Category Archives: Dinner

Lamb & Date Tagine with Saffron Almond Couscous

I find that this recipe works equally well for a celebratory feast with guests as it does as a comforting meal with the family.  I’d not call this an easy recipe, but neither is it complex.  It is, however, rather time-consuming. This recipe was originally shared with me by my friend, Chef Pippa Calland, and now I am pleased to share it with you.

Lamb and Date Tagine

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boned lamb shoulder (bones reserved), cut into cubes
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, finely diced
  • 1 thick slice (or two) of fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon
  • cayenne pepper
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade or low sodium
  • 4 oz. sliced, dried dates, preferably Medjool
  • 1 bunch cilantro, picked, stems reserved, washed, dried and sliced
  • 1 bunch parsley (flat), picked, washed, dried and sliced

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F; when it is hot, place the reserved lamb bones in a cast iron skillet (or other heavy-duty pan or tray) and drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil.  Roast until boned become golden and caramelized.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
Season the lamb cubes abundantly with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Heat a large skillet on medium flame.  When the pan is warm, add a scant amount of olive oil to the pan and allow to heat.  When the oil is warm add the lamb to the pan to brown.  Be careful not to overcrowd the pan (or the meat will steam rather than sear). Repeat as needed until all the lamb has been browned.  Pour off the oil and discard. Put the pan back on the flame and add a scant amount of fresh oil to the pan and heat gently.  Add the chopped onions to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any caramelized meat juices combining them with the onions.  Cook the onions over a low flame until the just begin to brown and then remove them from the pan.
Heat the chicken broth to a simmer.  Place the lamb, lamb bones, onions, and ginger in a cazuela (a clay cooking pot, Spanish in origin) or tagine pan* and sprinkle with the freshly ground cinnamon and cayenne to taste. Add reserved cilantro stems and enough warm chicken broth to cover the lamb.  Simmer, covered tightly, until the lamb is completely tender, about an hour and a half, adding more chicken stock and turning as needed.
When the meat is cooked, add the dates. Cook the tagine for an additional 15 minutes.  Reduce the sauce to the desired consistency. Add reserved cinnamon to taste and garnish with parsley and cilantro.
Serve with couscous and a big fruit-forward Greek or Lebanese red wine.
Saffron Almond Couscous
Ingredients:
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, simmered
  • 6 threads saffron
  • unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup oil-toasted, salted, blanched almonds
  • cilantro and parsley, washed, dried, and sliced

Instructions:

Place a large, heavy gauge skillet on the stove and heat until warm.  Add enough oil to abundantly cover the bottom of the pan and heat gently.  When the skillet is warm, add the chopped onion and sweat it over a low flame until soft and opaque – about 15 minutes.  When the onion is ready, turn up the flame and add the couscous.  Toast the couscous over a high flame, stirring continuously, until it is a homogenous golden color and well-toasted.

Add the saffron to the couscous and ladle in enough warm chicken stock to cover by 1/4 inch. Season with salt and pepper.  Stir to ensure the couscous doesn’t stick to the bottom.  Turn the flame to low.  Cover the pan with a lid or parchment and cook until the stock has been completely absorbed.  Add more stock until the couscous becomes completely tender and then remove from the heat.

Add butter to moisten and season the couscous.  Check the seasonings and correct as needed.  Just before serving, add the almonds, cilantro and parsley.  Stir gently to combine.  Enjoy!!

 

*cook’s note – Sadly I have no clay cooking pots, but my heavy Calphalon skillet proves to work very well.

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Filed under Difficulty - Sous Chef, Dinner, Lamb, Mediterranean

Noche Buena!

Feliz Noche Buena!

You can take the girl out of Miami, but you can’t take the Miami out of the girl.

Even though I now reside ‘across the pond’, in the lands of my ancestry, my cultural heritage is more than a little Cuban. One of the traditions I picked up that I still love is Noche Buena – the Cuban Christmas Eve, which is filled with friends, great music, dancing, and some of the best food you’ll ever taste.

The typical British Christmas dinner involves a turkey, which for me of course is Thanksgiving food. So I like to do the Noche Buena, then join friends for their Christmas Day meal and avoid a second round of turkey leftovers (though I have been known to make a lovely Drambuie soaked roast beef – I’ll do that one for New Years this year). Instead, my leftovers will be lechon (roast pork marinaded in mojo), moros y cristianos (black beans & rice), yuca con mojo (boiled cassava root topped with a garlicky sauce) tostones (fried green plantains), maduros (fried sweet plantains). Que rica!

