All Tarted Up

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This tart is actually six feet wide, using giant, genetically modified fruits.

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Walking into a kitchen store gives me the same unabashed delight now that I had as a child when going to Toys R Us. The rush of excitement that came from going home with a new Transformer, set of legos, or Atari game has transformed into the giddy anticipation of heading home with a new knife, splatter screen, or saucepan. Maybe not quite as excited, but still, it's a fair analogy.

Well yesterday I came home with something truly frivolous, made all the more ridiculous by the fact that I only went to the kitchen store to get Christmas presents for family and walked out with nothing but this: a silicone tartlette mold. How often do I make tarts? Very close to never. I don't even usually eat or make desserts. Those of you who read Kitchen Monkey regularly probably know of my abiding distaste for most forms of cake.

But I digress. I've always liked these little fruit tarts, and a friend's potluck yesterday was ample excuse to try my hand at them. The recipe came from Jacques Pépin's Complete Techniques (see previous post) and required an enormous amount of effort.

My friend Nick was recently lamenting a potluck he held where half the guests brought baguettes. I was sort of expecting a similar affair last night, particularly since most of the guests were law students, but to my delight the potluck offered an impressive array of delicious dishes. A perfect asparagus and red pepper frittata, a cous cous with complex flavors, latkes for hanukkah, and some Thai meatballs that were--and I say this without hyperbole--tastier than any meatball I have ever had in my entire life. Sadly, I failed to get the recipe, but am in the process of tracking it down.

Now then, the tarts. I may post the recipe at some point. For now, enough to mention that they were great fun to make, though next time I may try using a food processor for the dough to cut down on the substantial effort. The dough is a standard pie/pastry shell mixture (pâte sucrée et croûte), which I rolled to a quarter inch thickness and pressed into the mold with another piece of dough floured to keep from sticking. I then trimmed the edges and placed in each mold a piece of wax paper. I then filled the molds with black beans pressed down to keep the dough from melting inward, and baked for about 7 minutes. I then removed the beans and baked for another 10 minutes. The silicone mold is great. No sticking at all, and they popped right out. In the meantime I made a crème pâtissière, a standard vanilla pastry creme. A large spoonful of the creme went into each shell, I then arranged raspberries, blackberries, and bits of kiwi. Then I brushed the fruit with a glaze of melted strawberry jelly.

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Cook Book Review: Jacques Pépin's Complete Techniques

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Jacques Pépin, whose eyes have no whites

I don't often buy cookbooks, and when I do I don't usually feel compelled to post about it. This one is a bit different, however.

After a Criminal Procedure exam on Saturday morning (how absurd is that?), a couple days working at the Superior Court, and a job interview with the D.C. Public Defender Service (for this summer), I have almost NOTHING to do for the next month. This means, of course, a great deal of serious cooking: and this, my friends, is where Jacques Pépin's book comes in.

There seems to be little method to my kitchen madness. I'm capable of enough dedication to make a coq au vin requiring three days preparation, but I burn at least half the grilled cheese sandwiches I make from carelessness. I make a fine ragu alla bolognese, but still consistently boil too much or too little pasta. I know how to apply a knife to an onion six different ways, but almost never make a perfect hard boiled egg. I bought this book in hopes of filling in some of the large gaps in my knowledge. My recent reading of Pépin's memoir, The Apprentice, alerted me to the book, and it arrived yesterday.

Jacques Pépin's Complete Techniques is a combination of two earlier, out of print books, which cover all of the techniques and methods of French gourmet cooking in immense detail, with explicit step-by-step instructions and thousands of illustrative pictures. They range from the almost absurdly basic (how to peel an onion), to the practical (how to properly bone a chicken), to the whimsical (how to make decorative swans and flowers out of fruits and vegetables), to the baroque (how to lard a pheasant pâté and encase it in a decorative crust of breading). It's fantastic because, apart from multiple forays into coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, and various terrines and pâtés, I really haven't done very much French cooking. I've been a sushi chef, am reasonably familiar with Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, Indian, and even some West African cuisines, but French cooking is largely terra incognita for me. I don't even know how to make a crêpe. Not true for long.

