Monday, January 9, 2012

The simple pleasures of sofrito and sous vide.

In the spirit of people making New Year's Resolutions, I've vowed to expand my cooking horizons in the new year.

This vow has stemmed, in part from the fact that I received many excellent cookbooks for Christmas. Many. Excellent. Cookbooks. This will receive its own post as soon as I unload my camera (I probably should vow not to procrastinate as much this year, but I think I'll save that one for next year).

One of the books I received was Ferran Adria's The Family Meal, a well-done, practical guide to simple, straightforward cooking. Loaded with photos to guide you at every step along the cooking process, the book is filled with recipes for complete meals made from common and inexpensive ingredients. Like many cookbooks, this one has a section of "basic" recipes for things you can use in other recipes. Things like pesto, tomato sauce, and the first thing I decided to make from the book, sofrito, which is a combination of onions, garlic and tomatoes used as the base for many dishes.
Servings: 2 1/3 cups – for use in other recipes

9 garlic cloves
1/2 c. extra-virgin oil
4 1/3 c. onions, finely chopped
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
3/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1 dried bay leaf
8 oz canned tomato puree
1/2 tsp. salt

Put the garlic into a tall jar or beaker, then process to a paste using a hand-held blender. Put a saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Fry the garlic until browned.

Meanwhile, process the onion in the blender. Add to the pan with the garlic. Lower the heat, add the herbs, then fry, stirring frequently, until the onion has browned.

Add four-fifths of the tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes. Add the remaining tomato, cook for 30 more minutes, then season with salt and pepper.

This will keep in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for 6 months.
I then used the sofrito to jazz up some Tikka Masala. I based my recipe on one I found from Weight Watchers, but tweaked it quite a bit to fit my proclivities in the kitchen - like the addition of sofrito to the sauce, and using the sous vide cooking method for the chicken. Using sous vide for the chicken cut down on time, in that I could cook the chicken and marinate it in one step. The chicken came out melt-in-your-mouth tender, and was intensely flavorful. Sofrito added a depth of flavor to the sauce that isn't normally found in quick-cook meals, and really took this dish to the next level.
Lyndsey's Chicken Tikka Masala
Servings: 4

For the chicken:
2/3 c. low-fat plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. fresh ginger root, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp cumin seeds, divided
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast(s), cut into 2-inch chunks

For the sauce:
2 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp. sofrito (see above)
1 small jalapeƱo pepper(s), minced
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp paprika
8 oz canned tomato sauce
1 cup(s) fat-free evaporated milk
1/4 cup(s) cilantro, fresh, chopped
2 cup(s) cooked white rice, basmati, kept hot (we used TJ's Frozen Jasmine Rice)

For the chicken:
Heat the Sous Vide Supreme to 147 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, lime juice, ginger, garlic, cumin and pepper; add chicken and toss to coat. Put into a food-safe bag and vacuum-seal on medium. Sous vide for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove chicken from bag and pat off most of the marinade.

Heat 1 tsp. oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Just when the oil starts to smoke, add the chicken and sear for 1 minute on each side. Remove to a plate while you make the sauce.

For the sauce:
Heat 1 tsp. oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the sofrito and jalapeno; cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Add remaining teaspoon of cumin and paprika and stir to coat. Add tomato sauce and evaporated milk, reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add chicken back into skillet with the sauce and simmer 1 minute to heat through. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Serve with rice.

Both Mr. Awesome and I loved this dish and plan on putting it in the permanent rotation.

This will be a year full of love, laughter, good food and good times. Hello, 2012!