Sunday, April 28, 2013

Southwest Chicken on Caesar Salad

I said chicken tonight and Fern asked "On a Caesar Salad?"
"It is now!" and I scurried off to the store to pick up romaine.

Caesar Salad is called dated. It's also called delicious! There's nothing quite like a fresh Caesar dressing on a hot summer day.

Caesar Salad Dressing - for 2

1 egg yolk
1/3 to 1/2 cup oil ( a little extra virgin then filled up with neutral taste oil)
1 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 anchovy filet (usually don't have. I might try fish sauce next time, it's the umami flavor we're after)
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 cup croutons
1 head romaine

First make mayonnaise.  Add 1 tsp oil to egg yolk. Tilt bowl and whip egg yolk with whisk, picking up a little oil at a time until all oil is emulsified. Using more than a teaspoon at a time will result in broken sauce, oil will separate. Continue 1 tsp at a time till all oil is emulsified.  If you break it, start with a fresh yolk and add broken sauce 1 tsp at a time, then remaining oil.

Make croutons from the best bread available, I use Alpine, it has a wonderful nutty flavor. I took two slices of bread and put them in the toaster long enough to dry but not brown. Cut them into cubes and toss them in hot oil with salt and black pepper till they have a nice brown on them. Keep adding oil to keep the pan from drying. Put aside to cool.

Crush garlic clove and chop finely.  Add garlic, salt, pepper, Worcestershire, anchovy and lemon juice to the mayo, whisk and taste.  Adjust salt, lemon juice and pepper till it tastes good. Lemon juice reduces saltiness and salt reduces acid in lemon juice.

Cut the papery tops off the romaine and remove the outer leaves.  Cut the remainder into bite size pieces, rinse and spin dry in a salad spinner. I find giving it a spin then shaking it then another spin removes all the water. Put in biggest bowl, add dressing and toss till all is coated.  Add croutons and parmesan and toss. 

Southwest Spice Rub

2 tbsp  chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp  brown sugar
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp cayenne (optional, but it really helps)

Salt the chicken first then coat with spice rub, I spray a little oil on it too if I think of it. Lay on medium heat BBQ grill for a couple of minutes, rotate for a couple, turn over for two minutes, rotate for two minutes then put on grill off the flame, turn heat down and close cover.  Cook chicken for 25-30 minutes total cooking time.

The chicken can be rested then sliced and served on top of the salad or on a side plate. I find we prefer one plate in spring but by fall we want the chicken on a side plate. Either way it's a wonderful summer meal. Filling but not heavy. I think it took me about an hour to put together, time well spent. Don't cut hot meat, all the moisture escapes as steam and the meat becomes dry and tasteless.

I forgot to photograph my plate so I had to borrow a photo from an earlier salad however both plates were identical.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Leg of Lamb

As I mentioned the other day, lamb was down in price to the same as beef so I snapped up a lovely boneless roast. I had no idea how to cook lamb so I got advice from Fern and this is what I did:

Season with plenty of salt, mixed pepper and paprika all around. Lay roast on a rack in a pan and put a few bay leaves on top.  Lay a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme and fresh rosemary on top of the roast and bay leaves. Put a meat thermometer into the center of the meat.  Put in center of 325ºF oven for about 90 minutes for a 4lb roast. I took the roast out when internal temperature reached 150ºF.

Mashed potatoes with salt and milk, easy enough for a anyone to make.  Carrots were fresh but the peas frozen and I cooked them together in the microwave with a little water and extra virgin olive oil. I even went into the garden and got fresh mint which I chopped up finely and mixed with rice vinegar and a little sugar, instant mint sauce.

Scary as it was to attempt this for the first time, it really was pretty easy.  The taste was phenomenal so I definitely will have lamb again. Let's see now, spring lamb is in season in .... spring! That should be easy enough to remember.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pork Chops

It was too late in the day to start boning chicken so I had pork in mind before I left for the store. Once there I spotted a nice boneless leg of lamb for only $14.50/kg.  That is half the usual price, I guess spring lamb is in season in spring, who knew? So I picked it up for next evening and found a package of pork chops for tonight's dinner.

