Luscious Mushroom Ragout for 1

This photo is rubbish, but the dish is great

I made this beautiful, rich, luscious mushroom dish recently on a night my DH was out of town. You see, I live it up when he’s gone. 😉

Luscious Mushroom Ragout for 1

6 oz. Crimini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
6 oz. Shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 c. water
1/4 c. white grits
Parmesan cheese
Vinegar
2 eggs
Romano cheese

Heat olive oil in a pan on medium. Add mushrooms and sautée until cooked through, approximately 10 minutes.
Add 1 Tbsp. butter, cook until butter melts and mushrooms start to brown, about 5 minutes.

In a medium pot, bring the water to a boil and add the grits, turn heat down to medium and cook, stirring, 5 minutes or until done. Add a hand full of Parmesan cheese and remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir to combine.

Bring a small pot of water up to a simmer over medium heat and add a cap full of vinegar. While you are waiting for the water to come up to temperature, prepare your eggs. Crack the first egg into a small dish (those little tiny glass bowls TV chefs like Julia Child used to use for prep are perfect here). Check for shells. From here, you can either strain the egg whites to get rid of the wispy bits that will never coalesce into a nice beautiful poached egg (to accomplish, gently tip the cracked egg into your smallest medium-fine hand held strainer and very gently shake to get rid of the wispy bits), or you can tip the egg into the water as-is. Either method is just fine. I let a very small bit of water just peek into the dish while I’m lowering the egg into its bath to help it set a bit while still in the protection of the dish, but that’s just me. Your method will vary.

Gently simmer 2-4 minutes or until your desired egg white set and yolk jiggliness has been achieved.
Assemble your dish and sprinkle with Romano. Serve and enjoy.

Serves 1

Bratwurst: “Brat” Is Right!–Charcutepalooza Challenge #7

Let me start this post by saying that despite all the drama in its creation, we ended up with perfectly wonderful bratwurst in the end.

The Procurement Process

This recipe calls for something called “Soy Protein Concentrate.” Upon reading that ingredient, I thought no problem, Whole Foods will have it or maybe GNC. Publix may even have it. Think of it no more. And then I got to Publix, and Soy Protein Concentrate is not what I thought it was–some kind of fake milk or maybe a supplement. Instead of doing the smart thing then and there and ordering it online, I went to GNC. No luck. And Whole Foods, where after half an hour of increasing frustration and two stock guys help, I Googled what I needed the soy for. Hmmm… well, that’s interesting. Turns out Soy Protein Concentrate may or may not be this stuff called TVP or Textured Vegetable Protein. Or, it may be a powder in a big bottle that looks like the Creatine bottle. Or it could be neither. I left Whole Foods with a dubious bag of Textured Soy Protein that kind of looked like a bag of off-color lava rocks, but no real idea if this is what I was supposed to get, or if I felt good about putting weird rock things in my sausage at all.

The meat, thankfully, was no problem to source. Our butcher at Laurenzo’s Italian Market had the veal, pork shoulder and fat back we needed on hand and also offered to grind the meat for us and had hog casings in stock if we needed them as well. We opted to grind the meat ourselves, but the offer was appreciated. We didn’t happen to need casings this trip, having some left over from last month’s Italian sausage, but we will definitely order casings from them vs. online next time.

I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you are lucky enough to have a butcher in your vicinity, visit them. Visit them often. Butchers not only often have better prices on meat than big supermarket chains, they have better quality. Butchers, by and large, are also a passionate bunch about what they are doing and are more than willing to discuss the merits of a certain cut of meat for a particular preparation and will also make sure you are getting the best product for your money. Our butcher is great, and always more than willing to help with any questions I may have. He also does special orders, and can get most anything I could want in a reasonable amount of time. Special fancy buzzword-laden meat is great and all, but I will pick the meat my local business procures 9 times out of 10 for its freshness, quality, and to support my community.

Mmmmmm…. tubed meat….

