" /> I taste: May 2005
Curmudgeonalia
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May 28, 2005

Manhattan Clam Chowder

makes about 2 quarts)

1 or 2 - 10 oz. cans of whole baby clams, and liquor
1/8 lb. salt pork (or several strips of bacon)
3 very large, ripe tomatoes, roasted
1 med-large onion (not sweet) sliced and chopped medium
1 large carrot sliced 1/8 inch wafers
1 large Idaho potato, diced 3/8 inch
1 large rib celery, sliced 1/8 inch wafers
1 tbsp. tomato paste

1 small bay leaf
1+ tsp dry parsley (1-2 tbsp. fresh, chopped is preferable)
1 tsp. dry thyme (1 tbsp. fresh, chopped is preferable)
1+ tsp. dry basil (1-2 tbsp. fresh, chopped is preferable)
5 cups water
4 tbsp. (¼ cup) flour
1 tbsp. Minor Clam Base (or two 8 oz. bottles of clam juice - in which case omit 16 oz. water.)
3-4 drops Tabasco, optional
1 tbsp. Pick-a-pepper
1 tbsp. Worcestershire

Halve the tomatoes, salt them lightly, and roast for 4 hours in 225 degree oven. When done, puree in blender, run thru a coarse sieve and discard residue. (As a relatively poor substitute, you can use a can of pureed tomatoes.)

Cut salt pork into 3 large strips (about like 3 thick bacon slices) and, in 3 quart kettle, sauté over medium-high heat till golden brown. Add chopped onion and celery, lower heat slightly, and cook several minutes until soft and light brown, scraping skillet to incorporate browned residue of pork.

Drain clams and reserve. Add liquor to the kettle. Add 2 tbsp of flour to some of the clam juice, twice, and mix well until smooth and free of lumps. Add remaining water to the kettle contents and combine all remaining ingredients (except drained clams, Worcestershire, Tabasco and Pick-a-pepper) and bring to a light simmer. Cook for 15-30 minutes to thicken the mix, allow the herbs to blend, and render the carrots and potatoes crisp tender. Remove the bay leaf and salt pork, add the clams and warm thru (do not cook them, they’ll become tough.) Add the remaining, reserved seasonings and serve with some fresh chopped parsley.

Consider embellishing with sherry, and serve with crusty French or Peasant Bread.

Posted by respeto at 12:13 PM

New England Clam Chowder

makes about 4 quarts)

3 strips bacon
¼ lb. butter*
2 T olive oil
3 cans chopped clams, incl. liquor
3 small, mild onions (not sweet) chopped fine
3 medium white potatoes in ¼ in. dice
4 med. lge. cloves garlic minced
2 – 8 oz. bottles of clam juice (or 1+ tbsp Minor’s clam base**)
4 small bay leaves
3 whole cloves
1 qt. half & half *
1 qt. whole milk*
½ cup flour

Combine milk and half & half in 5 qt. stock pot or Dutch oven. Place cloves and bay leaves in garni ball/tube or wrapped in cheese cloth (for easy removal, later. Simmer to scald milk and to flavor. Skim if/as necessary. (*I have found that you can eliminate much of the fat, with little sacrifice in richness and flavor, if you substitute 2 quarts of Land-o-Lakes fat free half-n-half—in the purple waxed milk containers.)

At the same time, slice bacon into tiny ribbons and sauté in a large heavy skillet. Add olive oil, butter, then minced garlic and sauté till soft. Add onion, diced very fine, and simmer till beginning to brown. To skillet contents add 1 bottle of clam juice. Add diced potatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Potatoes should be almost done, but crisp tender.

Add flour to remaining clam juice, whisking carefully to be sure it is smooth. Then whisk this into the milk. Then add everything else to the stock pot and simmer for another 10 minutes, at least, till thickened (flour should always be cooked at least 10 minutes.) Two or three minutes before done, add the clams and their water to warm thru (cooking the clams too long will toughen them.)

