Monday, December 29, 2008

Spiced Yogurt Muffins, Hangover Helper

"Hello, CrabbyCook Hangover Hotline. Can I help you?"

"What's that?"

"Ahhh, no sir, I'm sure that's a bad idea."

"Well, I really can't say why your wife would suggest this as a hangover cure. Maybe it has something to do with the night before."

"No sir, I'm positive. Drinking all the dregs from the dirty glasses and rolling naked on the glass table you broke last night will not cure your hangover."

"Yes, yes, some aspirin and a long nap will probably do the trick. Glad we could be of help."

Sheesh, why do all the wackos call on my shift? I have to admit I'm not a big fan of New Year's Eve parties. People seem to think it's the one night they have a free pass off the deep end. Instead of eating too much they decide it's okay to drink too much.

I don't have a hangover cure or even a really good hangover preventative, besides not drinking at all. The best suggestion I can give you is to take a couple of aspirin before bed, if you've got the stomach for it, eat a couple of bananas and down it all with a very large glass of tepid water. I have no idea if this actually works, but chemistry says it should help.

Another idea I have for you is to have something ready to eat the next morning. A little something that will go down easily with strong coffee and noisy sunshine. Noisy sunshine? I've always found the sun to be particularly loud when it's acting like God's flashlight, illuminating the inside of an alcohol riven head. But I digress.

Today's recipe is for Spiced Yogurt Muffins. SSSal loves baking at this time of year and we always have some sort of muffin or breakfast cake sitting around. With a little luck the yogurt and spices will help you get through New Year's Day. So, perk a pot of coffee, turn on the Tournament of Roses Parade and just before you fall back asleep enjoy...

Spiced Yogurt Muffins
from Food & Wine magazine, November 2008

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg (or ground if you don't have fresh)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plain low-fat yogurt (use the high protein Greek style)

4 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 TBSP granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (or ground if you don't have fresh)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Line approximately 18 muffin cups with paper or foil liners.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, yogurt, butter, applesauce and vanilla. Fold the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until well blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. (try using an ice cream scooper) Mix together the sugar and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and sprinkle over the muffins. Bake for 18 minutes, until the muffins are springy; let cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

There you go crablings. Obviously, you'll be in better shape to make this recipe if you're not fighting a major headache, so prepare it New Year's Eve day and have them waiting for the next morning.

Happy New Year!! Have a good time! Remember, don't drink and drive!!! I want you back next year so I can keep reminding you that, you can do it, you can cook.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Leek, Mushroom & Goat Cheese Tart

FREEZE!!! Nobody move!!

Put down the knives and forks and nobody'll get hurt!

OK, face it, you've been eating non-stop for the last four weeks. Between Thanksgiving, office parties, neighborhood get-togethers and trolling through the free samples at Hickory Farms your belly's bulging and your jaws are tired.

Freeze, nobody move?


Are you kidding?

The only way you could move is with the help of a series of cranes, trusses and pulleys. You need a shoehorn to get into the bathtub! The relatives have to fluff up metal chairs after you sit in them. You're one fruitcake away from being that guy on TV who needs a fork-lift to get to the bathroom.

We've all been over indulging. The problem is that there's still one more holiday to go. Do you know why so many people resolve to go on diets after New Year's? It's because they're flat out tired of eating. So for the next week, take it easy. Pick at the leftovers, if you're going to cook, cook something light. Have a yogurt, go for one of my soup recipes. Slow down.

Here's a recipe that's easy, relatively light but packed with good flavors. This is more of an appetizer than a meal, but you've got enough extra fluff in you to last at least through August, so use it as a light lunch. It's from one of the New York Times cookbooks, the original recipe was horribly written, so you can thank me later for making it readable, but for now enjoy...

Leek, Mushroom & Goat Cheese Tart
from Country Weekend Cookbook, New York Times Press

1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted according to package directions
1 small fennel bulb
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only
1 pound mushrooms, mix of white button and cremini
1 TBSP plus 1 teaspoon, olive oil
Salt and Pepper
3 eggs
8 ounces goat cheese, divided and at room temperature

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Defrost the puff pastry. Unfold the pastry onto a lightgly floured surface. Gently roll out the pastry to approximately a 5 x 14 in sheet.

Break 1 egg into a small bowl and beat slightly. Trim 1/4 inch strips all around the edge of the pastry. Set the strips aside.

Brush the entire surface of the pastry with the egg wash.

Use the saved edge strips to raise the border of the rectangle. Brush them with egg. Using a fork, prick holes in the interior of the pastry. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. When done, remove pastry and set aside to cool slightly.

While the pastry is cooking, trim off the green top and root end of the fennel bulb and leeks. Reserve the fennel fronds for presentation.

Using a sharp knife or mandoline, cut the fennel and leeks into thins slices. Clean and thinly slice the mushrooms.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the fennel and leeks and saute until just tender but not brown, approximately 6 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl.

Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil in the skillet and add the mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms until they release all their water and it boils away, approximately 7 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the heat, add the fennel and leek mixture to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Combine the remaining 2 eggs with 6 ounces of the goat cheese. Blend with a fork until smooth. Spread the mixture onto the interior of the baked pastry rectangle. Return the pastry to the oven and cook for 4 minutes.

Shut off the oven and turn on your broiler.

Remove the pastry from the oven. Spread the mushroom, fennel and leek mixture atop the pastry rectangle. Crumble the remaining goat cheese over the veggies.

Broil the tart under low heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the oven. Garnish with the fennel fronds and serve.

Yup, pretty involved, but not really. You're using store bought puff pastry and you're cutting up and sauting some veg. The toughest part is getting the pastry the right shape, but if you don't mind a little free form look you can even go easy on that step.

It's a light lunch and if you're really hungry, you could always saute up some pancetta and drop that on top just before the broiling. But don't go too crazy, New Year's Eve will be here before you know it. As always, remember, if your stomach still allows you to reach the countertops, you can do it, you can cook.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mushroom Soup, Comin' Down The Christmas Homestretch

Car, store, argument, line, pay, home.

Car, store, argument, line, pay, home.

Far and away the worst part of Christmas is finding that "perfect gift". For the "people in your life" you have to show some creativity. Presents from a list are great, but to really impress, you have to come up with something they haven't thought about. Something that shows you know them better than they know themselves.

