Spring is in the Air



No it’s not. It’s frigid out. Even though the crocuses are in bloom and the tulips and daffodils are starting to poke out of the ground, winter refuses to leave. Nonetheless, because I believe in the power of positive thinking I made a downright springy farro “risotto” with peas and spring herbs (chives, tarragon, and basil) for dinner tonight. What’s more with a little weekend prep this can be a 30 minute weeknight meal. Sous Vide the pork (and then just reheat it in the sous vide machine the day you want to eat it). Boil the farro (in stock if you have some) on the weekend as well. When you’re ready to eat sautee some shallots or scallions in butter, add the peas and cook until just short of tender crisp, throw in some minced garlic and your cooked farro and heat until warm. Finish with herbs, parmesean cheese, and a splash of cream. Sear the pork chops. Eat dinner. 



Fiola, DC

You don’t need a review from me to tell you that Fiola is excellent and expensive. What you do need me to tell you is that they currently have one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever eaten. It’s the hand cut tajarin Peimontese. For 34 bucks you get pasta with Spring Asparagus & Peas, Pecorino Foglie Di Noce, Organic Sunny Side Up Egg, and Norcia Black Truffle Sauce (they do half portions).  As the menu indicates it’s finished tableside. Go! Quickly! No, go immediately! I just ate it last night and I’d go back for lunch today if I could! Obviously I was too excited to take a picture.

Healthy Post Vacation Dinner

Returning from a few decadent days in Mexico had me craving a healthy, homemade dinner. There wasn’t all that much in the fridge but I wasn’t about to leave a tail-wagging beast to go back out in the cold. So I threw some brown rice and wheat berries in the rice cooker with some broth. Made a quick slaw of Brussels sprouts, snap peas, carrots, and some canned water chestnuts. A garnish of chives and scallions and a light dressing of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil it brought the slightly old vegetables back to life. The only meat I had was kielbasa (not that different from Chinese sausage I decided). So I sautéed it with Chinese cooking wine and Hoisin sauce, pretty good actually. Made a quick sauce (mayo, fish sauce, and garlic/chili oil) and threw some kimchi into the mix. Satisfying and fairly healthy (pay attention to the whole grains and raw vegetable and ignore the sausage). And even better the left overs can be topped with a 63 degree egg in the morning.

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That’s the Most Beautiful Grain Bowl I’ve Ever Seen

Said nobody ever according to the Bob. They have suddenly become ubiquitous though and I have always loved them (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/10/08/dining/grain-bowls-how-to-make-your-own.html?referrer=) They are a great way to stretch out a piece of meat (less, better meat is a thing we try to do around here) and are incredibly satisfying and can be so prettily composed. So despite the accusation that I was trying to make my husband strap on a feed bag, I set out to convince him that the grain bowl is indeed a thing of beauty.

First the base. I love white rice. I was an early adopter of wheat pasta and wheat bread, but a bowl of steaming, sticky white (short grain) rice just can’t be replicated with whole grains. Even so, no feed bag is made up of white rice alone. So I made a mixture of short grain white and brown rice with wheat berries.

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I topped it with: carrots glazed in butter, honey and soy sauce; fried sprouts; kimchi; half a sous vide pork chop browned in butter (see, less meat); and some chopped cilantro and onions. The sauce was some nuoc cham from Honeycomb doctored with some herbs, garlic, and extra lime juice. Turns out the feed bag hit the spot!

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Chicken Skin Tacos

I would say that it was this article that inspired me to make chicken skin tacos: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/dining/chicken-skin-beguiles-chefs.html?_r=0. But it was the 87 cent package of green circle chicken skin at the butcher. I just found the article when I Googled chicken skin taco after I had decided that’s what I needed.

Do this. Get some small corn tortillas. Heat them. Add a smear of home made refried beans. Top with avocado, fried chicken skins (deep fry until crunchy, sprinkle with Maldon salt) the usual taco garnishes (cilantro and onions, you know the drill), and the hottest hot sauce you can find (this thai chili hot sauce came from Honeycomb in Union Market). Eat. Repeat.

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Seafood in Coconut Broth

Serious Eats (the best cooking website ever IMO) posted about Marcus Samuelsson’s salmon in a sea of coconut milk from his recently published Marcus Off Duty (http://www.amazon.com/Marcus-Off-Duty-Recipes-Cook/dp/0470940581).  I love salmon, I love coconut milk, so I made a riff on it (no way the Bob was eating avocado in soup, hearts of palm don’t kill me, and the miso seemed sort of out of place).  It was pretty good.  But then I got to thinking, what I really wanted was a coconut shellfish soup.

