Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Roasted Oysters with Bacon and Parmigiano-Reggiano

A couple years ago, Vince and I took a day trip up to Skagit County, Washington to see the tulips. We stopped in La Connor for lunch. The special of the day was Roasted Oysters. The menu described the dish as roasted oysters with a bacon cream sauce and seasoned bread crumbs. I asked the chef if he could accommodate my gluten sensitivity by leaving off the bread crumbs and he obliged. Yippee! What arrived was a creamy, decadent dish - briny, meaty oysters topped with a garlicky cream sauce and smokey bacon crumbles. We ate lunch on the sunny patio overlooking the river, watching eagles fight over a fish. A nice glass of Chardonnay, and I was in heaven.

I was so delighted by the oysters that I stopped on the way home and bought some fresh ones to recreate the dish. It is simply marvelous, if I do say so myself!

Try it as an appetizer or luncheon entree with a green salad.

Roasted Oysters with Bacon and Parmesan

Roasted Oysters with Bacon and Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese)

1 dozen large oysters, in the shell (I used Samish Bay)
1 cup heavy cream
1 to 2 cloves garlic
4 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (go for the good stuff here, not the old green can)
Fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Peel and slightly crush the garlic.  Add the garlic and heavy cream to a small sauce pan.  Heat to a simmer and reduce by half (approximately 10 minutes).  Remove from heat.

Scrub the oysters with a wire brush until clean. Shuck the cleaned oyster and place them on a baking sheet.  (Note: Shake a layer of rock salt onto the baking sheet before placing your oysters.  This will help them to stay upright and level while roasting.)  Sprinkle with bacon crumbles.  Spoon 1 ½ teaspoons of Parmegiano Reggiano onto each oyster.  Then spoon on heavy cream dividing it equally among the oysters.  

Roast the oysters until they are hot and the cream has begun to bubble and brown, approximately 10 minutes.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Schweinschmorbraten / German-Style Braised Pork

I've been craving roasted and braised food lately.  Perhaps it's the gray, rainy sky and short light of winter.  Nothing seems to be more satisfying when it's gloomy than a warm, rich roast with root vegetables.  Here's last nights' dinner.

German-Style Braised Pork
Serves 4

4 cloves
2 slices thick-cut bacon
3 lb bone-in pork shoulder roast
Salt and Pepper
2 tbsp bacon fat, lard or canola oil
2 small parsnips, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1 large or 2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1" chunks
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp wine vinegar

Heat oven to 300F.

Thinly slice the garlic cloves lengthwise.  Slice the bacon cross-wise into 1/2" strips.  Using a paring knife, pierce the pork roast randomly and insert a slice or garlic or piece of bacon.  (Studding pieces of bacon or salt pork in a roast is called larding.) Season the pork generously with salt and pepper.

Place a small roasting pan or flame-proof casserole pan onto a burner.  Heat over medium heat.  Add lard.  When the lard is hot but not quite smoking add the pork roast and brown on all sides. This should take about 20 minutes.

After the meat is completely browned, push it to one side of the pan and add the vegetables.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have begun to soften - about 15 minutes.  Add the wine, stir and scrape the bottom of the pan gently to loosen any caramelized bit.  Increase the heat slightly and simmer until the wine is reduced by about half - 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the stock, bay leaves and thyme.  Use a set of tongs to lift the roast and place it on top of the vegetables. 

Cover the pan with aluminum foil.  Place in the preheated oven and roast until fork tender - about 2 1/2 hours. 

Transfer the pork to a platter and use a fork to pull chunks away from the bone.  Use a slotted spoon to arrange the vegetables around the chunks of pork.  Discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

Bring the roasting pan with the juices to a boil over high heat.  Mix the arrowroot powder with the water in a small bowl.  Whisk the arrowroot mixture into the boiling juices and cook until sauce has thickened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the vinegar and check the sauce for salt and pepper.  Serve alongside the roast.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Relishing Life!

They say, "be careful what you wish for." Well, that summarizes my life these days. Teaching cooking classes, writing a cookbook...barely staying ahead of it all! I've given myself permission to not blog regularly (not that I've been that regular). Sorry but when I have a spare minute to write, I'm writing tips, product information and technique examples for the cookbook.

The last few months have been pretty non-stop. I am both exhausted and exhilarated. I can see the finish line though. I'm almost finished with the recipes for the cookbook, now it's all about testing, writing additional content and photographs.

Speaking of photos! Take a look at the first images for the cookbook, photographed by Rina Jordan and styled by Malina Lopez.

Condiments Chapter Title Page

Aren't they beautiful? I know! So exciting!

So, what recipes am I finishing up? Relishes and quick pickles. Still have a few zucchinis out in the garden? Well, here's the answer to your squash prayers. My mom's friend, Genie, has graciously shared her recipe for Zucchini Relish. Mom and dad made a bunch of it and dad puts it on everything.  Let me know what you think? Meanwhile, I'll be in the kitchen making Chow Chow, Sweet Pickle Relish, Pickled Onions, Refrigerator Pickles, Corn Relish...Good Gory. Anyone need me to bring a relish tray to a party?

Genie’s Zucchini Relish 
Makes about 2 cups

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (remove seeds)
1 cups grated onion
1/2 green bell pepper, cored and seeded
1/2 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
2/3 cup cider vinegar

Grind (or process in the food processor) zucchini, peppers and onions, add 1/3 cup salt, mix and let stand overnight. Drain and rinse twice.

Combine rinsed vegetables with remaining ingredients in a medium-sized sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Pour cooked relish into a non-reactive mixing bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours until fully chilled.

Transfer relish into a sterile glass jar for storage. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Butter Up!

Well, I've put Chapter 1, Condiments, of Staples from Scratch to bed.  The editor has it and we've already run through some revisions so now it's on to Chapter 2, Nut Butters and Spreads.  My husband thinks that it sounds x-rated. Well, I say, "good!"  Let's have a little fun, Beevus and Butthead style.  I've been busting my butt over nuts and fruit and could use a little laugh.

In honor of poor taste in humor (but great taste in food), let's all imagine a fresh fig.  What does it remind you of? Uh huh. Now let's squish 'em (ouch!) and add a little sugar.

Rosemary Fig Butter
Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 lb of fresh figs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup port
1 3" sprig of rosemary
a splash of balsamic vinegar, optional

Wash, stem and quarter the figs.  Place them in a sauce pan with water.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until the figs are squishy soft.

Put the figs through a food mill with a coarse disk to remove the skins.  Return the sauce pan.  Stir in the sugar and port.  Add the rosemary sprig. Bring the figs mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the figs have thickened to a spreadable consistency, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Finish the fig butter with a splash of balsamic vinegar, if desired.

Cool to room temperature and transfer to a glass jar, cover and refrigerate up to 1 month.

Serving suggestions:
Serve warm with roast pork or
Fig butter is wonderful on toast or a flaky croissant
Smear it on a chicken sandwich
Serve it with a cheese tray - I like it with a salty Manchego, sharp Cheddar or creamy Brie
Put a dollop on a baguette slice with Mascarpone and a little prosciutto
Serve it with a rustic caramelized onion and goat cheese tart
Use it for a filling for spice cake


Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Cookbook? Really?

Oh yes, friends, it's true! I have been asked to write a cookbook for Quarry Books. I am stunned, excited, freaked out, thrilled. Mostly, I'm really happy!

The working title is Staples From Scratch: How to Make Your Own Kitchen Pantry Essentials. So what's it all about, you ask? Well, it will include recipes for condiments, salad dressings, chips and dips, nut butters, and more.

I think it will appeal to many people - from the adventurous cook to the person with food sensitivities. It's great fun to create food from scratch that you might have never thought about before. Why not make your own ketchup? It's easy! And while you're at it, use your ketchup to make your own barbecue sauce or cocktail sauce. One recipe leads to the next. You'll also be surprised at how simple most recipes are.

I am working on Chapter One now. It's due to the publisher on July 27 so the clock is ticking. Chapter One is Condiments so my kitchen is filled to the brim with jars of mustard, samples of ketchup, homemade Worcestershire, and mayonnaise galore.

I'm currently in mustard mode - Ball Park-Style Yellow Mustard, Bavarian Sweet Mustard, Spicy Brown, Dijon-style, Whole Grain, Creamy Dill... The list goes on.

I've learned a ton about mustard. For example, did you know that mustard is hottest when it's made with cold liquid? The cold liquid creates an enzymatic reaction that causes that nose-clearing spiciness. Time will lessen the heat, especially if the mustard remains at room temperature. 

Intrigued? Try this recipe for yourself.

Old World Mustard
1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds (for more heat try adding some brown mustard seeds)
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 sprigs thyme
1 clove garlic
1 tsp honey 
1 tsp olive oil
cold water, approximately 1/2 cup

Pulverize the mustard seeds, pepper, salt, garlic and thyme using a food processor, spice mill or mortar and pestle. Scrape the crushed seed blend in a small glass bowl. (Note: Do not use a metal mixing bowl. The mustard can pick up metallic flavors.) Add the vinegar, honey, and oil and mix until you created a coarse paste. Slowly add water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture reaches your desired thickness. Cover with plastic wrap and let the mustard rest on your counter for 1 to 2 days. Transfer to a clean jar, cover, and refrigerate. The mustard will last up to 12 months.

Old World Mustard is reminiscent of French country mustard. It's wonderful as the base of a mustard sauce for roast beef or steak, great in vinaigrettes and delicious on sausages and hot dogs. 

Remember the longer it sits the milder it will become, but you can speed the process by heating it in a sauce pan over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes. Don't simmer, just warm it. 

Staples from Scratch will be published in August of next year, 2013. In the meantime, it's back to the kitchen for me!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Too Busy To Cook? Actually, Too Busy To Write!

Over the last few months I've been just terrible about keeping up with my blog. Quite frankly, I think don't anyone reads it anyway! That's okay. I often think that it's funny that so many people, me included, write these blogs in the hopes that we'll be "found" by strangers - as if all the people who we already know, love, and who love us back aren't enough. It must be a anomaly of social media. Sometimes, it's just exhausting. So, I've been avoiding my blog for a number of reasons. Mainly, it's because I've been so busy teaching - the passion of my life these days!

Last night I taught a Greek cooking class at South Seattle Community College. I'd had a heck of a day. (There is another round of incredibly stressful bullshit going on with Vince's job.) So, I wasn't really feeling enthusiastic about going to work. But here's the cool thing, teaching makes me happy. I actually come home most nights revitalized. I love it and I'm so lucky that I get to do it. Last night was no exception. Instead of staying home and brooding with Vince, I had to go out in the world and be present. How cathartic. Have I mentioned that I'm lucky?

I was joined last night by a number of repeat students, Sue, Tim, John, Janelle, Harry, Luisa and Christie. How about that? They like me enough to come back again and again. Now there's a compliment. They'll never know how much it meant for me to spend time teaching and laughing with them vs. dealing with the turmoil of real life.

In their honor, I'll share a Greek recipe today -Tzatziki Sauce. Yummy on lamb, chicken, stuffed grape leaves, or simply with pita bread. Nothing too complicated, but a good one to have in your back pocket.

To get a good Tzatziki, there are a couple of tips I suggest:
  • Use Greek yogurt or strain plain yogurt through cheese cloth in the refrigerator for a couple hours to remove excess moisture (whey). By the way, that's all Greek-style yogurt really is. There's less moisture so the result is thicker yogurt.
  • After you peel, seed and dice your cucumber, place it in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze the heck out of it.
Both of these tips help to ensure a luscious, thick tzatziki.  It's all about controlling the moisture.

Tzatziki Sauce

16 ounces plain yogurt* or 12 oz Greek-style plain yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced

Place the yogurt in a tea towel or cheese cloth, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator. *Note: when you strain plain yogurt, you will loose about a 1/4 of it in liquid (whey) so you can purchase Greek-style yogurt which has already been strained, so you only need 3/4's a much.

Place the chopped cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze to remove the liquid; discard liquid. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.
Yield: about 2 cups

Thanks again to all my students.  You really made my night!