Monday, December 27, 2010

Pappardelle with Long-Cooked Duck Sugo

Cooking Italy Assignment
Pappardelle al Sugo d'Anatra — Pappardelle with Long-Cooked Duck Sugo

This is an assignment that has been hanging around since September, and I've had duck legs in the freezer waiting to be used for a while. The recipe is from Lidia's Italy (a book I don't have), by Lidia Bastianich, and comes from Maremma, in the southwest of Tuscany on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Duck legs (or a whole duck) are braised, the meat shredded, and added back to the sauce to top homemade pappardelle or other pasta.

You start the sauce by soaking some dried porcini (cèpes) in hot poultry or vegetable stock. I used the rest of my Thanksgiving turkey stock for this.

The recipe calls for 4 pounds of duck legs (5-6) or a whole duck. My four legs weighed in at 1.3 kilos, just short of 3 pounds. This amount of meat made a goodly amount of sauce, serving 4 as a main course and 6 (or even 8?) if the pasta were served as part of a proper Italian meal. If you have more duck, though, I wonder how big your skillet must be to cook them? My 4 legs fit comfortably in my largest skillet. Maybe a fifth one could have been jiggled into there, but that would make the "tumbling" pretty awkward.

While the legs are browning, make a pestata in your food processor by whizzing onion, celery, garlic, sage, parsley, and rosemary. (I was a bit surprised that there was no carrot included in this, since that seems to be very typical of Italian sauces.) Italian parsley was asked, but I forgot to buy this, so used the curly kind instead. Rosemary and sage from the garden.

When the legs are browned on both sides, you set them aside and reduce the fat in the pan to only 4 tablespoons (olive oil or duck fat or a combination). Warm this again, add the pestata, and cook till it's dry. Then put the legs back in the pan and "tumble". Add the soaked porcini and tumble some more. Then add white wine and continue tumbling. When the wine is gone, add the mushroom soaking liquid, heat to a boil, put the lid on ajar, turn the heat down, and let it simmer for at least an hour and a half. Check every 20 minutes or so and add additional stock when the liquid gets a bit low.

The house smells really good while this is simmering away. When the meat is done, I removed the legs and poured the sauce into another container where the fat could rise and be easily removed. Meanwhile, I shredded the meat back into the skillet, a messy, but fun job.

Add the defatted sauce back to the skillet and simmer for a while, while cooking the pasta. After a busy day, I didn't feel like making pasta from scratch, so I boiled up some store-bought tagliatelle. When it was drained, I put it back in its pot and tossed it with half the duck sauce.

Very toothsome, indeed, said Ed. We ate only half the sauce tonight; the rest went in the fridge for another night, probably accompanied by homemade tagliatelle. (I don't much like pappardelle anymore; it always seems too unwieldy, and the plate always looks too composed.)

This is a yummy sauce, but I wouldn't want to make this for company on the day I'm serving it. It keeps you busy in the kitchen for quite a while and there seemed to be a lot to clean up. (I also had a pot of stock simmering away, but that's just one pot and a quick clean-up.) But I think the sauce will only improve by keeping a day or two in the fridge.

This week in the kitchen

Monday/27-Dec-10: Made some stock today with the bird carcass that was frozen in the freezer. Meanwhile, I also made the sauce for Cooking Italy's Pappardelle al Sugu d'Anatra. That was dinner, followed by a salad of arugula, and ending with a bit of Saint-Maure.

Tuesday/28-Dec-10: While doing errands and a movie in Angoulême today, we had a small lunch today at Bistrot du Boucher, where we've eaten another time. I fear it's a chain, but the quality is good and the service is fast and friendly. And it's in a convenient place.

For dinner we had the leftover buffalo chicken casserole with a salad of arugula and mâche. Cookies for dessert.

Wednesday/29-Dec-10: Froze up the stock this morning after straining and boiling it down a bit.

Dinner was the duck sauce with tagliatelle again. (Dinner got started late, so I didn't make pasta from scratch.) A salad of mâche; I added a bit of store-bought tapenade to a salad dressing with créme fraîche. (We didn't care for this tapenade, but hate to throw it away. It worked quite well in the dressing.) Finished off the Saint-Maure for afters. Very similar meal to two nights ago!

Thursday/30-Dec-10: Before dinner got started, I started a double dose of One-Hour Vegetable Stock (H2CEV, p101). If all goes to plan, tomorrow I'll make up some of Bittman's broccoli and cauliflower soups and get them in the freezer.

Dinner was Lemonshire Chicken (MC), a tasty, simple recipe. This went along with some asparagus and some steam-sautéed potatoes. For dessert we finished off the ice cream; it had been sitting out about 6 hours and was soft enough to serve. We have learned: Put ice cream in another container before putting it in the freezer!

Friday/31-Dec-10: Julien came this morning to put new thermostats in the ovens. We'll see how long these last.

I used up the broccoli and cauliflower by making Creamy Broccoli Soup (H2CEV, p130) and Indian Cauliflower Soup (H2CEV, p130). Into the freezer with these.

Dinner started with Onion Bhaji (Q&E, p20), which turned out quite well; I used (US) teaspoons to form them, but need to make them smaller still. Next time I'll use my largest Dutch theelepels. Might also try cutting the recipe in half, even though the batter has a whole egg in it. Served these with (Q&E, p113). The main course was Grilled Salmon Steaks with Carom (IndLight, p154) and Rice with Peas (MJ1, p149), with more peas that asked. Used salmon filets rather than steaks and broiled under the grill. All was good.

For later tonight, I've got a stack of munchies lined up, although I'm not feeling all that hungry right now. We have:

  • Bombay Cashews (MC), made in the newly working oven.
  • Carrot sticks with Indian Avocado Spinach Dip, a recipe from 28cooks, which isn't that promising so far. Of course, I used frozen spinach, guessing at the amount, instead of fresh. Had to beef up the spices to get some taste into it.
  • From the marché de noel, 3 kinds of olives and lupine seeds
  • A bit of blue d'Auvergne and a small goat cheese (that had been destined for something else, but I forgot to buy an ingredient) with crackers.
  • Some little filled pastry things from the freezer to be heated in the toaster oven.
  • Some Lindt chocolates needing to be tried out.
  • Bailey's Irish Cream.

Saturday/1-Jan-11: We didn't make much of a dent in all our new year munchies. The hit of the evening was the carrot sticks. The avocad0-spinach dip wasn't bad; I suppose the rest will appear as a pasta sauce or some such; maybe I'll freeze a bit of it and see how that goes. We ate some nuts, some cheese, some olives, and didn't bother with the pastries or chocolates.

We had our new year's lunch at La Bellone with Barbara and David down the road, and very nice it was. After stuffing ourselves last night, we weren't looking forward to so much food, but the portions were small enough and it was very enjoyable.

In the evening we watched a show on DVD and tried out a few of the Lindt chocolates.

Sunday/2-Jan-11: Forgot to start yogurt last night, so put it on this morning.

Dinner was a half recipe of Creamy Fettuccine with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms (from Eating Well, soon to be MC) and a big salad of mâche. The sprouts were supposed to be with whole wheat fettuccine, and I had the intention to make some (using Diane Kennedy's recipe) but forgot to allow myself time. The sack of sprouts we bought for xmas looks to be about half used now—I think they must be breeding. The recipe was pretty good. Most of the shrooms were shiitakes with a few plain one thrown in to make the volume.

Later we had a couple of chocolates while watching a DVD.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas dinner 2010

Just the two of us and a fairly simple, but quite tasty meal.

Our third xmas here at we and we already have a tradition: at the Chassenon marché de noel, we buy a chunk of foie gras wrapped with magret seche, dried duck breast. Very very good, if rich. It makes a lovely starter with a bit of salad on the side, this year arugula with a dab of vinaigrette. Here's the table set and starter served. (This is my mother's favorite tablecloth, beautiful embroidery, with my grandmother's china.)

Also at the marché this year, we got a pair of venison steaks. While looking for a little sauce to go with them, I found Venison Medallions on Cranberry-Orange Polenta Diamonds (Polenta, p87). We didn't really have medallions, but it worked anyhow. The recipe called for making your own venison stock, but I just used AH's wildfond, which is quite good. I made the polenta up a day before, so that it could set up properly. Usually I make very simple polenta; this one started with sautéing pancetta, chopped red onion, and garlic, then adding the polenta to cook with the stock and some orange juice. Some dried cranberries are stirred in at the end for a festive look. Once this has set, it's is cut into diamonds, brushed with a bit of melted butter olive oil, then browned under the broiler.

