Sunday, December 28, 2008

Comfort food

This is the food I grew up with, and when I go home, some variation on this is usually served. It's perfect for a cold snowy weekend. You cook it on Saturday, warming up the house and giving it a nice aroma, and then serve it on Sunday. Since I took Friday off, I cooked on Friday and served on Saturday accompanied by some roasted vegetables. And, as a first course, Curried Sweet Potato and Apricot soup, as blogged by Bittman (not part of the comfort food concept, but I'd been wanting to play with it....and it's definitely worth doing again).

Bronx Braised Beef Brisket

3-5 lb. Flat beef brisket.
Garlic powder
1 Big onion
1/3-1/2 cup tomato sauce, basic canned kind

  • Lightly brown the onion in olive oil
  • Coat the brisket with salt, garlic powder and paprika
  • Put meat and onions in a roasting pot
  • Add water to about ½ inch
  • Cook in 375-400 degree oven, uncovered for 1 ½ - 2 hours, until done. Meat should be brown
  • Take meat out of the pot, and let cool down separately.
  • Strain pot drippings, and mush the onions through the strainer
  • Add tomato sauce to drippings.
  • Add boullion or other flavoring to taste (optional...I've never had to do this)
  • Put drippings sauce in refrigerator. After it has cooled, skim fat off.
  • Put meat in refrigerator. After it is cool (next day) cut across the grain into slices about 1/8 inch.
  • When ready to serve put sliced meat and sauce into a saucepan, and simmer on top of the stove for a little while, depending on how tender the meat is. If tough, about ½-hour or more. If tender, less is OK.

I don't eat a whole lot of meat anymore, so I don't make this very often. Two-three times per year, at most. And I pretty much make it exactly like this each time, but I've been pondering some modifications, such as:

  • A handful of wild mushrooms, like Chanterelles, or something earthy
  • Pimenton instead of plain paprika
  • A Lebanese spice blend: cinnamon, allspice, ginger, fenugreek
Some day, perhaps!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What more can I say?

Roasted root vegetables. And a chicken leg. I'd been conspiring to make this for a few days. It had been intended for Sunday, but I was too tired to cook, so it became tonight's meal. I love roasted root veggies in the winter. The way the oven heats up the kitchen. And the scent infuses the house. Perfect.

The only problem is that it takes time. And on a weeknight, I just want to get food on the table fast. That's why I do so much stir fry. Fast. But I had a plan...get the veggies cut, oiled, and seasoned and into the oven. Bite size pieces of:

sweet potato
an interesting large white and green turnip they had on display at Whole Foods
red onion
Seasoning: coarse salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence

And once they were in the oven at 350, it put in the empty cast iron skillet, seasoned the two chicken legs with Emeril's Bayou Blast (just some salt, onion, garlic, paprika, cayenne., and got those going too.

With those in the oven, and needing little attention, I could pour myself a glass of red wine, put some Trader Joes caponata in a bowl, scoop up with some corn chips, and satisfy the raging hunger till dinner was ready.

About in the oven....I upped the temperature for the second half to 400. Dinner was everything I had hoped it would be. The roasted veggies can really be a meal on their own, but the chicken side dish was perfect, as would many other sides. And there's enough left for at least another meal. I'll definitely being doing this again, even on a weeknight. Just like a stirfry, just a little more relaxed, complete with time to sit around and do nothing (or catch up on other blogs)....

While dinner was cooking, I was catching up on the blogs, and found this surprise at Tea and Food. The roasted veggies, pretty much as I'd done, and the drumstick to boot.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Live at the Improv

I started this blog mainly because I was having so much fun exploring the food adventures of other bloggers, getting inspired by their experiments, or just searching the blogs, chowhound, epicurious, or whatever for something to do with an interesting new ingredient. But much of the time, it's just looking in the fridge, thinking about what's in the pantry, and creating something tasty. Most of the time it works well, occasionally I wonder what I was thinking. This time it worked well, and the need to improvise had become extreme.

I had almost reached the point of "read my lips, no new food". The fridge had aging veggies. The freezer was overflowing. It was time to purge. So...

Red cabbage (1/4 head)
Yellow onion
Small red potatoes, 3
Habanero pepper, half, seeded, minced
1 carrot, sliced thin with mandoline
Kielbasa, half, cut into bite sized pieces
Pea tendrils, handful
cilantro, 4 or 5 sprigs
1 cube frozen roasted tomato sauce, made in early fall.
salt, pepper

I pulled out the trusty wok that I've had for going on 30 years. I'd been avoiding the wok for awhile in favor of the cast iron skillet because I'd been polluted by an article I read in Cook's Illustrated where they compared the heat-inducing behavior of home woks (as opposed to restaurant woks) versus flat bottom skillets and concluded that the flat bottom skillets were far more effective at transmitting heat, and getting to hot hot wok searing stir fry temperatures.

But I'd been thinking that I really like the way you can toss stuff around in the wok with wild abandon. With the skillet, the food pops out easily and messes up the stove. And what I really wanted to try was sauteing food in the wok, rather than blasting it with high heat.

Which is what I did with the above. The trick to this kind of cooking is to cook the tougher things first, adding items as they became more tender. The onions typically go first, because they need some time to soften and develop a sweet flavor. This time, since I was sauteing, and I didn't want to over do it, I didn't wait very long before I added the cabbage and the kielbasa, and then the carrots. I didn't want to overcook the cabbage, and I was hoping to get some carmelization on the kielbasa. The habanero got tossed in at the same time, and I beeped the potatoes in the microwave till they were barely cooked....quartered them and tossed them in.

When things were pretty much where I wanted them, I tossed in the defrosted cube of tomato sauce, the pea tendrils and the cilantro, just warming them up a bit. Stir around a bit, add some salt (not much....the kielbasa is salty) and pepper. The kielbasa also carried along some garlic, so there wasn't the need for any more flavoring.

Served with some bulghur done in the rice cooker, and I had a meal. Several actually. I think I got a second dinner and a lunch out of this.

Will I ever make this again? No. Will I make something else, someday, with interesting things that I have in the house? Of course....many times!

Welcome back into the fold, wok. Sauteing works very well!