Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Crusty Russet Potatoes with Coriander

Recipe is by Ruta Kahate, from her book 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, published on NPR

Soft on the inside and crisp on the outside, these potatoes will go very well with your next pot roast or steak. You can also use them to add a subtle indian touch at breakfast by serving them with buttery scrambled eggs. They are unexpectedly spicy and so delicious!

4 large russet potatoes (about 2-1/4 lbs), boiled and peeled
6 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 medium green serrano chiles, cut lengthwise in quarters
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
3 tablspn coriander seeds, coarsely crushed

Slice the potatoes lengthwise into quarters. Then cut them crosswise into 1-inch pieces.

Make the tadka: Heat the oil in a slarge wok over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the cumin seeds, covering the pan with a lid or spatter screen. AFter the seeds stop sputtering, add the chiles. When the chiles are well toasted, add the turmeric and briefly stir. Add the potatoes and salt, toss well, cover, and leave on medium-high heat until the potatoes are slightly toasted, about 4 minutes.

Uncover and add the coriander seeds, and toss well again. Continue to heat uncovered, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are crusty and well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 4

Tadka, Essential Technique for Ruta Kahate's 5 spices

This is the basic method for transferring the flavor from spices to food and you'll use it over and over again. First the spices are added to very hot oil The sizzling infusion or tadka is then used to flavor a dish. Here's how it works:

1. Heat the oil in a pan. Keep a spatter screen or lid handy - cumin and mustard seeds will sputter and pop wildly.

2. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the spice(s). Cover and allow the spice(s) to cook - this literally takes seconds. As soon as the sputting stops, the tadka is ready.

3. Immediately add the larger ingredients to the pan - this cools the oil and prevents
the spices from burning.

Since the oil has to be very hot, making a tadka takes a tiny bit of skill and speed. If you do burn the spices, don't panic. Discard them, rinse the skillet and start over. Once you've done it a couple of times, you'll be an expert.

Tip #1: Don't prepare a tadka in advance. Make it only when you're absolutely ready to use it, because it's most potent at the point when the spices are sizzling.

Tip #2: Since the tadka is ready in seconds, you won't have time to refer back to your recipe. So keep the intredients for the next step on hand, ready to add to the pan.

Tip #3: A tadka may also be used to finish off a dish, by pouring it over a prepared raita or dal to impart a delicious smoky flavor. In this case, take it off the heat as soon as the spices stop sputtering and add it immediately to your dish.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cider Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onions

I finally put the cast iron pot to good use with this recipe last weekend by making this delicious recipe that I adapted from I picked up a beautiful bone-in pork shoulder and while the cooking time is very long, there was very little effort required to turn it into a tender pile of meat.


1 (3- to 4-lb) bone-in fresh pork shoulder half (preferably arm picnic)
2 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
1 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lb onions (5 or 6 medium), halved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3/4 cup unfiltered apple cider (I used the Bragg's with the mother)


Preheat oven to 325°F.

Score fat and any skin on pork in a crosshatch pattern. Make slits all over meat with a small sharp knife and insert a garlic sliver in each slit. Pat pork dry and season with dry spice mixture.
Heat oil in a 4- to 5-quart ovenproof heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown meat on all sides, turning occasionally with the aid of tongs and a carving fork, about 8 minutes. Transfer pork to a plate.
Add onions to pot and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden and caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes more.

Stir in cider and return pork to pot. Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and braise pork in middle of oven until very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Transfer pork to a serving dish with the aid of tongs and carving fork. Boil cooking juices with onions until mixture is reduced to about 2 cups, 2 to 3 minutes, then season with salt and pepper and serve with pork.

note: I made this 1 day ahead, then cooled it uncovered, and chilled overnight, covered. I was able to scoop up a thick layer of fat very easily. Reheat in liquid, covered, at 325°F 1 hour.

Active time: 30 min Start to finish: 3 hr Servings: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mashed Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tblspn butter
1 tblspn half and half
salt and pepper to taste

Trim cauliflower and cut into 2 inch pieces. Place cauliflower and garlic in a pan with a steamer insert with at least an inch of water. Cover, and heat to boiling, lower temperature and steam for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender enough that you could break it up with a fork. Remove from heat and throw cauliflower and garlic into a mixing bowl. Use a potato masher or fork to mash up the cauliflower and garlic and finish with an immersion blender if you have one. It should mash up fairly easily.