Some of these recipes and techniques I will never use (e.g. the pheasant pâté), but others I really look forward to. I especially want to master the art of making a good sauce. The foundation of this is a good stock transformed into a demi-glace and perhaps even a glace, which I hope to get started on this weekend. From there, who knows. I'll start with some simple roasting and eventually work my way toward good pastry dough and maybe even boudin.

Hopefully by Christmas I'll have mastered a couple of these dishes well enough to impress my French sister-in-law, who is an excellent cook in her own right.


KM's Five-Pepper Chili: Recipe

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I call this Five-Pepper chili because it has five kinds of peppers in it. Yes, I know, it's clever. It took me forty seconds to think of this name, but that's OK. I was willing to devote this kind of time and attention to finding the perfect name because this is the best chili I have ever had.

Maybe I am biased, but I am also capable of admitting, when the occasion arises, that I have made something that is less than fantastic, or even out-and-out slop. For example, just the other day, a combination of apathy and distraction (Tom Waits was on NPR) led to the most awful omelette I've ever made. I wouldn't have served this omelette to my worst enemy.

But I digress. The point is, this chili is GOOD. I'm sure you've had better chili. Or rather, I'm sure you think you have. Chili is one of those things where everybody thinks they make the best version. That's as it should be, and I'm only too happy to partake in that proud tradition.

On another note, the picture above demonstrates what it might look like if Caravaggio did a painting of cornbread and chili, which I'm certain he would have, had such things existed at the time. Seriously. He was into still life, and was fond of using white, red, black, and light tan colors. It also has his trademark geometric angles and deep chiaroscuro contrasts.

OK, I obviously need some sleep. Here's the recipe.

(Addendum, written following day: I really did need some sleep. When I posted this last night I included tomato peppers as one of the ingredients. I meant "cherry" peppers. Nick was kind enough to bring it to my attention. Tomato peppers do not in fact exist. Thanks Nick).

KM's Five Pepper Chili: Recipe
(note: this makes a LOT of chili. Probably enough to feed 12 people)

2 lbs. stew beef, cut into approximately 1/2-inch cubes and salted.
1 lb. ground beef
2 Tablespoons coriander seeds, ground
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch Parsley, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 red bell peppers, chopped
4 jalapenos, minced
2 dried ancho chiles, minced
2 cherry peppers, minced
5-7 canned chipotle peppers with sauce, minced
2 large onions, chopped
2 cups kidney beans
2 large cans diced tomatoes
8 oz. beer (I used Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - Delicious!)
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
7 Allspice berries
1/3 cup tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

(If you have a dutch oven, such as a Le Creuset or All Clad, the initial stages can be done on the stovetop with the stewing done in a 225 degree oven. If you're using a large pot, such as a stock pot, then the stewing will be done on the stovetop at the lowest heat setting)

(1) put a generous amount of olive oil in the pot and brown the beef chunks, in batches if necessary. Remove.
(2) put more olive oil in the pot, once it is hot, add the cumin and coriander, and let it fry for 1 minute, then add the ground beef, stirring until it is browned. Remove.
(3) Add more oil, then add the onions. Carmelize. Remove.
(4) Add more oil, then the chopped peppers and parsley. Sautee until soft. Remove.
(5) Add the garlic and all the minced chili peppers. Sautee for two minutes. Add the beer, and simmer for two more minutes. NOTE: If you want this to be really hot, leave the seeds in. If you want it to have a medium heat, leave the seeds out or add just a few.
(6) Add all the former ingredients back into the pot, along with the kidney beans. Add the beef stock, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, allspice, and oregano.
(7) Bring to a low boil, then turn down to a simmer (whether in the oven or on the stovetop), covered, for one hour. Then simmer uncovered for another hour. You may choose to let it stew even longer. I think mine simmered for almost four hours. Serve with cheese and sour cream if you like.


