Friday, October 31, 2008

Mac & cheese with blue cheese and bacon

This is the third version of mac & cheese posted on this blog. The other two (a southwest jalapeno version and a manchego and Spanish chorizo version) are posted here. This time around, I used three cheeses: cheddar, gruyere, and Valdeon - a really strong Spanish blue cheese and some applewood smoked bacon from Savenor's.

To make the mac & cheese, start by boiling water and cooking the pasta. I used DeCecco cavatappi pasta for this batch. Cut the bacon into small strips and cook slowly in order to render out a lot of the fat. While the bacon is cooking, you can start the cheese sauce. The first step is to make a basic bechamel. Heat up about 2 cups of milk. In a separate saucepan, melt about 4Tbsp of butter and mix with about 3Tbsp flour. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes until the roux just begins to color. Add the warm milk to the roux 1Tbsp at a time until you have added about 1/2 cup, then you can add larger amounts.
Let the bechamel simmer with a bay leaf for a about 10 minutes. You can add white pepper as well. Then, start stirring in grated or crumbled cheese. Add as much as you like. The more the better.
When the cheese sauce is done, add the bacon, mix in the pasta, and put everything into oven proof dishes.
Top with panko bread crumbs and finish in the oven for 30 minutes at 350F. To get the bread crumbs to brown a little better than in the picture below, you can put a couple pats of butter on top of the bread crumbs before putting it in the oven.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Roasted pork belly with spaetzle and collards

Ma Po Tofu

This is a dish that Abby and I make fairly often. Quick. Easy. Tasty. It's comfort food at its best.


Mix together 3/4 cup of water
1 Tbsp of Chinese cooking wine
2 Tbsp of soy sauce and 1 tsp salt.
In a separate cup, mix together 2 tsp corn starch and about a Tbsp of water.

Mince 2 cloves of garlic, an equivalent amount of ginger, and two scallions. Reserve about 1/4 of the scallions for garnish.
Mince the pork. It helps to stick it in the freezer for about 15 to 30 minutes first. This allows you to cut the pork into very thin slices. After doing this, just run your knife across the slices a few times.

Cut the block of extra firm tofu into 1 cm squares.Once these ingredients are prepped, you can start cooking. First, stir fry the pork in 2 Tbsp oil. When using a wok, you should always have the heat up as high as possible. It helps to use an oil that can stand up to high heat such as sunflower oil.
Once the pork is done, set it aside in a separate bowl, but keep as much oil in the wok as possible. Stir fry the garlic, ginger, and scallions for a minute or so, then add a tablespoon of hot black bean sauce for another minute.

Add the liquid, bring to a bowl, and then add the pork and tofu.Let everything simmer for a couple minutes and then add the corn starch/water mixture. If there is too much liquid, you can turn up the heat to reduce the sauce or you can add more corn starch to thicken the sauce more. Finish with a bit of white pepper, sesame oil, and the remaining chopped scallion and serve over rice.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Salt baked branzino

Here's yet another recipe from the Dave Pasternak cookbook. That makes three in a row. So far, they have all been good, but I think this is my favorite. It's easy, fun to make, and tastes really good.

Start with a whole fish. I used branzino, but any white fish will do. Just get whatever is fresh. Clean the fish, make sure it's scaled, clip all the fins, and stuff the cavity with lemon slices, a sprig of rosemary, some parsley stems (reserve the leaves for garnish), a clove of garlic, and a couple olives.
For the salt crust, mix together salt in a ratio of about one egg white to a little over one cup of salt. This fish was a little over a pound, and I used 2 1/4 cups of salt and two egg whites. If you get a bigger fish, use 3 to 3 1/2 cups of salt.

Place a little of the salt mixture on a baking sheet cover this with a piece of parchment paper in the shape of the fish. This will allow you to remove the bottom side of the fish from the salt crust when you are done cooking.
Cover the fish with the remaining salt mixture and bake at 400F for about 20 minutes.
When the fish is done baking, crack the crust with the spoon and peel it away from the fish. Run your knife along the spine of the fish to separate the top fillet and remove carefully. After you plate the top fillet, you can just pull out the fish spine in one piece, leaving the bottom fillet in the salt crust. You can just lift up the bottom fillet by cutting loose the parchment paper and then sliding the fillet onto the plate. Garnish with some lemon and parsley. Since we had some egg yolks left over from the salt crust, we also made some lemon aioli to go with the fish.
Serve the fish with whatever sides work for you. I made baked brown rice and a mixture of kale and collards with garlic, red pepper flakes, and bacon braised in chicken stock.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Spaghetti with Tuna Meatballs

