Wednesday, February 29, 2012
This is meal number two utilizing our Clancey's coffee, cumin, chili, and cinnamon rubbed skirt steak. The flavors of the rub were made for this type of meal. Again, I lightly seared the steak on my trusty cast iron skillet and, after letting the meat rest for five to ten minutes on the cutting board, sliced it thinly across the grain of the fibers. Nick and I piled this onto corn tortillas and topped with cheater's Mexican rice, sliced cabbage, shredded cheddar, and Salsa Lisa. Delicious.
Even after two meals, we still haven't used up all the skirt steak. Unless inspiration strikes, my guess is that we'll repeat this exact meal once more since it was so good.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
This was my Clancey's purchase last week. Nick and I don't prepare much beef at home, but this skirt steak had an amazing rub on it including Jim's 5-star roasted coffee (another incredible Linden Hills gem), cumin, cinnamon, and chili among others, and I could not resist. I bought a pound of it, so I knew we would get multiple meals out of it.
For the first, I decided on a very simple preparation so that we could get a good sense of the flavor. I simply seared the steak on a hot cast iron skillet for a couple of minutes per side. Skirt steak is usually so thin that cooking time is quite minimal. I found no need to add any oil to the pan, as the rub prevented any sticking and my skillet is perfectly seasoned (for which I take very little credit as it's an old Le Crueset snagged at the thrift store that came 'pre-seasoned' by years of use from it's previous owner).
Alongside I made a literal mash-up of Yukon Gold potatoes and a CSA turnip, seasoned generously with grated Pecorino-Romano cheese. This was a simple meal that was perfect for gauging how to best use the remaining skirt steak. With the cumin, chili and cinnamon it became clear quite quickly that it needed to be something with a Mexican bend. Stay tuned.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Just as I thought, the March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit has proven to be just the kick in the pants I needed to get cracking in the kitchen. Nick and I started out the week with these twice-baked sweet potatoes. I cut the recipe way back to accomodate just the two of us. I also prepared the bacon a bit differently, choosing to use Rima's brown sugar bacon method rather than the more labor intensive process described in the recipe. Brown sugar bacon simply involves spreading out bacon slices on a cookie sheet and sprinkling them with a light dusting of brown sugar before popping them into a 350 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes (check often so you get the bacon consistency you prefer). I learned this very useful technique from Rima at a dinner club brunch years ago at Jaime's condo, and it works beautifully every time.
I wanted to show off the lovely sweet potatoes we get from our CSA. We have been slowly, but diligently, working through our storage vegetables from the farm and I am happy to report that we are doing a much better job than last year. We still have two winter squash and about 8 to 10 sweet potatoes to get through in the next months, as well as some beets, black and beauty heart radishes, a rutabaga and a turnip. We just signed up to get our farm share again this season, and regular deliveries will begin the first week of May.
Here's some of what Nick and I got up to this past weekend. Has anyone tried gjetost cheese before? Kate bought me some for my birthday years ago, but sadly I never tried it. After reading about it in this month's Bon Appetit, I decided it was time to remedy that. Coincidentally, now that it's on my radar, I keep hearing about it everywhere, like the butchering workshop put on by Paul Berglund this weekend at Snowgrade. He recommends melting some in with your rabbit stew (by the way, I was excited to learn some rabbit butchering pointers). I decided to try it in a much simpler preparation, on toast. It has an interesting flavor, often described as caramel-like. That's true, although it doesn't quite capture the whole flavor profile. I am happy to add this to my Scandinavian toast repertoire, which already includes pepper toast from Sweden, compliments of JJ.
Our flowers from last weekend are opening up beautifully. I love the lighter pinks of the newly opened buds compared to the richer color of the older ones. I'm not sure what kind of flowers these are, but they are lasting significantly longer than most cut flowers that I'm familiar with.
I'm happy to say that coffee looks just as pretty as tea when placed in a bodum insulated glass.
And, I've made some excellent progress on the hot pink socks. I'm working on the gusset of sock number two currently and it should be done by the end of this week. These particular lovelies belong to Natalie and will be her belated birthday gift this year. I love, love, love the color!
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Hey Dinner Clubbers. I just wanted to share my new obsession: Wisconsin Foodie. Nick and I discovered it on our local PBS station recently. It's a great show, especially for anyone who loves locally produced food and/or has Wisconsin ties (we happen to fall squarely into both of those categories and as such are extra enthusiastic). I've embedded a video below to one of my favorite episodes so far. Sausage making seems so quintissentially Wisconsin, afterall. If you click the link to the website, you can peruse other videos and read articles at your leisure. I am also putting up a link in our 'links we like' section for future reference.
Wisconsin Foodie - European Homemade Sausage from Wisconsin Foodie on Vimeo.
