Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yucky with Pesto

How does one pronounce gnocchi? I have no clue. I generally say nyucky, but I have heard it said nokee and nohkee, and most recently, yucky.

But theyr'e not really yucky.

Gnocchi are small Italian potato dumplings.

First, potatoes.

Once they are boiled, you have to skin them while they are still hot. This was made way easier by the directions "Wrap the potato in a kitchen towel." Thank you, Martha.

Then you push them through a ricer, add some egg, flour and form them into dumplings.

For some strange reason, long ago, someone decided gnocchi had to be made into a weird shape, with little channels to hold the sauce. The recipe said to roll the cut side of each dumpling against the tines of a fork with your thumb.

I didn't.
Instead I formed them in a way which I had done before, but cannot describe.

This is the only truly difficult thing about gnocchi. Forming them. And then trying to describe it.

But they are delicious with pesto, as we had them, or any other way. The pesto was not tricky, but one thing-it was supposed to be made with a mortar and pestle. Sorry, but that is mildly ridiculous. Perhaps it does make a sweeter tasting sauce, but I don't think you'll really notice with all that raw garlic.

Light and fluffy. Yum.

French Onion Soup

Beef stock (broth) looks horrible. It's water from a bunch of boiled bones. When it's chilled it turns into what resembles brown Jello. But it's the base for the most amazing soups imaginable.

So I chopped 2 1/2 pounds of onions, which made me cry, but not nearly as much as that time I made stuffed onions (never make stuffed onions, believe me, not worth it). I caramelized them and cooked them with my amazing beef broth and poured the soup into little dishes.

There is something immensely satisfying about floating small pieces of toast onto bowls of soup. I have no idea why. Very strange. I mean does anyone ever think about floating small pieces of toast onto bowls of soup? A great mystery.
Once I finished having fun with toast, I sprinkled some Swiss cheese on top and broiled the little bowls of soup so they looked beautiful.

I wonder who first decided to put the toast and cheese on top. Someone, no doubt who wanted to hide the fact that what you are eating is little more than water boiled with bones and onions.

Water boiled with bones and onions is ridiculously delicious, despite what you may have heard. There is a reason French Onion is one of my favorite soups.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Dinner

Turkey. Turkey. Only turkey.

There was supposed to be a jelly roll. But this turkey took 6 hours from start to finish. That's a lot for Christmas Day. So the rolling of the jelly is for another time.

To ensure it's juiciness (or something) the turkey is brined in very salty vegetable broth. 1 3/4 cups of salt to be precise.

Unfortunately the turkey did not completely fit in the stockpot, so when we pulled him out the brine... Most of him was white but the parts thats stuck out were a scary looking reddish-tan. Ah well.

So we stuffed him with Chestnut Stuffing. Chestnuts. So tasty but completely ridiculous. You must score them, then boil them, peel them, chop them and then finally mix them with bread cubes, celery, onion, and three cups of chopped parsley.

Not even half of the stuffing fit in Mr. Turkey. And anyhow, I'm not to sure about this stuffing thing. Once it's cooked and you take it out of the bird it's a bit...soggy. I suppose some people prefer it that way-but I like the bread cubes to be slightly crispy.

The Gravy

Apparently, you should never see the law or sausages being made. To this list there is just one thing I want to add. Anything you eat that contains or is made with giblets.

First the stock. Yes, gravy stock. Made with giblets.

I almost thought I wasn't going to make it. Giblets are scary. Really. Scary. I was about to decide just to use the turkey neck, which yes, seems sort of odd, but I am familiar with turkey necks. I am not familiar with strange...purple things. (Which I later learned were the heart and the liver.)

Eventually I used only the neck and something pink and unidentifiable, and I am sure if I knew what it was, it would make me feel ill. But I don't and I didn't so I just tossed it in the saucepan along with aromatic vegetables and herbs and boiled it.

But then I had to take it out and chop it, which did make me feel ill. Because of the smell. It was a funny smell, like stew meat, but-different. Fairly disgusting.

Now I made roux. I cooked flour with an equal amount of the most intense smelling pan drippings ever. Really. It smelled of turkey, chestnuts, bread, onion, and even garlic, although there wasn't actually any garlic in it. It was slightly ridiculous.

And now we wisk in the giblet-stock, (which has had the giblets removed), the pan drippings and-the giblets. Again. I reduced it until it was slightly thicker than heavy cream and finally strained into a gravy boat.

Ta Da!

Finally it was all together and we ate it. I'm afraid I did not enjoy it as much as my family because I had, you know, seen it being made. It was amazing nontheless. There were so many flavors layered in it, it was overwhelming. A portion could keep you going for hours, but somehow my brothers managed to eat third helpings.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Pan Seared Strip Steak with Mustard Cream Sauce is not very complicated. Except what is a strip steak?

