Something warming–Krupnikas!

trees with snow
February snow

In preparation for the snow that was supposed to (and did) arrive last night, I had a few errands to run yesterday afternoon–there are some basic necessities for inclement weather: cat food, cat litter, TP, candles, and supplies to aid in keeping warm in case of power outage. (You will please note that bread and milk do not appear anywhere on that list.)  I stayed well away from the grocery store.

The important errand yesterday was to Wild Birds Unlimited for a huge bag of safflower seeds for the feeders which provide much entertainment for Frankie as well as for me. For keep-warm supplies, the was ABC store.

Quite recently while I was enjoying lunch at the Hope Valley Diner, another regular customer and I were have a very food-oriented conversation and Krupnikas was mentioned.  I’d not heard of it before. From his description of it I definitely had to remedy that oversight since I’m particularly fond of honey,  herb- and spice-based liqueurs such as Chartreuse (both green and yellow).

snowy deck
Snow day

Since the ABC store was conveniently (as in driving right past it) near the bird-food store, I thought this kind of weather would be ideal for trying some warming spirits while having relaxed bird-watching day and quality time with the cat.

Krupnikas is traditional Lithuanian-style  spice honey  liqueur being  made right here in Durham, North Carolina! I thought it was necessary for me to try this one in the spirit of continuing education and experimentation. Thus, a stop at the ABC store. According to Wikipedia, krupnik or krupnikas (Polish or Lithuanian) was created by Benedictine monks–does this suggest why I might like this as well as Chartreuse? Bottle of Krupnikas located, bought, and carted home along with bird food. Errands completed.

While waiting for the snow to arrive last night, I poured myself a reasonable tot of Krupnikas–neat in a snifter since this was apparently the traditional way of serving it. Warmed by hands around the bowl of the snifter, the aroma was sweet, somwhat floral from the honey, with spices, and a bit of  orange-like citrus component that brightened up the warm spices.

The taste–wow–definitely warm, cozy,  almost cuddly, but certainly not fuzzy, though it feels very smooth and rich in the mouth.   The first sip gives warm brandy/cognac-like “burn” with sweetness, followed by floral honey sweetness and the spices that linger after swallowing. The spices are very warm and complex, without any one being dominant.

I’ve only tried this neat as a sipper, but if you check the  Facebook page and the website for The Brothers Vilgalys Spirits  there are suggestions using Krupnikas in mixed drinks.  I’m going to be trying it with coffee as you would brandy; the White Lithuanian sounds really good (as I do like brandy Alexanders occasionally).

For me, this is definitely a keeper that will live right with my bottles of Chartreuse! I can see it as an apéritifs and/or digestif, or as a sipper for relaxing with friends, or the cat and a good book. I’m glad I found out about this–especially as it’s made here in Durham. Another way to be a locovor!

As well as the Krupnikas made with neutral grain spirits, there is also Mystic Bourbon Liqueur (Barrister & Brewer)  and other products made here in Durham that need to be investigated.

Pasta from the microwave?

Okay, you know I use my rice cooker to cook some kinds of pasta, but when Cook’s Illustrated  reviewed microwave pasta cookers and gave it a thumbs up, I had to try–I mean that should be even faster and easier than rice cooker, right?

from Amazon.com

I ordered the Fasta Pasta Microwave Cooker.  Delivered quickly, and needless to say, got tried out quickly. I’ve cooked both ravioli and capellini in it successfully.  Cooking times are obviously going to vary with the power of the microwave, but generally the times given on the included card have been very accurate.  It’s easy to move around as there are handles on both side.

The drain slots in the lid did not let the capellini slip through.  I’m really surprised–but I think that will be my method of choice for cooking pasta in the future.

(Image from Amazon.com, and should take you to page–however, I don’t have an affiliate association with them, so I get no remuneration if you order through here.)

