Saturday, March 12, 2016

(Not So) Quickie Cassoulet 2016



As much as I like to linger in the kitchen, I simply didn't have much time this year to make a languorous celebratory cassoulet and thereby mark the seventh anniversary of my blog, eveningswithpeter.com! I couldn't help but think of Arlene Dahl's culinary epic No Time for Cooking as I set out to make Jacques Pepin's 30-Minute Cassoulet. I'll be perfectly frank--it didn't work out, at first. Entre nous, and with all due respect to the great chef, Pepin's cassoulet was more like a 90-minute 30-minute cassoulet. As presented, the recipe made little sense and nothing was fully cooked at the 30-minute mark. Was the Le Creuset skillet I used at fault? Was it not roomy enough for all the ingredients? I can't say for sure but after I fiddled with it for an additional hour, my cassoulet ended up being quite tasty. This may be served straightaway but the most important thing I've learned about cassoulet over the years--let it cool before sticking it in the refrigerator overnight and then reheating the next day to release the full flavor.

Let's go through this together, shall we?

1) Everything mostly goes into the pan in parts, starting with browning the ham (rolled shoulder ham a.k.a. daisy ham or Boston Butt) and Italian sausage and then cook covered for 7-8 minutes. Fine.



2) Add bratwurst, mushrooms, onion, garlic, thyme and bay, cook for another 5-6 minutes. Add canned cannellini beans, tomato, water (only a mere 1/2 cup!) and pepper to things, return to boil then reduce for 5 minutes.



And that's it.

So what to do with a bowl of under-cooked nothing with next to no soupy-like liquid for dipping a grilled, olive oil-slathered slice of country bread? I removed the bratwurst and mushrooms from the pale disaster in a skillet and browned them in a separate pan with the onions. I added two cups of water and a porcini mushroom cube and some tomato juice (from the can of already diced tomatoes I used) to make stock. The bratwurst mixture went back in to the skillet. I let this simmer for about a half hour (toward the end, uncovered) to reduce the liquid.



About here it began to resemble cassoulet--and cooked at that! The lesson here? Flip this recipe around a bit and remember it is not a race to achieve a great cassoulet--cook onions and mushrooms first and brown all the meat! Double the amount of liquid at least and simmer down! Let all the ingredients cordially greet one another in the refrigerator overnight and served with grilled country bread!

Do enjoy and thanks to folks for reading eveningswithpeter.com!


Monday, February 15, 2016

A Transporting Cake!



I had appropriated the Betty Crocker's Cake and Frosting Mix Cookbook ("featuring more than 300 recipes for every occasion") years ago from my parents' basement but it was only recently when thumbing through the candy-colored pages filled with rainbow nonpareils, glaceed cherries, and sparkling sugar that I pointed out the "Choo Choo" Birthday Train to Baby. He was immediately taken by it, remembering the sweet embrace he felt as a child when his mother made it once for him. So I thought, what a wonderful surprise if I created a special train for him--what a charming dessert with a cargo of Sweetheart candies and jelly beans for a transporting Valentine's Day! It was all really quite simple to put together and such a beautiful laugh riot--Baby's eyes became moist as the cake itself! Great for a little one's surprise party or anytime for inspiring the child in all of us. So find the recipe below and climb aboard!



Outfitted on a rustic wood slab cutting board and a pitcher of two dozen roses as back drop. The marshmallows dipped in cocoa powder with mini-marshmallows were my idea, suggestive of snow covered boulders. The wheels are peppermints but Lifesavers would certainly do, carting the sparkling sugar dusted cargo of Jelly Belly mixed jelly beans and those Sweethearts with little Valentine's Day messages on them! A Twizzler is the smokestack and string licorice made tracks.

An aerial view!


"Choo Choo" Birthday Train
(My notes in italics)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour six small loaf pans (I only used two, it was only for the two of us!), and an extra pan (for the batter that doesn't fit in the 'cars'). Prepare Betty Crocker Devils Food cake mix (yellow was Baby's preference) as directed on package. Fill each loaf pan half full of batter and pour remaining batter into the extra pan. Bake loaves 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.

