Monday, December 29, 2008

The Butcher Man

Many years ago, I spent a day in Cuidad Victoria, Mexico, in the passenger seat of a car being driven by a young man determined to find the butcher man. We were visiting the in-laws by marriage of my friend, and the driver was her sister-in-law's brother's younger brother, with whom we had hooked up. There were four of us in the car: me, the driver, and two other friends who had also come down from Austin with us. We couldn't figure out why this young man was so determined to find this butcher, or what he was going to do once he found him. It wasn't until the day was almost over that we realized our young friend was not looking for a butcher. He was, in fact, looking for the pusher man, and I know I was not the only one who was somewhat relieved that we did not find him.

I was reminded of this incident the other day when I was talking to my butcher (not to be confused with my pusher). (Not that I have a pusher.) (I don't.) They had the most beautiful top sirloin on sale at the Apple Market. Not having cooked that much steak in my life, I asked him the best way to prepare it. He said to season it and throw it under the broiler for about four minutes per side. I asked him if I needed to marinate it. He said I could, maybe some garlic and olive oil.

And then he got an odd look on his face. His eyes kind of turned down and to the side. He whispered out of the side of his mouth, "I've got some olive oil, garlic and rosemary marinade in here (pointing to the side of the cooler where they keep the deli meats). Do you want some?"

"Sure," I said. "That would be great." He grabbed a container and spooned in a heap of glop. He brought it over and showed it to me.

Being cold, the olive oil had congealed and it looked most unattractive, as you can see. But it smelled heavenly. "Take out what you're going to use and let it come to room temperature," he said. "When are you going to cook it? Tomorrow? Put the steak in a bag with this and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator, then broil it up."

He charged me a nominal amount for the glop and I gleefully took it home. And I kept chuckling all the way, thinking of the look on his face when he offered me the marinade. And that's when I remembered that long ago trip to Mexico when we rode around looking for the "butcher man."

At last I found him. He's pushing marinade. Hey little girl, want some olive oil, a little garlic? It's even better with some rosemary laced in. The first batch is free. Go ahead, try some. Just a little won't hurt you!

I left some out so the olive oil could melt, then put it in a resealable bag with the steak. I left it in the refrigerator overnight, and then I took it out of the marinade. I almost forgot to season the meat with salt and pepper before putting it under the broiler, but luckily I remembered in time.

I put it under the broiler for about four minutes per side. As you can see up top, it came out beautifully medium rare. It was delicious, like I knew it would be. Already I'm craving more. Damn that butcher man. I need another fix!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, I hope it is a happy one. As I believe I have mentioned before, my family has celebrated both Chanukah and Christmas, but now we don't do much with either one.

My flight to Austin was delayed Sunday night so I didn't get in until after 11:00, at which time my brother and nephew drove me home and I pretty much went straight to bed. No Chanukah that night. It was noted and there was some discussion of setting up the candles Monday night, but nothing came of it, and not even the mention of it on Tuesday night.

Several years ago my siblings and I decided not to have any Christmas gift exchanges for the grownups, so we only got gifts for the kids. My older brother's kids are all grown up now, so it's just my younger brother's two children that still get gifts. It makes for a pretty low-key holiday, which is fine with me.

So why do I bother to go home for the holidays? I hear you ask. For one thing, because the overnight low in Chicago is 6 degrees F. and they are under a severe weather alert, and I am sitting outside under a cloudless blue sky in 70 degree weather right now. For another, I have been told, on more than one occasion, that my visit is what makes the holiday special for my family, and who could resist that kind of blandishment? Finally, I come because I get to spend two weeks doing nothing but hang around with my family, and what could be better than that?

Even though we no longer exchange gifts in the family, that does not mean that I don't get any presents. Two of my knitting students gave me a gift certificate to one of my favorite shops in the world, Pastoral. And it was delivered alongside one of my favorite items from that shop - lemon olives, so I am free to use the gift certificate on something new. That gives me one reason to come back to Chicago.

Another reason for me to come back home is the lovely bag of goodies one of my other knitting students gave me. She has surprised me every year with an unusual selection of items that always intrigue and challenge me, and this year is no different.

Those are flageleout beans on the top left, tender young kidney beans that I have been eager to try for a while. I'm thinking a nice cassoulet is in order, something else I have been eager to try.

I am equally intrigued by the Fusion Spicy Curry Sea Salt, and I have lots of ideas for this, starting with breakfast the morning after I get back to town.

Last but by no means least, I am excited about the croxetti pasta, which are disks of pasta, hand-stamped with detailed patterns from wooden molds. Historically, noble families would stamp their coats-of-arms on the pasta to signify their status. Often, a cross would be stamped on the other side, hence the name croxetti. In addition to the status, the more detail there is on the disk, the more sauce will stick. I can't wait to make something with this!

Once again, I am inspired. Thank goodness, because it sure isn't the weather that will bring me back home after the holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

By the time this post appears, I will be in Austin for my annual two-week end-of-the-year visit with my family. I am especially happy about that right now, because it is currently -5 degrees here in Chicago and the expected high in Austin today is 48 degrees. It should be in the mid seventies in a few days.

I haven't been doing much cooking this week what with trying to clean out the refrigerator, doing the few holiday-type things I do, and trying to get everything done at work before I leave. I thought this would be a good time to write about the Omnivore's Hundred.

Back in September Kate at Accidental Hedonist wrote this post about a list compiled by Andrew at Very Good Taste. It's The Omnivore's Hundred, a list of 100 food items he thinks a good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. I copied the link and planned to participate, but always had something else to write about so it stayed on the back burner.

This seems like a good time to bring it out. I'm not sure I agree with all of the items listed, but it certainly is food for thought and I enjoyed going over the list. I thought it was especially interesting to see which foods I would never consider eating. I believe you should try anything once, but apparently there are some exceptions I would make.

I guess 49 out of 100 isn't terrible. I'd feel better if it was at least 50. Guess I'd better get cracking.

If you don't recognize anything (there were some I didn't) you can find them at Wikipedia.
The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

1.
Venison - A housemate of mine made chili with venison. It was tough and gamey and I did not care for it. Years later I had some venison sausage and it was pretty tasty.

2. Nettle tea - I would try this.

3.
Huevos rancheros - But of course. I actually prefer huevos Mexicanos though.

4.
Steak tartare - I have a memory of my parents making this once when I was pretty young. When I tasted it as an adult it was familiar, so I must have eaten it back then as well. It has a distinctive taste that cannot be recreated with cooked meat. I wouldn't want it every day, but every once in a while it is a rare treat.

