Friday, June 27, 2008

Bluefish Marinade

Bluefish Marinade
I write in a state the Aussies would describe as "shattered". Combine drive + ferry + shopping + fractious and bored 3 yr old.

Imagine how pleased I was, however, to arrive on island and find out that my father had just caught two bluefish, and could spare the filets from one. Bingo! This dish was extremely simple, and while I would never call bluefish one of the world's greatest eating fish, when it is super-fresh it can be quite tasty.

Bluefish filets, skinned
Big handful of cilantro, chopped
3 limes
1/4 cup of minced ginger
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Big handful of grape tomatoes

In a baking dish, I marinated the skinned and cleaned filets in cilantro (aka coriander), minced ginger, and the juice of 3 small limes, making sure that all sides were nicely coated. I also added a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. I covered the dish with plastic wrap and placed in the oven to marinate for a couple hours, turning the filets two or three times during that process.

I removed from the fridge a little before putting in oven, allowing dish and fish to return to room temperature. Then I took a handful of grape tomatoes and quartered them, scattering the quarters around and on the fish.

I preheated the oven to 375F and baked the fish for about 15 minutes. The actual time will depend on the thickness of your filets. You can check for done-ness by gently prying into the flesh to make sure that it is entirely white (no translucency) and cooked. Serve with some fresh pepper. Note: I suspect this dish would also be good with some capers added.

Brant Point
View of Brant Point

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Parsley is Food

Parsley Salad
I love parsley. I'll chop it up and stuff it into burgers by the handful. Sometimes I'll add it to stews in huge quantities. Tonight I whipped up a simple parsley, cucumber and tomato salad that was delicious.

The parsley salad was extremely easy. Wash a big bunch of parsley carefully and dry in a dish towel. Remove the leaves from the stalks, discard stalks, and chop up the leaves. I then took a cucumber, peeled it, and chopped that up into cubes about half a centimeter big. Last was a ripe tomato, which I also chopped up into small pieces. It all went into a bowl with the juice from two lemons, a bit of olive oil, a bit of rice vinegar, and some turns on the salt and pepper grinders.

Tomorrow we hit the road to Nantucket, so this was another "what's in the fridge to use" evening. Somehow we ended up with a bunch of unused vegetables, and yet again an uneaten green pepper, so I made a different kind of stuffed green pepper. As in the previous recipe, I halved the pepper and seeded it, leaving the stem. I then steamed the halves for about 7 minutes, immediately cooled them under some cold water to slow the cooking, and preheated the oven to 350F.

Stuffed Peppers
In a saute pan, I put a tbsp of butter and some olive oil, let that warm up over low heat, and added some chopped up red onion, celery, fennel, and a big handful of basil. I added some sea salt and pepper to taste. After the vegetables had slightly softened, I turned up the heat and added about a quarter cup of white wine, letting that cook down for a few minutes until there was no excess liquid. Then I turned off the heat.

I let the vegetables cool for a few minutes, then chopped up some mozzarella cheese and tossed it in. What I wish I had also done was make some breadcrumbs in the food processor to add to mix. I stuffed the peppers with the mix, laid some slices of mozzarella on top, and popped it in the oven (in a small baking dish) for about 25 minutes.

The final part of the meal was a broccoli rabe Italian sausage that I grilled.
Parsley salad, plated meal

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dry Rub Pork Loin (boneless "ribs")

Dry Rub Pork, Post Grill

::: Constables Larder has moved to :::

Dry Rub
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground black and red pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp brown sugar

Flat pork loin, cut into 6 boneless "ribs" about 4.5" long, 1" thick, 2" high
1/2 cup beer
Soy Sauce, approx 3/4 tsp

I've long wanted to try a dry rub barbecue and tonight I decided to take the plunge.

First, the meat: Adams Fairacre Farms is probably my favorite NY market outside of Manhattan (in particular I like the Kingston market and found the produce and butcher to be a bit better than the Newburgh store). They cut their pork loin into flat boneless "ribs" which they call "family style", and this is what I used tonight.

Next the dry rub: The spice measurements above are rough since I eyeballed proportions using a smallish kitchen spoon. I mixed the spices all together: paprika, pepper, cayenne, salt, brown sugar, cumin, ground coriander. If I had been less pressed for time (and trying to minimize cleanup), I probably would have blended it all together with a bay leaf as well. The measurements above were enough for the 6 smallish pieces of pork I was working with. I placed the rub in a baking dish and rubbed the pork pieces around until covered by the mix. I covered with plastic wrap and let marinate for about an hour on the counter (if longer, I would have placed back in fridge).

Dry Rub Pork Setup

I then mixed about half a cup of beer (I was drinking an excellent summery brew from the Ommegang brewery in Cooperstown, NY - their Witte Ale) with about half or a full teaspoon of soy sauce and brought out to the grill in a small bowl with a teaspoon.

On the hot portion of the grill, I seared one side of the pork then quickly moved to a more moderate heat. When I flipped to a new side, I repeated this process of searing briefly then returning to moderate heat. I took my beer/soy liquid and, using the spoon, gently poured some liquid over the pork periodically as it grilled. I probably grilled the pork for about 15 to 20 minutes, removing from heat when firm.

It came out absolutely delicious, with the cayenne providing a little kick but not excessively so. We rounded out the meal with some corn, grilled mushrooms, and Lisl whipped up a wonderful arugula, basil, tomato and red onion salad, dressed with olive oil, white wine vinegar and grey poupon mustard. Our teenage niece is visiting from Sydney, Australia (Lisl is an ozzie ozzie ozzie) and the meal was a hit. Score one! The whole thing was pretty efficient to execute and clean up after, and given that both of us had to go back to work, score two!

