Sometimes the best slice of pie is the one you choose not to order.
Sometimes the best slice of pie is the one you choose not to order.
The Fried Chicken Project has been interestingly received by our customers at Curiosity Doughnuts. The responses range from curiosity to excitement to dismay--because they had no idea it existed and they were all filled up on barbecue. We have been evolving the chicken offering, while still serving 12 orders a day. Currently we are pairing the fried chicken with our doughnut bread pudding. We top the doughnuts with a glaze made from caramel, pickle brine, black lime, and Luchito Honey.
The tinkering has been fun. The refinement of our processes has been exciting. Now that some of the pieces of the puzzle are in place I am ready to begin bringing new ideas to the table. Where we go with it will be part of the project.
March 13, 2009
For our fried chicken project we score chicken thighs and bath them in a smoked buttermilk brine. They sit in the brine for 24ish hours. We remove them from the brine and dredge them in our new dredge: masa and potato starch. We lay the dredged thighs on sheet pans lined with parchment paper and wrap them in plastic wrap. We refrigerate the thighs overnight, allowing the starches to hydrate and adhere to the chicken. We fry our thighs for 3 minutes at 375°F.
1000 grams buttermilk
500 grams pickle brine
120 grams Crystal Hot Sauce
40 grams liquid smoke
35 grams salt
Put the buttermilk, pickle brine, hot sauce, liquid smoke and salt into a bowl. Whisk the ingredients together to combine and dissolve the salt. Submerge scored chicken thighs in the brine and refrigerate the chicken in brine for 24 hours.
March 12, 2011
Last week I stopped by the King of Prussia Shake Shack. I ordered a smoke shack and a chicken shack. I started with the chicken shack and bounced to the smoke shack. I went back and forth. When I was halfway through both sandwiches I realized I wanted them as one. The union on my tray sparked the connection in my mind. I needed to eat a cheese burger topped with fried chicken.
Today, after rolling doughnuts, I popped into the kitchen at Charcoal BYOB. I shared my my chicken-burger experience and ensuing want. Thankfully Mark was game to bring the burger to life. He topped their signature CVaped cheeseburger with a piece of their fried chicken. He added Firehouse pickles and their french fry sauce.
We quartered up the creation and quietly ate. It was worth the wait. We crushed the first of many fried chicken cheeseburgers I'll be eating.
March 11, 2006
I have a cornflakes fetish. It is well known. I have made crepe cakes, ice cream, caneles, crusted clams and chicken fried steak. Today I took cornflakes into topping land for Curiosity Doughnuts. I toasted the cornflakes in a 250°F convection oven for 15 minutes. I let the cornflakes cool and ground them into a coarse crumb. I added twice as much white chocolate chips to the food processor and pulsed the mixture until it formed a uniformly irregular crumb. I seasoned the crumbs with 0.75% salt and the topping was complete. It is sweet, salty, toasted and rich. The topping is destined for doughnuts and our vanilla-buttermilk frozen custard.
March 10, 2005
We were dining at local Mexican restaurant and were running our of salsa because the freshly fried chips were just that good. The next time the server swung by our table we asked for more. He delivered it in a carafe, pouring some into our empty dish and leaving the rest on the table. I had never seen that before and it struck me as smart yet simple solution to the problem of the empty salsa bowl. Most bowls are small, probably to discourage us from filling up on free chips. This way we could pour what we wanted and any leftovers were still in the bottle. We didn't have to keep asking for more and everyone was happy.
March 9, 2009
We love it when people wander into the market and "get" the doughnuts. This kind of experience is what makes all that hard work worthwhile.
March 8, 2012
March 8, 2005
I was inspired by the condiment taps during a recent visit to the King of Prussia Shake Shack. It is convenient to have the ketchup and mustard available to dispense with the pull of a lever. Soda and beer are almost always on tap. What if doughnut glazes were on tap? What if, (there probably already is), ranch dressing was on tap? I'm sure barbecue sauce is on tap. What about chocolate and caramel sauces? What if you could dress your own doughnuts?
A lesson from two sisters on leadership and empowerment via TED. We all have a spot in our homes where we stow plastic supermarket bags, even those of us who try to utilize re-usable bags for most of our shopping. Have you ever thought about where they all end up? I can't say that I did, before I saw this video.
March 6, 2005
I am not one for soggy bacon or even once crispy and now overly leathery bacon on a doughnut. I do like the idea of smoke and maple together. Over the years we have done a lot with smoked maple syrup: from tapioca pudding to buttermilk-maple puree. In the land of doughnuts we started with the incredible barrel aged and smoked maple syrup from Blis.
I made a glaze with the syrup adding buttermilk, (apparently our signature) salt and powdered sugar. I dipped our cluster doughnuts (recently being referred to as doughnut daisies) into the glaze. I topped the doughnuts with a sprinkling of our cream cheese cookie crumbs. Maple and smoke in harmony on a doughnut without the pointless bacon.
Sure, these were probably grown in a greenhouse, still, the colors were vibrant and the stalks were firm and juicy. These were the nicest asparagus I've seem in the market in ages.
