Posts Tagged 'food'



Italian Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Red Wine

Italian Beef Braised in Red Wine

Making a house into a home is difficult.  It helps that we’re mostly unpacked.  It helps that our cats are here.  But there’s a certain comfort level of a home that hasn’t quite developed yet.

I firmly believe that food and cooking can be a vital part of making a home a home.  To share a meal with family is an important component of this.  And while we’ve had family over for dinner (including just before Christmas when we realized that more people were coming than we owned chairs), the most basic, and most frequent, family dinner we can have consists of solely Angela and me.

There’s something to be said that the food served at a family dinner can be an important component of homeyness.  Despite never eating it growing up, pot roast strikes me as one of the most homey meals possible.  A slowly braised piece of meat conjures up images of a Sunday dinner in the wintertime shared with family.  But, when you really come down to it, it also conjures up images of good food.

If you’ve ever read this blog in the past, you may easily realize that my cooking tends toward Italian. And that holds true even for something that can seem as Italian as pot roast.

This is a simple preparation of beef braised in red wine and beef stock.  A few aromatic vegetables are used in a sofrito first.  Some tomato paste is added mainly for color.  There are a few herbs in the sauce.  It’s very simple but very satisfying.

This is really a variation on Beef with Barolo.  My wallet doesn’t allow me to buy Barolo, let alone cook with it.  Instead, I used a 2006 Mandolina Nebbiolo Barbera as well as the remainder with dinner.  It worked well in both cases.

Beef Chuck

Italian Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Red Wine
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

2 lbs. beef chuck roast
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp onion, finely diced
3 tbsp carrot, finely diced
2 tbsp celery, finely diced
3/4 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh marjoram

  1. Dry the chuck roast well on all sides.  Tie the roast to keep it together.  Season well with salt and pepper on all sides.
  2. Add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a heavy dutch oven over high heat.  Brown the chuck thoroughly on all sides in the hot oil.  Set the beef aside and discard the hot oil.
  3. In the dutch oven, add 1 tbsp oil, the butter, the onion, and a pinch of salt.  Cook over medium heat until the onion becomes lightly gold.  Add the carrots and celery and cook for 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Deglaze the dutch oven with the red wine, scraping all fond.  Add the stock and the tomato paste and stir well to incorporate.
  5. Add the thyme and marjoram and return the beef to the dutch oven.  Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat to low.  Cover and simmer for 3 hours, turning the meat every 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the beef from the dutch oven, place on a cutting board, and cover with a towel.  Remove the springs of thyme and marjoram from the sauce and discard.  Reduce the sauce in the dutch oven over high heat until it starts to become syrupy.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Slice the beef against the grain and serve with the sauce on top.

Serves 4.

Chuleta de Ternera al Ajo Cabañil (Veal Chops, Shepherd Style)

Veal Chops, Shepherd Style

I’m starting to feel that the only thing I do on here is apologize for not posting more often.  My current excuse is that the holidays were hectic.  Angela’s parents came to visit for a week and then we went skiing in Vermont.   But now I’m back and will hopefully be able to provide a little more attention to this food blog of mine.

This meal actually occurred before our New England winter sojourn.  Angela’s mother (my mother-in-law) spent a significant portion of her college experience in Spain (she’s now a Spanish teacher).  Given that she hasn’t been back to Spain since, I had the bright idea that maybe I could bring a little bit of Spain to her by making something Spanish.  It didn’t hurt that I had a new Spanish cookbook that I haven’t had a good opportunity to explore.

Veal Chops

While Angela’s parents were here, we finally decided to take them up on their offer to let us do what we normally do (we always respond that we don’t normally do much of anything and that it’d be boring for them).  I was in desperate need of some black peppercorns, so we set out in search of the Penzey’s in Falls Church. That portion of the trip was relatively uneventful (except for being told that they are discontinuing the Sarawak peppercorns that we prefer). On our way back, we passed a 7-Eleven where we stopped to pickup a soda. Driving into the parking lot, I noticed that there was the Lebanese Butcher in the same shopping center. While not a particularly large shop, they do have a good selection of meats (but no pork) at good prices (particularly for veal). Because of the prices and the fact that we wanted something fairly simple, we settled on the veal chops. I also picked up some tahini, pomegranate molasses, and rose flower water. The last two are a bit harder to come by in western stores and have nothing to do with this recipe.

