Monday, January 31, 2011

Getting Ready for the Storm of the Decade

Photo (c) Flickr User kkrisus
I arrived at my mom's this morning after a tiring, but uneventful red-eye flight from San Francisco. Unfortunately, it seems as though a massive blizzard is headed our way, and it looks very likely my drive down to the QVC training will be iced out.

As anyone from these parts will tell you, rain is no problem, snow is no problem, but an ice storm is another thing altogether. Freezing rain collects on trees and power lines, causing catastrophic damage as gravity and Murphy's Law do their thing. Not to mention that when it comes driving surfaces, a sheet of black ice really sucks.

I hear the blizzard will slam 2/3rds of the country over the next 3 days, so if you're in its frigid path, please be careful! In happier news, I'll be attempting to film a Super Bowl-themed clam casino dip recipe tomorrow. Stay warm and stay tuned!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Heading Home to See Mom, and Eventually Cook with David

Photo (c) west-chester.com
I'll be grabbing a red-eye Sunday night for snowy Western New York, to spend a couple weeks visiting with my mother, Pauline, and the rest of the family. But wait, that's not all! While I'm home, I'll be driving down to West Chester, PA, to the QVC Studios to train for a future appearance to help promote the cookbook I did for Parragon Publishing (read about that here, if you're not already in the know).

Before they let you on the largest home shopping network going, you have to do a day of training to learn all the finer points of shilling, telling people that operators are standing by, and how they can afford the book by breaking up the payments into smaller, more manageable installments.

If everything goes well, I'll be appearing on the wildly popular, In The Kitchen with David. I've never seen the show, but I found this video on fellow celebrity blogger, Hungry Girl's YouTube channel. Have a great weekend, stay tuned, and enjoy!


Friday, January 28, 2011

Honey-Brined, Southern-Fried Chicken Breasts – Boneless, Skinless, Low-Fat, and Delicious?

Is there anything less inspiring than a boneless-skinless chicken breast? There must be, but for the sake of this post, let's say there's not. So, how do we turn this culinary snoozer into something worthwhile? Fry it. Hey, that was easy.

Of course, the problem here is there's no flavorful skin on which to attach a crunchy coating. To add insult to injury, the fatty skin also protects the bland breast from drying out. Despite these obvious issues I decided to attempt Southern-fried boneless-skinless chicken breasts anyway.

As fate would have it, the same day I bought the chicken, Alton Br
own was doing a honey-brined pork shoulder on Good Eats. To combat the dreaded dry chicken I decided to use a simplified variation to soak my breasts.

I won't bore you with all the scientific details, but through osmosis, brining raises the internal temperature at which the moisture is forced out of a protein. Even though I only brined my breasts for an hour, it worked like a charm. As you'll see in the recipe video, the meat was very juicy.

As far as the skinless-coating went, I was also pleasantly surprised. Even though it was incredibly thin, it stayed on the meat throughout the frying, and the final result was nothing short of quite good.

And yes, I am calling this low-fat (relative to regular Southern-fried chicken). When you eliminate the skin, you significantly reduce the calorie count, and even though we're cooking this is lots of oil, the coating is too thin to absorb very much of it.

If frying isn't your thing, still I encourage you to give this ultra-simple brine a try anyway. I think you will be impressed with its effect. I plan on using this on a regular basis this summer while rocking the grill. Enjoy!




Ingredients:
2 boneless-skinless chicken breasts
3 cups cold water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
lots of cayenne
vegetable oil for frying

Feta and chilli salad




You've all gone perfectly potty for the idea of low-carb recipes. I had no idea that that was the way to your hearts. I had thought you liked my swearing, my slap-dash cooking instructions and my amateurish photographs.

But it turns out that you all just want to be THIN and want nothing more than ideas for low-carb stuff that isn't grilled chicken and broccoli. Whether you are preparing for weddings, or losing babyweight, or just trying to shift general blubber you all want to be SKINNY and to hell with all those fattie know-it-alls, who try and tell you about being a "healthy weight" and having a balanced diet.

"Fuck you!" you scream. "I don't need BOTH kidneys and heart failure is a small price to pay for being 7.5 stone."

So anyway, not that I'm really craven or desperate to please or anything, but I'll have a care to feature more low-carb things. I mean, it's going to be all you get once I'm on a diet too, so we might as well start now.

But I need to clarify what I mean by low-carb. I don't mean carb-FREE; I think as long as you cut out:

refined sugar (i.e. not fructose, so you can eat fruit)
bread
pasta
potatoes
rice

weight will come off. Cutting out those things is hard enough, without also dodging stuff like butternut squash, fruit and whatever else randomly has carbs in it. Carrots, or whatever. I also don't think it's neccessary (unless you're feeling really hardcore) to cut out alcohol.

And I think a very occasional square of high-percentage cocoa solid chocolate is okay. That is, as long as you can ration yourself to 1 or 2 squares and aren't one of those people who ends up eating the whole bar. Which I think might possibly be everyone.

So, this chilli feta salad is a thing I pinched off Nigel Slater. We had it for dinner last night and although I almost never reach for a salad at dinner - way, way too depressing, especially in January - this was actually really great. As with all these things, I think you can get away with having it with some rye toast or a wholemeal pitta bread. Note I said A wholemeal pitta bread, not 6 wholemeal pitta breads plural.

Chilli and feta salad
for 2

1 packet feta
1 chilli, seeds out, chopped
1 lime
olive oil
3 spring onions
coriander
1 avocado, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
chopped coriander
mixed lettuce - I used chicory and little gem

It's pretty self-explanatory but I'll go through it anyway.

1 Cook in some groundnut oil over a very low flame the chilli and spring onion for about 6 minutes. Squeeze over some lime juice and scatter in some zest. Turn the heat up and add the block of feta and leave to cook for about 4/5 minutes each side on a medium-high flame.

2 Arrange the salad-bit on a plate and dress with olive oil, lime juice and salt. Plonk on top the cooked feta and scatter over the chilli, spring onion and coriander.

Eat while looking at a photograph of Megan Fox, and chant "THIN THIN THIN".




Jamie's cherry vanilla affogato



This I'll just mention in passing, seeing as I know a pudding isn't really what you want to know about right now. But I made it so you might as well know about it.

