Friday, July 24, 2009

Wild boar chop with fennel pollen, flageolet beans with rosemary, and grilled asparagus

This dish continues my quest to clear out as much of my pantry and freezer as possible before we move to Chicago. 9 days to go, and so many more items left. For this meal, I cleared out some flageolet beans that had been sitting in the pantry for ages and a bag full of chicken bones that had been sitting in the freezer. Often, I buy whole chickens and part them out at home so I can keep the bones for stock. This is one of those things that is a good idea that is only rarely executed on, so I had a whole bunch of bones for stock that I needed to put to use. I used the bones, along with some carrots and celary that were sitting in the fridge, to make a really strong chicken stock. After soaking them overnight, I cooked the flageolet beans in the chicken stock along with some crushed garlic and a couple sprigs of rosemary (from a plant on the back porch that I'm also trying to get a lot of use out of). Most of the effort went into making the boring starch and, as usual, I turned to Cambridge's excellent food purveyors to make the rest of the meal interesting. Wild boar chops came from Savenor's and fennel pollen came from Formaggio. Fennel pollen is tough to track down, but if you ever come across it, buy it. I can't think of a better thing to season pork with. It's amazing stuff. Here's the recipe. As usual, it's for 2 servings.

-1.5 cups dried flageolet beans
-3 qt chicken stock
-2 sprigs of rosemary
-2 crushed garlic cloves
-1 minced shallot

-2 wild boar chops
-fennel pollen

-cayanne pepper

-salt, pepper, olive oil.

Soak the flageolet beans in water for a day.
In a medium pot, saute minced shallots and crushed garlic clove over medium heat for about five minutes or until the shallots become translucent. Add the soaked beans and chicken stock. Raise the heat to bring to a boil, and then return to medium heat. Add two sprigs of rosemary. It's best if you wrap the rosemary in some cheesecloth so the needles don't fall off and get mixed in with everything else.
Let the beans simmer for a looooonnnng time (a few hours). Flageolet beans have a really firm texture, and they take forever to soften up. Over the course of the cooking period, the stock will reduce. Add water to keep things from drying out. (Note: flageolet beans are usually a light green color, but the stock gives them a dark brown color in the picture above.)
Once the beans are done, keep the pot simmering over low heat and prep everything else. For the asparagus, break off the tough part at the bottom of the stem, dress with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayanne powder. Season the boar chops with salt and pepper and a dash of oil.
Cook the asparagus on a grill pan over medium high heat until done. For the boar chops, heat a cast iron skillet, griddle, or stainless steel pan to a super high heat (give the pan at least 5 minutes over the flame before starting to cook). Sear the boar chops for two to three minutes on each side. Remove from the heat after a nice crust has formed and sprinkle a little fennel pollen on each side and finish in the oven at 350F until done. The cooking time will depend on how big the cuts are. You can check by using a thermometer or just checking the consistency of the meat after two to three minutes and every minute thereafter. For the chops I was dealing with, I just needed another two minutes in the oven.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fettuccine with Lemon

I had some pasta dough leftover from dinner last night, so, for lunch today, I made some fresh fettuccine and took another Batali recipe for a spin. This one, fettuccine with lemon, hot peppers and pecorino is really simple. Here's the recipe:

Fresh fettuccine (enough for two servings)
1 -1.5 lemons, zest and juice
1 jalapeno, seeded and cut into slivers
1/2 small to medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2.5 to 3 T butter
1/4 to 1/2 C grated pecorino romano
1 T olive oil

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan.
Add the onions and red pepper flakes and cook until soft and translucent. Keep the heat low enough so they do not brown.
Add the jalapeno, cook for another minute.
Add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Cook for another minute.
Remove from heat, stir in butter and season with salt and pepper.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water for about 2 minutes.
Drain pasta and toss in with the sauce. Turn heat back on to medium, and toss in the grated cheese. Add a little bit of the pasta water if the lemon onion mixture needs to be thinned out. Serve the pasta after about a minute of letting everything cook together.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mint love letters (Pasta stuffed with minted peas, merguez sausage and tomato sauce)

Last night Abby and I made "Mint Love Letters," which is one of the signature dishes at Babbo. It's a bit labor intensive since you have to make your own pasta, but the end result is well worth the effort. The peas, mint, and lamb complement each other beautifully. For the recipe, click through.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tomato and mozzerella "sandwiches"

I made this as a first course for dinner the other night. It's more or less an insalata caprese, but with a little twist, given the ingredients I had on hand. The main components of the dish were slices of fresh mozzerella sandwiched between slices of red and yellow heirloom tomatos. Instead of seasoning the tomatos with kosher salt, I used some alder smoked sea salt to give the tomatos a hint of smokiness. To further up the savory element of the dish, I dressed the tomatos and mozzerella with some chive oil (using chives from the back porch garden) that was spiked with some anchovies. The result was a dressing that had a slight savory tone, like ceasar salad dressing. I topped it up with some nice aged balsamic vinegar from Modena.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The perfect burger (just use Kobe beef)

The hamburger has been getting a lot of attention lately. This common folk food is popping up in a lot of nice restaurants, and the gastro-pub craze has resulted in endless variations of this tried and true classic. A few days ago, the NYTimes had an article on "the prefect burger," for which it interviewed several well known chefs for their opinion on the perfect burger. I've made burgers several times at bbqs, and usually they are pretty low key events. Usually, I'll just season them with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. I have one previous blog entry about burgers, and I thought that one was pretty good until I tried this version. This hands down the best burger I've ever had. The secret? Kobe beef. When Abby and I went to Savenor's today, they had just ground up some Kobe ribeye. For burgers, you can't do better than that.

I topped the burgers with Grafton cheddar
and carmelized onions. I tossed the onions with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil, and slowly cooked them on a cast iron griddle. When they were done, I tossed in a little balsamic vinegar from Modena.
While the onions were cooking, I formed the Kobe beef into two half pound patties and seasoned with a generous amount of kosher salt and coarse ground pepper. When the onions were done, I turned the heat up to high and gave the griddle a couple minutes to heat up. I seared the burgers for 3 minutes on the first side and two minutes on the second side. After the second side was finished, I topped the burgers with cheese and finished in the oven at 375F for another 3 minutes. The burgers came a perfect medium rare (a little more to the rare side). While the burgers were resting, I toasted the buns on the griddle and tossed a little olive oil in with a handful of arugula. Once the burgers were done cooking and had a couple minutes to rest, they were ready to go. Just add ketchup, whole grain mustard, the onions and arugula and you have one great burger.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Crab and corn risotto (and how to fix an overseasoned risotto)

Crab and corn are a great combination. Abby and I first had a crab and corn dish at Esca in NYC, and, since then, I've made crab and corn pasta. Since we are moving in a couple weeks, we're in the process of clearing out the freezer, and I had some lobster stock that I didn't want to go to waste, I decided to put it to use as a base for a risotto and figured that the crab corn combo would do well for this dish. Here's the recipe:

-1.5 cups Arborio rice
-2 quarts stock
-1/4-1/2 cup white wine
-2 shallots, minced
-2 cloves garlics, minced
-3 T butter
-1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmessan
-container crab meat (can't remember the size, it's whatever they sell at Whole Foods)
-1 cup sweet corn

Melt 2Tbsp butter over medium heat, cook the shallots and garlic until the shallots become soft and translucent.

Add the rice and stir to coat with butter for about 1 minute. Add the white wine and let reduce. Meanwhile, the stock should be simmering, so it is hot when you add it to the risotto.

Add the stock one ladel full at a time, stirring constantly, until done. When the risotto is all dente, stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter, the cheese, crab, and corn. Add stock to adjust consistency and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Usually stock isn't that salty, but in this case, it was, which proved to be a problem. It's not a bad idea to thin out stock with water just to keep the flavor from overpowering everything else (the flavor gets really concentrated in the rice), and in this case the dish was just too salty. To fix it, I just cooked up another 1/2 cup of arborio rice using water and absolutely no seasoning. I diluted the overly salty risotto with this and the result was pretty good. This should work with any over seasoning problems you should run into with risotto.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Locally raised steak, smoked blue cheese, and arugula and tomato salad

This is a pretty straight forward meal that relies on the ingredients more than anything else. The center of the dish was a ribeye steak from a farm in Vermont. The steak was seasoned with salt and pepper, cooked rare, and then garnished with Tuscan olive oil and smoked blue cheese. The salad was arugula dressed with the same olive oil, lemon juice, and kosher salt. The tomatoes were seasoned with salt and pepper and left to sit for about 15 minutes, then topped with olive oil, sweet balsamic vinegar, and chives. I find that letting the salt sit on tomatoes for a while really improves the flavor.

Pan fried blue fish, chickpeas and spinach, and roasted asparagus

It's been a busy month, so I haven't been posting much lately, but I have managed to cook a couple meals here and there. This dish uses the same chickpea and spinach recipe from my last post. The blue fish is a preparation that I've used a couple other times on this blog. Just season with salt and pepper, dredge in flour, and pan fry in olive oil. This gives the fish a nice crispy texture. It works well with any white fish. I decided to give blue fish a try since it was one of the cheaper fish at the market that day. Blue fish is a bit oilier than most fish, but it doesn't taste quite as fishy as mackerel. For the asparagus, just toss with a bit of olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Roast at 350F until done (about 30 min).