Friday, February 26, 2016

Spring Lamb Sliders – A Shoulder to Bite On

You could roast an expensive leg of lamb for Easter, which would be lovely, but why not consider the lesser known, and just as delicious shoulder roast? This underrated cut is less expensive, very flavorful, and much less stressful.

We usually prepare the leg medium-rare to medium for maximum enjoyment, which requires a little more finesse than a shoulder roast, which we’re going to cook long and slow, until very tender. As long as you let the meat braise until it's falling off the bone, there's no way this isn't going to be great.

Obviously, we’re talking about a completely different texture than roasted lamb, but if you like things like shredded beef, and pulled pork, you will be down with this. As I mentioned in the video, I wanted you to focus on the super easy technique, and not necessarily the ingredients I used.

Honey, vinegar, and mint are classic with lamb, but any other sweet/sour approach should work nicely. You could even cheat, and use your favorite barbecue sauce (you know my favorite), which would be perfect with this rich, succulent cut, as well. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 large portions (about 3 sliders per person):
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 1/2 pound bone-in lamb shoulder roast
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, cut in large dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons freshly sliced mint

- 325 F. for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until very tender

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Colcannon Hash – I Invented This, As Did Others Before Me

Every year about this time, I try to do some kind of culinary nod to St. Patrick’s Day, and this colcannon hash is the latest example. I really loved how this came out, and it made a beautiful, and delicious base for poached eggs, but there was one problem. Apparently, I didn’t invent this.

I thought I did, as I do with almost all the new recipes I create, but I figured I’d do a search anyway, just to confirm this assumption of singular brilliance. So I did, and it quickly became apparent that many others had the very same idea. Good for them.

I realize St. Patrick’s Day brunch isn’t really a thing, but if it were, this would be perfect. Although, we might have some leftover corned beef the day after, which would make this even more amazing; so maybe we should forget St. Paddy’s Day breakfast, and turn this into a hearty, day-after hangover cure instead. Either way, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 large portions:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
2 large russet potatoes, diced, rinsed, and well-drained
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup sliced green onions (mostly the white and lighter green parts)
2 large handfuls baby kale, roughly chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated sharp Irish cheddar cheese (or any sharp cheddar)
pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley 
2 or 4 poached eggs, optional (actually, not optional)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Oxtail Ragu – Worth the Wait

Other than a completely unnecessary braising step right in the middle of the video, this oxtail ragu came out amazingly well. My thought was to roast the oxtails in the sauce, in a slow oven to see if I could achieve the tender-sticky meat I know and love, while slowly reducing the sauce at the same time. I couldn’t. 

Well, actually, it would have eventually gotten tender, but I wasn’t prepared to find out how long that was going to be. Like I said several times during the video, I want you to roast your oxtail and onion until nicely browned, but then transfer everything into a pot, add the rest of the ingredients, and simmer until the meat comes off the bones with minimal effort.

The only way to screw up this incredibly succulent cut of beef is to not cook it long enough, which is why I better not read any 3-star recipe reviews that say, “Good flavor, but wasn’t as tender as I wanted.” Just remember to not braise, and keep simmering until it yields completely to your fork. I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
(Pro tip: since this does take so many hours to simmer, it's almost always best to make this the day before you serve it)
3-4 pounds oxtail, cut into 2-inch sections, rubbed with olive oil, and seasoned generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
1 large yellow onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
-- Roast at 425 F. for 45-60 minutes until browned
-- Transfer into a sauce pot, and add the following
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
4 cups tomato sauce or puree, or more if desired
2 cups chicken broth, or enough to cover the oxtails
* You can add as much sauce and/or stock as you want, as long as you have at least enough to cover
1 sprig rosemary
2 springs thyme
2 springs oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
- Simmer on low, many hours, until tender
- Should be enough sauce and meat for 1 pound of pasta

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Stracciatella Soup – For When You’re 'Tore Up From the Floor Up'

You hear stracciatella often referred to as, “Italian egg drop soup,” which is fine, but knowing the name actually means little, torn rags, or shreds, works so much better metaphorically. 

When you’ve been run ragged, stracciatella is always there for you. After a long, infuriating day at work, you want something fast, filling, and comforting; ideally made with ingredients you already have on hand. This is all that, and less.

Sure, you could order some unhealthy, and expensive take-out, but that’s just a shame spiral waiting to happen. Better to beat up a few eggs with some cheese, and boil up the last of that homemade chicken stock, you made using this video.

By the way, if you’re a normal person, and don’t have homemade broth in the freezer, this works perfectly well with a high-quality, packaged broth. As you eat this, hopefully with some nice crusty bread, imagine all those little “rags” floating in the bowl are all your torn-up problems, both real and imagined. They were there, and then they were gone. You just won, with soup. I hope you give this stracciatella a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes 2 large or 4 appetizer sized portions:
6 cups nice rich chicken broth, seasoned to taste
3 large eggs
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons semolina flour
1/2 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano (about 1/2 cup if grated on a microplane)
1/2 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1/2 cup if grated on a microplane)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch cayenne
pinch nutmeg
olive oil and pepper flakes to garnish

Friday, February 12, 2016

Torrone (Italian Nut & Nougat Confection) – A Stirring Valentine’s Day Treat

The theme of this torrone post was originally about making this gorgeous candy for your Valentine, but then I realized what would be even better than making this for your sweetheart, would be making with your sweetheart.

