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Saturday, February 28, 2009

spaghetti with collards and bacon

bacon collards pasta

I hate to start a post with an apology, especially when one is so deserved, but I'm sorry. If only you knew the exciting project I've been working on for you though, to make AHB much easier to use, with much better pictures - well, you will know soon enough I hope. And then you can decide whether or not to forgive me for my absence. For now, I'll tell you about this very simple and healthy pasta dish I found on Epicurious. It was one of those nights, where I had some things in the fridge that I needed to cook soon or risk wasting, but none of them "went together" - or so I thought. I love bacon with greens, but it turns out you can toss them with pasta and olive oil and actually make a meal out of it. I should try this more often.

Grocery list: 1 pound collards (stems removed, leaves washed and chopped), 4-6 slices bacon, 4 garlic cloves, 1 onion, dried red pepper flakes, olive oil, 3/4 pound pasta (original calls for fusilli, but I was limited to spaghetti), 1 T red wine vinegar, grated parmesan.

cooking collards for pasta

In a large stockpot, cook the collards in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to drain. Bring the water back to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

onions garlic bacon

Chop the bacon, mince the garlic, and chop or slice the onion.

frying bacon for collards

Fry the bacon pieces over medium high heat in a large skillet until starting to crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate, but reserve the bacon fat in the pan. (Depending on how much is left, you might want to pour a little out. You only need enough to cook the onions down - about 1-2 tablespoons.)

sauteed onions red pepper flakes

Add the onion, garlic, and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes, and continue to saute until the onions are translucent, another 4-5 minutes.

adding cooked collards to onions

Add the cooked and drained collards to the skillet with the onions and garlic. Stir well to combine.

assembling bacon collards pasta

Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the skillet. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat the pasta (2-4 tablespoons). Remove from heat, and stir the bacon pieces back in. Serve with grated parmesan and cracked black pepper.

Friday, February 20, 2009

french onion soup

vidalia onion soup

Everyone should have a good french onion soup in their cooking arsenal right? It's easy to make ahead, and if you have people over for dinner, you can serve them in crocks and broil the cheese topping in just a couple minutes. But that's where the practicality can end if you want - it's one of the best vehicles for maximum melted cheese consumption. And can anyone guess where I scored my recipe? Soup? Hello? Of course, like every good soup around AHB, it's New England Soup Factory. (I have absolutely no association with the restaurant or book, in case you're starting to get suspicious.)

Grocery list: hunks of french bread for the topping (the original gives a nice twist on "garlicky croutons, but I skipped that in lieu of my own fresh wheat bread), 6T butter, 8 large vidalia onions (peeled and sliced), 3 cloves garlic (peeled and sliced), 2 cups cream sherry, 3 T tomato paste, 4 quarts beef stock, 2 bay leaves, 1 T cornstarch dissolved in 3 T water, 1 T balsamic vinegar, 1.5-2 cups grated gruyere cheese.


Start by slicing all those onions.

caramelizing onions for soup

Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Saute the onions, stirring occasionally, until they've caramelized - about 20 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook 20 more minutes. Add 1 cup of the sherry to de-glaze pan.

beef broth in french onion soup base

Next, stir in the rest of the sherry, the tomato paste, beef stock and bay leaves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.

beef broth in french onion soup base

Add the cornstarch-water mixture, bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat, stir in the vinegar, then season with salt and pepper. Fish the bay leaves out and throw them away before serving.

setting up french onion soup in crocks

When you're read to serve the soup, preheat the broiler, then ladle soup into individual crocks or bowls (make sure they are safe for the oven/broiler).

top onion soup with bread

Place slices of bread on top. Sprinkle (scoop, bulldoze, etc) cheese over bread, and broil until bubbly and brown.

french onion soup 2

This is as good as any french onion soup I've ever had, I promise. And if you've made a big batch of beef stock lately, I can't imagine a better way to use it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

forget resolutions: eat more fettucine alfredo

fettucine alfredo

Leave it to Marcella Hazan to finally clear it up for me: this famous pasta is actually called "all-Alfredo" after a restaurant owner in Rome. She simply calls it "cream and butter sauce" in her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. This is my ultimate comfort food, since the process of making homemade pasta is so cathartic to me, and nothing is more reassuring than creamy cheesy sauce. Just be sure to do about 10 extra miles on the treadmill the next day...

