Saturday, December 31, 2016

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops with Charmoula

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Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops with Charmoula

Serves: 8 appetizer, 4 as entrée
Difficulty: Easy
Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops with Charmoula
I was looking for an easy, quick lamb chop recipe to pass as an appetizer with an interesting sauce – something unique.  Charmoula is a classic Moroccan aromatic, paprika-spiced herb sauce used to marinate or as a dip for vegetables, fish or meat. It is also great with all sorts of other dishes, such as roasted cauliflower, roasted winter squash or chicken. An overnight dry rub on the lamb chops completely transforms this lamb chop to a new level of taste treat.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Roasted Eggplant, Tofu & Pluots Salad with Soba Noodles

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Roasted Eggplant, Tofu & Pluots Salad with Soba Noodles

Serves: 6
Difficulty: Easy
Roasted Eggplant, Tofu & Pluots Salad with Soba Noodles
Another wonderful vegetarian entrée salad featuring tofu, soba noodles, sweet fruit and eggplant. It would be great as a substantial starter or a main course. One could substitute any sweet fruit – I used a mix of plums and pluots – and offers a contrast of the savory/spice and fruity/sweet.
Key ingredients

Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat and synonymous with a type of thin noodle made from buckwheat flour. It has a correspondingly strong, nutty flavor. Generally we find dried soba in packets, but keep your eyes open for fresh soba at Asian markets.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Lebanese Roast Chicken with Chickpeas, Hazelnuts, & Sumac Over Rice with Yogurt

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Lebanese Roast Chicken with Chickpeas, Hazelnuts, & Sumac
Over Rice with Yogurt
Serves: 4
Difficulty: Easy
I love this exotic mix of Lebanese spices and flavors with some Turkish and Israeli influences.  Lebanese cuisine includes copious amounts of garlic, olive oil and lemon.  Poultry is eaten more often than red meat. Frequently used in Turkish cuisine are lentils and nuts…in this case featuring chickpeas and hazelnuts.
Hazelnuts, raisens and currants for the recipe
Who doesn’t love roast chicken? You could make this dish with a whole chicken or with whole chicken legs as I have described here. I love the crackly, crisp salty skin and moist tender meat. But, most of the time, I don’t like roast chicken because most of the time, well, you end up with dry breast meat in order to cook the leg meat adequately. It also makes a mess of my oven. Lately if desiring a whole roasted or grilled chicken, I have been butterflying the chicken in order to achieve the 150-degree F for the breast simultaneously with the 170-degree legs. It is relatively simple to butterfly the chicken by cutting out the spine and flattening the carcass. I promise to share pictures of how to do this in the near future, but today, we use whole chicken legs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fall Comfort Food: Sausage and Black Bean Stew

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Fall Comfort Food: Sausage and Black Bean Stew
Serves: 6
Difficulty: Easy
Sausage and Black Bean Stew 
This is a wonderful stew to serve as the weather cools. Mostly, this is a cozy meal, the perfect antidote to weeks of excess without feeling excessive. It is quite flexible, and you can try it with turkey sausage, chorizo or Italian sausage, sweet or hot. I used a combination of Italian sausages for this recipe. You can also vary the beans. We love black beans but one could also use garbanzo, pinto, white or a mix. Throw in some chilies for heat and rainbow chard and you are on your way to a wonderful crowd-pleasing mix of flavors. You can swap chard with kale, spinach or another green. (If you are unfamiliar with chard but like spinach, trust me, you’ll love chard.)

While onto to warming, healthy food, check out Curried Chickpea, Lentil and Swiss Chard Stew

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Duck Pizza with Hoisin Sauce

Duck Pizza with Hoison Sauce
Including instruction on Pizza Dough
Makes 4 8-inch pizzas
Difficulty: Moderate
(Sous Vide instructions included for duck breasts. (135 degree F; 1-4 hours))
I love the flavor of the duck and hoisin sauce – and what a great combo for a dinner. Get your fix of two favorites in this amazing combo: Chinese and pizza.  It also makes for a great party appetizer that will leave your guests raving.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lentil & Radicchio Salad with Walnuts

Lentil & Radicchio Salad with Walnuts
Serves: 4
Difficulty: Easy

This is one of my favorite Yotam Ottolenghi recipes. It is truly a meal in a bowl with a richly flavored layered salad resplendent with fresh green herbs and crunchy sweet walnuts and lentils. When I first made this dish, I used manuka honey, which can be found in health food stores. Manuka has a strong, woodsy flavor that colors the whole dish with a unique aroma. However, manuka is expensive and not available at your local grocer, so feel free to substitute with your favorite full flavored honey. 

