Shield of the Shepherd

It is that time of year again. Wednesdays in the Spring mean adventures in vegan cooking.

Stoke the forge to 425 degrees. Spread a bag of frozen veggie medley on a baking sheet and insert while still pre-heating along with three russet potatoes.

Meanwhile, saute half a sweet onion and half a carton of button mushrooms, both diced, with salt and non-olive, neutral flavored oil in your largest skillet. Once they begin to brown, add pepper flake and two cartons of course chopped seitan (wheat gluten) and combine. Slide into the forge as well.

Meanwhile yet again, in a sauce pan, make a roux. [1] Add enough veggie broth to begin to make a gravy. Keep it on low heat and whisk until it begins thickening, but don’t let it get too thick.

Take your skillet out and your veggie medley and add the veggies to the seitan and savories. Pour over the gravy. Keep on low heat to simmer while the potatoes continue to cook through.

When the potatoes are soft enough, remove from the forge and cut open. Chop the skins up small and add to the simmering skillet. In a large bowl use a hand mixer to render the russet innards fluffy and fine. Sprinkle sumac on top for color and a bit of salt for seasoning.

Spoon the skillet contents into two pie shells and cover over with the potatoes.

Return to the 425 degree forge for 10 minutes. Cover with ultra thin plate mail armor sheeting and give it another 10-20 minutes to ensure the pie crusts are cooked through.

Set aside to cool but serve warm.

Ain't it purdy?

Ain’t it purdy?

[1] I used left over french fries, cold, ground fine, mixed with oil.

Banded Armor, Plus Two Against Mush

Don’t get me wrong, I love Providence style fried calimari. You know, the battered rings fried with the peperoncini and served with marinara? Dress it up, dress it down, it serves equally well in a pub as it does as a starter on white linen al fresco.

But this is not exactly a dish I’m going to be attempting at home any time soon.

How then to enjoy the truly unique texture of squid at home?

I recommend finding out if your monger deals in calimari steaks as well as the hoods or rings. These should be a very unassuming white square, not entirely unlike a mouse pad, trivet or pot holder. As long as one remembers the golden rule for cooking shellfish (30 seconds or 30 minutes) this humble looking sheet meat can provide some nearly fat free protein, and with some careful additions, can also become a platform for epic flavor.

And then of course there’s the texture.

Don’t get me wrong. I love flakey, broiled or poached fish. I love a tender steak. Heck, I love lentil dip. But don’t you find yourself from time to time wishing for something with a bit more to latch onto, teeth wise, without having to turn to the world of crunchy or crisp? There has to be more to the world of texture than fresh apples or potato chips, doesn’t there? There does, and it is known as chewy. Chewy is usually a pejorative in the kitchen, and that’s a real shame because it has given us a cuisine landscape comprised mostly of soft foods, with some sideline crunchy and crisp foods off to the side.

But chewy can be a good thing. A very good thing.

If your monger is of the better sort, they will already have scored the surface of the squid steaks at roughly eighth inch intervals (much like what one sees on squid served nigiri style at a sushi bar) with long, shallow knife cuts. If they haven’t, ask if they can. If they can’t, I hope you’re better with a santoku than I am. Without this step, your calimari will curl up like a cannoli and flavor will find no purchase on the imperviously smooth outer surface.

Upon a sufficiently roomy expanse of iron or steel combine a small quantity of very high heat neutral flavor cooking oil, kafir leaves, garlic, lemongrass and fresh ginger. Stoke your inferno slowly so that the oil is infused with the flavors of the aromatics. Once up to full heat (I’m talking in danger of leading the neighbors to believe you are invoking unholy powers kind of hot, here), cook no more than two steak at a time for about 15 seconds on each side and then set aside. Either remove the aromatic chunks or strain off the oil. Combine (back on the heat) with a generous splash of lime juice and chili sauce (a sriracha will do nicely) and thicken.

Serve with saffron basmati rice (or gruel) and stir fried vegetables (or raw turnips), dressing the squid with the sauce (which will stick in all the scores which will have opened up like grooves on a vinyl record [1] during cooking) and either a cold lager or an Alsatian white wine. You’ll want a steak knife and plenty of time to savor and chew. And chew. And chew.

You’re welcome.

 

 

[1] Yeah? You come up with a fantasy game chronologically relevant metaphor for that. 😉

Mimic Shirred Eggs

Shirred eggs.  Baked eggs.  “Fried eggs in the days prior to a fancy cooktop on which skillets could be placed to fry things.”  Slow fried eggs with toppings.

I attempted a proper recipe at this and found the need to prepare the oven a bit annoying — because I had no other need to use it (heating these days is from the Central Dragon, not a constantly running hearth).  After scrying the alternate realms for a bit, I realized that the way I prepared these was basically “slow fried eggs”.  The objective isn’t to “fry” the egg, have it “over-{any} style”, or make “sunny side up”, but cook it through “low and slow” so the toppings settle in, the cream doesn’t curdle, and everything firms up nicely.

I accompanied these with toast, as is proper.  When baked, I baked them for 12m, added the cheese, then baked for 3m more.  I didn’t time this on the stovetop, I eye-balled it.  Ow.

What went in the pan:

 

  • 2 eggs
  • 1T heavy cream (half-and-half would work, but not light cream)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • chives
  • paprika
  • Gruyere cheese

What else went in the belly:

  • toast
  • a wee dob of mint jelly, “on the side”

I used a very small cast iron pan for this (the #2).  It fit everything perfectly.

Warm the pan on a burner on really low heat. I set my gas burner on a 3, so maybe a 2 for an electric?

Crack eggs individually into a cup and add into the pan.  (Good practice to catch a bloody-egg before it touches other ingredients).

Drizzle with cream.

Season with salt, pepper, chive, and paprika. I used savory instead of salt and pepper in one attempt. General “seasoning” seems to be the thing. For the chives I have a jar of freeze-dried chives which you should be able to get at any store. They’re great for a oniony taste without the hassle of an onion. In this case, also without the moisture of bulk.

When the eggs look almost done, crumble the Gruyere over them. Feta could also work. I read about Parmesan and mozzarella, but I think Parm is too subtle in flavor and moz is probably too stringy and wet. Something crumbly, dry, and pungent is nice. Blue Cheese would work too.

Let cheese melt a bit and “plate”.

I started toast going at “about the right time” so it would be toasted and buttered right around the time the eggs were ready.

An alternate version of this is to put a piece of ham (slab, obviously) at the bottom of the pan. That might be where baking this is better. But for just eggs, the stove-top approach was really easy.

At least this mimic doesn’t bite back… unless you season it to do so!

Painless Portabella Pizzas

Mushrooms.

My frequency of using them causes them to be more mush than ‘shroom in my ice-box.  So my experiences with portabella remain limited, even novice.  I’m a level 1 ‘shroomer.  Hence, this inspiration comes from the back of a mushroom container.  Clever huckstering in the marketplace to prompt the purchase of additional ingredients!  That Grocers Guild has a groove for guile…

But simplicity!  This could only get easier, and less tasty, by removing ingredients.

  • 4 portabella mushroom caps, gills removed (But why a spoon, cousin…)
  • olive oil
  • minced garlic (or finely chopped/diced)
  • 1-2 tomatoes halved (stem to ‘the not-stem end’) and sliced thinly
  • mozzarella cheese
  • salt
  • pepper
  • (red pepper flakes)

So simple.  So simple.

Stoke your stove to rage the oven up to 400F.  Kindly assault the concave side of the decapitated mushrooms with olive oil.  Decorate with gobs of garlic, sprinkles of salt, and puffs of pepper.  Trim with tomato (this is where I found the halved tomato made this easier).  Muffle with mozzarella.

12-15 minutes singing in the steely stove should bring these to melted mozzarella magnificence.

Of course, if you enjoy these with pain, ravage with red pepper flakes at your discretion.