Wild Rice and Pecan Pancakes

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Savory pancakes are something I really enjoy creating, not just because they are so delicious, but more because you can incorporate just about anything and everything into the batter.

Just on this blog I’ve offered potato and halloumi pancakes, butternut squash and bacon pancakes, zucchini pancakes, and squash and corn pancakes. All different, all wonderfully satisfying.

My secret if to use very little flour; it’s all about the main ingredients. Sometimes it’s vegetables with herbs, sometimes vegetables and nuts, sometimes I mix in grains, cooked or not, for texture.

These pancakes are an autumnal offering, using wild rice and toasted pecans. If you are serving a Mexican or Southwestern-inspired meal, include cilantro in the pancakes, plus some ground cumin and dried oregano. If you want a more generic pancake, stick with some parsley for a fresh flavor, like I did here.

Wild rice is actually a seed, not a grain, and it can taste and feel like little sticks, so I prefer a mixture of rice, brown or white, and wild rice.

These can be served with any kind of protein, from a pork chop to salmon. They’re quite versatile.

Wild rice and Pecan Pancakes
Makes 15 pancakes

2 ounces pecans
4 ounces wild rice
1 cup cooked white or brown rice, cooled
2 eggs
4 ounces 1/2 & 1/2, evaporated milk, or other
1 teaspoon garlic pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Approximately 1/4 finely chopped onions or shallots
Approximately 1/4 chopped parsley
1/2 cup flour plus a little more
Butter or olive oil

Toast the pecans in a cast-iron skillet and let cool.

Meanwhile, cook the wild rice in 2 cups of water just as you would rice, for about 50 minutes. You actually have the option to cook less or more, depending on how you like your wild rice. It softens more with more cooking, obviously, which is how I prefer it. If there’s leftover water in the pot you can drain it.

Place the leftover cooked white rice in a small bowl, then add the cooked wild rice and let cool.

In a larger bowl, combine the eggs and 1/2 & 1/2 and stir well. Add the garlic pepper and salt.

When the rice has cooled, add to the egg and milk mixture. Stir well, then add the onions and parsley.

When you are ready to cook the pancakes, add the pecans and stir in the flour.

When you stir the batter, you shouldn’t see any liquid (the egg and milk mixture). If you do, sprinkle a little more flour over the batter, only about one tablespoon at a time. If you add too much flour, the pancakes will be stiff and dry.

I used a large non-stick skillet to cook the pancakes. Start over medium-high heat. Add some butter to the skillet, and when it melts, add a spoonful of batter carefully, pressing it down to form a pancake.

After a minute, turn down the heat and let the pancakes cook for a few minutes. Turn them over carefully, and continue to cook a few more minutes. If you want more browning on the second side, raise the heat a bit.

Repeat with the remaining batter. Take your time, these are a bit more delicate than potato pancakes. The rices are cooked, but you still have to cook the batter slowly but thoroughly.

I served the pancakes as a side to a filet mignon.

I think a vegetarian would enjoy them as a meal, because they’re pretty hearty.

Speaking of non-vegetarians, these would also be good made with bacon.

If you feel extra decadent, serve sour cream with the pancakes.

 

 

How to Cook a Filet Mignon

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Many people like to throw t-bones or ribeyes on the barbecue grill outside, and are happy with the results.

My husband used to be one of those, but in recent years he’s become more “picky” about beef, and so these days, if he eats steak, it must be grass-fed filets. As a result, I had to learn to cook filet mignons inside; it’s not always barbecue weather.

A filet is a cross-wise slice from a beef tenderloin. If you’re trimming one yourself, you can get about 6-7 intact filets from the main tenderloin, depending on the thickness of course.



For quite a few years I’ve ordered grass-fed beef tenderloins from various sources. It’s less expensive to buy them whole as opposed to two filets at a time. Plus, after trimming the tenderloin and cutting filets, you’re left with about 2 pounds of beef tenderloin that I usually turn into a stir fry.

I prefer my filets a good inch in thickness, but however the thickness, it’s important to cook them properly. My point with this post is to show how straight forward it is to pan-cook a filet to perfection.

Have your filets close to room temperature. Salt generously; you can season after cooking.

Have a large cast-iron skillet on hand with some grapeseed oil, long-handled tongs, and a plate topped with a rack. You’re going to be resting the cooked filets and you want them to “breathe” on all sides.

