Sunday, October 22, 2006

Steak Frites: Porc aux Champignons et Pommes de Terre au Reblochon (Pork with Mushrooms and Twice Baked Potatoes with Reblochon Cheese)

Okay, so I didn't make steak frites, but a cookbook about French bistro cooking, particularly steak frites, had me drooling all afternoon, so I decided I probably shouldn't continue to resist the call of la cuisine française.  While a beautiful steak coated in freshly cracked black pepper with a side of fries sounds heavenly, said steak isn't really part of the budget this paycheck.  I had to take a step down the meat aisle and settle for some pork, although it certainly didn't feel like settling once this luscious dish hit my taste buds.

Such a fantastic pork dish needs something equally fabulous on the side, so I decided to try some twice-baked potatoes, French style.  The original recipe called for Reblochon cheese, but since brie was an acceptable substitute, and I didn't want to spend my afternoon in the grocery store, I grabbed a wedge of creamy brie.

Everything turned out beautifully (except for my pictures, ack!), and I moped up every bit of the pork's sauce with my creamy potato.  A little spinach on the side, and this was a bistro-worth dinner for sure.

Porc aux Champignons (Pork with Mushrooms)
From Steak Frites by Pierre-Yves Chupin

2 pork tenderloins, each weighing 14 ounces
Olive oil, for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound, 2 ounces button mushrooms
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
3 shallots
8 baby onions
1 small sprig thyme
1 cup light cream

Cut the pork tenderloins into large pieces.  Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and brown the meat on all sides.  Season with salt and pepper.  Wipe the mushrooms, slice them thinly, and add to the skillet with the bay leaf and cloves.  Peel the shallots and baby onions.  Slice the shallots and add them to the skillet with the whole onions and the sprig of thyme.  Cover and cook for 1 hour over a gentle heat.  Add the cream and bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the sauce thickens.  Season to taste.

Makes 4 servings

Pommes de Terre au Reblochon (Twice Baked Potatoes with Reblochon Cheese)
From Steak Frites by Pierre-Yves Chupin

½ Reblochon cheese, or 4 ounces brie or Monterey Jack
4 thin slices bacon
4 large baking potatoes
Olive oil for brushing
4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter

Cut the cheese, with its rind, into pieces.  Chop the bacon and fry in a little oil or broil.  Scrub clean and dry the potatoes.  Brush them with a little olive oil and cook them in the oven for 1 hour at 425°F, being sure to turn them halfway through.  Remove the baked potatoes from the oven and cut in half lengthwise.  Carefully scoop out three quarters of each potato from its skin.  Preheat the oven broiler.  Place a large piece of butter in each half potato, then place them under the broiler for 10 minutes until they are golden brown.  Remove from the broiler and stuff each half potato with a little cheese, followed by some chopped bacon and scooped out potato flesh.  Put back under the broiler for a few minutes, then serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Chicken Stew with Sage Dumplings

It's finally that time of year when the cold fronts move through Texas and cool us off a little. But when those fronts move through and the air gets a little crisp in the mornings, it makes me want to eat something very special that my mother only makes once in a blue moon. She has withheld the recipe for this particular treat for all of my 28 years until I have finally figured out how to make it. And what is this delectable treat that makes my mouth water at its name? Chicken and Dumplings. Yes, something so simple makes my stomach growl in anticipation hours prior to the meal. And now I finally have a recipe.

When making the dumplings, you have several options. Option 1: Cut the dough into strips 1x4". Option 2: Use a 1½" biscuit cutter to make little rounds of dough. Option 3 (the one I used): Use a fancy Japanese cutter to make little flowers. All of these will yield the same delicious results. My mom uses option 1 since it's the easiest.

Chicken Stew with Sage Dumplings

1 5-pound chicken
1 stalk celery (including leaves), cut in thirds
1 small onion, quartered
1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise, then into thirds
15 leaves fresh sage
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
8 large leaves fresh sage, chopped finely
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Remove any internal organs from chicken and place in a large pot. Stuff cavity with 10 sage leaves. Add celery, onion, carrot, and 5 remaining sage leaves to the pot. Add water to cover chicken. Heat to boiling over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for an hour and a half, or until chicken is tender.

Remove chicken from broth and let cool. When chicken is cool to the touch, remove skin and discard. Pull meat from the bone in finger-size chunks and set aside. Discard bones (or use them to make chicken broth for other dishes). Cool chicken broth and refrigerate until fat collects on the top. Strain the fat from the top and then return the broth to the heat. Add chicken back to the broth.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sage in a medium bowl. Heat butter and milk over medium heat until milk is hot and butter is melted. Pour over dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until moistened. Turn out onto a floured surface and, using a floured rolling pin, roll to 1/4" thickness. Cut into strips, rounds, or other shape. Bring broth to a boil. Drop dumplings in one at a time in different areas of the pot so that the dumplings do not stick while cooking. When all of the dumplings have been added, let the broth boil for another five minutes, then turn down the heat to medium.

In a separate bowl, mix cornstarch with broth from the pot to form a thin paste. Add back to the pot and stir until the whole mixture thickens moderately. Serve hot.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Two Bentos from Bento Boxes: Teriyaki Scallops/Soy Turnip/Gobo in Vinegar and Glazed Meatballs/Quick Mushrooms/Simmered Pumpkin

What could be more fun than a bento for lunch?  The answer, in case you're wondering, is nothing.  I actually look forward to my lunch if there's a little box full of goodies waiting for me.  These are two bentos that I made based on recipes from Bento Boxes by Naomi Kijima.  Give them a try and see how much more fun your lunch can be.

Teriyaki Scallops

5 scallops
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sake
1 tablespoon water

Trim the scallops. Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil. Add the scallops and cook 3 to 4 minutes until well-glazed.

Soy Turnip

1 turnip with leaves
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Remove the turnip leaves, leaving ½-inch of stem. Peel the turnip and cut into wedges. Toss with the soy sauce.

Gobo in Vinegar

1 (4¾-inch) piece gobo (burdock root), peeled
⅓ cup dashi stock
1½ tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Roasted sesame seeds

Cut the gobo crosswise into 3 pieces.  Slice lengthwise and blanch.  Stir in the dashi, vinegar, sugar, and salt.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Glazed Meatballs
From Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go by Naomi Kijima

¼ onion, minced
½ teaspoon cooking oil
3 ounces ground beef
2 teaspoons beaten egg
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
Oil for deep frying
2 teaspoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon each granulated sugar, mirin, and sake
3 tablespoons water
4 quail eggs, hard-boiled

Sauté the onion in the oil until translucent. Let cool. Combine the ground beef, cooked onion, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Knead well.  Form into small balls. Deep fry at 340°F for 2 to 3 minutes until well browned. Place meatballs in a pan with all remaining ingredients except the quail eggs. Boil 4 to 5 minutes. Place the meatballs on short skewers, alternating with quail eggs.

Quick Mushrooms
From Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go by Naomi Kijima

½ tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon mirin
3 tablespoons water
¾ ounce shimeji mushrooms, with stalks

Bring liquid ingredients to a boil and add the shimeji.  Cook briefly, then drain.

Simmered Pumpkin
From Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go by Naomi Kijima

3 ounces pumpkin (kabocha squash)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Dice pumpkin in ¾-inch cubes.  Shave off the sharp edges. Boil in a small amount of water for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the sugar and continue cooking. When tender, drizzle with soy sauce.