Hook, Line and Sinker

Wed, Mar 4 • 0

Ok. So I fell for it.

I watched Jacques Pepin make chili con carne in an electric pressure cooker. I didn’t even know these things existed. I’d been contemplating purchasing a regular pressure cooker for awhile now. I added one to my Amazon shopping cart; I turned down the corner of the page in the Sur la Table catalog … but nothing pushed me over the edge until I watched this cooking show.

He just poured the dried beans into the pot right out of the bag. He added raw hamburger, and water and canned tomatoes and tomato paste and spices. He clamped on the lid, and said that he’d have chili in an hour. (I’ve snipped out just the parts where he demonstrates the chili recipe … the first video is the prep, and the second one shows him serving it. The whole episode is here.)

I looked on the internet, and saw recipes for pot roast in less than an hour. Chicken stock in 40 minutes. I read that this cooker let you brown your meat in it first without making you dirty up another pan. It also has a setting that lets you simmer the contents once the pressure is off, to keep it warm. Contrary to his demonstration, it really doesn’t seem to be designed to let you put the ingredients in, then go off to work or the store, and have it wait, and then turn itself on 45 minutes before you get home. Instead, the timer is more a way to limit the amount of time the food cooks under pressure — the device will build up the pressure, cook for the time you’ve set on the timer, and then shut off. (On re-reading the manual, it’ll cook for the allotted time, and then switch to “simmer” mode — so I guess you could set it up, let it cook, and then it’ll keep warm all day long while you were shopping or at work.)

Well, of course I had to have one. I had some credit built up on Amazon, so I ordered it.

And then I re-watched the cooking show, and only then realized that the whole damn show is sponsored by Cuisinart, the people who make the electric pressure cooker. What’s more, the unsweetened chocolate he puts in is made by yet another of his sponsors. I realized I’d been bamboozled. Oh, Jacques! How could you? If anyone would resist being a infomercial pitch-man, it’d be you.

So, the cooker showed up this afternoon, and I was tempted to make dinner using it, but then I figured I should wait and try some of the recipes from the little cookbook that came with it, instead of just winging it. I don’t have much buyer’s remorse. I’m still glad I bought it, but the proof will be in the pudding.

Cuisinart CPC-600 1000-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker, $149

Jacques Pepin’s No-knead Bread

Sun, Jan 4 • 4

2½ cups lukewarm water
a couple teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon yeast
4 cup  flour

Combine in a non-stick pot, stir with a spatula until gooey dough forms. Put on lid, and proof at room temp for 60-90 minutes. Stir the dough to break the first rise. Put on lid, and refrigerate overnight for 10-14 hours. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool and deflate, and remove from pan.

If you want to watch him demonstrate the recipe,
Keep reading…

Roast Beast

Sun, Dec 21 • 0

I just tried a new technique for taking a relatively inexpensive cut of beef (the eye round roast) and turning it into a juicy and flavorful roast beef dinner. As usual for the meals I post about here, it’s not fast, since it takes about 30 hours total, but it’s definitely easy. Note: If your roast is smaller (2-3 lbs, 1 kilo), use 2 teaspoons; bigger than that, use 3 teaspoons of salt.

2-4 lb. (1-2 kilos) eye round beef roast, tied
2-3 teaspoons kosher salt (half that for table salt)
2 teaspoons fresh black pepper
3 teaspoons vegetable oil

42-17660079The day before: Remove the roast from the packaging, and coat all sides with the salt. Wrap it up in plastic wrap, and return it to the fridge, on a plate to catch any escaping liquid, and let marinate for 18 to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 225º/110º c. Remove the plastic wrap and rinse the excess salt off, then dry the meat off on paper towels. Coat the roast with 1 teaspoon of the oil, and apply the pepper to all sides of the roast. The oil will help the pepper stick. Put the remaining oil in a cast iron pan, and sear the roast on all sides, about 3 minutes each side.

Why tie a roast?  First, to keep it in a uniform shape so that it cooks evenly, and second, to hold in stuffing. Be sure to only use butcher’s twine or reusable silicone bands.