5. Crocodile - Never had the opportunity but I would definitely try it.

6. Black pudding - Not something I'm particularly eager to try. Won't know until I'm facing it whether or not I can eat it.

7.
Cheese fondue - In Switzerland! (got drunk!) (Yum!)

8.
Carp - Can you say gefilte fish?

9.
Borscht - Hated the idea of it as a kid. Love it now.

10.
Baba ghanoush - I make this on a fairly regular basis.

11.
Calamari - It took me a while to develop a taste for it, but now I like it.

12. Pho - I haven't had the opportunity yet, but I am eager to try this.

13.
PB&J sandwich - Duh.

14.
Aloo gobi - I had to look this up to see what it was. It's a buffet staple at most of the Indian restaurants in Chicago.

15.
Hot dog from a street cart - It's a must in Manhattan.

16. Epoisses - Never heard of it. Can't wait to try it.

17.
Black truffle - I could get kicked out of the foodie club, but I don't care for them.

18.
Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - A friend made pear wine - very tasty.

19.
Steamed pork buns - Yum!

20.
Pistachio ice cream - My aunt used to get a pistachio ice cream cone when we were kids. Thanks to her, I tried it much sooner than I would have otherwise. Love it (and all things pistachio).

21.
Heirloom tomatoes - It's nice that our produce choices are expanding.

22.
Fresh wild berries - We used to pick dewberries in Houston when I was a kid. Delicious.

23.
Foie gras - It's good, but I actually prefer good old chopped liver.

24.
Rice and beans - Many many times.

25. Brawn, or head cheese - No desire, really.

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper - I am not a masochist.

27.
Dulce de leche - It was all over Mexico when I used to go regularly. You can make a quick version with sweetened condensed milk.

28.
Oysters - Not such a fan of raw, but fried are good.

29.
Baklava - Not the first greek food that comes to my mind for this list, and not my favorite.

30. Bagna cauda - I really really want to try this.

31. Wasabi peas - Frankly, I don't see the point.

32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl - Well, I've certainly had my share of clam chowder. Why it has to be in a sourdough bowl is beyond me.

33. Salted lassi - Only if offered to me and I was in a position where I couldn't politely refuse.

34.
Sauerkraut - Hated it when I was a kid. Love it now.

35.
Root beer float - Hated it as a kid. Hate it now.

36. Cognac with a fat cigar - I like the idea of this, but will probably never do it.

37. Clotted cream tea - Can't remember if I had this in England, but I'll say no since if I did I don't remember it.

38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O - The days when I would do this are long gone.

39.
Gumbo - Yumbo!

40. Oxtail - This winter I plan to make oxtail soup, so that should take care of this one.

41. Curried goat - I have had goat on more than one occasion, and quite enjoyed it, but I don't believe it was ever curried.

42. Whole insects - although these days you never know. Actually, I would probably eat an ant.

43. Phaal - again, I am not a masochist.

44. Goat’s milk - Goat, yes. Goat cheese, yes. Goat milk, not so much but I would try it.

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more - I would try this but it would probably be wasted on me.

46. Fugu - I started to cross this out because I am basically a coward, but I think if it were in front of me I would feel obligated to try it.

47.
Chicken tikka masala - One of my favorite Indian dishes. I've even made this.

48.
Eel - So far I've only had it in Japanese restaurants and I love it.

49.
Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut - first one I had was unbelievably good. Now I can't even stand the thought of them.

50. Sea urchin - After waching the original Iron Chef, I am curious and would try this.

51.
Prickly pear - I have had nopales on one or two occasions. I do not care for them.

52. Umeboshi - I've had plum rolls, but never umeboshi.

53. Abalone - I don't know if I'll ever have the opportunity to try these.

54.
Paneer - Saag Paneer is another one of my favorite Indian dishes.

55.
McDonald’s Big Mac Meal - I've had this, but I like the Burger King Whopper better. Haven't had either in years, though.

56. Spaetzle - I know I would like this. Hmmm . . . I should make it.

57. Dirty gin martini - Not much of a drinker so it's not likely I'll try this.

58. Beer above 8% ABV - maybe? I don't know. It should come as no surprise that I don't care, either.

59. Poutine - I suspect that I will like this. More than is good for me.

60.
Carob chips - Why? Not only are they *not* chocolate, they don't even taste good.

61.
S’mores - There is nothing like eating a s'more around a campfire in the woods. They just aren't as good anywhere else. I know. I've tried.

62. Sweetbreads - I considered crossing this out too, but I don't know what I would do if they were in front of me. I think I would have to taste them.

63. Kaolin - Is this even food?

64. Currywurst - Another dish I suspect that I will like more than is good for me.

65. Durian - I would have to try it, but only if I were in southeast Asia.

66. Frogs’ legs - I would try these, but I suspect I will not like them.

67.
Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake - Fresh churros from a cart in Mexico City dipped in hot chocolate - Yum!

68. Haggis - I'd try it.

69.
Fried plantain - The first time I had it was in Puerto Rico and I loved it.

70. Chitterlings, or andouillette - Cracklings, maybe. Chitterlings? No thanks.

71.
Gazpacho - Yummy yummy yummy!

72. Caviar and blini - I've had toast points with caviar and love it. The only time I had the opportunity to try caviar and blini I was a kid and wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. :sigh:

73. Louche absinthe - This is one liquor I would definitely try.

74. Gjetost, or brunost - I've never heard of this, but I would definitely try it.

75. Roadkill - More viable in theory than in practice.

76. Baijiu - There's a lot of liquor on this list. I would try this.

77. Hostess Fruit Pie - I liked them when I was a kid and didn't know any better.

78. Snail - with lots of garlicky butter - yum!

79. Lapsang souchong - I don't think I've ever had this, but I'd like to.

80. Bellini - Now this I think I would like, but I've never had one.

81. Tom yum - I'm more of a Tom Kha Gai kind of gal.

82. Eggs Benedict - I prefer spinach benedict.

83. Pocky - I wouldn't say no, but I wouldn't seek it out.

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant - I wish.

85. Kobe beef - I'm not sure if it was the real thing or US "kobe-style", but it was soft like buttah and tasty as hell.

86. Hare - I don't know if I've had hare, but I've had rabbit and I'm counting that. My attempt to cook it did not come out so well, but I ejoyed the rabbit stew I had at The Berghoff.

