Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chicken Week Part 2: Arugula Salad with Pesto Dressing

This dish literally flies together.  Just about as fast as you can fry off some chicken tenders, you can cook this dish.  And it grows on you.  (We have a great quick burrito recipe that reminds me of this one for the same reasons) We buy a lot of grape tomatoes.  They are sweet, you can pop them in your mouth for a snack, they roast well and burst when you eat them and they fit well into a lot of different recipes.  The first time I had the salad I thought it was just ok... But then I thought about how healthy it is, how it takes one of the humblest, cheapest cuts of meat, the boneless chicken tender and utilizes it perfectly.  And I love Pesto, such a wonderful salty herbaceous flavor.  Its a healthy dish and for our purposes with Chicken Week, it shows the versatility of chicken because unlike the bone in thighs which are sultry and indulgent but take a long time to braise in order to serve a large table, this dish is light, fast can literally be brought together in 20 minutes or less.  It makes sense for one person for a lunch portion just as well as a light dinner when you're feeling a little rotund.   Plus its a very pretty plate.   You don't have an hour to cook every night but you don't have to sacrifice the integrity of your dish.

8 chicken tenders
Olive oil
salt and pepper
6c Baby Arugula
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2c fresh mozzerella, cubed
lemon juice from a fresh lemon
3 tbsp chicken broth
1/2 c pesto
4 tbsp toasted pine nuts

Toss tenders in a bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper.  Let rest from 1 hour. 
Heat large skillet and then add 2 tbsp olive oil. When pan is hot, add the chicken.  Sear on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and rest.
Meanwhile combine the pesto, chicken broth, salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse a few times til combined.
Put the fresh arugula in a bowl and toss with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, pine nuts, chicken and drizzle with the pesto.

The salad in the picture shows three tenders.  That is because Matt is a human garbage disposal and can eat more than any human on earth :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chicken Week Part 1~ Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs

I've been working a lot lately and our sense of culinary adventure at home has been suffering... Sure I whipped up some shrimp and grits the other day, pretty tasty even though the grits were way too firm.  But overall, its been a steady diet of crackers, chips and whatever else we can grab to sustain ourselves (and fatten ourselves up) So Jessica woke up this morning and headed out to the neighborhood grocery where apparently, there was a big sale on chicken.  She returned with a whole chicken, chicken thighs and chicken tenders (not pre-breaded processed crap, just the cuts of chicken called the tender).  Chicken has to be one of the most versatile proteins there is. Just thinking about all the different cuts and things you can do with this humble, inexpensive ingredient gets my creative juices flowing and makes me hungry.  Hence the theme for our new blog series was born, Chicken Week.

I've mentioned before that my brother and his wife just had a child and for those of us with kids we all know what that is like.  You can read a book about how to be a parent but only being one will truly enlighten you as to how completely, albeit wonderfully, overwhelming it is.  So we decided to make them dinner at their place.  Autumn, the new baby is having some digestive issues and Liza has decided to stay off all dairy items.  Luckily chicken is her favorite protein so we set out to plan a menu that accommodated her tastes.  Fortunately one of Jessica's signature dishes, Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs fit the bill perfectly.  We served it with spaghetti in a classic bordelaise sauce and green beans with bacon.  It was a very comforting family style but intensely flavorful and balanced plate of food.  Recipes for all three components, courtesy of Jessica, are below.  This should serve a family of 4.

Before I start on the recipes, I would like to add that overall, chicken is usually not my protein of choice.  That is because too often when someone uses it in a dish they take off the two parts that give chicken its flavor, the bone and the skin.  Please do not do this... THE BONES AND SKIN ARE WHAT GIVE CHICKEN FLAVOR!!!

Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs

10 bone in , skin on chicken thighs
     cayenne pepper
1/4c olive oil
2 heads(YES, the WHOLE head) of garlic smashed
3 lemons, quartered
1c dry white wine

Season both sides of room temperature chicken with salt, pepper and cayenne.
Heat a very large, oven safe pan over very high heat.  I like to use my huge cast iron Le Creuset for this.  Whatever pan you use it must have a lid.  After the pan is hot, add the olive oil.  Heat the oil until very hot.  Add the chicken, skin side down and cook approximately 5 minutes per side, until seared.  Add all of the garlic and cook for one minute.  Add the wine and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and add the lemons.  Cover and place in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.  At the end of the hour, remove the lid and baste the chicken with the juices and return to oven for 30 more minutes, basting every 10 minutes.

Green Beans With Bacon

2lbs fresh whole green beans, ends trimmed
1/2lb bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil.  Add the green beans and boil for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into a bowl of ice and cold water.  This is called "shocking" and will help the beans maintain their vibrant green color.
Meanwhile add the bacon pieces to a large, cold skillet.  Cook over medium low heat until browned and cooked through.  Add the green beans, salt and pepper and toss for a couple of minutes, until the green beans are crisp tender.

Spaghetti With Bordelaise Sauce

1/4c olive oil
1/4c chopped green onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp white wine
1 tbsp of assorted dried italian herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme
salt and pepper
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 c chopped parsley
1c fresh grated parm

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Drain.
In a medium sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and green onions and cook,  until fragrant about 2 minutes. Add the wine, herbs, salt, and pepper, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the butter and parsley and cook for 2  more minutes.
Return the drained pasta to the pan Add the sauce and toss well to coat. Sprinkle well with the Parmesan.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


The following review is of Perilla, Harold Dieterle's restaurant in New York City.  Harold was the inaugural winner of Top Chef.  This review is from September 11, 2009.

I will say first off that the meal, while very good, was not as good as I was expecting.

We arrived at 6:10pm for our 6 o'clock reservation and only 2 tables were seated. We were seated in a very small 2 top in the corner of a long row of 2 tops. While ordinarily this would not be an issue(I understand New York space costs) it is an issue while I am 6 months pregnant.
Our server while very attractive, was the caliber of server that I would expect to find at an Applebees. She spent a great deal of her time up at the bar socializing with the other waitstaff. Her answer for most questions about the food was "it is very good". Bleh. I frequently ask servers for their opinions and favorites because they are around the food the most and receive the most feedback and I expect an honest answer but she obviously did not feel as if that was part of her job description.
So we started with the duck meatballs of course. Very good. Nice presentation. Loved the quail egg. We also had a special appetizer "for 2". It was a housemade soft burrata with heirloom tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar and oil. This was by far the best bite of food that I had all evening. I was unsure if the cheese was pasteurized(almost positive that it was not) but I could not help myself. I wanted to order it again for my entree and I wish that I had.
Instead, I ordered the duck and Matt ordered the 3 little piggies. Although our server asked me if medium rare was ok and I said that it was, my duck was medium. When our server decided to tear herself away from her social hour to check on us, I informed her of this and she asked if I would like it recooked. She did not apologize or offer anything while I was waiting.
I had a few bites of the 3 little piggies entree while I waited. Matt described the dish as an appetizer, entree and dessert all on one plate. The pork belly wrapped in pastry(appetizer) was very good. The pate on toast(dessert) was sweet and easily the best third of the dish. The pork tenderloin, while I did not taste it, Matt described it as bland and boring and served on a bed of undercooked, bland lentils.
When the duck finally arrived at the table it was cooked correctly but was not as well seasoned as the bite of the previous duck dish. The purple yams were dry and bland.
For dessert, we ordered the vanilla scented doughnuts with peppermint refresher. While it was good, I did not feel a desire to fight over the extra 3rd doughnut that I normally would.
Overall, a good but slightly disappointing meal. I would go back and order different entrees and hopefully have a different server.

