Saturday, June 7, 2008

Russ Parsons’ Carne Asada Sandwiches with Avocados and Chipotle Mayonnaise

As I contemplated the menu for a bridal shower luncheon to honor a very special girl, I was befuddled by an unusual dietary restriction: my special girl only likes beef. Dear me, most of my lunch-y repertoire centers around chicken...chicken salads, chicken sandwiches, chicken soup, Chinese chicken, grilled chicken. It cooks quickly, works well with others and offends few.

Time for a paradigm shift.

As I leafed through recipe books, search engines and newspaper food-section streamers, a wrinkled clipping from August, 2003 caught my eye. This grilled beef sandwiches was the solution to my dilemma. Originally intended as a two handed sandwich, I gave it a more lady-like look and transformed it into an open-faced, tea-sized delight, using the pickled onion as a garnish.

I substituted flat iron steak for the round steak, but left the rest of the recipe intact - to rave reviews. Every ingredient played perfectly against the others – and the end result was a little spicy, a little creamy, a little crunchy, boldly beefy -even better than I had hoped.

Chicken schmicken.

Russ Parsons’ Carne Asada Sandwiches with Avocados and Chipotle Mayonnaise
Los Angeles Times – March, 2003

1 red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons lime juice, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs round steak (1/4 to 1/3 inch thick)
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon pureed canned chipotle en adobo, with sauce
2 avocados, halved and pitted
6 bolillo rolls, focaccia rolls or other high quality buns

Rinse the sliced red onion in a strainer under cold running water. Pat it dry, place it in a bowl and cover it with red wine vinegar. Set aside for at least 30 minutes, up to 2 hours.

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with 1 teaspoon salt to make a paste. Add 1 tablespoon of the lime juice and incorporate it into the garlic. Slowly add the olive oil, stirring with the pestle to incorporate it too. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a food processor.

Spoon half the garlic mixture over the steak, spreading it with the back of a spoon. Season well with salt. Turn the meat over and do the same with the other side.

In another small bowl, use a spoon to beat together the mayonnaise, pureed chipotle and the remaining 1 tablespoon of lime juice.

Cut the pitted avocados into thin slices and carefully peel away the skin.

Grill the beef over high heat. If you’re using round stead, cook about 3 minutes on the first side, then turn and cook for 1 or 2 minutes more. The meat should be medium rare in the center. If you’re using a thicker cut, leave the meat rarer in the center, cooking 6 or 7 minutes per side. Set the meat aside while you build the sandwiches.

Cut the rolls in half and spread with the chipotle mayonnaise, about 1 tablespoon for each half. Arrange the avocado slices on the top half of the roll, then add a couple of onion rings.

If you’re using round steak, cut the meat into pieces roughly the size of the bread and arrange on top of the onion rings. If you’re using a thicker cut, slice it thinly across the grain and then arrange it on the sandwich. Add the bottom half of the roll and press gently to compact everything together. Turn the sandwich right side up to serve.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sub-Contracting for the Wednesday Chef

This week I had the pleasure of participating in a little Role Reversal with the Wednesday Chef. She recently lamented the immensity of her collection of recipe clippings. Rather than outright disposal, she offered them to anyone in the blogosphere who would be willing to make the recipe and report back to her.

I tuned in at the right time and was able to lay claim to the Golden Apple Triangles. I had great fun making them and my comments and a photo of the turnovers are posted on her blog for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Russ Parsons' Artichokes with Prosciutto and Cream

It is commonly known in my family that I have a great affinity for “A” vegetables. In truth, I love vegetables of every alphabetic affiliation, but asparagus, avocados, arugula, and artichokes are always at the top of my list.

With company coming (and feeling bored with my usual repertoire), I flipped through my ever increasing portfolio of clipped and pasted recipes hoping for some inspiration. As usual, Russ Parsons rescued me in my hour of need with this recipe for braised fresh artichoke hearts. This was my first attempt at braising artichokes and, in addition to be quite easy to make, the result was deliciously creamy with the texture and taste of prosciutto adding the perfect rustic note.

It provided a great balance for my dinner of citrus marinated, grilled chicken with a salad of arugula and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, and yielded lots of yummy noises at the table.

Russ Parsons’ Artichokes with Prosciutto and Cream
Los Angeles Times - December 29, 2004

1 ¾ pounds medium OR
2 ¼ pounds baby artichokes
2 tablespoons butter
3 slices prosciutto, cut into slivers
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup water
½ cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

Trim the artichokes. If using medium ones, quarter them lengthwise. Place them in a bowl of acidulated water (water with a little vinegar or lemon or lime juice).

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the prosciutto and shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain the artichokes and add them to the pan. Add the thyme and water. Cover the skillet and cook until the artichokes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Shake the pan from time to time to stir the contents, adding a little more water if necessary.

