There are plenty of moving parts. Which ones do we need to pay attention to? And when? Sometimes the views that draw our notice are not the ones that need it most.
February 20, 2011
February 20, 2005
There are plenty of moving parts. Which ones do we need to pay attention to? And when? Sometimes the views that draw our notice are not the ones that need it most.
February 20, 2011
February 20, 2005
We quickly put our Ho Fun noodles and my Chow Fun skills to the test. I want to make Peking Duck chow fun but today I was sorely lacking in ingredients to execute my inspiration. I made do. I started with succulent guanciale from Joshua Smith of Moody's Delicatessen & Provsions and New England Charcuterie. I added some green onion and quickly followed that with just cooked ho fun noodles. Next came a spoonful of our homemade hoisin sauce and a splash of soy sauce. The noodles were slippery and chewy, decadent and delicious. The meat, fatty and funky in the very best way. The hoisin sauce added depth and brightened the dish and the green onions contributed the fresh allium flavor that Aki requires. It was a tasty plate of food. And I'm ready to tackle the duck version next.
I have a thing for chow fun. I truly enjoy the way the wide slippery noodles, crunchy vegetables, and tender meat come together with sweet salinity on my tongue. But those noodles, oh, those noodles, they haunt me. I have found videos of people making them. The steaming technique is all well and good. OK, not really. Sure it's a proven technique that's been done for years. It is not efficient. Especially with a pasta extruder at the ready. I have been tinkering with the noodles. I began with the idea behind our Masa Cavatelli, using pre-gelatinized starch as the hydrating mass for the noodles.
We blended 3 parts rice flour with 1 part tapioca flour. We mixed 200 grams of the flour blend with 800 grams of water and then put it in a bowl in a pressure cooker with 2 inches of water in the bottom. We cooked the mixture for 20 minutes at high pressure and then let it cool naturally. We pureed the gelatinized starch mixture in a food processor to smooth out any lumps. Then we chilled it down and to allow the starch to retrograde. We mixed 600 grams of this hydrated starch puree with 1000 grams of our blend of rice and tapioca flours in our extruder. When the dough resembled a coarse streusel, we extruded the wide, flat noodles. I opted to make them longer, pappardelle style, noodles.
The ho fun noodles cook up quickly. They have the elasticity and slippery texture that I was after. What I learned in this process is that now I need to perfect my technique for cooking Chow Fun.
February 18, 2005
When we start working on an idea we start writing. We think of the parts and pieces. There is always a foundation. It can be a classic dish, an ingredient or a color. Once we start writing we cut, paste, scratch and formulate. Here is the list we used to build our take off of linguini with clam sauce. The full recipe and pictures are over on Serious Eats. What I truly love about this dish and this list is we held nothing back. We extracted as much flavor, texture and nuance out of each element in this dish that we possibly could. And the results were delicious. And the ideas we discovered and revealed in our processes would easily translate to a more classic rendition of linguini with clam sauce.
February 17, 2005
Sometimes you just want a little bit of cake. Nothing fancy or fussy, just moist chocolate cake, with a few chocolate chips, and a dusting of powdered sugar. Yes you could add frosting and sprinkles and fancy it up, but it's not necessary. This is one of those old fashioned snack cakes, made popular in times of scarcity. There's no milk or eggs in the batter so when your cupboards are relatively bare you'll still know you can satisfy that sweet tooth. The main liquid is water and you can substitute coffee or orange juice if that's what you like with your chocolate. It's a one bowl cake that relies heavily on the flavor of your cocoa powder so use the good stuff. I prefer Cacao Barry Extra Brut, I buy it in bulk on Amazon and use it for everything. And of course, if you don't have butter hand you can substitute vegetable or coconut oil. It's a very flexible recipe that makes a tender cake with a clear chocolate flavor that brings me back to my childhood.
Easy Chocolate Snack Cake
1 1/2 cups / 225 grams all purpose flour
1 cup / 200 grams sugar
1/3 cup / 75 grams cocoa powder
1 teaspoon / 5 grams baking soda
1/2 teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt
1/3 cup / 75 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon / 15 grams vanilla paste or extract
1 teaspoon / 4 grams vinegar
1 cup / 225 grams cold water
1/2 cup / 85 grams bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325°F. (165°C.)
Butter or lightly oil an 8-inch square baking dish.
Put the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to blend thoroughly. Add the melted butter, vinegar, and vanilla and mix lightly to blend. Add the water and stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture forms a smooth, shiny batter, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spread the batter evenly in the pan and smooth the top with a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the cake is set and springs back lightly when pressed gently with a finger or a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.
Every ingredient must audition for the plate. Every technique must audition for its use in a recipe. And we must be tough critics in the selection process. In order to create a great dish, we must push ourselves to be exhaustive in our analysis and absolute in our selections.
It takes time to concentrate flavors
Cup Cakes: a micro bakery
The adjacent process
Do we have to understand to appreciate? And do you have to appreciate to understand?
You can't teach a new dog old tricks
Why does this dish need X?
Amazing what we will try in a game, when in life we will not
Great flavors remain Great
What we want is not what we need
Form Creates Function
We like what we know
If it ain’t broke, Break It!
The Failing Process is Not Fun, it is necessary
Discovery is Blind
No one wants to wake up and say, “boy I hope I fail today”
Tripping over words slows down the process
I love how clam chowder is yet another example of pork and clams
There is no reason why you cannot create anything
My plan is not to plan
We don’t always know what we’ve discovered
The questions we ask change the way we think
A wall is a moment to pause and catch your breath, and figure out how to use it
Commit to being great
Interested in Understanding
The wonder of the Ordinary
We look to the read option in the kitchen
The different is not better and vice-versa
Playing Better than Ever
Interaction of Flavor
Try it first, then tell me if it works or not
If removing water concentrates flavor, why are we constantly cooking ingredients in water
Gaining pleasure through discovery
Transparency in Delivery
Thinking through the steps
You Can’t Fake Timing
The key is trying to win games while getting on the same page—Peyton Manning
You need to create to be creative
Does Practical Matter?
You can’t chase what you don’t know
Craft and Purpose
Capture, organize, share/connect
Your notebook is only as good as what you put in it
Old isn't new, it's just unknown
Simplify the problem to its root cause
What are your building blocks
Looking for Elevation
You Just Have to Taste Things
"Clean up the minor details! That’s how you get great"--Bruce Arians
Passionate about the minutiae
Darkness and a pound of Bacon
Trying to prove yourself
Capture create collaborate
The need for individual flavors
We create our own resources
Leave out the parts that people skip
Stay out of the way (rather appear to have done nothing)
Amazing how we like challenges
The gift of discovery
We don’t see the instructions right in front of us
Are You Chicken Enough
An excuse to cook
Cooking delicious food is not a style
Make waves where it matters
Handle it like it’s a work of art
Act like you’ve been there before
The other of invention
A restaurant is a combination of technical elegance and a lot of emotion—Michael Anthony
(How to) organize experience?
“Working tirelessly and relentlessly on my craft to unearth the diamond to be. The preparation determines the outcome. BTM.” (The Colts’ motto this season: Building The Monster).—Daniel Adongo
Inspired by Technique
Interesting how our first response is to add our own opinion/thought/twist/suggestion rather than listening, absorbing and contemplating
The results can change the direction
Explore the delicate nature of food
Go to where the color is
A need to get it right
You search, you break, you rebuild
Openness and Rejection
I’m ok building sentences like thoughts, piece by piece
About Space and Light
The right angles are essential
We are often Blinded by expectations and miss the genius in front of us
Is it better to Create or improve?
Improving the Platform
At one point there was no authentic pizza
It's not about the answers It's about the directions we are going
If you’re gonna cook, cook
Ideas in Food Bank
If you smell something burning, it is (did)
An Idea Club
you need to read the lines for the information, not between them
"it's not what I was expecting" seems to be our calling card
we make lists so we can cross things off
eliminating something is evolving.
Not really sold on the line "It's just what we do"
It is the work of others that makes us better
Amazed at what is supposed to be straightforward and what is deemed complex worthy
Authenticity and Originality are Two enormous roadblocks
Keeping it all in the family
Putting pieces together
Make it a star
What else can we actually do?
Look for the idea inside
Always a race to the starting line
As good as an idea is, you must always be ready to throw it away.
If you're not looking to learn, what are you doing
I’m distracted by distractions
Basic is not easy Simple is not fast
An openness to anything, not everything
The Day Doesn’t Matter
You have to be happy with your own style
We tell stories to share experiences
2 things to know when you are in charge: know it, and be willing to delegate
curate, edit, choose your sources carefully
We Learn Through the Process
When everyone does the same thing we become bored
The Subject is the Canvas
It's not just where you look, but how you look
Algorithm based discovery misses some of the point of searching
Improving the workspace
You can't bottle connections
Making it complicated is easy
We fill the space we are given, how to not do so
We all have obstacles, it's how we face them that matters
Connecting disparate: ingredients, ideas, methods
It's strange seeing leaders follow
Take the time to make the modifications
The difference between classic and dated
A story is only as good as its connections/transitions
The same results may be achieved with different processes
Cost Controls Choices
People want to hear the stories that haven't been told
“If you teach the concepts well, the players will understand it. Once they know the concepts, then it’s easy for them to execute. It looks complicated, but it really isn’t.”—Rex Ryan
Why is the voice of reason so unreasonable?
A willingness and openness to destroying an ingredient
No ingredient or form of an ingredient is sacred, look at all the possibilities
“Cooking is based on common sense,” she used to say. “Don’t use unnecessary ingredients, don’t cover up flavor with spices, it is just as important to leave something out, as it is to put something in.” Marcella Hazan
It is very difficult to create without a purpose, I'd say impossible
Often times obstacles are not walls, they're white picket fences
I’m all for doing it wrong as long as it gets me to right (the end justifies the means?)
Start with a Model, then break it
The juxtaposition of flavors, textures ideas and techniques is easily overlooked
“the act of going beyond the obvious, is where innovation lies.” –Seth Godin
if you're gonna change the world, might as well change it chef
Creating is Fun
What are you willing to do, and why are you willing to do it?
Limitations are Opportunities
The Artist Outside
Searching to Connect it All
I have to make it really complicated before I can simplify it
Looked at for Inspiration, overlooked for accolades
Get the Words Down
The first level of Why is relatively easy, its when you dive deeper that the Why's become more difficult to explain
Apparently Science is like salt most observers use it to season to taste in actuality it is best served as a calculated ratio
Cooks adore Challenges
If you could've done that, why didn't you?
My creative zeal is fighting with my practical sensibilities
If you are trying to do your own thing, realize your going to need a lot of help, isn't it ironic
You have to ask the questions
If you worked in other kitchens you are not self taught
Create the dish, develop the sauce
Google doesn't have the answers it just helps you sort through the possibilities
There is always a punch line
Changing Form Changes Function
We can make everything from anything the fun part is making something from (almost) nothing
If you're looking for a pat on the back start by learning how to stretch your arm
If you can find a flaw then you can find a solution
Those that want to improve learn how
You Either Get it or You Don’t
Tradition is a starting point
We are here to change the world, not to win awards
we can have good ideas and good flavors, greatness comes when we may combine the two
Forward is only a direction, not the right one
Classic versus Dated
Quicken the mind
Opportunity in repetition
Discovery for the first time
Delight in Discovery
Someone else is always going to do what you are doing, the difference is you
Ideas flourish in the fringe
The importance of a Lesson Plan
If you connect all the dots you get a completely full page instead of blank, need to know what to connect and what not too
It's not about changing the way you think it's about being open to the possibilities
A continued driving force is a need/desire to utilize everything in an ingredient
Mess Things Up
Those that want to improve learn how
We need less how to books and more do books
If you can find a flaw then you can find a solution
Share what you know and learn
We are able to create more when we look at less
Combine the best of what you know with the best of what you like
You either get it or you don't, until you step back
Be your own benchmark
In what way is this idea smart?
Look beyond boundaries for ideas
We don't need breathing room we need to get in better shape
Know how, intuition and creativity
We learn by doing
It should read, don't tell me I'm wrong, show me why and teach me how to improve
Interesting how chefs go to learn grandmothers secrets and home cooks look to chefs for secrets
You get squashed in the Middle
get the ideas down first, then move them around into the order you like.
There is no solid ground, just levels of balance
It is a rare day when we have the opportunity to support the creative vision of another
those who want to know figure out how to learn
Teaching Old Recipes New Tricks
The first lemming was brave, the second one stupid
It's not that everyday is a big idea, It's that everyday there is an idea which contributes to the big ideas
Use your own skills on yourself
Begin by working with ingredients on the most basic level.
In creating complexities we miss the simplicity
Don't tell me why I'm wrong, teach me how to improve
There has to be a want in order to achieve
Making your own difference
If you've done it do it better
Creating a creative
The sources of inspiration
"What's important now?"
Cooking wasn't created it was observed
Excellent isn't perfect
You can only be where you are
Inspiration takes you down paths you wouldn’t have seen before
Incremental Improvements and mess with it
Asking the right questions
What will we cook up next?
Explore everyday ideas, tear apart and build back together
When you move obstructions it's amazing what you can see
Nothing is designed with the clean up in mind
The trick is knowing when to go back to the drawing board, and when to use someone else's idea—Hugh Macleod
All traditions were once progressive
Celebrating the Ordinary
Keeping it all in the family
“I think it’s important that we learn how to draw and to make something and to do it directly,” he says, “to understand the properties you’re working with by manipulating them and transforming them yourself.”-Jony Ive -- stop to notice a small, quiet connection.
Everything is a learned process
Failure is not a permanent condition it is a stepping stone for: growth, learning, exploring, persevering
If a chef puts 1 or 50 things on a plate our job as diners is to see how well the combination tastes, not to say use more or less
One Idea at a Time
Put the flavors where you want them
Cleaning is as important as creating
The stain on my tongue
What is a layer of flavor?
Anything against a wall collects dust
As soon as you discard authentic anything becomes possible
Everything is a learned process
What can we do that has not been done before
“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be,” Tom Landry once said.
Unique and Authentic
Take problems from the outer level in
“It is true of any subject that the person that succeeds in anything has the realistic viewpoint at the beginning and [knows] that the problem is large and that he has to take it a step at a time and that he has to enjoy the step-by-step learning procedure.” Jazz Pianist Bill Evans
Newness is elegantly combining old things
Understand the problem to enjoy the process
A Willingness to Make Anything Happen
Willingness to keep doing something until you get it honed
Note to self, any liquid that tastes good can make something else taste even better.
Clarification is an Element of Design
What are you willing to do to achieve the desired effect?
Creating with Purpose
Refinement is more about feel than looks
A well constructed cookie
Sorrow is an opportunity for happiness
Underdog was a superhero just like white chocolate
Often times the fix is not the solution
When you wear it on your sleeve be ready for it to get dirty
A brilliant elegant and simple solution
It's good to miss out and miss opportunities
I make things
Clarification is an element of design
My only plan is to plan for change
Critiquing with dynamite
Understanding your errors to make less trials
Think minimalist in your "entree" style plates
We all have problems to solve
The most important ideas lie within the mundane
The focus on discovery means looking at a lot of history
Even Chefs Like Recipes
When we change how we lead those that follow change too
There is always something to fix
Pay Attention…how much does it cost
The difficulty with ideas is they can eat at you non stop until they are brought to light
By not knowing we can discover
They are not secrets, there is just lots of stuff we haven't learned yet
It's only the best ever until somebody makes it better
In today's environment of exact and precise cooking, elements of chaos are sought out to keep the ideas fresh and cooks on their toes. The combination of precision and chaos leads to great achievements and greater failures. It is the juxtaposition of these disparate principles that excites us on a daily basis.
February 15, 2005
Unsurprisingly, the three of us could not consume a full bundt pan of anything. Not even stuffing. I set my sights on what to do with it next and aimed for dumplings. We made a quick boiling water dumpling dough. Then we rolled out the wrappers and stuffed them with leftover bundt stuffing. We seared the dumplings and then hit them with a dose of chicken stock, rather than water. It seemed appropriate. While I did not make a dipping sauce this time, cranberry-soy may make its way into our kitchen soon.
February 14, 2009
February 14, 2005
After making the everything bundt bread we were faced with a glut of bread. The three of us can only eat so much. Then it dawned on me. Stuffing. We should make everything stuffing. At first we were going to make the stuffing as a bed to roast a chicken on. Then I thought, what about making it our bundt pan?
We combined the diced bread, sauteed mushrooms with sausage and green onions, a blend of milk, eggs, and soy sauce, and a slew of beef braised onions. We baked the bundt for an hour covered at 350°F. We removed the cover and baked it for 30 more minutes to brown the top. When we pulled the accompanying chicken out of the other oven, we poured the roasting juices over the top of the stuffing. The tricky part is the un-molding. Then onto the crushing it.
February 13, 2007
This winter seems to be all about breaking out of ruts. I picked up these peppers because of their bright sunny colors. Their sweetness was an added bonus. I was going to fry them up with onions and garlic, as I often do, and then I stopped myself. Instead I tossed them with a little salt and roasted garlic oil and put them in a foil package in the oven. I wanted to see what a little steam would do for them. After 30 minutes at 350°F the package had puffed and the aroma of sweet peppers and garlic filled the air. Instead of browning and crisping, they softened and plumped. Their natural sweetness was intensified and their bright colors seemed to glow. Even better, they were bathed in their own juices, giving them a special sauce with no extra work. The steamed peppers were delicious, like eating sunshine on a snowy winter afternoon.
February 12, 2006
February 12, 2005
We often tell people to save the brine from their pickle jars. It's a magic elixir, full of flavor and great for salad dressings, cocktails and as the secret ingredient in sauces and soups. But the easiest way to recycle good pickle brine is to make new pickles.
In this case we went from cucumbers to zucchini and used our vacuum sealer to speed up the pickling process. If you don't have a vacuum sealer, just submerge your vegetables in the brine for several days until they are pickled to your satisfaction.
It started as a baguette recipe. When the dough was ready to be shaped Amaya and I changed the plan. We sprayed the inside of a bundt pan with pan release. We put the wet dough into the pan and topped it with a hybrid Everything Topping: caraway seeds, poppy seeds, roasted yeast, garlic flakes, and onion flakes. We let the dough rise and refrigerated it overnight. We let the dough sit at room temperature for 2 hours to rise a bit more. I used scissors to snip, rather than slash, the top of the bread and then baked the bundt at 425°F for 20 minutes. We rotated the pan and turned the oven down to 375°F and baked the bundt for another 20 minutes. I removed the bundt from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes. I then knocked the loaf out of the pan and cooled it on a rack for several hours. When it was cool it had a crackling crust and soft moist interior. Slicing the bundt was simple and enjoyable. I can't wait to try other breads in this form.
We started by cooking down red wine. When the wine was reduced by half we added the parsnips and some sugar. We cooked the parsnips until they were tender and glazed with the red wine syrup. We weighed the mixture and calculated 0.5% salt and 0.15% xanthan gum. We put the glazed parsnips in the blender and pureed them smooth. Then we added the salt and xanthan gum and pureed them in. We strained the parsnips through a chinois. The finished puree was a light aubergine color. The flavor was wine forward, balanced by the sweet, earthy parsnips. It was wonderful paired with a spiced, deep fried filet.
February 9, 2005
Beet stems often get binned. Instead we cut them into a rough brunoise. We blanched them sous vide to break down the vegetable fibers while retaining its flavor. When they were cooked they were juicy and crisp. At this point they had the potential to be pickled or folded into a beet tartare for crunch. We took some of the stems further and dehydrated them. The flavors intensified. We produced a chewy beet stem. They would work folded into a risotto or a braised beef stew. Soaked in horseradish vinegar it would become a powerful condiment. The real question is what to do with them next...
February 8, 2005
How do you make toast?
Visualization as a pathway to problem solving in groups.
Fascinating stuff and immediately applicable in any business. I think the process of getting a group to relax enough to draw with each other is the first step in breaking down barriers to communication.
We found some good looking beef shanks at the store. We had a beef-beet stock tucked away in the freezer. It seemed to be a good time to bring the two together. We thawed out the stock and put it in a vacuum bag with the shanks. We are cooking the shanks for 24 hours in the CVap at 57°C. When we are done we should have an intense beet flavored shank and shank flavored borscht. The next steps will be influenced by the results.
We took our base pate choux recipe and substituted oat flour for the all purpose flour. We made the pate choux. I scooped the oat choux into a miniature muffin pan to give it a unique shape. I chilled the batter in the muffin tin.
When it was cold I sprinkled half of the oat choux with coarse sugar in the raw. I baked them for 10 minutes at 425°F and then another 25 minutes at 350°F. This ended up being 10 minutes longer than we normally cook our pate choux. I believe it had to do with the oats hanging onto moisture and the muffin pan which kept at least half of the batter covered and unable to evaporate the interior water.
When the puffs were done I struggled to get them out of the teflon pan. I had sprayed it with pan release but in my my haste to make the oat pate choux, it's possible that I did not properly and sufficiently coat the insides of the cups.
Several oat puffs were eventually able to be extracted from the pan. And I baked a few more free form on a sheet pan to see the results. The flavor of the oat pate choux is wonderful. It tasted like the essence of oatmeal in a crisp crust with a soft, tender, almost bread pudding-like interior. The sweetened version resembled light as air oatmeal cookies. With the base in place the choice of fillings become a fascinating endeavor.
Oat Flour Pate Choux
225 grams water
113 grams butter
3 grams salt
130 grams oat flour
216 grams/ 4 large eggs
Put the water, butter and salt in a medium pot on medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, making sure the butter has completely melted. Add the oat flour to the pot and use a rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. The oat flour will hydrate and form a ball in the pot. Continue to cook for 1 minute until the ball appears dry and does not stick to the sides of the pot. Remove the pot from the heat. Use a hand mixer to beat the eggs into the batter one at a time. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. When all the eggs have been added and absorbed, cool the batter down in a covered container in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
Pre-heat an oven to 425°F.
Put about a tablespoon of pate choux in a greased mini-muffin tin or pipe about a tablespoon in a small mound on a parchment-lined sheet pan, leaving about 2-inches between each portion. Bake the pate choux for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350°F. without opening the door and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the pate choux is puffed and appears fully dry. Remove the pate choux from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes on the sheet pan. Eat plain or stuff with anything you desire.
Life is constantly changing. It's been a week of snow and that forced us to modify the way we do things around here. There have been a few snow days and I'm struggling with this cold/flu thing that's been going around. Long driveways seem like a great idea until it's time to dig them out in order to make your home accessible to the world. Instead of shopping every couple of days, we've been cooking from our pantry. It's been an interesting experience.
There are things in the refrigerator that we tend to ignore, depending upon the season and where our heads are at. Teaching workshops means that we buy whatever looks great in the market but sometimes we can't get through everything in a day or four, as the case may be, and they end up in the refrigerator for us to be inspired by. That doesn't always work out as well as we might like. I read a quote by Elena Brower today: "Preferences limit what's possible." It completely resonated with where my head is right now. Sometimes I look at ingredients and think that I'd prefer not to cook with them, and every time I do that I'm missing an opportunity.
Sometimes it's sheer laziness. There were two whole celeriac in the fridge that I'd been avoiding simply because I didn't feel like wrestling with them. Even with years of experience, shaving off that skin can be a deal-breaker. Yesterday I got tired of looking at them and made up my mind to use the celery root for dinner. My preferred method for cleaning them is to slice off the top and bottom, after washing of course, and then stand up the root up on my cutting board and use a large serrated knife to pare away the skins, the same way I do it for large melons. It did take a bit of effort, the flesh is dense when raw, but not that much time at all. Then I cut it into 3-4 inch long batons, tossed them in olive oil, salt, and a touch of curry powder, and roasted them at 425°F for about an hour. They tasted so good and were so easy to make that I wondered what I had been waiting for. Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way.
February 4, 2005
I have a thing for hops. Their floral notes and distinct bitterness provide backbone and structure. Recently we added Bittercube's Door County Hops Bitters to our arsenal. They go wonderfully in my near-beers. They are also a great seasoning for a variety of ingredients: olive oil, sour cream, honey, soy sauce. Realizing the potential of our pantry has me eager to revisit and hop up our Chimay Ice Cream, using these as the structural flavor element.
February 3, 2005
When you wash as many pots and pans as we do, you really value the tried and true tips and tricks for getting things clean. Like chilling the macaroni and cheese pot so that all that cheese easily scrapes off the bottom. Or using baking soda to clean a scorched stainless steel pot: sprinkle a generous layer of baking soda on the bottom, pour boiling water over, let sit for 10 minutes or so, and then clean as usual. To really polish up your stainless pots and pans you want to get your hands on some Bar Keepers Friend. With a little elbow grease, this stuff works like magic to clean off stains and those ugly brown oven marks that collect on the bottoms of your pans. It also works on range tops, sinks, tubs, and showers. A little caveat, it dries out my hands in a big way, although it doesn't seem to affect Alex at all. This is likely because the "secret ingredient" is oxalic acid and all acids should be treated with a little caution and common sense. Wearing gloves when scrubbing with cleanser makes it easy to avoid any ill effects on your skin. The benefits totally outweigh and minor side effect and we use it because it makes our pots shine.
February 2, 2005
We started with a first cut chuck shoulder. We submerged it in a vadouvan spiked version of Ruhlman's pastrami brine. Then we cold smoked the shoulder for 2 hours using the Amazen Tube Pellet Smoker. After it was smoked we braised it for 5 hours in a tomato and white wine sauce. We cooled the meat in the sauce and let the meat sit for several days. This morning we warmed it gently in the sauce. When the meat was just pliable, we took it off the heat, and pulled the smoked corned beef from the bones. We removed the fat pockets and connective tissue and cut the meat into chunks. We reserved the meat, after repeated flavor tests, for our chili. The smoke and meat infused tomato sauce became the foundation for the chili proper. We added beans and vegetables and let them simmer all afternoon long. Just before serving we'll add the meat back to the chili and let it warm gently in the stew. Something to look forward to during the big game.
Pasta dies need to warm up. The cold die produces a coarse noodle with excessive irregularities. As the die warms up through the extrusion process the dough comes together more cohesively. The irregular noodles are simply broken up and fed back into the hopper, mixed into the dough, crumbled, and extruded as new noodles. While the machine continues to work, the pasta gains a visual smoothness, still retaining the signature rough texture from the bronze die. It's a subtle difference that can only be discerned with experience. I have a theory that the warming of the die helps with the hydration of the flour, thus producing the smoother textured noodle. It's yet another case where patience will yield exponentially better results.
Last December Peg was here for a visit and she made her famous fried eggplant. We were hanging out with her in the kitchen while she cooked and noticed that she floured all of her eggplant slices before getting her eggs and breadcrumbs ready. Then she left them in a stack on the cutting board while she assembled her abbreviated breading station. By flouring all the eggplant first she made the entire system more efficient. You don't have to worry about getting confused about which hand to use or crossing hands over pans. You have two hands and two stations: eggs and crumbs. If you're pressed for time, you can even flour the slices, leave them to rest for a couple of hours, and then finish breading and frying later on. Thanks to Aunt Peg for the whack on the side of the head.
I love this book. Japanese Soul Cooking, Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from The Streets and Kitchens OF Tokyo and Beyond by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat became one of my favorite books almost the moment I opened it. It has many of my favorite Japanese dishes from my childhood, consumed in NYC and in Japan. As a I kid I loved to go out to Japanese restaurants, not for sushi but for gyoza and udon. As a child, Mom and I would share platters of fried dumplings with their crispy bottoms and luscious tender tops filled with pork and vegetables snuggled alongside tiny plates of vinegary soy dipping sauce. I always ordered negimaki, thin strips of beef wrapped around sweet, tender green onions and brushed with sweet dark sauce. Then she would have sushi and I would have nabeyaki udon. Udon are the other Japanese noodles, almost forgotten in the midst of the current ramen craze. They are thick and chewy, usually swimming in a clear, flavorful broth served with vegetables, sliced fish cake, some tempura, and an egg. They are totally different from ramen and equally delicious. I didn't develop a taste for sushi until I became a teenager but udon was always there for me.
Udon, tempura, and gyoza are all in this book along with curry rice, another childhood favorite. Curry was one of the only dishes my mother would make and it was always delicious. She usually made it with chicken or shrimp, shrimp was my favorite version of the dish. Aunt Marie would track down giant jumbo shrimp and Mom would simmer them in the sweet and spicy curry. It was filled with root vegetables, potatoes, carrots, onions, and daikon, cut into large chunks that were soft and sweet. They almost seemed to dissolve against my tongue as I chewed them, leaving behind the fragrant spice of Japanese curry. The shrimp were tender and flaked apart between my teeth, redolent with spice and their own natural savory flavor. Curry was always served with fresh steamed rice and the leftovers never lasted for more than a day or two.
Soba noodles were a summertime offering. These buckwheat noodles were served chilled, with a few ice cubes beneath them to keep them cool. Sprinkled with flakes of roasted nori and an equally cold, soy dipping sauce they were earthy and sweet. A perfect dish to fill you up without weighing you down in the heat of the summer. I never tried warm soba until many years later at Honmura-An where I discovered that hot soba was just as delicious and savory as the cold version. Japanese Soul Cooking has a whole chapter on soba, with recipes to suit whatever the weather.
Tonkatsu is a fried pork cutlet served with a thick sweet sauce, sort of a cross between Wocestershire sauce and BBQ sauce. The cutlets are thin and coated with panko, so that they fry up crisp and light. My favorite way to eat them, in restaurant that knows what it's doing, is as katsudon. Katsudon is a rice bowl filled with lightly sweetened, seasoned rice, with vegetables-usually onions and cabbage, and sliced tonkatsu with an egg beaten and fried into it or simply served alongside the meat. The book contains a recipe for classic tonkatsu with a few variations and for katsudon with several other interesting rice bowls.
Japanese Soul Cooking is more than just recipes. It is full of stories and information. It is a cookbook to be read and enjoyed. It is a book to stir your hunger and bring you into the kitchen.
January 29, 2006
January 29, 2005
We developed a Kouign-Amann recipe for our upcoming book Gluten Free Flour Power. We use a no-knead buttermilk brioche (made with one of our gluten free flour blends) and then laminate it with layers of powdered sugar. The powdered sugar allows us to create layers throughout the dough without adding a butter block.
As we continue to explore in our kitchen we took that idea and mashed it with a few others that were bouncing around my head. We started with the doughnut dough from Maximum Flavor. Then we substituted 50% sprouted spelt flour. During the mixing process, we stirred all the melted butter into the dry mixture first, to coat the flour, followed by the liquid ingredients: milk, eggs, and water. After the dough proofed we chilled it and dusted powdered sugar over the dough between folds. The dusting and folding created multiple layers in the butter rich dough, just like in our gluten free approach.
We baked the kouign-amann in muffin tins. The results were crispy and crunchy on top, tender inside, with a clear butter flavor and a great nuttiness from the spelt flour. This is a seriously delicious beginning to something good.
January 28, 2005
We've taken to using spent bourbon bottles to mix and bubble our vinegars. Today we started sweet vermouth vinegar. We blended 1000 grams of sweet vermouth and 800 grams of our Everywine Vinegar in the bottle. Then we put the tube from an aquarium bubbler into the bottle. We plugged in the bubbler and now we wait. Only we will not be waiting for weeks. The constant aeration should help the acetobactors consume the alcohol and convert it into vinegar. By week's end we should be tasting finished sweet vermouth vinegar. From there we will explore where to take it.
January 27, 2005
Tomorrow is definitely going to be a snow day for most of the northeast. What better time to make cake for breakfast? This crumb cake is easy, most ingredients are probably in your pantry right now, and, most importantly, it is delicious. Tender vanilla cake covered with a sandy cinnamon crumb. What could be better with coffee or hot chocolate as you watch the snow flakes coming down?