87. Goulash - At least that's what my mother called it.

88. Flowers - I wouldn't refuse to eat them, but it seems a little precious to me.

89. Horse - I don't think I could get past my cultural bias on this one. Nor would I want to.

90. Criollo chocolate - Apparently Lindt uses this in their truffles, so I think I can say I've had this. I do like their truffles . . .

91. Spam - Not a fan.

92. Soft shell crab - I actually did not like these as much as I thought I would, more for the texture of the soft crunch than for the flavor. I love me some crab.

93. Rose harissa - I've never had it with rose. Again, one of those things to which I wouldn't say no, but I would not seek it out specifically.

94. Catfish - All you can eat at the Catfish Parlor in Austin back in the day. Great hushpuppies too.

95. Mole poblano - Hated it the first time I had it, love it now.

96. Bagel and lox - I cut my teeth on lox and bagels.

97. Lobster Thermidor - I like crab and shrimp better than lobster. I'd eat it if it were served to me, but I would not order it.

98. Polenta - Delicious! Who knew I was eating polenta in my chili pies back in Texas?

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee - Other than preferring dark roast coffees, I am not really that much of a connoisseur. I think the subtleties would be lost on me.

100. Snake - I'd try it, but I'm not all that interested in it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Raspberry Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

Here's a little bit of inspiration that evolved out of Thanksgiving at my brother's house. We cooked up some sweet potatoes and then mashed them. No one could think of anything exciting to do with them, so I squeezed the juice out of a tangerine, added a little olive oil, mixed it with the potatoes and called it a day.

If I had been at home I would have added dried cranberries and walnuts and baked it again for this tasty side dish, but there were already enough things going on in the kitchen (and in the oven) that I decided it would not be a good idea to even suggest getting that fancy. So we served the potatoes with the orange juice and olive oil. And those of us who like sweet potatoes served ourselves up some, and those of us who didn't chose not to have any.

Which meant there was a lot left over. Having made them, I made it my responsibility to help finish them off. Which I was happy to do, because I really like sweet potatoes. But I have to admit they were awfully boring.

My brother had also bought some store-made dips and crackers, kind of a last-minute appetizer decision made the day before the holiday (when you start to worry that you won't have enough food, or about what everyone will do while waiting for the turkey to finish cooking). People nibbled on them occasionally, but no one made much of a dent in the spinach, ranch, or raspberry chipotle ranch dips. So we had those leftovers to eat up as well.

The day after Thanksgiving I put some of the raspberry chipotle ranch dip on my plate next to the sweet potatoes and it spread, causing a "you got your raspberry chipotle ranch dip on my sweet potatoes/you got your sweet potatoes on my raspberry chipotle ranch dip" situation. I scooped the mixture up with my fork and put it in my mouth. My tastebuds went wild.

"Whoah!" they cried. "What's that? We like it - sweet and spicy and creamy. Give us more!" Which I did. And I had no trouble disposing of the rest of the sweet potatoes over the course of the next few days.

I resolved to experiment when I got home. For one thing, I really didn't want to have to rely on a store-bought, processed dip when I was pretty sure I could recreate the flavors better on my own. The ranch part of it seemed the least interesting to me anyway, so I decided to focus on the raspberry and chipotle.

And came up with a delicious new flavor combination for mashed sweet potatoes. I can't wait to serve them up for Christmas.
RASPBERRY CHIPOTLE SWEET POTATOES


Raspberry syrup*
3 medium sized sweet potatoes
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 chipotle pepper, chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste

Wash sweet potatoes, pierce with a fork, and bake in 350 deg. F. oven for 40-50 minutes, until soft to the touch. Let cool slightly, peel, and place in large mixing bowl.

Mash the potatoes. Add olive oil, chipotle, raspberry syrup, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve warm.

*For raspberry syrup: Place 10-oz. bag of frozen (or fresh) raspberries in a 3-quart saucepan with 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until liquid is reduced by half and fruit has broken down. Turn off heat and let cool, then strain through a cheesecloth.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Eat Christmas Cookies 2 - Mexican Wine Cookies


I have mentioned Mexican Wine Cookies before, when this was still supposed to be a knitting blog, but I have never posted about them or published the recipe. I make them every Christmas, so when Foodblogga announced her second annual Eat Christmas Cookies event I decided that these are the cookies I would feature.

My father found the recipe in the Dallas Morning News back when I was in high school and suggested we make them together. To this day I do not know why he chose that particular recipe. He was more of a cook than a baker, and neither of my parents drank much alcohol, but I didn't really question it at the time. It usually fell to me to keep my Dad company when he was in the kitchen so I started pulling out the ingredients and the mixing bowl, and we got down to business.

There is a high flour to butter, sugar and liquid ratio in this batter, so you have to have a pretty strong arm to mix it up. You add four cups of flour in two 2-cup batches. The first batch goes well, but the second batch is what takes the muscle. Over the years I have realized that if I am more patient and just continue to work the dough into the flour, it goes much more smoothly.

According to the recipe, you were supposed to mix up the batter, leave it in the refrigerator for at least an hour, and then push it through a cookie press. But the batter was so thick and stiff that it was almost impossible to push it through the press. As I have written before, I thought my father was going to have a heart attack as he pushed and strained to get the batter through. He would grunt and turn red, and finally churn out a cookie, and then we would laugh hysterically while he got his breath and strength back to do the next one.

Why it didn't occur to us to take the dough out of the cookie press and just roll the cookies out, I will never know. It took hours to finish those cookies, Dad muttering "never again" under his breath the whole time.

But they were good. Really good. They look like plain butter cookies but their texture is more like shortbread. The sherry adds a barely perceptible nutty warmth that permeates throughout every mouthful. So I hung onto the recipe, even though I was pretty sure I would never be making them again.

After I left home, I ran across it in my recipe box one year when I was making my holiday baking plans. I knew there was no way it would work with the cookie press, but I didn't see why I couldn't just roll the dough into balls and press them down with a fork, like peanut butter cookies. So I made them that way, and they worked beautifully.

And after I had been making them for a few years, my sister gave me this beautiful set of clay cookie press molds. They were the perfect tool to make the cookies more distinctive, and added a nice festive touch as well.

