Wednesday, December 28, 2011

French Pizza Night "Tart D'Alsace"

Doesn't this look just yummy scrumbos?  My favorite frozen grocery store pizza is the Tart D'Alsace from Trader Joes.  So Naturally I came to the decision that I could make one just as good.  In actual reality I made it even better.  Instead of ordinary onions I made up sweet caramelized Spanish onions, and instead of ham I used salty smokey heavenly bacon, and instead of a Swiss cheese I used a nutty crumbly rich melting British cheddar.  This was so good it was physically painful to have to share it.  Not sure if I did really.

Tart D'Alsace

Scraps from short crust pastry
Greek Yogurt
1/4 - 1/3 cup honey baked ham, diced
3 TBS of spanish onion, diced roughly
1 pat of butter
A pinch of salt
Coastal Cheddar
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven with the baking sheet in the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Soften up the chilled dough by "kneeding" for a bit till it becomes soft and pliable. Shape into a disc that is 8 inches in diameter. Dust with flour. Roll out into a circle by rolling in one direction and then turning 90 degrees and rolling in the same direction.Now turn in the edges on all sides to create a "crust" for the pizza. Now spread on enough greek yogurt to cover the pizza thinly. sprinkle over the ham. Pop this into the fridge to let the dough chill up again. While the pie is chilling lightly fry the onion in the butter till turning golden, and almost a little black in spots but not burning. Season with a pinch of salt. Take the pizza out and sprinkle over the onions, then take a vegetable peeler and make thin shavings of cheese. make enough to put on your pizza. lay this on your pizza. Sprinkle over freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 9 minutes directly on the preheated baking sheet in the oven. Should be golden brown and flaky, the yogurt should have thickened, and the cheese melted. Eat right away, doesn't really need to cool.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Toys

There is a beautiful four letter word that is bandied about amongst foodies and cheffies alike. That word is Shun - it is synonymous with precision, elegance, and strength. Could I sound more like a horrible infomercial than I already do? No . . probably not.
Yet these beauties are prized possessions of those who know the true transcendent experience of using one of these lovely pieces of cutlery. For Christmas my sister gave me one of the greatest gifts an aspiring chef can receive - a Shun Santoku . Santoku loosely translates into 'Three Virtues' referring to the three tasks that the knife performs - slicing, dicing, and mincing.
I for one just like to finally feel that I have arrived in acquiring the proper knife which reflects the label my sister bestowed upon me - a knife wielding ninja. I know it isn't reality but I love to fancy myself a character within a culinary Asian drama where in my skills with the knife are able to leave an entire audience stunned. Oh, and while we're add it lets just make a 5' 8" beauty who's hair looks gorgeous even after cooking all day in a hot kitchen.

Now if you'll excuse me . . . I here my basket of onions calling me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sausage Rolls - "We can can get heavenly breakfast foraging in the larder, then a real breakfast when we get in." - Kay Harker

Box of Delights . . . Perhaps the paragon of British children's fantasy novels. I'm sure many will prefer The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, but none can compare to the poetic chaotic beauty and magical goose pimples I experience when reading the Box of Delights. I am not posting here a food item specifically referred to in the book, however as fan of the book I am also a fan of the BBC 80's production despite it lacking many a magic scene due to a low budget. In one of my favorite scenes Kay Harker and his friend Peter sneak into a larder to have a secret breakfast; in this scene it would appear they are eating sausage rolls, jam tarts, and lemonade. However in the book they eat ham on bread with a blob of butter, mince pies, and cream. Here I provide sausage rolls since they are my favorite thing that the Brits ever invented. I just about subsisted on them when vacationing in the U.K. with my family. That and curry.

Sausage Rolls

The Sausage Meat

1 Pound of good quality unseasoned pork sausage meat
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp tsp allspice
A sprinkle of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp mixed herbs (any kind you like, sometimes if I'm feeling lazy I just use poultry seasoning)

Pop everything into a bowl and mix it all up good with your hands till well combined. Leave in the fridge for a good while to let the flavors fully infuse into the sausage meat. This is a good spicy sausage meat that you can use for anything british - Pork pies, scotch eggs, sausage rolls, what have you.

The Rough Puff Pastry

8 ounce of flour
1/2 tsp of salt
6 ounces of butter
About 6 TBS of ice water
The juice of 1/4 of a Lime
or Lemon

Cut up the butter into small blocks, like the size of a dice, maybe slightly larger. Pop these onto plate and leave in the fridge to chill up a bit. Stir the flour and salt together into a chilled
bowl. Pop in the butter. Toss with the flour Add a bit of the water and all of the lime/lemon juice mixing with your hands as you do. Keeping adding and working in the ice water till it turns into a soft pliable
dough. Pop onto a very lightly floured board. Marble is ideal, but not necessary. Roll out into a long rectangle always just rolling back then lifting the pin up and rolling forward. Once rolled out mark the pastry into thirds from top to bottom. Fold the bottom away from you making sure to keep a pocket of
air within and pr
ess it down along the second mark line. Bring the top third down tow
ards you and leaving again a pocket of air and press lightly along the bottom of the pastry. Turn 90 degrees and roll into a long rectangle again. Repeat the folding and rolling at least once or twice more. Ending at the folding up and down part and putting the block of pastry into the fridge for a good 15 minute rest. Repeat this whole thing including the resting time twice more. Then one more time and let rest as long as you can, but 30 minutes is just fine. Now it is ready to roll out and use for wha
tever you like. Makes a good lid for a meat pie (just make sure the filling is cooled down).

