Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Five-Spice Chicken

13 April 13

OK. I confess. I haven’t been much of a cackle fan over the years. I finally figured it out. 90% of the Americans who cook chickens just don’t take the time to do it right, and the majority of American chicken does not taste like chicken (funny, everything else is supposed to). Mostly American chickens don’t taste at all. Anyway, get free range birds that are not force grown when you can. The taste difference is rather dramatic. Even better – if you are somewhere that you can – raise your own and slaughter them when they are the proper age. We shall serve no bird before its time. (Does anyone else remember Orson Welles doing the wine commercials?) Anyway, Herself is a cackle connoisseur – or a yard-bird yokel, if you prefer, and has convinced me that all cackles are not bad. So now we cackle every now and then.

This is one of those things that can be done several different ways. The marinade can be muchly varied, but this is a very good basic. I’ll do some more elaborate marinades over the next couple of months.

1 Roasting hen – 5 or 6 pounds
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots
1-1/2 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1-1/2
Tbs
 Nước Mắm – Vietnamese fish sauce (1)
1-1/2 Tbs soy sauce (low sodium is good here)
1-1/2 Tbs dry sherry
Nước Chấm (1)
Horizontal Rotisserie Chicken

Horizontal Rotisserie Chicken

Mince the garlic, shallots, and sugar together. The best way to do this is a mortar and pestle, but you could use a food processor. Get the mix rather fine and add in the salt, pepper, and 5 spice powder and mix together well. Stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce, and sherry. A comment about soy sauce: if you use full sodium soy sauce cut the added salt by half or leave it out altogether – that stuff is salty. Gently slide your fingers between the skin and the meat as best you can without tearing the skin. Slip a good bit of the mix in and then rub the rest over the surface of the bird, working it in well. Let things soak at least 4 hours (or overnight) in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. You can use most any wine you like but the dry sherry is rather traditional Vietnamese.

You can do this three ways that are rather good:

  1. Rotisserie – on the spit for about 1-1/2 hours (my favorite)
  2. Vertical roaster in the oven at 450°F for about 15 minutes and then 350°F for about 1-1/4 hours
  3. Split the bird in half and cook on a grill over medium hot coals skin side down for about 15 minutes, flip and roast another 15 minutes.

No matter which method you use you are trying for done chicken – about 160°F with crisp skin. You will have blackish looking skin, BUT – it should be blackened from the Maillard reaction, not from burning. Let the bird sit for about 10 minutes. If you are using an indoor rotisserie then you can keep the spit turning with no heat. That keeps the juices in while they are being re-absorbed.

This goes nicely with a Nước Chấm (1) (2) dipping sauce. Rice is also handy, as is a side salad. The only disadvantage to this method is that the carcass shouldn’t be used for making soup or stock.

(1) Discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

(2) Another discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

Advertisements

Duck, You Sucker

30 January 13

Fesenjan

Persian (Iranian) Duck with Walnuts

1 duck, quartered
2 onions, sliced
10 oz ground walnuts
2-1/2 cups water
salt
pepper
4 Tbs pomegranate syrup
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice

Remove all the excess fat from the duck and brown the quarters lightly in a large casserole. Lift out the duck and fry the onions until browned, then add the walnuts and 2 1/2 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper. Return the duck to the pan, and bring the sauce to the boil. Simmer for about an hour until the duck is almost tender. Stir the pomegranate syrup and sugar into the lemon juice. Skim as much fat as possible from the casserole and then stir in the juice mixture. Simmer for another 30 minutes until the sauce is quite dark. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more water.

Serve with rice.

Duck à l’Orange

1   5-6-pound   duckling
  salt and pepper, to taste
8   oz   chicken stock
1   Tbs   sugar
1   Tbs   champagne wine vinegar
2   Tbs   brandy
12   oz   orange juice
3   Tbs   lemon juice (1 lemon)
1   tsp   butter
4   oranges, peeled and sectioned
4   Tbs   orange zest, julienne
Canard à l'orange

Canard à l’orange (Photo credit: franziskas garten)

Prick the duck with a fork and rub well with salt and pepper.