The cookies don't look like much. Whenever I take them somewhere new, they languish on the table while people are busy devouring the brownies, toll house cookies, gingerbread, and other more traditional Christmas goodies. But once the chocolate and cheesecake is gone and people start to nibble on them, they discover just how good they are. And by the next year, they are asking for them.
Home Cookin Chapter: Cookies

MEXICAN WINE COOKIES
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp salt
4 cup sifted flour
1/4 cup sweet sherry

Cream butter with sugar. Add egg and beat until light and fluffy. Blend in salt and 2 c. flour. Stir in sherry.

Add remaining 2 c. flour; mix well. Divide into four pieces and roll into logs. Chill for at least one hour.*
Roll into walnut-size balls and use cookie press or the tines of a fork to flatten out.

Bake 350 deg. for 8-10 mins. Makes 8 dozen cookies.

*Rolls can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for three months. Wrap them individually so you can cook as few or as many as you would like.

Adapted from a recipe found in the Food Section of
The Dallas Morning News.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (www.mountain-software.com)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

The next couple of weeks are going to be hectic as I try to get ready to leave town in less than two weeks (gasp!). I am planning to do some holiday baking, but I don't know how I'm going to fit it all in. Last year I just missed the deadline for Eat Christmas Cookies hosted by Foodblogga (although she was kind enough to link to my post). She's doing it again this year and I really want to participate this time. I'm always bummed when I don't meet an event deadline once I've decided to participate.

I'm not doing a whole lot of experimenting in the kitchen right now, although I do have my moments. These Brussels Sprouts with pancetta are one thing I have made recently, roughly based on a recipe from Giada De Laurentiss.

If I had cream I probably would have added it at the end, but I didn't. I also normally would have used vegetable or chicken broth in this, but I didn't have any small amounts on hand and didn't feel like opening or unfreezing a quart of broth just for half a cup, so I used what I did have - white wine. It worked just fine, but could have used a little broth to take the edge off the acid, and I wouldn't have needed to add that little pat of butter at the end.

And I am totally in love with pancetta. There are some things that demand the smoked goodness of bacon (navy bean and bacon soup, BLT sandwiches, breakfast), but I am developing a taste for the more subtle flavor of the unsmoked pig. And I can buy as much or as little as I want at the deli counter.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH PANCETTA

4 ounces pancetta, thinly sliced, cut into 1-inch ribbons
1 lb Brussels sprouts, rinsed, trimmed but not cored, and halved
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth (or white wine)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp butter (optional)

Heat skillet over medium heat and add pancetta. Cook until pancetta has darkened significantly and most of the fat has been rendered. Remove from skillet and place on a paper-towel lined plate.

Remove all but approximately one tablespoon of the pancetta fat. Turn heat to medium high. Add Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to brown, approximately 5 minutes. Add broth, a little salt (not too much - the pancetta is salty) and pepper to taste. Cover, lower heat, and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove cover and cook on high until the liquid has evaporated. Optional: add butter

Remove the sprouts to a serving dish and crumble pancetta over them. Serve immediately.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Braised Short Ribs

I had such wonderful success with my braised pork shoulder butt that I couldn't wait to try my newly-learned technique on short ribs. So off I trotted to the Big Apple to see if they had some.

And they didn't let me down. These are some beautiful short ribs. They were originally longer, but I had to cut them in half so they would fit into the pan I wanted to use. You can see all of that beautiful fat marbled in there - that's flavor just waiting to happen.

When I was a child, every once in a while we had ribs for dinner. That was always a special night for me. My mother had a recipe for barbecue sauce that I loved - sweet and lemony - and she would cook the ribs in the sauce and then serve it up over rice. I still don't know which I loved more - the meat or the rice and gravy.

So I came up with a sauce that used the same basic ingredients as my mother's recipe. I sauteed onions and garlic, then added tomato sauce, brown sugar, Pickapeppa sauce, and a thinly sliced lemon.

I use Pickapeppa in place of Worcestershire sauce. It's similar in flavor, but it's vegetarian. I bought it when I was going through a no-meat phase and discovered I really like it, so I use the two interchangeably. My mother used ketchup, but I decided to just go with the tomato sauce.

I had a little more liquid than I should have, but it wasn't too big of a deal. It should really only come up about two-thirds the height of the meat and as you can see, it pretty much covered it.

A whole lemon was also almost too much. Half would have been better. But the basic process was as successful as my shredded pork, so I am all about the braising these days.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

BRAISED BARBECUE SHORT RIBS


2 lbs beef short ribs
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced, divided
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp Pickapeppa or Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in heavy pan until almost smoking hot. Add ribs and sear on all sides, about 10 minutes in half. Remove from pan and put on a plate.

If necessary, add more oil to the pan. Lower heat and add onions and garlic. Cook until well browned. Add half of the lemon slices and the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.

Lower heat as low as it will go. Gently place the ribs back into the pan, nestling them into the liquid. Place the rest of the lemon slices on top of the ribs, cover, and let simmer until the meat flakes off of the bone, about three hours.

Remove the meat from the sauce. Raise the heat and let the sauce simmer until it reduces and thickens. After the meat has cooled for a few minutes, remove it from the bones and separate it into bite-size pieces.

Serve over rice or polenta.

Created 11/09/08

Exported from Home Cookin 5.7 (www.mountain-software.com)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

How to Blanch Vegetables

I just got back from Austin and have a lot of work to catch up on so I've been busy. On top of that, I haven't had internet access at home since I got back, which is seriously impeding my ability to do, oh, just about everything. I hope have access soon because I need my online fixes.

The most interesting thing about this dish is that I bought the broccoli a while ago, blanched it, used half of it right away, and then froze the rest for future use. It stayed in the freezer for at least a few months so I was curious to see how it would hold up when I defrosted it and put it to use.

And it held up incredibly well; better, in fact, than most of the packaged frozen broccoli I have bought. It kept it's bright green color and I couldn't discern any difference in taste between the frozen and the half I used right away. All in all, a worthwhile experience. Not that I am going to start freezing all of my own vegetables. But I might certainly start buying and preparing more than I need so I can start freezing some of it for those nights when I haven't made it to the grocery store in a while and need some vegetables to liven up a meal.

I can't remember if I have shared my technique for blanching vegetables with you, but it bears repeating. It works well with just about any vegetable and helps me keep from overcooking them in pasta dishes.
HOW TO BLANCH VEGETABLES

I found this technique in a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network website and have used it to blanch just about any vegetable you can name. It's quick, easy, and foolproof.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Wash, peel (if appropriate) and prepare vegetables by chopping into even-sized pieces (asparagus, green beans, and smaller vegetables like Brussels sprouts can be kept whole if desired).

