Monday, November 25, 2019

Hint: How to Break Down an Onion

Recorded October 30, 2013. Revised November 25, 2019. Onions are used widely in cooking, and usually need to be broken down before use. The methods described here respect the anatomy of the onion, and exploit its properties for culinary purposes. Two forms of slicing are described, one which favors retention of form and the other its loss. A combination of the two slicing methods leads to dice or mince.

The globe of an onion plant, 'an onion', is formed by concentric layers of pale watery leaves, the lamellae, that grow from the root below ground, and continue above ground as green leaves.  Onions are monocots, meaning their vessels run parallel to each other from root to leaf tip. This means that a slice in the 'polar' direction, that is, parallel to polar axis along a radius, will cause the least cellular damage. I refer to this as a 'blossom cut' because it results in petal-like pieces. Use this when you want onion pieces to keep their shape after cooking. Alternatively, a cut in the equatorial plane, the 'cross cut', slices through all the cells that make up the vessels, the xylem and phloem, that conduct the watery solutions up and down the plant during growth. This produces maximal cellular injury (and release of syn-propanethial-S-oxide, the tearful chemical). Use this cut when you want the onions to break down, such as for caramelized onions.

By combining cuts in the polar and equatorial planes, of course, dice result. A single piece of onion can't be any thicker than the thickness of the lamella from which it was cut. The lamellae change in thickness across the radius and so uniform dice are not possible irrespective of the slicing strategy. For large dice, I cut thick, equatorial slices and then, holding the slices together, along the radii toward the center following the shallow grooves on the surface. Fast, safe, and optimal uniformity.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Quick Gravy

Developed November, 2019. A rapid microwave recipe for a gravy that is suitable for many purposes. It can top chicken, beef, pork, vegetables, or seafood dishes depending on which stock concentrate is used. We recommend the Better Than Bouillon™ product line.
1 c tap water
2 t stock concentrate
pinch of GP Seasoning
1 T tapioca (or corn) starch
Whisk the ingredients together thoroughly in a microwavable container. One that doubles for storage is handy. Heat on high, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture boils and thickens, taking care that it not boil over. Yields about a cup. Easily doubled.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Crusty Potato Puffs

Developed Summer, 2019. By adding oil and coarse semolina, frozen potato puffs become a special side dish.
8 oz potato puffs (Alexia™ is good)
1 oz vegetable oil
2 T coarse semolina flour
1 t onion powder
1 t salt
Preheat a toaster oven to 400 F. Let the potatoes thaw in a shallow baking pan. Drizzle on the oil, coat by rolling the pan, sift on the semolina, onion powder, and salt. Roll the pan again to cover the potato puffs with the seasonings. Bake 15 minutes. Stir, raise heat to 425, and bake another 5 minutes. Serves two but can be easily doubled.
 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Line-Cook Seafood Chowder

Developed November, 2019.This delicious chowder is adapted from a recipe posted to Reddit by a line cook who described it as a “signature soup at my restaurant Patrons love it, and I think you will too.” I agree. Well-balanced, creamy, and economical.
1 oz vegetable or olive oil
½ c (125 ml) chopped red onion
1 c (250 ml) diced celery
½ c (125 ml) diced carrot
3 c (650 g) diced yellow potatoes, skins on
1 T minced garlic
1 T salt
1 10-oz can baby clams with juice + 1.5 cans of water
1 T chicken stock concentrate
250 g cod fillet, or other firm white fish, cut into half-inch cubes
½ T ground black pepper
1 c (250 ml) half and half
2 c (500 ml) milk
1 T dry dill weed
1 T Old Bay seasoning
For the roux:
½ c (one stick) butter
½ c all-purpose flour
In a 6-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the vegetables, garlic, and salt. Heat thoroughly with stirring, cover, and turn off heat. Let the vegetables sweat for 10 minutes to soften the vegetables. Add the clams, clam juice, water, salt, pepper, and the stock concentrate. Cook over medium heat for 10 more minutes. Add the cod to the pot, and simmer for 5 more minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, in a small non-stick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. When the bubbling stops, slowly stir in the flour. Cook about 4 minutes with constant stirring until the roux turns a light tan and is smooth. Combine the cream and the milk in a large measuring cup, and off heat, slowly pour half the cold dairy into the roux with continuous whisking. When smooth, mix with rest of the dairy remaining in the cup. Stir the roux mixture into the chowder, add the dill weed and Old Bay, and heat to a fast simmer with stirring until the chowder thickens into a smooth creamy texture. Yields about 2-1/2 quarts (liters). Serve with oyster crackers or hot biscuits.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Quick Black Bean,Tomato, & Spinach Soup

