1 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp coriander seed
1 2" cinnamon stick
2 allspice berries
1/4 tsp black peppercorn
1/2 dried pasilla chile, stem and seeds removed
1/2 tsp paprika (smoked if you can get it)
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Prepare the spice rub by toasting all of the spices except the paprika in a small pan over medium heat until aromatic. Grind spices to a fine powder in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Add paprika and salt and stir together.

Rinse and pat dry the steaks and rub a generous amount of spice mix onto each side. You should be able to massage about a tablespoon onto each side, depending on the size of your steaks. Set aside for a minute to let the flavors soak in. Drizzle steaks with a little olive oil and then dip them into the pistachios, packing the nuts on a bit to help them stick.

Get a grill pan (or your grill) rippin' hot and gently lay the steaks on. I like to go for the criss-cross hatch grill marks but it doesn't really do any good with the pistachios on there, so you may as well just take it easy this time. I really don't know how long I cook them on each side - I check for some good Maillard on the bottom before I flip them, and then I pop the whole pan in a 375
oF oven for 3 minutes to finish the steaks to medium-rare. When cooked to your preference (PLEASE don't ever cook lamb past medium, just please don't) set on a plate to rest while everything else is getting ready. When rested, slice lamb into 1/4" thick slices.


Mint Pistou
Scott's friend Chris calls this sauce "minty awesomeness". Makes about 1/2 c of pistou. This pistou is also great with fava beans for a simple springtime risotto.

1 c mint leaves (packed down)
1/4 c olive oil (extra virgin)
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted lightly
pinch kosher salt

Process all ingredients to a thin paste.

Pomegranate Reduction
I couldn't find any pomegranate molasses so I had to think on my feet. Makes about 1/4 c of syrup.

1 16oz bottle pomegranate juice (
100%)

Simmer juice over low heat for ~20 minutes until reduced by 2/3 or until a syrup is formed. If it gets too thick it can be thinned with a little hot water and stirred.

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Lemons, Eggplant and Red Bell Peppers
Roasted lemons provide a mellow acid balance to the roasted eggplant and roasted red peppers, and good olives are always a welcome touch. If you had a little forethought, you were roasting the lemons, eggplants and peppers while you were getting everything ready for the steaks. Serves 4 with leftovers.

1 3/4 c Israeli couscous
2 c hot chicken stock
2 Indian eggplants (or half an Italian one), halved lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, sliced crosswise
3 small lemons, quartered lengthwise
1 clove garlic, minced
10 saffron threads
1/2 c chopped cilantro
~10 cured olives
pinch of kosher salt and coupla cracks of pepper

Drizzle eggplant, peppers and lemons with olive oil and toss with a pinch of salt. Arrange in a baking dish with the eggplants cut-side down and lemons cut sides up. Roast for 30 minutes in a 375-degree oven. When slightly browned, cool and chop eggplant and peppers into bite-sized pieces.

In a large ceramic bowl combine couscous, eggplant, peppers, lemons (reserve 4 wedges for presentation), garlic, saffron and olives. Add chicken stock and stir. Cover bowl with a plate and microwave for 2 minutes. Stir and microwave another 2 minutes. Add cilantro and S&P to taste.

Plate by piling couscous on a large platter and
arranging lamb slices over the top. Add lemons and more olives to the sides of the platter for some prettiness. Drizzle mint pistou and pomegranate reduction over the lamb (there will some leftover to pass around the table).

We drank this with a Willamette Valley pinot noir and it was really nice.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

I am Welcomed to Foodie Blogroll!

So, you may have noticed that I've been trying very hard to establish myself as a tried-and-true food blogger. Winning Paper Chef 25 back in September was my first pat on the back, and getting a taste of the good stuff makes me hungry for more.

I have been added to the Foodie Blogroll (well, I nominated myself and Jenn, The Leftover Queen basically said "Sure, whatevs"). Please be sure and clicky da linky on my sidebar and visit the other great food blogs that draw my inspirado (and let's be honest: my player-hatred).

I've eliminated tags to non-food posts, but my old blog is still here. I have added tags to make it easier to track down the cuisine, and will hopefully add a search function for recipes in the future. In the meanwhile, I WILL get some better lighting for my kitchen so I don't have to fake call in sick from work to have some daylight to work with.

Here's to a gastronomically-inspired 2008! Kampai!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nabe


Nabe is standard Japanese one-pot meal, traditionally served in winter time. You can add anything you like, but I've used more typical Japanese ingredients. This is based on my memory of the nabe Scott and I ate in Tokyo.

