Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lamb Kebabs, with Grilled Veggies and Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes

The theme of the week is Easter, and while roasted lamb is always a solid choice, I wanted to do something a little different, so I decided to head out to the grill for some kebabs. I tried to get boneless leg of lamb, but the butcher only had full size, big ass bone in whole legs, so I went shoulder instead. There was a lot of fat on there, and I was afraid it would be tough since I wasn’t braising it, but it actually worked out pretty darn well. Served with tzatziki, because why not. Serves 4-5, but you’ll want to throw more potatoes in the oven than I did if you expect to feed 4 to 5 at once.

3-4 lbs. cubed lamb leg or shoulder
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

Chop the lamb into 1” cubes. I actually used shoulder here – there was about 4 pounds or so of boneless shoulder, but there’s a lot of fat on there, so I’d imagine using boneless leg of lamb would have a lot less waste. I trimmed off the fat cap and a lot of the excess fat.

Real tough process here, stay with me guys: stick everything into a Ziploc bag and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

If using wooden skewers, soak them in cold water for at least an hour before putting the meat on. Remove meat from marinade – I used my hands to remove excess herbs, but wanted to leave the oil on so I could chuck these right on the grill. Slide the meat onto your skewers, leaving a small gap between each piece.

Preheat a gas grill up to about 500°F (side note – this is what the built in thermometer on my Weber says, no idea if that wholly accurate. But yeah, get it hot). Add the meat and turn the heat down a bit – aim for 400 to 450°F for your grill temperature. Cook until medium rare, approximately 10 minutes, flipping a few times along the way.

2 russet potatoes
1 tablespoon duck fat
Salt and pepper

Clean off the potatoes and chop into large chunks. Toss with duck fat (really get in there with your hands and coat them) and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 50 minutes at 425°F, flipping halfway through.

12-15 crimini mushrooms
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 red onion
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Wash everything off, and remove the stems from the mushrooms. Chop the peppers and the onion into rectangles large enough to put on skewers. I did 3 mushrooms on a skewer, with a piece of onion, red bell pepper and green bell pepper in between. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Throw these on the grill for 15 minutes at around 400-450°F.

1 clove garlic
¼ very large cucumber, peeled and seeded
1.5 cups greek yogurt
½ tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
½ tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1.5 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and black pepper to taste

Place the garlic clove, still in its sleeve, onto a cast iron skillet and cook over medium for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally until blackened in spots. Remove and let cool.

Dice the cucumber and place in a strainer set on top of a bowl. Salt the cucumber and let sit for ½ an hour.
Remove the husk from the cooled garlic, dice it and add to a bowl, along with yogurt, dill, parsley and lemon juice. Once the cucumber has had its water drawn out, add it as well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir and refrigerate until ready to use.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Halal Cart Inspired Chicken and Rice

I love me some halal cart food, and while I’ve been meaning to try the Serious Eats recipe for a while, I’ve just never gotten around to it, because really isn’t it just easier to pay $5? I decided to take a slightly different approach to the tried and true cart version and use chicken legs and a marinade. The rice and sauce are taken directly from Serious Eats, but I added veggies to be sorta healthy. The chicken tastes pretty different from the cart version (expected), the rice tastes pretty dead on (expected), but the sauce tastes nothing like the carts (the ones in Philly at least). I was worried I would have a tough time finding harissa (I’m well situated for finding all things Asian/Mexican, but I can’t think of any middle eastern centric places nearby), but luckily Whole Foods has it right next to the mustard.

¾ cup greek yogurt
½ cup harissa
1 tablespoon oregano
2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and pepper
Chicken (I used 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks and a big breast)

Add all the ingredients of the marinade in a 1 gallon Ziploc bag. Mix, taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary. Add the chicken and marinate for 4 to 6 hours (I acutally like to chuck it in frozen the night before).

When it’s time to cook, place chicken in a roasting pan (leave on that delicious marinade) and roast at 400ºF for 40 minutes, or until you hit an internal temp of 165 ºF.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium carrots, diced
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin
1.5 cups long grain rice
2.5 cups chicken broth
¾ cup frozen peas
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a medium pot. Add the chopped carrots and sautee for 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Add in the turmeric and cumin and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add the rice, and stir to coat, cooking for 3 to 4 minutes until toasted. Add the broth, season with salt and pepper, and cover, reducing to a simmer, for 15 minutes. Add in the peas with 3 minutes or so to go to warm through.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Add everything to a bowl, and stir.


Tomato Slices

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Chocolate Chip and Nutella Cookie Bars

Operation power belly continues onward, as I decided I needed more sugary treats in my life.  I found this recipe for cookie bars, and made the drastic innovation of swapping out peanut butter for Nutella. I know, I know, I’m like the Ferran Adria of baking. Seriously though, simple is usually the way to go wwith baking, even though I’m always tempted to go over the top and do stuff like 5 layer smores bars, or cheesecake topped brownies.

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup Nutella
1 large egg
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (ghiradelli 60% cacao was used here) + extra on top

Preheat your oven to 350°F, and line an 8”x8” baking pan with parchment paper. Give it a spritz of cooking spray as well.

Place the butter in a bowl, and put that bowl on top of a small pot of simmering water, whisk as the butter melts. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for a few minutes so it doesn’t cook your egg.

Add the cooled butter, egg, nutella, brown sugar, vanilla and salt to a bowl. Whisk until smooth.

Add in the flour, and fold until just combined – don’t mix more than you have to.

Fold in the 1 cup of chocolate chips. Transfer the batter into the baking pan, using a spatula to smooth out the top. Sprinkle some more chocolate chips on top.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the bars comes out clean (or mostly clean). Allow bars to cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Duck Ravioli with Seared Foie Gras

Okay, so maybe I went a little over the top here. This takes some serious time and money investment – I split the work over two days, doing the just, duck meat and cracklings on day one. Day two was making the ravioli and fillings, and the extra mushrooms/chard for the plate. Once all the crazy prep is done, this is actually quick and easy to cook, as long as you have your mise all set and plan out what need to be cooked when in your head. I got 13 ravioli – 4 was a sizable serving, because these were some jumbo ravioli. Duck just is probably enough for twice that, I froze the extra. Adjust other ingredients accordingly if you’re trying to scale this.

Duck Jus:
Duck carcass (see below for details)
1 onion, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of thyme
Black peppercorns
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups red wine
7 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons duck fat

The easiest way to do all this might be to roast the whole duck and divide it up afterwards; I thought I would just need to use 2 legs to get the meat for the ravioli filling, but in the end I used two breasts and one leg; Do whatever you need to do, but here’s the way I ended up going about this:

Remove the wings, legs, and breasts from the duck. Set aside the legs and breasts. Remove any remaining skin from the carcass – we’re reserving this for fat rendering and cracklings.

Place the remainder of the duck carcass on a baking tray along with the wings and the duck neck. Roast at 400°F for about 40 minutes, until everything has some nice color on it. Flip about halfway through.
Drain and save any fat on the pan. Cut the carcass into chunks and set aside along with the neck and wings.

In a stockpot over medium heat, add two teaspoons of duck fat and the onions/carrots/celery. Cook for 5 minutes until softened, then add the tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes, allowing the paste to start to caramelize. Add in the wine and reduce until it reaches a syrupy consistency.

Add in the chicken stock, reserved duck bones, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns. The liquid should be covering everything – if not add water until it does.

Simmer for 4 to 5 hours, then strain through a cheesecloth into a smaller pot. Discard the solids, and place the sauce back on a simmer and reduce until you have 3 to 4 cups of jus.


Take the excess skin you removed from the duck and place it in a cold pan. Set the heat to low, and allow all the fat to render out, occasionally draining the fat through a strainer and saving it – this stuff is liquid gold so we’re keeping as much of it as possible.

Eventually all the fat will render, and the skin will start to brown. This could take in the neighborhood of 45 minutes depending on the heat in the pan, but that’s not set in stone. Once the skin is nice and brown, remove it from the pan. Chop into bite sized pieces.

Duck meat:

2 duck breasts
1 duck leg

Again, maybe not the optimum way to do this, but this is what I ended up doing. For the leg, roast at 400°F until it hits an internal temp of 165°F. For the breasts, place in a pan on medium heat, skin side down. Allow the fat to render until the skin starts to brown. Turn up the heat and get a nice color on the skin side. Flip, and cook briefly on the meat side, about a minute or two. Breasts should take 20 minutes to cook.

Remove the meat from the breasts and leg, and chop finely for ravioli filling.

Ravioli filling:
Reserved duck meat
½ pound crimini mushrooms, roughly choped
4 small shallots
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper

In a pan over medium heat, add some duck fat and the chopped mushrooms. Season with salt and cook for 4 minutes. Add the shallots and cook for an additional 2 or 3 minutes. Dump mushrooms and shallots in a bowl along with reserved duck meat, thyme, and some salt and pepper as needed.

Pasta dough:
9 ounces flour
6 ounces eggs (3 large eggs)
1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

I add the flour in a large bowl and weigh it out, then form a well in the middle and add eggs. If your eggs don’t quite weight 6 ounces, add a little water to make up the difference. Beat the eggs, slowly incorporating in the flour.

Once all the flour gets incorporated, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 7 minutes. The dough should have a velvety texture. Spritz a piece of saran wrap with cooking spray and place the dough ball on top. Hit the dough with an additional spritz of cooking spray and wrap with the plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Use a pasta machine to roll the dough out in two sheets. Spoon the filling onto one pasta sheet – I used about 1.5 tablespoons per ravioli? They ended up pretty big – I ended up with 13 all together.

Once the filling is spooned onto a pasta, make an egg wash by combining 1 egg white with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash around the each mound of filling. Take the second pasta sheet, and place it over the filling. Press the pasta together, removing air pockets as you go, and sealing the raviolis. Use a pizza cutter to separate and trim excess.

For the third sheet, place filling on one half, hit it with the egg wash and then fold over and seal.

If you’re making these ahead of time, place raviolis on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly floured and stick in the freezer. Once frozen, place into a Ziploc bag.

Bringing it all together:
Duck Jus
Handful of small crimini muchrooms (or quarter larger ones)
Olive oil
Swiss chard
Duck raviolis
Foie Gras slices (mine came pre sliced, if you have a whole lobe you’ll have to look elsewhere on how to prep it)

Place the mushrooms and a small baking dish and toss with olive oil and salt. Roast in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes. Assuming you made the cracklings and duck jus ahead of time like I did, warm them up in the oven with a few minutes remaining.

For the swiss chard, wash and chop roughly. Add some oil in a pan over medium and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until wilted, tossing some salt on for good measure.

For the ravioli, bring a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the ravioli for 3 minutes (5 if frozen).

For the foie, score on one side with a knife (optional, strictly for presentation purposes – my score marks didn’t turn out super fantastic, but oh well). Salt liberally. Heat a cast iron or other sturdy pan on high – get it really hot now – and sear the foie gras for 30 seconds per side. That’s it, seriously foie gras is that easy to cook (if it comes sliced for you).

Place the chard and raviolis on the plate. Pour over duck jus. Top with roasted mushrooms and cracklings. Place seared foie gras on everything and dig in, because you’ve earned it.