Grocery list: 1 pound fresh pasta (or 1/2 pound dry), 1 cup heavy cream, 2 T butter, 2/3 grated parmesan, nutmeg.

butter and cream for alfredo base

In a large saucepan (one that would fit the cooked pasta), heat 2/3 cup cream and the butter over medium heat. Allow to cook until the butter has melted and they just start to thicken, about one minute. Cook the pasta to al dente (2-3 minutes for fresh pasta; follow package directions for dried).

mixing in fettucine to alfredo base

After draining the pasta, transfer it to the pan with the butter and cream, and turn the heat to low. Toss the pasta to completely coat it with the sauce.

parmesan and cream for alfredo

Add the last 1/3 cup cream and all the parmesan, a generous pinch of salt, fresh cracked pepper, and a tiny speck of grated nutmeg. Continue to toss until the parmesan is melted and the pasta is thoroughly coated.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

broccoli parmesan gratin

broccoli parmesan gratin

I make at least one vegetable side with every meal. A lot of the time, the effort goes into the main dish meat, and I have no time or inspiration leftover for the side. (We eat a lot of steamed asparagus and steamed broccoli around here.) I saw this recipe in February 2009 Gourmet and wanted to try it. I don't know if it's worth the extra calories for an everyday vegetable side, but it's definitely a good choice for dinner parties.

Grocery list: 1 bunch broccoli, 1 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup cream, 1 cup grated parmesan, 2 eggs, 1 cup bread crumbs, olive oil.

blanched broccoli

Wash the broccoli and cut into bite-size pieces. Boil for 5 minutes, then drain.

parmesan milk eggs for gratin

Whisk together the milk, cream, parmesan and eggs, and season with salt and pepper.


Place the broccoli in a baking dish, then pour the milk-cheese mixture over top. In a shallow pan, toss the breadcrumbs with a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes, until they start to toast. Pour over top of the broccoli. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (the custard should jiggle when the dish is gently moved; if it still acts liquid-y in the middle, it needs to cook a few more minutes). Broil for a few more minutes to get the top as golden as you like.

Monday, February 16, 2009

beef and barley soup

beef and barley soup 2

As promised last week, I'm going to share a couple of our favorite soups that you can make with homemade beef stock. And like any of the good soups I've made recently, this one is adapted from a recipe in the oh-so-amazing New England Soup Factory cookbook.

As a side note, I had no idea barley was so healthy. This soup is actually really well balanced, with a lot of fiber and even more protein. If you substitute a leaner cut of meat for the generic "stew beef" called for in the recipe, you further reduce the fat content (not to mention the meat isn't too chewy or sinewy that way).

Grocery list: 3 pounds stew beef (cut into bite size pieces), red wine vinegar, olive oil, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 large onion (peeled and diced), 2 ribs diced celery, 6 carrots peeled and diced, 1/2 pound pearl barley, 1 cup burgundy wine, 1 8-oz can tomato paste, 8 cups beef stock, 2 bay leaves, 5 dashes worcestershire, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley.

cooking cubed beef for soup

To start, cook the meat. Cut the meat into whatever you consider to be "bite size", and place in a stock pot with 1/2 cup red wine vinegar and 12 cups water, plus a generous pinch of salt. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 1.5 hours. Drain and reserve the meat.

vegetables to start beef barley soup

Next, chop the carrots, celery and onions, and mince the garlic cloves. Heat a couple of turns of olive oil over medium high heat in the same stock pot you used for the beef.

beef and barley soup base

Saute the onion, celery, carrots and garlic in olive oil for about 7 minutes.

cooked beef added to soup base

Add the cooked beef, wine, tomato paste, stock and bay leaves. Stir in the barley.

adding barley to stock

It surprised me how much water such a small amount of barley could absorb. Don't worry if it seems like it's not enough barley; it's not like pasta or orzo, as it will double in volume, at least.

barley cooking after one hour

Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for 1 hour 15 minutes (stirring occasionally).

stirring parsley worcesterhire into beef barley soup

Remove from heat and stir in worcestershire and parsley. Remove bay leaves. Season w/salt and pepper and serve.

