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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Back in Action

 It has been a long long time since my thoughts have faded back to writing a post about what Dawn and I have been doing in the last year and a half since we wrote to you all. I have enjoyed reading some of the creative recipes and events you have all been a part of while we have been gone and I would be remiss if I did not mention I will respond on your activities soon. The restaurant, which took up every waking moment and worry is a thing of our past. Still thriving but under new ownership, it has aided us in the fight to live a more "normal" life; a life where we can spend time enjoying the heirloom tomatoes in all their bounty, cooking a pan of red chicken curry, or baking one of the fantastic loaves from James Beard that I missed oh so much.

I will not spend hours rambling on about what has happened in the past but saluting what is to come in the future. We have a growing and thriving eight and a half month old boy named Silas that grounds us daily when we forget how special each moment is at the stove or sharing meals with family.  What an awesome summer this has been and there is a still of bit left to share with you all. We have all those friends on the Gulf Coast in our prayers as Isaac looms near and hope it will turn into nothing more than rain and a few gusts. We look forward to hearing back from you all and thank you for the former support you have shown us when we were more faithful to keep in touch.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Comfort Zone

Things for the restaurant are flying by at a meteoric pace right now and it seems hard to slow down enough to do anything but work and cook for sustenance; yet Christmas was such an incredible respite from hectic life. Life moves at a slower pace in the South and I will forever love that and be linked to the concept of whole animal eating due to my grand and great grandparents heritage and my mother's gracious gift of the seminal texts by Fergus Henderson "The Whole Beast" and "Beyond Nose to Tail." I grew up with fried hog jowl and black eyed peas every New Year's Eve and have now graduated to Fergus' fried pigs tails and warm pig head salad.
There is something disconcerting to the American psyche to see an animal's head sitting on a plate. I was a bit offput at times trying to cook it but it was truly an opportunity for growth and liberation. The idea that one of the most delicious salads I have ever made was born out of a necessity meat- a cut that our ancestors took great pleasure in turning into headcheese. To think something beautiful can come from a cut that terrifies so many that would ultimately agree that the end result is a success.
The peppery arugula paired with the richness of the pork and the tang of the mustard vinaigrette harmonize as much as Henderson meant it to. We must throw caution to the wind and try to cook foods out of our comfort zone. You will find yourself with combinations beyond your wildest dreams when off bits are added to your repertoire. 
Unlike my usual form of posting a recipe I am going to leave you with a final thought. Find one of Fergus Henderson's books and use it to change the way you look at waste and the way you approach cooking. May every bone have a chance for a stock and every head have a chance for a salad.
Happy cooking!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Painting by Numbers

It's funny to me to take note of how people talk and share stories about food and meals, recipes in particular. Typically if I receive a recommendation for a recipe, it's because there is some family history to it, or its been copied on to a scant, wrinkled sheet of paper with little to no attachment to its original source. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. Food should be inspired and original. Nine times out of ten, I would say that citing off chef, cook book, and page number is less likely to make motivate me to try a recipe than hearing someone describe at as similair to a dish their grandmother made, or a recipe they could do something unique and interesting too.

For Christmas this year, Daniel and I received a plethora of cookbooks, including Nancy Silverton's Breads, Michael Ruhlman's Ratio, and Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Eating and Beyond Nose to Tail.With books like Breads and Ratio, it's easy to adapt recipe and personalize them to your own tastes. A cookie is a cookie by any other name, and a baguette is a baguette. These are framiliar, comfortable. This may not be as true with Fergus Henderson (more on that later), but there are still elements of framiliarity and comfort that give you courage to try something new, go out of order, add or subtract components, and basically make something your own.

Every once in awhile though, a recipe just catches your eye that I think you have to go at verbatim, teaspoon by teaspoon, step by step. It's these recipes that remind me of the 'paint by number' paintings I remember doing growing up. I'm much more comfortable with a pen and paper to write, than I am with a paintbrush and pallete to fill. Similairly, I'm much more comfortable whipping up a delightful dessert or warming soup than I am creating a silky veloute to combine with some odd meat puree. But, it's in these moments of unfamiliarity that you can be comforted (I think anyway) by the culinary delights created by others, and reawaken your culinary curiosity.

Mortadella Smear  Taken from this recipe in the Jan/Feb Edition of Saveur
1/3 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 lb mortadella without pistachios
1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 small loaf of a crusty sourdough
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp crushed pistachios
1/2 cup arugula

1. Reduce vinegar by half in small saucepan over medium heat.Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and continue whisking for one minute. Slowly whisk in stock and cook until thickend to make veloute. Set aside to cool.
3. In meat grinder or food processor, process mortadella until pureed. Transfer to bowl and fold in whipped cream and veloute sauce. 
4. Rub bread with olive oil and toast. 

