Archive for the ‘Bittman’ Category

Day 62 – BBQ Steak

April 16, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007: BBQ Steak and Sweet Potato Rosti

I feel as though Spring will never come. It’s cold enough to see my breath, it’s rainy and grey. Hard to believe a few weeks ago I was thinking of eating on the back deck.

Still, I wanted to bbq on Sunday night so we picked up a few strip-loins from the butcher.

My three year old daughter and I prepped a Greek salad together (I do the knife work, she adds the olives, oregano and crumbles the feta).

I also tried to make sweet potato rosti:
550 Grams of Sweet potatoes (there were three)
1 egg
small onion, minced
clove of garlic, minced

The sweet potatoes went through the box grater into a tea towel, where I did my best to squeeze out any moisture. The onion and garlic were sauteed (don’t let the garlic brown!). The potato, onion and garlic were mixed with the beaten egg and formed into small cakes/patties. These went on a sheet of silpat and into a 400F oven for 30+ minutes.

Steaks went on the grill, the one for the kids went on early so it would be more medium well and their steak also got a hit of bbq sauce.

The bottoms of the rosti cooked a bit faster than the tops (perhaps 400F is to hot) so I finished them quickly under the broiler.

For dessert, K. and my daughter made a blueberry crumble from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. It was a bit runny, although my wife thought that might be due to the fact that she used frozen berries. She said she’d put in a touch more flour if she were to make it again (it was great, so I hope she makes it again). She also said she had to double the amount of topping the recipe called for in order to cover the whole pan.

The Verdict
The kids really weren’t sure about the sweet potato rosti. My daughter ate a little bit but seemed unsure of the whole thing. My 20 month old son took his apart, completely enamoured by the long strands of potato, which he could smush between his fingers.  They both ate steak and Greek salad. 

My daughter also thought it was hilarious that the crumble gave her purple teeth. Needless to say, it was a big hit with both kids.


Day 45 – More Chicken

March 29, 2007

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007 – Chicken with Soy

Was absolutely clueless as to what to make for dinner. I had six Italian sausages, a chicken and about an hour to whip up a meal.

Went with a Bittman recipe where you boil and then roast the chicken…

Into a large pot, place:
3 cups of water
1 cup of soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons dry sherry
5 nickel sized slices of ginger
4 smashed cloves of garlic
1 Star Anise

Bring this to a boil and then add the chicken – boil, covered, for 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave the bird in the hot liquid for 20 minutes (and pre-heat your oven to 500F). Place the chicken on a roasting tray and slip it into the oven for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.

The Verdict

The chicken was a gorgeous brown coming out of the oven and it all smelled really wonderful (anise, soy, ginger, garlic – what’s not to love?). The bird also carved really easily, but the proof is in the palate and this chicken was just meh. Tender, moist and totally bland. The skin was fantastic, but the flesh was boring…very boring.

If I were to make this again, and that’s a big if, I’d whip up some sort of spicy dipping sauce to give it some oomph.

Should have done something with the sausages instead.

Day 38 – Split Chicken

March 26, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007: Split BBQ Chicken

I picked up this great technique from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. It’s a quick and easy way to grill a whole chicken (well, almost whole) without a rotisserie.

It also lends itself to many flavour variations – standard bbq, lemon and fresh herbs, spicy finished with a piri-piri sauce or just plain old s&p – whatever you like.

The Prep

Put your whole chicken down on a cutting board and grab a pair of poultry shears. If you don’t have poultry shears, I imagine you could use a pair of heavier scissors, although I’m not sure they should ever go back to being used for crafts after slicing through the cavity of a raw chicken.

Make sure the bird is breast side down and the legs are facing towards you. You want to cut the backbone out of the bird, so start cutting just to the side of the bird’s spine (the back bone is just a little wider than your thumb, so cut maybe half an inch or a centimeter off-centre). Once you’ve gone up one side of the bird, repeat on the other side and voila, you should have something that looks like it came from the set of Aliens. (You can save all of your chicken backs in a ziploc bag and use them to make stock when you’ve collected a few…)

Turn the bird back over so that it’s breast side up, make sure the legs are not folded under the bird, place your palm over the breast and give the bird a good firm push to help flatten it.

And that’s it…

Prep Part II

Now you can flavour the bird with whatever you like. We did a dry rub of:

2 tbsp chili
2 tbsp cumin
1tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp salt

I let my daughter sprinkle the dry rub on (with the threat of no Treehouse for days if she touched the raw bird) and then I rubbed it into the chicken to make sure everything was well coated.

Pre-heat your gas grill and get it up to 400 to 500F, you don’t want it screaming hot but the neighbourhood of 45oF will do.

Let the bird sit in the dry rub until the grill is up to temp. Before you put the bird on the grill, turn down the burner on one side to medium/medium low. This is the side that the chicken will cook on. You don’t want massive heat underneath the bird as it will char and burn, but you do want to keep the temp of the grill at or over 400F.

The bird goes skin side up for 15 minutes, then skin side down for 15 minutes, and a final skin side up for the last 15 (I brusheda commercial bbq sauce on the skin side when the bird got it’s final turn).

As always, cooking time will vary but 45 to 55 minutes should do for most birds – 165F in the breast and 180F in the thigh seems to be the recommended minimum…this is where a good meat thermometer is indispensable.

Veg was microwaved broccoli (I’m getting sick of broccoli) and sweet potatoes baked on the gas grill…

The Verdict

We, once again, ate the whole bird. The boy gets the thighs while my daughter loves the drumsticks (although she wasn’t crazy about the skin…). At the rate our skinny little kids are eating, I’m fearful of what are grocery bill will look like in a few years. We’ll be cooking two chickens at a time… 

Day 26 – Meat Loaf

March 10, 2007

March 9, 2007: Meat Loaf, mashed potatoes and yellow beans

The winter that K. was pregnant with our daughter she began craving meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

That’s right – meat loaf.

The very word conjures up memories of my mum’s electric fry pan full of grey-brown meat, swimming in grease.

My mother liked to top hers with processed cheese slices (which would only semi-melt) and some sort of tomato concoction. The tomatoes, or whatever the red stuff was, reminded me of a low-rent ketchup. To this day, I have no idea what she was thinking.

Four years and many meat loafs later, I’ve found a quick and simple prep that makes everyone happy (even our previous nanny from Mexico who referred to it as, “the meat cake”).

It’s based on two recipes: one from Bitman’s How to Cook Everything and the other from the Dean and Deluca Cookbook

One Cup Milk
One Cup Breadcrumbs
Two Carrots
Two Ribs of Celery
One Onion
Two Cloves Garlic
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan
1 heaping tablespoon dijon mustard
2 lbs. mixed ground meats (beef, pork, lamb, chicken – whatever you like)
1 cup cooked greens – spinach, kale, chard – whatever you like (Optional)
Salt and Pepper
3 slices of bacon

1. In a large bowl combine the milk and breadcrumbs, stir and let stand
2. Cut the carrots, onion, celery and garlic into a small dice (or run it through a food processor – this is the faster/easier option)
3. Add the diced veg, mustard, and ground meats to the milk/breadcrumb mixture (tonight is was ground veal and ground pork) and mix thoroughly
4. Transfer to a loaf pan – if you’re adding the cooked greens, fill the loaf pan half way and then place all of the cooked greens into the pan in a single layer. Continue filling the loaf tin with the remaining meat mixture
5. Invert the loaf tin onto a broiling rack (and remove the tin)
6. Place three strips of bacon along the top of the meat loaf
7. Bake in a 375F oven for about an hour or until the internal temperature hits 160F

We had the meatloaf with the other half of the celery root, which we steamed and mashed with some boiled potatoes. Veg was yellow beans that were blanched and sauteed in olive oil and butter.


The kids really like this meat loaf and it makes for a pretty mean sandwich the next day. They also ate the beans, but took a pass on the potatoes…

My daughter really wanted to bake a cake when I got home, so I went looking for the quickest simplest cake recipe I could find. This is what I came up with…

Devil’s Food Cake from The Red Cat Cookbook

1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking soda1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoon melted butter
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup coffee
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and sift/stir/mix
2. In another large bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients and mix well
3. Add the wet to the dry and mix well
4. Pour the batter into a muffin tin (or ramekins) and bake at 375F for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean (this took closer to 20 minutes for us)

The cakes were devoured by the kids, but I found them kinda meh. They had a nice moist, light texture but not a lot of depth of flavour – the original recipe calls for a dark chocolate sauce to accompany the cake, which would likely give them a bit more oomph.

Day 4 – Valentine’s

February 14, 2007

February 14th, 2007 – Grilled Rib eyes with mushroom sauce, roasted beets a la Jean Georges Vongerichten and the best potatoes I have ever eaten (aka Nigel Slater’s pancetta and duck fat potatoes).

When I was down at the market yesterday, I set out to get some of K’s favourite foods.

She loves mushrooms so I picked up some fresh hedgehogs and an assortment of rather standard funghi (criminis, shitakes, etc.). She also loves beets, so I grabbed some golden beets just to shake things up a little (in hindsight, red would have been the way to go for Valentine’s, but gold will have to do).

I was going to grill veal chops for the main, but the butcher (who also sold me 17 pounds of brisket) talked me into buying rib eyes instead.  Upon seeing the steaks last night, K commented that old-school butchers may be one of the last bastions of sexism going. The steak the butcher designated for me has to be two inches thick and is easily half a kilo, if not more. It’s the type of thing dietitians hold up as a proper protein portion for a family of six or as a warning in a heart disease PSA.

The steak, “for the lady” as the butcher so kindly put it, looks like a minute steak by comparison. It’s probably 8 ounces, if not more, which is two proper servings. But next to the brontosaurus cut, it looks positively tiny.

Tonight’s menu is going to be busy at the front and back end, without about 45 minutes in between to drink a Kir Royale, play with the kids and queue up some nice music on the dining room iPod.

The oven gets set to 400F…

Ideally I’d use fingerling potatoes here, but I couldn’t find any at the market. Good old baking poatoes get scrubbed, cut into rough chunks and go for a cold water soak.

