I'm shutting the blog down for a while. Peace.
Two months since I made a post! I've been busy traveling and entertaining guests plus it's been too hot to feel like cooking. Time to get back in the groove.
One of my favorite New Mexican specialties is Sopapillas (also spelled Sopaipillas). They are a lovely puffy deep fried bread similar to the beignets of New Orleans. Usually served with honey or cinnamon sugar as a dessert, I prefer them with a savory filling. Somehow during the 4 days I spent in New Mexico this summer, I never had a chance to order them. A terrible oversight which I corrected tonight by cooking some up.
I stuffed them with Machaca and served them with Rancho Gordo's Anazazi beans. Let me put in a plug for Rancho Gordo. These are by far the best beans I have ever tasted. I've tried 3 varieties so far and they are all excellent....it's no wonder that great chefs like Thomas Keller at The French Laundry uses them. They are fresh so cook quickly and need no seasoning except salt.
2 c flour
1 t salt
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 T oil
1/2-3/4 warm water (as needed to form dough)
Combine ingredients and knead on a floured surface for 5 minutes. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 20 minutes. Roll into a square 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 3X3 inch squares. Deep fry in 400 degree oil a few at a time. Be sure to hold them down in the oil initially and flip after a minute or so. If the oil is hot enough they will puff up almost immediately. Fry til nicely golden brown. Drain well and keep warm.
1 lb beef chuck
1 onion, minced
3 clove garlic, minced
3-6 roasted Hatch green chiles, chopped, to taste*
1 large tomato, chopped
cumin, salt, pepper to taste
Cover beef with salted water and simmer til tender. Drain (reserve one cup broth) and shred with two forks. Saute onion and garlic in oil. Add shredded beef. Saute 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients plus reserved broth. Simmer for about 15 minutes til tomato is cooked.
Assembly: Split open sopapillas and stuff with beef. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and serve. For a fancier presentation have ready warm red or green chile sauce. Place stuffed sopapillas in a baking pan, pour sauce on, spinkle with cheese and broil til cheese melts.
*While in New Mexico this summer I bought 30 pounds of freshly roasted Hatch chiles, packed them in a cooler and froze them when I got home. I had a choice of heat levels and picked medium-hot. OMG! These are VERY hot even with all seeds removed. Be sure to taste test chiles before adding.
Okay, I am royally pissed off. According to an article in the Guardian, one of Britains's leading papers, the USA has decided that birdwatchers are terrorists. Yes. I am a terrorist, my friends. Sorry I didn't mention it earlier. But you know? When you spend your time watching birds and cooking, you just kind of forget those important details.
But now that my illustrious government has reminded me...........HELL YES! I will start posting pictures of the critically vulnerable places I go birding....sewage treatment plants, nuclear power stations, electric company warming ponds, the beach....oh, and let's not forget, my backyard.
When I saw that this month's IMBB? (Is My Blog Burning?) would feature eggs I just knew I had to enter. I thoroughly despise eggs so what a challenge for me. I'm not allergic to them. I can eat them if they are cooked and hidden as in a cake. But the thought of eating them raw or undisguised nauseates me. I can't abide the taste, the smell, or the thought of them. It's a genuine food fetish, one of the few I haven't been able to overcome (for the first half of my life I wouldn't eat onions either!).
So what could I make and eat that used either raw or undisguised eggs? I puzzled over this for several weeks and almost gave up when I had a brainstorm. Of course. Mix them with booze! I'm Irish and I'll always try an alcoholic drink at least once! Traditionally, eggs or their whites were added to cocktails for viscosity and foaminess. So here are three examples.
Many thanks to Viv of Seattle Bon Vivant for hosting this month's IMBB?
2 oz gin
2 t whipping cream
1 t grenadine
1 t lemon juice
1 t sugar
1 egg white
Skake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes for at least one minute. Strain into a small cocktail glass.
2 oz light rum
1/2 oz triple sec
3 t lime juice
1 t sugar
1 egg white
1 sprig mint
Shake all ingredients except mint in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes for at least one minute. Strain into a rocks glass filled wiith ice cubes and garnish with mint.
1 t Creme de Menthe
2 oz gin
6 t lemon juice
1 t powdered sugar
1 egg white
Shake all ingredients except soda in a cocktail shaker for at least one minute. Strain into a cocktail glass. Add 2 ice cubes and fill with club soda.
My favorite was definitely the Acapulco.
Tip: I found that first whipping the egg white briefly with a wire whip helped it combine better than adding it straight to the shaker.
Another trip to the Brentwood farms today, this time to pick white peaches, white nectarines and boysenberries. Then invented a marvelous new drink.
