Saturday, January 22, 2011

January Vegetable: Brussels Sprouts (#1)

As indicated on the listie, I will be trying a new vegetable each month, cooked 3 different ways (number 24). This is the first entry in that category. (This entry also satisfies another item on the list, number 20, at least kind of. I did alter the recipe enough that the Husband doesn't think it counts.) More on Brussels sprouts (choosing them, storing them) to follow.

The Vegetable: Brussels Sprouts
The Cookbook: Fresh From the Farmers Market
The Recipe: Brussels Sprouts with Walnut Oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives
1 pound small Brussels sprouts
salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Trim Brussels sprouts ends. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add sprouts and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and return to the pot over low heat. Cook briefly, shaking the pot until water evaporates. Transfer the sprouts to the large bowl and toss to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper and serve.

What I did:
I started by substituting olive oil for walnut oil because we didn't have any. I omitted chives. I halved the Brussels sprouts before cooking them. Does it count as making the recipe if I alter it that much? You be the judge.

The results:
Very good. The Husband (a sworn enemy of this particular vegetable) ate most of his serving. The walnut oil definitely would have added something spectacular, so when I remember to, I'll pick some up, and try again.

Cottage Pie

Continuing on the trend of making recipes from my cookbooks (and less from the interwebbings and other such means), we made Gordon Ramsay's Cottage Pie on Thursday. This dish is fantastic for a winter evening, warm, filling, and heavy on the comfort food of the Husband's childhood, beef and potatoes. In fact, we commented to each other that it was like a grown-up version of mushed up hamburger, a long-time favorite of his. Of course, in Cooking for Friends, Gordon uses ground lamb to make Shepherd's Pie. In this recipe, either beef or lamb works, and apparently the use of beef changes it from Shepherd's Pie to Cottage Pie. Either way, it's very good. We've added celery from time to time, too. A green salad would be a great accompaniment if desired.

Ingredients - Filling
1 pound ground lamb or beef
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, minced or grated (I find chopping the vegetable into sizable pieces then adding them to a mini food processor creates a great size for this dish)
1 large carrot, minced or grated
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste (we have some in a tube in the fridge so we don't have to open - and subsequently waste - a can every time we need just a bit)
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
leave from several thyme sprigs
leaves from one rosemary sprig, chopped
2 tablespoons minced Branston Pickle (we don't use this regularly, mainly because it's hard to get Branston pickle here)

Ingredients - Topping
1 1/4 pound baking potatoes, cut into chunks (we used yukon gold)
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons hot milk
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, and more for topping
2 extra-large egg yolks

Use a large cast-iron or heavy pan over medium to high heat. Season the ground lamb or beef with salt and pepper, and brown in a little oil. Transfer the meat to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Add some more oil to the pan, and add the onion, garlic, and carrot. Stir frequently until vegetables are a golden brown.

Add the flour and tomato paste, and stir for a few more minutes. Add the wine, and reduce, scraping the bottom of the pan to get the flavorful brown bits. The wine should reduce until the pan is almost dry.

Add the chicken stock and bring it to a simmer. Return the meat to the pan and stir in the Worcestershire sauce and herbs. Turn the heat down to the lowest (or almost lowest) setting and simmer until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened (he says 30-40 minutes, we let it go for about 30).

As the sauce is thickening, cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain the potatoes and return them to their original pan over low heat to dry out a bit. Mash the potatoes (or use a ricer) into a large bowl. Add the butter, hot milk, and parmesan and mix well. Season to taste before adding egg yolks.
Preheat the oven to 350. If using, add the pickle to the meat mixture at this time. Pour the meat mixture into an 8-cup baking dish and top with the potatoes. I found it works best to start at the outside of the dish and work with small spoonfuls of the potato mixture. Once covered, top the potatoes with more Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with pepper. Bake until the top is brown and the filling is bubbling up around the sides. We baked it for 20 minutes then turned the broiler on for 3 more. Let it sit for a minute out of the oven, then serve.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Food Facts

10 Fun Food Facts for your Thursday evening. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Here is the problem I have:
I make many, many recipes. I document most of them. However, I do not post most of them, because there are tweaks I want to make, or because they didn't come out as I hoped, or whatever other reason of non-perfection you want. It hasn't been a problem before, but now that I have this list, I feel more obligated to post any attempt if it meets something on the list.
Take last night, for example. I made lasagna, from our Pasta book (adding another check mark to number 20). It technically was a compilation of 3 recipes, the Bechamel sauce, the Bolognese sauce, and the combination to get lasagna. It was not quite what I was expecting. Almost everything I've read lately has extolled the virtues of Bechamel lasagna over ricotta, and I was very much looking forward to experiencing this new rich, creamy, amazing lasagna. While the flavor was great (fantastic, in fact) the texture was drier than I thought it should have been, and the filling a bit sparse. It was a much more delicate final product than the thick, heavy, meaty lasagna in my head.
The Bolognese sauce, two (or three) different kinds of meat braised in three different liquids over a long period of time, was spectacular. Rich, slightly sweet, very flavorful, and with a traditional Italian taste that sung in my mouth. The Bechamel thickened up nicely and was easy to do, but was too thick by the end. The recipe for lasagna called for one recipe each of Bechamel and Bolognese, but I found more Bolognese could have been used with the one pound of lasagna noodles instructed.
I will make this recipe (these recipes) again, with tweaks (of course). Now that I have a better idea of the final product, it will be easier to adjust amounts, consistencies, and so on. I won't do much to the ratios, or seasonings, because the flavor is fantastic.

Email me if you want the recipe. Or comment, and I'll give it to you. I will update with a picture tomorrow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Is it Food?

It may be true, but I got more laughs out of it than anything else. Check out this real food flowchart:

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I can't eat lamb. I've tried. I've even tried to blog it. I have pictures from two recipes, now 3, that may not see the light of day, because I can't eat lamb.
I tried.
I promise I tried.
Out of all three recipes, I ate most of it. Maybe most. Except for tonight.
It was just too tender. And yummy. And moist.
And with a flavor I just could not get my mouth around.
It's hard, because I don't know if it's one of those things that I don't like because of what it is (baby sheep, you know, very cute lambies) or because of what it tastes like (shrimp, you know, out of the ocean water I swim in, that murky gulf, it's supposed to be safe with no jelly fish or anything (ignoring the oil - tar - I used to have on my feet after every beach trip)).
I very much would  like to objectively describe the recipes we've made with lamb. There have been two with lamb shanks and one of a rack of lamb, which is not called lamb rib, apparently. And, in truth, they all very lovely, with great flavor and tasty results.
But I'm not posting recipes. Sorry. I don't usually do the preachy thing, and I'm not now. It's just not something I can do myself, the lamb thing. Pictures, maybe. Tomorrow. But not recipes. If you want them, let me know. They are very good, after all. It's part of that inner struggle.

(Go Ravens. No struggle there, just proper team spirit.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year

Bon Appetit's food predictions for 2011 and my friend's ambitious blog, Foods I Like, got me thinking. I doubt I'll be cooking rabbit, or trying 365 (or 367) new recipes in 2011, but I do have some food goals for this year. In addition, I turn 30 this year, in August. In the spirit of other "30 before 30" lists in the bloggy world out there, I have a list of 30 food related things I would like to accomplish before I turn 30. 8 months and 8 days should be enough time, right? I've tried to make the goals mostly quantifiable, but a few vague ones slipped in. There is also some overlap, with some recipes able to fit into multiple items on the list, for example,  but that makes it more fun.

Did I forget anything? Do you have any ambitious (or not so ambitious) food goals for 2011?

The List:
1.     Expand my breadmaking abilities (oven and bread machine, it doesn't matter)
2.     Do a 30 posts in 30 days blog feature
3.     Find (another) (equally tasty) halibut recipe
4.     Master ravioli
5.     Explore new dessert recipes and techniques (one a month, say?)
6.     Organize my recipe binder
7.     Lose 20 pounds (doc says 30, but I'll start with 20) (the Husband says this one isn't food related, but I disagree)
8.     Learn how to jar something – strawberry jam, Husband’s mom?
9.     Host a dinner party
10.   Use our restaurant gift certificates
11.   Make sushi
12.   Find a beer I like
13.   Eat at top 5 Mexican restaurants in Texas
14.   Try a new recipe every week before the big day (and blog each one) 
15.   Eat at 10 restaurants I haven’t been to yet
16.   Visit the Texas olive oil producer
17.   Cook shellfish
18.   Learn how to make chicken shawarma
19.   Make tuna tartare
20.   Make one recipe out of every one of my cookbooks
21.   Submit a recipe to Food 52
22.   Finish reading “In Defense of Food”
23.   Use our fondue set. It’s been in the garage since we moved (about 3 years now). Even better, I actually bought fondue cheese back in Baltimore, and it got tossed when we moved out of the apartment.
24.   Try one new vegetable a month, cooked 3 different ways (8 total)
25.   Make dog treats
26.   Master my ice cream maker for at least one signature recipe
27.   Go through my kitchen cabinets and get rid of redundant equipment and things we don't use
28.   Eat a main course salad for dinner once a week
29.   Grow 4 kinds of tomatoes (and keep track of which plants are which!)
30.   Cook the perfect brisket. And remember how to spell brisket