Showing posts with label Home Cooking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Home Cooking. Show all posts

Friday, May 22, 2020

Slow Roasted Brown Sugar Pork Ribs for Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day or Any Day Delicious

Stafer-at-home means being careful but it doesn't mean we can't enjoy a great summertime feast. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and any day, we can enjoy a meal and celebrate life even during a pandemic.

For me, that means making pork ribs.

My mother taught me to make pork ribs with a thick coating of sauce sweetened with brown sugar and raisins. Eating those finger-licking ribs was one of my favorite childhood memories.
Everything changed on a busy research trip to Abilene and Fort Worth, when I ate at 25 restaurants in 36 hours. I fell in love with West Texas BBQ.
At restaurant after restaurant, I watched grill masters lay bundles of mesquite into their subcompact-car-sized smokers. With the heavy metal doors open, the wood crackled as flames enveloped the logs The grill masters seasoned their racks of pork ribs with thick, grainy coats of brown sugar and spices rubbed onto the meat.  Waves of dry heat radiated from the smokers. But the heat that would cook these ribs would come not from an open fire but from smoldering mesquite embers.
When the doors were closed, the blazing logs were starved of oxygen. The flames died and a delicate smoke filled the air. At that moment the grill masters loaded in the racks of ribs coated with sweetened dry rub. Hours later, the ribs were removed, their outer coating thickened to crispness, creating what grill masters call “bark.”
I loved those ribs even more than the ones from my childhood.
At home, without the benefit of a smoker, I experimented for years to duplicate that sweet-crispness. Nothing could ever recreate the wonderful mesquite smokiness but I did succeed in making ribs with bark as good as any I enjoyed in West Texas.

High heat versus slow cooking

Mix of kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar, cumin, coriander and cayenne for dry rub slow roasted pork ribs. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Mix of kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar, cumin, coriander and cayenne for dry rub slow roasted pork ribs. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Cooking with high heat is exciting. There is great pleasure in watching the pyrotechnics of an outdoor grill as sizzling fat catches fire.  Roasting at low heat in the oven lacks that excitement.
And yet, what happens in an oven set at 250 F has its own kind of magic. In the darkness of the oven, the waves of steady heat melt the fat inside the rack, tenderizing the meat and gently fusing the dry rub to the outside of the ribs.
The best magic of all is that the oven does the work. No standing over a blazingly hot grill on a hot day. Once the oven door closes, there is nothing to be done.
Walk into the kitchen and a savory-sweet aroma scents the air. Pull the baking tray out of the oven and press a finger against the outside of the rack. The soft pliancy of the meat has been replaced by a jerky-like crust as sweet as a crème brulee topping.

