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Feb 12, 2016
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Just Five

Just Five: Pasta with Braised Onion Sauce

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

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Alchemy: The medieval forerunner of chemistry based on the supposed transformation of matter. It was concerned particularly with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir. See: braised onions.

Cooking onions over low heat for a long time is one of the most magical food tricks around. Also it’s simple to do – it only requires patience. Those pesky tears resulting from slicing onions will be transformed into tears of joy when you taste this super simple pasta dish. With a great flourish and an abracadabra, dinner is served.

 

Pasta with Braised Onion Sauce
4 servings

½ cup (1 stick) butter
1½ lbs. (about 3 to 4) yellow onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup Marsala wine or Madeira
1 lb. spinach fettuccine or other long noodle pasta
¼ to ½ cup grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

• In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and saute about 10 minutes, until evenly coated in butter and softened. Add the salt* and stir well. Reduce the heat to low and slowly caramelize, stirring occasionally, 35 to 45 minutes, until the onions are jammy.
• Stir in the Marsala and cook 3 to 4 minutes, then remove from heat. Set aside.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and add the pasta to the skillet over medium heat. Toss to coat.
• Divide the pasta evenly among 4 bowls. Serve with Parmesan cheese and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

*Stubborn onions refuse to caramelize? Add 1 tablespoon sugar with the salt to urge the process along.

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

Just Five: Roast Chicken Bread

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

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There are countless roast chicken recipes flying around online. I recently read two that offered up even more methods to achieve the perfect bird. One suggested that the “traditional” method of roasting breast-side up was passe; the other shared a brilliant method of cooking the bird atop slices of sourdough bread. Both sounded like great ideas, so I combined them, and voilà – a stellar Sunday dinner.

Starting the chicken breast-side down, then flipping it about halfway proved the perfect combination of roasting methods. It kept the white meat from drying out, but finishing it breast-side up gave me the crispy skin I love. Its bed of sourdough resulted in a chewy, crisp delicious treat that overrode the need to serve another starch with the meal. Vegetarians, be warned: My veg daughter was sorely tempted to “cheat” when this succulent bird hit the table (Don’t worry – she didn’t!).

 

Roast Chicken Bread
Inspired by an Epicurious recipe 
4 servings

1 loaf sourdough
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 4-to-5-lb. chicken
2 large shallots, sliced
½ lemon
8 fresh sage leaves

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Cut the bread into 1½ inch-thick slices and place them in the bottom of a roasting pan in a single layer. Drizzle the bread with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Reserve any remaining bread for another use.
• Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry inside and out. Season the cavity with 1 tablespoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, then place the shallots, lemon and 6 sage leaves inside. Carefully slide a finger under the skin of each breast and tuck the remaining 2 sage leaves under the skin. Season the chicken with the remaining 1 tablespoon salt, then tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Let rest 30 minutes.
• Place the chicken breast-side down on top of the bread. Roast 30 minutes.
• Use tongs to carefully remove the chicken from the roasting pan and set aside. Flip the bread slices. Return the chicken to the roasting pan breast-side up and continue to roast 45 minutes, until a thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 degrees.
• Let rest 10 minutes before removing the kitchen twine and carving. Serve with the roasted bread slices.

 

 

Just Five: Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

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This simple vegetarian recipe is a great dish to serve before sending your goblins out to trick-or-treat, but it’s also sophisticated enough to serve as a starter for a grown-up Halloween party. Roasting the carrots brings out their natural sugars, the ginger adds just a hint of sweet pepperiness, and the coconut milk adds a silky texture and just a hint of the tropics. Start your evening in the carrot patch, and you’ll feel less guilty unwrapping those fun-size Snickers for dessert.

 
Roasted Carrot-Ginger Soup
4 to 6 servings

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1½ cups chopped onion (about 1 large onion)
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
3 cups vegetable broth, plus more as needed
½ cup full-fat coconut milk

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• In a large bowl, toss the carrots with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Spread them a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until they start to brown.
• Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute 8 minutes, until translucent. Add the ginger and cook 1 minute, then add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 5 minutes.
• Add the roasted carrots to the pot, cover and simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Use an immersion blender or work in batches with a regular blender to carefully puree the soup until smooth. Add more stock to thin to reach desired consistency.
• Return the soup to the pot over low heat and stir in the coconut milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

 

Just Five: Marinated 7-Minute Eggs

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

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Most chefs in this town love their jobs and are all too happy to share their ideas and recipes. Recently, I had a chance to chat with Lucky Buddha chef René Cruz after a weeknight dinner. I had just slurped up a bowl of Cruz’s ramen, adding a soy sauce-marinated egg that was so delicious, I begged him to share his recipe.

A ramen egg is usually a seven-minute egg – one simmered for exactly seven minutes – resulting in a cooked white and a slightly wiggly, gooey yolk, not runny like a soft-boiled egg. They are then marinated in a potent brew of flavors and ingredients that vary from chef to chef.

Lucky Buddha’s soy-marinated egg has a few more than five ingredients, so I made some tough choices, but I ended up with a delightful treat. These eggs are great as a snack with sake bombs, sliced over a spinach salad or as a savory breakfast with rice and green onions.

 

Marinated 7-Minute Eggs
1 serving
Adapted from a recipe from Lucky Buddha’s René Cruz

2 eggs
1 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. white sugar
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped ginger

• In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and sugar. Microwave 30 seconds and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the rice vinegar and ginger, then set aside.
• Prepare an ice water bath. Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Carefully place the eggs in the water and boil 7 minutes. Remove the eggs and plunge into the ice water bath. Let rest until cool enough to handle, 3 to 5 minutes.
• Peel the eggs and place them in a zip-top bag with the soy mixture. Refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 12 hours. Serve with stir-fried noodles, ramen, on a spinach salad or with rice and green onions.

Just Five: Cauliflower Fritters

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

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As you may know, I not only pen this column, but also write a regular column for the print issue of Sauce Magazine, Make This. These recipes only require one to two steps and can be tossed together in less than 10 minute with minimal ingredients. Yep, I keep things simple in the kitchen – but simple ain’t always easy.

My goal with that column is to break down recipes to their basic elements and still retain flavor. Former executive editor Ligaya Figueras originally suggested these cauliflower fritters as a Make This recipe. Alas, I quickly realized there was no way to make it work without steaming the cauliflower first – the texture of raw cauliflower was horrible. Since so many steps are a Make This deal breaker, so this recipe moved to my Just Five file.

These fritters are a marriage of roasted cauliflower and latkes, two dishes my family loves. Cauliflower is a great substitute for roasted potatoes, and these are far quicker to make than traditional latkes. Serve them on a bed of lightly dressed arugula or with sour cream mixed with parsley and chives.

 

Cauliflower Fritters
8 to 10 servings

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 4 to 5 cups)
½ cup flour
½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup water
¼ cup chopped shallot
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

• Place a steamer basket in a large pot with a few inches of water in the bottom over medium-high heat. Steam the cauliflower 6 to 7 minutes, until fork-tender. Remove and immediately rinse cold water.
•Chop cauliflower into small pieces, but not quite minced and place in a large bowl. Add the flour, Parmesan, water, shallot, eggs, salt and pepper and mix well.
• Add the oil to a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Scoop ¼ cup batter into the skillet, pressing gently with a spoon to flatten to ½-inch thick. Fry 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown, then flip and fry another 2 to three minutes. Remove and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.
• Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve warm.

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