Once water is boiling, add about a tablespoon of salt. Carefully place vegetables into the pot, turn off the heat, and cover. Let stand for 4-5 minutes. While vegetables are standing fill a large bowl with ice-cold water (use ice if the water doesn't get ice cold). After the time is up, drain the vegetables and put them in the ice water to keep them from cooking any longer and so they will retain their color.

Vegetables can be used immediately, placed in the refrigerator for a few days, or frozen in a freezer bag for a few months.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bread Baking Day #14: Colored Breads

breadbakingday #14 - colored breads

After I made those first loaves of whole wheat bread for World Bread Day last month, I have been making it just about every weekend since. My goal was to master the technique completely enough that I didn't have to use the recipe. The side benefit was that I had a seemingly endless supply of home-made bread around the apartment, with enough left over that I was able to give away a couple of loaves.

Once I didn't need the recipe, I figured that would free me up to start experimenting with different types of bread. One of my sisters gave me a french bread baking sheet years ago that I've only used once; I'd like to put it back into circulation. Maybe a little sourdough starter hanging out in the fridge. Challah, anyone?

The other thing I figured I could do once I had mastered the general recipe is participate in Bread Baking Day, a monthly event founded by Zorra at 1x umr├╝hren bitte. This month's event is hosted by Boaz at Grainpower. The theme for Bread Baking Day #14 is colored breads.

Given that I've only been making bread for a little over a month, I was somewhat overwhelmed at this month's theme. Because I am committed to using whole wheat whenever possible, it is quite a challenge to find anything that can have a strong enough visual impact to compete with that thick, rich brown color. But I was determined to try.

I also wanted something that would not only impact the color of the bread, but the taste as well. Something that would form an integral part of the dough, rather than just being there to add color. Pistachios have a distinct flavor, and they are a lovely shade of green. I wasn't sure it was a strong enough shade of green to match the whole wheat brown, but I liked the idea enough to give it a try.

I ran out of time to make it before leaving Chicago for my by-now annual Austin Thanksgiving trip, so I decided I would make it there, which made it even more of a challenge - cooking in someone else's kitchen. Luckily, I have spent enough time at my brother's house to know my way around his kitchen.

I had read a recipe for sesame bread that called for a good amount of sesame meal in the dough, so I figured making pistachio meal would be a good start for this bread. I was going to grind the nuts in a coffee grinder, but my sister-in-law pointed me toward her Magic Bullet blender (WARNING: loud video), which enabled me to process them in fewer batches. Before long I had a lovely pile of chartreuse-green pistachio meal. This picture does not really do it justice. It is much more green and almost glowing in real life.

I added the pistachio meal and some chopped pistachios right after I added the salt and oil. I thought it would replace some of the flour, but I ended up using about the same amount as I would have without it. The dough did look noticeably green, but I did not think it would survive the baking process. I hoped there would be some change, though, especially in the taste.

And it didn't take as much as I had hoped. The bread came out a little brighter than my regular whole wheat bread, but most of the green had cooked out. If anything, one might say that it has a touch of yellow.

Here is the pistachio bread next to a slice of my regular whole wheat. You can definitely see a difference, but it's only noticeable when the two are together. I also let the dough rise twice for the pistachio bread as opposed to the one rising I gave the regular bread. I like my bread more dense, but now that I see the two together I think I will start letting my whole wheat bread rise twice in the future.

All in all, not a bad experience. We could not discern any hint of the pistachio when the bread came out of the oven yesterday, but this morning I toasted up a couple of slices for breakfast and I could definitely taste it. It added a slight sweet nuttiness that went well with my scrambled eggs.

As usual, I learned much from this event. I am most pleased that I was able to take a basic bread recipe, fiddle with it, and still come out with a recognizable product. I no longer live in fear of yeast. I can't wait to find out the theme for next month's bread baking day.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

PISTACHIO WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

3-1/2 to 4 cups flour, divided
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 package dry active yeast
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups pistachio meal*
1-2 cup chopped pistachios
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil, plus oil for greasing
1 egg (optional)
2 Tbsp milk (optional)

*To make pistachio meal, place raw unsalted shelled pistachios in food processor or grinder and process until coarse meal is formed.

Pour yeast into lukewarm water. Add honey. Add 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing briskly after each addition. When all of the flour is incorporated, beat batter 100 strokes. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for one hour in a dark warm place.

Sprinkle salt and oil over mixture and fold in. Add pistachios and pistachio meal, 1/2 cup at a time, and fold in. Add more flour 1/2 cup (1-1/2 to 2 cups) at a time and fold in until it feels like you can't fold in any more. Turn onto countertop and knead, adding more flour as necessary, until dough is not sticky and develops a smooth shine. Form a ball with the dough.

Pour a little oil into the bowl in which you mixed the dough and spread it around. Place the dough, right side down, in the oil and coat it well. Turn it over so the oiled side is now facing up, cover with a damp towel, put in a dark warm place, and let rise another hour, until doubled in size. Punch it down, cover it again, and let it rise another 50 minutes or so.

Punch it down, turn it onto the counter, and form another ball. Let sit for five minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Grease a bread pan. Knead ball of dough for about six turns. Starting at one end, roll it up to form a loaf shape. Put it in the bread pan top side down. Pinch together the seams and push down on the loaf so it conforms to the pan shape. Turn it over so it's right side up and push it down again. Cover with the damp towel and let it rise again for 20-25 minutes.

Cut two diagonal slices on top of the bread so steam can escape. If desired, mix one egg with 2 tablespoons milk and brush it over the top for a shiny surface. If you have any pistachio meal left over you can sprinkle that over the egg wash.

Bake at 350 deg. F. for one hour. Remove from the pans immediately, then let cool at least an hour before cutting into it. For best results, however, leave overnight.

Adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book, by Edward Espe Brown (Shambhala, 1995)

Exported from Home Cookin 5.7 (www.mountain-software.com)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cream Cheese Corn with Jalapenos

Happy Thanksgiving to those American readers who find their way here. I hope your table is full of family, friends, and fabulous food.

And if you're desperately looking for a last minute side dish, this is one of those super easy recipes that always disappears fast. It came to our family via my sister-in-law and Thanksgiving would not be same without it. And one of the really nice things about it is that it takes about ten minutes to make and you cook it in the microwave, which keeps the oven free for the turkey, the dressing and the potatoes.

