Friday, August 24, 2012

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

I'm happy to present another one of those stupid-simple, throw-some-stuff-together-and-chill ice cream recipes. And such a tasty one, too! Voluptuous coconut flavor, and no fussing around with egg custard necessary. I was inspired by this beautiful post on one of my new favorite cooking blogs, Feasting on Art, and adapted the recipe slightly from the one listed on that site. Next time, I think I'll have to mix in pieces of Mounds bars in the last minute of churning, for some extra deliciousness.

Coconut Milk Ice Cream
Makes about a pint

1 can (14 ounces) full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coconut rum (optional)
Pinch of salt

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool before popping it in the fridge to chill thoroughly overnight. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Serve with a sprinkle of toasted coconut or a mint sprig, if desired.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Jolokia Chorizo Burritos

Lemme talk to you a'bhut jolokias.

One of the hottest (yet tastiest!) peppers in the world, the naga bhut jolokia (ghost pepper) will satisfy not only your need for incendiary yet flavorful spice, but will also keep pesty pachyderms away from your property. We are lucky to have a purveyor of fantastic peppers, Chile Spot, in the area and in years past have bought single jolokias from them to mince up for vats of fiery stews, chili, etc. This past spring, we decided to take matters into our own (carefully gloved) hands and spring for a jolokia seedling from Chile Spot. We thought we'd be fortunate if it yielded, oh, one or two. Well, now in late August I can say with authority that the jolokia plant is one hell of a prolific little bugger, and we're pulling peppers off the plant at a rate of a couple per week(!). You can only make so much spicy chili, so I thought I'd take a cue from our favorite Mexican joint in Kennett Square, La Pena, and make some super-spicy burritos. Although we usually spring for spicy cabeza burritos at La Pena, I went with a delicious chorizo recipe I adapted loosely from a member's post on Chowhound a while back ('Antilope', I believe). I'm going to repeat it many times, but if you purchase a jolokia for this recipe's purposes or any other, pleasepleaseplease wear gloves and be careful. This is a pepper meant for weaponization. One minced up in this recipe provides a pleasantly scorching kick, but it's not to be dealt with casually. 

Jolokia Chorizo Burritos
Makes 3 burritos

*1 1/4 lb ground pork
*Scant 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
*2 tablespoons chili powder
*1 teaspoon smoked paprika
*1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
*1 teaspoon salt
*1 teaspoon garlic powder
*1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
*1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
*1 fresh jolokia pepper, seeded and minced FINELY. Wear gloves. No exceptions.
*Healthy pinch of ground cloves
*Dash of pepper
*Neutral oil
*3 12-inch flour tortillas
*A handful of chopped cilantro
*1/2 red onion, diced
*Hot sauce or salsa roja (optional)

Combine chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, garlic powder, coriander, oregano, minced jolokia, cloves and black pepper in a bowl, and then pour in the vinegar and stir until everything has come together. Add the ground meat and mix throughly. Pop the mixture in a container and store for a couple hours in the fridge to let the flavors mingle. When ready to start cooking, add a slick of oil (or melt some lard) in a cast iron skillet over medium and when hot, fry the meat mixture until cooked, 8-10 minutes.  

To form burritos, briefly heat the tortillas between two lighly damp paper towels in the microwave. Mix about a cup and a half of chorizo with a tablespoon or two of cilantro and a tablespoon of diced red onion, as well as a touch of hot sauce or salsa roja, and drop the mix in the middle of a tortilla. Fold the sides over, then tightly fold and roll up from the bottom. This is the traditionally Mexican way to stuff a burrito, but if you'd rather add refried beans or cheese or what-have-you, go for it and adjust the amount of meat accordingly.
Wrap a bit of foil around the bottom of the behemoth to keep spillage at a minimum. Enjoy the burn.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Some people get insatiable cravings for chocolate cake; I get mad cravings for softened rice paper. There are some moments where I just could die for a moistened sheet of chewy, glutinous rice paper, rolled neatly around veggies and herbs. Aum! Other household half blanches at the thought, but I just know there are like-minded folk out there. My recipe is infinitely variable; you can essentially pick and choose among the stuffing ingredients or add in others, to your personal taste. If you've never made Vietnamese spring rolls before, I've tried to write detailed instructions on how to fold them, but there are also numerous videos to consult on Youtube that show the process. Once you've got the technique down, banging out a bunch is a snap. Just make sure to eat them relatively soon after making them, as they don't keep very well. Any leftover filling ingredients get chopped up and thrown into a bowl for a tasty next-day lunchtime salad.