Roast the duck at 400°F for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and cook until done, approximately 45-60 minutes. Remove the duck from the roasting pan and hold in a warm place.

Degrease the roasting pan. Place the pan on the stove top and deglaze with the stock.

Melt the sugar and vinegar together in a saucepan and lightly caramelize the mixture.

Remove the caramelized sugar from the stove top and add the brandy.

Add the stock, pan drippings and juices to the pan of sugar and reduce until the sauce is slightly thickened, approximately 10 minutes. Monter au beurre. Strain and degrease the sauce.

Blanch the orange zest in boiling water.

Place the duck on a warm serving platter. Arrange the orange sections around it. Sprinkle the zest over the duck. Pour the sauce over the duck and serve additional sauce on the side.

Duck Breast with Red Rice, Chard and Apricot Mustard

 8   duck breasts, skin on
  salt and pepper, to taste
  3   oz   chard leaves, torn
  4   oz   butter
  1   pint   chicken stock
  2   quarts
  Red Rice, recipe follows, cooked
  3   Tbs   parsley, chopped
  1   cup   Apricot Mustard, recipe follows
  1   oz   sliced almonds, toasted
duck

duck (Photo credit: stu_spivack)

Score the skin of the duck breasts in a crosshatch pattern with a sharp knife. Season with salt and pepper and place the breasts skin side down in a rondeau. Without turning the breasts, cook them over low heat, rendering the fat from their skin, until the skin is golden brown and crisp, approximately 15 minutes. Turn the duck breasts in the pan and turn off the heat. Allow them to rest in the pan for 30 seconds. Then remove the breasts from the pan and allow them to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.

Sauté the chard in 2 ounces (60 grams) of the butter until it wilts. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the cooked Red Rice and season with salt and pepper. Vigorously beat in the remaining butter and parsley and heat over moderate heat until the rice is hot, approximately 1 minute.

Slice the duck breasts and arrange on eight warm plates. Garnish with the wilted chard, brush the breasts with the

Sprinkle with almonds and serve with Red Rice on the side.

Red Rice

  1/2
  Tbs   butter
  2   Tbs   shallots, minced
  1/2   lb   red rice
  1   quart
  chicken stock
  1   bay leaves
  1   tsp   salt

In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter and sweat the shallots, without coloring for approximately 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat.

Add the chicken stock, bay leaves and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid is absorbed,  approximately 20 minutes.

Spread the cooked rice on a sheet pan, remove the bay leaves and refrigerate.

Kielbasa

24 December 12

[Herself SEZ: The Ol’ Curmudgeon wants me to add the following CAUTION:

If you smoke sausage or keep it a long time you need to add cure: instacure or prague powder. About a teaspoon per 5 lbs. of meat will do it. Smoking is the perfect environment to grow certain types of bacteria that can make you very sick. If you add the cure you will be pretty safe.

Herself adds, this is to prevent severe food-borne illnesses – like botulism! Also, cook your homemade sausage to an internal temp of 178deg F and hold it there for 10 minutes. This will destroy the toxin which causes the poisoning.]

The people of the Middle East have a real thing about pigs. Unclean! Unclean! Is the cry of both Jew and Moslem. Notice that both groups come from the same neck of the woods. The reason they have problems with the porkers is actually rather practical, if you:

– keep your pigs in unclean conditions

– allow them to eat offal and rats (they’re as good a ratter as a cat)

– don’t have cold weather for slaughtering

– don’t have modern refrigeration

– don’t cook the meat done

You are probably going to have Trichinosis, a parasitic worm that encysts in the host. Gross! Yech! Not only can kill you, but also hurts! BTW – you can also get it from undercooked game.

However, when kept clean, properly fed, slaughtered in cool weather (not found in the Middle East), and properly refrigerated, the risk is non-existent. The noble pig is a staple of people of discrimination and good culinary taste around the world. Now, everyone except the Jews and Moslems has sausage recipes, but the two groups that have made the absolute most of the lovely creature are the Germans and Eastern Europeans. Volumes could be (and have been) written about the German and Eastern European pork recipes. There are umpteen thousand different sausage recipes.

Sausage, Swojska, Polish, kiełbasa

Sausage, Swojska, Polish, kiełbasa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I must admit that my all-time favorite is kielbasa. Now there are a slew of variations on the word (and the recipe), all the way from the Czech to the Polish to the Ukrainian, generally the whole neck of the woods of Northern to Eastern Europe and on into Russia. Mostly we get wiejska kielbasa when we get it from an American supermarket. The Hillshire Farms u-shaped stuff comes to mind. Now this is pretty good. Just slice it into rounds about 1/4” thick and gently heat in a heavy skillet until it is light brown to dark brown on both sides. Just serve it up and chow down. However, if you have access to some sort of Eastern European market, try some of the variations, they’re just about all good. But, if you want to roll your own, here’s a starter:
.

4 lbs. Clean, tender pork – butt is fine, chunk it into pieces

1 lb. Fatback, chunk it up

1 lb. Beef – if you want tender, use veal, chuck for a rougher texture, chunk it up

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tablespoon ground allspice

other spices to taste and to vary – try some marjoram for that traditional Polish taste

lots of garlic and pepper for the Krakow type

or any other spicing which suits

garlic is always good

brown sugar will give it a sweet taste

1/2 cup cold water

Sausage Casings

Pre-mix all the spices. Grind or mince the meat. Add the spices. Mix everything thoroughly. Stuff the sausages per directions of whatever stuffer you have.

If you’ve got the Kitchen-Aid mixer with the grinder and stuffer attachments then the whole process isn’t that hard. If you are really serious, there are good web sites for professional sausage stuffers. Traditional funnel about $10 (the hard way). Stuffer $75 to $100 (the easy way).

Remember, this isn’t what you get at the grocery in the bubble packs. That is pre-cooked. This is raw sausage and will take a bit longer to cook. Make sure you get it done. You can just fry it up and eat it. Bake it, broil it, boil it, smoke it. If you smoke it, fast smoking will wrinkle and shrink. If you smoke extra slow, the skin will toughen and you will get the kind of crunchy bite that is characteristic of Andouille sausage. You only need to smoke to 175°, the pork is fully done at that temp. The Germans do the sauerkraut thing. The Eastern Europeans frequently serve with horseradish. I like the purple horseradish, just take a slice of kielbasa and spread a little on. Heaven.

Now you know I’m not going to pass by the South, so here’s your Grandmother’s Southern Hot & Spicy Sausage Patties –

1 lb. ground or minced pork

2 tsp rubbed sage

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground marjoram

1/4 tsp ground thyme

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp mace

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix is all up. Shape it into patties about ½” thick. Fry it up slowly. Get it done through. If this is too hot, back out 1 or more of the last 4 ingredients. I personally use a lighter touch with the sage, I’m more interested in a balanced taste. And I like a little sweet basil, if fresh.

And, of course, we can’t ignore Basic American Sausage:

4 lbs. Good pork butt

1 lb good bacon (optional)

1 cup minced onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup sage

1 stick butter

1-1/4 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper

1 tbsp marjoram

1 tbsp thyme

1 tbsp sweet basil

1 tbsp cayenne or red pepper flakes (optional)

Mix it all up. Stuff the casings. Enjoy. Twiddle the spices to suit yourself. Works well fried, grilled, smoked, cut up and used in various recipes.

Truthfully, just about any meat can be made into sausage. Deer sausage is popular with Southern hunters of the whitetail. Most of the spicing is optional. Even when you talk about sausage from a given area, every single cook has a different recipe. Many regional sausages get their distinctive flavor from slow smoking. The only thing that you can say for sure is that a sausage is totally up to the taste of the cook. You can’t even say that a sausage has a casing. Remember the Southern Patties? However, generally, a sausage has a casing, is usually ground or minced pork, and has various spices.

Braised Kale With Pork And Onions

11 December 12
Kale salad

Kale salad (Photo credit: Salim Virji)

[For the Orthodox Christians among us, this is obviously NOT a fasting recipe!]

Most of us old Southerners had kale when we were growing up. Mostly it was just boiled forever with some fatback. Then you poured some white vinegar over it and chowed down. If you were good you might get some cornbread to sop up the pot likker. Not bad.

