Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Masala Fried Chicken

I choose not to pigeonhole this recipe as curry, but it could be just that. Curry - in fried, zestfully sizzled form, scuppered up with a slight masala. 

I'm calling this humdinger of a dish, masala fried chicken. Why? 

a) I came up with the recipe several years ago, made it on numerous occasions, but it really doesn't have a name. (This post officially covers the naming ceremony).
b) It is fried and has a poke of garam masala fused into it. 

In India, we have many creative approaches when it comes to transforming your everyday poultry. A curry can be devised as a vehicle to fashion chicken in a pantheon of innovative ways- spicy, sweet, sour, dry, saucy, more masala, less spice, onions sliced, onions ground, tomatoes in , tomatoes out, the list goes on.

This chicken is a culinary nod to that creative approach- my having come up with it on the happenstance of tasting it, only once, at a restaurant. Or was it a random appetizer had at some random dinner party where I was a random houseguest? Maybe, just, maybe it came from the recesses of my mind, an expressive cooking accident result, when my lazy self, did not feel the need to unload a whole pantry of ingredients to make one simple chicken dish (the general elaborateness of Indian dishes can be a good thing if time, propensity permit). I honestly think it's a coalition of  all three.

Knowing that, this masala fried chicken is dressed in scant spices. The coated chicken pieces fried, along with crisped onions, a handful of adjusting ingredients fine tunes this into a dry- curried, flavor synthesis. Incidentally, this further lends to its remarkably South Indian flavor.

Another dash of pepper, a pinch of turmeric, and a shaking of the garam will have you journey through the ultimate flavored chicken expedition in no time. 

The masala fried platter is one of my son's favorites. Z, unlike the rest of us, does not enjoy bucketloads of spice. Despite the army of serranos amassing its curried frame, which for the fainter- palated can be deseeded or replaced with milder cousin, jalapeno, this dish really does not tip the heat scale to fire breathing heights.

On the final tasting of the fantastic and relatively easy masala fried chicken, you might be on the brink of doing somersaults, and boldly proclaim a beyond eternal love of Indian cooking. Moreover, the guests you serve this to, will end up gastronomically enchanted, hailing you as the consummate guru of the creative Indian kitchen. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. cut up chicken (2 inch pieces; preferably bone-in thigh )
  • 2 tbsp black pepper (freshly ground preferred)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 serranos (or jalapenos)
  • 12 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch piece ginger
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp salt or more to season
  • 1 handful cilantro (chopped fine)
Method:

  • Coat chicken pieces in black pepper, turmeric, salt.
  • Crush or grind serranos, garlic and ginger together, slight chunky but well combined. 
  • Heat oil on medium flame. Place chicken pieces a few at a time in oil. Fry through until pieces are golden and cooked through, covering pan occasionally so that they get evenly cooked.
  • Repeat until all chicken pieces are fried. Take out and drain on paper towels.
  • In same oil, fry onions until light brown, past translucent stage, about 4 minutes.
  • If much oil remains, take out excess using a ladle. Let enough remain to saute the final ingredients ( about 1-2 tablespoons).
  • Saute garlic, ginger, serrano mixture till soft and cooked (about 3 minutes). Add in tomatoes and cook through for an additional minute.
  • Switch to medium - low flame, put in the fried chicken pieces. Mix in garam masala, black pepper, salt and cilantro. Combine well.
  • Take off flame.
  • Serve warm.
This feeds a group of 4-6 hungry guests. It is delicious with roti (Indian bread) or ghee rice( shown below, post coming soon) but sides most well with parboiled Kerala rice
I want to thank the very gracious editors of Yummly who handpicked my mango custard post to be featured on their Mango Madness page. I am most grateful to be "certified yummly"!
******

I read devotions/blessings posted by Susie Larson on a daily basis. She is a radio host, author and Christian speaker who heartens many with her beautiful messages and daily inspirations. I want to pass on a piece of the encouragement that has so been a blessing to me, nourishing my soul and speaking truth to my heart.

"May you raise your arms and praise God for His faithfulness to you. May you open your hands and receive what He so lovingly wants to give. May you look past your circumstances and see Jesus who reigns over all. And may you move forward in faith knowing all things are possible through Him." ~Taken from Susie Larson's End Of Day Blessing.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge May 2012- Challah Back Y'all


This month's DB Challenge was something I had never attempted before. It turned out to be  a most welcome one, bread baking at it's finest.


