Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Fun with Pork Chops

Two fun, fast little recipes I want to share!

Pork Chops smothered w/carmelized onion and mustard cream sauce

Pan fry your pork chops. Meanwhile saute in olive oil, one medium onion, sliced, until they start to carmelize. If you have it, throw in some fresh chopped rosemary and thyme, plus salt and pepper. Lower heat and stir in one tablespoon of grainy, Dijon mustard. Swirl in about two tablespoons of cream, heat through. If a little thin, let simmer for a minute or two until it thickens. Spoon sauce over finished chops! Served with steamed green beans and rice.

Pork chops w/rosemary & shallot sauce

Yep, we had pork chops and rosemary in the fridge! They needed to be used up.

Pan fry your pork chops. When done, set aside on a warm plate. Throw into the pan, two medium shallots, sliced. If the pan is a little dry, add a little olive oil. Toss in chopped rosemary and black pepper. When the shallots are softened, deglaze the pan with about 1/4 cup of red wine. When reduced, add about one cup of beef broth. Stir up all the bits on the bottom of the pan. Simmer until reduced. Enrich the sauce with a pat of butter. Return the chops to the pan to coat. Serve and spoon the sauce over the top! Served with oven roasted fingerling potatoes tossed in rosemary.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Potato Pillows

I first had gnocchi while I was in grad school many moons ago. A group of us were feeling the need for a nice dinner out; i.e. not diner/deli/bar food, so we went to Filomena's in Georgetown for some pasta!

Someone ordered gnocchi and I was curious and asked if I could try a bit. WOW! Little airy pasta pillows, and these were served in a tomato cream sauce. To Die For! I found out later that they were made with potatoes!

My curiosity was piqued and I wanted to try making them myself. Didn't work! The gnocchi had the right shape, mostly...but when I cooked them, they dissolved in the pot. Bad.

Fast forward to Thursday night, I met up with Sterfanie for a bite before a special documentary film program downtown. We went into the bar at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue for some wine and nibbles. We split the mini-burgers (YUM) and a bowl of gnocchi. (Delish!) So delish...I had to try to make them this weekend.

Lidia's Gnocchi
Lidia's Family Table
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 lb russet potatoes
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 - 2 cups flour
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmiagano Reggiano (my addition)

Making and Shaping the Gnocchi
Boil the potatoes in water to cover until tender when poked with a fork. Don't let them overcook to the point that their skins split. Drain.

As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and put them through a ricer or vegetable mill, using the medium disk and letting the shreds fall onto a large baking tray or board. Spread them out, sprinkle on the salt, and let them dry out and cool for at least 20 minutes.

Pour the beaten egg over the potatoes, and then 1 cup of flour. Add the grated cheese if you wsh. Gather the mass together and knead, adding a little more flour as necessary to make the dough hold together. But keep it light; the more you work the dough, the more flour you'll need, and you don't want to incorporate too much or the gnocchi will be heavy and dry. A good criterion: slice the mass in half and examine the texture. It should look like cookie dough pepper with small holes.

Cut the dough into three equal pieces. Roll out each portion into a broomstick about 18 inches long, then cut crosswise into 2/3 inch pieces and toss them lightly in flour.

Take one piece of gnocchi and place it, cut side down, on the tines of a fork, then with your lightly floured thumb press into it, at the same time pushing it off the end of the fork and onto a floured board. The gnocchi should have an indentation where your thumb was, and ridges from the fork tines on the other side. Repeat with all the remaining pieces, cover with a clean towel. At this point, they should be cooked immediately or quickly frozen.

Cooking the Gnocchi

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Drop the gnocchi, five or six at a time, into the boiling water--the larger the pot, the less time they will take to return to the boil. Once they have, cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until they plump up and float to the surface, when done, they will have a softer feel and will no longer thump against the side of the pan as you fish them out with a strainer or slotted spoon. Drop them gently from your strainer into the waiting sauce.

There you have it friends. Go forth and make your own gnocchi!!! This wasn't bad. I wouldn't do it on a weeknight. They do take a little bit of time. The potatoes took about 30 minutes or so to get tender. Then the cooling. I think I had a good 40-50 minutes just doing that?! The making of the gnocchi didn't take too long, but it was messy. I got flour everywhere! But they only took about 2 minutes to cook, which rocked. As you saw in the teaser and the first photo of this post, I dressed my gnocchi in some fresh pesto and mixed in some blanched green beans! Delicious, Filling, Veggie friendly and not bad for you! Starchy, but not to bad on the fat. For the two of us, I only made about 1/2 of the gnocchi, and we were stuffed.

