Homemade Eggnog

Store mixes just can’t compare to homemade. It is a general rule that is hard to beat, and eggnog is no exception. Every season I try to find an excuse to make a version of my grandmother’s simple eggnog recipe. This weekend, we had a small gathering to let kids run amuck and I treated myself and the other parents to the following variation:

5 large eggs
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 pint light cream
1 pint heavy cream
ground nutmeg
ground cloves
dark rum

Separate the eggs whites and yolks.

Combine the yolks with the sugar and beat until very pale.

Beat in 1 cup of bourbon, 1/2 cup of brandy and 1/2 cup of dark rum.

Stir in the light cream and half of the heavy cream, a pinch of ground cloves and two big pinches of ground nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp).

Beat the rest of the heavy cream until stiff and fold in.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in.

Add additional nutmeg and liquor to taste. If memory serves for this latest batch, I added in an additional 1/4 cup bourbon, 1/8 cup brandy, 1/8 cup rum on top of the above amounts. (note: if you add more liquor, keep the ratio 2 parts bourbon to 1 part brandy, 1 part rum)

Curry Lentil, Chickpea and Spinach Soup

This was a hearty vegetarian soup I tried last night, inspired by this recipe spotted on Gojee, albeit with quite a few changes in ingredients and cooking time (and a much less pretty photo). It was simple to toss together and perfect for a cool evening.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large bunch spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
1 cup red lentils
6 carrots, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 tsp curry
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
big pinch of black pepper

In a soup pot, saute the onions in the oil for several minutes on medium-low heat and then add in the garlic, potatoes, and carrots. Saute, stirring occasionally, for another 10 to 15 minutes. Then add all of the other ingredients except for the spinach. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, and add more curry or cayenne if you want a stronger or hotter flavor. Add the spinach and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with some yogurt and potentially some fresh cilantro.

Summer Grilling: Crispy Arugula Salad and London Broil

The heat is a-rising here on the East Coast, and when it gets hot, my meals tend to get simpler and simpler. I was a bachelor tonight and made a classic (for me) summer meal, pairing a marinated, grilled london broil with a crispy arugula salad. Lisl always teases me that I never eat starch when she’s not around (she grew up in a household which didn’t count dinner as real unless there was a potato on the plate), and I guess I can’t argue with the evidence clearly in her favor. She is a lawyer after all.

The london broil marinade was a bit east-meets-west, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and the salad was simple, fresh and delicious.

Crispy Arugula Salad
1 bunch of fresh, fairly mature arugula (baby arugula is great, but less peppery)
green pepper
green pepper
fresh white button mushrooms
fresh thyme

lemon juice
champagne vinegar
olive oil
dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Make sure you wash and dry your arugula. Rip the largest leaves in half so the diner does not need a knife to eat the salad, and go with whatever ratios you like for the other ingredients. My salad had enough for two people: half a green pepper, 3 radishes, and 5 button mushrooms.

For the dressing, I used half a lemon, an equal amount of vinegar, a dab of mustard (like an eighth of a teaspoon), a pinch of salt and pepper, and olive oil to taste.

Addition: if you have time to mince up a shallot and let it sit in the lemon juice and vinegar for a few minutes before finishing the dressing, I highly recommend it.

London Broil

4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp of chopped fresh rosemary and winter savory
salt and pepper
soy sauce

I like to tenderize my london broil (usually a cut of Round) — which entails just putting the meat between two pieces of plastic wrap and giving it a few good bangs with a heavy pot.

For the marinade, wash and dry several sprigs of winter savory (use fresh oregano or thyme if you don’t have savory — I’m now addicted to it and plant it every year) and one big sprig of rosemary, and finely chop the herbs. Then smash the garlic cloves, remove the skin and mince. On both sides of the london broil, spread the herbs, a dusting of cumin, a drizzle of soy sauce, a healthy pinch of black pepper, and a small pinch of salt (given that the soy sauce is salty, I think it is better to go light at this point and taste for salt after grilling). If you have time, cover and put back in the fridge for a few hours. Otherwise you can let marinate at room temperate for 30 minutes or so.

Grill to preference (I like medium rare), let rest for a few minutes, then slice thin.

When it gets hot, I tend to go for whites and roses rather than red wine, so I paired this with a dry Riesling.

Now the only question is whether I let Lisl have any leftovers, or greedily keep it all for myself!

Tilda’s Curry Bluefish Stew

There is nothing like eating fish you catch yourself. We are up in Nantucket taking a short vacation with the family. The day after our arrival, my father and I caught a few bluefish and cooked them that evening with my dad’s classic “slather in mustard-and-mayo, then saute” method. This trip, our St. Lucian nanny, Clothilda, also came with us and she offered to make her curry fish stew if we caught some more.

Great point lighthouse and my dad reeling in the line

Talk about a motivator! We were on a mission. It took some determination and patience, but we finally landed ourselves a couple more blues and last night Tilda made her stew while I played sous-chef and took notes.

Tilda’s Curry Bluefish Stew

4 medium bluefish filets (this recipe would also be great for snapper and tilapia)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 red pepper, sliced into thin lengths (1” to 2” long)
1 green pepper, sliced into thin lengths (1” to 2” long)
8 garlic cloves, peeled then crushed or minced
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper
2 – 3 limes
3 medium tomatoes, sliced

A few hours before cooking, cut the fish filets into single-serving portions and sprinkle each side with a pinch of salt and pepper and fresh lime juice. Cover and return to the fridge until you cook.

Heat up the olive oil on medium high heat and add all the vegetables except for the sliced tomatoes (these get saved for the very end). Saute together for several minutes, then add the curry, turmeric, the tomato paste, about 1/4 tsp of table salt and a big pinch of black pepper.

Steps in the process

Taste for salt and heat. If you want it hotter, add more hot curry powder or some crushed red pepper flakes.

Once all the vegetables are cooked, remove half to a bowl and turn the stove burner down to low.

Place the filets on top of the vegetables still in the pot and squeeze the juice of a lime over the filets. Cover the fish with the remaining vegetables and then layer the thin slices of tomatoes on top.

Cover the pan so that the fish will steam, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes (if you are using a thinner filet like tilapia, check the fish after 10 minutes).

Taste for salt and pepper, and serve with rice. Delish!

Easy Baked Pork Tenderloin: Two Ways

I love to grill pork tenderloin, but with a freezing spring here, I have been baking in the oven instead for a tasty but extremely low-maintenance mid-week dinner. Here are two simple approaches, one European-inspired, the other Asian-inspired. If you can marinate the meat for 30-60 min before putting in the oven, so much the better.

The European-style Version
2 pork tenderloins
1.5 tbsp Grey Poupon mustard
A drizzle of Olive oil
White wine vinegar
Dried fennel seed, thyme, oregano
Salt and pepper

Place the pork in an oval baking dish. Smear the mustard all over the pork, and then drizzle a teaspoon or so of olive oil and about a third of a cup of white wine vinegar. Liberally salt and pepper, and then sprinkle a couple pinches of each of the dried herbs (crush up the fennel seed a bit first).

Pre-heat the oven to 425F and make sure the meat is well-coated in the sauce before putting into the oven. After the pork cooks for 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 350F. Flip the tenderloins after 25-30 minutes.

The critical factor is pulling the meat out at the right time. Start checking the temperature about 45 to 50 minutes in. Insert an instant read thermometer and remove each tenderloin when it reads 135. Let rest under foil for five minutes, then slice and serve, spooning some of the delicious sauce on top.

The Asian-style Version
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
A drizzle of olive oil (or sesame oil)
A healthy dose of soy sauce (est 1/3 cup)
2 tsp mirin sauce

Cook in the same way as above.

Pork Loin Roast w Orange Juice and Lime

I rarely mix fruit and meat. A pork-and-apples dish was the cause of a veritable showdown at the OK Corral of my mother’s kitchen when I was 7 years old.  But a few years ago when I was just starting out with this blog, I remember doing a pork roast with orange juice and loving it. I never recorded the recipe, but my brain did store away a mental bookmark to Bitchin’ Camero’s recipe from back in May 2009.  Last weekend, I finally took another shot at my own version.  The result was stunning.

Pork Loin Roast w Orange Juice and Lime
2 to 2.5lb pork loin roast
5 or 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 vidalia onion, sliced
1 very juicy lime, or a couple of normal ones
2/3 cup orange juice
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper

I recommend marinating the meat for half a day or more beforehand.  To make the marinade: zest the lime, finely chop the garlic, and mix it all together with the cumin, salt (for table salt, maybe 1/2 tsp), and a couple pinches of black pepper.  Rub this all around the meat, surround with the onions, pour the orange juice on top, and squeeze the juice from the lime over it all. Cover with plastic wrap, and if you can, turn the meat once or twice as it marinates.

To cook, pre-heat the over to 350F. You can see above that I transferred it all to a larger baking dish.  Cook the pork for about an hour, flipping it halfway, and remove from the oven when an instant-read thermometer registers 140F to 145F.

Cover with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.  Serve with the onions, which become deliciously candied, and drizzle the sauce from the roasting dish on top (if you left a good portion of fat on your roast, you might skim the sauce first).

Repeat: do not forget to plate the onions! Heaven.

This dish isn’t going to turn me into a fruit-and-meat man, but I will definitely be making it again.

(p.s. I can’t write a blog post without pimping my current startup Aprizi, the reason why my food blogging is so sporadic — please go try it out!)

Flageolet and Meatball Peasant Stew

I love Autumn. I love the temperature, the colors, the clothes, and of course the fact that my favorite cooking style fits the weather more naturally. This recipe falls squarely into that bucket, and was a huge hit with Lisl and a friend who came over this evening.  It combines a homemade Italian meatball with a French-style peasant stew.

1 lb ground pork shoulder
1.5 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp kosher salt (halve if you use table salt)
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
12 black peppercorns

Rest of Stew
1 lb dried flageolet beans (alternative: great northern)
1 large spanish or vidalia onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
large handful of white button mushrooms, diced
1/2 to 1 cup diced tomato
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
handful of parley
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
1 tbsp tomato paste

Cook the flageolet beans until al dente: place in a large pot with 1″ of water above the top of the beans. Add 3 bay leaves, bring to a boil, then remove the lid and simmer. Soaking beforehand will speed up cooking time. While the beans cook, do the next few steps.

Pound up the fennel seed, peppercorns and pepper flakes with a mortar/pestle, then add to the ground meat along with the salt. Mix together then mold into meatballs about 1.5″ in diameter. Heat up your stew pot (I use a dutch oven) on med-high heat with a little olive oil and brown the meatballs. Then set them aside and turn off the heat.

Spoon out most of the oil left in the stew pot, leaving enough to coat the bottom. Turn the heat back on to med-low. Cook the onions until translucent, then add the garlic, celery and carrots. Cook for a few minutes, then add the diced tomato and mushroom.

Separate the parsley stems and leaves, setting the leaves aside. Create a bouquet garnis by tying the parsley stems, rosemary sprigs, and 1 bay leaf together with kitchen twine. Add the bouquet garnis to the pot, and continue to let the vegetables gently cook.

Once the beans are al dente, drain or optionally reserve the cooking liquid. Add the beans and meatballs to the stew pot, add the wine, and add either water or the bean cooking liquid until the liquid level is about three-quarters up to the top of the food. Make sure the bouquet garnis is immersed, cover and either place the pot in a 350F oven or let simmer on the stove top.

After 40 minutes, taste for salt and gently stir in the tomato paste.

Remove about 1/2 of beans and vegetables to a food processor and puree.  Return to the pot and continue to cook until the beans are soft and the flavors have melded.  This step improves the texture, thickening the stew (I hate the common use of flour or starch to thicken).

Chop up the parsley leaves waiting in the wings all this time. Serve with the parsley and a little fresh pepper scattered on top.

Lamb meatballs with lemon zest, thyme and parsley

One of my favorite ways to have lamb is to grill lamb meatballs.  I play around with a lot of variations, such as this one. Another approach is mixing cumin, spring/red onions and a few supporting players together.  Tonight, I tried a new combination and Lisl was really happy with the results, so I’m recording it here (no picture, sorry!). The combination of the lemon zest and fresh thyme really give it a bright flavor.

The following measurements are a rough approximation:

1 lb ground lamb
thyme leaves from 5 or 6 fresh sprigs
1 tsp kosher salt (halve this if you use table salt)
large bunch of parsley, finely chopped
zest from 1 lemon
several grindings of fresh pepper

Combine the ingredients in a bowl with your hands, and form into meatballs about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter. I made 9 meatballs from 1 lb of ground lamb. Grill them, turning periodically so that multiple sides of the meatball get seared and it starts to firm up. I did not find that these needed a sauce, but a bit of fresh lemon juice, or a sauce of lemon juice mixed into greek yogurt might be nice.

Make sure you wash your lemon well before zesting, since they are often sprayed.  I’ll also note that lamb can be really hit or miss in the U.S. A lot of lamb sold here is too old, which I didn’t even realize until marrying an Australian and realizing how good lamb is down under. We do not eat lamb that often, but when we do, we get it from a very good butcher who works with carefully chosen local farms.

Brisket w Bacon, Tomatoes and Poblano Peppers

Hoo boy, it has been a long time since I have written a post here.  The startup is the guilty party of course. I’ve been cooking, but mostly variations of things already found on here.  This weekend I did a variation on brisket that I wanted to record.

4 or 5 lb brisket, from the lean end (in this case, grass-fed)
1.5 tbsp smoked paprika
1.5 tbsp kosher salt (if you use regular salt, use much less)
2 poblano peppers
4 or 5 pieces of bacon
2 spanish onions
1 28oz tin of whole, peeled tomatoes
7 or 8 cloves of garlic, peeled
7 bay leaves
2 sprigs of oregano

Preheat your oven to 275F.

Remove the excess fat from the top and bottom of the brisket, and rub the salt and paprika all over. Get your dutch oven nice and hot, splash a little grapeseed oil down, and quickly sear both sides of the brisket. Remove to the side, turn the heat way down, and saute the onions until translucent, then add the tomatoes.  Chop up your fresh oregano and mix in, along with half of the bay leaves.

Remove the stem and seeds from the poblano peppers.  Nestle the brisket on top of the onions and tomatoes, and wedge around it the poblano peppers, garlic cloves, a half cup of water, and the remaining bay leaves. Lay the bacon strips on top. Cover and cook in the oven for 5 hours, flipping the brisket halfway through, but keeping the bacon on top.

When done, remove the brisket and set aside on a carving board.  Slice across the grain to serve.

To make a sauce, remove the garlic cloves, bacon and the bay leaves. Skim as much of the oil/fat from the top as you can. Then blend the rest together with an immersion blender. Taste for salt. You might also brighten the sauce up with some fresh herbs such as parsley and/or oregano.