Red Rice and Roast Chicken Soup - Recipe

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How fortunate that I've become ill. You see, a couple days ago I roasted a chicken--the typical fare: garlic and rosemary inserted under the skin in several places and basted in its own juices along with some chicken stock--and had quite a bit leftover. If not for the fact that I seem to be coming down with a chest cold, I probably would not have stumbled on the idea of making this delicious soup, when I should have instead been studying for my Criminal Procedure and Evidence exams.

I have had a bag of Himalayan red rice in my cupboard for far too long (I bought it at a farmer's market in Sarasota) waiting for some enticing recipe to come along. My patience finally worn thin, I used it today in my own variation of the old standard: chicken soup.

Himalayan red rice is similar in texture and flavor to brown rice, and may even taste a bit nuttier. The rice you see above is uncooked. Once cooked, it opens up much like brown rice, which could serve just as well in this soup. There are other ingredients which could be substituted with the ones below. I just used what I had on hand.

Calvados is a French apple brandy with an alcohol content of about 40 proof. The kind I had in the cupboard was made strictly for cooking. I should have heeded the label's warning: "seulement pour les alimentaires." I tried a small shot and spat it out immediately (in a fine spray, for comedic value). It was flavored with pepper and a little bit of salt.

If it didn't make for a good apertif, it did add a great flavor to the soup. However, since some people don't have a bottle of calvados sitting around, I have to say that white wine or sherry would probably work just as well. Also, normally I probably would have used all chicken stock, but I had some beef stock left over from last week's bourguignon. It added a nice, extra richness to the soup.

Now if you'll pardon me, Kitchen Monkey needs to take an Emergen-C and a nap.

Red Rice and Roast Chicken Soup

Serves 6 - Cooking time approx. 2 hours. Prep time approx. 45 minutes.

1/2 roast chicken - shredded or chopped (I used the breasts for other meals, putting one on a salad, and used the thighs and drumsticks for this soup).
1 cup red (or wild brown) rice
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup Calvados (or white wine or sherry)
1 sprig fresh rosemary - minced
small handful chives - chopped (you might use thyme instead)
2 bay leaves
4 medium-sized carrots - sliced
1 large onion - chopped
3 celery stalks - chopped
3 cloves garlic - minced
1/2 lb. mushrooms - oyster, porcini, crimini, or even just good old fashioned white
3 allspice berries
salt and pepper to taste

(1) Shred the chicken and set aside
(2) Combine stock and calvados in a large pot over medium-high heat.
(3) Wash rice repeatedly then add to the pot.
(4) In a large sautee pan, sautee the carrots, onion, and celery in olive oil for about 10 minutes, adding the garlic toward the end
(5) Once the pot is boiling, turn the heat down to low, and add the vegetables, the mushrooms, the herbs, and the chicken, along with some salt and pepper.
(6) keep at a simmer for at least an hour, preferably longer. Add salt and pepper to taste, eat with some good crusty bread, and start feeling better as soon as possible.

Incidentally, the picture below demonstrates that I used much more rice than the recipe above indicates. I wanted to use all the red rice I had on hand, but next time I would use less.

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A North Carolina Thanksgiving Hootenanny

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Every Thanksgiving I try to talk my friends and/or family into stuffing ourselves with something different than the same tired turkey, mashed potatoes and overcooked green bean casserole. Why, when we could spend half the day chatting around the table while we make shredded pork tamales while a molé sauce slowly simmers in the kitchen? Why, when we could have a fine spread of mezze and a nice big roast leg of lamb?

