Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow Day!

So for our unexpected snow day I felt the need for some cold weather comfort food.  In this month's Bon Appetit there was an article on 'meat and potato' dishes.  I'm not sure I've ever had shepherds pie before this, but the tempting combination of savory stewed meat and veggies topped with a crisped mashed potato crust was too much for this cold day.  Since it was going to be a while to wait for the meal we picked up some beautiful cheeses from Whole Foods.


On the left is a buffalo milk cheese called Quadrello di Bufala.  It was incredibly creamy, aromatic (a nice way of saying it was a very stinky cheese), and tangy.  On the right is a goat's milk cheese from Spain called Cabra Romero.  This one was aged slightly, giving it a more firm, salty taste, and crusted in dried rosemary.  Both were great.  I always go with a neutral cracker for trying new cheeses - I like 34 Natural Crackerbreads.

I love using bison in place of beef in almost every recipe.  I just like the flavor more and the health benefits are nice as well.  During the summer, the Gunpowder Bison Company sells buffalo at our Annapolis farmers market.  In the the winter I have to rely on Whole Foods, that sources locally as well.  For this dish I got a 3 lb buffalo chuck roast and cut it up into 2 inch chunks.  The recipe calls for a dredge in a paprika/flour mix and browning in some bacon fat.  I crisped up some Wellshire Farms slab bacon for this and the bacon gets incorporated to the bison stew portion of the dish.  The standard carrots, onions, celery, and garlic formed the base for the stew.  Red wine, chicken broth, thyme, sage, bay leaves and seasoning finished it off.  After letting it stew for 2 hours I added chopped parsnips and sweet potatoes.  Right before assembling, I added some blanched pearl onions.

On top of the bison stew is a simple mashed potato.  I riced the potatoes and added cream, milk, butter, and a whole egg.  Top the dish with egg wash and freshly grated parm.  I served it with a side of roasted brussels sprouts!  The final product, while not beautiful, was incredibly delicious. 

Bison and Red Wine Shepherd's Pie

Friday, January 29, 2010

Things to celebrate

Today I got some very good news...I'll be working as a judicial clerk for the Maryland Court of Appeals next year!  I definitely needed a good meal to celebrate, so I turned to my new Marcus Samuelsson cookbook, New American Table.  At first I was craving some sort of Asian preparation of seared tuna, perhaps because I am conditioned to want that preparation because that is what every American restaurant offers, but as I paged through my book I found Tuna with Parmesan Risotto.  I was a bit skeptical at first but after the success of Shrimp and Bacon Orzo, I decided just to go with it.

For the tuna:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon white miso
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
16 ounces tuna, thinly sliced (if you want to sear it, cut it after it has been cooked)
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

This recipe calls for leaving the tuna uncooked, and it sits ceviche-like in a lemony marinade ahead of time. I decided to sear my tuna first because I like the contrasting textures that seared tuna gives you.  I cooked the tuna in a hot skillet for 1-2 minutes per side.

Whisk the olive oil, miso, and lemon juice and pour over the sliced tuna.  Let the tuna sit in the marinade for 20 minutes. In a dry skillet, toast the chopped walnuts over medium heat, approximately 5 mins.  Be careful not to burn the walnuts. 

Arrange the tuna on a plate and pour over the remaining miso, lemon, olive oil mixture.  Top with toasted walnuts.


For the risotto:
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 cup shelled frozen edamame
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots - chopped
4 garlic cloves - minced
1 cup arborio rice
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped marjoram
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon soy sauce

In a medium hot dry skillet toast the fennel seeds until fragrant, approximately 3-5 minutes.

Boil 1 cup water in a small saucepan.  Add the edamame and cook for 1 minute.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat.  Add shallots and cook for 3 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the arborio rice and stir, cooking for 2 minutes.  Add 2 1/2 cups water, stir and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the salt, parm, and butter.  Stir until melted.  Add the fennel, edamame, marjoram, egg yolk, and soy sauce.  Stir together.

Top with shaved parm!

What is amazing about this dish is that it avoids the tedious process of adding ladelfuls of hot broth to the arborio rice in order to get the creamy texture.  I think you have to try this in order to believe it.

