Tuesday, September 13, 2016

cold enough

I was so thrilled for the hot weather to finally break that I started to search through all my Pins for soups. Then Matty burst my bubble by reminding me that just because it was now 80 degrees instead of 100 degrees didn't mean that it was cold enough for soup.

Not to be deterred, I figured curry would be a good compromise. It's soup, but not really. 

The original recipe was for a chicken curry shepherd's pie, with the curry being the filling, and mashed sweet potato replacing the mashed white potato topping of a traditional pie. I wasn't sure I'd like the textures, frankly, and I was even less sure of turning on the oven given my "cold weather" was really 80 degrees, so I just decided to cube up the sweet potatoes and throw them in the curry to cook. I used a full pound in tonight's dinner, but I think the ratio would be much better with only half as much, so that's what I've written below.

Making your own curry powder is a bit tedious, but you can't really argue with the results here. Intensely fresh and flavorful. The sweet potatoes were a good way to brighten the flavors, but if you want to stay earthy, I think regular white or yellow potatoes would be delicious as well.

Chicken Sweet Potato Curry
adapted from The Kitchn
serves 4-6

For the chicken curry spice mixture:
3 large dried bay leaves
4 whole cloves
2 dried pasilla chiles
10 whole black peppercorns
2 t. cumin seeds
1 t. coriander seeds

For the curry:
2 T. coconut oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped (about 1 1/2 c.)
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
1/2 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into to 2- to 2 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut milk
2 T. cashew butter
7-oz. can chopped tomatoes
8 oz. rainbow chard, sliced into ribbons
1/2 c. frozen green peas
salt, to taste
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro

naan or rice for serving

1. Prepare the spices for the chicken curry: In a large, heavy pot or enameled cast iron skillet set over high heat, combine the dried bay leaves, cloves, dried chiles, peppercorns, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds and cook, shaking the pan, for 30 to 45 seconds, being careful that the spices do not burn. Transfer to a small food processor or grinder, and process into a fine powder. Set aside.

2. Make the chicken curry: Return the pan to high heat, add the coconut oil, and heat until the oil is fully melted and hot. Add the onions and cook, still over high heat, stirring until they are translucent and the edges are browned. Add the ginger and garlic, stir well, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the sweet potatoes and chicken, and stir to incorporate. Add the coconut milk, cashew butter, tomatoes, and the spice mixture, and stir well. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender, and the chicken is cooked through.

3. Add the chard, peas, and cilantro to the chicken curry, stir well to head through. Serve immediately, over rice or with naan on the side.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

being beige

I promise you that this meal is only beige in color, and not in taste. On the contrary, it positively bursts with unexpected but cohesive flavor.

It's a great alternative to a plain ol' burger (not that there's anything wrong with a plain ol' burger), and while you might think stuffing pitas is time-consuming and fussy, you need to calm down because it's not. I made this meal between work and a red-eye flight.

The adaptation I found simplified the original Bon Appetit recipe, but frankly, I couldn't wrap my head around why I would want to put a patty on top of a pita, rather than either stuffing it, or just grilling the patties and putting it in between a pita or any other bread-like contraption and making it a burger. I also wanted to keep the lamb. However, I did prefer the Asian-inspired spicing to the original cumin-laced patty, so I married the two recipes.

It's part of my OCD to insist on weighing out the patties down to a tenth of an ounce so that everything is even, but if you just want to wing it, each patty is about 4 oz. uncooked.

The corn was more of an after-thought than anything. I realized there weren't going to be any vegetables involved otherwise, so I picked through my Pins for somewhat seasonal options, and went with it. The flavored butter is delightful, but sadly, the end-of-season corn was not. Aim for earlier in the summer when you try this.

Lamb-Stuffed Pitas
adapted from The Kitchn and Bon Appetit
serves 6

1 large egg
1/4 c. finely chopped shallots
2 T. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 T. coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
2 T. fish sauce
zest of 1 lime
1 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lb. ground lamb
6 standard pitas

1. Beat the egg in a large bowl. Add the shallots, cilantro, mint, fish sauce, garlic, lime zest, and lime juice, and stir to combine. Add the pork and mix with your hands until just combined.

2. Prepare grill for medium heat, and oil the grates. Working one at a time, open each pita pocket by cutting along its seam, halfway around the perimeter. Divide the filling between the pitas, spreading to edges. Close, pressing on filling to seal.

