Archive for February, 2011

Pilaf on a Tangent

In all my culinary adventures, I’ve never made rice pilaf. Sounds dumb, right? I’ve made steamed rice, fried rice, Spanish rice, risotto…but never plain old rice pilaf. Inspired by a Food Network show I watched this morning, I decided I needed it to survive the day. And once I get it in my head…well….

Leek and Green Onion Pilaf with pork shnitzel

I knew the basics of creating a pilaf, so I went through the fridge to see what I had and the recipe below is what I came up with. I used up scraps of CSA veggies and herbs, which are running low since the next delivery isn’t until Wednesday. It was some sort of flash of inspiration, because this turned out better than any pilaf I’ve had in a restaurant. And even better, it’s filled with things that are actually good for you! Test subject Bill approves of this pilaf – another hit!

Leek & Green Onion Pilaf

1 large leek, quartered and sliced

5 large green onions, sliced with the green tops reserved

4 large cloves of garlic, minced

sprig of fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

2 T coconut oil

1 t salt

1 c uncooked rice (I used basmati)

1 c homemade chicken stock

1 c water

In a dutch oven or heavy sauce pan (I used my Le Creuset Dutch Oven) heat coconut oil until it melts. Add leeks, white parts of onion and garlic and salt and sautee until soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir until you start to see browned spots start appearing on the bottom of the dish. Lay rosemary and bay leaf on top and pour the chicken stock and water over everything. Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes, then turn off the heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and sprinkle the green onion tops over the pilaf. I served mine with some shredded parmesan and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Now, when I say large green onions I mean LARGE. Not the tiny paltry ones you find at the grocery store. The white parts of the onion were as long and as big around as my thumb, maybe even slightly bigger. So if you use grocery store green onions (organic, please) you will need probably four times as many as I used.

Try and enjoy!

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I attended another cooking class today, this time on Braises & Stews at Whole Food’s Salud Cooking School. It was an aggressive menu for a three hour class: Braised Short Ribs, Beef Stew, Pot Roast with Vegetables, Lamb Ragu and Creamy Polenta. There were nine students in class and we were split up into three groups of three.

Now, when I hear “get into groups” I immediately want to run screaming after four years of struggling through mostly useless group projects in business school with a bunch of slackers. Then I reminded myself that everyone is this class because they WANT to be there. This group would not be a headache. It would be like the Capstone dream team (Sasha and Suzanne rock, btw) except we’re all doing something we enjoy. So I relaxed, and rightfully so. My teammates Lori and Cheryl were on it.

This class involved a lot of chopping, which is fine because I got to use my new knife skills (from my knife skills class last Wednesday, blog post is forthcoming). Chef Antonio told us when it comes to tough cuts of meat, “Low and slow is the way to go.” We repeated the same procedure for all our dishes (except the polenta): brown the meat (put it in your hot oiled pan and leave it until it comes off easily – if you move your meat around it won’t brown); remove the meat and deglaze your pan with wine and/or stock; add meat and veggies back to the pan and continue heating over low heat for hours. According to Chef Antonio, you can’t overcook any of this. That statement was cheered by several students.

The Buffeast Line

We used some lovely Le Creuset Dutch Ovens and All-Clad Stockpots for everything. It was nice to see that some of the choices I’ve been making for my own kitchen are being used in quality kitchens like Whole Foods and the Viking Cooking School. Gives a girl some reassurance! I really like the Le Creuset stuff because it can go from stove top to oven and the enamel makes it rather non-stick and easy to clean up. Not that I had to worry about cleaning up today….weeee!

The final dish we made while our braises and stews were bubbling away is polenta. I’d never made polenta before but I knew that it’s a dish that takes a lot of stirring. Turns out I heard correctly. Luckily with three team members we could trade off stirring the polenta. First we brought chicken broth and cream to a boil, then stirred in the polenta. When it was nice and thick, we stirred in grated fontina and parmesan cheeses and a bit of freshly ground nutmeg. I have to say, it was worth the work. The polenta was absolutely delicious.

