Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Something Other Than Chili for Super-Bowl Sunday -- Roasted Spareribs with Crushed Fennel & Red Chiles

In the middle of the night, when I couldn't sleep, again, I was thinking about what you could serve for Super Bowl Sunday that would be fun to eat, wasn't chili, and wouldn't require a grill. People want to watch the game -- I'm assuming -- not whatever is on the stove.

It struck me that I hadn't shared an incredibly easy recipe for some pretty stellar ribs with you. Ribs that need a quick oil and then spice rub and then just need to sit a spell in the oven. They would be just the thing for a football afternoon. Chill some beer, whip up some German potato salad and a tangy cole slaw in advance and entertaining and viewing would unfold almost effortlessly.

I received Andrea Reusing's Cooking In The Moment from my wonderful Mother-in-Law for my Birthday. I can't give a full commentary on the book, because I've only prepared three dishes so far, including a perfectly passable red lentil soup, a very strong macaroni with beans, roasted squash and ham hocks, and her roasted spareribs with crushed fennel and red chiles. So far I'm pleased, and looking forward to trying more of her seasonal recipes.

The roasted spareribs with crushed fennel and red chiles immediately caught my eye, because back in the day when I roasted chickens on a far more regular basis, I loved massaging them with olive oil, and smashed fennel seed and red chile, and salt and pepper. It was a fantastic way to enjoy a bird. It honestly never occurred to me to take in beyond poultry.

The other reason the recipe jumped out at me was exactly the same reason I am suggesting this to you for Super Bowl Sunday. It is absolutely easy. There are hardly any ingredients to gather and almost no thought or prep involved.

A little bit spicy thanks to chiles, highly aromatic courtesy crushed fennel seed, and succulent beyond belief, because they're pork spareribs for goodness sake, these ribs should satisfy a hungry football crowd. The edges are crisp and the interior juicy. They'd make your family happy too, while keeping you free to goof around all evening long.

Depending on the size of your crowd you may want to double the recipe. Shouldn't be a problem at all. Because of the fattiness, the ribs took well to a gentle reheating. Tasted good cold too!

Andrea Reusing's Roasted Spareribs with Crushed Fennel & Red Chiles

2 racks (about 5 pounds) pork spareribs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 small dried red chiles, such as de Arbol
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Drizzle the ribs with the oil and rub it in evenly. In a clean spice or coffee grinder, pulse the chiles and fennel seeds until coarsely but fairly evenly ground. Season the ribs on both sides with the mixture, and with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Put the ribs on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and roast, rotating the pan halfway through cooking, for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until the meat is tender and deep golden brown, and easily pulls away from the bones. Cut into individual ribs.

Serves 4 to 6

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sopa De Fubá - Collard Greens, Cornmeal and Sausage Soup

Today it's going to nudge 80 degrees. It's January for goodness sake! What is going on here? Last week it was cold and a touch rainy. Today doesn't necessarily feel like soup, but a couple of days ago it surely did.

Thanks to the outstanding Silver Lake Farms C.S.A. I belong to, I had a smallish bunch of young collard greens in the crisper and a tempting bunch of purple Russian Kale, and the desire for something warming in my toes. I had glanced up at the teetering stack of aging issues of Saveur magazine piled on top of my old wood filing cabinet, when I spied a spine that promised recipes for collard greens. Flipping through, I discovered a recipe from Brazilian food-blogger Neide Rigo unlike any I had tried before. Sopa de Fubá, a robust Brazilian soup of collard greens, cornmeal and kielbasa sausage, looked to be just what I craved.

I luckily found myself in the Fairfax district later that day so a visit to the seriously lovely ladies of the Lindy & Grundy butcher shop was in order. I picked up a few gorgeous plump kielbasa that turned a wonderful soup into a knock-out. Spicy!

Always the skeptic, I had doubts about the lack of garlic or onions, the absence of any spices or herbs, and the apparent watery quality of the soup during the early stages of cooking (it didn't look like the picture in the magazine!). The recipe is really quite simple. The main ingredients are cornmeal, kielbasa, chicken stock, collard greens, eggs, and a garnish of green onions. I was stumped as to how this was going to evolve into something marvelous.