I paired the chops with mashed potatoes, broccoli and carrots.  (I cleverly ate my carrots before taking the photo. Double duh!)  I put potatoes on to cook and readied the steamer with the carrots. I prepped the broccoli so it can be added quickly at the right time. I also grabbed some chives from the deck along with a chive bloom to garnish each plate.

I salted the chops and then in a small sieve combined 2 tsp flour, 1/2 tsp mustard powder, 1/2 tsp paprika and ground mixed peppercorns. I mixed it up a bit and tapped the sieve over the meat to evenly coat both sides. I sprinkled a little brown sugar over the chops then put them in plenty of hot oil a bit over medium heat. The edges of the chops weren't coated so I could watch the meat whiten as it cooked up from the pan.  When it reached the center I turned the chops over and again watched the progress. When it reaches the center, the meat still needs another minute or two to cook the center of the chop. Plate the chops and let them rest.

When the broccoli and carrots were almost done I drained them and put them in the pot on the burner with xv olive oil and a little salt. The oil needs to cook a minute or two to smooth the flavor. I plated the potatoes, then the carrots and broccoli then finally scissored some chives over the potatoes and left a chive flower to garnish the center.

Usually I put Fern's ketchup on pork but I forgot. Fortunately the meat was juicy enough that I didn't miss it.  It feels weird eating a flower but it tastes good and we both really enjoyed this meal.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Southwest Snapper

I felt like something lighter than chicken and a nice piece of snapper caught my eye. Vegetables are still at winter prices so I used frozen peas and fresh carrots.  Ordinary mashed potatoes with salt, butter and milk fill out the plate.  I pulled out the bones running from center head end half way to tail.  The tail is the narrow, thin end of the filet.

I seasoned the fish with salt then sprinkled it with 

Southwest Spice Rub

2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
4 tsp kosher salt (1 tbsp + 1 tsp)
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp cayenne

To prevent scorching of the spice rub I put some flour in a small sieve and lightly floured both sides of the filet.  I laid the pieces in plenty of hot oil. It takes only 2 or 3 minutes per side to cook the fish so stay on top of it.  While the fish was cooking I mixed up a little tartar sauce from a tablespoon of mayonnaise and 2 teaspoons of sweet green relish. I plated the tartar sauce directly on the fish, which turned out to be a bad idea.

The vegetables were done in the microwave with a little water, salt and extra virgin olive oil so they had more flavor.  I think I got enough salt on the meat this time and the potatoes were perfect. The only mistake on the plate was the tartar sauce.  It didn't enhance the spice rub.  It didn't taste bad, it tasted incongruous. The mayonnaise coats the inside of the mouth preventing the subtle flavors of the spice rub from getting through to the palette. A few drops of lemon juice on the fish would have been far better.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spaghetti - suburban style

Spaghetti means home.  Almost anyone can make a decent tomato sauce so it is the one dish we all remember from childhood and it gives us comfort. Usually a canned tomato sauce is used so differentiation has to be in the other ingredients and their preparation. Here are the ingredients from Fern's childhood.

Spaghetti Sauce

1 680ml/24oz can Hunt's Tomato Sauce
1 284ml/10oz can Aylmer Tomato Soup (Aylmer or nothing, no other brand will do)
1 onion diced
2 carrots diced
1 stick celery diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
2 bay leaves
6-8 mushrooms
454gm/1lb lean ground beef
454gm/1lb mild Italian sausage

Caramelize the onion then sweat the carrots, celery, garlic and bay leaf.  Remove all from the pan, add more oil and the sliced mushrooms. Get a good sear on the mushrooms then remove them from the pan.    Add the ground beef and brown it completely, then remove it from the pan.  Finally, add the meat from the sausages and thoroughly cook it.  Now add everything back into the pan. Add the cans of tomato sauce and Aylmer tomato soup (this recipe relies upon the distinct flavor of Aylmer tomato soup, substitutes will not work) Heat to bubbling and simmer at least two hours stirring every 20 minutes so it doesn't burn to the bottom.

We are using Barilla pasta because it tastes better than Catelli, which I consider second best. Cheaper pasta are sticky and don't have good flavor so I consider them not a good bargain. The sauce is topped with fresh grated Italian parmesan.  I used to buy grated Canadian parmesan until I tasted fresh grated Grand Padana. 