Fårikål (Norwegian lamb and cabbage stew)

Cold, rather dreary day so I’m making some warm, cuddly, comfort food from my most recent cookbook, The Kitchen of Light by Andreas Viestad.

I made the lamb and cabbage stew–well, sort of–I had goat meat in the freezer so I substituted that for lamb.  As I’m writing, I’m smelling it cooking–and practically drooling on my keyboard.

The stew is in the oven in my “small” Dutch oven (did not make the whole recipe). It smells SO good. I’ve been reading posts from a friend on Facebook singing the praises of this stew–reheats well–which means I can make a batch and freeze some.

The seasoning of this stew is bay leaves and black peppercorns–a lot of black peppercorns, cooked with the meat and cabbage.  This surprised me when I read the recipe because I’ve seen sources saying that black peppercorns will be bitter with long cooking, so it’s not usually added until late in cooking, though this is not dry heat, so that may make a big difference. This recipe calls for 1 to 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns.  (From tasting so far, I think I’m going to want to add more black peppercorns.)

Product.DisplayNameReally good, fresh-ground black pepper is one of my favorite spices.  I’ve gotten hooked on the India Special Extra Bold Tellicherry  and that’s what I’m using in this recipe.  Regular Tellicherry or Malabar pepper should also work.

Fårikål (Norwegian lamb and cabbage stew)

This recipe is adapted  from The Kitchen of Light (Andreas Viestad)–It’s easily adapted for single-serving cooking, but also suitable for making the full recipe and reheating/freezing.

Ingredients

  • 6 pounds of bone-in lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces.
  • 4 pounds of green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups cold water
  • fine sea salt (to taste)

Preparation

  • Layer the meat and cabbage in a large pot
  • Add black peppercorns, bay leaves, butter, and sprinkle in flour
  • Add water
  • Bring to a simmer, covered,
  • Cook about 2 hours over medium-high heat about 2 hours
  • To increase spiciness, add 1 more tablespoon peppercorns and cook an additional 15 minutes
  • Season to taste with salt
plated lamb and cabbage stew
Lamb and cabbage stew (from Wikipedia)

My first adaptation was the use of goat meat since that’s what I had in the freezer–as well as goat brown stock.

The goat meat was excellent, but in the future  I’ll use bone-in lamb shoulder chops, cut into appropriate-sized chunks.  My other adaptation of this recipe was to put it in the oven to cook at 300°F until the meat was very tender. It’s unlikely that I’ll want to make full quantity  of this recipe–more likely half, which will still give more than one meal, and  some to freeze.

This is NOT a pretty dish.  By the time the meat is really tender, the cabbage is NOT going to be pretty and bright green.  There’s more discussion of this dish on My Little Norway.  I like more peppercorns than that recipe uses–I actually added a lot more–and finished my serving with carefully roasted black peppercorns, coarsely crushed.

This has me looking for other recipes using cabbage–which I think is an under-appreciated winter vegetable. Too often I think it’s thought of as “slaw”.  After reading Viestad’s cookbook and North: The New Nordic Cooking of Iceland  by Gunnar Karl Gislason and Jody Eddy,  I want to explore more Scandinavian cooking.  I found lots more recipes on New Scandinavian Cooking, too–and the manifesto of the “New Nordic Cuisine”.

For a beverage with this dish? Well, a porter would be excellent. If I were doing wine, I think I’d look for something really robust–something that has at least some alicante bouchet in it, or maybe a Minervois–I think this calls for some research!

A son goût!

 

Shad roe redux

from The Garum Factory imagesJust a quick follow-up on the shad roe post from yesterday: The seasoning and cooking method from The Garum Factory was a success–absolutely as good as I thought it would be from looking at the recipe.

The purging over night in salt water does make a difference–I like the roe either way. If it’s your first time preparing roe, I’d recommend doing the salt-water soak.

Cooking the roe over low heat–kind of a steam-sauté) works well–it eliminates the popping and spattering that you usually get over higher heat and the texture of the roe more tender than cooked over higher heat.

