Archive | January, 2012

Short and stout

25 Jan

I’ve been obsessed with celeb chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for four or five years now.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (or HFW as he is lovingly referred to amongst our friends) champions a “back to the land” type of cooking.  He encourages eating food that you’ve grown yourself or that you’ve found growing wild.  He’s also a strong proponent of raising your own meat and then eating every last bit of it.

Unlike many of his British TV chef counter-parts (Jaime, Nigella, etc.), he’s not very well-known in the United States.  As far as I know, there isn’t an American channel that offers any of his any of his programing.  Which is a little surprising because he’s been making TV shows under the River Cottage name since 1998.

Woman with very short brown hair holding up a copy of "The River Cottage Meat Book" by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Thankfully, Berkeley’s Ten Speed Press (part of Random House) has started publishing HFW’s books in the US.  When we first saw a copy of The River Cottage Meat Book at Powell’s a few years ago, Nate snatched up a copy for me.  Since then, we’ve purchased several other River Cottage books, each of which will probably be featured on the blog at some point or another.

The topic of today’s post, however, is beef in stout.  This is one of two recipes from the book that see the most action at our house (the other: cold roast beef open sandwich).  When I received the January River Cottage email newsletter in my inbox, I was excited to see that they were featuring the recipe on their website. That gave me the perfect excuse to feature it on my blog!

I want to mention that even though this is a stew, it’s not exactly thrifty.  That said, it does serve 8-10 and the flavors are big; this could definitely be the base of a meal where your goal is to impress without seeming stuffy.

Cast iron dutch oven of dark brown steak stew with mushrooms

Anyway, go forth and check out the River Cottage recipe for beef in stout.  Just to make things easy for you, I’m copying down the ingredient list from my U.S. version of The Meat Book so that you don’t have to worry about conversions.  Look at how nice I am!

  • 3 pounds chuck or stewing beef or shank
  • 8 ounces salt pork, pancetta or bacon
  • 2 tablespoons butter or drippings
  • 1 pound baby onions
  • Up to 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 4 cups stout
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A sprig of thyme
  • A few parsley stems
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms

I’ve found that baby onions are a pain in the ass to deal with, quite frankly, so I replace them with one large onion cut in half and sliced going with the grain.  I’ve left out the bacon before but my taste-testers noticed a difference.  We usually use Guinness Extra Stout (in a bottle) which has a little more bite than the Guinness Draught (in a can).  You can use whatever you like!

HFW recommends accompanying your beef in stout with dumplings or mashed potatoes.  Personally, I like buttered egg noodles, and roast squash and Brussels sprouts with mine but the choice is up to you.

Also, in case you’re wondering if this post is affiliated with anything HFW or River Cottage or Ten Speed Press, it’s not.  Nope, I’m just obsessed!

Cold and spicy – roast broccoli

22 Jan

roast broccoli with flecks of red chili

A few weeks ago as I was making dinner for a get-together with a friend, Nate informed me that we would be having a few more guests than I had originally planned for.  Thankfully, we had some good looking broccoli in the fridge that I quickly prepped and threw into the oven.  Despite taking the shortest amount of time to prepare and being made of the cheapest ingredients, the broccoli stole the show.  Everyone who has eaten this has asked me how to make it; it’s so easy that I can’t help but feel somewhat embarrassed when I give them the directions.  If you make this, you will probably be surprised when you taste it.  In a good way.

roast broccoli on a plate, covered with specks of red chili

The secret to both the ease and the big flavor of this recipe is this pre-made chili garlic sauce.  A bottle of this stuff costs around $3 and you can buy it at pretty much any grocery store that has a mediocre Asian food section.  You can put it on just about anything, but for now I’m sticking to broccoli.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut your broccoli into florets and place in a medium to large bowl.  You can also slice up the stem and add that if you so desire.

Mix a spoonful of chili garlic sauce in a small bowl with high temperature cooking oil (veggie, canola, or peanut).  The sauce by itself has a chunky consistency; you should mix it with enough oil so that it resembles a thick salad dressing.

Pour your chili oil mixture over the broccoli and toss until fairly evenly coated.  Dump the broccoli onto a baking pan and roast in the oven until the edges of the broccoli are brown and crispy, it should take somewhere between 25-35 minutes.

roast broccoli with flecks of red chili

I think that this kind of cooking is really more of an art than a science.  If you like things hot and spicy, use more chili garlic sauce.  Add a little soy sauce if you want.  Have tons of broccoli?  Go for it.  It will shrink in size as it cooks anyway.  Add a little sesame oil when it comes out of the oven.  And a little salt and black pepper never hurt anyone!

It’s taken me a while, but I’m finally becoming comfortable enough in the kitchen that I don’t always have to follow recipe.  I don’t know about you, but I think that cooking becomes so much more interesting when you give yourself the freedom to experiment a little!

Honorary SOPA/PIPA post

18 Jan

Bearded man in a coffee shop with a black censor box over eyes that says

If you’ve visited Wikipedia or Google today, you’ve probably noticed that things look a little different than usual.  Many popular websites are holding “blackouts” in protest of current legislation in the U.S. chambers of Congress that would effectively censor the internet.

Bearded man in a coffee shop with a black censor box over eyes that says "STOP SOPA"

Just in case you’re looking for more information on the SOPA and PIPA legislation, I want to share my partner’s recent post on the subject.  Nate’s blog post “For #SOPA Blackout day: a challenge to make things better” not only describes the issue at hand but recommends an alternative course that we could and should take instead.  I highly recommend that you check it out.

Here’s to a censorship-free internet!

Let’s talk about sex(ism)

17 Jan

Despite only being in existence a mere five days, this blog of mine has already developed a bit of a theme: homemaking.  So when one of my Facebook friends shared the article “How Much is a Homemaker Worth?” I knew that I wanted to post it here.  The authors of the article have calculated what the costs of homemaking services might be on the market.  The services include personal chef, house cleaner, etc.  According to the article, the yearly services of the average homemaker would cost over $96,000.

Homemaking and other “women’s work” has traditionally been undervalued not just by those who rely on the efforts of the homemaker, but by society as a whole.  I think one of the most common (and misinformed) critiques I hear of feminists is that they’re opposed to women being homemakers, that they think that homemaking is not a worthwhile endeavor.  For me, feminism means that women don’t HAVE to be homemakers.  It means recognizing the real value (financially and otherwise) of homemaking and other traditionally undervalued tasks, services, and careers.

This article isn’t really written from a feminist perspective, but it’s really nice to see a discussion of the value of homemaking on a mainstream site like Yahoo! Finance.

Illustration of a blue hand flipping the middle finger at a banner that says "DEAR PATRIARCHY."

While I’m on the topic, check out the Etsy shop Made by Midge for some sweet feminist paraphernalia, including this awesome poster that I’ve been lusting after.

Cold and spicy – kimchi babies

16 Jan

Tossing cabbage for kimchi

We didn’t have a white Christmas this year but we are currently enjoying a bit of a winter wonderland.  We woke up yesterday morning to about an inch of snow.  Now I realize that only in Oregon (and California, I guess) would an single inch of snow be worth mentioning.  We hardly get any snow (some winters we don’t see any at all) so when snow sticks around for more than an hour or so, it’s a big deal.

Bearded, bespectacled man in a red and white 49ers sweater playing in the snow and making a snowman.

Nate had today off of work so he spent the morning making a snowman.  Check out his awesome sweater.  As a kid his favorite NFL team was the 49ers so when I saw this sweater for a few dollars at a thrift store, I had to pick it up for him.

I think that one of the best types of food to accompany cold weather is spicy food.  Nate thinks that one of the best types of food regardless of the weather is spicy food.  So, we decided to make kimchi today.  Nate had picked up a giant package of Korean red pepper flakes in Portland over the Summer.  We walked a few blocks in the slush to the natural food grocery store and bought everything else we needed.

