M. Andrew Gordon

Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

Rabbit ragout

In Dinner Party, Main Dish, Uncategorized on October 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I’m not sure the first time I ate rabbit.  I can remember the first time I cooked it, three or four years and two apartments ago.  My roommate and I braised the rabbit in a mustard-cranberry lambic mixture and for some reason, even though I can not recall the specifics of that meal, I just flat-out fell in love with the flavor of rabbit.  Since then, I seek it out anytime I see rabbit on a menu, which thankfully is becoming more common.

This particular course for the dinner party was partly inspired by reading chef Peter Davis’s Fresh and Honest.  Davis is the chef at Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge and one recipe in the book had caught my eye (well, many have, but in particular): a grit cake topped with a mushroom ragout.  There is something I love about the idea of grits that are allowed to cool and harden enough to be served as a cake and the mushroom ragout sounded absolutely delicious.  But when planning my menu I realized that I wanted to have meat in one dish (there was going to be octopus in one course but no terrestrial meats elsewhere).  Ox tails seemed like a good item for this, as they could be braised until tender, cooking down and making its own stock around it.  Surprisingly, I had a little trouble finding ox tails, which I hadn’t been planning on.  I thought about using duck but, again, was thwarted by availability as finding just legs of duck was not easy.  I wasn’t sure the breast would make the best ragout anyway.

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Japonesa squash ravioli

In Dinner Party, Main Dish, Side Dishes on October 27, 2010 at 6:51 pm

I have written at great length about my love of the abobora japonesa, a wonderful specimen of squash, its warty green skin hiding the stunningly delicious interior.  It offers a more intense squash flavor than butternut with a dense texture similar to a buttercup squash.  Unlike many squashes, it can really stand on its own with little help from butter, brown sugar, maple, etc.  When I conceived this dinner, born on the idea of crafting a ravioli from scratch, the japonesa came to mind immediately as offering a unique filling for the ravioli.

To round out the filling, I knew I would want some other flavors (despite the squash’s inherent deliciousness) and would need something to thin out the texture for ease of filling the ravioli.  Caramelized onion provides additional sweetness and depth; fromage blanc, a simple fresh cheese, gives the filling a more creamy texture; chile and cumin powders give some heat and spice; and a touch of porter (just add beer!) lends some additional caramel notes.  It just so happened that there was a growler, or 64 ounce bottle, of Cambridge Brewing Company’s Charles River Porter in my fridge and as I poured myself a glass, the proverbial light bulb went off in my head: a small addition of porter would really be good in the squash filling!

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Octopus confit with mussels and beans

In Seafood on October 26, 2010 at 8:10 pm

I have been wanting to cook octopus confit for about a year, waiting patiently for the right moment.  Octopus has long been one of my favorite foods to cook and ever since I had a grilled octopus dish at Ceiba in Washington, D.C.  That grilled octopus haunts my dreams and not because I envision a ghostly mollusc out to seek revenge with charred tentacles but because the delicate flavor and that wonderful grilled smokiness was so damned delicious.

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New England Cheeses with New England Beers

In Dinner Party on October 25, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Beer and cheese are often very wonderful together and just as good as the more heralded wine and cheese pairing.  Some will get high minded and discuss beers superior attributes in these situations but I really find this adversarial nature of the beer versus wine discussion silly.  For the first course of this past Saturday’s dinner I wanted to showcase some cheeses of the region with beers from the region.

The first pairing was Westfield Farm’s Hickory Smoked Goat Cheese and Mayflower Brewing’s Autumn Wheat Ale.  Westfield Farm, based in Hubbardston, MA, produces some great goat cheeses and their hickory smoked one is delicious.  I have lately been enjoying smoked cheeses so I felt this would be an interesting one to try.  Mayflower has quickly become one of my favorite breweries, producing some high quality beers.  The Autumn Wheat is a welcome departure from the more usual marzen-style Octoberfest or pumpkin ales have become extremely prevalent.  The pairing worked quite well with the roasted malty notes of the ale balancing the smokiness.

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New England/Italian Autumn Dinner Party

In Dinner Party on October 24, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Last night I hosted the second of the once-a-month dinner parties I vowed to undertake upon moving to new apartment in September, a project which I will write about in greater depth soon and which should also yield some good recipe posts. The idea for the New England-Italian pairing was brought on by an interest in making ravioli and a modified affogato. From there I just decided to keep the whole thing rooted in some Italian culinary traditions, from menu structure to the actual food. I make no claim to have any great knowledge of those culinary traditions but that is a fairly accurate parallel to my general cooking style: a broad understanding paired with limited expertise and loose interpretation of rules, styles, and techniques.

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Thursday’s cusk

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Pan grilled Atlantic cusk with chanterelles, roasted Brussels sprouts, and bacon-stuffed eggplants.

A quick and different dinner for a Tuesday night

In Main Dish, Poultry, Soups and Stews on October 12, 2010 at 8:25 pm

A fairly quick dinner for a weeknight, made a little quicker by buying a pre-peeled butternut squash, not something I normally do.  The paprika, chile powder, and chile pepper give this stew a significant dose of heat.  If you’re not a fan of spiciness, I would omit the chile pepper.  This would also be delicious with coconut milk in place of some of the chicken stock.

Chicken-Butternut squash-Chickpea Stew

Serves 4

  • 2 lbs chicken breast, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash, chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 chile pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Combine half the paprika, chile powder, and cinnamon.  Coat chicken.
  2. Heat half the olive oil in large pan.  Add chicken and cook until browned all over.  Remove to a plate.
  3. Add remaining oil and cook squash until starting to brown and beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Add onion and garlic and cook for about five minutes.  Add remaining paprika and cumin, stirring to combine.  Cook for an additional five minutes.  Return chicken and squash to pan.
  4. Add chile pepper, chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Cover, lower heat to simmer, and cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Add chickpeas and cook for five minutes.  Stir in lemon zest and champagne vinegar.  Serve with cilantro, salt, and pepper.