Dry Rub Pork, Full Plate

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tomato Beef braise, Fennel/Tomato salad, Cauliflower dinner

Tomato-based Beef Braise
It sometimes drives Lisl nuts when I create a two-color-palette meal, but I clearly have a tendency in that direction, as evidenced by the above photo. Today I got away with not having anything green on the plate! Granted that time for both of us was limited, but still there was enough to put together a decent meal.

This meal came about because the local butcher, the owner of an excellent store called Crisfields, sold me on a cut of what he called "super chuck" (once he starts pitching me on something, I usually fold like a house of cards). The steak was a 1.5 inch think cut of chuck, shaped not unlike a typical brisket cut, but with much more marbling.

Tomato Beef Braise
2 lb flat cut of chuck steak
1 yellow onion
4 carrots
3 celery stalks
2 tins of italian peeled tomatoes (14 oz)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh oregano
Bay leaf

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven on the stove top on medium-high heat. Salt and pepper both sides of the beef and once the pot is hot, sear on both sides for a minute or two either side. Remove and set aside.

Chop up a yellow onion and 3 or 4 garlic cloves and saute in olive oil over low heat for a few minutes until onions start to turn translucent. Take 3 celery stalks and 4 peeled carrots, and put them in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped (I wanted the flavor but not extra chunkiness, hence this step). Add to the pot and saute for a few more minutes. Add two tins of Italian skinless tomatoes and about half a cup of wine (in this case I used white but red would do). I think I added about two teaspoons of salt, a bunch of ground pepper, bay leaf (or two) and a nice handful of fresh oregano. Once this is all simmering for a bit, break up the tomatoes with your spatula and nestle the beef in the sauce. Spoon some sauce over top to make sure there is moisture on all sides of the beef.

In my case, I didn't have the ability to start this recipe during the day, so I put it on when I went to bed the night before, and set the oven nice and low at 225F. In the morning I spooned away some of the melted fat, moved it all into another container, and placed in the fridge. That night after work, I put it back into the dutch oven, got it simmering again on the stovetop, added salt and pepper to taste, tossed in some more oregano, and left uncovered in the oven at 250F for another hour or two.

This ended up delicious and flaky, but so rich that I decided to serve it with some cauliflower, simply steamed, to have a healthy but neutral addition, and then whipped up a tomato and fennel salad to add a bit of acidity. This was probably my last braise for a little while, given the rapidly rising temperatures.

Cherry Tomato and Fennel Salad
Half a fennel bulb
A handful of cherry tomatoes

I sliced the cherry tomatoes into 4 slivers and placed in a bowl. The fennel bulb I washed then sliced as thin as I could with a sharp knife. Because I didn't have a mandolin to cut it really fine, I decided to soften the fennel a touch by steaming it for about 2 or 3 minutes, then adding to the bowl. I dashed some olive oil, rice vinegar, salt, pepper, and lemon on top to complete.

P.S. I'm not going to give myself awards for food photography any time soon, not least because I am usually hungry so hurry it along, but it was nice to discover that I could manually set the white balance on my little Canon digital, and that helped remove the orange cast I was seeing with night shots. I can always aspire to be like Aun, a high school friend, who takes the dreamiest pictures of food ever.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jamie Oliver's Meatballs

::: Constables Larder has moved to :::

This is one of my favorite recipes from Jamie Oliver's cookbook The Naked Chef, with some alterations. A large cast iron skillet is very handy for putting this together and it can be a reasonably efficient process, especially if you've already got the tomato sauce prepped.

2 lb ground beef
2 slices of bread (I like a farm or stone white bread)
2 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, pounded in a mortar
pinch of red chilli powder (or half a small dried red chili, pounded)
1 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
1 egg yolk (I think I used the whole egg)
olive oil
2 big handfuls of fresh basil
mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Tomato sauce (see below)

Use a food processor to make your breadcrumbs with your two slices of bread. In a big bowl, add the bread crumbs, dried oregano, cumin, chilli, rosemary, egg yolk, ground meat, 2 tsp of salt and some ground pepper. I often like to add some finely chopped red onion too. Mix it all up with your hands and roll into meatballs (I usually make them 1.5 or 2 inches in diameter).

Preheat oven to 400F

Heat 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil in your cast iron skillet over medium high heat. If you want to check whether it is hot enough, add a few drops of water and if it immediately pops and crackles then it is ready. Add a batch of meatballs and brown them all over, turning them with a set of tongs. Be gentle so that you don't break them up.

If you only have enough meatballs for one layer in the skillet, add in enough tomato sauce to cover, your fresh basil (tear up the bigger leaves), and add some chunks of mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan. If you have more meatballs, you might do this in two layers. Cook in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is golden.

Tomato sauce
You can certainly try the meatball recipe with a favorite tomato sauce, but Oliver suggests a simple and good recipe in the same cookbook, which is below:

1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch of red chilli powder or a small dried red chilli, crumbled
2 tsp dried oregano
three 14oz cans of italian plum tomatoes
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 handful of basil or marjoram (or both), roughly chopped
salt and fresh black pepper

In a thick bottomed pan cook the garlic in the 2 tbsp of olive oil on low heat for a minute or two until golden, then add chilli, oregano and tomatoes. Mix gently -- Oliver suggests letting the sauce cook for a while before breaking up the tomatoes so the seeds stay inside. Bring to a boil and gently simmer for an hour. Add the vinegar, then stir and chop up the tomatoes with your wooden spoon (they should be pretty easy to break up). Add your fresh basil or marjoram, add another 2-3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. (Frankly, I just use virgin olive oil throughout, rather than two kinds).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mulitmedia seven-layer dip

Last night, I went to a friend's house for drinks, where one of the snacks was seven-layer dip. It brought back great memories of my old friend Laurie Kesselman, who made an excellent version of this for many get-togethers on her roof in the West Village, as well as my baby shower and numerous other parties - she was a real pro at it. It's really quite delicious and satisfying!

