Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Orleans redux

We're spending the next week (and then some) with my sister on the Gulf Coast, with frequent forays into my favorite US city besides NYC, New Orleans. I'll be doing very little cooking during that time, I'm sure; I haven't been doing much this week, either, in an attempt to empty out the fridge before we leave.

So there won't be any new posts for a bit. In the meantime, enjoy these NOLA faves from my files:

Red beans and rice (and crockpot red beans and rice)
Shrimp n' grits
Shrimp creole
Crawfish etouffee
Chicken and andouille gumbo
Seafood gumbo
Alligator gumbo
Hoppin' john

And just to put us all in the mood:

Abita Turbodog
Bayou Teche Biere
Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale

I'll be drinking plenty of Sazeracs, eating lots of oyster po' boys, and playing with my new nephew.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Sazerac

In honor of our upcoming triumphant return to New Orleans, I share with you here my favorite rye cocktail--which is also the official cocktail of New Orleans. This is the way I make it (purists may disagree).

2 oz rye
1/4 oz simple syrup
Several healthy dashes of Peychaud's bitters
Herbsaint rinse

Pour a tiny amount of Herbsaint into a glass, swirl it around to coat the inside of the glass, and pour it out. Stir rye, syrup, and Peychaud's with a little ice; strain into the Herbsaint-coated glass. Maybe add 1 large ice cube. Enjoy!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Baked rigatoni with butternut squash and goat cheese

Baked pasta is a quick and easy way to elevate a box of pasta into something more than noodles and sauce. This is particularly delicious, with all the flavors of fall.


1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lb rigatoni
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium onions, cut in half then sliced thinly crosswise
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
3 cups milk
pinch nutmeg
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs or panko

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash cubes with oil, and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet; season with salt. Bake until tender and caramelized, about 25 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta as directed; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crispy. Remove using a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towel. Pour out all but 1-2 tablespoons of fat – enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add onions, sprinkle with sugar, and cook over medium-high heat until meltingly tender and deeply caramelized, stirring occasionally (about 20 minutes). Stir in balsamic vinegar; set aside.

While onions are caramelizing, make the sauce. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat, cooking until butter smells fragrantly nutty and is a warm brown colour. Whisk in flour and cook 2 minutes. Very slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly. Cook over medium-low heat until sauce thickens, about 8 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

In a very large bowl, toss the pasta with the sauce, roasted squash, bacon, caramelized onions, goat cheese and sage leaves. Transfer to a large baking dish, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake until edges are crispy and breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Rhuby Doobie

Yesterday I tasked my husband with creating a new drink. This is what he came up with. (The name is his, too.) It's pretty tasty!

2 oz whiskey
1 oz Rhuby
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz lemon juice

Shake, serve over ice.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Pan-Am

Trying to use up the last of the mezcal. Also, I need a drink.

1 oz mezcal
1 oz bourbon
Dash of Angostura bitters
Dash of simple syrup

Combine in ice-filled glass, and stir.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Baked ziti with spinach

We're going on a mini-vacation soon (visiting family, and the Big Easy), and so you know what that means. Time to clean out the fridge. I won't be buying any groceries between now and the time we get back.

First up: baked ziti. Uses up a box of pasta, a tub of homemade spaghetti sauce, some cheese, and a box of frozen spinach.

1 box ziti, cooked until softened but still too hard to eat
4-5 cups spaghetti sauce
1 lb grated mozzarella
handful grated parmesan
1 box frozen spinach, thawed

Mix the cooked and drained ziti with the spinach, sauce, and half the mozzarella. Pour into an 8x13 casserole dish. Top with the rest of the cheese. Bake at 400 for 25-35 minutes, or until browned and bubbly on top.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apple cobbler

What better way to transform a bag of bruised apples? This time of year, bruised apples can be had super-cheap, at farmer's markets and the like.

The nice thing about this particular cobbler is that because of all the butter, the topping will spread to cover the entire top while baking.

1 stick cold butter, in pieces
3 lbs apples, peeled, cored and cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter a 9-in square baking dish. Put the apples in a bowl and toss with half the sugar. Place in the buttered dish. Combine the dry ingredients along with remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor, and pulse a couple of times. Add the butter and process for 10 seconds, until well-blended. Add the egg and vanilla by hand.

