Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My favorite dessert....and it's easy

First off, to the pack leader, my apologies for taking so long to post this one. I know you asked for it about a month ago, but my life has been a touch hectic as of late. I will not bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that my weekends have been so unrelaxing recently, that I have actually been looking forward to the work week!!!!!!!!!!! That should give you some idea of the scope of my personal hell.



Enough bitching, on to the recipe-ing...not a word I know, but I'm going with it.



My all time favorite dessert is this simple little recipe known by the frenchies as creme anglaise, or if you're a good englishman/american, custard. Really, it is ice cream that hasn't been frozen, so if you have an ice cream maker, this will be a very versatile recipe for you. My favorite way to eat it is over stewed rhubarb (like a good brit), but you can put it over bread pudding, clafoutis, muffins, berries, really anything you want to make less healthy. It is after all a mix of dairy, sugar, and egg, but as the great (in some senses of the word) Julia Child said "everything in moderation, even moderation".



AND SO........................



CREME ANGLAISE


1 1/2 c whole milk

1/2 c half & half
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature



1)Put your milk in a saucepan over low heat. Scrape the vanilla bean into it.

2)Whisk together your sugar and eggs

3)Bring milk up to just a light simmer (gently gently bubbling for the culinarily challenged out there)

4)Temper your milk mixture into your egg mixture. This is done by simply SLOWLY drizzling some of the warm milk mixture into the cold egg mixture while whisking vigorously. This prevents the egg from cooking and becoming scrambled eggs surrounded by sugary milk. NOT as appetizing trust me.

5)Return the now milk & egg mixture to your saucepan over medium low heat and stir constantly (CONSTANT VIGILANCE as Mad Eye would say) until the sauce is this enough to coat the back of a spoon without running (this is called nappe in classic cookery, I think I've explained this before, and at some point I will stop explaing this step and just say until nappe, and hope that you've read some earlier blogs)

6)Pass through a fine strainer just to be sure you haven't had any little bits of cooked egg occur and serve immediately, or cool and refrigerate for later.

Like I said, you can pour this on top of just about any dessert and it's good. To flavor it up a bit, try adding almond extract (a touch), grand marnier (a few touches, and save some for the chef), or get a little bit more creative and use passion fruit juice, mango puree, fresh pureed berries, whatever tickles your fancy really. Odds are it'll come out fairly tasty, and will probably taste good on whatever dessert your preparing. Just don't complain to me when your ouzo flavored creme anglaise did not go well with your artichoke and sardine pie.....stay within reason folks.

Happy custarding!!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Noush's newest request



Another one of the world's most underappreciated foods..........beets. My sister asked me to teach her how to cook these earthly little balls of deliciousness, and I am now happily obliging. I cook mine slightly differently than some, and this is by no means the only way....just the best way. I have had lots of practice doing this as it is my darling wife's favorite lunch, and I think i put them on every single menu I ever wrote in some form or another. This method will work whether you are using candy stripes, golden, or classic red beets, just vary the cooking time if you are using one of the smaller varieties. And now...........

Basic Roasted Beets

3 lbs beets, roots trimmed

2 tblsp clover honey

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cardamom seeds

2 tblps sugar

1/4 c sherry or white balsamic vinegar

1/2 c water

1)Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place beets and all other ingredients in deep baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil.

2)Roast for 90-120 minutes, or until beets are just tender enough to piece with a toothpick. Times will vary depending on size of beet, so ideally, cook beets that are basically the same size.

3)Put on some rubber gloves. These are good for two reasons:1)They prevent you from staining your hands neon red from the beet juice (this can lead to awkward questions if you get pulled over recently after cooking, trust me) 2)It helps insulate your hands so that you can peel the beets. Their skin comes off easier the warmer they are.

4)Rub the skin with your hands. It should basically just slough off.

5)Enjoy your beets.

**There are many ways to enjoy beets, here are a few:

1)Cut them into wedges. Toss them with some bitter salad greens and torn basil leaf. Dress all of this with balsamic, olive oil, and a hint of truffle oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with goat cheese crostini (see earlier blog). This is probably the most classic way.