We felt very rushed to place our orders. We were hoping for a leisurely dinner and certainly did not get that. The restaurant did not fill up the entire time that we were there so there was no pressure to turn over the tables. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Heirloom Tomato Salad, French Onion Soup and Figs with Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Honey Port Drizzle

So tonight was my night to make dinner.  I really struggled with what to make because I hate the in between season time.  I love summer foods, tomatoes, light pastas, avocados, light and refreshing whereas fall and winter foods are heavy and meat based.
We went to Whole Foods last night(GREAT GROUPON, btw!) and of course, my eyes landed on the
heirloom tomatoes.  Knowing that this will probably be the last time that I get my fix this year, I scooped them up along with some Stilton and made the best salad in all of the world!  I also decided to go a little fall-ish with French Onion Soup. I wanted to veer away from the traditional Gruyere so I went with a french Gruyere called Comte.  It has the same nuttiness as Swiss Gruyere but it a bit sweeter.  As is standard for me, I perused several different recipes and picked and chose what I liked from each one.  I used a Cabernet for a little something different but when I make this again, I will not be adding the wine.  I felt like the wine flavor overpowered the sweet caramelized onions.  To finish, I went with a non traditional dessert.  I LOVE cheese plates.  If cakes did not exist, cheese would be my dessert of choice every night. These goat cheese stuffed figs,while good on their own, would be better as part of a grand cheese plate. Ahhhhhh, next time.

Here is the recipe for the French Onion Soup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 pounds sweet onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 quarts beef stock
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3c Gruyere, grated.

  1. Melt the butter in a large heavy casserole. Add the onions and bay leaves, cover and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft, about 15 minutes. Uncover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deeply browned, about 1 1/2 hours longer. Add water as necessary if the onions dry out.
  2. Add the flour to the onions and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until evaporated, another 2 minutes. Add the beef stock and thyme and simmer over  low heat for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°. Brush the bread slices with olive oil and toast for 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp.  Preheat the broiler. Ladle the hot soup into oven safe bowls. Top with the toast and scatter the cheese on top.  Broil for about 2 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Matt's Note: This was a really good light menu. The nice thing about eating it was that a)It was delicious and even though it was better than you could expect at even a good restaurant, it was inevitably much cheaper having been made by my wife Jessica. But b) It was something different (except for the tomato salad which was exquisite) than what we're used to eating. The techniques Jessica did, we saw the upside and down side. Like for example we have leftover soup and when we serve it tomorrow there will be 3x as much cheese on my crouton:-) Secondly the figs in their own right were delicious but eating an entire plate was totally monotone. If we served them with some salty ham like a nice Serrano, and a couple different heady or spicy cheeses then along with the port syrup it would really be a dynamic five star cheese plate...

Glazed Salmon with Spinach, Potato Crisps and Orange, Hoisin Reduction

I like wild caught salmon better than farm raised generally.  Maybe its the inner pretentious jackass in me or maybe it just tastes better.  For me the general rule with salmon is the redder the better.  For that reason Sockeye salmon tends to be my favorite and Coho salmon is my second.  The fish in this picture is Coho salmon.  It's my take on Asian flavors which are traditional with salmon, but its definitely not a purely Asian dish,

Salmon (skin on or off if you prefer)
Orange (about one orange per serving or you could substitute orange juice)
Hoisin (you could substitute soy)
Small potatoes

1.  Cut potatoes in small thin rounds.  Think like 2 to 3x the width of a typical potato chip.
2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat pan on.  Add a good amount of oil.  Fry potatoes on medium high heat, browning them on both sides.   I season the potatoes up right in the pan. Dry off and put on sheet pan with very very little oil.  Bake until slightly crispy around 10 minutes. 
3.  Reduce 3 parts fresh squeezed orange juice, orange zest, one table spoon Hoisin and one tablespoon honey on medium heat.  You don't need salt in this sauce, the hoisin should act as the salt.
4.  Heat pan to medium heat.  Add oil.  Place seasoned salmon skin side down glazing the top side with the sauce as you cook.  About 5-6 minutes on the skin side.  Flip fish over cook for 1-2 minutes on flesh side.  Remove from heat.
5,  Start out sweating finely minced ginger in butter on medium heat.  When ginger starts to caramelize add spinach cook for about two minutes. 
6.  Plate spinach first then potatoes around it, then finish with salmon on top of spinach and additional sauce. 