To Serve: Smear the bread wit the mortadella, garnish with arugula, pistachios, and a drizzle of balsamic. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Published by Saveur, and originally taken from Chicago's Purple Pig restaurant, this produce a delightful and "devastatingly addictive" treat. A simple creamy, meaty, satisfying mortadella spread atop a toasty baguette, topped with a little bit of peppery arugula, nutty pistachios, and a splash of reduced balsamic for the tiniest hint of sweetness. Truthfully, this new recipe is nothing earth-shattering. If you've never tried mortadella, its basically an Italian bologna that looks, smells, and tastes, pretty much like bologna if you sample the variety without pistachios. Even if you're thrown off by the bologna comparison, it truly is an intriguing delight.When selecting the next post to blog about, someone may have scoffed at my desire to share this verbatim rendition of a recipe, but it struck me as something new, and something I may not have tried if someone hadn't drawn the lines and numbered the color palette or taste palate for me.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Holiday Turkey

I have been reintroduced to the joys of fried turkey in recent months. What a holiday delight to pull such an utterly delicious and gleaming bird out of the depths of peanut oil. That moment of realization that it is juicier than any roasted turkey you have ever laid your lips on is truly a cherished one.

Turkey expedition number one began in the back yard of a friend of mine's apartment. He had injected an eighteen pound turkey the night before with worcestershire sauce and cajun seasoning. We rubbed the outside with cajun seasoning to add an extra element and lit the gas to get the party started. After lowering the large bird into the grease and checking it about an hour later the outside was an astounding shade of sienna that immediately shouted "eat me."

The result was very similar to the second turkey I cooked for Christmas dinner although I sincerely wish I would have photographed the first one Nate cooked. The grandness of the larger bird is certainly an undertaking well worth your time. And all those around you will thank you for your efforts.

The Christmas bird had to share room with a ham so we opted for a twelve pound bird so as not to overwhelm my mother-in-laws already full fridge. The holiday goodies were flowing from the homemade fudge, buckeyes, and chocolate covered cherries, to homemade egg nog and bacon cinnamon rolls. I can not promise when or if we will post some of those recipes. The bacon pecan cinnamon rolls were certainly a hit even with Dawn's grandparents despite their initial hesitant glances.

But after all the holiday celebrations and preparations on Christmas morning I set out to cook a bird that was dressed to impress. By that I mean I tried to spice up the preconceived sage nuances that I was told every turkey should have (sorry that I disagree). I mixed up a nice bowl of spices to blanket the bird from head to toe. But, after the meal the synopsis was unanimous that whether you call it unsophisticated or countrified or delicious for that matter- everyone agreed it was one of the best turkeys they had ever eaten.

Cajun Sage Fried Turkey

12 # thoroughly thawed and dried turkey
1/4 C kosher salt
3 T crushed black pepper
1 1/2 T smoked paprika
2 T dried sage
1 T ground coriander
1 T white pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

The night before you are going to cook the turkey mix the seasonings together thoroughly and rub into the outside and underneath the skin of the turkey on the breasts. Refrigerate overnight and pull out of the fridge an hour and a half before you are going to cook it.

Heat your turkey fryer up to 355 to 360 degrees, because your oil will cool down a bit with the turkey in it. Lower your thoroughly dried turkey (preferably on a tube to keep it centered) into the oil and cook at 350 degrees for approximately three and a half minutes per pound or forty minutes for an twelve pound turkey. Check with a thermometer in the breast to assure the meat is 170 degrees. Pull out of the oil carefully and allow to cool for at least fifteen minutes. Enjoy with a nice glass of cava.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Beginnings of Tradition

Since I think I expressed my adoration for this time of year earlier, I wont bother with reaffirming those sentiments once again. Instead, I think I'll offer for your close approaching Holiday pleasure, what is quickly becoming a tradition in our home, an annual Bûche de Noël, aka a Yule Log.

 The Bûche de Noël is closely related to (or has almost replaced) the tradition of the "Yule Log," when the carefully selected Christmas log was burned to bring warmth and prosperity to the home. Although it's now used in relation to Christmas traditions, it had its origins in a "Winter Solstice" tradition.  Some traditions suggest the yule log was burned with the remnants of last years log, while others suggest the 'log' was actual a bundle of sticks tied together, and as each binding broke they toasted with a beverage. There were apparently many variations of the Yule Log, but as people slowly replaced the hearth with other forms of heating in many countries, the tradition slowly declined and was replaced with the edible cake version.