A metal bowl of chopped cabbage and a white plastic bowl of bright red kimchi paste.

After learning that they shared a love for it, one of Nate’s favorite customer’s gave him a recipe for homemade kimchi.  The recipe comes from online Korean cooking star Maangchi, whose website is a treasure trove of cute cooking instructional videos and tasty recipes.

Tossing cabbage for kimchi

We made a few adaptations to Maangchi’s easy kimchi recipe.  Instead of Napa cabbage, we used savoy (it was all they had in stock at the store) and we adapted the recipe for approximately four pounds of cabbage.  We also omitted the fish sauce in the kimchi paste, replacing it with a little soy sauce.  I don’t usually have an aversion to fish sauce but we had made this recipe before and with one cup of fish sauce, I found it to be a little too fishy.  Rather than just cut back on the fish sauce, we decided to cut it out entirely so that we could share the kimchi with our vegetarian friends (if we don’t eat it all ourselves first)!

Photograph of a man mixing red kimchi paste onto chopped cabbage.

I recently happened upon another recipe for kimchi on the Splendid Table website.  The recipe is from The Korean Table: From Barbecue to Bibimbap by Taekyung Chung and Debra Samuels.  I find it really interesting to see the differences between two recipes for the same thing.  Maangchi’s recipe has more julienning (a task I’m not particularly fond of) so next time I may try the recipe from The Korean Table.

Holding up a container of finished kimchi.

This large container of kimchi is now making itself at home in our refrigerator.  It takes a while to develop the sour, fermented taste when kept at cold temperatures, so we put a little kimchi in a small, separate container and left it on the counter.  Tomorrow, if it smells sour and looks bubbly, it will go into the fridge with a head-start on its fermentation.

Now we just need to figure out what to do with all of this kimchi.  We’ll snack on it little by little, but I’ve been eying a few recipes that should help use it up.  Maangchi has a recipe for kimchi stew with pork belly (or tuna) and tofu.  The Splendid Table has a recipe from Ming Tsai for pork kimchi with noodles.  And, of course, there is the ever popular kimchi fried rice.  Do you have a favorite recipe that uses kimchi?  With all of this kimchi, I’m definitely looking for recommendations!

Diamond in the rough: 1950’s kitsch bar

15 Jan

I think I’m becoming a bit of a visual pack-rat (thanks a lot, Pinterest!).  Rather than fight it, I want to document of some of the amazing vintage gems available locally that I’m not able to adopt.

An illustration of a blue diamond caught in a pink and grey lasso. The text says "diamonds in the rough: craigslist round-up."

The special guest in this craigslist round-up is a 1950’s red and black lacquer bar and stools set.  Look at this beauty!

Midcentury red and black lacquer bar with two black stools with red upholstered seats.

The current owner says that it “kind of looks like ‘The Jetson’s’ meet Japan.”  To me, it looks like it could be a lost prop from Blade Runner, with the mid-century, “futuristic” shape of the bar and stools paired with the delicate Asian detailing.  Can’t you just imagine Harrison Ford circa 1982 stopping for a drink before he tracks replicants?  Only $1500 and this baby could be yours (Harrison Ford not included).

We got the beet

14 Jan

A slice of tarte with small dark purple beets and chunks of parsnip.

Despite being known as an advocate of nose-to-tail eating, in his most recent program, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (my favorite British celeb chef, eat your heart out Jamie Oliver) decided to spend the summer as a vegetarian.  The River Cottage Veg series documented his journey and when I saw River Cottage chef Gil cook up a savory baby beetroot tarte tatin, I knew I had to try it.