The sauce should be a little sweet which riffs nicely with some of the salty components going on.  Its pretty quick to prepare this dish, about 20-25 minutes start to finish.  I'm thinking of adding a little creamy silky potato puree underneath the tower next time I make this one.  I think it would potentially make a good dish great.  This dish is really textural as is but just writing about it makes me want to add that component to the plate next time.  I think I will and I'll let you all know if it was worth it!  For the time being, let me know if you try this one at home.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tagliatelle with Parmasen and Pepper

This is a really simple, yet comforting, and quick dish.  It is also very filling but if you would like to have a bit more substance you can add chicken, shrimp, broccoli, peas, scallops, whatever floats your boat.  Kaia loves this dish so it gets made often in our home.

  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper

  • Kosher salt

  • 1/2 pound tagliatelle

  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmasen

  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add a couple tablespoons of salt and the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and return to the pot.
    With the heat on low, toss the pasta with 1/2 cup of the grated Parm, cream, butter and parsley, tossing constantly. If the pasta seems dry, add some of the reserved cooking water. Off the heat, toss in the remaining parm.
    One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating

    ~Luciano Pavarotti

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    A little Irony and some tasty food at Alta Strada in MGM Grande

    I've mentioned on the blog before how one of the perks of Jessica being an "independant contractor" in the poker room are the comp points at Foxwoods/MGM Grand and that we use them for culinary adventures.  Monday night we took a trip down to Hopkinton to visit my brother's new baby, Autumn, and then headed off to MGM for dinner.  We were torn between our favorite pit stop in the casino, Craftsteak, and Micheal Shlow's Alta Strada.  Finally, possibly swayed by Jessica's craving for pizza cooked in a wood fired oven, we decided on Italian.

    For us the irony about going to this restaurant is that we both like many things on the menu but not the same things.  Everything I seem to think is incredible, like the chilled Shrimp Fra Diavlo and the crunchy Veal Meatballs with spicy tomato sauce, Jessica just thinks is blah.  And she's blown away by these really simple dishes on the menu that I just think are underwhelming, like the arugula salad.  It's literally just lemon juice, olive oil, lettuce and shaved parm.  For like 16 bucks.  Very weird to order this in a restaurant IMO, just sayin'...  One thing we both love is the herb oil they serve with the bread though.  This stuff is seriously delicious.  Its always a nice touch when a restaurant pays attention to the bread service. It really does set the tone for the rest of the meal.  Just look at the beautiful verdant color on that plate.  I love preparations that harness the flavor of basil without knocking you over the head with it and this is a great example. 

    Our first course was another one of Jessica's favorites on the menu, the Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza.  I half heartedly tried to talk her in to something else, but I gave in quickly because I knew I'd get the meatballs I was craving if I was a good boy and didn't complain too much.  Pizza was decent, underwhelming but tasty and fresh.

    Ok, I admit, meatballs are passe'.  They're totally 1980's.  But I don't really care because I love a good meatball.  The veal meatballs at Alta Strada reward my faith in the concept.  They deep fry them, but keep them moist in the center and serve them with a spicy tomato sauce, little bit of basil in there and I'm guessing some red pepper.  Nice rounded flavor, great texture and a big portion for an appetizer.  I have a hard time not ordering this when we eat here.   For me this simple looking plate of meatballs was the highlight of the meal.

