Monthly Archives: January 2017

Easy Korean Beef Bowl and Matzoh Ball Soup

I’m always up for trying another cuisine and one of the blogs I follow often has very interesting Korean recipes. Of course, the most famous Korean dish is probably kimchi … and one day, I may try to make my own. However, I’m not fond of fermented vegetables and cabbage is a new addition to my palate so it will be a while.

Beef however, as found in the famous grilled dish, bulgogi, is something that this meat lover can get all over. Getting sirloin or rib eye steak sliced paper thin for the dish isn’t in my budget, though, so this much more affordable ground beef dish is a tasty substitute. You can google for a recipe but I started with this one. I added two things … 1/4 tsp of gochujang for heat and 1 tbsp of fish sauce for a more complex flavour.

Easy Korean Beef Bowl

Plating was pretty simple though, if I LIKED kimchi, I would have served some on top of the beef bowl. Sauteed bok choy is something I want to add next time. A fried egg over easy or a poached egg adds a creamy texture when broken up and stirred into the meat and rice below.

Matzoh Ball Soup

I used the recipe on the Manischewitz matzoh meal box for the matzoh balls.

I haven’t made matzoh balls in ages but I ran across a canister of matzoh meal in the cupboard so I dug out a container of turkey stock from the freezer and made this. My dad would have enjoyed the matzoh balls almost as much as he liked my mom’s home made egg noodles.

You want a nice spongy texture inside your matzoh balls so have a light touch when shaping them.

Pork Crackling Yeast “Biscuits” Redux

It’s been almost a year since I last made these pork crackling biscuits and I’ve been wanting to make some for the last month or so. They’re not particularly pretty  (I still took a lot of pictures to make up for the bad ones posted before) but they’re fluffy and tender from the pork fat in the cracklings. Some recipes grind half the cracklings to a paste and leave the other half more granular, but I kept them all granular. Duck fat was used to help create the layers.

Chunks of ground pork cracklings give texture and flavour to the biscuits

Two Different Finishes to the Biscuits  – The cuts on top should have been only 1/4 inch apart but I got lazy. The top layer slid off so it wasn’t as photogenic as the ones I made a number of years ago.

Pork Cracklings – cut into chunks and then ground

Layering the Dough

Sweets to the Sweet … Raspberry Jello Mini Meringues

NOTE: I’ve made all three desserts (citrus curd, madeleines and meringues) before. However, there’s a new TWIST for the meringue recipe.

Although not having a huge sweet tooth, I recently developed a lemon craving and decided to make lemon curd with the two lemons in my fridge. I had enough citrus juice for my recipe as I was able to supplement the shortage with lime juice, but ran short of zest for my second planned dessert … madeleines. I was sure I had some lemon zest in the freezer but I was wrong and ended up using orange zest instead. I love that citrus varieties are mostly interchangeable in cooking.

After making a batch of lemon curd, I ended up with extra egg whites.

Now, I’ve tossed more than my share of egg whites down the drain, in my time,  as I can only eat so many meringues and pavlovas and my single attempt at sponge cake was met with disaster. However, these bright coloured mini meringues caught my eye while web surfing. They get their colour and flavour from something that many of us have in our pantries … a package of Jello. You’ll notice that the vibrant colour of the mixture pales dramatically as the whites are being beaten so, if you want something brighter, you’ll  have to add gel paste to boost the colour of the final product.

Raspberry Jello mini meringues – You can find the recipe for these meringues on line here.

I decided to pipe these mini meringues as I was hoping for lovely ridges on the final product but I had problems getting stiff peaks, and the ridges softened by the time I got the entire tray piped and into the oven. Of course, you can spoon out larger mounds and and serve them as colourful pavlovas topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits.

Orange poppy seed madeleines – Madeleine pans will give your little cakes the classic design when presented bottom side up, but if you don’t have any, you can certainly bake the little butter cakes in mini muffin tins.

Beef Duo – Curry and Individual Pot Pies

NOTE: I made the curry and the duck fat pastry as directed by the recipes in the links … ok, I used water instead of vodka in the pastry cause I didn’t want to waste the vodka. The filling for the pot pies started with the recipe on Allrecipes but I made some changes as briefly noted below.

I made the mistake of freezing an entire tray (2.6 lbs) of stewing beef when I brought it home so I wanted to get creative when I cooked it.

I recently saw an intriguing recipe for Punjabi Beef and Spinach curry which I wanted to make. It’s not a pretty dish when done, but the combination of herbs and spices sounded like they’d make a flavourful dish. I browned all the beef and set aside 1 pound for the second dish, a pot pie.

Beef pot pies are a great way of stretching your meat to serve more people and getting some veggies into your diet at the same time. I chose to do individual pies so I could freeze away the extras for future meals without worrying about the filling oozing out and making a mess or drying out.

Inside the pot pie … I think I need to make a bit more gravy but just adding some more broth which would make the gravy thinner should solve the issue.

I used a recipe I found on Allrecipes though I made some adjustments to the technique including making a roux based gravy, with the liquid used to simmer the beef (~1/2 cup), to which I added a rounded tablespoon of dried French onion soup mix and about a cup of chicken stock.

And, instead of a frozen pie crust, I made a flavourful pastry with some duck fat instead of using all butter.

Cold, Gray and Bored … Purple

We got over three inches of snow overnight and, although the sun didn’t make an appearance today, it was relatively mild. So, since I was home and didn’t want to wait (until after 4 or 5 pm) to have my snow shoveled, I went out there with my little shovel and did it myself. The snow was wet and heavy, but I got it done and it only took an hour. And, I saved money.

In the last 3 hours, all of the snow left on the sidewalk has melted, and is mostly draining away. And the car is clean and somewhat dry.

I’ve got food in the fridge and the freezer so other than reading fanfiction online, there’s not much else I’m motivated to do.

I got bored and looked at some of the pictures left on my hard drive where I ran across a folder of pictures I could barely remember taking. It was labelled Jewellry. I won’t bore you with them, especially as it’s a modest collection, mostly made up of rings my mom bought me when I was growing up and which I no longer wear. Old age results in joints swelling, most of the rings don’t fit and I don’t really have the money or the motivation to get them/any resized.

My favourite colour of the jewellry I bought for myself … purple.

I like amethysts. The bi-colour loose stone is called an ‘ametrine’. One day, I might even be able to afford to get it set in something. But, probably not.

Here’s something my mom bought me that still fits but I rarely wear.

What’s your favourite piece of jewellry or gemstone?

Duck Fat Brioche, Oreo Fudge and Chicken Livers

Work is slow in January, after the return from the Christmas break, and as teachers gear up for the last few weeks before the end of the fall semester. So, when I was at home on the first day back, I decided to make another batch of the duck fat brioche dough that I’ve posted already. In the meantime, I’ve eaten several of the rolls I made and assembled sandwiches from the rest, which are all wrapped up and in the freezer. So, I need bread.

I decided to post the brioche recipe to make it more convenient for anyone who wants to give it a try and doesn’t want to have to deal with eliminating the sourdough starter from the recipe.

You can shape the dough in various ways, as seen in the previous post. I made 9 inch long hoagies and rolls using a couple of different braiding techniques, this time.