The trick is toasting the cornmeal. This results in a richer flavor for the soup and perfumes the house with a toasty sweetness. The other thing to remember is the intense flavor of the kielbasa sausage. You don't need any spices competing with the boldness of kielbasa.

I've never made a soup with cornmeal. I expected the soup to thicken up markedly, but when you are using only half a cup of cornmeal to seven cups of chicken stock, this clearly isn't going to happen. It's actually the two lightly beaten eggs that provide most of the body to the Sopa de Fubá. And there's plenty of body at that. The soup is hearty and thick, laced with the green collards (I used half kale and half collards, contentedly), and peppered with spicy chunks of sausage. The flavor is powerfully delicious. Just be sure to taste before you salt!

A few notes. The cornmeal I used took only thirty minutes to become tender, so be sure to taste along the way. Also the greens took closer to ten minutes to wilt. This will depend on the size and age of your greens.

The recipe suggests that it will feed six. Perhaps. As a first course, you'd be fine serving six. I served this as an entrée with a salad and loaf of crusty bread to a hungry man and a very hungry pregnant woman (me!) with only enough left for one. I was wary of reheating the soup, but was pleasantly surprised by how good the soup tasted a few days later.

Sopa De Fubá - Collard Greens, Cornmeal, and Sausage Soup

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons canola oil
6 ounces kielbasa sausage, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices
7 cups chicken stock
4 ounces collard greens, stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 scallions, thinly sliced

Heat the cornmeal in a 10" skillet over medium-high heat and cook, swirling pan constantly, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer cornmeal to a bowl; set aside. Heat oil in skillet and add sausages; cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Bring chicken stock to a boil in a 6-quart pot over high heat. Whisk in reserved cornmeal, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, whisking often, until cornmeal is tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in reserved sausages and collards and cook, stirring occasionally, until collards wilt, 15 minutes. Place eggs in a medium bowl and add 1 cup cornmeal mixture; whisk until smooth. Return mixture to pot and stir until incorporated; cook for 1 minute more and season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish with scallions; serve hot.

Serves 6

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sautéed Shrimp in Pastis with Lemon & Cherry Tomatoes

I'm not sure if I've mentioned my fitful relationship with shrimp of late. In my heart, I love the curly shellfish. In practice this is less and less the case. The shrimp I've found in local markets and the frozen muck they sell at Trader Joe's has left me wondering what I ever saw in the pink crustaceans. In Puerto Vallarta last September, we were popping shrimp like no tomorrow. They were all scrumptious, succulent morsels. At home, not so much.

I realize that purchasing your shrimp at highly reputable vendors is the key to enjoyment. I'm currently stuck on McCall's Meat & Fish in Los Feliz. They're pricey as hell, but the quality is so high that you start to feel weird about shopping at lesser institutions like Gelsons (especially because their fish is expensive, yet lacking a healthy sheen and really tastes mediocre at best) or Whole Foods (because they are so expensive and their beef is lacking in tenderness and flavor). With McCall's, I've never been disappointed. I just can't afford to shop there exclusively.

Of course an outstanding preparation will certainly increase your odds of success. When I was preparing mussels with sherry and chorizo the other night, I started to remember a shrimp dish that I'd eaten back in Santa Cruz; something with cherry tomatoes and lots of butter. A quick phone call to my old pal, Eric, had me on the right track. He reminded me that it was a Gerald Hirigoyen (great Basque chef based in San Francisco) recipe that I was after.

Thank goodness for Google. I found the recipe I was looking for within seconds, and with a short trip down the hill to Cookbook for herbs, I was all set.

The recipe that I speak of is Hirigoyen's Sautéed Shrimp in Pastis with Lemon and Cherry Tomatoes. The preparation is ultra-simple. Making this on a weeknight is a breeze. I think your only complaint might be the liberal use of butter. The recipe is supposed to serve four. I used a pound of shrimp instead of a pound and a quarter and it served two with one serving left for little Fe. the next day (hurrah, he's finally allowed to eat shellfish!). That being said, a stick of butter may seem like an awful lot for a dinner for two and a shorty.

