Sunday, March 24, 2013

Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf

What is "comfort food"? the answers are innumerable. For this posting I have chosen a dish that is almost universally liked, simple to do and Oh-so-DELICIOUS!. Why do I cook? part of the reason (and I am embarrassed to confess it) is because I love to be able to eat things that I really like, and if I cook I have more control on the choice of menu...However, I often ask for requests from my family or friends and this contradicts what I just said...I  just love to do it. 

When thinking about this post I realized that although I chose a simple dishes of meat , it is also about choices; choices of meat, of glaze, etc. The technique to do meat loaf is the same, regardless of our choice of content, and herein is the culture at home playing a role in the flavors we want to call "ours", "comfort food", etc.

      “Meat Loaf”: Meat loaf combines meat and some vegetables in this recipe, however the types and proportions are a  matter of taste, not of technique. I like to have 50% of Buffalo ground beef, 25% of Chuck ground beef, and 25% Pork ground beef. The Buffalo meat is lean and has a deep flavor that adds depth to the dish, and the Chuck has about 15% fat content which helps the loaf; and finally Pork, which again gives a great taste to the combination. If you do not have access to ground buffalo or bison beef, or you do not feel adventurous regarding that choice, a good combination is 50% Chuck and 50% Pork. If you feel the need for something lighter you can mix 50% of ground pork, and 50% of chicken sausage (ask your butcher to remove the casings from them).

a.      Tools: a  skillet or sauté pan, a box grater, a large bowl to mix the ingredients, and a pyrex or  non-stick baking pan.

b.      Ingredients: 1 lb of the desired combination of meats,  1 medium-large yellow onion, 1 large or 2 medium carrots, 3 Tbsp of unsalted butter (you can substitute with extra virgin olive oil), 1 large egg, 1/4 cup of whole milk (you can substitute this for yoghourt for a slightly less sweet flavor), 1 Tbsp of Worcestershire, 1/2 tsp of kosher salt, 1/4 tsp of black pepper, 2 Tbsp of finely chopped fresh italian (flat) parsley, 2 Tbsp of brown sugar, 1/2 a cup of tomato catsup sauce, 1 /2 cup o plain bread crumbs, 1/2 cup of Panko bread crumbs (Japanese Style), 1/2 Tbsp of red or white wine vinegar. Optional:  1/4 tsp of sweet paprika, cayenne or red pepper.

c.       Procedure: Preheat the oven at Grate the carrots with the box grater, and finely chop the onion. Heat the skillet in medium to high heat and add the butter (or olive oil if using). Add the onions and cook for 7~8 minutes until soft. Add the carrots and cook mixing together with the onions for another 8 minutes until soft. Remove from heat. In a small bowl mix well the two types of bread crumbs. The combination is a matter of taste, the Panko gives a nice “crunchiness” texture to the loaf. In a separate small bowl mix the tomato catsup, sugar, and vinegar and mix well together with a fork or small whisk. In a wide soup dish or similar, mix the egg, parsley, salt, pepper, milk (or yoghourt), Worcestershire sauce, and if you are using it, the paprika, cayenne, or red pepper.  Whisk it vigorously until everything is well blended. Add the meat combination and mix well with your hand as if you were preparing a loaf of bread. Add the onions and carrots and continue mixing.  When everything is blended together, add part of the bread crumbs and continue to mix and adding the bread crumbs until the consistent is relatively "wet" but not sticky. Prepare the baking pan by lining it with aluminum foil (this will make cleaning much easier afterwards). transfer the mix to the baking pan and form the loaf with your hands making sure to leave a little space on the sides so the loaf does not touch the sides of the pan (this allows for a more uniform cooking and crust). pour the catsup mix and spread it over the entire surface of the loaf. Bake the loaf in the oven until it is about 160 F of internal temperature, about 50 minutes. take it out of the oven and let it rest about 20 minutes before serving it. It is delicious with mashed potatoes.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Papi Chicken”, “Mejillones con Chorizo”, and “Haloumi Salad”

When we are trying to create culture at home we ask often, explicitly or implicitly, what are the flavors that make us feel at home? Is the answer different in the intimacy of family than it is when we entertain? Is it possible to cook something that fits both a Friday evening with a movie at home and a Saturday evening with friends? I propose these two recipes as a possible answer to these questions. The first one, “Papi Chicken” is a recipe I developed long time ago, and it is one of those that I do not longer remember if I copied entirely or modified to suit my (and our) taste. I make it so often that it was granted the nick name of “Papi Chicken” by my daughters. For accompaniment I often serve it with either mashed potatoes or “Papi rice”, however it also goes beautifully with couscous cooked with butter and pine nuts; or with angel hair pasta with butter and parmesan cheese.

