Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mysteries of Jamba Juice

Head over to Just Praise for some mysterious news...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Shrimp Bisque

It has been so long… I have a holiday sale coming up at my studio and made a mad push to fire one last kiln load before the big day. If you’re in the New York City area and think handmade ceramics might be up your gift giving alley (or for you personally), all are welcome. Eleven ceramic artists all with very different styles will have pieces on sale. Food, drinks and even some live music--music on Saturday only--will be part of the celebrations. The sale is Dec 7-10 in Long Island City, Queens (first stop into Queens from Manhattan, 15 minutes from midtown). Email me if you would like more details-- the bad news: this is our last sale, the building that houses our studio will be turned into luxury condos!

So are you already tired of all that turkey? Or maybe it’s the turkey that is making you tired. I’ve already turned my leftovers into my grandmother’s savory Latvian Pancakes and stashed them in the freezer for a rainy day. Okay, I popped a few along the way. But I learned that making these time consuming treasures is much easier taken in steps: day 1 make crepe batter and filling; day 2 make crepes, fill and finish. Mmm, I might go grab another one…

But really, the shrimp bisque already. If you have fish stock on hand this recipe is a cinch. It is quick, filling and warming on a cold, rainy day. With some warm bread (or in a bread bowl) this makes a fantastic meal.

My mother sent me Ina Garten’s new book Barefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday Recipes You'll Make Over and Over Again. Most recipes are pretty basic with ingredients that can easily be substituted for what you have on hand. I’ve heard the writing matches Ina’s personality, and if you don’t like her show, you won’t like the book. I don’t have cable (so I have never seen the show) and I haven't really taken the time to read her stories, so the recipes suit me well enough as a jumping off point.

I saw this shrimp bisque recipe and while I was really craving clam chowder, this recipe seemed a little less labor intensive (and I had clam chowder at a restaurant the previous night so why over due it?). With my old lean to, the handheld blender, I was able to whip this one up in just about 30 minutes. I had fish stock frozen and waiting for use from the seafood paella and today was its day!

Adapted from The Barefoot’s Contessa at Home cookbook
Makes about 6 servings. Active time= 20 minutes. Inactive time= about 10 minutes.
*1 pound shrimp, shells removed and set aside
* 1 tablespoon butter (or olive oil)
* 1 onion, chopped
* 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
* 2 celery stalks, chopped
* 1 rosemary branch, 4-6 inches
* 2 teaspoons paprkia
* ½ cup brandy
* 5 cups fish stock (see my paella for a recipe if you cannot find it at the store)
* 1 8oz can tomato paste (get one with no salt/ no flavors added)
* 1 pint heavy cream or half and half

1) In a small pot on medium heat, bring fish stock and shrimp shells to a simmer, about 15 minutes. Do not boil.
2) While stock is warming, in your main stock pot over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon butter. Add onions, garlic, celery and rosemary. Sauté 8-10 minutes, until onions turn translucent.
3) Add paprika and shrimp, cook for 3 minutes until shrimp begin to turn pink and curl.
4) Add brandy and cook for 3 minutes more.
5) Remove the rosemary branch (okay if some leaves remain). Strain the fish stock to remove the shrimp shells and add to the main pot.
6) Add tomato paste and stir until dissolved.
7) Using a handheld blender (or carefully in batches with a regular blender) pulse the soup. Break down most of the shrimp, but overall, leave the soup chunky. Add cream, bring to a simmer and serve.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thanksgiving Feasting, Part II

I will be making no Thanksgiving meal this year, nor will I be helping with preparations other than eating appetizing bits. There are so many clever little hints I've been picking up along the way that I would have loved to dish out, ways to spice up presentation, etc. Maybe next year. Until then... I will contemplate what I would have made (and make your searching a little easier in the days to come):

For munching, I would definitely have a cheese platter set out with dried fruit (apricot, plum, figs), assorted nuts (cashews, walnuts, roasted chestnuts) and some olives. A few cheeses I would absolutely have? Some of my old and new favorites: Bayley Hazen Blue, a stinky Epoisses, a butterscotched Gouda and the rich Monte Enebro. [Okay, not too difficult to figure out the key to my heart lies in cheese.] Serve it with a bold Zinfandel (the only wine pairing I will make).

