This recipe for potato gratin with a layer of garlicky bacony sautéed cabbage in the middle may not look like much, but I just watched Tyler Florence make it on the Food Network, and I think it might be my new favorite dish. I do have a sort of a cruciferous vegetable fetish (they cook up nutty and buttery and rich, especially when roasted or braised), and I imagine that after an hour of cooking, the cabbage layer almost melts into a sort of sauce. After I try this I’ll report back.
Posts Tagged ‘recipes’
I saw this blog post about pie in a jar (not a bad idea, all things considered) and it reminded me that I’ve been wanting to make a coconut custard pie for ages.
(Before I leave the subject of “pie in a jar” entirely: I don’t think I’d go out and buy half-height Mason jars just for occasional use as jar-pie holders, but I do have about a zillion Pyrex custard cups in two sizes that would work fine for tiny pies. They wouldn’t freeze as well, but wrapped in tight plastic wrap, they should do adequately. So maybe I will try this sometime. On the other hand, the real problem with pie-in-a-jar is “who ever wants only six ounces of pie?” But I digress.)
In any case, I poked around for some coconut custard pie recipes yesterday, after laying in extra eggs and some whole milk just in case. I used to love egg custard as a child — I think of it as a food that used to be vastly more common and much more fashionable than it is now, and that’s probably true, given that it has to be cooked rather than simply heated up, and it’s rumored to be fussy, and it’s full of cholesterol and fat and so forth.
It’s also, however, delicious, with a subtlety of flavor that isn’t so common nowadays, what with sugar and fat so cheap and plentiful. I note that I’m now old enough to say “nowadays” only semi-ironically, which is distressing in its own way, but, again I digress.
And if you’re going to put egg custard in a pie, you might as well put coconut in it, because, well, why not?
All the egg custard pie recipes out there seem more or less the same, with a few variations. (I’m discounting the pretenders that use cornstarch instead of eggs; that’s not custard.) I ended up going with Bittman’s. The proportions seem to be roughly 5 ounces milk to one egg to one ounce sugar, with four eggs and 20 ounces of milk and half a cup of sugar to fill a pie shell. Some call for a pre-baked shell and some bake the shell and custard together, but one of the things I hate most is a gummy pie crust, so I decided to pre-bake.
As I said above, people say egg custard is fussy, and I worried. But it came out perfectly, and most of the pie is already gone. The worst part, in fact, was the pie crust — I used a new Cuisinart for mixing, and ended up overbeating and overheating the crumble, then added too much extra flour, then had to correct with a little water. The resulting mass, even after chilling, wouldn’t roll out properly, so I ended up having to hand-place it in the pan in strips and blobs and press them together, and after baking it was more like a short-crust tart than a pie. But, you know, who gives a crap, it sliced up fine and came out delicious, and the custard set up perfectly.
Bittman suggests toasting coconut in a saucepan on the stovetop, rather than in the oven on a baking sheet like we did when I was a child; I actually like the results better (you end up with a more unevenly done product, which is an improvement) and will do it that way in future.
In followup to this post, I want to mention that I received Adam Roberts’ book yesterday from Amazon, sat down at home to read the first few pages, and ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting.
The book is about Adam’s personal transformation from where he started — as someone with no knowledge of food, no palate, and no idea where to begin — into a person who enjoys food and cooking, knows what he doesn’t know, and is unafraid of tackling new food experiences one at a time. It’s well-written, with a point of view and a sense of humor, revealing about the author and the experiences that made him who he is, hopeful about the possibilities in one’s life to reshape imperfect circumstances more to one’s liking. And sprinkled throughout with recipes and food commentary. I’m looking forward to the next one!
I’ve sort of had my eye on the Amateur Gourmet’s blog off and on for the last couple of years, and the experience was a bit uneven at the beginning. But I have to say, Adam Roberts (the name on the Gourmet’s birth certificate) has really started to find his voice over the past few months.
When I first started following the blog, I must confess there was a bit too much “omigod, I’m just a kid, I really don’t know what I’m doing but let’s see if I can figure this out without setting the kitchen on fire” for my taste. Some of that is a matter of age (I’m 15 or 20 years older than Adam, give or take, and before you grouse, I know I was just as precious and tentative 15 or 20 years ago.) And once in a while it still grates. But you know what? It’s not the young’s fault that they were born after I was. And it’s become clear that Adam’s a real workhorse, and he’s invested the time and planning and hard work needed to build a successful professional life doing something that interests him. That’s worth admiring, and I admire it, and it has lifted my impression of the product.
