Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Classic Rice Pudding – Word on the Street Is

It’s not every day you find yourself walking next to someone on the street, who’s eating from a ridiculously large tub of rice pudding. Well, that’s exactly what happened to me the other day, and it served as a reminder for what a great, and comforting dessert rice pudding really is. 

For whatever reason, it’s usually not near the top when people list their favorite desserts, but despite that, it’s a proven crowd-pleaser, and quite easy to make, especially using this simplified, one-pot method.

Most recipes have you make the pudding in a clean pot, since, I’m assuming, they’re afraid the starch at the bottom of the pan used to cook the rice will burn. And, it probably would, unless you deglaze the bottom with cold milk before turning the heat back on. Not only will this simple step prevent the pudding from scorching, but also I think we get a little bit of extra toasted rice flavor. I also prefer an egg yolk to a whole egg, but regardless, be sure to whisk it in fast and furious, or they might scramble.

If you’re scared, you can temper the egg by mixing in a few spoons of the hot rice mixture, before blending in, but as I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with a little adrenalin-inducing danger in the kitchen. So, no matter what you garnish it with, or whether you eat it inside, or crossing Dolores Street, I really hope you give this a try soon.  Enjoy!  

Makes 4 Portions Rice Puddings:
1/2 cup uncooked white long-grain rice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/3 cups milk
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold butter
2 tablespoons dried cherries, chopped

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Prawn Provencale – Eating the 80’s

I’m not sure these are actually prawns, and I’ve never been to Provence, but this great appetizer was called Prawn Provencale when I learned it working for a caterer, back in the 80’s. It was a crazy time, or so I’m told, and this delicious garlic and herb shrimp pop is one of the more vivid memories I have.

It does take some time to butterfly the prawns, but as I mentioned in the video, everything can be done ahead of time, including the crumbing. Just pan them up, and bake them off, once your guests arrive. Preferably in waves, so they can be enjoyed warm.

In case you’re wondering, while biologically different, culinarily speaking, shrimp and prawns are the same thing. I used to know the difference a long time ago, like in the 80’s, but my brain must’ve erased it for more storage space.

One major tip here is to be sure and season your breadcrumb mixture very well. You can season the shrimp also, but I don’t, and instead make sure the mixture has plenty of everything. Once they’re baked, you can serve with any number of dips, or just some fresh lemon. So, whether you’re making these for a party or not, I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 pounds shrimp (about 32 pieces)
2 pounds shrimp (16-20 per pound), butterflied
olive oil for brushing pan

For the breadcrumb mixture:
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed fine with dried herbs and salt)
kosher salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon dry oregano
1/4 teaspoon dry thyme
1/3 cup Italian parsley
1 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
cayenne to taste
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup olive oil, or as needed

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Picadillo – Close, But No Cigar

I’m not sure if you’ve had picadillo before, but I’m very sure you’ve almost had it before. This Cuban creation is one of the world’s great ground meat dishes, and fairly similar to sloppy Joes, as well as bean-less chili, or as a chili connoisseur would call it, “chili." 

I went with beef here, but pork can be added, as well as chorizo. Often fillers like diced potato and squash are added, but since I serve this over rice, I typically don’t include those. I used to be more into hot, starch-on-starch action when I was younger, but these days, not so much.

As I mentioned in the video, many consider the olives optional, but for me, they’re one of the keys to the dish. Those briny bites reset your palate as you eat, which makes every bite seem like the first. Having said that, not everyone does olives, but I still really hope you give it a try soon – with capers. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (85/15 lean/fat)
1 cup diced yellow onions
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup currants or raisins
1/2 cup sliced green olives, or to taste

Friday, February 17, 2017

“One-Step” Chicken Noodle Soup – For When You’re Sick of Following Recipes

Or, just plain sick. Yes, I’m a little under the weather, but as they say, the show must go on, and that “show” ended up being me just throwing all my chicken noodle soup ingredients into a pot, crossing my fingers, and hoping for the best.

