Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lamb Ragu



What's up people? Due to snow, I wasn't able to fulfill some of my obligations this week, but I still wanted to finish off the year on the right note, so I decided to do a Lamb Ragu. In all honesty I wanted to do the Beef Wellington because I believe that it would have been the most challenging. Around the corner from where I live on Utica and Church Avenue, there weren't any shops selling Filet Mingot Steak, so I decided to change my menu until further notice.

This time I tried to get all the right ingredients and tried not add stuff of my own. As I said...I TRIED. I got everything I needed except the Parsley, so I used some Shadow Benie that I had at home.

I was soooooo excited to try this dish because to me the word "Ragu" sounds so gourmet and also I love cooking with alcohol.
Like many of the dishes I decided to cook for this blog, I never cooked or even tasted Lamb Ragu before, so this was definitely a challenge. It was even worse this time because on top of not knowing what Lamb Ragu tasted like, I had no official taste testers to sample my version of it. I decided to do it late and transportation was chaotic, hence the reason I didn't have any taste testers. I trust myself though and from watching videos of chefs making ragu and hearing their comments I believe I have an idea of what it should taste like.

The recipe was fairly straight forward so cooking it wasn't that much of a problem to me. The scary thing was tasting the final product. "If this taste like crap, should be honest, or not?" was what I asked myself. I'm a fair dude so I decided to document its EXACT taste whether it be good or bad. Fortunately for me I got the taste that I was looking for. Every ingredient that was in that dish I tasted, from the garlic to the red wine. It had the right amount of seasoning and the lamb was as tender as I had expected.

I ate mine with Rigatoni pasta, but  You could use whatever kind you want. Of all the dishes I've tried so far, I was most proud by the result of this one. It such a shame that no taste testers got to try it tho :(

Thanks again for reading and keep those dishes coming!! But make sure its unfamiliar to me so that it could be a REAL challenge!! That means, all non-traditional Trinidadian dishes are welcome!!


Recipe 

1 pound lamb stew, cut in chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons fresh sage
2 tablespoons Shadow Benie
8 cloves garlic
1 big carrot, peeled
Cherry Tomatoes
Olive oil
1 cup red wine
1 28-ounce can peeled whole plum tomatoes


Method

Pat the lamb chunks dry with a paper towel. Liberally coat the lamb chunks with salt and pepper and set aside. Peel and coarsely chop the onions, and chop the garlic. Chop the carrot into thin rounds.
Place an oven-proof Dutch oven or heavy stockpot over medium-high heat, and add olive oil to cover the bottom thinly. When oil is hot, add the lamb and brown deeply. Do this in batches if necessary. Don't worry about drying out the meat — you want it browned darkly for good flavor. (I usually brown each batch for at least 10 minutes, taking care not to crowd the pan. You want the meat to brown, not steam-cook.)
When the meat is thoroughly browned, add the onions. Lower the heat, and cook slowly over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the onions are golden. Add the rosemary and sage, shadow benie, garlic, and the carrots. Reduce heat to medium-low and sauté until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
Add wine and continue to simmer until liquid has reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Crush the tomatoes in the can with a fork or back of a spoon, then add them and their juices to the pot. Add a few cherry tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, then cover and place in a 275-degree oven for 1 to 1/2 hours. The longer it cooks the more tender it will be. When ready to serve, go through with two forks and shred any remaining chunks of meat. Taste and season if necessary with additional salt and pepper.
Serve over pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.




Lamb finished browning 

                                                            Cherry Tomatoes

                                                         Finished Product
                                            
This is what the finished product supposed to look like. My 8520 Blackberry doesn't have flash so I had to steal a picture from Google. Plz forgive me. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ciopinno


"Cioppino" is a dish from San Francisco with roots in ItalyFishermen would put together their "Morning Catch" in one pot. One would bring shrimp, the other scallops and so forth. This process was called "Chipping In" but some of them couldn't pronounce it properly so they would just called it "Cioppino" pronounced "Chippino".