Nabe (Japanese winter stew)

Makes 3.5 quarts (for 6 2-cup servings)

2 c fish stock
2 c chicken stock
2 c water
1/2 c sake or cooking rice wine
2 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp shiro miso
1 6" piece kombu seaweed, rinsed in cold water

8 fried fish cake balls (80g)
6 shrimp balls (120g)
1 baked tofu cake (3 oz), sliced thinly
1 skinless boneless chicken breast (6 oz), sliced thinly
1 king oyster mushroom (or 5 oz of other mushroom), sliced
1 baby bok choy
1/2 small onion, sliced
2 green onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced


Prepare broth by stirring together the liquid ingredients, the miso and the kombu for five minutes over medium heat. Add all of the other ingredients. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, or until the onions and mushrooms are al dente.

Serve with cooked udon (3 oz. cooked udon is 200 calories - I use 1.5 oz. in this soup per person) or other cooked noodle. You can heat the noodles right in the soup if you want.

174 cals, 4g fat, 17g protein, 2g fiber

Monday, December 17, 2007

Banh Hoi Bo La Lop



Tonight I made some awesome (though somewhat unbefitting a cold, wet December evening) banh hoi bo lan lop (Vietnamese grilled beef lettuce wraps) for dinner. These fit nicely into my diet menu, with only 280 calories for 5 rolls' worth of meat, lettuce, fresh cilantro, basil and cucumber, all dipped in that unctuous nước chấm that I love so much. I based the recipe on my interpretation of Tanh Dinh's salad rolls (where Scott and I ate a coupla weeks ago). You can wrap these in rice papers for a higher level of authenticity, but I don't think it's totally necessary. Served with rice noodles (in the wrap or on the side), it's a complete meal.

Banh Hoi Bo La Lop (serves 2)

8 oz beef eye of round, thinly sliced
2 tsp rice wine (sake works)
2 tsp fish sauce or soy sauce
1 tbsp chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
1/4 tsp. sesame oil (I used black sesame oil)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp minced shallot
1 green onion, thinly sliced
pinch S&P
10 lettuce leaves (I like butter or bibb the best, but romaine or iceberg are fine)
1 cup
do chua* (pickled shredded carrot and daikon)
1/2 c thinly sliced cucumber
few sprigs basil
few sprigs cilantro
I guess some fresh lime if you like
1 cup
nước chấm for dipping (recipe follows)

*(Do chua can be found in a SE Asian grocery that has a deli. Otherwise, you can either use un-pickled shredded carrot and daikon, or pickle your own in rice vinegar, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. It prolly takes a coupla days in the fridge. This will also go on the banh mi I plan to make later this week.)

Mix rice wine, fish (or soy) sauce, chili paste, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, shallot, green onion and S&P in a bowl and marinate the beef for at least 20 minutes.

(I added a sprinkle of black sesame seed for flair.)

Whilst you're marinading the beef, wash the lettuce leaves and make nước chấm.

Nước chấm (pronounced "nook chom")

1/2 c fish sauce
juice from half a lime or 2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp grated carrot
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp chili paste
2 tbsp water

Stir until sugar is dissolved. You can add chopped peanut if you want, but that shit's got a lot of calories, and beef's got plenty of protein.

After the beef is nice and marinate-y, throw it onto a hot grill pan and cook for like 30 seconds on each side. This cut gets tough if overcooked, so go ahead and live on the edge: eat it medium-rare.

To serve, arrange everything on a platter and eat by placing beef, cukes, herbs and do chua into lettuce leaf and roll the it up into a little salad roll. Dip in nước chấm. Curl toes.

Disclaimer: I AM A WHITE GIRL. Please, if something is unauthentic, lemme know! I want to learn from you. I love Asian people! Let's be BFFs.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

So, I'm on a diet

Yeah, that's right. I'm watching the weight again.

Anyways, tonight I made a yummy diet-esque dinner, and since I've decided I'm not ashamed to admit I'm counting calories, I took a photo of the buffalo taco salad I made for dinner. And guess what, bitches? I'm giving you the (admittedly simplistic) recipe.


Insalate del Cibolero (I totally made this up. It means something like "buffalo hunter's salad", I think. But doesn't it sound Important and Amazing now?)

(Serves 2 quite comfortably, thankyouverymuch)

8 oz. ground buffalo
1/4 c diced onion
1/4 c diced each anaheim, poblano and sweet pepper (such as mini bell) (3/4 c total)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin (fresh-ground if you can swing it)
1 tsp oregano (Mexican)
1 pinch cinnamon
S&P
4 tbsp salsa
1 corn tortilla, sliced into thin strips (1/4" thick)
cooking spray or olive oil
bag o' salad (I think that's like 4.5 cups per serving or something). I like butter lettuces.

