This is the view I have when we eat dinner outside. I'm sure there are many other images I've saved since I last posted here that triggered some desire to write again but weren't heeded. Maybe that will change.
Somehow this morning is a little different. There's coffee (normal), and time (rare), and another writing project I'm working on that has my brain juicing (uber-rare).
Plus, I sat outside as the sun set (that photo is fairly due west) and ate my grilled bacon-wrapped chicken and asparagus; washing it down with a damn-fine Torrontes we've found at one of the wine-bying options on my way home from work. And that was a nice way to end my day.
The fancy dish Mom made when she or Dad had work folk or friends over for spiffed-up dinner parties when I was a kid. It was served w/ buttered egg noodles. So you know, I just ate noodles. Later in life (circa age 12) I would deign to put some of the veal and sauce on the noodles, but keep that fungus away from me!
What was I thinking???
When I got older and smarter it was the dish Mom made for me to celebrate. College gradation. Grad school. A record-breaking Senate election. A birthday of note.
Made it last night for pops and a couple pals and we sopped up veal w/ mushrooms and a sauce rich with taragon, orange, and vermouth for HOURS. Good lord that was tasty food.
I have the recipe printed on two old and stained 3x5 index cards. Mom wrote it for me. She left something out too, and I'm not sure if it was on purpose or not. The first few times I made it I had to call her mid-cooking to check. I'll give her a post stew call this time...
Saute de Veau Marengo
3 lbs veal stew meat
2-3 T olive oil (for browning use what you need)
1 cup diced yellow onion (Mom has minced, I go more texture)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
2 T AP flour
2 cups dry vermouth
1 lb firm, red tomatoes (peeled, seeded, and rough chopped) or 1 c dained/stratined canned, diced
1/2 tsp basil or tarragon (I use tarragon, fresh -- and it's amazing)
1/2 tsp thyme
1 3-inch strip of orange peel
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 lb button mushrooms (I mix in creminis and halve/quarter accordingly to get bite-sized)
1/2 T cornstarch in 1 T water slurry (if needed)
Dry veal on paper towels
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Rack in lower third.
Heat oil in skillet and brown veal in batches.
Place browned meat in large casserole/Dutch oven
Lower heat in skillet, remove all but 1 T oil in skillet and add onions. Brown for 5-6 minutes, scraping the bottom of the skillet.
While the onions are softening, toss the veal w/ the salt, pepper, and flour over medium heat to cook the flour onto the outside of the veal.
Once the onions are soft, add the vermouth to the pan and raise the heat, stirring until the liquid boils.
Add the onions and vermouth to the Dutch oven and stir over medium heat.
Add the tomatoes, herbs, orange peel, and garlic.
Bring to a simmer.
Cover and place in the oven for about an hour.
Remove from the oven, check the tenderness of the veal. If fork tender, add the mushrooms and bring to a rapid simmer on the stovetop.
Cover and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, remove the orange peel and skim any excess fat.
Boil the sauce for 5-7 minutes until it reduces by approzimately 1/4.
Add conrstarch slurry to adjust thickness of the sauce.
I served last night over the classic butterd egg noodles (1 lb noodles w/ 1 T butter) with the fresh addition of 1/4 cup of chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley and a loaf of crusty tuscan bread. Hey, even the noodles couldn't soak up all that gravy...there was soppin' to be done!!!
I cut the salt from 1 tsp in the original to 1/4 tsp here and used it to help soften the onions when they went into the skillet.
I also used diced, canned San Marzano tomatoes and DID NOT drain them. I think I end up with more sauce AND that the tomatoes in the can give you some of the lost salt back. I sure wasn't missing any saltiness last night.
So the losing continues apace. And the discovery of ways to make less food taste more better (intentional grammar lapse...) is also moving along. Y'all know me pretty well, I get flavor combos fairly well. Pork and anything. Chicken and thyme or sage. Macaroni and cheese (laugh, chuckle, whatever...you liked it). And pepper heat is good with...well, damn near everything. I love it. Jalapenos, serranos, arbol, powdered, fresh, dried.
The past two weeks I've whipped up a batch of Thai-style green curry paste. It's the base. The underlying heat and brightness in Thai green curry dishes. It's the BOOM. And it's easy to make a huge batch and freeze it in ice cube trays. Each "cube" is about 1 1/2 T of concetrated flavor.
Sauteing veg for an omelet? Throw a cube in with the onions or asparagus or whatever and saute that goodness right in. Or if you still have some fresh, stir it into your eggs/whites and get it in that way. One cube = about 1 skillet of food. It's a rough guess thing, not exact science.
If the amount of heat in the recipe scares you, I have an easy work around. Put fewer peppers in. Yeah, I was just looking atcha funny there. Seriously. Less pepper (or less seeds and membranes from inside the peppers) equals less heat.
Then again, my whole point in this was to add MORE heat to dishes.
Anyway, whip up a batch. It's pretty cheap all things considered. $15 worth of ingredients gets you about 12 cubes plus 1/2 cup to keep fresh for the week. So for about $1 per skillet of food, you get AWESOME. I'll add $2-3 worth of veg, chicken, potato, mushroom, beef, pork, etc. to a pan with about $0.50 worth of rice and get a HUGE dinner plate full of Thai goodness.
What, you won't? Eh, your loss. I'm hungry and gettin' with the spicy lunch goodness. Today's gonna be about a half can of chick peas, 2-3oz of spinach, a diced up carrot, and some yellow onion in a pan with some curry paste all stuffed into whole wheat pita and topped w/ crumbled feta and greek yoghurt.
2 bunches cilantro, bottom 1" of stems removed
5 oz fresh basil leaves w/ any brown stem ends removed
1 head of garlic, peeled (3 T minced-ish)
1-2T minced fresh ginger
2 stalks lemongrass, peeled, cored, minced (go here for prep)
2 T fresh mint leaves
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 large jalapenos (approx 1 cup rough chopped)
4 serranos (approx 1/4 cup rough chopped)
Juice of 2 limes (~ 4 T juice)
Pulse it all in a food processor to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides.
Once combined, run food processor for 45-60 seconds to make a wet paste.
Put 1-2 T of mixture into each well in an ice cube tray and freeze.
Once frozen remove from the tray and put in a freezer safe plastic bag.
Should keep well for several weeks. If you start seeing lots of ice crystals on your paste cubes, you haven't been cooking with curry paste enough recently and you should probably use 'em or lose 'em AND make a fresh batch.
Can't find lemongrass? Don't worry. Leave it out.
Only see good looking jalapenos and not serranos? Deal. Use more jalapeno.
You have jars of minced garlic? Okay. I guess. You know. If you must.
NO. You can't substitute dry herbs for this recipe. That defeats the whole purpose here...