The original recipe calls for a cup of butter but that's just too much saturated fat, even on the one day when you shouldn't have to worry about those kinds of things. I have found that adding a little bit of milk to thin it out makes it just as creamy without adding too many more calories.

Be sure to use the shoepeg corn if you can find it. It makes a difference.

Cream Cheese Corn with Jalapenos

If you're desperately looking for a last minute side ...

See Cream Cheese Corn with Jalapenos on Key Ingredient.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Off to Austin

By the time this post is up, I will be in Austin for Thanksgiving. I've been spending this past week (the week before Thanksgiving) with my brother, who is up from Texas for a quick visit, after which I will ride back to Austin with him to spend Thanksgiving there. We've been eating out most of the time so I haven't been doing any cooking to speak of. My brother mentioned that he didn't bring his camera so I gave him mine, and he has taken some pictures around the neighborhood. That's my corner up there, Broadway and Roscoe in Lakeview East. Wrigley Field is about a mile northwest of here, within easy walking distance.

He's been eating out during the day while I've been at work, mostly at the Melrose diner down the street. It's a staple of the neighborhood, and if the portions have gotten a little smaller over the years (they used to be humongous; now they're just huge), I chalk that up to these economic times. We started going there when my brother''s kids were young and the only things they would eat were bagels, bacon and chocolate milk on their visits. It beat the pants out of Denny's and Baker's Square, the only other kid-friendly options at the time, and there was plenty on the menu for us grownups to sample without getting tired of the same old dishes. Their breakfasts have always been good.

Our dinners have mostly been in the neighborhood, although we did go to Rodity's in Greek Town Thursday night, which was nice. It's not the most cutting edge restaurant there, but the food is well-prepared good quality homestyle fare. The avgolemono was smooth and creamy, with just the right amount of lemon. His combination plate looked good, and less touristy than the one he tried at Greek Islands on a previous visit. I ordered one of the specials - stuffed eggplant papoutsaki (little shoes) - and it was delicious. Half an eggplant, with the pulp mixed with beef in a bechemel sauce and stuffed back inside, is then covered with cheese and baked until golden brown. Not terribly exciting, but it was perfectly seasoned, and a comforting meal on a cold November evening. I could have done without the spaghetti that came with it, but I couldn't even finish the papoutsaki so it was easy to ignore. If I were to order it again, and I would, I'd ask if I could substitute vegetables or a potato.

We're not really touristy, my brother and I, and he's come up to Chicago almost every year since I moved here back in 1990, so we are not doing much sightseeing. I've been working days since he arrived - Saturday is my first day off and we are leaving early Sunday morning to drive down to Texas. I will post from there.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Egg and Pita Chip Scramble

This falls into that "I have half a bag of pita chips and no hummus so what do I do with them" situation with which I know you are all familiar. This was last Saturday morning. I was also faced with "I need breakfast and I have eggs but I don't know what I want to do with them."

So I decided to put the two together. Kind of like middle eastern style Tex-Mex migas. In the most basic way possible. Migas usually contain onions, chilies, tomatoes and cheese in addition to the tortilla strips. Here, I only had pita chips.

What made this dish interesting for me is that it brought back a method of scrambling eggs that I used frequently in the past but had all but forgotten about. Lately, I have been breaking the eggs into a mixing bowl, seasoning them and adding whatever other herbs or spices I am using along with a splash of cold water, beating them, and pouring them into melted butter in a skillet placed over a medium low heat and letting them cook relatively slowly. It's the same technique I use for omelettes.

Several years ago I went through a period of laziness with my scrambled eggs. Instead of breaking them into a bowl first and mixing them up, I would just break them into the skillet over a higher heat, let them fry until the whites were just set, and then break up the yolks and scramble it all together in the skillet.

It gives the eggs a completely different texture and consistency when you cook them this way. Instead of the yolk and the whites blending together, you definitely can taste and feel the difference between the two, and it somehow tastes more eggy to me.

Once I decided I was going to put the pita chips in with the egg, I didn't really think about how I was going to cook them. And even though I haven't made scrambled eggs this way in years, I just started the butter melting in the skillet and brought the eggs over to the stove. I cracked them in and then sprinkled the pita chips on top, crushing them in my palm as I did so. I only added a little bit of salt (the chips were salty) and pepper to taste. I left the chips on top of the eggs while the whites set, and then stirred the whole thing together.

Eggs continue cooking when you take them off the heat, so I turned the burner off when it looked like they still had about a minute to go. By the time I slid them onto my plate, they were cooked just the way I like them.

This was an incredibly good makeshift breakfast. Add some other ingredients and it could be an outstanding planned event.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shredded Pork with Pumpkin and Potatoes

En fin, I present the end result of my shredded pork and pumpkin endeavors. And if I do say so myself, this project has exceeded my expectations every step of the way. The shredded pork was moist, tender, and flavorful all by itself; the pumpkin was easy to prepare, and even the pumpkin seeds worked out. I am calling this a stew, even though I didn't really cook it the way I would cook a stew. It took many hours (but little work - most of the time is stove-top cooking time) to make the pork, and about 45 minutes to make the rest of the dish, which I did the following day.

I chose the perfect size pumpkin - about three times the size of an acorn squash. It yielded approximately 4 cups. I used one each of three different kinds of potatoes I found at the green city market - yukon, purple, and some red one that had a red streak running throughout, which also yielded about 4 cups, so the two complemented each other perfectly and neither one overpowered.

In the picture above you can easily distinguish between the two (there's one of each right at bottom center), but after a night in the refrigerator they absorbed more of the spice-darkened liquid and looked more alike, so it was harder to tell them apart. It made for a lovely surprise with each mouthful - I either got a smooth, dense texture with the potato or a light, fresh burst of pumpkin. Both were delicious and it gave the stew a depth of flavor and texture that kept it interesting from the first bite to the last.

And like most stews, it got better every day as all of the flavors continued to blend together. It was the perfect dish to take to work for lunch. I was disappointed when I hit the bottom of the container. I hope the pumpkins are still around when I get back from Texas after Thanksgiving so I can make it again this season.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

SHREDDED PORK WITH PUMPKIN AND POTATOES

2 lbs. braised shredded pork (recipe here) with braising liquids
3 medium size yukon gold or red potatoes, cubed
1 small pumpkin (not a pie pumpkin), seeded, peeled and cubed
2 14.5-oz. cans hominy, drained and rinsed
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat braising liquid over medium high heat until boiling. Add oregano, cumin, salt, pepper and potatoes. Lower heat and simmer for ten minutes.

