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côtes de veau braisé*; pommes de terre et chicorée rôties

Last night I returned to my ancient, well-thumbed and lightly-sauced 1966 edition of Julia Child’s, ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1’ to help me decide what to do with a cut of meat I don’t think I have ever prepared before.

The result was really delicious, although it was very different from my current cooking style, and it looks surprisingly ‘French provincial cooking’ (I don’t know what I was expecting). Anyway, thank goodness for micro greens.

It also reminded me of some of the reasons I mostly abandoned Julia Child years ago: I almost always found it personally very stressful, especially toward the finish, even when they were a great success (maybe you have to be the mythical bonne femme to carry it off?); I got tired of the rigidity of her formulas; I doubted her books would ever enable me to be creative or improvisatory; and I was eventually persuaded that the recipes were unnecessarily complicated, especially after I started working with Italian models. I worried that I would never be à la bonne femme

These are the potatoes that went into this meal. I may finally have to admit that I become obsessed with eggs at this time of the year. The image is of a couple handfuls of Pintos, but as I was preparing them last night I saw them as small marzipan Easter eggs. They made absolutely delicious roasted potatoes!

I found timing the cooking of this single veal chop problematic, and I don’t know why. I had kept the lowest possible flame under the covered pot while it was braising, but my instant read thermometer told me it was done much sooner than Julia had said it would be. The next time, if there is a next time, I’m probably going to depend entirely on my personal finger gauge, as Pierre Franey advises:

Of course, it is not always practical to pierce chops with a meat thermometer, so I usually use the trusty finger method. Press the meat carefully and quickly while it is cooking-naturally, avoid touching the hot surface of the pan-and if the meat bounces back readily, it needs further cooking. As soon as the meat loses that resilience, it is done. Judging this takes some experience, but once you master the technique, it is foolproof.

  • one 23-ounce veal shoulder chop, slightly over an inch thick, from Alex at the Consider Bardwell Farms stand in the Union Square Greenmarket, dried well with paper towels, seared in 1 tablespoon of butter and half a tablespoon of olive oil inside a heavy medium size enameled oval cast iron pan (the chop just fit, with no room to spare), once the butter foam had begun  to subside, for 3 or 4 minutes on each side, regulating heat so the butter is very hot but not browning, removed to a side dish, the meat seasoned on both sides with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, et over moderate heat, more than a tablespoon of minced strongly flavored ‘camelot’ Dutch red shallots from Quarton Farm stirred into the butter and oil, cooked for 2 minutes, stirring, the veal returned to the pan, 1/4 cup of dry white wine (our dinner wine, Medoc Villa des Crus 2015) added, along with some chicken stock, enough to come half way up the meat, a teaspoon or so of home-dried sage (originally from Phillips Farm last summer), the liquid brought to a simmer, the pan covered, its contents maintained at a slow, steady simmer throughout cooking (as it turned out, less than 45 minutes) basting the meat several times with the liquid inside, the chop removed, the meat removed from the bones, and divided onto 2 plates and kept warm for the few minutes it took to finish the sauce by removing the fat with a vintage cast aluminum ladle designed for the purpose, the liquid brought to a boil and reduced rapidly until liquid almost syrupy, almost all the juice from half of a lemon added, at least partly to offset its inevitable saltiness, remove from heat and about 2 tablespoons of soft butter added, a little at a time, until melted in, the sauce spooned over the veal on the plates and served immediately (the vegetables having already been added to each) garnished with micro purple kale from Two Guys from Woodbridge

  • one pound of pinto potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, halved lengthwise, tossed with a little olive oil, sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, rosemary leaves from from Stokes Farm [and optionally, a small amount of crushed home-dried habanada pepper], arranged cut side down on a large Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan, roasted at about 400º for around 20 minutes

  • a couple handfuls of beautiful chicory rosettes from Campo Rosso Farm that Chris said had popped up this spring from last fall’s plants, washed, drained, dried, each halved, or quartered, if larger, tossed in a large bowl with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a number of thyme branches from Chelsea Whole Foods, then arranged inside a large well seasoned Pampered Chef oven pan, roasted at 400º for about 10 minutes, by which time their edges had become deliciously crispy, removed from the oven, the pan allowed to cool just a little before they were drizzled with a very small amount of balsamic vinegar
  • the wine was a French (Medoc) red, Medoc Villa des Crus 2015, from Garnet Wine
  • the music was a recording of the first symphonies of Hans Gál and Robert Schumann, Kenneth Woods conducting the Orchestra of the Swan

 

 

  • technically it should probably be described as ‘Côtes de Veau Dans Leur Jus‘ although my headline style would require all lower case), and in Julia Child’s book it is, but that didn’t all fit inside the space I had available

marinated grilled goat chops; chili-roasted fingerlings; rabe

It’s probably a dead giveaway of the really modest size of some of the farms whose produce we enjoy in our local farmers markets that I couldn’t assemble 4 goat chops of the same cut when I was shopping in Union Square recently. No problem however, as I welcomed the chance to show a little more depth than usual on each plate, and I went home with 2 rib chops and 2 loin chops.