However – there are better ways to do this stuff. This is one of the latest health food crazes. But this version will NOT make a “food-Nazi” very happy.

 1  bag  kale, or 2 bunches, or a little over a pound
 6  1/4” thick hog jowl  slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces  
 2  chopped onions
 1/4  cup  red wine vinegar
 6  drops  Tabasco sauce

Simple ingredients to get a superb result.

Chop up the kale, removing the big stems and cook in a big pot of salted water for 10 minutes. Don’t be shy with the salt. Drain and set aside. Wipe out the pot and use for the next step.

Cook the hog jowl down until it is getting crisp – about 5 minutes. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon. Don’t burn it. Don’t be concerned that there will be some sticky residue in the pot – it will get used. There are those who use bacon for this step. Well, you can. Not as good as the curing medium would obscure some very nice flavors.

While the hog jowl is cooking down chop up a couple of decent sized onions. The sweets are the best. Vidalias when you can get them. Some other sweet if you can’t. Dump the onions in with the pork and continue at a good sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they start getting tender. Add the kale and sauté about 10 minutes and the greens start getting tender. If you stir a lot with the wooden spoon all of the nice brown stuff in the bottom of the pot should be cleared up and incorporated.

Original Tabasco red pepper sauce

Original Tabasco red pepper sauce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cover and cook for about 15 minutes on low heat. Stir often. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the red wine vinegar. Do not use the cheapest junk in the store. Use a good grade of red wine vinegar and the flavor will be much better for it. Stir in about 6 drop of good Tabasco sauce. Don’t overdo the hot sauce or the flavor will be wrong.

This can be a side dish for four or a main dish for two. Yes, it is that good. Not your mama’s kale.

Dolled-Up Fish

7 December 12

Here are three different ways to treat any fish – but it works better with stronger fish like cod than it does with more delicate species.

All start with seared or sautéed fish – depending on your preference. 

Thyme+Thyme

Thyme+Thyme (Photo credit: jimforest)

—–Fish—–
 1  Tbs  extra-virgin olive oil or unsalted butter or both
 4  (6-ounce) center-cut fish fillets, skin left on
 Salt and freshly ground black pepper
 4  cloves garlic, lightly crushed
 4  sprigs thyme or 1 tsp. dried
 1  Tbs  unsalted butter

—– Fish —–

Lube a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season the fish with salt and pepper and put them into the pan, skin side down, along with the garlic and thyme. Sear the fillets for 3 minutes, turn them over and sear for 3 minutes more. Lower the heat, add the butter and cook another 3 minutes. Adjust time and temperature as necessary for the thickness and species you have. For searing cook hot and fast – you don’t want it burned but rather seared and dark looking. Sauté – use a lower heat and cook more gently as long as needs be to get the fish done and a nice golden surface.

—– Garnishes —–

You actually want to start the garnish ahead or at the same time as the fish so that the fish does not sit around waiting (and deteriorating!).

Make one of the following:

     —–Bordelaise Garnish—–
 2  Tbs  unsalted butter
 1/2  cup  finely chopped shallots
 12  oz  sliced mushrooms
 2  sprigs  thyme or ½ tsp. dried
 1/2  bottle  dry red wine
 —–Plate—–
 6  sprigs  parsley finely chopped or dried to taste

—–Bordelaise Garnish—–

Lube a large skillet over medium-high heat with the butter. Add the shallots and gently sauté about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme and cook 5 more minutes. Add the wine and boil rapidly until the liquid is reduced by half. Discard the thyme if you used fresh sprigs. One of the small individual serving size bottles they sell in the local groceries works quite well for a half recipe, or two for the full. You don’t want to spill this stuff on your clothes or the tablecloth. You will notice that the wine reduces to a wonderful purple thick sauce that would stain any fabric rather fiercely.

—–Plate—–

Pour the garnish over plates and top with the fish. Sprinkle parsley to taste.

