28 April 2009

Courgette Sounds Cooler Than Zucchini

Simple dinner last night: zucchini omelette and baby artichokes with lemon vinaigrette.

27 April 2009

Pseudo-French Night: Braised Chicken, Walnut Salad, Mussels and Roasted Fingerlings

So my mostly vegetarian recipe blog has gradually turned into a fully omnivorous slow food blog. I blame it on all the great local ingredients I have been discovering. It's time for the pendulum to swing back to the veggies again, but not before one more omnivorous post to relate a nice dinner we had this past weekend.

Ever since becoming addicted to Maine-ly Poulty's chicken, I have been interested in attempting (and "attempting" is the key word here) some of the classic french methods for preparing poultry. The poele from a few weeks back turned out so nicely that I thought I would give braising a try. It's hard to get a really pretty end result with either of these methods—or at least it is for me—but the meat turns out so tender and moist and the sauce so flavorful that presentation seems less important. Still, it would have been nice to get an even browning of the skin all over the bird. Next up: perhaps a fricassee.

We had: braised chicken from Maine-ly Poultry stuffed with olives and ham and sausage from Rosemont Market and Bakery; roasted fingerling potatoes from Goranson Farm with garlic and thyme; a salad of toasted walnuts, garlicky croûtes and some beautiful greens (also from Goranson Farm) with a vinaigrette of cider vinegar, dijon and walnut oil; and mussels from Phil Gray's Blue Dragon Mussel Wagon.

Braised Chicken Stuffed With Sausage and Olives
Adapted from Anne Willan, Regional French Cooking (1981)

  • 1 whole chicken (around 3 lbs.), together with its liver, heart and gizzard (dice the heart and gizzard, dice the liver too, but keep it separate);
  • 3 oz. of salami, diced [Rosemont has some of the best charcuterie in the area, …];
  • 3 oz. ham, diced [… such as an excellent french ham that fits this recipe.];
  • a handful of pitted green olives;
  • some chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, whatever);
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped;
  • 2½ cu. chicken stock (hopefully your own stock prepared without adding any salt, or some low sodium stock—things get awfully salty with those olive and the salami); and
  • oil (or some kind of fat) for browning the chicken and sautéeing its stuffing.
First, make the stuffing. Sauté the ham, salami, gizzard and heart in some oil over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add the liver and sauté a minute longer. Mix the sautéed meats together with the garlic, olives, herbs and season with pepper (but not salt, the stuffing is already very salty).

Stuff the bird, truss it and season its skin with pepper and sparingly with salt. Brown the chicken on all sides in a casserole capable of fitting the whole bird lying on its side and still allowing its cover to close firmly. Position the chicken on its side and add two Tbs. of the stock, then cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Cook the chicken on the other side, then breast side down, then on its back, each time adding 2 Tbs. of stock and covering and cooking over low heat for 15 minutes, for a total cooking time of about an hour.

Once the chicken is cooked, remove it to a platter, remove the trussing and cover with foil. Now make the sauce by skimming off any extra fat off the top of the liquid in the casserole. I had a gooey bubbling chickeny syrup that was un-skimmable, but ended up forming one of the best sauces ever. Add a cup or so of broth to the casserole and reduce to a sauce. Given the stuffing, the sauce is likely to be a bit salty, but the stuffing adds a wonderful flavor to it.

Mussels With Shallots, Tomatoes, Anchovies and Thyme
This is pretty standard stuff. When prepared with butter it is my absolute favorite way to eat mussels (although serving them in a curry with coconut milk and lemongrass is a close second).
  • 2 lbs. mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded;
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced;
  • 4 – 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped;
  • 2 tomatoes, peels and seeds removed, diced;
  • 3 – 4 anchovies;
  • 1 cup white wine (or thereabout);
  • some fresh thyme, chopped; and
  • lots of butter if you can eat it, otherwise some olive oil.
The ingredients pretty much speak for themselves. Heat the oil and sauté first the shallots, then the garlic. Add the anchovies, thyme sauté a few moments longer. Add the mussels, tomatoes and wine, then cover and cook over a high heat until the mussels open up (don't eat any that don't open up, of course). Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon to a serving dish. Cook down the sauce a bit and then pour it over the mussels.

