Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Green Beans a la Bubba
























O people of the blog-O-sphere, August was quite busy, and I find myself with only four measly blog entries for month. It’s the 31st, and I thought I better try to squeeze at least one more in before the calendar flips over to September. All this busy-ness brings to mind that sometimes is good to have a few simple side dishes in your culinary tool kit for those occasions when you’re pressed for time in the kitchen.


Here’s one I learned from my friend Bubba. It’s almost so simple you’d be hard pressed to call it cooking, as the main ingredient comes from a can. But I find it very tasty, and the ingredients can all be kept on hand in your pantry for months at a time. So when you’ve slaved away on a fancy Châteaubriand or some other culinary delicacy, and you need a little something to complement it on the side, you can pull this one out of your hat. You can even call it something fancier if you fancy that...Bubba won’t be offended.

Green Beans a’la Bubba



1 Can French or Italian Cut Green Beans
1 Packet Goya Ham Flavored Concentrate
2 tablespoons Diced Dried Onion


Open can of beans and do not drain. Add to a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the packet of ham flavoring and stir. Add the onions and do the same. Turn heat down to low and let the onions steep until they re-hydrate a bit. Voila, you’re ready to serve.

Well, that’s it for this time.

I’ll see if I can’t come up with something a little more elaborate and along the lines of ‘real cooking’ for next time.

Until then,

Y’all take care,

Chris

Friday, August 20, 2010

Moorish Pork Kabobs



























The wife bought me a grilling magazine recently, and its section on Tapas brought back memories of lounging on the Costa Del Sol in Spain, sipping cerveza and nibbling on the delicious little appetizers they brought out with each beer. That’s the nice thing about Spain. You get a little something extra to munch on with your drink. Another wonderful thing about Spain is the influence that Morocco has had on its cuisine, especially in the south. The exotic middle eastern spices have made their way into many of Spain’s tapas offerings, and this Moorish Pork Kabob recipe from the grilling magazine was reminiscent of some of the more tasty tapas treats I had in Spain.


Moorish Pork Kabobs

1 pound pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed
1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Trim fat from meat and cut the meat into 1 to 1½ in pieces.

Place meat into a resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, combine oregano, garlic, coriander, paprika, salt, thyme and cayenne pepper.

Sprinkle mixture over meat. Turn bag back and forth and rub mixture into meat. Add olive oil and lemon juice, seal bag and turn to coat meat. Marinate in the fridge for 2 to 8 hours.

Thread meat on skewers, leaving a half inch between pieces.

For a charcoal grill, place meat skewers on the grill rack directly over medium coals.
 
Grill for 12-15 minutes until meat is slightly pink in center, turning occasionally to brown evenly.
 
For such a relatively simple preparation, these babies came out great.  The pork was juicy and tender, and the spice blend was pungent and exotic, with just a mild tinge of heat to keep you interested. 
 
Give 'em a try.
 
Until next time,
 
A Sante'
 
Chris

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Berry Picking South of London














Berries are perhaps some of my favorite fruits. Popping a delicious, succulent blackberry or strawberry in my mouth is not only a treat, but it brings back childhood memories of wandering along the edge of the woods in East Texas, picking berries by the bucket-full, and enjoying them with sugar and milk later that night.

A few years back, my friend Les and I were visiting some friends in London. Being as Les is a farmer by trade (shameless plug...Richardson’s Farms in Maryland) we often find ourselves checking out farmer’s markets or other rural locales, so on this particular trip we ended up at a pick your own berry farm.

The thing that makes this of interest is that this particular farm grew Tayberries–Something I’d never heard of before. Turns out the Tayberry is a cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry, and the purplish-red fruit is about twice the size of either parent.

It also turns out that this little guy is packed with flavor, rich tangy flavor that is reminiscent of both parent fruits. It was perhaps not as sweet as a fully ripe blackberry, but not as tart as the raspberry. All in all it was a great little discovery, and I thought I’d share a few pictures of the experience.

Les and Natasha picking away.

