Month: January 2008

Ya Pear Galette with Pinenuts and Lemon-Pepper Honey Glaze

I was at Fubonn again last weekend. I swear it’s like my mallrat addiction now, on a cold day I just love to walk around and around that place and ogle all of the produce that I’ve never heard of before. I try to pick […]

Challah at ya girl

Barring a loaf of day-old brioche (like I have those just laying around), challah really does make the best French toast ever. And it can be purchased every Friday, giving you the very best fodder for an epic Saturday French toast and mimosas brunch. Challah […]

What the Phở?

I am on a bit of a soup kick, I guess. I had a pound of thinly sliced eye of round in the fridge, and I didn’t really feel like Korean or Japanese (I had yakiniku for lunch the other day, and that really sits with you). So tonight I made big bowls of phở for the hubz and myself. Btw, it’s pronounced “fuh?” not “faux” – the intonation indicated by the squiggly on top of the ‘o’ makes the sound lilt upwards at the end, resembling a question. I only speak a few words of Vietnamese, but this I know.

Phở is so incredibly easy to make. I was able to take the lazy way out, since I already had veal demi in the freezer. (I’d normally save this for something special, but the beef stock I have has red wine in it. Also, remember the name of my blog.) There are some regional variations in the way the broth is flavored, but we’re generally talking about stock made of oxtails steeped with garlic, charred ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, clove and a bouquet garni that may or may not include a bit of lemongrass. Add raw thinly sliced beef, chewy rice noodles and a handful of bean sprouts, cilantro, basil and sliced chile, a squirt of fish sauce and lime juice, and we’re talkin’ phở shizzle.

Phở bò (Vietnamese beef noodle soup)
Serves 2 or 3

6 cups oxtail, beef or veal stock (from scratch is the best!)
1 bouquet garni
1 small shallot, sliced
1 2″ piece of ginger, charred on stove
2 cloves garlic
3 star anise pods
1 3″ cinnamon stick
3 or 4 cloves
1 tsp peppercorns
some squirts of fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
salt to taste

Simmer broth gently for an hour or more, adding water as necessary to prevent broth from reducing too much. You should end up with 4 or 5 cups of broth at the end. Strain boiling-hot broth into bowls that contain:

rice noodles, cooked al dente
raw thinly sliced beef, such as eye of round or brisket

The meat and noodles will come up to proper doneness in the hot broth.

Serve with:
bean sprouts
fresh cilantro and basil (Thai basil, if you can get it)
lime wedges
sliced chiles
hoisin sauce
cock sauce (that bottled red sriracha stuff with the rooster on it)

I like to pile all the garnish on top for extra flavor and crunch, and I love to hit it with a bunch of cock sauce and hoisin. The people in Vietnamese restaurants probably think that I’m totally white trash for doing that, but I eat eggs with ketchup, too, so maybe I am.

Napalm in a Bowl

I just realized I have a shitload of chiles in various forms around the kitchen – canned chipotles en adobo, a dozen fresh jalapeños, a big jar of various dried chiles, and some nice anaheims and red bell peppers. It’s a capsicum wonderland! Also, I […]

Breakfast of Champions

This morning I was craving pancakes something fierce. Tragically, I lacked buttermilk, so I sent Hubz to the store. “Pick up some sausage and heavy whipping cream, too!” I needed something major – Hubz and I quit smoking last Monday, so my attitude this week […]

Royal Foodie Joust – February 2008

Okay, so this month’s three ingredients at the Royal Foodie Joust are lentils, eggplant and cinnamon. Although it would’ve been a fairly obvious choice, I opted for a decidedly un-Asian dish. There would be no dal this month, no, that would be a little too “on the nose” for me. And a lentil soup? Are you fucking kidding me? No offense, but I could turn out a lentil soup in my sleep. I needed a challenge. And with three ingredients like these, a challenge I would have.

So I start brain-storming: A rustic lentil puree? Ooh, I could call it ‘po-lentil’. Get it? Instead of polenta? Oh man, I kill myself. But no, that’s not quite where I want to go with this. What about a fritter? I’ve been craving fritter-y type things lately. I already have a jar of beluga lentils in the cupboard.

An aside: I finally found the white balance button on my camera and have gotten photo-happy. Bear with me.

What about the cinnamon? I could go savory with it, as I am wont to do. Can’t do Moroccan again, though, that is so last month. What about an aioli? I always make an aioli when I make fritter-y type things.

And eggplant? Okay, I used eggplant in the dish last month, and in fact, my first food blog competition included eggplant as one of the must-use ingredients. I’m kind of sick of experimenting with eggplant. So I hafta start really thinking about it. Stifado? I haven’t ever really branched out into Spanish food, which I love, and I haven’t made stifado since I was a vegetarian (like more than 5 years ago). I’ve been craving something saucy and tomato-y, too. Hmmm. A sofrito?

What about the protein? I have WAY too much lamb in the freezer (made it to the butcher last weekend for the boss’ lamb). I should use it, but I don’t want to have the same protein two entries in a row. I do have some venison in the freezer. I should get it out of there and do something with it.

