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KotW: A memory of beef February 15, 2009

Posted by panterazero in food philosophies, Kip of the Week, red meat.
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Probably in 1976, in a restaurant in San Francisco’s Japantown called Sanppo, I had one of the most intriguing Japanese appetizers I’ve ever had. On the menu, it was called “Grilled Beef.”

It was simply two large cubes of beef, which had been grilled, but on one side only. The side of the cube touching the plate was almost, but not quite, charred. The visible top was almost, but not quite, raw.

Give that a thought. It means that a bite of that beef, a vertical slice, comprised infinitesimal layers of every possible degree of doneness — therefore every possible intrinsic flavor — that the meat could have. By a cooking method so simple as to seem slipshod, a genuinely complex and elegant dish had been created.

Now — okay. To begin with, those two cubes were beef of a quality that would be very difficult to buy on the open market. Also, the cooking had been done with fanatical care; I’ve tried to duplicate it since, and have only come close. But whether I’m brave enough to use this technique to create an appetizer, I sure have learned something about browning beef before I stew it. And we’ll get to that tomorrow, when I post a recipe.

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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

Peppers (yes!) sausage (yes!) January 24, 2009

Posted by panterazero in exotic!, herbs & spices, pig pig pig, restaurants, reviews, Uncategorized.
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Sometimes I chase after peppers, and sometimes I stumble over them.  Last week in Southern California, I had a surprise roughly comparable to the existence of Saeng’s Orient — the discovery of a fine Hungarian restaurant and deli in a tiny town in the high desert.

Hungarian cuisine is legendary for its promotion and extensive use of paprika peppers, whether in the dry ground form also called paprika, the lip-stinging and lipstick-red preserve called lecsó, or simply as a vegetable to be sliced and cooked in soup or stew.  Of course, various types of fresh hot peppers can be found — and are inventively used — all over central and southern Europe, but many Hungarians are convinced that the best European hot peppers with a pointed shape grow only in Hungary.  (Sounds like New Mexico.)

Cut to the barely known community of Littlerock, California, which is about half the size of NetHeadChef’s “P’ville,” with one post office instead of two, and without the university.  It’s a pleasant place, and various farm stores advertise specialties like jerky, fresh fruit, homemade candy, etc.  So far it’s not too different from some other towns in the California high desert.

But in the 8800 block of Pearblossom Highway, Valley Hungarian Sausage & Meat Company offers 36 kinds of homemade sausage — most European, some not — together with sliced cold cuts, Hungarian plate lunches, pierogies, an amazing range of Hungarian specialties in jars, cans, and bags (even Hungarian pasta!), and, naturally, homemade dill pickles.  Their fresh Hungarian sweet sausage is exceptional, and I say that without fear of contradiction.

Littlerock is about 40 miles east of Santa Clarita, or about 70 miles northeast of downtown LA.  It’s worth the drive, but I would call or e-mail first to confirm hours:

Valley Hungarian Sausage & Meat Company
8809 Pearblossom Highway
Littlerock, CA 93543
Ph: (661) 944-3351
vhsm@sbcglobal.net

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

Thai Vegetable Stew January 3, 2009

Posted by panterazero in chicken, exotic!, Kip of the Week, soups and stews, Thai.
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Okay.  Our international readers don’t have this problem, but in the United States, the two holidays when turkey is classically served — Thanksgiving and Christmas — unfortunately happen to be only a month apart.  After two turkeys in the space of a month, it’ll probably be six months before you want to even think about cooking and eating another turkey, and six months after Christmas, you can’t find one to buy.  So, whether for personal or logistical reasons, we’re all through with turkey for the moment.  Let’s tackle something that in its format, in its ingredients, and in its seasoning is a complete relief.

Complicated?  Yes.  Healthy?  Yes.  Bliss-inducing?  Surprisingly.

First Day

Prepare stock:
2 quarts water
1 quart box chicken stock
6 boneless, skinless (Costco) chicken thighs; no need to thaw first
one whole stalk celery with leaves
a piece of fresh ginger the size of your thumb, peeled, and cut in quarters lengthwise
two bay leaves

Bring the water to a boil.  Add the stock and bring to a boil again (you don’t want to boil box stock very long).  Add all other ingredients, cover pot and put in 225° oven for 2 hours.

Take the pot out of the oven.  Remove the chicken thighs, put them on a plate or in a bowl, and refrigerate them.  Return stock to oven for another 2 hours.  Remove and discard the celery, ginger and bay leaves.  Cover the stock and refrigerate it overnight.

Second Day

Skim the fat off the stock, strain it if necessary, and warm it slowly.

