M. Andrew Gordon

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Beet Greens

In Appetizers, Side Dishes on June 30, 2010 at 8:13 am

Swiss Chard

Beet Greens

Counter to the Mango-Avocado-Jicama Salad is this dish, a simple presentation of baby beet greens and young chard.  I was at my parent’s house and was looking at my mother’s garden when she remarked how the beets needed to be thinned.  I quickly volunteered to take the young beet greens, all sorts of visions of tasty salads percolating in my mind.  The tender greens had just the faintest hint of a beet beginning to grow within the dirt and when washed, I realized that I would be eating the entire plant.  At the same time, my mother had grabbed some young Swiss chard from her neighbor who had been pleading with her to take some.  I was now picturing chard and beet greens in one salad.

My first task was to create a proper dressing.  I had a container of pepitas, or shucked pumpkin seeds, that I had been meaning to do something with.  What would happen, I wondered, if I simmered a bunch of the seeds in oil?  Would the oil take on some of their nutty flavors?  Sure enough it does and by sprinkling just a hint of curry powder in the hot oil, the result is a particularly flavorful oil.  And the best byproduct was puffed, crunchy pepitas, which would be a perfect garnish.  Then again, if you have pumpkin seed oil, you could just use that.

After tasting the seasoned oil, it seemed apparent that I wouldn’t need anything else to dress the salad with.  This would complement the greens and create a very simple, minimalist salad.  As I ate this, it dawned on me that I would have been plenty happy leaving the chard out all together and as such, the recipe reflects that change.  The beet greens, with thoroughly immature beets still attached, have an interesting earthy flavor.  When dressed with the curried-pumpkin seed oil and garnished with the fried pumpkin seeds, the nuttiness of the seeds and the earthiness of the greens provides a very refreshing salad.

The Salad

Beet Green Salad

  • 1 large bunch beet greens
  • 1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil
  • 1/3 cup pepitas
  • Pinch chile powder
  • Pinch curry powder
  • Salt and Pepper
  1. Wash beet greens and dry thoroughly.  Over medium heat, warm oil and add pepitas.  Stir regularly, so that pepitas begin to brown and just start to pop.  Stir in chile and curry powders.
  2. Using slotted spoon, transfer pepitas to paper towel to dry.  Let oil cool.  Toss beet greens with oil, add pepitas, and season with salt and pepper.

The Non-Locavore Salad (unless you live in Central America)

In Side Dishes on June 28, 2010 at 8:50 pm

It’s funny.  I wholeheartedly endorse eating by seasons and sourcing local produce.  The adventure of eating only what’s in season (at least during the summer months in Massachusetts – things can be a little bleak in March) churns some interesting creations out of surplus zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  It’s a continuing challenge for several months.  The following salad is pretty much the antithesis of eating local in Massachusetts.

Sure, all the produce had to travel many thousands of miles to wind up on my kitchen counter, ready for the knife.  But somehow, it only cost me about $4.50 to procure the ingredients.  That this is a state of affairs that is wholly ridiculous, completely symptomatic of a societal culture in the U.S., and certainly can not continue into perpetuity should be obvious to most everyone (though I doubt that it is).  However, it’s delicious, and god damn it, I’m going to take advantage of it while I can.

Here, you’ve got the sweetness of a mango – though it is better to get them slightly under-ripened here because the sweetness is not quite so powerful, something like a slightly underripe peach, where there is still a hint of tartness.  The creamy texture and mellow flavor of the avocado plays off the sweet-tart mango.  And the jicama adds a pleasant crunch.  The dressing is simply lime juice, honey, and rice wine vinegar spiked with garlic and ginger.

Mango-Avocado-Jicama Salad

  • 1 mango, peeled and chopped
  • 2 avocados, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 jicama, peeled and shredded (use coarse box grater)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Combine mango, avocado, jicama, red onion, and chile in bowl. In separate bowl, combine ginger, garlic, vinegar, lime juice, and honey.  Whisk to combine, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Pour dressing over fruit and toss to combine.  Serve immediately.

