Category Archives: Food, cooking, recipes

Pissaladière

DSCF1048This onion tart originated in Nice in the south of France where it is often served as an appetizer at room temperature. The name is thought to be derived from Ligorian for “salt fish,” referring to the anchovies that are an integral part of the dish. Recipes vary: some call for pie dough, some for pizza-like bread; some have goat cheese, others do not; some include potatoes, or not. They only mandatory ingredients are caramelized onions, black olives, and anchovies. I have reimagined pissaladière as a deep-dish pizza. The ingredients I used were what I had on hand. In place of the aged provolone and mozzarella one could use chèvre or feta. I included tomatoes because I had some that needed to used up. The olives in my version are Moroccan oil-cured but any tasty black olives would do.  Just do not scrimp on the anchovies. After all, they are what the tart is named for. You will notice that the ingredient list is a bit vague. That is deliberate. Make this dish your own.

Ingredients

One medium russet potato

Two medium to large onions

Olive oil

One half 14½ can diced tomatoes, preferably unsalted

Fresh chopped or dried thyme

Fresh chopped or dried basil

Dough for 12” to 14” pizza

Shredded aged provolone

Shredded mozzarella

A dozen or so pitted and halved black olives

A dozen or more anchovies

Salt and pepper

Method

Peel the potato and boil it until done, about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool a bit then slice thinly.

Thinly slice the onions. Heat some olive oil in a skillet and cook the onions slowly until nicely browned. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Set aside to cool.

Add a bit more oil to the skillet and cook the tomatoes until most of the water has evaporated. Season with salt, pepper, and basil.

Preheat the oven to 400°F and set a rack near the bottom.

Roll out the pizza dough and put it into a 12” preferably cast-iron skillet that have been lubricated with olive oil. Spread out the dough, forming a rim around the edges.

Line the dough lightly with provolone then spread the caramelized onions on top of the cheese. Spread the tomatoes on top of the onions. Top with a bit more provolone and some mozzarella. Distribute the olives over the cheese and arrange the anchovies.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until the cheese and the crust have browned. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Tinga de Pollo y Papas

Most of what we in the United States think of as Mexican food is derived from the post-conquest cuisines of the border states of Chihuahua and Sonora. The Spanish influence is seen in the heavy use of cheese and meat which were virtually unknown in pre-Columbia Mesoamerica.  Farther south in Puebla and Oaxaca the food retains more of its traditional character. Chef and cookbook author Rick Bayless champions this distinctly more interesting cuisine. This recipe, which I adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen (New York: Scribner, 1996), pp 322-323, is an example from Puebla. Traditionally, tinga does not contain potatoes but Bayless’s use of them gives the dish an interesting texture and flavor. And, after all, potatoes are in the same botanical family and originated in the same area of South America as do tomatoes. In Mexico City, tinga is served on crispy tostadas topped with queso fresco and a slice of avocado. I usually present it with a plate of warm corn tortillas, shredded sharp cheddar, and avocado if I have some.

Ingredients

Garlic, unpeeled

3 or more cloves

Canned chipotles en adobo

2 or more to taste

Tomatoes, diced or whole

1 14-ounce can

Chicken fat, oil, lard, or combination

30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons) divided use

Chicken thighs, skinless*

2

Boiling potatoes

3 or 4 medium, about 250 grams (½ pound)

Onion, yellow or white

1 medium, about 125 grams (¼ pound)

Dried oregano, preferably Mexican

1 teaspoon

Salt

To taste

Tortillas, corn or flour, to serve

3 or 4 per person

Avocado slices and cheese, to garnish

To taste

* bone-in are best.

 Method

Put the garlic cloves, unpeeled, in a small dry skillet over medium heat, turning from time to time, until they have softened. When cool enough to handle, remove the peels and put into a food processor or blender along with the chipotles and tomatoes with their juice. Process to a smooth puree.

Warm 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon) of the fat in a heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat. When nearly smoking, pour in the puree and cook, stirring often, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Lower the heat to medium-low and submerge the chicken thighs in the sauce. Cover and simmer until the meat is done, about 25 minutes. Remove the thighs to a plate, leaving as much sauce as possible behind. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones in large shreds.

Using the coarse grating disk of the food processor or a hand grater, shred the potatoes. Roll them into a kitchen towel and squeeze out as water as possible. Thinly slice the onion. Add the remaining fat to a large non-stick skillet (I use a 12” one) over medium heat. Cook the potatoes and onions, tossing or stirring regularly, until well browned. Pour in the sauce, sprinkle on the oregano, and fold in the chicken. Heat through and season to taste with salt.