For those unfamiliar with this dish (i.e. Australians), it's a great tex-mex vegetarian (usually) party dish that's good for any season. The basic concept is layering beans, guacamole, sour cream, chopped up green (spring) onions, diced tomatoes, chopped black olives, and shredded cheese, or you can add in green peppers, jalapeno, ground beef, or anything else that takes your fancy. I went hunting for a recipe online and found so many - you can start from scratch with making your own refried beans, or make it up from seasoning mixes and pre-prepared dips from the supermarket. You can even serve the beans hot under all the other ingredients.

I really like the Food Network's version, which uses lots of fresh herbs and lettuce and healthier substitutes for some of the ingredients, such as greek yogurt for the sour cream and rinsed canned black beans instead of canned refried beans - a picture and the recipe is below. But for pure entertainment value, take a look at this video on Cool!

Food Network's Six Layers and a Chip Dip
From Food Network Kitchens

2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1(15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups lowfat shredded Cheddar
2 ripe avocados, preferably Hass
1 jalapeno, stemmed, finely chopped, (with seeds for more heat)
2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 1/2 cups nonfat yogurt, preferably Greek
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, leaves and some stems, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
3 ripe medium tomatoes, diced
5 scallions (white and green), thinly sliced
Baked tortilla chips, for dipping

On a cutting board, smash the garlic cloves, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt, and, with the flat side of a large knife, mash and smear the mixture to a coarse paste. Put the garlic, beans, chili powder, water, and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Spread in the bottom of a 2 quart casserole or gratin dish, or in individual sized dishes, as desired.
Scatter the cheese over the beans. Halve and seed the avocados, then mash with the jalapeno and another teaspoon of salt in a small bowl. Spread a layer of the avocado over the cheese, and then scatter the lettuce on top.
Mix the yogurt with the cilantro and then spread over the lettuce. Add a layer of tomatoes and finally scatter the scallions on top. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with a few cilantro sprigs and serve with baked chips.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday lunch: Caper Potato Salad and Marinated Pork

Summer Sundays are great for catching up with friends for lunch on our Rye deck. A perfect day sees the kids tearing around playing havoc with the toys while the adults relax under the umbrella enjoying beers and lunch. The hot weather at the moment is just right for salads and grilled meats - fresh flavors and mostly cold food. Today, we had a delicious grilled marinated pork, french style potato salad (without mayo) and a greek-ish salad of cucumber, peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onion and feta cheese.

Sunday Lunch 6-15-08

Pork marinade: Apple cider vinegar, coriander (cilantro), jalapeno peppers and a dash of soy sauce. We marinated the meat overnight and then grilled on the BBQ.

Potato salad: Boil small red potatoes until tender. Meanwhile mix dressing - minced shallot, parsley, 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar, 1 tbs Dijon mustard; whisk together while adding about 6 tbs olive oil in a stream; finish off with a couple of teaspoons of capers. Dice the cooked potatoes and mix with dressing while warm so they soak it up. Eat warm or refrigerated.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chilled Avocado & Cucumber Soup (and photo struggles)

Tonight I played with a soup that would work on a hot evening, which combined a base inspired by the Food & Wine's 2007 Annual Cookbook and a relish picked up from an old issue of Gourmet.

Soup base:
1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
2 avocados, pitted and peeled
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine all the ingrediants into a blender and blend until smooth. Theoretically one could then strain this, but I found it smooth enough as is. The buttermilk adds a wonderful tang, not unlike a good natural yogurt.

Corn Relish
2 fresh ears of corn
6 cherry tomatoes
handful of cilantro
1 tablespoon of minced shallots
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar

I find that the only useful thing the microwave can do, other than heating up spagetti sauce, is cooking corn.* Leave the corn in the husk, cutting off the excess on either end, and microwave for 2 1/2 minutes. Set aside and let cool before removing husk. Chop up the tomatoes and the cilantro, then combine in a bowl with the minced shallots, lime juice, sugar, salt, and olive oil. Husk the corn and with a sharp knife remove the kernals. Mix the kernals in.

When you serve the soup, dollop the relish in the soup and lightly mix in.

* my favorite way to cook corn is to leave in husk, soak in water, and cook on the grill for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on grill heat

The combination came out pretty well. What did not was the photo. Right now I'm trying to use a digital camera, and *thought* that I had enough light for the pictures, but as you can see below they came out in an orange-tinted shadow (the image on the right is a separate mushroom dish I tried that also suffered from the orange plague). Clearly I have some work to do understanding my camera's settings, since I primarily cook in the evenings when natural light is an impossibility. [UPDATE: I just use a small digital camera (Canon SD1100) and first tried playing with the ISO speeds, but really the easiest solution to get decent shots is the manual white balance feature.]

Three Cheese Salad

3 Cheese Salad
On a hot, humid Saturday, we wanted something light, fast to prepare, and which would go nicely with a Brooklyn Lager wheat beer. Our combination:

Ripe tomatoes, sliced into bite-sizes (campari, grape or cherry tomatoes recommended)
A big handful of fresh basil, torn
Mozarella cheese, cut into small cubes
Feta cheese, cut into small cubes
Parmigan cheese, shaved
Pine nuts
Olive oil
White wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper

For reasons only known to the most obscure of Greek god, Audrey has decided today that she is a squirrel and mommy and daddy are trees. We managed to scrape her off long enough to throw together a meal!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Scavenger meal: stuffed green peppers

Post audrey bathtime, post work conference call, I looked in the fridge to see what I could throw together. Green pepper, check, leftover black beans, nice!, spring onions, cilantro? hmmm that isn't a happy color for cilantro, moving on ... tomatoes... ok, we're off to the races.

