Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers (Round 1)

There is something galvanizing about the intense rush to utilize leftovers. It's a race against time and the consequences are life or death. It's like that movie where Jason Statham has to keep using up Thanksgiving leftovers or else his heart with explode and then he fights some guys in an oil slick while wearing bike pedals on his feet.

What can I say? I've always been an adrenaline junkie.

Sunday afternoon I used up some of Jen's popular rolls and made these turkey sliders. The rolls were the biggest hit of Thanksgiving this year. I had a great idea to hook up my ipod in the bathroom and play Thelonious Monk albums on shuffle so people could mellow out to some his 50's and 60's jazz stylings. Surprisingly, that was the second biggest hit of this year's Canadian Thanksgiving. Go figure.

I filled the rolls with turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a slices of Manchego. They were divine.

By Monday night we were ready for something a little lighter so we made Jen's turkey chinois salad. This consists of nappa cabbage, shredded carrot, scallion, chopped almonds, and julienned mini bell peppers that Jen picked up last week at the farmer's market with the express purpose of putting in a horn of plenty then forgot.

Jen loves few things in this world more than a horn of plenty.

On Tuesday we made a triumphant return to unhealthy foods with hot turkey sandwiches. Jen and I have an annual open-faced/closed sandwich duel. The winner? Everyone!

By Wednesday we were fortunate enough to be able to convince some friends to come over and give us a hand. I think this is the first time we were ever able to do this successfully. I made turkey pot pie with the leftover turkey, gravy, and roasted vegetables (shallots, rutabaga, turnip, carrot, butternut, and sweet potato).

Wednesday I thickened up the creamy polenta leftover and cooled them so that on Thursday I could grill it. I tossed some kale in lemon and olive oil and served this over the top. With the remaining brussel sprouts I made a mustard and apple cider vinaigrette with the remaining bacon, onion, and apple and tossed it all together.

I topped the polenta with cherry habanero jelly that Jen had brought home with her form Cherry Country on her recent trip to Portland.

By Thursday I had frozen everything that I could in hopes for some future use. This usually means waiting for several months then throwing it all away. Hopefully I'll be more diligent this year.

Last night I came home to Jen who was in full Halloween attire as a 40's military woman and ready to go to the Halloween party we were to attend. She'd been ready for some time as I was three hours late returning to work after 95 was shut down to capture some really bad carjackers. This is my second favorite shutting-down-95 story trailing after the time this summer when I was two hours late to work because a man claiming to be Jesus Christ was running naked across all lanes.

Ah, the adventures of route 95 in Connecticut.

The result was, sadly, not going to the party. It was also me being famished after not eating for 8 hours.

As we wound down on our leftovers all I could really put together was this salad with kale, Danish blue cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds, sliced red pears, cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

After a commute like that and an unfortunate cancellation of plans the only remedy is to drink some wine. And what better wine to have than this petite sirah from Vinum Cellars? This is definitely my favorite wine that features a photograph of a dog on the label.

Since we missed out on the Halloween party we made up for it by wrapping up the last couple of episodes of True Blood that we hadn't seen.

Oh, and then we did the Monster Mash.

The End . . . Or is it?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Belated Thanksgiving, Canadian Style

During this year's Canadian Thanksgiving we were soaking up the sun in Jamaica. Therefore, we were forced to celebrate this year. Since most of the other Canadians we know (well, one of the other Canadians we know) were also in Jamaica at the time this worked out perfectly.

I won't bore you too much with the details but I will bore you with the menu. That's kind of what I do.

For starters we had:

A Trio of pates including duck liver and cognac, Mousse Imperial, and Rustique. Also we had a cheese slate with the names hastily written in chalk: Grafton cheddar, cranberry cheddar, Metropolitan brie, Danish blue, Port Salut, and Manchego.

Also there was a giant bowl of green, red, and black grapes (not pictured).

The sleeper hit of this year's thanksgiving were the rolls that Jen made. Had I known how big a hit they were going to be I wouldn't have bothered making as much other food as I did. Instead I would have simply put a bunch of butter in ramekins to serve alongside them.