Mise en Place for Veal Chops, Shepherd Style

This is a fairly simple recipe but I managed to mess it up a bit when I made it.  After you brown the veal, liquid is added and it’s cooked at a low temperature for 10 to 15 minutes (simply 15 minutes in the original recipe).  Unfortunately, different stoves have different settings for low.  When we were in California, low meant turning the knob just lower than medium (anything lower and it wouldn’t cook at all).  Here in Virginia, low is turning the knob to almost off.  While I prefer this stove to the California stove, it meant that I overcooked the veal.  It wasn’t bad, just not quite where I’d like.  So be careful about what temperature it’s cooked at.

Veal Chops Cooking

Chuleta de Ternera al Ajo Cabañil (Veal Chops, Shepherd Style)
Adapted from The Foods and Wines of Spain

2 tbsp olive oil
4 veal rib chops, about 3/4″ thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp chicken broth

  1. Season the veal chops with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat.  When the oil is hot, brown the chops on both sides.
  3. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, vinegar, and broth and lower the heat to low.  Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the veal chops are cooked to the desired doneness.
  4. Serve immediately with roast potatoes.

Serves 4.

Gnocchi di Ricotta con Salsiccia e Finocchi (Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage and Fennel)

Ricotta Gnocchi

As previously mentioned, Angela and I have been in the processing of moving for the last month.  In the beginning of November, we packed up (or more precisely had movers pack up) our apartment in Long Beach, CA.  Two days later we flew to Washington Dulles and made our way to Alexandria, VA late at night, dropping off our cats with my parents on the way.

In the course of waiting for our household goods to arrive and looking for a new place, we were staying in a hotel.  While hotels are wonderful places to stay when you’re on vacation, they’re far from ideal as a residence.  I intentionally had picked a hotel that claimed it had a full kitchen.  Apparently, a full kitchen means a refrigerator, dishwasher, two electric burners, awful pots, and no oven.  My best laid plans of regularly cooking dinner there were quickly dashed if only because the pots (there was nothing that would qualify as a pan) were beyond awful.  But we did manage to eat in part of the time. And that’s one of the major reasons for lack of posts here. There simply wasn’t anything to post about (as well as some other logistical problems; I had my camera but didn’t have the computer I need to edit photos).

Toasted Fennel Seeds in a Mortar & Pestle

But that part of our moving ordeal (and what move isn’t an ordeal?) is over.  We have moved into our very own (rented) townhouse in Old Town Alexandria.  We have our cats who are still terrified and huddling in the basement.  We no longer have a dish washer.  The kitchen is tiny but I’ve appropriated the sun room for storage and a prep area.  My parents hated our old couch  that they bought us a new one.  We’ve spent more at Ikea that I’d like to admit and we still need to make another trip there.  We have our Christmas tree up.  While it may not be quite there yet, it’s slowly turning into home.

And last night, we had our first dinner guest.  My cousin Alison drove down from D.C.  Because she’s family, I had no issue with using her as a guinea pig for a new recipe.  I had purchased some ricotta at the Alexandria Farmer’s Market that I needed to use. I originally thought of ravioli but I didn’t quite have that much time on a weekday (I’m not quite set in my work schedule yet). Instead, I decided on ricotta gnocchi. I had some time to stop at a grocery store so I decided to make the full ricotta gnocchi with the suggested sauce and all.

The ricotta gnocchi were very easy to make.  Much easier than pasta or potato gnocchi.  The sauce wasn’t difficult (it’s mainly chopping) but I had problems with the Italian sausage not producing enough fat so I kept having to add olive oil.  There also wasn’t much liquid in my tomato sauce so I had to add water to the overall sauce so that the sauce could actually simmer.  This does produce a lot of sauce relative to the amount of gnocchi.  It’s almost a more Italian-American ratio than Italian but you can choose to eat as much or as little of the sauce as you choose.

