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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baby It's Cold Outside

Our latest cold snap has been bitterly cold.  Snow and ice have covered almost everything.  My car windows have been frozen shut for 5 days, which makes entering and exiting parking garages ridiculously difficult.  It's been nice to snuggle warmly inside and gaze at the frozen tundra through frosty windows. 

This kind of weather begs for  slow simmered beef stews, cassoulets, or soup beans with cornbread. Food that warms the house and soul.  Or does it?  Of course it does...sometimes.  Last night, I decided to defy mother nature and eschew that concept.  I wanted to cook something bright and fun.  Something  unexpected.  I needed to shed my flannel pajamas and don my light-as-air Heddy Lamar silk ones, if only for one night.  Grilling was the answer.  Grilling inside, that is.  I had a blast.

I lugged our 25 pound cast iron grill pan from the top shelf of the cabinet and plunked it onto the stove top.  I had a few grilling options and couldn't decide on any of of them, so I simply combined them into a mixed grill with gorgeous fresh-water jumbo prawns, ground italian sausage, roma tomatoes, green peppers, and purple onions.  Skewers.  I threaded  wooden skewers with alternating tomatoes and prawns alongside skewers with rolled italian sausage balls, peppers, and onions.  After battling our kitten during the process, I slid the skewers  into the refrigerator to chill.

I wanted playful side dishes to accompany the mixed grill skewers.  For a fun take on potatoes I decided to roast Hassleback/Accordian potatoes.  With a wee bit of care, they're simple to prepare.  After peeling and rinsing two large potatoes, I carefully sliced slits from one end to the other without cutting all the way through the potatoes. When the oven beeped at 350 degrees, I brushed the potatoes with an olive oil butter combination and slid them into the hot oven to roast. As they roasted, the potatoes fanned out and looked like little potato accordians. Cool.

Although there were snippets of vegetables on the skewers with the meats, I needed more.  I braised radishes.  Yep.  After snipping the ends from the radishes, I halved a few, quartered some, and left the rest whole before tumbling them into a small skillet with slivered purple onions, 3 butter pats, olive oil, honey, 1/4 cup water, salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar.  When the braising liquid reached a boil, I reduced it to a simmer, covered the skillet, and let it bubble away until the radishes were tender.
While the potatoes roasted and the radishes braised, I whipped up a quick fresh chive parsley pesto to accompany the grilled skewers. 

A few glasses of wine later, it was time to fire the grill.  I got our heavy grill pan screaming hot, rubbed it with oil, and carefully placed the prawn/sausage skewers onto the smoking grill ridges of the pan.  It didn't take long for the vegetables, prawns, and sausages to caramelize, blister, and char.  I swiped  ribbons of the fresh chive parsley pesto onto our plates and topped them with the skewers.  I carefully plated the potatoes, nestling the beautiful braised radishes beside them.  On a whim, I brushed the italian sausage with red pepper relish for sheen and sweetness.
Holy Moley!  Flavor explosions.  The prawns were butter tender and sweet with collapsed caramelized tomatoes encasing them.  The  pesto grounded the smoky flavor, bits of char, and succulent prawn meat with nutty herbal undertones. In contrast, the blistered pepper-relish glazed grilled sausages were meaty and moist, rendering their pork juices into puddles on our plates.  Earthy bright pesto swirled with sweet pork fat.  The grilling went quickly which allowed the peppers and onions to retain a caramelized bite.
The accordian potatoes were fantastic with snappingly crisp golden exteriors revealing buttery soft white potato flesh.  They tasted like sauteed potatoes standing at attention.   

The braised radishes were an utter surprize. They completely aborbed the buttery sweet salty braising liquid and turned almost translucent when cooked.  Like edible jewels, they glowed with soft bites releasing a mellow subtle radish flavor. Remarkable, really.  

It was a fun meal.

Although seemingly outlandish, the bold ingredients actually enhanced each other and melded together with  quiet crazy nuance.

Yeah, it was freezing outside.  The heat from our indoor grilling steamed the kitchen windows, creating a heavenly aromatic sauna.

It was a delicious respite from the cold.

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