Monday, April 30, 2012

This Asparagus, Ham, and Ricotta Pizza Has a Really Nice Personality

That’s what I’d say about this delicious asparagus, ham, and ricotta pizza if I were trying to fix it up on a blind date. Every once in a while I get a craving for a non-tomato sauce, or “white” pizza, and when I do, I’m forced to choose between béchamel and an olive oil base.

I love both styles, but was in the mood for something different, so I decided to use some ricotta and olive oil to make a spread, which I topped with smoked ham, asparagus, white cheddar, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It tasted great, but I found its appearance to be somewhat unsightly.

I knew the ricotta and olive oil would separate somewhat in the extra hot oven, but I thought with the other cheeses on top, it wouldn’t be noticeable, but as you can see, it was. The good news is, no one seems to mind, and it did taste great. By the way, you can certainly do a less rich, lower cal version by just using seasoned ricotta without the oil.

Anyway, “new pizza ideas” is always a popular food wish, and I hope this ricotta spread inspires lots of pizza experimentation in your kitchen. If you need a pizza dough recipe, I used this great no-knead version, but if you prefer something faster, this Wolfgang Puck-inspired recipe is also a winner. Enjoy!


Ingredients:
For the spread:
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp cream or milk
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes
fresh herbs if so desired
pizza dough for one medium pizza
1 cup asparagus pieces
1/2 cup diced smoked ham
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar
1 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano as needed

Heading Home!

Michele and I are heading back to San Francisco after a fantastic 2012 Passport to Dry Creek Valley! I forgot to bring that wire that lets me download the photos I took, but hopefully tomorrow I can show you what we served. 

Pictured here is a iPhone shot of our "Tonno del Dry Creek," which was some incredible pork confit from Dehesa (you'll be hearing a lot more about them soon), topped with picked onions, and "hearts on fire" greens. 

By the way, I will be posting a brand new video later this evening featuring an odd, but very delicious ham, asparagus, and ricotta pizza, so stay tuned!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hello From Healdsburg!

Michele and I are in Sonoma for the 2012 “Passport to Dry Creek Valley.” If you've been following this blog for awhile, I'm sure you've read about this event before, but if not, here's a little taste from last year.

We'll be doing the food
at the gorgeous Frick Winery for the 16th consecutive year! Despite all the hard work, it's a lot of fun and we look forward to this every spring. I'll be back Monday with a new video, and hopefully some decent photos of this year's offerings. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Salmon in Parchment – Terrifyingly Easy

Cooking fish in parchment paper is incredibly simple, and yet fairly terrifying for a novice cook. Since the seafood is encased in paper, there’s really no good way to check if it’s done, and so you’re basically going on time and experience, and this can be scary for even grizzled old chefs.


The good news: if you use a large, center-cut salmon filet, about 8 or 9 ounces, and cook it for 15 minutes at 400 degrees F., you’re going to be very, very close. After making this a couple times, you’ll adjust your cooking time to suit your personal needs, and once you dial it in, it’s a foolproof technique.

So, where and how do you get some professional parchment paper? It’s as easy as finding a donut…literally. Every single bakery in existence has a box of parchment paper sitting on a shelf somewhere. It comes in large boxes, containing thousands of sheets, and if you’re nice and/or offer them a few bucks, they will happily give you some.

And the great thing about parchment paper is that it’s so thin, when they pinch you off a quarter-inch from the top of the pile, they’re actually handing you hundreds of sheets. So, for a mere $5 bribe, you’ll have a couple years worth of paper. 

Anyway, once you’ve acquired the parchment, the rest is easy. Just make sure your fish is completely thawed. It doesn’t need to be room temp, but if it’s still ice-cold, the cooking time will be longer. Also, be sure whatever vegetables you include in the packet are pre-cooked enough to finish during the 15 minute cooking time.

By the way, in addition to cooking “en papillote,” parchment paper it’s also perfect for those occasional proclamations and decrees. Speaking of which, I hereby proclaim that this was really fun and delicious, and I decree that you give salmon in parchment a try soon. Enjoy!



Ingredients:

2 large, center-cut salmon filet, 8 or 9 ounces each, boneless-skinless
2 sheets of parchment cut into large heart shape (the surface area of half your “heart” should be a little bigger than the size of a large dinner plate)
seasoning to taste
salt and pepper to taste
drizzle of olive oil or butter
cooked potatoes and veggies as needed.
*Note: I served mine with a very light mustard aioli, which was simply mayo, Dijon, lemon juice and a touch of garlic.
Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees F., then let sit 4-5 minutes before cutting open.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

American French Onion Soup – Easy Just Got Easier

French onion soup is a very easy recipe. So, it’s a little ironic that this American French onion soup is an attempt to make things even easier. Then again, taking ideas that don’t need improving, and changing them anyway, is a time-honored American tradition.

