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Archive for December, 2014

If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have five cookbooks (er, deserted except for access to any and all ingredients, kitchen supplies and cooking implements) one book that would definitely be among them is How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.

You may know Bittman as The Minimalist. He has a number of cookbooks, writes cooking columns and had a TV show on PBS. I really enjoy his work and his simple but quality approach to culinary delights.

In How to Cook Everything, Bittman offers recipes for, well, just about everything as the name implies. It has an absurd number of recipes for a single book (although it is over 1000 pages) and covers the whole spectrum, from salads to seafood to baked goods to meats and soups to desert, he really does have it all.

What do you want to make? English muffins? Got it. Clafouti or burritos? Yep. Roast saddle of lamp? Uh-huh. Teriyaki chicken or bruchetta? Yes, indeed. Brioche and quick breads? Of course. Potstickers, mayonnaise, Pina Coladas and chocolate layer cake?  Yes, yes and yes. In a single book Bittman provides tried and true recipes for thousands of staples. It is my go-to book whenever I decide to make something I’ve never made before and for those recipes I make again and again. Some of my favorites that I’ve had marked with sticky tabs for years are his quick bread recipes, tomato sauces, beans and rice and fish en papillote (fish in packages).

Voluminous? Yes! But not as bad as cluttering your bookshelf with 18 other cookbooks to cover the same recipes. In fact I’ve used mine so much it’s starting to come apart and I need to replace it. I will get the hard cover version next time so it can stand up to my abuse.

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I am lucky enough to have a wonderful friendly neighborhood farmer who occasionally offers to his inner circle fine items he makes from his pastured meats like bacon, bratwurst and sausage. Recently I got a few pounds of an amazing somewhat hot Italian sausage that he made. At the same time, I ended up in possession of a large number of red, orange and yellow bell peppers (Sprouts had a sale on not-so-perfect but organic peppers).

There was only one thing to do.

Of course if I was going to make sausage and peppers I needed something to display them on. It had to be a potato, and for the most eye pleasing plating, they needed to be turned into hash browns. Welcome to the most delicious sausage and peppers ever. It’s simple and it’s satisfying. You’re welcome.

sausagepeppers

KKF Sausage & Peppers with Hash Browns

1 pound of the best quality sausage links you can get your hands on (raw)*

2 large russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)

4 bell peppers (mix of red, yellow and orange), thinly sliced

4 T butter

2 T olive oil

1 T garlic powder

1 T onion powder

2 t paprika

salt & pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to boil and simmer the sausages for about 30 minutes. Shred the potatoes in your food processor. Move the spuds to a large bowl and stir in the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and a little salt and pepper (you can always add more later.) Melt 2 T of the butter in a cast iron pan over high heat and add the oil. Spread the potato mix over the fat and cover. Let it sit, undisturbed for about five minutes, then reduce heat to low and give it another 8-10 minutes until the potatoes are mostly soft. Cover and set aside.

In another cast iron pan melt another 2 T of butter. When it is nice and hot add the sausage and brown them up on all sides. I usually let them go about two minutes or so, then roll them until they are brown and crunchy looking all the way around. Move to a cutting board and let them cool. In the leftover butter and juices from the sausages, add your sliced peppers. (You can add more fat if needed but usually what’s left is sufficient.) Sauté the peppers with about a half a teaspoon of salt until they are just softened.

While your peppers are cooking and your sausages are cool enough to touch, slice them on the diagonal in about one inch slices. When the peppers are done, add the sausages back to the pan and heat through.

To serve, layer a serving of hash browns (crunchy side up if you please) on the plate and pile peppers and sausage medallions on top. Delicious!
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*This is the most important element of this recipe. Your sausage and peppers will only be as good as your sausages.

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The week before last I prattled on about my favorite kitchen gadgets. This week I thought I’d also thought I’d relate the story of one of my biggest gadget kung faux pas in recent years.

I’ve had my trusty Cuisinart food processor for about ten years. I love it, and it’s just as powerful now as the day we brought it home from the hospital Santa gave it to me for Christmas. But as one often does after eight years or so my eyes started straying to the new, hot models and I started fantasizing about their amazing features. Multiple sized work bowls. A dough hook. Wide mouthed feeders.

Oh yeah, baby. So I took the plunge and dropped $250+ on the new hotness, relegating my old faithful to the basement. I shredded, sliced and pureed in my HUGE new machine. And there was the first sign that my kitchen karma was turning south.

It was giant. And heavy. And barely fit under my counter. And the huge lid was another monstrosity that took up twice the room in my dishwasher as the old one.

Then there were those magical nesting work bowls of different sizes. The thing is in order to use any of them you also have to use the large one. That means at least two bowls to clean instead of one. More to clean = kitchen fail.

Finally one day I went to make mayonnaise. I put my small work bowl into place (with the large beneath it, both of which would likely need to be washed at the end of the production), added my egg yolks and mustard and let it rip. As I slowly drizzled in my olive oil it became clear that I had no emulsion. Zip, zero, nada.

Kind of important for mayonnaise.

Unable to revive my would-be mayo, I tried again. And again, I failed to emulsify.

What the heck?

It would seem that the blade was not close enough to bottom of the work bowl to properly blend my egg yolks and mustard. My giant new food processor was a total let down.

That was the last straw. I went down into the basement and retrieved Old Faithful. She was not spiteful of my cheating ways. I added my ingredients to her slightly chipped old work bowl and POW. Mayo: smooth, creamy and beautiful as always.

The robotic monstrosity is still under my kitchen counter, and when I have need to shred 15 pounds of cheese or make hummus to feed a crowd, it is there, ready and waiting. But so is Old Faithful, and I pull her out 9 times out of 10 when I need to take something for a spin.


Old Faithful, the new model
 

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Everyone has their food memories of the holidays. There’s something about growing up with culinary traditions that keeps them completely ingrained in us so that as adults we can almost feel like kids again when we have those foods. The taste, the aroma…the violent mutiny.

There are some things you just don’t mess with. My mom’s sage and onion dressing is one of them.

The Kung Fu Mama failed one year to make this stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner, opting, of all things, to try something new. A violent overthrow of the kitchen almost took place, and it has had its rightful spot on the feast menu ever since.

We always had this for Thanksgiving, but this would make a great side for your Christmas meal, or heck, any time you roast a bird or have a ham. Enjoy, but beware…it’s addictive!

The Kung Fu Mama’s Sage & Onion Dressing

4-5 cups bread cubes

1 small onion, diced

2 eggs

2-3 cups chicken stock*

1½ -2 T dried rubbed sage

2 t salt

 

Put your bread cubes in a large bowl and cover with a towel overnight or for at least four hours. You want them to be dry but not crunchy.

Add the diced onion, sage and salt. Beat the eggs and stir them into the mixture.

Add the chicken stock little by little, stirring and letting it sit after each half cup addition. Make sure all the stock gets soaked up before adding more. Once you start to see stock accumulating in the bottom of the bowl stop adding liquid. You want it to be moist, not soggy.

Butter an 8-inch square glass baking dish and pour the dressing in, pressing down slightly just to make sure it is even throughout.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, until the top is crunchy and it feels spongy.

* The amount of stock you need will vary depending on how dry your bread cubes are and the humidity level in your house. 3 cups is the most I’ve ever needed.

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