Friday, January 23, 2009

Ginger Snaps

I love to cook. I also like to think that I am good at everything in life. This is not so..but it does not deter me in the slightest to become...in the awesome words of our US Army (which I not so brightly joined for a stint)...all that I can be. This includes realms of possibility that those who know me might find strange. Poetry is one such example. Note that I make no claims to be a poet, although I too have seen "Dead Poets Society" and thought myself to be cool and wordy.

Now to food. My wife has some incredible talents. For one, she was specially gifted in life with anything having to do with flour and an oven. Desserts that fall into this category are somewhat of a specialty within a specialty. One of my favorite things she makes are ginger snaps.

Now back to poetry. My wife took a trip to Texas sometime back and I, the grieving and heart-stricken husband, decided that the best way to be near her was to make ginger snaps...Yes, I know, I am one romantic fool.

I bombed.

Big time.

I ate them, but they were not good eating. They did spurn me to write a poem which I share with you. In case you are wondering at why I wrote it this way, I was influenced by the legendary poem "This is Just to Say" By William Carlos Williams. Here it is:

They Are Not As Good As Yours

I made gingersnaps today.
The fissures running down
Their otherwise smooth
Domes remind me
Of the cracks I’m sure
I have left on your heart.

I miss you
And I sit here thinking

The Dead Poets would be proud...

Instead of posting my junk recipe, I give to you my beautiful wife's recipe. Make them. Enjoy them. Write a poem if you must. Then send it to me.




1 c brown sugar
¾ c butter
1/4 c molasses
1 egg
3 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp cloves
¼ tsp salt
sugar

Preheat oven to 375. Cream together the butter, sugar, molasses and egg. Stir in remaining ingredients.
Grease cookie sheet. Shape dough into balls and dip in sugar; place sugar side up on cookie sheet.
Bake 10- 12 minutes

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Not Your Mom's Ramen

I have a not-so-secret. I love Ramen. Yes, I pretend to love all things stellar, but those noodles make me happy every time I put them in my mouth. Make no mistake, I have no pretentious idea about the validity of Ramen actually being "good", it is better than good. In fact it is awesome.

I have to agree that the "flavor packet" is not so great. I have to give props to the makers however, seeing as they still have MSG as their second ingredient (behind salt). That takes straight up gumption. There is an acquaintance I have that enjoys eating this stuff straight up...sometimes with the addition of a bit of cayenne pepper, but he'll go unnamed.

In search of a tasty treat that included one or more types of my sausages I turned to Ramen. I wanted to jazz up the classic broke-college-student-that-is-to-lazy-to-eat-vegetables-or-get-a-job food a bit and make it A) taste better B) include sausage...pretty simple. Here is what I came up with:



1 Cup - chicken stock (I swear I'll get the stock recipe up soon)
1 Cup - water
1/4 onion, sliced into thin rounds
1 clove garlic, minced
a bit of grated ginger (I cant stand it when people give strict measurements of this kind of stuff...are you really going to pack bits of shredded ginger into a teaspoon? I didn't think so)
fish sauce
1/8 lb. Vietnamese Chicken sausage, cut while frozen into paper thin slices
1 pack Ramen noodles (Flavor pack chucked into garbage)
A few sprigs of fesh cilantro

- Simmer the stock and water.

- When liquid is at simmer add onion, garlic, ginger. Taste. Add fish sauce for body and salinity. Don't go overkill with it. A little goes a long way. Simmer for a few minutes.

- Add sausage slices. Let simmer until firm. About 5 minutes.

- Add Ramen. Wait till it reaches your desired tenderness (I personally like mine pretty al dente).

- Plate and add cilantro.

- Scarf.

- Repeat?

Wee Heavy - Update

The wee heavy got transferred today:



As soon as it was moved I added one cup of Bushmill's Irish Whiskey and two ounces of American untoasted Oak...ahh, yeah! I'm figuring the oak profile will peak in about 7 days, we'll see how close I get.

Stephen, you'll be the first to taste this one! It will be young, but it will be good. To the rest of you...good luck. Come over and maybe I'll crack one of these, but wait a bit, this stuff will be prime in about 5 months. I've really got to remember that drinking 10% oaked heavy Scotch Ale is not the best thing in summer time. That's ok, I've got some more batches in the works, such as the strong golden ale that I'll be bottling sometime this week (as soon as the oak flavor profile is perfect). If I'm lucky...and incredibly self-controled...I might have a few of these bottles left over for this time next year. This stuff is PERFECT wintertime goodness. Again, a win for Stephen.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sausage-o-rama

After...well...way to long I bought the grinder attachment for our Kitchenaid. (Thanks for the gift card Dad. If I go on Oprah when she does her episode on "How I got into making my own beer and sausage and then ended up hitting 500 pounds unexpectedly" I'll blame you. Till then I'll grind on.)



Sausage is now a viable option.

