Sunday, November 30, 2008

More experiments wth rye bread

I am bound and determined to come up with a rye loaf that is rich and moist and is not solid as a brick. Last night I made a sponge:

  • 1 T yeast
  • 2 t sugar
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup water

Whisk together, cover with plastic and set aside on the counter overnight. Next day, make the dough:

  • Sponge
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2.5 cups high-gluten flour
  • 1.5 cups dark rye flour
  • 3 T oil
  • 2 T molasses
  • 1 t salt

Mix all ingredients in stand mixer with dough hook. Knead with dough hook for 6-7 minutes until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It will be very soft but should also be stretchy and pliable, not sticking to your hands. Oil a bown and put the dough in it, let it rise until doubled. Gently fold dough, don't punch it down or you'll lose too many air bubbles. You just want to deflate it a bit. Shape into a 12" loaf and put onto a peel dusted with cornmeal. Cover and allow to rise again, about an hour. Heat oven with baking stone to 400 degrees. Slash top with razor or sharp knife, about five diagonal slashes. Bake until internal temp is 205-210 degrees.

This turned out moist, with great flavor. Next time I will preheat the baking stone longer, as the bread stuck to it just a bit.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What's for dinner: fried chicken, potatoes, broccoli

I bought a chicken yesterday and disassembled it. Boned out the breasts and the thighs and put them in an salty/spicy buttermilk marinade. Put everything else (trimmings, legs, wings) into a pot and added a couple of cans of chicken broth and a couple of cans of water, some onion and celery, and some savory. Simmered the pot for a while, and fished out the legs and wings for eating later. Strained the broth and put it in the fridge along with the marinating meat.

Today I shall make a seasoned flour and add a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk to make it kind of lumpy (this is a recipe from Cook's Illustrated/Cook's Country). Then I will coat the boned chicken pieces with the lumpy coating and shallow fry them. Theoretically the chicken will come out very crispy due to those lumps. I will peel some Yukon gold potatoes and make mashed potatoes, and use the rich chicken stock I made yesterday to make gravy. Some steamed broccoli, and we'll have a nice dinner. I'll send along some pictures if it is pretty.

Hope you all have the Thanksgiving you are wishing for. As for me, I am one of the 7% of Americans who are traveling instead of going to a family dinner, and running off to the coast to spend some quality time with my overworked husband.

Update: As you can see, dinner did come out pretty and tasted even better.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What's for dinner: fried sole and sweet potato chips

I'll admit this up front: I do have fear of frying. Deep frying just seems so involved and messy. But every time I do it, I say to myself that I will remember that it's not so bad. Maybe today it was easier because I didn't decide on frying for dinner until about 4:00 today. Was running through the grocery store and saw some beautiful sole, at a great price. So I postponed our crispy shallow-fried chicken dinner until tomorrow and grabbed the fish. On the way home I realized that I have lots of fry coating, from our trip to New England last summer. Might as well try a shallow fry of fish, I thought. Then when Dave got home from work, he asked if we were frying fish then could I maybe make sweet potato chips, too? Heck, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I discarded the idea of pulling out the big iron skillet and went for a wide pot instead, thinking I might as well use the same pot for both things.

I used the mandoline to get nice evenly thin slices of sweet potatoes, and we got the pot of oil (2" deep) heating up (starting target, 375 degrees). My plan was to put Dave in charge of the chips, which was silly because since neither of us have ever done them before you know I'm going to be hanging out and "supervising." First batch was a little dark, but after that we got it just right. As you can see from the picture, we were able to make a half sheet pan do double duty as a landing pad for the chips and the fish. Breading the fish was easy – I used a one-step approach, not the three-step flour/egg/breading. The fish picked up the corn flour and spices of the Zatarain's Louisiana Fish Fry quite nicely. Two minutes in the hot oil and it was GBD – very tender and juicy with a softly crisp coating, crunchy around the edges.

For us, a nice spin on fish and chips!

Monday, November 24, 2008

What's for dinner: Beef with mushroom and bacon gravy

Had about 4 oz of tenderloin scraps and 8 oz of thin-sliced eye of round in the freezer. Cut that into ¼” dice and seared it in a little bacon fat and ½ t dried thyme. Removed that from the pan and put the juices into a small bowl. Added 2 T of chopped dried porcini to those juices and topped it off with some hot water, letting it steep. To the skillet I added ½ a medium onion, chopped, 3 slices of cooked bacon, chopped, and 8 oz of chopped mushrooms. Cooked until the mushrooms were limp and the onions were translucent, seasoning with salt and pepper. I make shiitake mushroom powder and so I added about 2 T of that, too. Poured in the rehydrated porcini and juices and cooked for about a minute. Added 1 T tomato paste and stirred in, then added 2 T flour and cooked and stirred until the flour was incorporated, about four minutes. Stir in cooked meat and one can of chicken stock, bring to simmer. Stir until thickened and simmer for a few minutes until the raw flour taste is cooked out. Just before serving, stir in ½ C of sour cream. Serve over long-grain white rice.

