Stove-top Macaroni & Cheese with Broccoli

This was a weird one. I was pretty doubtful about the method, but the result was unquestionably fabulous. We’ve been on a bit of a broccoli kick of late – I would go so far as to double the broccoli and halve the pasta. I found the original here by way of Tastespotting, but I lightly steamed my broccoli, making my version use more than one pot. The recipe below details what I did.

4 1/2 c/1.125 l water, plus more as needed
1 lb/500 g broccoli, cut into small florets
3 T butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz/350 ml evaporated milk
1/2 t salt
1 lb/500 g short tube pasta
3/4 t cornstarch
1/2 t smoked paprika (pimentón)
1/2 t dry mustard
12 oz/350 g shredded cheddar cheese

Pour 1 cup/250 ml water into a small saucepan and set a steamer basket filled with broccoli in it. Cover with tight lid and steam over medium low heat for 5 minutes or until broccoli is bright green. Set aside when finished (if you like, shock the broccoli by pouring it into an icebath slightly before the desired texture is achieved).

In a large dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until translucent and fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Turn heat to medium and add the remaining 3 1/2 cups/875 ml of water, 1 cup/8 oz/250 ml of the milk, salt and pasta. Stirring frequently, bring to a rapid boil. Turn heat down to simmer and cook pasta for 7-9 minutes, always stirring, until pasta is barely undercooked and liquid thickens slightly.

Whisk remaining 1/2 cup/125 ml of milk with cornstarch, paprika and mustard. Stir into pasta and continue to simmer until sauce is well thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove pasta from heat and stir in shredded cheese, a handful at a time, until completely melted. Add broccoli and stir until well coated. Serve immediately or allow to sit for 5 minutes for sauce to thicken.

Rhubarb Sour Cream Cake

I am reminded yearly of how much I love rhubarb when I see that long pinky-red celery show up in the spring. While shopping for groceries last week, I saw the rhubarb and bought it. With no plan. This is not something I do. A storage-challenged kitchen means that nothing comes in without a plan for consumption. But the rhubarb is in, which means all descends into chaos.

The recipe is here and I didn’t change anything. I would bake it for the longer amount of time. The finished product was a little too moist in the middle, and that might be due to rhubarb’s tendency to be juicy as all get-out. This is gorgeous as a coffee cake. And don’t skip the topping: it makes a wonderful texture for the top crust.

1/4 c (50 g) room temperature butter
1 1/2 (315 g) c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 1/3 c (322 g) flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 c (200 g) sour cream
4 c rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 c (52 g) white sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg

In a bowl, blend butter and brown sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture alternately with the sour cream. Stir in rhubarb. Spoon into a buttered 9×13″ pan. Sprinkle with topping. Bake at 350° F/175° C for 50-60 minutes.

Blasted Broccoli with Polenta and Smoked Paprika Dressing

So, there hasn’t been a whole lot of action on the ol’ Regensblog of late. Daily life has been consuming, yet not interesting enough to blog about. Speaking of consuming though, we’re on a new recipe hot-streak. In the interest of not losing track of these, I’m going to start posting them. Because while you all are welcome to the recipe database, it’s basically there for me to keep track of things.

This one is ridiculously easy and fast. I am a very slow cook and I managed to prepare both the dressing and polenta fully while the broccoli was roasting. Plus, it can go fully vegetarian if you use vegetable broth and vegan if you cut out the butter and cheese. You don’t have to make the dressing, but the tang of the vinegar and deep smokiness of the paprika really adds something special! The inspiration came from this recipe. If you’re eating the broccoli alone or as a side, use the almonds (regular blanched almonds are fine).

1 pound fresh broccoli florets
2 T olive oil
pinch salt
1/4 c olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t sweet smoked paprika
2 T sherry vinegar
pinch salt
4 c chicken broth
1 T butter
1 1/2 c polenta
1/2 t ground pepper
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425° F/218° C. Toss the broccoli with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Spread broccoli florets on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.

While the broccoli is going, make the dressing. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over low heat until well warmed, then add garlic and paprika (garlic should not sizzle), stir well, remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. With vinegar and salt in a small bowl, add infused oil through a fine sieve to remove solids and whisk lightly.

For the polenta, bring the broth and butter to a gentle simmer over medium low heat. Whisk in the polenta, stirring constantly and turn heat to low. Add pepper and cheese, stir well for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to stand for three minutes. Serve a couple of scoops of polenta topped with broccoli and a drizzle of dressing.

WEBMU 2012: Berlin or Münster?

Well, we sort checked out of the blogging game, didn’t we? Sorry about that.