Optional toppings: grated cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro, lime wedge, avocado, etc. (I used low-fat and fat-free versions of the dairy, and tragically, didn't have any cilantro, lime or avocado on hand.)

Preheat oven to 350oF.

In a non-stick skillet (spritzed with cooking spray), brown buffalo over medium-high heat. There will not really be any fat to pour off, and besides, it's already included in the calorie count so live a little.

Add onions, chiles, garlic, cumin, oregano, cinnamon and S&P and saute until veg becomes glossy and slightly softened. Turn down to low and add salsa. Gratz, you just made chili con carne.

Spread tortilla strips on a baking sheet and give them a quick spritz of cooking spray and a pinch of salt. Toast in oven for 10 minutes until crispy and tortilla chip-like.

Plate your lettuce (a bag makes two huge plates). Top with meat and veg mix, the tortilla strips, and the other accoutrement that I sure hope you're treating yourself to since you're having a fucking salad for dinner.

If you feel like it, you could just say "fuck a salad" and eat the meat/veg mix in a tortilla, in which case you'd be eating a taco.

Bueno appetito!

480 calories (with 1 oz 2% milk cheese and 2 tbsp fat-free sour cream, and that was splurging) 23 g fat
37 g protein
5 g fiber (more if you have avocado)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rebound ftw


Okay, I think I'm back a little. I'm back in the kitchen, anyway.

Last night I tried my hand at the sous-vide method of cooking (chinook salmon with roasted lemons, dijon mustard, honey and thyme). Hindsight always being 20/20, I would've bagged the portions individually before immersing them in the hot (errr... tepid 114oF) water bath for 30 minutes. The four portions were moist and delicious (claim the diners), but a little rare if I'm claiming to have cooked. I wasn't really going for sashimi, after all, and the low temp didn't totally allow for sufficient flavor permeation. But I will give it another go sometime, probably on a meat that begs for a real slow cooking, like pork.

Last weekend, in a fit of weather-induced ennui and general boredom, Scott and I found Fubonn and did a little wandering about. It was great! Everything I want (except shochu, alas) from an Asian megamart under one roof. We stopped by Meiann bakery for some tao sar bao (red bean paste bun), a green onion bun, a hot dog-cheese bun, a "Japanese-style" bacon bun, and a ham, cheese and corn bun. It all tasted like anpan but with savory fillings. I can't find the Vietnamese word for these types of breads, but it was very yummy, and for $1 a pop, I'll be back.

We had lunch at a joint called Tan Dinh for what we thought would be Vietnamese vermicelli noodles, but it ended up being a salad roll house. Oh, you get the noodles, and whatever meat you asked for. We both took the waiter's recommendation; I ended up with excellent herb-wrapped grilled Chinese sausages and pineapple, Scott with savory ground pork patties and grilled pork in a ginger broth. They bring out great platters of vermicelli, thinly sliced cucumber, and a mountain of fresh, cool lettuce, cilantro, mint and Thai basil; two bowls of nước chấm and a plate of rice paper salad roll wrappers. You dip the crisp, dry wrapper in the bowl of hot water to soften and then proceed to load them with noodles, meat and herbs, then roll and dip into the delicious nước chấm (fish sauce with lime juice, sugar, julienned carrot and chili). Even though I'd really been craving phở, this hit the spot.

Then we went over to the grocery store part of the joint (after checking out the Chinese medicine and tea store) and wandered around a bit more. You know I'm a whore for Korean ramen, but we actually successfully avoided the ramen aisle and hit the produce and meat department instead. Okay, we did pick up some udon, which I prepared Sunday night with thinly-sliced grilled pork (simple sesame, ginger, miso marinade) and king oyster mushrooms, Chinese chives (ku chai) and a little shaved cabbage and onion. It was very satisfying on a blustery day.

We also picked up some duck legs, which I finally got around to cooking tonight. I went for a more traditional (or common for me, anyways) approach this time. I simply scored the skin and popped them into a hot pan.


After browning on both sides, I added sage, thyme and crushed juniper berries to the hot fat and popped it in the oven to finish.

Served with cranberry-black pepper chutney, mashed sweet potatoes with a nutmeg-y sage-mushroom gravy (using the king oyster mushroom, which are the small white bits in the gravy pictured below) and wilted spinach, it was a nice respite from all this fucking weather we've been having.


Of course I had to coat the spinach in gravy, it's like 35 degrees out! The meat came out a bit tough, but was very flavorful. I guess duck can only really be perfect after a 2-hour bath in its own fat.