Prepare Betty Crocker chocolate fudge frosting mix as directed on package (I used a can of B.C. classic chocolate frosting). Place each small loaf upside down on individual aluminium foil "plates" or large serving tray. Frost sides and tops of loaves. Decorate with hard candy circle mints for wheels and candleholders (no candles here), red 1-inch gumdrop for smokestack. Use candles on engine and first car. "Fill" each additional car with one of these: red cinnamon candies, nonpareils, peanuts, and colored decorator's sugar.

Place in line down center of table. Serve on aluminum foil "plates," one for each child, or cut in half to serve two. Little balloons, sparklers, plastic grass or wrapped, beribboned candy crackers for additional display at your discretion!






Saturday, February 13, 2016

DriveThru - Hamilton's



A quick stop into where to eat with Pete! 

Pull up a stool and possibly a few childhood memories at a new soda luncheonette in the West Village.

The mere mention of old soda fountain notions such as fizzes, ice cream sodas, sundaes, and rickeys always gets me terribly excited. How wonderful to discover that the sun-filled Hamilton's serves up these staggering delights alongside old mainstays such as juicy burgers and hot dogs. We pulled up to the marble counter although there are about 20 small tables as well. The joyful step back into a fanciful candy land from a simpler time has yet to be fully realized--I don't mean the staff needed to sport colorfully striped uniforms necessarily but I do wish the backbone of shelves offered by way of design were flooded with jars of practically glowing candy, the sound system provided a mellow, jazzy score and that there were more decorative vintage advertisements proffering sweet treats such as those surely posted in the shops of yesteryear. But the boxes of fresh ice cream, actual soda fountains and vats of malt powder on display were still quite irrepressible!

The Quick Bites:
Scrumptious black & white malt;
Refreshing chocolate phosphate, a "straight soda with a dash of acid phosphate" made me long for a lazy summer day or a good dash of spring as well;
Sturdy hearts of pale romaine (for our greens!) dressed with perfectly pungent, chunky blue cheese and shards of crispy bacon;
Hamilton double patty classic, medium rare with American cheese, drive-in approved, served with a bright dilly of a pickle and side of golden delicious fried onion rings;
Super tasty reuben sandwich corned beef sized just right for easy manageability so as not to create much of a fussy mess;
A snowball of pistachio ice cream scooped out of an old time cardboard box from Jane's in Astoria;
Butterscotch high ball shake brought out syrupy sweet childhood memories enveloped in rich vanilla ice cream!

Until Next Time:
The list goes on! Grilled cheese and tomato soup, a tuna melt, any of the "take out TV dinners" that include macaroni and cheese with green beans and stuffing.

Hamilton's is located at 51 Bank St, New York, NY, 212-661-1515, hamiltonsoda.com

Monday, January 18, 2016

In The Kitchen with Jacks--Osso Buco



Jackpot took a moment to pose for me but was otherwise ensconced in her doggie bed while I prepared an osso buco courtesy of Emeril with Creole seasonings! Two veal shank pieces (roughly 8 oz. each) is an ample portion for two, when served with a heaping side of rice and a salad dressed perhaps spiked with a shallot vinaigrette, sumptuous mushrooms and crisped pancetta. If you don't happen to have something like Zatarain's around for the seasoning, a recipe easily created from items most likely found in your spice cabinet may also be found here. What's best is that the meat simmers for about two hours, so guests enter to a wildly fragrant aroma--and then the dish finishes cooking while you're chatting over hors d'oeuvres and wine! Sit down and serve!


I veered from this recipe with highly satisfactory results. Since I have a most confounding, irritating allergy to tomatoes, I pureed a can of cannellini beans with some water as a substitute for the red devils (or for a great tomato-less marinara to be used, click here). I also cracked open a bottle of a hearty beer instead of opening up a whole bottle of red wine (course an opened bottle of wine rarely lingers). The result was truly an impressive, really easy rustic delight! Now, make sure you serve with tiny spoons to scoop up all the delicious marrow from the bones!


Friday, January 8, 2016

DriveThru - Jun-Men Ramen Bar



A quick stop into where to eat with Pete!

Far East meets West Chelsea with ramen craze newcomer

Jun-Men (translation, please: pure noodle) may not be much to look at, nor is there much to look at here--it's so tiny--and the little ramen bar has an abbreviated menu as well but sure does pack in as many flavors as it does folks hovering about outside, waiting for a spot at one of the 28 seats. Baby and I piled in recently and the whole affair reminded me of a hoppin' joint I would have crashed around two in the morning with a bunch of friends, somewhere in the East Village in the late 80's. I have however, left such behavior behind, and Baby and I were seated at a more reasonable hour, such as 8:30 pm to experience the latest ramen rage.

