Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rabbit with Rosemary and Mustard - Jan 27, 2012

Nick's Aunt Judy is a talented and experienced home cook and an amazing recipe resource. A few years ago I asked her to share some recipes for cooking rabbit, as I had had some at a restaurant and loved it. Promptly, a nice fat envelope arrived in the mail full of fun recipes utilizing my new favorite meat. Less promptly on my part, did I actually use any of them.

A perfect opportunity arose, however, when I stopped by my favorite butcher shop, Clancey's, on my way home from work last week and saw they had fresh rabbit behind the counter. One came home with me and I dug out those recipes. I decided on making 'Rabbit with Rosemary and Pommery Mustard,' which, if I'm reading Judy's documentation correctly, appears to be from the April 1983 issue of Contemporary Cuisine.

This particular recipe required me to debone the rabbit, which was quite enjoyable, educational, and somewhat similar to deboning a turkey. The rabbit meat gets sauteed in butter with onion, shallot, and garlic until nicely browned. Next I deglazed the pan with white wine (Judy has added a note here to make sure one uses 'good wine'), added some herbs, and simmered everything for about 20 minutes to cook the rabbit through. Once the rabbit is cooked, I removed it and continued to simmer the sauce to reduce it. I took some liberties with the recipe at this point, adding slightly less cream and opting to spend less time on the reduction process. I added mustard (although not pommery, just some that we had in the fridge) and chopped fresh rosemary, along with salt and pepper to taste. We served the rabbit and sauce over some rigatoni pasta. It was delicious and so fun to finally cook rabbit at home. I think I have quite a bit more to learn, but it should be an enjoyable process.
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Monday, January 30, 2012

Roasted Chioggia Beets over Spaetzle - Jan 25, 2012

Nick and I have a large number of root vegetables from our CSA. They're great because they store beautifully for months, which is especially good in our household since I have trouble being creative with them. I was making this meal up as I went along, popping some Chioggia beets in the oven to roast as I figured out the rest of the details. I knew that I wanted to use some of the sour cream we had in the fridge, because next to goat cheese, it's a beet's best friend. But on what should I serve this vaguely Eastern European combination? After flipping through our copy of 'How to Cook Everything,' which I had consulted to determine how I should roast the beets (individually wrapped in foil in a 400 deg oven for roughly 45 minutes, if you're curious), I decided on spaetzle. We hadn't made spaetzle in ages, it's quick, delicious, and seemed to fit the theme nicely.

It turned out much better than I could have hoped for upon starting to cook. I garnished with a little fennel frond.  Dill may have been the more traditional choice, but I didn't have any of that, so fennel it was.  It added a light and fresh flavor in addition to the pop of color.

And speaking of a pop of color, the beets were so beautiful that I couldn't resist some fun with color gradation.
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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy - January 29, 2012

I apologize for being mostly MIA this month. As seems to happen every year, January has been extremely busy at work with travel and learning a new territory and new programs.

So far, the new territory is great. I used to work most of the east coast, from South Carolina through New England and west to include Michigan and Ohio. That meant lots of trips to New York and Philadelphia. Great food cities, but major PITA for travel. Proof: while the airports in that region handle just 12% of the domestic flights, they account for 50% of the delays!

As of January 1, I go only as far north as Maryland and Delaware and continue to work in the Carolinas as well as picking up Tennessee and Kentucky. Also, we had our company meeting in Atlanta this year (this is the same meeting we usually have in Phoenix, where last year I managed to run into fellow Dinner Clubber and old friend Nick!). All that southern travel has given me hankering for good old biscuits and gravy, which I unfortunately have to pass up in restaurants since they are likely leavened with baking powder than contains corn starch. Boo.

But I think I have now mastered an at home, from scratch version of the classic southern breakfast dish that beats most roadside diners and rivals that of true southern cooks!

It actually starts the day before when I make sausage as a topping for pizza (which I'm still trying to master... I'll write about that soon). I have experimented with several different flavors, but my favorite for both pizza and the day-after-breakfast is a slightly spicy fennel sausage.

1 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons toasted and lightly pounded fennel seeds
1 large (or two small) garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Mix gently with your hands. Cook a small portion to see if the seasoning is to your liking and adjust.

Then I use about half the sausage for the pizza and save the other half for breakfast the next day (this also keeps nicely for a week or so in the fridge so you don't necessarily have to do the pork overload of back-to-back meals!).

I've tried a few different recipes for buttermilk biscuits and have combined a few to create what I think is a winner. Tasty, flaky, and easy. What more could you ask for?

