Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fan of Clams

(Continuation of Linguine alla Vongole)

I mean, she is a cat.
But these pics just made me laugh, so I thought I'd share them.
Also, fun with my new camera.

Oh look! Seafood.
I hate water.

I want the seafood under the water.

Or I could just eat your face.

Did I mention that my camera goes into auto-macro mode?
This was just a lucky random shot.
Unless you're not a cat person in which case you're just been far too up-close-and-personal with a feline.
(Not really.)
But if you really look you can see the reflection of me holding the camera in her pupil, which is kind of cool.
Also, she's smart enough to do your Trig homework for you, but only if you can translate her sequence of breathy-squeaks, and I dare you to get past "I want this/something."

(Note: Dad's out of ICU! So I thought I could post something goofy.)

Monday, January 24, 2011


Some few of you regulars may notice that I am posting rather at random, and then not very much at all.
Considering I am only a week or so away from my 1-year blogging anniversary, I really should be putting in a bit more time and effort.

Shot from the penultimate night at my regular joint.

The reasons are both good and bad. The sad part is that my usual karaoke bar is closing for good tonight, and none of us are happy about it. The family is being broken up against its will, and we're not sure where to go to next.

The GREAT distraction is that after a decade of illness and suffering, my dad has just gotten a new lung! So there is constant back-and-forth to the hospital and waiting and visiting and planning and figuring out what I can cook for him now that he will have so many new dietary restrictions.
It is both wonderful and emotionally exhausting.
So, forgive me if there's a bit of radio silence, or a lack of in-depth recipes for a little while.
Please check back in soon, as February 1st will be my 1-year, and I'll try to make a good post for that day especially. Besides, a girl's gotta eat.
Hope all of you and yours are happy and healthy.
-R'n'R Gourmet

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Linguine alla Vongole

I love linguine with clams. Sadly I do not get to make it very often as it is shellfish, and shellfish is filed under Things The Hubs Won't Eat.
Too bad.
Cuz I make a pretty tasty version.
And it only take about 20 minutes. (Extra points for speed of food to mouth.)

This time around I had just under a dozen littleneck clams, and to cook them I used the following:
1 medium shallot, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons of dried oregano, equal parts white wine and clam juice, lemon zest from half a lemon, the juice of half a lemon, 1 tsp of anchovy paste, butter to finish the sauce, and optional red pepper flakes for heat.

Normally if you find a broken clam, an open clam, or one that doesn't open after cooking, you throw them away. The clam pictured above was an exception.
It was very fresh, had been broken within the last hour or so, and when I went to remove the shard of shell, the muscle clamped down on it and pulled it back into its body.
In other words the clam was alive and pissed to have lost a piece of its protection.
But if you're worried, by all means THROW IT OUT!

You should always place your live clams into a cold water bath with salt for about 30 minutes before cooking. This will make them expel some of the grit they accumulate inside them. 
(Grit = Sand = Unpleasant Mouthfeel) 
Clearly Keats was intrigued by their behavior as well as their presence in the kitchen.
Tough luck, kitty. These clams be mine!

(Forgive the practice with my new camera that goes into Macro Mode automatically. 
It's my new toy.)
I grated the cloves of garlic on a "coarse" microplane.
Otherwise chop it finely.

Lemon zest
 Zested on a "fine" microplane.

Minced with my chef's knife.

Non-macro shot of the ingredients ready to go.
Set your water to boil, salt it, and drop your linguine.
In a separate pan heat a bit of olive oil and sauté the shallots until they begin to soften.

Ubiquitous shot of shallot and garlic sautéing
Once they soften add the garlic, a pinch of salt, the oregano, and anchovy paste. If you wish to use red pepper flakes, add them now as well.
Sauté another minute or two and then add the wine and clam juice.
You want the liquid to come close to halfway up the sides of the clams in the pan, so I just eyeball amounts until I like the level.
I was using an especially large pan for the quantity of clams, so the level looks a bit low, but they would have been cramped in my next-size-down pan. Remember: they get bigger when the open.
(Logic Lightbulb is Go!)

Bring the liquids up to a simmer and add the clams. Then place the lid on and cook for 6 1/2 minutes, giving the pan a shake once or twice along the way to assist the clams in opening.

True Grit. Ha!
You can see what the clams expelled in their salt water bath. You definitely do not want to bite into sand with your linguine. Blech!

Remove the clams and crank the sauce to boil and reduce.

(I prefer to remove the clams from their shells before plating when I'm eating at home for ease of cleanup, but most restaurants will serve them in their shells.)

Add the juice of half a lemon and the zest while the sauce is reducing.
When it's just about done add a tablespoon (or two) of butter to give the sauce a nice gloss and richness.

Make sure to remove your linguine a minute before al dente and finish it cooking in the reduced sauce so it can absorb as much flavor as possible.
Plate and serve while hot.

