Friday, September 30, 2011

Pan Seared Scallops with Tomato Chutney

Volumes have been written on the correct way to pan sear a scallop.My method is pretty much identical to that way Alton Brown does his. Pat dry your scallops sprinkle with some flour ( I use wegmans pan searing flour, it has a very fine texture) salt and pepper. Heat a few tablespoons of butter and olive oil in a non stick pan until it is almost brown, turn down the heat a bit and add your scallops a few at a time, you don't want to crowd them. Cook for about 2 minutes then flip and cook for another 2 minutes, they should be golden brown on both sides.

The tomato chutney was a spur of the moment idea. I Actually set out to find a tomato marmalade recipe to go with the scallops so I grabbed  Mark Bittmans How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I found the chutney recipe and thought it would be perfect. You are going to need

1/4 unsalted peanuts (I used a mix of cashews and almonds)
3 Tbsp butter or peanut oil
2 tsp black mustard seeds ( I used regular mustard seeds)
6 whole cloves
3 dried thai or other hot chilis (I used one dried thai dragon pepper)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large red onion chopped
2 large tomatoes chopped
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp curry powder
kosher salt

Put the peanuts, butter, mustard seeds, cloves and chilis into a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Cook stirring often for 2-3 minutes until the spices are fragrant, add the cumin and cook for another 2 minutes until the nuts start to brown.

Add the chopped onions and pinch of salt and stir until the onion softens then add the tomatoes, tomato paste and curry powder. Stir and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Taste and add more seasonings if necessary. I added more curry powder. He recommends letting cool to room temperature for serving, I served it warm over scallops fresh from the pan and it was delicious. Not too overpowering for the scallops and the crunch of the nuts added some great texture to a dish that would have been just soft.

Santa Maria Beans

This twist on baked beans was a nice break from the traditional baked beans and they have a lot of flavors that work well with the meat and bread.

For the beans
1 lb dried pinquito or small kidney beans
1 Tbsp butter
2 slices bacon
2 ounces chopped ham
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro
3/4 cup tomato puree
1/4 cup chili sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper

Soak the beans overnight in water.

Drain the soaked beans in a colander and add them to a bot, cover with enough water to cover the beans by about 4 inches. Bring the water to a boil over high heat and reduce the heat to medium low, skim any of thr white foam that comes to the top. Simmer the beans for 1.5 to 2 hours until tender. When the beans are cooked, pour off all  but 1.5 cups of the cooking liquid.

Melt the butter in a pan and cook the bacon and ham in it, cook for about 5 minutes.Add the onion, garlic and cilantro and cook until the onion is soft. Add the tomato, chili sauce, brown sugar, mustard powder, cumin, oregano and 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. Continue to cook and stir for 10-12 minutes until the sauce is rich and the raw tomato taste has cooked out.

Stir the tomato mixture into the beans and simmer for about 15 minutes, adding the reserved cooking liquid as needed to keep the beans from drying out. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Whole Lot of Braisin going on

In the quest for new recipes I went to the trove of cookbooks on the shelf in my kitchen. Even with so many recipes available on the internet I still love paging through cookbooks and finding something new to try. Michael Symon's Live to Cook is one of my favorites, it reads almost like a novel to me. As I'm flipping through I land on his recipe for Braised Rabbit Thighs

I ran to the freezer to get out my package of rabbit thighs and then remembered I don't have a big package of rabbit thighs. Chicken thighs would have to do. The recipe has them as an optional replacement.

The original recipe was Braised Rabbit Thighs with Olives and Orange.

Mine wound up as
Cider Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives.

6 bone-in rabbit thighs or chicken thighs (about 1.5 pounds)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp Montreal seasoning
1/2 cup all purpose flour1/4 cup olive oil, or more as needed
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 serrano chili, seeded and sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup apple cider
1.5 cups chicken stock
12 black oil-cured olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Chop the onion garlic and chili pepper and set aside.
Add the olive oil to a pan large enough to hold all the thighs, or just plan to brown them in batches. Heat the oil to medium high.

In a bowl or deep plate mix the flour and the Montreal seasoning and dredge the chicken in the flour and seasoning mix. Brown the thighs on both sides for 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate. Add your onion garlic and chile to the pan and saute for 4-5 minutes, add the cider, wine and chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Once the liquid is at a simmer add the chicken thighs back in. At this point you can put the pan right in the oven (assuming its oven safe) for about 3 hours at 225. Or you can do what I did and put it in the crock pot on low for about 4 hours.

