Saturday, April 30, 2011

Greens are Good

I read somewhere the Mediterranean diet (if you do it like they actually do in Crete) contains lots of greens and in large variety. Furthermore, they are cheap!

Pretty much any type of green can be sautéed. Here is a good recipe for swiss chard.

Different green's should be cooked for different length's of time and some should have the hard stem completely removed. For example, spinach is a quick saute or it turns into that green slime like the frozen stuff. Swiss chard needs to have the stem ends removed, then cook the rest of the stems longer then the leaves (just dice it up). Kale or collard greens should have the stems totally removed.

Whichever is available, just saute it with some garlic. Finish with a bit of balsamic maybe. Or add turmeric, cumin, or fennel seed. Lots of options here. Cheap and healthy complement to most any protein. I'm fiddling with different combinations depending on availability.

There was a really odd story on NPR a few weeks ago about a guy foraging for wild greens in D.C. If you have ever wandered around the District you may wonder what kind of disease you are likely to contract by eating whatever is growing around town, but the story did point out how easy it is grow healthy greens with just a bit of knowhow. The piece also featured a biologist who discouraged anyone from eathing things growing in the wild unless you really know what your doing because:

“Poison hemlock and wild carrot look alike,” Kallas says. If people haven’t studied the plants, it’s easy to confuse the two. “They find something that they think is wild carrot. It’s actually poison hemlock, and they eat it and then they die.”

If I had some land and a garden I would plant some green's, but only from trusted seed that I know for sure isn't hemlock.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Beef Burgundy For All

Anthony Bourdain did an episode about basic things everyone should be able to cook. A variety of chef's contributing simple recipes. Tony's recipe is Boeuf Bourguignon, directly translated: Beef Burgundy. I've made this rich stew a few times and it is pretty easy, feeds lots of people, and is surprisingly flavorful.

My first go at this was also my best. It was for my sister-in-law's wedding reception for 80 people. I used like 10 pounds of beef. The end product was excellent, best dish of the event. A nod to the quality beef at the Amish Market in Easton, MD.

There are a few variations I have done.


2, 9-lb. paleron of beef, or chicken steak or same amount of shoulder or neck, cut into 1-1/2- inch pieces

I asked the butcher at the Amish Market for this and he kind of looked at me like I just burned down his barn. After asking around, he said its basically a chuck roast, which is what I have used each time.

Wine: Any red will do, but the burgundy is traditional and I used a cab this week which left it a little flat. Maybe it wasn't the wine, but who knows. Any cheap burgundy will do, don't spend any more money then necessary.


1 bouquet garni

This is just a combination of fresh herbs, normally tied together. You can alter the flavors in this stew by using a different herbs. I used thyme and rosemary this week and it is pretty good.

2 big spoons of demi glace

Never used this because I haven't taken the plunge on making this complicated sauce base. But I did order some in concentrated from. More to come on this, I'm sure.

Also, instead of using water to top off the braising liquid, I used a stock. Sort of a quick replacement for the demi glace. Not sure this makes much of a difference.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Goulash it burns! My foot, it burns.

In the second to last Top Chef Richard Blais made beef goulash for Wolfgang Puck. I made it last night. Here is Chef Moonen recreating it:

Notice the pan he sears the short ribs with. Particularly the high sides.

Well I don't have one like that so I used a pan with flared sides. During the first flip of the meat, I managed to slosh some hot oil out of the pan and it landed right on my right foot.

Lesson one: Sear in a pan with high, straight sides.

Lesson two: Don't cook at high temperatures barefoot.

In the end, my goulash wasn't bad. I didn't bother straining the braising liquid, instead I just dumped it all into a pan to reduce. It's more 'rustic' then how Blais did it, but why waste all that vegetable? And I'll use the extra with some potatoes or something.

But, my ribs didn't come out the best. I blame my crappy pressure cooker which never really got a good seal. When it does seal, I'm afraid it will explode because it doesn't really vent properly. Its one of the ones with the little bobber looking regulator you put on top after its steaming. Gotta get a better one.

I didn't bother with the strudel.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Haven't posted in awhile. We painted my kitchen and living room (thanks Mom!) so I didn't cook much. Luckily, I do have a few items in draft so I'll get them done soon.

I love me some potstickers. You can get them in the non-potsticking form from most any Chinese restaurant when you order steamed dumplings. Better establishments have actual potstickers. The difference is the bottom 'sticks' creating a delicious sear.

Here is an awesome recipe which includes handmade dough.

I have attempted a few varieties, but this recipe is excellent as is.

I did try using wonton skins from the grocery store, which is much easier then making dough. But they really are wontons, not dumplings. Same principles apply; it is a affable replacement.

If you want to reduce the fat (or you don't eat pork for some reason) you can use ground turkey. But it will be dryer so add a little oil. Not exactly the same, but it works. I wouldn't use white meat ground turkey, its dryer then the dark and more expensive.

Some key items to remember:
Making these is time consuming particularly rolling out the dough (buying wonton skins saves you here) but also filling and sealing them. For best results, get multiple helpers to roll/fill.

These freeze really well, so make extra. Put them on a non stick sheet pan or a rack in the freezer for an hour or so, then store in a freezer bag.

Use non-stick pans! I've done it with steel, it is doable, but its tricky and final product is virtually identical.

When cooking frozen, I put oil, dumpings and water in the pan, cover (lid ajar or it will boil over), and steam on medium heat for 10-12 minutes. Time starts once it hits a boil.

When cooking fresh, it takes almost as long, remember the meat is raw. But I like to heat the oil, then add the dumpings for 2-3 minutes, then add the water.

Water should be just about half way up the dumplings.

Watch the water! If you run out you can add more, but they will burn if you don't.

Ponzu makes an easy sauce.

Or simmer orange juice with some soy sauce, 4/1 OJ to soy (to taste). Mix it up by adding some hot sauce, shallots or whatever you can think of. But honestly, the dumplings don't need it.

Don't eat to many at one time! All that dough will fill you up fast.