Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pressure Cooked Beer Can Chicken - Steam Roasted, from Hip Pressure Cooking

Check out this amazing recipe that uses a Fissler Blue Point pressure cooker to cook a whole chicken:
hip pressure cooking: Pressure Cooked Beer Can Chicken - Steam Roasted w...:
You set the whole chicken on top of a can of beer inside the pressure cooker. Fast, delicious and different!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Voices of Small Farmers

The lobbyist and his vehicle — Mark Lilly of Farm to Family speaks at Farm Food Voices DC 2011, to which he traveled in his colorful Farm Bus.

Let’s play word association for a moment. What comes to mind when you hear “politics”? Maybe you see newspaper pictures of candidates shaking hands at a neighborhood coffee shop days before an election. Then there’s always the shot of the politician voting on Election Day. Maybe the image of the U.S. Capitol or another government building comes to mind.

How about “lobbyist”? That tends to evoke images of fat-cat deal-brokers in Italian loafers doing dirty work a smoky back room, doesn’t it?

The fact of the matter is that political statements are made all day every day by a wide range of interest groups. Essentially, they are lobbyists. Many of them come to Washington, DC, to voice opinions about federal legislation.

There is no shortage of controversial food-related issues these days and that’s exactly what brought the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (NICFA) to the Capitol this week.

NICFA organized its fifth annual Small Farm and Ranch Grassroots Lobby Day and Legislative Reception. Its members and supporters are farmers, restaurateurs, chefs and concerned foodies who stand behind the NICFA mission to “promote and preserve unregulated direct farmer-to-consumer trade that fosters availability of locally grown or home-produced food products.”

In shorthand, the lobbying day was called Farm Food Voices DC 2011. The NICFA lobbyists delivered their message in a form of show and tell. Throughout the day, they held meetings with Congressmembers and/or their aides to express their opposition to policies they believe harm the livelihood of farmers and the free choice of consumers. The show part of the show-and-tell exercise took place at lunchtime, when the majestic Senate Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building was converted into a food festival of sorts. Restaurants and farmers offered a bounty of artfully plated meats, cheeses, finger foods and desserts.

During the reception, guest speakers underscored the NICFA message from their distinct vantage points. Filmmaker Kristin Canty explained her personal motives for producing the forthcoming film Farmageddon. Mark Lilly described the Farm to Family bus he operates with his wife, Suzi, in Richmond, Va. Their refurbished school bus, painted joyfully by Happy the Artist, functions as a farmers market on wheels and it is literally the vehicle through which the Lillys accomplish their mission of “feeding the community one stop at a time.”

The reception speakers and grassroots lobbyists told first-person stories that illustrated the overall purpose of their efforts and the basic reasons why individuals come together to lobby.

“As our farmers cultivate the land for a rich yield in the future, so must we build and cultivate relationships with our legislators so that we are represented in the halls of Congress,” NICFA said. “Congress needs to know where good food comes from. This opportunity lets them make the connection that will help our farming freedom thrive and continue giving us access to healthy, safe food.

“Each year, it has greatly impressed our legislators and their aides to have farmers and producers literally standing behind their products. It is through encounters such as these that we will begin to harvest, from our legislators and indeed our culture, a loyalty to local foods. And Congress will begin to realize that the safest food system is through neighbor-to-neighbor food transactions.”

Next time you hear the word “lobbyist,” you can associate it with a farmer. Or a firefighter, a banker, a car manufacturer, a movie studio, an environmentalist, a Girl Scout or a mother against drunk driving. All these people are advocating for given policies through their trade organizations. They make regular pilgrimages to the Capitol and lobby just like NICFA. The word to associate with this is the very foundation of U.S. government: “democracy.”

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Best New Nonstick Pans in Food and Wine Magazine

Did you see the list of best new non-stick pans in the March issue of Food and Wine magazine? The Fissler Solea frypan is number two on the list. It doesn't look like a nonstick pan. Instead of a black non-stick coating it has a waffled, polished stainless steel surface, called Novogrill. It's not a pan that you would want to make pancakes or an omelette in, like other non-stick pans. The Novogrill surface provides stick resistance, especially when cooking meat, while allowing a browned crust to form on the meat, without the addition of oil. The Novogrill surface is found on other pans in the Fissler cookware range, including the Crispy Steelux pan I cooked this ham steak in. Cooking a thick slice of ham the way you would cook a steak is not something I had ever done before but I saw this great Russian style ham at the deli counter, when I went to buy cheese, and I was inspired. You can do this with canned ham but if you have a good European style deli or butcher with French, German or Eastern European style ham, you'll have the centerpiece of a great dinner.

Here's how to do it:
Slice the ham in thick, 1/4 inch (or even a little thicker) slices (this can be done at the deli counter). Heat the pan on high heat until a drop of water beads on the surface. Lay the slice of ham down and turn the heat down to medium. Allow to brown on one side, then lift off with a fork and turn to the other side. Cook until nicely browned. After you are done cooking, put a glass of water in the pan while it is still hot, to make clean up easier.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chiles en Nogada using Skrub'a and Solea

In a perfect world, I would have made this dish in September, which is when Mexican Independence day is and, significantly smack dab in pomegranate season. Chiles en Nogada is a dish fabled to have been created by nuns at the Santa Monica convent for the Emperor of Mexico. Like the Mexican flag, the colors of the dish are green (the chile), white (the walnut “nogada” sauce) and red (the pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top). In the same perfect world, I would have used Poblano chiles which are more appropriate to the dish, but the Serrano chiles I had looked perfect, and indeed tasted perfect for Chiles en Nogada after adding some good old hot sauce.

