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Recover the American kitchen.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sour milk is our friend. Chef Nick's Irish Soda Bread.

Here's how it plays out. I love dairy. Ice-cream, cheese, cream, milk and cookies. Alas, as I've grown somewhat older I have become increasingly lactose intolerant. I buy milk to use in some recipe and it just sits there and turns. I know this happens at your house, I've been there. Please don't throw it out if it smells a little funny, sour milk is really useful.
 What's happening is that the lactose is turning into lactase, an acid that we can use with another common kitchen item to make a powerful leavening agent. Use sour milk as a substitute for anything that calls for buttermilk. Screw the stores. Reuse. 
 One of my favorite recipes (yes I bake ok?) I make one for myself and I always give one away, either a neighbor, coworker or friend. Spread the love. The family has to wait until Christmas for theirs.
Crusty, crumbly and absolutely delicious.

Irish Soda Bread:

Mise en place:

4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
pinch Cardamom
1/4 cup butter (half a stick) No you may not use margarine, holy shit I can't believe it tastes like the bottom of my foot.
1 3/4 cup sour milk*
1 egg*
1/2 cup raisins, dried currants, dried cranberries. You decide.
A clean level surface, either a counter top or large cutting board.
a small amount of flour for dusting
a large mixing bowl and a baking sheet, or cake pan or silmat..whatever
* room temperature. Just leave them out for a few hours, it's ok I promise.

Put all the dry items in a large bowl. Flour first ok? Combine.

Plop the butter right into the center and using your hands rub it into the flour stuff until it looks like cornmeal. I SAID USE YOUR HANDS !! I can see you trying to use your big fancy mixer, I will end you now.
What we're doing is dispersing the fat all through your finished product and the best way to do that is by feel.

   see it really does look like cornmeal

OK time for the wet stuff. The reason the milk and egg need to be at room temp is so that we don't shock the dough. Now, empty the contents of the eggshell into the milk and beat together slightly. Dump this all at once into the bowl and start mixing. 

Once all combined add your dried fruit. Mix again and turn out onto kneading surface. 

  hey Nick, is that the Swedish Chef from the muppets? Why yes, yes it is. Are we going to have a problem?

Keep some flour between the board and the dough as well as on your hands, the dough is sticky. Don't worry about adding too much flour during kneading. The recipe is very forgiving. Knead for a few minutes just until it smoothes out a little. Divide into two rounds and shape.  Using a very sharp knife cut the traditional cross on the top. Brush with melted butter if you like. I do but it's not crucial. 

Pre-heat your oven to 375. Place on baking surface, whichever you prefer. I use a 10" cake pan. You won't need to grease or flour. There's plenty in the dough itself. 

Bake for 40 minutes, test by thumping the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it's done. Cool on rack completely before slicing. I had mine today with some fantastic Peach and Raspberry preserves one of my friends sent me all the way from Utah. Thanks Becky-boo !!!

That's it. Remember to share. Go get your grub on. Ciao

  My baking shirt. Why, what do you wear?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How's your Momma an dem? Jambalaya.

One of my favorite dishes. Easy, spicy and so very satisfying.  Jambalaya is a true American mutt. Some French a little Spanish a touch of African and a whole lot of necessity caused this dish to be. So easy to make it's almost foolproof. If you don't have all the ingredients, don't worry. You can add or subtract at will. 

I have Cajun blackening powder listed. I usually have it pre-made and store it in a small container and refill as needed. It's not really measured out just go with what feels right to you. 


1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 pound chopped andouille sausage
1 cup chopped leftover ham
3-4 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless cut into 2 inch pieces 
2 TB cajun blackening powder (paprika, fine salt, cayenne, dry thyme, black pepper, cumin, dry oregano,chili powder, ground black pepper)
1 large onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
1 cup long-grain rice
2 cups tomato puree
2 cups chicken stock
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

* I also included about 6 IQF shelled shrimp (20-30), I had some in the freezer

Now the basis of Cajun cooking is the use of "the holy trinity" which includes green pepper, celery and onion. The ratio is typically 2 parts onion to one part each of celery and pepper.
If you want to adjust this go right ahead.
Once all of your ingredients are gathered together and prepped it's time to start cooking. Ready? I timed this and from beginning of prep to removal from the oven was about 1 hour, 10 minutes. Doesn't get much easier than that.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
Heat up your pot with the butter and oil in it. Add your sausage and chicken, lightly brown off.