But what the hell?! You've got to let yourself go every so often and this dish is a perfect reason to do just that. Plus it's exciting! Pyrotechnics! You light the pastis (I used Ricard.) on fire!!

Flambé all the way!

I had trouble wrapping my head around the fact that the recipe does not call for garlic or shallots. It felt positively unnatural to make a sautéed shrimp dish without one or both. I'll tell you confidently that it actually does not need it. I couldn't help myself so I sautéed a crushed clove of garlic in the olive oil for a minute or two (then tossed it) before adding the shrimp. Truth be told, I could barely taste it and not for even one second did I miss the alliums.

You sauté the shrimp in the hot olive oil, add the halved cherry tomatoes, add the pastis, and then flambé until the flame dies out. You add lemon juice, herbs, butter and salt and pepper and simply swish the pan around until the butter is completely incorporated. Presto, your dinner is ready. Serve it with a small heap of fragrant rice for ultimate satisfaction or perhaps a nest of slippery noodles.

The recipe calls for basil, but I opted for tarragon since it pairs so well with pastis. The butter is cut into smallish cubes to ease the melting and emulsifying. You want to be sure not to boil the sauce or the lovely emulsion that results from your gentle pan swishing will break and the beurre-blanc like sauce will be shot. Careful!

This is a buttery, herbaceous dish full of basil (or tarragon), parsley and chives that packs a nice citrus hit from the ample use of lemon juice. The flambéed pastis adds a warm anise flavor that ties the entire dish together. It's quick work, but it would easily impress your Saturday night dinner guests.

Gerald Hirigoyen's Sautéed Prawns in Pastis with Lemon and Cherry Tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 pounds shrimp (approximately 30) (I used fewer larger shrimp), shelled and de-veined
10 ounces cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 tablespoons Pastis, such as Ricard or Pernod
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the shrimp and sauté for about 2 minutes stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and the Pastis, and flambé until the flame dies out. Add the lemon juice, butter, basil, parsley, and chives and season with salt and pepper to taste. Swirl the pan over the heat just until the butter is completely melted into the sauce. Take care not to boil, or the sauce may separate.

Serves 4

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Escarole & Meatball Soup

A steaming bowl of this escarole soup replete with meatballs is exactly what I imagine someone suffering the cold in the midwest would be hankering for. Here in sunny Southern California, where it smacks of Spring, it fits the bill quite nicely too. Hot and hearty, but not overly thick and heavy, this may just be the soup to carry you through all of 2012.

Thank you, Dana Bowen for sharing this terrific recipe with Saveur readers this December. An equally heartfelt thank you to Rita and Joseph for pointing it out to me. Rita declared it a winner and I couldn't agree more. The escarole soup contains two of my favorite things, meatballs and escarole! Add a mound of comforting rice, plenty of sweet onions, and a healthy dose of ground pepper and you've got a soup that is sure to satisfy.

The soup is a snap to make as long as you don't mind getting your hands dirty. Ground beef under your nails and in between your fingers is a certainty. For me rolling out meatballs is soothing work, carrying the promise of something delicious and nourishing just around the bend. The smell of the ingredients heaped up in the bowl was pure Italy, familiar and exotic all at once.

Just a couple of notes. I used fresh bread crumbs that I whizzed up in the food processor from a day old loaf of ciabatta. The recipe calls for seasoned bread crumbs, and I'm guessing that you can buy pre-seasoned breadcrumbs in a grocery store, but I didn't bother with that. I did not find the meatballs lacking due to this. I also don't own any Italian seasoning. I simply mixed together a tablespoon of oregano, basil, thyme, and marjoram. This did the trick, also without any noticeable want.

We supped on the escarole soup over the course of a few days. The soup is ever tasty the second and third go-round, but the meatballs do tend to fall apart (not necessarily a bad thing). Serve this to the young and old alike! A and I were mighty pleased and Fe. scarfed down the greens and meatballs like they were going out of style. A definite hit all round.

