Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Apple and Cream

Unusual for me, I had some rendered duck fat in my fridge the other day.

It was the remnants of the duck legs I got for enriching one of the dishes plus the soup for the family's Chinese New Year. The fat I trimmed off the duck I fried slowly to melt out the grease that is so appreciated in France.

I made two dishes with it, fried potato slices (yum) and shredded Brussels sprouts sautéed in manner of southwestern France.

Not having duck fat available very often, I could also have done this with butter.

This is a side dish, so I don't propose a specific wine just for it. But in the style of southwestern France (which despite all the duck and goose grease and fois gras they consume has some of the best cardiac health in Europe), there should be a dry, slightly hard red wine with the meal that includes this dish. The one I think of in particular is Cahors, from the region of Toulouse, but Minervois or Corbières would serve well too. The cheapest, readily available counterpart here would be a Malbec from Argentina, made from the same grape as Cahors.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Apple and Cream

1/2 pound Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons rendered duck fat or butter
1/2 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sour cream

Cut off bottom 1/4 inch of sprouts. Slice sprouts top to bottom 1/8-inch thick.

Place in large frying pan with grease or butter. Fry quickly until just starting to brown. Reduce heat. Add apple and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Fry over low heat, with pan covered, stirring from time to time and adding a bit of water if too dry, until sprouts are tender and apple breaks down when gently mashed. Taste sprouts and add salt as needed.

Stir in sour cream. Fry gently several minutes, until cream is hot. Remove from heat.

Taste a final time and add salt, if necessary.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Exciting Red Bean Indian Curry: Rajma

As Lent starts once again, I lean toward dishes without meat, a carryover from my pre-Vatican II Catholic childhood. I say I lean. I don't quite fall all the way.

The season, however, makes me think of my vegetarian favorites. Many of those are Indian.

Here's a dish I can't believe I didn't get onto the blog earlier. It's a family favorite, meat or no meat. And we make it at the restaurant. Like most Indian curries, this is not a simple cooking task. And the red beans, rajma in Hindi, have to be soaked then cooked until tender with spices before adding them to the curry gravy.

The recipe is as I made it for Christina's staff meeting lunch at St. Barts. It's not quite how we make it for business at the restaurant -- I won't give that recipe away -- but it's a delicious rajma.

This should be served with basmati rice, lightly salted, with yogurt and a chutney to accompany.

The recipe serves six with leftovers.

Rajma -- Punjabi Red Bean Curry

1 pound (2 1/2 cups) dry light red kidney beans
1 large clove garlic, crushed and peeled
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 large onions
1/3 cup canola oil
2 thin sticks cinnamon
6 whole cardamoms
4 whole cloves
1 1/4 inch fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 (6-ounce) can tomato paste, about 5 tablespoons
1/2 cup cream or undiluted evaporated (canned) milk
Coarsely chopped cilantro, including part of stems, for topping

8 or more hours before making curry, prepare the beans. Pick over dry beans and discard stones and spoiled beans. Rinse. In cooking pot, soak beans at least 8 hours in water to cover by 4 inches.

Drain. Add water up to the level of beans. Bring to a boil. Skim off foam that collects. Add the next 4 ingredients. Simmer beans covered, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if level goes below surface of the beans, until beans are tender, 45-55 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Remove from heat. Do not drain.

Meanwhile, dice onions and fry them in 1/3 cup oil, along with whole spices. Stir frequently, until onions turn golden.

Peel and slice ginger, then pound it plus the peeled garlic in mortar, or puree them in small food processor, or mince together very finely on cutting board.

When onions are light golden, fry in ginger-garlic mixture for a minute, stirring constantly. Add ground spices and fry 1 minute, stirring and scraping.

Add several tablespoons of bean liquid plus tomato paste. Stir well and let simmer 3-4 minutes, or until a little oil emerges from the mixture.

Add beans, lifted from liquid with slotted spoon. Add enough of the bean liquid to make a soupy gravy around the beans. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Simmer, stirring frequently, 5 minutes.

Stir in cream or evaporated milk. Heat one minute. Remove from heat.

After 10 minutes, stir, taste, and add salt, if needed.

This is best if made ahead and rewarmed to serve. When serving, sprinkle heavily with chopped cilantro.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

"Hot Blond" Chili wins Superbowl Cook-Off

Today I tested my white chili idea from several years ago. It was at the Super Bowl chili competition held by Maggies, an Atlanta sports bar. With an extra habanero pepper and the name macho-ed up for the occasion, the chili took first place.

The heat in this dish comes from habaneros, which are among the hottest peppers in the world. Including their seeds and membranes they reach up to 200,000 Scoville units. Jalapeños, by comparison, range up to 8,000 units and Tabasco up to 50,000.

The recipe serves six.

“Hot Blond” Chili

1 medium-large onion, finely chopped
2 thick or 3 thin slices hickory-smoked bacon, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 to 2 small whole orange habañero chile peppers
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
Water as needed
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
2 (14-ounce) cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup sour cream
Grated “queso blanco” (Mexican-style crumbling cheese)
Coarsely chopped cilantro, including part of stems

Fry onion, bacon, and olive oil together until onion softens and begins to turn golden.

Reduce heat. Add garlic, herbs and spices plus habañero pepper (handled by the stem). Stir and fry one minute.