The ginger added to the more traditional bacon, capers, garlic, lemon, and butter definitely adds a nice sparkle to the roe. I’d certainly recommend this as an introduction to shad roe if you’ve not tried it before.

The Reverse Wine Snob: The Best Box Wines - Esporao Alandra White 2013(The roe image above is from The Garum Factory–the picture that I took did not come out well at all so–clicking on that image will take you to the original post which I reblogged.)

I just had steamed potatoes (small Yukon Golds) and a salad. A glass of the Alandra white (Portugal)  was a lovely accompaniment to the roe.

A son goût

A “roast” beef sandwich

Sandwiches are not just something to be thrown together without thought–definitely NOT two thin slices of baloney and Wonder bread!  They are a special kind  of meal–sometimes comfort food (like grilled cheese sandwiches) and sometimes even need planning when cooking for one person.  I’m always on the lookout for good “recipes”–or maybe inspirations–for sandwiches–particularly roast beef.

As much as I like cooking for one, there are a few drawbacks. One is that  realistically you can’t do real roast beef.  One of the things I miss is a good roast beef sandwich–it’s just not the same when the roast beef comes from the deli–no matter how good the deli.

image from Lemony Thyme
roast beef sandwich

One of the ways to satisfy my craving for roast beef sandwiches is with the planned  “leftovers” from my  thick-cut  steak–intentional leftovers of nice rare, pink, juicy  steak to slice  thinly and make a sandwich.  Then the fun begins–it’s a happening.

  •  Start with good bread (my oat bread , if possible),
  • Add some  flavorful, spicy greens:  radish sprouts or possibly arugula, or endive.
  • Maybe tomato,  if in season.
  • Cheese:  something “bleu”– gorgonzola dolce, Cabrales,  or Danablu–is one of my favorites with beef, though nothing wrong with a good cheddar or Swiss.
  • Maybe some thinly sliced red onion (or Walla Walla, Maui, or Vidalia,   sweet onions, if those just happen to be lying around).
  • Maybe a good “smear” of horseradish or horseradish sauce, instead of onion.
  • Finally,  a thin film of butter, preferably European style cultured (salted or unsalted)!
  • The final touch would be a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

Now choose a beverage–beer, cider, or even a glass of wine. Enjoy.

Blood oranges….

blood orange slice
blood orange

I have to say that for the most part, I hate shopping–except food-related shopping. When I do food-related shopping, I almost always come home with something that was not on the shopping list (Yes, I do make shopping lists, but I don’t really do meal planning.)  do sometimes venture in to the food store without a list, though I do try not to go food shopping when I’m hungry. Sometimes I go to the grocery store impulsively and spontaneously–triggered by some extraneous event.

My last such foray was triggered by sitting at the counter of Hope Valley Diner discussing food with another regular lunch customer–also a foodie.  What sent me to the grocery store was his mention of a chocolate cake from Fresh Market: namely chocolate ganache cake.That definitely got my chocolate imagination going–after all ganache is basically chocolate and cream, maybe some butter–but it’s really serious chocolate–adult chocolate.

Being in need of a chocolate fix since I’d been indexing all morning, I detoured by the Fresh Market on my way home (it really wasn’t more than a half mile in the opposite direction) hoping that I would find chocolate ganache cake by the slice. So–my intent on entering the Fresh Market was to obtain a single slice of chocolate cake.

As I walked through the entrance into the vestibule I was immediately faced with packages of California-grown Moro blood oranges. I seem to be constitutionally incapable of walking away from blood oranges, so there was the first “additional” item, so I really did need to get a basket though I hadn’t thought I needed one.  Now the blood oranges were not individual–they came in a little easy to carry bag–meaning that I now had several blood oranges.

Continuing on my way to the bakery section, I detoured though the produce (around the edge of the store).  That took me past the Bolthouse juices. (Yes, I find daily grapefruit, orange, etc boring too many days in a row.) I noticed a couple that I’d not found at my Harris Teeter market, so those (Daily Golden Vedge and the Stone Fruit Smoothie–still haven’t found the Mango Ginger + carrot) )got popped into the basket.