If you examine the pictures, I’m pretty sure you can tell Alison’s opinion of the meal.  I heartily concur.  Alison was going to look for them at the store but they’re easy enough to make that I’d recommend making them yourself.

Ricotta Gnocchi Cooking

Gnocchi di Ricotta con Salsiccia e Finocchi (Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage and Fennel)
Adapted from Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home

Gnocchi:

Alison enjoying Ricotta Gnocchi

1 1/2 lbs. fresh ricotta
1 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
olive oil

Sauce:

2 lbs. italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 red onion, finely diced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 rib of celery, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
salt and pepper
Pecorino Romano

  1. Place the ricotta in a cheese cloth lined sieve set over a bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. To make the gnocchi, place the drained ricotta in a bowl with the flour, eggs, parsley, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Stir together with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.  Shape the dough into 2 tbsp balls and place them on a tea-towel covered baking sheet lightly dusted with flour.
  3. Cook the gnocchi in salted boiling water until they all float, about 7 minutes.  Place the cooked gnocchi in an ice bath and transfer them to a bowl.  Toss with olive oil and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. In a large skillet, cook the sausage over high heat until it is lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  Add olive oil if the sausage starts to stick.  Transfer the sausage to a bowl.
  5. Add the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, onion, fennel, carrot, celery, and garlic to the pan cook until the vegetables are softened and browned, about 10 minutes.  Add olive oil if needed.
  6. Return the sausage to the pan and add the tomato sauce.  If needed, add some water to the pan.  Scrap up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.
  7. In more boiling water, cook the gnocchi until they again float to the surface.  Transfer the gnocchi to the sauce, toss well, and cook for 1 minute more.
  8. Served topped with grated Pecorino Romano.

Serves 6.

Our Turkey at Springfield Farm

Turkeys at Springfield Farm

This is just a quick update.  We’ve moved out of Long Beach, CA and are successfully hold up in a hotel in Alexandria, VA.  We’ve been here almost two weeks.  Strangely, a “full kitchen” here only consists of two burners and no oven.  I’m beyond tired of using crappy pots (there is nothing here you can describe as a pan) on uneven burners (all the oil runs to one side) with no oven.

Our hotel sojurn is to be over soon.  We’ve applied for, and been approved to, rent a townhouse just off the mainstreet in Old Town Alexandria.  The advantages of the townhome include its location, it has a large finished basement, and has actual outdoor space (unlike our patioless apartment at Patio Gardens in California).  The disadvantage is that the kitchen is small and has no dish washer.  I plan to turn the sun room which is accessed off of the kitchen into a combination pantry and preparation area.

On a more temporally relevant note, we do get to spend Thanksgiving with family this year. I planned somewhat in advance this year and order a Narraganset turkey from Springfield Farm. The farm is only a few miles from my parents’ domicile. When we went to visit them a week and a half ago, we stopped by the farm on Sunday.  While Angela was discouraged by the cold weather, my father and I hiked the short distance up a hill to visit the turkey paddock.  By no means am I a poultry expert, but the turkeys seemed well taken care of and happy.  In particular, any time we made a loud noise, a wave gobbling would spread over the turkeys.  Unfortunately for them (but fortunately for us), the turkeys were scheduled to leave for the slaughterhouse the next day.

My parents went by this past weekend to pick up our recently deceased turkey.  I have yet to see it so I can’t comment on it yet.  I did leave instructions for my mom to use the same brine as for herb-brined roast chicken on it. We used the same brine last year and it turned out spectacularly. I’d encourage anyone to use it (in fact, my cousin Amy who we shared Thanksgiving last year with).

In any case, happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Provençal Rack of Lamb with Roasted Tomatoes

Provençal Rack of Lamb with Roasted Tomatoes

I typed up the recipe and posted the pictures to flickr a week and a half ago. Unfortunately, the real world interrupted and I never got around to writing an introduction. It appears that I’ve been a bad blog writer so my apologies. But this recipe should be worth the wait.

The best lamb I’ve ever had was Gigot D’agneau at a somewhat random bistro in Paris. The lamb was tender but flavorful. The accompanying gratin dauphinois was amazing (I had to keep close watch over it so Angela didn’t eat all of it). The ambiance was good including the French group at the next table reciting Chuck Norris facts in English (the rest of their conversation was in French). This is almost as good.