Remove garni, adjust seasonings and serve. If you use clam base or "real" clam liquor (see below) you won't likely need any salt

**Since becoming a Floridian, in the heart of clam country I have learned that one can make clams do “double duty.” I bake mahogany clams at 500 degrees, in a cake pan, and reserve the liquor, serving the clams on another occasion. 100 clams generates about 2 cups of liquor, which is exactly enough to substitute for bottled clam juice. While a little more salty, it works well in this recipe. (It is too salty for Manhattan chowder.) And, of course, one can use chowder clams, but Snow’s canned chopped clams are considerably cheaper, and in this chowder, properly seasoned, I don’t think the added expense is worth it, not to mention the added nuisance.

Posted by respeto at 12:08 PM

May 18, 2005

Tomato Basil Salsa

1 can (15oz) black beans, drained/rinsed
1 large red onion, chopped
2 large, firm, ripe tomatoes, chopped
10 oz. corn kernels
1 med. red pepper, cored, seeded and finely diced
½ tsp. salt
Dash of hot pepper flakes
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup fresh basil, cut into strips
1 small jalapeno pepper finely diced (optional)

Combine all except basil in medium bowl and set aside for 1 hour.
Stir in the basil just before serving, adjust seasoning and
Serve with polenta triangles or chips.


Posted by respeto at 3:46 PM

Black Bean Summer Salad

(serves 12-16)

Ingredients for Salad:
12 oz bag of dry Black Beans
1 large or several small smoked ham shanks
2 bay leaves
3 ears of fresh corn on the cob, or 2 cups cooked kernels (rattlepak o.k.)
1-2 ripe avocadoes

Ingredients for Dressing:
½ cup diced (small) red onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves (1 tsp. crushed, dried is a poor substitute)
¾ tsp. oregano, crushed
1 ½ tsp. chili pepper powder
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup corn oil
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. water
½ tsp. salt (or to taste)

Clean and cook corn, then cut from cob. Set aside. (or use left over corn or rattlepak)

Put shanks in lightly salted water, along with 1 small onion peeled and halved, 1 med. carrot halved and cut in two, and 1 rib celery cut in pieces. Simmer for 1 hour. Remove vegetables.

While shanks are cooking, rinse and sort beans, then cook with bay leaf and ham shank for 75 minutes, or till the beans are soft but not mushy. Rinse in cool water to stop cooking. Drain and set aside.

Clean, bone and dice the ham, and add it back to the mix.

To prepare dressing, mix dry ingredients with the water and let stand for 5 minutes, especially to rehydrate if dried spices are being used. Peel and mince the onion. Then add all dressing components together and whisk briskly to mix well.

Peel and dice the avocado into 3/8 to 1/4 inch dice.

Mix beans, corn and ham, dress and mix well again, then carefully fold in avocado.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Posted by respeto at 3:36 PM

May 11, 2005

Chicken in Tarragon Sauce

Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & fresh ground pepper
3 tbsp. chopped shallot
1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
½ cup heavy cream
Fresh lemon

Trim excess fat from chicken, rinse and pat dry. Flatten breasts to a uniform ½ inch between sheets of wax paper (I prefer using a zip-lock bag.)

In large sauté pan melt butter and olive oil, and when hot add chicken. Season with S&P and sauté gently, turning once, ‘til chicken is golden and opaque (about 3 min. per side.) Transfer to warmed plate and keep warm.

Pour off excess fat from pan and sauté shallot, stirring, for 1-2 min.—till translucent.

Add tarragon and cream and increase heat. Stir, incorporating browned bits from pan bottom and blending well. Cook, till thickened/reduced slightly. Season w/ S&P and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Return chicken to pan and turn each breast several times in the sauce. Transfer to warmed serving plate or individual plates and spoon remaining sauce over chicken.

Sprinkle w/parsley and serve.

Posted by respeto at 3:26 PM

Supremes de Volaille Engenie

chicken breasts & prosciutto - serves 4-6

Ingredients:
4-6 small boneless, skinned chicken breasts
flour, salt and fresh ground black pepper
4-6 thin slices of prosciutto
4-6 large mushroom caps, stem removed
4-6 rounds of buttered toast
¾ cup sherry
¾ cup scalded cream
salt & white pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees as you begin cooking.

Dredge chicken breasts in seasoned flour and sauté them in clarified butter, turning frequently, until browned and cooked thru.

4-5 minutes before they are done, add the whole mushroom caps to cook.