We have a good excuse, though. All blogging energy has gone toward getting the WEBMU city selection up and running. This year’s candidates are Berlin and Münster, so two very different flavors of meetup are on the table. Do you live in Germany and blog in English? Come on over to the discussion board and sign up. If you already have a login (even from the old board), make your voice heard! There’s room for questions or discussion if you’re on the fence. Be sure to sign in to see the planning and voting topics. Voting will run until Sunday, April 1 (not even kidding), so get your vote in soon. And please, spread the word!

WEBMU 2012 Location Selection

Over on the new meetup board, some discussion is already happening about where this year’s WEBMU should take place. So far, Berlin is the only city in the running. Do you want to show off your adopted hometown? Propose a different location? Or just add more support to the Berlin team? Whatever your proclivity, visit

You should be able to use your login and password from the old board. If that doesn’t work, let us know. We’ll try to fix it.

No idea what we’re talking about? This link explains it all!

PSA: DST went into effect in the USA this morning

Hey y’all expatriates with peeps in the States and Canada — don’t forget that they’re an hour closer to you in time now, thanks to Daylight Savings Time.

Take advantage of the extra hour and get an earlier call in to your friends and family. Or just recognize that they just lost an hour and might be cranky about it (for the next seven months or so).

Either way, don’t forget!

And, if you’re in Europe (except Belarus, Iceland, and Russia), we spring forward on the last Sunday in March, so don’t go changing your clocks just yet. And if you’re a Linux user, run your package manager (if you don’t roll your own) to make sure you’ve got the latest tzdata package installed, too.

Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream

Yield: slightly less than one 1 quart

Adapted from: David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Ice Cream

Result: Excellent!

This is a milk chocolate flavor. I love that there’s no “don’t let it boil” admonishment and no eggs involved (which you have to cook, but not cook into scrambled eggs while shooting for custard). Go for a nice 50%-70% cocoa content in the chocolate bar. It doesn’t have to be richer than that.

We did the variation that David Lebovitz mentions on his site (resulting from a typo in the book, originally) and are sticking with that because of the extra smooth and dense texture, and a more intense chocolate flavor (owing to the reduced sugar) — more like a chocolate gelato than homemade chocolate ice cream.

Extra trickiness for European kitchens: you need ice (yeah, frozen water) around to make an ice bath near the end of the batter preparation. I’m not sure what other methods you could use to lower your batter temperature while keeping it pourable, but if you have some ideas, please share them in the comments! Before we got our stand-up chest freezer, we never had room in our two midget fridges to keep ice cubes around at the ready. But now we do.

Ingredients

1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
4 teaspoons corn starch
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream — we used whipping cream (Schlagsahne)
1 cup (250 ml) evaporated milk
1/2 cup (100 gr) sugar
2 tablespoons (60 gr) light corn syrup
1/3 cup (35 gr) unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process
3 ounces (85 gr) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Make a slurry by mixing a few tablespoons of the milk with the corn starch in a small bowl, until smooth.
  2. In a 4-quart (4l) saucepan, heat the rest of the milk, cream, evaporated milk, sugar, and corn syrup. When the mixture comes to a moderate boil, whisk in the cocoa powder, then let it cook at a modest boil for 4 minutes.
  3. After four minutes, whisk in the corn starch slurry then continue to cook for one minute, stirring constantly with a spatula, until slightly thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate and salt, stirring until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Make an ice bath: Find a smaller metal bowl that will fit into a larger metal bowl. Add ice, along with some cold water, to the larger bowl then set the smaller bowl into the ice. Pour the ice cream mixture into the smaller bowl and stir until completely cool.

    The original recipe suggests pouring the batter into a zip-top bag and then submerging the bag in an ice bath for 30 minutes, and we tried this, but it was a PITA to get the batter out of the bag and into the ice cream dasher. And you waste a zip-top plastic bag in the process (either because you cut the corner to squeeze it out, like a pastry bag, or because it’s impossible to get all the batter out of the bag for any possible reuse).

    Next time, we’ll use the alternative method with the two metal bowls he mentions (above).

  6. Pour the now-cooled batter into the canister of an ice cream maker, then freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a shallow container. This is a good time to sprinkle stuff on top. We used chocolate shavings, but I think we’ll go with slivered almonds next time for a contrasting flavor. Freeze it for a few hours. Portions will be necessarily small (we’re talking about less than a quart here), but that’s OK given the richness.

Hong Kong Trip, Part 5: Only in Hong Kong

In February 2012, we flew to Hong Kong for about a week. This was our first (non-business) trip to Asia. You can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 to catch up.

Right after we took the plunge to try a vacation in Asia, we asked for your tips. Thanks — those were all very helpful.