Slow-Roasted, Dry-Rubbed Pork Ribs

Rack of pork ribs, trimmed. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt
Cooking time depends on the size and thickness of the rack.
Buy good quality pork. Asian and Latin markets are often a reliable source of fresh pork products. Unlike the ribs sold in upscale supermarkets, the ribs in these markets will most likely be untrimmed.
Above the actual ribs, the rack will have a top portion with boneless flap meat and a section with thick bones similar to country style ribs.  Another smaller piece of flap meat will stretch across the back of the rib bones.
Requiring only a sharp filleting knife and a few minutes, removing the flap meat and the top portion is not difficult. The flap meat is excellent to use in stir fries, slow roasted in the oven or grilled on the BBQ.
A white membrane is attached to the outside of the flap meat. Use a sharp filleting knife to separate the meat from the membrane and discard.
The flap meat and country style bones can be prepared in the same manner as the ribs.  They will cook more quickly and should be removed from the 250 F oven after a total of 2 to 3 hours depending on thickness.
While the rack of ribs does not have to be turned over, the flap meat and country style bones should be turned over after one hour for even cooking. After another hour, use kitchen shears to cut off a small piece of meat to test for doneness. Return to the oven if the meat is not yet tender.
To eat the country style ribs, have a sharp paring knife handy to help cut out those hard to reach tasty bits tucked between the bones.
The ribs can be cooked ahead and reheated. In which case, do not cut apart the ribs until ready to serve. Reheat in a 300 F oven for 15 minutes.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 6 to 8 hours
Resting time: 5 minutes
Total time: 6 hours, 35 minutes to 8 hours, 35 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
1 rack pork ribs, 4 to 5 pounds, washed, dried
3 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup cumin
¼ cup coriander
½ teaspoon cayenne (optional)
Directions
1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 250 F.
2. Select a baking pan or cookie sheet that is 2 inches longer than the rack of ribs. Cover the pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place a wire rack on top of the aluminum foil.
3. Lay the rack of ribs on a cutting board, bone side up. Use a sharp filleting knife to remove the tough membrane on the bone side of the rack. Let the knife help you lift the membrane. Use your fingers to pull the skin off the bones and discard.
4. Do not cut off any fat.
5. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
6. For easy cleanup, lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the cutting board. Place the rack on the cutting board. Layer a thick coat of the dry spices onto both sides, covering the meat and bones.
7. Reserve left-over dry rub in an air tight container and refrigerate for later use.
8. Carefully place the rack of ribs on the wire rack meat side up.
9. Put the baking sheet into the preheated oven.
10. Roast six hours. Remove from oven. Use kitchen shears to cut off a small piece and taste.
11. The outside should have a jerky-crispness. The meat inside should be moist and tender. The tapered end of the rack where the bones are small will cook faster than the rest of the ribs. Use the kitchen shears to cut off that section before returning the rack to the oven for another one-two hours. Be careful not to dry out the meat.
12. Once the ribs are cooked, remove from oven and let the meat rest five minutes.
13. Cut between the rib bones and chop into pieces any flap meat without bones. Serve hot with a green salad, Cole slaw, baked beans or freshly steamed vegetables.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Ready, Set, Go: Figs Tart Up

This is a recipe when you are home for long stretches of time. In the winter when it's too cold to go outside. Or, when there is a stay-at-home order during a pandemic. 


There are a good number of steps, but each can be completed separately rather than all the steps in one day. The result is a dessert of great flavor, textures and delicious pleasures.

An irresistible bargain inspires new fig creations


I learned to appreciate figs when I lived in a house with a fig tree. I enjoyed watching the fruit slowly form, first as a small bulb attached to a twig, then bulging into a soft, round shape, expanding into a fullness that invited the touch.
In one of my most pleasurable, early food moments I watched a fig ripen and picked it just as its nectar collected at the bottom. Biting into its warm sweetness, I was hooked. My breakfast routine after that required only a cup of black coffee, a piece of dry toast and a trip to the fig tree.
As anyone with a fruit-bearing tree knows, while the first appearance of fruit on a tree seems akin to a miracle, as the season progresses and the small gathering of fruit turns into a seemingly unending torrent, that miracle can become a curse. Knowing a recipe that requires a good number of figs is a blessing in the face of that over abundance.
Where I live now, I also have a fig tree. This one, another kind of miracle, self-seeded itself. On day three or more years ago I noticed a "weed" in our garden. Three leaves from the tiniest of stems appeared in the middle of an area where I usually plant tomatoes. As if I had encountered a friend from years ago, I immediately recognized this uninvited plant. 

A fig tree!


The spindly trunk is now 5' tall, with half a dozen branches and leaves galore. No fruit yet, but the fig tree appears to be vigorously endowed, gaining two feet in height since last year. While I wait for my home-grown figs to appear, I also am waiting for figs to appear in the markets. 

That time will come very soon and when it does, I will make a most delicious fig tart.

Crystallized ginger crust



In the past I had experimented with crystallized ginger in pie crusts. Finely ground, I spread the finely ground sugary-ginger throughout the crust so the flavor influenced but did not dominate the flavor profile of the dessert.
With that last addition, I felt I had a winner. The crystallized ginger added a sense of heat, contrasting perfectly with the sensual figs. Served at a dinner party, my choices were confirmed. The fig tart was approvingly declared “not too sweet, full of flavor.”
A pate brisee dough, thinly rolled out, creates a flaky starting point for the tart's layers of flavors. The fig confit has a rich huskiness. A simple custard binds those flavors together. The roasted almonds complete the contrasts of flavor and texture. All four components (confit, custard, almonds and dough) can be prepared a day ahead so the tart can be easily assembled on the day when you will slice the fresh figs.

Fig Tart With Custard, Crystallized Ginger and Almonds


Makes a 9-inch tart, or three or four 3-inch tartlets
For the fig confit:

Ingredients

4 of the ripest figs, washed, quartered lengthwise
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 tablespoon water

Directions

1. Scrape off and finely chop the inner part of the figs. Discard the skins.
2. In a small saucepan, mix together the fig puree, sugar and water. Heat over a medium flame. Simmer and stir frequently for five minutes.
3. Set aside to cool. This will keep in a refrigerated, sealed container for several days.

For the custard:

Custard is easier to make than you might think. This recipe is simplicity itself. The uncooked custard can be refrigerated for up to two days.

Ingredients

1 large farmers’ market fresh egg
¼ cup white sugar
½ cup heavy cream (not whipping cream) Trader Joe’s sells the only cream I can find without preservatives

Directions

1. Beat together the egg and sugar.
2. Add the cream and blend well.

For the roasted almonds:

Ingredients

¼ cup whole, raw almonds

Directions

1. Roast the almonds in a 350 F oven for 8-10 minutes, shaking the pan every so often to prevent burning.

2. Remove, let cool and roughly chop. The roasted almonds can be kept in a sealed jar for several weeks.

For the dough:

I prefer a thin crust, because I want the figs, custard and almonds to predominate, but if you like a more substantial crust, double the quantities for the dough recipe.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon or 3 pieces of crystallized ginger
1¼ cups all-purpose white flour (I like King Arthur flour)
½ teaspoon sea salt, finely ground
1 teaspoon white or raw sugar
1 stick or ½ cup sweet butter, kept cold, finely chopped
3 tablespoons ice cold water

Directions

  1. Use a chef’s knife to chop up the crystallized ginger as much as you can before further grinding in a food processor with a metal blade. Don’t worry if you’re left with large pieces. Add the flour, sea salt, sugar and butter. Pulse for 30 seconds until well combined.
  2. With the food processor on, slowly add the ice-cold water in a steady stream. If the flour accumulates on the sides of the processor, shake it loose. Add enough water so the flour gets crumbly and sticks together.
  3. Lightly flour a work surface and your hands. If you are making smaller tarts, divide the dough accordingly. Gently work the dough into a flattened disk about 5 to 6 inches in circumference for the large tart, 2 to 3 inches for the small, turning it so all sides are dusted with flour. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
  4. Brush melted sweet butter on the tart pan. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or overnight. This will guarantee that the dough will not stick to the pan.

Assembling the tart:

To keep the tart as fresh as possible, bake just before serving.

Ingredients

2 baskets ripe figs, washed
Custard
Fig confit
Roasted almonds
Tart dough
2 tablespoons floor for the cutting board

Directions

  1. After removing the dough from the refrigerator, let it rest on the counter 30 minutes. 
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. Lightly flour a work surface. Roll out the dough evenly, starting in the middle and working to the outer edges, keeping the round shape as much as possible. Create a circle of dough 2 to 3 inches larger than the circumference of the tart pan so there’s enough to line the sides.
  4. Take the tart pan out of the freezer. Use the rolling pin to transfer the dough onto the pan. Start on one edge, lifting the dough onto the rolling pin, moving forward until the dough has wrapped around the rolling pin. Gently place the dough on the tart pan, being careful to press the dough against the sides of the pan. Use a paring knife to gently cut off the excess dough.
  5. Use pieces of the excess dough to fill any holes or close any tears. Tarts are very forgiving.
  6. Using the paring knife, poke holes every few inches on the bottom of the tart to release steam during baking. Pour pastry weights or uncooked rice to cover the dough. Bake 10-15 minutes in the preheated oven or until the crust is lightly browned. Cool on a rack. Carefully remove the pastry weights or rice.
  7. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F.
  8. Using a pastry brush, spread the fig confit evenly over the bottom as well as the sides of the crust. Cut off and discard the stems from the figs and quarter them lengthwise. Lay the figs on the bottom of the tart, cut side up, in a decorative way, which usually means placing them in circles within circles. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon raw sugar. Place the tart on a baking tray and put in the oven. Bake 20 minutes.
  9. Remove the tart from the oven. Drizzle custard over the figs. Sprinkle with roasted almonds. Return to the oven for another 30 minutes.
  10. Check to see that the custard has set. Be careful not to burn the figs. Remove tart and let cool on a rack.
  11. Serve warm, dusted with powdered sugar and with a bowl of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Ready, Set, Go: One Chicken Makes 3 Meals

Living in a coronavirus world means that markets are stressed by shoppers who need more supplies since they are cooking at home and because people are buying extra. Finding a whole chicken may take a bit of work, but the results are well-worth the effort. 