The tuna is placed atop the parmesan risotto where the freshness of the tuna provides a perfect balance to the richness of the risotto.  I recently got a shipment from the Channing Daughters wine club.  For this meal I choose the Romato, an innovative wine that is characteristic of this winery.  The Romato is made from Pinot Grigio grapes that are left to ferment on their own skins.  This process gives the wine a much richer flavor than you would typically expect with the Pinto Grigio grape.  However, it retains its bright acidity which makes it a perfect compliment to this dish. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Busy with School

So one of the reasons I didn't want a food blog is that I felt compelled to post regularly.  Well, with the new semester, work, and Ben...a week slipped by!  I was cooking, some, but mostly traveling and going to class.  Today I was determine to make something blog-worthy for dinner and I succeeded.  Maybe not with my photography skills but certainly with taste.  Provencal Scallops, Wild Mushroom Polenta and Sauteed Chard. 

The Provencal Scallops are from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris.  Easy enough for a  weekday dinner but these were so good I want to show them off for my next dinner guests!  So simple, scallops dredged in flour, add shallots, garlic, parsley and wine...done!  10 mins max.

I've been craving polenta so I just sauteed up some wild mushrooms (shitake, oyster, cremini) and added it to my cooked polenta.  For the polenta, I just take 3 cups of water, 1 tsp salt and boil.  Add 1 cup uncooked polenta and simmer for 10 -15 mins or until thickened.  I finish it with 2 T. butter, a sprinkling of parm, and the sauteed mushrooms. 

Another big first today...the Beaba Babycook produced Ben's first meal....pureed peas. Maybe not quite as appetizing as scallops but he certainly enjoyed them!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Something good that's good for you...

So yesterday while Ben helped me chop all the ingredients for tonight's dinner I was making chicken stock.  I think that chicken stock is one of those ingredients that just can't be substituted with store-bought, its just not even close.  Really, chicken stock is incredibly easy to make....10 minutes of prep and 4 hours of UNASSISTED cooking.  Many stock recipe calls for using a whole chicken.  To me, that is wasteful and the benefits don't outweigh the extra cost.  I use a whole chicken and remove both breasts and legs.  Use these in a separate dish or freeze them for later.  I am also a firm believer that using high quality chicken makes all the difference.  Try a local, free range chicken ( north of Baltimore has great poultry) or a Bell and Evans chicken carried by Whole Foods.  I think you will never go back to Purdue once you taste the difference.  It may cost a few dollars more but your health and palate is worth it.

Chicken Stock
1 Bell and Evans or other high quality chicken (4-5 pounds)
1 yellow onion
3 celery ribs
1/2 bag baby carrots
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh dill
10 peppercorns whole (or 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper)
1 tablespoon kosher salt.

Remove the breasts and legs from the chicken.  Check out this Good Housekeeping tutorial on how to break down a is a good skill to have.

Butchering a Chicken

Place the chicken into a large stock pot along with the remainder of the ingredients.  Cover all of these with cold water (approximately 10 - 12 cups of water).  Simmer uncovered for 4 hours.  Let the stock cool and you will be able to skim off most of the fat from the top of the stock.  Strain the liquid from the cooked ingredients.

Italian Wedding Soup (Ina Garten's Back to Basics)

For the meatballs:

  • 3/4 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 10 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don't have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.

I added some Parmesan toasts.  I used freshly sliced Italian bread brushed with olive oil.  Sprinkle with the freshly grated parm and toast for about 4 mins.  

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Easy Saturday Dinner

As people have been telling me for months, it really is hard to find tons of extra time to create fancy meals with a baby around.  Bennett is perfectly willing to hang out in his swing while I chop away but now that I'm back at work, I really want to spend as much quality time with him as possible.  Today, I have chicken stock simmering away and I'm prepping everything for Barefoot Contessa's Italian Wedding Soup.  It uses chicken meatballs and lots of fresh dill and spinach.  Perfect for a week when lots of cold germs seem to be floating around.  Here you can see Ben helping me out by laughing at my knife skills....

Last night was Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Carmelized Shallots and Pears. 


1 1lb pork tenderloin
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
2 bosc pears, cored, not peeled, cut into eights
4 large shallots - peeled and quartered through stem to hold them together
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup pear nectar
1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter (melted)
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 475.  Mix garlic, olive oil and thyme.  Rub this mixture all over pork, pears, and shallots.  Season pork, pears, and shallots with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat some olive oil over medium high heat.  Sear pork, shallots and pears on all sides - about 10 minutes.  Move pork, shallots, and pears to a baking dish and roast for approximately 10 minutes or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145.  Rest the meat after you remove it from the oven.

Mix the flour into the melted butter.  In the same skillet where the meat was browned, add the chicken stock, pear nectar and butter/flour.  Bring this to a boil and then simmer until thickened,  about 10 minutes.  Season the sauce to taste, with salt and pepper.

Slice the meat and drizzle the sauce over top.  Garnish with extra thyme sprigs.

I think this dish would work well with lots of fruits.  Perhaps try substituting apples or mangoes to cook with the pork and then apple or mango juice in the sauce.  I think if you try mango you might want to reduce the amount that is cooked with the chicken stock a bit, mango is a pretty strong flavor.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas Dinner - Roberts Family Style

So because Abby and Art and Jordan and I spent Christmas in New York with our respective families, the Roberts family Christmas had to wait until tonight.  The meal and great time together made it well worth the wait.  Dad was in charge of appetizers and he gave us two family classics that are both good examples of Maryland food done well.  First we had a smoked goose breast.  For those of you who don't know, my dad is an avid bird (fowl) hunter.  He and his good friend Charlie shot several geese at a hunting club on Kent Island last week.  Dad put one of the goose breasts in a brine for 24 hours and then smoked the breast over mesquite wood chips.  He was worried the goose had picked up too much salt from the brine but the delicious gaminess of the meat was perfect with the brine.  To compliment the goose he took fresh raspberries, a bit of sugar, and balsamic vinegar and reduced them down.  Straining the seeds he added about 1 tablespoon of this mixture to some mayo to create a sweet and savory sauce for the goose.  An excellent start to the meal.


Next came a dish that is a Roberts family favorite.  This dish was created by my grandfather, Harry Roberts, hence the name, Oysters Harry.  This oyster dish is one that can convert almost any non oyster lover, except my mom!  This time of year the oysters are so exceptional, if you have any interest in oysters at all, make this dish and you will not be dissapointed.

2 dozen oysters on the half shell (we used Chincoteauges - they were especially briny and sweet)
6 strips of bacon - chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
5 pepperoncinis - chopped
pepperjack cheese - chopped into 1/3 inch squares approximately 1/4 inch thick
butter - same size as the cheese

Preheat your broiler to high, move the rack to the top level of the oven.  Line a baking dish with coarse kosher salt or rock salt.  Cook the bacon until most of the fat is rendered out but it is still soft, not crispy (the bacon will continue cooking under the broiler).  Nestle the oysters into the salt and place on each oyster a pat of butter, slice of pepperoncini, bacon, and top with cheese.  Place the tray under the broiler for 3 -5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.  Don't walk away from the broiler - the dish can burn if left too long.  Enjoy!


The main meal - Abby picked out the menu - but didn't read the recipes or understand the ingredients.  Understandably this led to a very slow and trying trip to Whole Foods to get groceries today.  Good thing we were all still happy about playing with a litter of lab pups this morning!  Despite our early challenges the meal came together beautifully with everyone helping out and enjoying our work.  Here you can see our pan roasted duck breasts, carmelized carrots, and sunchoke kale hash.  All served with Channing Daughter's Sculpture Garden wine - a blend of Merlot and Blaufrankish grapes.  

The main course - Food and Wine's Pan Roasted Duck Breasts with Onions and Crisp Pancetta.

The duck was cooked perfectly medium rare.  The sherry vinegar in the sauce really helped cut the richness of the duck fat.

Next - Food and Wine's Sunchoke Kale Hash

Now shockingly, Whole Foods does not carry farro - a rich, chewy grain.  Wheatberries were a good substitute but note that they need to be soaked overnight prior to cooking.  Sunchokes were a first for all of us and we will definitely be having them again.  They look like a small potato (and they need to be peeled which led to much complaining from Art, even though I had already done 3/4 of the batch) and have a taste very similar to an artichoke heart.  Delicious!

 Last but not least, Maureen's caramelized carrots.   I had to request a last minute recipe for this one.

2 lbs carrots, peeled with a little bit of top left on, slice in half.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 heavy cream
1/8 tsp cayenne
chopped parsley 

Heat the oil over medium high in a skillet, place the carrots cut side down, add salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Remove the cover, add garlic, cook for another 10 minutes.  Add cream and cayenne, let this reduce down.  Serve immediately topped with parsley.