Geek Chef

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Mirepoix June 10, 2009

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 8:51 pm
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From wikipedia: Mirepoix (pronounced /mɪər ˈpwɑː/) is the French name for a combination of onions, carrots, and celery celeriac). Traditionally, the ratio for mirepoix is 2:1:1 of onions, celery, and carrots. These three ingredients are commonly referred to as aromatics.

Mirepoix derives its name, as do many other elements of French cuisine[1], from the patron of the chef who established it – in this case one of the house of Lévis, seigneurs of Mirepoix since the eleventh century and a famous name in Languedoc.[2

Those simple ingredients make the base of most stocks, soups, stews and sauces.  As far as culinary holy trinities go, mirepoix – in my opinion – is second only to garlic, onion and extra virgin olive oil. It is safe to say I am a fan.

Mirepoix is standard in many cuisines and can be found in many supermarkets packaged together, pre-chopped. I believe that pre-chopped mirepoix is a sin. But it’s one of those minor sins, like red meat on the sabbath. I do it all the time, for the sake of time, but I do not recommend it for the more delicate dishes. Take the time and chop the ingredients, it adds love to the food and that is the best ingredient. </soapbox>

Tonight’s dish is not French, but uses celery, carrots and onion the way is was intended. The following recipe is for Australian shepherd’s pie. NOTE: no Australian Shepherds were harmed in the making of this meal! This is the Aussie version of an English classic, traditionally using lamb but beef and turkey work equally well. This is a popular dish with the men in my life, and I would assume works just as well with kids. It is a meat and potato meal, while slipping in a good deal of veggies.

Another thing to note, I make my version using ketchup. Tomato paste, tomato sauce or ketchup, it’s been greatly debated and I stand by my choice. It’s the same question with Pad Thai and my answer is the same there. I just like the way it makes stuff taste.

Now, on to the food…

Aussie Shepherd’s Pie

1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
1 lbs ground meat
2 tbs flour
2 cups Beef stock
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 dried bay leaf
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs ketchup

For Mashed Potato Topping:
4 potatoes, cubed
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk

Sauté onion, carrot and celery in a large saucepan with olive oil for 5 minutes or until soft. Add ground meat, stirring occasionally to break up lumps, for 5 minutes or until the meat changes color. Sprinkle the flour and cook for 2 minutes or until combined. Add stock, bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and zucchini. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a large pot cook potatoes until tender. Drain well. Return to the pan, add butter and mash with a potato masher or fork until smooth. Add milk and stir until incorporated. Season to taste and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350.

Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with breadcrumbs, then add the meat mixture. Pipe the mashed potatoes on top of the mixture to make the “crust”. I make a piping bag out of a large ziploc – fill bag and cut the corner. Bake until the top is brown and the filling is bubbly.



Fall Harvest October 29, 2007

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 12:37 pm
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My next delivery of organic produce is coming on Wednesday and it is root tastic! It really reflects the season and I’m looking forward to my starchy, earthy meals.

Here’s whats in the ‘bullpen’
Acorn Squash
Bagged Baby Spinach
Crimini Mushrooms
Dandelion Greens
Delicata Squash
Globe Eggplant
Purple Top Turnips
Sweet Potato
Varietal Mixture Summer Squash

The starting lineup:

Braised Turnips

1 lb. turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/4 lb. bacon
1/4 c. onion, minced
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 c. chicken stock
pinch of sugar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp. parsley, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Blanch the turnips in boiling salty water for 1 minute. Drain the turnips in a colander, run them under running cold water and pat them dry. In a large skillet, saute diced bacon until crisp and drain. Add to the skillet onions and butter and cook until onions are soft. Add the turnips, chicken stock, sugar and salt. Toss the mixture cook covered, over moderately low heat for 15 minutes or until turnips are tender. Cook the mixture uncovered, stirring until the liquid is gone. Add bacon, parsley, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

Chicken Celery and Parsnip Stew

1 lb. chicken breast – cut into chunks
1/2 lb. parsnips
2 med. onions, chopped
3/4 lb. celery, chopped
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. flour
1 c. chicken stock or low-sodium bouillon, or water
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 to 3/4 tsp. thyme
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Start chicken cooking in stock or bouillon on medium heat with parsley, bay leaf and thyme for about 15 to 20 min – depending on the thickness of the chicken pieces. Peel the parsnips and chop into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. Melt the butter in a large saucepan; add the onions and celery, sauteing until golden but not browned. Mix in the flour, let cook for 2 minutes, and add parsnips, carefully add soup. Stir, cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Remove the bay leaf, season with pepper to taste and serve.

Sweet and Sour Dandelion Greens

1 lb. dandelion greens
1/2 lb. sliced bacon
1/3 c. + 3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1 raw egg
2-3 hard boiled eggs

Thoroughly wash dandelion greens and tear in half. Set aside. In skillet, saute bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Reserve 4 tablespoons bacon drippings and put in medium saucepan. Stir in sugar, flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Gradually stir in 1/2 cup water and vinegar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened and comes to a boil.

In small bowl, with wire whisk or fork, beat egg well. Gradually beat in some of hot mixture. Return to rest of mixture in saucepan. Bring to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil gently for 4 minutes. Break crisp bacon into bite sized pieces and slice hard boiled eggs. Add with dandelion greens to boiling mixture. Stir several times or until greens are slightly wilted. Serve immediately.

I also harvested 2 lbs of kumquats. I plan on making more bread, it was so tasty… and maybe some marmalade?


Too Much Celery September 18, 2007

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 5:05 pm
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I’m noticing a trend here… First I had too many Kumquats, now celery. I might just start up my own produce market.

Here is a simple and tasty way to polish off a head (is that the right term?) of celery.

Braised Celery with Parmesan

1 head celery with leaves, ribs separated
1 cup chicken broth, low-sodium canned or homemade, or water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 to 12 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds, optional
1 sprig thyme, optional
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Trim off the tough bottoms of the celery ribs. Split the ribs lengthwise and cut into 2 to 3-inch long pieces. Chop 2 tablespoons of the celery leaves, toss the rest or save for stocks, etc.

In a medium skillet, add celery, broth, olive oil, garlic, celery seeds and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, and then adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Set a lid slightly ajar on the skillet (so steam can escape). Cook until the celery is tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Remove the celery and reduce the cooking liquid. Remove the thyme sprig, and pour the cooking liquid over the celery, sprinkle with the cheese and serve.

This one makes my eastern European heart happy… Oscar Meyer makes a nice packaged precooked chicken cubes that would be perfect for this. There is a lot a salt in the seasoning, so keep that in mind when you salt the celery.

Spaetzle with Chicken and Poached Celery Hearts

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs beaten
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound cooked chicken, diced
6 celery hearts
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup white wine
Salt and pepper

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well and mix in eggs and milk. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Dampen a plastic cutting board and place dough mixture on it. Cut off strips of dough into water and cook for 3 minutes. Drain spaetzle, rinse under cold water, and set aside.

Cut hearts in half lengthwise. Boil celery in salted water until fork tender, about 5 minutes and shock in cold water. Warm up butter in saute pan and saute celery until golden brown, about 2 minutes over low heat. Add white wine, salt, and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.

In a large skillet heat up butter and saute spaetzle until lightly brown. Toss with chicken and garnish with poached celery.