If you're going to take a chance, be prepared to run like hell.
If you're going to take a chance, be prepared to run like hell.
We decided to go head to head with the campfire favorite S'mores. One of my biggest issues it the mess factor, particularly the sticky fingers. Our approach put everything into a neat, albeit large, package. Take a look over at Serious Eats for our take on S'mores. The components themselves have plenty of uses on their own if the whole cake seems daunting.
July 17, 2009
I add these grapefruit-hops bitters to my non-alcoholic beers to give them a little extra kick. Bittermens' have been my favorite bitters, to date. They turn a good product into one that is exceptional. The bitterness, hoppiness and floral notes create the experience of a wonderful for IPA without the alcohol. I am refreshed and still able to think clearly and sharply. It's best of all worlds.
This falls into the category of "cool things we stumble across in our travels". Because while the cream will rise to the top, sometimes we need a little bit of help getting at it.
Once we had made a few pupusas I started thinking about other ways we could manipulate the dough. The pupusa is a stuffed dough. So what if we used the dough to completely encase an ingredient. My first attempt was with mozzarella. I molded the pupusa dough around a mozzarella ball and then deep fried it. There was plenty of speculation on my actions and whether the dough would hold together or blow apart exposing the cheese. The dough held beautifully and formed a crisp crust around the mozzarella. When we bit into it the whey and molten mozzarella burst out in a warm gooey rush. I was thrilled.
My next attempt was with a piece of foie gras. I roughly shaped a nugget of foie gras into a ball and seasoned it with salt. Then I molded the dough around it and fried it. Again, the dough held and formed a crisp crust. The inside was soft and tender and the foie gras was tender and molten. The malleability of the pupusa dough and its resilience in the fryer presents opened up new doors to explore.
When the lobsters get big enough we need to upgrade our cracking utensils. After shattering the shells with the hammer, I remembered a more elegant solution. Chris Windus showed great skill with a dremel when cleaning stone crab claws for a dinner we did at McCrady's years ago. It had me thinking about bringing the tool into our kitchen for lobster explorations. One tool works, the other is an elegant solution.
July 9, 2009
We bought a few lobsters. Okay, we bought enough for several meals and ideas to explore. After utilizing the seaweed shake we looked to an old favorite, smoke. We loaded up our propane grill with our fire bricks. We laid the cut lobsters filled with cold butter on the hot stones and sprinkled wood filaments around the perimeter. The lobsters cooked and were permeated with the light smoke. The hot stones on a smoky grill proved to be a great buffer and cooking medium for our lobsters. The shells did not burn, making Amaya happy. We were able to baste the split lobsters with the melted fat that blended with their juices. They were juicy and flavorful, the perfect summer supper.
We originally designed our seaweed shake for fish applications. But we never got there. We used it on rib eyes and never looked toward the sea again. Seaweed shake allowed us to integrate a marine flavor with a quick shake. And since we were always looking for interesting ways to combine surf and turf we stayed meat-centric with the applications. Until today. We took a look back at our original ideas on the subject. We realized how many ideas we missed because we took a different path. Today with fresh eyes on the subject we are happily exploring its original uses.
What do you get when a bunch of writers, not food writers mind you but fiction writers, get together to write about their favorite foods and beverages along a particular theme? You get the Holy Taco Church, one of my new go-to websites. It is so much fun to read and there are some great, irreverent recipes to explore. It just goes to show you that the best food writers are people who are passionate about food.
Strawberry Pie, recipe in Maximum Flavor, Recipes That Will Change The Way You Cook.
Happy Independence Day!
We hope you're celebrating the day with good food, friends, and family.
We have cured raw egg yolks, dried them, and used them as a seasoning. We have not cooked egg yolks, salted them, and then dried them to create a seasoning. There is a difference in flavor between raw egg yolks and cooked yolks. So salting after cooking and then drying should give us an intense eggy seasoning. Since Amaya is not a fan of hard boiled egg yolks we found ourselves with a small bounty to try out our idea. We will break the yolks up, maybe even sieve them, season them with salt and then dehydrate them. Once they are dry we shall see where to take them: from seasoning noodles and rice to enhancing vegetables. The possibilities seem endless.
The last week and a half have been a blur. There's nothing like a move to make you realize how much stuff you have. And that's not counting the stuff that hasn't arrived yet, because it didn't fit on the moving trucks (yes that's trucks in plural). We've been cleaning, opening boxes, moving furniture, unpacking, cleaning, moving furniture, dealing with contractors, setting up a new household, etc. There definitely hasn't been much cooking going on. That said the kitchen finally looks like a kitchen and this morning I decided to make hard boiled eggs. The boiling was fine but it was a half an hour before Amaya and I were able to start peeling. We only got half the eggs peeled, enough for her and me before we had to start racing around to get her ready for camp. Alex was hanging pictures and over the course of the next 45 minutes I finally got the last few eggs peeled for him.
I knew he had to run out the door to get Amaya to camp and go to Lowes so my original idea of deviled eggs was out. We were already verging on late and I needed quick and tasty. Hence the not so deviled eggs. I split each one in half and doused the yolk with a few drops of Steve's hot sauce. I gave each one a schmear of mayo and threw them on a plate for Alex. He upgraded them with a few grains of truffle salt. They may not be pretty but he ate them so fast and with such a big smile on his face that I knew they had to be delicious. Necessity really is the mother of invention.
July 2, 2009
I may have experienced one of the worst bites of food I have had in a long time. Dominique Ansel created the Cronut. They look to be delicious. Someday we will get the opportunity to crush a cronut. We have had a deep fried croissant, inspired by Francis Lam and created by Francisco Migoya. It was delicous and crush-worthy.
So when I saw Crumbnuts for sale at our local BJ's I took the bait. We bought them along with a surplus of supplies for our new space. I popped open the box as soon as we reached our car. I took a bite. Well I tried to take a bite. I could barely get my teeth through the tough cardboard-like product. I chewed and chewed and chewed and ad then finally swallowed. It was a rough bite. I then took the rest of the Crumbnuts back to the store and returned them. While returning them the cashier asked, "tough huh?" So they know these things are junk.
It is amazing how quickly a brilliant idea transforms into a shark jumping monstrocity. What's even worse is how these knock-offs damage. If I had never known Francis, Francisco, or Domique and only heard of the craze behind the pastry, after tasting this I would be in awe of the crazies who followed the ideal. And confused by the phenomenon of its buzzworthy popularity.
I am reminded that what you do with inspiration is as important as the inspiration itself.
In creating our new space we are faced with the challenge of getting everything in place, retooling dysfunctional systems, trouble shooting the unexpected, and getting the answers solved. All while facing a continued influx of new questions. There are times when I just want the project done. I cannot think of the details, the finer points, the big picture. The weight of everything bears down and the desire to get rid of obstacles is enormous. These are the times you need to be thankful that you surrounded yourself with stronger, smarter, more passionate people. They are able to carry the weight, present options to problems, and find nuances to brighten ideas. The details are essential to the development. Without them we are lost.
Outside our local Home Depot I came across a fantastic hot dog cart. The buns are griddled, the chili is spicy and bean laden. The American cheese was white and melted beneath the chili forming a gooey cheese sauce. The fries were textured and super crispy. While the meal was a quick pick me up, it had me thinking of variations on the combination. Whether it is adding fries right to the chili cheese dog or Poutine-ifying the fries by slicing the dogs into the chili and topping with a melted American cheese sauce.
June 29, 2010
It is interesting how ideas and techniques become bonded to certain applications. For instance we bread eggplant for frying in advance so the crumbs stick but we don't think about flouring soft shell crabs in advance. Instead we remove them from their marinade and dredge them to order. This is pretty stupid. It slows down cooking, makes our hands all gummy in starch and doesn't produce a better result. Actually we found that flouring soft shell crabs and fried chicken in advance allows the starches to hydrate. Then when we fry, the starches gelantinize and crisp up wonderfully. We found the pre-floured softies to be as crispy as their a la minute floured counterparts. Made to order is not always better, sometimes its better to work through the whole process and see what's happening and discover what is possible.
A clear and fascinating discussion about why bees are disappearing and why we should all care
We were thrilled to stumble across New Hampshire strawberries and tomatoes from Spring Ledge Farm in New London, NH. These were unexpected treasures. Sweet and savory fruits can be used interchangeably depending on the desired results from bolognese to sorbet. Changing your perspective allows for delicious innovations.
We have started a new column over at Serious Eats. We are taking a look at our favorite dishes, taking their essence for inspiration, adding our insights, and reinventing the original. We are playing with food in order to extract maximum flavor and create something deliciously different and familiar, all at the same time. Our first project was strawberry shortcake. We re-imagined the biscuit, amped up the strawberries, and clarified the flavor of the cream. Take a look at the reasoning and recipes over at Serious Eats.
I am always amazed at how creepy and scary food icons are. Something that is meant to lure us in is actually pushing us away.
These are the easiest bars in the world. Take your favorite oatmeal streusel recipe and make it in a food processor. Take out half while the streusel is still sandy and reserve. Pulse the rest until it forms a soft, pliable dough that can be pressed into the bottom of a buttered 9-by-13 baking dish. Once the bottom layer is in the pan slice up a quart of fresh strawberries (preferably organic). Toss them with a tablespoon of cornstarch, 1/2 tablespoon of tapioca starch, and the juice of a lemon, and then scatter them over the bottom crust. Sprinkle the sandy streusel over the top and bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, until the top streusel is golden brown and everything is cooked through. Let them cool to room temperature, slice, and serve. Improvisation at it's best.
We toasted the bagels, smothered them with scallion cream cheese, draped them with smoked salmon, and adorned them with wafer thin shavings of fresh jalapeno. What's yours?
I had been wanting to make an avocado pizza. Finally my mind and our preparations aligned. We topped a pizza with simple tomato sauce, chunks of mozzarella, and dollops of guacamole (in the style of ricotta on a white pizza). The pie cooked up beautifully and ate well. Interestingly it left me craving not a guacamole pie, but an avocado pie. Thin slices of creamy fruit, lightly blistered from the heat of the oven, with its fat glistening on each piece, seasoned with coarse salt, and topped with grated cheese. I wish we had begun with the simple version instead of the more complex. A lesson worth learning again.
By having a point of reference we can begin to tell a story.
June 19, 2005
We have been working with broth. We keep a fair amount of it in our freezer. Whenever we roast chicken we save the leftover skin and bones and pressure cook them with water the next day. Sometimes we use a lot of broth and sometimes the supply grows in the freezer.
The other night we cooked macaroni. Besides the pot of boiling water was a deep sided sauteuse with broth. We transferred the al dente pasta to the shallow pool of hot broth and let it finish cooking, stirring constantly so that the macaroni would absorb the liquid evenly. When the broth became a glaze, we folded in cheese. Shortly thereafter we were eating a luscious, meaty macaroni and cheese. The noodles had a silky texture and a nice chew. We used substantially less cheese than we normally do and still the noodles were intensely cheesy. The rich flavor of the broth deepened the natural flavor of the cheese.
With temperatures in the nineties, today we decided to make pasta salad. Too often the dressing of choice is a heavy mayo-based mixture that soaks into the noodles leaving them dry and somewhat sticky. We decided to further explore the use of broth. Aki cooked the noodles until they were al dente. Then she rinsed them briefly in cool water and put them in a bowl. She added a generous amount of just warmed broth to the noodles and stirred them together. The noodles slowly absorbed the broth, sucking in the flavor. When the noodles were heavily saturated, knowing they would eventually pull in all of the liquid, she folded in a dollop of Duke's mayonnaise. She folded in the cold braised chicken that had been cooked in the broth, seasoned the mixture, and chilled it for a couple of hours, stirring it occasionally. About 2 hours before dinner she added seasoned, peeled, bite-sized chunks of cucumber, yellow pepper, and orange pepper. The pasta salad was amazing. It was silky and rich. It was evenly and lightly dressed. It was packed with flavor and had a resilient texture. A summertime staple has been upgraded.
June 18, 2005
Moving is tough. No matter how positive an experience you want it to be it's a major change in life. These past few weeks wrapping things up here in PA have taught us that it's not about what you take or what you leave behind, it's about how you grow and develop in a new environment. We're still in the process of saying goodbye to a place that is very dear to us, as we look towards a new beginning. We can only hope that our transplanting will allow us to develop strong roots and flourish in a new home.
The life of a cookbook author is full of interesting questions. Is a dinner roll still a dinner roll if you bake it in a muffin tin? Traditionally you used muffin tins for muffins and cupcakes; nowadays muffin tins are used for everything from hash brown nests filled with baked eggs to individual meatloaves and lasagnas. So if you take bread dough and bake it in a muffin tin does it automatically become a muffin just because it looks like one? It's a sticky question because they are both bread products though in texture and in composition they are distinctly different. We decided that a roll is a roll because of the dough and not because of the baking vessel. But still, it made us think about how often things are based on appearance rather than what's inside.
We were working on a chocolate cake. The frosting is super thick and chocolatey. The texture goes from spreadable to set rather quickly. We were photographing the frosting process and this became something of an issue. As the frosting stiffened, I wondered if a hair dryer set on medium would allow us to gently warm it back to a spreadable state. It worked better than I hoped. I heated the frosting, stirred it, and warmed it some more. It took a few passes of the hair dryer to make the frosting spreadable again. In the end it was as good as new, perfect for finishing the cake. The hair dryer also proved itself to be a useful tool for a late addition of decorative chocolate rosettes.
June 15, 2006
A few weeks ago we went to Percy Street BBQ after a stop at the Sunday Philadelphia farmers market. We ordered brisket covered cheese fries and an asparagus salad to start. The BBQ fries were awesome and have had me craving them almost daily since crushing them that day. The asparagus salad was a "chef's greatest hits" plate. It had mustard dressed asparagus, farmers cheese, a soft boiled egg, and crispy chicken skins. As we attacked our "healthy" option I grabbed a chicken skin and topped it with a half of a soft boiled egg. This was one incredible bite. One we need to work on replicating again and again. So we can perfect it, of course. And let's not be afraid to improve on the original: from smoking the skins to marinating the eggs in BBQ sauce.
What do you think of when someone says "chocolate cake"? I tend to think of something like the picture above, layers of moist cake and rich frosting, chocolate on chocolate. (This beauty if from our upcoming gluten free cookbook, so sadly you'll have to wait for the recipe.) It's luscious and totally indulgent. I'm not really one for afternoon sweets because I hate the idea of ruining my dinner, but sometimes you just need some cake. Especially towards the end of the week, everyone is tired and ready for the weekend, but some afternoons you know there's still a significant amount of work to be done. So instead of pushing through when my brain is sluggish and I'm not at my best, I take a break. I set a timer so I know it's only a finite amount of time and then I take a quick nap or settle at the table with a slice of cake. It means I'll have to work a little bit later but in the end the work I do will be much better. A little indulgence goes a long way towards re-charging my mental batteries and this cake is so worth it.
June 13, 2008
It is important to take the time to line up ideas, ingredients, systems, flavors, thoughts, you name it. It allows us to take a clear look at what we have on hand. With everything lined up we can move the pieces of the puzzles around and look to create.
We found some good looking boneless chuck short ribs at the store. But they were not that thick. We could have easily bonded them together to make double, triple, or even more thick short ribs. Instead we pounded them flatter, rolled them, and tied them into logs. The end result was reminiscent in shape to the aromatic braised short rib we used to cook at Clio years ago. But this time we were rolling slices of short ribs rather than full rib plates. Once they were tied it was time for cooking. While we did not brine them, a flavorful endeavor, we did cook most of them at 57°C for 24 hours.
We pressure cooked the remaining rolled short ribs for 45 minutes. Then we tasted the two styles side by side. It was fun to compare the differences between short ribs cooked to medium and their somewhat more traditionally prepared, tender, gelatinous counterparts. In both cases the thickness of the rolled meat added to the enjoyment of the meat.
Looking over the pictures it has us questioning what it would be like to explore the uses of flattened short ribs, both cooked and raw. Chicken fried braised short ribs are the start of the conversation.
We decided to play with the iconic flavor combination of strawberries and rhubarb but we wanted to change things up. We substituted sorrel, a family member, for the the rhubarb. We seasoned the mixture with olive oil and salt. A rough mixing released some strawberry juices to dress the sorrel. The flavors blended as a savory condiment. While we ate it on its own, the salad would work well with fish, meat, additional vegetables, and cheese.
Everyone has seen freeze dried ice cream a.k.a astronaut ice cream. We thought, why not make ice cream with freeze dried fruits? We can focus and intensify flavor without adding additional water and there is no need to cook the fruit. We started today. We used freeze dried strawberries and buttermilk to flavor our base. The strawberry flavor is vivid. The buttermilk is clean and tangy. The addition of guar gum will thicken the base and give it a slightly chewy texture without adding egg yolks. The base will rest for 4 hours giving the the flavors a chance to to meld and the guar gum time to fully hydrate. Then it's churning time.
Freeze Dried Strawberry Ice Cream
56 grams freeze dried strawberries
965 grams buttermilk
180 grams sugar
4.5 grams fine sea salt
1.4 grams guar gum
300 grams heavy cream
Put the freeze dried strawberries, buttermilk, sugar and salt into a blender. Turn the blender on low and increase the speed to high. Puree the mixture until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and sprinkle in the guar gum. Increase the speed to high and puree the mixture for 30 seconds. Turn the blender off and add the cream. Turn the speed up to medium and puree for 10 seconds to blend in the cream. Strain the base and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up 12. Freeze the base in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.
June 9, 2005
It's all about ratios. You know it's working when you agree more often than you want to kill each other. And as long as you can laugh about everything later.
June 6, 2005
We smoke everything we can get our hands on, at least once. Smoked flour has been in our pantry for years. We've used it in pasta, pizza, bread, and salt crusts. What we had not thought of doing, until recently, was to use it as bench flour. We put a small amount of smoked flour in our pizza dough. It rounds out the flavor and adds a savory quality to the finished pies. We discovered this while writing Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work. We were making pizzas and had smoked flour on hand, so I used it to dust the dough as I stretched it. The smoked flour seemed to add a more pronounced smoky flavor to the pizzas. It was as though the wood oven was constantly in full burn as they baked. The flavor was present without being overwhelming, nicely contrasting the tomato sauce and toppings. The pizzas were delicious. The idea of using smoked flour as a finishing layer is one worth exploring further.
June 5, 2005
As is often the case, we were working on another project when we stumbled across something delicious and unexpected. Some leftover strawberry powdered sugar reminded me of Strawberry Nesquik. I took it and added 15%, by weight, to a glass of milk. I stirred it in and it mostly dissolved. But I needed a little more force to incorporate the remnants. I poured the milk into a quart deli container, put the lid on, and shook it furiously. Then I poured the frothy strawberry milk into a glass. The strawberries thickened the milk, the sugar sweetened the milk, and the results were stupendous. I had an icy cold, creamy, fruity, floral glass of strawberry milk, better than any I'd ever tasted before. Amaya will be thrilled with her new beverage.
28 grams freeze dried strawberries
100 grams powdered sugar
Put the strawberries and sugar into a dry blender. Put the lid on and turn the blender on low. Increase the speed to high to fully pulverize the strawberries into a fine flour. Store the strawberry sugar in a zip top bag or air-tight container. It will keep indefinitely at room temperature.
June 4, 2005
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
June 3, 2005
In our next installment we explored the idea of aromatics in low temperature cooking. We seasoned a 3-bone veal rack with salt and soy sauce. We set it on a pan and surrounded it with garlic tops, ginger, lemongrass, and lovage. We poured rose wine into the bottom of the pan and cooked it for 3 hours at 57°C in the CVap. The kitchen smelled amazing. When it finished cooking, we patted it dry, and then seared it in melted butter. Afterwards we strained the aromatic cooking liquid into the hot skillet, reduced it to a glaze, and poured it over the resting meat. The veal was juicy, infused with aromatic goodness, and the syrupy glaze reinforced the flavors with rich, caramelized notes.
June 2, 2008
June 2, 2005
We were looking to make a more flavorful veal chop. We tried a new approach. We strained the braising liquid from our veal breast. We cooled it and heavily injected it into a 2 bone veal rib chop. Then we cooked the chop in the CVap at 57°C / 135°F for 3 hours. We removed the chop from the CVap and patted it dry. Then we roasted it in a cast iron skillet in a 345°C / 650°F wood burning oven to brown the outside. We let it rest and then carved it. The meat was juicy and full of the braising liquid. It was some of the tastiest veal we have eaten.
We cooled the leftover veal. The injection sights became obvious and somewhat unsightly though the meat was still delicious. The ability to focus and concentrate seasoning is incredible. If it becomes part of the process we are in for some delicious results. The key is cooking and eating a la minute.
June 1, 2005
We started with the front half of a bone-in veal breast. We poured a hodge podge mixture over it, a blend of the sauce from spice-braised short ribs combined with a rich, concentrated, poultry jus. We cooked the veal breast for twenty-six hours in the CVap at 57°C. Then we let it rest for thirty minutes and carved the first slice. The meat was moist. It had absorbed the flavor of the jus. The breast had given its flavor to the sauce as well. It had become a complex sugo that made you want to keep dipping a spoon in for more. We were savoring the most flavorful veal breast we have eaten to date.
In our notes is a piece on working with cornflakes and chocolate. I am sorry we didn't get to bring the two together sooner. Today we discovered that Ritter Sport has. It is a smooth milk chocolate with cornflakes inclusions. It eats like a smoother and creamier Nestle Crunch bar. The cornflakes flavor is subtle. The texture is super crunchy. Now we have a starting point. Roasting the cornflakes will up the flavor. And as we dive into the idea, the variables open up. Do we make a cornflakes chocolate bar, starting with cornflakes flour? And if we do this, what about other cereal bars. Francisco Migoya has explored other bar ideas with birthday cake and doughnuts. Seeing and eating an executed idea can be an extreme catalyst for potential growth and exploration. Now we need to bring some of our ideas to life.
May 28, 2005
We created hot dog chili a few years ago when we were exploring a Hot Dog Project. (Who knows, maybe we will revisit this sometime soon.) We decided to revive it for Memorial Day. We started with hot dog chili, a chili made with ground up hot dogs, and we upgraded it by adding ground pepperoni.
We let it slowly simmer on the back of the stove. As evening approached, we slid whole hot dogs into the chili to braise. For dinner we offered grilled dogs (with or without a topping of chili) and hot dogs braised in the hot dog-pepperoni chili. It was a great meal. Both styles dogs where crushed and our hot dog chili hit new levels of savoriness.
May 27, 2006
I am not quite sure why we haven't used Green Goddess dressing on coleslaw before. Thanks to camp and school lunches with her friends, Amaya has become a a ranch dressing aficionado, there's just no avoiding it. So we've taken to making it home so that we know that it's fresh and tasty, just in case we all end up eating it. This Green Goddess version that Aki whipped up today is a result of the flourishing weed patch. Now that it's getting easier to run outside and snip a bit of this and that, our ranch dressing has become more green and flavorful. Thank goodness for that.
May 26, 2010
I am a huge hot dog fanatic. Follow the links for expanded details.
