Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Oxtail Stew with Black Beans and Black Eyed Peas

The first time I can say for sure that I had oxtails was at the poet Staceyann Chin's 30th birthday party. Not only can that woman spit fierce spoken word, but, the little general as I call her, can also cook up some fierce West Indian food. At her party she had a hell of a spread, and the best of the best was the oxtails. For about an hour, as the house filled up with the most beautiful black lesbians the world has to offer, I sat in the kitchen, nodding hellos, and eating about sixteen cows worth of oxtails. There wasn't an ounce of shame in my game.

Since then I have come to deeply love and admire the tail of the ox. From it's preparation in West Indian to traditional Thai soups, the oxtail can't have a much bigger fan than me.

Yesterday, I left the house to go shopping for meat to cook with the black beans and black eyed peas I had at home. I was cooking dinner for my friend Natalie, and I wanted to make sure I made something that was delicious, filling, and that I could send home with her in large quantities. Natalie will be the first to tell you that she is a champion eater, and she is a wonderful person to cook for as she is very vocal in her praise, but she doesn't find the same joy in cooking that I do. When I stumbled across to packages of amazing looking oxtails at D'Agostino, a recipe popped into my head that I knew I was going to have to make.

Plus, Nat loves oxtails as much (perhaps more) than I do. Plus, she's Jamaican, so I wouldn't even try to compare my tails to the ones her family throws down.

Unfortunately, I mistimed the cooking of the beans, and so the soup was almost but not quite ready to be eaten when Natalie came over. Since it was already past 8pm, we ordered Thai take out and I sent her home with soup. I woke up this morning to an email from her praising the soup, which made me happy. Now I am sitting here eating a bowl of it, and I thought I would share the recipe with ya'll.

Oxtail Stew with Black Beans and Black Eyed Peas

2lbs of oxtails (if you can get them from the butcher, they will be cheaper than the grocery)
1/2 lb chuck roast cubed
1 large carrot
1 large parsnip
1 large red potato
1 red onion
1 bunch scallions
6 cloves garlic
2 jalapenos
1/2 lb black eyed peas
1/2 lb black beans
3 tbsp Goya Adobo
2 packages Goya Sazon con Azafran
1 tbsp curry powder
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp dried basil flakes

First of all, if you remember, soak the black beans over night. Pour them in a bowl, cover with water, and let sit until its time to cook. Do NOT soak the black eyed peas. If you do not soak your black beans the cooking time for the stew goes from 3 to between 5 and 6 hours.

Chop the carrot, parsnip, and potato into small pieces. Mince the onions and garlic. Cube the chuck roast. Then put it all in a large pot along with the spices and the beans. Cover with water and then stir so that everything is well mixed. Turn the heat to medium high. Check the pot regularly, stirring occasionally, and make sure that there is always sufficient water in the pot (sufficient meaning that everything is don't want the oxtails to dry out).

If you soaked your beans over night, cook for three hours. If not, cook for five to six hours checking the black beans until they are ready to eat. The black eyed peas cook, without soaking, in just a couple of hours. Also, the black eyed peas, when fully cooked, will give the stew a rich brown broth (until then the water will remain relatively clear).

Serve the stew with a side of jasmine rice and steamed vegetables. This will make a HUGE pot of soup. The ingredients will run you just around $20, and this stew will feed a family of four for several days or 10 to 12 people at one sitting.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Adobo Chicken Puerto Rican Style (Pollo Adobado del estilo boricano)

This past Labor Day weekend, I played host to two of my favorite people in the entire world: two of my four sisters. My sisters Jasmine and Shannon came to NYC to visit me for the weekend.

In my family, the only person I would never go head to head with during a cooking contest would be my sister Jasmine. Let me tell you about this woman. First of all she is gorgeous. Last Saturday night, we cooked a family dinner, and I had some of my friends over. Jasmine and Shannon showed up to my apartment dressed to go out on the town. They both came in looking like beauty queens. Jasmine had on a tight blue cocktail dress, come do me leather high heels, and was made up to heaven. That didn't stop her from putting on an apron, tying back her hair, and laying down some fierce sinigang (a soup from the Philippines that is tangy and delicious).

