Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chicken Cacciatore with Portobellos and Sage (NBR)

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), trimmed of excess skin and fat [Sadly, I used the boneless, skinless kind.]
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 ounces (about 3 medium) portobello mushroom caps, wiped clean and cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red white [I used Chianti]
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind, about 4 by 2 inches (optional) [Nope]
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage leaves     
Mise en place.  Too bad I messed up and used boneless, skinless thighs instead.

Browning the chicken.

Brown the onions, mushrooms, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add flour and cook for about 1 minutes.  Add wine (and to be honest, I think the wine should have been reduced here a bit at first) and deglaze.  Add broth, tomatoes, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.  I accidentally added the sage here and cooked away all the flavor sadly.

Add the chicken back in and cook in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes.

This at all like the chicken cacciatore my parents sometimes got from Scola's in Dracut, MA.  It's a mighty different take than a marinara with red and green bell peppers and onions.  (Typically, they get chicken parm)
I clearly really messed up when it came to misreading the ingredients list.  Bones and skin of any animal will protect the meat from overcooking.  I wish the recipe directed to reduce the wine to avoid having the dish taste boozy.  And that I had remembered to put the sage in at the end rather than earlier.  And interesting dish.  Maybe I would try the variation for Chicken Cacciatore with White Wine and Tarragon at some point.

Tuna Noodle Casserole (NBR)

Bread Crumb Topping
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
  • Salt
  • 12 ounces dried fettucine, noodles broken into thirds
  •  10 ounces white button mushrooms, stem discarded, caps wiped clean, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans water-packed solid white tuna, drained and flaked into 1-inch pieces with a fork
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed

Mise en place.

Saute the mushrooms and onions until softened.

Cook a roux with the butter and flour.

Gradually add broth and milk.  Off heat, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, lemon juice, thyme, and if I had it, parsley.

Stir everything together.

Toss bread crumb ingredients together and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and crisp.

Bake everything together at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.
I was planning on just making this for myself but wound up bringing it to Eric S's house to finish and have much of it eaten by football fans.  It was a well-received hit.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mortadella (Lucky Peach 4)

Bologna a la Bologna, Marco Canora

 Mortadella (Italian pronunciation: [mor-ta-ˈdɛl-la]) is a large Italian sausage[1] or cold cut (salume /sa-'lu-me/) made of finely hashed or ground, heat-cured pork sausage, which incorporates at least 15% small cubes of pork fat (principally the hard fat from the neck of the pig). Mortadella is a staple product of Bologna, Italy. It is flavored with spices, including whole or ground black pepper, myrtle berries, nutmeg and pistachios, jalapeños and/or olives, though those with flavours other than ground pepper and myrtle are not made with the original recipe from Bologna.

Okay, sure, I agree now that mortadella could be made with olives.
  • 1 3/4 lbs fatback (1 lb cut into 1 1/2" cubes, and the rest cut into a 1/4" dice)
  • 2 egg whites, briefly beaten
  • 1 C pistachio nuts
  • 5 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2" cubes
  • 18 g pink salt (aka curing salt)
  • 65 g kosher salt
  • 2 T paprika
  • 1 nut nutmeg
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1/2 C dried milk powder
  • 2 C frozen whole-fat milk
  • 4 T black peppercorns
  • Amaretti liqueur [I couldn't even bring this up on Google and wound up just using Disaronno instead.  Hey, it worked.]
  • 100-mm-wide collagen casings, or plastic wrap
An untrimmed, bone-in pork shoulder.

The trimmings and the major bone.

Mise en place.  After a lot of hunting, I eventually found fatback at Savenor's in Beacono Hill.  Of course they have fatback and caul fat and all sorts of things I might employ someday in my cooking.

Blanch the diced fat back for 3 minutes.  This somehow firms up the fat a big.  I did the same thing to the pork rind before I scraped the fat off for chicharones.
Fatback is preferable in the dish in the first place because it is so firm and definitely not adjacent to any muscle unlike belly or fat from any other part of the pig.

Blanched fatback and pistachios tossed in egg white so they stay in place when the mortadella is sliced.

The larger pieces of fatback and the shoulder tossed with the dry ingredients.  The single teaspoon of almond extract was supposed to get in here, but I failed to remember while measuring the rest in a single pint container.
A measly teaspoon wasn't going to ruin my product, surely.  Even when all along I thought it was a tablespoon.  Ha.

Grinding meat: pretty much a nightmare.  I managed.

Season with liqueur and process as finely as possible with frozen milk.

Looking a hell of a lot more like lunchmeat.

Fold in the pistachio mixture and peppercorns and cure for 4 days in the fridge.  Where it wound up getting even more brighter pink.
And all these years of wondering whether Oscar Meyer dyes their bologna.  They probably do?

One portion was obviously way bigger than the other.  I barely managed to squeeze the two babies in my stockpot.

Casings totally burst from my sausages.  Hey, it was my first time out.  The meat is simmered until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees.

Plunge the mortadella in ice baths and cool completely.  I was tired and they were still giving off heat after I had put them in the fridge.  Oh well.

Harold's Mortadella with Wilted Dandelion Greens
Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook
Dieterle's Quickfire win from Season 1, Episode 7

  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ounce oyster or stemmed shitake mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 handful dandelion or other bitter green [I found some bagged blened of baby kale, spinach, and chard and figured I was close enough.]
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tapenade
  • 1/4 cup sliced red grapes
  • 3 ounces of mortadella
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley [As usual, I didn't have any]
Mise en place.  Look at that beautiful meat.  Most of the supporting players hailed from Trader Joe's: grapes, tapenade, sourdough, greens.

Sautee the mushrooms.

Wilt the greens.