OR

     —–Dijonnaise Garnish—–
 1-1/2  lbs  carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
 1-1/2  lbs  spinach, washed and stemmed
 1  Tbs  unsalted butter
 Salt and freshly ground white pepper
 —–Coating for Fish—–
 2  Tbs  Dijon mustard
 1  cup  fresh bread crumbs
 2  Tbs  minced chives
 1  Tbs  extra-virgin olive oil
 —–Plate—–
 6  sprigs  parsley finely chopped or dried to taste

—–Dijonnaise Garnish—–

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute more; drain well and squeeze the excess water from the spinach. It is ok to use a package of frozen spinach – just thaw and dump it in for a minute (do squeeze the excess water first). Lube a heavy skillet with the butter, heat about medium.  Add the carrots and spinach and season with salt and pepper. Cook until well coated with the butter. Stir fairly often. Keep warm. Frozen spinach is much easier – fresh is prettier and more of a hassle. Take your choice.

A 1-liter glass bottle and bowl Bertolli brand...

A 1-liter glass bottle and bowl Bertolli brand Riserva Premium extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil from Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia, and bottled and packed in Italy. Olive oil purchased in a Stow, Ohio store. Photographed in Kent, Ohio, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Preheat the broiler so it is ready when the fish is ready. Coat the fish with the mustard. Mix the bread crumbs, chives and EVOO and spread or pat to cover the fish. Broil until the bread crumbs are pretty and golden brown. It doesn’t take much – you must remember that the fish is already cooked.

—–Plate—–

Pour the garnish over plates and top with the fish. Sprinkle parsley to taste.

OR

     —–Lyonnaise Garnish—–
 3  Tbs  extra-virgin olive oil
 1-1/2  lbs  potatoes, peeled and cubed about  1/2”
 1-1/2  lbs  sweet onions, cubed about 1/2”
 Salt and freshly ground pepper
 2  Tbs  red wine vinegar
     —–Plate—–
 6  sprigs  parsley finely chopped or dried to taste

—–Lyonnaise Garnish—–

Lube a heavy skillet with the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and cook, turning frequently, for 10 minutes. Watch the heat – you don’t want to scorch them. Lower the heat, add the onions, salt and pepper, and cook until the onions are translucent and the potatoes are tender, about 5 to 10 minutes more. Add the vinegar and boil until it has reduced to a thick syrup. Yukon Gold potatoes are good. You can really use any kind you like. You can leave the skins on if that suits your taste – try it both ways and see which you like best.

—–Plate—–

Pour the garnish over plates and top with the fish. Sprinkle parsley to taste.

Alternate suggestions for plating:

Try warming the plates before serving – it adds a nice touch. (That’s warm – not hot.)

If you are doing a buffet or serving at the table you can pour the garnish over a serving platter and top with all the fillets. Then sprinkle with parsley until it looks nice.

Squash Casserole with Mushrooms

7 December 12
Butter and a butter knife

Butter and a butter knife (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that spring is here veggie casseroles are worth thinking about. This is just another of the 15 billion ways of serving squash. The main thing is that this one is especially good and easy. You can vary just about any part of this to suit your own taste-buds. This will serve two as a main dish or four as a side dish – just vary the amounts to suit your own needs.

2  fair-sized crook-neck squash
1  large onion
mushrooms, sliced
unsalted butter (about 1 stick)
light wine
kosher salt
pepper
tarragon
coarse crushed saltine crackers

Preheat the oven to 400F. Butter an appropriate-sized casserole dish. Put in a layer of sliced squash.  Put a layer of sliced onion on top of the squash. Put a layer of sliced mushrooms. You can use fresh mushrooms if you’ve got them or canned (usually in a jar) if not. Dot generously with butter. Lightly salt and pepper. Repeat as necessary. When you get to the top layer, then drizzle with a good light wine. A white or rose or so that tastes good to you. Sprinkle tarragon to taste. I like it just enough wine and tarragon to lend taste, but not enough to overpower.

Bake 400F for about 50 minutes to 1 hour. The veggies should be tender but not dried or burned.  Sprinkle a heavy layer of crushed saltines. Dot generously with butter. Back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. You want the butter melted and bubbling but the saltines should not be burned. Broil for a few minutes until crackers are lightly browned. Serve while still hot.