This is from Jamie's 30-Minute Meals and I thought it looked like a clever, sweet idea - and it is. Although the very expensive tin of organic black cherries I bought tasted of absolutely nothing at all. Really nothing. They were more of a texture than a taste. So this is only really worth doing if you can get your hands on some cherries that actually taste like something.

1 Mix up some instant espresso powder (you can get it from Waitrose, it's called "Percol" and it's just like very strong instant coffee - perfectly nice) - with a teaspoonful of sugar. For one cup, you only need about a shot's worth, so for, say, six people you'd need about a cupful.

2 Crumble some shortbread into the bottom of an espresso or small coffee cup

3 On top blob a ping-pong-sized ball of vanilla ice-cream and a tablespoonfull of cherries. Sprinkle over some flaked dark chocolate if you like. Just before serving, pour a shot-sized sloop of coffee over the whole lot. V nice, makes the shortbread go cakey and peps up the vanilla ice cream. And the cherries, if you can find some nice ones, will add extra mystery.




Thursday, January 27, 2011

Roast halibut with vinegar sauce



I made an executive decision last night that we were going to have fish. We hardly ever have fish, except the odd bit of squid for ceviche, because we both feel so strongly that one shouldn't eat it, because there's hardly any left in the sea. But I decided yesterday that it was time.

So I went to the world's least friendly fishmongers, who are - conveniently for me - located in North London. I have tried and tried and tried with those men and all I can say is that they are simply impervious to charm. So I don't bother smiling, or saying hello any more.

"What's newest in?" I said to a man with tattoos on his face, who may or may not be an actual fisherman, but is always in a foul mood.

"ALLIBUT" he said. 

"Okay," I sighed. "Two fillets please."

I handed over abaout £20,000 and left.

Anyway, things didn't go that smoothly with the dinner as a whole. There was quite a lot of dropping things and swearing coming out of the kitchen. I won't bore you with what went wrong, because hearing about a series of cooking fuck-ups - unless they are REALLY BAD - is about as interesting as hearing about a bad tube journey.

But the actual fish and the sauce I made up to go with it, against all the odds, turned out very well. So I'm going to tell you about the fish as I ought to have done it.

So here we go:

Roast halibut with vinegar sauce
for 2

2 fillets hallibut
50g butter
1 sloop groundnut oil (about 2 tbs)
1/2 sloop olive oil
salt
pepper
cream
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp capers, rinsed
scattering of parsley (if you have it, don't go out specially for it)
1 glass shitty white wine
3 bay leaves - if you have

1 Preheat your oven to 220C. On a board, skin-side up, season the fish generously with salt and pepper.

2 Put a roasting tin, big enough to take your fish, on the hob and in it melt the butter and oils together. Add the bay leaves and heat until foaming.

3 Add the fish - skin-side down - and cook for 2 minutes. Then flip the fish over so it's now skin-side up and put in the oven for 7 minutes. It ought to be cooked by then but you'll have to be the best judge.

4 After this time, remove the fish somewhere to keep warm. This is the tricky part because for some reason fish goes stone cold really quickly. I am incredibly spoilt and have a double oven. If you don't, you could try leaving the fish on dish, pre-heated in your 220C oven, and then cover it with foil.

5 Put the roasting tin back on the hob, pour in your glass of shitty white wine and let it bubble down - (careful because it will spit everywhere, it got me in the eye from about 3 feet away) - for about 3 mins, stirring occasionally.

When this looks like it has reduced a bit, turn the heat right down and add a long sloop of cream (about 5 tbs), the vinegar and the capers. Here I also added some broccoli cooking water to lengthen the sauce, but you could just as well add a few dribbles from the kettle.

6 Cook this all round for a bit over a gentle heat and then at the last minute scatter over some parsley if using.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cream Cheese Arepas and the Machine

When I first discovered arepas on a trip to New York City last year, it was love at first bite. I couldn't wait to get back to San Francisco, find some P.A.N. arepas flour, and make a batch or two, which I did in this post.

Since it was my first attempt, I used the classic water, salt, white cornmeal mix to delicious effect. As I read more about arepas, I saw there were hundreds of variations, using all sorts of combinations of milk, cheese, cream, buttermilk, yogurt, etc. I decided I wanted to try a breakfast version made with cream cheese and milk, topped with butter and honey. Unfortunately, I never did.

So, when my friends at Imusa asked me to test their arepas maker, I knew exactly which recipe I'd try. As you'll see, this machine was very easy to use, and produced some fine arepas (even though my dough was a tad dry and cracked a little – and to paraphrase the great Whitney Houston, when it comes to arepas perfection, cracks are wack).

If you don't use a specially made grill for these, worry not; they would come out fine using a pan as I did in the original video. If you want more info about this particular model arepas maker, please check out this Imusa product link. Also, if you can't find the P.A.N. arepas flour in a store near you, follow this link to purchase online.

On a side note; I have to admit, as I was using the machine, I kept daydreaming about doing burgers and eggs with it as well. So, don't be surprised if you see this machine appear in future videos with alternative recipes. Enjoy!

UPDATE! As viewer AFB just brilliantly pointed out, you can certainly just place your dough balls in the maker and let it press them down into patties for you. This is, of course, the main advantages of using this machine! I like the smoother edges hand-shaping provides, and I did make sure they were thicker than the press is deep, so that both sides are in contact. I may do an updated test to see how this faster and more traditional use of the press works.




Cream Cheese Arepas Ingredients (makes 4):
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup softened cream cheese
1 tsp sugar
1 cup P.A.N. arepas flour

Note: This video was made possible by Imusa, and the arepas maker was provided free of charge to test.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ham, cheese and spinach fritatta




My mind, in the last fortnight, has turned to diets. Specifically the diet I intend to hit once this baby is finally out. One of the worst things about being up the duff for me has been the fatness. Fat face, fat legs, fat arms, fat bum, fat BACK, fat HAIR, fat EYES fat FINGERS. Fat fat fat.

Horrible. I'm not a fattist, or one of those people who finds fat people repulsive. But I DO, now, wonder how those who choose to be overweight can stand it. When you are overweight, everything is such a major hassle - from tying your shoelaces and walking upstairs to getting dressed. And your feet hurt all the time.

And I don't believe that getting fat involves some kind of moral choice. I just hate being fat. I don't carry these 3 extra stone well. Some people put on weight and look glossy and curvy. I look like a pudding. It all goes on my face, under my chin and on my arms and I look just awful.