Prepare garlic:
10 cloves garlic
2 T corn or canola oil

Chop garlic (a food processor helps) and mix it with the oil in a small microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave one minute at a time, checking, till the garlic takes on color, then thirty seconds at a time till the garlic is golden brown.  (This should take about three minutes total, but that depends very much on your microwave.  Don’t take it beyond golden brown or it may be unusable.)

Add to the stock:
the prepared garlic
one large yellow onion skinned and chopped
six medium carrots pared and cut in thick hunks
1 lb. white mushrooms washed and sliced thick

Bring to a boil, then simmer on lowest heat (you don’t want the carrots to disintegrate) for about an hour.  Meanwhile

Prepare the topping:
1 or 2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 green onions, white part and healthy-looking green part, sliced
1 cup Trader Joe’s Lime and Chile Peanuts [or:
1 cup roasted peanuts
half teaspoon red flake pepper
zested rind of one small lime ]

In a food processor mince the garlic, add the green onions and mince, add the peanuts and pulse-chop till everything is sort of chunky and sticky.  Put the mixture in a serving bowl and refrigerate.  Take the poached chicken thighs, remove and discard any fat, and shred the meat.

Stem and soak your greens (see below) if they’re not prewashed.

Add to the soup:
the shredded chicken
one 14-oz can coconut milk
2 to 4 small zucchini, diced
one 1-lb bag baby spinach
one bunch broccoli rabe, stemmed and chopped

Bring the soup to a boil and stir just until the zucchini is tender.  Serve very hot with the topping on the side; the serving spoon for the topping should hold a generous tablespoon (e. g. Chinese soup spoon).

© /KC January 2009

Christmas dinner, summarized. December 26, 2008

Posted by sarawr in baking, dessert, entertaining, herbs & spices, holidays, menu, potatoes, poultry.
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From a comment I left over on Kip’s journal:

Mine was a 13+ pound turkey, brined 15 hours in a stockpot full of lukewarm water and 1.5 cups salt. Drained, blotted dry, stuffed with the giblets and a purple onion; sage butter spread very lightly (about a tablespoon total) under the skin, salt and pepper rained over the top. I set it atop about 2 cups of halved baby carrots, more diced onion, and a couple of stalks of sliced celery to make a vegetable rack, dusted more sage over the whole shebang, and popped it in a 425F oven uncovered for about 3 hours.

It was… the best turkey I’ve ever encountered, if I’m being honest instead of modest, and it will live on in my memory as a sort of Platonic ideal turkey. It came out cooking-magazine-golden with crisp skin all over, incredibly juicy, and flavorful in the way that you could taste the turkey instead of a bunch of seasoning.

I didn’t save the carcass to make stock because I had no room anywhere to store it and I wasn’t energetic enough to jump right into stockmaking last night or this morning, but I think I’m gonna do the whole thing over next month and I’ll make stock then. The more I experiment with whole poultry, the better I get at it, and while stockmaking has turned out to be something I don’t particularly enjoy, it is well worth it.

I let my mom take home the leftover stuffing, vegetables (I made green beans and corn, both with lemon butter), potatoes, etc. The potatoes were a dream as well (I used a borrowed electric mixer to whip them with cream cheese, sour cream, plenty of butter, and parsley — not “health food” by any stretch, but gosh, were they ever tasty), but I made far too much and didn’t want to hassle with separation and storage. We’ve got a good-sized Tupperware full of leftover turkey, and if I want more potatoes or veg to go with it we have plenty of those too. I think the only thing I forgot was cranberry sauce, but on balance it wasn’t really missed.

I made a strawberry-margarita cheesecake (which turned out kind of disappointing; it was tasty, but not the heavenly goodness it usually is) and a blueberry cheesecake (for which I had to invent my own recipe, because the ones I found all called for ingredients or equipment I didn’t have) for dessert, and the blueberry was the undisputed winner… although it came out more like pudding than pie, due to my absentmindedly taking it out of the oven 20 minutes before I should have.

On balance, the meal was a roaring success. We had plenty of food for everyone, and everyone seemed to like it; I got to experiment with a turkey (which I hadn’t done before, really) and have it turn out brilliantly on the first try; I did some baking, which isn’t something I particularly love, but was fun nonetheless.

ETA: How is it that we didn’t have a tag for potatoes? You can bet I fixed that right quickly!

How was your Christmas food, Schizoids? The comment section awaits!

