January 21, 2007

Quite Contrary

I have a tendancy to dig in my heels. To go in the direction I'm not supposed to. It is not a virtue, so much as it is a stubborn refusal to be led by the nose. This does not, of course, mean that I am bandwagon-free (nor does it mean that you can trick me into doing what you really want by suggesting otherwise), but it does mean that it shouldn't be a surprise that while newspaper and magazine articles would have us frantically making diet recipes in a last-ditch attempt to atone for December's excesses, I'm having ribs. Short ribs, to be exact.

Short ribs, for some mysterious reason, don't make an appearance at my local supermarket very often (although they are always available at the meat shops, they are usually the thinner flanken style), so when I do see a meaty set o' bones - one that hasn't been "pre-marinated for the grill" - I can't resist. Since these are cut across the bone, they are in fact flanken style, as opposed to English style, which are my preferred (and, for some reason, even less frequently seen in these parts), but they are considerably meatier and more substantial looking than most of the flanken variety that I've seen around here.

I had been craving short ribs for some time - since I found a recipe for Chimay-braised ribs in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, to be precise. However, since I didn't have any Belgian beer handy (or enough mustard for the glaze that recipe recommends), and I did in fact have a bottle of wine, I went with a simple red wine braise, full of shiitake mushrooms and chopped red onion and accompanied by some roasted fennel, carrots and brussels sprouts. The herbs were kept simple: bay leaves, salt, pepper, and whole yellow mustard seed, which creates a wonderfully deep background note for the beef. I'll have to go the Chimay-route with the next batch of ribs that I find. Maybe I'll even find a nice accommodating butcher who will cut English style for me. In fact, I'm starting to think that I should go on a mission... just, you know, to be contrary.

January 09, 2007

Too much milk

What do you do when you unexpectedly have much more milk left in the fridge than you anticipated? Well, if you're not prone to sitting down to a big glass of milk and are not in the mood for a rice pudding, you make paneer. Or, at least, I did. Oh, I had big plans for that milk: eggnog (some of which actually did go toward making eggnog, I confess), white lasagna (maybe next month...), bechamel for moussaka, and even cereal, which I am not terribly prone to, most mornings. However, the milk was skittering rapidly toward its expiry with none of these things having been made. Paneer was the fast, easy option. And paneer, of course, meant curry:

It's not difficult to make paneer. Heat milk until just boiling, turn off heat, and add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. Cover, let stand for 15 minutes or so, and strain. Place a weight on the reserved solid curds, and the next day you have a nice brick of paneer. Even when you forget to weight it (ahem), paneer is delicious and easy to cook with (albeit more fragile).

With so much paneer at hand, I was planning to make a nice Shahi Paneer for dinner. Yet again, my plans went awry, when I discovered my wonderful thick yoghurt had, in fact, passed its expiry and gone on to produce several exciting new colours while waiting to be discarded. Undaunted, I turned to that ever-ready all-purpose curry base that I'm always happy to have: korma. The fact that there were still a variety of uncooked vegetables languishing in the fridge meant that, with the addition of some ready chickpeas, I had a very easy dinner at hand in only half an hour. For the sake of variety, I added a little cashew paste to the korma sauce, and used half-and-half instead of cream.

How surprised my teenage self would have been, had I known how much I would come to love curry!

January 07, 2007

And now, for something completely different...

I love the food at Christmastime. Maybe it's the stuffing. Maybe it's that we eat four times as much cheese as usual. Maybe it's the chocolate, or maybe it's just that there are a lot of food-centric gatherings of friends and family. However, when the decorations come down, it's time for something other than the Northern European food that I have been devouring over the past month.

Asian is an easy switch to make; here in Vancouver, there are plenty of the right ingredients to make it easy to make something far and away from roasted poultry, and there's always something that I haven't tried or haven't really had a chance to experiment with. And, what is the New Year for, really, if not experimentation?

I've cooked red rice once before, and I'm pretty sure that I will again. It has a firmer bite to it than white rice, and a nuttier taste than most brown rices. It looks pretty on the plate - not the purply colour of Forbidden Rice, but a lovely sort of warm, dark red that would look really good in a shoe (ahem).

As a plain heap of rice on the plate, it's alright but not a star. As a base for a delicious red Thai curry featuring chicken and most of the vegetables in the fridge that need using up, it's outstanding! It gives a certain heartiness to the dish that is very satisfying, and may well be my preferred application for this type of rice. Of course, there is a lentil-and-red rice patty recipe floating out there in bloggerland that I mean to make eventually, and sometime soon I'll get to it. In the meantime, curry foundation it shall be.