One strand braids, Easter wreaths and a mini hoagie

Duck Fat Brioche Dough – makes ~ 1 kg/2.2 lb dough, enough for about 16 buns or rolls

1 cup warm milk (or 1 cup water and 1 tbsp milk powder)
1 tbsp dry active yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 1/4-4 1/2 all purpose flour (or a combination of all purpose, bread and semolina flour), divided
1/4 cup melted duck fat (or bacon fat or butter, if you can’t get the duck fat )
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg and 1 tbsp water, for egg wash

Dissolve the sugar in the warm milk, then stir in the yeast. Let sit and proof until foamy, about 10-15 min depending on temperature in the room.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour and the salt and mix through. Make a well in the middle and add your eggs, melted fat and yeast mixture. Beat well with a large wooden or metal spoon until you get a sticky batter. Gradually stir in the remaining flour, 1/3-1/2 cup at a time until you can no longer stir it and a ball starts forming around the spoon. Turn the batter onto a lightly floured working surface and gradually knead in more flour until you get a soft but not sticky dough. It will take you about 7-10 minutes. You can take a break after 5 minutes. Cover the dough with the bowl that you made your bread in and after a few minutes continue kneading.

Oil a large bowl, place your ball of dough into the bowl and turn it around a bit so the ball gets lightly coated with oil as well. Cover the bowl with a large sheet of plastic food wrap and a clean towel and place in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, 1 – 1 1/2 hr depending on the temperature in the room.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 2 portions. Divide each half into 8 portions and shape as desired.

Cover with an oiled sheet of plastic food wrap (oil the one you used previously) and a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 min to 1 hr.

Preheat the oven to 425 deg F. (For the buns or rolls, you can preheat the oven to 375-400 deg F.)

Brush the buns or rolls with egg wash and bake until the top is golden brown and the bottom is firm, about 18-22 minutes. If you think you need to bake a bit longer, cover the tops with a sheet of aluminum foil and continue baking for several more minutes.

Hoagie buns – you can make about 8 6-8 inch long buns (113.5 g/ 1/4 lb each). When baked, you’ll end up with a 9 inch long hoagie or submarine bun. For 12 inch hoagies, you might want to use double the amount of dough (227 g/ 1/2 lb)

For the Oreo cookie fudge switch-up, I used the basic vanilla fudge recipe, added a couple of ounces of finely shaved white chocolate and 6 crumbled Oreo cookies.

I know not everyone likes chicken livers but I do. So I bought 2 pounds, cleaned them up and then fried them in a couple of tablespoons of canola oil with a finely chopped onion, a splash of French brandy and a bit of paprika for colour. Delicious over mashed potatoes or the creamy polenta below.

Brioche Dough … Kaiser Rolls and Hamburger Buns

A brioche dough is a type of enriched dough. Milk, butter and eggs give you a lovely tender crumb and, whether you shape it into a bread loaf or any of the many shapes of buns and rolls, you’ll be happy with the result.

Crumb of the rolls

I used a basic brioche recipe as I have in the past for my hybrid hamburger buns, sans sourdough starter. (Replace the starter with ~ 2/3 flour and 1/3 liquid.) I DID make one other important change. Instead of using butter, I used leftover duck fat, for an even richer flavour.

Half of my dough (~2 lbs total) ended up as kaiser rolls and the other half was portioned slightly larger into buns.

 

Duck and Pork Cassoulet/Casserole

I first tasted this dish at a very expensive restaurant in Chicago while visiting there with some friends. We stayed at the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, in walking distance of other famous landmarks including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium which we visited. We even walked all the way to the Water Tower Place for some window shopping. It was a memorable visit long before my mobility issues.

For a simple French peasant dish, there are a lot of ‘expert’ opinions on what you should and shouldn’t do when making this glorified pot of baked beans.

As you know, for Christmas dinner, I roasted a duck very simply and sliced and froze away both breasts, one of the legs, the carcass and some trimmed meat from the back. I had visions of a hoisin duck wrap with the breasts. And with the leg … well, I made duck gravy with the drippings and froze that away as well. I can’t remember exactly WHY I decided to make a duck cassoulet. I think I saw one posted on FB and had an A-HA moment.

In any case, since I’m home this week and snow was predicted midweek, I thought it would be the perfect time to give the cassoulet a try.

