Monday, September 28, 2009

D.C. Farmers Market

Although Eastern Market is a joy, the D.C. Farmers Market is something else altogether. You won't find precious heirloom tomatoes here, baby. Turkey legs are more the style at 1309 5th St N.E., near the intersection of Florida and New York Ave.

The D.C. Farmers Market is all about the butchers—several of them in one big warehouse—competing for your love and attention. Need a duck? They've got it. Looking for some of those trendy pig odds-and-ends? They've got it. (In fact, I went with a friend who was in search of a particular cut of country rib. They didn't have what she wanted laid out, so a butcher went in the back, brought out a the appropriate huge slab of pig, and hacked them out for her right then and there.) Turkey necks? No problem. And the hot links. Oh God, the hot links.

When you're done shopping, stop in at the National Arboretum and get some Corinthian columns with your ready-to-eat smoked turkey leg.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Braised Short Ribs with Pappardelle

Short ribs take forever. This recipe, for instance, is pretty much a weekend affair. So when you make them, why not make a lot, right?

But here's the problem: short ribs are not snackable. Most of the leftovers Chez ToastPoint get consumed while standing at the fridge. The Human Vacuum lacks a decent sense of temporal food allocation, so he will cheerfully eat bok choy or chickpea salad for breakfast. But hard, cold short ribs are not very appealing any time of day, and I assume they are even less appealing first thing in the morning. So they sit, delicious yet congealed, in a Tupperware.

This is a quick and tasty solution to the Case of the Cold Short Ribs (the Cold Case of the Short Ribs?). Rich and filling, it doesn't feel like pesky leftover disposal at all—more like $18 restaurant pasta.

Braised Short Ribs with Pappardelle

In a large skillet, warm over medium heat:
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Add and cook until caramelized (about 20 minutes):
2 large onions, preferably sweet, roughly chopped

Meanwhile, microwave or otherwise warm up:
2-3 leftover braised short ribs (like this ToastPoint fave) plus drippings, braising liquid, or whatever made it into the Tupperware

Shred the meat into a large bowl retaining any fatty juices that have accumulated:
2-3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
small handful toasted pine nuts (optional)
Just toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Watch carefully though, they burn fast!

While the onions continue cook, bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it, then add:
1 lb pappardelle, or other wide pasta

When the pasta is done, drain it, dump into the bowl, and add the onions. Give everything a good long stir to get the noodles well coated.

For that $18 restaurant feel, sprinkle with:
Fresh basil, roughly chopped (optional)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chicken Paella

Lately, I've been trying to get over my anti-chicken bias. I like to roast a nice chicken, but I become deeply unenthusiastic when the carcass gets broken down any further. I never order chicken in restaurants, or check the chicken option on those little reply cards for weddings and banquets. This is totally unfair to the humble bird, which can be a very delicious and non-utilitarian foodstuff.

This is a variation on another paella I posted long ago--tweaked to accommodate ToastMom's shellfish allergy and shopping schedule that didn't permit live mussel purchasing. It is perhaps a closer kin to the simple, luscious tomato paella posted more recently. But, in the spirit of pluralism, I'll give you this one too, and you can decide.

In general, though, the paella trick is a useful one. The big secret: It's essentially a classier, snazzier, and much tastier version of the rice-based casseroles beloved of Midwestern moms. It seems like a lot of steps, but once you know how to build a paella, you can adapt it to many purposes.

Chicken Paella

In a very large skillet with tight-fitting top, warm:
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Add and brown on all sides:
1-2 pounds chicken thighs, or parts from a whole cut up chicken, with bone in and skin on

Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Wipe out pan and warm:
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Add and cook until fat renders a little, about 2 minutes:
1/4 - 1/2 pound chorizo sausage, the dried kind is best cut into 1/2 inch dice, but you can crumble in the kind from the refrigerator case, too.

Add, and saute until soft:
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced

Add and cook until softened, about 5 minutes:
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained

Add and stir until well coated in oil:
2 cups long grain rice

Pour in and bring to a boil over medium-high heat:
4 cups chicken brothwhite wine, or water

Then add:
1/2-3/4 teaspoon saffron or ground turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch black pepper

Arrange chicken pieces on top of the rice, put on the lid, reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed, chicken is cooked through, and the rice is soft and beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan. 

