making food from anywhere, with anything

Posts tagged “asparagus

Easter Dinner

Hello Everyone.

For the first time since beginning college, I went home for Easter.  Although Easter does not seem to hold quite as much importance to our family as does Thanksgiving or Christmas, it still meant a lot to come home.  Of course, it means a lot any time I go home.

While most of my Easter memories involve a honey glazed ham of sorts, this year we decided to go with pork shoulder.  My appreciation for pork is growing (I never used to like it), and this recipe pushed me over the edge in to full-on pork love.

the glorious pork shoulder

I spotted the recipe here and thought it sounded delicious.  It involves braising the pork in a champagne vinegar mixture.  To be honest, I have never heard of champagne vinegar so this recipe was exciting.  New ingredients are always exciting.  I won’t bother reposting the recipe, as you can just follow the link over to Food & Wine.

As you can probably tell, the pork was damn good.  Perfectly cooked, if I may say so (I had nothing to do with the cooking, which is probably why!).  It was moist, tender, and fell apart when sliced with a fork.  For whatever reason, there ended up being about a half a gallon of sauce (yes, a half a gallon!) which is rather excessive.  Nevertheless, it was a delicious sauce.  I was wary of including the grapes, and we toyed with omitting them.  In the end, I’m glad we kept them in.  They added a subtle sweetness to the pork.  I personally hate the honey-glazed ham crap because I think it’s too sweet, so this was just the right amount of sweetness for my liking.

With the pork, my mom and I tried our hand at making dinner rolls.  We dug out the bread machine to use to make the dough.  To the original recipe, we added some thyme and tarragon so they would have a nice herby feel.

herbed dinner rolls

They came out really well for our first try at making them.  They were soft, and the egg wash made them look store bought (at least, I thought so).  They had a slight sweetness to them, which was really nice along with all the savory food.  The recipe was out of a cookbook we have at home.

In addition to the rolls, we had prosciutto-wrapped roasted asparagus with a citronette found here. The original recipe calls for pancetta, but we opted for prosciutto. This side dish could not be easier, and can be prepped the night before if need be.  All you have to do is wrap the asparagus in some prosciutto and keep them covered in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them.  The citronette was actually really, really good.  It was a little sweet, and the citrus really balanced the intense salty flavor of the prosciutto well.

It has become a rather well-known and accepted fact that my mother makes the best deviled eggs, and these were certainly no exception.   Alex never had deviled eggs before visiting for Easter, and I would argue that these were probably the best introduction to this side dish.  Although deviled eggs are commonly had during the summer for picnics and such, we had lots of eggs and who doesn’t love deviled eggs?

For dessert, we bought a cheesecake.  It was really good, but I’m a little biased.

I think I can safely say that this was the most delicious Easter I’ve had yet.


oeufs et asperge

Hello everyone.

Ordinarily, Thursday is the day I plan out the following week’s meals.  Then Friday, I go grocery shopping to pick up any random ingredients or pantry items that I’m low on.

That didn’t happen this week.  I’m not sure why, but I felt myself starting to lose inspiration.  While I waxed lyrical yesterday about how eye-opening Judith Jones’s perspective was, I’m still not really feeling into it.  I took this as a sign: I need to start cooking more challenging dishes.  I noticed one of the local grocery stores sells honeycomb tripe every now and then, so after hitting the gym, I headed there yesterday to get some.  Tripe?  Yes.  Really? Oh yes.  One of the points Judith Jones made was that Americans are too afraid to eat offal and other less common bits of animals.  And why should we be?  Seriously, why?

So, off I walked to the store in hopes of diving into personally uncharted culinary territory.  I had no idea how I would make the tripe if I managed to score some.  I stalled by the vegetables for a bit trying to think up a recipe while picking up a small bunch of asparagus and a small box of juicy, red strawberries; the nice fruits and vegetables that would hold my hand as I walked to the meat section.  Once there, I scoured the meats.  No tripe.  I looked again.  No, still nothing.  What the hell!  I got all in the mood for some tripe only to be disappointed.  sigh–Maybe next time.

The store did, however, have pork sirloin chops on a buy one get one free sale.  So, I now have lots of pork.  Ordinarily, I buy chicken and the occasional beef.  Yes, very boring.  While it’s true I do not like pork chops (I find them tasteless), I want to branch out.  Admittedly, I have no idea what pork sirloin chops are.  I have never seen that labeling before.  However, I’m determined to make pork chops taste good — that is tonight’s mission.

Disheartened after my grocery store fail, I had no idea what to do for dinner yesterday.  I didn’t want meat.  I didn’t even want to cook.  I even toyed with the notion of getting take out from somewhere.  However, I did just buy some asparagus and marscapone cheese….and I did buy eggs a while ago for, well, I don’t remember what.  Sounded like all the fixings for a spring omelet.

asparagus omelet with collard greens and caramelized onions

(As you can see, I’ve yet to master the art of folding an omelet.)  I believe somewhere in this blog, I posted an omelet recipe, so check that out if you don’t know the basics of making an omelet.   When whisking the eggs, I added some marscapone cheese instead of creme fraiche or milk.  I have never used marscapone before, and I’d say it’s got the texture of cream cheese with the taste of ricotta.  It’s quite good, actually.