Duck and Pork Cassoulet – single portion with a breadcrumb crust

Just a bit of broth left at the end makes for a perfect cassoulet

5 Steps in Making a Cassoulet

Step 1: Soak the beans – This step and the next can be eliminated if you buy canned beans. Drain and rinse well and go straight to Step 3. In this instance, I added a generous tablespoon of salt to the soaking liquid as I wanted to see if that would affect the cooking time. It’s also been suggested that this will give the salt more time to penetrate the beans and flavour them.

Step 2: Cook the beans – You don’t have to cook the beans until they fall apart, just until they’re no longer crunchy, as you’ll be cooking them some more with your meats.

Step 3: Brown the meat – The meat used is a matter of debate. Duck, lamb (mutton) and pork, in several forms, may be used. The lamb is often omitted, which I did as well. Chicken may be substituted for the duck. And then, there’s a question of fresh or smoked. I’ve already mentioned that I was using leftover roasted duck, about a pound in total. For pork, I went with fresh pork belly, with the rind removed, and cut into portion sized chunks, as well as two raw apple sausages. I wanted to use raw garlic sausages, but my regular butcher didn’t have any, and I forgot to check at the other one at the market. (duh!!)

Step 4: Prepare the crust – This step is also a matter of debate. Some cooks swear by a crunchy crust made of fresh bread crumbs fried in duck fat, spiked with garlic (fresh or dry) and fresh, chopped parsley with a bit of stock to moisten it before it’s spooned generously over the top of the cassoulet. Pat the crumbs down gently and bake your cassoulet until the top is brown and crunchy. For other cooks, a ‘natural’ crust formed by the broth as it cooks down is preferred.

I was GOING to make the breadcrumb topping but then found myself with only 2 TBSP of breadcrumbs in my breadcrumb jar and no bread in the house/freezer that I could make more out of. I was too lazy to run to the local bakery and buy breadcrumbs so I made a single portion of the cassoulet in one of my ramekins with the breadcrumbs I had.

Step 5: Assemble and bake – Use a casserole dish large enough to hold all your beans, meats and enough liquid to just cover the beans. You will bake the contents for at least an hour until the beans and the meat are cooked through and then uncover and continue cooking to reduce the amount of liquid. You’re not making a soup but you DO want some liquid left. If your bean mixture gets too dry, you can spoon some of the reserved bean cooking liquid or stock over each individual portion before serving.

Duck and Pork Cassoulet/ Casserole … finished dish

Duck and Pork Cassoulet – serves 6

Beans and meats for your cassoulet

1 pound dry navy beans, soaked overnight along with 1 tbsp salt
1 pound duck meat, legs and or breasts
1 pound fresh pork belly, rind removed and cut into 4-6 portions
1/2 pound (2) fresh pork sausage, garlic preferred but apple was used

For the duck stock

1 duck carcass
6 cups of water, enough to cover the duck carcass
~ 1 tsp salt
1 small onion, ends trimmed and outer skin removed
1 carrot, rinsed, trimmed and chopped into 2-3 pieces
1 stalk celery, rinsed, trimmed and chopped into 3-4 pieces

For the bouquet garni – wrapped in cheesecloth and tied closed

1 clove garlic, whole, root end trimmed and paper husk removed
2-3 dry bay leaves
6-9 black peppercorns
1/4 tsp dry thyme

Cooking the beans/making the stock

In a large stock pot combine the soaked navy beans, water, duck carcass and bouquet garni. Bring just to the boil, skim off any scum that floats to the top, reduce the heat until the contents are just simmering, cover and cook 45 min to 1 hr or until the beans are just barely tender. Remove the carcass to a bowl. Let cool and pick off any meat from the carcass which you’ll add to the cassoulet during the assembly.

Remove and discard the bouquet garni, onion, carrot and celery pieces.

Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid for assembling and cooking the cassoulet.