This hearty soup makes a satisfying one-pot, one-dish meal. Adapted from an earlier recipe for bean and spinach soup. Developed July, 2019.
2 T tomato paste
1 T olive oil
1 medium tomato, coarsely diced
4 oz kielbasa or andouille sausage, diced
1 t minced garlic
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander

pinch of red pepper flakes
1 t salt
1 t sugar
16 oz 
chicken stock
1 14.5 oz can Cuban-style black beans (Bush is good)

6 oz frozen or fresh leaf spinach 
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Brown the tomato paste in the oil, add the tomato and the sausage and cook until browned. Add the seasonings, heat for a few seconds to bloom the flavor, and then stir in the beans and stock. Cook at a fast simmer over moderate heat with frequent stirring for 20 minutes. Mash the beans with a potato masher. Add the spinach, return to a simmer, and cook for another five minutes. Adjust seasoning. Serves 3 to 4. Pair with crusty bread, tortillas, or hot biscuits, for a complete meal. 
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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Pork Cutlets

Developed June, 2019. From freezer to table in less than an hour, this recipe yields a meaty entree similar to wiener schnitzel for a quick mid-week supper from "pantry" ingredients.
4 boneless pork loin chops, about 4.5 oz (125 g) each
general-purpose breader (see recipe)
1/4 c (60 ml) vegetable oil
chicken gravy (see recipe)
lemon wedges (optional)
Pound thawed chops to a 1/4 inch (6 mm) thickness between plastic wrap. Dredge in breader, shake off excess, and lay out to dry on a rack. Heat a 12-inch (30 cm) stainless-steel skillet over medium, add the oil, and when it reaches 325 F (160 C), carefully slide in the cutlets. Fry for about 5 minutes undisturbed but spooning oil over them. Turn over the cutlets and turn off heat. Let them cook through for 2 minutes. Cover with gravy and garnish with lemon wedges. Serves 4. Suggested sides: Peruvian rice and braised cabbage.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Quick Chicken Gravy

Adapted from our recipe for quick beef gravy, this recipe comes together quickly from pantry ingredients.
1 T vegetable oil
1 T wheat flour
1/4 t each sage, thyme, marjoram, and garlic powder 
8 oz hot water, divided
1 T chicken stock base
1/2 t shiitake powder
1 T tapioca (or corn) starch dispersed in 1 T cold water
In a small saucepan, mix flour and oil. Heat over medium until a blonde roux forms, about 4 minutes. Stir in herbs. Slowly stir in a ¼ cup hot water until a smooth slurry is formed. Stir in stock base and shiitake powder. When incorporated, add the remaining hot water. Stir and simmer 5 minutes. Pour through sieve to remove herb residue. Return to pan, stir in starch slurry, heat and stir until it thickens. Can be easily doubled.
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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Cabbage and Tomato Soup

A light, flavorsome soup makes an appealing breakfast. Add flour tortillas for a more substantial meal.
1 qt water
2 T tomato paste
6 oz Napa cabbage, cut into bitesize pieces
1 small ripe tomato, diced
1 t minced garlic
1 T vegetable oil
1/4 t crushed red pepper
1 t fish sauce (optional)
1 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
3 green onions, cut on bias
1 t vinegar
Combine all ingredients except green onions and vinegar in three-quart saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Cook 15 minutes with occasional stirring. Add the green onions and continue cooking for 10 more minutes. Add vinegar and adjust seasoning to taste. Serves four.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Quick Scallion and Rice Soup

Developed May, 2019 in response to a need for an easy-to-digest, savory comfort food.
1 qt water
1/2 cup scallions, cut obliquely
1 oz tomato paste
1/4 c fried scallions (Thai import)
1 t salt
1 t fish sauce
2 T chicken stock concentrate
1 t butter
3/4 c rice
Gently boil all the ingredients together, except the rice, for 10 minutes. Add the rice and cook 15 minutes with occasional stirring. Adjust seasoning. Serves four.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Quick Vegetable Soup

This soup comes together quickly but delivers solid nourishment, savory taste, and appetizing aroma.
4 c water
1 oz tomato paste
2 c cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
Seasonings
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
2 T chicken or vegetable stock concentrate
2 t salt
1 t sugar
1 t fish sauce
1 t vinegar
1 envelope prepared lentils (Madras brand)
1 medium russet potato
Microwave the potato 3 minutes. When cool, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, and set aside. Meanwhile, in a three-quart saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the cabbage and tomato and boil slowly 20 minutes. Stir in the seasonings, the lentils, and the potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Serves four.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Emeril's Essence Creole Seasoning

Esteemed New Orleans cook Emeril Lagasse produces a creole spice blend and published the recipe widely. You can adjust the heat by how much cayenne pepper you include.
2-1/2 T paprika 
2 T salt
2 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper
1 T onion powder
1 T cayenne pepper
1 T dried leaf oregano
1 T dried thyme
Combine the ingredients in a spice mill. Mill until smooth. Store tightly covered in the dark.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Beef Stroganoff

Developed March, 2019. After the slicing is done and the noodles are boiling, the dish comes together in about 10 minutes.
8 oz (250 g) flank or skirt steak
1/4 c (50 ml) flour
8 oz (250 g) brown mushrooms, sliced thickly
6 oz (175 g) frozen pearl onions, thawed
2 T (30 ml) butter
2 T (30 ml) olive oil
2 t (10 ml) minced garlic
3/4 c (175 ml) dry red wine
1-1/2 c (350 ml) beef stock
3/4 c (175 ml) sour cream
2 T (30 ml) paprika, divided
8 oz (250 g) tagliatelle or egg noodles, cooked al dente, and drained
Chill the beef 30 minutes in the freezer, slice thinly across the grain, and flatten each piece. With your fingers, mix the flour with the beef slices, season lightly with salt, and set aside. Heat the oil and butter over medium in a 12-inch stainless-steel skillet until sizzling stops. Add the mushrooms and salt lightly. Cook until softened but not browned. Add the onions and continue frying until softened. Add meat, garlic and half the paprika. Lower the heat and cook until meat loses its rawness. Add the wine, cook until almost gone, and add the stock. Bring to a simmer, stir in the sour cream, the remaining paprika, and the noodles. Cook gently until the sauce has thickened and the noodles are done. Adjust seasoning. Serves 2 to 3.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Oven-Braised Country-Style Beef Chuck Ribs

Developed January, 2019. This cut, sometimes called 'country-style beef ribs' has recently appeared in local markets. It brings a rich beefy flavor, tenderness, and some connective tissue for unctuous mouthfeel.
1-1/2 lb boneless beef chuck ribs
4 T vegetable oil, divided
flour
salt
2 T tomato paste
4 large carrots, peeled, cut lengthwise, and quartered
2 large parsnips, peeled, cut lengthwise, and quartered

1 medium yellow onion, sliced through poles
6 oz large mushrooms, quartered
1 T minced garlic
1-1/2 lb green cabbage. cut into wedges, or 2 c cauliflower florets
3/4 c dry red wine

2 bay leaves
5 peppercorns
2 allspice berries 
about 2 cups beef stock
Heavily salt the meat strips and dust with flour. [Hint: Flour in a shaker jar is useful for this and related purposes.] Heat half the oil over medium high in a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting cover until it shimmers. Carefully add the beef strips. Fry, turning as it browns on all sides. Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C). Add the tomato paste, and then the vegetables in stages, adding oil and salt as needed, frying between additions. When all except the cabbage have been added and heated through, stir in the garlic, spices, and wine. Cook until reduced by two-thirds. Add enough stock to half cover the meat. Cover and roast about 90 minutes, turning every 30 minutes, until almost cooked. Add the cabbage or cauliflower, return to the oven, and roast until cabbage is tender, about 30 minutes. Serve in bowls over boiled egg noodles or steamed rice if desired. Alternatively, add 8 ounces of prepared potato gnocchi with the cabbage or cauliflower.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Ingredient: Boneless Chicken White Meat

