Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Halibut in Broth

Halibut is one of my favorite fish. When cooked correctly its flesh is a creamy, porcelain white. Flakes tumble off when prodded with a fork. It whispers to me - help me...jazz me up…bring on the flavor! I wanted to do just that using but using mostly things I already had in my pantry. I wanted to keep it healthy too. Why waste all the benefits of eating fish by fattening it up?

I put about 5 cups of chicken stock into a stockpot along with 2 grated carrots, a stalk of celery sliced thin on the diagonal and 5 quarter sized slices of ginger, skin and all. I shared my glass of wine with the pot by splashing in about 1/2 cup. I added a tablespoon of soy sauce and let the broth simmer over medium high heat until it reduced and intensified for about 15 minutes. The broth should taste good. Don’t be afraid to slurp some while you reduce to see what it tastes like. If you are using a canned stock or an off brand you might want to add more veggies to help the flavor come along, or some sautéed onions.

When the broth was reduced a little and tasty I put a little olive oil into a sauté pan big enough to hold a pound of halibut cut into 4 portions without touching. I let it get hot and then added my pieces of halibut that I had sprinkled with salt and pepper and let them cook for a few minutes without peeking so they would get a nice golden color on top. Once I turned them all over I add the reduced broth to the pot and let the broth finish cooking the fish. It only took about 5 minutes. I put each portion of fish into a bowl and ladled some of the broth in and sprinkled with some fresh parsley. Okay so maybe the cheese straws I ate along with it negated the whole healthy aspect of the dish but it was quick, warm, comforting and pretty darn tasty. Maybe next time I hold off on the cheese straws!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

If you grew up eating Irish Soda Bread on St. Pat's day apparently your version may be nothing like mine. My Irish Soda Bread has to have golden raisins and caraway seeds in it. I don't make it in the shape of snake with raisin eyes like I had when I was little and I never saw the need to dye everything green like in my childhood. But that doesn't mean I don't get a childish pleasure out of making a loaf and serving it on St. Pat's.

You can still make some to celebrate St. Pat's in a more family friendly way today than serving your kids a green beer. One of those really easy breads - no yeast. You should have most of the ingredients at home and you can cheat on the buttermilk if you don't want to stop at the store.

Irish Soda Bread

2 cups flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 T. sugar
1/2 stick cold butter cut into pieces
1 cup golden raisins (or regular raisins)
2 T. caraway seeds (optional but one of my favorite parts)
2/3 cup buttermilk (no buttermilk? look below)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In food processor, pulse together flour, baking powder, baking soda, caraway seeds, salt and sugar. Put butter pieces on top of flour mixture.

Whenever I make something where the butter needs to be "cut in" I usually slice the cold stick of butter (or half a stick in this case) into 3 long slices then turn the stick a quarter and cut into 3 slices. You should now have 9 long bars of butter still in a stick shape. Slice on the short end of the stick to produce pea sized squares of cold butter. If you do this before you are ready to use - throw the cubes back in the fridge to stay cold while you gather up everything else.

Add the butter and pulse until mixture is crumbly. Measure 2/3 cup buttermilk into a one cup container or bowl. Add the egg to the buttermilk; beat together. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Pulse till it comes together.

Place a small amount of flour on the counter. Turn dough out onto the counter and work in the raisins until incorporated. Don’t overwork the dough though or it will be tough.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a parchment lined pan to form a large disk of dough. Use a sharp knife to cut a cross over the top of the bread. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden on top. Slice and serve with Irish butter.

To make a substitute for buttermilk add a tablespoon of lemon juice to one cup of whole milk. The milk will curdle. Measure out the amount you need.

If you want to go authentic Andrew McCarthy wrote a story on it in March, Bon Appetit.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's in the box?

My "Family Box" arrived from Chef's Garden today. I had almost forgot I ordered it. My friend Tami at Dine In Diva told me about Chef's Garden so I just had to check them out.

Chef's Garden says on it's website "Bring "Sustainable" and "Green" into your kitchen today." Sometimes, in Ohio, it is a little hard to "bring sustainable and green" into your home. My apartment doesn't not even have recycling. Whaaat? Coming from California that is like saying there is no trash pick up. So I drive out of my way to some hidden dumpsters in my town of Cuyahoga Falls and toss in my recycling hoping that it really is going to be recycled.

I digress. So I am trying to be a better human in Ohio. I thought I would give Chef's Garden a try.

I opened the box and audibly gasped. It was so beautiful. Nestled amongst dark green baby spinach with roots attached was a plastic clam shell of microgreens and edible flowers. Ohhhh! Under the clamshell was a smaller clamshell of micro basil and herbs. Awww - so cute. Under that was a colorful heap of root vegetables that seemed to be bottomless. I cleared my counter and sorted out the whole box. I was so excited - orange carrots; red skinned carrots; pale yellow carrots; short, squat
thumbelina carrots, red beets, red thumb fingerling potatoes with red squiggles inside, yellow fingerlings and a few other things I didn't recognize. All the root veggies looked like they had been pulled out of the ground that morning with just a cursory rinse. Everything was gritty and dirty and wonderful.

Once sorted, I set about scrubbing, then peeling and chopping a large colorful pile. Drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme I roasted two trays. That night before dinner I cut one of the radish. Long and wide like a daikon turning to green close to the top, it was a bright spring green inside. We got out the butter dish and kosher salt and Grace and I proceeded to munch away. All sorts of ideas came to mind for root veggie adventures not the least was the radish sandwich Grace took to school the next day. Butter and fleur de sel on wheat bread and the radish slices kept with an ice pack to stay cold and crunchy for lunch time assembly.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A bunny for my honey

Walking through the West Side market, a naked rabbit caught my eye. Of course the sign saying "a bunny for your honey" may have really been what got my attention. This rabbit looked so fresh and inviting. I had only cooked rabbit once before - I decided it was time to try again. I brought it home not really knowing what I might do with it. I pulled a couple of cookbooks of the shelf that I thought might have a rabbit recipe and sat down to peruse. Some of them called for boned rabbit. I did not get this bunny boned and I was not about to attempt it. I think my first stab at it would have produced about a half cup of meat. If you have ever seen a skinned rabbit you know that there are no big fatty breasts or meaty thighs. So I stuck to recipes that used a whole rabbit cut into pieces. I did a little internet research as well.

One of the most intriguing recipes was from Michael Chiarello's Tra Vigne cookbook. Chiarello says when he owned Tra Vigne he served more rabbit that any other restaurant in America. Sounds like he must know what he is talking about when it came to rabbit so I looked over his Braised Rabbit with Winter Vegetables. It sounded wonderful. It also sounded like I might spend 4 hours at the stove. I am not shy about spending that much time on a recipe but this particular day I did not have the time. So I ended up with a blend of recipes, a little Chiarello and a little Emeril and a Rabbit Ragu over Extra Wide Noodles.

I started with a Michael Chiarello tip and threw the bunny, which I had cut into 6 pieces, into a zip bag with a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and let it sit for about 15 minutes while I cut up vegetables. I then browned it in some olive oil letting it get good color on both sides. I set it aside in a bowl while I worked on some diced veggies in the same pan. I sautéed a cup each of onions, carrots and celery until well caramelized. I added 3 cloves of minced garlic and a pound of sliced baby portabella mushrooms and sautéed everything a little longer until the mushrooms had released some moisture and were changing color. I added a cup of red wine and when it had almost evaporated I added a 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and a cup or so of canned San Marzano diced tomatoes.

I threw everything into the pressure cooker, along with 2 fresh bay leaves and 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, and cooked for 20 minutes under high pressure. I released the pressure and removed the rabbit pieces, bay leaves and thyme stems. While the rabbit was cooling slightly, I turned the heat on under the sauce to reduce further. When the rabbit was cool enough to handle I removed the meat from the bones and added it to the simmering sauce. I threw some locally made extra wide pappardelle style egg noodles into some boiling water. To finish it off I add 2 tablespoons of butter to the sauce that now had reduced somewhat and been reunited with the rabbit meat. Plates were piled with drained pappardelle noodles and then a ladle of the thick ragu. My honey loved it. And my daughter couldn’t wait to take leftovers for school lunch to amaze and gross out her friends.