Monday, November 30, 2009

Braised Leek and Bacon Tart

This tart definitely ranks among the best dishes I have ever cooked. The tart recipe, along with the braised leeks that went into it, is from Molly Stevens' All About Braising. Having never made a pie crust before, I was worried how well the shell would hold up, but Stevens' instructions worked perfectly. Due to my own clumsiness, it was not the best looking crust, but it was just as flaky and flavorful as any I've had. While I used leftover braised leeks from one of Stevens' recipes, any cooked leeks should work just as well.

Braised Leek and Bacon Tart
from Molly Stevens' All About Braising

For the shell:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 1/2 tbsp butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 to 4 tbsp cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
For the filling:

  • 4 braised leeks, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp braising liquid from the leeks
  • 3 slick slices bacon, minced and sautéed until slightly crispy
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche
  • 2/3 cups half and half
  • 3/4 cup Gruyere cheese
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves, minced
  • ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste

  1. To make the shell, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and stir to coat with flour. With a fork, press the butter pieces into the flour until the butter is in small, flour-coated bits. Add 3 tbsp of water and stir the mixture. Continue adding drops of water until the dough can hold together. With your hands, form the dough into a 2-inch thick disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to two days.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 13-inch circle. Drape the dough over a 10-inch tart pan. Press it into the sides and corners of the pan, pressing from the center of the crust so that the sides are slightly thicker than the base. Cut away the excess dough that falls over the sides of the pan. Refrigerate the crust for another hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375F. Cover the crust in foil and weigh it down with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the foil from the crust and continue to bake until it is golden in color, approximately 10 minutes. Remove the tart pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Reduce the oven heat to 350F.
  5. To make the filling, whisk together the eggs and creme fraiche until they are well blended. Add the cream, thyme, nutmeg, braising liquid, salt, and pepper and stir well to combine.
  6. Place the leeks in the tart shell. Top the leeks with the bacon pieces, then the cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the leeks.
  7. Bake the tart until the filling is set and the top is browned, approximately 40 minutes. The tart can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Seared Scallops over Braised Leeks

The sweet, briny flavor of sea scallops makes them pair nicely with earthy foods such as mushrooms and leeks. Last night, I served scallops that I had purchased at the Union Square Greenmarket with leeks that I simply braised in chicken broth with thyme and bacon. A good scallop needs little more than butter and maybe a squeeze of lemon, and that's exactly what I did with these scallops, which had been caught off the Long Island shore the same morning that I purchased them. The key is to dry the scallops thoroughly prior to searing them in clarified butter (clarified so that butter does not burn). Two to three minutes per side on medium-high heat is all you need to give the scallops a wonderful crust on their exteriors.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pulled Pork Made in the Oven

For a recent office potluck, I decided to honor my Southern heritage by cooking pulled pork. While there is no substitute for wood smoked pork butt, this recipe for beer braised pork butt is as good as any pulled pork dish that can easily be cooked in a New York apartment. If the number of requests I received from my co-workers is any indication, they agreed. The recipe is quite simple, it just takes the better part of an evening to make.

First, rub the bone-in pork butt in the spice mixture. A store-bought spice rub will do, but it's best if you make your own. The rub prescribed in the recipe lends the meat a smoky flavor that gives the dish slight semblance to authentic smoke pork. Let the pork marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Before you are ready to cook the pork, let it come to room temperature.

Next, preheat the oven to 500F. Roast the pork until the pork blackens.

Remove the pork from the oven and reduce the heat to 325F. While the oven is cooling down, pour a 12 oz. dark beer over the pork and have one for yourself. I used Peak Organics Brown Ale. Surround the pork with several cloves of minced garlic. Finally cover it with heavy foil and poke several holes all over the foil to let some liquid escape. Let the pork braise until it is falling off the bone, about 2.5 hours. Remove the pork from the roasting pan and pour the braising liquid into a sauce pan.

Perfecting the braising liquid is key here as it will make for wonderfully moist meat. Add the ketchup, Worchestershire sauce, brown sugar, and dijon mustard to the liquid and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, shred the pork with two forks:

Finally, mix as much of the liquid as desired back into the pork. It will look like too much liquid, but keep stirring it into the pork, as the meat will absorb lots of the braising liquid.

