Thursday, November 29, 2007

Grilled Steak and Vegetable Soup

Life is a wonderful thing. And one of the most wonderful thing about life is soup. It’s one of Groom’s specialties. He’s got the touch, believe me. I used to think soup was an easy thing to make; that anyone can do it. Well, that’s just not true. You have to have a bit of an artist's soul to do it. A gift of the sense of combinations. You just don’t throw it together and hope for the best. You have to appreciate the art of making soup. And he does.

Grilled Steak and Vegetable Soup

Grill two sirloin tip roasts seasoned with a bit of salt, freshly ground black pepper, dried sweet basil and a good rub of olive oil. Grill to rare and cut into bite sized pieces.
In an 8 quart stockpot put:
2 cups beef broth
2 pks Italian pole beans (frozen)
2 lbs frozen corn
4 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes, cut up
1 large onion, chopped
4 medium carrots, sliced
2 Turkish bay leaves
2-14oz cans diced organic tomatoes
Add the cut up steak and if needed add water to cover the vegetables. Cook for about an hour.
Then add:
2 cups shredded green cabbage
Let cook for another 20 minutes or so. Long enough to make some cornbread to go along with the soup.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ms. Bird's Big Adventure

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I got this feeling most definitely from my dad. Pops loved Thanksgiving because of the Radio City Rockettes. He LOVED them. He’d always have a glass
Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry and watch the Macy’s Parade. Nothing like a bunch of women in tights kicking their legs in the air got him going better. “Oh, that’s marvelous!“ he drawl in his deep Southern voice. “ That’s just marvelous.“ .

I love Thanksgiving because of the food. I love getting up early and watching the parade and cooking the food and dancing with the Rockettes. Makes it more fun to cook if you‘re dancing. Bon Appetit outdid themselves this year with their pick and choose Thanksgiving feasts. I handed the magazine to Groom in October and said, You pick it. We’ll cook it. He chose well. Pancetta Sage Roast Turkey. Brussels Sprouts Hash with Caramelized Shallots, Roast Fingerling Potatoes on Piperade, Cranberry Apple Relish, Three Mushroom Stuffing with Rosemary Olive Bread. Other contributions to the meal included Apple Cranberry Pie and Pecan Pie for dessert, brought from Athens, Ga with a disclaimer…but they were divine…along with Roasted Pears and Crème Fraiche. My brother brought 2006 Alvarinho Trahadura from Portugal to have with dinner along with the usual Louis Tete Beaujolais Villages, what I like to call the House Red around here. And of course, Sister Shubert stayed up all night baking the rolls for us. Paramedics were on call in case we fell out during the meal.

Plumgood arrived Tuesday with Ms Bird, a beautiful 16 pound Bell and Evans all natural turkey. And did she come to a good end. The turkey was a standout. The diced pancetta and fresh herbs and garlic and shallots whooshed together in the Cuisinart and then spread in the cavity of the turkey plus you get your fingers between the meat of the bird and the skin and rub this butter all over it…I was this bird’s best friend by the time I finished rubbing this butter all over it. I don’t have a turkey rack but I managed to improvise with an old trick of my mothers…I cut up carrots, celery, onion, fennel and parsnips and put it in the bottom of the pan and set Ms. Bird on top. Then added two cups or so of turkey stock the recipe called for. She cooked exactly 3 hours at 325 degrees and I basted her with the juices from the pan.

I have a list of words, mostly to do with cooking, that I can’t stand. They make me crazy. Moist heads the list. Always has. That is an awful word. Your mouth looks weird when you say it. Of course, I haven’t come up with anything as descriptive as it yet, but that doesn’t mean I won't. I hate to use a word that I am not fond of when I describe Ms. Bird…but the M word is what she was. Moist and tender…two days later…still moist.

Now Ms. Bird fed our family of 10 quite well Thanksgiving night. Since then, she has fed us sandwiches, stand up snacks in front of the fridge, she has made turkey stock, but last night she came to a fine end as Turkey Chili by none other than the King of the Stockpot, Groom.
Topped with a bit of crème fraiche because….well, she deserves crème fraiche. And it is even better on the second day.