Drop mixture onto the apples (do not spread out). Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Buttermilk biscuits

This batch of biscuits, while tasty, didn't rise nearly as much as it should have. I think that means it's time for new baking powder.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter and shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Using a fork, work in the buttermilk.

Turn out the dough on a floured surface and gently roll into a 1-in tall rectangle. Cut biscuits. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 400 for 30 minutes. Brush with melted butter, if you like.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Buttermilk panna cotta

There's going to be a lot more panna cotta-making around my house, let me tell you. Easy to make, no baking required, delicious.

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4-oz packet unflavored gelatin
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar

Put the buttermilk in a saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over it; let sit 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the gelatin dissolves completely, 3-5 minutes.

Scrape the vanilla seeds into the mixture. Add the pod as well, along with the sugar and cream. Stir over medium heat until steam rises, 3-5 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit 15-20 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod and pour the mixture into 4 to 6 custard cups. Chill until set, 4 hours. Serve in the cups or invert onto plates.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lemony lentil salad

Typically, I work Saturday nights and then a Sunday double. Rather than drive an hour home, and an hour back, between 1 am Saturday (when I get off work) and 9 am Sunday (when I have to be back at work), I'll just crash with a friend of mine in Boston. That means I spend a minimum of 36 hours away from home, which means I bring a lot of food with me. Lentil salad is one of my favorite things to pack--it doesn't have to be refrigerated, tastes good at room temperature, and provides much-needed protein.

1 cup dried lentils
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
2 lemons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup minced chives
Salt and pepper

Put the lentils in a saucepan, cover with water, and add the garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until tender.

Juice the lemons and put in a bowl along with the olive oil, capers, and chives. When the lentils are done, drain them, and add them hot to the dressing. Stir to combine with salt and pepper, and let sit. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

New England spider cake

This is a new one for me. I was intrigued by its description in the New York Times Cookbook, and I had all the ingredients on hand--and you know I'm a sucker for anything cooked in a cast-iron skillet. Plus, I used up the last of the cornmeal.

The finished product is part cornbread cake, part cream cake, part spoonbread cake. There's a fascinating range of flavors and textures, from the cream in the middle to the crackly crust. And it's really easy to throw together.

I could definitely eat this for breakfast, maybe with some fruit, and feel totally healthy and justified for doing so.

2 cups whole milk
4 teaspoons white vinegar
1 cup flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the milk and vinegar and set aside to sour. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Whisk the eggs into the soured milk, then stir into the dry ingredients to combine.

Melt the butter in a cast-iron skillet. Pour in the batter. Pour the cream into the center of the batter; do not stir. Slide the skillet into the oven and bake for 45 minutes. The center should still be bouncy when you remove it from the oven. Let cool 5 minutes, then slice and serve warm.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Honey-spice cake with coffee glaze

This cake is honey and coffee and warm spices and fall all rolled up into one. Do not be ashamed to eat this for breakfast. Preferably with coffee, extra coffee glaze, and maybe even a honey drizzle on top.

From Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian:

2 tablespoons butter, plus butter for the pan
1 tablespoon grated or finely minced orange zest
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rye or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
Pinch each ground allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan (if you double the recipe, you can use a tube pan). Combine the 2 tablespoons butter and the zest in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until the butter sizzles, then turn off the heat. Combine the dry ingredients (minus the sugar) in a large bowl.

Beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture is light and thick; beat in the honey and coffee, followed by the butter/zest mixture. Add the dry ingredients by hand, stirring just to combine; do not beat. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let the cake rest in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting it onto a rack. Remove the pan, then turn the cake right side up. Let cool before slicing.

Coffee glaze:
1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee
1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon, allspice, and ginger
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Combine the sugar, butter and spices in a small pot. Cook at a slow bubble, whisking frequently, until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is slightly thickened, 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Add the coffee.

Pour over the still-warm cake.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Spice simple syrup

By "spice," I mean a mixture of star anise, green cardamom pods, and a cinnamon stick. The resulting simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, add spices and let sit until cool; remove spices) is warm and fragrant. I haven't decided what to make with it yet, but I bet it will involve whiskey.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Rendezvous

My husband's new favorite drink. And my favorite Campari rendition, definitely.