Another note from Lidia's Family Table:
Freezing Gnocchi

Spread the gnocchi out, not touching, on a floured baking pan or whatever will fit in your freezer, and freeze them. When they are solid--in about 2 hours--gather them together, shake off excess flour, and sotre them in sealed plastic bags for future use. They will keep for up to 6 weeks.

To cook frozen gnocchi, do half a batch at a time and double the amount of cooking water. Because they are frozen, the cooking-water temperature drops, and if there are too many in the pot they will disintegrate before the water returns to the boil.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mashed Potato Mashed Potato

Little Love Pillows
with blanched green beans in pesto

Homemade gnocchi make me fat!

I can't stop eating them. Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Carbonara OMG

Oh my dear dear heart! How I love thee. Why do I insist on killing you with Spaghetti Carbonara? Why o Why? Because you're just so darn good!

Spaghetti Carbonara

serves 4
Tyler Florence's Tyler's Ultimate

Kosher Salt
8 bacon slices, cut crosswise into strips
1 onion, chopped
4 large eggs
6 TB heavy cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 lb spaghetti
fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

SCOTT'S NOTE: Due to the nature of the cooking of this dish, don't eat if you are a child, elderly or pregnant. The eggs are probably not cooked to the desired temperature per Food Police's recommendations. Also stay away if you are on a heart healthy diet! And another note...again, due to the nature of cooking, try to have the best, fresh ingredients you can get your hands on!

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti

Heat a 3-count of olive oil in a skillet over medium-heat. Add the bacon and onion and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until the onion is carmelized and the bacon is crisp. While that's going on, crack the eggs into a big serving bowl. Add the cream and the cheese and whisk. Scrap the bacon and onion into the bowl along with the cooking fat.

By now your pasta water has come to a boil. Throw in the spaghetti and give it a stir to separate the strands; cook for 8 to 9 minutes, until al dente. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and add that to the bowl with the bacon and eggs. Then drain the spaghetti, add it to the bowl, and give everything a toss. Invert a plate on top of the bowl to hold in the heat and let the pasta set for 5 minutes. Remove the plate and toss some salt and lots of cracked black pepper and the parsley, and boom: you've got spaghetti carbonara!

ANOTHER NOTE FROM SCOTT: In the future, I will probably cook the bacon first and then cook the onions in the bacon fat. I was worried about not having the bacon cook completely and then having burnt onions. Reserve some of the bacon/onion mixture and sprinkle over the top of the plated spaghetti. When the bacon/onion mix is added early to the eggs, they tend to sink to the bottom of the bowl and don't really incorporate well enough. And the inverting a plate thing...I didn't do it...and it turned out fine.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Chai Cheesecake

A few weeks ago when I was at the doctor, I was flipping through a copy of Bon Appetit while waiting...and waiting...and waiting! Finally I had my name called, but by that point, the magazine was interesting...I took it with me to read when I got to the exam room...cuz you know I was going to have to wait in there as well...sure enough...another 10 minutes...well, at that point I found a few recipes that I really wanted to try...the biggest one and one I've never done before...cheesecake! The magazine came home with me.

Well, I've given it a shot. Lots of work. Plenty of time. Final verdict...it's pretty dang good!! It's satisfying. Filling. Rich. Spicy and Creamy! The crust was a little over done...but you'll see some other crust issues as you scroll on. So for a first time cheese cake...I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out.

Chai-Spiced Cheesecake with Ginger Crust
Serves 12
from Bon Appetit, February 2007

Non-stick spray
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger

4 8oz blocks of cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 8oz container mascarpone cheese
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1 1/3 cups sour cream
3 TB sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the crust:
Spray 9 inch springform pan with 3 inch sides with non9stick spray. Sift flour, ginger and salt into a medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another medium bowl until blended. Beat in egg yolk, then flour mixture. Stir in crystallized ginger. Gather dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Transfer to prepared pan. Press onto bottom and 1 inch up sides of pan; pierce all over with form. Freeze 30 minutes.

