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White Bean Soup with Kale December 26, 2010

Posted by pcorcoran in Recipe, Soup.
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1 lb. dried cannellini beans
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 stick butter
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 cups chicken broth
2 qt water
2-inch cube Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 lb smoked chicken sausage
8 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lb kale, stems and center ribs discarded, leaves coarsely chopped

Time to prepare: 1 hour + overnight

Difficulty: 1/10

Serves: 6

Cover beans with water by 2 inches in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, 1 hour. Drain beans in a colander and set aside.

Return pot to stove. Cook onions in oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. (Don’t let onions and garlic brown.)

Add beans, broth, 1 quart water, shaved cheese, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary and simmer, uncovered, until beans become tender, about 50 minutes.

While soup is simmering, brown sausage (if using) in batches in a heavy skillet. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Stir carrots into soup and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in butter, kale, and sausage. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Remove soup from heat. Cover and let sit overnight. Reheat covered soup slowly before serving, stirring often.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance August 30, 2009

Posted by pcorcoran in Books, Personal, Technology.
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I am re-reading Robert Pursig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” almost exactly 20 years after I first read it. I’m finding it just as profound and transcendental now as I remember it being then. (I can say this about very few things which moved me deeply 20 years ago). There are passages in the book where I feel like they were written *just for me* to discover.

It was written in 1974. But even though he opines greatly on the effects that rapid technological changes have upon modern society, I don’t feel like the essence of his message is in any way anachronistic. Amazing.

There are so many great passages, so many brilliant quotes that if I sent them all to each of the people who I feel most needs to hear them, I’d end up quoting about half the book. Maybe I’ll just end up quoting a few here and there every now and then….

Duck Breast and Wild Mushroom Chili, con frijoles April 18, 2009

Posted by pcorcoran in Duck, Entree, Mushrooms, Recipe, Soup.
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Breasts from 4 Pekin ducks, boneless and skinless
3-1/2 lbs. tomatoes, chopped
1 lb. yellow onion, coarsely chopped
12 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. Gebhardt chili powder
3 tbsp. Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground sumac
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. sesame oil

12 oz. fresh wild mushrooms *
3 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. cumin seed
1/2 tsp. coriander seed
1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1 lb. dried pinto beans
2 dried California chiles, shredded
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 habanero pepper
2 qt. chicken stock
5 tbsp. sherry vinegar
juice of 2 limes
2 cups Italian parsley, coarse chop

Duck Prep:
Dice the duck breasts.  Heat sesame oil in large stock pot on medium-high heat.  Add duck and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.  Add onions and garlic, cook for another 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, chili powder, paprika, oregano, sumac, onion powder and garlic powder.  Stir, reduce heat to medium, cover.  Stir every few minutes and prepare mushrooms.

Mushroom Prep:
Clean and chop the mushrooms.  In a small skillet, toast cumin seed and coriander seed over medium flame until displaying first signs of smoking.  Remove from heat, let cool for a minute.  Grind the spices in a mortar and pestle, and set aside.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in large skillet.  Add chopped mushrooms; add dried thyme and toasted spice mix.  Cook mushrooms until they have released most of their moisture, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat; add mushrooms to duck and tomato mixture.

Add chicken stock and 2 cups water to main stock pot.  Bring to a boil at maximum heat, stirring often.  Once boiling, add dried beans, dried chiles, black peppercorns, bay leaf, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons vinegar.  Add one cup parsley.  Mix.

Reduce heat to medium for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  For spicy chili, chop habanero pepper finely and add to stock pot.  For a milder chili, place the whole habanero pepper in a tea ball or cloth spice sack.

Reduce to very low heat, cover chili pot, and let cook for 8 hours.  Keep covered.  Stir thoroughly every 30-60 minutes.  Add water as needed if chili becomes too dry.

After 8 hours, remove the bay leaf from the chili.  Remove the habanero pepper if steeping in a tea ball, squeezing the juices back into chili and stirring well.  Salt the chili to taste.