Put the roast on a rack in a roasting pan, and cook it for about an hour and a half, or until a thermometer reads 115º/46ºc. for medium rare. Turn off the heat, and let the roast sit in the cooling oven for another 30-45 minutes, where the internal temperature should be 130º/55ºc. Remove the roast from the oven, and let rest at room temperature for another 15 minutes, then remove the butcher’s twine, and slice crosswise, slicing as thin as possible.

Mysterious Food on the Internets

Wed, Dec 10 • 0

twinkiesDaily Lunch is a japanese site detailing one obsessive artist’s lunch box, and their artistic creative presentations.

How frozen pizzas are made. What’s in a twinkie?

(Amazing. Twinkies have been around for 78 years! They’ve been around as long as the Chrysler Building, in New York, and Betty Boop. Here are more events from 1930.)

Cornbread Stuffed Pork Roast with Pomegranate Glaze

Sun, Dec 7 • 0

I bet you could replace the whole sage with fresh thyme in both or either parts of this recipe with good results. And if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making the glaze, I’m thinking that a little chicken stock heated with some orange marmalade or apricot preserves, to make it a little more spreadable, might be just as good. The measurements given were for a small roast, but it’d be easy enough to feed a larger crowd with increased quantities and a heavier roast.


½ small onion, sliced
5-10 whole sage leaves
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
1 cup pomegranate juice
2 cloves garlic, bruised
¼ cup dried cranberries

In a saucepan, brown the onion with the sage leaves and coriander seeds in a little olive oil. Once softened, add the remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Lower the head and, simmer for 20 minutes, until the liquid is reduced to a¼ cup. Strain and cool.

Roast :

½ small onion
5-10 whole sage leaves, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup cornbread, broken into small chunks
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
¼ cup chicken stock. white wine, or water
salt & pepper
2 lb. pork loin roast

In a small frying pan, soften the onions, garlic, and red bell pepper. Allow it to cool, and move it to a bowl,   then break up the cornbread, and add the rest, (except for the salt, pepper and meat). Mix gently to combine.

Take the roast and carefully slice it so you make a ½ inch thick flap of meat on the top, being careful not to cut all the way through. Turn your knife, and slice it again in the opposite direction, so you make another ½ inch flap on the bottom side. Unfold it, and keep slicing until you have, roughly, a ½ inch thick rectangle of meat. Generously salt and pepper, and slather on the cornbread stuffing mixture. Roll the meat back up, and tie with butcher’s twine. (Don’t worry if a good deal of the stuffing oozes out as you do this.

Preheat the oven to 325°, and heat up an oven safe (cast iron) frying pan on the stove top. Add a little olive oil, and once it starts shimmering, brown the roast over medium high heat, turning it every 4 or 5 minutes … about 15 minutes total. Once you turn it to the last side, put the pan into the oven, and let it roast for 30 minutes. Remove it, and check the temperature, and glaze it on all sides. Return it to the oven, and repeat the glazing step every 20 minutes until the roast has the internal temperature of 150°. Remove the roast from the oven, and let it rest, covered with foil, for another 10 or 15 minutes. Remove the twine, and cut into ½ inch slices.

My Turkey Plans

Tue, Nov 25 • 1

image courtesy of Corbis.com

(Note : Updated 11/26)

I usually don’t have to give much thought to serving Thanksgiving, since we’ve gone to my in-laws for the last decade, without fail. Aside from one year, when I decided to try and mix things up and do a deep fried turkey, my wife’s grandmother usually takes care of all the details.

Well, this year, a surprise. Without really thinking through all of the ramifications, I dutifully entered the daily give-away for a D’Artagnan organic, free-range turkey over on Serious Eats blog. I didn’t really think about the possibility that I’d actually win. Well, win I did, and so just a day or two before we head out on the 8-hour car ride, this bird is going to show up on my doorstep. I’m assuming it will be arriving fresh, not frozen, and the contest claims it will be a 12 to 14 pound bird.

My plan is to put it into a brine almost as soon as I receive it (recipe below), tucked inside a large zip-lock, and surrounded by ice in a cooler, in which it will travel on the car trip. Then, based on the recommendations of Gourmet Magazine, I went out and purchased one of those cheap-looking enameled turkey roasters with a lid. If all goes well, I will roast it on Friday morning for our delayed holiday dinner. A 14 pound bird won’t be enough to feed the whole crew, but we’ll be serving a whole ham, plus the usual amount of sides, so I hope it’ll all be enough.

