I made that!

Chili Verde!

Posted in All Things Pork, I Like Salt Too by brandi on October 10, 2010

Oh tomatillos. They are everywhere. In my kitchen at least. It was a pretty full harvest from my garden and now I am elbow deep in them while trying to find the best salsa recipe. But before that, let me tell you about my most favorite stew. Chile Verde it’s called, and I just go bananas for it. There’s tomatillos, chiles, pork, cilantro… it’s a delicious thing. Since Seattle is slightly lacking in the Mexican food department, I’m long overdue for a bowl.

I started by roasting the tomatillos under the broiler with some garlic.

Then I roasted until black some chiles over the flame of my stove.

Lots of pork was diced up.

And browned in a wide shallow pot. Afterwards some onions were added to get nice and soft.

Then I pureed those toasted tomatillos, garlic and chiles with some fresh jalapenos and cilantro.

I added the puree to my pork and onions with some chicken stock and let her simmer for 3 hours. And then we ate ourselves silly.

CHILE VERDE RECIPE:

2 lb tomatillos

6 garlic cloves, not peeled

3 Anaheim or Poblano chiles

3 Jalapeños, seeds removed, chopped

1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped

4½ lb pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes

Olive oil

2 small yellow onions

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 TBSP dried oregano

3 cups chicken stock

– Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Cut in half and place cut side down, along with 6 garlic cloves, on a baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

– Roast the Anaheim chiles over a gas flame or under the broiler until blackened all around. Let cool and remove the skin, seeds, and stem. Roughly chop.

– Place tomatillos, skins included, into a food processor. Remove the roasted garlic cloves from their skins and add them. Add chopped Jalapeño peppers, Anaheim chilies, and cilantro. Pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed.

– Season the pork cubes generously with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed dutch oven over medium high heat and brown the pork chunks well on all sides. Work in batches so that the pork is not crowded in the pan. Using tongs, lift the browned pork out and place in bowl. Set aside.

– Pour off excess fat, leaving 1 or 2 tablespoons. Place the onions in the same dutch oven and  season with salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until limp, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add the pork back to the pan. Add the oregano, the tomatillo puree, and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a slight simmer. Cook for 2½ – 3 hours uncovered, until the pork is tender.

– Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt. Serve with rice and warmed flour or corn tortillas.

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The eggplants have arrived!

Posted in I Like Salt Too by brandi on August 19, 2010

Eggplants. They rock.

It took me a while to discover this. Mostly because of texture. An eggplant really has to be cooked down to its last dying breath before I want anything to do with it. Too few minutes in the oven and I might as well be chewing on a waterlogged Nerf ball. But those few minutes of cooking later and I’m feasting in eggplant heaven. And what better to way to pulverize an eggplant’s spongey texture than with baba ganoush.

First things first, roast the eggplant. I roasted it over the flame of my stove burner. This adds the smokey flavor that makes baba ganoush taste like baba ganoush. I roast it until it is completely mushy, practically falling apart. The softer you get it over the flame, the more buttery the puree will be. If you lack a gas stove, then it’s possible to roast in the broiler, but it won’t be as tasty.

Then I let the eggplants sit in a sealed tupperware for 15 minutes or so. The idea is to steam them a bit more and to allow them to cool down enough to handle. Resist the temptation to let them cool completely, because this too will result in a less smooth puree.

Once finished steaming I peel their purple skins off.

I put them (sans stems) in the food processor with tahini, lemon juice,  minced garlic, salt and pepper. I let it puree for a few minutes. The result should be smooth and fluffy. Taste for salt, because every eggplant is different, you know? From here you want to let it sit for a while in the fridge. 4 hours is sufficient, 12 hours is better. Think of it like a soup, it just needs a little time to have all of its flavors meld together. Right before serving I like to stir in some fresh parsley and top it with toasted pinenuts. No photos of that today though, because well, we ate it too fast. It happens.

BABA GANOUSH RECIPE:

2 medium or 3 small eggplants

1/2 cup tahini

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup lemon juice

fresh cracked black pepper to taste

1 tsp salt

fresh parsley

toasted pine nuts

I Grew That! And then I cooked it!