May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.


From the original instructions, Ruth gave us the option of 3 recipes. I chose "Ruth's Go-To Whole Wheat Challah", which included the hearty and wholesome ingredients of wheat flour and oats. 


Challah requires braiding of the dough. Ruth generously provided us with plenty of video tutorials on how to achieve a perfectly weaved dough. 


For me, the braiding looked like it would be the most difficult part of the challenge. Of the several braid options, I chose the 4 strand braid. Fortunately, with the aid of the visuals, in conjunction with  repeated practice on my daughter, A's hair, I was able to be conquer the task of the twist.

The dough was supple and elastic, yet robust and resilient. At one point, "A" was holding the base of my very sturdy electric mixer once the dough spiralled into a ball, and, she, along with my heavy duty machine jounced away in my kitchen- bread making and merrymaking all in one.

There's a substantial amount of dough doubling expected at regular intervals, and between steps, calling for Herculean amounts of patience. On the other had, challah is uncomplicated and fairly easy to make. According to Ruth, "challah takes about 4-6 hours from start to finish. This includes making the dough, at least two risings, baking and cooling." 


A good 15 minutes after settling the loaves into the heated oven, your home will be seized with the delightful scent of a fine bakery, a most invitingly bready embrace.


All in all, it was a very satisfying experience, bringing with it a sense of accomplishment for even the most bread challenged among us. 


I enjoyed making challah and most probably will be trying my hand at sourdough.

Thank you Ruth for this wonderful challenge. The recipes along with her precise tutelage helped in bringing about a blissful bread making adventure .

Whole Wheat Challah
(source: The Daring Bakers' Challah challenge /Ruth's Go-To Whole Wheat Recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages (4½ teaspoons)  dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (100°F)
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ½ cup (one stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats (old fashioned work just fine)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup flour for kneading 
  • 1 egg beaten plus 1 tsp water to glaze loaves
Directions:
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve yeast in warm water. Allow to stand about 5 minutes until creamy/foamy.
  • With paddle attachment beat eggs, sugar, butter, salt, whole wheat flour, all purpose flour and oats into the yeast mixture. If by hand, combine eggs and butter with yeast mixture until well mixed. Add flours, salt and oats and mix until it becomes difficult to mix.
  • Once combined, switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding flour (for kneading) as/if needed. Alternately, if kneading by hand, this should take about 10-12 minutes.
  • Form dough into a round, compact ball. Place in oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel. Let rise in warm area (maybe in the oven with the light on) until doubled, about 2 hours.
  • Once dough has doubled, punch down and knead for an two minutes. Cover again with towel, allow to rise again for a minimum of 30 minutes up to an hour.
  • Punch the dough down again. Divide dough in two.
  • Divide each into 4 equal pieces. Shape each piece into 4 long strands (likewise 3 and 6 if you are doing the 3 strand, 6 strand). 
  • Weave the strands into a braided loaf.
  • Repeat for the other half.
  • Place shaped loaves onto parchment covered baking trays. Cover with the towel and allow to rise another hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the one egg and water to glaze loaf.
  • Brush loaves with this egg wash. 
  • Bake 30 to 40 min. until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • Transfer loaves to a wire rack to cool before serving.

4 strands for the 4 strand braid

Fasten the long dough threads and begin from the top

Starting from the right: over, under, over

Press together and tuck both ends underneath. 

Beautiful loaf with gorgeous sheen. One of the best loaves of bread I've ever made without using a bread maker.


The texture was excellent, specks of the wheat grains and oats showing through 
Not intentional that this came alongside my doughnuts post. The two yeast recipes, coupled together, should have you experienced in the joys and trials of rising and proofing.
*Update* I will also be submitting this post to YeastSpotting, an online showcase of goodies made from yeast.
******
“You are the light of the world - like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden." Matthew 5:13-16

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Doughnuts and One Lovely Blog Award!


There is something about fried foods that just gets me weak kneed and swooning. From the smell that radiates to the final chow down on an oil- bathed treat, the alluringly nature of the fried eat simply can't be beat.

