Monday, February 20, 2012

Baked Pasta with Eggs, Ham and Cheese

This is my take on traditional Schinkenfleckerln that is so popular in Bohemia (Czech Republic) and Austria. In original Schinkenfleckerln, pasta being used are short and flat flakes, sort of like broken wide noodles, or Fleckern. I used spaghettini instead because I had leftovers from my Salmon and Pasta dish that I cooked previous day. Also, instead of traditional baking pan or casserole I used large 8oz. non-stick muffin pan. The reason for this change was that it gave me 4 times more surface area that had a nice crunch, the best part of this meal, as far as I am concerned. My brother and I were always fighting for the corner portions because they were the crunchiest, we have shunned the middle, soft parts.
Another very easy meal to make, especially if you have leftover pasta on hand.

4 shallots or 1/2 medium onion
4 cups cooked pasta, room temperature
4 eggs
1 cup chopped ham
1/2 cup grated cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 °F and place rack on middle shelf.
Sauté the shallots in little bit of butter until soft, about 5 minutes and let cool.
Chop the cooked pasta into 1/2 inch pieces.
In a mixing bowl beat the eggs until whites and yolks are well combined, add pinch of salt and pepper, cooked shallots, ham, cheese and pasta and mix so that all the pasta pieces are well coated with eggs and all ingredients are well combined. Pour into buttered muffin cups or casserole, cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and bake additional 15 minutes or until top is golden brown. Remove pasta from pan by turning it over on a baking sheet and serve with pickles or/and lettuce. It can be served as a light lunch at room temperature.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pasta with Salmon and Caper Sauce

This is another perfect mid-week meal because it is so easy to make and can be done in under half-an-hour. Since the salmon will be medium rare when served use only very fresh salmon. Of course, if you prefer, you can cook the salmon in the sauce before serving. However, I like my salmon rare (read “raw”). The salmon is so creamy that it completely changes texture of this dish.

1/2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 Tbs. butter
4 shallots, peeled and finally chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tbs. capers, roughly chopped; do not rinse
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup 35% cream


Cook the pasta according to packet instructions in a pan of salted boiling water, then drain and keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, add the garlic and shallots and sauté   until the shallots have softened. Pour in the wine and reduce until less than 1 Tbs. remains.
Add the capers, parsley and cream and continue to cook over moderate heat until the sauce have thickened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the drained pasta and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the salmon and serve immediately.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sauerkraut, Root Vegetables and Ham Soup

Depending on quantity of ham and vegetables, this soup can be complete meal. I personally prefer 2 to 1 ratio of stock to solids. I will not give quantity of each ingredient since everybody has a different preferences or availability. I am using my own home cured sauerkraut. Recipe is here. There is vast difference between homemade and store bought sauerkraut. Commercial kraut just doesn’t have enough crunch; they tend to be mushy.

Ingredients (all chopped)
Shallots or onion
Sauerkraut, divided into 2 equal portions
Cabbage (optional if using store bought sauerkraut)
Chicken stock
Caraway seeds
Olive oil

If you are using store bought kraut, wash under cold running water and drain.
Sauté shallots and garlic in little bit of butter and olive oil until soft. Add all the vegetables, 1 part of sauerkraut, ham and stock and bring to boil. Season with caraway seeds and pepper and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove cover, add remaining sauerkraut and simmer additional 15 minutes. Serve hot with dollop of sour cream on top.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Home Cured Sauerkraut

Since I have discovered this recipe in Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn book “Charcuterie” (must read for any serious cook) and made my first batch, I have not bought single jar or can of sauerkraut. The difference is amazing and it is so easy to make! I strongly recommend that you weight the salt rather than using volume measure.
4 liters water (4 quarts)
200 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs.)  Kosher salt
1 Green cabbage, about 3 pounds cored and finally shredded
Combine water and salt in pot and bring to simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat, let cool and then chill.
Combine the cabbage and brine in non-reactive container. Cover the cabbage with piece of cheesecloth, place a plate on top pressing it down so that all the cabbage is submerged.
Cover container loosely with plastic wrap or container’s cover and set in cool place for 2 weeks (no warmer than 70°F – 75°F).
After 2 weeks drain the cabbage reserving the brining liquid. Refrigerate the cabbage while you prepare the brine. Bring the brining liquid to a boil, remove from heat, cool and then chill.
Pour enough of the cold brine over the sauerkraut to cover it completely; discard the extra brine. Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Note: I find it better to cut the recipe in half unless you use a lot of sauerkraut. It does go mushy after 4 – 5 weeks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pork Rouladen with Grapes and Apple Sauce

Even though I have prepared dozens of dishes using pork tenderloin as a main ingredient, I am still amazed at the versatility of this tender cut of meat. In this version I pounded medallions of tenderloin very thin, less than 1/8 inch, and made roulade with ham and cheese. It is lot simpler to prepare and cook than it is to describe it in recipe.


