Tuesday, December 8, 2009

This Week at the Majestic: Playing with Fire

The usual Tuesday ritual of cooking commenced this afternoon with a trip to the market. I put a couple layers of warm clothing, my winter coat, and gloves and headed out into the chilly afternoon up the block to the grocery. I had Christmas music playing on my iPhone and I couldn't help but be in a good mood. There were lovely clear skies and despite the cold, it was a nice day. With what I bought at the grocery, I made: Thai chicken curry, Indian cauliflower curry, pork roast, candied turnip soup, garlic and rosemary chicken legs, and meatballs with caramelized onions in Cognac cream.

Dan requested that I make another curry, so this time around I thought I'd continue my experimentation with Asian flavors and make both a Thai and Indian style curry. The Indian curry was more or less a repeat of last weeks except with less coconut milk, and i will stir some plain yogurt before I serve it to give it a little acidity. I got some ideas about Thai curry from Franco, my "curry mentor" at work and tried executing what we had spoken about. The only thing I didn't anticipate is quite how spicy the Thai chili paste I bought was going to be - The results for both of the curries are pretty tasty, though the Thai curry is a little more spicy than I would normally eat.

All of the other dishes are things that are solidly in my repertoire. The meatballs were also by request, but rather than a tomato sauce like last week, I did a little play on French Onion Soup to keep things interesting. The soup was inspired by the blog entry that I wrote about Sunchokes. Sadly, the grocery didn't have them today, but I did find some nice big purple-top turnips to play with. I pureed them into some chicken stock with the new immersion blender that my mom sent me as a surprise! The caramel added a nice sweetness to the very earthy, peppery flavor of the turnip. The pork roast is something I've made a few time before. I butterflied it, smeared pesto on the inside, tied it up, seared it, and roasted it. Hard to go wrong that way!

The only thing that did go wrong today was the chicken. I was having so much fun putting everything together and listening to more Christmas music, that I forgot about them! They aren't burnt, but I suspect they are very very very well done after almost two hours of roasting. If worse comes to worst, I will just make a nice chicken salad with them. Mayonnaise and tarragon can cure just about anything, and we love to eat chicken salad right out of the refrigerator for lunch. Besides, I always cook too much anyway.

Cooking time today was about 5 hours. I let all of the sauces and stocks simmer for a really long time, and I got into the zen of my vegetable chopping. I spent a little more at the grocery than
usual too - around $90. Since I saved so much last week, I didn't feel too bad about it. The most expensive things were the spices (Bay leaves, cumin, cardamom, coriander) - those little jars of seasoning are quite pricey and that ate up about $25 of my total budget, but I'm now stocked up for a while. I got all sorts of interesting things to play with as I continue to try out Indian and Thai curries. I'll post a recipe once I'm totally comfortable with balancing the flavors. Thank goodness for The Majestic's expert taster, Dan.

Flaming Meatballs

2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
2 tablespoons pesto
1 egg
1/2 cup Progresso brand Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup AP flour
2 yellow onions, sliced into thin rings
1/2 cup Cognac (aka cheap cooking brandy)
  1. Make the meatballs by mixing the ground beef, pesto, egg, and breadcrumbs by in a large mixing bowl. Roll them around between your two palms forming little spheres about an inch in diameter.
  2. Roll the meatballs in seasoned AP flour before searing in a skillet with heated EVOO. The flour will help them brown nicely and also creates a sort of rue to thicken the "sauce" when you deglaze the pan later.
  3. Once the meatballs are well browned, remove them to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  4. In the same pan, caramelize the onion over medium heat stirring every once in a while. Watch the onions so that they do not burn. You can add a teaspoon or two of red wine vinegar to help the caramelization along if you like.
  5. Incorporate the meatballs back into the pan once the onions are caramelized and add the cognac. If you are brave, you can light the whole pan on fire by tilting it towards the flame of your burner or using a lighter with a long stem. Step back so that you don't lose your eyebrows!
  6. When you're ready to serve, stir in a bit of milk to make a nice gravy and heat through, but do not boil.
  7. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with buttered noodles, or white rice.

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