Sunday, May 24, 2015

Roasted veal shank

I binge-watched "Mind of a Chef" one weekend and got hooked on April Bloomfield.  Her vision, her honesty, and her down-to-earth approach to cooking and eating really resonated with me.  One the episodes I enjoyed the most showed her cooking with Marcella Hazan.  This is one of the dishes they cooked together.

For those of you who have been reading this blog from the very beginning, you know my profession of love for Marcella Hazan.  Her cookbook has been a great source of inspiration and imagination.  It's sad the she is now gone, but her legacy truly lives on in her food.

This is not truly a recipe but rather a technique.  But the end result was so good, I don't think I would even tweak it much.

4-5 lb veal shank
1/4 cup olive oil

5 shallots or 2 onions, sliced
1 whole garlic, separated into cloves, not peeled
1 cup dry white wine

Salsa verde (optional)

To make:

Rub the shank with oil and salt.  Place in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the shank.  Heat oven to 400 degrees and roast the shank for 2 hours, turning every 30 mins.

Lower oven to 300.  Place the onions or shallots and garlic around the shank and roast for 10-15 minutes.  Add the wine to the bottom of the pan and roast the shank for another 2 hours or so, basting every so often with the wine and aromatics.

The texture you are looking for is slightly crunchy on the outside, soft and slightly chewy on the inside.  You want the end product to be unctuous and tender but not falling off the bone.

Let shank rest for 15 mins then carve.  Serve with the remaining liquid and aromatics in the pan.  Some salsa verde adds a bit of freshness and acidity.

Salsa verde: I like to use parsley, arugula, basil, capers, vinegar and oil.  Blitz until it comes together.

Caesar salad

So simple yet so good.  I like Caesar salad as much as everyone does but when I tried this recipe inspired by April Bloomfield, no other Caesar salad dressing now comes close.  I love the balance of the fat from the eggs, acid from the vinegar and mustard, and umami from the anchovies and parmesan.  My favourite way to make this is in a major jar, with a quick blitz from a hand-held mixer.  You could make this in a blender or a food processor too.  Just more clean up that way.

I like to top this salad with parmesan croutons, bacon bits, and marinated white anchovies.  Typing this is making my mouth water...

The recipe:

7-8 anchovy fillets
1/4 cup white wine or red wine vinegar
3 tbsp dijon or whole grain mustard
1-2 garlic cloves
1 large egg
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 cup neutral oil like sunflower, grapeseed (or canola, which I actually don't like using...but that's another post)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To make:
Combine the first 5 ingredients and pulse until smooth.  Gradually add oil in a slow, steady stream while your machine is on.  When everything has emulsified and come together, add the cheese.  Pulse again just until blended.  Season with pepper (and salt if needed, although this if often unnecessary).  Pulse again for a few seconds.  Done!

Bicol express

Bicol Express

1 can coconut milk (70%)
1 lb diced pork (I used shoulder, but belly is more traditional...just too much fat for me)
5-6 cubanelle peppers, sliced (you can vary the variety of pepper you use depending on the amount of heat you can tolerate)
3-4 thai bird chilies (optional, for added heat)
1/2 bottle alamang, drained and rinsed
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, boil pork until almost tender and the water has evaporated leaving the pork in its rendered fat.  Add the garlic and onions and saute for a few minutes until soft.  Add the drained alamang and coconut milk.  Simmer until the coconut milk is reduced to at least half, and the oil from the coconut milk floats to the top.  Add the chilies and simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the chilies are soft but not mushy.  Season with salt and pepper.

A few notes...

1.  Try to find coconut milk that has no added additives/preservatives.  The one I use is 70% coconut milk and water. That's it.  I find that the ones with added guar gum, etc, don't produce the coconut oil that is the mark of a true bicolano dish :)

2.  Whenever you cook with coconut milk, reduce it first before adding ingredients that cook quickly (like shrimp, veggies, etc).  It takes a while to reduce coconut milk, and if you add these ingredients too early, they will be overcooked before you get that nice reduction.

3.  Bicol express traditionally is chilies in coconut milk, with a bit of pork just for added flavor.  This version has a bit more pork to make it more substantial so it can be eaten on its own, and not just as a condiment, which is what bicol express usually is in the Bicol region.

Serve this with lots and lots of steamed rice!

Sticky Toffee Pudding

This has got to be one of my favorite desserts.  Gooey, sticky, buttery, caramel-ly.  The warm sauce drenches the dense cake, and when served with cold whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, the additional temperature contrast takes it to another level.

This recipe is pretty simple to make, quite forgiving, and very adaptable.  When I made it today, I didn't have enough dates so I used some raisins to make up for the date deficit.  I imagine dried figs would work too.  And perhaps even prunes.  The dried fruit does make a difference in the end product.  Even if you think you don't like dates, give it a try.  You won't be able to pick out the flavor in the cake, but it definitely adds depth and texture to the finished product.

Sticky Toffee Pudding (adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe)

2 cups of chopped dates
1 cup water
1 tsp. baking soda

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c packed brown sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Toffee sauce:
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
2 tsp whiskey or bourbon (or port or rum)

In a saucepan, boil water and dates over medium heat.  Add the baking soda and stir until dates are soft.  Set aside to cool.

Mix the dry ingredients for the cake.  Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix until combined.  Add flour mixture in 3 parts alternating with dates, mixing on low after each addition.

Bake at 350.  You can use an 8 inch square pan or a 12-muffin pan.  For a whole cake, bake for 40-45 mins, for the muffin pan, bake 20-25 mins until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Set cake aside.

While the cake is baking, make the toffee sauce by combining sugar, butter, cream, and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to a  low boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and add liquor of choice.

To assemble, pour sauce over cake, top with freshly whipped cream.  Some vanilla ice cream on the side never hurts.