Monday, May 31, 2010

Oh Shit I Have Moved!

Howdy, friend. I've pulled up stakes and moved the homestead to my own spot, Voodoo & Sauce. Join me, won't you?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sesame-crusted seared albacore with maitake, asparagus and soba

I made this during a warm spell we had a week ago. It was the kind of weather we ought to be having right now, but Mother Nature is being a bit of a premenstrual dysphoric bitch right now, dumping buckets of rain and unseasonally cool weather our way. Don't get me wrong, I'm from Portland, and am a dyed-in-the-wool Great Northwest kind of girl. But when I see tender tomato sprouts getting mowed down by gastropods and can't throw my windows open in the middle of May, I get a little bitter.

Nonetheless, New Seasons had gorgeous albacore loins, and the usual supply of feathery maitake mushroom clusters, and the asparagus was looking just as plump and green as all get out. I'm such a slave to this succubine vernality. I had some soba and other Japanese things at home already, so dinner was an easy idea away.

I rubbed the tuna loin in sesame oil and then rolled it in black sesame seeds. I seared it lightly on all sides while I got some dressing going: a good, fat tablespoon of grated ginger, a little finely sliced scallion; a drib each of mirin, rice vinegar and sesame oil; and a nice splash of tamari and shoyu (you can use Chinese soy sauce but for seasoning rare tuna I think it's worth going a little nicer with a good Japanese brand like Takumi, and save the dark stuff for porky noodles).

Pull the loin from the hot pan and break up and stir-fry the maitake until they're slightly softened, then toss in the asparagus (chopped into bite-sized pieces). Sprinkle in some sesame seeds and then dump in some cooked soba. Stir around a bit then add the dressing, then plate. Slice the albacore into thick medallions, top the noodles and sprinkle on some furikake (I just like a little seaweed, sesame and chile on everything).

Serve with a cold Morimoto Soba Ale (seriously, I can't drink enough of this these days) and dreams of sunnier climes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Animal Style

I recently lucked into some free beef, and I didn't even have to buy any tires. My old friend, mentor and high school geology teacher Dick Pugh (yeah, yeah, "what a name," but he's like 80 so shut the fuck up) was coming over to my house for dinner a few weeks ago, and "do you want some beef," he asked. Knowing that he raises Scottish Highland cattle, possibly the cutest of all meats, I vehemently accepted his offer. It's not every day you get free meat, especially not grass-fed (and finished) beef that was raised as a pet. All of his cattle get the sweetheart treatment and are only put down at the end of their natural lives.

He brought us some steak of various cuts and some ground round, and into the freezer it went. I pulled a pound of ground out of the freezer, but by the time it was thawed I hadn't come up with any clever ideas for dinner. I wanted to do the creature justice, but ground beef only has a few applications, and I was sick of eating Spag Bol. I had some pretty nice grainy hamburger buns, but nothing to put on a burger but cheese and iceberg. So even though we don't live in California, I decided we were having In-N-Out for dinner.

In-N-Out is famous for having secret ways to order your food. My favorite way of a burger there is Animal Style - that's with grilled onions, melted cheese and chunky thousand island-type dressing called "spread" (which is what happens to your ass when you eat too much of this shit). Lettuce is also a must, and iceberg is canon for fast food-style burgers. [Editor's Note: It was just brought to my attention that this is incorrect. Animal Style means the patty was cooked with mustard and comes with pickles and extra spread. I was thinking of the toppings on Animal Style Fries, but on the burger. Serious Eats made this same mistake and they won a fucking James Beard Award for best blog, so save your fist-shaking.]

Divide the pound of beef into two - yes two - patties. What are you gonna do with a half pound of ground beef in your fridge? Make a tiny amount of meat sauce? Just stop kidding yourself and use it all up now. I add only salt and pepper to the meat (the only integrity I can muster), and smush a handful of finely minced onions into the top of each patty.

Let the patties sit for a few minutes and come up to room temperature. Aw, jeez, stop worrying about germs, just keep your kitchen clean and you won't have to worry about meat sitting out for a few minutes. Get your grill pan rippin' hot and delight in the high-pitched squeal your patties emit when they sear on that hot pan. You'd better not fuck with those patties until it's time to flip them. Don't you dare smash them with the spatula or make any other fool move. Just...don't. Okay, after 6 or 7 minutes or so, flip the burgers.