Welcome to our store, enjoy your shopping experience here at Stress & Aggravation.

Life has gotten simpler now that the CrabCakes only want cash or gift cards. As for SSSal and I, we muddle through. We sort of tell each other what we want and then pick one thing and ignore the rest. I still bop downtown and stroll the shops, but it's just so much more relaxing knowing that you don't have to actually buy anything.

I usually pick a cold day for my foray into retail battle, mostly so I can look forward to getting home and cooking something easy and warming. Today it's another soup. I know we had one a week ago, but it's that time of year. Here's a simplified Mushroom Soup, not one of those overly creamed types, just something with good flavor and warmth to take the edge off mall mayhem. Enjoy...

Mushroom Soup
by Crabby with help from Giada, Ina and Julia

1 pound white mushrooms
1/2 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
Juice of 1 lemon
2 TBSP unsalted butter
3 TBSP shallots, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
Zest of 1 lemon
1 TBSP chopped parsley, for garnish

Clean all the mushrooms, trimming any tough stems. Roughly chop the 'shrooms, sprinkle with lemon juice and set aside, (alternatively, you could put the mushrooms into a food processor and lightly pulse until you get the desired sized chunks).

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and lightly saute the minced shallots. Add the mushrooms and thyme. Saute over medium high heat until all the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, approximately 10 minutes.

Add the salt, pepper, chicken stock and cream and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Salt and pepper to taste. Serve in warm bowls with a sprinkle of parsley and lemon rind.

Tada!! Another fairly quick recipe. While this soup does contain cream, it has a fairly thin texture. If you're looking for a thicker soup you have two choices: 1) take a little cold water, say 1 tablespoon, and mix it with a teaspoon of cornstarch. Add the slurry to the soup during the last 10 minutes of simmering, or 2) drop the amount of chicken stock by a cup and increase the amount of cream to compensate; your cardiac care team will love you.

OK crablings, Christmas is two days away. Relax, cook a little and enjoy the time with family and friends. The best gift I can give you is to remind you that you can do it, you can cook.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce, "Pick a Little, Talk a Little"

Believe it or not, there are actually a few side benefits to the economic collapse. First, there's more parking at the malls. Second, fewer and shorter lines at the cash registers. But the biggest benefit has to be that fewer and fewer companies are hosting the dreaded "Holiday Party".

You know that lovely winter tradition that we all slog through. Co-workers spending hours chatting in false conviviality with the same people they were arguing with earlier in the day. Spouses, death-gripped drink in hand, wearing suits or gowns last seen in the '60s, stand tethered to their mates, pretending to get inside jokes that aren't even funny to the people involved.

These nights quickly devolve into little more than gossip sessions; who's doing what to whom, who's sucking up to the boss, who's drinking a little too much, all capped off with a meal that if it were served at a wedding reception we'd verbally thrash the hosts. Pick a little, talk a little, peck, peck, peck.

I know, I know. Bah, Humbug! But face it, the name of the site is CrabbyCook not Chuckles the Chef.

So let's assume you went to the event. Let's also assume that the food was lousy. You're home and hungry, what's a Crab to do? Well, 25 minutes and some basic ingredients and you're eating like a King Crab. I'll admit, you'll need to plan ahead to have these fixings ready, but you know when the party's coming, so really there's no excuse not to enjoy...

Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce
by Giada DeLaurentiis

Serves 4

1 pound penne pasta, (rigatoni or mostacolli work as well)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound raw, medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (15 ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup white wine
1/3 cup clam juice
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to box instructions. Pasta should be tender but still firm to the bite. Drain pasta and set aside. Note: I start the pasta about the same time I start the sauce (a couple of paragraphs from now); the pasta is usually done right about the same time as the sauce.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic, salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring the shrimp frequently until they turn pink and are cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK THE SHRIMP!!! There is nothing worse than overcooked shrimp; you want the flesh pink with no gray spots, that's it! It will cook a little longer sitting in the sauce.

Remove the shrimp to a bowl and lightly tent with aluminum foil.

In the pan used to cook the shrimp, add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup basil, 1/4 cup parsley and the red pepper flakes. If you haven't already done it, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water.

Cook the tomatoes for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine, clam juice and heavy cream. Bring the combined mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer the sauce for 7 - 8 minutes until it thickens slightly.

Add the Parmesan cheese to the sauce. Add the cooked shrimp and pasta to the pan. Toss well to fully combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve. I sometimes add a cup of frozen peas to the dish just to punch up the green color quotient.

Alright crablings, that's a very quick and very easy meal to make, I'm thinking 25 minutes tops. You can shop or party all day and still come home and whip up a quick flavorful meal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuscan Bread Soup, Pappa Al Pomodoro

Wracking coughs, runny noses, shuffling slippered feet; a very unpleasin' sneezin' and wheezin'.

A trip to pick up Grandma from the old folks home?


It's Winter and the weather has brought out a tornado of sneezes. Colds, like noses, are running throughout the house. SSSal has it the worst, but we're all a little sniffy.

There's only one real way to do battle with the common cold. Soup.

Soup warms. Soup heals. Soup wraps your insides in a warm blanket. Will soup cure the common cold? Maybe not, but it can't hurt.

I save chicken noodle soup for the flu; for a major disease like that you need the heavy artillery. For the common cold I like things a little heartier. So today it's Pappa AL Pomodoro, Tuscan Bread Soup. Like all good soups, the work is in the chopping and prep, after that's done it's sit back and relax. This soup has the greatest topping around so don't skip it unless you're really pressed for time.

Crank up the fireplace, grab some tissues, wrap yourself up in a warm blanket and enjoy...

Tuscan Bread Soup,
Pappa Al Pomodoro
by Ina or Giada or Emeril or Marcella, or Biba or ...

1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 2)
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced (about 3)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups (1 inch) diced Ciabatta bread cubes, crust removed
2 large cans (28 ounces each), Italian plum tomatoes
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped basil leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

For Topping

3 cups, 1-inch dice, ciabatta bread cubes
2 ounces thick sliced pancetta, chopped
24 whole basil leaves
3 TBSP Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Have all your vegetables chopped, diced and fully prepped.