The Sausage Making Process

The sausage making process started off great. We decided to forego the weird nubbly protein, and my DH (Darling Husband) chopped the meat smaller than last time (ending up with approximately 3/4 inch cubes), and we chilled the meat to almost frozen before starting. Working in small batches with the balance of the meat in the freezer, we processed the chunks through the die in the initial grind. This went much faster than last time and we were very pleased with the results.

We added the cream & eggs–wait, what? Cream and eggs in a sausage? Were you supposed to do that? It turns out that what makes this sausage emulsify is the addition of heavy cream and eggs. And here I thought it was white because of the veal (and didn’t even know it was an emulsification).

Ok, so the blending went well, as did the resting. And then we hit a snag. A big snag that led to a meltdown at Casa Cochran. Now, so far for us at least, sausage making has not been the most relaxing activity ever. Heavy machinery is used, so that’s a plus, but we have no idea what we are doing outside of the (detailed) instructions provided by Ruhlman in the book. We are sausage novices. When trying to pass the emulsified sausage meat through the Kitchenaid sausage attachment and into the casings, all hell broke loose. Only a few anemic wisps of meat would go through the feed tube into the casing, no matter how many times there was freaking out, yelling and re-assembly of the mechanism. So, after much arguing, a meltdown and one of us being banished from the kitchen, the sausages were hand stuffed. How, I’m not sure, since I was the one banished. But, my DH did manage (somehow) to bring out a big plate of beautiful coiled sausage in the end, so however he did it was perfect.

This go ’round we also tried two different way of making links: the way we thought made sense (while stuffing the sausage) and the way the literature says to do it (after the sausage has been stuffed). Method #2 sucks, though I probably did something wrong to anger the sausage gods, and I think we will stick with method #1, even if it means my nursing back pain self has to stand in the kitchen for an hour. Method #2 resulted in broken casings and meat loss. Not good, especially after the previous maelstrom.

The perfect way to celebrate America Day

And Finally, The Eating

We celebrated the Fourth of July with our fresh brats (simmered in Shiner Redbird Summer Ale), fresh Florida sweet corn on the cob, and a slight variation of Bon Appetit’s Fingerling Potato Salad

We also took our new ice cream maker attachment for its first whirl, making Custardy Almond Milk & Cream Ice Cream with Honey and Cookie Dough

Potato and Leek Salad
For original recipe, visit Bon Appetit

This recipe isn’t half bad. A bit leaning-towards-greasy, but not too bad for a summer evening. I think I’ll play with the oil amount and addition of even more spices next time. I’m thinking a hybrid frankenstein between this salad and my DH’s favorite potato salad from Bobby Flay.

1 1/2 lb. small creamer potatoes (white or red), cut small
Big pinch Kosher salt
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. brown mustard seeds
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved and cut into 1/4″ half rounds
Cap full white vinegar
2 tsp. dijon mustard
Palm full of red pepper flakes
Black pepper to taste

Place cut potatoes in a large pot and cover with plenty of cold water. Throw in a big pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and cool on a baking sheet.

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium-high. Add mustard seeds and cook until they start to pop, roughly 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

In your largest skillet, heat another 2 Tbsp. oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and cooks, stirring occasionally, until tender and beginning to crisp at the edges, approximately 12-15 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

While you’re waiting for your leeks to cook and potatoes to cool, add 2 Tbsp. oil, vinegar, dijon and red pepper flakes to the mustard seed oil. Whisk to combine. When the leeks are done, add them along with the potatoes and toss to coat. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Bratwurst: “Brat” Is Right!-Charcutepalooza 7 on Punk Domestics

