Wednesday, February 26, 2014

One Last Night At Home

Getting ready for a trip I let dinner simmer away in the crockpot while I sorted through the laundry and a list of chores to settle before I go.
Though brisket is a big cut, it freezes well. James will be home before me and I thought it'd be nice to have a little something special waiting in the freezer and to use up the rest of a bottle of red wine on the counter.
Looking for a easy, mostly hands off recipe I came across a hearty brisket dish by Suzanna Goin, one of my favorite LA chefs. I love the way she makes fairly simple dishes special by flawless technique, impeccable mix of flavors and worthy ingredients. Goin's recipe used beer. We had wine, so I improvised.
I started by searing the meat, seasoned with S&P, fresh thyme, crushed bay leaves, and mashed garlic for about 8 minutes on each side in hot oil (high heat) until a deep brown delicious looking crust formed on each side.  Next I set the meat aside, turned the heat down to medium high and tossed in 2 chopped onions, 3 roughly chopped peeled carrots and a sprinkle red chili peppers. After about 8 minutes, off heat I added in 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 3 cups of red wine. After the liquids were reduced by about 1/4 I added in 4 cups of stock. Goin calls for beef stock but I only had chicken so I went with it. I brought the liquid to a boil and poured everything (vegetables and liquid) over the waiting brisket in the crock pot. After 6 hours on low the meat was tender and nearly ready to serve. Here's where Goin's technique comes into play. Instead of slicing and serving in the flavorful jus like my grandmother did, Goin pops the meat (with no liquid) in a 400º oven (20 minutes) to recrisp the already flavorful crust.
Famous for her layered flavors, Goin serves her brisket with pickled onions (1 cup water, 1⁄2 cup red-wine vinegar, 1⁄3 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 1⁄2 tbsp whole black peppercorns, dash of chile peppers, and 1 bay leaf to a brought to a boil and poured over a thinly sliced red onion -- cooled and stored in the fridge) and a creamy horseradish sour cream sauce. James isn't crazy about sour cream alone so I opted for a cauliflower purée seasoned with a touch of tangy creme fraiche and fragrant horseradish.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Escaped From The Cold

We had a few unexpected very cold, very dry  nights this winter and the young Meyer lemon tree I have been babying in our backyard orchard fell victim to the weather. We lost one tree but luckily I had another tucked away on a warm south facing porch. That little tree who could gave us this beautiful bowl of bright yellow lemons ready for salad dressings, curds, and lemon tarts.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Special Doesn't Have to Take All Day

Clams are my dinner time secret weapon.
Chorizo is my favorite flavor boosting ingredient.
Chorizo and clams are a natural pair.
James love potatoes.
I put all three into one easy dinner dish.
First I cooked the chorizo in some olive oil to render the delicious red fat and crisp the sausage slices. I removed the sausage rounds from the pot and added in 1 sliced onion and a couple crushed cloves of garlic. After just a few minutes I added in fingerling potatoes cut into thick slices and chunks along with slices of briny sweet pickled peppers. The onions, peppers, garlic and potatoes cooked partially covered over medium heat (with a dash of chili peppers, salt and black pepper) for about 25 minutes until the spuds were almost tender. Then I poured in 1/2 cup chicken broth (knowing we were about to leave town again I didn't want to open a bottle of wine for just 1/2 a cup) and the scrubbed clams and covered the pot over high heat until the clams were just opened (about 7 minutes) and we had tasty broth for dunking crusty bread.
Clams seem special but couldn't be easier or much quicker to cook. "This is soooo good," James kept saying.
You can bet I'll bring home clams again.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Long Awaited Lentils

Looking back over 2014 so far I don't think James and I have spent more than 3 or 4 nights at home together. We've crossed in airports, met up in distant cities. We've missed the day to day make dinner, sit together at the table -- my favorite part of the day.
It's been months of carry out salads and sushi, burgers and anything easy.
Finally we've landed at home for a few days together and I get to see if I remember how to cook. I'm certainly out of practice.
Mercifully, since I haven't been to the store or farmers market in eons, I am a bit of a hoarder. At least an ingredient hoarder, so even when the cupboard looks most bare I can generally still manage to scare up something for dinner. Tonight with a little inspiration from Nigella Lawson and her devil may care entertaining style I whipped up a pot of lentils with Italian sausage and a simple red wine pan sauce.
I sautéed chopped onion and a dash of chili peppers in some olive oil and then stirred in about 2 3/4 cups green lentils. I covered the lentils with cold water and let them simmer, covered for 1/2 an hour until tender and most of the water was cooked away. Meanwhile in a separate pan I tossed a few cloves of garlic in olive oil and then browned links of Italian sausage. After about 5 minutes I splashed in a heavy 1/3 cup of red wine and 1/4 cup of water. The sausages cooked through for about 10 minutes in a covered pan. Now Nigella may be working with fattier sausages or she may be paying more attention than her TV demeanor would indicate. Though she claims to have a winey sauce my sausages were nearly cooked dry and so I made a quick pan sauce with red wine and balsamic vinegar just quickly reduced that I added, along with the sausages themselves to the waiting lentils. Well actually I moved the sausages out and put the lentils in their pan to take advantage of the tasty fond -- but no matter I did in fact achieve a tasty winey garlicky sauce which I topped with a generous shaving of parmesan cheese.
In just a few days we are off again but for now something homemade (and made just for you Honey) beats all the carry out in the world.