The crust is all pressed into place. The recipe called for rolling the dough into a round. I didn't find that necessary. The dough is very soft and presses into place easily.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350. Line crust with foil; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until set, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Bake crust until golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Cool crust complete on rack.

Prepared to "blind bake."

Huh? That didn't work. After the time required, I lifted the dried lentils and foil out of the pan and it took half the crust with it??!!? BOO!

But I decided to move forward anyway...no sense trying to start over...besides I wouldn't have enough eggs to do another batch of crust.

For the filling:
Preheat oven to 350. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add mascarpone; beat until smooth. Beat in whole eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in yolks. Add next 6 ingredients; beat until blended. Transfer filling to cooled crust in pan; smooth top.

I tasted the batter...wow! Like a thick, extra-creamy chai tea!

Bake cake 1 hour. Reduce oven temperature to 200. Continue backing until cake is set around edges but center moves slightly when pan is gently shaken (top of cake may crack), about 30 minutes longer. Remove cake from oven. Increase oven temperature to 350.

I'm sure this little accident would have been averted if I had placed the pan in a cake pan with hot water...more even cooking. But the recipe didn't call for it. So my other excuse for this...extra air in the batter. After resting for a little bit, the cake sort of fell back inside the pan.

For Topping:
Whisk all ingredients in small bowl; spread evenly over top of cake. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Run small knife around cake sides. Chill uncovered over night.

Here's the topping after baking. I'm sure if I didn't have those giant crevasses in the side of the cake, the topping would have smoothed over and prettified the final cake.

Remove pan sides. Transfer cake to platter. Cut into wedges and serve.

After all that, it looks pretty good!!!

It probably shouldn't look like this?

My first cheesecake...stay tuned!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Saveur Shrimp

A few weeks ago I received the March issue of Saveur in the mail. The cover story was all about shrimp. I didn't read it. But I was shocked and excited to see a recipe and full page photo of Barbecued Shrimp...a dish that J-lo ordered when we went to dinner for his birthday at Acadiana and he loved and we all were completely impressed by. The dish was supposedly one of the top 25 dishes served in the United States in something like 2005...it was really good.

Well, here's a recipe that looked and sounded almost exactly like the Acadiana dish. So, we had to try it and tonight was the night.

But first...note to self...when you read a recipe and plan to make it...check to make sure you have everything...and enough of it! I had everything, but not enough of two ingredients...it's ok...but I would have liked to try it by following the recipe completely.

Barbecue Shrimp

serves 4

16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails on if you want) (1-1 1/2 lbs)
2 TB Creole/cajun seasoning
1/4 cup canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB finely chopped rosemary
1/2 cup amber beer
6 TB hot sauce
6 TB worcestershire suace
5 TB fresh lemon juice
12 TB butter
Crusty Bread!

All ingredients ready! It goes fast.

1) Heat a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Meanwhile, put the shrimp and cajun seasoning into a bowl; toss to coat. Set aside.

Shrimp chilling.

2) Add oil and garlic to skillet and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Add rosemary and cook for 2-3 seconds. Add shrimp and cook, flipping once, until it starts to turn pink, about 30 seconds.

Shrimp, garlic and rosemary.

3) Transfer shrimp to a large plate; set aside. Add beer, hot sauce, worcestershire and lemon juice in skillet; stir well. Cook, stirring, until thickened, 7-8 minutes.

Transferred shrimp.

4) Remove skillet from heat; whisk butter a few pieces at a time (sauce will start to thicken). Return shrimp to skillet; toss to coat. Return skillet to medium heat and cook until shrimp are cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Transfer shrimp and sauce to plates. Serve with chunks of crusty bread for dipping!

Shrimp and sauce, plus bread for dipping. Served with boiled potatoes with butter and parsley.

This was great! As I only tried a bite of shrimp at Acadiana, I think this was pretty close. Jason thinks it was pretty close as well, not completely, but close!

So what didn't I have enough of...I only had about 1 TB of chopped rosemary...the pack I bought just didn't have much in it. I also only had 2 TB of worcestershire sauce. Other adjustments I made, I went with 2/3rds cup of beer and only 8 TB of butter, instead of 12 TB! Really great as I made it...next time I'm going to try to get more rosemary and worcestershire. Oh, and I only did 4 TB of hot sauce.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

...and the rest of the day to you!

