Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New York, New York

Oh, dear, NY Strip Steak at $4.99 a pound. OK, that's not 49-cent-a-pound chicken, but it's down from $9 a pound. And, this is about $2 worth. Cheaper than fast food, better, and, well, nearly as fast.

Easy. Salt, pepper, under the broiler (aka the upside-down gas grill). 5 minutes one side, 2 minutes (or 3) the other. Obviously, longer if you want to cook it until it is gray, and you know who you are. Shudder.

Toast and some tomatoes and basil.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rack of lamb equals lamb chops, yum

A couple of years ago, a friend told me that if you want to cook with lamb, go to the Lebanese grocery in Falls Church, Va., because they have the best lamb.

No kidding. Lamb is a big part of Lebanese cuisine, so it makes sense. You go in, you say I want a rack of lamb "this big" and indicate. They show you, you say yes, or ask for an adjustment. It's $6.99 a pound, which may sound expensive but isn't. It is the absolute best, outrageously tender and delicious lamb ever.

You don't do much to it. "French" it -- and the butchers there would do it, but I wanted practice -- by taking the meat off the "handles" of the chops. Rub it with a little olive oil, a lot of crushed garlic and some fresh rosemary, and refrigerate it for a couple of hours.

Put it in the Dutch oven, or even on a baking pan. Add some Kosher salt (oh, the irony -- it was a Halal butcher; Halal is to Islam as Kosher is to Judaism; we can all get along, at least in the kitchen) and roast at 375 for about 10 to 15 minutes per pound. Internal temp should be 150-160 at the most, if you like 'em pink, which as you can clearly see, I do. Remove from oven, tent with aluminum foil, wait 10-15 minutes. Carve into individual chops. Serve with a nice Pinot Noir (in French, a Burgundy). Eat with a knife and fork, or just realize that there's a reason it comes with handles and go for it. Three or four chops per person is reasonable. Six would just be decadent.

I don't think anything tastes better.

Lobster salad

Not a recipe, just a suggestion

Leftover lobster. Remove from shell and chop, but not too finely. You still want to know it is lobster and not some fake seafoody thing.
Miracle Whip -- maybe just one dollop instead of two
1 shallot, minced
Good whole-grain bread, toasted

If you had good, crisp celery on hand, maybe, or a teensy bit of jicama. I decided to keep it simple. But the heirloom tomatoes are just too good to leave off the plate.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lobster tails and sweet corn

Summer isn't over quite yet!

Lobster tails for $5.99 each, fresh sweet corn, a perfectly ripe heirloom tomato and a baked potato. Almost doesn't need a recipe, more like a timetable! The only other ingredients are:

Butter, 1 stick, melted (and you wouldn't need that much, but leftovers are good)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
a few leaves of fresh basil, chiffonnade (roll'em up and chop them into ribbons)
fresh ground pepper

Fill your big soup pot with water and add some salt. Put it on to boil.
Scrub the potatoes, pierce them with a knife or cooking fork, and lightly rub with butter or cooking oil. Put them in the oven. Turn the oven to 400 degrees and bake for about half an hour.

Husk the corn and get all the stringies out. (Or get your nephew to do it. Thanks, Mike!)
Split the lobster tails to expose the meat. Turns out a good kitchen scissors is a good tool. Put the tails meat side up on the broiler pan. Spoon a little of the melted butter over each one.

Put the garlic and some of the basil in the butter.

When the potatoes are done, take them out and put in a pan, covered, on top of the stove to keep warm. No heat need be applied because the oven is still warm and should keep them hot for the next 10 minutes. Or you could leave them in the oven, won't hurt anything.

Put the corn in the boiling water. Plan on cooking for 8 to 10 minutes, tops.

Put the broiler pan with the lobster into the oven. Cook for 3 minutes, then turn them over and cook for about 8 minutes more. Don't overcook. When the meat is opaque white instead of shiny gray, they're done.

Slice the tomato and put some of the basil on it.

Plate it all up, and bring the garlic butter, salt and pepper to the table.

Have lots of napkins and a chilled rosé wine.

This takes less time to make than to eat, I think! The corn on the cob and the lobster definitely require slow eating, just because of the mechanics of eating them, which is also conducive to savoring. The hardest part is getting the lobster out of the shells, but since it's still summer, we went with the "hands-on" approach. And this will be one of the few times I'll ever say this: The baked potato was my least favorite thing on the plate! Only because everything else was so spectacular. Although a dollop of Greek yogurt along with the garlic butter is definitely a good substitute for sour cream.

We each actually only ate one lobster tail, which means I have two left over. Gee, I wonder what I will do tomorrow with leftover lobster?!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's fall: Time to give thanks and give food

OK, so it is time for my annual fall routine of rotating the provisions. By that, I mean, giving canned goods to the local food bank and re-stocking.