1 green pepper
Basmati rice
1 medium tomato, diced
Black beans (see recipe)
2 spring onions, diced
Montery Jack cheese
salt and pepper
Hot chili sauce

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Halve your green pepper, then remove the seeds leaving the stem. Steam them for 8 to 10 minutes then set aside. Cook up some rice (in this case I used basmati and made a full cup but only used a serving spoon's worth). In a mixing bowl, combine your rice, beans, spring onions, tomato, a handful of grated cheese, and a little salt and a healthy dose of pepper. Add something to give it some heat, this dish wants a kick -- right now I am using some Sriracha hot chili sauce but would have preferred some fresh serrano or jalapeno peppers. Ah, the limits of the scavenger meal.

Stuff the pepper halves with your mixture and grate some more cheese on the top. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes.

And now for the ultimate scavenge score: ONE more bottle of wine in the house, and it's a South African Shiraz. Ok enough blogging, time to eat.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Minnesota cream of wild rice soup?

Lisl's gastronomic business trip continues. We rocked up to St Paul last night looking for comfort food. Who knew that cream of wild rice soup is not only a Minnesota specialty but quite delicious? Looking for the recipe on, there seem to be two schools of thought on how Minnesota wild rice soup should be made - one with cream and the other with tomatoes and spices. I had the creamy one last night and it was great, but I'm sure Giff will want the spicy one.

Here's a recipe I found that looks close to what I had last night. Looking forward to experimenting when I get home (when the temperature drops below 60 or we get air conditioning)

1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. raw wild rice
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1/2 c. diced onions
1/2 c. diced celery
1/2 c. diced carrot
Soup stock, about 4 1/2 c.
3-4 tsp. cornstarch
2 c. whipping cream or half and half

In heavy pan, melt the butter over medium heat and saute the wild rice, almonds, onion, celery and carrot for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the soup stock and simmer over low heat for 1 1/4 hours, skimming occasionally. Thicken with the cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup of cream. Stir in the remaining cream.

Dinner at Venticello in San Francisco

While Giff tends the kitchen at home in Rye in 100 degree heat, I have been on business in San Francisco. After meetings were finished yesterday evening, I went with a colleague to Venticello, a small Italian restaurant on Nobb Hill. We took a cab from downtown; the streets around there are incredibly steep and it would have been an adventure in my suit and heels. Brought back memories of wheeling Audrey around there in her stroller on our visit in March (wearing sneakers then).

The restaurant is on the corner of Taylor and Washington and boasts a peek-through view of the Bay Bridge through the corner window, open to take advantage of the gorgeous weather. Still on NY time, the restaurant was nearly empty when we arrived and we were early enough to grab seats close to the view. (The photo here looks back at the dining room away from the view at the pizza oven.) The service was friendly and reasonably attentive, although I discovered a service peeve - waiters who obsess over the possessive. Why did this waiter describe the specials as his very own? "my soup today is..." "my appetizer special is..."? Does he really think we believe he's going down to the kitchen to put it together personally? Or that he designed the menu? "Our" would have been so much more appropriate. I know - picky, picky.

The food was very good. I had a lovely beet, bibb lettuce and tomato salad to start served in a raddicio cup (which went by the tongue-twisting name of Barbabietola) and the rabbit special to follow. Rabbit is not something I usually gravitate towards, but there was something very warm and satisfying-sounding about the dish (guess the waiter did his job well there) and I had great memories of a rabbit dish Michael Granne cooked for us once (my then 13-year old niece Ashleigh was visiting at the time and we had to tell her it was chicken; she was appalled when she discovered what it was, but had eaten and enjoyed most of it by that point). I remember being pleasantly surprised at the color, consistency and flavor of the meat. This rabbit came stewed in a delicious brown sauce with mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, served around polenta - I really enjoyed it. The meal was rounded out by a lovely Italian red wine chosen by my colleague from Taurasi in the Campagna region. Altogether a very good meal.

Vibing the Oliver

I'm a huge fan of Jamie Oliver's cooking style. He cooks wonderful but totally unpretentious meals. In the immortal words of Dennis Denuto, it's the vibe of the thing. Some cookbooks are so complicated that it is hard to free-form with a recipe or simplify to speed the process, but not Jamie's. I recently picked his "family cookbook" and now have a slew of recipes to take apart. While I have my eye on a Pumpkin Laksa soup, I think in this heat my prime target is the Thai Watermelon Salad, which is a combination of watermelon, cilantro, arugula (i.e. rocket), mint, radish, sunflower seeds (or peanuts), and feta, with a dressing that is a classic mix of ginger, chilis, soy sauce, sesame oil, limes, and olive oil. I think that's definitely on the menu for next Saturday lunch.

Since Audrey is clamoring for watermelon at breakfast, lunch and dinner, we definitely have some around!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Blue Cashew Cuban Black Beans

Gregory Triana, co-owner of the fabulous kitchen and dinnerware supply store Blue Cashew in High Falls, NY (warning: dangerous store to wallet), sent me this wonderful vegetarian black bean recipe.

It definitely takes some time and attention but is worth it. Given my carnivore tendencies and my inability to leave a recipe alone, I have started dabbling with adding chorizo or beef to it to good effect, but so far I think the original vegetarian version below is the best.

I usually just make 1 pound of dried beans, and therefore cut the amount of garlic, but have played with keeping the cumin, green pepper and onion portions the same, also to good effect.

Thank you to Gregory for letting me share this here.

