Saturday, 13 October 2012
Wednesday, 26 September 2012
Sometimes you've just got to clear out what's in the fridge.
Here at Transatlantic Towers, there are frequently small amounts of stuff left-over from previous meals - not so much cooked stuff, which tends to be eaten for lunch the following day, but the veggies from a bag that was just too big for two people, the leftover lardons from a previous recipe and various other bits. And rather than throw them out, it's better to use them when you can.
So last night was one of those nights - chuck stuff at a pan and make it work.
It occurred to me afterward that it was similar to Nigella Lawson's 'Coq Au Riesling' recipe, but with the addition of some asparagus I had in the fridge.
I would've taken some photos, but there was no time - it tasted SO good that Gotham Gal and I inhaled it long before I could reach for the camera! Therefore, this isn't so much a recipe as a breakdown of what was lurking in the fridge, and how we used that to make something that turned out very, very good indeed.
Chicken a la Fridge-Clearout
500g chicken thighs and breast, chopped into smallish chunks;
A handful of closed-cup mushrooms
A handful of asparagus spears;
1 largish onion;
4 cloves of garlic;
A big handful of fresh tarragon, finely-chopped;
Salt & pepper (of course).
Pop a large, heavy-based saucepan onto a low heat and pour in a small slug of vegetable oil. Finely chop the onion and garlic and pop them in the pan to sweat down.
After a couple of minutes, once they're starting to sweat, throw in your lardons and let them start to render down a bit.
Take the tips off the garlic spears and set aside. Chop the top half of the stalk into small chunks, and throw them in the pot. Throw away the woody lower part.
Finely slice half a dozen mushrooms and put them in as well. Stir everything around in the bacon fat that's starting to exude.
Once everything's sweated nicely and the onions are translucent, throw in about two-thirds of the chopped tarragon, add the chicken and turn up the heat to medium. You're not trying to fry it off, just colour it a bit. Let it all cook for five or ten minutes, swooshing it around occasionally, until the chicken is white overall.
Turn the heat up to high and after about two minutes, chuck in a glass or so of white wine and stir, then once the alcohol has cooked off turn the heat back down to low and leave it for a minute or two.
Slowly add the single cream, stirring all the time.
Turn up the heat a little, until the sauce is just bubbling occasionally, and cook uncovered until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce reduced to a nice thick consistency.
Five minutes or so before you plan to eat, taste and add seasoning (you probably won't need more salt) and add the asparagus tips, a couple more sliced mushrooms and the last of the tarragon and stir well.
Serve with something mashy to soak up the sauce, and some lightly-cooked green beans to add texture.
Then go and buy some more stuff to refill the fridge for next time!
*note: the cream wasn't 'lurking in the fridge, but bought fresh. Don't mess about with leftover dairy products!
Tuesday, 25 September 2012
So there have been many changes in The Life Of Dungeekin in recent months, including marriage (thanks in large part to a roast chicken recipe) and moving to Transatlantic Towers, our new family home. And it has a MUCH larger kitchen than Vitriol Towers ever did, which has meant much more space for ingredients - and better still, much more space for experimentation.
That experimentation has recently been focused on the dark art of the cheeseburger. Having uprooted Greater Gotham Gal from the burger-rich hunting grounds of the Upper East Side to the drizzling, McDonalds-dominated wasteland of Oxfordshire, it was essential that I got the hang of cheeseburgers. If you've ever been to NYC and eaten at JG Melon, Shake Shack or any of the other dedicated burger places in the city, you'll understand how what we Brits think of as a dry, bland alternative to an M&S sandwich is, over there, a juicy*, flavoursome thing of wonder from beef to bun.
And you know what? Recreating that proved to be bloody difficult. Attempt after attempt came up short, with mushy meat, disintegrating burgers or charred exteriors concealing raw mince inside. Thankfully the majority of these experiments were done while GGG was still in the States, so I was spared the disapproval of a cheeseburger connoisseur. It became clear that the trick is to keep the meat as cool as possible and be as gentle as possible putting it together. I can't stress those points enough - cool and gentle, cool and gentle!