Mix mayonnaise and tapenade together.  Layer mushrooms on one side.

Followed by the greens and grapes.

And then the star: my HOMEMADE mortadella.

The sandwich itself is a pretty fantastic utilization of the meat and I never really thought I'd ever make the sandwich (I read the cookbook close to when I started cooking many years back) until 2013. 
I wish I could've sliced the mortadella thinner, but I am not master.  Also not an owner of a $600+ food slicer (though sure, I wish I was).  The combination of the two condiments were really stellar, the mushrooms added lovely texture, and the grapes were this fantastic, juicy, fresh counterpoints.  The greens were also essential and I'm sure the sandwich would've been ever more lovely if I had dandelion.

And what of the mortadella itself?  It is pretty awesome and the whole process of producing lunch meat is pretty zany.  I've been plotting for a while the fact that I would attempt to make sausages this year (I have this charcuterie book all lined up on my Kindle.  Cured meats, here I come.).  Lo and behold, Lucky Peach publishes an article on mortadella.  Mortadella was something I'd heard of occasionally (probably initially from this sandwich on TV) .
I knew it had something to do with bologna.  And bologna is...  Something I have just never understood.  I love roast beef (boursin, caramelized onions, tomatoes, horseradish...) and can endure the rest of the array, but I've always objected to baloney.  It had always seemed essentially flavorless and textureless; a whole lot less "real" seeming than even process turkey, chicken, and ham.  "Salami" was just bologna with some pepppercorns stuck in it.  And why was it so pink?

After laboring for hours and hunting and ordering the ingredients for weeks (I hardly used a tablespoon of the pound of curing salt I bought and am not sure when I'll use my 100-mm collagen casings again), this mortadella was certainly not a sheer waste of time.  Even though the casings burst and I forgot the almond extract, the mortadella was still very extraordinary.  I was extremely proud of myself before I even tasted it (the day I finally cooked it).

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fish Couscous (BRW)

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 dried hot red chiles
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, preferably waxy, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, optional [Basically a whole Trader Joe's jar worth.  Since this saffron is so cheap, it can't possibly be real saffron, but whatevs.]
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Cayenne to taste
  • One 3-pound red snapper, grouper, black sea bass, or other firm fish, gilled, gutted, scaled, and cut crosswise through the bone into big chunks
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 4 cups cooked couscous
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Mise en place.  I figured I could deal with the zucchini and the fish while dealing with other things.

I'm figuring that it's hard to find whole fish unless one goes to Chinatown which I didn't have the time for today.  After sticker shock at Whole Foods, I wound up buying tilapia at Stop and Shop.  Tilapia didn't really strike me as a particularly firm fish, but it seemed like my best option.

Cook oil, garlic and chiles until aromatic.

Add onions and cook until translucent.

Stir in carrots, celery, potatoes, bay leaves, and cumin.  Add 1 quart water, bring to a boil and then simmer.

Add tomatoes and saffron and cook until the tomatoes break down.

Add zucchini and fish and cook until the fish is cooked through.

A satisfying and interesting dish?  For sure, but I could've lived without the endless picking out of all the little bones.  Plus it probably would've been markedly better with the right type of fish.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Harira [Ramadan Soup] (BRW)

  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless lamb shoulder or boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley, large stems removed, chopped
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, large stems removed, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, or 1 cup canned or precooked chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils, picked over
  • 2 larges tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped or about 2 cups drained canned
  • 1/4 cup vermicelli or other thin noodles broken into small pieces
  • 2 lemons
Mise en place.  The bowl of herbs had me crying uncle after processing the parsley and halfway through the cilantro.  The two herbs grow very differently since parsley has several branches per stem and cilantro only has one small clump of leaves.

Browning the lamb.

Cook onions until they soften a bit.

Add herbs and spices.  That big bowl of herbs wilted down in moments.

Add chickpeas and 6 cups of water.  Cook until they begin to soften.

Add lentils and simmer for 30 minutes.  Do the same to the tomatoes.

Add noodles 10 minutes before serving.  (Since the stew is so hearty in the first place I didn't worry about the whole noodles getting mushy in leftovers thing since they absorb excess liquid thing since there wasn't much excess liquid to begin with.)  Add the juice of one lemon.  The dish was supposed to be served with lemon wedges, but the soup was waaay tart enough with the one lemon.
Pretty good, interesting, hearty stew though the herbs were a pain.  Also, I fear that I've been adding too many lean dishes to my biweekly menu plans for the the season.  It only drives me to eat lots of Chinese takeout and TV dinners.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New England Clam Chowder (NBR)

  • 7 pounds medium hard-shell clams, such as cherrystones, washed and scrubbed clean [I used mahogany clams.]
  • 4 slices (about 4 ounces) thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped medium
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes (about 3 medium), scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt and ground black or white pepper [I can't imagine when white pepper will make it into my pantry.  Maybe someday...  And then I'll toss most of the bottle when it expires.]
 Mise en place.

The clams were supposed to be steamed until just open, but many of them were wide open when I opened the pot to check them at the low end of the given time range.

Minced clams and clam broth.

Frying bacon until crispy and fat has rendered.

Add onions and cook until softened.

Add flour and cook until lightly colored.  Whisk broth in gradually.  Add potatoes, bay leaf, thyme and simmer until potatoes are tender.

 Add clames, cream, and parsley and simmer.
Both Ori F and Will R thought the chowder was fantastic.  I thought it was quite good though I do often like those kinds of chowder that are thick enough to coat a spoon.  Elise V requested I cook clam chowder several months ago but balked when I said I had bacon in it.  I can't quite imagine a chowder without pork and it does traditionally contain salt pork in it.
Overall, a success.