Feb 1, 2007

February 2007

Hello All;

I have been very busy for the last couple of months, and so I do apologize for those of you waiting for new recipes and information.

Having moved into a rental in El Dorado Hills, we got in, stayed for 6 months, and purchased a new home last month. Will be moving in February 8 and can't wait to get settled. It is very disheartening not to be able to unpack your favorite saute or roasting pan. Or to be able to find your favorite platter for serving....But the new house has a huge kitchen, with alot of great entertainment areas through out the house. Now, I can finally find my Le Creuset pots I did not have room to unpack!

Further adventures in cooking:
Which brings me to braising: some of you do not know what braising is, and alot of you do. Here at Cafe Luna, Josh and I both have a love for slow braised dishes. The flavors and tenderness that comes out of these long-cooked dishes is simply outstanding:, comforting, warm, and delicious.

And something people are always assuming is hard. Braising could not be easier or more enjoyable for the home cook - beginner or experienced.

Braising (from the French word "braiser") is cooking with "moist heat," typically in a covered pot with a small amount of liquid which results in rich, concentrated flavors.

Braising relies on heat, time, and moisture to successfully break down tough connective tissue in meat and is an ideal way to cook tougher cuts. Think your favorite pot roast recipe, or brisket. In our case here at the Cafe, we love braising short-ribs (see last letter's recipe), our lamb shanks, Osso Bucco, and some of the wonderful braised chicken dishes.

You quickly brown your meat item on all sides, remove from the pan, and with the bits on the bottom of the pan, you finish your vegetables, add your stock, wine or liquids, replace the meats, bring to a medium simmer, cover, reduce heat and place in a 300 -325 degree oven for 1-4 hours depending on the size.

A good, heavy casserole is so important. Le Creuset brand is my personal favorite. I like this brand because it is cast iron covered with an impermeable enameled surface that is easy to clean, and look great to serve in. Expensive, but something you will be passing on to your loved ones when you are gone. I may be taking mine with me....where ever I go, I figure I will try to cook my way out of what ever situation I have gotten myself into....
(TonyMatthews on Main Street in Placerville carries several of the pieces, and they will be able to show you what else is available if you want to check them out.)

Recently, we hosted a Mexican Party night at the house. We made pork taco's. What we did different was we took the pork roast, browned it and then cooked the meat for 4 hours at 300 degrees in a mixture of stock, peppers, oranges, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and chipotle chiles. This meat, after the 4 hours low cooking time, came out so tender that we were able to shred it with a fork. While we were shredding the meat, the remaining juices from the meat was placed on the stove and reduced down about 1/2 to further concentrate these flavors. I pureed the sauce, drizzled some over the shredded meat and served the remaining sauce on the side.

The main issue here: one pot to do almost all of these steps. And the seal on the pot ensures the flavors are all in the finished product, and not lost to the atmosphere (space must smell soo good...).

Gary and I along with four of our greatest friends got to go on another vacation last month. We went to a little beach town called Trancones in Mexico, about 20 miles from Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. This town is a quiet little place with no bars on the windows, many little taquerias (little fast food restaurants Mexican style) and several incredible finds. We went to a place called " El Burro Borracho" ( The Drunken Mule). http://www.burroborracho.com/index.html Without a doubt, I had the best quesidilla I have ever experienced. Fresh corn tortillas, layered with small char-broiled prawns, pan-sauteed wild mushrooms, and a wonderful cheese called "Oaxaca" cheese. It is nutty and buttery and perfectly melted between the three layers of tortillas. It was outstanding! We all agreed it was the best! (The six margaritas had nothing to due with our judgment. I take these things very seriously...)

The place we stayed at was was Casa de la Sirena (House of the Mermaid). If I can say one thing about traveling, it would be go here for an incredible vacation! Check out their website at : http://www.casadelasirena.net/. Debbie and Mike are perfect hosts, and they love to visit and talk and happen to be two of the most enjoyable people you could find. They live in the Sacramento area when not in Mexico, and I can tell you that their place is absolutely lovely! On the beach, unobstructed views of the ocean, a beach that goes for miles, and very private. We all needed a rest, and so we did not even rent a car. I read three books in one week (heaven!), Gary and Mike got as tan as the natives, the rest of us drank, ate, and became beach bums like we were meant to be (in another life maybe.)

While we were there, we were offered fresh fish to purchase daily. There is a great staff of two (one named Maria, is available to cook any food you would like. She cooks it and charges you $4-5 and has it on your stove when you return from what ever adventure you may have gone to.) Jesus was our all-around pool guy, yard man and get what ever else we needed. We were able to get incredible prawns, fresh from the ocean at about $4.00 a pound. The six of us in two nights, ate six pounds! We grilled them, we boiled them, we ate them in salads, soups and snacks. It was great.

Which leads me to this months recipes:
We are running a great prawn dish I have named Prawns ala Casa de la Sirena.
This dish could not be simpler, yet more flavorful. You see, in Mexico, Gary and I have been to many restaurants there and always like to try different regions versions of shrimp, prawns, and shell fish. The main thing we have noticed: Mexican cooks love to grill their prawns in the shells. The reason? There is so much flavor to be derived from this bit of shell that it makes the difference between good and great. What we have done is cut the whole prawns down the center along the spine shell (not the leg area).

Keeping the body intact, we then will take a skewer (wood or metal) and weave it in through the outside shell, through the body and then out the other outside shell. We usually skewer 3 to 4 per skewer. We then baste them with a quick mix of fresh citrus juices, zest, pureed roasted peppers, and butter.

Then we place them, shell side down, on our hot char-broiler. At home, you could do these on the barbecue, or use your ovens top broiler, keeping the prawns about 6" to 8" away from the heat. (You want hot heat to cook them quickly, and to retain their natural juiciness.) We cook them until you can smell the shell cooking, and believe me you will. The shell will get a vivid orange/pink, and the top meat will begin to just start getting white around the outside edges.
At this point, turn them over. Cook for maybe two to three minutes more, and remove them to your serving platter, shell side down.
Serve them with a dipping butter (recipe included) or a great citrus vinaigrette. Simple, and delicious.

Have about 25 new wines on the wine menu which I will be talking about in our next letter.
As always, our dinner menu is attached in Word format, along with the Prawns recipe.

Enjoy and thank you all for your support.
Have a happy Valentines Day, and kiss someone heartily.

David at Cafe Luna(tic)

No comments: