Thursday, December 27, 2012

Merry Catmas

Merry Catmas
A little late I know but I've got nothing ready to go, so here is a picture of my Mother-in-Law's cats snuggling in a seasonally appropriate fashion.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ruhlman's Braised Lamb Shanks

Out of the Oven III
Made these braised lamb shanks out of Ruhlman's Twenty (an excellent gift if you are still looking) over the weekend and they turned out great. Super simple to do, but they do call for what Ruhlman refers to as "lemon confit" but I think most non French people would say is "preserved lemon"... but whatevs I guess. Twenty does have a recipe for preserved lemon (and my linked blog post works from this recipe from the New York Times), but being that it takes somewhere on the order of 2 weeks to a month for the confit/preservation thing to happen, you'll need to plan this dinner out pretty far in advance to make it that way. You could try Bittman's quick 'preserved' lemons in a pinch, or instead go ahead and buy them. They appear to be available online, but if you have a Mediterranean store nearby... or perhaps even a well stocked Whole Foods... then that's certainly an option worth exploring. Preserved lemons have a pretty unique flavor, so I think any curious cook should probably mess around with them at least a little bit.

Braised Lamb Shank and Moroccan Rice Pilaf

Preserved lemons aside, the lamb shank recipe is available online at Food Republic. Not much to comment on here, as the braising is pretty straight forward. In the linked recipe he says to use half of the preserved lemon in the braise and save the rest for serving, but I used two thirds and put the remaining third into a pilaf I made with some Moroccan spicing (garlic, ginger, tumeric, cumin).

For leftovers I just removed the lamb from the bone and mixed it in with the braising liquid for a pretty awesome stew. I would definitely make this again, but given the expense of lamb shanks probably only if I'm entertaining.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chloe's Kitchen: Crispy Orange Tofu

Orange Tofu
Chloe's Kitchen, which I've blogged about before, has become one of my favorite vegan cookbooks. Her recipes are simple enough to pull together on a weeknight after a long day at work, but still manage to be full of flavor. We've made a handful of dishes from the cookbook, and have yet to come across one that we haven't liked... so consider that a recommendation if you are looking for a gift for a vegan on your list.

What you see above is what she calls "Orange You Glad I Made Crispy Tofu?"... which... well... nobody buys cookbooks for the jokes, right? It's essentially just cubes of pressed tofu coated in corn starch that are deep fried and covered in an orange sauce. You know, orange chicken but with tofu.

Note: The only thing I've really changed about the recipe is to try to clarify how you should deal with the orange peel. The pith of an orange is quite bitter so you need to be careful with how you zest it. You can  either use a zester tool (or microplane) or use a vegetable peeler to get pieces that you trim of pith before slicing thinly. The later will get you vastly more orange peel, so you might only need to do it on a 1/4 to 1/2  of an orange while the former will likely require an entire orange. The cookbook instructions say to just cut the peel of 1/4 of an orange into 1/4" strips with no instructions about the pith... which could lead to some bitter bites of tofu if you don't know any better.

I should also note that you probably want to double this recipe if you want any leftovers. Chloe seems to portion things for birds or small animals.

Fried Tofu Cubes

Crispy Orange Tofu


  • 14 oz. extra firm tofu
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • Zest from an orange (see note above)
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Canola oil for frying tofu
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice


  1. Press your tofu: Put it between too plates with some weight (cans, cookbooks, etc) on top. Dump off accumulated water every 5 minutes or so over the course of 20-30 minutes.Cut the tofu into 1/2" cubes and set aside.
  2. Mix orange juice, orange zest, agave syrup, soy sauce, grated ginger, garlic, and ground coriander in a small bowl.
  3. Combine cornstarch and salt in a small bowl and then toss in the tofu cubes. Remove the coated cubes while shaking off the excess cornstarch.
  4. Heat canola oil in a large skillet, so that oil is about 1/4 or 1/2 inch high. When oil is heated drop tofu cubes in oil and fry until golden, flip throughout until all sides are crisp. Remove to a plate with layered paper towels.
  5. In another skillet heated on medium high. Cook fried tofu and orange juice mixture until the liquid is thick like a syrup. (about 5 minutes).
  6. Mix in the cilantro and serve over rice.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Shiitake Tacos with Asian Pear Slaw

Shiitake Tacos with Asian Pear Slaw
This was a recipe where, as it was coming together, I was shaking my head and figuring it was never going to work... and wondering how I was ever going to salvage something that I was sure was going to be bland as all get out. Turns out I was completely wrong! It's a little disturbing to find out my cooking Spidey Sense is completely miscalibrated, but I would say that is more than compensated for with the discovery of this simply prepared dish that has surprisingly complex flavors. I got the recipe from The Washington Post, but it's really from Michael Natkin's Herbivoracious... and given that I read his blog regularly you'd think I'd have a little more faith in his recipes. Well what can I say? I didn't think two jalepenos would give it enough heat, and I was skeptical that a dash or two of cumin and cinnamon was going to interesting enough to keep this from being a drab mixed vegetable medley wrapped in corn tortillas. I thought I would need to whip up some sort of salsa or other sauce to top it, but... live and learn... because the roasted jalepenos really did give a respectable amount of heat, and that Asian pear slaw really did brighten the whole thing up and highlight the different flavors and textures involved.

There were only two things that confused me about the recipe. He doesn't say what to do about the bok choy leaves, so I did a chiffonade of them and added them with the rest of the bok choy. I used a regular clad skillet, not a cast iron or non-stick, and a fond developed as I was cooking... so I just deglazed it with a little water. Seemed to work pretty well, but his recipe doesn't really entertain such a thing as a possibility.

I would definitely make this recipe again... and look forward to checking out the cookbook (we have it from the library)... but I think next time I would probably up the Shiitake to bok choy ratio so the mushrooms dominate a bit more. They looked pretty even when I started, but obviously mushrooms cook down and it seemed almost more like a bok choy taco than a Shiitake one. Still very tasty though.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Buffalo Smashed Fingerlings

Buffalo Smashed Fingerlings

Not really a recipe here... more of a continuation of musings from a few weeks back. To make these I just did Kenji's Fried Smashed Potatoes, but fried them in vegetable oil instead of duck fat and then whipped up a quick buffalo vinaigrette (2:1 oil to Frank's RedHot) and scattered some blue cheese over top. Really good stuff! This is the way they serve them at JAM Bisto in Rehoboth, and I totally recommend giving them a shot.

The problem remains that the recipe takes a lot of hands on time to execute. It generally takes something on the order of an hour to get your perfect crispy yet creamy roasted potatoes, so the time itself is not such a big issue... but thirty minutes of frying in batches makes it hard to multi task with this recipe. Granted, you can make the potatoes ahead of time and warm them up in a 400 degree oven but I think the holy grail would be to figure out a way to do this entirely in the oven. I tried parcooking them on the stove and then roasting them, but wasn't entirely pleased with the results. Anna suggested doing it the old Cook's Illustrated way (roast in a foil covered pan to parcook, then take off foil and roast to brown) but to use a potato masher to smash them down when you take off the foil. It's worth a shot at least, and if I end up happy with the outcome I will post the recipe.

Frying Smashed Fingerlings