But now, I think I've finally come up with the recipe and cooking method that works and will give that proper New York cheeseburger experience at home.
Preparation (makes two burgers):
500 grams of GOOD steak mince. Don't get 'extra-lean', as you need some fat;
2 good burger buns. If you've a baker and can find a range, all the better. Supermarket 'baps' are often too dry and break up;
'American' processed-cheese slices (these are the canonical burger cheese, substitute your preference if you wish;
2 rashers of streaky bacon;
TABLE salt (one of the rare occasions when I don't use Maldon Sea Salt);
Take the mince from its pack, and put into a large bowl. Gently run your fingers through it to separate it all out, then pop it back into the fridge to cool back down.
After 30-odd minutes chilling, take the mince and add granulated onion, salt and black pepper to taste, gently mixing it through with your fingers. Don't be too harsh or use utensils, as that will over-work the meat and make it go sloppy and clump. I use granulated onion to get a good flavour without compromising 'structural integrity' - even fine-chopped onion has a tendency to make the burgers fall apart during cooking. Granulated onion and table salt also work better as they can be worked more fully through the meat than sea salt and chopped onion, so you get completely even seasoning.
Place the seasoned meat back in the fridge for another 20 minutes or so, to recover from your ministrations.
Once it's cooled again, separate the meat into 4 equal portions. Roll them (gently) into balls, then slowly flatten them out until they're about 1/2" thick at the edge, with a bit of an indentation in the middle of each one.
Take two slices of American cheese, and fold each in half twice. Place them into the indentations on two of your patties. Take the two patties without cheese and gently place them, indentation-side down, on top of the two with cheese on, creating a beef'n'cheese sandwich. Gently (note how everything has to be gentle!) squeeze the edges together to make a partial seal. Back into the fridge - Don't cover or wrap them, as that seems to make them sweat a bit and go mushy - and leave them there for a good couple of hours.
Take two frying pans - one with a lid, and one without. Put a small amount of oil in the pan with the lid, and wipe it around the pan, then put the pan on a low heat. Keep the other pan to one side - that one will be getting HOT later.
Gently put the burgers into the oiled pan, and put the lid on. The object here is not to fry them, as they'll fall apart. Instead, let them steam gently in their own juices. It takes a lot longer to cook them this way but they stay together and retain much more moisture. They can take as long as 25-30 minutes to cook, gently turning once or twice. They won't take on much colour, but you will know they're cooking from the sound and smell.
Heat the other frying pan, without oil this time, and get it nice and hot. Cut the bacon rashers in half, and put them in the hot pan to cook until crispy, then remove and keep in a warm oven. Wipe out any excess bacon fat, and put the pan back on the heat.
Prepare your buns with any dressings you want to add, but don't go overboard as the moisture from the burger and dressings will cause the bun to collapse. Toast the bun if you wish, but I've never found that works for me.
When the cheese in the middle of the burgers starts to leak from the edges, you're ready to go. Remove them from the pan, and finish with 30 seconds per side in your hot frying pan to colour them up.
Place your burger on the bottom of the bun, add another slice of cheese on top (to help it all stick together), pop two half-rashers of bacon on top of that and top with the bun.
Eat. Don't forget napkins!
*This is in no small part due to being able to choose how done your burger is, whereas here they tend to be served one way only - overdone - and even in places like GBK it can be a struggle to persuade them to cook your burger medium. Dang 'Health & Safety' rules.
Monday, 16 May 2011
To do justice to food as the most wide-ranging and personal of subjects, I needed additional voices to chime in. I asked dungeekin so he would make me one of the fabulous roasts he discusses below. My plan is working ’cause I’ve been eating awfully well as a result. — Deb.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The topic of solo activities has been weighing upon my mind recently, given that it will be another nine days before I am back again at the dining-table of my beloved. And by ‘solo activities’, for the more earthily-minded among you, I am of course referring to cooking for one.
Specifically, Sunday roasts when cooking for one.
