Monday, April 30, 2012

Splitting Hares

Grilled cheese is one of my all time fave foods (up there with French fries and macaroni and cheese). It has to be really buttery, a little crispy and really cheesy (using any kind of cheese except "American cheese"). Good to know that the Welsh have their own version with just a touch of beer thrown in for good measure. (And open faced to cut down on your carb intake obvs!) It fits my requirements for a great grilled cheese but also incorporates a mac and cheese type bechamel. Two great tastes! And with Cinco de Mayo just around the corner and on the brain, it's not unlike a hoppy queso fundido...

The unusual recipe name (Welsh Rarebit or Welsh Rabbit) originates from 18th century Great Britain. According to WikiPedia:

"The first recorded use of the term Welsh rabbit was in 1725, but the origin of the term is unknown. It may be an ironic name coined in the days when the Welsh were notoriously poor: only better-off people could afford butcher's meat, and while in England rabbit was the poor man's meat, in Wales the poor man's meat was cheese. It might also be understood as a slur against the Welsh: if a Welshman went rabbit hunting, this would be his supper.

The term Welsh rarebit is evidently a later corruption of Welsh rabbit, being first recorded in 1785 by Francis Grose. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, 'Welsh rarebit' is an "etymologizing alteration. There is no evidence of the independent use of rarebit."

Regardless, it's a super tasty treat, whatever it's called...

Welsh Rarebit

Adapted from The New York Times

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon mustard powder. or to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3/4 cup strong dark beer, like Guinness
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
1 pound Cheddar, Double Gloucester or other English cheese (or other good semi-hard cheese, like Comté or Gruyère, or a mixture), grated
4 to 8 pieces lightly toasted bread

1. Place the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and, as it melts, stir in the flour. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the mustard and cayenne, then whisk in the beer and Worcestershire sauce.

2. When the mixture is uniform, turn the heat to low and stir in half of the cheese, stirring until smooth, and then repeat with the remaining cheese. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour into a broad container to set (you can refrigerate for up to a day at this point).

3. When ready to use, spread the mixture thickly on the toast and place under the broiler until it is bubbly and the edges of the toast are crisp. Serve immediately. Makes four to eight servings.

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green

Like other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli rabe is packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B and C. And like other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli rabe often gets a bad rap for tasting "bitter." I happen to love it, especially when sauteed with a bunch of garlic. But when I saw this recipe for broccoli rabe pesto, meant as a spread for crostini, I thought that it could be a great topping for pasta, especially for those who think they aren't a fan of it. And it is! In this form it is a much more mellow version of itself, like a Donovan song. Or something.

Broccoli Rabe Pesto
Adapted from Food & Wine

1 cup raw, shelled pistachios (5 ounces)
1 pound broccoli rabe, thick stems discarded
2 garlic cloves
2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Pasta or crostini, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the pistachios in a pie plate or sheet pan and toast for about 10 minutes, until fragrant and golden. Let cool to room temperature.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until crisp-tender, 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Squeeze dry, then transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

3. In a food processor, pulse the pistachios with the garlic until coarsely chopped. Add the parsley and broccoli rabe and pulse until finely chopped. Add the olive oil and process until smooth. Stir in the Pecorino, season with salt and pepper and serve. Serve with toasted bread or over pasta.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Out Like a Lamb

Have you finished your Easter Egg hunt? Demolished a giant chocolate bunny? Prepared to chow down on a leg of lamb or side of ham? How about a lamb burger instead? Who says you always have to make and do what is traditional? Could I ask any more questions?

I like the idea of a casual Easter brunch rather than a formal dinner. Lamb burgers cook quickly and are super tasty. You could serve a nice Greek salad on the side, this orzo salad or really any of these sides to round out your meal. Serve these coconut cupcakes for dessert and your Easter meal is complete...though perhaps I'm a little late. There's always Memorial day!

Lamb Burgers

1 pound ground lamb
teaspoons dijon mustard
teaspoons finely chopped mint
2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
teaspoon dried oregano
teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Feta yogurt sauce (recipe below)
4 ciabatta rolls (or preferred bun of choice), toasted
Thinly sliced cucumber

1. In a medium bowl mix the lamb, mustard, herbs, spices, and salt and pepper. Form the meat into four equal (about 1-inch thick) patties. Set aside.

2. Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high (or heat a tablespoon of canola oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat). Cook the burgers, flipping once, until browned and cooked to desired doneness, about 3 - 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Place each burger on the bottom half of a bun and top each with the yogurt sauce, cucumbers and bun top. Serves four.

Feta Yogurt Sauce

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 garlic clove, minced

1. Using a fork, lightly mash the feta cheese in small bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. (Sauce can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chardonnay Poulet

I'm not a super big fan of a classic coq au vin, but I did find something intriguing about the coq au vin blanc recipe that ran recently in The New York Times as an accompaniment to an article on Oregon Chardonnays. (That's not a run-on sentence or anything.) The idea of making the recipe with white wine and oyster mushrooms just sounded lighter and more spring-like than the more classically heavy winter dish. Flo Fab left out the pork, but c'mon, how can I not include it, especially when cooking with my partner in crime, Chad?) You can read about some of our other cooking adventures here, here, here and here.) This was one of the tastier recipes that we have made in a long time. Aside from the pain in the neck step of blanching and peeling the pearl onions (maybe you can find them frozen?) it was a pretty straightforward, uncomplicated recipe with outstanding results. (Unlike my photos.) And like last week's Mad Men season premiere, it goes quite nicely with Zou Bisou Bisou.

Coq au Vin Blanc

1 tablespoon grape-seed or canola oil
1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken, in 10 pieces without backbone, dried
Salt and ground white pepper
8 ounces white pearl onions, blanched 3 minutes and peeled
8 ounces pork belly, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
4 cloves garlic, sliced
9 ounces oyster mushrooms, trimmed, clumps separated (or mixed wild mushrooms)
1 cup Chardonnay
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter (unsalted or black truffle)
1 tablespoon minced tarragon

1. Heat the oil on medium-high in a 4-quart stove top casserole or sauté pan. Add the chicken, skin side down, as many pieces as fit comfortably. Cook until lightly browned, season with salt and pepper and turn to brown the other side. Remove to a platter when browned and repeat with the remaining chicken.

2. Add the pork belly to the casserole and cook until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Remove to a dish.

3. Add the pearl onions to the casserole and toss in the fat until lightly browned. Remove to a dish. Reduce the heat to low. Add the chopped onion, celery and garlic, cook until softened, about 5 minutes, and then stir in the mushrooms. When the mushrooms wilt, add the wine, increase the heat to medium, bring to a simmer and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Return the chicken to the casserole with any accumulated juices, baste, cover and cook for 30 minutes, basting a few more times.

4. Remove the chicken to a platter. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the sauce and mushrooms about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly. Lower the heat and add the pearl onions and butter. When the butter melts, check the seasonings, return the chicken to the casserole, baste and simmer for a few minutes. Serve from the casserole or transfer to a deep platter. Scatter the tarragon on top before serving. Makes 4 servings. Serve with crusty bread to dip in the sauce.