Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Sometimes there's a pleasant surprise in the back of the refrigerator, like the home cured olives that get better with time. Or a month old paper bag filled with what was two pounds of shiitake mushrooms. Whenever I go to the Vietnamese markets in Little Saigon, I buy 4-5 pounds of shiitakes because they're so inexpensive: $2.79/pound instead of the usual $12-18.00/pound at Whole Foods and Gelson's. For weeks we'll feast on shiitakes: in pastas, grilled on the bbq, in soups, and sautéed with garlic and shallots.
Everyone knows that mushrooms should only be stored in paper bags because in plastic they'll get soggy. An added advantage: the paper bag is a natural dehydrator. In a few weeks the shiitakes dry out perfectly. This technique works with brown mushrooms as well but the shiitakes are the best.
Put the mushrooms into a paper bag, add a paper towel in the middle to prevent against spoilage and facilitate drying, and close the bag. If any mushrooms develop mold, discard them. Once the shiitakes are completely dried, store in a sealed glass jar. At that point they don't have to be kept in the refrigerator but they seem to taste better if you do.
Reconstituting Dried Shiitakes
Put the dried mushrooms in a heat proof bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover. Place a smaller bowl on top of the mushrooms to push them under the hot water. Let them sit for 30 minutes until they soften. Just before using, remove the mushrooms, gently squeeze out the water (reserve all the water), cut off the stems and discard. At this point the mushroom caps can be cooked as if they were fresh.
Shiitake Mushroom Soup with Garlic
A simple, satisfying soup. Other ingredients can be added to the basic soup: grilled sausages, roast chicken, raw shrimp, carrot rounds, corn kernels, , ginger, or deveined shrimp. If you have a package of ramen, cook the noodles and add those and a sliced hard boiled egg as well.
2 cups dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted, stems removed, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
4 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
4 cups spinach leaves, washed, stems removed (finely chop the stems, leave the leaves whole)
4 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
Sea salt and pepper
In a small pot sauté the mushrooms, garlic, shallots, spinach stems and leaves, and any other vegetables with the olive oil until lightly browned. Add the soaking water and chicken stock. Simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with the salt and pepper as needed. If you cooked ramen noodles, add them just before serving.
Serves 2. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 30 minutes.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Saturday, January 12, 2008
When we're at the resort, my sons go skiing. I tried it a couple of times and realized it just isn't my thing. I wish I had my sons' athleticism. I don't. But I'm completely happy because Sundance is the perfect setting to cook. The condo has a simple kitchen set-up. No oven and only a 2-burner stove top, but outside the snow covered mountain is postcard perfect and inside it's nice and warm.
I do a lot of cooking at the resort, but I'm not cooking for the time we're here. I'm cooking and then freezing the food so we can have home-cooked meals when we're at the Festival, where watching 3-4 films a day means there's no time to cook. If you're lucky there's the occasional party where you can grab a mini-crab cake or some cheese and crackers.
I wanted to make comfort food. Nourishing, warm dishes that would revive us after a very long day.
Before we came up to the resort, we stopped at Macey's, one of the local supermarkets, and picked up basics: 2 Gold'n Plump organic chickens, a couple of pounds of extra lean ground beef, a package of Italian sweet sausages, and a selection of fresh vegetables.
Since all the dishes had to be able to survive freezing and reheating, everything would have a sauce or be in a soup, that would protect against freezer burn and drying out. That meant the first thing I needed to do was to make chicken stock.
Cutting up the 2 chickens, I had the carcasses and wing tips for the stock. Simmered on a low boil with 16 cups of water for 1 hour, then strained to remove the bones, I had 8 cups of stock. I pulled 1 cup of meat off the bones, perfect for chicken soup. Because I needed a lot of stock, I used the now-picked-clean bones for a 2nd boil by covering the bones with water and simmering for 30 minutes. Straining out the bones gave me an additional 2 cups of stock. If possible, refrigerate the stock overnight so the fat can be removed.
Sautéed saUSAGES AND CHICKEN WINGS WITH SHIiTAKE MUSHROOMS
4 wings, washed, cut into pieces, the tips used for stock
2 Italian sweet sausages, cut into ¼” rounds
½ bunch spinach, washed, roughly chopped
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, fresh, or dried, soaked for 2 hours in hot water, stems removed
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup shiitake mushroom soaking water
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
On a medium flame, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Saute the chicken wings until brown on all sides. Remove and sauté the sausage rounds until brown, drain and remove. Pour off the excess oil.