2)Slice them into thin circles. Lay them overlapping around a plate. Squeeze of lemon, drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of sea salt, touch of pepper et voila.........BEET CARPACCIO

3)Dice your beets and use them in either a mixed vegetable saute, or with potatoes to make "flannel hash". For the latter, parboil some cubed potatoes, then brown them in butter. Toss in your diced beets and warm through. Season with salt and pepper. This makes a great side dish for a steak for anyone interested.

Anyway, that's what I got for beets....hope y'all enjoy.

First rule in roadside beet sales, put the most attractive bets on top. The ones that make you pull the car over and go “wow, I need this beet right now”. Those are the money beets.

-DWIGHT SCHRUTE-best character on the office

The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.

"Tom Robbins

Friday, February 25, 2011

Celtic Women

Just a little heads up to everyone:

Went to see Celtic Women last night at the fox theatre featuring world-renowned bagpiper Anthony Byrne. First of all, entire show was fantastic. The singing was great....good mix of irish classics, contemporary, fast, and slow.

The real star of the show was "Amazing Grace" played on the pipes by Mr. Byrne while walking up the aisles to the stage. Amazing. Definitely the highlight of the show....well either that, or the Gaelic love song about seaweed.

Anyway, if you get a chance to go, DO IT

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Just a quick little note for all those desiring some good karma....

Check out the site www.freekibble.com

They have a daily trivia question, but if you go on and answer it (right or not), they donate food to shelter cats and dogs. There is advertising all over the page, which I guess is how they pay for the food, but you don't have to sign up for anything, or even look at it.

Not a bad way to start your day by helping some needy furry friends.....I could use all the good Karma I can get!!!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Since everyone seems to be coming down with the plague

Ok, so not only has my entire office taken it upon themselves to test the limits of my immune system by showing up to work in various states of sickness, ranging from the "I'm going to annoyingly sneeze every four minutes stage" to the "is there a priest in the building" stage, but I spoke to my sister last night. She usually has a beautiful voice, soft, melodic, with a hint of the irish brogue. However, last night, she sounded like a bullfrog with a hangover, so I am going to help all of you out. First off, DONT go to work like this.....it just makes everyone sick.

Second, make this brew. It will relieve swelling, congestion, sore throat, and general achy feelings.

1/2 lemon
3 tblsp honey
1 tsp SEA salt
1 english or irish breakfast teabag
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp fresh chopped chiles, like jalapeno, or if fresh is unavailable, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1)Place all ingredients in LARGE tea/coffee mug.
2)Cover with 10-12 oz boiling water.
3)Steep for 8-10 minutes
4)Drink while hot.

DISCLAIMER********* I am not claiming this is the most delicious thing you will ever drink. The honey does help sort of mask some of the more potent other flavors however, and it WILL make you feel better, I promise.

So, make this "tea", call in sick, rent the entire 2 season of Twin Peaks (plus Twin Peaks "Fire walk with me" if you like), and call me in the morning.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

MOTHER SAUCES - Part un

Ok, there are some very basic recipes in cooking that one must learn. Key among these are the "5 mother sauces", as defined by larousse (french bible modern cookery....modern being loosely defined). From these 5 sauces, 10 million sauces can be made or "derived", hence all the other sauces being called "derivative sauces". Learning these basic five recipes/techniques, and then letting your imagination run with how to flavor them will mean that you can create a great sauce for any dish. While there is some debate over the 5th sauce (some include vinaigrette, instead of tomato), I will stick with the more traditional 5 (and besides, I've already given you the best vinaigrette recipe ever, see blog named such) and they are as follows:

1)BECHAMEL - a white, milk and roux based sauce....think alfredo, or the best mac n' cheese you've ever made
2)VELOUTE - a light stock based sauce that is thickened with roux, and becomes "sauce supreme when either heavy cream, or less commonly, craime fraiche is added
3)ESPAGNOLE - a rich sauce made with dark stock, usually beef or chicken, combined with a dark roux, herbs, and for some (though not me) tomato paste. I only add the tomato paste when making a derivative sauce if needed, otherwise, I like to keep it a little cleaner tasting
4)HOLLANDAISE - probably the most famous of the 5. A warm emulsion of egg yolks, fat, acid, and flavorings, known most famously for eggs benedict, or its' most famous derivative, bearnaise....mmmmmmmmmmmm.
5)TOMAT - think of a frenchified version of italian tomato sauce with a roux added. Nowadays, in culinary school, they teach one to use canned tomatoes, no roux, and tomato paste, but to me that isn't the sauce that escoffier made, it's more akin to a bastardized marinara, so for these purposes, I actually prefer the old-school one.

