Things to Add to Omelets

Wed, Nov 19 • 0

Brown eggs taste no different from white eggs. Rhode Island Red hens give you brown eggs … the older the hen, the darker the egg.

Creamed or plain chipped beef;
Crumbled, crisp bacon bits;
Strips of thinly sliced ham or bologna (fried);
Fried minced onions, scallions, green peppers, pimentos;
Creamed or sauteed mushrooms;
Minced leftover vegetables (especially spinach) or meat in a thick cream sauce;
Freshly grated Gruyere, Swiss, Parmesan, Romano, or cheddar cheese;
Chopped fresh herbs: chives, parsley, chervil, tarragon, or thyme;
Flaked cooked fish (minus skin and bones), leftover or canned;
Minced lobster, crab, or shrimp;
Chopped canned anchovies …

Really, though, the possibilities are endless, provided its cut up very fine and, aside from the fresh herbs, precooked.

What’s inside your favorite omelet?


What’s a “Heritage” Turkey?

Sun, Nov 16 • 0

You’ve probably seen this phrase tossed about a lot lately, what with the holidays approaching. Your choices of what kind of turkey to put on the table seems to be widening, and the confusion mounts. Heritage turkeys are heirloom varieties, the ancestor breeds of the much more common but freak-of-nature, broad-breasted white turkey.

Heritage does not denote any specific breed of bird. In fact, you could conceivably buy the same breed of bird, marketed as “heritage” that are raised locally on pasture that you’d buy deep-frozen with the Butterball label on it. Standard breeds of turkey include Black, Bronze, Narragansett, White Holland, Slate, Bourbon Red, Beltsville Small White, and Royal Palm. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy includes all of the standard breeds plus a few others under the definition of “heritage,” including Chocolate, Lavendar/Lilac, Jersey, Buff, and Midget White. The vast majority of birds available for the American consumer are the Hybrid Broad-breasted White, which are bred to meet the commercial turkey industry’s desire for birds with accelerated growth rates and unnatural proportions of white and dark meat.

In 1997, a census by the National Turkey Federation found that 301,000,000 turkeys were produced commercially but only 1,335 turkeys were heritage birds. Today, that number hovers around 10,000.

According to the Heritage Turkey Foundation, all turkeys that are sold as heritage birds must have bodies that allow them to mate naturally, are hardy enough to live their whole lives outdoors, and are allowed to grow at a natural rate. Strictly speaking, the birds marked as heritage are not necessarily free-range nor are they raised organically, but considering the small number of birds that can be classified as such, chances are good that these birds were raised in a healthier and more humane environment than your typical industrial turkey farm.

Be aware that because there are so few birds available on the market, it may already be too late to get one for your holiday table in 2008, and you need to get your orders in by early November. But the good news is, the more people who seek out and are willing to pay a little extra for these special birds, the more will come to market in the coming seasons.


Unstuffed Cabbage

Sun, Nov 16 • 0

Here’s an original recipe for Unstuffed Cabbage. I made it the other night with a few changes (listed below), and it turned out really well. I used a pound of ground lamb instead of the mix of ground pork and beef called for in the original recipe, mostly because it was what I had on hand, but I had to spoon off a great deal of the rendered fat. It tasted great, nevertheless. I also used only half a head of cabbage, cut into 4 quarters — I think a half-a-pound of cabbage is a little much for one person.

½ (1-lb) head green cabbage, quartered lengthwise and cored
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, divided
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb ground lamb
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
1/3 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons vinegar (red wine or cider)
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

Cut the cabbage into quarters, and simmer in the chicken stock, covered, in a deep pan, for 45 minutes, turning occasionally. Meanwhile, brown the onions and the garlic, then add the meat, and brown until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, cranberries, vinegar and brown sugar, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the lid from the cabbage, and let most of the liquid evaporate. Pour the sauce over the cabbage and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Serves 4. Total cooking time: 1 hour.

If you’d like to see the creation and evolution of this recipe, Gourmet has a video.


Sixty Years of Christmas Cookies

Sat, Nov 15 • 0
image courtesy, Gourmet Magazine
(image courtesy Gourmet Magazine)

Gourmet Magazine offers up a great site detailing 60 years worth of recipes for cookies. The recipes are presented just as they appeared on the pages of the magazine, so the recipes for the cookies from the 40’s don’t presume you’ll be using modern conveniences like a food processor, so you may want to tinker a bit with them, unless you’re aiming for ultimate authenticity.

If you’re on my holiday list, you can look forward to getting to taste some of these this December.

Note: 1/18/2010, With the demise of Gourmet Magazine, or just the passage of time, it appears this link is now dead. Sorry about that.


