Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Angel Hair Pasta with Gruyere and Parmigiano

Ingredients: 
1 1/2 cups milk (ideally whole or with a bit of cream added to low fat) 
1 or 2 shallots
1/4 pound or so of mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
4 or 5 ounces of gruyere
1 or 2 ounces of parmigiano 
Salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste
8 ounces angel hair pasta

Where the quantities are flexible above, exact amounts don't matter much. Get the approximate scale right, and it'll be good.

Steps
 Put the milk in a measuring cup and microwave on high for a minute and a half.
Start your pasta water on its way to boiling.
 
Put one tablespoon of butter in a large non-stick pan over low-medium heat.

Mince the shallots, aiming for about a quarter cup.
Swirl or brush the butter around the pan, and add the shallots.

Slice the mushrooms about a quarter inch thick, and then cut smaller ones in half and larger ones in thirds.

Add the mushrooms to the pan, and stir everything around.

Grate the cheese while stirring the shallots and mushrooms occasionally. Aim for a full cup of cheese, at least 3/4 Gruyere.

Push the shallots and mushrooms to one side of the pan and add two more tablespoons of butter.

When the butter has melted and started to foam, add the flour, a double pinch of salt, roughly the same amount of grated pepper, and a single pinch of nutmeg.

Mix the flour quickly into the butter and keep stirring rapidly for about a minute. Include the vegetables in the stirring because they're hiding butter.

Add a third of that warm milk and stir rapidly into everything else. Repeat two more times, and stir until it's the consistency of melted ice cream throughout.

Turn off the heat but leave the pan on the burner. Dump in the cheese and stir it around a little. Then leave it to melt quietly.

Put the pasta in the water, and do what you need to stirring gently to loosen the nests.

Drain the pasta when it's cooked.

Turn the heat back on beneath the sauce, and stir quickly to be sure the cheese is fully blended in.  Watch for steam to rise off the pan a bit, using that as your sign that it will be happily warm-hot when you start eating.  Don't let it boil.

Remove from sauce from heat and combine with the pasta.  My pan was big enough to dump the pasta right in. Putting both in a bowl would also work.

Taste and consider adding more pepper.

Note
This is basically macaroni and cheese using William-Sonoma's Easy Peasy kid-oriented recipe, but with subtler ingredients. At Molly and Jim's wedding buffet, the pasta had both cheese and mushrooms, and this is my first use of that inspiration.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Beef Barley Soup

This isn't mainly a recipe-based dish. It's mainly a few-rules-of-cooking dish.  The rules that fit here are:
  • Beef that doesn't look pretty is better for soup. White streaks of fat through it are a plus for flavor in this kind of a dish.  The white stuff is sometimes called marbling. Helpfully, it's also cheaper.
  • The onions and mushrooms will develop more flavor if you begin by cooking them slowly, over not-high heat, in fat,  for a while. It's called "sweating" them. You don't want them to get brown the way you do when you saute things. You want the onions to turn sort of translucent, and you want the mushrooms do get softer.  For sweating, it's okay for the pan to be crowded.
  • The barley wants to drink up all the broth--which sort of results in not-soup. You fight that off by cooking the barley in one pot and the beef, mushrooms, onions, and broth in another, and only combining as much as you want to eat a few minutes before you eat it.
  • Barley comes in kinds: some cook in 20 minutes and some in 90, and I haven't figured out which is which. My best advice is buy a package that has directions, and obey. Next best, if you're buying from a bulk bin, is to start checking after 20 minutes and keep checking until it's soft and tastes like it should.
  • Store-bought beef stock usually doesn't have much beef flavor, because it's a lot of work to do right. Vegetable stock or chicken stock are better. Use one of those.
And with that background, here comes a recipe...

Cooking  equipment

You need a medium sized boiling pan for the barley.

You also need something you can use to brown things in fat and something that can hold several quarts of soup.  Option 1: a dutch oven does both.  Option 2: a frying pan for the browning and a soup pot for the quarts.  Your choice.

Ingredients For Four Servings
1/4 cup barley
4 tablespoons butter (one half-stick) (or you could use olive oil)
1 small yellow onion
1/2 lb. button mushrooms (or you can include other kinds, including some dried ones that your mom might make you take, but still mostly button)
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock--or you can replace a bit of that with red wine.1/2 lb. boneless beef, looking for something that's cheap and marbled. 

Steps
Start the barley cooking according to the recipe on the package.

Peel the onion and cut it into little pieces.


Pull the stems off  the mushrooms. Cut the smallest stems in half, and the bigger ones to about same size. Cut the smallest caps in quarters, and the bigger ones, again, to about the same size.






In a skillet or dutch oven, melt half of the butter over low heat.  Not all of the butter, half of it. Throw in the onion and mushrooms, and stir about once a minute. You can work on the beef at the same time.

Cut the beef into bite-sized chunks, or maybe a little smaller.