And while I know this method didn’t produce “the best” chicken noodle soup, I was amazed at how really good it was, and how remarkably close it was to a certain canned variety. I can’t give brand names, but it rhymes with Frogresso.

If you do decide to use this one-step approach, there are a few things you need to pay attention to. You’ll want to use a pasta or noodle that’s at least a large as the fusilli I used so it doesn’t completely break down; as well as, to be sure to dice/slice your veggies nice and thin, so they get tender relatively quickly.

I just used a knife, but I bet you have one of those vegetable slicers somewhere, and this would be the perfect operation to use it for. Above and beyond that, feel free to add in other “medicinal” ingredients, such as garlic, ginger, and hot chilies. But whether you embellish or not, or you’re sick, or feeling just fine, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
1 pound raw or cooked chicken meat (I used 2 cubed-up breasts)
1/2 cup dried fusilli pasta (corkscrew pasta)
1/3 finely minced onions
1 carrot, very thinly sliced
1 rib celery, thinly sliced
salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne to taste
2 teaspoons ketchup
1 fresh thyme sprig, or pinch of dried thyme, optional
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Norwegian Butter Sauce – Better Know as Sandefjordsmør

My Norwegian pronunciations aren’t any better than my French ones, but as challenging as saying, “Sandefjordsmør,” may be, this amazingly simple butter sauce is not very challenging to make. 

People get nervous about butter sauce, since many types can easily “break,” which means the butter separates, but because of the cream, this is extremely stable, and very user-friendly. As long you don’t dump all the cold butter cubes in at once, and just toss them in a few at a time, your sauce will not break. 

Along the same lines, if you make the sauce early, be sure to keep it in a warm spot, since if it gets cold and solidifies, and then you try and reheat it, the butter will most likely separate. Above and beyond being easy, and relatively sturdy, this Sandefjordsmør is also quite versatile.

Not only is it wonderful on all types of fish, but also works beautifully with shrimp and lobster. Speaking of versatility, the same goes for changing up the herbs. So, no matter how you flavor it, or what you spoon it over, I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 servings:
2 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons cold unsalted, grass-fed butter, cut in cubes
salt and cayenne to taste
2 generous tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Chocolate Soufflé – Perfect for Your Valentine (Unless I’m Your Valentine)

With everybody’s favorite made-up holiday right around the corner, I thought I would finally post a chocolate soufflé. I’m not sure what took so long, other than the fact that soufflés have never been my favorite delivery system for chocolate.

Sure, they’re visually impressive, which is key for a special occasion dessert, but the chocolate does get a bit diluted by all those air bubbles. Also, I’ve always been much more of a cold, or room-temp chocolate dessert guy, and never gone nuts for things like lava cakes, and baked puddings.

Having said that, I’m sure I’m in the minority, and you and your special someone will enjoy these just fine. I developed this recipe for two, since that makes a lot of sense, but it should scale up without issue. If you want to add some type of liquor to this, you can add it to the milk and flour mixture after you turn off the heat.

Rum works beautiful, as does coffee, orange, or raspberry liqueur.  Above and beyond that, if you really want to impress your date, you could also whip up a sauce to serve along side. I’m thinking either a berry puree, or maybe a coffee crème anglaise would pair perfectly. Either way, sauced or not, I really hope you give this a try soon, and it gets you lots of compliments. Enjoy!

Chocolate soufflé for two 5-oz ramekins):
melted butter and sugar to prep ramekins
1 tablespoon butter  
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon cold milk
pinch salt
pinch cayenne
2 ounces dark chocolate (I like something around 70%)
1 large egg yolk
2 large egg whites
pinch cream of tartar (you can use a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar instead)
1 tablespoon white sugar, added in 3 additions

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Brazilian Fish Stew – Almost Moqueca

In case I wasn’t completely clear the multiple times I mentioned it in the videothis is just my take, my twist, my interpretation of a Brazilian fish stew. Or, as people who will ignore the previous sentence call it, “moqueca.”