Do not add cheese or some angry Italian will come and smack you for adding cheese to a seafood dish. Instead garnish with a little fresh herbage (parsley or basil) if you have it and additional lemon zest.
The clams should be tender, not chewy, the pasta have bite, and the sauce rich with a bit of zing from the lemon. 
I hope you enjoy it since it's one of my favorites.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Revamped Experiment

So, really, no takers on the Aztec Soup?
It's quite tasty.

Stolen from my own post, mentioned below
Another very tasty dinner I made tonight is essentially this fabulous meal of roasted acorn squash, which is then mixed into quick-cooking polenta (along with elements that make polenta tasty such as half & half, butter, salt, and ground dried sage), which acts as a base for leftover roast chicken which I toss into some marsala and porcini mushroom gravy, and on top of it all, a dollop of mascarpone cheese and a scattering of pistachios.

It is KILLER people.
And it's going to become a slightly more common dish in this house, what with the almost weekly roasting of chickens that happens around here. Forget side dish. This is now a meal that is good-to-go.
It ain't low-cal, but it is absolutely delicious.
Get on it.
(And enjoy your weekend!)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Àndale Aztec Soup

This is a SUPER cheat for making Aztec Soup. While slow and homemade are wonderful and important aspects in the food world, sometimes you just cannot be bothered and you want food NOW.
Or, in 15 minutes.

The cheat in this is using Rosa Mexicano's Mexican Chicken Broth which already has things like cilantro and jalapeño essences in it, which is why it is such a shortcut. (Fresh Direct carries it, but for anyone not living in the NYC area, that link goes to their website where you can order it directlyAs with pretty much all canned or boxed soup, I am not a fan of their pre-made Aztec Tortilla Soup, so just stick with the broth.)

You will need: onion or shallot, celery, carrot, garlic, tomato, avocado, (cooked) chicken, Mexican Chicken Broth, manchego cheese (or queso fresco), and corn chips and fresh cilantro for garnish.
If you like your food super spicy, by all means add some more fresh jalapeño, but for me this broth is spicy enough as it is.

I start out with the usual suspects: diced onion or shallot, celery, and carrot. Sauté those until tender in a bit of olive oil, maybe 5 minutes. Then add one grated/minced clove of garlic and cook for another minute.
When I'm making just enough for myself with maybe a bit leftover, I use 1 medium carrot, 1 rib of celery, half a medium shallot, and one clove of garlic.
Multiply your amounts accordingly.

After the garlic has cooked out for about a minute I add 8 grape tomatoes (or 1 regular tomato) finely chopped to match the size of the carrots and celery. Season with a pinch of salt and stir.
Then, add as much of the box of Mexican Chicken Stock as you wish to make your soup.
I only use about half the box (2 cups) when making it for myself.
If you have any leftover roast chicken (or you could have poached a chicken breast in the broth before dicing the veg for the previous steps), now would be the time to chop it up and throw it in the pot as well.
Bring everything up to a simmer to heat through.

While the soup comes together and warms through I take 1/4-1/2 of a rip avocado (depending on the size) and score it before removing it from the skin and place in the bottom of your bowl.
Spritz with a bit of fresh lime juice.
Once your soup is hot, ladle it over the avocado.

Top your soup with some grated manchego cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, and either crush some corn tortilla chips over the top or leave on the side for snacking between bites.
This whole meal should only take you about 15-20 minutes start to finish, but it is packed with both flavor and nutrition, and will definitely fill you up and warm you through.
Which is good when the wind chill is only in the teens.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Super Crunch

I've been sick all weekend so this is more of a "tip" post than any great meal recipe. But hopefully it will be the kind of forehead-smacking tip that works out for you.

Do you ever wonder why your breaded fish or chicken doesn't come out as crispy as you want it to when you make it at home? It's not just because restaurants put beer in their fry batter.

I'm going to tell you a super easy (and obvious) way to fix that problem:

Double bread it!

Flour, egg, panko breadcrumbs, then BACK in the egg, back in the breadcrumbs, and then into a hot pan with oil.

Ignore the mess of grilled zucchini and focus on the fish
I start by seasoning the fish (this one happened to be a massive flounder filet) with salt (and optional pepper), and I add sweet paprika and ground savory to the flour for dusting. 
Shake off the excess flour and dip it into the egg, and then into your breadcrumbs. 
(I prefer both the taste and the texture of panko to traditional bread crumbs. I also add a little grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino to my breadcrumbs!) 
Allow the bread crumbs to set for a few minutes, and then go for a second dip in your beaten eggs, and then back in the bread crumbs.

In a non-stick pan, use just a little more oil than you would if you were cooking the protein un-breaded, so that there is enough to turn your breading golden-brown, but not so much that it's a soggy mess.
I frequently add more oil to the pan for each batch that I cook.

The resulting crust should be thick and crispy, and totally satisfying for crunch factor.
Good luck!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tortellini en Brodo

Hey look!
An actual post about food!

This is a super simple choice for a quick meal, and I make it for myself for lunch whenever I can get my hands on the particular tortellini that I love.

