Braised Hake with Navy Beans

braised hake with navy beans

A few weeks ago, I purchased a pressure cooker. With the colder months around the corner, the thought of making homemade stocks for winter soups had my mind spinning with ideas. But all those ideas unfortunately came to halt when I realized exactly how many hours I would have multiple gallons of liquid sitting at a simmer on my meager stove. Having not yet found that particular tree on which dollar bills blossom forth, my plans were set back until I could find a quicker and more energy efficient method of simmering. Enter the pressure cooker. What would normally take 6-8 hours on the stove can be accomplished in under one hour in a pressure cooker. You can read all about pressure cookers and their benefits here.

In addition to stocks, I also began to get excited about soaking my own beans. During the fall and winter months, I tend to gravitate towards a bowl full of legumes after I get home from work. They are the perfect winter food. So, to test out my new-fangled pressure cooker, I started soaking some navy beans.

Navy beans need to be soaked for at least four hours prior to cooking. It is very important to not add any salt during the soaking or cooking process. While we are leaving salt out, let's leave out anything acidic as well (wine, vinegar, lemon juice, tomatoes, etc.). They can all be added in after cooking. Once the beans are soaked, they only take 12-13 minutes in the pressure cooker, compared to between 1 and 1 1/2 hours on the stove.

1 hake steak, free of pin bones
1 quart chicken stock
1 lbs dried navy beans (can substitute cannellini beans or flageolet)
3 sprigs fresh oregano + 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, soak beans in several quarts of water. Remember that the beans will double, even triple in size. Make sure you have enough water. Soak for at least four hours, changing the water halfway through. Drain beans and add to the pressure cooker, along with the stock, sprigs of oregano, and shallot. Once the cooker is brought up to full pressure, cook for 13 minutes. Consult your manual before using your pressure cooker!

When time is up, release pressure through the pressure release valve. Stand back as to not get burned by the steam. Take a few ladle fulls of beans and stock and place in a saute pan over medium heat. (Save the remainder of the beans to eat at a later date). Whisk in butter until combined. Season the fish with salt, pepper, and chopped oregano and place gently on top of the beans. Cover and gently simmer for five minutes. Flip the fish and cover and cook for four more minutes. Remove fish from heat and continue simmering stock and reduce until it starts to thicken. Taste and season with salt and pepper appropriately.


Rabbit (please don't hate me.)

For the most part, when I mention to some one that I enjoy rabbit, I become the receiver of the world's saddest puppy dog eyes: "But they are soooooo cuuuuuuute!!!" I agree. Rabbits are freakin' adorable. And I do love seeing them running around in the forest just like everybody else. But I also know that they taste as cute as they look. What can I say; I'm an omnivore.

Rabbit is a delicious food that, with proper preparation, can be a delight to eat. With it's fine texture and delicate flavor, it is very important to not over cook rabbit. In fact, everytime I have had rabbit, there has always been some sort of sauce to accompany it. Up until now, my favorite sauce to enjoy with rabbit has been made with wine, prunes, stock, and some butter. Last night's rabbit may have been that sauce's very own Farmer McGregor: chasing it right out of the garden (or in my case kitchen). Taking a more traditional approach, a simple pan sauce proved to be a very tasty variation.

2 front quarters of rabbit
1 small shallot, finely minced
4 tbsp butter
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp freshly ground allspice berries
1 cup chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1/2 cup whitewine
1 tsp mustard
1 oz. cognac
salt and pepper to taste

Season rabbit with salt and some of the allspice. Dredge in flour, shaking to remove excess. Over medium high heat, melt 2 tbsp butter in a saute pan with thyme. When the butter is just starting to brown, remove thyme.  Add rabbit, browning all over. Lower heat and cook gently until well done. Remove rabbit from pan and keep in warm in a low oven, or cover with aluminum foil.

Add 1 tbsp of butter and minced shallot to the pan and brown. When sufficently browned, deglaze pan with stock and wine, scraping all of the fond. Whisk in mustard and remainder of the allspice. Simmer until reduced to just about one quarter cup. Pour in cognac, tilting the pan to ignite the alcohol. BE CAREFUL!

Finally, revmove from heat and gently whisk in the final tbsp of butter. At this point, season with salt and pepper. Serve with rabbit.


Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Lemon and Smoked Salmon

It was recently pointed out to me that I have been severely behind in posting on this blog. Of course, I had many reasons for my lack of presence on the web lately: too busy, too hot, visiting Portland, too hot, not cooking a lot lately, and finally, too hot. But in the end, I have no good excuse. So, I'm back. (Thanks for the nudge, Rachel.)

As summer draws to a close, and as Tropical Storm Hanna tries to blow down my house, I offer this simple late summer/early fall soup. It is quite easy to make and I can attest to it's comforting powers on rainy days. Plus, like all good soups, it will fill your home with its wonderful aroma.

1 head cauliflower, separated into florets
1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
1 slice good quality smoked salmon, per serving
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock, preferably homemade
10 white peppercorns, uncrushed
2 bay leaves
1 good pinch freshly ground nutmeg
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup lemon juice
parsley and smoked paprika to garnish
salt and white pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375F. In an ovenproof casserole, drizzle olive oil over cauliflower and onion and roast until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Empty casserole dish into large stock pot and add stock, peppercorns, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently for 20 minutes, removing any scum that might float to the surface. Add cream, and lemon juice and stir to combine. Blend with an immersion blender, or blend in a food processor until smooth. Season to taste.

Ladle into heated bowls and add smoked salmon. Garnish with finely chopped parsely and a pinch of smoked paprika.