Monday, July 6, 2020

Around the World in Eight Cookbooks - Part 2

You waited, he delivered - here's part 2 of Conrad's culinary journey around the globe! If you missed it, read part 1 right here or just scroll down the blog!

Smitten Kitchen​ by Deb Perelman. My daughter loves this book, and I am utterly unqualified to go against anything she has to say on the matter, so I won’t. She is, as usual, quite right. Normally, I abhor vegetarian cooking that merely substitutes vegetables for meat. Were I to become a vegetarian or vegan, I would go whole hog (so to speak) and adopt a cuisine that never really came about as an attempt to wean carnivores from meat. Having said that, I would probably bow to the inevitability of my own inconsistency, and would eat this dish.

 Mushroom Bourguignon

2 Tbs. olive oil, 2 Tbs. butter, softened, 2 Lbs. mushrooms (criminis or portabellas, something dark and earthy), in chunks, 1 Cup pearl onions (or just a bunch of white onions cut into small chunks … let’s face it, peeling all those tiny onions is more trouble than they’re worth. Or I guess you could always buy them frozen.), ½ Carrot, diced fine (or you could even, GASP, use a whole carrot!!!!), 1 small yellow onion, finely diced, 1 Tsp. fresh thyme (or dried), Salt and pepper to taste, 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 cup red wine (the better the wine, the better the result …),  2 Tbs. tomato paste, 2 Cups broth (mushroom broth, if you can find it, otherwise any vegetable broth or even beef), 1-½ Tbs all purpose flour

In a dutch oven, over high heat, melt 1 tbs of the butter with 1 tbs of the olive oil. Sear the mushrooms and onions until they take on color (3-4 minutes). Remove from the pan. Lower heat to medium, add the 2nd tbs of oil. Add the carrot, yellow onion, thyme, and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes until onions start to brown. Add garlic for 1 more minute. Add more salt and pepper. Add wine, scrape the bits of stuff from the bottom of the pan, turn the heat way up, and reduce the liquid by half (4-5 minutes). Stir in tomato paste and broth, bring to a boil, then drop heat to simmer another 10-15 minutes until everything is done. Combine flour and remaining butter, and add that. Stir together. Taste for seasoning, adjust things accordingly. Serve over egg noodles with sour cream and parsley.

This recipe comes from Sunset Mexican Cookbook​ by the Editors of Sunset Magazine - this is another of my mom’s cookbooks and I doubt it’s in print anymore - there are lots of Mexican cookbooks that would have this recipe in them. Try The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy (ed. note - currently backordered, call the store about this one if you're interested, or for another suggestion!)

Guidado de puerco con tomatillos

 Mexican food has really been on the short end of the stick when it comes to respected international cuisines. It is second to none! It is so much more than tacos and enchiladas, although, to be fair, tacos and enchiladas are pretty good eating! This dish is just ridiculously good.

2 ½ lbs boneless pork (shoulder? Tenderloin? Whatever… pretty much anything), 2 Tbs vegetable oil, 1 large onion, diced, 2 cloves garlic, minced (I use more, of course), 1 ½ Cups chopped fresh (or canned) tomatillos, 2-3 diced jalapenos or serranos or whatever type of hot, green chili peppers you like, and however many you like for flavor and heat, 1 Tsp dried marjoram, ¼ Cup chopped cilantro (okay, here I’m good with that), ½ Cup water, Salt

Trim fat from pork and cut into 1 inch cubes. Heat oil in 3-4 quart pan over medium heat. Add meat a bit at a time in batches so it browns instead of greys (all sides). Remove from the pan. Add onion and saute until translucent. Return meat with its juices. Stir in garlic, tomatillos, chilies, marjoram, cilantro, and water. Cover and simmer until meat is tender (about an hour) - you can also do this in the oven at 350 degrees.  Spoon into a bowl and serve with sour cream and cilantro sprigs.

And now to get fancy.

The Africa News Cookbook​ by Patricia Ford (this is out of print - my copy is pretty old and thumbed. Try The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent by Jessica B Harris) African cuisine is too varied for a single book to do “it” justice - this recipe is West African, specifically from Ghana.

Hkathenkwan (Groundnut Stew)

1 chicken, cut up into 7-8 pieces, or 2-3 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken cut into 2 inch cubes, 1 inch of ginger, peeled and sliced, ½ an onion, 2 Tbs. tomato paste, 1 Tbs peanut oil, 1 Cup diced onion, 1 Cup diced tomatoes, ⅔ Cup peanut butter, 2 Tsp salt 2 chilies, crushed (or 1 tsp cayenne, or to taste),
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed, 2 Cups fresh or frozen okra, cut into rounds

Boil chicken with ginger and the ½ onion in 2 cups of water. In a separate large pot, heat peanut oil, add tomato paste, diced onion, and tomatoes. Stir occasionally and cook until onions are soft. Remove chicken from its pot and add to cooking tomatoes, also add ½ of the stock it was cooking in. Add peanut butter, salt, and chilies. Cook for 5 minutes. Add eggplants and okra. Continue cooking until everything is done. Add more broth as needed. It should be a thick stew when finished. Serve over rice.

And now to get crazy elaborate, but so worth it!

From Paella​ by Alberto Herraiz: There is no dish in the world that I like more (to cook or eat) than paella, Spain’s national dish. A paella can be really basic and simple (it developed as a way to handle leftovers) or incredibly intricate and involved. Like a tagine, paella is named after the vessel it cooks in, which is essentially a flat frying pan. You can easily make do with any flat-bottomed pan or pot you may have at hand. You need to prepare before you get down to business:

Sofrito (basically, tomato sauce)

2 Tbs olive oil, 1 tomato, diced, ½ red onion, diced, ½ red bell pepper, diced, 3 cloves garlic, minced, Salt, and pepper

Heat everything in a small pot until hot, then drop to simmer. Mash things up as they cook until you have a thick sauce, Transfer to a small food processor, and process into a sauce. Add a pinch or two of smoked paprika. Set aside until ready to use.

Fumet (basically, a broth)

Combine until you have 2 cups: ¾ Cup clam juice, 1 Cup chicken stock, and ¼ Cup white wine. Add onion skins, 6-8 black peppercorns, whole herbs, shrimp tails - whatever you think will enhance the flavor. Bring to a quick boil then drop to a simmer. Let it simmer for at least an hour. Keep adding more juice/stock/wine to stay at 2 cups. Strain out all the crud so you just have broth. Put back on super low heat. Add a pinch of saffron.

And finally, The Paella:

1 ¾ - 2 Cups fumet, ¼ Cup olive oil 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced, 15-20 medium sized shrimps (about ½-1 lb), A whole chicken in pieces or 1-2 lbs boneless skinless chicken but cut into bitesized pieces, 4-5 small pork sausages or the equivalent in Spanish (not Mexican, too spicy) chorizo or andouille), cut into rounds, ¾-1 Lb squid, about ⅔ sacs cut into rings, and the rest tentacles cut however you wish, 1 Cup bomba rice (Spanish, small grained rice that readily absorbs liquid, arborio is an okay substitute, but is really not the same thing - you could use long grain, if you must), ½ cup or slightly more of sofrito, ½ Tsp (or more) of Spanish smoked paprika, ¼-½ Tsp (or more) of saffron threads, Salt

Relax. Take a deep breath. Ready? Having made the sofrito and fumet separately, and chopped and diced everything so you have them when they are needed:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Heat olive oil in your flat bottom pan over low heat until it is hot. Turn heat up to medium and add the garlic, fry until it’s golden brown. Add the chicken to the center of the pan. Brown on all sides. Push to the edge of the pan. Add sausages. Brown. Push to edge with chicken. Add squid. Cook until the sac rings swell and become white. Push to edge with chicken and sausage. Add shrimp. Cook until they turn pink. Mix it all together. Drop heat to low and add rice. Mix thoroughly until rice is everywhere. Do not let the rice burn. Add sofrito and mix thoroughly. Add remaining paprika. Mix, you know, thoroughly. Pour in fumet. Add remaining saffron and mix (sigh) thoroughly. Cook on low for 17 minutes. Turn heat up to high, and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir constantly and don’t let it burn to the bottom of the pan. Scrape it up. Taste to make sure rice is mostly done (al dente, as it were) and for seasoning (keeping in mind that the flavors will intensify in the oven). Put it in the oven for 12 minutes. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes.

If it has slightly burned to the bottom while in the oven, you have done well! That is called the socarret (crust) and is prized as the most flavorful part of the dish. Serve with a big salad and a nice glass of sangria or fruit juice.

These books and dishes are far from comprehensive. I could have easily chosen eight different recipes from each book, or eight different books for each cuisine, or indeed, eight different cuisines. Enjoy any of these or similar recipes they may inspire. They are basically straight out of the books, but are mere launching pads for your culinary excursions. Your imagination is the only limit.

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