Monday, May 4, 2015

Lamb & Rice Stuffed Grape Leaves – Hours to Make, Seconds to Eat, Totally Worth It

There’s no getting around the fact that these lamb and rice stuffed grape leaves, aka “dolmas,” take some time and effort to put together, but at least they’ll all be gone in just a few minutes. What I’m trying to say is, maybe make a double batch.

If you order these at your favorite Mediterranean restaurant, you’ve probably enjoyed the more common meatless version, but I really do love the lamb in these. The technique works the same no matter what you use, but of course, how much rice you use will affect how much liquid you need.

As far as the grape leaves go, I’ve only done these with the ones in the jar, which work great for me. I’ve heard these are even better with fresh grape leaves, but where the heck am I going to get my hands on those in Northern California?

As I mentioned in the video, these are wonderful at any temperature, which makes them a great option for parties. You can put them out warm, knowing that they’ll be just as delicious when they are cold. I garnished mine very simply with lemon and olive oil, but any cold yogurt sauce makes for a beautiful dip. I really hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 32 Lamb & Rice Stuffed Grape Leaves:
1/2 pound ground lamb
rounded 1/2 cup long grain rice
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon currants
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dry oregano
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 large egg
1 jar (16-oz) grape leaves, drained and rinsed

To cook the “Dolmas:”
4 cups chicken broth (tip: use already hot to save time)
Juice of one lemon
drizzle of olive oil

- Simmer, covered, gently for about 45 minutes or until rice is tender. I usually check at around 35 minutes, and play it by ear from there.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How to Fix a Broken Hollandaise Sauce

It happens to the best of us. You did everything right, and yet somehow your gorgeous hollandaise sauce has separated. Your hungry, possibly hangry, brunch guests are sitting down, and you're in the kitchen panicking, since there's no time to start a new one from scratch. What do you do?

First, take a deep breath, and by "deep breath" I mean a big sip of your Bloody Mary. Then, do what you see me do in this video. A hollandaise sauce is actually very easy to fix, and only takes a minute. Let's hope you never have to use it, but just in case, I hope you give this great technique a try.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Orange & Milk Braised Pork Carnitas – Apparently for Cinco de Mayo

It must have been the subliminal beer and liquor advertising that got me, because I wasn’t even thinking about Cinco de Mayo when I decided to film this milk-braised pork carnitas recipe. 

It’s pretty hard to make a bad batch of oven-fried pork chunks, no matter what method you use, but the milk braising beforehand seems to give the meat a little extra succulence.

The subtle sweetness from the orange is also very nice, but I wanted more, so upped the amount below. As I mentioned in the video, you always want to use these ingredient amounts, and not necessarily what you see in the video. Especially when I’m trying something for the first time, I’ll go kind of light on the ingredients and then adjust here if I think it needs little more or less of something.

By the way, proper carnitas are much “richer,” and by that I mean much fattier. The chunks of meat are crisped in a caldron of pork fat, and copious amounts of this insanely delicious stuff sticks to the meat as it’s chopped or smashed. So, feel free to use more than I did during the oven step, and enjoy something even more flavorful.

You’ll probably use these for tacos, but rumor has it, if you smash them up, and mix in some of your favorite barbecue sauce, they make incredible pulled pork style sandwich.  And don’t even get me started on how amazing these are fried up with some eggs in the morning. I hope you give this carnitas recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 portions Orange & Milk Braised Pork Carnitas:
3 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2  cup freshly squeezed orange juice
zest peeled from 1 large orange
2 cups whole milk

Note: You can strain and reduce the cooking liquid if you want, and do "wet" tacos by adding some of the juice to chopped meat.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cheese Blintzes – In a New York State of Mind

If you’re ever talking to someone who’s been to, or used to live in New York City, and the subject of cheese blintzes comes up, you will almost always see their face light up, like they just found a 20-dollar bill on the subway.

After they tell you where they’d get them, and how great they were, they usually turn a little melancholy, and tell you how much they miss them, and why can’t they get them around here. They’re not usually something someone thinks of to make at home, which is too bad, since they are pretty easy.

While there are several steps, they're fairly simple, and so totally worth the effort. In fact, you can prep everything ahead of time, and cook when you’re ready to serve. They also hold pretty well in a warm oven, so exact timing isn’t crucial, which is always nice when trying to serve a brunch.

I cook mine in clarified butter, which is simply melted butter with the white, foamy milk solids skimmed off the top. This prevents it from getting that nutty, toasted flavor, which some of you may actually prefer.

I also don’t like overly sweet blintzes, and use less sugar than many recipes, so taste and adjust. I hope you give these delicious cheese blintzes a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes between 10 and 12 Blintzes:
(depending on the size, and how much filling you use)
For the batter:
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:
1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (drained in a strainer if wet)
1/2 cup cream cheese
zest from one lemon
pinch salt
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, or more to taste
1 large egg
After stuffing and rolling, brown in butter, and bake at 325 F. for 12 minutes.

Serve with this raspberry sauce, and fresh berries.