Other people say to me "Yes but give yourself a break.. you'll be really hungry when you're breastfeeding and being pregnant is like a bomb going off and you'll probably take 18 months to get back to normal and yah yah yah noise noise talking talking talking boring boring not listening..."

I know it is shallow but I can't help it. I just want to be thin again. I say thin, I mean slim - I've never exactly been Nicole Ritchie. But I'll do pretty much whatever it takes to get this blubber off. And once I'm back to my old weight I am never, ever going to do that thing where I complain about being "fat" - I had NO IDEA what being fat meant until I got pregnant. I will just be thankful every day that I haven't got three chins. Until my husband demands another baby, of course.

But losing weight and keeping it off takes a considerable mental shift. Ever since I put on 1.5 stone at university and then lost it all on a semi-Atkins diet, I've never eaten just whatever the hell I liked - I was permanently running away from pasta and potatoes and screaming in fright at Krispy Kremes. But for the last 9 months I have been eating anything - pies and cakes and cream and stodge and coca cola and whatever else to keep my spirits up. But soon carbs will be out, protein and vegetables will be in.

So I thought I'd start re-flexing my no-carb cooking arm again in preparation, with this frittata. It's marvellously easy and more interesting, somehow, (despite being basically the same thing), than an omelette. You can chuck in whatever you like - cooked bacon, mushroom, finely-chopped courgette, different sorts of cheese, tomatos, peppers - whatever. Just no potatoes.

Ham, cheese and spinach frittata
For 1 hungry person, or for 2 with a salad

3-4 eggs
1 handful cooked chopped ham
1 handful any cheese you like
1 handful steamed chopped spinach
salt and pepper
1 tbs cream or sour cream (if you have it knocking about)
some butter for cooking

1 Preheat your grill to a medium-high heat. Beat eggs, salt, pepper and cream in a roomy bowl then add all the other ingredients, except the butter.

2 Heat the knob of butter in a non-stick pan until it's foaming and then pour in the egg mixture. Cook this over a medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, then slide pan under the grill to finish off the top. It's ready when it's light and springy to the touch and a weeny bit wobbly in the centre - about 2-3 minutes.

You Asked for It!

Remember when I posted the "Potato Ball in Potato Box" video, and you guys started joking around about deep frying it? Well, here you go! This was a YouTube video response from kashioable.

Roast garlic and camembert




There were a lot of alarming things about my husband's house when I first moved in. He lived in it like a little lonely bat shivering in one corner of a huge creaky, dark forest. The front door was chipped and turquoise, the number of the house printed out onto A4 paper and sellotaped to the glass-bit over the door. There was a roll of kitchen paper in the downstairs loo.

He didn't own a cafetiere despite having a moderately serious coffee-drinking habit; the convection hob either boiled everything dry or only heated up to baby-breath temperature, the thin grubby blue carpets left over from the previous owners (who moved out 6 years previously) wouldn't get clean with any amount of vacuuming, the canary yellow paint in the living room made everything look jaundiced, the lino was curling and wan and for some reason almost every picture he owned was hung in just one room.

But the most freaky thing was that there were no clocks. I know I have got a sort of mania for clocks, but even so. There were so many rooms, but no clocks. Not even in the kitchen.The first thing I unpacked was my bedside clock, a large retro silver thing with bells on top and a handle. At first he scoffed at it but I quickly found him in the mornings looming over from his side of the bed to squint at the time. (Just like he scoffed at the idea of a thermal cafetiere, but now declares it his favourite thing in the house.)

Now there are clocks everywhere. Kitchen (1 - huge one) bedroom (2) bathroom (1) living room (1) my room (1), the nursery (1). His study - zero - because he seems to be happy telling the time off his computer. Me? I need a clock.

And I need lists. I need lists like I need air. I don't even do very much with my time but I need lists in order to organise the nothingness, otherwise I will categorically not send my niece a birthday card, or ring the curtain man or write about bottarga or invoice that newspaper for my £95 kill fee.

When something is on a list, the liklihood of it getting done increases by a factor of 10. I used to write lists down on post it notes and stick them to things, or on scraps of paper and balance them in prominent places on my desk. Now I have a clipboard. It is red and it sits to the right of my laptop and serves the dual purpose of list-holder and mousepad.

Clipped to the board is a lined sheet of A4 paper, divided into 2 by a vertical pencil line. One column is for scribbling down things when I am on the phone, or off websites. The other column is The List. When the A4 page is full, another is clipped over the top, so that any vital notes made or things left undone don't get thrown in the bin, they merely move another layer down.

I love my list. But sometimes I fear I may have come to rely on it too heavily. If something isn't on the list, I instantly forget about it, meaning if it occurs to me that I have to do something, I often find myself racing to the list to write it down before I forget about it and the baby arrives home from hospital and there are no nappies.

I think this Lorraine Pascale girl looks to me like a list person, too. In the first episode of Baking Made Easy, she declares a love of online shopping, which I'm also mad for. I always think that making lists and a devotion to online shopping are two sides of the same coin.

She made the other day roast garlic and baked camembert, which struck me as a totally genius dinner idea, so I re-created it at home the other night and it went terribly well.

Lorraine Pascale's roast garlic and camembert
For 2

2 bulbs garlic
1 camembert in a wooden box
3 bay leaves
some thyme
50g butter
salt
a bit of olive oil

1 Lop the tops off the garlic bulbs. Having first smeared butter on the base of whatever tin you're going to roast the garlic in (so it doesn't stick and have to be chipped off) put the garlic bulbs cut-face down on the butter. Chuck on top the rest of the butter, herbs and sprinkle over some sea salt. I also drizzled over a bit of olive oil.



2 Shove this in the oven at 200C for 45-50 mins. 20 mins before time is up, unwrap the camembert and peel off the sticker that'll be on either the upper or lower side. Then slide back into its box, without the lid, make a large cross in the top and put in the oven to cook for the remaining time. Eat with toasted rye or sourdough or whatever you fancy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stovetop "Sous Vide" Episode 2: NY Strip Steaks – Pretty and Pink

The duck breast we did in Episode 1 of our stovetop sous vide series last month was so spectacular, I couldn't wait to give it a try with some nice thick steaks. I had no doubt that it would work (thanks to the laws of physics), but would the extra time and attention be worth the payoff?

