Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Leftover Passover

Last night's Seder left me with a lot of leftovers. I make no claims at being the world's foremost scholar on Jewish tradition (a shock to most of you, I know) but I'm of the understanding that some Jews celebrate Passover with two meals on the first night and the second night of Passover. Some celebrate only the first night. Given that I enjoy nothing more than a reason to make something particular for dinner I opted to follow the former method of Jewish Passover celebration.

I roasted a half chicken with some horseradish and paprika. I did this because these are ingredients that in my admittedly ignorant view view are appropriate for a Passover Seder. Also a part of any leftover Seder dinner: the remaining roasted potatoes and spring onions with mushrooms from the night before.

The result was the most intensely brown dinner you could possibly imagine. Even Paula Deen couldn't conjure up a dinner quite this brown.

There was plenty of chopped liver left over from last night but I served up some leftover charoset instead. The chopped liver mysteriously and unfortunately slipped out of my hand when I tried to plate it up. I bobbled it for a few seconds and it landed right in the trash! Can you believe it? Some luck I have! What are the odds?

I made the charoset with red wine, raisins, Granny Smith apples, cinnamon, pecans, and pistachios with just a little of this delicious honey form New York.

I only had 20 minutes to prepare dinner tonight. I generally heat the oven up really hot then throw dinner in, turn the oven off, and go pick up Jen from the train station. I've become a master of this cooking method over the past few months.

To wrap up we had a little leftover matzoh crunch. Seeing that I made enough for sixty people I think we're going to be eating this treat nightly.

Perhaps we'll still be "enjoying it" by the time Rosh Hashanah rolls around.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Pesach It To Me

It seems that Passover always comes during an immensely busy time for me at work. Last year's Seder came during a big project at work and consisted largely of store bought items since I only had 45 minutes (including my drive home) to prepare the feast.

This year was a comparative luxury with an hour and a half to prepare for dinner! This is more time than I generally have so I used the first half hour to completely clean the kitchen from our lamb and pastry mess of the weekend.

For starters I made this plate of chopped liver which I served with Rick's Picks Phat Beets, cornichons, and sliced shallots. This alone may have constituted a pretty good dinner.

I've gotta say that I'm not really a huge fan of chopped liver. Every time I eat it I grow a deeper understanding of the expression, "What am I chopped liver?"

I also made some hard boiled eggs to go along with the plate. This is one of Jen's least favorite food items in the entire world so I knew I was on my own with these guys. My excitement for hard boiled eggs, while enormous in comparison to Jen's, is still a bit on the low side. Still, it's tradition, and you can't argue with tradition. You can, however, eat a mess of cornichons, and pickled beets.

The smoked sable also took a bit of the edge off. I also broke up some matzoh to serve with this Jewish meze platter. Overall I think next year we should maybe try to traditionalize foods that we actually enjoy to have a more favorable experience.

I also realized that I could have simply made a giant bowl of charoset and Jen would have been just as happy.

For the main course I ground up some pistachios and layered some fresh horseradish on these salmon fillets. I roasted them in the oven along with some paprika and garlic coated new potatoes. I also sweated some spring onions with baby portobello mushrooms.

Last year we had Manischewitz and I can't classify it as anything other than a terrible mistake. This year I opted to go with something local to New York and not a sickeningly sweet wine: He'Brew: The Chosen Beer.

Yesterday I made this matzoh crunch which is one of my all time favorite desserts. I coated one with sliced pecans and left one natural. We enjoyed this with some non-traditional lemon zinger tea. We also wondered if there were any traditional Passover movies like A Christmas Story. After not discovering any we opted to create our own: Love and Death.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Them Bones

Hey, don't be a freeloader! follow our blog, then be a freeloader!

Tonight's dinner started out with this: a gelatinous cube of leftover osso bucco. Looking at this in the pan I wondered if the plans I'd concocted earlier in the day would pan out as well as I'd expected. Normally my day-after plan for osso bucco is to turn it into a delicious pasta with truffle oil. This, while delicious, has gotten old over the last decade. Tonight I decided to do something a little different.

I was taking an awful risk. This had better work.

I started off with a Spring Fling Ale from Blue Point Brewing Company on Long Island. Earlier in the day I'd asked Jen to make a batch of sour cream pastry dough which she did superbly. You can see the flour from the dough I'd just rolled out clumsily tracked all over my beer glass.

I'd cooked the osso bucco down with the bones in the pan to get every bit of flavor out of them. When I went to remove them from the pan to add them to the bottom of the pastry crust I'd just baked I thought it a shame. Instead I decided to use these fantastic bones as a weird inter-pastry garnish. While Jen found this to be a little off-putting I was quite pleased with the end result.