Serve the rest of the braising liquid with the pork. The pork is delicious by itself or a sandwich on a potato roll with cole slaw.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Braised Pork Shoulder with Cardamom & Ginger

Cooking can be at its most fun when you don't give a damn. It can also be at its most educational. With a good combination of ingredients and good technique, a recipe doesn't need to offer any more than a little inspiration. This pork dish was inspired by a recipe I came across in Molly Stevens' All About Braising, while looking for ways to cook a pork shoulder roast I had purchased at Whole Foods. Stevens' recipe called for dried apricots to be added to the sauce, but being the lazy Sunday that it was, I decided against a second trip to the store to purchase apricots. Eventually, my straying from Stevens' recipe turned into all-out rebellion. It's a very loose interpretation of the original recipe, but it worked and I had fun preparing it.

Braised Pork Shoulder with Cardamom & Ginger
Serves 6


  • 1 5 lb boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed and tied with butcher's twine into a neat log
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1.4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, minced

  1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  2. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and generously season it with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the oil in a dutch over over medium heat. Add the pork and cook until well browned on all sides, approximately 20 minutes. Remove the pork to a plate.
  4. Pour off all but 1 tbsp of fat from the pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and cardamom, turmeric, and cayenne and cook until the vegetables soften and the spices are fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the ginger and bay leaf to the pan and cook for another two minutes.
  6. Pour in the brandy and stir with a wooden spoon to stir up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Boil until the brandy is reduced by half, about 1 minute.
  7. Add the vermouth to the pan and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
  8. Stir in the stock and bring to a slow simmer.
  9. Add the pork to the dutch oven. Baste the pork with the braising liquid and cover the dutch oven. Place in the oven. Every 30 minutes, turn the pork and baste it with the braising liquid. Cook until the pork is very tender, approximately 2 hours.
  10. Remove the pork from the dutch oven and let it rest on a plate for at ten minutes. Meanwhile, keep the braising liquid at a simmer. The liquid should not be thick, but if it appears too watery, boil it for a few minutes until it reaches its desired consistency. Taste it for salt and pepper.
  11. Serve the pork with the braising liquid spooned on top and garnished with the cilantro.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Brussel Sprouts a la Colicchio

As I will be contributing a few dishes to the Thanksgiving meal that my brother and sister-in-law are hosting this year, it is now crunch time for me to perfect the items that I am planning to bring and prove my food blogging worthiness to my family. First up on my list is brussel sprouts, which I had been planning to simply pan roast with bacon. However, after coming across an interesting preparation for brussel sprouts in Tom Colicchio's Think Like a Chef, in which the brussel sprout leaves are blanched, then briefly sautéed in with bacon, I decided to see if it could improve upon the pan roasting method. While Colicchio's technique resulted in a wonderful vegetable side dish, with two blanching sessions and lots of brussel sprout leaves to separate, it is a bit too labor- and pan-intensive for Thanksgiving. For the big day, I will stick to the pan roast method. However, I will definitely keep this brussel sprouts technique in my fall repertoire as it produces perfectly tender brussel sprout leaves with no hint of bitterness.

Sautéed Brussel Sprout Leaves with Bacon
Adapted from Think Like a Chef


  • 3/4 lb brussel sprouts
  • 1/4 lb bacon, diced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Cut the base off of the brussel sprouts and cut them in half.
  2. Toss the halves into boiling, salted water and boil until the leaves begin to separate, about 3 minutes. Remove the brussel sprouts with a slotted spoon and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Keep the water in the pot that was used to cook the brussel sprouts at a boil.
  3. Separate the leaves of each brussel sprouts from the core, discarding the core. Place the leaves back into the boiling water and cook until they are tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the leaves and rinse them under cold water. Blot the leaves dry with paper towels.
  4. Fry the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is beginning to brown. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the brussel sprout leaves. Briefly toss the leaves with the bacon and bacon fat. Taste the leaves for salt and pepper and serve them immediately.

Monday, November 9, 2009


This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Cook.Eat.Drink.Live, "a three-day modern food and wine event at The Tunnel & La.Venue (608 West 28th Street), featuring a large sampling of ultra-premium gourmet foods and spirits, plus appearances from some of the city’s premier chefs."

The event was an interesting hodgepodge of small and mass food and wine and spirit producers, featuring stalls for companies as diverse as Qdoba, Manhattan's Xie Xie sandwich shop, Robert Mondavi Winery, and the North Fork's Lenz Winery. Despite the incongruent mix of vendors, with the disappointments outweighing the surprises, there were some gems that made the event, if not worth its $65 admission, at least a nice lunch.

Seasonal Restaurant and Weinbar won my vote for most delicious item at the event for its plate of braised veal cheeks with spaetzle. I tend to lower my expectations when eating food at events like Cook.Eat.Drink.Live, knowing that even the best of chefs will have trouble cooking food for the masses that must be reheated over sternos. Seasonal's rib-sticking dish would have made me happy in any surroundings.

