Sunday, January 31, 2016

keeps me warm

Filling, delicious, vegan, warm, comforting, slightly out of focus. Okay, a lot out of focus.

Basically, I was so ready to tuck into a bowl of this Quinoa Corn Chowder and pretend it's not raining outside that I forgot to photograph it until I had completely scraped the bowl clean. What's a blogger to do? Why simply take tomorrow's lunch portion out of the Pyrex, pour it into the more photogenic Heath bowl, take a quick photo before your husband adds this to the list of reasons why you're crazy, put it back in the Pyrex, and pretend nothing happened. And all's well that end's well, anyway - he was too busy working on his second helping to notice.

Stay warm and dry!

Quinoa Corn Chowder
slightly adapted from The Recipe Rebel
serves 8

2 T. olive oil
8 oz. onion, diced
1 T. minced garlic
¼ c. flour
3 c. vegetable broth
3 c. almond milk
1 c. quinoa
1 lb. frozen corn
1 15-oz. can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
3 oz. sugar snap peas, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 T. Sriracha
salt, to taste

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and saute over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

2. Stir in the flour until combined. Whisk in the broth and then the milk, one cup at a time, whisking and waiting until the soup has thickened slightly before adding the next cup.

3. Add the quinoa, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes until quinoa is cooked, stirring often. Add the corn, beans, sugar snap peas, Sriracha and salt to taste. Let it all warm up, and serve.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

like it used to be

This Chicken Do-Piaza is such a hit of nostalgia for me. Growing up, we quite often had a yellow curry with chicken, potatoes and carrots - the joys of red and green curries were not something I experienced until I left home. I thought the curry I had was the only curry there ever was, or ever needed to be.

This has a few similar spices - coriander and turmeric - but is infinitely lighter. There's no coconut milk, just tangy yogurt, which enriches the sauce right at the end. The orange juice in the sauce brightens up the whole dish, even while the warming spices work their magic.

I added some carrots and haricot verts to avoid dirtying up something else in preparing a side - lots of bits and bobs used in the making of this dish, but all well worth it.

Chicken Do-Piaza
slightly adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
serves 6

1 lb. white onions
1/2 c. orange juice
1/4 c. water
1 T. grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 t. ground coriander
1 t. ground turmeric
1/4 t. cayenne
salt, to taste
1 T. olive oil
3 lbs. bone-in skinless chicken thighs
3 oz. carrots, diced
6 oz. haricot verts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 c. whole milk Greek yogurt

1. Coarsely chop half of the onions, and place in a blender. Add the orange juice, water, ginger, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and 1 t. salt. Blend on high speed until it becomes a smooth sauce.

2. Thoroughly dry the chicken pieces, and season with salt. Heat the olive oil in a 4-qt Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the thighs, in batches if necessary, and brown lightly on both sides. Transfer to a large plate, and repeat with the remaining chicken.

3. When all of the chicken is browned, pour off all but 1 T. of the fat from the pot. While the pot is off the heat, pour in the orange-onion sauce so you can avoid some splatter. Return the pot to medium-high heat, and simmer the sauce for about 5 minutes, scraping the bottom, and stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

4. Add the chicken to the sauce, along with any juices left on the plate. Turn the pieces to coat with the sauce, and return to a soft simmer. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently. Check the pan after 10 minutes to make sure that the simmer is quiet and not turbulent; lower the heat, if necessary. After 20 minutes, turn the chicken pieces with tongs, and continue braising until the chicken is fork-tender, about another 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter, and cover with foil to keep warm.

5. Thinly slice the remaining onions. Add them to the pot along with the carrots and haricot verts, and stir to distribute through the sauce. Replace the lid, and cook over very low heat for 4 minutes. Stir in the yogurt.

6. Return the chicken pieces to the pot, turning them to coat with the sauce and onions. Serve the chicken, spooning the onions and sauce over the top, with naan on the side, or over jasmine rice.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

finish what ya started

There's a special sense of pride I get when I actually finish re-purposing leftovers. The bonus to outlasting this glut of butternut squash from the depths of my freezer was this delicious lasagna.

The original recipe was posted one January several years ago, likely as some sort of New Year's Resolution way to eat lasagna guilt-free - no meat is involved, minimal cheese, and a savory-sweet squash sauce versus a traditional bechamel.

Well, I tried. But I used cream instead of milk to make the sauce, and I about doubled the amount of cheese because the amount called for was just plain depressing. It's still meatless, and it's still only about 300 calories per serving, but it was immensely satisfying in a way I don't think the original recipe would have done for me.

This is basically deconstructed pumpkin ravioli, and I couldn't have been more pleased with the way it turned out. And I know mushrooms are a polarizing ingredient, but completely browned on the stovetop, and then baked in the middle of all this goodness, I bet I could turn a few haters.

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Mushrooms + Thyme
adapted from The Kitchn
serves 9

9 Trader Joe's no-boil lasagna noodles
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 c. roasted and mashed butternut squash (from one medium squash)
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
10 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish (I prefer using the Le Creuset Heritage rectangular baking dish because it's slightly smaller, and fits 3 TJ's lasagna noodles across perfectly) with olive oil.

2. Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch sauté pan. Add the mushrooms, and saute until they are browned and have released all of their liquid. Add the garlic, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about another minute. Season with salt and pepper.

3. In a large bowl, combine the squash, cream, and thyme, and stir to thoroughly combine. Salt and pepper, to taste.

4. To assemble the lasagna, scoop 1 c. of the butternut sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and spread to thinly coat the bottom. Place 3 noodles on top, and then spread another cup of sauce on the noodles. Top with half of the mushrooms, and a third of the cheese. Add another layer of noodles, then another cup of sauce, then the rest of the mushrooms, and half of the remaining cheese. Place the final layer of noodles over the vegetables, and spread the remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining cheese.

5. Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is golden and the cheese is gooey. Remove from the oven and let stand uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.

Monday, January 25, 2016

shimmering, warm and bright

This Lemon Braised Chicken + Beans with Mint Pesto is the absolute perfect meal for a January in Los Angeles. The creamy beans, tender chicken, and having the oven on for a pleasant 90 minutes are the perfect antidote to the chill in the air, while the bright lemon flavor and mint pesto are a wink to the sunshine. It gives you a big hug to comfort you from the cold, but whispers that spring is just around the corner.

Dollop the pesto for presentation, but completely swirl it in for packed flavor in every bite. You won't have nearly enough leftovers.

Lemon Braised Chicken + Beans with Mint Pesto
slightly adapted from The Kitchn
serves 8

For the braise:
1 lb. dried small white beans, such as flageolet
1 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, diced
2 lemons
2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper, to taste
4 sprigs fresh thyme

For the pesto:
4 packed c. mint leaves
1/3 c. slivered almonds
2 garlic cloves
4-5 T. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Place the dried beans in a large bowl and cover them with water. Soak the beans overnight, topping up the water as the beans soak it up. Drain the beans and set aside.

2. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are tender and the onion is nearly translucent. Add the drained beans and stir to coat the beans with the garlic, onion, and oil. Turn off the heat.

3. Take a sharp vegetable peeler and carefully peel one of the lemons. Add the shaved lemon peel to the beans and stir. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the beans.

4. Pat the chicken dry, and lightly salt and pepper it. Lay it on top of the beans in the Dutch oven. Add water until it covers the beans and comes up to just below the chicken. Lay the thyme sprigs on top. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a simmer.

5. Cover the pot and put it in a 350-degree oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are very tender and creamy.

6. Meanwhile, make the pesto: Blend all of the solid ingredients in a small food processor until finely chopped. Add the olive oil, one T. at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

7. After 1 1/2 hours in the oven, remove the lid from the pot, and transfer the chicken on to a cutting board. Discard the thyme stalks. Zest and juice the second lemon, and add them to the beans to taste. Shred or chop the chicken and place it back on top of the beans. Top with the mint pesto and serve.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

from the bottom of my broken heart

Championship Sunday. You know, I truly didn't think I'd care today. My football heart had already been shattered into however many pieces Tony Romo's clavicle is in, and I was just at Barney's to support my Bronco-loving friend, and eat chicken tenders and potato skins.