As someone who was once responsible for baking and pastry production in a Five Star Diamond Awarded restaurant you would think that I would use a little more care in my arrangement of this pastry crust. I'm not sure at what point it was but sometime (roughly 8-to-10 years ago) I decided I was done with taking any sort of care in my pastry crust. I also decided, after years of having knife skills beaten into me, that I was not going to spend any amount of time making careful measured knife cuts that are referred to with French terminology.

No, I'm no longer a slave to "precision" and "nice appearence." The pastry crust was perfectly made, tender and flaky, and held together beautifully even as the vessel for a hearty veal stew. Who cares if it looks like it was inexpertly pieced together by a three-year-old? Not me!

I'm comfortable enough in my ability to perform these tasks properly that I can celebrate this vacation from tedium and not have to take any care in my technique so long as the taste is delicious.

It's so good to be free of the brunoise.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Osso Beaucoup

If Weather.com is to be believed it was 37 degrees this morning. If my ability to not wear a jacket and walk to the store and actually sweat a little is to be believed I'm guessing it was closer to 57 degrees this morning. I was a little worried that tonight's dinner plans (which involved running the oven for three to four hours) may be ill advised.

Once a year I like to make Osso Bucco. In our old apartment, even in the dead of winter when this dish is best served, this was often a bad move that lead to us having to open all our windows and still sweating for the rest of the evening. This year I had waited way too long in the season for this dish. In preparation I opened all the windows in our new apartment only to find that after two hours I had lost feeling in my fingers.

Apparently our new apartment has this new technology known as ventilation. This means that we don't have to stop using our oven between April and Novemeber.

An avocado was enjoying its retirement on our counter and was days away from joining the big guacamole bowl in the sky. I took advantage of this situation and turned it into this salad using some baby heirloom tomatoes, beet greens, red leaf, watercress, lemon, and olive oil.

For bread we enjoyed a little sourdough with this Fromage D'Affinois. Don't feel intimidated if you're not into cheese. Put simply this is cheese from Affinois. See? Learning about cheese is easy!

Jen received this bottle of Covey Run as a gift. Don't feel intimidated if you're not into wine. Put simply this is just a pair of birds and their young, or a small flock, that are running! See? Learning about wine is easy too!

As an accompaniment for the final course I made potato and sweet potato fries. The restaurant I used to watch at served brabant potatoes as an accompaniment for osso bucco. While delicious they're quite wasteful as they involve throwing away about 30% of the potato. I much prefer this less precise version which also requires less butter and less fuss. I find the dicing of any vegetable these days to be more of an annoyance than anything else.

I had a vision of doing something to put a spin on classic osso bucco but in the end I just did it the same way I always do it. It's hard to veer too much from tradition in these dishes I do once a year. I could have went heavier with the root vegetables if I'd taken the care to actually make this while it was cold out. However, since I was running out of time I just went ahead and made it Plain Jane style.

Now that that's cleared out of the freezer it's time to roll full speed into Spring. Unfortunately it's a little too early for any of the necessary vegetables to really be ready.

And with Spring approaching I'm reminded of the fact that we have not locked on to any local farm share at all. Most of the farm shares where we live now cost about as much per year as it would to purchase an iPhone for every man, woman, and child in the state of New York.

If anyone has any leads on a reasonably priced farm share please drop us a line. We'll cook a vegetable dish and name it after you!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March Into Spring Into March

Ah, Spring. It's such a great season for cooking. It's totally my fourth favorite season for cooking! No exaggerating!

And what better to ring in spring than some hearty root vegetables like these beets? Along with some "gourmet" tomatoes (I believe they're called "gourmet" because some of them are not simply red) some Mt. Vikos Feta, watercress, red leaf, and beet greens it made for a fantastic first course.

We enjoyed this meal with some Karma Vista Merlot which we purchased on our trip to Michigan last summer and which was thoughtfully transported to New York by Jen's father this past November.

What better to celebrate the coming of Spring than these wonderful spring onions? I'd intended to grill them but the pouring rain and cold prevented me from doing any outdoor cooking this evening. Instead I roasted them in the oven and served them with some balsamic glaze.

For the final course ia d fakd akldj; klfadj;ladkj;lak,amdnalkdnadnf

Oh, sorry about that. I got so bored by the dinner course that I fell asleep right on my keyboard! For the final course I roasted a half chicken with some rosemary and some roasted red bliss potatoes. Yup. That's about it. Not breaking any major culinary ground here.

For tomorrow's dinner I'm going to balance this boring dinner out by cutting open a rattlesnake and eating its still beating heart. Nothing says spring like beating rattlesnake hearts!