So what does one who the majority of the American population consider "under-employed" (Read: Stand up, Make the big Matt Foley air quotes, and then cinch up your pants and think about living in a van down by the river) do on an ugly Friday afternoon in January?!?

That's right...mess with his new toy. Think about it. It really is the only responsible thing to do.

I decided that, seeing as I have absolutely no experience in sausage making whatsoever, I would attempt to make three kinds of sausage in one day. This very well may seem absurd, and you are indeed correct, but those of you who know me understand my nature.

Go all out...always.

This post will be a veritable visual cornucopia of my adventures today.

To begin with, here is today's 'mise en place' (yep...its french...I'm edumicated):



Here is a quick trip around the pile of goodness. Starting in the bottom left we have a bag of pork fatback. The most amazing fat. In fact it is so amazing let me pause here to expound a bit. It is so wonderful that the Spanish and others use it to prepare a dish called...exquisitely...Lardo. No joke. And yes, if you are asking yourself "Is Jeremy actually going to make that?!?" Yes my friend, I am. and if you come over I might give you some...sliced paper thin on some of my wife's awesome toasted bread...with a strong Scotch ale...

This is pure fat. Here is a closer picture:



Those few slivers of meat are all that exist. This fatback came off a hog that was slaughtered this morning. I love living down the street from the butcher. The hogs are raised by a local farmer. All grain fed and pretty fatty. Not like those chump hogs that commercial farmers are raising these days.

So what is this fatback for? It is used to bump up the fat content in the sausage. Not a whole lot is needed, but sausage must have enough fat (or GROSS artificial binders) or it will fall apart and be in general un-sausage-like. We wouldn't want that.

Now, back to the original picture. A refresher if you will as I'm sure all you can think about is your new found appreciation for fatback:



Above the fatback is my french press with the Aeropress next to it hiding a bit in the shadows. These contraptions brew up the best fruit juice known to man (coffee) and have nothing to do with sausage whatsoever, but I thought I would point them out because of their sheer goodness.

To the immediate right of the fatback there is a wall of spices. Paprika, fennel, garlic, ginger, coriander. All will be used.

Moving to the right we have cilantro at the top followed by a pork shoulder butt (taken from the same hog as the back fat...did I mention these were butchered as I waited...awesome) and below that some sheep casings. Casings will come up again. Casings are amazing.

Finally on the far right we have a family pack of chicken thighs. These were deboned and skinned. the bones were preserved for a future stock. The skins were tossed. I still cant find a viable use for it.

I began with a spicy Italian pork sausage. Go for gold, right?

Here is the recipe:

4 1/2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder butt, diced
8 oz. fatback, diced
40 grams kosher salt
32 grams sugar
16 grams fennel seeds, toasted
8 grams coriander seeds, toasted
24 grams paprika
2 grams cayenne pepper
4 grams dried oregano
12 grams hot red pepper flakes
8 grams coarsely ground black pepper
3/4 cup ice water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar, chilled
(HT: Charcuterie)

First, remember to keep everything cold. As cold as possible. Put the whole grinder in the freezer for a while and never let the sausage sit out of the fridge. If you can keep it in the freezer all the better. Fats emulsify at warm temperatures...you don't want this to happen.

toasting the coriander and fennel is easy. Low heat in a heavy pan:



When they get aromatic they are done.

Mix all the ingredients except for the water and wine. Set somewhere cold till everything is set. Here is what it will look like:



Hook up the grinder with a bowl beneath it that is sitting in a bowl of ice water. The first picture in this post gives a good set up.

Then it is on to the grind. I should mention that I was crazy nervous at this point. I don't know why. Maybe part of me was scared I would fail miserably and part of me was scared at the implications of success. In any cases I started with fear and trepidation.



Once you get the ball rolling it is actually ridiculously simple. Feed the chute and push it through:



Before you know it you are done. At this point add the ice water and wine vinegar. Then mix for about a minute on medium speed. Your objective is to incorporate all the liquid in the mixture:



After it is mixed well it is time to have a little taste test. I love my hobbies:



This is actually a really important step. If something needs to be added, this is the time to do it. For this sausage, the only thing that needed to be added was more of it to my mouth.

After grinding it was time to stuff. Stuffing sausage is not awesome. Having sausage you stuffed is cool, but this process is not the greatest. I'm not going to lie.

You start out with sheep casings. Pork casings are supposed to be used, and supposedly they are much easier to work with, but any casings are difficult.

What is that you ask? What is a casing?!? Glad you asked.

"Natural casings are made from the submucosa, a layer of the intestine that consists mainly of collagen." Is that cool or what?

They come packed in salt. They smell. They don't want to be used.

You have to soak them in tepid water for at least a half hour to rehydrate them. Then you rinse them inside and out very well and end up with this:



Yep, that's it.

