We try to sneak sea urchin thousand island dressing into wherever we can. We made it first at a dinner we did at Elements restaurant in Princeton, years ago. It seemed only fitting to pull it out again for the dinner we did at Heritage promoting our new book Maximum Flavor. We started with the flavors of thousand island dressing. We used Duke's mayonnaise, Heinz ketchup and mustard du jour. We pureed this base with vast quantities of sea urchin. Then we folded in a ton of sweated shallots and minced sour pickles. We finished the sauce with lemon juice and black pepper. The sea urchin adds a sweet briny flavor that makes the sauce unique. We've paired it with everything from bone marrow and Brussels sprouts.
Once the oven is hot, we are not always burning wood. When we reach the right temperature the addition of fresh wood will increase the heat, not what we want. The level of smoke diminishes without active wood burning. To solve this problem we have added sawdust to our arsenal. I first witnessed the saw dust in the wood fired oven technique at Una Pizza Napoletana. Anthony Mangieri puts a peel-full of wood shavings into the oven right before firing his pies. This intrigued me. It made sense. Since we want the wood smoke to permeate what we cook we needed to add something combustible to create smoke without generating excess heat. The addition of small doses of wood shavings, hickory saw dust, quickly smolder into whispers of smoke filling the oven and flavoring the food.
As we were testing this large paccheri, die #397, we were smitten with its potential. The wall of the noodle is thinner than the more rustic calamarata, die #369. The thinner wall allows us to look at the noodle as a very stuffable object. The structure of the noodle allows for both open and closed ends to secure or expose the filling. A brief blanch, flavorful stuffing, and slow braise could create something wonderful. Thanksgiving may just be getting a pasta upgrade.
Aki put Tuscan kale, dried cranberries, smashed garlic cloves, asian pear cider, and a healthy dose of #11 into the pressure cooker. We cooked it for five minutes on low pressure. The spices permeated the kale. It retained its bite. The cranberries softened. The cider picked up the vegetal notes of the kale. Interestingly I would not have created this mixture. When she described it the combination and context sounded odd to me. (In retrospect had it been presented as a cold salad I wouldn't have batted an eye.) After devouring these juicy stewed fruits and vegetables I realized it wasn't odd at all, in fact it was delicious. It was just a combination that wouldn't come naturally to me. Funny the things you are reminded of on a daily basis.
When I was in junior high school once a month or so my aunt and I would drive out to Long Island to visit some family friends. Elsie and Linda were the mother and sister of one of Aunt Marie's best friends, Carol a.k.a. "Cotton Candy" so named because her hair seemed to have the exact sugar spun texture of cotton candy. Carol passed away at too young an age and afterwards we would regularly make the trip out to see her family and visit for a while. The menu was always the same: pork roast, mashed potatoes, a vegetable of some sort, and a yellow cake topped with whipped cream and canned pineapple. I would hang out in the kitchen while Linda mashed the potatoes and nick pieces of skin from the roast as she carved it. It was a meal I never had anywhere else, prepared with love and good will, and always enjoyed around a happy table.
Years later I still have a soft spot for pork roast. I eye them longingly at the market, while Alex always steers me in another direction claiming that pork roasts are dry and lacking flavor. Finally one day we discussed my idea of a pork roast, cooked to a deep golden brown, with a crackling skin and a juicy interior, boosted by gravy just in case it stays in the oven a little too long. "Oh you mean a porchetta! That's the only way you can get a skin like that and still have juicy meat inside. I'd be happy to make you one of those." I'm guessing Elsie never cooked a porchetta, certainly never one on the bones, but his roast was beautiful and delicious and we were all happy. What could be better than that?
We took the idea of our provolone taco shell and used it to create a riff on bread. We thinly sliced the provolone, cooked the slices in a non-stick pan, and seasoned it with toasted and ground caraway seeds. When the cheese was golden brown we transferred it to a wire rack to cool. These crispy discs were both the bread and cheese components for the Brussels sprouts Reuben we cooked at Heritage last Monday. These delicious cheese rounds have a ton of untapped flavor potential to spark the imagination.
It seems as though there is always a book in progress. A notebook on the kitchen counter, scribbled post-it notes hanging from the cabinets; it's the story of our lives. There are always an assortment of small moleskin notebooks lying around, color-coded at the moment to differentiate between projects. This morning Amaya asked for a notebook of her own and proceeded to record her very first recipe. It's pretty bare bones, a list of ingredients, but for a not quite 5-year old it's quite an achievement. It's a recipe for "Breakfast Noodles." Angel hair pasta, boosted with organic frozen peas, cooked al dente, drained, returned to the pot, and mixed with a couple of large organic eggs beaten with a generous splash of soy sauce (Amaya does that part) until everything thickens and comes together. A simplified riff on pasta carbonara, it is her favorite breakfast (right now) and a fitting beginning for her first kitchen notebook. It's the things we love that motivate us to do more.
PS: The pumpkin pie was a request. We'll work on that recipe next.
The Importance Of Finding Your Love
"You never know in your life what's the little thing that will change the course of your life."
She talks even faster than Alex does but it's worth the effort to keep up.
We started with 740 grams of Pacific almond milk. We added 60 grams of buttermilk. We mixed the two milks together, put them into a bowl, and covered it with cheesecloth. We left it out at room temperature overnight to see what would happen. When we lifted the cloth it appeared to have thickened and separated slightly. We whisked it back together and discovered that it was substantially thicker than the almond milk. We tasted it and decided it needed to ripen a little bit longer. We covered it back up with cheesecloth and have left it until tomorrow.
With this new flavor development in the works our minds are racing with the possibilities: cultured nut butters, nut milk cream cheeses, nut milk yogurts. While we used buttermilk to culture our test run we can now make a pure nut buttermilk with a buttermilk starter culture. This is just the first step.
We blended sake, smoked paprika, roasted garlic powder, and crushed red pepper flakes. We poured it over the octopus and let it marinate for 18 hours. Then we braised it in the liquid for about 4 hours until it was tender and toothsome. The sweet, meaty flavor of the octopus happily absorbed and enhanced the seasonings bringing everything together into a harmonious bite. Pepperoni strikes again.
We made these gluten free gnocchi sardi (die # 191) for the dinner at Heritage RVA with 425 grams of yellow mustard, 425 grams of whole eggs, 1900 grams of What IIF flour and 100 grams of potato flour. The pasta had great bite. As you can see above the ridges were well defined and the flavor was intense. It matched beautifully with lamb heart ragout we served it with. Now that we have the recipe, the real question is what to pair it with next?
Pot roast demands patience. And a well marbled, first cut chuck shoulder. We seasoned the meat with sea salt and a generous dusting of Izak, #37. Then we seared it and slid it into the pan on a bed of barely bubbling shaved kale, aged sauerkraut (a wonderful gift from a new friend), sliced onions, white grape juice and the end of a bottle of wine. We put the lid in place and cooked it for 5 hours at 275°F. When it was cake tester tender we removed it from the oven and let it rest for a long hour until we were ready for dinner. The juices were rich and the vegetables tender and silky, warmly spiced and kissed with the distinctive tang of good kraut. The meat was toothsome and unctuous. Some pieces were slightly drier than others. We took a fork to it and shredded the meat into the juicy vegetables and folded it together with freshly extruded noodles and no one was the wiser. We cleaned our bowls twice.
Growing up in New York City eating out at diners was a pretty common experience. Our local diner was favorite for weekend breakfasts and though it was a Greek diner, there were always gorgeous loaves of challah bread piled by the cash register for sale. It was used in their signature french toast, cut thick and deep fried into crispy, custardy goodness. I loved to break apart the shiny brown loaves, feeling that rich crust giving way to the soft, slightly sweet interior. My aunt always grumbled about my unwillingness to slice the bread but some things must be eaten with your fingers.
Challah is a sweet bread, with a tender crumb that is yellow from an abundance of eggs and a gorgeous, shiny crust. As we researched Challah we discovered that the trick is to egg wash the bread twice before baking and we’re not ashamed to say that we’ve applied the technique to many other baked goods with great results. This bread makes truly wonderful French toast and our version with smoked schmaltz has a deep savory quality that we love.
Challah with Smoked Schmaltz
Makes 1 loaf and 9 rolls
6 cups/ 900 grams all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon/18 grams fine sea salt
1 tablespoon/12.5 grams sugar
½ teaspoon/1.5 grams instant yeast
150 grams/ 5.25 ounces Smoked Chicken Skin and Onion Cracklings (recipe below)
2 large eggs (100 grams)
6 large egg yolks (106 grams)
130 grams/ 4.6 ounces Smoked Chicken Fat (recipe below)
480 grams/ 2 cups Smoked Chicken Fond Water (recipe below)
45 grams/ 3 tablespoons crème fraiche
2 large egg yolks (36 grams)
Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Whisk them together and then add the smoked chicken skin cracklings. Use your fingers to break the cracklings apart and evenly distribute them in the flour. Put the eggs, egg yolks, chicken fat and chicken fond water in a bowl and whisk together into a homogenous mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir the liquid mixture into the flour. Stir continuously until the flour is absorbed and the dough has formed a soft ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for 4 hours at room temperature.
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 and let the dough continue to rise for another 10-12 hours. When the dough has risen, repeat the folding procedure and transfer the dough, seam side down, to a clean buttered bowl. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 10 hours to allow the dough to firm up and become more manageable.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and turn it out onto a lightly floured countertop. Cut the dough in half. Divide the first half of dough into thirds and gently roll and stretch each piece into a 10-inch log. Transfer the logs to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Pinch one end of each log to the other two in the center of the sheet pan at one end. Braid the logs together and then pinch the ends of the log together and gently tuck them under the far end of the loaf. If possible do the same thing with the pinched ends at the top of the loaf. Cover the braided loaf loosely with plastic wrap and let it proof until it has almost doubled in size and looks puffy, about an hour depending on the temperature of your room. Portion the other half of dough into 100-gram rounds. Put one ball on a clean countertop or smooth cutting board and cup one hand over the top. Apply a gentle pressure to the dough as you rotate it I small counterclockwise circles. This will shape the dough into smooth balls with the skin stretched tightly over top. Transfer th roll to a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough, arranging them in a 3-by3 grid on the pan. Spray 9 four-inch flan rings with pan release and put them over the rolls, there will probably be space between the rolls and the ring but the bread will expand to fit during the proofing and baking. The rings will help keep the shape of the rolls uniform during baking. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and let come to room temperature and rise until they have almost doubles and look puffy, about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°F/176°C
Remove the plastic wrap from the loaf and the rolls. Brush the egg wash first onto the loaf and then onto the rolls. Repeat the process so that all of the bread has been coated with egg wash 2 times. Put the rolls and the loaf in the oven, with the rolls on the bottom rack and the loaf on the middle rack and bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the loaf and rolls top and bottom and front to back in the oven and bake for 15 more minutes. Remove the rolls from the oven, they should be golden brown and round on top. Rotate the loaf back to the middle of the oven and front to back again and bake for 20 more minutes. Let the rolls cool for 5 minutes on the sheet pan then transfer them to a cooling rack. Let the rolls cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Remove the loaf from the oven and immediately transfer to a cooling rack. Let the loaf cool completely before cutting.
Makes enough for 1 batch of challah
Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat. Traditionally it was often seasoned with onions during the rendering process, as we do here, to give extra flavor to the fat and the cracklings of skin that are left over. Beyond using it for challah, schmaltz is wonderful for cooking any kind of chicken dish that calls for using fat and we use it as we would a container of bacon fat, cooking with it whenever we want to add some of its mellow flavor to a dish. It’s a little bit of extra work but it allows you take full advantage of any chicken you bring home. When we asked for chicken skins at our local Whole Foods we were happy to discover that they were willing to give them to us for free. So many people like to buy skinless chicken that they had plenty of skins to give away. We like to use as much of any ingredient as we possibly can and we’ve found that a little bit of schmaltz goes a long way to amplifying the chicken’s natural flavor in any dish.
1 large onion (350 grams) peeled
400 grams/14 ounces chicken skin (roughly the skin from 2 chickens)
1.5 grams/ ¼ teaspoon salt
510 grams water
Cut the onion in half vertically, remove the core from both pieces, and then cut it into vertical slices. Put the onion into a bowl with the chicken skin and stir to combine. Grind the onion and chicken skin through a meat grinder fitted with a ¼-inch die. Put the ground chicken skin mixture into a pan that fits in your smoker and cold smoke for 1 hour. Transfer the mixture to a medium sauté set over low heat. The chicken skin and onions will slowly render and caramelize. Stir the mixture occasionally making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan, stirring more often towards the end of the cooking time. After about an hour the chicken skin cracklings and onions will have turned a deep foxy brown in a pool of clear chicken fat. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, reserving the pan without cleaning it. Transfer the chicken skins and onions into a bowl and season with 1.5 grams salt and reserve them and the the chicken fat in separate containers.
Set the pan with the caramelized fond stuck to the bottom over medium heat and add 510 grams water. Use a silicone spatula to scrape the edges and bottom of the pot to remove all the caramelized bits. Transfer the liquid to a heatproof container and let it cool to room temperature before using.
The first time has charm. It is not necessarily the charm. The idea exists and this first attempt tells us if it is worth pursuing. Then the concept needs to be explored, tested, stretched. The first time often brings us frustratingly close to the ideal. We can imagine that we've nailed it. A little time to digest lets us step back and evaluate a little more deeply. That moment when discovery and creativity ignite and explode has faded. It is at this point where we dig in and begin to make adjustments. Little tweaks. Sweeping changes. Keeping the initial idea as a touchstone but not as a road map. It sometimes seems the closer we are in the first attempt, the longer it takes to perfect. Recipe development, like writing, requires a process. It's easy to toss something off and run with it. It may even be very good, but, you'll always wonder if you could have done better because you know you didn't quite give it your all.
November 6, 2010
We have found we get a more robust butter when we let freshly churned butter rest in its buttermilk for several days. Then we remove it and squeeze it together into rough logs. We don't rinse off the buttermilk. There is too much flavor to wash it away in the name of aesthetics. A little extra tang and flavor development goes a long way in our world.
These are not words we generally ascribe to cheesecake. Having grown up in New York CIty I always loved the dense cream cheese version served at Lindy's and countless other NYC institutions. It was one of my favorite childhood desserts. Ubiquitious at fancy steakhouses, we would occasionally buy the Baby Watson version at the market to eat at home, at least until I perfected my own, thanks to the Frugal Gourmet. In college in Colorado I received a surprise package of Lindy's cheesecake from my Aunt Marie that felt like a delicious hug in the midst of homesickness and the excitement of a brave new world. Working as a pastry chef on Martha's Vineyard years later I invented a sweet mascarpone version that managed to be rich and light at the same time, its soft, silky texture melting into memories on the tongue.
More recently we've been introduced to Japanese cheesecake. It's a more subtle experience. The texture is light and fluffy, almost bouncy in your mouth. Each bite is like eating clouds, with a delicate texture that condenses down into the creamy essence of the cheese. We decided that it needed to be on the recipe list for our next book. Alex has risen to this particular task and the result, pictured above, is more of a Japanese-American cheesecake and all the more delicious for the twist. It's funny how one simple cake can have so many distinct variations. It's one of the conundrums of cooking, how an ingredient list can be stretched into so many different permutations. It's why cooking is an endles journey that is always, for us, an epic adventure.
We were at the Blue Moon Acres' farm festival at their Pennigton, New Jersey farm. Amaya got a balloon heart and had her face painted while I was lured in by Cherry Grove Farm's cheese tent. In short order we were all sampling the cheeses. The soft, nutty Lawrenceville Jack captured our attention with its rich, slightly salty flavor. It lingered on the palate and made us crave another bite. We bought two pieces. We devoured the first piece as soon as we got home. The second we took a picture of this morning. The plan was to save it for a rainy day but once you put the cheese on a platter it has a way of disappearing. Good thing we know where to get more.
We were cooking butternut squash juice. We noticed a lot of sediment in the pot so we opted to stay by the stove and stir the juice as it heated. This was a smart decision because every time we stopped, the sediment settled to the bottom of the pot. Clear gelatinous lumps began to appear, resembling misshapen tapioca pearls. As it kept cooking they broke back down and the squash juice thickened into something resembling a puree. We poured it into a hotel pan and chilled it. When it was cold we discovered a tender delicate gel.
The gelling properities of the unseasoned juice sparked out interest. When we broke the gel apart and blended it with the egg yolks to make a sauce the structure broke and did not reform upon chilling. So we need to explore the question of whether the egg yolks weakened the gel or if the butternut squash starch is not thermo-reversible. Observation is the catalyst for exploration.
November 2, 2009
Chef or no, there are times when you just don't want to cook. Moments when you feel as though you are starving and the idea of cooking for yourself is abhorrent. That's one of many reasons why restaurants and take out joints always find a place in our world. Nights like these are also a time to give thanks for those around you who know how to cook a dish or two and are happy to make them for you.
It was only a matter of time. We started with a roast chicken and made a pressure cooked broth. That was enriched with turkey bones and we pressure cooked it again. Then we were short on time and needed to cook a veal breat quickly. We put it, the broth, and tons of pepperoni in the pressure cooker. We used the shredded veal meat to enrich (and stretch) some chili. The pepperoni was spent and went into the bin. The resulting broth and the flavorful fat were something special. And with Amaya in the background chanting, Ivan Ramen, noodle book, I was given direction. The broth is bright with random layers of flavor that come and go on your tongue. Now comes the bigger task of pulling together a great dish with noodles and condiments. Pepperoni ramen here we come.
It's been a heck of a cookbook season thus far. Suffice it to say that our credit cards are smoking because there were so many that we just couldn't live without. Of course buying the books is only a first step. Once we have them we have to find some time to actually read them. If your life is anything like ours you'll understand that is easier said than done.
I have a tendency to suffer insomnia on a somewhat regular basis. This becomes the time I indulge my penchant for reading. Once I've been awake long enough to know there's no going back to sleep I reach for a book. A good portion of the time I choose to read novels, biographies, or travelogues on my phone, but if I'm motivated/awake enough to leave the bedroom I go for the giant stack of cookbooks waiting to be read. This morning round about 3am I was thinking about ramen. So I dragged myself downstairs, put a pot dashi on to simmer, and picked up Ivan Ramen.
This book was one of Alex's picks and it had the words ramen, love and obsession on the front cover so I figured it would be right up my alley. From the introduction by David Chang right through the end I was completely hooked. Ivan even includes the recipe for his signature Shiyo Ramen, dough and all, which I love. As he rightly notes in the text ramen chefs are known for their secrets and it is beyond frustrating to try and track down authentic recipes for the various components. He has nothing to lose by publishing his now because Ivan Ramen has become an institution. I am a sucker for chef stories and this one is engrossing. I'll keep the details to myself because you should buy this book, though I will say that that the recipe section at the end is both useful and unique. In a season full of stellar books, many of which we hope to talk about sooner rather than later, this one is very special.
Scrambled eggs are comfort food. Each bite is warm and creamy, soothingly soft against your tongue with a sweet, mild flavor. Happily eaten at any time of day, scrambled eggs can be served with a simple sprinkling of parmesan of a dollop of cream cheese and caviar. In our house they are often whipped with a few drops of soy sauce or mixed with finely shredded cheddar cheese. Alex loves to play with ways to scramble and his latest favorite is in the steamer. Season, beat, steam for 10-12 minutes and finish with a little salted butter. Leaves your hands free to make sides. What could be easier than that?
We continued our ingredient sampling. Instead of a seven hour leg of lamb we did a 5 hour leg of turkey. We started with a bed of onions, garlic, canned chickpeas, shredded kale, a generous dusting of cumin, and turkey broth made from the bones and cartilage we removed earlier. We spread the yogurt laden turkey leg over the top and put everything into a 250°F oven. The yogurt mixture slowly browned. The turkey exuded juices. The flavors blended and concentrated in the pan. The fat in the turkey skin rendered and the skin itself slowly crisped. The finished turkey leg was tender enough to cut with a butter knife. The aromatic vegetable stew was thickened by the caramelized yogurt. All it needed was a crusty loaf of bread and dinner was served.
Sometimes we get in ruts. Why have we never prepared a turkey leg in the style of leg of lamb? We boned out the turkey leg and removed the tendons and cartilage. We scored the flesh of the leg deeply to allow flavors to penetrate and for crispy bits to form when it's cooked. We blended yogurt, mustard, and feta cheese for our marinade, a mixture heavily influenced by leg of lamb. Then we slathered it into the cuts and crannies in the meat. We are letting it marinate for 48 hours, which gives us just enough time to debate is how to cook it.
The surprise is baked inside.
A creative outlet.
A conversation starter.
A memory maker.
It's a flavor opportunity for both chef and diner.
