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Bangers and Mash

bangers and mash

For some reason, the grocery stores near me have decided to up their game. I’m not sure why this would be the case now, but over the past few months I’ve been seeing more variety in their offerings and better quality, as well. That’s especially been true for their butcher shops, where I’ve lately seen cuts of meat and other items that are a real step up from only a year ago. One of them, for example, has begun making sausage right in the store, and not just the standard sweet and hot Italian sausages, either. Which brings me to the subject of this post. On a recent shopping trip, I came across store made pork sausages labeled English “banger style.” Of course, that led me to think about that quintessential British concoction — bangers and mash.

Bangers and mash is the British equivalent of the American burger. It’s something every home cook can do — and does. It’s pub food, too. And in the so-called gastro pubs, it’s been given a multitude of upgrades and gourmet treatments. So consider this recipe a tribute to that tradition. It’s as authentic as I can make it, and recalls a meal I had a number of years ago in a British style pub (in Hong Kong, of all places). Add in a pint of stout and you’ve captured it pretty well.

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Blood Orange Chicken Tagine

blood orange chicken tagine

I noted last week that I finally got my hands on the first blood oranges of the year, and after making the blood orange salsa, I launched into a search for more information about this rare winter fruit and to develop some recipes that would showcase its flavor and intriguing appearance. What I learned is that while my blood oranges most likely came from California, they’re mainly a Mediterranean fruit, cultivated in Spain and southern Italy (and probably some other places). Mine are Moro oranges, which are the darkest red of the popular cultivars. That finding led me to focus on my tagine, which is a Moroccan cooking device and cooking method prevalent in the same part of the world where the oranges are grown. Blood Orange Chicken Tagine is the result.

Like all tagines, this is basically a braise. Bone-in chicken thighs simmered in a savory liquid until they practically melt in your mouth. Juice from the blood oranges and some chicken stock and seasoning (ras el hanout) make up the liquid, and for visual appeal, blood orange slices are added to the dish just before serving over a bed of warm couscous salad (with lightly sauteed shallots and freshly chopped cucumber). It’s a fascinating and delicious combination.

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Steakhouse Parmesan Crusted Filet Mignon

Parmesan Crusted Filet Mignon

 

Normally, I’m a purist when it comes to steak, especially filet mignon/tenderloin. The cuts are expensive and the risk of ruining a filet with an unfortunate recipe choice seems unnecessary. Then I tried the parmesan crusted filet mignon at a local steakhouse. It was good enough (read fantastic) that I decided to give it a shot. But how do you get that lovely brown crust, full of flavor, on top of a perfectly prepared filet without messing up one of them?

It took a little research on a few good websites to get a sense of how to accomplish this recipe without having access to specialized restaurant equipment, but in the process I learned a trick or two and came up with a version that’s as good as any steakhouse can put on your plate. There are two keys. Not having a salamander (the special broiler that restaurants use) meant pan searing or grilling the steak just short of done before adding the crust, then running under my broiler for a few minutes (like two minutes, max). The crust is a mixture of bread crumbs (panko for crispiness) and butter, which must be very well chilled.

From there, it was all about figuring out how to flavor the crust and the recipe below reflects the result of my trial and error crust-making. With Valentine’s day not far away, this is a great main course for a romantic dinner (assuming you want to impress a steak-lover). Serve it with some asparagus spears and garlic mashed potatoes or steak fries and you’ll definitely score a few points.

Steakhouse Parmesan Crusted Filet Mignon
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  2. 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  3. 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 Tbsp. chives, chopped
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
  7. 2 filet mignon, about 2 inches thick
Instructions
  1. Start the crust at least 3 hours before making the steaks.
  2. Combine all the crust ingredients and mash together to form a ball about 2 inches in diameter.
  3. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and form it into a thick disc, roughly the size of the filets and refrigerate. (You can make this a few days ahead and freeze it).
  4. Heat a grill or cast iron pan until very hot.
  5. Sear the steaks on both sides and cook to an internal temp of about 125 degrees for medium rare.
  6. Remove steaks from the pan/grill and place a disc of the crust on each steak. The disks should be about a half-inch thick. Preheat broiler to hottest setting.
  7. Place the steaks on a broiler pan or foil lined baking sheet and cook for about 2 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
  8. Allow to rest for five minutes before serving.
Notes
  1. If you're pan searing and are not using the pan juices for a sauce, you can leave the steaks in the pan add the crust and run under the broiler in the pan. Be careful. It will be very hot.
Discovery Cooking http://www.discoverycooking.com/