The key to making this recipe really easy is the pastry blender.

I finally bought one a couple months ago and I it has changed my life. That is a bit hyperbolic, but not really! I use it for biscuits, pies crust, and flour tortillas. I no longer need to drag out and then clean the bulky food processor, nor do I struggle to use knives or a forks to "cut in" butter.

Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (I use Hain's Featherweight)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk dry ingredients together, then add the butter use a pastry blender to mix. Leave a few large clumps of butter. Stir in the buttermilk with a wooden spoon until the mixture is a soft, slightly sticky ball. Transfer dough to floured surface and form into a rough ball (don't overmix!). Use dough cutter to divide dough into 8-12 equal size pieces. Shape and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until biscuit tops are light brown.

I'm still working on a system for dividing and shaping so that they come out prettier, but the taste and texture is perfect.

While the biscuits are baking, you can start the gravy.

Sausage Gravy
1/2 pound sausage
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (whole is best, but reduced fat tastes fine too)
Optional: Tabasco for additional heat, salt and pepper to taste.

Brown the sausage over medium heat until not pink. Sprinkle flour over sausage and cook until everything starts to get a nutty brown (about 3-5 minutes). Slowly add milk in three or four additions, stirring between each addition. Reduce heat and cover, allow to cook until thick.

Place two biscuits on a plate and smother with gravy (you may have extra biscuits - they freeze nicely). Enjoy!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pork Rillette - Jan 18, 2012

I wasn't kidding when I mentioned that Nick and I had been having 'snack-y' meals lately. Here's another one. This was definitely consumed while watching football. Pork rillettes are our favorite menu item these days and if a restaurant has these, or something similar (often referred to as 'potted meat'), rest assured we'll be ordering some along with our hearty winter beers. Pork rillettes are similar to pate, or confit...meat and fat cooked slowly and at great length until it turns into a rich, spreadable consistency.  It is rustic, hearty and delicious.

I happened to find this little container of potted meat at my favorite local butcher shop, Clancey's. I was there picking up some other supplies and was delighted to find this. Nick and I served it with the remaining crusty bread (purchased for our French onion soup), some quick pickled red onions (white vinegar and pepper corns), my homemade sage and Sauternes jelly, and a hearty mustard. Delicious! This is my new favorite hors d'oeuvres, hostess gift, and quick weeknight dinner.

Here are my other Clancey's goods. Lard, rendered on site, for my pie crusts, of course.  And in the back there? Duck fat. Hell yeah.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

French Onion Soup - Jan 17, 2012

French onion soup is one of my all-time favorites. It's so simple and so delicious. It is absolutely perfect for cold winter evenings. Light a candle, open a bottle of red wine, and you're all set for a cozy night. This is another repeated recipe (I realize I'm on quite a roll). Nick and I did this last Valentine's Day. The recipe serves two, which is why I love it so much.

Here's my pot full of sliced onions and thyme. I think it's magical that this ends up as this:

A slice of crusty bread and some good quality Gruyere cheese makes a perfect crouton.  I could seriously eat this once a week.
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad - Jan 16, 2011

Here's another repeated dinner, but grapefruits are perfect right now! Nick and I made this last winter to accompany a delicious pork roast. Both recipes are from one of our favorite Madison restaurants, L'Etoile, and were featured in a Food & Wine article about the restaurant. This ended up being a nice, light dinner for us last week.
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Sunchoke and Smoked Trout Spread - Jan 15, 2012

Nick and I have been enjoying some 'snack-y' dinners of late.  It could have something to do with the NFL playoffs, but I'm not sure.  This was the latest rendition of our favorite sunchoke and smoked trout salad from Asparagus to Zucchini, that I've posted many, many times before.  Instead of a bed of greens, we decided to serve it up party-style with slices of carrots and beauty heart radishes and crackers.  It was good, as usual.
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Golabki: Stuffed Polish Cabbage Rolls - Jan 5, 2011

This was an inspired meal... inspired by finding a darling little head of savoy cabbage from our CSA hiding in the back of the refrigerator. I was first introduced to stuffed cabbage rolls by Rima, founding Dinner Club member, and amazing cook. In her Lithuanian family, these are called Balandeliais, which means 'little doves.' After doing some research into my own Polish heritage, I found that we Poles call them Golabki, which translates similarly to 'little pigeons.' In fact, almost every Eastern European country has their own version, and you can find many of them listed here. Making these is a really fun process. I did it pretty quickly on a weeknight, but I already had the rice cooked from a previous meal.

