Monday, January 24, 2011

Review of Last Nights Duck Ragu


I need to start by saying I am not a big fan of duck. I have never ordered it at a restaurant (save for splitting some duck nachos with friends), and I have never cooked duck before. Mike, on the other hand loves duck. A future blog post will discuss this and the other variances between his childhood and mine.
I also need to point out that technically I didn't cook duck this time either, the recipe called for duck leg confit, but up until yesterday, I have never used duck in a recipe either.
I couldn't find the proper noodles, so I used lasagna noodles split lengthwise, which worked perfectly. The recipe from start to finish took about 60 minutes to make, but I think I can add some efficiencies to my process next time. Yes there will be a next time because this duck dish was pretty fucking good. I added about 30% more onions and carrots, a touch more salt and more cheese than people should eat in one sitting, but it was great.
The first bite was fine, but after adding more cheese it took it over the top. This recipe immediately moves into my recipe box. I'd you have even the slightest like for duck, you need to make this recipe...then email me to tell me what you thought of it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A January of Pastas

I've been continuing my culinary exploration this month. A couple weeks ago, I made a skillet chicken parmesan from America's Test Kitchen. It was bland and tough and not really worth it. What a shame. Last weekend I made a homemade turkey bolognese -- which was fantastic! The recipe is at the bottom here. It made a good amount, which allowed me to freeze some of it -- I don't know if it will recover from the freeze as well as I hope it does -- I'll be sure to let you all know.

Tonight I am going to make another recipe from Food and Wine. I'm experimenting with a Pappardelle with Duck Ragu. I couldn't find any pappardelle, so I'm just using lasanga noodles, split lengthwise. The duck leg confit was more expensive than I expected about $20 for 4 legs. I'm looking forward to trying this new recipe. Mike is a big fan of duck and partnering it with olives sounds pretty damn tasty.

Mike spent the weekend with a friend in Vermont skiing -- the high was about 0 degrees and the lows were well below that. I am glad I stayed home. I haven't gone snowboarding in years (never been skiing) -- while it is on my list of things to try again, I'd rather not spend time in -25 degree weather. We are about 6 weeks away from our Southern Africa trip -- it seems so surreal. We are also planning a trip to McMinnville for IPNC this summer -- I am really excited about this trip. I'll get to see old friends, spend time in Mac and not have to do any of the crappy family stuff -- they won't even know I am in town. How great is that?

Turkey Bolognese Recipe
Brown 1 Pound of Ground turkey with 1/3 cup of milk (I used Silk)
Dice 1 onion, two carrots and 4 cloves of garlic
Heat 1/4 cup of good olive oil in a large deep sauce pan until shimmering
Carefully put the onion, carrots and garlic in the oil, cook until soft (3-4 minutes)
Pour two 28 ounce cans of GOOD crushed tomatoes into to the sauce pan
Add dried ground oregano and dried ground basil to taste (I used 2 tablespoons basil and 1 tablespoon oregano)
Season to taste with salt and pepper (I love lots of salt and pepper in this)
Add turkey to sauce and cook for 30-40 minutes

I served it with al dente spaghetti with a nice amount of parmesan cheese shredded on top.

I'm hungry just thinking about this.

Enjoy!


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekend Wake Up

Why is it that on weekends I want wake up at 0730 and am fully rested and during the week when my alarm goes off at the same time I am in no mood to get up. Today I woke up at 0730 and was up and active at 0800 and feel great. Damn you weekdays.

I thoroughly enjoy these couple of hours on Saturday mornings where the house is quiet and I am alone. I do simple weekly tasks that I like completely uninterrupted. I balance my check book, I make my weekend to do list, I watch shows that I missed during the week, I blog, I read blogs, I make my grocery list and I lounge on the couch with Lilly while reading magazines. It's a great way to start the weekend. Usually I have until 1015-1030 before the quietness is shattered.

My plans for this weekend include doing more work (work work) than normal. It's a busy time of the year for my group, but once we hit the end of the first full week in February we'll be back to normal. Then at that point I'll be on a quick path to our African vacation. I never really thought I'd be visiting Zimbabwe -- it's not high on my list of vacation destinations but I am confident this is going to be an amazing trip. We will be visiting Victoria Falls -- one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. I have seen one other wonder -- the Aurora Borealis -- from a plane a couple of times, but never from the ground. The other 5 Wonders are on my list to see before I die. The Grand Canyon should be the easiest of the other Wonders to check off next, right?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

New Year, New Recipe

Last Saturday night, I decided to cook a meal for MS and a friend JM. Since one of my BYY goals is to try new recipes, I figured now was a great time to try it. Usually when I entertain with a home cooked meal, I usually skip the dessert option -- or I'll serve sorbet or gelato at the end of the meal. I do this because I hate to bake. I love to cook, but hate to bake. Cooking is more like art, while baking is more science and chemistry. I'm also not a big sweet guy...well, that's not completely accurate -- I have an eating disorder. If there is something sweet n my house, I'll eat it in one sitting. To keep myself from turning into a super fat ass or a diabetic, I try to keep the desserts out of the house. When you entertain, often times people want dessert, it is just part of the logical progression of the meal.