But as that most excellent game wound to a close, and the next started (and couldn't stop fast enough), I found that familiar feeling setting in. I had a shiny aura of hope - those Panthers can't just keep winning, I said. But I still pretended I didn't care. Casually nibbled on now-cold chicken strips. Cheered at a two-point conversion. Every interception was like a sock to the now-full gut. Trojan blood runs deep.

I got home, skipped dinner (well, not technically, since I did manage to add two slices of pizza to my Barney's repertoire before I left), and basically just moped on the couch until the Kings managed to win in overtime.

Temporarily buoyed, I may have rolled my mat out and picked a class from Yogaglo. But then I thought about how there's no football next week (QOTD from Barney's: "I'd rather watch 'Grease Live' than the Pro Bowl"), and how there wasn't going to be football for 7 months until the USC-Alabama game, and I decided to go bake a cake.

This is truly the cake for all that ails you. It is simple, but dazzling. It's easy, it's forgiving, and you probably have all of the ingredients in your house (if you don't have a vanilla bean, just replace with a full t. of vanilla extract; if you don't have cake flour, just use regular flour).

It can be dressed up with frosting or whipped cream, or served plain, warm out of the oven. I thought about topping it with what they call "nice cream" - blended frozen bananas - but the only thing that would make me sadder than football is having to wash a blender.

So, just cake. And go Broncos, I guess.

Double Vanilla Brown Butter Cake
slightly adapted from Food52
makes one 9-inch cake

14 T. butter
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 vanilla bean
2-3 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
1 c. cake flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, and grease the sides. Set aside.

2. Place the butter in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until lightly browned. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool.

3. In a stand mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar for 4 to 5 minutes. The mixture should be pale and almost doubled in size. Scrape the vanilla bean with the tip of a small knife, and place the seeds in a 1 t. measure. Top off the spoon with vanilla extract, and add both seeds and extract to the egg mixture. Toss the pod into the browned butter while you're waiting for the butter to cool. Add the remaining 2 t. vanilla extract, salt, and continue beating to distribute the seeds.

4. Using a spatula, fold the cake flour into the egg mixture until no streaks remain. Add the melted butter to the batter and fold gently but thoroughly using a spatula until the batter is well-mixed.

5. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The cake should start to pull away from the sides. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and let the cake cool for 5 minutes. Turn it out into a wire rack to finish cooling.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

let's do the twist

I've been on an organizational tear since the beginning of the year. Last weekend's project was cleaning out the freezer, where I found not one, but two!, Tupperware containers filled with mashed butternut squash. I have no idea when or where they came from, although one of them was marked with the MIL's handwriting, so it couldn't have been from that long ago.

I set both in the fridge to thaw so I could further assess whether they were still edible. They were! The first use - this Twisted Squash Bread, another early Thanksgiving test recipe.

I know I have 10 months, but I'll be hard-pressed to find a better bread recipe. This was as flaky and tender as the best biscuit you've ever had, but without the butter-laden heaviness.

I dare say this is a much more beautiful presentation than a plain ol' biscuit, too. I love braided bread. They look so impressive, yet are so easy to make. Next time, I might cut the jelly roll cross-wise, like you would for cinnamon rolls, and bake in a muffin tin for an individual presentation. Luckily, I have enough squash to do all the experimenting I want.

Twisted Squash Bread
slightly adapted from Port and Fin
makes two 9-inch loaves

For the bread:
2 t. active dry yeast
2 T. warm water
1 c. cooked, mashed butternut squash
1/3 c. warm almond milk
4 T. butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
3 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. salt
3-4 c. flour

For the filling:
1 T. olive oil
1 c. thinly sliced shallots
4 T. butter, melted
2 T. Grey Poupon
1/4 c. chopped sage
8 oz. smoked cheddar, grated

1. In a small bowl, combine the yeast and warm water. Set aside until foamy.

2. In a large bowl, combine the squash, milk, butter, salt, egg, brown sugar, yeast mixture and 2 c. flour. Add additional flour slowly as needed until a soft dough forms. Knead until smooth and elastic, roughly 8-10 minutes. If the dough is sticking, sprinkle additional flour in as needed.

