“En Papillote”

Wed, Jan 30 • 0

roughy.gifSo the other day, my wife said she wanted fish for dinner. The pickings at the fish counter seemed pretty slim, but there were some orange roughy fillets, a firm fleshed white fish, that looked pretty good, so I picked up a couple. It occurred to me that I should try cooking them in a pouch. So I picked up some aromatic vegetables — a leek, and a parsnip. I also picked up a yellow squash, to round out the meal. Now I needed to think of a liquid that would work with all of these things. I settled on a bottle of extra-strong ginger beer.

So, I preheated the oven to 450°, and then I cleaned and sliced up the leek, and softened it in some butter in a frying pan. Then I julienne’d the parsnip, and put them in with the leeks, and added about a quarter cup of the ginger beer, and some salt, and popped on the lid, letting them steam for a couple of minutes. I’ve also found this great sweet and smoky paprika spice mix — not sure who puts it out, but I’ve been sprinkling it in everything lately.

Traditionally, “en papillote” is done in a parchment paper pouch, but I used some aluminum foil instead. I sprayed it with a little canola oil spray, though there was enough liquid left from the softened vegetables, it wasn’t necessary. I laid out the fish on the foil, and topped it with the softened veggies, and then diced up the yellow squash, and topped it with that. Then I folded up the edges of the foil and made a tightly closed packet, and popped it on a cookie sheet and into the oven for — not exactly sure. 30 minutes, maybe. I don’t think the timing was particularly critical, since the steam was gently cooking the fish, and there was still plenty of liquid left. For all I know, I completely overcooked it, but it still came out great. The fish was firm and sort of reminded me of lobster meat. I served it over the multi-grain israeli couscous that T.J.’s sells.

Spanish Gnocchi

Mon, Jan 28 • 0

42-15440489.jpgI came up with this recipe some years ago, while I was tossing about, trying to find something good to eat in the cupboard. I’m sure it could be jazzed up with a homemade marinara, but at the time, I only used the jarred tomato sauces, and this is a great way to make a jarred sauce sing. And don’t let the olives in the recipe scare you. Even people who say they don’t like olives like this recipe.

2 lbs. ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
2 T olive oil

2-3 packages of frozen gnocchi
1 large jar of your favorite pasta sauce (32 oz.)
10-20 green olives with pimento, sliced thin
1 T. fennel seed

Bring enough salted water to boil for the gnocchi. Brown the turkey and the onion over medium heat in the olive oil. Add the olives, fennel seed and tomato sauce to the turkey onion mixture. Simmer 20 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, start the gnocchi going, but undercook them a little bit, and drain. After they’re well-drained, put them in with the sauce and the meat, and let them finish cooking there (about 5 minutes). Serve hot. Makes enough to feed a small army. It tastes even better reheated the next day.

Marrow Bones

Fri, Jan 25 • 0

cooked marrow bones

Ok, vegetarians, look away.

Marrow bones just might represent the worst food ever in the world of meat when looked at from the high, white towers of veganism. It’s got to be desperation food. Marrow is the jiggling center of roasted cow (or veal) leg bones. The fact that it’s so fatty might just put people off, but really, it’s not any worse than slathering butter on your toast instead. And it is fatty, but it’s got no gristle or structure to it, so unlike the chewy part of fat on that ribeye, the marrow just melts away in your mouth. It’s incredibly rich, too. I couldn’t imagine making a whole meal of this. It’s more of an appetizer or a late-night snack. You might have trouble finding marrow bones in the supermarket. I chanced upon them this morning at Whole Foods. I imagine, if you asked the meat guy, he could get you some.

You’ll want to figure about three bones per person, cut into 2 to 3 inch lengths. Preheat your oven to 450° and stack them up like soldiers in an oven proof skillet. They’ll take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to cook, depending on how cold they are when you started. After 15 fresh marrow bonesminutes, check on them frequently. You’ll be looking for the inner core of the leg bone to get a crusty brown that’s beginning to separate from the bone. Wait too long, and it’ll all melt away.

While they’re cooking, make some toast from a good crusty bread, and chop up some flat leaf parsley.

When they’re done, using a butter knife, just scoop out the hot center and spread it, just like butter, on the toast. Sprinkle with some course and crunchy sea salt, and top with the parsley.

Chicken Fingers

Tue, Jan 22 • 0

42-17207108.jpgSo, either buy a package of prepared chicken tenders, or buy boneless chicken breast and slice them into strips. Put them in a bowl, and pour in enough buttermilk to cover them. Then stir in enough hot sauce to turn the buttermilk a light orange. Stir to make sure that all the chicken gets coated, cover, and marinate in the fridge. I figure, an hour, minimum, but I usually let them set overnight.  And don’t worry. You won’t taste the heat of the hot sauce. When you’re ready to start cooking, grind up a bunch of soda crackers — probably a whole stack, preferably salt free — in your food processor. (Short of that, put them in a zip top bag with all the air removed, and beat them up by hand, with a rolling pin, heavy pan, whatever.) You’re looking for the consistency of sand. Now’s the time to mix in any spices you like. I like a mix of granulated garlic and smoked paprika, plus salt (but only if you’re using salt-free crackers). Old Bay works well, too. Pour the mix out onto a plate. Remove the chicken bits from the buttermilk, let most of the buttermilk drip off, and coat with the crushed crackers.

Now, in a frying pan, pour in enough canola oil to make a puddle about a quarter inch deep, and heat it until you just barely see whisps of smoke. Add the chicken bits into the pan, and fry on each side for 3 minutes or so. Remove to a paper towel to drain.

