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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Czech liver gravy with rosemary

Chicken livers in rosemary gravy

We had posted a recipe for liver chilli fry before, and back then I had mentioned a liver dish that I had eaten during my stay in the Czech Republic a few years ago. I was staying with an old friend that I used to work with, and his wife made dinner one night that was so simple, and as is often the case when it is so simple – utterly delicious. What’s that? Lies, you say! Liver can’t possibly be delicious! Oh, but it can. This dish hugged me from the inside, because it’s very much like comfort food. I asked her for the recipe, which she graciously shared, and to my surprise - nay, shock - it contained soy sauce. I know. Soy sauce! A genius addition, I thought. So let’s get started, and you too, can be in on this soy sauce sorcery.


As is my absent-minded way, not all ingredients are pictured. 

1 pound of chicken livers, cleaned and trimmed of fat
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
Rosemary, enough to give you a heaped half tablespoon when chopped
1 pint chicken stock, homemade or a good market brand
Soy sauce, 3-4 tablespoons
2 tbs flour
Olive oil
Butter, salted, 1 tablespoon
Parsley, chopped

We had purchased our chicken livers from a local farm, and I don’t know if they do a really good job of cleaning their livers, or if they just keep their chickens really healthy (which they do), but these livers didn’t need much cleaning and barely had fat to trim. 

See? Quite clean already. 

The first thing to do is add some olive oil and the butter to a deep, wide pan. I used our large cast iron pan. Bring the heat up to medium-high. Season the livers with salt and pepper, and then carefully place the chicken livers in the pan to sear them. Be careful. These things can splutter and head straight for your eyeball. You don’t want to cook them through completely, just long enough to get a nice brown sear, about 30 seconds-1 minute per side. Once they are all done, remove the livers and keep aside in a bowl. 

You will have a few fried liver bits remaining in the pan, this is good. Add the chopped onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper. Sautee until the onions are translucent.



That's right. Deglaze. Add the soy sauce and use it to deglaze the pan. Pick up all those yummy liver and onion bits. My friend had mentioned that some people use red wine at this stage, which you can, but she accidentally discovered that soy sauce imparted a better, earthy, slightly twangy flavor with just a touch more depth. I’ve often added soy sauce to stir fried dishes, as one does, 
but never to deglaze. It just never occurred to me to do so. 
In a Czech liver dish, no less. 

Once deglazing is complete, and the soy sauce has been cooked off, add the flour and stir. Cook for a another couple of minutes, stirring often.
Once it looks like this, add the chopped rosemary and then....

......Add most of the pint of chicken stock. Note that you can always add more a little later, and adjust the consistency to your liking. Stir, season according to taste with salt (you might not even need salt at this point) and pepper.

Lower the heat to medium, and let it simmer and reduce. 

After a few minutes (10, maybe?), or once you notice it start to thicken, add the seared livers back into the pan. 

Continue to cook on medium heat until the livers are done, which shouldn’t take too long if you’re going for a slightly pink center. I’m not good with timing this yet, so I usually give it a few minutes, slice open one of the livers to gauge where it is, and go from there. This is what I usually shoot for. Just don't overcook it or it'll be like chewing rubbers.

Panda: You're 'Murican now! Don't need none of that communist talk.

I mean, erasers. 

As it cooks, it will develop a rich, dark hue. It's ready at this point, so turn off the heat and add some freshly chopped parsley to make it purty. 

I made a loaf of crusty bread to have with the dish. 

We also had some peas and carrots on the side. 
Because, fiber.

And there you have it. I'm really grateful to have experienced this dish. Hands down, one of my top five favorite international culinary experiences of all time. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Spinach Soup with Salmon Patties

Salmon patties on brown rice and dal. 

By Mango.

We've been away. Since April 2014, apparently. I would deny it, but the interwebs never lies. Several things happened to cause our absence. We've been traveling. We adopted the sweetest dog who has consumed our days in the best way possible. We also moved into a new home. In between all of these amazing moments, we just couldn't bring ourselves to blog. The motivation was dwindling because we were starting to take it too seriously.

We have been cooking a lot, promise. And the end results have often been amazing, but we'd forget a bunch of blogging requirements after the fact. Did I take a photo of the pre-seared scallop? No?? @!#$! Is the lighting right?? Does the amount of paprika that I scooped up with a butter knife - because I couldn't find a clean spoon - really translate into a tablespoon??? Because the last thing I want to do is give bogus measurements, and then a dish that you may want to try to make turns out to be horrible. It further complicates things when I keep switching back and forth between metric and US measurements in my head while cooking, especially when baking. I lean towards metric. Panda calls me a communist. This is okay. But I don't want to be an inaccurate communist. I at least want my propaganda to be tasty. So I try my best to recall what was done and with what, and now we have just resolved to relax about the blog. 

If you take away anything from our posts, it's simply that we love to cook. I personally get things wrong quite often. I don't know nuthin' 'bout no chef techniques. We just want you to enjoy our posts, and perhaps each of our dishes and combinations thereof will inspire you to mix and match foods that you didn't think were possible before. Korean ribs with biryani? Of course. Sorpotel on a hotdog? Yes. Spicy chicken curry with spaghetti? Definitely. So thank you for sticking around, and read on. 

Spinach soup.
Delicious and healthy.

This right here, is the bees knees. And credit goes to one of my best friends. It's the easiest, quickest, and most delicious soup to make. It's her go-to, and it is now mine. I tweaked it a bit, adding thyme and cumin. The following makes about 4 normal-sized servings.

Half a large onion, rough chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped or sliced.
2 Tbs light olive oil
1 Tbs butter
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg, adjust as needed
10 oz pack of frozen packed spinach
1 pint of good unsalted chicken stock (I used Panda's homemade stock)
Salt and sugar to taste
Half a lemon

Fry the onions and garlic in the oil and butter on a low-medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the thyme, cumin, nutmeg. Stir, and then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, and then throw in the spinach. Add some salt and sugar to taste. Reduce the heat and let it simmer on low-medium heat for about 10 minutes to let the flavors come together. Then grab a hand blender and buzz it all up until smooth. Taste again and adjust seasoning with salt, sugar, nutmeg. Turn off the heat. I added a squeeze or two of lemon to brighten it up a bit - again, adjust according to your preference. You don't end up tasting the lemon, but it somehow lightened it just a touch, or maybe it's just in my head. You can add a quarter cup heavy cream to it but it already tastes pretty rich and satisfying without any. And that's it! You can also change things around, and just buzz up all the raw ingredients in a blender first, and then simmer the blended soup on the stove top. As with most soups, this tasted even better the next day.

Salmon patties.

We had the soup as a starter, followed by brown rice, dal (Indian spiced lentils), and salmon cakes. For the salmon cakes, I used the following ingredients:

Half a large onion, finely chopped
5-6 curry leaves, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Half a medium tomato, finely chopped
1 yellow squash, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon mild chilli powder 
A handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
3 Thai chillies, chopped (optional)
Light olive oil
1 large can (14.75 oz) of good pink salmon, any large bones removed (or use freshly cooked salmon. I used a can of wild Alaskan salmon.)
Salt to taste
1 lemon

Fry the onion, curry leaves, garlic and tomato in oil, until the onions start to turn translucent. Then add the yellow squash - I included squash for some sweetness. Season with salt. Once the squash looks nearly done, which will be fairly quickly, add the spices and stir fry for a further 2 minutes or so until fragrant, and then turn off the heat. Add the cilantro and Thai chillies into the mix. I prefer to add the chillies at the end so that they retain their fresh spicy flavor. Once cooled, I used my hands to mix and lightly mash in a can of salmon along with 1 egg. I also mixed in freshly grated lemon peel (about 1 lemon) and one squeeze of lemon juice. Salmon is quite rich, so lemon helps. Taste and season with more salt if necessary. 

Formed into patties, dunked in panko, and pan fried. I got 7 decently sized patties out of 1 can of salmon.
Pretty good!

Mango: "I'm making soup. The weather is going to be awful all week. A high of -1 today."
Panda: "WHAT?!"
Mango: "Celsius."
Panda: "Oh. Communist."