When this snack comes in the form of a sweet dough confectionery and happens to be called doughnut, the want then turns into a hypnotic, pining daze. This dithery mindset usually occurs in catching sight and whiff of these compellingly good dough- nuggets.

When I hit our nearby doughnut place, which is a very good place to be, I can spend some quality time in there. The colors lure me, the sights tempt me and oohh, yes the smells go on to dangerously entice me. Consequently, on purchasing my dozen (or two, or three) an idea hatched compelling me to forge ahead and make, or at least try, this labor of love.

I call it labor because, it does take a substantial amount of toil to make doughnuts, which if you have an electric mixer cuts the work incredibly.
The first focal point of consideration is the proofing, once for the yeast's viability, and two subsequent recesses for adequate dough rising. So, yes the wait outweighs the actual toil, and it can be a pleasant experience, especially if you want to pull away at your tolerant side.

Second, oil temperature for the fry is key. By this, I mean, if the oil is too hot, the outsides of your doughnuts will burn, leaving the insides untouched and undone. If it's not hot enough, it will absorb oil and leave you with a soggy, greasy and yucky dough- goop. Therefore, if you can't read oil, like most of us, use a candy/deep-fry clip-on thermometer, with the temperature registering at 365-370° F.

Last, do not overcrowd the pan when frying, you will be eating steamed dumplings instead.  

This recipe requires rolling and cutting. They are smaller bites which take on the shape of a flattened, rounded sphere. Alternately, I have hand formed balls, individually, from the same recipe. These can   then be stuffed with filling, or wheeled in some cinnamon sugar.

All this dough banter should lead you to the anticipation that your efforts will not be in vain, that you will be pleasurably rewarded for your hammering away at a job well done.

So are we ready? Set? Let's roll!

( Loosely adapted from Food Network Magazine's Jelly Doughnuts)
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
  •  3 cups oil (canola or peanut) 
  •  1/2 cup each of fruit jam, nutella or any filling of your choice
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Method:
  • Pour warm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast on top and stir until dissolved. Let stand until foam rises, about 5 minutes
  • Add the sugar, salt, vanilla and eggs to the bowl. Whisk until combined well.
  • Using your mixer's dough hook and add flour. Combine well, occasionally scraping down bowl.
  • Add the butter, in pieces and mix until smooth. The dough batter will be sticky.
  • Place dough in a well oiled bowl( or spray with Pam). Refrigerate and let rise for 3-4 hours or until doubled in size.
  • Line with parchment and lightly flour two large baking sheets..
  • Dust some flour on a clean surface and roll out  dough to 1/2 inch thickness.
  • Using a 1/2 inch cookie cutter, cut into discs. Lay the discs on the lined, floured baking sheets.
  • Dust discs with more flour, cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place for 30 minutes up to an hour.
  • On medium high flame, heat oil in a large deep pot. Deep fry thermometer should register between 365- 370° F.  
  •  Lower the doughnuts using a large slotted spoon into the oil. Fry in batches, a few at a time until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes, remembering to gently push, roll around and submerge doughnuts in oil.
  • Take out and drain on paper towels.
  • Fit a pastry bag with round tip #3 (you'd need more bags/ tips if you have different fillings)
  • Fill bag with jam/desired filling. 

  • Insert the tip into a side of the doughnut. Apply light pressure and fill. Keep aside.
  • Dust with confectioner's sugar.
  • Serve warm
Notes:
As mentioned above, an alternate way of making these would be to roll into 1 inch balls, in place of flattening and cutting out. I did both, and both ways turned out well.
I used a variety of jams and and of course, the mother of all fillings, nutella. Otherwise roll in sugar/ cinnamon sugar when they're warm.

Should you have them all reach the serving dish before you mouth, there will be approximately 50 of these bombs in front of you. Heed the advice of practicing moderation when devouring. Although, overindulgent consumption can be so worth the extra mile(s) that you will be running on the treadmill, come next morning.