We combined 2000 grams of What IIF flour with 900 grams whole eggs in the extruder. We added 25 grams additional water to complete the hydration. The noodles have the flexibility, bite and strength of their gluten rich predecessors. All in all it made for a successful workshop and a delicious evolution.
Butterfly shrimp were a childhood favorite on Ingram Street. They were fun to eat, flattened shrimp with the tails still attached, dipped in egg batter, fried, and topped with bacon. They lay on a bed of soft onions and lurid red sauce that we mostly ignored. It was all about the shrimp. The bacon was never crispy but limp, slightly sweet from the sauce, with a delicate meaty flavor. Alex was less than impressed when he saw the dish for the first time and yet somehow all of the shrimp disappeared.
Fast forward several years to when we were working on the manuscript for Maximum Flavor. We chose many recipes for the book just so we could perfect a home version of our favorite dishes to make for ourselves when the craving hit. General Tso's was Alex's take out dish of choice, so I worked on that one. I wanted Butterfly Shrimp. Of course Alex had to find a way to improve on the original, grinding the shrimp and bacon into a coarse forcemeat, forming it into shrimp-shaped patties and frying them to achieve a crisp exterior. He added a mustard dipping sauce with minced onion and fresh herbs to finish it off. Fair warning, these are addictive. A perfect addition to holiday parties or Sunday football gatherings, our butterfly shrimp are darned tasty. And since they were eventually cut from the manuscript we are sharing them here:
Serves 6 as an appetizer, up to 12 as an hors d'oeuvre
18 ounces / 500 grams shrimp peeled and de-veined
8.8 ounces / 250 grams bacon
zest of 2 lemons
½ teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt
5 green onions
2 tablespoons / 14 grams cornstarch
peanut or canola oil for frying
1 cup / 290 grams Dijon mustard
½ cup / 10 grams thai basil leaves
½ cup / 10 grams parsley leaves
1 tablespoon / minced onion
Cut the shrimp and bacon into 1-inch pieces and put them into a medium bowl with the lemon zest, salt and cornstarch. Stir the ingredients together and then put them through a meat grinder with ¼-inch die. Mix the ingredients together again and then grind half of it a second time and mix it back into the first batch. Use a small ice cream scoop (1-ounce capacity) to portion the shrimp mixture, it will make approximately 25 scoops, lay them out on 2 parchment or plastic wrap lined sheet pans, leaving 2-inches around each one, and then shape each portion into a flattened teardrop, approximately ½-inch thick resembling actual butterflied shrimp. Once all the shrimp patties are made, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up.
Preheat oven to 200°F/ 93°C
Put the mustard in a small bowl. Finely chop the basil and parsley leaves and add them to the bowl along with the minced onion. Stir to combine. Transfer to a serving dish and cover with plastic wrap. Reserve at room temperature until ready to serve. Set a large cast iron skillet on medium high heat and when it is hot cover the bottom with a thin film of rice bran or peanut oil. When the oil is hot add 8 shrimp patties to the oil and cook for 2 minutes and then flip them over and cook for another 1 minute. Remove the shrimp from the pan and put them on a rack set over a baking pan and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remaining shrimp. When the shrimp are all cooked, arrange them on large tray with the dipping sauce in the center.
...is out! Well okay, it's been out for a couple of weeks, we're a little behind in posting this. For two people who grew an entire career from a blog we tend to lag behind on the self promotion techniques. We previewed the book at Star Chefs ICC at the end of September. We talked to Dave Arnold over at Heritage Radio on book release day. We signed a stack of books for Kitchen Arts & Letters and had a great time doing a demo for the book at the 92nd Street Y a week later. And finally Alex zipped up to Boston for a guest chef/Maximum Flavor dinner at Craigie on Main.
People are cooking from this book in way that they didn't with Ideas in Food and we are loving it. One of the best notes we got was from someone who's wife made the caramel apple pie. She didn't have cake crumbs available. What she did have was apple cider doughnuts, so she made those into crumbs for the streusel. That is exactly the kind of thinking we love. Great cook books teach you new things and empower you to be creative. That's always been our goal when writing and it is so satisfying when we get a glimpse of success. If you follow us on Twitter you may have seen some great photos from readers who are cooking from the book. We love to see stuff like that. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.