Sunday roasts, with all the trimmings, are of course a British tradition. They’re as much a part of the English way of life as the Queen, substandard dentistry and constant drizzle. Yet when I mentioned on Twitter that I was planning to treat myself to a Sunday roast – alone – the news was met with a degree of surprise.
It seems that many people view cooking a roast (especially if they’re on their own) as hard work – a great deal of effort on a day of rest. And this surprises me, because it isn’t. Really, honestly, it isn’t hard work at all.
A tempting roast dinner – with all the glorious kitchen smells that brings, and the dopey satedness that follows its eating – is actually staggering simple. It’s ‘fire and forget’ food – with a few minutes thought and pre-planning, you can have a juicy roast on the table with luscious accompaniments in two hours – of which, despite impressions, you’ve only had to do about 30 minutes’ work.
It’s true, honest.
I wrote a roast chicken recipe some time ago which outlines the concept, however in order to prove my point I’m going to tell you what I cooked for myself tonight. It was good. More importantly, it was easy, which is a priority when cooking alone. And if you follow this, you’ll have a juicy roast on the table inside two hours, with less work than you’d need to cook a risotto.
Roast Pork, Roast Potatoes, Broccoli, Fried Leeks & Mushrooms.
This will serve one with leftovers (if, like me, you like raiding the fridge for a cold roast potato) or two easily enough.
- 1kg pork shoulder with the skin on (for crackling);
- Either 4 large or 8 smaller potatoes (floury King Edwards are good for roasting, but you can use whatever);
- 1 head of broccoli;
- 2 large leeks;
- Butter, sea salt, olive oil, black pepper;
- Onion gravy granules (remember, this is a quick job, so it’s not cheating).
Put the oven on. HIGH (250C is good). Boil the kettle. Chuck a good lug of olive oil into a roasting dish.
Once the oven’s up to temperature, put the pork on a plate in the sink. Pour the boiling water over the skin, and watch it start to crinkle. Pat it dry (carefully), drizzle it with a little olive oil and season with lots of salt and black pepper. Pop it in the roasting dish, skin up, and chuck it in the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes – this is the initial ‘sizzle’.
Peel and chop (if necessary) your potatoes, and pop them in a saucepan of salted water to parboil.
Go and watch TV for 20 minutes, there’s nothing you can do right now.
When the timer goes, go and turn the heat on the oven down to 170-180C, and reset the timer for 30 minutes. Carefully take the potatoes out of their boiling water, set them aside and turn off the heat on the saucepan – you’ll need that water later, so keep hold of it. Go back to the TV for the remaining time.
Thirty minutes later, when the oven goes ‘ping’ – take out the roasting dish, pop in the potatoes, and give them a careful flip or two to cover them in the oil and meat fat. Back in the oven – set the timer again, this time for 40 minutes. Pour yourself a glass of wine, and return to your scheduled afternoon viewing….
Seriously, you’ve done maybe ten minutes work and there’s now nothing else you can do for almost an hour. Leave everything alone.
Once the 40 minutes is up, you have 15 minutes of business ahead (ish). First, take the pork out of the oven, then carefully remove the skin, and wrap the pork in foil to relax while you finish your meal. Pop the crackling back on a shelf in the oven, so it carries on drying and crisping up.
Turn on the heat under the saucepan you used earlier, and heat some butter and olive oil in a frying pan. Put some gravy granules in a jug.
Chop as much broccoli as you need, and chuck it into the saucepan. Chop the leeks and mushrooms, and put them in the frying pan Cook until the leek and mushroom mix, and the broccoli, are both tender, then simply turn the heat off under both pans, and drain the water from the broccoli straight into the gravy mix, and stir.
Unwrap your meat, carve. Turn off the oven, take out the potatoes and the crackling. Add everything to the plate. Serve. Eat.
Now, seriously, how hard was that? You have a perfect Sunday roast, leftovers to nibble on, and the sense of replete achievement that comes with a meal most people seem to think is ‘hard work’.
