Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Cooking Day 6: Duck Confit

My photography skills really are not that great and once again Jamie pointed out tonight that I have to stop trying to photograph on white plates.  I get it...that is my 2017 goal.  With Cate's new camera and perhaps a few new plates...I can hope for better looking pictures.

But for now...I rocked at making Duck Confit.  Even as we speak, Cate is on her way back from Cleveland, from seeing her first NBA game, and has asked that this be waiting for her.  So, regardless of the time, and Jamie is asleep...I have duck confit in the oven (along with au gratin potatoes).  I hope she stays awake long enough to enjoy them.

This is a surprisingly easy dish to just takes a bit of time...actually three days.  Living in Belgium, you could find duck confit as easily as finding chicken.   Twenty minutes away from us was a duck farm where we could buy confit, duck breasts and foie is as prevalent as chicken or turkey is here in the States.  But back in the U.S., duck confit seems to be only available at high end specialty shops or online purveyors.  It is a shame.

If you have been reading this blog over the week, you may have noticed the same side dishes day after day.  Yes, Jamie has been making his sautéed spinach...but it is so good, why not.  Each day, we try a different potato dish...tonight it was potatoes sautéed in duck fat, naturally.

Duck Confit

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Cooking Day 5: This Ain't Beef...Iberico de Bellota Pork

Evidently, I am supposed to stop using white plates for my pictures.  I only found this out once the meal was plated but at least in this case, my resident photographer did a really nice job.  I am hoping that once she receives her Christmas present, I will never have to take a photograph again!

Regardless of what you may think...this is not steak...but look at that marbling...look at how red the meat might mistaken it for a dry aged steak.  This is Iberico de Bellota pork...the premier pork of Spain.  These free range pigs have been feasting on acorns for a significant period of their lives...they are to pork what Waygu is to beef.  Even better, these little piggies snacked in the countryside near Cordoba and I have been there twice so they are like family to me.

No, you won't find this from your butcher.  So far, I can only find this through La is a wonderful story in and of itself.  A Navy Chaplain was stationed a significant amount of his career in Spain and he and his family fell in love with the country....can't say that I blame them.  He comes back to the States, retires near Williamsburg, VA and starts is own mail-order company specializing in all food Spanish.  Jamie purchased a Paella kit from them almost 10 years ago as a Christmas present and I have been a convert ever since.  I think they were instrumental in getting the government to even allow Iberico into the U.S.  Bless you.

Recently, they started selling Iberico steaks...this was a little over a pound.  It is so well marbled and really only needs salt and pepper.  Since I couldn't get to the grill, I cooked it over medium-high heat in a was a pretty thick cut of meat so it took about 15 minutes or so.  I seared it on both sides and then flipped it every few minutes.  Before serving, let it stand about five minutes, covered in foil.    Cut it not worry that it looks will be red.  But you can tell if it is cooked to the proper temperature.

It isn't cheap but it is delicious and is worthy of Christmas cooking.  We served it (again) with sautéed spinach and fried some beautiful fingerling potatoes (with bacon). Let the pork fest begin!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Cooking Day 4: Hanger Steak with Shallots

Stop into almost any bistro in France and chances are you will see on the menu Steak Saute aux Echalotes - Steak with a Red Wine Shallot Sauce.  The steak is typically a bavette or onglet cut, which is difficult to find sometimes here in the U.S.  Onglet is Hanger Steak and a good U.S. butcher will have this delicious and inexpensive cut of meat.  

This is a super easy dish to make - even worthy of a weeknight splurge.  Last night, we enjoyed this with Jamie's sautéed spinach and Cate's ever wonderful Au Gratin potatoes.  That girl can make some potatoes.

Hanger Steak with Shallots

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Cooking Day 3: Baked Pork Chops with Brie and Creamed Mushrooms

I was very proud of myself last night.  I repurposed a dinner from last week and created something incredibly delicious.  Remember, Baked Pork Chops with Brie from December 11, 2016?  I had one leftover from last week along with some leftover stuffing.  I placed the pork chop and the stuffing in a casserole dish, covered with foil and warmed it in a 350 degree oven.

Then I made my delicious creamed mushrooms (see October 8, 2015) using shiitake and oyster mushrooms.  Once the pork was warmed through, I placed it on a plate and covered it with creamy, mushrooms.  It may become a regular part of our repertoire.  


Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Cooking Day 2: The World's Best Hamburger

I was three-quarters of the way through my burger when I realized that I had not taken a picture of it! Friends, use your imagination and know this:  This is the best burger recipe.  It is a no-fail star!  We only have them about twice a year but when we do, there is a little party going on in our kitchen. And after the stress of watching the Steeler-Bengal game, we needed a little party (thank goodness the Steelers won - or I may have had to postpone this meal).