Monday, March 22, 2010

No Choice Eats

Tonight Jen was enjoying Choice Eats 2010. I would have been enjoying this as well if I weren't too stupid to have claimed tickets early enough. No matter. While she was enjoying the Village Voice's third annual tasting event I was enjoying my own first annual tasting event: Hastily Cobbled Together Eats 2010. Participating chefs: me. Distinguished guests: me. Other guests: none.

It was an all day extravaganza of getting rid of the crap in the fridge! I started off by repurposing last night's skirt stead on some leftover garlic bread with some Emmentaler and a little of the remaining Reuben sauce.

I also had some more peppadew and another Grillo's pickle. It may have been better to have made a hot soup out of all this on this cold and rainy day but conventions be damned. It was a good lunch.

Later on I used the remaining grilled vegetables from last night, some frozen pesto I uncovered in the freezer after the power outage, shrimp, scallops, and a little cream to make this Pipe Rigate with pesto cream sauce. I served it with some salad, peppadew, tomato, and Jen's citrus vinaigrette from last night.

It was really my only option for dinner. The fridge is notably bare this evening and if I wish to actually make dinner tomorrow night I'm going to have to do a little replenishing.

Sorry, Jen. Too bad you had to go and enjoy some of New York City's finest restaurants tonight! You missed out on all of these hastily thrown together leftovers!

Don't let it ruin your evening. I saved you some leftovers. What could be better than a speedily crafted pasta? A cold speedily crafted pasta, that's what.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

All Up In Our Grill

For the past ten years I have lived exclusively in places where I have not owned or had access to a grill. Aside from visits to my parents' house or a friend's house I have been unable to grill anything anytime I want.

Today, all that changed.

It's fitting that on the first day of spring (or is it the first full day of spring -- who knows?) that I was able to put an end to this terrible decade-long period of sadness.

A couple of weeks ago I purchased a grill in preparation for the warmer weather. The grill was a bargain at $99. I thought this was a tremendous deal until I opened the box and found a barrel cut in half, four thousand screws, and a slip of paper that read: "You figure it out."

Eventually I did figure it out. Unfortunately, what I hadn't figured on, was the four additional hours of curing time the grill needed before its first use. We had company coming over in about three hours so this suddenly made our dinner plans a little tighter than I'd originally thought.

Luckily for us (unlucky for Caolan, Paul, and Laura -- our guests) they were running late! I did a poor job of following the directions on curing the grill. I was supposed to coat it in vegetable oil and maintain a temperature of 225 degrees for 2 hours. I overshot that a little and maintained the temperature around 600 degrees instead. Maintaining a grill at a temperature of only 225 degrees is a little challenging. It's like maintaining a pot of water on the stove at 90 degrees.

After the first stage I maintained it at 400 degrees (actually 400 degrees this time) for an hour and let it cool for one hour. Just in time to load it back up with charcoal and get to it with the actual cooking just before our guests arrived.

Jen garnished a little Greek hummus with some kalamata olives and olive oil and served it up with pita chips. This was the perfect distraction for everyone while I fumbled around in the yard with the grill.

I started with some grilled vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, fennel, red and yellow peppers, and asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. There may have been some rosemary purchased for this but I foolishly forgot to add it.

Then I just barely grilled this marinated skirt steak for about two minutes on each side. I served it with parsley and peppadew just to add a little color to the plate. I marinated the steak for about six hours in some Newman's Own dressing. I always feel like a complete sell out using salad dressing as a marinade but generally it works pretty well. I still think that next time I would opt to simply do a dry rub for skirt steak. I'm not sure the marinade is really necessary on this cut of meat.

I also grilled up this foil-wrapped garlic bread. Jen made the garlic butter so I don't really know what was in it but the result was a giant garlic-butter sandwich that we cut up into slices and served along with the salad (not pictured) of red leaf, baby spinach, tomato, feta, and cucumber.

For dessert Jen made some delicious lemon cake that we served with whipped cream and blueberries. For the whipped cream Caolan presented an innovative new technique by which you pass the bowl around the table and everyone takes a turn whipping. At the end you have a bowl of whipped cream and no one has a sore arm! There is nothing I love more than the introduction to a previously undreamed culinary technique.

Except owning a grill.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Reuben and the Jets

Tonight was finally the night to utilize our corned beef leftovers to make perhaps the greatest leftover dish: Corned Beef Reubens.

I used the leftover seeded carraway rye bread with a little butter and olive oil in the pan. I topped the corned beef with a little thinly sliced Emmentaler and some sauerkraut. I made the sauce a little differently than I had in the past. I just used mayonnaise, ketchup, dijon mustard, chili, Worchestershire, and a little sweet pickle relish.