In another skillet, lightly sauté the prosciutto in butter, till warmed thru.

Place the warmed, buttered toast in the bottom of heated, individual casseroles and cover each with a slice of prosciutto, then the chicken breast. Top with mushroom cap.

Combine the butter from the two sauté skillets, add the sherry and cream and boil for one minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper and strain over the casseroles.

Cover and steam for 3-4 minutes in a 350 degree oven and serve.

Posted by respeto at 3:21 PM

May 3, 2005

Bread Baking tips:

When baking croissants or other such--“scratch,” or out of one of those refrigerated grocery packages--a light egg-white wash will vastly improve both color and crust. (Use some or all of the yolk, too, if you want a darker brown.)

Whip up an egg white with a little water and “paint it” on lightly with either a thin pastry brush or a feather. (Feathers really work well, and are sold in most gourmet stores.)

Put the wash on the top and sides only, and just before you put it in the oven. Packaged “Pop-n-fresh” and other rolls and such will come out looking much more attractive. Be sure that you don’t put on so much that it slops off onto the baking pan. If it cooks together it might (though it likely won’t) seal it to the baking sheet and prevent it from rising as well.

Do it once and you’ll be an expert the 2nd time.

Posted by respeto at 3:20 PM

Tips on Garlic:

Garlic is a multi-purpose seasoning. Most people use it incorrectly, and in too large a quantity. Generally, the idea is to use enough to enhance and enrich the recipe without being able to recognize just what it is that makes it so good. Usually it is the “little-bit-o-garlic!”

Also, generally, one should take a clove (the whole “bunch” is, properly, a “fist” of garlic!) and crush it severely, then chop it fine, crushing it again once in a while, until it is, essentially, pureed. Doing it in a blender doesn’t quite cut it. Crushing is necessary. Have to do it by hand, and this is best done with a 6-8 inch chef’s knife. (More on knife technique elsewhere, later.)

Cracked/chopped garlic will give you a less sharp but not a mild result.

On the other hand, when you really want to taste the garlic, use more, or even lots more, if you like it “garlicky.” (Be sure to warn your guest/spouse to have some too, otherwise you might be sleeping in the street.)

On the third hand, there are times when you want to carefully peel it and simmer it whole for certain sauces (some will be included in the recipe section.)

And on the fourth hand, slow roasted, whole garlic is wonderfully mild and can be used as a spread. It imparts a whole different taste to roasts and stews when “popped in” whole. Experiment a little: Inserting uncrushed slivers of garlic into lamb or beef is another classic situation in which you essentially roast the garlic, and again it is quite mild rather than sharp.

On the fifth hand, if you add a whole fist of separated, unpeeled cloves to the pan with a roast you will have wonderfully mild garlic to serve with the roast. Works well with oven baked chicken, etc, as well.

Elephant garlic is usually more mild in the first place.

Store-bought, chopped or minced garlic is handy but a very poor substitute for fresh. If you use it at all, crush it.

Posted by respeto at 3:13 PM

Tips on Olive Oil:

Extra-virgin olive oil is a real treat, but you have to know that only the first pressing is really worth the money. One of the best for the money is Colavita. Of course there are better if you want to “pop” for the $$.

Like all other oils, don’t refrigerate it. Won’t go bad for months . . . or years!

But: if you are going to cook it at skillet temperatures you destroy the flavor altogether, so don’t waste your money. Olive oil is desirable for a lot of reasons (right kind of fat, higher smoking temperature, etc.), but skillet cooking with the expensive stuff is a total waste. If you want to enhance something, add a little E.V.O.O. after the cooking is done. For instance, if cooking a pasta dish, use just enough of the cheap stuff to keep it from sticking, and when you are thru, add the good stuff. But don’t cook it any more. Using it at roasting temperatures (350 degrees or less) is another story, but it doesn’t brown as well as a thin coat of butter.

If you want to prepare some really great E.V.O.O. as an accompaniment for bread served with the meal, purchase a bottle of good stuff (or, if you’re like me, use Colavita—it’s up to the job), uncap it, pull the pour spout, and add “a bunch” of seasonings: 2-3 cloves of garlic, quartered; ¼ tsp of several spices like tarragon, marjoram or the like, and a sprig of fresh (or 1/2 tsp dry) rosemary. Sliced, sun-dried tomatoes are good, too. Experiment . . . it’s fun, and a hell of a lot cheaper than buying prepared stuff at a gourmet store!