The steaks are salt-and-peppered, then cooked quickly in clarified butter (I use ghee). They got smaller and taller, as meat does, but were wonderfully tender and tasty. When these are done, you make a pan sauce, first (in theory) by flambéing some Cointreau. Since I was making a half recipe, there wasn't really enough alcohol to light; seems like it all evaporated in the hot skillet before I could get the pan tilted into the flame. Oh well. Then you add some pinot noir and and more stock and cook it down to a syrup. Pop two bits on polenta on a plate, top with a steak, drizzle on the sauce, and top with some dried cranberries and a half slice of orange (which I forgot to buy). My presentation wasn't the prettiest, but the taste was good.

For a side, I roasted (toaster oven), some cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. This went quite well with the meat.

Dessert was a repeat of last year, Bill Hatcher's Amaretto Poached Pears (MC), this time with freshly made French vanilla ice cream. Tasty. Since it was just the two of us, I made this up between courses, but it takes about 20 minutes altogether, 5 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of cooking. Sometime I should try getting the pears most of the way done before dinner, and then reheating just before serving.

Monday, December 20, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/20-Dec-10: Breakfast and lunch both involved fruit salad and we still have some of this left. For lunch we also finished off the soup from the lamb stock.

Dinner was Broccoli with Orechiette (30MinPasta, pxx), which is more or less the same as Broccoli with Anchovy Sauce from ClassicItal, missing the cheese, which would have been a good idea, but when I realized this, I was too lazy to grate any. I added some strips of roasted red bell pepper from a jar that needs to be used up. Followed by a salad. Followed by two pieces of gateau Breton that we bought at the marché de noel yesterday.

We found it odd yesterday that the Brits all assumed fruit salad we brought to the choir dinner was dessert, whereas we Amurricans expected it would be served with the main course. One of the choir members mentioned that an American friend in the UK who served cheese for munchies at a party and was surprised that no one ate it; the Brit guests all thought cheese was a dessert, not a snack. Hmm ...

Tuesday/21-Dec-10: Dinner was Cabbage Gratin (VCE, p278) or pain au chou (cabbage loaf). Had to bake it in the toaster oven, which isn't best at these things. Tasty enough, but the custard bit didn't really set as it ought. Beforehand we had a store-bought snack of goat cheese wrapped in bacon, tasty and rich. For dessert we had one each of the chocolate goodies we bought at the marché, a bit of raspberry gel, covered with some delicious dark chocolate (criollo from Peru) and topped with an almond. Expensive little boogers, but mighty tasty.

Wednesday/22-Dec-10: French toast for breakfast. Yum. Good thing we don't eat that every day.

Visited Gitem in the afternoon before shopping. The current idea is that the problem might be the regular on the butane bottle so they gave us a new one to try. Indeed the ovens sort of light again, but in the funny kind of way they were doing around Thanksgiving, not in a dependable sort of way. We'll see. (The old regulator was only five years old and we had the idea that sort of thing lasted forever, or at least longer than five years, but who knows.)

Dinner was yet another Cooking Light variation on Indian-Spiced Salmon. A bit of a boring one. I'd planned to serve this with the recommended basmati rice, but discovered a package of gnocchi in the freezer that I thought we'd already eaten, so made that instead; with some garam masala and some chopped cilantro it was vaguely Indian. The cooking directions for the gnocchi were very odd (to me): you plop in the frozen gnocchi in a pan of hot butter and stir for a bit over a lively fire. Then turn down the heat, put on a lid and cook for longer till they're done. Actually they were surprisingly good, with a nice crispy exterior and soft and lumplike (like gnocchi are) on the inside. Big salad. Then the end of some goat cheese. We're full.

Thursday/23-Dec-10: Dinner was Buffalo Chicken Casserole (soon to be MC) from Eating Well mag. I was attracted to this recipe because of the conjunction of hot sauce (Frank's RedHot suggested, Tabasco used) and blue cheese. And it worked. The recipe serves 8; I made half and we'll have two dinners from it. Followed by a salad, embroidering the rest of the pink eggplant sauce to make a dressing.

The new regulator doesn't solve the oven problem.

Friday/24-Dec-10: Tonight there was Spicy Cajun Shrimp (MW@Home, p255), an old favorite, but somehow not as good tonight. Was too lazy for a salad. Had some of Weezie's (Ed's piano student) English Christmas cake. Not bad at all. Might use the last bit to make some bread pudding.

Made the polenta for tomorrow's polenta diamonds and the custard for tomorrow's ice cream.

Saturday/25-Dec-10: A beautiful day. Snow on the ground, sun in the sky, cold temps. Santa brought us each a nice gift. Two nice walks during the day. A tasty dinner. No company; we didn't run across any "strays" and we're both wanting a bit of quiet anyhow.

Thinking about the shopping we've done in the last days, I'm struck by how veggie prices differ between here and the Netherlands. Cauliflower is very expensive here, but cheap in NL. On the other hand, asparagus here cost about a third of the Dutch price. This has to the difference in local tastes, I suppose, but a very odd difference nevertheless.

Yogurt on overnight.

Sunday/26-Dec-10: Dinner was some turkey scallops with a simple pan sauce using some of the extra wildfond, with the leftover cabbage gratin and some trio rice. For dessert, there was a bit of the xmas cake with ice cream. Note to self: When the ice cream is made, put it into the freezer in another container. If you leave it in the ice cream maker bucket, it doesn't soften in real time. Duh.

Out of bread. Nobody wanted to go to the boulanger today. Cornmeal Bread (BigGerman, p35) on overnight.

Monday, December 13, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/13-Dec-10: Yesterday I thought to ask Sally and Mike for dinner before Club Liseron. Afterwards Mike went home while Sally and I went to the meeting; then I took Sally home, sort of on my way home. No plan for dinner, and of course, since both ovens are out of commission, all I could think of in the way of food involved baking. Ended up making a pasta à la maison, with some strips of defrosted turkey scallops, some broccoli, some mushrooms wanting to be used up, a pyramid goat cheese, and some paddestoelen fond (mushroom stock) from AH. Served over some twisted pasta. And a big salad. For dessert, some store-bought pastry cases filled with a spoonful of créme fraîche and some mixed berries. Not too bad altogether.

Tuesday/14-Dec-10: For lunch we had the leftover sauce from the lamb over bread, a soggy sandwich, but tasty.

Dinner was a soup made from the lamb stock, with barley, carrots, celery, leek, onion, and potatoes (i.e., cleaning out the fridge). For afters we had a bit of the goat cheese we bought at the coop last time we shopped.

Wednesday/15-Dec-10: Yogurt on in the morning. Shopped today.

Dinner was half the layered enchiladas, warmed in the toaster oven along with some leftover rice. Small servings, but we were less stuffed. I had a white chocolate mini-Magnum for after, while Ed had some cookies.

Thursday/16-Dec: Marinated a pair of bavettes again, using the same formula as before, but only 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Very good this was. Served with fried eggplant with a sauce of roasted red peppers (from a jar), a recipe from Allerhande, pretty good. The sauce was an incredible pink, but went very well with the eggplant. Have a lot left, even though I made only a half recipe. Boiled up some potatoes to go-with. Dessert was Double-Boiler Bread Pudding (MC), so easy, so good.

Friday/17-Dec: Dinner at a quiz tonight, and not much else happened in the kitchen.

Saturday/18-Dec: Late breakfast of eggs scrambled with onion, bell pepper, oven-dried tomato, chipotle flakes, etc. Munchies at Lesley and Toby's in the afternoon. Simple dinner with the rest of the leftover enchiladas and rice, plus a big salad, using some of the pink eggplant sauce for the dressing, and leftover bread pudding.

Sunday/19-Dec: Dinner at choir mum's this evening. We took a big fruit salad, which the Brits served as dessert and we would have served with the main. Odd. We left half the remainders for the daughters of the house and took the other half home. Breakfast? Dessert? Something tomorrow at any rate.

Monday, December 6, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/6-Dec-10: In the morning, I steamed some thick slices of carrot and added them to the brine in a jar emptied of cornichons; we'll have some pickled carrots to munch on in the next days.