The obligatory pint at the pub after a hard day of berry picking.


Freshly Picked Tayberries, ready to eat.

The tayberries went well with a nice wine and cheese course before dinner. 

I also saw these little guys at Central Market recently (the first time other than the berry farm that I’d come across them) but at the exorbitant prices they were charging, I would almost rather fly back to England to get some. But, if you come across some, check ‘em out.

Until next time,

I hope you're berry happy,

Chris

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wild Mushroom Strudel











If you like mushrooms, here’s a little dish that will make you love them. If you love them already, then get ready to absolutely adore them, as I think this dish really highlights their earthy, savory flavor. I discovered it many years ago at what was then Dallas’ best brew pub, the Routh Street Brewery. Their mushroom strudel was my favorite appetizer, and after they closed their doors, I resolved to try to make it at home. After years of this, I’ve come close, but I still haven’t precisely duplicated that tasty tart that Routh Street produced. Oh well, I’ve just got to keep trying.


I originally made it as a true strudel, that is, rolled up in phyllo dough. But if you’ve ever worked with phyllo dough, you know what a nightmare it can be to work with. It flakes, cracks, tears and just plain doesn’t want to cooperate with your best efforts to mold it into shape. And then, at serving time, you’ve got to cut it into individual servings, and I found it would often crumble to pieces. So the last few times I’ve made this one, I’ve tried a new approach, and made little individual mushroom turnovers, folding the phyllo dough into little triangles filled with the mushroom mixture. This has worked well, and it has the added benefit that it is easy to serve.



Mushroom Strudel


2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ - 2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms, such as Shitakes, oysters, morels, etc, chopped
Tablespoon paprika
teaspoon balsamic vinegar
teaspoon worcestershire sauce
Salt and white pepper, to taste
8 Tablespoons mixed minced fresh thyme, tarragon, parsley and chives
1 large egg
Frozen Phyllo Dough, thawed
1/4 cup melted butter
Melt the 2 tablespoons butter with the olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and garlic and saute until soft, 2 to 3 minutes.  Chop the mushrooms to a fairly rough consistency, as below:
 
This time I have used a mix of shitake, crimini, bella and white, but I've also thrown in this oddball from the shelves of Whole Foods:
 
The name of this one escapes me.  (Ed.  It's called a White Beech Mushroom)  But the point is, any blend of four or more wild mushrooms will make for a tasty strudel. 
 
Add the mushrooms and raise heat to medium. Season with the paprika, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally. Stir in six tablespoons of the herb mixture and the balsamic vinegar and worcestershire.
 
Stir the herbs in with the mushrooms,  remove from heat and let cool slightly.
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking sheet.

Spread a sheet of phyllo dough on a work surface, fold it in half. Working quickly, spread some of the melted butter on it and sprinkle a few of the remaining herbs onto this. Place a large spoonful of the mushroom mixture at one end of the dough, and fold over in a triangle.
 
Phyllo dough is paper thin and comes frozen, rolled up in wax paper, like here.  Make sure to thaw it out in the refrigerator for several hours before you try to work with it.  At that point, you can unroll it and spread an individual sheet out easily.
 
Fold the sheet in half and brush some of the melted butter and herbs onto it.
 

Spread some of the mushroom mixture on one end, then roll it up like a flag.
 
So that it makes a nice little trianglular pastry, like below.
Place this on the baking sheet, and repeat until you have used up all of your mushroom mixture.


Next, crack the egg into a small bowl and blend the white and yolk together. Use a basting brush and coat the outside of each strudel with the egg wash. Bake until golden brown all over, around 12-15 minutes.
 
Voila, beautifully baked Strudels
 
Serve them as is, or with a savory sauce, such as a creamy mushroom sauce.  Here, we've served them with a nice bearnaise sauce. 
 
Until next time,
 
Happy 'Shrooming,
 
Chris

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bearnaise Sauce















Several years ago I came into possession of a bottle of Bordeaux that excited me very much, a ‘97 Chateau Lafite Rothschild. I’ve always been fascinated by the first growth Bordeaux, and this vineyard in particular, as it carried such clout in the wine world. This would be my first taste of the famed vintner, and I decided to share it with some good friends.