After a quick toss with olive oil and salt followed by 20 minutes in a 400°F. oven, they were, infinitely sweeter and softer. We ate them with our fingers straight from the sheet pan. As we savored and laughed at the the way the juices ran down our fingers, it felt like springtime had finally arrived.
I've eaten pickles. I've eaten pickled jalapenos. I've eaten pickles made spicy with jalapenos and habaneros in the pickling brine. What I had not eaten, until last night, was a jar of pickles upgraded with fresh sliced jalapenos. Over at Charcoal BYOB they start with Firehouse Pickles and then add a freshly sliced jalapeno to the jar. The fresh heat added to the vinegar pickles was insanely hot, bright and gripping. I could not stop eating the pickles and the jalapenos. And now I will be jalapenoizing pickles from now on.
These days I often find myself dealing with large quantities of vegetables. While a large pot may be useful in these cases, it is not my favorite choice. Too heavy and cumbersome to deal with. I much prefer using my roasting pans. After trimming and washing the broccoli rabe, I shook it gently and laid it in my roasting pan. It was two large bunches and filled the pan almost to overflowing. I made a quick mixture of olive oil, anchovy paste, minced garlic and splash of apple cider vinegar and used it to dress the greens. I also added a little extra salt, just in case the anchovy didn't quite cut it. Then I roasted it in a 400°F oven for 30-45 minutes. I mixed it twice during the process to ensure the top layer didn't dehydrate while bottom steamed. The water clinging to leaves was enough to form a shallow layer on the bottom of the roasting pan and the rabe cooked until it was meltingly soft and tender.
I scooped out the vegetables and laid them in my bowl. Then discarded the liquid at the bottom of the pan. The rabe was so good, almost sweet with just a hint of bitterness. You got a little kick from the garlic, a hint of the floral qualities of the olive oil, and the rich rounded flavor of the anchovies to balance everything out. It was easy to make and easy to clean up. I'll definitely be making this one again.
March 2, 2005
As a kid I was never very impressed with cauliflower. It was always served as part of a "vegetable medley" and it paled in comparison to the broccoli or peppers or whatever else lay beside it on the plate. It was white in color and flavor, bland and tasteless, or so it seemed to me. Many years later I was a professional cook and while I had tasted some good cauliflower here and there, it wasn't a vegetable that I ever gave much thought to. Then I dined at Peacock Alley, while it was under the reign of chef Laurent Gras. My mother and I were having a tasting menu and one of the early courses was seared hamachi with cauliflower and caviar. It was the first time I had eaten cauliflower puree and it was rich and decadent, full of earthy sweetness, with a silky texture that lingered on my tongues. It was a wonderful dish and it seems odd to me that what stuck in my head was the cauliflower. It was one of those moments where a chef let's you see an ingredient in a new way. I discovered that night that I never knew the true potential of cauliflower.
As I learned, cauliflower does work amazingly well as a creamy puree. But it is equally good roasted, as pictured above. It needs a little extra care to bring out its best aspects. I like to roast florets underneath my chickens, they become softly tender, almost melting into the pan drippings. Everyone is whole roasting cauliflower these days. It's the thing to do. We simply rub ours with olive oil, season it with salt, and roast it in a 425°F oven until it is tender and golden, 30-40 minutes. If you're feeling adventurous you could baste it periodically with a miso-butter, rich meat jus, barbecue sauce, or any rich savory sauce of your choice. The vegetable will soak it in and the sauce will add new dimensions to the cauliflower. You can slice it and serve it with more sauce on the side.
Personally I don't mind a simply roasted vegetable. If I'm eating alone, I cut off a chunk and and pull apart the florets so I can eat them with my fingers, savoring the contrast of textures and flavors throughout each bite. I may dip it into a little vinaigrette or add a softly cooked egg or I may simply enjoy the flavor of the cauliflower, all by itself.
March 1, 2011
March 1, 2009
March 1, 2007
March 1, 2005
We folded raw, un-rinsed sushi rice into a blend of beef, pork and veal. We added minced vegetables: carrots, onions and celery. We stirred in roughly 2 quarts of home made chicken broth. We folded the mixture into a meat batter and poured it into 2 bundt pans. We covered the pans and baked them for an hour and a half at 350°F. We removed the foil and baked them for 30 more minutes. We let them cool on the counter for about 30 minutes and then turned each bundt out onto a pizza pan. To brown the top of the bundt loaves we used the broiler. We broiled the moist interior on low for another 15 minutes or so, until it was nicely browned and slightly crisp around the edges to enhance the roasted meat and rice flavor.
The mixture cooked up into an incredible slice-able dish, perfect with nothing more than a green salad and some good company. We figured out how to perfectly cook sushi rice in a medium of meat, vegetables, and broth. There's no recipe this time, it was an impromptu creation. Now we can build and explore variations using the ideas of other dishes: fried rice, paella, risotto, and dirty rice.