    One cool thing at Alta Strada is that you can order half sizes of the pasta entrees.  That way you can taste and try more food which is what we love about eating out in the first place.  I ordered the Maltagliati with Spicy Pork Ragu and against my will (again) Jess picked the Ricotta Ravioli with brown butter, tomatoes and prosciutto.   I was all about the Maltagliati, until I tasted it.  For some reason the ragu reminded me of barbecue pulled pork.  I love the rustic hand torn feel of the pasta and the ricotta in this dish but I couldn't quite fall in love with it like I wanted to.  It was very spicy too, bordering on too spicy for the average palate and overall I was a little disappointed.  Continuing on our opposites theme, Jessica really liked it.

    One thing I really believe in when it comes to food is having an open mind.  I was bored by the idea of the ricotta ravioli with brown butter and prosciutto.  Gotta admit, we've all seen this one before many many times.  But Alta Strada does a pretty good rendition of this classic.  The ravioli is actually three cheeses, fontina, mozzarella and ricotta and the flavors are subtle but nice. We thought the dish could use a little texture, like maybe walnuts or toasted pine nuts and Jessica found the filling a little grainy, but overall it left a good impression and we left with very full bellies. 

    We had a nice time and a couple of the Black Cherry Mojitos as well, which are very delicious.   If you like the Italian classics done well with a little bit of twist then this is a restaurant you want to check out.  The dining room is nice, service is good and for the most part the menu is moderately priced.   Jessica eats dinner there a lot when she's playing poker and she usually gets out for 25 bucks, tip included.

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Harrissa Rubbed Swordfish, Asparagus with Lemon Gastrique and Potatoes with Lemon Sour Cream

    This is a dish that has evolved from taking different preparations we've done and sauces we've made and combining them into what I think is a pretty cohesive dish.  I like swordfish cooked medium but still juicy and basted with lemon brown butter.  The  texture and flavor of the fish stand up to the Harrissa which is smoky and complex.  The asparagus is bitter but enhanced by the sweet tart gastrique and admittedly, I don't need to much of an excuse to put potatoes on a plate, but along with the sour cream they balance out your palate. Besides, whats better than scraping a potato through the last of your sauce anyway?

    Swordfish  (I usually do a 1/2 lb portion)
    Baby potatoes (if you only have larger potatoes on hand just cut smaller)
    1-2 lemons per serving
    1/2 cup White Vinegar per serving
    1/2 cup Sugar per serving
    Sour cream
    Garlic (minced)
    Parsley (minced)

    1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2.  Mix Sour cream and lemon.  Season with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust.  Keep cool.
    3.   Cut potatoes in half. Toss in sheet pan with olive oil salt and pepper.  (Save sheet pan, will re-use shortly for asparagus.)
    4.  Heat skillet to medium high.  Add oil, sear potatoes flat side down, reduce heat.  Add garlic and parsley and transfer to oven. 
    5.  While sauteing potatoes you should get your gastrique going.  Add 1/2 cup sugar per serving, 1/2 cup vinegar, the juice of one lemon, lemon zest and a pinch of salt to pan.  Heat to a boil, reduce temperature and simmer.  Reduce sauce.
    6.  Using sheet pan toss asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Put in oven and roast for about ten minutes. 
    7.  Season fish with salt, pepper and generous rub of Harissa.  Heat saute pan until med high heat.  You don't need smoking hot, you're not searing it like you would red meat or scallops.  Add oil, then fish.  Cook fish for 3-4 minutes on first side then flip.  Add butter and lemon juice to pan.  Reduce heat.  Baste fish for another 3-4 minutes or so, remove from heat and plate.
    8,  To plate I put the sour cream first.  Put the potatos in an neat pile next to it.  Cut the asparagus in half on a bias and make a V in the corner of the plate.  Then sauce the asparagus with lemon gastrique and put the swordfish on top of the greens.  Finish the swordfish with a little bit of the lemon brown butter from your pan and serve. 