 

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Lamb and Lentil Soup

Lamb and Lentil Soup

It seems there is about to be a blizzard in the Northeast US today, and while here in Northern Virginia, we’re likely to see just a little of the action, on days like this I always turn to my favorite soups. There is just something about hot soup (and warm bread if you can get it) that makes a cold snowy day more bearable. That’s especially true if you’re in charge of snow removal. This lamb and lentil soup is a great way to warm up. It takes ingredients and flavors from the Mediterranean, mainly Italy, Greece and Turkey, and sculpts them into a multi-layered, multi-textured feast, suitable for a main dinner course or a satisfying lunch.

I keep the ingredients for this soup on hand all winter long, and for those ingredients that are fresh, there are some perfectly good substitutions — dried mint for fresh mint, potatoes for parsnips, etc. The Turkish twist comes from using dried urfa and marash pepper flakes, which are easy to get from Amazon. They add just a little heat to the soup, along with their flavors. I also like to have a bit of Greek yogurt (not pictured) on the side. A dollop of yogurt really sets off the flavor in the soup and adds yet another contrast in flavor and texture.

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Roasted Salmon With Truffle Oil

roasted salmon truffle oil

I happened to be shopping in one of my favorite haunts for fresh seafood a few days ago, when I happened upon one of the fish mongers slicing up a wild caught Norwegian salmon into these huge steaks. I have no idea how they managed to get those fish, but they were very fresh by every standard I’m familiar with. At the same time, I was carrying around in my shopping basket a bottle of black truffle oil. It’s pricey stuff, but hey, a few drops goes a long way. The result of that happy coincidence was the plate of roasted salmon pictured above.

The idea for this came from a few different recipes I’ve collected from various places, but it’s really very simple. A bed of mushrooms tossed with thin sliced garlic, salt and pepper, a little olive oil and a whole teaspoon of truffle oil, topped by salmon steaks seasoned only with a little more truffle oil and popped into a hot oven for about 15-20 minutes. Plate the salmon over a bed of pan roasted brussels sprouts, top with the mushrooms and there you go!

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General Tso’s Chicken

general tso's chicken

As I’ve mentioned on a few occasions, I spent some time in China, Hong Kong and other parts of Southeast Asia. I developed a very high regard for the food there, in part because the nature of my work meant that I was often hosted (and occasionally hosted others) at very good restaurants there. One thing I never encountered was General Tso’s chicken. That I discovered at a Chinese restaurant in New York. That dish was perfectly prepared and I loved it. Since then, I’ve rarely encountered anything as good, so I sent out to create my own version.

While you can’t find General Tso’s chicken in China, a little research determined that it is in fact authentically Chinese, in that it was developed and first served by Chinese chefs who fled the country during and after World War II. Done well, the dish bears no resemblance to the cloyingly sweet, overly hot glop you’ll find at lunch buffets and cheap Chinese restaurants. The trick is to find the right balance of sweetness, sourness and spiciness while maintaining the subtle flavors of the meat and vegetables. After a number of experiments, this recipe turned out to be the one that hit that mark.

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Shrimp and Scallops with Blood Orange Salsa

shrimp scallops blood orange salsa

Blood oranges are a terrific winter treat, and especially so this year because I somehow missed them last year. If you’ve never encountered them, blood oranges are small, like mandarins, with thick skins and deep dark red flesh that’s almost black sometimes. The best ones have a wonderful flavor that’s like a cross between orange and raspberry.  It’s a flavor profile that goes really well with seafood, so when I spotted blood oranges at a local market, one of the first things I wanted to do is make this blood orange salsa to spoon over some simply prepared shrimp and scallops.

 The salsa is similar to the mango salsa that I often use for fish, especially catfish. It’s made of fruit and fruit juice, onions, a little olive oil, cilantro, a pinch of salt and a little cayenne or chili pepper. The only tip, is to make the salsa well ahead of the meal. That’s mostly because blood oranges are somewhat difficult to peel, but I find the extra sitting time also allows the flavors to meld together.

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