Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Smoking turkey

Dave picked up half a bone-in turkey breast on sale last weekend. I brined it for 7 hours in 1 qt water with 1/4c kosher salt and 1/4c sugar. Then I rubbed it with a spice mixture (cayenne, paprika, cinnamon, cumin). Wrapped 1 cup of soaked mesquite chips in a foil pouch and poked holes in it. Put the left side of the gas grill on high and put the chips on that side (under the grate). Kept the right side off, and when the chips started to smoke put the turkey on the other side. Left it on there for about two hours, until the internal temp was 160F. Nice and juicy! It's great sliced for sandwiches or rollups (sliced up turkey and apples, put in warmed tortilla with lettuce leaves, a little shredded mozz, and a little mayo). Today I chopped some up along with some pears and gorgonzola, mixed with some butter lettuce and raspberry vinaigrette. Made a nice lunch.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Pizza on a gas grill

We bought a fancy pizza stone a couple of months ago. It sits on our gas grill and does a very nice job of cooking pizzas, even though it doesn't do 800-degree cooking. However, I've had a hard time finding just the right dough for pizzas. Pita dough is okay but not quite right. Neapolitan dough is okay, but ends up too tough on the bottom due to the longer cooking time at the lower temp, and it's way too salty. Finally, yesterday I think I got the right thing. It involves Caputo 00 flour, which I picked up at PFI. I did a lot of searching to do a survey of recipes, and this is what I came up with: Pizza dough for four indiviual or two large pizzas 211 g water 430 g flour (Caputo 00 flour, or bread flour) 5 g salt 32 g starter (I use the same starter I use for my bread, which is 50/50 flour and water) 1 g dry yeast Mix 300 g of flour with the rest of the ingredients until just blended. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. In mixer (I use a KitchenAid), mix with dough hook on low speed for 5 minutes, then gradually add rest of flour and mix for another three minutes. Scrape down bowl as necessary. Put dough into oiled bowl, cover and let rise for about two hours. Divide into two or four portions. For four portions, I put them into 16-oz plastic containers and cover them, set them aside for an hour. Now they are ready to stretch into crusts. Bake on a hot stone, either in your oven heated as high as it will go or in a gas grill. Instead of using cornmeal on my pizza peel, I use Wondra flour. It's nice and granular and I prefer the texture.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dim sum

Boy, do I love dim sum. The ultimate appetizer meal, I think. So of course I took a class on them last week. I've made steamed hom bow before, but nothing else. I really wanted to learn some of the wrapping techniques, like how you get all the little pleats in the ha gao (shrimp balls). I did, and it was fun. We also made baked shrimp toast, sticky rice in lotus leaves, shu mai, potstickers (but we steamed them, so I guess they weren't really potstickers!) and a few other things. Fun but hot and hard work. The sticky rice packets are also some of my favorites, so I was happy to get a chance to try those. We used fresh lotus leaves and soaked them in hot water, but I think you should use dried, pre-cooked leaves and then soak them. The leaves just disintegrated when we tried to fold them around the rice and meat filling. Also, I think the rice needs to steam a lot longer, either before or after putting it in the leaf. Only 15 minutes wasn't enough to get the nice sticky texture and get the flavor of the leaf infused into the rice. Good things to learn. Other thing I learned was that I had some shrimp toast topping left over and I put in into a couple of potsticker skins and put them into the steamer -- it was great. So great, in fact, that I made that at home last weekend for dinner, along with some pork potstickers using filling left over from class. We really enjoyed them. Turns out that Dave is really really good at shaping the potstickers with very even little pleats. I still rush too much so mine aren't nearly as precise. But then, I've never been a real patient cook, one of the things I fight in myself all the time.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Birthday dinner

Dave celebrated a birthday last weekend. He doesn't really "celebrate" per se, but he does like me to cook some of his favorite things and I am more than happy to oblige. This year that meant seared duck breast with Gorgonzola polenta. The duck is easy, I brine it in a brine seasoned with juniper, allspice, and garlic. For the polenta, I am a firm believer in the microwave oven as a great way to make polenta. I've seen some purists sneer at me about this, but you just can't argue with the results. I learned the technique and proportions from "Microwave Cooking" by Barbara Kafka and have since of course put a few spins on the recipe. I use medium grain polenta; you really can just use cornmeal (called for in the original recipe) but the texture isn't as interesting. Gorgonzola Rosemary Polenta 3/4 C polenta 4 C water 1 t minced fresh rosemary 1 t minced fresh thyme 1-2 T minced shallot 2 t salt 3 T butter 1/3 C Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (or more if you really like it) Mix everything but the butter and cheese in a 2-qt. microwave-safe dish. Cook, uncovered, on high power for eight minutes. Stir and cook for another six minutes. Remove from oven and stir in butter and cheese. (Note: if you use regular cornmeal, only cook it the first time for six minutes.) The "birthday cake" was "La Bete Noire," the cover recipe from the September issue of Bon Appetit. Wow. Another in a string of flourless chocolate cakes, it got additional creaminess by using sugar syrup instead of granulated sugar. Better be sure you have quite a few people to feed, though, since it serves about 16 and it is really rich! Dave wanted it served with flaming cherries, but I decided that would not be a good idea since it would melt the ganache and it would run all over the place.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Date night -- Brasserie Margaux and 94 Stewart