The second one, “mussels’ cazuela with chorizo” is a variant of a recipe originally from Anya von Brenzen. I developed this recipe for one of my best friends who asked me if I could combine a couple of things he likes very much, mussels and Spanish chorizo. This is a dish full of flavor that is at the same time simple, filling, festive, and spectacularly delicious.

The third is an incredible salad that can be a main course for a lunch or as an accompaniment for a wide variety of dishes. In my case, I like to serve it as a first course before “Mejillones with Chorizo”.

1)      “Papi Chicken”: As they like to say in Britain; if you like breaded chicken, “this is how we take the dish to a new level”.

a.      Tools: large non-stick skillet or sauté pan.

b.      Ingredients: 1 lb of your favorite cut of organic, boneless, skinless chicken, that is to say, breast strips or filets, or thighs cleaned and patted dry. 2 fresh eggs, 3 Tbsp. of whole milk, ½ tsp. of kosher salt, a pinch of black pepper, a pinch of garlic powder, 1 Tbsp. of very finely chopped fresh parsley, 1 tsp. of Worcestershire sauce, 4 Tbsps. of unsalted butter, 4 Tbsps. extra virgin olive oil, 2 cups of plain bread crumbs, 1 cup of panko style (Japanese) bread crumbs. Optionally, you can use ¼   tsp. of piment d’espelette (red pepper from the Basque country)  or substitute with ¼  or tsp. of sweet paprika or red pepper.

c.       Procedure: in a wide soup dish or similar, mix the eggs, salt, pepper, milk, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and if you are using it, the piment. Whisk it vigorously until everything is well blended. In a second wide soup dish mix well the two types of bread crumbs. The combination is a matter of taste, the panko gives a nice “crunchiness” to the chicken, however, it absorbs more of the butter and oil. Prepare a flat dish and put it on the side of the other two, this will be your working station. Take the chicken, one piece at a time, let it rest on top of the bred in both sides to pick a bit of the bread and then submerge it on the egg mix, before bring it back to the bread crumbs, and make sure that it the crumbs cover the entire piece. Pass it on to the third dish. Once all the pieces have been prepared this way let it rest for about a half hour in the refrigerator so the flavors mix well and get absorbed by the chicken. When ready to cook, melt 2 Tbsps. of the butter and mix it with 2 Tbsps. of the oil at medium heat. And when it is hot but before smoking carefully put half of the pieces to fry and monitor until golden in the bottom before turning them over and finishing cooking them. It should take about 4 minutes per side, but use the color of the outside to judge whe it is ready, it should be golden brown. When they are ready bring them to a fresh dish covered with a paper towel to absorb the excess of oil and keep warm (for example in your oven at about ~170 degrees Fahrenheit if your oven goes that low) until you are ready to serve. 

2)      “Mejillones with Chorizo”. The mussels in this recipe are combined with Spanish style chorizo (very different than the one used in Mexico or Central America) for an unusual mix of flavors that it is as appealing as it is difficult to forget. If you like mussels, I am certain you will love this dish.
a.      Tools: 5 Qt. heavy stew pan or Dutch oven.
b.      Ingredients: 1 ½ lbs. of mussels, cleaned. 2 Tbsps. of extra virgin oil, 5~6 ounces of Spanish style chorizo (I like to use Burgos or Rioja style chorizo if you can find it) cut in half lengthwise and then in medium to small slices, 1 or 2 sliced garlic cloves (optional), 1 cup of chopped canned tomatoes, ¼ tsp. of piment d’espelette (red pepper from the Basque country) or substitute with ¼ or tsp. of sweet paprika or red pepper, 2 cups of fish stock (you can substitute with clam juice). 1 pinch of saffron mashed in a mortar and steeped with 2 Tbsps. of very hot water, 1 ½ tsp. of red wine vinegar, a pinch of brown sugar, kosher or sea salt to taste, ¼ cup of fresh minced parsley.
c.       Procedure: heat the oil in the Dutch oven with medium heat and add the chorizo and cook until light brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Scoop the chorizo and set aside. Add the garlic to the oil if using and fry for about 2 minutes and set aside. Add the tomatoes and cooked for about 10 minutes. Add the fish stock and bring to a boil. Add the saffron, reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for about 10 minutes, then add the vinegar, sugar, and salt to taste. Add the mussels, increase the heat to medium high and cook covered for about 5 ~ 7 minutes, shaking the put a few times to help the mussels open. Remove the mussels that are did not open and stir in the chorizo and garlic. Mix well heating for 1 or 2 minutes more and serve after sprinkling the parsley on top. It is best with your favorite bread (mine for this dish is sweet French loaf).

