Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Armenian Lamb Sausage Pasta

This is my favorite pasta sauce, more nuanced and flavorful then any I have had at a restaurant.  The lamb flavor is rich and mellow while the cumin adds depth and earthiness without reading as cumin.  If you added cumin directly to pasta sauce it would be more aggressive, less muted.  Because the sausage ingredients are cooked twice, once in the sausage and again in the sauce, they mellow and become more complex.

The sausage and pasta are like the countless articles encouraging us to streamline meal prep by roasting a chicken and making a different entree with the leftovers.  However making the sausage, which has no casing to wrestle with, is easier and faster then roasting a chicken.  So please do not dismiss this pasta dish as too much work; the initial step of making the sausage is not a waste of time on a night you need to make dinner, it is dinner.

The sausages are another favorite meal here, even though they are impossible to photograph attractively.  They are easy to make, take ingredients I always have on hand and taste more complex then their short ingredient list would suggest.  It also doesn't hurt that they make everyone in my family happy.  I often make dishes that I know my children won't eat, I just make sure that there is at least one other dish that they like, that I feel comfortable with them making a meal of. However I sometimes want a cheering section when serving dinner, I want to feel like the kitchen hero. These hand rolled sausages always make me a hero, with children and adults.

This dish is also responsible for an epiphany that has opened many meals to me that my children previously refused to eat, and yes whined about. I realized that I could make dishes like meatballs and meatloaf if I made 2 small changes. Now when I make these dishes I make them sausage shaped. Then I just call them sausages. The usual response from my sausage worshipping children is, "These are good mama, but your lamb sausages are better. The lamb sausage is my favorite."

Armenian Hand Rolled Sausage
Adapted from The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors

Most of the adaptations I have made to this recipe is to make it more pantry friendly.  For example the original recipe calls for evaporated milk, which I did use the first time I mad them (it is amazing what random ingredients are often lurking in my pantry).   There is no discernible difference in flavor when using regular milk and limiting the number of tomato products.  I also upped the cumin, a favorite spice in my house.

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 cup pureed crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (note: tomato sauce does not mean pasta sauce)
1 cup bread crumbs (I always make my own, often from the ends of bread lying around. Just whirl them in the food processor)
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley (optional, if I don't have it on hand I just omit this ingredient)
1 Tbsp minced dried onion (do not omit)
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (at least 1/2 tsp or more to taste)

Mix all the ingredients together.  I find it is best to mix with your hands, squeezing and mixing until really well combined.  Roll meat into balls that are slightly smaller then a tennis ball.  Form into sausage shapes that are about 4 inches by 1 inch long.  It is helpful to wet hands with water while shaping.

Sausages can be grilled or roasted.  If roasting place formed sausages in a shallow baking pan (I use a pyrex lasagna pan) and preheat the oven to 400°  Bake for 20 minutes and transfer to a clean platter to serve.  To grill preheat the grill to high and grill over direct heat until browned and cooked to your taste.

Armenian Lamb Sausage Pasta
Inspired by the leftovers in my fridge with the technique updated by Bon Appetit's  pasta pomodoro

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/8 tsp hot red pepper flakes (optional)
1 qt crushed tomatoes or 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
tomato sauce leftover from making the sausage
1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 lb whole wheat pasta (or in my case the quantity of pasta that will be eaten by people who want sauce on theirs)
2 Tbsp butter at room temperature (optional)
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano, grana padano or parmesan (I have only tested it with pecorino romano)

Heat olive oil in a 12" or larger skillet over medium low.  Add the onion and cook, stirring often until soft.  Mine took about 5 minutes but Bon Appetit says 12 minutes, so my heat must have been higher.  Add the chopped garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant but not toasted or burnt, stirring the whole time.

Add the red pepper flakes and after 1 minute add the 2 types of tomatoes and the sausage.  Squish the sausage with a potato masher into small pieces and add the kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally over medium heat.  It will be properly thickened after about 20 minutes total cooking time, but some of that can happen while the pasta is cooking.

