Thursday, January 28, 2010

split pea and pancetta soup

Pancetta's fermented porkbelly power means you need a lot less of it than normal weak ham, and can also get to the eating more quickly than pigfoot-based pea soups. Also, get some garlic and heat in there. 

1-2 small onions, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 carrots, diced
1-2 ribs celery, diced
red pepper flakes
0.5 lb pancetta, 1/2" dice
8 oz dried split peas
~6 c stock/water (I used roughly equal parts, with a pretty strong chix stock)
bay leaves

Sweat the vegetables in a little oil, then add red pepper flakes to taste and cook for a couple minutes more. Turn up the heat, add the diced pancetta, and keep everything stirring for a while. When the fat in the pancetta starts to liquefy, add the peas, stock/water (I just guessed at the amount--should be enough to cover by 1.5 in. at least), and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 1.5 hrs or so, until the peas lose their individuality and resolve into a generalized green medium. Then, and only then, check and, if necessary, adjust seasonings. The pancetta brings a lot of salt to the picture, so if you season too early you can really mess things up. Serve with toasted crusty bread in a bar in Amsterdam.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

corn and goat cheese enchiladas with reddish brown "mole"

This is adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and know I should have gotten suspicious when I saw that it took less than a day to make. Now, I've never been a big mole person myself, but I have friends who've gone far down that path, and it's rare that a good one takes under a good farm workday over slow heat to really come into itself. This recipe gave that part of the cooking like 20 minutes or so, in no way enough to get the flavors all grooving together. It also involves no seeds or nuts or whole chiles. But then again, I don't really like mole enough to care how pure it is, and it's a weeknight, and I had some extra red chile sauce on hand from a trip to ABQ, so everything's fine. There's lots of cheese, there's piñons and corn and onions and garlic and cilantro, how bad can you fuck that up?

1.5t each: coriander, anise, cumin, Mexican oregano, all toasted and ground
1 onion, fine dice
2-3 cloves garlic
1 oz. Mexican chocolate
cinnamon to taste
1/2c red chile sauce, plus more to taste
sherry or red-wine vinegar

Cook onion till it's getting clear, then add garlic and spices and cook till fragrant. Remove from heat, add chile and some water, and bring to a boil. Cook it down slowly, then when it's getting pretty thick add the chocolate in chopped up pieces, stirring to incorporate, and then a little vinegar. Keep cooking, very low, then when everything is soft as can be, puree it all in a blender and then put it back on the heat. Depending on preference (and remembering that this is going over enchiladas) thin with water or thicken with time, and adjust seasoning. If possible, put it away for a few days to allow the magic of compound interest do its work.

1/4c raisins, soaked in brandy and/or warm water
1/3c pine nuts, coarse chopped and lightly toasted
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5c corn off the cob
1.5c shredded pale mild cheese (I used a tasty morel mushroom jack)
2 c soft goat cheese/chevre/chopped and screwed feta
12 corn tortillas
oil for to fry in
sour cream
chile powder

Once the raisins are tumid, drain and then briefly go over them with a knife and add them to the piñons in a bowl big enough for everything else. Saute the onion, then throw in the garlic, then the corn. Cook for a bit over reasonably high heat, to get some brown on the corn if possible. Season as you see fit with salt, pepper, chile powder, whatever else. Add to the bowl, along with the goat cheese, a cup of the shredded cheese, and good amount of chopped cilantro. Check seasonings.

Preheat oven to 375, and start heating a good amount (at least 1/4") of oil in a pan than can handle it. One by one, dip the tortillas in the oil for a few seconds, just long enough to saturate and soften, and remove to drain the oil. (Lower fat method: use a pan of warm red chile sauce diluted with water for to dipping. Since red chile is precious to me, and I'm a fat fuck, I went for the more traditional oil method.)

Put filling into tortillas one by one, rolling and setting seam side down in a casserole (a dozen fits a 9x13 perfectly). Pour/spoon mole over the top, then the remaining shredded cheese. Bake uncovered 25-30 mins. Plate, fork, sour cream.