Dana Bowen's Escarole Soup

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more
1/2 cup grated pecorino
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, plus 1, minced
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced, plus 1, minced
1 small bunch parsley, minced
1 egg lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large heads escarole, cored and cut in to 2-inch pieces
8 cups chicken stock
Cooked white rice, for serving

Mix beef, bread crumbs, parmesan, pecorino, 1/4 cup oil, seasoning, minced garlic and onion, parsley, egg, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Form into 30, 1 1/2-inch meatballs; chill.

Heat remaining oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the sliced garlic and onions; cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add escarole; cook until wilted, about 6 minutes. Add stock; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add meatballs; cook until meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked rice; top with more parmesan and black pepper.

Serves 8

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Happy New Year!

We ended 2011 with a bang. The champagne cork shot straight up to the ceiling with absolutely no prodding from me. Pop!

We did it up big time for our final meal of 2011. It was decadence at its finest. To start, buckwheat blinis with clarified butter, crème fraîche and glistening orange salmon roe. To keep up appearances we followed with trembling bone marrow, toasted ciabatta, and a piquant parsley salad.

The final shabang and main course was boiled whole Maine lobster. You don't need showy sides to distract from your giant red crustacean, so we settled for simple and delicious. Steamed artichokes, boiled potatoes, coleslaw dressed in a vinaigrette and melted butter and lemon and homemade garlic aioli for dipping.

A. was not too keen on lobster death. By the time the creature was placed in front of him, he was well past over it. Too bad, because everyone else was delighted with dinner. A real feast to be sure.

With New Year's resolutions and diets, and reformed spending measures, I'm guessing people won't re running out to splurge on lobsters right away. And what is marrow besides an added inch to the waist-line (a delicious one at that)? I thought I'd start you off with something slightly more versatile and straight forward. Although perhaps not much healthier...

Moderation, folks. It's all about moderation.

The garlic aioli that I made was in my humble opinion, stupendous. I know. That is singing rather high praises, but I was honestly floored by how great it was. I have been a long time hater of mayonnaise and an aioli skeptic at the best of times. That's not to say that I haven't made my fair share of aioli. As a prep cook in Santa Cruz, after picking parsley, aioli preparation became my specialty.

But Santa Cruz was a long time ago, and I haven't made a habit out of aioli. Far from it. But I was certain that garlic aioli was just the condiment to accompany our feast. The potatoes, artichokes and lobster would all be cozy cloaked in a spot of aioli. So yeah, I was a little insecure about my aioli making skills. I didn't trust my judgement (or frankly my whisking ability), so I turned to my super-hero, Nancy Silverton.

She's got a bang-up garlic mayonnaise (I still can't even handle that word!) recipe in the new Mozza Cookbook. It isn't wildly different than any other mayonnaise or aioli recipe, but the seasoning is spot on. So is Silverton's advice to take it slow. It is way easier (although not that easy at all!) to slowly add one drop of oil at a time than to repair a broken aioli, which is one of the world's greatest pains in the ass. I nearly lost my right arm to crippling fatigue, but it was all well worth it.

So Happy New Year to you all! There are good things to come in 2012. The photography should be looking up, thanks to super-generous A. who thoughtfully gave me a fancy-schmancy new digital SLR (definitely something a little rad!) camera and macro lens for Christmas. Hurrah! We'll also be welcoming a baby girl into the world some time in the beginning of June.

So good things indeed!

Mozza's Garlic Mayonnaise

1 extra-large egg yolk
2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, grated or minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
3/4 cup grapeseed oil or another neutral-flavored oil, such as canola (I prefer peanut)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Add the egg yolk to a medium sized heavy glass bowl and whisk. Add the vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and salt and whisk to combine. Combine the grapeseed oil and olive oil in a measuring cup. Add a few drops at a time to the bowl, whisking constantly to form an emulsion. When you've added about half of the oil, begin to drizzle the oil in a slow steady stream, continuing to whisk constantly, until all of the oil has been added. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if necessary. The mayonnaise can be made up to three days in advance. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Makes approximately 1 cup.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Dearest family, friends, and loyal readers,

I'm hoping you'll extend your patience with me until January. I haven't forgotten you! I know I've been silent for an unforgivable amount of time, but November and December have taken their toll as per usual. I can't complain, there have been Anniversaries, Birthdays, Holidays, house guests, parties and now traveling. Lots of fun, some pretty great eating, but zero time to leisurely document any of it. Sorry!

