Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Salisbury Steak

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Let me narrate the reason why I made this dish a few weeks ago. I teach a masteral course every Saturday in the city campus of the University that I work for. It is an hour away from the main campus and another hour away by ferry to my home in Bacolod. So I have to follow this schedule every Saturday where I wake up at 5am in the morning to haul my bags to teach at the city campus and then after my class, I go home for the weekend. Well, in one of those weekends, I sat in front of someone in the ferry boat who bought takeout food from a food chain and it was Salisbury Steak. It was torture for someone who had no lunch and was sleepy and tired from the travel and had to teach for four hours straight that very morning. 

It was then decided in my mind that I was going to make my version of the food that was now ingrained in my mind. I remember making this dish a long time ago using Rachel Ray's recipe but I wanted to try something different. Okay, I have to admit, she has been annoying me lately so whose recipe do I follow? It was none other than Martha Stewart, another person who annoys the hell out of me. Anyway, the need to make the steak was much stronger than my personal issues so I went ahead and used her recipe. Let me just say it now, it was delicious. 

Salisbury Steak - Adapted*

2 lbs ground beef
1/2 cup panko or white bread crumbs
1/2 cup while milk
1 large onion, grated
1 cup Shitake mushrooms, diced
2 cups beef broth
1 large egg
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp corn starch + extra for dusting
vegetable oil
salt and pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine the meat, half of the onions, bread crumbs, egg, 
    milk, parsley and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper. 
    Combine well and divide into 10 patties. Set aside.

2. In a large pan over medium heat, add enough vegetable oil to fry the 
    patties. Dip each patty into the extra corn starch and tap off the excess. 
    Fry in the vegetable oil for about 5 minutes or until browned. Turn with a 
    spatula and cook for another 3 minutes or until browned. Fry all the 
    patties and set them aside.

3. In the same pan used to fry the patties, saute the onions and mushrooms 
    and cook for about 5 minutes or until slightly caramelized. Add the beef 
    broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to low and bring to 
    a simmer.

4. Dissolve the teaspoon of cornstarch in 1/4 cup water and add to the sauce.
    Season with a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce.

5. Return the cooked patties into the gravy and cook until just heated 
    through. Serve immediately with mashed potatoes or steamed rice. 

*Martha Stewart: Salisbury Steak with Onion Gravy    

Bolognese (Back to Basics)

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This has become the signature dish for birthdays with my friends apparently. A commonly bastardized dish according to Italian chefs, an article was written on the Telegraph about how everyone was cooking this Italian dish wrong. Well, I'm glad that the authentic recipe is being celebrated since this is definitely one beloved Italian pasta dish that I do love a lot. Gone is the topping of ricotta cheese and in lieu is a simple shaving or dusting of Parmigiano cheese. I may also have to revert back to spaghetti, not tagliatelle or fettuccini (if I'm really desperate for tagliatelle and could not find it anywhere). This is a "spag-bol" dish in the first place, not a "tag-bol".

Tyler Florence’s Tagliatelle Bolognese

Copyright 2013 LtDan’s Kitchen blogs

I have been using Tyler Florence's recipe for ages and it is something that I hate to make but love to eat. The sauce takes a long time to prepare and it has a few odd ingredients which I'm glad the original recipe does not include. There is the white version made with milk and the more traditional version with just the red sauce. Tyler uses a combination of the two recipes by adding condensed milk to the red sauce. Yep, you read it right, condensed milk. It might sound horrifying but I used to make this spaghetti sauce with condensed milk and liver spread. However, I had no idea what an authentic Italian red sauce was at that time so I had that convenient excuse and also, that was 25 years ago. Now that I know better, making traditional sauces is actually something I always strive to do as a sign of respect to another country's culinary tradition. Anyway, let's start cooking.

Spaghetti Bolognese

5 lbs ground beef
4-6 cloves garlic
2 large onions, grated
2 large carrots, grated coarsely
4 celery sticks, grated or chopped finely
6 oz bacon, diced finely
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
6 cups beef broth
salt and pepper
4 dried bay leaves
4 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs spaghetti
basil leaves
Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Fry the bacon 
    until golden and crispy. Add the bay leaves and saute for a minute. 

2. Add the celery, onions, and carrots and fry until softened and slightly 
    caramelized. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the beef and season well with salt and pepper. Cook until the beef 
    is browned. 

4. Add the red wine and the broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add 
    the diced tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir well. 

5. Lower the heat to low and bring to a simmer. Cook covered for about 2 
    hours. Check occasionally and make sure that the sauce is not sticking 
    to the pan. 

6. Check for flavor and adjust accordingly. the sauce is ready when there is 
    barely enough liquid holding the meat sauce that is simmering. The sauce 
    will be thick.  Keep at a simmer while you cook the pasta.

To assemble the dish:

Cook the pasta as per packet instruction. When the al dente stage is reached, drain the cooking liquid and add just enough sauce to coat the pasta. Transfer into a serving plate and top with more sauce. Dust with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and garnish with juliened basil leaves. A good drizzling of extra virgin olive oil is also a nice touch.    

Easy Crema de Fruta

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Crema de Fruta is one dessert I have made numerous times when I have very little time to prepare for a full dinner party and dessert is a necessity. Originally sold as a refrigerator cake, it comes in layers of three or four. I'm not really sure if refrigerator cake is an actual culinary term but here in the Philippines, it refers to a cake that is assembled in a container and without the said container, it falls apart as mush. Also, it needs to be kept cold at all times, hence the descriptive "refrigerator" to label the confection. 

The three layers include a basic yellow cake or a buttery sponge cake that you cut into size based on your container, a creamy custard frosting which acts as the base for the third layer, the fresh fruits. The fourth layer is really a way to keep the fresh fruits from spoiling quickly so a gelatin glaze is added to hold the fruits in place as well as to preserve them.