Toss in:
1/2 cup frozen peas

Cook for 5 more minutes until peas are no longer frozen. (NOTE: A good trick is to thaw the peas in warm running water before adding them.) Turn off heat and let sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.  

Serve up in the pan and let people dig out steaming bowlfuls for themselves.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Crab and Avocado Soup with Wasabi

My favorite kitchen muse--rotting food--is at it again. With a package of (fake) crab meat expiring in the fridge and an overzealous Costco avocado purchase, the Human Vacuum and I turned desperately to Google. And who came through for us?, of all places, with a recipe from Sam Hazen. According to the very enthusiastic prose of his bio, Hazen is a "celebrity chef" of Tao in New York, who knows "secrets of a most delectable variety."

Here is one of those delectable secrets--an odd, cold soup that is surprisingly satisfying as a winter lunch. It's filling, which you could probably guess from looking at the ingredients. But it's also not guacamolesque in the slightest, which you might not expect.

Crab and Avocado Soup with Wasabi

adapted from (seriously)

In a food processor, puree:
3 large ripe avocados
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cups minced shallots (or onion)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons wasabi paste
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

Add and gently whir:
1 cup heavy cream (I used milk, and it was still plenty creamy)

Pour into four bowls. Divide between the bowls as garnish:
4 oz. jumbo crab meat

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Matzo Ball Soup

Though I am a shiksa, raised by a shiksa, matzo balls did make the occasional appearance in my house growing up. My sister's godfather is a Jew (ponder that one for a minute!) and there was a period where ToastMom was in charge of the soup at his Passover festivities. But I didn't really understand the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into a real Passover matzo ball until I married one of the Chosen People.

I awoke in New York on the morning of a seder and emerged from the bedroom to find the Human Vacuum's mom on the floor of her kitchen trying to strain chicken broth through cheesecloth, which involved lifting the biggest stock pot I have ever seen. She was on the floor because she's 5 feet tall on a good day and 100 pounds on a bad day, so the counters were too high for this activity.

I chipped in that day, and have helped make the soup for every seder hosted by ToastMom-in-Law ever since. I may be a gentile, but I have known the anxiety of waiting for the matzo balls to float on Passover. I have strained chicken broth in the early morning. I have suffered for this marvelous, perfect soup. Which is it should be.

Tales of soup-based heroism aside, matzo ball soup should not be reserved for Passover. It has all the healing powers of chicken noodle soup (indeed, it is known in some circles as Jewish Penicillin). And it's not hard to make if you have the chicken broth already on hand.

You should give it a try. Or, in the idiom of the ethnicity responsible for the soup: Eat! You look thin!

Matzo Ball Soup

For the soup:
In a large dutch oven with a lid, warm over medium heat:
1 Tablespoon olive oil or schmaltz (chicken fat)

Add and saute until soft:
2-3 large carrots, cut into coins
2 medium onions, minced
2-3 ribs celery, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

Then add:
2-3 quarts chicken stock
(NOTE: If there is one place to use real, homemade stock, this is it. That said, broth from a can or box is fine. I personally wouldn't bother with bouillon broth, but it would work in a pinch--if, say, the sun is going down on Passover and you have no soup.)

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add:
1 teaspoon dried dill, or 1 Tablespoon fresh dill
Generous salt and pepper

You can leave this simmering as long as you like, or no additional time at all. Whatever your schedule demands.

For the matzo balls:
Start these about an hour before you want to eat, though most of that time does not require your attention. I buy a box of matzo ball mix (not the soup mix, just the balls), but you could also buy matzo meal in its raw form. Both will have directions about how to turn the mix into matzo balls.

When the directions call for refrigeration, don't skimp. That part is important to the eventually fluffiness of your creation. The recipe will also call for oil. If you have homemade chicken stock and, like me, you've been too lazy to skim it before freezing, scrape off the fat and use that instead.

Make the matzo ball mix, refrigerate as instructed, then form into 1 inch balls. Wet or oil your hands before rolling the balls. It's less sticky that way. Drop them all in the simmering pot with the broth and close tightly. Cook for 20 minutes.

