Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spenser follow-up

I've had some emails asking about the Spenser novels and how they relate to food. I forgot to include this link to the incredibly fun resource for Spenser fans Bullets and Beer. It hasn't been updated in eons, but I go on now and again just for the hell of it. Here, however, is a list of what Spenser cooked in each book from Godwulf up until Cold Service, which I believe was from 2006. The site's author states on the splash page that he hasn't kept up with the site or the series due to other commitments but, with regard to the series at least, I can't really blame him. Whilst the bulk of the Spenser novels are top-notch (if you love well-written, sharp dialogue, these are the books for you), later Spensers are a bit weak and suspension of disbelief is in order. But I digress. Check out the link for a fairly comprehensive view of Spenser as Cook and see if you, like me, are at all inspired to raid the kitchen.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Man with the Golden Gun

For reasons completely unknown to me, I decided yesterday I absolutely had to have Thai food. Nothing too complicated, mind you, as the chittlins were home and they can only be trusted alone for so long. So I rooted through my recipes from my Thai cooking class and tweaked this together. It's a rather simple stir-fry, similar to a Chinese dish, with a few Thai ingredients.

Thai-style Stir Fry with Chicken

(Instead of repeating myself in a most annoying fashion, note that the chicken and veggies are all thinly sliced. And you can obviously use any veggies you want and eliminate the meat.)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 carrots
1 bell pepper
1 small/medium yellow onion
2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp soy sauce (I used Thai-style thin soy but really, soy sauce is pretty much soy sauce for this dish)
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp Thai chili paste (more if you like it hot)
1 tsp brown sugar
Sliced scallions

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok (I don't have a wok; my paella-ish pan works well) until screechingly hot. Stand back and add the chicken, trying to get it in one layer so it can be tossed about rather than steaming. After it's no longer pink, toss in the veggies, garlic, and ginger (I add the garlic and ginger now because whenever I add them with the chicken they burn and get all kinds of nasty) and quickly cook for about 3 minutes (you want the chicken thoroughly cooked and the veggies just beyond raw). Add the soy/oyster/fish sauces, the chili paste (if using), and the sugar making sure everything is coated and the sauces are well-blended. Cook for about another 2 minutes. Serve over rice (jasmine, basmati, or regular long-grain, doesn't matter) and sprinkle abundantly with the scallions. Or not. I just love them.

Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Peppah!) might not take a shine to this but I'm betting Bond, James Bond could easily find a nice champagne to go with.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

RIP Robert B. Parker

I am a huge fan of the Spenser novels written by Robert B. Parker. And not just because Spenser is pure of heart. The man can cook. Every book sees him in the kitchen cooking: for himself, for his girlfriend (Susan Silverman), for a damsel in distress. Take, for instance, this passage from the first Spenser novel, The Godwulf Manuscript:

"I put on a pot of rice to cook and got four boneless chicken breasts out of the meat keeper. I cooked them with wine and butter and cream and mushrooms. While they cooked I tossed a salad and made a dressing with lime juice and mint, olive oil, honey, and wine vinegar. There were two bottles of Rhine in the refrigerator for which I'd originally had other plans, but I could buy some more tomorrow."

I want to eat that meal. I can envision it on one of my favorite plates. I'm tasting it now. And there are many others. Hell, even kitchen-phobic Susan makes beet risotto and even goes out of her way to buy a white bowl so it will look pretty.

I love these books. I re-visit them every summer because they are so easy to get lost in. And they make you hungry. They make you want to cook.

We even named our dog Spenser and our cat Pearl (after Spenser's dog; we adopted her to keep Spenser company).

Thank you, Mr. Parker. You will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Recipe Swipe Due

By now you all are well aware of my mad love for Rachel Allen. This absolutely fantastic recipe for Chicken Ginger & Cashew Stir Fry with Coconut Noodles is from her book Rachel's Favourite Food at Home. I've seen her prepare it a hundred times on my DVD but finally got off my ass and made it. So good. The best part is that no meat is necessary so it's a wonderful meal for veggies and vegans alike (I actually preferred it without the chicken). It did make quite a bit but I picked at the leftovers and the chittlins actually enjoyed eating the coconut noodles; granted, they called them cheese noodles but hey, they tried something new--and even tried chopsticks--so who am I to burst their bubble. I played with the vegetables I had in my fridge so I can say that it worked very well with fresh broccoli and green peppers. Next time I'd like to try it with eggplant and maybe something green, like bok choy.

Weekend wrap-up, part two

A gorgeous, all-natural sirloin steak from NoneSuch Farm Market. Seriously light years beyond anything you can get at a grocery store.

A big-ass, locally grown Granny Smith picked up at Tanner's. At $.49/lb a flippin' bargain in this neck of the woods. Of course, when you get big-ass apples you make:

Applesauce. Three pounds of chunked Grannies, 1 cup apple cider, simmer until soft, mash by hand with a potato masher. Yum.

You also make Gordon Ramsay's Caramelized Apple Tart. I don't believe this is the proper name; however, it's the tart recipe from his Three Star Cookbook, sans the homemade ice cream and puff pastry crust. I'm not a huge fan of the commercial puff pastry because of the greasiness of the shortening used to make it so I made my own all-butter pie crust. And, may I say, this is fan-freakin'-tastic.

Even better with Tanner's homemade vanilla ice cream.

All so full of yum.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Weekend wrap-up, part one

Broccoli Soup

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small leek, white & light green parts only, finely sliced
4 tbsp butter
Salt & pepper
Guts from 6 baked potatoes or 3 peeled and diced raw potatoes
1 small head broccoli, stalk trimmed, all finely chopped
3 cups water
1 cup milk

Saute the onion and leek in the butter until soft, seasoning well with salt & pepper. Add the potatoes. If using raw, cook for 5 minutes; if using guts, break up and cook through until softened. Add broccoli and cook for about 10 mins until it's not so raw. Add water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add milk, stir, then blitz with an immersion blender until it's a nice puree. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes to blend flavors.

This is a good soup, not one I'd run over a basket of kittens for, but very hearty and healthy, even with the butter (I used 1% milk because that's what we keep in the house). You get about 6-8 servings at least. It's very nice with sourdough rolls on the side for dunking. You can also live dangerously and sprinkle the soup with some nice Pecorino Romano cheese. Yum.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Just because...

Steak & ale pie with buttered cabbage. This is just one of the many meals of my dreams. I seriously cannot understand how people can only eat to live when there are so many dishes like this to be savored.

On a side note...

I'm participating in Recipe Girl's Ten in 10 Challenge. Now, I think you all know by now how very, very much I love food--just like all of you. :-) However, it has been loving me back a little too much and this seemed like a fun thing to do just to remind myself that I need to exercise so those excess cupcakes and steak pies don't become a permanent part of my figure.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Recipe Swipe Uno

I found this recipe for Apricot Chicken and, being as we're having a long cold spell here right now, it seemed the perfect time to try chicken in my crock pot. The end result I think looks really good, and the addition of green beans and sweet potatoes made it an easy, complete meal with very little work.

Unfortunately, I cannot rave about it. If you notice at the beginning of the recipe, Stephanie says that this is so good people will not believe it came from a crock pot. I'm glad I didn't have people over because, truthfully, they would have not been at all surprised. The flavor was light, almost insipid, and the chicken tasted absolutely nothing of the sauce. Now, as I added the green beans during the last 15 mins of cooking, they could not be blamed for sucking flavor out of the sauce or watering it down; nor can the sweet potatoes be at fault. I tasted the sauce on its own and it's just lacking. I can't figure out what I did and I'm more than sure the author's final dish was rave-worthy but this is not one I will be making again.

Oh, and even the chittlins turned up their collective nose. And they love chicken.

However, I can recommend the book this recipe is in, as it's a good read and has nice little snippets of what her friends and family thought of each recipe. There are plenty of really interesting ideas for cooking with the crock pot that make me really glad I've held on to mine for so long. The book doesn't have any photos but the site is loaded for bear so you can easily hop online to take a look at her finished dishes.