Category Archives: Entree

Overnight Ox-tail Soup

I don’t how many of you are fans of You’re Doing It Wrong, but I am not. I firmly believe that there are at least 9 ways to skin a cat and 4 ways to dice an onion. BUT, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t little tricks out there that can help you improve certain dishes. Rinsing rice (except arborrio), and swapping bananas for eggs in scones come to mind. Here’s another: pretty much any soup will taste better the day after you make it. This is particularly true of a soup wherein you cook the meat first, because it gives you the opportunity to remove the fat which will solidify in the refrigerator.

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Overnight Ox-tail Soup

First Day:

-1 1/2 lbs ox-tail

-1/2 inch dice of aromatic vegetables (3 carrots, 3 stalks celery, 1 medium onion, 3 cloves garlic minced)

-2 bay leaves

-1 Tablespoon dried spices (I like to use equal parts thyme, rosemary and crushed red pepper; but feel free to mix it up)

-28 oz. can crushed tomato

-1 Tablespoon tomato paste

-Enough water to cover the meat

This definitely falls onto the complex end of the spectrum, but I promise you, it’s simple enough. Bon courage! And remember, this is a soup, so most of the measurements are ballpark and to taste.

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In a dutch oven, brown the ox-tail sections (I’ve never seen a whole one at the butcher’s, but if that’s all they have ask to have it cut) on all sides over a medium-high heat. This is an occasion to wear an apron, there will be spatter, and it will stain your shirt or burn your arm. Remove to a plate, but leave the fat in the pan. Add in the aromatic vegetables (what the French call mirepoix) and stir these until soft, the plan is for them to turn to mush by the time it’s done. Add the remaining ingredients, turn the heat down and let this whole business simmer at least 3 hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and add water if it gets lower than the meat, but you can leave it alone for the most part. After a good simmer, let the soup come down to room temperature and then refrigerate it overnight.

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Second Day:

-1 1/2 c red wine

-Vegetables (this time we used half of a patty pan squash, a dozen Brussels sprouts, and maybe a pound of potatoes, but you can do whatever you want)

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Remove the solidified fat from the top of the soup (this time I got most of a cup!), add the wine and return to a boil. I suggest using a red that you wouldn’t mind drinking with the soup, this time I used a Spanish tempranillo that Svetlana at the Bottle Shop pointed us to.  Add the vegetables and continue to cook for about an hour or so. By then the vegetables should be ready and  the meat fork-tender. Done. Simple, non?

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Oyster Season! In Soup Form!

To me, the oyster is like an avocado in one important respect: I fail to see how you could possibly improve upon it in it’s natural state. Open, eat. Perfect. But there’s been a lot of oyster related stuff happening in my life lately: I just finished The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky, (a fantastic read if you have an interest in both food history and the history of New York City) I’ve recently picked up some part-time hours at a restaurant which is known for it’s bivalves, and most recently I’ve been plowing through How to Cook a Rogue Elephant, a gastrologue by Peter Van Rensselaer Livingston, which is both entertaining and highly informative about the history and preperation of a great variety of dishes. While most of his recipes are well into the complex end of the spectrum, he lists an oyster soup which, unlike similar recipes does not, as he puts it, “spoil both the oysters and the milk.” The key, apparently is to cook the oysters through as opposed to heating them slightly and adding them at the end. The recipe I’m using is sufficiently different that I’d feel weird calling it his recipe, but he still deserves the shout out.

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Oyster Soup

-3 cups half-and-half at room temperature

-1 medium onion, 1/2 inch dice

-2-3 Tablespoons butter

-1 pint oysters, strained with liquor reserved

-1/4 lb smoked sausage, 1/2 inch dice

-2 teaspoon sea salt

First, melt your butter over a low heat and add the onions. Cook them slowly until they are just getting translucent, but not brown at all. If needed, rinse off the oysters, then add them to the pot and bring the heat up to medium-high. A substantial amount of water will be released, this is fine. About 5 minutes on, the oysters should look a bit cooked. More of a matte finish, less of a high-gloss.

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Now this next part is important: Turn the heat down as low as it will go, add the oyster liquor and half-and-half (which should be at room temperature otherwise the shock can cause breakage.) Leave for at least one hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. If it gets too hot, it will break. If it breaks, it will still be delicious just not as pretty. Boo. Season with 2 teaspoons salt at this time.

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While you wait, brown the diced sausage over a medium heat until nice and crispy. I’ll level with you, I meant to take a picture of the sausage and forgot. You know what crispy looks like, right? Do that. Either swirl these in right before serving or sprinkle on top in each bowl. This soup will serve 4 as a starter or 2 as a hearty main course with salad and focaccia.

