Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pate de Canard; Happy Birthday Crabby!!!

"Fifteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt."

Well crablings, it's our 1 year anniversary!!! One year, 132 posts, a ton of food, (more or less), and most all of us are a whole lot deeper in debt. We've made it through chicken, fish, beef, pasta, lamb, veal, desserts, a few appetizers, stock market crashes, deep recessions, financial bailouts and a near death Tomato Tree experience.

When I started this little food blog I had no real plans or goals for it, (except for total worldwide domination of the food writing industry). What started as daily 1's and 2's visiting has blossomed to hundreds per day. So what have I learned you might ask?

I've learned that I love to cook and I love to write. I've learned that you can't make a dime off this internet thing. I've learned that without moderated comments, every screwball out there will think they have free license to have a flame war on your site. I've learned I'm terrible at following up on comments posted and am equally lousy at consistently visiting my friends' sites. For those last two things I am truly sorry; I'll try and do better this year, though I won't promise much.

What about Crab Nation? Here are your top five most visited posts:

Baker's Edge Brownies
Beef Stroganoff
Baby Lava Cakes
Mojo Marinated Chicken
Viva La Revolucion Sweet and Spicy Shrimp

Crablings like their food a little sweet and with some heat, and they especially want some chocolate for dessert.

The future? The truth is I've considered dropping the site. The lack of feedback has me feeling like I'm shouting at the ocean. I know you're out there, I just can't hear you.

But then it was pointed out to me that I wasn't going to give up eating was I? And did I suddenly hate writing? Well, no. So, when in doubt, when you find yourself in a creative hole, do you stop digging? Hell no, you just dig faster!!!

Over the coming months, there'll be some changes made. The two biggest will be to the look of the page and the introduction of video. I'm not going to be eliminating the blog posts, just adding an occasional video to see if that grabs your attention. Of course that means I will be revealing Crabby's true identity. Be forewarned, though SSSal and Boonsta think I'm cute, I have always felt that I have a great face for radio. You may want to keep the kids and small pets away from the first videos.

What to have for our birthday celebration? What to have? What to have? I know!!! Something ludicrously complex and involved. You've had it very easy with me crablings; I've made a point of showing you how simple it is to make tasty inexpensive meals. Well for my birthday I want a blow-out. I want something involving cranes, trusses and pulleys. I want Pate.

SSSal makes a sensational Pate de Canard. This is not goose liver mousse, this is the ultimate meatloaf. It is involved, but in actuality it's harder to assemble than it is to cook. But if you're squeamish, if you're scared, just follow along.

"Fasten your seatbelts, everybody. It's going to be a bumpy night." Enjoy...

Pate De Canard
from Saveur Magazine, December 2008

2 duck breasts, trimmed of fat and skin,about 1 pound
3 cloves garlic
2 TBSP orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
9 bay leaves
1 pound boneless pork shoulder, chilled
3/4 pound fatback, (lard if you can't find any fatback)
1/4 pound chicken livers
2 eggs, beaten
1 TBSP chopped thyme leaves, plus 8 sprigs
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon paprika
4 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup shelled pistachio nuts
3 TBSP dried green peppercorns
12-15 slices bacon

Cut the duck breasts into 1/2 inch cubes.

Finely chop the garlic.

Transfer the duck cubes, garlic, orange liqueur, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 3 bay leaves to a small bowl. Stir to coat the duck. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to three days, the longer the better.

Chop the pork shoulder and fatback into 1/8"cubes. Mound the pork and fatback into separate piles and continue chopping with your chef's knife. Transfer the pork and fat to separate bowls and refrigerate to chill.

While the pork and fat are cooling, using a food processor, finely chop the remaining garlic. Scrape down the sides and add the chicken livers. Pulse until they are pureed.

Add the pork and fat back from the refrigerator. Working in short pulses, process the mixture until it takes on the consistency of coarse hamburger meat. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add the eggs, chopped thyme, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, paprika and salt to the pork-liver mixture. Mix the ingredients together using your hands until well combined.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 day and preferably 3 days. The longer the better.