I’m serving it with peeled sliced asparagus stems. I guess you can almost call it beef Stroganoff, the flavors are very similar.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New thing to try: Gelato

While we were out the other night, we stopped in at a gelateria in the neighborhood. Now, while gelato is "just" Italian ice cream, it has very intense flavors. After our treat, Dave decided that we should try making some for ourselves. I found a half-dozen Italian cookbooks in my collection that had recipes and background info. The keys to gelato seem to be a very intensely flavored syrup, and much less fat from the dairy component.

For example, the lemon gelato that I made tonight. I made a very fragrant syrup by poaching the peels of three lemons with their juice and sugar. Strained out it was flavorful as well as aromatic. The recipe made almost 2 cups of syrup which were to be combined with 1/2 cup of heavy cream and frozen in the ice cream machine. All that worked just fine and the gelato is pale yellow, smells of fresh lemons, and has a really creamy texture.

Oh, and the gelato experiment went on while I was canning five and a half pints of apple butter and six pints of "plum good" applesauce. And made up the fancy cioppino with the base from Friday with clams, mussels, large shrimp, halibut cheeks, big fat scallops, and a Dungeness crab. Served that with fresh bread. I think Dave has cleaned the kitchen at least seven times this weekend -- I think we need a few days off from major kitchen projects!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Don't want to waste the apples!

Over the past weeks we have gotten quite a few apples in our farm basket. In fact there were twelve pounds of apples and two pounds of pluots awaiting consumption. Dave and I decided we need to make apple butter, and with that many apples we’re also making applesauce. Have I made either before? Of course not! But that’s never stopped me…

Today we peeled, cored, and sliced the apples and sliced the pluots. All went into a pot with some water and got cooked down. I ran them through a food mill and got six quarts of puree. Perfect – I need 12 cups of puree for the butter and 12 cups for the sauce. With the pluots it is a beautiful shade of pink. Last thing to do tonight was add the appropriate sugar, spices, and lemon juice to each batch. Tomorrow I will cook down the apple butter, using the induction burner as I think that will give a very even heat on the pan and reduce the likelihood of it scorching as it gets thick. I will also cook the sauce a little bit and then jar them all up and process in a water bath.

Some days it cracks me up that a city girl like me spends time canning and preserving. Guess whether you grow up in the city or the country, if you grow up poor you learn to not waste the apples!

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's for dinner: calamari steak in cioppino broth over linguine

Dinner tonight was born of the need to use up ingredients. I had fresh tomatoes, lots of fresh basil, a bit of fennel, a bit of leek, some celery. I also had the lobster/crab stock I made at the beginning of the week. And a bit of tomato paste. All those flavors screamed Cioppino! So I followed their siren song. The only seafood on hand is frozen calamari steaks, which Dave really likes.

So I chopped up an onion, the fennel, some celery, some leek, and crushed red pepper and sweated them in olive oil. Added a few cloves of chopped garlic and stirred for a few minutes, then the tomato paste and let it caramelize on the bottom of the pot for more flavor. Then the six cups of shellfish stock, and about four cups of seeded chopped tomatoes and a cup of chopped fresh basil. Corrected the seasonings, and simmered for a while.

Meanwhile I cut two calamari steaks into large pieces and rubbed them with salt and lemon juice. The reason I used large pieces is that there’s quite a bit of cioppino base so I want to use it for a full-on stew on Sunday. This way I can poach the calamari in it and be sure I can get all of it out of the broth. Otherwise I’ll have some rubbery overcooked calamari on Sunday.

Then we made some linguine and boiled that up while the calamari poached in the broth. Linguine into big pasta plates with calamari on top and some broth ladled around it. A Washington Barbera to drink. Not bad for a pantry meal.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Cooking projects for today

I’m working on crab cakes today, and Dave wants chocolate ice cream and we have all the ingredients so that is next. He’s doing all the vacuuming today, and he already did the laundry, so he deserves a treat. The crab cakes will be a first course for duck prepared “sous vide.” I'll use the induction burner for that. Sauce will be a duck stock reduction, probably with some of my cherry-plum syrup added. Some nice carrots from the farm on the side they will like that sauce, too.

Last night we made fettuccine and had crab fettuccine. That involved 2 T minced shallot, ½ clove minced garlic, 1 T tarragon sautéed in butter, then add about 1 C cream and simmer to reduce a little bit. Add 1.5 C crab and ½ C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add cooked pasta to pan with sauce and toss. Serve with a little more parm on top, and a Chardonnay/Pinot-based sparkling wine. Then those red wine-poached pears for dessert.

Yes, dinners next week will be light to offset the richness of this weekend!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Weekend dinners: duck and bean soup, seared duck breasts

It’s been raining hard for two days straight and while we might get a break later this afternoon it will start again tonight. Time to pull down the soup pot and clean out the supplies of stock in the freezer.

Today Dave is picking up a duck for me at an Asian supermarket. I’ve put small white beans on to cook with savory, thyme, and garlic and pulled out a quart of double-strength duck stock. This will be the start of a duck and bean soup that takes its source flavors from French cassoulet. I love cassoulet but don’t keep all the bits on hand that go in for a really authentic one. I'll add some onions cooked with homemade pancetta to the pot when the beans are tender. The cooked beans will rest until Sunday. In the meantime, tonight I will cut up the fresh duck. I will put a curing rub (salt, sugar, pink salt, lavender) on the legs and season the breasts, and refrigerate both.

Tomorrow afternoon I will poach the duck legs in duck fat for about four hours, making duck confit. The duck breasts we will have for dinner on Saturday night, with blue cheese polenta, carrots, and a green salad. I’ve been poaching some pears in a red wine syrup with vanilla and star anise, and I suspect we’ll have those for dessert if we don’t gobble them all down tonight.

On Sunday morning I will add some tomato paste and the duck confit to the beans I cooked today. I also have a chicken breast and thighs that I poached in duck fat that I will pull out of the freezer and add to the pot. I will slow cook this in the oven for several hours, and then add a breadcrumb crust to the top of it and cook it some more. After the crust gets really crisp, I will stir it into the rest of the beans. This is a pretty classic part of a cassoulet recipe. By dinner time on Sunday, it should be ready to eat. Some crusty bread and a green salad with some cheese, and we’re good to go.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What's for dinner: Prime NY steak w/brandy cream

Major score at Costco this week: fresh Brussels sprouts and USDA Prime NY steaks.

I realize that the little cabbages aren’t on most people’s list of favs, but I’ve converted more than a few people when I braise them with bacon and maple syrup, a trick I learned in a cooking class. Just slice them in half so they can soak up all that nice flavor, and if you finish cooking them without a lid you won’t end up with that nasty sulfur aroma.

These steaks had the most beautiful marbling, and were almost 1 ½” thick. I rubbed them with kosher salt and mushroom powder and let them sit out until they were room temp. Then I rub them with a little olive oil and into a really hot skillet for three minutes on a side. Don’t touch them until the three minutes are up if you want the most beautiful caramelized surface. Then into a 400-degree oven for four minutes. Put them on a plate to rest and made the pan sauce: add a couple of tablespoons of minced onion to the skillet (back on the heat) and stir until the onion is translucent, scraping up the fond in the skillet. Then pull the skillet off the heat and add a couple of tablespoons of brandy; tilt the pan as you put if back on the burner and the brandy will flame. I used more like ¼ cup of brandy (4Tbs), and got flames mostly up to the kitchen ceiling (and we have high ceilings!). But no damage, even kept my eyebrows and I didn’t drop the skillet when it happened. I guess I’m getting used to flambéing. Once the flames went out I added some salt and about a tablespoon of flour, since I wanted the sauce to cling a bit to the meat. Stirred until the flour was cooked and then added heavy cream until I got the consistency I wanted. Did I mention that this meal was designed to harden your arteries even as you prepared it? Anyway, once the sauce was done and I corrected the seasonings, I put the steaks back in the pan for just a bit to coat them in sauce, and plated it up.

You could almost cut the steaks with a glance. Incredibly buttery and tender, and a perfect medium rare all the way through.

We had a nice salad of baby greens with blue cheese crumbles and candied pecans in a raspberry vinaigrette to round out the meal. No leftovers tonight!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Joy of Oysters

Like your first kiss, I believe you always remember your first raw oyster. Where you were, who you were with, how your stomach did a little flip-flop as you contemplated it, how easy it was to have another after that first one.
After spending a few hours with other oyster lovers at an oyster harvest/beach BBQ last weekend, I'm even more convinced that I'm right. I overheard several people reminiscing about their first oyster, and it did sound like they were talking about their first kiss. So you heard it here first: first kiss=first raw oyster.
We actually didn't eat raw oysters that day, but there were plenty of barbecued ones.
It was an absolutely gorgeous, picture-puzzle kind of day.
Gathering oysters? Not so glamorous. This black "primordial ooze" sucked me in up to my knees. Not pretty, and it smelled less than pristine.