The traditional french way to do this, apparently, is "moules mariniére," in which you simply put mussels, shallots, herbs, salt, pepper and wine in a pot and let it boil until their done.

Leftovers: Chicken with Tonnato (Tuna Mayo)

I ate the leftover chicken with a tonnato sauce, which I like to put on, well, pretty much everything, but especially poached chicken. I would probably drink tonnato if there weren't some part of my small brain that recognizes just how creepy and unnatural that would be (although not nearly as disturbing as this).

Into a mini food processor goes:
  • one can of tuna and its oil;
  • 6 – 8 anchovies and some oil from their tin;
  • an egg yolk;
  • 2 tsp. of dijon mustard;
  • 2 Tbs. of lemon juice;
  • 1 Tbs. capers; and
  • some ground pepper.
Whir it up, streaming in 1/2 cup of olive oil. If you need to loosen it, add more lemon juice. A lot of people make this with prepared mayonnaise, but the result is not as good and you're not saving yourself and real effort by doing so.

23 April 2009

Trendy Springtime Eating, Part Three: Spring Dug Parsnips

After two recent bouts with the stomach flu, I'm a bit behind on my trendy springtime eating. Spring dug parsnips have been here since nearly the beginning of the month. Some recent enjoyment was had with:

  • A mash of parsnips, potatoes and cauliflower with soy milk and that stuff that is not butter but damn well tastes like it (Earth Balance), served with a chicken from Mainely Poultry cooked in a casserole, its skimmed juices reduced with port and then thickened with flour and enriched with the chicken's liver (that was really good, by the way);
  • Roasted parsnips and pears with thyme and lemon olive oil, served with roasted, brined pork chops from Nezinscot Farms; and
  • An excellent soup of potato, parsnip and apples.
An epic fail was achieved with some silly experimentation involving pureed parsnips, grated ginger, lemon zest (the principal error), soymilk, sliced almonds and eggs baked as a sort of dairy free gratin. Blech! In the process, however, I discovered that a straight up puree of parsnips with grated ginger works with minimal additional adulteration.

Dining in the Commons: My Food Show Elevator Pitch

If I had lots of time and money I'd produce a show that was …

… one half Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's A Cook on the Wild Side

… one half Professor Richard Judd's Common Lands, Common People

… one half Euell Gibbons' Stalking the Stalking the Blue Eyed Scallop

… and one half Gibbons' Stalking the Wild Asparagus.

While that may seem like several halves too many, I think it would all hold together. I'd drive around Maine in a Toyota Land Cruiser, fishing, fowling, foraging, hunter-and-gathering and otherwise collecting free ingredients from great ponds, salt marshes, rivers, forests and the Gulf of Maine. Then—because I'm too much of an amateur hack to do it myself—I'd take my finds to local chefs to prepare in interesting ways. We'd eat alewives and elvers and sea lettuce and wild mushrooms and herbs and everything in between. Along the way I'd talk about our common rights to public resources and how our access to those resources and our knowledge of how to use them are slowly dwindling. But I'd also find a bunch of people who are keeping old food traditions alive or who are importing and forming interesting new ones. I'd release the whole series over the web under a creative commons license.

Anyone have a camera crew, a land cruiser and lots of spare time they want to lend me?

21 April 2009

Blog or Bartend?

"Blog or bartend?" Apparently the answer is tend bar, if there were any doubt. But are those the only choices!? The post's title reminds me of a girl I saw in court a few years ago who explained to the judge that she had to "strip or deal." There was no third alternative so you really couldn't blame her for moving product on the streets on account of she had self respect. At the time she made this argument she was wearing a shirt with the words "Got penis?" on it.

