The tales behind the tastes:
Recipe 1: Striped Bass w/ Fennel
Y’Need: 1 1/2 lb fillet striped bass, skin on (can sub cod, halibut, or similar fish). Handful fingerling potatoes. 1 head fennel. 1/2 Spanish onion. 1/2 glass white wine. Butter. Salt + Pepper.
Y’Do: Put the potatoes on in some salted water with a little thyme to boil. When they are ready (can easily poke a knife in) strain them and let cool.
Split the fennel in half, removed the core, and cut cross-wise into 1/4 inch strips. Slice onions pretty thickly and put the two in a pot with a little olive oil, butter, salt and pepper. Saute slowly for a few minutes then add the wine to cover the bottom of the pan, not necessarily the fennel. Turn the heat very low and covere the pot. Let the fennel and onions braise until soft, then chop the potatoes roughly and throw them in the pot, with the heat off, and let sit.
As the veg is nearly ready, get a saute pan hot and season the bass on both sides with salt and pepper. Sear the bass skin-side down in the pan for a couple minutes to get the skin set and crispy. Flip it. (I did this somewhat awkwardly because we are still without a spatula. My serrated knife did a decent job after some plastic-based attempt melted on contact, but you can see in the picture that with a decent fish spatula the skin would have come loose much more nicely.)
When the fish is ready, just cooked through, take it out of the pan and deglaze the pan quickly with a splash of white wine. After that reduces for a second, swirl in some butter to make a little sauce and toss the vegetables in the pan a couple of times to get them coated. Zest some of the grapefruit in the pan, season if necessary. Plate the veg, laying the fish on top. A little more grapefruit zest, a couple cracks of pepper, and you have a rich but light meal.
Recipe 2: Pan-Roasted Chicken with Brussels
Y’Need: A couple good handfuls of fresh Brussells Sprouts (stem cut off, outer leaves peeled, and split in 1/2); 4 chicken thighs (you can certainly use breasts, or even duck legs); 1/2 butternut squash (seeded, sliced into thin pieces); handful dried cranberries; butter; olive oil, salt+pepper
Toasting the seeds (optional): Remove the seeds from the squash. Heat some butter and a little olive oil to coat the pan until the butter just begins to brown. Toast the seeds in the butter, shaking, stirring, and generally moving them around to heat evenly. The butter should foam a little so that the seeds are heated from above and below. Add more butter as necessary, season liberally with salt and pepper. When golden-brown and crisp, remove from pan and dry on paper towel.
Chicken: I used the same pan for the chicken as the seeds, just adding a little veg. oil to coat it again. Sear the seasoned thighs skin-side down for a few minutes, covered, until they become opaque partway up the side. Flip and cover again, removing the lid when they’re nearly done to let the moisture evaporate. I flip them one more time and turn up the heat for a minute to get the skin nicely-colored and crispy. Probably eight or nine minutes overall.
Veg: After the chicken’s been going for a few minutes, get a wide-bottomed saute pan hot. Coat with oil and let it heat to shimmering. Just before it smokes, toss in your halved Brussels. Let them sear for a minute, then turn the heat down to medium. When you don’t have an oven, you don’t want to get the sear on too fast, because they’ll not be cooked through before they burn. After a minute, scatter your butternut squash on top (I would cut the squash more uniformly; however, I felt lazy). Check a couple sprouts to see if they’ve got nice color and, if so, give the pan a couple tosses to get the squash in contact with the heat. Another minute, add some dried cranberries, season with a good amount of salt and pepper (the sprouts soak it up), and melt a chunk of butter in. Flavor.
Variations: Use duck legs instead of chicken. Season the meat with a little chili powder to add some heat.
Recipe 3: Pork Ragu
1 medium piece of pork shoulder (1 1/2 pounds)
1 large yellow onion
1 stalk celery
3 cloves garlic
1 small can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes, seeded (optional) and diced
1 tbsp. tomato paste
Water or Stock (chicken or pork) to cover (1 cup?)