This weekend hopefully Sus and Shin will come over with their beautiful 3-week old son, Sage (who really makes me wanna get knocked up, and I mean in like a BIG way), and I can cook the last few pounds of albacore that're in the freezer. I want to surprise them with traditional Japanese winter food, but I don't know if I can use albacore to make oden or nabe. I guess I'll figure something out.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Epic Fail

Okay, so I never made an after-Thanksgiving post. Thanksgiving was a bit of a letdown, predictably, because the speech-impeded screams of toddlers had me so frazzled that I fucked up three of my side dishes and by the time I even got to sit down to eat they were already up from the dinner table, running around and demanding to be taken home. Sigh.

I forgot to parcook the sweet potatoes, so they never got soft and as a result, the custard couldn't set up in the center. My stuffing and haricots verts were prepared hours ahead of time (thought I was being clever), and the re-heat in the oven did them no favors. Sigh.

The turkey was really good, though, but I got only one photo, of the confit:


So now the exciting news: our basement flooded this morning from all the rain we've been getting (which hasn't actually been that much, all things considered). It didn't come in from the walls or anything, but from the fucking ground water. The water table rose so much that it percolated up through a crack in the concrete (near the furnace) and flowed in beneath the carpet across the floor. The carpet was all saturated this morning and after work we had to move all of our bajillion boxes of crap and tear up the carpet, then mop up the nasty sog and then turn the fans on. The only thing that smells worse than old, dried-up cat piss is moldy ground water-refreshed cat piss.

Then, THEN I found this horrifying creature which I have only been able to surmise resembles a huge termite:


WHAT THE FUCK. What in the holy fuck is this thing. Why does it think it belongs in my basement. Its abdomen rears up like a scorpion's tail when it's threatened.

And I have epic cramps. Fuck this noise. Fuck it, I say!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving and Other Considerations

This morning I made some delicious homemade biscuits with chanterelle-sausage gravy. I'd used up all of my chanterelles shortly after my last post, but then found more while in the field on Friday. By the time I found them, I wasn't sick of them anymore.


This year Thanksgiving will be at our place, our first holiday in the new(ish) house! I'm spending a bit of time trying to learn how to bone out a turkey. If it works, I will have the advantage of a) having my carcass pre-roasted and stock pre-made for gravies and such a day early; b) I can remove the legs for a two-hour bath in the liquid gold that is duck fat (the confit last year was to die for); and c) the breasts can be seasoned, stuffed and tied 2 different ways!! This way I can do a simple, traditional one for my non-culinary (read: white trash) family and a fancy one for me, Scott and Scott's bro the chef.

We're having the whole gang here this year, including the toddlers. We will have all four nieces and nephews, the oldest of whom is 3 (and if isn't actually autistic then at least has severe developmental and behavioral problems). The other ones are pretty well-behaved and won't throw a shit fit if they have to eat something besides Eazy Mac, so maybe I won't hafta choke a kid.

This year's menu doesn't stray far from last year's, except that this year not all of my sides will be based on custard or béchamel. Just two of them, and dessert.

The menu:

Roasted Turkey Breast Two Ways: Orange-Bourbon Glazed and with Herbed Butter (à laKiev)
Legs Confit
Chanterelle-Sausage Dressing
Cranberry-Orange Chutney
Mashed Yukon Golds with Rosemary Gravy
Sweet Potatoes in Sage and Nutmeg Custard
Haricots Verts au Gratin
Swiss Chard with Citrus Zest and Bacon
Cranberry Brioche
Chai-Spiced Crème Brûlée with Hazelnut Praline


I think I might take a half-day on Wednesday to get some prep done. I really can't wait to get started! I will be sure to take pictures.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Buffalo-Chanterelle Empanadas with Mole

A recurring theme is emerging: too many chanterelles, plus an impending frost that requires me to pull my millions of tomatoes while still green, equals chanterelles and green tomatoes going into damn near every dish these days. They taste good together, though, so I guess I win. And it forces creativity, since I can never let a single thing go to waste (and no one wants to take any green tomatoes off my hands).

I sometimes feel like the Little Red Hen (or some other storybook martyr), trying desperately to convince my neighbors and coworkers to take some (insert surplus item here). They always politely refuse, saying they don't know how they'd use (surplus item). When I tell them they could very easily make (A), (B), or (C) with it, all very delicious! they admit that they in fact don't actually care much for (surplus item). However! If I bring over some little yummeh (such as (A)) made with (surplus item) they greedily help themselves and have to confess that they didn't actually know that (surplus item) could be so good, because they'd only had it improperly prepared as (D) or (E) by their unskilled mothers/wives or had never even heard of it before!!

People can be so lazy and uninspired when faced with daunting surplus items, but I refuse to be one of them! So here is yet another use for chanterelles and green tomatoes.

(I listed out the recipes in order of when they should be made. Since the dough needs to sit in the fridge for an hour, it buys you time to get everything else ready.)


Empanada Dough
Yes, I culled the dough recipe from Joy of Cooking, since I don't have an abuelita to show me these things. Sigh.

3 c all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat, and it was fine)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
10 tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 c lard or vegetable shortening (I used shortening, which worked great)
11 to 13 tbsp ice water

This is way easier if you use a food processor! In fact, I'm not even gonna bother with the other directions.

Combine dry ingredients in food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add butter and lard or shortening and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Transfer mixture to large bowl and sprinkle water over the top.

Mix gently with a fork until dough is damp enough to gather into a ball. Shape into a flat disk and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Fridge for an hour.


Mole de Gringa
My mole is slightly non-traditional (no tortillas in it), but it has a smooth texture and tastes pretty convincing.

2 c chicken stock
5 large dried chiles (I use a combo of pasilla, California pod and ancho), seeded and stemmed
5 sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
1/4 c pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp. cumin seed, lightly toasted
1" piece of cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder*
salt to taste
sugar to taste (if the mole is a tad bitter, a wee spoonful helps)

*In a pinch I once used a coupla squares of Dagoba Xocolatl chocolate bar, which is 75% cacao and has lovely bits of cacao nib and chile flake. It was really good!

In a small pot, bring chicken stock to the boil. Add chiles, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and bay leaf, and turn off heat. Lid the pot and leave to sit 10 or 15 minutes until the chiles and tomatoes are softened. Meanwhile, toast cinnamon and cumin in small pan over medium heat until fragrant, and grind to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Remove bay leaf from stock-chile pot, and puree until smooth. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve, scraping the flesh through with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Return mix to blender and add pepitas. Blend until smooth again. Return mix to pot over low heat. Add cinnamon, cumin, cocoa, salt and sugar (if needed) and simmer for about 5 minutes or so to let the flavors meld.

I've never had any leftover, but I'd suppose it keeps for about a week in the fridge or a few months in the freezer. This mole is the base for my chicken enchilada soup. It is also nearly fat free (except for the pepitas)! So you might wanna add a scant teaspoon or two of a nutty oil to round out the flavor if using it directly as sauce.


Empanada Filling

I omit the raisins and olives, 'cuz there's just enough going on in here already.

1/2 lb. ground buffalo
2 roasted poblano chiles, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 c diced potato (I used 3 fingerlings)
1 c diced onion
1 c diced green tomato
2 c chopped or shredded chanterelles
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
S&P
1/4 c mole
1/4 c cotija (queso seco) or I guess you could use ricotta salata or some other dry white cheese
1/2 c chopped cilantro

Brown buffalo in a medium skillet (with a little olive oil) over medium-high heat. Transfer to a bowl when browned. In the same pan, saute onions, potatoes, poblanos and tomatoes for about 10 minutes. Pan will be a bit sticky, but just add the chanterelles and the juices they release will deglaze the pan nicely. Season with the cumin, garlic powder, cinnamon, oregano and S&P. Simmer down for a few, stirring now and again.

Add the cooked buffalo back to the pan, and the mole. After a minute add the queso and the cilantro, stir, and turn off the heat.

By now, hopefully, it's been an hour and that dou
gh is ready. (It shouldn'tve really taken that long to make the mole and filling, though, so you might just need to have a little glass of wine and clean up your kitchen to kill the last 15 or 20 minutes.)

Assembly:

Heat oven to 400F.

Divide dough into quarters. Roll out each dough chunk 1/8" thick and cut out 6" rounds. I just cut around a saucer to do this.* You
'll have to re-roll scraps to get approximately 10-12 rounds.

Brush the edges with a little eggwash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk), and add about 1/4 c filling to one side of the round, then fold closed and use a fork around the edges to g
ently seal (and give a pretty effect). Poke a few fork holes in the top to vent, and place on a cookie sheet. Repeat for the rest, spacing them 2". Brush the tops with remaining eggwash.

Bake until browned, like 15 minutes. It took longer to write this post than to make the damn things. Serve with mole, maybe some cilantro and sour cream if you like.


*
Later, Scott said maybe little 2 bite-sized ones would be pretty great like as appies, in which case you could use a 4" cookie cutter and just like 2 tbsp or so of filling in each.

I totally forgot to make my fried plantains to go with these beauties, so it's a good thing I still have some leftover filling. Tacos and fried plantains for dinner tonight!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ragout de Lapin Braisé aux Chanterelles


I so totally don't speak French, except when it comes to food (hell, if you want to count food words, I speak like 14 languages).

