Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lentil Soup

I have fond memories of eating lentils with rice on a couple of week-long Boy Scout hikes across the Isthmus of Panama. There's not much that's more restorative to body and spirit after a day of a long slog, much of it in thigh-deep water, up and over the Continental Divide, particularly when paired with a good bit of Tabasco Sauce. We changed it out for red or black beans from night to night to vary the menu, but that was the typical fare - good, hearty campesino fare, augmented on at least a couple of nights with some wild turkey. (The bird, not the whiskey - remember, we were Boy Scouts.)

Lentils make great soup, too. This is an adaptation of something I found in the latest Joy of Cooking. I started out by making a simple stock from the bone out of a pork roast that I'd used for something else, and two quarts of water:

I know, that picture isn't very exciting. Trust me, though; good things are going on inside that pressure cooker. Meanwhile, I prepped everything else, starting with picking over the lentils.

It used to be the case that you'd always find a rock or two in a package of dried beans or lentils. Nowadays, not so much - I think they've gotten pretty good about cleaning them in processing.

We still have to wash them, of course. I like this Japanese rice-washing bowl for that. Note the slots in the pour spout - those allow us to wash and drain the lentils (or rice, etc.) in the same vessel. 

And here are most of the rest of the raw ingredients: carrots, celery, garlic, onion, bacon, tomatoes, and thyme. 

You don't have to have a Belgian-style wit with some orange wedges squeezed into it on hand, but it helps. (Note to beer snobs: yes, I know Blue Moon is brewed by Coors.)

Chop up all the vegetables and the bacon:

Meanwhile, the pork bone has been in the pressure cooker for nearly an hour, and that's long enough. Here's the finished stock:

And the bone by itself. After it cools, I'll cut all the remaining meat off that bone and chop it up for the soup. No, the dogs don't get the bone - that thing's had all of its substance pretty well boiled out, and is too brittle for them to chew on.

Getting back to the vegetables, we sweat them in a bit of olive oil. We don't want them to get brown; just tender. 

Note that I'm using the pressure cooker even though I'm not going to cook this under pressure. Why dirty another pan?

Here's the rest of the ingredients: some leftover boiled potato and some Andouille sausage I had in the freezer. I'll dice the potatoes and slice up the sausage - so, no, this isn't a vegetarian dish.

Here's what we want the vegetables to look like:

Add the lentils, tomatoes, and thyme:

... and the stock. Bring it to a gentle boil and stir occasionally. 

After about an hour, it'll look like this:

Add in the potato and sausage, and the pork from the bone, and adjust the seasoning. This needed some salt and pepper, but I didn't want to salt it before it was done because of the bacon.

And here it is in a cup. I actually ended up thinning this out a bit more with some chicken stock. Damn fine eating on a cool day with some saltine crackers and a bit of Sriracha sauce.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Haitian Chicken

This is a dish I learned from my dad years ago. I love to make it during the colder months of the year, which is kind of interesting given that Haiti is pretty much never very cold. As in, at all.

Anyway, the mise en place: chicken pieces, celery, onion, green pepper, garlic, limes, butter, tomatoes (I almost always use canned), tomato paste, chicken stock (I'll make some up from chicken base this time), soy sauce, sugar, and salt.

First, squeeze the limes and marinate the chicken in the juice with a bit of salt for a while.

Then chop up the vegetables....

And sear the chicken pieces in the butter and a little oil. You might have to do this in batches (I typically do).

Note the crusty bits on the bottom of the pot. Those are magic.

Remove the chicken and keep it warm, and allow the pot to cool down a bit while you make yourself a nice cocktail.

That's a Cape Cod, of course - pictured just before the lime was squeezed into it and a nice stir stick added for effect. (It's not for me. I don't really care for cranberry juice. It was requested by Susan, and who am I to deny her anything?)

Now we'll cook the vegetables down a bit in the remaining butter and oil, with the rendered chicken fat. When they're about done, we'll add the tomato paste.

Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, soy sauc, and sugar, and add the chicken back to the pot. Give it all a good stir and bring it up to a gentle simmer.

Cover the pot and let the chicken simmer gently for about an hour. Or maybe three.

Yes, I know this photo isn't that interesting. Sorry, but that's what it looks like.

After it's simmered for a while, remove the cover, increase the heat a bit, and let the liquid gently boil down a bit. This is what you're looking for:

Note how the meat has pulled back from the bone a bit and the broth has taken on a slightly richer color.

Here it is plated,over rice. You'll want to have some Tabasco sauce on the side with this.