Sometimes I'm too quick to subvert the tried-and-true of tradition to the new and the unique. This might be a problem if I decide to marry and have children. Heaven help that woman, if she is hoping to bestow her young with names that have been in the family for generations--or just good solid names like "Elizabeth," "David," and "Robert"--for I intend to name my children after various cheeses of the world. My daughter would undoubtedly be named Brie. Sure, gradeschool might be a tough experience for little Munster, but he'll have his older brothers to understand and help protect him, since they will have had plenty of experiences to toughen up under the names Drunken Goat and Stinking Bishop. And who can forget little Baby Swiss, who will go by her middle name Gruyere, once she's old enough.

In any case I inevitably lose out over the Thanksgiving meal planning and this is probably a good thing. This year's turkey was fantastic, as was the rest of the meal. But let's proceed chronologically, shall we?

One of my sisters has lived in Asheville, North Carolina for the past year and a half. I finally made it down there, for Thanksgiving weekend, and quickly fell in love with the surrounding countryside and the local barbecue. When we arrived late in the evening my sister had generously prepared for us a large pot of Italian-style spicy mussels as well as some outrighteously good hors d'oeuvres: mushroom caps stuffed with bacon, cream cheese, and figs, served with a balsamic vinniagrette reduction. If she's not careful she's going to surpass her older brother as the chef de la famille. I wish she lived closer, in part so that I could more frequently benefit from such a potential rivalry.

We had Thanksgiving dinner on Friday, since it took us all day to drive to Asheville from D.C. There were about ten of us, and everybody helped out in some way. The next-door neighbor, a wine distributor, brought a delicious carrot soup, a bottle of fantastic red wine, and two bottles of expensive champagne. As much as we liked them, our pallettes were probably too unrefined to really appreciate it. I made a couple loaves of bread (see recent post) that turned out a bit denser than before, since I had only regular and not instant yeast on hand. I also made an apple and raisin galette that turned out alright, but tasted quite good the next day. There was much drinking and rejoicing, and dinner was followed by a passing around of the guitar.

The following day we did our best to walk off our prominent bellies by hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains. I'm not sure how far we hiked, but if the soreness of my legs is any guide, I would say probably about 375 miles. Our chosen endpoint was the waterfall you see in the photograph above. There was much rejoicing. Jean-Jacques, my soon-to-be brother-in-law dunked his head in the freezing water to demonstrate his manliness, or insanity, or both, after which he yelped loudly "my BRAIN is FROZEN!!" (It sounds better with his Senegalese accent).

After the hike we were ravenous. Fortunately one of my sister's friends treated us all to an enormous meal of North Carolina BBQ (which tends to be tangy due to a larger ratio of vinegar to other ingredients) mac n'cheese, coleslaw, and potato salad. He picked the 'cue up from Ed Boudreaux's Bayou BBQ. It was fantastic, and if you're ever in Asheville I highly recommend it.

So it was a lovely vacation. I'm now retreating reluctantly into the ascetic shadowland of studying for law school finals, so there may not be too many posts in store until after December 9th. Expect a deluge at that point. I'm going to try and make everything between then and the New Year.

And for Christmas dinner I'm going to try and talk the family into a nice big sushi platter.


Boeuf Bourguignon

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Last Christmas a friend gave me a copy of Jacques Pépin's memoir, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. It was a nice gift, but I didn't feel compelled to read it right away. I was in my first year of law school, and I knew little about Jacques Pépin except that he was a culinary bosom buddy of Julia Child's. I finally picked the book up last weekend in an effort to rest my brain from the infernal madness of the Federal Rules of Evidence.

It is really quite a read. The writing is good for a memoir--simple and direct--but more importantly his enormous enthusiasm for the culinary arts comes through on every page. He had an inspiring life, from a poor provincial upbringing to cooking for Charles deGaulle at a young age, followed by world reknown through his association with Julia Childs. By page 5 it had me drooling and achingly reminiscing about my stay in Paris and Montpellier a little over a year ago (ahhhh remembering wild boar saucissions and canard au miel).

At the end of every chapter is a recipe, none of which I've yet tried, but I intend to (and will certainly post about it when I do). In short, I recommend it to anyone who is either a francophile or crazy about inedible food.

Sorry, I meant "incredible" food.

I had been meaning to make Boeuf (pronounced behhhffff, as though a sock to the stomach just caught you by surprise) Bourguignon for some time now, but reading the memoir finally inspired me enough to do it. I adapted it from a few different recipes (including Julia Child's recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking), all of which shared the same basic elements.

Thanks to Tyler and Lily for being my guinea pigs. I'd rather cook for them than Charles deGaulle any day.

Boeuf Bourguignon

(this loose recipe serves about 6 people)

6 strips thick cut bacon
3 lbs. stew beef
1/2 large onion
2-3 Tbsp flour
3 cups hearty red wine (I used a Chianti)
1 cup beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
salt and pepper
pearl onions, peeled (easiest if you boil them with skins on for 2 minutes, then dunk in cold water, chop off the stem portion, then squeeze the onion out of its peel)
crimini mushrooms

(1) boil thick cut bacon for 10 minutes, then fry bacon in a large sautee or casserole
(2) remove bacon, and sear about 3 lbs. of cubes of stew beef, remove from pan and combine with bacon, after which you'll want to preheat the oven to 325 degrees
(3) brown sliced onions in the remaining fat
(4) return bacon and beef cubes to the pan or pot, add the two or three tablespoons of flour to the pot and stir to make sure the beef is coated
(5) place in the oven for 4-7 minutes, remove, stir, and return for another 4-7 minutes
(6) remove pan to the range on high heat, then add 3 cups or so of wine until boiling
(5) add beef stock, continue to boil, add crumbled bay leaf, thyme, and salt and pepper
(6) turn down to a simmer, then remove the pan to the middle rack of the oven
(7) allow to simmer in the oven for 2-3 hours
(8) about 15 minutes before removing the ingredients, sautee the pearl onions and mushrooms in a bit of olive oil and or butter until just barely soft.
(9) remove pan, and strain the liquid into a saucepan. Set the meat aside while the sauce reduces on high heat (thick, but not too thick!) Just before it is done reducing, heat up the beef , bacon, etc. along with the pearl onions and mushrooms until sizzling just a bit.
(10) serve up the beef, etc. and ladle a good bit of sauce over it.

I served it with green peas braised in chicken broth and boiled red potatoes tossed in a bit of butter and some parsely. The bourguignon sauce also tastes fantastic on the potatoes.

Yes, it requires some work. But make enough for leftovers (it tastes even better the next day) and you'll thank yourself.


America Ready for Change: A Bread Revolution

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On November 7, 2006, Americans sent a clear message: "we are ready for a change." No longer would we tolerate the shoddy results of conflicting and outdated ideas. We wanted a new bread recipe. Yes, on the day and the day after a historic election, the number one most read and e-mailed article in the New York Times was not a narrative of a shift in Congress from the party of the corrupt and incompetent to the party of the hapless and eventually corrupt.

It was, rather, Mark Bittman's column as "The Minimalist" describing an amazing new method of making bread. The recipe is at the bottom of this post, maybe in flagrant violation of copyright laws. But hey, I haven't taken Intellectual Property Law yet, not until next fall, so who knows? Heh heh. Thousands upon thousands of Americans spent this past weekend making this bread, and its rewards are unmistakable. The secret is a long initial rising period (12-20 hours), followed by a 2-hour rising period, followed by baking inside a pre-heated, covered, piping hot dutch oven. The article suggested use of a Le Creuset type receptacle. Unfortunately, my budget has yet to afford me such a beautiful piece of cookware, so I made do with two large, deep cast iron griddles, and it worked beautifully.

After my initial attempt turned out well I made FOUR loaves the following day. Two of them were made with diced fresh rosemary, the other two with fresh basil and diced calamata olives. They were perfect. Crisp crust, soft but chewy inside. So good that I came home the next day to find out that my roommates had eaten an entire loaf! Guess I'll have to make more next weekend.