Emerald Isle Food Porn
(click on the picture for the full effect)
Happy St. Patty's Day my peeps.

I give you Shepherd's Pie.

Sweet sweet Shepherd's Pie.

Tastes like more! But I can't eat another bite...we ate nearly the whole thing...piggies!

Monday, March 12, 2007

That's Spicy!

Before I left for work this morning, I tried to find a quick recipe to make for dinner. This one jumped out and drew my attention. Really tasty and fast! Once you read through the recipe, you'll see that I 'pulled' the chicken instead of slicing it. Only reason I did that is because the Safeway didn't have regular chicken breasts, just the thin sliced breasts. Those don't slice into nice pieces so I 'pulled' them before adding them to the sauce. In the future when I make this, I'll only use one chipotle pepper. Two made these a touch spicy! I think if I were going 'southern,' these would have been piled high with some cool, crunchy slaw. But I'm not a big slaw fan, so that probably won't happen here...but I could see it working really nice with this sandwich!

Honey-Chipotle Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches
from Culinary in the Country

1/2 cup water
1 tsp ground cumin
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
16 ounces boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 TB canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 cup tomato puree
2 chipotle chiles, canned in adobo sauce, finely chopped
2 TB adobo sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 TB honey
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp salt
4 sandwich rolls
2 ounces smoked mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese

In a large saucepan, add water, 1 teaspoon cumin, 4 sliced garlic cloves and chicken. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is done - about 10 minutes. Drain and remove chicken. Slice chicken across grain into thin pieces - cover to keep warm.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and cook until they are just beginning to turn golden - about 3 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon cumin and cook until fragrant - about 1 minute. Mix in tomato puree and cook until mixture thickens to a paste-like consistency - about 4 minutes. Stir in chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, vinegar, honey, Worcestershire and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place the sliced chicken into the sauce and cook until thoroughly heated through - about 3 minutes.

Preheat broiler.

Cut the roll in half and place cut side up on a baking sheet. Toast rolls under the broiler. Remove only the top halves of the rolls from the baking sheet. Evenly divide chicken mixture among the bottom halves of rolls and evenly scatter the top of the chicken with cheese. Place back under the broiler just until the cheese melts. Remove and place top half back on to serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Garlic and Cumin

The completed sauce...tangy, slightly sweet and spicy!

Pulled chicken. Simmering lightly while the buns toasted.

Bun bottom piled high! In the background you can see the tops. I scooped the insides out of the bun tops, so when they rested, the nestled the BBQ and melted cheese.



Hello all, remember me...?? So last week started fine. Tuesday morning I developed a nasty cough and shortly after making the yummy hamantaschen I said "To be honest, I don't feel that great." Short while later I had a 100 degree fever and kept a fever between 100-102 throughout Wednesday. Thursday and Friday I was better, but certainly not good enough to do anything creative. Some simple turkey and rice on Thursday. Friday was some garlic/olive oil on pasta with some of the extra turkey. Saturday I had a bit of an appetite and we ventured out to the Virginia burbs to spend some time with the cutie Princess Anna and her parents. Sunday yet again, a little better. Still have the 'death rattle' cough, but over am pretty much operational. I allowed myself a relaxed recuperation! If I don't burn out today I have plans for something tasty for dinner and will share!

Hope you all had a great weekend.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Home for Purim

Shalom. I'm such a good goyim. For the rauchous holiday of Purim, I thought I'd try my hand at Hamantaschen, the traditional cookie shaped to represent the evil advisor Haman's pocket. Lucky for us Esther was made as hell and she wasn't going to take it, so she fasted for three days after her cousin Mordecai convinced her to go to the King and tell of Haman's plans to destroy the Jewish people. The King wasn't gonna take it either, so he strung Haman up on the gallows!!! Go King! Go Ester!!

So now we celebrate and eat Hamantaschen! Mazel Tov!

Fruity Hamantaschen
Makes 2 dozen cookies
Adapted slightly from here and here.

1/4 pound butter (1 stick), at room temperature
8 ounces no-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Prepared fruit preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and mix thoroughly. Add the egg and mix thoroughly again.