So, as my little Christmas treat, I decided to put all these recipes here, which I’ve gathered from various sources, mostly of the friend (or friend’s old Cuban Abuela) variety. And this Cuban feast isn’t just for the holidays, but can be made at ANY time of the year. Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: I don’t measure. I’ll give rough ideas for things though!

Essentials: lots of garlic, lots of onions, cumin, orange juice, lime, olive oil salt & pepper. Everything uses some variation on this.

Mojo: What the heck is this? Well it is the essential Cuban marinade. You can buy it bottled if you are in the right part of the country, but homemade is best. There are various recipes on the net, but it is basically made from naranja agria, or sour orange (if you don’t have this available in your neck of the woods, you can made it by combining orange juice with a bit of lime juice). Mix this with lots of garlic (chopped or pressed), olive oil, chopped onion, oregano, and cumin. Why not make a whole bottle of it and store it in the fridge? For these recipes, though, I tend to mix it up for each thing I make, as needed.

Now, on to the recipes…

LECHON

Ok, the first important thing to know is that a REAL Christmas lechon is made by digging a pit in the back yard and slow roasting a whole suckling pig. And yes, it is amazing. However, not entirely necessary for a huge gathering. And the alternative is REALLY easy.

You want:

  • A fatty cut or pork for roasting – butt is recommended (and then you can snicker), but I usually find shoulder is more often available.
  • Stuff for mojo.
  • More onions.

Cook it:

Marinade that pork at least overnight in mojo. I tend to stab the pork all over (it falls apart when it cooks, so you don’t have to worry about it being pretty – plus it’s good for letting out Christmas frustration!), then rub it down with pressed garlic and olive oil, cumin, oregano (you can make a paste of this if you want, but I just go for it), salt & pepper. If you have a Adobo spice available at your local store, you can use this too, but I like fresh! Then, put it in a large ziplock bag, and add your juice. Now, this is where I personally mix up my recipe a bit – instead of the naranja agria, I use some kind of tropical juice, like orange & mango, or a blend that includes pineapple. Always Tropicana! Be generous with your marinade, you want to have plenty left for roasting too. Marinate for at least 12 hours, but the longer the better!

Lechon marinaded and ready for the oven.

When you are ready to roast (more on how long in a sec), coat your pan in a little olive oil, and layer sliced onions all over the bottom. Lay your lechon on top of that, all spread out. Pour the remaining marinade all over, sprinkle the fat cap with some more salt (important for making chicharrones later!), then cover with aluminium foil, with a tight seal.

I’m going to quote a friend for roasting instructions here: ‘Low and slow until you can’t stand to smell it and not be eating it.’ The idea is that this becomes so tender it just falls apart (which is why you want to make sure there is some extra marinade in the pan). You can broil it for about 10 minutes at the end so the top get crispy – chicharrones baby! No one ever said this was a heart healthy dish… but then again, you’ve got the wonderfully healthy black beans to go with it!

Lechon! Fat cap removed and pulled apart into the marinade. It was awesome.

Moros y Cristianos

Yes, that does in fact mean Moors & Christians. Black beans, white rice, get it? It’s all about the multi-cultural love, baby.

So, if that lechon was easy, the Moros (as we can say for short) is even easier. Especially with a crock pot! You want:

  • Bag of black beans
  • onions
  • green peppers
  • honey(!)
  • bacon (optional)
  • cumin, salt, pepper, garlic.. you get the drill

The night before, soak your beans in twice the water it takes to cover them. I throw in half an onion and half a pepper too. Now, some say to discard the water and add fresh to start cooking, but as I’ve already rinsed my beans and picked out the stones (oops, I forgot to say, do that first), I see no need. In fact, I’ve been known to turn on the pot low from the start and just go to sleep. But because we’ll be eating late, I soaked, then turned the pot on early this morning. Then left them alone. For hours.

Peppers and onions smells so good in olive oil and garlic!

So, here’s how you finish them. First, once they’ve softened up, I add salt, pepper, cumin and… the secret ingredient… about a tablespoon of honey to the pot. Then just keep em cooking over low. Can you overcook them? Sorta… but soupy beans are yummy. About an hour or so before you want to eat, sautee the following in a couple tablespoons of olive oil: a chopped onion, a chopped green pepper, about 4-6 cloves of chopped garlic, and some cumin. You can also include bacon or pancetta here, but I’ve found it is just as good without, and makes this a bit healthier AND vegetarian for your more high maintenance friends. Add that sautee to the pot, let it simmer for a while. Later, season to taste.

