Friday, January 30, 2009

Recipe: Chunky Style Guacamole

Guacamole was one of those things that took me a long time to try. For the longest time the guacamole I encountered just didn't look edible. It always looked like a dark, olive drab or worse colored goop. Who wants to eat goop? Eventually I ran into a chunky style guacamole somewhere and I was hooked. After that I went to avoiding it at all cost, to making is regularly.

Due to the volatile nature of avocado flesh once exposed to the air, guacamole is best served fresh. So I keep my batches small so that there is minimum leftover. Though, if you do have some leftover you may get an extra day out of it but placing it in a ziplock plastic bag and removing all excess air and placing it in the freezer.

I keep mine pretty chunky you, of course will do what you like. Just keep folding it with a spoon while cutting with the steak knife to your ideal level of "chunky". Though, even if you are serving it with tortilla chips keep it a little chunky! No one should have to eat green goop? Well, not until they lose their teeth.

The recipe to the right should be sufficient for about eight people. Scale it up or down as necessary.

Chunky Style Guacamole

4 ripe avocados
2 ripe tomatoes (coarsely chopped)
1 tsp lime juice
1/2 small onion (chopped)
1/4 cup of cilantro (chopped)
Fresh jalapeno pepper (minced) to taste
Salt to taste

This one is pretty easy, folks.

Remove meat from the avocado whole and place in a mixing bowl.

Add the tomatoes, lime juice, onion, cilantro, jalapeno pepper and salt to the mixing bowl.

Using a steak knife and a spoon mix the ingredients together. It is important to blend it well while still keeping it chunky.

Cover and place in the fridge and allow the flavors to blend and the guacamole to thicken a little (about 1 hour).

Recipe: Chunky Style Guacamole from Chop Onions, Boil Water - World Food at Home by Henry Krauzyk

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Recipe: Tomato Salsa (Salsa Fresca or Pico de Gallo)

There are all kinds of salsa out there, but for me, there's nothing quite as satisfying as a good fresh tomato salsa (also known as "Salsa Fresca" or "Pico de Gallo"). None of that goop that you see on the shelves in the supermarket can even compare to the simplest of fresh salsa. It's easy-to-prepare, delicious and a healthy addition to many meals.

The other great thing about a basic recipe like this is its adaptability. You like more tomatoes? Add them. More garlic or cilantro? Add it. This basic tomato salsa can be personalized quite easily. You can also take it in a number of directions and come up with some great recipes. Try it with roasted tomatoes (really good), or add some sweet corn kernels or black beans and you start to get some great variations.

You'll also probably want to make a little more than you think you need. It goes pretty quickly.

Another suggestion I'll make is that you always sample a small piece of the chopped chile that you decide to use. I find that the heat in supermarket chiles can vary dramatically (especially jalapenos). What was mild one week can be extremely hot the next week, even amongst peppers that look exactly the same. Sampling a small piece will avoid any unpleasant surprises in your salsa!

Tomato Salsa (Salsa Fresca or Pico de Gallo)

2 medium-small regular tomatoes or 4 or 5 plum tomatoes
Fresh jalapeno or serrano peppers to taste (scorch over an open flame until skin turns black, place in paper bag, put aside)
12 large sprigs of cilantro (chopped, stems and all)
1 large garlic clove (minced)
1 small onion (chopped and rinsed in a strainer under cold water.)
1-1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
3/4 tsp sea salt

Finely chop tomatoes and add to a bowl.

Remove the jalapenos from the paper bag and rinse the skin off under running water. Cut open, remove seeds and chop finely. Test for desired heat and add to tomato mix. (BE CAREFUL NOT TO TOUCH YOUR EYES. WASH HANDS WHEN FINISHED)

Add the cilantro to the tomatoes and chilies.

Add the chopped onion.

Add the lime juice and salt (to taste) to the mix. Blend together well and set aside for flavors to blend.

Some folks will chuck this into a food processor and chop it until smooth. I don't like my salsa that way, you might.

Tomato Salsa from Chop Onions, Boil Water - World Food at Home by Henry Krauzyk

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Recipe: Rosemary-Fennel Sauce

I first prepared Rosemary-Fennel Sauce at a time when I was experimenting a lot with mirepoix. This sauce has since become a popular addition to my home cooking efforts because it is a versatile addition or starter for a variety of Italian dishes. I recently posted one of those dishes, you can find it here.