This is the best lighting I can manage when I cook after sunset!
 Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Makes 6-8 rolls; 2-3 servings

*6-8 rice paper wrappers (available in Asian grocers and the International section in most large supermarkets)
*1-2 oz rice vermicelli
*1/4 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
*1 small cucumber, peeled (optional), seeded, halved, and cut into thin batons
*1 handful of cilantro leaves
*1 handful of mint leaves
*1 handful of Thai basil leaves
*A couple shiso leaves, torn
*1 jalapeno, seeded and cut into thin slivers
*A lobe of mango, cut into slivers
*A couple leaves of romaine or butter lettuce, cut into strips (if using romaine, its helpful to remove the ribs)
*3 scallions, green parts cut into sections

Boil the rice noodles according to package instructions, about 3 minutes. Drain, then add some cold water to the pot, pop the noodles back in and swirl, then drain again and set aside to cool, fluffing every 10 minutes or so. Fill a small shallow pan with enough water to cover shrimp and bring to a simmer. I usually add a bruised piece of lemongrass stalk, a tablespoon of coriander seeds, and a few dried peppers to the water, but plain eau is fine. Add the shrimp when the water is simmering, and cook for about 3ish minutes or until just cooked through. Drain, cool, and slice in half lengthwise. Pick the rest of your ingredients and cut, rinse, dry...whatever is entailed. Fashion all the fillings into an assembly line of sorts, and then pull out the rice paper wrappers.

To assemble the rolls, run your sink tap until the water is flowing warm-but-not-hot, and gently turn the rice paper wrapper under the stream for about 5 seconds per side to soften it. Lay it on a clean, dry surface and then start to add fillings. I usually put in a nice strip of lettuce first, laying it down near the bottom of the circle, and the lettuce acts as a cradle for the rest to come - a bit of noodles, followed by a little bit of everything else, artfully arranged. Just be careful to not overstuff. Start to roll by grasping the bottom edge and folding it tightly over and around the filling. Once you've got a full revolution and a half in, you can fold the open sides of the roll in towards the center, and then lay a couple sliced shrimp on top before continuing to roll over again, sealing the shrimp in. Once you've rolled to completion, place the tube on a platter, wipe off your surface, and repeat the process with the other wrappers. Serve with sriracha, lime wedges and a dipping sauce of your choice (peanut sauce is good here).

Vegetarian Variation:
Nix the shrimp!

Pork Variations:
Poach thin slices of lean pork until cooked, cool and add to spring rolls. OR, fry bacon and cut to fit - I love the salty crunch this variation offers (and it pairs really well with slices of mango).

Also works with tofu, fried egg strips, chicken, crab, lemongrass beef strips, and so forth. What's YOUR favorite filling combination?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mango Margarita

I had a cut-up mango on hand; I wanted a margarita. 1+1=2. Done. 

Mango Margarita
Makes one cocktail

*2 oz tequila resposado
*1/4 cup fresh mango pulp (about half a mango, cut up in chunks)
*Juice from one lime
*3/4 oz triple sec
*A couple ice cubes
*Optional: Good coarse salt and chili powder to rim the glass

Cut up about half a fresh mango and puree in a blender - enough to yield about a quarter cup of pulp. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Throw in the freezer to chill a little longer before pouring. You can also sub frozen mango chunks for fresh and nix the ice. Optional rim job: Prepare a small plate with a little bit of salt and chili powder mixed together. Take a spent section of lime and run it around the rim of a cocktail glass to wet it, and then dip the glass rim into the salt mixture. Pour the margarita into the glass when chilled, and enjoy!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Roasted Tomato Soup and Grilled Habanero Cheddar Cheese Sandwich

This summer has marked my first foray into growing tomatoes, and after lots of fretting and waiting, my enormous German Johnson heirloom tomato plant finally yielded some red-ripe fruit yesterday. After cutting and eating a slice I'm salivating for more - this is a delicious varietal. Although I could have sliced the whole monster up and eaten it with a sprinkle of salt, I decided to put them towards a soup & sandwich combo - the most beloved of all, tomato soup and grilled cheese. I've made this soup many, many times after transcribing the original recipe from an old Gourmet magazine years back, and can say with authority that it's only as good as the tomatoes you use. Please, for the sake of delicious soup, search out fresh-picked, organically grown tomatoes, either from a farmers market or a roadside stand or your own backyard!