Clockwise from bottom left: pot roast with veggies, lamb ragout, green salad, braised beef short ribs. Center: cheesy creamy polenta!

All of our dishes turned out nicely. Each team of three made all the dishes, so we had a TON of food. I was wondering what football team we were feeding when all the dishes were pulled out and lined up for the buffeast. While everything was very good, my favorite was the lamb dish, suprisingly. It was tender (even though everything could have easily cooked for another two hours and been even better) and flavorful and different. You don’t see lamb just anywhere. The beef stew was my second favorite although when I make it it won’t be as sweet; this recipe called for sugar and red currant jelly. I might just do the jelly (unique) and skip the white sugar. Or skip them both, who needs more sugar in their diet?

Beef Stew

In summary, it was a wonderful class and well worth the time and money. Now that I’ve been to this one and a few classes at Viking I can make some comparisons and contrasts. At Viking I think it’s a little bit more individual attention and you get a 10% discount on store items the day of your class, which is nice (I picked up this Lemon Squeezer last time, works soooo much better than my other crappy one from Publix). The instruction is very good and they have a wide variety of classes and a lot of classes. I also know they make their own stock because I cut up stuff that went into it 🙂 I have three more classes at Viking coming up in the next several months which I am very excited about!

Even with all of Viking’s perks and the very nice two different venues to work in, I feel like I preferred the Salud environment. The class was a little less expensive, it’s closer to my house (always a bonus), and they are using Whole Foods ingredients which means mostly organic which is important to me and better quality meats. Also we were able to take home leftovers, which is something that I was really disappointed with at the Viking classes. (What are they doing with the leftovers? Hopefully they go to a homeless shelter…) It will be interesting to see how my Le Cordon Bleu classes (coming up in March and April) compare.

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Georgia Luau

An 18 year old KKF poses with a really pretentious sunbather on Waikiki beach (I think) on the Big Island.

When I was 18 I visited Hawaii with my mom. It was my first plane flight and, other than a weeklong trip to Ohio when I was a pre-teen, my first actual vacation. Our friend Emmette graciously gave us a grand tour of Kauai, the island he lives on. Part of this tour was the obligatory luau.

I was completely grossed out by the idea of the hog being buried in the ground. They expected us to eat that? Really? Ugh, no way! So I had a mai tai. (Somebody told me it was the real deal but I disagree.) That made no difference. I was still horrified. But when they raised up that pig and started plating up, the aroma drew me in. Maybe it wasn’t so disgusting. With the first bite, it was a wrap. I was in hog heaven for real.

When I came across this recipe for kalua pig in the crockpot I was intrigued. Could this really duplicate that experience? It was worth a shot. I had to special order the Hawaiian sea salt because I couldn’t find it at Whole Foods (what gives??) but it was worth the wait.

I used a 2 pound pork roast from Nature’s Harmony and about a 2.7 pound ham roast from Stokes Family farm. (What is the difference? Not sure.) I poked the meat with a knife and rubbed in about two tablespoons of the sea salt, put it in the crock and poured 1 1/2 tablespoons of liquid smoke over it. That’s it. Lidded it and let it go for about 8 1/2 hours. I did turn the meat about half way through the cook time. And all day long I had to sit and work and SMELL that roasting away. I thought I would die waiting!

Kalua Pig with broccoli and gravy

Finally the time came. A sample, of course, was a given as I removed the meat. Man, oh man…I almost passed out right there. It was sweet without being sweet, savory and hot and melting in my mouth. And oh, the FAT. The fat was soft, moist edible love. I actually rubbed fat into the pork after I shredded it, it was so freaking delicious. I put it in a warm oven to keep it hot while I made some gravy out of the drippings: Strain drippings, whisk together water and AP flour (or arrowroot flour – I wonder if you could use coconut flour?) and whisk into the drippings. Taste. It may be very salty depending on how much sea salt you ended up using. I’m glad I used more than the recipe called for because I ended up with a good amount of gravy by adding more water. It was still VERY flavorful. I kept the consistency a bit thin because I didn’t want it to compete with the pork, just compliment and add moisture.

Let me tell you…it was out of this world. I served it with CSA broccoli and poured the gravy over that, too. I was satisfied with a relatively small portion, too. Even test subject Bill was quite impressed and agreed it was a keeper. If I’d had a hula skirt, I would have put it on. This pork, while not Hawaiian luau, is as close as you’re going to get on the mainland.

4.7 pounds of pork is a lot for two people, so I wanted to freeze some. I read here that freezing gravy has greater success if you blend it before freezing, so I took my KitchenAid KHB100OB Hand Blender, Onyx Black
to the gravy. Love that thing. I packaged up two containers of kalua pig and poured gravy over them, and into the freezer they went. I really really hope they thaw well!

Follow up: they thawed to perfection the way I packed them up. Excellent!

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Collard greens are a Southern specialty and a seasonal winter vegetable. Being from Iowa, where winter vegetables exit only in the supermarket or in your deep freeze, I had limited experience (ok NONE) with collards before moving south. So after some experimentation, I discovered the perfect way to prepare this sometimes shunned green for the northern tastebuds.

Test Subject Bill is from Nebraska. Well, as an Air Force kid he’s really from all over, but definately not “southern” unless you count family in Texas. Which I don’t. He has a discriminating (aka picky) pallete so I’m always trying to find the right blend of everything to make him happy. It’s sort of like dreaming the impossible dream. But tonight I scored with Kerrygold Collard Greens.

Kerrygold Collard Greens

1 large bunch collard greens

1/4 cup chardonnay

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup Kerrygold Garlic & Herb butter

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Grated parmesan cheese for topping

Remove tough stems from collards and chop roughly, then cut leaves into long ribbons. Melt Kerrygold butter in a skillet and add stems to butter, then season with the salt. Sautee for about 10 minutes over medium low heat until softened. Add wine and stir well. Add leaves and turn with tongs until the greens are just wilted, about 5-7 minutes. Grind in fresh pepper to taste and toss. Plate up and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

I was going to take a picture of this dish, but when I went into the kitchen to package up the leftovers there were none. Bill had eaten it ALL. That is really impressive considering the amount of greens it made and his low to moderate interest in most vegetables. I guess it went well with the pork shnitzel I made. Bill paid me the highest compliment tonight. He said, “We’d never need to go to a restaurant if you cooked like this every night.” Yeah baby!

This turned out so well I decided to submit it for the Kitchen Conundrum (I love that word) Kerrygold recipe contest. So come join the fun at Kitchen Conundrum sponsored by Kerrygold!

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Viking Cooking School

Now that I’m done with school, the first thing I do is…sign up for more classes. Except this time I’m leaving finance far behind and indulging in some cooking classes offered by Whole Foods and Viking Cooking School. This past Sunday I got schooled in Moroccan cuisine!

Here’s the menu we prepared:
Orange Salad with Dates
Couscous with Beef & Vegetables
Layered Phyllo Chicken Pie
Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Presumably since it was Super Bowl Sunday there were only three students in the class. Excellent! We all got to ask as many questions as we wanted and get our hands into everything. Our instructor was Chef Lana, owner of Call Me Your Chef and you can find her blog here. I also met a fellow food blogger, Jacqueline, who was one of the students.

It was really a great time and I feel like I learned a lot. One thing we learned about was supreming oranges. I found a good YouTube video on this here. The guy in that video sounds similar to the guy from the Engineer’s Guide to Cats. Anyway, I digress…

Moroccan Orange Salad with Dates

The aromas from all the spices were UHmazing. I had to smell everything repeatedly. And despite all the great meat dishes we made, I have to say…my favorite thing we made was the salad with oranges and dates. The orange was quite dark and it reminded me of a valencia orange I recently had but Chef Lana said it was just a navel orange. Wonder where it came from…anyway,  I think it’s ok for me to post the recipe here. If not, I guess they can sue me:

Orange Salad with Dates

2 oranges, peeled and segmented
1 cup dates, chopped
2 T frehly squeezed lemon juice
2 T freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
fresh mint sprigs

Stir everything together and enjoy! I would actually cut back on the honey a bit. I ate this as dessert, it was awesome.