I prepare this sauce in a variety of ways. For instance, I'll create a thicker version for roasting with meats. To do that, I'll half the amount of crushed tomatoes. If it is being paired with something and needs a little more support, I will increase some, or all of the amounts of fennel seed, rosemary or red pepper flakes as necessary. It's not rocket science so don't be afraid to adjust this sauce to your needs.

As it is presented below it is the perfect accompaniment for cheese tortellini or any other pasta you may want to try it with. I'm not going to get all arty and poetic here and go into great detail regarding the texture and flavor contrast and balances, but they are in there. Give this sauce a shot, I think you'll really like it. Get a little daring with it and you'll soon be making your own mirepoix-based sauces. Do that enough and you'll never buy another jar or can of that prepared gloop in the market!

IMPORTANT NOTE: You'll need to boil down your own balsamic vinegar until it forms a thicker syrup, or you can drop a chunk of money on the expensive vintage stuff. If you want to make your own, just buy two bottles of the inexpensive stuff and simmer it down until you have less than one bottle left. The resulting syrup retains the balsamic flavor but is thicker, sweeter and far less "vinegary" than what you started with. Take a taste of that stuff and you'll understand why Italians put balsamic vinegar on strawberries and ice cream. DO NOT USE THE THIN, INEXPENSIVE BALSAMIC VINEGAR IN THIS RECIPE!

Rosemary-Fennel Sauce

2-3 TBS olive oil
1-1/2 cups celery (finely chopped)
1 1/2 cups carrots (finely chopped)
4 cups onion (finely chopped)
2 tsp fennel seeds (crushed)
2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried rosemary (coarsely ground)
6 cloves garlic (sliced thin)
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 cups (16 ozs.) tomato sauce
4 TBS tom paste
Salt and pepper to taste
2 TBS balsamic vinegar

Place a large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil When the olive oil begins to shimmer, add the onions, carrots, celery, fennel, red pepper flakes and rosemary. Sauté until the the carrots and celery soften and the onions begin to brown.

Add the sliced garlic and stir in for 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Allow the wine to reduce to form a thick sauce.

Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt, black pepper and the balsamic vinegar. Bring the sauce to a low simmer and continue cooking. You want the sauce a little thick, not too thick, not too loose. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Serve over cooked tortellini or any other pasta.
Recipe: Rosemary-Fennel Sauce from Chop Onions, Boil Water - World Food at Home by Henry Krauzyk

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recipe: Crazy Dream Choo Chee Fish Curry

Today's recipe that you can prepare at home is Choo Chee Fish Curry and it comes to your kitchen via the exotic Southeast Asian kingdom of Thailand. It is a rich and flavorful dish and is best accompanied with a big bowl of Thai sticky rice. That sticky rice is going to serve an important function when eating this extra-spicy curry because it helps temper its heat quite well.

I'm not going the blur lines here, this curry is probably the hottest thing I serve in my home. It's not near the hottest thing I'll eat and enjoy, but it is plenty hot enough for my family. This dish packs a rich and delicious wallop for people who like spicy food, but for less robust palettes, well be careful who you prepare it for. It's just going to be too hot for some, but it does make believers out of others! My wife for instance. If you had told me all those years ago that she'd eat food this hot and not only enjoy it but request it, well I would have said you were deranged. Choo Chee Curry converted her to spicy foods.

It's also a full service seafood curry so try it with whatever makes sense. A lot of recipes call for shrimp, and I've seen others call for a kind of seafood stew which I'll be trying myself in the near future. I may even try the sauce over some panko-battered fried chicken. Now for the weird twist.

The weird twist of this dish (and hence its name) are the after effects. It makes me dream vividly and madly. At first I thought is was just a coincidence. However, after numerous similar post-chow-down experiences and even a few by my wife, I will caution you that maybe, just maybe you too may dream crazy, and dare I say forbidden and maddening things. You know, like being chased by the Teletubbies through a Jello cave while wearing a thick suit of woven angel hair pasta while aluminum foil hummingbirds whisper threats in your 31 ears.

Things like that. Still though, it's all worth it. IT REALLY IS!

Crazy Dream Choo Chee Fish Curry

1-2 lbs. of firm white fish fillets (I use tilapia or mahi-mahi)
All-purpose flour (to dredge the fish in)
4 TBS peanut oil
2 cups coconut milk (unsweetened)
Bottom half of 1 stalk of lemon grass (peeled into individual blades)
4 TBS red curry paste
1/2 cup of water
4 TBS fish sauce
3 TBS palm sugar (or brown or turbinado sugar)
2 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced)
4 TBS green onions (sliced very thinly)
3 TBS fresh cilantro (chopped)

Cut the fish in to pieces about 2" x 3" inches. Dredge individually in flour, set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer cook the pieces of fish about 2-4 minutes per side until browned and crisp. Remove from pan and allow to drain on a paper towel while you prepare the cooking sauce.