Instead of going “French” on the onions, and cutting thin slices, we’re doing more of an extra large dice. I like the flavor and texture this cut provides, and there’s no danger of being chin-slapped by a long, steaming strand of onion. 

To make the caramelizing step a bit easier, we’re going to use the oven. You can just toss the onions in, stir it once in a while, and wait for them to brown. You don’t have to stand there and watch as closely as you would on the stovetop, and since the oven is blasting the pan with heat from all sides, you get a nice even color. 

The last Americanization is a departure from the classic gruyere cheese. My love for gruyere is borderline inappropriate, but keeping with the theme, I decided to go with a 50/50 blend of extra-sharp New York cheddar and mild Monterey Jack. It was wonderful, and a nice change of pace. 

Regarding the ominous vinegar warning in the video – I think a little touch of sherry vinegar really balances the flavors perfectly, but like salt, everyone’s palate is different. So, if you haven’t used it before, it may be a better to just add the vinegar, to taste, to the finished soup. Drip a little in, taste, and adjust. 

Anyway, spring weather means plenty of cool, rainy days, and what better way to enjoy those than with a nice bowl of onion soup? Whether American, French, or some other yet-to-be-discovered cultural variation, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy! 


Ingredients for about 2 1/2 quarts of soup:
6 large yellow onions, cut in large dice
1/2 stick unsalted butter salt and pepper to taste
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 or 2 tsps sherry vinegar, or to taste
3 tbsps dry sherry wine (do NOT use “cooking wine”)
4 cups high-quality beef broth
4 cups high-quality chicken broth
buttered croutons
shredded extra-sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese (you’ll need about 1/3 cup per bowl)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mmmm...Cream of Turned Mushroom Trimmings

I'm not sure how many of you tried "turning mushrooms" after seeing our post Friday, but just in case, this cream of mushroom soup will help you put those carved beauties and any trimmings to delicious use. When you're done admiring your knife work, chop them up, and enjoy one of the best soups ever invented. I've also added links to some of my other favorite mushroom recipes. Have a happy Earth Day, and as always, enjoy!

Cream of Mushroom Soup
Just Chicken and Mushrooms
Beef Short Ribs Braised with Wild Mushrooms and Tomato
Beef Medallions with Caramelized Tomato Mushroom Sauce
Creamy Mushroom Pasta Yan Yan

Friday, April 20, 2012

How to “Turn” a Mushroom – An Earth Day Weekend Special!

I’ve really never gotten that excited about Earth Day, and this year is no different. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge fan of the planet (especially love the gravity), so on Sunday, April 22, I will be giving thanks to Mother Nature, as well as all the heroes who fight the good fight to keep her happy and healthy.

However, for an old food blogger like me, a “holiday” like Earth Day is more about key words and search engines than seabirds and algae. And of course, if you’re going to do a tie-in for Earth Day, you can’t get any “earthier” than mushrooms.

This video for how to turn a mushroom represents another classic technique I learned in culinary school, which was really never applied in a restaurant. Along with things like aspic and ice carving, turning mushrooms is one of the things that chef instructors LOVE to teach. Not to impart vital skills to their students, but to simply show-off…and that’s exactly why I’m showing you. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Braised Red Cabbage – That is All

No matter how basic or boring an ingredient or dish is, I can usually come up with something to pontificate on, but for this lovely braised red cabbage recipe, I’ve got absolutely nothing.

I could go on about how I’m not sure what that color red is called, but I did that in the video. I could joke about taking one for the team, and keeping this side dish purely vegetarian for a change, but there’s nothing funny about not adding bacon.

I could suggest a few easy ways to turn this into an amazing one-dish meal, by adding some smoked sausage or leftover pork ribs, but that’s probably so obvious that I’d be insulting your intelligence.

Or, I could have gone into a great, old prep cook anecdote about how I won $10 from a pastry chef in 1987 by juggling red cabbages on the hotline during service, but that would have meant making up the story, since it was actually cantaloupes.

