Friday, December 31, 2010

Braised oxtail with gnocchi

Braised oxtail is soooooo good, and it's pretty easy to make. Gnocchi, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult. There are a number of gnocchi recipes on the web, so I won't put anything specific here, although there are a couple of things worth noting when it comes to gnocchi making. One of the objectives of making gnocchi is to have it as light and "cloud like" as possible. This, I found, involves a trade off in structural integrity and appearance. Basically, the lighter the gnocchi, the more you have to coddle it as you prepare it.
The basic ingredients in gnocchi are potato, flour, and egg. Egg is a binder that helps all the ingredients stay together. More egg, along with kneading the dough more, will give the gnocchi more structural integrity. It will also make the gnocchi heavier. Less egg and less kneading will lead to lighter gnocchi. I tried adding a minimal amount of egg (real pros can get away with no egg) and kneading, and while the gnocchi was very light, the first batch basically fell apart or was squashed into flat little discs when I tossed it in the pan.

Here's the recipe for the rest of this dish.

-oxtail (~3 lbs)
-1/2 bottle red wine
-1-2 cup veal or beef stock
-1 carrots, diced
-1 stalk celery, diced
-1/2 onion, diced
-1 small can crushed tomatoes or 1/2 small can tomato paste
-1-2 bay leaves
-1 Tbs black pepper corns
-1 clove
-2 cloves garlic, smashed
-1 sprig rosemary
-2 sprigs thyme
-canola oil
-salt and pepper

Season the oxtail with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Heat up 1 Tbsp of canola oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven large enough to hold all of the oxtail in a single layer. Sear the oxtail on all sides at medium high heat. Remove the oxtail and add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook the vegetables, over medium heat until soft. You don't want to brown them.

Add the wine, stock, tomato, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, clove, and peppercorns and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and place a cheesecloth over the top of the braising mixture. Put the oxtail on top so that it is partially submerged in the liquid, but separated from the onions, etc.

Cover and place in a 250F oven for 3 hours. Remove, the oxtails, strain out the solids in the braising liquid, and then reduce the braising liquid until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. While the braising liquid is reducing, use a fork to remove the oxtail from the bone and break it into small chunks. Toss with the reduce braising liquid and let simmer.

While the oxtail is simmering, heat up a nonstick skillet, add butter, and the gnocchi. Brown the gnocchi, then add the oxtail. Toss everything together and let sit in the warm pan for a minute or so. Place in a serving bowl, garnished with grated parmesan cheese, parsley, and olive oil.

Ramen noodles with ginger scallion sauce, ginger-honey-soy glazed pork belly, and stir fried broccoli and carrots

This dish is pretty straight forward. For the noodles, I followed this recipe from the Momofuku cookbook, and the veggies were just stir fried over high heat with a little ginger. Here's the recipe for the pork belly:

1 lb pork belly
1 c soy sauce
1 c honey
~2 inch piece of ginger, grated.
5 spice powder

Preheat oven to 225F

Remove skin from the pork belly, rub five spice powder over the surface, and sear on medium high heat on all sides in an oven proof pan. Remove the pork belly and pour off most of the fat.

Add the grated garlic. You may also want to try throwing other aromatics such as garlic, bay leaf, or cloves. Cook for about a minutes, then add the soy sauce and honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to make sure everything is combined.

Put the pork belly back in the pan and place everything in the oven and let roast for 2.5 to 3 hours, turning and basting occasionally.

When the pork belly is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the soy-ginger-honey mixture over high heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the pork belly to the glaze, and turn in the pan so it is thoroughly coated.

Slice and serve with the noodles and stir fried veggies.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pickles galore

Finally, a post from DC. A few weeks ago, Liz and Zach came over to make tons and tons of pickles. While it was a fun operation, it left my apartment smelling like vinegar for several days afterwards.

I've actually only opened up one jar so far, but that one turned out OK. Most of the veggies we used came from the farmers' market, which were in their closing weeks here in DC at the time. The checklist of pickles includes typical cucumber pickles, green beans, red peppers, onions, hot peppers, carrots, fennel, radishes and garlic. We also made some jars of mixed vegetables along with some preserved lemons. Hopefully these pickles will make appearances in meals throughout the winter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Last dinner in my Chicago kitchen

Here's the last dinner I made in my Chicago kitchen. Tomato salad, braised greens, grilled corn with chile and lime, and grilled steak. It was a bit of an eclectic mix. But it used up the last of the vegetables in the fridge.

The tomato salad was pretty straight forward. Just slice up the tomatos, mix with thinly sliced shallots, capers, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
The greens (purple kale) were braised in some pork stock and a smoked ham hoc that had been sitting in my freezer. I also added some red pepper flakes and raisins. The raisins add a nice bit of sweetness and they soak up a lot of the savory flavors from the braising liquid. To make this dish, you want to start by sauting one bunch of sliced up kale along with a few cloves of sliced garlic. Add the stock, ham hoc, raisins, red pepper flakes, and maybe a tablespoon of cider vinegar. Let this simmer for a while (until the greens are very soft), remove the ham hoc, pick off the meat and toss this in with the greens.
I served the corn with a chile lime spread. I made the spread by mixing melted or softened butter with mayo in about a 1 to 3 ratio, and then adding lime juice and Mexican chile powder. Slathered over some grilled corn, this stuff is really, really good.

Eggs in purgatory

I made this as an appetizer for a going away party Abby and I had back in Chicago. It's a crowd pleaser that's easy to make. Start with a basic tomato sauce recipe, such as the one used for this dish. Add a healthy amount of red pepper flakes to make the sauce nice and spicy.

Once your done with the sauce, pour it into an oven proof serving dish, crack some eggs on top, and bake until just done. Serve this dish with bread. I think it's best when you can brush the bread with some olive oil and throw it on the grill until it gets some nice grill marks on it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Grilled pork tenderloin with apple cider reduction, grilled sweet potato with rosemary, and wilted escarole with garlic chips

Here's another dish from back in Chicago. It's been a while, so I don't remember all the details, for the escarole, tenderloin and sauce. The sweet potatoes couldn't be easier though. Just chop up some rosemary, mix it in with olive oil, and toss this mixture together with some sliced rounds of sweet potato. Grill until finished. This is one of my favorite side dishes for summer grilling.

Catching up

It's been more than three months since I moved from Chicago to DC, but I still have a few photos from Chicago. Most of the dinners I cooked last summer were pretty straight forward preparations of ingredients I would pick up at the Wicker Park farmer's market (btw, I am shocked at how much more expensive the farmer's markets are here in DC). Here is one of those meals: a grilled lamb shoulder chop and roasted carrots with dill. I had made roasted carrots from one of the stands at the Wicker Park market earlier and they were soooo good. Here, I just tossed them with a little dill, olive oil, and salt.