Black beans simmering.

Cook some long grain white rice. I’m going to tell you how, because I’ve seen more people boil and strain rice like pasta, and it makes me mental. No matter what anyone (or any box) tells you, ever, here is how to make rice. 2 cups water, boil, add 1 cup rice. Or 3 cups water, 1.5 cups rice. ALWAYS 2:1. Boil the water, add the rice, cover, turn heat to lowest setting, and WALK AWAY and do not lift the lid for 20 minutes. That’s the basics. Now, you can do things like add some butter or olive oil, or spice, or substitute half the water for stock or white wine. You also want to be aware of your stove (for instance my burners stay so hot I need to turn mine OFF rather than low). But that’s the basics on how to cook rice. You’re welcome.

Serve up a scoop of rice, and drown it in some beans. YUM! Leftovers? Put your beans and rice in skillet and cook ’em together! Yes, you can even add lechon! DOUBLE YUM! Also, you can add your raw rice to your beans at the cooking stage, but that’s a bit crazy for beginners, so try it the separate way first.

Yuca con mojo

Cassava root is ugly. It is a long, brown, waxy thing that look inedible. But when you peel it, it reveals a lovely white flesh, which you chop into large chunks and boil like a potato (just boil until soft when tested with a fork). In fact, that’s kind of what it tastes like – a starchier, stringy potato. Some don’t like it because of the stringy bits (which is found at the centre, but you can remove the larger ones, it isn’t as bad as it sounds). But here is what makes Yucca REALLY yum: the mojo, of course!

Cassava. Not pretty.

Now I make mine a little differently for this: I slice an onion (half then slice so you get half rings), and simmer it in about a cup or so of olive oil (yes, that’s right, a cup or so! maybe even 2 cups!) with garlic, a LITTLE cumin, and some lime juice. You are basically making a hot, tangy infused olive oil. Simmer til the onions are soft, and try not to burn the garlic.

Mojo for yucca

When this is done, put your strained yucca in a bowl, use tongs to top with the onions, then spoon a lot of that olive oil over the top, but don’t DROWN the yucca in oil. Reserve the oil that is left, you’ll use it!

Tostones y Maduros

Plantains are like big, hard bananas, but do NOT eat them raw. They are starchy and yuck. Also unlike bananas, they are best cooked unripe (green) and overripe (black). The yellow is just an inbetween stage.

Tostones

Green plantains are for tostones, crispy savory fried plantains. Peel the plantain by trimming each end then gutting a long slice down the skin. These are tougher to peel than bananas. Once you’ve peeled, then cut them into about 1.5 inch chunks. Heat some canola oil in a pot or pan, you want about 3 inches or so. Fry each piece til it is just turning golden on each side, turned if the oil doesn’t cover it. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dish with paper towel to soak up the oil.

Let them cool (remove the oil from heat and set aside). Once they have cooled enough for you to handle them, you want to smash them into disks. There are special devices you can buy for this, and if you live in Miami you might have one. But it is just as easy to do with a mallet (place them on a cutting board and cover with cling film), or I simply place it on the board and press with a bottom of a cereal bowl. They will be soft inside now from the cooking. This part can be done in advance.

First fry of plantains. I didn't get a picture of the finished ones as we ate them too fast.

You want to serve these hot, so finish them right before you want to eat (they can accompany the meal, but I like them as a starter). You are now going to fry the smashed discs again til they are golden. Drain on a plate (fresh towel!) and salt them. When they are all fried, transfer them to a dish and top with some of that leftover garlic oil from the yucca, and squeeze some lime over them. DIVINE.

Maduros

These are sweet, and make a great side dish for your lechon y moros. Instead of slicing these plantains in straight chunks (you’ll notice they are more ripe, too), slice them at an angle so you get nice, long, thin pieces. Shallow fry these in some FRESH vegetable oil, 2 or 3 minutes per side til the get tinged in dark but not burnt. Some recipes will tell you to coat them in sugar first, but they are sweet enough on their own I think!

There you have it, your Cuban feast! Flan makes an excellent desert, btw. But I think we’ll be too full for that!