Meanwhile, chop up some pickles (I use Krüegermann Mixed Pickle Salad because I have a giant jar of it) and mix this with a spoonful each mayo and ketchup. This is your "spread." Finely slice some iceberg lettuce into shreds. This is your "serving of vegetables."

After the burger cooked on the other side for 6 or 7 minutes, flip it again, turn off the heat, and top your patty with sliced cheese. Normally, I would vote for American for a burger like this, but we only had Havarti (besides, my hippie whole-grain buns ruined everything so I may as well run with it). Put your buns (cut-side down) on the still-hot pan to get toasty and to soak up some of that onion-y fond and grease. Apply a thick shmear of spread to each side of the toasty bun, then add the burger and a handful of iceberg shreds.

Serve with fries and an ice-cold cola (duh).

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Pulled pork tacos

Yes, delicious pork tacos. But first, indulge me for a minute while I embark on some quick link-dropping and tangent-going, and don't you dare pull a tl;dr on me. I never write any more. You'll get to the photos soon enough.

So I was reading Peter's blog (which I actually still do, Peter, even though I'm too busy saving myself from tendonitis to comment from my iPhone) and found out about Ruhlman's stance that "suck it, you all have plenty of time to cook. And what."

To borrow a phrase, I call bullshit. Now, granted, I am currently fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom (err, a work from home mom), so in theory I have plenty of time to loll around the kitchen for long, slow braises and staggeringly articulate yeast-risings - more time, in fact, than when Scott and I were a couple of blithe DINKs with weekends to burn.

To that I say, "you've gotta be fucking kidding me."

Anyways, Peter linked to a response from Married...with dinner, and at the end of Anita's pleasant diatribe, she vows to share time-saving tricks for home cooks on a weekly basis, and implores her readers to offer their own. So we can all eat like we have time to burn, when in reality, few of us have this luxury. And here we are.

Life as the recently-mated consists of a series of two-hour blocks. Two hours of napping (yay! do stuff!) are followed by two hours of attentive snuggling and neuron-firing playtime. Rinse and repeat. Two hours is still a lot of time, true, but did I mention I work from home? Plus, what if I just put something delicate in the oven, then have to abandon it for maternal duties? This has happened, by the way - I had to run upstairs to nurse Zeph back into submission and had to just lay there with my tit out, listening to the oven timer beeping away for 15 minutes until Scott got home from work. The food was saved this time, barely, but I know I won't always be that lucky.

My culinarian identity has been seriously compromised for the past year or so, so as a saving throw, I have become a recent convert to pressure cooking. Yes, old timey, frighteningly sputtery and clattery pressure-cooking. I can spare enough time a couple times a month to pressure-cook poundage of beast or beans (the pressure allows the boiling temperature to exceed 212 degrees, which drastically cuts cooking time), then freeze for easy reheating at a later date. This means I can eat feijoadas from homegrown heirloom beans (dried and stored) with brisket and ham shank an hour after starting it, and again a month later in only 10 minutes. (In fact, when I cook beans these days, I only cook the whole bag and freeze the cooked legumes in 1-cup portions. This takes about 15 or 20 minutes, and saves lots of rupees, too. Canned beans are for suckers.)

So my protip of the week: get over your fear of the pressure cooker. It was good enough for grandma, it's good enough for you.

Okay, so to the tacos already.

Another lazy-evening, time-strapped, just-put-the-baby-to-bed dinner, tacos are such an easy way to deliver protein, starch and a little veg to the sleepwalking. Particularly if one is fortuitous enough to have pressure-cooked a 5lb. pork shoulder the prior evening (which, itself, took only about 45 minutes).

All I needed was to add some cumin, Mexican oregano (actually a verbena, and not even in the same botanical family as oregano) and achiote to the leftover pork shreds. Reheated pulled pork always tastes fine as long as there is plenty of delicious grease to cushion against drying.

For authenticity (and because it is Correct), tacos should contain only meat, onion and cilantro, and be served in two corn tortillas. The second tortilla is for cobbling together a spare taco from any fallen taco flotsam. Hot sauce is encouraged, and a spritz of lime livens everything up.