3)      “Haloumi Salad”. Once you try this recipe you will become a fan of this incredible Greek style salad. Haloumi chees is a Greek cheese that can be fried or grilled without melting. My favorite Haloumi chees is made with a mix of sheep and goat milk.

a.      Tools: a salad bowl, and a medium non-stick skillet.

b.      Ingredients: A butter lettuce head, 6~8 ounces of Haloumi cut in ¼ inch slices, a dozen green grapes washed and dried, ½ a lemon, a pinch of salt, extra virgin olive oil to taste.

c.       Procedure: wash and dry the lettuce and distribute in the two dishes. Add half of the grapes to each dish, sprinkle a pinch of salt and drizzle some of the juice of the lemon over the lettuce and grapes.  Add about 2 Tbsp. of extra olive oil to the skillet at medium heat and before smokes add the cheese, and fry for about 1 ½ minutes per side until light golden brown. Serve the slices on top of the lettuce and grapes and spoon the oil from the skillet on top of the lettuce, grapes and cheese. Serve immediately. Ab-so-lu-tely de-licious .


Friday, February 22, 2013

“Quick BBQ Ribs” & “Pasta with Casaluz Sauce”

Hmmmmm... Friday night. What can you do easy and succulent for two at home? Here are a couple of options. I suggest a simple salad of green lettuce and hearts of palm with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a bit of salt and pepper as accompaniment for either of these dishes.

1)      “Quick BBQ Ribs”: Simple and yummy.
a.      Tools: large skillet or sauté pan
b.      Ingredients: 6-7 ribs in a rack (about 1 ½ lbs. of ribs), a pinch of salt, ½ a cup of your favorite BBQ sauce unless you want to do it homemade (recipe for it in a future blog), ½ cup of water, ½ orange.
c.       Procedure: Preheat the oven at 350 F. Put the ribs in the skillet, meat side up and season with salt. Cover the meat with the sauce and make sure it is spread all over it. Mix some of the juice from the orange with the water and add it to the sauce to dilute it a bit. Cover the skillet with foil and cook for about 1 ½  hours. Every 20 minutes or so baste the meat to keep it moist. It will be ready when the meat is dark golden and falling out of the bones. Grate finely orange zest on top of the ribs, separate the ribs with a sharp knife, garnish with a bit of fresh parsley and serve.

2)      “Pasta with Casaluz Sauce”: This is my version of pasta with red sauce.
a.      Tools: 8 Qt. stock pot and a 3Qt saucepan, sauté pan, or an 11-12” skillet
b.      Ingredients: 1 large onion, 1 jar of strained tomatoes, 1 tsp. of kosher salt, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, 1 Tbsp. of tomato catsup, 1 Tbsp. of sherry vinegar, 3 Tbsps. of unsalted butter, ½ a package (1/2 lbs.) of spaghetti. Note on the pasta, there are several “cuts” of pasta such as linguini, angel hair, etc. however, I think that spaghetti is the most suited for this sauce.
c.       Procedure: chop the onion very fine. Melt the butter in the sauce pan and cook the onions at medium heat stirring frequently for about 25-30 minutes until they turn sweet and caramelized, but not brown or burned. Add the tomatoes and bring to boil. Add the salt, Worcestershire sauce, catsup, and vinegar, stir and bring down to a slow simmer. Cook that way for at least 45 minutes or more until ready to serve. Fill the stockpot to ¾, add 2 Tbsp. of salt, and put it to high heat until it has a rolling high boil. Drop the pasta and follow instructions of the package. Before taking the pasta out check that it is not to hard or soft, to taste. Serve with the sauce on top, drizzle a little bit of your best virgin olive oil and a bit of Parmesan cheese on top of the sauce. Delicious, satisfying, and absolutely fool proof.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

“Steamed Fish with Ponzu” & “Japanese Rice”

What are Japanese flavors at home? The following recipes have, for me, the taste of Japan. My daughters like these so much they ask for them on a regular basis. They are simple and so good I am sure they will become a regular in your home culture.