Makes one 9-inch cake
2 cups / 300 grams all purpose flour
1 cup / 200 grams sugar
3/4 teaspoon / 4.5 grams fine sea salt
10 tablespoons / 140 grams cold, unsalted butter, diced
1 teaspoon / 6 grams baking powder
1/2 teaspoon / 2.5 grams baking soda
3/4 cup / 180 grams buttermilk, room temperature
1 teaspoon / 4 grams vanilla paste or extract
1 large egg, room temperature
2/3 cup / 140 grams packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon / 2 grams ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F. (180°C.)
Butter and flour a 9-inch spring form cake pan and set aside.
Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is thoroughly cut into the flour and it forms a uniform sandy, mixture. Remove 1 cup of the flour mixture and set aside in a small bowl for the streusel. Add the baking powder and baking soda to the remaining flour mixture in the food processor and pulse 2-3 times to blend. Add the buttermilk, vanilla, and egg and process until smooth. The mixture will form a thick batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and spread it evenly with a spoon or small offset spatula.
Add the brown sugar and cinnamon to the reserved flour mixture and use your fingers to mix and squeeze everything together until it comes together and forms sandy crumbs. Scatter all of the brown sugar crumbs over the top of the cake batter. Set the cake pan on a sheet pan and bake it for 45-50 minutes, until the cake is firm to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean.
Transfer the pan to a rack and let it cool for10 minutes. Gently remove the outer ring of the spring form pan and cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
January 26, 2005
Potential in plain sight, cheating, shark jumping. How comfortable are you in your own skin?
January 25, 2009
January 25, 2005
Taking the time to cut out hearts,
Brush the dough,
And sugar coat
Just to make someone smile.
(And the caramel apple pie surrounding the heart doesn't hurt the cause.)
January 24, 2005
Just clip it.
January 23, 2005
We always start somewhere.
We always start somewhere.
January 22, 2005
We wanted a crunchy, salty seasoning for our mushroom dish. Instead of reaching for the usual go-to, Maldon salt, we created one of our own. (Our hand was played because Justin was out of Maldon salt. Necessity is the mother of invention.) We thinly sliced king trumpet mushroom ends and fried them, beginning in cold oil. When the mushrooms were crispy and just shy of foxy brown we transferred them to a plate lined with paper towels, and seasoned them heavily with fine sea salt. When they were cool we put them into a bowl and broke them into fine fragments, about the size of Maldon salt flakes. The mushrooms had an intense, nutty, earthy flavor. The aggressive salting transformed the mushrooms into "mushroom salt," resembling a kicked up Malden salt to finish our mushroom dish. It's a great new application and that first dish is just the beginning.
January 21, 2005
We started the evening with Ranch powder dusted trout skins topped with their roe and fried rice paper with a celery root and blood and tongue sausage remoulade.
The first dish was chilled king trumpet mushrooms (resembling sliced scallops) with a carrot-apple-ginger-lemon vinaigrette, frozen buttermilk, pistachio oil and mushroom Maldon.
We moved into black toro (mimicking the famous black cod in marinade with sorghum and squid ink added as mid-western audibles) on a salad of dried and marinated cuttlefish and braised pig skin. The dish was finished with an intense porky dashi and a sesame heavy furikake.
We brought our Ramenized risotto to the table. We enriched it with Parmigiano Reggiano and broiled unagi. We finished the dish with powdered nori.
We followed the risotto with a cranberry bean soup enriched with Pepperoni XO. The carrots, and salsify were glazed and roasted with the XO sauce. A crunchy pesto topped the vegetables.
Smoked duck fat roasted Brussels sprouts were topped with blood orange and brown butter vinaigrette, caramelized coconut milk, and a spaghetti squash tuile.
We brought our vision of pork and beans to fruition. We wrapped bean curd skins around Mexican 'Nduja to make a ravioli. We glazed the ravioli and seared ring bologna in baked bean sauce. To cut through the richness we added a touch of seaweed mustard.
Korean rice cakes were seared in a caraway infused bacon fat-brown butter mixture. They were folded into kimchi and bacon bolognese sauce. We lay them in a pool of smoked molten mozzarella.
Leg of lamb was served with a sunchoke and vadouvan puree. Crispy sunchoke skins and shaved lamb prosciutto accented the meat. Parsley stems added brightness and an espresso lamb jus piqued the elements.
Dessert began with a crushable coffee drenched yeast cake with crispy meringue, coffee mascarpone ice cream sticks, coffee pate bomb and white chocolate-coffee shortbread.
Cannele's were willingly sacrificed to make cannele bread pudding. We served it with cream cheese ice cream and rum caramel.
Mignardise were cookies and cream, pretzels and chocolate, and an oatmeal rum raisin ice cream sandwich.
We enjoyed a successful dinner and an inspirational weekend.
January 20, 2005
Winter in New Hampshire is different from what we've experienced before. Having lived in Maine, Vermont, and Colorado we are no strangers to long snowy seasons. Every state feels different and our new home is no exception. This has been the winter of ice, building up on trees and roads, coating the world in beauty and treachery that sparkles in the light. It's easy to forget the power of cold until you see branches bending to the ground under the weight of heavy snow or shattering in a grip of a deep freeze. We are cooking to keep the cold at bay. We're learning to better cook from our pantry. Icy roads are not meant to be messed with. We are re-discovering the pleasures of working with staples. Discovering extraordinary dishes hidden in plain sight.
January 19, 2005
If perfection is an unattainable goal then the trick is reveling in the imperfections and appreciating what the flaws bring to the table. Being open to working with imperfect items allows us to discover new ideas, and occasionally even save some money along the way.
January 18, 2009
January 18, 2005
I am in Milwaukee, Wisconsin visiting with chef Justin Carlisle and his team at Ardent restaurant. Our dinner and a workshop combination allows chefs to bring us to them. They take advantage of some continuing education for themselves and their staff, and we have some fun in the kitchen. The inspiration for the dishes for the guest chef dinner begins early on. Stories and ideas are shared. They help shape my perspective of the kitchen and dictate the tenor of the interactions. For this dinner we are busting on Matt Haase of Ardent, who believes hot dogs should only be served in a bun. We are stretching the idea of hot dogs and beans to include ring bologna and bean curd. The bean curd will be braised in baked bean sauce. The ring bologna will be scored and seared like foie gras. And mustard will, of course, make an appearance. Letting the environment catalyze creative thoughts allows for great discoveries in the kitchen and anywhere else.
January 17, 2005
Because every so often a little indulgence is a good thing.
Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, Rice Krispie Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen
4 ounces / 113 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup / 125 grams creamy peanut butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon / 6 grams fine sea salt
1 teaspoons / 5 grams baking soda
1/2 cup / 106 grams light brown sugar
1 cup / 213 grams dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon / 4 grams vanilla paste or extract
1 cup / 90 grams oat flour
1 1/4 cups / 188 grams all purpose flour
1 cup / 170 grams bittersweet chocolate chips (we used Ghirardelli)
1 1/2 cups rice krispie treats, small dice
Cream together the butter, peanut butter, salt and baking soda at medium speed in a stand mixer with the paddle until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to low and begin adding the brown sugars, 1/4 cup at a time, letting each addition become fully absorbed before adding the next, until all of the sugar has been added. Add the eggs one at a time, letting the first egg become fully absorbed into the batter before adding the next and scraping down the bowl as needed. Once the eggs have been absorbed add the vanilla and mix well, Stop the mixer and add the oat and all purpose flours. Mix on low speed until they are mostly incorporated. Stop the mixer and add the chocolate chips. Mix on low until the chips are well distributed, about 10 seconds. Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to fold in the krispie treats by hand (they will stay in bigger pieces that way). Cookie can be dough can be used immediately or scooped and refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C
Line a sheet pan with parchment use a 0.75 ounce ice cream scoop to portion the dough or spoon heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared pan leaving 2-inches of space between each cookie. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown around the edges and just set. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before eating.
January 16, 2005
We started with our yeast noodles. There savoriness has a very toasted bread-like flavor and aroma that was quite similar to the buttery pie dough we use in our chicken pot pie. Amaya has a thing for broth so we've been making pressure cooked stocks from leftover meat and bones on a regular basis. This made it easy for Aki to put together a rendition of our base pot pie filling, keeping it on the looser side. She opted to use smoked flour instead of tapioca and cornstarch to add flavor while thickening the base. When the pot pie filling was ready we boiled the yeast flavored rigatoni, mixed the them together, and topped our bowls with a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano. We were eating chicken pot pie, as noodles, and nobody missed a thing
January 15, 2005
Inspired by Jeff Mahin, via his Twitter feed we dove into back into the Rice Krispie Treat arena. He was making Rice Krispie treat studded cookies. We saw that and asked how he was doing it. He responded, "a little think called by hand ;) we cut them and place them into cookie then re-bake for 5 more min! So good." This inspiration sparked a flurry of thoughts. On our end we came up with brown butter, pretzel, butterfinger rice krispie treats. Jeff continued to evolve, last I heard fresh mint and Oreo's were being Krispiefied into crunchy, gooey goodness.
Brown Butter, Pretzel, Butterfinger Rice Krispy Treats
113 grams unsalted butter, sliced
750 grams marshmallows
350 grams Rice Krispies
300 grams hand crushed pretzels (we used Snyders mini pretzels)
160 grams (6 bars) Butterfinger, hand chopped
Put the butter in a large deep sided pot set over medium heat. Use the butter paper to butter the inside of a 13x9-inch pyrex baking pan. Melt the butter completely and then cook, stirring, until the milk solids brown and the butter gives off a warm, nutty aroma, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the marshmallows and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula, until the marshmallows melt and absorb the brown butter. Add the rice krispies and pretzels and stir them in. Add the chopped butterfingers and fold them in. Transfer the marshmallow mixture to the prepared pyrex container and use your spatula to press it flat in the pan. Let the Krispies cool if you can. Slice and devour. If you happen to have some cookie dough around, take on Jeff's brilliant idea by baking them into the top of your favorite cookie.
*These were on the crunchy side of the Krispie treat spectrum, if you prefer something a little more gooey you can increase the marshmallows to 1000 grams.
January 14, 2005
This is one of those restaurant tricks that can make a difference at home, especially in the wintertime. Amaya has a thing about hot food and putting warm food on a cold plate means it chills down that much more quickly. Of course we don't always have an oven going at dinner time so when we got a tip from Rich about microwaving the plates it was like a light bulb went off in our heads. One minute in the microwave on high and we had perfectly warm plates for dinner. It's the little things that make all the difference.
January 13, 2005
We've been playing around with sprouted flours lately, just to get a feel for what they're all about. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of flavor in this sprouted spelt flour and felt that while the flavor of the grain was pronounced, it lacked the bitter edge that sometimes appears in whole grain flours. All in all it got us fired up to find some more sprouted flours to work with. The noodles pictured were made with 50% sprouted spelt flour and 50% semolina. The cooked pasta was supple and elastic, with a nice chewy texture. The flavor was earthy and sweet with a hint of nuttiness from the spelt. We tried them with pepperoni bolognese, they'd be equally good with spicy lobster or crab.
January 12, 2005
We combined 100 grams of the roasted yeast flour with 900 grams semolina flour. We put the two into the hopper of the Arcobaleno AEX 18. We added 300 grams water for 30% hydration. After mixing for 8-ish minutes we extruded thick walled rigatoni, die #80 1.2mm thick.
The flavor of the yeast added a dynamic savory flavor to the noodles. It diminished a bit after boiling. It was not lost, it became an accent rather than the focus.
January 11, 2011
January 11, 2005
We revisited the idea of mosaics. Visually I suppose these are closer in appearance to stone: marble, granite, quartz. Since the idea of avocado on toast has somehow taken the world by storm, we felt we could play with it too. We started with an avocado mosaic. We cut the avocado into pieces and sealed them in a vacuum bag. Then we flattened the avocado inside the bag into a thin layer and froze it. While the avocado was in the freezer we brushed phyllo dough with brown butter seasoned with smoked paprika and sprinkled each layer with Parmigiano Reggiano. We made our phyllo six layers thick and then baked it between to silpats. We put the golden brown phyllo onto a cutting board and cut it into planks. We cut the frozen avocado into identical planks. We removed the plastic from the avocado and placed it on top of the phyllo. We let the avocado thaw. Just before serving we seasoned it with lime zest, lemon olive oil, Maldon salt and Espelette pepper. It was a delicious test run on the idea. Now we can build upon it.
