January 28, 2010

Sirloin and Chutney Wrap

Sirloin and Pear-Pomegranate Chutney wrapped in lavash
Sirloin with a Lemongrass Rub and Pear-Pomegranate Chutney

Usually I avoid a complicated combination of multiple recipes in one post, but everything except the rub I put on the sirloin was made from scratch in class last Sunday so it certainly can be done in one post. Besides, the people attending the class insisted that I post it.

First, the rub. I created this dry rub to give a hint of Southeast Asian flavor.

Lemongrass Rub

¾ teaspoon lemongrass powder
¼ teaspoon ginger powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander

I combined the rub with Argan Oil to produce the wet rub used on the steak. Argan Oil is Morrocan, tastes nutty and toasty, and has a very high smoke-point (420°F/215°C), making it an interesting choice for searing and sautéing.

The chutney portion of this wrap was inspired by the generous people at Pom Wonderful, who sent me some of their fine pomegranate juice to use, no strings attached. Pears, sweet onions, and dried fruits provide sweetness, while Harissa provides heat. Harissa is a condiment made from sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes, and other good things, and is also Morrocan.

Pear-Pomegranate Chutney

Ingredients for the Pear-Pomegranate Chutney
1 medium-large sweet onion (Mayan, Maui, Vidalia, or Walla Walla)
2 pears
16 ounces pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup mixed dried fruits (sultanas, cherries, blueberries, raisins)
¼-½ cup harissa
fleur de sel
chiffonade of fresh mint

Dice the pears and onion and lightly sauté with the brown sugar and a pinch of fleur de sel until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the pomegranate juice and cinnamon stick and simmer until the cinnamon has permeated the juice. Remove the cinnamon, add the dried fruits, and continue to simmer until thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the harissa to taste, adjust the seasoning with another pinch of fleur de sel if you wish, then set aside to cool to room temperature. Serve with a chiffonade of mint.

Now, to make that wrap I spread some chutney on one end of a piece of lavash and topped it with rocket (arugula) and lamb's lettuce (mâche). Rocket and lamb's lettuce makes a nice combination. Rocket has a pleasant bitterness that is nicely offset by the light pepperiness of the lamb's lettuce. A few strips of thinly-sliced sirloin was next, topped with roasted red and yellow bell peppers (capsicum) and thinly sliced green onions. A garnish of minced fresh cilantro and a chiffonade of mint finished it. I rolled up the lavash, pinned it with toothpicks, sliced it on the bias, and plated it with a dollop of chutney and a few greens for color and interest.

A bed of greens topped with Pear-Pomegranate Chutney and grilled sirloin
This was also plated without the lavash as a salad. I laid down a bed of rocket and lamb's lettuce, topped it with chutney, fanned strips of sirloin on that, and finished with peppers, green onions, cilantro, and mint. Either way it was a delicious combination!

January 26, 2010

Pollo alla Cacciatora

Turn that plate with polenta around and you'll find pollo alla cacciatora, or chicken cacciatore. It's really a simple dish to make.

The essential ingredients include carrots, onions, and celery, to make a soffritto; tomatoes, either canned or fresh, and some tomato paste; some wine; some cheese; a few fresh or dried herbs; mushrooms if you wish to include them; and chicken or some other protein. Take out the chicken and use tofu and you have a vegan supper. Use tarragon instead of oregano and reinforce with some demi-glace and the nationality changes from Italian to French (poulet alachasseur). Make the sauce with some brown stock and serve it with schnitzel and you have a fine Jägerschnitzel.

I chose to make it with chicken in an Italian style. Start by dredging your chicken--a whole cut-up chicken or any of the meaty parts you have on hand--in flour well-seasoned with kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Preheat a sauté pan with a nice, fruity extra-virgin olive oil and brown the chicken. If you want to make it gluten-free, use rice flour or just season the chicken and skip the flour.

When all the chicken has browned, set it aside for the moment and toss in some minced carrots, celery, and onions--if you want, add some sliced garlic. Cook until the onions are at least translucent, or even until they've started to brown, stirring to keep from burning them. Then deglaze the pan with some wine. Use whatever wine you have open, color is unimportant. If you are going to buy some wine to make this, buy chianti classico.