When you're ready to assemble, transfer the duck mixture, including any juices, to the bowl containing the pork-liver mixture. Remove the bay leaves. Gently fold the duck into the meat along with the pistachios and peppercorns. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Line the bottom of a 1 1/2 quart terrine pan, (or a loaf pan will do), with 4 evenly spaced thyme sprigs and 3 bay leaves. Place the bacon strips horizontally (the short way) across the bottom of the pan, covering the herbs.

Spoon the duck-pork-liver-fat mixture atop the bacon strips and gently smooth with the back of a spoon. Lay 4 strips of bacon lengthwise, (the long way) across the top of the pate.

Cover the top of the pate with two sheets of aluminum foil and crimp to the side of the pan to form a tight seal.

Boil a pot of water.

Transfer the terrine pan to a 9x13 baking dish. Transfer the baking dish to the middle rack of the pre-heated oven. Carefully, pour in enough of the boiling water to reach 1/2" up the side of the terrine pan.

Bake the pate until an instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the terrine registers a temperature of 158 degrees, about 2 hours.

Transfer the baking dish to a cooling rack, do not remove from the water bath, remove the foil. Cut two rectangles of cardboard to exactly fit inside the terrine pan. Wrap both pieces of cardboard in aluminum foil and place them over the pate.

Place three 15 ounce soup cans atop the cardboard. Allow the terrine to sit in the water bath for an additional hour.

After an hour, remove the terrine pan from the water bath and transfer the pan to a refrigerator. Chill for at least 1 day and up to 4 days, (you guessed it, the longer the better).

To serve, remove the soup cans and foil, slide a knife around the edge of the pate. Place a serving platter atop the terrine pan and, firmly holding the terrine pan to the platter, very quickly flip the the mold over. The pate should slide easily out of the terrine mold.

Cut into 3/4" slices and serve with baguette, Dijon mustard, cornichons, maybe a little macerated onion and a killer glass of champagne.

Well, well, well. I warned you crablings; I told you it would be involved. But you only have a birthday once a year so go whole hog, (or in this case, hog, chicken and duck). If not consumed right away, this concoction with last for a week.

Interestingly enough, except for the duck, this is a very inexpensive dish, and a pound of duck isn't going to break you either. It is labor intensive and needs at least a week of planning and fussing, but it's the best "meatloaf" you'll ever have.

Well, I'm off. Happy birthday to all of you and remember, until next time, you can do it, you can cook.

Now where did I leave the rest of that bottle of champagne?

Oh, I also noticed that you don't much care for the quizzes, well tough, I like 'em. Today there are two quotes in the body of the post, "Fifteen tons..." and "Fasten your seatbelts..."

Who said them?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Alfredo Sauce

"No good deed goes unpunished."

When people know you like to cook you often get food questions out of the blue. I'm happy to answer even if I have no idea what I'm talking about. It doesn't matter, people want you to know. They need you to know.

My approach to food questions? Answer forcefully and with authority; knowledge be damned. The questioner leaves happy and my reputation grows. If I'm wrong, the questioner will always assume they messed up, not me. It's a win-win as far as I'm concerned.

Of course, when people learn that you write a food website the stakes increase. They don't just ask you timing questions or spice questions. Every once in a while they ask you to make something for a special event.

A couple of months ago I was approached about making some Alfredo sauce for a spaghetti dinner fund raiser. Parents were contributing various items and no one wanted to make "the white sauce". A good friend came to me and said,

"We really need someone to make some Alfredo Sauce for the dinner. Would you be willing?"

"Sure", he said forcefully and with authority.

"Well, I should tell you, we need quite a bit", she said with some timidity.

"I'm sure I can handle it", he said forcefully and with authority.

"Great! Because we need 3 gallons", she said, smug in the knowledge that I was hooked.

"Three Gallons?"

"Three Gallons!"

"Great! No problem!" he said, silently cursing.

The problem with making 3 gallons of anything is up-sizing the recipe. The special problem with up-sizing Alfredo Sauce to 3 gallons is avoiding the Death Ninjas sent out by the American Heart Association. Alfredo Sauce is milk-fat mixed with butter fat with a shot of Parmesan Cheese thrown in just to make sure your arteries close completely.

The Boonsta and I used two 2-gallon pots. The last time something this large was prepared, it was done by three witches and Macbeth ended up having a really bad day. By the time everything was loaded in to the pots I had to hold the mixing spoon with my thumb and forefinger; I didn't need a wooden spoon, I needed an oar.

