January 30, 2015

See Jane Cook is a free weekly Internet food newsletter written by Jane Snow and published by Mimi Vanderhaven. Sign up here to have newsletter appear every Wednesday in your email in box. Join us!

Dear friends,

We’re hunkered down here in full winter huddling mode. Even the dog streaks back inside the second he finishes his business. I think he’s pondering how to use our nice, warm toilet. For the love of God, Tony, shutter your restaurant and move our miserable family to Tahiti.

OK, I’ll calm down now. With enough sweatshirts, hot tea and comfort foods I think I can make it through to April. I have been making chili, soups, roasts and broths for me and the occasional Japanese comfort food for Tony. One of his favorites, maybe even more than the Japanese curry I made a couple of weeks ago, is Katsudon. He’s crazy about it and last week, when I removed the lid from the steaming one-pot meal, I caught the bug, too. It smells heavenly and looks like an impressionist painting.

Katsudon is a pork cutlet fried until crisp and served in a soothing, rich broth. At the last minute, a beaten egg is cracked into the pan atop the pork and vegetables and steamed until just set. Everything is ladled into a big bowl over rice.

To me the dark, slightly sweet broth is the star and it couldn’t be simpler to make. Dashi – a Japanese seafood both made from bonito flakes – is combined with white wine, sugar and soy sauce and simmered in a saucepan. This recipe is for one portion. Double, triple or quadruple it to serve more people. It will give you hope and warmth while awaiting spring.

KATSUDON

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•    1 boneless pork chop, about 1/2-inch thick
•    Salt, pepper
•    2 tbsp. flour
•    1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water
•    1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
•    Oil for frying

Sauce
•    3/4 cup water
•    1/4 tsp. instant dashi granules
•    2 tbsp. mirin (sweet Japanese wine) or white wine
•    4 tbsp. soy sauce
•    1 tsp. sugar
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1 egg
•    1 cup hot cooked rice (Japanese rice, preferably)

Trim pork of all fat. With a meat pounder, flatten chop to about 1/4-inch thick. Dredge in flour and shake off excess. Dip in egg, then coat with panko. Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a medium skillet.  When hot, fry chop in oil, turning to brown both sides. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine water, dashi granules, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes to combine flavors.

Cut fried pork cutlet into 5 or 6 strips. Gently transfer with a spatula to the simmering broth. Beat egg briefly and pour over meat. Cover pan and gently simmer 1 minute or until egg is set.  Serve over rice in a large bowl. Makes 1 serving.

TIDBIT

When I asked for ideas for British Netflix series to watch with Saturday night dinners with a friend, you were generous with your recommendations. In case others are interested, here are some of the titles deemed worthy:
Call the Midwife, Last Tango in Halifax, The Graham Norton Show,  Midsomer Mysteries, Hinterland, The Fall, Jack Taylor, Vera, Monarch of the Glen, Foyle’s War, Duchess of Duke Street and The House of Elliot.
Unfortunately, I can’t use any of those suggestions. I haven’t seen my remote control in two weeks. Yes, I looked in the dog’s bed. And in the silverware drawer, my cosmetics bag, the magazine rack and the refrigerator, among other places. Arrrgh!

THE MAILBOX

From Dorothy G.:
Regarding water in margarine — also, I don’t buy “cheap” butter as I found it has more water in it. Best to stick with better name brands when making the effort to cook something you want to turn out good.

Dear Dorothy: Exactly. Although I use whichever butter is on sale, you’re correct about the varying qualities of real butter. If I had money to burn I’d use a cultured European-style butter such as that made by the Vermont Butter & Cheese Co.

Plugra was the first European-style butter to be sold here. They have a higher proportion of fat than regular butter, and many cooks believe they make pastries flakier, make cakes rise higher, and give sauces and baked goods a richer flavor. Culturing (ripening the cream)  produces an even richer flavor, although not all luxury butters are cultured.

In a taste test I conducted for the Beacon Journal in 2004, however, only 7 out of 21 tasters could tell the difference between cookies made with Plugra and cookies made with regular butter. The Plugra cookies did rise remarkably higher than the other cookies, though. I had to use smaller scoops of dough to make them the same size as the non-Plugra cookies.

Flavor and performance aside, these luxury butters cost considerably more than regular butter. That may be why they have captured just a small sliver of the U.S. butter market.

From Denise Kurela:
Love your emails and have made your recipes quite often with good results. Question: Have you got a good recipe for Japanese udon noodle soup? Thanks for your time.