Well, that depends. As far as the taste and texture of the meat goes, it was pretty much the same as any perfectly cooked steak I've ever had. Not to sound all braggy, but thanks to having done thousands of them, I can produce a pretty decent, medium-rare NY Strip steak in
about 15 minutes.

It will be nicely browned and crusty outside, warm and pink in the middle. So for me personally, I'm not sure the extra wait is worth it purely for the textural advantages is provides. Don't get me wrong, the results were fabulous, but do I really need to wait 2 1/2 hours to get my beef on?

The real advantage to this technique is not a superior-quality final product (like it was for the duck), but the fact that you're guaranteeing a perfect medium-rare (using 130 degrees F. water, or 140 for medium, or 150 for medium-well, etc.). So, if you've never had any luck getting large, expensive hunks of steak cooked to your idea of perfection, then this is the way to go, for sure.

Since we went over the basics of this procedure in the previous post, I won't rewrite all the background info about what sous vide is, and how it works. For that kind of scintillating background information, please check out, "Episode 1: The Best Duck Breast Ever." Enjoy!

NOTE: For LOTS more information about doing sous vide steaks, check out Sous-Vide 101: Prime Steak Primer by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, posted on Serious Eats.



Ingredients for Stovetop "Sous Vide" NY Strip Steaks:
2 (12-14 oz) NY Strip Steaks
1 teaspoon grape seed oil , or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter, divided
handful of trimmed mushrooms
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Giles

Ack! There are suddenly loads of you who've been directed here by my husband, Giles. I wish he'd warn me when he's about to do that on Twitter because otherwise I'm all unprepared for new visitors and am still in my dressing gown with a face mask on as you ring at the doorbell going "I was told there was a great food blog here...?"

And I go "Oh yes... yes... hang on a sec, let me just... put my face on..."

Anyway, welcome. It's not that great a food blog, really, it's just that it means Giles gets cooked for at home, which as you can imagine, is a status quo that's in his best interests to maintain.

Bottarga




Sorry if I'm sounding a bit freaked-out today, it's just that I went to see Black Swan last night. People suggested that it was scary but I thought "Please, how scary can a film be about ballerinas?!?!"

Incredibly fucking scary, it turns out. I kept waking up running with sweat having seen, in my nightmare, Natalie Portman creeping round the side of my bedroom door in a black tutu. Brrrrrr.

Anyway, today is about Bottarga. Bottarga, if you don't know, (and there's no reason why you should), is the dried roe of grey mullet that tastes strong and smoky and fishy. You can also get tuna bottarga, but obviously none of you buy tuna in any form these days because it's so monstrously ethically unsound.

Bottarga is sold vacuum-packed and looks like this:



and it's most commonly eaten grated onto linguine, because people in Italy and Sardinia (the country bottarga is usually associated with) don't have much imagination.

"Hmmm, what is? New fishy thing. Let's put it on.... pasta!!"

It's not that easy to get hold of. Even in London, I've only seen it in Panzer's, in St John's Wood or in Selfridges Food Hall. But it's worth poking around in your local fishmonger or deli snazzhole, if such a thing exists round your way, to see if you can source some.

People tend to bang on about how expensive it is, but it's not really; 70g, which will set you back about £10, is enough, served on pasta, for about 15 people.

It's best, to my mind, done as a rather chic and exotic starter. Some people saute it with chilli, which I think is a bit of a shame as the chilli takes over. But do do that if you want to.

The way I did it the other night was like this:

1 Allow 50g of linguine per person and when cooked dress with salt and good olive oil.

2 Turn out onto a pre-heated serving dish and grate over a generous amount of bottarga. You really do just grate it, with a grater, like this:



You can also shave a few bits off, too.

Then sprinkle over chopped flat-leaf parsley and lemon juice if you want. If you really want to taste the fishiness of the bottarga, leave out the lemon as it can overpower it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What is the Opposite of Meatless Mondays?

This is "Meat Salad" from the YouTube channel, Epic Meal Time. I would LOVE to know what you think. Enjoy! UPDATE: We have an official Vegan response video below!



Saturday, January 22, 2011

That's Some Sweet Pie Crust

This great pie crust video features Alan Carter, the pastry chef at Mission Beach Cafe, a great little neighborhood restaurant just a block away from our home in San Francisco. I've been planning on filming a new pie crust recipe, and have always wanted to try the vinegar/water method. 

Knowing that our neighbor, Chef Carter, known for his world-class pies, uses that same technique has me very excited to give this a try. The clip comes via The Feast, who credit Mike Anderson, from NBCBayArea.com, for the video's production. Enjoy!


View more news videos at: http://www.thefeast.com/video.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Orange tiramisu




It is noticeable how you don't really give your own childhood much thought until you're faced with having a child of your own.

And the more I think about it, the more I think that the way I was brought up was quite weird. There were no bedtimes, for example. I never had to brush my teeth or do homework.

I did, of my own accord, but I didn't have to. There was no pocket money - each purchase was individually negotiated - no "curfew" later on as a teen and no question of doing chores or duties. I was never told to tidy my room. For one entire year I didn't go to school because I didn't want to.

I knew it was weird at the time, I suppose. I knew it was odd that I didn't have my own bedroom until I was about 8 - kipping down merrily until then in a huge bed with my parents - or that there was no such thing as compulsary pre-dinner handwashing or anything said about finishing everything on your plate. I distinctly remember feeling a bit sad that I didn't get a bedtime story like children on telly adverts did. But then I got to stay up late watching telly with my parents until I nodded off. Who else got to do that? Eh?

Up until quite recently I was baffled by this sentimental attachment that a lot of peoople seem to have to a bath before they go to bed. "I think I'll have a bath and then go to bed," people always say.

"Why a bath?" I always wondered. "Why not a shower?" Then I became vaguely aware of parenting routines and realised that bath-and-bed is a way that parents have of getting their children to go away and go to sleep at 7pm. Later on in life it seems to remain a treasured bedtime sleep trigger.

Some people, I'm sure, probably think that it sounds like quite an enviable childhood. And despite the chronic laziness, inability to take criticism, latent agoraphobia, filthy temper, crippling heartburn, weak veins, antisocial tendencies, stubbornness, foul language and fear of the dark, I think I escaped pretty much unharmed.



I truly believe that I invented this orange tiramisu, but that can't be possible. It's not really a tiramisu either, but I don't like the word "trifle".

