Monday, January 17, 2011

something old & something new, and a bowl of rice to boot.

I have two treasures to share with you today. Three, if you count Penny. And four, if you count the recipe. But we'll focus on the two big'uns. Their names are Betty and Kate.

I rescued this ancient lady from a thrift store over the weekend. Published in 1954 and written (with Ms. Kiene's help) by Betty Furness, this sunny relic of kitchens past is "dedicated to you, a busy homemaker who gladly prepares three meals a day for your family, and who delights in doing it." Hoo boy.

As an unmarried, childless young professional (if you can call what I do "professional," xoxo), I don't believe Betty was speaking to me - but her book does. I hoarde vintage cookbooks, despite their love of overcooking, under- and over-seasoning, vegetable shortening, and MSG. There are real gems in those pages, amid the recipes for "Vegetable Scrapple" (calling for one onion, one carrot, corn mush, peanut butter, and two teaspoons of salt) and this interesting take on gnocchi:

1/2 cup quick-cooking rice cereal
3 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup margarine
1 egg, beaten

Cook cereal in salted water for 5 minutes; add egg and margarine. Pour into greased pan and allow to chill thoroughly. Cut into squares, cover with cheese sauce (optional), and broil for 5 minutes or until browned.


I poke fun, but in honesty, I do treasure these old recipes - not least of all for their insight into the evolution of the home cook. To all of the critics of the American food culture, I say, go get you one of these heirloom books and read up; we've come a long way, baby. We have a long way to go, but thanks are due to gals like Betty for inspiring us to continue down the road.

And hey, speaking of inspiration - have you given Yinzpiration a read yet? You've gotta go meet my friend Kate. You'll love her, as well as all of the new friends she's making over there.

This is Kate (with our friend Penny - special thanks to Daffodil Vintage for the photo!). We've known each other for a few years, but only peripherally. Scott and I recently had Kate and her husband over for a night of Asian food and Californian wine, and let me tell you - she's a hoot. She also makes a wonderful dinner guest, and if she at all minded that one of my dogs was being a rude little ass, she graciously pretended not to mind.

Kate's 'blog is the written account of her adventures in meeting and sharing a cup of coffee with 100 different Pittsburgh locals, at the rate of about one a week. They're all just regular ol' Pittsburghlars, but each of them is uniquely intriguing. I recommend that you have a bowl of the rice below and enjoy it while catching up on Kate's interviews; there are ten, at the time of this posting. You might meet someone fun over there - hell, you might even see a familiar face, and learn something fresh about them. Kudos today to Kate and Betty, for reminding me to see the new in the old.

Bacon & Egg Fried Rice

After that (I'm so sorry, Betty) truly terrifying rice-based gnocchi recipe I just shared with you, rice-redemption seems in order. This is an original recipe of mine, for one of the dishes that I made for Kate and Nik when they came to dinner last week. This makes a lot, which is great; the leftovers are fantastic.

5 cups uncooked jasmine rice
6 slices thick-cut peppered bacon (about 1/2 pound, unsliced), chopped
2 tablespoons freshly minced ginger (now being locally grown by Pittsburgh farmers - amazing!)
2 large eggs (local! local! local!)
1 large bunch scallions (what is that, like a 1/4 pound? I'm a hack), sliced (green parts only)
1 tablespoon sriracha hot pepper sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ponzu sauce
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon key lime juice

Prepare the rice according to directions, or your most tried-and-trusted method. I use a rice cooker, because it does a better job than I do. For this particular preparation, it is important to rinse the rice before cooking to get rid of excess starch - this keeps the rice from sticking too much later, and makes tossing and stir-frying much easier. Set cooked rice aside and keep warm.

Drizzle a small bit of oil or butter into a omelet pan set over medium heat. Add beaten eggs and scramble gently, taking care not to overcook. Remove from pan once cooked through, and set aside.

In a large wok (and I mean large - this makes a lot of rice; I use a big pot most of the time, actually), begin to fry the chopped raw bacon over medium heat. Stir occasionally, rendering as much fat as possible from the bacon without burning it. Once bacon bits are crisped and a good amount of fat has cooked out (8-10 minutes), lower the heat and add the minced ginger. Saute until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add sriracha, soy, and ponzu sauces, as well as lime juice and sesame oil, and stir to combine. Raise heat to high, and add rice. Stir-fry quickly, taking care not to burn your rice and not to make a gigantic mess of your stovetop. Once the rice has been thoroughly combined with the oil, remove from heat.

Toss in scrambled egg and scallions, ensuring that every delicious bite has some bacon, egg, and onion.

Enjoy with chopsticks, if you've got the skill.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

meet for a drink.

