October 25, 2015


What we cooked last week:      October 19 – October 24, 2015

Monday: Mushroom & Kale Minestrone – Stecca – App of Baked Prosciutto, fresh Parmigiana and sautéed zucchini
Tuesday: Grilled Lemon-Soy Skirt Steak,  Grilled Romaine,  App – Mushroom crostini
Wednesday: Mushroom & Kale Minestrone, Pasta with leftover bolognese, Spicy Tuscan Kale (Ruth Reichl)
Thursday: Omelet aux fines herbes, sautéed chicken breasts with herbs and ginger, baked squash
Friday: Pear, blue cheese, crackers – Orichietti with tuna and fennel, Salad
Saturday: Leftovers – not bad
Sunday: Mushroom and other bruschetta, celery, pickles, blue cheese, Lemon-Soy Grilled Skirt Steak, Baked Squash, Salata Rustica, Pouding Chômeur (Maple Cream Pudding)

Francis Mallman, a certifiably insane, genius cook from Argentina, says that every
person on earth should know how to cook three things:  steak, pasta and salad.
so this week, I’m going to share three knock-out dishes – but no salad.  I agree
that knowing how to dress a salad is as important as knowing how to  undress . . .
well, never mind.  But last night we cooked a dessert that outshone the dinner
(and the steak) by a mile.  And we are not dessert people.  Hell – we’re Irish and
shouldn’t even know how to cook.  Also relevant is that Beez was in DC running her
annual meeting like Generallisimo Francisco Franco use to run Spain and I needed
something to  comfort me in my isolation.  So Greg, Kelly, Mike and Billy came
out to watch and mourn over the Steelers loss to KC., and they needed a treat.

The steak recipe is from the ever reliable Steve Reichlen and the two keys to
cooking it are Reichlen’s marinade and my instructions on how to build a hot fire in your grill.  The pasta is from Jacques Pepin’s essential More Fast Food My Way – and the ingredients will surprise you.  And the dessert is straight from last last week’s WSJ Weekend edition and will speak to you of autumn and falling leaves and is as comforting as a nice fire on a cold, damp night

Lemon-Soy Skirt Steak
This may be Steve Reichlen’s greatest recipe – the marinade involves
lemon juice, soy, garlic, lots of onion and a finely chopped lemon (one
of the two you will use for juice – pulp, peel and all.  You must have at
least three people to eat a small skirt steak because, believe me,
unless you are cooking in a vegan commune, there will be no leftovers.

You can buy skirt steaks prepackaged at the Waterworks Giant Eagle, each one feeds three to four people, so last night we cooked two.  You want to marinate each steak for four hours in the juice of two lemons, a half cup each of red-wine vinegar and olive oil, a whole cup of soy sauce, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 medium or half of a large onion finely chopped, 2 Tsps of ground cumin or cumin seed,*1 Tsp of chopped rosemary, 1 Tsp of freshly ground or cracked pepper.  AND – THIS IS VITAL – chop up one of the lemons you’ve juiced into small dice and toss it into the marinade, pith and all.  This will take a while, unless you have a very sharp knife, but will pay off, big time, in taste.

To cook, prepare a goodly amount of charcoal in your grill (a Weber is perfect for this, since it focuses the heat on the cooking surface – if you have a rectangular grill, you might need two chimneys of charcoal or to turn the gas on high and let it warm up for a while).   Remove the steak(s) from the marinade and cook for three minutes on a side – a bit of char is actually good for this cut.  You can also cook this in a hot oven – turn to broil and let it heat up for 30 minutes or so.  DO NOT OVERCOOK.** The meat should have a good, sizzling crust and be pink inside.  As with flank or hanger steak (which will also work with this recipe), you’ll need to slice the steak against the grain to make it tender.  You can drizzle some of the marinade (if you set some aside before marinating – don’t use the stuff the steak was marinating in) over the steak, but all we did was garnish with parsley – you could with serve lemon slices, I’m thinking.

*The only place I can find cumin seed is the East End Co-op – if you know of another location, please share it.