Add tomatoes. If you're using canned tomatoes, a 28.5 ounce can of San Marzanos will be just right. If they're whole, crush them carefully. If you chose to use fresh tomatoes be sure to peel them, or even concassé them--even better is to run them through a tomato press. Add about a teaspoon to a tablespoon of tomato paste and your choice of fresh or dried herbs--rosemary and oregano is a classic combination.

Return the chicken to the pan and if there isn't enough liquid to braise, add some water or chicken stock. If you have it, toss in a piece of parmigiano-reggiano rind. Simmer about half an hour until the chicken is beginning to fall off the bones. Adjust the seasoning, then serve with polenta, rice, pasta, or even just some good rustic bread, and a nice fresh green salad. Grate some parmigiano-reggiano on top if you wish.

You can easily change this to suit your taste. If you like the sweetness of red bell peppers add some. Have some good olive on hand? Good ahead and include them. Want to mix fresh tomatoes with canned? Excellent idea. Just don't think there is one "real" recipe, because every farmhouse cook or hunter made it with what was at hand.

January 21, 2010

Donations for Haiti Relief

If you donate to the America Red Cross by clicking on this link to the Corporate Giving page for Williams-Sonoma, Williams-Sonoma will match your contribution! Makes me proud to teach there.

Ligurian Baked Polenta

Polenta mixed with milk and water, baked, and with cheese incorporated
Ligurian Baked Polenta is the Italian version of Cheesy Grits

I've always found polenta (grits) to be a lot of work, easy to burn, and not really worth the effort and risk. Then I read a simple baked polenta recipe from Liguria in Essentials of Italian Cooking and gave it a try. The result was creamy goodness with almost no effort, a definite winning combination!

January 4, 2010

Haricots Vert Sautéed in Garlic

Haricots vert sautéed in garlic. Sounds easy, and it is: easy to do well; even easier to do poorly. Some simple alterations will make this dish dairy-free, vegetarian, or vegan.

First you have to decide whether or not to remove the tails. As you can see, I chose not to remove them. If you don't want the tails, snap them off by hand, don't cut them off.

Next, blanch and shock the beans. To do this you'll need a large pot of well-salted water and a bowl or pot partially filled with ice and cold water. Bring the salted water to a rolling boil, then add a handful of beans and cook for about three minutes, until the color brightens. Immediately strain the beans and shock them by immersing them into the ice bath. Repeat until all the beans are cooked.

Why only a handful at a time? Because if you add too many beans to the boiling water you'll lower the temperature, which will ruin the chemical reaction you're after. What you want is to activate the chlorophyll in the beans, then halt the cooking process, locking in the brightened color.

Now you'll sauté the beans. Drain the beans while your pan is heating, then pat them dry with paper towels so that you won't have any oil splatters when they go into the pan, and so you won't steam the beans rather than sautéing them.

I used about two tablespoons of oil from garlic confit and about one tablespoon of butter as the fat for a pound of beans. I added a few whole cloves of the confited garlic and some diced pancetta. Leave the pancetta out for a vegetarian version. Skip the butter and increase the oil to make it vegan or dairy-free. Frankly, the pancetta didn't really add much and I won't use it in the future.

The beans need to be tossed or stirred constantly for even cooking. You'll only need to sauté them for about three minutes until they're heated all the way through. At the very end of cooking, toss on a pinch or two of finishing salt and serve.

Blanching and shocking green vegetables is a step many home cooks skip, but the slight extra work produces a much more beautiful vegetable. Care in handling fresh produce will result in much better flavors, which will in turn lead to more veggie consumption, good both for your budget and your health.

January 1, 2010

Sweet Pickle Chips

Sweet pickle chips

Whether you're serving a nice pâté or are putting together a charcuterie platter, want some crunch in your sandwich or just need a quick burst of flavor, a sweet pickle chip is just right! Michael Ruhlman published a recipe for a delightfully simple, wonderfully flavored sweet pickle chip in Charcuterie, a book I highly recommend to anyone interested in smoking, curing, salting, or otherwise preserving meats.