Chicken + Tomatoes + …

December 26, 2015

If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.
~Grandma Moses

If you can, wait for heirloom tomato season.

This is just basic fodder and should become a seminal staple — thrifty yet damned delish. It all may seem primitive, unadorned, but this dish, although humble, is not meager in the least.

4-6 local (unfrozen) chicken thighs with skin on and bone-in
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 T dried tarragon

3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T unsalted butter
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

6 T peeled and finely sliced shallots
3 T plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 28 oz canned tomatoes, drained and chopped (or better yet, a glass container of heirloom tomatoes from a recent harvest)

1/4 C red wine vinegar (aceto di vino rossa)
1/4 C fine capers, drained or unsalted, depending how prepared
1/4 C chicken broth
2 bay leaves

1 C dry white wine, like Gavi, Orvieto or Verdicchio
1-2 T good tomato paste

1/4 C fresh tarragon leaves

Pat thighs dry well with paper towels.  Allow to reach room temperature and gently dredge the chicken thighs with sea salt, black pepper and dried tarragon. Drop the smashed garlic into the olive oil and butter in a large heavy pan over medium high. As the oil and butter begin to shimmer, discard the smashed garlic and sauté the chicken thighs, skin side down, until lightly browned. Turn and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Remove and tent the bird pieces with foil.

Then, make a sauce with the shallots and garlic, cooking briefly, for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, wine, tomato paste, bay leaves and stock until it all cooks down some, stirring with a wooden spatula to dissolve the pieces in the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce, and return the chicken to the skillet, then cover with a lid bringing the mix to a simmer for about 18-20 minutes or so. Discard the bay leaves.

To serve, strew with fresh tarragon leaves and place over pasta, orzo, rice, you name it — grain or green.

Pourboire:  if desired, add dijon mustard and/or crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream to the sauce or use differing seasonings on the chicken.

Tortas de Huevos (Egg Tortas)

December 20, 2015

A man’s social rank is determined by the amount of bread he eats in a sandwich.
~F. Scott Fitzgerald

This was much like our usual grist while camping in the gentle chaparral overlooking The Big Blue with infused fragrances of eucalyptus and rosemary. So, as with many other meals, it does bring back both fond yet conflicting memories.

Despite my indifference and sometimes general disdain about “religious holidays,” this dish would be so exquisite on that eve or next morning. One might as well eat, drink, and abound in this brief slice of life on earth, right?  So, keep this mock celebration of whatever or whomever (whose total lack of exactitude of birth in day or year astounds) a pagan or epicurean one.

Torta is a regional variety of flatbread which is a sandwich of sorts with divergent fillings that has existed from Spain to Portugal to Central America to Mesoamerica to Mexico to South America to the Caribbean and the Phillipines (most places Latin)

In essence, one makes scrambled eggs, then scoops them over bread with a slurry of cheese and other condiments already slathered on fine bread and finally topped with avocado (which happened to be indigenous to the region). Simple enough, yet really pleasing, especially with a fluent champagne that has a killer balance yet retains silky vibrancy.

Enough said?  Because this is holla good grub, a gastronome’s gem.

TORTAS DE HUEVOS (EGG TORTAS)

10 large, local eggs
A dollop of heavy whipping cream
White pepper
Dried thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
3-4 T unsalted butter

1 can chipotle chiles en adobo, drained
1 can black beans, drained

Tortas or Ciabatta rolls, cut almost into halves

1 1/2 C Chihuahua queso, grated

2 Haas avocados, peeled, pit discarded, thinly sliced

Chipotle salsa

Preheat oven to 350 F

Whisk the eggs with the cream, white pepper, thyme, sea salt and black pepper, cayenne until well combined.

Purée the chipotles en adobo sauce in a food processor until smooth and then afterwards the black beans until smooth.

Spread a thin layer of the chipotles en adobe over the bottom of each torta or ciabatta roll. Top with a layer of puréed black beans divided between the tortas or ciabatta rolls.

Melt the butter in a 12″ heavy non-stick skillet over low to medium heat because the eggs toughen rapidly. Pour in the egg mix and gently scrape the sides and bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula. Once the eggs have barely formed soft curds, and they are somewhat moist, remove the pan from the heat.

Divide the eggs between each torta or ciabatta roll. Sprinkle on the Chihuahua queso and cover with the top of the roll. Wrap in foil and place in the oven, baking for about 7-10 minutes until the cheese has melted and the torta or ciabatta has warmed. Unwrap each bun, remove the tops and place slices of avocado over the interiors of the sandwiches.

Serve with a side of chipotle salsa.

Bread + Eggs + Chipotles + Beans + Queso + Avocado.  Now, assemble with salsa nearby.

Beef Roast(s) & Lists

December 14, 2015

The list is the origin of the culture…we like lists because we don’t want to die.
~Umberto Eco

Admittedly, I have been a daffy list maker since early youth (as you may already know from reading these posts — well, if you have even been perusing). My mother taught me how to compile ceaseless lists as she was an avid maker, and then it became eerily second nature to me. Occasionally, I feverishly scrawled notes next to the bedside table and often have scribbled them before meetings and calls.  Some of my quirks no doubt could have been sadly passed on to my children and mates. Then again, perhaps it has helped for me and others to make haphazard notes, offhand outlines, draft questions, occasionally “fluidly” write, proofread copy, and finally edit. In some senses, listing could prove a vile habit, but at other times making them appears highly efficient. Thanks, Mom.

Not sure lists avoid death, though.

KC STRIP LOIN OR BONE-IN RIB EYE ROAST

2 T sea salt & truffle salt
Black peppers, slightly roasted
2 T coriander seeds, slightly roasted
1 1/2 T herbes de provence

5-6 lb Kansas City strip loin roast, tied at 2″ intervals or bone-in rib eye roast, tied between ribs
8 cloves garlic, minced

1 stick of soft, unsalted butter

2 bunches (not sprigs) rosemary
2 bunches (not sprigs) thyme

1 lbs medium parsnips, peeled and cut
1 lbs medium carrots, peeled and cut
1 lbs medium turnips, peeled and cut

Chanterelles, enoki and shittake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

Horseradish sauce (an aside which can be prepared while the beef roasts or the oven preheats)
1 C crème fraîche
2 T Dijon mustard
3 T grated horseradish
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together crème fraîche, Dijon mustard, horseradish and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and then refrigerate (and/or…)

Aïoli (see January 25, 2009 post for 3 recipes)

Coarsely grind peppercorns, coriander in an electric mill. Combine with herbes de provence and sea salt in a small bowl and sprinkle mixture evenly over roast. Add the minced garlic and massage well all over.  Wrap beef tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Bring to room temperature unwrapped before roasting and cover well with soft, unsalted butter.

Preheat oven to 400 F

Put herbs + branches, parsnips, carrots and turnip slices and set roast atop.

Roast the beef, uncovered, for about 1 hour. Check with an internal thermometer after 45 minutes. For medium rare (at most), take the roast out of the oven when the thermometer registers 115-120 F (as you already may know, residual heat will cause roast to continue cooking as it rests).

Sauté chanterelles, enoki and shittake mushrooms briefly in butter in a heavy pan.  They can be arranged upon the roasts or root vegetables after the meat is done.

Remove and tent with foil, allowing meat rest for 20 minutes because the temperature should rise to about 125 F or so.

Slice the beef (to your liking) into 1/2″ or more thick pieces and arrange on a warmed platter or on plates. As far as the bone-in rib eye, cut at the bone/ribs.

Put the roasted vegetables, garlic and mushrooms in bowls and pass the horseradish sauce and/or aioli separately. Serve with twice baked potatoes or new potatoes and dill and greens, whether a vegetable or salad.

Finish by sprinkling with a green herb, such as tarragon and/or thyme leaves — then bonhomie, baby.

And to all, a good night.

The Donald + Pig Ears

December 10, 2015

Perhaps the less we have the more we are required to brag.
~John Steinbeck

I have long delayed comments on The Donald, but this diatribe simply cannot wait further. No need to tweet here.  Humanity needs to arise despite his fatuous, dégoûtant, and vulgar presence.

The Donald’s paranoid xenophobia, his ethnic disparagement, his irrational bigotry, his racist rants, his limitless enmity (all the while saying he loves thee and everyone adores him — not!), his bellicose behavior, his shameless histrionic comments, his ideological dearth of reality, his lamentable fascism, his endless marination of misogyny, his open fat-shaming assaults, his admitted sexual assaults, his fearful contemptuous demagoguery, his utter lack of policies, his sightless reversal of courses (and blatant lies, deceit), his trash talking bullying and invectives, his lack of simple humility, his nonpologies of grabbing women’s genitals, his unmitigated narcissism is truly extreme, really hyperbolic.  Just insulting, crude, undignified, and dour — not befitting of anyone holding the office of the Presidency of the United States.

And to even think that he has serious supporters, even mild or occasional adherents? Do some even pretend to truly want a hubristic, unfit carnival barker to govern as president?  He is a slipshod celeb, a deplorable clown, not someone who should hold any civic or constitutional office. His relentless vitriol on Twitter is flatly embarrassing. It is that a pure combination of arrogance and ignorance?

The Donald is a revulsive fool who loves feckless fear, antagonistic acrimony, speaks to irrationality, and above all is addicted to his own popularity. You should be ashamed, collaborators, each of you that gives one whit about the democratic process, are often sadly uneducated, lack historical context and take the Donald as a serious candidate. The Donald is a brutish, bulling Duck who waddles aimlessly and loves hearing himself quack. He bespeaks an “empathetic and historical loser.”

Actually, I hope and pray that imperious red + gray combover will carry the Republican nomination and lose woefully, much later, and then a lady will finally inherit the White House — one who is more wisely oriented towards negotiation, not fevered prejudice, saber rattling or war. A loose, inhumane cannon. Condemn the Donald and do not elect him unless you crave for the world to implode. You know precisely who he is…

Perhaps, The Donald’s fear or scorn of African Americans, Mexicans, Latinos, women, the disabled soldiers’ parents, Vietnam vets, sexual harassment victims and Muslims is based upon his silly dismay or confusion or fond reminiscence of his own German (or is it Swedish now?) immigrant heritage. Maybe, it is simply their skin, sex and hair color which differs vastly from The Donald’s.  Who knows what goes on under that desperate reddish-orangish rag and clown fish mouth that spews hatred, countenances violence, spreads petulance and irascibility?

Now, some fellow Republicans have finally noted his small hands (he does appear to have openly splayed smaller digits) which often leads to a minute member regardless of how far he can purportedly drive a golf ball, but he never said he could catch and shoot…but, it all seems far from bizarre where has this has all gone, or perhaps others who support him have the same afflictions?  Sorry for you.  As baffling as this lurid “locker room talk” seems, we should be seriously debating presidential policies.  Then again, perhaps the Donald wants to unravel the GOP.

Of course, he has very few, if any, stated political agendas.  Now, he has demonstrated a thirst and penchant for violence against others, including his opponent and any protesters and has spoken definitely on air about his lewdness, immorality, crudeness and indecency. It is time to awaken, folks. “Mark my words, believe me.”

As Seneca the Younger once remarked, “people take pleasure in giving power to the indecent,” some two millenia before John Steinbeck or even Uncle Joe Stalin, P.T. Barnum, Il Duce, Robert Mugabe, or other authoritarian regimes, and certainly the Donald.

It was not just words, Donald — and I hope everyone knows that.

Now, onto something much more soothing.

PIG EARS

Pig ears, a few (local and high quality)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 or 5 plump, fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 T dried thyme
2-3 thyme sprigs
1 T coriander seeds
Grating of nutmeg

2-3 C chicken stock and cold water
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced thinly
2 bay leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mixed greens + vinaigrette or artisanal noodles with a tab of butter

Pig ears should be procured from a local farmer. Look for fresh clean smooth ears without marring or stains, and if bristles still exist, singe or shave them.

Marinate them an evening ahead. A healthy dose of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, minced garlic cloves, dried thyme and a sprig or two of thyme leaves, coriander seeds, and a dash of nutmeg.

Cook them in stock, rinse, and then cover with stock and water. Add sliced carrots, sliced and peeled onions, bay leaves and sea salt with black pepper. Bring to a simmer, then put the heavy pot in a low oven, below 200 F for some 10 hours, or until you can easily pinch thumb and finger through them and feel little resistance. Allow the ears to cool completely.

Now, the finish which should be crispy.

In a 450 F oven, roast the pig ears, so as to avoid the spatter of frying them. Put them between pieces of parchment or waxed paper, and weigh them down with another sheet pan, and cook until just slightly brittle, about 15 minutes and slice.

Then, serve them over mixed greens + vinaigrette or artisan noodles with a tab of butter and freshly ground black pepper.

The purpose of literature is to turn blood into ink.
~T.S. Eliot

Again the cold weather is upon us, so the time has come to deceive, to create illusions of reality, in our kitchens.

Are our buns, hands, soles and toes really nestled in sandy beaches somewhere on this earth? Are we contemplating the vastness of cerulean seas and cobalt skies dotted with cirrus clouds?  Must be…right?  What a remarkably silly, selfless yet sybaritic trompe-l’oiel!  At the same time, these are food paeans to our tribal past.

Now, some find boudin noir or Créole repugnant because the process traditionally contains pork blood. Well, so do filets, porterhouses, shoulders, briskets, strips, rib eyes, loins, tenderloins, sirloins, flanks, chops, tuna, liver, rumps, chuck, blades, tri tips, shanks, et al. — many humans simply choose to ignore that bloody carnal embrace. Yes, Virginia, there is red ink, congealed or not, in them thar cuts. Their will be blood and/or myoglobin. Then again, boudin noir is not for everyone.

But, being an offal aficionado, this dark hued savory charcuterie (much like pâtés, rillettes, galantines, ballotines, confits, foie gras, jambons and friends) is revered and regaled here. If most homo sapiens are omnivorous, honor should be bestowed upon the animal that graces our tables by eating the deceased from nose to tail. Again, the “blood” in boudin noir is cooked as with many other cuts.

Consider serving this renascence next to a small splash of smashed or mashed potatoes or even fried or poached eggs and sliced sautéed chiles or a simple baguette and unsalted butter and top the sausages on a mesclun salad with a vinaigrette and some root vegetables. Better yet, choose to present shortly after dining on accras de morue (cod fritters — a post found here on February 11, 2010) and sauce chien with a glass of Viognier or Côtes de Provence rosé or une bière blonde.  As with most plates, the choices seem endless.

Often savored sautéed or grilled, boudin noir may seem quotidien, but is simply seraphic.

BOUDIN NOIR

4-5 blood sausages (from fine butchers — local + high quality)
1-2 T unsalted butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Sprigs of rosemary and thyme

1/3 C Calvados (apple brandy)
3/4 C heavy whipping cream
2 t Dijon mustard
2-3 Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced somewhat thin

Grating of fresh nutmeg
Cinnamon stick
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 200 F.

Prick sausages in several spots with sharp knife or fork. Sauté over medium low heat in butter and olive oil (shimmering olive oil but the butter not browned) with rosemary and thyme, about 5-8 minutes, turning occasionally. Discard rosemary and thyme sprigs. Remove sausages from pan and place on heavy dish, tented, in very low oven while preparing sauce.

Remove and discard some of the excess fat from pan, turn heat to high and deglaze with Calvados, allowing to boil for about 30 seconds, then add apples, cooking them for a minute or so. Add the cream, mustard, nutmeg, cinnamon stick, salt and pepper. Reduce cream and mustard and friends by half and finally ladle over or under the boudin noir, removed from the oven. Discard the cinnamon stick, by the way.

 

I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.
~Oscar Wilde

El camión.  Once she learned where the chicharrónes truck was to be found daily in the República Dominicana (DR), life became even better.  Freshly showered again, she would stealthily slip out the door to begin her quest each late afternoon, seeking the truck on foot angling for the smiling guy, perhaps even furtively. Then, that small, greasy box of heaven came home oh, so slyly for the first couple of times. She presented the rectangular, styrofoam carton somewhat self-consciously obsequious yet openly epicurean, but not coquettish. A sublime surfeit for me.

Each day in the late afternoon a similar ritual happened, almost zen-like, even if the truck were parked in a dissimilar place which likely made her search even more fetching.  I awaited, her unknowing (or so she thought) yet sort of low-keyed giddy.

Chicharrónes  first became an app and then later almost an entrée, but were an ever blissful repast — especially with a local rum & tonic or a beer and bare feet in the sand.

Chicharrónes are ubiquitous throughout southern Spain (Andalusia), Latin America, South America, the Caribbean, Mesoamerica, Guam, the Philippines. Recipes vary markedly amongst cultures and kitchens, so much like other cuisines.

CHICHARRONES DE CERDO (DOMINICAN PORK CRACKLINGS)

4 lb pork belly, thickly sliced
4 qts cold water
1 T sea salt

2 t dried oregano
2 t dried thyme
2 t cumin seeds, seared briefly and ground
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C orange juice

1/2 C canola oil

Salsa verde + salsa roja
Crema
6 lime wedges

Make slits throughout pork belly slices at about 2″ intervals, but do not cut through. Allow the pork, water and sea salt to immerse, marinate for a few hours. In a heavy, Dutch oven mix pork belly, water, salt, oregano, pepper and orange juice. Cook over medium heat until the water has been absorbed and evaporated, but there will be pork oil left behind.  Be aware of the spatter.

Add canola oil and fry until the meat has turned a dark golden brown hue and the skin is crispy.

Remove the meat and place on paper towels, let the pork belly drain and cool to room temperature. Cut into smaller pieces, about 3″ and, at the time of serving, garnish lightly with dollops of salsa verde & roja, crema, and then lime wedges.