Saturday, November 28, 2009

Home for Thanksgiving

B and I are at my parents' house for the week, enjoying the break and the turkey. Because of the change in dinner rituals, we have failed to photograph any meals, so you get only descriptions. I should probably begin with the days before Thursday — green linguine with Alfredo sauce and parsley we brought from California, enchiladas, salmon with wild rice and broccoli — but in a week in which everyone cooks (and yet the food blogosphere is remarkably quiet), what's most interesting is Thanksgiving and its leftovers.

The menu for our Thanksgiving dinner, like most families', changes only by a dish or two each year. The guest list consists of my mother's friends from work, and some of her students: this year, in addition to the faculty couples who always attend, we had two Japanese exchange students, and one family who came only for dessert. We always make turkey (traditional), mashed potatoes (the only time we ever peel them), traditional sweet cranberry sauce (cook cranberries with sugar until they burst), raw cranberry relish with orange (combine in cuisinart), mashed butternut squash (roast, let cool, mash with butter and condensed orange juice, and reheat), baked sweet potato (cut into rounds and sprinkle with cumin and paprika), stuffing (bake separately from the turkey, as cooking the stuffing inside the bird is a foodborne-illness; make some vegetarian and some with sausage), gravy (my brother's dish; make with orange rind, apple juice, vegetable broth, herbs, and thicken with cornstarch), and in recent years coleslaw. Oh, and pies (blueberry, quince). The regular guests always pumpkin pie and stewed greens; the exchange students brought a delicious sushi with egg, shrimp, salmon, and rice.

Friday is my favorite dinner each Thanksgiving, when we make turkey soup, and don't have to entertain a dozen guests. This year's stock was made with the giblets and major bones from the bird, old carrots and celery and parsley, a large onion, dried bay leaf, peppercorns, and fresh sage and thyme. Cover with water, simmer for hours. For the soup, we strained the stock and kept it on a simmer. Meanwhile, we sautéed a mirepoix of carrots, leeks, and celery, and then added zucchini. Then pour in the stock, add green beans, canned tomato (halved early girls from B and my August canning), chunks of turkey meat, leftover brown rice, and shredded dino kale; cover, bring back to a boil, and simmer/steam ten minutes. Salt to taste (actually, salt every time you add an ingredient), and serve.

With an overabundance still of turkey, breakfast yesterday and today is the traditional cold-turkey-with-cranberry-sauce (today's variation: toast bread in the broiler, and then add turkey to heat a bit under the broiler; salt and cranberry sauce complete the open-faced sandwiches). Lunch today is soup with stuffing; tomorrow is probably the same. The nice thing about Thanksgiving leftovers is that it takes a while to get sick of them (and B and I will return to California before then).

Not to leave you completely devoid of pictures, here are some of the San Francisco Bay that I took shortly after take-off (click to enlarge):

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lemon-orange marmalade

Last week B brought home a huge bag of lemons from a neighborhood tree, and at the market we bought a giant bag of navel oranges. What to do with all the citrus? Make marmalade.

Clam chowder

Making clam chowder completely from scratch is a treat unto itself, and the finished product is better than what you can get at any restaurant. Begin by making a fish broth: combine scraps of fish (frozen "chowder fish" is available at Berkeley Bowl for $1/lb), clam trimmings, leeks, onions, and other shells (I'm not actually sure that the other shells impart any flavor), cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer. We messed up with the camera, so here's a (2 sec) video of this all important first step:

Forty five minutes into the stock-making time, combine leeks, onions, butter, and salt in a large soup pot, and begin sautéing on medium-low. Wash 1.5 lb clams, place in a colander, and set in the steam from the stock pot, with the lid on top of the colander; steam the clams 15 minutes while the alliums cook, so that the clams completely open. Meanwhile, wash and dice a pound or so of potatoes. Sprinkle potatoes with lemon juice (half a lemon; use the other half for salad dressing) to prevent discoloration if the potatoes are to sit out a while.

When the clams open, remove them from the heat. Set a sieve over the soup pot with the leeks, and carefully ladle in stock, regularly dumping out the fish, crab, etc., into the trash. Fill the pot 3/4 full. (Transfer any remaining stock, strained, into freezer-safe mason jars (wide-mouth pints), let cool to shower temperature, and label and freeze.)

Add potatoes to the soup and bring back to a boil. Cook 10-15 minutes, checking that the potatoes are cooked through but not falling apart. Meanwhile, shell the clams with a small spoon. Turn off the heat, add the clams to the soup, and add one cup cream and some salt. If you have any chives or parsley butter, add it at the end too.

Serve hot with whole-wheat bread or a good sourdough. Have a very chilled wine and copious icewater — soup warms you up quickly.

Crab with parsley butter

We were super excited to hear that the California crab season had finally opened, and bought our first crab of the year on Saturday. Crabby was just over two pounds, and had been kept on very cold ice, so s/he was pretty sleepy all day (keep all ocean fish and shellfish as cold as possible without freezing until you are ready to cook it: oceans are about refrigerator temperature, so things that live in sea food will thrive in the fridge, but go to sleep in ice slurries). To cook, bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil, put crabby in the pot nose-first, cover and cook 18 minutes, then move immediately to an ice-water bath to chill at least 5 minutes, so that the meat retracts from the shell.

Along with the crab, we had sourdough baguette and parsley butter, which was amazing. Either by hand in a mixing bowl or in the standing mixer with the paddle attachment, combine butter, salt, mortar-and-pestled garlic, lemon juice, and minced parsley. It's divine.

Always save your crab (and lobster) shells for making soup. The shell imparts a lot of wonderful flavor in the broth. The crab butter is the yellow-white fat from the inside of the shell, and is also tasty, but be careful to remove any internal organs, which are nearby.

Snapper wrapped in collard greens, with leeks and walnuts

Bake about 20 minutes. Perhaps we should have steamed the greens a bit first — they were tasty but a little tough.

Breakfast: poached eggs on English muffins

Our Dinner with Toulouse-Lautrec

B found for me the most wonderful of cookbooks: The Art of Cuisine, by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Maurice Joyant. The recipes are good, and the book is littered with artwork, including full-page reproductions of the invitations that Toulouse-Lautrec would send — apparently, he was quite the gourmand. The book was put together shortly after his death by Maurice Joyant in homage to Toulouse-Lautrec; the English-language version was translated in 1966, and the artist's voice survives (indeed, may have been amplified) by the translation. Check out in particular such recipes as "How to make chicken tender" (chase it around the barnyard) and "Grilled saint" (find one like St. Lawrence, who will tell you when it's time to rotate the spit).

A Francophile friend was coming over, so we made two recipes from Toulouse-Lautrec: caramelized onions and pumpkin gratin (we used butternut squash rather than pumpkin). Heat the oven very hot.

For the onions, put together a bed of butter, salt, and pepper at the bottom of your smallest cast-iron pan. Peel onions, one or two per person, and pack tightly into the pan, halved, with the cut side down for the prettiest presentation. Cook on extremely low, just enough to melt the butter. Let it simmer for a long time, then cover with red wine. Let the wine reduce. Sprinkle the onions liberally with sugar, and transfer the cast-iron to the oven to finish.

For the gratin, de-seed, peel, and slice thin (1/4 inch) a medium squash. Coat each piece with flour, and lightly sauté the squash in olive oil, working in batches so that the squash pieces do not overlap. Place half the squash in a baking dish. Sauté sliced onions and then add tomatoes to make a sauce (don't add other ingredients besides salt and oil: Toulouse-Lautrec is very insistent), and pour it into the casserole. Finish with the second half of the squash. Move the baking dish to the oven.

Finally, finish dinner with a tarte tatin, not from Toulouse-Lautrec. We had only persimmons handy, so a French purist would not approve. But never mind them. Melt butter in a large cast-iron pan, turn off the heat, and arrange 1/8 wedges of fuyu persimmon (the non-astringent type), making a few layers (for a ten-inch pan, we used eight fruit). Sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice, and put on high heat. Meanwhile, make a pastry dough with flour, sugar, lots of butter, and cold water. Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it is the size of the pan and place on top of the persimmons. Move the pan to the very hot oven, cook ten minutes, and then finish in the broiler to brown the crust. Let the tarte cool just a bit, then invert onto a large plate.

In addition to providing a lovely French dinner, this meal had the benefit of using every cast-iron pan I own.

Polenta gnocchi with leeks and peppers

Bring to a boil one cup water with two cups red wine and a small handful of salt. Then remove from heat, whisk in one cup corn meal, cover, and let the polenta cook for at least twenty minutes.

When the polenta has cooked, mix in an egg. Pour a small pile of semolina flour onto the counter, flour your hands, and roll the polenta into small gnocchi, rolling each gnocco in the semolina flour.

Julienne leeks, sweet peppers, and garlic, and sauté in olive oil, adding a little salt. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, drop in the gnocchi, and cook until they float, about five to ten minutes. Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon, toss with the vegetable sauce, and serve with red wine and pecorino cheese.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Baked macaroni and cheese

We followed the recipe from Joy of Cooking almost exactly, using shells rather than elbows, substituting a mix of cheeses, and coloring with turmeric, having run out of paprika (I would have preferred the paprika):
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 1 1/2-quart deep baking dish. Bring to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan:
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
Add and cook just until tender:
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni (8 oz)
Drain and remove to a large bowl. Have ready:
    2 1/4 cups grated sharp Cheddar or Colby cheese
Melt in a large saucepan over medium-low heat:
  • 2 tbsp butter
Whisk in and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Gradually whisk in:
  • 2 cups milk
Stir in:
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
Simmer gently, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in two thirds of the cheese. Season with:
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Stir in the macaroni. Pour half the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with half the remaining cheese. Top with the remaining macaroni and then the remaining cheese. Melt in a small skillet over medium heat:
  • 1 tbsp butter
Add and toss to coat:
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni. Bake until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand minutes before serving.

Baked snapper with a vegetable stir-fry

A friend of mine spent the Sunday afternoon and evening with us while she wrote medical school applications. For dinner we had baked snapper (run a ban with garlic, then coat with olive oil; add snapper, sprinkle with salt and lemon juice, and bake 15 minutes) and a stir-fry with carrots, broccoli, rapini, bok choy, garlic, mushrooms, and onion (we weren't a huge fan of the rapini stems nor of the bok choy greens; the whites and the other veggies were great).

Pizza with walnuts, blue cheese, onions, and arugula

Make a pizza dough of 2 1/2 cups white flour, a handful of yeast, a handful of salt, some honey, and 1 1/2 cups warm water. Let rise.

Slice two red onions into rounds. Heat some oil in a large pan, add the onions, and cover in red wine. Cook on high until the wine has reduced.

Mash garlic with some salt in a mortar and pestle, and mix in olive oil. Set aside.

Combine 7 oz part-skim brick mozzarella, cut into small cubes, with 4 oz blue cheese, crumbled, and 4 oz grated parmesan.

Have ready also one 1/2-lb bag walnuts, one bunch wild arugula, washed, and a lemon.

Place a pizza stone in the oven and heat as hot as it will go. As with any pizza-making time, be sure to close any doors to rooms with smoke alarms, and learn where the "silent" button is on the smoke alarm in the kitchen.

Divide the pizza dough in half. Roll out half the dough on a lightly floured surface, and transfer to a pizza peel that has been sprinkled with corn meal. Assemble the pizza: half the now-carmelized red onions, 1/4 the cheese mixture, half a bag of walnuts, 1/3 of the arugula, another 1/4 of the cheese mixture, a sprinkling of salt, and zest of half the lemon. Brush the crust of the pizza with the garlic oil.

Transfer pizza to the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, assemble the second pizza. When the pizza has cooked, remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1/6 of the arugula. Let cool five minutes before even thinking about trying to cut it.

Finish dinner with a lettuce salad with dressed in the juice from the lemon, olive oil, salt, and any leftover mashed garlic. Then conclude with chocolate mousse.