It's nice to see you again.

I know - I know. I've been a bad friend, and a worse 'blogger.

I'm hoping to remedy that. It's a new year. Let's catch up.

Let's have a drink.

I can imagine what you might be thinking. This girl gives us two posts - a recipe she ripped off, and a recipe for iced tea - then disappears for ten months, then has the gall to come back and give us another beverage recipe? Hack. Hack hack hack. And a lazy one.

And you'd be right, a little bit. But it's like I said - it's a new year. I'm looking forward to diving into this with a little more dedication, and a lot more gusto, than before. I should warn you, though, that while there will be a lot more food around these parts, there will always be beverages to wash it down with. Most will, hopefully, be boozy enough to make you forget that you once thought I was a hack. Cheers.

So, 2010. How was yours? Mine was pretty righteous. There were dinners at Fette Sau, Lupa, a handful of Garces' restaurants, Salt, and Lolita. There were tons of new cookbooks (I have over 100, now), and an over-productive tomato garden that even my veggie-thieving dogs couldn't keep up with. There's even a new restaurant in my professional life. Christmas brought a new meat cleaver, which I can't wait to use, and a huge pressure canner that you and I are going to have a ton of dangerous fun with once the farmers' markets open.

Some things have changed, as "things" are wont to do. I've added this six-pound sucker to the top of my list off favorite cookbooks; if the two of you haven't met yet, I'll be introducing you soon. And while I'm still doing my best to feed dogs and a boy and friends and ideas as the banner above suggests, I no longer look like the redhead that I am. I'm still drinking a gallon of sugared tea every day, however, because while some things change, some simply never do.

Speaking of drinking - we were supposed to be doing that together, now, weren't we?

I don't have much introduction for this bevvie, so let's get to it. This plea for redemption has been drawn out long enough.

Mea Culpa Matador

1.5 ounces spiced silver tequila (I like Cazadores Blanco)
3 ounces burnt pineapple puree (see below)
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Shake all ingredients well with plenty of ice; strain over fresh ice, or into a chilled cocktail glass. Add fresh lime juice to taste.

A matador is a classic tequila cocktail with only three ingredients: silver (or "blanco") tequila, pineapple juice, and lime juice. A twist on the more popular margarita, it utilizes pineapple in place of orange liqueur, and unlike its more popular cousin, it is rarely served with a salted cocktail rim. Matadors are only OK; even when prepared with quality ingredients, they rarely amount to more than the sum of their parts. A tweaking is in order.

That silver tequila gets its gorgeous jewel-like color by sharing a soak with some ancho chilies. Anchos, dried poblano peppers, have a delicate heat and a fruity, almost wine-like flavor. Two anchos were used to infuse this particular bottle of tequila - one was seeded and stemmed, while the other was not. After two or three days, the tequila was a deep garnet and had a heady bite with pleasant fire. For a milder cocktail, seed both anchos before stuffing them in the bottle; conversely, for a feistier one, leave both peppers whole (or use an angrier pepper altogether).

For the pineapple puree, you will need one fresh pineapple, completely trimmed and cored (I cored mine after treating it; I should have done it first, though it doesn't much matter), one cup of brown sugar, and one liter of quality pineapple juice (no corn syrup, please).

Slice your pineapple crosswise into quarter-inch thick rounds, and sprinkle each side liberally with the dark brown sugar. Allow the sugared fruit to sit in a covered container for at least three hours, or overnight, until the sugar has completely dissolved and alchemized into a thick syrup.

Arrange the pineapple slices in a single layer on a large sheet pan, and pour any leftover syrup over the fruit. Broil until heavily caramelized but not completely charred, 3-6 minutes. Flip the slices over and repeat the broiling process (use tongs; the pineapple will be hot).

Return the fruit to their original container. Use some of the purchased pineapple juice to deglaze the sheet pan, taking care to scrape up all of the sticky, browned bits. Add this juice, as well as the rest of the liter, to the bowl with the caramelized pineapple. Cover and chill in the refrigerator over night. Once completely cooled, puree in a blender until smooth; strain to remove any fibrous bits, if you choose.

While the peppered tequila has an indefinite shelf life, the fruit mixture is a little more volatile. If you can't use it all up within a week or so, try using it in another application - cooked down and reduced with some Chinese five-spice powder, for example, it makes a great sauce for pork or chicken. And a quick note about the bitters: while I recommend Peychaud's, because I think the floral flavors go really well with tequila, Angostura would be completely fine. If you happen to have any Fee Bros. Rhubarb bitters, use them; I think they'd work really well in this application.

Unfortunately, I don't have a photograph of the finished cocktail. Because I drank it.

Your turn.