The skillet should hold the steaks without crowding. The maximum number I cook in my 10” cast-iron skillet is four, shown browning in bacon grease.

When you’re ready to start, place the skillet over high heat. Turn on the fan.

Pour in some grape seed oil – about 1 tablespoon per steak. When the oil is hot, place a filet in the skillet. Repeat with remaining steaks if cooking more than one.

Brown on that side for at least one minute, then turn them over and brown the other side.

Now here’s the deal. Many people at this point would place the skillet of browned filets in a hot oven to finish. If your steaks happen to be 3” thick you might have to do that. But I do something different. I take advantage of my stove.

Turn the filets back over and turn down the heat! Give them a couple of minutes, turn them over, and let the insides cook for maybe a couple more minutes, and they’ll be perfect.

I used to use a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature didn’t go above 125 degrees. That is a very good technique, but it’s easy to learn when the steaks are ready by squeezing them with your tongs. If the steaks are mushy, then they’re still undercooked. Alternatively, if they’re getting firm, get them the hell out of the skillet.


Cover them loosely with foil. After at least 10 minutes of resting, generously season the filets with coarsely ground pepper or garlic pepper.

Today I served the filets with green beans cooked with shallots and tomatoes, and topped with pine nuts.

Also, there’s truffle butter…

Here is a garlic pepper I highly recommend.

A Sunday Supper

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Sunday Suppers at Lucques is a James Beard Foundation award-winning cookbook by Suzanne Goin, published in 2005. The actual name is, Sunday Suppers at Lucques – Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table.

I wanted to purchase one of her cookbooks just because she’s so highly revered as a chef, and all of her culinary endeavors have been highly acclaimed and successful.

Her first restaurant, Lucques, was opened in 1998. I’m a little behind getting to “know” this talented chef, but I don’t visit Los Angeles, so have missed out experiencing its famous dining spots. After all these years, Lucques is still a quintessential West Hollywood dining spot.

The cookbook is really fun. Although I pride myself on menu planning, Ms. Goin puts meals together for the reader. And they’re fun meals.

So the one I’m making for this post is Bistecca California with Peperonata, Baked Ricotta, and Lemon.

Doesn’t that sound incredible?

Here are the recipes for the elements of this fantastic Sunday supper!

Steak

3 pounds prime beef or steak of your choice
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon thinly sliced chiles de arbol
2 lemons, zested, then juiced
2 scant tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil
1 bunch arugula
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Trim the beef, if necessary. Season with the rosemary, sliced chile, lemon zest, and cracked black pepper. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

An outside charcoal grill can be used to cook the steak(s). I opted for cooking my filet mignons in a skillet on the stove. They were cooked medium-rare.

Rest the steak(s) for 8 to 10 minutes. Spoon the hot Peperonata (recipe below) onto a large warm platter and scatter the arugula over the top.

Slice the steak against the grain and arrange it over the peppers.

Squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over the meat, and drizzle it with a few tablespoons of oil. Serve the gratin dish of baked ricotta (recipe below) on the side.


Baked Ricotta


3 cups fresh whole milk ricotta cheese (1 1/3 lbs.)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon diagonally sliced chile de arbol
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the ricotta in a large bowl, and stir in 5 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, the chopped parsley, 1//2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Transfer the ricotta to an 8-inch gratin dish. Gently press the top of the cheese with your fingers to make slight indentations, and decorate the ricotta with the remaining thyme and the sliced chile.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the top. Bake 30-40 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Peperonata

4 large sweet peppers (1 3/4 lbs.)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups sliced red onion
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons oregano leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the stems, seeds, and membranes. Thinly slice the peppers lengthwise. Heat a very large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in 3 tablespoons olive oil and wait 1 minute. Add the onion, peppers, thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Sauté over high heat 5 to 6 minutes, tossing often, until the peppers soften. They should still have a little crunch to them but be tender.

Add the capers and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan, cook another minute, and transfer the peppers to a shallow nonreactive dish.

Turn the heat off, add the vinegar, and reduce by half. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all the vinegar over the peppers. Add the oregano, and toss well to combine.

This was a really nice meal. I loved all of the aspects of it, but the lemon zest and rosemary on the steaks was a superb combination. I also added cayenne pepper flakes. And I will definitely make the baked ricotta again, even for an hors d’oeuvres platter.

Spiced Beef Salad

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Recently I was perusing my Casa Moro cookbook, written by Sam and Samuel Clark, bookmarking recipes for future use. This one photograph just jumped out at me.