Developed February, 2019. Many tasty dishes can be prepared from cooked chicken white meat. This method yields 8 ounces tender, recipe-ready meat.
8 oz boneless chicken breast cut into 1 inch strips or chicken tenders
2 c chicken stock
In a small saucepan, heat the stock to 160 F (70 C). Place raw chicken in the hot stock, stir, and cover. Turn off heat, and let stand until cool enough to handle. Proceed with recipe or wrap and chill for later use.Reserve enriched stock for another use such as chicken enchiladas.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Buttered Egg Noodles

Developed January, 2019 as an alternative to potatoes, rice or another starchy side dish.
8 oz (225 g) wide egg noodles
1/4 c low-fat margarine (or 2 T butter)
1/4 t garlic powder
1 t paprika
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/4 c sour cream
about 1/2 c cooking water
Bring two quarts of salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stir in egg noodles, and cook uncovered at a fast simmer for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain well, reserving the cooking water, and return noodles to the saucepan. Stir in margarine or butter until melted, then the seasonings, sour cream, and enough cooking water to produce a smooth but not watery sauce, stirring after each addition. Serves 4.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Boiled Shrimp

Developed December, 2018. The method prevents overcooking and yields a flavorsome, tender product ideal for a shrimp cocktail or eating off a fork. A tangy cocktail sauce adds to the pleasure.
1 lb large raw shrimp, shells on
1/2 c white vinegar
1/2 c water
2 T Old Bay seasoning
1/2 t salt
In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, and seasonings to a boil. Briefly rinse the shrimp in tap water and drain. Add the shrimp to the boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand until cool. Rinse briefly, drain, and chill. Shell the shrimp just before serving. Serves 3 or 4 on a bed of head lettuce.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Brick Chicken

This recipe could be titled as "Crispy-Skin Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs" but "Brick Chicken" is more dramatic if less informative. It was adapted August, 2015 from a recipe using chicken breast that appeared on PBS's America's Test Kitchen. Bricks can be purchased cheaply at any home store.
4 large chicken thighs
salt
pepper
2 common bricks, scrubbed clean and covered with aluminum foil
Pan Sauce
1 T oil from chicken
1/4 c finely-chopped shallot
1/4 c finely-chopped sweet pepper
2 t flour
1/8 t five-spice powder
1/8 t crushed red pepper
3/4 c chicken stock
2 t apple cider vinegar
1 t fresh or dry thyme
Trim away excess skin and fat. Bone thighs. Poke holes in fatty part of skin. Season each thigh with 1/2 t salt. Place on rack and refrigerate, skin side up, uncovered for up to 8 hours. Dry thoroughly. Place skin side down in 12-inch stainless-steel skillet cold. cover with bricks. turn heat to medium, and fry 7 to 9  minutes until mostly done and crispy on bottoms. remove bricks, Remove weight and continue to cook until skin is well browned and very crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip thighs, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until second side is lightly browned and meat registers 160 to 165 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside but cover loosely so as not to soften the skin.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Lemonade by Ratio

One way to describe a recipe is to list, not amounts by measure, but rather, amounts by ratio to each other. This makes it easy to make a small or large batch. Lemonade depends on the balance of its ingredients and so is well suited to this approach. A 'part' may be a small volume such as an ounce or a cup or even a gallon! It's also possible to prepare lemonade not by volume measure but by weight.
1 part lemon juice
2 parts simple syrup
4 parts cold water
2 parts ice
Mix well in a glass, in a pitcher or in large serving container. For example, to make a single serving in a large glass:
2 oz lemon juice
4 oz simple syrup
8 oz cold water
4 oz ice

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Scallops and Egg Noodles in Cream-Garlic Sauce