Owing to seasonal, weather-related, or interest constraints, we didn’t

  • go to Ocean Park
  • go to Hong Kong Disneyland
  • spend much time in Kowloon
  • go to Macau
  • go to Lamma Island
  • walk the circular path around the Peak
  • hike around in the mountains
  • sail in the harbor
  • take in the view from any skyscrapers
  • check out other regions of Hong Kong Island like Stanley and Aberdeen

But we did

  • check out the Wan Chai wet market
  • visit the Peak via a tram trip
  • walk around Central at noon on a weekday just to get lost in the crowd.
  • try out the Mid-Levels Escalators to watch the demographics change on our way up and down the hill.
  • stay a week and say “Whew!” at the end of it.

We managed to take in a couple of sights available only in Hong Kong.

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha Is Watching You

We took a ferry from the Central Piers to Lantau Island, and from there we took the bus about 35 minutes up the mountainside. Getting out at the top, we walked past a bunch of touristy junk stands and a few street food stands and a saddening number of feral dogs on our way to the stairway leading up to the world’s largest, outdoor, seated Buddha statue.

It’s not a particularly old monument. In fact, arriving in Hong Kong from a town founded in A.D. 179, nothing seems particularly old. But inside the statue, we found some much older tapestries and scrolls on display in the museum, and commemorations of the brotherhood between the local monastery mainland Chinese and Indian Buddhists. Almost everything written there was in Chinese, so not a lot of insight for us. But it was pleasant enough to be walking around in Buddha’s lap.

Purchasing entry to do the museum inside the statue also entitles you to a monk’s lunch. This was a vegan sampling of soup, oily vegetables and rice. A little on the bland side, but nearly free, and the dining hall was nearly empty, as not many visitors bothered to make the trip at all given the foggy weather. Contributing to the cloudy conditions in my shots below were the largest incense sticks I’ve ever seen (check the last photo).


Yuen Po Street Bird Garden

Our Frommer’s guide recommended a stroll through the flower market for the sights and then the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden for the sounds. We found many hundreds — probably thousands, actually — of caged birds for sale or just out for a stroll with their little old men owners. Apparently song birds need to socialize, too. And eat, which explains the abundance of live bird food also available for sale.

Our Favorite Shots

And thus wraps up our Hong Kong Trip series. There was plenty to see, and while we’re grateful for the lack of rain the entire time we were there, it would have been nice to get some more sun in our Big Buddha or harbor scenes. Hong Kong was supposed to be our tip-toeing into Asia, and for that it worked very well. I’m sure it’s not very representative of the rest of the region — how could it be? — but even in its own right, the mixture of British Colonial leftovers, modern metropolitan infrastructure, and Cantonese culture certainly stands out as worthy of exploration. It wore us out (I’m sure we never really got over the jetlag), but we are very glad to have made the trip.

Here are some of our favorite shots from the trip. Some of these are repeats from earlier posts and some are shown only here.

Bolognese Sauce

I am certain that this a bastardization of ‘true’ Bolognese sauce, but I kind of don’t care. I’ve read about a hundred recipes for this and, based on that, came up with a sauce that incorporates those techniques and adds stuff I like (and it was a great use of my leftover cheese rind!). It takes a good couple of hours, but much of that is inactive time, just needing a stir every so often.

3 T olive oil
soup meat, beef or pork, one large chunk (250 g/0.5 lb)
soup bone, at least one with a good amount of marrow
1 lb (500 g) ground beef and pork
onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 large or two small carrots, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, put through garlic press
4 T tomato paste
pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t dried thyme
1 c full-bodied red wine (Montepulciano, Valpolicella, etc.)
1 bottle crushed tomatoes (680 g)
2 c chicken or beef stock
3/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 Parmesan cheese rind
pinch salt (optional)
pinch sugar (optional)
1 c cream or whole milk (optional)

In a large, heavy pot, heat oil to medium high. When it just starts smoking, add soup meat and bones, until you get a good sear on all sides of the meat. Turn heat down to medium and add ground meat, cooking until no longer pink, but not browned. Be sure to break up any large chunks.

Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Cook mixture, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables have softened and shrunk considerably. Stir in tomato paste, distributing well, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add nutmeg, pepper, thyme and wine, stir well and allow to cook down until 3/4 reduced.

Add tomatoes, chicken stock and parsley, stir well and bring to a gentle boil. Drop in cheese rind, turn heat down to medium low and allow sauce to simmer and thicken for at least one hour, stirring occasionally. While simmering, check the marrow bone – when the marrow is softened all the way through, push it out and stir into the sauce. Taste sauce after one hour and add salt or sugar (to taste). If using, stir in milk or cream and continue simmering for 30 minutes to an hour more. When finished, discard cheese rind, soup meat (it will be very tough) and bones. Serve over pasta or use as lasagna filling.

*Most recipes start with pancetta. I thought I had enough meat already, but I imagine it would taste great if you really want to go crazy. The milk/cream is a texture thing. Some people feel it blunts the meaty flavor of the sauce. Nothing could blunt the meatiness of this stuff. I blame the marrow.