Pho-less in Rural Pennsylvania

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We took our daughter back to college yesterday and picked up her Lexus she received for Christmas, that has been waiting at the Toyota dealer in the school’s town.  Okay, it was a 2004 Lexus, but hey, we didn’t even know that Toyota made Lexus and were just looking for a Corolla and, boom, the price was right and the car was in good shape with under 100,000 miles.  It’s got leather seats and some sort of bizarre red wood inserts around the dash.   She is so pleased!  Now all she needs is her 40 acres 😀

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After we got her settled in her dorm room, we suggested lunch at a Vietnamese Pho shop that we saw on the way to the school.  Ole Jade, impatient to see the back of our heads, declined. Probably so that she could take her car out for a spin, loaded with young friends as irresponsible as she is, raring to break laws and speed limits.  “Maybe that’s not fair”, said her parents never 😀

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Anyway, slightly worried but excited about the Pho, we entered the restaurant.  Very nice people, but I have to think that their family’s livelihood and profit was the motive for opening this restaurant.  I always think that the most important part of a Pho or any Asian soup is the broth, usually taking time and flavor enhancing ingredients.  I hate to think that they just heated up several cans of on sale, off brand, beef broth but it tasted like that. The crunchy vegetable toppings were sparse; 1 tablespoon of bean sprouts, 2 thin leaves of something green and 3 slices of mild jalapeno peppers.  The few slices of meat floated dismally and overcooked on the soup’s surface.  Disappointed we smiled at the very nice people, told them everything was wonderful and took our lying, unsatisfied faces to the nearby Casino for an hour of mindless fun before heading back home.

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So this morning, with cravings unsatisfied from yesterday, I decided to make something Asian.  I didn’t make Pho because I, like the restaurant, didn’t have all the necessary ingredients and didn’t want to go to the store.  Why should I?  There’s always something in the freezer, refrigerator and pantry.  I found some oxtails, some baby bok choy and 1/2 pkg of dry soba noodles and 1/2 package of dry udon noodles.  Game on!  We have got to make a run to New Jersey for French wine and fresh udon noodles!

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I modified my Asian Braised Oxtails recipe to create enough sauce to boil the noodles after the oxtails were cooked.

Asian Braised Oxtails II with Noodles

2 1/2-3 lbs oxtails

1/2 cup Tamari soy sauce

1/2 cup sake

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 cups water

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

12 thin slices of fresh ginger, skin on

4 star anise

3 sticks cinnamon

Peel from one mandarin, cut into strips

1 package of Japanese dried noodles(soba, udon, somen, etc.)

Mix the soy sauce, sake, brown sugar and water together and set aside.  Place the oxtails in the bottom of a pressure cooker.  Sprinkle the scallions, ginger, star anise, cinnamon sticks and mandarin peel over the oxtails.  Pour the soy sauce mixture over all.

Put the top on the pressure cooker and seal well.  Put the little bobble thing over the vent in the middle of the pressure cooker top.  Turn the gas up to high and when the bobble starts to swing back and forth, decrease the heat until the bobble continues a gentle swing. Cook for 30-35 minutes, remove from flame and set aside until the pressure button, located at the top of the handle, sinks completely to the bottom.

Open the pressure cooker and place the oxtails on a platter.  Strain the solids from the sauce and discard.  Bring the sauce back to a boil, then add the noodles and cook according to package directions.  Remove the cooked noodles and place on a platter with the oxtails.  Serve with the oxtail sauce.

Steamed Baby Bok Choy

2 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tsp chili garlic sauce

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp peanut oil

2 tbsp water

6 baby bok choy, stem ends removed and sliced in half vertically

Mix the oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce, sugar, peanut oil and water together well, then set aside.