We haven't been out to eat at restaurants much lately, so decided that last night was time (as Dave noted, I've been "cooking a lot of good stuff lately" so no need to go out...). We had a really nice dinner at Brasserie Margaux a couple of months ago, and since at that time everything on the menu looked good, we thought we'd see if we could confirm our initial impressions. We were a little disappointed. Service, while friendly, was pretty slow and forgetful. They did comp a couple of glasses of wine to make up for some of the service issues, which was quite kind. Dave's pork chop had nice flavor but was overcooked (we prefer them medium, this was cooked well-done and was somewhat dry). The prime rib from the carving station was okay, but medium instead of medium rare. I love the truffled risotto with parmesan, but they forgot to bring it to me and so for a while I had to gaze longingly at my dish of risotto sitting in the kitchen. Overall, okay meal but not "over the moon." What was fun was dropping into 94 Stewart for a post-dinner glass of wine. It just feels good to stop in somewhere where they know you. The restaurant was slammed, so we sat at the counter and hung out watching the kitchen until Lindsay, the sommelier, had a chance to chat with us. In the meantime I got plenty of time to exchange ideas with Jeff, the sous chef, as he stood at the stove. Watched him slice off a beautiful strip steak from a loin he was dry-aging himself, about 14 days. It was mouthwatering (and we weren't hungry!). It got us talking about meat curing in general. He also dropped off a spoonful of the red wine-port-shallot reduction he was using on the tenderloin. It was great, both in flavor and in texture. When Lindsay finally had time to catch her breath (she was serving as well last night) she let Dave try both Pinot Noirs she had by the glass so he could pick the one he liked better, always a nice touch. He picked the "funkier" of the two, demonstrating his continuing adaptation and appreciation of the nuances of Pinot. As for me, I tried the "Brown Bag" special where I had to guess what I was drinking. It was easy for me to tell what it wasn't, and Lindsay's hint that it was Old World but not French finally helped me narrow it down to Tempranillo from the Ribiera del Duero, a very nice wine (and quite a bargain at $8/glass). Jeff and I talked more about charcuterie and he shared his current favorite book on the topic, when skimming it I realized that Gabe was using the same book as the source for many of the recipes in the charcuterie part of the Preserving classes I took. I have to get a copy of that book...Jeff brought out some foie gras they are in the process of turning into a torchon -- I felt a little ungracious after I blurted out that frankly I thought it was too salty. But I think he took the comment in the spirit of frank and hopefully helpful commentary. Dave seemed to get a real kick out of watching me interact with Jeff and "talk shop." I know I sure enjoyed it, it was worth spending $40 on wine there for that nice social experience. We've got to get back there to eat more often! (and so should you, if you're reading this...)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


We got a paella pan as a wedding gift last year, and I finally got around to using it this weekend. I've had paella in Spain, and on several other occasions in restaurants and made by people who specialize in it, so I knew what I was looking for in terms of flavor and texture. Did a survey of assorted paella recipes, and decided I (sort of) liked the recipe on best. What's good about that one is that it gives measurements for each serving, so you can customize it to what you need. I did it for four, and it filled my 15" paella pan all the way to the brim. So I might make three portions next time. I substituted a blend of fish and shrimp stock for the chicken stock, and used calamari, clams, and shrimp for the seafood. Also changed around some of the seasonings etc. You don't have to use a paella pan, of course -- a big saute pan will work just fine but isn't as aesthetic. So here is my version: Per person: 1 chicken thigh, skinned and boned, cut into bite-size pieces 3 medium shrimp, shelled (tail on) and deveined 4 small clams (manila) 1 calamari tube, cleaned and sliced into rings 5 saffron threads 1/2 C valencia rice (or other short to medium grained rice) (Do not rinse!) 1 C chicken or seafood broth 1/4 C peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato 1/2 t smoked sweet paprika 1 soft Spanish chorizo, 1/3" slices 1/4 C chopped onion 1 garlic clove, minced 1/8 C frozen peas Optional: green beans (1" pieces), canned artichoke hearts, halved Per pan: 1/2 C dry white wine 2 T olive oil Heat wine and put saffron in it to steep. Heat oil in pan over medium high heat and saute chicken until browned. Add onion and garlic, stir until translucent. Add sausage and stir for about five minutes. Add rice and stir until the rice is beginning to turn milky. Add tomatoes and paprika, stir, then add broth, wine/saffron mixture, and peas as well as optional vegetables. Stir just to distribute ingredients evenly, and bring to a low boil. Don't stir any more -- a crust is supposed to form on the bottom. Simmer for five minutes, then distribute clams evenly around the pan. simmer for another five minutes, turn the clams over, and distribute the calamari and shrimp evenly over the top. After another five minutes, turn the shrimp over. Let simmer about another five minutes, and discard any clams that have not opened. Serve immediately. A green salad with a caper viniagrette is a nice side dish.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Cooking radishes

Until the other day, I'd only ever eaten radishes raw. But Dave thought we should try cooking some. Since we had a bunch of them from our CSA basket, I decided to give it a try. Looking for recipes didn't give me a lot of help but there was some guidance. So I decided to braise/glaze them. Halved the radishes, put them in a saute pan with some butter, salt, and a little water. Browned them a little on the cut side, flipped them over to cook a little more, then turned back when the water had evaporated to glaze them. They were really good, and held their color well (some of ours were purple). Nice side dish with meats.