And so it goes, tossing ideas around in my head for an hour or so, and it finally came together. It wouldn’t be very cohesive, but it just might work: beluga lentil fritters with a chunky eggplant sofrito, homemade venison chorizo and cinnamon aioli. The lentil fritters are reminiscent of Italian street food, so at least I’m not totally off the map. And while venison is not a traditional ingredient in Spanish chorizo, I decide it will be delicious anyway and keep everything else pretty straightforward. I picked up some salt pork to flesh it out a bit. I am totally doing this.

The apron and gloves are tied tight. Round two. Fight!

Lentil fritters with venison chorizo, eggplant sofrito and cinnamon aioli

This recipe is broken out into steps, as each component is worthy of being eaten on its own.

Lentil fritters

1 1/3 cup cooked, drained lentils (I used beluga lentils, but any will do, including canned)
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup milk (microwave for 1 minute to warm)
fat pinch kosher salt, crack pepper
1 tbsp chopped oregano
oil for frying

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk until nutty and slightly browned. Turn off heat and whisk in milk until blended thoroughly (or cheat and use an immersion blender like I do for expediency). Let it cool. Gratz, you’ve just made a bechamel, my favorite of the mother sauces.

Stir the lentils, S&P and oregano into the bechamel. Heat a little oil in a frying pan or electric griddle (nonstick is great for this) and drop a tablespoon at a time of the batter into the hot, oiled pan and fry until golden. If the first one falls apart, you can add a little more flour to the batter and cook them like regular pancakes. Remove from the oil to a cooling rack positioned over a baking sheet lined with a sheet of newspaper. You can keep these in a warm oven until ready to use.

Venison chorizo
Note: you can use store-bought Spanish (not Mexican) chorizo or omit it altogether. My amateur-hour chorizo is not cured (I do have a day job, y’know), and therefore must be stored in the refrigerator and cooked before eaten.

1 1/4 lb. venison stew meat
1/2 lb. salt pork, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbsp paprika (I used a hot, smoked Spanish one that is to DIE for – pictured above)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (I toast the stick and grind it myself)
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
1/4 cup basic Spanish
red table wine (such as temperanillo), plus a glass to sip while you work

Fire up the meat grinder, folks! Oh, how I love the “wheeee” of my meat grinder (I have a handy attachment for my KitchenAid – best wedding gift EVER). You basically just load the meat grinder (set at the coarsest grind), alternating between venison, garlic and pork. Then add everything else and mix with your hands. So visceral. So sexy.

Put the bright red meatwad into an airtight container for at least 6 hours so the flavors can get friendly. I made mine a coupla days in advance, so it had about 48 hours. If you are an experienced sausage maker and already have casings and everything, knock yourself out. I just left it fresh and crumbled it into a pan to brown. “Muy rústico” and whatnot.

Eggplant sofrito
As far as I can surmise, sofrito is a basic Spanish tomato sauce. I like to keep it real and live up to my motto, so I used fresh tomatoes which I fire-roasted in addition to roasted canned tomatoes. This sauce would also be amazing just on pasta or smeared onto some pizza dough with a little manchego.

1 medium-sized eggplant, stemmed and cut into matchsticks
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, drained (juices reserved)
4 cloves garlic
~4 oz cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp diced bacon
1/2 medium-sized onion, sliced thinly
1/2 c Spanish red table wine (same as for chorizo)
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
olive oil
salt and pepper

Put the drained, canned tomatoes into a baking dish and squish them up a bit with your hands. Add the garlic cloves and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast at 350 for 1 hour until slightly browned and slumpy as pictured above. Deglaze the browned juices from the baking dish with the red wine, being sure to scrape all that delicious fond off with a wooden spoon. Remove the roasty garlic cloves and chop them up.

Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, put eggplant matchsticks in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with salt. Leave it there 15-20 minutes, then squeeze out all the bitter juices. Set aside.

Put the reserved tomato juice into a small saucepan and reduce over medium heat until syrupy (you can also do this while the tomatoes are roasting, since you have an hour to kill).

If you have a gas range, place a cooling rack or somesuch over a burner and roast the cherry tomatoes over the open flame until the skins pop and char. Gently pull them off into a bowl and cover for 10 minutes to stew in their own juices. Puree the tomatoes and sieve to remove seeds and skin (some of the nice charred bits will still find their way in).

When everything’s ready, heat a tsp of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and fry for a minute until rendered. Add the onion and saute until a little golden. Add the eggplant, saute for one minute and then add the tomatoes, garlic, reduced tomato juice and the red wine from the baking dish. Let it simmer over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the juices are reduced almost completely and the sofrito is nice and sticky. Add the oregano and maybe a little pepper and stir. You will not need to salt this because the eggplant already brought all the salt to the party.

Cinnamon aioli
This is much easier with a blender, but if you prefer to use a whisk, knock yourself out.

3 egg yolks
~1/4 c olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch salt

Add all ingredients to blender and whizz until a creamy, mayo-like consistency.

I like to plate this like a little Napoleon by placing one fritter on the plate, adding a spoonful of the browned chorizo and another of the sofrito, topping with another fritter and then drizzling the aioli over the top.

This dish really tastes nice with a tempranillo or any other Rioja.

Well, I can’t be a creative genius ALL the time

The holidays are finally behind me, I don’t hafta worry about the thousands of empty booze calories on my daily count, and I don’t need to cook something to impress anyone for the first time in several weeks. Oh yeah, did I mention that my […]

Happy New Year!

Black-eyed peas and collard greens. Here’s to a delicious 2008!