The cake itself is typically prepared using some sort of sponge cake, buttercream frosting, and various decorations possibly including branches, fresh berries, meringue mushrooms, and powdered sugar. Once iced, the log is usually sliced and placed on the side or top as another branch. I didn't want the cake to dry out (and what's wrong with more chocolate!), so I iced this piece as well.

We had our first version of the Bûche de Noël a couple years ago as part of our Christmas Eve / Dad's Birthday celebration, and have managed to find an excuse to make a new one each year since. The extra dose of sweet from chocolate ganache I use to top the log makes for an exceptionally sweet dessert that looks nice and festive sitting on the table with just a little extra adornment.This is by far the most enjoyable recipe of the three that I've tried, so I thought it an appropriate time to share it with you.

For the Cake:
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup flour
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a jelly roll baking sheet with a 17" x 10-1/2" with parchment paper. Butter & dust with flour. 
2. Boil water. Pour over cocoa and begin to stir. Add vanilla and continue to stir until smooth.
3. In a separate bowl, combine egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar. Beat until smooth and pale yellow. Add chocolate mixture and beat until smooth and well combined.Add flour and beat one more minute.
4. In a clean bowl, beat egg white until soft peaks form. Add cream of tartar and sugar and beat until it holds stiff, glossy peaks.
5. Using a spatula gently fold 1/2 of meringue mixture into chocolate. Gently fold in remaining.
6. Using a pastry bag with wide tip (or coupler), place mixture into bag and pipe in long rows filling the prepared pan.
7. Bake cake 8 minutes, until it springs back when touched in the middle.
8. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool. Place a damp towel over the cake. When cool, invert it onto the towel and gently peel parchment paper away.

For the Filling  Icing:
1 Stick Salted Butter, at room temperature

1/2 Tsp Pure Peppermint Extract
1/2 lb Powdered Sugar
3-4 Tbsp Milk
2 Tbsp Dutch Process Cocoa

1. Cream butter. Add flavoring. Add cocoa, powdered sugar a 1/2 cup at a time adding milk when needed to achieve desired consistency.

For the Ganache (outer frosting):
1-1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
10 Oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate finely chopped

1. Bring heavy cream to a boil. Pour over chopped chocolate and stir until smooth. Chill covered, and stir occasionally until set.

For the decorations, use your imagination! You can sift powdered sugar over the cake and make Meringue Mushrooms as I did here, or you can do whatever suits you, your guests, and your Christmas or Holiday wishes.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Seasonal Faux Pas

I know we all have predicaments of craving a dish that is far from seasonal but sounds amazing at the moment. I got home from work the other night and was really thinking about some perfectly cripy edged and melting buttery-centered crab cakes. I have been to Baltimore and sampled some excellent specimens and some that were subpar, but the object of perfection in my opinion has a hint of sea saltiness, a bit of an herbal note, and a hit of spiciness to balance out the richness.

With the impending snow on the way, that is now piling up, I had crab meat up to my wrists and the scent of Old Bay wafting around the kitchen. I have been dabbling in curing over the last couple months with a simple bacon and pancetta under my belt and dreams of a meat grinder in my near future. The herbal salty kick of the pancetta  with crisp edged crab cakes resting atop a thin sliced tomato seemed like an excellent dinner, even with the snow flinging itself against the windows.
Sriracha Bay Crab Cakes
1 # crab claw meat
1 1/2 T mayonnaise
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp sriracha chili sauce, or to taste

7 T buttered cracker crumbs, such as Ritz
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning, plus more for garnish
1/2 tsp dried oregano, plus more for garnish
1 egg
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

3 oz. pancetta sliced into batons
canola oil for frying
2 tomatoes thinly sliced

Mix all the crab cake ingredients together and form into patties the size of the tomato you are serving them with (about the circumference of a baseball seems just right). Stick the cakes onto a sheetpan in the freezer for 20 minutes to chill enough to make them maintain shape. Fry pancetta for about 3 minutes in a cast iron skillet, or until a deep mahogany shade and remove, leaving drippings in pan. Add enough oil to fill pan 1/2 inch deep. Fry crab cakes until they are a crisp pecan brown, regulating heat until it warms the cakes all the way through when both sides are crisp. Serve crab cakes over a tomato slice with pancetta cracklings on top sprinkled with oregano and Old Bay. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's the Hap-Hapiest Season of All

Christmas is undoubtedly my favorite time of year. There's so much to enjoy and to do from decorating the tree, decorating the house, enjoying a plethora of Christmas movies, making homemade gifts (a tradition in our home), putting gingerbread houses together, wrapping presents, Christmas parties, get-togethers and events. You have so many more opportunities to reach out into you community in some way, and people are for the most more giving and kind than any other time of the year. And of course, let's not forget the food. The cookies, the candy, the egg nog, Christmas Eve dinner for my family (with my Dad's birthday on Christmas Eve), Christmas morning goodies, and finally Christmas Dinner. Yes, my jeans are groaning as I write this. 

