Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Live Blogging Christmas Eve

So I figured I would get a jump on the Christmas Eve blogging. It is a massive undertaking each year to pull it off but it us so worth it. As you may recall from Christmas pasts, Christmas eve is really the special part of Christmas for me. Sharing all of the food and traditions with friends and family is really important to me, even though it sends my anxiety through the roof. This years menu has a few new things on tap as well as having my mom on hand to help and make her seafood chowder. As I prep and make dishes I am going to try to take notes here.

The Menu
Course One
Fried calamari
Fried smelt

Course Two
Salami cheese bread  

Meatball soup.
Seafood chowder 

Course Three
Smoked salmon ravioli
Vodka sauce
Brown butter sauce
Anchovy spaghetti

Course Four

Calamari stuffed with shrimp and crab
Lobster Cheesecake

Course Five
Baked whole fish

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Beef stew with Brooklyn Black Chocolate stout, home made biscuits and caramelized brussel sprouts with pomegranate molasses and feta

Every winter, Brooklyn Brewing comes out with their winter black chocolate stout and every winter I drink it as often as I can while it is around. Which is not very much since it is very strong and does not lend itself to having more than one or two.

Kerrie and I were walking through Wegmans trying to figure out what meals to have before the upcoming Christmas Eve Fish Feast and I saw the stout sitting on the shelf, after drooling for a moment it became my focus for a meal to serve to so friends for dinner. Partly because I knew that Chris would join me in drinking one as well. They come in a convenient 4 pack. One for the stew, one each for Chris and I before dinner, and one as I sit here and type this.

Each year for our annual St. Patrick's Day dinner I make Guinness beef stew so I figured this would be a perfectly yummy substitute. I use the basic beef stew recipe from The 1997 Joy of Cooking. It works very well as followed in the book, it also works great if you brown the meat and saute the vegetables in a pan then load all the remaining ingredients into a crock pot.  The only significant variation I make is that instead of just sprinkling the meat with flour I use a mix of flour, paprika, salt, pepper, and thyme. I am sure the recipe has not changed in the Joy of Cooking in decades. I also almost always use some of the vegetable variants instead of just potatoes and carrot. Parsnips and turnips in particular often make it to the pot. Parsnips are a favorite of mine and are one of those magical trans-formative ingredients.

I will leave it to Kerrie to post her biscuit recipe when she is ready but tonight's were wonderful.

The side is a dish I have been wanting to make again for over a year. I threw it together at Thanksgiving last year and it was a hit. It brings together several rich deep flavors and comes together in a way I didn't quite expect. The Pomegranate molasses is something I love to have on hand. I saw it used on a cooking show and Alton's recipe is wonderful and simple. It is great on pork, fish, couscous, and today's veggie, brussel sprouts.

You will need
12-18 brussel sprouts, all about the same size.
2 Tbsp Butter
1/4 cup chicken stock
kosher salt
pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Cut the stems off of the sprouts and peel off any leaves then come of easily. then cut in half, or quarters if your sprouts are bigger than walnut.

Heat a large pan to medium high,  ( I use my Calphalon 12-Inch Everyday Pan) and add the butter.
Once the butter melts and sizzles then add the sprouts cut side down to the pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes until they are nice and brown. Try not to mess with them too much. Once they have browned add the chicken stock and a pinch of kosher salt and put a lid on the pan. Reduce the hit to medium low and cook for another 6-8 minutes. Check to see if the sprouts are tender.  Add the sprouts to a serving dish, sprinkle with feta and drizzle with the molasses.

I love this dish and it makes a tasty accompaniment to just about anything.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I wish I was a butcher

I say this to myself every time I have a big hunk of meat like a leg of lamb, or a pork shoulder or a whole chicken, turkey etc. As much as I enjoy cooking, a significant part of that enjoyment is the trans-formative aspect of turning raw ingredients into a finished product that tastes, smells and looks delicious.
I do need to work on the looks part for the blog, I make some darn tasty looking food but I just don't think of taking pictures. Usually because I am too hungry to wait.

All that introduction leads me to tonight's dinner. Broiled butterflied chicken with roasted carrots and onions, mashed potatoes, gravy and steamed kale with feta and olives.

The chicken is yet another Alton Brown recipe. The butterflying step is one of the things I really enjoy. Breaking down a whole chicken into a big flat canvas of meat just waiting to be seasoned and roasted is pretty special. And of course it is the reason you can roast a chicken on a weeknight. Toady Kerrie made gravy instead of the jus in the recipe.  The jus is wonderful and I strongly recommend you try it. It also works out well because the roasted vegetables soak up a lot of the juice so you don't have quite as much as you would if you just roasted the bird on a rack.

