Monday, October 30, 2006

Red cabbage with prosciutto

The best thing about cured meat is how long it can sit in your fridge. Really good prosciutto must be cured for a couple years, so I guess I accidentally improved on the supermarket crap that has been lurking near the crisper since time immemorial. Monday night, it made a bid for freedom:

I sliced most of a pack of prosciutto into thin strips and fried them in their own fat over a high heat. When it seemed too dry and as if it might burn, I added some bacon fat. When the prosciutto was crispy and browned, I added a handful each of pignoli and dried cranberries. Tossed together for a minute over high heat, then added 1/2 well-shredded red cabbage. Turned down the heat a little for fear of burning the pignoli. Continued to toss the cabbage with the other ingredients until coated with the pan oils and all was very well combined. When cabbage was wilted yet not too soft (about 7 minutes of tossing in pan over heat), turned off heat and added a small splash of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of brown sugar. Stirred well and covered.

Melted a little butter plus some chicken fat and added 1 cup of toasted pearl couscous. Browned lightly, then added 2 cups chicken stock and brought to boil, the turned to simmer and covered. When liquid was mostly absorbed, added 1/4 cup minced parsley, stirred and covered again. Added about 2 tablespoons of grated provolone, stirred and removed from heat. Added juice and zest of one lemon, stirred again and covered.

In the oven I crisped the heel of a ficelle, my favorite part.

Valdivieso merlot to drink and it was a pleasant surprise.

Cannellini with sweet potato, sausage & pepper

The market had these tiny little sweet red peppers that were organic and completely inexpensive...usually I can't get that excited about bell peppers. But these were beautiful!

Started earlier in the afternoon by soaking a few cup of cannellini in a bowl of water. After about 4 hours, I drained them, covered them with water in a dutch oven and boiled with a smashed garlic clove and 2 bay leaves for about 1 1/2 hours. They eventually got tender and I drained them and set aside. Returned the pot to the stove with a little bit of butter. Sauteed 1/2 minced sweet onion until soft, then added 1/2 diced sweet potato and 1 diced, small, pretty much perfect red pepper. Added about 1/4 cup of sweet sausage and 3 minced cloves of garlic and let everything get a little bit browned together. Added smoked paprika, a tiny bit of tumeric, a pinch chile. Returned the cannellini and mixed everything well. Added tiny splashes of worschestershire, tabasco, soy and then 1 teaspoon brown sugar. Stirred well and allowed flavors to blend, then added 1 28 ounce can of peeled, whole plum tomatoes. Smashed them up in the pot, covered it 3/4, and turned down the heat to simmer. Read a chapter of a really great book with a lousy title (United States of Arugula) and drank a beer. Uncovered the mixture to reduce the liquid somewhat. Turned off the heat and added a little balsamic vinegar.

Boiled less than half a package of ditalini and put the cannellini mixture over the top. The pasta was secondary.

Steamed broccoli florets with peeled, matchstick stems to go with and a fresh loaf of bread--today was market day, so no risks with the freezer!

Red Brick Winter Brew from Atlanta Brewing Company is pretty damn good. It's a solid oatmeal stout but not too heavy.

Jeremy and Melanie came upstairs and drank a beer. Then we made root beer floats from a keg that Ryan and Betsy brought over a couple weeks ago. It's pretty awesome to have a keg of root beer in your fridge, and that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Vegetable soup

The chicken made one more appearance--it's like a houseguest that knows exactly how long to stay. On Tuesday evening it got boiled up:

I covered the chicken carcass (now pretty much just bones!) with water and set it to boil. Roughly chopped 2 unpeeled carrots, 2 stalks celery, 3 cloves unpeeled garlic. Added 2 bay leaves. Boiled it, then simmered for about an hour. Strained stock into container and set aside. I pulled out the chicken bones and tried to strip more chicken meat off, but it was pretty much cashed from the previous evening. You never know though. I put the now-empty pot back on the stove and melted butter and chicken fat. Added 1/2 minced sweet onion, 2 diced carrots, 2 diced celery. Sauteed until soft and fragrant. Added 1 small, diced yukon gold potato, 1/2 diced sweet potato. Added about 1/2 cup barley, some dill, red pepper and a little salt. Added the few bits of scavenged chicken. Skimmed off the top of the stock then poured it all back into the pot. Brought it to a mellow boil, then reduced the heat and covered. After about 15 minutes I added 3/4 cup of lima beans and a bouillon cube. Let it go for about another 30 minutes, then turned off heat and added 2 splashes of champagne vinegar.