3. Place the kneaded dough in a bowl and coat lightly with olive oil. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.

4. Heat the olive oil in a small pan, and cook the shallots until soft but not caramelized. Set aside.

5. Combine the melted butter and mustard in a bowl.

6. Grease two 9-inch loaf pans with butter or cooking spray.

7. Punch down the risen squash dough, and cut the dough in half. On a floured surface, roll one of the portions out into a rectangular shape, approximately 12 inches by 8 inches. Brush with the butter-mustard sauce. Sprinkle half the shallots, half the sage, and half the cheddar on to the rectangle and the roll it up from the short edge to create a tight jelly roll. Repeat with the second portion of dough.

8. Using a very sharp knife, cut each jelly roll of dough in half lengthwise. Pinch the ends of each halved roll together and braid them, one over the other, finishing the other end by pinching that dough together. Place a twist in each of the loaf pans, and cover with a tea towel. Let the dough rise a second time for approximately an hour.

9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the loaves for 50 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time so they cook evenly. If the bread is browning too fast, move it to a lower rack in the oven and cover the top with a piece of aluminium foil. Let the loaves cool in the pan for 5 minutes before running a knife along the edge of the loaf and removing it from the pan. Serve warm.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

we missed out on each other

Matty's parents and we always do lobster for Christmas dinner, but we missed out on that since we were in Kauai for our honeymoon. The lobster option on our island prix-fixe Christmas dinner was also sold out, so we really struck out swinging.

To make up for our lobster-less December, I was hoping to make this dish with lobster as originally written, but the selection at the grocery store didn't live up to Matty's standards, so we subbed out crab meat. I will definitely be trying this with lobster when it looks a little nicer because the caramelized fennel puree made for such a lovely pasta sauce, and I can imagine it being an entirely different dish with just the seafood switch.

I'd be curious to use another bulb of fennel to replace the onion just to really drive home the fennel profile. That might be a solo endeavor since Matty's not the biggest fan of anise-y flavors - as written, the sweetness of the onion is a big part of the dish, and just the faintest touch of fennel peeked out to add complexity to the sauce.

Fusilli with Crab + Caramelized Fennel Puree
adapted from Food52
serves 8

1 lb. fusilli
16 oz. jumbo lump crab meat
salt, to taste
2 T. olive oil
1/4 t. red chili flakes
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 c. white wine
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 T. fresh lemon juice
chopped parsley, to garnish

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and the red chili flakes. Wait one minute while the skillet gets hot, and then add the onion. When the onion is translucent, add the fennel. Season with salt. When the fennel begins to soften, turn the heat down to low, and caramelize.

2. When the vegetables are sufficiently caramelized, add the garlic and the white wine, increase the heat, and cook until the wine has almost entirely evaporated. Add the heavy cream and cook until the cream has partially reduced.

3. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a blender and add the lemon juice. Purée until smooth. Add scant amounts of water if the purée is too thick. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

4. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, except you should undercook the pasta by one or two minutes. Reserve one cup of pasta water, and drain the rest.

5. In the skillet, combine the cooked pasta and puree. Add the crab, and toss to thoroughly combine. If the pasta looks too dry, add more of the pasta water. Taste the pasta while it is still in the skillet. Adjust the seasoning as necessary. Garnish with chopped parsley and additional red chili flakes, if desired. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 4, 2016

impressive instant

This dinner was an absolute dream. It comes together in mere minutes, but your palate would never know it. It's intense and complex - shout out to the BLiS Bourbon Barrel Red Boast Fish Sauce I got for Christmas.

(Also, you don't care, but I snacked my life away on leftover Christmas baskets at the office today, and was in danger of going over the MyFitnessPal-allotted calories for today. This meal is flavor's answer to MyFitnessPal).