When the chicken is fully cooked and tender remove the chicken from your cooking vessel and set aside, pour the liquid into a pot and bring it up to a simmer (do this right in your oven safe dish if you did it in the oven) Simmer for 10 minutes or so to let it reduce, then add in your olives and chopped fresh parsley. Add the chicken back to the liquid and serve it up.

Now a dish like this would be great served over a bed of rice or pasta, however, since we are trying to avoid those foods at the moment I had to come up with some kind of a nest for this delicious chicken and sauce.

Braised leeks were the perfect choice. Leeks are one of my favorite onion variants, they are fresh and plentiful this time of year. I first encountered braised leeks a few years back and try to fit them in wherever I can. They are really really simple and when they are cooked this way they get very soft and have an almost pasta like texture. I would never try to tell you that it is just like pasta or any such ridiculous notion, they are however, delicious in there own fashion while providing the textural element and the solid base for a dish with a lot of liquid. You will need:

3 large leeks
3-4 Tbsp butter
1-2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 cup (or less) chicken stock
salt and pepper

Trim the root ends form your leeks and cut them off about an inch into the green part, you want to use mostly the whiter portions for this application. Save the tops they make great soup stock material. Cut the leeks in half and look at them closely, leeks can often contain a lot of grit, soaking them in a sink full of water for 5-10 minutes after you cut them in half will help remove any grit.  Once they look clean, cut them lengthwise into strips about 1/4 inch wide. A little wider is no problem but you don't want them to be any more than 1/2 inch wide otherwise your cook time might be longer.

Heat the butter and olive oil up in a pan that has a good tight lid. Put the heat to medium and add the sliced leeks. Cook them for 4-5 minutes until they just start to brown a bit and get soft. Add the chicken stock and sprinkle with some salt and pepper, reduce the heat to low cover and cook for 10-12 minutes. When time is up remove the lid, and if necessary turn the heat up a bit and stir until the liquid is almost fully gone. Twist them up with a serving fork and set a nest of leeks on a plate for service.

I would eat these as a side unto themselves, the soft, buttery, oniony almost sweet flavor is a great accompaniment to any dish but as a pasta replacement it worked admirably and really added its own character to the dish as a whole.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Sandwich is a Sandwich but this is a Meal

I have not come up with a good name for this dish yet so any ideas would be appreciated. The idea was to replicate a lot of the flavor of a Cuban sandwich without the sandwich portion. Kerrie and I are trying some variation of the primal diet so a straight up Cuban wasn't really an option. Neither is roasting a pork shoulder on a Wednesday. We had some pork tenderloins thawed and ready to roll so they became the base. Add some ham, Swiss mustard and pickles on off you go. I marinated the pork for a few hours and then seared it on the grill. Then I sliced it on an angle to get bigger pieces than your standard pork tenderloin medallion.       
Once that was done I brushed on some mustard  and laid some pickles on top of each slice. Topped off with some ham and Swiss and its off to the oven.                                                                                                                                              

For the Pork
2 Pork Tenderloins
olive oil
lime juice
Adobo with cumin 

For the Rest 
6-8 slices of ham
6-8 slices of swiss cheese
sliced dill pickles

Do this at least an hour ahead
Rinse and pat the pork dry, rub it with some olive oil and then rub with adobo. Put the pork tenderloins in a bag and then pour in a shot or two of tequila and a shot or two of lime juice. Let the pork rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

When your pork is ready, preheat your grill to medium high. Brown the pork on all sides, 3-4 minutes per side should be enough. Preheat your oven to 375. Once the pork is nicely browned remove the it from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing on a bias and laying it in a pan.

Brush it with the mustard of your choice, I use plain ole yellow mustard as that is what I prefer on my Cuban sandwiches.Lay a few pickles on each piece and then layer on the ham and cheese. I recommend slicing the ham and cheese to approximately the same size as your pork. 

Bake it in the oven for 20 minutes or so, longer if the pork is not cooked through.  On this first attempt I don't think I grilled the pork long enough as it took longer to bake than I wanted. If you look at the picture I would recommend you have your pork cooked through a little more than I did to reduce baking time. Do not cook it all the way through on the grill otherwise it will dry out in the oven