Monday, March 30, 2009


This is a post from last year that I am reissuing. Because it's made with ramps, and it's ramp season! I don't see them at my Farmer's Market here in Southern California, so I get mine from Doug, who lives in Ohio. He sells them on eBay. Really, it's OK. Buy some! They're perfectly good, and I actually got the tip from Claudia at Cook Eat FRET. She also bought some from him. If you've never had them, you need to try them. They're really good. Sort of a cross between an onion and garlic -- but not really -- just totally unique! And delicious!

So, as mentioned yesterday, I got this Halibut on Sunday. Gorgeous, fresh caught Halibut. Sunday morning it was swimming, Sunday afternoon it was in my fridge. I had also bought the live sweet shrimp (see below, they were out of this world!) so we had those on Sunday night, and I saved the Halibut for Monday.

So delicious looking, it was hard to keep my husband from eating raw! He loves Hirame.

Anyway, since I only got a half pound I decided to cube it and toss it with some noodles. I also had some ramps in the fridge, so I thought this would be a good time to use them.

The ramps came from Ohio. I cleaned them and diced them. Into a pan with a few slices of bacon, also diced.

Oh what the hell.... Let's get this party started! Add some butter! And a little garlic!

After the ramps were tender and the bacon crispy, I added the Halibut for a quick roll in the buttery goodness, cooking to just above medium rare. The fresh Halibut was so tender I had to be gentle to make sure it didn't fall apart. In a separate bowl I had the noodles waiting. I added fresh diced tomatoes, a few diced artichoke hearts, and then 3 raw egg yolks that had been whisked with 2-3 tablespoons of half & half. It added just enough creaminess to make this all come together without overpowering the delicate halibut.

Finished with a sprinkle of Parmesan. This was really, really good. Those ramps are so flavorful. Everything was just perfect. :)

Q: Where can I buy ramps?
A: We get ours from Doug. :) You can e-mail him at wrn453(at) and he will gladly add you to his mailing list to remind you when it is ramp season, and you can order fresh ramps from him too! He also sells them here during season.

Friday, March 27, 2009

REALLY GOOD (and not screwed up) PANTRY PAELLA

Some of the best paella I have ever had was from my own kitchen. And not made the traditional way either, I'll be honest. Only because -- unless you do it often, it's hard to get it perfect. And if the rice is too soft or too hard or the mix is too wet, it's not going to be good. 

Mine always comes out of a frantic - "Oh my gosh, what can I make? I have a screaming kid and need to put something together FAST!"  It's what I like to call Pantry Paella. Just grabbing leftovers from the fridge, or whatever fresh meat I have on hand, or both. I cook the elements separate, so that I can control things better, and then put it together at the end. Then the rice is perfect, the meat is perfect, and it was easy. I'm not saying not to make it the RIGHT way, I'm just saying it's really easy to make paella my way, and it tastes really good.

I cook the meat and rice separately. I got this wonderful new Le Creuset grill pan, and it made delicious grilled shrimp, chicken & onions for my paella. 

Saffron is absolutely mandatory for paella. Without saffron, it just won't have that unique flavor. When I cook my rice, I put a good pinch of salt, and then a hefty pinch of saffron threads. 

I grilled some fresh onions and peppers, and then also some frozen mussels I found in the freezer that my husband bought at an Asian store. They add a lot of great flavor. 

Once you have the rice done, and the meat, lightly toss it together in a large pan, add a few pats of butter here and there, a cup of diced tomatoes (canned is fine, just drain them!) and then let it sit for a couple minutes, covered, and let the flavors come together. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste - and serve!  Total time from start to end, about 30 minutes. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Who doesn't love melt in your mouth Carnitas?  It's one of those things that I could literally eat until I exploded. But obviously the fat content of Carnitas is not really something to be proud of. And it's not like I have anything against fat -- I love fat -- it's just that it's really not good for you. So everything in moderation, right? But if you can't control yourself... like I can't be trusted to be left alone around a big pot of Carnitas, then you need to make a compromise. 

Hence the turkey Carnitas creation. 

I have a business I run from home, and a 2 year old, so I don't get to spend as much time in the kitchen lately as I'd like to. When I made this dish the first time, I made it with some frozen turkey hind quarters that I had in the freezer, and as if being frozen wasn't bad enough, I didn't even have time to thaw the turkey before popping it in the oven because it was a busy day and I was running out the door -- and I know this is going to sound crazy, but it came out better than when I use fresh (not frozen) turkey! It's true. Maybe by freezing the meat the tissues break down more and in the end it is more tender? I have no idea. I'm not a scientist. Just a girl who likes to cook. 

So for our small family of 3, I took 2 frozen turkey hind quarters, coated them with a drizzle of olive oil, and put them in a cast iron dutch oven.  A generous sprinkle of salt and pepper and into a 450 oven they go for 1 hour. 

The high heat really browns it up fast.  After the initial hour, remove from the oven and turn heat down to 350.