Today we'll start with one of the easiest and also one of my favorites

SAUCE TOMAT:

3 oz salt pork, this is an unsmoked pork product, which is best, but you could sub bacon if you must
1/8 c carrots, peeled and diced small
1/4 c onion, diced small
2 oz ap flour
2 oz whole butter, unsalted
5 lbs fresh tomatoes, quartered
1 qt white chicken or veal stock (sub veggie if you must)
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

1)Place salt pork in stock pot. Add 1/8 cup water, cover, put on medium heat and cook for 5-7 minutes. This will allow the fat to render without burning
2)Add butter, carrots and onions and saute for 5 minutes
3)Sprinkle on the flour, and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes (basically making a blond roux with the fat, butter, and veggies
4)Add tomatoes and garlic, and saute until tomatoes start to release their liquid
5)Add stock, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour, stirring semi-frequently (every ten minutes or so)
6)Use a stick blender to puree your sauce, then pass through a chinois or fine strainer. If you want a VERY smooth sauce, sub a stand up blender for the stick one
7)Season to taste with sugar, salt, and pepper


Derivative Sauces
Nantua -
Saute some onions and celery till soft, add some crawfish, and diced tomatoes, then deglaze with 3 oz cognac. Whisk this into your finished sauce tomat. Great for Grilled Fish such as swordfish or marlin

Portuguese - Saute onions till lightly caramelized, add chopped tomatoes, and sliced garlic, then add some reduced beef stock (demi glace). Whisk this into your finished sauce tomat and finish with chopped parsley. Also, great on grilled fish, but works very nicely on grilled pork as well.

Provencal - Saute onions and mushrooms (usually just buttons) in butter till soft, add white wine and garlic. Whisk this into your finished sauce tomat and finish with chopped parsley. Great on fish, chicken, pasta, or veggies.

Like I said, there are literally thousands of derivatives for each sauce. Play around with it, odds are it'll come out well....actually, that might be optimistic, but this sauce is a great base for adding flavors. You can even add reduced heavy cream, and it becomes a great sauce for seafood pastas.

"In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport."

"The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon app├ętit."

Both of these somewhat contradictory quotes about French cooking are attributable to Julia Child, an unfailing champion of classical french cookery.


Coming next.......Bechamel. We'll do Hollandaise a little later, after we've had some success with the mother sauces, as the first time making that finicky sauce might be enough to discourage the faint of heart.

Good luck my future sauciers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The GOD of all hot sauces


Firstly, sorry my photography sucks, but it was taken with my phone while cooking, so a little blurriness is to be expected. Secondly, it's not even really doing this justice to call it a mere hot sauce, but srirachi thai chile sauce is an absolutely indispensable resource for any cook from the haughtiest fine dining spot to a simple home cook wanting to broaden his/her horizons. It's known by a few nicknames, such as the red rooster, or the kickin chicken because of the rooster on its' label (if you live in georgia, beware, kickin chicken also refers to wild turkey 101, which is not so food friendly). It's texture is more of a paste than the traditional hot sauce, but don't be scared away. It's hot, but not overly so, with a pleasant acidity and some good garlic flavor to it as well. It is so versatile....you really just need to have a bottle of it in the fridge for any occasion. I will lay out a few good ways to use it, but really just start subbing it in for hot sauce in your normal recipes and then just play around with it.

