Friday, January 26, 2007


Weekend Cookbook Challenge #13 - Tarragon Chicken with Buttered Leeks

  How does one recapture Paris at home? Plenty of cookery books have tried to answer this question, such as the most recent notable, Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris, and Daniel Young's great recipe compilation of The Bistros, Brasseries and Wine Bars of Paris: Everyday Recipes from the Real Paris. I suppose it is really best to wait longer and see what comes to mind. For now though, my angelheart Eric and I miss going to the Coquelicot boulangerie in Montmartre and watching an old lady walk her strangely svelte German Shepherd every morning.

The food in Paris is much like any other city in that there are plenty of hits and misses, both categories in which we did well at striking. France really is known for its hearty fare, pastries (give me a religieuse - coffee or chocolate - any day, any time), and breads. Of course there are those dining institutions that step outside the bounds a little, such as: Fogón, a modern paella and tapas themed restaurant in the bustling Quartier Latin, which served an incredible paella valencia, redolent of pork and saffron; Pitchi Poï, a Jewish restaurant tucked away in a square in what is probably the best place for regular shoppers with a good eye (i.e. those not intent on taking out a second mortgage to shop on the Champs-Elysées or the Rue Saint Honoré), the Marais, which is famous for their blinis and vodkas...and I can vouch for their caramel vodka (!); and L'Écaille de la Fontaine near the gorgeous Opéra Garnier, which serves mostly seafood, so my angelheart Eric was incredibly satisfied - especially with his fat oysters. For traditional fare, the best places we went to were La Poule Au Pot, located near the Louvre, where one is served elegant and substantial mains (my angelheart Eric had a divine braised chicken with morrels, and for dessert I had the most gorgeous profiteroles with pistachio ice cream...Heaven!); and Le Repaire de Cartouche, whose creative chef offered, among other things, lamb terrine with figs and deer on mustard leaves and chanterelles.

The ingredients that most evoke French food to me are tarragon and leeks. So it is on the return from Paris that I use Jerry Traunfeld's fabulous The Herbal Kitchen to not only recreate a little bit of France but also to use as my submission to Weekend Cookbook Challenge #13, for which one is to use their latest acquired cookery book - well, it was the last one I acquired before going to Paris. Mr. Traunfeld's recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but I used bone-in, skin on chicken thighs, which I browned after sprinkling with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper before embarking on the rest of the recipe. When using leeks, make sure to wash them properly because sand settles in the leaves. I chopped the leeks thinly then put them in a bowl of water to rest while the sand sunk to the bottom of the bowl and then repeated the process twice more.

Tarragon Chicken Thighs with Buttered Leeks
(from Jerry Traunfeld's The Herbal Kitchen)

2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and green parts only
2 cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons (56.5g) butter
1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs (or boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
Kosher salt
black pepper, freshly ground
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons coarsley chopped tarragon

1) Put leeks in a large skillet with chicken broth and half of the butter and cook at a gently boil over medium heat until leeks are tender and the broth has boiled down such that the leeks are not completely submerged in the liquid.
2) If using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. If using chicken thighs, do as stated in paragraph preceding the recipe.
3) Place chicken on top of simmering leeks and spoon some of the leeks over the chicken.
4) Cover skillet tightly, reduce flame to low.
5) Check chicken for doneness, approximately 10 minutes if using boneless, skinless chicken breasts (15 minutes if the breasts are large), and 20 minutes if using bone-in, skin on, chicken thighs.
6) When the chicken is done, lift the pieces from the leeks and put on a warm platter.
7) Increase flame under leeks to high and stir in the lemon juice, remaining half of butter, and the tarragon. When the butter melts, taste the sauce and add salt and pepper according to your preference.
8) To serve: Pour leek sauce over chicken pieces.

I love the sharpness of the lemon and the creaminess of the leeks. I am glad that I decided to go with the chicken thighs because they gave a very light crunch, allowing for some play on the tongue; otherwise, it might have been too much like soft hospital food, however tasty.
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Sunday, January 14, 2007


Double Ginger Cake

Ever since I first read Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries I have wanted to make his Double Ginger Cake, which features in the entry for 9 January. It was raining the day Mr. Slater made it; I was preparing for what was to be the end of the latest hot blast of Santa Ana Winds and the onset of a climatic depression. All I wanted to do after reading the 9 January entry was to eat ginger cake, drink coffee, and curl up under the dusky orange glow of my favorite reading lamp with a good book. Finally, I can realize that unambitious dream - or is it indeed ambitious to plan for idle moments in these times of breakneck speed and instant gratification?

