Monday, September 28, 2009

Paella falsos:

Yes, that is spanish for fake paella. I decided to call this dish that because my first choice of description, tomatoey-rice gruel, didn't have that certain ring to it. Either way, I'm still not entirely sure what exactly this dish is. A quick history of it's creation.

A couple of months ago, when the chard in my garden was growing full steam ahead, I harvested what was probably about 2.5 lbs. worth. Now, by this point in the season, I was getting a little sick of chard to be quite honest, so I kept having to find new ways of using it. Since it was close to the end of the month, a time when I generally cut-off my grocery shopping as a means to force clean out my fridge and cabinets, I had limited provisions on hand. Like most, I have a group of staples that I always keep around, of which rice and whole canned tomatoes are a part of. I also have been keeping skinless turkey sausages in my freezer as they're rather utilitarian meat for a number of dishes. So, there it was, chard, rice, canned tomatoes, and turkey sausage... what the heck can you make with that?

Paella falsos:
1 33oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup rice (any kind will do, I used long grain)
1-2 lbs. chard, washed
6 oz. skinless smoked turkey sausage
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. coriander
pinch saffron
  1. Remove the stems and central rib from the chard and chop or tear into roughly 1 inch square pieces. Mince the garlic and heat the oil in a soup-pot till shimmering, then add in the chard, garlic, and coriander and cook for ~5 minutes.
  2. Add in the rice and ~1/4 tsp. salt and stir to coat each grain in oil. Pour the liquid from the tomatoes into a bowl and reserve. Seed and chop the tomatoes into small pieces. When the rice is translucent, pour in the tomatoes and juice. Bring the pot to a boil.
  3. Slice the sausage into small, bite-sized pieces. When the pot reaches a boil, add the sausage and the saffron and drop the heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, for a good 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, the mix should be thicker as the rice absorbs the tomato juice, adjust the final seasoning now while there's still some liquid left.
  4. Now, there are two ways to finish this. The first, as I did it the first time, is simply to keep heating it in the pot, creating a crusty bottom. Alternatively, you can transfer some to a non-stick skillet and achieve the same effect.

It's hard to get a nice picture of this, this was the best I could do.

So, the reason I call this fake paella is simply because it's like paella in principle, but I certainly didn't plan it that way and no Spaniard would ever mistake this for the real thing. The end result, however, is a really delicious, tomatoey-savory rice dish wish a crusty bottom, so fake paella. I've made this a few times since its first accidental creation, and I haven't really made any changes to it yet. It may not look all that great, but do yourself a favor and try it, I think you'll be quite pleasantly surprised.

Well, that's all I have this time, I'm back to finishing a manuscript again, but I'll try to post again this coming weekend if I have time.

Mike :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Champagne-Pear Sorbet

Ok, so I've been a bit AWOL of late, its been almost a month since my last post! But to make the long story of why very short, work > blog, so unfortunately that comes first.

But now I'm back (at least for a while...) and I've got a recipe that I'm really excited about. Anyone who's ever been to Columbus, OH, and many who've never even come close, know the name Jeni Britton (or at least the Jeni part). For those who have no clue who she is, take a moment to check out her day job. The site unfortunately does little justice to the general awesomeness that is Jeni's ice cream, sorbet, or frozen yogurt. Ms. Britton likes to push some boundaries when it comes to her creations, a current 'seasonal flavor' is celery while a standard 'signature flavor' is thai chili. So after a recent visit, I decided to try my own hand at a unique yet totally awesome frozen treat.

The key to making this type of endeavor pan out on the first attempt is to start with a flavor pairing that already works well. I don't know how or why it popped into my head, but fancy dinner desserts seemed like a good place to start. Having gone on a few cruises in my currently short lifetime, I thought about when they had the 'dessert tray', which erroneously had a plate of fruit, cheese, and nuts next to the crème brûlée and triple chocolate cake. Now that I'm older I realize adults consider a glass of champagne with an assortment of nuts, cheeses, and fruits to be a worthy dessert, and they're actually right. Since I planned on using champagne, a sorbet was a natural fit over an ice cream. And pears are just hitting their season, so like Ms. Britton I figured I'd work with what's naturally abundant.

Now, a simple champagne and pear sorbet is pretty pedestrian compared to Red Beets with Lemon & Poppy Seeds, so that's where the nuts and cheese come into the picture. Having just bought a bunch of walnuts to make candied walnuts for salads, those were a natural addition. For the cheese I decided a mild crumbly blue would provide come interesting contrast to the rest of the flavors, as well as a dose of salt to intersect the sweet and tart flavor of the sorbet itself. But cheese in a sorbet? And blue cheese!? I had to do some checking with others to make sure I wasn't going crazy. After sampling an n of 3, and getting back overwhelming statistical evidence that it sounded yummy (p<0.001), I went for it... and boy am I glad I did.

Champagne-pear sorbet with walnuts and blue cheese:
1 bottle champagne (nothing fancy...)
1.5 lbs. pears (pref. bosc)
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2-1 cup crumbly blue cheese
  1. Pour the champagne into a container big enough to hold the pears when chopped up.
  2. Peel and core the pears. Chop into smaller pieces and put into the container with the champagne. The acidity in the champagne will help prevent browning and infuse some flavor into the pears.
  3. When the pears are all chopped, let them sit in the champagne for 5 minutes and then pour the champagne into another container. Take 1 cup of the champagne and add to a small pot with the sugar. Bring to a boil and hold for 5 minutes, then cover and turn off the heat to make a champagne simple syrup.
  4. Put the pears into a food processor, blender, or food mill and purée. When done, add the pear purée, champagne, and champagne syrup to a container and put in the fridge till well chilled.
  5. Add the sorbet base to your ice cream maker and process like always. When finished, mix in the walnut pieces and blue cheese crumbles thoroughly! Pack into containers and harden in the freezer (although eating it immediately is really really good).

The final product. You can see bits of the cheese (in white) and the faint darker tan of the walnuts.

Pick out the dark walnut pieces and use them for something else; blue cheese crumbles shouldn't be bigger than a pencil eraser.

As I said, no need to buy anything fancy. I would suggest a brut or extra brut if you have really sweet/ripe pears.

So, there you have it. The perfect fancy after dinner dessert, made into an even more perfect sorbet. I will admit, that before I made this, I wasn't too sure of how it would turn out. I mean, goat cheese in ice cream is one thing, but blue cheese in a sorbet can go horribly wrong. Fortunately my culinary intuition (or is it insanity?) was right. If the cheese really is putting you off from trying this, do yourself a favor and try this: make the the sorbet as given, and only add some nuts and cheese to half the batch. The champagne pear sorbet itself is great, especially right from the churn when the acidity of the champagne is still at full power. The nuts and cheese just give it that little push into uniquely awesome, its a recipe that Jeni Britton would be proud of... and I'm sure you'll all love it too!

New recipe to be out next week, so until then...
Mike :)