The radicchio’s bitterness offers the right balance to the sweetness of the honey, but if you wish to substitute, try replacing with Belgian endive. Make the effort to find the slate-green Puy lentils.  They have a unique peppery flavor and hold their shape during cooking. They are the only lentils to be identified by area of cultivation – grown in the Le Puy region of France.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Mouth-Watering Duck Two Ways – Cooked Sous Vide Breasts and Leg Confit

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Mouth-Watering Duck Two Ways – Cooked Sous Vide
Breasts and Leg Confit 
Difficulty: Gourmet (but worth it!)
Sous Vide Breasts: 135 degree F, 2 hr.
Sous Vide Duck Confit: 180 degree F, 12 hours
OK…I know your first question: Why on earth is it important to cook duck sous vide?

Duck breasts are best served medium rare so make an ideal candidate for sous vide. By cooking at 135 degree F for two hours much of the fat under the skin has softened and rendered out while the proteins in it begin to set, making it easier to crisp without shrinking on the stovetop just before serving. The result is supremely tender, evenly cooked meat with super crisp skin, much better than traditional cooking.

Duck confit is made across France, and seen as a specialty of Gascony. The confit is prepared in a centuries-old process of preservation that consists of salt curing the piece of meat for 36 hours and then cooking it in its own fat. Once esteemed as a preservation method, most people no longer have to keep duck through the winter without refrigeration. Today, cooking and keeping the duck in its rendered fat results in a meltingly tender, moist and extremely flavorful meat that can be used in a variety of simple preparations. It just happens to produce the one of the most wonderful delicious things on earth.

Unlike duck breasts, duck legs are tough and need slow cooking to make them tender. Confit is the traditional French preparation to cook the legs, covered in duck fat to make them tender as well as preserve them. This requires quite a bit of duck fat.  But with sous vide techniques you can get the same result with only a tablespoon of duck fat for each leg. Duck fat can be purchased at D'Artagnan, Sur la Table, Williams-Sonoma and is often carried in grocers. If duck breasts are made in advance of duck confit, you can use the rendered fat from cooking the breasts later in confit preparation.  Store duck fat in refrigerator or freezer.  It is possible to cook duck legs at a lower temperature without fat but it would not result in the traditional confit texture for shredding the meat which requires cooking at 180 degree F. Prior to cooking, one must cure the legs with a simple mix of salt and spices.

  • 4 boneless duck breasts, 5-6 ounces each
  • 4 duck legs
  • 1 C Kosher salt
  • 1 Tb dried thyme
  • 6-8 whole black peppercorns
  • 3 crumbled and 4 whole bay leaves (divided)
  • 4 Tb duck fat
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper for duck breasts
  • Fresh thyme
  • Grated orange zest
  • Grated nutmeg
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tb canola oil
To cook the duck legs: crush the dried thyme and crumbled bay leaves in 1 C kosher salt until it is evenly mixed. Add black peppercorns. Sprinkle the salt mixture over the entirety of the duck legs. Place in the refrigerator and let cure for 24 - 36 hours.  I pack the cure as evenly as I can and vacuum seal them to facilitate the curing process. If you do not have or wish to use a vacuum sealer, just be certain to cover the legs entirely with salt mixture and refrigerate.
Duck legs and salt mixture
Densely cover the duck legs with salt mixture
Seal the curing legs in a seal-a-meal type bag
Once cured, remove the duck legs from the refrigerator and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Pat completely dry with paper towels. Place duck leg, 1 Tb duck fat/leg in a large zipper lock or vacuum seal bag. Seal using the water immersion technique or a vacuum sealer on the moist setting.  Place the bag in the 180-degree water bath and set timer for 12 hours. Cover the water bath with plastic wrap or sous vide balls to minimize evaporation and retain heat. Add water intermittently to keep duck submerged.

Duck legs sealed with duck fat
When timer goes off, remove the bag from the water bath. If serving immediately, remove the duck from the bag. Heat a nonstick skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the duck legs, skin side down, and cook until well browned, about 5 minutes.  If you are not serving immediately, leave the ducks sealed in the bag. Refrigerate up to two weeks or freeze. The goal of duck leg confit is to have meat that falls easily off the bone. In fact, one sign that the duck is done is that the meat has pulled away on its own and revealed the leg bone.