We have begun slicing and deep frying our doughnut bread pudding. We created the bread pudding to utilize unsold doughnuts. (Look, I hate waste and enjoy finding smart uses for everything.) Unfortunately It has taken months to integrate the bread pudding into our world. We sold them whole over the holidays. We tried slicing and selling slices at the shop. But sliced bread pudding was not overly appealing.
During one of my drives I was thinking about our bread pudding and doughnuts and fried chicken. It dawned on me that we should be slicing and frying our bread pudding, and serving it with the fried chicken. Chicken and waffles (in our world it was chicken and cornbread doughnuts) becomes chicken and doughnut bread pudding. The frying evenly browns the pudding and warms it through. The outside gains increased crispy bits. The insides remain moist and almost molten. We dust the fried slice with powdered sugar. The chicken and bread pudding work great together. Besides as a magical accompaniment to fried chicken, we have begun selling slices on there own.
A friend of mine recommended these chips and I was intrigued enough to go out and buy them. Lundberg Family Farms produces some of my favorite rice. Their short grain brown rice is always in our cupboard. Having grown up snacking on senbei, Japanese rice crackers, the idea of rice chips seemed like a no-brainer.
Straight out of the package, these crackers look like sturdy tortilla chips. They are thicker than I expected and you can see the rice grains and sesame seeds scattered throughout the dough. They have a clean rice flavor, accented with a hint of nuttiness from the sesame, and a truly satisfying crunch. I almost feel relaxed after eating a bunch of them because I've chewed through any stress I was feeling when I reached for them. I haven't tried any of the other flavors and these are so addictive that I don't know if I will, for a little while anyway. As the package states they are made with organic grains, gluten free, non-gmo, and vegan. They are chips you can feel good about eating, even if they are slightly more expensive than some of the familiar supermarket brands. Of equal importance, they taste great. So if you're looking to change up your snacking pantry, these rice chips are a tasty alternative. (FYI, this is not a sponsored post.)
I've been thinking a lot about roast chicken lately. Maybe it's a metaphor for life because there are so many ways to cook them, each with their own fan club from high heat-quick roasting to low and slow roasting that can take up to 4 hours in the oven. You can salt or brine the chicken in advance, or season it just before it goes into the oven. You could even just roast the wings or whatever your favorite part of the bird is. And let's not even get into the possible seasonings and aromatics. There are literally hundreds of ways to roast a chicken. Why is that? Because a roasted chicken is something that can be stupendously wonderful and is accessible to almost everyone. It's not necessarily a splurge, though a good organic or free range chicken can be quite expensive, and it is always an indulgence. Unless the cook mucks it up, then it's nothing more than a disappointment. Probably more potent than most simply because we all know exactly what we're missing when the chicken comes out dry, soggy, or burnt. A perfectly roasted chicken though, is a thing of beauty. Even better, it tastes almost as good in your memory as it does on your tongue. The only downside is that a truly delicious roast chicken will always leave you craving more.
February 26, 2009
February 26, 2005
We continue to adapt ideas. We took our beet evolution and sliced it like raw tuna. We brushed it with lemon infused olive oil, draped it on a ball of sushi rice and wrapped it with a strip of nori. A crystal of Maldon salt punctuated the bite. The transformed beet is juicy and chewy. It mimics the texture of raw tuna. It is a vegetable bite with the substance and depth. The idea of bringing and creating substance and depth to our food is essential to creating and discovering remarkable food.
February 25, 2010
February 25, 2007
February 25, 2005
Home+Table, a local magazine, came to visit us at Curiosity Doughnuts. You can read about it here. For the photo shoot we put together the "perfect dozen", pictured above, although what goes into that dozen changes slightly from week to week. We'll be there this weekend if you want to come and check it out.
February 23, 2007
February 23, 2006
February 23, 2005
My current obsession is doughnuts. And custard. And fried chicken. And marmalade. And hot dogs. And, well, I have a lot I to obsess about. With each obsession I am looking for delicious. So I guess I really obsess about discovering delicious food. Along the way I am looking for the best iteration of the idea. The best being the most delicious. As we tinker we discover. Occasionally we move the needle forward. I smile and become happy with the results. Sometimes the tinkering leads to failure. Which leads to frustration. Which leads to examination. Which leads to discovery. Which leads to more tinkering. At any given point we deliver what fascinates us. When the moment changes so does what we consider fascinating. And the tinkering begins again.
I'd never heard of chipped chopped ham BBQ before. It's a Pittsburgh classic. In its simplest form, chipped chopped ham is warmed in barbecue sauce. It is served on warm kaiser rolls. That's it. Simple. And brilliant. After wrapping my head around the fact that I've never experienced this before I began to wonder about variations: bologna, mortadella, turkey, roast beef. My delight is in the simplicity.
February 21, 2005
For our fried chicken project at Curiosity Doughnuts we continue to tweak and evolve everything. The doughnut component is based on our New Fashioned Doughnuts. We replace 1/3 of the flour with instant masa. The masa adds a full robust corn flavor to the dough. We needed to increase the hydration of the dough to compensate for the use of the moisture craving masa. Originally we cut doughnuts proper and served the debris on the side. We glazed the doughnuts with our buttermilk lime glaze spiked with black lime and Korean chili flakes. I wanted something more from the doughnut experience. That is when we went to our thumbprint. We still glaze the doughnut. After the glaze sets we fill the thumbprint with the sweet, hot, acidic, tomato-jalapeno marmalade from eat this. The doughnuts stand on there own. And we have started selling the few extra, that don't make it on a Chicken and a Doughnut plate, for those into a more savory experience.
February 20, 2011
February 20, 2005
I was playing around in the kitchen at Charcoal. Eric was working on a few desserts and I saw an opportunity to explore an idea. I took some of his soft meringue and dropped dollops of it into liquid nitrogen. As the meringue froze I melted white chocolate with Earl Grey tea. I haphazardly dropped the rock solid meringue into the tea flavored white chocolate. I was able to freeze a chocolate crust around the large mound of meringue. I let the meringue snow ball temper a bit and then proceeded to smash it. The meringue was soft on the inside with the shell of tea flavored white chocolate. The concoction was a delicious sugar rush. It is worth exploring further and refining in presentation.
I loved this talk by Elle Luna. It is for everyone.
February 18, 2005
I'm way behind on my magazines but this cover of Food & Wine has been haunting me since it arrived. Chocolate babka is one of my favorite things. It has always remained firmly in the category of items that I buy rather than make, but now I'm wondering why that is, because, let's be honest, there's a lot of bad babka i the world.
As a kid we would buy ours at the local supermarket. The one that sold it was not our usual market so I only got babka if my aunt happened to make a special stop in that neighborhood and remembered to pick up some babka. It was always chocolate. The fact that we had to slice it ourselves made it special right out of the wrapper. I loved the play of textures, the crispy crust that sort of crumbled off of the loaf. If it was fresh, the interior would be moist and almost creamy in texture with ribbons of chocolate swirling through the pastry. Even as a kid, I knew this wasn't bread, it was a loaf of pastry, something special and ethereal, permeated with the scent of sugar and almonds. If it was towards the end of it's shelf life the babka would be dry almost all the way through, dehydrating in it's perforated plastic packaging but then I simply toasted it and slathered it with sweet butter. Still wonderful but in an entirely different way.
Many years later we were at the beach house in Rhode Island and Barbara brought up some chocolate babka from the Riviera Bakehouse in Ardsley, NY. As she unwrapped it my memories came rushing back. And yet, it was different, more tender and more flavorful than I remembered. It had a richer chocolate flavor and more than a hint of almond swirling through the filling. It was better than I remembered and eating it made me happy. It brought me back to my childhood and it was delicious. Every so often, when we're visiting Alex's parent's, I make a trip to Ardsley for babka. Maybe next time I feel nostalgic I'll pull out my flour yeast and see if I can recreate a memory.
February 17, 2005
For Valentine's Day, celebrated the day after due to Alex's commuting schedule, I made him and Amaya an apple strawberry pie. Pie is love. I used Fuji apples and frozen strawberries. Cascadian Farms frozen fruit is pricey but well worth it. The quality definitely backs up the cost. The frozen strawberries have been consistently small and ripe and since they've been teaching the kids to eat the rainbow at school we've been buying a lot of frozen organic fruit.
Alex and Amaya both like a crunchy, sugary crust so I brushed the top crust with cream and sprinkled a mix of raw and granulated sugar over the top.
I pressed the trimming together to make patchwork hearts. It seemed to fit the theme of the day because love is a perfectly imperfect thing. I knew the hearts would still be beautiful, even more so because they were made from recycled scraps (another big theme in first grade).
The pie was delicious. The strawberries permeated the filling with their sweet floral aroma and the apples added texture and their own special savor. A hint of vanilla pulled everything together. It was a very happy end to Valentine's day.
Apple Strawberry Pie FIlling
Makes enough for one 9-inch double crusted pie
2 pie crusts: 1 pressed into a greased 9" pie pan and 1 rolled out and ready to lay over the top
One 10-ounce bag of frozen strawberries, no need to thaw
3 medium apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3/4 cup / 150 grams sugar, your choice
2 tablespoons /16 grams corn starch
1 tablespoon / 7 grams tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt
1 teaspoon / 4 grams vanilla paste or extract
2 tablespoons / 28 grams heavy cream
1 tablespoon / 14 grams raw sugar
1 tablespoon / 12.5 grams sugar
Preheat oven to 425°F. (218°C.)
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Put the strawberries, apples, sugar, cornstarch, tapioca starch and salt in a medium bowl and mix gently with a rubber spatula to blend. Add the vanilla and mix gently to blend. Pour the pie filling into the pie pan lined with crust. Use the rubber spatula to spread the filling evenly inside the piecrust.
