Halibut with Mascarpone Grits
In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms along with 4 tablespoons of butter. Cook for 3 minutes. Add marsala wine and beef broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add remaining tablespoon of butter. Whisk in heavy cream, pepper, and a pinch of salt. Leave on low heat to keep warm.
12 ounces country ham
4.25 cups water
1 cup quick grits
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
4 ounces mascarpone
1/4 teaspoon pepper
In a large skillet, cook country ham according to the package. Dice the ham and set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil over high heat. Add grits and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir continuously until mixture return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook approximately 8 minutes or until mixture reaches desired thickness. Add mascarpone, diced country ham, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to melt the mascarpone and blend. Keep warm over low heat.
8 3-4 ounce fillets of sea bass (about 1.5 inches thick)
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange fillets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Season both sides of the fillets with salt and pepper. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until flaky. The baking time will depend on the thickness of your fish. Remove from oven and prepare to plate.
To serve, spoon a large dollop of the grits mixture into individual shallow bowls. Place a halibut fillet on top of the grits. Spoon the marsala broth with mushrooms over the top of the fillet. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley to garnish.
Creamy Mushroom Risotto with Crumbled Prosciutto
4 slices prosciutto
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1.5 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup Sauvignon Blanc
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup shredded parmigiano-reggiano
8 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place prosciutto slices on a baking sheet and bake until crispy. In a large stock pot, heat chicken stock over medium heat. While the chicken stock is warming, heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté diced onion until tender and translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add rice and cook for about 1 minute. Add white wine and stir. Add warm chicken stock to the skillet one ladle at a time. Stir continuously, allowing the rice to absorb all the stock before adding the next ladle. Continue until you've used all the chicken stock. Stir in parmigiano-reggiano, mushrooms, and an additional tablespoon of butter, and cook until mushrooms are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place a scoop of risotto on individual plates and top with crumbled crispy prosciutto."
- from "Four Seasons of Entertaining," by Shayla Copas
If there is no veal stock available, use light brown stock. Braised celery keeps very well and it does not take much longer to cook twice the amount needed for immediate use.
Discard the tough, outer stalks from the celery. Trim off the ends of the stalks level where the white part ends so that the celery is about 15 cm/6 inches long. With a potato peeler or sharp knife, trim the root end into an oval shape.
Wash the celery thoroughly and plunge it into a saucepan of boiling water. Bring back to the boil and cook for 12 minutes, then drain and rinse. Drain again and shake well. Tie around each head with string.
Put the carrot and the onion cut into rings into a saucepan just big enough to hold the celery. Add the bouquet garni. Place the celery in the pan, cover with very lightly salted stock and add the bacon, chopped. Bring to the boil. Place a sheet of buttered paper on top, cover and cook very gently for about 2 hours, then test the celery to see if it is tender.
When the celery is cooked, drain and remove the string. Cut the heads in half lengthways and put into another saucepan. Measure out 200 ml/7 fl oz (scant 1 cup) of the cooking liquid and reduce by half. Skim off all the fat, add all but 30 ml/2 tbsp of veal stock and bring to the boil. Thicken with potato flour blended with the reserved cold stock. Cover the celery with this liquid and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
Remove the pieces of celery from the cooking liquid and arrange overlapping in a heated serving dish. Finish the sauce off the heat by beating in the butter, then pour over the celery.
- "Larousse Traditional French Cooking," by Curnonsky
Cooking with Veal
Possibly because we have always treated veal so unimaginatively, this delicately flavored meat has never been very popular with Americans. According to a Department of Agriculture survey, we eat only about 1.5 lbs. of veal per capita per year as opposed to the French and Italians who eat about nine lbs. per year per capita. The production of veal is traditionally a function of the dairy industry since milk-fed veal is the young of "calving" dairy cows.
Breaded veal cutlets, the age-old method of preparing thin slices of veal cut from the hind leg, seems to have fallen by the wayside but now, the quickly seared "scallopine," (the same cut) is apparently the only other veal dish we eat. There are plenty of other less popular parts of the veal carcass a butcher must get rid of, and these are often at attractively low prices.
Breast of veal, boned and stuffed with aromatic herb, pork sausage, and onion mixture, is a dish that doesn't shriek its parsimony. Cut in long strips across the breast, pieces of veal called tendrons by the French are braised slowly with wine and vegetables to make a stout country stew. Shoulder is an excellent cut for Blanquette de Veau and the less familiar brown veal ragout called Veal Marengo.
Chops and roasts from the ribs and loin are too costly to be considered in this book. But whatever veal you choose, the flesh should be a very pale pink, almost white, if it is a true milk-fed calf slaughtered before its fourteenth week. Some of the dark reddish meat sold as veal might be more properly labeled “baby beef.” Plume de Veau is the finest - and hideously expensive - quality, and only a small quantity is produced. Italian butchers generally have the best genuine milk-fed veal, and they know best how to slice perfect escallopes and separate the muscles into neat, compact seamless roasts.
Veal, like beef, is graded Prime, Choice, Select, etc., but if you see no grade mark, the color of the flesh still tells you a good deal about it. But even "bob" feel from older animals can be lightened and tenderized by marinating it in milk. Veal is never aged and should be cooked within a day or so of purchase, or frozen. Because it is all lean (thus good for dieters, cholesterol worriers, and people in delicate condition), veal is too dry to broil. (I know that veal chops are sometimes broiled in restaurants but it's not the best way to cook them.) Except for chops and escallopes, which are quickly sautéed in butter, veal needs long, gentle, moist cooking, and it also benefits from the subtle influences of wine, herbs, and vegetables."
- from "Good Cheap Food" by Miriam Ungerer
Mixing Drinks at the Hotel Minibar
You've made it to your hotel room. Chances are you're ready to celebrate with a drink!
Unfortunately, obstacles may arise. Perhaps you can't bear squeezing past that wedding party jammed into the hotel bar to order a drink. Or maybe you're just dumbstruck by minibar sticker shock, wondering why you didn't plan ahead to avoid a 300 percent markup on a very ordinary gin and tonic.
Luckily, compared to making drinks in moving vehicles (particularly airplanes and trains, covered in the previous chapter), making drinks in a hotel room has some distinct advantages: more space; access to an ice machine, with its seemingly infinite supply of (shitty) ice; glassware, even if only a wine glass or water glass; possible an in-room coffee maker; and access to a wider array of ingredients, whether from a vending machine, a breakfast buffet, or a nearby convenience store or liquor store.
As with airline drinks perhaps the biggest impediment to creating good cocktails in a hotel room is the absence of bitters and vermouth. Though it's easy enough to pack your own, I've devised the recipes in this chapter so that neither is needed. Also, a jigger (easy to pack) and cocktail shaker tin (a bit more cumbersome) will help in making the following drinks, though work-around are suggested for those traveling light.
This drink was create by T.J. Siegal at NYC's Milk & Honey in 2001. But the first time I tried it was at the Pearl, a Louisville, Kentucky, bar owned by Larry Rice (who seems to own all of the good new bars in Louisville). What was so neat about the bar was that although it was brand new, it had the feel of a perfectly broken-in dive bar: a long wooden bar, a juke box heavy on tunes from the 1970's and 1980's, and a wheel on the wall to spin for cheap drink specials. I landed on the Gold Rush. The whiskey sour style cocktail may have been devised in an upscale modern speakeasy, but it fit perfectly in a dive bar in the heart of bourbon country.
If your hotel room has honey packets for tea, it's worth finding a couple of lemon wedges to make this drink. If you have a cocktail shaker, the drink is typically shaken with ice, but "throwing" it (pouring the drink between two cups; see below) will do the trick.
2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce honey syrup (2 parts honey to 1 part hot water)
3/4 ounce lemon juice
Fill a cocktail shaker or cup with ice, then add the bourbon, honey syrup, and lemon juice. Shake or "throw" the drink until chilled, then strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice."
-from Road Soda: Recipes and techniques for making great drinks anywhere, by Kara Newman
Indian food is, of course, unimaginable without spices. The complex, multilayered flavours associated with the best Indian food are achieved through careful cooking and the artful combination of usually small amounts of several different spices. In music, single notes are played in combination to form chords - a harmonious melding of the separate elements to form a rich whole. Used correctly, spices can work in the same way, striking their own note yet contributing to an overall, complex effect that is somehow more than the sum of its parts.
Which particular spices are used and how they're cooked will vary slightly depending on the dish and the region from which the dish originates. But throughout India, you'll find the same basic spices used over and over again; at first you'd think that this would mean that all dishes end up tasting the same but, in fact, even a subtle variation in the balance of quantities of each spice, or the method by which the spices are tempered (see pages 12-14) can make a striking difference to the finished flavour.
