Friday, March 31, 2006


Remember my rant about Chef Idiot and the money he owes me? Apparently, I'm not the only person pissed off at him. I got this (pdf format file) in the mail yesterday and just had to share. It's hysterically funny, mostly because of the ranting nature and the poor grammmar and spelling.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Duck Ravioli

We had a package of egg roll wrappers in the fridge, and leftover duck from yesterday, so I put them together to make duck ravioli.

I found about a third of a bag of frozen Asian mushrooms from Trader Joe's in the freezer and decided they would work well with the duck as a filling for the pasta. I don't like shiitake mushrooms any way except fresh, so I picked the offending bits from the mushroom collection and sauteed the rest in olive oil with some chopped onion and lashings of salt and pepper. After letting this mixture cool, I chopped half of it finely, and did the same to some pieces of duck and a little duck skin, for richness.

Large dollops of this mixture were sandwiched between two egg roll wrappers to make eight large ravioli that I then cooked in two batches in a saute pan of simmering water for about 4 minutes. I can now understand why most ravioli recipes call for "scant teaspoons" of filling. When the pasta is cooked and the noodles soften, the filling becomes too heavy and wants to escape through newly formed tears in the pasta. Oh well. Live and learn!

Next, I added half a stick of butter to a pan and, after the foaming stopped, tossed in a handful of frozen corn and the other half of the sauteed mushrooms and onions. After a few minutes of cooking, I put the pre-boiled ravioli in, in two batches, and watched them fall apart. Ugh. But garnished with some scallion and fresh parsley, they were passable. More importantly, they tasted awesome!

With the ravioli, we had a salad with roasted beets and goat cheese. I love the version they serve at Louisiana, and did what I could to replicate it with what I had on hand: bagged butter lettuce salad; Melissa's Baby Red Beets; and a log of soft goat cheese. If we had them, I would have put some toasted or candied walnuts on top, but alas, we only had peanuts...and some Thai seasoned cashews from Trader Joe's. They taste an awful lot like Kaffir lime leaf, but what's wrong with that? so I used them. Finally, a vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar, honey mustard, and extra virgin olive oil was drizzled on top. Not bad at all, if I do say so myself! Even Neal admitted that the non-pickled beets were tasty (he's not a fan of this particular vegetable).

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Quack, Quack

I don't know why, but I got it in my head to make duck this weekend. To all of you out there who say, "ewww, duck is greasy!" I say, "Shaddup." Duck is *not* greasy; it is fatty. If you remove the fat, then the duck is succulent and flavorful.

I've had duck breast that I could have sworn was filet mignon. In fact, I almost sent some back to the kitchen because I was sure the waitress had gotten my order wrong.

You say, "I like Peking duck in Chinese restaurants, but roasting a duck at home seems like so much trouble!"

Nonsense. It's not any more difficult than roasting a chicken. In fact, it's easier, since you don't have to worry as much about drying out the breast meat. Ok, so maybe it's a tad more time-consuming....

I like Sally Schneider's recipe from A New Way to Cook:
Roast Duck

1 duck
3 garlic cloves
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 300F.

Rinse duck inside and out with cold water and pat dry. Cut off any extra fat and skin flaps, and remove the wing tips. Using a sharp pointy knife, prick many holes through the skin of the duck, being careful not to pierce the flesh underneath. Crush garlic cloves and rub inside; salt and pepper inside as well. Place bird, breast side up, in a foil-lined baking pan, and roast, uncovered, at 300F for one hour. At the end of the hour, remove pan from oven and, carefully holding duck down with a fork, pour the fat out into a glass bowl or measuring cup. Turn duck over, prick skin a few more times, and put back into the oven for another hour. Repeat every hour for the next three hours (four hours total).

After the fourth hour, turn oven temperature up to 350F and roast the bird breast side up. Remove from oven after one hour and let rest for 20 minutes. The skin will be crisp and fat-free, and the meat will be extremely soft.

Remove skin and set aside. Cut off legs and wings and place on a plate. Slice remaining meat off carcass (it's so soft, you can use a spoon to do this!) and place alongside legs. Put skin on top of all.

I like to make mock Peking duck with this recipe. This time, I decided on Peking Duck a l'Orange, just for the hell of it. To the usual Hoisin sauce, I added a few teaspoons of sweet orange marmalade and a glug of Grand Marnier. Low-carb flour tortillas (they are much more pliable than normal supermarket tortillas), "raspberry" orange segments, and julienned scallion completed the dish.

So what to do with the giblets and stuff that came in the duck?
I tossed the bag of "orange sauce" into the trash. You may choose to heat it up and use it, but, meh. The liver and heart I tossed into a saucepan with the neck and a bit of water, removing the liver after about 6 minutes and cooking the other goodies a little longer. After letting them cool a bit, I chopped everything up into tiny pieces for use in...Fusion Dirty Rice.

1 small onion, diced
2-3 ribs of celery heart, including the tender leaves (the yellow part of the celery), diced
1 scallion, including part of the dark green area, finely chopped
Pre-cooked giblets from one duck (usually the liver and heart), finely chopped
1/2 lop chang (Chinese sweet sausage), sliced
1 tablespoon duck fat
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
3 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons coconut milk powder

Heat the duck fat in a saute pan and add the sausage, celery, and onion. Cook on high heat until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the rice and the stock, bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until stock is absorbed. Add the giblets and warm through. Stir in the coconut powder and the scallions.