Anyway, I made it because I can't get enough of oranges at the moment and so I thought this would be a nice thing to do with them. It's not really cooking, more of an assembly job, but it's a nice thing to have around about this time of year as it straddles the light and summeriness of impending spring, but also the orange booziness of winter just passing.

I made a small one, which would do about 4 people. My camera has been fixed so I went mad with the photos, but I don't think that's such a bad thing.

Esther's Orange Tiramisu (until someone tells me otherwise)

2 oranges
300ml whipping cream
5 tablespoons Cointreau
1 handful hazelnuts, chopped
4 trifle sponge fingers from Waitrose
2 vanilla pods (optional)


1 Peel your oranges with a sharp knife and cut them into small, spoonable chunks. This is my new favourite way of peeling oranges because it means you don't get skin and pith stuck under your nails and orange juice in your eye.








2 Arrange a layer of sponge fingers in whatever bowl you're using.



... it doesn't have to be neat

3 Pour over 1 tablespoonful of Cointreau per sponge finger, plus one for luck. So in this case, 5. Those in AA can substitute the same quantity of freshly squeezed orange juice.





4 Then arrange over that your orange chunks





5 Whip some cream - with the seeds of 2 vanilla pods if you want. I found adding vanilla seeds a bit of a faff and it didn't make anything taste especially vanilla-y, but you might feel different.






6 Scatter over the chopped hazelnuts...




7 ... dust with cocoa powder...







And then have yourselves a great weekend. Don't forget to wash behind your ears.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Spicy Orange Chicken Wings - It's Not a Party Until the Panda Wings Come Out!

Here they are – easy and delicious, spicy orange chicken wings, cleverly named (according to me anyway) after the spicy orange chicken served at Panda Express. By the way, this recipe has nothing to do with killing, riding, eating, rubbing, growing wings on, or otherwise abusing panda bears.

We are right smack in the middle of chicken wing eating season, and with the Super Bowl just around the corner (Go Jets!), I figured it was high time for a new wing fling. The recipe could not be simpler to make, and if you can somehow manage to whip up a batch of these oven-fried chicken wings to glaze, you'll be in sticky-finger-heaven.

Since this was my first time trying this, I went very basic, and was extremely happy with the results. It was very similar in taste and texture to the Panda orange glaze, and done so with no gloppy cornstarch, which is not very nice cold.

Next time I will try the additions of ginger and garlic, and maybe some toasted sesame seeds. In the meantime, I really hope you give these a try, and please let me know how your particular variations come out. Enjoy!



Spicy Orange Chicken Wings Ingredients (enough for about 5 lbs of wings):
2 big tablespoons Sambal, or other Asian-style chili paste to taste, or may sub red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup orange jam or marmalade, (strain if contains an excess of orange rind pieces)
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Suggestions for optional additions:
finely minced garlic cloves
finely grated fresh ginger, optional
minced green onions
toasted sesame seeds

The Cuisinart soup maker





I'll wager that even the most dedicated of my husband's fans are unaware that he writes a monthly column for a technology magazine called T3. It's one of those magazines that has models in bikinis on the front holding small items of new gadgetry made of brushed aluminium. Every month we are sent a piece of technology that he has to write about.

The joke being that my husband has a nervous breakdown if you suggest he so much as uses the "search inbox" function on his email. I can completely fuck his life up by setting his phone to Silent, because he won't notice or be able to put it back.

He was once sent a replacement mobile phone that wasn't a Nokia and hated it. But rather than ring up and send it back and get a Nokia, he drove himself into blurry fits of hatred and confusion and semi-tearful wobbles of frustration and despair trying to make it work. Every tantrum ended with a wail of "Why can't it just be 1930?" (Answer: because war would break out in 9 years and we'd all die.")

Anyway, he was too much of a tech-retard even to go onto the Nokia website and just buy himself a new sim-free Nokia. So after four months of this and of me finally snapping and screaming "Shut the FUCK UP up about how much you hate your stupid fucking phone!!" I went onto the Nokia website and bought him one myself.

Anyway, this is the kind of man we are dealing with, here. He hated the iPhone we were sent, and the 3D TV, and the XBox Kinetic. The Tom Tom HD traffic was more of a success, although the novelty C3PO voice got on his nerves after a while.

And then this arrived, the Cuisinart Soup Maker. Surely the most pointless and silly thing ever to have been invented by man. It's basically a blender that looks like it's been re-designed by Tim Westwood and it chops and cooks - yes it COOKS - your raw ingredients before whizzing them into soup

But soup is ridiculous. A slurry of mushed-up things, the first spoonful of which is nice but then you have to plough through the rest for what feels like years.

And in order to make it interesting you end up eating 16 slices of bread and enough Cheddar to fell an oak tree, when the whole point of eating (drinking?!) the soup in the first place was to lose a bit of weight while you consider doing the Tracy Anderson Mat Workout DVD that you completely forgot that you had bought on Amazon until it arrived at your door.

But when I unpacked the soup maker, from where my husband had dumped it after its arrival and had been nervously skirting around for the last week - like it was a dead body - it turned out to be rather an impressive beast.

And it came with a handy cookbook, which revealed I had been prejudiced and wrong to think that this sucker can only do soup. Not so! It can also do:

Thai fish cakes
Spiced apple chutney
Tikka Masala sauce

... some other stuff...

...as well as all manner of soups such as carrot and coriander and broccoli and stilton. You know the drill. It'll take a lot to convince me that it's worth spending money on, though - let alone the critical cupboard space sacrifice.

I haven't tried it out yet, as I'm a bit busy at the moment complaining about the size of my swollen ankles and lumbering off to the doctor to be stabbed in the arse with massive needles. But I will soon - otherwise my husband won't get round to it because he'll be too scared and will have to write the whole column without having actually taken the piece of technology out of the box. Plus ca change.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Coming Soon: Panda Wings?

I'm about to air a video for, "Panda Wings." As the name suggests, this will be another fabulous addition to our award-winning collection of chicken wing recipe videos. The "panda" part comes from the fact that the spicy orange glaze you see glistening here, is inspired by the most popular entree at the popular Chinese fast food chain, Panda Express. 

