Monday, October 19, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Monday we got home late, so made Angel Hair Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Dill (MC), fast and tasty, with a salad. Had some rice puddings from the grocery for dessert.

Tuesday I made the Lentils with Merguez, from the New York Times, to take to Sally and Mike's for dinner before line dancing. Used merguez de volaille and 500g of lentilles de puy. Recipe called for vegetable stock, which seems very wimpy considering the whole dish. I used chicken stock and the chili-soaking liquid that I froze last week. It was good, and there are nice leftovers.

Wednesday I roasted a chicken with some potatoes and carrots. We had the leftover roasted eggplant salad and potatoes with mushrooms from our last Cooking Italy dinner. Ended with some Tendre Coeur camembert.
Thursday I ate at the pub quiz, while poorly Ed stayed home, ate some leftover roast chicken, and cleaned the carcass.

Friday I started some chicken stock with the roast chicken remainders. For dinner, we had fish, a new recipe from Cooking Light, Blackened Cumin-Cayenne Tilapia (a keeper, now MC), using panga rather than tilapia. Side of dressed up orechetti, followed by a salad of mâche and veggies, all followed by the rest of the Tendre Coeur camembert.

Saturday's dinner was Creamy Cucumber with Worst (MC), using saucisses de volaille. Followed by a salad with avocado. Topped off with some brownie-cookies from the shops. Defatted and froze the the chicken stock.
Sunday I made Apple-Plum Butter (MC) with found apples, tiny red ones and bigger yellow ones, and four plums. Cooled the jar, then froze. For dinner we had Pasta with Broccoli, Blue Cheese, and Basil (MC), more or less, plus a salad.

Monday, we had dinner out, at Ed's suggestion, bless his heart. Ate at La Bellone. Starter was witlof, chopped up and tossed in a vinaigrette, piled into a disk, held in place with strips of cured, dried ham (like Serrano or Parma, but probably a local one); this sounded odd but worked surprisingly well. The main was a brandade of morue, cooked cod, shredded and mushed up with mashed potatoes, with a nice sauce. Creme brulée for desert was quite nice.

Tuesday eve we'll have escalaopes de canard some steamed broccoli and some orzo or rice. Will take remaining perishables to neighbors in anticipation of leaving tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pan-Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries; Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style

Cooking Italy Assignment
Pan-Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries, p411

Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style, p522

This assignment had two parts, the lamb and the potatoes. I thought about doing the September bonus chocolate mousse also, but that's going to have to wait for another day. The menu looked like this:
  • Starter
    • Roasted Eggplant with Peppers and Cucumber, p55
  • Main
    • Pan-Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries, p411
    • Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style, p522
  • Dessert
    • Tiramisu
Roasted Eggplant with Peppers and Cucumber

This wasn't part of the assignment, but I felt the meal needed some fresh veg and we really liked this when I made it before. It's a lovely balance of color, texture, and taste. I neglected to prick my eggplant before I put it in to roast and it exploded with a pop! Since it's hunting season, my first thought was that there was a shot nearby the house — not. The explosion didn't do too much damage to the eggplant, though, but I did neglect to turn it over in the excitement, so it didn't get thoroughly roasted. I ended up steaming it a bit to finish off the cooking.

Last time I made this, we felt the shape of the eggplant pieces was not quite right. This time, I cut the peeled eggplant in half lengthwise, then laid each half on its flat side and cut thick (about 1/2") slices. At the skinny end of the eggplant the strips were a good width; for the thicker parts, I cut those in half again. Much better. Very nice salad.

Pan-Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries

Aside: I wonder why this recipe is titled "roasted" rather than "braised," since this is about as braised as you can get.

On market day, I went by the butcher and explained what I wanted in my best French and came away with eight chunks of bone-in lamb shoulder.

This is another really simple recipe. Dump everything in the pot and simmer away. Every half hour you have a look and turn the bits over. A lot of clock-time elapses, but there's very little real effort. An ideal dish when you're in the kitchen anyway. After the first two hours, the meat was unappetizingly gray, but well on its way to being very tender. (The grayness doesn't really show in the photo from the yellow light from the light on the stove, but it was seriously do-I-really-want-to-eat-this looking.)

A bit of liquid accumulates in the pot, so the remaining time it simmers at a slightly higher temperature with the lid ajar. As the liquid reduces, the meat takes on a better color. Just before serving, you tilt the pan and try to scoop off the fat, but I didn't seem to have much fat to scoop off.

I worried about the meat being horribly overcooked after three and a half hours and was pleasantly surprised that there was still rosé flesh when we cut into the meat.

Serving size: This amount of meat (2.25#/1.1kg) is supposed to serve four people, that's two chunks per person. The two of us wanted three chunks each and ended up eating it all, since I didn't think it would keep well. (I expect the juniper berries would turn a bit nasty tasting after a night in the fridge.) I suspect now that Hazan's number of servings works only when this is part of a proper Italian meal, with antipasti, pasta, meat, etc. Note to self: Since I rarely (ever?) serve a meal like this, I should keep this in mind if I were to make this for company.

Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style

I made this recipe a couple of weeks ago, but found that the potatoes didn't get done in the advertised time when the were sliced 1/4" thick as instructed. This time I used the thinnest cutter on the mandoline and there were done properly.

I also followed Hazan's instructions for soaking the dried cêpes/porcini in tepid water and then boiling the reconstituted 'shrooms in the filtered soaking water. I can't really say this step added anything very noticeable to the flavor and it takes quite a while to boil off all that liquid. Also, using all cêpes, rather that the "forest melange" that I used last time wasn't that big a difference.

This is an appealing dish because of the high proportion of mushrooms to potatoes, and there's not too much fat involved. It would be a good company dish, since it could be assembled ahead of time and popped in the oven half an hour before you want to serve it; halfway through it needs salting and a stir and that's it.


Ok, I cheated. I bought two little cups of tiramisu at the grocery store. They were quite good, lighter than I expected.

Monday, October 12, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Monday was Spinach-Ricotta Gnocchi. Served with butter and Parmesan. Leaden they were. I cut back a recipe that I used once before (maybe 30 years ago!), since I had only 250g ricotta in the house. Mixed all in the food processor. It was incredibly soupy. I had to add lots and lots of flour to make it rollable. Very strange. And I've got gnocchi to feed an army. I cooked about half, and we couldn't finish them off. I'll make a batch of "pizza sauce" of roasted red bell peppers and use some of that for a topping and serve them as a side dish.

Tuesday we ate at Sally and Mike's before going off line dancing.

Wednesday was Shrimp Fried Rice (MC). The rest of the Coeur Tendre camembert for after, plus some Afrikas.

Thursday we had lunch for our anniversary at La Grange aux Oies, four courses, and I didn't feel like eating dinner at all. Made some ersatz pizza sauce with a jar of roasted red bell peppers, spread some of it over the leftover gnocchi and warmed it in the oven for Ed's dinner. It went together quite well. I froze the rest of the sauce for pizza one of these days.

Friday we started with Cold Beetroot with Cream (Pomiane, p180), a favorite. More or less made a third recipe of Kingklip Stroganoff (MC 2BTried). No kingklip available and cod was a bit pricey; used lieu noir, which is cheap, but uninteresting. Won't save this recipe. Served with steamed haricots verts.

Saturday was Cooking Italy day: For starters, Roasted Eggplant with Peppers and Cucumber (ClassicItal, p55). For main, Pan-Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries (ClassicItal, p411) and Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style (ClassicItal, p522). For dessert, a store-bought tiramisu. While the meat was cooking, I made the marinated for tomorrow's pork.

Sunday, I used a large varkenshaas/pork tenderloin to make Ancho- and Chipotle-Rubbed Pork Loin (MC). (I froze half the rub, since I had about half the meat.) Served with polenta and steamed broccoli. Yum! Froze quite a bit of leftover meat. We're really meat-eaters in the last days. And tomorrow I'll roast a chicken — on sale at the grocery, couldn't resist.

Monday, October 5, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Monday, I made the broccoli version of Rigatoni with Cauliflower or Broccoli & Anchovy-Garlic Oil (MC). Too lazy to make a salad to accompany it. Sainte Maure for after, and some new chocolate cookies, an impulse buy. Ecomarche still had corn, so we got another pair of ears, and some nice-looking sweet potatoes, both for tomorrow's dinner.

Tuesday we had the corn on the cob with Pork Chops with Hot Garlic Sauce (MC) and sweet potatoes mashed with OJ and a bit of chipotle sauce.

Wednesday was Curried Orzo Salad with Hot Shrimp (MC). Used a small whole wheat shell pasta ipv orzo. The sauce for this has a yummy, strong curry flavor.

Thursday, we had leftover pot-gb salad and marinated veggies for a starter and then it was Eggy Potatoey (MC). I used some dried duck breast from the freezer instead of ham (cut all the fat off); topped with mimelotte for a bland cheddar-ish cheese.

Friday morning we started the apple-quince butter -- quite good. I need to look for a small batch quince jam or some such, since they seem to be in the shops right now. For dinner we had Balsamic Chicken with Thyme (MC 2BTried), definitely a keeper; served with orzo. Followed by Lamb's Lettuce and Beetroot Salad (BEFCC, p32), one of our favorite salads. For dessert, a slice each of apricot flan from the Montemboeuf boulanger.

Saturday, we had a Dutch stamppot with Riesling choucroûte and Morteau, a smoked sausage from the France-Comte. Good stuff, real comfort food. Made some Cinnamon Griddle Scones (MC 2BTried) which we also had for breakfast Sunday morning. Something probably wrong with this recipe; it needed much more flour to make a manageable dough. Edible, though.

Sunday, we had Hot and Spicy Eggplant (MC) with brown rice, followed by a big salad of mâche and whatever with the leftover dressing from the beet salad.