So I'm finally done with my Cioppino challenge. Because I took short cuts in my previous challenge, by using the box cake, I decided to do everything from scratch this time around. Was this a good idea? I'm still not sure. This recipe called for marinara sauce and instead of buying one already made, I made mine with nice ripe tomatoes and fresh basil.

As you probably already know, seafood is kinda expensive so instead of buying each ingredient individually, I got a pack of Seafood Mix at the fish market on Church and Nostrand Avenue. I did however, buy the clams because I love to see how it opens with the steam. The package had, shrimp, mussels, Squid, Octopus and Surimi.

If you thought that I was nervous for the previous challenges, well I was HORRIFIED for this one. So horrified that I even had thoughts of calling off today's activities, but that would have just defeated the entire purpose of the blog!  I never ate Cioppino so I didn't know what it was supposed to taste like. I didn't know if it was supposed to be sweet, salty or what. I knew what marinara sauce tasted like and mine was just like it. When it started cooking, I began getting familiar scents so that eased my mind a little. It wasn't as "Red" as I thought it would have been though. Maybe it was because the tomatoes weren't ripe enough, so please forgive me. Usually it is served with bread but I served mine on a bed of Sphagetti. As far as the actual technique of preparing this dish, it wasn't too challenging. The difficult part was acquiring a taste that I never tasted. I hope that any little skill  I have would be sufficient enough to assist me in getting a decent grade. *On my knees praying*.


Recipe for Marinara Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped shallots 
2 garlic cloves, chopped
 4 large RIPE peeled, chopped tomatoes
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 Large Bay Leaves1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, shallots, and garlic. Cook, uncovered, 2 to 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to low andsimmer, covered, until tomatoes are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes; stir occasionally. Take out Bay Leaves. Cool 5 minutes.

Cool and Blend if you don't want it chunky. 



Recipe for Cioppino




Method

  • Heat oil in large stock pot.
  • Wilt onions and garlic.
  • Add marinara, basil,  wine, water, 
  • Season to you taste with salt
  • Simmer 20 minutes.
  • Add Seafood, cook over low heat 8-10 minutes or until clams open.
  • Fish out Bay Leaf and discard
  • Add water if stew is to thick
  • Garnish with parsley











Tomatoes for home mad Marinara sauce
                                          
                                                                  
                                                     Clams opened nicely                          
                                    
                                                      My Cioppino

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tiramisu

Again, this was a "dish" (if I may) that I only ate in the past. My cousins always made it, but I never attempted to make this on my own. As always I was kinda nervous because I was expecting culinary professionals to sample my very own, Tiramisu. 

If any Italians see this post, they might put a hit out on my head because the original recipe calls for Lady Fingers and Mascarpone cheese and of course I didn't follow the rules. I used vanilla cake and cream cheese, not because I was stubborn, but because in my area of Brooklyn, those ingredients were kinda difficult to find. 

Both eager and nervous, I started the process a day before I was originally scheduled to do it. I'm not the best baker out there, so I decided to use the Betty Crocker vanilla cake, where I just had to add water, vegetable oil and eggs. When it was finished baking, I let it cool and then cut it lenghtways. This was the first time I also made whip cream from scratch, by hand to! When I was finished making my filling, I found it to be a tad bit too thin but had a PERFECT coffee taste, so I decided to leave it as it was. I then covered it and placed it in the refrigerator. After about 10 hours, it still didn't set the way I wanted it to, maybe because the filling wasn't as thick as it should have been, so I put it into the freezer for a couple more hours. An hour or 2 before serving, I transferred the Tiramisu back into the refrigerator, so that it wouldn't be rock solid when it was time to serve. To some this may not be considered the traditional Tiramisu but it's MY version and i'm standing behind it 100 percent.  

I have already gotten great feedback on my "First Time Ever Tiramisu", so I'm happy and proud about that. I'm just waiting to hear from the remaining Taste Testers. I'm pleased with the way it came out and I'm hoping those who tasted it will think so too!