Turkey Chili

An off the cuff recipe.
One left over turkey, covered with water and a big onion, carrot, celery, parsnip, parsley stems thrown in for good measure. Bring to boil and let it rock for an hour or so to get good turkey stock.
Take out of stock pot and remove all meat from bones and chop. Put in Dutch oven with kidney beans, black beans,, cannellini beans and several cans of diced tomatoes. Season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Tbsp ancho chili powder and tablespoon of chipotle chili powder. Let cook an hour and serve topped with crème fraiche.

A noble outcome for a fine bird.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Smoke from a Distant Fire

You know, there are times that only one thing will do for dinner.
Only one kind of fish. Only one preparation of same. That happens with salmon around this house. It has to be Wild Sockeye Salmon. And it has to be Bobby Flay’s Sherry Vinegar Glazed Salmon with Fresh Tomato Relish and Arugula (my touch). It doesn’t matter who is here for dinner, it doesn’t matter if they hate salmon. They eat this and fall out. Seriously. Facial expressions change. Silence descends on the island (otherwise known as the dining room table because we don’t have one because Groom gave it away during the kitchen renovation, which is another story). Actually he gave away the sofa, the chairs, hutch, table and sideboard. The Sideboard. My claim to fame. I have danced on that sideboard so many times, I can’t tell you. I think I’ve gotten over it. But this subject may resurface in another blog post. Maybe not. Then again there are people who read this blog that can tell you things I can’t remember. But smile and say, “wasn’t that fun” when they bring it up.

Anyhoo…silence and then it’s “what the hell did you do to this salmon?"

Can’t lose with this recipe, people. Can’t lose at all. Plus the fact that ITUNES has one of the
best songs EVER ( hence the title of this blog) available for downloads and it makes you dance with guys you danced with years ago ( and you are SO cute when you dance in your mind) while Groom sips a bit of Glenlivet and smiles while the salmon rocks on grill. Life is good!

Wild Sockeye Salmon Fillets with Sherry Vinegar Glaze and Spicy Tomato Relish
(thanks Bobby!)

Spicy Tomato Relish:

2 medium ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Small slice off side of red onion, finely diced
Fresh Italian parsley, chopped.. Eyeball it
Good shake or two of red pepper flakes
Big splash of red wine vinegar
Several good turns of extra virgin olive oil

1 cup good Sherry vinegar
Two big tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp ancho chile powder
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2-4 good sized fillets of wild Sockeye salmon, skin on

Put the Sherry vinegar in small saucepan and reduce it down to about a quarter cup. In small bowl, put honey, mustard, vinegar chile powder, salt and pepper and whisk together. When cool, pour over salmon fillets.
Combine all ingredients for the tomato relish and let sit for about half an hour.
Get the grill going and cook till skin on salmon is crisp; don’t turn and salmon is firm to touch. You can heat a cast iron pan with a bit of oil in it and do the same thing. People have their own way they like to do salmon or any fish, so when it’s done for you, rock on.
Put a “paw full“, my mother’s expression, of Arugula on your dinner plate. Top with salmon and the tomato relish. Remember one of your favorite songs and light a candle with dinner. Enjoy!


Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Fish Story

Fish was an important part of my childhood eating experience. Fish sticks, that is. LOVED THEM. My mother could cook fabulous fish. I just didn’t really want to eat it. She could catch a fish, gut it, clean it up, slap it in butter with almonds and people would say, “ Oh Nancy Keen! Law, how in the world do you do it. This is divine.” And they would have skin and bones on their plates . She tells me to try a bite. And my mouth snapped shut and I would not try it. So to get me to eat fish, Mrs. Paul’s came into my life. And I could not imagine why in the world people wanted to go to that much trouble to eat fish when Mrs. Paul’s had it all in one nice package for them. Mother told me I would grow to love fish and want to eat it when I got older. Of course I didn’t believe her. My grandfather would come to town and take my little brother, John and I to the trout farm down the road where you were practically guaranteed to catch a fish. By the way, have I mentioned when my parents announced they were going to have a baby, I asked if it could be a pony. It wasn’t. It was John. But I digress. John was great at fishing. He’d catch a trout and chase me around shaking that damn thing at me. I spent the majority of my time at the trout farm screaming, which I am sure unnerved the fish as much as it did my grandfather. I just never got the hang of fishing. Both John and my mother;
they can fish like you would not believe. Every time they go out of town together, they’re in a river up to their belly buttons in ice cold water catching things they don’t eat. . Whatever.

