This stroganoff was one of those dinners that naturally arises by examining a number of random leftovers: in our case, a container of lebni, a bag of mushrooms, some partial leeks and a bunch of fresh dill left from our post-Easter brunch. Combine all that with some sliced seared steak and some egg noodles and you have a really good quick beef stroganoff.
I don’t think it would have occurred to me to use lebni in a stroganoff, but I liked the effect. It’s similar to sour cream but has a denser texture and is slightly less tart. It worked great with the mushrooms and dill. Come to think of it, that would be a really nice dip or spread right there – maybe I’ll try that next time I have these particular leftovers in the house.
When we ordered our first (half) pig, we debated getting some of it cured by the butcher. In the end, partly because I am cheap frugal, we decided to get it all fresh, hams and side and all. I had been thinking we would cure some ourselves, but I’m beginning to suspect we’ll have eaten it all by the time I get serious about it. Oh, well, there’s always another pig.
But in the meantime, we have these nice big roasts of side pork, otherwise known as pork belly, the cut that is usually made into bacon. We’ve eaten it in restaurants a number of times, but this would be my first time cooking it. I decided to play it safe and make red-cooked pork belly, a classic Chinese preparation.
We’ve tried to get fresh pork belly before, at a local meat shop, but to my dismay they had already sliced it like bacon, even though it wasn’t cured. This time things worked out better, as you can see in the top picture. Isn’t that a beautiful piece of meat?
For my braising liquid, I used a combination of Molly Stevens’ recipe and our own “glazed gingery ribs” recipe. I combined chicken stock, water, brown sugar, red chile flakes, star anise, ginger, scallions and soy sauce in a Dutch oven and brought it to a simmer.
I’m beginning to think I should just call this blog “Sandwiches on the Brain.” I seem to get a lot more excited about making sandwiches out of the leftovers of something than I do the original dish. I made a beautiful roast beef last weekend, complete with Yorkshire pudding (I made the mistake of looking through The River Cottage Meat Book), and it was delightful…but it’s the roast beef sandwiches that are really rocking my boat this week.
The beef was a rolled and tied cross-rib roast from our grassfed freezer cow, rubbed with fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden, and roasted just until perfectly rare. Sliced, a lot of the nice herb rub came off, so the largest pieces didn’t actually have any seasoning, but they still had a good beefy flavor. I made a special trip down to the co-op for a loaf of Samish Potato Bread, one of my favorite Breadfarm products – it has a nice sourdough tang, and the potato makes it spongy enough to soak up a lot of juices without falling apart. The first few days I stuck to a formula of mayo, horseradish, beef, lettuce, and jarred piquillo peppers, but the very last of the beef was consumed with a good dollop of sauerkraut instead. Mmmm.
Sorry for the radio silence this past week, but for the last eight days I’ve been out of commission with the nastiest cold/allergy/something-or-other I’ve ever had the displeasure of suffering through. Hack, cough. I’ve been eating, but for several days I completely lost my sense of taste – a distressing state of affairs.
Early in the week, Jon and I were signed up to help with a cooking class taught by our friend Peter. I felt that the customers might not appreciate my coughing into their food, so Jon went on his own, and he came back laden with fabulous leftovers. The class theme was Southern food, in particular New Orleans-style, featuring shrimp fritters, cornbread and chicken-sausage gumbo, and there was more than enough food for everyone. I lived off of that gumbo for the next several days, it being one of the few things that could penetrate my personal fog.
If you’ve managed to catch the crud yourself and need some hot soup full of pork fat, or if you’re just in the mood to celebrate Fat Tuesday with a little gumbo, here’s the recipe.
We have been braising fiends this year, and we’ve begun to make inroads on some of our larger roasts, which means leftovers. Of course, the great thing about braised meat is that it’s better the next day, after the flavors have had a chance to really meld and settle in. Last weekend we pulled out a pork arm roast and braised it on a bed of cabbage, onion, and sauerkraut flavored with paprika, caraway and beer. It was pleasant enough the first night, but lunch the next day was when it really shone.
I had made a batch of buttermilk-caraway dinner rolls (from our go-to baking book for such things, Mary’s Bread Basket and Soup Kettle), which were wonderful eaten hot out of the pan with butter, but were also delightful split, toasted, spread with mustard, and turned into little pork-and-cabbage sliders. A pile of cornichons and a glass of Pacific Rim Riesling completed a rather dreamy lunch.