While sauce is thickening bring a large pot of water to the boil and generously salt it before adding the pasta.  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and pasta 2 minutes before it will be done to your taste. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the sauce and bring it to the boil over hight heat.  Add the drained pasta and cook while stirring the pasta and sauce until the pasta is al dente.  Add more reserved pasta water if the sauce is not thin enough.

Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring until it is all melted.  Add the cheese and stir until the cheese melts and serve.  If anyone wishes for more cheese pass it grudgingly while mumbling about the dish being prefect and now they are going to add more cheese.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Roasted Cardamom, Oregano and Garlic Chicken Thighs

I wrote briefly about these chicken thighs from Deborah Krasner's Good Meat cookbook in the cookbook giveaway post.  After the counts and recounts were tallied this recipe won the right to be shared here.  While the list of ingredients is short the flavor is complex and satisfying.  Cardamom is an ingredient many people have not played with so this chicken will have an elusive flavor and fragrance, a touch of romance.  Please remember to leave enough time to remove the cardamom seeds from the pods.  Harvesting the seeds can be time consuming but worth it.

The first time I made this dish I was running out of Kosher salt and had to use less then the printed recipe called for.  When I made it a second time I used the full tablespoon and it was too much.  I sent Deborah a message and she confirmed that a full tablespoon must be a typo.  The measurement below is a more modest amount.

As I met Deborah Krasner on Facebook it seems fitting to share Hippo Flambé's new facebook page on this post.  My plan is to share food related links, random thoughts on food and life and links to my new posts.  I would love it if you would go and "like" it.  Please join Hippo Flambé on Facebook.

Roasted Cardamom, Oregano and Garlic Chicken Thighs

Reprinted with permission from Good Meat, (with notes from the test kitchen of Hippo Flambe included).

Adapted from a recipe by Greg Malouf in Artichoke to Za'atar, this dish roasts to a crisp at high heat.  While it cooks the perfume of cardamom and garlic infuses the kitchen.  You can find green cardamom pods at any good spice purveyor and [far less expensively] at Indian and Middle Eastern groceries.  (Here in Burlington you can get it inexpensively in the bulk section at City Market).  please don't use ground cardamom - you need the crunch of the tiny seeds, which are more intensely flavored.  Similarly, if if you can get intensely flavored wild Greek oregano [found hanging upside down in bunches in some Greek markets], use it here.  Be sure to leave time for the marinating - at least 4 hours.  If you like, make a batch of rice to soak up the fragrant juices.

1/4 cup whole green cardamom pods or 1 to 2 Tbsp whole black cardamom seeds out of the pods
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 cup fresh or dry oregano
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 to 6 large skin on, bone in pastured chicken thighs
freshly ground black pepper

Select a shallow pan that will hold the thighs closely in one layer, such as a quarter sheet pan, cast iron lasagna pan or frying pan or gratin dish.

Using a mortar and pestle, or a heavy resealable bag and the back of a cast iron pan, pound the cardamom pods until they split.  (When I tried to use a mortar and pestle the pods kept leaping out of the mortar without breaking and I try not to use plastic bags just because I don't want more work.  So I resorted to peeling all the pods by hand.  Effective, but time consuming.  If you are more coordinated than I am use a mortar and pestle.  Although I would guess it would work fine if you just put a few in at a time.)

Discard the husks, and bruise the tiny black seeds by pounding them  a little to to release their oils. (More operator error with my mortar and pestle technique so I ended up skipping this step to prevent the seeds flying to all corners of my kitchen.  I am sure it would taste better with the seeds bruised but it was delicious without this step as well.)  Add the garlic, salt and oregano and bash away a bit more to make a rough paste.  (I chopped the garlic fine and then mashed it to a paste with the side of my knife with the kosher salt before mixing all the ingredients together.  Maybe I just need a better mortar and pestle).  Transfer the mixture to a bowl, then stir in the olive oil to thin the paste.

Arrange the thighs, flesh side up, in the pan and massage half the paste onto the flesh; turn them over and do the same on the skin side with the remaining paste.  Allow the meat to marinate, covered and refrigerated, for at least 4 hours or overnight before bringing it back to room temperature.  (I have made it on nights where I did not have the time to let it marinate and it was still flavorful and delicious.  Marinating is best but don't let it stop you from making this dish).  Grind black pepper over the thighs.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees, and set a rack, a the top of the oven just under the heating element [although you are not broiling this, this exposes the skin to more heat for crispness].  When the oven is good and hot, roast the chicken for 45 minutes, turn the meat over halfway through the cooking.

