Cranberry-Port Sauce

Cornish Hens

Over the holidays we made festive Cornish hens with a cranberry-port sauce.  I’m glad I combined about six different recipes to wind up with this particular version.  Many used dried fruit (oftentimes cherries), and some used ginger, thyme, or balsamic, but not all three.  We actually liked the fresh berries, and we even tried it before adding the thyme, ginger, and balsamic.  It improved with each addition.  The jelly-like sauce will/should (according to most of those sites) last a week or two, and it can be served over pork, turkey, or even brie.  We loved it with the roasted hens (stuffed with clementines and covered in a tad of olive oil, salt, and pepper), and I’m sure we’ll make it again.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup port (the incredibly helpful gentleman at The Anderson’s highly recommended Warre’s Warrior, rightfully so)
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preparation

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the port, zest, and juice to a boil over medium high heat.
  2. Add the cranberries, sugar, thyme, ginger, and balsamic, and reduce to a simmer.
  3. Stir occasionally and cook until the sauce has a jelly-like consistency and the berried begin the break down.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature, over anything.

Yields about 2 cups

The individual(s) who invented SmartBrief should knighted (or at the very least be awarded Saturday evening standing reservations at Ko).  Pure genius.

ProChef SmartBrief

I’ve been a fan of ASCD’s SmartBrief for quite some time, and I knew there were other versions, but I had nooooooo idea the CIA had their very own.  It’s a relatively simple concept, SmartBrief.  All important current newspaper articles, magazine articles, blog posts, etc., are compiled into a little email that arrives in your inbox daily, Monday-Friday.  Best part?  It’s free.

What did I learn yesterday?

  • The eel population is declining, so I should probably avoid unagi for awhile.  Bummer.
  • Bobby Flay tweets job postings for his restaurants.
  • “Surface wettability” is apparently such a problem with tea drinkers that some French scientists invented a teapot that won’t drip.  Instead of curing cancer, or smoking cigarettes pretentiously.
  • Homemade stock is always much better than store bought, and it doesn’t have to be difficult to make it well.  (This one actually inspired me to make chicken stock today.  That’s twice that I’ve made it in two weeks.  There really is no comparison between the two.  Make it yourself.)
  • Want some ideas for making beef-less burgers?  Try one of R&I’s finds.

I love ProChef.  If you’re interested, sign up here.

It was a Sunday.  I felt like cooking.  Cooking-all-day cooking.  We picked Moroccan as a theme.  The result? Moroccan chicken, two kinds of couscous, vegetable stew, red dal soup, Moroccan mint tea, and wheat naan.  The most delicious part of the day included bites with harissa and preserved lemons.  While we had never seen nor tasted either, endless blogs, recipes, and reviews insisted we have them.  They were right.

Our next plans include preserving our own lemons and pureeing our own chili peppers and spices.  The recipe that follows features the preserved lemons.  The red dal soup and vegetable stew highlight the harissa.  In fact, we’ve used the harissa in many recent dishes.  It’s our new ketchup.

(Please do mind the lack of quality and the excess of yellow in these lousy photos. I need a new camera, pronto.)

Moroccan Chicken

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives

Moroccan Chicken

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Dash salt
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces, skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 medium shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 preserved lemon, rinsed, pulp removed (if salty), and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup green olives
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1-2 cups couscous, cooked

Preparation

  1. Combine first 9 ingredients in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in spice mixture.
  2. Heat oil in a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute garlic, onions, and shallots until translucent.
  3. Add chicken to skillet. Cook until slightly browned (about 2 minutes per side).
  4. Stir in broth and preserved lemon. Cover and cook for about 25 minutes or until chicken is done.
  5. Turn on broiler.
  6. Remove chicken from skillet.
  7. Add olives to lemon, broth, and onion mixture in skillet.  Bring to a boil and reduce.  Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  8. Stir in cilantro.
  9. Meanwhile, place chicken on broiler pan coated with cooking spray (or foil and cooking spray).
  10. Brush lightly with melted/softened butter.
  11. Broil until browned and crispy (about 2-3 minutes).
  12. Serve chicken atop couscous.  Top with sauce.