I made it to the bakery counter after a brief detour around the cheese counter and the seafood salad bar. I first noticed a whole chocolate ganache cake–shiny top as you’d expect from ganache, very dark, with the sides of the cake covered with dark chocolate shavings or chopped. Thankfully, there was a single slice of this luscious looking cake in the case. That got put into the basket with a sigh of relief–after all, THAT was what I came for! I made it back past the chocolate bars and other candy without adding anything more to the basket, checked out, and headed for home.

Blood Orange and Sage Sparkling SodaOnce home I had a blood orange–and realized that I was going to be eating or juicing blood oranges for a bit. Though straight blood orange juice is certainly not a hardship, serendipity has a way of intervening. While I was perusing my favorite blogs, what should I find but a gorgeous photograph and a recipe for blood orange and sage sparkling soda.

The image at the left is from Snixy Kitchen blog–just too gorgeous not to “plagiarize” with attribution, and share. I’d not thought of the combination of sage and orange, but with the “imagery” of the blood orange I’d just eaten, and a brush of the sage wintering on my deck, I knew I had to try it. This as a beverage is definitely a keeper–I’m sure that I’ll be making sage simple syrup again, and I have to think this would make a great sorbet as well as something to put in a glass and drink.  This combination of orange and sage also has me thinking about veal, pork, maybe chicken….Thank you, Snixy Kitchen for a great combination!

ÒΔÓ

Now if you’re wondering about the chocolate ganache cake?  Well, I ate it before it even occurred to me to take a picture, and I haven’t found a chocolate cake image that even comes close–so I’ll have to go with words: very, very dark, moist, with ganache between the layers and as icing, not too thick.  Dark chocolate chips/shaving on the sides, not too sweet, but sweet enough–adult chocolate–absolutely luscious.  That’s probably where I’ll go look for my next chocolate fix.

Signs of spring

safifer:

Shad Roe Sac
pair of shad roe

Sometimes it’s a bit dangerous for me to venture into the grocery store–I happen on to something that I hadn’t planned to buy. That happens especially with some seasonal specialties that appear without warning because you never know quite when they are going to be available.

So we’ve had groundhog day, and we’re looking toward the vernal equinox (20th of March, I believe)–all suggesting that spring is on the way. I have a particular sign of spring that I’m always looking for: shad roe. Today I made its unpredictable appearance at my local Harris Teeter fish market. I never know quite how I’m going to fix it once I get it home–but it usually comes down to something with brown butter and some other seasonings like lemon, or something very simple so that the focus is the shad rod itself.

Whilst skulking about on the web, I found this delightful post on The Garum Factory about its history and preparation that I want to reblog –I couldn’t do it  better.  This looks like a great way to prepare it. Another post worth reading if you’re new to shad roe is from the second lunch.

Now off to put my shad roe in the salt water!  I’m now ready to think that spring really is on the way!

George Washington Ate Here – Shad Roe with Brown Butter, Capers and Ginger from The Garum Factory appears below.

Originally posted on The Garum Factory:

You will never see it on a restaurant menu.  The TV Food Network is unlikely to devote an hour to its history and preparation.  It is one of the great forgotten foods of American culinary culture.  I’m talking about the shad.  The sole remnant of its once mighty role in the diet of Americans is its roe, and for a certain segment of avid pescavores it’s the line in the sand between winter and spring.  This week we’re going where food blogs don’t usually tread – Shad Roe with Brown Butter, Capers and Ginger.   Believe me, it’s worth it.

There is a story–a fish story?–proffered by historian Henry Emerson Wildes in his book Valley Forge about the importance of shad to the revolutionary war effort.  In the spring of 1778 the tattered and hungry Continental Army was encamped in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where it had been since the onset of…

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Pheasant with Green Chiles

safifer:

I’ve done my usual scrounge through the post-holiday leftover at the grocery store, as usual, come home with some goodies. My local Harris Teeter had pheasants on sale so I’m looking for inspiration.