I have a special, clear bottle the size of a wine bottle. I add the stuff and pour in the E.V.O.O. That way you can enjoy it visually as well as its taste. When you do this, let it stand (at room temperature) for at least a couple of weeks, and tip it around to mix every day or so. You can “keep it going” by adding a little fresh oil each time you use it, and shake it up a little.

If you use a lot for one meal--or after some months--start another bottle, use up the first, and discard the “left-over” seasonings in the first bottle.

Not incidentally, as a side dish, pasta dressed with nothing but this oil is a treat. Great on microwaved veges, too.

Posted by respeto at 2:58 PM

Garlic Shrimp

wonderful stuff-serves 4)

1 ½ lbs. medium or large shrimp, shelled, deveined and butterflied
¼ c. flour
¼ c. olive oil½ c. salted butter, room temp.
4 medium garlic cloves, crushed, then minced*
1 ½ T finely chopped shallots**
2 T. finely chopped parsley
¼ t. paprika
¼ t. cayenne pepper
1-2 tsp. anise liqueur (optional, but adds a lot)
2 T. lemon juice
¾ c. dry white wine***
Salt/Pepper
Chopped parsley if desired

Cream together the butter, garlic, onions, chopped parsley, paprika, cayenne, and liqueur (if used, add it to the rest, and add butter last.)

After preparing the shrimp, dust lightly with the flour. Heat oil in a skillet and sauté the shrimp over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes (until pink; do NOT overcook!)

Drain off the oil, if any is left, Add lemon juice and wine. Agitate or stir just long enough to thicken, and remove from heat promptly.

Add the creamed mixture of garlic and spices and toss till the butter is melted and the shrimp are coated well.

Season with salt/pepper and serve with chopped parsley sprinkled over the top.

* If you like garlic, this is one recipe in which you can add another 3-5 cloves and it is really great.
** The white part of green onions is a substitute, but no match, for shallots
***substituting orange juice permits those who wish to cook without wine to do so. It is a quite different dish, but unique and very tasty.


Posted by respeto at 11:49 AM

Curried Shrimp

(This is another of my very favorite dishes!)

¼ c. salted butter
½ cup minced white onion
dash each of pepper and cayenne
1 bay leaf, crumbled
pinch of powdered thyme (or crushed dry leaf)
1 ½ T curry powder, more or less-your call*
1 ½ T flour
1 ¾ c. fish stock (or Minors shrimp base**)
2 whole cloves
2 c. boiled shrimp, peeled and deveined

Melt butter in sauce pan and sauté onion till golden. Add pepper, cayenne, bay leaf, thyme, curry and flour and blend. Whisk frequently as you cook it for 10 minutes. Blend in the fish stock, remove from heat and puree in a blender.

Return to heat and add the allspice and shrimp. Cook for 5 min. more. Remove the cloves. Serve over rice, with chutney if desired. (I like to use white Basmati, or domestic Kasmati rice.)

Serves 2-3, maybe four if light eaters or a several course meal.

* If you have not discovered Penzey’s spices, you should. They are available on line from penzeys.com. They add a new dimension to cooking, especially the curry and various meat-rubs. There is a huge variety of curry choices and they are as near fresh as you can get, unless you prepare your own—which is a pain i.t.a. (If your experience with curry is that off the shelf at the grocery store, be prepared to be delighted. If you always prepare your own, G-d bless you. You are a true gourmet.)

** If you have not discovered Minor’s restaurant bases you should. They are available on line from soupbase.com. I use them all of the time. There is a huge variety, and they embellish cooking immensely.

Recently Publix--and I presume other chains--are selling many such bases in small glass jars—which is more convenient than soupbase.com, though more expensive.

P.S. don’t buy large quantities unless you use large quantities. You defeat, totally, the concept of “near fresh” herbs and/or spices, and especially curry which was the reason you go to Penzey’s in the first place!

Posted by respeto at 11:26 AM