1)      “Steamed Fish with Ponzu”.
a.      Tools: a steamer (either metal or bamboo), a small 1 Qt. sauce pan.
b.      Ingredients: 1 lb white flaky fish such as any of the Cod family or Sea Bass. A 2~3 inch piece of ginger julienned (cut in thin strips), 3 sprigs of fresh scallion very finely chopped both white and green parts, 1 sprig of cilantro roughly chopped,3 Tbsps.  of a neutral oil such as sesame, several leaves of chard or similar washed and dried (optional), and ~6 Tbsps. of Ponzu sauce.  If you do not have Ponzu you can use the same amount of Soy sauce and mix it with about 1/2 Tbsp. of fresh lemon juice. Also optional, 1 tsp. of instant dashi, (Japanese soup base) powder. A pinch of kosher salt
c.       Procedure: wash the fish with water and pat dry. Cut into two portions and sprinkle the salt and some of the chopped scallions on top. Add a couple of cups of water and the instant dashi powder if using to the bottom of the steamer, and set to boil. Put the chard leaves in the bottom of the steamer to form a bed for the fish. This will prevent it from sticking to the perforated surface. If you prefer, instead of the chard leaves you can use parchment paper as a base for the fish. When water is boiling put the fish in the steamer, cover and steam for about 12 minutes until fish separate in flakes. While the fish is cooking, fry the ginger in the oil keeping the heat high but making sure it does not burn. When fish is ready serve the fish in a nice plate, cover with the cilantro and some more of the fresh scallions and spoon the heated oil in which you fried the ginger. You will hear a satisfying sizzle as the oil infuses the fish with the essence of the ginger, the scallions and the cilantro. Spoon 2~3 Tbsps. Of the Ponzu sauce over each portion of the fish and serve immediately. I have to warn you, it is so good it can become addictive, even for kids. This is how you create culinary culture a home. There is an alternative way to cook the fish using the microwave. The technique is shown here posted by the team at MODERNIST CUISINEMicrowaved Black Cod

2)      “Japanese Rice”: It is the perfect companion to the Steamed Fish with Ponzu. Important note; you should serve it in a separate small so the rice do not become soggy with the Ponzu sauce
a.      Tools: 3 Qt. sauce pan with cover.
b.      Ingredients: 1 ½ cups of premium short grain rice such as Koshihikari or other Japanese type rice. 1 ½ Tbsp. of seasoned Sushi rice vinegar.
c.       Procedure: in the sauce pan, add the rice and cold water, rinse rice by swirling water and drain. Repeat 4 or 5 times until water runs clear. Add 1 ½ cups of cold water and let it stand for about 15 minutes. Cover pot with tight fitting and bring to a vigorous boil. If lid does not fit tightly, cover the pot with aluminum foil and then put the lid. This will form the required seal. After bringing to boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes without removing the lid. When done, remove from heat, fluff rice with a fork and let it stand covered another 10 minutes. Before serving, place rice in a wide bowl and sprinkle the rice while it is still hot with the seasoned sushi rice vinegar, folding the rice to season it evenly. It is incredibly appealing and delicious. You will not believe the difference with cheap sushi rice that sometimes you eat in some places. I love it, and so do the kids


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Pork Loin Chops with parsley" & "Caramelized Carrots"

What does it mean to cook for others at home?  It is more than just feeding; it is an expression of who we are. All ancient cultures have sophisticated culinary traditions as it is embedded in us to be social, to gather and share. This applies to cooking at home. Does it have complicated? Not at all, but it sometimes includes effort, and it is an expression of love and care. We are all partial to some flavors, and I believe it relates to what we are exposed to. What are Spanish flavors? The following recipes have, for me, the taste of Spain. In this batch I have included a vegetable recipe, as per request from +Charmaine Chow.

1)      “Pork Loin Chops with parsley”: it can be prepared with either bone-in (my suggestion for family dinner) or boneless (my suggestion for entertaining).
a.      Tools: large frying pan or skillet, hand blender or mortar.
b.      Ingredients: 6 thin cut pork loin chops, 3 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, pinch of kosher salt, ¼   tsp. of piment d’espelette (red pepper from the Basque country)  or substitute with ¼  or tsp. of sweet paprika, 1-2 sprigs of fresh parsley finely chopped.
c.       Procedure: put the parsley, pepper, and 2 Tbsp of oil in a tall jar or pitcher and use the hand blender until it becomes a finely chopped paste, reserve. Alternatively you can use a mortar and pestle to mash the parsley and pepper, and then add and mix the oil. Place the skillet in high heat and add the rest of the olive oil. Fry the pork for about 2 minutes until golden on both sides and moist inside, serve and add the parsley paste on top of the pork steaks. You can feel the mixed of flavors without being too strong. I know you will love it.

2)      “Caramelized Carrots”: these will go great  with “Pork Loin Chops with parsley”
a.      Tools: 11 inches nonstick skillet or sauté pan
b.      Ingredients: 4 large carrots peeled and chopped into ½ inch cubes, 3 Tbsp of unsalted butter.
c.       Procedure: place the sauté pan at medium to high heat and melt the butter. Saute the carrots for a few minutes making sure they do not burn or brown. Lower the heat to medium to medium low heat and continue to cook and stir frequently for about 40 minutes until they develop a nice glazed aspect (they will be caramelized). Serve. They will have a nice sweet, deep flavor that will surprise you. Try it.