With Leftovers

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Buddy, Sorrel*

As hipsters trample over each other to snatch the first overpriced signs of spring--ramps, really?--you'd be better off sauntering to a farm stand that features sorrel, a tart lemony green, and a superb companion for fish and shellfish, particularly the richer ones. (Speaking of richer... with scallops at $25 per pound, a sprightly sorrel sauce can be a good helpmeet in stretching those expensive nubbins a little further.)
  I started the sauce by scorching two lovely fat chopped shallots to death, as, at the time, I was busy pulling the veins out of the sorrel leaves. (Rinse the leaves, Lightly pat dry. Fold the leaf in half, lengthwise, then pull the vein out. Annoying, I know, but it must be done.
    Now is the time to saute the shallots. Some butter, some neutral oil, add the shallots, and cook, stirring from time to time, until soft. Throw in the sorrel, then wonder where it went. Add some heavy cream, and give it another stir. Whiz in a food processor, or with a blending stick, until smooth, with flecks of green. Adjust for seasoning. This keeps without separating but it is, after all, dairy, so use within a day or two.
*Please note that sorrel rhymes with quarrel, not with the surname of acclaimed television writer, Buddy Sorrell.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

In a Stew

Wide egg noodles are among my very favorite things...particularly with butter, especially with butter and  breadcrumbs.Yesterday, I seemed alone in this, as I schlepped from store to noodle-free store, up to my ass in slush. Pasta yes, noodles no. A clerk in one upscale market showed me to the noodle section. All gone. Given the allotted space, I assumed that some lucky shopper had purchased the sole bag of noodles. Another such market didn't carry noodles at all. Am I that downmarket in my taste? Next stop, the newly tarted up and confusing Key Food, where there is a dazzling array of all things eggy and farinaceous.

Obviously, I'm not going to provide you with a recipe for noodles, as most of you  know you way around a kitchen, although I have doubts about one who seems to subsist solely on popcorn.

Stew is pretty flexible. I was out of (or couldn't find in the uncurated museum that is my refrigerator) beef stock, so went with chicken and a touch of caramel coloring, courtesy of Gravy Master, which has been saving cooks' sanity since 1935. I used 3/4 pound of chuck, cut into smallish cubes, and dredged in flour seasoned with salt and pepper (and a pinch of Aleppo, if possible). Over medium-high heat get a good brown on the beef without overcooking, four minutes or even less. Remove the beef. Add a chopped large onion and a clove or two of minced garlic to the pan. Cook until soft, a minute or two. Put the beef in the pan, some sliced carrots, if you'd like, and add four cups of stock and a healthy slosh of red wine. Pour yourself a glass.

Cook for at least an hour, feeding it more wine from time to time. 

Given that there is no starch is the stew, which at this point resembles soup, it's time to add a thickener. I was out of Wondra, which has featured on the message board for these many weeks, so I mixed a tablespoon or so of all-purpose flour with a couple of tablespoons of stock until smooth. In to the pot, repeating if necessary. Toss in some frozen peas at the last minute.

Arrange as attractively as possible. Strew with chopped parsley, which I sure as hell wasn't going back out to get. What do you think this is, Posh Nosh?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dippy Onion Meatloaf

I grew up in an era when packaged foods were preferred to fresh. My mother, the Great Spam (do click on the link) Queen, thought that only little old immigrant ladies stood over the stove all day, stirring and sniffing and tasting.  Why would anyone do that when the freezer's stocked with frozen waffles?

Then, sometime in the eighties,the food world shifted on its skewer.  Suddenly, we were all making pesto (Who would have known what pesto was a mere ten years before? That old woman at the stove, that's who.), and cooing over baby arugula, which led to the whole foodie cult(ure).  I can't exclude myself from it, either.  I have frozen curry leaves in the freezer and Maldon sea salt on the table.  But I also have a box of Lipton Onion Soup Mix in the closet. I bet you do, too.