In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and gradually add it to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate the dough, in the bowl, for 1 hour or until firm.

On a lightly floured (or powdered sugared) surface, roll out a small amount of dough at a time to about 1/4 inch thick. If the dough gets warm and hard to work with, refrigerate it for a few minutes and then re-roll.

Use a round cookie cutter or the top of a drinking glass to cut out circles. Arrange the cut circles of dough on the cookie sheets. Spoon a teaspoon of the preserves into the center of each cookie. Pinch the edges of the cookies to make 3 corners, but don't seal dough up completely — you want some of the preserves to peek out.

Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

The eggs, sugar and butter all creamed together.

Dough rolled out and cut. I did get 25 cookies from my batch. I probably could have gotten another two or three, but the dough was getting tough.

The preserves I used! These were really tasty. If I understand correctly, this is the new house brand at Giant catering to the more socially conscience shoppers. I just thought they looked good. And they really taste great!

One heaping teaspoon of perserve per cookie.

My little beauties, lined up and waiting for the oven.

One of the little jems fresh out of the oven. You can see some of the cookies in the back that looked like they just sort of melted open, they didn't stay sealed up. It's ok. The fruit preserves stayed in the center anyway and there is still a little ledge to hold the goodies inside.

Another pretty cookie.

So pretty and tasty. They smelled great. I was a little surprised by the final texture. I was expecting a cookie base that was more of a shortbread, crumbly and buttery. Nope. It was actually a cross between a shortbread and a bit of a biscuit dough...a little flaky, a little chewy. Satisfying. I'm not sure if the texture was supposed to be different. The directions called for chilling the dough for an hour in the refridgerator. Because I was a little busy, it actually stayed in the fridge for about 24 hours. ???

Monday, March 05, 2007

Great Green Curry

I was searching for something to make for dinner tonight. Of all the recipes I have nothing was really hitting me as exciting. But as I was about give up, I found a recipe I had typed up awhile back for a friend. It was for a Thai Green Curry Paste. Curryious! I wasn't sure what I would use it with. I remembered that I had a sealed up pork tenderloin in the fridge. And it only had one or two more days until it was bad. Sure, why not! Green Curry and Pork Tenderloin?! Let's see how it turned out.

Thai Green Curry Paste
About 1 cup

This fragrant and spicy paste is excellent on meats and seafood, or stirred into soups, rice, pasta and other grain dishes.

Combine in a small dry skillet over medium heat and toast, shaking the pan often to prevent burning, 2 to 3 minutes:

2 tsp, coriander seeds
1 tsp, cumin seeds
1 tsp, fennel seeds
1 tsp, black peppercorns

Remove from the heat, let cool to room temperatures, and grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or blender or with a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a small bowl.

Combine in a blender or food processor and process until finely chopped, about 4 minutes:

1/3 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 ¼ inch slices fresh ginger, peeled
12 Serrano peppers or 6 fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 large shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Grated zest of 1 lime, plus the juice
1 ½ tsp, salt
1 tsp, freshly grated nutmeg

Add the spices and with the machine running, slowly pour in:

¼ cup grapeseed oil

Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. This paste will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

Slightly adapted from: The All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking: Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker (1997)

When the Curry Paste was done, it hung out in the fridge for a few hours while I went off on some errands. Then it was time to figure out how to make the dinner.

I took the tenderloin and cleaned up, I cubed it. I also chopped up a some red bell pepper and half an onion.

Following the idea behind the Coconut Chicken Curry, I pulled out the can of coconut milk.

In a wee touch of oil, I quickly sauted the pork cubes. When the pork was browned, just two minutes per batch. Because we know not to try to crowd the meat in the pan or else it will steam and get nasty. So after about 4 batches, I removed all the pork to a plate. Tossed in the onion and sauted them for a brief minute. Then poured in about half a cup of water to help deglaze the pan. Then I added about one cup of the green curry paste. (My batch gave me about a cup and a half.) I stirred the onions and the paste together. Then poured in the coconut milk. Stir to combine. Add the pork bites back into the pot of green coconut curry. Turn the heat to medium-low. Add the bell pepper pieces. Simmer for a few minutes until the pepper it just tender. Serve with Rice and garnish (optional) with chopped peanuts and chopped mint. Mmmmmm! I loved this and can't wait to have my leftovers!