Chicken phyllo pie (left) and Lamb Tagine (right)

I was really looking forward to cooking in the tagine. We used the Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 2-Quart Moroccan Tagine, Cherry
that I dreamed about all night one night last week that I’ve happened to see online from time to time and it might happen to be on my wish list. In a tagine you cook…well…a tagine which is just a really thick stew-like dish. We made ours with lamb and it was delicious.

We used a number of ingredients a lot, such as saffron (which I adore) but we also used a lot of smen which is similar to clarified butter. I learned that saffron should be crushed before using. I’m kind of ashamed that I didn’t know this sooner. Anyway, now I have another use for my mortar and pestle.

Phyllo pie, side view

So…we cooked with phyllo/fillo dough. As you will recall from my tissue paper burritos, my last attempt was a failure. The good news about the chicken phyllo pie we made is that it was great. First, you should use phyllo in a recipe that actually calls for phyllo. Second, we smeared the smen in between each layer which kept it from caking together and becoming concrete. The pie was a lot of work even split between all of us, of course we did learn that it’s generally a special occasion dish. I can see why.

At the end of the evening, I’d tried four great new dishes, learned some new skills and made three new friends. What more can you ask for from a simple cooking class?

Beef stew and couscous

The Feast!

The best part: we don't have to clean up!

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It was a bacon smokin’ Saturday yesterday so I decided I wanted something simple for dinner – tacos. As usual, my simple dinner grew and expanded into a monster. Before the pork sides were even snugly in the smoker, the menu had become grande.

Frit-No Lay Bean Dip

I started off with bean dip. Test Subject Bill loves Frito’s bean dip. Since I’m not crazy about him eating out of cans, I found this taste-alike recipe and decided to give it a try. It was ridiculously simple. If you buy that canned crap, please try this and you’ll save not only money but score one for your health too! Bill said it was very close to the canned version (I wouldn’t know) but I had used smoked paprika instead of regular and it threw it off a bit. Lesson for next time…

I tossed together some guacamole and got my taco seasoning ready for the Nature’s Harmony ground beef. Finally, it was time for the big deal: I was going to make tortillas.

I carefully selected this recipe from Allrecipes. It was simple and had good reviews. And it calls for LARD. Not freaking Crisco or “shortening” or some other mystery sludge that will make your arteries harden up like the statue of liberty in the Day After Tomorrow. Ok, so the author’s insistence on lard is what really turned me on to this recipe.

Tortilla in pan, rolled and waiting, and ball of tortilla to-be

Anyway, I mixed up my flour and baking powder and salt. When it came to the lard, it calls for two tablespoons. Two…for four cups of flour? No way. I used four tablespoons of lard. That made me happy. The water went it and I mixed it all up, then split it up into 24 little balls. Things were getting exciting. I was ready to roll out and fry ’em up. I heated my Lodge cast iron skillet and rolled out my first tortilla.

It was reasonably round, although it took a lot of flour to keep it from sticking to the counter. I tossed it in the hot skillet and got to work on the next, and the next. Each tortilla got flipped shortly after it bubbled up. Brown is good, black is bad. Simple enough, right? All was well until Test Subject Bill came down stairs and started looking around the kitchen.

“What are you burning?” he asked.

Husbands have lost body parts for asking that question.

Non-Smoking Tortilla

“It’s pretty smoky in here,” he continued after I completely ignored him. I looked around. He was right. Crap. The excess flour on my tortillas was falling off into the pan and…well…burning. Double crap. “You’re going to set off the smoke detector.”

At that very second the damn thing began WAILING. I understand a smoke alarm is either on or off but it was acting like it was Dante’s Inferno. Panic entered the Kung Fu Kitchen. I screamed at Bill to shut it off (which he can’t) and dashed to start opening windows. After we opened four windows and I turned the heat off the alarm shut up. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a KKF first. I have never before set off the smoke alarm. And Bill is the first spouse to survive asking that question.

All limbs in tact, Test Subject Bill snags a tortilla.

Older and wiser, and with windows open, I got back to my tortillas. This time I made sure to shake off ALL excess flour and rolled them out super thin. I discovered that it was actually a good thing for them to stick to the countertop – it held them in place to get rolled out thin, and they were elastic enough to pull off without tearing. KKF is good, KKF is wise.

It took a good hour for me to make it through my 24 tortillas. I had some that were sort of round, some that were quite amoeba-like, and one that looked suspiciously like Australia. They were ugly as sin…but they tasted great! I have to agree that they really are so much better homemade than store-bought, plus you can be assured that they are made with healthful pastured lard when you do it yourself!

KKF tortilla topped with guac, bean dip, salsa and cheese!

Test Subject Bill and I enjoyed our Mexican fiesta while watching The Guild: Seasons 1 & 2
on Netflix streaming through the Blu-Ray. Well…we were able to get through most of Season 2 before Netflix started crapping out and we had to call it. However, with a yummy taco with guac and salsa I canned last summer and bean dip and a homemade flour tortilla…I was able to survive many technical difficulties!

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I attempted to make Jamie Oliver’s Ground Beef Wellington the other night, a recipe in his Food Revolution cookbook. It’s basically ground beef mixed up with sautéed vegetables, wrapped in puff pastry and baked. As most of my kitchen hack jobs start out, I was missing something and improvised…

Filo: Not Puff

I didn’t have frozen puff pastry. I had Fillo dough. They are not the same thing.

Undeterred, I plowed forth with the recipe. I sautéed my onions, garlic, carrots, celery, mushrooms, potatoes and frozen peas along with some fresh rosemary. I mixed up a pound of Nature’s Harmony ground beef with the veggies and most of one beaten egg along with salt and pepper.

My Fillo dough had been thawing while I worked on the meat and veggies. I should probably say here that my experience using Fillo is limited. Pretty much limited to having eaten it a few

Meat & Veggie Mix

times. The frozen dough was purchased on a whim. Anyway, I start unraveling the dough and it’s a big old mess. It mostly held together but it tended to crack and shed tiny particles of Fillo. But I persevered and eventually had some sheets laid out flat.

Jamie’s recipe says to fold up all the meat mix in your two sheets of puff pastry. Well my Fillo wasn’t that big so I ended up making four Fillo burritos, lumping the beef mixture in the center, folding in the ends of the Fillo and rolling them up. It actually worked better than I thought it would. The tops of the British Burritos got brushed with the rest of the beaten egg and went into the oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

British Burritos hot out of the oven

To my credit, the creations came out of the oven looking pretty nice. They didn’t burn, which is something I was concerned about with the super light and flaky Fillo. I cut them open and they looked acceptable on the inside, too. Bonus.

As far as taste goes…the filling was very good. The Fillo was flaky on the outside but it was suuuuper dry and kind of dried out your tongue as you ate. So I poured some of my marinara sauce on it that I canned over the summer. That did the trick, and made a hack job perfectly edible. Test subject Bill loved the filling and used some Worcestershire sauce to moisten up the whole package.

Huh...actually looks pretty darn good...and this wasn't even photoshopped.

Next time I will not attempt to use Fillo instead of puff pastry. I think if I attempt this again I’ll make my pie crust dough like I use for chicken pot pie. I think that will be much tastier, and the addition of a simple gravy would also help this one out. One really nice thing about this recipe is that it is a good way to stretch out high quality (expensive) meat. While I’m not really concerned about that at the moment with my freezer as jam packed with deer as it is right now, this is a way that a family could really stretch the meat budget to be able to afford some delicious and nutritious grass-fed beef and have it be tasty too.

Cheers, Jamie!

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