Thursday, April 30, 2009

yo quiero carnitas

having been born and raised in the city of angels, i have quite an affection for mexican food. i've traveled to mexico many many (many) of times, even to the most remote and un-touristy parts where the food is nothing but totally authentic, and i have to say, mexican food is just as good in LA. but never did i think i could make it at home. until now. until i found this recipe.

it comes from david lebovitz. yup, an american pastry chef turned food blogger who lives in paris. i know!! when i lived in paris, his blog was my bible. and mexican food was a major craving. when i saw his recipe for carnitas, i knew i had to try it. and OMG, am i glad i did because c'est très bon, not to mention, so easy and now forever in my répertoire. merci beaucoup, david!

the cut of meat you will need is pork shoulder. i get mine at the local mexican market where it's fairly inexpensive and seemingly very fresh.

adapted from david lebovitz
serves 6 (generously) - 8
5 lbs. pork shoulder
sea salt
2 tablespoons vegetable or other neutral cooking oil
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon chile de arbol (or ancho chile powder)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
5 cloves garlic, minced

cut the meat into 4-5" chunks, removing any excess fat. season all sides of the chunks well with sea salt. david's recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of sea salt but i'm pretty sure i used more.

in a large dutch oven or pot, heat the oil and cook the meant until very well browned on all sides. you will probably have to do this in batches. once they are brown, remove them from the pot and blot on paper towel.

preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

once all the meat is browned and all removed from the pot, add 2 cups of water and scrape the bottom of the pot to release all the brown bits. add the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, garlic, chile powders and cumin. mix so it's well combined and then add the meat back in. add more water until the meat is about 2/3 covered.

braise in the oven, uncovered, for 3 1/2 hours. turn the pork a few times during braising. much of the liquid will evaporate and the pork will be oh-so-amazingly falling apart tender.

remove the pot from the oven and transfer the meat to a platter.

strain the liquid into a bowl. reserve any meaty bits and discard any other solids. the fat will rise to the top. skim off as much as possible.

when the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it up and put it back in the pot. add the liquid and return the pot back to the oven. cook until much of the liquid evaporates and the outer edges of the pork becomes caramelized and crispy. the time will depend on how much liquid you have left and how crispy and crackly you want it. just keep an eye on it.

serve with tortillas, onions, cilantro, salsa, limes....
the possiblites are endless!

bon appétit~!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

perfect pound cake

this pound cake is so perfect, buttery, dense (as a pound cake should be) and yummy. i always intend on baking it up and using it to make a parfait with custard, whipped cream and strawberries, but always end up just eating it by itself because it's so good!

mise en place

perfect pound cake
makes 1 loaf
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups cake flour, measured and sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

butter and flour a 9" loaf pan. make sure to tap out any excess flour.

in a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt and set aside. combine the cream and vanilla in a cup and set aside.

in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a handheld mixer), cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture becomes pale, light and fluffy. add the eggs and yolk, one at time, making sure each one is well incorporated before adding the next. add the flour in 3 batches, alternating with the cream, beginning and ending with the flour. mix until everything is well incorporated but do not over mix.

pour the batter into the loaf pan and smooth out the top with a rubber spatula.

put the loaf pan in a COLD oven (you do not preheat the oven for this recipe!). turn on the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 60 - 70 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

cool in the pan, on a wire rack for 5-10 mins. invert and cool completely on wire rack before serving.

bon appétit~!

Friday, April 17, 2009

new orleans bbq shrimp

contrary to its own name, there is no bbq sauce in this recipe nor it is grilled on a bbq grill. i have no idea why they call it bbq shrimp but i dont care. its freakin good. its super easy to prepare and makes a great appetizer. i have to admit, i love making this dish just so i can soak up the juices with crusty bread. i have to warn you, its not the healthiest meal you've ever had.

new orleans bbq shrimp
4-6 servings
2 pounds of raw shrimp, deveined and peeled with tails on
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 stick of butter
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

drizzle a thin layer of olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium-high heat. when the skillet is hot, add the shrimp in a single layer and season with salt and pepper. as they begin turn pink, turn them over. when they turn opaque remove from the skillet and set aside. you can do them in batches if they all don't fit on the skillet at once.

reduce the heat to medium and saute the garlic, about 2 mins. add wine and cook until it reduces to about half. add the butter, paprika, cayenne pepper, and worcestershire sauce and stir well. when the butter is melted, toss the shrimp back into the skillet and mix well.

top with parsley and serve with crusty bread for dipping. since i lovvvvvvvve me some garlic, i served with garlic bread! i just cant get enough =)

bon appétit~!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

beet and goat cheese salad

beets!! i saw them at the farmers market and couldnt resist. steamed or roasted, they are so delish and can be served in so many ways. its actually quite easy yet they look so elegant and fancy. serve as a first coure salad or as a side dish.

beet and goat cheese salad
3-4 servings
3 red beets
3 yellow beets
3 cups of micro greens
1 package (2-3 oz) of soft goat cheese
balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil

peel and trim the beets. cut them into quarters and place them in a steamer basket over a large pot of boiling water. cover and steam for about 45 minutes or until beets are fork tender. i did them in two separate batches so the reds won't dye the yellows.
when the beets are fork tender, drain and cool. you can leave the beets as is or cut them into 1 inch cubes.