I noticed this when flipping through Gourmet and was immediately interested. Even the name makes it sound good. The in-magazine pictures didn’t hurt. We don’t usually eat rack of lamb because of the price but decided that it was worth a try.

Herb Marinade for Rack of Lamb

And it ended up being worth every penny. The lamb was tender and tasty. I’d almost recommend this as a dish to serve guests but the lamb is good that we ended up picking up individual lamb chops and biting off the bits of remaining meat. It probably is worth making a fool of one’s self for.

When making this, consider making extra potatoes (assuming they’ll fit in the pan). The potatoes are quite good and, in our household at least, extra potatoes are always well received.

This would go nicely with a nice Syrah or Shiraz (the 2001 Daniel Gehrs Shiraz we opened had gotten a little too old).

Browning Rack of Lamb

Provençal Rack of Lamb with Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2008

2 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
2 tsp chopped thyme
2 tsp chopped rosemary
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 medium tomatoes, halved
1 one lbs frenched rack of lamb
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
2 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thickly
2 tbsp water

  1. Preheat the oven 400°F.
  2. Mash the garlic into a paste and add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir in the thyme and rosemary and 1 tbsp olive oil.
  3. Put the tomatoes cut side up in a small baking dish. Sprinkle 1/3 of the garlic mixture over the tomatoes. Bake the tomatoes for 30 to 40 minutes total.
  4. Meanwhile, cut the lamb rack in half and dry the lamb with paper towels and season it all over with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in an oven proof skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb on all sides, about 6 minutes total. Set the lamb aside. Discard the oil.
  6. Add 1 tbsp more olive oil to skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and potatoes and cook into they are just beginning to brown.
  7. Add the water and stir in 1/2 of the remaining garlic mixture to the skillet. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
  8. Rub the remaining garlic mixture on the fat side of the lamb racks. Place the lamb racks on top of the potatoes, fat side up. Roast in the oven until the lamb reaches an internal temperature of 135ºF about 25 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow the lamb to rest for 5 minutes.
  10. Serve with the roasted tomatoes.

Serves 2.

One Year Anniversary

Today is the one year anniversary of this blog.  I’m hesitant to point anyone to that first blog post (notice that I did anyway). More than anything, it is a personal accomplishment that I continue to post on here one year later.

For those who actually enjoy reading this blog regularly, you should thank Angela for encouraging me to write this and, in all probability more importantly, setting up the blog so that I wouldn’t have an excuse anymore. And she thought up the name.

According to the statistics, the most popular post to date is Gratin Dauphinois Madame Cartet which is appropriate as it is one of the best recipes on here. If you haven’t made it you should.

That is followed at a distant second by my Homemade Pancetta. It’s also good but requires more specialty ingredients to make.

As this is turning into a year in review, how about the unpopular recipes. The ones that, for whatever reason (probably bad pictures), very few were interested in but are really good anyway. These are a few of the recipes that you should be making right now:

Baked Orecchiette with Pork Sugo

Baked Orecchiete with Pork Sugo

The lack of posts on here is due to the fact that I had to travel to the east coast for work (but I did update my flickr account).  I wanted to make something special for Angela for Sunday dinner but instead I ended up making something that I wanted to (oops).

This recipe appealed to me immediately upon reading it.  Combining pork and pasta, two of my favorite foods, it was like it was written for me.  I had initially hoped to remember to make the recipe sometime in the future when baked things would be desirable but the weather has cooperated and it’s been cool the past several days (or at least since I got back).

This is not something to make on a weekday. In fact, it’s not something to make on an average weekend. It takes a considerable amount of time and effort. And, me being me, I had to find a way to make it more difficult. Replacing canned tomatoes with fresh isn’t that much effort when the tomatoes are readily available but replacing store bought orecchiette with homemade is a bit more serious investment in time and effort. Which was really unintentional but the only orecchiette I could find were $6 for half a pound which is more than I was willing to pay. And I’m not going to figure out exactly what my hourly rate is making homemade orecchiette.