3. Grill pitas until filling is cooked through and bread is crisp, about 5 minutes per side. Serve immediately.

Grilled Corn with Garlic-Ginger-Soy Butter
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 4

1 t. finely grated garlic
1 t. finely grated ginger
1 T. soy sauce
2 T. softened butter
4 ears corn, shucked

1. Prepare the grill for medium heat, and oil the grates.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and butter. Stir with a fork until well combined. Set aside.

3. Place corn directly on the grill and cover. Cook the corn for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally for even grill marks. Serve with butter on the side for spreading.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

new for you

This edition of Sunday Night Suppers was held for a new friend - the not-new, but never-met girlfriend of a dear friend of Matty's. I had suggested going out - first meetings at public spaces always allow all parties an out if it ends up being necessary. Not that I expected to not like her, but hanging out at a new person's house can be overwhelming, and I wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable. Plus, cooking for a new person is a lot of pressure.

I was convinced otherwise, and with everyone's eating preferences locked in to my dinner party grid, I proceeded with care to create a menu that was inventive, but still gentle to the palate.

First course: a salad of shaved asparagus, thinly-sliced stone fruit (the nectarines and plums looked best, but endless adaptable to your favorites) and crowd-pleaser burrata. I know asparagus can be polarizing, but once shaved extra-thin, I feel like it's freshness replaces is just a nice accent to the sweetness of the fruit and the cool richness of the burrata.

Shaved Asparagus + Stone Fruit Salad with Burrata
inspired by Canele and With Food + Love
serves 4

12 oz. asparagus, trimmed
1 yellow nectarine
1 black plum
2 4-oz. balls of burrata
olive oil for drizzling

1. Holding on to the spear end of the asparagus, use a vegetable peeler to shave the stalks into ribbons. Thinly slice what the peeler won't process. Arrange the ribbons on a serving platter. Trim and reserve the spears for garnish.

2. Thinly slice the nectarine and plum, and arrange over the asparagus. Tear the burrata into bite-sized chunks and arrange among the fruit. Drizzle with olive oil, and serve immediately.

Entree: fettuccine with meatballs. Matty did his magic with home-made pasta, while I tried to harness the magic of Mozza's meatballs. I'll admit I had some trouble with the sauce. I didn't want to use jarred sauce, and I had noticed that when the LA Weekly excerpted the Mozza recipe, they left in a reference to passata that was not referenced in the ingredients list. Curious to know what passata was, I found a recipe that explained it was basically quickly-cooked tomatoes passed through a food mill - so, tomato puree, essentially.

That's all fine and good, but once you combine that version of passata with stock, as the Mozza recipe calls for, no amount of roasting/braising/oven time will reduce that to any more than a thick broth, not even a gravy, and hardly what one would normally call tomato sauce. It wasn't until I looked at further sources for that Mozza recipe that I learned sometimes passata is made by passing the raw tomatoes through the food mill, and then cooking the puree down for about 30 minutes. That would probably have done the trick.

However, I pressed on. Even through learning that our new friend was from a large Italian family, which immediately made me regret I even bothered to include this on the menu. We were well into it by now, though, so my main fix for this situation was to use some of my "sauce" as the pasta cooking liquid. I'd say I used about a cup of sauce thinned out with a cup of water to boil the pasta - you might need more or less depending on how much pasta you have (or you might not have to do this at all if your sauce turned out right).

The pasta turned out perfectly flavorful, the meatballs were fantastic, and no one noticed The Great Passata Fail of 2016.

Fettuccine + Meatballs
pasta from Barbara Lynch's Stir
meatballs slightly adapted from The Mozza Cookbook via The LA Weekly
serves 4, with leftover meatballs

For the meatballs
3⁄4 c. diced day-old, crustless bread (about 1 standard slice of bead)
1⁄4 c. whole milk
1 1⁄2 c. (about 6 oz.) freshly grated Parmesan, plus additional for serving
1 c. minced onion
2⁄3 c. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 eggs
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 t. red pepper flakes
2 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
6 1⁄2 oz. pancetta, minced
1⁄4 c. olive oil, plus more as needed
1 qt. passata (recipe below)
1 qt. beef stock

For the passata:
2 lbs. Roma or San Marzano tomatoes, quartered

1 lb. home-made fettucine

1. Place the diced bread in a small bowl, pour in the milk, and set aside to soak the bread for about 5 minutes. 

2. Combine the 1 1⁄2 c. Parmesan, onion, parsley, eggs, garlic, ground red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and stir to thoroughly combine. Add the pork, beef, and pancetta. Squeeze the bread in your fist to press out the milk, discarding the excess milk. Add the bread to the bowl with the other ingredients and gently mix to thoroughly combine. Divide the meat into 2-oz. portions (I ended up with about 30 meatballs), and roll each portion into a ball. Place the balls on a baking sheet. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the meatballs for at least an hour or overnight. 