Heat 1/2 cup of olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. When hot, add onions, carrots, fennel and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender.

Add ciabatta cubes and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Put the tomatoes in a food processor and pulse until they are coarsely chopped, (alternatively, squish them in your hands, not as fast, but much more fun). Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, chopped basil, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, then allow to simmer, partially covered for 45 minutes.

For the topping:

Place the pancetta, ciabatta cubes and basil on a large baking sheet. The sheet needs to be large enough to hold everything in a single layer, use two sheets if necessary. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until all the ingredients are crisp.

When the soup is done, check to be sure that all the ciabatta cubes disintegrated. If not use a wire whisk or stick blender to break up any remaining pieces of bread.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese and serve, topping each bowl with some of the ciabatta crouton, pancetta and basil garnish.

There you go crablings, a nice hearty soup that will not only help the "sickies" in the house get better, but will also satisfy the healthy residents. So until next time, zip up your coat, put on your hat and mittens and remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mocha Semifreddo, "You Broke My Heart Fredo."

I've reached an age where I say things like, "I love old movies". Of course "old" now means anything from the '70s or '80s. Oddly when you watch the oldies, very few of them actually hold up all that well. The Godfathers, I and II, are exceptions. Every time I watch either film I'm amazed at how perfectly done they are.

They say there is a scene or phrase from those movies that's appropriate for any event in your life. That thought crossed my mind the other day as I watched SSSal struggle with a new dessert.

There's a small but spectacular scene in Godfather II where Michael, (Al Pacino), realizes that he has been betrayed by his older brother Fredo, (John Cazale). Recovering from a botched assassination attempt, facing a threat to the very existence of his empire, Michael grabs Fredo, kisses him and says. "I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart". Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that the kiss is "the kiss of death".

It's like that with cooking some times, you're chugging along, everything appears to be going well and then, BOOM! From out of the blue something inexplicable takes place that can't be fully recovered from.

We are big Giada DeLaurentiis fans in this house. Most everything we have prepared from her recipes has been fantastic. SSSal offered to make a dessert for a dinner party and she settled on Giada's Mocha Semifreddo. Semifreddo translates to semi-frozen. It's a custard dessert that involves cooking and then judicious freezing.

Everything was done to plan. Every rule was followed. Yet when the the dessert came out of the freezer, (after two days), it was far more "semi" than "freddo". It tasted great, but it spent a lot of time oozing it's way across the plate. All you could do is look at it and say, "You broke my heart semifreddo. You broke my heart".

SSSal has made a citrus semifreddo that turned out as advertised, but not this mocha version.
So I encourage you to try this dessert. Maybe you can tell us where we went wrong. Please enjoy...

Mocha Semifreddo
by Giada DeLaurentiis

Nonstick Cooking Spray
4 ounces amaretti cookies, crushed
3 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
8 large egg yolks
1/3 cup espresso or strong coffee
2 TBSP Dry Marsala or Dry Sercial Madiera
Pinch Salt
1 cup whipping cream

Spray a 9x5x3 inch metal loaf pan with nonstick spray.

Line the pan with plastic wrap, allowing excess to hang over the sides and edges by 3 inches apiece.

In a medium bowl combine the crushed amaretti cookies and the melted butter. Put into the lined pan and press down firmly to form a crust.

Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and water and set aside.

Whisk 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, lime juice, dry marsala, and salt in a large metal mixing bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, do not let the bottom of the mixing bowl touch the simmering water, (you've just created a home-made double boiler).

Whisk the egg mixture until it is thick and creamy, and until a thermometer inserted in to the mixture reads 160 degrees F, (about 5 minutes). NOTE: If the water is boiling, or the mixing bowl touches the water, invite the family into the kitchen for scrambled eggs, because that's what you're going to get.

Set the bowl of custard into the ice water bath, being careful not to get any water into the custard. Allow to cool completely.

Gently stir in the lemon and lime zest.

In another large bowl, using an electric mixture, beat the whipping cream and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until firm peaks form.

Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the custard. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared crust.

Fold the overhanging plastic wrap over the custard and freeze at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.

Unfold the plastic wrap. Invert the semifreddo onto a platter and carefully peel off the wrap.

Cut the semifreddo into 1 inch slices and serve with additional crushed amaretti cookies as a garnish.

OK, I admit there's a lot of little steps, but hey, it's a dessert, what did you expect? The result though is a lush, if in our particular case, soupy, dessert. It borders on frozen chocolate mouse with amaretti cookies.

I'll be back in a few days. I'm not sure what's going to be on the menu, but until then, just remember, you can do it, you can cook.

P.S. Rent "The Godfather" and "The Godfather II", movies just don't get any better.

P.P.S. Avoid "The Godfather III" like the plague, movies don't get much worse.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Apple Pancakes

A while back I suggested we all find a survivor of the last Depression and use them as a guide to getting us through this one. I warned you that, given projected lifespans and the accuracy of actuarial tables, this could be tough to accomplish.

Well, not wanting to leave you high and dry, Crabby has come up with another solution. Find someone who was a teenager during "The Big One", you know W - W - I - I. Those folks had to do more with less than just about any other generation.

Thankfully we here in the Crab Universe have our own in-house expert. Crabby's mom, the Boonsta, after nearly 45 years of living on the East Coast, has taken up residence in Crabby Palace.

The Boonsta's credentials as a food stretcher? Back in the 30's and 40's, she was a teenager living in the "old country". She's got plenty of harrowing stories about trying to survive in a war ravaged country. So, while her move to the American Midwest from the East Coast was traumatic, at least this time she wasn't being chased by a Russian tank.

From time to time I'll be sharing some of the Boonsta's recipes. These "recipes" are born of experience; you won't find them written down anywhere. You made do with what you had, and when you didn't have, you figured something out. It's why there are lots "abouts" in her recipes (about a tablespoon, about a teaspoon if you have any). Things aren't that bad here, yet. But a little preparation can never hurt.

So here's a breakfast staple from Crabby's youth. An apple, an egg, a little flour, a splash of milk, enjoy...