There were so many leftover root vegetables that I decided to use them to make a salad. I chopped up potatoes, turnip, rutabaga, golden beet, and carrots and made a dressing very similar to the one I used for the Reubens. I also chopped up some scallions and tossed in some peppadew for good measure.

I believe this year's Reubens were even more triumphant than last year's. A factor in that may have been that Jen was not recovering from knee surgery and had full mobility. That will make any dinner taste better.

As a final touch I served the sandwiches with Grillo's Pickles, a pickle company from Boston, Massachusetts. some would suggest Rick's Picks as they are a bit more local but Grillo's are fairly new in this area and I wanted to give them support. If you are into pickles you should definitely check them out. You can find out where to buy Grill's Pickles here. Or follow them on Twitter.

You know, if you're the type of person who wants to follow a pickle company on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Corned Beef and Cabbage (But Wait, There's More!)

My grandfather was Italian. To drive this point home his parents named him Giovanni in case there would be any future question about his heritage. He was also born on St. Patrick's Day. It may have been for that reason or for the 2.6% Irish ancestry he had that he was given the middle name of Patrick.

In honor of my grandfather's tiny amount of Irish heritage (and by extension my even smaller amount of Irish heritage) I made the traditional corned beef and cabbage for tonight. Traditional, of course, in the American-Irish sense, not in the sense that people in Ireland have ever heard of this.

However, this year, I wanted to change it up a little bit. Jen was skeptical of this as she is about everything I make for dinner every day.

It just occurred to me yesterday that limiting corned beef and cabbage to merely corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots was a huge missed opportunity! With so many root vegetables nearing the end of their cellar-life we should be celebrating the end of the winter with a medley of root vegetables.

The problem with root vegetables is that even buying them one by one still gives you an enormous quantity -- some would say too much for one single pot.

Due to the vast quantity of vegetables that needed to be thoroughly boiled we started off with some of the remaining soda bread and Kerrygold butter along with some fantastic Killaree Irish Cheddar. The Killaree is so cheap and and so good that you actually feel guilty while consuming it.

I had the brilliant idea to make a Black & Tan (or Half and Half, or whatever you want to call it) using local beers. As you can see from this picture it was a huge failure. I used Saranac Limited Edition Irish Stout and Brooklyn Lager which apparently share too common a density and color to make this successful. Delicious but not really successful. Next time I'll try something a little lighter in color than Brooklyn Lager. But maybe the Saranac stout was too heavy. Maybe there's a reason people do this almost exclusively with Guinness and Harp and I should just accept that. However, I'm far too stubborn to accept anything of the sort.

Normally I just cook up the corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots in the same pot with the corned beef spices. This year I tried something different and added a couple of the Saranac stouts and some beef stock. I also added a few different root vegetables: rutabaga, turnip, golden beets, and onion. It was a good addition to the potatoes, cabbage, and carrots.

Toward the end I also tossed in some Irish bangers. Why have one meat when you can have two meats? Besides, I was still feeling bad about the sausages I had to throw out the other day after our power outage.

I didn't want to serve this with just any old mustard. I spent the day on Long Island and picked up this Sweet Smooth Hot Mustard from SchoolHouse Kitchen from Brooklyn, NY. It's probably not the most traditional mustard to serve with this dinner but the mustard itself is very unique. Plus part of the proceeds from this mustard go to help educational organizations. You can't say that about Grey Poupon!

Part of Grey Poupon's proceeds go to helping obnoxious rich guys pull up alongside you in their limo and ask you if you have any of their favorite mustard. Hardly as good a charity in my opinion.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bubble and Squeak

Bubble and Squeak is a traditional English dish similar to the Irish equivalent of Colcannon. It's basically made with a bunch of leftover vegetables one has lying around. Say you were to lose power and have a bunch of vegetables doomed for the garbage can. Let's also pretend, just for fun, that St. Patrick's day was just around the corner. What more perfect dish could there be to make?

Supposedly bubble and squeak gets its name from the sound it makes in the pan. I think it would be unusual to come up with this name for it since it neither bubbles nor squeaks in the pan from my experience. In some parts it is referred to as bubble and scrape which is at least half right since the dish does require some deal of scraping with a spatula or spoon.

I made this version of bubble and squeak by boiling some leeks, carrots, brussel sprouts, potatoes, rutabaga, and turnip in salted water, straining, then mashing it lightly and browning in a pan with some olive oil and butter. I cooked it for about 30 minutes, turning it ever few minutes and added in some fresh rosemary.

When it was done I served served it with some seeded carraway bread and more Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter.