Just Add Bacon

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2010 at 6:00 pm

June is proving to be something of a crossroad for me as far as this blog is concerned.  The past nine months of blogging has been an enormously fun, and more importantly, satisfying experience.  Whereas cooking and, really, all things food, has been a passion of mine for quite some time, pushing myself to write about food and the food I create has really crystallized that passion and focused my own interests on the subject(s).  In these nine months I’ve suffered a few setbacks and periods of general inactivity which I am not happy about because it violated the basic tenet of JustAddBacon: to highlight a newly created recipe each week.  In the abstract, I think I have probably met the quota for recipes over that time, as there have been plenty of weeks featuring multiple entries about multiple recipes, so all is not gloom.

Recently, I have grappled with the focus of this blog.  On September 19, 2009, I wrote in my introductory post that my plan was to blog “one new recipe per week.”  I haven’t much wavered from that narrow focus, rarely posting anything but an exposé on my culinary explorations and any resultant recipe that was brought forth.  But I have heard from several people that perhaps I should broaden the scope of the blog to include other’s recipes (guest chefs if you will), reviews on published recipes, critiques of restaurant meals and drinks, and even reviews of beer, wine, or liquors.  To basically chronicle my experiences as they relate to all things food and drink.  At first this made little sense to me, but the more I thought of it, the more the idea grew on me, to make this blog something more comprehensive, away from the narrow constraints of only unique recipes.

The reason June has been such a catalyst for thinking about this has been the sheer mass of experiences around food which have had little to do with my working at a stove or grill.  They have come instead in other places, some surprising, some not.

  • Lena and I made lemongrass chicken and gingered pork dumplings from scratch, even making the dough for the wrappers.  Because it was largely following a Food & Wine article, I didn’t see fit to blog about it at the time, despite Lena’s assertion that it would be fine to do so.
  • I have eaten a great meal at a restaurant I had previously never heard of because of Lena needing to sample the restaurant for work.  If you ever find yourself at Parson’s Table in Winchester, MA, do yourself a favor and order the Chocolate Semifreddo with Vanilla Gelato Affogato.  It is without question one of the best desserts I’ve eaten.
  • Lena and I cooked dinner for for her father’s birthday which included trout, fresh from Maine.  Amazing…and yet, no real new recipe.  But that trout could have been a blog post by itself based solely on how good it tasted.  So too could have been the coconut cream pie we made following Tom Douglas’ recipe, but then again, there are a few quality blog posts about that pie on the interwebs already.
  • I cooked brunch for about 25 people.  That fed my blog post of June 7 with my thoughts of cooking for a group of that size.
  • Cooked dinner for a good friend and collaborated on making chocolate pudding for dessert which she let me know was an absolutely egregious omission from my blog post about the dinner.
  • During a somewhat inebriated night (or as my friend Jared would say, “an overnight drunk”), I experienced the wonder of heating pretzels I had made earlier in the day on the grill at 4am.
  • I sampled several unique Montreal street foods: shish taouk and poutine.  The former is the Montreal version of chicken shwarma, the latter is a fascinating combination of French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds.   I expect to pull out a variation of this theme later in the year.
  • I had one of the greatest food experiences to date and it was as simple as could be.  While some food personalities have made their reputations on simplicity (there’s a reason Rachel Ray has made a killing) and others stress minimalism, like Mark Bittman in his Minimalist section of the New York Times, it was a completely simple moment when Lena and I discovered the joys of $7-per-bottle wine out of plastic cups, fresh (and local) goat cheese, bread, locally produced honey, an apple, walnuts, and csabai, a spicy, Hungarian cured sausage.  Sitting outside alongside Lake Champlain on a beautiful June afternoon, this represented a singular gastronomic experience.

All of these moments, crammed into a couple of weeks in June, made me think that broadening the scope of this humble blog might actually be a good idea.  So, with as little fanfare as possible, I believe today will mark the beginning of a new chapter at JustAddBacon.  While I would rather unveil wholesale changes all at once – to pull the tarpaulin off and reveal a shiny new version of JustAddBacon, polished and glinting in the sun – this blog is unfortunately not the only draw on my time.  So I offer the following as changes I plan to make and areas in which I will focus:

  • A continued push to meet my one per week goal of new, unique recipes
  • Any insights or thoughts on food that I may offer as they relate to cooking or other experiences through food
  • Reactions to new foods, new restaurants, new beverages
  • A new design/layout of the blog

I welcome any and all feedback on this new beginning.  Thanks again for reading and I look forward to doing my best to provide some interesting anecdotes about my experiences with food.

