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).