Archive for the 'What I Ate' Category

Notes on a Lasagna

Monday, June 10th, 2013

I’ve written before about how I annotate my recipes so that I can go back later and know what I did–make adjustments based on past shortcomings; or remember how to repeat past successes.  When it comes to lasagna, though, I don;t really have a recipe to annotate… so I figure I’ll just make my notes here and unless the internets fail, I should be able to dig this up when I need it.

The Noodles

I used De Cecco brand noodles.  i liked their size: they were short enough that they were easy to work with and fit comfortably in a 10 x 15 pan (several shingled widthwise and then two placed end to end lengthwise to fill in the gap on the side).

The box reports that if boiling, to cook them 4 minutes and then bake for 20 minutes in the pan.  I think about 6 minutes is a better timeline for the boiling.

The noodles had a tendency t stick together.  Pulling them from the hot water with tongs individually seemed to help, but it was important to get them out of e pan individually.  It seemed the best way to get this done was to stack them crosswise in the water, two abreast in each layer.  Wait a reasonable interval between adding the next layer (several seconds) and then to invert the stack so that they first ones dropped into the water were also the first to be pulled out.

I transferred them into a bowl of cold water for holding.  This worked well, but if they were stuck together when entering the cold water, they never came unstuck, so make sure to get them unstuck while still in the boiling water!

One pound of noodles seems about perfect for a 3-layer, 10 x 15 lasagna, assuming that you can get them all pulled out without being stuck together.  I had lots of leftover noodles from cooking two pounds….

The filling

6 crimini mushrooms short of a full Wild Purveyors CSA box.

I sauteed the shiitake first, then the royal trumpet, and finally the crimini, transferring each type of mushroom out of the pan after they were done to golden brown and caramelized.

I salted each batch of mushrooms individually–which was perhaps a mistake.  I probably should have used less salt.  The mushrooms wuld have been great as a side dish, but when stacked atop each other with all of the other components of the filling, it was a bit salty.

One onion, diced to small dice, caramelized.  When starting to turn golden brown, 2 heads of garlic, sliced thinly (about 20 cloves).  Cook until all is golden brown and beautiful.  Add frozen spinach.  When it’s thawed, mix the mushrooms into it.

2 blocks of frozen chopped spinach was about the right amount.

Ricotta/ Sauce mixture: I bought a 46-oz tub of ricotta.  This was way too much.  Probably only needed half this amount.

For the sauce of this portion: a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes mixed with a little brown sugar, some marjoram, some basil, some thyme, and probably a bit too much salt.  I added more after I thought I had enough because I have a tendency to undersalt when making sauce from canned tomatoes and they always wind up tasting tinny and flat.  I overcorrected this time and should watch it on the next go-round.

Cheese:

3 x 8-ounce packets of mozarella.  Freshly grated parmesan.

Layering:

Rubbed the pan with butter to avoid sticking.  Thin layer of sauce (Ragu, large bottle–just shy of being the perfect amount).  Noodles, ricotta-sauce mix, spinach-mushroom mix, mozarella, tomato sauce, noodle, etc.  Add the parmesan to the very top.

Bake 375 for about 30 minutes.

Results: over-salted, but otherwise, quite satisfying.

Black Currant Infused Beurre Blanc

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Perhaps it would be more accurate to call this stunningly bright sauce a “Beurre Pourpre” as it most certainly is not white, but it’s made with white wine, so call it what you will.

  • 2 ounces brandy
  • 1 pint black currants
  • white wine to cover the currants
  • 1/2 cup white wine (in addition to the white wine already listed)
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter cut into chunks and kept cold
  1. Heat a small saucepan.  Add the brandy and flame it.
  2. When the flames die off, add the currants and the first dose of wine (enough to cover them).
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until almost dry (will be fairly syrupy).  Refresh with the 1/2 cup of wine, being certain to use it to get all syrup stuck to the sides of the pan.
  4. Strain through cheesecloth.
  5. Return to a boil, then let simmer until syrupy.
  6. Whisk in the butter over low heat.  Add only a few small cubes at a time, whisk until they are melted and incorporated, then add a few more.  Repeat until the entire half pound of butter has been incorporated and the sauce has a luxurious texture and flavor.
  7. Remove from heat and keep in a warm (not hot) place until service.  Whisk occasionally as it sits.  If transferring to a different container for service, make sure that the receiving vessel is warm lest the sauce break.
  8. Leftovers of this sauce are best used as a spread—it is very difficult to successfully reheat this sauce without it breaking.

