Monday, February 23, 2009

mellow yellow

So, I was really excited about making chicken cashew curry. It was really very good. I do not have a lot of experience making curry anything; this type of cooking is always an adventure for me. The end result was tasty -- mellow, smoky, and shockingly yellow! There are random bright yellow stains on my kitchen counters still. I refuse to clean with bleach. Eventually, the yellow will come out of there.

I borrowed heavily from Nigella Lawson's recipe for the same from her cookbook Forever Summer... well, I guess I borrowed heavily but in looking at the original recipe, I think I made more changes than not.

Chicken cashew curry

3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Serrano chilies, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
5 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bit-sized pieces
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup peas
1/2 cup cashew nuts, heaping
3 tablespoons full fat yogurt

Heat oil in a wide saucepan and fry the onions gently, sprinkled with a little salt to stop them burning, until softened and then add the garlic, chilies, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cardamom, and coriander and cook,stirring, for another minute or so. Remove the onions from the pan. Salt the chicken well and brown on all sides over high heat. Remove from the pan. Add the onions back in and then the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and add the chicken back in with any accumulated juices. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is just about cooked through. Check the seasoning and add the peas, cooking for another 5 minutes or so. Add the cream to the curry and simmer until thickened, about 5-8 minutes. Toast the cashew nuts in a dry frying pan until colored a little, then tip in the cashew nuts into the chicken mixture.

I served this with a spoonful of the yogurt over basmati rice and naan. It was rather good but I think next time, I will make it a bit hotter in flavor.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

while shepherds watched their flocks by night

I imagine shepherd's pie has many different interpretations. The authentic is lamb stew covered with mashed potatoes... I think. As I have mentioned before, I am pretty Irish/English, so I guess I have it in my blood to like this kind of food. What I made last night as pictured above is not authentic shepherd's pie but since I was originally planning to make tacos, I considered this an upgrade, you know? Nothing wrong with tacos but I unfortunately don't have the chops (literally) to eat crunchy things right now. Behcet's disease (which I apparently have) causes very painful mouth ulcers with flare ups (which I am apparently in the middle of yet again) so hard taco shells were out of the question.

Ok, enough of my pity party. I wanted something rich and creamy and I was certain I wanted mashed potatoes. Enter shepherd's pie. I really didn't care that I was feeling pretty lousy and lacked the energy to make this... although cooking is effort, it really does make me feel better. It is my thing. My thing.

Shepherd's pie that is not authentic but is pretty darn good anyway modified from Alton Brown's episode "Oh my, meat pie"

For the potatoes:

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the meat filling:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
6 cremini mushroom, washed and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons freshly chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas

4 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese


Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the sour cream and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the sour cream, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion,carrots, and mushroom and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
Add the peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 9, 2009

it's been too long

It has been way too long since I posted a picture of my beloved beagles! Here they are in a sunbeam. I used the portrait setting on my camera and the sunbeam was behind me, so they are well lit but everything around and behind them is dark.

I love these dogs.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A new favorite - Avgolemeno (chicken soup with lemon-egg sauce)

Once again, I am Irish/English. No Italian and no Greek blood in me.

I am not sure why I really desired to make this soup in the first place. I don't know what made me search for recipes for lemon chicken soup but I am very glad I did. I think it is basically that I love soup and wanted something different. I am blessed to have a husband who is willing to go out on most culinary limbs with me and try something new.

This soup was so lovely and wonderful. I was not feeling well at all the day I made and ate it. Which makes me wonder -- I don't know how much I have mentioned before on this blog about my health but the short version is I have a chronic illness. This is new within the last couple of years and has been a big adjustment for me. Anyway, the soup. Yes, I was feeling really lousy but I was so determined to make this soup and I am happy that I stuck to it. The end result was well worth all the work and the soup made me feel better, really. I got a recipe from Cat Cora on the FoodTV website. I used orzo instead of alborio rice since I... well, I just wanted to, really. Rice didn't sound all that good in there to me, honestly. Tender cooked orzo however, really did.

Basically, the soup is a homemade chicken broth strained, cooked onions and dried pasta added in along with the cooked chicken meat. Then the whole thing is thickened with a tempered egg and lemon mixture.

I served it with bread and a salad with kalamata olives, goat's cheese, and a light vinaigrette. I was hesitate to add the egg mixture to all of the soup since we were going to eat the leftovers for lunch the following day. Many items thickened with egg will curdle when reheated since it can be just too much stress and I was scared of that happening to my leftovers. I am pleased to say that this soup did not curdle when slowly reheated over low the following day.

Avgolemeno (adapted from Cat Cora) serves 8
1 (3 pound) free range chicken
12 cups cold water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 leek, cleaned and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and quartered
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups finely diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
2/3 cup orzo
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a 6 to 8-quart stockpot, combine the chicken, water, and 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; immediately reduce the heat to a very low simmer, and skim the foam from the surface. Add the leek, carrot, and bay leaves and continue to simmer with the chicken until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove chicken from the broth, and allow meat to cool. Strain the broth and skim the fat. (Place the broth in the refrigerator to make it easier to skim.)

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Dice the meat into large cubes; refrigerate until ready to use.

Return the broth to high heat, add the orzo and onion and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is almost cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add the chicken and reduce the broth to a low simmer.

In a medium sized bowl, beat the lemon juice, eggs, and pepper. Ladle 2 cups of hot broth into a measuring cup with a pourable spout. While whisking, slowly pour the 2 cups of broth into the egg mixture. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot with the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt. Stir well to blend. Divide among bowls and serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A proper bolognese sauce

I should preface anything I say here with the following: My family heritage is Irish and English. You won't find a drop of Italian blood anywhere. Not a drop.

I really wanted to make a proper bolognese sauce for linguine the other night. I had it in my mind how good it was going to be. I could just about smell and taste it. I could imagine what it would feel like to eat it. Yes, I said that. I am a foodie.

I went to the grocery store and discovered that I was not only unable to get pancetta but there was not a bit of ground veal to be found. I live in the boondocks. However, I pressed on! I bought salt pork for the pancetta and used straight ground chuck instead of a mix of chuck and veal. I suppose this was more humane anyway.

This is a far cry from the "spaghetti sauce" I ate as a child. That was tomato sauce with meat. This is meat sauce with tomato. There is a world of difference between the two really. I think of bolognese sauce as a savory meat pudding almost. It is thick, creamy and delicious. The meat is tender and practically melts into the sauce... it becomes the sauce in a way.

I am going to stop now. You just have to try it for yourself.

Bolognese sauce
6 ounces salt pork or pancetta, diced
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 1/4 cups finely chopped carrots
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/3 crushed tomatoes
3 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 pound linguine pasta, prepared according to package directions
Finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until it is crisp and has released almost all of its fat, about 6 minutes.

Add the onion, carrots, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are very soft and lightly browned around the edges, about 6 minutes.

Add the ground chuck and cook, stirring to break up any clumps, until the meat is browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the , garlic, and crushed tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so that the sauce just simmers. Simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes.

After the sauce has simmered for 15 minutes, add the milk a little at a time, like 1 tablespoon or so at a time over 1 1/2 hours. By the end of the 1 1/2 hours, the milk should all be in and the sauce should be very thick.