Apple Pancakes
by Boonsta
makes 8 small pancakes

1 egg
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
3 heaping TBSP flour
1 Apple, peeled & cored, preferably Granny Smith or Cortland
Vegetable oil for frying

Using a fork or small whisk, beat egg with sugar in a medium bowl. Mix in the milk and then the flour.

Coarsely grate the peeled and cored apple. Add the apple to the batter mixture.

You are looking for a thick but pourable consistency, so adjust the flour and milk accordingly.

In a large saute pan, heat about 1/8" worth of oil over medium heat. When hot, add a large tablespoon of the batter mixture and gently fry until golden brown, turning once, approximately 5 - 7 minutes total cooking time.

Allow to cool slightly and serve with fruit preserves or jam.

That's it. A nice twist to the normal pancakes and syrup breakfast. You'd have to pay big money at some fancy hotel in Europe for this flavor. But it takes a lot less cash and time to get it "homemade" at home.

Alright, next time I'm going to post a dessert recipe that would be great for Christmas Eve dinner. I'll warn you though, like all desserts, it's a bit involved, but not too bad. Just remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dijon Mustard Cream Sauce

Ho, ho, ho!!!

The Thanksgiving hangover has finally cleared, but the Christmas headaches are only just beginning. Now that they have some more of your money, the bank wants to move into your house. Your boss, if you still have one, is after you to cover the work of the three people you just laid off, and the kids are screaming for the latest XBox720PS4000Wii2.0 with the kung-fu grip.

Ho, ho, ho!!!

Look on the bright side, gas is cheap, so you can afford a little food again. As far as your job goes, well, keep your head low and your rear end lower and you might not get hit. The kids? The best thing you can do is tell them that it's time to grow up and learn about imagination. So here's a stick, pretend it's a magic wand instead of a game controller.

I know, I know, ho, ho ho.

To help out I'm going to be posting a lot of sauces and slow cooker recipes. Slow cookers and braising are great ways to turn "more economical cuts", (i.e., tougher), into great meals. A good sauce can not only provide great flavor, but it will cover up the whip marks where the jockey beat your latest steak. So here's a very simple and inexpensive recipe for a Dijon cream sauce. This will work with beef (pictured here), boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pork chops. So, hop on Santa's lap and ask for...

Dijon Mustard Cream Sauce
from any Steak Au Poivre recipe you ever read

Approximately 4 servings

1/2 TBSP Olive Oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 garlic clove minced
1 cup canned beef broth
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup brandy or cognac (optional)
2 TBSP Creamy Dijon Mustard
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a medium skillet heat the olive oil on high. When hot add the shallots and garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Turn heat to medium high. Stir in broth, cream, then the brandy and 2 tablespoons of mustard. Simmer until thickened. Season to taste. Serve over your main course.

Wow, that may be the shortest recipe yet. If you make a steak or chops in a saute pan, use the same pan to prepare the sauce, (while you meats are resting). This will allow you to scrape up any brown bits and save on clean up.

OK crablings, I'm off to think of some slow cooker/braising recipes. Until next time, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Roast Pork with Fig Sauce & The Empty Refrigerator

Roast turkey, turkey sandwiches, turkey tetrazzini, turkey soup, turkey hash, turkey pot pie, turkey brownies...

Thanksgiving is 4 days past so I'll assume that we're all sick of turkey. From the reports I'm receiving from the outer precincts, most of you had a successful holiday meal. There was news of a sketchy heating element in the northern territories and some gravy challenges in Panama, (of course cooking on the tropical frontier does present unique issues).

Here at the center of Crab Universe the refrigerator is thankfully growing empty. There are two reasons that a refrigerator can depress you. One, it's empty and you don't have the cash to fill it up, (and in these times, that's a growing concern). Or two, it's full and you're stuck working through the leftovers before you can start cooking creatively again. My freezer has a few hidden treasures, so let's get cooking.

Today I'm preparing a roast pork loin recipe by Giada DeLaurentiis. This meal entails making a fig sauce. Normally I'm not a fan of figs, all those little seeds drive me crazy, but something about roast beast and jam just works. This roast could be the centerpiece of a sit down meal, or with the fig sauce warmed and the roast, thinly sliced and served at room temperature, it could be great for a holiday party. So, forget the turkey and enjoy...

Pork Loin with Fig Port Sauce
from Everyday Italian, by Giada Delaurentiis


2 1/2 cups Port wine
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
8 dried black Mission figs
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cinnamon sticks
1 TBSP Honey
3 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Salt & Pepper, to taste


1 3lb. boneless pork loin
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 TBSP salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 cup low sodium chicken broth

For the Sauce: Coarsely chop the figs. In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the port, chicken broth, chopped figs, sprigs of rosemary, cinnamon sticks and honey. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until reduced by half.

Remove the rosemary sprigs and cinnamon sticks, (ignore the rosemary leaves that remain behind). Using a stick blender or food processor, puree the mixture until smooth. Blend in the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The sauce can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat prior to serving.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, chopped rosemary leaves, 1 TBSP of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of black pepper.

Spread the mixture over the pork making sure to evenly cover all sides of the meat.

Place in the oven and roast until the internal temperature reads 145 degrees. To insure even browning, turn the pork roast every 15 minutes, total cooking time should be approximately 45 minutes.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board and tent lightly with foil. Allow the pork to rest for 15 minutes. While the pork is resting, add the 1 cup of chicken broth to the roasting pan. Place the pan over medium heat and scrape up any browned bits attached to the bottom of the pan. Salt and pepper the pan juices to taste.

Cut the pork into 1/4 inch slices and spoon on pan juices and fig sauce. Serve immediately.

There you have it crablings. A nice change of pace from poultry, though I suspect that this sauce would work quite well with roast chicken, duck or goose. I'll have to experiment with that a bit. Until next time, great job on Thanksgiving, just remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey Tetrazzini - Crawlin' From The Wreckage

So, did you make it?

Did you survive?

It's a couple of days after Thanksgiving. While not a great time to assess all the damage to home, hearth and cooking reputation, it is time to relax and wind down a bit. I hope all of you ate something other than turkey yesterday. One of the most overrated experiences around is turkey leftovers the next day. They should be prepared today or maybe even Sunday. You want to have a little perspective on the meal before you plunge right back in.