Custardy Almond Milk & Cream Ice Cream with Honey and Cookie Dough

Hills of Light-On-Lactose Ice Cream

This made an interesting first stab at ice cream. Eggy, with a strange flavor profile from the Avocado honey. If you haven’t had Avocado honey, it’s hard to describe. It tastes like honey, just with a bit something… extra(?) different(?) added. It’s good, and this ice cream was certainly delicious, but next time I might go a little more traditional in my flavor profile interpretation. The egg content in this recipe is on the heavy side in an attempt to compensate for the almond milk. I mostly followed the recipe from Saucy Kitchen for this first foray because I just wasn’t sure how almond milk would react in an an ice cream. It turns out, it reacted just fine–this ice cream was not as dense and creamy as Ben & Jerry’s, but also gave me no stomach pain from the small amount of dairy I ended up using, either. I’ll take it. I may try slipping some yogurt in next time, and possibly even white sugar. While I normally avoid it like the plague, I think a basic sweet taste might work better in this application. Agave nectar might also prove a nice neutral sweet.
Custardy Almond Milk & Cream Ice Cream with Honey and Cookie Dough
This recipe was cobbled together from: Honey Ice Cream from Saveur Magazine, Almond Milk Ice Cream from The Saucy Kitchen and the Kitchen aid Ice Cream Maker Manual and Recipe Book

2 1/2 c. Almond milk
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
8 egg yolks
3/4 c. honey, I used a local Florida Avocado variety
1 cap vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
half a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, chopped into small pieces

At least 24 hours before you intend on making ice cream, put your Kitchen aid ice cream mixing bowl attachment in the freezer.

Over medium, heat the almond milk and cream until just simmering. Remove from the stove.

In a mixing bowl if you’re too short to reach the mixer and your partner in crime is off for a run (or in the bowl of your mixer if you aren’t similarly vertically challenged), beat egg yolks until they lighten in color. This takes awhile and I wouldn’t advise using a whisk. You’re not looking for really really light, but you want a significant shade change. Add honey and beat some more until the honeyed eggs form a ribbon when the beaters are pulled out of the bowl.

Add the creamy milk slowly(!) so you don’t cook the eggs. Keep stirring and adding until all the creamy milk is incorporated. Return the whole shebang to a pan and heat to 170F (this is the safe way to kill all bacteria that may or may not be hanging out in your eggs). Usually I’d toss caution to the wind and eat my eggs raw, but I’m not entirely sure this doesn’t help with the final product. I need an Alton Brown refresher! Cook down until the mixture coats the back of a spoon nicely and leaves a track when your finger is dragged through it.

Cool. This can be done in a cooler, in pans over ice, or on the counter top if you are very patient. You’re looking for room temperature here.

Once the mixture hits room temperature, mix in the vanilla bean and vanilla extract. I used a combo, which was just fine, but I might advise to either go for broke with the vanilla pods and use 3 or ditch them all together for more extract. I would imagine two teaspoons would suffice. If you want any other flavorings, add them now. Rum? Almond extract? Anything in the liquid family.

Move your getup to the freezer if you’re using pans like I did and cool to at least 40F.

Pour into the ice cream mixing bowl and turn the machine on low. Churn 25 minutes, add cookie dough, and churn an additional 5 minutes. You’re looking for the ice cream mixture to double in size and the cookie bits to be well incorporated.

And viola! You have a completely passable ice cream. Makes 6 moderate servings.

Great Grains: Red Rice

Red Rice

Red rice, aka Himalayan Red Rice, is a short-grain rice native to South Central Asia, but is also grown in parts of France. Similar in shape to brown rice, red rice has all the nuttiness of it’s dun-colored brethren with a pleasing deep rose hue.

Red rice contains a higher fiber content than white rice and more flavor than either brown or red rices. Nutty, earthy and very aromatic, use this as a departure from the same-old same-old.

Since red rice is dark colored and contains more natural bran than white rice–it has a longer cooking time–on par with brown rice.

Simple Savory Red Rice with Fried Artichoke and Wilted Escarole

This recipe makes a hearty but light, satisfying meal. If you don’t happen to have escarole on hand, substitute any green you are trying to unload. Even broccoli would be great. Same goes with the artichoke. I like its golden brown & delicious taste in this recipe, but you can certainly do without. Roasted broccoli or cauliflower would do nicely.