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Filed under Cuban, Difficulty - Sous Chef, Dinner, Long but worth it!, Meat, Mediterranean, Spanish, Winter

Conchiglie con Langostinos un Pomodori Secchi Salsa di Mornay

Last evening as I wondered what to make for dinner, I decided to head to the local market for some inspiration.  I was so very pleased to find that our local fish monger had gotten some langostinos in from Chile.  My mind began humming.  How would I choose to prepare these tonight?  There are some favorite answers for those familiar with langostinos:  scampi, “mock lobster” casserole or bisque, little appetizers.  However, I was feeling the need for comfort food since the weather was cold and rainy, and well on its way to stormy.  I decided to cook what is essentially a very tasty gourmet mac n’ cheese.

“But, Lady Eva, first things first.  What are langostinos?”

Langostinos are commonly referred to as ‘langostino lobsters’, but in reality are not actually lobsters at all.  Also called squat lobsters (the mind wanders thinking about the classic B-52s song rewritten as Squat Lobster, but I digress), these tasty creatures are actually crustaceans of the families Galatheidae, Chirostylidae and Kiwaidae and are most closely related to crabs.

Langostinos - rinsed and thawed

And now the recipe (admittedly, I merely added things to taste so not everything has measurements for you):

Ingredients:

For the saute

  • 8 ounces frozen (or fresh) langostinos, rinsed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • pignoli
  • fresh basil

For the Mornay Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup heated milk
  • kosher salt
  • white pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar
  • Worcestershire sauce

~ 12 oz conchiglie (fresh or dried)

conchiglie pasta

Directions:

  1. Prepare the conchiglie according to package directions and set aside with a drizzle of oil to coat.

Meanwhile prepare the Mornay Sauce

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add flour and stir until mixture is well blended.
  3. Gradually stir in hot milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to boil and thickens.
  4. Simmer, stirring frequently, over very low heat for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in white cheddar cheese, and continue to stir over low heat until cheese is melted
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste

For the langostino saute

  1. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat
  2. Once oil is hot, saute the sliced garlic for 1-2 minutes
  3. Add langostinos and cook for ~3 minutes
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Stir-in sun-dried tomatoes until flavors are incorporated
  6. In a separate bowl stir the conchiglie and the Mornay sauce together

To plate, top the conchilglie with the langostino mixture.  Finish with toasted pignoli and fresh basil.

Buon Appetito!!

Eva

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Filed under Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Dinner, Italian, Seafood

Gumbo z’herbes

I have, sadly, never been to New Orleans, nor am I Catholic, but when a friend gave me a huge bagful of fresh greens the other day, my first thought was to make that Creole Lenten specialty gumbo z’herbes. I did my usual Internet recipe research and discovered, as I expected, that there was a great deal of variation in how to make the dish–no consensus even on such basics as whether to thicken it with a Creole-style roux or with file powder. In fact, some of the recipes didn’t seem all that Lenten to me, containing impressive amounts of meat and sausage.

The one common denominator: greens, and lots of ’em–everyone recommended using a variety, preferably seven different kinds for luck. I was good for that: my friend had given me kale, beet greens, turnip greens, Asian mustard greens, and three different colors of swiss chard. A quick supermarket trip turned up no Creole sausage, but I got some Mexican longaniza that stood in quite well.

And then, on to cleaning and chopping all that vegetation. Every recipe said to discard all the stems from the greens, but I hate throwing out good food, which the stems are if you treat them right. I did remove them all, but only so I could simmer them separately, putting a little extra heat under them to get them as tender as the leaves. The chard stems especially were a great addition, as they’re so tender to start with; but even the kale stems got nice and soft with my treatment.

Cooking greens are notorious for hiding grit in all their nooks and crannies. To wash them properly: pile them all in a sink, fill with cold water, agitate the greens in the water as best you can, then pull them out and pile in a colander before draining the sink. Drain and rinse away all the grit left in the bottom of the sink, then repeat at least one more time, or until there is no more grit left in the sink when you drain it.