But...what to cook?

Not just any dish could stand up to a bold wine such as this; it would have to have an assertive character all its own. Hello, Filet Mignons. But to make the meal a little more Frenchified, I decided to make the classic French bearnaise sauce to accompany the steaks. The only problem...I’d never made it before. I’d also heard it could be very temperamental to make, and as it’s shelf life is practically nil, I knew I’d have to make it on the spot...and I didn’t want my first attempt to be in front of my awaiting friends.

So I did what any enterprising Eat’n man would do. The night before the dinner, I bought a carton of 24 eggs, loads of tarragon, popped open a bottle of cheap red wine to keep me company, and set to work gettin’ saucy with it.

My first attempt, as expected, produced scrambled eggs. The second and third, in which I employed a double boiler, fared better, and by the last crack of the last egg, I’d managed to whip up a fairly decent version of the sauce. Thankfully, the next night, the sauce went off without a hitch, and I had a worthy meal to accompany that glorious bottle of wine.


Bearnaise Sauce


1/4 cup white wine or tarragon vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 Tablespoon minced shallots
1 Tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
Teaspoon of peppercorns, lightly crushed
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup clarified butter


Boil the vinegar, wine, shallots, tarragon and peppercorns over moderate heat until it has reduced to two tablespoons. Strain and reserve.

In a double boiler with the water boiling, add the egg yolks and water and whisk vigorously. You are making what is called a sabayon, which is a light frothy mixture of a liquid--in this case eggs--and air. This will make the sauce very light and delicate. As you whisk, the mixture will become more and more frothy, and then suddenly double or even triple in volume. At this point, immediately lift the sauce pan off the boiler and continue to whisk for another thirty seconds. This stops the eggs from cooking and assures that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.  Check out the video below for a demonstration:


video

At this point, slowly stir in your melted, clarified butter, while constantly whisking. The sauce can only take so much butter, so do it slowly. It the sauce appears to start to become thick, stop adding butter. Add your wine/vinegar/tarragon infusion, stir, and voila...you have your sauce.

Bearnaise sauce should be served immediately, so it is best to make it right before you serve your steaks, or whatever else your serving it with (goes great with asparagus). You can make your tarragon infusion and melt your butter ahead of time, so that all you have to do is make the sabayon and blend, which really only takes a couple minutes...about the time your steaks need to rest from the grill to the plate.



Variation:  Sauce Choron

Béarnaise has literally tons of variations, and it is itself is a variation of one of the six French mother sauces, in this case, Hollandaise.   Sauce Choron was the first variation of béarnaise that I tried from my mammoth-sized cookbook, Sauces, by James Peterson.  (An excellent tome of almost 600 pages devoted to sauce making)

Sauce Choron is merely béarnaise sauce with tomatoes added.  I’d wanted to try this one for some time, as I love anything tomato, and figured their tart and tangy taste would meld well with the rich, decadent flavor and frothy texture of the béarnaise sauce.   I wasn’t disappointed. 

To make Sauce Choron, simply make a béarnaise sauce according to the recipe above, then blend in a tomato puree, approximately one part tomato puree to three parts béarnaise sauce.  



Serve immediately. 

To make the tomato puree, take two ripe tomatoes (preferably something really flavorful like a red heirloom or homegrown vine-ripened tomato), and slice them in half.  Squeeze out the seeds and discard.  Coarsely chop the tomatoes and gently stew them in a small amount of olive oil.  Cook until they begin to thicken.  Strain the puree through a strainer and stir into the béarnaise sauce.   Taste while adding the tomato puree and vary the amount depending on the ripeness and flavor of the tomatoes. 




Here I've added this wonderful sauce to a Mushroom Strudel.  It should also go well with fish, chicken, and hell, maybe even pomme frites!

Until next time, 

Bon Appitit.  

Chris