Update: 11/26 — The bird arrived. 16½ lbs. It’s brining now. I ended up making a double batch to make sure there was enough to cover the bird in the cooler.

Here’s the brine recipe :

2 quarts apple juice or cider
1 lb brown sugar (dark or light)
1 cup kosher salt
4 lbs ice (“a pint’s a pound the world around.”)
1 quart water
3 oranges, quartered
4 ounces fresh ginger, thinly sliced
15 whole cloves
6 bay leaves
6 garlic cloves, crushed

Bring apple juice, sugar and salt to a boil over high heat, and add the ice to cool the cider down to room temperature. Add remaining ingredients, squeezing the oranges. Brine turkey for at least 24 hours. Quantity is sufficient for a 14 pound turkey.

Regarding brining bags … don’t scrimp. I originally tried using the 3 gallon zip-lock bags for my turkey, but it was too tight a fit; I was afraid huge sections of the bird were just sealed off from the brine liquid. So I went to a cooking supply store and bought bags specifically made for brining turkeys. Sure, they cost twice as much as the giant zip locks, but the bag is made of a thicker mil of plastic, and I felt like the double zip tops were sturdier and less apt to fail — which the zip lock bags did, a couple of times (one turn of the bird, and I lost half of the brine to the cooler). If you are using a plastic bag, be sure to remove as much air from the top of the bag as you can before sealing it up.

What are your Thanksgiving plans?

Lamb and Wild Rice with Roasted Autumn Vegetables

Fri, Sep 26 • 0

A good project for a lazy Sunday. It will fill your place up with some great aromas.

This recipe is a mixture of rich, tender roasted pumpkin, flavorful root vegetables, and earthy lamb and wild grains, and is based on something I saw in the October ’08 Everyday Food magazine. In their version, it’s rigitoni instead of rice, and it’s goat cheese instead of chunks of braised lamb shank.

You’ll need to decide what to use for your braising liquid. I chopped up 1 onion, 1 stalk of celery, a handful of baby carrots, 2 crushed garlic cloves, and a tablespoon of fresh rosemary leaves in 2 cups chicken stock, but I bet you could get by with two cups of good red wine. Later, I used a rustic multi-grain rice mix I found in the store, but you could substitute it with your favorite, though I think brown rice would work better than Uncle Ben’s. I made this over the course of 2 days — braising the lamb the first day, and doing the rest the second day. It’s probably not a recipe you want to make after a long day at work, but it would be a good project for a lazy Sunday, or you could make most of it days in advance, and then put it all together for a weeknight dinner.

2 lamb shanks, trimmed of silver skin
some kind of flavorful braising liquid (see above)
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon oil

1 medium sugar pumpkin (about 3 pounds)
3 shallots
1 fennel (anise) bulb
salt and pepper
several fresh sage leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup multigrain rice mixture
1½ cups chicken stock

Braising the lamb shank :

Preheat the oven to 325°. Trim the silver skin off the shanks by slipping the point under the shiny whitish layer that covers the meat, and remove it in long strips to reveal the red meat below. Trim off the really big blobs of fat, too. Season with salt and pepper, and brown them on all sides over medium heat on the stovetop, about 8 minutes. Remove the shanks, and brown your braising vegetables if you’re using any, and add the liquid, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan (aka deglazing). Return the shanks to the pan, cover, and cook in the oven for 1½-2 hours. Remove the shanks, and cool enough to handle, then pull the meat off the bones, removing any fat and gristle, and set aside.

Roasting the vegetables :

While the lamb is cooking, peel, seed and chop the pumpkin into 1 inch cubes. Cut off the stalks and fronds of the fennel, and then slice the fennel bulb 8 ways, diagonally, but so each wedge retains a bit of the core, so they’ll stay together. Peel the shallots, and cut them in half or quarters depending on the size, still trying to keep each part connected to the core. Toss all of this in a bowl with the salt, pepper, sage leaves, and olive oil, and spread on a foil-lined cookie sheet and roast in a 425º oven for about an hour, tossing after 30 minutes, and checking every 5 minutes for the last 15 to make sure nothing is burning.