1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz kirsch

Shake with ice, strain. Serve with a lemon twist.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pasta with fresh corn pesto and spaghetti squash

This was an awesome way to use up a few ears of corn, a package of basil, and a spaghetti squash. I also threw in some fennel pollen, though that's strictly optional. Really delicious and fresh-tasting!

From epicurious:

4 bacon slices, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces tagliatelle or fettuccine
3/4 cup coarsely torn fresh basil leaves, divided
1 spaghetti squash, roasted, and peeled out of the skin

To roast spaghetti squash, cut it in half lengthwise, and place cut side down on an oiled casserole dish. Roast at 400 degrees until a fork can pierce the back of the squash. Take out and let cool. Scoop out the seeds, then run a fork down the cooked insides. The squash will peel out in strands that look just like spaghetti (hence the name). Set that aside.

Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, stirring often. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet. Add corn, garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper to drippings in skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer 1 1/2 cups corn kernels to small bowl and reserve. Scrape remaining corn mixture into processor. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan and pine nuts. With machine running, add olive oil through feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth. Set pesto aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, spaghetti squash, and 1/2 cup basil leaves. Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency, 2 to 3 minutes. Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup basil leaves and reserved bacon. Serve pasta, passing additional grated Parmesan alongside.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rabbit with mustard sauce

The other day I discovered my local Stop n' Shop now stocks fresh rabbit. Intrigued, I bought one. (Cost: $20.) It was a good-sized whole rabbit, with giblets.

I determined to make rabbit with mustard sauce, or lapin a la moutarde. First I had to make my own mustard. Then I carved the rabbit into its various pieces, and marinated the pieces in the mustard.

Verdict: farmed rabbit isn't nearly as gamy as wild rabbit. Very lean, too. (In fact wild rabbit has no fat at all.) And delicious! Well worth a $20 splurge. My hubby and I cracked a good bottle of wine and had a civilized dinner, with conversation and everything.

1/3 cup Dijon mustard
Fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 chopped shallot
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
Fresh parsley, chives, tarragon, and/or chervil
2 to 3 drops fresh lemon juice

Coat the rabbit pieces with the mustard, and sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven, and brown the rabbit 5 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan, and add the shallot. Cook over medium heat until lightly browned. Add the chicken stock, wine, and cream, and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Return the rabbit to the pan, cover, and cook gently until tender but still moist, 45 minutes.

Remove the rabbit from the sauce, and strain the sauce. Return the sauce to the pan, bring to a boil over high heat, and cook until it's reduced to about 2 cups, about 6 minutes. Add fresh chopped herbs, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce around the rabbit pieces and serve immediately (maybe with some egg noodles).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Saffron ice cream

I used up the rest of the saffron!

Note: saffron is expensive. For most recipes (maybe not this one), you can usually substitute turmeric.

1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
Scant 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
3 large egg yolks

Warm the milk, sugar and cream in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the saffron. Let steep in the fridge for 4 hours. Strain that into a medium saucepan, reserving the saffron. Rewarm the cream mixture. Whisk together the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Slow pour the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat until it thickens and coats the spatula. Pour through the strainer and add the saffron threads back in. Chill thoroughly, and make according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Homemade mustard

As I'm working my way through the weird stuff in my pantry (next up: star anise), I'm discovering new and exciting ways to use all of these things. A bag of mustard seeds = homemade Dijon mustard.

While I was grocery-shopping this week, I discovered my local grocery store is now stocking fresh rabbit. Naturally I bought one. I perused a bunch of rabbit recipes, and narrowed it down to recipes involving only things I already have (i.e., I didn't want to have to buy anything else in order to cook the rabbit). The winner: rabbit with mustard sauce, which I will cook tonight.

But I only had regular yellow kiddie mustard, no more Dijon/whole-grain mustard. I did have mustard seeds, white wine vinegar, and white wine. So I've made my own mustard for this rabbit.

No surprise, it tastes better than the store-bought stuff. I may have to start doing this on a regular basis.

Added bonus: it takes almost no effort.

1/4 cup mustard seeds
1/4 dry white wine (I used dry vermouth instead)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
pinch of salt

Combine everything in a non-reactive bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature for 2 days. Puree (keeping in mind this will never achieve a perfectly smooth consistency). Refrigerate for up to three months.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Juniper-infused vodka

In a continued quest to use up the weird stuff in my pantry, I discovered a bag of juniper berries the other day.