When the artichokes are easily pierced with a knife, remove the lid and raise the heat to high. Cook until the moisture evaporates and the artichokes sizzle, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and let it cook for a minute. Add the cream and return the pan to the burner over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the cream has thickened enough to lightly coat the artichokes, about 3 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary (depending on the saltiness of the prosciutto). Season with pepper and serve warm.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup

Kabocha squash (also known as Japanese pumpkin) has been on my mind for a while. (The Wednesday Chef loves it for its nearly fiber-less flesh and delicious flavor.) My neighborhood market had several on display recently so I picked one up and brought it home for a test-drive.

True confessions - the butternut squash has always been my favorite – it is equally delicious chunked and roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper and fennel or as a pie filling standing in for the more obvious pumpkin or sweet potato.

A close understudy to the butternut squash, the flesh of the Kabocha is firmer and drier and a bit less sweet. For my maiden voyage I decided to give this squash the “chunked and roasted” treatment as an accompaniment to my earlier post on Pork Chops with Tarragon Cream. The results were satisfying, but to me the texture was too dry and I yearned for the sweetness of the butternut.

The next morning I stared into the fridge at the container of leftovers and pondered. After peeling, scooping, slicing and roasting the night before, I was invested – this squash needed salvation. Referring again to my mental list of favorite squash preparations, I decided that the best course of action was to make soup.

So in the pot they went - roasted squash and onions and chicken broth. After the floating bits of orange and brown began to simmer I pureed the lot with an emersion blender, added salt and pepper and then sprinkled on bits of fried pancetta and a swirl of cream – voila! – delicious, ultra creamy Kabocha soup.

Donna Deane's Pork Chops with Tarragon Cream

There are certain staple foods that I always have on hand for those nights that I need something foolproof and fast from freezer to fork. Pork tenderloin is one of my favorites – it defrosts in a flash and cooks up tender and buttery soft, no knife in sight.

My favorite preparation is to clean off the silver skin, slice it against the grain into half (or three-quarter) inch medallions, sauté in a hot pan with sage and thyme and finish with a vermouth and cream pan sauce. Literally 30 minutes from start to finish.

This recipe from Donna Deane appeared in the LA Times in December, 2000 as one of the Top 10 Recipes of the year. Always happy to find a variation of a favorite, I picked up some fresh tarragon at the market and substituted tenderloin for the bone-in chops that the recipe calls for.

To round out the plate, I roasted some chunks of Kabocha squash with quartered onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. The resulting dish was delicious and as speedy to prepare as my old standby.

Donna Deane’s Pork Chops with Tarragon Cream
Los Angeles Times – December 27, 2000

4 center-cut pork loin chops with bone
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup unsalted chicken broth
½ cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon

Season pork loin chops with salt and pepper. Heat butter and oil in large heavy skillet until hot. Add pork chops and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and brown second side, about 5 minutes. Remove chops from pan and cover with foil to keep warm.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add garlic and cook, stirring, about one minute. Stir in chicken broth, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Stir in whipping cream. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

Return chops to skillet. Cover and simmer over low heat until chops are light pink in the center, about 5 minutes. Stir tarragon into sauce during last few minutes of cooking.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Shrimp Ὰ La Française

It used to be that any time I wanted a no fail, luxurious, "adult" dinner for my husband and I would always default to Shrimp Ὰ La Française from San Francisco Encore (the follow up to San Francisco a la Carte by The Junior League of San Francisco.) However, much to my dismay, my children have recently discovered the merits of shrimp and garlic butter, so now Tony and I have to share.

This recipe is right up my alley - just a few ingredients, simple instructions, and a fantastic return on the investment. Instant bliss - just add a green salad and a glass of wine.

Shrimp Ὰ La Française
adapted from San Francisco Encore, 1986, Doubleday

3 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
freshly ground pepper

Pat shrimp dry. Heat oil in large skillet. Add shrimp and saute until they turn pink, about 3 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Blanch the garlic in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and mince. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the oil from the pan. Place over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds. Pour in the wine, increase the heat, and reduce mixture by half. Add the lemon juice and return to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Whisk in the butter, a piece at a time, until thick and creamy. Stir in parsley, chives, and tarragon. Season with pepper. Taste and season with salt and additional lemon juice, if necessary.

Arrange the shrimp on individual plates. Spoon the sauce over the top and serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6.

The Hiatus Ends

Yes – she returns.

It happens every year at the same time. October is “the” birthday month in our family – mine, my husband’s, my daughter’s, my mother-in-law’s, my nephew…you get the idea. October is cleverly followed by November and our girl’s Tea Party, the requisite bridal shower (not mine), Thanksgiving, energy-sucking holiday shopping, Christmas and finally New Year’s.

I really have been cooking - and even taking photos – but closing the deal has been elusive to say the least. But I’m back and have lots to share, so buckle your seatbelt and put your napkin on your lap.

The hiatus ends now.