    The finish on this dish is lemony and mildly smoky from the Harissa.  Its a I think it balances nicely, though.  There's lemon in every component but its a very subtle acidity.  The other things that's cool about this is that you could deconstruct it any number of ways.  Here's what I mean by that.  The vegetable, potato and fish preparation could all go into another dish.  Like say you wanted to do the asparagus with lemon gastrique and a piece of chicken with mashed potatoes.  To me that sounds delicious.  Any of these elements could go into another recipe or just stand on their own. The gastrique itself is a basic cooking technique and instead of lemon, you could infuse rhubarb, red wine, cherries and the list goes on and on.  But I do like the combination of these three elements together, I think the dish takes your palate from sweet to bitter to savory to smoky to creamy and back.  Try it at home and let me know what you think...

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Banana Nut Bread

    I LOVE banana nut bread.  Too much.  I can usually go on about my life and forget that it exists until I get a few overripe bananas sitting on my counter, then my willpower goes out the window.  Then the problem becomes stopping myself.  I can't just make one loaf.  I convince myself that I need a loaf AND 12 muffins and by the time the last morsel has been consumed(usually a day and a half)) the craving is so firmly established that I HAVE to make more.  Who knew that a few overripe bananas could cause so much trouble?
    This is a recipe that has been perfected over the 20 years that banana bread has owned my soul.  It is moist, savory, sweet and delicious.

    1 stick of butter at room temp
    1 1/2c all purpose flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    1 tbsp REAL vanilla extract
    2 eggs
    1 c sugar
    3-4 very soft overripe bananas
    1/2 c sour cream
    1c chopped walnuts

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    Butter your loaf pan.
    In a large bowl,  combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
    In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a potato masher.  I like to leave the bananas a little lumpy.
    In a large bowl,  cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Stir in the bananas, sour cream and vanilla and beat until just combined. Add the dry ingredients and walnuts. Pour the batter into the pan and place on middle rack of oven.
    Bake for about an hour.


    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Who Knew Thoreau Was A Foodie?

    "He who distinguishes the true savor of food can never be a glutton, he who does not cannot be otherwise"

    -Henry David Thoreau

    Sunday, September 4, 2011

    Veal Chop with Roquefort Butter and Basil Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

    These are recipes that we have tried a few times and I like them better every time we make them.  The Roquefort butter is what makes this dish.  The creamy basil, Parmesan potatoes are such a nice foil for the slightly gamey meat and pungent blue cheese.  It's not a light dish but the basil in the potatoes and the green onion in the butter give it a little vegetal quality and lighten it up just a wee bit to the point where your palate stays excited. I am not a huge fan of Veal in general, but I would eat shoe leather if covered in Roquefort butter. It is expensive(as Matt likes to remind me every time I buy it) but a little goes a long way.  This log should last through two meals so try it on any red meat another evening.

    Veal Chops

    4 tbsps unsalted butter at room temp
    2oz of Roquefort
    1tbsp chopped green onions
    4 Veal chops

    Place the butter and Roquefort in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the scallions and mix until combined. Using parchment paper or p;astic wrap, place the butter on the paperand roll into a log about an inch in diameter. Chill.

    Getting a good sear on any chop is very important.  That is where meat gets all of its flavor!  This is how its done. Sprinkle both sides of the veal chops generously with salt and pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat dry pan until very hot on medium high heat.  Add canola oil and heat until almost smoking.  Cook 6 to 8 minutes on each side, until almost cooked through. Remove from pan and cover with aluminum foil. Rest for 5 minutes. Serve with 1 or 2(as I do!) slices of Roquefort butter on each

    Basil Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

    2lbs Yukon Golds
    2c basil leaves
    1c freshly grated parm(DO NOT USE THE GREEN CAN)
    1c heavy cream

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill another small bowl with ice water. Add basil to the boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove basil and place the leaves into the ice water.  Drain.

    Peel and cut potatoes. Add the potatoes to the same pot of boiling water and return to a boil. Cook the potatoes until tender. Drain and return to the pan until the potatoes are dry.