Steam the bok choy halves in a steamer or wok for 5-6 minutes.  Remove the bok choy, place on a platter and drizzle with the oyster sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes, side dish | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Coddiwomple

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Our friend and neighbor Skip, retired from his job at the local newspaper and too old to join the Navy, has decided to see the world his way and in his own time.  He’ll leave our borders for Canada, then on to Iceland, Ireland, Germany and points beyond not yet determined.  Coddiwomple:  “To travel purposefully toward an as-yet-unknown destination.”  Feeling a little envious, but not bitter, I decided to prepare a lunch, a la Francaise,  as a send off.

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Salmon rillettes, chiquetaille, and cavair topped deviled eggs as hors d’oeuvres, a shrimp/avocado/mango cocktail for the appetizer, rare roasted prime rib with a mustard crust accompanied with sides of pancetta brussel sprouts and roasted fingerling potatoes. At the pause we had a young sprouts green salad tossed with a mustard vinaigrette, followed by an ambitious cheese basket inspired by M. Parret.  Our neighbor Anne Lynch contributed a wonderfully delicious pineapple upside down cake, topped with whipped cream for dessert.  Coffee, tea and digestifs  followed.  Of course it took all day but we had the time and the will 😉

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As happens with me often, my hostess instincts supersede my blog photographer responsibilities and not everything I make gets it’s picture “took”.  Thanks a lot Obama 😦   In fact, the top picture plate was cobbled together and photographed this morning to show the rare perfection of that roast!   Oh well.  We all had a marvelous time 🙂

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In France generic, no name, bastard beef is usually called “bovine” and is cheaper than the labeled Charolais, Limousin, Parthenaise, etc. varieties.  The only variety I’ve seen labeled here in the U.S. is Black Angus, so I’m assuming this pretty piece I found at Wegmans is of the American bastard variety 😀

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Taking the opportunity to remedy my unforgivable neglect of my tajine, I slathered the roast with a mixture of Dijon mustard and minced garlic, then pressed in whole mustard seeds (I liked doing this) and surrounded it with quartered shallots and onions mixed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  This mixture contributed to a marvelous sauce after the roast was cooked, the pan de-glazed with brandy, port and beef broth added and reduced.

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Though not quite ready for “prime time”, our daughter Jade prepared a rich horseradish cream also for the roast.

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Great job Jade!

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Canadian farm raised salmon doesn’t seem to have that feed lot taste of farm raised fish. It tastes like fish, for which I’m grateful because wild salmon is rare in my available shopping markets.

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This “rillette” of fresh, poached salmon and smoked salmon is easy to make and has become a favorite for both sandwiches and cocktail bites.

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The avocado, shrimp and mango mixture is a perfect starter for a heavy meal or a light lunch.  Make it and eat it however and whenever you want.  It’s delicious.

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Of course I had to attempt a cheese tray but felt intimidated by the lack of a superior cheese selection and of M. Parret, the master of both taste and cheese presentation.  I looked at an old photo of cheese he had arranged for one of our meals in France and, discouraged, I almost decided to do without.  Anyway, my cheese tray or correctly Jade’s, who arranged the cheeses and grapes when my courage failed.  I warn you, there’s President brie on the tray 😀

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Mustard Seed Crusted Prime Rib

6 1/2 lb prime rib roast

Salt and pepper

2/3 cup mustard

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp yellow mustard seed

4 onions, cut into quarters

5 shallots, cut into quarters

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup port

2 cups veal/beef broth

Season the roast with salt and pepper.   Mix the garlic with the mustard and spread on the roast.   Sprinkle and press in the mustard seed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.   Reduce heat to 350 degrees.  Mix the onions, shallots, vinegar and olive oil.   Arrange around the roast and continue to cook for about 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 hours.   Remove and allow to rest on a cutting board covered with aluminum foil.

Remove the onions and shallots from the roasting pan.  Add the brandy to the pan and deglaze, stirring, over a medium flame until the liquid is reduced by half.  Add the broth and port, simmering until the liquid is reduced by half, stirring occasionally.  Serve with sliced prime rib and horseradish sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Appetizer, Cheese, Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Roasted Lamb Souvlaki with Butter Bean Soup

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As children we all hated lima beans.  My mother didn’t so we ate them, unenthusiastically to be sure, but we ate them.  Democracy ended at the dinner table and crazed protesters where ejected or worse.  However everyone loved butter beans boiled with smoked ham hocks. The lima beans were also boiled with ham hocks but we just saw this as a waste of ham hock.  What a surprise to read that lima beans are, allegedly, just green, young butter beans!  Could be “fake news” and better not to chance it because it changes nothing.