To cook duck breast sous vide: With the fatty skin-side up and using a sharp knife, cut ¼ - ½ -inch crosshatch pattern in the skin of 4 duck breasts being careful not to pierce the meat. Do this while the duck is cold, since its difficult to make precise cuts at room temperature. Season the flesh (meaty) side with salt & pepper, grated orange zest, grated nutmeg, and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. Lay a sprig of thyme running lengthwise down the center of each breast and cover with one bay leaf. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least one hour, or up to 12 hours.
Scored fatty side of duck breast
Duck breasts with seasoning
Next, seal duck breasts in vacuum or large zipper lock bags. Place in 135-degree water bath for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. (2 hours is ideal as noted above)

Remove bags and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Heat non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat. Add 1-2 Tb canola oil. Set a metal bowl or other container near the stove. With a paper towel, blot any moisture from the duck breasts. Season both sides of each breast with a pinch of salt. Add the duck to the pan, skin-side-down. Move the duck breasts every few minutes to help them brown evenly.  As the fat is rendered, carefully tilt pan remove the excess with a metal spoon (leaving about <1/8-inch) from the frying pan: Be careful to remove pan from the flame while doing so to avoid flare-up. Transfer fat to metal bowl. Flip and cook second side about 30 seconds.
Browning the duck and collecting the rendered fat
OMG...amazing, tender, flavorful duck breast!

Duck legs confit are quite special. See posting on Salad for dinner with Duck Confit

Other ideas for duck confit:
On a salad with arugula or spinach
Cook with white beans and sausage or pork belly
It is THE KEY ingredient in cassoulet from Toulouse
Or, on their own with a side of potatoes roasted in duck fat.

Duck breasts are also wonderful on their own. Or, you could make a quick orange sauce for Canard a l’Orange or follow one of my previous posts for duck breast.

So many possibilities, it is hard to resist.  I know it may appear daunting at first but none of it is difficult but does require time and planning.  Why not try it soon? It is worth the time and effort to achieve amazing and reproducible results at home.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sweet Corn & Bacon Frittata

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Sweet Corn & Bacon Frittata
Serves: 4-6
Difficulty: easy
Sweet Corn & Bacon Frittata
You can throw anything into a frittata and call it breakfast, lunch or dinner. A well-made frittata is one of the world’s most perfect foods. It’s cheap, quick cooking, and an efficient vehicle for leftovers. But sub-par frittata is not so lovely.  They can be spongy rather than custardy, dry and flavorless. To avoid this horrifying fate, we use a bit of dairy. Any dairy will do but be aware that anything less than a full-fat product will produce a sub-optimal frittata. This recipe is filled with the finest sweet summer corn and smoky bacon with some heat provided by Serrano and jalapeno peppers. 
Sweet summer corn
The bacon, cooked just to the point of crispness, gives the frittata its smoky, salty flavor. It also uses gruyere, which is a type of Swiss cheese named for the town of Gruyeres, Switzerland where it was originally made.  It a firm cheese with a pale yellow color and a rich, creamy, slightly nutty taste. It is a great table cheese and also an excellent melting cheese. You could substitute with other melting cheeses such as fontina or even cheddar.  A soft cheese, like ricotta, does not melt well so I would not recommend this one.  Harder, aged cheeses, like Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, adds a sharp hit of salty, nutty flavor, but they are not prime melters. You can use them as a sharp wallop of flavor on top if you wish. I cubed Gruyere in this recipe instead of grated so that some bites will result in an explosion of cheese gooeyness. Try it….you’ll like it!

For another frittata, try Mushroom, Leek & Fontina Frittata posted earlier:
Crème fraiche was used as the dairy with eggs.

Monday, August 15, 2016

We're baaaack!! Return of Larue with Grilled Yogurt-marinated Chicken Shawarma

Grilled Yogurt-marinated Chicken Shawarma
Serves: 4
Difficulty: Moderate

After returning from a spectacular trip to Israel, I was craving shawarma. It was shortly after that I found this recipe from Oleana, a Mediterranean restaurant, in Cambridge. With a few modifications, this has become a wonderful addition to our weekday meals.  Shawarma is a Levantine Arab meat preparation, where lamb, chicken, turkey, beef or mixed meats are typically placed on a vertical spit in restaurants. The home modification requires threading the chicken on skewers and cooking on a grill or a cast-iron grill pan over medium high heat. Typically shawarma is eaten with tabbouleh, fattoush (future date, I will share my favorite recipe), couscous, tahini or hummus.