September 2011 COTM, Slater/ Kitchen Diaries: Spring
Please use this thread to discuss and review recipes from the chapters for March, April and May.
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A fast cake with blueberries and pears, p136 British edition
The small pear tree in my small garden has produced a lot of fruit this year, for some reason (probably weather-related), and so I'm looking for recipes to use them up. I also wanted to take a sweet treat to work tonight to cheer everyone up and this fitted the bill nicely.
It's easy to make - a basic cake batter which is equal parts butter, sugar and flour, made in the usual way, with eggs and baking powder. Then you scatter cubed pears and blueberries over the top before you bake. The recipe is here:
Mine didn't rise that much, which I initially thought was my fault (I am not a regular baker of cakes and my baking powder was pretty old), but having googled the recipe I think it's supposed to be like that. I've only tasted a very small amount as I'm taking it to work, but it was delicious - moist and the blueberries cut nicely through the sweetness of both the cake and the pears. It helps that my pears are really good - I have no idea of the variety but they are golden-fleshed, sweet and very juicy. Just need to get through the other two dozen or so before they go bad!
Chicken with Mustard Seed and Coconut Milk, p. 108, American Edition
For some reason I'm cooking out of the month of April and it's actually September around here! Maybe because the evenings are just beginning to exhibit a bit of a chill . . .
Anyway, this recipe is subtitled "A fragrant chicken supper" for April 1. And it is that. You brown your chicken pieces in peanut oil and remove them from the pan. You then bloom lightly-crushed cumin, coriander, and black mustard seeds in the same pan, then add chopped small hot red chili peppers, shredded fresh ginger, and chopped onions. Stir "from time to time so that nothing burns." Next, simmer some chopped garlic, ground turmeric, chopped tomatoes, curry leaves, and a little salt in the same pan, stir in a can of coconut milk, and add the chicken back in. Partially cover and simmer until chicken is done, 20-30 minutes according the recipe.
The book's photo opposite the recipe tells a lot: you see a hearty, rustic-looking dish surrounded by plentiful golden sauce full of lots of chopped bits of deliciousness. And that's exactly what you get. The Indian-style combination of flavors goes nicely together. I had to make some minor substitutions for ingredients I couldn't find: brown mustard seeds for black ones; dried red hot chiles instead of fresh ones. I didn't have curry leaves, so left them out. I don't think my changes changed the flavor much, with the exception of the missing curry-leaves, which I hear can add a wonderful flavor. My chilies were the small red dried Thai chilies; I was rather fearful of their heat and only used one dried for the three fresh ones suggested; next time I'll used at least two.
My chicken took twice as long as Slater indicates to become fully tender; maybe my strapping American chicken pieces are larger than the usual British size?
I also liked that I could make the dish ahead; Slater remarks that he felt the sauce only improved "after a night in the fridge."
Chicken with Vermouth, Tarragon, and Cream, p. 141, American Edition
So here I go cooking out of the month of April again! This unctuously smooth, delicately flavored chicken dish has relatively few ingredients and not complicated prep-- though Slater gives very particular instructions about each step. Eight chicken pieces on the bone ("preferably thighs" but I used a combination of breasts and thighs) are seasoned with S & P, lightly browned in butter, and then the pan is deglazed with a wineglass* of dry vermouth plus 2 TBS of tarragon vinegar. Then the leaves from a small bunch of tarragon and 1 1/4 cup of heavy cream are added to the wine/vinegar mixture, at which point the chicken is added back to the pan and simmered until done--Slater says 15-20 minutes, though mine took longer. Slater suggests adding a squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of tarragon vinegar at serving time to brighten the flavor.
An easy, rich fricassee which tastes very French with that particular combination of vermouth, tarragon and cream. I used half and half instead of heavy cream and this was a mistake, I found-- not so far as flavor, but for texture. (more about this later) The other problem was that my family, while appreciative, did not feel the finished dish had enough flavor--it needed needed more "something" said Mr. Goblin. I'm pretty sure this was my fault; I did not have tarragon vinegar and used plain white wine vinegar. Though my tarragon was lovely and copious, fresh from the herb garden, the finished dish really needed more zip. A heavier hand with the lemon juice might have improved it, but I really think I'll steep my own tarragon-vinegar ahead for the next time I make this. Because I think this dish would be perfect for what Julia might term "a chic little luncheon" or dinner party if properly made and seasoned.
So what about the half-and-half? When I poured it into the hot reduced wine/vinegar mixture, it instantly curdled into tiny little pieces of casein. No amount of whisking could reconstitute it. It still tasted fine and I ended up serving it to my long-suffering family, but curdled non-the-less . The instructions, precise as they were, had not warned that only heavy cream (or creme-fraiche) can successfully be added to hot and acidic pan mixtures because they both contain so little casein. Not so with lighter half-anf-half, or sour cream. I should have remembered this! Sigh. Cooking can be a humbling process..
a unit of volume used in British food recipes. The wineglass holds 2.5 (British Imperial) fluid ounces, 5 tablespoonfuls, 1/2 gill, or about 71.0 milliliters. One wineglassful is equal to 0.60 U.S. cup.
There may well be something off in these conversions, which I confess I couldn't understand at all except for the last line about a British wineglassful equalling .6 of a US cup. ;-) After a certain amount of bewildering meandering around the internet, I took the definition from the following site, called "Units of Measurement" and published by someone named Russ Rowlett, from the U of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Scroll down to the entry "wineglassfull.")
Many thanks to Goblin for bringing this recipe (Chicken with Vermouth, Tarragon and Cream) to my attention. She's done a great job of describing it, so I don't have much to add. I did use the tarragon vinegar, fresh tarragon, and the lemon juice (which I almost forgot and added at the last moment). We all loved it. Licking the plates kind of loving it.
4.25 No Name Spaghetti Garlic Parmigiano Recipe, Pg. 135, USA Ed.
This recipe may be untitled but it's not unremarkable. Both for the ease of preparation and for the surprisingly delicious flavor of the finished dish.
What could be simpler: al dente pasta tossed with new season's garlic, olive oil, lots of freshly ground black pepper and imported Parmigiano Regiano. That's my kind of quick-in-a-hurry-meal. G is still at surprised how good it was with so few ingredients and so little effort. Served with the Goat Cheese and Beet Salad from Tender, page 48.
Cook's Note: Because my new season garlic was Very mild I used 4 rather large cloves instead of 2. NS uses finely chopped raw garlic but I chose to sauté it just for a few minutes since raw garlic and I don't like each other.
5.23 Roast Pork with Lemon and Potatoes, Pg. 167, USA Ed.
We made this at the end of August. Used everything the recipe called for: 16 new potatoes, 2 lemons, fennel seeds, olive oil, and a boned rolled loin of pork- 2 1/3 lbs - with just a thin layer of fat on one side..
NS says to just wipe the potatoes then proceed but our potatoes were straight out of the soil so I scrubbed them in water then dried, cut them in half, put them into a bowl. Slice the lemons in thin wedges, add to potatoes along with a drizzle of olive oil and large grindings of sea salt and black pepper.
Rub salt all over the pork then heat some oil in a roasting pan over high heat, place the pork in the pan and sear on all sides. Next, arrange the potatoes and lemons in the pan and cook for 20 minutes in a preheated 425F oven. Turn heat down to 400F and continue roasting at 25 minutes a pound/till juices run clear. During the roasting turn the potatoes and lemons once or twice to get them brown and covered with meat juice.
Stunning roast. Full of flavor and very satisfying. To tell the truth this is more or less the way I roast chicken sometimes... with cloves of garlic added.