21 December 2008

Bake-n-Bake: The Universal Recipe

We’ll call this one Episode #7; but, there are actually five meals here.

I really only know how to cook six or seven different recipes. The thing is, you can take any one recipe and use it such that you’ll never eat the same meal twice.

In Episode #6 I was disappointed in the meal. There wasn’t the depth to the broth needed. I attribute it to two things: herb and fat. The pork was too lean to give the broth the richness it needed. And a little herb, no not that kind of herb, was needed to put in some aroma. That got me to thinking about the root of this recipe. Although the dish was Japanese in flavor and could actually be found on a kitchen table in Tokyo, the recipe is universal. Whether I’m cooking French or Italian or Japanese or Chinese or American or anything, this particular recipe serves very well. The only cuisine that I think will not work here is Indian (and its derivatives like Thai.)

The recipe is all about protein, liquor, fat, salt and an aromatic. Mix them all together in a dish. That’s it. The trick is making the right combinations and proportions.

This week I have the time to cook, so I’ve decided to do all one recipe for the week and take you through the days to see how some of the meals turned out. It will give you some sense of the variety available with this one recipe. Incidentally, Bake-n-Bake episode #5 was also this same recipe.

Saturday I bought a big roll of pork loin and some beef chateaubriand. It was enough food for five hearty meals plus lunch leftovers. Coming home, I cut the meat into various shapes to match the meal and then put them in five different marinades.

* Beef sliced with cognac and salt.
* Pork center cut with chunky miso and rice wine.
* Beef sliced with light soy sauce and rice wine.
* Pork cubed with sherry and salt.
* Pork cubed with Cointreau and salt.

Clockwise from top left: sliced chateaubriand with soy sauce and rice wine, sliced chateaubriand with cognac, center cut pork loin with chunky miso and rice wine, cubed pork loin in sherry, cubed pork loin in Cointreau.

You may remember that episode #6 was the same mixture as the second one above. The ratios are different here, as is the aromatic and amount of water added. I was actually aiming to get this dish last week. It actually turned out as desired this time.

Beef Stroganoff

For Saturday night I sautéed the sliced beef in butter just a little bit, then added the marinade and some oyster mushrooms. Thirty seconds of sautéing again and then add some heavy cream. Stir briefly then pull out the beef. Continue to reduce the sauce until its down to the texture you want. We found some good bread at the market on Saturday so I kept it creamy like a stroganoff. We used the bread to mop up the sauce. Rainbow chard seared in bacon fat on the side.

Miso Stew
Oden Inspiration

Since I didn’t know how much time I’d have on Sunday, I cooked the center cut pork on Saturday night as well. Sear the pork in a sauce pan. Add the marinade and enough water to get to the consistency you like. I made this into a very chunky stew. Stew the pork until tender. Add a hefty amount of thickly sliced daikon and Tokyo negi (leeks are a close approximation, though they taste more like scallions.) In this case, there was only enough broth to baste the bottom third of the negi and daikon; but, a lid made them steam up quite nicely. Cook until both the negi and the daikon are tender. Let cool. Pour into a container and stir them gently, then refrigerate. Reheat in a saucepan or microwave whenever you want to eat. This was served with sticky rice and takuan (pickled daikon.) Other tsukemono (fancy pickles) would have been nice but the takuan was all we had in the house.

Spicy Enoki Beef
For Monday I plan to start by splitting some red chilies we’ve been drying in the kitchen. Heat sesame oil until just before it starts to smoke. Throw in the chilies and thinly sliced garlic, quickly followed by the meat. Sear the meat until almost rare in hot sesame oil. Throw in the marinade and some enoki mushrooms. Cook until the meat is done. I like mine rare. Add some cornstarch dissolved in water and thicken. Serve with baby bok choy sauteed in bacon fat and sticky rice.

French Onion Soup
2 per person is a meal
Also on Monday I’ll have enough time to cook another meal, so I’ll make the next soup. Start by boiling some beef bones and a dash of vinegar. When the broth is done add salt. Pour in the pork and sherry marinade. Add bouquet garni. When the pork is good and tender, pull it out and set aside. These are leftovers for anything you want (I think pork meatloaf this week.) Cast aside the bouquet garni, stripping the stems if you like. Put in four coarsely chopped onions and let stew until loose and tender. Heat the oven to 425F. Ladle the soup over a loaf of stale and toasted bread, very thickly sliced. Cover with generous amounts of Emmentaler cheese. Roast in the oven until the cheese is melted and starting to crisp. Let cool and serve at an edible temperature. French Onion Soup, baby! Next time I’m going to add some sautéed garlic with the bones.

Orange Pork Pasta
There is too much marinade for the pork and Cointreau. So I’ll ended up wasting some of it. I’ve still not really figured out how to use this little beast of a liquor. Sautee the pork and let simmer in its juices until tender. Set aside the pork. Add some of the marinade, finely chopped onions and heavy cream. Reduce until thick. Serve with thin slices of tangerine over pasta. Serve fresh spinach salad on the side.

I’ll update this as the week progresses.

Updated: Fixed links.
Update II: The Cointreau dish turned out pretty well. I did end up using all the marinade and I added some grapefruit juice instead of water for the sauciness. Last night I was reading about drinks with Cointreau. In one drink the bartender replaced lime syrup with lime juice and Cointreau. That was the most appropriate description of the flavor of Cointreau I've ever read. It triggered the idea of using grapefruit juice as the sauce base, reduced with cream. We happened to have some grapefruit juice in the fridge. It was much tastier than I expected. The thin tangerine slices weren't quite right. no pics.
Update III: Added pic for French Onion Soup. Its still not quite right with the bread and cheese proportions; but, the broth works now.

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