Besides, Adam’s written voice has matured as his knowledge of cooking and food has expanded, and he’s built a network of professional contacts who seem to genuinely like him, which makes it more than namedropping when they show up in the blog, in person or by reference. I’ve even tried one or two of Adam’s recipes, which have come out great. So now I’m a regular reader.
Recently I’ve particularly been enjoying Adam’s “Someone’s In the Kitchen With…” video podcast series, in which he sits down in front of a webcam with some food personality or other (usually someone big enough that they’re recognizable, at least by role or credentials, but still human enough that they are capable of sitting down with Adam for a friendly chat without coming off like a blowhard) and leads them through a conversation about their work in food and their professional history. The latest, with chef/critic/memoirist Lauren Shockey, was typical: watchable for the full 30 minutes, only annoying once or twice, and substantive enough that I went right out and bought Shockey’s new book (and am going to make her frangipane tart). Given how reluctant I am to buy a new book in hardcover, even now with Amazon Prime, that’s indication of quality.
Part of the key to losing weight is eating well, and part of the key to eating well (for me) is finding things I like that are filling and satisfying while being relatively low in fat and carbohydrates (and the calories they bring along with them). And one of the things I enjoy, in all kinds of weather, is a homemade soup.
I’m not the sort of person who has patience for purees or infusions or other intricate creations; I just like to have everything in the pot simmering together. But in the past few rounds I’ve come up with some habits that make a good soup even better. So here, without further ado, is a vegetable soup recipe even you can make — even if you think “making soup” is too much damn work, even if you’re all thumbs in the kitchen (but be careful with that knife!), even if you have no idea what flavors go with what.
It takes less than two hours from the moment you start to the time the soup is ready to eat, and the whole last hour is spent doing other things while the soup cooks. Almost everything in this recipe can be left out if you don’t have it handy, and I guarantee you that, within reason, no matter how you vary it, it won’t be a disaster.
And if you have a big bowl of this for dinner, instead of whatever you would have had otherwise, it’ll probably help you lose weight. You’ll fill up faster, on things that are good for you and relatively low in calories.
So here’s what you do:
Turn the oven on to 350.
On the stove, in a heavy ovenproof saucepan, lightly sauté over medium heat 3 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped, in a liberal amount of olive oil. In the meantime, slice in half or chunk 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms and trim 1/2 pound fresh brussels sprouts, cutting them in half if desired. Drop these into the saucepan with a large amount of salt and pepper (more than you think they need) and give them a few tosses just to get them coated and beginning to warm. Put this saucepan in the oven and forget about it for a while.
Meanwhile, get out a large heavy soup pot and add a liberal amount of olive oil. Sauté lightly 2 or 3 shallots, roughly minced, over medium heat, until the aroma starts to permeate your very soul. Add a liberal quantity of salt and pepper, along with whatever herbs you happen to have on hand. Sometimes I add a bit of chili sauce, tandoori powder, or other source of kick at this point. Raise the heat a bit and pour about 1/4 cup of white wine into the onion mixture; let the alcohol boil off, then lower the heat.
Add about a quart of water and bring to a boil. While the heat is coming up, stir in about 2 tablespoons of Superior Touch “Better Than Bouillon” concentrated stock. This stuff is organic and vegan (if you get the “vegetarian” flavor), it’s probably at your supermarket, and it’s fucking amazing. Best 5 bucks you’ve ever spent; the jar lasts you a year; and you will never willingly open a can of “broth” again as long as you live.
While you’re waiting for the boil, wash, trim, and chop whatever fresh vegetables and/or greens you happen to have handy, and throw them in a bowl. Old, ratty specimens are fine — today I had about half a pound of green beans that weren’t fresh enough to eat by themselves anymore, 3 sad carrots that were starting to go furry, and about 8 small tomatoes that had been thrown into the freezer when they started to get a little too ripe on the counter. Some people like potatoes in their soup, and to those people I say, “meh,” do what you like. Don’t add any of this stuff to the soup pot yet; it’ll go in last.