For the main course we enjoyed two types of cranberry sauce, one made in a mold with gelatin, the other made from the skins with a little orange and ginger; roasted shallot, rutabaga, turnip, sweet potato, carrot, and butternut squash; traditional stuffing, sausage and sage cornbread stuffed roast pumpkin based on the recipe that I created last year; a vegetarian version of the same recipe with no sausage; roasted brussel sprouts with bacon, apples, and caramelized onions; creamy polenta with ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano; mashed potatoes; and a gigantic 30 pound roast turkey which I brined overnight.

For dessert we had all the favorites including Jen's Canadian-themed pumpkin pie, Jennie's famous apple pie with cheddar cheese, a delicious pecan chocolate pie, a strawberry rhubarb pie (which friends from Rhode Island brought with them from The Big Apple in Wrentham, MA), and a number of macaroons, and cookies of various makes and models.

This year may possibly be the most obscene showing of excess we've pulled off to date. Now, like most years, we just need to find friends brave enough and try to help us eat a path to our fridge so that we can carry on about our normal routine.

Coincidentally our normal routine is also one of excess and obscenity. I'm okay with that. I have embraced it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Drunken Pasta

If you read this blog with any regularity then you know of my deep rooted hatred of following recipes. However, every so often, there comes a recipe so enticing that I feel compelled to actually follow it without variation. Of course this does not mean I go through any of the trouble of measuring anything out. That would be a fool's game. Eyeballin' it is still where it's at.

I saw this recipe for Zinfandel Spaghetti and was, for some reason, fascinated by it. The recipe is from Michael Chiarello's Bottega cookbook. After having it pulled up on my browser for two weeks I decided to give it a whirl.

For a start I sliced up some Paesano bread and topped it with fresh mozzzarella and a sun dried tomato concoction. Some might call it a sun dried tomato pesto. However, there are people who become incensed when anyone calls anything a "pesto" that is not the traditional basil spread with pine nuts, garlic, and Parmigiano. Some might call it a tapenade. Then there are more people

Both sets of people can be referred to as uptight jerks if they ever need to be referenced.

The main course came out pretty well. I blanched the rabe, par-cooked the spaghetti and set both aside. I reduced some zinfandel by half with a little sugar then tossed the pasta in with the zinfandel to coat it and complete its cooking. Then I browned some red pepper flakes and garlic and cooked the rabe and combined it all together. I topped it with some Parmigiano-Reggiano before serving.

This was a fun dish to make but I don't think I'd make it again. It was good but I think it was more novel than it was delicious.

For wine we enjoyed the other half bottle of this Italian zinfandel that I used to make the pasta dish.

So, if you're looking do do something novel for dinner you should give this recipe a shot. However, there are far more delicious ways to enjoy pasta even if they are less colorful.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Let Them Eat Cauliflower

The other day I found a giant head of cauliflower from a farm in upstate New York (whose name escapes me). Instead of roasting it as I have the last few I've purchased I decided to use it for soup instead. Being a cold rainy night last night it seemed perfect for soup.

I rendered a little bacon, removed the strips, added some butter, and cooked half an onion and some crushed garlic cloves until they were all lightly browned. Then I roughly chopped the head of cauliflower, tossed it into the pot, sweated it all down, and added some chicken stock to cook it until it was tender.

After that I put in a little milk and cream and pureed it all with my immersion blender. Once it was completely pureed I crumbled about a third of a pound of Stilton from Neal's Yard Dairy. I also chopped some green onion which I used for a garnish along with some crumbled bacon, additional Stilton, and some tiny cauliflower florets.

This soup is my take on a traditional cream of cauliflower soup. In culinary school I learned how to make this soup for the first time. At least I learned the traditional way of making this soup which is called Crème du Barry. Now you may be saying, Nate, 'Barry' is not the french word for cauliflower! At least you'll be saying this if you are my wife and you know how to speak French. Having only taken five years of French in high school and growing up in a French-speaking family this did not occur to me in culinary school.

The Barry in Crème du Barry refers to Comtesse du Barry. Comtesse du Barry was a woman who had a great love for cauliflower, so much so that it almost interfered with her other great love of having an affair with the king of France. The latter love eventually lead to her being beheaded in a guillotine during the Reign of Terror.

The thing I love about Comtesse du Barry is that she covered her bases. If she wasn't going to be remembered for having sex with Louis XV then at least she had the whole cauliflower soup thing to fall back on. She was a woman with a plan.