Absurd Leftovers: Lemongrass Pork on Pretzel Roll

In Main Dish, Pork on June 14, 2010 at 7:50 pm

My last post was about a pork tenderloin that was marinated in a lemongrass-ginger mixture and then served with a rhubarb sauce, which turned out to be rather delicious.  As I was cleaning up the leftovers I was already having visions of a sandwich piled high with sliced tenderloin and that rhubarb sauce.  There are many sandwiches with pork that are astonishingly delicious, from the Cuban to a pulled pork sandwich.  Because of a favorable work schedule that had me out mid-day on a Friday, I took advantage of that time to indulge both my vision of the pork sandwich and another vision I had been having for the past few months: a home-made roll made out of the same dough used for soft pretzels.

The revolutionary vision...

The rolls are made using an Alton Brown recipe for soft pretzels that I have had success using in the past.  The freshly made pretzel is one of those indelible childhood memories for me, of being at Fenway Park as a young tyke and enjoying the large salt crystals and the doughy, chewy bread.  Of course, that pretzel was surely not freshly made but only freshly warmed, regardless, it has stuck with me and it’s a powerful food/flavor memory.  This spring I trotted out that recipe for a dinner party during the NCAA tournament where we tried, valiantly, to have all food items have some sort of spherical shape.  Instead of the iconic braided pretzels, I made pretzel balls.  Keep your puns to yourself, please.  What resulted was almost akin to a dinner roll, except with the blistered, salty crust of a pretzel.  From there, I longed to make the same thing but into more of a bulky roll style piece of bread.

The resulting roll is a little bit dense, but the bread is soft and so flavorful it doesn’t matter.  It’s equally good warmed and moist or toasted.  Expect to see a burger in the future on one of these rolls within JustAddBacon.

Alton Brown recipe here.

Variations on A Theme: Pretzels

JustAddBacon Alteration: Instead of forming dough into ropes to be made into pretzels, split dough into 6 pieces.  Tuck edges under itself into a four-by-three-inch rectangle.  Cook per the directions in the recipe.

Cut cooled roll in half, brush inside with Chipotle Mayonnaise, stuff with thinly sliced Lemongrass-Ginger Pork, rhubarb sauce, and lettuce.

Chipotle Mayonnaise

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle puree (or finely diced chipotle pepper with adobo sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  1. Mix all three ingredients thoroughly.

Lemongrass Pork with Rhubarb Sauce

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Lemongrass Pork with Summer Squash and Gingered Asparagus

For anyone who regularly reads JustAddBacon, it comes as no surprise that pork is fairly close to being considered my favorite of the big three meats (beef, chicken, pork).  Lamb might give it a run for its money, duck is a weakness, most game is stunningly delicious, and let’s not forget all manner of things from the ocean.  But from the American meat section’s big three meats, pork is probably my favorite.  Pork tenderloin, however, is a curious cut of meat because unlike, say, pork shoulder, it is tender from the start and doesn’t need any lengthy braising or smoking to become tender.  And, unlike pork shoulder or a well-marbled pork chop or even just pork loin, tenderloin is not the most flavorful of cuts.  This, however, is a bit of a strength in my opinion, as I think the tenderloin reacts quite well to marinades, glazes, and rubs.

Here, I wanted to impart the pork with some characteristic southeast Asian flavors such as lemongrass and ginger.  It was a stroke of good luck that I was also looking to use up some rhubarb that was in the refrigerator.  While rhubarb mainly finds its way into desserts using copious amounts of sugar, I have lately been fascinated with using it in less traditional ways.  By gently poaching the rhubarb in sweetened water, a solution much less sweet than simple syrup, it allows for the tart vegetable to be just lightly sweetened.  Care is needed with this step, as the rhubarb can quickly cook and break down to a mushy consistency which I did not want.