Add pumpkin and cook for 15-20 more minutes, until potatoes and pumpkin are tender and you can easily stick a knife inside them.

Add pork and hominy and heat through. Serve immediately.

Created 10/25/08

Exported from Home Cookin 5.7 (www.mountain-software.com)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Delicata Squash

The week before last the Green Market moved to their winter location at the north-east corner of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. I had only gone once in the few weeks prior, and I have never been to the market past October, so I was curious to see what was there and so off I went.

Onions, turnips, carrots, peppers, greens, still some tomatoes, and squash. Lots of squash, in fact. Many different kinds of squash. I had already experimented with Carnival squash and my pumpkin, and I had no specific intent to buy any squash, but there were so many colorful varieties in every size and shape imaginable that I had to bring some home with me.

The lucky winner was an heirloom variety called Delicata. These were about 4 inches wide and 7 inches long. They looked like they would be relatively easy to cut (something I am learning to pay attention to when I am considering bringing squash home with me - I almost broke my knife on the carnival squash because I was so afraid it would slip and slice my hand open), and with a name like Delicata they were sure to be sweet and tasty, right?

They weren't too hard to cut open. I sliced them in half lengthwise so I could get at the seeds. They weren't too hard to get out. After my recent success with the pumpkin seeds I decided I would take a stab at roasting these seeds as well. They were more round and slightly thicker than the pepitas. Mary told me her family used to soak their seeds in salt water overnight before roasting them. This made a lot of sense to me so I soaked the seeds, then let them dry for most of the next day, and roasted them in the evening. They were delicious. I will never throw another squash seed away.
I placed the squash, cut side down, on a foil-lined cookie tray (one with a lip), and roasted it in a 350 deg. F. oven for 30-40 minutes, until it gave easily when I poked it with my finger (carefully, so as not to burn my finger).

Most recipes for squash call for butter and brown sugar, or some form of fat and sugar, but after taking a little taste when it came out of the oven I decided it didn't need anything. These little squashes live up their name - they are soft and delicate and super sweet all on their own. I only put the onions and garlic I had roasted under the chicken because they were there, and I ended up kind of eating them out of the squash and then eating the squash by itself.

And not only are they sweet and delicate, they are dense and creamy. My favorite so far.

If you are nervous about cooking squash, let me tell you nothing can be easier. The method I've described above can be used for just about any kind: split it, take out the seeds, lay it cut side down, and bake until it's soft. Afterwords you can eat it as is out of the skin or peel it and mash it with a little oil/butter and seasonings.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Braised Shredded Pork

I have not been one to braise in the kitchen. I've never fully trusted that the meat will have any flavor, or that it will be tender. Not having cooked that much meat, I have rarely been one to step too far away from the few techniques with which I'm familiar. Baked or boiled chicken, broiled lamb chops, salmon or steaks, and ground meat casseroles are the dishes that give me no fear. In recent months I've ventured further outside my comfort zone with beer (and wine) braised pork chops and skillet-seared skirt steak, so I am ready to expand my cooking vocabulary even more.

Once I decided I wanted to make a pork and pumpkin stew, I had to decide how I wanted to cook the pork, and what cut I needed to get the desired result. Off I went to the Apple Market. I told the butcher what I wanted to do, and he not only suggested the pork shoulder butt; he offered suggestions as to how I should season it and cook it. When I told him I was going to make a pork and pumpkin stew and wanted it to have more of a Mexican style, he altered his suggestions to suit that theme.

I have said it before and I will say it again: If you want top quality meat and great advice on how to prepare it, find a butcher and go there often. I owe most of my recent successes to my butcher. Not only do they know their meat cuts, they know the best way to prepare them and they are more than happy to share what they know. I felt confident that I had the right cut of meat for the dish I wanted to make.

So home I went with my shoulder butt. Not being familiar with braising, I looked through a few recipes to learn the basic technique. Knowing that I was going to use pork and pumpkin, I thought a mole-style braising sauce would work well so I had an idea of the spices I wanted to use; I just needed to know what to do with them.

This was so fantastically successful that I can't wait to do more braising. I think short ribs will be next.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes
BRAISED SHREDDED PORK

2 lb pork shoulder butt, bone in, cut in half if necessary to fit into pan in one layer
1 Tbsp medium hot chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp crushed guajillo pepper
salt
pepper
olive oil
1 Tbsp canola oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Combine chili powder, cumin, guajillo pepper, salt and pepper in small bowl. Pour small amount of olive oil on both sides of the pork, then sprinkle the spices on and rub them in, being sure the spices cover all sides of the pork.

Heat canola oil in heavy pot or dutch oven that has a tight-fitting lid over high heat until pan is smoking hot. Carefully place pork in pan and brown all over, including sides. Remove from the pan, put on a plate and set aside.





Add oil if necessary, lower heat to medium high and add onions and garlic. Saute for another 3 minutes or so until onions and garlic are translucent. Add oregano, chili powder, salt and pepper and cook for another minute to release the oils in the spices.




Add broth and bring to a boil. Lay pork back into the pot, being sure to include any juices that gathered on the plate. Lower heat as low as it will go. Cover and cook for around four hours, checking regularly, until meat is tender enough to flake with a fork.




Remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes. Using two forks, shred all of the meat.




Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Reserve liquid to serve with pork or to use later.

Created 10/26/08

Exported from Home Cookin 5.7 (www.mountain-software.com)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Quick Trick for Getting Pomegranate Seeds out of the Pomegranate

Fall is the time for pomegranates. When I was younger, living in Houston, we spent a lot of time at the house of my parents' best friends. One of their neighbors, I think they lived next door to the people directly behind them, had a pomegranate tree. I have one memory of tackling one - it was not very sweet and it was an awful lot of work to get the seeds out.

That one time was pretty much it for me. It was more trouble than it was worth, other than on those rare occasions when they garnished my entree at an up-scale middle eastern restaurant.

As I started to expand my cooking repertoire, I began using it more, mostly in the form of a pomegranate molasses I created myself by reducing the hell out of a bottle of 100% pomegranate juice. It's a crucial component in Muhammara, of which I have become quite fond.