So, can I use this name? Will I get letters from their lawyers? Are you a trademark attorney, or at least play one on the Internet? I'd love to hear what you think!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Instant Mashed Potato Pancakes – Made from the Other Kind of Leftovers

I loved seeing mashed potatoes at the dinner table growing up, not only because I loved mashed potatoes, but also because it meant my mother would be using the leftovers to make fried mashed potato pancakes.

These were nothing more than cold mashed potatoes, shaped into patties, and browned in butter. I loved them, and use that same trick to this day. The potato pancakes you see here were born from ano
ther kind of leftover potatoes…the end of a box of instant potato buds.

I'd used them while testing the crispy onion rings recipe, but didn't want to keep such an unsightly container in my pantry (you never know when some other celebrity food blogger is going to drop in to borrow a cup of foie gras), I decided to see what would happen if I
used it, uncooked, in a potato pancake mixture. What happened were four crispy, buttery, perfectly decent potato pancakes!

One advantage this version has over the freshly mashed one is those contain milk and butter, which makes it much harder to hold together when fried. I'm not saying you should just switch to instant, but I felt like I had to find some shred of a culinary advantage.

Logistically, this would be perfect for backcountry camping, or your friendly neighborhood college dormitory for obvious reasons, not the least of which is its cheapness and shelf stability (and by "shelf," I mean an old milk crate, turned on its side).

So, if you have some instant potatoes in the pantry, maybe consider giving this a try. Otherwise, remember this the next time you do find yourself in a similar situation. I mean, who would go out and buy a box just to specifically make a batch of these crispy, crusty, delicious patties? Enjoy!




Ingredients:
1 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup Betty Crocker Potato Buds (probably will work with any similar brand)
fresh chives
freshly ground black pepper
cayenne to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter

Monday, January 17, 2011

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day

You know I try my best to keep this blog free of politics, religion, and other subjects we all agree aren't as important as food, but on MLK day, I make a small exception. This is the end of the famous "Dream" speech. If for some reason you've never seen this, it's probably one the greatest speeches ever filmed, and a must-watch. Even if you have seen it, hopefully it never fails to inspire. Enjoy!


Sunday, January 16, 2011

5-Minute Peach Sweet and Sour Sauce – Pardon My French

I forgot I promised to post the video for the simple peach sauce I used to drizzle over the duck breasts in the stove-top sous vide recipe. I've done sauces similar to this in the past, but used the term gastrique to describe them.

Technically, a gastrique starts with caramelized sugar, to which sugar and fruit juice are added, but for my purposes here in Food Wishes land, it was close enough. So, while I was putting this quick and dirty clip together, the working name was "peach gastrique." Then I remembered I'm not French, and most likely neither are you.

At that point, I decided to simply call it a peach sweet and sour sauce. What it lacks in pretentious French cooking lingo-ness, it more than makes up for in accuracy and approachability. Beyond semantics, there really is no recipe here, but more of a ratio.

One part vinegar, two parts peach preserves, three parts chicken broth, plus whatever seasonings. Boil, reduce, and serve – and of course, enjoy!




Ingredients for 2 portions of Peach Sweet and Sour Sauce:
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons peach preserves
3 tablespoons chicken broth or other liquid (wine, fruit juice, etc.)
pinch of Chinese 5-Spice
pinch of cayenne
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste, depending on what you are serving it on (mine didn't need any, since I was serving over nicely salted, crispy duck skin).

Friday, January 14, 2011

And the Winner for "Best Home Chef in a Series" is… Food Wishes! [smattering of polite applause]

We did it! I'm proud to announce that I've returned from Hollywood, Tasty Awards trophy in hand! It was a very long, short two-day trip, so I'm going to keep this brief. I can't thank you all enough for taking the time to vote.

Every single time I've asked for support with a contest or award, you faithful foodwishers come through like champs. It's one of the oldest clich├ęs in the business, but it's so true, without the audience, there is no show.

I met some amazing new people, and got to visit some dear old friends. Speaking of friends, I have to give a big shout out to my buddy Sara (aka Average Betty), who won the 2010 Home Chef award, and was nominated in more categories this year than any other show. Unfortunately, she was robbed, but it was an impressive showing nonetheless.

Los Angeles was a lot of fun, but I'm excited to be back and cooking in chilly, not-quite-as-glamorous San Francisco. Thanks again, and stay tuned for a bunch of new videos airing soon!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Quick southern chicken

This is basically a massive cheat for anyone looking for a bit of Anglo-Tex-Mex in their lives. But it's brilliant and incredibly tasty and doesn't feel or taste like a cheat.

Using thigh meat for this, instead of breast meat, and then the fry/bake method reduces both the time and hassle involved in making a normal flat chicken/chicken schnitzel thing. But it also means that the chicken doesn't dry out, because thigh meat has more ballast.

The great thing about this is that you can prepare it ahead by doing the frying-off in advance and then the final bake before you dish up.

Don't be put off by the use of garlic granules - they might sound like an abomination, but once cooked off they're really tasty and fabulous.

This will feed 2 hungry people for dinner with a side salad, or 4 people with an extra side, such as macaroni cheese or some short corns on the cob. Yee haw!

Esther's quick southern chicken

4 skinned thigh fillets
3 slices of bread, any sort except rye bread, crumbed
2 tablespoons of medium matzoh meal (not essential)
3/4 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon mild chilli powder
1 tablespoon garlic granules (availble from Waitrose, you can also use onion powder)
2 dried chillies, crumbled (not essential either)
Some flour for dredging
2 eggs, beaten
vegetable or groundnut oil for frying

You could also throw in some black pepper, if you wanted, or cumin or cayenne pepper.

Pre-heat your oven to 180C

1 Unfold your chicken thighs and with a sharp knife slice them at a 45 degree angle on the horizontal (does that make sense?) until you've got 2-3 pieces out of each thigh. Each piece of chicken ought to be no more than about 4in x 2.5in. Some little ones are fine.

2 Assemble your crumb mixture by putting the breadcrumbs and all spices into a bowl and mixing round.

3 Dredge each piece of chicken in flour, then the beaten egg and then in the breadcrumbs. It'll get messy. Some people swear by doing that thing of putting the dredging stuff in a freezer bag and then putting the meat in and squishing round. I think this actually makes the mess worse - but do it however you fancy. It's your dinner.

4 Heat up your veg oil - about 1cm deep - to a medium heat in a shallow pan. Bear in mind frying in veg oil can make your house stink and ruin everything, so take the precaution of putting on the extractor fan in advance of  frying and if there's a door to your kitchen, close it and plug the gap underneath with tea towels. I also keep a see-through lid on my frying pan when I'm doing this.

