Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cookbook #27: Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook

Adapted from Cookbook #27:  Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook

Recipe:  Affogato

I am about to leave for Illinois to celebrate.  And there is much to celebrate:  standing up as a groomswoman in the wedding of my high school friend, road trip with my 62-year-old mother and four nieces and nephews, meeting my college roommate's year-old son, and probably Doritos or some other unwholesome food on the couch in my pajamas until 2 a.m. with my best friend since I was five years old.  This is going to be good.  In the mean time, I need to get cooking this week, as there will be only small pockets of time to do any cooking over the next 10 days.

So I bring you affogato.  It's hot out there, people.  It's time for ice cream.  In Italian affogato means drowned, and one can drown vanilla ice cream in just about anything and call it affogato, but traditionally that something is plain espresso.  (We cheated and used coffee, but really, really strong coffee from Peets).  Some like to shake things up a bit and throw in some booze (Kahlua, Baileys Irish Cream, Amaretto) or some chocolate or caramel.  Go ahead.  Try it.  Now I am not a huge coffee fan, but I am willing to put aside my own taste buds for something like this, because, well, espresso + homemade vanilla ice cream = yes.

Then, to make matters even more delicious, remember that this is a recipe from Alice Waters, goddess of the Bay Area.  It does seem somewhat blasphemous that I have not yet written about the three cookbooks I have from Ms. Waters yet,  She did found one of the best restaurants in town.  However, all three of her books that I own are seasonal, and it appears that page 210 in all three books is rooted in the summer.  So to stay true to the master, I have had to wait.  And seriously, just wait until the peaches are in full flush.

Okay, about Chez Panisse.  This one-star Michelin awarded restaurant was founded in 1971 by Waters and Paul Aratow.  Housed in a converted two-storey house, Chez Panisse has both restaurant and cafe.  The downstairs restaurant has a prix fixe menu, starched white table linens, and an astonishing bit of craftsman woodwork.  Opened in 1980, the upstairs cafe is a la carte, boasts an open kitchen, and includes a sweet-smelling, wood-burning oven.  Both restaurant and cafe are committed to cooking with only fresh, sustainable, and local foods, so the menus are always changing--once this was considered somewhat radical to the American diner, but now it has become almost de rigueur.  And we have Alice Waters to thank for that.  To encourage culinary creativity, Chez Panisse has two chefs, where one chef prepares menus, oversees the kitchen, and is basically in charge for three days a week.  Then the other chef takes charge for the next three days.  Lucky for us.

The alums of Chez Panisse are astounding.  Seriously, almost every chef I love comes out of this place.  See here.  I can't stand it.  Ici, Oliveto, Greens, Zuni Cafe, Cowgirl Creamery, Bakesale Betty's.  It's like a who's who of amazing food.

Enough about the restaurant.  Let's get back to the ice cream.

Seriously, this is not diet-friendly.  Yes.  12 egg yolks.  Yes.  4-1/2 cups of cream (and that's in addition to the 2-1/2 cups of half and half).  In the words of Thomas Keller, if you want it to be low-fat, take a smaller portion.  That seems cruel.  Instead, just accept that tonight, you're having ice cream for dinner.

Oh, and I had full intentions of posting twice this week to make up for the lag next week.  But my intentions were overtaken by watching Spanish soccer.  Go Spain! 
2 Quarts (serves 10-12)

12 egg yolks
2-1/2 cups half-and-half
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/2 cups sugar
4-1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1/4 cup hot espresso for each serving

1.   Lightly whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl.  Pour the half-and-half into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the half-and-half, add the bean and the sugar, and warm over medium heat without allowing the mixture to come to a boil  When the sugar is dissolved and the half-and-half is giving off wisps of steam, slowly whisk the liquid into the yolks.

2.  Return this custard to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and reaches the temperature of about 170 degrees.  Immediately remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve.  Whisk in the cold cream, then cover and chill thoroughly.

3.  Freeze the mixture in an ice cream machine, following the manufacturer's instructions.  Transfer to a container and store in the freezer for several hours of overnight.

4.  To serve, scoop the ice cream into bowls or coffee cups, and pour about 1/4 cup freshly brewed espresso over each serving.

[Alice Water's Variation:  Sprinkle each serving with a pink of finely ground espresso beans, chopped candied peel, or ground cinnamon, and top with a spoonful of softly whipped cream.  I say, feel free to add the booze and chocolate above.]

