Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Day 28 - Braised Spring Vegetables and Orange-Oregano Butter

Before I launch into my stories about today's recipes, can I just say how gratifying it was to make that Panna Cotta Tart the other day?? I never make "event" food like that, so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I have to say, in the end, it was totally worth it. I'm thinking about when I can make another one!

I had plans and ideas about what I'd cook tonight and I ended up throwing them all out right at the last minute. It was going to be omelets and a salad for Alysha and me, but there I was at Whole Paycheck and I found the ever-elusive chervil, so I picked up the makings for Braised Spring Vegetables. But then I thought I needed some meat to balance it, so I bought a couple of pork chops, not knowing exactly what I'd do with them....

Braised Spring Vegetables (p. 340)

I'd been trying to make this for weeks, but I couldn't find chervil to save my life! Then, there it was yesterday, so I now own and have tasted chervil. I have to say, it's a very subtle flavor, even eaten by itself. Not nearly the punch of thyme or oregano, or even parsley.

This is one of those dishes that doesn't really come across on the page - it just seems like a bunch of onions, mushrooms, and potatoes in a brothy base. But it's actually kind of lovely and surprising.

I didn't have morels... (Morels and chervil on the same day? Not a chance.) But I did have a cute mushroom blend, which seemed to work just fine. And I bought these adorable (i.e. expensive) baby potatoes, which came in red, yellow, and my new favorite, dark purple, the last being particularly exotic, dense, and delicious.

This was the first time I was called on to use my homemade Basic Chicken Stock! And I'm sure it lent good support in the flavor department.

The interesting thing about this recipe is that after you brown the onions, add the mushrooms and potatoes, and braise them until they're tender, you then boil the crap out of it all so that the stock reduces and thickens "to a syrup." I have to confess, mine didn't get syrupy, per se, but I was very happy with the consistency. (It looked just like the photo in the book.)

Boiling something that much after it's been cooked through seems very counter-intuitive to me, because I'm always so careful not to overcook things, especially vegetables. I guess you could remove the vegetables, reduce the liquid, and add the vegetables back in at the end, but the fact is that the dish worked, even boiled to death. It was like light, vegetable comfort food, and the reduced stock ends up almost creamy. I'm sure this dish would benefit from having morels, since the dish really features the flavors of the individual ingredients, but even without, it's a lovely side, and it's not difficult to make at all.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Orange-Oregano Butter (p. 167)

This is a completely random addition, but I just bought oregano for tomorrow night's feast with the Paladini's, so I figured, What the heck?

This is one of the variations on Herbed Compound Butter, and there's something one might overlook, if one weren't as painstakingly anal as I am. Martha gives you substitutions for parsley and thyme, but she doesn't mention chives. It would be easy to make this butter without the chives, but it's my opinion that the intention is to include them. And that's what I did.

It just so happens that I was in a baking mood yesterday, and I whipped up a loaf of Black Bread, one of Martha's website recipes, but NOT in the book, I repeat, NOT in the book. The bread came out really well (cooked through - yay! - I think I've finally heard the hollow "it's done" sound). And it was really nice to have a special butter to spread on it. Making a special butter is so easy - it's a great way to personalize a meal.

Of course, Alysha tried to pick out all the orange zest. And I admit, orange zest and butter isn't my favorite flavor combo either, but still, compound butter is a nice thing.

Jeff: A
Martha: A-
(I lowered Martha's grade, because of the chive question and because I would have appreciated a suggested use for this unusual flavor combo)

Incidentally, the main course of our meal was the afore-mentioned pork chops and a spicy applesauce that I whipped up on the spot. (I felt really chef-like last night! I was improvising and everything!) Actually, I was attempting to correct a somewhat unfortunate meal I made for FNBF on Valentine's Day. It was a recipe from an older Martha book called Martha Stewart's Healthy Quick Cook, and I think there must have been a typo in the ingredient list, because it really didn't come out well that night. I'm happy to report that I have conquered that recipe now - the pork chops were cooked just right, and the spicy applesauce was great. (Who but Martha would think to put red pepper flakes and cayenne in applesauce? Shouldn't work, but does!)

I'm amazed at the strides I'm making in my cooking...

Meanwhile, pride cometh before the fall, doesn't it? Tomorrow I'm frying chicken for the Paladini's. Wish me luck!

Until we eat again...

Alysha brandishing Braised Spring Vegetables

My Black Bread!


  1. Where can we find the spicy applesauce recipe, Jeff? :D

  2. Hey Angela-
    I got it from an older Martha book called "Martha Stewart's Healthy Quick Cook." If you can't find it, email me and I'll describe it to you. :-)