Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Enter the vegetables

Er, enter the vegetable.  Singular.  Broccoli.

I do eat a lot of meat, but I do not exclusively cook with meat.  I will often pick up something green at a farmers market or at the grocery.  Sometimes I even make a trip to the store specifically for something green, as I did for this pasta dish.

Over Labor Day weekend, I took a trip down to Anaheim with my mom and little sister to run the Disneyland Half Marathon (and go to Disneyland).  At some point, my sister mentioned a broccoli pasta dish my mom had cooked recently.  She described the broccoli sauce as "gold".  I had my mom email me the recipe the day I got back to Portland and made the dish that night.

I mentioned in my first post that my biggest cooking influence is my mom.  She cooked dinner for me, my two sisters, and my dad almost every day I lived at home.  Sometimes she would even cook multiple different dinners to appease the varying tastes of the four of us.  She continues to cook nightly for my dad, a man who basically refuses to go out to eat because he says my mom cooks better food than any to be had at a restaurant.  Needless to say, she is an amazing cook.  And she has compiled an extensive collection of recipes, and I can always go to her if I need to know how to make a dish or to get a recommendation.  

Fusilli with Broccoli Sauce

4 Tbsp butter
1/4 c. minced shallots (or garlic)
about 1 1/2 lb broccoli
1/2 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. cream
salt & pepper
1 lb Fusilli
1/4 c. grated parmesan

1. Saute garlic (I NEVER cook with shallots; I can't stand them) in 2 Tbsp butter.

2. Separate broccoli florets from stems.  Discard tough ends of stems.  Peel stems down to tender part.  Keep florets in large pieces.  Add florets and stems to large pot of boiling, salted water.  Florets will cook in about 2 - 3 minutes, stems will take 3 - 4 minutes longer.  Drain broccoli, reserving cooking water.

3. Transfer broccoli to food processor with garlic and any butter remaining in saute pan and process well.  Add chicken stock and process again until as smooth as possible (it does not need to be completely smooth).  Transfer mixture to a 10" skillet and stir in cream.  Season highly with salt and pepper.  Just before you need it, reheat sauce gently over low heat.  Do not cook too long or the sauce will start to lose its pretty green color.

4. Boil pasta in reserved cooing water.  Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of cooking water.

5. Transfer pasta to a large, warm bowl.  Add remaining 2 Tbsp butter and toss to melt butter.  Add sauce (you may not need to use all of it) and toss, adding a little of the cooking water if needed to thin sauce.  Top with grated parmesan cheese.

Bon appetit.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Corsican brined pork chops

Does anyone else find it funny that almost every one of my posts have started with a picture of raw meat?  I think that I get really excited about taking pictures when I start cooking a meal, but as I get into the cooking, I pay more attention to the food than my camera, so I end up with before and after pics.  Ah well. 

I made this dish for the first time last winter for my most recent ex-boyfriend (while we were still together), and he declared it the best meal he had ever had cooked for him.  It is a very tasty dish. The brine seasons the chops perfectly, and the rich, slightly sweet, tomato-based sauce complements the saltiness of the pork.  I love the sauce, and the last time I made the dish, there was a lot left over.  Remembering this, I this time decided to put that extra sauce to use.  I boiled about a third pound of fusilli to al dente, added a handful of cherry tomatoes to the sauce left in the dutch oven after serving the pork chops to the plate, and tossed the pasta in the resulting sauce.  You couldn't ask for an easier side, and it doesn't hurt that it's delicious.

1.  In a large stainless steel bowl or plastic container, combine 1/4 c. sea salt with 3 Tbsp sugar and 1 c. hot water; stir until dissolved.  Add 3 c. cold water1 tsp dried thyme1 tsp crushed juniper berries1/2 tsp cracked coriander seeds1/2 tsp cracked peppercorns1/4 tsp dried sage, and 2 bay leaves, crumbled.  Put 4 center cut pork rib chops, cut 1 1/4" thick in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours, turning them occasionally.

2.  Drain the pork chops.  Pick any whole spices off the meat and discard.  Pat the chops dry with paper towels.

3.  Heat 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil in a large, deep nonstick or black cast-iron skillet (Erin's note: I use my dutch oven) until it shimmers.  Add the pork chops and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned, about 6 minutes.  Transfer the chops to a plate and season with salt and pepper.

4.  Pour off the fat from the skillet.  Add 1 c. chicken broth and 2 Tbsp dry white wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Boil until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.  Add 1 c. tomato sauce, 1/4 c. orange juice, and 1 garlic clove, smashed and simmer for 5 minutes.

