Archive for ‘First Course’

February 16, 2011

Using Crème Fraiche | Quick and Gorgeous Spring Tart

It’s been in the 50s here in Columbus.  It makes me think spring is here.  So since it feels like Spring, I’m starting to cook like it.  This quick rosemary ham tart with only six ingredients, is one of the simplest things you can make.   It is beautiful for brunch, great for a light dinner, even amazing as part of a little buffet of appetizers at a cocktail party.  So flexible, too.  You could certainly sub some roasted spring asparagus for the ham if you were feeling virtuous.

And oh my is it addictively tasty.

Spring Rosemary Ham Tart, inspired by John Torode

1 piece frozen puff pastry, thawed

2 eggs

1/2 c crème fraiche (you can certainly buy it, if you haven’t the time to make it)

1 t good English mustard (prepared, not ground)

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January 23, 2011

Braised Brisket Part Deux | Beef Siomai, Daikon Salad

A trip to an Asian market is so heavenly.  Those markets are filled to the brim with flavor and inspiration.  My favorite Japanese shop is Tensuke Market.  It’s where I get my yuzu and some of the most delicious soy sauce ever.  It’s where you can pick up really fresh sushi, and carefully crafted bento boxes.  It’s also where I found the shumai wrappers for today’s Philippine siomai.

The Japanese don’t typically fill shumai with beef, but it’s common in the Philippines.  So with a little nod to a couple of different cultures, I wound up with a really tasty appetizer that’s a snap to assemble and serve thanks to the leftover brisket.

Beef Siomai, makes 28

3/4 pound leftover braised brisket, very finely chopped

2 inch piece of ginger, finely grated

2 green onions, finely sliced

1 heaping t of miso paste

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January 11, 2011

Winter Kitchen | Roasted Chestnut Risotto with Mushrooms

When the snow is swirling outside and you feel like spending a bit of time in a warm kitchen stirring leisurely, risotto is your answer.

I have a deep love for risottos.   It is an endlessly versatile dish, perfectly at home in any season.  A stock, some aromatics, and a bit of rice transforms into a bowl of comfort.

I have taken risotto on as the meal I would most like to perfect in my life.  Ultimately, I want mine to be able to stand up next to any Italian nonna’s.  Lofty dream, I know.   But it’s a life project.

One of the things that makes me almost endlessly sad is to see recipes for “risotto” that include copious amounts of butter or oil or cream.  Risotto should not be a excessively fatty dish.  It is, as I said, essentially stock and rice.  You add at the end a bit of Parmesan if you like, or alternately, depending on the combination of ingredients, a heaping tablespoon (at most) of perhaps some marscapone cheese (across four servings) .  The creaminess of the dish is almost entirely derived from the grains of rice giving up their starch.

Today’s risotto was a combination of roasted and chopped chestnuts, dried and fresh mushrooms and a lamb stock.  This happy combination was again facilitated by The Flavor Thesaurus.   I had lamb bones in the freezer from a roasted lamb shoulder, so it was easy to toss everything in a pot to simmer a stock in the afternoon.  A bit later on, I set a metal sieve over the pot and soaked some dried chanterelles to rehydrate them and add a further bit of meatiness to the stock.

When it was time for dinner, I sauteed some fresh mushrooms (a combination of oyster, portabella, and cremini) along with the rehydrated chanterelles that I chopped in a very hot pan with some olive oil and salt and pepper, almost like duxelles.  When these were brown, I put them in a bowl for later.  I added a sliced shallot to the pan, reduced the heat to medium and soften it a bit.  Then I added about a cup and a half of rice, cooked it for a minute then deglazed the pan with vermouth.  The rest of the cooking is almost identical to the recipes here and here.  I added in the mushrooms just before the last addition of the lamb stock to rewarm them.  PK tip:  Make sure you add a generous extra ladle full or two of stock just before serving.  You want it almost a bit too loose.  It sets up so quickly as you get it to the table and you want it to be spoon-able, not stiff.  The plate was garnished with a bit of thyme (lots in the stock) and grated Parmesan.

Playlist included Writing to Reach You, by Travis.