Putting it all together:

Prepare the rice according to the instructions. (If you did what I did, and made the other two parts of this recipe earlier, you can reheat the lamb and the vegetables in the same pan as the rice by using a steamer basket.)

Combine all, and taste for seasoning.

Pickling in the News

Thu, Aug 28 • 0

“[P]ickles are kind of show-offy, even more so than bread. If you make your own, for some reason, it really knocks people out.”

The Washington Post has a longish article on a local woman who is starting a small business venture producing her own pickles. It details a few recipes (spicy dill pickle spears, dilled green beans) as well as general tips on keeping your canning process sterile to avoid the possibility of foodborne illnesses.

“First she sterilizes jars in boiling water that’s at least an inch over the top of the jars for 10 minutes… You want to take jars out of the water one by one, so they stay sterilized… a cooled jar has a greater chance of cracking once the ingredients hit it… Do not reuse lids… Before sealing, she removes air bubbles with a nonmetallic stick such as a skewer, a chopstick or the plastic one that comes with most canning kits. Metallic ones are more apt to break the glass.

Compound Butters

Thu, Aug 21 • 0

I had a huge bunch of organic dill sitting on my counter, waiting to shrivel and dry up, so I decided to make a compound butter — I tossed the dill, a shallot, some salt, and some softened butter into the food processor and gave it a whirl.

The idea is to mix flavorful additives with softened unsalted butter and then wrap it up in plastic wrap and allow the butter to solidify again, most recipes suggest putting it in the freezer, where it will keep for up to three months. Then, you take it out, slice off a piece, and dress up something that would be otherwise bland without it. A fish fillet or chicken breast, or even just dinner rolls. There are savory and sweet versions, and the variations abound. I did a quick search on google and came up with these variations…

Keep reading…

Different Ways to Coat a Cutlet

Thu, Aug 14 • 0

Flour, egg, and then what?

You’re confronted with it every time you want to cook up a cutlet, whether it is a chicken breast, a turkey cutlet, or a fillet of fish. A batter dip is an option, but I usually go with the basic procedure that’s always the same : season the cutlet with salt, pepper, and whatever spice mix you like; dredge in a light coating of flour; dip in beaten egg; and then what?

Dried bread crumbs are one option, but as Jacques Pepin demonstrated in his television series, Fast Food, My Way, it takes about 8 pieces of dried bread to make a half cup of dried bread crumbs, while the same amount of fresh bread will make 2 or 3 cups of fresh crumbs. Consider the calories, especially when you’re frying your cutlet in oil. Those dried bread crumbs will soak up much more oil than fresh bread crumbs would.

Panko is a good alternative – one I use often. In Japan, panko refers to all bread crumbs. Here in the states, it refers to a white, dried, coarse bread crumb that is lighter than traditional packaged dried bread crumbs, and when cooked, give you a lighter, airy coating that browns really well. Most supermarkets carry panko in their international section.

Cracker crumbs are a good option, too. Either saltines, or the buttery Ritz crackers, whizzed to a fine powder in your food processor. These have the same downside as dried breadcrumbs, but I find they add more flavor. Instead of on a cutlet, I’ll sometimes use these on a casserole, like baked macaroni and cheese.

Corn flakes are a good option, again, whizzed in the food processor. Or potato chips. Or nacho chips. All of these provide a good crunch, and give a flavor you can’t get with plain bread crumbs. When I fry chicken, I’ll skip the egg and breadcrumbs, and marinate the chicken parts in buttermilk, and then dip them in seasoned flour. A southern touch would be to dip them in a mixture of flour and cornmeal, but I’ve also seen recipes that have you dip it in the ground corn flakes.

Ground nuts, like pecans, almonds, or macadamias, are also a good option. I’ll usually mix these, 50/50 with bread crumbs, since they tend to burn too quickly and go bitter if you’re not careful.

Finally, here’s an unusual one that works surprisingly well — mashed potato flakes. I have a package of the instant mashed potatoes for soley this purpose. I find it works really well on fish filets. It gives a uniform coating that sticks well on the fillets. The catfish fillets pictured here were coated in potato flakes, and fried in a mix of butter and canola oil.

Have you got a technique for coating filets that I haven’t mentioned? Please leave a comment!

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