Okay, okay. It's a little semi-homemade. I have water and miso paste to make my own soup, but I also had a carton of miso-ginger broth from Trader Joe's that I bought when Matty was sick, so I used that instead.

I blanched mushrooms in the broth instead of just water, just to give them a little more depth. These little things are among my favorite mushrooms. I would say the laab definitely needs the toasted rice powder called for in the original recipe, but I wanted to keep things uncomplicated, so made do without.

And then you just keep the broth simmering, and 20 minutes later, you have perfectly steamed clams to round out your meal!

Shimeji Mushroom Laab
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 2-4

3 c. miso-ginger broth
3 packages shimeji or beech mushrooms (10.5 oz. total)
2 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
3 T. fish sauce (more to taste)
3 T. lime juice (more to taste)
1 T. Sriracha (more to taste)
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
red pepper flakes, to taste

1. Bring the miso-ginger broth to boil in a medium pot. Add the mushrooms, and boil for just 15 seconds. Lift the mushrooms out to a strainer to drain completely, reserving the broth in the pot for the soup below.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the drained mushrooms, shallots, fish sauce, lime juice, and cilantro. Taste, and season if needed. The salad should be predominantly sour. Divide the mushrooms onto serving plates and garnish with red pepper flakes as desired.

Asari Miso Soup
serves 2-4

3 c. ginger-miso broth
5 green onions, sliced, white and light green parts only
2 lbs. Manila clams, cleaned

1. Your broth will already be hot from blanching the mushrooms. Add the green onions and clams, and cover with a lid. Lower the heat to low, and boil/steam the clams until they all open. Discard the ones that don't, divide among serving bowls, and serve immediately.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

a head start

I continue to be misleading about my New Year dietary habits by posting lead photos of gorgeous salads. Unfortunately/fortunately, I didn't stop there.

This Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Grapes + Smoked Jack is a dream. I normally don't like fruit in my salads, and it took a lot to justify both grapes AND raisins, but I trust Yotam Ottolenghi implicitly, and the fact that we were also talking about roasted cauliflower and cheese convinced me to move forward.

It's a stunning flavor profile. Neither the grapes nor the raisins are particularly obnoxious. I used some local smoked Monterey Jack cheese, my new prize possession after momentarily suffering buyers' remorse upon leaving the Farmers Market at the same of being suckered into overpriced dairy, but it was worth every penny. I think the plain ol' Cheddar called for in the original recipe would have fallen flat. (Of course, I also bought a smoked Cheddar - did I mention I'm a sucker - but that was too strong for the salad, and will be enjoyed with Social Snackers on another occasion).

This salad was the perfect light and bright foil for, yes, more shanks. The original recipe called for veal shanks, but since I had just bought out Whole Foods' supply for Friday's dinner, I turned to their stock of beef shanks. They're significantly cheaper, and helped me balance out the cost of the new cheese stash.

I didn't feel the flavor suffered at all. It didn't take any longer to cook, and the braise left the meat just as tender and luscious as it had done to the veal. I was afraid the combination of honey, balsamic, and carrots would make the dish strangely sweet, but it was only a gentle flavor - I imagine balanced by the richness of the fatty beef and marrow.

And to tie up the dinner in a nice little bow, Bourbon Ginger Pecan Pie. I've been momentarily disappointed by cake (also from Friday's dinner), and didn't feel like redeeming myself just yet. Luckily, I remembered my pie grid from wedding planning, and our dinner guests, Alex and Caroline, had requested pecan. 

Also quite luckily, I have a new pie book, and had already bookmarked this particular pie for Thanksgiving testing, so what better opportunity than the present? I only hope I can remember in November that I did this tonight. My only notes for then would be that it's a little too ginger-y; so much so that I felt the pecans were an afterthought. I'd keep the fresh and dried ginger, but I'd remove the chopped candied ginger.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Grapes + Smoked Jack
slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More
serves 4

1 large head of cauliflower
3 T. olive oil
3 T. hazelnut oil
2 T. white wine vinegar
1 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 t. honey
1/4 c. raisins
1/2 c. hazelnuts, toasted and roughly crushed
2/3 c. red grapes, halved and seeded
3 oz. creamy smoked Jack cheese, coarsely crumbled
2/3 c. parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Break up the cauliflower into bite-sized florets, and toss with the olive oil, 1/2 t. salt and some black pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

3. To make the dressing, whisk together the hazelnut oil with the vinegar, mustard, honey, and 1/4 t. salt. Add the raisins, and let them marinate for at least 10 minutes.

4. Just before serving, transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl, and add the hazelnuts, grapes, Cheddar, and parsley. Pour the raisins and dressing over the top, toss together, transfer to a large platter, and serve.

Beef Shanks Braised with Honey + Rosemary
slightly adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
serves 4-6

For the braise:
4 beef shanks (each, 2 to 2 1/2 inches thick, about 3 to 3 1/2 lbs. total)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 T. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 c. white wine
2 c. beef stock
2 T. sage honey
zest strips and juice of 1 orange
zest strips of 1 lemon
two 6-inch branches of rosemary
2 T. balsamic vinegar

For the garnish:
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
10 oz. medium shallots
12 oz. carrots, cut into 3- by 3/4-inch sticks
salt and pepper, to taste
two 6-inch branches of rosemary

1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Season the beef shanks on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a wide Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add as many shanks as will fit without crowding. If necessary, sear the shanks in batches. Sear the shanks, turning once with tongs, until both flat sides have an attractive bronze color, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a large plate or tray without stacking.

3. Add the onion to the pot, stir, and saute, still over medium-high, until it softens and begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in the wine, stir to dissolve the brown crust on the bottom of the pot, and boil until the wine is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

4. Add the stock, honey, orange zest and juice, lemon zest, rosemary and balsamic vinegar to the pot. Return the shanks to the pot, arranging them in a snug single layer, and pour over any juices that accumulated as they sat. Bring to a simmer, and cover with parchment paper, pressing down so the paper nearly touches the shanks, and the edges hang over the sides of the pot by about an inch. Secure the lid in place, and slide into the lower third of the oven to braise at a gentle simmer for 1 hour.

5. Heat the butter and oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, and the oil is quite hot, add the shallots and carrots, season with salt and pepper, and saute, stirring and shaking the pan frequently, until tinged with brown all over, about 8 minutes. Add the rosemary branches, and saute for another minute.

6. After the beef has braised for 1 hour, add the shallots, carrots and rosemary to the pot. Turn the shanks with tongs when you add the vegetable garnish and continue to braise gently until the beef is fork-tender and pulling away from the bone, about another hour. Remove the pot from the oven, and serve.

Bourbon Ginger Pecan Pie
from Allison Kave's First Prize Pies
makes one 9-inch pie

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups flour
10 T. butter
3-4 T. ice water

For the filling:
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. maple syrup
3 large eggs
3 T. bourbon
2 t. grated fresh ginger
1 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. pecans lightly toasted, very coarsely chopped
1/4 c. candied ginger, finely chopped

1. To make the dough, pulse the flour and chilled butter together in a food processor until the butter is broken up into small pieces about the size of peas. Add the water, one T. at a time until the dough begins to come together. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

2. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface, and fit it into a 9-inch pie plate. Crimp the edges, and chill the dough in the refrigerator until firm.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prick the pie dough a few times with a fork. Line the pie dough with aluminum foil and fill halfway with pie weights. Bake until the dough is set and starting to get lightly golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

4. To make the filling, in a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, maple syrup, eggs, bourbon, fresh ginger, ground ginger, and salt. Stir in the pecans and candied ginger.

5. Pour the filling into the prebaked pie crust, and bake until the center of the pie is seems just about set. It should still jiggle a little. Begin checking it at the 40 minute mark, but it may take 45 to 50 minutes to reach that point of doneness. Remove it from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature.

Friday, January 1, 2016

the first

Happy New Year, everyone! 

