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.