Other than taking the time to let the meat marinate and using a watchful eye with the rhubarb, this is an easy meal to prepare and was certainly just different enough to warrant making its way onto these pages.

Lemongrass Pork with Rhubarb Sauce

  • 2 stalks lemongrass, chopped
  • 1 lime, quartered lengthwise and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • ½ cup tonic water
  • 1 ½ pound pork tenderloin
  • 2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 large stalks)
  • 2 cups water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ small red onion, diced (reserve remaining half for other use)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • Hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. In large bowl, combine lemongrass, chopped lime, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons honey, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, and tonic water.  Mix together.  In baking dish or plastic bag, place tenderloin and pour marinade the meat.  Turn several times to completely coat the tenderloin.  Let marinade for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. While meat is marinating, combine water and sugar in small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves.  Add rhubarb and cook, just until water begins to boil.  Rhubarb should be soft but not mushy.  Using slotted spoon, transfer rhubarb to bowl and add remaining tablespoon of honey and tablespoon of vinegar.  Add onion, carrot, lime juice, and several dashes of hot sauce and mix well.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°F.  In large cast iron skillet (or other oven proof pan), heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add tenderloin and cook for about five minutes, turning several times to brown the meat.  Transfer to the oven and cook for about 15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145°.  Transfer meat to platter and tent with foil.
  4. Place skillet on stove over high heat.  Add rhubarb mixture and stir to deglaze the pan.  Turn off heat.
  5. Slice tenderloin and serve with the rhubarb sauce.

Thoughts from a Weekend’s Cooking

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking dumplings on Friday night, baking a variety of muffins and scones on Saturday, helping to cook an impromptu birthday dinner with my girlfriend, and then finally catering a 25-plus person brunch on Sunday.  It was also an unusual stretch which saw me cooking in three different kitchens: my own, Lena’s parent’s kitchen, and my aunt and uncle’s kitchen.

Since I was relying on a handful of tried-and-true recipes pulled from cookbooks and internet sources, there are few original recipes for me to share with you here.  I do, however, have a series of thoughts from that much cooking that might be worth mentioning here, as one of my goals with JustAddBacon has been exploring the background knowledge behind cooking, because a little bit of knowledge can carry you a long way in the amateur kitchen.  Before I go on, though, do yourself a favor and whip up a batch of this lemonade “concentrate, mix it with champagne (or, equally as delicious, club soda, if that’s your bag) and read on:

New England Lemonade

  • 2 ½ cups freshly squeezed lemon juice, from about 15 lemons
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup honey

1.       Combine lemon juice, syrup, and honey.  Whisk well until combined and refrigerate until cold.  Stir again before using.

To serve with champagne: add one tablespoon lemonade concentrate to champagne flute, top with champagne.

To serve with club soda: add three tablespoons to Collins glass, add ice, and top with chilled club soda.

Thoughts from a weekend’s worth of cooking:

  • Chinese-style dumplings are not terribly difficult to make from scratch.  Sure, rolling out each dumpling’s dough takes some extra time but it seems worthwhile to me when you eat them.  Depending on the circumstances, those are going to be in the rotation for cocktail parties for sure.  Recipe here.
  • If you ever want to bake scones, I’m not quite sure why this is, but use turbinado sugar instead of white granulated sugar.  Perhaps it is like switching between table salt and kosher salt – bigger crystals yield less weight per volume measurement (and why some chef’s demand that all measurements be by weight).  But the cranberry-pecan scones I made from a recipe on Epicurious.com, which I have made before, were incredible and that is the only difference I can think of.
  • Tom Douglas’ coconut cream pie recipe is just damn good.
  • Traditional champagne cocktails using sugar cubes soaked in Angostura bitters is a classic cocktail for a reason: it’s acidic, sweet, refreshing and full of interesting flavor all in one.  I am a fan of bitters to begin with, so that certainly helps, but this is a cocktail that I wish was easier to find at local bars.  Even with the rise of cocktail culture in recent years, the champagne cocktail(s) is something that seems curiously under-represented among even serious cocktail bars.  To me, it’s the cocktail equivalent to the session beer: a thirst-slaking drink that can be imbibed with near-disregard because of the lightness and relatively low alcohol (when compared to most cocktails).
  • Even if you know a kitchen well and have spent countless hours there, you don’t know it all until you stand behind the stove and spend some time trying to prepare a meal.  The kitchen at my aunt and uncle’s house is a place that I have spent a lot of time (hell, I could spin tales about the building of the house itself), but until Sunday I had never really cooked a meal there.  It’s a much different experience when you’ve got three pans heated, something in the oven, and you’re trying to chop herbs for a frittata.
  • ·         Sorbets require a particular balance between sitting in the freezer and the refrigerator.  The former simply makes flavored ice; the latter gives you cold syrup.  This isn’t wholly surprising, really.