2 – 1lb. Bags of Goya Black Beans ( I like the size and texture of their beans when cooked)
2- Medium to Large Spanish Onions –red onion works as well (To be used at different times)
2- Medium to Large Green Peppers (To be used at different times)
8- Large Garlic Cloves (To be used at different times)
6 – Dried Bay Leaves (To be used at different times)
Coarse Salt ( To be used as you cook, you must taste as you go and depending on your salt level add accordingly
Pepper and (Crushed Black Pepper also for a touch later)
Spanish Olive Oil ( I suggest Goya Spanish Olive Oil or a Sicilian Olive Oil its hearty and cloudy and great for beans)
1-Teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
Ground Cumin

Preparation for Soaking The Beans
Take your beans and clean/rinse very carefully several times they sometimes contain little pebbles in the pot
Cut 1- Spanish Onion into quarters - place in the pot
Cut 1- Green Pepper remove seeds into quarters - place in the pot
1-Teaspoon of Ground Cumin - place in the pot
1-Teaspoon of Coarse Salt - place in the pot
1-Teaspoon of Black Pepper - place in the pot
1 1/2-Tablespoon of Olive Oil - place in the pot
4-Large Peeled Garlic Cloves – Take ur paring knife and cut a slit into them - place in the pot
3- Dried Bay Leaves

Mix all together -- Gregory likes to use his hands but spoons work as well.
Fill the pot with water about 1 inch above the bean line, cover and soak overnight for at least 12 hours....

In the morning....
Check the water bean line and some of the water might have been absorbed so add more at least 1inch above the bean line
Bring to a high boil for about 5minutes, stir and reduce to low
Cook uncovered for about 2 1/2 hours.... Skim occasionally and stir - check the water line never let it dry out and check bean tenderness.
If you need to add water it must be warm.
After 2 1/2 hours the vegetables (onion, green pepper, cloves, etc.. should have basically dissolved to nothing)
Discard the bay leaves and remove the vegetables and place into a food mill most of them do not worry if you leave a few behind.
Add some liquid of the beans and a few beans to create a nice paste- remove from your food mill and add back to the pot....
Taste the bean tenderness most should have cracked and they should be tender not MUSH, not hard...
Continue to cook low heat.... Add your last 3-remaining bay leaves
Add some fresh cracked pepper – to taste.

Final Step.... Making the Sofrito!

A Skillet/Fry Pan will be needed
Finely dice/cube your remaining onion – set aside
Finely dice/cube your remaining green pepper remove seeds – set aside
Mince your remaining garlic cloves – set aside
Add about 1/4 cup of olive oil to the fry pan low heat until FRAGRANT do not smoke it at all
Add the garlic stir do not let it brown
Add the onion continue to stir until opaque and tender about 8-10minutes
Add the green pepper cook until tender
Add pinch of salt to taste
Add pinch of black ground pepper
Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar sometimes I use the cap of the bottle as the measurement
Add the cumin 1teaspoon
Stir – mix well making sure all flavors are combined
Remove from heat and add all contents to the beans that are still cooking at low temp.
Continue to cook ur beans for about another hour low heat – covered.

Gregory's Notes: You're basically done... The beans should be tender, the broth a bit thick and ur done... Set aside serve and eat or store in the fridge. Black beans should always be served with long grain white rice – but we sometimes use a kashi rice or brown but never yellow!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pork and Fennel Braise

I winged this one early evening several weeks ago, inspired I think by a picture in a Jamie Oliver book for a different recipe. This is my attempt to remember what I did. The results were quite nice, with the fennel almost melting and the pork roast cooked inside a blanket of a kind of stuffing.

2 slices white italian or farm bread
1/2 cup black olives
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 or 3 fennel bulbs, cut into eighths
2 garlic cloves
1.5 to 2 lb pork roast
1/2 cup dry white wine (more or less... I sometimes use more)

Preheat oven to 310 F. Peel your 2 garlic cloves and slice into slivers. With the tip of a sharp knife, poke holes around your pork roast and tuck the garlic slivers inside. In a dutch oven, heat up some olive oil on high heat and sear the pork on all sides for a minute or so each, then remove and turn off heat.

Place the fennel bulb pieces in the bottom of the dutch oven, leaving a bit of a dip in the middle to hold the roast.

In a food processor, pulse up the bread, olives, walnuts, fennel seeds, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Take this paste and thickly coat the pork roast with it, then place the roast on top of the fennel, and pour the white wine around. Grind some salt and pepper on the fennel, cover, and pop in the oven for a slow cook. After an hour, flip the roast carefully so you don't wreck the coating, and gently stir the fennel. Continue checking the pan and stirring the fennel every 30 minutes or so. If it is dry at the bottom of the dutch oven, add a little more white wine or water. Cooking time will depend on the size of the roast, but expect 2 or 3 hours (I usually check by testing firmness of the roast).

Grilling Mushrooms

Grilled Mushrooms
I love to grill mushrooms, especially big white cup mushrooms. I'll put them top-side down in a baking dish and drizzle them with olive oil, then balsamic vinegar. I will also pour into each cap a touch of worcestershire sauce, and a touch of soy sauce. If you have a basting brush, it makes it really easy to ensure that the tops (face down in the dish) and sides also get a coating. Let the mushrooms marinate for a good 30 minutes before you grill, and then grill on medium heat, flipping once or twice.

Try not to cook these on a really hot part of your grill, because you want them to cook for about 20 to 25 minutes, and you don't want them to burn. Your mushrooms will come out with a wonderful texture and rich flavor.

Asparagus & Black Olives

Here is another quick recipe that I can't quite remember where I picked it up, but it is an easy and delicious way to make asparagus.

black olives
Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Wash and dry your asparagus, trimming the ends where they get tough. Place in a baking dish and scatter the tomatoes and black olives on top (I like adding healthy amounts of both). Drizzle olive oil across everything, and if you have more than one layer of asparagus (too many to fit on the bottom of the dish), then mix it all together a bit. Grind some salt and pepper on top and place in an oven set for 350 F. After 10 minutes, stir the dish again. Continue to check for when the dish is done, but my recollection is that it takes about 20 minutes.

