We're in recipe testing mode. This is one of our recent experiments. It has the chew and the crumb. It has the crust, though it could be darker. It's lumpy looking and not very pretty. It's not a gluten free bagel yet, though it will be. It's a work in progress.
We have used the freeze thaw cycle to our advantage. Here we ask the question, can we use it to help tenderize pork chops and allow brine to be pulled in more efficiently? Our theory is that the freezing process will create thousands of microfissures in the meat, which will make it easier to cut and allow the brine to penetrate more efficiently. We made a buttermilk brine by addng 3% salt by weight to our liquid. We stirred the salt into the buttermilk until it dissolved and poured the mixture into a zip top bag. We added 4 thick cut pork chops and sealed the bag. We put the bag into a pan and froze the chops in brine. When the chops were rock solid we removed them from the freezer and let them thaw slowly in the refrigerator. The flavorful blend of salt and buttermilk is drawn into the microscopically damaged cells leaving us with meat that is well seasoned, tender and juicy.
In a recent workshop we flavored whole milk yogurt with Chartreuse syrup. Then we dropped spoonfuls into our gellan bath to encapsulate it. When the skin formed we removed the yogurt from the bath and rinsed it in cold water. Then we stored the various sized orbs in apple cider. As it soaked, the cider penetrated the gellan membrane and flavored it. In this way we are able to combine cider and yogurt into delicate bites, while keeping their flavors distinct and separate. Each bite was a small explosion of flavor.
In a recent workshop we de-boned the middle of a Porcelet de Lait pig from St. Canut Farms via D'Artagnan. We butterflied the loin and cut a pocket into the belly. We dusted the belly bones and the inside of the pocket with Activa RM and set the bones inside the pocket. Then we scored the inside of the pork and rubbed it with lime pickle pesto. We rolled and tied the porchetta and wrapped it in plastic wrap. We refrigerated it overnight. This allowed the marinade to penetrate and the Activa to bond the bones in place. The following day we trimmed off the mini-porchettas and reserved them for another occasion. We put the porchetta roast on a rack set inside a sheet pan. We seasoned it with salt and roasted it in a 375°F convection oven for 2 hours, until the skin transformed into a deep mahogany crackling. As it roasted we rotated the pan and turned the porchetta on the rack to ensure uniform browning. For the last 15 minutes we increased the heat to 425°F convection to give it that perfectly crunchy finish. We removed it from the oven, let it rest for 30 minutes, uncovered, and sliced our chops.
Since this was our first go at the porchetta chops we now have the process and a number of places to improve. We knew immediately that next time we will cut individual pockets for the bones so we can turn the whole middle into chops. As we were analyzing our results and possible improvements, Tony Maws reminded us of Kenji's porchetta technique. He has an incredible post on his process for making belly-chetta. He uses a baking powder and salt rub on the skin to denature proteins and promote browning. We developed a similar process for roasted chicken wings that you can find in Maximum Flavor. We will brush the exterior of the skin with our blend of baking soda, egg white and salt. And like us he likes to deep fry large cuts of meat for uniform, efficient browning.
Our plan for the next porchetta is to focus on the chops. We will make a whole porchetta with evenly spaced bones and cut it into individual chops. Then we will wrap each bone in cheesecloth and vacuum seal them individually. We will cook the chops for 24 hours at 57°C and then cool the individual chops down until we are ready to eat. Then we will open the bags and put the porchetta juices in a small pot to warm. We will pat dry the chop and deep fry them. The skin will brown and crackle and the meat will warm through. If the skin is ready before the meat is hot enough we can put them on a rack in a 250°F oven to continue warming while preserving that crunchy exterior. The only question now is what to serve alongside.
And in case anyone is wondering, the reason why we didn't french the bones is because when you cook them this way they are absolutely delicious. Why waste the meat?
We put oblique cut carrots and thickened apple cider into a pan. We set it into the mouth of the oven and let the heat and smoke lick at the vegetables. The carrots browned. The cider reduced. When the carrots were just tender we added freshly picked leaves of lemon verbena from the weed patch and a few spoonfuls of bulletproof beurre monte made with cider and maple balsamic vinegar. We spooned the glazed carrots into a bowl and added a few opal basil blossoms to finish. It's the newest taste of fall.