I ended up stuffing the lamb into the fridge last night, since temperatures continued to rise after nightfall. (All the snow was gone this morning.) Turned the leg into a super Indian meal, I must say. Not really elaborate, but very tasty. The menu:
  • Whole leg of lamb in a spicy yoghurt sauce—Raan masaledar (MJ1, p57). This is be a good company dinner, since most of the work was done the day before. The lamb had to marinate for a day before cooking. Cooking it just involves popping it in the oven and basting at bit at the end. Oops, discovered I left off the fried spices that I should have poured over the lamb before popping it in the oven. Now I see why I didn't have much oil to spoon off the sauce!
  • Gujerati-style green beans—Gujerati sem (MJ1, p102). This is an old favorite. It can be largely prepped ahead and finished off in the last 10-15 minutes.
  • Sweet yellow rice—Meetha pullao (MJ1, p157). This was a first, and an unusual rice-cooking method. The spices are warmed in ghee, the soaked rice added and cooked for a bit, then water is added and the rice is cooked until the water has been absorbed. Then sugar, almonds, and raisins are added, and the covered pot is stashed in a slow oven to finish the cooking. The rice grains were all very separate and had a nice texture. The sweet rice was different (I cut the sugar in half), but went well with the meat.

  • Onion relish—Pyaz ka laccha (MJ1, p174). This is another old favorite. I love how the lemon juice softens the texture and flavor of the onions.
  • Dessert was some (frozen and thawed) mixed berries with a bit of waffle and some cream. Not very Indian, but good.
Tuesday/7-Dec-10: Leftover potato-shroom casserole tonight, with a big salad of mâche and beets, followed by some Camembert.

Wednesday/8-Dec-10: Our lunch/dinner was an Omelette Sambal, a Malaysain recipe from a cookbook I don't have (Charmaine Solomon's The Curry Cookbook). I suppose I collected this from EAT-L. It's advertised as serving 4, but with 4 eggs, I thought 2 servings would do just fine. And it did. Served it with rice as suggested. Then we had some chocolate desserts from the freezer, cooked in the toaster oven.

Thursday/9-Dec: Made some lamb stock with the leftover leg of lamb bone. Wonder what I can make with that? Made some Gingerbread Scones (soon to be MC) in the afternoon. Definitely more-ish.

Dinner was some spinach and ricotta ravoli (from the freezer) a la panna. Served with a salad of mâche. We had our scone dessert before we ate dinner.

Putting some kip filets in the crockpot overnight to make the meat for some tomatillo enchilads in a couple of days. Yogurt in overnight too.

Friday/10-Dec: Shredded the crockpotted chicken; had just enough for the enchiladas. Froze the extra "juice" to use in chili or beans or some such. Froze the lamb stock, since I'm not sure I'll get that used in the next days. Shopped in the afternoon.

Dinner was salmon with a crust of sesame, mustard, and poppy seeds and topped frizzled leeks, a recipe from Vie Pratique Gourmand, a French cooking magazine (soon to be MC). This was quite good, although the disparity in size between the poppy seeds and the sesame and mustard seeds meant that the poppy seeds sifted to the bottom of the dish, so the first coatings missed them while the later ones had lots. The recipe called for two leeks to make the frizzle for four people. Since I was serving only two, I used a single leek, but this was easily enough for four and dominated the plate instead of just topping it. We both thought the frizzled leeks were a good snack on their own. Served the frizzled fish with some trio rice and some haricots verts topped with a bit vinaigrette (the last of the batch made in the empty mustard jar) to which I added a finally chopped shallot and some grated Parmesan. This was quite good although I didn't quite get the beans cooked well enough for Ed. Since I always en up buying too many green beans, I cut the leftovers into smaller pieces and added them to the carrots marinating in the cornichon juice. Some good munchies in the coming days.

Saturday/11-Dec: For a late lunch, I made Tomatillo Chicken Enchiladas (MC 2BTried), a recipe I collected from EAT-L a while ago. I made the tomatillo sauce up in September, using a can of tomatillos that contained just the right amount, and froze it. Thursday night I dug out the crockpot and made up some taco chicken meat; I'd forgotten how good and easy that is. (Note to self: Do it again soon for some proper enchiladas.) For a Monkey Jack replacement I found some export-quality "Edam jeune," the kind with the red wax coating. I fear the Dutch only export cheeses they wouldn't eat themselves. Mixed this with a ball of mozzarella for a bit of the stringy texture. Acceptable, but I much prefer the Dutch hard goat cheese for this kind of thing. There's lots of goat cheese around here, but the hard kind is rarely seen. Meanwhile, both ovens refused to go; they've been kind of iffy of late and today they simply wouldn't fire up at all. (Called the shop to report the problem.) So I had to make the dozen enchiladas up in two small dishes that fit in the toaster over, once as enchiladas (today's meal), the other as layers (coming soon). For the first time in ages, I made Spanish rice with ... yes, tomato sauce. I'm not sure I don't prefer it without now, but Ed really liked today's version. I didn't salt it enough, though, since the way I've made it before had added salt from beef bouillon. Beforehand, I made up a big batch of guacamole, which we ate with corn chips while waiting for everything to finish cooking. Result: We were already pretty full when we started the meal proper. The tomatillo sauce was not very good. Unfortunately, tomatillos from a can taste like ... tomatillos from a can. Too bad. The rice was good though.

Sunday/12-Dec: Leftovers for dinner, lamb, rice, and green beans. I made a bit of raita (MJ1, p162) using one pot of yogurt, which was actually a good amount for two.

Yogurt on overnight. Lemon Ginger Bread (BigGerman, p169) on overnight, since all the boulangers we visited today were closed for some reason.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pasta e Fagioli—Pasta and Bean Soup

Cooking Italy Assignment
Pasta e Fagioli—Pasta and Bean Soup, p102

Soup weather has arrived—this was the perfect meal for today. Pasta e fagioli is just want you want on a windy, cold, and snowy day.

In a very Italian fashion, you start by sautéing onions, then adding carrots and celery. I used less olive oil than Hazan asked, but more of the veggies, keeping the proportions the same but wanting the extra flavor and vitamins.

I opted not to use my precious seedless tomato sauce from the freezer, but added some strips of frozen slow-roasted tomato instead. (And, my doesn't that ziploc smell good when you open it!) I added a chunk of poitrine (a bacon-like chunk of meat and fat, including some bones) cut into three pieces, then the beans (borlotti aka cranberry beans, from a can) and meat broth.

This simmers away for a while. When we were about ready to eat, I took out some of the beans and mashed them with a potato masher, rather than putting them through a food mill. Those go back into the pot to thicken the broth along with the pasta. We couldn't find the ring-like pasta that would be traditionally used. The closest thing we could find was some fat, short macaroni things with ridges. Not perfect, perhaps, but good. While the pasta started cooking, I removed as much meat as I could from the poitrine, chopped it, and added it back to the pot.

Hazan calls for 8 ounces of pasta. When I was measuring I thought that 6 ounces looked more than enough. For me it was fine, but Ed thought the bigger amount would have been nice. To each his own. I might do this again with nastrini, De Cecco's name for small bowties. (Bowties are farfelle; small ones are often called farfellini, but not by De Cecco, who seems to have original names for many pasta shapes.) This is my current favorite pasta for soups. Using the smaller shape, it might be that a bigger amount wouldn't seem so overwhelming.

The two of us ate all of Hazan's six servings as a one-course meal. That's one can of beans each! All in all this was a very satisfying dish, certain appear on the menu here again.

Monday, November 29, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/29-Nov-10: Dinner was a recipe collected from EAT-L, Stir-Fry with Fried Egg and Flavored Vinegar (soon to be MC). Yum. This is definitely a keeper. Stirred in mâche instead of spinach and Ed said not to use spinach on the next try. I think it would be OK, but mâche is more likely to be in the house. For a contrast, a bit of goat cheese for after.

Tuesday/30-Nov-10: Ed found corn on the cob at Géant yesterday, so we had that for dinner, along with some grilled chipolatas and some of Dusolier's perfect roast potatoes. Kind of a comfort dinner. A bit odd to be eating corn on the cob at the end of November with snow on the ground.

Wednesday/1-Dec-10: Oops, missed the mobile boulanger, no bread in the house, and the roads are not good for going out. Lunch was cheese and sliced onions (and cherry toms for me) in pitas, grilled till the cheese melted. Not bad.

For dinner I marinated a pair of bavettes from the freezer in a made-up marinade of 2tbl olive oil, 2tbl soy sauce (tamari, really), 1tbl of red wine vinegar, a goodly dash of garlic powder, and a lot of freshly ground black pepper. (A bavette is a cut of beef that looks to be similar to flank steak, thin and wrong-way grain, but much smaller than a flank steak.) They marinated a good while, while they were defrosting. Then I grilled them under the broiler. Good they were. I'd use a bit less of the soy sauce next time, no more than 1.5tbl I think, maybe less. Served these with some trio rice and some steamed broccoli. Served this with the rest of the gravy I made from turkey stock. This went well with the rice and broc, but not so good with the beef. Oh well. For dessert I toasted a Belgian waffle from the freezer and defrosted some mixed berries and whipped up some cream with a bit of vanilla sugar. (The cream was from an unopened bottle that expired in October. It smelled and tasted OK, so I went ahead and used it.)

Made up some Buckwheat Cornmeal Bread (BigGerman, p38) to bake overnight. First time for this recipe, which is a bit odd in that it calls for the same amount of liquid for the medium and large loaves. I reduced this a bit. We'll see in the morning.

Yogurt on overnight.

Thursday/2-Dec: The Buckwheat Cornmeal Bread was good! Tasty with a nice texture.

Lunch was Cooking Italy's Pasta e Fagioli. We ate all of what should have been six servings. Yum!

Friday/3-Dec: We're still a bit snowed in . Made a rapid version of Authentic French Bread (Magic, p22) the only ATM bread whose recipe I can remember.

Dinner was Moroccan Chicken and Orzo (MC, CL96, p130), a favorite of orzo-loving Ed. Used up the cilantro he bought a Géant on Monday. Followed by a salad of mâche and the rest of a so-so goat cheese.

The kitchen felt cold to me all day. Must look for an excuse to bake something tomorrow.

Saturday/4-Dec: I meant to make a quickie bread this morning, but didn't get a round tuit. With no bread for sandwiches, I made a little pasta dish for lunch. For the sauce I started with the last bit of shroom gravy. I soaked some dried porcini and added those with the soaking juice, a bit more gevogelte fond, slices from a cooked merguez from the freezer, and a dab of crème fraîche. Boiled up a bit of broccoli and some orechiette and stirred it all together. Not half bad.

Dinner was an old recipe from MC, Potato Casserole with Cheese and Mushrooms. This used up the oldest thing in the freezer, a lump of mozzarella. Served this with a big salad. Also good.

Sunday/5-Dec: Temps above 0C, so roads are melting, sort of. Went to the grocery this morning. It was empty of fresh food. No lettuce-y things. No potatoes or other root veggies. Three miserable looking eggplants. Yellowed broccoli well past its use-by date. Four scrawny sweet potatoes, which, in retrospect, I should have bought. A handful of shriveled up limes. Sigh.

Put the leg of lamb from the freezer on to marinate for tomorrow's dinner. Luckily it's cold enough to leave it outside, otherwise it would be a strain on the fridge contents.

Dinner was Gnocchi with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Pesto (Cooking Light, sep10). Since there's no basil available, I used ricotta pesto from the freezer. An altogether weird recipe. All good things, but nothing goes together. Not to save. Sophie managed to get into the supposedly closed cupboard where the shrimp were defrosting and ate about half of what was there. I'll have to find a better place to put these things up.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Relish tray: pickled green beans, carrot sticks, olives, cherry tomatoes

roast turkey
Prudhomme's Cornbread Dressing
Sweet Potato-Carrot Puff
roasted Brussels sprouts
Cranberry-Orange Relish
cloverleaf rolls

Beaujolais nouveau

pumpkin pie

Another day of thanks (Ed's not sick and no trip to the hospital!) and overeating. Mostly old favorites, only the Brussels sprouts was new. I was still a bit down with a cold earlier in the week, so I didn't get much ahead-of-time cooking done. But I was all day in the kitchen Thursday. We'd have never made an earlier dinner, so it's good Ed insisted on going to choir practice. Luckily the right oven was in a cooperative mood. I keep it turned on all day long, even when it wasn't busy. All was ready right on schedule at 18.00.

Relish tray
Nothing new here. I made my pickled green beans that I love and Ed doesn't. Company liked them too. Mixed olives from the shop.

Knowing we'd have only a few guests, I asked for a 4kg turkey. When I picked it up, it weighed in at 2.6kg. When I looked doubtful, the butcher said, Oh, it was 4kg before it was killed. Hmm, I thought I was asking for dressed weight rather than live weight. I'll be clear next year. Did nothing special here, besides sticking and onion and a lemon inside, just followed by old Joy of Cooking instructions, but needed only a dishrag, rather than a dish towel, to cover its breast. Here's the baby just out of the oven:

Small, but it tasted good. I used some long bits of bread to help the bird balance. I'm hoping these will be really good munching.

Chef Paul Prudhomme's Cornbread Dressing
I haven't made another dressing since I discovered this recipe. Love it, yum! Can't be bothered to make a second dressing like I used to do either. There's too much to eat already.

Sweet Potato-Carrot Puff
I've been making this for Thanksgiving for at least thirty years. Certainly it was already a standard before we moved to the Netherlands. For the first time this year it failed, and I haven't a clue why. I did overcook (too long in the pressure cooker) the sweet potatoes, but cooked or mushy really shouldn't make that much of a difference. And the dish I usually use (a Pyrex bread pan) was not to be found, so I used another dish that would fit in the toaster oven. (Turns out this dish is actually the size that was required, so it shouldn't be a big deal.) Usually I made this dish the day before and thus cook it another 15 minutes. Could that make the difference? It wasn't "set" and worse, the flavor was blah, not yummy like it usually is. A puzzle.

Roasted Brussels sprouts
Now, this was something new. And a big success. Neither of us a big fans of Brussels sprouts. I really want to like them, they're just so cute, but don't. And these guys were great big ones, not even close to the tiny ones you could sometimes get in the Netherlands. But decidedly edible. And easy. Clean 'em up, leaving them whole. Toss with some olive olive, salt and pepper, and a sprinkle of garlic powder if you like. Bake for 40 minutes at 400F. The outer leaves might become disturbingly black—don't worry about it. I expect this will become a standard.

Cranberry-Orange Relish
No fresh cranberries to be found, so I used this old recipe, replacing the fresh cranberries with the dried that I bought at the Fête de Pain a couple of months ago. Not bad, but fresh would have been better.

No juices to speak of in the pan, so I made a bit of gravy from scratch, including sautéed shrooms for chew. Not bad.

Cloverleaf rolls
These were a hoot. Instead of using my usual roll recipe (Magic, p107), I used a recipe for buttermilk bread that Ed likes especially. My notes on the roll recipe page say that the 1-1/2# version makes a dozen rolls and the buttermilk bread recipe is for a 1-1/2# loaf, so I thought it would do fine. Problem 1: I didn't break up the buttermilk powder very much (it starts to clump up as soon as the box has been opened) and after going through the dough program there were still noticeable lumps of "powder." Problem 2: The dough was pretty close to soupy. I'm sure I measured the water right, and I thought I counted cups of flour properly, but I must have missed out a cup. Ok, add some flour and go through the Pizza program. Still too soft to handle, but the buttermilk lumps have disappeared. More flour, another Pizza program. Now it's looking like dough. So I dumped it out and made up the rolls, ignoring the fact that the balls were bigger than usual and the dough softer. The rools were big and some of them not done through. Tasted good, though. Maybe I should make up a proper loaf of this recipe next time we miss the boulanger.

Pumpkin pie
Oh, boring old recipe from the Libby's can. About the best pumpkin pie around. And much easier than any of my other alternatives for pumpkin whatnot.

Monday, November 22, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/22-Nov-10: Pulling the Thanksgiving menu together today, a bit belatedly. Ed looked at Géant for cranberries without luck. We may have a cranberry relish with dried cranberries this time. Made the cornbread for cornbread stuffing. Starting to worry about when I'll get everything done, since a large chunk of Wednesday is otherwise occupied.

Yogurt on overnight.

Tuesday/23-Nov-10: Off for shopping this morning. Still no cranberries to be found. Dinner was Tamarind Fish, a recipe I collected from a site where I've gotten some real winners. This wasn't one unfortunately. Served with rice and lots of lime-chile chutney to add some flavor. A salad after, and then a bit of "napoleon" cake.

