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by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post
This is one of my all-time favorite winter soups, the recipe for which hailed from the old Chateau Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is going to sound weird, but this soup tastes glamorous. And powerful, too, in a Sinatra sort of way. Try it – you’ll see what I mean. It is hearty, with a delicious tang and terrific texture. It’s also incredibly easy to make, which comes in very handy when you have a million holiday-related things to do on top of the million other normal everyday things you have to do.
While the original recipe calls for the addition of bacon and frankfurters. I’ve found that substituting a bit of diced turkey ham and a few drops of liquid smoke flavoring substitutes for the bacon just fine. With respect to the frankfurters, I use Foster Farms turkey franks. Rated #1 in taste tests for best flavor and best overall texture (no tough skins – could easily double as a regular hot dog), Foster Farms guarantees no added hormones or steroids. (source: http://www.seattlepi.com)
Serve it with a thick slice of Chipotle Cornbread (recipe to follow tomorrow!) and a crisp salad. It’ll warm you up…
(Chateau Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada; as seen in Bon Appetit’s Favorite Restaurant Recipes)
2 slices bacon, finely chopped
1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil (optional)
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
¼ medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 quarts water (8 cups)
1 pound lentils (brown lentils preferred for texture)
¼ C diced canned tomatoes
1 bay leaf
6 frankfurters, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp steak sauce
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp Kosher salt, or to taste
Fry bacon (or diced turkey ham) in Dutch oven until almost crisp, adding oil if necessary. Add celery, carrot, onion, and garlic, and sauté until onion is translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in water, lentils, tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 1 hour.
Stir in remaining ingredients and continue cooking until frankfurter slices are heated, about 10 minutes.
Bowl of lentil soup courtesy of www. chicgalleria.com
Raw lentils image courtesy of www.slowcarbfoodie.com
Foster Farms Turkey Franks image courtesy of www.fosterfarms.com
Posted November 10th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters
The midsummer harvest is a beautiful thing; the seasonal bounty from the local Farmer’s Market provides a never-ending and always changing source of inspiration. This week the red bell peppers beckoned voluptuously from the produce stands, at an unheard-of low seasonal price! I remembered a recipe I had tucked away in the archives and really needed to revisit. Originally posted in the food section of the Rocky Mountain News, it comes from Kevin Taylor’s globally-inspired Palettes Restaurant, which is located in the Denver Art Museum.
This recipe is an absolute treasure; it’s upscale but unpretentious and just spicy enough to make your tongue tingle a bit. Fire-roasting the vegetables takes a little while, but is hands-down worth it in the end, so give yourself some room.
In my opinion, this is the perfect thing to serve when you’re surrounded by friends, the room is filled with intelligent conversation, great music, and lots of candlelight. Accompany with a simple salad, a baguette with Roasted Garlic Spread, and a delectable hearty red wine, and you’ve got a weekend dinner everyone will remember for a long, long time to come.
Palettes’ Roasted Chile Sauce With Chicken and Penne Pasta
(Recipe from Kevin Taylor’s Palettes Restaurant in the Denver Art Museum)
Grilled chicken breasts
Penne pasta, cooked and drained
Roasted Chile Sauce:
4 Roma tomatoes, roasted
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded
1 jalapeno pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
1 Tbsp roasted garlic puree (1 large head)
2 C chicken stock
Corn kernels cut from 2 ears of fresh corn
Garnish: scallions, sour cream
To roast the garlic:
Pull off the papery outside and place the whole head in a pan with a little water on the bottom. Drizzle with olive oil. Cook at 350 degrees F for about an hour and 15 minutes. Let cool and squeeze out the garlic puree.
To roast tomatoes and peppers:
Cut tomatoes and place cut side down on a roasting pan. Cut into quarters lengthwise and remove ribs and seeds from red bell peppers and jalapeno peppers; place on same roasting pan. Brush all with olive oil. Place under broiler. Broil five minutes; turn tomatoes and peppers and broil five more minutes. Remove pan from oven and carefully remove tomatoes (if jalapeno is also blackened, remove from pan). Place pan back under broiler. Continue to char the peppers, turning to blacken all sides. When peppers are charred, remove from oven and place jalapeno and bell peppers in a plastic bag. Allow to cool to loosen the skins. Rub off skins.
Saute the shallot, garlic puree, and the herbs until the shallot is translucent. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer covered for 20 minutes.
Place in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with sliced grilled chicken and fresh corn, tossed with penne pasta. Garnish with scallions and sour cream.
by Danica Waters
While the word “dirigible” usually refers to a blimp, in this case it refers to a giant stuffed baked potato. The stuffed baked potato just so happens to be one of the heartiest – and easiest – make-ahead camping meals ever. Besides being incredibly tasty, this recipe also happily meets my Number One Priority: No Dishes At The Campsite.
Produced from within my tattered book of wonders: Favorite Restaurant Recipes – 500 Unforgettable Dishes From The RSVP Column of Bon Appetit, this particular recipe is from Clawson’s in the charming town of Beaufort, North Carolina. While I’m publishing the original recipe in entirety, vegetarians need simply to omit the meat.