Fry off your chicken pieces in batches. They won't need more than about 2-3 mins each side, just to get a bit of colour and oil on them. There should be a modest amount of bubbling happening at the edges of the pieces of chicken, but not violent deep-frying. If you see blue smoke, your oil is too hot.

5 Once all the chicken pieces have been fried off, arrange on a baking sheet then bung in the oven for 25 minutes.

Even though a really nice man in Hampstead fixed my good camera yesterday, I was too excited about eating this to run upstairs and get it, so I took a really shite picture with my little camera:



Sorry. But you get the idea. We were watching Zen on the V+ if you're interested.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hello from Hollywood!

I'm in glamorous Hollywood, CA (pictured here is my glamorous hotel), for the Tasty Awards. You can read about exactly what that is here, but I wanted to post a quick note to let you know I'll be here until Friday, so please pardon me if I'm not able to respond to an email or comment.

A sincere thanks to all of you who helped me get this nomination. Wish me luck! (not to win the award, but to survive my stay! ;-)

Whoopie pies



I had another go at macaroons, because I'm that needy for achievement and they went wrong again. So that's it for me and macaroons. It's over. It was never going to be love but now it's, you know.... a bit awkward and embarrassing to be honest.

So I turned to Whoopie Pies instead, because I'd heard that they were more accommodating, less tricky and demanding, less... French.

And if you are into a bit of performance bakery, these are definitely worth the effort.

I strongly recommend using a piping bag for this, as it will reduce the mess you make and the accuracy of your Whoopie discs by a factor of 10. But, unlike HATEFUL BASTARD MACAROONS they will probably work if you just carefully dollop out the cake mixture.

So here we go, Whoopie Pies, recipe courtesy of Lorraine Pascale. These are chocolate, but you could take out the cocoa powder and they would just be a sort of vanilla sponge. For the filling, I chopped up some hazelnuts and added it to the buttercream with a splash of Frangelico, which if you don't already know, is a hazelnut liquer.

But fillings and flavours are up to your imagination, really. Orange buttercream might be nice? For that you'd add the juice and zest of half an orange to the buttercream. Or maybe some chopped pistachios? Anyway, you get the picture.

The quantities below make about 20 discs, or 10 pies.
I halved the quantities and indeed made 5 pies.

For the pies:

120ml milk
190g demerara sugar
120ml sour cream
180g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
55g cocoa powder
pinch salt
1 egg plus one egg yolk (I just used one egg and it was v nice - if I was using these quantities, I'd use 2 eggs plus whites. I can't be buggering about with separating eggs in my condition.)
2 drops vanilla essence
115ml sunflower or groundnut oil

Preheat your oven to 170C normal and 150C fan. Grease and line as many baking sheets as you can fit into your oven in one go. Yes, you must do this.

1 Warm the milk in a pan and then pour in the sugar. Mix this round for 2 minutes and then take off the heat and add the sour cream. Set to one side to cool down to lukewarm - it won't take long.

2 Meanwhile, swizzle together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarb and salt.

3 Once the milk-and-sugar slurry has cooled down, throw in the eggs, oil and vanilla. Give it all a gentle whisk until it has all combined. Then add this to the flour mixture and fold round until it's mixed it. It will be quite runny and will have some lumps in - this is normal.

4 Now the hard bit - piping out the mixture. I find that the best way to get mixture into a piping bag is to stand the bag in some kind of jug with the icing bag hanging over the sides like this:



Then pour or spoon in your mixture like this:



Then it won't go everywhere. I mean, it will go everywhere, but not as much as it might.

I think a small-ish Whoopie, and by that I mean no more than 3 inches diameter when cooked, is best because the sponge is quite rich and if you wolf down one any bigger than that you might be sick. This means getting a disc of mixture no bigger than 2in on the baking sheet and in the oven. This is a bugger because you think you've got the right amount out and then the mixture splurges out all over the place.

I ended up squeezing out the mixture of the piping bag at a slow, steady rate and counting "one, two, three" to myself and stopping when I got to three. That seemed to produce discs of about 2.5-3in. Leave at least 1 in between uncooked discs and between the discs and the sides of your baking sheet/tin.

Yes it IS a bit of a pain, but unlike BASTARD MACAROONS, you get the hang of it quite quickly.

If you're feeling unconfident about your sizing, do one and bake it to test it out - they only take 10 mins so it's not a total hassle.

5 As above, bake these in the oven for 10 mins. Do NOT use a skewer to test for readiness as then you'll have an ugly great hole in the lid of your lovely Whoopies. Just gently pat the top of the sponge with a finger and if it feels firm-ish, it's done. The cake will firm up as it cools, so err on the side of bouncy.

For the buttercream icing

200g butter at room temperature - it really must be, I'm afraid
400g icing sugar
1 tbsp milk

Beat together the butter and icing sugar. If you've never done this before and you're doing it with an electric handwhisk, I ought to warn you that it's quite an alarming process. First the icing sugar goes everywhere and then nothing seems to be happening and then after about 3 minutes with scary speed the whole thing gels and turns into buttercream. Once this happens, slosh over the milk and beat that in. Then add whatever extra flavourings you're into, or leave it plain.

Spread the buttercream between two Whoopie discs and sandwich together. Go easy on the buttercream because it can be a bit sickly.

These will keep in tupperware, somewhere cool, for up to 3 days. If you do want to store them, make sure they are interleaved with greaseproof paper because what they really like to do is stick to things.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Me and Alastair

I was nodding off at my desk the other day, when I got an email.

I was excited. I don't get that many emails. It was from Alastair, who is a boy who runs an in-your-own-home cookery school who wanted to teach me how to make pasta. Okay not a boy, he is 29.


He's more handsome than this in real life
 But  he really does run his own cookery school. He comes round your house with all the stuff and teaches you how to do it all, without you having to put your shoes on or anything.

"I saw on your blog you wanted to make pasta so I'll come and teach you how to do it," he said. My heart sank slightly at the prospect that I might have to do something, but then lifted slightly when I realised that what I could sneakily do was get him round to my house, feign exhaustion from pregnancy and get him to make me lunch.

"Ok," I said grandly. "But I get very tired. So we'll have to keep the lesson to one and a half hours."