We started with some soft tender squash. We put it into a pot with milk, vanilla, sugar and salt. We pureed the the hot mixture together. We set it into an egg less custard with 0.3% iota and 0.05% kappa carrageenan. When it was set its texture was smooth and tender. It had the texture of firm pie filling. We put a few slices of the squash custard into the CVap set at 55°C. The carrageenan helped the sliced squash keep its shape. The firm texture became melting and soft. When we tried increasing the heat the squash melted into a puddle. The next step was to see if we could capture the soft while making it easy to handle. We cut the custard into rounds. We put the squash into the dehydrator set at 52.5°C. The squash started developing a skin. We flipped the squash to dry the bottom. We flipped the squash one last time to evenly dry the exterior. The total drying time was about 2 hours. We removed the squash from the dehydrator and let them cool. The outside had developed a thin ravioli style skin. The inside was soft and tender. We started heating, watching and eating. The squash was encapsulated in itself. The inside became melting. The warm exterior skin resembled beautifully cooked pasta.
We roasted three different squashes in the wood oven. The fact that they all had different flavors and textures was a surprise. It shouldn't have been. Different squash should have distinct flavors. But we've grown numb to the idea of what a squash can be. Recipes rarely specify varieties other than acorn, pumpkin, or butternut. And markets full of choice universally suggest equal substitutions. While you can, in many cases, substitute one for another and still make something delicious, the results will vary dramatically. Individual varieties of squash, like everything else, have their own unique characteristics. Some are starchy and firm. Others are sweet and melting. And some have a flaky texture like pie crust or fork out into spaghetti-like strands. Another interesting discovery from the wood fired roasting was how bitter the seeds and their webbing became. In all three squashes they were bitter and unusable. Stepping back and tasting the results without a plan enabled us to experience the a gourds as if for the first time.
We put freshly plucked garlic chive seeds, basil and lime pickle into the mortar. We added salt and pulverized the mixture. When a rough paste formed we added olive oil. These ingredients combined to create a magnificent flavor mash.
We put the sawzall to work. It made short work of splitting the pig head. Unfortunately it made short work of the brain as well. It split it right in half. We had plans to pan roast it. Instead we roasted it in the skull. Then we spread it on crackers and sprinkled herb salt on top. It was not what we planned. It was delicious.
October 4, 2008
The idea was to take the Transfusion and bring it to other applications. Instead of using cream in our caramel we made a cold viscous concord grape syrup.
1000 grams concord grape juice
1500 grams sugar
150 grams sliced ginger
1200 grams sugar
300 grams water
450 grams butter
13 grams salt
Put the concord grape juice and sugar into a bowl. Use a whisk to stir and dissolve the sugar into the grape juice. Stir every 5 minutes. It will take about 20 minutes for the sugar to be mostly dissolved into the grape juice. Put the slice ginger into the mixuture and set aside. Put the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed pot. Stir the mixture together until it resembles wet sand. Put the pot on medium high heat and put a lid on it. Cook the mixture for ten minutes. Remove the lid and take a look at the sugar syrup. It should be clear and boiling. Put the lid back on and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Remove the lid. The sugar should be just beginning to color. Continue to cook the sugar until it is dark amber. Swirl the pan occasionally to blend the caramelizing sugar into the mixture. When the sugar is caramelized, remove the pan from the heat. Slowly pour the concord grape syrup into the the hot sugar. The syrup will boil and spurt, so be careful. Add the butter, and salt and stir into the caramel. When the butter is absorbed use a hand blender to pulverize the ginger and emulsify the butter into the caramel. Remove the caramel from the heat and allow it to cool. Strain the caramel through a fine mesh sieve to remove the ginger particles. Pour the cooled caramel into jars, label and share with only those who deserve it.
In this case we mean that literally. Rib eye is one of our favorite cuts of meat, partially because it has so many bits and pieces to work with. Now while we may love a large slab of perfectly cooked steak on a plate, the sad fact is that a lot of that ends up in the bin. As chefs and cooks occasionally we like to take it apart on the cutting board and the get the most we can out of every bit. If you've been with us for a while you already know this. There's the video of how to break it down and several posts detailing our various takes on rib eye in three services over the years. Though unsurprisingly we never did manage to limit ourselves to three courses.
For Star Chefs ICC this year we revived our favorite approach to beef and we got to play with Australian Wagyu. Instead of limiting the scope we tried to incorporate as many ideas as we could into a 30 minute presentation. It was hectic and fun to do. Everything from rendering the fat and making seasoned cracklings to wrapping one of the center cuts in blue cheese (an idea from Maximum Flavor) and mixing steak tartar on a "plate" made up of the skin from a Mountain Ham that we were lucky enough to get from Woodlands Pork (they were at the show with Winston Industries/CVAP and made some of the most amazing pork products we've ever tasted). The nice thing about having your demo on the second day is that you can shop the show and incorporate some really cool products from the floor.