1/2 bottle white wine
Couple sprigs of herbs (I used some rosemary, oregano, and thyme)
Spices (I used red pepper flakes, fennel seed, maybe 1/4 tsp each)
Salt and Pepper
To start, I tied the pork so it wouldn’t completely fall apart while cooking. You can do this with any sort of clean string (un-waxed, so it doesn’t melt into the meat while cooking) and most butchers will be happy to give you some string with whatever cut you order. I got some oil nearly smoking in our pot, and quickly seared the pork, seasoned, on all sides, to get it nicely browned. As it was nearly done, I tossed in a crushed garlic clove and a sprig of rosemary to add some flavor and aroma to the meat and juices. When browned, I removed it from the pot and deglazed with a bit of white wine.
After the white wine nearly cooked away, I added some olive oil and sauteed the veg (carrot, onion, celery, all finely chopped) until they got soft and began to caramelize. I added a tablespoon or so of tomato paste, and let that cook until it began to brown on the bottom. At this point I began deglazing the tomato paste/veg mix every time it caramelized well in the pan. Spread the mix out over the bottom of the pan and let it cook on medium heat almost to the point of getting burnt, then deglaze with however much wine you need to get all that caramelization off the bottom of the pan. Go through that process a few times to help deepen the final flavor of the dish.
After I finished that deglazing routine, I added my diced canned tomatoes and water (since I didn’t have any stock) to the pot. I put in some picked thyme and oregano, and placed the pork shoulder back into the liquid. I also added some fennel seed, the chili flakes, and some cracked black pepper and salt. You don’t want to oversalt the liquid, because it will reduce later and could become way too salty, so go light. You can always add more later.
The pork should be almost completely covered by the liquid. I then brought it to a boil, then turned the heat down all the way to let it simmer very slowly for a couple of hours. When the meat is completely tender, and falling apart, the pork is done. At that point, remove the pork, let it cool a little, and pull it into shreds. Let the liquid reduce to a slightly thicker consistency, and add the pork back in to finish the ragu. Season to taste.
Recipe 4: Braised Lamb’s Neck with Potatoes
2 lbs Neck of Lamb, cut into 1-inch thick (or so) rounds (have your butcher do this)
2 onions (or an equivalent amount/mix of shallots, leeks, and onions), diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 lemons, juice of
Few sprigs of thyme
Splash Red Wine
Water to cover
1/8 tsp. Fennel Seed (optional)
Season the lamb’s neck with salt and pepper and sear them in a hot pan (preferable your braise pot) until browned all over. Remove, add a little oil if necessary, and toss in your diced onion-family medley (I used 2 shallots, 2 small leeks, and an onion). Let those sweat for a couple minutes and add your garlic, diced. Cook for a couple minutes more, deglaze with the red wine, and add the lamb back to the pot. Add the thyme, fennel, lemon juice, bay leaf, and water or stock to cover (or nearly cover) the lamb, and season everything to just under taste (a little less salt than might be perfect). Bring the liquid to a boil, then turn down to barely a simmer. Let sit until lamb is very tender and nearly falling off the bone (depending on size of necks, anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours). If the liquid does not cover the lamb completely, I find it helps to turn the pieces over once, about halfway through the cooking time.
When the lamb is done, remove it from the pot. You can simmer the juices a bit more to reduce them, and add some seasoning if needed. Add a touch of salt and pepper to the lamb. Be sure to bring the braising liquid to the table…dipping good bread it in may be the best part of this dish.
or the potatoes, I simply boiled some small potatoes with garlic and rosemary until done (pierceable with fork or knife). I strained them and let them cool (I had the time, but you don’t have to. In a saute pan I cooked some diced leek and carrot until softened, then added the potatoes, some butter and cream, and let it all heat together, seasoning as needed with salt and plenty of black pepper. Seasoned with some salt and pepper, the leek’s flavor and the sweetness of the carrots were great inside the creamy, peppery potatoes.