Add meat. Raise the heat. Break up meat as it fries. When raw color is gone, stir in 1/2 cup water. Simmer covered, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender. Add a little water as needed, so there is always a bit of liquid with the meat.

Add salt and beans. Heat together for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt if needed.

Stir in sour cream and simmer several minutes. Taste for salt at end of cooking.

The chili is best made ahead and reheated to serve.

Sprinkle lightly with cheese and cilantro.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Keema: "Minced" Meat Curry with Potatoes and Peas

Here is an updated version of what our kids loved when they were young. It is a "minced" (ground) meat curry with peas, which we called "children's curry" back then.

This is actually a classical curry from north India, a Punjabi dish. The meat there, of course, should be ground lamb, which "keema" implies. Beef would be religiously offensive in India, which is predominantly Hindu. On the other hand, in Pakistan, a Muslim country that includes the western half of the state of Punjab, beef is perfectly OK, assuming it has been properly ("halal") slaughtered.

Personally, I prefer lamb on the basis of flavor. But it is expensive, so I generally use a mixture of the two meats. The spicing is deeply aromatic. Hot pepper is, traditionally, used sparingly. The base of the curry gravy is caramelized onions, but tomato and yogurt are typically included too.

While the curry is principally ground meat, peas are a traditional accompanying ingredient. In this case it's called "Keema Muttar." "Keema Gobi" is minced meat curry with cauliflower, and "Keema Alu" is minced meat curry with potatoes.

The recipe below is for meat with peas and potatoes, or "Keema Muttar Alu."

This should be accompanied with basmati rice (see my blog posting of 1/26/08) or the flat bread known as nan. A yogurt raita (see my blog posting of 4/25/08) is the typical condiment.

The recipe serves 8, with leftovers.

Minced Meat Curry with Peas and Potatoes -- Keema Muttar Alu

2 medium-large onions, chopped
3 tablespoons canola (not olive) oil
4 cloves garlic
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large stick of cinnamon
4 whole cloves
4 whole cardamoms
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds ground lamb, beef, or a mixture of the two
1 large baking (russet) potato, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
4 tablespoons tomato paste (1/2 of a 6-ounce can -- freeze remainder in plastic bag)
2 teaspoons salt, plus to taste
1/2 cup yogurt, beaten in the cup
12 ounces frozen peas
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, including part of stems, plus more for garnish

Fry onion in oil in heavy pan, stirring frequently, until becoming golden brown. Reduce heat.

Pound in mortar, puree in food processor, or finely mince garlic with ginger. Stir into fried onion mixture, along with whole spices. Fry gently 2 minutes.

Add ground coriander, cumin and turmeric. Stir and fry 2 minutes, adding a little oil if too dry.

Add water, paprika, cayenne, black pepper and meat. Mix well so meat breaks up before it starts to cook.

Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

Add tomato paste, salt and yogurt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until potato is tender when pierced with a toothpick.

Add frozen peas. Simmer just until fully heated. Taste and add salt, if necessary, to make the curry just slightly salty (the vegetables will soak up more salt).

Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro.

This is best made ahead, refrigerated, then reheated to serve. Taste, and add salt, if needed. Sprinkle with a little chopped cilantro when serving.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Thai cucumber and shallot relish, Ajaad, is a hit

On two occasions recently after fixing this side dish for Thai curries I've had several requests for the recipe. Sometimes the condiment seems to outshine even the curry, the central dish of the meal.

This salad-like accompaniment, called ajaad in Thai, is typically served with massaman (Muslim) curry and as a side dish for satay.

Based on its name in Thai and the fact that it traditionally accompanies originally Malay dishes from southern Thailand, ajaad would appear to derive from the old-fashioned Malay sweet-sour pickled vegetable side dish known as acar. That dish, in turn, derives from Indian achar, a spicy and usually very hot pickle that accompanies curries.

But regardless of its derivation, this is a wonderfully refreshing and very Thai complement for rich, heavy meat dishes.

Thai Cucumber-Shallot Condiment, Ajaad

3 pickling style cucumbers (about 3/4 pound) or 1 large ordinary cucumber
1-2 small shallots (substitute 1 very small onion, red if possible)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons white or rice vinegar
Asian fish sauce or salt to taste
8-10 sprigs of cilantro (coriander leaves)
1 small red chili pepper

If cucumber skin is tough or waxed, peel it thinly, leaving some green color. Then quarter the cucumbers lengthwise. (In Thailand, the cucumber is not usually peeled for this dish.) If using a large regular cucumber, cut off most of the seed section.

Slice cucumber(s) (several pieces at a time) crosswise as thinly as possible.

In a bowl, cover cucumber with cold water and stir in about 1 teaspoon salt. Let sit a minute then drain thoroughly.

Peel and thinly slice shallot or onion (quarter the onion, if used, before slicing). Add it to cucumber. Stir in sugar, vinegar, 1 teaspoon fish sauce or 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Let sit several minutes. Stir again. Taste and add, if needed, a little sugar, vinegar, or fish sauce or salt to make the mixture sweet-sour and mildly salty.

Pick most of the cilantro leaves from their stems and add to cucumber mixture, along with some thinly sliced red chili (excluding seeds, which can be very hot). Stir.

When ready to serve, taste one last time and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve in shallow, decorative bowl, draining off part of the liquid if desired. Garnish with a few fine shreds of red chili pepper and a few more cilantro leaves.