I didn’t think much about it until sitting down to write this blog post: This may be a big city, but that doesn’t mean the farms surrounding it have to be.

I love the Union Square Greenmarket.

This is an image of the chops while they were still marinating and the potatoes just after they had been arranged in the oven pan.

  • four tiny goat chops, 2 rib cut and 2 loin cut, weighing only one pound altogether, from Lynnhaven Dairy Goat Farm, marinated for about 45 minutes in a mix of a couple tablespoons of olive oil, one sliced stem of green garlic from John D. Madura Farms, freshly-ground black pepper, 8 slightly-crushed juniper berries, some roughly-chopped rosemary from Stokes Farm, one medium crushed, now-dried-but-purchased-fresh, bay leaf from Westside Market, and a little zest from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon, pan-grilled for a few minutes, turning 3 times, seasoned with sea salt and a little more pepper after the first turn, finished with a bit of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil, garnished with micro red mustard from Two Guys from Woodbridge [note to the cook: the goat was a little more rare than we prefer, so ignore the instant-read thermometer next time (I think these chops are too small and irregular to get a reliable reading), and use the more dependable finger test]

  • about a pound of small red fingerling potatoes from Tamarack Hollow Farm, halved then tossed with a little olive oil, salt, black pepper, a pinch of dried smoked Scotch Bonnet pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, 6 medium-size garlic cloves (unpeeled, to keep them from burning) from Keith’s Farm, roasted cut-side down inside a 400º oven on a large very well-seasoned Pampered Chef ceramic pan for less about 20 minutes, sprinkled with chopped parsley from Philipps Farms

 

seared duck; mushroom marsala; roasted la ratte; cabbage

It seemed like a great excuse to modify what has long been my routine preparation of seared duck breast. I had some mushrooms left over from the night before, and combining them with the duck seemed like a fine idea.

The execution however wasn’t perfect for either duck or mushrooms, nor for one of the 2 vegetables that accompanied them. I’m blaming it on my haste in working at placing dinner on the table earlier than I have been lately, and strain of working on all 4 elements of the meal at just about the same time.

The flame under the duck was probably too hot, which left the skin and fat more charred than I would prefer (although, because of the fat and the sugar, without compromising the flavor), and it probably explains why it was necessary to keep the breast in the pan longer than normally in order to arrive at the same stage of doneness I as always.

I also went just a little too far in cooking the mushrooms and largely neglected the ‘crispy-ing’ and the seasoning of the cabbage. The potatoes were perfect however, but then the recipe is also.

  • one 14-ounce duck breast from Hudson River Duck Farm (the tenderloin removed, but seasoned like the rest of it, then fried very briefly near the end of the time the larger section was cooking, then halved), the fatty side scored in tight cross hatching with a very sharp knife and the entire breast rubbed, top and bottom, with a mixture of sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a little turbinado sugar, left standing on the counter for about 45 minutes to an hour before being pan-fried, fatty side down first, inside a small oval enameled cast iron pan over medium heat [see above discussion] for a total of about 9 minutes, turning once, draining the oil after the first few minutes (the fat strained can be used in cooking at another time, if desired), the breast removed when medium rare, cut crosswise into 2 portions and checked for the right doneness in the center, which means definitely no more than medium rare, and maybe even a bit less, drizzled with a little juice from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon and some olive oil, the halves transferred to very warm plates sitting on top of the oven a mushroom dish was prepared inside the pan where they had cooked
  • the heat below the pan set to medium-high, all but 1 tablespoon of drippings removed and a little olive oil added before tossing in 4 or 5 ounces of sliced blue oyster mushrooms from Blue Oyster Cultivation and two sliced shallots from Phillips Farms, the two sautéed, stirring, until the mushrooms were tender, or for about 6 minutes, then seasoned with salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons of marsala (Pellegrino Superiore S.O.M. Dry) added, and stirred with the mushrooms until the juices had thickened, scraping up the browned bits, or about 1 minute, divided and arranged on the plates around the duck, mushrooms and duck sprinkled with parsley
  • part of a cored Savoy cabbage (7 ounces?) from Tamarack Hollow Farm, sliced into one-half-inch ribbons, sautéed in a scant tablespoon of olive oil inside a heavy medium-size tin-lined copper pot until wilted but still a little crunchy, stirring occasionally, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, 5 or 6 slightly smashed juniper berries mixed in, a few tiny drops of balsamic vinegar added and the mix stirred over the heat for only a moment, arranged on the plates and finished with a drizzle of olive oil

 

culotte steak, chives; habanada-roasted potatoes; lacinato

The best steak.

The plate suggested the New York steak house classic: Steak and potatoes, with something green on the side. There were even chives, but they weren’t to be found on the baked potato, and the vegetable proved that everything green is not spinach. Actually, I think everything was very different.

We don’t eat out much, and I think neither of us has been to a real steak house more than once in our lives.