I should also note that anything that works well for camping will work beautifully on a buffet/ appetizer table. Just use smaller potatoes (and smaller dice when preparing the ingredients) for easier handling. These are also GREAT to make ahead for lunchboxes – they freeze beautifully, and all you have to do is pop them in the oven in the morning. They’ll still be warm when you (or your kids) are ready to eat them. Enjoy!
The Original Dirigible
Clawson’s, Beaufort, NC
8 – 14-16 oz baking potatoes
1/2 lb. cooked turkey, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 lb. ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (or turkey ham)
1/2 lb. medium-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 lb. provolone cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 green peppers, seeded and chopped (I substitute red pepper)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 C butter, melted
Sour cream and chives (garnish)
Chopped crisply cooked bacon (garnish)
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Scrub potatoes under cold running water. Place wet on baking sheet and bake until potatoes test done, about 75 minutes. Let potatoes cool until warm.
Combine turkey, ham, cheeses, peppers, and onion in a bowl and toss to mix. Cut potatoes lengthwise not quite in 1/2-inch. Loosen pulp and remove 1/4. Divide butter among potatoes and mix well. Mound with meat/cheese mixture. (At this point, potatoes can be wrapped and refrigerated for 3-4 days or frozen before serving.)
Bake in 375 degree F oven until heated through and cheese is melted, or microwave on high about 5 minutes. Serve topped with heaping scoop of sour cream and chives and a generous sprinkling of bacon.
Be sure to wrap the “dirigibles” in foil ONLY – you want to be able to place them directly on the fire grate or even nestle them in the coals without any muss and fuss. When transporting, remember that potatoes “squish”, so it’s best to keep the foil-wrapped potatoes in a hard-shell container so they maintain their shape. In order to reduce the amount of “stuff” you have to carry, pre-add any garnish ingredients you care to include.
by Danica Waters, photo courtesy of Esquire.com
I remember one romantically snowy winter evening, when I was a really, really little girl, my father took my mother out for a special dinner at a brand-new steakhouse that had just opened to rave reviews in the big city closest to our home. I still to this day remember my parents excitedly telling friends about how they’d never before eaten a “steak like that”, and how it was aged at special temperatures for days and days and cooked a special way that made the steak “melt like butter in your mouth”. Afterwards, I remember sitting on the living room floor, contemplating the concept of “aging” meat. Memories of the slightly green, incredibly nasty uncooked hamburger my mother had to throw away because she forgot to cook it loomed in my head, and I couldn’t fathom why on earth anyone would want to eat something like that. One thing was certain: either my parents were crazy or the chefs at that particular restaurant were a whole lot smarter than the rest of us, to render something like “old” meat to the equivalent of butter.
Years later, I was introduced to the Executive Chef at the Palm Restaurant in San Diego, CA. He was kind enough to give me a few pointers on the magic and mystique behind selecting and cooking the perfect steak/chop vs. spending your hard-earned money on something that tastes like the equivalent of shoe leather.
Why you want to eat “old” meat:
In a few words: Enhanced Flavor and Tenderness. Here’s the real, totally biological “scoop”, folks. After a steer is slaughtered, rigor mortis causes its muscle fibers to seize up. Not so tender. But the folks at the slaughterhouse figured out that by allowing the meat to sit for a bit, the enzymes that were already present in the muscle cells would start to break down all the connective tissues, automatically and efficiently tenderizing the meat without any additives. While the “tenderization” process takes anywhere from 10 – 16 days, the meat actually becomes more flavorful if it’s left to sit another few days after that. Strange, but true.
The aging process can be achieved in two ways:
“Wet-aging”: After slaughter, the “prime cuts” of meat are sealed in a Cryovac bag for around 21 days; because the bag is airtight and will prevent not only loss of moisture but bacterial growth, the process produces a good result that is, according to a study by the Journal of Food Science, considered better tasting than dry-aged beef or than meat which has not been aged at all. “Wet-Aged” beef is usually less expensive than dry-aged beef because the aging process can be successfully achieved while the meat is in transport, thus accelerating the timelines of getting the product to market. Additionally, because it is vacuum-sealed, the juices are intact and most of the original weight is retained due to the ultimate retardation of the evaporation process.
“Dry-aging”: After slaughter, an entire side of beef is hung in open air at temperatures ranging from 30 – 32 degrees F. Although the aging room is kept at 85% humidity, much of the natural moisture is lost through evaporation. Beef that is aged this way tends to have a richer, “gamier” flavor because the water content has been so drastically reduced. This process is usually reserved for only the most high-quality, “USDA Prime” specimens because it is so expensive. The jury’s still out regarding whether this process renders a flavor that’s worth the additional expense – even among the experts.
During the cooking process, how do you know when the meat is done – and not OVERDONE?