Anyway, here's a recipe that ends up making about 3 gallons of Alfredo. Please enjoy...

Crabby's Alfredo Sauce
(may God and heart surgeons have mercy on my soul)

4 Pounds Unsalted Butter
1 1/2 Gallons Heavy Cream
1/2 Gallon Half & Half
3 Pounds (that's right, pounds) Sour Cream
4 TBSP Ground White Pepper
2 TBSP Salt
12 Cups (about 2 - 2 1/2 pounds) Grated Parmesan Cheese

Place all of the ingredients, except the Parmesan Cheese, into a vat. Turn the heat to medium-low and start slowly stirring.

Melt all the butter and fully incorporate the sour cream. Bring this concoction to a simmer. As the temperature rises, you must keep stirring to avoid scorching the sauce.

When the sauce is just to a low simmer, (about an hour), start adding the grated Parmesan one cup at a time. Fully incorporate each cup before adding the next cup.

After all the cheese has been added, return the sauce to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Total cooking time will approach 90 minutes if you're using the proper, slow warming, approach.

Serve with cooked pasta, you should have enough to feed most of Iowa.

There you go crablings. Alfredo Sauce is very easy to make, it's not even cooking, it's melting fat and stirring. Lots and lots of stirring. Also, as you can see, I'm a big believer in presentation when it comes to food, that's why I went with the blue 5-gallon water jug for transport. It made for a better contrast with the creamy yellow of the sauce.

Next time it'll be something a bit more complicated, but for now, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Two Things:

Crabby Quiz: Who's the originator of the opening quote?

Downsizing: If you'd like to make a little less than 3 - 4 gallons of Alfredo try these proportions (makes 6 cups, probably good for a pound of pasta):

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup half & half
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon ground white pepper (more to taste)
Salt to taste
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan Cheese

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dukkah Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Let's face it, I'm a fraud. I talk about taking risks in cooking, about trying out new things, about stepping away from your comfort zone, but at the end of the day, standing in front of the stove, I'm pretty conservative.

Most of my cooking is Euro-centric, primarily Italian influenced. Now, there is definitely nothing wrong with Italian influences, but there are hundreds of other cuisines out there. Sure I dabble with barbecue and slow cookers, I play around with Asian foods, but with the exception of Pho, I'm primarily stuck in Japan and China.

I've never presented any Thai food, no Malay or African recipes, no curry. True, with the exception of Thanksgiving dinner, I'm not a fan of Indian food. But there are so many recipes out there to try if only we're brave enough.

Well today I'm going to take a very tentative step into the Middle East. Nothing overwhelming, better to wade in than dive head first I think. Dukkah is a nut and seed mixture generally attributed to Egypt. It uses a number of fragrant dried spice seeds. As you would expect from a warm climate environment, these dried ingredients keep for a long time and after preparation, the mixture can live on without refrigeration.

The key to this seed-nut crust is dry-toasting the ingredients before grinding. The dry heat brings out the fragrant oils and concentrates the tastes. Your biggest problem with this recipe is the risk of the seeds burning while dry-toasting, so don't walk away and everything should be OK. My version of Dukkah employs a lot more dried mint leaves than traditional. This is a very versatile mix so please enjoy...

Dukkah Crusted Pork Tenderloin
from delicious magazine, November 2008

2 pieces pork tenderloin, approximately 1 1/2 pounds
1 TBSP cooking oil (I prefer grapeseed)

Dukkah Recipe

1/2 cup hazelnuts (though almonds could work)
1/4 cup coriander seeds
3 TBSP sesame seeds
2 TBSP cumin seeds
1 TBSP black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 TBSP dried mint leaves
1 teaspoon salt

Heat a heavy-duty skillet over high heat, add the hazelnuts and dry-toast until slightly browned and fragrant, approximately 90 seconds. Warning: DO NOT step away from the pan, shake the pan frequently or the nuts will burn!

Remove the nuts from the pan and allow them to cool completely.

Turn the heat down to medium.

Working in stages, repeat the process with all the seeds and the peppercorns, but NOT the mint leaves or salt.

Cooking times for the seeds varies depending on the heat of the pan. The cumin seeds will be ready within 15 seconds, the fennel and sesame seeds closer to 45 seconds. The coriander and peppercorns take the longest, probably 1 - 2 minutes. Allow all the seeds to cool completely.

Warning: The cumin seeds are especially susceptible to burning, so pay close attention when they are in the pan.

Chop the hazelnuts to a rough but small consistency. Alternatively, place the nuts in a food processor and using short pulses, chop to a rough consistency. Do not over-process or the nuts will turn into a paste. Place the chopped nuts in a medium sized bowl.

Place the peppercorns, cumin, fennel and coriander seeds on a cutting board and using the edge of a small frying pan, crush the seeds to a rough consistency. Add to the chopped hazelnuts.

Add the salt and mint leaves to the mixture. Stir well to combine.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread about 1/2 cup of the dukkah on a large serving plate. Roll the pork tenderloins in the mixture, pressing down to insure adhesion to the meat.

In an oven proof saute pan, heat the tablespoon of oil over high heat. When the pan is hot, sear the pork on all sides, approximately 6 minutes total searing time.

When seared on all sides, transfer the pan to the heated oven and roast for 12 - 15 minutes, until cooked through.

Remove from oven, let rest for 5 minutes, slice and serve.

Not too bad eh, crablings? There's a vaguely exotic taste and aroma to this meal. Though I haven't tried it yet, I suspect that the dukkah would go well with chicken or fish. I'm think this meal would be best served by having some sort of sweet-sour accompaniment, say red cabbage, but that's a recipe for another day.

Well, I've dipped my claws into Middle Eastern influenced cooking and I can honestly say, you can do it, you can cook.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Soba Noodles with Seared Tuna & Soy Mirin Dressing

Variations on a Theme.

For much of her childhood SSSal played the piano. When CrabCakes 1&2 were born there was an implicit understanding that they too would play. Unlike their mother, neither CrabCake displayed any particular keyboard talent.

In scenes familiar to many a parent, we were treated to practices and recitals where progress wasn't measured so much by beautiful music as it was by the diminution of errors. I'd never thought of "Hot Cross Buns" as a torture device before, but there it was.

Ultimately both boys rebelled. While I missed the idea of them playing music, my ears were thankful. But wait; at the ripe old age of 10, CrabCake2 told us that "he had to join the band at school". He tried the trumpet - disaster. He thought about the saxophone - too big. He picked up a flute - epiphany.

Competent within months; a
fish to water. In the last five years there has been state-wide recognition and seats in youth orchestras. What had been a grinding, miserable experience in front of 88 keys, was now seemingly effortless, beautiful music.

Variations on a theme.

So let's stay with that idea. Over the last few months two of my most popular posts have been Otsu and Cool Peanut Soba. Crab Nation it seems, loves Soba noodles. Soba has always struck me as a warm weather meal, but I'm sick of winter and so I tried to find something that would at least remind me of warmer times.

This meal is a shade expensive given the troubled times we're in, but we all need to indulge occasionally, (you could probably make this with skinless, boneless chicken breast if rare tuna isn't your thing food-wise or budget-wise), so please enjoy...

Soba Noodles with Seared Tuna & Soy Mirin Dressing
from Olive Magazine, September 2007

Serves 4

1 1/4 pounds searing grade Tuna Steaks
4 TBSP Sesame Oil, divided
Sesame seeds, approx. 4 TBSP
12 oz. Soba Noodles
1 medium cucumber peeled, seeded and sliced thin
4 scallions chopped

Mirin Dressing

6 TBSP Lemon Juice
6 TBSP Soy Sauce
8 TBSP Mirin Cooking Wine
2 TBSP Sugar
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

Heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat.

As the pan is warming, sprinkle the sesame seeds onto a large dinner plate. Using 1 TBSP of oil, rub the tuna steaks on all sides and then roll the fish in the sesame seeds.

Add the steaks to the hot frying pan, searing the tuna for 30 seconds on all sides.

Set aside.

Prepare the soba noodles according to box instructions (typically boiling for 5 minutes). When done, drain the noodles and run under cold water. If you aren't going to use them right away, leave the noodles in a bowl of cold water for up to 1 hour. Drain the noodles completely before proceeding.

Combine all the mirin dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Add the remaining 3 TBSP of sesame oil. Whisk well to combine.