It was a photo of Spiced Beef Salad with Fenugreek and Hummus. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen a salad recipe that wasn’t based on grains, vegetables, greens, legumes or even bread.

It’s basically grilled spiced beef served over hummus.

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I knew it was something I’d make for a casual lunch, served with flatbread.

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And it was wonderful.

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Spiced Beef Salad with Fenugreek and Hummus

1 400 g sirloin steak, approximately 2.5 cm thick
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
3/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon Turkish chili flakes
1 quantity hummus
1 large handful fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
8-12 pickled chilies, optional
Flatbread

Season the piece of beef with salt and pepper. I used flank steak and put it in the sous vide for 48 hours at 135 degrees Fahrenheit


Mix all of the marinade ingredients together and grind.

Add 1 teaspoon salt and a little black pepper to the marinade, which I would refer to as a dry rub.
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After removing the beef from the bag and patting it dry with paper towels, cover the beef with the dry rub.
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Leave to marinate for a good hour or two.

Set a griddle pan over high heat, with a little oil, until it begins to smoke. Grill the beef to medium-rare. Because I had sous vided’d the flank steak, I only needed to brown the meat on both sides; this was accomplished within one minute.
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Set on a cutting board to rest.

To assemble, spread the hummus on a plate or pasta bowl. Slice the steak, and place the slices over the hummus.


Then scatter the parsley leaves all over. (I had to use curly parsley – my local store didn’t have Italian.)

Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of nigella seeds.
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I used a spicy hot olive oil instead, just for some heat, and omitted the pickled chile peppers.
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Serve with warmed flatbread.
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I decided to also add some goat cheese and fresh cherry tomatoes.
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This salad was a feast! And one I will definitely make again.
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Roasted Beets

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There have been times that, when commenting on recipe posts in which beets are roasted, that the beets aren’t really roasted. We’ve all done it – we place whole, trimmed beets in a foil package with a little olive oil and salt, steam-cook them till tenderness, remove the peels, and voila! But they’re not really roasted, are they?!!

So I set out to actually roast beets, as one would potatoes or broccoli. I know they will be good, like all roasted goodies. My husband claims that roasted broccoli is better than candy!
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So here’s what I did.

Really Roasted Beets

3 beets
Olive oil
Black pepper
Salt

Preheat oven to 375 degree roast setting, or 400 degrees.

Trim tops and bottoms of beets.

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Peel the beets completely.

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Chop the beets into 12ths. Or just make fairly uniform pieces of the beets, any shape you prefer. Place the beets in a baking dish, and drizzle some olive oil over them. Sprinkle them generously with pepper and salt.

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Place the baking dish in the oven. After about 15 minutes, use a spoon and toss them around to brown the pieces on different sides. Continue roasting for 10 or so minutes. They should be nicely browned, but also piece a chunk to test for tenderness.

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If they’re still firm, turn off the oven and let the baking dish sit in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

I used them in a salad so as to let the roasted beets really “shine.”

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For the vinaigrette, I used some beet juice strained from a can of beets, along with an equal part of leftover Riesling and reduced it. I then added red wine vinegar, olive oil, a little heavy cream, and a pinch of salt.

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If you want recipes for other “reduction” vinaigrettes, check out Beet Vinaigrette, or Beet Apple Vinaigrette.

The roasted beets are exactly what roasted beets should be. Tender beets with a lovely roasted exterior!

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Double Corn Grits

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There’s nothing quite like fresh corn, especially just picked. Where I live in the Midwestern U.S., corn is a major crop, so it’s readily available and extremely inexpensive. So in the summer, I like to use it in as many ways possible. Some of you may live in areas where corn must be imported, so your choice of corn might be limited to canned varieties, which unfortunately do not compare.

I’m not going to say that canned corn is completely off limits in my kitchen. I have used it, but it’s just not the same, which isn’t surprising, because what is better canned commercially rather than fresh?

Today I’m making grits, which is essentially cornmeal or polenta, and adding cooked corn to it. I mean, why not? Fresh corn has a very different flavor from grits/polenta/cornmeal, so it will just add another layer of corn flavor. So if you love corn…

Double Corn Polenta

3 corn on the cobs, husked
3 cups water
1 cup polenta or grits
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
Cream or milk

Cook the corn on the cobs until done, about 7 minutes in boiling water. Drain and set aside to cool.
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Meanwhile, pour the water into a medium saucepan or polenta pot. Heat to boiling, then whisk in the grits, salt, and butter.