The left on Sunday, and since then I have been in the kitchen experimenting with Puerto Rican and Pinoy flavors. The cuisines of both countries are related, in some respects, due to their shared history as Spanish colonies. One type of dish loved by both nations is the tradition of adobo. Adobo is Spanish for stewed, and the techniques for cooking Puerto Rican adobo and Filipino adobo are related.

Tonight, I made a dish that combines some of the flavors from both types of adobo. And I almost ate the entire damn pot.

Chicken Adobo (Stewed Chicken) Puerto Rican/Pinoy Fusion Style

Two leg/thigh chicken pieces cut into quarters (including the leg)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 jalapeno minced
1 medium red onion diced
5-6 cloves of garlic minced
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup Goya Adobo seasoning
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 bunch scallions diced
2 tsp paprika
2 tbs patis (fish sauce)
1 packet Goya Sazon con Azafran (optional but adds a helluva flavor)

This dish is best when it is cooked in a dutch oven. Though any good pot will do. Combine all of the ingredients into your dutch oven. Using a large spoon make sure that the chicken is evenly coated with all of the ingredients.

Cover the dutch oven, and over a medium high heat bring it to a boil. Once the adobo starts to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook covered for 30 minutes stirring occasionally to continue marinating the chicken. Do not worry about liquid as the ingredients combined with the liquid already present in the chicken will create a rich broth.

After 30 minutes, uncover the pot and allow the chicken to simmer, uncovered for another 30 to 45 minutes. Basically, you want to let the chicken cook until about half of the liquid that was in the pot when you uncovered it is gone. The sauce will thicken, and this will be an amazing topping for your rice.

After simmering uncovered for 30-45 minutes, turn it off, and serve it over your choice of rice (I had mine with a mixture of leftover jasmine rice mixed with short grain brown rice served with a side of black beans...perfection!)

This amazingly savory dish will run you no more than $7 and, if you aren't a greedy monster like me, will easily feed four people.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Seafood Jollof Rice

Some of the most amazing foods that I have ever had come from Africa. From Ethiopa to Morocco, from Nigeria to Senegal, I am in love with the flavors as well as the communal tradition of eating. My all time favorite dish from the African continent has to be Ceebu Jen, the national dish of Senegal. I was dating a wonderful man that was ex-military, had spent quite a bit of time in Senegal, and ended up raising the sons of his best friend. These boys were amazing and hilarious. They called Tony "toubab", which is translated as "ghost skin" or something close to that. They would also cook dinner for us from time to time, and the rice and fish dish that is ceebu jen blew my mind.

I tried to make ceebu jen once, and it was something of a minor fiasco.

So, last night, my friend Bebe was coming to my house for dinner. Bebe is from Cameroon, and I thought I would attempt, again, to make a popular dish from Africa. This time I went after jollof rice, which is probably one of the better known African dishes to people living in the United States. And this time, though I had to modify the recipe a bit so that David, my pescatarian partner, could it. This is close to traditional jollof rice, but I won't claim it is authentic, but it will give you some of the amazing flavors in that tremendous dish from the Mother Land.

Seafood Jollof Rice

2 catfish fillets cubed
1/2 lb uncooked shrimp
1/2 cup sesame oil (regular or hot)
1/2 medium red onion minced
1 bunch parsley minced
5 cloves garlic minced
1 can tomato paste
1/2 can whole stewed tomatoes
4 cups jasmine rice
2 jalapenos minced (also four Thai chili peppers, one habanero or two poblanos would work depending on your tolerance)
2 medium red potatoes cubed (small!)
1/2 pound fresh green beans chopped (again bite sized pieces)
Two teaspoons salt

In a large pot, heat half to the sesame oil. Next throw in the fish and shrimp. Cook for approximately two minutes, just enough to lightly cook both, but not enough to cook them all the way through. Remove the fish/seafood from the oil and set aside.

In the same oil, add the onion, peppers and garlic. Saute them until the onion starts to turn transparent. Next add the parsley and potatoes. Cook until the potatoes start to soften just a bit. Next add the green beans and salt to the mixture, stirring frequently, for the next three to four minutes.

Next add the rice to the pot. At this point, also add the second part of the oil. Stir the mixture together for two to three minutes making sure that all of the rice is integrated with the vegetables. Then stir in the tomato paste. Continue stirring until the tomato paste has been disseminated throughout the rice.

Next, add half of a regular sized can of stewed tomatoes. Using your cooking utensil, chop up the tomatoes as you stir them into the mixture. Do not use the juice from the can, just add the fruit. Continue stirring frequently for about two minutes. Watch to make sure that the heat isn't too high, so that the contents aren't burning and sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Finally, add in three cups of water. Then throw the fish and shrimp into the mixture Stir two or three times IMMEDIATELY but do not stir after that or your rice will get mushy.

Let the contents come to a rigorous boil. Then reduce the heat and let cook for about 15 minutes/until the rice is cooked. Remove from the heat, stir once, and serve.

This amazingly delicious African inspired dish will cost you roughly, depending on the price of fish/seafood in your neck of the woods, $15-$18 and will easily feed 6 to 10 people.

Seafood Jollof Rice

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grilled Trout/Grilled Pork Chops in Sweet Bell Pepper Marinade

Every once in a while I borrow an idea for a recipe from a friend...and make it better.

Just saying.

A couple of months back, I had gone hiking with my friends Josh Pugliese, David Nigro, and company. When we returned from the wilds of Staten Island, Josh hosted an awesome BBQ with his husband, NY State Assemblyman Matt Titone (D-Staten Island). When we returned to Josh and Matt's home, Mr. Titone was madly at work in the kitchen whipping up something tasty. Josh is the grill master, but Matt was making a marinade that, frankly, was delicious (though a bit too creamy for my tastes).

I asked him what he put in his magic blender, and he shared with me his secret. I took what I liked from it and made a sauce, similar, but my own.

It's simple, it's fresh, it's delicious, and it's cheap...which makes it a prime recipe for The Fairy Chef.

Now, as I was cooking for David (pescatarian), myself, and his family....I used the marinade on fresh center cut pork chops as well as a rainbow trout and a brown trout caught my David's cousin in Maine. It was beautiful.

Grilled Trout and Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Bell Pepper Marinade

2 trout fillets or whole trout or 4 center cut pork chops
1 large red bell pepper sliced
1 large orange bell pepper sliced
1 jalapeno chopped
4 cloves garlic
1/2 large red onion chopped
1 cup Light Italian Dressing
1/2 cup fresh basil minced or 1 tbsp dried basil flakes
2 tsp salt

First of all you will need a blender or food processor. Turn on the food processor on medium speed. Next, add the ingredients a bunch at a time starting with the bell peppers, then add the Italian dressing, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Once all of the ingredients are in the processor, turn the speed to high and allow to blend for one minute. This makes a richly flavored marinade that is light enough for summer with a bit of a zip from the jalapeno.

Place your pork chops or fish (whichever you choose to make) in a large zip lock bag. Fill the bag until the meat is covered. You will have sauce left over. Set this aside as you will use the sauce for basting the meat on the grill as well as for a condiment at the dinner table.

Shake the meat in the zip lock until it is thoroughly covered (if you have whole trout, make sure the sauce gets inside of the trout). Set the meat aside for at least an hour to let it marinate.

Next prepare your grill. If you are using a gas grill, then you can heat up the grill 10 minutes prior to the time you wish to start cooking. If you are using a charcoal grill, get the coals nice and hot without too much flame before you are ready to put the meat on the grill.

Next take some of the sauce leftover and pour it into a bowl. If you have a basting brush, set the brush and the extra sauce aside. Next put your meat on the grill. Turn the meat every couple of minutes. Each time you turn the meat, baste it with extra sauce. Make sure to cover the meat on the grill between each rotation.

