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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Nervous Chef Nervously Returns: She's a Meagan!

I wrote today on Hello Giggles about my waffling about secondhand fur and the issues therein. I mentioned my going-back-and-forth on the issue of eating meat, which I have only recently begun to cook with.

However, after becoming a vegetarian recidivist, I moved in with a vegan. So, at home, I mostly cook vegan and eat vegan. Thus, no sooner did my lifestyle start to shift towards cooking meat then it did a double-back to the consideration of veganism. 

Basically, I now consider myself to be a lucky, lucky cheater. I get the benefits of a vegan lifestlye -- a big chunk of what I consume and pretty much everything I cook is vegan (as well as mostly preservative and chemical-free, which is my vegan roomie's main concern), BUT I never took a vow of NEVER EVER WILL I EVER AGAIN EAT MEAT, FISH, OR DAIRY. And as I've discussed, it's the putting a food item totally "off-limits" that messes with my eating-disorder-inclined brain. So I can still eat meat, fish, or dairy as a treat when out of the house, but I eat mostly vegan most of the time. I get the best of both worlds. 

So now I'm a meagan -- a vegan that eats meat. I spend a great deal of my time considering vegan ways to cook, including making a vegan Rice Krispie Snowman for Christmas: 

Those are vegan jello shots, too. Seriously!

But I still eat meat.

It's so crazy that it just might work, folks. 

I have to say that I've found vegan cooking to be a fun adventure, and (even though I'm a meagan) observing the vegan lifestyle up close has made me realize it's not nearly as difficult as I'd previously believed it to be. I've lately tried a few vegan recipes that I want to share, but before I do, I thought I'd make a last tribute to my brief career as a meat-cooker. I have a few meat recipes to share and then one recipe that is DELICIOUS whether cooked with meat or with tofu (I had it originally with tofu and it blew my brains out -- I'm sure the meat version would be equally as dope). 

To begin: 

I found these two recipes in a magazine in a nail salon as I was waiting for my toenails to dry. I couldn't believe that there were two recipes on the same page that I wanted to try and discreetly ripped the page out of the magazine when no one was looking. I no longer remember what magazine the recipes came from. I'M SORRY FOR THE LACK OF ATTRIBUTION NAIL SALON MAGAZINE YOUR RECIPES ARE DELICIOUS. However, the recipes themselves are credited, so I'll put that in.

Recipe #1. Grilled salmon with soba noodles and ponzu sauce. 
The Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley, PA


NOTE: I did not make the Ponzu sauce from scratch. I just used pre-made Ponzu sauce.

And for the record, I thought the recipe tasted better with just the noodles and salmon (I thought the tang of the Ponzu sauce clashed with the sweet glaze on the salmon), but maybe the homemade Ponzu sauce would be different. Also, I'm boring.

Ponzu Sauce: 

1 cup each orange juice and water or vegetable stock
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp each honey and rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp each grated fresh ginger and minced garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes 


1 8 oz package dried buckwheat soba noodles. 

I cup shredded carrots


4 (5 oz) skinless slamon fillets, 1 inch thick 
2 Tbsp each soy sauce and honey, blended. 
Sliced scallion, for garnish 

1. Ponzu sauce. Bring sauce ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes, or until recuded by half, about 1 1/4 cups. 

2. Noodles. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add soba noddles and simmer, uncovered, 6 minutes or until just tender. Place carrots in a colander; drain noodles over carrots in colander, then toss together. 

3. Salmon. Heat a nonstick stovetop grill pan over medium heat. While noodles cook, place salmon on grill pan, skinner side up; grill 4 minutes. Turn fillets; brush with soy-honey glaze. 

These doohickeys make glazing so much easier.

Grill second side 4 minutes for medium doneness. Brush on any remaining glaze. 

4. To serve, divide soba noodles among four shallow bowls and top each with a salmon fillet. Pour ponzu sauce around noodles. Garnish with scallions. 

I also made this baby with udon noodles and no ponzu sauce. It was so good that I haven't made it since, for fear I'd just eat that and nothing else. That soy sauce and honey glaze is criminally easy to make. 

Recipe #2. Pan-roasted chicken with peach-bourbon glaze.
Lake Austin Resort, Austin, TX
"Alcohol is one of the best ways to add flavor to a dish without adding calories--plus, it burns off, so kids can eat it too. Try bourbon, sherry, wine, or orange liqueur." --Executive Chef Terry Conlan.

I saw this, and my brain went: PEACH? BOURBON??? And I was sold. 

4 (4-oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp canola oil 
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 Tbsp bourbon
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup All Fruit peach preserves 
4 tsp chopped fresh mint
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp cider vinegar

1. Sprinkle chicken with kosher salt and pepper. Heat oil in a nonstick skiller over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook 8 to 9 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove from skillet; keep warm.  

In the grand scheme of things, I'm still a newbie to cooking meat, and it was weird to buy chicken: 

 It was also weird when the meat started to change color in that freaky, freaky way it does: 

2. Reduce heat to medium, add onions, and cook about 2 minutes, until browned. Add bourbon and let evaporate, 30 seconds to 1 minutes, then add broth and deglaze pan, scarping up any browned bits. 

3. Add remaining ingredients and any accumulated chicken juices and simmer 1 to 2 minutes. Pour over chicken breasts. 

Let's not lie and act like getting to use this as an ingredient was not a big part of the recipe's appeal:

Must sample all ingredients before cooking.

Also, "deglazing" a pan is kind of intimidating -- I wasn't sure if I'd gotten the glaze the right consistency or texture. I was also so worried about under-cooking the chicken and giving my guests salmonella that I overcooked a little and it was a bit tough. However, the glaze was DELICISH. I couldn't find "peach preserves" so I used this, which seemed to work fine: 

Peach jam is same thing, right?
Recipe #3. Spiced Pork Tenderloin (or Extra-Firm Tofu!) in a Creole Mustard Sauce. 

I was served this recipe with the tofu and it was A.FUCKING.mAZing. Making it myself producing excellent results, though never as skull-leaving-top-of-head-awesome as when it was served me. The recipe originally calls for Pork Tenderloin but it was adapted for vegetarians. I encourage meat and non-meat-eaters alike to try it! 

1-1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin, skin removed OR 1 package extra-firm tofu, pressed.
1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp dried thyme
Pinch nutmeg
1 tsp sea salt 
Freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp canola oil 

For sauce: 
3/4 cup chicken (or veggie) broth
1 Tbsp Creole mustard (can use regular mustard)
1 tsp horse radish
1 Tbsp cream or half and half (I used coconut milk to make it vegan)

Preheat oven to 375. 

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, vinegar, cayenne, thyme, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir. Rub mixture on pork/tofu. 

In a deep-side over-proof skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Place pork/tofu on skillet and sear on all sides for 2-3 minutes. Transfer pork/tofu in the skill to oven and cook for 12-16 minutes until cooked through. 

Transfer pork to cutting board. In same skillet, prepare sauce. Add the stock to the skillet and using a spatula, scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and allow sauce to reduce by one-third, about 6 minutes. 

Add creole mustard and horseradish to the skillet and allow everything to cook and reduce for 3-4 minutes mores, stirring to blend until smooth. 

When sauce has reduced sufficiently, turn the heat off and add the half-and-half or cream and stir to blend. 

Slice pork into medallions and place on serving plates. Pour mustard sauce atop medallions. 

Next up: some more vegan recipes! 

Happy eating.

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