Srirachi Mignonette - for all the oyster lovers out there

1/8 c champagne vinegar
1 tsp srirachi
1 shallot, diced FINE (sub a 1/4 of a red onion if you don't have a shallot)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp fresh ground peppercorns
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp fresh thyme

1)Mix all ingredients together and let sit for 1 hour. Serve over chilled oysters and slurp away


Srirachi Aioli - delicious on anything

2 egg yolks
1 pinch salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup plus 2 tblsp olive oil
3 tblsp srirachi

1)add salt, egg yolks, garlic, and srirachi to blender. Puree till eggs are lightly frothy
2)SLOWLY, drizzle oil in to blender (while still running, sorry if that's obvious) until the mixture forms into a thick mayonnaise. ***Note:you may or may not need the 2 tblsp of oil, you will have to judge the thickness of your mayo

Use this as a dip for any fried seafood. Drizzle it over pork chops, smear it on crostini, make a sandwich with it. Like I said, good on just about anything

Srirachi Honey - the easiest recipe I will ever post

2 parts honey
1 part srirachi

1)Whisk together......like I said easy.

This sauce is amazing for the grillers out there. Brush it on shrimp, pork chops, chicken, steaks, scallops, veggies, or anything else you can cook on your grill. Just do it towards the end of the cooking process so that the sugars don't burn too much. It's also great as a dipping sauce for crab fritters, stuffed artichokes, or used as a sauce for a piece of swordfish perhaps.

Thai Chile BBQ Sauce - works great as a marinade or a completed sauce

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 stalk lemongrass, pounded (just hit the stalk with the flat of a knife to release it's oil/juices)
1 cup brown sugar
3 tblsp molasses or cane syrup
1/3 cup srirachi
1 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup apple juice
6 oz coca-cola (NOT PEPSI :)
1 cup tomato paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tblsp worcestershire sauce

1)Combine all ingredients in a pot over medium-low heat and cook 60-90 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lemongrass and use as mentioned above.


SIGNS THE RESTAURANT YOU’RE IN
SERVES REALLY SPICY FOOD


They have two seating
sections: “Foolhardy” and
“Flat-Out Crazy”

The waiter comes around
with a pepper mill —
as a joke

The hallway leading to
the bathrooms is a
designated fire lane

The food is free,
but water is $10 a glass

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stuff my Basset will and wont eat

So, this is Tater. Actually, she is named Sweet Potato fully because she is the color of one and is oddly lumpy in places just like her namesake. She is a very sweet, thoroughly food obsessed animal who constantly surprises me with her culinary dos and don'ts. This post was inspired by this morning, when I dropped an ARTICHOKE on the ground and almost lost a finger trying to retrieve it (not really, she is very gentle, but she did scarf that freaking artichoke). So without further ado...the list

DOs

Beets - shaved, pickled, or just roasted and diced, she loves them
Artichokes - as mentioned above
Grapes - this one has a caveat, only when they are halved will she touch them, otherwise she just noses them around for a bit, then leaves them to surprise you at midnight when you're going to the kitchen for a glass of milk
Seafood - whenever I cook any seafood, especially tuna, she lurks about 3mm from my left ankle and just drools huge long strands of drool that almost touch the floor till she gets a taste. It's odd b/c she doesn't do this if I'm cooking a steak for instance.
Tomatoes - see the rules for grape eating
Fruit Pastilles - this is an english gummy candy (think a non-sour sour patch kid) and she is obsessed. I came home one day to find that my large (brand new, over 1 lb box) new shipment of these from across the pond was no more. Just paper bits, a couple of the yellow ones not eaten on the floor, and a bloated, slightly uncomfortable looking, but nevertheless happy basset remained. This was the first of many lost packets of pastilles and now we are forced to top shelf them.
Bananas - Loves them. Most dogs just sniff around at them, she inhales them.


All that being said, she does have her moments of finnicky eating. For example,

Loves bread, won't touch a tortilla
No Berries.....period
Blue Cheese, I know it smells, but it's still cheese
Whole wheat crackers from Costco with Flax seed...don't know what it is, but she backs away from them like they are spitting cobras

I'd love to hear about whatever weird things your dog eats or doesn't....or just any funny dog habits.

The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too. ~Samuel Butler

From the dog's point of view, his master is an elongated and abnormally cunning dog. ~Mabel Louise Robinson

A dog is not "almost human" and I know of no greater insult to the canine race than to describe it as such. ~John Holmes

Did you ever notice when you blow in a dog's face he gets mad at you? But when you take him in a car he sticks his head out the window. ~Steve Bluestone

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"FOOD" FOR THOUGHT - cheesy I know, but c'est la, c'est la

So I know I usually end a lot of my posts with quotes that are relevent (or at least semi-relevent in my addled mind) to said subject material. That however is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO limiting. I can only do quotes about mushrooms, entertaining, gnochhi, or specific things. So, I am broadening the horizon for this one. The following is a list of quotes, mostly about food, some not, but all that I find inspiring, thought provoking, or funny.