Depending on the thickness of the pork chops and the size of the fish, it should take roughly 10 to 12 minutes to cook the meat thoroughly. For extra security if you cook pork....check the meat before removing it from grill.

Set a small bowl of the marinade on the table to use as a condiment. Enjoy with freshly steamed vegetables (we ate ours with fresh green beans from the garden), and enjoy!

The total cost of the marinade is roughly $4 and the total cost with the fish or the pork chops, depending on seasonal prices, will run you $12-$15 to feed a family of four...with leftovers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Curry Beef Stew with Thai Peppers

Now and again, I throw a bunch of stuff in the Dutch Oven, close my eyes, and pray for the best.

Yesterday, I had to restrain myself from licking the insides of the pot. As a matter of fact, I was so excited about the stew I created that I went on ahead and am making another pot right now as we speak. I flared it up a little this second time around, and it will make your tummy sing sing sing.

For less than $ too can create a kitchen miracle.

After this week, I am going on a meat hiatus for about three weeks in order to get myself in better shape for my trip to China, Thailand, and Indonesia. It is my hope that when I return from those trips that I will come back with more interesting flavors and recipe ideas to share with you all. I am also going to be taking a Balinese cooking class while in Indonesia, so prepare your palate for some true delights coming to you in August.

Curry Beef Stew with Thai Peppers

2lb chuck roast with good marbling
1 large carrot chopped
4 large garlic cloves chopped
6 Thai peppers minced
1 tbs curry powder
1 tbs Adobo seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1/2 large red onion diced
1 bunch scallions diced
1 cup white wine
1 can pink beans

First cut up your roast into bite sized cubes. Next chop up the rest of your ingredients. Place all the ingredients in a medium sized Dutch oven (or stew pot). Cover the ingredients 2/3rd's of the way with water. Then, open the can of pink beans (I use Goya's), and dump the contents of the can into the pot including the juice. (an option is to add red potatoes to the pot for a more traditional beef stew).

Cover the stew and turn the heat to medium high until it begins to boil. Once it begins to boil turn the stew down to low heat and let simmer for one to two hours (the longer you let it simmer the better the flavors). Do not add more water to the pot unless you see that the water has reduced greatly to the point that beef or carrots are going to burn.

Once the stew is done serve over a bed of Romain lettuce with a layer of brown rice on top of the lettuce (or just put the stew in a bowl and eat it up!).

This stew will change your world. The entire shebang should run you about $12 and will easily feed 6-8 people or a family of four (with plenty of leftovers).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Black Beans and Rice

Last week was one hell of a week. I dealt with some really hard things in my life and had to confront some really difficult realities about myself. The fall out of the entire situation isn't yet clear, but I have been forced to look directly at myself, admit some hard truths, and decide whether to grow or lose myself in pity and fear.

I choose life.

And, of course, you can't live without eating.

Sometimes, though I go a little overboard in the kitchen. Tonight, thus far, I have made homemade guacamole. I am making carne frita. I am also boiling the pork bone from the carne frita, combined with some herbs, to create a soup base for later use. And, after all that, I am also making my homemade vegetarian black beans.

Did I mention I also cooked an amazing seafood stir fry with glass noodles for lunch? If I didn't, I just did.

But, enough with the food is my black bean recipe. Enjoy.

Black Beans and Rice

1lb bag black beans
4 tbsp Lobster flavor Better than Bouillon
5 bay leaves
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 tsp curry
1 jalapeno
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp tarragon
1/2 large red onion diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tbsp Adobo

First, to speed up cooking time, soak your black beans in water over night. If you forget or don't have the time to do that or you have a whole bunch of time in the house one day...then don't worry about soaking them.

First off, if you want purely vegetarian beans, feel free to leave out the lobster bouillon. The flavor black beans are so rich that even without any animal product, they are delicious. The lobster bouillon, however, takes these beans from delicious to blow-your-friggin-brain-straight-out-of-your-skull-and-into-orbit delicious.