Grilled Shrimp with Coconut Risotto

In Main Dish, Seafood, Side Dishes on June 5, 2010 at 5:16 am

On Monday I was hanging out at my parent’s house and decided that rather than get stuck in any traffic meandering back from the Cape toward Boston in the haze of Quebecois smoke, it would be just as easy to stay the afternoon and eat dinner at their house.  We took a quick assessment of what we had available and decided to grill shrimp and corn and serve it alongside some rice.  Sounded easy enough.

The whole meal

Grilling shrimp is probably the easiest thing to cook, right alongside toast and grilled cheese.  Once they hit the heat of a grill, it takes a matter of minutes before you know they’re done.  And those little crustaceans also turn pink, letting you know when they’ve finished cooking.  Grilling corn is one of the highlights of the summer season for me, resulting in pleasantly charred cobs that are never soggy.  My biggest pet peeve about corn is when it has been boiled in a pot of water and left to sit.  It’s repulsive, turning perfectly good corn into something that I expect to be poured out of a can sixteen years after nuclear war has left me huddled in a bunker.  In the past I have grilled corn directly on the grill, wrapped bare cobs in foil, and pulled back the husks, removed the silk, and tied the husks back over the corn.  They all work and they all have the shortcomings.  The naked corn gets too burned, the foiled cob can get charred or be left too moist, and the pull-back-the-husk method is a nuisance.  On Monday, per Lena’s suggestion, we pulled about half the husks off and threw them right on the grill, the remaining husks and silk still intact.  I was suspicious.  But when time came to try eating the corn, I was amazed at how easily the silk pulled away with the husk, yielding a perfectly grilled ear of corn.  Consider me converted.

For the rice, I wanted to do something a little different.  I had recently made a Mark Bittman recipe for coconut rice using jasmine rice and coconut milk as the only liquid.  But the only rice we had available was Arborio rice so it looked like we were having risotto.  This recipe makes a very nice risotto that is extremely rich while only adding coconut milk and stock to the rice.  The coconut flavor comes through and while tasting a little bit sweet, pairs nicely with the grilled shrimp.

Grilled Shrimp with Coconut Risotto and Grilled Corn

  • 1 lb shrimp, thawed, deveined, and shelled
  • ¼ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Zest of 1 lime; lime then halved
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 can chicken stock
  • 4 ears corn
  1. Skewer shrimp and set aside.  Combine coconut milk and stock, whisking to combine.
  2. In small saucepan, melt butter over low heat and add garlic and lime zest.  Cook for five minutes, stirring several times.  Squeeze half of lime into pan and stir.
  3. Light grill and let warm.  Arrange coals so that one side of grill is cooler or if using a gas grill, keep one burner unlit to achieve the same thing.
  4. Pull off half of the outer layers of corn husk.  Place corn on grill over the cooler side and cook for 20-25 minutes, rotating every five minutes.
  5. In large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Cook onion until soft and translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Add rice and stir to cover in oil, cooking for about one minute.  Pour about one cup of coconut-stock mixture over rice and stir to combine.  Let cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has absorbed.  Add about ½ cup of the stock mixture and again let cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed.  Continue until all liquid is used.
  6. Oil grates on grill and place shrimp skewers on grill.  Brush liberally with melted butter.  Cook for 2 minutes on each side or until shrimp are pink.  Just before pulling off the grill, squeeze the remaining lime half over shrimp.
  7. Serve shrimp with risotto and corn.