This cake, though easy to make, requires patience because Mr. Slater recommends waiting one to two days for the cake to mature. This will allow for the ginger to send out its zing and mellow with the molasses. The recipe does call for items that are not commonly found in the U.S., or at least the places in Southern California that I frequent: stem ginger (preserved ginger in syrup) and golden syrup, both of which can be ordered online, as I did for the ginger syrup. I have Blackstrap molasses, so I used that instead of golden syrup and then used light muscovado sugar when Mr. Slater uses the dark variety. I figured it would all come out in the wash, so to speak. And it did.

Double Ginger Cake
(from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries)

9oz (250g) self-raising/all-purpose flour
2 level teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 level teapspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1 pinch salt
7oz (200g) golden syrup (blackstrap molasses)
2 tablespoons syrup from stem ginger jar
4.5oz (125g) butter
3 lumps stem ginger in syrup, finely diced
2 heaped tablespoons sultanas (I prefer raisins)
4.5oz (125g) dark muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
8oz and 2 tablespoons (240ml) milk

1) Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
2) Sift flour with ground spices, baking soda, and salt.
3) Put butter, golden syrup and stem ginger syrup into a small saucepan and warm over a low heat.
4) Place diced stem ginger into pan, stir, then add sultanas and sugar.
5) Let the mixture bubble gently, stirring occasionally to prevent fruit from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.
6) Break eggs into a separate bowl, pour in milk, and beat gently to combine.
7) Remove butter and sugar mixture from heat and pour into the bowl of dry ingredients, stirring firmly and smoothly.
8) Mix in the egg and milk mixture until all ingredients are combined - sloppy but with no trace of flour.
9) Scoop mixture into lined cake tin (Mr. Slater uses one that measures 8"/20-22cm) and bake for 35-40 minutes.
10) When cake passes the skewer test and unless you are serving it warm, let the double ginger cake cool, then tip it out onto greaseproof paper. Wrap it up in foil, and then leave to mature for 1-2 days.

Instead of using the size tin Mr. Slater recommends, I used a 9.5" LeCreuset stoneware oval baking dish. Judge yourself for the volume. I was not concerned because there was not a high quantity of raising agents, so I knew that the cake would slowly rise, semi-set, then rise again, and as the cake expanded ever so slowly, there was little danger of overflowing the chosen baking vessel.

This cake is now my second made specifically for the purpose of fulfilling my afternoon tea (or coffee in my case) cravings. The cake came out just as Mr. Slater describes, mildly crisp on the top, but dense and moist elsewhere. The rich color of the cake, gorgeously sumptuous dark brown exterior and almost cacao red in the center, alone beckons, but it really is the gorgeous aromas that the cake releases as its baking that really set my heart racing. Heady aromas and gut-filling substance are what Winter baking and cooking is all about for me, even if it is just for afternoon tea.

This will have to be it for just over one week because my angelheart Eric and I are off to Paris. Aside from the standard sight-seeing (it will be Eric's first time), I will be checking out the food...I will no doubt come back suitably recharged...and with a couple more cookery books!

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Friday, January 12, 2007


Arabic Coffee Pot de Creme

I wake up every Wednesday morning in great anticipation. I bolt out of the bed and head to the newstands specifically for the Los Angeles Times' Food section, a hump day highlight. The cookery book, restaurant, and focus ingredient/personality reviews are well-written and informative, as one would expect for one of the country's leading newspapers. Though other sections of the paper, once read, have been used to clean glass, pad valuables in storage, or go immediately into the recycling bin, my pile of the Food section is verging on the scale of the Coit Tower. Because I am concerned about "death by collapse of newspaper tower", I have decided to go trawl through the editions, make clippings, and actually test the recipes.