All that fussing with sweating and searing everything paid off with much deeper richer flavor in the sauce.  It's the care taken with preparation that makes the difference in the finished product.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Rib Steak with Mushrooms and Baked Potato

I really felt like red meat tonight.  Since I didn't hit a deer on the way to the store, I bought a nice rib steak for me and a piece of tenderloin for Fern.  Mushrooms were on special so I bought a bag of crimini for the extra flavor.  I decided to bake the potatoes so I microwaved them most of the way then wrapped them in foil with butter, xv olive oil, salt, black pepper and fresh baby chives. I put the potatoes in the BBQ but off the heat to finish cooking. I served the potato with a dollop of homemade yogurt.

The carrots and frozen peas were done in the microwave with butter, xv olive oil, salt and pepper.  The mushrooms I just fried in a bit of oil and a slab of butter. The steaks were seasoned with salt and pepper and BBQ'd on high for 8 minutes in my 2x2x2x2 sequence to get crossed grill marks on each side. 

Fern said the mushrooms were perfect so next time I'll know to scorch them then soak them in warm butter for half hour. We both felt it was an outstanding meal. At $9 each for the meat it should be! Cooking the olive oil with the potato and vegetables was a smart move, they all improved in flavor tremendously. My yogurt has a definite lemony taste which was wonderful on the potato. 

Crispy Chicken with Caesar Salad

I had chicken breasts in the fridge so I only had to decide how to cook them.  Fern asked if we could have chicken and Caesar salad which sounded good to me so that's what I made.  Caesar salad is made using an aioli aka mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is made with an egg yolk, leaving egg whites for something else. Tempura is made with egg whites but I am going to cook on the BBQ, not the deep fryer. I can still coat the chicken with something though.

Put 1 cup or more croutons in a hot pan with plenty of oil.  Add more oil as it is absorbed and keep tossing them so they brown evenly. Add salt and pepper generously. When they have a nice brown and some crunch put them aside to cool. The better the quality of bread the better the flavor.

Next separate the yolk and white into separate bowls.  Whisk the whites up so they are completely broken apart.  I put the center of alpine bread in the blender which turns it into panko like bread crumbs. In a plastic bag or on a plate put half a cup of bread crumbs,  1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and a teaspoon paprika (and anything else that might taste good).  In a plastic bag put 2 tablespoons flour.  One at a time shake the breasts in the flour then dip them in the egg and finally coat them with bread crumbs.  I sprayed the coated breasts with a little oil to brown them better, not sure it helped. I also sprinkled a little extra salt on each one.

I was cooking on the BBQ but should I go for grill marks on breaded chicken?  Let's see what happens.   I put the breasts over the flame for 2 minutes, rotate them and wait 2 minutes. Turn them over and wait 2 minutes then rotate them and wait 2 minutes and finally put them in the center off the flame to roast for the remainder of 25 total minutes cooking time.  The result, a hint of grill marks which could just be ordinary browning.  So don't bother trying to get grill marks, too much trouble, too little reward. Next time I'll put them over the heat for 2 minutes, turn them over for 2 minutes then put them in the center to roast.  That way the egg will seal in the moisture.  I plated the chicken with a dollop of mayonnaise, from a jar this time, just to lubricate the chicken on the way down.  

In a measuring cup I put less than 1/4 cup xv olive oil and fill that up to less than 1/2 cup with rice bran oil or whatever neutral flavor oil. I find pure xv olive oil too strong on it's own.  1/2 tsp at a time, add oil to yolk and whisk it into emulsion. If too much oil is added at once, the aioli will break so go slow.

When all the oil is emulsified add 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 2-3 crushed garlic cloves, a few drops Worcestershire Sauce, an optional anchovy fillet and the juice of half a lemon or 1 tbsp of  lemon juice. Grate 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust lemon, salt and pepper to get a good balance. Add lettuce and toss.  Add croutons and parmesan then toss.  Serve on a large plate with the chicken on the side.  It just doesn't work to put a hot entree on top of a cold salad.