For the cassoulet

6 cups cooked navy beans
2 – 2 1/2 cups duck stock or bean cooking liquid
2 tbsp duck fat
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
2 tbsp tomato paste

For crumb topping

2 – 2 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 – 2 tbsp duck fat

Preheat the oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Place a large dutch oven on the burner set to medium heat and when hot, add the trimmed off rinds from the pork belly. Render out the pork fat and then add the meaty cubes of pork belly. Brown on all sides then transfer to a large dish. Brown the sausages on both sides, cut each into 2-3 pieces and add to the dish with the cubes of pork belly.

Drain off all the pork fat from the casserole. Add 2 tbsp duck fat to the casserole and saute the diced onion over medium heat just until the onion is soft but not browned. Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes to dry out the tomato paste. Add a cup of the bean cooking liquid/duck stock and scrape up browned bits from the bottom. Add the beans and as much liquid to just cover the beans. Nestle the meats into the broth, bring to the simmer and then cover the dutch oven and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for an hour.

Even without a crumb topping, you’ve got a tasty dish … a bit of fresh parsley scattered over the top would be perfect

Prepare the crumb crust by toasting the garlic in the duck fat, if using fresh minced garlic, in a large saute pan. Otherwise, toast the breadcrumbs, dried garlic powder and the dried or fresh parsley in the duck fat. Add a splash or two of bean cooking liquid to the pan. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and pat the crumb crust over the top of the cassoulet.

Return the dutch oven to the oven and continue cook for another half hour or so before checking the level of liquid left.

You may turn on the broiler on high for 2-2 1/2 minutes to finish the browning if your liquid has reduced enough. Check carefully as you don’t want to burn your crumb topping.

Spoon into each individual bowl making sure there’s a bit of sausage, pork belly and duck in each portion.

Garnish with some fresh parsley before serving.

Happy New Year! … Leg of Lamb Roast and Oreo Cheesecake

Sorry for the belated post but I’ve been a bit lazy so I’ve got a bunch of stuff to share.

I made an Oreo cheesecake to go with my simple boneless leg of lamb roast New Year’s dinner.

The slices I cut for my dinner were from the fatty end of the roast and a BIT underdone so the roast, including the slices you see on the plate, went back into the oven for another 15 minutes. (Lesson learned, try the directions ON the package before you get creative.) The lamb looked like the picture below when I ate it.

The much nicer end of the roast

I didn’t have a lot of inspiration for a pretty cheesecake plating so here’s a profile shot.

Most of the cheesecake went into the freezer.

December 2016 Cooking Wrap-Up

Cooking wise, if not in other respects, 2016 has been a successful year.

I made a second sourdough starter with canned pineapple juice and whole wheat flour and then made some great breads with it. I thickened it up quite a bit compared to the one I made in 2105 and that may have accounted for some of the success. Experience helped as well, as I’m less hesitant about trying new sourdough recipes. I did revisit the old stand-by, regular yeast, and made a delicious honey challah just before Christmas. Definitely something I’ll be repeating next year.

Bacon, Cheddar Cheese and Cracked Black Pepper Sourdough loaf and round Honey Challah

Crumb of the challah

Cooking on an even stricter budget than ever before resulted in having to be creative with simple ingredients bought on sale, like chicken, pork and ground beef, or leftovers, and the results were mostly successful. You’ll have to scroll back through the posts to see them. I do miss fish, seafood and steak however. I’m also grocery shopping less often and there’s less wastage as I try to use up what’s most perishable first. I’m also going back to basics with the dishes I’ve been making such as cookies and fudge. I haven’t been buying as many jarred sauces as in the past, while using up the ones I already have in things like stir-fries.

The meat sauce I made recently with a simple spaghetti sauce base was delicious as well as economical.  One pound of ground beef was stretched to make eight cups of sauce.

I turned some leftover mashed sweet potato into muffins with raisins for added sweetness using a recipe found on Rachel Ray’s web site.

And because I missed seafood … I bought a package of mussels in garlic sauce on sale, and one of cooked shrimp, and made this pasta dish with the spaghetti sauce.