Here is the sauce, in context, as served with steamed Maine lobster.  It would also match well with many other types of fish; french toast, pancakes, or waffles; muffins or popovers; poultry cooked with a cinnamon spice rub; etc.

Today’s Menu

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

In honor of Fathers’ Day, the following will be served in The Sharrard household:

Steamed Maine Lobster served with a black currant-infused beurre blanc

Roasted Medley of Mushrooms featuring crimini, chicken of the woods, and maitake mushrooms

Braised Spinach garnished with thinly sliced prosciutto

Greens Salad

Homemade Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

Wine Selection: Chateau St. Michelle Brut

Burgers Worth Grilling

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

For a very long time, I have resisted the idea of grilling hamburgers.  It seemed like ground meat was a waste of my charcoal.  A visit from my parents gave me the nudge I needed to make grilling burgers a worthwhile experience.

My father told me about how he and my mother have been grilling onions to go along with their meat patties.  I figured, why not give it a shot? and added onions into my normal grilling repertoire.  That, plus making some homemade buns (recipe follows the photos) was all the nudge I needed to grill some very worthwhile beef patties.

Then, I stacked it all up on a homemade hamburger bun.

And, believe me, the final product was definitely worth my charcoal!

Here’s the recipe for the buns:

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Grilling Photos

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

As it turns out, it is much easier to have someone else take photos of you cooking… doing and documenting is too much for one person to handle on his own.

Here’s most of the spread before any of it went on the grill: garlic, asparagus, crimini mushrooms, mango, bananas, coffee-spice rubbed strip steak, and summer squash.

I use hardwood lump charcoal.  It burns much hotter than briquets and it doesn’t have any of the chemicals in it that hold briquets together.  I start the charcoal in a chimney; lighter fluid doesn’t exist in my world.

The potatoes (parboiled, quartered, and coated in butter and spices) go on first, over the coals.  I need to be careful not to bring too much butter along with them else it drip and flare.  By the time I’ve finished putting the potatoes on the grill, it’s time to go back to the first potatoes put on and turn them.  They need intense attention until they’ve been flipped three times, at which point they have a beautifully caramelized exterior.  I remove them from the grill and return them to the butter and spices that remain in the pan.  They soak it up, drawing the flavor all the way in: leading to potatoes that have flavor all the way through and are ready to eat without adding any more butter or spices to them.

The strip steaks: grass fed, rubbed with kosher salt; ground chile pepper; and freshly ground coffee.  Seared over direct heat and then transferred to the indirect side of the grill to coast through to a medium rare outcome.

The garlic: whole cloves, roasted over a combination of direct and indirect heat until soft to the touch.  Let to cool, then peeled.  The whole roasted cloves have a sweetly mellow flavor that compliments everything else on the plate.

The mushrooms: crimini mushrooms, seasoned with kosher salt, ginger, new mexico chile, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.  Cooked slowly over indirect heat.  Flipped so that both sides cook.  This method works well for mushrooms of all types.  I started grilling mushrooms like this about 11 years ago, when I mostly used button mushrooms.  I rarely use button anymore (crimini are now my go-to); but I also have done this with wild mushrooms such as sheep head or pom-pom.

The asparagus: seasoned with kosher salt, ginger, and new mexico chile powder.  They were on and off the grill before they could be photographed cooking.  They go over the coals, are flipped once, and removed when they have a nice char to them.  I take them to the grill in the same pan I remove them to.  I use tongs to put them perpendicular to the grill slats, and typically am able to grill them without losing any to the flames.

The squash: seasoned with olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, and paprika.  Grilled over direct heat after the coals have already seen their hottest flames behind them.  Depending on the heat, perhaps 3-5 minutes on each side; turning them 90 degrees after 1.5-2.5 minutes to give them a nice hatch pattern on each side.

The mangoes and the bananas did most of their cooking while we were eating.  I put the mangoes over the coals and the bananas on the other side of the grill; put the lid on and ignored them for a while.  Admittedly, that’s not the best way to handle them (the mangoes never quite cooked all the way through and the bananas got mushy), but by the time they went on the grill, it was about 7:30 and we were all hungry.