Remove chili from heat and let cool to room temperature for a few hours or overnight.  (It’s ok to let it stand covered overnight at normal room temperatures.)

Before serving, bring chili back to a boil and stir in remaining cup chopped parlsey.  Enjoy.


* For mushrooms, I used a combination of Hen of the Woods, King Oyster, and White Beech.  The White Beech retained their shape through the entire cook, so if you like seeing cute little mushrooms in your chili, this might be for you.  The other two varieties disappearing into the mix and therefore probably added more to the overall flavor.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Lentils December 10, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Entree, Lamb, Recipe.
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3-4 lamb shanks (about 1 lb. each)
1 red onion
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 canned whole tomatoes
5 cups chicken stock
1-1/4 cups lentils (about 1/2 lb.)
1-1/2 tbsp. chopped thyme
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 tbsp. curry powder
2 tbsp. olive oil
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Dust lamb shanks with salt and pepper.  Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven.  Brown the lamb thoroughly, about 6-8 minutes per side.  Cook in two batches to prevent crowding, if necessary.  Remove lamb and set aside.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to Dutch oven and cook until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic and curry powder and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add 1 tbsp. of thyme and 1 bay leaf.  Stir in tomatoes and 2 cups of stock.  Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen browned bits.  Boil for 5 minutes.

Return lamb shanks to pot.  Return liquid to a simmer.  Cover pot with parchment paper and close the lid as tightly as possible.  Cook lamb in the oven for one hour.  Turn lamb and cook for another hour.

While lamb is braising, parboil the lentils.  Bring 3 cups stock and 3 cups water to a boil.  Add lentils, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the remaining thyme and bay leaf.  Return to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain lentils and spread them evenly over a large plate, allowing them to cool to room temperature.

After lamb has braised for 2 hours, remove lamb shanks and transfer them to a plate.  Stir lentils into the braising liquid, mix well, and return lamb shanks to the pot.  Cover Dutch oven again with parchment paper and return to the oven to cook for another 30 to 45 minutes, until lentils are tender.

Remove dish from the oven.  Transfer lamb to a holding plate and cover with foil.  Taste lentils for salt and pepper.  Arrange a bed of lentils in a serving plate and nestle the lamb shanks into the lentils.  Sprinkle parsley over the dish and serve.

Time to Prepare: 3 hours

Level of Difficulty: 4/10

Serves: 3-4 people

Brown Rice November 16, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Recipe, Rice.
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1 part brown rice
1-3/4 parts water
1 pinch salt

Boil water with salt in pot with tight-fitting lid.  Add rice and bring water back to boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for 35 minutes without disturbing rice.  Remove from heat when all water has been absorbed.

Sauce Bercy November 16, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Recipe, Sauce.
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4 shallots, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 sprig thyme
3/8 cup seafood or chicken stock
6 tbsp. butter
1/8 cup chopped Italian parsley
squeeze of lemon or lime

Bring wine, shallots and thyme to boil in a medium saucepan.  Reduce liquid by half.  Remove thyme.  Add stock and reduce by half again.  Add butter in chunks of 1 tbsp., whisking to thicken sauce.  Remove sauce from heat, stir in parsley and squeeze of lemon.

Serve over seared scallops, filet mignon, or pan-seared chicken.

Tunisian Lamb Stew with Quince November 10, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in African, Braising, Entree, Lamb, Recipe.
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2 lbs. lamb shoulder, cubed
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp. caraway seeds
1/2 tbsp. cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
6 oz. tomato paste (1 small can)
1 cinnamon stick
Small pinch of saffron
4 cups chicken stock
2 quinces
1 tbsp. honey

Time to Prepare: 3 hours + Overnight marinating.

