August 23, 2006

Leftover Night

As I mentioned in my previous post, we had "leftovers" tonight. Which means we took the leftover stew base from our cioppino, added some tomatoes, saffron, a pinch of new mexico chile powder, and a bit of chicken broth. Cooked up some fregula pasta in it, and then a dozen clams. (We found a bonus clam in the stew, but Emily ate it before we got to the fregula part.) The result was quite tasty. Not quite as soupy as the version at La Ciccia, but very good.I'll add a photo when Emily puts it up on flickr. (She's busy backing up photos at the moment - 15 CDs so far.)

August 22, 2006

San Francisco Treat

On Monday we made Cioppino, a seafood stew which originated in San Francisco. We used a recipe from food network, substituting lobster for crab because of availability.

This was was the first time I've cooked mussels, scallops, clams, and lobster. The Cioppoino also included shrimp, which I've worked with before. I've cooked squid before too, but I left it out this time.

the face of evil seafood trifecta

The stew base was made with a homemade fish stock that we put together on Sunday. The stew was very tasty by itself and would have made a very good meal with a can of white beans.

We decided to eat all of the meat, because we weren't sure how well cooked seafood keeps. There was some leftover broth, which we plan on cooking up with some Fregula (a toasted pasta similar to large cous-cous), saffron, and clams.

More pictures can be found in Emily's flickr collection.

I'd recommend making the stew base ahead of time, after which you can easily throw this together on a weeknight. (Otherwise, it'll take 30-45 min to put the base together.) Definitely serve with crusty bread, preferrable sourdough. And give your guests plenty of napkins or a nice, wet towel. Peeling shrimp, etc at the table can be messy. You could peel the seafood prior to serving, but that does take some of the fun out of it. :)

August 21, 2006

Steak Fajitas

And now, the steak fajita recipe. This started out as an Alton Brown recipe which mutated when I reproduced it from memory. We had this for Emily's birthday on thursday, then we used the leftovers, with a bit of cheese, to make cheesesteak sandwiches.
Rich pointed out that proper fajitas would not use soy sauce and would use poblanos rather than bell peppers. The version below is how I have been making them and is more asian in character than south-western. This is mainly because asian techniques are what I know well. (If you want to use poblanos, roast them first and don't use soy sauce - I think it will overwhelm the poblanos.)


1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup oil
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp sugar
1 lb flank steak (or skirt steak)
2 tsp chili powder


1 onion
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
2 lb flank steak (or skirt steak)

Mix the marinade ingredients together, put the meat in the marinade, and let sit for a half hour to an hour. (Turning at least once.) Dry off the meat and reserve the marinade. Rub each side with chili powder, and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a large cast iron skillet on high heat. Add the flank steak, cooking for 2 minutes on each side. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, add some oil to the skillet. Add the onions and cook them until they soften and color up a bit. Add the peppers and sprinkle with a little bit of chili powder. Fry for a minute or so. Add the marinade and cook down for a minute.
Pour the veggies on a plate. Slice the meat into thin slices against the grain and cut into 2 inch lengths. If the meat is too rare for your tastes, you can stir fry it in the pan briefly, but be careful not to overcook it. If you cook it past medium it will be chewy.
Serve with Mexican rice, black beans, pico de gallo, and tortillas.

Alton Brown's Chili Powder
3 ancho chilis
3 cascabel chiles
3 dried arbol chiles
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika

Roast the chiles and cumin seeds in a dry skillet. (10 sec / side for the chiles, be careful not to burn them) Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles. Put them in a blender and process into a powder. Store in an airtight container.

August 11, 2006

How to Roast a Chicken

This is the recipe which Emily has dubbed Chicken with Herby Goodness. I developed it from a few Jamie Oliver recipes, the first of which was in The Naked Chef, a Jamie Oliver book. A few variations follow the recipe, but this is our favorite.

Chicken with Herby Goodness

One 2-3 pound free range chicken
3 handfuls of herbs (any 3 or 4 of thyme, basil, marjoram, and parsley)
2-3 bay leaves
1 lemon

1 lb potatoes, cut into 1/2" chunks
1 celery root, cut into 1/2" chunks
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 garlic cloves, crushed (don't bother removing the skin)
Preheat a roasting pan in the oven to 425 degrees.

Wash the chicken inside and out and pat dry. (If it came with extra bits, you can save it in the freezer for broth.) Rub some kosher salt on the inside of the chicken.

Chop up the herbs, mix in some salt, olive oil, and a little pepper. Gently separate the skin from the breasts of the chicken and stuff the herbs between the skin and the meat. Afterwards, try to make sure the skin covers all of the meat. Cut a couple of slashes into the legs and thighs (so heat can penetrate) and stuff the herbs under the skin and into the slashes. Rub some oil and salt on the outside of the chicken.

Cut the potatoes into 1/2" chunks, boil them for 5-10 min, along with the lemon.