Ingredients:

  • Several generous bunches of fresh cooking greens, preferably seven different varieties, but in any case as many as you can manage–anything from collards, kale, and mustard greens to cabbage and lettuce counts
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light-flavored vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced fine
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 lb. spicy sausage, cut into 3/4″ slices
  • 1 dried red chile pepper
  • several whole black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 heaping tsp. poultry seasoning (I was out of marjoram)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Thoroughly wash all the greens as described above, then roughly chop into 1-inch strips. If you’re also using the stems, chop them into 1-inch segments too, and keep them separate.
  2. In a large heavy pot with a well-fitting lid, bring about a quart of water to a high rolling boil. Turn it down to a still very active simmer, and then add the greens (just the leaf parts). If they won’t all fit at the first go, don’t panic; just put the lid on the pot and let the first batch cook down a bit, then unlid and chuck in more greens, repeating till you get them all in. Turn the heat to low, cover, and let simmer until very tender, at least an hour. If using the stems, bring some more water to a boil in another pot, place the stems in, cover, and turn heat to medium-low, letting them cook till they too are tender.
  3. Drain the cooked greens and stems, reserving all the cooking liquid (the “pot likker”). Chop all the greens and stems finely and reserve.
  4. Rinse out and thoroughly dry your large heavy pot, and place back on the stove. Add the oil and heat on high until you can see the surface of the oil rippling. Add the flour gradually, whisking thoroughly after each addition so that all the flour is incorporated with no lumps. Cook this roux on medium-low, whisking continuously and watching that it doesn’t scorch, until the roux turns a golden peanut-butter brown, which can take a good 20 or 30 minutes.
  5. When the roux is ready, start adding the greens cooking liquid gradually, again whisking in each addition thoroughly so as to prevent lumps. Once all the liquid is incorporated, turn the heat up to medium, stirring frequently, until the thickened liquid bubbles but is not yet boiling. Now add all the rest of the ingredients, stirring as best one can so that everything is well combined. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer at least another hour.
  6. Stir again and adjust seasonings. Serve in large soup plates over mounds of steamed white rice. Makes 8 servings.

Notes: Feel free to use more or other meats (ham, pork, veal, a ham-hock or ham-bone, etc.), and to vary the seasonings. You can also leave out the meat altogether to make this vegan, in which case I’d up the seasonings even more, and maybe add some of that vegan soy-chorizo to preserve a sausage-y note. The flavor will also change depending on which kinds of greens you use–because of the kale in mine it tasted very green-y, which since I love greens is a very good thing. For a smoother texture, you can run some or all of the simmered greens through a food processor before adding to the thickened cooking liquid.

Denny

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Filed under Difficulty - Sous Chef, Dinner, Southern, Spring

Beef Stew with Gnocchi

This is a variation of a stew recipe that I found in a nondescript magazine while waiting for Rosette in the orthodontist’s office.  The original recipe was lacking in spices and interest, but the potential was there.  I chose to cook this in the oven, but it would be well-suited to a crock pot or slow cooker on busy days.

Please let me know what you think, if decide to try it.

Beef Stew with Gnocchi (via Creative Commons search)

Ingredients

1.25  pounds chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
12 ounces Portobello mushrooms
4 cloves of garlic, minced (or more)
8 oz frozen pearl onions
2 cups  99% fat free beef broth
3/4 cup dry red wine

3 bay leaves

(All spices listed below are to be added to your taste – I honestly did not measure them.)

dried thyme
oregano
garam masala
cayenne pepper
red pepper flakes

17.5 ounces gnocchi
fresh Italian parsley – chopped

In a large bowl toss together steak, flour, salt and pepper.  Place steak in enameled cast iron french oven (4 or 5 qt).  Add chopped vegetables, garlic, onions, broth, wine, and seasoning.

Cook in 350 degree (convection, if you have it)  oven for 2.5 hours.

Meanwhile cook gnocchi according to package directions.  If this is done early in the process, drain, add olive oil and set aside until stew has cooked.

Remove stew from oven.  Gently stir gnocchi into the stew.

I suggest that you plate in large bowls and garnish with the fresh Italian parsley and fleur de sel.

Hope you enjoy!

Eva

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Filed under Beef, Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Dinner

Pork braised with soy sauce and spices

A few years ago I started venturing on beyond stir-fries in my explorations into Chinese cooking. Along the way I discovered the wonderful world of red-cooking, a Chinese braising technique in which soy sauce is a significant component of the braising liquid. Used most often on pork, it turns the outside of the meat a lovely reddish color, and imparts that wonderful soy-sauce savoriness to the whole dish.

This recipe is a simplified version of the red-cooking technique that I adapted from a number of sources. It’s totally dead-easy, but it does take a long time to let the meat do the full low-and-slow braise to get properly tender. This of course makes this dish a great candidate for crock pot cookery (only dropping the bit about taking off the lid and turning the meat every now and then, since crock pots don’t like that). But even if you do it in a conventional cooking pot it requires minimal intervention.