Thanks to Jim Sharrard for the photography services.  See more of Jim’s pictures at www.mrtoadsride.blogspot.com.

A Great Start to Grilling Season—Chicken Rhubarb

Monday, May 21st, 2012

I know grilling season really could have started weeks ago, but in my house, the kickoff was last night—and it was fantastic!   Most of the time, I’m one to sit at the dinner table and analyze tweaks that could have made the meal better.  I try not to, because what I see as valuable analysis to help future meals comes across to Aurora as complaining, and she says it interferes with her ability to enjoy the meal at hand.

But that’s another topic altogether…. This meal had almost nothing to quibble about—except for the fact that I was so wrapped up in making and eating it, I neglected to take any pictures.

Much of the meal was standard fare on my grill—grass-fed steak, potatoes, red peppers, garlic, mushrooms, mangoes, bananas… par for the course.  But since Angstrom hasn’t been much of a carnivore and one of the few animal proteins he’ll eat some of is chicken, I got some chicken tenderloins and threw them on the grill; and because I had it in the fridge and I needed to cook it while it was still reasonably fresh, I cut some rhubarb into 3-inch lengths and grilled it, too.

The tartness of the rhubarb (seasoned with butter and ginger) went perfectly with the chicken (seasoned with salt and cinnamon).  It was such a nice combination, I brought some for my lunch today—instead of leftover steak!  Now, that’s saying something.

If you want to grill rhubarb, too– a couple of notes from the session: I started it off over indirect heat, but it seemed to respond better to direct heat.  This was fairly late in the grilling process, so the coals were already past their peak heat and on the descending side of the slope.  One flip and pull them from the flame as they soften—you don’t want it to overcook.  It would also match well with pork.

The Freshest of Fruits

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Just yesterday I was cursing my backyard bunny for chewing up my strawberries as they even approached a pinkish hue.  This morning as I walked to the car I decided to take another peek.  Hooray!  One whole, fresh, ripe berry, plus a few others untasted on their way to ripeness.

I considered leaving it there for Angstrom to discover this evening.  But then a little (somewhat selfish) voice inside me asked, “what if the rabbit ate it in the meantime?  Then it would go to waste!”  So I picked it and ate it right there.  So sweet, still warm from the sun: it was fantastic!  And, the others that were almost ripe this morning should be ready for the A man to discover tonight.

Caille Roti avec des Legumes

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Today, I picked up some quail from the market and brought them home for dinner.

Once I’d removed their heads and their first two wing joints, I transferred them to a pan with some onion, carrot, and water to make stock.

While they simmered, I prepared a spice rub for the birds: salt, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, thyme, and a bit of crushed red pepper.  I seared the birds in a hot pan with some butter, all over.  When I had browned the birds, I strained the stock into the pan and inserted them into a 110 C oven.

I sliced some onion to a fine julienne and let it sauté in some butter; added some slivered garlic once it had started to brown; then a couple minutes later finished the ensemble with some red bell pepper.

I scooped the seeds from a couple of courgettes and cut think planks, which I seared in butter in a separate pan.  I plated the onion-pepper mix and arranged the zucchini in a swirl over top as the quail were getting ready to exit the sauna.  The result was a table presentation that looked as good as it tasted.

Cooking with Angstrom/ Savory French Toast

Monday, November 28th, 2011

So, Angstrom has a new favorite word: “Spice.”

He says it when he gets home from daycare and sees the spice rack on the wall by the back door, “Spice!” Sometimes he says it when he gets up in the morning and we’re trying to get him ready to leave the house, “spice, spice!”

We’ve brought it on ourselves, and far from discouraging him, we encourage him to explore flavors. Maybe not on weekday mornings as we’re trying to get ready for work, but in the evenings and on the weekends, we’ll pull out several (3-5, typically) while I’m cooking and give him a chance to smell them and taste them. Often, we’ll follow that up with a chance for Angstrom to help me stir.

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Tasty Sandwich

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Thinly sliced, rare roasted top round of beef with roasted root vegetables on a toasted pumpernickel bagel spread with a mixture of cream cheese and horseradish.