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
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.)


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...