1 c. red rice
2 c. water
pinch salt
1/2 onion, chopped
2 artichokes, chopped and cleaned
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 head escarole, chopped and cleaned
Hot chili oil
hot paprika
Salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Combine water, salt and rice in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook approximately 45 minutes or until the rice is done and the water is absorbed.

While your rice is cooking…

Saute onion and artichokes in olive oil on medium heat until browned.

Add escarole. Saute until wilted. Toss with the rice, hot chili oil, hot paprika and salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with good-quality Parmesan and serve.

Serves 3

Slow Dance, With Tomatoes

Tomato Jam, waiting for the crush

This is the kind of recipe that is not a recipe. More of a guideline. Serve slow-cooked tomatoes: crushed as a jam slathered on a burger or crostini; as-is as a finger food (my favorite!); chopped in a salad; tossed in with grains; or with a shot of good-quality olive oil as a pasta dressing.

Slow-Cooked Tomato Jam

Roma Tomatoes (as many as you have – I only happened to have 3 on this day)
3-5 cloves thick-sliced garlic
a sprinkling of ground cinnamon
a sprinkling of caraway seeds
Big pinch salt
Big pinch fresh cracked black pepper
Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F. Quarter the tomatoes lengthwise and arrange cut sides up in a single layer on a foil-wrapped baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon, caraway, salt & pepper (or other herbs and/or spices if you are so inclined).

Roast for 2 hours until tomatoes collapse a little and are browning in spots. Flip over (skin side up) and roast an additional hour and a half until the skins are puckered and the tomatoes are falling apart.

If any should make it to a bowl, mash with a fork or potato masher to make jam or slice for salads and pasta.

If you’re like me, they may not make it that far.

Variations: You can make this jam with any tomato you have on hand–I have made with slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, etc., though my favorite is the Roma tomato for this particular application. You can also add brown sugar to the mix, swap the cinnamon for nutmeg, etc. This can really be dressed a thousand different ways depending on what you happen to have on hand when you notice your tomatoes are almost past their shelf life.

Slow Dance, With Tomatoes on Punk Domestics

Roasted Potato Salad

Ok, so I totally forgot to take a picture of this recipe. Here, have a Vidalia onion instead 🙂

Roasted Potato Salad

1/2 lb. small red-skinned potatoes
Canola oil to toss with
1 ear corn, kernels removed
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
1/4 lb. your favorite bacon
3-5 oz. baby arugula
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. dried cumin powder
1 Tbsp. dried chipotle powder
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Big pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.

Chop the potatoes into 1/2 inch or so pieces, toss in a little canola oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast approximately 25 minutes or until browned and cooked through.

While the potatoes are cooking, slice the bacon into 1/4 inch thick batons (or however you like) and crisp over medium heat. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain.

Add the onion and corn to the bacon fat and kick the heat up to medium high. Cook 10-25 minutes or until browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Combine potatoes with the corn mixture and 3-5 oz. baby arugula in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cumin, chipotle powder, mustard and red pepper flakes. Taste. Adjust seasoning to your liking.

Pour over potato mixture and toss to coat. Taste again and adjust seasonings to your liking. Add bacon to finish and serve.

Serves 2 for dinner or 4 as a side.

My Husband Is Out Of Town Indulgence

It’s a small indulgence, but makes dinner for one something to look forward to

Every time my DH (Darling Husband) is working late and won’t be home for dinner, I try to cook myself a little something I don’t usually get. In years past, this meal consisted of shrimp, asparagus and mushrooms or sushi. Since he now eats shrimp & asparagus and even the occasional spinach, these dinners are now heavy on the mushrooms and/or vegetables he likes less than others (like zucchini. He barely tolerates zucchini, but living in South Florida and belonging to a CSA, we get tons of it all summer long). Tonight’s dinner I whipped up using the mushrooms, some leftover diced zucchini and leftover cooked millet. It’s simple, satisfying, and indulgent (the butter!).

My Husband Is Out Of Town Indulgence

Sautee 3 Tbsp. diced shallots in 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil on medium-high heat until beginning to brown on the edges.