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Whisking occasionally, cook the grits until it has absorbed all of the liquid. This should take about 15 – 20 minutes on medium heat.
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Turn the heat to low, and cook the polenta for about another ten minutes or so, adding cream as necessary as the polenta thickens. You will probably use about 1/2 cup of cream at least. The amount will depend on how coarsely ground your polenta is, which is why I’m not using an exact measurement. You will know when the polenta is completely cooked.

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Cut the corn off of the cobs, then break the pieces up to get the individual corn kernels. Then add them to the polenta.

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Stir well and taste for seasoning. For this polenta I kept it simple, but you could add cayenne pepper, hot paprika, ground chipotle pepper or ground ancho chile pepper, or just about any herb, fresh or dried.

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I topped the double corn polenta with slices of filet, and sprinkled everything with fresh tomato, goat cheese, and a chiffonade of fresh basil.
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note: If you’ve never made grits or polenta, give it a try. Grits are inexpensive, and one cup of the dried ground corn makes a lot of servings.

Also, I did publish this post last summer, but I’ve been spending a lot of extra time with my pregnant daughter when her husband is out of town. Priorities people!!! Hope you’re having a lovely summer!

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Fruited Duck Breasts

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With Spring finally here, I wanted to make something inspired by what my mother made once for Easter, which was a leg of lamb with a dried fruit stuffing. The lamb was rolled around the bready stuffing and served sliced like pinwheels, showing off the lovely bits of dried fruit.

Being that my husband won’t eat lamb, I thought I could make something similar using duck, since I’d just received four duck breasts from D’Artagnan. That way, I’d only have to eat four duck breasts instead of a whole leg of lamb, because he won’t eat duck either. Another sacrifice for my blog.

People tend to be a little fearful of working with duck, but it’s really no different than a working with a steak. Primarily, the rule is to cook the duck medium-rare, which also applies to steak. The cooking process is the same: some searing on the outside in a hot skillet, and then a few minutes at a lower temperature to get the inside cooked to the proper temperature. Medium rare temperature for steak, lamb, and duck is 125 degrees. I also set my steaks out for at least an hour at room temperature before I cook them.

One difference with duck is the skin. It’s really thick, which is why ducks can hang out in freezing cold water, I imagine.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m leaving the skin attached to the duck breasts. I like the presentation. But duck skin can be removed, diced, and cooked just like you would bacon, for resulting cracklings. These can be added to a sauce, or even sprinkled over the duck breasts or your side dish, like sautéed spinach, for added flavor and texture. The skins can also be rendered for the sake of duck fat, if that is desired.

Duck has a significant flavor, which is a plus because it can stand up to some serious seasoning. Some think the flavor is gamey, but I disagree with that. Of course, maybe I like gamey. Plus, it might depend on the source of your duck.

Duck is often served with berries or cherries in a sauce, because the fruitiness and sweetness pairs well with the deeper duck flavor. So today I’m making a sauce for the duck, using dried fruits.

To season the duck breasts, I’m using ancho chile paste, that I made with anchos, guajillos and chipotles. It has quite a kick to it, and will really shine with the fruit sauce accompaniment.

Duck can be served with just about any green vegetable, like asparagus or green beans, and for side dishes, a rice pilaf or roasted potatoes would be lovely. Since I have a lot of duck to eat in the next few days, I’m keeping it simple, serving my duck breasts with steamed asparagus.

In today’s recipe, I’m including a sous vide step, which means the final step for me is to brown the duck breasts only; the cooking is already done. The most important thing is to make sure that when you’re pan-frying the duck breasts that you don’t overcook them.

So here’s the recipe I created for the duck breasts. You’ll see how easy it is to cook duck after this recipe!

Fruited Duck Breasts

4 duck breasts, with the skin attached
Salt
Pepper
Juice from 1 orange, strained
Ancho chile paste*, about 4 heaping teaspoons
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Pat the duck breasts dry, and place them on your cutting board skin side up.
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Season them with salt and pepper generously. Using a sharp knife, slice diagonally into the skin only, making about 5 diagonal lines, then making 5 more diagonal lines, forming diamond shapes. Try not to cut into the actual meat.
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Place the breasts skin side up on a platter. Then pour the strained orange juice over the tops.
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Using a spoon, place a heaping teaspoon of ancho chile paste on each duck breasts and spread it over the whole breast.