Dear Denise: I rarely cook with udon noodles – thick, white Japanese wheat noodles — because I’m not crazy about the texture. I haven’t tried the following recipe but it is from a trusted source. In “Japanese Cooking for the American Table,” author Karen Green shares a recipe for Nabeyaki Udon, a dashi-based udon noodle soup with an array of toppings. Her version features chicken, shrimp, green onion, spinach leaves and a barely cooked egg. She also adds kamaboko, which are fish-paste cakes dyed a variety of violent colors. The cakes are popular in Japan, but I have never warmed to them. If you want, leave them out. Buy frozen (not dried) udon noodles, dashi powder, nori (crisp sheets of dried seaweed) and shichimi (7-pepper spice) at an Asian store.

NABEYAKI UDON (Japanese Noodle Soup)
•    2/3 lb. frozen udon noodles
•    1 cup sliced chicken breast meat
•    2 peeled and deveined shrimp
•    2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water for 12 hours
•    4 slices kamaboko (Japanese fish cakes, optional)
•    1 egg
•    1/4 cup thin-sliced green onion
•    2 to 3 fresh spinach leaves, wilted for a few seconds in boiling water

Udon Soup Stock:
•    1 1/2 cups dashi (see note)
•    1 tbsp. sake
•    1/2 tsp. sugar
•    2 tbsp. soy sauce
•    A thin strip of nori or garnish
•    Sprinkling of shichimi (hot-pepper spice), optional

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the frozen udon. When noodles have thawed and water returns to a boil, separate noodles with chopsticks. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Noodles should be cooked but not soft. Rinse in cold water and drain in a sieve. Noodles should be completely dry before they are added to the soup.

Place a medium saucepan on the stove and chicken and shrimp to the side. Remove mushrooms from the water and slice. Have remaining ingredients handy. Place the dashi (see note) in the saucepan and heat. Add sake, sugar and soy just before dashi comes to a boil.

Refresh udon by dipping, still in sieve, in boiling water. Shake, drain completely and add to soup. Top noodles with chicken, shrimp, shiitake, kamaboko (if using) and green onion. Cover and cook over high heat until soup comes to a boil. Uncover and add spinach. Carefully crack the egg on top of the green onion. Cover and turn off heat. Let stand a few minutes for the egg to poach slightly. Uncover and carefully transfer to a bowl. Garnish with the nori strip and hot pepper. Makes 1 serving.

Note: To make dashi, bring 1 1/2  cups water to a simmer in a saucepan. Add 3/4 teaspoon instant dashi powder and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat. May be made in advance and refrigerated.

From Trudy:
Could I have the pot roast recipe mentioned in last week’s newsletter? I must have missed that one.

Dear Trudy: My blog site on wordpress is now up to date with back issues and a searchable database thanks to my editor at Mimi Vanderhaven (my publisher), Morgan Lasher. The link to the Dec. 31 newsletter, which contains the recipe for Pennsylvania Pot Roast, is https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/december-31-2014/ .
Note that this is not my signup website, which remains www.janesnowtoday.com .

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January 23, 2015

See Jane Cook is a free weekly Internet food newsletter written by Jane Snow and published by Mimi Vanderhaven. Sign up here to have newsletter appear every Wednesday in your email in box. Join us!
Dear friends,

A mutual love of British TV dramas has turned into a standing Saturday night dinner-and-TV date with my good friend, Dorena. Via Netflix we whipped through five seasons of “Doc Martin” last year before moving on to a smart and sumptuous jazz-era Australian series, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.”

We dine Japanese-style at my low, oversized coffee table covered with a cloth. We use cloth napkins and silver. We have prepared and scarfed down cheese soufflés, Cornish pasties, savory clafoutis, gourmet tamales, steamed mussels with garlic mayonnaise and much more. If some of these dishes sound familiar, it’s because I use the get-togethers as a testing session for recipes for this newsletter.

A couple of weeks ago, when the snow was deep and the temperature bone-chilling, Dorena toted a kettle of hearty beef stew to my house. I made a salad and she warmed up a boule of sourdough bread. The stew was outstanding, with chunks of fork-tender beef, carrots, redskins, mushrooms and sweet potatoes in a soulful, winey broth. It would have been at home in any county kitchen in France. The key, Dorena said, was the malbec wine that provided the backbone.

Because the recipe existed only in Dorena’s head, we made it together the following week, measuring and jotting down ingredient amounts and cooking times. The only thing I’d change is adding the vegetables at the beginning of the oven time because Dorena’s method of first simmering the meat until tender added an hour to the cooking time. But it’s her recipe, so I offer it as she created it.