While very easy, this procedure does take about one and a half hours to complete, and most of that time is spent standing at the stove, stirring, which is why tag-teaming this Italian confection makes the job much easier, and I’ll assume a lot more fun.

By the way, this is the real way to make torrone, and by “real,” I mean the really old way. Today, most candy makers use a much faster method, where a caramelized sugar syrup is simply added to the whipped egg whites. I’ve tried this both ways, and while the modern technique is way faster, I much prefer this method. It seems to have more soul, whatever that means.

Using this ancient technique, you don’t need to worry about precise timing, specific temperatures, or potentially painful burns. Besides, standing and stirring something on the stove for that long is surprisingly therapeutic. Watching the ingredients slowly, and magically change, as your home fills with the sweet aroma of warm honey, is almost as enjoyable as the amazing candy you end up with. Almost.

The visual clues, and times I give in the video should be enough, but don’t forget the cold water trick I showed you. That’s a great way to check you work, and sneak a taste. I hope you give this a try very soon. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from this one by, Enzo Maragucci
Makes about 80 (1-inch) square pieces:
400 g honey (about 1 1/3 cups)
250 g white sugar (about 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons)
2 large egg whites
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 rounded tablespoon lemon zest
3 cups roasted almonds (I used Marcona almonds)
1 cup roasted pistachio
2 sheets “wafer” paper (*edible rice paper)
*Follow this link for info on the one I ordered
If you don't use the wafer paper, you can just spray plastic wrap with oil, and that also works. Some people use cornstarch, but I'm not a fan. Google for many other tricks.  

- I used an 8 x 11 baking dish to mold mine in.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Zabaglione – Tastes Like Romance

When you go over the things you really want in a Valentine’s dessert, this ultra-simple zabaglione checks all the boxes. Assuming that your sweetheart enjoys things like sweet, juicy fruit enveloped in a rich, but impossibly light custard, this should work out nicely.

I like to use a dry Marsala wine, but sweet Marsala is also a popular choice. If you use the sweet variety you’ll need to cut down or eliminate the sugar.  If you’re not into warm wine foams, you can literally use any other flavorful liquid, and the technique will work the same.

You may need to change the garnish, but things like coffee, fruit juices, and pretty much any other liquor, or liqueur, will work with this technique. Experiment, and see what happens. So, whether you make this for that certain someone this Valentine’s Day, or just for a random weeknight treat, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes 2 or 3 servings:
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup dry Marsala wine
1/2 cup diced strawberries tossed with a spoon of sugar

Friday, February 5, 2016

Bacon Jalapeno Popper Puffs – Seeing Spots

I had everything I needed to shoot a brand new chicken wing video, except for one key ingredient; a working oven. Yes, my oven decided to take the rest of Super Bowl week off, as did my oven repairman, but these bacon jalapeno popper puffs came out so well, I decided to designate this as an official blessing in disguise.

These pepper poppers in puff form really did come out incredibly well, as long as you don’t have a problem with lots of unsightly dark spots. Since we loaded these with so much diced pepper, the pieces on the outside caramelized (which is chef-speak for burned), and my beautiful, golden-brown balls were spotted with golden-black.

Apparently, I’m having more of a problem with the appearance than your average viewer, at least according to the first wave of YouTube comments, but I may still try to figure out a way to make these a little more camera friendly next time. Maybe I’ll puree the peppers first, or possibly char off the skin, which I believe gets even darker than the flesh. Stay tuned.

Superficial beauty aside, if you enjoy the gut-bombs that are classic, bacon-wrapped, jalapeno poppers, I think you’ll love these shockingly light puffs. All the same flavors are there, especially when served with the easy cream cheese dip, and the prep is much easier. I really hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 40 Bacon Jalapeno Popper Puffs:

For the dough:
2/3 cup water
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon fine salt)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs

Then add:
2 ounces extra sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely diced jalapeno peppers
1/3 cup finely chopped bacon
pinch cayenne
pinch freshly ground black pepper

- Fry at 375 F. for about 3 1/2 minutes, or until golden-brown and cooked through

For the dipping sauce:
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
2 tablespoons minced green onions
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- add enough water to thin mixture out to proper dip consistency

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

2016 Super Bowl Prediction Using Chicken Wing Bones

Welcome to this year’s installment of “Get Rich Quick with Chef John,” where you cash in on my mystical method for picking Super Bowl winners, using the lost art of wing bone reading. I know it sounds crazy, but if you think this is some kind of joke, think again. In the 49 years I’ve been doing this, there hasn’t been a single (major) university study proving these results aren’t 100% accurate. Not one single study. 

Sure, we’ve had a couple of recent, very minor “discrepancies,” but instead of wasting time arguing who's at fault, or who lost who’s college fund, I prefer to look toward the future. This year the bones point to a decisive Carolina victory, and while I’ll be personally rooting for Old Man Manning, if you want to win money, you’ll put everything you have on the Panthers. 

I’m just glad the Patriots aren’t in it. They’re shady. Anyway, good luck, and I’ll apologize in advance for any income tax issues that pop up after this windfall. Good luck, and as always, enjoy!