Have you ever used it to make soup?  I didn't think so.  It's either the dip, which all people of  good will admit that they have never stopped loving, or the meatloaf. Looking idly at the two recipes on the back of the box the other night, I had a "your peanut butter got on my chocolate" moment.  Why not make an onion-soup dip meatloaf?  Okay, I'm sure you can think of plenty of reasons. I'm went ahead anyway.  It emerged from the oven moist, tangy, and sublimely oniony.

I used about a pound and a half of ground meat, mostly beef, with some veal and pork mixed in. You can use all beef, of course.  Then, in goes 1/2 packet onion soup mix (shake it to make sure it is well blended), a 1/3 or so cup chopped onion, 2 eggs, 6 or so tablespoons sour cream, a dash or two of hot sauce, ditto Worcestershire sauce, and a squirt of ketchup.  Salt and pepper, of course.  Now, squish it all together with your hands.  Add dry breadcrumbs, until the mixture almost holds together.  Let stand for about five minutes, during which the breadcrumbs will swell somewhat and absorb more moisture.  At this point, you can take a spoonful of the meatloaf mix and fry it, then adjust the seasoning. Not necessary, but if you like fiddling about in the kitchen, go right ahead.

Form into a loaf. Or a ring.  That worked for me once or twice.  Ends for everybody! I like to glaze it with a blend of ketchup and hot sauce, but that might be too downmarket for some of you, not that it isn't downmarket enough already.

Bake at 350 for about an hour. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.  Draw the curtains.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Porking My Way Back to You, Dears

As some of you doubtless know, 2011 (damn those odd numbers, never good) was not one of my better years.  It had its moments, though, including waking up in the ghost town that was Chadwick Beach on the morning of Hurricane Irene's arrival.  (Why were we the last?  As we told the very nice firemen, were well into happy/grilling hour and had no intention of packing up our hamburgers and hitting the road.  Also that hitting said road at sunset with vodka coursing through one's bloodstream is, I've heard, a bad idea.)

So, here we are in an even-numbered year, and I'm ready to throw myself back into the kitchen, and this blog.  Note to self: Remember that you do not mean throw literally; you are barely healed from the CD rack incident.

By my lights, the NY Times Magazine's food articles had reached a nadir several years ago, with the dreadful woo-and-coo barf fest offered up by Amanda Hesser. I think it was followed by some guy trying to feed his kid, but I never stopped to check on my way to the crossword puzzle.  Perhaps it was Mr. Latte.  However, I've been truly inspired by  the mag's new approach to the weekly food article, conceived and written by Mark Bittman.  The stories often careen into Mad Hatter charts, allowing you to map your way to any number of astonishing combinations for, say, canapes.   Bittman offers both recipes and jumping-off points, and is sometimes deliberately vague, leaving you to find your own way, which is the best way of all. 

This week, Mark features pork and apples, a classic combination from Normandy to Nova Scotia.  I was instantly drawn to Apple-Stuffed Pork Loin with Moroccan Spices.  However, there was a problem:  The recipe serves six to eight people, as do all others on the page.  Either Mark knows a lot of large families, or NYT readers give dinner parties at a mad clip

So, following directions, I sauteed the onions and apples, using the full amount, which I was going to attempt to stuff into a pint-sized (1 1/2 pound) pork loin.  I figured that if it was yummy, I could use the remainder later.  Or eat it directly out of the pan.  If you look at the picture of the finished dish in the Times, you can see that the suggested stuffing cavity is rather small and elegant.  Yet Bittman said, "...make the hole as wide as you can."  So I did, first using the spoon, then stuffing my fist into the little sucker. Far less tasteful, but far more tasty.

Stuffing hot onions and, worse still, hot apples, into the hole made for an X-rated vocabulary in the kitchen.  In the end, though, it was well worth it: juicy, succulent, and full of complex flavors.