Drain the potatoes. Take the lemon, stab it about 10 times with a knife, and stuff it into the middle of the chicken, along with the bay leaves, rosemary, and garlic cloves.

Put the potatoes and celery root into the pan, put the chicken on top, put a thermometer in the middle of the breast, and put it in the oven. (You can tie up the chicken if you wish.)

When the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees, take it out of the oven. Cover it with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Carve the chicken and serve with the potatoes and chickeny rice. (I usually cut the breasts in half, and separate the legs from the thighs, so people can get a bit of each kind of meat.)

Chickeny Rice

1 cup rice
1 tbsp butter
2 cups chicken broth
1 small tomato chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 small onion, chopped

Add a tablespoon of butter and about tablespoon of light olive oil to a pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the onions and cook the for 5-10 minutes, till they soften up. (Try not to burn the butter, the oil should help.) Add the rice and let it cook for a minute or so, while stirring. It should turn a little opaque. Add the tomatoes, and let them cook down for half a minute. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil. Add the Bay leaf and rosemary sprig, stir once. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let it simmer for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off, and leave it covered for another 5 minutes.


If you want to reduce the prep/cooking time: instead of boiling the lemon, you can cut it into four chunks and stuff it in the chicken. Then put the chicken in the oven and start the potatoes. Pull the chicken out after 30 minutes, put the potatoes under the chicken, and put it back in the oven until it is done. (BTW, the easiest way I've found to pick up the chicken is to stick a fork in the cavity.)

For an alternative stuffing (under the skin), you can melt some butter (1/4 cup or so) mix in some thyme, lemon zest, and chopped up prosciutto.

August 03, 2006

Night Out

Last night Emily and I went out to dinner at Café Claude and went to see Rent at the Golden Gate Theatre. Emily got the Tuna tartare, which was arranged in a low rectangular shape, topped with a quail egg in half a shell, and festively garnished with bits of red pepper, etc. I had the lamb, which was also quite tasty, and came with a nice sauce, and a single plumb tomato which had been poached, possibly in something other than water. It was quite tasty, one of the better tomatoes I've had in a while. (That reminds me, it's farmer's market day.) Dessert was chocolate cake and Creme Brulée. Service was good, Café Claude is proudly French, as is most of its staff.

Next was Rent. We managed to get some decent seats at a reasonable price. We had a mild earthquake during the opening number, but it didn't interrupt anything (there was brief murmering in the crowd). The performances weren't as good as the movie version, but it was nice to see it live. I'll let Emily post a proper review. The next show for us will be Chorus Line in a few weeks.

August 01, 2006

Rigatoni con Salsiccia

Here is yet another recipe that will go into the book when I get around to putting it together.

This one originally came from Tastes of Italia magazine. It's fast, easy, and has been a favorite of friends and family. The recipe can also be made with baby spinach or basil in place of arugula, and tortiglioni or penne rigate in place of the rigatoni. (But not penne - the sauce is thing and really needs the ridges on the pasta.) And if you have old, syrupy balsamic vinegar, use something cheaper for this and save the good stuff for bread or dessert.

1 lb rigatoni
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup roma tomatoes, diced
4 bunches arugula
2 tbsp olive oil
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb sweet italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
parmesan cheese

Cook the rigatoni, keeping 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
Remove the casings from the sausage and crumble the contents.
Add the oil and pepper flakes to a skillet on medium heat and brown the
sausage. Deglaze with the balsamic vinegar. Turn down the heat and add
the tomatoes and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the pasta, arugula, and reserved water to the sausage mixture. Cook
on low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed.
Serve with parmesan on top.

Fillet Redux

Tonight I made the beef fillet again. This time I used a smallish, one pound piece from the smaller end of the fillet, which our butcher sells at a reduced price. Since it was small, I made the dish in a cast iron skillet. I preheated the skillet in the oven to 350 degrees.

I cut some assorted potatoes into chunks, parboiled them for about 10 minutes, and then drained them.

Meanwhile, I mashed up some rosemary leaves, thyme leaves, oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, spread it on the fillet, rolled the fillet in the prosciutto, and tied it.

I dumped the potatoes into the pan, added the fillet, stuck in a thermometer, and cooked it to 120 degrees.

(Note: I now take this dish out at of the oven between 95 and 100 degrees - remove the meat from the skillet and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting - if you leave it in the skillet, it will continue to cook.)

After resting, the beef was overdone (medium-well) but tasty. The potatoes turned out really well - there were no leftovers. I'd definitely do the potato thing again, although I'd take it out a bit earlier, and use higher heat, 425 or so. (It took too long and didn't cook as evenly as I'd have liked.)

To serve it, I sliced the fillet into one inch thick slices, put it back on the potatoes (in the skillet), and poured the juices on top.

The original recipe came from The Naked Chef Takes Off, by Jamie Oliver. It calls for a butter, porcini mushroom, and herb mixture, which I highly recommend if you don't have mushroom allergies.