January 10, 2007
January 10, 2005
We started with our egg yolk pasta dough. We substituted 50% whole wheat flour. It adds a great nutty flavor to the pasta and by limiting the quantity of whole wheat flour, the dough retains its elasticity. For the filling we blended ricotta and queijo flamengo limiano, a Portuguese cheese. I had never had this cheese before. It is soft and slightly tangy, with a nice creaminess. It is sort of like a marriage between American processed cheese and the Flemish Edam. We blended 3 parts ricotta with 1 part of the queijo flamengo limiano and 0.5% salt based on the weight of only the ricotta--the Portuguese cheese was well seasoned on its own. We put large dollops of the cheese mixture into the center of the thin disks of pasta dough. We folded and and then pinched the dough together, making large tortellini. We boiled the tortellini and dressed them in brown butter seasoned with a pinch of smoked paprika. The queijo flamengo limiano melted into the ricotta creating a molten smooth ricotta filling. They seemed to explode in my mouth, oozing rich creamy flavor, balanced by the slightly earthy pasta casing. We built the dish based on the flavor of the cheese rather than focusing on its origins and that made all the difference. And begs the question, is an American cheese based ravioli too far of a stretch?
January 9, 2005
There's nothing better than a chilly, fresh oyster on the half shell, preferably shucked by someone who knows what they're doing. The ones pictured above were Pemaquids shucked at Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, ME, where they know how to treat an oyster. In spite the array of condiments on offer, I chose to eat mine au naturel because a good oyster needs no accompaniment. They are chilly and briny, soft and sweet, they taste of the ocean, and they wake up all of my senses in ways I just can't explain. It's the kind of food that makes the world disappear for just a few seconds as you savor the flavors and textures on your tongue. We used to live and work out near Pemaquid Point so these oysters were a staple back in the day. Our oyster guy, Jeff, would deliver them to the back door of the restaurant and we always felt lucky to a have an easy supply of such goodness on hand. The ones I had last week were just as delicious as the ones I remember. It takes a long time to get comfortable in a new place. It's nice knowing there's somewhere (relatively) nearby where I can go to satisfy that particular craving.
January 8, 2005
Anyone who knows us knows that we love cheese. Most nights Alex would be perfectly content to eat cheese and salumi for dinner but, thankfully, we do have other people at the table to consider, so there is a usually a vegetable or two and some bread alongside the cheese and charcuterie. One of the great things about our new location is that I can order cheese from Jasper Hill Farm and, because we live in New England, it ships for free. Last fall when they sent out an email saying they were starting a cheese club and I could get a discount if I signed up immediately, it was a no-brainer. I signed up. It was just in time for some holiday entertaining.
It's a bitter cold day and I was feeling a little droopy. Then the doorbell rang and it was UPS with my cheese delivery. Such a cool surprise (though most people are probably more organized about receiving perishables), it made my day. Every package comes with three cheeses and some literature describing them. You never know exactly what will arrive but I always know it will be something good. It's the little things that make each special. Today my favorite thing is cheese.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. We've never met anyone from Jasper Hill and we will not receive anything if you order from them or sign up for the club. We just love their cheese.
January 7, 2009
January 7, 2007
We revisited our miso pasta dough from Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work. We substituted barley miso for the white miso we usually use. The noodles took on a dark color and rich aroma. The barley miso changed the perception experience of the noodles from light and delicate to full bodied and hearty. Even in their evolution, the noodles remained subtley intense. The flavors and aromas build as you savor them, one bite at a time. The barley pasta is better suited to the frigid weather we were experiencing. It will stand up nicely to a variety of braised meats and roasted vegetable sauces, enhancing their flavor while still retaining their own character in the dish.
January 6, 2005
We were having lobsters. Aki wanted baked stuffed lobsters for her birthday. Specifically stuffed with the potato chip and shrimp filling I made on the fly years ago. With baked stuffed lobsters comes the mess of shells and the process of picking and digging out the meat at the table. Given that we had both younger and older at the table, this did not seem like a practical approach. Instead we took the potato chip stuffing in another direction.
I removed the lobster and shrimp (key stuffing element) from their shells and then cooked them in salted butter right before serving. I was inspired by Amaya's love of polenta and an alliteration presented itself. I decided to cook polenta in the pressure cooker (with a little water of course) and fold in potato chips at the end. We have been exploring longer cooking times, so I cooked the polenta for 45 minutes. When it was done and the pressure had dissipated, we stirred in potato chips and a large amount of cheddar cheese. The polenta attained its signature creamy texture accented with the toasty, nutty flavor of the potato chips. The cheddar cheese added salt, creaminess, and acidity to cut through this rich porridge. Finally we spooned buttery crustaceans and sauce over a bed of potato chip polenta and roasted asparagus. A delicious evolution for 2015.
...And look for pretzel polenta coming soon.
Living in a slightly out of the way location has reinforced the value of flexibility. Going shopping with a menu set in stone almost never works. We can hardly ever source everything we want, at the quality we need, at the time that we want it. So we improvise. It's a good thing everyone likes pasta. Some days we can go from store to store and not find what we need, on the other hand, some days we wander into a supermarket as they're butchering their steaks and hit the mother-load. They may not be prime but they are nicely marbled and cut to our specifications. Oh and they cost significantly less money than prime meat. We brought them home, seasoned them well and let them dry overnight. Then into the freezer for the next big steak night. It's all about building a pantry.
Some days it seems impossible to settle on just one choice.
FInd a way to make that work for you.
This is a dish that needs no explanation. Layers of fried eggplant, sauce and cheese--I like a blend of mozzarella and ricotta, baked together into a gooey, delicious casserole.
It's also a dish that benefits from being made at home. Peel and thinly slice your eggplant, I like to use my Chinese mandoline, and soak it in cold salted water. All the bitter juices will be drawn out, generally I change the water once but if I've stumbled across older eggplant I might need to change it twice. Flour, egg, and breadcrumb coating, spiked with parmesan and garlic. The beauty of home cooking is that you get to eat a few hot out of the fryer before using the rest for another dish.
After frying the first few rounds I let my eggplant rest on paper towels or on a rack set over a sheet pan and I start building the layers as I continue to fry. Make sure you've got an hour or so before dinner so everything has time to come together in the oven. Homemade sauce is wonderful but in a pinch Rao's with a little bit of water does the trick nicely. It costs a little more but it's worth having in the pantry.
Fresh eggplant parmigiana, that hasn't rested overnight in the fridge, is pretty special stuff. The eggplant layers are soft and silky and you can really taste the flavor of the vegetable. The ricotta adds sweetness and a little creamy texture to balance out the rich sauce and oozing mozz. It's a pretty wonderful dish. All you need is good bread and a salad to serve alongside. The leftovers are nothing to sneeze at either, but after a night in the fridge everything melds together and you lose a bit of the individual textures and flavors. Still tasty but not necessarily better than your favorite Italian restaurant. Go for the gusto, try this one at home. It's a great way to start the new year.