Monday, April 17, 2017

Old Recipes, New Tricks?

Sometimes I do get stuck in a rut with cooking, if you can believe it. The family has flown, and we tend to get a bit boring with the usual dishes for dinner around here. But my friend Kerrie made a leg of lamb a few months ago that was falling off the bone, so I had to have a go at a Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb. No one needs to fight the meat off the bone in this recipe.

I googled a few recipes and cobbled together the components I wanted: Garlic and Rosemary paste (because I think all lamb needs garlic and rosemary), red wine for the basting, and I cooked it on top of onions, carrots and celery (the plan was to blend that up into the gravy, but in the end, I didn' time).

I shared this with three Brits, who all tucked in, so I'm going to say they liked it. I doubt I will make lamb any other way again.

Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb (What, no photo?? I was busy eating!)

1 3-pound bone-in leg of lamb
4 large cloves garlic
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
4 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed from stems and chopped fine
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
2 large carrots
1 onion
3 stalks celery
1 cup red wine

For the gravy:
5 tablespoon flour
1-2 cups beef stock

1. Heat oven to 250F. Pat leg of lamb dry with paper towels and use the tip of a knife to poke slits into the lamb.
2. Mince the garlic. Sprinkle salt over the garlic, add the chopped rosemary and drizzle all with olive oil. Add a few grindings of pepper. Use a fork to mash this all into a paste. Spread this onto the lamb.
3. Cut carrots, onions and celery into large pieces and spread in the bottom of a deep roasting pan. Place lamb on top. Add red wine. Cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil and place in oven to roast 7 hours.
4. Remove lamb after 7 hours. Uncover. Increase oven to 400F. Return lamb to oven and roast an additional 30 minutes.
5. Make the gravy. Remove lamb to plate and keep warm. Pour all pan juices into a measuring cup. Measure out 5 tablespoons of fat straight into the roasting pan, on the stove top over medium heat (The fat will rise to the top of the pan juices.)  Discard any remaining fat, but keep the good pan juices.
6. Measure out 5 tablespoons flour and stir into the fat with a wooden spoon, making sure it does not burn, stirring any lumps out of the flour. (You've just made a roux.) Slowly add the pan juices back to the roux, stirring constantly to keep lumps from forming. The gravy at this point may well be too thick. Add 1 to 2 cups beef stock to get the gravy to the consistency you like (I meant to use a stick blender to blend the softened carrots, onions and celery right into this gravy, but...well, we were hungry!)

Serve the lamb with sides of roasted veg and pass the gravy for all. (This will easily serve 6 hungry people, 8 at a full meal).

Monday, August 29, 2016

Peel that Egg!

A story is making its way around my facebook feed about how to peel hardboiled eggs. From the odd ("blow" the egg out...meh. Why bother?) to the maybe scientific (add baking soda to the water), I wanted to know this, especially since just about two weeks ago I made sorry looking deviled eggs, eggs with whites that looked as though they had been hacked at and hacked away. They tasted great, but I could not have served those in a pro kitchen.

So after reading some of the discussion, I had to go it alone.
I've always been taught that the best thing is to put the eggs into cold water, bring the water to a boil, cover pot, remove from heat, wait 10 or 11 minutes and you have perfect eggs...and the yolk IS a lovely-never-gray-green color. But that was the method that I used two weeks ago. Not. Good.

So yesterday morning, I dropped a room temperature egg (so very unAmerican, to keep my eggs on the counter) into rapidly boiling water. Lowered the heat, cooked it 10 minutes and peeled it immediately under cold, running water so I could handle it. Perfect egg.

But the request had come out: try the other methods. So I put the eggs back into the fridge (because face it, most Americans DO keep their eggs in the fridge).

Egg 1: Cold egg into cold water. Poor results. As expected. (This is how I cooked them two weeks ago.)

Egg 2: Cold egg into cold water with about 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Maybe marginally better, but still ugly and difficult to peel.

Egg 3: Cold egg into cold water. Based on some Youtube love, put egg into glass with some water and shake. Unmitigated disaster. Who thought this one up?

Eggs 4and 5: Cold eggs into rapidly boiling water: They didn't explode! And they peeled so easily! I left the shells on the plate so you could see how big the pieces I took off were.

Eggs 6 and 7: Room temperature eggs into rapidly boiling water (just be make sure yesterday's egg wasn't a fluke). I peeled one under running water and used the glass shake method on the other--withOUT the disaster. The egg on the left is the one I shook--there is a tiny ding in the white, but that wouldn't bother me...

I have read a lot about the age of the eggs mattering--the eggs from two weeks ago were local eggs. These eggs are NOT local, so who knows how old they are. This week I will buy local and drop room temp eggs into boiling water. Watch for the results!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Still missing Rick and David..and Tea and Dad

For four years running, I posted this post, or a variation of it (last year, I had to include Rick..)...Just a reminder, that to honor the people we love, we should live well. Take care of ourselves. Enjoy the sun, the rain, the snow, the ocean, the lakes, the pools. Say yes to the next adventure. Eat well. Laugh loudly. Open that bottle of wine or champagne...every day is special...

