Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pickled Eggs

I can't remember if I made pickled eggs since moving to Milwaukee, or just buying the spices and planning to. The last time that I remember making them was when in college. My nephew Eric has been making them recently so I figured I'd make a batch.

Boil water. Bring your eggs to room temperature by heating them in the microwave on low for 5 seconds per egg plus five seconds. Add eggs to the water being careful not to drop them. Boul for 13-14 minutes. Remove from heat, dump the water and quench the eggs in cold water.

Boil white vinegar and add pickling spices. Allow to boil for about 5 minutes then allow the solution to cool.
Put eggs into the pickling container with a selection of other vegetables: onions, garlic, peppers, beets, etc. Cover the solution with the vinegar.
Refrigerate for at least two weeks before eating. I usually wait a month.

The loaf of bread is Cook's Illustrated's "No-Knead" bread recipe.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Carbonnade a la Flamande

This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated. I made it along with their “no-knead bread” and broccoli and a cabernet. We had Amy and Sara over to eat with us.

Top blade steaks (also called blade or flatiron steaks) are our first choice, but any boneless roast from the chuck will work. If you end up using a chuck roast, look for the chuck eye roast, an especially flavorful cut that can easily be trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces. Buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes make excellent accompaniments to carbonnade. The traditional copper-colored Belgian ale works best in this stew. If you can't find one, choose another dark or amber-colored ale of your liking.

3 1/2 pounds blade steaks , 1 inch thick, trimmed of gristle and fat and cut into 1-inch pieces (see illustrations below)
Table salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds yellow onions (about 3 medium), halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 cups beer (12-ounce bottle or can)
4 sprigs fresh thyme , tied with kitchen twine
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 300 degrees. Dry beef thoroughly with paper towels, then season generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until beginning to smoke; add about one-third of beef to pot. Cook without moving pieces until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes; using tongs, turn each piece and continue cooking until second side is well browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer browned beef to medium bowl. Repeat with additional 2 teaspoons oil and half of remaining beef. (If drippings in bottom of pot are very dark, add about 1/2 cup of above-listed chicken or beef broth and scrape pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits; pour liquid into bowl with browned beef, then proceed.) Repeat once more with 2 teaspoons oil and remaining beef.
2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to now-empty Dutch oven; reduce heat to medium-low. Add onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and tomato paste; cook, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until onions have released some moisture, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and stir until onions are evenly coated and flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in broths, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits; stir in beer, thyme, bay, vinegar, browned beef with any accumulated juices, and salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to full simmer, stirring occasionally; cover partially, then place pot in oven. Cook until fork inserted into beef meets little resistance, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
3. Discard thyme and bay. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste and serve. (Can be cooled and refrigerated in airtight container for up to 4 days; reheat over medium-low heat.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Meatloaf & Rice Pilaf

I like meatloaf. I remember that there used to be a lot of funny papers jokes about it and I could never understand why.

Take equal parts of ground chuck and ground pork. Throw in some ground veal if you'd like. Mix in herbs and spices of your choice: Oregano, thyme, pepper, parsley, tarragon all work. Add one egg for every pound of meat and enough bread crumbs to make a reasonably dry mix.

The big difference between meatloaf and the other two common ground meat foods, hamburgers and meatballs, is density. Meatloaf is much denser than either. Of course, the error usually goes the other way: hamburgers and meatballs are usually made way too dense from over-kneading.

Form the meat into a loaf. Brown thoroughly on all sides (remember the 2nd Law: Brown food tastes better!) in a hot skillet then cook in a 375F oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 160, about 45 - 60 minutes.Let the loaf rest for about ten minutes and slice with a serrated knife.

I'm really liking arborio rice these days. Remember the 3rd Law: Water is for washing!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Shrimp cooked on a block of Himalayan salt

My brother Dan first told me about these Himalayan salt blocks. I orderd one and it arrived last week. It's very heavy and very cool. I heated it in the oven at 500F for about 30 minutes then put it on a burner. We cooked the shrimp for about 90 seconds per side. There was enough sensible heat in the salt to to two batches. Actually, there was enough to do more, but two was all we had. They were delicious!
Shrimp cooking

Friday, January 18, 2008

Steaks and Shrimp for Laurie's Birthday

One of the best tips I’ve gotten for cooking steaks is to allow them to dry in the refrigerator for a couple of days before cooking. The key to an excellent steak is the crust. Allowing the surface to desiccate will help for that perfect surface. Unfortunately, we usually don’t plan steaks that long in advance so we’re not always able to do it.

Unwrap the steaks and place them on a wire rack in the refrigerator. Turn them every 12 – 24 hours. Two or three days is enough. The surface will look shriveled and unappealing but this is the look you’re looking for. Rub the surface with oil then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Start the steaks in a very hot pan for about one minute per side then turn the heat down and cook to the desired temperature.

A nice way to test for doneness it to use the “heel-of-the-palm” method. Touch your index finger to your thumb. If the meat feels like the heel of your palm, it’s rare. Your middle finger gives medium rare (maybe medium), ring fonger equals medium well, and pinky is well done. Nice. Demonstration here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chicken Paprikash

This recipe is from Cook's Illustrated. It turned out great and was a lot of fun to make. I would increase the cooking tome to about 40 minutes, however. Some of the thighs were a little too pink near the bone.

The stew can be made in advance through step 2. To keep the sour cream from separating from the sauce, it’s best added to the reheated stew just before serving. Rice or mashed potatoes are good accompaniments, but buttered egg noodles were tasters’ favorite. If you want to try them, cook 8 ounces of egg noodles, then drain and toss them with 2 tablespoons butter.

8 bone in chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), trimmed of excess skin and fat
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 large onion , halved and sliced thin
1 large red bell pepper , stemmed, seeded, halved widthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 large green bell pepper , stemmed, seeded, halved widthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch strips
3 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes , drained
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 300 degrees. Season both sides of chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes. Add 4 chicken thighs, skin-side down, and cook without moving them until skin is crisp and well-browned, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken pieces and brown on second side, about 5 minutes longer; transfer to large plate. Repeat with remaining chicken thighs and transfer to plate; set aside. When chicken has cooled, remove and discard skin. Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from pan.

2. Add onion to fat in Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add red and green peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are browned and peppers are softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons paprika, marjoram, and flour; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine, scraping pot bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits; stir in tomatoes and 1 teaspoon salt. Add chicken pieces and accumulated juices, submerging them in vegetables; bring to a simmer, then cover and place pot in oven. Cook until chicken is no longer pink when cut into with paring knife, about 30 minutes. Remove pot from oven. (At this point, stew can be cooled to room temperature, transferred to an airtight container, and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring to simmer over medium-low heat before proceeding.)

3. Combine sour cream and remaining 1/2 tablespoon paprika in small bowl. Place chicken on individual plates. Stir a few tablespoons of hot sauce into sour cream, then stir mixture back into sauce in pot. Spoon enriched sauce and peppers over chicken, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Oven Fried Chicken and Potatoes with Beets

This is basically the same as Chicken and Crunchy Potatoes but after brining the chicken, dredge it in corn meal (I prefer that more than flour), and fry it in a hot skillet until the breading is golden brown. Do not burn!

Boil the beets until tender, about an hour. That giant one took longer. Let them cool and remove the skins. Serve with salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar to taste.