0822 No-Knead Bread

So you know about the No-Knead Bread, right?  You know the one everyone’s been talking about since 2006?  Stephen made itMegan made it and has a whole photo set to prove it.  Laurie made an incredible-looking loafShana said it’s the only bread she makesThe photos of Carrie‘s bread are amazing.  Rex‘s mom made itSonya made and blogged it.

So why has it taken me four years to try it?  Because honestly, I like kneading.  And I’ve never bothered to move on from Jamie’s basic recipe.  So after 10 minutes of kneading the bagels, it seemed like an opportune time to try a bread that required no kneading.

And then it stuck.  To everything.  To the sides of the bowl.  To the cutting board, no matter how well floured.  Definitely to the towel in which the dough was wrapped.  The recipe said it would make a 1 1/2 pound loaf, but mine weighed in at just over a pound – that’s the amount of dough that stuck.

No-Knead Bread

At no point in the rise, lack of kneading, or transferring from bowl to counter to towel to pot did the dough ever resemble a ball – and so, when it came out of the pot, it was still flat – almost as flat as a focaccia.  Hiding inside, though, was a wonderful texture born of a very, very slow rise.  We’re looking forward to eating it with the pork goulash for dinner tomorrow night.

I’m not sure if I’ll make it again, though.  The timing necessitates weekend baking – or a very late weeknight dinner.  And then there’s the stickiness, though there are work-arounds for that.  What I will try next is the Almost No-Knead variation.  But for now I’ll be spreading butter on my flat little loaf.

Recipe:
No-Knead Bread from Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery via Mark Bittman at New York Times – I’m also linking to Smitten Kitchen’s post about this recipe, as the comments are full of useful hacks.

0801 Roasted Cod, Corn on the Cob

“I don’t like fish, but I’m trying really hard.”

This statement should tell you everything you need to know about my relationship to seafood.  I love shellfish.  We’re addicted to fancy tinned tuna.  I hate salmon, even the remarkable smoked salmon from Tracklements that the fishmonger at Zingerman’s convinced me to try.  The rest of the sea remains relatively unexplored, aside from a few nice pieces of halibut or tilapia.  I posed this statement at the fish counter at Plum today, though, and came home with a small slab of cod – firm, great flavor, not too fishy – or so I was told.  I was also told that a pound would be just right for two of us, but that’s neither here nor there.

I had intended to bake the fish in a foil packet with lemon and garlic, but I was reminded of this recipe while flipping through cookbooks.  I sliced the fish into two filets, halved some cherry tomatoes, ripped up some basil from the garden, and drizzled olive oil over the top.  The recipe calls for mozzarella, but I didn’t feel like making another trip out on the moped, so I skipped that step and instead shredded a bunch of Parmiagiano-Reggiano over the tomatoes and filets.  While the fish got lovely and golden in the toaster oven, I boiled a couple of ears of sweet corn for about 7 minutes.

The fish was perfect – flaky, tender, and infused with delicate flavors from the basil and tomatoes – and the corn was impossibly sweet when rolled in butter, salt, and pepper.  The juices from the corn and fish mixed together on our plates, making everything even happier.  Especially my tastebuds.  Now to find more fish like this…

Recipe:
Roasted Cod with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella from Happy Days with the Naked Chef

0526 Roast Pork and Rhubarb

The notes in my cookbook indicate that I made this recipe for dinner with Carl in September of 2005.  While I recall little about the meal itself, I do remember that evening quite clearly.  I was in a weird place emotionally, coming off a dizzying summer of shows and dancing and heartbreak.  I was starting to feel the ground under my feet professionally and intellectually.  Things were about to shift, and I was feeling at loose ends.  After dinner, we laid on the paint-stained hardwood floors and talked and smoked cigarettes, and when he kissed me goodbye, I felt like a tremendous weight was lifted off my shoulders.

That’s one of the reasons I love cooking – and one of the reasons I’ve liked this project so far: that a note written in a cookbook can bring back so vividly the memories of a meal shared with a friend.  I don’t know that this note will have the same kind of effect several years from now, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a good dinner.  Shane was a bit put off by the texture and flavor of the rhubarb – when it isn’t used in desserts, rhubarb is tangy and sour – but the pork was flavorful, and I’m kind of blown away by the fact that we roasted pork chops in our toaster oven.  (Yes, you read that correctly.)

Recipe:
Super Pork Fillet Roasted on Rhubarb from Happy Days with the Naked Chef

0420 Steak Sarnies

I was vegetarian for ~6 years, and have only recently started eating beef again after 13 years away.  I mention this because tonight I made my second steak EVER.  EVER.  The last one was prepared maybe 9 years ago for a meat-eating ex as a Valentine’s or maybe birthday treat.  I was living in the first 12th Street apartment, and I remember carefully consulting my Joy of Cooking to figure out what the hell I was doing.  I had just started getting into cooking – at this point fresh packaged pasta and a sauce other than straight-up marinara was a fancy home-cooked meal – so who knows how that steak turned out.  I certainly don’t recall.