I miss my brothers. I miss my niece. I miss my dad.

In the last four years, I lost the two below, and as I sit here today, I am marking five weeks since I very suddenly lost my other brother, Rick, the eldest of the four of us. He was well one day, and then he was not. Tonight, We will enjoy a simple but nice meal. We will raise a glass to the wonderful memories we share. We will be sad and we will be happy. We will cherish those who are with us and those who are far. We will be sure the gods have gotten it wrong somehow, but we will know this is the reality, however unfair. Most of all, we will miss these people. 

Baking Bread In Memory: David and Tea and Rick

What I wrote a year ago today:

I've lost these two in the past three years. Miss them both. Three years ago today, David died. So I  bake on May 20. Today, I might be on overload, making bread AND pizza. But it makes me happy and makes think of David. The spiral form (in the photo below) is one he used...the essay is one I wrote and read at his memorial service in September, 2011.

Before you go on and read below, do this--it is taken from something I wrote on May 31, 2011:

So today, please go open a bottle of wine you may have been saving for a special day. Pitch the sliced bread and either bake a loaf or go get REAL bread, good bread. Drizzle out a bit of really good olive oil, and savor it all with family and friends. Because today? Today is a special day.

Remembering David

My little brother David died very suddenly this past May. He was 47.

David was a real intellectual. He had big ideas and frankly, I am sure I didn't always even understand what he was talking about, and we often butted heads over ideas and issues. But we did share one passion: cooking. Any heated debates were quickly forgotten at the dinner table when we--quite literally--broke bread. We would thoughtfully taste, chew and discuss the merits of the loaf at hand, no matter what we'd been arguing about during the day. 

David was a bread baker better than any of us, his recipes spreadsheets (formulas, really, weighing in humidity, type of wheat, etc.) that I didn't really understand. In fact, we found his spread sheets on bread and those are pages I will treasure always. Even if I can't bake from them.
Early in the year, in February, I got an email from David asking for savory chocolate recipes. He was on his way to a Slow Food dinner in Redlands, California, where he lived, and the theme was chocolate. He was determined to do something different. 

I had just written a short online piece about where to find great chocolate recipes and one website had stuck with me, a site with a lot of savory dishes. After we traded a few ideas talking about possibilities, he tweaked a recipe, making corn cakes topped with his own version of Mexican mole-style chicken and some cheese. 

His report back captures David's personality for those of us who knew him and still makes us chuckle, especially reading of his scorn for American cheese "food":
Topped a tablespoon of cornbread batter with a bigger spoon of the chicken mix.  Topped that with a modest amount of mozzarella cheese since I had some handy already shredded -- bad move; should have used the local Monterey jack I bought for the purpose, which is very tasty, or had I thought of it, better still would be supermarket-humble Havarti (which is a great American cheese, IMO, if inexpensive and widely least it's cheese compared to prevalent and therefore so-called American "pasteurized-process cheese food").  15 minutes in the oven and they were done.

He signed off "mangia, mangia."

Three months after those emails, I found myself in his house, my first time in Redlands, but he wasn't there. His death was heartbreakingly sudden and being there was unspeakably sad and difficult.

We spent a week at his house, cleaning it out, preparing details of the memorial we would hold, sometimes finding laughter in our memories, admiring his garden full of wildflowers, touching pots and pans he touched, always aching for his presence.

One day I peered into the freezer and found a batch of little corn cakes, wrapped in foil and plastic, perhaps a little freezer burned. I knew exactly what they were. I pulled them out, heated them up and had a couple for lunch one day, remembering the process, remembering David, and happy to taste, one last time, one of his creations.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

5 Surprising Things I Make at Home

Bit by bit, I find I don't want to buy much from the stores these days--I always think I could make it better here are a few gourmet items I make at home--and I am lazy--these are easy.

1.  Limoncello. I spent a while creating recipes for Anova Sous Vide--that was a fun gig. I got to create just about anything I wanted to as long as I cooked it with the Anova Sous Vide unit. One of the most successful things I made was limoncello. So successful that now, whenever I need to use a lemon, I wash and peel it first. The peels live in the freezer until I have 8 to 10 lemons' worth. A kcouple of hours with some vodka in the sous vide, a cup of simple syrup and ...homemade limoncello Bam.

2. Candied orange peel. So, just like the lemons, I find myself hoarding orange peels, devising the simplest, cleanest ways to peel oranges so I can then cut them into strips, cook them in simple syrup for about 45 minutes, drain, dry and toss in sugar. These are so good--one is all I need to feel like I am treating myself, and it is just the right amount of bitter and sweet...I keep meaning to dip them in chocolate, but I never quite get around to it.