At the end of the year, the Los Angeles Times reviews the recipes given throughout the year and compiles a top 10 list. On 2006's top 10 is Ana Sortun's Arabic Coffee Pot de Creme, taken from her cookery book Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean. I was intrigued by the Bedouin tradition of combining cardamom and coffee beans - we drink Guatemalan beans (usually French or Vienna roast) that have been roasted by the folks at Jones Coffee Roasters in Pasadena, where my angelheart Eric stops by before the weekend for the next week's coffee supply. Though cremes de pot are served cold, I thought that the coffee would give a warming feeling, perfect for the onset of Winter.

Arabic Coffee Pot de Creme
(first sighted in the 27 December 2006 edition of the Los Angeles Times; original source: Ana Sortun's Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean)

1 cup espresso beans
2 tablespoons whole green cardamom pods
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brewed espresso, cooled
1 1/2 tablespoons very finely ground espresso
1 cup heavy whipping cream (1/2 cup suffices, really)

1) Crush the espresso beans and cardamom pods by placing them together in a plastic bag of sorts and bashing them with something heavy, like a rolling pin. Make sure the beans have the consistency of coarsely chopped nuts and the cardamom pods have been split open.
2) In a medium saucepan, bring the cream, milk, and crushed espresso beans and cardamom pods to a boil, then remove from heat, cover, and let steep for one hour.
3) Heat oven to 300 deg. f. (150 deg. c.).
4) In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.
5) Strain cream (now infused with the coffee and cardamom) into the yolk mixture with a fine mesh sieve.
6) Stir in the brewed espresso and coffee grounds. This is now the coffee creme.
7) When combined, strain again with a sieve to ensure cooked or lumpy yolk is removed.
8) Place eight 4oz ramekins or espresso cups (or, let's be real, whatever size ramekins or oven-proof cups you have) into a baking dish, and then fill the ramekins with the coffee creme.
9) Pour lukewarm water into the baking dish (NOT the ramekins) until it comes halfway up the ramekins.
10) With a teaspoon, skim off any fine bubbles that appear at the top of the coffee creme to ensure a smooth and creamy pot de creme.
11) Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 50-55 minutes.
12) Carefully pull back foil to test for doneness, which is done by shaking the ramekins to see that they are set around the edges but not quite firm in the center.
13) If done, immediately remove ramekins from the baking dish and set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes before placing them in the refrigerator for several hours before serving.
14) When ready to serve, whip the cream, and spoon and smooth out 1 teaspoon of cream per 4oz ramekin over the coffee creme.

As you can see in this photo, I have carved out the creme so you can get a feeling for its dimensions. Though the finely ground coffee beans are numerous, you do not feel their texture at all. The Arabic Coffee Pot de Creme is smooth, floral and coffee-ish in aroma, making for a complex and delicious experience on the palate.
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Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Weekend Cookbook Challenge # 12 - Round-up

It was very kind of Sara at i like to cook to allow me to host a Weekend Cookbook Challenge. It was fun to receive everyone's submissions, mostly on account of the fact that we food bloggers are from all over the world and with varying had completely slipped my mind that some of the entries would come from the Southern Hemisphere, but the skilled bloggers got around that by coming up versatile stews. This gets to the heart of what a stew dish is all about - it is comforting, nourishing, and economical in that it can use what one has on hand. I hope that the theme was enjoyed by all. Now to the fun stuff...

Sara of the delicious i like to cook presents us with two gorgeous entries. The first of which is this Chinese Style Stew, which uses both sherry and tamari. The recipe is adapted from Company's Coming: Stews, Chilies, and Chowders.

Sara's second mouth-watering stew, and continuing her own global theme, is a Moroccan Stew, which is served with a mildly sweet and spicy cinnamon couscous. The recipe also comes from Company's Coming: Stews, Chilies, and Chowders.

Making the most of local ingredients, Maikopunk at It's A Good Thing I'm Book Smart made a gorgeous-looking Chulitna Moosemeat Stew. I'm very curious to know how it tastes. The recipe comes from the Best of the Best from Alaska Cookbook.

If there is anyone that has got the art of stew making under his or her belt, it is Ruth of Once Upon A Feast. This time she has submitted a dish of her own design, an Easy Oven Stew from her cookery book, Every Kitchen Tells Its Stories: Recipes to Warm the Heart.

Rachel at Rachel's Bite has come up with a Crosscut Stump Stew, which serves "one lumberjack or six people". The recipe is taken from comedienne Amy Sedaris' I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence.