When the onions look sort of glassy and the mushrooms are all softer and a bit darker, take them all out, putting them on a plate or in a bowl

Melt the second half of the butter in the same pan, but raise the heat to medium or a little higher.  Add the beef making sure there's a little space between the pieces. You do want the beef to brown, and get bits of that nice dark brown that looks like it'll taste wonderful.  So, after two full minutes, turn over one piece to look at.  If it doesn't have dark brown bits, wait a bit longer, and try again. Then turn all the bits to another side, give them two minutes, and then stir to some other side. This can't be precise because, ya know, they aren't all the same size.  So what you want is for nothing to be red any more, and some sides of most pieces to be that pretty dark brown. 

Remove the meat to the plate or bowl with the onions and mushrooms.

Add about half a cup of water to the pan and let it fizz up to a boil.  As that happens, gently scrape the brown stuff stuck to the bottom loose.

If using a dutch oven: add all the broth, and then add all the beef, mushrooms and onions.  Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer (just barely boiling, but boiling), cook for ten minutes, and try chewing one piece of beef. If it's lovely soft, it's done.  If not, repeat at five minute intervals.

If using a frying pan and soup pot: Pour the liquid from the frying pan into the pot, and then add all the beef, mushrooms and onions.  Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer (just barely boiling, but boiling), cook for ten minutes, and try chewing one piece of beef. If it's lovely soft, it's done.  If not, repeat at five minute intervals.

If you're not ready to serve it: Store the barley in one container and everything else in another.

When you're ready to serve it: Combine the right amount of soup and barley in a pot, bring to a boil, and simmer for three minutes before eating. (Or, of course, microwave them together.  Microwave is better for one serving, stove top for four.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Lemony Chicken and Farro in Half an Hour

General concept: While the farro cooks, you cut the chicken and start it cooking.  Then you prep the shallot and garlic and lemon while watching and turning the chicken. It's fast because you're doing it all at once.

Tools
Saucepan with lid, large skillet with lid, tongs, knife, cutting board,

Ingredients
2 cups farro
1 pound boneless chicken breast
1 lemon
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
12 ounce bag of frozen peas
Olive oil
Cornstarch
Salt
Pepper

Steps
In saucepan, bring four cups water to boil
Add the farro
Bring back to a boil, cover, and lower heat to a simmer
Set timer for 20 minutes.  All the other cooking can be done in those 20 minutes

Start heating skillet over medium heat
Cut chicken into bite size pieces
Add olive oil to skillet to cover the bottom very lightly, and heat until you smell it
Add chicken pieces to oil, spreading them out

Peel and mince shallot and garlic

Check a piece of chicken to see if it has some nice brown on the bottom.  If it does, turn over all the pieces so they cook on another side.

Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice into a cup.
Add water to make the cup a full cup.

Check the chicken again and turn

Watch the chicken, turning as need to get all sides to look cooked and have some nice brown sides.

When all sides look cooked, add the shallots and garlic, stirring them rapidly around the pan until you smell them and then for another 10 second

Add the lemon and water to the skillet and bring to a boil
Add the peas to the skillet, spread them out, and bring back to a boil
Cover the skillet and turn the heat to low
Cook for about five minutes

While chicken and peas cook, combine two tablespoons of water with one tablespoon of cornstarch (or flour) to make a smooth liquid

After chicken and peas have cooked the five minutes, stir in the cornstarch liquid to thicken the liquid.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

When timer goes off, drain any remaining liquid from farro, and combine it with the sauce.

Serve in big bowls or mugs





Thursday, March 3, 2016

Rosemary Black Beans with Rice

This is happy vegetarian food, and only the optional yogurt makes it not vegan. It takes very little effort, but does need a cook paying vague attention  to the beans in the oven for several hours.  It's at its best if you have Rancho Gordo midnight black beans in the pantry ahead of time.

TOOLS
Strainer or colander
Dutch oven with lid
Stovetop pan with lid
Oven mitts
Measuring cup
Big spoon

INGREDIENTS
One pound dried small black beans
Rosemary, either several sprigs fresh or a tablespoon dried
Three cloves of garlic, either crushed or minced

Two cups rice (brown for added nutrients or white for beauty)

Yogurt or sour cream (optional but good)
Salsa (optional but good)

STEPS
Preheat oven to 325.

Rinse the beans in a strainer.

Put beans, rosemary, and garlic in a dutch oven. Add enough water so that there's a full inch above the beans.

Bring to a boil on the stove top. (This article notes that you do want to do things a little differently with red pinto beans or white cannellini beans, and also confirms that you don't need to soak beans when you use this oven method)

Cover and place in the oven.

Set a timer for 70 minutes and carry the timer with you everywhere you go.

After 70 minutes, take one bean out of the pot give it a few seconds to cool, and bit it.  It'll probably have a bit of crunch and a bit of dryness inside.  If so, set your timer for 10 minutes and put the beans back in the oven.  Expect to do this repeatedly until you really like the texture and taste of your beans.