Chickpeas and Eggplant December 17, 2008

Posted by panterazero in African food, Kip of the Week, tomato, vegetarian.
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I’ve been doing “chickpeas, onions and tomatoes” for years — there’s an Indian name for the combination that I forget — but I finally came up with the truly delectable variant, so here it is.  It’s easy, but you do need to watch the eggplant carefully.  A warm oven, such as you would have if you were for example baking dessert, is also helpful.

one medium eggplant, chopped small
1/4 cup olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green part only, washed and chopped (do save the rest for stocktrash)
one 15-oz can chickpeas with 1/4 cup of the packing liquid
2 cups (half a jar) good grade tomato basil pasta sauce, OR
2 cups good marinara sauce and 1/4 tsp dried basil, crumbled
1/3 cup shredded parmesan or asiago cheese

crusty Italian bread, like a ciabatta

Put the eggplant and oil in a saute pan with 1/4 cup of water and bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat to medium, cover, and cook about 15 minutes.  You want all the water to steam away and the eggplant to get truly soft while it browns on the bottom.  When it’s done, stir-scrape the browning back into the mixture.

Add the leeks and stir till they too are tender, slowly adding the packing liquid from the chickpeas if you need it to forestall burning.  Stir in the chickpeas, red sauce, dried basil if you’re using it, and the packing liquid if you didn’t already.  When the mixture is bubbling nicely, top it evenly with the cheese, and slide the pan into that warm oven till you need it.

Serve over big torn chunks of warm bread.  This is so delicious that, the night I first made it as a vegetable side dish, it turned into the main course.

© /KC December 2008

Pantera’s Meatloaf December 10, 2008

Posted by panterazero in herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, red meat.
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Announcement

I was recently invited by our administrator, Junk Food Girl — hereinafter referred to as NetHeadChef — to become a full voting member of this blog, and I accept humbly and gleefully.  From now on I will be posting as panterazero, the name on my birth certificate, rather than as Kip of the Week.  And I hope that I will properly answer the honor that has been done me.

Pantera’s Meatloaf

Many of us are just emerging from a stretch of concentration on poultry — personally I’m still using up the dark meat from our Thanksgiving turkey — and, because the US holiday calendar is so odd, we’re about to enter another one.  So, given what I said earlier about saving red meat for special occasions, let’s have some while we’ve got a chance.  I messed around with half a dozen meatloaf recipes from prestigious (or dilapidated or both) cookbooks before I realized that, by its nature, the tastiest meatloaf is also quick and simple.

Preheat oven to 400°F (375°F convection)

four cloves garlic
two slices whole-grain bread, toasted dark and broken up
one teaspoon dried oregano
one teaspoon dried marjoram
one teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red flake pepper
one large onion, diced
one generous pound ground beef
one generous pound ground turkey
two eggs
one 7-oz. can El Pato Mexican tomato sauce
1/4 cup whole-grain mustard

1/4 cup good commercial barbecue sauce or bulgogi sauce mixed with 1/4 cup water

In food processor, mince garlic, then add bread and grind to crumbs, add dried herbs and pepper, and pulse.  Add to large bowl.

In food processor, mince onions, add to bowl.

Add ground meats, eggs, El Pato sauce, and mustard. Combine with a large spoon or with your hands, and mix thoroughly, but don’t overwork the mixture. Mound the mixture onto the pan. Bake 15 minutes at 375°, then reduce heat to 325° and bake about 1 1/2 more hours, until the juices in the pan have browned and the internal temperature is 150°.  For the last fifteen minutes of baking, brush with the thinned-down barbecue sauce to glaze.

Let cool slightly, cut into nice thick slices, and serve with pico de gallo, mango chutney, or sriracha.  This recipe is as good cold as hot.

© /KC December 2008

Guest of the Week: Walnut Balls December 3, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in appetizers, cheesy goodness, Kip of the Week, tomato, vegetarian.
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These are from my longtime friend Anne, who paints landscapes, designs databases, plays the flute, and lives in the coastal redwood forest north of San Francisco. Her home is smack in the middle of one of the most beautiful parts of California, and here’s what she does with it.

This appetizer, like most of what Anne does, is excellent in a way that you’ll really notice. I make them once a year at the outside, because I want everybody to wait for them — they’re that good.

Mix together:

one cup walnuts, ground
one cup Parmesan cheese, grated
one cup breadcrumbs

Sauté until soft:

one large carrot, grated
one medium potato, grated
one medium yellow onion, grated

Combine the two mixtures and add:

Three eggs

The result should have about the same consistency as meatloaf. Roll this mixture into balls about an inch and a half in diameter. Sauté in butter or oil until firm and well browned.

At this point you can do one of two things. Bake these in a glass dish at 300° for 15 minutes, then serve them on toothpicks as appetizers — in which application they’re sort of like falafel, but a lot better. Or you can keep going:

Three or four Yukon gold potatoes, sliced fairly thin
Walnut balls as above
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (or whole ones cut up)

In a buttered baking dish, arrange overlapping potato slices. Add walnut balls in one layer. Pour tomatoes over. Cook covered in a 350° oven for one hour.

© Anne Kessler December 2008