Posted in I Grew That!, I Like Salt Too by brandi on July 15, 2010

I’ve been debating about whether to share this part of my cooking world, out of worry that some might find it boring. But I just can’t hold back anymore, because my garden is fully intersecting with my kitchen now, and I suspect it’s only going to get more intense! So here it is: Since moving to Seattle, I have been gardening my little tush off. I signed up for a month long course at Seattle Tilth, ordered some seeds from Territorial seed company, hit the Home Depot store (many, many times) and I was off! First I planted perennials around my yard: a sour cherry tree, a pear tree, a meyer lemon tree (potted since they don’t love Seattle as much as I do), blueberry bushes, strawberries, raspberries, an artichoke plant and asparagus. Those won’t really produce much this year, as they’re busy building up their roots. But man is next year gonna be fun.

Once all of those plants were settled, I got to work on building veggie beds for my annuals. If you’ve spent much time in Seattle then you know that winter takes its sweet time passing the baton to spring. This makes for a shorter growing season than California, but a growing season that is JAM PACKED. I began in early March and after a couple rounds of spinach and arugula, things are in officially in full swing. It’s all so magical that I started taking photos of my bounty so I could prove it was really happening! So here’s my garden!

Beautiful (and spicy) french breakfast radishes.

Lots and lots of butterhead lettuce.

My first baby carrots!

Baby chiogga beets.

Russian banana fingerling potatoes!

And my personal favorite (which is great since we have them coming out of our ears now), English peas!

One of the (many) things I love about gardening is how things are just ready when they’re ready. And when that happens, you’ve got to act quick. Me and John received a CSA box for a few years before leaving San Francisco, so we started getting pretty good at designing dinner menus around what was in the fridge that week. Gardening is kind of like that, except you get all of one plant type at once! It was definitely hard keeping up with the mountain of arugula and spinach, but we did manage to eat all of our butter lettuce before the slugs took over. And the radishes and carrots, we destroyed them.

The peas, however, they just keep on coming! Everyday I harvest about 2 cups, shelled, and we just add them to whatever is cooking. I discovered that peas barely blanched and then tossed with butter, tarragon and a little black pepper REALLY rocks my world. Bucatini all’Amatriciana only gets better with a pile of peas thrown in. Chicken Tikka Masala? Add some peas! Last night John cooked dinner and he made a Venetian style risotto dish that I feel should be shared, (even though I suspect the rest of the country is well past pea season) because it showcases English peas beautifully. I suspect this recipe will make it into the pea rotation every spring (or summer if you live in Seattle).

RISI e BISI (Mario Batali):

Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil

4 small shallots, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

2oz prosciutto, finely diced

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

8 cups chicken stock, hot

1 1/2 cups fresh peas

4 TBSP butter

1/2 cul freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

salt and pepper

– In a 10-12 inch saute pan, combine the olive oil, shallots, celery and prosciutto and cook over medium heat until the shallots and celery are softened but not browned, 8-10 minutes.

– Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes, until it almost opaque. Add enough stock to just cover the rice, turn the heat up to high, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the stock begins to be absorbed, then add another ladleful. As the level of the stock dips below the level of the rice, continue to add stock one ladleful at a time, to keep the rice covered, stirring constantly. After 15 minutes, taste the rice, it should still be quite hard.

– Add the peas and continue to cook for about 4 more minutes, adding a little more stock if necessary, until the rice is tender and creamy yet still al dente. The risotto should be quite moist, but not swimming (I actually like it swimming), you may have a little stock left over.

– Remove from the heat, add the butter and cheese, and stir vigorously for 25 seconds. Season with salt and pepper and eat immediately.

The Hottest Buns in Town

Posted in All Things Pork, I Like Salt Too, Playing With Yeast by brandi on July 5, 2010

Whew. My first 4th of July in Seattle and wow, it was fun. Old friends in town, new friends coming over, lots of food and fireworks and slap scrabble. It was our first party in a Seattle and I’m so glad we did it. But WHEW! There was cooking going on in my tiny kitchen, SO much cooking. Four pies were baked: cherry almond, black raspberry (I didn’t even know such a thing existed until this week!), strawberry rhubarb custard and blueberry lattice. A gigantic cabbage salad with a peanut dressing. More baked beans than I think anyone wants to see in one place. And pulled pork sandwiches. I wanted pulled pork sandwiches badly. Having never made them, I turned to the Lee Bros. for their recipe. Did I mention that we’re talking about 13 lbs. of pork?