3. Meanwhile, make the passata: In a large saucepan, cook the tomatoes until they just start to slump into themselves. Remove all of the contents of the pan into a food mill, and pass the contents through. You should have 4 cups of sauce.

4. When ready to cook the meatballs, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

5. Pour the olive oil into a large Dutch oven, and add more if needed to cover the bottom of the pan to 1⁄4 inch deep. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking and slides easily in the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Working in batches, place the meatballs in a single layer in the pan and sear them until they are lightly browned all over, being gentle when turning them so they don't fall apart, about 6 minutes. Remove the meatballs to a plate. Repeat with the remaining meatballs, adding oil, if necessary. Turn off the heat and wipe the oil and browned bits from the pan. Return the meatballs to the pan. 

6. Combine the passata and beef stock, and pour the liquid over the meatballs to submerge, but not drown them. Place the meatballs in the oven to braise for 1 hour. Remove the meatballs from the oven and allow them to rest in the sauce for at least 10 minutes. Skim and discard the fat from the sauce.

7. Cook the pasta to al dente (I used some of the meatball braising liquid with just enough water added in to just cover the pasta). Remove to a serving bowl, and top with meatballs and sauce. Serve with additional Parmesan grated on top.

And finally, dessert: sugar cookies with coconut and sesame to go with the gelato they brought to share. I only made a slight substitution in subbing out half of the white sugar for brown - I love the butterscotch-y taste, and the extra chewiness brown sugar generally provides to cookies. 

I'm not generally a fan of crisp cookies, and these cooled down to just slightly crisper than I like, but they did have a bit of chew to them, which was really nice. Toasting the coconut and sesame are key - the extra flavor boost really elevates the cookies. 

Sugar Cookies with Coconut + Sesame
slightly adapted from Food52
makes 30 cookies

2 3/4 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 c. butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 c. grated coconut, toasted
1/4 c. toasted sesame seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the sides as necessary. Gradually blend in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, coconut and sesame seeds.

3. Divide the dough into 1-oz. portions, and roll each portion into a ball. Place the balls 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets, and bake 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

sweet, funky thing

I have a terrible habit of keeping things in the fridge just slightly beyond their expiration date. I mean, it's not like things get gross, but I judge expiration by look and smell rather than by a stamped-on date.

Unfortunately (but also fortunately), I had my twice-a-year cleaning lady come a week or so ago, and unbeknownst to me, she disagreed with whether my red miso paste had lived its full life. I discovered this when I popped open my fridge to grab it for Sam Sifton's Miso Chicken recipe from The New York Times.

After a brief curse, and assuring Matty that he didn't have to go get miso paste in the middle of a tense Dodger game, I decided to replace the funky miso with funky fish sauce. And really, this dish should be called Fish Sauce Wings, but that doesn't sound quite as sexy.

I do use truffle honey - mostly by default as I opened up the cabinet and noticed it must have been unpacked from a gift basket of some sort and hidden up there next to my regular go-to sage honey. The marinade/glaze is pungent, let me tell you. Strong and delicious. I would leave the chicken in the marinade a bit longer the next time as I didn't feel a lot of that flavor made it out of the roasting process.

A perfect clean but earthy accompaniment to these semi-sweet wings was the Sesame-Mushroom Quinoa, supplemented with some rainbow chard that I'm still harvesting from the garden. Good and hearty, but really let the wings shine.

Truffle Honey Wings
serves 4
adapted from The New York Times

2 T. ghee
4 T. fish sauce
1 T. truffle honey
1 T. rice vinegar
black pepper, to taste
3-4 lbs. chicken wings

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Combine the ghee, fish sauce honey, and rice vinegar in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Add the chicken to the bowl and toss well to coat.

3. Once the oven has come to temperature, place the chicken in a single layer in a roasting pan, and pepper liberally. Roast for 40 minutes, turning the wings over and peppering the other side after 25 minutes, until the skin is golden-brown and crisp, and the internal temperature of the meat is 160 to 165 degrees.