I cooked that bunneh that I bought in Centralia. And btw, I never got the motivation to make a roulade. Instead, I made a cop-out ragout. It's funny, after braising it for two hours I didn't even feel like eating it anymore. It coulda been that Scott and I spent an hour grazing on the pear and rosemary focaccia that I made as an intended accompaniment, heh.

So after those leeks were well-nigh melted, the chanterelles all juicy and toothsome and the rabbit was all tender, I turned off the heat and fridged it overnight.

Tragically, I lacked the energy or enthusiasm to prepare papardelle from scratch (and I had only whole-wheat flour in the pantry, which I had only last week been chagrined to learn turns into the densest, chewiest spaetzle ever), so we settled for store-bought fresh linguine from Pastaworks.

Ragout de Lapin Braisé aux Chanterelles (serves 2 generously)

2 tbsp chopped pancetta or bacon
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 rabbit fryer, with kidneys and liver if possible (this ends up being half a saddle, a hind quarter and a shoulder)
1 lb. chanterelle mushrooms, washed and sliced or broken into bite-sized pieces
1/2 large leek, sliced very thin
2 tbsp minced shallot
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
fat pinch kosher salt
buncha cracks of pepper
3 or 4 cups homemade chicken stock (or the kind in a box, if you must)
1 cup white wine
coupla sprigs Italian parsley, chopped coarsely
1/2 lb fresh papardelle, tagliatelle (or linguine if you can't get the other, or don't feel like making it from scratch)
(okay, I know my mise-en-place photo shows baby courgettes and pattypans, but I didn't end up using these in the end and opted for a bit of baby spinach to green things up instead. I still have so many of these coming out of the garden and had good intentions, but it was so much easier to just toss in some greens when it was all done.)

Over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot, render pancetta in olive until the bits are browned. Add rabbit and mushrooms, leeks, shallots and garlic and saute until rabbit is browned evenly. Add garlic, rosemary and thyme, and rabbit organs (if they were included; chopped) and saute for another 5 minutes. Add S&P and stock and wine (liquids should pretty much completely cover rabbit). Simmer over low heat, stirring and basting every 20 minutes or so, for about two hours.

When bunny is tender and leeks are practically liquefied, remove rabbit from the pot and crank up the heat until the stock reduces to a thick, sauce-like consistency. Pick rabbit meat from the bones while this is happening (after it cools enough to handle).

While sauce is reducing, boil pasta to a notch before al dente. Strain and add to sauce. Add bunny and parsley and toss. If you're using a bit of spinach or whatever add it now, too, so it can wilt a bit. It's done when the pasta is perfect. Plate and top with a shitload of parm. Serve with a French white wine such as Clos Roche Blanche.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Golden Trumpets



Mushroom hunting season is officially upon us, and last weekend we scored about a metric ton of chanterelles. Whee!

I also found my first-ever cauliflower mushroom. I had never seen one before, but thought it looked like it would be tasty so I picked it and identified it using a book back at the car.

If I look like hell, it's because I was still covered with spider webs and adrenaline sweat from having been nailed by an angry hornet. Tammy spotted the nest first (conveniently located plumb in the middle of the first motherlode patch of the day), but I was too greedy to move from the spot. TANG! right in the forehead, the little fucker came right at me, and I bolted like a clumsy cheetah which actually sucked the bee right into the sleeve of my jacket. The trapped and confused hornet stung me in the armpit, and my shoulder and pec started burning and throbbing. I'm not allergic to bee stings, but I still broke out in a greasy stress-sweat and my heart started racing from all the ado.

But that's all neither here nor there. The important thing is that we scored a shitload of mushrooms in a pleasant 2-hour stroll through a mossy western hemlock forest, and it didn't even rain.

That night I prepared an erratic feast. I made cabernet-braised oxtails; fingerling potatoes sauteed with pancetta, chanterelles and cauliflower mushroom, baby arugula and thyme; and a nice salad of mixed baby greens, toasted hazelnuts, forelle pears and gorgonzola with a fig-balsamic vinaigrette. Yes, it was a strange combination for sure (red wine braise and white wine in the potato-mushroom ragout? Am I CrAzY?), but it tasted pretty good.

Last week I was working in Centralia, Washington, which has a cute little meat market rumored to have elk sausage. I stopped in, but they didn't have any elk yet (boo), so I picked up a coupla German-style fresh sausage and a some rabbits. The bunnies were from Nicky USA (a Portland game and exotic meats purveyor), so I figured it was probably safe.