The first time I fixed the beet tarte wasn’t without incident; when I went to return the skillet to the oven after adding the puff pastry, I grabbed the skillet handle with my bare hand.  Here’s a tip: don’t do that.  Not only do you feel like an idiot, but your hand hurts like hell for the duration of the party you were making the beet tarte for.  Thankfully, it wasn’t anything an ice-pack, liquid lidocaine, and some gin couldn’t fix.  And the tarte turned out well.  We were having a holiday feast with Middle Eastern food so the tarte was served sliced, drizzled with a tahini-yogurt dressing and sprinkled with chopped parsley and crumbled feta.

A slice of tarte with small dark purple beets and chunks of parsnip.

Yesterday’s lunch was leftovers of a parsnip and beetroot adaptation of the tarte.  I cooked it following the same directions and Nate made a dijon mustard vinaigrette.  Next time I might top it with this sweet-tart fresh mint sauce from Lynn Rosetto Kasper instead.  If you want to make a baby beetroot tarte tatin (with or without parsnips), I have a few tips:

  • Gas mark 5/190 degrees Celsius is roughly 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  • You can easily use frozen puff pastry instead of the homemade stuff (I did. Shhh, don’t tell…)
  • Don’t grab the hot skillet without an oven mitt!

Truly eggcellent pizza

13 Jan

A diptych of two photos of a slice of pizza with an egg on it. The second photo shows the egg being cut with a fork and yolk running out onto the plate.

During the college years, homemade pizza was a frequent occurrence.  Decent pizza toppings could regularly be scavenged from even the most neglected of refrigerators and fresh pizza dough from the local market was cheap.  Sure, we didn’t have a rolling pin so the pizzas were usually misshapen and lumpy, but I liked to think that just made them unique or rustic.

The post-college years have seen considerably less homemade pizza action.  I guess moving into a town with an exceptionally good pizza place (American Dream Pizza, which I would highly recommend) will do that to you.  Still, homemade pizza occasionally makes an appearance.  This past summer, we made a few pizzas on the BBQ, which while both entertaining and delicious is not the topic of this blog post.

Nope, this post is about pizza with eggs on it.

Photo of a homemade pizza topped with prosciutto, green onions and two eggs.

I’m guessing that anyone that reads this post will have one of two responses to pizza with eggs on it.  Either, like me, they are a huge fan of runny-yolked eggs and could hardly imagine a better pizza topping, or they can’t imagine why a person would be so crazy as to ruin a perfectly good pizza.

I hope you are in the former category.  If not, this post may not be for you.

This pizza is topped with a homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto, green onions and two eggs.  I tossed the green onions in a little olive oil so that they would be sure to crisp up rather than steam in the oven.  We arranged the toppings in such a way to have little pouches for the eggs to sit in, that’s why the onions appear to be in a grid.  This arrangement probably could have held four eggs, but since there were only two of us to share this pizza that seemed like it might be over-doing things (as if putting eggs on pizza isn’t already over-doing things).

We baked the pizza in a very hot oven on a pre-heated cast iron pizza pan.  Pizza recipes usually seem to suggest baking the pizza from anywhere from 8-15 minutes.  At our house we usually judge whether our pizza is done based on looks and smell rather than by how much time has passed (partly because we usually forget to set the kitchen timer).  We cooked the pizza until the crust started to turn golden and the cheese was melty but not yet turning brown.  Then we removed the pan from the oven and cracked eggs onto the “nests” we had built with our pizza toppings and returned the pizza to the oven.

Image of a bearded man with black framed glasses slicing a pizza with a mezzaluna, or large half-moon shaped pizza cutter.

Personally, my egg preference is over-easy, with completely set whites but completely runny yolks.  This can be hard to achieve in the oven so I kept a close watch on the pizza.  If you like your eggs similarly, remove the pizza when the whites of the eggs are mostly set but still a little jiggly.  Since they are on a seriously hot pizza, the eggs will continue to cook after they come out of the oven.  Once out of the oven, you can add salt and pepper and/or parmesan cheese as your heart desires.

Want a more solid yolk?  Either add your eggs to the pizza earlier or poke the yolk with a fork after you add it to the pizza.  It will combine with the whites and cook a little more quickly.