Sesame-Mushroom Quinoa
slightly adapted from Dishing The Dirt
serves 4-6

1 c. dry quinoa
1 lb. mixed mushrooms, diced
1 bunch of scallions (about 2 cups), white and light green parts, minced
4 oz. rainbow chard, sliced
1 T. sesame oil
1 T. canola oil
soy sauce, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 c. quinoa with 2 c. water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until quinoa is fully cooked and can easily be fluffed with a fork. About 12-15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil and canola oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms, and cook, tossing often, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the scallions and chard to the mushrooms and cook until the scallions are tender, about 3-5 minutes.

3. When the quinoa is done, toss it with the vegetable mixture and season to taste with soy sauce.

Monday, August 22, 2016

all for love

Some people have a slice from their wedding cake on their first wedding anniversary. Here, we're starting new traditions, with a blueberry pie, one of the 10 pies I baked in mini glass jars for our wedding reception.

Here's how it went down. Our favorite place to stay in all of Big Sur has rooms with full kitchens - I'm talking full-sized fridge, two-rack oven, counter space for days. 

I condensed all of the recipes into my wedding notebook so I didn't have to lug around cookbooks or click through to Pinned links with flour-dusted hands. The notebook is a bit worse for the wear, but I love that detail of it. 

All pies were broken into two categories:
1. Freeze: These were the ones I could assemble at home, and drag up in the vintage Coleman coolers we bought for beverage holders for the wedding. These were the fruit pies, and they were able to go straight from the freezer into a cold oven - do NOT preheat the oven first or you'll shatter all of your jars. Let the jars and the oven come up to temperature together.
2. There: There were a few custard pies and the like that I had to make there for fear of changing and losing the right consistency. Luckily, these were super easy blender-type of recipes that came together very quickly.

Why do this, you ask? Honestly, I feel this whole process kept me sane in the weeks and days leading up to the wedding. With this to focus on, something I know I'm good at, I didn't worry too much about things that would traditionally make one go Bridezilla.

I'll spare you the recipe re-posts where you've already seen staples and recipe tests here on this blog:
Apple Pie - as you know, not my favorite pie, but you can't deny it's everyone else's favorite
Blueberry Pie - recreated for anniversary dessert today
Chocolate Cream Pie - dug out from the archives for a taste test show down that it handily won
Chocolate Pecan Pie - a Thanksgiving staple
Key Lime Pie - a long-time favorite, easy as all get-out, and equally good as a lemon version
Strawberry Pie - another taste-test winner

And now for the newbies. The recipes below are all for the filling only. Pour it into whatever 9-inch pie crust floats your boat, although I do include the kind of crust I ended up using.

This Banana Cream Pie was shockingly good, but equally shockingly time-consuming. I think I had some drama with the quantities I had brought with me as well, and had to make do with some jerry-rigging, but the fog of a year prevents me from telling you exactly what happened. I'm sure you won't have any issues if you're following the recipe for one standard pie.

Banana Cream Pie

very slightly adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar via Hummingbird High
makes one 9-inch pie

For the filling:
2 very ripe bananas
1/3 c. plus 3/4 c. heavy cream, divided
1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1/2 t. salt
3 egg yolks
1 T. unflavored gelatin powder
2 T. water
3 T. butter
1/2 t. yellow food coloring
1 c. confectioner's sugar

1 9-inch graham cracker crust

1. Combine 2 ripe bananas, 1/3 c. heavy cream, and 1/4 c. milk in a blender, and puree until totally smooth.

2. Once the mixture is completely smooth, add 1/2 c. granulated sugar, 2 T. cornstarch, 1/2 t. salt, and 3 egg yolks and continue to blend until homogenous. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan, and clean the blender canister.

3. Bloom 1 T. powdered gelatin by sprinkling it evenly across the surface of a small bowl filled with 2 T. of cold water. The gelatin is bloomed when it is soft, about 2 minutes. 

4. Whisk the contents of the pan, and heat over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. As the banana mixture heats up, it will thicken. Bring to a boil and, once it's at boiling point, continue to whisk vigorously for about 2 minutes to fully cook out the starch. The mixture will resemble thick glue, bordering on cement, with a color to match.