Shells and Coins

Mon, Nov 10 • 0

6 italian sausage links (hot or sweet)
2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus a little more for garnish
2 fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 pound small shell pasta (conchiglie, maruzze, or lumache)
grated Parmesan

Prick the sausage with a fork, and cover with cold water, and poach uncovered for 10 minutes. Drain and dry, and slice into quarter-inch rounds (or coins). Heat the butter in a skillet and add the sausage,  onion, garlic and parsley. Cook, stirring frequently, until everything is caramelized, then add the tomatoes, and simmer while the pasta cooks in boiling salted water, according to the instructions on the package. When pasta is al dente, drain and mix with the sausage and its sauce, garnish with a little more parsley and grated parmesan.


Fast Food, My Way

Mon, Nov 10 • 0

A friend of mine sent me an email specifically asking about what I make when I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen — when we’re hungry, and I need to make something quickly, and don’t have time to marinate, macerate, or equivocate.

Oddly enough, my mind usually turns to breakfast, regardless of the time of day.

Omelets. You can usually whip one of these up in no time flat, and it’s a great way to use up left overs and odds and ends in the fridge. I’ll usually start by frying up some diced bacon, or kielbasa, or pancetta, or country ham… small dice, a quarter of an inch… in some butter in a non-stick pan. Then I’ll throw in some diced onions and peppers. Short of that, I usually keep a frozen vegetable medley that contains potatoes in it. I’ll nuke it to take the freeze off, and then put a portion of that in with whatever I’ve started frying. You really don’t need much to get a good omelet going. In fact, if you’ve got too much, you’ll more than likely end up with a scramble instead (not that that’s so bad). Then I’ll take three eggs, and break them into a bowl, and add a good pinch of salt, and some grinds of pepper, and whisk that with a fork until well blended. I’ll pour the eggs into a pan, and shake the pan, until the bottom is well coated with egg. My wife doesn’t like runny eggs, so I probably cook the whole thing for more than I need to. And though some might find this last part cringe-worthy, I’ll add a slice of velveeta cheese. This recipe makes enough for 2 people, unless they’re really starving — and from beginning to end, no more than 15 minutes, not counting clean up.

Other things you could add — browned hamburger and jarred salsa; leftover steak with onions and horseradish and sour cream; beef stew…

Pancakes & Sausage. I usually fall back on the premixed, but you can find a detailed recipe for pancake batter anywhere on the net (like here). I’ll mix the batter up while I fry up the sausages — which I put in a skillet with a tablespoon of butter and a quarter cup of water. I bring the water to a boil, and clamp on the lid, and let the water heat the sausages through, then remove the lid to let it all evaporate, and then let the butter brown them. As for the pancakes, well, I probably don’t need to tell you how to make these, since it’s probably the first thing (after cereal) that most of us learned how to make as kids. I use a cast iron griddle pan over medium, with a spray of canola. I ladle the batter on, and wait for the bubbles to set. (I usually add a couple or six frozen blueberries into each pancake as they cook on the first side.) I flip em, and let the second side cook. Use whatever syrup you like — I like organic grade B, because it has a stronger taste. Again, this meal takes about 15 minutes, from start to finish.

So maybe you’re more into dinner-type meals? Well, I’ll point you to some of the recipes I’ve already posted … Slumgullion is a deep comfort food for me, and probably only takes about 20 minutes to make, and can feed a small army for about $5; Sausage and Peppers is another winner. I’ll post more recipes in the coming days with a special mind to quick, and easy prep.

Have you got any simple and quick, go-to recipes to share?


Recent Food Words

Mon, Nov 10 • 0

biscuit belt n. “Well the area of the country that I practice in Gastonia North Carolina is what some physicians refer to euphemistically is the biscuit belt. We have a problem with patients being overweight.”

strolling supper n. I “get” the fact that a “strolling supper” is another term for “buffet,” but I have a question: what happens if the “strolling” supper gets up and leaves?

battery cage n. …considered the worst animal-confinement systems in factory farms.…so-called battery cages, where four or more hens share a space about the size of a file drawer.

fluffy n. If you’re not familiar with the term, a fluffy—known in Australia as a baby cino—is basically a tiny cup filled with froth and sprinkled with chocolate for children, allowing them to think of themselves as coffee-swilling adults.

Courtesy of the Double-Tongued Dictionary, where you can find more neologisms about many diverse topics other than food.


Belgian Beef Stew

Thu, Oct 30 • 0

On a cool autumn night, nothing tastes better than a hearty bowl of beef stew.

