Friday, February 19, 2010

Simple dinner: grilled meat, greens.

Last Friday I bought a fair amount of meat from Witteveen's in the St. Lawrence Market. I still had the three lamb loin chops in the refrigerator tonight, so I had to use them for dinner.

Tonight's dinner was simple: lamb chops grilled on a cast iron grill pan, with some steak spice rubbed into them, and kale and asparagus.

For the meat, I brought it up to room temperature, seasoned it, and then tossed it onto a cast iron grill pan that I had lightly oiled and brought up to about a 4 (out of 10) in temperature. The oil was smoking, I put the exhaust fans on, and cooked the chops for 10 minutes a side -- which is about double what I give them in a flat cast iron pan. The raised grill lines impart a lovely pattern on the meat, but it does mean that most of the meat is not in contact with the heat source, so it takes about twice as long to cook.

For the veggies, I cleaned and prepped, and only cooked them while the chops were resting. Kale, torn to bits and microwaved for 2 minutes; asparagus microwaved for 45 seconds. (I wish I could remember where I bought the asparagus because it's the grittiest asparagus I've had in at least 10 years. I spent 5 minutes washing 5 measly stalks, and it was still gritty.)

I had some heliodoro rosemary cheese from Alex Farms in the fridge that I knew would pair well with the lamb and would be very tasty on the greens. It had been there a while, and had gotten quite hard. The vegetable peeler, my first choice of tool, wasn't up to the task. Absolutely no go. I might as well have tried to peel the bricks on my house. Forget about picturesque white curls sitting on the greens!

Next, I tried ye olde box grater. Hah. Even more useless than the vegetable peeler. The cheese just rode down the outside of the grater like it was on ball bearings. Pressure on the cheese caused it to break into some pieces, but no grating happened.

Then, Lee Valley to the rescue. Pulled out the microplane, which used to be sold for woodworking purposes, until the Lee family discovered that chefs were using them. Man, does that thing bite into things! I can imagine what it would do with wood, because it certainly did the job with my (almost) petrified heliodoro. It turned it into lovely light little gratings, as you can see.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bread pudding made from banana bread

Going to go to Steve & Rob's for dinner. Will take wine. That goes without saying. Am offered a choice of bringing bread or a dessert.

I very seldom make dessert. In the last 15 years, I've made two apple-blue cheese tarts, and one boozy bread pudding. I volunteer to make dessert again.

And opt for doing a bread pudding.

I think it was a dinner that Matt Kantor did -- Sandy's win of a gourmet dinner at home -- that made me think of a bread pudding based on banana bread with some nutella on top.

So that's what I made! I confess, I cheated and bought the banana bread.

Cut it into slices, toasted it in the oven, and then cubed it.

Put the cubes into a loaf pan, covered with a very rich custard of 3 eggs, 2 cups of cream, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla. Then drizzled a whole lot of nutella over the top of the whole thing, and popped it into the oven until done.

I was surprised that the Nutella didn't melt more, really surprised.

The next day, dinner day, I bought some scrumptious Belgian dark chocolate truffles at Domino's in the basement of the St. Lawrence market, and some low-fat vanilla Hagen Dazs ice cream (it was the only vanilla they had, and believe me, the bread pudding wasn't low fat!).

At dessert time, I put the truffles in a microwaveable measuring cup, and nuked them until they melted.

Sliced the pudding, which I had warmed in the oven while we ate dinner.

To serve, I put a slice of pudding, a scoop of ice cream, and poured some molten truffles over all. Sorry I don't have a shot of that!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Catching up: cod tongues

Cod tongues. Something I hadn't had in quite a while. I grew up with my grandfather bringing packages of them and other Newfoundland delights to Montreal each year, where he spent winters after my grandmother died.

I hoped to have some a couple of years ago when my sister and I went to Iceland (they call them cod chins there), but never got around to that or puffin or other strangenesses of the land.

I had a hankering for cod tongues, yes I did.

I saw these in the freezer cabinet at Mike's at the St. Lawrence Market -- oh gosh: must be over a year now. And so I bought them. And being a fool, I left them in my refrigerator's freezer, which goes through freeze/thaw cycles fast enough to create ice crystals in two months. I should have put them in my chest freezer.

Alas, it was a long time before I rescued these from the freezer. They were vacuum packed, but still showed signs of freezer burn.

I cooked these (almost) the proper way. The truly proper way would have been to start by making a brunoise of salt pork fat and frying it until it renders enough fat into the pan to cook the cod tongues. I didn't have any salt pork, so I put some olive oil in the pan.

The cod tongues were dredged in flour to which some salt and pepper has been added, then plunked into the medium frying pan. Depending on the size, you could fry them up to 5 minutes a side.

They don't look revolting. Actually, they look pretty much as they should.

But boy, were they tough! And tough is not what you expect from cod tongues. Some parts of it should be almost jelly-like in texture.

I ate a few with some horseradish mustard (and ate the kale) and I hate to say, put the rest in the compost bin. Next time I'll not leave them in the freezer so long.