The salad was wonderful and welcome, first one this year. The chicken was crunchy and moist so I definitely will do that breading again. Next time I'll try to  spiff up the mayo with more flavor. Otherwise it was the perfect spring dinner.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Better Crab Cakes

I'm pushing it having crab cakes so often but after last time I wanted to try an improvement to recipe.  This time I planned to use 2 eggs which will make sticky wet cakes that I can coat with panko! First I diced half an onion, half a stick of celery and two cloves of garlic. I caramelized the onions, then sweated the celery and garlic.  I put all that aside to cool.  

I broke up the meat so it was a nice loose pile and added 1/4 cup of flour.  Then I mixed in the sweated veggies and onions and finally added salt, pepper and paprika. I beat two eggs and mixed them then took 1/4 of the batch, formed it into a sticky patty and coated it in panko. That is my innovation, using the bread crumbs as a coating instead of a component. Much better flavor.

I had potatoes on and this time I got nice fresh baby chives from the garden for their sweet flavor.  The carrots and beans were done in the steamer and finished in extra virgin olive oil.  The beans were tough and low on flavor.  I guess spring beans are like spring corn on the cob, disappointing.

I had the crab cakes on medium heat so they don't scorch too much. They don't take too long to cook. While they were sizzling I mixed up 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise and 1-2 teaspoon of sweet relish into a simple tartar sauce. 

The potatoes with the sweet chives were terrific. Object lesson: given the choice, harvest the sweet fresh chive shoots. The beans weren't great but that isn't  my fault, they weren't great beans and I don't know how to fix a quality issue like that. The carrots were good as always but the crab cakes were the star.  Coating the cakes in bread crumbs gave them that wonderful crunch I was looking for. I could have used more garlic but at least I got the salt right.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Savory Pineapple Chicken

I needed fresh stock so it was time for chicken.  In the fridge was half a can of pineapple chunks that I wanted to use up so I thought pineapple chicken but not sweet and sour. I set to boning the breasts, putting the bones in the stock pot and the skins frying up for the dogs. Pineapple chicken just screams rice to me so that's what I made. Carrots and frozen peas both done in the microwave fill out the plate.

The chicken I seasoned with salt, paprika and ground mixed peppercorns.  Then I coated them with some flour and put in hot oil. I got a little sear on one side then turned the breasts over and put them in a 375ºF oven for 25 minutes total cooking time.

To make the sauce I put a tablespoon of oil in a small pot and a teaspoon of flour in it.  Mix and cook the flour taste off for a minute or two. Add 1/4 cup chicken stock and 1/4 cup juice from the can of pineapple chunks. Reserve the chunks for a minute or two before serving so they heat up but don't cook. I tasted the sauce. It had good savory flavor from the stock and a nice overlay of pineapple.  It worked quite nicely but it needed a little acid to perk it up a bit.  I reached for rice vinegar first but thought about using lemon juice instead.  Will lemon flavor clash with pineapple or will they enhance each other? I couldn't think of a dish with lemon and pineapple so chances are good they don't play well.  I just had to find out.  

I put a few drops of lemon juice in the sauce.  I got the slight tang I was after but the lemon was fighting with the pineapple. Fortunately I didn't use enough to ruin it.  A few more drops and the sauce would have been awful but as it was, Fern liked it. I like it too, the savory flavor from the stock was really nice with the pineapple. The sauce had a little tang and just a hint of incongruous lemon. We'll have this again, with rice vinegar instead of lemon.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Liver with Bacon and Onions

Fern mentioned liver earlier today and when I went shopping for dinner, liver looked like the best value so I picked up a couple of pieces. I put the potatoes on to cook and readied the carrots and broccoli for the steamer. I started by slicing and caramelizing an onion. Then removed the onion from the pan and cooked four strips of bacon till crisp.  Remove the bacon from the pan

I shook the liver in a plastic bag with flour to coat it evenly. The liver had a fairly large vein in it which I didn't cut out and when I ate it I got a mouthful of chewy. A chef would definitely remove that before cooking so next time I'll clean the organ first. That is the first time I've noticed a vein in liver but in the past it would not have occurred to me to remove it as undesirable.  It's amazing to think how much acceptable has changed for me and food.