A smokey flavor really adds a lot to this, so there needs to be an element of smoke. And not liquid smoke because it's way too strong. In the past I have added a few pieces of smoked sausage, but today since I didn't have sausage, I added some of these unbelievable Boggy Creek smoke dried tomatoes.

Add 1 cup of dry white wine, your smokey element, and enough water to come up and cover the sides of the meat. 

I also add a few potatoes - not because they add anything to the dish, but potatoes roasted with meat are so good and I like to kill 2 birds with one stone and steal some of the meat's flavor while cooking -- then I use the potatoes later for a great mashed potato or even let them cool and do roasted potato salad. 

But anyway...

Add one or 2 pieces of bacon for more smokey flavor and FAT, since turkey is so lean. Then back into the now 350 oven for another 3 hours, covered. Just set it and forget it.

You can't argue with me that this looks tempting! It's so dang good.  Now, you can shred the meat and eat as-is with fresh tortillas, or over rice, or however you like. Those who like the crispy edges of traditional Carnitas (like me!) just give it a quick saute in a hot pan with some oil to lightly crisp the edges. No big.  

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Warm Roasted Fennel Salad with Boucheron Goat Cheese

Roasted Fennel is just one of my favorite things. I love it raw too, but when it's roasted it gets soft and sweet and almost smells like a Snicker Doodle. 

I also love Boucherondin (Boucheron) cheese. It's a goat's milk cheese that comes from France's Loire Valley - it comes in a white log and has a mild and dry-crumbly center that somewhat resembles your basic Chevre, and it just melts on the tongue. The part near the rind is creamy and has it's own unique flavor different from the center and it tastes a little like a firm Brie. Absolutely WONDERFUL. You can find it at Whole Foods in the glass case, and it is about $15/lb.  I snack on it as-is, but it's also great with fresh, hot French bread. 

If you haven't roasted fennel before, it's so easy. Clean the Fennel bulbs and cut off the green tops and the bottom core. Keep some of the fluffy fennel fronds for later. I like to slice mine about 1/4 inch thick. Put them on a cookie sheet on parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil. 

Next, I like to add a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan cheese. It really goes perfect with the fennel and brings out so many flavors - it gets nutty when toasted, and it adds just the right amount of salt.

45 minutes in a 350 oven and this is what they look like when done. Soft and slightly brown on the edges. The Parmesan is golden brown and your house smells amazing. 

Let them cool for about 20 minutes, then toss with some of the fennel chopped up fronds and crumble some of the Boucheron cheese on top. You could also crumble regular Chevre (goat cheese) on top also and it would taste pretty similar. Goat cheese goes so well with this type of dish because it really compliments sweet foods. The fennel will be lightly sweet, but the parmesan is salty and balances it very well. 

This salad is so simple, but absolutely decadent! 

Monday, March 2, 2009


This is my new favorite cookbook. Of course I have a new favorite each week, but this week I'm really loving the Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics. I just got it, and it has some really great food inside. It's cooking food the way I like - Simple. Not that I don't like food that has 1200 steps to prepare, because I make food like that all the time, but some of the best foods I have ever had have actually been very simple, with only a handful of ingredients. 

It was hard deciding what to make first, but I decided I'd kill 2 birds with one stone. I needed more chicken stock, and she had a recipe that was a little different than what I'm used to -- so what the heck. Chicken Stock it is!

I usually just do the standard Michael Rhulman stock, so it was time to try something different anyway. 

The things that were different for me was, first of all, she uses whole raw chickens. I usually just saved my bones and used those. Also, hers called for parsnips (which are optional and I didn't have so I left them out) and dill. Dill? Hmm. I wouldn't have normally used that. And I was afraid to make 7 quarts of stock with dill -- you know, just in case it sucks. But I already omitted the parsnips, so I guess if I was going to make her stock, the least I could do is make it like she does. And if she uses dill, fine. I'll use dill too then. You never know unless you try, right? And none of her recipes have ever let me down before. So anyway, I'm glad I did, because it was awesome! You can't distinctively taste the dill, but there is a background flavor that is there that you can't quite identify, yet it just adds a delicious flavor. De-Licious. 

I cut her recipe by one third, and that is what's reflected below, because I only had 2 chickens in the freezer, and I only had so many containers to store it in  :o)

Out came my biggest pot. I put in 2 whole, raw chickens. 2 carrots, cut lengthwise. 3 small stalks of celery, 2 onions, unpeeled and cut in 4ths. One head garlic, cut in half, 20 sprigs parsley, 15 sprigs thyme, 20 fresh dill sprigs (or 2 tbsp dried dill wrapped up in cheesecloth). Lastly, 2 tbsp Kosher salt, and 2 tsp whole peppercorns. Then I added 5 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and then drop to a low simmer and let it simmer for 4 hours. 

I strained it way more than she did though. She says to just strain it through a colander, then put in containers and refrigerate. That 'aint enough for me though.  I strained out the big stuff, then used my fat separator, then strained it twice through all 3 of my wire strainers, then a final strain through a cloth lined strainer. Then it was peeeeeeerfect! 

And since I used the whole chickens, I also ended up with 2 tons of shredded chicken. So it looks like tomorrow might be burrito night.