Developed December, 2018. Luxury in a quick and easy meal.
12 oz diver scallops
2 oz butter
1 T minced garlic
1/4 t crushed red pepper
1/4 c half and half or light cream
8 oz tagliatelle or narrow egg noodles
1/2 t salt
1/8 t white pepper
Bring two quarts of salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the noodles and boil gently until tender but firm. When done drain, reserving some of the cooking water, and keep warm. While the noodles cook, heat the butter over medium in a 12-inch stainless-steel skillet. When sizzling stops, add the garlic and crushed red pepper, and sauté until lightly colored. Dry the scallops and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the scallops. Cook gently until lightly browned on one side, turn and cook the other side. Stir in the noodles and the dairy. Cook gently until the sauce is mostly absorbed. Add pasta water as needed to adjust the thickness. Taste for seasoning. Serves two generously. Variation: Substitute shelled shrimp or imitation crab meat (surimi) for the scallops.

Ben's BLT salad

Recorded December, 2018. Everybody's favorite sandwich without the bread. A Family Favorite.
2 c head lettuce, cut into large cubes
4 strips of ‫crispy bacon‬, crumbled
1 large ripe tomato, cut into large pieces
2 T mayonnaise
1 T milk (or water)
1/2 t salt
freshly ground pepper
Assemble lettuce, tomato, and bacon in a bowl. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, milk, and seasonings together and dizzle on salad. Toss gently to coat. Serves two or three.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Jambalaya

Developed November 2018, inspired by a jambalaya enjoyed at a friend's table in October. Packed with flavor and solid nourishment, this comfort food is a Louisiana staple. Lots of ingredients, mostly pantry, but the cooking is straightforward and the dish comes together easily.
2 oz salt pork, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 andouille sausage, cut into disks
4 chicken thighs, trimmed of excess skin and visible fat
2 T vegetable oil
2 c long grain rice
Seasonings
2 T tomato paste
1/4 t red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 T minced garlic
1 t oregano
1 t thyme
1 t smoked paprika
1/4 t cayenne or 1 t chipotle
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 c hot shrimp stock
2 t salt
12 oz medium shrimp
1 T Old Bay seasoning
In a heavy pan or dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, fry the salt pork until crisp, add the celery, green pepper, onion, and sausage. Cook until softened. Add thighs and partially cook over moderate heat for a 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm. Increase heat, stir in rice and oil. Fry the rice with frequent stirring for few minutes until it turns milky. Stir in the seasonings, heat until aromatic, and add the tomatoes and hot stock. Place the chicken thighs on top, cover, and reduce the heat to a fast simmer. Tear apart the chicken when done (about 30 minutes), mix into rice. Arrange the shrimp on top, and dust with Old Bay seasoning. Cover tightly and let dish rest for 10 minutes while the shrimp steam through. Combine gently and serve. Serves 6.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Ben's Quick Egg and Tomato Asian Soup

The traditional Chinese recipe is basically water, tomato, egg, and scallions plus a pinch of sugar, salt, and white pepper. This version is enhanced a bit for the jaded American palate. Low in carbohydrates.
1 T vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t ginger root, minced
1/2 c chopped ripe tomato
Pinch sugar
Pinch salt
Dash white pepper
3 c chicken or vegetable stock or water
1 T corn starch dispersed in a little cold water
2 eggs, well beaten
3 to 4 green onions, sliced
1/2 t mushroom soy (optional)
In a two-quart saucepan, heat garlic and ginger in a little oil for 30 sec. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar. Allow to break down. 2 to 3 minutes. Add broth and mushroom soy. Bring to a boil. Thicken with cornstarch slurry. Off heat, stream egg into hot soup to form threads. Garnish with green onions. Serves two generously.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Meat Loaf II

Developed October, 2018. The recipe combines beef and pork in a mixture enhanced by both cooked and raw onion and warm spices.
1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 c white bread moistened with milk to form a paste
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 T olive oil
1 t sugar
1/2 t salt
2 T raw onion, grated on microplane or box grater
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs or matzoh meal
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 c chopped parsley
1 t ground fennel seed
2 t minced garlic
1 t dry thyme
1 t ground coriander
Position rack in the middle of oven preheated to 350 degrees F. Microwave chopped onion, oil, sugar and salt in a small bowl for 2 to 3 minutes on high until softened and set aside to cool. Hint: Grate the onion first before chopping the rest. In large glass bowl combine the meats, bread, egg, onions, raw onion, and all the other ingredients in a large bowl. Mix gently by hand to combine. Spread a sheet of heavy foil or parchment on a sheet pan. Form a rectangular "brick" of meat on the pan about 2.5 inches tall and 4.0 inches wide. Bake about 50 to 55 minutes until the internal temperature reads 165 F. Tent loosely with aluminum foil to rest about 15 minutes before slicing. A mushroom gravy goes well. Cold, thin slices of meat loaf makes great sandwiches.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Steamed Then Pan-Fried Potatoes