The beauty of home cooking
You may have eaten in an Indian restaurant and been disappointed to find the flavours in the meat, fish and vegetable dishes to be very similar - it is not unknown for restaurants to have a ready-prepared masala which they use as the base for all their dishes. This approach, however, cannot result in anything but unremarkable dishes - one spice balance is not going to suit all foods. This is where home cooking wins over mass production every time: an experienced cook like Rose can tailor the masala for each dish specifically to achieve a fine balance between the flavour of the spices and what should be the 'star' of the dish - the main component, be it vegetables, meat or fish.
Surprisingly, a relatively limited palette of core spices is all you need to cook a huge variety of dishes. Alongside a selection of whole spices, seeds and ground spices (see overleaf), we use two spice blends frequently - garam masala and dhana jiru. Both can be bought ready-ground but, in the case of garam masala, I'd urge you to steer well clear of proprietary blends: they tend to lack character (in aiming to offend no one they also fail to excite). You'll have better results if you take the time to make your own - follow the recipe on page 17. Dhana jiru, a classic Indian blend that's used widely, can be surprisingly tricky to get hold of, so we've included a recipe for it too (see overleaf).
We also use two other spice blends in some of our recipes, and these are ready-made blends: hot Madras curry powder and tandoori masala. When our recipes use ready-made spice blends, we tend to throw in other pure spices: the blandness of bought spice blends can be successfully alleviated by deft customisation.
Be very fussy about what you buy. Look for Indian blends (and do check the ingredients don't include alien items such as monosodium glutamate, maize starch, and artificial colours or preservatives). Find a brand you like and stick with it. Always buy small quantities and use up your stock quickly so that it remains fresh."
-from Cooking with my Indian mother-in-law by Simon Daley (with Roshan Hirani)
Pork Soup Dumplings
These dumplings are filled with a mixture of ground pork, finely chopped shrimp, and chilled chicken soup aspic. When the dumplings are steamed, the aspic melts - as my friend Val says, the soup is in the dumpling, not the other way around! Note that the stock has to be reduced and then chilled overnight to become gelatinous before you make the dumplings. When you are ready to fill them, you'll find that they're the kind of project you want to take on with the help of friends or family, preferably with good music in the background. All the work is more than repaid by the great meal that results. These don't freeze well, so invite lots of friends to feast with you.
Makes 75 to 100 Dumplings
1 recipe Chinese Chicken Super Stock (see page 308)
16 peeled pastured chicken feet or 2 envelopes gelatin
1/4 pound peeled raw shrimp, very finely chopped
1 pound ground pastured pork
1 bunch scallions (white part only) finely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon Chinese rice win (Shaoxing wine)
1/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 packages dumpling or Gyoza skins (not wonton skins)
6 whole Napa cabbage leaves, plus more as needed
For the dipping sauce:
1/2 cup Chinese black vinegar
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
In a pot over medium heat, cook the chicken stock down. If you have chicken feet, first cook them with the stock over low heat for several hours, then proceed to reduce the stock by half. If you are using gelatin, cook until the stock has been reduced to 2 cups, then sprinkle the surface of the hot stock with the gelatin and stir to dissolve. Pour the stock into a 5- to 6-cup shallow refrigerator storage container (removing the chicken feet if you used them) and refrigerate overnight. The next day, invert the gelatin over a cutting board and slice it into 1/4-inch squares. Set these aside.
Combine the shrimp, pork, scallions, sugar, soy sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, ginger, rice wine, and seame oil in a large bowl; mix well. Fold in the aspic cubes, taking care not to break them.
Take out a dumpling skin and drape the rest of the package with a damp tea towel. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper, and set out a small bowl of water and a little paintbrush or pastry brush.
Place a dumpling skin in the palm of your hand and paint the edges with water. Put about 1 teaspoon filling in the center of the dough and make sure the dumpling contains 3 or 4 cubes of aspic. Draw the edges of the dough up around the filling, and roughly pleat them to form a package, leaving a tiny hole where the dough edges come together (this is supposed to prevent the dumpling from exploding while it cooks - I have never had that happen, so the ventilation hole must work). The dumpling should look like a squat little drawstring purse. Set it on the parchment, pleated side up, and repeat until you have used up all the filling.
Line a steamer with 3 of the Napa cabbage leaves and bring to a boil. Put in as many dumplings as can fit without touching, and steam for 10 minutes per batch, starting the timing when the water boils. Add new cabbage if necessary for later batches.
Combine the vinegar with the ginger to make the dipping sauce, and pass this alongside the platter of hot soup dumplings."
- "Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat," by Deborah Krasner