Roasted carrots and onions and perfect examples of the trans-formative aspect of cooking that I love. I enjoy onions just about any way you want to serve them, raw, cooked, steamed, sauteed, fried etc. However there is something about roasting them in the oven and finding that perfectly caramelized bit of onion that has stuck to the pan that just makes me a happy boy. Carrots might as well be a completely different entity. Raw carrots are tasty, roasted carrots are sweet earthy tender bits of awesome.

I could never be a vegetarian, carrots and onions roasted in meat juice would call to me. I could actually give up the chicken but you would catch me some night scooping up big serving spoonfuls of meat juice and carrots from a pan. it would not be pretty.

I don't really measure for mashed potatoes so it's tough to put together a recipe. I use the standard amount of potatoes I was taught by my mother which is one potato per person and one for the pot. So a family of 4 potato eaters needs 5 potatoes. Wash and cut the potatoes into about one inch pieces and boil them in salted water until soft drain well then add them back to the pot.

about 1/2 cup milk (skim is all we have in the house, cream is of course awesome)
2 Tbsp of salted butter
a few grinds of black pepper
and the star recently is about 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt. it adds a great tangy flavor and richness.
Lately Greek yogurt has become a staple in our house for a variety of reasons. This is one

Mash with a potato masher and add more salt and pepper to taste. I almost always leave the skins on unless I know I have picky eaters around who will turn up their noses at the skins. They may be wrong and out of their minds, but I cater to guests.

the kale was a new recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food. I love this book for veggies.

It is a pretty simple recipe that would be equally good with collard greens. you will need

8-10 big kale leaves or more depending on your pan
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 cup of dry white wine
A block of feta cheese ( we used crumbled it was fine)
Kalamata olives
1 tomato (I did not have a tomato on hand so I skipped it)

First wash and slice off the kale leaves from their stems. If the stems are not to thick you may not need to do this for all of them. Chop the stems and garlic into small pieces then saute  in oil. Place some feta pieces and some broken up olive pieces into the individual leaf strips and roll them up. Place them in the pan on top of the chopped stems and garlic,  pour a half cup of dry wine over. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat, cover tightly and simmer for about 10 minutes until kale is tender and feta is melted.  This was really tasty. the tomato would have been a nice addition as the acid would have cut through some of the saltiness of the olives and feta.

The whole meal was served with a delicious  un-oaked chardonnay from  McGregor Winery, which of course was the wine I used in the kale. Any dry white would be fine.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chicken and Biscuits

This is one of my favorite comfort foods. And having just returned from vacation, being sick, and dealing with several feet of snow, I had a craving for some comfort food yesterday.

Of course, I also wanted something easy as I hadn't yet had time to thaw an entire chicken nor did I have the inclination to stew and shred it, etc. but I didn't want to use canned condensed soup or packaged baking mix. So I looked over several recipes and came up with this one:

For the chicken:
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 lb., or, about 3 c. shredded chicken, cooked any way you like to)
1 pint of chicken stock, perhaps a little more if needed
3 Tbsp butter, salted
3 Tbsp flour
1 stalk celery, diced small
1 medium onion, diced small
1 large carrot, diced small
Poultry seasoning, thyme, sage, etc.
salt, pepper
cream (optional)
Mixed vegetables, thawed

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Poach the chicken breasts in the stock until cooked through. Or, you can of course use any cooked chicken or even turkey and skip this step. I saved the stock to use a little later. You can use your favorite broth but if you're not going with homemade I really like Pacific Foods organic free range chicken broth. Set the chicken and broth aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add the onion, carrot and celery (mirepoix). Cook on medium until the vegetables soften, about 10-15 minutes. Starting your soup or stew with a mirepoix gives it a wonderfully rich flavor so here's where you don't want to skimp on cooking time.

Meanwhile, shred or cube your cooked chicken and make your biscuits. Use your favorite recipe, or here's the one I used:

2 1/4 c. flour
1 stick butter, grated or diced and kept very cold
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. buttermilk

Combine flour, powder, soda and salt. Cut in butter until it resembles cornmeal. I generally just use my fingertips. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add buttermilk, all at once, stirring only until it's just combined. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 10 times by patting it out and then folding it in half. Pat out into a flat circle about 1/2 inch thick. Use a floured biscuit cutter and cut out your biscuits, place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 12-14 min or until golden brown. If you want, you can brush the tops with beaten eggs or butter before baking, or add a little thyme to the dry ingredients before adding the buttermilk.

Sprinkle seasonings over the veggies, add flour and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add 2 c. broth, and bring to a boil. Stir in the cream, chicken and veggies, and cook just until it's all heated through. Turn off heat and let it sit and thicken for a few minutes, then serve over halved biscuits.

Have a couple of extra biscuits fresh out of the oven with butter, too.