Meanwhile, bring four cups of water to a boil in a pan on the stove top, and add the two cups of rice. Reduce heat to very low, and cover the rice.  Figure out how long it needs to cook (often 20 minutes for white and 40 for brown), and set another timer for that. 

When the rice timer goes off, check that the rice tastes done. If yes and the water is gone, recover and set somewhere off the heat for five minutes. If yes and there's still water, drain and then set somewhere for five minutes.  If no and there's still water, cook two minutes and check. If no and there isn't still water, add a quarter cup or water and cook two minutes and check.  When you think the rice is done, do the thing about the five minutes.

When you like your beans, drain them in a strainer.

Serve with optional yogurt and optional salsa.

LUXURY VARIATION
The first time I made this, I put a tablespoon of butter in the rice pan, melted it, and added a half cup of chopped onions.  I cooked the onions on low heat until they were very soft, and then added the rice and boiling water. That adds a really nice added flavor.  Done with oil instead of butter, would also work for vegan friends and lactose intolerant pals.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Pork and Farro Improv

This is a dish I invented on the fly, and it worked.

What I Used
Two cups uncooked farro
One pound of ground pork
Two big cloves of garlic
Half of a medium-sized onion
A bit of olive oil
A bit of apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

What I Did
1. Put farro in a three-quart pot and added four cups boiling water.  Then I put that pot on the burner on high until the water boiled again, lowered the heat to simmer, covered the pot, and set the timer for 20 minutes.

2. Stuck a standing colander in the sink.

3. Put a dutch oven on the stove, added enough oil to cover the bottom thinly, and set the heat to a low-medium.  (For enameled cookware, standard advice is to heat with the oil already added.  That's the opposite of the advice for stainless steel.)

4. Peeled and chopped the garlic into little pieces, and the onion into slightly larger pieces.

5. Put the garlic and onion in the dutch oven, and stirred until it began to turn a little bit brown.

6. Added the pork to the dutch oven and broke it up into little pieces and then stirred it and the garlic and onion until everything was light brown.  (At this point, I had a little problem because there was a lot of liquid in the bottom of the dutch oven, so that my pork was going to steam instead of browning further.  So I ran the sink tap until the water was hot, left it running, poured the pork mixture into the colander, and then poured the pork back into the dutch oven with much less liquid--and put the colander back in the sink.  The hot water protected my pipes from clogging with fat.)

7. Continued cooking until the pork was the darker brown that says "Yum.  Cooked meat."

8. Added maybe a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the dutch oven and stirred everything around in it until it all disappeared into the meat.  I plan to experiment with adding a bit more next time I cook this.

9. Heard the timer go off on the farro and did a chew test to confirm it was nicely soft even though some water was left.

10. Poured the farro into the colander, shook the colander over the sink, and then poured all the farro into the dutch oven.

11. Stirred it all together, tasted, and added a bit of salt and fresh pepper.

Cinnamon could be a lovely addition. 

Cinnamon with lamb in place of pork would mean heading toward Moroccan flavors. Maybe a few sliced apricots or some golden raisins cooked with the farrow would suit that?

Mushrooms could contribute, though probably not with the cinnamon option, maybe added with the pork rather than with the onion so they don't get cooked to oblivion. 

Other vinegars could be fun, and I wouldn't be surprised if wine or beer also worked nicely.  

Rice in place of farro would be great, or quinoa or bulgur.  

One more idea, imagine using the mushrooms and adding cream or half-and-half after the farro and the meat are combined.  I can't decide whether the vinegar would be a plus or a minus that way, but I'll try both next winter.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lasagna Classic

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

12-ounce can tomato paste
28-ounce can whole tomatoes

1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1 bay leaf

15 lasagna noodles of the kind that you boil--basically a pound.

2 eggs
pound of small curd cottage cheese with nothing else in it especially not pineapple
pound of mozzarella, diced

Monday, November 24, 2014

Jean's Cranberry Nut Bread (Half-Ahead Version)

Mom note: you could just do all the steps one after another.  This "half-ahead" approach means that you can move really quickly in the morning if you want to serve this when other folks wake up.  In preparing for company, you can do the first half before the guests arrive and still serve the bread fresh when you're ready.  It is also a great muffin recipe--but I need to figure out the cooking time for that.

Ingredients
1/4 cup frozen butter (yes, really, put a half stick in the freezer for several hours
2 cups floor
1 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking power
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon orange zest
*   *    *
3/4 cup orange juice
1 well-beaten egg
1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped nuts

The Half-Ahead Steps
Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and orange zest.

Grate the butter (yes, really, grate it into little bits)

Mix the butter, a bit at a time, into the dry ingredients.

Put them all in a freezer container and seal it.

Shake really well to be sure every thing is mixed.

Put it in the freezer to use in the next month or two.

The Ready-To-Cook Steps
Preheat oven to 350.

Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan

Put the frozen ingredients into a bowl.

Combine the egg and juice.

Add to the frozen set and mix quickly just to moisten.

Fold in the berries and nuts.

Pour into pan.

Bake for 60 minutes.