Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This Week at The Majestic: Fall is here!

What a fun day of cooking I've had today! The iPhone was playing a particularly fabulous mix of Jason Mraz, Kings of Leon, Rufus Wainright, Radio Head, and The Killers while I roasted, pureed, seared, chopped, shredded, and stirred. My shopping trip to the grocery was a complete success. I was able to take advantage of the after Thanksgiving specials on things like turkey, prepared organic stocks, fall vegetables, and fresh herbs. All in, I spent around $40 and I was able to create the following menu: rosemary and garlic roasted turkey legs, fall-spiced butternut squash soup, baba ghanouj, chicken and dumplings, pesto with angel hair pasta and Dubliner cheese, roasted red pepper and garlic chicken sausages, curried cauliflower, and meatballs in tomato sauce. Total preparation and cooking time was a new record low: a little under 3 hours!

In an attempt to broaden my culinary horizons a bit, I worked on a couple of firsts today . Sadly, my immersion blender has been broken for a long time, so I have been shying away from pureed soups, but recently I was leafing through some old cookbooks and I came across what I'll call the "strainer" method. Essentially, you simmer everything until it's really tender in a broth and then press it through a colander. The results are just as silky as what I used to get with the immersion blender with a little more man power, so the result is delicious soup and I get to bulk up my already huge python-like arms. J/K!

Today was also my first time trying to make Indian food. I've been inspired by staff meals at work recently prepared by a relatively new addition to the staff, Franco. He has a real knack for delicious curries that balance spice, fat, salt, and aromatics. Curries are perfect for this kind of cooking because they can be warmed up quickly and taste better the longer they sit in my opinion. I don't think my curry came out quite as well as Franco's do, but as they say, there's a first time for everything. The lesson I learned today is that a little coconut milk goes a long way. I was pretty shocked at how much salt I had to add to balance out its richness. The finished product tastes really good, but I wouldn't put it in the light category. Oh well...

All in all, it was a successful and productive day. I know I'm going to enjoy eating all of this food this week. Bon Appetit!

Butternut Squash Velouté Majestueux

1 whole butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock (homemade if you have it!)
1 thin slice of salted pork fat back
1 tablespoon fig or apple cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 whole clove
milk, butter, or cream if desired
EVOO, salt, and pepper

  1. Toss the squash in EVOO, salt, and pepper. Roast in a 400˚ oven for about half an hour or until the squash is tender and begins to caramelize.
  2. In a sturdy Dutch oven, sweat the onion, garlic, and celery in some EVOO and season with salt.
  3. Add the squash, fat back, liquids, and seasonings to the pot. Use enough water to cover all of the solids and bring the heat down to a simmer.
  4. Keep the pot on low heat for at least an hour. The longer it simmers, the more complex and deep its flavors will become. You may have to add more water or chicken stock if it becomes too thick. It should be a soup and not a puree.
  5. Work the ingredients through a colander with a ladle or spoon into another pot. Be sure to press as much as you can through the colander after you have removed the bay leaves and fat back. You should be able to get pretty much all of the solids back into the liquid with a little effort.
  6. Return the pot to the stove and keep at a simmer until you are ready to serve.
  7. Optional: stir in a touch of cream, milk, creme fraiche, or butter before you serve and garnish with a little chopped parsley or a swirl of balsamic vinegar reduction.

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