Sunday, January 31, 2010

Kosher Dill Pickles

As with most foodie things, I tend to go through phases where I'm obsessed with a particular genre. For a month or so last year, it was making baguettes, from which I have taken a short hiatus due to the time constraints of properly fermenting your mother.

My current fascination is with pickling. Cukes, peppers, radishes, almost anything can be pickled. And as long as you consume within 12-14 days, you don't have to go through the more time-consuming canning process. Technically, these are referred to as refrigerator pickles, as that is where the verb takes place.

The only thing that makes them 'kosher' is the addition of garlic. I am not sure if I have processed the cukes according to kosher standards. Sort of ridiculous, if you ask me. You can't eat bacon? Pork Chops? No thanks.

Be sure to keep the water/vinegar ratio at least 50/50, and ensure you are using at least 5% acidity vinegar. You can modify these any way you like, adding/subtracting seeds, spices, the amount of garlic, chili flake, etc. to your liking. These will be a little spicy and garlicky, which is how BLT prefers them.

Kosher Dill Pickles

8 fresh kirby cucumbers, those little guys about 4-6" long, rinsed clean and cut into quarters
2.5 C water
2.5 C white vinegar
1 C fresh dill
1 ts dill seed
1 TB black peppercorns
1/2 ts coriander seed
1/2 ts chili flake
1.5 TB sugar
1.5 TB kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a large saucepan. Heat over medium heat and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Place the cukes into a container where they will be tightly-packed, I used two 750 ml tupperware containers. If using two containers, evenly distribute the rest of the ingredients between them. If using one container or three, figure it out. Pour the brine mixture into the containers, making sure the cukes are covered completely. It is very important your cukes are fully submerged at all times.

Place into the fridge for at least 10-15 hours, I like them best after two days. As long as they're submerged, they'll last for two weeks or so. Get a sandwich, a handful of chips, and a couple of pickles. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Caramelized Onion, Bacon, Blue Cheese Pizza

Shitty rainy Sundays are more than welcomed at BLT. It's time to divide a few hours between watching football, reading the paper, and in the kitchen, e.g. caramelizing onions. You might remember this method from Much like the onion soup, I caramelized these unjins for a couple hours, deglazing with brandy, wine, then a little bit of water. This time I used the rendered bacon fat instead of butter. Nueske's, bacon, really good smoky flavor.

Yes, you should add an extra workout to your routine to offset the caloric content of this pizza, and it will be worth it.

Caramelized Onion, Bacon, Blue Cheese Pizza

1 C 105F water
1 packet SAF yeast
1 ts honey
1 ts salt
2.5 C bread flour or AP flour

caramelized onions
4 oz blue cheese, crumbled
4 pieces bacon, sliced crosswise 1/4"
1/4 C spinach leaves, chiffonade
1 TB walnuts, lightly toasted (saute pan medium low heat for 90 seconds while tossing)

Combine the warm water, honey, and yeast in a small bowl. Stir to combine and let sit for 10 minutes, until foamy.

Measure the flour into the bowl of your stand mixer, add salt and whisk to incorporate. Add the foamy yeast water and stir to just mix. Throw on the mixer, speed 2, for about 5 minutes. Once shiny, elastic and climbing the dough hook, hand knead on lightly floured board for 2 minutes. Yes, by hand for a couple minutes does wonders. It's not like you have to knead the whole thing without a stand mixer, which would be for 10 minutes.

Shape into a tight ball and place into a lightly-oiled large bowl, cover with a dish towel and place in a draft-free area, slightly warm, bout 70-75F. In the winter I like to turn the oven on and the off right quick like, wait until it is just above ambient and then proof in there. You could have a fancy stove that has a proofing stage and monitors temperature and humidity, but by that point your maid or butler would be doing the cooking, which would probably be not cool. Proof until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

30 minutes before the proof is complete, fire up the hotbox to five honey. Make sure your stone is on the bottom third rack and free of previously used cornmeal.

Once doubled in size, punch down to release gas and let sit for 10 minutes. Place onto a very lightly floured board and roll out to about 12" round and 1/2" thick. Spread a ts of cornmeal onto your pizza peel, spread around and lay the dough on the peel. The cornmeal acts like ball bearings to slide your pie on the stone. Brush with some good EVOO, leaving a 1" edge. Top with the onion, blue cheese, bacon, and toasted walnuts.

Bake the pizza for about 8 minutes, rotating 180 halfway through, if necessary. Once golden brown, top with spinach and fresh black pepper.

Drizzle with EVOO if desired, fresh parm-regg, chili flake as well. That is good. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Orecchiette with Veal, capers, white wine sauce

The simple, super tasty meal that takes less than forty minutes is very much appreciated for times when you don't have much time, say, next Tuesday. I love when meals taste as though much more time and effort was necessary. Just don't call it a forty-minute meal. Or Yum-O.

Use the closest pasta you can find, apparently there was a run on orecchiette the day I was at the store, so I grabbed some tiny shells with a name I can't pronounce. Which sucks, cause I just learned how to say orecchiette.

Orecchiette with Veal, capers, white wine sauce

4 servings

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb ground veal
1/2 C dry white wine
1 1/2 C chicken stock
1 ts fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 ts fresh rosemary, chopped
2 TB small capers, rinsed
3/4 lb orecchiette
1/2 C grated really good Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 C parsley, chopped
2 TB unsalted butter

Heat the very healthy fat EVOO in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the veal and then season with about 1/2 ts of S&P. Kosher and freshly cracked black pepper of course. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until no longer pink.

Once the veal has browned, add the wine to the skillet and scrape up the tasty bits. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook for about 5 minutes, until reduced by half. Add stock, herbs, capers and simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until reduced by half. Cook the pasta to al dente during this time and drain well.

Once the pasta has drained, add it to the skillet with the parsley, butter, and cheese. Stir over medium heat for a couple minutes until nice and creamy. You can add a bit more butter if things seem dry, or if you are a Deen. Once things look ridiculously delicious, put it in something to eat it out of, top with fresh parm-regg, and please do enjoy.

As with most tasty meals, a nice wine to pair would be ideal. An A to Z Pinot Gris is what I had on hand and was excellent with crisp and very bright fruit. An Italian Pinot Grigio would be good too, or whatever you like.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

No matter how devoid a pantry might become, there should always be staples for the quick dinner. No, you don't have to go somewhere to buy food without even getting out of your car. This meal can be assembled as fast as you can boil water.

If I had frozen peas, they would have been warmed and thrown in. Next time I'll add a little minced yellow onion, and for sure the fresh parsley that I didn't have.

Make sure everything is done at the same time, you want the heat from the pasta to cook the eggs. Mise en place!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
3-4 servings

1 lb. dried spaghetti
3 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 oz. thick bacon, sliced into 1/4" pieces, or pancetta
1 C + 2 TB fresh parm-regg
2 large eggs
sea salt
1 TB fresh parsley, chopped

In a small mixing bowl, beat the two eggs and C of parm-regg until smooth. When you start cooking the pasta, over medium heat coat a large saute pan with EVOO. Add the bacon and render for about 5 minutes until crispy, stirring often. Toss in the garlic and stir for thirty seconds and remove from heat. When your pasta is al dente, drain quickly and toss in the saute pan. You want about 1/3 C or so of the pasta cooking water, draining quickly should do the trick. If things seem a little dry you can add a bit more. Stir the pasta well to coat thoroughly with the bacon fat and garlic. Make a well in the center of the pasta, then quickly whisk in the egg mixture, ensuring the eggs aren't scrambled too much. Season with fresh pepper and coarse sea salt. Once plated, top with remaining parm-regg, the undisputed king of all cheeses, and parsley. You could pour just about anything with this, I would reach for a Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bouef Bourguignon

Julia Child taught Americans how to cook classic French food. I believe her first show was in 1963, after she penned a book on the subject. Bouef bourguignon is a centerpiece of french cooking, a hunk of cheap meat cooked in red wine with some veg. Um, get me a piece of crusty french bread and a glass of red wine and I'm all set. A burgundy would be ideal, however if you don't have a Grand-Cru (something a little lower on the hill, village-level perhaps) laying around, any hearty zin or maybe a shiraz or malbec would work.

Like most stews and such, this will taste better once chilled and reheated, allowing the complete flavor profile to come back together once cooled, and more importantly, for gelatin to do work. This will thicken your gravy the second time through. And the third goes to the freezer, as hibernation is in full force.

Yes, keeping with the theme-things that taste good on cold days. Speaking of which, it's been the 17th coldest start to January (1-5) in 140 years with an average of 11 F.

And no, my name is not Julie, I'm not cooking one dish per day in 2009. This recipe here takes some very minor shortcuts anyway, which most at-home cooks in the French country would anyway.