I'll be back in early January a new girl in a brand New Year. Until then I wish you and yours the happiest of Holidays and lots of love.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Mexican Green Chile Stew

A grey gloom is stretching outside my window. There was rain and there's more to come. Autumn is finally here, and the now-working heating is on. I've been drinking cup after cup of tea, and I've found that the only way to truly warm up is from the inside out.

If you're feeling even a hint of this kind of chill, I have a suggestion for you.

New Mexican Green Chile Stew.

I have this one issue of Saveur Magazine (September/October 2001) that is the most dog-earred, crumpled, wreck of a magazine. It is the issue that keeps on giving. I've made Pork Roast with Mustard and Herbes de Provence countless times. It is phenomenal. The Arroz con Pollo is the epitome of comfort food. I've whipped up the classic Clafoutis aux Pommes and now I can say that I've prepared the Green Chile Stew. It won't be the last time.

The recipe for green chile stew is a quintessential New Mexican recipe with a twist. It uses beef instead of pork. The humble chuck roast to be exact. The beef has a satisfying chew and its bath with the onions and garlic in slowly bubbling water produces a richly flavorful broth. Being a passionate soup-lover, this stew appealed to me on an intrinsic level. The soupiness is just what you need to cure a rotten case of the shivers.

This is not a complicated recipe. The hardest part is charring and peeling the anaheim chiles. This type of task used to scare me off when I was younger, but I've gotten the hang of it, and once you get in a groove, you can make quick work of it. Using the broiler is a breeze, but you can also char them on your stove-top if you suffer from broiler-phobia as I used to.

The recipe is in fact so simple, verging on minimal, that I was concerned that it might be a flop. Chiles, chuck roast, onion, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, cumin. Sounds so basic. I swear when the meat was simmering away, I was the most skeptical of all. Boiled meat and onions, hmm. I really wasn't turned on. The pot looked so grey. But it is amazing what a simmer, some chiles and onion, garlic, tomatoes, and cumin can do.

The flavor is actually quite huge. Although this green chile stew is not very spicy. There is a faint notion of heat, but that is it. The robust beefy broth is soothing and verging on addictive.

I do have an important reminder, which I foolishly did not listen to when I said the same thing to myself. Do not crowd the pot, when you are browning the chunks of beef. I doubled the recipe. As I was throwing all the beef into the pot to brown, I knew I was making a big mistake. Your meat will boil not brown if the pot is too crowded. I know this. You know this. Listen! It makes such a difference.

The enticing aroma will fill your house. The windows will steam up. You will feel like your are doing right by the season. To my mind hot buttered tortillas are a necessary accompaniment and perhaps a crisp salad to finish it off.

New Mexican Green Chile Stew

8 medium-hot fresh green chiles, such as anaheim or new mexico
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound boneless beef chuck, in 1-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
5 new potatoes, peeled (I didn't bother peeling) and halved
2 medium tomatoes, cored and diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Set oven rack in top third of the oven and preheat the broiler. Arrange chiles in a single layer on a large baking sheet and broil on each side just until their skin blisters and chars, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chiles to a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until cool enough to handle. Using your fingers, peel off skins and remove and discard stems and seeds. Coarsely chop chiles and set aside.

Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Generously season beef with salt, then add meat to pot and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until well browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, 5 minutes. Add 3 cups water, scraping any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover pot, and simmer until meat is tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.

Add potatoes to pot, reduce heat to medium-low, and continue cooking, partially covered, until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes, cumin, reserved chiles, and salt to taste and simmer, completely covered, until meat is very tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes more. Adjust seasonings. Serve with warm flour tortillas, if you like.

Serves 6