You can do this recipe with any number of pork braising cuts–it’s especially glorious with fresh pork belly. Here I used a bone-in pork shoulder blade roast, with some of the skin layer intact. If you really dislike the skin, get a skinless cut or remove the skin. But I invite you to give the skin-on version a chance–the Chinese consider the jelly-soft braised skin a particular delicacy, and I don’t blame ’em.

Ingredients:

  • Approx. 4 lb. pork braising cut (shoulder, Boston butt, fresh ham, belly pork, etc.), preferably with a modest layer of fat plus skin
  • 1/4 cup Chinese soy sauce (Pearl River Bridge is a good brand)
  • 1/4 cup Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 3 or 4 chunks Chinese yellow rock sugar candy, or 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 quarter-sized slice fresh ginger root, or 1 tsp. dried ground ginger
  • 1 or 2 star anise pods (optional)
  • 1 small dried red chile (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place the meat in a heavy thick-bottomed braising pot with a well-fitting lid, that holds the meat comfortably but without a lot of excess room. Pour or sprinkle remaining ingredients over meat; add about 2 cups water, or enough to come just barely halfway up around the meat. Turn the meat over a few times to get it bathed in the liquid on all sides.
  2. Bring the pot just up to a boil on the range-top, then back it off to the lowest simmer you can manage–the liquid should just be burbling gently, not actually bubbling. Put the lid on and let it simmer for a good couple of hours, until the meat is very tender but not falling apart. Occasionally check the pot to make sure the simmer is staying at the right level, and to turn the roast so all sides get their turn in the cooking liquid. Be gentle when turning the meat, especially as it gets tender and more breakable–tongs and a wide-blade spatula help a lot. (Alternatively, you can do the braise in an ovenproof lidded casserole in a pre-heated 350F oven.)
  3. When the meat is done, remove it to a platter to rest before carving. Strain the cooking liquid; either spoon off the fat on top, or put it in the fridge overnight so you can remove the congealed fat more easily.
  4. Slice the meat across the grain, and in such a way that each slice has a bit of the skin on top. Serve with white rice, with a bit of the cooking liquid spooned over the meat and the rice.

Variation: You can add chunked braising vegetables to the pot for the last 30 to 60 minutes of cooking. I especially like carrots, turnips, and/or daikon braised this way.

Servings: 6 to 8 if the main dish; a lot more if part of a multi-course Asian dinner.

–posted by Denny Kozlov

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Filed under Asian, Chinese, Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Dinner, Long but worth it!, Meat

Lemon Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes

Every 2 weeks I get a fresh veg box delivered. So on occasion I have the chance to get unusual veg that I’ve not tried before. My last box had Jerusalem Artichokes in it. That name though is a bit of a misnomer; they aren’t artichokes. They’re a root veg and have a similar texture when raw to radishes. They’re often also called Sunchokes.

So since I didn’t have a clue about using them I hit up the internet for a few ideas. In the end I came up with Lemon Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Chicken Thighs
  • 2 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1/8 cup Lemon Juice
  • Pinch Saffron (optional)
  • 4 Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), peeled and diced
  • 1 cup Double Cream
  • 1 Tbsp Herbes de Provence
  • Cooked white rice (enough for 3 people)

In a large deep skillet heat 1 tbps of oil. While this is heating, sprinkle the chicken thighs with a bit of salt and pepper on each side.  Once the oil is hot, place the thighs in skin side down and brown each side, turning only once. Once browned place on a plate and set aside.

Add the lemon juice and chicken stock to the pan. If you’re using the saffron, add it now also. Bring this to a boil and scrape off any stuck chicken bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the Jerusalem Artichokes and the Herbes de Provence to the mix and return the chicken to the pan with any accumulated juices.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the Jerusalem Artichokes are tender.

Now stir in the cream. It may be easier to do this if you again remove the chicken from the pan so it is easier to stir and then put it back in. Taste and adjust any seasoning and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Serve over rice.

If you don’t have any Herbes de Provence, you can use basil and thyme as a substitute. Any herb that goes with chicken will work with this recipe.