My new and quick version is a take on a crema de fruta served during a party at my friend's house. Her sister owns a restaurant and they cater on the side as well so this dessert was one of the sweets served during the party. It was made with a sponge cake base but I wanted something quicker so I opted to use ladyfingers. I have tried quite a number of brands of ladyfingers and believe you me, the cake will taste only as good as the  quality of ladyfingers that you choose to use in the dessert. So, make sure that you get the best kind. Also, instead of a custard base, I used a pastry cream lightened with table cream. It is creamy and sweet without overpowering the fruits which are the main star of the dish. I also did away with the gelatin layer as I never really liked fruit-flavored gelatin. 

Easy Crema de Fruta

Pastry Cream
3 cups milk
1/3 cup white sugar
4 tbsp corn starch
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp vanilla
6 egg yolks

1. Heat the milk over low flame in a small pot. Keep at barely a simmer. 

2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, corn starch, flour and the egg yolks. 
    Mix to form a thick paste. 

3. Add small amounts of the heated milk to thin out the egg yolk mixture. 
    Keep adding the warm milk up to one cup until a smooth consistency is 
    achieved. Pour the mixture into the remaining milk and stir well. 

4. With a wire whisk, stir the mixture to remove the lumps. Keep stirring 
    until it thickens. Turn off the heat and keep stirring for another 30 
    seconds. Transfer to another bowl and cover with clingfilm without 
    leaving any space in between. This will prevent a skin from forming. Set 
    aside to cool. 

To assemble the cake:
1 30-oz fruit cocktail, drained
1 30-oz peach halves, drained and sliced into rounds
12 - 15 prunes, halved
40-50 ladyfingers
1 cup table cream, whipped lightly

1. To the prepared pastry cream, add the vanilla extract and stir well. Add 
    the table cream and with a whisk, whip lightly to combine.

2. In a 9x13 glass dish, ladle about 1/4 cup of the pastry cream mixture and 
    spread with a spatula. 

3. Layer the ladyfingers until all nooks and crannies are filled. Top with half 
    the pastry cream mixture and arrange half the fruits over it.

4. Top with another layer of ladyfingers and cover with the remaining pastry 
    cream mixture. Arrange the fruits in a pattern of your choice and cover 
    with a clingfilm. 

5. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Yogurt with Fresh Fruits

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This has been my default dessert whenever I have friends come over for dinner in the rental place that I share with two other friends. We have yet to buy a small oven that will allow me to bake cookies or brownies if need be. For now, I rely on the steady supply of ripe papayas in the town market which is really great. I now go to this vendor who gives me a small discount every time I go buy fruits from her stall as I have been buying her produce since last year. As a reward of my loyalty, she gives me her best fruits depending on what is available for the season. It is always a nice feeling when you eat fresh fruits that are perfectly ripe knowing that they are just good for your body and soul. 

While living in the US, my perfect simple dessert will be ricotta cheese with macerated strawberries and topped with a drizzling of honey. Since ricotta cheese is very expensive here in my town, I have been using regular yogurt instead and it seems to do quite well despite the fact that they sell a soupy version of yogurt. Still, with fresh fruits as the main star, a little drizzling of honey is all you need to forget about your worries even for just a moment and savor a dessert that you can consider sinless. Now, there really is no need for a recipe for this dessert. Yogurt, sliced mangoes, kiwi and a drizzling of honey is all you need. Throw in a little bit of slivered almonds as well if you have them. Oh, and second helpings are definitely allowed!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chicken and Potatoes

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Chicken and Potatoes was a surprise hit for our Thursday dinner bash. Based on Lidia's recipe on her Lidia's Italy website, it was indeed something to brag about. No wonder her family asks for it a lot. A simple dish cooked without a lot of fuss but with all the rich flavor of what you will expect from slaving for hours in the kitchen, this dish will not disappoint. I made it with bits of bacon to flavor the frying oil and the chicken took on the flavor of bacon which is always a good thing. I also used baby potatoes which I cut in half and it cooked to such tender perfection it balanced the dish really well. You do need to fry a lot but you can keep your eye on how much oil you use. The caramelization that came from some parts of the chicken sticking to the pan actually added to the overall flavor of the dish. It is definitely a family dish to share and enjoy with your loved ones.

Chicken and Potatoes - Adapted*

2-3 lbs chicken thighs
1 lb baby potatoes, halved
1 large onion, sliced
1/2 lb bacon
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp parsley, chopped

1. Heat the skillet over medium heat and brown the bacon until crisp and 
    crunchy. Spoon them out and set aside. Add about half of the vegetable 
    oil and increase the heat to medium high. 

2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and in the same skillet, brown 
    the chicken pieces in batches. Set them aside. Add more oil when 
    needed during the browning process. Reduce the heat to medium.

3. Drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes and season with salt. Mix well. Fry 
    them in the same skillet cut side down and fry them until crisp. Invert 
    the potato halves and fry them until crispy on the other side. 

4. Add the onions and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Mix them 
    together to saute. Return the chicken pieces and toss them all to 
    combine. Spread them out on the pan and cook covered for about 7 

5. With your spatula, retoss and spread out the chicken and potatoes 
    making sure that you scrape the browned pieces stuck on the pan. Cook 
   for another 7 minutes covered. 

6. For the last time, toss and combine and cook covered for another 10 
    minutes. After 10 minutes, scrape with your spatula to release the chicken
    and potatoes stuck on the pan. Cook uncovered for another 10 minutes. 

7. Check for flavor and correct the seasoning. Crumble the browned bacon 
    and toss into the mix and garnish with the chopped parsley and a good 
    drizzling of extra virgin olive oil.

*Lidia's Italy: My Mother's Chicken and Potatoes recipe.