We started with concentrated carrots. We used an assortment of smaller carrots. In this case they spent a little too much time in the dehydrator. The carrot flavor was intense and the texture was decidedly chewy. This was not a good thing. Inspiration struck while drinking Solebury Orchards cider and pondering this obstacle. We simply needed to plump up the carrots as we would any other dried fruits or vegetables. We added apple cider to the bags of carrots and let them hydrate overnight. The following morning they were soft and tender. The carrots retained their intense flavor while the cider enhanced their natural sweetness and added the flavor of fall. An added bonus was the delicate glaze that coated each one. Accidents really are the other of invention.
We want flavors to penetrate. We like the caramelized browned bits that form on the exterior of our meat. It was a logical step to create more available surface area by scoring the meat. Flavors soak in. And we get more crunchy, roasted texture in every bite. In Maximum Flavor we have a Thai Beef Salad that features a scored, marinated, and roasted top butt. These pieces of Australian Wagyu strip loin are a more luxurious meat, meant to be eaten in smaller bites. Each portion is about 100 grams. The scoring on these small pieces dramatically increases the overall effect. They will be fried and then finished in a CVAP to encompass the best of all worlds, lots of crunchy bits with a warm melting interior. The nooks and crannies will help the Pepperoni XO Sauce adhere to the meat and each bite will a total experience.
(Don't limit the scoring to meat only. Fish and vegetables benefit just as much.)
The fetish continues. We used our original XO sauce as the model. With experience, new ingredients and better equipment we made some changes. We marinated the seafood in Marsala wine and soy sauce. We used the shrimp shells and jalapenos to make a spicy oil to cook the XO sauce in. We ground the onions, garlic and the pepperoni together. We ground the marinated seafood separately. We cooked down the pepperoni soffrito and added the ground marinated seafood. We continued to cook the mixture until it was a rich brown. Then we added a bottle of Blis barrel aged Red Boat fish sauce. We let that infuse and reduce and then finished the XO with a generous slug of bourbon. Pepperoni XO has quickly become an essential addition to our kitchen.
We started with all the trim: fat, silver skin and sinew. We ran it through a grinder and then slowly cooked it on the stove. We added aromatics: smoked paprika, onion, and garlic. The fat rendered, the other bits eventually browned. We strained off the flavored beef fat and reserved it for a variety of cooking purposes. We put the browned meat and fat bits into a pressure cooker. We added apple cider, red wine, soy sauce and kombu. We cooked the mess for 45 minutes at high pressure. We let the pressure dissipate naturally and then completely cooled the broth. We left the fat on top of the bouillon overnight to infuse flavor. Once the fat was solidified we removed it in large chunks and added it to our other rendered fat. What laid beneath was a rich, intense gelatinous meat jelly. By using the pressure cooker we were able to denature the silverskin and other connective tissue and convert it to gelatin. No bones. No waste. All flavor
A year ago yesterday we posted a picture of this dish. It was a teaser because we developed the recipe for Maximum Flavor, coming out on October 8, 2013. It seemed like a no-brainer, who doesn't love meat that is tender, flavorful, and crispy? Serving it with a touch of coffee mayonnaise and freshly charred lemon slices is possibly more Japanese than American, but then again, maybe not. All we know is that it works. It can be prepped in advance and finished to order and the results are stellar. But sadly the recipe was cut from the manuscript. We ran out of room. But the book's loss is your gain because we are happily putting it up here. Just imagine, if this recipe didn't make the cut, how much cooler all the rest of them must be...
Country Fried Skirt Steak
1 whole skirt steak (1200 grams/2.6 pounds)
320 grams/1 ½ cups kefir or plain yogurt
4.5 grams/ ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
4.5 grams/ ¾ teaspoon sugar
0.5 gram/ ¼ teaspoon s ground cumin
1 gram/ ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
0.5 grams/ ¼ teaspoon ancho chile powder
200 grams/ 6 2/3 cups cornflakes
50 grams/7 tablespoons cornstarch
1.5 grams/¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
0.5 grams/¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
0.5 grams/ ¼ teaspoon ancho chile powder
0.5 grams/ ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
0.5 grams/ ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
150 grams/2/3 cup olive oil
25 grams/0.88 ounces coffee beans
1 head garlic, cloves peeled
1 large egg
45 grams/ 3 tablespoons cold coffee
7 grams/ ½ tablespoons brown sugar
0.25 grams/ 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 grams/ ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Torched Lemon Slices:
50 grams/ 7 tablespoons cornstarch
Peanut or Canola oil for frying
1 bunch of green onion tops sliced
Trim any silver skin and pockets of fat from the skirt steak. Cut the skirt steak into 6 equal pieces. Cut a crosshatch pattern into both sides of the skirts steak, ¼-inch deep and ½-an inch wide, being careful not to cut all the way through the steak on either side. Put the kefir, salt, sugar, cumin, garlic and ancho chile powder into a bowl. Use a whisk to stir the mixture to together. Put the skirt steak into the kefir marinade and evenly coat the steaks. Put the steaks and the marinade into a zip top bag and refrigerate for 2 days, flipping the bag over twice a day.