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cookbook #26: Ad Hoc at Home

Adapted from Cookbook #26:  Ad Hoc at Home

Recipe: Borlotti Bean Ragu

Let's be clear:  Ad Hoc is one of the seven wonders of the world.   Back in 2006, renowned chef Thomas Keller decided to open a restaurant in order to make use of a property he had purchased with the intention of creating a diner.  The diner had lain dormant because of other projects, so Keller thought it would be "fun" to open a temporary restaurant that made family-style meals five nights a week.  Thus, Ad Hoc was born.  By September of 2007, Keller was having so much fun with this accidental restaurant that he decided to throw out the idea of the diner altogether and keep the temporary restaurant open for good.  

Last week, my dear friend from high school came to town, and she said that there was really only one thing she wanted to do while in Northern California--eat at Ad Hoc.  In a Keller-themed day, we drove up to Napa last Thursday, where we had a lunch of sandwich and eclairs at Bouchon Bakery and wandered the gardens at the French Laundry (both Keller creations).  Not to worry, we also went to Cakebread and Grgich Hills for wine tastings, so she got the full Napa experience, even if all of it wasn't associated with Thomas Keller.

Reservation time rolled around, but there was a problem.  When we arrived at Ad Hoc, we discovered that our reservations were not for June 15, but for July 15.  To boot, the normally $49 four-course fixed menu had been replaced with a $149 ($99 with no wine) six-course extravaganza entitled "Pig and Swig."  Lucky for us, they were willing to accommodate us and settled us in at the bar.  And sweet jesus, sweet, sweet jesus, it was well worth it.

Because I had to drive, only my friend had the swig: eight glasses (really only a couple of flights) of wines from Peay, (the San Francisco Chronicle winery of the year in 2009) in Sonoma.  The wine was superb (she let me have a sip of each), particularly the Roussanne/Marsanne (and they grow only one acre (!) of these grapes).  However, we both gorged on the pig.  Seriously.  Prepare yourself for the list.  In six courses, I ate parts of a pig I would never have willfully ordered on my own.  But I am so glad that Chef de Cuisine Dave Cruise knew much better than I about what parts of the pig I would like best. 

We ate buttermilk fried chicken stuffed with guaniciale, a watercress and endive salad topped with pig ear lardons, house-cured lardo and sea urchin on crostini, petrale sole with shaved pig heart pastrami, sauteed pork trotters with smoked wild mushrooms, pate-stuffed pork chops, buttermilk sorbet, candied bacon, and miniature sourdough waffles.  Champions that we are, we oohed and awed and ate every last bite.

So I came home and immediately purchased the cookbook so I can pretend to replicate the sweet, sweet beauty of this restaurant.  While I come only fractionally close with this ragu, it is a transcendent way to pretend.  This cookbook, which many of you may already have since it has been a New York Times best seller, is lovely, providing cooking tips, whimsical photographs of Keller, the story of the restaurant, and superb recipes.  It's worth the price if only for the story of cooking even if you're not ready to start cooking.  A word to the wise, this cookbook is chock-full of family favorites (fried chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, beef stroganoff) and the techniques are accessible enough for the home cook; however, the recipes take some advance planning, often involving a brine or two to three subrecipes.  But such attention to detail makes each dish delectable indeed.

Anyway, let's get to the ragu--

Two days before you wish to eat the ragu, make the garlic confit and to soak the beans.  Garlic confit?--you ask.  Oh yes.  And do not skip this step, because the garlic and the oil are amazing, and the recipe makes plenty of it.  Which is a bonus because then there is oil for your pizza crusts and your vinaigrette and your garlic bread and ....You get the idea.

One day before you wish to eat the ragu, cook the beans and make the rest of the recipe.  And then do your very best not to eat it.  Because it is much better on the second day. 

While this is a typically winter dish, it is just a gussied up pork and beans, which works wonderfully with any summertime barbecue, which is how we ate it with another set of friends who have just arrived into town. 

Finally, this entry marks the halfway point for this blog (and apparently the year).   Here we are on cookbook number 26.  Such thinking about cooking and writing each week has been a joy, even if it has meant that I had to eat squab.  I am refreshed by cooking again and am reintroducing myself to old cookbooks and seeking out new ones.  What sweet joy.

Next week, be prepared for two entries early next week, as I am traveling out of town for ten days for another amazing friend's wedding.  There won't be much time for cooking with all the dancing I plan to do.

Garlic Confit and Oil
1 cup

1 cup peeled garlic cloves
About 2 cups canola oil

1.  Cut off and discard the root ends of the garlic cloves.  Put the cloves in a small saucepan and add enough oil to cover them by about 1 inch--none o the garlic cloves should be poking through the oil.

2.  Set the saucepan on low to medium-low heat.  The garlic should cook gently:  very small bubbles will come up through the oil, but the bubbles should not break the surface; adjust the heat as necessary and/r more the pan off the burner if cooking too quickly.

3.  Cook the garlic for about 40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the cloves are completely tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the garlic to cool in the oil.

4.  Refrigerate the garlic in a covered container, submerged in oil, for up to 1 week
[Use leftover garlic cloves or the oil in vinaigrette, brushed on baguette slices, or spread on toast).

Cooked Beans
7 cups

1 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) dried borlotti beans
1 medium leek, trimmed, split lengthwise, and rinsed
1/2 onion
1/2 large carrot, peeled
1 sachet (1 bay leaf, 3 thyme spices, 10 black peppercorns, 1 garlic clove (smashed and peeled))
8 cups water
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Kosher salt

1.   Put the beans in a large bowl, add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches.  Soak overnight.

2.  Drain the beans.  Put them in a large saucepan, add the leek, onion, carrot, and sachet, and pour in the water.  Bring to a simmer and simmer for 50 minutes to 1 hour.  The beans should be tender but not falling apart.  Remove from heat.

3.   Using a slotted spoon, spoon the beans into a bowl or container, discording the vegetables and sachet.  Strain the liquid over the beans.  Season with red wine vinegar and salt.  The beans can be refrigerated in their liquid for about 3 days.  Drain before serving.

Borlotti Bean Ragu
Serves 6

1 (6-ounce) piece of salt pork or slab bacon
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces) of unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup minced shallots
8 cloves of Garlic Confit (recipe above), crushed
3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped thyme leaves
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus additional to taste
7 cups cooked borlotti beans (recipe above)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock (preferably homemade), plus more as needed
1/4 cup chopped chives

1.  Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat until very hot:  preheating the pan will prevent the pork from sticking.  To test the heat, hold a corner of the pork against the pan:  if it sticks, heat the pan a bit longer.  Add the pork fat-side-down and lower the heat as necessary to render the fat without crisping and browning the meat.  Turn the pork to cook all sides, about 15 minutes total.

2.  Add the butter to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, swirling the pan often, until the butter has browned and the bubbles begin to subside, about 2 minutes.

3.  Add the shallots, garlic confit, 3 tablespoons of thyme, and the vinegar, then add the beans.  Season with salt and with a generous amount of pepper.  Add the chicken stock, stirring to emulsify the liquid and butter.  Bring to a simmer to heat the beans through.  Add the remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and additional salt, pepper, and/or vinegar to taste as necessary.

4.  Serve immediately or keep in a warm spot for up to an hour.  If the sauce begins to break or the beans look oily, stir in a small amount of chicken stock to re-emulsify it.  Reheat gently before serving, if necessary.  [I cooked these a lot longer!]

5.  Stir in the chives and serve.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cookbook #25: Williams Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking

Adapted from Cookbook #25:  Williams Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking

Recipe: Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

It's summer solstice. The longest day of the year.  The shortest night. Symbolically speaking, I could use these long days and some short nights. The days: a dear high school friend came to visit from North Carolina, school let out for summer, World Cup soccer launched into full force. But also the nights:  a memorial service and an unrelated but surprisingly tearful goodbye to a friend who is moving to Ohio. In other words, give me more days than nights right now.

So to cook at the midpoint of 2010, I quite simply made the homey, satisfying goodness of meatballs.

These particular meatballs are a wonderful blend of three meats (beef, pork, and veal (yes, I realize that's still cow, but work with me here)), and they braise (rather than brown) in a tomato and chipotle sauce.  And all of this from Williams Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking.  We nabbed this cookbook from Pegasus, the used bookstore down the street, because we own a beautiful All-Clad Slow Cooker. Sure, I make New England boiled dinner in it, and I have been known to make a mean chili. However, beyond that, the slow cooker is not really pulled out that often.  But then, I made the chicken paprika from this cookbook.  And life has never been the same since. I never knew. I just never knew.  This cookbook is worth the chicken paprika alone. But the meatballs are worth the bargain as well.

Back to the meatballs. These meatballs don't actually call for the slow cooker (some of the recipes are merely for braising, which I am a master at, so bring it on). They are spicy--the chipotle sort of guarantees this isn't an Italian kind of meal. This set of meatballs will clear out your sinuses. It will set your tongue on fire. However, truth be told, these are pretty darned fantastic. The spice. The blend of meats. A salad on the side, and you have a meal. The husband suggested a bit of french bread and, voila, a hogie, and he may be on to something here. More research will have to be performed tomorrow.

So tonight, the husband and I raised our glasses high to the summer solstice, basking in the Spain win over Honduras today, and trying to soak in the last hours of sunlight and of all that is good with 2010.

4 servings

2 lb ground beef, pork, and veal
1 egg
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup grates Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, pureed
1 can (14.5 ounces) chipotle chiles in adobo
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1.  Make the meatballs:  In a large bowl, combine the ground meats, egg, onion, bread crumbs, pine nuts, cheese, parsley, oregano, basil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Using your hands, gently but thoroughly blend the ingredients.  Form the mixture into meatballs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Set aside.

2.  In a small Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the onion and saute until softened, 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds.  Stir in the diced tomatoes, chipotles in adobo, and wine and bring to a boil.  Drop the meatballs into the sauce, gently spooning the sauce over them.  Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the meatballs are firm and cooked through, 20-30 minutes.

3.  Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.  Stir in the basil.  Divide the meatballs and tomato sauce among warmed plates and serve at once.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cookbook #24: Classic Indian Cooking

Adapted from Cookbook #24:  Classic Indian Cooking

Recipe:  Chicken in Onion Tomato Gravy (Murgh Masala)

I have already waxed poetic on the Indian food in the Bay Area.  However, this cookbook ensures that I have perfect Indian cooking at home anytime I want it--or am willing to devote the three hours of cooking time to make it.  Deciding that cooking was a fine way to spend a weekend afternoon, instead I made this during a weeknight last week (which would indicate why I didn't have the time to post it.  However, then with all the hullabaloo surrounding the end of the school year and a fantastic visit from a friend from out of town, I really never got around to posting.  I promise, I am not shirking my cooking duties, but I sure have been shirking the posting duties).

Anyway, The New York Times loved this classic cookbook, comparing it to Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cooking (to be featured here later). And it is a pretty grand cookbook, for Julie Sahni walks you through all the basics of Indian cooking with a kind a patience one must reserve for the American cook. With a full two pages devoted just to how to brown fry onions, garlic and ginger, Sahni explains to Westerners that there is nothing quite like this base for food in American or French kitchens.  Somewhere, she explains, "between sauteing and deep frying," Geela Masala Bhoonana (this concoction of onion, garlic and ginger) is intrinsic to Mogul cooking, adding color, flavoring and importantly thickening to the golden-reddish gravies.

In fact, the first 96 pages of the book are devoted to the "Principles of Indian Cooking," explaining spice blends, special techniques, and menu planning.  The final 30 pages (before the index) gives mail order and shopping guides for those not near a good Indian grocery store and a glossary of Indian words.  This classic, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, reminds you that Indian food is varied, complex, and while time-intensive, an approachable cuisine for even the most basic of cooks.  While she gives precise measurements of herbs and spices, she encourages her novice cooks to delve into their own artful cooking, tweaking, pinching, and making their dishes their own.  She equates such crafting of cooking through spices to learning a language and ultimately becoming comfortable enough within it to make it your own tongue.  Language and cooking.  Now that's something I can  get behind.

Finally, this recipe is a classic from Punjab (a state in Northwestern India on the border with Pakistan), a region known for diverse cooking ingredients and preparations.   This meal takes some time to make, but even if you're cooking only for two, you will want to make the whole recipe.  Leftovers are even better the next day.  So settle in, make some gravy.  It's worth it.

Serves 8

5 pounds chicken (legs, breasts, thighs), cut into small pieces
8 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cups thickly sliced onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger root
2 cinnamon sticks (3 inches long)
8 green cardamom pods
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red pepper
2 1/2 cups pureed fresh ripe tomatoes or 2 cups drained canned tomatoes chopped
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon ground roasted cumin seeds
3-4 tablespoons fresh cilantro

1. Add 8 tablespoons of oil to the pan, along with the onions at medium-high heat.  Fry onions until they turn light brown (about 30 minutes).  Stir occasionally (especially at the beginning) to prevent burning.

2.  Add garlic and ginger and fry for an additional 5 minutes.

3.  Add cinnamon and cardamom, and continue frying until the spices begin to brown and are slightly puffed (about 2 minutes).

4.  Add turmeric and red pepper, and stir rapidly for 10-15 seconds.

5.  Add pureed or chopped tomatoes, along with the chicken, salt, and two cups of boiling water.  Stir to mix, reduce heat and simmer, covered until chicken is cooked and very tender and the gravy has thickened (about 45 minutes).  If the gravy has not thickened adequately, increase heat and boil rapidly, uncovered, until it thickens to the consistency of a beef stew.  If, on the other hand, the evaporation is too fast, add a little water.  Check frequently during cooking to ensure that the sauce is not burning.  The finished dish should have plenty of thick, pulpy gravy.

