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KotW: Chicken Paprikash and an Imperial Variant. July 29, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, chicken, entertaining, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, pasta, saucy, tomato.
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With this recipe we once again plunge into the stringently prescribed arcana of Hungarian cooking.  Even what I say here will doubtless be counterargued, but whether or not you agree with my stipulations on paprikash — in particular, the inclusion or exclusion of tomato which has been debated for centuries — I hope you find the result delicious.  We must start with the axiom of my skilled friend Amory Lovins: “Meat and onions, weight for weight.”  So since, according to my faithful postal scale, a medium-to-large yellow onion weighs between eight and 10 ounces…

3 pounds chicken thighs, boned and skinned (may be frozen)
3 pounds yellow onions — about five or six large
one-quarter cup good olive oil

Skin and chop the onions.  Warm the oil in a six-quart pot, add the onions, and cook, stirring, until they achieve a uniform golden brown with no scorching.  This takes a while of steady attention.

Meanwhile, broil the chicken thighs, six minutes a side if thawed or ten minutes a side if frozen.  I prefer this to pan-browning since it leaves the chicken more tender at the start of braising.  Let the chicken cool slightly and, according to preference, leave the pieces whole or cut them up bite-size.

To the onions, add

one quarter cup real Hungarian paprika
one-half teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
one-eighth teaspoon caraway seed, or more to taste, crushed
one-half to one teaspoon red flake pepper, optional (sort of depends on your paprika)

Stir the mixture till the seasonings are well distributed, and add
one quart chicken stock, carcass or box
the chicken pieces
the pan juices from broiling, if any, through a strainer

Bring mixture to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and let mixture cook 25 minutes if chicken thighs are left whole, or 15 minutes if you’ve cut them up.  Meanwhile, start water boiling for pasta, then grate together

A small potato, between one (fist-size) and three (big-marble-size)
one ripe fresh tomato, halved and cored
four cloves garlic, peeled

Stir this mixture into the chicken and allow to simmer — not boil — for 15 more minutes.  The grated potato should disappear as far as possible, since its purpose is to thicken the gravy, rather than to make an appearance as an ingredient.  Seven to ten minutes before serving, start cooking

A 12-ounce package wide egg noodles

and when the noodles are ready, the paprikash also will be.  Serve immediately, very hot, to your guests, who will be impatient if they know what’s imminent.

The royal treatment

From the matchless work of Peter van Rensselaer Livingston — whose cookbook How to Cook a Rogue Elephant please do purchase if you find a copy for sale — we find that one good excuse for the Austro-Hungarian Empire was its culinary sophistication.  This is hardly a surprise, since imperial appetite (in whichever sense) provoked a collision and mingling of the best in Austrian, Hungarian, and northern Italian cooking.  Here, with credit exceeded only by my gratitude, I adapt a technique from his book to two of my own recipes.  You will need

three to four tablespoons basil pesto (see previous recipe)
chicken paprikash and noodles as above

When the noodles are cooked and very hot, toss them with the pesto; the objective here is a thin uniform coat on the pasta, rather than pesto as a primary sauce.  Then serve the chicken over the noodles as usual.  The interplay of raw and cooked garlic, basil, pine nuts, caraway and paprika is startlingly unusual and satisfying.

© /KC July 2009

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KotW: Summer Eggplant and Mushrooms July 24, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, cheesy goodness, pasta, tomato, vegetarian.
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This casserole is one of the most substantial vegetarian dishes I’ve made, and although the three subassemblies are a little bit of work, everything goes together quick, clean — and pretty — at the end.

one cup dried small white beans
two cups boiling water

Put the beans in a large measuring cup and pour the boiling water over them.  Cover the cup with a saucer and let stand one to two hours.

six large, flavorful (heirloom) fresh tomatoes
two large globe (Italian) or four to six long (Asian) eggplants
one-quarter cup good olive oil
one teaspoon salt
one-half teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 475°, or 450° convection.

Core tomatoes, top and tail eggplants.  Cut both into chunks — larger than bite-size, since they will shrink.  Toss the vegetables like a salad with the oil and seasonings.  Put the vegetables in a heap in a 9×13 glass baking dish, and bake them in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes.  Meanwhile:  Put the soaked beans, with their liquid, in a saucepan, add more water until the beans are covered by about 2 inches.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a high simmer.

one large yellow onion, diced fine
one pound fresh white mushrooms, sliced thick
two tablespoons oil

Sauté these ingredients altogether until the onions are translucent, and the mushrooms are tender and shedding liquid.