3. Clove/Cardamom Flavored simple syrup. Once I've made the orange peel, I am left with about 2 cup of simple syrup, nicely orange flavored. But not as nice as the bottle of Clove/Cardamom flavored syrup my sister gave me once. So now, I take that orange syrup, water it down a bit again, add at least a tablespoon full of cloves and a teaspoon of crushed cardamom. I let it simmer again for about 30 minutes, then I store it in the fridge with the cloves still in the syrup. This is awesome.

4. Pecans with Salted Chocolate. I toast a plateful of pecan pieces in the microwave (who knew? Elaine gave me that trick.) minute at a time until they are starting to brown. Let cool. Melt chocolate in microwave (heat 30 seconds at a time, stirring every time--don't let it burn). Stir in a handful of chocolate chips at the end to quick temper the chocolate. Spoon the melted chocolate into a plastic bag, seal. Snip of one corner and drizzle the chocolate over the toasted pecans. Sprinkle with sea salt. Chill. Hostess git.

5. Pizza dough. This is so easy, especially if you have a mixer. And so much better than anything. I use Carol Fields' recipe for dough from Italian baker, but there are a lot of good ones out there. If you want a real treat, grill the pizza.

What do you make at home that other people buy? It can be anything. I want to hear about it.

Barb's Lunch
I am loving my yogurt these days (I have made that, too). So much that I think I might need these bowls, found on Cheryl Sternman Rule's website.

1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
1 strip homemade candied orange peel, chopped fine
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
2 teaspoons homemade clove/cardamom syrup
2 teaspoons chopped pecans.

Put it all in a bowl. Eat it and love it..

Saturday, December 19, 2015

What's on Your Christmas Cookie Tray?

Poor little lonely blog...what HAVE I been cooking? Not enough new, I guess, but it is Christmas, and I am ready to bake (look out world...)

On My list:
Brown Butter Shortbread
Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows
Martha Stewart's Chocolate Espresso Shortbreads..

But what else? I am already on the road, so I don't have books with me, although I am tempted by many of Dorrie Greenspan's post on Facebook. All her cookies look awesome
What are you baking?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Visiting Victoria and Vancouver:The Food Version

 What a treat...We got to spend a week in British Columbia. We went from Victoria to Vancouver to Whistler to Williams Lake (over the Duffy Lake Road) back to Vancouver by way of Fraser Canyon. Spectacular scenery everywhere...the BEST time spent with a great friend, Megan (the highlight for me), and, of course, food wherever we went...Here is a photo journey of our food journey...

Super ripe tomatoes with blue cheese and red onions at Marcello's in Vancouver...

 Calzone at Marcello's

One night, Gary was out with work people, I had no plans...and I ate a hot dog. No kidding..
Victoria, BC--if you need cheap eats, lots of options, Dog Gone It...pretty good choice!

I learned what a Caesar is...if I ever do drink one, it will be this one at Jam Cafe in Victoria, garnish with asparagus and a big crispy rasher of bacon...

 I drank many a cup of coffee..I believe this one was consumed at Habit in Victoria, BC.

 Not food, but one day Megan and I watched a storm move in across the land in was beautiful in its own way. I welcomed the cool weather...

Megan and I HAD to split this salted caramel with pecans doughnut. I finished my half. I watched. She did not finish hers. Amateur.

Back at Jam Cafe in Victoria: These biscuits were as bit as my head, filled with an egg and spinach and goat cheese scramble...awesome..

A view of Jam from the inside...Worth the wait in line, btw.

This awesome roasted vegetable salad was enjoyed at 10 Acres in Victoria...

Just before we left Victoria, we enjoyed tea at Fairmont Empress Victoria...

We crossed with Prince of Whales crossing, one way to Victoria by way of Butchart Gardens...what a lovely (if crowded) stop..
Look, it's Me!
The crossing..

Bar Scene...
My bourbon cocktail...

More to come!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Milanesa...The Secret at Last!

Perfect Milanesa Every Time

So hands down, one of my favorite dishes in Uruguay and Argentina is the milanesa, a steak pounded thin, breaded and fried--simple milanesa is served with a wedge of lemon. Milanesa napolitana is served with tomato sauce and cheese...what's not to love.

I have struggled to get the coating to actually "stick" to the steak--too often, I've had steak in a hollow --a shell, almost--  coating or batter.

I finally have hit on the right way. Actually, the best way.

It's the double breadcrumb dip.

  • Pound thin sirloin steaks to VERY thin. Think 1/4-inch. If you have a butcher have him slice large rounds into thin steaks..
  • Press coating of flavored breadcrumbs into steaks. 
  • Dip into beaten egg wash.
  • Dip into breadcrumbs again, coating well and completely.

Fry in a medium-high heat mix of butter and oil (butter for flavor, oil to keep butter from burning), reducing heat if necessary to keep steak coating from burning.

Serve with lemon or top with tomato sauce and cheese, place back under broiler just long enough for cheese to melt and voila:

Perfect milanesa every time.