Though of course if you’re on your own, you do have to do the washing-up . . .
Thursday, 28 October 2010
You see, it appears that the lady in question has been on a search - a quest, even, for The Perfect Roast Chicken. I have this mental image of her wandering the United States a la David Carradine in 'Kung Fu', entering deserted diners in one-horse dustbowl towns, ever seeking poultry-based enlightenment.
Of course, I was happy to help, in the spirit of Hands Across the Oceans to which I so fully ascribe.
Here, then, is my method of cooking roast chicken. I can't say it's TPRC, but it seems to work pretty well, and is neutral enough that you can tweak the seasonings, should you desire, to match the weather outside.
You will need:
1 decent roasting chicken<. Organic/corn fed if you wish, in all honesty I couldn't give a proverbial flying one at the equally proverbial donut. Just PLEASE, for the sake of your tastebuds if nothing else, make sure it's free-range.
As much garlic as you like/can stand/will still get you kissed;
Butter; Olive oil.
Sea salt and black pepper are a given, right? Right.
First, stick your oven on. I'm with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on the 'sizzle', so whack your oven up to 250 if it'll go that far, and let it preheat.
Halve the lemon, halve the onion, peel and halve a couple of the garlic cloves and leave the rest untouched. Stuff half a lemon, half an onion and the peeled garlic firmly up the bird's backside.
Butter first. I think it's well worth pinching Jamie Oliver's suggestion of massaging butter unto the flesh under the skin of the chicken - just gently work your fingers between flesh and skin and, when you've got a pocket there, slip in some butter.
Drizzle the chicken in olive oil, grind over a good wodge of black pepper and sprinkle with sea salt. Don't be reticent about this bit, plenty of salt. If you like (and I do) you can also shake over a few squirts of Maggi Liquid Seasoning (which I'm utterly addicted to), to add a spot of 'unami' to the skin's flavour.
Massage the whole bird, making sure it's fully coated and the butter is nicely spread over the breasts.
By now your oven should be as hot as [insert your favourite heat-related simile]. Chicken into roasting dish - make sure it's a GOOD one, it'll need to be later. Chuck the remaining half lemon, half onion and the whole, unpeeled garlic cloves into the dish and chuck dish into oven.
Wait 20 minutes. Don't go near the oven at all. No basting, no checking - just let it get blasted on full heat and sizzle away.
After your 20 minutes has elapsed, you're allowed to open the oven. Pop the dish out, give it a bit of a shake and turn the heat down to about 190. Back into the oven.
Now, the next bit's up to you - basting. Some do, some don't. I sometimes do, other times I just relish the 'fire-and-forget' nature of roast chicken and don't bother. I tend to find that there's plenty of moisture anyway. But the occasional shake doesn't hurt.
I've found that leaving it to its thing for another hour works out about right for an ordinary-sized bird. If you're doing one that's roughly the size of an ostrich, you may need more. But for a normal (feeds 4 with the usual accompaniments) chicken, an hour seems fine.
Give your bird that hour, then remove it from the oven. If you're unsure, you can always test if it's done by sliding a skewer into the breast or leg and checking the colour. Clear: done. Pink: back in the oven for a bit. These days I don't tend to bother, it's up to you.
Tip the chicken upwards over your roasting dish, to allow those glorious juices to pour out. Worry not, there's still plenty of juice left. Wrap the bird, tightly and well, in two or three layers of good kitchen foil and set it aside. You won't be going back to it for 20 minutes...
RIght, remember, I said about a good roasting dish? Here's why. Whack it straight onto the hob, on a high heat. Bring the juices up to a fast boil, scraping at the sticky, unctuous bits of meat juice on the bottom of the pan. Throw in some water, or wine if you prefer. Don't forget to press the lemon and the onion, and squish the roasted garlic cloves. How much water you add depends on how much gravy you like. You shouldn't need more salt, but hey, what's tasting for? Sieve it into another pan to get the bits out, then put your smooth gravy back on the heat. Keep tasting.