    Heat the cream and parm until the cream simmers. Place the basil in a food processorand puree. Add the cream mixture and process until smooth.

    Beat the potatoes and slowly add the hot basil cream, the salt and pepper and beat until smooth.


    Saturday, September 3, 2011

    Developing your dish

    For me cooking is a give and take process.  I'm not naturally all that good at it, I just want to be, and at the end of the day the meals I cook are usually more soul satisfying than your average dinner in a box just because I'm trying.  Every once in a while I screw up and make something that's inedible.  A month ago I bought this pasta that I've never worked with before, its called Filei Calabresi and its basically a rolled pasta in the shape of a green bean.  There was no cook time on the bag and just for the record, stuff probably needs to boil for 25 minutes to get it al dente.  Needless to say, I tasted the one piece of pasta in the pan that was cooked after 17 minutes and pulled the rest.  Raw pasta is inferior to Mcdonalds.  You got me there.  At least at Mickey D's, the burger will be cooked.  

    Two nights ago for dinner, Jessica and I made a dish that we've collaborated on before, Roast Carrot and Scotch bonnet puree with Butter roasted Halibut.  Its not a great textural dish, just flavorful.  I added a few well seared oyster mushrooms for a little bit of texture, pic is on our FB page.  Two issues with this dish were as follows:  I guess theres some kind of Halibut shortage on the East Coast right now... Damn.  Hurricane related maybe, I don't know... ...  The closest substitute we could find was Cod and the Cod really didn't stand up to the preparation or the sauce. 

    The second problem was the sauce. First time I made this one, when I finished the onions I added a little white wine vinegar before adding the carrots and stock, well this time I forgot to add vinegar and then amidst the dogs and our two year  running around I decided to add it late and had a heavy hand to boot.  Doh.  Bad move there.   Stock tasted like pure vinegar, so I had to cook it down and add more stock, thusly the flavors weren't developing while the carrots were cooking more than I needed them too.  All in all sauce was too spicy, not well balanced and broken.  Along with the underwhelming cod it took a dish we were ecstatic about and muddled it to the point where it was just dinner.  The mushrooms were pretty good though.

    There was plenty of leftover sauce so I saved it.  I figured, why not turn it into a soup?  So the next day for lunch I added a little more stock, and some honey and made quesadillas with tomato and cheese and had a little soup and sandwich with Kaia.  Flavor was still mediocre at best.  Quesadilla with Kumato Tomatoes was the better half.

    But we had leftover carrots.  About 1/3 of a bag and we had a couple Thai Bird Chiles and half a box of chicken stock left.  So tonight, I got to work on redeeming myself.  The end result of all this failure was an outright success and a very soulful, economical, warm and comforting carrot soup.  Here's the recipe.

    1 bag baby carrots (I like these for their sweetness, you could use any variety of carrot you like)
    1 box chicken stock
    1-2 small red or orange chiles (be sure to taste for spiciness)
    Mascarpone, creme fraiche or similar
    1 Yellow onion
    Bay leaves
    Good Olive Oil

    1.  First toss the carrots in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them with a couple bay leaves for 20-30 minutes at about 400 degrees.
    2.  Chop half an onion and about 1 chile.  (I usually chop a whole chile, save 1/3 to add as desired)  Saute in sauce pan until onions are translucent.  Don't forget to season.  (season late with onion not at the beginning)
    3. Add roasted carrots and stock to and bring to a boil. 
    4.  Reduce temperature.  Add about 2 tablespoons of honey.  Continue reducing stock. 
    5,  When carrots are fork tender, remove pan from heat. Remove bay leaves, taste and season.
    6.  Add Carrots and stock to blender with about a tablespoon of mascarpone or creme fraiche.  Puree until smooth consistency.  Strain if desired.
    7.  Serve and enjoy.

    The soup tonight was just spicy enough, and the flavors were harmonious.  I can't decide whether to make another batch tomorrow night or start a new culinary adventure... ...