panir-stuffed chicken

panir-stuffed chicken

Stuffing cheese into a chicken thigh doesn’t necessarily sound like a wise idea, but when the cheese in question is panir, a dry non-melting Indian cheese, all is well. We found this dish in a recently acquired cookbook, Modern Spice (on clearance at Village Books!), which is full of wonderful recipes that fuse Indian flavors with the American pantry. In this case bone-in chicken parts are stuffed with Indian herbs and spices mixed with Indian cheese, but baked in the oven instead of being simmered in liquid on the stovetop, as with so much Indian cookery. The chicken gets crispy on top, and the stuffing takes on the flavor of the bird as well as that lovely cheesy toastiness and a kick of chile heat.

Panir is crucial to this recipe, since no other cheese behaves quite like it (maybe halloumi?), but if you can’t find panir you could still make all the other ingredients into a rub for roasted chicken parts. What’s not to like about butter, chiles, ginger, garlic and cilantro?

A fusiony sort of dish like this didn’t seem to need a traditional Indian accompaniment, so we recreated a salad we invented on our Paris vacation, caramelizing finely diced fennel in a skillet and stirring in chopped ripe tomatoes. Pure essence of summer, it played beautifully off the spicy cheese and chicken. With a bright Sangiovese rosé, this was a very successful summer-to-autumn transitional dinner.

panir stuffing

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dinner from a Paris market

Bastille Sunday Market

On Sunday we made sure to make it up to the Bastille open-air market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir. It begins at Place de la Bastille and stretches for several blocks, four aisles wide and teeming with people, dogs and little wheeled shopping carts.

Bastille Sunday Market

You can buy everything from tomatoes to underwear. Not to mention foie gras. And wine.

Bastille Sunday Market

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fennel, oysters & wine

a glass of wine after work

After a rather tough week at work, I felt that I had earned a little blowout for our Friday night dinner. My husband aided and abetted by driving up to Taylor Shellfish after work and picking up a bag of fresh oysters, then compounding his wonderfulness by also stopping by Slough Food for manchego and sopressata. I came home on a sultry afternoon to a cold flute of muscadet and good cheese and salumi. The perfect antidote to a long, mostly booze-free week.

dinner prep

After soaking in the fragrance of the lilacs and daphnes on the porch, we moved inside and had a “counter dinner”. I laid out everything we needed on the kitchen island, we pulled up stools and poured fresh glasses of wine, and began. Continue reading

goat cheese mashed potatoes

 goat cheese mashed potatoes

One of our new (to us) cookbooks was beginning to pine away from lack of use, and we decided we must make something from it. As it turned out, we managed three different dishes from the book in one meal: not all exactly as written, but definitely inspired by. As a result, we’ve decided that Greg Malouf is a genius. These recipes are from Artichoke to Za’atar (I prefer its UK title, Arabesque)- now we have to get to work on Turquoise. And I really must get hold of a copy of Saha.

fennel salad
breaded lamb chop
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penne carbonara

penne carbonara

I can hardly believe it, but it’s true: I had never eaten pasta carbonara before this week. Shocking, I know. And I might not have gotten around to it, if I hadn’t seen this amazing post. Jennifer’s carbonara was full of delicious local eggs, plus she had some wonderful looking pork jowl to work with; mine was a little more subdued but still very successful.

the last two eggs

We had come home from a wine tasting at our local shop, and were feverishly trying to think what we could cook with what was on hand. We had two eggs left in the fridge, a fresh pack of Hempler’s bacon, some parmesan cheese in the freezer, and some random boxes of Barilla pasta – and I already had carbonara on the brain from the aforementioned blog post. It seemed worth a try.

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roasted vegetables with an egg on top

poached egg with roasted veg

We were dying for vegetables after our odd weekend in the Tri-Cities, so we loaded up a shopping cart with mushrooms, onion, fennel, beets, carrot and a parsnip and took it all home to roast with olive oil and salt. I separated out the shrooms and fennel to roast together, parboiled the beets and put them in a pan with the carrot, and put the onion and parsnip in a third pan (J is not a big fan of the parsnip). When everything was caramelized and soft I tossed it all together on our plates, and topped the piles with a lovely halibut steak that I had roasted as well. It was all very fresh tasting and delicious, and made us feel that it was nice to be home (sleeping in our own bed helped, too).

So dinner was nice, but I felt the high point was lunch the next day. I was feeling inspired after seeing this post and video on poaching eggs, as well as months of reading the wonderful blog posts on Last Night’s Dinner featuring beautiful poached eggs on top of duck hash or other yummy things. I had been known to poach an egg occasionally, but usually wimped out and ended up frying them (I’m good at frying eggs, at least) and eating them for breakfast on top of leftover greens or couscous.

But I did it! It’s not as pretty as it could be, but it was perfectly done and it tasted wonderful with the roasted parsnip and beets and such, with the yolk dribbling down and mixing with the sweet vegetables juices. With a good sprinkle of fleur de sel, it was a cheery and restorative lunch.

Pork braised in milk

milk-braised pork and braised fennel

Our plan for Sunday – which actually worked out, astonishingly enough – was to go get our Christmas tree at a local farm, set it up, and braise something for dinner so it could be cooking away and scenting the house while we decorated our tree. Often, of course, these plans don’t work out, because getting the tree into the house takes approximately five times longer than you think it will, and by the time it’s upright, the floor is vacuumed and the furniture has all been rearranged twice, you don’t have time for an involved dinner. But we actually allowed enough time for once, so we had our braise and our tree, too.

I was very pleased with the braised short ribs I made out of Molly Stevens’ book All About Braising, and wanted to try another recipe or two from her. We have an Italian friend who used to make pork cooked with milk and sage, but I had never tried it myself (I think I still wasn’t convinced it really worked) so when I saw a recipe for Pork Loin Braised in Milk, I thought I’d try it just as written and see what happened. Continue reading

Salmon with beets & fennel

salmon with roasted beets and fennel

Saturday night’s dinner was pretty exciting (and filling), so I made us a “recovery” dinner for Sunday, just a fillet of wild-caught sockeye salmon, pan-seared in olive oil, and a head of fennel and some beets, cut up and roasted in the oven. It was beautiful, fresh tasting and sweet, and it turns out that salmon and fennel are really good together (note for future experiments).

Of course, we may have undone some of the good of this dinner by also baking up the rest of the gougères and eating them all. Whoops.