When the beans are fully cooked but still firm, after 30 to 50 minutes of simmering, add

one cup orzo

Bring back to a boil and boil for nine or 10 minutes, until orzo is al dente. Drain beans and orzo and put in large serving bowl; add eggplant and tomatoes, then mushrooms and onions, and mix thoroughly.  Top with

grated Parmesan, asiago, or smoked cheddar

to taste.  This is meant primarily as a hot dish, but the leftovers are quite good dressed with a vinaigrette as pasta salad.

© /KC July 2009

KotW: Pork with Pears, Lentils, and Plum Sauce February 5, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, exotic!, fruit, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, pig pig pig.
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[In North America we have an odd attitude toward fruit; we want to cook it only when it’s perfectly ripe. That insistence makes for great apple and peach pies and strawberry jam, but in other contexts it’s awfully limiting. For example, what would the great Cuban beef dishes –- picadillo or ropa vieja or boliche -– be without a side of fried plantains? Unripe fruit is an estimable staple in savory cooking.

So find a few really rock-hard pears and try this. I give two slightly different versions, one using fresh plums if it’s the right time of year, the other substituting dried fruit and factory sauce. ]

1 1/2 cups green or brown lentils
two cups boiling water

two medium yellow onions, chopped
two tablespoons oil
one pound boneless lean pork, sliced

two to four unripe hard green pears, peeled and cored (depending on size, enough to make four cups chopped)

If you can get them:
four tart purple plums, seeded and cut up
Otherwise:
eight dried apricots
one-half cup Chinese or Japanese plum sauce, from a jar

four to six cloves of garlic
a piece of fresh ginger the size of a walnut, peeled and sliced
one-quarter cup dry sherry
one-quarter cup cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar
one tablespoon sriracha, or more to taste

Put the lentils in a large measuring cup, pour the boiling water over them, and let them sit. If you’re using the dried apricots, put them in a smaller cup, pour boiling water over them to cover, and let them sit too. Chop the pears.

Sauté the chopped onions in the oil, allowing them to brown generously. Add the sliced pork and stir until the meat loses its pink color. Add the chopped pears, the lentils, and the soaking liquid, stir, and leave at a simmer.

Drain the dried apricots, if you’re using them. In a food processor, mince the garlic and ginger till it settles on the walls of the tank. Add the cut-up plums OR the dried apricots, and purée. Add the sherry, the vinegar, the plum sauce if you’re using it, and the sriracha, and blend.

Pour the plum sauce over the meat-lentil-fruit mixture, turn up the heat and bring it to a boil. Ideally, the pears will still have a tiny bit of crunch, and the lentils will be nutty-tasting and firm. Correct the seasoning.

© /KC September 2008

KotW: Unbelievably Complicated Borscht January 28, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, chicken, holidays, Kip of the Week, potatoes, poultry, soups and stews.
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If you’re like me, your early experience of borscht was with the over-refined broth often served as a starter course for Jewish holiday dinners. It looks like cranberry-grape kool-aid and tastes like a nondescript root vegetable; if you’re lucky it’s elaborated with a few shreds of beet or carrot; and if you garnish it with sour cream it’s not bad, really.

Nahhhh.

With a tip of the chef’s hat to my old pal Harriett, I give here the recipe for the reason the Soviet Army beat the Waffen-SS; the borscht that was in the fuel tanks of the first Sputnik; borscht that could make a chronic emphysema patient run the high hurdles.  Plan about three days ahead to make an eight-quart pot of this stuff, which will take hours and cost you serious money. And when it’s done and boiling, if a wooden spoon won’t stand up in the middle of the pot, you missed the bullseye.

STEP ONE.

3- to 4-pound whole chicken
one large yellow onion
Seasoning as for Roast Chicken

Season the chicken and stuff it with the peeled onion. Roast it till done, but moist; water the roasting pan (at least) midway through so the drippings don’t burn.  Put the chicken in a bowl to catch the draining juices, and allow it to cool.  Strip the chicken (don’t be compulsive about getting the last of the meat off the carcass) and refrigerate the meat.

STEP TWO.

bones and skin of the chicken
pan drippings and collected juice
onion from cavity, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
bay leaf
1 clove garlic, smashed but not skinned

Put all the above in an 8-quart stockpot and cover it with 6 quarts boiling water, then simmer for several hours — I let it bake overnight in a 225-degree oven. Refrigerate until you can remove the fat easily, 24 to 36 hours.  Meanwhile

STEP THREE.

1 bunch fresh beets (4 to 8 beets depending on size) with greens

Cut the greens off the beets.  Stem the greens and wash them THOROUGHLY in 2 or 3 changes of cold water.  Boil the beets in lightly salted water for 15 to 20 minutes.  Shred the greens.  Let the beets cool slightly, peel and chop them.  Put beets and greens into a tightly covered plastic container and refrigerate.