Serves 4-6

For our vegetable, I made Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce:

Wash broccoli thoroughly to remove any pesky sand, removing leaves from stems. Heat a pot of water to boiling, then blanch the broccoli, first the stems for about 4 minutes, then the leaves for about 1 minute. Remove all veg to bowls of ice water to stop the cooking process and retain the bright green color.

Heat a saute pan on high heat and add a dribble of oil. When hot, add the broccoli and toss in the oil. Squirt on some Chinese oyster sauce (I like Lee Kum Kee brand) and heat through. That's it!

I'm pleased to say that everything turned out fabulously. The "raspberry" oranges (like blood oranges, but not quite as red. We got 'em at Wegman's) and the addition of marmalade to the sauce worked quite well. The rice dish was familiar and unusual at the same time, and would have been better with even more giblets (I like my dirty rice extremely dirty). With sticky short-grain rice rather than long (I used basmati), it would be a close cousin to the dim sum dish sticky rice in lotus leaf.

There's still plenty of duck left over. Tomorrow - duck raviolo. Later in the week - duck gumbo. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Three Little Words

This past weekend, I cooked up some delicious short ribs using Mario Batali's recipe. God, they were good. The pumpkin orzo - ehhh. A little weird. But then, I didn't follow the recipe exactly because I wasn't in the mood to wrestle with winter squash, so I used canned puree. Neal seemed to like it, but heck, orzo is pasta and that's all he needs.

After the meaty feast, I thought we should have something more veg-ful on Sunday. So I dragged out the box of tofu that was dangerously close to its sell-by date, marinated it in some Makoto Ginger Dressing (man, that stuff is gooooood), and rolled it in breadcrumbs for a nice pan fry. To appease the non-tofu-lover in my house, I made some peanut noodles with leftover bowtie pasta.

I had also picked up some baby bok choy at Wegman's the other day and decided to braise it. I found several recipes for braised bok choy on the Web, with cooking times ranging from 8 to 30 minutes. I decided to wing it. I had leftover beef stock from the short ribs, so used that as my braising liquid and added a pinch of soy. The result - ugly brownish bok choy. But it tasted yummy, and was nice and tender. I'd do it again, but use good old-fashioned Kosher salt in place of the soy, to prevent excess discoloration.

To round off the meal, I sliced up and simply salted a yellow tomato. When I plated my mess meal, I squeezed a squiggle of Sriracha under the tofu, and added a small dollop of Hoisin to the side, just in case Neal felt the need to mask the taste.

He polished everything off and then said those three words I never thought I'd hear from him.

"More tofu, please."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

So Disappointing

I hoped to come back from my trip to Pasadena and Los Angeles with tales of the fabulous meals we enjoyed there, but alas, I cannot. Neal and I both came down with food poisoning and had to cancel our reservations for Spago and Via Veneto. We couldn't make dinners at Arroyo Chop House or New Delhi Palace. We did, however, manage to make it to Smitty's Grill, a nice, reasonably-priced steakhouse in Pasadena, for a nice dinner with friends. Not that I could eat much of my roast chicken, baked potato, and asparagus - but I really *wanted* to. Sigh.

Maybe next trip, eh?

Saturday, March 04, 2006


After reading the Amateur Gourmet's post on short ribs with pumpkin orzo, I was inspired to make some for myself. I have a copy of Mario Batali's Babbo Cookbook in my collection, and forwarded a link to the post to Neal, suggesting that he pick up some short ribs on his next trip to the grocery store.

Unfortunately, he came home with pork country ribs. Not to worry! I decided to work with them. My standard recipe for country ribs involves homemade barbecue sauce, but I wasn't in the mood for that today. I looked through several cookbooks and was inspired by a recipe for country ribs with mango, lime, and coconut milk from Molly Stevens' The Art of Braising . Only I decided to use blackberries instead of mango, wine instead of coconut milk, and balsamic vinegar in place of the lime juice. Otherwise it was exactly the same. I served the meat with an orzo risotto, or orzotto and edamame tossed with salt and lemon juice (I adore edamame.)

Country Ribs with Blackberry Sauce
1.5 lbs bone-in country style pork ribs, approximately three ribs
olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, julienned
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 cup Oregon canned blackberries in syrup
1 cup red wine (I used valpolicella)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 square semisweet baking chocolate
Salt and pepper

Pat the ribs dry and generously salt and pepper on both sides. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven; sear ribs on high heat until nicely browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Remove ribs from pot and add onions and carrots. Turn down heat to medium and sauté vegetables until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic. After about 2 minutes, add the wine and the vinegar. Bring to a boil and cook down until reduced to about half, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen any bits from the meat. Add the berries and their juice and cook an additional 2 minutes. Place the meat back into the pot and turn the heat down to a bare simmer.

Cook for 1 hour - 1 hour 15 minutes until pork is very tender. Remove pork from pot and raise the heat. Reduce the sauce, smashing the berries with a spoon. Taste for salt and pepper. Add the honey and the chocolate, stirring to combine. Add the meat back to the pot and cook an additional 15 minutes.

Serves 2 - 3

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
8 oz orzo pasta
2 cups chicken stock or bouillion
Pinch saffron
2 oz of cheese (I used leftover truffled cheese, but any medium- to soft-textured cheese would probably do nicely)

Melt butter in a sauté pan; add onion and orzo, stirring until the orzo browns, about 5 minutes. Add stock and saffron and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cooked, uncovered, 10 minutes. Cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid is evaporated. Add cheese and stir until melted.

Serves 4-6