Sadly, we watched the last installment of the Miss Fisher series Saturday and have no clue what to watch next. Any ideas? On the other hand, I doubt we’ll ever run out of ideas for dinner.
DORENA’S BEEF STEW

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•    2 1/4 lbs. beef chuck roast, trimmed, in 1-inch cubes
•    Salt, pepper
•    1/2 cup flour
•    1/2 tsp. Bell’s Seasoning
•    1/2 tsp. garlic powder
•    1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
•    3 tbsp. or more vegetable oil
•    1 1/2 cup malbec or other hearty red wine
•    2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
•    4 cloves garlic
•    1 tsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend (or substitute herbs de Provence)
•    1/8 tsp. powdered rosemary
•    1/2 tsp. dried savory
•    3 bay leaves
•    1/2 tsp. thyme
•    2 cups baby carrots in bite-size pieces
•    1/2 to 3/4 lbs. redskin potatoes, cubed
•    2 ribs celery, sliced
•    2 cups chopped onion
•    1/2 lb. mushrooms, chunked
•    2 cans (10 1/2 oz. each) condensed beef consommé
•    2 soup cans water
•    1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
•    3 tbsp. flour stirred into 1/2 cup water (optional)
Season beef cubes with salt and pepper. Combine flour, Bell’s, garlic powder and paprika in a zipper-lock plastic bag. Add meat and shake. Heat oil in a large, wide kettle over medium-high heat.  Adding more oil as necessary, brown beef  cubes on all sides in batches and remove from pan.

Pour half the wine into the pan and stir, scraping up browned bits from bottom. Return beef to pan. Add remaining wine, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, Mural of flavor, rosemary, savory, bay leaves and thyme. Season generously with salt. Cover and place in a preheated, 375-degree oven for 1 hour, until meat is almost tender.

Remove from oven and add remaining ingredients except sweet potato. Return to oven for 45 minutes. Add sweet potato and continue cooking until vegetables are tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Taste and add more salt if needed. Thicken if desired by stirring flour into water until smooth, then pouring into stew and simmering on the stove top. Makes 8 servings.

HELP U COOK

Anyone who cooks with the same wine they drink either drinks rotgut or has money to burn.  A third possibility is that these folks have read somewhere that the best wine to drink with a dish is the one used IN the dish. Well, yes, in a world where Macons and Chambertins flow like tap water. But that isn’t the world we live in, so let’s be realistic. I’ll always pour better wine at the table than I use in the kitchen. How foolish to pour a $50 wine – or even a $20 wine – into a pan and simmer it with meat and herbs.

So here’s the rule: Don’t cook with any wine you wouldn’t drink. That doesn’t mean you WILL drink it, just that it tastes OK enough to slip down your gullet. Are there wines so cloying, so acidic, so pallid or so weird-tasting that you shudder when you taste them? Don’t cook with them. It’s that simple.

It also helps the wine pairing if you cook with the same style of wine you will be drinking. Pour an inexpensive but drinkable domestic pinot noir into the stew and trade up to a suave pinot noir or imported Burgundy for drinking.

THE MAILBOX

From Cindy Weiss:
Memories of Bangkok Gourmet flooded back when I read your blog today. It was my introduction to Thai cuisine, too. You mentioned having a number of Sue’s recipes…by any chance is Drunken Chicken one of them? It was my favorite dish there, and I would love to replicate it. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Dear Cindy: I loved drunken chicken, too, with its wide noodles and almost-too-fiery flavor. It burned my mouth but was so good I couldn’t stop eating. I don’t have Bangkok owner Sue Fogle’s recipe, but I did find one in the lauded Thai cookbook, “Cracking the Coconut” by Su-Mei Yu. A lengthy recipe for homemade Thai chili paste is given with the recipe, but you may use purchased Thai chili paste for ease.  When you make the recipe, substitute soy sauce for half the fish sauce to make the dish more appealing to American palates, as Sue did.

According to the cookbook, the popular Thai dish was named “Drunken” because “The chili paste is so hot and spicy that it will either cure a hangover or make you drink so much alcohol that you will end up getting drunk and need more to cure your hangover.”
DRUNKEN STIR-FRIED BEEF (or chicken)
•    3 tbsp. vegetable oil
•    1/3 cup (about 5 tbsp.) Thai chili paste
•    2 tbsp. dry sherry or white wine, plus more if needed
•    1 lb. boneless lean beef (or chicken breasts), thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces
•    2 cups green beans, parboiled in salted water for 1 minute and thinly julienned on the diagonal
•    2 tbsp. fish sauce
•    10 sprigs fresh mint, leaves only

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and when it shimmers, stir in chili paste and cook, stirring, for 20 to 30 seconds or until aromatic.

When the oil turns red from the chili paste, add sherry. Add the beef or chicken and stir fry until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add more sherry if the skillet seems too dry. Add green beans, mixing well, then the fish sauce. Add noodles if desired (see note) and stir-fry until beans are softened but still crispy and noodles are tender. Remove from heat, stir in the mint leaves and transfer to a serving platter. Makes 6 servings.

NOTE: To make drunken noodles as served at Bangkok Gourmet, soak 1/2 lb. wide rice noodles in very hot water for 10 minutes. Add to dish after fish sauce and fold and stir until noodles are tender.
From Jan S.:
Happy New Year! Just wanted to let you know that I made your Pennsylvania Pot Roast last weekend and it was a BIG hit! I tweaked it a bit with some garlic and didn’t use the sour cream, but a small amount of tomato paste (like 1/3 of a can) to thicken it. I also added a bit of thyme to it. I served it with Texmati brown rice and pan-fried brussels sprouts. DELICIOUS!!! And we did eat the pickles! Thanks for the recipe.

Also, I have a few questions. If I were to add a tablespoon of margarine to melted chocolate, would it ruin it because of the water in it?  Also, do you always use butter when making or baking desserts? Even if the margarine box says:  Good/best for baking?  I have had a few recipes that just didn’t turn out quite like they usually do, and have determined that maybe I need to use butter instead of margarine.  Let me know your thoughts, please.

Dear Jan: Some margarines contain water and some don’t. The amount of water can vary from brand to brand. I wouldn’t melt chocolate with margarine that contains water because of the possibility the chocolate would seize and become grainy. After reading your email I melted some chocolate in a cup in the microwave, added a lump of water-containing margarine and zapped it again. The chocolate did become slightly grainy. When I stirred in a bit of peanut butter, it smoothed right out. So if you do screw up, a bit of water-free fat may rescue your grainy chocolate.

My recommendation is to use either butter (my preference) or margarine made without water in baked goods.

I’m glad you liked the pot roast recipe. With all the changes you made, though, I’d say you created a brand-new recipe you can call your own. Go ahead and brag.

January 14, 2015

See Jane Cook is a free weekly Internet food newsletter written by Jane Snow and published by Mimi Vanderhaven. Sign up here to have newsletter appear every Wednesday in your email in box. Join us!
Dear friends,

My brother and I were in high school when our sister was born. Dad tracked us down at lunchtime, a clutch of cigars in his fist, to give us the news. We were thrilled. We held a family meeting to vote on a name: Diana Gretchen, nicknamed Dee. In the ensuing years my brother and I toted her around like a mascot to band practice, to the car wash, on errands and on dates. When she was 4, I took her to college for an entire weekend.

I gave her dollar bills when she got straight A’s, went to her grade school Christmas pageants and signed her up for a subscription to Ms. Magazine when she was just 14, to much eye-rolling from my mother. When Dad died, I helped with school clothes and college tuition.

I loved Dee even when she spurned feminism and joined a sorority. I babied her even after she had her own babies.

Now I feel gobsmacked that she has turned 50.

I held the family birthday party Sunday and let Dee choose the menu. My niece and her 12-year-old helped me assemble the Thai dumplings. While the family ate, I finished the Thai chicken breasts in coconut-curry sauce with toasted coconut and the stir-fried green beans. We carried the chicken to the table on two platters, along with a wide, shallow bowl heaped with steamed rice.

My brother raised an eyebrow. “Dee asked for THIS?”

My sister, my opposite in so many ways, is not a foodie. Thanks to Sue Fogle and Bangkok Gourmet restaurant, which I introduced Dee to in my restaurant-critic days, she does like Thai food. The Akron restaurant is long gone, but I have several of Sue’s recipes. Otherwise we might have been eating the hotdogs and canned beets Dee insisted on for her birthday dinners growing up.

My sister does not have my palate and she rarely cooks. We do not agree on politics or religion. She is sweet and easy-going; I am not. I love literature and art. She goes to reptile shows instead of museums. I’m a writer while she is a science teacher.  How did we come to be such good friends?

In my closet, preserved in a box, is a present Dee gave me when she was 7. It is a cat made of construction paper, with according legs. In a house fire, it’s one of the few things I’d grab.
SHAO MAI
•    1/2 lb. lean ground pork
•    2 green onions, with green tops, sliced thin
•    1/4 cup carrots in 1/8-inch dice
•    large clove garlic, minced fine
•    2 tsp. soy sauce
•    1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
•    18 Asian dumpling or won ton wrappers

In a bowl, combine all ingredients except wrappers and mix gently but thoroughly.  If using won ton wrappers, separate into 3 or 4 stacks and cut off the corners with a sharp knife to form circles of dough.  Place about 1 tablespoon of meat mixture in the center of a wrapper. Draw the wrapper around the filling, pleating at the top but not completely enclosing the filling.  Place dumplings in a steamer basket sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Place over simmering water, cover and steam for about 10 minutes, until filling is cooked through. With a spatula, carefully transfer dumplings to an oiled platter. Serve with soy-ginger dipping sauce. Makes 18, enough for 4 appetizer servings.
SOY-GINGER DIPPING SAUCE
•    1/4 cup soy sauce
•    2 tbsp. sherry or rice wine
•    1 clove garlic, minced fine
•    1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

This is my own version of Sue Fogle’s popular Bangkok Gourmet Chicken Curry.
COCONUT CURRY CHICKEN
Chicken
•    8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
•    1 tsp. ground ginger
•    1 tsp. sugar
•    1 tsp. curry powder
•    1/2 cup coconut milk (see note)
•    3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
Sauce
•    1 tbsp. oil
•    2 tsp. Thai red curry paste (available in Asian stores and many supermarkets)
•    2 cans (14 oz. each) hard-chilled coconut milk (see note)
•    2 tsp. nam pla (Asian fish sauce)
•    2 tsp. sugar
•    1/2 cup chicken broth
•    2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

For the chicken: Lightly pound chicken breasts with a meat pounder or other flat object to achieve an even thickness. Do not pound until thin, and do not use a meat tenderizer. Place in a bowl. Add ginger, sugar, curry powder and coconut milk (use milk that has been chilled, with the liquid part discarded). With clean hands, mix very well, massaging ingredients into chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Spread coconut on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 2 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until light brown. Remove to a sheet of foil or waxed paper to cool.

About 30 to 15 minutes before meal time, remove chicken from marinade and grill over medium-hot coals just until cooked through, about 7 minutes, turning once or twice.

For the sauce: While chicken grills, heat oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add curry paste and cook and stir until fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in coconut milk, nam pla and sugar. Simmer, stirring occasionally, while chicken cooks. When chicken is done, stir broth and lime juice into sauce and simmer 2 minutes longer.

Place a double breast on each of four dinner plates. Spoon sauce over chicken. Top with toasted coconut . Serve with white steamed rice.  Makes 4 generous servings.

Note: Chill the cans of coconut milk for several hours or, preferably, overnight. The solids will rise to the top and become firm, like crème fraiche. Remove the top of the can with a can opener and use just the solid part in this recipe.
HELP U COOK
Duh. I keep forgetting that I can freeze leftover coconut milk instead of aging it in the refrigerator and finally throwing it out. After making my sister’s birthday dinner, leftover ingredients included a partial can of coconut milk and four cans of the clear portion of coconut milk after the thick, creamy white part is removed ( I doubled the recipe).

I transferred the clear stuff to a freezer bag and labeled it. Even though the rich part of the milk is missing, the clear part can still impart a delicate coconut flavor to soups and stir-fry sauces. I froze the partial can of mixed coconut milk in another bag. It will separate in the freezer and will be difficult to blend again after thawing, but that’s OK. I’ll use the white part like crème fraiche in sauces, a tip I learned from restaurateur Sue Fogle.
THE MAILBOX

From Beth B.:
Jane, you will love this photo I took yesterday at Selfridges in London decorating one of its cafes. It’s real toast up on the wall. Similarly, how about the New York Times article today about broth restaurants?

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Dear Beth: Hoo boy!  A wall of toast. And thanks for the heads-up on broth restaurants, another trend I’ll avoid.

From Judy P.:
We enjoyed your cranberry, raisin, pecan bread. Would it be O.K. to mix it in a stand mixer?
Happy New Year and get well soon.

Dear Judy: Happy New Year to you, too. I’ve recovered from the flu and am now nursing my dog, who had a leg operation earlier this month. The vet says to keep him from walking for 8 weeks. Sure.
The bread dough may be made with a stand mixer, but beat it just until the flour, fruit and nuts are incorporated. If you beat it too much, it could overflow the bowl during the overnight rise.

From Charlene, Tallmadge:
I fixed your Parmesan wafer recipe for a family gathering, where the host fixed six pots of soup for everyone and invited others to bring a side. They were a BIG hit. Thanks.

Dear Charlene: They’re addictive, aren’t they? Luckily, they’re ridiculously easy to make. I like your friend’s idea of a soup get-together. Thanks for the note.