The only problem (if you even want to call it that) that arises with the holidays is there just is never enough time to try and squeeze in absolutely everything you want to do or try. I probably have a list of a hundred different peppermint Christmas treats I want to try, not to mention dozens of cookies and candy recipes. There is just no time to try every new holiday recipe and still enjoy the holidays. I guess sometimes, you can either just choose to settle with only three types of Christmas candy (instead of seven), or you could throw in a couple of these quick Christmas Candy treats. 

I’m not sure why, but I have never made peppermint bark. Never. I’ve enjoyed it plenty over the past few Christmas holidays, but never actually made it myself. So, over the weekend we were booked with Christmas related plans and I thought I would make a batch to tote along on our festivities. Low and behold, when I consulted my trusted candy guide, candy thermometer laid out and ready to go, I quickly discovered that this is probably the easiest candy in the world to make. The hardest part is probably breaking up the candy canes. It's so easy, in fact, that at Daniel's suggestion for an additional version, I quickly whipped up this "Egg Nog Bark" to enjoy as well. Safe for the kiddies, don't worry. 

Peppermint Bark

1 12 oz bag white chocolate
About 3 regular sized candy canes, crushed
½ tsp peppermint extract
1.      1. Line baking sheet or glass baking dish with wax paper.
2.      2. Carefully melt chocolate (over low heat or preferably in a double-boiler), being careful not to scorch.
3.      3. Once melted, add peppermint extract and a handful of crushed candy canes (less than half).
4.      4. Carefully pour chocolate mixture on wax paper lined sheet or dish. If necessary, carefully spread to even out slightly. Quickly top with remaining candy cane bits.
5.      5. Allow to set (15-20 minutes). Break apart, and enjoy!

To dress it up, first melt 1 (12 oz) bag of chocolate (milk/dark/semisweet your choice), adding ½ tsp peppermint extract and pour into wax paper lined glass baking dish. Follow above directions, pouring mixture on top of regular chocolate.

Egg Nog Bark

1 12 oz bag white chocolate
2 tsp nutmeg, divided*
1 tsp rum flavoring

1.       1. Line baking sheet or glass baking dish with wax paper.
2.      2. Carefully melt chocolate (over low heat or preferably in a double-boiler), being careful not to scorch.
3.      3. Once melted, add rum flavoring and one teaspoon of nutmeg.
4.      4. Carefully pour chocolate mixture on wax paper lined sheet or dish. If necessary, carefully spread to even out slightly. Quickly top with remaining nutmeg, using more or less as desired for appearance.
5.      5. Allow to set (15-20 minutes). Break apart, and enjoy!
* Typically, I’m a strong proponent of using freshly ground nutmeg. It’s relatively inexpensive and packs a strong flavor. BUT, in this case, because you are going to want to use more for appearance purposes, I would use a high quality ground nutmeg.

Last, but certainly not least, it wouldn’t be Christmas without fudge, and nor would it be Christmas without sharing a family story. Luckily, this recipe will give you both. 

Given my baking and all things sweet addiction, for our first Christmas together as husband and wife I went on a baking extravaganza, making peppermint fudge, chocolate fudge, tons of cookies, and tossing in this super easy peanut butter fudge for a last minute gift for co-workers. Our next Christmas together, on my first day of baking, I did not begin with all three fudges. Instead, I began with my assortment of cookies, and only had time to do a peppermint fudge. My sweet husband comes home and as I show him the gems of my days labor one by one, he looks perplexed and confused. As I show him the peppermint fudge (that is somewhat labor intensive I might add), he responds, “but I like peanut butter fudge.”

So, despite giving him a hard time every year for this incident, every year we also enjoy this super easy, takes-you-longer-to-do-the-dishes-afterward, peanut butter fudge.

5 Minute Peanut Butter Fudge

1/2 cup butter, plus more for greasing pan
1-1/2 cups peanut butter
1/2 cup half & half
2 teaspoons vanilla
2  pounds powdered sugar

1.       1. Grease 10x10 dish with butter.
2.      2. Pour all ingredients into a microwave safe dish.
3.      3. Microwave on high for three minutes.
4.      4. Stir well with a wooden spoon.
5.      5. Pour into prepared dish. Allow to cool and set.
6.      6. Cut and store in between sheets of wax paper in air-tight container.