I have some fun stuff to share with you all today. I want to thank Cathy of She Loves Simple for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award  . This is my first award and I must tell you, it is such a great feeling to be recognized by a fellow blogger, especially one of such stellar grade. Her Curried Red Lentil Soup with Pumpkin is absolutely crave-worthy and deserves a standing ovation. She also has a crafty side too. Her awesome sheet music art is something I will be doing with A, my pianist daughter. So, I suggest you go visit Ms. Cath, and Ms. Babs (identity of Babs revealed on your visit )...you'll like the both of them and their delightful blog! Thank you very much Cathy!
Rules of The Award:
  1. Display the blog award. Look above- Ta- daah!
  2. Create a link to the site that nominated you. (Look above and click away)
  3. Write 7 random facts about yourself (down below)
  4. Display the links of the blogs you love and pass on the award.
7 Random Facts about me:

  1. I love to cook, bake and be in the kitchen, not much of a random one, but I covered number one, ha, ha ;-)
  2. I love all types of seafood, but my favorite food, hands down is everything under the banner South Indian.
  3. I am a Rocky enthusiast, having seen all the movies with the 2 men in my family, I have officially jumped on the Italian Stallion fan bandwagon.
  4. I was born in India, raised in the U.S., went back to India and now live in the U.S. again - having moved about 10 times itself after my marriage, counting all my homes. I consider myself the maven of moving and packing.
  5. I must also mention that, from a very early age, I have been a strong adherent of the Tom Cruise flick and along with Cathy, I truly recognize the acting talent that is Mr. Depp
  6. I am an ardent lover of  Malayalam cinema, movies made in my first language, Malayalam, one of 22 major languages spoken in India. (**fun fact** it is also the only language that when turned from back to front, spells the same word) After an especially long day you can catch me enjoying my habitual Mallu-movie marathon.
  7. Social networking is something way out of my comfort zone- I do it, since it's part and parcel of today's vogue dialogue and if I didn't, I'd be so not trending. 
  8. Though, I don't watch much T.V., I  admit, there is one show I like to see. It is The Voice, and my all time favorite judge is CeeLo Green. As he would say , I'm in "Ceelomance" with him.

Now on to the 7 blogs I love to go through and am happy to nominate:
  1.  Mrs. Schwartz Kitchen. Mrs. Schwartz has many pretty pictures and detailed posts to match. While you visit her domain, your aural senses get a treat too, you'll get a listen of some very good music. Try out her Cajun Pasta which looks absolutely delectable.
  2. Bake For Happy Kids. Having the influence of different cultures has created a multi-cuisine master chef in Zoe. She has many unique and wonderful baking techniques. You probably won't leave without jotting down a recipe or two.
  3.  Some, Some and Some. B is most inspirational and her heirloom Date and Walnut Loaf is a reflection of her thought provoking posts as well as delicious recipes. Do check out that beautiful mosaic backdrop while you're there.
  4. Go Bake Yourself, Choc Chip Uru's sensational write-ups will have you in splits. Besides the Shakespearean prose, her chocolate delicacies and one of a kind desserts are out of this world.
  5. Gourmantine's blog, Lithuanian cooking at it's finest.  She like the rest of us loves to eat! Pay her a visit to get a view of some gorgeous pictures and a look at that wonderful Pink Soup
  6. Homemade Bites. My friend, Vanessa, from Rio de Janeiro has some scrumptious recipes under her blogging belt. Her beautiful post on Pave will most surely touch your heart.
  7. Noel Collections. Reshmi is inspiration for me. She cooks Indian and a lot of it. I long to try her mouthwatering Moong Gram Dosa! You won't regret going there.
* A note to all my 7 favorite blogs: Remember to reference and apply the rules above when posting the award on your blogs.
Congratulations to all of you lovely blogs. Thanks for sharing your beautiful gifts and great inspiration!
******
"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track." Proverbs 3:5,6 (Msg.)




Sunday, May 20, 2012

Egg Puffs

Some foods may not be totally segmented into one particular genre, culturally, or otherwise. Such is the case for the recipe presented here.  No one quite knows of it's inception, how it evolved into present day popular nosh status or even it's questionable origins. Though, it isn't categorized as authentic "Indian food", this overlap of European pastry plugged with curried filling displays a harmonious fusion of two starkly different textures and tastes, a sort of East meets West conjugation. This unique short eat/snack/appetizer (and maybe breakfast item) is known as the egg puffs and as per popular demand, possibly opinion(?) can be recognized as Indian.

Churned out in unusually high numbers at local bakeries throughout India (more so in the South), it is  on most occasions the first thing that disappears from behind the display counters before midday. Had with a cup of chai/coffee, the filled puff pastry is a well- favored, sought- after and preferred teatime munch.

In comparison, it  is most similar to a turnover, savory - yes, spicy- gratifyingly so.

Puffs or pattice in Indian culinary nomenclature are usually spiced fillings,in many instances accompanied by a substantial protein and enwombed in rich layered pastry dough. Egg puffs are nothing more than  boiled eggs spun in masala ,wrapped in this pastry. 

Masala is a South Asian concept and varies according to country and region. It is a mix of spices, which can be dry roasted, ground, like the one used in the vindaloo paste, sauteed for a gravy like sauce, or even combined with additional zesty ingredients. The masala for the eggs is fried along with onion, ginger and garlic .





Egg puffs is a pinnacle composite of creative flavor -luxe, lovely and lipsmackingly awesome. Taking one bite of the deliciously crisp-flaked curried egg will introduce your mouth to a higher, not-yet-known modicum of taste. 

Fair warning: these are crazy good and indulgently so - having just the one may not fit the craving bill.

Ingredients:

 Egg masala filling~
  • 12 boiled eggs
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1  diced onion 
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • half of a jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
For the puff pastry ~
  • packaged frozen puff pastry  – 2 sheets
  • small bowl of water
Method for the filling:
  • Thaw the frozen pastry sheet in the refrigerator overnight, or at room temperature the same day for 30-40 minutes until soft and easy to work with.
  • Have 12 hard boiled eggs peeled and ready.
  • Preheat oven to 375°
  • Heat the oil in a pan, throw in curry leaves and mustard seeds. Allow the mustard to start  popping, immediately add the onions. Cook them on medium flame until they become browned and slightly caramelized. 
  • Stir in ginger, garlic, jalapeno and saute for 2-3 minutes until cooked.
  • Add the coriander, cayenne, garam masala, cumin. Saute for additional 2 minutes until oil slowly separates and rises above.
  • Turn off heat, add salt, eggs and and combine with masala.
Assembling the puffs~
  • Using a rolling pin, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, do not attempt to make it too thin.
  • Cut each puff pastry sheet into 6 extended squares (large enough to wrap whole egg). You should have 12 total from 2 sheets of pastry. 
  • Forming a diamond with the pastry cut, one pointed end nearer to you, place an egg with some masala onto the square- don't overstuff. Fold the bottom part of the pastry over the egg. Brush the rest of the edges with water. Fold up the two sides, finishing up with the top corner. Your end result should look like a bulging envelope. Seal by brushing with water and pressing the edges together.
  • Repeat for the remaining.
  • Transfer the puffs to baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, 20-24 minutes (rotate pans halfway through, if needed ).

Notes:
The egg masala, alone is a quick accompaniment curry for chappatis (wheat flatbread), rice, even appam.

A few mentions: A huge thank you to BlogHer. The kind editors over there paid me a wonderful compliment by spotlighting my Sesame Chikki post this past week. Thanks again BlogHer!
I also want to mention the joyful surprise of coming across some of my pictures/recipes pinned by people on Pinterest - very thankful for those people. 
******
If you had asked me even half a year ago, I would have envisioned my writing an online food journal as virtually impossible, preposterously silly. Today, I am so happy that I started one. In all that's emerged, my gratefulness goes to Almighty God. 
God made it happen, better put, He forced it possible. Every step of the process, He has made me necessitate His presence. During bouts of clogged brain syndrome, He triggers my mind to persevere and sustains me with needed energy. Likewise, He moves my hands to type, supplies me with ideas and accompanying words, fills me with inspiration to cook and creatively enables me to take better pictures (latter still has much room for improvement). The finished product that are these web posts truly do come from above. 

I have much to be grateful for. God is good and I will forever praise Him.
If you have marked off something in your mind as impossible, press on with an unwavering faith in Christ, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that "nothing is impossible with God". Luke 1:37

"You will always be the apple of His (God's) eye. He will never give up on you, so don’t give up on yourself.” Joel Osteen



Monday, May 14, 2012

Bouef(Beef) Bourguignon- Daring Cooks Challenge- May 2012



Bonjour! It is May 14th and time for yet another Daring Cook's Challenge. 


Our May 2012 Daring Cooks’ hostess was Fabi of fabsfood. Fabi challenged us to make Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic French stew originating from the Burgundy region of France.

Further to that announcement, Fabi's challenge called for Julia Child's version of Bouef, from her book, "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking"

I was most overjoyed and somewhat overwhelmed. My fascination, both with Julia, the person and this ever famous dish, came subsequent to my viewing of Julie and Julia.

I hate to admit though, procrastination sometimes gets the better of me- I waited, until, quite literally, the last moment to finally ride out this challenge. Not a very resourceful predicament, you see, I needed to make the dish today, photograph that finished product today, type out my post today, and publish, hopefully, before midnight tonight.

It didn't help matters that since I inhabit the land of extreme heat, having my oven on for a looong 3 hours, made the entire process a tad bit uncomfortable.
Alongside the fact that it would be a most perfect spread for a cooler time of year, beef bourguignon may not be the ideal meal when you're pressed for time, either. Resplendent, though it is, bouef prep does involve many winding, lengthy steps.

Daunting at first, reading the recipe over and over again helped me to gain the confidence needed in progressing through each step, until I finally got the gumption to complete the task. Not to mention, conquering techniques that I've never really come across in the kitchen. How many times have you blanched bacon rind or brown- braised white onions?

Though, looking back on the process, after the intial chop, followed by a myriad of sautes, you stick most of the ingredients in a pot, and while it cooks for 3 hours or so, you go about your business- with the exception of some interim braising and browning. Not too complicated, right?

The whole cooking experience was calmingly nice and went like clockwork. I had the book in front me, Fabi's additional directions, JZ hovering over my shoulders, since he couldn't keep away from the come- hither smell of bacon and beef, as I chopped, blanched, braised and cooked my way into one of the most awesome beef stews ever experienced in my life.

The stew's aromas wafting throughout the home were so intensely, delightfully good, that we longed to cut short the cook time, to ingest the whole thing a little bit sooner. 

I did, however, have to adjust a couple of things, like I mentioned I waited till the nth hour to purchase a few ingredients and then could not find a store nearby that housed them.

My adjustments : In place of the chunky bacon I used a cut portion of salted pork, with the rind intact. It pretty much tasted like bacon and had enough fat attached to it to render for the frying and contribute to  the overall uniform taste. For small onions, I went and bought the frozen pearls, they don't hold as well, but still were a good alternative.

The multi- hour braise ensured chunky pieces of meat to tenderize and fall apart in your mouth. Every staggeringly good mouthful had you hankering for the next. The buttered mushrooms and the pearly little onions converged in unison to bring a new dimension of rich textured flavor.

Simply put,  beef bourguignon is astoundingly delicious.

Thank you, Fabi for such an inspiring and classically French recipe challenge .

A word of advice, after taking that first bite of bouef, you might feel the urge to converse in French.


Merci beaucoup mes amis!


Toujours bon appetit!


Preparation time: 5 hours (Including 3-4 hours cooking time in the oven) 


Equipment required:
  • 1 large Dutch oven/cast iron casserole, or an oven proof dish, possibly lidded, otherwise a double piece of aluminium foil will do the trick.
  • 1 sauce pan
  • 1 cutting board
  • Knives
  • Measuring cups and spoons

Beef Bourgignon :

Recipe Source: Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon from her book, "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking."

Ingredients:

  • 1 6 oz. chunk of bacon
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 pounds stewing beef cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 1 tsp  salt
  • 1/2 tsp  pepper
  • 3 tbsp  flour
  • 3 cups young- bodied red wine. Suggestions: Bourgogne, of course, but also Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1 carrot, sliced 
  • 1 onion, sliced in julienne
  •  2-3 cups of beef stock or beef bouillon (enough for stew and braising onions)
  • 1 tbsp  tomato paste or tomato puree
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • ½ tsp  thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  •  blanched bacon rind
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 18-24 small onions, brown-braised in stock( method given below) 
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 pound small mushrooms ( if large, slice or quarter) 
  • Fresh parsley sprigs to serve

Method:
  • Preheat oven to 450° F
  • Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons. Cut the bacon into lardons (Sticks, ¼ inch thick and 1 ½ inch long. Simmer rind and lardons in 4 cups  of water for 10 minutes. Drain and dry.
  •  Saute lardons in 1 tbsp olive oil in a heatproof casserole over moderate heat, until lightly brown, 2-3 minutes. Remove to side dish.

