Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happy Father's Day

It's what Dad wants. And just in time for Father's Day, The Oregonian's FoodDay offers up tips for cooking pork, lamb, beef, and veal chops, complete with a few thoughts on the tantalizing topic from yours truly. They even include one of my favorite pork chop recipes from my book Seared to Perfection for your cooking pleasure. Have a look for some ideas on how to create a truly memorable Father's Day feast for your dad this year.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cooking Well

Cooking well means…
You will never go hungry.
You might be labeled a "foodie".
The kitchen is your studio and food is your medium.
You'll always find the way to a man's (or woman's) heart.
You can see beauty in a potato.
Going to market is your idea of fun.
You share a connection with the earth and the seasons.
Your mantra is a dish is only as good as the ingredients you put into it.
You have a weakness for sharp cutlery.
And maybe fine cookware too.
You understand salt.
You revere the egg.
And can transform it in countless ways.
Your friends will always accept your dinner invitations.
But they might be afraid to invite you over for dinner. No matter how appreciative you may be.
You taste as you cook.
And clean as you go.
You have a strong opinion about certain cooking shows. (You know what I mean.)
It might be hard to get into your skinny jeans.
You can find inspiration in a recipe.
But you don't have to follow it.
Someone else should volunteer to do the dishes.
You use all your senses.
You pay attention to the details.
And you follow your instincts.
You can stand the heat.
You transform necessity into pleasure.
You have a sensual side.
You know the finer things in life.
You season with love.
Sharing is in your nature.
You bring people together.
You and your loved ones will always be nourished and comforted, body and soul.

Coconut Shrimp with Sweet Habanero Sauce
Printable Recipe

½ cup rice vinegar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 habaneros
2 cloves garlic, grated
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 large egg
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded coconut
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ pounds jumbo shrimp (16/20 count), peeled and deveined
¼ cup all-purpose flour
Canola oil, for frying

Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, habaneros, and garlic in a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thickened and slightly syrupy. Remove from the heat and stir in the fish sauce. Let cool to room temperature.

Whisk together the egg and 2 tablespoons of water in a large, shallow dish. Mix together the panko, coconut, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper in another large, shallow dish. Season the shrimp generously with salt and pepper. Dip each shrimp into the flour to coat and shake off any excess, then into the egg wash, and then into the panko mixture to coat, patting so that it adheres. Arrange the shrimp in a single layer on a baking tray and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Add enough oil to a large, heavy pot to come to a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil to 375°F. Add half of the shrimp and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Using a skimmer, remove to a paper towel-lined baking tray and immediately season to taste with salt. Fry the remaining shrimp in the same manner. Arrange the shrimp on individual plates and serve immediately with the habanero sauce.

Serves 4. When frying, be sure to use a pot that's large enough to accommodate the displacement of the oil from the shrimp and also the bubbling of the oil.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Souvenir from Bologna

There are two types of people: one longs to see the world while the other is content to stay put, never desiring to venture more than a few miles away from home. While I am convinced of the veracity of this statement, I have long wondered why it is true. I, for one, fall into the former category, likely as a result of moving a great distance from my native land as a young child. I have wanderlust.

Actually, as I've said before, it would be more accurate to call it hungerlust [noun: a very strong or irresistible impulse to consume foods in faraway places]. Food has always been my window into other cultures.

Hungerlust is a hard itch to scratch. For all of the worldly reasons you would expect, opportunities to travel are precious few. And then, when finally there is a trip, the itch returns almost as soon as you do.

It's been exactly a year since our trip to Venice, Bologna, and Paris, and my hungerlust is flaring up again. The yearning to travel occupies my every waking moment. I dream of seeing new and exotic lands. And I ache to revisit all of the places I've already been, because I fell in love with each and every one of them when I first went. It's like feeling homesick, only for places that have never been home.

Travelers often collect souvenirs as reminders of their various journeys. Some bring home arts and crafts and some fashion, I bring home recipes. It's my way of keeping a little piece of my destination with me forever. For recreating the smells and tastes of a place at home is the next best thing to actually being there.

This helped ease the hungerlust for a little while.

It'll transport you to Bologna, if only for one meal.

Ragu Bolognese
Printable Recipe

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds ground beef chuck, preferably chili grind
3 ounces pancetta, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine
1 cup milk
1 14 ½-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

Heat a large, heavy pot over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add half of the beef and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, tossing about 2 times, until crusty and brown in spots.* Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef to a plate. Sear the remaining beef in the same manner and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium, add the pancetta to the pot, and fry, tossing frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the onion and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, or until soft. Add the celery and carrot and sauté for another 5 to 6 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and tomato paste and sauté 2 to 3 minutes more, or until fragrant. Add the wine and simmer for a minute or so, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a heat-proof spatula. Return the beef to the pot and add the milk in thirds, simmering for 2 to 3 minutes, or until nearly dry, after each addition. Add the tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, nutmeg, and a generous pinch of pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 3 hours, or until thickened and saucy and the flavors come together. Discard the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes enough for 10 to 12 portions of Fresh Egg Pasta. Traditionally, this sort of sauce is made with diced beef. A great shortcut to all that dicing is chili grind, which is very coarsely ground. Toss al dente pasta with the ragu, top with plenty of grated Parmegiano-Reggiano, and serve immediately. This time, I topped homemade extruded macaroni (made with 10 ounces all-purpose flour and 3 large eggs) with my ragu.

*Searing the beef in this manner adds tons of flavor to the finished dish. For everything you ever wanted to know about searing, plus dozens of fabulous searing recipes, look for my book Seared to Perfection in stores now.
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