Heated bread up to eat alongside--however, I think this piece had been in the freezer longer than some of the other ones and it was not holding up so well.

As we were eating I realized that I had meant to dice up a beet that I had roasted last week and add that to the soup. It was just sitting there in the fridge.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Chicken, mushrooms and barley

The day after you roast a chicken it makes perfect sense to use up leftover bits. I knew I wanted to use some mushrooms with it but that was as far as I got with planning ahead. On Monday:

I pulled apart the chicken carcass from the day before. I stripped off any leftover white meat and then pulled apart thighs, etc for some dark meat. Roughly chopped all together and set aside. Minced half a sweet onion and began to saute in butter in a large, deep skillet. I did not brown it, then added 1 small stalk of celery, minced. Sliced half a package of cremini mushrooms (about 6 or 7 good-sized ones) into 1/8" slices, added to pan with a bit more butter. Let all become well-cooked but not too browned. Added dill, minced parsley and black pepper. Added 1 cup of barley, sort of on a whim, which I allowed to toast briefly. Added chopped up chicken from earlier. Then, 2 cups chicken stock, brought back to boil and covered. Added a little Worcestershire sauce. The barley absorbs the liquid, but remains pleasantly chewy, in about 15-20 minutes.

Chopped and steamed 1 head broccoli, with matchstick stems included.

Pulled out half a loaf of ficelle out of freezer (I buy 2 at the DeKalb Market, cut them up into good sizes and freeze. They are pretty good that way for a week or so and crisp up well in the oven), and heated up until golden and crispy.

I drank the rest of the sugary pinot noir. Then we had tea and more pumpkin bread.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Begin with a roast chicken

Real food people like to say that roasting a chicken is a simple task that really shows whether someone can cook or not. I don't know about that, but I do know that that's what I made yesterday for Sunday dinner:

1 organic, free-range chicken, about a 4-5 pound bird. Patted all over both sides with salt and pepper. Stuffed the cavity with rosemary and sage, plus a little chopped sage for the top even though it was pointless. Started breast-side down at 450 degrees, flipped after 20 minutes, flipped again in 10 minutes, then reduced heat to 350 and basted a little. Flipped again and basted in 30 minutes. Sucked out a ton of juice and grease from the bottom of the pan and flipped it once more. Added 1 sweet potato (cut in half, split each half and cut into 1/4" half moons), 1 parsnip (same cut), 2 yukon gold potatoes (same cut), and 2 carrots (matchsticks). Everything went back in together for 20 minutes, then added about 10 peeled, whole garlic cloves. Took out chicken and allowed to rest on cutting board. Cranked oven up to 500 and roasted vegetables, tossing frequently, for about 20 minutes.

In a large, deep skillet: Toasted 2 cups large pearl couscous in butter and a bit of chicken juice/fat. Browned it, added well-chopped parsley, then added 4 cups of chicken stock. Brought to boil, reduced heat to simmer and covered. When all liquid was absorbed (about 10-15 minutes) turned off the heat and added zest and juice of one small lemon.

Steamed two heads of chopped broccoli with their peeled matchstick stems until just al dente and very bright green.

For dessert we had a pumpkin bread that has a cream cheese filling. The pumpkin bread is easy: scant 3 cups sugar beat with 1 cup vegetable oil. Mix in 3 big eggs and a 15 or 16 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, no matter how on sale it is). In a separate bowl, sift together 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon each of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and baking soda. Add to this 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and baking powder. Stir these dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture in several batches. Prepare 2 buttered & floured 9x5x3 loaf pans. Pour half the batter in, then pipe in a filling of 1 package cream cheese that you have mixed with confectioners sugar and vanilla to taste. Cover with rest of batter. Place a decorative topping (I make a line and then cross-hatch it 4 times) on top with the rest of the cream cheese fiiling. Set to bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let cool. We enjoyed this with Turkish coffee, (ground unbelievably fine, that Mom found at the DeKalb Market), made with the stovetop espresso pot.

Melanie and Jeremy came up for dinner. We had a bottle of something that was malbec mixed with cabernet sauvignon that was OK, and then half a too sweet pinot noir. The dogs briefly wrestled and then settled down for naps on their respective cushions.