Be sure the crust has been trimmed to have a 1-inch border around the top. Lay the top crust over the fruit and trim it so that it has a 1.5-inch border around the edge. Fold the top crust over and under the bottom crust, rolling the two together to form a border around the edge of the pie. Use your thumbs and forefingers to pinch the pie crust all the way around the edge to seal it together and create a decorative border. Use a pastry brush to brush the cream over the top of the pie. Add any decorative pieces of crust made from the trimmings and brush them with cream too. We don't vent our pies because the fruit cooks more evenly when the steam stays inside. Mix the raw and granulated sugars together and sprinkle them over the top of the pie. I do this on the counter top because any sugar left on the sheet pan burns in the oven. Put the pie on the prepared sheet pan and set it on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
Rotate the pie, reduce the heat to 350°F. (175°C.), and bake for 1 hour more. If the pie starts to get too dark, cover loosely with foil.
Remove from over and let cool completely before serving.
I was making an impromptu batch of guacamole. As I was rooting around the pantry seasoning and adjusting the guacamole I came across our black lime powder. Bingo. It's acidic funkiness would be amazing in guacamole. I gave it a go. I added a hefty sprinkling to the almost complete guacamole. It added an in depth aromatic character to the mix. I hadn't thought of this before. And now I don't think I can make guacamole without black lime again.
February 15, 2005
Today we are presenting a musical interlude. This is one of our favorite songs. Whenever Amaya and I are feeling blue or out of sorts, we put on this video and dance until we can't stop smiling. It pulls us out of our funks and makes us happy again. That is a true gift.
February 14, 2009
February 14, 2005
Amaya is not a fan of of the flavor of char, dark brown edges are first viewed with suspicion and then surgically removed from all of her food. She is also not a fan of crispy vegetables, which means that my favorite method of roasting them is not greeted with much enthusiasm at the table. She likes her vegetables soft with their color still bright. The solution was as easy as changing my pan. Instead of a baking sheet, now I steam roast vegetables in a deeper baking dish. I toss them with some oil and salt and roast them at 400°F. for 20 minutes. Then I stir them around and roast them for 10 minutes more. They steam in their own juices, which slowly caramelize as they cook. I add a splash of vinegar and soy after I pull them out of the oven to make a light sauce and everybody's happy. It's easy and the results are silken and delicious.
Even though I don't get my crispy edges, I'm not missing a thing.
February 13, 2007
I always thought cake flour was all purpose flour cut with cornstarch. A quick glance at the King Arthur Flour box shows me something different. And that was a tremendous lesson to learn. The answer is to combine and create what works best for any given situation. While I may not make a blend like King Arthur's, I am now looking at blending strong and weak flours to create flavorful and functional blends for moist delicious tender cakes.
February 12, 2006
February 12, 2005
The sweet, buttery, flaky, nuttiness of Butterfingers has haunted me for years. Today I finally did something about it. I started with a dark caramel made with sugar, water and liquid glucose and added warmed peanut butter to it. I used a whisk to evenly combine the caramel and peanut butter. I followed the addition of the peanut butter with 1% salt and 0.25% baking soda. I was looking to add some aeration to the mixture and hoped the acidity of the caramel would be enough to activate the baking soda. I witnessed some bubbling. More than that I witnessed a fast, really an enhanced and expedited, maillard reaction. The peanut butter caramel went from golden brown to foxy brown almost instantly with the addition of the baking soda. I quickly poured the hot mixture onto a silpat and let it cool for a few minutes.
I began to ponder Butterfingers as I watched my mixture cool. I really like the light and flaky texture of the candy. To hopefully mirror that texture I started to pull and stretch the near molten sugar. I quickly put on some gloves to insulate my hands and decided that dusting powdered sugar over the candy would allow more filaments and layers to be created. I pulled the hot mass until it cooled to a hot body temperature. During the pulling I added some additional salt. I like salty peanuts. I wanted well seasoned, read salty, Butterfingers. When the candy was moderately cool I began breaking and eating pieces of it. It had the texture I was looking for. The flavor with the caramel base was more intense and roasty than the original. The flavors were more complex.
The question now is where to take the inspiration?
For our fried chicken project at Curiosity Doughnuts we updated our chicken breading, really a dredge. We coat the pickle and smoke infused buttermilk brined chicken thighs in a blend of equal parts instant masa and potato starch that is seasoned with 1% salt. The result, after frying, is an extremely crispy corn flavored crust. The chicken remains moist and succulent. Even after applying our black lime honey caramel to the chicken it keeps its crackling crunch.
One of the things that I love about cooking is the way that it brings me back in touch with the world around me. It require to use all of my senses and it forces me to engage my powers of observation. There's nothing like seeing yeast transform a dough. Or seeing the colors bloom as you sear vegetables in a wok. Or breathing in the aroma of a fragrant tea or broth as it slowly permeates the air and perfumes your home. Each day is filled with tiny magical moments, often missed, when we need only pause and take a breath to experience them. It's my goal to find more more magic in my day and share those moments with kindred spirits. It's time to slow down and get engaged, time to set down the stress bucket so I can enjoy each moment as it happens, rather than wonder where they all went. There is a large difference between working efficiently or working frantically and I choose the former. Savoring the process is the best part of what we do.
February 9, 2005
I have a thing for white chocolate. It could be considered a fetish. White chocolate is a great medium for carrying flavor. And it brings sweet richness to the game. I was involved in reworking our candied pretzel doughnut and it dawned on me to blend the pretzels with white chocolate into a fine sprinklable crumb. Why a crumb? The long pretzel sticks, while cool looking, are not the easiest to eat on the top of a doughnut.
I made the crumb by pulverizing 1 part pretzels in the food processor and adding 4 parts white chocolate chips and processing the mixture into a uniform crumb. The mixture is sweet, salty, toasty, rich and crushable. On a doughnut. On top of frozen custard. On a spoon in my mouth. Of course I have plans to explore the idea using other chocolates based on our delicious results. And if I can change chocolates I can change the pretzel component as well. We have created a delicious model for sprinkling flavors.
February 8, 2005
Twelve order of fried chicken
served with cornbread doughnuts
will hit the counter at Curiosity Doughnuts every Saturday and Sunday at 12 noon.
Come and get it while it's hot.
We were looking to get the textural benefits of the tastiest beet ever in an expedited time. Our previous model had us using a dehydrator to remove moisture and concentrate flavor in the beet. I wondered if we could speed up the drying process and perhaps amplify the beet flavor by roasting the beets further. It turns out the idea works. First we steamed gigantic beets until they were tender, about an hour. We peeled the beets and cut them in half. We put the beet halves onto a wire rack and roasted the beets for 2 more hours at 300°F. The beets shriveled, caramelized and exuded sugary syrup. After roasting we wrapped the beets in plastic wrap to steam and cool. We removed the beets from the plastic. We grilled them and brushed them with a vegetable-centric lacquer. After pulling them from the grill we let them rest and finally sliced them. They were rich, concentrated and slightly chewy. They were a delicious evolution from our prior work.
I was pretty excited when I came across this juice at BJ's. It was the first time I had seen varietal apple juice that featured our favorite apples. Of course when I showed the bottle to Alex he noticed right away that I had stumbled into a marketing trap. It doesn't actually specify that the juice is made with honey crisp apples, only that its flavor is in the style of honey crisp apples. Oh well, it's still pretty good organic juice. Next time I will read more carefully. Though I have noticed that the more labels I read, the fewer groceries I bring home from the store...
February 4, 2005
Black lime is back. It is an ingredient we forget about too often. It has a flavor and aroma similar to Indian Lime Pickle, without the heat and other spices. We pulverize it into a powder and use it when we are looking for a funky hit of aromatic, acidic bitterness. It brings an intense full bodied lime flavor to whatever we add it to. Of course these days it will most likely meet a match in Doughnutland. In the past we have paired it with licorice to make a sauce for turbot.
February 3, 2005
When I'm organized, a roast chicken dinner generally leaves me with two sets of leftovers: picked meat and stock or broth made from the bones and skin. Yesterday I gave Amaya the choice of chicken nachos or chicken soup. After some careful consideration she decided on soup. (She has to track all of the servings of different colored fruits and vegetables she east each day this week for school and she thought that soup would give her a better spread.) While the vegetables were simmering in the broth, I decided to make noodles. It's not a difficult task. I generally toss a cup of flour, a pinch of salt, and a large egg into a bowl. Then I add just enough milk, as needed, to turn it into a supple dough. As I was mixing this particular batch, I was a little distracted end ended up being a little stingy with the milk, resulting in a drier dough that was little stiff as I kneaded it. I shrugged to myself and wrapped it in plastic wrap to rest, figuring that given a little time it would hydrate and relax.
While the expected hydration did take place in the allotted time period, it did not magically transform a rather firm elastic dough into something silky and supple. After a few turns with my rolling pin it became clear that rolling this dough was going to be an exercise in time and frustration. So I decided not to. Instead I simply cut the flattened dough in half so the noodles wouldn't be too long and sliced the dough as thinly a possible. The fact that it cut easily and the noodles separated without a problem will tell you just how dry my dough was. On the bright side I ended up with great noodles. They were irregular and fun to eat, slightly chewy and resilient, perfect for our soup. Sometimes it's easier to go with the flow and you end up with unexpectedly delicious results.
As a side note, after dinner I used a slotted spoon to remove all the noodles, vegetables, and chicken from the broth. I like to store the two parts in separate containers in the refrigerator because that gives me options. On the one hand the noodles will not be sitting in soup overnight getting flabby and soggy, so when I combine the two parts of the soup for the reheat, it will be almost as good as it was the first time. Or, I can remake the dry half into a pasta dish, either microwaving or sauteing the chunky noodle ragout and then adding cheese and black pepper or a flavorful sauce to liven things up or even fold everything into a frittata. Then I can freeze the extra broth for another use. It takes a couple of minutes to separate the solids from the liquid and it makes my life much easier in the long run. Especially since both my husband and daughter frown upon leftovers. This way I can transform them into a new dish and then everyone is happy.