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Then divide the teaspoon of ground cumin between them.
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Let the breasts marinate for 30 minutes up to an hour.

Prepare the sous vide set at 131 degrees F.

When the sous vide is ready, place two breasts each in two vacuum sealable bags and seal.
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Add them to the water and mark 3 hours on your clock.

At the 3 hour mark, remove the duck breasts from the sous vide.

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Remove the breasts from the bags and place on paper towels to drain.

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Since sous vide meat can’t sit around at room temperature, you need to work quickly. If you’re not making the duck breasts to serve within the next hour, refrigerate them first.

Add a teaspoon of oil in a skillet. I’m using my cast-iron skillet. Heat it up over high heat and turn on the ventilation system, because the fat will smoke.

When the oil is just smoking, add one or two duck breasts at a time, depending how big your skillet is. I start them skin-side down.

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After a good minute, turn it or them over, and cook for the same amount of time on the other side. Remember, I’m only browning the breasts, not cooking them through.
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After you’ve browned all four duck breasts, slice them crosswise for serving.

Pour a little of the fruit sauce over the top, and pass the rest around at the table.
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Because of the length of this post, my sauce recipe will be posted tomorrow!

* If you don’t own any ancho chile paste, and don’t want to make it, recipe here, you have a couple of options. One is to use ground ancho chile pepper. You could also include a little ground chipotle pepper for a little more flavor. Or, buy a little can of chipotle peppers that come in adobo sauce, and use the sauce. Stay away from the actual chipotle peppers for this purpose, but if you love them, you could always chop one up finely and add it to the resulting sauce.

note: If you’re not doing the sous vide step, cook the duck breasts as you would a steak, searing both sides, then letting the center reach 125 degrees. At that point remove them from the skillet and place them on a plate. Cover them loosely with foil and let them rest for 15 minutes. Then slice and serve.

Szechuan Peppered Steak

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I first learned about Szechuan peppercorns and Szechuan pepper salt from the Chinese Cooking cookbook of the Time Life Foods of the World Series. The pepper salt was made as a “dip” for Szechuan duck. Now, I like pepper and salt, which are the ingredients in Szechuan Pepper Salt, but dipping meat into this mixture might even be a bit too much for me.

But the pepper salt is unique and very versatile in cooking, so I decided it was time I made it again.

Szechuan peppercorns aren’t really peppercorns, but they’re called that because of their resemblance to peppercorns. That’s just an assumption on my part. They’re sort of crinkly brownish-black peppercorn-looking balls the size of peppercorns, which have a very aromatic smell to them that I can’t quite categorize. There’s a sweetness, a smokiness, an earthiness…..

So here is the recipe for the pepper salt.

Szechuan Pepper Salt

5 tablespoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns*
1 teaspoon black peppercorns**

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Place the three ingredients in a large skillet and toast everything over moderate heat until the peppercorns just begin to smoke. You will love the smell of these peppercorns – they smell like aromatic smoke from a campfire that you’re smelling while sitting outside in the Alps with hot toddies. Seriously.

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Remove the skillet from the heat, but continue stirring until the mixture is cooled down.

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Place the mixture in some kind of spice blender and grind until finely ground and smooth.

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Using a sieve, strain the mixture. This will catch the skins of the peppercorns and other miscellaneous bits and pieces.

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Place the pepper salt in a jar and seal. Mine always kept indefinitely.

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To test out the peppersalt, try using it for steaks. I coated both sides of two filets with the peppersalt and brought the steaks to room temperature.

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Brown the steaks in hot oil of choice until they are brown on both sides, and continue cooking until rare or medium rare. My steaks were only about 1″ thick, so I didn’t need to use my oven for this result.

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Let the steaks rest, as usual, and then serve. I also sprinkled a little more pepper salt on the cooked steaks. You could also sprinkle pepper salt on grilled veggies instead of the steaks! But I wouldn’t recommend it on everything on your plate because it’s a bit strong.

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verdict: Oh, I have missed you peppersalt!!!

* The original recipe calls for only 1 tablespoon of Szechuan peppercorns, but I prefer this ratio. Otherwise everything ends up too salty.

** The original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns, but I upped mine to a whole teaspoon. Only do that if you like pepper. But the flavors of the real peppercorns and the faux ones are dynamite!!!