It was an intimidating amount of meat. And while the flavor was fantastic (think tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, cane syrup), I have to fault the Lee Bros. for tricking me into thinking that pork shoulder would get as meltingly tender as I wanted in the amount of time they claimed. I now know that pulled pork wants at least 8 hours if you’re on the low-oven-roasting path. It was a close one and I have Sam and Brandon to thank for pulling a delicious dish out of the mess I started, because by the time we realized that the pork needed several more hours of roasting to liquify all that fat, we had already eaten all of the salads, sides and pies in the house. Not to mention the copious amounts of wine I had befriended by then. Thank God for chef friends who are more than competent at drunken cooking!

At some point John made a diagram about when to stop cooking the meat. It was a question of quality vs. time, measuring the increasing quality of the pork as it cooked and our changing expectations relating to our hunger levels. I swear it was genius at the time.

By now you’re maybe thinking “Gee Brandi, your last 3 posts are about meat. What gives?” It’s true, we’ve been awfully carnivorous this month. Which is why I will now turn my attention to the real reason I’m here talking about a pulled pork dish that I can’t even begin to explain how it came to be. My point? The bun. I will admit that when I mentioned to some people that I wanted to make my own buns, there was some skepticism. It was too much work, they said. There are perfectly good buns out there that somebody else made. But I just didn’t buy it. I mean, EVERYONE has a pulled pork recipe up their sleeve (well, except me apparently), but when a girl really wants to take it to the next level, then it’s the bun that gets people’s attention. So I made them anyways. Even though with 4 pies (3 requiring pre-baked crusts), an ungodly amount of beans, and half a day’s worth of pork, we were totally out of oven space.

And you know what people talked about the most at the BBQ? Those sexy little buns of mine.

There were lots of them, rising all over the house.

They were glazed with egg and sprinkled with seeds.

And then baked until they were puffed and golden.

I don’t care how much effort they were (not THAT much really), I’m never buying a bun from the store again.

And just so no one thinks I’ve stopped caring about dessert, here’s a blueberry lattice pie that was devoured in about 15 minutes flat.

LIGHT BRIOCHE BUNS RECIPE (adapted from Comme Ça restaurant, printed in the New York Times):

3 TBSP warm milk

2 tsp active dry yeast

2 1/2 TBSP sugar

2 large eggs

3 cups bread flour

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 TBSP unsalted butter, softened

Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

1. In a glass measuring cup, combine one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg.

2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a large spoon, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. You can either transfer the dough to a clean surface for this or knead it right in the bowl. It’s a touch sticky, but resist the urge to add more flour.

3. Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in the fridge. This long proofing time will make a nicer flavor and also make it easier to shape while cold.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap lightly coated in nonstick spray and let buns rise in a warm place for one to two hours, until they almost double in size.

5. Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. If desired, sprinkle with seeds. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 17-18 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

A Duck!

Posted in I Like Salt Too by brandi on June 29, 2010

We all have our lists of things to be done in life, mine just happens to involve a lot of food. I’ve been wanting to confit my own duck legs since I first tasted it in Scotland (I know, unlikely location) 10 years ago. I knew it was relatively easy, I had several recipes and I had watched other chefs do it at work. I just never seemed to remember to get some duck meat for myself. While at the farmer’s market a few weekends ago I saw a sign advertising ducks for sale and well, all signs pointed to me hunting for copious amounts of duck fat. Luckily a chef friend who regularly confits keeps the fat around and offered it on loan. And now I had no excuses. So I began the meaty journey that is duck confit.

First step: Seasoning the duck and letting it soak up the flavor for a day or two.

Then the fun begins. I rinsed off the seasonings and placed the legs in a container large enough to fit them comfortably. Then I covered them in that glorious duck fat. I brought them to a simmer on the stove and then popped them in the oven to poach for 6 hours. Let me just say that there are few things better than spending the day bathing in the smell of duck. I was worried at first that after a few hours I would be turned off, but no, it only made me want to tear into that meat more.