I grew up and Mother was right. Bye bye, Mrs. Paul’s. I decided that fish wasn’t so bad as long as there was enough butter to make it taste good. Fresh Market came to town with their boneless rainbow trout fillets and Trout Meuniere was my poisson of choice . Grilled fish started looking good to me. All those great salsas to complement the fish. Way off into them.. I toddled along into fish heaven. Trying lots of different kinds. Wondering why I came so late to this party.
Enter Mark Bittman. He is pretty fabulous. I love his HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING cookbook. You can put that on the counter, close your eyes, open the book and point to something and it is going to turn out great. I have done this experiment many times. So far so good. So last week, Fresh Market had fresh Chilean Sea Bass. I’ve seen it frozen many times, but not fresh, so I bought a little over a pound. It cost exactly what it would cost to buy Mark Bittman’s cookbook. So I figured he was going to have to help me out with a recipe. And did he ever. So easy and so good. Try this one night when you want something light, flavorful, warm, and comforting in about an hour.

Chilean Sea Bass with Winter Vegetables

Several tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or use all butter if you prefer)
1 tablespoon butter

Couple of big fat garlic cloves, minced
¼ pound carrots, peeled and cut in rounds
¼ pound parsnips, peeled and cut in rounds
½ pound celery, chopped
2-3 small to medium sized Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into dice
1 large sweet onion, sliced
1-1.5 pound fresh Chilean sea bass fillets, cut into 10-12 pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to tast
1 cup chicken stock (or fish if you have it on hand)
1 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 375. In a medium Dutch oven, swirl a tbsp or so of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle the minced garlic , then put half of the celery, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onion and fish. Season and repeat the veggie and fish layers. Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper at this point. Then dot with little dabs of butter and pour the stock over . Cover and bake til potatoes are cooked. It should take about 45 minutes.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Frank's Short Ribs with Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots and Roasted Veggies

We have a friend who cooks. And I mean cooks. He can run the gamut from Chocolate Mousse to Chicken Liver Pate. He cooks all the time. And he lives alone. I can’t imagine what the neighbors think at two in the morning when he takes his short ribs out of the oven because they have cooked for four hours and need to sit. That’s what I’m talking about.
Cooking all the time. One night he went to dinner at a mutual friends house and she served short ribs with winter vegetables. That was two years ago. He hasn’t gotten over them yet.
Frank dreamed about them. And one day decided to cook them. We do dinner with him just about every Wednesday night. He always arrives with a large box ready full of things ready to cook. He brought the short ribs and we finished them on the top of the stove and served them with Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots from November 2007’s Bon Appetit and Roasted Veggies. I’m here to tell you this was the meal that dreams are made of. The short ribs absolutely melt in your mouth.
No conversation took place at this meal. Just a lot of moaning. Swaying back and forth. One hand in the air and the other over your heart kind of good. Just another Wednesday night!

Frank’s Short Ribs

This is a two day process. Buy 2-3 pks of short ribs. Should be at least 3 per package. Season liberally with lots of fresh black pepper. Pour yourself a big old glass of red wine to sip on while you cook. Preheat oven to 225.
Heat a dutch oven or cast iron skillet that you can cover with a glass top and put a tbsp of bacon grease. Don’t gag…this is all about depth of flavor. When the grease is barely smoking put short ribs in the pan and brown on all sides about 3-4 minutes per side. Add more bacon grease if the pan needs it. Once browned, remove from pan. Once all are done, pour your glass of red wine in the skillet and deglaze.The wine will bubble up and then start to cook off. Peel five or six cloves garlic, cut in half and throw in the pan. Add three sprigs fresh rosemary, whole, 1 medium onion cut in quarters, a couple stalks of celery and add the short ribs back to the pot. Cover with chicken stock filling pan about 7/8ths up to the top. Put cover on Dutch oven and cook for four hours.
When done pour broth into large glass container that you can put a top on and refrigerate overnight.
Refrigerate the short ribs as well. The fat will rise to the top of the glass container and you can throw it away.
Frank is “fat averse.” He cannot stand it. And he will spend a lot of time getting the fat off of food.
“Dissect”, Frank’s term, the short ribs.”Get every morsel of fat off the ribs and give to your favorite large dog.”
Reheat the short ribs and the broth on top of the stove until hot. Thicken the broth with a bit of cornstarch. Serves 4.

