Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Low’n'Slow Pork: 2 days/2 ways

Posted: June 28th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 27 Comments »

Low & SlowAlong with being a sucker for a sale, I am a sucker for anything I can buy once and serve twice. Bulk cuts of meat are something that I will go for if I have the chance. Especially considering that Jesse happens to love BBQ.
Back in November, I made pork shoulder tacos in my slow-cooker. They were alright, but I always wondered if I could do better. I don’t really like cooking fatty things in a slow-cooker, since the fat stays IN the slow-cooker with your meat.
Then, 2 weeks ago, we went to the Big Apple BBQ Block Party in Madison Square Park, and I tasted my first ever real, true barbecue. I had pulled pork, brisket and smoked sausage with a ridiculously good vinegary sauce, and the first coleslaw I’ve ever actually enjoyed. I was amazed. I had no idea that things could taste like these pitmasters made them taste. Since then, the idea of BBQ has been in my head a little. So when I was looking for things to cook this week, I found pork shoulder on Fresh Direct, and decided to undertake slow-cooked pork two ways, using one base rub, one base cooking.

On Saturday morning, I got up, and concocted a spice rub based on a Tyler Florence recipe. However, I don’t believe in paprika. So instead of the 3 tablespoons of paprika, I used a tablespoon and a half each of cumin and chili powder. I also don’t have dry mustard. I don’t really know what dry mustard tastes like — just that it’s yellow. So, the yellowest spice that I have is tumeric, which I added in the place of dry mustard. Then, I added a few shakes of garam masala, off-recipe, because I like it. I rubbed it all over the 6-pound pork shoulder roast and let it sit in the fridge for 3 hours.

After I let it marinate for a few hours, I put it in the oven at 250-degrees for 6 or 7 hours. In the last hour of cooking, 2 poblano pepeprs and half an onion went into the oven with the pork. After the pork and peppers came out, I heated up a cup of fire roasted crushed tomatoes in a saucepan. I peeled and de-seeded the poblanos, and blended them with the onion in the blender with a little water, until they made a smooth puree. then, I added the tomatoes, a good pinch of salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
I combined the sauce with half of the shredded pork, and put it on tortillas with shredded cabbage and sour cream. It was pretty much….a win. :)
Shredded pork tacos
Then, tonight, I went full-out. Pulled-pork BBQ sandwich, and cabbage slaw.
Full disclosure: I don’t like coleslaw. I’m not a good little Polish girl – cabbage and I are not great friends. However, at the Big Apple BBQ, I tasted claw from the Salt Lick that was reminiscent of kimchi – the vinegary, spicy pickled cabbage of Korean food. So I went to Tyler Florence again to make my sauce, because for some strange reason, I trust the overgrown frat-boy.
BBQ sauce:

1 1/2 cup Cider Vinegar
1 cup Yellow Mustard
1/2 cup Ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
3-5 dashes hot sauce

I simmered all the items together, while the pork reheated. Literally all there is to do is dump and stir. This sauce was a great starting point, athough next time I think I’ll drop the mustard down to 1/2 cup. I’m a fan of a thinner, vinegary sauce, and the mustard was a little too much.

For the kimchi slaw, I did the following:
1 head (or less if you use the same head that you cut some off of for the prior night’s tacos) green cabbage, cut into shreds
1 cup of a combination of cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, and white vinegar. I think a combination of cider and rice wine vinegar would be good.
1-2 teaspoons Sriracha
1 tablespoon sugar
I combined the vinegars, sriracha and sugar, and poured it over the cabbage. Then, right before serving I toasted white sesame seeds in a dry skillet until they got a little bit brown, and tossed them in as well.

Just for the sake of comparison, here I am at the BBQ Block party, eating my pulled pork:
BBQ Block Party And here I am tonight, on my couch, again with my pulled pork:
Bedford Ave BBQSee the face? See the smile? Same face. Same smile.
It. was. gooooood.


I shall call him….. Mini Me

Posted: June 26th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 19 Comments »

Mini Me I am a sucker for a sale. Seriously.

A couple weeks ago, Fresh Direct had mahi mahi filets on sale. So when placing my grocery order for the week, I ordered some Mahi Mahi. Of course. It’s the part of me who remembers that my mom had an overflowing coupon drawer, and always always got the “Buy 4, get 5 free” deal if she could help it.

This week, while scrabbling around for dinner ideas as the deadline for placing a Fresh Direct order in time for Friday delivery wound down, I saw that Cornish Hens were on sale. Not just any Cornish Hens. “Local, Fresh Heritage Cornish Game Hens, Raised without Antibiotics”. Who was going to turn that down???? Certainly not me. I love a sale, and if you tell me something is the combination of Local, Fresh, Heritage, AND Antibiotic-free, all capitalized, no less, I’m hooked.
I will buy your tiny chickens, and I will like it.

Now, no, I had never cooked a Cornish hen before. Certainly not on a hot and stormy day, one day after the King of Pop is declared dead. So it was a learning experience. But I have roasted a chicken or ten in my life, as well as a heinous mystery fowl. So I wasn’t TOO concerned about the method. My bigger worry was time. I would normally just ignore time completely and use my probe thermometer, but the “meaty part” of the thigh on these tiny chickens was just not “meaty” enough for me to feel comfortable sticking a thermometer into to judge when it was done.
Sarah Moulton gave me the cooking time and a rough temperature, and I went from there. This is pretty close to my standard roasting method, except I didn’t have a lemon and I didn’t use any fresh herbs, because I’ve become obsessed with dried oregano lately. Seriously. It’s a condition. I may need a support group.

Roasted Cornish Hens
or…. I will eat your tiny chickens.

2 Cornish Hens
1 tablespoon butter, or 1 teaspoon butter and 1 or 2 teaspoons olive oil.
salt
pepper
dried oregano
1 shallot
4 garlic cloves

Preheat oven to 425 and put your casserole dish, pie plate, or Le Creuset braiser in to preheat

Take the 2 hens, and pat them dry. You want them as dry as possible, so that any butter or oil you put on them will stick. As we all know, water and oil don’t mix. This goes doubly for water and any fat, as anyone who has ever tried to rinse shortening off his or her hands will no doubt know.
Next, rub butter, olive oil, or both, over the skin of the hen. Drizzle a little bit inside the cavity as well.
Sprinkle the hens all over with kosher salt, black pepper, and dried oregano. Also sprinkle these things in the cavity.
Crush 2 garlic cloves per hen, peel, and put them in the cavity. Cut a shallot in half and stick half into each hen.

Put the hens in breast side down in the preheated pan (maybe drizzle in a little oil, mine stuck to the braiser) for 5 minutes. Flip them onto their backs and lower the heat to 405. Roast for 30 minutes. Check for doneness (thigh temp = between 165 and 170, clear juices, bones falling out all over the place).

Remove the pan from the oven, let the hens rest to collect themselves for a minute or two, and then serve.
Also, don’t forget to save the bones. Little teeny bones have a lot of good stock-making left in them after you’ve roasted them and sucked off all the meat.
Cornish Hen

Nomnomnom. Tiny Chickens for the win. :)


A dire situation

Posted: June 24th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 26 Comments »

CarbonaraI am a chronic snacker. I don’t mean that I come home, sit on the couch, and stuff my face. Oh lawsie no. I just mean that if there’s something cold, or left over, or both, and it’s in my fridge, I’ll end up gnawing on it when I get home from work.

Sometimes, this can be as harmless as a piece of toast. Sometimes, it’s a leftover meatball from the spaghetti and meatballs the previous night. Sometimes, a leftover eggplant round or a slice of quiche. Whatever happens to be around, I’ll probably eat.

Today, I arrived back home after work, and found a dire situation. There was, quite honestly, NOTHING that I could eat in its present form. I started to panic a little. If there was nothing edible at present, how on earth was I going to get something together for dinner.

Bacon….. cheese of a few varieties, a bit of a tomato…… some left-over avocado creme from the other day…. eggs…. Magically, like a good little Italian girl, I had all the necessary components in my refrigerator or pantry, for that master of broke folks’ food — CARBONARA!!

Let’s leave aside for the moment that I’m not Italian. The point is, I had onion, garlic, bacon, pasta, eggs, and chicken stock. Some people will always have the components for a grilled cheese sandwich in their fridge. Some, an omelet or a pbj or an ice cream sundae. Baiscally, we all have our items. For me, I guess my go-to dish is carbonara.

For those who haven’t seen one of my 800 other posts about it:
4 slices bacon
1/4-1/2 onion
4-6 garlic cloves depending on size (4 huge ones, 5 moderate ones, etc)
about 1/4 cup chicken stock
2 egg yolks
2/3 pound short-cut pasta (I used ridged whole wheat macaroni)
Grated parmesan, and black pepper.

Cut the bacon into dice, as best you can. Sautee the pieces, on medium-low heat. You want to render some of the fat out and get the bacon cooked through while giving yourself enough time to do the rest of the tasks.
Put a large pot of water on to boil, and salt it well. Put your pasta in when the water boils. You know how this part works.
Dice the onion while the bacon is cooking. Smaller pieces are better. Also, grate the garlic on a microplane. If you don’t have a microplane, go get one. In the meantime, you can smash and chop up your garlic, almost to a paste. Because we don’t want the garlic to burn.
Once the bacon gets crispy, add the diced onion and the garlic. Stir it all around, still on a medium-low heat, and add some chili flake. Sautee until the onion starts to get soft, at which point you should splash in your quarter-cup ish of chicken broth (you can totally use wine if you haven’t drunk it all), and let it reduce.
While the broth is reducing, separate your eggs. When the pasta is done, scoop out a ladleful of the pasta water (about 1/3-1/2 cup) and whisk it into the eggs, then drain the pasta.  Then, get ready, because the next part happens quick.

1. Dump the drained pasta into the pan with the bacon/onion/garlic/chili flake/broth. Stir.
2. Pour in the egg/pasta water mixture. Take pan off the heat. Stir.
3. Put in a big handful of grated parmesan and a good bit of black pepper. Stir. Vigorously.
You DO NOT WANT your eggs to scramble. You want the eggs to mix with the heat and the sauce and the pasta water and become a creamy kind of sauce.

If they do scramble, which they sometimes can, if the egg/pasta water mix cools down too quickly while you’re tossing your pasta, just add a little more broth and put the pan on the heat for a minute. It won’t fix it entirely, but it’ll make it better. Then, just cover it in cheese. Problem solved. NOM!!


Deconstruction

Posted: June 16th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna, cheap, delish, sandwich, vegetarian | 25 Comments »
Brioche!

Brioche!

There are many foods in this world that I love. And most of them, I eventually get sick of. Or at least, most of them I wouldn’t want to eat 7 days a week.
But there are a couple foods I love so much that I can’t help but eat them every chance I get. At the top of that list, my darlings, is this: Fried Eggplant.

I know, I know. Fried Eggplant?? WTF??

Just wait.
So while planning the weekly shopping for this week, I realized that I really wanted to work fried eggplant into the menu. And while I can eat just plain old eggplant, fried, as a meal….. it’s not exactly well-balanced. And I have a Jesse to think about too, to whom I wouldn’t feel right feeding JUST a fried eggplant.

I love eggplant parm, but my favorite thing about fried eggplant is the way the crispy crust contrasts with the soft, sweet eggplant. And when you do parm, it all becomes a bit soggy. I need that contrast. I need that crunch. It’s hard to get the crunch when the eggplant is buried under a mountain of sauce and cheese (not that I don’t LOVE sauce and cheese).
While thinking and wondering how on earth I was going to work fried eggplant into dinner, I had an epiphany!!!

Eggplant Parm could be deconstructed!!! It was nothing more than fried eggplant, tomatoes, and cheese! WHo said it had to be all melty and sauce? NOBODY, that’s who!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you…..

Eggplant Parm

Eggplant Parm

Eggplant Parm!!!

1 medium eggplant cut into even-thickness discs. Sprinkle a teeny bit of salt on each circle and set them salt-side up on a cooling rack. The salt draws out the bitterness of the eggplant. After 20 minutes, OR when there are little beads of liquid on the surface of the eggplant discs, rinse off the salt with cool water and dry them as thoroughly as possible with paper towels, a dishtowel, a hairdryer, do what you have to do.
1 -2 cups flour, divided. Put 1/2 cup on a plate. Put the rest in a deep bowl or soup plate.
1 cup Panko. Put this into the deep bowl/soup plate with the flour.
1 egg, beaten with 3 tablespoons of water.