Once the ducks were cooked (they fall to the bottom of the dish when done), I took them from the oven and let them cool to room temperature. Some of them I was using for dinner that night while the rest were going to be stored in the fridge for future use.

And they were magnificent. I braised them with lentils and bacon for friends and there wasn’t a drop left. I think I’m gonna be making this quite often.

DUCK CONFIT RECIPE (Michael Ruhlman):

6 duck legs

3 TBSP salt

4 whole cloves

8 black peppercorns

3 garlic cloves, sliced

3 bay leaves, halved

8 cups duck fat, enough to cover duck legs before cooking

– Sprinkle ducks with salt and place in a dutch oven or deep pan. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the peppercorns and clove and scatter over the duck along with the sliced garlic. Press a halved bay leaf onto each duck leg. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.

– Rinse duck under cold water to wipe off seasonings. Pat dry and place back in dutch oven.

– Preheat oven to 180°F. Pour duck fat into dish, completely covering duck. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Place, uncovered, in the oven and cook for 6 hours, until the duck is tender and has settled on the bottom of the pan.

– Remove from the oven and cool completely. Gently transfer duck legs to a dish for storage. Cover the duck with the fat until completely submerged. Seal with lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to one month.

– When ready to serve, remove duck legs from the fat (this will be much easier if you first warm up the fat). Place skin-side down on hot skillet and let skin crisp on medium heat until golden brown. Turn duck over to brown bottom and to warm meat through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Serve crisped duck confit immediately.

BRAISED DUCK WITH LENTILS

8oz bacon, chopped

6 duck confit legs

1 onion, diced

1 large carrot, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups red wine

6 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cups french green lentils

1 TBSP tomato paste

4 sprigs thyme

salt and pepper to taste

– Cook bacon over medium heat in a large dutch oven. Remove from pot and place on paper towel. Remove all but 2 TBSP of the bacon fat.

– Sear the duck legs until the skin crisps and browns. Remove from pot and set aside.

– Cook onions and carrots in the bacon fat (add more if necessary) over medium heat until starting to become clear. Add garlic and cook on minute longer. Add the red wine and simmer over medium high heat until reduced by half.

– Add the stock, lentils, tomato paste and thyme and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Stir in the cooked bacon and nestle in the seared duck legs. Cover and cook over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours. The meat should be very tender. You could also cover it and bake it in a 325 degree oven for the same amount of time.

Going Winter for Summer Solstice

Posted in I Like Salt Too by brandi on June 21, 2010

So this week I started to crack. After weeks months of me sticking up for Seattle, begging for patience, CONVINCED that summer is just around the corner and that when it arrives everything in life will work itself out like a freshly fluffed pillow. Remember when I wrote about spring vegetables and how I was gonna cheat and buy Californian because I was just so impatient and well, Washington peas would be just a few more weeks, right? And telling my family “No, wait to fly out to visit for summer, when the weather is fantastic.” Well, today was summer solstice and it seriously felt like winter. We JUST got local peas. And I’m still waiting on a reliable source of  tiny sweet strawberries so I can take the rhubarb dessert off the menu. I kept telling myself “it will warm up in time for solstice, we’ll totally be able to eat on the porch.” There was no porch-eating. There were however, some peas. So we decided to just go with it. If Seattle wants it to be winter, then dammit we’re cooking winter food.

So we roasted.

A pretty little beef roast seasoned with garlic and herbs.

Sliced into yummy little medium rare pieces.

And there was gravy. And buttery mashed potatoes. And freakishly delicious fresh peas just barely boiled and tossed with butter and tarragon.

But most importantly, there were Yorkshire puddings. Somehow, like the much-later-than-it-should-be summer, I was the last person on Earth to know about Yorkshire puddings. I mean, I had heard of them, I just didn’t take them seriously. We didn’t grow up eating them, and from the photos I had seen, they just looked like dinner rolls. And what is up with the British calling everything a pudding?

Let me start at the beginning. There was a batter, a very simple batter of flour, salt, pepper, eggs and milk. It needed to rest, so I made it an hour before I was ready to use it.