We survived quite well here at Crab Central. Travel adventures and friends planning the wedding of one of their own caused turnout to be very low this year. We embraced this calamity by making a few "odd" things for dinner. We shunned the standard Leek Stuffing and replaced it with a chile pepper-cornbread version. (It didn't sell very well though, not enough gravy sopping ability. But I will post it in the future, since I think it would be great with either pork or beef roasts).

Today I'll offer you another Crabby tradition. I'm talking about Turkey Tetrazzini, that gloppy, soupy, must-go melange of turkey and Thanksgiving veg. Since many of you are off shopping and are "cooked out", I'll give you the cheater's version. Enjoy...

Turkey Tetrazzini
by Crabby

1 Family Size Can (26 oz.) Campbells Cream of Chicken Soup
1 bag Extra wide Egg Noodles (16 oz.)
3/4 to 1 pound chopped leftover turkey
1 red bell pepper, chopped
8 oz. peas (or other leftover veg)
Bread Crumbs
Parmesan Cheese, grated (optional)
Olive Oil

Prepare the egg noodles according to package directions, but undercook them slightly (say, 1 minute less than recommended).

Preheat oven broiler on high.

While the egg noodles are cooking, in a large pot whisk together the condensed cream of chicken soup with a equivalent amount of non-fat (skim) milk. Heat over medium. When the soup is simmering add the chopped turkey, red pepper and peas. Simmer for two minutes.

Drain the cooked egg noodles and mix into the soup. Stir well, but gently, to combine.

Remove soup from heat. Liberally sprinkle the mixture with bread crumbs. If using Parmesan cheese, sprinkle over the bread crumbs.

Drizzle a light layer of olive oil over the bread crumb-cheese layer and place the pot, uncovered, under the broiler.

Broil until the topping begins to brown, depending on the strength of your broiler, anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and serve.

There you go. Comfort food on the cheap while also helping to empty out the fridge of some of those pesky leftovers. It's not haute cuisine, but you'll be surprised how fast it sells, especially with the teenage crowd. Next time we'll get back to "regular" cooking, though I do have to start getting you ready for Christmas. Sigh, a Crab's work is never done.

Until next time, remember, you can do it, you just cooked Thanksgiving dinner.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There's none of the panic about what to get 80-year-old Aunt Martha, none of the resentment for receiving an indifferent gift. There are no smarmy cards with soft focused cupids shooting arrows at lace edged hearts. Thanksgiving is basic, simple.

Thanksgiving is about going home and breaking bread. It doesn't matter if that "home" is a neighbor's, a restaurant or a soup kitchen; it doesn't matter if the family is your own or one you're borrowing for the day. Thanksgiving isn't about what or how we cook, it's about why we cook.

We stress out about recipes, about how much and what to make. We forget that it's not about the food. It's about the older generation passing the organizing and cooking onto the next. It's about adult grandchildren spending long car rides with time short grandparents. It's about college students coming through airport gates looking far older than their parents' memories.

So if you're cooking tomorrow, take a deep breath, have a glass of wine, relax and take the time to listen. No one remembers the Norman Rockwell moments, but we all, through laughing tears, can tell a story of Thanksgiving disaster. From underdone birds with lumpy gravy to Jell-O molds stuffed with shredded lettuce and sour cream, those are the memories that matter and need to be cherished.

I'm going to close with a passage by author Dorothy Allison, about the joys of gravy. This is the opening paragraph from a longer piece that appeared in the October 28, 2007 New York Times Sunday Magazine, (it's reprinted here without permission of the New York Times, the express written consent of Major League Baseball or The National Football League, so this could be my last post for awhile).

by Dorothy Allison

Gravy is the simplest, tastiest, most memory-laden dish I know how to make:
a little flour, salt and pepper, crispy bits of whatever meat anchored the
meal, a couple of cups of water or milk and slow stirring to break up lumps.
That's it. It smells of home, the door locked against the night and a stillness
made safe by the sound of a spoon going round in a pan. It is anticipation,
the last thing prepared before the meal comes to the table, the bowl in Mama's
hand closing the day out peacefully, no matter what came before.

So this Thanksgiving I wish you peace and great gravy. Remember, you can do it, this is why you cook.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Prep #8 - Menu & Shopping List

"Luck favors the prepared mind." - Louis Pasteur.

(He actually said, "Chance favors the prepared mind", but we can all stand a little editing.).

OK crablings, game day is almost here. The only way to get through the big event is to have everything ready to go; I'm talking about even mirepoix. So let's get started.

If you don't have turkey yet, get one today. If you pick it up tomorrow, makes sure it's nearly fully thawed. A 15-pound turkey feeds a lot of people depending on the number of sides. But if your 375 pound Uncle Herb from Sheboygan or three college aged males are coming to dinner and you like a lot of leftovers, then go big, just adjust your cooking time.

You'll need things to nibble on during the day prior to dinner. My suggestions are:

A platter of assorted crackers and cheese.

A large batch of Butternut Squash & Apple Soup. Keep it on a low simmer and have a small bowl or two as a break throughout the day.

The Main Event

Brined Roast Turkey
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Celery Root, Fennel & Potato Mash (alternate)
Leek, Mushroom, Bacon & Buttermilk Bread Stuffing
Bird's Eye Frozen Peas
Braised Brussels Sprouts in Maple-Mustard Sauce (barely acceptable alternate)
Cranberry Sauces
Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce (multiple cans)

Quick Apple Tart with Ben & Jerry's Vanilla Ice Cream

Thanksgiving is wine hell but here are WWBob's best suggestions:

White Wine: American Gewurztraminer (Fetzer), or Trimbach Hugel from the Alsace
Red Wine: American Pinot Noir (Smoking Loon, Mark West, Bogle or AtoZ), also 2007 Italian Barberas.

