February 16, 2014

We Can Pickle That!

I know it's been a while since we've posted anything, but once again, work and life has gotten in the way.  We've been sticking to old standby recipes that we can whip up in a flash.  Plus, the polar vortex has limited the amount of produce we've been receiving in our share, so we haven't had much to work with on that front either.

Nonetheless, we've got a quick an easy way to spice things up during these cold winter months.  A few months back, we got a bunch of jalapenos in our share.  With no immediate use for them, we decided to pickle them, following this recipe by Michael Symon.

Start by poking a few holes in each pepper, and placing them in your jar.  This will allow the brine to get inside the peppers, and pickle them from the inside out.
For your brine, bring to boil equal parts water and vinegar, some sugar and salt (in equal proportions), and your aromatics; bay leaves, whole coriander seeds, a few garlic cloves, and black peppercorns.  We didn't have any peppercorns on hand, so we just used our coarse ground black pepper instead.  We also didn't have whole coriander seeds, as the recipe called for, so we used ground coriander.  That's why our brine looks a bit muddy.  We also decided to throw in some mustard seeds for good measure.
Once your brine begins to boil, turn down the heat, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.  Pour the brine over your peppers, place the lid on, and let it cool.  Once cooled, put them in the fridge, and let the brine work it's magic.  Let them sit in the fridge for about a week before using them.  This will give the peppers time to pickle.
Then you can slice them up and serve as you see fit.  Ours have a nice sweetness to balance out some of the heat.  They're great on top of nachos or tacos.

February 4, 2014

Braise the Roof!

A recent snow day afforded us the opportunity to really put our slow cooker to the test, and braise some short ribs for over 8 hours.  The timing couldn't have been more perfect.  I've been a bit hesitant to leave the crock pot plugged in while Justin and I are both away at work, so being snowed in was the perfect time to let these babies braise.

I'd seen this recipe come through my email, and we merged it with a short rib recipe from Nom Nom Paleo.  Both recipes had similar ingredients in the braising liquids, so we thought it'd be easy to merge the two recipes.

We fired up the crock pot, and placed our seasoned short ribs inside.  To that, we added some roughly chopped carrots, celery, white onion, green onion, a handful of garlic cloves, and some ginger.  We also had some lemongrass on hand, so we added a bit of that to the crock pot too.  For some added sweetness, we tossed in some gula jawa, as well as a few cloves of fermented black garlic that we had on hand.
For the braising liquid, we combined about 1/2 cup soy sauce, a splash of fish sauce, a touch of apple cider vinegar, 1 cup beef broth, and enough water to cover the top of the ribs.  Then we just put the lid on, and let the ribs simmer the day away.
About halfway through, the aroma of the short ribs and braising liquid started to spread throughout the apartment, and it was hard to resist.  We let them cook for a solid 8 hours.  By the time we were ready to eat, the meat was so tender, it just fell off the bone and melted in your mouth.  Be sure to skim off as much fat from the braising liquid before spooning it over your short ribs.
To accompany our short ribs, we whipped up some rice, and snow pea greens sauteed with garlic.  The rice helped soak up some of the delicious braising liquid too, while the snow pea greens added a crisp, fresh component to the dish.  The short ribs were garnished with some toasted sesame seeds.  It was the perfect, hearty dinner for a wintery snow day.

January 27, 2014

An Ode to Julia

In sticking with our French theme lately, we decided to pair our French onion soup with a traditional coq au vin, a la Julia Child.  This dish has multiple components, and takes some time, but it's a hearty, delicious dish, perfect for these cold winter nights.

There are two components you can prepare in advance; the mushrooms and the pearl onions.  Let's start with the mushrooms.  Just saute your sliced mushrooms in some butter and oil.  They'll first absorb the liquids in the pan, and then release them.  Once they release the liquids and start to brown, you can season with salt and pepper.  Remove them from the heat, toss in some sliced green onions, and saute for a couple more minutes.  Then you can just set them aside while you prepare the rest of the meal.
Next, let's tackle the pearl onions.  Make sure you peel off the skins, and keep them whole.  Toss them into a hot pan with some melted butter and oil.  Roll them around every few minutes so they brown as evenly as possible.
While your onions are browning, you can make your satchel of herbs.  In a piece of cheesecloth, wrap up some parsley, thyme, and a bay leaf.  Wrap it up and tie it with some twine.
Once your onions have browned, you'll add in your liquids.  The recipe calls for stock or wine, but we decided to use a combination of the two.  We went with 1/4 cup beef stock and 1/4 cup red wine.  You'll also toss in you herb satchel, and season with salt and pepper.  Then just let them saute until the onions are tender and the liquid evaporates.   Once the liquid has evaporated and absorbed into the onions, you can set them aside.
Now, on to the main event!  Start by rendering down some sliced bacon in your dutch oven.  Once they've browned slightly, remove them from the pot and throw in your chickens to brown.
We opted to use chicken thighs this time around, but you can use whatever pieces you like.  Really let them settle into the bacon fat and get a nice, golden brown.
Once your chicken is browned on both sides, add your chicken back to the pot.  At this point, you can add some cognac and flame off the alcohol.  Since we didn't have any cognac on hand, we used some of the chocolate stout that we'd used in our French onion soup.
You'll also add in the red wine, enough stock to cover your chicken, a smidge of tomato paste, some garlic, a bay leaf, and a couple sprigs of thyme.  Then just cover your pot and let it simmer until your chickens are cooked through.  If you didn't cook your mushrooms and onions in advance, this is a great time to prepare them.
When your chickens have cooked through, remove them from the pot, and get ready to prepare your gravy.  Your chickens will look purplish since they've absorbed the wine, so don't be concerned when you pull them out.
You'll want to skim some of the fat off your liquid.  No one wants a greasy gravy!  You'll also want to fish out the bay leaf and sprigs of thyme.  Let this reduce down so you have a little more than 2 cups of liquid.  You'll also want to prepare a little gravy thickener.  In this case, it's 2 parts butter, 1 part flour.
Once your little slurry is combined and your sauce has reduced, whisk your butter-flour mixture into the braising liquids.  Let it simmer and thicken to your liking.
When you're just about ready to serve, add your chickens back into the pot, along with your mushrooms and onions.  Baste your chickens in the sauce for a few minutes so they heat through again.
We whipped up some mashed potatoes to go along with our chickens.  They were a great accompaniment to the chicken and the delicious gravy.
This is the type of hearty meal that warms you from the inside, perfect for these frigid days we've been having.

January 24, 2014

Oui Love Soup!

In honor of it being National Soup Month, we rounded up a list of the soups that we've featured on the blog thus far.  So if you're experiencing some frigid weather like we are, you can opt for the warm soups.  And if you're lucky enough to be in a warmer climate, you can go for the cold soups.  Something for everyone!

Hot soups to warm you up...

Cold soups to cool you down...

And if those aren't enough, we're coming at ya with a hearty French onion soup to get through these winter months.  This recipe came from our friends at WellFed Hospitality Group when we attended their first Feastly dinner, a meal paying homage to Julia Child. (you can read about another Feastly meal here)

You'll want to start by thinly slicing 10 onions.  Our onions were quite large, so we only used 8.
While you're slicing your onions, you can crisp up about 1/4 cup of bacon.  Once they've crisped up, add your onions to the pot, along with about half a stick of butter.
As you can see, our stock pot was overflowing with onions.  From this stage, it will take a good 45 minutes for your onions to cook down and caramelize.  As best you can, try to toss your onions around so they all get coated in butter, and cook through.  As they cook down, they'll release a lot of water, which needs to evaporate before your onions can really caramelize.
As you can see, they cook down quite a bit, and turn a nice golden brown color.  At this point you can deglaze your pot.  The recipe calls for a splash of brandy and some white wine, but we didn't have any on hand.  Instead, we used some Boatswain Chocolate Stout that we had on hand.  The beauty of this beer is that for just $1.99, you get a 22oz. bottle of pretty decent beer.

Once you've deglazed your pot, add in 2 quarts of beef stock and some thyme.  To help give it a richer flavor, we also used some veal demi glace.  Let this simmer and reduce for about 20 minutes.
One of my favorite things about French onion soup is the bubbly covering of cheese that covers the bowl.  Since we don't own any of the little crocks like restaurants have, we had to improvise.  We picked up a nice loaf of French bread and toasted some slices, each topped with a little pile of gruyere cheese.  Once the cheese had melted, they were nice little croutons to float on top of our soups.  We also sprinkled some cheese directly into the soup and let it melt in.
Although caramelizing onions takes a while, the end product is well worth it.  You're entire house/apartment will end up smelling like caramelized onions (even my bath towel picked up the scent!), but it's a delicious, hearty soup that will get you through the cold winter months.

January 21, 2014

Quack & Vac

We didn't wait very long to break the vacuum sealer and immersion circulator out of their packaging to give them a whirl.  It was just too hard to resist!

We picked up a couple duck breasts for our initial test drive.  This was perfect for our test run because we've made this dish pretty successfully in the past (despite the occasional duck fat spill from substandard bags breaking).  We started by scoring the skin, and seasoning them with salt and pepper.  We also threw a couple sprigs of thyme and rosemary into the bag for additional flavor.  
Once everything was in the bag, we sealed it up.  I don't know why we waited so long to get a vacuum sealer, because this little machine is so magical.  Just slide the bag's open end into the machine, close and lock the lid, press a button, and in less than 10 seconds, you have a vacuum sealed pouch.  It couldn't be simpler! Not only will it come in handy for sous vide cooking, but it will help us better preserve our various ingredients.
We clamped out immersion circulator to the side of our stock pot, which was filled with water, and placed our ducks into the pot.  Several sources online recommended cooking duck breasts at 135 degrees for 2 hours, so that's what we went with.  We programmed our circulator, and within 5 minutes, it was up to temperature.  We popped in our duck and covered it with some aluminium foil and we were good to go.
After 2 hours, the alarm sounded, and it was time to pull out our duck breasts.  We wanted to crisp up the skins, so we took them out of the pouch, and placed them skin-side down in a hot pan.  The fat rendered out even more, and the skin was perfectly crisp.
We pulled them out of the pan, and let them rest for about 5 minutes.  You don't want to lose all those juices when you slice into it!
Cherries are a popular compliment to duck, but we didn't have any on hand.  What we did have was some extra cranberry sauce.  We just added a little butter and brown sugar, and we had a slightly tart and slightly sweet sauce!  As a side dish, we whipped up one of our favorites, the kale-sunchoke farro hash.
Sous vide is such an easy technique that leaves you with perfectly cooked meat every time.  With our new toys, it's going to be so much easier to play around with different meats, root veggies, and even eggs.