Wisconsin Foodie - European Homemade Sausage from Wisconsin Foodie on Vimeo.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
This was what Nick and I dined on last Sunday evening. I roasted a pan of kale and parsnips tossed in olive oil and then dressed them with some truffle oil (not 'ruffle' oil as the picture might lead you to believe). We added some tinned smoked trout, a pantry staple around here, and toast to complete the meal. It was nothing fancy, nor particularly inspired, but I did enjoy the combination of the parsnips and truffle oil. And, I know I'm really late to the party here, but kale chips are delicious.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Nick and I hadn't done a pork roast in awhile, so I picked up a six pound pork shoulder from, where else, Clancey's. I've posted this recipe many times before, but it's a good one. Simple and delicious, this meal requires more time than work. The pork and slaw are actually supposed to be used in sandwiches, but I didn't have any appropriate rolls, so I baked some skillet cornbread instead. We ate it 'meat and three' style, except that it was 'meat and two,' meaning a plate of meat, plus two sides.
Needless to say, we have a significant bit of pork remaining, as we barely made a dent in the six pounds. We've used some here and there in quick weeknight meals, like pork and sweet potato wraps. The rest I've portioned in half pound servings and popped in the freezer to be used at some later date when inspiration hits.
Monday, February 20, 2012
These lovelies arrived in the mail just in time for Valentine's Day. Anna, original Dinner Club member and dear friend, made these by hand and sent some my way. The truffle assortment included toasted almond meal with cocoa and cinnamon; mint; and coconut. All were made with dark chocolate. I am hard pressed to pick a favorite, but the mint were really killer, while Nick particularly enjoyed the coconut. Thanks Anna! You're a sweetheart!
I've been quite uninspired in the kitchen of late, hence the lack of blog posts. Nick and I did get a new Bon Appetit in the mail on Saturday, so perhaps that will help. In the meantime, I did snap a few pictures this weekend. I've been enjoying tea (this particular cup contains 'Evening in Missoula') in our Bodum insulated glasses because it looks so pretty. I'm trying to wean myself off of adding cream and honey to every cup of tea I make, and I think this is helping. Nick brought home some pretty, spring-like flowers on Friday and they really brighten up the dining room. They are sitting on my new Marimekko plate that I got on sale at FinnStyle last Monday on a little excursion with Nat and Jamie. And, some hot pink sock yarn! If this doesn't break me out of my creative slump, I'm not sure what will.
I do have a few dinners to report, so those will be up soon, but these pictures are prettier.
Friday, February 10, 2012
I seem to have started a new routine of dropping by Clancey's Meats and Fish on my way home from work at least once a week. It's always inspiring, and makes meal planning quite easy on said evening. This particular night, Nick and I feasted on some of their house made apple-walnut-rosemary pork sausages. I made a couple sides for our meal, including kale and onions sauteed in the pork fat left in the pan after cooking the sausages. The mash I made by boiling a potato and a rutabaga until soft, combining them together in a bowl with a potato ricer, and adding sour cream, salt, and pepper to season. I used the same formula for the potato-celeriac mash we had the previous night and I'm pretty excited about it. Every year we get a varied assortment of root vegetables from our CSA Farm and I struggle finding ways to serve them. I've found that combining an "alternative" root vegetable such as a rutabaga or turnip with the more traditional potato in a mash softens (ha!) the flavor and is a good way to introduce said vegetables to our diets instead of letting them languish in the crisper drawer. The sour cream helps too. This was really delicious.
Thursday, February 09, 2012
What's this? A fish dinner that Nick did not cook? That's right, while I usually leave fish preparation to the resident expert, I decided to try my hand at it the other night. Nick and I had just returned from a long weekend in Portland, visiting family and friends (including a non-quorum dinner club at a recuperating Anna's), and I needed to make a pantry dinner, as I had not yet had a chance to get to the store. I was also craving something light, as we'd really gorged ourselves on the trip (the 'Reggie' at Pine State Biscuits, Beef roast at Anna's, Voodoo doughnuts, Bunk Sandwiches, too many good beers to count...you get the idea). We had two walleye fillets in the freezer and some lemons and rosemary that needed to get used or composted, so I got to work.
While pre-heating the oven to 350 deg F, I thinly sliced a lemon and arranged the slices on top of my rosemary sprigs, which I had put in the bottom of an oven proof saute pan. I placed the still frozen fillets, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper, on top of this bed. I added just a little water to the bottom of the pan and placed it in the oven, checking every 5 - 10 minutes or so. After about 15 or 20 minutes, the fillets were nearly cooked through. At this point I turned off the oven and turned on the broiler. While that heated up, I covered the fillets with a bread crumb and salt and pepper mixture. I drizzled just a bit more olive oil over, to help the crumbs stick, and popped this back under the broiler, checking every one to two minutes so it wouldn't burn.