Please add some that you love, or tell me what you think of mine.....even if you want to tell me that you think mine suck, are wierd, or disgusting.

A GOOD START

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. ~Voltaire

Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn. ~Garrison Keillor

Do vegetarians eat animal crackers? ~Author Unknown

Red meat is not bad for you. Now blue-green meat, that’s bad for you! ~Tommy Smothers

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. ~Luciano Pavarotti

If only it was as easy to banish hunger by rubbing the belly as it is to masturbate. ~Diogenes


COURSE 2

You can say this for ready-mixes - the next generation isn't going to have any trouble making pies exactly like mother used to make. ~Earl Wilson

All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. ~John Gunther
******I have tried using this as a defense to my weekend laziness, but, unfortunately guys, it apparently is trumped by the "honeydew" list (read HONEY DO)

A bagel is a doughnut with the sin removed. ~George Rosenbaum

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. ~Lewis Grizzard

I don't think America will have really made it until we have our own salad dressing. Until then we're stuck behind the French, Italians, Russians and Caesarians. ~Pat McNelis
***for the record, other than caesar, all these dressings suck, it's just a funny quote

Sleep 'til you're hungry, eat 'til you're sleepy. ~Author Unknown
***If only life were that simple.....it might be for my basset hound, but not I

We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons. ~Alfred E. Newman
***Sad, but True


THE ENTREE

If God had intended us to follow recipes,He wouldn't have given us grandmothers.~Linda Henley
***my father is happy that this isn't actually true in our family.....creamed onions..AGHHHH!!!!

Rice is born in water and must die in wine. ~Italian Proverb

Nobody seems more obsessed by diet than our anti-materialistic, otherworldly, New Age spiritual types. But if the material world is merely illusion, an honest guru should be as content with Budweiser and bratwurst as with raw carrot juice, tofu and seaweed slime. ~Edward Abbey

Hey yogurt, if you're so cultured, how come I never see you at the opera - ANON
***now that's just funny

What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child? ~Lin Yutang

Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison, and everything I don't eat has been proved to be indispensable for life. But I go marching on. ~George Bernard Shaw

A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch. ~James Beard
***Crass, but true.....kind of true to Beard although he is somehow sanctified by all

We load up on oat bran in the morning so we'll live forever. Then we spend the rest of the day living like there's no tomorrow. ~Lee Iacocca
***Not a bad philosophy actually

And I find chopsticks frankly distressing. Am I alone in thinking it odd that a people ingenious enough to invent paper, gunpowder, kites and any number of other useful objects, and who have a noble history extending back 3,000 years haven't yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to capture food? ~Bill Bryson
***For the record, this guy is just f'in hilarious. Everything he writes, but I chose this quote as a highlight.

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. ~Mark Twain

Did you ever stop to taste a carrot? Not just eat it, but taste it? You can't taste the beauty and energy of the earth in a Twinkie. ~Astrid Alauda
***This might be my second favorite food quote ever

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well - Virginia Wolfe
***This is my absolute favorite one

THE SWEET FINISH

Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first. ~Ernestine Ulmer

Research tells us fourteen out of any ten individuals likes chocolate. ~Sandra Boynton

Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos. ~Don Kardong

Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not! ~Author Unknown

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love chocolate, and communists. ~Leslie Moak Murray
***No offense Kenny...Oh wait, you're a MAN U fan, not a communist, I get the two confused :)

I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine the perfect woman: subtle, a little bittersweet, not blowsy and extrovert. Delicately made up, not highly rouged. Holding back, not exposing everything and, of course, with a flavor that lasts. ~Graham Kerr

Cookies are made of butter and love. ~Norwegian Proverb

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart. ~Erma Bombeck
***Dark, but that's just funny

Man cannot live on chocolate alone, but woman sure can. ~Author Unknown

THE BIG FINISH

"Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon."Doug Larson

So, that's it. Hope you enjoyed some, were intrigued by others, and will post some of your own.