Restaurants are closed. The home kitchen is now more important than ever. What's needed are easy-to-make recipes that yield not just one but several meals.

A roasted whole chicken is a great way to go.

After you have enjoyed the hot-from-the-oven chicken, by using the bones and pan drippings, you can make a stock, which in turn can be used to make soups and sauces.

My mother and grandmother taught me that to waste food is a sin. In this case, that means always reserving the pan drippings, giblets, neck, heart, bones and carcass of the chicken to make a best-ever stock that you can use to make a delicious chicken-vegetable-rice soup or chicken and dumplings.


If a liver came with the chicken, use it to make a tasty mushroom-chicken liver pate for an amuse bouche.

Serve the whole chicken with sides or make the one chicken serve up several meals by combining a leg, wing or part of the breast with steamed rice and a chopped parsley salad.


Easy to Make, No Fuss Whole Roast Chicken

I have a friend who doesn't cook. For her, a roasted chicken is the ideal dish because it has only a few simple steps. 

As with anything in life, begin with good ingredients to achieve better results. That is especially true in cooking. Buy a good plump, pale-pink chicken, preferably one that was raised without hormones. 

Check the expiration date to confirm it is fresh. 

One chicken 3 1/2 - 4 pounds feeds 4 people. If you are feeding fewer people, the chicken will provide you with even more meals. 

If you aren't going to eat all the meat and stock within 2 days, use plastic wrap to wrap the cooked chicken, place the pieces inside a sealed plastic bag and freeze. 

To freeze the stock, place the liquid in sealable containers, preferably 8 or 16 oz for easy use. 

Only use Diamond Crystal kosher salt. All the other brands I've seen add chemical preservatives. Diamond Crystal does not.

Use a roasting sheet tray larger than the chicken, with 1" sides. 
 A sheet tray with sides lower than a roasting pan facilitates browning on the sides of the chicken. 

Line the bottom with aluminum foil and, if available, a Silpat sheet. 

If a Silpat (non-stick) sheet is not available, lining the pan with aluminum foil is sufficient for easy-clean up. The advantage of a Silpat sheet is that all the delicious drippings slide off easily and can be added to the stock. 

Silpat sheets are widely available in many supermarkets, at all cooking supply stores and online. Use a Silpat sheet that fits the dimensions of your pan.

Truss the chicken with kitchen twine if you want. 



As an option, place Yukon Gold potatoes, brown mushrooms and yellow onions on the bottom of the roasting pan when you turn over the chicken. They will acquire flavor from the drippings. Serve the vegetables with the chicken or use in a soup.

 Serves 4

Time to prep: 15 minutes

Time to cook: 60 - 90 minutes depending on size of chicken

Time to rest before serving: 5 minutes

Special Cooking Tools 

Roasting sheet tray (with a 1" rim)

Aluminum foil and Silpat sheet (optional) to fit the roasting sheet tray

12"-14" kitchen tongs

Roasting rack (optional)

Cooking twine (optional)

Ingredients for roasting

1 whole 3 1/2 - 4 pound chicken, washed, liver, giblets, neck and heart if included, removed, washed and reserved separately

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, quartered (optional)

1 large yellow onion, washed, peeled, root end and top removed, quartered (optional)

6 brown mushrooms, washed, stem end removed, leave whole (optional)

Directions

First, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water (remember the 20 second drill), then wash the chicken inside and out with water (no soap). Dry off the outside of the chicken.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Prepare a roasting pan by lining the bottom with aluminum foil. Place a Silpat sheet on top of the foil and, if available, a roasting rack on top of the Silpat sheet and aluminum foil.

Drizzle olive oil inside and outside the whole chicken and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Place the chicken breast-side down on a roasting rack, if available. If one is not available, place the chicken breast-side down directly on the aluminum foil/Silpat sheet lined roasting pan and place into the oven.

