Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Alton Brown's Pantry Friendly Tomato Sauce

I caught this recipe on an episode of Good Eats and liked it quite a bit. It's pretty simple, but it had a lot of ingredients, which gave it an interesting flavor.


  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Prep and finish:

  • In a sieve over a medium non-reactive saucepot, strain the tomatoes of their juice into the sauce pot.
  • Add the sherry vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil to the tomato juice.
  • Stir and cook over high heat.
  • Once bubbles begin to form on the surface, reduce to a simmer.
  • Allow liquid to reduce by 1/2 or until liquid has thickened to a loose syrup consistency.
  • Squeeze each tomato thoroughly to ensure most seeds are removed.
  • Set the tomatoes aside.
  • Cut carrot, onion, and celery into uniform sizes and combine with olive oil and garlic in a non-reactive roasting pan over low heat.
  • Sweat the mirepoix until the carrots are tender and the onion becomes translucent, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and capers to the roasting pan.
  • Place roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven and broil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
  • Tomatoes should start to brown slightly on edges with light caramelization.
  • Remove the pan from the broiler.
  • Place the pan over 2 burners on the stove.
  • Add the white wine to the tomatoes and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes over medium heat.
  • Put the tomatoes into a deep pot or bowl and add the reduced tomato liquid to the tomatoes.
  • Blend to desired consistency and adjust seasoning.

Enjoy! I think a few substitutions might work.

  • Capers aren't something I usually have, so I was thinking mushrooms or maybe black olives or both.
  • Sherry vinegar is also something I don't always have, I wonder how balsalmic would work. I love it in a vinagrette in a Caprese Salad, so I might give that a try -- or maybe white wine or apple cider vinegar, I usually always have those.
  • The sugar did make it a little sweet for the rest of my crew, so I might trim that by half and maybe add a little chili powder with it. Going to have to experiment with that one.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Warm Potato Salad

I came across a Wolfgang Puck recipe for a warm potato salad and it sounded interesting. However I can't find the recipe. But since I did read it, I tried to re-create it as best I could and the result were delicious. So hat's off to Chef Puck for being the inspiration. If I find the recipe again, I'll compare and see how close I got.

  • 1.5 lbs fingerling or small red skin or white potatoes. I used small whites. Whatever you do -- no baking potatoes.
  • Salt
  • 1 large clove of garlic, cut in half
  • Fresh or dried parsley
  • Fresh or dried thyme
  • A small white or yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 Tbs of sugar
  • Fresh ground back pepper
Prep and assembly:
  • Cover the potatoes and the garlic clove pieces in water, add a teaspoon or so of Kosher salt.
  • Boil until tender. I use the knife test. Of course the smaller the potatoes, the quicker they will cook. Whatever you do, do not overcook or you will have warm potato paste instead of a salad.
  • Remove from the water and let sit while prepping the marinade.
  • Small dice the onion
  • Whisk together the vinegar, water, oil, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp of thyme, 1/2 tsp of parsley, and the onion.
  • Let the marinade sit and slice the potatoes to about 1/4 inch slices. Next time I think I will try an egg slicer.
  • Pour the marinade on top of the warm potatoes and let sit for 20-30 minutes. The volume of marinade might not cover them completely, so you might need to stir them gently. An alternative would be to place everything in a Ziploc bag and turn every 10 minutes or so.
  • After 30 minutes, heat a little oil in a large saute pan on a medium heat.
  • Strain the most of the marinade from the potatoes and toss the into the oil and saute for about a minute. You aren't looking for browning as much as you are to reheat the potatoes quickly. A little browning is OK, but too much and you will burn them because of the sugar in the marinade.

Serves about 6.

I'm not sure how close I came to Chef Puck's original, but it turned out terrific. I would have never thought of the re-heating technique although I do recall Good Eats doing something similar -- only Alton Brown applied the dressing while it was hot and then let it sit in the fridge to cool off.

Anyway, I really liked it. The next time I plan on cutting the onion into thin rings and adding some garlic to the marinade. What I really liked about this recipe is you can make it ahead of time and re-heat right before serving. I do plan on removing the marinade after no more than an hour of soaking because I am after a nice potato flavor, not to heavy on the vinegar. But I figure it can easily sit at room temp for a while, or the fridge until I am ready. I also intend on reheating a little more gently if they have been in the fridge.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I got a new toy -- Pressure Cooker

I haven't done a lot of interesting cooking lately, been pretty busy. But for St. Patrick's I decided I wanted Corned Beef. My problem was that it was on a week night and takes about 3 hours to cook. I did cheat a little and picked up an already corned beef brisket, but I was still facing 3 hours of cooking time. So I broke down and bought a pressure cooker.

I went for a stove-top model rather than an electric one. I liked the idea that you could brown meat and saute other ingredients before popping in the meat and cooking it under pressure. So a nice 8 quart pressure cooker is now in my arsenal. So I did have my corned beef.

It worked well! Not perfectly, but that's more my fault being a first-time pressure cooker user, but it did work pretty well. I ended up with a nice corned beef dinner. Plus the left over corned beef was my breakfast this weekend. Cut up and rendered like bacon and mixed with some eggs and scrambled -- Yum! I didn't do anything special, just followed the package directions on the John Morrel Corned Beef. I have corned my own in the past and plan to do it again soon. Just didn't have the 10-14 days once I made up my mind.

I also did a Pot Roast on Saturday and it went pretty well also. A nice 3.5 lb bottom-round roast.

  • 3-4 lb Pot Roast (Bottom round worked well, plan to try a chuck roast next)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 medium onion (finely diced)
  • 2 celery stalks (finely diced)
  • 2 medium carrots (finely diced)
  • 1 cup of beef broth
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
    1/2 tsp of dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat in the pressure cooker.
  • Brown the meat on all sides and remove.
  • Toss in the carrots, celery, and onion and saute until softened.
  • Add garlic, mustard, and paprika and bloom (heat until fragrant)
  • Add broth, brown sugar, and vinegar and de-glaze the pan (scrape up any brown bits off the bottom). The liquid should come up about halfway up the meat. Add more broth/vinegar if needed.
  • Return the meat and any juices.
  • Put on the lid and cook at pressure for about 75 minutes.
  • Once the meat is done, remove from the pot. It should try and fall apart it it's done. If it still feels really firm, continue cooking for 15 more minutes. If you are doing nearer to a 4 lb roast you might have this problem.
  • Cover the meat on a cutting board or plate. I usually use a plate to catch any liquids.
  • Reduce the liquid in the pot by half. If the vegetables are still chunky, you can use a stick blender and reduce them. Personally I like the rustic chunks.
  • Once reduced, add a tablespoon of unsalted butter and serve as an pan sauce. You can mix in some flour and make a pretty good gravy.
  • I slice the pot roast into 1/4 inch slices and lay on a serving platter. You must use a very sharp knife or it will just fall to pieces.
  • I put a little cooking liquid on the serving platter to warm it up before adding the sliced roast and top with a small amount of the reduced liquid.
Like I said it came out pretty well. Next time I'll be adding some root vegetables during the last 30 minutes of cooking. I didn't try it here mainly because I didn't have any potatoes and only had baby carrots left. I was worried about them coming apart in the cooker. So next time I'll be better prepared.

I served it with some potato salad (Roasted Potato Salad) and some corn. Not a bad late evening meal after a great day (Warm, sunny, light breezes -- best last Winter day we've had in a long time.)