Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bacon-onion-cheddar quiche

I have an on-again/off-again relationship with quiches. Currently, it's on. This is a bacon, onion and cheddar quiche with roasted red peppers, made on the only afternoon last week when I had time to be in the kitchen. No, it was not tall enough for my crust. Yes, I always have this problem with quiches. No, nothing seems to fix it.

Regardless of height, this was a supremely satisfying quiche both hot on the night it was made and cold the next night. Served with a simple salad and organic Camargue red rice, it became rich enough for dinner: the time spent in the kitchen shone through in the combination and complexity of flavors, and the quiche meshed perfectly with the oncoming winter.

It is the new chef at the Canadian official residence here in Budapest who has turned me on to quiches again. It is a joy to watch him work: he dirties fewer dishes cooking a four course lunch for 10 people than I do making dinner for two. His kitchen, a large room of stainless steel and gas burners, is an oasis of calm. Having recently watched him make crème brûlée, I am again considering buying myself a torch. Perhaps.

Bacon-onion-cheddar quiche

What you need:
  • 1 homemade quiche crust, partially prebaked
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, roasted and julienned
  • dollop olive oil
  • 4 strips of bacon
  • 3 small onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp of your favorite dried herb (thyme, oregano, sage, etc.)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • scant 1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 3 large or 4 small eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk

What you do:
  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • Begin by frying the bacon until just cooked. Once finished, transfer the bacon to paper towels (to absorb the grease) and drain the fat from the pan. Be sure to pour this into a jar or directly into your garbage pail; it will clog your sink.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan, and add the onion, garlic, herb and black pepper. Cook for approximately 10 min., until the onions are very soft. Transfer to a bowl and add the roasted red pepper, bacon and green onion tops.
  • Sprinkle two thirds of the cheese into the quiche crust. Add the onion mixture.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and milk. Pour gently into the quiche. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
  • Bake for approximately 35 min., until a skewer or knife comes out clean. Let rest for at least 10 min. on a rack before serving.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wild boar roast

I don't cook much meat. I never quite know what to do with it. Give me anything from the sea – whole fish, squid, mussels, octopus, scampi, shrimp, lobster – and I can transform it into something delicious. But meat? It's not where my expertise lies. And when I do eat meat, I like to know a fair bit about where it comes from. While this is becoming easier and easier in North America, Hungarian producers are, for the most part, still opaque. And so we buy from the Jankovich Birtok Estate, where the autumn hunt for wild deer (red, fallow and roe) and boar has opened.

Game? It has a bad reputation – a reputation for being tough, overly lean and, well, gamey. But it needn't be: when cooked properly, it is splendiferous. Plus, as Michael Pollan has argued for years, it matters what the animals you eat themselves have eaten. In this measure, wild game is some of the healthiest meat around. The animals are not fed a diet of corn; rather, they forage and eat a wide variety of grasses and plants.

Lecture over.

Last night: one 1/2 kilogram loin of wild boar.

Marinate, for a couple of hours:
  • With your hands, mix olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, fresh mint, and fresh sage in a small bowl. Rub all over the meat, making sure to work the marinade in to the flesh.

Sear, then roast over low heat:
  • Preheat the oven to 300, and prepare a roasting pan with a small bit of olive oil.
  • Heat more olive oil in a large skillet (enough to coat the bottom), and sear the loin for 1-2 min. per side.
  • Place loin on roasting pan, and cook for 30 min. per pound.
  • When done, remove from oven and place on a cutting board. Cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 min. before slicing. While waiting, make the sauce.

  • Place a swig of red wine in a small saucepan, along with a few squares of good chocolate, a bay leaf, a star anise, and 6-8 juniper berries. Heat gently, stirring all the while to melt the chocolate. Add the pan drippings and increase to a light simmer. Serve over the sliced loin.

Yes, we must work on plating. Arg.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Autumn soup

Apples. Butternut squash. Yams. Potatoes. Onions. Garlic. This is the basis for my favorite autumn soup: a soup which is sweet and flavorful and full of color; a soup which reflects the changing colors of the leaves and the crisp autumn air. This is also the first soup I have developed ‘from scratch’. I'm slowly discovering the tricks and intricacies and joys of making my own soups. It's something I hadn't thought much about before last year, but which I now merrily daydream about on the bus.

What you need:
  • a dollop of olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2-3 apples
  • 2 yams or sweet potatoes
  • 4-5 potatoes
  • a large chunk of butternut squash
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (give or take)
  • fresh coriander
  • white wine (for reheating leftovers)
What you do:
  • Peel and chop the yams and potatoes. Cook for 10 min. in rapidly boiling water.
  • Meanwhile, mince the garlic and chop the onion. Peel, core and chop the apples, and chop the squash.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Once hot, add the garlic and onions. Cook over medium heat until the onions are transparent. Add the vegetable stock and the rest of the fruits and vegetables (yams, potatoes, apples and squash). Bring to a boil, and then simmer with the lid on for 20-30 min., stirring occasionally.
  • Once all of the vegetables are soft, blend the soup (using an immersion blender if you have one) until no chunks are left. Serve hot with a sprinkling of fresh coriander.
  • Notes on reheating leftovers: to reheat soup, warm on the stove with a dollop of white wine

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Seafood stock

We realized last week that our freezer was full -- full! -- of shrimp shells and tails, fish trimmings, and the like. An hour later, and our freezer was full of seafood stock. This adds to the vegetable, chicken and game stocks already in the freezer. Winter, we are prepared for you! (Although it was quite a shock to see snow in Ottawa on Sunday.)

Seafood stock is perhaps the easiest stock to make, since it takes very little time. The trick is to put your fish and seafood tailings (bones, heads, shells, etc.) in the freezer every time you can. I use a large Ziploc bag, adding to it every time we eat seafood at home. Once you have about 6 cups, you're ready to make stock.

Hint: plan your seafood stockmaking for a time when you are not cooking anything else in the kitchen. While simmering, the stock will smell very strongly of seafood – strongly enough that you will not want to be putting cinnamon rolls in the oven at the same time.

Seafood stock

What you need:
  • ~6 cups seafood tailings (if frozen, do not defrost)
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 large onion, cut in half
  • 1-2 large carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped (you can use the greens, too)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ~6 whole peppercorns
  • water
What you do:
  • Place all the ingredients in a large pot (heavy-bottomed, if you have it). For the water, use approximately 10 cups (this will of course depend on the size of your pot).
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and let simmer for half an hour.
  • Strain the stock through a sieve into a second pot or container. Place a lid on the strained stock and set outside to cool. Once cooled, the stock can be used immediately or frozen for later use.