Roasted Tomato Soup
Makes 2-3 entree-size servings

*Approximately 3 lbs fresh-picked, organically grown tomatoes
*4 unpeeled garlic cloves
*1 small shallot, minced
*1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
*1 tablespoon butter
*1 cup chicken or veg stock, plus a little extra (preferrably homemade)
*1 tablespoon heavy cream
*1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce

Heat the oven to 350. Quarter the tomatoes and spread them skin side down in the one layer onto foil-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with a little salt. Add the unpeeled garlic to the sheet and roast it all for about 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are very soft and their skin is dark brown.  Peel the garlic when its cooled enough to touch.

Towards the end of the roasting time melt the butter in a pot over moderate heat and saute the shallot with a sprinkle of salt and fresh cracked pepper for about 10 mins. Add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, the garlic, stock and oregano to the pot, and then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Puree in a blender (prudently!), or use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it is smooth.  Add more stock in little amounts to thin to desired consistency, making sure to taste after every addition, and season with more salt & pepper if necessary. Mix the cream and adobo sauce toegther, ladle out the soup, and then drizzle the cream over the top.

Grilled Habanero Cheddar Cheese Sandwich
Makes 2 sandwiches

*4 slices sourdough or farmhouse style bread (I use Pepperidge Farm)
*3 tablespoons softened butter
*2 heaping cups grated habanero cheddar cheese (I use Oak Shade Farm)

Heat a wide cast iron or nonstick skillet over moderate heat. Lay your bread slices out, and evenly butter one side of all 4. To assemble the sandwiches, lay one piece of bread into the hot pan, buttered side down, and carefully pile a heaping cup of grated cheese onto it, gently spreading it around the bread raft. Lightly press another piece of bread, buttered side up, down onto the pile of cheese and then cover your pan and cook for 4-5 minutes. Covering the skillet speeds up the melting process. When you take the cover off, you can scrape out all the delicious, crispy cheese-bits that didn't stay on the bread and while nibbling them, flip the sandwich over carefully and press down with a spatula. Brown on the other side for another 2-3 minutes.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Momofuku Milk Bar's Cereal Milk Ice Cream

We are heading up to NYC next month to catch a screening of The Master as early as one not attending Venice Film Festival can and, naturally, are going to be wedging in some great food around the main event. Having never been to any of the Momofuku establishments, I was browsing their menus and stumbled across Cereal Milk Ice Cream in the Milk Bar menu. I was absolutely delighted with the concept and decided that I couldn't wait until September, so I tried my hand at churning some out myself with their recipe which I found online here. As with nearly every Momofuku recipe I've seen, it's uh, involved, but eminently rewarding. This is quite simply one of the best ice creams I've ever made. I'm going to try it with Lucky Charms next time - Lucky Charms produces the finest of cereal milks.

Cereal Milk Ice Cream
Makes about 3 1/2 cups

*10 cups corn flakes
*1/2 cup powdered milk
*4 tablespoons sugar
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
*4 cups whole milk
*1 cup heavy cream
*1/2 cup sugar
*Pinch of salt
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*4 large egg yolks

Heat the oven to 275. Put the cornflakes in a large mixing bowl and crush them with your hands a few times. Stir the milk powder, sugar and salt together in a smaller bowl and add to the cornflakes with the melted butter, tossing to combine. Spread the cornflakes out on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for about 35 minutes, or until deeply caramelized. Let cool to room temperature.

Here's where it helps to have a small kitchen scale: combine 14 oz of the caramelized cornflakes and the milk in a large mixing bowl and let steep for an hour in the fridge. Set the rest of the cornflakes aside. Fair warning: this next part is gonna be gory. Strain the milk from the cornflake mush as well as you can. For me, this involved several laborious steps in which I squeezed milk out of gobs of the soggy mash through cheesecloth, and then strained that milk through a fine-mesh sieve, and then squeezed THAT gently through a coffee filter. All you need is a cup of cereal milk for the ice cream, so only gross yourself out for as long as it takes to get a well-strained cup!