Bouef Bourgingnon

3-31/2 lbs. chuck roast, stewing beef, whatever you got, cut into 1 1/2-2" pieces
6 oz. bacon, thickly-sliced, 1/4" slices
3 TB butter, reserved
3/4 lb fresh pearl onions (par-boiled for 2 min. and peeled)
3/4 fresh button mushrooms, sliced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, diced
3 TB flour
2 TB tomato paste
1 bottle Cabernet or Zinfandel, something full-bodied, like the first girl I held hands with.
2-3 C homemade beef stock, or low-sodium broth
bouquet garni-that day was a few stems oregano and the leftover parsley stems
bay leaf
1 TB fresh parsley, chopped

In your trusty big-ass cast iron casserole pot over medium heat, render the bacon until golden brown, enjoying the incredible aroma of good bacon frying. Thanks for the Nueske's, Gardenhiser's! Incredible stuff, 'Sconny bacon smoked over various hardwoods. Drain on paper towels. Pour off any fat more than a few TB's.

Pat the beef dry with paper towel to ensure the outside is completely dry, which will ensure a nice brown crust. Over medium-high heat, brown the meat on all sides in batches, being careful to not overcrowd the pot. A couple minutes per side should do it.

While the beef is browning, add 1 TB of the butter to a small saute pan. Melt over medium-low heat and add pearl onions, stir frequently until nicely browned. Do the same thing with the shrooms and another 1 TB butter until golden, set veg aside.

Pour off most of the fat, turn the heat to medium, then add the last TB of butter, the onion, garlic, and carrot. Stir for a couple minutes until soft, then sprinkle with the flour. Let sit for 10-20 seconds, then stir frequently for 2 minutes.

Create space (move to open ice?) in the middle of the pot by moving all veg to the side, then add the paste to the middle. This will help caramelize the sugars a bit and that adds flavor. You like flavor. Add the bacon and beef, bouquet garni, bay leaf, then add the wine and stock. Using a flat wooden spatula to scrape the pot, return that tasty fond to the party. You never want to leave that behind. Add enough stock to just cover the meat.

Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. You want to cover the casserole and stir every 30 minutes or so for 2 1/2 hrs, until the meat is very tender.

Add the mushrooms and onions, then add S&P to taste. Cook for about 30 minutes longer, then remove the garni and bay leaf and stir in the parsley. Find a medium to enjoy this- noodles, potatoes, or rice would be good. Be sure to enjoy a glass of vin with this.

That is some good marbling.

Oh bacon, let's never fight.

After the shroom and onion addition, ready to add the seasoning and get out the tasting spoon.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Swedish Meatballs

This one is for you, Schlampy, always happy to fill requests for this one.

To continue our theme of things that taste good in winter, Swedish Meatballs. Classic taste here, the fresh nutmeg is key. As is getting a good sear on your balls, you sure don't want them to fall part.

Brought to you by this guy-

Swedish Meatballs

2 slices white bread
1/4 C milk
3 TB butter, unsalted
1 small onion, fine dice (about 1/2 C)
3/4 lb ground chuck
3/4 lb ground pork
2 egg yolks
1/2 ts freshly cracked black pepper
1 ts kosher
1/2 ts freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 ts ground allspice
1/4 C AP flour
1/4 C heavy cream
3 C beef broth, low-sodium

Keep meat at fridge temp until you have your assembled mise en place. Literally defrenchied, that means 'everything in place'. Which is a great thing to have when cooking. Double the batch for slow cookers and a ton of balls. You could mix this without a stand mixer, the quantities I make just make that route easier. The amounts listed will make about 26-28 balls.

Tear the bread into small pieces and place in a bowl with the milk.

Sweat the onion over medium heat in a small saute pan with 1 TB butter, about 4-5 minute or until soft, then set aside to cool.
Place the ground meat into the stand mixer bowl with the bread/milk mixture, yolks, seasonings, and onion. Mix on speed 3 for a couple minutes until just combined thoroughly.
Shape into about golf ball size, or 1 oz. and then place on a sheet pan.

Get out that large, heavy saute pan and melt remaining 2 TB over medium-low heat. Once the butter is done foaming, add the meatballs in batches, do not crowd them. Proper Maillard reaction, or browning, is necessary. Brown on all sides for about 4-5 minutes, turning every couple minutes.

Once done with the balls, turn the heat down to low and add the flour to the pan. Whisk for a couple minutes to develop a light brown roux. Add the broth gradually while whisking until incorporated. Add the cream and stir over low heat for about 5 minutes, should be about good consistency at that point, maybe 7-10 minutes. Does it coat the back of a spoon? Good to go. Taste (thanks for the spoon, Restaurant Quality) and add a little S&P if necessary. Add a bit of freshly ground nutmeg fo sho.

Served up over egg noodles with some fresh parm-regg-