Oh, and sorry I haven't posted in a couple weeks. You know, the whole law school thing. A beintot mes singes.

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Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (rapid rise yeast)
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal, wheat bran, or more flour as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.


Autumnal Italian Feast - Pumpkin Prosciutto Ravioli

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Kitchen Monkey had a birthday on Saturday and to celebrate he went and purchased for himself two wonders of technology that all of the kids seem to be carrying around these days: a ravioli pastry wheel cutter, and a stainless steel splatter screen.

It has been a while since I last made ravioli and I was really looking forward to making something new. A dinner party for 8 people seemed like the perfect occasion to try something appropriate for the season. I went to the local market to get some ideas for filling the raviolis. After staring blankly at the pumpkins for about thirty or forty minutes, a thought popped into my head. "Pumpkin ravioli." Another thought soon followed: "yum."

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More than one pedestrian may have smiled at the image of Kitchen Monkey on a Vespa with a large pumpkin, a passenger, and many bags of groceries. I got home and sliced it into large chunks after scooping out the seeds and stringy bits (the pumpkin, not the passenger!) I then made a spice mixture of coriander & fennel seeds, garlic, dried chilis, and olive oil, spreading it on the inside of the pumpkin and laying the chunks on baking sheets in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes. The house smelled amazing, and when they were cooked through I scooped off the meat of the pumpkin and put it all in the food processor and hit puree. With a bit of white wine and cream it would have made a fine soup. Instead, I mixed it with a large container of whole milk ricotta and set it in the refrigerator.

While the mixture was cooling I made the pasta. The standard 2-egg-per-cup-of-flour, adding additional flour to get the right consistency. I usually like to make the pasta dough the old fashioned way, but I was in a hurry here and just plopped the ingredients in the food processor. It came out just fine. The ravioli always take longer than I expect, especially when cooking for 8 people, about 100 ravioli. But with my handy pasta machine I rolled out about 16 thin sheets .

Each teaspoonful of the pumpkin mix was then topped or wrapped with a piece of prosciutto and the top layer was laid down, the edges pressed together, and the roller used to separate the individual pieces. The sauce? Nothing more than butter, garlic, fresh sage leaves, and fresh grated parmesan.

But that's not all! Oh no, dear reader. I had to try out my new splatter screen, and the local seafood market had some beautiful-looking squid. I bought two pounds, chopped the tubes into rings (I really like the tentacle clusters best) and coated them in white flour seasoned with salt and pepper before frying them in vegetable oil. Served with marinara...amazing.

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A Kitchen Monkey Retrospective - Favorite Posts

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Kitchen Monkey with a Saturday morning hangover.

KM has been cooking alot this week but not posting. Why? It has been a week of intense grilling. Starting with last weekend's pork ribs, and moving into three different experiments with chicken, various rubs and mops, and various types of wood chips for smoking. It was great fun, but I'm a bit burnt out on grilling for now. "Burnt out." Hahahahaha. I slay me.

Tonight a few people are coming over, including my friend Carlo. His italian accent is thicker than my ragu alla bolognese, and he's a huge fan of Elvis and Willie Nelson. He says he makes a good risotto. We'll see if it's any better than mine. I have my doubts. Yes, he was born and raised in Genoa, and I was born and raised in Utah, but that means nothing. I still haven't decided what I'll make to complement it. I'd love to make osso buco again, if I can find a veal shank in D.C. that doesn't cost a fortune. Who knows. You'll find out tomorrow.

Speaking of osso buco, I've been wanting for some time now to post my favorites from KM meals past. So to tide you over, here's a little retrospective... (cue harp music)

Japanese Meat Platter
This ranks near the top because it contains some of the best foodtography I've done on KM. I have to admit, the pictures have gotten sloppier lately, so check out this entry to Meathenge's Meat Platter Contest for an example of what KM was in its glory days. I use the term 'glory' very loosely here.

