Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kedgeree: Curried Rice, Smoked Fish, & Boiled Eggs

A year ago at this time I was preparing to set off on a journey.  Three months in Ireland.  One of the best three months of my life. 

Can't believe an entire year has gone flown by.  Once again, I'm getting that urge.  My inner travel bug is nipping at me.  Long to escape, to feel free, to set afoot in the world.  One of the few times in my life that I can quiet my thoughts, forget about all my worries and anxieties, and feel at peace is when I'm travelling.  All that I need are the belongings on my back (and my beloved camera of course). 

Thoughts of travel have conjured up memories and prompted today's dish.  This dish is called kedgeree.  Was first introduced to kedgeree while in Ireland.  Kedgeree is a curried breakfast (yep, breakfast) rice dish with flaked fish (traditionally, smoked haddock), parsley, eggs, curry powder, and butter.  It's origin is Anglo-Indian. English colonials from India brought back to the United Kingdom.

Kedgeree is traditionally made with smoked [Finnan haddie] haddock.  While smoked haddock was readily accessible all over Ireland, it's not so easy to find here at home.

Don't be a slave to a recipe.  Adapt it, alter it to your taste and what you readily have accessible.  

I substituted smoked trout for haddock, though other types of smoked fish would suffice (smoked salmon, mackerel, bluefish, other whitefish, etc.).

As for the eggs, you can hard-boil them (the more traditional preparation), though soft-boiled or medium-boiled are also acceptable.  I happen to like a more runny egg (and that's how I had kedgeree in Ireland), but it's all personal preference.

Kedgeree with runny, soft-boiled eggs....

With hard-boiled eggs...good too.

This past Friday, I took a trip to the The Acme Smokehouse Retail Outlet (Greenpoint, Brooklyn).  The retail shop is only open to the public on Fridays (get there early, the lines get long).  Procured some cold-smoked pastrami salmon (delish), smoked mackerel, and some whole smoked trout; used the trout for the kedgeree.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Braised Oxtail Agnolotti

I've grown to really appreciate a slow braise.  Braising seems particularly well-suited for a cold winter's day (okay, technically not winter anymore, but it's still cold around here).  The kind of day in which you have no plans to leave your house, but rather to curl up with a good book or binge watch/catch up on your favorite television series while your home is filled with the most enticing aromas.  An excuse to take it easy.  To stay in your pjs all day.  That's how I spent a recent peaceful Sunday.

My initial plan was to braise short ribs.  I had the short ribs in hand, but then oxtail caught my eye.  I had never cooked oxtail and could only remember having it out, maybe once or twice before (but it's been a while).  There's only one way to find out if you like something...so oxtail it is.

The best cuts of meat for braising are typically those that are less tender.  Such cuts tend to be less expensive than their more tender counterparts.  My [grass-fed] oxtail was around $4.50/pound.  A perfect braising meat, as oxtail is bony and gelatin-rich.

No matter the cut of meat you intend to use, the braising process is essentially the same:
1) pan-sear the meat until nicely browned on all sides;
2) add the aromatics (i.e., onion, celery, carrot) and fresh herbs;
3) add some braising liquid (e.g. wine, beer, vinegar, and/or stock);
4) cover and cook in the oven at a low temperature for several hours, until fall-off-the-bone tender;
5) lastly, use the delicious pan gravy to create a flavorful sauce to drizzle over your finished dish.

Some things you just can't rush.  Sometimes, it's all about long and slow...

I took the oxtail one step further with a homemade agnolotti, a type of pasta from the Piedmont region of Italy.

On its own, braised oxtail is hearty and rich.  As a filling for pasta, the oxtail is somehow transformed into something more light and delicate.  Little pillows of rich goodness, bathed in a beef broth (from the braising liquid).  Finished simply with thinly sliced parsley, lemon zest, and freshly grated Parmesan.

Pasta time...

Forming the Agnolotti
I did my best to capture photos of the process.  I set the timer on my camera and had to work fast since pasta dries out quickly.  I've outlined the steps below, though sometimes a picture is truly worth a thousand words.  Hope this helps and inspires you to try your hand at homemade pasta. 

1. Roll out your pasta very thin (the second to the last setting on my Kitchenaid attachment).

2. Lightly flour your work surface.  Cut the pasta sheet in half so that you have two long strips (each about three inches wide).  Pipe the filling along the entire length of the pasta, leaving ~1/2" or so between the filling.

3. Lightly mist the edge of the dough with a spray bottle filled with water.  Fold the pasta in half lengthwise; make sure you form a seal along the entire length, pressing out all the air as you go (otherwise the agnolotti will burst when cooked).  With your fingers squeeze in between each ball of filling, squeezing out any excess air.  Continue along the length of the pasta sheet.

4. Run the pasta wheel along the entire length of the pasta to form a clean edge.

5. Run the pasta wheel in a quick, fluid motion cross-wise between each piece of filling to form the individual agnolotto (agnolotti is plural form of the word agnolotto).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Charred Cauliflower with Chermoula

Spent the past few days unpacking having just moved from DC to NYC.  Closets and cabinet space are clearly a luxury in Brooklyn.  It's amazing how much stuff you can cram into 840 square feet (no space goes unused).  I don't think we have that much "stuff."  That being said, I've managed to acquire a good amount of kitchen belongings (one of the hazards of food blogging -- along with an addiction to pottery and wood cutting boards).  Our place is still a mess, and after nearly a week of sleeping on an air mattress, waiting patiently for our furniture to arrive, I'm physically and emotionally beat.

As our apartment slowly takes shape, this is a dish I've been meaning to post.  A simple little side dish with lots of good flavor -- Charred Cauliflower with Chermoula (topped with toasted almonds).

I always crave vegetables or a big plate of greens/salad with dinner.  In fact, often times, dinner here consists of a big salad and plenty of hearty, crusty bread.  A meal is not a meal without some sort of vegetable on my plate.  While I'm not vegetarian (am an equal opportunity eater as I always like to say), vegetables are a must; they complete a meal.

A quick saute of greens with minced garlic, a squeeze of lemon, and salt and pepper, are a mainstay here.  However, sometimes I crave something other than the same old, same old.

What's chermoula??

Chermoula is a North African (pesto-like) sauce made from herbs (commonly, parsley and cilantro), oil, lemon (and/or preserved lemon), garlic, and spices.  Chermoula is traditionally served as an accompaniment to fish, but also pairs nicely with roasted vegetables, meat, chicken, etc.

Love the addition of preserved lemon zest to the chermoula.  Am kind of obsessed with preserved lemon.  It's one of those ingredients that adds such a unique flavor to any dish.

Preserved lemon is easy enough to make.  Refer to this post on preserving your own lemons.

An additional step -- certainly worth the effort -- is to toast and grind your own spices.  Toasting whole spices brings out more of their inherent flavor, and only takes a few minutes.  Just heat a skillet, add the whole seeds to the dry skillet -- shaking the pan periodically -- until the seeds release their fragrant aroma (making sure they don't burn).  Thereafter, grind the toasted spices to a powder, either in an electric spice grinder or by hand with a mortar and pestle or molcajete (pictured below).

The crispy charred bits of cauliflower are always the best.  The key to charring the cauliflower is getting your pan (used a cast iron skillet) smoking hot.  Cut the cauliflower into florets, toss into the hot pan with some olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss from time to time until nicely browned in spots and tender, but toothsome.