Please don't think that just because there is kale in the lead photo of this New Year's Day post that there was anything even slightly virtuous about this meal. Especially when you consider that this meal was built around a promise about a chocolate cake.

A few weeks ago, our friend Jason celebrated a birthday, and I committed to sending Matty to his birthday party with his requested chocolate cake. Unfortunately, Matty got sick, I ended up playing nurse, and Jason didn't get any cake.

Well, Jason's wife is a very wise woman, and among our wedding gifts from them was Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Baking Bible, from which tonight's cake originated. Unfortunately, I didn't care for the cake at all, even after quite enjoying a bit of cake batter, and loving the ganache. It was all a little too fussy for me - definitely not a high ROI, in my opinion. 

The rest of the dinner fared much better, featuring a Kale, Artichoke + Burrata Salad with the finest "dressing" I've ever had - olive oil filled with parsley, mint, and basil. It's now going to be a staple. It'll make excellent bread dip as well. 

The Brussels Sprouts Risotto is also a new favorite. What's not to love? Maybe the extra, splattery step of frying Brussels sprouts quarters, but the change up in texture was a welcome addition. I wouldn't bother with the Dolcelatte (or Gorgozola Dolce) next time - while I love blue cheese, I didn't feel it was noticeable in the final dish, and it was rich enough as-is. 

And finally, the main course - Osso Buco. I could have sworn I've made it before, but unless the Blogger search function is broken, it's not on this blog. I'm surprised it's taken this long, but I can guarantee it won't take as long for its next appearance on the dining table. It was stunning. I'd add some nice grilled bread next time to go with the marrow, but I think we all did just fine smearing it right into the risotto.

Let's start with the salad, in case you're still the type to make New Year's resolutions.

Kale, Artichoke + Burrata Salad
slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More
serves 8 as a side

12 oz. jar of canned artichoke hearts, drained
2 oz. shredded lacinato kale
8 oz. burrata
1/3 c. packed parsley leaves, chopped
1/3 c. packed mint leaves, chopped
1/3 c. packed basil leaves, chopped
1/2 c. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cut the artichoke hearts into eighths, and toss with the kale.

2. Stir together the herbs, olive oil, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss half of the mixture into the artichoke-kale mixture.

3. Arrange the vegetables on a serving platter, and tear the burrata over them. Dot on more of the herb mixture, and serve.

Brussels Sprouts Risotto
slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More
serves 10-12 as a side

18 oz. trimmed Brussels sprouts
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 1/3 c. diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lemons
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
2 c. white wine
4 c. vegetable stock
1 c. peanut oil
1 1/2 c. grated Parmesan
2 oz. dolcelatte or Gorgonzola dolce
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Shred 7 oz. of the Brussels sprouts, and quarter the remaining 11 oz. Set aside in two separate bowls.

2. Place the butter and olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, and fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly caramelized. Add the garlic and strips of rind from one lemon, and cook for a further 2 minutes.

3. Add the rice and shredded sprouts, and cook for another minute, stirring frequently. Pour in the wine, and let it simmer for a minute before adding the stock in ladlefuls, stirring often, and waiting for each addition to be absorbed before adding the next.

4. While the rice is cooking, pour the peanut oil into a separate large saucepan. Place over high heat, and once the oil is very hot, use a slotted spoon to add a handful of the quartered sprouts. Fry the sprouts for a minute, until golden brown and crispy, and then transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining sprouts.

5. Add the Parmesan, dolcelatte, and half of the fried sprouts to the cooked risotto, and stir gently. Serve immediately with the remaining sprouts spooned on top.

Osso Buco alla Milanese
from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
serves 4 to 6

For the braise:
1/2 c. flour for dredging
4 veal shanks (each 2 to 2 1/2 inches thick, about 3 to 3 1/2 lbs. in total)
salt and pepper, to taste,
2 T. olive oil
3 T. butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 strips orange zest (each about 3 inches by 3/4 inch)
1 1/2 t. chopped fresh marjoram
1 bay leaf
1 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. beef stock
1 c. chopped peeled tomatoes

For the gremolata;
2 T. chopped parsley
1 t. minced garlic
1 t. grated lemon zest

1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Pour the flour into a shallow dish. Season the veal shanks on all sides with salt and pepper. One at a time, roll the shanks around in the flour to coat, and shake and pat the shank to remove any excess flour. Discard the remaining flour.