No, I’m not going to mention any of that. I'll simply suggest that if you want an easy, gorgeous looking, and very tasty vegetable side dish, then you should give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4-6 portions:
2 tbsp butter
1 small Red cabbage, sliced thin, about a 1 1/4 pounds
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup red wine
2 tbsp red wine vinegar, or to taste
2 tbsp white sugar
pinch of caraway seeds
salt and pepper to taste
*Note: there are SO many ways to tweak this recipe! Raisins, currants, shallots, onions, leeks, apples, and pears are just a few things that rock in this recipe.

Monday, April 16, 2012

How to Turn Corned Beef into Pastrami – Abra-ca-deli!

Great pastrami is not the easiest thing to find west of the Catskills, so a few years ago I embarked on a mission to find a way to turn the common corned beef into something similar. My goal was to come up with a reasonable substitute that could be done in less than a day at home, without a smoker, or any other special equipment. Impossible? No!

As you'll see in this video, I came up with a fairly easy method, which really worked well. While this homemade pastrami may not be exactly what you get at those famous New York delis, it's tender, very tasty, and piled between a couple slices of rye, makes a great sandwich.

The spice blend is fairly traditional, except for the smoked paprika addition. This gives the beef a nice, very subtle smokiness without having to worry about the considerable time/temperature management required by an actual smoker.

By the way, this is a pretty fiery rub. If you’re scared, you may want to reduce the amount of pepper(s), and/or leave out the cayenne. However, if you want the punch of a spicy, intensely aromatic pastrami, then this recipe will have you smiling, from the first mustard-shmeared bite to the last. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Editorial Note: No, you are not going crazy. We did do this video post before, but it was filmed for About.com, and played only on their website. That old post is no longer up, and being replaced with this one. Thanks!


Ingredients:
(Note: the dry rub should make more than you need)
3 to 5 pound corned beef brisket (should be the ready-to-cook variety)
1/4 cup fresh, coarsely ground black pepper
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 tbsp garlic oil (mix 2 crushed garlic cloves with vegetable oil, and let sit for one hour)
heavy-duty aluminum foil

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kitty's Jersey Royal hash



I have, many times, been in bad relationships. Relationships where the boy just flat out didn't like me and treated me badly and made me miserable. But I never left because I used to be one of those people who secretly loved the drama of it all and because when you are with someone who gets you accustomed to being treated badly, when they do something nice you are ten times more overjoyed than you should be. You nurse little scraps of affection. I'm not proud of it.

I have been thinking about this a lot because Kitty is being a bit of a pain in the arse at the moment. She is 14 months old and still can't walk and her molars are coming through and she's got a cold and she's just being unusually unbearable.

She wants EVERYTHING. She wants to be picked up, no put down, she wants to sit on this narrow windowsill and play with the catflap. She wants the cat - SHE WANTS THE CAT! PLEASE I WANT THE CAT. Now she wants to get down and walk, walk, stumble, walk walk. Now she wants to stand at this cupboard and open and close the door. Open, close, open, close, open, close. Open. Close. Now she wants to take out and smash the china PLEASE LET ME SMASH THE CHINA I WANT TO SMASH THE CHINA. Now she wants to be picked up! Down! Up! Down. She wants to run after the ball and kick it but she can't run or really kick. Now she wants to screw and unscrew the lid on this tube of moisturiser but she doesn't understand how the screw mechanism works. RAGE! Now I want to be picked up and go somewhere to do something but I CANNOT EXPLAIN WHAT IT IS SO I AM JUST GOING TO GO RED AND GO "EEEEEEEHHRH? MMMMMMOOOO?! EHHH EHHH EHHHHHHH?!"

And that represents probably less than five minutes in the life of Kitty Coren at the moment. It's pretty dementing. My friend R encapsulated the same experience that she is having with her otherwise impeccably-behaved toddler, who is 16 months old. "It drives me a bit mad. Endless pointing, pointing, pointing. Ehhh, ehhhh, ehhh. Never happy. Thank god for bedtime," she says. Another friend, L, who has three children, says "Yes it's that angry Japanese tourist thing that toddlers do. It's miserable."

And while all this made me feel a lot better - my child is not peculiarly awful, she is just entering the famously nightmarish toddler stage - it has brought back to me the experience of having a really shitty boyfriend.

As with a bad boyfriend, I continue to coo at her and say "come on then, pumpkin, what's up with you?" in the hope that she will be mollified by my dote. And, as with a bad boyfriend, when she does something - anything - nice: crawls on my lap to bash her snotty face against my cheek in the parody of a kiss, or decides after two months of spitting Calpol out that she is going to sip it nicely from the spoon and say "num num" afterwards - I am beside myself with joy.