But, luckily for all that effort, this is good.  It’s very good.  It’s good enough that I’m looking forward to eating leftovers for lunch tomorrow (and that’s rare for me even with the best leftovers).  Angela thought it tasted a bit like pot roast (but with pork obviously).  It reminded me a bit of carnitas with pasta.

The pork and pasta marry well together.  The red pepper flakes give just enough heat.  It is very well balanced.  It’s also unlike any other baked pasta dish I’ve had.

Most baked pasta is relatively heavy of cheese and sauce.  The cheese is almost an after thought with this recipe.  The sauce is just the cooking liquid from the braise.  It’s as light as most baked pasta is heavy.  It’s pleasant simply remembering dinner.

And, luckily for me, Angela wasn’t upset that I picked this so I don’t have to sleep on the couch tonight.

Preparing to braise the pork

Baked Orecchiette with Pork Sugo
Adapted from Ethan Stowell via Food & Wine October 2008

3 1/4 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4″ dice
4 celery ribs, cut into 1/4″ dice
1 large onion, cut into 1/4″ dice
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
4 tomatoes, peeled, cored, and diced, juice reserved
1 1/2 cups red wine
4 sprigs of thyme
5 cups pork or chicken stock
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 lbs. orecchiette
2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  1. Dry the pork on paper towels thoroughly, then season with salt and pepper.
  2. Place the olive oil in a large dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat until just before smoking.  Brown the pork in the olive oil on all sides, about 12 minutes.
  3. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the juices and bring to a simmer.
  5. Deglaze the dutch oven with the red wine and add the thyme.  Boil the red wine until it is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the stock, season to taste with salt, and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 2 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  8. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat and vegetables to a food processor, discarding the sprigs of thyme.  Pulse the food processor several times until the pork is shredded.  Return the pork and vegetables to the dutch oven.
  9. Stir the parsley, oregano, and red pepper into the dutch oven.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Cook the orecchiette in boiling, salted water until they float.  Drain the orecchiete and stir into the dutch oven.
  11. Place the pork-pasta mixture in a large baking dish.  Sprinkle the cheese on top of the mixture evenly.
  12. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
  13. Remove from the oven, allow to rest for 15 minutes, then serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Homemade Orecchiette


Homemade Orecchiette
Adapted from
Epicurious

2 cups semolina flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup lukewarm water
salt

  1. In a bowl, mix together the two flours (don’t do this on a work surface, I tried and the water runs all over the place).
  2. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the water and salt.  Using a fork, slowly incorporate the water into the flour.
  3. Once the flour and water are mostly incorporated, pour the bowl contents onto a work surface.  Knead the dough until it comes together and then need for several minutes more.
  4. Cut the dough into 8 even pieces.
  5. For each piece of dough, roll it into a cylinder with a 1/2″ diameter.  Cut the cylinder into pieces 1/2″ wide.  Toss the various pieces with semolina flour then place it in the palm of your hand and press down on it with the thumb of your other hand and twist slightly.  Place the orecchietta on a baking sheet dusted with semolina.

Makes 1 1/2 lbs.

Slow Food Nation: Slow Sips and Charcuterie Snacking

Last weekend, I was privileged enough to attend the Slow Sips and Charcuterie Snacking workshop as part of Slow Food Nation (for full disclosure Foodbuzz purchased my ticket on the condition that I would write something about it). In actuality, Angela and I were only coincidentally in San Francisco for the weekend but it was nice to have the opportunity to attend.

My ever so brief synopsis can be boiled down to the fact that Medlock Ames has some nice wines (the Rose, which was specially crafted to pair well with Charcuterie, is quite nice), Boccalone has a decent mortadella, and Surry Farms “Surry”-ano is the best ham I’ve ever eaten. It was better than any Italian prosciutto or Spanish serrano than I’ve had. The “problem” with the mortadella was that it was far outshone by the ham.

While the workshop was technically about wine and charcuterie, the real theme (like much of Slow Food Nation) was about sustainable farming practices.  All three producers (Ames Morrison, Ed Surry, and Mark Pastore) discussed how they incorporated sustainable practices and how they were actually important to them.