The first step involved boiling the whole head of cabbage until the leaves were soft and pliable. I only used about ten leaves, but the rest of the cabbage can be chopped up and used as a bed for the golabkis to rest upon while baking (and is quite delicious served on the side). One thing that helps the leaves become more pliable is shaving down the thick center stem a bit, being careful not to cut through the leaf.

After mixing the rice, cooked onions, raw ground beef, garlic and seasonings together, I placed it on my leaves and rolled them up just like a burrito.

Next, I nestled them all into my Dutch oven, on the aforementioned bed of cabbage. I poured some beef broth over them and let them cook for an hour or so. Nick and I topped ours with sour cream, although depending on which recipe you choose there are different assorted sauces. These were so delicious and so much fun to make. I think we'll be doing these again soon.
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Friday, January 13, 2012

Ranchers' Pie - Jan 4, 2012

This is a variation on shepards' pie that we've enjoyed a couple of times so far this winter. Because it includes ground beef in place of the traditional lamb, I've changed the name to something a bit more suitable. Try as I might, I cannot swallow ground lamb without it inducing a gag reflex. Something about the flavor just does not work for me. It's a bit upsetting, as I love everything else about sheep and harbor a secret dream of owning one or two someday. They're so irresistibly woolly! But, I digress. In addition to the substitution of beef for lamb, I've also topped our hearty winter pie with sweet potato mash, rather than regular potatoes. We have quite a few of them to work through from our CSA, and they are so lovely.

The recipe I follow is one from my sister Kate. It's originally from Gordon Ramsay, although I've made quite a few changes to it that I'm sure he wouldn't be happy about. But, I like his use of fresh herbs and red wine.  In addition to the big changes I mentioned above, I also cut the recipe in half since it was just Nick and I for dinner. It works well both in a souffle pan or, as I did this time, in individual ramekins. The two of us each ate one ramekin and after some discussion decided to split another, leaving us with just one to save for later.
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cuban Sweet Potato Wraps - Jan 3, 2012

These probably look pretty similar to the sweet potato wraps I posted about a week or so ago, and they are, but for the addition some ham and black beans.  I had some black beans in the freezer and some Christmas ham from my mom, and so decided to combine them along with some cumin and coriander.  I roasted some sweet potato cubes tossed in coconut oil (one of my favorite combinations).  Once the sweet potatoes and rice were ready, I simply reheated the black bean and ham mix.  Nick and I wrapped everything up with the addition of some shredded cheese and coconut flakes.  These were delicious, and more flavorful than our previous attempt.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sausages with White Beans and Kale - Dec, 2011

Alright, I think this is our last remaining 'Chez Jess and Nick' meal to post from 2011. Sadly, the details are foggy as so much time has passed. I believe this dish consisted of sauteed red kale from our CSA, combined with onions and cannellini beans and topped with pan-cooked sausage segments. Nothing too fancy, just another bowl of winter comfort food. One might even call it a 'cheater's cassoulet.'

Now that my 2011 housekeeping is done, it's time to move on to some fun and exciting new meals for 2012.  Any cooking goals this year, Dinner Clubbers?
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Bacon - Dec, 2011

The December housekeeping continues with this really fun meal that Nick and I enjoyed a few weeks back. It was fun for a number of reasons, the first being that the Brussels sprouts came in one of our last CSA deliveries of the year. And, they came on their stalks! I was so excited when I first learned how Brussels sprouts grow.  It is certainly not clear if you find them as individual bulbs, which is, more often than not, how one finds them. I don't know how I thought Brussels sprouts grew...perhaps like tiny rows of cabbages in the field? Perhaps I didn't much think of Brussels sprouts at all, but regardless, now every time I see them on their stalks it brings a big smile to my face.  This is neither here nor there,  but it's also fun to know how pineapples grow.

The second reason this meal was fun was because it contained very special bacon. My friend Walter made it. That's right, he cured his own bacon, and then gave me some of it. I have to say, it was the best bacon I've ever had. It came my way in a little unsliced chunk, which meant that I got to cut it up however I wanted. I decided on squat little cubes. They fried up into golden, crispy morsels that melted into puddles of bacon goodness on our tongues.  We have good friends.