Fun with Fisheye Effect
Quick backstory: I used to dislike this dish, but maybe it was because of the name.
And I don't mean "Tortellini en Brodo".
Growing up sometimes my mother would make this for dinner, and I don't know if it was because I didn't like the tortellini she chose (I'm quite fussy about my tortellini) or the chicken broth she bought, or maybe the onion flakes she added, but it just was not my favorite meal. 
It might also have had something to do with the fact that it was called "Sneaker Soup" in my family.
Why, you ask?
Well, I don't remember the entire episode, but I know that it involved my older brother playing Keep-Away with the babysitter, and the item kept-away was her sneaker.
And guess where he chose to hide her sneaker?
I don't know what we had for dinner that night, but Tortellini en Brodo became Sneaker Soup.
Moving on.

You can use any broth that makes you happy, and any type of tortellini that you prefer. There are so many options for fillings: various meats, 4-cheese, goat cheese, walnut & gorgonzola, spinach, pesto, lobster, mushroom... really you can make this uniquely different each time just by changing up either of the main ingredients.
My favorite, however, is Giovanni Rana's Tomato & Mozzarella Tortellini in homemade oxtail broth.
I swoon every time I have it, and it's so simple it's laughable.

This is by no means a hearty or beefy broth that I make. For that you need all kinds of other parts of the animal for depth of flavor as well as using a soffritto to start it all. Instead this is a very light, mostly clear,  uniquely flavorful broth that is undeniably beefy, but nothing like any beef broth you know.

The way I have been making this is as follows:

About 3lb. of oxtail or so

I trim any excess fat off the edges of the oxtails (it can be quite thick) and place them in the bottom of a soup pot and cover with water, maybe up to 2 inches above the layers of oxtails. Throw in a hefty pinch of salt and bring up to a boil, and then simmer anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

Bear in mind that oxtails usually need to cook for at least 2 1/2 hours before eating, so after you make your broth you can throw the oxtails into a pot with the usual soffritto trifecta, and whatever else you like. Maybe some wine, veal or chicken or beef stock, tomatoes, whatever seasonings makes you happy, and braise them for another hour or two and still get a slightly thickened sauce upon reduction and tasty meal.
But recipes for that will come another time.

Once you have simmered the oxtails to flavor degree that pleases you, salt the water to taste and strain all the meaty and fatty bits out of it. (There will be quite a bit.)
If you really want an intense broth, you can bring the stock back to a boil after removing the oxtails and reduce it further. If you do that, do not salt it until after you have reduced it.

Once your broth is done, all you have to do is add a few tortellini (if fresh they cook in about 2 minutes) and place it in a bowl for devouring.
If you use a traditional chicken broth for your version, I suggest grating some fresh parmigiano reggiano over the top of your soup, as it will add a nice depth of flavor, and is rather traditional.
However you choose to make this, it's a light and quick meal or snack (once you have the stock made anyway...) that I hope you find comforting and delicious.
I might need to go back for seconds...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Winter Wondizzard

I continue to fall into the trap of cooking something tasty and forgetting to document it. Of late there have been quite a few soups and panini.

I hope everyone had a lovely New Year's Eve. I traipsed through Brooklyn w/ the hubs and friends and even managed to get home before 2AM. Success!
As the hubs's birthday is January 2nd, he managed to celebrate his birthday with friends for a solid 3 days (and an additional celebratory dinner w/ my fam for Day 4) since he had friends in town and staying with us. There was The PeeWee Herman Show (shudder), Tron in IMAX 3D, brunch, shopping in SoHo (tho that was more errands I had to run but he managed to find a pair of Fluevogs on sale while the 2 pairs I wanted were sold out WORLDWIDE. Grrr...) and a LOT of spazzing in front of his new Kinect.
(I'd really like to be able to turn off that photo-capture aspect...)

And just in case you didn't believe that NYC got a lot of snow the day after Xmas:
That is the hubs atop a snow embankment on NYE.
There is no buried car underneath.
Still, it didn't seem like a prohibitive amount of snow when it fell (to me anyway), and I do think that too many people just sit on their hands and wait for the city to clean up after Mother Nature, rather than putting on some knee-high snow boots (which anyone living in this part of the country should own) and helping to dig their own crap out. 
This wasn't even an icy storm. The snow was fluffy and easy to shift off of cars.
People just didn't get off their butts to do it. 
And so they yelled at the sanitation department for not cleaning the outer boroughs fast enough, claiming Manhattan gets special treatment.
Well, as my hubs explained it, if you live in an outer borough, there might be 100 people on your block. If you live in Manhattan, there are over 1,000.
Yes. Manhattan gets plowed first.
Deal with it.
I mean, this is where you're trying to get to anyway, right?

With that controversial commentary done, I shall leave you with some "Day After" photos I took while snowed-in in NJ.
Because I forgot to take pictures when I was cooking all week.
(Click pics to enlarge)

Bluejays and cardinals abound

I think they actually found it easier to get to the (half-buried) feeder this way...

A pissed and puffy bluejay

You can see the snow blowing miles away

A peaceful snow blanket

Until the wind gusts again

Do not walk here.

I think he wanted to be on my side of the glass...

Il finito

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Happy New Year!

Just a little more sleep and I'll be good as new...