Here’s the legendary “Touch Test” used by the finest restaurants in the world:
Bring your left hand down to your side and let it hang there, “loose” and relaxed. Take the index finger (your pointer finger) of your right hand and press firmly on the left hand in the area between the thumb and forefinger; the softness/springiness of the texture there is what a blood-rare steak should feel like if pressed with the same amount of pressure. Now, if you make a loose fist with your left hand and press in the same area with the same amount of pressure, you should be experiencing what a medium-rare steak should feel like. Lastly, using the same amount of touch-pressure in the same area once your left hand has been formed into a tight fist, you will experience the feel of a “well-done” steak. (One Palm Executive Chef likens the “well-done” experience to the spring-back of a trampoline…)
What else do you need to know?
- World renowned chefs take care to select USDA Prime steaks. Wet or dry-aged, the better the cut, the better the results. Note that most supermarket cuts will be aged between 5-7 days vs. the optimal 16 – 21 days for full texture and flavor development.
- For superior meat, it’s best to go to a small boutique/Kosher butcher, gourmet market, or source your steaks by mail-order. Be sure to remember the thickness recommended for the specific recipe you wish to try – it will affect the overall cooking time required!
- Meat should be allowed to rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 1- 1-1/2 hours prior to cooking.
- Meat should be handled as little as possible throughout the cooking process. Don’t stab it 50 times trying to make sure it’s thoroughly cooked – you’ll end up draining the steak of its juices and absolutely ruin the final product. Palm Executive Chef Tony Tammero says, “If I had to choose one piece of advice that will make the biggest difference in results for the home chef, it would be ‘Don’t touch that steak.’ Once it hits the heat, leave it alone until you’re ready to turn it, and do that as gently as you’d pat a baby’s bottom.” (The Palm Restaurant Cookbook)
- The best chefs keep it simple: they rub steaks in olive oil, lightly season them and sear them at high temperatures. They follow this by an essential “resting period’ of at least thirty minutes prior to finishing them – IN THE OVEN. Yep, folks. It’s all about temperature. And FYI. an electric home-broiler does not cut the mustard with the pros; they’d rather see you pan-sear that steak than render it an anemic version of its formerly lusty self under a home broiler. Grills, on the other hand (where the heat is coming from below), are fine as long as they are set to HIGH heat. Please refer to the New York Strip recipe here.
- Resting time is essential for perfect results, unless, of course, your personal tastes dictate that your meat must be piping-hot when served. If a steak is cut just after coming off the heat, all the juices will run out, which is fine if that’s the way you like it. But if you’re after “meltingly tender” meat full of juice and flavor, “the steaks should rest, uncovered, on a rack so that air can freely circulate around them, for about half the total cooking time.” Serving the steak on a hot plate will make up for some of the lost heat, but ultimately, the gain in flavor and texture more than makes up for any heat loss.
- The same principles apply to chops, as well. Follow your recipe to the letter, noting the thickness of the piece of meat being called for. Leaving chops – or steaks – under the flame for even half a minute too long will ruin them.
(Photo courtesy of Esquire.com)
by Danica Waters, photo courtesy of Esquire.com
Years ago I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the executive chef of The Palm Restaurant in Denver, CO. After answering the million and five questions I had at the time about how in the world they turned out such perfect steaks (you can read his advice here), the man brought me out a signed copy of The Palm Restaurant Cookbook.
This recipe should be followed EXACTLY. Don’t adjust the time, don’t adjust the seasoning, and pay special attention to the handling procedures.
New York Strip – The Palm Restaurant
(The Palm Restaurant Cookbook / Image courtesy of Esquire.com)
2 (12 oz) USDA Prime New York strip steaks, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inches thick, patted dry with paper towels
1 Tbsp olive oil
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rub the steaks with the olive oil and let stand at room temperature, uncovered, for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
Place a large, ovenproof saute pan, preferably heavy cast aluminum with a stainless steel interior, over high heat. Sprinkle one side of each steak with a little salt and pepper. When the pan is very hot, in about three minutes, place the steaks in the pan iwth tongs, seasoned side down, without touching. Do not move or press down on them (this makes it important to get the placement in the pan right the first time – once they’re in, you’re not moving them until you are ready to turn!). After 2-1/2 minutes, season the top sides with salt and pepper, and gently turn the steaks over. cook without disturbing for 2-1/2 minutes more. Transfer the steaks to a rack set over a plate, and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 and up to 60 minutes.
Thirty minutes before you plan to finish the steaks, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Return the steaks to the pan in which they were seared, and finish cooking in the oven for 8 minutes for a warm red center (medium rare), or 12 minutes for a pink center (medium). Cooking to the well-done stage is not recommended.
Let rest for 8 minutes on a rack, uncovered and away from any drafts, and serve on hot plates.
“If I had to choose one piece of advice that will make the biggest difference in results for the home chef, it would be ‘Don’t touch that steak’. Once it hist the heat, leave it alone until you’re ready to turn it, and do that as gently as you’d pat a baby’s bottom.” – Tony Tammero, executive chef