Stir in butter and half and half, then adjust seasonings to taste.

We topped this off with a Shiitake gravy made from 4-5 sliced shiitake mushrooms, 1/2 cup sliced leek, sauteed with 2 tblsp butter until soft, then add 1/2 cup stock and cook for 20 minutes over low heat. You can add whatever fresh herbs you have available, or some dried thyme or parsley.

Delicious served with cider braised pork shoulder

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Classic Mexican Fried Beans with Onions and Garlic

Adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen.

This is an easy recipe that can be adjusted to include more spices or less if you want them plainer. Mr. K likes spicy foods, so he likes to add cinnamon and the smoky flavors from canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.

makes about 3-1/2 cups, 6 generous servings

2 tblsp vegetable oil, rich-tasting lard, bacon or chorizo drippings
1 medium white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
4 cups undrained, seasoned cooked beans (you can use practically any variety here, either canned or homemade), preferably slightly warm for easy mashing
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 cinnamon stick
Salt, to taste
About 1/2 cup (2 oz) crumbled Mexican queso fresco for garnish

Frying and mashing the beans. In a large (10 to 12 inch), well seasoned or nonstick skillet, heat the oil or pork fat over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until deep golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cook for a minute or so, then use a slotted spoon to scoop in about 1/4 of the beans, leaving most of the liquid behind. With a bean (or potato) masher or the back of a large spoon, mash the beans into a coarse puree. Add another portion of the beans, mash them in, and continue until all of the beans have been added and coarsely mashed.

Add about a cup of bean liquid (or water if you have no liquid) and stir frequently over the heat until the beans are still a little soupier than you'd like to serve them (they'll thicken as they sit - I like my finished beans the consistency of soft mashed potatoes). The total cooking and mashing will take 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, if necessary.

Roasted Tomatillo-Serrano Salsa

recipe adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen

makes about 2-1/2 cups

1 lb (10 to 12 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
Fresh serrano chiles to taste (roughly 5, about 1 oz total)
2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 small (4 oz) white onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
Salt, about 1 generous teaspoon
Sugar, abut 1 scan teaspoon (if needed)

1. Roasting the key ingredients. Lay the tomatillos on a baking sheet and place 4 inches below a very hot broiler. When the tomatillos blister, blacken and soften on one side, about 5 minutes, turn them over and roast the other side. Cool completely on the bakin sheet.

Roast the chiles and garlic on an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet overmedium heat, turning occasionally until blackened in spots and soft, 5 to 10 minutes for the chiles, about 15 minutes for the garlic. Cool, then pull the stems from the chiles and peel the garlic.

2. The puree. Scrape the roasted tomatillos (and any juices that have accumulated around them) into a food processor or blender, along with the roasted chiles, garlic and chipotle peppers. Pulse the machine until everything is reduced to a rather coarse-textured puree - the unctuously soft tomatillos will provide the body for all the chunky bits of chiles and garlic.

Scrape the salsa into a servng bowl, then stir in between 1/4 and 1/2 cup water, to give the sauce an deasily spoonable consistency. Scoop the onion into a strainer, rinse under cold water, shake off the excess and stir into the salsa, along with the cilantro. Taste and season with salt and a little sugar.

This salsa should be eaten within several hours after you've added the onion and cilantro, though you can make the puree a day or more ahead.

Rick Bayless' Gulf Coast Style White Rice Pilaf

Yes it does look a little burnt, but believe me, the nutty flavor of the toasted rice is delicious!

Serves 6-8

1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1-1/2 cups white rice (medium-grain)
1 small white onion, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
1-3/4 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Turn on the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the middle. Set a medium (3 quart) ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil rice and onion. Stir frequently until the grains of rice turn from translucent to milky-white, about 5 minutes - for the whitest rice, they shouldn't brown. Add the garlic and stir a few seconds, until fragrant, then add the chicken broth and 1 tsp salt (that's what I usually need when using a normally salted broth). Stir a couple of times, then let the mixture come to a full boil.

Cover the pan and set in the middle of the oven. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes.

Fluff the rice with a fork and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
This can be made in a rice cooker: Saute the rice, scrape it into the rice cooker, add the remaining ingredients and let the cooker do the rest - no need for the oven.