Put the cornflakes, cornstarch, salt, sweet paprika, ancho chile powder, granulated garlic and cumin into a food processor. Pulse the mixture together until if forms a coarse meal. Put the crumbs into a zip top bag or covered container until ready to use.
Put the cornflakes crumbs into a shallow baking pan. Remove the steaks from the marinade and pat them one at a time into the cornflakes crumbs on both sides. Put the coated steaks onto a parchment lined baking tray and put them into the freezer. When the steaks are frozen, remove them from the freezer and put them into a zip top bag until ready to use.
Put the coffee beans and the oil into a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the beans through a fine mesh sieve, some sediment will come through. Put the strained oil into a pot on low heat and add the garlic cloves. Cover the pot with a lid and cook the garlic until it is tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile put 1 egg in a small pot with enough water to cover it by 1-inch and set it over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat run cold water into the pot. Once the egg is cool enough to handle, peel the egg and put it in the blender. Remove the pan from the heat and let the garlic and oil cool. Add the coffee, brown sugar, cayenne and salt to the blender. Turn the blender on low and increase the speed to medium high. When the mixture is smooth slowly pour in the coffee oil and garlic. Continue to puree until the mixture is thick and smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Torched Lemon Slices:
Cut the outer /12 inch off the sides of the lemons, reserving the center seeded portions for juicing. Lay the lemon slices cut side up on a rack over a baking pan and use a butane torch to char the surface of the lemons. Put the lemons on a serving plate and reserve.
Heat a large iron skillet on medium high heat. When the skillet is hot, put a ½-inch of peanut oil into the bottom of the pan. Lay the frozen skirt steaks onto a cutting board and use a fine meshed strainer to sift cornstarch over both sides of the steaks. Pat the frozen steaks to remove any excess cornstarch. Put 2 steaks into the hot oil and cook for 2 minutes on the first side, then flip the steaks over and cook for 2 more minutes on the second side and remove them to a cooling rack set over a baking pan. Put the steaks into a low oven 200°F/93°C to keep warm while cooking the remaining steaks. When the steaks are cooked serve them with charred lemon sections, green onions and coffee mayonnaise.
We took a page out of our own book and made some fresh flavored cream cheese. This time it was parsnip. We started with the parsnip buttermilk. Once it was cultured and thick we refrigerated it overnight. Then we brought it back to room temperature and allowed it to culture for 2 more days. We refrigerated it again so it would thicken. When it was firm we put it into a cheese cloth lined sieve. We refrigerated and drained the buttermilk overnight. We ended up with a thick and tangy parsnip cream cheese and an equally enchanting parsnip whey.
We have admired the texture and styles of noodles for years. We are fascinated by the intricate metal work that produces the array of shapes. Now we are able to capture the beauty of pasta extruding. The slow motion video (made with the iPhone 5S) allows you to witness both the craftsmanship and artistry of pasta making. It shows the dough after it's come together, being formed and cut.
My pepperoni fetish even touches on traditional applications. The blistering heat of the wood fired oven causes the pepperoni to cup. The ovens intense heat also chars the edges of the pepperoni intensifying its flavors. These cups hold the cured meat fat. Each one delivering bursts of spicy meatiness. The bigger question eating at me is what makes pepperoni so addictive and adaptable? And how many more ways can we integrate it into our kitchen? It takes time to work through our ideas and thoughts.
This season we have been exploring poaching liquids for pears. We started with the vision of traditional poached pears. We replaced the wine with vegetable juices. We cook the peeled pears in seasoned vegetable juice sous vide at 84°C for one hour. The simple blending of flavors combined with the controlled cooking has produced revelatory results. The poaching liquid becomes a unique sauce, rarely seen and utterly delicious.
When concord grapes start showing up in the market I am reminded of a transfusion. Originally, at least in my experience, this drink was a blend of grape juice and ginger ale. Nowadays I reach for a blend of concord grape juice and spicy ginger ale. For me this is the drink of fall. The foxy grape flavor is balanced by the sharp edge of the soda. I first learned of this drink as a young fore caddy. They served it spiked with vodka to the golfers at the halfway house and we got our own non-alcoholic version in the back of the building. At the time I had no idea the adults were drinking it with alcohol. I didn't care, then or now. What matters most is how refreshing and flavorful it is.
A delicate cheesecake is baked on top of a blueberry pie filling. It is topped with a crumbly sugary streusel. The buttery pie crust keeps everything together. Four key variables, endless opportunities.
We put parsnips, milk and cream into a large pot set over medium heat. We brought the mixture to a simmer and cooked the parsnips for 10 minutes. We turned the heat off and covered the pot. We let it cool on the stove. When the mixture reached room temperature we stirred in fresh buttermilk. We covered the pot and set the parsnip milk aside to culture for a day or two. We are extremely excited about the possiblities for the parsnip buttermilk. Parsnip yogurt, creme fraiche, and other vegetable and fruit flavored dairy ideas are bouncing around our heads and notebooks.
We strengthened our gluten free masa dough with pressure cooked and pureed instant masa. We use a 5:1 ratio of water to masa and pressure cook at high pressure for 20 minutes. We let it cool completely and then puree it into a sticky gelatinous mass. We fold an equal weight of dried masa into the cooked masa and bring it together to make the dough. We added a tablespoon or two of water as we kneaded to bring the dough together. Then we vacuum sealed the dough to expedite the hydration process. Then we were able to roll and cook the dough. The blend of cooked and raw masa allowed us to create an elastic dough that retained its texture and tensile strength through the cooking process. We are now exploring the idea of using these starch purees in a number of other exciting applications.
The die is a teflon version of 145, cresta de gallo. The noodles are made with 100% rice. The dough extrudes fast and smooth. The ridges and crest are perfectly formed. While teflon is not traditional, it gets the job done better.
One of the funny things about consulting is that if you solve a problem too quickly people tend to think they're not getting their money's worth. There's this look they get, clearly wondering why, if it was so darned easy, do I need to pay you to help me out? Alex's favorite answer to that question is that it's taken years of experience to make it look easy. Now some would counsel us to slow things down in order to make our clients more comfortable but that's just not our style. We work fast and hard and give everything 110%. If that works against us occasionally so be it. It's not about fitting into a box, it's about doing the best job possible.
On the flip side of that sometimes we hit a wall. Creativity stalls in the face of massive deadlines and sometimes we long to be anywhere but the kitchen. That's a good time to remind ourselves that every phase is temporary and we should take some time to pursue something different. Stepping away from a project for a little may be all we need to get excited about it again. At the very least the time away gives us a little perspective and helps unravel a few of the knots holding us back.
Life is a series of puzzles. Each small challenge stokes our desire to do more and climb to the next level. Some of the challenges make us wonder what the heck we're doing but in the end it's always worth figuring things out. We set our own challenges and map out the own journey. Life isn't about the thing that's making me crazy at this very moment, it's about how I handle it.
Alex sang this song at our wedding reception years ago and somehow the lyrics still feel relevant today.
It's fall and time to get serious about baking again. The wood burning oven makes me think of bread. I'm sure it will allow us to make some interesting new loaves this year. In the meantime we happened across some great olives the other day and felt the need to fold them into dough. This recipe makes a rich, crusty loaf of bread. It gets a lot of its flavor from the olives you use so make sure that they are ones you enjoy eating. We use 50% whole wheat flour because we like the contrast we get from its nutty flavor juxtaposed with the earthy quality of the olives. We preserve the gluten structure by using a percentage of all purpose flour. When Amaya's at school we've been known to make a meal of this bread, accompanied by a simple salad and maybe a little cheese. Nothing more is needed.
Makes 1 loaf
225 grams/ 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
210 grams/ 1 ½ cups white or whole wheat flour
7.5 grams/ 1 ¼ teaspoons fine sea salt
3 grams/1 teaspoon sugar
3.5 grams / 1 teaspoons active dry yeast
30 grams/ 2 tablespoons olive oil
30 grams/ 2 tablespoons olive brine (from the container of olives)
200 grams/ 7 ounces water
100 grams/ 3/4 cup coarsely chopped olives (your favorite kind)
10 grams/ 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
Put the all purpose flour, wheat flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle and turn it on low. Let it run for about 10 seconds to blend the mixture. Put the olive oil, olive brine and water in a pint-sized measuring cup and stir to blend. Slowly pour it into the bowl of the still running mixture. Once the water is about halfway absorbed, about a minute, add the olives. Let the mixer go for an additional minute or two until the mixture comes together as slightly sticky dough. Turn the mixer up to medium low and knead the dough for 3-4 minutes until it becomes smooth, elastic dough. Put 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium bowl and rub it all over the inside surface. Turn the olive bread dough out onto the counter and knead it a few times by hand. Transfer it to the prepared bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and leave it to rise at room temperature until it has almost doubled, 1 ½ -2 hours depending on the temperature of your room.