Well it is also a Kansas City Strip, a shell steak, and a New York Strip. Once you figure this out, much is possible.

Once I figured that out, I could continue making my lunch.

Pan searing is fast. The butter hisses and the steak browns with alarming speed. I was attempting to cook it to medium rare-ish, but in my fear of undercooked meat it turned out more medium well done.

I do not like mustard. But for some reason it tastes ridiculously good in salad dressing and pan sauce.

While  the steak is resting, you add a bit of white wine to the juices and it spatters and bubbles for 20 second and then you end up with what looks like less pan juice than you had before.  But you end up with a reasonable amount once you add mustard and heavy cream.

I served this with Garlic and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes (do you know the difference between potato puree and mashed potatoes?) and (ahhh!) Creamed Spinach.

There is this skill that some people have where they can have everything cooked, hot, and ready at the same time. Unfortunately,  I do not.

In the end the steak was room temperature, slightly tough and absolutely delicious, the creamed spinach was piping hot and...not bad (I hate cooked spinach), and the mashed potatoes were hot and yummy.

A sort of success.


OK, So What ARE Bonito Flakes?


Bonito flakes are made out of boiled, smoked, sun dried, fresh bonito, a type of small tuna. It is one of 3 ingredients in dashi, a type of soup stock used in Japanese miso soup. The only other things in dashi are kombu (kelp), and water.

After searching a Japanese food store from top to bottom twice, there were still no bonito flakes to be found. Instead we got some fish sauce and dried flounder and hoped it would work.

Once we took the ingredients home, however, I read the back of the bag of dried flounder, which said it needed to be kept frozen (sort of defeats the point of drying it), which it had not been at the store.


There was no actually fish in the dashi, just some fish sauce.

But I had what I hoped would be a good enough substitute for the making of miso soup.

Miso soup is so good. Its basically nothing but water and soy beans prepared in various enigmatic ways and perhaps some seaweed.

But a long story short, the miso soup was good, and according to my mother, the extra step of making dashi added something, something I am not sure I could taste. Ah well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lamb and Pie: Is there anything better?

I think not.

Actually yes: Lamb with biscuits and pan sauce and then pie with  fresh whipped cream.

I must be the luckiest human on the planet.

A leg of lamb is rather strange looking. All raw meat is rather strange looking, but this is the largest piece of meat I have ever prepared. Although, granted, the 2nd largest thing was only a medium sized chicken.

It's even stranger when you saw the lamb two days after it was born and held it and petted it! The lamb, as a matter of fact, was raised by our neighbors down the hill and we watched the sheep and lambs from our kitchen window all summer! Local food, everyone. Down with Walmart. Get your food from where you live, not from China. Unless, obviously, you live in China.

Anyhow, the lamb had all these little white bits and things that I attempted to trim off. I'm not too sure how well I succeeded. Then came the fun part. I picked 25 individual leaves off a stalk of rosemary (greatest herb ever), chopped 25 other tiny sprigs off a bunch of thyme, and chopped a few cloves of garlic into miniscule slivers.

I then took a little steel paring knife and made 50 or so cuts all over the lamb and stuck a piece of thyme or a garlic sliver and a rosemary leaf in each one. I stuck it in a roasting pan and surrounded it in celery, carrots, onions, and red potatoes. Then I cooked it.

The leg of lamb was served with another amazing pan sauce made out of it's own drippings and some ridiculously good little biscuits. (The secret? More butter.)


Here's another local food story.

Just 10 seconds away from where the lambs live, there is an orchard. We went there a few days after I made the lamb and loaded up on 2 gallons of cider, an enormous bag of Rhode Island Greening apples and 5 Delicatta squashes. The squash became dinner and the apples became PIE.

I truly believe that apple pie is the perfect food. Is there really anything better than a wedge of pie, hot from the oven, dolloped with whipped cream? (If this made you drool go immediately and make yourself a pie.)

Anyhow, I made pie. Again. And I probably will make it again and again until the world ends.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


A frittatta is something like a big omelet or a crustless quiche. You can put just about any cooked vegetable in it but this one had yellow squash and goat cheese. Technically it was supposed to have zucchini in it too but...

I realized once again that I had to go collect herbs in the dark. Unfortunately it had frosted and the basil was brown and very dead looking. There were, however, chives, and we have multiple bags of basil in the freezer.

Another random substitution: we didn't have butter. So I used clarified butter left over from the Omelet la Flop. It seemed to work okay.

I cooked the frittata and it was a little bit scrambled-ish but once I sprinkled Parmesan and "Raw Milk Cheddar Goat Cheese" (There are kinds of goat cheese?)on top and broiled it, it looked fine.

Bottom line: lots of substitutions but it tasted really good and it didn't get cold in 45 seconds like omelets do. Yay!