RECIPE

Cream Cheese – 8oz box at room temp
Sugar – 6 Tbsp (divided)
Whipped Cream – 1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream plus 1 Tbsp Sugar whipped to 1 1/2 cups (1 1/2 cups of Cool Whip may be used as an instant alternative)
Egg Yolks – 3
5 Tbsp of Sweetened Condensed Milk
Strong Coffee – 1 cup (or as needed) mixed with 5 Tbsp Rum, I used Malibu (That's all I had)
Vanilla Box Cake


METHOD

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix softened Cream Cheese with 3 Tbsp of sugar until sugar is completely dissolved.
2. In a separate bowl, mix 3 egg yolks with remaining 3 Tbsp of sugar and whisk continuously in a double boiler until eggs are cooked (approx 1-2 minutes). The color of the yolks will turn a lemon yellow when done.
3. Immediately mix the egg mixture into the cream cheese mixture and stir well.
4. Add 2-3 Tbsp of the coffee and Sweetened Condensed Milk into the mixture and mix well.
5. Whip Heavy Whipping Cream and 1 Tbsp Sugar in a bowl over ice until fluffy. Fold Whipped Cream into cream cheese/egg mixture until well incorporated.
6. Bake cake per package directions.
7. After cake has cooled, flip baking pan over on a flat dish or work surface.
8. Using a long bread knife, cut the cake in half horizontally, creating two thin layers of cake.
9. Carefully place the top layer back into the baking pan.
10. Using a pastry brush, dab coffee onto the cake. More coffee may be required to soak the cake.
11. Spread 1/2 of the cream cheese filling onto the cake and dust with cocoa powder.
12. Carefully place the second layer of cake on top of the filling.
13. Dab more coffee onto the cake.
14. Spread remaining filling evenly and dust with cocoa creating an even layer.
15. Cover and chill in freezer  overnight.
16. Transfer to Refrigerator an hour or 2 before serving. 


                                                                         Betty Crocker Vanilla Cake


                                                    Finished Baking


                                                      Finished Baking from a different angle


                                                     Before going into the Freezer


                                                       My version of Tiramisu

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jerked Chicken Pelau with Grilled Potato Salad

Because this was my second "Challenge",  I anticipated that it would have been easier...well boy was WRONG! One of my taste testers had to come about an hour earlier than I expected, so I had to speed up the process. Having received a DEMORALIZING "6" for my "Penne Alla Bacardi," I was determined to get at least an "8" with my Jerked Chicken Pelau and Grilled Potato Salad. The day before, I cleaned and seasoned my chicken so all that was left to do was cook. 

After browning the chicken, I realized that I didn't have any pigeon peas, the traditional peas used to make Pelau, so I had to use  red beans. Seeing that it was already a mix of a Jamaican and Trinidadian dish, I felt that using the red beans couldn't hurt, and of course it didn't! I was as nervous as "Courage the Cowardly Dog". I felt like I was on an episode of the Food Network's "Chopped" .

I checked the Pelau literally every 2 minutes to make sure it had sufficient liquid and that it wasn't too soft. Then, I boiled the potato whole and the cut them into wedges.  Although it would be ideal to grill the potatoes after, unfortunately they were too soft.  The apples however, were a different story! They grilled PERFECTLY. I put my stove top grill, the best piece of kitchen equipment ever invented might I add, on high while I tossed the apples, which were also cut into wedges and then dipped into vegetable oil. As it touched the grill, there was this orgasmic "sizzle". The same "sizzle" that Bobby Flay and Tyler Florence look for when grilling. After about a minute on each side it was soft with beautiful grill marks.

