Tuesday, February 26, 2013

rich rich rich

This is all my friend BN's fault. She tagged me in a link to this recipe saying it was right up my alley. What else was I supposed to but make it immediately?

Like a responsible calorie counter, I started the evening by inputting the ingredients into MyFitnessPal's recipe function to calculate the damage I knew I was going to be doing. I was shocked and horrified to learn that a serving (half of the below, according to the recipe) would set me back 950 calories. Hurriedly, I changed the number of servings to 4 in the app - 475 calories for dinner I can handle. The only left to do was pray that I actually stick to the allotted portion.

It made me sad to dole out such a pitiful portion on my plate, but luckily and thankfully, it was all I needed. It was extremely rich and decadent (another shocker - hi, sauce of butter and cream), and made even a small portion immensely satisfying. I added some broccoli for color interest and to continue making up for the fact that I ate absolutely no vegetables yesterday. Broccoli might be all I'm allowed to eat tomorrow, but it was so worth it.

Pappardelle with Truffle Butter + Broccoli
slightly adapted from The Food Network
Serves 4

8 oz. pappardelle
3 oz. white truffle butter, divided
8 oz. broccoli, chopped into bite-sized florets
1/2 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pappardelle to al dente. When the pasta is cooked, reserve 1/2 c. of the pasta water, then drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet (large enough to eventually hold all the pasta), melt half of the truffle butter. Add the broccoli and cook to crisp-tender, stirring only very occasionally to caramelize the broccoli in spots.

3. Add the cooked pasta, cream and remaining truffle butter in to the broccoli mixture. As the pasta absorbs the sauce, add as much of the reserved pasta water as necessary to keep the pasta very creamy. Salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

golden light

This Ricotta-Battered Halibut is perhaps the quickest dinner I've put together in ages. And thank goodness because we had to leave the house early to avoid Oscar traffic to go across town to see Sound City. Turns out, Oscar night is the best possible night to go see a movie, and since we had so much time before the movie started, we explored the theater lounge and enjoyed a cocktail. Bless you, Sundance Cinemas.

Anyway, back to dinner. Fish was a must. After two weekends of extremely decadent, beefy dinners (read: lying to MyFitnessPal), there was going to be no more red meat, and no starch, if only just tonight. I kind of felt like salmon, but Matty wanted to go even lighter, so halibut it was.

I was a little skeptical about the batter - simply an egg and 2 T. ricotta. Surely there was a typo, and some sort of flour was necessary. In terms of gorgeous golden color, this batter couldn't be beat, but I did find it slightly off-putting that where the batter pooled on the edges of the fillets, I basically had an omelette. Not that I have any issue with eggs and seafood - bring on the smoked salmon benedicts and smoked salmon scrambles - but this wasn't intentional enough to be good, if that makes any sense. I've got two more experiments to do - one adding a little flour in the batter, and one leaving the batter as is, but coating the fish in panko. I think I'll go cod next time since I already feel guilty trying an untested recipe on something as expensive as halibut.

Ricotta-Battered Halibut
slightly adapted from The 10 Cent Designer
Serves 2

1 large egg
2 T. ricotta
1/4 c. finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
1 T. olive oil
1 lb. halibut fillets

1. Whisk together the egg, ricotta and parsley to make a batter. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Dip the fish into the batter, and cook in the skillet for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

all you need is love

I have a friend who is crazy good at event planning for every occasion. I mean, she is all about elaborate expression. She asked what I was doing for Valentine's Day, and when I told her we were going to stay in, and I was going to cook, she said, "Isn't that what you do every day?"

Instant guilt. It is what I do every day (well, almost every day). I mean, I was going to cook the first steak we've had in so long I can't even remember, make a homemade Caesar dressing for the lettuce we grow in the garden, AND make a damn heart-shaped crouton for the French onion soup, but I still felt a little taken down a notch by the comment. However, I didn't feel bad enough to try to find a last-minute reservation for some overpriced prix-fixe that would break MyFitnessPal, so I carried on.

At first bite, I shed all guilt. This was a damn fine dinner.

In terms of work flow, I started with the soup:
It was fantastic, but I found my particular combination of onion, vinegar and beer to be a little bitter, so I added a couple T. of brown sugar to balance it out.

Then, while the soup was simmering, I started on the Caesar dressing:
I wanted to use up the canned smoked oysters I had in my pantry rather than buying a new can of anchovies, and I may have found my new favorite dressing. Rather than being strongly pungent, this was mellow and rich, with most of the bite coming from the mustard. It can probably stand up to kale, which may be all I'm eating after this weekend.

And finally, the steak:
The original recipe calls for massive Flinstone-sized steaks that, while alluring, just weren't practical with us leaving for the weekend. Our steaks were thin enough that about 4 minutes of searing on each side produced a rather fantastic medium-rare. I'm usually a rare steak eater, but I am starting to see why medium-rare can be acceptable.

And the sauce. Worth every minute of whisking. The original recipe calls for removing all but 2 T. of the pan juices, and then whisking in 4 T. of butter at the end. Rather than wasting, and for a beefier sauce, I left all the pan juices in, and added none of the butter. It worked.

Happy Valentine's Day, lovers!

Guinness + Onion Soup
slightly adapted from The Food Network

2 T. olive oil
5 cloves garlic
8 c. thinly sliced onions
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1 1/2 c. Guinness
6 c. beef stock
2 T. brown sugar, optional
6 slices of bread, toasted
shredded Irish cheddar

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and onions, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and cook until onions are golden brown.

2. Add the vinegar and beer. Reduce beer by half, and add the beef stock. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 more minutes. If the soup tastes a little bitter, add brown sugar to taste.

3. Preheat the broiler. Transfer the soup to individual oven-proof soup bowls. Top with toasted bread slices and cheddar. Broil until cheese melts and starts to brown slightly. Serve hot.

Smoked Oyster Caesar Salad
adapted from Martha Stewart via Joy the Baker
Serves 2, with leftover dressing

2 cloves garlic, halved
2 large egg yolks
1 T. Dijon mustard
3.5 oz. smoked oysters, oil reserved (or do the traditional and use 4-5 anchovies)
2 T. lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
3 T. olive oil
romaine lettuce, torn into 2-inch pieces
grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

1. Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic cloves to a fine paste. Stir in the egg yolks and Dijon mustard. Add the smoked oysters, and grind to a paste. Add lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Add the oil from the can of smoked oysters slowly, and stir until the dressing is creamy.

2. Place the lettuce in a bowl, and toss to coat leaves thoroughly with dressing. Grate as much Parmesan over the salad as you like, and serve immediately.

Cowboy Steaks
slightly adapted from Leite's Culinaria
Serves 2

2 bone-in rib-eye steaks, an inch thick, about 1-1.5 lbs. total
salt and pepper, to taste
1 T. olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 T. tomato paste
1/2 c. Guinness
1/2 c. beef stock
1 T. Worcestershire

1. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Sear the steaks until browned on both sides and done to your liking. Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil.

2. Add the shallot and garlic to the pan juices, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the garlic is golden-brown, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add the Guinness, and boil until the liquid is almost completely reduced to a syrup, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and Worcestershire, then boil until the liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

3. Serve the steaks with the Guinness sauce on the side.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

all for you

I love a good old-school steakhouse. The kind that has stuff like massive cuts of prime rib, random bits of offal on the menu (I mean, steak and kidney pie??) and Pasta alla Caruso, which is basically the simplest of bologneses with chicken livers.

Sadly, the last time I was in a restaurant with Pasta alla Caruso on the menu, I could barely stomach their minestrone, so I thought it might be best for my GI system that I not experiment with livers there. However, as soon as I got home, I looked up a recipe, and have had it bookmarked for almost a year now.

The impetus to actually make it has a little more to do with Duchess than it does us. We've been feeding her a meal of brown rice, chicken and veggies since the unfortunate kibble incident whose details have no place on a food blog. A friend, who feeds his dogs a raw chicken-only diet, mentioned that he sometimes supplemented the feedings with some chicken liver - as both a treat and as additional nutrition. Figuring I could kill too birds with one stone, I bought twice the amount the recipe required, and came up with treats for the whole family.

