Cooking in a clay pot is a technique that shows up often in recipes from the south of France, northeastern Spain and northern Italy. In North Africa, the clay pots take the form of a tagine, a conical pot designed specifically for the purpose of braising food. This clay pot chicken was inspired by a recipe I found in the New York Times cooking section and modified to take advantage of my clay pot and to give it a little more of a Mediterranean flair.
The beauty of the clay pot is that it moderates and evens out the heat by trapping steam inside (making it a necessity to use extreme care when removing the lid). Even in a 375F oven, the chicken cooks slowly and becomes so tender it just falls off the bone. You could easily adapt this for a dutch oven and even cook it on the stovetop, but the results will be different in ways that are hard to describe.by
A couple of months ago, I came across an article in the New York Times that focused on a French dish called Vegetables à la Grecque. It’s essentially lightly poached vegetables served at room temperature or slightly chilled, with a savory sauce that somewhat resembles a pickling liquid. That launched me on a research quest, which turned up a bounty of variations, and convinced me that as soon as the local farmer’s market is in full swing, I’ll be making this a mainstay dish for summer lunches and dinners.
Vegetables à la Grecque, despite the name, has nothing to do with Greece, but refers to a French imagining of Greek “style” food. The methodology is the same across the dozens of recipes I uncovered in my research. Whatever fresh vegetables are at hand are simmered in a liquid made up of olive oil, white wine, vinegar and sometimes vegetable stock. The only trick is to time the adding of the vegetables to the liquid to make sure they’re done properly — cooked but still a little bit firm when you bite them. This isn’t much of a problem, since the dish is intended to be served cool.by
Grilled rainbow trout is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s relatively easy to make and a very light, but satisfying entrée. So when I can get my hands on fresh rainbow trout, you can bet the grill will be getting hot and the fish basket will be oiled up.
When I say that grilling fresh trout is easy, I mean there are just a few things you have to consider and very few things to do with the fish, no matter what choices you make. First you have to consider what kind of fire you have in the grill. I almost always use wood chunks (apple or cherry) rather than charcoal. The smoky flavor it imparts is perfect for the delicate flavor of the trout. You can use plain charcoal or charcoal with smoking chips and get a somewhat different experience.by
OK. Before anyone goes off the deep end, there is no objectively perfect egg. There is a perfect egg for a given purpose, as far as I’m concerned, and as part of this week’s sous vide explorations, I’ve spent some time (and eggs) to figure out the formula for producing my own perfect general purpose egg. In this endeavor, I have lots of company. The first thing that just about everyone who buys a sous vide setup immediately begins playing with eggs. The reason is simple: They’re easy to do (no recipe needed) and eggs are very sensitive to the time and temperature at which they’re cooked.
I’ve found a ton of useful information online regarding sous vide eggs. I am especially happy that I found this article at ChefSteps, which features an interactive calculator for determining the time/temperature combination for a given white/yolk texture profile. That, in turn, led me to this article at The Food Lab, which satisfied the chemistry geek in me.by
Making a great pork dish has always been a challenge for me, especially when dealing with lean pork like pork chops or pork loin. The sous vide approach has changed that for me, forever. The combination of a simple marinade, vacuum sealing, and cooking to a precise temperature makes it a breeze. The pork loin pictured above was cooked sous vide to 57C/135F for 2 hours. The result was uniformly tender and moist and full of flavor. Add a little applesauce and grilled pears and some roasted brussels sprouts and it makes a very nice meal indeed.
The flavor came in large part from the marinade and vacuum sealing. Even if you aren’t into sous vide just yet (and I suspect you will be before long, thanks to increased availability and reasonable prices for the gear), a vacuum sealer like Food Saver or the equivalent is a very good thing to have. Vacuum sealing certainly guarantees good contact between marinade and meat, but I suspect without evidence that it also drives the marinade at least partially into the meat. I also used the tip of a sharp knife to insert slices of garlic into the meat. That’s also something I’ll be doing again and again. And of course, the meat was seared just before serving on a very hot gas grill (a hot cast iron pan would also serve).by
This week, I’d like to offer up some of the results of some of my sous vide experiments. They’ve been a lot of fun, and tasty, too. We’ll start with this strip steak, which turned out beautifully.
Strip steaks are probably the best value you can find among the best cuts of beef for grilling. They’re also more difficult to get right, when compared to tenderloin or even t-bones and Porterhouse (both of which are part tenderloin, part strip). Strip steaks, however, are where sous vide preparation shines. Strip steaks done sous vide are uniformly tender from edge to edge, and with less than a minute per side in a hot pan or on a grill, I still got that nice char that adds so much flavor.by
I recently was cleaning up a basement room and came across an electric ice cream maker that probably hadn’t been out of the box for more than a decade. It certainly predates my interest in cooking and developing recipes. On rediscovering the appliance, I immediately started thinking about what I could do with it.
My first thought was to make something traditional, like a chocolate or strawberry ice cream, but that didn’t seem like it would be worth the effort. As I researched various recipes for the base custard, I started seeing recipes that incorporated various non-traditional ingredients like strong tea or herbs and that led me to think about the Mediterranean recipes I’ve been exploring recently and the flavors they incorporate. The result of all the ruminations was this lemon basil ice cream.by