first plate the micro greens and then top with the steamed beets and crumbled goat cheese. drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar per serving just before serving.

or place in a martini glass for elegant presentation.

bon appétit~!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

potato & leek soup

last week i shopped the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. it's a great market. known as the market "where all the chefs shop", it boasts some of the most amazingly fresh produce you'll find in LA. if you live in LA and haven't been yet, i urge you to check it out!

i came across a booth selling an assortment of root vegetables. the farmer had everything from jerusalem artichokes, fingerling potatoes, to a wide variety of carrots and baby carrots. when i saw the pile labeled "french fingerling potatoes", i had to buy some. they looked so creamy just as is, i knew they'd make for a fabulous soup. i've been wanting to try making potato & leek soup so i picked up some leeks as well and my menu was set.

fingerling potato & leek soup
serves 4 (generously) - 6
2 large leeks
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. fingerling potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup white wine
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup cream

*reserve some of the leeks to use as garnish. see instructions below.

you only want to use the white and pale green parts of the leeks. cut off any dark green part and discard. leeks have a lot of layers which hold a lot of dirt so it's really important to clean your leeks well. to do so, split the leeks length wise and rinse under water. then dice them and put in a large bowl with water. rinse and strain. repeat a couple times until leeks are clean and free of all dirt.

in a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter. when the butter melts and starts to foam, add the leeks, salt and pepper. cook until tender but not brown, about 8-10 mins.

add the garlic and diced potatoes and mix in well with the leeks. add the wine, bring to a boil and simmer for approx 3 mins. the wine will mostly absorb into the vegetables. add the chicken stock, bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 30 mins or until the potatoes become extremely soft. add the cream and simmer for a couple more minutes.

blend 4 ladle fulls of the soup in a blender and return back to the pot. i wanted a chunky soup so i only blended 4 ladle fulls. if you want a smooth, pureed soup, you can of course blend all of it.

for garnish, julienne the leeks, approx. 2-3" in length. heat a small skillet with enough oil to coat the bottom. once the oil is hot, add the leeks and fry until lightly golden brown. make sure to keep an eye on them as they will brown quickly.

remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
serve the soup with freshly ground black pepper and the fried leeks!
bon appétit~!

Monday, April 6, 2009

banana sour cream pancakes

this recipe comes from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten, which was one of my very first cookbooks. these pancakes aren't particularly 'light & fluffy'. in fact, they're pretty substantial. more cakey and dense than your average pancake but not any less delicious. the bananas give the pancakes a contrast of texture which adds a nice creamy surprise. plus, it's a great way to use up those overly ripe bananas you have laying around!

mise en place

banana sour cream pancakes
from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten
*her recipe says it makes 12 pancakes but i only got 10
1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (i used 1 teaspoon table salt)
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon milk
2 extra large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest (i made w/o since i didn't have any lemons)
unsalted butter
2 ripe bananas, diced, plus extra for serving
maple syrup

in a bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. in another bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, mixing only until combined.

melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until it bubbles. use a 1/4 cup measure to drop the pancake batter into the pan. distribute diced bananas on each pancake.

cook for 2-3 minutes, until bubbles appear on the top and the underside is nicely browned. flip the pancake and cook for another minute or two, until browned.

wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add more butter to the pan, and continue cooking pancakes until all the batter is used. pancakes will stay warm in a preheated 200 degree oven for 15 to 20 miutes.

serve with butter, sliced bananas and maple syrup.

bon appétit~!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

brussel sprouts with bacon, shallots and figs

i dont know why brussel sprouts got such a bad reputation, because they are delish. they are a great side dish with just about any entree. sometimes, i just eat them as the entree. over cooking brussel sprouts can make them stinky. the recipe below cooks the sprouts with a hot water bath, just enough to brighten the color without the stinkiness. and as always...bacon makes everything better =)

mise en place

brussel sprouts
serves 2-4
1 dozen brussel sprouts, cleaned, trimmed and halved
4-5 cups of boiling water
3 strips of bacon, diced
1 tablespoon of shallots, minced
3 dried figs, quartered
1 1/2 tablespoon of parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

place the brussel sprouts in a strainer that has been set in a large bowl in the sink. slowly pour the hot water over the brussel sprouts. take the strainer out of the bowl and using the same hot water, pour it over the brussel sprouts once again and let the water drain. the hot water "splash" gently cooks the brussel sprouts.

heat a large pan on medium- high heat. render the diced bacon, about 2 mins. lower the heat to medium and saute the shallots, about 2 mins. take out the bacon and shallots out of the pan and set aside. reserve some of the bacon fat in the pan, return the heat to high. add the dried figs and brussell sprouts, cut side down, until its slightly browned, about 3 mins.

toss the bacon and shallots back into the pan and season with salt and pepper. plate the brussel sprouts and top with parmesan cheese.

bon appétit