Last night I prepared the sausages with a hash of baby sweet potatoes, green tomatoes (from the garden) and chanterelles with thyme and a little hit of nutmeg. The sweet potatoes didn't crisp up the way I wanted (they always stick to the pan), but it was still really good. The tartness of the green tomatoes complimented the sweetness of the potatoes, which in turn complimented the earthiness of the mushrooms. And sausage really just compliments everything.

Man, I really need to work on my food photography. Today I joked with Tammy that I should build a little porn studio for my food, like with red velvet curtains and soft lights and all that. The main problem is that by the time I have dinner ready, it's really dark out and since we are doing our part to reduce the CO2 footprint, our lighting is of the compact fluorescent variety. I'll keep working on it.

Tonight I'm going to cook the bunny. I have a vision of a kale and parm-stuffed roulade (sliced into perfect medallions) in a translucent chanterelle broth with some pretty tortellini. I'm not sure if my skills are there yet, but I guess I'll find out.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I Have No Runcible Spoon

But I do have so many quinces that I can't possibly use them all. I implore you to contact me if you want any!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Quince Tree I Forgot to Mention

I have just come to discover that the "apple" tree in our back yard has been quietly bearing quinces unbeknownst to me. Since this is our first harvest season at the house, I had been scratching my head all summer about the strange fruit that looks like an apple with a pear-like protuberance at the stem, but is covered in scurfy pubescence and has a particularly sepalous blossom end (getting all botanical on yo' ass). I tasted one the other night and was delighted at the fragrant, tart apple-y flavor, but assumed they weren't ripe due to the exceedingly hard flesh. Turns out she was a quince all along. Silly quince!

Tonight I will roast a few and make some quince paste, my favorite accompaniment to manchego. Then I will happily curl my toes and peruse my archives for other recipes. I'm thinking a tarte tatin or a gallette with black cardamom-vanilla syrup. Mmmmm...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

...and we're back! Part 2: Engrish and Other Funny

I guess since the last post was 'Part 1' I left myself the responsibility of making another one, even though there's not much else to share except the random Japanese cuteness and Rost in Transrations that provided unlimited entertainment. However, it is Sunday evening, and I have a pot of soup on the stove, so this will smack a bit of half-assedness.

At any rate, here it is.

Delicious $5 sushi in a department store basement, made only hours earlier from fish caught that day. Juxtaposed by...

$30 grapes. I mean, they were tasty, but $30?

"Oh you are, are you?"

Onigiri truly is filled with Mother Love.

A storefront in Akihabara

As if the cuteness of the storefront wasn't enough, here is a random sidewalk, also in Akihabara. I love robots.

Over-Under on Threadless making this a t-shirt design? The sign warns against going into the train tracks to retrieve items, and is one of the coolest I've seen.

Super Potato, where we picked up vintage games that were never released in the US (and will never really be able to play since we can't read Kanji or Katakana, but whatevs). I never really do the peace sign in photos (or ever), but "when in Rome," I guess. I love how my bag matches the entire store.

Oh, Mr. Donut. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

We saw these cigarette girls standing and talking to whom we assume is their boss/pimp, and when I asked "shashin o totte mo i desu ka?" ("may I take a photo?") they looked at each other nervously, then looked at their boss/pimp, and he says to me in English, "yes, it's okay". They instantly switched to "on" and posed for me.

It wasn't the only one I saw, but it was definitely the biggest. And at least it was the outside of the window.

Get crunk. Ice for your grill not included.


This one doesn't really need an explanation, methinks.

Meh, I guess that's it. I'm a bit tired of looking at/explaining all of these photos by now anyway, and I still hafta put together a PowerPoint for work.

Monday, September 24, 2007

...and we're back! Part 1: A Gastronomic Survey

Wow, what a whirlwind. We got home Sunday morning at around 9:00am, and since we'd been tying one on while enduring the 10 hour flight, we saw fit to keep drinking until we fell asleep (oh, don't look at me like that - it was midnight our time). We slept off and on all day, periodically taking breaks from napping to order a pepperoni pizza and hot wings from Rovente's, and then to wander over to the Stone for some Maker's and Diet Cokes with a plate of nachos the size of a toddler. Norman Rockwell's America, it was.

Not that we had been desperately missing western food - I mean, the food in Japan was fucking amazing. Sure, we had a coupla duds (fast food and some bar food failed us - why am I not surprised?), but one place was so great that we even went back a second time on our last night.

Honjin looked like a little hole-in-the-wall from the outside (it was in an alley), but was our first exposure to sitting on the floor, shoes-off dining and to motsunabe - a hotpot of cabbage, scallions, tofu and some grisly nasty bits of chicken. The first night we went (our second night in Tokyo) we were undaunted by the katakana-only menu and simply said, "omakase shimasu" ("we're in your hands").

The guy ended up bringing us 6 different things:

Clockwise from the top:
nankotsu sumibiyaki - charcoal-grilled chicken breast and crunchy cartilage, smoky and delicious.
hakata hitokuti gyoza - we ate this the second time too, but I still don't know what was in that gyoza (anyone translate for me?). The crust on it was incredible.
jidorino tataki - seared rare chicken, in a lime juice and shoyu dressing with red onions, chives, and what I think I identified as shaved fennel. We thought it was duck at first because it was so rare, but no signs of salmonella yet!
"Honjin salad" - not very Japanese-sounding, but it was a salad of julienned daikon, red and yellow bell pepper, and a shoyu-rice vinegar dressing, with a little mizuni greens. Very refreshing.
motsunabe (obscured in photo, but you can see it in the first pic above) - we chose ours with miso broth, and the second time there we realized we could order noodles for slurping up the last of the unctuous broth. I will definitely make this at home.
karashi mentaiko - spicy, pickled, salted cod roe. Very intense. "Maa maa" - not my fave, but Scott liked it (I'd wished I'd had some rice to chase it!).

(apologies for poorly-exposed and attempt-at-fixing photo)

The amuses bouche were a beautiful ceviche baby squid with seaweed and glass noodles in a slightly acidic, sweet and salty dressing, and a little dish of octopus tentacles with masago. The second time we were treated to a simple egg salad with excellent remoulade.

Our second favorite meal was not so much about the food (which consisted of excellent yakitori of duck meatballs and pankoed and fried soft-boiled quail eggs, but bland shabu-shabu) as the atmosphere. It was located in Shibuya, and served as our respite from the harrowing heat and frenetic pace of Tokyo rush hour. We wanted to kill some time before attempting the train ride back to Shimbashi Station, and ducked down into a small place whose name was sadly never established for lack of any Romaji signage.

When we entered, the front counter was occupied by one elderly man in an expensive suit, surrounded by an entourage of middle-aged men in similarly expensive suits, all standing around protectively. As soon as the older man finished his food and stood, they all turned and followed him downstairs. Scott and I of course assumed that they were Yakuza (it was likelier just a boss and his employees, but that's no fun, is it?). The subsequent clientele were all senior citizens who went directly downstairs, where we assumed the non-smoking section must've been located. The old timer behind the grill complimented my Japanese, which was very gratifying.

Another place worth mention is also tragically nameless due our illiteracy in Kanji and Katakana. We had just befriended a Korean traveler over mediocre sushi who reluctantly agreed to come drinking with us, and we found another gorgeous little basement joint where no English but ours' was spoken.

Karam spoke better English than he did Japanese; in fact, I think my Japanese was actually better than his, which I find sort of amusing.

We had only been looking for a place to drink reishu and maybe peck a little, and instead stumbled into a place perhaps a bit out of our league. Never fearing a challenge, we settled in for what ended up being a flight of premium cold sake presented by an apparent sake sommelier. He was an uncanny Japanese doppelganger of Stephen from Top Chef Season 1, which put me and Scott into peals of giggles. The chef and apprentices were prepping for dinner, and our seats at the bar gave us a perfect view of my favorite form of entertainment - the kitchen's ballet.

The clatter of a dropped pan instigated a knee-jerk "otto!" ("oops!") to come rushing out of my mouth, and appalled at what I feared had been glaring disrespect, I looked up in time to see the chef smiling and shaking his head. Phew! Disaster averted. He wasn't offended at all, and in fact treated us to a free sample of the kobe beef he was gracious enough to allow me photograph.

I'm sorry, but the marbling on that masterpiece makes my panties wet. A quick sear was all it took, and slivers of beef that can only come from cows that are massaged daily and fed sake melted on our tongues.

Other foods were photographed but dashed what were perhaps unrealistically high hopes. Okonomiyaki was tasty enough at the time, but looking at the photo now kinda turns my stomach.

Pork and noodles were probably the better choice over seafood, but the cloying barbecue sauce left an icky aftertaste. Many glasses of reishu were required.

Worse, takoyaki wasn't even tasty at the time, and the mere thought of it now makes me puke a little in my mouth.
I was expecting crispy little hush puppy-type dumplings with tender nuggets of octopus, but was instead met with a mushy exterior and an interior of raw batter and tough hunks of cephalopod, all topped with the ubiquitous barbecue sauce, kupie mayo, and bonito shavings that writhed and squirmed as they melted in the steam. We couldn't drink our beers fast enough to overwrite the experience.

These were the notables (and unmentionables) of our culinary adventures in Tokyo. Your mileage may vary.