Friday, February 13, 2009

not as boring as it looks: black bean burgers

black bean burger

I absolutely love these burgers (taken right out of Februrary 2009 Gourmet magazine). Before you turn away in disgust (yes, I am still the same author of AHB who prefers red meat to almost any other food), hear me out.
  • These are healthy.
  • They take 10 minutes to make 4 of them.
  • You can freeze them. You can reheat one for lunch in 5 minutes.
  • They are cheap.
And I'm not saying I'd ever replace a real burger with these, but I've started eating them all the time for lunch and they are wonderful. Maybe I should call them "black bean sandwich filling" or "black bean patties"? Whatever you call them, just make some up pronto, okay?

Grocery list: 2 cans black beans (rinsed and drained), 3-4 T mayo, 1/3 c bread crumbs, 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/4 cup minced cilantro.

ingredients for black bean burgers

Rinse the black beans and divide them - half in a bowl, half into a food processor. Finely chop the cilantro and add to the bowl with the whole black beans.

beans bread crumbs mayo spices

Add the breadcrumbs, mayo (the original called for 3T of mayo but I found I needed a little more), and the spices to the food processor.

black bean paste

Process until you have a paste - if you have to add more mayo to get the consistency right, now's the time.

black bean paste cilantro beans

Add the black bean paste to the bowl with the cilantro and whole beans, and stir to combine. As you can see from the picture, it was still a little difficult to stir so I added more mayo. Mayo makes everything better right?

cooking black bean burgers 2

Form into 4 patties. If you want to freeze some, wrap them up now and stick them in the freezer. To cook them when they are fresh, saute in olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes per side.

cooking black bean burgers

If frozen, thaw them in the microwave for 30-60 seconds (not all the way thawed, just a little to kick start them), then fry for 5 minutes per side. They'll heat all the way through just fine.

black bean burger 2

Serve them on a toasted bun with cheddar cheese and salsa, or cut them in half and wrap in a tortilla with sour cream, salsa and avocado. (Do you notice how pretty that bun is by the way? I made that! With my new stand mixer I'm baking all our breads now, and these hamburger buns are the best thing I've done so far.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

homemade beef stock

tomato paste over neck bones

Cooking my own chicken and beef stock is something I've known for a long time I *should* be doing, but it has taken me a couple of years to actually come around to it. But now that I've made my own, I can never go back (at least, I hope my schedule never requires me to go back). On a weekend day, I'll make at least 6 quarts at once, and freeze them in little one quart containers. They taste infinitely better than the store-bought processes versions, are healthier, and they cost less too. I'll share a couple of recipes for soup that requires beef stock as the base soon, but for now, let's start with the basics. This one is loosely adapted from the New England Soup Factory Cookbook (also known as the only soup cookbook you'll ever need).

Grocery list (for 6 quarts stock): 7-8 pounds beef neck or short rib bones, 2 onions, 8 carrots, 8 ribs celery, 8 garlic cloves, salt, whole peppercorns, beef bouillon, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, one can tomato paste.

roasting beef neck bones 2

Quarter the onions; wash and cut the celery and carrots into thirds. Add the vegetables and the bones to a large roasting pan, and spread the tomato paste all over. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes at 450 degrees, till everything has a nice caramelized crust.

beef stock

Place the contents of the roasting pan in a huge stock pot (12 quart capacity; if you don't have this, divide it up into 2 larger pots). Smash the garlic cloves and throw them in. Add a handful of peppercorns, a generous pinch or two of salt, 3-4 bay leaves, and fill the pot with water till it's almost full. Also add about 1/4 to 1/2 a bunch of fresh parsley, a few sprigs of thyme, and 4-5 beef bouillon cubes. I actually prefer the "better than bouillon" brand of paste, which has no artificial ingredients or MSG - use 4-5 tsps if you have this.

Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the flame so the stock is just simmering. Allow it to cook for 4 hours, adding more water occasionally as it cooks down. After 4 hours, remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove all the big hunks of bone and vegetable with a large slotted spoon. Set another large pot or bowl in the sink, and place a colander over top of it. Line the colander with cheesecloth, then pour the stock right through the colander into the bowl underneath. Then, you can easily measure out 1 quart quantities to freeze.

**Another tip: set all your one quart containers on the counter without the lids first. Allow the stock to cool more, and the fat will congeal on the surface - you can easily skim it off with a spoon. Once you've sealed the containers, beef stock keeps for 3-4 days in the fridge, or at least a couple of months in the freezer.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

love your steak, part 2: roasted garlic butter

roasted garlic butter ribeye

As I mentioned yesterday, this is the second of two of my favorite steak sauces. I'm not sure if this is the way they make the roasted garlic butter at Kevin Rathbun Steak, but it's so good I don't mind. I served this recently with roasted brussel sprouts with pancetta and sweet potato fries (for some reason grouped in with my tilapia po boys recipe?).

Grocery list: garlic, olive oil, 1/2 stick butter, salt, pepper.

roasted garlic cloves

Break apart 10 garlic cloves, leaving the skins on, and place them on a sheet of foil. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the garlic cloves are soft. (I don't like to heat up my oven for just a tiny foil packet, but fortunately roasted garlic can keep in the packet for a few days in the fridge.)

salt pepper butter base

Mash the room temperature butter with salt and pepper. When the garlic is done, allow it to cool enough so you can handle it, then squeeze the soft garlic out of each skin.

roasted garlic butter

Mash the garlic, then add to the butter. Serve with your favorite steak.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

love your steak, part 1: bearnaise sauce

bearnaise sauce

Instead of scrambling to make dinner reservations on Valentine's Day, where every restaurant is obligated to do a prix fix "tasting menu" and shoo you in and out on a 90 minute turn, we like to stay home. And cook steak. We'll take the excuse to go out of course, but just the night before or after. My favorite steak place ever is Kevin Rathbun Steak here in Atlanta. They have these great little sauces you can get on the side, and I love to get several of them and then try and figure out how they're made. I've gotten pretty good at replicating two of my favorites, and for my V-day gift to you, I'll share them. Today it's bearnaise sauce (after trying many, I've settled on this version from March 2008 Gourmet magazine), tomorrow I'll show you roasted garlic butter.

Grocery list: 2 T chopped fresh tarragon, 1/4 c white wine, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup chopped shallots, 1 stick butter, 3 egg yolks, 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice.

shallots in white wine

Start by mixing the wine and white wine vinegar in a saucepan with the shallots and one tablespoon of the tarragon. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

tarragon white wine vinegar reducing

Simmer until the mixture is reduced to about one quarter of the original amount, or about 2 T of liquid. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. You can toss the shallots and tarragon, and move the liquid into a glass bowl.

tarragon wine reduction for bearnaise

If you don't have a double boiler, you can improvise by selecting a glass bowl that fits partially down into a saucepan, like I've done here. Fill the saucepan with hot water, but you don't want the water to touch the bottom of the bowl. The idea is to have the indirect heat of the steam warm the contents of the bowl.

whisking egg yolks for bearnaise

Now, once the water in the saucepan is simmering, and the liquid in the bowl is warm, whisk the egg yolks in one at a time. Keep whisking, and after a few minutes the eggs will thicken to a consistency of a thick mayo.

adding butter and tarragon to bearnaise

Drop one tablespoon of the butter at a time into the sauce, whisking after each addition until smooth, until you've used all 8 tablespoons in the stick of butter. Then, add the remaining one tablespoon of minced tarragon and about 1/2 tsp of lemon juice. Serve warm with a steak.