Ani at Foodie Chickie delights us with a Donna Hay recipe, Red Thai Beef Curry. The recipe is taken from one of Ms. Hay's most popular cookery books, Donna Hay Classics 1.

From Portland, Oregon, Michelle of Je Mange La Ville submits a gorgeous looking Moroccan Style Chickpea Stew. Her recipe is taken from Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.

After overcoming some functional issues with her crock pot, Breadchick at The Sour Dough sent in a chicken stew that is made with lima beans and egg noodles, Brunswick Stew. The recipe is taken from Mable Hoffman's Crockery Cookery, Revised Edition.

Fellow antipodean, Anh, of Food Lover's Journey provides us living in the Northern Hemisphere with a balmy hit of South East Asia with her stew for all seasons, Vietnamese Fish Braised in Caramel Sauce.

Pavani of Cook's Hideout presents a glorious vegetarian number, Ratatouille. For this much loved stew, Pavani uses a recipe from Best Ever Vegetarian Cookbook, which is edited by Nicola Graimes.

From the South of France, Jennifer at Chez Loulou gives us her Chicken and Dumpling Stew. Unfortunately, Jennifer and her guests ate the stew before Jennifer could take a photo of it (don't worry, I've done that too, Jennifer!), so we are left to imagine the result using the photo of her ingredients as a reference point. The recipe is from Emeril Lagasse's Louisiana Real and Rustic.

Simone at Time To Cook sends us her gorgeous stew, a take on Nigel Slater's Chicken and Stew Mash. The recipe comes from Mr. Slater's wonderful The Kitchen Diaries.

Also using a British cookery book as a guide, Angie over at Asininity, Frivolity, Inanity demonstrates her stewing prowess with Spicy Bean Stew with Sausages. The recipe comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's The River Cottage Family Cookbook.

Ulrike of Küchenlatein has made a stew using lentils, one of my parents' favourite stew ingredients, in her Sweet N Sour Lentil Soup.

Also taking the soup route is Meeta over at What's For Lunch, Honey?. She sends us a colourful Coconut & Mango Soup.

My good friend Freya of the well-written and inspirational Writing At the Kitchen Table delights us with her entry, Lamb Shanks with Pearl Barley and Rioja, a restorative stew if ever there was one. Freya serves this with a vintage species of potato which is actually blue.

Adding to the heartiness of Freya's stew is my Gulyas. The recipe is from Silvena Rowe's Feasts: Food for Sharing from Central and Eastern Europe.

Chris of Experimentation of Taste submits a very hearty-looking Creamy Clam Chowder. The recipe comes from November 2003's edition of Everyday Food.

Lis of La Mia Cucina made good use of the internet to source her dish: She submits a tasty looking Kielbasa Stew.

The theme for Weekend Cookbook Challenge # 13 is to cook anything from your latest acquisition. The deadline is 5 February, 2007. Please send all entries to Sara at iliketocook [at] shaw [dot] ca.

I've already started flipping though my latest cookery book purchase, Jerry Traunfeld's The Herbal Kitchen, and am most excited. Thanks for participating in Weekend Cookbook Challenge # 12, especially while it took place over the holiday period.

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Monday, January 08, 2007


2 Recipes with Buttermilk - Oven-Fried Chicken and Buttermilk, Cinnamon and Pecan Cake

Before the divine poetess Suzanne headed for Paris, she left my angelheart Eric and I with a few items she was afraid would "go off" while abroad. One of these items was buttermilk. I had never used it before but knew about its tanginess. Most buttermilk in the U.S. is of the cultured variety, whereby lactic acid is added to non-fat or low-fat milk, though there are some products in which the lactic acid has been added to whole milk, yielding a much creamier consistency.

 I had never heard of buttermilk before moving to the U.S., so I didn't know what to do with it. Upon its receipt, I recalled an episode of Barefoot Contessa in which Ina Garten marinated chicken pieces in buttermilk before lightly frying and oven-baking them. My angelheart Eric loves fried chicken, though he eats it infrequently, and he suggested we try it this healthier way. I pulled out Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style and promptly set about making the chicken. The only adjustment I made was to the dredging flour to which, in addition to salt, I added Sichuan peppercorns and cumin. The quantities of the recipe serve 2-3.