Here's another recipe from the Dave Pasternak cookbook. Spaghetti with Tuna Meatballs. These meatballs would actually make great tuna patties for a sandwich, so I'll probably try that sometime soon. The basics of this are like any other meatballs, you just use tuna as the protein. Start by combining the tuna and breadcrumbs in a food processor. After pulsing this mixture a few times, stir in an egg, salt, pepper, garlic and chopped parsley. You want to cook the garlic in olive oil first. For ratios, you should use about 1.5lb tuna, 3/4 cup bread, 1 egg, and 2 cloves of garlic cooked in 2 Tbsp of oil.
Form into meatballs and cook in a little bit of olive oil.

Serve with spaghetti and basic tomato sauce.

Grilled swordfish

Earlier in the summer Abby and I ate at this great restaurant in New York called Esca. We both love seafood and the food at the restaurant was really good, so we decided to get the cookbook. This week I've been going through the cookbook and making some of the recipes. This one is really simple. Its just a swordfish steak that's breaded and grilled. You can make breadcrumbs by running some stale bread through a food processor and seasoning with various herbs, or you can just buy some italian style bread crumbs from the store. Start by trimming the skin off of the sword fish steaks. Then season with salt and pepper and dredge in bread crumbs. If you have a charcoal grill, use that. If not, you can do what I did and use a grill pan. Cooking time depends on the thickness of the steak. I cooked it between 4-5 minutes on each side. The cookbook suggested serving this with a blood orange salad. I didn't have any blood oranges, and I usually stick with a protein/starch/veg. combo for my dinners, so I made brocolli with lemon, garlic, and red pepper, and a brown rice pilaf for the side dishes.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Breaking in the new pasta maker

One of the great things about the KitchenAid stand mixer is that, in addition to allowing for hands-free mixing, there are all sorts of cool attachments that you could add on to it, like a pasta roller/cutter. I've tried making pasta before with just a rolling pin. This is much much much easier. It takes no time at all and tastes really good, so I have a feeling I'll be getting a lot of use out of it.

Here are step-by-step pictures of the proces.

Start by mixing together the flower and eggs. We also added a bunch of pepper for this batch.
Knead the dough for about 10 minutes and let rest for 30 minutes. Break the dough into a few pieces, flatten them, and feed them through the rollers, making the sheet progressively thinner.
Once you get to the desired thickness, cut the pasta.

Boil and finish cooking for another minute or two with the sauce.
Serve in a warmed bowl. I dressed this pasta with some lamb ragu that had been sitting in the freezer for a while. It's the same recipe that I made here, I just used lamb instead of pork....the lamb turned out a bit stringy, so I think I'll stick with pork next time I make this.

Blog post #100!

This weekend my blog passed a somewhat momentous milestone: 100 posts. It just so happened that Stefan wanted to have a dinner party over the weekend, and I volunteered to have it at my place. Only after the fact did I realize that I was almost at entry number 100. So, this dinner party provided the perfect way to recognize the moment.

The dinner party also gave Abby and I a chance to try out some of the new kitchen gadgets we got for our wedding. The entree for evening was smoked chicken breast with sweet potato gnocchi and roasted beets and brussels sprouts. We used a stovetop smoker that Anand and Sara gave us to make the chicken.
The smoker has a nice lid to it, but I had to replace it with foil in order to create room for all of the food inside. I smoked the chicken over relatively low heat for a little over an hour. You could tell the chicken had been smoked, but just barely. I've used this twice now and I am still trying to figure out how many woodchips to use, what heat to use, and how long to smoke something to really get some good smoke flavor.

For the gnocchi, we got to break in a nice stand mixer that some of Abby's relatives gave us. The base of the sweet potato gnocchi is a mix of roasted sweet potato passed through a ricer and ricotta cheese.

By the time we had the gnocchi dough mixed up, guests had started arriving, so we got to enlist some help in the kitchen. Here's Stefan with a batch of freshly cut gnocchi (and a smashing apron)...
...and here's Venice getting ready to boil the gnocchi.
Jon and Katrina put together a nice spread of cheese, fruit, and salami to hold us over while we finished cooking.
Here are a couple more pictures from the evening.

Curry noodles with beef

Over a year into the life of this blog, we finally have an entry from Abby. I didn't feel like cooking the other night, so Abby decided to try out a recipe for grilled beef with noodles in a Thai curry broth. Here are some pictures.