3. Put the oil and 1 T. butter in a wide Dutch oven, and heat over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and the oil is shimmering, lower the shanks into the pot, flat side down. If the shanks won't fit without touching one another, do this in batches. Brown the shanks, turning once with tongs, until both flat sides are well caramelized, about 5 minutes per side. If the butter-oil mixture starts to burn, lower the heat just a bit. Transfer the shanks to a large platter or tray, and set aside.

4. Pour off and discard the fat from the pot. Wipe out any burnt bits with a damp paper towel, being careful not to remove any delicious little caramelized bits. Add the remaining 2 T. butter to the pot, and melt it over medium heat. When the butter has stopped foaming, add the onion, carrot, celery, and fennel. Season with salt and pepper, stir, and cook the vegetables until they begin to soften but do not brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic, orange zest, marjoram, and bay leaf, and stew for another minute or two.

5. Add the wine, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring occasionally, to reduce the wine by about half, 5 minutes. Add the stock and tomatoes, with their juice, and boil again to reduce the liquid to about 1 c. total, about 10 minutes.

6. Place the shanks in the pot so that they are sitting with the exposed bone facing up, and pour over any juices that accumulated as they sat. Cover with parchment paper, pressing down so the parchment nearly touches the veal, and the edges hang over the sides of the bot by about an inch. Cover tightly with the lid, and slide into the lower part of the oven to braise at a gentle simmer. 

7. After one hour, turn the shanks, continue braising until the meat is completely tender and pulling away from the bone, approximately another hour.

8. While the shanks are braising, make the gremolata: stir together the garlic, parsley, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a cool place.

9. When the veal is fork-tender and falling away from the bone, remove the lid, and sprinkle over half of the gremolata. Return the veal to the oven, uncovered, for another 15 minutes to caramelize it some. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the remaining gremolata, and serve immediately.

Chocolate Pavarotti Cake with Wicked Good Ganache
from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Baking Bible
makes 1 9-inch cake round

For the cake:
4 oz. white chocolate
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. boiling water
2 large eggs
3 T. water
1/2 T. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. cake flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 T. plus 1 t. baking powder
8 T. butter
2 T. canola oil

For the ganache:
3 T. corn syrup
7 oz. 70% chocolate
3/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 t. cayenne

1. Start with the ganache. Have ready a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a medium bowl.

2. In a small microwaveable bowl, heat the corn syrup just to a boil. Stir in the chocolate until smoothly incorporated.

3. In another small microwavable bowl, scald the cream.

4. In a food processor, process the bittersweet chocolate until very fine. With the motor of the food processor running, pour the cream through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process for a few seconds until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Pulse in the corn syrup and chocolate mixture. Pulse in the cayenne.

5. Press the ganache through the strainer and let sit for 1 hour. Cover it with plastic wrap, and let it cool for 3 to 4 hours, until the mixture reaches a soft frosting consistency.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper, and grease the parchment paper.

7. In a small microwaveable bowl, heat the white chocolate until almost completely melted. Remove the chocolate from the microwave, and stir until fully melted. Set aside to cool.

8. In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa and 1/2 c. of boiling water until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation, and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

9. In another small bowl, whisk the eggs, 3 T. water, and vanilla just until lightly combined.

10. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter, oil, and cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium, and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

11. Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the melted chocolate, and beat at medium speed for about 10 seconds until evenly incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan, and smooth the surface evenly with a small offset spatula.

12. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean, and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.

13. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the pan, and invert it onto a wire rack that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Immediately reinvert the cake so that the top side is up. Cool completely.

14. When the cake is completely cool, set it on a serving plate. Frost the tops and sides with swirls of the ganache.