ser·en·dip·i·ty the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way
When Denise Landis, recipe tester for the New York Times (among many other hats that she wears), asked me if I would like to be the first guest blogger for her e-magazine, The Cook’s Cook, I was excited, of course, falling all over myself about it, but when I stopped to think of the implications, of actually having an audience, of the responsibility… well, any ideas I had suddenly seemed ridiculous.
While I was despairing over what recipe should be the first to grace the virtual pages of The Cook’s Cook, I asked my husband to name some of his favorite meals. Without hesitation, he named this one. Inspired by thepassionatecook, I made this once and promptly printed and filed it away, somewhere, as a favorite. But I couldn’t find the recipe. I couldn’t find it online, either. Lost, I decided to turn to the three-ring binder of recipes my mother gave me when I was just starting as a cook, figuring that I’d find something just as good to make for the blog. And there was the lost recipe. Tucked securely into the last page, just like it was meant to be. Of course, I made some alterations to the recipe, but it’s just as good, if not better. So now I’ll pass it along to you. Don’t lose it!
This is a meal meant for two, so it comes with perfect timing for Valentine’s Day. At my house, we don’t subscribe to hard and fast rules concerning Valentine’s Day, but how better to show your love for someone (partner, friend, parent, sibling, pet), than by cooking for them? We shared this meal under the dogwood that is the literal and figurative heart of our property; it was under its branches that we said our wedding vows.
This recipe could be done with beef, too, but the venison is so perfect-tender, I encourage trying it.
Venison with Apple-Potato Stack and Petite Carrots in Port Reduction
For the apples:
1/2 cup (125 mL) dry white wine
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 Granny Smith apple
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup (50 g) finely chopped onions
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1/2 cup (125 mL) port
1/2 cup (125 mL) dry red wine
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh orange juice (2-3 oranges)
2 scant teaspoons beef flavored stock concentrate (I use a vegetarian – no beef – base)
For the vegetables:
2 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1 bunch of baby/petite carrots, peeled with about 1 inch of tops left on
For the venison:
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Two 4-ounce (100 g) venison filets
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
For the apples: In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, and 1 cup (250 mL) water. Place over low heat to warm. Slice the apple into thin rounds (it helps to use a mandoline for this, but you can use a knife, too) and add to the saucepan, stirring a few times to warm the apples, then remove from the heat and let the apples infuse.
For the sauce: In a small frying pan, melt the butter and add the onions and thyme. Fry over medium heat until just beginning to brown and stick. Deglaze the pan with the port and wine, then pour in the orange juice and add the stock concentrate. Boil over medium heat until the sauce is reduced to about 1/2 cup.
For the vegetables: Peel and cut the potatoes into approximately 1-inch pieces. Place in a steamer basket set over simmering water and allow to steam, covered, until they are very easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and return to pot; cover with a dishtowel until just warm. Mash the potatoes with a ricer or a wooden spoon – don’t overwork them. Mix in the butter and season with salt to taste (I used two good pinches). If you want, make the potatoes ahead and gently reheat in a bowl set over simmering water.
Steam the carrots like the potatoes, but only until they are tender but still crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat as they finish (some may cook faster than others) and wrap in foil to keep warm.
For the venison: Melt the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Dry the filets thoroughly and well-season the filets with salt and pepper. When the oil is slightly smoking, add the filets. Sauté on each cut side for two minutes and then, using tongs, pick up the steak and spend another minute or two searing the rim of the cut. Adjust the cooking time according to the cut, species, and how you like your steak, keeping in mind that when an instant-read thermometer, inserted into the center of the filet, reads 130-135°F (54-57°C), it’s medium-rare. When the filet is done, remove from heat to a plate and cover with foil. Rest the meat for 15 minutes before plating.
To assemble and serve: Using a spoon, place a small dollop of potatoes on the plate you intend to serve on. Lay an apple slice on the potatoes and top with another spoonful of potatoes. Repeat, ending with potatoes on top. Serve the carrots, warm, alongside the apple-potato stack and plate the filet how you like, either whole or in slices. Warm the port reduction if it has cooled and drizzle several spoonfuls over everything. It’s delicious, so save some for dipping.
Having a blog is fun. It has an element of work to it, but it’s not really work. However, when you’re staring down the barrel of a 3,000+ mile move with a dog, two cats, a horse and two chickens, and you’re relying on the Army and some aging vehicles to get you there, and you’re trying to use up all your food and you’re limiting grocery shopping to, well, never… it’s kind of hard to blog.
Because blogging is part creativity and part hunger. You want to write about a creation, but you also want to eat it. And when you’re limited to the contents of your freezer and pantry, and those contents have been whittled down to too many cans of tomato paste to count, several half-used bags of pasta, and a container of pesto from last year that you didn’t find until you ate all the food on top of it in the chest freezer, well, no one really wants to read about pasta and pesto, again. Nor do I want to eat it, again.
But then an angel, cleverly disguised as a friend and neighbor, appears at your door with a package of line-caught wild red snapper. Then a bag of yellow cornmeal falls off the shelf into your waiting hands. Then a neighbor suggests sweet potato for your dog’s itchiness only to find out that your dog doesn’t like sweet potato. Then, then, you get to create something great. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.
Cornmeal-Crusted Red Snapper with Kale and Sweet Potato-Polenta Cakes
For the kale:
1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces (120 g +/-) kale, ribs removed and coarsely chopped
Zest and juice of one orange
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon molasses
For the cakes:
1 medium (8 ounces/320 g) sweet potato, peeled and cooked
2 cups (475 mL) chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (80 g) yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup (22 g) freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
For the fish:
3 cups (700 mL) buttermilk
1 large (8 ounces/320 g +/-) red snapper filet
1 cup (160 g) yellow cornmeal
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
For the kale: Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the olive oil. Over low heat, cook the onion, covered, until deep golden brown, about 35-40 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and stir, then add the zest. Pile in all of the kale and pour the juice over, then cover and let wilt until it’s a manageable volume but still bright green. Stir in the molasses and cook until the kale is tender. Season with salt, to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the cakes: Mash the sweet potato in a bowl and set aside. Bring the broth and salt to a boil and whisk in the cornmeal. Continue whisking to avoid lumps and until the mixture thickens slightly, then add the sweet potato and whisk to combine. Stir in the cheese and cook until the mixture is dense and creamy but not dry. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray and, using a spoon or small ice cream scoop, fill each compartment about halfway with cooled polenta mixture. Put in the freezer for 30-35 minutes until solid but not frozen. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Remove the cakes from the muffin tin and fry, four at a time, until the bottoms are golden brown and crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully flip the cakes over and fry on the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from oil and let drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining cakes.
For the fish: Pour the buttermilk into a large, shallow dish. Cut the fish into two equal portions and place in the buttermilk to soak. Melt butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. In another shallow dish, whisk together the cornmeal, cayenne, and salt. Remove the fish from the buttermilk and drain briefly, then dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Fry on one side until golden brown and carefully flip to fry on the other side. The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork.
To plate: Place a spoonful of kale and onion mixture in the center of a plate. Top with 2-3 cornmeal cakes and a piece of fish, then add another bit of kale to the top. Garnish with fresh orange slices. Enjoy.
This was one of those days when the dog takes up the whole couch. It rains all day and the sky darkens two hours earlier than it’s supposed to. I didn’t want to cook, but made a deal — in return for a cocktail, I would make soup from items in the pantry and fridge that, really, needed to be used anyway. But once the flavors of the mirepoix started to scent the air, it just seemed like a good idea to toss the rice and beans in, toast them a bit with spices, and turn the soup into risotto.
Rice and Sprouted Bean Risotto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup (50 g) onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup (190 g) arborio rice
1 cup (180 g) dried, sprouted bean mix (like TruRoots Organic 3-bean trio)
1 dried bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
1 cup (240 mL) dry white wine
5 cups (1.25 L) water + more as needed
1 teaspoon stock concentrate (beef or vegetable flavor)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 cups (250 g) (packed) kale, chopped
2 oz. (60 g) grated gruyere cheese + more for garnish
kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
Melt the butter and olive oil in a large dutch oven. Add the onion, celery, carrots, salt, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, garam masala and thyme, and cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables are tender and the onions are just beginning to turn golden brown.
Meanwhile, mix the stock concentrate with the water and maintain just below a simmer in a separate pot.
Add the rice and beans to the pot with the onions and spices and stir, coating everything in the butter, and allowing to toast just slightly. Keep stirring so nothing burns.
When the vegetable/rice mixture is just barely dry and beginning to stick, turn the heat to medium-high and pour in the wine to deglaze the pot. Stir constantly and when the wine is mostly absorbed and the pot is almost dry again, begin to add the stock mixture one cup at a time, stirring frequently. Allow the mixture to absorb most of the liquid before adding more. Once the last of the stock is used, check for doneness and stir in extra water as needed to finish cooking the rice and beans.
Turn the heat to low and stir in the vinegar, soy sauce, kale and cheese; season well with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve warm and with extra shredded gruyere for garnish.