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Feb 09, 2016
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Make This: Cajun Pasta

Monday, February 8th, 2016

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St. Louisans find their inner Cajun each year at Mardi Gras, but we also have a strong Italian heritage. Combining these two culinary juggernauts is as simple as this dish. To a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, then saute 1 small chopped onion, 1 sliced green bell pepper, 1 sliced red bell pepper, 2 cloves minced garlic, 12 ounces thinly sliced andouille sausage and 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning* until the onions become translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in 1 cup white wine and 2 tablespoons tomato paste, then cook until the sauce reduces by half, about 3 minutes. Add 1 pint heavy cream, bring to a low boil then turn down the heat to low and let the sauce reduce about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare 1 pound farfalle or campanelle pasta according to package directions. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning if needed, then remove from heat. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.

*To create your own version of Cajun seasoning “Bam!” combine ¼ cup smoked paprika, ¼ cup kosher salt, 2 tablespoons each freshly ground black pepper, ground white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, 1 tablespoon each thyme, cayenne, brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon each turmeric, cumin, mace and celery salt.

-photo by Greg Rannells

Just Five: Oven Ribs

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

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There are plenty of hardy folks who claim there’s no such thing as barbecue season and bundle up to tame the fires of their Weber grill, regardless of freezing temps or icy drizzle. Personally, I prefer to grill without the hindrance of a winter coat, instead enjoying a cold beverage and sunshine. However, when brutal temps drive me inside, I still crave the flavors of summer. That’s when I reach for heavy-duty foil and a rack of baby back ribs.

For these Asian-inspired oven ribs, hoisin pairs nicely with bittersweet orange marmalade, and the combination makes a sticky, delicious glaze. My family prefers their ribs falling off the bone, so tender they barely need to chew. If you prefer a more toothsome bite, remove the ribs from the oven after two hours.

Close the blinds, crank up the heat and grab plenty of napkins. I declare it barbecue season in St. Louis.

 

Oven Ribs
2 to 3 servings

1 rack baby back ribs
¼ cup barbecue rib rub, such as Penzeys BBQ 3000 or Vernon’s BBQ Rib (or DIY here)
½ cup hoisin sauce
½ cup orange marmalade
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar

• Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
• Place the ribs meat-side down on 2 large sheets of heavy-duty foil. Remove any silver skin from the ribs, if necessary. Use your hands to cover the ribs completely with the rub. Tightly wrap the ribs in the foil, creating a packet. Place the packet on a baking sheet and bake 2 to 2½ hours.
• Meanwhile, make a glaze by whisking together the hoisin, marmalade and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside.
• Move the oven rack to the highest slot and preheat the broiler.
• Unwrap the ribs and carefully flip to turn the rack meat side-up. Brush the ribs with the glaze, then return to the oven. Broil 5 minutes.
• Let the ribs rest 3 to 5 minutes, before cutting into individual servings.

 

 

Just Five: Moroccan Chicken

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

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Ras al-hanout is a staple spice blend in Moroccan cooking that includes aromatic spices like coriander, clove, cinnamon, ginger, cumin and paprika. The flavor combination is warm but not fiery, similar to garam masala (another tried and true, can’t-live-without-it spice blend in my pantry) without the curry notes. It’s available at international food stores, but I’ve also found it at some grocery stores. (Looking for other ways to experiment with ras al-hanout? Check out this recipe for a vegan Sweet Potato Tajine or a healthy Crispy Grain and Seed Salad from Olio.) Mixing it with apricot preserves creates a sweet, sticky glaze perfect for chicken. Shallots and kalamata olives add a mellow, briny balance to the sweet glaze. Serve this chicken alongside couscous tossed with slivered almonds, currants and chopped fresh parsley, cilantro or mint.

 

Moroccan Chicken
2 servings

1/3 cup apricot preserves
2 tsp. water
2 tsp. ras al-hanout, divided
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
3 thinly sliced shallots
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, halved

• Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a roasting pan with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray.
• In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the apricot preserves and water and microwave 45 seconds. Add 1 teaspoon ras al-hanout and stir to combine. Set aside.
• In a separate bowl, mix together the salt, pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon ras al-hanout. Rub the mixture liberally on the chicken breasts, including under the skin.
• Place the chicken in the roasting pan and cover with the apricot preserves, then top with the shallots and olives. Bake 50 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reaches 155 degrees. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Make This: Gin and Juice Scallops en Papillote

