Friday, May 23, 2008

stock and wings

In response to the lovely Charley's comment, I think I'll take a second to discuss the mindblowing ease of making stock. It's really easy. Mindblowingly so.
I start all stocks, veg. or other, the same way. Fry as much chopped garlic as you can be bothered to peel. At least 2 cloves, you lazy sod! In a little olive oil.
For veg. stock - then add some veg. Cleaned and peeled. Carrots, onion, clean potato peel. Add very sparingly celery, pepper. Like, half a stalk celery or a quarter of a pepper. Their flavor is too bossy. Leeks are nice. Don't use leafy greens, cruciferous veg, or mushrooms. Just don't. Corn cobs work. Fry away. Cover completely with water. Add a bay leaf. Simmer for 25 min. Strain. Salt. Add seasonings during soup making. This is nice and basic.
For meat - Actually I lied above, for meat - which is usually chicken, you can use the cheapest parts, wing tips, etc. - add garlic AFTER you've put the meat in as it burns before the skin browns. Bash meat a lot, you want to crack the bones, that's where the flavor is. Remove excess fat but LEAVE ON SKIN for the love of god. Put in the hot oily pan. Med. heat. Let sit, stop fussing with it! Let it brown for 2 minutes then throw in garlic. 2 more min. No stirring! Then throw in a hunk of onion and a carrot if it's around. A bay leaf. Cover with agua, stir, and bring to a boil. Immediately turn down flame so it's a bare simmer. Cover. Simmer for at least an hour, preferably 2. Even 3, esp. if you're using a meat other than chicken. Cool. Strain. Refridge. Peel off fat layer if you are that type of person. Put it in a big washed yogurt container and write the date and meat type on top. Freeze if you are the type that has cleverly thought ahead and hence is not wasting all the tips you have after preparing all those wings for your large male friends because they were on sale and people mistakenly are impressed by a yummy wing which is actually the easiest thing to make delicious. Fools!
Pa's Highclass Wings (m'dad's recipe, only slightly altered to my taste)
1.5 lbs chicken wings (trim tips for stock. Just cut 'em off, it's easy).
3 lg. cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika
pinch cayenne
1 teaspoon tabasco
1 tablespoon brown sugar
preheat oven to 400. Toast cumin seeds in a dry pan for a minute till they smell toasty. Only takes a sec, don't burn them! Or if you are lazy just buy cumin powdered. Mash to a paste with garlic and salt. If you don't have a mortar and pestle (loser) you can put the garlic through a press and mush stuff together with a fork, but use powdered cumin then. Then mush in other sauce crap. Dump over wings in a big bowl, and toss delightedly. Spread on a cooking sheet, roast for 15 minutes, then turn em over with tongs and cook another 10. Or until they look crispy and yummy. Eat with snarling abandon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Damn you!

Do you ever feel that 'blenderized' soups are somewhat of a cheat? I mean, you can basically just boil pretty much anything to death, add some spices if you like, maybe some cream, and blend it. One could even use a handheld blender and do it right in the pot. Bam. Is it irrational to feel that this is in some way cheating? No! No, I say to you, reader, it is not irrational! When making a soup, one important consideration is cooking all the ingredients to the correct degree of doneness; namely, not overcooked. In a soup this is challenging if you are making a soup with multiple ingredients. Potatoes and spinach have different simmering times. But if you are assuming a final BLEND, then it really doesn't matter, does it? Go ahead, overcook that squash! irregularly mince that garlic! Who's gonna know?? And if it doesn't taste perfect at the end, hey, add a little cream, a little parmesan, swirl some creme fraiche in the serving bowl. Go nuts and throw in some croutons!
Ok, maybe I am getting curmudgeonly with the croutons. But you see where I'm coming from? The 'blenderizing' is essentially another Rachel-Ray-school-of-shortcuts, and I am having none of it!
Although I suppose there is a culinary tradition, particularly in French cooking, of smooth pureed soups. Why does a food mill seem so much more dignified? Somehow, a labor-intensive metal device seems to imply that no shortcuts have been taken here, that this soup, were you to have tasted it in its lumpen unmilled state, would be accurately cooked. A food mill pays homage to it's passengers, if that's the word I want. It isn't. But you know what I mean.
A Nice Healthy Soup
Fry a whole head of chopped garlic in some olive oil. Add 5 cups water and 4 cups chicken stock (which had BETTER be homemade). Add a head of chopped washed chard, another of spinach, a bunch of sorrel, and 4 chopped yukon gold potatoes. Salt, pepper, simmer for 25 minutes. Add a half cup of cream. Blend in small batches till smooth. Return to pot. Add 6 cubed yukon gold potatoes. Simmer for ten minutes. Add a large handful of ribboned spinach, juice of 1 lemon, and a splash of sherry if it's handy. Simmer five minutes and eat, yo!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

the mighty have fallen

In my new state of horrifying, dizzying penury, I have been investigating all the possible dishes one can make with canned food. This is a nice one, it's very quick and great on a hot morning.