First prepare the glasses. Rub the rim of a martini glass with a slice of lime and then dip into sugar to coat rim.
Puree ripe berries (we used boysenberries), then press through a strainer to remove seeds.
Make a batch of daquiris in the blender using one 12 oz can of frozen lemonade concentrate, 1/3-1/2 can of white rum, 4-5 peeled, chopped peaches. Fill blender with ice and blend til smooth.
Place two teaspoons of berry puree in bottom of each martini glass. Pour on peach daquiri. Cheers!
So I drove out to Brentwood and picked fresh bing cherries. My favorite cherry farmer grows a small crop, they sell out almost immediately, of a Bing relative called "Coral Champagne". Best bings ever. They are huge and sweet. A tip for those of you who pick your own cherries: taste a cherry from the tree before you pick...in the same grove, trees vary widely in sweetness.
I love picking my own fruit/vegies. Not necessarily less expensive, the cherries were $2/lb, but I get to pick and choose perfect fruit. As the season progresses I'll pick strawberries, boysenberries, ollalaberries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, corn, squash, etc.
Is that a beautiful pie?
I confess I am not a talented baker. I never even made pie (the crusts were so bad) until I found this easy recipe from Cook's Illustrated.
In a food processor combine:
2 1/2 c flour
1 t salt
12 T cold butter
8 T crisco
Process for 5-6 one second spurts
Pour into bowl.
Add 6-8 T ice cold water. Stir in with a spatula. Divide into 2. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling. Roll out two crusts (top and bottom).
Filling (you can substitute any fresh fruit/berries but need to compensate for juiciness):
6 cups fresh cherries, pitted
1 c sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t all aspice
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t lemon zest
2 T cornstarch
Mix all. Pour into bottom pie shell. Dot 2 T butter across top. Top with other crust. Brush with 1 egg white whipped with a bit of water for shiny crust. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and cook another 35-40 mintues.
Ok...I couldnt wait til it cooled down to cut it, so it was still a bit runny. I like thin juices for combining with ice cream. If you prefer thicker juices just add a bit more cornstarch.
Wandering through a fancy grocery store, I discovererd a piece of hanger steak in the discount meat bin. Yes, I confess on occasion I buy meat from the discount bin. It hasn't killed me yet. I decided to buy it because I had never cooked hanger steak. My local grocery stores don't carry it and when I do see it for sale it's prohibitively expensive due to its current restaurant popularity. The fact that there is only one hanger steak per cow might also drive up the price.
The hanger steak is a piece of meat that literally hangs from the diaphragm of the cow. It's similar in texture to the skirt steak (diaphragm) which we encounter frequently as fajita meat. Sometimes it's referred to as hanging tender or butcher's steak (traditionally the butcher claimed it for himself rather than offering it for sale). Hanger steak is a flavorful but tough, grainy piece of meat like skirt and flank, so it must be cooked and carved with care in order to be appetizing. Cook it over high heat briefly to rare-medium rare and slice it thinly against the grain for the best results.
Marinate a hanger steak in olive oil, minced garlic, and fresh herb sprigs (thyme or rosemary work well) for 8 hours to overnight. I find it's easiest to marinate in heavy-duty zip-lock bags.
A few hours before dinner peel an English cucumber, slice thinly at a slant and toss with S & P and a few T of white wine vinegar. Let sit.
Slice a handful of radishes thinly.
Prepare a tomato vinaigrette. Cut a shallow cross in the bottom of 3 large ripe tomatoes. Drop them in boiling water for about one minute, then drop them in a bowl of ice water. The skin will slip off easily when cool. Remove the core and dice tomatoes (get rid of juice). Stir together 4T EVOO, 1 T white wine vinegar, 1 T horseradish, 1 T chopped fresh tarragon (or parsley or basil if you can't find tarragon), and S & P to taste. Toss with tomatoes.
Heat a grill to high heat. Pat steak dry and grill to medium rare, a few minutes on each side. (As you can see I erred on the rare side.) Allow steak to sit covered with tin foil for 5 minutes.
To serve toss a bunch of arugula with the radishes, EVOO, splashes of balsamic vinegar and S & P to taste. Slice steak thinly across the grain. Divide arugula between 4 plates. Fan steak and cucumber slices around arugula. Drizzle tomato vinaigrette over all.
This is an easy light dish that was inspired by a recipe on a CBS news website.
Sadly, I didn't discover fresh fava beans until a few years ago. I'd see them in grocery stores occasionally in spring but they always looked kind of funky and I had no idea what to do with them.