Pour the beans into a large cooking pot. Cover the beans with water until there is about an inch of water above the beans. Next add in all of the additional ingredients. With a large spoon, stir all of the ingredients together so they are well mixed. Next turn the beans on medium heat and cover.

Watch the heat so that the beans don't boil over too much and check the beans every 15-20 minutes to make sure that they are well covered with water. If you have soaked the beans over night, it should take about an hour and a half of slowly simmering and stirring to finish these beans. If not, it will take roughly four hours.

But let me tell you, do NOT rush the process. If you keep the beans covered in water, you can't overcook them, and the longer you let them cook the more amazing they will be.

Serve the beans with rice to make a complete carb/protein meal or serve the beans as a side dish with your favorite protein. This dish will create about 10 services for a family of four, so you should freeze some of the beans or use the beans in a good stir fry. Without the bouillon, the cost of this dish is roughly $5, with the lobster sauce the cost is roughly $10.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Capellini with Langostinos

About a week and a half ago, I was at Trader Joe's in Union Square, and I came across a bag of frozen seafood that looked like itty bitty lobster tails. The name langostino means "little lobster." I bought this unknown seafood on faith, and I let it sit in the freezer for about a week and a half before I turned my attention to it.

I did my research, and I spent some time online learning about this food and some popular ways to prepare it. Turns out that the creatures look like shrimp with wicked long pincers. Kinda scary. They were once considered throw away food, but now are looked at very favorably. Indeed the meat is deliciously sweet, and it was very affordable.

So, after looking at some of the flavors that folks said go well with langostinos, I concocted a light pasta dish with an amazing white wine sauce. David, my in-house food tester, made me save the leftover sauce for later use. It's good. Real good.

Capellini with Langostinos

1lb frozen cooked langostinos
1lb capellini
1/2 cup red onion
2 cups white wine
2 heads of broccoli cut up
1tbs Goya Adobo seasoning
3 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 stick of butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

To begin, prepare your pasta al dente. Set the pasta aside.

Next in a large skillet, melt HALF of the stick of butter over medium heat. Next add the onions and garlic and saute for two minutes in the butter. Next add the rest of the ingredients except the other half of the butter, langostinos and the pasta. Saute this for about five minutes so that the broccoli has time to cook a bit. Finally add the last half of the butter stick and the langostinos. Cook for about seven minutes allowing the flavors to mix well. Serve over the capellini.

This dish will run you about $10 and will easily feed four to six people.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Garlic Buttered Egg Noodles with Asparagus and Button Mushrooms

Growing up, my Mom was very very tricky. One of her favorite tricks was to make my brother Jason and I believe that cheap and mundane dishes were expensive treats to be had only on occasion. I love that trick.

One dish my Mom would make that I loved was garlic buttered egg noodles. I took my Mom's old recipe and jazzed it up a bit. It's cheap, delicious, and a great main vegetarian dish or side dish with my shellfish recipe.

Garlic Buttered Egg Noodles with Asparagus and Button Mushrooms

1 lb egg noodles
1 lb asparagus (cut in thirds)
1 package button mushrooms sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp garlic salt
4 tbs salted Irish butter
A couple dashes of hot sesame oil
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 cup red onion

First, cook the egg noodles until al dente. Drain and set aside. In a large skillet (I use my wok), heat the olive oil. Saute the asparagus and button mushrooms until they are cooked to your taste. Remove the vegetables from the pan. Next, add the butter to the pan and melt the butter, next add the cilantro, garlic, and red onion. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Then add the noodles, sesame oil, vegetables, and garlic salt. Cook all together for 5 minutes. Serve it up and enjoy!

This recipe will run you about $5-$7 and will feed four people to the gills.

Shellfish Steaming Stock Base for Mussels, Cockles, and Clams

I have been searching for perfection in my quest for a blow your mind recipe for steaming shell fish. Last night I did. I considered simply updating my existing spicy mussels recipe with this new recipe, but there is enough difference in flavor and prep time that I decided to go ahead and create a separate recipe. Also, the side dish I prepared with these mussels balanced the flavors in a really simple and effective way.

And completely by accident I created a seafood soup stock that had my dinner guests asking for good Italian bread that they then used to dip and sop up as much of the stock as they could. One of my guests was allergic to shellfish, and she risked hives in order to sample the sauce from the mussels--more than once.

These mussels take a little bit longer prep time (adding an additional 20 minutes), but it is worth it. Sweet baby Jesus it is worth it. I will post the recipe for the side dish (Buttered Noodles with Asparagus and Button Mushrooms) in a separate post. I loved that so much that I may make another batch of it today.

So here it is:

Shellfish Steaming Stock Base (Mussels, Cockles, Clams)

2 to 4lbs of your favorite mussels, cockles, or clams
1 loaf of fresh Italian bread or baguette
4 cups sweet white wine (I use pinot grigio)
4 cloves garlic minced
2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp salt
2 tsps fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp fresh rosemary
2 tsp oregano
2 tbsp Brandon's Shut Yo Mouth Hot Sauce or two thai peppers diced
1 jalapeno diced
1/2 tsp hot sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp salted Irish butter
1/2 cup fresh cilantro minced
1 bunch scallions minced
1/2 small red onion minced
1/4 cup sweetened cooking sake
1 package Goya Sazon con Azafran

Combine all the ingredients, except the shellfish and butter, in a large pot. Stir the steaming stock and make sure that all of the ingredients are well mixed. Then add the butter to the pot.

Next over medium high heat bring the stock to a simmer. DO NOT LET THE STOCK BOIL! If the stock boils it will weaken the flavor. Once the stock has reached a steady simmer, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the stock and let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Next add your shellfish to the pot. Cover, turn the heat to high, and steam the shellfish for 7 to 10 minutes (cockles take less time, clams take the most time). Uncover, remove any shellfish that have not opened, and serve. Prepare to have your mind blown. Pour the juice in a dipping bowl and serve with fresh baguette or Italian bread for dipping.

Depending on how your kitchen is stocked in terms of spices, this recipe will run you $16 to $20, and it will feed four people comfortably. Consider serving it with my Buttered Noodles with Asparagus and Button Mushrooms.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tostones con Ailoi a la Tasha y Nat (Fried Green Platains with Creamy Garlic Dipping Sauce)

Last night I made my spicy mussels dish for a group of friends at the Brooklyn home of my diva-licious friends Tasha and Natalie.

In addition to my spicy mussels dish, I made tostones (fried green plantains--a common side dish from the Caribbean) and a quick version of aioli that I made up last night as I went along. Natalie revealed that she had attempted to make tostones recently, but she wasn't able to get them to smash into round circles. It was revealed that she was trying to mash the uncooked green plantains, which would be akin to trying to use a rolling pin to mash a brick.

So, I decided, today, to reveal my easy tostones recipe along with the delicious "quick," aioli that I conjured up last night. And, just to note, I have named this quick and easy dipping sauce after my favorite two Brooklynite dykes: Tasha and Nat!

Tostones con Aioli (Fried Green Plantains with Garlic Dipping Sauce)

5 Green Plantains cut into quarter sized slices
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp garlic salt
1 small container sour creme
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large paper grocery bags

First, prepare your dipping sauce. This is remarkably easy. Open the sour creme container. Scoop the sour creme out into a small mixing bowl. To the sour creme add the olive oil, and to that add the garlic salt. Mix thoroughly and let stand at room temperature. Set aside.

Next, in a large pan (a wok actually works wonderfully) heat your vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, add the plantains. Chances are you will have to cook the plantains in several rounds. Preparing tostones is a two step process. Fry the tostones until they are golden in color, then remove from the heat and place on one of the paper bags. Next lay the second bag atop the first and using a rolling pin or a large can, roll over the uppermost bag and smash the plantains. Continue to do this process (frying and then smashing) until all of the plantains are cooked.