Serve with an ice-cold Negro Modelo and radishes for coolness.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Japadog meets K-pop

A nice couple weeks, it's been. Lovely weather, lots of delicious cooking, but nothing really noteworthy that I can think of. I guess I could show you the nettle risotto I made, but I've already blogged that (though this time I made it with ham instead of lemony chicken or artichokes or somesuch). Besides, everyone blogs risotto-y things this time of year. Steaks with roasted tomato mac and chee is also all well and good, but not anything new.

The weather has been so nice that I've been in the garden nearly every free minute. Free minutes, though, are relatively rare these days, as Zeph fussily teethes and his naps have become somewhat longevity-challenged. Therefore, I'm a little ashamed to admit that we eat the odd hot dog and tots dinner (washed down by either root beer or beer beer). And since I still have that pile of Korean pickled things staring me down every time I open the fridge (but no pickle relish or sauerkraut, oddly), I figured, why not make some Korean relish? It'll be kinda like those Japadogs Scott and I had in Vancouver that one time. Besides, if people go nuts over those bulgogi tacos why can't I bastardize someone's culture with a hot dog?

I coarsely chopped doraji (that spicy balloonflower root) and oijangajji (those spicy cukes) and added a little furikake for some seaweed and sesame kick. Relish done. And for the coup de grâce, I made my new favorite condiment: gochujang mayo. I got the idea from Japadog's Misomayo, but since I was going Korean with this I used gochujang instead. I did also add a little shiro miso for sweetness, and smeared on thick, this is the best hot dog I've eaten in memory. The hot dog was a Nathan's 100% beef (like we care!), but I wouldn't kick a kurobuta frank outta bed either. Daikon sprouts woulda been lovely, too, but I didn't miss them too badly as I shoveled this into my maw while standing over the kitchen sink. Manidŭseyo!

Serve with a crispy wheat beer (I really like Rogue's Morimoto Soba Ale these days) and rice crackers.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Bibimbap, revisited

Just a shorty today, to show off some delicious bibimbap I threw together from ingredients I didn't make myself. I did cook the rice and arrange everything, but unless you ferment your own doraji and kimchi (I didn't), all you're really doing is arranging bits on a bowl of steaming white rice. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I don't even have a stone bowl to make this a proper dolsot bibimbap. In fact, I only made this because I didn't have any bread for the intended roast beef sandwich and realized I had a fridge full of Korean pickled things and a sack of Calrose rice. I warmed up the roast beef with some sesame oil and nestled it among the banchan I had on hand (clockwise from the top): kimchi, a crunchy seaweed salad, pickled cucumber (I had two kinds: a spicy Korean oijangajji and salty-sweet green Japanese aokappa) and doraji (balloon flower root). I guess I did saute some shiitake mushrooms in soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Top with an egg and gochujang. I usually use an egg fried over easy, but tried it raw this time. I prefer fried.

Whaddaya know, I cooked after all.

Serve with a glass of soju and since you already added Japanese pickles you may as well sprinkle with some shichimi togarashi.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Beef Pot Roast

Oh my toe-curling god, am I ever loving my pressure cooker right now. Pot roast, in an hour (well, 90 minutes counting prep). Are you fucking kidding me?

Believe it or not, I am still somewhat a n00b when it comes to preparing hunks of beast. I've only been cooking meat for about 6 or 7 years, and although I can really do some damage with slow-cooking in dry heat (I mean, who can't put a big chunk of meat in a 200 degree oven for 4 hours?), wet heat always fucks me up. It always hits a boil and turns to leather. Enter the pressure cooker: it's going to boil anyways, so why not let 15 pounds psi pulverize that connective tissue until it's butter?

The thing is, I only have a giant 23-qt pressure cooker that I bought for canning. It's a beast (the other kind), and I've used it for cooking only a couple of times - giant vats of beans in most cases - and it's a real bitch to get clean after that. This one's just not meant for everyday household use. So I came up with this neat trick that allows me to cook a 2 person-sized dinner in an army-sized pressure cooker. I make a sort of double-boiler by filling the large crock with a few inches of water, into which I insert a smaller pot that contains dinner. Works a dream.