When done the meat should be beautifully crisp and the flesh completely cooked through.  pour off the fat in the pan and arrange the pieces on a serving platter.  Serve warm or at room temperature with rice.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Browned Butter Blueberry Muffins

I found this muffin recipe on my friend Ann's blog Thibeault's Table.  The idea and description were so appealing I set out to try them right away.  Conveniently forgetting my sinuses were blocked plaguing  me with an inability to taste my food.  Besides from the obvious frustration caused by not tasting my food for over a week, I was also unhappy to discover I still eat more than I should when food has only texture, sweet and salt.  So as the rest of my family exclaimed over their goodness I was able to detect the correct level of sweetness, enough salt and a perfect texture.  The scent of blueberries, the flavor from the 3 types of flours and the browned butter were all lost on me.  However I still knew I had finally found my blueberry muffin recipe and I would share it here later (once I had tasted them).  The rest of my family could taste them and both boys happily ate them for breakfast 3 mornings in a row, something that never happens.

By the end of last weekend I could smell and taste again and so on Mother's Day I made a batch of these muffins.  Lewis was going out of town, yes on Mother's Day, and I wanted an easy no argue breakfast the next day.  I reduced the sugar because I knew we would prefer it and to test if I could make them for the preschool.  Federal reimbursement guidelines require that in baked goods, sugar be no more than half the volume of flour.  (Although you can serve all the trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, fried food and flavored milk you want!)

When I browned the butter and poured it into the batter the aroma of caramel drifted up.  The finished muffins do not taste of caramel, instead the browned butter adds intensity and a nuttiness that tempers the sweetness.  The 3 flours add their own flavor plus keep you from being hungry 20 minutes later.  The more I play with whole grains in my baking, the more I love the dimension they add.  Not the heavy wheat flavor we all remember but rather an actual flavor where white flour is just blank.  Of course this assumes you are using flour that has not gone rancid.

Browned Butter Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Thibeault's Table

I have made these with both frozen local blueberries and frozen wild ones.  Both worked wonderfully, just taking longer to bake.  I am also going to make them with raspberries, frozen for now and fresh in a few months.

14 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat
1 cup spelt flour

4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen berries leave them frozen)

Put the oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375°.  Line muffin tins with 24 liners and set aside.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat (it is really best to use a light colored saucepan so you can judge the color of the butter, I used a dark blue one because it was the perfect size and regretted my choice).  Watch the butter closely once it is melted.  Continue to cook until the crackling subsides and little brown solids form in the pan.  It should smell nutty when done.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Whisk together milk, eggs, egg yolks and vanilla until combined.  Add Browned butter and whisk until fully incorporated.  Add sugar, baking powder and salt and whisk in well.  Add flours all at once and stir gently, stirring to the bottom of the bowl under the batter to incorporate all the flour.  Gently fold in the blueberries until they are evenly distributed.

Divide the batter among muffin cups and bake until a wooden pick or knife inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean and the muffins are golden brown.  They should take about 18 to 20 minutes when made with fresh blueberries and 32 to 35 minutes when you use frozen  (I used convection  for the last 5 minutes to brown the tops and because I was getting bored with checking on them).

Cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes then remove from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Dish to Celebrate Mom

As I sit and type this I am sitting in a room at the Stoweflake Resort at an Americorps conference.  It is seven in the morning and I have been awake for an hour.  Turns out even when I get a chance to sleep in the mom in me can't.  Instead of cursing at the inside of my eyelids let me share a recipe feature on Cafe Mom that I am part of.  I was asked for a link to a recipe that either was from my mother or has special meaning to me as a mother.  Plus a shot description of why.  I was able to share a recipe that is my moms as well as having special meaning for me; although the special meaning is just the ability to make dinner fast on nights were I am running behind.  I refer to dishes like this one as emergency dinners.

Bloggers Share a Dish to Celebrate Mom