In fact, we don’t eat beef of any kind very often, but when we do it’s normally a steak, and the steaks I’ve chosen more and more are of a single perfect cut, the sirloin cap steak (aka ‘rump cover’, ‘rump cap’, or ‘culotte’ in the United States, and ‘coulotte’ in France, ‘picanha’ in Brazil). There are reasons for this, and we’re reminded of them every time we’re able to enjoy the texture and the flavor of this great cut.

I’m noting right now, for my own records at least, that for once no fancy micro greens showed up for dinner. Maybe it was an unconscious obeisance to the sturdy fare served in the classic steak houses that still remain in this city.

  • one perfect, frozen 23-ounce picanha/culotte steak from Sun Fed Beef in the Union Square Greenmarket, defrosted, brought to room temperature, seasoned on all sides with sea salt and a generous amount of freshly-ground black pepper, seared for less than a minute on the top, thick, fat-covered side inside a dry oval heavy enameled cast iron pan, then the 2 long sides cooked for 3 or 4 minutes each and the ends briefly seared, removed from the pan at the moment it had become perfectly medium-rare (checking with an instant-read thermometer), carefully cut crosswise into 2 pieces of the same weight, arranged on warm plates, a bit of juice from an organic Chelsea Whole Foods Market lemon squeezed on top, followed by a drizzle of a little of Trader Joe’s Italian Reserve extra unfiltered virgin olive oil, scattered with scissored fresh chives from Phillips Farms, the steaks allowed to rest for about 4 minutes before being served

  • just under a pound of La Ratte potatoes from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, halved lengthwise, tossed with olive oil, a small amount of crushed dried habanada pepper, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, roasted inside a large seasoned Pampered Chef ceramic oven pan, cut side down, inside a 400º oven for about 20 minutes

  • one not-so-large bunch of high tunnel-raised cavolo nero (aka lacinato, Tuscan kale, or black kale, among other names) from Norwich Meadows Farm, wilted briefly inside a heavy antique medium size tin-lined copper pot in a tablespoon or so of olive oil after several halved cloves of garlic, also from Norwich Meadows, had first been heated there until fragrant and softened, the greens seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and drizzled with a little more oil
  • the wine was a Spanish (Catalonia/Priorat) red, Sao del Coster Priorat 2015, from Crush Wine & Spirits

 

[image of Gander’s album cover from KAIROS]

greek-style roast chicken, sorta; roasted potatoes, mustard

It was a pretty splendid entrée, even without the full Greek treatment it was supposed to get, meaning I didn’t have any feta cheese on hand.

And without the feta, I felt I felt I would be excused for including an element I thought was not Greek, halved roasted potatoes, specifically the 4 orphan la ratte fingerlings I had been keeping in a brown paper bag in a basket high above the spice cupboard.  I’ve just looked around on line however, and it turns out that roasted potatoes can be very Greek.

The meat was superb. It came from the same farmers responsible for our enjoying it so much the last few times we had chicken. Yesterday’s Sunday spring chicken was a last-minute choice. I picked it up at our local Eataly rather than in the Union Square Greenmarket, where I usually shop for meat, and only its flavor was dear: the cost was only $8.50 for all 4 pieces.

The recipe began with Mark Bittman’s New York Times Magazine spread on what to do with chicken parts; it appears here, although absent almost any details or quantities, since it assumes the reader has more than a little cooking experience:

Heat the oven to 450. Make a paste of minced garlic, fresh oregano, lemon zest and olive oil; slide it underneath the chicken skin. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil, surround with cherry tomatoes and olives and roast, skin side up, basting occasionally with pan drippings, until the juices run clear, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with a little crumbled feta and oregano and serve.

  • the chicken I prepared was four 6-ounce thighs of the, Cascun Farms‘ Cornish Cross breed, from Eataly Flatiron and, although not mentioned in the basic outline of a recipe, of course I first seasoned them with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper; the other ingredients used were 2 cloves of garlic from Norwich Meadows Farm; a heaping tablespoon of fresh oregano from Phillips Farms; lemon zest from a Chelsea Whole Foods Market organic lemon; 6 Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods; and about a dozen Kalamata olives (Greek!) from Chelsea Whole Foods Market, pitted, garnished with micro chervil from Two Guys from Woodbridge [note: the garlic/oregano paste can be seen as the darker area just under the skin in the picture at the top]
  • four la ratte potatoes from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, scrubbed, skins left on, halved, tossed with a little olive oil, sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, rosemary leaves from Phillips Farm, and a bit of dried habanada pepper, arranged, cut side down, on a small well-seasoned Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan, roasted at 450º for about 25 minutes (without the chicken thighs’ need for the higher temperature, I would normally roast the potatoes at 400º, but, if anything, the fingerlings came out better than usual at the higher temperature)

  • handfuls of washed raw light frizzy mustard greens from Campo Rosso Farm, dressed only with olive oil

There was a very small cheese course.

  • a maturing ‘Mammuth’ goat milk cheese (camembert style) from Ardith Mae
  • slices of Gran Daisy Pugliese bread from Chelsea’s Foragers Market

 

 

[the beautiful portrait of Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835), painted by Carlo Arienti before 1827, from Il Blog dei Ragazzi]