So the rundown: I hit a 2lb chuck roast with a bunch of freshly-ground pepper and kosher salt, then browned it on all sides. Remove the roast, add two cups of mirepoix (1 part onion to half parts celery and carrot) and a bay leaf and thyme, saute until the veg is browned and the moisture from it deglazes the pot. I didn't have any beef stock so I added some homemade chicken stock (brown, from last week's roasted chicken) with a spoonful of beef bouillon paste, a glug of red wine, and a few squirts of Worcestershire sauce (I added enough to cover the roast). Put the whole shebang into the pressure cooker and let the flame rip. Once it hit my desired pressure (between 10 and 15 psi is my safety zone), I turned down the heat to around medium-low to keep it there. After an hour, I turned off the burner and got the side dishes ready while the pressure cooker wound itself down.

Simple sides are best for pot roast, and mine were boiled new potatoes and some mustard-glazed carrots and Brussels sprouts (glaze: spoonful of stout mustard, a few pinches of mustard seed, a scant spoonful of sugar and a knob of butter, add a splash of water to combine everything then let it reduce back down). When the pressure cooker simmered down enough to remove the lid without garnering third-degree steam burns, I pulled out the pot of roast and strained the jus into a hot pan to reduce. I whisked in a flour slurry and let it simmer into a rich gravy.

Serve with a nice Pinot Noir (hey, it's springtime - no need to go too big) and enough soft wheat rolls as needed to sop up all that gravy. Yes, all of it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Browned onion and scallion champ

Yes, this is basically mashed potatoes, shot in a golden spring afternoon. But with the addition of a variety of alliums, it becomes champ - a classic Irish potato dish. I did mix it up ever so slightly for our dinner, but not much. I browned some minced onion and shallots in a small pan with butter, and then deglazed the brown butter and sticky, caramelly fond with heavy cream. I added a blob of butter, some sliced scallions and chives and let this sit on the stove (turned off - the latent heat wilted the scallions nicely) while I boiled some Yukon gold potatoes (preferred over a floury Russet for flavor). When the potatoes were tender, I smashed them with the cream-onion mixture and folded in a handful of grated Irish stout Dubliner cheese.

I read that traditional additions include peas or nettles, and I can testify that peas are wonderful with this (I had them with leftovers the next day). Nettles, though? Ooh, that's a thing. I'll be headed down to the crick this weekend and give that a try.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Apricot-caraway tea bread

I can't really call this Irish soda bread, or even Irish-American soda bread, since my ingredient limitations forced my creative hand (as they tend to do). This is, though, a basic soda bread - a quick bread leavened with baking soda instead of yeast. Since I ran out of raisins (and was already using golden ones at that), I supplemented with chopped, dried apricots. And since I was already going a different direction with this bread, I baked it in a buttered terrine pan (and added a bit extra sugar and buttermilk to the dough, per Joy of Cooking's direction) to yield a neat, uniform loaf with an elegant crumb. "I may as well," I figured.

I toasted the caraway to draw out the sweet, caramel-y undertones of the seeds, and the resulting aroma of this baking loaf was so powerfully evocative of my mother that I had to take a triple-take with my nose to pinpoint the reason. She never baked this bread, in my recollection, but the bread machine she gave me for Christmas when I was 19 years old came with a mix for this very bread (the standard version of it). This versatile recipe needs no such contraption, though; in fact, it begs to come out of an old-fashioned oven, cradled in mitt-clad hands.

Yankee it may be, we indeed enjoyed this lovely loaf on St. Patrick's Day, along with pressure-cooked corned beef brisket, garlicky roasted cabbage and champ (to be posted later this week). Served with tea (Constant Comment - my mother's favorite) and toasted with butter, leftovers made the pleasantest of breakfasts.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ebelskivers with blueberry preserves and orange zest

I've been trying to find the time to post this for more than a week, and I barely have the time to do it now, as Zephyr naps and dinner simmers away on the stove. I should be posting the Irish soda bread I made for tonight's dinner, or the lovely corned beef brisket, roasted cabbage and champ (creamed with browned onions and wilted scallions and chives, topped with grated Guinness Dubliner cheese), or even taking a phone-in post on the Guinness ice cream float I'll serve for dessert. But no, I must finish what I've started, even as Zephyr stirs from his fleeting slumber.