5.  Return the pork chops to the skillet, turn to coat with the sauce, and bring to a boil.  Cover tightly, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the pork is tender and fully cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Transfer the chops to a platter, cover, and keep warm.

6.  Add 8 cracked green olives, pitted, rinsed, and coarsely chopped to the sauce and boil over high heat until the liquid is reduced to about 1 cup.  Stir in 2 tsp finely slivered fresh basil, 2 tsp finely slivered fresh mint, and 2 tsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and pour the sauce over the chops.

Bon appetit. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Honey brined pork chops

I always look to Martha Stewart when I need a recipe, and I have been receiving Martha Stewart Living for more years than I care to count.  I get so excited when I see a new issue in my mailbox, and I burn past the home and garden articles straight for the recipes.  The June 2009 issue had an article about grilling, and this gem of a brine was included.  It is incredibly simple and results in meat that is perfectly salty sweet.

1 whole chicken cut into parts or 6 1" thick bone-in pork chops
6 c. water
1/2 c. coarse salt
1/2 c. honey

Bring water, salt, and honey to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until salt dissolves.  Let cool completely.  Place chicken or pork in a bowl and pour cooled brine over top.  (Erin's note:  I prefer to use a ziplock bag.)  Refrigerate, covered, for 2 - 3 hours.  (Erin's note:  I have refrigerated for up to 48 hours, and it was spectacular.  With chicken, that might be too long).  Remove meat from brine, rinse under cold water, and pat dry.  Season with pepper before grilling.

Grilling is always best done on an outdoor grill, but living in Portland means you can't always venture outside.  My cast iron grill is worth its weight in gold.  Well, it's pretty heavy, so I might take the gold on that one, but you get my drift.  It is a necessary item for grill lovers in rainy climates.  I mentioned this in my Tira de Asada post, but you want the grill to be hot enough to make grill marks on the meat, but cool enough that the meat won't scorch while it cooks.  This means taking your time and letting the grill heat up before throwing on the meat.  You only need a medium to medium-low setting on the stove.  

I whipped up a very simple pasta caprese as a side dish.  This is another one of those dishes for which I don't actually have a recipe.  I'll do my best.

1/2 lb penne
1 pint cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella di bufala, cut into 1" pieces
1 c. loosely packed fresh basil leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Place tomatoes and garlic in oven-proof skillet (such as cast iron) and toss with ~1 Tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Cook in oven until tomatoes are beginning to soften and some of their skins split 6 - 10 min.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, boil penne to al dente, drain, and place in a large bowl.  Stir in tomatoes, basil leaves, and mozzarella.  Add 1 - 2 Tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper, mix and serve.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Brined chops two ways

I have mentioned my beef more than once now, but beef is not the only meat that inhabits my freezer.  Last winter, the same coworker that splits cows with me asked if I had any interest in splitting a pig.  Um, yes!  A couple months later, I had pounds of pasture raised, acorn and whey fed gourmet, heritage breed pork courtesy of Abundant Life Farm in Dallas Oregon.  And it is honestly the tastiest pork I have ever eaten.  

Much of the pig was cut into thick pork chops.  I love pork chops, but I do not love having to defrost four at a time.  I am usually cooking for just me, and even if I eat a pork chop a night for four consecutive nights, the meat is not going to be in prime form by the fourth night.  My solution?  Brine it all.  Meat is usually brined for 24 - 48 hours (or more in some cases), so I can throw it all in the fridge without fear of it getting funky.  

The honey brine recipe is from Martha Stewart, my hero.  When I was thinking about starting a food blog, my best friend (Style by Santina) was all about making it a Julie/Julia-style blog and having me cook my way through my two enormous Martha Stewart cookbooks.  I considered the idea, but in the end I thought it would be best to give myself some leeway.  And Martha often uses strange and expensive ingredients.  I can't afford such an endeavour.  Her honey brine recipe (with no strange or expensive items in it) is from Martha Stewart Living, June 2009.  Last summer I used the recipe for the first time to brine a cut up whole chicken then barbecued the bird.  I fell in love.

The Corsican brined pork chop recipe is from The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert.  Many Christmases ago, my first post-college boyfriend bought me a Le Creuset dutch oven.  Possibly the best present ever as I use it weekly at a minimum.  My dad went with him to pick up the gift at Sur la Table, and while there, bought me the aforementioned cookbook.  Apparently one of the employees at Sur la Table told him it was a "must have" for slow cooking and would be an excellent accompaniment to the dutch oven.  Now, the former claim may be true, but few recipes in the book call for a dutch oven.  None the less, I love the cookbook.

I will post the results of these two brines soon, and I will give the recipes in those posts.  You'll just have to stare at the raw meat above, mouths watering, until then.