I had the potatoes done and the veggies in the steamer almost done when I laid the floured liver in the oil. I drained the veggies and put them in the pan with olive oil to finish.  I turned over the liver and put the onion and bacon back in to heat up. When everything was ready I plated the onion, then the liver and finally the bacon on top.  I like tomato ketchup on my liver so I squirted a little on it.

The liver was perfectly done, a first for me.  The disappointment was the chives in the potato.  I used the older thicker chives and found they were no where near as sweet and delicious as the tender young shoots on the other plant. Next time I'll know, tender young shoots are better. That probably holds true for most edibles.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloin Medallions

Pork tenderloin was on special so I found a small one for under $5 and headed home.  I wanted to try something completely different this time so I started caramelizing a diced onion. When the onions had great color and flavor I took them from the pan.  

I cut the tenderloin into 1 inch/25mm pieces and pounded each piece a little so they were uniform thickness. Then I seasoned them with salt and added a little flour. Not sure why I floured them but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I tried to add a little more salt after the flour but it wouldn't stick.  I put the medallions in the hot pan the onions were in and turned to the mashed potatoes.

I made only carrots as a cooked vegetable because I decided to make a little rocket salad on the side. I got fresh chives and the larger rocket leaves and a few lettuce leaves to fill it out. The chives I diced and put in the mashed potatoes and I tore the salad greens up into pieces. I whisked up a little oil and red balsamic vinegar for a dressing and tossed it all together.

I turned over the pork medallions and when they had a nice sear I put the onions back in the pan to heat again.  I plated the onions and the medallions on top.  To top the pork I made

Honey Mustard Sauce

1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
pinch cayenne

if it's still too bitter add a little more honey.  

Fern absolutely loved the onions and liked the sauce.  The big surprise of the evening was how good the fresh chives made the potatoes taste! Cut some fresh chives and mix them into mashed potatoes, it's really good!

The onion, meat and sauce all combined nicely to my taste but Fern was a little less certain. He said he liked it but he wasn't ebullient about it.  The greens were welcome although they were bigger than a garnish but not quite a salad. I think next time I'll use walnut oil and toasted walnuts in the salad.

I'm still under seasoning my meat. I think this time it was the flour that prevented it from sticking. I have got to make sure I get enough salt on my meat!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Crab Cakes

I had to ask for it but I finally got some of that Louis Kemp imitation crab.  When I got home I quickly put potatoes on for mashed but veggies I wasn't sure about.  I started by caramelizing half an onion. When that had good color I added half a stick of celery finely diced and sweated it.  When sweating vegetables their color deepens slightly when they are perfect.  If left on the heat longer the color and flavor slowly drains away. When the celery deepened just a touch I took it and the onion off the heat and put them aside to cool. I should also have sweated a couple of cloves of garlic with the celery but totally forgot.

To the broken up crab (half a pound or so) I added about 1/3 cup flour and fully coated all the crab.  To that I added 1/4 cup  bread crumbs.   That was a mistake, I should have rolled the cakes in bread crumbs before putting in the frying pan.  Next I added a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of garlic powder. I ground some mixed pepper over the crab and added a teaspoon or two of paprika. I stirred in the sweated vegetables then whipped up two small eggs and folded them into the crab cake batter. The cakes were quite sticky so if I had rolled them in bread crumbs at this point I would have gotten a really great crust on them. The frying pan was hot and my hands were all covered in batter so I just put the cakes in the pan. I cook these at medium heat so they don't scorch. 

I did frozen corn in the microwave, finished with butter and salt.  Mashed potatoes shouldn't need explanation.  I scissored some chives over the plate just before serving.

Tartar Sauce

1 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp sweet green relish

The cakes are better with tartar sauce than with lemon sauce, I tried. I'm not sure if my plating is improving here but at least everything tasted good together. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Corned Beef

I really felt like crab cakes again but they didn't have any premium fake crab at the store, it was frozen.  They offered to thaw some but I pointed out that takes overnight. Nothing was on special that inspired me so I decided on corned beef as the lesser evil at the red meat counter.

Broccoli was down in price again so it's back on the menu.  My smaller portions are starting to show, as is the reduction in my weight.  It's the potato that seems to be making the difference.  I just started making only a small potato for myself and that seems to be making a difference, I'm not gaining weight, I'm losing.