Pan-Fried Potatoes
Inspired by a similar dish served at Beachside Bistro in Kill Devil Hills, NC. They call them 'home fries'. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. Developed November, 2018.
12 oz (350 g) small red potatoes (about 1-1/4 oz or 35 g each)
vegetable oil
1/4 t (1 ml) granulated garlic
2 t (10 ml) dry rosemary
1 t coarse salt
1/4 t freshly-ground pepper
Steam the potatoes for 8 to 10 minutes until a paring knife goes in easily half-way. Remove to a kitchen towel and let cool and dry. When cool, quarter the potatoes. Heat 1/4 inch (5 mm) vegetable oil in a 10-inch heavy non-stick skillet to 375 degrees F (190 C). Cautiously, add the potatoes. Fry the potatoes, maintaining the temperature above 325 F (163 C), turning them occasionally. When browned and crispy on all sides, lift them from skillet with a spider, tongs, or a slotted spoon to a serving bowl. Toss with the seasonings and serve immediately. Serves 2 or 3.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Quick Beef Gravy

Developed October, 2018. Good companion to roast beef, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, hot sandwiches.
1 T vegetable oil
1 T wheat flour
1/4 t each ground coriander, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder
8 oz hot water, divided
1 T beef stock base
1/2 t shiitake powder
1 T tapioca or corn starch dispersed in 1 T cold water
In a small saucepan, mix flour and oil. Heat over medium until a blonde roux forms, about 4 minutes. Stir in herbs. Slowly stir in a 1/4 cup hot water until a smooth slurry is formed. Stir in stock base and shiitake powder. When incorporated, add the remaining hot water. Stir and simmer 5 minutes. Pour through sieve to remove herb residue. Return to pan, stir in starch slurry, heat and stir until it thickens. Can be easily doubled. Variations: Dilute with 1:1 with beef stock to make a 'jus' for French dip sandwiches or use as a base for hearty soups or stews.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Cauliflower Quick Braise in Butter and Stock

Developed Fall, 2018. The microwave makes this a very quick preparation. Sumac is a popular middle-eastern spice that adds a citrus-like acidity and an attractive red-orange color.
10 oz (275 g) cauliflower, cut into small florets
water in a trigger spray
1/4 t salt
1 t chicken stock concentrate (Better Than Bouillon™ Organic Reduced Sodium is good)
1/2 T butter, cut into small dice
1/4 t ground sumac or 1 t lemon juice
Place cauliflower in a medium glass bowl, mist with water, season with salt, and toss. Microwave on high (1250 W) for 2-1/2 minutes, covered tightly. Stir in the stock concentrate and the butter. Mix until combined adding a little water if needed. Microwave one more minute, add sumac, and stir. Serves 2 or 3.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Hint: How to Prevent Freezer Burn

So-called "freezer burn" is the term used to designate the process that turns the outside layer of a frozen food product into a dry, unpalatable residue covered with frost. The cause of the food drying and the accumulation of surface frost is sublimation. Sublimation is when water molecules evaporate from ice in much the same way they evaporate from liquid water. This dehydrates the food, spoiling it. Some of the released water vapor then re-deposits on the surface in needle-like frost.