Cook 30 minutes.

Using oven mitts, remove the chicken from the oven. Place on stove top and use tongs to turn over the chicken so now it is breast-side up.

Add vegetables to the bottom of the roasting pan (optional).


Cook another 30 minutes or until the legs move easily.

Remove from the oven. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the top. Allow the chicken to rest, to release its juices.

That's it.

To make chicken stock from the bones and pan drippings, please look below to the directions for Making Chicken Stock.

Feta-Brined Roasted Whole Chicken

My favorite roast chicken takes a bit more effort (not that much!) and seven additional ingredients.

To make the roast chicken more festive, I add feta and onions on top. Neither are essential but they add delicious flavors.

Brining the whole chicken for two hours or overnight makes the meat more tender and moist. That extra step is well worth it, but can be omitted.

One chicken 3 1/2 - 4 pounds feeds 4 people. If you are feeding fewer people, the chicken will provide you with even more meals. If you aren't going to eat all the meat and stock within 2 days, wrap the chicken in plastic wrap inside a sealed plastic bag and freeze. To freeze the stock, place the liquid in a sealable container, preferably 8 or 16 oz for easy use. 

My mother and grandmother taught me that to waste food is a sin. In this case, that means always reserving the pan drippings, giblets, neck, heart, bones and carcass of the chicken to make a best-ever stock that you can use to make delicious chicken-vegetable-rice soup or chicken and dumplings.



If a liver came with the chicken, use it to make a tasty mushroom-chicken liver pate to serve as an amuse bouche.

Only use Diamond Crystal kosher salt. All the other brands I've seen put in chemical additives. Diamond Crystal does not.

Use a roasting pan with 1" sides to facilitate browning on the sides of the chicken. 


Line the roasting pan first with aluminum foil and then with a Silpat sheet. If a Silpat (non-stick) sheet is not available, lining the pan with aluminum foil is sufficient for easy-clean up. The advantage of a Silpat sheet is that all the delicious drippings slide off easily and can be added to the stock. Silpat sheets are widely available in many supermarkets, at all cooking supply stores and online. Use a Silpat sheet that fits the dimensions of your pan.

You do not have to truss the chicken with kitchen twine. 

Before beginning, carefully wash the inside and outside of the chicken with fresh water. If brining, place the washed chicken into the liquid. If not, pat dry and season with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper on the inside and outside.

 Serves 4

Time to brine: at least two hours or overnight

Time to prep: 15 minutes

Time to cook: 60 - 90 minutes depending on size of chicken

Time to rest before serving: 5 minutes

Special Cooking Tools 

Roasting sheet tray (with a 1" rim)

Aluminum foil and Silpat sheet to fit the roasting sheet tray

12"-14" kitchen tongs

Roasting rack (optional)

Cooking Twine (optional)

Ingredients for roasting

1 whole 3 1/2 - 4 pound chicken, washed, liver, giblets, neck and heart if included, removed, washed and reserved separately

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for the brine

1/4 cup fresh feta, preferably Bulgarian (because it is less expensive), crumbled

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon white sugar

4 bay leaves, whole

1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Ingredients for the topping

1 medium onion, washed, top and root end removed, peeled, sliced thin from the top to the bottom

1/2 cup Italian parsley, stems and leaves, washed, drained, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh feta, Bulgarian, crumbled

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Small bowl of flake salt (optional) on the table

Directions for brining

Use twine to tie together the legs and wings (optional)


Place the chicken, salt, sugar and aromatics into a large heavy plastic bag or a container with a lid. Fill with cold water until the chicken is submerged. Seal. If using a plastic bag, place in a large bowl so the water doesn't leak.

Refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.

Directions for Roasting

Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and a Silpat sheet on top of the foil for easier cleanup. Place a roasting rack on top of the lined baking sheet. If no roasting rack is available, place the chicken directly on the lined baking sheet, breast side down.

Remove the chicken from the brine. Rinse, pat dry and allow to rest uncovered for 10 minutes.

Pour the brine through a colander to capture the feta. Discard the brining aromatics. Remove the feta and reserve.

In a bowl, mix together the feta from the brine, the additional feta, onion, parsley, sea salt and black pepper.