Once I started experimenting with favas I quickly discovered that one of the keys to success is determining whether they are fresh and young, or overgrown and old. Most likely when you encounter them in a chain grocery store they are the latter. They can still be delicious if properly prepared. However, in my opinion they will never reach the heights of fresh baby favas which you have just picked yourself while the pods are still small and the beans are less than 1/2 inch in length. Rarely, you might encounter these at a reliable farm stand or farmer's market.
If you are lucky enough to find a supply of freshly picked baby favas, don't even think about cooking them. Simply pop the beans out of the shell (no need to peel) and eat them plain with some shaved imported parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano and a glass of your favorite white wine. Sheer heaven, especially if you are sitting outside on a beautiful spring day.
So what to do with the older large beans you are most likely to encounter? First separate the beans from the flabby thick outer pod. Then toss them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Immediately immerse them in ice water and allow them to cool. At that point remove the skin from each bean. It's easy. Simply pinch the end and pop the bean out. Dry the beans well between paper towels. Many of them will split in two along their natural seams...it's doesn't matter.
So what to do with a pile of peeled favas? Here are a few suggestions. Since they reach their peak at artichoke season, why not braise them briefly with baby artichokes for a great combination. Or even simpler, just saute them for a few minutes in butter and/or EVOO. Season them with fresh herbs for a lovely side dish. Simplest of all throw them in a salad as I did last night (they really don't need further cooking after the skin is removed unless they are seriously old in which case they should be tossed).
Fava Bean Salad
Make a sharp vinaigrette with your best EVOO, best white wine vinegar, Dijon and S & P. Toss the favas with the dressing, a couple handfuls of arugula, 1 T each minced mint and Italian parsley. Correct seasoning. Divide between two salad plates and shave over some excellent imported parmigiano.
Tip: Favas are easy to grow and the blossoms are quite beautiful. Squeeze in a few rows at the back of a border for a great springtime treat.
While on our recent trip to New York City, we of course had to try a steak at Peter Luger, often cited as the best steakhouse in the USA. We called 6 weeks in advance for a Friday night dinner reservation for 2 and the only time slot offered to us was 9:45 pm. I was later told by those in the know that they hold back tables for locals and regulars...as unknown tourists we were shunted into an unpopular time. It could have been worse, they were still seating people at 11:00.
It was raining so traveling by public transport was out. Because of the apparent difficulty of finding a taxi in Brooklyn we hired a car service to take us. This worked out fine and made it easy to return to our hotel after dining.
Luger's was packed, noisy and bustleing. Luckily we managed to snag a seat at the long bar and our table was ready on time. It's clear that one doesn't go to Luger's for atmosphere unless one likes that run-down German beer hall feel. My martini was truly ghastly so I switched to beer after one sip. We didn't bother with the wine menu having heard it's not impressive. Beer actually goes quite well with the food.
We were seated in a room upstairs. Not a great room for those who want to see and be seen but perfect for us. Unlike the downstairs rooms which have bare wooden floors, the upstairs is carpeted and conversation at the table is actually possible.
At Luger's only tourists look at the menu. Heh. There is really only one thing to order and that is the Porterhouse for 2 or more. As accompaniments we ordered the German Fries (hash browns) and the Creamed Spinach. Also a couple pieces of the famous bacon to start. First up was a very nice bread basket with 3 types of rolls...all delicious, particularly the onion rolls.
On the table is always a gravy boat of Luger's Steakhouse sauce. I'd heard that one must never put it on the steak but it goes well on the salad and rolls. Honestly, to me it just tasted like a watered down version of shrimp cocktail sauce...basically ketchup and horseradish with a squeeze of lemon. I don't get the allure.
The bacon, however, lived up to its reputaion. Easily the best bacon I have ever eaten. The only thing that confuses me is that it is referred to as Canadian bacon when it is clearly cured pork belly rather than tenderloin. Still superb.
The steak arrived quickly. This is not a linger over your courses restaurant. It was already sliced and before I could get a picture the waiter had served our plates. That took me by surprise.
The steak was cooked perfectly medium rare and served on a sizzling hot plate, apparently the plate it was broiled on. Lots of fat pooled in the bottom of the plate to spoon over each serving.
The plates after serving:
My companion tried to cook the meat further on the sizzling plate as it was a bit too rare for him. Worked pretty well.
The potatoes were quite good, almost blackened and crispy. The spinach was meh. Tasted more like flour and milk than cream to me.
So was this the best steak ever? I'm hard pressed to think of a better steak I've eaten. It had that deep, bloody, almost minerally flavor that denotes a well-aged prime steak. And it was very tender but still had a nice chew. Supposedly Luger's gets first pick of all the top prime meat produced here, and then dry ages it in house which may explain why it is so good. It was well-seasoned though I don't believe the melted fat was butter as is claimed. Maybe tourists get oil instead?
Definitely worth a visit for any serious steak fan.