So recently I have been making one with what I would call more of a procedure/plan rather than a recipe. Lobster tails  are key here (our Harris Teeter has them for four to six bucks a piece for small wild caught Canadian ones – you probably wouldn’t steam them and serve them with drawn butter but they work admirably in this preparation) as are shrimps (head on if you can find them). I set a cup of light chicken broth (though you could really just use water) on the stove and toss in the lobster shells, shrimp shells, shrimp heads if I have them, and some aromatics (usually lemon grass, a Thai chili, some cilantro stems, a slice of ginger, a kafir lime leaf, a few scallions, and a couple smashed cloves of garlic).  Then I let it boil. Meanwhile, sous vide the lobster and shrimp meat (around 130 ish) for 20-30 minutes.  This doesn’t have to be perfectly exact since they will be going into hot broth.

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Add water to the broth as necessary and after about 20-30 minutes you should have a rich broth redolent of the sea.  It really is that easy. Fish everything out and strain through a cheese cloth (usually only necessary if there were shrimp heads) until you have a broth that looks something like this:

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At that point add coconut milk to taste (though really don’t use the light stuff) and toss in some Asian greens (this time I used the tops of baby bok choi) and sliced water chestnuts.

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While the greens are softening prepare a nuoc cham type sauce (palm sugar, fish sauce, lime, chili, garlic).  I doctored the nuoc cham from the market run by the chaps from Toki Underground in Union Station (http://unionmarketdc.com/market/artisans/honeycomb-grocer/) by adding some garlic and a hint of agave.  As an aside, that market  is seriously amazing since they make so many Asian sauces fresh so I don’t have to any more.  Also chop up some scallions and cilantro leaves. And pull out your chili garlic oil (you can make this ahead, just buy from the Asian market – or if you live in DC swing by Union Market and pick it up from Honeycomb). Seriously I can’t tell you how great having that shop around is.  It’s like somebody’s nice Asian grandmother in the form of tatted up hipsters.

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When the leaves are cooked as you like them, dump in the nuoc cham and seafood  and you’re good to go.

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There are so many ways to serve this. You could omit the greens and serve it alone as a fancy appetizer – which is quite charming for dinner parties.  But on most nights I want a full meal in that bowl so I pour it over rice or pre-cooked fresh ramen noodles (also from Honeycomb – have I mentioned that place is ah-mazing?). Finish with fried garlic and a drizzle of chili oil.

However you serve it, you get a satisfying dish that packs all of the sweet, sour, spicy, and salty flavors one craves from Southeast Asian cuisine. And if you hate seafood, just stick with good homemade chicken stock, sous vide a breast so it stays tender and use that. I bet it will be good too. Or pork … the options abound!

Sous Vide Butter Chicken

I don’t often cook Indian food at home and I don’t often consider something called “butter chicken” Indian food. But the Bob loves the stuff. And then I recently tried the version from Rasika – which was very good.

Then, last weekend the NYT cooking newsletter showed up in my inbox and Sam Sifton had a butter chicken recipe with bone in chicken thighs and ground nuts. Ok well that’s like the murg makhani that my grandmother makes. So I decided to give it a shot.

Since I had promised Bob his favorite Indian restaurant food I decided to go with boneless chicken. But boneless skinless breasts that most restaurants use are dry even if simmered in cream. Instead I made a yogurt and spice marinade and tossed cut up thighs into the sous vide for 2 hours.

While they were cooking I sautéed a red onion in butter until soft and slightly brown. I added some garlic, ginger, san marzano tomatoes, tomato paste, turmeric, garam masala, fenugreek, 2 black cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick (fished out before serving), ground cumin, and chili powder. (I didn’t have a fresh chili which would have been preferable).

All of this is just to taste, so experiment because it will depend on the strength and freshness of your spices. I let it cook (adding water if it looked too dry – while the sous vide did it’s magic on the chicken). I fired off the chicken when it was ready, stirred the yogurt marinade into the curry, added a dollop (more than a dollop) of heavy cream, some cilantro and sliced scallions. I say bring it on Vikram Sundaram!

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I served this with leftover palak paneer with home made paneer and naan and rice from the local Indian joint (it’s just way easier that way).

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Tip on the plain rice: reheat it in the microwave with really good butter and saffron on top, it’s divine.

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Oh and if you don’t have a sous vide machine I say use thighs and leave the bone in, tender chicken really is key here.