Next time, I would try pureeing the tomatoes and maybe even the livers to make a super-rich, creamy sauce. I thought there was a little too much texture to deal with, and the richness got lost in all the chomping. Still delicious, but could be even more so.

Rigatoni alla Caruso
slightly adapted from the cutest way to write a recipe at They Draw & Cook
Serves 6

1 lb. chicken livers
3 T. olive oil, divided
1 red onion, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 c. dry red wine
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 lb. rigatoni
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the rigatoni to al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat 2 T. of the olive oil. Sear the livers to a golden brown on both sides, then set aside on a cutting board.

3. Add the onions and mushrooms to the pan, along with the remaining 1 T. of olive oil if the skillet seems too dry. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid, and are a light golden brown.

4. Add the wine to the skillet and reduce by half.

5. Slice the livers into halves or fourths, and add them to the pan along with the diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for about half an hour.

6. Add the drained pasta to the skillet, and stir to thoroughly combine and heat through. Serve immediately.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

it's all gravy

Pretty proud of this creation, on both a visual as well as a taste level.

A luscious-sounding Tomato Gravy recipe was the impetus for this luxurious breakfast. The original recipe meant it to be served with just biscuits (which I definitely did with the leftovers - combined with some of the fresh hot Italian sausage we had in the freezer), but we haven't done a good hearty breakfast in a long time, so my brain went straight to benedicts with the gravy replacing the traditional Hollandaise.

For it being started with 1/4 c. of bacon grease, the gravy was surprisingly light. It was more of a rich tomato sauce, than Thanksgiving-style turkey gravy. I think this would be fantastic with pasta, perhaps as a nice base for a bolognese.

I feel when you think benedict, you think heavy - what with that rich Hollandaise, possibly some Canadian bacon. But this defied all that, even with (store-bought) biscuits instead of English muffins as the base. It was a lovely fresh dish, with the yolk being the perfect amount of creaminess to tie the tomato and spinach elements together.

Below is just the gravy recipe. I certainly can't tell anyone how to poach an egg, and feel free to build your benedict as you see fit!

Tomato Gravy
from Serious Eats
Makes 3 cups

1/4 c. bacon grease
1/4 c. flour
1 T. tomato paste
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/4 c. milk
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat bacon grease in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add flour and tomato paste, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture darkens slightly, about 1 minute.

2. Slowly whisk in the diced tomatoes and milk. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Friday, February 1, 2013

i'll take care of you

Our little Duchess (oh, did I mention we just added a 3-year-old rescue pug to the family??) is having tummy troubles today. I'm probably over-mommy'ing, but I stayed home from work to monitor her and freak out at all the research I was doing online. You know WebMD? There's a pet version. And it's worse.

Anyway, she had been refusing food, but things were looking up after her afternoon walk - she accepted the treat I gave her! I decided to follow the advice I was seeing on the pug forums and make her a little brown rice and chicken for dinner to ease her stomach back into the land of the living.

But what to make ourselves for dinner? Don't think I didn't consider sharing the chicken-and-rice just to be empathetic. I certainly wasn't going to tear myself away from my doting mother duties to do anything as crazy as grocery shop!

This is just a super simple, throw-whatever-you-have-in-the-fridge kind of salad. Even if they were meant for super exotic, delicious-sounding recipes you had in the queue.

Everything Salad
Makes about 10 cups of salad

1 medium head radicchio, trimmed, quartered and thinly sliced
2 endive, trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
4 oz. hot-smoked salmon
2 oz. Asiago cheese, finely grated
1 c. cooked cannellini beans
1 T. champagne mustard
2 T. olive oil, divided

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the vegetables, salmon and cheese. Set aside.

2. Combine the the mustard and 1 T. olive oil. Add the beans, and let marinate for a few minutes. Add to the vegetable mixture, along with the remaining T. of olive oil, and toss thoroughly to coat. Serve immediately.