**Skirt steak is thin and the trick is to get a good, blazing-hot sear on the outside without overcooking the inside.

Orechhiette with Tuna and Fennel – I have nothing to contribute to this recipe except my appreciation of it.  It is from Jacques Pepin’s More Fast Food My Way (some day, I’m going to steal a copy of his Fast Food My Way).  Pay no attention to the ingredients and just make this for Friday night dinner, if you are Micks like us.

The only prep you need is to thinly slice a bulb of fennel – use a mandolin, if you have one, you will get meltingly thin slices in no time.

You’ll also want to assemble – 0.75 to 1 lb. of orecchiette, 1.5 C of chopped onions, 3Tbs of pine nuts, 1.5 Tbs of chopped garlic, 2 or 3 tablespoons of golden raisins,* 2 cans of tuna, drained,** ¼ C of chopped parsley, and a large pot of salted, boiling water.

Heat 1/3 cup of olive oil over high heat (don’t let it smoke – i.e., add the next ingredient as soon as the oil starts to shimmer).  Add the onions and pine nuts and sauté for 1 minute (use your stirring spoon – you want the onions to caramelize some, but not to burn), add the garlic, raisins, parsley, 1.5 tsps of salt and pepper to taste.  Add the tuna and break it up into ½ inch pieces with a stirring spoon and cook for 20 seconds.  Now add the fennel and 3 tablespoons of water and bring to a boil, cover and cook 2 or 3 minutes until most of the water is gone and the fennel is tender.  Transfer to a bowl large enough to hold all of the pasta and sauce.

Now cook the orecchiette – about 8 minutes after the water has come back to a boil.  You’re going to finish it in the sauce, so it needs to be a little undercooked.

Add ½ cup of the pasta water to the tuna and fennel mixture, drain the pasta and add the pasta to bowl and toss well.  Pour mixture back into the pasta pan to heat, if the orechiette is not cooked toyour liking.  We served this with grated parmigiana.

Don’t read the next sentence until after you have enjoyed this dish.  This is a modern take on the classic tuna-noodle casserole (as Beez observed), but with twice the flavor and four times the sophistication.

?  So, what’s with the 0.75 to 1 lb. of orecchiette.  Well, pasta comes in 1 lb. packages in this country, so we cooked 1 lb. but felt that was too much pasta for the sauce, so only used about ¾ of it.  And we were right to do so.  This is an insanely flavorful dish, but you will tamp down the flavor if you use too much pasta.

*The golden raisins make the dish.  You can use standard raisins and it will still be very good.  But the golden raisins are more tart and softer and drink in the other flavors in the sauce more easily than your standard dried grape.

** Jacques calls for tuna packed in water, but we love the imported Italian stuff packed in oil and that worked well and, I’m convinced, made a better dish.

Pouding Chomeur.  This is a dish from Quebec where maple syrup and pig dominate the food scene, according to Anthony Bourdain.  (It is the best damn pudding you’ve ever had, no matter who you are.  (And just who do you think you are, anyway, that you are worthy of such a dessert?)  It requires letting the batter sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours – but the good news is that you can make the batter early in the day, since it can veg out in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.  You can also brew the maple cream ahead of time and then just assemble the dish and put it in the oven 30 minutes or so before you want to serve desert.

Bring 1.5 sticks of butter to room temperature – take it out of the refrigerator 2 hours before you want to use it.  If you do not do this, you will spend 20 minutes getting through the next step.

Cream 1.5 sticks of butter and 1 C of sugar until smooth (I would use an electric beater for this – but you can do it by hand).  Add 2 eggs, one at a time, and beat into the batter.  Add 2.5 C of all-purpose flour and 1 Tsp of baking powder and incorporate completely.  Refrigerate for 2 hours and up to 24.

1 hour before serving, turn oven to 450.

Make Maple Cream by bringing maple syrup and heavy cream to a boil in a saucepan.   (I did this ahead of time and it worked out fine)  Note:  2 Cups of maple syrup – use the pure stuff, not the sugary brand-name gunk – and 2 Cups of Heavy Cream.

Divide the batter among as many ramekins as you have guests filling maybe ¾ to the top and ladle the maple cream into each ramekin, stopping ¼” or more from the top.

Cook for 20 minutes or so, until bubbling and caramelized.

Serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and a note to brush, floss and see a dentist soon.