Bon appetit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Easy like Sunday morning... chili

Though I enjoy cooking immensely, the time that I spend cooking on weeknights is decreasing as I get older.   There was a time when I would prepare elaborate meals most nights of the week.  I would head straight to the kitchen after work and spend hours making such meals as tamales from scratch or homemade pasta. 

I now appreciate the joy of less time consuming fare; it gives me time for other activities and keeps me from eating dinner too late at night.  Don’t get me wrong, I will still spend an entire Sunday in the kitchen with ridiculously lengthy recipes. It’s just not a nightly event.

I find chili to be an excellent way to use the large quantity of tougher cuts that come with purchasing a third of a cow.  I also love chili.  Thus, I have numerous chili recipes.  Some are complex, starting with dried and fresh chili peppers, while others are simple and mostly out of a can.  This chili recipe is an example of the latter.  It is one of those wonderful meals that is easy (and cheap) to make and is delightfully delicious, especially with the high quality beef.  (Did you think my first two paragraphs bordered on non-sequitur?  Now you see: this recipe doesn’t take very much effort.  I bring it all together.)

2 lbs beef chuck, cubed
1 large onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, chopped
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
2 cups water
1 beef boullion cube
1 40 oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed
½ green bell pepper, diced
2 tsp salt
2 tsp dried oregano
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp habenero chili powder
1 tsp cumin

Heat a large dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat.  Combine beef, onion, and 4 cloves garlic in dutch oven and brown the meat.  Drain off fat.  Add remaining ingredients, stir to combine, cover, and simmer for 1.5 hours.

I often add more chili powder than called for as the recipe I wrote out results in chili that is somewhat bland.  I will usually add other ingredients as well, such as canned chipotle peppers (diced), corn, sliced jalepeno peppers, or whatever else I have in the house that seems like it would be good in chili.  As you can see in the pictures, the beef I cut up had bones, so I threw those in for flavor.

I have no idea where this recipe came from.  It's titled "Erin's Chili Recipe", so maybe I made it up at some point?

Bon Appetit.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Begin with the classic: tira de asada

My mom is without a doubt the biggest influence in my cooking.  Some of my earliest memories are sitting at the kitchen counter slicing and dicing items for dinner.  But I would be remiss to not also credit my first post-college boyfriend.  A born and bred Argentine, not only did he force me to eat things I would have never previously let pass my lips (too many to list, but included are squash of any variety, onions, and "alternative" cuts of beef), but he also pushed me to cook well, cook often, and cook adventurously.

There is not a meal more indicative of my style than tira de asada.  The cut is hard to explain to butchers outside of Argentina.  [It may be easy in other parts of South America, but I do not want to speak outside of my experience here.]  It translates loosely to short ribs, but the cut is not the United States version of a short rib.  The best I have done with butchers is to describe it as a Korean short rib but with the bone left as 1.5 to 2" instead of very thin, ~0.25 - 0.5", like Korean short ribs.  Flanken-style ribs is apparently another useful term, but I think it basically equates to the Korean short rib cut, so maybe not that useful?

Okay, let's get to the recipe.  

1 lb Argentine short ribs
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper


2 Tbsp fresh italian parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

For the ribs, coat generously on both sides with salt and pepper on both sides and let sit about an hour (or more).  Grill 10 - 15 minutes on each side.  

For the chimicurri, combine ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.  Serve as condiment to ribs.

I realize the above is a vague description of how to prepare tira de asada.  I don't have a real recipe for you.  The beef is much better if prepared on an outdoor coal or wood grill.  Heat up the coals (or wood), then move to one half of the grill.  Cook the ribs on the other half.  It was raining outside the day I made these, so I stayed inside and cooked them on a cast iron grill on my stove.  You want the grill to be hot enough to make grill marks, but cool enough that you don't scorch the outside while the inside cooks.

Norton is a good Argentine winery, though a Malbec would have suited this meal better.  

Bon appetit.

Meat Erin

What better way to introduce myself than by the contents of my freezer?

I have been meaning to start a food/cooking blog for months, spurred on by the birth of my best friend's fashion blog (check out Style by Santina) and the death of a long term relationship.  I am definitely a meat lover, but as you will learn, despite the many pounds of animal flesh residing in my freezer, I also love the garden-grown variety of edibles.

The beef you are viewing is from 6 Ranch in Enterprise Oregon.  I have purchased beef with coworkers from the ranch for a few years now.  I try to ration the beef through the year as it is some of the tastiest beef I have ever eaten.

I took pictures of some of the better meals I have cooked in the past month or so.  I will post those meals, along with recipes, then hopefully get into the habit of posting meals both cooked by me and cooked by others in Portland.

Bon appetit.