Monday, June 30, 2008

Pretty in Pork

Recently Michael Ruhlman blogged about staple meals:

I’m fascinated by what America eats at home—not by what people serve at a dinner party or the latest favorite recipe they’ve found, but rather by what America’s default meals are. What are the meals you return to again and again—meals that are economical, quick, taste good, feel good, meals you make without having to think much?
One of Ruhlman's staple meals centers on chicken, but at our house, pork is often the go-to protein--most often a small stuffed roast. My butcher shop labels the cut a . . . more »

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Seattle Souvenir

This appeared in today's San Francisco Chronicle Food & Wine Newsletter. If you like mussels and LOVE bacon, you'll join me in applauding the Seattle chef who created this quick and easy dish.


Seattle-Style Mussels
By Casey Ellis, Chronicle contributor

My husband and his relatives have always loved to schlep edible souvenirs home from trips. They tuck cheeses into carry-on bags, stuff sausages into briefcases and devote extensive duffel bag space to jars of olives and pickles.

Grandpa Koch once packed a large, frozen . . . more »

Monday, June 16, 2008

Radish Reversal

Tucked into a farro and vegetables salad at La Posta recently (Yes, I do, too, eat at other restaurants, but I seem to get more ideas here to use at home), I discovered sweet young radishes with their greenery still attached. J suggested that the cook had blanched the greens by suspending them upside down in boiling water while holding the radishes high and dry.
I scoffed.
Chef Chris Avila said that was exactly what had occurred.
I hate it when J is right in cooking disputes.
The radish greens in the photo took about 45 seconds to achieve tenderness -- or, as J said: "to fry off the frizz."
For a second batch, I clasped the radish bodies in metal tongs, not as picturesque, but less likely to cause a steam singe to my hand.

Monday, June 9, 2008

In love with restaurants from an early age:

The Stork Club, Manhattan, about 1952.

Waiter: "And what will the young gentleman have?"
My brother, Don : "What do you have?"
Waiter: "The Stork Club has everything."
Don: "Then I'll have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

Which, after a bit of a delay, was delivered to him. My grandparents -- who believed in taking children to good restaurants early and often -- later told me the kitchen had sent someone out to the corner market to buy a jar of peanut butter.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Crazy about Cardamom

I tend to get crushes on certain recipes, falling in love with particular flavor combinations and cooking them over and over. My children used to greet new dishes with "This is good, Mom, but don't go crazy with it." Translation: "We don't want to eat it 3 or 4 times a week for the next couple months."

Sometimes the dishes igniting my infatuation are elaborate; other times, quite simple. This fennel treatment falls firmly into the latter category. It comes from Tamasin Day-Lewis's marvelous "The Art of the Tart." Intended to be swathed in creme fraiche and Taleggio cheese and baked into a tart, these fennel slices taste terrific as a side dish on their own.
And, a note to my grown and living-on-their-own children: I've been serving this only once a week.
Well, twice at the most. It's just so easy and so crazy-good.

Sauteed Fennel with Cardamom
3-4 bulbs fennel
2 Tb. butter
4 Tb. each olive oil, white wine and water
The crushed seeds of 8 cardamom pods

Remove the tough outer layers of the fennel (saving some of the fronds), then quarter the bulbs and slice thickly. Put the fennel into a heavy-bottomed skillet with the butter, olive oil, wine, water and cardamom seeds.
Bring to bubbling, reduce to simmering, cover with a lid, and cook gently until the fennel is no longer resistant even at the core, about 10-15 minutes. Remove it with a slotted spoon, reserve, and bubble the juices until stickily reduced and syrupy.
Pour the juices over the fennel and sprinkle with some of the chopped, feathery fronds.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Jam Time

The hand that stirs the jam pot rules the kitchen.
(At least for a day.)

I love eating -- and hate making -- jam, so I'm wildly grateful that J enjoys the whole lengthy, oft-messy procedure. After Saturday's session with seven pounds of apricots, he not only cleaned up afterwards but also typed up the recipe. I may have to stay married to him for another 45 years.

Jack's Astonishingly-Delicious Apricot Jam

7 lbs apricots, not too ripe
8 cups sugar
1 lemon, whole, but peel removed
Cheesecloth and cotton string

Split apricots lengthwise and pit --reserve pits -- and place 2/3 of the fruit in a
large mixing bowl, reserving the rest. Cover with the sugar and squeeze the lemons into the bowl thru a sieve. Stir the mixture and set aside for 15 minutes.
Place sufficient well-washed canning jars and lids on a cookie sheet in a 225 deg. oven for at least 15 minutes.
Cut the lemon into 1/8ths and tie inside a cheescloth bag with a long cotton string.

Take the apricot and sugar mixture, which should have liquified, and place in a large stainless or copper pot. Set over high heat until the mixture boils; then reduce heat to medium, but keep a high boil. Toss in the cheesecloth with the lemon carcasses and seeds inside and tie the string to a handle. Boil the mixture about 20minutes, stirring frequently. It will create considerable foam and must not boil over, so control the fire.

When the foam starts to subside, add the reserved apricots.
While the jam is cooking, place the apricot pits on a heavy wooden chopping block and strike them gently with a hammer to crack them open. Remove the white kernels.
(This takes some practice to prevent kernel-smashing.)

Chop the kernels into fine dice, and add them to the pot once the reserved apricots have softened.
[Margin Note: Don't skip this step. The chopped kernel bits give the jam a nice almondy undernote as well as a bit of appealing crunch.]
Squeeze the cheesecloth bag against the side of the kettle to release the pectin from the lemons; remove the bag and discard.
Now test the jam for temperature and thickness. It should read 218-220 degrees with a candy or instant thermometer. Lacking one of these, take a small saucer from the freezer and drop a large drop of jam on it. Return to the freezer for 2 minutes and then push against it with a spoon. If done, the jam drop will wrinkle.
When thickened to your liking, remove from the fire and fill the canning jars hot from the oven with the jam to within 1/2 inch of the top. (A canning funnel helps.) Immediately seal the jars with a canning lid and ring and set aside to cool. When the jam cools, the jar lids should audibly pop to their sealed position. If this doesn't occur, refrigerate and use within a week or two.
[Margin Note: This is not a hardship. I've gone through half a jar in 3 days.]