For better or for worse, I'm back again.  You can consider that while I go slice myself a hunk of fruit-filled pork.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Eating Alone with Friends

On the all-too-rare occasions that I have an evening in on my own, I usually turn to my three bestest friends for company: bread, cheese, and wine.  However, given the frigid weather of late--and the endlessly broken and repaired and rerepaired boiler in my building--I decided that something hot was indicated.

I'd made pasta with eggs before, but the eggs were always accompanied by bacon, teaming up for a deliciously artery-shattering carbonara.  Since I was going to be solely responsible for the dishes resulting from this particular dinner, I decided to simplify, dropping the bacon and--more important--the pan that would wind up greasily in the sink.  Yes, there's a pan involved here, but frying bacon is a whole other kettle of...um...pork products. 

The principle if not unlike a carbonara, except that the egg is lightly fried in seasoned oil before being tossed with the pasta and cheese.  It turned out to be a lovely little meal: warm, rich, creamy, and, accompanied by a glass or two of wine, thoroughly satisfying. And, it occurs to me, it's a meal with the friends mentioned above,  just in winter guises.

olive oil
 red pepper flakes
a clove or two of garlic, chopped
1 egg
tons of grated cheese
salt, pepper

Cook a single serving of pasta.  I particularly like linguini fini.

Heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat.  Add red pepper flakes and garlic, stirring occasionally, until garlic softens.  Break egg into pan (or into a bowl, then into the pan--much easier).  Cook until white is almost set.  Pour entire contents of pan over pasta. Toss with a great deal of  Parm or Romano. Salt and pepper to taste.  It suddenly occurs to me that a handful of chopped parsley mightn't be bad here, either.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

My Sole Rejoices

Back from sickness, back from Pittsburgh, in case you were wondering.
  Today, I'd like to address my inability with fish, and how I've gotten around it.  Not shellfish, mind:  Set me loose on oysters, mussels, lobster, you name it, and I will create dish fit for Neptune himself.  Flatfish, however are my piscine bete noir.  I undercook and overcook and can't turn a filet without it falling to bits--even while using a special fish spatula.

All of which somehow brings me back to my Catholic school girlhood, and the days of fish on Fridays.  Until my mother discovered that she could buy shrimp already cooked and chilled, we had lemon sole every week.   It amazes me now that it seems to have occurred to no one at all that it wasn't that fish was compulsory on Friday but that meat was on as 24-hour proscribed list.  Seriously, it would have been nice to have a grilled cheese sandwich stand in for that sole once in a while.

Mom, no great fan of cooking in general, did have a simple method of preparing that relentless lemon  sole.  She dotted it with butter and popped it in the broiler.  My method is a bit more complicated:  melt the butter, add some spices, dip the fish in the butter, and pop in the broiler.  (Why did I not remember this sooner?  Tied up with memories of the utterly horrifying St. Agnes Seminary, I expect.)

 I was rather shocked at the results: perfectly done, moist fish, that flaked at the touch of a fork.  Now, if only I could forget Sister Helen Gertrude.

fish filets, cut into reasonably similar-sized pieces (I used cod)
melted butter, seasoned with--at the very least--salt and pepper. (Other options include aleppo pepper, hot    sauce, Old Bay, a squeeze of lemon, and so forth)

Heat the broiler.  Dip fish in seasoned butter.  Broil until done, 5-7 minutes, depending upon thickness.  If you're not sure that the fish is done (I never am), slice into gently and check.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Greek Treats on Essex Street

For better or for worse, but certainly for more expensive, the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side has undergone some significant changes.  Cilantro and jalapenos are replaced by artisanal cheeses and chocolates.  As long as I can still a get buck bunch of cilantro that rivals my head in size, I’m okay with that.  However, it’s also nice to see newcomers arrive that gently look to the past, not the future.  Such a place is Boubouki, a homey little stall owned by Rona Economou.  Photos of her family decorate the walls of the tiny space. Ms. Economou turns out fresh, flaky spanokopita, baklava, and feta flatbread, featured on a roster that continues to evolve and expand.  Don’t overlook the unassuming Easter cookies, which taste like a cross between a butter cookie and the most insanely good crumb cake ever.
120 Essex Street

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

And a Cheesy New Year to You

There are leftovers and then there are leftovers.  If you haven’t finished up the last of the turkey and stuffing, it’s time for it to go.  If that just reminded you of Thanksgiving leftovers lurking in the back of the fridge, well, you’re my kind of housekeeper. 
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day*, we managed to use up just about everything—except some odds and end of cheese that had suffered from being in and out of the refrigerator one too many times. (Yes, I know you’re supposed to cut off the amount you need, but I always think I need all of it, every single time.)  There is a way for those cheese bits to go out in a French blaze of glory: fromage fort.

Fromage fort ("strong cheese") is insanely easy to make, endlessly variable, and has an eau de sophistication that most leftovers don't.  The French like to age their fromage fort, which increases its strength (hence its name).  I don't have that kind of patience.  

Fromage fort (FroFo?) can be eaten straight out of the food processor or, better still, spread on baguette slices and broiled briefly.  I used some blue, some brie, and a bit of Humboldt Fog.  Perhaps a quarter pound of the first two, and half as much fog.  Into the Cuisinart they go, along with a clove or two of garlic (or not).  Start processing the cheese, then enough white wine (1/4 cup or so) to create a smoothish paste with smallish lumps.  (If the spread ever makes it to the fridge, it will thicken a fair bit.)

There, isn't that better than those festive turkey-stuffing balls you were considering?

*I resolve to be a better and more reliable blogger in 2011.  Like you care.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Hiccup at Il Laboratorio del Gelato?

LdG's big, shiny, new Houston Street location was scooping the sorbetto over the weekend, but not today.  I was planning on a black-sesame gelato for lunch on my way home today, only to find the lab closed.  There was  much activity involving ladders and a large bag of either insulation or cotton candy on the floor.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Take My Cookbooks...Please!

Over the last few nights, I have been overly elaborate, filling the sink with dishes and our plates with, well, some dinners that didn't live up to the hype.  On Friday, I made boeuf bourguinon from a NY Times recipe recommended by a friend.  What I forgot was that her mother cooks this for her, and all she has to do is swan to the table and chow down. Me, I went through three hours of blood, toil, tears, and sweat for what was, in the end, a very expensive, quite nice--nice? after all that!-- stew.  (There are no photos of the boeuf, I collapsed in a swoon as soon as it was done.)
  Next up was a quiche Lorraine, to use up some of the bacon that I bought for the boeuf.  Just fine but another recipe-following experience.  Trying to track a recipe down was quite a trip.  Every cookbook spitefully told me that, of course, a real quiche Lorraine involves no cheese at all.  No cheese? No thanks.  Experts be damned, I threw a ton of Gruyere in that sucker and topped it with some grated Parm.
  This brings us to last night.  After a couple of sort-of French meals, I woke up (yes, I think of dinner the moment I awaken) with a craving for spice and pork.  Looking up a recipe in 600 Curries, an exhaustive and intelligent cookbook, I found an off-beat Pork Vindaloo that resembled in no way the vindaloos that I have had on what remains of East 6th Street.  That's when I should have realized that what I was craving was an inauthentic vindaloo and just winged it.
  But no, I made a paste out ten or so ingredients, cooked that to dryness in the pan, added the pork and coconut milk and cooked it for the requisite time.  It tasted raw and harsh--not spicy-good, just harsh.  I added more coconut milk, cumin, and curry leaf, and had to cook it for ages to reach a level of acceptableness before serving.  I'm sure the fault lay in me, as I had to do a last-minute substitution on the pepper front, but I was bummed nonetheless.
  Tonight, I'm using the beef leftover from the stew, and making a pasta sauce out of it.  And I won't be opening a single cookbook to do it.

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I'm a ninth-generation Brooklyn native living in Manhattan.