Meat & Potatoes

I went to Fleisher’s today, to get fixins for tomorrow’s paella, and couldn’t not get one of their dry-aged top sirloin steaks (on account of how gorgeous they are and also we haven’t had one since Christmas.) I baked some sweet potatoes, and quick-braised a head of escarole, just like last time, and made a pan sauce with red wine and a pat of butter; the meat had salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence for a simple rub. All these remarkably sophisticated flavors did well by a 2003 Finca Sandoval Manchuela, which could use a bit more time, but has a lusciousness that makes it enjoyable now. And if you think we’ve been hitting the Spanish wines hard lately, just wait until the post about tomorrow…

Maki

Completely exhausted from rototilling the garden, and with next to nothing in the fridge, I punted; the brown rice allowed for efficient use of the few things we had. Fillings included roasted acorn squash, chopped wasabi peas, avocado, carrot (shaved super-thin with the peeler) and minced ume plum. That was it. No sides, no wine, just simple food and then bed.

Mas Feesh

This meal ended up as kind of a variation on the tuna/striped bass meal from last week, but it was all wild salmon. Another Nobu-style sashimi, this time with lime juice and zest, and black pepper added to finish. The rest of the fish got the simple pan treatment after a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and cinnamon. I steamed broccoli and cauliflower and brown rice was going in the cooker. For the sauce this time, a slight variation, with white wine, lemon juice, mustard, capers, and a drop of agave syrup. We finally finished the second half of the Banneret, which had been in an airtight decanter. Still nice, but without the oomph in the middle that a great Châteauneuf should have after being open for a while.

Thai Styley

The rare and wonderful presence of galangal in the fridge governed the direction for dinner tonight; absent kaffir lime leaves, or even non-slimy cilantro, (shudder) this magical rhizome pulled the whole meal into Southeast Asian territory all by itself. The chicken carcass simmered with its gravy plus more water, ginger, galangal, and garlic. Minus the bones, and plus coconut milk and lime juice, it turned into a pretty good tom kha gai. (The preserved lemons did a good job of covering the lemongrass part.) Meanwhile, some TVP had been simmering with dried mushrooms until they were all soft. I added tamari, nam pla, rice vinegar, and ginger, plus flour to thicken, and tossed it all in the wok, followed by a bunch of soaked rice noodles with soy, vinegar, and sesame oil, and then a bunch of watercress with smashed garlic:

Braise the Bird

Our 3.5 quart Dutch oven holds a chicken perfectly, and helps infuse the bird with whatever flavors go in there with it. In this case, they were carrot, onion, preserved lemon, herbes de Provence, ras el hanout, and white wine. Once the bird was cooked, I added shredded kale to the sauce and thickened it with a bit of flour to make it gravy. And that was it- chicken, gravy, and a 2003 Domaine du Banneret CDP, which had lovely cedary and herbal qualities, along with good fruit; 2003 was a tough, hot year but this one is not bad at all.

Less is More

Back from a gig in Providence, and not so much in the fridge. Some of Kenny’s venison from the freezer provided the focal point for a rainbow of leftovers: half an acorn squash roasted while a quarter of a red cabbage braised and a sweet potato steamed. The last of the beet salad rounded out the brilliantly colored substrate for the buttery tender strips of meat, rubbed with salt, pepper, and ras-el-hanout. Seared up in the iron pan, they harmonized wonderfully with the complex sweet, earthy, and tangy vegetable flavors, as well as with a 1996 Hacienda Monasterio Ribera del Duero.

Feesh

I was in the city all day, and stuck in traffic for too much of the time, but I mustered the strength to pick up some fish for dinner. Unable to choose, I got wild sea bass and a small piece of beautiful tuna. Rubbed with black pepper, the tuna made a nice seared sashimi with hot garlic-infused sesame oil, then ponzu drizzled on it.

The main course was pan-roasted sea bass over the cauliflower purée from yesterday (without agar) and wilted spinach with garlic. I made another blood orange-wine pan sauce because Milo likes it so much and it looks pretty too. This was all very well met by our last bottle of 2003 Siduri Sonatera pinot noir, which, while not even close to Burgundian, is one of their funkier single vineyard wines. Too bad we won’t have a chance to see how it ages.

Using The Force

I usually try to have the meal come logically from what needs to be eaten, whether leftovers or a veggie that’s getting tired. Tonight the cauliflower Christine steamed for Milo was the jumping-off point. Puréed and mixed with a drop of truffle oil, ume shu, soy milk, salt, and dissolved agar, then chilled, it became a sort of vegan panna cotta. Acorn squash, sweet potato, and carrot curry with coconut milk went around them for a nice complement, and a bit of lime zest finished the plate.

The second course could accurately, if inelegantly, be called meatball salad; the remaining lamb mixture from the fridge had gained sausage-like depth of flavor from all the added seasonings, so I made little meatballs with it, and, once they were done, used a bit of their hot fat as the base for an in-bowl vinaigrette (ume shu, salt, and pepper added to the greens, then a dribble of hot fat) that wilted the mesclun nicely and gave the whole salad some of the meatball richness. Both dishes went well with a 2005 St. Urbans-Hof riesling, which, though cheap, has fruit, flowers, decent acidity, and just enough sweetness to handle the curry spices.

Dim Sum

Far from traditional, but close to awesome, these various tidbits were filled as follows: the little egg rolls with ground lamb seasoned with garlic, rice vinegar, curry powder, tamari, ume shu, and pepper; the shu mai with the white bean/artichoke mixture, topped with black sesame seeds; and the wontons with finely shredded red cabbage, carrot, and scallion. In the middle of the plate is kale quickly cooked with a smashed garlic clove in a drop of the frying oil (which by then had some rendered lamb fat in it.) The dipping sauce for all this was tamari, Melinda’s hot sauce, rice vinegar, agave syrup, and lime juice.

Hitting bottom, but in a good way

This meal was literally made from the last food in the fridge (although not the freezer.) From the last of the grilled lamb, some leftover kidney beans, a carrot, half an onion, a bit of kale, some dried porcini and a splash of wine came this instant risotto. Well, not really instant, but it didn’t involve broth since the various components all flavored the water as it cooked. Just the right amount of lamb gave it good depth, and we each had a glass of the 2005 Nieto Senentiner Cabernet that Christine had opened while I was in the city.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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