Friday, January 1st, 2016

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Is your mind on your money and your money on your mind? Cook with gin and juice, and you’re bound to feel like a rap star. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl toss together 1 cup thinly sliced fennel, ½ cup thinly sliced leeks, ½ cup thinly sliced red onion, 1 cup baby spinach, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon gin, the juice of 2 small oranges, and kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Fold 4 15-by-15-inch squares of parchment paper in half and cut off the unfolded edges to make half-heart shapes. Unfold the hearts and divide the vegetables evenly on 1 side of each heart, leaving about a 1 ½-inch border, then top with 2 large sea scallops. Working from the end, tightly fold the edges to seal. Repeat with the remaining parchments. Bake on a sheet pan 13 minutes, then remove from the oven and let rest 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

 

– photo by Greg Rannells

Just Five: Gougères

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

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Gougères (otherwise known as fancy French cheese puffs) are about the most retro, classic hors d’oeuvres you can name. Think Mad Men season three. Because this recipe involve making a pâte à choux, the intimidation factor is high. Trust me, it’s no biggie. The trick is to have all of your ingredients and tools assembled and ready to go; no scrambling around for a wooden spoon or getting out the mixer after the water starts boiling.

These are not “pretty,” but they are airy, eggy, cheesy bites of wonder. This recipe can easily be doubled, and if you are serving more than six people you should definitely double it. Mix me a martini and pass the olives: It’s Christmas Eve!

 

Gougères
30 puffs

½ cup water
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ tsp. chile powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ cup flour
2 large eggs
2 tsp. minced fresh chives
¾ cup grated dry, aged cheese like a sharp cheddar or Parmesan

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
• In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, butter, chile powder and salt and heat until the butter is melted. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and into a smooth ball. Remove from heat and let rest 1 minute.
• Scrape the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs one at a time on medium speed until the batter is smooth. Add the chives and all but 2 tablespoons cheese and mix until combined.
• Scrape the mixture into a pastry bag with a wide plain tip (or a freezer bag with a corner cut off) and pipe the dough onto the baking sheet into mounds just bit smaller than a golf ball, leaving a bit of space between each. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons cheese on top of the dough balls
• Bake 8 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden-brown. Serve warm.

Just Five: One-Week Allspice Dram

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

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A bottle of this delicious allspice dram is the perfect host gift for the cocktail connoisseur. I was introduced to this at the home of a friend with a killer liquor cabinet. One should cultivate and sustain these friendships – there is much to learn! Adding just ¼ to ½ ounce of this DIY liqueur elevates the flavor of Manhattans, warm apple or cranberry cider and eggnog. It’s truly an ideal accessory to the bar this winter. While not difficult to make, it does take a week to infuse, so start now and you’ll have plenty just in time for a Christmas Eve get together.
One-Week All Spice Dram
2½ cups

1½ oz. whole allspice (about ¼ cup)
1 cup light rum such as Bacardi
1 cinnamon stick
1 2-inch piece lime peel
1½ water
⅔ cup brown sugar

● Coarsely crush the allspice, but do not grind to a powder. Place it in a pint-sized mason jar and add the rum. Screw on the lid and shake well. Let sit 2 days, swirling the jar once a day.
● Remove the lid. Break the cinnamon stick into a few pieces and add the lime peel to the jar. Seal again and shake daily 4 more days.
● Use a fine-mesh sieve to strain the mixture into a small bowl. Discard the solids, then strain again through a coffee filter and set aside.
● In a small pot over medium-high heat, combine the water and brown sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool completely.
● Combine the sugar syrup and the allspice-infused rum, then pour in a clean bottles or jars. Refrigerate until ready to use.

 

 

Make This: Salmon with Red Curry Sauce

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

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Skip carry-out curry. Velvety red curry sauce doesn’t require much at-home effort to earn its complex, rich flavor. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon oil. Whisk in 1 to 1½ tablespoons red curry paste and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Whisk in 1 14-ounce can coconut milk, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon fish sauce and the zest and juice of 1 lime. Increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Place 4 5-ounce salmon fillets skin-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet, then sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Bake 8 to 12 minutes, until the salmon is still slightly pink in the center. Then, remove the skin by sliding a thin spatula between the skin and the flesh, and transfer each fillet to a plate. Top the salmon with curry sauce and serve alone or with jasmine rice.

-photo by Greg Rannells

Just Five: Slow-Roasted Pork Tacos

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

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We love visiting our friends in Iowa City, Iowa. After several hours in the car, they always have the Manhattans or martinis at the read, and they also manage to have amazing dinners waiting for us. Our most recent trip was no exception. We walked in to warm hugs, chilled martinis and a feast of pork tacos. If you want to gild the lily, quick pickle some red onions in white vinegar with bit of sugar and salt or add some sliced avocado. Note the lack of cheese: You won’t miss it.