Add 1 1/2 c. sliced button mushrooms, 1 1/2 c. diced zucchini, 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter and salt & pepper to taste. Sautee until mushrooms are browned and cooked through and zucchini is almost disintegrating, approximately 5 minutes if your slices are small.

Add 1/4 c. cooked millet and stir to combine. Season with salt & pepper and finish off with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to serve.

Serves 1

Good-for-You Super Green Pilaf with Fresh Breakfast Sausage

Mmmmm…. fresh sausage…..

Good-for-You Super Green Pilaf with Fresh Breakfast Sausage

Adapted from Food52’s One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf

2 c. salted water

1 c. washed quinoa

8 oz. chopped kale

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/2 orange, juiced

2 scallions, minced

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

3 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts

1/4 c. Feta cheese

Big pinch red pepper flakes

Salt & pepper to taste

2 2 oz. patties fresh breakfast sausage, cooked

Bring the water to boil in a covered steep-sided pan. Add the quinoa, cover, and lower the heat until just simmering. Simmer 10 mins., top with the kale and re-cover. Simmer 5 minutes more, turn off the heat, and stem an additional 5 mins. or until the kale is just tender and the water is absorbed.

While your quinoa is cooking, combine the lemon and orange juices in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, scallions, oil, pine nuts, red pepper flakes and feta.

Add the pilaf to the bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt & pepper to taste and serve topped with a 2 oz. patty of fresh breakfast sausage.

Serves 2 for dinner with enough left over for lunch.

Grits & Greens

So tasty I almost forgot to take a picture

Grits & Greens

1 onion, halved & sliced thin
1 pint sweet mini peppers, sliced
1 head collards, washed, de-stemmed & sliced
1 tsp. Hungarian hot paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground chipotle
1/4 c. Water
1 c. Good quality tomato sauce
Batons of cooked bacon
1/2 c. Yellow grits
2 c. Mixed water & milk
Splash balsamic vinegar

Sautée onions and peppers over medium until very soft and starting to caramelize. Add 1/2 of the tomato sauce, collards, spices & salt & pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally 2 mins or until well incorporated. Add water and cook, stirring occasionally and adding tomato sauce when the mixture looks too dry, 15 mins. Or until collards are softened and look done. Add remaining sauce and vinegar, taste for seasoning and adjust.

While the greens are cooking, make the grits. Over high heat, combine milk and grits with 1/2 tsp. Salt in a saucepan. Whisk continuously until the mixture comes to a boil. Cover and reduce eat to a simmer. Simmer 5 mins.

Serve immediately.

Quick Berry Jam

Jelly for the sugar wary

This jam is quick, involves no canning, and makes just the kind of jam I like–not too sickly sweet. Since seeing Jamie Oliver make a version of this jam on one of his shows last week, I have made it two ways: with mixed strawberries and blueberries, 1/4 c. sugar and balsamic vinegar; and with straight strawberries, 2 Tbsp. sugar and Jam Jar wine. I like the sugar content of the second batch and the berry mix of the first batch the best. Unfortunately, I was too busy slathering the first batch on everything I came across to take any pictures. The second batch has yet to make it to any serving vehicle but a teaspoon (and a wooden spoon and a serving spoon). This is proving just the thing for the weekly batch of strawberries I get with my CSA. I hate to admit it, but after a year and some change, I’m kinda fresh strawberried-out.

Quick Berry Jam

Adapted from Creamy Rice Pudding with the Quickest Strawberry Jam by Jamie Oliver

1 lb. berries
2 Tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar or fruity red wine

Wash and prep berries; place in a wide pan. Add sugar and skoosh with your hands until the desired consistency is reached–you’re looking for the mixture to look like jam already and the sugar to dissolve.

Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, 20-30 mins. or until the jam is at a consistency you like. Add the wine or vinegar in the last few minutes of cooking.

Serve with waffles, oatmeal, rice pudding, toast or a spoon.

Quick Berry Jam on Punk Domestics