Monday, February 25, 2008

Dinner Party Rice

I like having people over for dinner. But I am not particularly experienced at it and tend to find it ever so slightly stressful, which is why whenever I get overly worried I think to myself "What would Ina do?". Ina's entertaining advice is pretty straightforward. Make what you can ahead of time and make what you know. Her optional third rule for entertaining is use a lot of butter.

I find Zuni Chicken is a good choice because you can prepare it the day or the morning before. Then an hour, or perhaps a half hour, before your guests arrive you put it in the oven.

My dinner party rice is a riff on the Zuni bread salad. I put in all the things from the bread salad so you get a similar taste - but making rice is less work than washing lettuce.

Dinner Party Rice
(for four)

3-4 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, also chopped fine
1 tbsp oil, sometimes I used canola, or sometimes olive
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper

Rice for four servings, I make about 1 cup of dry rice

1. The night or the morning before your friends are coming over, soak the raisins with the balsamic vinegar and about a tbsp of hot water. Cover and leave sitting at room temperature.
2. Maybe about 1/2 an hour before you expect your guests, fry up the shallot and garlic in the oil and start cooking the rice.
3. When your rice is cooked and your chicken is ready, add the shallots, the raisins and pine nuts. I also add some salt and pepper and this point, and then vinegar. Now, this is the sneaky bit, start adding some of the rendered chicken fat, about a tablespoon at a time, until you find the rice tastes deliciously chickeny.

And that's it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Free buns

I stopped in at Cobs Bread on my way home from my parents yeterday. It's relatively new the neighbourhood and it had a big sign advertising hot cross buns.

I like hot cross buns - and I was pretty cold - so I thought I would get one. Now, here's where things get weird and well, quite frankly, fantastic. I ordered one, and they gave it to me. And then they wouldn't let me pay for it. They gave me a free bun. Best Wednesday ever.

And how was it? Totally delicious.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Mango Pudding

My favourite dim sum dessert is mango pudding. Now, it's not much of a contest since it's the only dessert with out red bean or tofu. (Not that I don't like red beans and tofu, but there is a time and a place for them.)

When the New York times had a recipe for mango pudding last week I knew I wanted to try it.

This pudding isn't quite the same as the dim sum one and I found the pudding on it's own insufficiently creamy. But with some plain yogurt on top it is quite delicious.

Osso Buco

I'm back. Due to some technical difficulties, I've had a bit of an internet vacation. But not a cooking vacation.

The first thing I want to tell you about is the osso buco I made. When I go to the St Lawrence Market each week, I am also interested in what is inexpensive. A couple weeks ago the beef shanks caught my eye. My mom suggested I could use it in osso buco. Now, my understanding is that veal shank is traditional in osso buco, but it's also about three times the price. I figured using the beef would be okay, and I would just cook it a little longer.
This meat cost about 8 dollars Canadian. Paul and I each ate two meals from it.

The internet seems to have two different kinds of osso buco recipes: those with canned tomotoes, and those without. I decided to make the kind with less tomatoes. I also noticed that most recipes have celery - but due to my long standing dislike of celery, I decided I could do without it too.

Now, sometimes when I decide to make something I have never had, I am disappointed. But this was much better than I was expecting. It was very easy and very hearty tasting. Perfect for a snowy day. I think this will be a winter staple for me now.

Osso Buco
(serves two, adapted from Everyday Italian)

1 beef shank (it will weight around one pound)
2 cloves garlic, slightly crushed with the side of the knife
1 sprig rosemarry
3-4 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup chopped carrots (I like to cut these pretty small)
1 small chopped onion
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup white wine
1-2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper

1. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Brown both sides in a hot dutch over with the oil, about 3-4 mins per side. Set aside on a plate.
2. Add carrots and onions to the dutch oven and cook until softened. Add tomato paste and cook an additional minent.
3. Add white wine, bring to a boil for 1-2 mins. (I like to do this to cook off some of the alcohol.)
4. Return beef to pot, add herbs and garlic(you could put them in some cheese cloth, but I don't bother). Add enough chicken stock to come up about 3/4 of the way up the beef.
5. Simer covered for about 3 hours.

This also reheats really well. I would store the beef and sauce separately, so that you can remove any fat from the sauce.