And that, my friends, is smart aristocratic thinking.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One Pan Pumpkin

Last night we watched the movie Big Night. So you would think that after seeing that I would have spent this evening making risotto, timpani, bolognese, and listening to Louis Prima and smoking vast amounts of cigarettes. At least you would think that if you had seen the movie. If you have not seen the movie then it is unlikely that any of that would have occurred to you.

Instead, I devoted this chilly October evening to yet some more fall cooking.

To start I made a kale salad with sliced apple and pistachios. For the dressing I tossed it in a little cider vinegar, olive oil, and celery salt.

For the main course I browned some garlic cloves and shallots then tossed in some wedges of sugar pumpkin and roasted them in the oven for about thirty minutes. Then I seared some bone-in chicken breast and tossed in some fresh sage leaves and finished it all together.

With the fall comes the employment of my favorite cooking technique. Well, it's not really a technique, more of a philosophy. A lazy philosophy. And that is using only one pan. I love nothing more than cooking dinner using only one pan. It's like sport to me. The best part of this sport is that the winner is always me. Particularly when it comes time to do the dishes.

Now with culinary inspiration from Jamaica and Big Night swimming around in my head I am looking forward to doing a few theme nights soon. Our Canadian Thanksgiving festivities are postponed this year as we were in Jamaica on the actual holiday so it may have to wait until after the late celebration.

For now, please enjoy some hastily thrown together dinners that loosely celebrate the season of fall!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

We're Off Island Time

Yesterday morning we woke up in Jamaica after a night of eating grilled lobster, curried goat, and ackee. We swam out to the bar (which opens at 6:00 AM) and ordered drinks. If one is lead to believe that all of Jamaica is like the resort we are at (if one is a fool) then one would assume there are not any clocks in Jamaica. We became fond of saying that we were "on island time." This became my go to answer for anything. "Hey, Nate, why did you burn down my house?" "Hey, we're on island time."

See, you can't argue with that.

This morning we woke up in a much more dreary New York after a night of eating terrible airport pretzels and a 1:00 AM batch of ravioli before passing out.

In chatting with a few of the Jamaican chefs at the resort I got some pretty good tips for some Jamaican cooking that I'm greatly looking forward to putting into practice. However, having had four days of all you can eat/drink hospitality it is nice to return home and make something a little lighter to eat than curried goat and oxtail.

For salad we return to kale with red onion, grape tomato, and a dressing of mustard, Lyle's golden syrup, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil.

The fish market had some great-looking Dover sole on special so I picked up a pound which I cooked with a tiny bit of butter and olive oil, garlic, shallot, grape tomato, lemon, white wine, and parsley. I made a generous amount of sauce which I tossed with some cooked cappellini.

For good measure I topped the dish off with some Pimiento de Padrón that I threw into a hot pan for a few minutes. They'd held up very well in the nine days in the fridge since we picked them up. They are delicious but approximately one in ten are face-blisteringly hot. The remaining nine out of ten are quite enjoyable once the sensation returns to your tongue.

For wine we enjoyed the same wine I used to make the pasta sauce which we acquired on our wine tour of Michigan last summer. It was a kerner from Tabor Hill.

The temptation was strong to enjoy one of the rum cakes we got in Jamaica for dessert, however, I feel it is more important to save that for an upcoming Jamaican night. So instead we had our usual dessert of yogurt, granola, and whatever chocolates could be scrounged up.

Jamaican night is going to be so awesome.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Comedy of Peppers

We were, perhaps, a little ambitious with our farmer's market purchases on Saturday knowing that we were on the brink of leaving the country. Normally the purchase of such wonderful produce would spur a trip elsewhere to procure ingredients for elaborate use. However, our imminent departure demanded that we use the few ingredients we got with only the ingredients we already had on hand.

One of the items we purchased were pimientos de Padrón. These are little heirloom peppers which are grown in Padrón, Spain. Luckily they are so fantastic that they require a minimal amount of fuss. Since we were low on fuss supplies this worked out quite well. I threw them in a hot pan with a little olive oil, salt, and when they were lightly browned I grated a little lemon zest over them. These particular peppers were not grown in Padrón but rather in upstate New York.