Recipe 5: Oxtail Pappardelle
For the sauce:
2 lbs fresh oxtail, cut into 1 – 2 inch pieces
1 1/2 yellow onions, peeled and diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
6 canned whole peeled tomatoes, diced (plus some of the tomato juice)
small glass of red wine
1 1/2 qt veal stock (or chicken stock, or water)
a few sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf
Butter and Parmesean cheese (for finishing)
8oz good ricotta cheeze
1/4 c grated parmesean
1 sprig picked thyme leaves
zest of 1 lemon
For the Kale:
1 large bunch Kale
Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 clove garlic, finely diced
For the sauce: Coat a dutch oven or saucepot (whatever you’re making the braise in) with olive oil and heat. Season the oxtail pieces and brown all around in the pan; remove. Put your minced onion and carrot in the pan and sweat out slowly, until the onion begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for a minute, and deglaze with the wine. Add your tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, and oxtails into the pot, and enough stock (or water) to nearly cover the oxtail. Bring this to a boil, them reduce to a very low simmer, just above a steam, so a bubble is popping open only every few seconds. Cover, and let cook for 2+ hours (roughly a Saints game), or until the meat is nearly falling off the bone. Basically get it as tender and delicious as possible.
In our case, we set the pot and left the house to watch the Saints game around the corner, only briefly worrying about the contents of the pot wobbling their way to the floor.
When the oxtail is ready, remove the pieces from the pot, and turn up the heat so the liquid begins to reduce (skim any excess fat from the top of the sauce, though a little left is alright). When the meat is cool enough, remove all meat from the bones with your fingers, shredding it into small pieces. When the liquid is just about the proper consistency, add the meat back in and keep warm.
For the Kale:
Toss the garlic in a large saute pan with some olive oil over medium heat. Add the kale, and season with salt and pepper. Place a lid on the pan (it’s okay if it doesn’t exactly fit) and let the kale saute/steam for a few minutes, until glistening and cooked through (with only a slight bite, depending on your taste). Add a dash of red pepper flakes to the pan and toss. Squeeze a squirt of lemon juice in, and eat.
Mix all the ingredients under the ricotta together, adding a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Top pasta with a dollop of ricotta mixture.
Quick Recipe: Chicken with Creamed Kale
2 chicken breasts (I bought them on the bone and made a quick stock after separating them)
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced thinly
1/2 bunch kale, trimmed
1/3 c heavy cream
1 sprig rosemary
Splash of Abita Turbodog (or other Brown Ale; after splashing, continue to drink the remaining beer)
Small pinch red pepper flakes
Heat oil in pan and sear seasoned chicken breasts skin-side down over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, until skin is nicely browned. Flip breasts, turn heat down to medium, and cook for 3 minutes; add rosemary sprig and shallots to pan, cook for another minute to soften. Add heavy cream, beer, a little pepper, and cook for 3 more minutes over medium-low heat, until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken to rest, and add kale to the pan. Cook until kale is softened and everything is creamed and mixed together. Season to taste. Slice chicken and serve with veg on the side, plus another beer if it’s been a particularly long day. Some bread to mop up the sauces is nice too.
Quick Recipe: Vegetable Gravy
Take whatever vegetables you have in the fridge (good options include leek, mushrooms, carrots, brussels sprouts, sundried tomato, spinach) and saute them together in a nice knob of butter. When the veg get some color, add about a tablespoon of flour and let it all incorporate. Heat for a minute, then pour in a cup or so of milk. Season with salt, a bunch of black pepper, and a little sriracha. Let the pan sit on medium-high heat for a few minutes for the milk to reduce and thicken with the flour until you’ve got some tasty gravy. Serve over biscuits.
Recipe 6: Rigatone with Brussels Sprouts
1/2 lb rigatone (can sub other dried pasta)
Large handful Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and sliced into rounds
3 or 4 slices sweet soppressata, diced
1 shallot, diced
2 or 3 small sundried tomatoes, diced
Juice 1/2 lemon
1/4 c heavy cream
Red Pepper Flakes, Salt, Pepper
Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. While pasta is cooking, sweat the shallot in olive oil in a pan over medium heat until softened and starting to brown. Add brussels sprouts, soppressata, and tomatoes, cooking for a minute or two. Add cream, some red pepper flakes, and let reduce for a minute to get the sauce all flavory. Strain the pasta, adding it and a few tablespoons of the cooking water to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper, add lemon juice and a grating of parmesan cheese and toss together. Plate and serve, topped with more cheese and black pepper.