Then things got a little weird. I had some duBreton ground pork from Quebec and some ham steaks that I was concerned about after the power outage. So I rendered a little bacon, cooked up some red onion, then added the ground pork and ham steaks and cooked them with some cayenne and crushed, toasted carraway seeds.

After dinner I had a few sips of the Jameson which we'd used to soak the raisins in on Saturday night. After soaking the raisins I'd put the leftover whiskey in the freezer. The raisins didn't really lend all that much flavor to the whiskey having only macerated for about thirty minutes but the whiskey was still fairly tasty.

Tonight I enjoyed leftovers and prepared myself mentally for tomorrow's St. Patrick's Day dinner which will feature a lot of completely Americanized traditions that will be completely unrecognizable to any Irish person outside of the United States.

That's how we do it -- American style!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware the Ides of SUCK!

Note: There was a HUGE storm in New York and Connecticut on Saturday night that took down power lines, tore up trees, and took out power for 173,000 lucky New Yorkers -- including us. I guess we're just lucky. You've gotta be in it to win it! Below is what I started writing at about 7:00 PM on Saturday night while dinner was cooking on the stove and in the oven.

Tonight there is a veritable state of emergency in New York and Connecticut. High winds are ripping down trees, power lines, signs on the highway, and even street lights. While the drive home from work was reminiscent of some of the milder scenes in 2012 I did make it home unscathed. A tree almost fell on my car and my pants were soaked but not an ounce of scathe got me. I'm just slippery that way.

With St. Patrick's Day just around the corner it was time to get into the spirit of this holiday that, up until starting this blog, I pretty much despised. I'm not a big fan of a holiday that makes people claim they are a nationality that they are not just so that they can drink beer (see also: Cinqo de Mayo). However, I am a fan of a holiday that gives you an excuse to make foods that there is actually no restriction from making year round.

This year Saranac made a "Limited Edition" Irish Stout. I figured this would be a perfect excuse to make lamb and Guinness stew but with a

Here is where my computer (and all of our power) kicked off and our 48 hours of hell (but mostly boredom) kicked in. We had no electricity, hot water, or heat. Here is where I picked up around 4:00 PM today when I returned to our home, newly restored with electricity.

Okay. So while I wrote this the computer cut off mid sentence. I figured that the power would just be out for a few minutes but that turned into more like two days without power.

Right before the power went out I had journeyed out in the pouring rain to obtain some Irish Whisky. It wasn't really a necessary item but Jen had a great idea to rehydrate the raisins for the soda bread she was going to make along with whisky rather than water. I loved this idea as one of the things that was beaten into me at culinary school (literally, not figuratively) was that you should never use water for anything in any recipe if there is an alternative option available that actually has flavor. This is a maxim that Jen tends to live by when she considers drinking anything.

The soda bread went into the oven while we still had electricity but came out, just as the stew did, by the light of one scented candle.

The stew came out pretty well considering the obstacles. I had planned on thickening it a bit but by the time it was done and out of the oven the challenge of cooking in the dark was enough to prevent me from trying anything else too clever.

I made it with broned lamb stew meat, beef stock, garlic, onion, celery, carrot, potato, and rosemary. I served it over barley which Jen was very skeptical about but it turned out it wasn't the worst thing in the world after all.

The soda bread came out great! We enjoyed it with some Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter. What makes it Irish? I believe it's the fact that it's made in Ireland. Apparently Irish cows make some delicious butter. In fact most European cows do. There is nothing quite like a high fat European butter to make you appreciate the fact that regular butter, which you may have always thought was delicious, is actually not good at all by comparison.

Saranac made another limited edition beer this year with its Irish Red. I had been excited to try this beer but my excitement turned into extreme grumpiness as I realized that the power was likely not coming back on while we were awake. This turned the sweet beer bitter in my mouth.

I'm looking forward to trying it again tonight with my favorite accompaniment: electricity.

I had the brilliant idea to empty as much of my fridge and freezer as I could and taking it with me to work to freeze and refrigerate to save it. Sadly, this is what I could not salvage. As someone who prides himself in using all the part of the buffalo it was extra painful throwing this all into the garbage.

What I thought would have been several days of St. Patrick's Day cooking turned into mostly scrambling around to try to salvage food. But tonight we're back! We've minimized our losses.

Now it's time for St. Patrick's Day madness to continue! Bring it on, Mother Nature! It'll take a lot more than that to stop me from preparing half-assed meal celebrations of holidays that I don't really care about! My devotion to such time-wasting nonsense is stronger than your piddling "winds" and "rains" and "70 mph winds."

Culinary tomfoolery will prevail.