Tuesday, May 31, 2011
My child doesn't really care about food. There, I said it.
She's 2 so I don't think I'm alone in my daily mission to fill her body with vitamins and minerals and not salt and sugar like she'd prefer.
I've read every word anyone has to say on the subject and tried them all. I've bribed and not bribed. Forced bites and not said anything at all. Given in and let her eat all the candy in the house thinking maybe if I let her have what she wants she won't want it any more. That experiment only resulted in a glassy-eyed monster who then turned into a crying, screaming mess... who still wanted more candy.
I have found she is more likely to eat things straight from the pot that she wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole on her plate. So with stomach clinched I let her hop up on her stool and stir the lentils while I added in the last few ingredients. "Taste it and tell me if it's good." I told her. She tentatively dipped in her spoon and took a little bite. "Does it need more mustard?" I asked. "Yes, Mama." And on and on it went until she had eaten a sandwich-sized amount of lentils with vegetables. LENTILS WITH VEGETABLES!!!
Of course she only ate the bun at dinner.
Vegan Sloppy Joe's
(Print this recipe)
Makes 6-8 servings
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, core and seeds removed and chopped
1 pound dried brown lentils, rinsed and picked over for any rocks
4 cups vegetable broth or water
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and green pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add lentils, water, and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, about 45 minutes-1 hour.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients and taste. Season with additional salt and some black pepper if desired. Serve on toasted buns with pickle relish and mustard.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Much has been said about the so called "family meals" served in some of the countries famed restaurants. The many articles and cookbooks dedicated to this subject paint an idyllic picture of a group of jovial wait staff and cooks all sitting down and sharing a lovingly prepared meal together.
I would argue that a more realistic scenario includes whatever is in the walk-in on its last leg, combined with whatever else needs to be used up thrown together, heated up and splayed out in hotel pans for anyone who wants to eat while they finish setting tables or prepping for dinner. I have had everything from boiled chicken (and I mean just that, chicken, boiled in water, and nothing else) to frozen corn dogs and fries.
There are however, exceptions to the rule. I once worked with a tenacious woman who thought of little else than what she was going to prepare for family meal. And they were good, finger-sized taquitos stuffed with chicken, fried rice with bits of smokey bacon and sweet English peas. Occasionally she would hem and haw about having to make food for everyone all the time and someone else would offer to pitch in. She would then spend the entire meal constructively criticizing the offerings. "Did you forget to wash the lettuce?" She would say flicking flecks of black pepper off each leaf as if it were dirt.
And then there was Javier (who was better known by his place of origin, Oaxaca) a tireless ball of energy who even after flipping sauté pans at a breakneck speed all night would inevitably start filling the grill with peppers and the fry baskets with fresh-cut wedges of corn tortillas once service started slowing down.
Before meeting Oaxaca I had never had the beautiful mess that is chilaquiles. Depending on his mood sometimes they were burn-your-mouth-off hot and other times smokey and packed with grilled chicken. I always thought of the mélange of freshly fried tortilla chips and dried chile and charred tomato sauce as dinner food, topped with chopped sweet onion and dollops of sour cream. But it turns out chilaquiles are more typically eaten at breakfast with a scrambled egg or two added to the mix. I've included scrambled eggs in the recipe below, but if you want to leave those out and add cooked chicken instead, let your belly be your guide.
(Print this recipe)
Adapted from Javier "Oaxaca" Solano
Makes 4 to 6 servings
3 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
2 medium tomatoes, cored
1 medium white onion, quartered
3 jalapeño chiles, sliced in half vertically and seeds removed if desired
1 bunch cilantro, tough stems removed and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups vegetable oil
20 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 8 wedges each
4 large eggs, beaten
juice of 1 lime
strips of grilled chicken
crumbled cotija, Monterey Jack or feta cheese
thinly sliced radishes
minced white onion
1. Bring a small saucepan of water to boil over high heat. Place dried chiles, tomatoes, onion, and jalapeños in a large, dry cast iron skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Toast until chiles and vegetables are browned and beginning to char on all sides. Some things will brown faster than others so keep turning and flipping each piece and removing them from the pan as they do. Transfer the ancho chiles to the pan of boiling water and remove from heat. Submerge the chiles and let soak until soft and pliable, at least 10 minutes.
2. Transfer remaining vegetables to a blender. When dried chiles are ready, remove them from the water (do not drain) and add them to the blender along with half of the chopped cilantro, the salt, and 1/2 cup of the chile soaking liquid. Blend until smooth.
3. Heat oil in the cast iron pan over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F on a deep-fry thermometer, or a chopstick inserted in the oil is immediately covered with bubbles, about 10 minutes. Fry tortillas in batches until they are lightly browned and crisp on both sides. Remove with a bamboo skimmer or slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.
4. Carefully remove all but 1/4 cup of oil to a heatproof bowl and return to the heat. Carefully pour the chile sauce into the pan (it will bubble furiously) and fry, stirring often, until it is fragrant, about 7 minutes.
5. While sauce is cooking, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add beaten eggs and season with salt. Scramble eggs until just barely cooked through and remove from heat.