Putting Local Ingredients to Good Use

The Crown of Maine order through the Food Now! buying club left us with a huge bag of red potatoes and an extra dozen eggs from Sonnental Dairy. Lots of potatoes and eggs is perfect for making a Spanish tortilla, and, as it happened, we needed a something to bring to a potluck brunch.

Tortilla Paisana

  • 1.5 to 1.75 pounds of potatoes, peeled and sliced in a mandolin (say 1/8-inch thick);
  • 8 eggs, whipped (but not too much) in a large bowl;
  • 1 leek, chopped;
  • 12 asparagus stalks, blanched and cut into short segments;
  • 0.5 to 0.75 cups of green peas;
  • 1 red pepper, roasted on the grill, peeled, seeded and diced;
  • 1 small bunch of chives, parsley or whatever fresh herbs seem to fit; and
  • lots of olive oil!
Heat 1 cup or more of the olive oil in a pan capable of containing all the sliced potatoes. You're looking for a heat that will cause a slice of the potato to bubble around its edges but not brown or burn. Add the potatoes and leeks to the oil and cook them until they are tender—about 5 minutes or so. Drain the potatoes, reserving the oil. Heat a few tablespoons of the reserved oil in the pan. While the oil is coming to temperature, mix the potatoes into the eggs with the vegetables, then season with salt and pepper. Turn out the resulting mixture into your pan and let it sizzle over medium high heat for about two minutes. Lower the heat and cook for five more minutes, until the tortilla will separate easily from the edge of the pan and looks like it is browning nicely. Now for the tricky bit. Turn the tortilla by placing a plate over the top of the pan and inverting. This will create something of a mess, but it's unavoidable. Then invert again, using two plates so the raw eggs are facing up on the second plate. Place the pan over the top of the second plate and invert again to turn the tortilla into the pan. Perhaps not the best description, but I'm sure you've had to do this at one point or another. Cook for another five minutes and then turn it out onto a platter.

I've read that these tortillas are sometimes served with gherkins and olives so I made a mixture of niçoise olives, cornichons and diced roasted red pepper. I was skeptical at first but I think this adds just the missing element to the tortilla. A highly recommended accompaniment.

16 April 2009

When Artists Cook...

you get something like Riki's Food Blog:

GRO Is GROwing On Me

I returned to GRO for lunch today and just want to say that the salads and smoothies are really excellent. On the smoothie side, check out "Cacao Ambrosia," made with brazil nuts, coconut milk, cacao, cayenne pepper and other good things. For salads, I whole heartedly endorse the "Sun Dry for the Fun Guy" (or something like that). Ok, sure, praising salads and smoothies sounds like a really weak recommendation, so here: I also gave one of their chocolates a try and it was perhaps the best vegan chocolate treat I've ever had.

In related—but not really—news, elderly vegan buddhist nuns kick osteoporosis's ass.

In additional—but also totally unrelated—news: wow, this is missing the point.

Brown Rice Breathrough

For those, like me, impaired in the cooking of brown rice, see this very helpful article (and the Saveur article it references). The proper ratio, however, is probably more like 5 or 6 cups of water to 1 cup of brown rice. Oh, Seductions of Rice, how you failed me!

09 April 2009

Quick note on GRO (that's Grass Roots Organics)

I dropped in to Grass Roots Organics yesterday to check out Portland's new raw food, vegan cafe. The guy who owns the place has his brain chemistry turned up to 11. He talked the ears off Avery Yale Kamila for a long time; it was funny. The chef is way more mild-mannered.

Things we liked: the almond, cacao, banana and nut milk smoothy; a miso sea veggie "soup" with shitaakes; an excellent sea veggie salad with ginger-miso dressing; the dog that hangs out on the sofa.

Things we didn't like: the burger was hard, dry and had an strongly unpleasant flavor and the raw "bread" was still a bit wet, so I had a sort of bizzaro-upside-down-world burger that was dry on the inside and wet and slimy on the outside.

Things we haven't tried yet: the chocolates.

The place is still coming together. Give them some support.

Updated thoughts here.