Turn the finished tinga into a warmed serving bowl. Present with warmed tortillas and garnishes.

Salisbury Steak

salisbury steak (3)When I was a young Air Force Russian language student at Indiana University more than a half-century ago, I enjoyed visiting a restaurant called The Gables that, besides being on the site of the former Book Nook where Hoagy Carmichael claimed to have written “Stardust,” served a delicious Salisbury steak at a price consistent with my $100 a month airman’s pay. At this remove I can honestly say that I do not remember what it tasted like but I have had a soft spot for Salisbury steak ever since. The dish itself was invented in 1888 by Dr. J. H. Salisbury, a physician from Cortland County NY, between Binghamton and Syracuse, who was an early promoter of a low carbohydrate diet—in fact he recommended eating his steak three times a day. During the World War I mania to remove German names from common items, hamburger steak was often called Salisbury steak. Today, while the US Department of Agriculture mandates that hamburger steak be made of 100% skeletal beef, i.e. no organ meat. Commercially prepared Salisbury steak may by law contain up to 25% pork, beef heart, and up to 30% fat. This last, if nothing else, should convince you of the wisdom of making it from scratch.

Note: to make this recipe gluten-free use corn flakes pulverized in the food processor in place of bread crumbs and rice flour instead of wheat flour. The mushrooms are optional and can be simply left out.

Ingredients

Onion

1 medium, divided use

Mushrooms

6 medium

Garlic

1 or 2 large cloves

Butter and/or oil

30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons), divided use

Ground beef

340 grams (12 ounces)

Egg, lightly beaten

1 large

Worcestershire sauce

30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons), or to taste

Bread crumbs

30 grams (¼ cup)

Parsley, fresh or dried

15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon)

Salt and pepper

to taste

Flour

8 grams (1 Tablespoon)

Beef stock

about 250 milliliters (1 cup)

Thyme, fresh or dried

2 milliliters (¼ teaspoon)

Method

Peel the onion and cut into two pieces through the root. Thinly slice one half and set aside. Coarsely chop the other half and put into a food processor. Separate the mushroom stems from the caps. Slice the caps thinly and set aside. Add the stems and the garlic to the onion in the food processor and mince finely. Sauté the mince in a small amount of butter until the onions are translucent. Set aside to cool.

Combine the ground beef with the cooled onion mixture, egg, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, and parsley. (I use my stand mixer with the flat beater, first beating the egg on medium speed then adding the rest of the ingredients and mixing on the lowest speed setting.) Form the mixture into two oblong rolls about the size and shape of a baking potato then flatten them into patties about 1 centimeter (½ inch) thick. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat about 15 grams (1 Tablespoon) of butter or oil in a heavy cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and cook the patties for about 8 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil and keep warm while you prepare the gravy.

Reheat the skillet over medium heat, adjust the fat to about 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon), and sauté the sliced onions until softened. Add the sliced mushroom caps and sauté until lightly browned. Sprinkle on the flour and cook for about minute, stirring constantly. Slowly add the stock a bit at a time stirring constantly. Be sure to let each addition come to a boil before adding the next otherwise you will not know just how think the gravy is becoming. Keep adding stock until the gravy is the consistency you like. (You can use water if you run out of stock.) Stir in the dried thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Serve the steaks with mashed potatoes and the gravy, accompanied by a green salad or vegetable.

Dirty Duck Wild Rice

Duck and wild rice have always seemed to me to go especially well together. Together they evoke northern skies and pristine lakes; visions of Lake Wobegon perhaps. Dirty rice, on the other hand, is a classic Cajun dish from the bayous of Louisiana, land of steel-grey humid skies and murky swamp water. So what brings the two together? Duck liver. Dirty rice is so called because of the brownish tinge it gets from being cooked with chopped liver, usually pork or chicken. Applying the technique of making dirty rice to wild rice and duck liver is, when you think about it, almost painfully obvious.

Wild rice is not, in fact, a rice at all but the seed of an aquatic grass of the genus Zizania, species of which are native to North America and to China. Bought in tiny boxes in the supermarket it is ridiculously expensive but one can buy it online for a reasonable price and for even less if you have a local Trader Joe’s.

I generally mix wild rice with brown basmati rice both because of the cost and because by itself wild is, well, a bit grassy. If you don’t have brown basmati rice any other long grain brown or white rice will work perfectly well in this recipe. Duck stock is not mandatory but if you have a duck liver you probably have the rest of the duck so you might as well make a batch. For convenience, I prepare the ingredients in a non-stick frying pan then put everything into an electric rice cooker. One can just as well build up the recipe in a pan with a tightly fitting lid and cook over very low heat.