After the roast beef was finished serving time in the oven I cranked up the heat and spooned drippings into a muffin tin.

I popped the fat slicked pan into the hot oven and let it sit until the drippings were boiling and crackling. I filled up the little cups 1/3 of the way with the batter and back into the oven it all went.

25 minutes later and I was head over heels in love with these little guys. How to even begin to describe them? They souffléd up so tall and proud. Yet, for all that muscle they were as soft as pillows (second pillow reference of the night, I must be sleepy…). They were SAVORY! The flavor of the beef fat was all there, and with some gravy spooned over them, oh. my. god. I ate three. Do yourself a favor and make these. I suspect I will be eating them quite regularly. I’ve been looking for a way to use up my left-over bacon fat!

YORKSHIRE PUDDINGS RECIPE (adapted from Martha Stewart):

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

Freshly ground pepper

4 large eggs

3 cups whole milk

6 to 8 tablespoons drippings from roasting pan or pork fat

– In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and pepper. Make a well in the center, and add eggs and 1/4 cup of the milk. Using a whisk, combine eggs and milk, then incorporate flour; begin with the inner rim of the well. Continue whisking until a smooth, stiff batter forms.

– Stir in half of the remaining milk. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

– Heat oven to 450 degrees. Transfer 1 to 2 teaspoons of drippings into each cup of a muffin tin. Put the pan in the hot oven until it starts to bubble.

– Stir enough of the remaining milk into the batter until it is the consistency of heavy cream. Pour batter in the muffin tins, filling them about one-third full; the batter should sizzle in the hot drippings.

– Return to oven and bake until puffed, browned, and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Yorkshire pudding is best served fresh from the oven, but it can be kept warm in a low oven for about 15 minutes.

You can take the girl out of Bama…

Posted in I Like Salt Too by brandi on June 6, 2010

But you can’t take the boiled peanuts away from the girl! Every time I go back to Montgomery to visit the friends and family, I have a few stops that need to be made. I need to buy a book at Capitol City Books in Old Cloverdale, buy a copy of Garden and Gun magazine at whatever southern airport I land in, eat a Chick-fil-a chicken biscuit sandwich. But the most important stop is to buy a bag of boiled peanuts from the guy selling them on Old Selma Road. It’s usually my first stop since he lives down the street from my grandmother. Every time I tear through a bag I remind myself to make some when I get home. The problem is that boiled peanuts are traditionally made with green peanuts, and I have no idea how to get my little paws on those. So while visiting Bama and purchasing my bag of gold last week, I asked the guy that makes him where he gets his. He informed me that he just uses the dehydrated ones you can find anywhere, since the green ones can mold so easily. So there. There was nothing stopping me. So I made some.

To be honest, I’m not totally sure the appeal of boiled peanuts transcends nostalgia. So far most every non-southerner I’ve forced them on has reacted either indifferent or confused as to why I like them. Supposedly they’re hip in Brooklyn right now, so maybe that means their popularity will make it to the West coast sometime next year. But I don’t have to wait, because now I can just do it myself!

And it is SO easy. All you need is time. And some peanuts of course. There’s no real magic to these guys, you just load your peanuts into a pot of salty water and boil away. The hardest part is waiting for them to cool before dipping your hand in for a bite.

RECIPE:

1 lb peanuts (unshelled)

5 TBSP salt

– Rinse the peanuts to remove any  dirt.

– Place in a large pot and cover with enough water to cover by an inch (you’ll need to press the nuts down to measure because they like to float). Add the salt. Cover and bring to a boil.

– Once boiling lower to a medium simmer and keep going for about four hours. You’ll want to check in every now and then to see if more water needs to be added. After four hours, taste one. The shell should be soft and pliable and the nut should taste strongly of the salty brine. If not, keep going until it does.

– Once finished boiling, turn off the heat and let the nuts sit in the brine at room temperature for a couple hours. Dig in and store whatever is left in the brine in the fridge. I’m not sure how long they COULD last, but if you’re from Alabama I doubt that will be an issue.