Uncover the bowl and use a rubber bench scraper to gently loosen the dough from the bowl. Slide a bench scraper to loosen the dough from the sides of the bowl. Slide it under one edge and fold it downwards into the center and press down gently so the dough adheres to itself. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the folding process. Do this two more times. After the fourth fold, flip over the dough so the seams are on the bottom. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. It can be refrigerated at this point for up to 12 hours or you can leave it at room temperature for about an hour to rise again. A slower fermentation will give the yeast time to develop more flavor and the cold dough will be easier to shape into a loaf although it will require a longer proofing time before baking.
Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Sprinkle it lightly with flour or fine cornmeal.
Turn the dough out onto the center of the prepared sheet pan and shape it into a round, slightly flattened loaf. Do not move loaf around on the pan or the cornmeal will migrate up the sides of the loaf. Once your loaf is formed drizzle 5 grams (1 teaspoon) olive oil over the top and rub it over the dough so there is a thin coating of oil over all the exposed areas of dough. This will keep it from drying out as it proofs. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave the loaf to proof at room temperature for 30 minutes (up to 75 minutes if you started with chilled dough) until it has risen and looks puffy.
Preheat the oven to 450°F/242°C
Put the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Without opening the oven, lower the heat to 375°F/190°C and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes until the bread is a deep caramelized color. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Variation: You could also make this into a version of focaccia-style bread by rubbing a sheet pan with olive oil and sprinkling the inside with semolina. Press the dough out into an even layer, edge to edge in the prepared pan and drizzle it with 15 grams (1 tablespoon) of olive oil, use your fingers to make sure that the entire surface of the bread is lightly coated with the oil and leave it to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes. Dimple the top of the bread with your fingers and sprinkle the top with coarse sea salt. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 30 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven, rotating the pan after 20 minutes. It will be a deep golden brown. Let the bread rest in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then use an offset spatula to loosen the bread and slide it out onto a cutting board. You can cut it immediately with a sharp serrated knife and serve it while still warm.
Picking the ripe fruit from the vine is inspiring. The skin barely contains the warm, almost molten flesh inside. The juices explode. Eating the tomatoes is an event. The question is how to share, really how to replicate, this fleeting experience.
We were fortunate enough to find these squash in the market. We had not heard of them before. The name is evocative, it ignites the imagination. These Black Forest squash sparked a number of ideas: from pairing them with black forest ham to using the squash puree in a black forest cake. It turns out that our Black Forest squash are a smaller variety of Kabocha squash, one we are quite familiar with from out days at Clio. So soup is a definite possibility, or risotto, John Thorne's squash tian, black forest waffles, squash steamed pudding with black treacle sauce or black forest lasagna. The possiblities are endless,
A pile of kirby cucumbers. We see them and think of dill pickles. And that is too bad because pickles are only the tip of the iceberg. We are blinded by experience. We need to look beyond our own horizons and see what others do with kirby cukes. Cooked cucumbers are delicious and not eaten enough. Next we look at the bigger picture, the gourd family. If we can make kirby dill pickles why can't we make dill pickled honeydew melon? Then we look at our pickle processes. From pour over vinegar to lacto-fermented we are just scratching the surface. How are others pickling foods? What can we borrow and learn from? What have we not tried? The ingredient, its connections and the processes broaden our horizons. When we can break the mold we discover new inspirations. It frees us to let our imaginations roam. Then we dig around to see what's possible.
Manicotti has long been one of my favorite dishes. Too many restaurants slap out indifferent tubes of pasta filled with mediocre ricotta cheese and dried herbs, coated with pizza sauce. The real deal is something truly special, with light crepes wrapped around super fresh ricotta and glazed with a carefully prepared sauce. Here we’ve made green onion crepes and filled them with home made ricotta and fresh herbs. The sauce has a rich earthy quality from the bacon and prosciutto ends (if you’re lucky your local market will sell them to you for a song) and the whole meal will make you and your guests feel incredibly pampered and happy. They don’t have to know that it’s actually quite easy to put it all together and that as long as you start with great ingredients it’s almost impossible to go wrong.