I have also added basil, a touch of white wine, or a touch of rice vinegar to this.

Moqueca de Peixe

This is a fabulous Brazilian fish recipe that I got out of a Saveur magazine and simplified (I think their recipe called for dende oil, which needless to say, I did not have easy access to).

6 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
4 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt, to taste
several skin-on or skinless filets (grouper, tilapia, snapper)
3 medium yellow onions (2 chopped, 1 thinly sliced)
1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 ripe plum tomatoes (2 finely chopped, 2 sliced)

1. put 2 tbsp of the cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and salt in a wide, shallow dish and stir to combine. transfer the fish to the dish and turn to coat all over with garlic mixture. let marinate at room temperature for 20-30 minutes

2. puree half of the chopped onions and the coconut milk in a blender and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add remaining chopped tomatoes and 2 tbsp of cilantro and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are soft (about 5 min). Add reserved coconut milk puree and salt, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

3. nestle fish in the sauce (skin side up if skin), and pour marinade over the top. Add remaining cilantro. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook, covered, spooning sauce over filets from time to time, until fish is just cooked through (depends on size of your filets, but say 15 to 20 min). During last 5 minutes of cooking, scatter the sliced onions and sliced tomatoes over the top. Serve with rice.

Giff's notes: I have made this with Tilapia and loved the results. I like to use a red onion for the sliced rings that you sprinkle on the top of the dish for the last 5 min of cooking.

Gourmet Mac & Cheese

mac and cheese

I believe that this recipe originally came from a Gourmet magazine, which I adapted to simplify. It is rich and very delicious.

1 lb tube shaped pasta such as rigatoni or penne rigate (Campanelle is also very nice)
2 tbsp butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary (optional)
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 tbsp flour
3 1/2 cups milk
2 tbsp Dijon mustard (ideally whole grain)
1 lb aged cheddar cheese grated on large holes of a box grater
ground pepper
1/2 cup coarse bread crumbs (make by putting stale or fresh bread, crust removed, through a food processor)

1. preheat oven to 400. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 7 minutes -- you do not want the pasta to be fully cooked. Drain, then rinse under cold running water in a collander.

2. melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat (I like to use a cast iron pan so I only have one pot to wash). Add onions, garlic, thyme, and rosemary (if used) and cook until onions are soft, 8-10 minutes. If you do not have fresh herbs, use a pinch of dried thyme. Add wine and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove and discard the sprigs of herbs (if you used dried herbs, just leave in the mix). Whisk in flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk then mustard. Reduce heat to keep the sauce at a gentle simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until thick and creamy (about 30 minutes). Remove pan from heat and stir in most of the cheese, leaving about 1/2 to 1 cup of cheese for the top. Stir in the cheese a handful at a time, stirring until completely melted after each addition. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. fold pasta into sauce and stir until well coated. If your pan is not oven-proof, transfer everything to a baking dish. Scatter the remaining cheese on top, then sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake until crust is golden, about 25 minutes.

Mac and Cheese
I prefer making this in a wide cast iron frying pan, but it also works with a narrower, deeper pot such as the above.

Kale and White Bean Soup

This is a recipe I adapted from one of the food magazines (I think Gourmet). When I could not find kale, I have used the coarse leaves of dark green cabbage. Rachel Ray has a really fast version of this kind of hearty soup where she uses a loaf of Italian bread to thicken it up. Yum.

1 lb. dried great northern, cannelli or navy beans
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 cups chicken broth
2 quarts water
1/2 cup vermouth or white wine
1 3x2 inch parmigiano-reggiano rind
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tsp freshly chopped rosemary
1 lb smoked sausage (ideally kielbasa) sliced 1/4 inch thick
8 carrots, halved and cut in 1/4 inch pieces
1 lb. kale (lacinato), with stems and center ribs discarded and coarsely chopped

» Soak beans overnight.
» Bring beans to boil and remove from heat to sit for 1 hour
» Cook onions and garlic in olive oil at the bottom of your soup pot, then add beans, chicken broth, 1 quart water, wine/vermouth, carrots, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary. Simmer uncovered for approx. 50 minutes.
» Brown sausage in pan and drain.
» Stir in kale, sausage, and 1 quart water. Simmer until kale is tender, approx. 10-15 minutes.
» Season to taste
» Like many soups, this recipe is even better if you make it a day or two in advance and refrigerate. Reheat and serve.

Cilantro & Ginger Pork

cilantro and ginger baked pork

I winged this one evening in London many years ago and it was a hit. It's a great, easy way to whip together a tasty pork dish when you don't have access to a grill (my preferred method of cooking ribs and chops). The medium cooking temperature will help keep the pork moist, but you want to try to not let it overcook. I prefer to make this with pork chops, but the pictures were actually taken from a meal where I used country-style pork ribs.

4 Thickly cut pork chops, on or off the bone
1 bunch cilantro (coriander)
1 or 2 tbsp fresh ginger
2 bunches of spring onions (green onions)
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers (or serrano if no jalapeno)
olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

In a baking dish large enough to hold all the pork chops, coat the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil. Create a bed of the following: chop up half of the spring onions deep into the green part; mince the ginger and use half; halve, seed and chop up the hot peppers and use half; finely chop the cilantro and use half.

cilantro and ginger baked pork

Next, wash and dry the pork chops and score both sides with a sharp knife in a criss-cross fashion, which helps the marinade penetrate. Lay the chops on top of the base and add some salt and pepper.

Distribute the remaining spring onions, ginger, cilantro, and hot peppers over the top of the pork chops.