5. Transfer the contents of the pan back into your blender. Add the bloomed gelatin and 3 T. butter, and blend until the mixture is smooth and even. Add 1/2 t. yellow food coloring until it is a bright, artificial banana yellow. 

6. Transfer the banana mixture to a heatproof container, and let cool in the fridge for as long as it takes to cool completely, about 30 to 60 minutes.

7. When the banana mixture has cooled, make whipped cream by combining 3/4 c. heavy cream with 1 c. confectioner's sugar in a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk until the cream and sugar combine to create medium-soft peaks.

8. Add the cold banana mixture (from the 6th step) to the whipped cream and slowly whisk until evenly colored and homogenous — the mixture should turn into a pale yellow. 

9. Once the banana cream is ready, pour the mixture into the pie shell. The pie should be stored in the fridge and eaten within a day.

This Cherry Crostata is actually not a newbie at all, but for some reason, it has never been blogged about. It's one of my very favorite cherry pies, and makes a frequent appearance as a gift to any cherry-loving friend.

Cherry Crostata
from Epicurious
makes one 9-inch pie

For the filling:
3 T. butter
5 1/4 c. drained Trader Joe's Morello Cherries
3/4 c. plus 1 T. sugar
2 T. cold water
3 T. cornstarch

1 9-inch pastry shell

1. Heat butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then add the cherries and simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Continue to simmer until cherries are tender but not falling apart, about 8 minutes. Stir together water and cornstarch to form a thick paste, then stir into simmering filling and boil, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread the filling into the pie shell, and weave a few pastry strips to form a lattice on top. Bake until the pastry is golden, and the filling is bubbling, about 1 hour. Cool crostata completely in pan on a rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, to allow juices to thicken.

You'll have to forgive my memory again, as I have no recollection (or Pins) to help me remember where this recipe comes from. If it sounds familiar to you, just let me know, and I'll be happy to credit.

Peach Pie
makes one 9-inch pie

For the filling:
6 large peaches, peeled and sliced
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon
2 T. cornstarch

1 9-inch pastry shell

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine all of the filling ingredients, in a large bowl. Spread the filling into the pie shell, and weave a few pastry strips to form a lattice on top. Bake until the pastry is golden, and the filling is bubbling, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie
from Minimalist Baker and Food52
makes one 9-inch pie

For the crust:
2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. coconut oil, cool enough to be solid
1 t. salt
1 T. sugar
1/3 - 1/2 c. ice water

For the filling:
2 3/4 c. pumpkin puree
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. unsweetened plain almond milk
1 T. coconut oil
2 1/2 T. cornstarch
1 3/4 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t. sea salt

1. Make the crust: Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S blade. Pulse to combine. Add the coconut oil and pulse until mixture is crumbly and will stick together when you squeeze it. Pulse in 1/3 c. water, or until the dough holds together well when you make a handful of it, and is visibly starting to come together in the food processor. If necessary, add a little more water until the texture is right. Turn dough onto a clean, dry surface that has been dusted with flour. Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle, using extra flour to keep things from sticking as you go. Transfer the dough to a pie plate, and refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Make the filling: Add all of the pie filling ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Pour the filling into the pie crust, and bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden brown, and the filling is slightly jiggly. Remove from the oven, and let cool completely before loosely covering and transferring to the refrigerator to fully set for 4-6 hours, preferably overnight.

*pie labels designed by the lovely and talented Sydney Nichols*

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

just mix it up

I always mix up littleneck clams and Manila clams in my mind, and when I get to the grocery store, I'm always surprised that the littlenecks are the big ol' ones.

Not that that's a problem. I loved the bigger chunks of seafood with the sturdy soba noodles and the powerful red curry broth. Whole Foods was out of the mussels called for in the original recipe, so I added in shrimp and scallops.

I only used one packet of soba noodles (8 oz.), so mine was more of a noodle soup than a pasta dish. In the recipe below, I call for a full pound of noodles in case you're looking for more of a pasta thing.

Coconut Curry Soba with Shellfish + Corn
slightly adapted from Half Baked Harvest
serves 4

1 lb. soba noodles
2 T. coconut oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 green bell pepper, sliced
2 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob
2 T. Thai red curry paste
1 14-oz. can light coconut milk
12 littleneck clams, cleaned
1/4 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp
1/4 lb. sea scallops
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the soba until al dente. Drain, and set aside.