Difficulty: 4/10

Serves: 4+


1. Toast coriander, caraway, and cumin in a small dry pan until they begin to release their aromas. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.  Crush seeds with mortar and pestle.  Tear chiles into coin-sized pieces.  Combine seeds with garlic, chiles, paprika, and cayenne.  Season lamb with spice mix and 2 tbsp. olive oil.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Bring lamb to room temperature.  Using medium-high heat on the stovetop, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a medium dutch oven.  Brown the lamb cubes in batches until evenly browned, about 10 minutes per batch.  Set aside.

3. Cook onions with 1 tbsp. tomato paste in dutch oven until soft and golden.  Add a splash of chicken stock and deglaze the pot.  Add the remaining chicken stock and tomato paste to the pot, mix well, and bring to a gentle boil.  Add the cinnamon stick and saffron.  Add lamb, reduce to a low simmer, cover.  Cook for 90 minutes.  Check pot every 30 minutes, making sure that the liquid is not cooking off too quickly.  (Add water 1/2 cup at a time to replenish, as necessary.)

4. Wash quinces under cold water.  Slice into eighths and remove the cores.  Stir honey into simmering lamb stew.  Submerge quinces in stew liquid, cover, and cook for another hour.

5. Remove from heat.  Serve over cous cous.

This recipe is adapted from http://www.chow.com/recipes/11148.  Proportions and ingredients were adjusted to suit my whimsy.

Braised Endives November 9, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Recipe, Side Dish, Veggies.
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2 lbs. Belgian endives
1 c. water
3 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. toasted cumin seed (optional)
freshly ground black pepper

Quarter the endives lengthwise.  Combine the other ingredients in a bistro pan and bring to a boil.  Add endives, cover, and cook at medium heat for 10 minutes.  Remove cover, increase heat and boil off liquid until endives are almost dry.  Serve immediately, or remove endives from heat and hold, covered, for up to 15 minutes.

Variant: substitute one 1 teaspoon bacon drippings for one of the tablespoons of butter.

Dark ‘n Stormy August 19, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Cocktail, Recipe.
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1-1/2 oz. fine dark rum
4-1/2 oz. strong ginger beer
cube ice
squeeze lime

The Dark ‘n Stormy is an elemental highball: a liquor and a mixer over ice, with a garnish.  Only martinis are more basic.  But the fewer ingredients there are in a drink, the more important the balance between them becomes.

This a simple cocktail to prepare once its character is understood.  It is Bahamian in origin and Bahamian dark rums are preferred for their authenticity.  Any fine cane amber rum or dark rum will have the integrity to pull it off.  The ubiquitous Meyer’s Rum “Original Dark” is an acceptable baseline.

Like many highballs, the quality of the mixer is arguably more important than that of the liquor.  A mediocre ginger beer will ruin this drink, whereas a mediocre rum will merely limit its potential.  A spicy, syrupy, highly-carbonated hand-brewed ginger beer is ideal.  These aren’t easy to come by.  I have found that Stewart’s Ginger Beer is a nicely suited brew which isn’t too rare.  Reed’s Original Ginger Brew is passable, but only when augmented by a few shavings of fresh ginger.  Everyday ginger ale should not even be considered.

The prescribed ratio of mixer-to-liquor for a Dark ‘n Stormy is 3-to-1.  For some highballs the ratio is a suggestion, to be adjusted for taste and experience.  But in my opinion the Dark ‘n Stormy does not shine when it is in any way off-balance; it pays to be careful with the proportions of this drink.

The squeeze of lime is not a classic requirement.  It’s just a suggestion.  But I have yet to taste a Dark ‘n Stormy which wasn’t improved by the balance of a lime offering.

Za’atar July 12, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in African, Recipe, Spices.
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4 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tbsp. dried thyme
4 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbsp. dried sumac

Heat sesame seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until aromatic.  Let cool.  Combine sesame seeds with dried herbs and grind in a mortar and pestle.

Time to Prepare: 5 minutes

Difficulty: 1/10


Za’atar is a spice blend common in Northern Africa and the Middle East.  It is used in cooking and as a table condiment.