Oven-Fried Chicken
(from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style)
1 chicken (1.5 pounds/almost 3/4 kg), or your favorite chicken pieces
1/2 quart buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper (we didn't use this on account of the Sichuan peppercorns)
2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, ground
1 tablespoon cumin, lightly toasted then ground
vegetable oil

1) Place chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour buttermilk over them.
2) Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.
3) Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
4) Combine flour, salt, pepper, or Sichuan pepper and cumin in a bowl; this is the dredging flour.
5) Take chicken out of buttermilk and coat each piece in the dredging flour and put aside.
6) Pour oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot (to avoid the splashing of oil over stove top) to a depth of one inch. Heat up to 360 F (185 C).
7) In batches, place pieces of chicken in the oil and fry for about three minutes on each side.
8) Place chicken on a metal baking rack set on a baking sheet, or place chicken on very lightly oiled aluminum lined baking sheet (but the chicken pieces will not turn out as crispy).
9) When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink inside.

In my humble opinion, if you do not add any herbs or spices to the dredging flour, then the chicken is pretty nondescript. The Sichuan peppercorns are quite lemony, and the cumin echoes that really well but on a lower, sort of background note, like a soothing double bass. They are great partners in crime for the dredging flour, giving the final product a little bite and a lot of soul.

The second recipe comes out a desire to enact a late-dawning realization: that I need a sweet hit in the late afternoon with my coffee. In my childhood this was known as afternoon tea. When I'd return home from a hard day at school (from primary right through to high school), there would be a homemade slice of cake or a cookie waiting for me. Once I was done with high school, I was pretty much done with afternoon tea - I was a grown up after all, or so I thought (but that's another story). In the last year or so I have noticed that I start craving for, what I thought was, something to eat at around 3pm. So, I'd just gorge myself on anything I could find: apples, bread, dried figs, walnuts...Sometimes the craving would be satisfied, sometimes it wouldn't. I slowly realized that it is a slice cake or a cookie, a hit of sweetness in a couple of bites, that satisfies the afternoon craving.

Now, back to the story at hand, I have heard of buttermilk being used in baking. For example, it is popularly used in pancake batter in Solvang, the former Danish town that acts as a gateway to Southern California's wine country. Whilst leafing through the (too?) many cookery books in my possession, I came across an interesting recipe in Tamasin Day-Lewis' Tamasin's Kitchen Bible. She, in turn, takes the recipe from Sally Clarke's repertoire. The only change I made was the substitution of pecans for walnuts, which I always seem to have on hand.

Sally Clarke's Buttermilk, Cinnamon and Pecan Cake
(from Tamasin Day-Lewis' Tamasin's Kitchen Bible)

8oz (225g) flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5oz (140g) sugar
5oz (140g) light muscovado sugar
2oz (55g) pecans (or walnuts in my case), chopped
5 fluid oz (150ml) vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1 small egg
8 fluid oz (240ml) buttermilk

1) Heat oven to 325 F (170 C).
2) Mix flour with salt, cinammon, sugars, walnuts (pecans), and oil.
3) Mix in a separate bowl the baking powder, baking soda, egg, and buttermilk.
4) Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and combine until smooth.
5) Pour cake mix into a greased and lined tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes.
6) Test with a skewer, and if skewer is clean, then cool on a rack.

I love watching the cake deflate as it is cooling on a rack. For me, this very moist cake has satisfied the sweet late-afternoon cravings, but do not understand this to mean it is tooth-achingly sweet, for it is not. I love the crunch of the walnuts, the mild spice of the cinnamon, but most of all the moistness that the combination of buttermilk and vegetable oil imparts.
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Friday, January 05, 2007


Beef Bourguignon

  I'm not sure that I have ever had beef Bourguignon before, but it tastes so familiar. There is something about the thickly and juicily coated, oozy meatiness of the cubes of meat that is all too familiar. Are there any Kiwis or Brits out there who can recall similar dishes that "we" make? Even if they can be recalled, I'm sure they do not require as much wine as this one does (1 bottle of a dry red for 3 1/2 to 4 pounds of meat). I was not venturing to make anything traditional; this was just a weeknight stew that I had thought of as a candidate for my submission to the Weekeend Cookbook Challenge, and I followed the simple instructions in a cookery book by contemporary chef Tyler Florence, who is known for amping up the flavors of traditional dishes, usually by introducing ingredients from other cultures.

