Monday, November 28, 2011

In the Spirit of Foraging - Chanterelles with Creamy Polenta

It is the season for foraging . . . which I have yet to take part in, BUT I would love to. Instead, I am celebrating the season, and reaping the benefits of other foragers, by eating as many chanterelle mushrooms as possible. I bought a heap of the tasty mushrooms and at the last minute I decided what I was going to do with them. I had a few ears of corn that I needed to use and figured I would make a creamy (= extra butter) polenta to accompany a simple wild mushroom ragout. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fall Leaves and Cold-Weather Chili

I said that chili was coming . . . In keeping with my cold weather theme I had to make some chili. I would like to add, as an aside, that I went up to Marin this past weekend and took in all of the beautiful fall colors – so for those of you who don’t believe California has seasons, here is a little proof that we do. 

Growing up, my mother always made beef chili with big chunks of beef accompanied by grated sharp cheddar and generous dollops of sour cream. I crave that chili but don’t think I can make it as good or as deliciously chili-y – so I ventured to make a new type of chili (which turned out to be delish but was a very different chili from that of my mom’s). 

To make: I fried up four slices of bacon (I like applewood) and then tossed in a whole chopped onion and let that cook in the delicious bacon fat. I tossed in some chopped bell peppers, some strips of poblanos and a healthy dose of chopped garlic. Once that had all married and sautéed I removed it all and set it aside so that I could brown my meat. I added a dollop of olive oil into my pot and browned 1 pound of ground beef (I like the fatty kind – because I can’t help myself) and 1 pound of ground pork. I added in 2-3 tablespoons cumin, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon oregano, 2 teaspoons paprika and a generous dash of cayenne. Once the meat is browned I added in a huge can of pinto beans, 1 can of black beans, 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, a bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. I added the onion mix back in as well. Give it a stir and let time work its magic.

I let the chili cook uncovered on medium-low heat for an hour and a half. To finish it I added a can of corn and served it on top of white rice. I put out bowls of cheddar, sour cream, cilantro and chopped avocado for people to sprinkle on top as they pleased. I made WAY too much chili and will have leftovers for about a month but the good news is – chili gets better with age (within reason).  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Skillet Cornbread

Our friends were in town for their honeymoon (congrats Charlotte and Ciarán!), so, of course, I pulled out all the stops–I made chili (recipe to follow). What is the perfect compliment to chili you might ask? Tortillas? Maybe. Biscuits? Hrm... Cornbread? Ding ding ding! Meat and beans with some warm gritty cornbread–yes please. The added perks on this particular occasion included: 1.) the cold weather outside, 2.) having a nice group of friends to share the meal with and 3.) our English friends had never experienced cornbread before (one had never had peanut butter prior to a week ago either!! - another story unto itself, suffice it to say cornbread beat peanut butter).
I used a recipe from an older issue of Bon Appetit for their Sage and Honey Skillet Cornbread and just tweaked a few things–one thing I didn't change, the amount of butter . . . I did however add a chopped jalapeno–next time I might even add two. I love the flavor of jalapeno in my cornbread. I didn't really taste the sage, or the honey, but the cornbread was moist AND delicious with a nice added crunch. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall is Here - Roast Mushroom and Butternut Squash Risotto

I needed some comfort food while under the weather and decided risotto was just what I needed (I’m generally not a soup-person, it’s a consistency thing, there are obviously exceptions). I couldn’t decide on a butternut squash risotto or mushroom risotto so I combined the two.

I always have problems with risotto – I follow the directions to a T, stirring, feeding it with slow additions of warm broth - it always turns out gummy AND at the same time, slightly undercooked, each grain having a slight crunch. I think the gummy is just that I let too much of the liquid cook off. The undercooked I just can’t understand – it says it will take 20 minutes but I’m at the stove for 45 . . . The good news on this front  is that I finally feel redeemed and my risotto turned out well.

I began by cutting my butternut squash in half (a feat in and of itself) and roasting it in a 350 degree oven with olive oil and sea salt until it was tender, about 45 minutes. While the squash was roasting away I chopped up my mushrooms (baby shiitake supplemented with some regular button mushrooms) and threw them in a sauté pan with some caramelizing onions and a healthy helping of crushed garlic. Once my shiitakes were roasted I pulled them out of the pan and set them aside. Next, I poured a dollop of olive oil into the pan and sautéed about 1.5 cups of Arborio rice until it was translucent.

 At this point, I would normally add in a ½ cup of white wine BUT I didn’t have any on hand and so I skipped this step (rest assured, it was a-ok). I had warmed about 4 cups of veal stock with 1 cup of water in a sauce pot. I added in my first ladle-ful of stock and a few sprigs of thyme and set to work stirring. With every addition of stock I gave my rice a stir and watched my little risotto come to life. 

Once I had run out of liquid (adding more if necessary) and my risotto was the right consistency, I turned off the heat and folded in 1/4 cup grated parmesan, the shiitakes and 1 cup of the butternut squash that I pureed with a bit of cream and water. I chopped up the rest of the squash and topped my risotto with some of the cubed squash and a sprig of fresh thyme. It was the perfect runny consistency and I loved the veal broth which gave it a nice heartiness that complimented the mushrooms nicely. I deemed it a successful under-the-weather-cold-weather meal.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Side Trip - Fried Chicken Dinner

I have been out of commission for a little bit but am back and have some new recipes to share. I was a bit under the weather and not feeling like cooking, eating, or thinking about food - luckily that has passed. Before getting sick (luckily) I got to test the waters at the newly(ish) opened Farmshop in Los Angeles. Farmshop, the brainchild of Jeffrey Cerciello (formerly of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group), features a Sunday night fried chicken dinner (sound a little familiar? Ad Hoc much?). No complaints here - it was the best fried chicken that I have ever had. I know this is a big statement, but it was immensely tasty - so flavorful, unbelievably moist and juicy, highly craveable (and the sides were pretty tasty too). I look forward to going back.