Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mango Pickle

I'm not sure where you get green mangoes in Cambridge, but summer is y-cumen in, so maybe someone will be selling them.

Since this recipe requires no measuring (just eyeballing), it works even in worlds where the meter stick is less than a meter long, the baker's cup holds a hogshead, and the scoville unit measures the amount of vanilla in a bean. Denizens of inverted spectrum worlds beware: eyeballing may not work properly there.

green mangoes, 5 or so (don't use ripe ones!)
fresh chilis
white vinegar
chili powder
mustard oil, several tablespoons
mustard seeds

Julienne the mangoes and mix them with salt until they are coated. The ideal vessel for this activity is a pan with vertical sides, because you need to press the mangoes to get all the water out. I put a plate on top of them and something heavy (usually an economy-sized tub of vinegar) on top of the plate, then leave them overnight. Once the mangoes are pressed, rinse and drain them. Mix in fresh chilis, white vinegar, chili powder, and asafoetida to taste. Put the mango mixture in whatever container you plan to store it in. Heat the mustard oil over a medium-high stovetop, drop a handful of mustard seeds in, cook them until they pop, and take the mixture off the heat immediately. (I have found that pouring it out of the pan and into another vessel helps prevent burning, if you mess up the timing on the delicate mustard-seed-popping procedure.) Once the mustard oil has cooled, pour it over the mango mixture, seeds and all. If the oil has seeped into all the cracks between the mango bits and still covers the top of the mixture, great; otherwise, add more oil.

Leave the mixture to stew for about a week. (I've heard you can keep it at room temperature, but I always put it in the fridge.) Then share and enjoy.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Brie en croute with porcini and thyme

This is lasciviously heavy. But it's easy to prepare and satisfies the most insatiable fat-tooth. If you like sweet stuff, you can replace the porcini/thyme with honey and toasted almonds or dried cherries or et cetera.

  • 1 wheel of brie
  • 1 sheet of puffed pastry (thawed)
  • some porcini (reconstituted if dried; cleaned and chopped if fresh)
  • fresh thyme, 1 tsp or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • one egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Wash and stem the thyme and saute it in olive oil with the porcini for a couple of minutes.

Half the brie along the flat side to produce two slabs. Set one slab creamy-side up in the center of the puffed pastry. Place the mushrooms on the brie and close the other slab on top. Fold the puffed pastry around the wheel as decoratively as you can manage. Make sure you don't tear the pastry; otherwise brie will ooze uglily out.

Brushed the outside of the brie-filled pastry wheel with the beaten egg. Transfer the wheel to a cookie sheet or casserole dish or whatever and bake it for 20 minutes at 400ºF. Then turn down the oven to 300ºF and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.

I'm not sure how many people this serves. If you try to split the entire wheel between two people, make sure to sleep with the windows open.

Creamy Braised Brussel Sprouts

Emile Durkheim argued that a certain amount of deviance is necessary for the functioning of a healthy society. He thought that order in society needs people to accept social norms, and this in turn requires a certain amount of deviants flouting these norms. Hence, criminals, hipsters, and Vermont. Something like Durkheim's theory had seemed to me the only way to explain the fact that some people incurably and perversely say they enjoy brussel sprouts. These are, of course, invariably nasty crap. However, recently, I have discovered that brussel sprouts are not intrinsically wrong. They merely have the potential for great evil. If you braise them in cream they are actually rather tasty. I also wonder if Durkheim's views of society would have been the same if he had fully reflected on cream's ameliorating influence on just about anything.


1 pound Brussel Sprouts
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 lemon
Coarse salt
Freshly ground white pepper (cooking black pepper in a liquid for too long is meant to make it bitter)

1. Trim the brussel sprouts: cut off base and peel any ragged outer leaves.
2. Cut brussel sprouts into halves, or thirds if they are big.
3. Brown the brussel sprouts: in a large skillet, melt the butter on medium-high heat until it stops foaming, and then add the sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally until sprouts are golden and brown in spots, about 5 minutes.
4. Pour the cream into the skillet, stir, cover and reduce to a slow simmer. Braise until sprouts are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a sharp knife, 30 to 35 minutes.
5. Finish by stirring in a generous squeeze of lemon juice, and adjust seasonings to taste. Simmer uncovered for a few minutes to thicken the cream.

This is from Molly Steven's book "All About Braising", which Alejandro recommended to me, and I can't recommend enough.