Thursday, May 31, 2012

Late Night Snacks: Pan-Seared Pork Chops

When I was in culinary school I wouldn't get home until 11:30 p.m. at the absolute earliest—and that was only if it was a slow night and I ran to the locker room as soon as we were released by the chef. I would speed walk to the Canal street stop after changing out of my chef whites, hoping and praying to catch the express train. "Come on Q train! Big money, big money, no whammy, no whammy, stop!" was running through my mind as I headed down the subway steps everyday after class.

**rumble–rumble–rumble**

I hear a train approaching! Lights creep along the subway tunnel wall as the metal carriage approaches. A tingle runs through my veins in anticipation of being able to take a load off and sit on my couch with a glass of whiskey in hand to unwind. A sigh of relief is queued up to escape from my mouth. The train gets nearer to the station. I can almost see which one it is...

...Q!...

....to 57th and 7th...

...DAMN!

The Q train decides not to go all the way to Astoria at some point during the night, forcing Queens-goers to dismount the public transportation stallion and wait for another chariot to carry them the rest of their journey. I decide to board the train even though it would only take me halfway to my end destination. I get off at its last stop and await the N train to carry me the rest of the way. Finally it arrives and I am whisked off toward my humble abode.

It's nearly midnight and I want some food to quell my hunger. Yes, I spent the entire evening in a kitchen making delicious food, but unfortunately some nights we were so busy that we didn't even have a moment to eat (not a real meal at least). To my good fortune there's a grocery store on the corner of my block full of ingredients waiting to meet their maker at the hands of The Hungry Hutch. I peruse the aisles to see what will become my next culinary victim. As an extreme carnivore, I always gravitate toward meat whenever I am hungry and crave something to feed my belly and satiate my taste buds. Burdened with student loans, I see pork chops on sale and think, "winning!" (Oh, Charlie...)

Pork chops to my stomach's rescue! Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and whatever else your heart desires. Sear in a hot pan with oil and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Immersion Blender Awesome-ness

My mom performs the annual ritual around late November/early December of asking what I want for Christmas. When I was a kid I would go through the encyclopedia of ads that got distributed with the Thanksgiving Day newspaper, cut out pictures of all of the things I wanted, and put together a scrapbook-esque version of the more traditional Christmas wish list. As I aged, and especially more recently as an adult when I usually just go ahead and buy whatever I want for myself, my response for that age-old question usually was "Ummm... I dunno." Not this year! 

Mom: "What do you want for Christmas?"
Me: "An immersion blender!"
Mom: "What's that?"

It purees! It blends! It makes frozen margaritas (a discovery made this past weekend)! I wanted it mostly in order to be able to make tasty blended soups (see below). The recipe included in this post was the result of me trying to use up some of the random ingredients in my refrigerator and play with my new toy at the same time. (I'm good at multi-tasking.) 

Ingredients:
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/2 lb carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 can low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • fleur de sel, to garnish
Procedure:
  • Sweat the vegetables and herbs in olive oil (~10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the beans and chicken stock. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Once the seasoning is perfected, bust out your handy-dandy immersion blender and go to town. (Or you could also pour the contents of the pot into a regular blender.) Feel free to adjust the consistency with additional water or chicken stock if desired.
  • Pour into bowls and garnish with fleur de sel.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Garlic and Turmeric Baked Chicken and Carrots

This recipe happened because I got a few new spices one day and wanted to take them for a spin. I'd never really worked with them before, but you only live once (#yolo—**cough** sarcasm **cough**). Turmeric is used widely in South Asian cuisine. One of its distinct features is the yellow color it gives to food (and your hands too, so consider yourself warned). I had also recently acquired a bottle of allspice, which I find to be similar to nutmeg. And like nutmeg you only need to use a little bit of the spice in your dishes. Looking back this wasn't exactly one of my best dishes—I'd give it maybe a 6 or 7 out of 10. I'll have to work on this a little more and get back to you. Thankfully, I've found other good uses for my new toys since then. Stay tuned...


Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs chicken legs
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt
  • pepper
  • turmeric
  • allspice
  • curry powder
  • oregano
  • oil
Procedure:
Toss the carrots and chicken with the spices and such listed above. Bake in a 400˚F oven for about 40-45 minutes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Shank Stew


One of the things I'll miss most about culinary school is the free food I got to bring home. Not only all of the delicious meals we prepared in class, but the rare pieces of wonderful produce leftover were also excellent treats. One time towards the beginning of school when we were learning about braising, at the end of class there were extra packs of lamb shanks. I think a couple of people were missing from class that day which led to their existence. As we're cleaning and getting ready to leave for the night, the instructor offered the shanks up for anyone to take home. Lamb has become one of favorite proteins in recent history, so I jumped at the chance to take them with me and throw them in the freezer for a rainy day - a rainy day in need of deliciousness that is. The lamb shanks we prepared in class were more traditional French, but here I spiced things up a bit by adding some Moroccan inspired flavors such as cumin, paprika, coriander and curry.

Ingredients:
  • 2 lamb shanks
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • curry powder
  • ground coriander
  • neutral oil
  • 3 small carrots (chopped)
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 2 cups red wine (I used a Malbec)
  • 4 garlic cloves (peeled and cut in half)
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 14.5 oz can reduced sodium/low fat beef stock (so you'll have better control over the salt level)
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • dried oregano
  • 14.5 oz can chick peas
  • rice and pita bread (for serving)
Procedure:
  • Season the lamb liberally with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, curry powder, and ground coriander. Brown all sides in a neutral oil (such as canola or vegetable) and remove.
  • Saute the carrots and onions in that same pan until slightly caramelized. Deglaze with the red wine.
  • Add the shanks back to the pan along with the garlic, tomatoes, beef stock, bay leaves, and a few tablespoons of oregano. Let simmer for 3 hours. You can do this on the stove top or by placing the covered pot in the oven at about 350 degrees. If you go the oven route, check on it after 15 minutes or so to ensure that the stew is slowly simmering and then adjust the oven temperature if necessary.
  • Remove the lamb from the pot. Turn up the fire to let the sauce reduce and thicken to the desired consistency. Add the chick peas to warm through. 
  • Meanwhile, cut the meat from the bone and add back to the sauce once thickened. You don't want to boil the meat, which is why you remove it during this step. Also, you should add a little bit of the liquid to the reserved meat and put in a covered container in order to keep the lamb moist.
  • Once the sauce is the proper consistency, add the meat back, taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve over rice and with pita bread.
Kitchen Safety Tip:
I fought the lamb, and the lamb won. In cooking with any sort of fat (butter, oil, etc.), it is important to always be as careful as possible. Otherwise your arm may end up looking mine does in the picture below. This happened as I was turning the the lamb shanks to brown the other side. To my beautiful arm complexion's demise, the shank slipped from the tongs and plopped down into the hot oil, causing it to jump straight at me like a bat out of hell. I cooked this dish at the end of November 2011 and I still have scars to this day (although it looks better than it did at first). I like to think my battle wounds make me look like more of a kitchen badass and give me some extra kitchen street cred, but I'll let you decide. Tell me about any of your culinary wounds in the comment section below.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Farewell to Finance

Below is the farewell email I sent yesterday to my colleagues at work:

As many of you are well aware, today is my last day at Merrill Lynch. "Why?" you ask. Well... it's not you, it's me. After three plus years in the financial services industry, I have decided to pursue my dream of becoming a food writer/editor and chef. Although I have definitely learned a lot throughout my time here and will likely always be an investor, I have discovered that what was my job should become a hobby and what was once a side passion should become my career. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with all of you over the years and hope our paths will one day meet again.
Regards,
Aaron Hutcherson

Monday, May 7, 2012

Apricot Scones with an Orange Glaze

Duhn, duhn, duhn... The time is finally here - my last week in finance...

YYYAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!

Where was I? Oh yes.

As people at work have been figuring out what I'll be doing instead of thinking about the impacts of the European financial crisis on the world's equity and debt markets, they naturally "joked" about when I would cook for them. I had long avoided the task due to sheer lack of free time, but seeing as how there were/are only a few days left I guess it was time to make it happen. These are what I'm referring to as my farewell finance scones. Adios corporate America, hola food dreams!

The idea for the scones came from my culinary school class's Level 4 buffet (let's not even get started about that ordeal...) that turned out amazingly (the scones and the buffet as a whole). I didn't have the recipe that we used at the time, so I Googled a few different scone recipes and settled on one from Smitten Kitchen as my base, and mixed and matched a few things from the others as well. I made a few alterations in order to fit the ingredients I had at home along with what I got from the grocery store earlier that day. The original called for heavy cream, but I somehow neglected to purchase any. Instead, I used milk and added some sour cream which I saw used in another recipe, and also included more butter to make up for some of the missing fat. They turned out pretty well, but as I subscribe to the "fat is flavor" mantra, I'd be interested to see how they taste with the heavy cream. I guess these will be the "summer is coming" version of the recipe.


Ingredients:
  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tbsp chilled, unsalted butter cut into small cubes
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
  • zest from 1 orange 
  • melted butter
  • demerara sugar (Sugar in the Raw is the brand name)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • juice from 1 orange
Procedure:
  • Combine the dry ingredients together and cut in the the cubed butter. You can do this with a food processor, pastry cutter, or even your fingers as long as you move quickly. You want the largest pieces to be pea-sized in the end.
  • Add in the milk and sour cream to the bowl, and then fold in the apricots and orange zest.
  • The dough will be fairly sticky, so be sure to flour your work surface before dumping it out. Roll out the dough to roughly 3/4 inch thickness and cut into whatever shapes you want. I made them small so it would be easier for people to grab and go.
  • Brush the tops of the scones with the melted butter and sprinkle with the demerara sugar.
  • Bake in a 425 degree preheated oven for about 10 minutes. They won't really brown very much just as an FYI.
  • Set on a baking rack to cool.
  • Combine the orange juice with the powdered sugar. You want the glaze to be able to be drizzled over the top of the scones, so the consistency may need to be adjusted with either more juice or powdered sugar.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Apple Pie - Take 2


This isn't a new recipe, but just a couple more pictures of the apple pie recipe I recently posted. This is one that I made for my family back over Thanksgiving. It received rave reviews from all those in attendance. I made it the night before, so my aunt and I conducted a taste test ahead of the big meal just to make sure it was suitable to serve to guests. (In case you're wondering - it most certainly was.) On T-day, man, child, short, tall, old, and older alike all agreed on the pie's deliciousness. Maybe you'll make it for your next family function?