Option 1 : This is basically how you could make whole fried chicken pieces, though you’ll need more oil in the pan, and you’ll need to cook them for longer. For some reason, the white meat takes a bit longer than the dark meat pieces. Skip the cracker meal and use a mixture of flour and cornmeal, or just flour, spiked with salt, pepper, and spices, and you’ve got traditional southern fare. Expect the whole chicken pieces to take about 15 to 20 minutes, total, turning once.

Option 2 : No need to stick with chicken. You can do the same with almost any meat. Chicken-fried steak, pork cutlets, tilapia filets, eggplant, even.

Chili Experiment #1

Sun, Jan 20 • 0

chilipeppers.jpgSo I tried my hand at making chili today, without a recipe. It turned out pretty well, but I think it could have used a little more heat. Here’s what I did…

First I put a couple of dried chilies into a 350° oven for about 10 minutes. I’d read that this sort of brightens their flavor a bit, and is supposed to add some smoky undertones. Not sure if that happened. I used two kinds Guajillo and Cascabel, a couple toasted and a couple not, with their stems and seeds removed, then ground up in my spice grinder. I also had some ground Allepo chilies, too.

Then I took a large sweet onion and chopped it pretty thoroughly in the food processor, along with an orange bell pepper and three cloves of garlic. I put that in my dutch oven with a little olive oil, and cooked it over medium heat. I cut 2lbs of brisket into 1″ cubes, removing the larger pieces of fat from each piece, and browned them in a cast iron pan. To the onions, I added a whole can of tomato paste, 2T of the chili powder, 1 T of oregano, and 1T of ground cumin, plus some salt and pepper. I let the tomato paste cook a bit, then added the beef and a can of Guinness Stout — (admittedly, not a very mexican touch), plus, 2T of dark chocolate cocoa powder. I stirred all of this together, and let it come to a boil, and then I put in in the 350 oven with the lid on. After about 2 hours, I could smell that the liquid had cooked down quite a bit, so I pulled it out, and let it cool, since I wasn’t going to be eating for awhile.

A couple hours later, I soaked up what grease had floated to the surface with a paper towel, and then put it back on the heat. I was afraid it wouldn’t be substantial enough, and considered making some rice, but ultimately added a can of black beans, rinsed.

Ok. Not exactly authentic. But it tasted pretty good. Next time, I think I’ll skip the Guinness and add some tomato sauce and some water instead. I also think it could have used a bit more heat… though my wife is pretty sensitive to spicy food. We’ll see. What’s your favorite chili recipe?

The Tao of Hot Dogs

Fri, Jan 18 • 0

sausage Put your sausages – either hot dogs, knockwurst, bratwurst – in a frying pan with a half inch of water and a dollop of butter. Heat the water to boiling and slap on a lid. Once you hear the sizzle and the water is gone, remove the lid and lower the heat to medium low. Now, shake the pan and let the hot dog roll in the oil, and let the outside get good and brown. You’re looking for the skin to blister but not burst.

I prefer Hebrew National Knockwurst for this, even though they’re super high in fat. Not something for daily consumption.

If you’re making italian sausage, you can do basically the same thing, except you might want to use wine instead of water.

Salmon Chowder

Fri, Jan 18 • 0

I started making this a couple years ago, and it’s become one of my wintertime staples. It takes only about an hour to make, start to finish, and it’s delicious. You can replace the onion with leeks, and it’s even better. I passed it on to a vegetarian friend of mine, and we decided that it tastes awesome even if you don’t include the salmon! Serve with a crusty dark pumpernickel and butter. Serves 6 as main course, 10 as a starter.


1 large onion, diced
1 or 2 large fennel bulbs, sliced, core and stems removed, but fronds saved and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 T butter or olive oil
1 t dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 T flour
32 oz. vegetable stock
32 oz chicken stock (or more vegetable stock)
8 oz tomato juice
1-2 lbs red bliss potatoes, diced
pepper to taste
1-2 lbs salmon filet, skinned and cut into 1″ cubes
½ pint cream (optional)
fresh chopped tarragon

Sweat the onion, fennel, fronds, and celery in a large dutch oven for a couple of minutes, salting to draw out the water from the vegetables, then add the thyme and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the flour until it is absorbed. Add the stock, the tomato juice, and the potatoes, heat up to boiling, and then lower heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are done (when you can easily pierce one with the tip of your knife); about 15 minutes. Add the salmon, and cook for 5 minutes in the hot soup. Take off the heat and stir in the cream. Serve with the tarragon on top.

Where to Eat in Arlington and DC

Wed, Jan 16 • 0

jefferson memorialOver on Serious Eats, I just spent a bit of time writing a long message about where people should eat when they’re coming to the DC area. I focussed mostly on budget eats in Arlington. Here’s a bit of what I wrote:

Others have covered the more upscale choices of restaurant, but if you’re looking for breakfast or lunch, or you’re on a budget, here are some places you might want to check out…
Keep reading…

Fresh Blueberries Again!

Mon, Jan 14 • 0


Granted, they come all the way from Chile, but they’re fresh and flavorful, and you can get a whole pint for only $3.99 at Trader Joe’s. My favorite way of eating them has me adding about ¾s cup of a good mueslix, a generous handful of berries, and an equally generous dollop of vanilla yogurt. Breakfast doesn’t get any better.

4-hour Survival Bread

Sat, Jan 12 • 0

breadMy mom typed this up on a couple of index cards and gave it to me when I was going off to college. She told me that even if I couldn’t afford to make anything else, I could always make this. And it really is economical. For the cost of one loaf of bread, these ingredients will make 3 loaves. If you make this with stone-ground flour and whole milk, it really is nutritious. And you can make it, start to finish, in 4 hours. If you have the time, decrease the yeast by half, and let the dough rise overnight, and you’ll be rewarded with a better tasting loaf, but make no mistake — this is not like those artisanal loaves of bread. It’s about as basic as it comes.
Keep reading…

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