For Rouladen:
1 pork tenderloin cut into 4 equal pieces by weight
4 slices of Swiss cheese or any other melting cheese
4 thin slices of ham
Herbes de Provence
Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper
Butcher’s twine
2 Tbs. olive oil

For Sauce:
3 shallots or 1/2 onion, finally chopped
1 cup seedless green grapes, cut in half
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup of dry white wine
Worcestershire Sauce
Frank’s Hot Sauce
1 Tbs. Olive oil
1 Tbs. butter

For side:
Mashed potatoes using 3 baking potatoes, Milk, Sour Cream, 1 cup of Green peas, White pepper, Nutmeg and Salt.

Place each pork tenderloin piece between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. With a mallet, lightly pound out the pork very thin, about 1/6 to 1/8 inch. Uncover the pork and season both sides with salt and pepper. Spread thin layer of mustard on one side and lay slice of ham and cheese on top (see picture below). Start rolling from one end while keeping the roll tight. About one turn from the end, fold the sides over and finish the roll. Secure the roll with butcher twine and set aside.
Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil on medium high heat in heavy bottomed pan. Brown the pork rolls on all sides until golden brown, remove to ovenproof plate and roast in 400 °F oven while you prepare sauce.
Discard oil, add butter and oil and sauté shallots in same frying pan, then add grapes, apple slices, wine, Worcestershire and Frank’s sauce and simmer until apples are very soft and sauce is thick. Remove pork from oven and serve with sauce and mashed potatoes.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weeknight Meals as a Weather Indicator

As I was organizing my picture directories, I have noticed that most of my main meals pretty much reflect the weather on that particular day: lousy days are great for comfort food and sunny days for nice light food. It is not difficult to match the photos of my food with weather.

Liver and Mushrooms with Egg Pasta

The caramelized mushrooms and onions almost completely cover the liver taste that so many people dislike. This is wonderful and tasty meal for any kind of weather. Recipe is the same as Calf Liver with Mushrooms & Spaetzle except I was using egg noodles instead of spaetzle.

Veal Stew à la Osso Buco

Perfect food for cloudy, rainy weather. Since I have used slow cooker for this stew it was no-work after initial browning of the veal. Can be done in big batches since it freezes so well. It is cooked just like Osso Buco Chops.

Salmon Sashimi with Cucumber Salad and Gari.

Yes, it was beautiful, sunny day when I prepared this simple and quick meal. All you need is super fresh salmon.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gratin of Cauliflower, Potatoes and Ham

This is simple, quick and filling weeknight meal. You can make it as rich or as lean as you want just by adjusting amount of cheese.

2 baking potatoes, peeled
1/2 head of cauliflower
2 half inch slices of ham
Grated cheese

Cut potatoes into 1” cubes and boil in lightly salted water until done, about 15 – 20 minutes. Cut up the cauliflower and ham and drop into pot with potatoes 10 minutes after potatoes start to boil.
When potatoes and cauliflower is cooked, drain and mix with cheese. Divide evenly in between ovenproof dishes that were buttered, top with extra cheese and broil until cheese starts to bubble. Serve with salad on side.

Just top with cheese and broil.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Eggplant, Ham and Pimento Ravioli Potstickers

This is my latest and very unusual creation that came from my desire to experiment. Yah, right!  Actually, I had no idea what to cook for dinner so I raided the freezer and pulled out bag of grilled eggplants, grilled red peppers in olive oil and container with grilled red pepper and sundried tomato sauce. In refrigerator, I had shallots, garlic, ham and wonton wrappers and I came up with sort of Chinese – Italian fusion recipe. I chopped the eggplants and peppers while they were still frozen, than I chopped the shallots, garlic and ham and sautéed them until soft. I added eggplants, peppers and 1/2 cup of white wine and I cooked it untill there was no liquid left, let it cool before mixing in quite a bit of grated Parmigiano Regiano cheese. Of course the mix was seasoned with salt and pepper along the way. The dumplings had a shape like ravioli but I cooked them like potstickers. Served on top of sundried tomatoes and pimento sauce, they were so delicious! I have especially liked the mix of textures in wonton wrappers that run from soft to chewy to crispy crunch, just perfect. Next time, and it will be soon, I will serve the sauce on side, just like Chinese potstickers, because the crispy bottom of ravioli that touched the sauce got soft. They were still great but soft.