However, one thing I discovered after further investigation was that I mistook the pimientos de Padrón for the Shishito peppers we'd also purchased. So, these are actually Shishito peppers which, for the record, are quite good being cooked in this method. Perhaps later this week we will be able to enjoy the pimientos de Padrón with the full awareness of what we are actually doing.

The thing about peppers is that they all look very similar.

For a salad I roasted the remainder of our local New York cauliflower, tossed it in olive oil, lemon juice, Piave, salt, pepper, and parsley and served it over some torn kale leaves. This is a pretty traditional way of doing cauliflower in Italy (more specifically Sicily) if you forget about the fact that they don't use a lot of kale in Italian cooking.

For the main course I used some India Paint eggplant, Rosa Bianca eggplant, red onion, garlic, kale, chicken stock, mozzarella, and Piave, with fusilli.

And there you have it, an inexpert use of a fantastic farmer's market haul. Perhaps the next time we go to the market we will stay in the country for more than a few days.

We're kinda dumb.

Monday, October 4, 2010

International Short Rib Night

Friday marked the last day of buying groceries. Since we're leaving the country soon it's not top priority to use up whatever we have lying around and make sure that we leave as few perishable items in the fridge as possible. My recent adventures in onion soup has left us with enough onion soup to sustain us for the remainder of the year. I reserved a little and threw the rest in the freezer as not to put us off of onion soup for the rest of our lives.

Last night I got a couple of nice beef short ribs, seared them, and then covered them with onion soup, braising them for about 2.5 hours. Right before they were finished I made a quick polenta with corn meal, chicken stock, ricotta, and Piave.

I served the short ribs in the polenta and topped them with some of the soup/braising liquid. It was a pretty fantastic meal for a cold, cold night. As we enjoyed the braised dinner I received a text message from my sister-in-law with the following image.

Apparently Jen's father had taken the opportunity to make a short rib lasagna for dinner last night. My sister-in-law sent me this picture to try to rally me to her militant vegetarian cause in talking about how disgusting this was. This had the opposite of her desired effect. Of my sister-in-law's many positive traits picking her audience is not one of them.

Tonight was a scrobbled together pasta and salad affair and an opportunity to try yet another Oktoberfest beer, this time from Blue Point Brewing Company. It is good but not exactly the ideal match for gnocchi with tomatoes and ricotta.

However, if the flow of this dinner was at all inconsistent then tonight will pale in comparison to the Frankendinners we are about to witness.

They're ALIVE!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

First Anniversary Fairy Tale

A year ago today we moved into our new apartment. For much of the first week we had no gas and no ability to cook. Also, I was suffering from a debilitating thumb injury which prevented me from cooking without much challenge.

I actually completely forgot about our lack of heat and my damaged thumb before reading back to last year's posts. That is a testament to how fondly we remember that time. However, looking back at where we were one year ago I am happy to say we are in much better shape this evening.

At the farmer's market today we found these wonderful little fairy tale eggplant. Partly because they were so tiny and cool-looking but also partly because we were told they were creamy and delicious. I was skeptical about that.

Along with onion, carrot, sweet potato, and local cauliflower I cooked down the fairy tale eggplant and made a vegetable korma.

Also with all of this I added some purple and yellow beans from last year's farmer's market visit. Purple beans are like the practical joke of the farmer's market in that they cook to be completely green like any regular bean you might happen upon.

I also toasted up some naan and served it with some mango chutney.

For beer I had, perhaps, the last of the autumn beers, this pumpkin ale from Smuttynose Brewing Company. Using my pumpkin spice/Indian-curry theory from last week
I chose this beer for tonight's meal and, again, it worked quite well.

Finishing up our autumnal beer collection on October 2nd may have been getting a little too much of a jump on this season's beers. However, I am now ready for the winter and if anything else comes my way perhaps I'll layer it into the blog.

You may be dissatisfied because I haven't been spewing forth a bunch of reviews of the beer. If that's the case then here's my review of this beer:

This beer is nutty and hoppy with malt overtones. The keen taster will detect hints of caramel and hops. It is very drinkable with a great mouthfeel. Full bodied but not aggressive. Citrusy hop finish. Great flavor profile.

Now just use that review for every future beer I list.

You're welcome.