Sunday, February 22, 2015

Kokkari: Moussaka

Eggplant and I have not always gotten along.  Apparently I am not alone in this.  But I was able to overcome my issues with eggplant thanks to a fabulous little Greek casserole I had while traveling in Europe.  Called moussaka.  No, I wasn't sure what was in it before I tried it.  Probably best.  But I can confirm that it's meaty, creamy, starchy, and all-around fabulous.  And it may just convert some eggplant-phobics in your life, too.

From Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors

2 globe eggplants, each about 1 pound
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds Yukon gold or other yellow-fleshed potatoes
Béchamel sauce
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
½ cup grated kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese
½ cup Greek-style whole-milk yogurt, homemade or purchased
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Lamb Filling

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove the ends of the eggplants and score them lengthwise in 4 to 6 places, then cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices. Arrange on a wire rack and salt both sides lightly. Let drain for about 1 hour, then pat dry.

In a bowl, combine the eggplant slices and the ½ cup olive oil. Toss to coat the slices evenly, then arrange them on a heavy baking sheet in one layer. Season both sides with salt, using a total of 1 teaspoon. Grind some pepper over the top and bake until the eggplant is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and slice them ⅜-inch thick. Toss them in a bowl with the 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Arrange them on a heavy baking sheet in one layer and bake until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. (You can bake them at the same time as the eggplant.)

Whisk the béchamel until smooth and no longer stiff. Whisk in the egg, egg yolks, cheese, yogurt, and nutmeg to make a custard topping.

In a 15x10x2-inch baking dish, arrange the roasted potatoes in a single layer. Top with the lamb filling, compacting it into an even layer with the back of a wooden spoon. Top with the roasted eggplant slices in a single layer. Dollop the custard topping on top, then spread gently into an even layer. Set on a baking sheet and bake until well browned and set but still quivery, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing.

Serves 8

Béchamel Sauce
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
7½ cups whole milk, warmed

In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour all at once and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture just begins to darken and smell nutty, about 3 minutes.

Add 2 cups of the milk to the pot and whisk until smooth. Add another 2 cups and whisk again until smooth. The mixture will look like creamy mashed potatoes. Whisk in the remaining 3½ cups of milk and 1½ teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes to eliminate the raw flour taste. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent the sauce from scorching, and scrape the sides of the pot occasionally with a heatproof rubber spatula.

Transfer the sauce to a large bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let cool.

Lamb Filling
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound white onions, chopped
2½ pounds ground lamb shoulder
¼ cup Italian tomato paste
2 tablespoons honey
2 bay leaves
1½ teaspoons ground allspice
1½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Pour the olive oil and the onions in a large skillet. Sauté over high heat until the onions soften slightly and begin to smell sweet, about 4 minutes. Do not allow them to color. Add the ground lamb and sauté, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the lamb is no longer pink and there are no clumps, about 3 minutes. Continue cooking until the meat releases its juices, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Drain in a colander set over a bowl. Return the meat to the skillet. Let the juices settle for about 5 minutes, then skim the surface fat with a soup spoon and return the skimmed juices to the skillet with the lamb.

Add the tomato paste, honey, bay leaf, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ½ tablespoon salt, and several grinds of pepper. Simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the meat is moist but not soupy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Fritz Rahr and Terry Chandler: Rahrzehnt Beer Braised Short Ribs

I think I need to change my favorite phrase.  It is now "Everything tastes better with bacon...and beer."  Seriously.  These ribs were amazing.  They have this flavor that is indescribable.  And for the chile-averse, they're not spicy.  Highly recommended for that cold evening when all you want is some really tender, flavorful beef.  And beer.

Rahrzehnt Beer Braised Short Ribs
Adapted from Fritz Rahr of Rahr and Sons Brewing and Chef Terry Chandler from Fred's Texas Café, Ft. Worth, TX

2 tablespoons ground guajillo chile powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
4 pounds beef short ribs
Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 (22-ounce) bottle Rahrzehnt Imperial Chocolate Milk Stout
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups heavy cream, reduced by half

In a small bowl, combine the chile powder, cumin, granulated garlic, and black pepper.  Dust the ribs with half of the chile powder mixture and salt liberally.

