Saint Patrick’s *cough*

On Saint Patrick’s day, I like to make corned beef and cabbage and potatoes.  I’m not sure whether or not it’s actually even traditional, but it seems fitting, and it’s the one time of the year that I do it.  Hillary was not pleased.  She’s generally pretty trusting and likes what I put in front of her, but she did NOT want corned beef.  I made it anyway.

I did, however, make it in a very different way than usual.  Rather than boiling everything in the same big pot until it hoisted some sort of white flag in submission as is the norm, I braised the brisket, and the cabbage (separately), and roasted the potatoes.

I will do an instructional on braising meat soon.  I promise.  It’s a wonderful way to cook, and anyone can do it.  It makes you a real hero.

But the real break from tradition (I think..  though my grasp on the tradition is a little fuzzy obviously) was to serve it all with a fresh horseradish mayo.  It was outstanding.

Google yourself a good recipe for mayonnaise.. yes.  make your own.

For the horseradish part: peel and chop into fairly small pieces as much horseradish as you think you’ll need.  Put it in a food processor with a splash of water for lubrication. Once it’s well chopped up, add a little bit of white vinegar and mix.  Let this sit for a while.  Add to the mayo with a little salt and pepper.  I’ll let you figure out how much to add.  (be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid. Right?)

Put this on meat, roasted potatoes.   sandwiches.  whatever.

Caul fat!

Hill’s b-day was last week.  We had some folks over, and I made a sort of greek inspired meal, including these lamb sausages.  Caul fat, also called fat netting, is super cool stuff!  When you cook it, the fat renders down completely (much of it getting absorbed into the meat) and creates a very delicate casing.

Getting it, however, can be a little tricky.  I called about 8 butchers around the city and found little joy.  I made a call to a nearby whole foods.  It’s not a supermarket that I usually go to, but I figured that if they had the stuff, I’d brave it.  I was patched through to their butcher.  “Do you have caul fat?”  “What?” “Caul fat..  fat netting.  Do you carry it?”  “we don’t sell any kind of fat.”  I didn’t bother to try to explain it.

Finally it occurred to me to try a place in Astoria.  Astoria, for those of you outside of NYC, is a Greek neighborhood in queens and is a glorious place for food shopping.  After a quick web search, I was on the phone with a very nice man at Mediterranean Foods on 31st st.  “Do you have caul fat” “yup..  How much do you need?”  It sort of caught me off guard.  He said “yup” as though I had asked for hamburger meat..  Or chicken leg quarters.  “I’m not sure,” I said, “I’ve never used it!”

The stuff behaves a little like plastic wrap.  It clings to itself pretty well and cuts easily with kitchen shears, so wrapping things up in it is a snap.  I’ll play around with this a bit and then post a few ideas.  In the mean time, go find some and play!

More soon!

as requested

Stewed Chicken with Olives.

You’ll need, in no particular order:

  • Chicken thighs*
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Olives (whatever tickles your fancy.  I use a mix of black and green.  Please DON’T use those awful black rubber ones that come in a can)
  • Sun-dried Tomatoes
  • Fresh Herbs (as you like!  Thyme and fresh oregano are nice..  a combination of marjoram and sage is a sort of sexy alternate version..  a bay leaf is good)
  • White wine (whatever is decent enough for you to drink)
  • Anchovies
  • Tomato Paste (please use the stuff from a toothpaste style tube..  it’s often much better, and you can use just a bit at a time)

A brief word on ingredient lists.  There are some things that I will assume you have.  Things like olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, vinegar, eggs, flour, water..  etc..  I will also NOT be including amounts, except maybe in relative terms like “equal parts of x and y” or descriptive terms like “a little little bit” or “as much as you think you can stand.. then double it.”  I think that giving amounts in recipes has a tendency to perpetuate the myth that cooking is hard and exact, and maybe makes people feel that they NEED the recipe because it contains some sort of magic formula..  I want to discourage this whole line of thought!  Be accountable!!  Use your noodle!!  A recipe, and more importantly, the fundamental technique contained in the recipe, will stick better that way.  You’ll have an easier time departing from the recipe and making it your own if you were never that dependent on it to begin with.  Maybe it’s best if we don’t even call these recipes, but “descriptions!”


Use a heavy wide bottomed pan. I use a le crueset paella pan. A cast iron skillet would also work well.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and then brown it in some olive oil.  Turn it once to brown both sides.  Remove and reserve.

With the pan still hot, add chopped garlic and onions and a couple of anchovies.  Once the garlic begins to brown a little, add the halved olives and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.  Almost immediately deglaze the pan with white wine.  Add a squeeze of tomato paste and incorporate well.  You may choose to add a little more wine..  but remember that you’re not making soup.  The liquid you’ve made should be a little thick.

Arrange the pieces of chicken in your newly created brazing liquid.  Top with coarsely chopped herbs.  Cover and place in a 350 degree oven.

Let it stew until the chicken is falling off the bone.  About an hour and a quarter.  Remove from the oven and let it rest, covered, for about 15 minutes before serving.

We eat it with a mix of brown and wild rice.  It was great the other night with sauteed swiss chard.

(the thigh of the chicken is the cheapest part, and strangely, the best! We buy Murray’s free range from our local supermarket and at something like $1.59 a pound, it’s about the cheapest high quality meat you can buy.  Get it with the skin on if you have the choice.)

sudado de pescado (republished)

I put this up first on my flickr page.  It got a surprisingly big response.  I figured it made sense to have it here on the blog as well.

“There have been some requests for recipes on here. I don’t really cook with recipes, so it’s hard to know just how to write them. I don’t measure or time anything, etc..

This one I feel I must pass on, however.
I was taught to make this when I was in Peru for a little while doing some teaching. It is the simplest and most miraculous thing imaginable. I’ve made a few changes, but the technique remains!

Three ingredients, really.

Layer, in a flashy pan:
1/4 inch (or a little less) slices of yellow onion.. big discs.
Then 1/4 inch or so slices of beefsteak tomato
Finally big chunks of cod, or other flaky white fish (hake or polluck e.g.)

Toss in a few whole pepper corns, a slightly crushed clove or two of garlic, a fresh bay leaf, just a bit of fresh hot chile (whatever sort you like.. the types available in Peru are astonishing, and make what we have here seem blunt and unsubtle). I usually add just a few pats of butter!

ADD NO LIQUID!!!!!! none at all.

Cover the pan and place over low heat.

Go cook something else for a little while, but not too long (15 minutes maybe? 20?)

When you uncover it, strangely, this is what you have! The broth is just the sum of all the liquid from the fish tomato and onion, and is simply the most divine broth I’ve had. Clean, fresh, astonishing.

Make it tonight. “