The meat is simple, take it out of the plastic bag and cover it with water in a pot.  Bring up to simmer, don't boil, then simmer for 3 hours. Steamed vegetables finished in xv olive oil. Maille Dijon mustard on the meat.  A nice simple meal that has great leftover potential.

Monday, April 15, 2013

I cleaned the BBQ Southwest Chicken

I finally scraped the inside of the BBQ clean. I put the three heavy stainless grill sections in the dishwasher expecting them to come out clean like in the commercial. Oven cleaner would have been a better start but at least the dishwasher broke the surface of the baked on grease.  I used a putty knife to scrape the grill more or less clean.

I salted and then seasoned the boneless chicken breasts with:

Southwest Rub

2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
4 tsp kosher salt (1 tbsp + 1 tsp)
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp cayenne

I sprayed the meat with oil but didn't pound it flat this time, I wanted it to hold together on the grill. My BBQ has 3 burners and I turn the two end ones on and leave the middle off.  I aim for 350ºF inside the BBQ. The breasts go over low flame for 2-4 minutes then rotate them and wait another 2-4 minutes.   Turn the breasts over and wait 2-4 minutes, rotate them and wait 2-4 minutes then put them in the middle off the flame so they will roast for a total cooking time of 25-30 minutes. That will produce fully  cooked but still moist chicken.

Ordinary mashed potatoes, salt, milk and butter.  Don't over process mashed potatoes or they turn to paste. The carrots and asparagus were done together in the steamer then finished in the pot with extra virgin olive oil on medium low heat. To prep asparagus simply hold the bottom end between to fingers and bend the stalk over till it snaps.  It will break where the fibrous part ends. Use the ends in stock or discard.

I sprinkled a few drops of lemon juice over the meat before plating the vegetables and potatoes.  It all came out quite wonderful. I had forgotten how good things can taste from the BBQ, it's nice to have it back in operation.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chicken Stir Fry

Boneless chicken breasts and red peppers were the specials today so I thought, stir fry.  I grabbed a pepper, some mushrooms and a zucchini and headed home.  In the fridge I had an onion, a stick of celery and a small carrot to add to the pan. 

I started the rice, then I diced and caramelized the onion and removed it from the pan.  Then I sweated the carrot and celery followed by searing the mushrooms. Lastly I caramelized the zucchini. I cubed the chicken up and rolled it around in flour then put it in the pan with plenty of oil.  I made sure every piece was seared all round but not cooked through.  I put several drops of sesame oil in the pan then I put everything back in.  Then added a tablespoon or two of soy sauce, the same of oyster (or fish) sauce and started tossing it. I served the fry next to white rice and I put more soy sauce directly on my rice (optional).

I was working slowly and this still only took 45 minutes to prepare.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Roast Beef

No time to mess around today.  I seasoned the roast with salt and pepper all around then seared it in a frying pan all around.  Then I put it in a 250ºF oven for an hour. I used a meat thermometer and took it out at 150ºF. I made plain white rice because I had only one potato left. The carrots and Brussels sprouts were done in the steamer and finished in xv olive oil on medium low heat. A dollop of horseradish on the meat and into the maw it went. It turned out to be a really nice meal, not too heavy because of the rice.

We went out for dinner

A friend is moving to town so the entourage was here apartment hunting and the day ended with dinner at the Laughing Oyster.  Wednesday evening is seafood buffet night and everything is good so I bring an appetite and usually manage to try it all.  Mid meal chef Dave stopped by the table to ask how I liked his new salmon with porcine mushroom dish.  "It was a bit dry, like it needed a bit of sauce to carry the flavor." I managed to slobber rather intelligibly.

"I wondered about that when I was assembling it. I cooked off the liquid so I could top the mushrooms with the bread crumbs.  I'll leave more in next time.  Thank you for such constructive criticism!" he replied with a big smile.