Serve piping hot. Eat. Feel happy. Then guilty. Then happy again.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Palin Pasta

On this, the last day of the 2008 election, and thus probably the last day the name Palin will decorate our highway medians (at least for three and a half years), I give you a final culinary thought on the election season:

No, your eyes do not deceive you. What you see above is pasta in the form of tiny spinach and egg moose. I haven't yet tried this miracle of modern pasta science, but I already know how it will taste--like bitter, bitter tears.

I recommend serving them in an abbreviated carbonara. Fry up some bacon cut into small pieces, dress the pasta with butter, and sprinkle on bacon, Parmesan cheese, and minced fresh herbs. Alternately, use this pasta in place of elbow macaroni in Kraft mac and cheese.

I suspect that Sarah would prefer the latter preparation.

This moose monstrosity was generously provided by ToastMom.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad

I've made this salad twice already this week. They serve it at Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle alongside a pulled pork sandwich, but it's good with everything. Seriously. Everything.

When the Human Vacuum and I hit Costco last weekend, they were hawking seedless watermelon two-packs. What kind of gluttons manage to consume two watermelons in less that 5 days? People who know about this delicious salad.

It's a refreshing breakfast. It's a marvelous side salad. It's a fruit and cheese dessert course. It truly can be all things to all people.

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad

In a large bowl, whisk together:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon (or other acid, such as rice wine or fruit vinegar)

Cut into small dice and add to dressing:
1/4 of a red onion

Cut into 1 inch dice and add to bowl:
1 seedless watermelon (or buy precut, I don't mind)

Crumble in:
1 chunk feta cheese, approximately the size of a deck of cards

Roughly chop and sprinkle on:
5-6 fresh mint leaves

Stir and begin to consume immediately, standing in the kitchen, before summer is gone.

NOTE: Delicious variations include adding toasted pine nuts, replacing feta with olives, replacing watermelon with honeydew. But the original is the best.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gumbo, Or Possibly Jambalaya

This is sort of gumbo, and sort of jambalaya. We had okra. We had spicy sausage. We had shrimp. I had a vague idea that all of these things were involved in Cajun cooking. And I was right--they're just not traditionally all in the same dish. I never made it to New Orleans before the hurricane, so what do I know? This dish is a freaky mutant combination of the two.

It was delicious on the night-of, but the leftovers were the real reward. The soft, flavorful rice was a joy for lunch the next day after a night of soaking in the spicy, tomato-y juices. So make lots.

Gumbo, Or Possibly Jambalaya

Heat in a large heavy bottom pan or dutch oven:
3 Tablespoons oil

1-2 large onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Cook until onion begins to soften, stirring occasionally. Add and cook until warmed through:
1/2 to 1 pound sausage, kielbasa, andouille, or even chorizo, cut into coins

Wash, remove tops and tail, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces, then turn heat to high and add:
1 pound fresh okra

When okra browns slightly, add:
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
1 teaspoon oregano

Cook on high, stirring often, until tomato paste starts to darken and caramelize. Add:
1 can diced tomatoes

Give everything one more good stir, then layer on top:
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled

Sprinkle on top of that:
2 cups rice, long grain preferred

Add until rice is covered with liquid:
3-4 cups chicken stock, or water, or watered wine
salt and pepper

Turn heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until rice is tender.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Toasting Spring with Pastis

It's not really spring in Boston. Far from it. But it's sunny at least, and there are birds chirping. and it's April, dammit. So I decided to break out my favorite hot weather drink: pastis.

It's the poor man's absinthe: a little sweeter, a little lower proof, and with 100 percent fewer wormwood-induced hallucinations. Mixed with cold water, it turns the color of green milk glass, and makes a mean sippin' drink.

Pastis and cold filtered water is best on a sultry August night in Paris. Failing that, it's not bad in an overheated Beantown apartment with a slice of strawberry for color. And it's delicious with one thing that's a little harder to come by in Paris: ice.

To make your own, just pour 1 ounce of pastis, such as Ricard, over ice and dilute with water to taste. I go about 2 parts water to 1 part pastis, but go with whatever appeals to you.