Yields about 4 servings.

Red Sal Soup

Red Dal Soup

This soup–Moroccan, flavorful, creamy, spicy–required a whopping 11 minutes (plus simmer and blending time) to sauté/combine.  It’s fast, cheap, simple, amazingly healthy*, and uses pantry staples.  I’m betting (hoping) it freezes well, too.  And when I have a better camera, the picture may illustrate its actual appearance.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground corriander
  • 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed and drained (or 1 package, a little more than 2 cups)
  • 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon (or lime) juice
  • 2 teaspoons harissa
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Yogurt, plain and Greek or regular, thickened (or even sour cream)

Preparation

  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and ginger.  Cook about 6 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.
  2. Stir in paprika through black pepper.  Cook 1 minute.
  3. Add stock, lentils, chickpeas, and tomatoes; bring to a boil.
  4. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally.
  5. Puree mixture with an immersion blender (or just a blender) until smooth.
  6. Stir in lemon juice and harissa.
  7. Garnish with cilantro and yogurt.

*1 cup of soup has less than 250 calories, more than 15 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber, and is cholesterol free.

Yields about 10 1 cup servings.

Connotation Press just released their first issue, and it’s pretty great.  A friend of mine graciously asked me to submit an article for her column, “From Plate to Palate, with Amanda McGuire” (thanks, Amanda!).

We certainly have enjoyed eating mounds and mounds of scallops over the past few weeks.  They just might be my new favorite food.

We had takeout from Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, & Stone Crab a few weeks ago in Chicago.  Only my third experience with these mighty, sweet, delicious claws, stone crabs are my new best friend.  We also dined on them a few months ago in Clearwater Beach’s Ward’s Seafood Market.  Nearly all markets cook the claws for you, and since they’re best cold, all we needed to do was pound them with a hammer and devour the meat.

Joe's Stone Crab Take Out

Joe's Stone Crab Take Out

At $43 for just five large claws (about one pound) at Joe’s, these suckers are a pricey treat.  One pound typically serves just one person–for lunch (but only if you add other food, like salad, and bread, and some veggies, and dessert).  Expect to pay about $75 on yourself to munch on these crabs and get full at Joe’s.  And expect it to be completely worth it.

Just in case you’re interested in how these claws are acquired, watch this fisherman snap off a claw and throw the crab back in the water.  Unlike other shellfish, you can enjoy them without having to kill them.

French fries are, well, French fries.  I’ve made them in the oven dozens of times–sometimes with sauteed garlic and butter, with parsley, dipped in chipotle ketchup, with cheese, with anything, really.  Sometimes I parboil them for a few minutes, I’ve actually even fried them in a vat of oil, but they’re still delicious baked at a high heat for a long time with much less mess, fewer pans, and a whole lot less fat.  They’re decent with or without ketchup or butter or cheese, but garlic is a must in my book.

Parmesan French Fries

Parmesan French Fries

Ingredients

  • Baking potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/4 inch thick strips (about one medium-sized potato per person is usually enough)
  • Cooking spray
  • Extra virgin olive oil (just barely enough to ever so lightly coat each potato strip–about 1-2 teaspoons per 2 potatoes)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced, per potato (even more for garlic fans)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan, freshly shredded (the block is much better than then pre-shredded stuff, but both will work just fine)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Cover a large cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  3. Gently toss potatoes, some oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until well coated.  Add only enough oil to lightly cover the potatoes.
  4. Spread out on a cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for about 50 minutes, turning once or twice, until nicely browned (or even black–they’re delicious burnt, too).
  6. Top with cheese.  Let the fries cool a little while the cheese melts, and then serve.

Yields about 1 serving per potato