We'd like to point out that Kate Williams over at Serious Eats is cooking Maximum Flavor this week. We're really excited about it because we could tell from her introduction that Kate gets what we were trying to do, it's all about making more delicious food and being able to give it your own twist. And speaking of self promotion, we will be at the Williams-Sonoma in the Market Fair Mall in Princeton, New Jersey this Sunday at 1:00 pm with a cooking demonstration and book signing. Please join us there if you'll be in the vicinity. It's a free event and we'd love to meet you. And our next guest chef dinner will be on Monday, November 11, 2013 at Heritage RVA in Richmond, VA. Joe, Emilia and Mattias are good friends and it is sure to be a fun evening for all.
It started when Tony and his team were thumbing through Maximum Flavor and plotting the courses of action for our dinner. They came across the pepperoni lasagna, one of Alex's favorite dishes. In the kitchen at Craigie on Main we used the sheeter die for the AEX18 to make lasagna sheets. The pasta dough was an intense whole wheat. We layered it with ricotta enriched with aged provolone cheese, pepperoni roasted mushrooms, pepperoni bolognese and fresh mozzarella to make these individual little lasagnettes.
Roasting them on a sheet pan this way you get more brown bits. The top sheet of pasta firms up and becomes a little crunchy, which provides a nice contrast to the layers of the soft interior. The crisp caramelized pieces of cheese, sauce and pasta have concentrated and intensified in flavor. These individual portions are beautiful, easy to serve, and make the most of a small pasta course.
Anyone who grew up in NYC probably remembers the breaded veal chops that you could order in diners and deli-style restaurants around the city. They were always relatively thick-cut shoulder chops, dredged in crumbs and pan fried. Each chop was cooked through and the meat was tender and rich. Every bite was varied due to all of the different muscles running through the chop. They were one of my favorite menu items and once I entered the world of fine dining they seemed to disappear. Loin chops were always on the menu at high end restaurants.
Pork Shoulder Chop
After we moved back to NYC we re-visited the shoulder chop. Instead of focusing on veal we branched out into lamb, pork, and beef. These were equally rewarding to cook and eat. Controlled temperature cooking methods like slow roasting, sous vide, and the CVAP made it easy to deal with the larger cuts of meat and break down the tough connective tissues into something moist and gelatinous. Shoulder chops are usually less expensive than loin chops, which is interesting, because when treated well they are both more tender and more flavorful.
As always, the potential is in how you look at an ingredient. Alex spent some time early in his career in David Burke's kitchen at the Park Avenue Cafe. It was there that he saw and cooked the now famous swordfish chop. A cut fashioned from the collar (shoulder) of the fish.
While prepping, cooking, and dining at Craigie on Main and Kirkland Tap & Trotter I was reminded of the importance of having a range of quality ingredients on hand. Tony has sourced an array of incredible spice blends from La Boite. Each blend has specific uses in Tony's kitchen. Someone else might use them differently. Tony may change the way he uses them over time. Once you've stocked your pantry you can play. Having incredible ingredients at the tip of your fingers allows you to experiment and improvise in the moment. This is often a defining difference between restaurant and home kitchens. It's hard to spend a significant amount of money on spices for one recipe or dish at home but remember that once it's in your kitchen you can use it for anything.
How'd you cook the mushrooms? Did you cook them in oil? Did you baste them with butter, garlic and herbs? Did you balance them with soy sauce and lemon juice? Did you make them delicious? These are the questions cooks ask cooks. I like garlic and butter. Often I am disappointed to find that herbs added to roasting mushrooms, meat, and fish taste of woody stems rather than bright aromatic leaves. We often avoid this step and instead add freshly torn herbs at the last moment. Soy sauce, lemon juice, and other similar ingredients are great flavor enhancers, which allow us to utilize umami and acidity to balance flavors.
Good pepperoni has a rich meaty flavor. It has a lactic tang. It has garlic, smoke, and spice. It is bursting with flavorful and aromatic fat. We used that fat to roast matsutake mushrooms. And we relied on its flavor to season and balance them. These gorgeous specimens happily absorbed nuances of my current flavor fetish and made them both shine.
It was a flavor fest at Craigie on Main. We were thrilled to combine some of the ideas from Maximum Flavor with the pigcentric brain trust of Craigie on Main. The evening showcased the power of collaboration as we smashed together ideas, techniques and ingredients.
Hors d' oeuvre
bacon deviled eggs
tarte flambee, wild boar salami
cracklings with ham powder, clam dip
Sashimi of Line-Caught Fluke
green gazpacho, lardo, pistachio-buttermilk vinaigrette
Consomme of Pork and Matsutake Mushroom
Slow-Cooked and Smoked Scottish Ocean Trout
sunflower seed risotto, crispy pig tail confit, black vinegar black pepper gastrique
Hulled Barley Carbonara
farm fresh egg, pumpkin, guanciale
Whole Wheat Lasagnette
pepperoni, forest mushrooms, aged provolone
Milk-Fed Baby Pig Porchetta
BBQ potato gnocchi, mustard greens, pork jus
Bacon Wrapped Strurgeon a la Poele
charrd allium, boudin noir sauce
Fried Pig's Ears
house-made frozen yogurt, pear
bacon-tamarind chutney, sweet curry ice cream
The soup is full of steps. Use them to take you many places.
Sausage and Mushroom Soup
This recipe is perfect for a chilly fall evening. A large tureen of soup and a platter of sausage stuffed mushrooms makes for a delicious and unusual combination of spoon and finger foods. You can easily add a big green salad and some fresh bread to round things out. Yes, you can substitute your favorite store bought sausage in this recipe to make things easier. Here’s the thing, homemade sausage is so much fresher and more flavorful. We like to add vegetables to our blend, it gives the sausage great flavor and texture. Once you’ve experienced how easy it is to make you’ll never look back. Before you know it you'll start experimenting with your own versions.
Pork & Mushroom Sausage:
1600 grams/ 3 ½ pounds pork shoulder
700 grams/ 1 ½ pounds pork belly
20 grams/ 3 1/3 teaspoons salt
60 grams/2 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms, ground to a coarse powder
5 grams/ 2 teaspoons fennel seed
4 grams/ 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2.5 grams/ 1 ¼ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1.5 grams/ ¾ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms:
945 grams/ 2 pounds button mushrooms
3 grams/ ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
800 grams/ 1 ¾ pound Pork and Mushroom Sausage
1000 grams/ 4 ½ cups water
900 grams/ 2 pounds of button mushrooms, cleaned and diced
Mushroom Stems (from Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms)
60 grams/ 2 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms
150 grams/5 ounces red wine
15 grams/ 0.5 ounces kombu
20 grams/ 4 teaspoons soy sauce
Pork and Mushroom Sausage:
Cut the pork shoulder and pork belly into long strips small enough to fit into your meat grinder and put them into a large bowl. Sprinkle the salt, shiitake mushroom powder, fennel seed, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and nutmeg over the meat and mix to combine and coat evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The following day, grind the mixture through the meat grinder using the ¼-inch die. Grind the mixture twice and then put it into zip top bags and refrigerate.
Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms:
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and reserve for Mushroom Soup. Lay the mushroom tops, stem side up, on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Season the mushroom caps with the salt. Fill each mushroom cap with a heaping tablespoon of sausage. The sausage should completely fill the mushroom tops. Cover the stuffed mushrooms and refrigerate until you are ready to serve, up to 24 hours.
Pre-heat oven to 400°F/205°C convection
Put the pan of mushrooms in the middle of the oven and roast for 30 minutes until the sausage is browned and cooked and the mushrooms are cooked. Remove the mushrooms from the oven and arrange them on a platter.
Meanwhile put the water, diced mushrooms, mushroom stems, dried shiitake mushrooms, red wine and kombu in a pressure cooker. Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes and then let the pressure dissipate naturally. Strain the hot stock into a large bowl and half of the sausage stuffed mushrooms. Stir to combine. In small batches, fill a blender halfway and puree the mushrooms and the stock together, starting on low and increasing to high gradually. When the mixture looks homogeneous, turn down the blender and strain the soup through a fine meshed strainer. Serve immediately or cool the soup in an ice bath and refrigerate in a covered container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Chill the remaining stuffed mushrooms and reserve until ready to serve the soup.
Put the soup in a large pot set over medium heat and gently bring to a simmer, stirring so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Put the remaining mushrooms on a sheet pan and put back in the oven for 10 minutes to reheat.
Pour the soup into individual soup bowls or into a large serving tureen. Serve the soup with the platter of stuffed mushrooms passed family style at the table.
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.