As a public service to Crab Nation, I've put together your shopping list:

Butternut Squash Soup
1/2 pound bacon, chopped before cooking
1 medium onion, chopped roughly
1 large leek, white part only, washed well and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 large butternut squash, seeded, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 medium tart apple, peeled and roughly chopped
32 ounces chicken stock, approximately
2 TBSP heavy (whipping) cream

Roast Turkey

1 (14 to 16 pound) young turkey, (if frozen, full thaw)

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1 gallon ice water

1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

2 heads of garlic
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon olive oil

1 pound russet or Yukon gold potatoes peeled and roughly diced
3 TBSP Butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cream

Celery Root, Fennel & Potato Mash

1 large celery root (celeriac), peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 large fennel bulbs (1 1/2 lbs total), stalks discarded, bulbs quartered
1 pound boiling potatoes (2 large), peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice, divided
1 whole star anise, ground
4 large garlic cloves, minced (about 1 1/2 TBSP)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley

Leek, Mushroom, Bacon & Buttermilk Stuffing

1 1/2 loaves of store bought buttermilk bread (approx 36 ozs. total), crusts trimmed and cut into 1/2 " cubes
1 pound of sliced bacon, cut into 1/2 " pieces

4 TBSP grapeseed oil
5 cups chopped leeks, (white and a small bit of the green parts), approx. 4 large leeks
1 1/2 pounds button mushrooms cleaned and chopped
12 oz. shitake mushrooms cleaned and chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 TBSP dried tarragon
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 TBSP butter

Braised Brussels Sprouts in Maple-Mustard Sauce

2 TBSP Olive Oil
1/4 cup minced onion
4 cups (approx. 1 pound) Brussels Sprouts, cleaned and halved lengthwise
Salt to taste
5 TBSP water
1/4 Dijon mustard
2 TBSP good quality Maple Syrup (the real thing if you can get it)
Fresh ground Pepper, to taste

Cranberry Sauces

Cranberry, Quince & Pearl Onion Compote
1/2 lb pearl onions (preferably red; approx 2 cups)
2 cups apple juice or cider
1 cup sugar
2 TBSP cider vinegar
6 cloves
1 tsp coriander seed, ground
2 quinces, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 (12 oz.) bag of fresh or frozen cranberries (not thawed if frozen)

Cranberry-Tangerine Conserve

2 tangerines (oranges are acceptable in a pinch)
1 (12 oz.) package fresh or frozen cranberries
1 tsp grated peeled ginger
1/2 cup golden raisins (chopped roughly if large)
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar (more if you like a sweeter taste)


1 15 lb. Turkey (same one you're making for dinner)
2/3 cup onion roughly chopped
1/3 cup carrots, roughly chopped
1/3 cup celery, roughly chopped
32 ounces, no-salt/low salt chicken or turkey stock/broth
1 14 1/2 oz can of chicken stock (on standby, for thinning purposes)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Salt & Pepper

Quick Apple Tart
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17 oz package), thawed
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 TBSP (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 TBSP cinnamon sugar (2 TBSP sugar mixed with scant 1/2 tsp cinnamon)
1/4 cup apricot jam, melted

Assorted Cheese and Crackers
Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce
Bird's Eye Frozen Peas

There you go crablings. Highlight and print off the shopping lists to whichever recipes you're going to prepare. Obviously there is some overlap in recipes, e.g. butter, so combine the lists and go to town.

At some point every great meal hurtles towards disaster. If you're properly prepared it's much easier to keep control of the situation. Remember, you can do it, you can cook Thanksgiving dinner. On Wednesday or Thursday I'll post my Ode to Thanksgiving, until then, get prepping.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Brined Roast Tukey - Thanksgiving Prep #7

Less than a week to go. We're in the home stretch and you can feel the tension building. Time to talk about the turkey.

Over the years I've prepped turkey a lot of different ways: salt encased, syringe injected, maple coated, blah, blah, blah. At the end of the day nothing beats brining the bird. Immersion in a salt solution goes a long way toward achieving the juiciness everyone oohs and aahs about.

You can play with different brine ingredients, but in the end it comes down to liquid, salt, sugar and some spices. Experiment with various choices for liquid and spices. But know this, of all the times I've made brines, the choice among stock, water, apple cider or whatever, usually only makes the subtlest of differences. So don't sweat the details too much.

Today's recipe is from Alton Brown's "Good Eats" television show on the Food Network. This recipe has never failed us! So if you're nervous, follow it to the letter and you'll be OK. If you're adventurous, have at it, though I strongly suggest keeping the proportions the same. It means brining the bird early on Thanksgiving, but it's definitely worth it, please enjoy...

Good Eats Brined Roast Turkey
from "Good Eats" by Alton Brown

1 (14 to 16 pound) young turkey, (if frozen, full thaw)

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1 gallon ice water

1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Early on the day of cooking, (at least 6 hours before you start cooking), combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket. Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement or garage) for 6 hours. Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.

A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes, (I often skip this part, I just don't think it adds that much flavor).

Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water, dry very well with paper towels. Discard brine.

Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil.

Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 1/2 to 3 hours of roasting, (Brown says 2 to 2 1/2 hours, my 14 pounders are rarely ready before three hours). Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.

While turkey is resting, prepare your gravy.

That's it crablings. The attached pictures are of a turkey breast I prepared a while ago. It takes some work ahead of time, but then there's a lot of standing around sipping wine until the panic of gravy. All in all, it's a very easy recipe.

Remember crablings, you can do it you can cook. On Monday I'll post a plan for the big day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Braised Brussels Sprouts in Maple-Mustard Sauce - Thanksgiving Prep #6

Alright, let's get this straight right from the start. There is only one acceptable vegetable to serve with Thanksgiving Dinner: Microwaved Frozen Peas (MFP). Not canned or fresh peas. Only microwaved frozen peas. They are a basic requirement; if there was any true justice in this world, it would be a Federal Crime not to serve them.

I've been told that there are some people who don't like peas.

Surely, you're joking.

I'm not joking and stop calling me Shirley. Doubtlessly this lie is perpetuated by the Frozen Corn & Carrot Council.

But Crabby is not heartless. I am willing to concede that some people, mouth breathing troglodytes no doubt, would like to have a vegetable choice at Thanksgiving. So today I bring an elegant option. The fact that it uses one of Mother Nature's most repellent vegetables only serves to display my beneficence as well as the wisdom and glory of frozen peas; but I digress.

Today I give you Brussels sprouts in maple mustard sauce. Eeeeeooooo! Brussels Sprouts! Yuk! Yes, well, while I agree with that assessment, SSSal thinks I'm being too harsh. The sauce in this recipe does a great job at masking the flavor of the sprouts, so it works out for everyone involved. SSSal gets the sprouts she so enjoys and I get a sauce that at least makes them palatable. Enjoy...