As for the asparagus and onions, I thought they would taste nice in a balsamic reduction of some sort.  So, I drizzled olive oil into a saute pan, chopped one half of an onion (I had a half laying around in the refrigerator) and sauteed the pieces until caramelized.  Just before the onions turned full-on brown, I added about 5 stalks of chopped asparagus.  You can leave the asparagus raw if you want the crunch.  Then, I added a little bit of balsamic vinegar diluted in some water along with generous amounts of pepper and salt, and let the liquid reduce out.  I also sauteed some collard greens because I need to use what I’ve got before it all goes bad.  When you have your eggs set up in a saute pan, add some of the onion and asparagus mixture to it, and continue with the omelet-making process.

I have some asparagus and onions left over…no idea what I’ll end up doing with it.  They might be nice in a baguette with some cheese.

So, tonight?  Pork.  Good pork.


duck fat. enough said.

Good evening, everyone.

Amidst enjoying the nice weather, going for a few exhilarating runs, and falling way behind on the two papers I have to write, I roasted a duck Julia Child style.

I’ve never roasted a duck before.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had duck for a meal before (yes, really.).  Sure, I’ve tasted it once or twice whenever my mom has gotten it at a restaurant.  Other than that, it never interested me.  Not until now, anyway.  The allure of duck fat, crispy duck skin, delicious dark duck meat and promise of a great demi glace-based sauce drew me in.  The duck needed to be cooked.

french epi bread

With our duck, we had some delicious epi bread, which is a traditional French picnic bread. It’s composed of knots, which are typically torn off and used as rolls to accompany the meal.  You can tear them off pretty neatly, which keeps the integrity of the bread in tact so no other knots are ruined.  It’s got a great crunchy crust, and a very soft interior.  Delicious dipped in a good olive oil.

Also accompanying the duck was delicious roasted asparagus.  This recipe is extremely simple, and it comes out so well every time.

Roasted Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus

salt

pepper

roasted asparagus

extra virgin olive oil

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 425F.  Snap the rough ends of the asparagus off.

2. place on baking sheet in one layer.  drizzle with olive oil, coating thoroughly.  sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

3.  place sheet in oven for 8-10 minutes. Serve immediately.

And now, for the duck.

caneton roti

Caneton Roti, straight out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1 5 1/2 lb duckling

1 tsp salt, divided into two halves

1/8 tsp pepper

a pinch of thyme or sage

a small sliced onion

1 medium sliced carrot

1 medium sliced onion

1 1/2 – 2 cups brown duck stock, beef stock, or canned beef bouillon (optional: 3 or 4 TBSP port)

1-2 TBSP softened butter

Method: (before doing any seasoning, trim off excess fat by the tail.  you can also take off the wing tips, cutting them at the elbow.  i left mine on because i enjoy gnawing on the crispy tips – i’ll admit it.)

1. Preheat oven to 425F.

2. Season inside of duck with salt, pepper, herbs, and the sliced onion.  Secure the legs, wings, and neck skin to the body.  Prick the skin around the thighs, back, and lower breast. Dry duck thoroughly.

3. place the duck breast up in the roasting pan, strew the vegetables around it, and set it in the middle level of the oven for 15 minutes to brown lightly.

4. reduce oven to 350 degrees, and turn the duck on its side. regulate heat so duck is always making cooking noises but fat is not burning. remove accumulated fat occasionally (use a bulb baster for this). basting is NOT necessary.

5. about 30 minutes later, or about halfway through your set cooking time, turn the duck on its other side.

6. fifteen minutes before the end of the estimated roasting time, salt the duck and turn it breast up.

7. the duck is done to a medium rare if the juices from the fattest part of the thigh or drumstick run faintly rosy when the meat is pricked, and when the duck is lifted and drained, the last drops of juice from the vent are a pale rose. the duck is well done when the juices run pale yellow.

8. when done, discard trussing strings, and place the duck on a serving platter. set in turned-off oven and leave the door open while preparing the sauce, which will take 3-4 minutes.

Making the sauce

1. tilt the roasting pan and spoon out all but 1 TBSP of fat.  add the stock or bouillon and boil rapidly, scraping up coagulated roasting juices, and crushing the vegetables until liquid is reduced at least by half.  correct seasoning. add optional wine and simmer a minute to evaporate its alcohol.

2. off heat and just before serving, swirl the butter into the sauce and strain it into a sauceboat. pour a bit of the sauce over the duck and serve.

I followed her recipe pretty exactly, except instead of placing an onion inside the duck, I put in a few garlic cloves.  This didn’t seem to affect the taste of the duck, but it provided a nice aromatic element.  I also took it upon myself to season the outside of the duck before placing it in the oven.  Although the duck skin has a lot of flavor anyway, I wanted some salt and pepper on it beforehand.  Salting it at the end really makes a difference (who doesn’t love salty skin?).

I chose not to make her sauce, and made one of demi glace and port instead.

The Other Sauce

3-4 TBSP demi glace

1/2 cup port

1 shallot, diced

2-3 TBSP duck fat

Method:

1. heat the duck fat in a saute pan.  add the shallots and cook for about 1-2 minutes.

2. add the port, and bring to a boil.  cook until most of the liquid has reduced.

3. add the demi glace, bring to a boil for about 1 minute.  transfer to a sauceboat and serve.

That sauce was really good.

Tomorrow night?  Steak.  It’s marinading as I write.