February 2, 2005
A few years ago we stayed at a lake house and when we arrived there was a box of blueberry mini muffins in the pantry. We had driven well over seven hours that day, it was almost dinnertime, and I had no idea what I was going to do about it. So, when Amaya asked if she could have some muffins, I said yes. In retrospect this was a bad idea because those tiny, sticky-sweet muffins appealed to her in a very big way. Over the course of the next few days she finished that box of muffins. For months afterwards, whenever she saw them in the supermarket, Amaya would ask me to buy more. My answer was a firm no. I explained that vacation houses, much like restaurants, may give her the opportunity to try things that we don't serve at home. That does not mean that these items will become part of our daily life. Instead I began making mini muffins.
They come and go with the seasons. We all like them for a while and then we get tired of them. Right now, we happen to be in a muffin period. I'm indulging my pleasure in whole and sprouted grains. I feel as though I should whisper that because grains and gluten are so vilified at the moment. I still enjoy them. These muffins remind me of New England, with their nutty corn flavor, balanced with maple syrup and sweet-tart berries. They key here is toasting the corn flour. I do it in a skillet rather than in the oven because it's a relatively small amount of flour and your nose will do a better job of telling you when it's ready than your eyes will. We're not going for a dark golden brown here, rather, we're going for a rich nutty aroma. The flour will darken slightly but not so much that it's a good indicator of flavor. I tend to go directly from the pan to a cold metal bowl and stir it up a bit to cool it down. I measure out my liquid ingredients and then add the dry to the cooled corn flour before mixing it all together. This makes a perfect pan of mini muffins that will disappear faster than you can imagine.
Blueberry Corn Muffin
Makes enough batter to fill one pan of mini muffins (24)
1 cup / 215 grams corn flour (I use Bob's Red Mill, any quality finely ground cornmeal will work)
3/4 cup / 180 grams buttermilk
1/2 cup / 155 grams Grade B maple syrup
1/4 cup / 56 grams neutral oil or melted butter (I used avocado oil)
1 teaspoon / 4 grams vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup / 120 grams sprouted spelt flour (you can substitute all purpose, whole wheat, barley, etc)
2.5 teaspoons / 15 grams baking powder
1/2 teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt
1.5 cups / 255 grams blueberries, fresh or frozen
Preheat oven to 400°F. (205°C.)
Spray a mini muffin tin with pan spray and use a small piece of paper towel to wipe out the excess oil.
Put the corn flour in a large saute pan set over medium high heat and cook, stirring constantly until the the aroma changes from fresh corn silk to a slightly nutty, toasted corn aroma, about 8-10 minutes. The color will deepen slightly. Transfer to toasted flour to a large mixing bowl to cool.
Meanwhile put the buttermilk, maple syrup, oil, vanilla, and the egg in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to blend. Add the sprouted spelt flour, baking powder and salt to the bowl of corn flour and whisk to blend. Add the liquid ingredients and use a rubber spatula to mix the batter together, until almost smooth. Add the berries and fold them in gently. Put about 2 tablespoons of batter in each muffin cup, I generally fill them to the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on top and just set. Cool for 10 minutes and turn them out of the muffin tin. Cool for 5 more minutes before serving.
*One of the perils of a touch screen oven is that sometimes, when you're cleaning the range, you accidentally turn the timer off. While my nose came to the rescue and I didn't actually burn my muffins, the ones pictured above are a little bit on the dark side. Yours should be more of a golden brown, with a tender crumb, and a delicate crunch from the corn flour...
Chops, steaks or fish fillets are perfect for a quick meal, as long as you cook them properly. Pan searing is one of our favorite cooking methods and once you master it, you're never far from a good meal. You need to start with a good, heavy bottomed pan and give it a nice coating of oil. Don't freak out abut the oil, most of it will stay in the pan. Keep in mind that if the surface of the meat or fish is not in contact with the oil it won't brown properly. Set the pan over medium high heat and when it just starts to smoke, add your protein. It should sizzle. After 30 seconds or so, flip your chops/steaks/fillets and reduce the heat to medium. Many people leave the heat too high and that causes the protein to char at the edges, You're looking for a nice golden brown crust over the entire surface and it's imperative that your heat is just high enough to sizzle and not smoke and burn. Flip every 30 seconds or so, until you have a beautiful crust on both sides of your protein. Once everything is a deep golden brown on both sides, add a knob of butter and some fresh herbs and baste until the butter melts and the herbs brown slightly but do not burn. Use a spatula to transfer your protein to a warm plate and let it rest. If your proteins are on the thicker side, cover them loosely with an inverted plate to encourage a little extra carry over cooking, if they are on the thinner side, just make sure the plate is in a warm spot so they don't cool off too much before you're ready to serve them. It's been my experience that using this method, once a perfect sear is achieved, things are pretty close to perfectly cooked. (Yes that's a little magical but it really does work.) Pour out the excess fat and add vegetables to saute and serve alongside or make a pan sauce to serve over the top. I usually do vegetables instead of sauce because then I have a one pan meal. Quick, easy, and super-delicious.
Amaya is a bit of a candy hound. It's something that popped up this past year and it's not something that makes us particularly happy. On the bright side, she is choosy about her candy and when she gets some of her favorite stuff, she eats it with all of her senses. She'll admire the colors or coating, and comment on how delicious (or not) the candy appears. She'll sink her teeth into the surface of a candy to crack the coating and then sniff at it to check out the aroma. As she eats the candy, she often pulls it out of her mouth so she can see the changes that she is experiencing on her tongue. Every time the texture changes, she'll take another peek. Admittedly this is another habit that does not always please me, but at least it's evidence that we are raising a thoughtful eater. She loves how the slightly sandy texture of the Mike and Ike coating slowly rubs smooth and then she sinks her teeth into the chewy center and enjoys the sticky texture and they way the flavor coats her tongue. Amaya likes to discuss what's happening in her mouth, why the confections are so enjoyable, and which flavors are better and why.
While she does eat more candy than I would like, at least she eats it with passion and emotion. She knows that she can't have it all the time so she savors her opportunities to indulge. It's fun to witness her pleasure and it reminds me to take the time to slow down and enjoy my own meals. Years of working in kitchens and scarfing down meals at odd moments has left me with the bad habit of inhaling my food. A slowly savored meal is always a conscious indulgence and I'm thankful that Amaya's eating habits have slowed down my own. I'd rather learn from her habit of eating at her own pace, rather than teach her to fast forward through a meal.
Anyone following this blog probably knows we are in the process of selling our house in NH and moving back to PA. There are lots of reasons why we are doing this, almost none of which are about NH. Anyway, whenever you buy or sell a house, inspections are in order. Because we have well water, a water test was performed. This was not a major concern for us. We had the water tested before we moved in an annual water test just a few months ago. Unfortunately there was one one positive marker that came up and that was for arsenic.
Arsenic is not uncommon in New England wells, there's a reason why the test is always included in the water profile. When we moved in, we were aware of the arsenic in the water and installed a reverse osmosis system that we used for all drinking and cooking water. What we discovered the other day was the the arsenic levels in our water had increased and that a mitigation system in addition to the single R.O. drinking line was recommended. We are still below the levels where arsenic can be absorbed through the skin but since the level has risen it makes sense to take care of things before we hit the red zone. My question was why the arsenic wasn't detected during the annual water test? Apparently since we didn't have a mitigation system in place it wasn't included in the panel and neither of us remembered to add it in.
The easy answer is that we though we had taken care of it. We had installed a pretty comprehensive water treatment system with a reverse osmosis line for drinking water and although we made a point of only drinking the RO water, it was easy to forget why we had it installed in the first place. It was easy to become complacent.
Complacency is an insidious thing. You think you've got things under control so you don't question. You don't shake the foundations to make sure they are secure. Sure things change slowly, but they do change and that's why it's important to ask questions, to re-visit standards, and to update your approach to things. We're doing that now. Thinking about what we do and how we approach things to see if we need to shake things up a bit. Change is good. Ruts slowly develop around where you're standing if you're not paying attention. So ask yourself, what haven't I changed in a while? Give yourself a little inspection to see where things may have gone off track and then figure out how to make things even better than they were in the first place.
January 29, 2006
January 29, 2005
We use egg washes and cream washes on baked goods to apply sheen, adhere toppings and develop browning. The other day we had a small amount of maple syrup in a container and were working with variations of our cream cheese cookies. I took the maple syrup and mixed in a few tablespoons of heavy cream. The blend of cream and maple syrup was delicious. I used it to brush on the top of the cream cheese cookies I was working on. It added a rich sweetness to the cookies. And the residual mix in the bowl was devoured by me.
January 28, 2005
We purchased half of skin on and bone in pork belly. We scored the skin with a serrated knife and seasoned the slab of meat with salt. We put the belly into a shallow roasting pan in a 250°F oven and roasted it for 6 hours. We removed it from the oven and let it rest in the pan for 45 minutes. We turned the broiler on high and put the pan back in the oven on a lower rack. We moved the belly around in the oven to evenly crisp and puff the skin. We pulled the chicharon topped belly from the oven and let it rest for another 30 minutes. We sliced the belly into thick slices and indulged in crispy, fatty, juicy meaty porcine feast.
January 27, 2005
I am enamored with cream cheese cookie dough. After making non-traditional rugelach I began tinkering with our recipe. I increased the amount of sugar and salt. I also added baking powder for a slight leavening. Then I didn't make rugelach. I opted to roll the dough out on granulated sugar in the style of arnheim biscuits. What we lost in flavor development from the yeast leavening we gained from the cream cheese. And the simplicity and speed with which this dough can be made makes it even more alluring.
January 26, 2005
We spread a filling of ricotta, shredded mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano over our ramenized lasagna noodles. We topped the filling with slices of pepperoni and rolled them into parcels.
We placed the lasagna parcels into a baking pan with braised beef ragout. We topped the parcels with fresh mozzarella and baked the individual lasagnas for 1 hour at 400°F. We removed them from the oven and let them rest for 15 minutes. We scooped the lasagna parcels onto our plates and devoured them.
The ramenization of the noodles gave them a nice chew. They were not mushed out. The following day our leftovers were equally resilient, with great texture and bite.
Our lasagna and other baked pastas have now gained a simple upgrade to an old idea.
January 25, 2009
January 25, 2005