Combine the cup of cereal milk with the sugar, salt and vanilla extract in a pot and heat over medium. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl and pour the cream into yet another bowl over an ice bath. When the sugar has dissolved into the cereal milk and the mixture is steaming hot, slowly pour it into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, to temper them. Scrape the eggy mixture back into the pot and place over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom, until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon. Do not let it boil! Pour the custard through a strainer into the cold heavy cream and stir over the ice bath to combine. Chill the mixture overnight, then freeze it in your ice cream machine for about 25 minutes or according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You can eat it immediately, soft-serve style, or pop it in a container and let it firm up in the freezer for a few hours. Crumble the remaining caramelized cornflakes on top when you serve it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gemelli with Browned Sage Butter and Sausage

I took a look at my extensive herb garden yesterday and realized that I hadn't yet used sage even once this summer. In order to rectify this oversight, I recalled a delicious and simple recipe given to me by my friend and Italian food guru Michael G. - twists of pasta and sausage coins bathed in browned butter beautifully scented with fresh sage leaves. A sagacious choice to highlight the herb! I went with gemelli, but Michael recommended cavatelli as his choice pasta shape to use. Anything with nooks and crannies to catch the sumptuous sage butter will do, though!

Gemelli with Browned Sage Butter and Sausage
Makes 2 hearty servings

Recipe adapted from my generous pal Michael.

*1/2 lb hot Italian sausage
*1 tablespoon + 3 tablespoons of salted butter
*6 fresh sage leaves
*Lots of freshly cracked pepper
*8 oz gemelli pasta
*1/4 cup grated Parm-Reg
*Handful of chopped parsley

Put water on to boil for the pasta. Fill a wide saute pan with about a half-inch of water over medium heat, and lay the sausage in when it starts to simmer. After 10 minutes, flip the sausages over and simmer them for another 5 minutes, at which point the sausages should be firm and almost entirely cooked through. Transfer them to a cutting board and slice them into coins about half an inch thick. Discard the water in the pan and after a quick rinse 'n wipe, add a tablespoon of butter to the pan and put back on the burner on the higher side of medium. When the butter melts, add the sausage coins in an even layer and let them cook – untouched – until they are deeply browned on the first side. Flip and brown them on the other side. When the sausages are browned, set them aside and add the fresh sage leaves, 3 tablespoons butter, and a few twists of pepper. Stir the butter and scrape at the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. After a minute or two, it should stop foaming and start to take on color. Cook a few more minutes while you drain the pasta, and then add the pasta and the sausages to the pan. Add the cheese and parsley and a little more pepper, stir everything together until nicely incorporated, then dole out dinner!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Master Chili Recipe

The combination of enduring a spate of drab grey days and watching my pepper plants edge their way into fruition has made me yearn for a bowlful of chili with an exquisite spicy smolder as of late. Serendipitously, our habanero plant suddenly exploded with ripe red bounty over the weekend. I jumped at the chance to mince one up for the chili cause. This post contains what I refer to as my master chili recipe - a personal, perfected concoction that is excellent as is, and provides the general foundation for any variations I have made or will make in the future. Good eats for the late summer evenings swollen with storm, to tide us over while we all wait patiently for fall.  

Master Chili Recipe
Makes 2-4 servings

*1 lb lean ground hamburger
*1 yellow onion, finely chopped
*4 cloves garlic, minced
*1 habanero, minced
*1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
*3 teaspoons dried oregano
*1 teaspoon maple syrup
*3 tablespoons chili powder
*1 teaspoon smoked paprika
*S&P to taste
*1 minced chipotle in adobo
*1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes (I use Cento)
*1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
*1 cup brewed chicory coffee (regular coffee will sub in a pinch)
*3/4-1 cup stout beer (Try to avoid using an overly sweet stout. Something with a subtle bite of bitterness to it like Dogfish Chicory Stout or North Coast Old Rasputin works exceptionally well)
Brown the meat in a large dutch oven, drain fat, and set the beef aside. Give the pot a nice oiling, add the diced onions and sweat them out until they are limp, about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and habanero, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so. Be wary of the initial fumes coming off that pepper, as they can be strong! Add the spices and stir for another minute before adding the can of tomatoes, the beans, coffee, beer, maple syrup, and chipotle pepper. Bring to a boil, add the beef then reduce to low and simmer partially covered for at least 45 minutes, or indefinitely. I usually transfer it to a slow cooker set to low and keep it going all afternoon before serving.

Garnish with some good meltin’ cheese (I use a wonderful habanero cheddar), sour cream, toasted pepitas, green onions, or whatever your preferred chili topping may be!