Wednesdsay/24-Nov-10: Lunch at Sally and Mike's today, then she and I went off to have our hair cut. I picked up our turkey on the way home. It was a tiny litte thing. I was surprised that it weighed in at 2.6kg, when I had asked for one about 4kg. Seems like it was 4kg before it was killed and cleaned. I always thought I was asking for the dressed weight, rather than the live weight. I'll have to remember this next year. Yesterday, I bought a box of gizzards (for the non-stuffing) at the shop. Today I asked for some hearts and livers to go along with these. None to be had, but he kindly took the neck, heart, liver, and gizzard from a chicken in the display case. Tonight I made the pickled green beans and the cranberry relish, using up my stash of dried cranberries rather than fresh, which are not to be had right now. Have a lot to do tomorrow now.

Thursday/25-Nov-10: It's Thanksgiving. All day in the kitchen.

Friday/26-Nov-10: A really lazy day today. Leftovers for dinner. The cranberry-orange relish seems to be improving with age. The turkey is still in nature's refrigerator outside. I'll have to break down and get it picked tomorrow morning. We really can use some stock.

Saturday/27-Nov-10: Picked the turkey and made stock. Froze up two 8-oz ziplocs of turkey meat and three 2-cups of turkey juice. Not much really, but it was a just a tiny turkey. Lunch was turkey sandwiches, of course. Dinner was the rest of Barbara's Greek Onion-Leek Pie. It reheated well. And a salad, very simple. And the end of the pumpkin pie.

Put on the Buttermilk Bread (MC) from the laughable Thanksgiving cloverleaf rolls overnight.

Sunday/28-Nov-10: The Buttermilk Bread turned out fine. Can't think what went wrong on turkey day. Dinner was the rest of the leftovers, dressing, sweet potatoes, and cranberry relish, along with a new batch of gravy. Made too much of that, so need to use it for something else soon. Back to cooking now.

Yogurt on overnight.

Monday, November 15, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/15-Nov-10: Ed's birthday today, and we had a very nice lunch at the Roc du Boeuf. In the evening, not being hungry at all, we just had some fruit. Yesterday's Breton buckwheat cake is going to get pretty stale, but it will be a good coffee-dipping cake.

Tuesday/16-Nov-10: A strange thing this morning, we found the yogurt was set. After two days in the fridge. Very odd. So, breakfast was yogurt and a chunk of the Breton cake, which made a tasty treat. It has an interesting flavor, with vanilla, rum, and a dab of cinnamon. And I taste coconut, but that's probably something to do with the rum.

I wasn't very hungry this evening for some reason. Made a half recipe of Fava Bean Hummus (MC), which turned out to be a pretty good thing to do with the frozen favas that we thought were pretty tasteless all by themselves. The beans are cooked in boiling water with some milk, odd.

Wednesdsay/17-Nov-10: Ed shopped today while I waited for DHL, who indeed finally showed up. Dinner was Creamy Parmesan Salmon, a recipe that had been highly recommended on EAT-L. The salmon is baked with a topping of mayo, garlic powder, Parmesan, chives, and lemon juice (rather like a topping I have for baked eggplant slices, less the cracker crumbs and plus lemon juice). The recipe caled for the salmon to be baked for 25-30 minutes at 400F! I did 15 minutes and thought they were a trifle overdone. The usual timing is 10 minutes per inch at 350F, as I remember. We weren't overly fond of this, but it could be that I haven't found a good store-bought mayo yet. Accompanied by Dusolier's roast potatoes and a bit salad of mâche. For dessert there were some frozen crèmes brulées with red fruit. Not too bad.

The DHL package contained the first cookbook I won in one of the myriad of giveaways, the new Sunset House monster. Looks like it might have some good recipes, though.

Thursday/18-Nov-10: Started yogurt this morning with a new starter. Lunch was Avocado-Cream Sauce for Pasta (MC), an old recipe from Tip magazine. I used small cooked frozen shrimp instead of the ham, and no tuinkers. Can't remember what tuinkers are called in English and have never seen them here. Too bad. A fast and tasty pasta dish.

Neither of us feeling very perky this evening. A big salad, using the turkey scallop I'd already baked for another dish, and off to bed.

Friday/19-Nov-10: Out for a quiz dinner tonight. Not much going on in the kitchen.

Saturday/20-Nov-10: Baked another turkey scallop and made Seaver's Pour-Cousin Paella (MC; Secrets, p249), a mighty nice dish for using up odds and ends from the fridge and freezer.

Sunday/21-Nov-10: For lunch I made an old favorite soup, Pat O'Sullivan's Peanut Butter Soup (MC), that I haven't made in a long while. The recipe is supposed to serve four, I guess as part of soup-and-sandwiches, but the two of us usually eat all of it in big soup mugs. Nice on a cold gray day.

Dinner was Barbara's Greek Onion-Leek Pie (soon to be MC). I liked this lots, but Ed thought there was a bit too much dill. He almost always complains about the amount of dill, so we'll not worry about this. This would have been especially nice with a salad to accompany it, but I was too lazy to do it. And what do you do with leftover phyllo leaves? I mixed a glob of honey with some hazelnut butter that I found in the fridge, daubed that in the phyllo, rolled it up, and baked it while the pie was cooking. This turned out pretty good. The only thing I'd do is maybe add some finely chopped (hazel) nuts. A bit of a phyllo-y dinner, but it all tasted good.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/8-Nov-10 through Thursday/11-Nov-10: Away from home.

Friday/12-Nov-10: Before picking Sophie up this morning, I went to the butcher to order our Thanksgiving turkey and to buy some pork for the pasta and bean soup. Ed did a bit of shopping for fresh stuff after the car checkup, but forgot the celery, so the soup will have to wait again.

For lunch I thawed the Yogurt Carrot Soup (MC) and finished off its preparation. We had sandwiches and fruit for our later meal.

Saturday/13-Nov-10: Defrosted two servings of Mediterranean Turkey Casserole for dinner. For a starter there was Carrot and Onion Salad (MJ1, p171) with some radishes included at Ed's suggestion; this was good a good addition. Then the casserole, then a big salad. No dessert since we had quite a bit of chocolate after lunch. The casserole was froze well and was quite good.

Yogurt on overnight.

Sunday/14-Nov-10: Oops, the yogurt didn't really set. Ed got the house-brand Activia imitation and now I have a suspicion that it might not be a live culture like Activia (which I used to use as a starter before I discovered the bio brands are really tastier). It certainly doesn't taste as good as Activia. Eating the unset yogurt is more like drinking kefir and will do for a couple of breakfasts, till we get to the store for some real stuff.

For a non-chocolate sweet, I made a Breton Buckwhet Cake with Fleur de Sel (web, soon to be MC). This also had the advantage of using up some of my buckwheat flour, which is due to expire soon, and I know from experience this goes rancid. I didn't really follow the directions, but it turned out surprisingly good. Now I need to make those pizzocheri to use up this buckwheat flour.

Dinner opened with the remains of the Yogurt Carrot Soup. The main was two little lamb chops each, rubbed with the leftover rub from last week's Cajun Pork Roast. Accompanied by steamed broccoli and polenta. Rounded out by the buckwheat cake.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Frittata with Zucchini and Basil

Cooking Italy Assignment
Frittata with Zucchini and Basil, p280

This week's assignment was to make any of Hazan's frittatas. An Italian frittata is the same as a Spanish tortilla, an eggy dish in the omelet family with the "filling" cooked right in with the eggs. It's a nice way to use up leftover bits of veg or meat or even pasta. Having a zucchini in the fridge wanting to be used as well as some past-its-prime basil in the garden, I chose the one with zucchini and basil.

You start by assembling, cooking if necessary, the filling. Stir this into some well-beaten eggs, along with some flavorings. Turn this into a cast iron skillet and cook slowly until the bottom is set, but the top is still a bit liquid.

Put the pan under the grill (or in a hot oven) and cook until the top begins to brown. Voila, there's your frittata.

I've made frittatas before, never with any great success. Usually they were tasty enough, but stuck to the pan and turned out like browned scrambled eggs. Recently I bought myself a cast iron skillet, which is exactly what you need for making a frittata (among other things)—the original non-stick surface. I'm in love. My frittata popped out of the pan just like it's supposed to.

Since the recipe calls for a 10" cast iron pan and my new one is only 8" in diameter, I cut the recipe back a bit (to about 2/3), using only 3 eggs. This is a nice amount for dinner for two.

This particular frittata (zucchini and basil) we both found, taste-wise, kind of so-so as frittatas go. But I've always liked the idea of a frittata and am very pleased to find that it works so well in my new pan. Now I'm going to go dig out some of the old recipes I'd given up on.