Pour cup white wine vinegar over the pork. Optional: you can also pour over 1/4 cup of white wine or vermouth.

cilantro and ginger baked pork

Ideally, you have time to let this marinate for a while but it is not absolutely necessary. If you want to marinate for a long period, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

Place in the oven and cook at 350 F. Cook until the chops feel firm, which usually takes about 40 minutes to an hour depending on the thickness of the meat. If you are unsure about how firm the pork should feel, you can cut into one to see how well done the middle is, and remember that when you remove the pork it will continue cooking in its own juices for a few minutes.

Optional: turn on the broiler for a few minutes at the very end to brown the top.

Pork & White wine vinegar

In London, we lived across the street from Lidgate, a marvelous butcher, and I started cooking pork for the first time. I believe the keys to good pork are timing and marinade. One recipe I saw brined pork chops in pickling spices. I simplified into this concoction.

4 Thickly cut pork chops, off the bone
2 tsp country seed mustard
2 tsp Olive oil
1/2 lemon
2 tsp White wine vinegar
very large handful parsley leaves, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
coarsely ground salt and pepper

» Wash and dry the pork chops, lightly score both sides, and place on a baking tray. Smear both sides of pork with mustard, olive oil, vinegar, parsely, onion, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. You can also add a splash of vermouth or white wine to this.
» Squeeze lemon juice over the pork and flip chops until both sides are reasonably covered with the marinade. Spread the parsely and onion on and around the chops. Let sit for 1-2 hours out of refrigerator, or overnight in the fridge.
» Preheat oven to 425 degrees (or broiler) and slide tray in. Depending on how thick your chops are, they should only need a few minutes to cook on each side. Cut into one to check for color -- if the chops are still pink inside, they need just a few minutes more. Try not to overcook.

Note: I have also cooked this for longer under a lower heat like 350 F. The timing can be tricky to get right, but it can leave the pork nice and juicy if you don't let it overcook.

Spicy Thai Beef Salad (Yum Nuea)

I think I snagged this, or something resembling this, out of a magazine but it was too long ago to remember where.

London broil or skirt steak

fresh minced Ginger
1 Bunch of spring onions, minced including green part
1 small Red Onion
3-4 medium tomatoes
3 serrano peppers
Bunch of cilantro
1 large or 2 medium cucumbers
1/4 cup Fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tbsp Dark soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 leaves of red leaf or romano lettuce

» Score the beef and let sit in a marinade of soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and hot peppers. Broil it until medium to well-done.
» In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes (cut into wedges), cucumber (de-skinned, halved and sliced finely), red onion (halved and very finely sliced), lettuce (washed, dried and torn into small pieces), and a hefty bunch of cilantro (loosely chopped).
» In a small mixing bowl, create the dressing by combining: fish sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, 2-4 tbsp fresh minced ginger, serrano peppers (halved, seeded and finely chopped), sesame oil, and for a bit more kick, I sometimes add in a touch of Rice Wine Vinegar.
» Finely slice the beef (and halve the larger pieces), add to salad and mix in dressing. Let the salad sit for a bit so that the beef marinates further in the dressing.

Stuffed Peppers

This is an adaptation from a Joy of Cooking recipe.

2 or 3 sweet peppers (red, orange or yellow)
block of parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts
saffron rice (you can buy or make yourself)
1 bunch spring onions
Bunch of cilantro
1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh spinach leaves
1 small serrano pepper

» Halve and seed the peppers, leaving the stem, and steam them for 10 minutes. Put aside.
» Make the saffron rice and add to the rice: pine nuts, minced serrano pepper (halved and seeded), 4 chopped spring onions (only the white part), 1/3 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese, chopped spinach, and 1/2 cup of water (or chicken broth). Mix in a few pinches of salt and pepper.
» Lightly coat baking dish with olive oil. Stuff pepper halves with rice mixture and top with parmesan cheese shavings. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees (F)

Mom's Meatloaf

This is an old family favorite, and I have yet to find a restaurant meatloaf that is better. As usual, I picked up this recipe watching Mom in the kitchen and so amounts are not exact, especially with the seasonings.

2 pounds ground beef
2-3 stalks celery, diced
6-8 white mushrooms, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 egg
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1-2 tbsp ketchup (or tomato paste with a little water added)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
breadcrumbs (optional)

» (Optional) Saute the onions until translucent, then add mushrooms, celery and herbs and cook for a few minutes. This step can be skipped if you like your veggies a little crunchier.
» Combine everything in a large mixing bowl except for the bacon. If you first sauted your vegetables, let that cool a bit before putting in the bowl and adding the egg. Mix up the ingredients with your hands until everything is evenly distributed.
» Take out a large baking dish and shape the meatloaf.
» Lay strips of bacon on top of the meatloaf (you can trim extra fat or cut them to the proper length). I typically lay them across the width, and lay the bacon so that each piece is touching the next.
» Preheat oven and cook at 425 degrees (F) for about 10-15 minutes, then turn down to 350 degrees. Test the meatloaf for firmness to see if cooking is finished, but it usually takes about an hour.

My Shepherd's Pie

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This is my version of Shepherd's Pie, inspired by a recipe in the Dean & Deluca cookbook. I almost always cook this with ground beef, and the amounts below can be totally altered depending on your whim. I prefer to make this in a flat cast-iron skillet with decently-high sides that can be placed directly into the oven, but of course you can create this in non-oven-ready pots and combine everything in a baking dish.

Mashed Potatoes (the top layer)
6 to 8 medium red or gold potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup milk (or to your desired level of fluffiness)
2 tbsp butter
parsely, finely chopped (optional)

» Boil potatoes (can cut them into smaller pieces to speed cooking) in salted water in a large pot
» Drain potatoes and mash. Add 2 tbsp butter, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper (parsley optional here). Add milk (may need more or less than 1/2 cup depending on amount of potatoes) to the point where potatoes are moist but not yet liquidy.