Later, on the way out Dave again thanked me for the comment. I was surprised at how much he appreciated honest opinions from his customers but I also understood from watching "Kitchen Nightmares".  He has the best food value on this part of the coast but if everyone only tells him everything was wonderful, over time his food will decline.  Then business will decline and the chef is left not understanding what is wrong. Constructive criticism keeps the chef on top of his game and gives the customer better value.  So for the sake of the restaurant and the food you are going to eat, give an honest evaluation of the food.  It should be really well received. If it isn't, it may not be a good idea to return.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Crab Cakes

Crab cakes again using Louis C. Kemp imitation crab with 3% real crab meat.  The Alaskan pollock imitation king crab meat does not work well in this recipe for both texture and taste reasons.  Of course fresh crab is probably available for only four times the price of the Kemp. I bought a bit over 200gm which is about half a pound for two people.

Best to start with a shallot but I didn't have one so I used half an onion diced and caramelized.  To that I added half a stick of celery finely diced and three cloves of garlic smashed and diced. When that was all sweated I put it aside to cool.  

Break the crab up in a bowl so all the lumps are gone.  Mix in 1/4 cup flour then 1/4 cup alpine bread crumbs (or whatever's available) and 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp paprika and some pepper.  Whip an egg and add it with the veggies then mix it all together. If it's still too dry add another egg or a little milk just to moisten it all. Make 4 patties and fry them in plenty of oil.  I had them on just over medium heat so they would brown but not burn.

Served with steamed asparagus and mashed potatoes.  I also made a lemon sauce.  Put 1 tsp flour and 2 tsp oil in a small pan.  Cook the flour taste off for a minute then remove from heat.  Add 1 oz chicken stock and whisk the lumps out.  Add 1 oz lemon juice (1/4 cup total)  and whisk.  Add 1/2 tsp salt and taste. Add lemon and/or salt as needed. Serve over crab cakes and asparagus.  

Fern would have preferred tartar sauce with the crab cakes but the lemon was good enough.  Next time I'll know to make both.  Quick tartar sauce is just mayonnaise and sweet relish. A nice light meal.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sole with Almond Lemon Sauce

It was a rainy day inside so neither of us worked up much of an appetite, we both wanted something light and simple. Fresh sole has got to be the easiest protein to cook.  Coat it with flour and salt, drop it in a hot frying pan for a minute, turn it over for nearly a minute and it should be done if the pan was hot enough. A bit less than medium high on my stove.

To fancy it up I make a little sauce. First brown the almonds in a little butter then remove them from the pan.  Put a tsp of flour and 2 tsp oil in the pan. Make a paste and cook the flour taste off for a minute. Pour in 1/4 cup chicken stock and whisk the lumps out. Add as much lemon juice and salt as tastes good. This time I made it quite savory with a hint of lemon.  Fern prefers lemony with savory undertones so it's simple to serve a savory dish then add lemon and serve a lemony one. I definitely added too much sliced almond.

Mashed potatoes and carrots with Brussels sprouts to fill out the plate.  I steam the veggies and finish them in xv olive oil.  Light, clean and simple, a good meal.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Curried Chicken

Fern and I were in the mood for something lighter, I suggested curry and Fern agreed. I also bought a pot of arugula for the garden and decided to make a little salad/garnish instead of green peas. I diced an onion and started it caramelizing.  While that was going I diced up the chicken into half inch pieces. 

When the onions had acquired some color I added the meat, salt and extra oil. Get a good sear all around the chicken. I should have taken the chicken out at this point and added it back after the sauce had reduced so the meat won't be rubbery but I got lazy and left it in. I added some diced mixed pepper. Then sprinkled 2 to 3 tablespoons of curry powder, mixed pepper and a bit of cayenne over everything and stirred it a bit.  Then I added a whole can of coconut milk and a bit of tinned pineapple juice.

I reduced the coconut milk by about half to a thick sauce.  This is when the chicken should have gone back in. Next the pineapple chunks and I put some chopped chives and parsley in the curry stirred it in. For the salad garnish I had a few leaves of arugula and two trimmed romaine leaves.  In my salad bowl I whisked up some oil plus extra virgin oil, about 2 tsp.  I added 1 tsp rice vinegar, salt, black pepper chives and parsley. Whisk. Toss and garnish the plate. Plate the rice then the curry over top. Sprinkle parsley over top and serve.