Monday, November 1, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/1-Nov-10: During the day, I made a half recipe of Berry Tiramisu (soon to be MC) that was supposed to serve four; ended up with four servings from the half recipe. So we asked Sally and Mike to dinner to help eat it up.

For a starter, there was a bit of mâche with beets and shallots and a light vinaigrette, with warm goat cheese on toast. The main was Cajun Roast Pork Loin, a recipe my mother sent me from the KC Star (soon to be MC); have a bit of this rub left for another time. And a huge batch of Dusolier's Perfect Roast Potatoes (MC). In the midst of these cooking, the gas ran out and we had to change canisters, making everything a bit later than intended. Accompanied by Onion-Herb Bread (MC) from the bread maker since there was no bread at the boulanger yesterday and everything's closed today for the holiday.

The tiramisu was delicious, but the whole recipe definitely serves 8, not 4.

Tuesday/2-Nov-10: Tonight was a Frittata with Zucchini and Basil (ClassicItal, p280), with a salad of mâche. Topped off by the last pair of store-bought crême caramels.

Wednesday/3-Nov-10: Kind of a made-up dinner tonight, loosely based on something found on the web. Thingly sliced a small onion and softened it in butter and olive oil with some crushed pepper. Slivered up a Chinese cabbage (half of it, but should have done more), added that to the onion sautéed slowly. When the cabbage was soft, I added the last bit of the Cajun pork roast, slivered. Mixed this with 5 oz of penne; some whole wheat pasta might have been nice, and maybe something slightly smaller than penne. Pretty tasty. Served with a bit salad, and then some little chocolate desserts, straight from the freezer to the (toaster) oven to the table.

Thursday/4-Nov-10: For lunch today I dipped some turkey scallops in flour, S&P, and chipotle powder, then sautéed them in olive oil. When they were done, I deglazed the pan with some mixed-from-a powder chicken broth and some pyramid goat cheese. Pretty good for almost no effort. To go with, there was smashed sweet potatoes, with lemon juice instead of the usual orange juice, since I forgot to ask Ed to save some this morning, and don't want to open the new bottle. Ha, we might actually prefer the lemon juice version! And a mess of steamed broccoli which was especially good with the sauce. Followed by a big salad. And no dessert. We were full.

Friday/5-Nov-10, Saturday/6-Nov-10, Sunday/7-Nov-10: Away from home.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Eggplant Sauce with Tomato and Red Chili Pepper

Cooking Italy Assignment
Eggplant Sauce with Tomato and Red Chili Pepper, p160

Ed's comment about this was "Excellent!" I think he liked it. In fact, we both very much liked it very much. The first night's dinner was good, and the leftovers might even have been better.

You start by salting a mess of eggplant slices and letting them weep. This is frequently an instruction in eggplant recipes, but so little liquid comes out of eggplant when I do this, I really wonder if this step is needed.

The slices are patted dry then fried in lots of hot oil, drained, and cut into "batons."

Meanwhile you sauté some garlic in olive oil, add some parsley, tomatoes, chili pepper, and salt and simmer this for a while. I used some of the seedless tomato sauce (unflavored) that I made up during the summer. When you're about ready to serve, you stir in the eggplant slices, cooking till everything is warmed through. (Unfortunately all my pics of the served dish turned out blurry, except for the one that was flashed out of sight. :-( )

The recipe calls for spaghettini, which I used (De Cecco), although it looks huge in the photo. I served the leftovers over fusilli, and I have to say I thought that it worked even better with the chunky eggplant bits and holding onto the delicious sauce. Making the sauce ahead might even improve the flavor, making it an ideal company dish.

Our only negative comment about this dish is that it seemed awfully oily—those eggplant slices really did soak up the grease, no matter that the oil was very hot. When I do this again, I think I'll try grilling the slices with just a bit of olive oil brushed on by hand, like I do when making pizza. But I definitely will do it again, because it was DEE-licious!

This week in the kitchen

Monday/25-Oct-10: Tonight I used the rest of the tomato sauce that I defrosted for the Chicken Fricassee to make another Cooking Italy assignment, a bit early this time, Eggplant Sauce with Tomato and Red Chili Pepper. Served with a big salad of mâche. For afters we had another Letuffe chocolate-covered cherry.

Tuesday/26-Oct-10: Mushroom Barley Soup (MC) for lunch. Hmm-mmm-good. Followed by two more chocolate-covered cherries. Took ourselves to see a movie in Limoges this afternoon and had a sandwich at the kebab place down the street.

Yogurt on overnight.

Wednesday/27-Oct-10: Tonight's dinner was Mildred Schulz's String Beans and Potatoes (GreeneGreens, p346), using up the haricots verts I bought at the Victor Hugo marché on Friday and starting in on the sack of potatoes I bought at the grocery last week. Topping and tailing green beans is pretty boring work. I made close to a double recipe and we ate it all for dinner, although I suppose it's meant at a side dish. A pair of chocolate chocolate chip cookies for after.

After lunch we finished off the Letuffe chocolate-covered cherries. These are so good. I have never liked chocolate covered cherries and didn't try these when we visited the factory until Ed insisted. They are really special. There's a real cherry inside, complete with pit. The liquid is based on cognac. And some good dark chocolate to cover these up. Seriously yum.

Thursday/28-Oct-10: Using up broccoli and potatoes. Made the cleverly named recipe Broccoli and Potatoes (WorldVeg, p147). I was a bit short on broccoli, so made a 2/3 recipe, which was our main course. I made an eighth recipe of Trinidian Mixed Spices (WorldVeg, p706) to cook with. Now I've got a good bit of that to use up. Dessert was some store-bought crême caramel; not too bad.

Friday/29-Oct-10: Made the old favorite Oatmeal Cake (MC) as a snack for us and for Adrian and Andy, who are finishing off the roof today.

For lunch, there was the leftover eggplant sauce, over fusilli this time, which I though worked better than the spaghettini. Really good sauce, that is.

Tonight's dinner was another quiz dinner.

Saturday/30-Oct-10: For our midday meal I made Bucatini with Pepper Flakes,Zucchini,Shrimp,&Red Onion (MC) along with a salad. Good stuff. Went to a movie in Poitiers, so had only popcorn for dinner.

Sunday/31-Oct-10: Dinner was Turkey Escalopes with Capers (BEFCC, p134), accompanied by Clothilde Dusolier's Perfect Roast Potatoes and some coarsely chopped carrot and zucchini done in steam-sauté fashion. A bit of Picolin cheese after, and then the last of the chocolate chocolate chip cookies. (There are only eight in a box!)

Yogurt on overnight.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Farm Wife’s Fresh Pear Tart

Cooking Italy Assignment
A Farm Wife’s Fresh Pear Tart, p589

Wow, this was a decided hit, definitely a do-again. Easy to make, good warm or cold. Yum. Start with some nice fall pears:

The peeled and chopped pears are stirred into a simple, hand-mixed batter. Since we frequently find dessert recipes too sweet, I cut back the sugar (sucre de canne) a bit, but only a bit, since several Cooking Italy folks found the tart not sweet enough. I used maybe 7/8 cup, rather than one whole cup.

The instructions say to make hollows in the batter at this point, optionally poke whole cloves into them, and fill with the hollows bits of butter. We're not clove fans here, so I omitted these, but I also (accidentally, I admit) neglected the butter-filled holes altogether and can't say that we felt it lacked anything and it was certainly that much healthier animal-fat-wise. Into the oven it went butter-less and came out delicious:

My cake pan was only 8 inches, rather than 9, so the tart might be a trifle deeper than it ought to be, but nobody complained.

Someone (I forget who, sorry) at Cooking Italy suggested adding some chopped walnuts. Very finely chopped and sprinkled on the bottom, this might be quite nice. Having disavowed the cloves, I thought a bit of ground cardamon in the batter might be nice; that's a spice that seems to go very well with pears. (Try it in pear butter sometime.) Next time ...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chicken Fricassee with Porcini Mushrooms, White Wine, and Tomatoes

Cooking Italy Assignment
Chicken Fricassee with Porcini Mushrooms, White Wine, and Tomatoes, p332

Cooking Italy has sprung back to life after quite a long vacation—hooray! This week's assignment was a chicken fricassee with nice mushrooms in a tomato-wine sauce. Nothing fancy, just nice homey food.

And it could hardly be simpler to make. Soak some dried porcini (aka cêpes). Brown your chicken parts. Deglaze the pan with some white wine. Add the soaked porcini, their soaking juice, and some chopped tomatoes. (Instead of chopped tomatoes, I used some of the simple tomato sauce I made from seeded tomatoes this summer.) Simmer away for 50 minutes or so and serve.