Add the 2nd tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the shiiake mushrooms and garlic until lightly browned. Deglaze the pan with the 2 stocks, add the spinach, then put back the wings and sausages. Simmer for 30 minutes lightly covered with a sheet of tin foil.
Serve in a bowl with soup spoons and lots of napkins because this is finger-eating food. Or, to make a more substantial entree, add pasta or rice to the bowl.
Serves 2-4. Preparation Time: 20 minutes. Cooking Time: 60 minutes.
For everything going into the freezer, I use an airtight container, like the ones made by Ziploc, and make sure that the liquid covers the meat and vegetables to avoid freezer burn.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Anyway, I took the plunge and cooked a whole duck. It turned out...ok. There's all that fat to deal with and the fact that the whole bird is dark meat. After dozens of outings, I figured out how to cook duck, and, I have to say, duck is great. Taste-wise it's midway between chicken and beef, but better than either.
To the point: cooking a whole duck is an obligation. Cooking duck legs and thighs is a lot more normal. Think "chicken" and it won't seem so special, but the end result will be.
The duck we get comes from Vietnamese markets where the cost per pound averages $2.25. It's easy enough to buy a half dozen legs and thighs (they come together) and freeze them. The easy way to do that is to wash and pat dry each leg/thigh, lay it on a piece of plastic wrap, drizzle with olive oil on both sides and season with sea salt and black pepper. Place the individually wrapped duck leg/thighs into a ziploc bag, squeeze the air out, seal the bag, and the duck will stay fresh-tasting for months.
Duck Legs & Thighs with Winter Vegetables
One of those great comfort food recipes that works in cold or hot weather. The duck makes a "soup," so you can fill out the serving with a nice pasta like Zitti or Penne.
Time: 90 minutes
4 duck leg/thighs
2 carrots, peeled, cut into thick rounds, then quartered
2 yams or sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into thick rounds, then quartered
10 Brussels sprouts, trim the bottoms, quarter
10 shitaki mushrooms, washed, cleaned, sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
4 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
10 shallots, peeled, halved
Freshly ground black pepper
When you're ready to cook the duck, separate the thighs from the legs at the joint.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or fry pan. Season the duck pieces with sea salt and black pepper, then sauté the duck until browned on all sides. Remove from the pan and drain on a plate with paper towels.
Pour off the duck fat into a container and save (freeze it if you aren't going to use it right away). Duck fat sells for $20/pint; don't waste it. Duck fat is magic.
Sauté the shitaki mushrooms until lightly browned on each side. Remove to a plate. Now saute the garlic, carrots, sweet potatoes, shallots, garlic, and parsley until lightly browned. Remove to a plate.
Put the duck back into the pan and cover with water. Put a lid on the pan and braise over a medium flame for 45 to 60 minutes, until the meat is tender and separates from the bone with a little pressure. Add back the mushrooms and vegetables and cook another 15 minutes, uncovered.
Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Serve as is or add a cup of cooked pasta for each plate.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Eaten raw with a classic tomato-based cocktail sauce they're delicious. Especially with an ice-cold shot of tequila.
On a cold day, though, oyster stew is the way to go. Satisfying and comforting, the best stews, like the ones served at the Grand Central Station Oyster Bar, are prepared as simply as possible.
My recipe is a variation on that theme.
Yield: Serves 4
Time: 60 minutes
6 oysters, raw, shucked, the nectar strained and reserved
1 medium sized, Yukon potato, peeled, finely diced (1/2 cup)
1 small yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
1 garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped
2 sprigs, parsley, finely chopped, stems and leaves (1 tablespoon)
1 small carrot, finely chopped (1 teaspoon)
2 fresh shiitaki mushrooms, washed, julienned
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup homemade chicken stock
1 cup water
1/2 cup cream or half and half
In a medium sized saucepan, sauté the potatoes, garlic, and onions with a tablespoon of olive oil for 10 minutes, stirring frequently so they don't brown. Season with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then add the butter and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes. Season to taste with a dash of hot sauce.
Add the chicken stock and water. Simmer, covered, on a low flame for 15 minutes. Remove the lid, stir, and taste, adjust the flavors.
Shuck the oysters. Reserve and strain the nectar, getting rid of any sand and shell pieces. If the oysters are very large, use kitchen shears or scissors and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
Keeping the stew on a low flame, add the oysters and nectar. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and continue cooking on a low flame for another 5 minutes.
Serve with fresh crusty French bread or topped with homemade croutons.
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