Braised Brussels Sprouts in Maple - Mustard Sauce
from, Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without by Mollie Katzen

2 TBSP Olive Oil
1/4 cup minced onion
4 cups (approx. 1 pound) Brussels Sprouts, cleaned and halved lengthwise
Salt to taste
5 TBSP water
1/4 Dijon mustard
2 TBSP good quality Maple Syrup (the real thing if you can get it)
Fresh ground Pepper, to taste

Place a medium sized skillet over medium high heat. After 1 minute add the olive oil and swirl to coat.

Add the onions and saute, 3 - 5 minutes, until they just begin to soften.

Add the Brussels sprouts and salt, saute for an additional 5 minutes.

Sprinkle in the 5 tablespoons of water, shake the pan to distribute and then cover. Cook over medium heat for 7 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts are fork tender. Note: Don't peek until the end of the 7 minutes. You may need to add more water and re-cover the pan if the sprouts aren't quite done.

While the sprouts are braising, using a small whisk, mix together the mustard and maple syrup in a small bowl. When the sprouts are fork tender add the sauce and stir to coat.

Transfer to a bowl and serve with freshly ground pepper.

There you go, pretty easy all in all. I have three suggestions for this recipe. First, I found the mustard a bit overwhelming, cut it back to 1/8 of a cup if you're not a big Dijon fan. Second, and I think that this would make a huge difference, instead of braising in water, use some champagne. It would add a nice dimension to the dish. Third, don't let the sprouts sit in the sauce for too long before serving, they turn "gloppy" pretty fast.

OK, crablings, a fast post with only a week to go before the big day. I know the pressure's building, but just remember, you can do it, you can cook. Next time, Bird Talk.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Leek, Mushroom, Bacon & Buttermilk Bread Stuffing - Thanksgiving Prep #5

OK crablings, we're getting down to the wire regarding Thanksgiving prep and I have to get you two more recipes after today, as well as present you with an overall plan. So something has to give. That something is going to be the more involved stories surrounding the recipes.

I know, I know, I feel your pain, but some problems are bigger than our own happiness. I promise, full blown, even over-blown stories will return, but for the next few posts it's strictly business. So let''s go.

Today we're going to prep what has become the official Crabby household stuffing. It has undergone a fairly large number of adjustments over the years. SSSal always wanted to have a more "upscale" stuffing, this idea met with a great deal of resistance, especially when this particular recipe did not initially display the gravy absorptive powers that Crab Nation demanded.

Number one this stuffing is not cooked inside the bird. I have no interest in overcooking the turkey just so I can be assured I've routed any potential salmonella from the stuffing. This is good news. The stuffing can be prepared ahead of time and baked alongside the bird. You get all the crispy goodness and none of the possible Pepto moments.

Number two, this recipe appeared in the November 1998 issue of Bon Apetit. While a good stuffing, it lacked enough bread to act as an adequate gravy transport vehicle, so our recipe now employs a great deal more buttermilk bread.

Finally, I'm told that this recipe could easily be made into a vegetarian friendly side dish by eliminating the bacon and by using vegetable stock. Though why you'd want a vegetarian friendly stuffing served next to roast turkey is beyond me. Anyway, here we go, enjoy...

Leek, Mushroom, Bacon & Buttermilk Bread Stuffing
from Bon Apetit, November, 1998 with many adjustments by SSSal and the Crabby family.

1 1/2 loaves of store bought buttermilk bread (approx 36 ozs. total), crusts trimmed and cut into 1/2 " cubes
1 pound of sliced bacon, cut into 1/2 " pieces

4 TBSP grapeseed oil
5 cups chopped leeks, (white and a small bit of the green parts), approx. 4 large leeks
1 1/2 pounds button mushrooms cleaned and chopped
12 oz. shitake mushrooms cleaned and chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 TBSP dried tarragon
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 TBSP butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread bread cubes onto 2 cookie sheets and bake until dry, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from oven, cool and then transfer to a large bowl.

Saute bacon in a large pot until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off rendered bacon fat.

Add 4 TBSP grapeseed oil to pot and heat over medium-high. When hot but not smoking, add leeks and white button mushrooms; saute until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add shitake mushrooms and saute an additional 5 minutes. Add celery and saute for 5 more minutes.

(Bread, vegetables and bacon can be prepped one day ahead, though they must be stored separately.)

Mix the bacon, vegetables and tarragon into the bowl containing the bread cubes. Season generously with salt & pepper. Mix beaten eggs into stuffing. Add approximately 1 cup of broth to the stuffing mixture and stir well to combine, (Note: you want to just moisten the stuffing, not turn it into a slurry. If you're using more bread then you may need to use more broth).

Return oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 15x10x2 inch baking dish. Add the stuffing to the baking dish in an even layer.

Take a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the baking dish and butter the surface that will come into contact with the stuffing. Cover the stuffing with the foil (butter side down) and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy on top.

Whew! This may seem a little fussy but in actual cooking it's really very simple. The result is a great way to move gravy. How many servings is this? I have no idea! I once watched a teenage male bi-ped consume half the baking dish by himself; I would think that this is enough stuffing for 12 (with very few leftovers).

Next time a vegetable and then the bird itself. I'll be back soon crablings. Just remember, you can do it, you can cook Thanksgiving dinner.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Beef Short Ribs in Chipotle & Green Chile Sauce, and The Politics of Change

A week ago I'd planned on a political post but I got sidetracked with a rant about early onset Christmas caroling. A couple of you asked about that story.

Back in the late '90s the Crabby family was
living in Minnesota, with SSSal working for the worldwide leader in transport refrigeration. The company was set up much like the automobile industry with manufacturing taking place in centralized locations and sales and installation being the responsibility of individual franchisees. SSSal's position required her to meet with individual franchisees from time to time.

At the time, Minnesota was going through a period of political upheaval. Well not upheaval actually, more like raging indifference. A governor's campaign was in full swing; the electorate was demanding, well suggesting anyway, "change".

Their prayers were to be answered. From the prairie rose a candidate unlike any before him. Actor, athlete, Navy Seal, professional wrestler: Jesse "The Body" Ventura. With a combination on unapologetic straight talk and a take-no-prisoners attitude, Ventura would engineer a grass roots victory that in today's world of sterilized and sanitized candidates is incomprehensible.