It is imperative to have well-marbled cubes of beef chuck or beef round. As the fat breaks down, it gives off some liquid for the stew, but mostly its purpose is to keep the meat very moist. My angelheart Eric and I were in a bit of tizz, hurrying around the market, and grabbed the last stewing meat available. Sadly, we were idiotic enough to not really look at the meat until we got home. If you are buying meat for the purpose of making a stew, the marbling factor should not be an after-thought. We were disappointed, to say the least, but we weren't going to use it for anything else (there was some marbling).

Considering the amount of meat, I think Tyler Florence's recipe from Real Cooking calls for too much flour to coat the meat (this acts as a thickening agent for the stew and allows for a slow release of the fat from the meat). That which did not adhere to the meat hung around on the bottom of the dutch oven, and though I scraped and stirred the stew occasionally, this was not enough to break it up. I should have trusted my eyes as I was coating the meat, so I do take some responsibility for this - and for those of you who feel that recipes are just guidelines, then the responsibility for adding too much flour should fall squarely on my shoulders. In my defense, and upon reflection, Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook uses only 2 tablespoons of flour for 2 pounds of meat, and Tamasin Day-Lewis' Tamasin's Kitchen Bible uses 1 1/2 to 2 tablspoons for 1 3/4 pounds of meat. The latter clearly shows that it really depends on the day how much flour the beef absorbs. Lesson learned: Use the flour in this recipe only as a guideline; if no more flour is being absorbed, then cease adding it.

This recipe has been adjusted to feed around 3 people (my angelheart Eric and me, plus leftovers).

Beef Bourguignon
(from Tyler Florence's Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen)

canola oil (we used vegetable oil, actually)
2 bacon slices
2 pounds beef chuck or round, cut in 2" x 2" (5cm by 5cm) cubes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 cup Cognac
1/2 bottle dry red wine (to keep it traditionally flavored, go with a Burgandy)
7 1/4oz low sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Bouquet garni (we used: rosemary, thyme, tarragon, and, mostly, flat-leaf parsley)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup pearl onions, blanched and peeled (or baby onions from the frozen section)
(1/2 pound mushrooms - much to my angelheart's chagrin, I omitted this from the stew because I do not enjoy mushrooms at all; I did add 1/4 pound peeled carrots)
pinch of sugar (to balance out the red wine's acidity)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
flat-leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish

1) Put a Dutch oven over medium heat and drizzle 1 teaspoon of oil.
2) Fry the bacon until it is crisp, then remove it to a paper towel for later usage.
3) Brown the beef well in oil and bacon fat in batches. Do not crowd the pot or the meat will not brown properly but will start stewing, thereby ruining the slow time release of the fat in the beef, rendering the beef dry.
4) Once the meat is browned, put it all back in the pot and sprinkle the flour over it. Stir to make sure it is well-coated.
5) Pour in the Cognac and stir to scrape up bits on the bottom of the Dutch oven.
6) Once the alcohol has mostly evaporated, pour in the red wine and beef broth, followed by the tomoto paste and bouquet garni. Stir everything together.
7) Bring the pot up to a simmer and cook until the liquid starts to thicken, yielding a consistency like that of a sauce, approximately 15 minutes.
8) Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour.
9) Uncover the pot, add the garlic, onions, carrots (and mushrooms, if using), and sugar.
10) Season with salt and pepper.
11) Turn heat up to medium-low and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until meat and vegetables are tender.
12) Remove bouqet garni, stir in the butter.
13) Serve with flat-leaf parsley and crumbled bacon bits as garnish.
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Thursday, January 04, 2007


Weekend Cookbook Challenge # 12 - Gulyas

  Other than Middle Eastern food, my other great food love are those from Central and Eastern Europe. I love the combinations of sour cherries and almonds, horseradish and beets with sour cream, caraway seeds and basil...One of my favorite cookery book purchases last year was Silvena Rowe's Feasts: Food for Sharing from Central and Eastern Europe, an overview of regional dishes and styles (a review will soon follow - it has been a while since I gave one!).

In Feasts, Gulyas (goulash) is given as a soup, but I doubled the amount of meat to make it more of a stew to satisfactory results. Amongst many foodies, there is much concern about being "authentic". Because gulyas is a national dish, it is difficult to find the definitive recipe. This is a dish that has been passed down from one generation to the next, with each family and region shaping the dish to its own tastes or to what is available. There are, however, the markings that define a gulyas: green peppers, caraway seeds, and loads of paprika, which gives it not only heat and sweetness, but the famous scarlet gorgeousness for which the dish is internationally recognized.

