Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cover to Cover Challenge: Fennel and Orange Salad with Lemon-Ginger Vinaigrette

I signed up for Mark Bittman's Cover to Cover challenge about a month ago. I feel like I've fallen into a bit of a rut with cooking, and thought having some one assign me a recipe would force me to do something I wouldn't ordinarily do. And I was right! I'm not much of a salad person -- I don't mind eating them, but I rarely make them -- so it's definitely something I've not done before. And it's from Frederik de Pue, who's restaurant Table is very buzzy right now.

I found all of the ingredients pretty easily, though I was unable to find fennel fronds. The preparation was simple enough, with the only difficult step being removing the membranes from the orange slices (I imagine this would be easier with practice). I thought the dressing was especially nice, and I'll probably steal that in the future.The salad didn't work very well in execution though. I worry that I may have used too many mustard greens, but I suspect even if I had been more rigorous in only using the amount called for, it would have still been problematic. They were just too tough! In addition, the raw fennel was more pungent than I care for. One tip that I think would help would be to dress the salad half an hour to an hour before dinner. We do that with kale salads, and it really helps soften up the leaves.

The bacon cauliflower pizza, however, was great.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Weeknight" Coq au Vin

I knew, going into it, that the allegedly weeknight coq au vin was probably not actually a weeknight recipe. That's why I cooked it on Sunday. And I wasn't wrong -- it took me about two hours from start to eating, and while I could probably get that down a bit with practice, it's not ever going to be a recipe I have time for most weeknights. That being said, there's a lot of downtime in this recipe, so if your problem with weeknight cooking is energy rather than time, it could work. Else, wait for the weekend.

It starts by boiling down a mixture of bacon and onion while the chicken roasts in the oven. I used pre-diced pancetta, which worked fine, but it may have been better to use actual bacon to get both a larger dice and a bit more fat. Once it had boiled down and the onions had caramelized, it's time to add the chicken, mushrooms, carrot, and wine. This is where it took me longer than it had to -- it took longer than 20 minutes for the bacon/onion boil to boil down and for the onions to caramelize, so I had to wait to toss in the chicken. Next time, it may work better to start the boil first (or maybe just have the onion chopped beforehand).

Complaints about prep time aside, I really liked this dish. The chicken was juicy with a nice depth of flavor, and the sauce was good. The diced pancetta was a bit chewier than ideal; again, next time, I'll use bacon. We paired this with sauteed cauliflower, whose subtlety matched well with the flavor-forward nature of the chicken.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Macaroni and Cheese

Somehow, despite being a big fan, I haven't made macaroni and cheese since I was cooking things out of boxes with powders. And there is a special place in my heart for ye olde Kraft macaroni and cheese. But for a couple years, I've been intending to make a more grown-up version of it, with bechamel or some such sauce. The arrival of the Ruhlman cookbook helped spur me on to actually do it.

The sauce is fairly complex. There's some caramelized onions and shallots, five or six different spices, fish sauce, and sherry -- and probably two or three ingredients I'm not remembering. It's pureed, then tossed with the pasta and some cheese, covered in more cheese and butter-soaked panko, then baked. (Yeah, it's not a low-calorie dish). For the cheese, I used a blend of cheddar and parrano.

It ended up less creamy than I was expecting. Not a bad thing, just different. It was definitely cheesy, and removing the covering halfway through baking gave the top a nice crispiness. I was surprised (though I shouldn't have been) by how much it made; more than enough for my wife and I for dinner, with four containers of leftovers for lunches this week. This is going to be a great dish for potlucks.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tatiana Day

In honor of St. Tatiana, not to mention partner Tatiana Brunetti, Mari Vanna is giving a free flute of champagne and a Birdsmilk dessert (pictured above) to anyone named Tatiana. Who is St. Tatiana? According to Wikipedia:
She was the daughter of a Roman civil servant who was secretly Christian, and raised his daughter in the faith, and she became a deaconess in the church. This was dangerous, and one day the jurist Ulpian captured Tatiana and attempted to force her to make a sacrifice to Apollo. She prayed, and miraculously, an earthquake destroyed the Apollo statue and part of the temple.
Tatiana was then blinded, and beaten for two days, before being brought to a circus and thrown into the pit with a hungry lion. But the lion did not touch her and lay at her feet. This resulted in a death sentence being pronounced, and after being tortured, Tatiana was beheaded with a sword on January 25, around AD 225 or 230.
So if you're a Tatiana, head to Mari Vanna to celebrate your namesake's beheading. It'll be fun!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rotisserie Chicken and Leek Soup

I don't think I've ever made chicken soup before, but to be fair, I really don't make soup very often. After making this recipe, I'll have to make it more often -- this was great! It starts off with a chicken. The recipe calls for a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, but Ruhlman recommends just roasting a chicken yourself. I had plenty of spare time, so that's just what I did. My trussing skills leave something to be desired, but I stuffed the cavity with a lemon, sliced in half, some thyme, and a shallot, so it wasn't particularly important. Roasting a chicken is actually really, really easy; after stuffing the cavity, I doused it in salt and tossed it in the oven for an hour.

The leeks were simple to prepare, though a pain to clean. Once the chicken was done, the green part of the leek went in the soup pot with the carcass, a carrot, a parsnip, some tomato paste, garlic, and bay leaves. That simmered for an hour, and in a cast iron pot, I softened the white part of the leeks in some butter. Once the leeks softened, I strained in the stock and added the meat. After simmering for a couple minutes to warm the chicken, it was ready. And boy was it! Just the right amount of saltiness, layers upon layers of flavor, and a silky butteriness to the liquid, I can't wait to have it for lunch again tomorrow.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sage Garlic Brined Pork Chops

Photo by Julia Frost, on flickr.
 The first recipe I prepared from the Ruhlman cookbook was the Sage Garlic Brined Pork Chops. I've been brining pork for a while now, so the method isn't exactly new to me, but Ruhlman adds a lot more to the brine than I ever have. Ten (10!) cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of sage, lemon, shallot, etc. He also has you boil everything together briefly, which I suspect is important to releasing all the flavors, especially the lemon. Everything in a bag, and then we just had to wait seven hours.

Once the pork chop was done brining, we coated it in flour, breaded it, and pan-fried it, also according to instructions from Ruhlman's book. While frying it, I made a lemon-caper sauce and my wife prepared brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes. While the pork chops were thinner than Ruhlman suggested, they cooked perfectly -- if anything, they were slightly underdone. I've always been impressed by how much brining makes pork much more tender and juicy, and this brine added some really good flavor. It's a really heavy dish, though. The lemon-caper sauce was necessary to cut the heaviness with the acidity of the lemons and the saltiness of the capers. The brussels sprouts were a good side, and complemented the pork chops nicely; I'm glad we didn't roast them, as that may have been too much. Similarly, the potatoes were good, but they may have been a carb too far. I really enjoyed this meal, and look forward to trying it again!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Growlers are back!

Photo by Erwyn van der Meer, on flickr.
 According to Young & Hungry, Mayor Gray signed the omnibus alcohol bill yesterday. The process for Sunday sales might take a few weeks, but hopefully growler sales will start earlier. I'll let you know if I hear anything more.