My “It is so Totally Spring” Gnocchi

Posted in Because, like, I'm Italian, sort of, I Like Salt Too by brandi on April 2, 2010

Finally! Finally I have time to cook a nice meal for myself! To be honest, I had to make myself do it. Why? Because as far as I am concerned it is Spring. And every year, I love to welcome my absolutely favorite cooking season with a delicious dinner. It’s usually Italian and ALWAYS includes fresh English peas and asparagus. I know technically asparagus and peas aren’t growing in Washington quite yet, but I just spent the week in San Francisco and decided that as a transplant I’m allowed to import the good stuff from California. You know, for special occasions. Around my house we’re still perfecting the gnocchi, so I decided to make a Springy lemon gnocchi with a lemony cream sauce. Can you say happy? And did I mention we had friends coming over? FRIENDS! New Seattle friends!

First step – boil the potatoes until they’re nice and smooshy.

After they boiled, I drained the water out and placed them back in the pot. Then I continued to cook them over medium high heat to get as much of the water left in them to evaporate. That step keeps you from having to add too much flour into the dough later. Once they were dried out a bit (and getting dangerously close to burning), I pushed them through a ricer. Don’t they just look adorable as spaghetti?

I sprinkled on some flour and started kneading until all of the potato was coated. Then I added some egg yolks, lemon zest, salt and olive oil. I kneaded everything together, adding more flour until the dough was smooth and not too sticky. You can never get all the stick out, but I prefer to just roll the finished gnocchi in flour than add too much into the dough.

I rolled long tubes of dough and then sliced them into little pillows. I popped the little guys into the fridge to chill while I worked on the sauce.

And by sauce, I mean cream sauce. A yummy cream reduced with peas, asparagus, garlic and chili flakes. Once it was a nice thickness I stirred in lemon juice, zest and parmesan.

In the meantime we boiled up the gnocchi (which thankfully only needs to cook for 1-2 minutes).

I tossed the gnocchi into the lemon cream sauce and sprinkled on some bacon. Of course there was bacon! Pancetta would have been nice as well, but I just ordered 3 lbs of bacon form Zoe’s and was itching to put it to good use.

The whole dish was super yummy. Not too rich, not too lemony, just right and totally Springy.

Lemon Gnocchi with Asparagus and Peas

serves 4-5

Lemon Gnocchi:

1 lb 4oz baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

4 large egg yolks

Zest of 2 lemons

2 tsp olive oil

2 tsp salt

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

– In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, then return them to the pan. Shake over moderately high heat until dry.

– Working over a large rimmed baking sheet, rice the hot potatoes in an even layer. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the lemon zest, olive oil and the salt and pour over the potatoes. Sprinkle the flour over the potatoes and stir gently just until a dough forms.

– Gently roll the dough into four 1/2-inch-thick ropes. Using a sharp knife, cut each rope into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss in flour if sticky. Transfer the gnocchi to a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Lemon Cream Sauce:

5 slices bacon, chopped

1 1/2 cup fresh english peas

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp dried hot red-pepper flakes

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb asparagus, sliced diagonally

2 tsp grated lemon zest

1 TBSP fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup shredded parmesan

– In a skillet , cook bacon over low heat until fat renders out. Drain out the fat and reserve 1 TBSP for sauce.

– Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add asparagus, peas, red-pepper flakes, garlic, reserved bacon fat and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Simmer, until peas are tender and sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.

– Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest, juice and parmesan.

– Meanwhile, cook gnocchi in a pot of boiling salted water until the gnocchi floats. Drain gnocchi.

– Add gnocchi to the sauce and stir to coat.

– Plate and sprinkle with bacon.

Potstickers!

Posted in All Things Pork, I Like Salt Too by brandi on March 2, 2010

Fun! Fun! Fun! I made potstickers!

It’a been on the list for a while. But I’ve never cooked Chinese, so I just never needed an appetizer to match. This week I decided it was time. I was making Kung Pao Chicken (ok, so maybe that’s not REAL Chinese) and potstickers were in order!

There was a bit of chopping involved.

But that was the hardest part. At least for the filling.

And there was a dough. I was skeptical at first, because all the recipes called simply for flour and water. But it worked!

I rolled out little 4″ discs and plopped on some filling.

And then I made little pleated pouches! So damn cute!