But the event got me thinking about the whole concept of sustainability.  I think that sustainability is a noble goal.  I think it’s something to strive for.  But, with all do respect to those who attempt to practice it, I think we’re, in many ways, missing the point.  Ames Morrison talked about how their first year they had to build lots of terraces with Kubota tractor.  How sustainable are they?  Ed Surry is from Virginia and had to get on an airplane (bringing a in-the-process of curing ham) to get to Slow Food Nation.  Mark Pastore also has a restaurant, Incanto, which only serves Italian wines which means they must be transported long distances (under controlled conditions) to get there.

I don’t mean to single those three out.  Not unsurprisingly, I had to take an airplane to get there.  A larger portion of my food than I want to admit comes from farther away than it should.  Let alone the distinct lack of sustainability of the iPhone I purchased over the weekend.

I really do applaud what all those who strive for true sustainability are doing. But aren’t we all missing the bigger picture? Does it matter if my produce is sustainable if I’m driving to work every day? Does it matter if I keep buying the latest gadget?

The food industry, in many ways, including this push for sustainability, is attempting (and, surprisingly, succeeding) in undoing the industrial revolution.  We concede to go along with it because we feel we get a better product, it’s better for the environment, and, the part that’s frequently missing from such calculations, we’re rich enough to afford it.

But that won’t be true of everything we consume.  Much of what we use and consume is heavily industrialized.  We very much live in a throw away society using cheap labor from abroad, almost none of which is sustainable.  Eventually, we will be forced to make tradeoffs.  We will be forced to give things up.  We won’t be able to afford everything we want.  And when we look at the balance, we will be paying a very heavy price for sustainability.

So where does that leave us?  I really don’t know.  The issue extends far beyond food but the ramifications are huge.  I doubt our society is truly capable of living sustainably.  I suggest for now that we do what we can within our individual limitations.

Gratin Dauphinois Madame Laracine (Madame Laracine’s Potato Gratin)

Gratin Dauphinois Madame Laracine

According to Patricia Wells, one can never have too many potato gratin recipes.  I agree.

It may seem as if I chronicle Angela’s dislike of foods too often on here, but I can always make her smile by welcoming her home from work or school with a potato gratin in the oven.  In fact, I don’t believe I’ve made one for someone who hasn’t fallen in love with it.

Potato gratins manage to be both decadent and homey at the same time.  While you may not have eaten them growing up (I know I certainly did not), they still manage to be comfort food.  Somehow they manage to transcend cultural boundaries.

If you’ve been paying attention, this recipe may seem similar to Gratin Dauphinois Madame Cartet (Madame Cartet’s Potato Gratin). And that would be due to the fact that they can be found in the same cookbook. In fact, they are on adjoining pages.

Why bother with different potato gratin recipes?  The obvious answer is that they’re all different.  But more precisely, they compliment other foods differently.  The gratin from Madame Cartet has dominate flavors of cheese and cream.  It is undeniably rich.  This gratin gains stronger flavors from the bay leaf and the nutmeg.  They help to reduce the richness of the gratin.  It compliments foods which are less rich.

This is a bit more complicated version of a potato gratin.  It requires the potatoes first be parboiled in milk which requires a little extra time but not that much extra work.  It mainly needs extra planning.

Gratin Dauphinois Madame Laracine

Gratin Dauphinois Madame Laracine (Madame Laracine’s Potato Gratin)
Adapted from Bistro Cooking

3 lbs. baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups whole milk
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 tsp salt
3 bay leaves
ground nutmeg
black pepper
1 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
2 cups grated Swiss cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large sauce pan, place the potatoes, garlic, salt, and bay leaves.  Cover with the milk and 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stirring occasionally, simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat.  Remove from the heat
  3. Transfer half of the potatoes from the sauce pan to a large gratin dish.  Cover the potatoes with half the crème fraîche.  Sprinkle with half the cheese, nutmeg, and pepper.  Add the remaining potatoes then cover with the remaining crème fraîche.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, nutmeg, and pepper.
  4. Bake the gratin for about 1 hour, or until it is crispy and golden on top.