Add your holy trinity and a big pinch of salt and pepper, sweat for a minute, add your blackening powder and one bay leaf. Sweat for another minute. Add rice and stir gently to coat. 

Add your tomato puree and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. Do not stir aggressively at this point. The rice now is very brittle and if you stir roughly you will end up with something that looks like red oatmeal.

Once simmering, put your pot in the oven covered until rice is completely cooked, about 20 minutes or so. Again, do not stir.
Once rice is tender, remove from oven and let sit on top of stove for about 5 minutes. At this point I added my IQF shrimp which had already been cooked off. 

Serve with a hunk of good crusty bread and some Tobasco Sauce if you want to turn the heat up.
That's it, easy right? 

 Go get your grub on. Ciao.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What's in the garden

Sorry everyone for the big delay in posting but I scored a bitchin' new pad complete with garden space. Expect dinner invites soon.

I have some wonderful friends. For the last 6 months I have been living without a garden. "So?" you might say. For me it's like you living without electricity. I love soil, rocks, green things and even bugs.
 Through the generosity of friends I received some wonderful herbs, vegetables and whatnots. Nothing beats food grown yourself. Thank you Lisa and James, Elsie and Sharon.
 Minestrone is for Italians what Chicken Soup is to everyone else. Love from Mom, love from home, cure-all and a hug for the heart and tummy. Simple but filling and nothing to feel guilty about. Here we go.


First, a cooking term you might not know. Italian soups and sauces are often started with something called a "battuto". It's similar to the French mire poix but is chopped much much finer. How finely chopped? Wait for it.


one large carrot or two medium
two stalks of celery
one large onion
garlic clove
3 strips salted pork (I used bacon, why not?) If you are going vegan, just omit and use olive oil.
pinch of dried chili flakes
salt/pepper. Do I have to say Kosher and fresh cracked again?
one red bell pepper, seeded and minced
one zucchini squash minced
one yellow squash minced
*no big chunks in Minestrone
fresh green peas
one can white beans, drained
2 cups tomato juice
 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
handful of dried lentils
one cup of small pasta
one bay leaf
some fresh chopped parsley
some fresh chopped oregano
chiffonade of basil, save some for plating.
some good bread. ok I baked my own but you don't have to. Just toast it up, drizzle with olive oil and rub with a raw clove of garlic.

Grab a really sharp knife. Get the first five ingredients and start chopping.
We need to get this to a paste. Why? the more cut edges we start with, the better the flavor of the finished product. It's way past small dice, beyond even a brunoise. Need a picture?

I know, crazy right? Sure you can use your fancy shmancy food processor but it spins so fast and tends to grind rather than chop and renders way too much liquid out. 
Heat up your soup pot and splash some olive oil on the bottom. Add the buttuto, salt and pepper, bay leaf and chili flakes. We just need to sweat this through, no browning here. 

Add the rest of your vegetables and herbs. I said minced right? Yes I did. We need our garden in every spoon. 

Knife skills. 

Sweating through again. Add all the tomato juice and stock. Bring to a boil and add your beans. bring to a simmer again and add your pasta and lentils. Simmer until cooked through, about 30 minutes or so. Check your seasonings, last chance. That's it, you're done. 
Plate by spooning into a bowl, sprinkle with extra basil and parmesan cheese. The crap in the green can is evil and wrong. If you use anything other than real parmesan I will summon my ancestors to kick your ass. Serve with a slice of bread as discussed above. 

Now go get your grub on. Ciao.

ps. If you want the recipe for a quick and easy bread, let me know.

Just for fun, here's some pictures of the new pad.