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The Fabled Lowcountry Boil

I’ve always been a big fan of regional specialities and food culture. New York pizza, New Jersey diners, Midwest cheese curds, California avocados (really all the produce,) and not just America: I’ve had gyros in Greece, perogies in Poland, and gelato in Italy (sadly I can only claim two continents worth of food experience.)  But yes, my expertise does lie mostly in American cuisine and I don’t think there is another place with so many regional specialities as the Carolinas, specifically the South Carolina Lowcountry. This is one of the only areas in the United States where you can find locally grown tea, raw peanuts (they’re almost always roasted before shipping,) and frankly the best shrimp that money can buy.

Luckily, I got to spend last weekend on Edisto Island with some family and I had an opportunity to whip up a proper

Lowcountry Boil (all ingredients are approximate based on preference and hunger)

per person:

-1/2 lb. shrimp, head off, unpeeled

-1/4 lb. smoked sausage (something like a kielbasa)

-1 ear corn, shucked, broken in half

-3 – 4 red potatoes (2 or 3 inch diameter)

-2 teaspoon Old Bay

-you can also through in some quartered onion or halved lemon for flavor

Rinse your potatoes and put them in a great big pot half full of water. Add your Old Bay and heat until boiling.

When the potatoes are about halfway done, 10 or 15 minutes after the water boils, add the corn and sausage and return to boil.

After 5 more minutes add the shrimp to the pot. In 3-5 minutes the shrimp will be cooked and dinner is ready.

If you’re lucky and can eat this outside; the traditional manner is to eschew plates, spread newpaper on a picnic table and dump the contents of the pot in the middle of the table. If you’re eating inside, you’ll probably want a big bowl or platter and a couple pairs of tongs.

I also got a chance to pick up some of the aforementioned raw peanuts and brought home 5 gallons of ocean water. I’m working on harvesting sea salt as I write this. Stay tuned for updates on that and Hot Boiled Peanuts. If you want to learn more about the Lowcountry, click here. You should click there, it’s an amazing place.

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Pasta with Chicken in Cream Sauce

Being that I am someone who loves roast chicken means that you will probably find more than a few leftover chicken recipes here (over the course of the next few years.) Today we have one of my favorite stand-bys, Chicken with Cream Sauce. Although from the look of my stove top this may fall more into the “Complex” category, don’t be daunted. We’ll take this one burner at a time.

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The upper-left burner has one and a half shredded chicken breasts simmering in some water to tenderize and heat up. Simple, right?

Moving clockwise we have the pasta pot, boiling away with 1/2 lb. of angel hair (although a short pasta such as penne or fusilli might work better here, I just like angel hair.) A note on pasta: second to homemade, I like Barilla. It’s easy to find, has a variety of shapes, and is of a very good quality for the price.

Along the front row I have the makings of cream sauce (which is similar to, but not strictly speaking, alfredo.)

Cream Sauce

-1 cup half-and-half

-2 Tablespoons butter

-2 teaspoons black pepper

-1 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

Bring the half-and-half along with the butter and pepper to a simmer, stir frequently until it’s reduced by half. Do not add the cheese. That comes later.

When the pasta is ready and the half-and-half reduced, toss them together with the chicken in a big mixing bowl.

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Use a tongs if you have it, otherwise go with the two forks method. Which I’m assuming doesn’t need an explanation. Once everything is evenly distributed and well covered with the sauce, sprinkle on the  Parm and continue mixing. We do it this way so the cheese doesn’t clump.

Now, that little pan in the bottom-left hand corner has some garnish in it. It’s just 1 Tablespoon of capers which have been patted dry and minced. I then heated up about 2 teaspoons of oil in my little pan and stirred them around in there until they got nice and crispy-looking. Be sure to pat any excess oil off, and sprinkle over the pasta as you plate it. Enjoy.

If you have leftovers from this, you can re-heat with a little more cream (or stock) and serve with a lovely roasted or sauteed vegetable. I think I’m going to go with corn.

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Update on Corned Beef and Liqueur Recipes

My computer’s been on the blink (fixed now, though) which is why this week’s post is a little late.

Today I just wanted to re-visit two of my previous posts and give some updates.

Corned Beef Revisited (original post)

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It’s been two weeks since I started corning this nice brisket, and right now I have a few options:

1) I can let it keep going for a little while longer before boiling it

2) I can go ahead and boil it now

Since my sister-in-law is coming to visit with her family this weekend, I’m going to hold off. I’ll boil it for a few hours on Friday, slice it while it’s hot, and serve it Saturday for sandwiches.

Ice Cream Liqueur (original post)

Back when I did my Leftover cake liqueur post I mentioned that I should try it with ice cream. Well I finally got around to buying some Ben & Jerry’s “everything but the…” and whipping up a batch. Wow. You have got to try this. And I encourage you to experiment. This one was good, but let me know how other flavors turn out.