(from Silvena Rowe's Feasts: Food for Sharing from Central and Eastern Europe)

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 pounds good stewing beef, cut into 1 1/4 inch (3 cm) cubes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
4 tablespoons noble (sweet) paprika
4 pints (2 1/4 litres) water
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 sweet green peppers, seeded and thinly chopped
1 pound potatoes
salt and pepper

1) Heat vegetable oil over medium heat in a dutch oven/heavy-bottomed casserole.
2) Add onion and saute until translucent.
3) Add beef and saute with onion until browned.
4) Stir in garlic and caraway seeds.
5) Remove dutch oven from heat and add paprika (otherwise it will turn bitter), and stir constantly until it is well absorbed by the meat.
6) Add the water, bring to a boil, then simmer for approximately one hour. Check that the meat is cooked to your liking before proceeding.
7) Add tomatoes, pepper, and potatoes, followed by salt and pepper.
8) Simmer for 30 minutes, then serve hot.

"Traditionally" one serves this with dumplings, but my angelheart Eric and I helped ourselves to toasted garlic bread. You should all know by now how much my angelheart and I love hearty food, and that is what makes this stew such a natural choice for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge. Because each ingredient is quite different, there is a trace of them all in each bite, including that one little teaspoon of bitter and mild anise flavor of the caraway seeds. The stew smells wonderful, tastes incredible, and hits the spot.

May your stewing be as enjoyable!
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Tuesday, January 02, 2007


40-Clove Garlic Chicken

  One of the most warming aromas from the kitchen is the is the combination of garlic and rosemary - bolstering and soothing. My angelheart Eric could not survive without garlic, and, over the years, I find that I have often come to say "this needs more garlic". After a visit to the farmers' market on Friday, arms laden with garlic, we set about making a garlic-lovers' classic: 40-Clove Garlic Chicken, which is an opus in terms of the use of garlic: roasted, in a marinade, in a really do use about 40 cloves of garlic...Heaven!

This dish requires a little preparation because timing is everything. You want the chicken, sauce, and roasted garlic all nice and hot. Each step, however, is really simple and the payoff is undeniable.

40-Clove Garlic Chicken
(from Andrea Froncillo and Jennifer Jeffrey's The Stinking Rose Restaurant Cookbook)

1 large chicken spearated into breast and leg pieces, approximately 2.5 pounds (you could, of course, just as easily just buy your favourite chicken pieces)
1 1/2 cups roasted garlic

For the marinade, combine together in a small bowl:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Leaves from 1 sprig rosemary, minced
salt and pepper

For the sauce:
1 cup dry red wine
1 shallot, quartered
4 cloves garlic, chopped
leaves from 1 sprig rosemary, minced
leaves from 2 sprigs thyme, minced
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
salt and pepper

To make the roasted garlic:
1) Preheat oven to 250 deg. f.
2) Combine 2 cups of garlic and 1 cup of olive oil in a heavy saucepan over low heat for 40 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
3) Transfer the garlic to a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and a bit wrinkly, approximately 20-30 minutes.

To make the marinade:
1) Combine ingredients in a bowl.

To bake the chicken:
1) Put chicken pieces into a resealable bag, pour the marinade into the bag and work hands over bag until liquid coats all the pieces. Alternatively, you could put chicken pieces in a bowl, pour the marinade over the pieces and use your hands to coat all of the pieces with the marinade, and then cover bowl with cling film.
2) Put either the resealable bag or cling film-covered bowl into the fridge for 1-3 hours.
3) Preheat oven to 350 deg. f.
4) Put chicken ina heavy baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.
5) Remove baking dish from oven, turn the chicken over and bake for a further 20 minutes, until skin is crackly and golden brown and chicken flesh is done.

To make the sauce:
1) In a heavy saucepan, combine wine, shallot, garlic, rosemeary, and thyme. Bring to a boiul over high heat, then decrease to medium-low and stir occassionally for 2-3 minutes.
2) Gradually stir in the cream and cook to reduce liquid by one-third, approximately 10 minutes.
3) Add butter in batches, stirring to melt.
4) Season with salt and pepper.
5) Pauce sauce through a fine-meshed sieve, cover, and set aside until chicken has come out of the oven.