If people really needed an afternoon snack I might whip up a batch of the recent cranberry bread. Fabulous with tea or coffee.

That should be enough to tide people over until a nice warming bowl of soup. How to choose since I love soup. A quick and easy one is Curried Butternut Squash or a zesty Carrot Ginger, a sweetly spiced new one is Winter Squash, and a decadent one, yet to be posted (but if you would like a recipe, let me know, it’s delicious) is a rich Chestnut Soup with Thick Bacon Bits.

A salad would follow. Probably endive, pear and walnut. Possibly with pomegranate. Much like the one here. Cleansing and delicious.

Turkey, of course. Broiled Brussels sprouts, sweet potato chips with an elegant balsamic reduction, garlic mashed potatoes topped with caramelized onions, braised beets and other root veggies for color, and maybe some sweet asparagus with a splash of truffle oil (and shavings if the budget allows). I’m not really a stuffing person, but I made this oyster stuffing, last year that was rich and delicious and scavenged to be taken home.

A pause for dessert. Maybe a walk around the block. Then dessert.

Hands down holiday favorite is the pumpkin cheesecake-- though this chocoalte espresso tart is luxurious. For the cookie lovers, pumpkin gingersnap cookies, gorgeous cranberry macadamia white chocolate chip cookies and rum raisin oatmeal cookies.

The following morning would be full of succulent Latvian Pancakes, with plenty to freeze for later snacking—the perfect way to get rid of those turkey day leftovers!

Enjoy your Turkey Day wherever you may be.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Announcing New Site: Just Praise

I have a new site up and running: Just Praise. Just Braise's sister site will showcase restaurants, books and food events. They shall be praised or panned. Either way, the verdict will be Just. The first few posts have gone up and you can find them at Just Praise. If you enjoy reading Just Braise, please give JP a visit.

In the meantime, a few things have gone up around the blogsphere that will soon be added to Just Praise:
Food Art @ The Plant
David Kamp's United States of Arugula

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Cranberry Sweet Bread

The other week I was at the grocery store and noticed the bags of cranberries were finally set out. Mmmm, cranberry juice I mumbled, and in a trance walked over and placed them in the basket D was carrying.

“What are you going to do with those?”
“I dunno, they’re pretty.”

And so the pretty little rubies sat in the fridge for the better part of a week while I researched some recipes. I was looking for something fast and easy that would still look and taste delicious. I finally found it on a Chowhound forum-- a one bowl, just add, stir and bake recipe. I checked the comments and someone had already made it with wowed reaction so I decided to dig in as well.

This cake-like bread was delicious warm right out of the oven. The recipe recommends a caramel sauce, but I think whipped cream would be great too. I had it plain with coffee and it made a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up or breakfast.

This is the recipe list as it appears in Chowhound. There are other fabulous cranberry recipes listed there too so check it out.

*Note: This is not my mother listed below. Also, I cannot vouch for the caramel sauce because I did not make it. The changes I made are as follows: I used 2% milk instead of whole milk and increased the cranberries to one whole 16 ounce bag (from 2 cups). Lastly, I used a 7x11 pan as I wanted a thicker bread. I had to bake mine about 10 min more.

Makes 1- 9x13 loaf. Active time= 10 minutes. Inactive time= about 30 minutes.
* 2 cups unsifted flour
* 1-½ cups sugar
* ½ teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
* 1 cup whole milk [2% works well too]
* 2 cups whole fresh cranberries [or 1-16 ounce bag]

1) Preheat the oven to 350F
2) Mix the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and butter together until it resembles coarse crumbs.
3) Add milk and stir until evenly distributed. Fold in cranberries.
4) Pour batter into a buttered 9x13 pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Pour caramel sauce (below) over individual servings and serve.

* ½ cup butter
* ½ cup sugar
* ½ cup brown sugar
* ½ cup half and half

1) Combine all ingredients on stovetop and heat until thickened; do not boil.