Zucchini

Zucchini (Photo credit: Farmanac)

As a variation you could use panko or bread crumbs – but if you do you may have to adjust the salt a bit. The saltines lend just the right amount for the finishing touch. Another variation is to use one yellow and one zucchini, or both zucchini, or whatever. (Kinda’ nice with one yellow and one zucchini).

Marinara Gravy

7 December 12

2012-09-06 - Spicy Marinara Sauce - 0002

2012-09-06 – Spicy Marinara Sauce [Gravy] – 0002 (Photo credit: smiteme)

Kind of a funny name. You have heard of marinara sauce forever. OK – let’s clear up that little bit of linguistic mystery. To the Italians, sauce has no meat in it. If it has meat or meat juice it is gravy. So – this is a marinara with meat. You can make it without the meat, of course, and then it would be marinara sauce. You will find this to be totally superior to the heavy tomato paste based Americanized stuff.

 1/4
 cup
 olive oil
 1  small onion, finely chopped
 1  large garlic clove, finely chopped
 1  stalk celery, finely chopped
 1  carrot, finely chopped
 1  small handful mushrooms, rough chopped
 1/4  tsp  sea salt
 1/4  tsp  freshly ground black pepper
 1  28-oz. can diced tomatoes
 several fresh basil leaves chiffonade
 1  sweet Italian sausage, casing removed, crumbled

Chop up the veggies, heat up the oil in a pot large enough to hold all the stuff. Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic and sweat until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. If you want to increase the garlic to a maximum of 5 cloves and gag your neighbors feel free. The Italians range from reasonable garlic use to totally ridiculous. Too much garlic and you can’t possibly taste anything else.

Oh yeah, chiffonade, just a French word for shredding or making rag-like. Easiest way is to take some sharp scissors and snip the basil up. Traditional chiffonade method is to stack the leaves, roll them into a tight tube, then cut into narrow strips. Either way is OK. The traditional method does produce prettier, more uniform strips. There are some good videos on YouTube and other places to learn good chiffonade technique.

Add the celery, carrots, sausage, salt, and pepper. Sweat until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and basil. Simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Don’t let it dry out, add a bit more water as needed. Serve over spaghetti or as a side dish.

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the true "par...

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the true “parmesan” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste only if needed.

You could shred a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano, but don’t use the powdered crap in the can. I advise tasting before adding anything.

Easy Spaghetti Sauce

27 September 12
July's Tomato Haul

July’s Tomato Haul (Photo credit: statelyenglishmanor)

Herself has threatened bodily harm if I didn’t write this down and forgot it. She wants it again, you see.

olive oil
onion
mushrooms, button & chanterelle work well. Rough chop.
red wine or red vermouth
garlic
meat – spicy sausage works well
fresh tomato – chunked
Clamato Juice

If the chanterelles are dried then soak them in just enough red vermouth or red wine to soften.

Sauté the mushrooms and onions in the olive oil until softened – about 5 minutes covered. If the sausage is link remove it from the skin. If patties this is not necessary. Cut the sausage into chunks, add to the pan and brown lightly.

Add minced garlic. When the fragrance of garlic diffuses add the tomatoes. Reduce the liquid on high heat to about half volume.

Add the clamato juice and reduce to about half volume. Serve over pasta.

Oh yeah, add spices as you like. The Clamato and the sausage that I use have enough spices that I don’t need any more. Taste and embellish to your heart’s content.

A little discussion of ingredients: You can use any sausage that you have on hand. I use the homade Southern breakfast sausage patties that I wrote up elsewhere. A good sweet Italian would also go well, I think. Notice the Clamato juice. You should be able to find it at your local grocery. It is kind of like V-8 or other tomato juice with clam juice mixed in. Totally superior to any other tomato juice you have tasted. As a nice side bonus also makes the best Bloody Mary you ever got near. Be sure to use Stolichnaya vodka.

Braised Shank of Lamb

26 November 11
my own photo

Dutch Oven Image via Wikipedia

The shank, or shin, is usually some of the toughest meat on a critter. Think about it – this is the part between the knee and the foot that does a great deal of the work of holding the animal up and moving it around. Lean muscle, as it were. This means that there is lots of connective tissue (collagen), which means tough meat with lots of flavor potential.