Then, add fresh oil to the wok and fry the plantains again! Cook them until they begin to turn a deep golden brown. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with garlic salt, and serve with the dipping sauce.

This recipe will run you about $5 and will feed a horde of hungry friends (four people will be comfortably stuffed before you serve the main course).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Quick Spicy Mussels with Salad Greens and Avocado

I love dazzling people with dishes that look amazing, and sound sexy, but are ridiculously cheap and easy to make. I learned that trick from my Mother. I grew up extremely poor. There were times when it was touch and go if we were going to be evicted from our home, and for most of my life my Mom worked two jobs, usually two minimum wage jobs.

My Mother was a hero, period, but she was a goddess in the kitchen. One thing that she did was turn mundane, everyday food, into miracle treats. My little brother Jason and I were convinced that buttered egg noodles were a delicacy, when in fact it was nothing more than sauteed noodles in butter, salt, and garlic. But, my mother would only make the dish rarely, and she made a big deal out of it when she did. Presentation and flair when serving a dish can turn anything into a fancy treat.

Last night, I made my favorite mussel recipe. Other than the brown rice, the entire dish takes roughly 15 minutes to make INCLUDING cooking and prep time. The reaction, however, when I posted a picture of my plate to Facebook was astounding.

So here is the recipe for my dinner last night. Enjoy!

Spicy Mussels with Salad Greens and Avocado

2lb Prince Edward Island or Blue Mussels
3 garlic cloves minced
2 jalapenos sliced
3 Thai chili peppers sliced
1/2 red onion diced
3 cups white wine
1 to 2 ripe avocados
1 bag of mixed garden greens

Mussels are wonderful because you don't have to clean them first. They generally come in 2lb bags at your local grocer in the fresh seafood section. The first thing that you want to do when you get home is go through the mussels and toss out any broken mussels. Next, in a large pot, add the wine, peppers, onion, and garlic. Next add the mussels. Cover the mussels and cook over high heat for 8-10 minutes until the mussels are opened. After 10 minutes (MAX!) remove from heat. Do not cook longer or the mussels will start to get chewy. Do NOT eat any mussels that haven't opened. Throw those away as well.

To dish up the mussels, lay down a bed of salad greens on a plate, next add white or brown rice to the top of the salad greens. You can then add the mussels (in the shell or out of the shell) to the top of the rice, and add slices of fresh avocado to the plate as well. Salt to taste and ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY!

You can also serve the mussels as an appetizer. Just place the mussels, in the shell, in a large bowl, and provide a separate bowl for shells. Folks can just dig in and eat 'em up.

This dish will serve 2 people well and the total cost, depending on the price of mussels, will run from $8 to $11.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Roast Pork Shoulder with Ginger and Garlic

These days, I generally stick to chicken for my protein. That, though, is not a hard and fast rule. Now and again, particularly if I am out to eat, I will throw down on a juicy hamburger.

Every once in a while, my inner ethnic groups start clamoring for something a little more substantial than chicken. And even more rarely they start squealing like a pig to get their point across.

That happened today on the way back from the gym.

One of the reasons, among many, that I love New York is that there are still things such as butcher shops readily available in almost every neighborhood. It just so happens that my landlord is also a butcher, and his butcher shop is about a half a block away from my apartment. If you are in Midtown and looking for a great butcher, check out Sonny's Meat Market on 52nd and 10th Avenue.

I swung through today and found Sonny himself behind the butcher block. I requested a pork roast, and he brought out a beautiful pork shoulder. Sonny's is one of those great places that will slice and dice the meat just the way you want it. Sonny asked if I wanted the roast with slices in it for stuffing, and I said heck yeah!

Once I got the roast upstairs, I was in anticipatory heaven. Here's what I whipped up.