A diptych of two photos of a slice of pizza with an egg on it.  The second photo shows the egg being cut with a fork and yolk running out onto the plate.

Really, though, why would you want a more solid yolk?  Usually I’m against eating pizza with a fork.  In this case I’m happy to make an exception!

Mother hubbard squash pie

13 Jan

Baked hubbard squash pie with a pie crust decoration of the state of Oregon with a heart cut out of the middle.

“Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To get her poor dog a bone;
But when she came there
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.”

I’m familiar with this old Mother Goose nursery rhyme but I’m not sure what, if any, connection it has to the mighty and delicious (or should that be mighty delicious?) hubbard squash.  We planted one hubbard squash plant this past summer, which should have yielded several squash.  Due to an unfortunate (but understandable) mix-up of the hubbard with a globe zucchini plant, we ended the growing season with only one full-sized hubbard squash.

A diptych with two photos of a bearded man with plastic framed glasses holding a large, green, hubbard squash. In the second photo, he is tossing it in the air.

Due to the “rarity” of homegrown winter squash at our house, it was of utmost importance that we put it to good use by fully utilizing its deliciousness.  I’m not sure why, then, I decided to use it as the filling in my first fully-homemade pie, considering that homemade pie crust is infamously finicky and difficult to get “just right.”  Now, I’d made several pies before, but always with store-bought crust.  Any purists out there may be scoffing at me, but honestly those Pillsbury refrigerated crusts aren’t half bad.  And they save a ton of time, as I found out from this cooking session.

Start to finish, it took me several hours to make a single pie.  That said, some of the extra time was due to using fresh squash rather than stuff from a can.  I peeled the squash, chopped it, roasted it in the oven, and then pureed it in the food processor.  The cool thing about making a squash pie is that from this point on you can follow any standard pumpkin pie recipe.

Image of a piece of pie crust cut into the shape of Oregon with a small heart cut out of the middle.

Back to the crust.  I followed the single crust recipe in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  One of the benefits of making your own crust is that you have the freedom to be more creative.  A trick that my dearest Momma often uses to add some visual pizzazz to her pies is to cut a shape out of the leftover crust.  She often adorns her pies with dainty little pie crust leaves and swirling vines.

Not wanting to be too much of a copy-cat (and, quite frankly, doubting my ability to handle something so fragile), I instead free-handed a rendition of my second favorite Oregon iconography.  Baked on a cookie sheet until brown, this tasty treat waited on the counter until the rest of the pie was finished baking.

Baked hubbard squash pie with a pie crust decoration of the state of Oregon with a heart cut out of the middle.

Upon first taste, I found the pie to be a great success.  If you’ve never had a pie with homemade squash or pumpkin, you’re really missing out.  I don’t want to be a culinary elitist; pie made with canned pumpkin is perfectly decent and I doubt you’d ever see me turn down a slice.  That said, once you try the alternative it’s difficult to go back.  As far as the crust goes, the critic in me thinks that it could have been flakier but I didn’t receive a complaint from any of my taste-testers.  In fact, people cleaned their plates!

While I’m on the topic, what’s the plural of squash?  Is it also squash?  I’m guessing that it isn’t “squashes” but I could be persuaded otherwise!

Guess who?

12 Jan

Photo of Fern the keeshond, a small, grey, long-haired dog with pointy ears.

In case you haven’t heard, we have a visitor!

Photo of Fern the keeshond, a small, grey, long-haired dog with pointy ears.

Fern the keeshond will be staying with us until mid-March.  Despite being a rescue dog with “issues,” Fern is starting to display more of the fun-loving and playful traits that the breed is known for.  My childhood dog was also a keeshond, so the breed will always have a special place in my heart.  Their good looks don’t hurt either, though.  You can also spin their fur into yarn for knitting and crochet projects.  Just imagine keeshond hats, sweaters, mittens, you name it!  I haven’t tried it but I sure hope it doesn’t smell like wet dog.  This may be one kind of DIYing that I decide to pass on!