The most glaring omission from the classic ingredient list would be red palm oil, which apparently gives this dish it signature flavor. Since I don’t think I ever had it, it’s hard for me to say, but what I can tell you, is that this was incredibly delicious even without the mysterious oil.

Like most of the world’s great fish stews, this is usually made with several types of seafood, but this is what I’m calling the weeknight version. Using a whitefish, along with scallops, shrimp, clams, etc., is lovely, but then you do have to worry about timing, so that everything finishes at the same time.

By using one fish, this really is quite a simple recipe, and the little bit of slicing and mincing involved is well worth the gorgeous, and very tasty results. I really do hope you give this gorgeous Brazilian fish stew a try soon. Enjoy!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
cayenne pepper to taste
1 can (14-oz) coconut milk (not low fat!)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 1/2 cup sliced assorted sweet and/or hot peppers
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 1/2 pounds sea bass, or other firm white fish, cut into chunks
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
serve with rice

Friday, February 3, 2017

Refried Beans – Cooked Well, Not Twice

Contrary to popular belief, refried beans are not called refried beans because they’re refried.  As it turns out the name actually translates to well fried, as in so well fried, beans are reduced to a molten mash.  And what a delicious mash it is.

I don’t think I would ever sit down to eat just a bowl of refried beans, but they make everything they’re served with, on, or in, infinitely better.  Just as long as you use lard.  In my opinion, using rendered pork fat for these produces the ultimate refried beans.

Many folks insist on using bacon, and it’s always hard to argue against using bacon, but for me that smoky flavor, as delicious as it is, just overwhelms the rest of the ingredients.  Besides that enthusiastic recommendation, be sure to taste for seasoning at the end.

Since we don’t cook the beans with salt, it’s going to take some fairly generous seasoning later. In fact, any reviews less than five-stars will be the result of people under salting, and then unfairly blaming me. So, whether these are going on your Super Bowl nachos, or just in your regular recipe rotation, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 portions refried beans:
For the beans:
1 pound dry pinto beans, soaked overnight
4 whole garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon dry epazote, or teaspoon of dried oregano
9 cups cold water
- Simmer one and a half to two hours or until beans are very soft
For the refried beans:
1/2 cup lard
1 1/2 cups diced onions
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons minced Serrano pepper
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
the cooked beans
reserved bean liquid, as needed (I usually use all of it)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Nuggets - Made from Parts, Not Pieces

I’ve always wanted to show my method for making chicken nuggets. Not because I’m proud of how well they came out, which I am, but more so to plead my case for what I think qualifies as an actual chicken “nugget.”

Somehow people got the idea that a chicken nugget was supposed to be a solid piece of chicken. That’s not a nugget. That’s just a too small piece of fried chicken. A real nugget, at least in the fast food context, is more of a deep-fried, mostly-chicken sausage patty, fabricated from various parts of the bird, such as, every legal part.

I love any and all types of fried chicken, but the typical nugget, when made from a piece of breast, just makes me want to get a bucket of the full-sized stuff. No, as far as party food goes, I’ll take the classic, seems-bad-for-you version every time. Plus, since we’re making a paste out of the meat, we get to flavor it any way we want.

I loved the Buffalo approach, and it allowed me to dip something in blue cheese dressing, which is always nice, but there are lots of directions you can go with this. So, whether you make these as directed, or come up with your own game plan, I really hope you give these delicious chicken nuggets a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 24 Buffalo Chicken Nuggets:
1 1/2 pound chicken thigh
2 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (here is a link to a copy cat recipe)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon Franks hot sauce
1 tablespoon melted butter

For the starch coating:
1/2 cup corn starch
1/3 cup self-rising flour (or mix 1/3 cup all-purpose flour with 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/8 tsp salt)
1/4 teaspoon salt

- After coating, let sit in fridge until starch on surface is absorbed. For best results, flip over once while in fridge.
- Fry for 1 minute at 300 F., then chill, and finish when ready to serve by frying for 2 minutes at 375 F., or until cooked through. Exact time depends on size and shape of your nugget.