Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ma Kettle Meets Julia Child

The humble pork steak makes another appearance in my kitchen and proves you really can make a silk purse from the sow's ear, or at least her shoulder. The mushrooms are not eco friendly at all, they were brought in from Oregon, but I couldn't resist them. So the pork steak is the humble, mongrelish Ma Kettle in this narrative, while the morel mushroom is the pedigreed sophisticated Julia Child. While they may seem like an inconguous couple, they actually make quite a tasty dish.

For the steaks:
4 pork steaks (about 12 to 14 ounces each)
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup onion slices
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Brine the steaks for at least two hours before starting

Grill the steaks over hot coals to sear on both sides, place the steaks in a grill proof pan and cover with the stock, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and put to the back of the grill, and let simmer for 1 hour or until the meat is very tender. Replenish the fire if necessary.

For the sauce:
2 Tablespoons butter
4 ounces fresh Morel Mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 Tablespoons minced shallot
1/4 cup julienned ham
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup heavy cream

Saute the mushrooms, shallot, and ham in the butter.

Deglaze the pan with the sherry, strain the stock that the steaks cooked in and add it to the mushrooms.

Reduce the mixture by 1/3 and add the cream, reduce slightly until the sauce thickens, taste for seasoning and pour the sauce over the pork steaks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Weekend in The Country

Last weekend was Father's day, it was also my parents 58 th wedding anniversary and my mother's birthday, so I made a trip back home to see them all and celebrate. Eventhough I haven't lived there for going on 40 years now, I still consider it home. These pictures were all taken in and around Princeville and Camp Grove IL about 30 miles North of Peoria. They were taken at my sisters, my nephew's and at my uncles Bill's garden. My uncle Bill is an organic, seed saving gardner-his garden is just huge and also lush. The corn and tomatoes aren't ready yet, but we had new potatoes-red and white-green beans, beets, and onions.

We had a couple of barbeques and even a few nips of moonshine, brought back from someone's recent trip down South. Life in the country can be idyllic, but I don't think I could give up my city ways.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Corn Tortillas

Let me get this out-I am not a good tortilla maker-I just don't have a natural way with pastry, I don't know why because both my grandmothers made exceptional pie crusts, but not me. That doesn't stop me from doing it anyway. These tortillas are so simple and taste so complex and rich it is hard to believe that masa and water are the only ingredients involved. I don't have a tortilla press, I just roll the dough out between sheets of plastic wrap with a rolling pin, so they are a bit on the ugly side, so while they won't win the beauty crown they will win the personality contest with their charm and flavor.

2 cups Masa Harina
1 1/3 cups warm water

Measure the masa into a mixing bowl, slowly stir in the water-here is the catch, like most pastry the masa will absorb different amounts of water on different days depending on things like humidity-so it is the art to add just the right amount of water.

Work the dough with your hands it should be dense and moist, but not sticky or wet. You can add additional water or masa to get the right feel. One positive thing about working with masa is that you can't over work it like you can flour pastries.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 1/2 hour at room temperature

Get you cast iron skillet or griddle medium hot

Pinch off a golf-ball sized piece of dough and roll between your palms

Place the ball between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll out into a 6 to 8 inch circle

Place the tortill on the hot dry griddle-there should be a subtle sizzling

After 1 minute flip the tortill, it will probably puff up
After 30 seconds flip again for 30 more seconds remove the tortilla and keep warm until you serve them

Berenjenas en Escabeche

I started out making this dish before I could even name it. I bought this eggplant at Farmer's Market and planned to make this chinese garlic and ginger dish I love, but I couldn't resist the Rick Bayless recipe from my previous post, and I didn't think I wanted to mix Asian and Mexican, so I thought I would just take the Asian flavors (ginger, garlic, Mirin, sesame etc.) out and replace them with Mexican flavors of garlic, onion, Jalapeno, oregano, cumin, and Cilantro.

It appears that this is a common everyday dish in Argentina, as a condiment to all that grilled meat or as a sandwich topping. The eggplant was a superb compliment to the pork steaks. Eggplant is such a happy little camper and plays well with so many cuisines and flavors. The additions of mango juice and the mango salsa garnish isn't traditional but it was quite beautiful and the flavors all worked so well together.

1 eggplant, thickly sliced, liberally salted and let to drain for 1/2 hour

1 small onion minced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 small Jalapeno pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground Cumin

1/4 cup Mango juice

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Chopped fresh Oregano and Cilantro

Rinse the salt off the eggplant and dry the slices

In a saute pan over medium high heat brown the slices in a little olive oil drain on paper towels

In the sam pan, add the onion, garlic, Jalapeno, and Cumin

Stir cook the flavoring over heat until they are softened, add the mango juice and vinegar

Reduce the liquid slightly-2 to 3 minutes-cool slightly and stir in the olive oil

Layer the eggplant slices attractively in a serving platter and pour the vinegar mixture over them

Salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle the chopped fresh herbs over the top

Optional Garnish:Fresh Mango Salsa

Puerco en Adobo
Pork with rich red-chili sauce, based on a recipe from Rick Bayless's "Authentic Mexican" book. Pork steaks are a St Louis regional dish you don't see often in other parts of the country. They are a slice from the shoulder. They have a bone and a cross section slice of several different muscles of varying degrees of tendernesss all held together by connective tissue. Here in St louis they are usually grilled and slathered in a sweet Kansas City style barbeque sauce. After reading one of Bayless's recipes I decided it would be perfect for pork steaks, he uses boneless pork loin.
4 pork steaks (10 to 12 ounces each)
8 dried chiles ancho, stemmed, seeded and deveined
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leves
6 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup mango juice (Bayless uses orange juice)
1 Tablespoon Splenda (or sugar)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a saute pan, toast the chiles in hot oil, drain them and cover with boiling water, let the chiles soak for several hours or overnight. Keep them submerged by weighing them down with a small plate.
In the same saute pan, saute the onion and garlic until caramelised and browned, strain the onions and garlic, letting the oil drain back into the saute pan.
Drain the chiles and squeeze dry. Place the chiles, garlic, onions, cumin, bay, oregano, and thyme in a food processor and puree, adding 1/2 cup broth and 2 tablespoons of the vinegar. Strain the puree through a medium mesh sieve.
In the saute pan with the reserved oil, saute the puree for several minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the juice and remaining broth and let simmer for about 45 minutes, partially covered. Stir and check the sauce often to make sure it is not sticking to the pan bottom. Season with the salt, sugar, and pepper.
Cool the sauce and take 1/4 cup of sauce and add the remaining 4 tablespoons of vinegar, marinate the pork steaks in this mixture for several hours. Refrigerate the remaining sauce until you are ready to grill the steaks.
Prepare the grill to medium hot-I always grill over charcoal-bring the pork and sauce to room temperature. Sear the steaks on both sides and grill several minutes. Place the steaks in a disposable foil pan, cover with the sauce and cover with foil, place at the back of the grill and simmer them gently over a low fire for an hour, replenishing the charcoal as necessary.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Honey Lavender Ice Cream with Golden Raspberries in Lavender Syrup

Here is a delightlgul ice cream that I have been making for years. It comes from the original "Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook" by Alice Waters. I usually don't care much for Lavender as a flavoring-mostly because it is just so easy to over do it and it seems like you're eating a bag of pot pourri. Here I used just a whisper of lavender to perfume the ice cream and also the syrup for the raspberries. One bite transports you to the South of France and sunny Provence.

4 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup robust honey (preferably one local to your area)

5 egg yolks

a lavender blossom

In a double boiler over hot water, whisk 3 cups of the cream, honey, and eggs. Whisk continually until the mixture thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the lavender blossom and let steep for 1 minute, taste for the lavender. If you want a more pronounced lavender flavor, let the custard steep longer. Strain the custard and chill thoroughly-I usually let the custard chill overnight to make the creamiest textured ice cream.

For the Raspberries:

1 pint golden raspberries, washed

1 cup water

1 cup Splenda (or sugar, of course-we're trying to cut down on sugar-the Splenda worked well)

1 Lavender blossom

Bring the water and splenda to the boil, add the berries and simmer til the berries just barely soften. Turn off the heat and add the Lavendar-again taste until you achieve the right Lavendar accent, remove the blossom and chill the berries until you're ready to serve them.

Friday, June 04, 2010

French Barley Salad with Fresh Dill
This salad is an adaptation from one of the Moosewood cookbooks, I don't remember which one, and I first saw it on someone else's blog, which I can't remember either. It is a refreshing and healthy alternative to all the usual mayonaise laden summer salads. Dill seems to be the unwanted step-child of the herb garden. It is always a difficult sell in the restaurant, and it doesn't please serious wine drinkers. I am told that it is the Herb of the Year for the Herb Society. So let's give Dill a little respect and let Basil, Oregano, and Cilantro have a little rest.
2 cups of cooked barley
2 carrots, cut into bite sized chunks and blanched until crisp-tender
1/2 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and blanched until crisp-tender
1 sweet red pepper, julienned
1/4 pound mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup toasted nuts-I used pecans
Juice of two lemons
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small shallot, minced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, extra for garnish
Whisk the ingredients together and fold into the salad

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Fried Chicken at The Kitchen Conservatory
Last week I taught a class on Frying Chicken. Usually I do demonstration classes, but Ruth (she's the techie and scheduler at Kitchen Conservatory) talked me into a participation class. Demonstration classes are easier for me being a control freak as I am-at least in the kitchen. It's pretty hard to control everything in a participation class. It was quite enjoyable.
I started by dividing them into teams of three members each. I chose three different recipes and three different techniques for frying chicken. They started with learning to butcher a chicken. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of this because I was too busy running from team to team and directing their knives-everyone was successful and no lost finger tips. They also had to make an old fashioned creamed corn dish, mashed potatoes (hand mashed and riced), cream gravy, and strawberry applesauce bread.
They had to do an electric deep-fried chicken, a kettle deep-fried chicken over an open flame, and a pan-fried chicken done in a cast iron skillet, in lard. Not surprising to me the favorite chicken was the one pan-fried in lard in the cast iron skillet. We won't worry about cholesterol for this one.
I'll probably repeat this class at some time in the future-who knew so many people don't know how to fry chicken.