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For New Year’s Day lunch I roasted a boneless lamb leg roast, born and raised in New Zealand but processed in the U.S.  What does that mean?  I do know that the roast was missing that unique New Zealand grass tang, but at least it didn’t smell like mutton.

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There was a little green cooking button on the meat that I’ve never seen on a lamb leg before.  Processing?  Doesn’t matter, I ignored it and cooked the roast for as long as I wanted to cook the roast.

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My rosemary plants laugh in the face of snow and ice, so I had plenty for my fennel seed, garlic and rosemary  rub.  I added rose peppercorns because they’re pretty 🙂

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Anyway, we had a nice meal with the lamb and roasted vegetables for New Year’s and the leftover lamb was adequate for an additional lunch on Tuesday with our friend Marianne. Souvlaki pitas stuffed with lamb, Greek salad and dolloped with tsatziki sauce.

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The Greek salad looked good enough to be eaten as is.  Think of making this with crumbled feta!

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The sauce was easy to make with thick, “normal” greek yogurt, mint and winter cucumber.

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I also made some Korean quail eggs because I had quail eggs, garlic and chillies for babies. They didn’t really fit into the theme of the meal but were good anyway.

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What Honesdale needs is a family owned bakery.  What we have is Weiss supermarket 😦

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Butter Bean Soup

1 lb smoked pork neckbones

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery branches, diced

2 carrots,  diced

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 bay leaves

2 large Maggi chicken cubes

1/2 tsp black pepper

Water

4 cans butter beans

Place the neckbones, onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, Maggi cubes and black pepper in a large stock pot.  Cover with water to about 3 inches above the ingredients, bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove the neckbones from the pot, discard the bones, chop the meat and add back into the pot along with the butter beans.  Simmer for an additional 30 minutes.

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, Greek, Recipes, Sandwich, Soup | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Happy New Year 2017

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We’re invited over to a neighbor’s tonight at 10:00 p.m. for a New Year’s celebration.  Our refrigerator is choked with leftover odds and ends.  I’ll be cooking again tomorrow, a boneless lamb roast from New Zealand, and thought I could make a little room by boiling up the leftover goose, fresh uncooked squash and the usual soup enhancers.  My husband made himself a liverwurst sandwich to go with.

Happy New Year my friends and courage to you in surviving the upcoming hell hole we’re walking into on January 20th.  Yes, I said it 😀

Posted in American, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Soup | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Christmas 2016

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We had Christmas on Christmas Eve this year because the weather is threatening the day after Christmas and we wanted our son to be back home in Maryland by that time.  His visit was quite short, Friday-Sunday, but we managed to work in the usual Christmas movies and pastimes.  Tradition!

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The 3 resolute carnivores and the 1 vegetarian wannabe all voted for goose for Christmas.  No easy matter in our region of the country.  I finally found a frozen specimen at Wegmans in Scranton, not daring to look at it’s provenance and possibly ruining the occasion for everyone.

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This goose looked a bit different from the one I bought in France, not as robust/fat?

In any case, I stuffed the cavities with apples soaked in Calvados and with the turkey wing broth gravy, it was okay, if a bit rustic 🙂

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Everyone loved the Food and Wine Magazine inspired vanilla bean butter, roasted squash. I used acorn, butternut and a small pumpkin.  Delicious!

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The apple stuffing was also nice.

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As were the goose fat roasted, fingerling potatoes.

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We had a local, homemade apple pie for dessert but it was practically inedible, so we didn’t 😀

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Hot Italian Sausage Soup

 

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Frightened to drive in the snow and ice, I’ve been staying close to home cooking from the freezer and listening to music.  This is one of my favorite Ray Charles’ videos, featuring Billy Preston on the organ.