Alastair arrived at 10am on his motorbike with all his kit. Then I talked about myself solidly for 3 and a half hours, while eating all the filling for the ravioli and all the cheese for the cheese sauce. He made the pasta, which I managed not to eat until it was actually cooked.

I'd explain how he did it but the thing is, it was quite complicated. Best get him round to your house to teach you how to do it. Or if you're doing a no-carb thing, he can teach you how to chop things, or fillet fish, or make sushi! Sushi-making is his most popular class and more details can be found here. I tried to persuade him to do a class in macaroons and one in whoopie pies, because that's all anyone seems interested in making these days. Apart from sushi.

If you don't have a pasta machine, you're not going to make pasta, probably. And if you do have a pasta machine, you're already going to have a good pasta dough recipe. But one or two of you have complained about Jamie Oliver's pasta dough recipe, so if you want Alastair's, which worked out great, here it is:

400g 00 pasta flour
2 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
2 pinches salt
1 tsbp olive oil
semolina flour for dusting
water



So we made the dough. Or rather, Alastair made it and I sat at the other end of the kitchen eating crackers and going "Uh huh, yup, yup."

I insisted that Alastair teach me (i.e. do and I watch) hand-made ravioli because I thought it would be nice for my readers to be able to make some pasta thingy without having to buy a pasta machine. But it would take you about 8,000 years to make a lot of ravioli by hand, because you have to roll out the dough so bloody thin, so we skipped over that quite quickly to rolling it out with a machine.

Alastair says that Kitchencraft make a good pasta machine for about £20. But he also said don't buy one on eBay because sometimes they're rusty.




So this is a ravioli tray-thingy, that Alastair bought from a cookshop called David Mellor, apparently not the former Minister for Fun who had an affair with Antonia de Sancha. You have to sprinkle a LOT of semolina in it to stop the wretched pasta from sticking.



Then you lay a super-thin sheet of pasta dough on the ravioli sheet, wipe water over the whole thing to stick it together and then add your filling (in this case butternut squash, pancetta and shallot, sauteed for 20 mins and then mashed) in little blobs. The you put another sheet over the top and press down. Sprinkle the top with semolina flour and with a rolling pin, sort of squish down on the jaggedy lines and then turn the whole thing upside down so it all come out, like the picture above.

The first trayload of these will be a disaster, and will get steadily better. By the end I, and by that I mean Alastair, was doing it like a pro.





The ravioli was boiled for 4 minutes and served with a pasta sauce made from melting some cream and the last scrap of dolcelatte that I didn't eat straight out of the packet with my fingers and some toasted walnuts (ditto) together and pouring over, finishing off with some basil leaves.

And here it is! It was fantastic. Even yummier for my barely having lifted a finger in its creation. That isn't normal, said Alastair. Usually his students are a lot more involved than me. I scowled. "But they're not pregnant obviously," he said hurriedly, as I posted a large spoonful of blue cheese sauce into my mouth and then shooed him out of the door so that I could have a nap.



I've got a limited number of promotional discount cards here, so if anyone wants a visit from Alastair (although he can't go much outside London on his bike), or to give a class as a gift, drop me an email and I'll post one to you.

Or if you'd like to pay full price, because that's the kind of person you are, email Alastair directly on contact@cookeryschool.com or join up at the website at http://www.cookeryschool.com/.

You Want Your Baby Back Ribs? Sure, Just Stop Singing that Song!

Why am I'm doing a baby back ribs video in the dead of winter. I love how they taste. Sorry I don't have a more interesting answer for you, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let the earth's periodical tilting away from the sun prevent me from enjoying these tasty pieces of pork.

I'll be the first to admit this is not the best technique for doing ribs. You just can't replace slowly roasting the meat over smoky coals, but, that said, this baked in the oven version is way beyond respectable.

I've always found baby back ribs a very user-friendly product. Unless you severely over or undercooked them, they're pretty hard to mess up. I know I'm going to get all kinds of tips and tricks for the ultimate rib – the plastic wrap, the steaming, the braising, the marinating – but quite frankly, I've never seen the need.

Maybe this summer I'll try some of the more interesting ideas, but for this early January, this will do just fine. Speaking of ideas, yes, those are chicharrones on the plate of ribs. You're welcome.

This works with literally any dry rub and barbecue sauce combo. I've posted a basic, all-purpose rub recipe below, in case you're interested. For the sauce, I've of course used Michele's SFQ, but any premium quality barbecue sauce will work.

Anyway, if you're in the mood for a little virtual trip into summer, I hope you give this technique a try. Enjoy!



Ingredients:
1 full rack of baby back ribs
1 cup barbecue sauce

Dry Rub Recipe (makes a lot extra)
1/4 cup salt
1/4 white sugar
1/4 raw sugar (turbino) or brown sugar
1/2 cup ancho chili powder
2 tbsps freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cotechino - Happy New Year All Over Again!

Cotechino is a large, Italian pork sausage traditionally served to celebrate the New Year. Indigenous to Modena (yes, that Modena – home to the great balsamic vinegar), its thick casing is pierced all over with a knife, after which it's gently braised in a pot of lentils until done. Sound good, right? But wait, there's more.

After the sausage is cooked, it's sliced into round "coins," which are then fried crisp in a pan, and used to garnish the lentils. Everything about this recipe sounds great, so when Michele and I happened upon a nice, fat cotechino in Chris Cosentino's Boccalone, in the San Francisco Ferry Building, I knew the cranberry bean and Swiss chard soup I was making that day was going to have a guest star.

As you'll hear me whine about in the video, a huge rainstorm hit the city right in the middle of the recipe, and I didn’t make the correct adjustments to the camera. I tried to lighten the film, but it still looked horrible, so most of the soup making part of this is not shown. Here's what you missed: I made bean soup, and wilted some Swiss chard in it.

That said, this post is not about the soup, it's about how to use the cotechino. The exact same procedure shown here in all its dimly lit glory, can be used for almost any vegetable or bean soup/stew. I loved it with this simple cranberry bean ragout, but will try it with the traditional lentils next time…even if I have to wait another year. Enjoy!




Ingredients:
1 cotechino
1 pot of simmering lentils or beans
My soup contained:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 pound cranberry beans
1 quart chicken broth
water as needed
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
small sprig rosemary and thyme
1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed and torn
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste