A few weeks ago, at a charity fund-raising sale put on by some local fraternal order (Eagles? Elks? Egrets?) I picked up a used ice cream maker. So, when Mom of Mother’s Kitchen announced that this month’s Spice Rack Challenge would be coriander, I wondered: are there any recipes out there for coriander ice cream? Turns out there are, and the one I picked to try was Coriander-Lime with Rhubarb Swirl (kudos due to the folks over at Burp!), just because it sounded like the most interesting of the bunch. Did you know coriander is said to have a slight lemon-y taste to it? I hadn’t really noted it before, but I can testify that however you care to describe it, it works fantastically well with both lime and rhubarb. (Both the ice cream itself and the rhubarb sauce include it, so the flavor of coriander doesn’t get buried by the other ingredients.) Unfortunately, given that this was my rookie attempt at making ice cream, I missed the window during which I was supposed to add the swirl to the ice cream, so my finished product wasn’t quite as pretty, but both David and I were still quite happy with the results. Funny thing is, I was kind of skeptical of how well the rhubarb sauce would go with the ice cream (maybe my sub-conscious sabotaged the swirl?), but after trying it I really don’t think the ice cream all by itself would have been nearly as good.
In the future, I think the only thing I might change is to steep the cream with whole coriander seeds, not ground coriander–the ice cream turned out ever so slightly grainy-textured, which might also have been due to the artificial sweetener I used, but I thought it was kind of strange for the recipe to call for steeping with a ground spice. Still, none of that ice cream is going to go to waste!
While it’s infinitely better than snow and ice, I’m not thrilled with our over-abundance of rainy weather lately. I’m apparently one of those folks afflicted with SAD (seasonal affective disorder), because grey skies (not to mention the achies that come along with storms) put a serious damper on my mood. I’ll be much happier when the sun comes out and the temperatures come up to stay. (And the farmers’ markets come back!)
One thing that perked me up a bit this past week, though, was the success of a combo of recipes, one from America’s Test Kitchen’s new book, Slow Cooker Revolution, and another from The Kitchn (which in case you hadn’t guessed has become a go-to website for me whenever I’m looking for something new to cook). The ATK recipe was from their new book, Slow Cooker Revolution, and was the one that sold me on the book (not that it was a hard sell)–Big Batch Caramelized Onions. “Big Batch” is probably overstating it (it only makes about 2 cups worth), but the technique behind the recipe is brilliant: microwave the sliced onions first, and drain the water they give off, before putting them into the slow cooker, since all that extra water is what normally keeps them from caramelizing. They came out all lovely and sweet and deep, deep brown, with no babysitting involved–woo hoo!
Then, I took those wonderful onions and incorporated them in another recipe: Braised French Onion Chicken with Gruyère. It was really kind of a no-brainer: take a mess of caramelized onions, add some browned boneless chicken thighs (and the fond from the pan you brown them in, scraped up with the help of a bit of balsamic vinegar and mustard and chicken broth), and top with grated gruyère. That’s pretty much it. The only thing that would have made it better would have been serving it atop a slice of toasted baguette (sadly, since I’m trying to cut way back on the carbs, there was none in the house at the time). Still, it was a perfect meal for weather that was more the last gasp of winter than the beginnings of spring.
Full disclosure: I’m not a huge fan of dill. I like pickles quite a bit, and I like fresh dill in salads, but beyond that, dill hasn’t exactly played a big part in my cooking. So, since I decided not to go the pickle route for this challenge, I had some difficulty coming up with something to make.
My first thought was to modify my favorite recipe for cheese-filled turkey burgers, subbing dill and havarti for the standard cheddar. The original recipe is really fantastic–the burgers aren’t bland or dry, like so many turkey burgers, due to a healthy dose of minced shallots mixed into the ground turkey, and the cheese, of course. And they have their own built-in timer–since, unlike with beef burgers, you want these to be well-done through and through, you just wait for the inevitable bit of melted cheese to start leaking out the side, and you’re done! Well, I ended up mixing the dill into the ground turkey along with the shallots, and made up a mustard-dill sauce (using this recipe, but I can’t say I recommend it, at least not for this) to try to increase the dill usage. David liked them, and I could at least taste the dill, but I think in the future I’ll stick to the original recipe, thank you.
Okay–on to the second recipe. After last month’s first dismal failure, I figured I’d browse the web for another dill recipe to try, just in case. There were, of course, tons of variations on the above-mentioned mustard-dill sauce, generally paired with salmon, and pickle recipes galore, but not a whole lot else. Finally, though, I came across something promising: a “traditional” Kerala egg salad recipe. Now, I don’t know whether there really is any such thing as traditional egg salad in Kerala (which is in the southern part of India, by the way), but the recipe sounded interesting–a little like deviled eggs, and what’s not to like about that? Here’s the original recipe, but what I ended up doing was sort of a hybrid of that and the plain-jane Joy of Cooking egg salad recipe I’ve been making for years. Basically, I wasn’t happy with the ratio of mayo and mustard to egg, so I kept adding both in about a 2 to 1 ratio until I got what I wanted. The addition of the dill, paprika and red onion was brilliant, though–this definitely is my new go-to egg salad recipe.
I feel like there’s been some topic drift in this blog since I started it. Not that it’s obvious from its name what it’s about (I’m sure most people who come across it think it’s some sort of radical granny group’s mouthpiece–the Million Granny March!). Still, since I’ve always been a stick-to-the-recipe kind of cook, it never occurred to me that I might just suddenly start cooking off-the-cuff as much as I have been lately, letting go of Grandma’s apron strings, as it were.
Oh well, things change, and I’m kind of proud of some of the stuff I’ve come up with–like this dish. David’s co-worker Josh gave him a bit of the pork that he’d smoked over the weekend (which was absolutely fabulous–I snuck a bit while I was chopping it up), and since I’ve been cutting back on carbs lately, and as a result have been thinking a lot about variations on the poached egg over veggies (Momofuku’s egg over asparagus with miso butter has been a big hit with us), I thought, why not make a hash out of the pork with some sweet potatoes and top that with a poached or fried egg, and maybe drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle a bit of ancho chile powder on top?
Three minutes after I’d finished the last bite I was already thinking, “I need to make this again.” Sadly, I’d used up all the smoked pork, and even if I were game to try smoking my own, I don’t think the neighbors would appreciate being smoked out of their condos (despite the fantastic smell). I suppose I could use lardons of bacon, or maybe caramelized onions. (Or go for broke and use both–mmm.)
Smoked Pork-Sweet Potato Hash
1 largish sweet potato (about two cups chopped into small dice)
1 cup diced smoked pork shoulder
1 large eggs
Olive oil (for frying and drizzling over top)
Ancho chile powder
Salt and pepper to taste
With olive oil coat the bottom of a large frying pan (I used non-stick, for insurance) preheated over a medium to medium-high burner. Add sweet potato and about a half cup of water, put the lid on and let steam-sauté, until water has cooked off and the sweet potato is starting to sizzle (about 5 to 10 minutes). Keep sautéing the potato cubes, stirring occasionally, til they’re starting to get browned (about another 5 minutes or so), then add the pork. Cook and stir for a few minutes more, adding salt and pepper to taste, till the kitchen is full of the wonderful scent of smoky pork goodness, then remove from the heat and divide the hash between two bowls. Drop the burner down to medium to medium-low (you might also want to leave the pan off the heat a minute or two, so you don’t incinerate your eggs), film the pan with olive oil again, crack the two eggs into it and fry them. I basically give them maybe 30 seconds on the first side, until more than half of the white is set, then (carefully) flip them over and give them another 15-20 seconds–you want the whites to cook but leave the yolk liquid, so it will ooze out over the hash when you cut into it (yum). Top each bowl of hash with a fried egg, drizzle some more olive oil over it all, sprinkle on a bit of ancho chile powder, and devour immediately.
There are definite disadvantages to being the sort of person who is addicted to trying new recipes, chief among them being those times when I find a recipe I just have to try, which then turns out to be a total flop, usually because the recipe was poorly written or poorly tested. (Not that I don’t make mistakes, too—I in particular have this little problem with reading recipes all the way through before I start them, which has led to derailed dinner plans more than a few times.) Last weekend, however, I got sucked into making a recipe I should have known was going to end in disaster, and of course, it did.
It was such a cool-sounding recipe, though. I was searching Epicurious for just the right recipe to make for this month’s Spice Rack Challenge—I decided I didn’t want to do anything sweet, and I wanted something that really highlighted the taste/aroma of cardamom (while there’s no shortage of recipes incorporating cardamom, an awful lot of them just use a tiny amount, mixed in with several other spices). Sifting through dozens of recipes for curries and chai, berbere and braises, I came across one for Shami Kebabs, a Pakistani recipe. Reading through the instructions, two steps caught my eye and made me think “I have to try this”: after combining most of the main ingredients, including ground beef, in a pot, you boil, then simmer them till the beef is thoroughly cooked (which runs against everything I’ve ever heard about cooking ground beef). Then, after that has cooled, you grind the whole mess up in a food processor, to get a sort of lumpy paste.
I really should have known better, especially since one of the reviews of the recipe described major problems getting the paste to form coherent patties that could be fried without crumbling. But I thought I knew what had gone wrong for that reviewer, and I forged ahead, totally seduced by the novelty of the recipe, and convinced I’d get it right. Well, you can pretty much guess what happened. When I hit the food processing part of the recipe, I realized something was really, really wrong with it—I don’t know what kind of food processor the recipe’s author has, but mine can’t simultaneously grind whole spices (whole cloves and cardamom pods, not to mention a whole cinnamon stick!) to edible bits, and grind cooked ground beef to anything but a sticky mess, which even after chilling in the fridge refused to cook up into nice little patties. I suppose the result tasted okay, but it was hardly worth all the work for an ugly pile of browned ground beef.
While I can’t really recommend that recipe to anyone (unless you can figure out how the author got the results she did), I can recommend the following one. It’s not terribly difficult (I managed to put it together even though I was already in the middle of round two of the fight with the virus from hell), and the cardamom definitely makes a major contribution to the flavor.
Cardamom-Scented Chicken with Ginger and Garlic
(from 660 Curries, by Raghavan Iyer)
2 Tbsp ginger paste (I used jarred “chopped” ginger, which is really more of a paste anyway)
1Tbsp garlic paste (again, chopped or pressed would probably be fine; I made Iyer’s garlic paste, which is just a whole lot of peeled garlic cloves (50!) whizzed in a blender with a bit of water)
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher or coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
8 chicken drumsticks, skin removed (or a lesser number of other skinless chicken parts—dark meat is best for this, though)
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium red onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
4 bay leaves, fresh or dried
2 cinnamon sticks
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (optional—I left this out because David hates the stuff)
Combine ginger paste, garlic paste, cardamom, cayenne, salt and turmeric to form a wet paste, and smear all over chicken pieces. Cover and refrigerate the chicken at least half an hour (overnight is best, though).
Heat the oil in a large pan (seriously, unless you’ve bought really tiny drumsticks, you’re going to want the biggest frying pan or similar sort of pan you have) over medium heat. Add the chicken parts, and once they’ve started sizzling a bit, strew the onions, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks over top. After about 8 to 10 minutes, when the chicken has browned nicely on the one side, flip it over, mixing things up a bit so that some of the onions and bay and cinnamon are now under the chicken. Continue browning for another 10 minutes or so, until the mixture smells menthol-like (that’s the cardamom).
Pour 1 cup of water into the pan and scrape the browned bits off of the bottom (don’t bother to take the chicken out, just shove it around to get at the bottom of the pan). Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and continue to cook another 25 to 30 minutes, spooning the onion mixture over the chicken occasionally. If need be, once you’re done with this step, you can remove the chicken pieces and reduce the sauce over medium-high heat for a few minutes (I didn’t find this necessary, however). Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks (if you can find them—if not, some lucky winner will get a prize! 🙂 ), stir in the cilantro if you’re using it, and serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over it. Iyer also suggests adding 8 oz. of baby spinach leaves to the sauce while you reduce it, which I didn’t try, but certainly sounds good.