My obsession with lamb shoulder (and cooking with booze) continues….
…with ale braised lamb shoulder ragout, pappardelle, and gremolata.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
Cooking can be very frustrating when things don’t work out as planned. Last week I was so excited about finding fresh cranberry beans at my local market I had to pick some up. Along with that I picked up some kielbasa, a chicken, and some basics: onions, carrots, celery, herbs etc. It was unseasonably cool, and I had in mind a one-pot meal of braised chicken with pork and beans. Well, I won’t go into the gory details, but it wasn’t one of my best laid out plans. My estimated cooking times for all the different ingredients were off – a very important factor if they are all going into the same pot, I might add – and I ended up with undercooked beans, and dry, bland, chicken. Well, all the stereotypical temperamental chefs came to life in my kitchen that evening – so much so that I heard the boyfriend whisper to Sadie, “Leave mama alone, it’s not safe in the kitchen right now.” When I was through throwing my tantrum, I wrapped the chicken up and put it in the fridge, finished cooking the beans through, then seared some slices of kielbasa, and fried a couple of eggs. We ended up having mediocre but edible Kielbasa and Beans with Fried Eggs for dinner.
The one positive result of that evening was that I managed to use all the chicken carcasses I had stored up in my freezer to make a giant batch of chicken stock. It really came in really handy a couple days later, when the boyfriend came down with a cold and a bad sore throat. Cheers! Chicken soup to the rescue. I love a good chicken noodle soup, and having fresh chicken stock, and leftover chicken in the fridge always makes quick work of it. I didn’t have any egg noodles in my pantry, but I did have eggs, flour, and milk to make Spaetzle instead. It was so quick and easy, I don’t think that my Chicken Soup will ever see another dried egg noodle.
Fresh Spaetzle & Chicken Soup
INGREDIENTS, makes about 3 quarts
3-4 Tbsp. neutral oil (such as canola or grapeseed)
3/4 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1 clove of garlic minced
2 quarts chicken stock, preferably unsalted
a bouquet garni of fresh thyme, oregano, and a bay leaf, tied together with twine or bound in cheesecloth
salt and pepper
the meat of one 3-4 lb. chicken, cooked, skin and bones removed, and cut into 1/2″ chunks
For the Spaeztle:
1/3 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup flour (6 oz. by weight)
A stockpot with a fitted steamer insert or a metal/heatproof colander that will rest on the rim of your soup pot.
1. Combine the carrots and celery and a couple tablespoons of oil in a tall 8 quart stockpot. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, and additional oil if needed to coat the onions, and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
2. Add the chicken stock and herbs, then turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently until the celery and carrots are almost cooked through.
3. Meanwhile make the spaetzle batter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and spices. Then add the flour and mix with a whisk or spoon until uniform. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside.
4. When the vegetables are close to cooked through, transfer the spaeztle batter the colander or steamer insert. Place the steamer insert in the stockpot, or if you are using a colander, rest it on rim of the stockpot. There should be a couple inches of space between the bottom of the insert/colander and the liquid. Turn the soup to high and using your rubber spatula, push the batter through the holes of the colander so the pieces drop into the boiling soup. It will only take a minute or so for the spaeztle to float to the surface - a good indication that they are cooked. When you think you have enough noodles, simply remove the insert/colander and discard any remaining batter.
5. Add the cooked chicken to the pot and bring everything back to a boil, just to warm the chicken through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
The recipe calls for a generous amount of chicken stock to account for the liquid absorbed by cooking the spaeztle directly in the soup. I prefer this method only because the starch adds body to the soup the same way adding pasta cooking water to sauces does. You may prefer to cook your spaeztle in a separate pot of salted water to have better control over the cooking process.
This recipe is best made with homemade Chicken Stock.
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Wednesday is my Sunday. It’s the only day of the week that I’m sure to be off from work ,and usually all I want to do is relax at home with my cat asleep on my lap, or run around the park with Sadie. So lately, we’ve just been ordering in or eating at someplace local on my night off. Thing is, the eatery options in Eastern Queens are pretty, well, blah. (Any foodie neighbors with suggestions please let me know!) There are a couple of good pizzerias, a decent Indian restaurant, and several late night diners, but this girl can’t live on pizza, curry, and burgers alone. Oh what I’d give for an authentic Mexican joint that’s not run by the Chinese take out folks next door! There’s nothing like having a craving for something good and ending up with a bland and disappointing meal. It’s enough to drive a lazy cook back into her kitchen!
So this week, when I had a craving for seafood, I decided to take matters into my own hands. At least if the meal was a flop, I would have no one else to blame but myself. I have to say, I wasn’t planning on getting clams. Pretty much every clam we’ve eaten in New York has had an unpleasant and bitter metallic finish that is unlike any clam we had in New England. But today I was visiting a new fishmonger who had both farmed Long Island clams, and wild caught Connecticut clams. He seemed to think the bitterness could be from the farmed clams. I was skeptical, but decided to gamble on the wild Connecticut clams and took a dozen of them home. Although they weren’t as sweet as Rhode Island clams, they certainly didn’t have a strong bitter finish, and I think the preparation helped to mask it.
At first I was going to go with a simple linguine and white clam sauce, but when I got home, I realized that I didn’t have any white wine. I did have an open bottle of pinot noir, plenty of beer, red pepper and chorizo, so I ended up going in a more Spanish inspired direction. Improvising can be tricky, and believe me I’ve had my fair share of flops, but sometimes things do work out. Here’s the recipe, approximately:
INGREDIENTS (serves 2 very generously):
4-5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large spanish (yellow) onion, diced small
1 large red bell pepper, diced small
3-4 cloves garlic
pinch of saffron
4 oz. dry chorizo sausage, diced small
1/2 lb. dry linguine or other pasta
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 c. medium bodied red wine
1/4 c. lager beer
crushed red pepper
1 dozen small clams, such as cherrystones or liittlenecks, scrubbed clean
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
1-2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
salt and pepper
1. First make a sofrito: In a medium sauce pan over low-medium heat, slowly cook the onions and red pepper in plenty of olive oil and a little salt until they are very soft. The onions should be transparent, and there should be no browning of the vegetables. Then add the garlic and saffron, and cook for another 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant. Then add the chorizo and cook for another 5 minutes to develop the flavors.
2. While the sofrito is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta. Place the chopped tomatoes in a colander, and drain the pasta into it, reserving 1/2 cup or so of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta and tomatoes in a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking.
3. Add the wine, beer and crushed red pepper to the sofrito and turn the heat to high. As soon as the liquids come to a boil, add the clams, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Periodically give the pan a little shake until the clams steam open. Remove the clams and set aside, discarding any that do not open.
4. Add the fresh herbs to the pan and reduce the cooking liquid slightly. Season to taste, and toss with the pasta and clams, adding some of the pasta cooking liquid if necessary.
NOTES: Use good quality olive oil. It is a big flavor component in the sofrito, and if it doesn’t have good flavor, the finished product definitely won’t. The same goes for the beer and wine. Use stuff that tastes good enough to drink. The clams will absorb their flavors, and when the liquids reduce during cooking, the flavors will intensify as well.
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