Saturday, March 24, 2012

Plain old salad?

The lovely part about salad as a food category is that it can be so many things. It can cooperate with such a diversity of food types. I tend to make the same salad over and over again because, well, it's my go-to salad I suppose. But often when in a salad mood I crave a little bowl of different salad.

Thaaat Sauce Is Hoisin

Gentle reader, welcome to another lesson in cooking the cuisine I like to call Ignorant American Fusion! In this installment, I’d like to tout the virtues of having a jar of hoisin sauce tucked away in the side door of your fridge, so you can quickly and easily make a dish with a passing resemblance to Chinese food (and by Chinese food, I mean the food you get in Chinese restaurants here in ’Mericker. See how this cuisine works?).

On a recent Saturday, I got three turkey drumsticks from the awesome turkey farm vendor at the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket—at a very reasonable price of, like, $3/lb.—and prepared them in a manner that bore a passing (and I mean just barely passing) resemblance to Peking duck. I sprinkled the turkey legs with salt, pepper, garlic powder and red pepper flakes, and roasted them on a rack set over a pan filled with about an inch of beer. I roasted them at 400° for about 2 hours, flipping them a quarter turn every half-hour or so; let them rest 10-15 minutes; and then pulled the meat off the bone and served it (as shown above left) with scallion pancakes and snow peas. And, of course, hoisin sauce to line the pancakes! The rich turkey drumstick meat really is a great variation on duck, though I would never call it a substitute.

At a couple of bucks for a jar that will go a long way, since the flavor is quite intensely concentrated, hoisin is a really simple way to liven up weeknight dishes. You can use it sparingly, and you really don’t need to add much in the way of other seasonings, since they would either be overpowered by the hoisin or compete with it.

Here are a few of the many other things you could do with hoisin:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Duck Confit Salad With Plumped Dried Cherries

Why is it that people love the novelty of breakfast for dinner, but when presented with what is essentially lunch for dinner—a sandwich and chips, say, or soup and salad—it just feels like a downgrade?

This question occurred to me, and I was inspired to do a soup-and-salad combo that would be worthy of the label “dinner.” This one fit the bill, to the tune of $12 total for a light dinner for two.

The meal consists of a French onion–style mushroom soup, a salad with duck leg confit and dried cherries, and a loaf of crusty bread with pesto butter. All of which sounds fancier and more complicated than it in fact is. I will herewith break down this salad, including the homemade vinaigrette—and, what the heck, the pesto butter too.

This salad would also be a fantastic first course for any date-night or special-occasion meal, even those occasions that are special for no particular reason.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ceci n’est pas un potato gratin

This dish looks very much like a potato gratin…but it is not, gentle reader, for it does not contain cheese in the proper manner of a gratin. It’s quite impressive visually (if I say so myself) but nowhere near as complicated to make as it looks—you just have to be a little bit anal about arranging the slices, but it honestly doesn't take longer than, like, 5, maaaybe 10 minutes to layer the potatoes.

This served 2 people with leftovers, but can easily be multiplied; if the pan is much deeper than this cake-pan-like one, plan to cook it a little longer, and cover it with foil for the first half of the cooking time.