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-1/2 cup ice cream (any flavor)

-1/2 cup vodka (I stick with my Tito’s)

Mix together the vodka and ice cream in a blender or a bowl and hit with an immersion blender just long enough to melt the ice cream and get the chunck broken up.

Let sit at least four, preferably six hours so all the flavors can mingle and mellow.

Strain trough a fine strainer, double cheese cloth or butter muslin to get out any grit from ground up chunks. Serve chilled, room temp or in coffee. So easy, so good.

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Corned Beef: Homemade Charcuterie Vol. 1

I’m not usually one to go on about where my ingredients come from, I prefer to just assume you’re getting the best you can afford and go from there. This, however, requires some backstory: Annually, my father will raise a cow (maybe a pig or two) to have slaughtered and stock up the big freezer with meat. Generally my sister and I get a cut of the haul, but since my wife and I just spent 3 years in Iowa City, IA this time the cut came with conditions, “Well, whenever you move back to The South, there’s a quarter of a cow with your name it.” As if we didn’t want to get home enough already. Luckily, The Missus landed a gig at University of Georgia in Athens.

We don’t have enough freezer space to accommodate that much meat, so we’re getting it in batches. The folks will be coming down this weekend for the holiday and all we have left of the last batch is a wee brisket and the ox tail (which we’re saving for the fall and ox tail stew season.) Time to use up that brisket and make room for some flank steak. And time to do something I’ve always wanted to do:

Corned Beef:

-1 brisket (mine is 2 lbs.)

-2 Tablespoons sugar

-2 Tablespoons pickling salt (any fine grain salt will do, as long as it’s not iodized)

-2 teaspoons black peppercorn

-2 teaspoons allspice berries

-2 teaspoon juniper berries

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Combine all your dry ingredients and blend them up good.

Place your brisket in a non-reactive dish, and coat with the dry mixture. Make sure to cover the whole thing.

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Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, flip the brisket once or twice a day for 1 week.

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Next week we’ll take a look at it and I’ll have a Potato Bread recipe that I’ve been having luck with lately.

 

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Chicken and Corn Risotto

Generally speaking, there are two schools of thought on homemdade stock. First, we have the ‘make a giant batch and freeze it’ camp; then we have the ‘make a little bit when you want to’ camp. I’m in the second camp. That said, I’m not a big stock maker. I like my Better Than Bouillon. The major exception here is when there has recently been roast chicken. Chuck them bones in a pot with a quarter of an onion, some garlic cloves, spices (rosemary, thyme, sage, black pepper) and any good veg scraps you happen to have on hand (in this case corn cobs.) Cover with water and let simmer for a few hours and there you go. Delicious stock and a delicious smelling house. If it’s is a bit weak, you can always reduce the stock a little to concentrate the flavor. Remember not to add any salt until after you’ve reduced it. Otherwise just enough salt can turn into way too much. Now that that’s out of the way let’s make some risotto!

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-1 1/2 cup short grain rice (Arborio is usually what Americans use although some prefer Carnaroli, which makes a nicer sauce but is more expensive and the rice stays firmer)

-4 1/2 to 5 cups broth (homemade or not)

-1/2 large onion, diced

-3 ears of fresh corn kernels (cobs in the stock)

-bits of chicken picked off the carcass

-2-3 Tablespoons oil

First things first, don’t rinse the rice. The reason I mention this is that many rice dishes want you pre-rinse. This will remove the starch which coats your rice, which is all well and good when you want your rice fluffy but is the exact opposite of what you want for risotto. The starch is what makes the sauce.  No rinsing.

Keep the stock in a small pot over a low flame to keep warm. If it gets too hot it will evaporate, so keep an eye on it.

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Step one is to sweat down your onions. To do this, combine the oil and onions in a large pot (I prefer my 6 quart dutch oven) set on a medium-low heat and stir. The goal is to get the onions translucent without any browning, so keep the heat low and stir often.

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Once you’ve accomplished this task (good job), add the rice and corn. What we’re concerned with here is the rice, so don’t worry about the corn. Stir the rice so it’s mixed in evenly and keep stirring so it toasts at the same rate. First it will go kind of clear, that’s good. When it starts to brown and smell a little nutty, it’s ready. Add the first cup of water. This will absorb pretty quickly but don’t add more that one cup at a time. Stir often and add each cup as soon as the liquid from the last one is soaked in. Allegedly, you need 3 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of rice. This is a lie. Err on the side of having too much liquid. Be patient, stir often, add the stock slowly. After adding the last of the stock, give it a taste, it will probably need salt and maybe some more spice. A little rosemary wouldn’t hurt in this recipe, and I find corn and black pepper go together very well. Since the chicken is already fully cooked, just stir that in at the end.

You’ll know it’s ready when the sauce is creamy and the rice is al dente, soft but not too soft. I like the word “toothsome”.

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