I was out of my usual Madras curry powder and this bulk bin stuff had a bitter after taste I didn't like.  Fortunately the bitter taste went away after the first bite but it still set the stage in a poor light. Maybe it's time I learned how to mix my own curry powder. Otherwise the meal was quite good.

Fern didn't like having a cold salad on a plate with hot food, it should have been on a separate plate. That means I'm back to making peas for the plate anyway, but I can do them in microwave so it's not that  much extra work. The little bit of peppery salad was welcome with the curry.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pork Chop, not quite sweet'n sour

I picked up a couple of nice pork chops for dinner.  I know from experience that a sprig of rosemary and one of thyme set on the pork chops in the oven will give them a wonderful flavor. So, of course, I wanted to try something else. I like pork ribs done in BBQ sauce in the oven and served on rice, so that is what I was trying to do.  

I started with a tsp of flour and 2 tsp oil in a sauce pan.  I cooked the flour taste off for a minute then added chicken stock to make a thick sauce.  I added half a can of tomato paste and more stock.  Salt and mixed pepper gave a decent tomato sauce. I added some dried ginger, but not enough to make a difference and a drop of molasses. I added some juice from a can of pineapple chunks hoping to get to that sweet'n sour place. I put the chop in and turned it over in the sauce, added the pineapple chunks and covered the pan with foil.  I put it in the fridge to marinate for an hour. I put the pan in a 300ºF oven for 1 and 1/4 hours.

I put some white rice on and prepped the carrot and Brussels sprouts for the steamer.  I steamed the veggies to almost done then finished them in extra virgin olive oil. I plated it all and it looked good although the pork appeared to have been boiled. Why I thought that wouldn't happen I don't know. The veggies were excellent, I'm finally getting the hang of doing them right. The pork was boiled to rubber and the sauce was tomato and boring.  The dish was on the right track but was derailed before the flavor station. 

I was sure that reducing the oven temperature to 300 and extending the cooking time would result in a tender chop but it turned out the opposite. I didn't add enough of anything to help the flavor along.  If I had added a clove or two of garlic or a teaspoon of ginger or some basil or even hot sauce I would have given the sauce a little more dimension. I like the potential of this dish so I  want to try it again but I'll reduce the heat to 200 and increase the cooking time to 2 1/2 hours so it DOES come out tender. I might start with a cheaper cut of pork too. I'll also be sure to put enough flavor in.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Breaded Chicken Breast

I needed fresh chicken stock so there was little choice about dinner.  I did check the whole meat counter just in case something wonderful was being cleared but no luck.  A package of two breasts for less than $5 was the best deal anyway. It's great when need and supply meet like that. Yesterday we went to the Laughing Oyster for dinner so I always feel challenged to make as tasty a meal as I can.  Good as my food is becoming, Chef Dave is still better!

I like using an egg whenever I can since I have chickens laying them every day. One thing that bothered me was once my protein is coated there is a lot of egg left. Now I fry the skins up for the dogs then I use the skin fat to cook the breast and the skin pan to cook the egg for them too. The bones make stock so there is no waste.

First I put the potatoes on, the steamer water on to boil, oil in the frying pan  and prepped the vegetables.  I put the breasts in a plastic bag earlier so I arranged them with skin side down and pounded them flat to about double in size. I whisked an egg and put out a plate of bread crumbs seasoned with poultry seasoning and a little mixed pepper. 

I put 2 tbsp flour in the bag with the chicken and shook to evenly coat.  Then dipped the breasts in egg and rolled them in the bread crumbs. Season with some salt then straight into plenty of hot oil and season the top side too. I have not been getting enough salt on my protein when I put it in the coating mix. So until I find a better way I'll salt just before or in the pan.

I put the carrots in the steamer and a couple of minutes later the Brussels sprouts. Keep an eye on the chicken as the bread crumbs will scorch faster than flour alone, about 4 minutes a side. When the sprouts were starting to soften I drained the steamer and put the veggies back in the pot on medium low heat with extra virgin olive oil. The xv oil needs to cook a minute or so to enhance the flavor.

I plated my chicken with home made ketchup but Fern had his plain and crunchy. I had the right amount of salt on everything and all the flavors worked together.  If I improve my plating I will be pretty close to my ideal of a restaurant quality meal at home.