I fried the pouches in peanut oil, then poured in some water and covered them so that they could steam.

And they were delicious! Well worth it. I even made extra ones and froze them for later.

PORK POTSTICKERS RECIPE:

Pork Filling:

1 lb ground pork

1/2 cup napa cabbage, minced

1 stalk green onion, minced

1/2 cup bamboo shoots, minced

1/4 cup ginger root, minced

3 TBSP soy sauce

2 TBSP sesame oil

1 TBSP corn starch

– Throw everything in a bowl and mix well. Cover and store in the fridge.

Dough:

4 cups flour

1 1/2 cup warm water

– Put flour and half of the water in a bowl and stir with a fork. Slowly add in more water, a TBSP at a time. Once it is stiff enough, knead. Keep adding water until it is smooth, but not sticky. You might not use all of the water.

– Cover with a damp towel and let sit for 30 minutes to relax the gluten.

– Cut into chunks and roll into 3-4 inch discs.

– Place roughly 1 TBSP of filling in the center and shape into a pouch.

– Heat oil in a pan over high heat. Place potstickers in pan and fry until the bottoms are nice and browned.

– Shielding your face with the lid, pour in some water (1/2 a cup or so) and cover immediately. Lower heat to medium low and cook for 6 minutes.

– Place potstickers on plate to cool while you mix dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce:

1/2 cup soy sauce

3 TBSP red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp chili garlic paste

1 tsp minced ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp sugar

– Mix everything together.

Fried! Pig! Skin!

Posted in All Things Pork, Don't BUY it, MAKE it!, I Like Salt Too, Southernness by brandi on February 8, 2010

Dear Pork,

You did it again. You made me fall in love with you all over. It started months ago, you see. Living in San Francisco. There was this guy, Ryan Farr his name was. He was making magic with pork skin, and his chicharrones were showing up all over town. I was deeply jealous. I hated him for knowing you in a way that I didn’t. I mean, I grew up in ALABAMA – I should be frying pig skin in my SLEEP! Why wasn’t I grandfathered in on the secret? And rumor had it that this Mr. Farr was taking his technique with him to his grave. So I was on my own to find my way into your heart/skin. All hope was seemingly lost, months of searching were fruitless. But then it happened. I read somewhere that the new Momofuku cookbook was spilling the beans. Step by step directions for perfect chicharrones. I ordered some fatback from my new favorite butcher shop and left the house 5 minutes later to buy a copy. There was no stopping me now.

When my fatty skin came, I was enthralled. You looked so innocent, like a topographical map of a Washington state. I could have stared at you all day, folding you into different shapes.

But we were at the beginning of a long journey together, so I needed to get to work. First I separated your skin from your fat.

I put your skin in a pot of water and boiled you for 1 1/2 hours, long enough to soften up the fat left clinging to you.

The rest of your fat I cubed up and put in another pot, with a bit of water. Because when you have that much fat sitting on your kitchen counter, you might as well render some lard.

After your skin was done boiling, I stretched you out and placed you in the fridge. There you chilled for another 2 hours. Then I set about the arduous task of scraping off every last bit of fat. The book recommended the side of a spoon, but I had to use a knife. Because this was OUR moment and I wanted you to be perfect. Then I popped you in the dehydrator and let you do your thing overnight.

In the meantime, I still had some fat melting away on the stove. It took 8 hours, but eventually you released all your juiciness.

I strained you, smashing to get every last drop of liquid fat.

And was very pleased with your color, almost perfectly clear.

When you cooled, you were beautiful. Snowy. Pure.

I slept well, knowing that when I awoke the next morning, you would be ready for me. And you were. 12 hours in the dehydrator had left you thin and leathery. I broke you into tiny pieces.

I heated your lard to 390 degrees and tossed in your skin, one piece at a time.

It was magnificent to see you puff up to 5 times your size. I like to think that was you swelling with love.

I tossed you in a spice mix I had prepared earlier. And you were glorious. Light, fluffy, melt in my mouth glorious. You were a lot of work, but Pork skin, you were worth it. Thank you.

Spice Mix recipe:

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp white pepper

1 TBSP salt

1 TBSP sugar