Rub olive oil over the chicken. Add remaining olive oil to the feta-onion-parlsey topping and mix well. Set aside.

Place chicken onto the roasting rack if one is available, breast down and put into the preheated oven. Roast for thirty minutes or until the skin is brown and crisp to the touch.

Reduce oven to 350F.

Using tongs, turn over the chicken, being careful not to tear the skin. Place the chicken breast-side up on the roasting rack.

Cover the breast-side up chicken with the feta-onion-parlsey topping.  The mound of onions will seem large, but will greatly reduce during cooking. If any bits fall onto the bottom of the baking tray, no worries, you can scoop them up later.


Return to the oven. After 30 minutes, check for doneness. Wiggle a chicken leg. If there is resistance, the chicken needs more time. If the topping is getting too brown, place a sheet of aluminum over the top like a tent. Roast another 15 minutes and check for doneness. Continue roasting until the leg moves freely.

Remove from the oven and place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top so the chicken rests for 5 minutes.

Remove aluminum foil. Carve in the kitchen or at the table. Use a recently sharpened knife or kitchen sheers. Plate the chicken with the charred onion-feta-parsley mix on top.

Serve hot with sides of roasted potatoes, squash or salt boiled spinach.

Place a small bowl of flake salt on the table. The crunch of the salt will add to the pleasures of the dish.

Making chicken stock

Once the chicken has been carved, reserve all the bones and pan drippings. If there isn't time to make stock that night, refrigerate and make the next day.

I prefer to make my chicken stock without aromatics or seasoning beyond the flavors provided during roasting. That way, when you use the stock to make soup or a sauce, you can add whatever flavors you want.

To make the stock, add the bones, pan drippings, reserved neck, heart and gizzard to a 3-4 quart pot and add fresh water to cover by 2".

Place on the stove on a medium-high flame, bring to a low boil and simmer 60 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by 1/3. Taste and continue simmering until the flavor is to your liking.

Allow to cool. Strain the liquid into a bowl.  Remove the bones, neck, heart and gizzard. Pick the meat off the bones and reserve the gizzard. The meat and gizzard can be used in a salad, to make chicken and dumplings or to add to a chicken-vegetable soup.

Place stock into containers with lids. 8 and 16 oz containers are useful. An 8 oz container will make a sauce. A 16 oz container will make soup for one.

The soup can be kept frozen for 3-4 months without hurting the quality. When you remove the frozen stock from the freezer, use fresh water to rinse off any ice crystals that might have formed on the top of the stock.

To make a soup, sauté cut up vegetables in olive oil until lightly browned, add chicken stock and parts of the chicken like the gizzard, a leg or wing. Simmer covered until vegetables soften. Serve hot.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Eat Twice - Quick and Easy, Vegetable-Chicken Congee-Style Rice Bowl

We've all been there. One hand holds the refrigerator door open as we stare into the brightly illuminated emptiness. We're hungry. We want something that doesn't take much time to prepare.

Where are all the great things to eat? What happened to the chicken and dumplings we made a few days ago? Oh, yeah, we finished that off at lunch. What about the brown sugar pork ribs that were so delicious? The crispy fried chicken? The roasted artichokes? Oh, yeah, all gone.

We could make a salad, but there's no Little Gem lettuce, no arugula, not even Italian parsley. We meant to go to the market. There just wasn't time.


But all is not lost. There's a container of steamed rice we brought home from a meal at the Chinese restaurant. There aren't any leafy greens in the vegetable bin, but there are a few things from last weekend's farmers market. A carrot, an onion, an ear of corn, a dozen English pea pods, a few mushrooms and a bunch of kale.

To make what I have in mind, we need homemade stock. A quick look in the freezer and, yes!, there's a container of chicken stock we made with the left over chicken from the Peruvian restaurant. Maybe our prospects aren't so bleak.

Eat Twice

The key to unlocking this deliciousness is repurposing or more specifically re-imagining what was served up for one meal that can be magically transformed into another.

One of my favorites is a richly flavored rice dish that uses freshly cooked rice or, in the spirit of Eat Twice, rice brought home after a meal at our favorite Vietnamese or Chinese restaurant.