Here's the deal. Ever since I was in Minnesota, which was way before terrorism and swine flu, but in the presence of blizzard-blocked roads and power outages, I knew that in that fall, I needed to have a week or so worth of provisions that didn't need refrigeration, water or cooking. That would mean canned goods.

And every fall about this time, I would stock up.

And every fall about this time, I would realize that I hadn't needed the emergency provisions from the year before. Not that they would go bad in a year, but it would be good to freshen the larder. I mean, you really don't want 5-year-old Spam. Not that anyone could tell the difference, but ...

So every fall, as a special Thanksgiving, I give those provisions from last fall to the food bank. The giving thanks part is, I'm grateful that I didn't need to use my emergency provisions. Usually the Scouts come around. In some places, the grocery stores have a bin. Most churches collect. It isn't hard to donate food. And I'm pretty sure someone would like it.

Then I restock. Even without blizzards, it's recommended that you have several days worth of non-perishable food, etc., in case of emergency. You don't have to be a survivalist with cases of beans in the basement, just a few things to tide you over so you don't need emergency services. If you aren't part of the problem, you are part of the solution. Or, as the Scouts say, "Be prepared." So, a few cans of protein, a few cans of fruit in juice, a couple of boxes of crackers, some water, yeah, I'm good.

And next fall, we do it again. My favorite part is the grateful part. So far, so good.

Oh, and just for fun: People who live off food banks may be grateful for tuna and peanut butter, but if you had to live on that, wouldn't you love some salmon and pineapple? Anything different? I'm still chuckling over the bottle (plastic) of barbecue sauce that I put in one of the Scout bags. I mean, you gotta get tired of stealing packets of ketchup! I just know someone was happy to get something different.

So: Clean out your pantry for a good cause. And be thankful.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chicken salad

For my friends in the Midwest, because a good chicken salad is better than a bad crab salad! I'm lucky to live where I can get good crab meat, although it's still relatively expensive. But canned crab, I'm not so crazy about. So after crab recipes, I thought it was time for this!

Besides, I had cooked two leg quarters and stuck them in the fridge overnight. Obviously, chicken salad is a great thing to make from leftover chicken, even one of those rotisserie chickens from the store!

Mix together:
Meat from one chicken leg quarter, chopped
1/4 of a red bell pepper, chopped
6-8 slices of dill pickle (the small round slices, not the slabs; would equal 1-2 of the big, long slices)
1-2 Tablespoons Miracle Whip or mayonnaise

I was lucky enough to find some really good heirloom tomatoes, as the squirrels got most of mine. Shaved some Parmesan on the tomatoes and gave them a dose of fresh-ground black pepper. Made toast with some good whole-grain bread. Done.

Possible additions: Chopped chives or shallot; celery; a few grapes, cut in half; chopped almonds or other nuts.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

General Tso's Chicken

OK, this is sort of cheating, but it's better than most fast food.

I buy the General Tso's sauce at Trader Joe's, and really, I don't think that's cheating any more than buying American style barbecue sauce, or ketchup or mustard. Then all I have to do is cut up some chicken and whatever vegetable I'm using, stir fry, and voila.

The "cheating" part is that the salad in the background is leftover from Fiery Beef Salad from the local Thai restaurant that delivers! They believe in truth in advertising: The Fiery Beef makes the General Tso's the least spicy thing on the plate! I like that the lettuce is nice and cooling, though.

So here it is:
  • Cut the raw chicken into bite-size pieces. I used the meat cut off from one chicken leg quarter. It would be even easier if you started with boneless parts. Skinless if you insist.
  • Cut up the veg. I used about 1/4 of a red bell pepper. Broccoli is typical when you get it from a restaurant, but I like the red bell pepper for a change. Both would also work.
  • General Tso's sauce
  • Red chili oil (optional)
  • Canola oil or peanut oil or some other high-smoke-point oil
Get your big skillet or wok hot and add one or two tablespoons oil. When it's hot, toss in the chicken, and, well, stir at least occasionally. Keep it moving most of the time, although it is nice to let it get a sear. It will cook in a couple of minutes. Add the cut up pepper and a few dashes of General Tso's sauce and a dash or two of the chili oil and cook for another minute. That's it.

If I were using "bigger" veggies, such as broccoli florets, I would actually start cooking them first, then take them out to sear the chicken, then add them back.

If I didn't have the Fiery Beef Salad already, I would add garlic to the General Tso's. Didn't feel the need this time.

I like the General Tso's sauce from Trader Joe's best of the ones I've tried. Got a different brand from a supermarket once that was disappointing. Best tip if you are trying ANY new sauce or condiment is to taste it before starting in to cook. If it is disappointing, go in a different direction (or figure out a way to doctor it up).


About Me

My photo
This is me enjoying a limoncello in Rome on the last night of our trip to Italy. Funny thing is, I don't really like limoncello that much, but thought it would be great in a dessert. And wouldn't you know, The Barefoot Contessa just did a great fruit salad with limoncello. So now I can't. Oh, well.