8 ounces / 225 grams bacon ends (high quality, smoky bacon)
8 ounces/ 225 grams prosciutto ends
2 large onions
1 1/3 cups / 300 grams white wine
1-28 ounce / 785 grams can fire roasted tomatoes
Green Onion Crepes:
70 grams/6 green onions, cleaned and trimmed
2 large eggs¼ cup / 56 grams water
¾ cup / 195 grams milk
3 tablespoons / 40 grams unsalted butter, melted
1 cup / 150 grams all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt
16 ounces / 450 grams ricotta cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
5.5 ounces 150 grams / 155 grams fresh mozzarella, small dice
4 tablespoons / 25 grams grated Parmigiano-Regiano cheese
small handful / 5 grams flat Italian parsley leaves, chopped
¼ teaspoon / 1.5 grams fine sea salt
Green Onion Crepes
Cut the bacon ends, prosciutto ends and onions into large dice. Put them through a meat fitted with a ¼-inch die and grind them together. Transfer the mixture to a large sauce pot and set it over medium low heat. Put the lid on the pot and sweat the meat for about 20 minutes until soft and tender. Remove the lid and add the white wine. Turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture is almost dry. Lightly crush the tomatoes and add them, along with all of their liquid, to the pot. Bring the mixture to simmer and cook for about 20 minutes so that sauce can thicken and the flavors come together. The sauce can be used immediately but will benefit from cooling and resting in the refrigerator overnight. The sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before using.
Green Onion Crepes
Set the green onions on a rack set over a sheet pan and use a propane torch to char the green onions on all sides. Once they cool enough to handle, thinly slice the onions. Put them in a blender with the eggs, water, milk, butter, flour and salt. Turn the blender on low and slowly increase the speed to medium for 10 seconds until you have a smooth puree. Let the mixture rest for 20 minutes before using. Set a rack over a sheet pan. Place an 8-inch nonstick pan over medium low heat. Once it gets hot a 2 tablespoons of batter to the pan, swirling so that it coats the bottom. Let it cook for about 20 seconds, until just set and then flip the crepe. Let it cook for another 10 seconds and then transfer to the rack to cool. Repeat until all of the batter is used up. Once the crepes are cool they can be stacked on small plate. Makes approximately 18 crepes.
Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C
Put the ricotta cheese, egg, mozzarella cheese, 12 grams (2 tablespoons) Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley and salt in a medium bowl and mix gently with a rubber spatula to combine. Transfer to a pastry bag or large zip top bag fitted with a ½-inch plain tip. Spread approximately 1/3 of your manicotti sauce in an even layer on the bottom of a 12x15-inch roasting pan. Lay out one crepe on your cutting board and pipe two lines of cheese across the bottom third of the crepe, about an inch above the bottom edge. Lift the bottom of the crepe up and over the cheese, rolling it into a cylinder. Lay the filled crepe, seam side down in the roasting pan. Repeat with the remaining crepes. Nestle them together in the pan and then spoon the remaining sauce over the top. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigianno-Reggiano over the top of the manicotti. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 minutes more until the cheese is golden brown and the casserole is bubbling and heated through. Serve immediately.
Continuing our ocean theme, here is a TED talk by Diana Nyad. In case you missed it, on Monday, September 2, 2013 she became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida at age 64. Can you say inspiring? This talk was given after a failed attempt and is even more poignant for her recent success. What will you do?
The ideas begin to flow the moment the clouds begin to part and the light shines through. Being able to see that first glimpse allows the brain to wipe away the heavy clouds of muddled thoughts and failed attempts. It is not an art form. It is an approach.
Alex has a bit of a fetish for pepperoni. There's a pepperoni lasagna in our upcoming book and tonight he decided that my meatloaf dinner would be incomplete without it. Classic meatloaf, at least in our house, is usually topped with a light brushing of ketchup and strips of bacon. Tonight that was replaced with a generous mosaic of Hormel pepperoni. It's our go-to brand for old school pizza, though we do use artisan salumi for our pies as well, and he thought its rich meaty flavor would be perfect for the loaf. Amaya's not yet jumped on his bandwagon so there were two loaves, ketchup topped and the pepperoni special. The little rounds shriveled and crisped in the oven just as bacon would have. They added their own special tang to the proceedings and in the end I was forced to admit that he might be a genius. Pepperoni meatloaf. Try it with your favorite recipe.
There is a brief period at the end of the summer when tomatoes and corn are both at their peak. The ears of corn are so sweet and succulent that they only need to be steamed for 2-3 minutes. The kernels soften and swell and when you bite into the cob they explode with sweetness against your tongue. The tomatoes are juicy and just tender, needing only some coarse salt and fresh basil to accentuate their rich flavor. Alex likes a bit of butter on his corn but beyond that nothing else is needed. We gorge ourselves on the fresh vegetables knowing that as the nights slowly stretch out and the temperatures drop this bounty will soon be a memory.