"What a good girl you are!" I shriek. And I feel such a fool.

Anyway I made this for her lunch today - not that she would suffer to eat more than a few spoonfuls of it, the ingrate - and it was terrific and a great thing to do with the new Jersey Royals that are coming through at the moment.

Babies like this (she did eat quite a lot in the end) or it's a brilliant starter or brunch.

Kitty's potato hash

However many new potatoes you want per person
1 egg pp
handful peas pp
handful cheese pp
double cream, just to slop over
salt and pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 200C

1 Boil your Jersey Royals for 20 mins then tip into a baking dish and lightly crush with a fork.

2 Defrost some peas in the bowl with boiling water for a few minutes and add to the pan.

3 Scatter over cheese and drizzle over some cream until things are wet but not soaking. Season and stir together.

5 Crack in your eggs and bake in the oven for about 10-15 mins or until the eggs are set.

The sky's the limit in terms of ingredients, here. Chop in some bacon if you like, or mint, or chorizo or mushrooms or anything. Then make an appointment to get yourself sterilised.



Friday, April 13, 2012

Beef Tenderloin Medallions with Caramelized Tomato Mushroom Pan Sauce – I’m Glad I Used All Clad

My friends at All Clad recently sent me an invitation to take part in a contest to develop a recipe showing off their 10-inch Stainless Steel Fry Pan. After carefully considering the offer for several seconds, I let them know I’d be thrilled to participate, and even more thrilled to accept their free pan.

After a little brainstorming, I decided seared beef medallions with pan sauce would best highlight the benefits of using this type of pan. Once I decided on a general direction, it was time to pick ingredients. For medallion meat, I chose soft and buttery tenderloin. For the pan sauce, I went with mushrooms and tomato, as I knew they’d allow me to show how spectacular a sauce one can achieve with proper caramelization.

There are two huge advantages to high-quality cookware (three, if you count how cool they look hanging on your pot rack). Because the steel is thicker and denser, the pan not only retains heat much better, but it distributes that heat very evenly. In this recipe, the advantages of both are seen quite clearly.

First of all, we’re able to do a very high-heat sear, with the surface of the medallions getting a beautiful brown crust, while the inside stays nice and rare, thanks to the short cooking time the pan’s heat retention affords.

Secondly, as we’re caramelizing the mushrooms and tomato sauce, you can see the advantages of superior heat distribution. This sauce is very easy, but if you’re using a thin, cheap pan, you’re going to get “hot spots,” which makes browning the sauce base more difficult. Certain areas will scorch and burn quickly, and you don’t get nice even caramelization. Here, you can see that wasn't an issue.

Above and beyond the advantages of the cookware, the recipe tasted amazing. I mean, come on, I can’t give the pan all the credit. It’s one of those dishes that unless someone watched you make it, they’d never believe how fast and simple it is to prepare. By the way, this wonderful sauce would work just as well with pork, veal, or chicken. 

Anyway, thanks to All Clad for the pan and invitation to participate in this contest. I can’t wait to see what other bloggers are participating, and what they’re making. Please stay tuned for more details and results in the near future. In the meantime, I hope you give this great recipe a try soon. Enjoy!



(Since this was for a contest, I was forced to type up the recipe!)

Seared Beef Tenderloin Medallions with Caramelized Tomato & Mushroom Pan Sauce

For 4 servings:

2 lbs beef tenderloin, trimmed, cut into 8 (4-oz) medallions, about 1-inch thick (this will also work with chicken breasts or pork chops)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil for searing
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8-10 white button mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 cup marinara sauce (mine had basil and garlic in it, but any prepared tomato sauce will work)
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1 cup veal stock or chicken broth
2 tsp freshly chopped oregano leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes

Season beef medallions generously with salt and pepper to taste. Put vegetable oil in a stainless steel pan, and place over high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, sear the beef for about 2 minutes per side. The meat should get a nice brown crust, but do not cook all the way through, as it will finish cooking in the sauce. Turn off heat, and remove beef to a plate, and reserve until needed.

Add the butter and olive oil to the pan, and place over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook the mushrooms, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, or until very well browned. Add the tomato sauce, and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the tomato sauce thickens and caramelizes on to the bottom of the pan.

Pour in the Marsala wine, and raise heat to high. As the wine comes up to a boil, use a wooden spoon to scrap any caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan. When almost all the wine has evaporated, add the stock or broth. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced by about half.

Reduce the heat to low, and add the beef medallions back in. Simmer gently for 2-3 minutes, or until the meat is heated through and cooked to your preference. You can add more stock if sauce seems too thick.

Remove the medallions, and divide on four hot plates. Turn the heat off under the sauce, and stir in the oregano and cold butter. Stir constantly until butter has disappeared into the sauce. Taste for seasoning, and adjust if needed. Spoon over meat and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's National Grilled Cheese Day!

...or at least that's what I heard on Twitter today. Who decides these things, and how do they pick the day? Don't know, and don't care, because it give me an excuse to post our famous Inside-Out Grilled Cheese Sandwich! Follow this link to read the original post, and as always, enjoy!

Measuring cups






I try hard not to buy kitchen gadgets, I really do. They are mostly a waste of space and money - a one-way ticket to disappointment and self-loathing.

But for every Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker, (impractical), rice cooker (pointless) and juicer (amazing but hell to clean), there is the Dr Brown bottle brush (life-saving), openy-closey bright yellow lemon squeezer (I love you), Japanese mandolin (mmmm) and Cuisinart steamer basket (couldn't live without it).

The trouble is: how do you know? How do you know a set of poach pods isn't going to revolutionise your life? How do you know that you don't need, now, this particular silicon spatula?

I mostly try to resist, until my fingers, literally with a life of their own, reach for the chopping board that folds in on itself, or the banana hanger, or the toaster bag. Then I get them home and hide them from my husband, who partly despairs at my gadget-madness but also partly loves it, as he can say "Do we have something that will slice this apple into neat segments and section off the core?" And I will say "Why yes, and it also has soft rubber grips so you don't hurt your hands!!!"

Anyway today I caved in, having not bought anything for months and months (mostly because I've GOT IT ALL), because I saw these measuring cups in Waitrose, which I really think might change my life. My set of little metal measuring spoons rule the roost in my kitchen and there's no reason why these babies shouldn't occupy a similar topspot in the kitchen pecking order.

They measure not only in ml but also in cups - that maddening American instruction - so you can be all transatlantic about your cooking. They are also reassuringly practical and utilitarian - this craze for neon silicon cannot end soon enough, as far as I'm concerned. I seem to remember Nigella saying how much she loves her set of measuring cups, which she bought in America. (I may have made that up.)

But now a set can be yours for £9.50, from your nearest Waitrose with a kitchen utensil section. Now I just need something to cook.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mustards Grill’s Mongolian Pork Chop – Video No. 700 Was All Me

Every once in a while, I post a recipe that I’ve received exactly zero requests for, and this gorgeous Mongolian pork chop is the most recent example – sort of ironic, considering this is video 700, and I’m celebrating the milestone by going rogue! 

While 95% of the videos you see are inspired by actual “food wishes,” sometimes I’ll remember something so delicious, I just have to add it to the library.

One of my favorite restaurants anywhere is Mustards Grill, located in California's beautiful Napa Valley. Mustards is owned and operated by chef Cindy Pawlcyn, and for decades has been serving the best kind of new American comfort fare. While I love all the food, the standout dish is their famous Mongolian pork chop.

This is my slightly simplified version, but still very close to what you’d experience at Mustards. She adds a little green onion to the marinade, and I would’ve also, had I not forgotten it at the market. She also puts a touch of cilantro in the mix, but I prefer to use it freshly chopped to garnish the cold mustard sauce (something I should have mentioned in the video, but did add to the ingredient list).

Once marinated, these pork chops can be cooked any way you like, but for the true experience, you’re going to want to cook these on a charcoal grill. For me, it’s the smokiness that brings all these flavors together, but pay special attention to my warnings about direct high-heat.

Once the chops are marked with magazine-quality lines directly over the white-hot coals, I open the grate and push the charcoal away from the center of the grill, so that the meat and flammable marinade isn’t directly over the intense heat. This ensures all that delicious smokiness, with none of that annoying, “Hey, Honey, I think the pork chops are on fire.”

Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Napa Valley, I highly recommend you stop in to Mustards and enjoy this great American treasure. But, if that’s not possible, or you simply can’t wait, then give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 2 Portions:

For the pork and marinade:
two 10-ounce bone-in, extra-thick, center-cut pork chops
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 green onion, light parts, minced

For the mustard sauce (this is enough for 4, but I didn't want to use 1/2 a yolk!):
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 or 3 tablespoons hot mustard powder, such as Colman's or Chinese style (add to taste!)
3 tbsp sugar (their sauce is on the sweet side, so feel free to add this to taste)
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream (click here to see how to make your own)
cayenne, to taste
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp turmeric 
freshly chopped cilantro leaves, optional

*If you want the “real” original recipe, here's a link to check out.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Holstein Schnitzel



I continue to be deeply troubled by meat-eating. It never used to be a thing with me. I laughed at vegetarians - a lot. Silly people. Silly, silly. But in the last few years it's crept up on me, this horror of meat - accelerated by the arrival of my child, I'm sure (although having a baby hasn't made me a nicer person in any other regard; HM Revenue & Customs officials, John Lewis nursery department floor salesmen, Barclays Bank telephone banking jessies and National Health Service receptionists London-wide will attest).

What keeps coming back to me, again and again, is a bit in the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. There are these horrible aliens, the name of which now escapes me, who live on a planet with these gorgeous sort of deer-creatures with shining eyes and angelic temperaments and have antlers made out of fine filigree - or something. And the horrible aliens treat these deer-creatures abysmally and kill them for meat and ride them until their backs break and eat their children and so on.

That's me - that's us. It's only really just occurred to me that that was the moral of the story. We are the disgusting aliens. And sometimes when I hear people talking about how they are going to cook meat I feel as revolted and perverted as if I'm listening to a conversation about how to cook and eat children, or people. How can you salivate over the cooking of a dead creature! It's so terrible! Isn't it? Isn't it awful? And wrong?

But I don't want to stop eating meat, because it's too complicated. My reasons are too pathetic. And I never, ever eat meat that hasn't had a better life than mine. I spend an extortionate amount of money on quality meat and I dress myself in rags. Does that make it alright? I just don't know.

Anyway, sorry. I'm sure a lot of you think this sort of soul-searching is boring and stupid. It's just taken me entirely by surprise. I just didn't think I was that kind of person.

Nothing troubles me more than veal, except lamb. And chickens I suppose. Buck buck buck! It's all awful. But we purchsed some (rose) veal escalopes from the farmer's market the other day from the Twelve Green Acres farm stand, which is a small organic farm in Dorset. http://www.12greenacres.co.uk/

We spend so much money there that the bloke practically breaks into a jig when we slope up, requesting this week's happiest and most indulged creature that died of natural causes for us to worship for a while before cooking ritually and eating while murmuring prayers.

Inspired by a recent trip to The Delauney, London's latest swankhole from Jeremy King and Chris Corbin (The Wolseley, The Ivy etc) we made veal schnitzel Holstein. Have I got that right? It's breaded veal escalope with a fried egg on top.

It goes like this.

2 veal escalopes (must cost at least £4bn each)
medium matzoh meal YOU CAN GET IT FROM WAITROSE but don't get one that is kosher for passover, which is swilling about at this time of year, because it is considerably more expensive than the normal stuff and you will be needing to watch your pennies having bought your veal
seasoned flour
oil for frying
4 eggs


1 Set out three bowls, one with seasoned flour - and by this I mean heavily seasoned, three big pinches of salt, twelve turns of the pepper mill - one with the matzoh meal and one with two beaten eggs. Season the matzoh as well for good measure.

2 Dip the escalopes once in the flour, then in the egg and then in the matzoh. Set aside - I find I cake cooling rack most effective.

3 Heat up a lot of veg oil in a pan - about 1/2 a cm deep - preferably one that comes with a lid, until it is hot (but not smoking and going crazy) and fry the escalopes quickly, really just 2 minutes each side or less. Keep the lid hovering over the pan to stop your kitchen from smelling like the floor of a kebab van.

4 For the perfect fried egg, crack in the egg off the heat and fry gently - the egg ought never to pop or spit. Just as the edges of the egg look done, hover the lid again over the eggs so the steam cooks the top - that way you get a cooked albumen without having to flip the egg with yolk-breaking anxiety.

We ate it with broccoli. And a side order of GUILT.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cottage Fries – America’s Forgotten Fry and Most Delicious Roofing

While they don’t get the same love as French fries, home fries, or steak fries, cottage fries more than hold their own against their potato side dish fraternity bothers. 

And, unlike their French cousins, these easy cottage fries actually crisp up quite nicely in the oven, and as I described in the video, resemble fat, succulent potato chips. I don’t know about you, but to me there’s nothing about “fat, succulent potato chip” that doesn’t sound good.

They’re called cottage fries because they supposedly look like the shingled roofs on those cute little houses you see in the movies and on travel brochures. Appearances aside, I find serving and eating something associated with “cottages” to be just a little more relaxing and civilized than other less vacation-y potatoes.

I used Yukon gold potatoes, which as you’ll see, worked fine, but I do prefer the slightly starchier russet. I would avoid any of the red varieties, as they have a much waxier texture, and don’t get as crusty as other types.

I also used a silicon mat to cook mine on, but you’ll get even crispier edges if you use foil, or put the sliced potato directly on a non-stick baking sheet. Of course, the seasoning options are only limited by your imagination and self-control.

I love Herbes de Provence in this, but literally any fresh or dried herb will work here. Keep in mind, these chips are great just seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper, so you’re cooking from a position of power – don’t try and do too much. I hope you give these great change-of-pace “fries” a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients:
russet potatoes, sliced into 3/8-inch thick rounds (about 4-oz per portion)
enough olive oil to coat
cayenne, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to taste

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Pavlovatini

I tried another batch of pavlova, but this time piped it out as individual rings. It worked well, and oddly enough cooked in about the same time as the larger one we just did (they did get more color, but the texture was very similar). I know some of you asked about doing smaller versions, so here's the visual proof it will work. Enjoy!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wishing You a Happy Easter!

I know that Easter is a religious holiday, but for me, it'll always be associated with this sweet, shiny, aromatic bread. If you grew up in an Italian-American home, chances are pretty good you enjoyed something similar, but if you haven't, you must give this recipe a try! This originally aired back in 2009, and the link below will take you to that post for all the details. 

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, whether you're celebrating Easter, Passover, or just a beautiful spring day. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fresh Strawberry Pavlova – Cracking Up Down Under!

This crispy on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside, baked meringue is named after Russian ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova, who must have done one mean "fouetté en tournant." Some people think they can dance; some people know they can dance; and some people get desserts named after them in New Zealand.

Why she inspired what is basically a large, crispy marshmallow isn’t completely understood. By the way, Australia also claims to have invented the Pavlova, and this controversy is the main reason people from New Zealand and Australia hate each other. Update: I've been informed that New Zealand and Australia do NOT hate each other, but enjoy more of a proud rivalry.

This is an odd dessert, but one that’s a lot fun to make and eat. It's also fat-free…that is, until you pile on the whipped cream, but at least it starts off fat-free. Fresh fruit, especially berries and kiwi are standard fare, and it’s the tartness of the acidic fruit that balances the sweet, gooey crunch.

As you’ll see in the clip, I indulged in a little bit of culinary exhibitionism, and tried a new presentation based on the old, “if you can’t beat’em, join’em,” school of thought. Instead of worrying about a few cracks around the edge, I decided to go full-shatter, and the results are here for all to see.

I kind of liked it, but I’ll let you be the judge. Is it visually arresting? Cool? Annoying? Or, like my friend Tamar from Starving Off the Land implied, does it cause you to think about how badly your driveway needs repair?

Looks aside, strawberries are piled sweet and high at the markets right about now, and this would make a lovely dessert for the holiday. Anyway, I hope you give this a spin…or as I should say in honor of Ms. Pavlova…a fouette! Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4-6 Portions:
3 large egg whites, room temp is best (I think I said 4 in the video, but 3 is what I actually used!)
*Note: do not get ANY egg yolk in the whites, or this will not work.
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsps cornstarch
3/4 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
whipped cream and fresh berries as needed

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Easter Special! Mint-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Honey Vinaigrette

This mint-crusted rack of lamb was inspired by a lamb steak recipe we did a few years ago, which featured a minted honey vinaigrette. I loved how the sweet, herbaceous dressing worked with the subtly gamey meat, and that memory filled me with confidence as I planned out this video.

Lamb is obviously a popular Easter menu option, and while I have no problem with you slathering your meat with green mint jelly…really, I don’t…my mom’s fridge always had a jar of the stuff…I do hope you’ll consider this slightly higher-end application.

I know some will be extra curious about the blanching of the mint, but I’m afraid my less-than-scientific answer may leave you unsatisfied. I learned a long time ago that if you give your green herbs a few-second blanch before using, the heat locks in the color, and they stay nice and green in whatever you’re preparing.

Of course you can Google for more information, or better yet, you can simply make the recipe in blissful ignorance. Speaking of bliss, one of my favorite things about rack of lamb is just how easy they are to cook. As long as you own a digital thermometer, you’re going to have to try really hard not to get pink, juicy meat. They’re not cheap, but there’s almost no waste, and the meat is mild and very tender.

By the way, yes, those are sweet potato tots! And no, I can’t show you how to make those at home. The recession has hit the U.S. tater tot industry very hard, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to put any more of those fine folks out of work. Anyway, if you’re looking for an easy and impressive option for Easter dinner, I hope you give this a try. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 Portions (*note: I only did one rack for 2 portions, so amounts in video may look off):

2 racks of lamb, trimmed, about 1.25 pounds each
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp vegetable oil for searing meat

For the crumbs:
1 cup mint leaves, blanched, squeezed dry
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste
1 or 2 tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

For the mustard mixture:
1/4 cup regular or herb Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey

For the honey vinaigrette:
2 tsp honey
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spinach roulade


We've had spinach roulade twice now while we've been staying at my parents' - it's very nice. Quite a Seventies throwback, I'd guess (without having done any research). But it's not nearly as troublesome as it looks.

My mother leapt on this as a dinner solution when she and Dad were in their manic Atkins diet phase. My father is obsessed with his weight because he has been tremendously thin for most of his life. Really, one of those very tall, very skinny, bony giraffe people. Then he hit middle age and his love of dinner and sweeties was no longer a thing to be celebrated. He was no longer a furnace of a young man who merely converted millions of calories into dinner party conversation, spying on the Soviet Union and long legs: he was getting fat.

So when the Atkins diet came along (second time around) he fell on it literally like a starving man and we all ate nothing but bacon and eggs and ran screaming from potatoes for about two years.

And for anyone doing Atkins, this is a great thing to have. You can stuff it with all manner of things - I have had it once with smoked salmon and creme fraiche and once with mushrooms (just diced and fried with butter, thyme and cream).

I will just go through how to do the roulade thing here as the filling is really up to your imagination.

Two eggs per person
A large handful (cooked amount) of spinach
salt and pepper

Set your oven to 180C

1 Cook down very low some spinach until you have a handful of very surrendered leaves. This is going to be mixed in with beaten egg whites so it needs to be finely shredded. Take a pair of scissors to it if you fancy.

2 Separate your eggs, keeping the yolks somewhere safe. Beat the eggwhites until large, light and fluffy but not stiff (we're not making meringue).

3 Mix the shredded spinach with the yolks and season. Add this to the eggwhites and stir to combine but try not to overmix, (I hate this phrase - of course I'd never knowingly overmix something you stupid cow/bastard, why tell me not to? - but you know what I mean).

4 Spread this mixture onto a sheet of greaseproof paper - you're aiming for a thickness of about an inch. Bake for 8-10 minutes until soft and springy.

5 Spread with your filling and roll up as above. Easier than it looks if you're careful. Although my mother does have a degree in fine art.






As it happens I'm having a simply ghastly time. I'm rowing with everyone (what's new?), suspicious that my operation hasn't actually worked, ratty from post-operative pain, discomfort and inconvenience, neauseous from the post-op antibiotics, furious at hobbling myself by pulling at a bit of loose skin on my heel and carving a deep trough in my foot, which is sending shooting pains up my leg, maddened by my camera's shitty attitude, demented with anxiety about having to go on three separate family holidays - two of them foreign - apprehensive about the amount of time between now and September that my husband is going to be abroad for work, wretchedly poking at a huge under-the-skin chin zit I thought had gone away and despairing over the fact that our builder cut through our central heating pipes (by accident) this morning, sending a fountain of water gushing into the living room.

I would say that I want my mummy except that she's downstairs and it doesn't make a blind bit of difference. AND she absent-mindedly ate the rest of my lunch, which I had briefly abandoned to take a phonecall (about central heating pipes).

If things don't improve I'm going to have to start casting around for someone to fire. That always cheers me up.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Only An April Fool Wouldn’t Try This Pasta Primavera

Every once in a while I get an urge to remind you about some previously posted, seasonally appropriate video recipe. Today, it was seeing an old photo of our pasta primavera that inspired my need to re-feed.

Many of our fresher (greener?) viewers may not have seen this classic springtime pasta before, and if that’s the case, run, don’t walk, to the nearest farmer’s market, fill a basket with fresh green veggies, and get cooking. You can click here to read the original blog post, and get all the ingredient amounts. Enjoy!