Roast Pork Shoulder with Ginger and Garlic

1 medium sized pork shoulder
8 cloves garlic sliced
1 medium size piece of ginger sliced
2 jalapenos sliced
1 bunch scallions diced
1/2 cup soy sauce

If you get your pork shoulder from the butcher, ask your butcher to slice the bottom of the roast and also to make slits into the top of the roast. Make sure the cuts on the top of the roast are deep and wide, as you will be stuffing the slits.

If you buy your shoulder at the grocer, the first thing you will want to do is make a series of slits both lengthwise and width wise on the bottom. Basically, you are going to cut into the skin and make a series of cuts that makes the bottom look like a crazy tic tac toe board.

Then, on the top, make a number of deep slits/punctures throughout the roast.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Once you have the roast slit up, take your garlic, ginger, scallions, and jalapenos and stuff the hell out of the roast. Make sure to put some of each into each slit on the top of the roast.

Then, once you have the roast impregnated with goodness, place the roast in a roasting pan. Then pour the soy sauce over the roast. Then, cover the roast either with the lid to a good roasting pan or with tin foil.

Place the roast in the oven and bake it for 2 to 3 hours or until cooked all the way through.

This roast will blow your mind. A good sized pork shoulder will run you about $10 and you can feed 8-10 people easily.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Brandon's Julia Chicken

This week's creation goes out to Mrs. Julia Child. Last week, David and I watched Julie and Julia, and I once again found a deep love for Meryl Streep. This evening, I was thinking on Julia and her love of French cuisine and the fact that I can't even make French Fries.

So I decided to experiment with some ingredients that are classic to French cuisine. In the end, this treat turned out very well because I remembered, at the last minute, after tasting my uber bland creation that Julia says that butter makes everything better. I added butter to the recipe, and I literally considered licking the pan. Butter is evil, but it tastes soooo delicious.

Here is my homage to Julia Child. Bon appetit!

Brandon's Julia Chicken

1 large boneless skinless chicken breast
1 large portobello mushroom
2 cups white wine (may I suggest Pinot Grigio)
3 cloves garlic diced
1 jalapeno minced
1/4 large yellow onion diced
1 tsp dried basil
2 tbs salted butter
1 tbs olive oil

This was a great leftovers recipe. I had already baked, en masse, chicken breasts that had been cut into serving size portions. I used two of these (roughly one half of one full breast or one whole breast as you would buy them in a package of boneless skinless breasts, I got mine from the butcher so they gave me the actual breast of the bird and not what we normally think of us the breast).

If you don't have already baked chicken breasts hanging around the fridge, the first thing to do is to bake your chicken breasts. In small greased (or sprayed) baking pan, bake your chicken breasts for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees or until cooked. Remove from the oven and slice the cooked breasts width wise into eatable slices (imagine the breast is a portobello mushroom and cut it how those delightful mushrooms are often cut). Set the breasts aside.

Next, pour the wine into a medium size mixing bowl. Add the chicken to the wine and add a couple pinches of salt to the bowl along with the dried basil. Let that soak for about a half an hour at room temperature.

I served this dish with red potatoes that I boiled with broccoli, which gave a wonderful contrast. If you are inclined to do the same, start your potatoes and broccoli to boiling now.

About 20 minutes into your marinating session, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once your oil is nice and toasty, add the garlic and the onions to the pan. Saute the onions and garlic until the onions begin to soften. Do not brown the garlic. After about four minutes, add the chicken and white wine to the sauce pan. Then add the jalapenos and the mushrooms. Allow the dish to simmer, stirring occasionally. After about 10 minutes, add the butter to the pan. Allow the butter to melt and stir slowly the entire time it is melting. As the dish continues to simmer, the white wine and butter will thicken a bit making a rich sauce. You can add a dash of salt to the dish during this last bit of cooking. After about five minutes, remove from heat and serve with your delicious potatoes and broccoli.

This is one of my new favorites, and it is divine. I even managed to stay on my portion size, and I have plenty of leftovers. This little dish can be cooked (use three buck chuck from Trader Joe's if you can for the wine) for anywhere between $6 and $15 and will easily serve four people.