Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tweaks Needed: Warm Spicy Greens with Bacon and Eggs

Billed by Bittman as "the salad for meat-eaters," this was not one of my favorite dishes so far. Part of that could have been the greens I selected (mustard) or the fact that they were kind of on the wet side when I put the salad together (I don't have a salad spinner). It was a good start, I guess, something I'd like to try again in the future.


So, to make this recipe, you fry up a few strips of bacon, cut into small pieces (I'm sure pancetta and the like work well here, too). Then you add some onions or shallots, and let those soften, then deglaze the pan with a bit of red wine vinegar and mustard. This sauce makes the dressing for the salad. Place the greens in a warm bowl, toss with the bacon dressing, and then top each portion with a poached egg.

I thought this salad would make a great main course, and that's how I served it. Unfortunately, a series of circumstances made it a really just-okay salad. First of all, I'd never eaten raw mustard greens before; their name is no joke. It was like eating greens laced with wasabi. Some bites were mild enough, while others brought on hot tears. I could barely taste the bacon! Eating it, I thought that perhaps quickly blanching the greens might make them a bit milder, one possible tweak to make this recipe a bit more bearable.

Sidebar: Jacques Pepin makes a similar salad, with frisee instead of greens and the bacon on top instead of incorporated into the dressing. Looks really good. You can watch the episode of Pepin's show where he makes the salad here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Others Cooking Everything: Four is a Trend (Piece)

Making every recipe in How to Cook Everything isn't the most original idea in the world. Obviously I started my project in a post-Julie & Julia world,* and I'm hardly the first person to see the power contained within How to Cook Everything and its recipes. It's impossible not to think to yourself, after a while of reading through Bittman's encouraging prose, "What if I cooked everything?" It's no surprise, then, that I am not the only blogger out there attempting this goal.

There's the Clumsy Gourmet, who recently widened her approach beyond How to Cook Everything, but still worships at the altar of Bittman.

There's Waiting for Bittman, a group-authored blog with "hopes of attracting the attention of their cooking muse." Don't they know how easy it is to e-mail the man?

There's Cooking My Way Through How to Cook Everything, which is short on pictures but full of helpful pointers--much like myself, Brandy wants you to learn from her mistakes.

Shout out as well to the Big Girls, Small Kitchen blog as well. They're not limiting themselves to Bittman's recipes, though they use them occasionally, and I feel like I could totally vibe with Phoebe and Cara, the Quarter-Life cooks.

So who's going to bite and write a story about this new wave of Bittman devotees? I'm embarassingly easy to reach for comment. Just saying.

*For the record, I think the movie was quite enjoyable, a unique rom com for the ages, while I thought Julie Powell's original book was a piece of self-indulgent trash.

Monday, August 17, 2009

While the Basil's Cheap: Traditional Pesto

It's that time of year when it seems like everything is in season. Basil, it seems, gets lost in the shuffle. But don't let it! For three bucks you can buy more than enough basil for a batch of pesto. And it couldn't be easier, as long as you have a food processor.


Basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and oilve oil go into the food processor. Turn it on, pour in a bit more oil as it whirrs, and you're good to go. If you're going to eat it right away, add grated parmesan or romano. Otherwise, leave it out until right before you serve the pesto. I was freezing this batch, so I left it out.


That's it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Philly Weekend: Grilled Pizza

Carly and Rob are using a patch of their backyard to grow some organic vegetables. There are herbs, squash, beets, carrots, and even a couple of baby watermelons (adorable). I used some of their homegrown rosemary and cherry tomatoes on some grilled pizza, and then topped another small pie with dried figs, prosciutto and sauteed onions.


Like I learned last time Pizza dough is really easy to make, and grilling it is also surprisingly easy. I just rolled it out, brushed olive oil on one side, put it on the grill oil side down, and let it firm up a bit.


Then I brushed the other side with more oil, flipped it, added toppings, and let it finish cooking. Cooking time was only about five minutes--I opted for toppings that were all precooked. The tomato pie was simple and tasty--the dough was chewy and tender, less crunchy than it would have been in the oven but just as delicious. And the the fig-prosciutto-onion pie, not a Bittman idea but all Carly's, had that amazing sweet-salty thing going on.


Basically, everyone should try making their own pizza, and if you are lucky enough to have access to a grill, then you should also grill your own pizza. Someday soon, I'm going to try this on the stovetop.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Don't Forget the Celery Salt: The Paupered Chef on Chicago Hot Dogs

I think this was the greatest hot dog I've ever eaten.

This doesn't have to do with How to Cook Everything, or Mark Bittman, and it's not even that recent (the post is a few weeks old). But I'm having some technical difficulties with our next regularly scheduled post. So: Blake Royer has an ode to the Chicago Hot Dog up on over at The Paupered Chef. Says Blake:
The Chicago Hot Dog is, perhaps, one of the most improbable food combinations in the world. We do know this: it shouldn't work. A towering, precipitous bundle, loaded up with so many condiments that it's twice the volume of the dog itself. It threatens to fall apart, to be so absurd it forgets its provenance as a hot dog. It's misguided, it's madness. Yet it's mad enough to succeed brilliantly.
It's complete with instructions and pictures (his form when it comes to mustard application, it should be noted, is a perfect ten). And Blake touches on what might be my very favorite part of the Chicago dog: "The only thing it doesn't need is ketchup."

The only thing I can't back, no matter how authentic, is the steamed dog. I need mine grilled. Luckily, that's fine by the Paupered Chef team. At least I don't insist on ketchup.

Find a way to eat one of these. Going to Chicago is probably the best way: Wieners Circle is good, Murphy's is better (that's where I ate the hot dog pictured above). If you're in New York, the Shake Shack serves a Chicago Dog (unfortunately renamed the "Shack-Cago Dog") that I think comes respectfully close to the real thing.

Let me know your favorite hot dog in the comments; also please let me know if you care to weigh in on the "Wiener Circle" vs. "Wieners Circle" vs. "Wiener's Circle" debate.

How to Make a Chicago-Style Hot Dog [the paupered chef]
Murphy's Red Hots [yelp]
Wiener Circle [yelp]
Shake Shack [official site]

Friday, August 7, 2009

Philly Weekend: Grilled Split Sesame Chicken

So, another weekend out of town and another feast prepared in a spacious regular-people kitchen. This weekend I was in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where my cousin Carly and her husband Rob and their seven month old daughter Lily live. I made what I'd call a feast, and I'm going to break it up into a few different posts.


The good news: Carly and Rob have a grill! It's a gas grill, something I've never cooked on before, but I could get into. So convenient! Anyway, I decided that for the main course I'd make grilled split chicken, something I've done before in the broiler but never on the grill. I used the Sesame Grilled Chicken variation from the chart on page 642 ("11 More Ways to Vary Grilled or Broiled Boneless Chicken," which I assumed work for bone-in chicken as well).

The hardest part of this is taking out the chicken's backbone so you can flatten it on the grill. Splitting it, in so many words. After splitting, I threw it in a ziplock bag with the marinade (ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, vegetable oil, salt pepper) and stuck it in the fridge 'til it was time to grill.


When the grill was hot, I put it on the cool side, skin side up, and let it cook for about 20 minutes. Then it was time to flip, skin side down, and let the skin crisp up and the chicken finish cooking on the inside. Then it was just a matter of carving it up and getting it on the table.

Splitting chicken is great because you decrease the cooking time of a whole chicken, while still keeping it really moist and juicy. It's almost impossible to overcook this way. Just the best of both worlds: the juiciness of a whole chicken with the cooking time of chicken parts. It's probably going to be my new go-to chicken method, since I'd rather broil than roast at home.