6. Once sauce is cooked, reduce heat to medium-low and stir in lime juice. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Add tortillas and scrambled eggs and stir gently until tortillas are softened and well-coated with sauce. Transfer to a serving platter and top with desired garnishes.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The Zuni roast chicken is the stuff of dreams. There are many restaurants that have an eponymous dish. Those dishes that are forever linked to that restaurant and restaurants who are forever indebted to that dish for its success. At Zuni Cafe in San Francisco it is the chicken.
It emerges blistered and tender from their glowing hearth and then placed atop a tangle of scrappy bread salad that soaks up the dripping juices as it makes its way to your table. I have never attempted to make it at home even though I have had the cookbook for years; but frustrated at my frequent failed attempts to make a decent roast chicken with the free range Hutterite birds I've been buying, I decided to give it a try. It did lack that distinctive smokey flavor but it was still delicious and I think will be my go to method for roasting smaller birds from now on.
The recipe doesn't call for any extra fat, you don't rub the chicken with oil or butter before roasting which I found dubious but turns out the chicken's own fat is more than sufficient. Also you roast the chicken at super high heat—the entire time. Although Chef Judy Rodgers says you must use a small (2 3/4- 3 1/2 pound) bird to successfully roast a chicken this way, mine was more like 4 1/4 pounds and worked great. She claims bigger birds don't have enough skin (or fat) for the amount of meat and will be too dry to be cooked at such a high heat, so I would just say try to find the smallest one you can.
The absolute best thing about this method is you do the entire thing in an oven-safe frying pan. This is genius on many levels. It is way easier to clean up than a bulky roasting pan, and lighter and less cumbersome to move around the kitchen with a chicken in it. But mainly you can make a fantastic pan sauce in a pan that actually fits on a burner and doesn't have awkward corners to stir around.
Now I will get to the instructions I didn't follow. Rodgers says it is essential to salt your chicken at least 24 hours before you cook it. Well, I read that instruction 3 hours before I planned on eating so mine got a 3 hour dry brine (and it was still really good). She also has you place herbs underneath the skin, which I was too lazy to do so I just stuffed some carrot, leek, and herbs in the cavity (and it was still really good). She also has you preheat your pan on the stove top. I decided to put my pan in the oven while it was heating, just to make sure it was really blazing hot and boy that worked. If enthusiastic popping and sizzling frightens you, just go ahead and heat your pan over medium heat on the stove. But don't be too wimpy, the pan needs to be pretty hot so the chicken doesn't stick.
Zuni Roast Chicken
(Print this Recipe)
Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
Makes 4 servings
1 (3-5 pound) whole fryer chicken
ground black pepper
carrot, onion, herbs for stuffing if desired
1. Rinse chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper on all sides and a generous pinch on the inside too. Stuff cavity with vegetables if desired. Transfer to a large plate, wrap loosely, and place in the refrigerator at least 3 hours before cooking or ideally up to 24 hours before.
2. Heat oven to 475°F and arrange rack in middle. Place an oven-safe, large (at least 12-inch) frying pan in the oven as it heats up. Remove chicken from refrigerator and pat dry. Let sit at room temperature while oven and pan are heating.
3. Carefully remove pan from oven and place chicken, breast-side up, in pan. Chicken will loudly sizzle and pop, this is what you want. Return to oven and roast for 30 minutes. If the chicken isn't browning and sizzling within 20 minutes, raise your oven temperature to 500°F. If the chicken starts to char or the fat starts to smoke, lower the temperature by 25 degrees.
4. Remove from oven and turn chicken over so it is breast-side down. The hot pan should prevent the chicken from sticking. Return to oven for 20-30 minutes more. Remove from oven and turn back over. Roast 5-15 minutes more depending on the size of the bird. This last bit in the oven is to crisp the breast skin and finish cooking. You want the juices to run clear and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh to read 165°F.
5. Remove chicken from the oven, lift from the pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it. Slash the stretched skin from between the thighs and the breasts of the chicken and let those juices drip back into the pan and any juices that have collected under the chicken. Place over medium-low heat and stir and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Cut chicken into pieces and serve with the pan sauce on the side.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
I love taking familiar ideas and turning them on their heads. Take this pasta dish for example, an inside out, upside down lasagna of sorts, that elevates the flat, broad-based noodle from the Pyrex dish to the pasta bowl.
Lasagnette noodles are glorious hefty things. Not really twistable with a fork, but thick, with a terrific chew that soak up lots of sauce. This is sort of lasagna-y without the cheese and takes about a quarter of the time to make. If you can't find lasagnette noodles, regular lasagna noodles will work, just break them in half before cooking.
Lasagnette with Sausage, Mushrooms, and Cherry Tomatoes
(Print this Recipe)
Makes 4 servings
1 pound lasagnette pasta or dried lasagna noodles broken in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces spicy Italian sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices
8 ounces crimini or button mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14-ounce) can beef or chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add sausage and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned. Add tomatoes and garlic and season with salt. Continue cooking until most of the tomatoes have browned and burst open. Add broth and chile flakes; simmer until reduced slightly.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain and return noodles to pot along with sausage mixture. Toss gently to coat adding additional salt as desired; serve immediately.