Hummus to end All Hummuses
The hummus post belongs here because the sheer superiority of my hummus-making skills has caused the mighty and powerful to weep like tiny children.

Tuna Tataki
The tuna tataki post is nothing particularly special. The picture is nice. But for unknown reasons "tuna tataki" is the most popular of the google search terms leading to Kitchen Monkey. In fact, if you google tuna tataki, KM is listed second, right behind "globablgourmet." Whoever they are.

Salmon and Vegetables in a Pouch
A very simple recipe, and one of the posts I had the most fun with.

Ramen Part 3
My ramen adventures have slaked a bit as of late, but follow this link to remember my ridiculously overwrought pursuit of good homemade authentic ramen.

Baked Polenta with Ragu alla Bolognese
I still make this from time to time, and its always delicious. I like the pic, too.


Kansas City Ribs - Recipe

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Like the Outlaw Josey Wales chewing on a cigar, a bottle in one hand a gun in the other, waiting in the arid dust-blown streets to take revenge against the men that burnt down his farm and killed his wife, I stood chewing on a piece of Chorizo, a plastic cup of sangria in one hand a pair of tongs in the other, waiting in the cool suburban night, smelling of after-rain and charcoal, to take revenge on the pig that burnt down my farm and killed my wife.

OK, I should tell the truth here: this pig never did anything to my farm and never laid a hoof on my wife. In fact, unless I am mistaken, I do not have a wife. Or a farm. What I do have is a good recipe for Kansas City style spareribs, and the only way to make it a reality was with a giant rack of delicious pork spareribs. Behold the beauty of this selection as seen when first placed on the grill. I'm really beginning to love grilling, and am dreading the quick approach of winter. I think I will still grill, even in December. Who can stop me?

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Kansas City Style Spareribs

5-7 lbs. pork spareribs, trimmed of excess fat

For the Rub
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. hot hungarian paprika
1 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon

For the Sauce
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 cups ketchup
juice of 1 small lemon or about 3 Tbsp.
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
black pepper to taste


(1) Mix the rub ingredients together in a bowl and coat the ribs on both sides. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. I left mine in overnight.
(2) for the sauce, sautee the onions and celery in the melted butter for about 7-10 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients. Boil for a couple minutes while stirring constantly, reduce heat and simmer for another ten minutes.
(3) The grilling: you'll want to use indirect medium heat for these, so place all the briquets to one side and wait until the flames have subsided. I happened to have some oak wood chips, which I soaked in water for about an hour. Once the flames had subsided I added the chips for an extra nice smoky flavor.
(4) Place the ribs on an area of the grill that does NOT have any coals under it, or it will be charred on the bottom. After about an hour you may need to add a few more briquets on top of the burning ones to keep the fire going, depending on how hot your briquets burn. There is no need to turn the ribs, since this is indirect heat. Leave the lid closed! Total cooking time should be about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. During the last half hour, begin basting the ribs with the sauce. About every ten minutes or so. Reheat the leftover sauce and serve on the side.

These are really, really, very good.



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They say that during law school you should "live like a student now so you don't have to live like a student later." I have not really taken this to heart.

True, my rent is relatively low (for D.C.), and I try to pack a lunch on the days when I intern at the Superior Court, instead of eating small, overpriced sandwiches from "gourmet" chains like Costi and Au Bon Pain-ful For Your Wallet. But I can't resist using a healthy chunk of the financial aid on luxury foods now and then. Hence last week's $25 per lb. lobster.

It was my first time making lobster. Nothing special, really. You just put it in some salted water until its done. The little fellow in the picture above made no sound when he went in the pot, to my confusingly mututal relief and disappointment. We also sauteed some jumbo shrimp with capers in butter/garlic/lemon sauce. I don't typically like rosé, but we had a really tasty one - if I get the name I'll post it.

Also, from a few days ago:
Here's our back-patio grill. It's a dual charcoal/gas grill, but I usually use it for charcoal. These brats were boiled in beer before we put them on. TASTY.