December 9, 2010

South-Texas Locavore / Shiner-Steamed Shrimp with Ruby Red Grapefruit Salsa

Tonight’s dish highlights the soul of local food.  It’s perfect for late fall in South Texas.  The grapefruit are sweet, but also a little savory.  They’re a beautiful color, and plentiful.  And because it’s coming on grapefruit season in the Rio Grande Valley, they’re awfully cheap.  Meanwhile, the local Meyer lemons are juicy and fragrant.  So when I saw the shrimp from Harlingen Farm, this idea started to take shape.  I’m honoring what’s local, now, while giving a little wink to everyone who has fond memories from this corner of the world.  Oh, and there’s Shiner.  It’s nice to be back.

Shiner-Steamed Shrimp with Ruby Red Grapefruit Salsa

For the Salsa:

2 ruby red grapefruit, supremed and diced

Juice from 1/2 Meyer lemon

1 jalapeño, diced

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November 22, 2010

Tennis with Escoffier

This past weekend, I picked up a couple pounds of oxtail from Bluescreek Farm Meats.  There were a number of ways I could have prepared them, but I was itching for a challenge.  Every once in a while, I need to stretch myself, culinarily speaking.  And while none of the ingredients were particularly exotic (ok, aside from the oxtail), I used a very old recipe from my copy of the Escoffier Cookbook as a guideline.  I made oxtail soup.  It’s not what you would call a “quick” recipe.  But that wasn’t really the point on Saturday. 

A perfectly imperfect brunoise.

There were several techniques within the recipe that I felt like trying out, not only to say that I had, but to see how well I could manage them.    Do I regularly cook what amounts to a light first course over the course of six hours?   No.   But I wanted to take a shot at making a raft (an egg white mixed with diced white parts of a leek and a small bit of very lean ground beef) to clarify the soup.  And I wanted to practice my brunoise with some carrots.   As it turns out, I’d be fired pretty quickly from any professional kitchen for how slow and inconsistent I am.  But was it better than I had done before?  Yes!  (And heck, I thought they looked pretty.)

Cooking a difficult recipe like this is for me, a lot like playing tennis with Roger Federer.  You should play tennis with someone who’s much better at it than you.  Otherwise, how can you expect to improve your serve?  Cooking this way teaches me new things about myself as a cook.  I like learning.  And I learn a lot when I make a recipe like this.  I will omit how I can’t actually play tennis anymore because of a torn labrum from a backhand, but you get my point.

What it all boils down to for me is that cooking is a pleasurable way to spend time.  The fact that at the end of all of it, you get to eat something that might not be textbook perfect but tastes pretty great?  Well, that’s just the icing on the cake.

Playlist included Heaven Can Wait, by Charlotte Gainsbourg, featuring Beck.

November 12, 2010

The Thanksgiving Salad Course | Pomegranate Arils, Goat Feta, Mesclun

With all the work that will go into a lavish Thanksgiving meal, the last thing you want to think about is the salad course.  I have a simple recipe for you.

I scored a couple of Pom Wonderful Pomegranates from my friend Rachel at Hounds in the Kitchen in exchange for a ride home from our book lunch with David Tanis.  Pomegranates hold special meaning for Persephone.  I’ve been waiting until they’re in season to get a good photo.  Now’s the time.  I digress.

For the salad, sprinkle the ruby jewel arils from the pomegranate and some goat feta (like from Integration Acres, it’s fabulous) over local greens and top with a honey and fenugreek vinaigrette.   I know.  Fenugreek.  I encourage you to fill your spice cabinets a little at a time, preferably through bulk spice buying at places like North Market Spices, because my guess is you don’t have ground fenugreek in there.  Not too commonly called for in many Food Network recipes.  But if you hang around the Kitchen, I promise to show you lots of other ways to use it.  In fact, there are already a few up, do a quick site search to look them up.

Simple Greens, Pomegranate Arils and Goat Feta with Honey Fenugreek Vinagrette | serves four as a first course, or two for a lunch

3 T olive oil

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 t honey

1 t Dijon mustard

1 t ground fenugreek

Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients.

3 large handfuls of greens (I love Honeyrun Farm), big pinch of fresh mint leaves

Arils from 1/2 a pomegranate (How to remove?  Ask Martha.  She knows everything.)

3 to 4 ounces of crumbled goat feta (I love Integration Acres)

Dress salad greens with the vinaigrette.  Divide between four plates, sprinkle the arils and goat feta.

Playlist included Holiday, by Vampire Weekend.

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