2. Heat a large high-sided pot over medium heat and add the coconut oil. Once hot, add the garlic and ginger, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the bell pepper, corn and Thai red curry paste, and cook another 3 minutes or until the curry paste is fragrant.

3. Slowly pour in the coconut milk. Stir in the clams, shrimp and scallops. Cover the pot with a lid and cook until all the shellfish have opened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Discard any unopened shellfish. Add the cooked soba and cilantro, toss, and cook 2 minutes or until warmed through. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 8, 2016

time well spent

This is an absolute show-stopper in taste as well as presentation.

Should I maybe have saved this for a nice, chilly winter's afternoon - a Sunday when I had all day, and could use the oven heating up all day. Maybe. But no, we had a bit of a cold spell in the summer (only 80 degrees!), and I split the work over two days to make the Monday night dinner party prep manageable after work and traffic home.

There's not a ton of hands-on time in any case, but every bit has its time in both the oven and on the stove-top, so it's a time-consuming process. The reward is well worth the time spent, though.

Start with the cornbread. It needs time to properly cool so you can split it (like you would a layer cake) for the tartine bottom. And please make this cornbread instead of going out and buying boring ciabatta. The sweetness and texture here complement the silky richness of the oxtail and mushrooms. Sure, ciabatta can soak up the sauce, but that's about all it will do.

Then comes the fun of browning the oxtails, and letting them braise in the oven and perfume your whole house for the next several hours. It really smells like the holidays.

And then it all comes together with golden sauteed mushrooms on top of toasted cornbread. There's no loss here. Make sure you have a big, bright salad to balance it all out - I went for a seasonally-appropriate peach-arugula salad to make up for the seasonally-inappropriate braise.

Can we talk more about this cornbread, though? I removed the fresh corn kernels because I wanted something sturdy that I knew I could cut without crumbling, but I'm hopeful to take advantage of the summer corn season and make this again with the fresh corn. I also cut down the sugar this time since I wanted it more bread than cake, and found it plenty sweet. But a little more sugar, and some stone fruit - cherries or peaches - and you'd have a beautiful rustic skillet cake for just about any time of day.

Braised Oxtail + Mushroom Tartine
slightly adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home
serves 6-8

5 lbs. oxtail
salt and pepper, to taste
2 T. canola oil
3-4 c. beef stock
6 oz. oyster mushrooms
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 T. ghee

Huckleberry cornbread, or your favorite ciabatta
chopped parsley for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat the canola oil in a Dutch oven large enough to hold the oxtails in one layer. Add half of the oxtails, and cook until the first side is browned, about 5 to 7 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary. Flip, and brown the second side, about 5 more minutes. Transfer to a large plate, and repeat with the remaining oxtails.

3. Pour off the fat, and return the oxtails to the pan. Add enough beef stock to come halfway up the oxtails. Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook until the oxtails are tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

4. Turn the oxtails over, and let rest on top of the stove for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour.

5. Remove the oxtails from the cooking liquid. Remove the meat from the bones, discarding the fat and tough connective tissue, and put the meat in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The meat can now be covered with the cooking liquid and refrigerated overnight.

6. When ready to serve, heat the ghee in a large saute pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the oyster mushrooms and cook, without moving them, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Season with salt and pepper, and transfer to a bowl.

8. Saute the cremini mushrooms until golden brown, and all the liquid has evaporated. Return the oyster mushrooms to the pan. Stir in the oxtail meat and reserved cooking liquid, bring to a simmer, and simmer until the liquid has reduced considerably and glazed the meat and mushrooms, about 8 minutes.

9. Preheat the broiler. Slice off the top half of the cornbread, and reserve for another use. Brush the bread with some of the cooking liquid from the saute pan (oxtail grease, basically), and toast under the broiler. Transfer to a serving platter.

10. Spoon the meat and mushrooms over the bread. Cut into 8 pieces and serve.

Huckleberry Cornbread
slightly adapted from Zoe Nathan's Huckleberry
serves 8

6 T. butter
6 T. sugar
1 3/4 t. salt
4 eggs
1 c. cornmeal
3/4 c. + 2 T. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. whole-wheat flour
1 T. + 1 t. baking powdr
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. canola oil
2 T. honey

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8-inch pan with parchment paper.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and continue mixing until well-combined.

3. Pause the mixing and add the flours, and baking powder. Continue mixing on low speed, and add the buttermilk, canola oil, and honey, and continue mixing until no lumps remain.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.