Remove the unused oil from the pan and wipe out any residue. Replace the skillet over medium heat. Add half the coconut milk and the lemon grass blades and cook until it becomes fragrant and creamy.

Add the curry paste and cook, stirring constantly until well dissolved.

Add the remaining coconut milk, water, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, half of the green onions and half the cilantro. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer.

Add the fish pieces and simmer in the sauce for about 3 to 5 minutes. Spoon the curry sauce over and around the fish while it cooks.

Remove from heat.

Remove the lemon grass blades and discard.

Serve the fish in deep plates with the curry sauce generously spooned over it. Garnish with the remaining green onions and cilantro.

Pair with Thai sticky rice.

Dream madly children, dream madly.

Recipe: Crazy Dream Choo Chee Fish Curry from Chop Onions, Boil Water by Henry Krauzyk

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Recipe: Roasted Italian Sausages in Garden Sauce

This is a recipe that I planned in my head today while doing other things. You see the chourico and polenta recipe of a few days ago, got me to thinking about the Italian dinner I had at Al Forno that I based it on. So sometime around 8:00 AM I decided to do something similar. I walked in the door at 6:15 PM and started preparing it.

It was done by 7:30 and I photographed it. Then I sat down to eat it. It worked out deliciously well so after dinner here I am writing it all down for the blog which I will post right now!

Oh, you'll notice I call for the "thick good" balsamic vinegar for this dish. Don't go spending $100 or more on the vintage stuff. Get a few bottles of inexpensive balsamic vinegar and boil them down until they are rich and slightly syrupy. Yeah, food snobs will scoff, but it works great in most recipes calling for the top shelf variety.

What do snobs know anyway?

Roasted Italian Sausages in Garden Sauce

6 links of Italian sausage
2 TBS olive oil
3/4 cup of celery (finely chopped)
3/4 cup of carrot (finely chopped)
1-1/2 cups of onion (finely chopped)
1 tsp fennel seeds (coarsely ground)
1 pinch of red pepper flakes (or more or less to taste)
1/2 tsp dried rosemary (coarsely ground)
3 cloves of garlic (sliced thin)
1 cup of dry white wine
2 large tomatoes chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
2 TBS tomato paste
1 TBS balsamic vinegar (read above)
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp crushed black pepper
3/4 cup of grape tomatoes
Pecorino-Romano cheese

Fill a pan with water and place over high heat. Pierce the Italian sausages with a fork. Place in the pan and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer until cooked through. Remove from heat.

Preheat your oven to 350°F

Place a large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil When the olive oil begins to shimmer, add the onions, carrots, celery, fennel, red pepper flakes and rosemary. Sauté until the the carrots and celery soften and the onions begin to brown.

Add the sliced garlic and stir in for 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Allow the wine to reduce to a thick sauce.

Add the chopped tomatoes and continue cooking as they reduce and give up their moisture.

Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, sea salt, black pepper and the balsamic vinegar. Bring the sauce to a low simmer and continue cooking. You want the sauce a little thick, not to thick, not too loose. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Get a large oven-proof casserole dish or cast iron skillet. Pour the sauce into the casserole dish or skillet and carefully place the Italian sausage in the sauce. They should not be immersed, but half exposed. Then take the grape tomatoes and distribute them around the sausages.

Place the casserole/skillet in the oven and keep and eye on it. You don't want it to thicken up to much. Cook like this in the oven until the sauce is just thick. Then transfer to the broiler to caramelize the top of the sausages, sauce and grape tomatoes. It's east to burn things in the broiler so keep a close eye on it.

When done, remove from the broiler. Shave some pecorino-romano over it and then serve with bread, over your favorite pasta or over polenta.

Recipe: Roasted Italian Sausages in Garden Sauce from Chop Onions, Boil Water by Henry Krauzyk

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Recipe: Chourico and Polenta

Today's world food that you can prepare at home comes at you straight out of the Azores via some Italian inspiration. Chourico and Polenta despite its peasant leanings is a visual and taste sensation worthy of a place on the finest of menus.