Divide the noodles among 4 bowls. Sprinkle the cucumber and scallions atop the noodles.

Thinly slice the seared tuna and divide among the bowls. Pour the dressing over the tuna. Sprinkle with additional sesame seeds and serve.

This is a very easy recipe. Better still it can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. Since I like my noodles slightly soupy, I've doubled the amount of dressing. If you like yours drier, cut the dressing measurements in half.

Alright crablings, I'm done for today. Next time I think we may travel to the Middle East for inspiration. Until then, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, Hey It's The Daytoner 500!!!

"First of all I wanna thank God and everyone over at Petty-Roush-Childress racin' for givin' me such a good car. The Cialis-Cheerios-Hooters ToyotaFord Malibu run real good today, and I couldna won without all the help from my crew and spotters.

That two tahr change at the end made all the difference. Coursin' everyone know that tahrs wins races. Goin' with only two durin' that last stop whats gave us the lead.

When you're runnin' a plate race like Daytoner, positions what counts, so Buford Ray rollin' the dahce on a splash and go is what made the difference. We gonna need a lot more days like today if'n we gonna make the Chase."

Y'all get all that?

Here's the deal. I like NASCAR. It's got it's own language. I love the post race interviews, I love how they can't go 15 seconds without mentioning a sponser or changing caps to show their endorsements.
And even though in the last few years it's gotten way too slick, it still has that vaguely "homeboy-hillbilly" feel. On top of it all, unlike Formula 1, cars actually pass each other and you don't know ahead of time who's going to win.

This Sunday the season kicks off with the biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500. So I need an appropriate recipe for the day. I don't want to be too distracted with cooking, so this event is perfect for a slow-cooker/crock pot recipe. Best of all, in these troubled financial times, this recipe can feed a crowd without decimating the wallet. So this Sunday, I'll be in front of my TV, beer in hand with the sound cranked up, enjoying...

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
by Crabby

1 large onion, chopped
1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and diced
2 pounds pork loin
2 pounds pork butt
1 cup barbecue sauce, your personal favorite
1 cup apple juice

Salt & Pepper to taste
Additional barbecue sauce
1 large jicama, peeled and thinly sliced
Hamburger Buns

Peel and chop a large onion, I prefer one of the sweet varieties that seem to be everywhere these days. Place the chopped onion in the insert of the slow cooker.

Seed and dice the pepper and sprinkle on top of the onion. If you want a spicier result use a jalapeno pepper (or two). I would avoid Chipoltes in Adobo, since every time I've tried them, the slow cooking process seems to impart a bitter flavor.

Place the piece of pork loin and the piece of pork butt in the insert atop the onions and pepper, in a single layer. A 50/50 mix of loin and butt results in a high yield of meat with just enough fat to stop the pork from toughening up.

In a large bowl mix the barbecue sauce and the apple juice and pour over the pork.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. This is an all day process, so get it started early then relax. Alternatively, use could use a dutch oven/le creuset and cook this in a 200 F oven. No peeking!!!

After 8 hours transfer the meat to a cutting board. Be careful since the pork will fall apart.

Using two forks, roughly shred the pork loin and butt.

Skim any excess fat from the surface of the remaining sauce. Return the pork to the sauce. Add additional bbq sauce to taste, for me it's between 1/2 and a full cup. Taste and adjust seasoning.

You're now ready to serve.

I like to serve my pulled pork with a thin slice of jicama* on top. It gives just the right amount of crunch and has a faint apple taste that complements the pork perfectly.

Serve with your favorite beer, (I suggest Pabst Blue Ribbon or Carling Black Label).

OK crablings, that's it for now. I know pulled pork isn't the fanciest of recipes, but it's amazingly easy to make, tastes great and very cheap too. Next time I'm going to slightly break the bank, so enjoy this meal and remember, you can do it, you can cook.

*Jicama, is often referred to as Mexican Potato. To me it's more like a very mild radish. These days it's available in most supermarkets. If your market doesn't carry jicama, MOVE! Or use a thin slice of red onion.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Raspberry Cream Cupcakes, Uh, Oh, It's Valentine's Day!

Doset Daram.

Te Amo.

Mahal Kita.

Je T'aime.

