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 linking to your results.

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.

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

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.

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

Carp - Can you say gefilte fish?

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

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

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.

PB&J sandwich - Duh.

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.

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

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

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

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

Steamed pork buns - Yum!

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).

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

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

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

Rice and beans - Many many times.

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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

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 (

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.

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


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 (

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.

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.
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