Constructing the sausage rolls:

Roll the prepared pastry out as thin as you can. A long wide rectangle is best. Now take out the prepared sausage and shape into longish fat snakes. Lay this sausage at the edge of the rectangle of pastry and then start to roll until all the sausage is completely covered with the pastry.

Get them all rolled up and sealed nicely with a bit of milk. Now take these snakes and slice them into roughly two inches in length. Pop these onto a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and lay this into a large freeze that can hold the baking sheet. Once frozen pop into a large plastic bag and leave in the freezer. Take out and thaw as needed. Create slanted slashes atop the rolls. Put into a 425 degree oven for roughly 15 minutes. Longer of the sausage is very fatty.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Curry for One

Sometimes you just really need a curry. Okay, I always need a curry. So when you're at home just pottering about on your own and need a quick curry without all the fuss I recommend the following recipe. Although between you and me I don't even use recipes anymore for my everyday curries. You just pop in an onion with a bit of ginger paste, garlic paste optional, pop in the spices (basic curry spices being cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder,). Simmer in any sauce you like, tomatoes, yogurt, coconut milk, cream, a bit of water and tomato paste. Finish with garam masala. leave for a few minutes. done. Oh, and don't forget the salt. Spruce up with whatever toppings you like: cilantro, chutney, raita, toasted nuts, whatever.

A Very Simple Curry

1 shallot, finely minced
A heaping tsp of ginger paste
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp coriander
A sprinkle of cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili paste
2 chicken tenderloin pieces, sliced into bite sized
1/2 cup to 1 cup greek god's yogurt
salt to taste
Water as needed
finishing spices: 1/8 tsp each of garam masala and cumin powder

warm a cast iron pan on medium with a little oil in it. turn to low and add in the shallots. saute your shallot till soft and translucent. Add ginger paste and saute till a little golden. Add in the spices and mix about with the onions and ginger letting it getting fragrant. Add in the chicken and chili paste and stir about till chicken is cooked a bit and turning a nice color and smelling really good. Add in some warm water scrapping up the browned bits. let it simmer a bit. Keep adding in some yogurt and stirring about cooking up till it looks nice and saucy. Season with salt to taste. Let it simmer on a medium low till bubbling about the edges and the chicken is nice and tender with the lid on. once done, turn off the heat stir in the garam masala and cumin powder. Pop the lid on and leave a good 3-5 minutes to let the spices to meld and fuse with the sauce.

serve with toasted almond flakes.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cumin Chicken Tikka

1 pound of chicken drumsticks
1 TBS Lime juice
Salt to taste
3 oz. of greek yogurt
3 cloves of garlic
Heaping tsp ginger paste
heaping tsp Indian red chili paste
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp cayenne
heaping tsp cumin seeds
heaping tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs peanut oil

slash chicken Indian style with kitchen scissors. Rub the lime juice into the chicken and sprinkle all over with salt. While this is marinating mix the rest of the ingredients well and once assemble and the chicken has sat a good 15 minutes in the pre-marinade rub the yogurt and spice mixture well into the chicken. Allow this to marinate for at least a couple of hours, but preferably overnight.
To cook the chicken you may grill it or broil it turning the chicken every ten minutes till the internal temperatures is about 165 or the chicken is coming easily away from the bone. Half way through baste the chicken on side, then towards the last 10-15 minutes baste again on the other side with the remaining marinade. It's find if parts of it appear to be burning. That is just flavor.
Serve either plain or with a tikka masala style gravy, which I provide my recipe here.

Tikka Masala Gravy

TBS butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp Indian red chili paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground fennel
sprinkling of cayenne
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbs tomato paste
Juice of 2/3s of a lime
1 14.5 oz. can of tomatoes, pureed
Salt to taste
TBS butter
1/4 cup heavy cream

Melt butter on low. Add in garlic, ginger, chili paste. Allow to stir fry for a bit till fragrant and lovely. Add in the ground spices and stir about. Allow fragrance to develop. Stir in the tomato paste and allow to cook of for a bit and mix into the aromatics and other spices. Add in the pureed tomatoes a little at a time as you stir and mix into the paste. Once enough added finish off adding in the rest of the tomatoes. Now stir in the lime juice. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Add in the cream slowly on a low heat stirring all the time. Add in the butter and stir still melted and fulling combined in the sauce. Allow this to simmer for a few more minutes. At the very end add the two spices listed below. Serve over rice and chicken tikka (or really anything you like)
Finishing spices (add these once the sauce is essentially done, turn off the heat, pop the lid on and leave 5 minutes):
1 tsp each of ground cumin and garam masala