The dish is a cousin of Asian congee, traditionally a soupy, pale white, savory morning bowl of boiled rice mixed with a protein. The version I want you to try is vibrant, colorful and richly layered with flavors and textures.

Use farmers market vegetables to give the dish a crisp freshness. Homemade stock braises the rice to create a comforting creaminess (without using cream).

I always use a mix of vegetables, especially shiitake mushrooms, onions, carrots, broccoli, corn kernels and English peas when they are available. For my pescatarian wife, I use homemade vegetable stock and add tofu or freshly deveined shrimp.

For me, I love a mix of cooked chicken and chopped up shumai, those wonderful pork filled dumplings served as a dim sum dish, or bbq pork sparerib meat cut off the bone and chopped into bite-sized pieces.


I also like using broccoli leaves. At the farmers market, many people peel off the leaves and leave them on the table. With the farmer's permission, I scoop them up, a treasure waiting to flavor my dishes. The stems should be cut into thin rounds. The leaves should be shredded. They are delicious.

In the summer, I use a medley of warm weather vegetables like corn and English peas. In colder weather, I rely on squash, sturdy leafy greens like kale and broccoli.


Vegetable and Chicken Congee

Convenient and versatile, left-over rice may feel dry to the touch but introduce a hot liquid and the grains plump up and return their former deliciousness.

Use any kind of rice you enjoy except wild rice.

If using freshly cooked rice, the time needed to cook the rice will be much less so add the rice to the simmering broth at the last minute so the grains do not absorb too much liquid and become soggy.

Use any vegetables you enjoy.

Homemade stock is preferable because it will be lower in sodium content and you can control the quality. And, it is less expensive than store bought canned or frozen stock. 

For a vegan version, use vegetables and vegetable broth.

For a spicy version, include 1 cup finely chopped kimchi.

Yield: 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

4 cups cooked rice

4 cups stock, preferably homemade

2 cups cooked chicken meat, deboned, roughly chopped

6 leaves kale, washed, pat dried, stems removed, cut into a small pieces or 6 large broccoli leaves, stems finely sliced into rounds, leaves shredded

1 cup broccoli stems and florets, cut into small pieces

1 cup corn kernels (when available)

1 large carrot, washed, peeled, cut into corn kernel sized pieces

1/2 cup shelled English peas, washed (when available)

1 medium yellow onions, washed, peeled, root and stem ends removed, cut into corn kernel sized pieces

6 large shiitake mushrooms, washed, pat dried, tip of the stem removed, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt, ground fine

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Pinch cayenne powder (optional)

Directions

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium flame. Add all vegetables. Sauté until lightly brown.

Add stock and chicken. Stir and simmer 10 minutes to combine flavors.


Season with sea salt, black pepper and cayenne (optional).

Add rice. Stir well to combine all ingredients.

Simmer. The cooking time will depend on the rice. If freshly cooked, the time is probably 5 minutes. If the rice needs reconstituting, probably 10 minutes.

Be careful not to overcook because the rice will become soggy.

Serve hot with enough liquid in the bowl that the rice is "wet".

Friday, September 18, 2015

Shrimp Steam Up and Go to Town with Remoulade and Charred Shallots

Often the most ingenious cooking techniques are the simplest. Years ago I met a Thai chef who graciously showed me some basic cooking techniques. One particular technique I loved was cooking raw shrimp in an aluminum foil pouch. The resulting shrimp were plump, juicy and sweet. Of course the freshest, highest quality shrimp needed to be used.

I loved the technique not only because of the result but also because as the shrimp cooked, the pouch expanded. That reminded me of the way stove-top Jiffy popcorn puffed up.
Long before there was microwavable popcorn, Jiffy satisfied the hunger for easy-to-make snack food. Prepared correctly, the popcorn came out nicely steamed. But if you weren't careful, the bottom kernels burned and gave the whole bag of popcorn a harsh charcoal flavor. The same is true of cooking the shrimp in an aluminum pouch, be careful not to burn the shrimp.

Preparing the shrimp this way can produce perfectly steamed shrimp to use for an icy-cold shrimp cocktail to accompany an equally icy-cold vodka martini (dirty, of course, with an olive and an onion) or to be served hot and steaming on a platter.