Head over to Sweetnicks for the ARF roundup

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Asian Inspired Beef Braise

I know it’s a little vague to use the term “Asian Inspired” when describing this, or any, dish. Possibly Asian fusion works better, or simply, fusion braise (to go along with all the fusion restaurants we have these days).

For a few weeks now, D has been eyeing the 4-inch thick cuts of beef chuck at the butcher. They called out meat-protein overload to him, so when I finally okayed the purchase he was in heaven. As we headed next door to the vegetable stand and D picked out a few potatoes for the braise, he eyed me warily as I bagged up chestnuts and shiitake mushrooms. More than once I was told not to “ruin” his beef.

Last summer I was in China finishing up a Masters degree. Between tastings of dehydrated “rope” pork, emperor banquets of delicately crafted dim sum, ogling beetles and snakes on a stick and falling in love with the velvety sweet pulp of mangosteens, I became enthralled by the vibrant offerings of vegetables. Each dish was a still life: Broccoli was reshaped into flowering blossoms, mushrooms became lotus roots and lotus roots became dragon scales. I was constantly amazed by the care that was put into presentation, regardless of the establishment.

It was in these dishes that I came to re-appreciate the texture and versatility of the shiitake mushroom, amazed how it holds up in cooking. And it was here that I learned to love the chestnut-- popping up to add a rich flavor and thick creaminess to dishes I hadn’t known before. Used sparingly, mostly as a holiday embellishment (accordingly with their season), I don’t think the chestnut receives its fair exposure.

This dish is in some ways a remembrance of China, but more so, a way to incorporate the ingredients I came to appreciate in a succulent braise. We ate the braise bare at first and on the second and third day cracked an egg on top and enjoyed it baked. The egg adds another wonderful depth of texture and fabulous richness once the yolk is broken. And those little potatoes D gathered for the braise? Perfect for sopping all the juices up.

Serves 6 persons. Active time= 20 minutes. Inactive time= 3-½ hours (depending on thickness of meat).
* 1 pound chestnuts, roasted and shelled
*5-6 pound cut of beef chuck (or other inexpensive cut)
* ½ pound shiitake mushrooms, cut into quarters
* 1 medium onion, sliced (or 2 bunches scallions)
* 3 tablespoons soy sauce
* 1 tablespoon sesame oil
* 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
* ½ bottle red wine
* water
* ¾-1 pound (small) new potatoes, red or white, left whole

1) Roast the chestnuts before beginning. I apparently did not slice into the shells deep enough and a few exploded in the oven. Preheat oven to 350F. Carefully slice an “x” into the bottom flat nub of the chestnut. Place on a pan and roast for 30 minutes, until shells begin to peel away (or blow up in my case). Allow to cool and remove shells. Place meat aside in a bowl (okay if meat breaks apart).
2) Warm a dutch oven over medium high heat with a 1 tablespoon butter-1 tablespoon olive oil combination. Once warm, rinse off beef and pat dry. Salt and pepper both sides of the beef. Once pot of hot, add beef and brown on all sides, about 4-5 minutes each side. Remove meat from pot, set aside.
3) Add mushrooms, chestnuts and onion to pot. Sauté until onions turn translucent, mushrooms brown and chestnuts break down slightly; about 8 minutes.
4) Add soy sauce, chili flakes and sesame oil, stir to incorporate.
5) Push contents of pot to the sides and replace meat in the pot. Add red wine and enough water to come just below the top edge of the beef (depending on how thick your meat is, you might not need any).
6) Place potatoes around the top, but not in the liquid. Cover tightly, turn heat to low and allow to braise (slow cook) for 3-½-4 hours. Check on the pot once an hour. Turn heat down if liquid is boiling. Add more water if all liquid evaporates out. The dish is done when meat easily falls apart and sauce has thickened.
7) Enjoy warm as is or with a baked egg on top (see below).
8) With baked egg: Preheat oven to 350F. Dish up a portion in an oven safe bowl. Create a small divot and crack egg into the space. Place dish on cookie sheet for easy transport and place on middle rack in oven. For a runny yolk, bake for about 10 minutes, until yolk just begins to form a white covering.

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