Ingredients

 

Wild rice

100 grams

½  cup

Brown basmati rice

100 grams

½ cup

Onion

1 small

1 small

Bell pepper

½ medium

½ medium

Celery

1 stalk

1 stalk

Duck fat or butter

15 milliliters

1 Tablespoon

Duck liver

1

1

Duck stock

500 milliliters

2 cups

Salt and pepper

To taste

To taste

 

Method

Soak the wild and basmati rice separately in cold water for a half hour or so.

Dice the onion, pepper, and celery making the traditional Cajun “holy trinity.” Chop up the duck liver. Warm the duck stock.

Melt the duck fat or butter in a frying pan over medium-low heat and sweat the trinity until soft but not browned. Add the duck liver and sauté until lightly browned. Drain the basmati rice and add to the pan. Turn the heat up a bit and toss for a few minutes.

Put the contents of the frying pan into a rice cooker along with the drained wild rice. Pour over the duck stock, season with salt and pepper, and cook until done, 40 minutes or so.

Red Gravy

Anyone who has watched “The Sopranos” knows that many Italian Americans of Sicilian extraction call tomato sauce red gravy. Not surprisingly, everyone seems to have their own favorite recipe. Far too many contain little besides tomatoes and are too sweet for my taste. My version starts out with a generous amount of sofritto, the Italian equivalent of the French mirepoix. You will notice that the recipe below is vague on quantities. That is because a good gravy is a work of art that requires the personal touch of its creator. As a general rule the sofritto should be about half onion with the other vegetables making up the other half and there should be about twice as much tomato as sofritto. If you use mushrooms, aim for about half as much as of the sofritto. Check the amount of herbs right after pureeing. Add the sugar and salt at the very end. 

Ingredients

Onion

 

Carrot

 

Bell pepper

 

Celery (optional)

 

Garlic

 

Mushrooms (optional)

 

Olive oil

 

Diced canned tomatoes

 

Dry red wine

 

Dried thyme

 

Dried oregano

 

Dried parsley

 

Dried basil

 

Crushed red pepper flakes

 

Black pepper

 

Sugar (optional)

 

Salt

 

Method

Peel the onion and carrot then dice all of the vegetables. Sometimes I get lazy and just throw them all into the food processor and pulse it a few times. Mince the garlic and coarsely chop the mushrooms.

Warm the olive oil over low heat in a suitable sauce pan.  Sweat the sofritto and garlic, covered, until soft but not browned, stirring from time to time. This should take about 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms, raise the heat a little and sauté until they give up their liquid.

Stir in the tomatoes, a cup or so of wine, the dried herbs, and red pepper flakes. Simmer, partially covered, over medium low heat until the tomatoes are well cooked, about 30 minutes.

Off heat use a stick blender to puree the sauce. If you do not have a stick blender you can do this in a food processor or blender but let the sauce cool a bit before doing so.

Taste the sauce and adjust the herbs as needed. Bring it back to a simmer and let it thicken for about a half hour. Season to taste with sugar and salt.

Duck Rillettes

Rillettes are a coarse meat spread similar to the cretons popular in Québec. Most modern recipes call for them to be made from duck legs confit but I suspect that their origin was more modest, as a way to use up the last bits of meat left over from the stock pot. I simply cannot imagine a farm wife throwing away all that meat. I added the duck liver as well, giving the result a bit more of a paté flavor.  

Unlike a usual recipe, I am not specifying quantities of ingredients. The amount of meat will depend on how big your duck was and the flavoring is matter of judgment. A typical duck should yield about two cups of rillettes.

Ingredients

Duck fat or olive oil

Minced onion

Duck liver, coarsely chopped

Duck meat picked from bones and neck used to make stock

Giblets used in the stock

Ground cloves

Ground cinnamon

Dried thyme leaves

Dried savoy leaves

Heavy cream (36%)

Salt and pepper

 

Method

Gently sauté the onion in a bit of duck fat or olive oil. When softened, add the chopped liver and cook until done. Set aside to cool a bit.

If needed, coarsely chop the meat pickings and giblets. Place in a food processor along with the liver and onions. Add the spices and herbs. Pulse once or twice to combine. Add some cream, season with salt and pepper, then pulse a few more times to yield a coarse paste.

Serve on crostini or French bread.

Amsterdam Mashed Potatoes

While casting about for something to do with the pound or so of left over sauerkraut in my refrigerator I came across this recipe. I am not sure what, if anything, it has to do with Amsterdam although it is similar to Boerenkool Stampott—mashed potatoes with kale—which does seem to be typically Dutch. If this seems like rather a lot of heavy cream and butter you can substitute non-fat for some or all of the cream and reduce the amount of butter. If you do, consider compensating by adding a bit of chopped bacon which goes especially well with sauerkraut. Serve this with sausage or pork chops.