What we want to do is cook long and slow so that the connective tissue becomes dissolved, tender, and yields all the flavor back in to the pot. The French, as usual, have a better way – braising with flavorings. Now braising – from the French “braiser” – combines both dry and moist heat. Beef Bourguignon is world famous for its delicious flavor, yet it is only simple braised beef with wine. Here the same technique is applied to the lamb shank – with wonderful results.

2 lamb shanks
salt and pepper
10 cloves of garlic
12 white mushroom caps
1 tsp coarse ground pepper
1 tsp salt
4 Tbs olive oil
1 bouquet garni – thyme, basil, and rosemary
1-1/2 cup Burgundy or other hearty red wine
1-1/2 cups beef stock
1 tsp tomato paste
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°F, with the racks set such that you can get your Dutch oven in about the middle of the oven. Yes – you can use something else – but a good cast iron Dutch oven is best. You’re on your own where other utensils are concerned. There are also people who do this in a crock pot – I’m not one of those. Anyway, dress your shanks with salt and pepper and sauté in hot olive oil until well seared on all sides. Reduce the heat and add the garlic. When the garlic is nicely golden – about a minute or so –
add your wine, salt, pepper, and the bouquet garni. If you’ve got fresh herbs, just tie them up with a string. If all you’ve got is bottled then you can wrap them in cheese cloth or –easiest of all – put them in a tea caddy and drop that into the mix. Advice: use a separate caddy for your garni’s or really get it clean after. I don’t think that lamb flavored tea would be quite right. Anyway, slow simmer things for 8 to 10 minutes.

I guess we need to talk about salt somewhere, and here is as good as any. Go easy on the salt – you can add more later, but taking it out can be fun. In fact, if your beef stock is not salt free then don’t add any salt, other than sprinkling the meat before browning.

Add the beef stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and slow simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce the oven to 325°F, and cook for 90 minutes. This is called cooking in a falling oven. Quite traditional with the old wood-fired stone ovens.

Turn the lamb over, add the mushrooms and a bit more liquid only if needed. Don’t drown the meat. The liquid does not cover it. Cook for another hour.

Remove the lamb and mushrooms to a covered dish and strain the liquid through a sieve. Add the tomato paste and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pull the lamb off the bones – it should just about fall off and serve with mushrooms covered with sauce.

A Quick Can o’ Peas

15 October 11
The reflection pond at Clemson University

Image via Wikipedia

“A kid comes up to me in a white jacket, gives me a Ritz cracker and chopped liver. He says ‘Canapés,’ I say, ‘Can o’ peas my ass! That’s a Ritz cracker and chopped liver.'”

The Godfather IIFrank Pentangeli to Fredo Corleone

Sometime a happy taste sensation can occur simply because of a need to fill in a corner of the stomach. And, of course, what you have on hand. Anyway – this turned out to make a jim-dandy little snacker – and really simple.

1 part chicken, white meat, chopped fine
1 part quality blue cheese, chopped fine
1 part mushroom duxelles
1 part good mayonnaise
French bread, sliced thin

Chop up the chicken and blue cheese pretty fine, but not a mush. Mix the meat, cheese, mushroom and mayo together until nicely blended. You want to use a really good quality blue cheese. We used the stuff from Clemson University. They’ve had blue cheese growing in local cow juice for many years and it is a really nice strain. Put about a half tablespoon of goop on each slice of French bread and run into a 350°F oven for a few minutes. You don’t want to cook this stuff, just warm it up nicely.

Herself Sez: We learned about Clemson Blue Cheese when I was working at Clemson University back in the ’80’s. They used to have a dairy store with incredible locally made ice cream. Although the shipping eats us alive, we occasionally order a couple of 10oz Krumbles and use them in everything that calls for blue cheese. Oh Yummm!

Mushroom Duxelles has already been written up, and is something you want to keep handy in your refrigerator.

Homemade is the best way to go on the French bread and the mayonnaise.


%d bloggers like this: