Recipes

FAMISHED: The Cookbook – Burnt Leeks in Smoky Romesco

Barton Seaver is an interesting guy. Not only an expert chef, he’s also a National Geographic Fellow, a Harvard Director, and a man with a serious mission for sustainability in cuisine. That’s a mission I can happily get behind!

I have his second cookbook, Where There’s Smoke. It was actually a Christmas present, but focused as it is on grilling fresh vegetables, I haven’t been able to experiment with the recipes until now. The Midwest isn’t known for early spring.

This recipe, adapted from his book, was a revelation to this weekend – for the first time in ages, I preferred an herbivore’s side dish to the carnivorous centerpiece.

Leeks are favorites of mine already. There’s a primal thrill both to burying them in the coals of a fire and stripping away the charred layers. Meanwhile, the Romesco sauce is incredibly simple, but manages to feel both rustic and elegant, perfect for an outdoor party. I’m going to try adding paprika and chilis next time …

I highly recommend this dish (and the cookbook) to anyone who cooks over live fire.

EMBER-BURNT LEEKS:

Rinse the leeks and trim the green leaves away.
Bury whole leeks in the embers of a medium-hot charcoal or wood fire.
After 15-20 minutes, the outer layers should be charred black, and the vegetables yielding to the touch.
Remove the charred outer layers and cover with Romesco sauce.

SMOKY ROMESCO SAUCE:

4 plum tomatoes, quartered
6 cloves garlic
1 small onion, medium dice
1 red bell pepper, medium dice
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds

Combine the ingredients with olive oil to coat and salt to taste.
Grill over a medium fire until the onion is softened, about 15 minutes.
Transfer to food processor and slowly add in 2 Tbsp olive oil.
Serve warm.

Beginner’s Mind: My Own Recipe

It’s established that I adore cooking, but I’ve always been a recipe man. I like to have things written down and planned out.

Oddly enough, it was my day job in software quality assurance that made me question that – a teacher who told us “Step by step removes your curiosity and actually makes your testing less intelligent. It dulls and blinds you.”

I realized that I agreed, for the most part. So, armed with two books – Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef and Page and Dornburg’s The Flavor Bible, I braised bone-in short ribs for the first time last spring. However, I didn’t write anything down, and so the resulting deliciousness was not repeatable – until last night!

So now, I’ve, um … well, I’ve given you a step by step recipe. Which you should totally deviate from!

Famished: The Ribs
Serves 2-4

2 lbs bone-in beef ribs
2 Tbsp ground fennel
2 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup olive oil
1 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake (rice wine)
Juice of 1 orange

Step One: Preheat the oven to 325°.

Step Two: Blend all the spices and garlic together into a flavoring rub (using your fingers works best).

The rub should be well-blended by hand. You may want to dice the garlic more finely.

The rub should be well-blended by hand. You may want to dice the garlic more finely.

Step Three: Trim away any excessive fat caps or cartilage from the ribs, and rub the meaty sides with the spice mixture. It’s not necessary to rub the bone.

Hee hee hee. Rub the bone.

The ribs have been rubbed, for right or wrong.

The ribs have been rubbed, for right or wrong.

Step Four: Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof Dutch oven, large enough to hold all the ribs at once.

When the oil is shimmering, place the ribs in the oil, meatiest side down. Allow them to sear on all sides. Again, it’s not necessary to sear the bony side.

DO NOT overcrowd the pot when searing! The meat will steam, rather than sear. Sear in batches if need be.

It's not necessary to be brown all the way through. We're looking for a nice, crisp sear on the main portion of the meat, not to cook it through.

It’s not necessary to be brown all the way through. We’re looking for a nice, crisp sear on the main portion of the meat, not to cook it through.

Step Five: Remove the ribs to a plate and pour the broth, sauce, sake and orange juice into the pan. Use a spatula to scrape up all the delicious brown bits.

Step Six: Replace the ribs in the Dutch oven and check the liquid levels. You want the liquid to be almost, but not quite, covering the ribs. I put the ribs meaty side down this time – I’m going to try the other way next time. It’s possible the fat will baste the food more effectively that way, but it’s also possible that the meat will dry out.

Liquid should never cover the food entirely when braising!

Liquid should never cover the food entirely when braising!

Step Seven: Cover the Dutch oven and put it in the regular oven for 1 hour.

Step Eight: Check liquid levels. The fat should be beginning to add to the liquid, so you may be fine. Add broth and sauce as necessary and cook for another hour.

The completed ribs. Note the "jacket" of cartilage around some of the bones - this was unappetizing, and I'll probably trim them more effectively next time.

The completed ribs. Note the “jacket” of cartilage around some of the bones – this was unappetizing, and I’ll probably trim them more effectively next time.

Step Nine: When ready to eat, the meat will be falling off the bone. You should be able to slide them cleanly out with a minimum of effort.

Save the bones for art projects! Amuse your friends! Terrify your enemies!

Save the bones for art projects! Amuse your friends! Terrify your enemies!

I served these once with wild rice and blanched green beans, and the following night with pan-roasted brussels sprouts and rotini pasta. Since the meat itself is so thick and creamy, you want to have vegetables with some crunch to them and a carbohydrate that will hold onto the sauce and work as a delivery mechanism.

Oh, and one more nice touch – if you’re cooking on a snowy day, take the orange peels, fill them with birdseed, and set them outside.

Sing, O bird, of the mighty Simurgh!

Sing, O bird, of the mighty Simurgh!

 

 

GHOULASH: Ropa Vieja

It’s a well-known fact that I love cooking and eating as much as I love writing. FAMISHED: THE FARM wouldn’t be half the story it is without an understanding of scents, tastes, and textures that come through cooking. And who doesn’t like coming to a horror blog to see red meat on the table?

I used to order ropa vieja at Cafe 28 in Chicago on a regular basis, but since moving to a more rural community, my Latin American cravings have to be fed by tacos and fajitas alone. So this weekend I tried making one of my favorite Cuban dishes for the first time. Ropa vieja means “old clothes,” since the final result looks remarkably like shredded clothes straight out of the wash. This recipe was adapted from Food & Wine magazine’s “Best slow cooker recipes.”

*

  1. One 2-pound flank steak, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 4 pieces
  2. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  3. Two cans fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilis
  4. 1/2 cup water
  5. 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  6. 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  7. 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  8. 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  9. 1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
  10. 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  11. 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  12. 1 bay leaf
  13. 1/2 cup pitted green olives
  14. 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  15. 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro

1. Tenderize the flank steak and season with salt and pepper. Slice as instructed above.

2. In the slow cooker, arrange the next 10 ingredients, and place the flank steak on top.
Push the steak under slightly to allow full saturation of the meat.
Cover, and cook on high for at least 5 hours.

3.Transfer the meat to a cutting board, rest for 10 minutes.
Discard the bay leaf and stir in the remaining olives, capers and 1 tablespoon cilantro.

4. Shred the meat using two forks into the distinctive texture of ropa vieja.
Return to the sauce to warm through thoroughly.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.
Spoon meat and sauce into bowls over white rice or warmed tortillas.

*

This made enough to feed two people for about three meals each (so far). I served it alongside sauteed garlic poblanos over moros y cristianos to soak up the delicious sauce, and with a crunchy cucumber-celery salad on the side to add a vinegar tang to an otherwise rather sweet meal. I did omit the red pepper in the salad, since we had MORE than enough in the main and side dishes.

 

 

 

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