STEP FOUR.

two pounds meaty beef short ribs (2-3 ribs)
two or three yellow onions skinned & diced
one or two peeled baking potatoes
one tablespoon oil
the stock from step two

Skim the fat off the stockpot. Lots of stock will stick to the stocktrash, so let it drain into a colander into a big bowl.  Discard the stocktrash. Wash out the 8-quart pot and brown the beef ribs in it; remove them to a plate.  Discard some of the fat, add the oil, brown the onions till golden.  Put the ribs on top of the onions, then strain in the stock through a fine strainer.  Bring to a simmer, cover and let simmer (not boil) for 3 to 4 hours.  Add the potatoes for the last hour. Meanwhile

STEP FIVE.

four carrots
six stalks celery
half a small green cabbage
four to six cloves garlic

Pare the carrots and cut them into chunks.  Wash and slice the celery.  Dice the cabbage.  Shred the reserved chicken.

STEP SIX.

Remove the beef ribs from the broth and let them cool, separate and shred the meat, and discard the bones and surplus tissue.  If you have a food processor, chop the garlic, then add the potatoes and a couple of cups of stock till everything is a thin smooth slurry.  If you don’t, mash the potatoes, press the garlic, and combine them while you add stock; the result won’t be as evenly thick but will still work.

Add the chicken, beef, potatoes and garlic, and beets to the broth and let simmer 30 minutes.
Add the carrots and celery and let simmer 10 minutes, stirring.
Add the beet greens and cabbage, bring to a slow boil and cook 10 minutes, stirring.  Serve.

There you have it, comrades; the borscht of commissars. And personally, I think topping this with sour cream would be like gilding a tank, but who am I to tell you what to do?  Enjoy, you’ve worked for it.

Plain Ordinary Borscht

So now you’re saying “Kip, only a maniac would go through that.”  And I look haplessly about the room for the maniac in question, and concede that you might be right.  I pretty much guarantee that if you make borscht from the elaborate recipe once a year, after a year, you will be so hungry for it that you will resign yourself to performing those miracles again.

But what if you just want, you know, borscht, and you don’t want it to take three days, but you certainly won’t stoop to the Manischewitz stuff in the jug in the supermarket?  Well…

For the carcass stock above, substitute four quarts of box stock.  If you do that, you might want to dice up a few boneless, skinless chicken thighs to give the stock some substance; and season it generously.

The irreducible minimum for borscht is:

    Stock containing one kind of meat
    a second kind of meat (as noted, beef short rib is great, but you can use beef chuck or pork shoulder)
    beets
    beet greens
    carrots
    onions
    a little garlic
    assertive seasoning.

With that as a base, you’ve actually got some latitude.  You can include the potatoes, or not.  You can add tomatoes, which traditional cooks in very old countries might sniff at, but they’re still good.  You can use other greens in addition to the beet greens; I’ve made fabulous borscht with kale.  You can add parboiled lentils.  You can add canned white beans.  If you use your imagination, you may arrive at something that some people wouldn’t call borscht, but so long as you call it delicious, there’s no harm done.  Enjoy!

A Note on Toppings

Contemporary supermarket sour cream needs to loosen up a little bit.  Stir in a little half-and-half or whole milk, while you watch the texture carefully — you want it still thick enough to stand up when it’s applied.  A little grated horseradish is a good addition.  Alternatively, use paprika, and use enough that you can taste it!

Another direction: a good slug of basil pesto, or walnut pesto, to top each serving.

© /KC January 2009

Curried Brussels Sprouts January 22, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, exotic!, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, tomato, vegan.
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Brussels sprouts can be one of the most assertively delicious vegetables that are easily available — even in winter.  Unfortunately, they also tend to be one of the most mistreated.  Your average brussels sprout ends up camouflage-green, soggy, leaky, smelling like overcooked cabbage and tasting worse.  What a sad fate for a truly aristocratic vegetable!  Forget steaming, or water in general, entirely, and do this instead.

two pounds very fresh brussels sprouts
four or five medium-to-large fresh tomatoes
two tablespoons corn or canola oil
two large, or three medium, shallots
two tablespoons curry powder
one-quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper, or one teaspoon chili powder
one 15-ounce can light coconut milk

Stand unopened can of coconut milk in saucepan full of warm water, possibly over very low heat.  (This is so all the coconut milk will come out of the can when you want to pour it in.)

Trim the stem end of the brussels sprouts and slice them in a food processor.  (They’ll come out a nice mix of slices and shreds, which is fine.)  Reserve.

Skin and chop tomatoes, but don’t drain.  Reserve, separately.

Mince shallots.  Mix thoroughly with curry powder and cayenne pepper or chili powder.

Heat oil in a wok or sauté pan.  Stir-fry shallot and spice mixture over medium heat just until everything starts to smell really good.  Add tomatoes with their liquid, turn up the heat, and stir-fry until almost all the liquid is gone.

Add brussels sprouts and stir-fry until green parts of sprouts are really bright green.

Pour in warm coconut milk and stir thoroughly until mixture is boiling.  Serve with rice or noodles.

© /KC January 2009

KotW: Triple Pepper Bowties September 24, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in all-in-one, Kip of the Week, pasta, vegetarian.
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So the NEW MEXICO REDHEAD posts a recipe seasoned ONLY with BLACK pepper and calls it “balanced!” I’ll show her some balance

two tablespoons corn oil
12 cloves garlic, diced
one medium yellow onion, diced
10-oz bag crimini mushrooms or white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup wet-pack dried tomatoes, chopped
15-oz can whole kernel corn, drained
9-oz package shelled edamame
two big roasted red bell peppers, diced
4-oz can green chiles

1/2 lb. mini-bowties or mini-penne

red flake pepper, or taco mix
shredded Romano cheese

Warm the corn oil in a deep saute pan, add the garlic and onions, turn heat to medium and stir frequently until garlic is well browned and onion is transparent to golden. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until raw look is gone and mushrooms are shedding liquid. Add tomatoes, corn, edamame, and red and green peppers. Keep this mixture warm while you cook the pasta.

Cook the pasta till nearly done, drain it and add it while very hot to the vegetable mixture. Stir thoroughly.

Serve with flake pepper and grated cheese.

© /KC September 2008

Pork, pasta, and veg. September 23, 2008

Posted by sarawr in all-in-one, pasta, pig pig pig, saucy.
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Hello there! I know I promised you a gingerbread post last time I popped in, but I’m hung up on a quest for molasses — I am determined to make genuine gingerbread, which requires molasses. Not honey. Not caramelized brown sugar. Not Splenda. Molasses. So. That will happen later.

In the meantime, I came up with something very yummy that I thought I’d share. I was browsing through the frozen foods aisle at Wal-Mart (hush now, I’m all right) when I came across these… uh… well, I don’t know what they’re called. They’re bags of food all frozen together so that when you heat them up, they make a meal. Beef and potatoes, chicken and broccoli with sauce, that kind of thing. One of the bags caught my eye — it was elbow pasta with chicken and alfredo sauce, and it might have had a vegetable of some sort, too. I don’t remember the particulars now, but it looked good. I wanted it. Except, I didn’t want to pay eight bucks for two servings’ worth, especially since those two servings were all flash-frozen and preservative-laden. What to do?

Well, I got creative, is what. I picked up some cavatappi pasta (elbow noodles, but somehow fancier) and pancetta (soft bacon, but smokier and also fancier) and thought about what I already had at home. I didn’t have chicken, but I did have some pork loin. I didn’t have peas… or peppers… or whatever was in the frozen stuff, but I did have spinach and some native corn (maize, to you non-New Mexicans). I hate alfredo sauce, but I thought garlic cream sauce might be nice. Bingo!
I diddled about with the proportions and various cooking times, and here’s what I ended up with. I wasn’t going to post it here until I’d given it a few trial runs, but guys: This stuff is delicious.

YOU WILL NEED:

Half a pound to a pound of cavatappi (or farfalle, or whatever — just stay away from stringy noodles)
1/4 to 1/2 pound pork loin, cut into strips or cubes
A splash of olive oil
One to two cups fresh spinach, chopped
An ear or so of native corn (or regular corn)
One cup pancetta, crumbled or diced very finely
This garlic cream sauce

WHAT TO DO:

Whip up the garlic cream sauce beforehand; with this recipe, it’s best if you add extra pepper — maybe three dashes instead of one. Then get your pasta boiling with a little salt. Pop your spinach and corn into a colander or steamer (a double boiler would be handy here, but I didn’t have one) over the pasta so that it can wilt/steam properly. While the pasta and veggies are doing their respective things, stir-fry the pork loin in olive oil for about ten minutes on medium heat. Add the pancetta to the pan about eight minutes in and let everything sizzle together for the last couple of minutes. Drain the pasta, shuck the corn, and throw everything into a pan over very low heat. Slowly stir in the garlic cream sauce.

Ta-da! Dinner. It’s even sort of well-balanced. Who’s the top chef now, huh?