Reduce. And reduce, and taste and reduce, until you're getting where you want to be - glossy meat-juice gravy with highlights of roasted onion and garlic and the tang of the lemon juice. Skim the fat off if you wish. I don't wish. Thicken with butter or cornflour if you need to. Once it's right, LEAVE IT ALONE and just keep it hot.
Carefully unwrap your chicken from its 20-minute stint in a health spa. Marvel at the amount of juices collected in the bottom of the foil, and carefully pour them into your glorious gravy.
Carve. Serve with whatever accompaniments you deem appropriate for the season - my old staple of watercress, rocket and spinach leaves goes very well with it in warmer climates.
Present to your Colonial acquaintance, and sit back, secure in the knowledge that you've organised a hot and tasty bird.
In summer, I find that replacing the onion with a lime works well. Add a (light) touch of chilli and, when you take the bird out to relax, stuff a handful of coriander** into the cavity to infuse the chicken with its scent and flavours. Perfect picnic chicken.
** Cilantro, for the Colonials reading this.
Monday, 8 December 2008
Tel: 01235 530900
I like Italian food, but sometimes it can seem as if the myriad chains of Yet Another Generic Italian Restaurant are strangling real, quality Italian meals. So it's great to see a small, family-owned Italian restaurant in Abingdon doing so well.
Limoncello is situated on Ock Street in Abingdon, and despite it's proximity to the (frankly dire) Ask!, never seems to be lacking business. A nice touch is the plate of olives on the table from the outset, giving you something to nibble on while you peruse the menu without having to pay extra for it (as so many places do).
The food itself, while not spectacular, is good, honest fare, well-cooked and well-presented. I started with grilled sardines, which were lifted from the ordinary by a light mint dressing, and The Darling G's mussels were well complemented by their tomato, garlic and basil sauce.
For main courses, I chose a sirloin steak which was perfectly cooked - and the tomato, garlic and oregano sauce, while strong, was not overpowering. The Darling G went for a rack of lamb which was perfectly cooked for our tastes (though maybe a touch too rare for others), though its red-wine sauce was a little bland. The side dishes of saute potatoes, green beans, carrots and fried shredded courgette were well-cooked and tasty.
Service was quick, attentive and old-fashioned, with even the traditional large pepper-grinder coming out for every single course! I found myself wondering if they'd do the same for my espresso.
The whole meal was washed down with a pretty good bottle of house Red, and finished with a liqueur coffee for The Darling G and the ubiquitous double espresso for me (plus a couple of free Limoncellos!). The bill including drinks and service was a not-unreasonable £60.
So the conclusion? Don't bother with the execrable Ask!. Support a local business rather than a chain, walk a few yards up the road and eat at Limoncello.
Friday, 5 December 2008
8 Market Street
phone : 01865 249 183
Noodles shouldn't really be interesting. However, visit Wagamama and I can assure you they will be!
Sited on Market Street, just far enough from Cornmarket to avoid the crowds of Japanese tourists and frantic Christmas shoppers, the cube-shaped exterior and large glass frontage hint at what's to come.
Inside, the blocky theme continues with chunky tables and bench seats, arranged not in the usual clusters of two and four but instead in long refectory-style formations. Of course, being British, we found a spot at a discreet distance from our co-diners.
As for the food - well, this is fast-food Japanese style. The food was very quick in coming, hot, tasty and well-presented, and with portions large enough to satisfy even my stomach.
The Darling G went for the Steak Soba (fried noodles) and I chose the Wagamama Ramen, a noodle soup with chicken, fish, mixed vegetables and the obligatory (pointless and tasteless) Tofu, my feelings on which are well documented. You can see the Ramen in the above photo, and I liked the quirky wooden soup spoon (though it actually made it impossible to eat the soup with any dignity!)
The cost of the meal was reasonable, at £31 including drinks and service. Green Tea was free, which was a thoughtful touch.
Overall, Wagamama Oxford is fun, funky and fast. A good destination for a quick and filling lunch when you're out and about, though personally I still prefer Yo! Sushi overall.