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Filed under Chicken, Difficulty - Sous Chef, Dinner, Lunch

More Simple Things: Slow Cooker Tomato Sauce

When I was a kid my mom used to make tomato sauce that was heavenly. Every summer we’d can fresh tomatoes and she’d use them throughout the year in many thing. By far my favourite was her tomato sauce. She’d cook it for a day or two in the slow cooker using whatever leftover meat we had in the house or just normal ground beef.

I don’t have any freshly canned tomatoes, but I do have tinned tomatoes. These are just as good and turn out as lovely of a result.

The ingredients are simple and need only a little prep for a great result.

I put a lot of herbs in mine, but you really only need 3 herbs and some salt and pepper. Dried herbs are always a good option when slow cooking with plenty of liquid. As long as they aren’t too old they’ll give plenty of flavour to your cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 4x 400g Tinned Chopped Tomatoes (Plum or Romas suggested)
  • 2 Medium White Onions – Chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Basil
  • 1 Tbsp Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp Thyme
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 250g Ground Beef (optional)

If you’re using ground beef, brown it in a pan now.

Combine the tomatoes, chopped onion and any meat you’re adding in your slow cooker. Using one of the tins from the tomatoes, fill it with water and add to the mix.

Add all of the herbs and spices and stir everything together.

That’s it. Just pop the lid on and turn the heat to medium. Let cook for 20-24 hours. Check on occasion to stir or maybe adjust seasoning, but remember that it will reduce and intensify, so the herbs and spices will also intensify.

This should make enough for 2 batches that will feed 2 adults. I like to make this up and freeze it for later use.

This is a good base recipe that can also be added to. Some suggestions would be mushrooms or even diced bell peppers. Substitute meat suggestions would be sausage or even Chorizo. And if you like things a bit spicier you could always add Cheyenne, Paprika or even finely chopped fresh chillis.

 

~Kostika

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Filed under Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Dinner, Italian, Long but worth it!, Vegan, Vegetarian, Winter

Simple Things: Pasta with Spinach, Bacon & Sun-dried Tomatoes

In my younger days, I used to go through a lot of effort to make perfect pasta sauces… long-simmering marinaras, or alfredos that were quietly and slowly heated to perfection. And while those are still worthy chores, in my harried existence now, I much prefer fast and fresh. Most of my pasta dishes now are of the ‘toss together’ variety – pick a few ingredients, boil the pasta, toss it all together.

And ingredients are in fact key. I know I am not alone in feeling the economic crunch these days. But I find if I ‘invest’ in a few really nice ingredients here and there, it goes a long way to making me feel like things aren’t quite so dire. For example, spending an extra £/$ or two on a lovely flavoured Dijon that I can then use to season my sauces and salads is for me a worthwhile expenditure. And as a condiment, it goes a lot further than splurging on a dinner out, or even a really choice cut of steak (Alas!).

So, with that! I popped in the lovely little deli on my street, and picked up some nice imported pasta (egg pappardale) and a little wedge of parmigiana to make with some things I already had: sun-dried tomatoes, capers, good olive oil… and everyone’s favourite: bacon!  Oh, and spinach.  You know, to be healthy.

Step 1: Cut up some bacon (I used 3 strips of back bacon) and cook in a non-stick skillet over medium-high until starting to brown.

Step 2: Toss a whole big bag of spinach in on top, cover, and wait a couple minutes for it to wilt.

 

Step 3: Uncover, stir, add a dash of olive oil, the tomatoes (and their oil!), a tablespoon or so of capers, stir... cover and remove from heat.

Meanwhile… boil the pasta of your choice – Al Dente, always!!

Pasta done? Toss in a nice big bowl (see top pic), drizzle with olive oil, top with the yummy mixture. TOSS! Add fresh grated parmigiana. TOSS!  “Plate up”, top with a bit more cheese, then serve with a bottle of San Pellegrino, a vanilla scented candle, and two 19th century volumes of Dante!

Bon appétit!

Rowan

PS – I should say that you should obviously mix this one up however; not everyone likes capers (I love ’em!) and the tomatoes and bacon are perhaps salty enough. I’ve also been known to make this with baby roma or grape tomatoes, sliced in half and cooked in some olive oil and garlic with the capers tossed in at the end; then with slices of prosciutto torn up (not cooked) and tossed into the pasta.

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Filed under Bacon!!!, Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Dinner, Italian, Mediterranean, Quick

Yes, even YOU can make haggis


As we prepare to celebrate Robert Burns in the Steamlands of Second Life™ on January 22, 2011 (as noted in my personal blog), I wanted to share with you both a traditional Scottish haggis recipe as well as a modern haggis recipe in the event that you would enjoy celebrating the Bard of Scotland in your own real life home.  Perhaps you have always wanted to try haggis, but were put-off by the sheep organs that must be used as part of the traditional recipe.