What can be done? Two techniques largely eliminate the problem. (1) Mist the food with a light layer of water using a trigger spray before wrapping. This added layer will act as "sacrificial water" that can be lost to sublimation without harming the food but too little to dilute flavor. (2) Eliminate as much of the air space between the food and the wrap as possible. This denies a space for the water molecules to enter. Use a thin plastic bag or plastic wrap that can be pulled tight as the first wrap layer. Place that package in a larger bag and force the air from it. This outer bag protects the inner bag from puncture or leaks and adds another layer of protection.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

One-Pan Easy Mac and Cheese

Developed September, 2018 from a recipe on America's Test Kitchen TV program on PBS. The method cooks the elbows in milk and water and adds the cheeses after the pasta is cooked al dente. American processed cheese includes 'emulsifying salts' — namely sodium citrate — that yield a smooth melt and prevent the sharp cheddar, there to boost flavor intensity, from oily separation.
2 c milk
3 c water
1 t salt
1 lb elbow macaroni (Barilla™ is good)
8 oz American cheese, grated (from deli, not packaged slices)
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/8 t cayenne
2 t Dijon mustard
8 oz sliced ripe tomatoes
Bring milk. water, and salt to a boil in a three-quart saucepan. Be careful to prevent boiling over. Stir in the macaroni, reduce heat to a fast simmer, and cook until pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add the seasonings. Off heat, stir in the American cheese. Hint: Freeze the cheese before grating. Return to heat and simmer gently 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in the cheddar cheese, top with tomato slices, and cover. Let stand 10 minutes to soften the tomatoes. Stir the tomatoes into the pasta, reheating as necessary. Variation: Replace the tomatoes with 1/2 cup frozen peas.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Frozen Pot Stickers

Developed September, 2018 as part of a Chinese-style dim sum (appetizer) supper. Fast, easy, cheap.
8 frozen pot stickers
2 t vegetable oil
1/2 t sesame oil
2 T chicken stock
Heat a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium high and film it with oil. Add the frozen pot stickers. Let them fry undisturbed for a few minutes to brown one side. Turn them and continue frying until they are colored on all sides. Add sesame oil and stock. Cover, lower heat, and steam for 5 minutes. Pass dipping sauce. Serves two as part of a dim sum meal. Easily doubled.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

MiniReview: Copa Cuban Restaurant

Wound up at lunch time feeling a bit peckish parked across Main Street from the newly opened Cuban place, "Copa". Checked the menu on my smart phone. Looked yumm and affordable. Greg Cox gave it ****, $$, a great ratio of quality to cost. Son Jon and I popped in, were immediately seated. Durham is still very quiet after Hurricane Florence, even though all roads are clear and the sky was sunny. An elegant room, cream lemon walls, photographs of Cuban scenes. Not old Havana. Today's. 

The verdict? Best Cuban sandwich possible! They bake the bread. Perfect crust and crumb. They cure the ham. They cure the pickles. They roast the meat. Their own sauce. And wonderful blackbeans in a rich, aromatic gravy. Good golly, tops! Only drank ice water, which they serve at the table in an elegant, ice-cold glass bottle. Friendly, effective service. We both ordered the same meal, total was $24 before tax and tip. Worth every scrumptious morsel. I took half of mine home. We both made happy noises.


Copa

107 W. Main St.
Durham, NC 27701
https://copadurham.com/

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Easy Carnitas (Double-Cooked Pork)

First prepared May, 2016. A simple method to prepare a flavorsome main dish or an ingredient in another.
2 lbs boneless pork shoulder or country-style ribs
water
1 t salt
Cut pork into 1/2 inch pieces. Put meat and salt in a cold Dutch oven and barely cover with water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook covered over medium heat for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking with occasional stirring until all the water evaporates and the meat begins to sizzle in its fat. Continue cooking until browned and crisp. Drain and set aside. Serve as part of a meal with rice, beans, salsa, and tortillas or in a taco with toppings of your choice.

Chinese Stock Base

Developed October, 2015. Often in Chinese cooking a flavorsome, complex stock is used to finish a stir fry dish in the wok, prepare sauces, or serve as a light broth with a few petals of tender napa cabbage.
1 qt water
2 t soy sauce
1 t fish sauce
1 t rice wine
1 t dark sesame oil
2 T chicken base
1/2 t salt
1 t sugar
1 inch fresh ginger root, split and crushed
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 green onions, cut in large pieces
Place ingredients in a two-quart saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, cover, lower heat and simmer 30 minutes. Let cool off heat, still covered, and strain out solids through a sieve. Store cold in a covered container or freeze in measured amounts in plastic bags