The pancetta gets cubed and two onions get quartered into wedges the size of your thumb.

The Beets get a spanking of cold water and are wrapped, individually, with tin foil.

The mushrooms get brushed clean and a rough chop and a shallot gets a fine dice.

The steaks get a whack of salt and rest on the counter.

This takes maybe 10 minutes…

Cooking Part I
The beets in foil get tossed into the 400F oven. They’ll need to roast for about an hour (this is the easiest and best method I have ever encountered for cooking beets. I originally found it in Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Cooking at Home with a Four Star Chef, which was written by Mark Bittman. Not surprisingly, the same recipe can be found in Bittman’s great book How to Cook Everything).

The pancetta and onion sweat it out in a skillet over medium-low heat. After three to five minutes, the potatoes hit the pan along with some fresh thyme and get tossed about. A dollop of duck fat (rendered and passed through a coffee filter on Sunday when I prepped the duck for the cassoulet) goes into the pan, once it’s melted the whole skillet goes into the oven next to the beets.

These potatoes, from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries, are supposed to roast under a cooking duck. The fat coming off the duck bastes the potatoes producing what might be the best potatoes I have ever consumed. Seriously.  Pancetta, thyme, onion, and duck fat – you could cook a shoe in that combination and I’d likely eat at least half of it. (The potato recipe can be found here – it’s about half-way down the page.)

The gas grill gets cleared of snow and lit leaving it plenty of time to warm up and it’s time for that Kir Royale and to catch up with K and the kids and exchange some Valentine’s day gifts.

Cooking Part II:
The beets have been in the oven about 40 minutes, the potatoes about 30 and it’s time to get cooking again.

The monster rib eye goes onto the grill and cooks for four minutes before being turned 90 degrees to cook for another four minutes (gotta have the beautiful cross-hatch grill marks – it’s Valentine’s day and presentation matters).

Some butter gets warmed up in a pan, as it foams in goes a finely chopped shallot, followed shortly thereafter by the chopped mushrooms and some kosher salt – let the mushrooms exude their moisture and soak it all back up.

The monster rib-eye gets flipped and the l’il Miss rib eye goes onto the grill.

Some red wine and stock are added to the mushrooms and the heat goes up to help reduce it to a thicker sauce.

The rib eyes come in off the grill and rest. The beets go from the hot oven to a sink of cold running water – the cold water protects your fingers and encourages the skin of the beets to slide right off.

Out come the potatoes and it’s time to plate.

A little butter goes into the mushroom sauce to give it a bit of a thicken, a great shine, and supposedly to clog all of our arteries. 

Some cherry tomatoes go on the kids’ plates along with some julienned carrots and dinner is ready.

Total work time for this stage is maybe 15 minutes.

I’m not much of a baker (that’s K’s domain) but this is a fantastically easy dessert that I have used to trick many dinner guests into thinking I can actually bake.

It’s originally from Elle Decor magazine and I made it for New Year’s some time ago. It’s so simple and delicious that it’s become part of my repertoire.

1. In a double-boiler, melt 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
2. Add 4 tablespoons of butter to the chocolate and let it melt. Then turn off the heat
3. In a stand-mixer, slowly beat five egg whites; as they foam, slowly add three tablespoons of sugar until you stiff peaks form
4. Once butter and chocolate have melted, add three egg yolks, one at a time (the mixture shouldn’t be hot or you’ll scramble the eggs)
5. Mix the beaten egg whites into chocolate-butter-egg mix. The original recipe says, “don’t be timid, this isn’t a souffle.”
6. Pour the mixture into 8 ring molds (or small ramekins) and top each pile of batter with some chocolate pastilles
7. Bake for 6 or 7 minutes (until the pastilles have started to melt and the cakes aren’t too wobbly)
8. Gently un-mold the cakes and serve.

The Verdict
My daughter claims to only like take-out Greek potatoes from the Danforth, but she manages to eat a few of Slater’s best. 

The boy prefers the golden beats to all esle, quite the feat for a kid who’s usually a carnivore above all else.

The kids don’t dig the mushroom sauce, but eat up all of their steak.

K. loves the steak and mushroom sauce, the golden beets are a nice change and the potatoes are always a huge hit.

A fancy dinner in about an hour and 10 minutes (not including dessert). Of that time, about 25 was prep and cook and 45 was drinking a Kir with the fam. 

I completely buggered the dessert. It was nearly unedible. I mistakenly used unsweetened chocolate instead of bittersweet chocolate. The two of us grimaced through the rather bitter and dry dessert, piling on the ice cream and letting it melt into the cake to make it a little more platable.

The Wines
2003 Antech Blanquette de Limoux Grand Reserve – very citric, it was a great base for the Kir Royales.

2002 Two Hands Lily’s Garden Shiraz – We don’t drink much Australian wine and this was a reminder as to why. Completely over the top and hedonistic, this struck me as being rather out of balance, dominated by glycerin and a chemical finish. It smelled like a million bucks, but lost out to the 15% alcohol.