I originally wrote this recipe the morning after I first made this dish. I usually reserve those times for informally jotting down recipes from the previous night if I've cooked something new. Sometimes there is an advantage of spilling my fresh memories via stream of consciousness, right onto the keyboard. Hell, my editor has to clean up that mess anyway! Since I first made this dish though it has gone through a great deal of tweaking and refinement and while it is a bit complicated, it is well worth the effort.

This dish was originally inspired by a dinner I had at the celebrated Al Forno Restaurant in Providence, RI. I was there celebrating my one-year wedding anniversary, (I highly recommend the restaurant, the food is excellent, especially the grilled pizza). That evening I had delicious homemade Italian sausages served on an onion, celery, carrot and tomato sauce, with an amazingly light polenta. All this was baked to harmonious affect in a casserole dish and served al forno of course! The resulting blend of flavors was subtle, impressive and well balanced. Of course I immediately thought it would have been better with chourico!

Now, I've obviously made some dramatic changes to the original dish. Principally, the sauce had to be more robust to stand up to flavor of the spicy chourico. I did this with the inclusion of a good amount of just-cooked onion and red pepper and the use of a similar but more robust mirepoix-based tomato sauce. The result is a hearty sauce and ingredient combination that complimented not only the chourico's flavor, but texture as well. The crunch of the red pepper and onion matched that of the baked chourico's casing.

As for the polenta, what I write three times is law:


Sure, preparing homemade polenta can be a little labor intensive, but homemade polenta is going to be creamier, lighter and tastier. When you eat this you are going to get bursts of tart and spicy flavors that are pleasantly contrasted by the sweetness of the polenta. The polenta's cool, silky creaminess is also going to contrast with the crunch of the chourico casing and the green peppers.

It's a multi-tasking dish surely, but well worth the effort because it looks so colorful on the plate and the "Circus-comes-to-town" texture and taste experience makes it a home run.

Chourico and Polenta

For the polenta:

6-1/2 cups of water
2-1/2 cups of polenta
2 tsp salt

For the sauce:

2 TBS olive oil
1 carrot (chopped fine)
1 stick of celery (chopped fine)
1 onion (chopped fine)
1 bay leaf
1 cup of dry white wine
2 cups tomatoes (chopped)
1-2 TBS tomato paste
4 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced)
1 TBS parsley (finely chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste.

For the vegetable and chourico mixture:

1 TBS peanut oil
1 red pepper (cut into large 1" dice)
1 large onion (frenched)
1-1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
1 lb. (approx) of chourico
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Set the oven to 350°F

While the oven warms prepare the polenta:

In a large pan over high heat bring the 6-1/2 cups of water and 2 tsp of salt to a high boil.

Whisk in the polenta in a slow steady stream. When the polenta begins to thicken switch to a wooden spoon and continue constantly stirring until the polenta begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer the polenta into a large, square glass dish to a depth of 1 inch. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the fridge until it sets (about 1 to 2 hours).

Place the chourico in a lightly oiled oven-proof pan and place it in the oven for about 30 minutes. You'll want to keep an eye on it. You want it to roast so that the skins crisps up nicely without drying out the rest of the sausage. When done remove from the oven and keep warm. Do not shut off the oven.

To prepare the sauce:

Place a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and when it begins to shimmer add the carrot, celery, onions and bay leaf. Sauté well until the vegetables begin to brown.

Add the wine to mixture and deglaze. Allow the wine to boil off and let the mixture thicken.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley and garlic to the mixture and lower to a simmer. Check for, and adjust seasoning.

To prepare the vegetables and chourico:

Warm the polenta in the oven while you prepare and cook the vegetables and chourico.

Slice the chourico into 1/2" thick pieces. Set aside.

Place a large fry pan or wok over high heat. Add one tablespoon of oil and immediately add the red pepper, frenched onion and cherry or grape tomatoes. Cook them stirring frequently. You want them heated and cooked through, but still crunchy. Add the chourico at the end for a few moments to warm it further.

To serve, place the polenta on a plate. Spread some of the sauce over the polenta. Add the vegetable and chourico mixture and then top with a little more sauce. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

Recipe: Chourico and Polenta from Chop Onions, Boil Water - World Food at Home by Henry Krauzyk

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Recipe: Steak Diane (or Chicken/Pork/Turkey Diane)

Today's world food that you can prepare in your home kitchen is Steak Dianne. This widely popular dish seemingly comes from the annals of French culinary tradition. Perhaps even as far back as the middle ages. However, its lineage isn't clear or straightforward and much to the chagrin of many a French chef, the modern and popular version of Steak Diane (much like the Chinese dish of General Tso's Chicken) may have come straight out of New York City! Hey, let the food historians battle it out over details. I'm in this game for the eats!