Roasted Veggies

4 carrots, sliced
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
4 parsnips, peeled and sliced
6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 large sweet onion, quartered then separated
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400. Toss all ingredients in bowl and put on cookie sheet.
Roast for 15 -20 minutes or til golden brown. SO SO Good!!


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Beauty and the Beast

One of my favorite cookbooks is BISTRO COOKING by Patricia Wells. It’s a beauty of a cookbook, one that should be in everyone’s collection. Whenever I feel the need for comfort food, I’ll look in one of her books. Especially for these chilly fall days when you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen,but want to eat something that tastes like you have.

Enter THE BEAST. I saw this fabulous AllClad Slow Cooker in the Williams-Sonoma catalog maybe six weeks ago and the lustation began.

I would wake up in the middle of the night and imagine it in my kitchen. I would be surfing the internet and the only recipes that would pop up would be slow cooker recipes. So, when Groom and I toddled towards ELA…extreme Lower visit with his divine brother and mother, little did I know that as a reward for being the love of his life that THE BEAST would enter my world. Poor Groom, I have a tendency to overreact when I see something..latch on to it and drive it into the ground til I get it. “Honey, can’t you just see this in our kitchen?“ “Look at that cute sweater…it’s a steel color..kinda like the cooker in that catalog? “How are the shrimp cooked; are they cooked on top of the stove in a CAST IRON pan” And so on. I am all about instant gratification. I can’t help it. It’s genetic, according to my mother. Anyway, we ended up at the Williams-Sonoma’s store in Daphne, Alabama with me clinging simultaneously to Groom and to THE BEAST. I call it THE BEAST because it's the biggest thing on my countertop . It’s seven and half quarts of pure stainless steel and cast iron love. It goes in the regular oven, on top of the stove, into the dishwasher. It’s amazing. And it cooks damn good as well!!!
So, logically last Sunday when it was not that cold but not that hot, we fired up the fireplace in the den, watched the Campion series and fed THE BEAST my take on Patricia Wells’s “Bouillabaisse de Poulet Chez Tante Paulette“…or what we call:

Sunday Chicken Stew

This does have about five hours marinating time, so plan ahead. I’m sure it would be great without the marinating time, but it’s so good, make the time.
Combine in a large Dutch oven or your slow cooker insert:
1 28 ounce can diced San Marzano tomatoes, don’t drain
2 big onions, peeled and quartered and slice in half moons
8 fat garlic cloves peeled and smashed
3 large fennel bulbs with maybe about half of the stalk with the fennel fronds chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup Pernod..going for the licorice flavor to complement the fennel
Big pinch of saffron
4-5 Turkish bay leaves
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper eyeball how much you want to use
Fresh thyme…or dried if you can’t find fresh. Use five or six good sized pieces of fresh thyme or two big pinches dried thyme
4 or 5 organic chicken thighs, bone in and skin removed
3 large chicken breasts, bone in and skin removed
Ok, so put all of this in the large Dutch oven and mix with your hands. It’s the only way to be sure that the seasonings and flavors mix well.
Then cover it and put in fridge for five hours at least.
One hour or so before you want to eat (or three hours if you are using a slow cooker) add to Dutch oven or slow cooker :
Small bag baby Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half
2-3 cups chicken stock

Put on stove and cook over medium heat for an hour to an hour and a half. (Or put in slow cooker and set timer for three hours and cook on high.)
Test chicken, out of pot, to be sure cooked and juices run clear.
Serve in large flat bowl..with veggie and broth first and a piece of chicken on top. Sprinkle with parsley. This will serve at 4-5 people maybe even 6 generously.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mary Herbert's Lemon Meringue Pie

One of Groom’s favorite things in the world is pie. Any kind of pie. He is lucky to have married me. Not because I make great pies. Far from it. As a matter of fact, I can ruin a pie in no time flat. I’m really not a baker. Ask me to roast or braise or saute something, I’m your gal. Pie. Nope. Can’t do it.
However, I have a dear friend who is the queen of desserts. Her pound cake is legendary. Her chocolate desserts are the stuff dreams are made of. And her lemon meringue pie absolutely rocks. Her busband asked her to make it for our dinner last night…he loves it dearly. When Herbie heard that Groom loves pie, the dessert part of the meal was set.
The meringue was perfect..light..sweet and just a golden touch of color on the swirls.
The filling was all about lemon. Tart and sweet at the same time.
Groom smiled. And ate more pie.

Mary Herbert’s Lemon Meringue Pie
1 ½ c. sugar
1/3 c. cornstarch
¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ c. cold water
½ c. lemon juice (about the juice of two lemons)
5 eggs, separated
2 T. butter
2-3 tsp. grated lemon rind
one baked 9-inch pastry shell (I used the Pillsbury already-made shell)
¼ t. cream of tartar
½ c. plus 2 T. sugar
½ t. vanilla
Combine 1 ½ c. sugar, cornstarch, and salt in heavy saucepan; mix together. Gradually add water and lemon juice, stirring. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored; gradually stir into lemon mixture. Add butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Cook exactly one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in lemon rind. Pour into pastry shell. Combine egg whites (which have been at room temp.) with cream of tartar; beat until foamy. Gradually add ½ c plus 2 T. sugar, one tablespoonful at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Beat in vanilla. Spread meringue over filling, sealing to edge of pastry. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Let cool to room temp.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pan Sauteed Wild Striped Bass with Fennel Tomato Fondue

We’re busy. All of us. Time is of the essence. So is good food. So taking time to put something divine on the table every night, to some people, may not be important. But there are people whose lives revolve around what we are going to have for the next meal.
I’m one of them. I have old stand-by meals that I’ll do in a pinch if I have to. Usually, I’ll look in the freezer, see what’s shakin’ in there and pick out what I want to do.
Then I go to the cookbooks. And stand in front waiting for inspiration. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go to the internet and surf around the food blogs and websites. The muse strikes and the games begin.
Whole Foods opened in my neighborhood last week. Jazz bands in a grocery store. Unbelievable. Anyway…a trip produced some fresh wild striped bass, something I had never cooked before. Several recipes later..thank you Perla Meyers and Jennifer Hess, I had come up with something. And it was really quite good and very easy. I’m in a major fennel phase. I love it roasted with olive oil and garlic in the oven. I love it in tuna salad with olive oil and capers and roasted red peppers and green olives. If it’s available, I may use half fennel and half celery when celery is called for in a recipe. So give this recipe a whirl and see what you think. It may change the way you eat fish. By the way, don't try to open a bottle of wine and toast bread at the same time. It's a gift to be able to do both!

Pan Sauteed Wild Striped Bass with Fennel and Tomato Fondue

1-1.5 pound wild striped bass fillet, skin on
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 large sweet yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2-4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
3 big fat garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
4-6 large flat anchovies, drained and minced
1.5 tsp fennel seed, slightly crushed
1-16 ounce can organic diced tomatoes, don’t drain
Big pinch Turkish oregano
Big pinch thyme leaves
Heat 2 tbs olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel and onion and saute til soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, fennel seeds and anchovies and cook til anchovies dissolve. Add tomatoes and their juice and allow to cook down a bit. If too thick, add a bit more tomato juice. Reduce heat to low and let simmer while you do the bass. Season to taste.
Heat a cast iron skillet with two more tbs or so olive oil over medium high heat. Don’t allow to smoke. Mix a bit of flour, black pepper and coarse salt and dredge the fillet on both sides. Shake off as much flour as you can. Put in pan, skin side down and cook til golden brown and flip. Cook til done about five to seven minutes total unless it is very thick. You will be the best judge as to when it’s cooked.
Plate: Use pasta bowls to serve. Put a good sized scoop of the fennel tomato fondue in bottom, and a serving of the bass on top. Pull leaves from fresh Italian parsley and sprinkle on top. Serve with Italian bread, sliced on an angle and toasted.
Serves 3.