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I'm looking forward to this weekend. My amigo Javier from Madrid is sadly leaving for Spain in a couple weeks and is having a large fiesta. He has enlisted me to help with the food. He's supplying the chorizo, jamon serrano, and manchego. After dismissing the idea of a time-consuming paella, I decided to go with several different meats, including some memphis-style dry rub ribs and some lamb kebabs. That's on Saturday, so expect a good post on Sunday.


K.M. is BACK. For Real This TIme: Israeli Mango Soup Y'all

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Alright alright alright. I know I said at the beginning of summer that I was going to be posting again all summer long with fantastic recipes and adventures. It wasn't a lie. It was more of a well-intentioned but flawed prediction.* But the fans have spoken, all two of them (three if you count my mother), and I've decided that I missed the blog too much to let it slip away into the ethernet forever.

So how about a quick recap? (If you just want the mango soup recipe, skip to the bottom, you ingrate).

Law school is much better now that the first grueling year is over. I actually have time for the important things in life. Like fun. Washington D.C. is an all-around fantastic place, for music, nature adventures, and, of course, food. Toward the end of spring I bought a vespa and being more mobile has enabled me to explore more nooks and crannies of the area. There are three million sushi restaurants in this town. There are amazing Ethiopian restaurants on U Street, where you can see live traditional dancing several times a week. There are the inexpensive and very tasty Guatemalan and El Salvadorean restaurants of Mt. Pleasant. In Silver Spring, to the north, there is a gigantic Asian market where I'm able to stock up on panko, fresh fish of all kinds, and enormous containers of kimchi.

I also took a week-long trip to Memphis. Two major highlights: (1) Seeing Radiohead from about fifteen feet away at Bonnaroo Music Festival, and (2) gorging myself on Memphis BBQ. I didn't get a pic of the Q, so here's one I took of Radiohead. They so gooooood.
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Other summer highlights: I've been playing soccer twice a week on the National Mall with a rag-tag bunch of grad students and foreign students studying english. One such gentleman, Carlo, from Genoa, promises me that we'll be cooking soon, so stay tuned for some nice Italian food.

Also, made good friends with a woman from Tel Aviv who taught me how to make this incredible spicy mango soup. No, it's not really an Israeli recipe, but calling it that made you curiouser, did it not? Thank you, I'm aware that 'curiouser' is not actually a word. It's called artistic license. Lay off man.

I have to say this is one of the most interesting and tasty soups I've ever had, and I heartily recommend it, especially while the last few weeks of summer are dripping away. So here it is, courtesy of Limor Ben-Har:

Mango Soup
4 large mangoes - 2 can be ripe and two maybe not so ripe
3/4 stick of butter
2-4 chillis - chopped (I used thai chilis, but whatever you like)
4-6 garlic cloves - chopped
1/2 cup white wine (I only had red wine on hand, but it tasted just as good)
2 cups of cream (the more cream the sweeter the soup will be)
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of ground ginger
salt and pepper

(1) Cube two of the mangoes and puree the others in a food processor.
(2) Melt the butter, add garlic for a minute, then the chillis for another minute, then the cubed mangos for a couple of minutes, stirring all the while.
(3) add the wine and spices, stir until it boils, then add the cream
(4) stir on low heat until it boils, then simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. (5) taste to see if you need more spicy... if it's too thick, add milk, if it's not, add cream.

Tastes even better as leftovers!

Below you can see it on the stove, next to some of my now perfected gyoza.
Good to be back.

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*See what law school is doing to me?


Summer Approaching - Return of Kitchen Monkey

Yes, law school has been all-consuming. But KM's last final of his first year is on Friday, and he shall once again return to the blogosphere. Expect new Ramen adventures, trips to some of D.C.'s finest ethnic markets, and a trip to Memphis, hopefully with some sweet sweet BBQ.

The Monkey is back.