Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cooking from the Web – Brisket Bourguignon

I love the fall. Not only does it herald the beginning of playoffs baseball, college and pro football, and cooler weather, the holidays begin in force. First up this year was the Jewish high holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Now, I may not be Jewish, but that doesn’t mean I can’t cook a nice holiday meal.

Many of the recipes I found for Rosh Hashanah included apples and honey, items that are both meant to symbolize a sweet new year. Unfortunately, the only brisket recipe I found for the holiday included dried prunes and apricots. I was looking for something a little more benign, so I decided to use a Chanukah recipe instead.

I realize that I’m a few months early with the Chanukah recipe, so just call it a trial run.

The first step to the recipe was to marinate the brisket.

That’s a whole bottle of burgundy in that bag. The recipe calls for 2 hours to overnight; I was able to come in just shy of two hours.

In the meantime, I got my vegetables ready.

Sure the recipe calls for 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms. I had a few dried ones on hand, so I rehydrated oyster, morel, and shiitake mushrooms.

Freshly rehydrated, the were sliced into sizeable chunks.

After marinating, I pulled the brisket out of the fridge and out of the bag of wine.

I can only imagine what a whole night in wine would do for the color.

Reserving the marinade, I dried off the brisket and then liberally seasoned with salt and pepper.

From there, it was dusted with flour.

Per the recipe, I gave the brisket a good shake to get rid of the excess flour.

Next, I put my trusty Dutch oven on medium-high heat and added two tablespoons of olive oil.

Adding the brisket to the pan, the idea is to get a good bit of browning on each side.

There’s some nice browning on one side.

And a little too much on the other.

With the brisket browned, I was now at a cross roads. I could stick to the intent of the recipe, use olive oil and keep it somewhat kosher, or I could use bacon. Wanting to stick with the spirit of the holiday, I added some more olive oil to the pot and then added the vegetables.

Here, I have 6 carrots that have been cut into 1 inch pieces on the diagonal, 2 large onions cut into rings, my 8 ounces of rehydrated mushrooms, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, thyme, a bay leaf, and a good helping of fresh black pepper and kosher salt.

At the point, the idea is to cook everything until the onions become “translucent” and the mushrooms soften. Seeing as the mushrooms were rehydrated, there was no waiting for them to soften, but about 15 minutes later, the onions turned that magic color.

Now it was time to add 1/3 cup of cognac to deglaze the pan. It was a little anticlimactic.

Once the cognac had done its job, the rest of the ingredients were added to the pot.

The reserved wine marinade, 2 cups of beef stock, and one tablespoon of tomato paste were all added.

Lastly, the star of the dish, the brisket was added back to the pot. I did my best to nestle it underneath the vegetation. With everything in, I raised the pot to a simmer, and then put it on the lowest setting, slapped on the lid, and began to play the four hour waiting game.

Four hours later, I opened the lid to see how everything had fared.

Yes, there’s smoke obscuring most of the brisket in this picture, but you see how little broth was lost with the top on.

Out of the pot, the brisket was looking a good bit smaller.

After letting it rest for a few minutes, I took a knife to it to see it my efforts had paid off.

It’s not bbq, but this was a delicious piece of beef. The flavor of the wine had done an amazing job in that short two hours.

Served over rice with a spoonful of veggies and braising liquid, this was a fine meal, holiday or no. Maybe next time, I’ll get the gumption to make a brisket with the dried fruit.

Cooking from Monthly Pages – Bon Appetit – Sfoglia’s Chicken al Mattone

I’m always on the lookout for a good chicken recipe, especially since I have a baker’s dozen of kosher chickens in my freezer. Conveniently, the September issue of Bon Appetit had a cover story on their “Top 10 Chicken Recipes”.

As I was leafing through the recipes, Sfoglia’s recipe for “chicken al mattone” caught my eye, as with most any cooking involving a brick. The recipe calls for the chicken’s backbone to be removed. I’ve tried something like that before when I spatchcocked a chicken.

That recipe turned out pretty well, but when I read that this recipe was done indoors, I decided to give it a try.

Like many recipes, this one starts with a marinade.

With a little help from a juicer and a sieve, I soon had plenty of lemon juice.

The marinade itself calls for 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, and 2 pressed cloves of garlic.

You might notice that’s 1 ½ teaspoons of chopped, dry rosemary. What can I say? It was late and I didn’t feel like running out to the grocery.

From there, the idea is to take the marinade and rub over both sides of your backboneless chicken.

I didn’t feel like trying to remove the keel bone, so I took Bon Appetit’s advice and pressed down on the breast bone until it was flat enough.

Working with frozen chickens takes a fair amount of planning. Seeing as I’d already waited for the chicken to thaw and come to room temp, I had no intention of letting the marinade sit overnight.

Instead, after ½ hour or so, I liberally applied salt and pepper and then added 1 tablespoon of olive oil to one of my cast iron skillet.

Once the oil was hot, it was time to introduce the chicken to the medium-high heat.

Per the instructions, I had placed the chicken skin side down, and now it was a waiting game.

As soon as the 7 minutes of cooking were up, I got my chicken ready for the 400 degree oven.

Sfoglia’s recipe says to use either a brick or a cast iron skillet to hold down the chicken. I used both, I didn’t want any run away chickens in the kitchen.

After 30 minutes in the oven, it was time to survey the damage.

It’s looking pretty good so far.

When I flipped it over, the chicken looked even better.

Now it was time to return the brick/pan to the chicken and cook on the other side for another 15 minutes or until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced.

In seeming no time at all, the juices ran clear and it was time to for the final stage.

The last steps of the recipe are to drizzle the chicken with 2 more tablespoons of lemon juice and sprinkle with crushed red pepper and parsley.

All presentation aside, the taste is what really matters and this recipe was dynamite. The chicken was moist and the parsley and red peppers went perfectly with the lemon flavor. I was such a fan of this recipe that I made it again the next day. In fact, this recipe is close to rivaling Jennifer McLagan’s simple roast chicken recipe as my go to for chicken.

Cooking the Book – My Grandmother’s Chinese Kitchen – Lobster Steamed with Ginger (Geung Chung Jing Lung Har)

One benefit of this recession is the price of lobsters has hit rock bottom. So when I saw lobsters at the grocery last Sunday, I decided to pick one up. I’ve had Eileen Yin-Fei Lo’s “My Grandmother’s Chinese Kitchen” for some time and there’s one recipe that has really stuck out for me, the lobster steamed with ginger. The first time I read the recipe, I thought it sounded exactly like the lobster Cantonese from the Golden Dragon. So with my lobster on hand, I decided to give it a try.

Like most Chinese recipes, this one begins with a marinade.

Here 2 tablespoons of Chinese rice win, 1 tablespoon light soy sauce, 2 tablespoon Scallion oil (I didn’t have any scallion oil on hand, so I just substituted some chili oil for a little extra kick), ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil, white pepper and 1 teaspoon grated ginger are all combined in a mixing bowl.

Now it was time for the hardest part, cutting up the lobster.

I’ll admit, this is the first time I’ve tried to cook a lobster without steam. So, I needed to kill the lobster before I could cut it into pieces.

With the tip of my knife at it’s head, I plunged in and then pulled it forward. I knew there would be muscle reaction after the fact, but it’s still a little unnerving the first few times.

I immediately pulled him apart

From there it was time for my grandfather’s cleaver to cut everything into bite-size pieces.

A piece of steel this heavy made quick work of the tail. I think my grandfather would be proud.

The lobster was tossed in the marinade and left to rest for 30 minutes or so.

When the time was up, I had my steamer ready and I put the bowl of lobster and it’s marinade inside. For that extra boost of flavor, the recipe called for 3 tablespoon of shredded ginger, 2 scallions (white portion only, cut into 1 ½ inch lengths and then shredded), and coriander springs. I have no idea where to get coriander sprigs.

After about 12 minutes of steaming, I opened the lid to see how things were looking.

Cooked lobster really is the most brilliant of reds.

From there it was time to pick the lobster meat and serve over rice.

I was supposed to garnish with coriander leaves, but no harm no foul here. The lobster was a little bit of a papershell but the dish was a real winner. I was a fan of the kick of the chili oil, but I’m curious to see what it would be like with the intended scallion oil. Needless to say, Lo had printed a fine recipe, but I’ve got my eyes on some of her dumpling recipes. Just how hard is it to make your own siumai?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cooking the Book – The River Cottage Family Cookbook – Honey Fudge

I picked up my copy of the River Cottage Family Cookbook when I was last in Memphis. Sure it’s a cookbook aimed towards children, but in true Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall fashion, it’s a hefty tome of culinary secrets. When I was thumbing through the section on sugar & honey, a picture of fudge caught my eye.

The description is what really sold me on the idea of honey fudge: “This is a lovely recipe because it shows that the choice between honey and sugar isn’t always an “either,or.” In this case it’s a “both,and.”

It starts very simply with 4 cups of sugar, a 12oz can of evaporated milk (Whittinstall calls for a 13 oz can, but they don’t sell them like that in the US), and ½ cup of water being put into a pan.

Once all that had dissolved, it was time to add a few more ingredients.

¼ cup of honey and a pinch of salt are added to the pot. I used honey from Lamar, MS. It’s always nice to use something local.

From there the plan was to raise the mixture to a boil and wait till it reached 241 degrees F, unfortunately, I had to switch to a bigger pan midway.

With the bigger pan, it was just keeping an eye on the candy thermometer and stirring every half minute or so.

When I saw the picture of the fudge, I was expecting it to come out like the book, a nice light brown.

Very light


Darker still

By the time it had reached 241 and had a chance to cook, it was a rich, but very dark brown.

Next, I added 7 tablespoons of butter to the mix.

The idea is to stir vigorously and the butter will mix into the syrup.

It sort of mixed in. A minute or so in, it seemed like I was trying to add oil to water.

Per the instructions, once the mixture was grainy I poured it into a waiting, butter pan.

I greatly overestimated how much fudge this would make, but when I tried to spread the fudge, it began to form clumps. I decided to leave well enough alone and cut squares anyway.

Regardless of the odd appearance, this was a delicious dessert. I was expecting the honey to be completely masked by the overabundance of sugar but it shone through brilliantly. I shouldn’t be surprised. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall does amazing work with his cookbooks, and his recipes almost always perform flawlessly. I’ll have to cook from his books more often.