To assemble:
1) Arrange the baked chicken pieces on a serving dish.
2) Pour the warm sauce over the chicken.
3) Sprinkle with roasted garlic cloves.

All the best for 2007!
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Monday, January 01, 2007


Alaskan Colossal Sea Crab and Eggs Benedict

  Happy New Year!

For most westerners, New Year's Day is usually the day in which the point is to rid oneself of his or her hangover. Following that, one usually commits to fulfilling as many of the new year's resolutions made the night before as possible. Remarkably, the fridge is cleaned, the dirty laundry is off the floor, the blinds are dusted...And that's usually where the enthusiasm for the do-good resolutions ends - if not then, certainly within a couple of weeks thereafter. This year I decided not to make any resolutions. In fact, if anything, my angelheart Eric and I had a lunch of utter decadence to celebrate this New Year's Day, the diametric opposite to what the beginning of the new year is for most people: diets and exercise. Truthfully, I do enough exercise for me (yoga four times a week), and though I do not always eat sensibly, I do not usually overeat except on occasions (not the orthodox ones, mind you; usually, the occasions are "because I feel like it", "you're not the boss of me", and "I've been good all week").

Today's special lunch, laissez-faire table-setting aside, was all for the occasion of "because we feel like it". We rarely spend the first day of the new year on our own, so it was a real treat to leisurely play in the kitchen together.

The Alaskan Colossal Sea Crab has the biggest legs you ever did see on a crab with very sweet and substantial meat, which is usually best dipped into a hot sauce or a melted compound butter (ours had chopped parsley). Simply, one need do no more than boil the legs in salted water with half a lemon for approximately 10 minutes.

As for the eggs benedict, they have always been a favorite start to the morning for me. I had never made them before today, but I wanted them anyway. I'm sure no one needs a recipe for these, but I consulted Nigella Lawson's How To Eat for her hollandaise sauce, adjusted the recipe for two, and made the sauce accordingly. I love hollandaise for both its sharpness and richness, but it is fairly flexible in that you can use more or less lemon juice according to your own penchant or dislike for a citrus spike.

Hollandaise Sauce
(from Nigella Lawson's How To Eat)

1 stick of butter (113 grams), cubed
2 egg yolks
juice of 1/4 of 1 lemon
salt and pepper

1) Put egg yolks in a bowl and place bowl over another bowl (or pan) into which 1 inch (2.5cm) of water has been placed. The bowl containing the yolks should not touch the water.
2) As the water is getting to a simmer, whisk yolks constantly.
3) When the water is simmering, gradually whisk the butter into the egg yolks one cube at a time.
4) When the sauce is thick, add the lemon juice, then salt and pepper to taste, whisking all the time.
5) Place the bowl into another bowl or pan, this time containing tepid water, and this time the bowl containing the sauce can touch the water (the purpose is to keep the sauce warm).
6) Before serving, beat the eggs again as it may separate out a bit in the warming process. If curdling occurs, put an ice cube in the sauce and whisk it in to bring down the temperature.

My hint for poached eggs comes from the much adored (by me, anyway) "basics" section at the back of Gary Rhodes' The Cookery Year. Fill up a deep saucepan with water (or replace one-third of the water with vinegar) and bring it to a rapid boil. When it is boiling, use the end of a wooden spoon to create a circular motion in the water. Drop the eggs in one at a time. The spinning water will cause the egg whites to collect and settle around the yolks. If you are a little timid, spiral then drop one egg in, spiral again then drop another egg in, etc. Or you could just do one at a time, transfering each poached egg to a plate as you go. In that case, if you want to reheat them, bring water to rapid boil again, then drop the poached eggs in for one minute.

I do not advocate this as a lunch for anyone on a regular basis. It was all too rich for us, but we didn't care. It may indeed clog our arteries for a while (lots of egg yolks and butter, in addition to whatever cholesterol is increased on account of eating the crab), but that is a consequence with which we can live. The champagne that we had with the crab and eggs benedict made for cleaning and drying the palate between flavorful mouthfuls, allowing for transcendental enjoyment of each decadent mouthful.

May you have a happy, peaceful, and prosperous new year.
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