6.  Turn off heat, and let the dish rest, covered, for at least an hour, preferably 2, before serving.  When ready to serve, heat thoroughly, fold in roasted cumin and chopped cilantro, check for salt, and serve.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cookbook #23: Bobby Flay's Bold American Food

Adapted from Cookbook #23:  Bobby Flay's Bold American Food

Recipe: Loin Lamb Chops with Jalapeno Preserves

This entry is not for vegetarians.

Nope.  I wasn't really a fan of lamb.  I often found it gamy (I love this spelling of "gamey" by the way) and chewy, which I always thought was a little odd, given that the little lambs had not done a lot of frolicking.  How could they get so "lamby" tasting?  But I learned with this recipe that it's not that I don't like lamb.  It's that I have expensive taste.

The loin chop of a lamb is the most tender part.  In fact, I kind of loved this chart here.  Browse!  Look at where the cut of meat comes from!  I do love a good chart.

Anyway, the loin chop is actually quite mild and tender when cooked medium rare (or almost rare in my case; I admit it, I like my meat to be seared on the outside and quite pink in the middle--I realize I am courting disaster here, but at least I will have lived a life of good meats).  Bobby Flay steers you correctly in insisting on the wood (or charcoal) grilling (he does give the option of broiling, but that would be wrong).  I am not much of a master at the grill, so I had lots of guidance from the husband.  Because of the husband's proclivity towards the grill (we have two (!) in the backyard), we own quite a few books guiding the cooking of meat over the open flame.  By the end of the summer, I imagine I will be the one giving chimney lighting lessons and meat flipping demonstrations.  In the mean time, I was well supervised.

I also learned a little about lamb slaughtering.  Baby lamb and spring lamb are milk fed:  while baby lambs are usually slaughtered between 6-8 weeks old and a spring lamb is slaughtered at 3-5 months.  If your lamb is not designated baby or spring, then it was slaughtered between 6-12 months.  Anything older than a year, it's a yearling, and anything older than 2 years is mutton

A note on the jalapeno preserves.  Wow.  This makes a lot.  But it's quite good and can be used on cornbread.  I seeded the jalapenos when I made mine, and I think you could leave some of the seeds in.  All that vinegar and sugar took a lot of the heat out.

Finally, I know this entire entry sounds blasphemous, especially considering the years and years I spent not eating meat (including shunning anything with chicken broth in it).  But ten years ago, I came to California with the husband (then the boyfriend) for Thanksgiving with the parents.  I sat at the table, not tempted at all by the turkey or gravy or stuffing.  I ate the yams, the Brussels sprouts, the mashed potatoes and the pumpkin pie with relish and glee.  I had almost ten years of vegetarianism under my belt.  I didn't even think about meat.

But then...

I was alone in the kitchen tidying up.  And there it was.

The turkey.

And it tasted so good.

So today I raise a toast (with a cup of tea, which I am holding as I write this) to meats everywhere--be they lamb, turkey, beef, or pork.  Although, I am still afraid of eating rabbit, and I will take a pass on the squab.  Hurray for meat.

(By the way--I realize (dear singular reader) that I did not get this entry up last week, but I did make all of these dishes then.  We have had cause to celebrate as the husband landed employment after seven months of searching.  This little dinner was part of the week of celebrations, and I have been remiss in staying atop the blog.  You understand, of course.)

Loin Lamb Chops
4 servings

8 loin lamb chops
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Jalapeno Preserves (see below)

1. Prepare a wood or charcoal fire and let it burn down to embers.

2.  Brush the chops lightly with oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Grill for 4 minutes per side for medium rare, or to your liking.

3.  Bring the preserves to room temperature and serve with the lamb chops.  Allow 2 tablespoons per serving.

Jalapeno Preserves

6 cups (Bobby Flay says, "Do not multiply or divide this recipe; it won't work."  Okay.)

3 medium red bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
6 jalapenos, minced
4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3.4 cup liquid fruit pectin

1. In a heavy 2-quart saucepan over high heat, combine the peppers, jalapenos, sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20  minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.  Be careful not to let the mixture boil over.

2.  Turn off the heat and add the pectin, mixing well.  Turn the heat on a again to high and cook until the mixture comes back to a boil.  Pour into sterilized jars and seal according to the manufacturer's directions.  May also be refrigerated, covered, for up to 6 months in a nonreactive bowl or jar.