"Ah, mon petit chou, it is love at first sight, is it not, no?"

Ah yes, love is in the air, Valentine's Day is this Saturday and men all over America are cursing. A contrived day designed to increase flower, candy, greeting card and restaurant sales. Wanton commercialism wrapped in wanton lust. It's a travesty I say.

But let's face it, left to their own devices, men would rarely, if ever put forth the romantic effort. At least with Valentine's Day they get clear cut signals on what to do: Nice smelling stuff - Flowers, check. Feed Me - Restaurant reservation, check. Have someone else tell me you love me - Valentine's Day card, check.

See, it's all laid out for you.

So who am I to stand in the way of love? Today I give you a recipe that's sure to please the most jaded of hearts. This is a recipe from my some-day-to-be paramour, Giada DeLaurentiis. It's ludicrously simple, so simple even a man could do it, though in truth I leave all the baking to SSSal. So fire up the candles, put on he romantic music and enjoy...

Raspberry Cream Cupcakes
by Giada DeLaurentiis

1 (18.25 oz) box white cake mix (preferrably Duncan Hines)
1 1/3 cups water
3 large egg whites
2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 (6 oz.) containers, fresh raspberries (or 6 oz strawberries chopped)
1 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar, plus additional for dusting

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line 18 muffin cups with muffin papaer.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cake mix, water ,egg whites, melted butter, almond extract and vanilla extract in a large bowl for 2 minutes or until batter is well blended.

Using about 1/3 cup of batter for each cupcake, scoop batter into muffin cups.

Bake cupcakes until the are pale golden on top, about 15 minutes.

Cool cupcakes completely on a cooling rack.

Using a fork, coarsely mash 1 1/2 containers of raspberreis in a medium bowl.

Whip the cream and 1/3 cup powdered sugar in a large bowl until form peaks firm. Fold the mashed raspberries, gently, into the whipped cream.

Remove the muffin papers from each cupcake. and cut the top (horizontally) off of each cupcake. Place a spoon on the raspberry whipped cream atop the cupcake bottoms. Return the cupcake tops to the cupcakes, forming a raspberry cream sandwich.

Dust the cupcakes with the remaining powdered sugar. Garnish with remaining berries and serve.

Using a box cake mix makes this recipe ridiculously easy; even a crab could do it. SSSal has made this dessert several times and it never fails to impress.

So crablings, that's your little something for Valentine's Day. A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, a plate of cupcakes and a bowl of extra raspberry whipped cream; I'd go into more details about what happens next, but this isn't that kind of web site. Until next time, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Crabby Quiz: I opened this post with "I love you" written in four different languages, name each.

Extra Credit: After the four "I love yous", there is a quote in italics, name the speaker.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Beef & Black Bean Chili with Chipolte & Avocado

Well, as Dad always used to say, "The sandwich always hits the carpet jelly-side down".

I'm in the process of learning my new computer but I'll admit to having had vague hopes of salvaging something of the old machine. Alas and alack, it wasn't meant to be.

CrabCake2 borrowed his father's credit card, bought a gizmo or two and tried to recover what was in the old hard drive. But the old Dell, she is kaput. He offered to take it into the Geek Squad and see if they could do anything with it but, given that all I've really lost is about 8 sets of unpublished Crabby food photos, it just seems like throwing good money after bad, (See: Government Financial Bail-out of Wall Street).

Interestingly, in addition to the "who-zy" he needed to work on my machine, a surprisingly large amount of new equipment ended up in his room. Seems like profiting from my misery is the price I have to pay to hear that there's no solution to my losses, (Again, see: Government Financial Bail-out of Wall Street).

Well crablings, I've got a new machine and the only real pain is how much poorer I am. So today's recipe is going to be something fast and cheap. I know I've told you that I'm not a big chili fan, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Here's a recipe that will work at your next sports party, outdoor BBQ or Mexican dinner, enjoy...

Beef & Black Bean Chili with Chipolte & Avocado
from Fine Cooking

3 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 14-1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 medium chipotle plus 2 Tbs. adobo sauce (from can)
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. 85% lean ground beef
Kosher salt
1 large red onion, finely diced
1-1/2 Tbs. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ripe avocado, cut in a medium dice

Put one-third of the beans into the bowl of a food processor, along with the tomatoes and their juices, chipotle, and adobo sauce. Process until smooth and set aside.

Heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or similar heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering hot, about 2 min.

Add the beef, season with 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat, until it loses its raw color, about 3 minutes. Transfer the beef to a large plate using a slotted spoon.

Add half of the onion and 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring, until it begins to brown and soften, about 3 min. Reduce the heat to medium.

Add the chili powder and cumin and cook for 20 seconds. Add the remaining black beans, the puréed bean mixture, and the beef to the pot and simmer for 10 min., stirring frequently.

Add half of the lime juice, half of the cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. If the chili is thicker than you like, it may be thinned with water.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the remaining lime juice and onion with the avocado. Season generously with salt and pepper. Serve the chili topped with the avocado mixture and remaining cilantro.

Fast, frugal and flavorful, (I've been using a lot of "f" words since the old computer died). This recipe appears as it did in Fine Cooking; I'll warn you that I thought that there was too strong a lime flavor; SSSal disagreed. I also think a better application than chili would be to use this meat/bean mixture as the stuffing of tacos; SSSal agreed.

OK crablings, I'm off to try and remember as many of my old bookmarks as possible. Until next time, remember, you can do it you can cook.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Meyer Lemon Buttermilk Pudding Cake & Disaster

"It's been a rough day. I got up this morning, put on a shirt and a button fell off. Then I picked up my briefcase and the handle fell off. I'm telling you, I'm afraid to go to the bathroom."


Right after posting Sauerkraut Soup, disaster struck. Truth is I could sense it coming, but like everyone else I just chose hope over evidence.

Crash. Bang. Boom.

Right after getting confirmation of the last upload, my up-til-now-trusty computer died. Blue screen fading to black. Tried rebooting, but it's always a bad sign when your machine's death rattle is a snicker.

Last words? I swear I heard it whisper, "I told you to back up more often".

After six years the Dell is a goner. I'd been backing up more often, but I'm pretty sure I've lost a number of as yet unpublished photos. Ah well, I'll just have to make the recipes again. Put's a little pressure on me to create some inventory, but no sacrifice is too great for Crab Nation.

It's been a little shocking to live without my own computer. You just don't realize how attached you are to the possibility of communicating with the world. I've taken to borrowing SSSal's and CrabCake2's machines, but it's not the same. I feel like a technology stalker...unwashed, vaguely feral, desperate for a few moments of connectedness; Gollum Jonesing for a laptop.

Well what are you going to do, cry in your scalded milk? No. Life gives you lemons, you might as well try to make lemonade. But that's a recipe for another day. Today let's go for dessert. Early last summer, SSSal and I received a Meyer Lemon Tree as a gift from JeanneBean. It's taken about 9 months for the fruit to actually ripen but I'm not complaining. It's great to look at ripening citrus in the middle of winter. So without further downtime, please enjoy...

Meyer Lemon Buttermilk Pudding Cake with Fresh Berries
from Bon Appetit, January 2005

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup sugar, divided
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup Meyer lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unslated butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large egg whites

whipping cream
fresh berries (blue- and or rasp-)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter an 8x8x2 inch glass baking dish.

Blend buttermilk, 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, flour, butter and salt in a blender until smooth.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in a large bowl until sift peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until stiff but not dry.

In 3 additions, gently pour buttermilk mixture into the beaten egg whites. Note: Batter will be runny.

Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Place dish into a roasting pan and then into the oven. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the baking dish. DO NOT GET ANY WATER INTO THE BATTER. (This is safer to do with the pan already in the oven.)

Bake until the entire top is evenly browned and the cake moves very slightly in the center, but still feels springy to the touch, about 45 minutes.

When done, remove baking dish from roasting pan and allow to cool on a rack. When cooled, refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 6 hours.

Spoon pudding cake into shallow bowls. Pour whipping cream around cake and top with berries.


There you go. It sounds a bit fussy but it's truly very easy. Of course we had a cookng tragedy the last time we made this, but that's a story for another day.

Well crablings, I'm off to stand by the front door, longingly listening for the downshift of a UPS truck. Computer should be here soon. Until next time, remember you can do it, you can cook.

Crabby Quiz: Name the opening joke's owner.