Red Beans and Rice, Kinda

J – Happy post-Thanksgiving, everybody! Now that we’re all stuffed and recovering, it’s time to plan some cold weather food. Specifically, I made a reasonably spicy red beans and rice dish last night that turned out surprisingly well. Here is the recipe:

Red Beans and Rice:

  • 1 pound red or kidney beans, soaked overnight in water
    and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 6-8 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (for mild spice, add more as desired)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tbsp dried parsely
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning (see below if you don’t have it)
  • 1 lb ground round OR 1lb spiced sausage
  • 3 cups long-grain rice

Cajun Spice substitute:

Combine:

  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp basil
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Traditional red beans and rice eaters will notice that I’ve committed a serious crime by not including delicious, delicious sausage. Even though we DID get some delicious sausage this week from Friends & Farms, I stupidly didn’t plan ahead and just pan-fried it with some maple syrup. Tasty, but shortsighted. However, we also got some very good ground beef, so I substituted that, with a minor revision in the recipe.

First, brown the beef in a large pot (3 qts is plenty). When the beef is 85% finished, add in the onions, peppers, garlic, olive oil, and a little salt, pepper, and cayenne if you want. Saute the vegetables until the onions are clear, like so:

Note that you can add other vegetables here if you wanted, I just didn’t have any others handy. After the vegetables and beef have sauteed all the way, add in the beans and enough water that there is about an inch on top of the mass of food, about 6 cups (I added 7). Add in the rest of your spices, stir, and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours. If you are using sausage instead of beef, add the sausage after the liquid has simmered for 2 1/2 hours (definitely don’t simmer that delicious spicy sausage for 2 1/2 hours!). Basically, simmer this bad boy until the sauce is thickened to your liking. I boiled it down until it was about the consistency of light cream and then took it off heat right away. Prepare some rice and serve hot on top of rice. Definitely add salt to taste – it will be overpoweringly spicy (as in full of spice, not hot) otherwise, and enjoy!

Thanksgiving! Pies!

J – Happy Thanksgiving! Right now, I’m listening to the sounds of sizzling turkey as it roasts away in the oven (more on that tomorrow). Ines was in charge of the centerpiece this year, so I took it upon myself to make my favorite part of Thanksgiving: the pies. I made two this year, a pumpkin pie (a must-have) and a chocolate bourbon pecan pie, or a chocolate derby pie as they’re apparently called. First, the recipes. They’re very similar, but I hate making pie crust more than almost anything else in life. I used store bought, and you know what, it tasted just fine to me.

Pecan pie (modified from here):

  • 2 eggs, beaten until they’re foamy
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, microwaved till liquid
  • 1 tbsp flour (all-purpose is fine)
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon

First, beat the eggs until they are foamy, like this:

Then, add in your vanilla extract and milk and mix:

Next, the brown and white sugar goes in and gets mixed. Your filling should be very thick right now. Add in the chopped pecans, flour, and bourbon and mix it all in, like so:

Next, line your pan with the pie crust (remember, never grease pie pans) and line the bottom of the crust with chocolate chips.

I used a cheap disposable pan for this pie, but just know that they’re terrible. Use a Pyrex pan if you have one – we do, but just one, and it was reserved for my favorite pie, pumpkin. Pour in the filling but pour it in slowly, otherwise you will scoot the chips around and have parts of the pie with too much or too little chocolate.

Pop it in the oven at 425 for 10 minutes, then 350 for 30 minutes or until a knife tip about 1-2″ from the edge comes out clear. Don’t test the center! If the center is clear by the knife test, the edges will be burned. The pie will cook for about 15 minutes after you take it out, so the center will set. If you have problems with burnt edges on your pies, you can cover the exposed dough with foil strips (or just cook at a lower temp – they shouldn’t burn).

Yum!
Pumpkin pie (original here):

  • 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 1 large egg and 3 egg yolks
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg (so much better than old, dried nutmeg)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon.
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp Chinese 5-spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 9″ pie crust

This pie is really, really easy. First, combine egg, egg yolks, and pumpkin puree in a mixing bowl. Next, add the condensed milk, mix, and add the dry ingredients (spices and salt). Combine, pour into your 9″ pie pan with the crust already in, then bake at 425 for 10 minutes, reduce to 350, and bake for another 30 minute or until a knife tip inserted into the pie about 1-2″ from the edge comes out clear. I prefer cool or room temperature pie with whipped cream, but you can serve warm too – just let it sit for about 30 minutes after it comes out or you will have a mess on your hands.

Literally easy as pie. Happy Thanksgiving!

Caldo Verde

So here we are, I finally took the time to write this one up. I’ve seen this translated as Portuguese Green Soup although it actually should be Green Broth, but I find that the name in English is a bit disgusting, so I’ll refer to the original name, Caldo Verde.

I have found some recipes in english for this soup (most notably from chef Emeril, whose mother was Portuguese), but for one reason or another, it never looks to me like the real thing (at least the real thing I used to have in Portugal). So, I’m here to try to set the record straight and to figure out a way to get it close to the taste I miss. This is actually a very simple recipe, but because we have to find replacements for some of the hard to find ingredients, people end up with very different results. My quest here is to find a way to get the closest result to the original, with ingredients I can find in American supermarkets. So, first I will explain the original recipe, and then I will discuss the alternatives for the ingredients.