We served the fish with a potato and celeriac mash, which was inspired by our side dish at Anna's. The walleye was perfectly done and the bread crumbs added a nice crunch. Baking was much easier than pan-frying the fish because the rosemary-lemon bed prevented any sticking to the pan. The house also smelled much better, neither fishy nor fry-y, which I quite appreciated. Thus, I deem my first official 'Weekly Fish' a success.
Sunday, February 05, 2012
We are taking the garden experiment up a notch this year and are starting seeds ourselves! Being rather clueless as to how this is supposed to be done, we got a seed starting kit from Home Depot that has everything you need, except for seeds and water. I have no idea if this is going to work, but will keep you posted!
So far, we have planted three kinds of tomatoes (beefsteak, cherry, and San Marzano), two kinds of peppers (rainbow bell peppers and Romanian hot peppers), and basil. I also got seeds for cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, and some other things we can direct sow when the weather gets warm enough.
And yes, that is a printer and computer in the corner of the picture... Being the location of one of the few accessible, south facing windows in our townhouse, my office is now also the plant incubator.
Friday, February 03, 2012
Richie is not a fish or seafood eater, and absolutely detests canned tuna fish. I, on the other hand, enjoy the occasional well-prepared fillet or shellfish dish. And I have a special place in my culinary heart for a nice tasting Tuna Noodle Casserole (or "Hot Dish" as my people call it). The recipe in this month's Cook's Country magazine (sorry, no link... to access their recipes online you have to pay a membership fee) for the pot-luck classic intrigued me and when Richie went out of town and I was fending for myself I decided to give it a try.
Of course, I made so many changes that it is barely the same recipe now! Change number one was to scale it way back. The original called for three cans of tuna and serves 8-10 people. I only had one can in the pantry and only needed to serve myself, so I began by dividing everything roughly into thirds. I also didn't have any potato chips, or the specific kind of cheese they called for, and I don't like cooked peppers very much.
After all the changes, I feel like this recipe is more mine than theirs anyway, so here it is...
Jaime's Tuna Noodle Casserole
Serves 2-4, depending on your appetite!
2/3 cups shredded cheese (any melting variety will do, I did a combination of cheddar and monterey jack)
3/4 cups crushed saltine crackers
1 (5 ounce) can tuna in water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
4 ounces egg noodles (about 2 cups)
3-4 ounces white mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small onion, diced (about 1/4 cup, more if you like a lot of onion flavor)
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cups frozen peas
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Combine the crushed crackers with about 1/8 of a cup of the cheese (I didn't really measure this... just a good pinch) and some pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. Mix drained tuna with olive oil and lemon juice in a medium sized bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
4. Cook noodles in salted boiling water until just al dente (check your package directions... cook about 1 minute less than whatever it says). Drain and rinse noodles until completely cool so you stop the cooking. Set aside.
5. Melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high and cook mushrooms with a pinch of salt until they are brown. Transfer mushrooms to bowl with the tuna.
6. Melt about 1/2 tablespoon of butter in same pan and cook onions until softened. Transfer onions to bowl with tuna and mushrooms.
7. Melt remaining butter in same pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in half-and-half and broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened. Off heat, whisk in remaining cheese until smooth.
8. Stir in pasta, tuna-mushrooms-onion mixture, and peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
9. Spread in small casserole dish and top with cracker-cheese mixture. Bake until golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Let cool slightly and ENJOY!
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
I snapped this picture on Sunday as I was gathering up the books I'd pulled out over the weekend and preparing to return them to their shelves. The picture struck me as both lovely and meaningful as representative of my cooking life at the moment.
The New Best Recipe is appropriately the base of this pile. It is my bible, my go-to source for everything from the best chocolate chip cookies to my once a year prime rib roast. Their recipes are precise and fussy, but I know that everything I cook from this book will turn out perfect.
The Art of Simple Food, by the amazing Alice Waters, is what I aspire to be. I love reading this book just for the way she describes cooking. Truth be told, I haven't loved everything I cooked from her book but I adore the thought process behind everything.
Ruhlman's Twenty is a recent fun addition to my collection and has given me the confidence to do some new stuff in the kitchen, including deep frying. The premise of the book is that there are only 20 skills/ingredients you need to master in order to be an expert chef. I have a long way to go!
Finally, Jim Lahey's My Bread was one of the cookbooks I put on my Christmas list this year after I discovered the no-knead bread technique. I know I'm coming about 6 years late to this party as it was apparently all the rage way back in the mid 2000s, but better late than never!