 

Slow-Roasted Pork Tacos
4 to 6 servings

2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. chipotle powder
1 3½-lb. pork shoulder roast
20 small corn tortillas
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 cup chopped cilantro

• Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Mix the salt and chipotle powder together in a small bowl, then rub it into the pork on all sides.
• Place the pork in a deep roasting pan with a lid, cover and bake 3½ to 4 hours, until it falls apart when you pierce it with a fork. Let rest 15 minutes.
• Meanwhile, warm the tortillas in a skillet over medium-high heat until soft. Place on a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm.
• Use 2 forks to shred the pork. Fill each tortilla with meat, garnish with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice and serve immediately.

Prefer to set it and forget it? Make this in a slow cooker on low for 10 hours or high for 5 hours.

Cooking the Classics: Baked Ham

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

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If your holiday isn’t complete without a beautiful glazed ham, call your butcher shop this year and place an order for uncooked country ham instead of a bagged, precooked option. They’re a bit more work, so we turned to Juniper chef-owner John Perkins to guide us through the days of soaking, baking and glazing to make a proper country ham worth the wait.

Soak
Don’t freak out, but when you remove the ham from the packaging, it might have some mold on it. Like an aged cheese, a little mold is normal. Place the ham in a large pot (or new cooler) and cover it with cold water – it has to soak at least 24 to 48 hours. Change the water every eight hours or so to properly leach the salt from the ham. After 12 to 24 hours, remove it and scrape off any mold with a knife. Rinse the ham, place it back into the pot and cover with fresh water to soak another 24 hours, changing the water every eight hours.

Bake
After soaking, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Rinse the ham thoroughly and place it on a rack in a roasting pan filled with 1 to 2 inches of water and 1 roughly chopped onion. Tent the ham tightly with foil and bake 20 minutes per pound until the internal temperature reaches 163 degrees. Let the ham rest at room temperature 1 hour, then remove as much of the skin as you can. Start at the hock (the small end) and trim away the tough outer skin, leaving as much fat as possible on the ham. (There is no need to score before you glaze since the skin has been removed.)

Glaze
Now it’s time to glaze. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, baste the ham with your preferred glaze (recipes p. 41), and bake 30 minutes, basting every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and continue to baste as it cools.

Serve
Ham is tastiest served slightly warm or at room temperature. To present the ham, first cut a slice from the bottom to make a flat base. Start about 2 inches from the hock and make a cut straight through to the bone. From there, make thin parallel cuts perpendicular to the bone. To release the slices, cut parallel along the bone from the small end. Wham, bam, thank you, ham.

Save that bone to add depth to a pot of greens or beans. Once completely cool, wrap the bone tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and one layer of foil, then toss it in the freezer. Bone-in, uncooked country ham ($4 per pound) is available at Kenrick’s Meat Market and Catering.

-photo by Greg Rannells

Cooking the Classics: Mashed Potatoes

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

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Nothing says love like a big bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy. Every family has its favorite rendition of this classic dish, and even the pros disagree about some things. Kevin Nashan, chef-owner of Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. and Sidney Street Cafe, prefers a rough mash of partially peeled, small red potatoes or fingerlings. Gerard Craft, chef-owner of Niche Food Group, goes for a smooth puree of russet potatoes. Nashan seasons his water; Craft doesn’t. But lumpy or whipped, fingerlings or russets, milk or cream, there are some things all good mashers can agree upon. Here, 6 steps to the perfect mash.

1. Cut about 3 pounds potatoes (such as russet, fingerling or small red potatoes) into equal 1½ – to 2-inch cubes.

2. Place those spuds in a very large pot of cold water and give them room to dance with 1 inch of water above them. Set the pot over medium-high heat.

3. Put a fork in it. Three pounds of potatoes cooked over medium-high take about 30 to 35 minutes. When a fork goes in easily or breaks the potato, drain immediately. If the potatoes fight back, continue to cook, checking every 5 minutes. Pay attention: Overcooked potatoes make a soupy mash.

4. Burn calories while you mash. The paddle attachment on a stand mixer works, but it is easy to go from perfection to glue when using appliances. Keep it old-school with a wire masher and leave some lumps, if you’re into that. If you like a silky-smooth texture, use a potato ricer.

5. Use about 1 stick melted butter and ½ cup milk, half-and-half or cream for every 3 pounds potatoes. Always warm the butter and liquid before adding them.

6. Don’t be bland. Add salt and white pepper to taste – start with 1 teaspoon salt and a couple grinds of pepper and go from there. Other additions may include roasted garlic, creme fraiche or sour cream and, of course, cheese. Try mascarpone, goat cheese, cheddar or Parmesan. You can also add a little chicken or beef stock diluted in warm milk.

Pro tip: Making your potatoes ahead of time? Hold them up to 4 hours in a slow cooker on low. Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter and ¼ cup warm milk into the slow cooker insert before adding the mashed potatoes, then cover. Stir well before serving.

-photo by Greg Rannells

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