The World's Best Hamburger
Adapted from The Food Network Magazine

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Cooking Day 1: Risotto with Duck and White Balsamic Vinegar

A week before Christmas and I intend on making a wonderful dinner each night.  I have planned the menus for weeks now...settling on ideas...changing my mind...settling on get the gist.  What I do know is that none of the recipes are new.  These are old, tried and true favorites.  Some have become traditions in our tiny household.  Crab hash with poached eggs for Christmas Eve morning, duck confit with sautéed potatoes, etc.  There are some changes this year...instead of fondue for Christmas dinner, we are having Raclette.   There are some other changes this year.  My sister will be celebrating with us.  She reminded me yesterday that we probably have not celebrated Christmas together since we were in college...and I will not tell you how many years ago that was.  It is so nice to have her near and we are all looking forward to spending the holiday with her.

I want to post each day the recipe from the night before and we shall see how far we get.  If anything, it will document for myself the dinners so as the years go by, I can just look them up!  Last night's dinner was prepped by me but made by Cate and Jamie.  Cate, of course, made the risotto and Jamie made the duck.  When we lived in Belgium, duck was so prevalent.  Here in the US, it is a luxury.  In this recipe, a little goes a long way.  We cooked two breasts but could have served it for three people with just one.  A smooth red wine goes really well with the this case, we opened one of our treasured Austrian wines, a Zweigelt.

Risotto with Duck and White Balsamic Vinegar
From Bon Appetit

Friday, December 16, 2016

Carrillada: Making My Favorite Spanish Tapa

     My apologies up front...I could not get a picture that gave this dish justice.  We made it Saturday night and were blown away.  We had the leftovers tonight and were blown away again.  It really is amazing and just the right dish to serve when it freezing outside and there is snow on the ground.     

     Our favorite restaurant in Sevilla is La Azotea.  Owned by a husband and wife team (he is Spanish, she is American), it is an amazing place to experience Spanish tapas.  On one visit to Sevilla, Cate and I visited their restaurants (they have three in the city) three times in a 30 hour period of time.  It is that good.  Why?  The food is inventive but authentically Spanish.  The wait staff is eager to help and the owners are super friendly.  I once arrived 30 minutes before the restaurant opened just to make sure that we would be seated (as there is always a line) and the owner came out and asked if I wanted to wait it would be more comfortable.

     We have never had a bad dish there.  The traditional tomato mozzarella salad is completely unique.  In the center of a salad bowl is a scoop of lemon sorbet.  Artfully placed around the sorbet are heirloom tomatoes, burrata and greens.  You might think that you are missing the basil but take a closer look...what you think might be candy are actually basil gummies...totally ingenious.  If you visit the Gran Poder location you might catch a glimpse of the owner, skillfully slicing the Iberico de Bellota and noshing on a few slices.  The kitchen is tiny and that is another amazing feat - that such great food could come out of such a small space.

     Whenever Jamie, Cate and I discuss going back to Europe (and we will go back), Sevilla is always on our list of places to visit.  No matter how many times we go there, I think we will always want to return.  It has an amazing vibe...even for us old folks.  And the food....we have tried many times to recreate the marvelous meals that we had there.  I must say that we have had many successes but making Carrillada took us over the top.

     Now, what is Carrillada?  I have intentionally not indicated what it is as I thought that you would skip over this entire post (the 10 or so people that actually read this).  Carrillada are...wait for really, wait for it......pork or beef cheeks.  In our case, of course, pork cheeks.  Surprisingly, itis a very lean cut of pork, that when braised, is utterly delicious...and cheap. At La Azotea, they serve this tapa with a slice of melted goat cheese on top.  As it was our main course, we served it atop a scoop of decadently creamy polenta.  On a blustery winter day and with a glass of red wine, it was the perfect weekend meal.

     The inspiration for this dish actually came from Lauren Aloise, an American who owns a food tour company in Madrid.  She also has her own website and frequently details Spanish recipes.  When Cate and I visited Madrid on our last trip before moving back to the States, we had the opportunity to take one of Lauren's food tours---led by her and it was one of the highlights of the trip...that... and the three La Azotea visits!

Carrillada:  Braised Pork Cheeks with Port Wine and Honey
Adapted from Lauren Aloise, owner of Devour Spain

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Baked Pork Chops with Brie

   Try this dish once and you will never think about the days of Shake and Bake. I have memories of weeknight dinners consisting of Shake and Bake pork chops, StoveTop stuffing and some vegetable that I ultimately swirled around the plate trying to hide.  I haven't had Shake and Bake in years but I will admit I served StoveTop with this wonderful baked pork earlier this year.

    I found the recipe idea purely as a fluke and after tweaking it a bit, it has become a huge hit. It is weeknight worthy and special enough for company.   If you are adverse to pork, this would go well with chicken.

Baked Pork Chops with Brie
Serves 4


4 boneless pork chops (I had a pork loin that I sliced into 1" thick chops)
2t Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (surprisingly, we like the dish better just using seasoned breadcrumbs instead of panko but you could use either)
2t butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, minced
2T dried parsley
Brie cheese, sliced

Preheat the oven to 400. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and spread Dijon Mustard over both sides. When the skillet is hot, brown the chops, three minutes a side. Remove to a baking dish.

Combine breadcrumbs, butter, garlic and parsley. Place slices of Brie over the chops, covering each chop. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Don't worry if the breadcrumbs slide off the pork a bit.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

easy, peasy...and delicious.