Ebelskivers (a Danish filled pancake) are kind of a pain in the ass to make, so I made a couple dozen and froze what we didn't eat for breakfast. These ones have a dribble of blueberry preserves in the center, yielding a gooey, jelly donut-like effect. I added orange zest to the batter for interest. Dusted with powdered sugar (and served with more blueberry preserves for dipping), these are a special treat that are worth the trouble.

I keep meaning to use my ebelskiver platar to make takoyaki - I even have some Spanish canned octopus I could use. Or maybe another savory donut (corn and cheddar?).

Serve with cripsy, thick-cut bacon and a peach-berry smoothie (because you're purging the last of your frozen summer bounty).

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Pork-Shiitake Niku Dango

Niku dango are Japanese meatballs, and are the perfect accompaniment to beer and noodles (two of my favorite things). Meatballs, in general are huge right now - Bon Appetit magazine recently had a whole issue devoted to them. Shit, 20% of all my (granted, now craptastic) blog traffic consistently comes from people Googling Swedish meatball recipes. I love meatballs, and since I've been fiddling with Asian flavors again these days - mostly Japanese and Korean - I thought I'd make some pork meatballs with a Japanese twist.

Flipping through my cookbooks, I saw a recipe for such "meatballs with a twist" in the Japanese Country Cookbook, and this is very loosely based on that (I prefer fresh shiitake to dried, soaked ones). Mix a pound of ground pork with a beaten egg, a small handful of panko, 2 minced shiitake mushrooms, a clove of minced garlic, a couple tablespoons minced shallot and grated ginger, a small splash each of soy sauce, mirin and sake, a tablespoon or so of sugar and a pinch of salt. I also added a pinch of chile flake for posterity. Some minced scallion would've been a nice touch, had I had any around, and I guess some finely chopped hijiki or nori flakes would've been kinda special. Oh well.

I know people will say there are better ways, and I know that grilling would yield the best flavor, but I just portioned these puppies out using a small ice cream scoop and baked them at like 375 or 400 for about 20 minutes. This is just always the easiest way for me to make meatballs, even if frying in butter or duck fat does taste better. The mushroom and all the seasoning liquids (plus the lovely pork fat) keep the interior of the niku dango so nice and moist that you can get away with a higher temp to get a crispier exterior, but I brushed mine with store-bought tonkatsu sauce (pineapple flavor, though you could use a mix of soy sauce, honey and rice vinegar) and returned them to the oven to get all sticky and glaze-y.

Since I cooked these to sate a trashy izakaya jones, I originally served them with udon soup and gyoza, but I had so many leftover that I enjoyed the rest for a fast lunch the next day (reheated in the toaster oven) with shoyu ramen, soft-boiled egg and sprinkled with shichimi togarashi (Japanese chile powder) and nori goma furikake (seaweed-sesame rice seasoning).

Enjoy with a tallboy of Kirin (Marc suggests Asahi for proper Japa-redneckness) and Keyhole TV.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sopa del mezcolanza

...or, "hodgepodge soup".

Yeah, I've already failed at meeting my once-a-week blogging quota. And I don't fucking care! God, it's so liberating to just admit that instead of apologizing and making excuses. I have been cooking here and there, but nothing new or interesting. I can't be a genius all the time.

I made a vat of jambalaya with arborio rice on Monday (not even with any interesting meats, just chicken, andouille and shrimp). Oh, last night I fried some salmon croquettes and made some arancini with leftover jambalaya. That was pretty good. I did have a few failure piles that you would've enjoyed laughing at, but I really just didn't want to go through the rigmarole of the whole food blogging-it thing. One was frozen homemade chili on a pile of boxed mac and chee (hurried together after amateurishly burning the original dinner: linguine with what would've been a carbonara with caramelized onions and collard greens). The other was, in retrospect, eerily similar to Oswalt's original failure pile (served aptly in a sadness bowl): a blob of mashed potatoes topped with a slurry of gravy, shredded chicken and mixed vegetables (the canon Flav-R-Pac mélange of corn, pea, carrot, and lima bean niblets). That the chicken was not in "popcorn" format and lacked a cloak of grated cheese was the only detail that separated this dinner from that KFC abortion.

This is, for all intents and purposes, minestrone. But I wanted to tweak things a little by going Spanish with the flavors instead of the classic (read: run-of-the-mill) Italian minestrone. I used my canned homegrown heirloom tomatoes (supplemented with a bit of leftover arrabiata sauce), so it's even got a little hoity to go with my as-of-late, lackluster toity. I rendered some linguiça (yeah, yeah, but I didn't have any chorizo) in a little olive oil with diced carrots and a sofrito of garlic and onions, my aforementioned tomatoes and some piquillos that were on the brink of growing a beard in the fridge. I dusted the whole lot with some pimentón and some thyme. In went a handful of Trader Joe's Harvest Blend (a melange of Israeli couscous, baby garbanzos, orzo and red quinoa) to soak up some of the flavorful orange grease. A glug of budget tempranillo supplemented the chicken stock, salt and pepper to taste, and away we go.

Serve with a tempranillo and some appropriate toasty, cheesy bread product (ours was a cheesy breadstick, similarly procured from Trader Joe's).

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Sandwich with Celery-Roquefort Slaw

Since it was the Super Bowl recently, I've been jonesing for wings something fierce. There's something about fatty chicken wings coated in sticky, spicy hot sauce, chased with the cool, mineral crunch of celery and the cave-y funk of blue cheese. But do any of those flavors - so perfect together - actually require a chicken wing, as delivery system or matchmaker? I think not.

Instead, I put these flavors together in a sandwich. I tossed together some buffalo sauce by melting a few tablespoons of butter with a good 1/4 cup of Frank's Red Hot, a couple cloves of minced garlic, and about 2 tbsp of sriracha. I poached about a pound of skinless, boneless chicken thighs in the hot sauce until shreddy-tender (this makes enough for four sandwiches), then pulled them out and reduced the sauce to a sticky goo. I shredded the meat and tossed them back in the sauce to soak it up.

Meanwhile, I slivered a few stalks of celery on a mandoline and mixed a dressing of a few tablespoons of mayonnaise and sour cream, a splash of sherry vinegar and a handful crumbled Roquefort, and a little salt and pepper. Tossed together, this is a delicious, cooling slaw for any spicy meat, I'd hazard. But for these intents and purposes, blob it on a pile of the shredded chicken, rock this mess on a lightly toasted brioche bun, and you're laughin'.

Serve with your preferred fried potato product (we fancied our taters in the tot variety) and a Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Feijoadas grandes

Last summer I was totally knocked up and not good for much. Thank god I still had the presence of mind to a) grow a vegetable garden that included scarlet runner beans and b) utilize some of October's nesting instinct to harvest all of the beans and dry them instead of squandering all that precious energy on retarded shit like vacuuming all of the lampshades.

Scarlet runners (Phaseolus coccineus) are one of my favorite garden plants. I've been growing them for awhile, both for their beauty and their flavor. Hummingbirds love them (in flower), and they make a tasty alternative to flagiolets for cassoulet. They resemble a butter bean or a cranberry bean in flavor, but for this application - in fact, Brazil's answer to cassoulet - I was shooting for a more fashionable alternative to a black bean.

Feijoada is the national dish of Brazil, but variations exist in Portugal as well. Brought to the country by slaves, it traditionally uses black beans and less-popular cuts of pork such as snouts, ears, and trotters. As is typical of peasant fare, the dish has evolved over the years to include a wider variety of meats (depending on the cook and the country in which she lives), though still primarily features pork products cooked with black beans. Mine uses smoky piggy meats such as linguiça sausage and smoked ham shank, a Mexican langoniza (like chorizo, but with beef and pork), bacon and corned beef brisket (looked for carne seca, but was unsuccessful).

Since mine had only been dried for a few months, they didn't need much soak. I let them sit long enough for the skins to wrinkle, though I could've left them overnight. I didn't see the need, though, since I was planning on using a pressure cooker for at least part of the cooking. I think I probably had about 2 or 3 cups of dried beans all together (they filled a pickle jar 3/4 of the way).

I heated my large crockpot over medium-high heat and added 1/4 lb of bacon, one whole linguiça sausage, 1/2 lb of langoniza (left whole) and a 1/2 lb corned beef brisket (without the corning spices) placed fat side down to render out that tasty fat. Meanwhile, I chopped a large onion and minced 4 cloves of garlic and added them to the pot to brown in the rendered fat. I tossed in 4 bay leaves and a dried red chile and then the beans, the ham shank and about 3 or 4 cups of water (I didn't think to measure). You really don't need to add any salt because the meats contribute plenty, but besides that, salt toughens the beans and stalls cooking. You can always season at the end if your arteries really need a stiffy.

I cooked the whole lot at between 10 and 15 psi for about 30-45 minutes, until the beans were tender and the ham shredded off the bone. The beef should be tender enough to yield to the slight pressure of a knife; slice it and the sausages into thick slices and luxuriantly drape the meats over the beans.

Serve with rice, collard greens, orange slices and caipirinhas (a cocktail of cachaça, sugar and limes).

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cornmeal-crusted trout with mashed root vegetables and crispy leeks

So I was wandering around New Seasons, as is my wont these days, wondering what to make for dinner. It's citrus season again, so I grabbed some blood oranges. Even though they're not particularly sweet, I'm always suckered into buying them for their novelty. It's an orange! That isn't orange! Here, take my money.

I was sort of hankering for seafood, but after a recent flirtation with food poisoning (waited a day to cook fresh mussels, ate one or two, and realized they smelled like ammonia - luckily, came away unscathed) I wanted to play it safe with a nice salmonid. Salmon, steelhead and trout are so ubiquitous in these parts that kids growing up here get a shot at catching their very own at least once. My grandpa used to take me and my brother fishing at Rooster Rock State Park in the Columbia River Gorge when we were little. We'd always giggle at the fact that there was a nude beach at this park, and never caught anything but brown bullhead catfish. My grandpa usually ended up swinging us by the rainbow trout farm at the end of the day so we wouldn't come home empty-handed.

My mom would dutifully dredge the cleaned trout in some cornmeal and fry them up in a cast iron skillet. I think this was the only way I ate fish (or in fish stick form) until I was a teenager. Some wheels need no reinvention, and this is one. That said, I did want to doll up the cornmeal a bit, and so to it, added blood orange zest and fresh thyme.

I got about a half inch of grapeseed oil hot, then tossed in some sliced leeks to get nice and crispy. This is an idea I totally stole from Peter, and it's a good way to use a leek that languishing in the crisper. Also on the verge of going to waste was a bag of parsnips and a few carrots. Feeling the sweet root veg vibe, I simmered these in milk and mashed them with lots of butter. I fried the fillets of Idaho trout in the leek-flavored oil and in only a minute or two, dinner was ready. It was totally worth the mess.

Serve with a Pinot Prosecco and wedges of tart blood orange.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Moroccan Chickpea and Carrot Stew

...or, Back in the Saddle Again

Zephyr is now 8 weeks old, and I'm starting to get the hang of having him around. That said, cooking still takes me a bit of planning (unless I opt for yet another "pasta night" or "takeout night"). This is why I've decided to start doing what busy moms and dads have been doing for generations: the one-pot meal. Yes, I feel like a failure admitting it, but the one-pot meal is kind of a Thing.

Not just for cowboy camping anymore, a humble pot of beans (chickpeas, in this case) can be elevated to something you actually want to eat with the simple addition of a few choice ingredients. Carrots, shallots, garlic, homegrown heirloom tomatoes (that I canned during my nesting frenzy last fall), ginger, cumin and cardamom all combine easily with garbanzos to make a hearty, warming stew fit for a dark January Thursday.

I started mine early in the day and let it simmer over a low flame to thoroughly soften the dried chickpeas. The softly spicy scent of ginger, cumin and cardamom floated through the house all day, stimulating my postpartum appetite and filling me with a sense of Having Done Something.

Enjoy with warm, buttered flatbread and a chewy, raisiny garnacha.


Unless you take it to its hallucinatory extreme, sleep deprivation is not great for creativity. Preparing meaningful food, presenting it artfully and writing about it thoughtfully require both a rested mind and free time, for which new mothers are seldom known. Zephyr occasionally grants us a 4-hour chunk or two, but my evenings are generally broken up into 2-3 hour naps, interspersed with dozy, twighlit nursing. Being a good blogger means getting a good night's sleep, and this rarely happens these days. At this point, it's either slowly getting better or I'm slowly getting used to it.

As days lengthen, though, I'm finding myself more interested in thinking about things like combining ingredients instead of just filling my time with such enthralling activities as staring at the baby or waiting for Scott to get home from work. I am setting a goal for myself to update both of my blogs once a week - let's see how I do.