There's no special reason to use a whole chicken here; use the parts you prefer or have on hand. We liked the mix of light and dark meat. I thought it might have been nicer to have cut the chicken into eight parts, rather than four, though.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fear of pie crusts

Now, I grew up listening to my mother complain about her pie crusts, they were never good enough and just too hard to make. At some point she found the pre-made crusts that looked like sticks of butter that just had to be rolled out to make the crusts and that was the end of her attempts at perfecting a pie crust. So I was imbued early-on with a fear of pie crusts. My few attempts were never particularly successful, and led me, like my mother, to use store-bought substitutes, either roll-'em-out or already formed.

My French teacher, Fatima, in Amstelveen also gave cooking-in-French classes. From her I learned to overcome my fear. It was simple. Put all the ingredients in a big bowl and use one hand (with cold fingers) to mush it all together. When it's crumbly, not smooth, but crumbly, it's ready to moosh into a disk, cover with plastic, and pop in the fridge. When it's good and cold, roll it out and line your dish. Alternatively, pop it in the freezer. The crust dough freezes really well. When you expect to make something with a crust in the evening, put your dough in the fridge to defrost. When you're home from work, it's there waiting to be rolled, filled, and cooked.

I didn't like Fatima's recipe. It used vegetable shortening, which is so full of chemical crap that I refuse to have it in the house. Lard is supposed to be the best, but is very difficult find.

The first recipe I found that I used frequently was Jeannette Seaver's in Jeannette's Secrets of Everyday Good Cooking. (BTW, I love this book. She's French, married American, and strove to keep the French attitude towards food alive in her home. And, of course the French are masters of using pie crust to dress up dinner, either the main course or dessert or bits of leftovers presented in a new way.)

My Basic Pie Crust
Jeannette's Secrets of Everyday Good Cooking, p38
My basic pie crust, which I use for countless dishes from quiche to tarte aux pommes, has the virtue of being extremely easy, quick, and realiable.

For an 8-9-inch pie mold you will need:
4-ounce package cream cheese
2 cups flour
1-1/2 sticks butter (6 ounces)
In a bowl, mix all the ingredients with our fingers to form a smooth dough. It should take you not more than 3 to 5 minutes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or more) before rolling out and baking. If you are not going to use it immediately, you can of course freeze it for later use. If you want to double or triple this recipe and set some aside for later use, I suggest you divide the dough into balls each enough for one pie, and store in the freezer in plastic bags. Label accordingly. It can keep two or three months in the freezer. It will take little or no more time, and will assure you of a ready supply for any emergency or unplanned meal. If you freeze the dough, move to the refrigerator what you expect to use any given day in the morning before you leave the house, or leave out at room temperature on hour before using.
Kaye's notes:
  • Have everything cold when you start to work.
  • I often made multiples of this, since it's so handy to have available.
  • Adapting for the package of cream cheese I can buy, I needed 150g package cream cheese, 250g butter (less a thin slice), 2-2/3 cup flour. This makes about 695g of dough.
  • The unchanged recipes make more than enough for an 8" pan.

The big deal in crust making, I've read, is to keep everything cold and to not melt the fat. The idea is to have little flakes of fat (whether it's cream cheese or butter) that will melt as the crust bakes, making layers within the crust.

More lately, I've been using the recipes in Judith Jones' The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food. This is bit messier to clean up since the food processor is involved, but a snap to put together.

Tart Dough
The Tenth Muse,p256
I've found the food processor such a blessing in making pie doughs, particularly those that are rich with butter, that I would never go back to using my fingers for the initial mixing although the final fraisage with the palms of the hands is still an essential step in making these doughs.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 table spoon sugar (only for a sweet tart)
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (4 ounces)
3 tablespoons ice water
Enough for 8-inch tart pan
Mix the flour, salt, and sugar, if using, in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into small pieces, drop them through the tube of the processor, and pulse long enough to say "alligator" fifteen times. Pour in the ice water and process long enough to say "alligator" ten times. Transfer the dough to a work surface, preferably marble, and smear it out in small increments with the heel of your hand, then gather the dough together into a round. Sprinkle with flour, wrap with waxed paper, and refrigerate at least 20 minutes or until ready to use.
Kaye's notes:
  • The alligator counting is a good way to use the pulse and not melt the butter. You'd be surprised how warm the flour gets if you just run the processor.
  • One batch of this dough covers my 10" (or more) quiche dishes.
  • Marble, schmarble. I use my tupperware sheet for rolling out crusts laid out on the counter. A cold surface is nice, but who can afford such a thing?
  • I've never made the sweet version of this. I just use the plain dough for a sweet pie.

In neither of these recipes, by hand or by processor, does the dough come together like a bread dough. When it's ready, you have a bowlful of flakes, like miniature granola. These can be smooshed together to form a solid mass. I expect what is accomplished by Jones' fraisage, a term I've not noticed elsewhere, is the smooshing together (technical term, that). I generally start out heel-pressing and then just give up and press it all together with my fingers. Form into a thick disk, cover tightly with plastic cling wrap, and refrigerate or freeze. (To freeze, I put the disks in a freezer-quality ziplock.)

This makes a wonderful, flaky pie crust. My mother would be surprised that I could do anything like this. I'm still surprised. My crusts aren't pretty, since I haven't yet mastered the art of making clever edges, but they so taste good.

This week in the kitchen

Monday/18-Oct-10: Made a Coffee Coffeecake (MC) during the day, at Ed's suggestion to give a treat to Adrian and Andy (who are putting a new roof on the "tower" part of the house).

Dinner was Tortellini with Parma Ham in Cream Sauce (MC), using frozen cêpe-ricotta ravioli. Not bad. A salad with the last of the lettuce. Really have to shop in the morning, although I don't have a list near ready.

Tuesday/19-Oct-10: Shopped this morning; we were the last people out as they closed at 12.30. Bought pears for the Cooking Italy pear tart, but they're pretty hard and will have to wait a few days. Dinner was this week's Cooking Italy assignment, Chicken Fricassee with Porcini Mushrooms, White Wine, and Tomatoes. I served this with polenta and Shredded Zucchini (MW@Home, p87). Nice dinner. No dessert since we finished off the coffeecake for lunch; Adrian and Andy helped, of course.

Yogurt on overnight.

Wednesday/20-Oct-10: In the afternoon, I made two batches of pâte brisée, so the freezer is stocked now. Managed to turn the flour canister onto the floor. Luckily it was almost empty and landed very cleanly upside down, so the mess was minimal.

Dinner was Home-Style Stir-Fried Scallops with Fragrant Shrimp Paste (HomFamily, p87), made with panga chunks instead of scallops and tasty anyway. Accompanied by (too much) Asparagus Stir-Fry with Black Bean Sauce (MC). (Not sure what will become of these leftovers? Filling an omelette perhaps?) A half dose of Asian Cucumber Condiment on the side (MWLowFat, p367), a refreshing sour-sweet taste. And lots of rice. The house smelled like a good Chinese restaurant when Pogo and I returned from an evening walk.

Thursday/21-Oct-10: Did not feel like cooking this evening (after ironing and vacuuming all day). It's pizza night in L'Arbre; called, but got a message they're off sick this week. Ed went to the Italian in Montbron to pick up pizzas; they're closed on Thursdays. The gods want us to eat at home. Warmed up the chicken fricassee and made a salad. Sigh.

Friday/22-Oct 10: Picked up Jeannie, then Jack, at the Angoulême train station today. Lunched in Angoulême. In the evening we ate carrot sticks and cheese and drank wine. For afters we shared a chocolate meringue thing I bought in Angoulême.

Saturday/21-Oct-10: In the afternoon, I made A Farm Wife’s Fresh Pear Tart for Cooking Italy today. Easy and yum.

Another very nice dinner at La Bellone tonight.

Sunday/22-Oct-10: We all finished off the pear tart for breakfast, along with croissants (a company treat) fresh from the boulanger. (On the way to the boulanger, I scared up four deer at the side of the road.) Took Jack and Jeannie off to catch a train; we ate sandwiches at the station.

For dinner, I made an omelette with the leftover asparagus for a filling. And a salad of mâche. And the unfinished bits of cheese from Friday. And one Letuffe chocolate-covered cherry.

Yogurt on overnight.