The recipe came from here, but I traded the tofu for the bacon.  I always feel a little guilty doing that to Heidi's lovely vegetarian recipes, but, come on, it was homemade bacon!  Incidentally, if you click the recipe link, you'll see a beautiful picture of Brussels sprouts on the stalk.  Heidi is a fan too.
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Monday, January 09, 2012

Red Lentils with Bacon and Blue Cheese - Dec, 2011

I'm trying hard to remember the details of this meal. It was something that Nick and I made up on the fly one night last month. It turned out quite differently than I had planned, mostly because the lentils turned to mush in their cooking liquid, rather than holding their shape. Undaunted, I decided that we could work with that, and treated it like a polenta, mixing in some of the blue cheese and fresh rosemary for flavor. We put this in bowls and topped with some delicious, crispy bacon, blue cheese crumbles and fresh rosemary. It was quite flavorful, and a dinner that works well for a good, quick, comfort meal.
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Sunday, January 08, 2012

Black Beans and Rice with Pork and Apple Salsa - Dec, 2011

This was another meal prepared on one of the few nights Nick and I stayed in for dinner last month. I found the recipe in the January 2012 issue of Bon Appetit and thought it sounded fun. Of course, I made a few small changes, including swapping the chicken out for pork. My Mom had made a huge batch of slow cooked pork shoulder over the Christmas holiday and was lovely enough to send some home with us. The substitution worked extremely well. I didn't have a Granny Smith apple on hand, so I just used one of the Fireside apples that we bought at our last local farmers' market this fall. And, out of neccessity, I had to omit the cilantro and green pepper. I did, however, add in a bit of avocado, which is always welcome at our house. It was really, really good.
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Saturday, January 07, 2012

Sweet Potato Wraps - Dec, 2011

I have just a bit of 2011 housekeeping to do before moving on to a fresh, bright new year. Nick and I did cook a bit in December, despite seeming to go out to eat nearly every night with visiting friends and family. This meal included a mix of brown basmati rice, boiled sweet potatoes, and ground pork, all tossed together with some cheese. Once I had everything mixed together, I wrapped it up into some whole wheat tortillas. It was very flavorful and a nice respite from all the rich, and bad-for-us food we'd been eating lately.
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Friday, January 06, 2012

New Year's Eve Dinner - Dec 31, 2011

While Jaime welcomed 2012 with prime rib, we said good-bye to 2011 with a New Year's Eve dinner of fish. Steelhead trout to be exact. This year's dinner was a group effort, with Nick cooking the fish, along with the parsnip mash topped with caramelized onions, both of which were delicious. I made the wild rice side, which included dried cranberries, toasted hazelnuts, and a mustard vinaigrette. And Kate, who was our lone remaining house guest post-Christmas holiday, made dessert.

This is Devil's Food Cake with Black Pepper Boiled Icing, which is a recipe from Bon Appetit's September 2011 issue. Kate whipped this up from scratch, in an unfamiliar kitchen, with sub-par tools (I am not much of a baker, my friends, and as such, do not have all the equipment needed for this precision craft...like a third cake pan and a high-quality candy thermometer). Of course, the cake was amazing (as is Kate), and I was excited that my little kitchen torch got some use.

All-in-all, it was a wonderful send off to 2011!
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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

New Year's Day Dinner - January 1, 2012

It has become a Hartman tradition to have a prime rib roast for some holiday each year. The first time was for Thanksgiving, but then we started going up to New York to spend the holiday with family. A couple years we did it on Christmas Eve Eve, before leaving for Florida the next morning... but that meant that the delicious leftovers languished in the fridge for a week and that was a serious shame! So this year it finally occurred to me that it would be appropriate to usher in the new year with a lavish prime rib dinner. Nothing like setting the right tone for the year to come!

This year I went all out, following the full set of directions in the Cook's Illustrated New Best Recipe (recipe here reprinted on Robert Mondavi Wines website) for making a prime rib roast with au jus and Yorkshire puddings. I failed to take my own picture, but here is the one from that site. Mine looked pretty much exactly like that... right down to the brussel sprouts that I roasted while the puddings were baking.

The only variation I had to make was that I couldn't find oxtails at either of the grocery stores I visited on New Year's Day morning (nothing like a last minute!) and ended up substituting neck bones, based on a suggestion I found via a quick Google on my smartphone.

For dessert I took the bag of frozen peaches from our tree I'd forgotten about and a bag of frozen raspberries I also found languishing in the freezer and turned to one of the cookbooks I asked for this Christmas after seeing it referenced in so many of my favorite cooking blogs, The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion Cookbook. A quick perusal of the index and I located a recipe for a Peach-Raspberry Cobbler. Substitute arrowroot starch for the corn starch it called for, and it was perfect!

I also used one of my new toys to make some absolutely delicious corn-free homemade vanilla ice cream. I did remember to snap a very quick picture before it melted into a puddle.


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