  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in casserole. Dry beef on paper towels- it won't brown if it's damp. Saute beef a few pieces at a time until evenly browned. Keep it aside with the lardons. 
  • Still in the same casserole/pan using same fat, saute the carrot and the onion until lightly browned
  • Return the bacon lardons and the beef to casserole with the vegetables. Sprinkle it with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper , then add the flour and toss to coat the beef.
  • Place the casserole/dish uncovered in the middle position of the oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for another 4 minutes. This gives the meat a lovely crust.
  • Remove the casserole/dish from the oven and bring down oven temp to 325° F. Stir in the wine,   enough stock so as barely cover meat. Stir in tomato paste, mashed garlic cloves, thyme, bay and the blanched bacon rind.
  • Bring the filled casserole to simmering point on the stove. Now, if you were using a frying pan, discard it and put the stew in an oven proof dish.
  • Cover the casserole either with a lid or tightly with aluminum foil so as not to lose any of the juices) and place it lower third of the oven. Regulate heat, so that the liquid simmers slow and steady, for about 2-3 hours. While the stew is cooking, prepare onions and mushrooms.
  • For the small onions, melt 1 1/2 tablespoon of butter and 1 1/2 tbsp oil in a pan and saute the peeled onions until golden brown. Add beef stock until they are almost covered and simmer for 30 minutes, carefully turning them as they cook, or until most of the liquid disappears and they are tender but  retain round shape. Set them aside.
  • Saute mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter, stir until they’re nicely brown. Set aside.
  • After 3 hours, when meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve over a saucepan, wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Place onions and mushrooms over the meat.
  • Skim the fat off the sauce. Put the saucepan on the stove and simmer it for 2-3 minutes. Skim additional fat if it rises. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon. If not, boil it until it thickens. If it’s too thick, stir in some stock or bouillon to make it lighter. At this point taste for seasoning, add if needed.
  • Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Put the casserole on the stove or in the oven and reheat for 2-3 minutes right before serving, basting meat and vegetables with the sauce. Serve it in the casserole with some sprigs of fresh parsley. 
This recipe serves 6.
I served this along with some lovely smashed red potatoes.
Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: You can keep leftovers in the fridge for 2-3 days. If you want to freeze it, it lasts up to 3 months.


Fabi's additional notes:
The recipe gives its best when made in a dutch oven or casserole.
Some people add, 10 minutes before serving, a couple of spoonfuls of beurre maniĆ© (A paste made of 50% flour and 50% butter) in order to thicken the sauce and make it look more brilliant. I don’t add it cause I like the sauce just the way it is, but if you heard about it and want to try, please feel free to do it.
My notes:
Don't overcrowd pan when sauteing any of the ingredients, whether it be the beef for browning, onions or mushrooms. Instead of the browned effect, you will get a boiled, overcooked outcome- not wanted!

Last word of advice- Try not to simplify too much any of the steps or ingredients, the whole process in and of itself guarantees a robust, optimum flavored dish.


"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun!" Julia Child

Inspiration from the French Chef, herself... *Update- 5/19/2012* The original Julia Child video that I'd imbedded here was removed by the user, I've replaced it with a clip from the movie, "Julia and Julia", where Amy Adams' character highlights the dish.


Joyful cooking!
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" A miserable heart means a miserable life; a cheerful heart fills the day with song." Pr.15:15 (MSG)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pork Vindaloo



As promised in my previous post, I am bringing you one of my sister-in-law Annies' ace recipes. Annies is an outstanding home cook and baker. She has many dishes that can qualify her as a top chef contender . So, as any good s-i-l would, I decided to pester her for a peek at her recipe stash. She kindly responded to my requests cutting time out of her busy schedule to send me some cookbook- worthy stuff.