Original Recipe
Ingredients:
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1.5 lb potatoes, grossly cubed
1/2 gal water
1/2 lb Portuguese or Galician style collard greens, very finely julienned
6-7 oz chouriço, sliced

Preparation:
In a big pan, put the olive oil, garlic and onion. Let it cook until onion is translucent, but not browned. Add potatoes and water, season with salt, and bring to a boil. Let cook on medium heat for about 20 min, or until potatoes are cooked. Remove from heat and puree. Traditionally, we use a hand blender, but if you don’t have one, you can use a traditional blender and do it in batches. When the liquid is all smooth (this is why we call it a broth), bring back to a boil, add the collard greens and the chouriço and let cook for another 7-10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning at this stage too. When everything has been cooked add 2 tbsp of olive oil and mix well.

Now, for the considerations about the ingredients…
Olive oil – You want to use very good quality extra virgin olive oil for this. This is cheap and common in Portugal, not so much in the US. The rest of the ingredients are really not that expensive, so investing in the good olive oil for this is really worth it.

Potatoes – The base of this soup is really all about the potatoes, so you can play around with it, but go with something not too starchy and flavorful. For this first run, I used yukon gold potatoes. I also added one carrot to balance out the power of the chorizo I got (I’ll explain in a bit), but after trying it, I advise against it. Potatoes only is the best way to go.

Portuguese or Galician style collard greens – Ok, so this is where we start with the complicated arguments… Depending on what part of Portugal you are from (or from which family), people may feel very strongly that one type or the other should be used for caldo verde. I honestly don’t really taste much of a difference and I find the collard greens you buy at US supermarkets are actually similar to these (maybe just a tad bit bitter, but you can cook them for a little longer if needed). The most important thing about the collard greens is that you have to julienne them really finely. Seriously, get a sharp knife and some pain killers for the carpal tunnel syndrome and take your time cutting the leaves very very thinly. In Portugal, we can find pre-cut bags of this, I miss that…

Chouriço – This is the most challenging ingredient to find in the US. No matter what you do, you won’t find exactly the kind of chouriço used in Portugal, but there are some good approximations. The reason you can’t find the good chouriço in the US is because the best chouriços are the ones that are made in the countless little villages, where families get together to slaughter a pig and make the chouriço the traditional way (we used to get homemade chouriços from my godmother and I’ve never tasted anything like it). My parents still buy these homemade versions, but smoked meats are not allowed as imports to the US, so I can’t bring them. Ok then, if you happen to live close to a Portuguese community (the big ones are in Boston, Newark, Rhode Island and San Francisco), you can find the Portuguese supermarket for the best substitution, which is the Portuguese chouriço made in the US (you might even find some online grocery sites that will ship it to you). Second to that, I would recommend Brazilian linguiça. If you can’t find either of those, then try spanish chorizo. The main difference between the Portuguese and Spanish types is that the first one is marinated in wine and has less paprika. So, Spanish chorizo often ends up being much spicier than the Portuguese chouriço (I’m generalizing here, it’s really not that simple). But you might actually enjoy that, so give it a try. Whatever you do, don’t buy any kind of sausage that has not been smoked (it will just crumble in the soup and not be cooked properly). If you really can’t find anything at all, I would try to get smoked bacon, bake it until it’s crispy (don’t fry it, or you’ll end up with too much fat) and add it only at the end for some crunch. I haven’t tried it, but my guess is that it would be an okay substitution.

Here’s a picture of what I made last time, with Spanish chorizo I found at Whole Foods. 

 

It was good, but I think the spiciness was a bit overpowering. What can I say, I like the traditional version of it. This is perfect for a late night snack, to eat when it’s cold outside and it’s also supposed to be a pretty good hangover cure. Hope you try this soon and let me know how it turned out!

Recipes – week 7

I – Ok, time to confess one of my culinary crushes… His name is Chef John, and he has some of the best culinary videos out there. Seriously, check it out… I first found out about his blog, through his super famous recipe for No-Knead Ciabatta. One of these days I’ll post some of my experiments with this bread.

Anyway, I was pretty uninspired by the chicken breasts. So chef John came to my rescue. Chicken parmesan, without all the work… Except that I only realized right before cooking that the chicken breasts we got had bone and skin. It did take me a while to remove the bone but I left the skin on. I would actually recommend that because it made it juicy and, seriously, who doesn’t like chicken skin? (no worries, these are organic fed, free-range chickens).
I did have to leave my chicken in the oven for almost one hour, because these were huge breasts (ahem), so they took a while to cook. The side effect of that was that the bread was a bit past toasty in some areas. One other caveat with this recipe is that microwave warming really does not make it justice. It is much better to take the time and warm it up in the oven.

We also cooked the pork shank, Oktoberfest style, which was perfect with the Oktoberfest beer Jeff had brewed. And to make it a totally German dinner, we had that with braised cabbage (except that I used white cabbage and white wine instead). Sorry, no pictures of this one, but it was really tasty…