And because we made a truly enormous amount, I had those sliders again yesterday (maybe today, too). And for dinner last night, I threw together this interesting noodle dish. Some fresh shredded cabbage, sauteed in olive oil until well browned, tossed with some of the leftover braised pork, and mixed with cooked gemelli pasta and doused with Frank’s hot sauce. It came out well, with a sort of spicy Asian-fusiony sort of effect. I liked it.
I don’t normally have the attention span to eat the same thing every day, but I ate this sandwich for lunch three days running and was still not tired of it. I kept trying to decide whether to change it up a bit, add a different condiment…and then made it exactly the same way. Again.
This all came about because we thought a particular day was going to be cold and rainy, so we planned a pot roast. As it turned out, the weather all week was ridiculously warm and springlike, but once the beef was defrosted it was too late to back out. We based the braise on the Yankee Pot Roast Redux recipe in Molly Stevens’ All About Braising, using a rolled and tied cross-rib roast from our freezer and cooking it in Strongbow cider, chicken broth and onions, with carrots and potatoes going in near the end. It was fabulous, and we ate it two nights running with polenta and shredded Brussels sprouts, but there were still many leftovers.
Having thought ahead to this predicament, I had picked up a bag of rosemary potato rolls at the co-op, made by the Breadfarm, a wonderful bakery in Edison. These rolls, like so much the Breadfarm does, are spectacular – sour and chewy, with coarse salt on top and plenty of fresh rosemary scattered throughout. When it came time to make my sandwich, I cut a roll in half, toasted it lightly, spread it with mayonnaise (Best Foods), and fit a slice of pot roast onto it. I also remembered that we had a bag of cilantro in the fridge, so I pulled out a few sprigs to add. Squished down well, the ingredients melded together, and positively sang.
I ate that first sandwich and immediately made another.
This is kind of embarrassing, but I can’t deny (and you’ll know this if you’ve been reading for a while) that I will put a fried egg on almost anything. And when you think about it, French fries aren’t that different from hashbrowns, right?
I don’t usually bring leftover French fries home, but these were special fries. We had lunch at Nell Thorn last weekend, after spending a quiet Sunday morning in La Conner checking out some of the Art’s Alive exhibits. Thinking we’d be restrained and share an order (after downing some incredible oyster shooters), we asked for a single Nell burger with fries and a side salad. Unfortunately for our good intentions, the kitchen cut the burger neatly in half, put each on its own plate and filled in the space around it with fries. And these are Nell Thorn fries, done with local potatoes and herbs and served with spicy house-made ketchup. We ate far too many, then just had to take the rest home. And, of course, ate them for breakfast. What would you have done?
I had assumed that we would be eating all kinds of leftovers for days after our end-of-summer party. We did have huevos rancheros for breakfast (with drunken pinto beans and cotija cheese), and chips and guacamole for lunch, but then I realized there wasn’t really much else left except for a large pile of poblano and jalapeño chiles that somehow never got used, plus some leftover grilled corn. I really didn’t want to go to the store again, so I needed to think of something for dinner based on what was on hand. In a fit of fusiony madness, I came up with a sort of Tex-Mex risotto.
I chopped two poblanos and sauteed them in salted butter (I should have added onions, which would have given even more sweetness and depth), then added Arborio rice, followed by a glassful of white wine. I brought a quart of garlic-scented chicken stock to a boil and began adding it to the rice.
Eating at home for the last week has been based around a really lovely pork roast. It all started Wednesday morning, when I mashed several garlic cloves in a mortar with lots of salt and pepper, then rubbed it all over a pork shoulder and let it all get friendly in the refrigerator for the rest of the day.
Jon stuck the pork in the oven before I got home, and by dinnertime it was just right: almost-pink and juicy, with the garlic just beginning to burn on the sides of the pan. We ate it in slices over some truly addictive buttermilk mashed potatoes (from Judy Rodger’s Zuni cookbook) with shredded Brussels sprouts. That was pretty good. But on Thursday, we were thinking tacos.
Being sick all week, I haven’t really been motivated to cook. Or eat. I’ve been drinking a lot of hot weak tea.
Our Saturday night was pretty exciting. We took a container of frozen leftover soup out and heated it up, played Scrabble and went to bed early. Woo hoo! The soup was pretty good, though, a thoroughly unreproducable blend of chicken, leftover Indonesian braising liquid, chickpeas, rice noodles, lime leaf, galanga and god knows what. Plenty of sambal oelek to unplug the nasal passages. The rice noodles didn’t really benefit from the freeze/thaw action, but they were still tasty.
Hopefully more real food reporting to come in the near future.