Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy birthday

Today Il Piatto Blu is 3 years old! I hope it's been as much fun for you as it has been for me...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pineapple...on fire!

I got some pineapple with a half -baked plan to wrap it in bacon for an appetizer of some kind. But then I got lazy. So I set it on fire instead! Voila--last-minute dessert and postprandial entertainment, all in one! I have never before attempted to flambé anything but now I'm pretty sure it's gonna be my all-purpose cooking finish. Gnocchi? Flambé! Mashed potatoes? Flambé! 5-alarm chili? Flambé! Word to the wise(r than me): this was a great idea I had after a few drinks during dinner. Please be careful and don't set your house on fire. First things first: add a few tablespoons brown sugar to 3 cups of fresh, chunked pineapple and allow to macerate for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix 2 shots coconut liquor with two shots rum and 1/4 cup orange juice and set aside. When you're ready for dessert, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy pan over medium-high heat.When the butter is hot, add in your sugared pineapple chunks. Add a healthy two pinches (or more) of chili powder and any other spices you like (I think I put in some cardamom as well but not sure about that). Let the fruit get brown and slightly caramelized. Now the fun part! Turn up the heat to high and dump in your booze/oj mixture...And set it on fire! Light a match to it and step the hell back.Fwoomp! Steve was sitting all the way out on the porch while Lydia and I were doing this in the kitchen and he says it made an impressively large fireball. We're very brave.It subsides pretty fast.And leaves a beautiful brown sauce with an exciting "I-just-caught-on-fire" flavor.The chili with the pineapple is really great--a subtle background heat that feels right with the instant caramel from the flambé.Pour the pineapple with its sauce over some vanilla ice cream. This would also be great on poundcake or something.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Columbus Day pot roast

This past Monday I had off from work for Columbus Day. It's one of those holidays that most people don't really seem to get off work for, so if your workplace happens to observe it there's this amazing feeling of playing hooky, although it's totally legit. Then I found out my evening class was canceled! It was a Columbus Day miracle! A whole day and night, stretching out in front of me! I was delirious with this magical gift of time and decided I should cook something special for dinner. Something that would just get more and more delicious the longer it cooked, thereby taking advantage of all this time. But it needed to be something totally hands-off, so that I could get all my studying done and (very important) play with the dogs. Voila: Columbus Day pot roast. I figure the fennel, tomato paste and red wine make it Italian. This is a great candidate for those with slow cookers, although I made mine in my dutch oven.After prepping up your vegetables (I used 1 onion, 3 small carrot, 3 small celery, 1/2 fennel bulb, all chopped to roughly the same size), get 2 tablespoons of olive oil hot over medium-high on the stovetop and brown some pot roast beef--this piece was 1.65 lbs.Be sure to salt and pepper both sides--turn it over after a couple minutes to brown the other side as well.Remove the beef and set aside. In the same pot, add in your vegetables and cook until softened and lightly colored.
Clear a space in the center and add 1 small can tomato paste and brown it slightly to get the metallic taste off.Then add some wine! I used about 1/2 cup.Mix everything up--you'll have a nice, chunky sauce going. This will completely fall apart as it slow cooks in the oven.Return your browned beef to the pot and add at least 10 whole garlic cloves.Cover the pot, stick it in the oven at 250 degrees...and just walk away from it to do other things with your amazing, incredible free time. Come back every now and then to peek in and see how yummy it looks. You don't even need to stir it but you might want to just for funsies. I cooked mine for at least 5 hours, simply because I could. It's probably good sooner than that. The equation is simply low heat + long time = amazing pot roast. Here it is right before I sliced it up--no, it doesn't look particularly glamourous, but hey--it's pot roast.I served it over horseradish mashed potatoes, with some of that incredible slow-cooked sauce spooned over the top.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Simplified life roasted chicken

It seemed simple enough up until now just to roast a whole chicken, but I have found lately that roasting parts on a bed of vegetables and white wine is even better. I started doing it after reading the gorgeous book A Tale of 12 Kitchens -- by the way, I really can't do this book justice. It's part travel memoir, part graphic design wonderland, and is my current favorite cookbook. A great gift for someone you know who loves art, food, and travel in equal measures. Anyway, after reading this, now I just place pieces (of any combination you like! unless you are cutting up a whole bird yourself) over any delicious, cut up root veggies and a bit of white wine. I don't need to carve anything after it's done and I have great leftovers for the week. So it's not really rocket science or anything, but seeing as it really has replaced roasting a whole bird as my new chicken approach, I figured I should write it up. This recent time, for veggies I used 1 large carrot and 2 small yukon gold potatoes cut into cubes of even size along with about 8-10 whole garlic cloves.I added salt, pepper and a bit of rosemary to the veggies...Then about 3/4 cup white wine. The chicken parts (1 split breast, cut in half, 2 thighs, and 4 legs) were layered on top of the vegetables, skin side down.I drizzled a little olive oil over the chicken and added salt and pepper.This goes in the oven to roast at 400 degrees for 1 hour, at which point you should flip the pieces over to skin side up. You can maybe add a little butter on top to facilitate browning, if you like. Let it go for another 30 minutes or so to get browned.Beautiful. And delicious, especially if you use whole garlic which becomes perfectly mellow as it slow roasts in all that chicken fat and wine.