We seasoned our steaks with a healthy dose of sea salt. We refrigerated them on racks for 24 hours. Then we cooked them in the Egg. We moved the meat on and off the grill to control the heat and ensure uniform cooking. When the steaks were just shy of rare we transferred them to the bed of seared mushrooms and basil, massaged butter all over them, and let them rest. Just before dinnertime we put them back on the grill to finish cooking them to a warm medium rare. Meanwhile we set the pan of mushrooms in the oven to warm. Once the steaks were finished we let them rest again on the bed of warm mushrooms. The juices dripped down and the flavors mingled. We set the steaks on the dinner plates and then spooned the juicy ragout over the tops. As we sat down to eat it was clear that everything had come together in harmony. This time it was steak but the technique lends itself to fish and chops, burgers and sausages paired with mushrooms, grilled squash, roasted asparagus or beans. Use it anytime you want to blend protein and vegetables in order to highlight their combined flavors.
The usefulness of ingredients is important. The ability to use them is up to the cook. One of our talents is being able to think outside the box when it comes to ingredients and find new uses for established items. Potato flakes and non-fat milk powder are staples in our kitchen. In Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work we made potato chip noodles. In Maximum Flavor, we have fined tuned BBQ potato chip gnocchi. Both recipes use potato flakes. These dehydrated potatoes replicate the flavor of potato chips. Think about it, potato chips are deep fried to remove interior moisture and make them crunchy and to caramelize the outside. Potato flakes are halfway there.
There seems to be a fear of using potato flakes in the kitchen. This stems from the idea of cheating in the kitchen. Oddly it does not seem to apply to non-fat milk powder in spite of the horror stories about it. As a kid a friend of mine drank only reconstituted dried milk, which to my mind was the stuff of nightmares. It tended to separate in the glass and had a gritty, chalky consistency. Thankfully I was able to get past the memories and discover usefulness in the ingredient. And to be frank, great mashed potato flakes (the ones that are 100% potato) make great mashed potatoes, in an instant.
These two recipes utilize potato flakes and non-fat milk powder. They allow the idea of a potato chip with the clarity of the potato flavor to come through. Take them for a spin and then make them your own.
Potato Chip Soup
200 grams potato flakes
225 grams whole butter
200 grams nonfat milk solids
10.5 grams salt
1500 grams water
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
Put the potato flakes on a parchment lined baking pan. Bake the potato flakes in the preheated oven until they are a dark golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Meanwhile set a medium pot over medium heat. Add the butter let it melt. Add the milk solids and stir them to completely coat them in the melted fat. Continue to cook the milk solids, stirring slowly until they become a dark caramel color, about 10 minutes. Add the toasted potato flakes and water and transfer to a covered container. Refrigerate for several hours to allow the potato flakes to fully hydrate. Puree in a blender until silky smooth, about 1 minute. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the solids. The soup can be heated and served immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Alternatively you can heat up the soup and transfer it to an iSi canister, charge it with NO2 and dispense it directly into bowls as a light, airy version of itself. The soup base easily absorbs additional seasonings like dry rub, cheddar cheese, sour cream and chives, or whatever else is needed to accommodate your own potato chip craving.
Potato Chip Ice Cream
1000 grams potato chip soup (recipe above)
260 grams half and half
160 grams dark agave nectar
108 grams (6 large) egg yolks
3 grams salt
Pre-heat a circulating water bath to 82.5°C
Put the potato chip soup, half and half, agave nectar, egg yolks and salt in a blender. Puree the ingredients together until smooth and homogeneous, about 15 seconds. Transfer the contents to a vacuum bag and seal. Cook in the circulating water bath for 30 minutes. Remove from the water bath and immediately shake well to combine the custard and then transfer to an ice bath to cool completely. Let the ice cream base rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours then churn in an ice cream machine or freeze in Pacojet canisters and spin.
When we worked on the Train Yourself to Be a Better Cook piece, for Food & Wine a number of ideas didn't fit into the article. One was a caramelized lemon vinaigrette. We caramelized sugar on lemons and then squeezed the juice. That was the catalyst, yes we know it's been done before, but you never know when an idea will catch a spark. Since then we having been dipping different fruits in sugar, bruleeing them, and juicing them. The increased depth of flavor elevates them to another level. And they can be twisted in many different directions running the gamut from sweet to savory. We've yet to find a fruit that doesn't taste better with a little burnt sugar.