Monday, January 4, 2010

quick and dirty chicken soup

We are sick people. It probably originated with a Georgia 3-year old before Christmas, but it started getting bad on the far too relative-filled trip to Vegas. It was all we could do to stumble across the street for either wildly overpriced or absurdly cheap food-court meals, depending on which end of the specials we ended up; any kind of real gambling at a table with other humans would have been a deeply antisocial move. Weaving down the Strip with a comically oversized frozen drink? Unfortunately, this was impossible. For my part, it could be the H1N1 or the seasonal or some vicious hybrid, but E was supposed to be inoculated against all of this. All I know is that for a few bedridden phlegmy days, it looked like the microbes might take this one. Whatever the essence of Las Vegas is, we either slept through it or were too sober to notice.

In any case, when we straggled home on New Years Eve there was only one clear path, and thankfully The Ladies were still open to supply most of what we lacked.

1 small onion
2 carrots
2 ribs celery
a lot of garlic
2 chicken breasts
1 qt dark chicken stock
white wine
red pepper flakes

1. Peel and cut onions, carrots, and celery into roughly uniform soupy-sized pieces, and start sweating them in olive oil. Coarsely chop a bunch of garlic and throw that in, too, and shake some pepper flakes in as well. Sneeze repeatedly.
2. Dice the chicken and brown it with s&p in some oil elsewhere (assuming it's raw--otherwise the juices will all run out and cloud up the soup as they cook). When it's browned enough, deglaze with white wine, scrape the goodness, and pour this all in with the vegetables. Add the stock, which thank god you had plenty of in the freezer.
3. Cook this until the chicken is tender but veggies still have some bite. Add a bunch of chopped parsley and adjust seasonings.
4. Squeeze lots of lime in it as you eat. Keep some cock sauce at hand just in case the pepper flakes don't get the juices running.
5. Feel the healing power as viruses and bacteria flee in terror.

Friday, January 1, 2010

moi je suis le paysan

Not a bad start to the year. This morning we had baked beans on toast; tonight we had French lentil soup along with a loaf of bread I made last night. We were pretty ragged from travel, having just come back from ABQ the day before, and with nothing terribly thrilling on offer for New Year's Eve, we decided to stay in. I started a loaf of that no-knead bread of yore (18 hours in the laundry room), made sweet potatoes, kale and barbecue seitan for dinner, and got drunk off blood-orange-and-prosecco cocktails -- which were bitter, like my 2009. Today I baked the loaf, went on a bike ride, started a company and got halfway to patching a hole in our bedroom wall. And then, tonight, French lentil soup.

Easiest thing you ever did on a stove: 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 garlic clove, 1 bay leaf, 1 cup of lentils and some thyme, plus 6 cups of stock or water and some salt & pepper; veggies are your classic country-boy chop. Everything but the onion and garlic go into a pot, bring to a boil, let it simmer for 30 minutes. Meantime fry up the onions and garlic til soft; once the lentils are done, add onion mix to the pot. Et voilà!

Part of my parents' Christmas gift to us was a stock-up trip to Trader Joe's. The bulk of our haul was cheap booze, but also onions and boxes of stock and a slab of prosciutto for me. For my soup, I added a little parsley chop and a half slice of prosciutto all torn up. Serve with five-dollar TJ pinot noir, and life is beautiful. No, it's nothing fancy, but tomorrow you'll wake up in time to feed the truffle-hunting swine, clean your Chapuis rifle and recherches tes temps perdu.

rillettes, end of it all

Miraculously, the rillettes are fine, all 2 porky quarts or so of them. Some kind of cross-membrane sodium exchange must have happened as they sat quietly beneath their lard blankets for a week, because they ended up meaty, mellow, and delicious. Slightly salty by themselves, but spread on bread or a cracker they're fine. Since we had to cancel the party they were meant for out of lingering fluey nast, we will also get to see how they evolve over time.