Juniper is what makes gin taste like gin. Juniper berries (dried) are often used with meat--say, ground up with other spices and used to coat a pork loin. At work, there's a drink made with vodka and a sage and juniper syrup. I decided to make a juniper-infused vodka and see what happened.

I emptied all the juniper berries into a jar and added vodka. I let it sit for a few days. The end result--surprise!--smelled and tasted almost exactly like gin.

I may create a new cocktail with it; I may just use it as gin.

I also recreated a batch of last year's Concord grape-infused vodka.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Huevos rancheros, improved

I've posted this recipe for huevos rancheros before, but I've discovered another way.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Coat corn tortillas with grapeseed oil, and arrange them on a cookie sheet so they're not touching each other. Bake until they start to visibly brown.

They'll be crispy and hot (just like fried tortillas, only not fried!). Top with fried eggs and salsa, and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Spinach gratin

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
1 1-lb bag frozen spinach, thawed, with all the juice squeezed out
1/2 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy saute pan over medium heat. Saute the onions 10 minutes or so. Add the flour and nutmeg and cook for another minute. Add the cream and milk and cook until thickened. Add the spinach and the cheese and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a baking dish, sprinkle more cheese on top, and bake at 425 for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve hot.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Jalapeno cornbread

I've made buttermilk cornbread before, which is arguably better. However, not having any buttermilk on hand, I made this version instead. I also used some of this jalapeno pesto (thawed), since I didn't have any fresh jalapenos either.

2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 cups flour
1 1⁄2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
2 cups milk
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
3⁄4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
3⁄4 cup minced jalapeños
2 tbsp. bacon fat

Heat oven to 425°. Whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in milk, corn oil, and eggs. Using a rubber spatula, fold in corn and jalapeños; set batter aside.

Heat a 12" cast-iron skillet; melt bacon fat in the skillet. Pour in batter; bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Barley succotash

Succotash is sort of a catch-all term, but to me, it means lima beans, corn, and bacon together in some combination. Like here. I made this succotash with cooked pearled barley, and the result was really delicious. Also filling. And used up the rest of my barley supply. So it was a win all the way around.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pepperoni and cheese scrambled eggs

What better way to use up pepperoni, right?

1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
1/2 pound pepperoni
2 tablespoons butter
6 eggs
3/4 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated white or yellow cheese
2 tablespoons scallions, white and tender green parts only, sliced on the bias

Heat grapeseed oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Fry pepperoni, transfer to paper towels to drain, pour off fat and wipe out pan. Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Whisk together eggs and milk, add to pan, and season with salt and pepper. Loosen edges to prevent eggs from sticking. When eggs begin to set, sprinkle with cheese and top with pepperoni and scallions. Remove from heat. Cover and let carryover cook until firm.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Montreal, part deux

I have to say, Montreal is much more fun to visit when it's not single digits outside.

We had a great time. We revisited Au Pied de Cochon, went to Brasserie T! and drank ice wine, drove to the top of the mountain to see the view, and ate four different varieties of poutine (including foie gras poutine). Our B&B was a little...eccentric; the owner was one of those old French dudes, whippet-thin, with wild straggly long gray hair, overgrown toenails, and the smell of a horse barn in July. The B&B itself was nice enough, a converted old Victorian townhouse. We had to share a bathroom, but since we were there on a Sunday and a Monday night, there weren't really any other people to share the bathroom with. And it was around the corner from the subway, and it was cheap.

H loved the subway, and seemed to have a good time overall. He tried way more new things than I thought he would (including foie gras), and we didn't have to resort to the jar of peanut butter and loaf of bread I brought just in case. He flies back tomorrow. He's still a bit of a handful (it never occurs to him to change his clothes, shower, or brush his teeth; it's a constant battle to get him to eat anything green), but I can see definite upward improvement. He's also showing much more personality, which is heartening.

Culinary highlights included foie gras, poutine, duck, venison tongue, charcuterie, and sugar pie (which is exactly as sweet as it sounds). We drank some good wine and some Canadian beer, and now I'm ready for the next vacation. New Orleans next month, anyone?