One can beets, rinsed OR even cheaper! boil or roast your own, peeled, with a little oil and salt.
One can chickpeas, rinsed. I guess it'd be cheaper to cook your own but jesus christ how far do you expect me to go??
Mix. Douse in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, a pinch of cumin, and whatever greens you can salvage from your new thrifty Chia Pet Herb Garden - parsley is best.

I realize this recipe is a trifle idiotic in its' simplicity, but it is preferable to other vegetable salads out of cans because:
1. Chickpeas and beets are almost the only vegetables that taste almost as good out of the can.
2. They take FOREVER to cook by hand so you feel smug saving time.
3. You rarely, if ever, taste them together, so its' a refreshingly new taste.
4. Substantial-er than most veg. salads. So you stave off hunger to live another day.
5. V., v., very nutricious.
Also cheap and good as breakfast is washed, sliced, salted radishes, alongside washed, sliced apples, dried dates, and a little honey. Radishes are so great for eating out of hand when it's hot, why are they so neglected?? So crispy, so vividly hued! And of course with cold butter and salt on good bread they are absolutely superb. In Romania they eat big spring onions with cheese and salami for breakfast but that's going a little far. Pungent vegetables in the morning-wise.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


One of the things I adore about this spring is corn. Oh shit, that's summer. So I'm eating imported-from-Brazil-totally-out-of-season corn. So sue me. Anyway, I have really been relishing raw corn, cut off the cob. It has a refreshing milky taste, like the way a new baby smells. A clean one. And the sort of popping it makes between your teeth as the skin bursts is satisfying, like pomegranate almost, and that gets lessened in cooking. Although the flavor becomes more focused. But cooked corn is so 1970's. Today I made a really nice salad for a hot and lethargic summer day.

Corn cut off three ears of corn
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 jalepeno, ditto
large handful chopped cilantro
small handful chopped parsley
1 finely chopped shallot
Juice of 1 lemon
loads of salt
splash sunflower seed oil

You really gotta like fresh corn. If you do it's very good.

Monday, May 5, 2008

little fluffy lambs

There was a large gap in posts, unfortunately, because Internet - well, computers - were pretty much absent in Romania.
Safely ensconced back in Brooklyn, I can only begin now to process the mindboggling assortment of lamb I just endured. Orthodox Easter in Romania lasts a week, and lamb being the quintessential Spring Food, it appeared with regularity. I really shouldn't say 'endured' because aside from my animal fat consumption being on a par with, say, Andre the Giant, for the most part the lamb I had was excellent. A majority of the most delicious dishes were cooked on a farmshare by the jealous rolling-pin-wielding wife of our jolly aged Romanian host, and oh my god they were amazing. Lamb, not surprisingly in Romania, is at a premium, so every bit of the animal is used, and very immediately locally sourced - like, from 20 feet away. One of my favorite dishes Jealous Wife made was a simple soup, which I believe was
lamb stock, lightened with chicken stock - maybe 4 cups of each
4 cups water
a whole head mashed garlic
juice 3 lemons
a half bunch minced parsley
a half bunch minced coriander
bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes, whisk in a cup of sour cream, thinned with cream. Salt.
Pour over a big soup pot of roasted bone-in lamb chunks, hacked into relatively small pieces.
Serve with a thick slice of fresh white peasant bread - you know, the dense, undersalted kind - and a long green hot pepper. Not jalepeno, the milder kind, but of a similiar appearance.
Eat, taking a successive bite of pepper, soup with meat, and bread. The springiest, most lovely soup. Rich and delicate simultaneously.
She also made a simple but refreshing and addictive sauce, served with plain boiled spring potatoes.
10 cloves mashed garlic.
1 cup Greek yogurt.
Half cup rich milk.
Blended well, Not in a blender, obviously. Just get the garlic really pureed in a press, then a mortar and pestle first.
I am involved in the moment at researching home wine making, everyone there makes wine, even in cities, and in fact looked at me like I was a complete douche for actually BUYING wine at the store. So now in a quest to save American face I plan on whippin up a bucket in the backyard. Tips appreciated. I don't WANT to have to buy 'Winemaking for Dummies' bu I will if I have to.