The French-Canadian dish, Poutine, is a favorite here at Chez Jess & Nick. Just in case you're not familiar, please let me describe it in gooey detail: French fried potatoes piled on a plate, topped with fresh cheese curds. And gravy. In my opinion, it's the perfect dish to eat sitting in front of a roaring fire with a bottle of rich red wine or Belgian style quadrupel after spending a day outside participating in some rigorous winter snow sport. It's hearty fare, to be sure, and I wanted to try to make something like it at home.
For those of you with a subscription to Bon Appetit, you may remember their December 2011 spread on 'Hot Potatoes.' I've had it mentally bookmarked for the past few months, waiting for an opportunity to make the Duck Fat-Potato Galette with Caraway and Sweet Onions. This recipe was the impetus to purchase that rendered duck fat I've been waxing poetic about.
After my rabbit escapade left me with a nice carcass, a plan started to take shape. Nick's dad uses his turkey bones, left over from his annual Thanksgiving de-boning, to make some pretty incredible gravy. I began to wonder if I could do something similar with my bunny bones. A quick phone call was made to Chip, where he described to me his gravy process, and sounded intrigued at the prospect of trying it with rabbit. "Be sure to take pictures," he said. "Of course," I replied.
I went to work, following some hastily scribbled notes I'd made while chatting with Chip. It turns out that making gravy, a la Chip, is not a quick process. In fact, Chip says he likes to spread it out over two days, making the stock one day and then the gravy the next. That's a good idea, and next time I will plan ahead, but, as Nick and I wanted poutine later that night, I compressed the process a bit.
First I placed my rabbit carcass in my little Dutch oven with a quartered onion. This went in a 425 deg oven for about an hour and 15 minutes until everything was nice and brown. It could have probably gone a little longer, but I'm not always a patient person. I pulled the Dutch oven out and placed it on the stove top, adding enough water to just cover the bones, along with salt and pepper. This needs to simmer for one to two hours, until it turns a rich, opaque brown. At this point, I strained out the solids and was left with my rabbit stock.
Next I made a roux, which for future reference is equal parts butter and flour. I used two tbsp of each (which was a good amount to make gravy for two), melting the butter in a heavy sauce pot and adding the flour in, whisking over medium heat until it was a nice golden color. Again, I could have probably gone a bit longer for a richer color, but I was getting hungry. Now that the roux was ready, I began adding my rabbit stock to it, a little at a time, which is a tip from Chip, and a good way to control the viscosity of your gravy. I kept adding stock and whisking all the while until the gravy was the consistency that I liked. I'm no gravy expert, but I think it turned out quite well. It was light but flavorful, kind of like rabbit itself.
While I was making the gravy, I also put together the potato galette, which, as you may have guessed by now, would stand in for French fries in our homemade version of poutine. I halved the recipe for just the two of us. It turned out beautifully and the caraway is a nice touch that brought some interest to our plate of starch.
After I pulled the galette out of the oven, we topped it with coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese, which stood in for the cheese curds. Unfortunately, good cheese curds are much harder to come by here in Minnesota than they are in Wisconsin. This is, apparently, a common substitution to poutine, even in Canada. Regardless, it worked for our purposes. On top of the cheese, we poured our gravy. Between the heat from the potatoes and the gravy, the cheese melted slowly into the dish, which made for a good poutine texture.
This was meal was no small undertaking, but a fun kitchen adventure and well worth the effort. I am happy that I can now make gravy from scratch, a valuable life skill, no doubt, thanks to Chip's instructions. And, I am happy that this admittedly nutty plan of mine produced this delicious meal.
I swear that I don't just eat junk food, but it does seem that many of my home kitchen projects these days seem to be devoted to creating corn-free versions of such things from scratch. I tell myself though that it isn't junk if you make it home and use "organic" ingredients... right?
I stumbled upon this recipe for chicken nuggets inspired by Chick-Fil-A on Pinterest. (Side note: I am trying to "get" Pinterest but so far it is kind of leaving me cold. Pictures are nice, but I guess I'm a word person too. Sometimes I am as enthralled by a description of something than I am by the visual. But if you want to follow me on Pinterest, I'm here.)
The only variation I made was to use buttermilk instead of regular milk, since I had a partial quart in the fridge that was already past its expiration date. Also, since regular powdered sugar has corn starch, I made sure to use the organic variety from Whole Foods.
The fries I made in the oven while I fried the nuggets on top of the stove. I followed a technique I've seen in a couple places that essentially boils down to this...
Preheat oven to 450. Peel and cut two large russet potatoes, toss them with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, spread on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, use spatula to turn rearrange, bake for 10-15 minutes more. Then turn the oven OFF but leave the pan in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. This has the effect of drying out the fries so they are more like crispy fries than soggy oven baked faux fries!