The Quick Bites:
Bites
Terrific, meaty double fried chicken wings sweetly glazed with Jun-Men sauce;
Fried rice with smoky Chinese sausage, a bit of a bitch-slap from kimchi, gently fried egg, sweet tobiko, micro basil;
Salad of kale, quinoa, tomato, white cheddar, grilled corn and lively lemon somewhere in there, ever so delicately tossed with miso dressing

Ramen
Chewy chashu (stewed pork) bone with dormitory-approved ramen noodles, sumptuous kikurage (wood ear mushrooms), menma (fermented bamboo shoots), a slightly trembling egg, with chopped scallions and a drizzle of black oil all in a delectable broth;
Rich and rewarding mazemen (dry noodle) with pancetta crisps and frizzled shallots smacked of a Korean carbonara preparation with porcini butter and truffle oil stepping in for the classic egg/Parmesan mixture, topped with a balanced, refreshing plunge into sea urchin. Uh-huh.
Tart yuzu sorbet and ginger gelato for a sweet finish!

Until Next Time: yellowtail ceviche with kimchi jus, pickled mango, fried dumpling skin; green tea cheesecake

Jun-Men Ramen Bar is located at 249 Ninth Ave (b'twn 25th/26th Sts), New York, NY, 646-852-6787, junmenramen.com

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Perfect Peppermint Platter!




With this recipe for peppermint platters, you really can even eat the dishes! Now, I don't know the extent of Willy Wonka's involvement with this spectacular eye and mouth candy--all I know is what a little bird from www.purewow.com told me! Use your platter to serve bite-sized desserts, such as festively wrapped holiday chocolates (as I did), pile up a of batch of brownies--or smash it on the kitchen counter top and nibble on the pieces during the marathon showing of A Christmas Story.

The link is here with the recipe in a sprawling slideshow format but I've assembled it quite neatly below for your holiday enjoyment.

Peppermint Platter
Special items: you will need a 9" springform pan for this as well as a sheet of parchment paper

Ingredients
1 bag peppermint candies of the Starlight variety (60 or so pieces)

Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While oven is heating up, unwrap the candies and place (1/4" apart?) into springform pan lined with parchment paper. Make sure all of the candy is resting on the paper. I would recommend first drawing a circle on the paper using the pan bottom as a guide to create the circle before evenly lining the base of the pan with it. Place in oven for 6-8 minutes, until candy has melted. Do keep an eye on this, depending on the reliability of your oven! LET COOL COMPLETELY. Push base of springform pan from bottom to release your peppermint platter and ease parchment off of it, gently pulling it off (should come off very easily).

Here's the platter, simple  and unadorned. And oh, so tasty too!


Monday, December 21, 2015

A Friend Writes...Where's the Beef?




In Pittsburgh, there are apparently many mysteries--just ask Michael Chabon about his marvelous book, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh--however, this simply made, hearty beef stew from Pittsburgh is not among them. If you have a mind to, check out The Odd, Mysterious & Fascinating History of Pittsburgh page on facebook (where my friend found this recipe), and here's a link to what some may consider a variation of this preparation that I made, the French Boeuf a la Bourguignonne from Julia Child's The French Chef Cookbook

In the meantime, say hello to Pittsburgh's own television host Kay Neumann!


Kay Neumann's Beef Stew
1 tablespoon shortening (we used canola oil)
1 1/2 pounds lean beef, cubed (about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick)
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups water
1 small-medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 cup carrots, sliced (about 2 or 3)
1 1/2 cups potatoes, diced or cut (we diced about 3 medium potatoes in 1/2-inch cubes)
1/2 cup celery, sliced (about 1 stalk)
Place the flour in a deep bowl. Add the beef and toss to coat. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the beef and cook until beef is browned (stir almost constantly so the flour won’t clump). Add the water, chopped onions and remaining ingredients except the vegetables. Cover and cook over medium heat for 1 hour. Add the vegetables and cook another hour.
Note alternative: After the beef was browned, some people added all remaining ingredients, including the vegetables. Cook the stew, stirring occasionally on low to medium until the vegetables were soft, about 1 1/2 hours.


Do enjoy!