In a Dutch oven, heat oil until shimmering.  Quickly sear the ribs on all sides in batches.  When the ribs are seared, set them aside in a bowl, and pour off any extra oil.  Pour in the beer, the remaining chile powder mix, the sprigs of thyme, and bay leaf. Scrape the bottom of the pot to get up the browned bits.  Return the ribs to the pot, cover, and simmer for about 2 hours and 45 minutes, or until the meat is tender and pulls away slightly from the bone.

Remove the ribs from the liquid, then skim the fat from the liquid. Stir the heavy cream into the liquid and bring back to a slow boil.  Cook until the mixture thickens slightly.  Salt to taste, then pour the gravy over the ribs and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Veg Recipes of India: Gobi Masala (Spiced Cauliflower)

Indian food is so amazing to me.  I still can't believe how much flavor they manage to pack into one pot.  Seriously.  It's like a party in your mouth.  I think most Americans don't like it because it seems almost excessive after the blandness of white bread.  But this is friggin' fantastic.  And it's definitely going into the usual rounds.

Gobi Masala (Spiced Cauliflower)
From Veg Recipes of India blog

1 large head cauliflower
2 medium Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon dry-roasted cashew nuts
3 large cloves garlic
1 (½-inch) piece ginger root
5 tablespoons canola oil, divided use
1 small bay leaf
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon red chile powder
½ teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons full-fat Greek or Indian yogurt. whisked until smooth
1½ cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream
½ teaspoon crushed dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
Pinch of grated nutmeg

Separate the cauliflower into medium florets, rinse well, and set aside.  Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  When the water is boiling, add the cauliflower, cover, and remove from the heat.  Let blanch for 15 minutes.  Drain the cauliflower in a colander and set aside.

Put the tomatoes and the cashews in a blender, and puree until smooth.  If the mixture is too thick to blend, add a little water.  Set aside,  Mash the garlic and ginger together to form a paste.  Set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large pan, kadai, or wok.  When the oil begins to shimmer, add the drained cauliflower.  Sauté on medium heat until the florets begin to brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove the cauliflower from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  Add the bay leaf and caraway seeds, and fry for a few seconds until the oil becomes aromatic.  Add the chopped onions, and sauté until the onions become golden and caramelized, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger paste to the onions, and sauté for a few seconds until the raw aroma of the mixture goes away.  Pour in the tomato mixture and stir well.  Add the turmeric, chile powder, garam masala, coriander, and cumin and mix well.  Sauté the mixture until the oil starts to leave the sides of the masala.  The whole mixture will start to clump together and you will clearly see oil leaving the sides.  This is an important step, as if not done properly, the flavors won't come through in the finished dish.

When the masala is ready, remove the pan from the heat and add the whisked yogurt.  Stir well, and then pour in the water.  Stir again, and then move the pan back onto the heat.  Add the salt and the sauteed cauliflower.  Stir and partially cover the pan.  Simmer the cauliflower for approximately 15 minutes, or until cooked through.

When the cauliflower is tender but not mushy, mix in the heavy cream, fenugreek leaves (if using), and nutmeg.  Stir well and adjust seasoning, if necessary.  Serve with rotis, naan, or rice.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, February 01, 2015

A Korean Mother's Cooking Notes: Yangnyeom Tak (Korean Chicken in Sauce)

It's Super Bowl time!  Which means it's wings time, right? I'm normally not a huge fan of spicy chicken wings.  Not because I can't do spicy.  Mostly because your average wing is all spicy and nothing else.  And I want more than the feeling of my taste buds searing.  This recipe gives the chicken wings a nice tangy sauce, and you can amp up the spice level as you wish.  I find that using a ¼ teaspoon of Tabasco (in addition to the gochujang) is sufficient to get a nice spiciness while still being able to taste the other flavors.  But if you need to feel the pain, go for the full teaspoon.

Yangnyeom Tak (Korean Chicken in Sauce)
Adapted from A Korean Mother's Cooking Notes

2 pounds chicken wing drummettes (about 16 drummettes)
6 tablespoons soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 tablespoon red pepper paste (gochujang)
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ to 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
½ cup chopped onion
Sesame seeds, for garnish

Season chicken wings with soy sauce, black pepper, chopped garlic, and chopped ginger, and let stand for 1 hour to marinate.

Brown the chicken pieces in a non-stick pan on all sides.  Drain any fatty oil.  Add the rest of the ingredients, cover, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, turning a couple of times during simmering time.  Some chicken meat is juicy and some not, so add water as needed.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

Makes 4 servings