Admittedly, I’m starting with farm-raised pheasant rather than wild. The flavor is different–milder–and as the wild are not so fat and sassy as farm-raised, the wild can be trickier to cook.  I have farm-raised (still good eating) so I have a bit more freedom in how to cook them.  If you’re fortunate enough to have wild pheasant, here’s some information on cooking those. (If you have wild ones, I’d love to help you eat those–and perhaps pick a wine to go with them.)

The post that I’ve reblogged below provided some inspirations for a starting place.

Originally posted on chef mimi blog:

In my post entitled Pheasant, I talked about how for years I’d disregarded the lovely pheasant as a gourmet protein, and decided it was finally time to give it the respect it deserves. I’ve had so many pheasants in my freezer over the years, but to me they were just fiddly, bony little birds to which I had no time to dedicate.

Pheasants not only require some butchering and de-boning skills, one must also be careful cooking them. Pheasant breasts, which I’m cooking today, are darker than chicken breasts, but not moist like chicken thighs or dark turkey meat. So I knew I had to be patient and attentive, which are not my strong suits.

The recipe that I immediately thought of using with the pheasant breasts is one from the Africa cookbook of the Foods of the World cookbook series. The recipe is from South Africa, and the…

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A good home-cooked steak

Steak is not something that I order when I splurge for a meal in a fine restaurant; it’s too easy to do at home and good for single-serving cooking since it’s portioned when it comes home, and it’s easy to cook.

A good thick-cut, home-cooked steak is one of the things that I don’t mind having left over, since it’s usable as “roast beef” for a yummy sandwich.  (No, the roast beef from the deli simply does not do it.) My favorite way to cook the steak is from Cook’s Illustrated, 01 May 2007–it does take a little time and minimal effort, but it’s well worth it.

steaks in butcher caseMy usual choice of steak is a strip, or New York strip, cut 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inches thick, with fat cap intact.  If I don’t find one lolling about   in the butcher case (you won’t likely find this in the pre-packaged section)  ask to have it cut the way you want it; my local Harris Teeter will cut to order but generally has thick-cut steaks in the butcher case.

This works fine with rib eye or with filet mignon, as long as it is thick-cut. Personally, I prefer strip or rib-eye to filet. Even with rib eye, it’s still not a substitute for real prime rib roast, but a good “second” so that I plan to have “leftovers”.

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless steak (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches thick (about 1 pound), strip or rib eye
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for searing

Preparation

  1. Adjust oven rack to  mid-position and pre-heat oven to 275 °F .
  2. Pat steaks dry with paper towel and season liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Place steak on wire rack set in rimmed pan and place in oven.  (Steak does need to be raised rather in contact with pan).
  4. Cook until instant-read thermometer inserted in center of steak registers 90 to 95°F for rare to medium-rare, 20 to 25 minutes  (or 100 to 105°F  for medium, 25 to 30 minutes).
  5. Heat oil in  heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking.
  6. Place steak in the skillet and sear until well-browned and nicely crusty–about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, lifting once halfway through to redistribute fat under the steak.
  7. Using tongs, turn steak and cook until well browned on the other side, about 2 to 2-1/2 minutes.
  8. Use tongs to stand steak on the sides and sear on all sides. (This really is worth the effort–and it really does not take long.
  9. Transfer to cooling rack, tent with foil, and let rest for about 10 minutes–this also is really worth the wait.
  10. You can prepare a quick pan sauce while the steak is resting, or simply add a pat of herb butter, horseradish,  or some blue cheese crumbles to the warm steak.

Add some simple sides like salad or baked potato. Now pour yourself a another glass of that luscious  red wine that was  breathing while you were cooking, and enjoy.

A son goût!

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