It is a shame that the “Great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race” should be regarded (by some) with such a mixture of horror and humor. The vision of sheep’s stomachs and other intestines seems to send people running the other direction, but it has long been a traditional way of using up parts of the animal which otherwise might go to waste. Made properly, it is a tasty, wholesome dish, with every chef creating his or her own recipe to get the flavor and texture that suits them. Personally, I like a haggis which is spicy from pepper and herbs, with a lingering flavor on the palate after it has been consumed.

Finding a butcher who can supply sheep’s heart, lungs and liver may not be easy although nowadays beef bung (intestine) is often used instead of sheep’s stomach.

Enjoy!

Traditional Scottish Haggis

Ingredients:

  • Set of sheep’s heart, lungs and liver (cleaned by a butcher)
  • One beef bung
  • 3 cups finely chopped suet
  • One cup medium ground oatmeal
  • Two medium onions, finely chopped
  • One cup beef stock
  • One teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • One teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon mace

Method:

Trim off any excess fat and sinew from the sheep’s intestine and, if present, discard the windpipe. Place in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour or possibly longer to ensure that they are all tender. Drain and cool.

Some chefs toast the oatmeal in an oven until it is thoroughly dried out (but not browned or burnt!)

Finely chop the meat and combine in a large bowl with the suet, oatmeal, finely chopped onions, beef stock, salt, pepper, nutmeg and mace. Make sure the ingredients are mixed well. Stuff the meat and spices mixture into the beef bung which should be over half full. Then press out the air and tie the open ends tightly with string. Make sure that you leave room for the mixture to expand or else it may burst while cooking. If it looks as though it may do that, prick with a sharp needle to reduce the pressure.

Place in a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and immediately reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for three hours. Avoid boiling vigorously to avoid bursting the skin.

Serve hot (and removed from casing) with “champit tatties and bashit neeps” (mashed/creamed potato and turnip). Some people like to pour a little whisky over their haggis – Drambuie is even better! Don’t go overboard on this or you’ll make the haggis cold.

Modern Haggis

*I located this recipe online at Suite101.  It seems quite a nice version of the traditional entree.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. liver (almost any kind)
  • 3 onions
  • 1/4 lb beef suet
  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Grains of Cayenne Pepper or Drops of Tabasco Sauce
  • 2 cups stock or broth

Instructions:

  1. Cook 2 pounds of liver with peeled onions for about 20 minutes
  2. Put the liver and onion through a chopper
  3. Chop suet
  4. Put oatmeal into a heavy frying pan and stir over fire until lightly toasted
  5. Add chopped liver, onions and suet
  6. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper
  7. Add few grains of cayenne pepper or couple of drops of Tabasco as desired
  8. Moisten with liquid in which liver and onions were cooked
  9. Put into a large heat-proof buttered bowl, filling a little more than half full
  10. Cover with greased paper, waxed paper or buttered aluminum foil
  11. Tie or press down foil securely
  12. Steam for about two hours or cook in pressure cooker under 15 pounds pressure for about 30 minutes

Serves eight. Takes between 90 minutes to three hours to prepare and cook depending upon method of cooking.

Source (Modern Haggis)

A Cook’s Tour of the Bayou Country, Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana (Southwest Deanery) including Trinity Episcopal Church in Morgan City, Louisiana. The cookbook includes Creole, Cajun, Southern, Wild Game and other regional food in addition to occasional international selections such as Haggis and Hungarian Goulash reflecting the diversity of the Gulf Coast.

Enjoy,

Eva

Editor’s Note: I’ve been living in Scotland going on 5 years, and I’m here to tell you that haggis is DELICIOUS. If you enjoy any kind of sausage, you’ve no business thumbing your nose at it – the meat (offal) in it is the same as your favourite salami! It is seasoned with pepper and barley, and cooked traditionally in the lining of a sheep’s stomach (again, a step above the intestine that most sausage is cooked in), but more often today you find them plastic casing. Either way, they are steamed, and the meat is scooped out and served on your plate – the casing is not consumed. So GET OVER IT and tuck in to some haggis!! – Rowan

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Filed under Beef, Dinner, Grains, Lamb, Meat, Scottish