Monday, October 11, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/11-Oct-10: Still suffering from yesterday's too meaty/fatty lunch. For dinner I made a variation on Chipotle Turkey and Corn Soup (MC), with canned corn instead of creamed corn and black beans. It's good this way; will keep these modifications. Accompanied by Cayenne Cornbread (BigGerman, p182), which didn't rise like it usually does. Still tasty, but a bit lumpen. Suspect it's because I used milk from the fridge and the fast cycle. The fast cycle usually makes very good bread, but there's no time for ingredients to come to room temp. I probably should have either used warm tap water or cut the milk with some hot water. Next time ...

Tuesday/12-Oct-10: Feeling a bit better today, but still not wanting to eat much. Dragonwagon's yummy pancakes from the freezer for dinner. Not much else.

Just when I was giving up on Cooking Italy, along comes the schedule through December! Hope I'll feel more like cooking in the next days.

Wednesday/12-Oct-10: We had our main meal at lunch today, Kedgeree with Peas and Smoked Salmon (MC), a recipe much adapted from a Dutch cooking mag. Served with a salad. I had a white chocolate mini-Magnum for dessert; he refuses to eat them, so I get the next one also. :-)

Thursday/14-Oct-10: My stomach is finally feeling like it may life. Just in time for another Sunday dinner. Leftover Chipotle Turkey Soup for lunch. Cauliflower Paprikash (MW@Home, p202) with späetzle for dinner. Love that späetzle. Some Reblochon for after, and some Petit Scholiertjes.

Friday/15-Oct 10: Concert at noon in Angoulême. Anniversary dinner at La Bellonne in the evening. No cookin' round this house.

Saturday/16-Oct-10: Dinner was Greek Lemon Garlic Chicken and Potatoes (MC 2BTried, now MC Keepers), along with a big salad. Sophie found the defrosting kip filets, so the dish had a bit less meat than intended, to go along with too many potatoes. Oh well, it tasted fine.

Sunday/17-Oct-10: Our commune hosted a lunch today for its "seniors." And very nice it was, with portions a bit more reasonable and not quite as much alcohol as usual.

Monday, October 4, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/4-Oct-10: Dinner tonight at the quiz in Ambernac. Nothing much happening in our kitchen.

Tuesday/5-Oct-10: An easy, old stand-by dinner tonight, Lentils with Garlic and Onion (MJ1, p125) and Simple Buttery Rice with Onion (MJ1, p149). Cooked the lentils in the pressure cooker and they come out about the same time as the rice.

Wednesday/6-Oct-10: Kept trying to get some pâte brisée made today, but never got it done. Lunch was Curried Red Lentil Soup with Lemon, a recipe from a VegTimes newsletter, I think. It wasn't bad, but nothing special. I'm always puzzled by recipes that cook red lentils for 40 minutes until they're soft. After 40 minutes, the red lentils I get (really orange, turning mustard yellow) are mush, not much is left that's recognizably a lentil. The soup was good enough, but nothing special, not a bit of fat it in, except for the chicken stock I used instead of the vegetable broth.

My attention was not on food today. Dinner was an old favorite, Spaghetti with Zucchini and Lemon (MW@Home, p195). And a bit salad. We were piggies after and ate a whole box of scholiertjes, petit ecoliers. Oink, oink.

Oops, nobody went to the boulanger today. Made Authentic French Bread (Magic, p22) overnight, about the only bread I can do out of my head.

Thursday/7-Oct-10: Shopped this morning. Dinner was Southeast Asian Fish Rolls (MWLowFat, p294), with panga and the last of last week's coriander. (Panga filets seem to be bigger here that they were in NL, so I made all the filling for the two filets and it was fine.) Accompanied by a a quarter recipe of Fragrant Jasmine Rice (MWLowFat, p189), which was more than enough for two; used a whole round, red pepper I bought at a market, which made it quite spicy. Also accompanied by Chow Dau Kok aka Quick Fried Long Beans (Solomon1, p413). Used frozen haricots verts in place of kousebanden, which I've never seen here. Made a small half of a recipe to serve 4, which was still a bit too much. Did discover that it's much easier to snap frozen beans to the proper length, than to cut the defrosted ones with a knife. For dessert there was a bit of ice cream, topped with a pineapple ring (left from the rice).

Yogurt on overnight.

Friday/8-Oct 10: Ed's choir sang at the church this evening. He brought home fish and chips, a bit soggy by the time it got home, but pretty good anyhow. A pair of store-bought chocolate chip cookes each for dessert. These were surprisingly good (new brand).

Saturday/9-Oct-10: Made a double batch of Apple-Plum Butter today. Used our "found" apples, mostly quite small, so I used two of these apple required. Lots of peeling. And the plums, plucked from the same bin at the store, were two different kinds, red skins with red insides and red skins with yellow insides. Oh well. Accidentally added ground cloves instead of nutmeg; scooped it out, but a bit remained. Doesn't seem to have affect the taste too badly. I left the lid off the Dutch oven for part of the final boiling and, boy, did that make a mess!

Dinner was a half version of Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Pancetta (30MinPasta, p142). This was quite good, easy, and definitely in under 30 minutes. I like the time-saving features: the cauliflower cooked whole in the soon-to-be pasta water (which seemed to be less messy when chopped than chopping it raw), and dumping the garlic, pancetta, pepper flakes, and oil in the skillet before lighting the fire. Why not? Used all of pepper flakes, though, which was nice. Served with a big salad. Finished off the chocolate chip cookies for afters.

Sunday/10-Oct-10: We lunched at the Fête du Pain in Cruzeau today. Too much fatty food (big chunks of pâté and rillettes for a starter, grilled pork, potato chips, and cheese) and neither of us feels like eating much tonight.

The Cooking Italy group is mightily silent. The October schedule has still not been published. No one has made the duck think from September. I've got the duck legs in the freezer, but haven't felt like making it. Maybe everyone has the don't-feel-like-cooking malaise. I bumped into a similar sort of group doing French cooking, but they're cooking from a book I don't recognize, and I really don't need another cookbook, now, do I?

Monday, September 27, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/27-Sep-10: Very late dinner tonight. Leftover Mediterranean Turkey/Pintade Casserole. The right oven is acting flaky again; it took about 45 minutes before it decided to start warming up. Served with Green Bean Amandine (MC). Made a tasty combination. Classic Mini-Magnums for dessert. Why do they make any others?

Tuesday/28-Sep-10: Shopped this morning. Bought a bunch of zucchini, grated it, sacked it up in 2-cup amounts, and froze it. Bought some flétan, that's halibut, on promotion. I'm wondering if these promotions are because they got a lot so they put it on sale, or it's yesterday's leftover? There was a beautiful chunk of tuna on sale, at about a third of the price last seen in the Netherlands.

Dinner was Halibut with Caper Salsa Verde (Cooking Light, mar10). I wonder how many times I've actually used the fish prescribed in a recipe? It was OK, but nothing special; won't keep the recipe. Accompanied by some trio rice and steamed carrot sticks. Store-bought semolina pudding was dessert.

Wednesday/29-Sep-10: Made up some of Hazan's Homemade Sausage (30MinPasta, p161) this morning and froze two lots of 9.5oz. I'm amazed how at the cheapness of the sauté du porc that I used to make it. It must be the trimmings off bigger pieces of good meat. Only two bits needed much trimming of fat and connective tissue.

Dinner was Angela's Oven-Friend Chicken with Aromatic Spice Rub (soon to be MC). I cooked four thighs for the two of us, and froze the bigger half of the rub. These were cooked in the oven in a shallow pan, like the Chicken Canzanese from Cook's Illustrated that I made at the beginning of August. This really is the way to get a nice crispy skin on. Accompanied by Grilled Sweet Potato Planks, collected from EAT-L, which weren't so successful; edible but not a keeper. For dessert, we at the last pair of semolina puddings.

Yogurt on overnight.

Used some frozen lamb to make a half dose of Rice with Ground Lamb, Green Beans, and Garbanzo Beans (Bombay, p226). It was good enough, but didn't have as much flavor as I expected from all that went into it. Can't think that cooked lamb rather than raw ground would have made all that much difference. It's was a nice one-dish meal, though.

Friday/1-Oct-10: Dinner was a web-collected recipe, Roasted Mayonnaise Chicken with Chipotle (soon to be MC), a half recipe made with a pair of thickish boneless pork chops. It was good, although there wasn't as much sauce left in the pan as I expected. Served with polenta. Followed by a big salad. Then some cheese. Then some digestive cookies. Yum.