When the boil returns, stir in roughly 1 cup lentils (or white beans or the bean of your choice) and 1 cup barley. Then take that saucepan (remember it?) out of the oven, and turn off the oven. Set the saucepan on the stove over medium heat and pour about 1/4 cup of white wine over the mushrooms and brussels sprouts; cook for about 1 minute, stirring all the oil and seasoned bits on the bottom into the wine. Then dump the whole contents of the saucepan (mushrooms, brussels sprouts, garlic, and wine) into the soup pot. Scrape all the oil and seasoned bits out with a rubber spatula, plop, right into the soup pot.
Add about another quart of water to the soup pot. Optionally, if you have any leftover meat handy (e.g., spicy brisket from 10 days ago sitting in the back of the fridge, as I did today), you can add it at this point. Finally, add the fresh vegetables and/or greens to the pot.
Bring the soup back to a boil, then lower the heat as low as it will go and forget about the soup for an hour (if that is even possible, given the fragrance that has now taken over your house). If you like your lentils and barley a bit underdone, as I do, don’t cook too much longer than an hour. Adjust the seasonings and eat two large bowls immediately, then have more tomorrow when it’ll be even better.
I wondered how well this technique would work on other slow-braised meats, like beef brisket. Turns out it’s delicious — just as good as with baby back ribs, maybe better — and even easier because you’re dealing with a flatter piece of meat.
I like the pot-roast method of preparing brisket just fine (there’s a recipe I picked up years ago that involves slathering the browned brisket in tomato paste, then laying it on a deep bed of sliced onions in the pot), and an advantage is that you end up with rich broth that you can turn into soup. But this new sweet-and-sour method is so good, and so easy, it’s going into rotation.
If you need a dose of comfort, try this. It’s nearly foolproof, and the recipe itself is virtually impossible to ruin; it stretches or bends in almost any direction and still hangs together. Adapted from Mark Bittman, but I stopped bothering with the cookbook a year ago.
Start by pouring yourself a glass of a rustic red wine — whatever you keep in the house. (My choice is a Long Island red, Schneider Cabernet Franc.) Have a sip.
Chop and/or grind (I use the grinder attachment that came with my cheap hand mixer) all the following, in any convenient order, and dump them in a big bowl:
- 1 large carrot
- 1 large shallot
- 3 cloves garlic
- About a cup of absorbent grain, using whatever’s within reach: bread crumbs; cooked rice or oatmeal; uncooked Minute Rice, tabouli, or couscous; or, in an emergency, half a cup of cornmeal
- A couple of spoonfuls of savory liquid, not too drippy — I used ajvar tonight because I had some, but anything from Worcestershire sauce to spaghetti sauce to barbecue sauce will do
- If it’s handy, a handful of parsley
- Somewhere between 1/4 cup and 1 cup of grated or ground cheese — the classic recipe calls for parmagiano reggiano, but any hard cheese is fine
- Salt, pepper, and seasonings as you see fit — sometimes I toss in dried chopped jalapenos
- Two raw eggs
Add to the bowl:
- About a pound of ground sirloin and half a pound of ground pork, torn apart into small chunks
Mash with your hands until ingredients are distributed. Form into meatballs. Heat a fairly thick layer of good olive oil in a saucepan (use a heavy, well-seasoned pan for best results). Drop half the meatballs in and cook, turning very frequently, until very dark on all sides. Remove to a plate as they finish and replace with new raw meatballs until all the meatballs are cooked. You’ll end up with 30-40 meatballs, depending on how big you make them.
When half the meatballs are done, turn on a pot of salted boiling water. When boiling, drop in good chewy pasta — I have a taste for Italian gemelli, but use whatever you like, as long as it’s not too cheap. Make twice as much pasta as you think you need; it’ll all get eaten. Cook until done and then drain.
When all the meatballs have been removed to the plate, pour off some of the oil (but not all), return the pan to the fire, and pour in about half a cup of your rustic red wine (or more, if you’re cooking for several people). Deglaze the pan, scraping all the cooked bits into the wine. Pour about two-fifths a jar of high-quality pasta sauce per person into the hot wine (I use Rao’s). Lower the flame, but not too much, and aggressively boil down the sauce-and-wine mixture. When it’s ready, which will be roughly when the pasta is done, it should be a chunky mass (not watery), and very dark due to the wine.
For each person, take a big bowl; dish out a hearty serving of cooked pasta; glop some of the thick sauce-wine mixture on top (leaving some of the pasta unsauced, to offset the strong flavor of the meatballs); drop half a dozen meatballs on top. (Some people think the meatballs should be reheated in the sauce, but I consider this to be bourgeois and unnecessary.) Pour yourself a big glass of red wine, and enjoy.