Serves 6 to 8.

Yosemite Campfire Cooking – Southern Delaware BBQ Chicken

Southern Delaware BBQ Chicken cooking over a campfireThis past weekend we went camping at Yosemite National Park. We took my cousin’s daughters, Ivy and Makayla, with us. Differing from the majority of visitors, we stayed in the high country at Tuolomne Meadow.

Cathedral DomeAngela and I enjoy Yosemite a lot and visit at least once a year (depending on how often we can get reservations). Over the course of our visits, we’ve found that while we enjoy the valley, the real draw for us is the high country where the crowds (and the air) are thinner. The valley seems like a tourist attraction while the high country is more like a national park. We even noticed this as far as campers go: there are far fewer motor homes at Tuolomne Meadow than at the campgrounds in the valley. And, frankly, that’s the way we like it.

When we go to Yosemite, we plan on hiking. This trip, we may have overdone it (please remember that we both live in the city and work in offices before passing judgment on our athleticism). When we first arrived, we set up camp, and then hiked to the top of Lembert Dome. This isn’t a hard hike (Angela and I had actually done it the previous year) but everything’s a bit harder at 8500 ft (and that’s just the starting elevation).

The second day we decided to hike to Cathedral Lake. It was listed as moderately difficult and it was only 7 miles round trip. Plus, the topographical map made it look like it only had a few steep parts and they wouldn’t be too long.

How wrong we were. Perhaps we were out of shape. Perhaps it was the elevation. Perhaps it was because we were sore from the previous day’s hike or from sleeping on the hard ground. It doesn’t matter why but we had a rather difficult time hiking their and back. The guidebook listed it as a 4 to 6 hour hike (depending on whether you just visit Lower Cathedral Lake or head on to Upper Cathedral Lake); it toot us 6 hours just to go to Lower Cathedral Lake and return.

Now, I probably come across as hating the hike. But I didn’t. Cathedral Lake is beautiful. The hike was beautiful. I just didn’t enjoy walking uphill for that long. I may not hike it again but I’m glad I did it the first time.

View from Atop Lembert Dome

But this is a food blog, not a hiking blog. We did eat and we did eat well. The major difficulty of the trip wasn’t the hiking, it was the starting of a camp fire where there’s little oxygen. It may be that I’m incompetent when it comes to campfires (not unlikely really), but I could barely get one going Friday night and Saturday it took half a bottle of lighter fluid and a couple of Coleman fire starting things. It only got going Saturday night when I sent Angela to the camp store to buy charcoal (which went unused and we left for the next campers).

El CapitanOnce the fire finally got started, I got to make something that I can rarely make properly because we have no grill (because we have no place to grill). This marinade is designed for grilling and for anything else it really doesn’t work well.

I call this Southern Delaware BBQ Chicken but it doesn’t have a formal name per se. It’s a family recipe. It’s something that my grandfather, who lives in southern Delaware, used to make and now has passed on to his grandchildren. He even made custom grates for holding and turning the chicken. Part of my childhood was eating barbecued chicken with corn on the cob and potato salad on hot summer days. We always had watermelon for dessert. A few years ago, my grandfather made sure to teach some of his grandchildren (myself included) how to properly cook the chicken.

Given I had a chance to finally grill something, I decided that I needed to make the chicken. To be honest, this isn’t my grandfather’s rendition as I had didn’t have the hours (or the equipment) to grill it to his standards. But, it’s still good. I hope you can enjoy this as my family has. And my apologies to my cousins if I’m letting out any family secrets.

Southern Delaware BBQ Chicken cooking over a campfire

Southern Delaware BBQ Chicken

4 chicken quarters

Marinade:
5 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp paprika
1 cup cider vinegar
1 egg, well-beaten
1 cup vegetable oil

  1. Trim the chicken of excess fat.
  2. To make the marinade: Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the vinegar and the egg and whisk to combine. Whisk in the cooking oil.
  3. Pour the marinade over the chicken and refrigerate for 1 day.
  4. Grill the chicken, turning regularly and basting with the excess marinade regularly, until cooked through.
  5. Serve immediately

Serves 2 to 4.