As noted, I decided to use new recipes for this meal last week. I opted to use some recipes that I had pulled from my cooking magazines throughout the past year. I chose Roasted Chili Citrus Chicken Thighs with Mixed Olives and Potatoes from October 2010 issue of Bon Apetit, for the entree. Who doesn't love chili and citrus juices all over a big meaty chicken thigh? Then add in some olives, you can't beat it. While I must admit, while I do prefer my olives to be swimming in a big glass of vodka, this was a nice twist. I highly recommend this recipe, but I would not put the thighs back in the oven for the final 10 minutes -- MAYBE 5 minutes if your thighs aren't cooked through. Mine were just perfectly done, but could have been perfect plus 10% if I didn't cook them longer.

Now for the dessert. I wanted to push myself to try something new, so I decided to make a Bittersweet-Chocolate Tart from the December 2010 issue of Food and Wine magazine. This was a remarkably easy recipe, especially for a novice baker, like myself. I didn't have a bottomless tart pan, so I used a pyrex pie plate and it worked perfectly. It wasn't as pretty as it could have been, as the pie pan didn't have side flutes and I couldn't really remove it from the pan, but it didn't affect the taste at all. This was a very good dessert. My guests each had seconds of the dessert and my mom noshed on it all week long. I was told that this recipe was good enough to serve at a restaurant -- whatever that means. I would hope that my cooking normally is good enough to serve in a restaurant...but I'll take the compliment and move on with my life.

So I consider this monthly goal completed and a great success. I had a great time trying something completely new and sharing it with important people in my life.

If you decided to try these recipes, I'd love to know what you think and how you did or would improve the recipe.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things - 2010

It seems like everyone this time of year is creating a master list of great things -- Martha, Oprah, Bry, everyone!

So, I'm going to outline a few of my favorite (material) things from the end of 2010, in no particular order.
  • Tommy Bahama Pineapple Cilantro Candle. This is always on my list of favorite things. I keep this candle (small travel size) in my suitcase. It makes every dumpy hotel smell a little better and reminds one of home. If you haven't been exposed to this candle (or my guest room), do yourself a favor and buy one. It's a refreshing little treat that adds a lot of benefit during the winter months -- reminds me of the tropics.
  • Chocolove Almonds and Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate. I was first exposed to this on a coach flight from LAX to ORD this year. I love this candy bar. It's rich dark chocolate (55% cocoa) will quench your chocolate cravings. The addition of sea salt works to cleanse the palette and intensify the chocolate flavor. These candies are a bit difficult to find -- you can order online, which is what I recommend. If you want to give an acceptable equivalent a try, go to Ghirardelli and get the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt bar. The almonds are much smaller and are basically just dust -- which is disappointing, especially compared to Chocolove. Go try it.
  • Food Magazines. I've been more diligent in reading my food/recipe magazines. I love to cook, but never end up using the great recipes in my magazines. I find a recipe that I love, so I save the magazine, but never know what recipe was in that magazine or if I'm looking for a specific recipe I never know what issue the recipe was in. I've started pulling the recipe from the magazine and keeping it in a separate folder -- it's not the most efficient way to store these new recipes, but it's better than the alternative. Once I actually use the new recipe I make the decision to either throw it away (if it wasn't good or was too much work for what you get out of it) or I write the recipe down on a card and put it in my recipe box -- and then toss the magazine article. This keeps the clutter down.
  • Port Wine. I never really liked port until I spent a few days in Porto, Portugal this past September. I really like this beverage partnered with dessert or just as an after dinner/conversation drink. Quite nice. The US stuff is less than ideal. If you can find Kopke Reserve just pick it up. They have a great selection of very old ports and newer bottles as well. All that I've tried have been really amazing. It is tough to find in the US, but not impossible. Buy it.
My list isn't comprehensive nor is it really focused on something specific -- just a few things that were on my mind lately.

Happy New Year.