This particular recipe comes my way via my friend, Dave "The Food Ninja" (photo to the right). You may remember Dave from the "Academica Steak Sandwich" recipe elsewhere on this blog. There I described how, through his powers of discreet and diligent observation he was able to get the recipe for those sandwiches for himself and good friends. On that occasion he plied his craft to quickly get a great recipe for a much-loved and simple, everyday food. I'll thank him now for that (thanks Dave!) For the recipe below however, Dave had to push his talents to the extreme. The Food Ninja gets what he wants, the Food Ninja will not be denied.

The whole affair started years ago at a favorite restaurant of ours in Providence, RI. We all had our favorite dishes there. My own being Oysters Rockerfeller and Beef Wellington, for the Food Ninja it was frog legs and Steak Diane. Supremely, it was the steak Dianne. He got it all the time, and each time, the moments between him ordering it and it arriving drove him a little mad. He would fidget in his seat and squirm in anticipation and then it would arrive and he would be in gourmet ecstasy. Time and time again, year after year, the ritual played itself off with nary the slightest variation. Finally, he decided he had to get the recipe and prepare it for himself. Not just any recipe, but THAT recipe. The Food Ninja went to work.

"How?" you may ask (if you care). I'll tell you how. He got a job washing dishes there that's how! Several nights a week after his regular 9 to 5 he'd schlep his way to Providence, don the white smock and apron and enter the steamy dishwasher's station and get covered in leftovers and slop until midnight. Week in, week out, he'd sacrificed his free time, his family and the small pleasures of leisure just to get closer to that recipe.

His ruse was perfect. He was so dedicated that his work at the dishwasher's station got him promoted to busboy. In kind his work there after a short while led to a choice of opportunities as either a waiter (much coveted) or as a line cook. He jumped at the opportunity to cook knowing it would bring him closer to his sacred recipe. A recipe from the chef's own book, a book the chef kept by his side, a book he protected from all prying eyes.

Weeks passed and while over time the general preparation of the recipe revealed itself, he still didn't know all the ingredients. He bided his time. Soon he celebrated his first anniversary working at the restaurant and while his experiences there taught him much (he was lauded for his Cherries Jubilee), and earned him some extra cash, what he desired most still eluded him. Then one day came the break he was waiting for.

A new line cook was preparing to flambe some coq au vin when the full bottle of cognac slipped from his hand and broke on the stove top. Flames shot high into the vent hood and that triggered the automatic fire extinguishing system. The chef was furious and in the resulting confusing and commotion of foam, flambe, mushrooms and chicken The Food Ninja struck. He quickly opened the book and scribbled what he needed to know. Afterward he finished his shift and quit that evening turning in his apron. Despite another promised promotion, he never returned to the restaurant. He didn't have to, he had gotten what he wanted and now you have it too.

Steak Diane (or Chicken/Pork/Turkey Diane)

1-2 lbs Beef Tenderloin, Pork, Chicken or Turkey pounded in 1/2 flat cutlets
Dijon mustard
2-3 shallots (chopped)
4-5 garlic cloves (chopped)
6-7 mushrooms (chopped)
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1-2 Tbs sweet butter
Tabasco sauce
1-1/2 cup of brown gravy
1/4 cup light cream
Parsley (chopped)

Liberally spread some mustard on both sides of your selected meat. Use just enough to cover the meat.

Preheat a skillet large enough to to fit all the meat, when hot add the olive oil. When the olive oil begins to shimmer add the meat and cook it. If using beef cook just short of desired level of doneness. If using other meats cook almost entirely. When finished remove meat from the skillet and set aside.

To the skillet add: shallots, garlic, and mushrooms, season with a little salt and pepper to taste and sauté for a few minutes until the ingredients are cooked.

Now, (with a fire extinguisher close at hand) add the two shots of brandy and light with a grill lighter or tip the pan towards the stove flame. Let it burn until the flames subside. When flames are gone stir the pan, scraping up any bits from the pan.

To the sauté mixture add the gravy, Worcestershire sauce, several dashes of hot sauce and a heaping tablespoon of the Dijon mustard. Bring this all to a simmer then add the butter and the light cream and blend it well. Add the meat back to the gravy mixture and warm through.

Plate with the sauce and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
Recipe: Steak Diane from Chop Onions, Boil Water by Henry Krauzyk