So of course I started thinking about getting my hands on another one to see how I would respond to the taste today. And since they're all over the stores right now it was too easy to throw one into my basket. Which I did last Saturday. Completely on impulse. With no real idea what I was going to do with it, unless it was to watch it get more wrinkly every day until I finally give up and throw it away (like I did the last time I had the urge to buy one about four years ago).

And then Sunday morning I was on the phone with my sister having our usual weekly food conversation, when from out of the blue (I swear) she confessed to an urge to buy a pomegranate. She laughed when I told her I had actually succumbed to the impulse just the day before, but she had no better ideas than I did what to do with it.

In the years since I last bought a pomegranate, I had heard something about how easy it is to get the seeds out if you fill a bowl with water and separate the seeds from the pulp in the bowl. The seeds settle down to the bottom of the bowl and the pulp floats. I tried it out, and I am happy to say that works. The seeds do settle down at the bottom of the bowl, and the pulp does float there on top and is very easy to remove.

And here are the seeds. They really do look like little gems, don't they? I have been using them to garnish just about everything. They are especially good in salads.

And someday soon I am sure I will get ambitious enough to make my own grenadine or pomegranate molasses with them.
HOW TO REMOVE SEEDS FROM A POMEGRANATE

Fill a large bowl about halfway with cold water. Cut the ends off of a pomegranate and, using a paring knife, score the skin lengthwise, making each slice about 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart.

Put the scored pomegranate into the water and let it soak for five minutes. Break the pomegranate apart into segments, using the scored areas as your guide. With the segment underwater and using your fingers, scrape the seeds away from the pulp.

Remove the pulp from the top of the water, then strain the seeds.

And that's it. Nothing could be simpler, and they brighten up just about every dish.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Shepherds' Pie

Ever since last spring I have been dreaming about shepherds' pie. Although my mother made it one or two times that I can remember in my childhood, it holds no special nostalgic importance to me. I didn't order it in any of the pubs we visited in England (although I did sample quite a few beef pasties - yum!). I can't for the life of me think what put it into my head, but once it was there it would not go away.

I found it on the menu at retro-nostalgic Silver Cloud last April when Lynda and I met there for dinner, and since that was about the time I had started to think about it, I ordered it. It was all right (although Lynda's meatloaf in Bell's Amber Ale Gravy was much much better), but it was a little too deconstructed to satisfy my craving. Instead of being spread over the meat mixture and browned, the garlic mashed potatoes were just scooped on top, and the meat mixture was a touch overseasoned.

So all that really accomplished was to make me want the real thing even more. But alas, summer was coming, and it got too hot to even consider cooking something so heavy, let alone eating it. So I decided to wait.

Almost every week, though, I would think about it, wondering if there were any chance it was cool enough. Of course it never was, even if we did have a milder-than-usual summer this year. I knew the time would come, though, so I waited.

And then finally, a couple of weeks ago, the temperature did drop enough that the thought of having the stove on for a couple of hours seemed like a good thing, and I had the potatoes, ground beef, and carrots already at hand. I got to work and came up with a meal that satisfied my craving. At least for a while.

A true British shepherds' pie uses lamb; apparently if you use beef then you should call it a cottage pie. I used beef, but here in the states you can use beef or lamb interchangeably and still call it shepherds' pie.

The one thing I would do differently next time is that I would make the mashed potato layer thinner. I had a lot of potatoes mashed up, so I used as much as I could, going all the way up to the top of the pan. I did leave the skins on and I would do that again next time (they're yukon golds so the skins aren't that thick), but the potatoes were so thick they did not brown properly. It tasted good, but they didn't crust over like they should have. Some recipes call for cheese on top but I left that off. It seemed rich enough without it, to me.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes
SHEPHERDS' PIE

2 Tbsp canola oil
1 lb ground chuck or lamb
1 medium onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp marjoram
salt and pepper to taste

3 medium Yukon gold potatoes
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup cream, heated
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in medium saucepan in enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil. Add salt, lower heat, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until a knife goes in and pulls out of one easily. Drain water out of the pan and put the dried potatoes back on the burner. (If you want them peeled, do that before you put them back in the pan over the burner.)

Add the melted butter and heated cream and mash the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. If they are too dry, add broth as needed. Set aside. (These can be made a day ahead.)
 

Heat oil over medium-high heat in skillet. Add beef and brown for 5-10 minutes. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 more minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook until softened, about 10 more minutes.





Add 2 tablespoons of flour and make sure to mix it in well. Let cook for at least two more minutes to cook out the flour taste. Add the broth, thyme, marjoram, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 20-25 minutes, until thickened.


 

Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. Pour the meat mixture into a greased baking dish. Cover the mixture with potatoes, bringing mashed potatoes all the way to the edges of the dish so that the meat mixture is entirely covered.





Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes, until the potatoes are browned. Let sit for fifteen minutes, then serve.



October 2008

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (www.mountain-software.com)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I got it in my head this fall that I wanted to cook a pumpkin. I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted to cook it, other than knowing I did not want to make a pie or soup. I let the thought percolate for a couple of weeks to see what might come together. Then Jessica at the knit shop said she used to make pumpkin with pork, and that got me going. But more on that later.

This weekend I went down to the green market and bought myself a pumpkin. It was a cute little thing, maybe three times the size of an acorn squash, not too heavy. I did not want to overdo it. I was telling my sister about it over the phone. The seeds came up, and I was about to say how I would probably not go to the trouble to save and roast them when she said "Of course you'll roast the seeds."

When I still lived at home and my dad would prep the Halloween pumpkin for carving, he would always roast the seeds. My sister and I loved them, and looked forward to Halloween as much for the pepitas as for the candy, I think.

Because my pumpkin was so small, I didn't think there would be that many seeds in it. But when I popped it open, I discovered that there were actually quite a few. They were small, but there were enough to make roasting a viable option. So I decided to give it a try.

And guess what I got? Roasted pumpkin seeds. And they tasted just as good as I remembered. I don't know how often I will be cooking pumpkins, but I can tell you that whenever I do I will be roasting the seeds.

Happy Halloween!
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

I used this method for seeds from a smaller "pie" pumpkin. You might need to cook the seeds longer with a larger one.

Preheat the oven to 300 deg. F.

Cut the top off of the pumpkin and lift it off. Scoop out the seeds and place them in a shallow dish. Remove as much of the pulp from them as possible and pat dry. Toss with the oil, chili powder, and salt. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast them for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.

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