I made an awesome stew the other night. Not a lot of ingredients. You can cut your prep time by buying stew meat, but the pieces they give you are usually leftovers and trimmings from other cuts, and come in unusual sizes. By cutting your own cubes from a boneless roast, you can control how much fat remains, and you can cut the pieces in more uniform sizes. (Don’t cut off all of the fat from the meat, since it provides flavor.) As for the cooking liquid, I prefer Chimay Trappist Ale. I think it adds just the right flavor without adding too much bitter flavor, but you can obviously use any quality ale you want. You can substitute any vegetables you want, though I think the onions are essential. Cubed turnips work well.

4 lbs. boneless chuck roast
2 large spanish onions
1 large parsnip
2 large carrots
½ cup + 2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
6 whole cloves garlic
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large bottle ale (75 cl)
olive oil
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat your oven to 300°. Meanwhile, cut the roast into proper 1-inch pieces as described above. Season with salt and pepper, and toss in the ½ cup flour to coat. In the bottom of your heaviest dutch oven, brown the meat in small batches with the olive oil, being careful not to crowd the pan, getting a good golden brown crust. Discard the oil between batches if the bottom of the pan is getting too scorched.

Slice the onions, and peel and slice the carrots, parsnip, and garlic, and brown them in the pot, adding a little water to help get the bits off the bottom. Add the tomato paste, and cook that for a few minutes, so it’s spread all throughout the vegetables. Now add the spices, the browned meat, and the bottle of beer, and bring the whole thing up to a rolling boil. Tightly lid, and put it in the oven to braise for 1 or 2 hours, until the beef is very tender, checking occasionally to make sure the liquid hasn’t bubbled away.

Mix the remaining flour and the butter to make a paste — this is called a beurre manié — and stir that in to thicken. Remove the bay leaves, and check for seasoning. You can optionally garnish with lemon zest. Serve over egg noodles or with a crusty loaf of bread.


“Spatchcocking”

Thu, Oct 30 • 0

What I called butterflying in this recipe I posted in July is apparently really called spatchcocking. It’s basically cutting a whole bird down its back, removing the backbone (which I reserve for stock) and flattening it to a relatively even thickness for even, fast cooking. Whether you use a grill, or your oven, you can cook a 3-pound chicken in 45 minutes or less. I confirmed my misnomer when I was thumbing through Martha Stewart’s new cookbook, although she takes it a step further and grills the bird with a foil covered brick on it.

I can’t abide by that method. I think a quarter-inch more or less contact to the grill surface isn’t going to make such a huge difference, and I’d be worried that pressing the bird down, like pressing down on a hamburger patty, would cause essential juices to dribble out onto the fire.

Jacques Pepin demonstrated the method on his new series, More Fast Food My Way, on PBS. He adds a few refinements that will cut off even more cooking time.

(Before you proceed, either get your grill going, or preheat your oven to 425°.)

Same as before, using shears, cut down either side of the backbone of the bird, then open it up like a book, helping it flatten by snapping the cartilage near where the wishbone is, up by the neck with a knife. Now, using your knife, knick the bird in all the places where you’ve ended up with raw chicken when you’ve roasted before — right at the knee of the drumstick and the thigh, up in the “arm pit” between the wing and the breast, as well as the crotch, where the thigh meets the torso. Cut a small gash, less then an inch long, but all the way to the bone. This will supposedly allow heat to get into the spots that take the longest to cook. (He also chops off the tips of the drumsticks, which causes the meat to contract up, exposing the thin, white leg bone when it cooks.)

He used a very assertive, mustard-based recipe for coating the bird.

2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
5 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil
salt & pepper

Mix all of these together in a bowl, and slather this sauce all over the bird, on both sides.

He prepared his in the oven, and so his method has you first put the chicken, skin-side down, in a very hot oven-proof skillet, and cook it for 5 minutes, then turning it, and putting it in the oven to cook for 30-40 minutes.


Chicken with Vinegar and Shallots

Thu, Oct 16 • 0

This is apparently a classic french dish, because I found many, many versions of it on the net. (Fricassée de Poulet au Vinaigre et à l’Echalote.) It’s a basic, tasty, braised chicken recipe, which yields a really good gravy, and can be made in about an hour and a half. As an option, you can remove the skin after browning, since it ends up turning kind of distastefully flabby in the braise. You should still add it to the pan since it provides flavor, but discard it before serving.

1 3-lb chicken, cut up into 8 pieces.
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
½ cup red wine vinegar
2 cups red wine
6 large shallots, diced
1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Heat up the oil in a large pot and brown the chicken on all sides. Remove the chicken and take off the skin.

Add the garlic, thyme and bay leaf and cover. Cook on medium heat for 10minutes while gradually adding half of the vinegar, so that it evaporates quickly and steams the meat.

Add the shallots and cover the chicken with the red wine and remaining vinegar. Cover and simmer for about an hour. When chicken is done, remove from pot and place on a warm platter.

Optionally, strain the shallots and garlic out of the sauce, and then whisk butter in and pour over the chicken.


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