Thursday, May 28, 2009

Roasted Asparagus

I used to hate asparagus. Now it is my favorite vegetable. This is the recipe that converted me. It takes 15-30 minutes and works with thin or thick asparagus stalks. 

You'll need:
olive oil
minced shallot
red pepper flakes
lemon zest
kosher salt

Mix oil, shallot and spices in a bowl. Trim asparagus. Toss with dressing. Spread on a cookie sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven until just soft enough to bite. 

Garnish with grated parmesan.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chicken in Creamy Morel Leek Sauce

This is an easy but decadent dish, and can be made with skinless boneless breasts as well (just cut down on the cooking time). If you can't find fresh morels use dried ones, and use the reconstituting liquid in place of the broth.

You'll need (serves 4):
8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin and fat removed
1c flour
2-3 leeks
1/2lb fresh morel mushrooms
1/4c Pastis, Ricard, or vermouth
3/4c chicken broth
1/4c heavy cream
2T canola oil
1T butter

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet big enough to hold all the chicken in one layer. Dredge the chicken in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Brown thighs over medium heat, smooth (former skin) side first, until dark golden brown. You can do this in batches. Remove browned thighs and set aside. 

Clean and trim leeks. Quarter and then slice thinly horizontally so you have small half crescent moons. Clean and trim mushrooms. Slice in half and remove any dirt or bugs.

Wipe any burnt bits from the pan. Add butter. Add leeks and saute about 7 minutes until translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Deglaze pan with Pastis.

Return chicken to pan, smooth side up. Add broth and bring to a boil (this should happen fast as the pan's pretty hot at this point). Lower to a simmer. Cover and cook 45 minutes.

Remove chicken from pan. Add cream. Bring to a boil, then simmer to reduce. Return chicken to pan and heat through.

Serve with a grain to absorb all the yummy sauce!

Silky Cauliflower Soup with Fresh Porcini Mushrooms

This soup has a remarkable texture, and is very versatile: you can make it simple, with cauliflower and water instead of stock, or you can use the cauliflower as a base for other flavors.

You'll need:
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
6c stock, water, or a combination
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2T butter
fresh porcini mushrooms for garnish*

*I put a few mushrooms in with the cauliflower but I don't think it added much. Keep them as a topping.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, about 10 minutes, until very soft. Don't let the onions brown.

Add cauliflower and salt (more if you're using water or no-salt broth). Add liquid to cover; bring to a boil, then simmer gently until cauliflower is soft (about 10 min). 

Puree in a blender (I tried using a hand blender but it didn't get the silky consistency) until frothy and smooth. 

Slice porcini mushrooms and saute in butter and salt. Serve soup garnished with mushrooms. I sprinkled Aleppo pepper on top as well. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And we're back!

Spot Prawns ready for the fire!

Since I blogged last, I've been busy reading, writing, and generally working more than ever before. But now! exams are over and I can't wait to get back to cooking. We just got back from a celebratory vacation to Vancouver and Vancouver Island, and I'd like to share a few great meals we ate while there. If you ever find yourself (or are lucky enough to live) in BC, check out these restaurants.

Honorable mention, Seattle (we flew to Seattle, then drove to Vancouver)

Paseo: Cuban sandwiches. 

Yum. Meat-filled goodness. And that corn on the side was seriously delicious.


Guu with Garlic: Izakaya-style (like Japanese tapas) means you get to keep eating and ordering all night long (and it's cheap!). Some highlights: chopped octopus and seaweed wasabi salad with nori chips, panfried kimchi pork udon, shatteringly crisp calamari, small cubes of barbecued eel, and my first Oden-- a tasty broth with various floating foods (the fish cake was the best).

Gyoza King: also Izakaya-style, maybe better than Guu but a tiny bit more expensive. Their panfried udon was delicious. My favorite dish here (which I plan to try to recreate) was a terrine-shaped tower of avocado, fresh raw salmon, and a raw quail egg on top, with yuzze (reduced shoyu) dressing and nori strips on the side for rolling. Of course the gyoza (we got pork & veggie) were fantastic too. We got bbq'd eel here too, and it was delicious. One of the most surprising dishes was the spinach with sesame sauce, cooked and pressed into a cube so that all the moisture came out and it was just crunchy and flavorful.

Go Fish
We went here two days in a row for lunch. It was that good. It's basically a fish shack on the Vancouver seawall (which I recommend biking). The first day, I had a seared scallop sandwich with chili mayo; J had a half pound of spot prawns, which are the sweetest, most delicious prawns ever (more on them later):

The second day, we had incredibly crispy, moist halibut fish n chips. Even the fries were good.

Bin941: J went here last time he was in Vancouver, twice. We would have gone back twice if we'd had more money and time. It was fantastic. The best part was sitting at the chef's counter and getting to see them make all the food! Highlights: navajo frybread (crispy and fluffy) with goat cheese sun dried tomato terrine; crispy pork belly and scallops; balsamic-pepper shoestring fries; cape gooseberries for dessert! (oh how I wish we could get those here!)

Vancouver Island (one of my new favorite places)

smoked salmon at Goats on the Roof

Shelter (Tofino): This was surprisingly good. It looked like a "fancy" chain-style restaurant but the service was warm and the food delicious. We both got the spot prawn risotto with seared salmon. It was creamy and sweet and the salmon was perfectly cooked.

Wildside Grill (Tofino): 
The perfect lunch spot. We went here twice. The first time we both got the Cod Club (shrimp, cod, bacon, avocado): 
The second time J got fish n chips (which he said were better than Go Fish's) and I got the salmon sandwich-- a large, seared salmon fillet with corn tomato relish and avocado.

Markus' Wharfside Restaurant (Sooke): This was probably the best meal of the trip. J had the soup of the day and the risotto of the day (yes, they have that). The soup was creamy sunchoke with a duck confit goat cheese quenelle. This might have been the best soup I have ever had. Ever. I had seared scallops with double-smoked bacon and then a Tuscan-style seafood stew, which was delicious-- the broth was intensely flavorful (cooked for 6 hours!) and the seafood was perfectly cooked (I'm always wary of seafood in soups because it's usually overcooked, since, for example, shrimp takes less time than mussels and clams). We had a Rioja that was simply fantastic-- Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva, 2003. Get it if you can.

The Edge Restaurant (Sooke): This opened days before we went. We actually tried to go for dinner but they hadn't gotten their liquor license yet, so they were only open for lunch. We told them about the soup at Markus' and they gave us a cup of theirs-- lightly curried cauliflower soup with pulled pork and green olives. The pork was a perfect pairing, both flavor and texture wise, for the thick soup. J got a homemade sausage sandwich; I had the "kitchen sink"-- a cilantro broth with noodles, clams, mussels, halibut, and homemade sausage. It was fantastic, but the real highlight here was the bacon (on J's side cesar), which came from the chef's farm's pigs and was smoked for two days straight. It had an intense flavor and crispy, almost spongy texture. It was so good that J ordered a slice for dessert.

Lest you think that our trip was all about food, I should say, we did do other things. We smoked Cuban cigars. Also, by the time we were in Tofino, we were so in love with spot prawns, that we built a campfire in the firepit outside our door, on the rocky banks of the Clayoquot Sound, and roasted spot prawns and scallops on the open flame:

 If you *ever* see fresh spot prawns, get them! I even had one raw from a market on Granville Island. Delicious.

We also visited a Pocky Store that had expired Pocky on clearance. I overheard someone saying they must be ok to eat or they wouldn't sell them. I'm not sure about that.

We also ate mangosteens!

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