By the time the salad was ready to be put together, the pelau was finished and in my opinion,  it was exactly what I wanted!  It wasn't  too soft with that heat from the jerk seasoning. As I said before, that's my opinion. Let's hope that everyone else who tasted it feels the same way! *crosses my fingers*


Recipe for Jerked Chicken Pelau

4 Chicken Quarters cut for Stew
4 Cups Brown Rice
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Medium Carrots (Cubed)
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Red Bean or Pigeon Peas
1 Cup Coconut Milk
Jerk Seasoning
Salt

Method
-Season Chicken to your liking. (Remember that Jerk Seasoning is spicy)
-Brown Sugar in oil until bubbling (Don't allow to get to dark, it gets bitter)
-Add Chicken to sugar and coat until fully brown
-Add Rice and coat to make sure it gets to a light brown color
-Add Beans or Peas, Carrots, Coconut Milk and some water
-Cover and let simmer on a low heat
-Add water gradually so that rice doesn't become soggy
-Check often to make sure that there's enough liquid in the pot 
-Add salt to your liking
-When rice has the perfect texture, un-cover so that the excess water could evaporate
-Taste and Serve



Recipe for Grilled Potato Salad

3 Large Potatoes
1tspoon Vegetable Oil
2 Apples ( 1 Red and 1 Yellow)
1/2 Cup Shredded Purple Cabbage
2 Tablespoons Sweet Relish
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
Sugar and Salt to taste

Method

-Boil potatoes whole until a knife can pierce it with little resistance 
-Cool and cut into wedges
-Cut Apples into wedges
-Combine Apples and Potatoes and toss with vegetable oil
-Heat grill and add Apples and Potatoes
-After getting grill marks turn and leave for a minute
-Take off and add to a bowl
-Add the rest of ingredients and season to taste
-Chill for 30 minutes and Serve




Chicken Washed

                                                             Chicken Seasoned
                                              
                                                           Pelau on the Stove


Finished Product

Apples Grilling


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Penne Alla Bacardi.....Lol Wednesday, December 8th 2010



It is in my view that for the FIRST TIME making this dish I did EXTREMELY well. If I had to grade myself it would be an 8 out of 10 (and that's not because I did the grading). I didn't have Vodka so I had to improvise and use Bacardi, and to me it came out just as good. Seeing that this was my first "Challenge" I was a bit nervous. Nervous for 2 main reasons, one, because I didn't practice this recipe before, the other reason was because, one of my harshest critics would be critiquing my food today (Critic that wasn't an invitation to bash me eh....lol). After a few minutes in front the stove though, I got back quite comfortable. As you will notice, I substituted the fresh Basil for Shadow Benie (Bandanya), that's my Trinidadian twist on it. So with that said, my Critic would comment on this post and give a number grade on my "Penne Alla Bacardi" and also add a few words of her own. P.S If you try this recipe please comment and tell me what you thought of it. Thanks..........PickyEaters

Recipe

1/2 pound penne rigate pasta
cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons shadow benie
1 cup Bacardi or Vodka
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Half pint heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese

Method
-Boil pasta according to package instructions
-Sautee Shallotts (with Oil and Butter) on medium heat for 2 minutes (make sure and don't burn it)
-Add Alcohol and let cook for 2 minutes
-Add Tomato Sauce and Shadow Benie and Stir
-Add Heavy Cream, Parmesan Cheese Salt and Sugar then taste
-Once the sauce is to your liking, add pasta and toss 
-Garnish with minced Shadow Benie and Parmesan Cheese. 

Serves 3-4


 These are just a few of the ingredients that I used minus the Oregano (Didn't bother to use it again). Sorry for the poor quality pics I took them with my phone....










Finished product topped with Parmesan Cheese...............

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What's up good People.......................

For over 15 years, I have dedicated my life to cooking. Contrary to popular belief I am not a certified chef, I just love to cook. I'm a Picky Eater not a Picky cooker and there's NOTHING that I cannot cook. Here's your chance to put my confidence to the test. Send me any dish that you think I CAN'T cook and just leave the rest to me! Once a week, a skeptic gets to put me to the test and taste the dish that they have suggested, then write their honest opinion about it on my blog, GOOD or BAD! Either way, I'll blog about my experience cooking these unfamiliar cuisines. This is a challenge guaranteed to entice even the Pickiest Eater (pun intended), and turn the skeptics into believers that I am the BEST! Let the fun begin!!!