With the shrimp cocktail, serve a horseradish-hot cocktail sauce. With the hot shrimp, remoulade is a good accompanying sauce or chermoula.

After steaming, the shrimp can be quickly charred on a carbon steel pan to add a bit of color and sweetness. That's what I did tonight for dinner when I made the shrimp with charred shallots and remoulade.

FAT JUICY STEAMED SHRIMP WITH REMOULADE SAUCE AND CHARRED SHALLOTS

Raw shrimp that have been shelled and devined can be used, but I prefer to go the distance and do the prep work myself. That way I know when the shelling and deveining was done and I will harvest the shells to make a light and delicious shrimp-shell sauce. More about that in another post.

Use any size shrimp you like. Smaller shrimp will cook more quickly and are more trouble to shell and devein. In general, I would recommend medium to large sized shrimp.

Time to prepare depends if you are shelling and deveining them yourself. The cooking time will also vary, depending on the size of the shrimp.

Choosing a mustard to use to make the remoulade is a personal choice. Dijon has a good clean flavor but can be intense. A milder choice is deli-style mustards. In either case, buy a good quality mustard.

Serves 4 as an entree, Serves 8 as an appetizer

Time to prep: approximately 15 minutes

Time to cook: approximately 5 minutes

Total time: approximately 20 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds raw shrimp, washed, pat dried
1/4 cup mayonnaise preferably Best Foods or Heilman's
1/4 cup good quality mustard, either deli style or Dijon
1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5-6 large shallots, washed, skins removed and ends trimmed and discarded
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 sheet aluminum 15" long

Directions

To make the remoulade, mix together the mayonnaise, mustard and capers, seasoned with black pepper. Place in an air tight container and refrigerator.

If the raw shrimp are shelled and deveined, wash and pat dry. If not, peel the shells off, starting with the legs and rolling them off the flesh, pulling off the tail at the same time.
Using a sharp paring knife, cut a shallow incision in the back of the shrimp, remove the black vein and discard. After shelling and deveining, rinse the shrimp again in clean water, drain and pat dry.

Lay the sheet of aluminum on a flat surface. In the middle of the sheet, lay the shrimp snuggly together, all facing the same way. Imagine they are coodling in bed.
Fold the foil over the shrimp and neatly seal the ends being careful to keep the shrimp flat. The objective is to create an air-tight pouch. The ends of the pouch should be folded over 3-4 times so that as the pouch expands, the ends do not pop open releasing the heat and liquid.

Heat a pan large enough that the pouch can fit in the center. Turn the heat onto high. Have a pair of long tongs at the ready.

To determine that the pan is hot enough, dip three fingers into a bowl of water and fling drops of water into the pan. If the water skitters across, the pan is hot enough.

Have a large plate ready.

Place the pouch onto the hot pan. When the pouch inflates, the shrimp are cooked on that side. If the pouch is not sealed completely, the pouch may not inflate. The shrimp will cook regardless. In which case, assume that 3 minutes on each side will cook the shrimp.
Carefully use the tongs to turn the pouch over. Lay the pouch in the middle of the hot pan. If the pouch had inflated, turning it over will deflate it. When it inflates again or the pouch has been on the hot pan for 3-4 minutes, the shrimp should be cooked.

Using the tongs, hold the pouch over a bowl and cut open the pouch. Remove the shrimp, reserve the liquid to make a sauce for another dish and, if you are not immediately serving the shrimp, refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 24 hours.
Just before serving, finely slice the shallots the long way (end to end). Toss with olive oil. Heat a frying pan. I like using a carbon steel pan which will quickly add a beautifully flavorful caramelization on the shallot strands. Place the oiled shallots into the pan. Using tongs, toss well and sauté until the shallots are charred. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the pan again. When it is hot, place the shrimp in the pan for a few seconds on each side, just long enough to lightly char the sides. Remove.

Serve the shrimp topped with the charred shallots accompanied with a small bowl of remoulade.

The shrimp can be accompanied with steamed rice, freshly made pasta or a tossed green salad. And don't forget the dirty martini!

Shrimp 101: Easy to Prepare and Delicious

Shrimp are easy to prepare, nutritious and low in fat. Adaptable with many sauces and preparations, their versatility makes them an ideal in...