September 14, 2011

Roast with the Most

Top Loin Roast with Garlic-Herb Butter

Once I found the Cooking Channel and the WETA channel here in Washington, D.C., I really just stopped watching any other food channel, network, or shows altogether. It is on these channels that I've found shows taped in Florence and Toronto, old Jacques and Julia episodes, even Jose Andres cooking right here in the District. Celebrity chefs do get their share of the spotlight, but it has been the unknown or little known kitchen stars that have really caught and maintained my attention.

I first watched this roast prepared on one episode of Cook's Country (the televised aspect of Cook's Illustrated). It looked so succulent and juicy that I began keeping a pen and paper near the television so I was prepared for when it aired again (to view the show's recipes on their website you must be a paying member, I didn't trust any of the Google searches I came up with for some reason and I do not have DVR or TiVo). The next few times it aired, I only caught the very end of the episode, to my watering mouth's dismay. I was finally lucky enough (and so ridiculously excited) to have a co-worker log into her husband's Cook's Illustrated account so I could print out recipe after recipe, to my little heart's content.

September 12, 2011

Slice n' Easy

Zucchini & Red Onion Pizza with Herbed Cheese Spread

Every once in a while, like on a dark, dreary Saturday, I can get a little...manic. I may make, say, six different pizza doughs, three different pie crusts, a quiche, you know, get way ahead of myself, my weeknight dinners, desserts, even holidays. I figure its one-third experimenting, one-third consolidating and one-third procrastination? I like to tell myself that its the ultimate in preparation, but really, 17 pizza doughs, pie crusts and quiches of various flours and textures is meant for the Duggars and all 19 kids and counting, not me.  

Well, after the rain finally stopped and the windows were thrown open, one of those balls of dough would have come in handy this weekend, as John and I decided to crank up the oven and enjoy a long overdue pizza night. During the winter we often had Saturday pizza nights; I would get all the ingredients and pans set up and John would get to work kneading, throwing and cooking up a pie with toppings like burrata cheese from Trader Joe's to fresh squash blossoms from local farmer's markets. No recent manic moments lately on my end (also long overdue though, so stay tuned), therefore we had no dough, so I decided to experiment with a different recipe. We knew the toppings and cheeses we were going to try, but it was the crust we weren't sure about. Thin and crispy, the kind that shatters even as you take hold? Or soft and doughy, with big air bubbles, sliced large and floppy? I realize Jacques Pepin is a frenchman, and perhaps that was our first mistake, but his La Methode recipe looked quick and easy (really all that matters the hungrier one becomes) and we just went with it.

September 7, 2011

Last Call

Shandygaff Beer Cocktail

Besides too many cookbooks and a few boxes of recipes, I have a few old food magazines that have weighed me down over the years, as I've lugged them from state to state, apartment to apartment. Some dog-earred pages feature amazing photographs, some appear to mark mouth-watering dishes, and others are just dated, yet nostalgic, pictures that remind me of Grandma's stuffing or what green bean casseroles and lasagna's used to look like.

I spent a long weekend on Long Beach Island, NJ this past Labor Day, the sort of unofficial end to summer, and toted a few of these magazines with me in the hopes of making a little something from one of them. What transpired was a refreshing beer cocktail along with a juicy, peanuty chicken satay, a supposed favorite of travelers visiting The Flame Tree Restaurant in Muri, Rarotonga, an island in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific (well, according to the October 2004 issue of Bon Appetit magazine). 

The marinade requires a mix of acidic and savory ingredients, a wonderful way to tenderize and flavor the slivered chicken breasts. The chicken marinates for an hour, while covered in the fridge, and is then skewered and placed on the grill. While on the grill, the skewers begin to give off a sweet, fresh gingery smell; in your mouth, all the flavors come together- the ginger, the peanut, even a subtle hint of garlic-in a well-balanced, bright, tangy mix.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

The peanut sauce was not as thick as those I have made in the past, but was still a delicate, nutty dressing for the chicken. With water and coconut milk called for, it's not heavy, yet provides a light, caramel-colored compliment to not only the chicken, but brown rice, vegtables, or even salad, whatever you choose to serve along with the dish. This makes a great main dish or quite a few appetizer skewers, perfect for easy outdoor grilling. It's also a wonderful introduction to this style of food, if you've never had it.

And to wash it all down? For those of you who have had your fill of beers this summer, sometimes a fun little addition can breathe new life into your standard brew. Herein lies is a two-ingredient beer cocktail called the Shandygaff, a refreshing drink with a bold, spicy bite. Feel free to add more ginger beer if you want more kick.

Indonesian Chicken Satay
(adapted from the October 2004 issue of Bon Appetit magazine)

*1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
*3/4 cup roasted salted peanuts
*1/2 cup water
*1/2 cup finely chopped onion
*2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
*2 Tbsp. soy sauce
*2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
*2 garlic cloves
*1 tsp. crushed dried pepper
*1 sauce
*1 Tbsp. peanut oil

*1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
*1/4 cup soy sauce
*2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
*2 Tbsp. vegtable oil
*2 Tbsp. grated fresh peeled ginger
*4 tsp. ground coriander
*2 garlic cloves, crushed
*2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut crosswine into 1/4-inch-thick slices

*bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling.

FOR SAUCE: Puree the first ten ingredients in a blender until the mixture is smooth. Heat oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-heat. Add sauce and simmer until thickened and reduced to 2 cup, stirring frequently. I found this takes about 6-7 minutes. The mixture also continues to thicken once off the stove and placed in a bowl, as well. This sauce can also be made one day ahead. Just over and refrigerate.

FOR CHICKEN: Combine the first seven ingredients and a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Thread chicken onto soaked swekers. Brush half of the remaining marinade over all the skewers and bring the other half to a simmer over low heat. Grill chicken until cooked through, turning frequently and basting with leftover, simmering marinade, about six minutes total.

Serve chicken with brown rice, vegtables or salad, with the peanut sauce alongside.

Shandygaff Cocktail
*6 ounces IPA or Pale Ale
*5 ounces ginger beer

Pour beer in a glass and slowly top off with a ginger beer (ginger beer can be found in any international aisle at the grocery store, I enjoy the Goya brand, but whatever you can find will do. Ginger ale would be a decent substitute, but you won't get the spiciness that this drink is known for.