I will start with the one recipe that Annies credits  to her husband, Anoop, JZ's brother. Anoop is quite the food aficionado, knowledgeable in some fanciful food techniques. They are brothers, sharing the same Master Chef mom (yes, my mom-in-law is an insanely wonderful cook- beyond comprehension and a grand subject for future posts) , however, JZ's genetic inclination in regard to culinary technique is not as, how do we say, swanky. Being hero of the potato masala, rightly called JZ masterpiece, and throwing in every spice/herb in the pantry is where it's "at' for him. Sorry, I'm not delving into a discourse on quantitative genetics here, just felt the need to bring about a quick intro on the source behind this brilliantly fashioned pork curry. 


Annies rightly puts the aspects of her husband's dish into perspective~
"...this is Anoop’s specialty. It is always a big hit at all our church potlucks. It is loosely based on the vindaloo, but he’s given his own twists and turns to it. There have been times that he’s substituted the ground raisins with plum chutney/sauce. At other times he has substituted the raw tamarind with sweet tamarind sauce (the kind that’s had with Punjabi samosas), etc, etc. So, the recipe is more a guide than a mandate. The idea? To get a dark, hot, spicy dish with a sweet/sour undertone. "

The taste profile says it's pork vindaloo and for recipe indexing's sake, it is just that. The dish contains many key components of the fiery Goan curry such as vinegar, hot red chillies and the right tangy, sweet balance that thinly cuts the line between it being curry rather than pickle. The amount of tamarind/raisins called for evens out the heat factor, while the  other ingredients pull together to bring about utter spiced perfection.  


Ingredients:
  • *2 tbsp cayenne pepper or Indian red chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds or powder
  • 3-4 tsp raisins
  • 1 lime sized ball of tamarind, seeded(1 tbsp of tamarind paste)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup vinegar (more or less)
  • 3 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1 heaping tsp ginger paste
  • 1 heaped tsp garlic paste
  • 2 serrano pepper, slit lengthwise(green chillies)
  • 2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • *2 1/2 lbs pork cut into cubes
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 11/2 tsp salt (or enough to taste)



Method:
  • Grind together ingredients starting from the cayenne pepper ending with the garam masala into a paste with a 1/4 cup of the vinegar. 
  • Heat oil in a pressure cooker or heavy bottomed saute pan on medium heat. Saute the onions followed by ginger, garlic and serranos until golden brown. 
  • Add the masala paste and continue frying till the masala is cooked and oil begins to separate. Then, add the chopped tomatoes and continue frying till the tomatoes blend in and the oil separates again.
  • Add the pork cubes and sear for about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the vinegar, boiling water and the salt. 
  • Cook on pressure till done (around 15 mts). Turn off the flame and let the pressure subside. Open the lid and let it simmer on medium until the gravy thickens. Add more vinegar or salt, if necessary. Alternatively, if using saute pan, bring ingredients to boil, reduce flame to low and cook for 40-50 minutes.


Notes:
This dish is on the spicy side,should you need to adjust spice/heat level try reducing the amount of cayenne or substitute it with paprika, though it might alter the taste.


For the pork, I used tenderloin.


Tamarind, ginger, garlic pastes and all the other spices, powders can be found at Indian specialty grocers.

Annies' further instructions ~"Best left overnight (or more) in the fridge to pickle before serving hot the following day. Goes well with crusty breads, appam / vattayappam, sannas ( spongy rice cakes), a variety of Indian breads or even with piping hot basmati rice". 


Do heed the advice of applying a wait time from the actual making to actual consumption. It takes a 24 hour window for some happy coupling of spices and meat.This allows all flavoring to properly hinge on to the pieces and render a well rounded, savory, and very piquant (depleted my adjective stockpile) pork vindaloo. The aroma that it imparts the next day is ridiculously mouth watering, compelling me to take a couple of hand spoonfuls onto a slice of bread, this morning. Possible breakfast contender? 

If you've never tried pork vindaloo, go, print out the recipe, frame it if you must.  Amongst our extended family itself, it has reached a status of epic proportions. One day it might require a recipe patent- just saying.


I was introduced to vindaloo during the initial year of my marriage, and it holds a special place in my heart. Goa was JZ's and my first place of residence and we would periodically haunt the coastal beach shacks  to gorge on the red curry/ rice staple. 
******
The scripture best describes Annies and Anoop's perspective in life. It is their family motto, the Christ- centered dictum that eventually swept our entire family into precious, redemptive faith.