4 large Serrano chiles

Nogada sauce:
35 shelled walnut halves
1 cup milk
½ cup cream
3T goat cheese
1 piece dry white bread without the crust
1T cinnamon

1.5lb lean ground pork
3 cloves of garlic
1 small white onion diced
1 peach diced
1 Fuji apple diced
½ cup papaya diced
½ cup chopped almonds (no skin)
¼ cup raisins
¾ cup chicken stock
2T Mexican hot sauce
1 inch stick of cinnamon
8 cloves
10 black peppercorns

The first thing I did was to soak the walnuts in milk for a few hours to soften them. Also before putting it all together, I got the most laborious part of the dish out of the way. From taking a cooking class in Puerto Vallarta years ago, I know how to skin a chile pepper. On your gas stove or grill, put the chiles as close to the flame as possible. The skin will become charred and will bubble. Keep turning the chiles so that each part is evenly charred. Then pop them into a plastic bag and close the bag. This allows the chiles to sweat and that causes the skin to separate, making it easier to remove. That’s the simple part! In the past, it was a chore to then gently and deftly scrape the charred skin off the chiles without breaking the delicious meat underneath the skin.

Luckily, I had just received my first pair of Skrub’a Veggie gloves! These gloves, made by Fabrikators, are designed to clean vegetables. I have the green ones for green vegetables, but you might find the Potato (brown) or Carrot (orange) gloves equally useful. They are all made from the same material. No one had suggested using Skrub’a gloves to take off the skins of chiles, but it seemed like a natural fit, and was indeed the perfect thing for the job! I laid out a towel to avoid a mess, put on the gloves and scrubbed the skins off without breaking the delicate chiles.
I then slit open one side of each chile and removed the seeds and veins (the veins are the hottest parts of chiles).
The above you can do ahead of time. Then, when you are ready to prepare the dish you can follow the instructions below.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grind up the spices using a mortar and pestle. Crush the garlic. Chop the ingredients for the stuffing. Lightly toast the chopped garlic in a saucepan like the Solea pot, on medium heat. Add the ground pork and break it into small chunks using a large spoon. Add the onions and fruits and nuts. Slightly sauté the mixture until the onions become clear. Then add the chicken stock and hot sauce and let the flavors meld together as it cooks for about 5 more minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce.
Put the soaked walnuts along with the milk, cream, cheese, bread, and cinnamon into a blender. Blend until smooth.
Put the chiles on a greased pan and stuff them with the filling. Bake in oven for 10 minutes. Flip chiles onto a plate so the open side is facing down. Pour nogada sauce over the top, then garnish with pomegranate seeds.
It’s an immensely tasty dish! We get it ever year in Puerto Vallarta, and I am happy to be able to make it at home.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cooking Chinese Eggplant in Solea

Yesterday I had my best friend over for dinner and wanted to make something special. I chose to make a version of a Szechwan eggplant dish adding other vegetables to it. Originally I thought my Solea Casserole pot (which is 2.4 quarts) would be the right size but when I saw how many veggies I had cut, I realized that I probably had to do it in two separate sections. That worked great because of the different cooking times for the veggies anyhow. If you had the larger Solea Casserole pot (which is 4 quarts) or the large Solea Stew Pot (which is 5.4 quarts) you could do it together (just start the eggplant cooking a minute ahead of the other vegetables.)
Here’s what I used:
¼ of a white onion
One medium sized eggplant
One julienned carrot
One julienned stalk of broccoli
One zucchini
One yellow summer squash
2T vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic
1t corn starch
6T soy sauce
3T white rice vinegar
3T Balsamic vinegar
3T cooking wine
¾ cup chicken broth
2T garlic chili sauce
First I filled my Solea pot to just less than ¾ full with water. I turned the gas stove to high heat and boiled the water with the lid on. The lids on the Solea line are gorgeous and so practical. When cooking with the lid on, the concave top allows the evaporated liquid to drop right back into the pot so I didn’t lose any water to evaporation. While waiting for the water to boil, I assembled the ingredients for the sauce. Then I turned down the heat to medium and put the pieces of eggplant into the boiling water. I cooked them until tender, about 2 minutes. I drained the eggplant in a colander in the sink. I boiled more water and added the other vegetables except for the garlic. These I boiled on medium heat for about one minute, so not to overcook them. I like the crisp textures of carrots and broccoli and didn’t want them to be mushy like the eggplant and the squash would eventually be. (I like mushy textures too!)
I drained the other veggies. My Solea pot has a really cool draining feature. It’s easy to just slide the lid a little to create an opening and when you tip the pot, the water will drain right out! Because the vegetables cooked down, there was enough room in my pot for everything. I heated the pot to medium heat, added the oil then the garlic. After lightly toasting the garlic I added all the vegetables including the eggplant back in. Then I added the sauce and stirred it up, cooking for about 7 minutes.
When I could tell that the vegetables were cooked through and covered in sauce, I mixed the corn starch with a little water, added it into the middle of the pot and stirred. That gives the sauce thickness. It gets even thicker if you turn the heat down very low and let the corn starch work its magic for about 5 minutes more.
I love this dish because of the abundance of flavor and how healthy it is. If you are vegetarian, you could substitute mushroom broth for the chicken broth. It makes me realize that most Chinese cooking uses some kind of meat, even if it isn’t obvious by looking at the dish.
Letting this dish sit for a while in the pot allows all the flavors to meld together and it’s wonderfully unified by the time you’re ready to eat!