Minnesotans were giddy and a bit bemused. Not only had they "shocked the world", they could now proudly display their "My Governor Can Beat Up Your Governor" bumper stickers.

Right after the election, SSSal was visiting a franchisee in the deep south. The original owner was a gentleman well into his 90's. His sons had taken over the business, but he always insisted on having lunch with anyone who visited from headquarters.

He sat next to SSSal during the meal and besides introducing himself, said little. During a lull in the conversation, her turned to her and asked if she was from Minnesota. "Yes, yes I am", she said. He said nothing for a few moments, then looked up at her and matter-of-factly said, "Y'all got a wrassla for a guvna." He turned back to his dessert and didn't say another word all day.

Some candidates are polished to a high sheen, others are more gristle and bone. Here's a recipe for all you "wrasslin' guvnas". Enjoy...

Beef Short Ribs in Chipotle & Green Chile Sauce
from Bon Apetit, January 2003


1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
5 pounds, meaty beef short ribs (Rule of Thumb: 1 Pound short ribs/person)

Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Massage rub into both sides of the ribs.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and preferably overnight.

Beef Ribs Recipe

2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
6 large garlic cloves, minced
28 ounces low sodium chicken broth
1 cup drained canned diced tomatoes
1/4 cup lime juice
1/1/2 TBSP chopped canned chipotle chilies

3 large fresh Anaheim chilies, stemmed seeded & cut into 1/4 " rings
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
Lime Wedges

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Over medium-high heat, heat olive oil in a dutch oven or other large ovenproof pot.

Working in batches, making sure not to crowd the pot, brown ribs on all sides, about 5 - 7 minutes per batch.

When all the ribs have been browned, transfer them to a plate. Reduce heat to medium and add onions and garlic, cover and cook until onion is soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits in the bottom of the pot.

Add tomatoes, lime juice and chipotle chilies (Note: If you like your meals on the mild side, drop the amount of chilies to a 1/2 tablespoon).

Return ribs to pot, meaty side down. Arrange the ribs in a single layer. Bring the mixture to a boil; cover and transfer the pot to your oven. Cook ribs for 1 1/2 hours.

After 90 minutes, remove ribs from oven; using oven mitts, tilt the pot so you can spoon off accumulated fat, (Note: Short ribs are fatty, there will be a fair amount of fat floating on the surface. I use a ball baster to suck up as much fat as I deem reasonable. There will be some fat left in the pot!).

Place pot over medium heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, (Note: I have made this recipe a few times. Sometimes nearly all the liquid boils away in the oven and I add more broth on the stove top. Sometimes the vegetables don't quite disintegrate and I use a stick blender to make a rough "rustic" sauce. Learn to improvise).

When the sauce reaches your desired consistency, add the Anaheim Chile rings and simmer an additional 10 minutes, or until the rings soften.

Serve in large bowls, garnish with chopped cilantro and a lime wedge. You can serve this meal with warm crusty bread, garlic mashed potatoes, or my celery root brandade. WWBob suggests an Australian Shiraz, you want a lot of fruit to complement the spiciness.

OK crablings, another inexpensive but flavorful meal to add to your arsenal. I can hear the thundering feather beats of Thanksgiving approaching. Next time I'll post the Crabby household stuffing recipe. Until then, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mushroom Ragu & Other Arguments

SSal and I have been married for more than 24 years now. During that time we've had our share of "disagreements", some louder than others. One of the loudest came the Monday before our wedding.

I hate asparagus.

Church booked, invitations sent, reception menu set. Or so I thought. As many of you know, once the male has "popped the question", his function and position in wedding planning effectively evaporates. A groom is essentially like a kitchen fire extinguisher, everyone knows you should have one, but keep it out of sight until it's actually needed.

My father-in-law hates broccoli.

For four months the menu had been agreed upon, a choice of forgettable chicken and rice or vapid beef with twice-whipped potatoes, everybody gets broccoli. Four months, right there on the menu, broccoli.

The last month of wedding planning is a death march; truly a victory of hope over experience. By the last week any and every issue is stressful and ultimately pointless. Everything is fodder for World War III.


Monday night before the Saturday reception, SSSal calls and tells me, "We've switched from broccoli to asparagus".


"Broccoli to aspa..."




After having spent 6 months being invisible, ignored, eviscerated and emasculated in the planning process, I'd had enough. This Crab was not having asparagus at his wedding. If you want asparagus at your wedding find another crab, because this ones not coming!

It still ranks among the loudest arguments we've ever had. My sister-in-law-to-be had to call up singing "you say tomato, I say to-mah-to, so let's call the whole thing off".

SSSal and I still argue about food. Take today's recipe, SSSal loved it, I thought it turned out way too sweet. Maybe as a confirmed grouch I'm just hyper-sensitive to sweet. Here's a mushroom ragu recipe that everyone else seemed to like. While SSSal made her own spinach-ricotta ravioli (with CrabCake2's help), you could serve this with store bought ravioli or just over regular pasta. Enjoy...

Mushroom Ragu
from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mixed mushrooms (cremini, shitake, oyster, white button) chopped
Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup Marsala wine
2 sups chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan

In a large skillet heat the oil.

When almost smoking, add the onions and garlic over medium-low heat until the onions have wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.

Raise heat to high and saute until mushrooms are tender and all the liquid has evaporated.

Remove pan from heat and pour in Marsala. Return pan to stove and allow wine to evaporate, about 3 minutes.

Add chicken broth and simmer for 1/2 hour until the sauce has reduced by half.

Add heavy cream and mix well.

Take the pan off the heat and add the fresh herbs and Parmesan and mix thoroughly.

Serve over pasta, this evening we served it over homemade spinach and ricotta stuffed ravioli.

I found the Marsala to be exceptionally sweet. I tried squirting a little lemon juice over my pasta and it helped a little. Next time I think I'll eliminate the Marsala and substitute red wine or maybe add a cup of diced tomatoes, we'll just have to experiment.

That's it for now crablings, as always, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Oh by the way, we served green beans at the reception, my father-in-law still hasn't forgiven me.