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"A Korma is pointless, it's Futile! I Won't Touch it!" - Smithy from "Gavin and Stacey"

It was just a matter of time that the allure of the Indian curry would find me in the Kitchen gathering up all available spices and having a beautiful dance. I've created a kind of masala dabba (Indian spice box) using various containers I purchased or found about my kitchen. Some spices I needed to purchase and others I could find. The most financially prudent way to purchase Indian spices with the best quality is at Whole Foods in the bulk spice section, however for spices you cannot find there I recommend Penzey's Spice Store. There I found unusual spices like smoky black cardamom and the more traditional white poppy seeds used in Indian cuisine. Haven't been able to procure curry leaves or Amchur (mango powder), however in most cases the leaves are noted as being optional and the mango powder can be substituted with lemon juice.

Okay, talking far too much about my spice shopping. Which curry do I choose to make first? Of course me being me I have researched and poured over just about every curry recipe I could get my grubby little hands on. Since my sister and I actually prefer a a mildly spiced Korma just like Stacey from the Brit-com "Gavin and Stacey" I decided to try a couple of different Korma recipes. In the end I found myself preferring the second rendition that I made. But for the sake of having a "Battle of the Curries" I shall post both recipes here.

The first recipe is a tomatoey creamy korma mildy spiced with fennel and paprika, also noticed the lack of cumin and a smaller addition of fresh ginger. The addition of carrots also bring their own flavor to this curry, adding that sweetness so characteristic to their kind. Note however in both cases the use of a sweet onion. I love sweet onions and pretty much never use anything else.

Creamy Tomato chicken Curry with carrots

10 oz. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bit size pieces
1 large carrot, rolling cut chunks (Japanese style)
¼ cup tomato paste
¾ cup boiling water
A good knob of ginger, grated
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
Some peanut oil
A knob of butter, unsalted, plus extra for frying onions
½ a sweet onion, sliced thinly
5 cardamom pods, smooshed a bit
6 whole cloves
¼ tsp cinnamon (purchase a stick for next time)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp ground fennel
¼ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ cup coconut milk
¼ cup plain yogurt

Mix the ginger and garlic together with a ¼ cup of water. Fry you onions in oil and a bit of butter till golden. Add a pinch of salt to the onions. Scoot to one side of the pan. Add the knob of butter. Allow to melt and stop bubbling. Add in the ginger/garlic mixture and sauté till golden and fragrant. Add the whole spices and bobble about till smelling nice. Stir back in the onions. Add the ground spices and incorporate with the onions, frying up till fragrant. Pop in the chicken and stir about till gone white and coated with spices. Add in the carrots and allow to cook for a bit. Add a good sprinkling of salt over the whole lot. Mix boiling water with tomato and add into the chicken and deglaze the pan scrapping up any good flavor bits. Pop the lid on and simmer on low till chicken and carrots are tender and done. Take the lid off and turn up the heat. Allow the liquid to cook down till creamy and thick. Turn heat to low and stir in the coconut milk and yogurt. Add another good pinch of salt. Stir and pop the lid on. Leave turn simmer a few more minutes. Serve with basmati, mango chutney, and cilantro if you like.

The second curry is Nuttier, creamier, and robust with the heady scent of cumin. I love this one because I feel all the flavors blend well, the toasted almonds as a garnish truly elevate the dish to a kind of culinary eloquence if you will.

Creamy Almond Chicken Korma

1 sweet onion, chopped
4 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods
Cinnamon stick
12 ounce of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 + inches of ginger, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
3/4 tsp paprika
50 grams of almond butter
8 ounces of chicken stock
1/4 cup of coconut milk
1/4 cup of greek yogurt
Salt to taste
2 oz flaked almonds, toasted

Heat some peanut oil over medium heat in a cast iron frying pan. Add the onions and fry till golden. Season with a little salt. Add the whole spices and fry till fragrant. Add in the ginger and garlic and fry till fragrant and colored. Add the ground spices and mix in with the onions and fry till fragrant. Add in the chicken and coat with the onion and spice mixture. Season with a little salt. Cook the chicken for a few minutes. Add in the chicken stock scrapping up all the good bits. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and put the lid on. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes till chicken is cooked through. Take the lid off and bring to a medium heat. Allow the liquid to cook down till it's about half it's original volume. Turn the heat to low again and stir in the almond butter and coconut milk. Season with a little more salt if you like. Allow to simmer for 5 or 10 more minutes. Have the heat now as low as it will go. Add in the greek yogurt and slowly combining. Make sure it is warm. Turn off the heat and pop the lid on. The Heat of the cast iron pan should continue to cook the curry keeping it nice and hot. Serve over basmati rice with the toasted almond flakes (these make this curry truly special).