Tag Archives: comfort food

Julie Sahni’s Gosht Kari

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I’m not big on cookbooks.  I know, I know, it’s the same complaint we all have.  I love looking through them, and I daydream about having bookcases filled with cookbooks.  But those daydreams generally go like this: leisurely flipping through a couple of cookbooks while enjoying a late morning cup of coffee and Tartine croissant, and then casually spending the rest of the day shopping for and cooking whatever I picked out that morning,  then upon serving the meal to friends and loved ones, having it gushed over and praised to high heavens during a cozy family meal. Not exactly reality.

The reality is that when I check out a cookbook from the library or actually purchase one and bring it home, I rarely make it beyond flipping through the pages and reading the headnotes.  I’ve been known to make a list of the recipes that look good and copy down ingredient lists and instructions in shorthand out of library books, usually when the book is already 2 or 3 days past due and I’m feeling guilty about not cooking from the book in the last 3 weeks, let alone returning it on time.  Or when I’m feeling guilty about the books I’ve bought and never actually cooked from, I’ll bust out the little sticky flags and mark what looks good- but I usually don’t try more than one or two recipes, even if they’re great.

What’s the deal? I’ve decided I’m stuck in a vicious cycle, one that  most of us find ourselves in now and then: kitchen comfort.  We become content with the repertoire of meals we’ve amassed that not only fall within our resource constraints but that our family will readily eat.  We’re secure in the same list of the ingredients to add to the unwritten weekly shopping list, the ability to fall-back on old favorites on a Wednesday night when you walk in the door late and everybody’s hungry already.  Cooking becomes easy.  As the wife of a picky eater and a woman who refuses to eat most prepackaged and processed “foods,” I’ve struggled over the last few years to expand my List of Acceptable and Realistic Suppers.  Picking up a cookbook and flipping to a new recipe might entail ingredients I don’t already have in the cupboards or that we won’t eat, or flavors that we might not like.  I’ve become lethargic, and who wants to cook when the words “supper” and “boring” become synonyms?

So in this context of boredom and hesitance, thank goodness somebody mentioned Julie Sahni.  Seriously.  I’ve been hugely lacking in cooking inspiration and motivation, and this woman delivered exactly the swift kick in the you-know-what that I needed.  I picked up Classic Indian Cooking at the library last week and spent a few evenings flipping through the pages, trying to pick out a recipe or two to try over the weekend.  I wanted to stick with something fairly basic, which is always hard to discern from looking at ingredient lists for most Indian cooking – so many spices and aromatics!  The first one I picked was Gosht Kari, or meat curry, which boasts a relatively short list of ingredients, all things I knew I could easily get.  I made a quick trip for ground coriander and fresh cilantro, but otherwise had the rest of the ingredients already.

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The recipe starts with familiar actions: browning of beef, chopping of onions, mincing ginger and garlic.  “I can handle this,” I told myself, feeling a boost of confidence at the rhythms of the familiar.  As onions turned from white to pale to golden, I measured out fragrant spices.  As the dish started to come together, the smell was almost breathtaking.  These were smells that I’d never had coming from my own kitchen!  While the braise simmered on the stovetop, I peeled potatoes, sipped a glass of wine, soaked the rice.  Before I even tasted it, I knew it was going to be amazing.  The mix of confidence and novelty was coursing through me.  I was excited.  And better yet, I was salivating.  It smelled delicious.

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It also didn’t hurt that the meal was utterly fantastic.  Warm and hearty textures and a complex flavor profile.  I had to have more.  The next day, I flipped open the book again and settled on Mughalai Korma, or Moghual braised chicken, with saag to accompany (pictured above).  The mix of ginger, cardamom, cloves, and coriander in the chicken sounded intriguing and delicious.  Again the process felt comfortable, and again the smells from stovetop were phenomenal.  It goes without saying that all three dishes were great.  Honestly, the saag was my least favorite; I’m not a huge fan of cooked spinach, but the combo of cumin seed and garam masala was quite nice, and the potatoes were decadent.  In any case, two out of three keepers is hardly failure!  Both the chicken and the beef dishes will be made again in very soon order, and this book is going to be added to my bookshelf pronto… only this time, I don’t intend to ignore it.

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Julie Sahni’s Gosht Kari
very barely adapted from Classic Indian Cooking

Serves 6 as a main dish with rice, or 8 with side dishes

8 tablespoons ghee
3 pounds boneless beef or lamb, trimmed well and cut into 1-inch cubes
2-3 meaty beef or lamb bones (I used the bones I cut out of my roast along with an oxtail)
4 small onions or 2 large onions (about 4 cups chopped)
4 cloves garlic (about 4 teaspoons minced)
3-4 inches fresh ginger (about 3 tablespoons minced)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes, or 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 pound of potatoes, about 4 medium-sized
chopped cilantro for serving

Place a heavy-bottomed pot on medium-high heat with 4 tablespoons of ghee.  While the oil is heating, pat the meat cubes dry to help browning.  Once the oil is very hot, brown some of the meat cubes, being careful not to crowd the meat (this will cause steaming instead of browning).  Brown the meat in batches, removing browned meat to a plate with a slotted utensil.  Once the meat is browned, add the bones to the pot and lightly brown them as well, then place them on the plate with the meat.  While browning the meat, finely chop the onions.

Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of ghee to the pot and scrape the bottom to release the stuck on bits of meat.  Add the onions and brown them, stirring frequently to avoid burning and sticking.  While browning the onions, mince or grate the garlic and the ginger, and measure out the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and red pepper into small bowl.  Put a kettle with about 5 cups of water on to boil.

When the onions are a dark golden brown, add the garlic and ginger and fry for a minute, stirring almost constantly.  Add the spices and continue to fry and stir vigorously for about 30 seconds.  Return the browned meat and the bones to the pot, pouring in any juice that the meat had released onto the plate.  Also add the tomatoes, salt, and 4 cups of boiling water; stir to combine.  Bring to a boil; then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally

While the dish is simmering, peel the potatoes and cut into quarter (for medium potatoes), or approximately 2 x 3 inch pieces.  (If serving with rice and forgoing the resting time, this is also a good time to rinse/soak your rice.)  After 90 minutes, add the potatoes and stir; then recover and continue to simmer for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes and meat are both tender.  Julie says to let the dish rest for at least 30 minutes but preferably 2 hours; I was starving by the time it was ready and let it rest for a mere 15 minutes and it was fantastic as-is.  Before serving, remove the bones and check for salt, then reheat to a simmer.  Serve with rice and/or bread and chopped cilantro.  Leftovers are even better in the following days, though Julie suggests freezing if not eating within 3 days in the refrigerator.

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Filed under Clean Eating, Fall, Gluten-Free, Main dishes, Winter

asparagus risotto

 

This is not just a risotto with some asparagus pieces thrown in at the end- oh no.   This is a risotto swimming in miniscule flecks of asparagus, fully immersed in green and spring.  It’s my favorite kind of asparagus recipe- the kind that embraces the use of the entire stalk.  Instead of throwing out the tougher ends of the stalk [or adding them to the finished risotto to be picked around and pushed off to the side], we cook them a bit and then puree, producing a bright-green bubbly liquid.

Then this asparagus puree is stirred into the risotto, alternated with the traditional chicken stock, stirring and coaxing each little grain of rice to absorb as much of the asparagus- its flavor, nutrition, color- as it can.   A very asparagusy risotto indeed! 


Asparagus risotto
adapted from Mario Batali

Serves 4-6 as a side; 2 or 3 as a meal

1/2 to 3/4 pound asparagus stalks
3 to 4 cups chicken stock
1 shallot, diced
1 T. butter
2 t. olive oil
1 cup short-grain rice
3/4 cup white wine
salt and pepper
freshly grated parmesan for serving

Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, wash asparagus; trim off tough ends and discard.  Chop into 1-inch pieces, setting aside the tips and the pieces from the top two-thirds of the stalks.  Once the water is boiling, toss in the pieces of asparagus from the bottom third of the stalks.  Boil for 4-5 minutes; drain all but 1/4 cup water.  Puree aspargus and 1/4 cup of water in a food processor or blender; set aside.

Place chicken stock in a small saucepan and keep over medium heat.  In a heavy-bottomed skillet, melt butter and oil over medium heat.  Sautee diced shallot for 1 minute, then add raw, unrinsed rice.  Sautee for 4-5 minutes, then increase heat to medium-high.  Add wine and stir while reducing. Once wine is mostly absorbed, add the hot stock in 1/2 cup increments, stirring almost constantly.  Wait to add more stock until the rice has absorbed nearly all of the liquid.

Once 2 cups of the stock have been added and absorbed, alternate adding 1/2 cup of the asparagus puree and 1/2 cup of chicken stock, again allowing the rice to absorb almost all of the liquid before adding more.  At this point, check the rice frequently, wanting it to be cooked but with a bit of an al dente bite.  Once the risotto is creamy and the rice is fully cooked, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with parmesan.

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Filed under Clean Eating, Gluten-Free, Main dishes, Side dishes, Spring, Vegetables, Vegetarian

strawberry-rhubarb upside downer


I really wanted to tell you about the asparagus risotto I made this week.  It was creamy and subtle and deliciously spring-ish, while comforting enough for the chilly air that settles around us in the evenings.  But I can’t.  It would be irresponsible- nay, reprehensible– to allow you to go on living one more day of your life without hearing about this cake.

There are cakes for celebrations, and then there are cakes like this.  This is an everyday cake, padding around in day-old jeans and a faded t-shirt, perfect for coffee and a bit of freshly whipped cream.   But at the same time, this is a seriously awesome cake.  This is a make-this-when-your-mother-in-law-comes cake.  Even if it’s only in jeans, it’s impressive.  Sweet, sticky, and spicy. What more do you need?!


This is from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my home to yours, except she wrote it as a cranberry-nut cake.  She also included in the margins directions for a peach version, but I decided to springify.  I halved the cinnamon from the original recipe and added half a teaspoon of fresh cardamom- and WOW.  If you’ve got cardamom, break that bad boy out for this cake.  I don’t know if there’s anything I like more in spring than the combination of strawberries, rhubarb, and cardamom.

There’s also no salt in this cake.  That may dismay some and cheer others.  I will admit that I cheated and used salted butter for the “topping” and unsalted for the actual batter, because I had some stray salted laying around.  Don’t be afraid to add salt if you  know you like it in your cakes and muffins.


Strawberry-rhubarb upside downer
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: FMHTY

14 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons + 1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 cup chopped rhubarb
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350.  Put an 8×2 (or 9×2) round cake pan on a baking sheet (you WILL want the baking sheet!).

Melt 6 T of the butter and whisk in 6 T of the sugar. Stirring, bring up to a brief boil, then pour evenly into the bottom of the cake pan.  Sprinkle strawberries and rhubarb on top of the butter-sugar combination and press lightly to flatten.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the remaining 8 T (1/2 cup) of butter for 2-3 minutes until soft and creamy.  Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cream well for 2-3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each one and scraping the bowl down as needed.  Pour in the vanilla.  Turn the mixer down to low and add in half of the dry ingredients, only mixing until barely incorporated.  Mix in the milk.  Then mix in the remaining dry ingredients. Spoon the batter in the pan over the strawberries and rhubarb, and smooth the top down.

Bake on the baking sheet for 40-45 minutes, until a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  With a knife, loosen the cake from the pan around the edges, but allow to sit for 20-30 minutes to let the cake soak up as much of the juice as it can.  While still warm, carefully turn out the cake onto a plate.

Serve thick slices with fresh whipped cream or ice cream, preferably while still a bit warm (or warmed up for 20 seconds in the microwave.  Enjoy!

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Filed under Breads, Breakfast, Desserts, Spring, Summer

Cheddar Bay Biscuits

December. Time for multicolored lights, odd-shaped leftover pieces of wrapping paper, and high-calorie and delicious treats. Dear readers, these may not be as traditionally Christmas-y as frosted sugar cookies, but they are certainly as delicious and unhealthful. Skip the trip to Red Lobster and whip up a quick batch of these instead.

Cheddar Bay Biscuits
Adapted from Suzanne McMinn

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 t sugar
1/2 t Old Bay seasoning
1/4 t salt
1/4 t ground cayenne pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 c (8 T) butter, very cold
1 1/4 c grated cheddar cheese
1/3 c sour cream
1 c milk

Butter topping:
3 T butter
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t parsley
1/2 t  Old Bay seasoning

Preheat oven to 450. Mix together dry ingredients (thru garlic powder) in a large bowl. Grate the butter on the coarse holes, and then blend with the dry ingredients with a spoon. Stir in the cheddar cheese; combine the sour cream and milk, and then mix into dry ingredients just until moistened and doughy. Note: don’t be afraid to add a couple extra tablespoons of milk if you think the dough might be too dry.

Drop the biscuits in a greased 9×13 dish with a scoop or large spoons.  I generally make 3 x 4 biscuits, for a total of twelve, but for smaller biscuits you could try 4 x 5.

Melt the below topping ingredients together in a small saucepan. Lightly brush half of the topping over the unbaked biscuits. Bake for 20-30 minutes (more for larger biscuits, less time for smaller biscuits). Brush with remaining topping (may have to heat in the microwave for a few seconds to rewarm), and serve warm.

These keep at room temperature for 4-5 days in an airtight container and are excellent if slightly reheated.


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Filed under 30 min. or less, Breads, Side dishes

Comfort food: Polenta

My inner Paula Dean really shone through while I was spontaneously whipping this up. Half-and-half, butter, bacon… plus corn grits and corn? Maybe in a former life I grew up in Virginia.

My only “scientific” recipe tip: use a 3:1 ratio for the amount of boiling water to grits. You can always add more liquid, like I did with the milk, but shock those grits with boiling water first!

Baked polenta with bacon and corn
Inspired by my intense craving for comfort food

1-1/2 c. water
salt
1/2 c. polenta (corn grits)
1/3 c. milk
3 T. half-and-half
2-4 slices of thick-cut bacon
1/2 cup whole kernal corn
black pepper
2 T. butter
1/2 c. cheese
fresh Parmesan to finish

Grease a 8×8 casserole and set the oven to 425. Put the water and salt on high heat. Slice bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and fry; add corn to pan and fry in grease.

Once water is boiling, add the polenta. Stir well and let boil for 3-4 minutes; add milk and half-and-half and keep at a  simmer on medium heat. Stir polenta frequently to avoid burning on the bottom. Add in butter and black pepper before adding bacon and corn (below).

Once bacon and corn are browning, add to the polenta pan and stir well. Pour the polenta mixture into the casserole. Top with cheese and bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is brown and bubbly. Serve with a light dusting of freshly-shredded parmesan on top.

Deeelicious.

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Filed under Side dishes, Winter