Base of Shepherd's Pie
1 pound lean ground beef (or ground lamb
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
1 1/2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp flour
1 medium yellow or white onion, minced
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
1/2 cup beef stock (can be skipped)
3-4 bacon rashers (in U.S., canadian bacon; can use regular bacon too)
salt and pepper
1 tsp tomato paste

» Cook bacon thoroughly in a touch of olive oil in a large cast iron frying pan (or whatever pan you have). Remove from pan and drain most of the bacon grease.
» In same pan, brown the ground beef over moderate heat and season as you cook with 1/2 tsp salt, rosemary, and worcestershire sauce. Once browned, sprinkle with flour, stirring the flour in and let cook for another 4 minutes. Remove meat and drain excess grease from pan.
» Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F)
» Saute onion and carrot in frying pan and cook until onion is translucent. Increase heat slightly and add wine and stock, deglazing bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook for another 5 minutes until liquid is reduced by half. (Optional: add a tsp of tomato paste for a richer flavor)
» While this is cooking, chop up bacon into small bits
» Add meat and bacon back into pan and cook together for a few minutes, until the liquid turns into a nice thick sauce (if it gets very dry, add a little more stock or wine)

Combine and bake:
» If you are using a cast iron pan, your meat and vegetables are already in the pan as the bottom layer. Otherwise, move the mixture to a baking disk. Cover with the mashed potatoes. Smooth the top (easier with a fork, which also lets you make fun patterns) and bake in the oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes until heated thoroughly. I will often turn the heat way up at the very end to brown the top just a bit.

Easy Oven Pancake

One Thanksgiving, my sister and I stayed with some friends of our parents who had a place in Sonoma. For breakfast, our host put this combination together for a quick and delicious start. My wife prefers real pancakes, but I am a fan of this.

1 cup milk
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup flour
2 eggs

» Mix ingrediants together.
» Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large baking dish and pour in mixture. Bake at 400 degrees (F) for 30 to 40 minutes.

Grandma House's Egg Nog

This is another recipe my Mom picked up from our Maryland Grandmother. Every time I make it, I seem to reduce the amount of liquor and still wind up with a potent creation. The original recipe had a lot more "sauce" than this version.

1 quart light cream
1 quart deluxe eggnog mix or heavy cream
12 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 1/2 cup super-fine sugar
1 pint whipping cream
dark rum

» Beat egg yolks and sugar until yolks are very pale
» Add booze in the following proportions to taste: 2 parts bourbon to 1 part brandy and 1 part dark rum (my original note says 1/2 quart bourbon, 1/4 quart brandy, 1/4 quart rum but you might start with less and add to taste). Beat mixture as you add liquor.
» Add light cream then eggnog mix (or heavy cream).
» Beat whipping cream until thick and add to mixture
» Beat egg whites until stiff and fold in two thirds of the egg white
» Before serving whip up rest of egg whites and add
» grate nutmeg on top and serve.

Grandma's Oyster Stew

This is a traditional Christmas dinner appetizer for our family, and it is really more of a soup than a stew. As with most recipes, all the amounts below can be changed to fit the taste you are looking for.

2-4 tb butter
1-2 cups diced onion or leek
1/2 - 1 cup chopped celery
3 pints oysters and their liquid
2 cups milk or half-and-half
1 cup cream
1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
1/8 tsp white pepper
worcestershire sauce
thinly sliced mushrooms (optional, but we love the addition)

» Saute onion/leek, celery and mushrooms (if used) in butter in large soup pan.
» Add liquid and oysters and cook on low heat until the oysters float. Flavor with salt (to taste), pepper, and a few drops of worcestshire sauce. Add chopped parsely just before serving.

Mom's Thanksgiving Turkey

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My mother took this recipe from the New York Times in 1973 (John Hess, 11/15/1973)

Making the broth
The turkey neck and giblets
3 cups water
1 large, quartered onion
1 sliced carrot
A few parsley stems
1 bay leaf
Take the turkey neck and giblets and cook with 3 cups of water along with onion, carrot, parsley, and a bay leaf.
Simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hour. (optional: add chicken or veal broth)

Making the stuffing
The turkey liver, minced
1 pound pork sausage (without casing)
1 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup very thinly sliced celery (Giff: I'll often increase this to 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp thyme
1 loaf good bread (Giff note: I usually use about 3 or 4 cupfuls, not a full loaf)
1 cup sliced black olives
1 cup broken walnut
1/2 cup chopped italian parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup of stock broth
2 tbsp of cognac or 2-4 tbsp madeira/port
finely chopped green apple (Giff: I usually use about half of a large apple)
large handful of cremini or white mushrooms, chopped

1. Toast the bread and let it partially dry, then cut into small squares (or vice versa)
2. Brown sausage and then add onion, celery and thyme
3. Combine everything else

(Giff: I usually like to make extra and cook it on the stovetop, adding more stock as necessary to keep from being too dry. This amount is good for 8 people, leaving some yummy leftovers)

Cooking the Turkey
»Stuff the turkey then truss with heavy needle and thread. Bring wings close to body and tie legs up and together.
»Wipe bird and rub it with softened butter. Salt and pepper all over.
»Lay bird on its side in an oven-proof platter of same size.
»Roast a 10-12 pound bird about 2 hours. Roast a 15-16 lb. bird about 3 hours. Cook at 450 degrees (F) for 30 minutes then turn down slightly. Every 15 minutes flip bird to other side and spoon fat from pan over bird. If browning too quickly, turn down to 400 degrees (F) (or 350 degrees if still cooking too fast). Give yourself 30 minutes at end to finish sauce and further cook bird if not completely done.
»Place turkey on warm platter. Remove excess fat from pan with a spoon and then add remaining stock. Simmer over high heat and reduce (but not too far). You can also add 1/4 cup red wine.