I’ve got some recipes queued up for this week:
- Mark Bittman’s Braised and Roasted Chicken with Vegetables, a slightly more complex implementation of a standard roast chicken. Seems to me this vegetable mixture will be improved by some finely chopped bacon in the sauteeing phase, so I’m planning to add it.
- Paul LeClerc’s Hot Cakes (adapted from Kathleen Claiborne) and No-Knead Bread (adapted from the Sullivan Street Bakery). I’m partial to hotcakes with cornmeal in the recipe, and I’m interested to see the effect of plumping it up with boiling water before whipping up the batter.
There’s also a low-sugar oatmeal cookie recipe I have lying around somewhere, and if I can find it, that’ll go into the mix. More to follow…
Because it was that kind of week, last night was a stay-home-and-cook night, accompanied by a Casey Kasem American Top 40 countdown from the summer of 1975 on Sirius XM. (The number-one song: title track from this album.) On the menu: linguini and meatballs, roasted squash, and fresh bread.
I’m particularly proud of yesterday’s bread. With practice, and some tinkering with the proportions and the rise times, the bread is looking classier and classier, as you see below.
This was made off the standard recipe, except that (1) for the first time in ages, I used only King Arthur white bread flour, with no other flours or grains added; and (2) it got a seven-hour first rise and a two-hour second rise.
I think I prefer having some other grains in the mix, and I think it needs a longer second rise (and a shorter first rise), but this is still exceptionally good bread (as good in its way as any artisan bread you can buy at the store, or better) — and I made it with my own hands.
The two orange squash in last week’s photo turned into the side dish you see above, with a bonus serving of toasted squash seeds, which those of you who lived through the 1970s in a yogurt-and-macramé household, as I did, will recall as one of nature’s treats. The squash were a little immature, so the flesh wasn’t quite as sweet as it might be, but on the other hand it was richer and subtler than what you get in the store.
And, finally, the meatballs. We use a freestyle adaptation of Mark Bittman’s spaghetti-and-meatballs recipe from this book, which has gradually become the first cookbook I reach for. This being the 10th batch of meatballs or so, I don’t even look at the recipe anymore, but from memory here it is more or less. Like almost everything I cook regularly, the recipe is really forgiving (otherwise it’s not worth building a habit around). For the chopping, I use the chopper attachment to my hand mixer, which leads to slightly chunky meatball innards; the results would be more even and consistent with a real food processor.
Get out a big bowl and dump into it:
1 pound ground sirloin plus 1/2 pound ground pork, broken up with your hands into small chunks to aid in combining
1 large carrot, chopped fine
2 shallots OR 1 medium onion, chopped fine
2-3 large garlic cloves, chopped fine
1 cup stale breadcrumbs OR 1 cup virtually any leftover cooked grain from the fridge, e.g., cooked rice
About 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, if you have it
About 1/2 cup grated good or good-ish parmesan, romano, or other dry or dry-ish cheese (don’t use crap, but it doesn’t have to be the gold-medal stuff)
2 raw eggs
A spoonful of Asian chili garlic sauce, some dried chopped jalapenos from the spice rack, cumin, and quite a bit more salt than you think you need
Mush all this up with your hands until you have a big lump of raw meatball substance. Form into meatballs of your preferred size, and cook in a large, deep skillet in hot olive oil, turning very frequently, until browned all over. Remove meatballs from pan.
Pour off most of the oil, then pour a jar of high-quality marinara sauce into the drippings. (It’s worth not skimping on the sauce; don’t ruin perfect meatballs with a jar of Ragu!) Warm the sauce, then add the meatballs back in and coat all over. Serve over the pasta of your choice.
Here’s this week’s bread:
It got a six-hour rising, and consequently is soft and crumby despite being heavier on the whole wheat (proportions roughly 2 cups King Arthur whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1/2 cup toasted buckwheat groats [kasha], 3 cups King Arthur white bread flour). I wasn’t sure what the kasha would do — in the dough, it was a little lumpy, and I was afraid it would interfere with the rise — but it’s fine; it gives the bread a nutty overtone without hurting it at all.
The Boon Companion (who is the one who deserves the credit for “groaty to the max”) said “this bread tastes really… er… healthy… and that’s sort of a compliment” — but I’m happy with it. And if I do this 50 more weeks in a row, I’ll be a master of flavors and textures.