Ingredients

Potatoes                                                              1 kilogram (2 pounds), about 6 medium, peeled and halved

Unsalted butter                                                70 grams (5 Tablespoons)

Heavy cream (36%)                                      125 milliliters (½ cup)

Onion, minced                                                  100 grams (1 medium)

Sauerkraut                                                         500 grams (1 pound)

Water                                                                   1 cup

Salt and pepper                                                To taste

 

Method

Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water until tender. Drain well then return to low heat to dry well, being careful not to burn. Put the potatoes through a ricer into a bowl. Beat in 3 tablespoons of the butter and enough of the cream to make the potatoes creamy and fluffy.

In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt the remaining butter and cook the onion until soft. Do not brown. Blend in the sauerkraut and water. Cover and simmer 35 minutes, stirring occasionally so the sauerkraut does not burn, adding small amounts of water if necessary.

When all the water has cooked off and the sauerkraut is tender, fold it into the mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Warm over low heat if necessary.

 

Kasha with Root Vegetables

Buckwheat is an ancient crop that has been a staple food for centuries, especially in cold regions with short growing seasons. The word kasha comes from Persian for porridge although in the United States it commonly refers specifically to buckwheat groats after the Polish and Yiddish usages. Interestingly, it is not a true cereal grain actually an herb related to rhubarb. Nonetheless it is usually prepared in the same way as grain like rice, wheat, or millet. In this recipe, I prepare the kasha with root vegetables and onions as a colorful, tasty side dish. I used carrots and beets, but turnips, parsnips, or rutabagas would also work. Mushrooms would also be a nice addition. Chose the stock to complement whatever you are serving the pilaf with—I used shrimp stock to go with salmon cakes. When in doubt, chicken stock will always do as will plain water in a pinch. Because kasha cooks rather quickly, the roots have to be tender before adding since they will not have time to soften in the pot.  

Makes two to four servings

Ingredients

 

Kasha

100 grams

½ cup

Egg white

1

1

Oil or butter

As needed

As needed

Onion

100 grams

One small

Carrot

100 grams

One medium

Beet

100 grams

One medium

Stock

250 milliliters

1 cup

Salt and pepper

To taste

To taste

Method

Rinse the kasha and drain well. Put it into a bowl and stir in the egg white making sure that the grains are well-coated. Set aside.

Cut the vegetables into small dice, about 6mm (1/4 inch). Heat about 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon) butter or oil in a non-stick frying pan and sauté each of them in turn over medium heat starting with the onion and ending with the beet. As each is done, set it aside.

Bring the stock to a simmer.  

If needed add a bit of butter or oil to the pan and fry the kasha over medium heat until the grains are dry and separate. Stir in the stock then the vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover tightly and set over low heat until all of the stock is absorbed, around ten minutes.

Fluff with a fork and serve hot.

Roasted Duck with Root Vegetables

Duck with root vegetables

Although the consumption of duck in the United States has risen by some 35% over the past two decades it lags far behind that of chicken. Roughly 24 million ducks are eaten here annually compared with more than eight billion chickens. Price accounts for part of that: duck costs two to three times what chicken does. But perhaps the main reason we eat less duck than many other countries is misinformation. Many people think that duck is difficult to prepare and high in fat: the first is untrue, the second true but with a caveat. Yes, duck, being a water bird and thus needing a layer of insulation, has more fat than chicken. But like with chicken, the fat is subcutaneous meaning that the meat itself is quite lean. And duck fat, much prized in France and elsewhere as a cooking fat, is about halfway between olive oil and butter in composition. Duck fat contains 50.5% monounsaturated fats, 35.7% saturated fats, and 13.7% polyunsaturated fats compared to olive oil with 75% monounsaturated, 13% saturated, and 12% polyunsaturated and butter with 21% monounsaturated, 51% saturated, and 3% polyunsaturated. Duck is no harder to cook than chicken but must be handled a bit differently to manage that fat. Most recipes for roasting duck call for pricking the skin and letting the fat collect in the roasting pan. But there is a better way: steaming or poaching the duck to render out the fat before roasting it. Not only does this result in a lean bird with crispy skin but the cooking liquid yields a delicious broth for making gravy and mildly flavored fat perfect for roasting root vegetables. For those I use potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, or parsnips depending on what I have on hand. You can also add some halved Brussels sprouts.

(Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef (NY: Hyperion, 1999), 124-125)

Ingredients

 

Duck

About 2 kilograms

About 4 pounds

White wine or water

250 milliliters

1 cup

Dried thyme

5 milliliters

1 teaspoon

Dried parsley

5 milliliters

1 teaspoon

Dried savory, optional

5 milliliters

1 teaspoon

Assorted root vegetables, cubed

About 1 kilogram

About 1 pound

Flour

About 30 milliliters

About 2 Tablespoons

Salt and pepper

To taste

To taste

Method

Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F).

If present, remove the giblets from the duck and set aside for another use. Pat the bird dry and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Truss if desired. Put a rack into the bottom of a large Dutch oven and pour in the wine. Place the duck on the rack and sprinkle on the dried herbs. Bring the liquid to a boil on the top of the stove, cover, and place in the oven.

If your duck does not fit in your Dutch oven, put it on a rack in a roasting pan, adjust the amount of liquid as needed, and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Prepare a roasting pan with a rack for the duck and a suitable sheet pan for the vegetables. After an hour, remove the pot from the oven and transfer the duck to the rack in the roasting pan, leaving as much fat and juice as possible behind in the Dutch oven. Pour the cooking liquid and fat into grease separator or a measuring cup. When the fat has risen to the top, separate it from the broth and set both aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 190°C (375°F). Arrange the oven racks so that one is at the lowest level and another is two levels above it. Place the roasting pan with the duck onto the top rack.

If you are using beets, you might wish to parboil them for about 15 or 20 minutes and let cool.

Put the vegetables into a large bowl and toss with some of the duck fat. Season with salt and pepper. Spread on the sheet pan in a single layer. Place the pan onto the lower oven rack.

The duck and vegetables should be done in about 40 minutes. Check that the temperature of the duck measured in the thigh is 80°C (175°F) and that the vegetables are tender. Remove the duck from the oven and cover loosely with foil. You can leave the vegetables in the turned-off oven while you make the gravy.

Put 30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons) of the duck fat into a sauce pan. Stir in the flour to make a smooth roux. Strain the broth and add it a bit at a time to the roux while whisking vigorously until it comes to a boil. Keep adding broth until the gravy is the consistency you prefer. If you do not have enough broth, use water or stock.

Arrange the vegetables on a serving platter and place duck on top of them. Serve with the gravy.

Bay Scallop Risotto

Scallops are just about my favorite seafood. Unfortunately, the large sea scallops that I prefer have become prohibitively expensive. The smaller, somewhat sweeter farm-raised bay scallops, however, remain affordable. I find that even when dry-packed they contain too much water to sear properly so they are best served in a sauce, gratinée, or in a rice dish. One could simply add the raw scallops to the risotto and let the hot rice cook them, but I prefer to poach them lightly first, in part to extract some of their flavor with which to infuse the rice. The bacon is optional but I think that it is the perfect foil for scallops. And one could use onion or shallot or both either with or in place of the garlic. I folded in a bit of grated asiago before serving—parmesan or Romano would work equally well.

Serves two.

Ingredients

 

Bay scallops

250 grams

8 ounces

Water

750 milliliters

3¼ cups

Shrimp shells and tails (optional)

30 grams

1 ounce

Bacon (optional)

30 grams

1 ounce (one rasher)

Olive oil

15 milliliters

1 Tablespoon

Garlic, minced

15 grams

about 1 Tablespoon

Arborio rice

250 grams

1 cup

Vermouth or white whine

50 milliliters

¼ cup

Spinach, chopped

100 grams

4 ounces

Salt

to taste

to taste

Truffle oil (optional)

5 milliliters

1 teaspoon

Asiago cheese, grated

20 grams

1 Tablespoon

 

Method

Bring the water to a boil and remove from the heat. Add the scallops and let them poach for a minute or two. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Put the shrimp shells, if using, into the water and let them steep for a few minutes. Remove and discard. Keep the liquid at a simmer while making the risotto.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and cook the bacon until crispy. Remove and set aside, leaving as much fat in the pan as possible. Sauté the garlic in the hot fat for a few seconds then add the rice. Fry, stirring constantly, until the rice is chalky and the garlic has begun to color somewhat, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vermouth or wine and let the alcohol boil off, then add about 120 milliliters (½ cup) of the water. Stir until the liquid is almost absorbed. Continue adding water 60 milliliters (¼ cup) at a time, stirring each addition until almost absorbed. When about two thirds of the water is gone, fold in the chopped spinach. Continue stirring liquid until it is almost gone then check the rice for doneness—it should be tender with just a hint of “tooth.” Season to taste with salt and fold in the scallops, truffle oil if using, and cheese.

Serve hot.