My husband will be flying in from Haiti tomorrow and won’t be arriving until around 9 or so.  The prediction is that the high will be 22F and the low 3F.  Of course he doesn’t have a coat because it’s 85 – 90F in Haiti.  The boy will be cold 🙂  And as he’s flying Jet Blue into JFK, he’ll probably be hungry and thirsty.

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I collected the usual things from the refrigerator and vegetable bin to make a soup.

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There’s an elegance to Le Creuset pots and pans that goes beyond their superior ability as  frying, sauteing, roasting and braising cookware.  I like to look a them 🙂

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I’ve been meaning to use ditalini pasta in a soup but always forget to get some when I’m in the store.  Oh well.  I had fusilli in the pantry and that was that.

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He’ll like this; sausage chunks, big pasta, spinach, carrots, celery and leek.  Poor thing, probably been starving to death 😀

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Hot Italian Sausage Soup

2 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 lb bulk hot Italian sausage or links with skin removed

1 onion, halved and sliced

1 leek, thinly sliced

2 carrots. diced

2 celery branches, sliced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 tsp dried thyme leaves

3 quarts chicken broth

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 cups dried pasta

3 handfuls baby spinach, roughly chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large stove top casserole or stock pot, add the sausage and saute until the pink is gone.  Add the onion, leek, carrots, celery and garlic, then continue to saute until the onion and celery is soft.  Stir in the thyme, bay leaves, chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

Bring the soup back to a boil, add the pasta and cook for about 11 minutes.  Remove from the flame and stir in the spinach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cooking | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Spicy Thai Eggplant with Lamb

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My husband will finally be coming home next week and I will be over glad.  I imagine my Asian food obsession will be somewhat curtailed to occasionally in order to make room for the stews, meatloaves, mashed potatoes with gravy and the roasts that he loves.  Winter food.

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In the meantime, I made a dish of my own winter food, Asian style; Thai eggplants with lamb and udon noodles.  These golf ball size eggplants are so cute and good!  If they still have some left when I go back to the supermarket, I think I’ll try roasting them whole.

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I wonder where the line is drawn between American lamb and American mutton, at what age?  As soon as this ground meat hit the skillet, I smelled mutton and believe me I’m practically an expert on mutton, having attended hundreds of mechouis (whole mutton roasts) in West Africa.  In addition, the fat that accumulated in the pan was also an indication of oldish sheep.  If you find yourself with mislabeled lamb, pour off this fat before continuing with the recipe.  Or if you don’t want to risk it, use ground pork, veal, chicken or turkey instead.

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I used dried udon noodles for this recipe because I didn’t have any more fresh udon.  One of the differences between fresh and dried is that the dried udon cooks up as a flat noodle, while the fresh is more rounded, creating a more slurpable surface.  Since eating freshly made noodles at an outdoor worker’s stand in The People’s Republic of China, I’ve been difficult to please 🙂

Spicy Thai Eggplant with Lamb

2 -3  tbsp sambal oelek

2 tbsp Tamari soy sauce

2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp sake

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp peanut oil

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 inch fresh ginger, minced

6 multicolored mini bell peppers, cut into squares

1 lb ground lamb

2 tbsp peanut oil

8 Thai eggplants, quartered

Mix together the sambal oelek, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar.  Blend well and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp of peanut oil in a wok, add the garlic, ginger and peppers, then stir fry for 2-3 minutes until the peppers are crisp tender.  Add the lamb and saute until the meat is no longer pink.  Drain off all the fat, remove the meat and vegetables from the wok and set aside.  Wipe out the wok with a paper towel.

Add 2 tbsp of peanut oil to the wok, add the eggplant and saute until the eggplant is lightly browned.  Stir in the meat mixture and the sauce, bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for 6-8 minutes.  Serve with rice or noodles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes, Thai | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments