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.