I also enjoyed the Italian delicacies served during Lou DiPalo's (of DiPalo Dairy fame) lecture. While the information that Lou shared on the importance of celebrating the Italian food culture was fairly pedestrian, the plateful of speck, Prosciutto di Parma, Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Pecorino Romano was just as enjoyable as samples that Lou serves at his store.

I must have sampled wines from at least 10 Long Island and upstate wineries at the event. As is expected of New York wine, there was plenty of characterless plonk, but there were also some unique wines that showed that New York can and should be a wine region that can compete with the West Coast regions. Among my favorites were an oaked Chardonnay from the North Fork's Lenz Winery and a few dry Reislings offered by the Finger Lakes' Keuka Lake Vineyards.

Lastly, I could not help myself from sampling two of the desserts on hand at the event. As always, a filled to order cannoli from Ferrara was a delight and the whoopie pies offered by WannaHavaCookie were nearly as delicious to eat as they were pretty to look at.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Braised Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and Bacon

By now, it should be no secret that braising is my favorite cooking method. Aside from the obvious attractiveness of braising (makes delicious leftovers, uses inexpensive cuts of meat, etc.), I love braising because I am comfortable and confident enough with it that I do not need to use a recipe to come up with a flavorful dish. As long as you follow the basic formula of browning the meat, sauteing the aromatics, deglazing the pan, adding the braising liquid, and cooking until the meat is tender, you are virtually guaranteed a nice meal.

All I did with for the below recipe was to follow the aforementioned technique using the ingredients that I had on hand. Braising really is that easy. These braised chicken thighs have a wonderfully rich and earthy sauce thanks to the mushrooms and bacon. Serve them over polenta to soak up the liquid.

Braised Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and Bacon
Serves 4

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 10 oz. button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  1. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. In a deep skillet over medium heat, saute the bacon until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
  3. Add the chicken thighs to the skillet, careful not to crowd them. If necessary, cook in two batches. Cook the chicken thighs until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Set chicken aside on a plate.
  4. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to brown and have released their moisture, about 10 minutes.
  5. Pour the wine into the skillet and bring to a boil. Stirring up any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of a pan with a wooden spoon, reduce the wine by half, about 4 minutes.
  6. Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the chicken thighs. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, approximately twenty minutes, turning once. Remove the chicken to a warmed plate.
  7. If the sauce needs to be thickened, bring it to a boil and cook until it reaches a desired consistency. Stir in the parsley and season it with salt and pepper. Serve the chicken thighs with the braising liquid.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pork Ribs Braised in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce

The most important ingredient of this rich pork braise is the bittersweet Vietnamese caramel sauce, which gives the braising liquid its dark hue and robust flavor. The key to a perfect caramel sauce is to brown the sugar just shy of the point at which it becomes a black, burnt mess and ruins your pan. As frightening as that may sound, I highly recommend following Andrea Nguyen's recipe and technique for making caramel sauce, which can be found here, along with some extremely helpful photos.

Once you have made the caramel sauce, rest of the recipe will be easy, albeit somewhat time consuming with the marinading and braising time. Although the it calls calls for country cut pork ribs, I would think it would work equally well with other fatty cuts of pork, dark meat chicken, or beef; just adjust the braising time accordingly.

Pork Ribs Braised in Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen


  • 3 lbs country cut pork riblets (ask your butcher to cut the whole ribs crosswise through the bone into long strips)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 tbsp fish sauce
  • 6 tbsp caramel sauce (recipe here)
  • 1 cup water, plus more if needed

  1. Trim the ribs of any excess fat.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the onion, sugar, pepper, and 3 tablespoons of the fish sauce. Add the riblets and stir well to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat the broiler. Remove the riblets from the marinade (reserve the marinade) and broil until browned on each side, about 9 minutes per side. Set aside on a plate.
  4. Place the riblets in a braising dish or a large skillet with deep sides. Add any juices that have collected on the plate, along with the reserved marinade, caramel sauce, and remaining fish sauce. Pour in enough water to cover the riblets by two-thirds.
  5. Bring the braising liquid to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook for 45 minutes. Uncover the braising dish and turn the ribs. Increase the heat to a vigorous simmer and continue to cook uncovered for 20 minutes or until the pork is very tender. Serve with steamed rice.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Three-Cheese Lasagna

After returning from a week-long trip, the last thing I feel like doing is cooking dinner. Fortunately, after returning from my recent trip to Florida, all I had to do was heat a square of delicious three-cheese and sausage lasagna that I had made using this recipe from Epicurious. It's everything that a lasagna should be: meaty, cheesy, and saucy (make sure to double the sauce recipe). Best of all, it saved me from takeout.


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