Slice 1 large tomato into discs mirroring the size of the eggplant discs.
Slice 1/4 pound of mozzarella into discs as well.

Put enough oil in your skillet to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Heat it up until some of the panko/flour mixture fries instantly. Then, start the dredging assembly line!!! Flour, egg, Flour/panko. You are going to have to convince the second breading to stick to the eggplant. It will not want to. You will have to press, and smash, and coax it onto the egg-dredged eggplant rounds. And don’t forget to roll the skin side around in the dredge. Eggplant takes some convincing. But it will be worth it. I promise.

Put the lovely little breaded eggplant discs in the pan. My pan holds 4 at a time. They should float a little…. otherwise they stay down in the icky oil that gets clogged up with fallen-off flour and it’s not a good time. Fry them until they’re roughly golden-brown, flip AWAY FROM YOU so you don’t splatter yourself with hot oil (not like I’ve EVER remembered that lesson), and when they’re done, remove them to a cookie sheet with a cooling rack on it, in the oven at about 200. OR you could preheat your oven, and turn it off when you start frying. You just want the rounds to stay warm and dry out a little, because the oil will make the crust soggy, and that’s just not cool.

Fried Eggplant

Fried Eggplant

Mmmmm. Hello little ones. I’ll be back for you, promise!!

Once you’ve fried your eggplant, and let it cool (very important), stack it and your sliced tomato and mozzarella on a lovely bun. I used brioche hamburger buns from Fresh Direct, because I’m fancy:

Sliced mozzarella and tomato
Brioche!

The sandwich was delish. I’d recommend stacking the tomato on the bottom, then the cheese, then the eggplant, so you still experience the joy of the crispy crust. Repeat as often as your supplies will allow, and enjoy.


Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Chaaangeeeesss!!!

Posted: June 15th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 13 Comments »

Hello friends.
Before we go any further, there is some news that I must give you. It is good news. It is exciting news.
Teh Noms du Jour is moving!!!!!!
About 8 months ago, while talking with my friend Leah, the idea of an All-Girl culinary gang came up. A group of girl food bloggers who were friends, who were talented, who thought each other were hilarious, and who had a serious love for talking about food, writing about food, and making food (AND baking!) A group of badass girls who knew what they’re on about, but weren’t afraid to laugh at themselves if things flopped, and ask questions so next time the flop maybe didn’t happen.
And inspired with a great name, Pretty Girls Use Knives was born!!!
Please check out all the girls, because they are all wonderful and talented, and please come back often, because so many things are going to go on there, and we would love your support!! BUT, so that you can direct-link to my blog or add it to your Google Reader or whatever you do… here is the link to my personal PrettyGirl Blog: www.prettygirlsuseknives.com/johanna
Never fear, dear friends…. any entries you may want to review or reflect upon will still be find-able, since I have imported ALL the Teh Noms du Jour recipes into the new blog.

Now that all the joy and celebration and the big reveal have happened, I can get into something that I need to get off my chest.
I am a fairly competent baker. And I can make one hell of a biscuit. IN fact, I never even blogged about the Proustian flashback I nearly gave Jesse’s Oklahoman soul with my most recent batch of biscuits and gravy. Suffice it to say, I am a biscuit maker.
So when I tackled strawberry shortcake a la Deb from SmittenLand, I was feeling pretty confident. After all, hers are beautiful. They’re little fluffy biscuits, and they look heavenly.
So I made my best personal attempt. I boiled my eggs and got such beautiful yellow yolks. I didn’t cut the butter up until RIGHT when I meant to throw it in.

And yet…..
I was foiled. Foiled by the instructions to process until the flour looked like coarse meal. Foiled by trying to make biscuits with a machine. Foiled by a hot night and not cold enough butter.
Foiled. Look at them – they’re….they’re…… flat. Pale. They spread. They didn’t get tall. They didn’t get brown. They didn’t really….do…. anything. They weren’t dense. They weren’t light. They tasted ok, but they did NOT look ok at first glance.
I mean…. once you pile macerated strawberries that you bought at the farmer’s market that morning, you can’t really see the ugly shortcakes…which leads me to the only corollary I’ve ever developed:

With enough whipped cream on top, all dessert sins can be forgiven or ignored.
Seeya at PrettyGirls. :)


By Request.

Posted: June 12th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 24 Comments »

I love a reader request.
Seriously.
Because at heart, in the very core of my nature, I’m a people-pleaser. You have a request? Of course I’ll make my every effort to fulfill it! German Chocolate birthday cake? Sure! Seared tuna? Sure! Fried chicken or pumpkin risotto or fried cheese sticks? I’ll do my darnedest.
This also extends to blogging. Because sometimes, I forget that there are people on other glowing screens wondering what I’ll say next. And I’m very sorry for that.
So, when the talented and entertaining Blue Jean Gourmet requests, nay, demands that I blog about my chimichurri and my blackberry tart, well…… how can I say no?

On Memorial Day, after a lovely afternoon spent lying in the sun reading at Prospect Park, Jesse and I realized we had nothing for dinner. Flank Steak with Chimichurri seemed an excellent idea.
Having never made chimichurri before, I sought the opinion of experts. And let me just say that while Ingrid Hoffman may not necessarily be an expert, at least her recipe didn’t involve either cilantro or jalapenos. I like Ingrid.
Into my blender, I put an entire bunch of parsley (stems and all), some dried oregano, 2 garlic cloves, the juice and zest of a lemon, a little hot sauce, a few dashes of white wine vinegar, and some salt. I set it a-blending, and streamed in some oil. I started with olive oil, and switched to vegetable oil after a few seconds. I added more salt and pepper, and a teensy bit more hot sauce, which Ingrid doesn’t call for, but I figured she won’t be able to find my house in time to tear me apart over it, if it really upsets her.
When the sauce finally came together, it was thick, gloppy, and perfect for marinating. I salted and peppered the flank steak, and then brushed it with the chimichurri sauce and put it in the fridge.
When it was time to go, I grilled the steak, brushing it with more chimi right before it went on the grill, let it rest, sliced it thin, and served it with some chimichurri-dressed grilled potatoes, and a lentil salad. Because honestly chimi is Argentinian pesto, and it can go with whatever you like. Just don’t let the Argentinians kill me for saying that.

I had also read a great post over at Adele’s blog, about a Brown-Butter Raspberry Tart from Gourmet that she tinkered with, that lead to a Brown-Butter Brown-Sugar Raspberry Tart. And I do love me some tinkering, so the following weekend, to go with some fried chicken, we had a tart.

I got the chance to tinker a little more, because of course my grocery store doesn’t carry raspberries right now, so we had a blackberry tart. Mmmm. I made Adele’s recommended shortbread crust. I have to say that I’m 100% certain this is the right way to go. However, should we get lucky enough to bike to the Farmer’s Market tomorrow (pray for no rain), I will be happy to attempt to replicate the tart, just to be sure. All for science, y’know.

I made the crust while marinating my chicken in buttermilk. Then, once the chicken had gone into the skillet (fried chicken takes a good half-hour), I browned the half-stick of butter, let it cool sort of, and set it aside. Then, of course, I washed out the mixer bowl from the pastry making, and flipped the chicken while the mixer combined 1 egg, 4 tablespoons of white sugar, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (they were heaped. I’m not a good measurer, and I love brown sugar), a quarter-teaspoon (ish) of salt, and a half-teaspoon of vanilla (ish).
I added the quarter-cup of All-Purpose flour, and the browned butter. And then, I set to stacking my blackberries.
Blackberries tip over. They wobble. They have that one big nasty seed in them and they’re generally not the easiest things to get to stand up and look pretty. But, they taste delicious. So, I persevered, poured in the custard, and baked the tart while getting the chicken taken care of. As I was putting the first piece of chicken on a baking sheet lined with brown paper bags to cool, the timer went off, and this was what came out of the oven:
I have never had such good luck with timing in my life. Please go thank Adele at once for tinkering with this recipe, and thank the gods of the kitchen for letting me get it all to the table without screwing up my chicken. :)


Would I leave you hanging??

Posted: June 11th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 29 Comments »

Here it is. The promise made good from the last entry.

Just to recap, here’s where we started:
3 peppers (red, yellow, orange) and a container of grape tomatoes. The tomatoes halved, the peppers just the way they are. Drizzle the tomatoes and peppers with a little bit of oil (olive or the type of your choosing). Smear it all over the peppers, and sprinkle everything with some coarse salt and pepper.
Stick them in the oven at 325-350. Do something else.

An hour or two later, take a look. You should see something like this:
Peppers all soggy and deflated, tomatoes getting shrivelly and sweet. If it doesn’t look like this, put them back and wait 20 minutes, then check again. When the peppers look like this, pull them out and put them in a bowl cover tightly with plastic wrap, and busy yourself with trying not to eat all the tomatoes.
Once the peppers are cool enough to touch, pour the juice that has accumulated in the bottom of the bowl through a strainer into the blender caraffe. Then, peel and seed the peppers. This will hurt. Running them under cold water helps. Once they’re all peeled and the seeds are out, dump them in the blender with the aforementioned juices. Spin it all together until it makes a nice puree.
With the blender running, add in the majority of the tomato halves. I left out about 6. Maybe it was 8. Whatever. Don’t judge me – slow-roasted tomatoes are the best thing on earth.

Heat a saucepot with a tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon(ish) of butter. Throw in a very small onion, chopped. Seriously, if this onion is any bigger than a baseball — ANY BIGGER — cut it in half and wrap up the other half. In fact, if it’s one of those softball-sized monstrosities Rachael Ray always manages to find, use a quarter. We’re going for flavor base, not onion soup.
Let the onion get a little see-through in the butter/oil mix before adding in a pinch of salt, and about a tablespoon of cumin, a teaspoon of garam masala, a teaspoon of tumeric, and half a tablespoon of dried oregano. Ok, I’m making up these measurements. But it’s reassuring, isn’t it? Basically, you’ll be able to smell when it’s right. If you can’t, then taste it, and re-season. The measurements just make it look all safe and credible.
When you’ve got a nice base of flavors and your onions are soft, add in the pepper/tomato puree. Then, add about 2 and a half cups of chicken stock. I added almost all of a 26-ounce container, so I’m estimating. Roughly. Stir, and let it come to a bubble. Simmer until the flavors taste nice. I added about a tablespoon of hot sauce because it needed a little something. Go with your senses.
Because if you do, you’ll get this:

I topped it with a little of the leftover avocado cream from last night’s wonderment. It was pefect. Creamy, cool, nice and basic to the slightly acidic tang of the soup.

You can make this. It’s easy. And it doesn’t take all that long. Try it on a Saturday. I promise, you can do this.


Teaser

Posted: June 11th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 21 Comments »


Tonight, we’re having roasted red pepper and tomato soup. And homemade bread. Get excited.


Top Chef?

Posted: June 10th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 34 Comments »

So I’m watching Top Chef: Masters, and I realized that my delicious din, cooked tonight, was something I could talk about on here. I also feel odd not blogging for 10 days, it feels like it’s been a lot longer, since I’ve been cooking and there was a whole week of actual menus that I didn’t share and….
I’m bad. I know, I’m bad.
I’ve made fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, roast chicken, parmesan crusted chicken, roast pork, carbonara, a blackberry tart, flank steak with chimichurri…..
And tonight.
Tonight, I made….
That’s a fried egg with blackbean cakes and avocado cream.
If you make this dish for only one reason, you should make it for the avocado cream. I don’t even like sour cream, and yet when you combine avocado, parsley (me +cilantro = bleh) sour cream, lime juice, and salt. Make sure your avocado is very ripe, because you want the smoothest, creamiest sauce possible.
This is fantastic. Make it. For brunch. For dinner. For whatever. Just make this. Please?

And I promise I’ll blog better. Now that I’m getting some energy back, and once it stops raining, I’ll feel better.

I wouldn’t lie to you.