Tonight’s steak, on the other hand, was delicious.  After some consultation with my Plum Market butcher friends, I picked up a piece of flank steak, then sliced it thin and grilled it quickly on the cast iron grill pan.  We made quick sandwiches with the steak and a handful of arugula on slices of toasted Paesano spread with coarse ground mustard and a bit of mayonnaise.  The sandwiches were hearty and satisfying, especially with a Spotted Cow and some tangy cornichons on the side.  While I’m not sure that steak sarnies will enter our regular meal rotation, the simplicity of this dinner reminded me that a good sandwich is a beautiful thing.

Recipe:
Steak Sarnies from Happy Days with the Naked Chef

0310 I Have Seen the Light!

I have seen the light!  The light!  I have seen it, and it is a tiny, smelly fish. This is the second pasta I’ve made with anchovies in the last month, and I’m a convert. I ❤ tiny smelly fish.

0310 Orecchiette with Broccoli and Anchovies

This recipe was incredible!  I mean, it wasn’t that incredible, but from the first bite I was in love.  So let me break it down for you: pasta, anchovies, broccoli, garlic, a couple of chilies, and some parmigiano-reggiano.  I used a packet of Rustichella orecchiette, a traditional Italian pasta made in bronze molds and dried extremely slowly, both of which contribute to a fantastic texture and mouthfeel.  This process of pasta-making also requires a longer boil, which was actually kind of perfect for this recipe.

0310 Orecchiette with Broccoli and Anchovies

While you’re waiting for the pasta to boil, cut a couple of heads of broccoli into florets, then peel and thinly slice the stems, removing any woody parts.  When your pasta goes into the water, put the broccoli stems, a couple of cloves of minced garlic, a couple of dried chilies, and a small tin of anchovy fillets (discard the oil) into a heavy pan with a lid.  While the pasta’s doing its thing, the anchovies will melt away, giving the “sauce” a tangy, savory flavor.  Toss the broccoli florets into the pasta pot in the last few minutes of boiling, then drain the pasta and toss everything together, adding a couple of handfuls of grated parmigiano.

I am in love.  This is my new comfort food – rich and flavorful enough that we were both satisfied after one bowl, though we could’ve snacked our way through a lot more if we hadn’t immediately packaged up the leftovers.  While I’m delighted that spring is on her way, I won’t mind another cold night or two if it means I can have this dish for supper.

Recipe:
Broccoli and Anchovy Orecchiette from Happy Days with the Naked Chef

0309 Handicapped by Kitchen Disasters

Remember how we made two ice creams this weekend?  And how I warned you that it’s very easy to end up with sticky syrup all over everything?  Well, let’s just say that I’m speaking from experience.  And this was confirmed when I turned on the oven on Sunday morning and the house filled up with smoke.  After a heavy round of scrubbing on Sunday (thanks, Shane!), we thought that we were in the clear.  No dice.

So, tonight I found myself trying to bake a couple of chicken breasts in the toaster oven.  And it worked out just about as well as you’d imagine.  The chicken was baked in a foil packet with wine, heavy cream, herbs, green onions, and some crumbled bacon – the recipe said 25 minutes, but it took closer to an hour, after which point the chicken hadn’t reached the correct internal temperature but was overcooked.  I also braised some leeks and lacinato kale, which finished long before the chicken.  Everything was fine, just not worth the effort.  I don’t blame the recipe or the equipment – it was just weird and disappointing, and the marjoram made it taste like soap.

Also, the recipe calls for ‘baby leeks’, but in the photos they look an awful lot like green onions.  What?!

Recipe:
Chicken Breast in a Bag with Cannellini Beans, Leeks, Cream and Marjoram from Happy Days with the Naked Chef

0307 Chili, Two Ways

I’m a big fan of having people over to watch the Oscars.  I’m also a big fan of meals that can be made in large quantities (and vegetarian!) without too much difficulty.  Chili is one of those meals for me, which is why I’m a big fan of the Oscars and chili combination.

For the last few years, I’ve rarely strayed from what I like to call The Best Damned Chili I’ve Ever Made.  It’s good stuff – really good stuff – but I wanted to try something new.  So, for the meat eaters, Jamie Oliver’s chili con carne.  Niman Ranch ground beef sauteed with a puree of onions and garlic, then simmered for an hour or two with tomato, kidney beans, and a cinnamon stick, among other things.  It smelled amazing and tasted even moreso.  For the non-meats, I adapted a recipe from Hooked on Heat, long ago scribbled down in my black book.  I couldn’t find veggie crumbles at the store, so I used some veggie meatballs sauteed and smushed up with the onion, tomatoes, beans, and garlic.  The flavor wasn’t a knock-out, but it was hearty and delicious.

Everyone has their favorite chili toppings/bottomings – there are “traditional” chilies up to five ways (chili plus spaghetti, shredded cheese, diced onions, and beans).  Our friends brought delicious cornbread, cheese, and a killer punch – oh, and an array of desserts IN ADDITION TO our ice creams.  I’m disappointed that we didn’t have more leftovers, as I could’ve happily eaten all of this all week long.

Recipes:
Chili Con Carne from Happy Days with the Naked Chef
Chicken Chili with Black Beans from Hooked on Heat (except made vegetarian)