I often make detours for dogs. Today marked the beginning of hot dog season. (OK, I'm not necessarily convinced there is a hot dog season, but the perfect weather and the extraordinary hot dogs we encountered today is reason enough--and they do seem to taste better when eaten outdoors.) Today's chili cheese dogs were consumed at the Mayfair on the boardwalk at Asbury Park. We ordered well, the dogs are possibly the best thing on the menu. We each had one. These were good dogs. They were large in both girth and length, skins browned and splitting, with a creamy, pale pink interior. The crisp skin gave way to a tender, juicy interior, slightly firmer than the one at Nick's Nest. Amaya rolled with a plain dog. Aki and I had chili cheese dogs with raw onions and pickled cherry peppers. I upgraded with yellow mustard. In spite of their generous size, I went back for a second dog. This time with only onions, pickled peppers, ketchup, and mustard. The second one was good, but the messy deliciousness of chili and cheese won my vote for best dog.
With hot dog season underway, drop us your favorite hot dog recommendations, combinations, and discoveries. Send us directions to the dogs that make your days better. Best to share via Twitter @ideasinfood and @akikamozawa. Help keep us well fed while we're on a wild dog chase this summer.
May 25, 2005
I have a thing for thermometers. And cake testers. When ThermoWorks created the ThermoPop I was smitten. It took me longer than usual to order the ThermoPop. On one hand, we had a ThermaPen, so what did I need another thermometer for? On the other hand, the small size and small cost made it appealing. In the end the idea of a thermometer the size of a cake tester sucked me in. I liked the idea of being able to insert and go. And since we make a habit of taking the temperature of our baked goods, I knew we had to have these.
So I finally ordered two of them. Why two? Because I've got a thing for thermometers. And cake testers. The ThermoPops arrived today. I unboxed them and laid one out next to a cake tester. Aki happily pointed out that it's not as thin as she was expecting. Still, it is small. It is easy to use. It takes temperatures quickly (in under 5 seconds), at all angles, with a rotating display. If I had one request for future ThemoPops, it would be for a thinner probe and a size even closer to my favorite cake tester. For today, these are pretty darned cool.
When we work with water as an ingredient, it allows us to remove all distractions. We can examine textures. As we observe our minds can wander and play. We make connections we might not have had we been working with a specific flavor. Once we are done playing with textures, we ask what else can be water? We start adding in flavors and then we're off on a new exploration.
May 23, 2005
As we work with different cooking methods and mediums we stumble across ideas. Changing the way we cook forces us to pay attention to all the little details in order to achieve the desired results. Cooking over wood and in charcoal is not better or worse than cooking inside. They are different. These methods offer the challenge of control, in the lack thereof. They teach cooks to be more intuitive and flexible. Outdoor cookery has us question how best to achieve results. As we cook and observe how the heat changes and affects the ingredients, we discover new things. Sure flavors change, but it is the process of paying attention to what and how we are cooking that encourages us to learn, to grow, and to discover.
They say that mint is a weed and I have seen it take over gardens, easily choking out less hardy competitors. That said, an abundance of anything can be an opportunity. Chocolate mint is our favorite for its smooth leaves and intense flavor. While not as chocolatey as the name might imply there is a richness to its flavor, a roundness that can be missing from peppermint or spearmint. It's beautiful and hardy, perfect for sashimi or iced tea. I love that it returns to us year after year with minimal upkeep, a gift from the garden that we share with everyone around us.
We created a dish with eggs, asparagus, and chicken broth. In the creation of that dish we found that we really enjoy the flavor of asparagus paired with a rich, intense chicken broth. The other day when we found some beautiful asparagus I went to the freezer and pulled out a container od roast chicken broth from our growing supply. Amaya is a big fan of broth and soupy noodles. Thankfully our pressure cooker has allowed us to keep up with her appetite.
For the asparagus pictured above, we put the broth in the pan and steamed the asparagus in it until just tender. We served them in a shallow bowl in a puddle of broth so that everyone could enjoy them together. We could have served them with a bowl of mayonnaise (perhaps even schmaltz based) to dip the asparagus in. This would have introduced the egg element from the original dish. Instead we kept things simple. Amaya was thrilled with her dish because it was fun to eat with her fingers, dipping the asparagus pieces in the roasted chicken jus, and because it was so good.