Then you thread it onto the stuffer and put the mixture back through the machine:



This is hard. This is not the most fun.



I slowly got the hang of it, but got angry in the process:



Once the length of casing is full you can load another or, in my case, decide you have had enough for the day and decide that bulk sausage is really more of what you are in the mood for.

The big length of sausage is then twisted into links.

This makes for a happy charcutier (that is Mr. Charcutier to you!)



Now that I had become a sausage expert I decided to jump into chicken sausage.

First up was a garlic and wine sausage. the recipe follows. I could post a ton of more pictures, but it's pretty much the same thing. Here is the recipe:

2 1/2 lbs. skinless boneless chicken thighs, cubed (leave as much fat as you can on these guys)
8 oz. pork fatback, cubed (did I mention that I love this stuff?)
20 grams kosher salt
5 grams ground black pepper
25 grams minced garlic

1/2 C. good red wine, cold
(HT: Charcuterie)

Mix the first five. Chill. Grind. Add red wine and mix thoroughly. Taste. Taste again. Maybe taste a little more. Stuff or portion out.

A note on portioning. Think about how much sausage you usually use at a time. If that happens to be 2 pounds then God bless you...you might not see 40, but you will perish a happy person. Most of us use about half a pound. As a side note you can also shape links with saran wrap. I am testing this currently and should have some research soon as to how they hold up compared to stuffed links.

Seeing as I had a pound and a quarter of thigh meat left and that I had basically mastered the world of sausage I decided to do what anyone in my shoes would do...I made my own recipe. Here it is:

1 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed (preserve the fat)
4 oz. pork fatback, cubed (I'm going to write a song about this stuff one day)
10 grams kosher salt
8 grams garlic, minced
12 grams ginger, minced
11 grams fresh cilantro, finely chopped
3 grams crushed, dried red pepper

1 T fish sauce, chilled
1 T white vinegar, chilled
2 T sake, chilled

Mix first seven. Chill. Grind. Add liquids and mix well. Taste. Savor. Enjoy. Contemplate eating all of it at the same time. Deny thy self (or don't). Portion out (or pat yourself on the back for your utter lack of self control).

Here is a picture:



This is before the liquids were added. It is a very visually appealing sausage, and a crowd favorite so far. Its very Vietnamese-ish. Would go awesome with some pho or stir-fried vegetables and rice...or just as a snack.

After everything was done we decided to take a picture of the total haul. Here it is:



Pretty much awesome.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lemon-Ginger Cake



Ok, so I am about to share a dirty secret with you all...ready?

Boxed cake mixes taste just as good as making a cake from scratch, sometimes they are even better. No joke.

So, now that you have all picked your jaws off the ground.... I have a recipe for lemon ginger cake from scratch, but here is the thing. It called for 8 eggs and a million steps. On top of that, a LOT of times cakes from scratch just end up dry and tasteless. Instead, I used a lemon cake mix for this cake and then just added 2 tsp of powdered ginger and 2 Tb of lemon juice. Yes, it is that simple. The best part is that it tastes AWESOME.

I baked it in two 8" cake pans, when they cooled I lopped the top off of one of them to make an even first layer.



Then I just slapped a BIG layer of blackberry curd between the two layers and frosted it with cream cheese frosting.



Now when it comes to frosting NEVER USE THE JUNK OUT OF THE CAN!!! Here is the lesson of the day:

Boxed cake mixes = good. Canned frosting = BAD.

This cake was very good, all the different flavors went together really well. Here is the recipe I used for the frosting.

16-ounce cream cheese, room temp
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temp
5 cups powdered sugar (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 Tb sour cream
1 Tb vanilla extract

Mix together the cream cheese and butter in a mixer on high speed. Add the sugar, sour cream, and vanilla and mix on high until light and fluffy.

I actually only made half a recipe and it was plenty!

Blackberry Curd

Blackberry curd is extremely easy to make, actually all curds are easy to make, the only downfall is that you have to plan in advance as they take 8 hours to chill. So what exactly is curd? It's a thick spreadable cream. Traditionally it is used to spread on scones. But it's also used to fill cakes, pies, and trifles. Lemon curd more commonly made but any fruit will work. Once chilled it can stay in the fridge tightly covered for up to 3 weeks. I am going to make a lemon-ginger cake with blackberry curd filling and cream cheese frosting. So I actually made the curd part yesterday. Here's the recipe.

1 cup sugar
3 Tb cornstarch
2 cups Blackberry Juice
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
¼ cup butter

Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan; gradually whisk in Blackberry Juice. Whisk in eggs and egg yolks. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. (that should take 5 - 10 minutes) Cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until a pudding-like thickness. Remove from heat, and whisk in butter. Cover, placing plastic wrap directly on curd, and chill 8 hours.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blackberry Juice

This past summer Jeremy, the kids and I picked about a million blackberries. After we were done making muffins, jam, pies and just eating them with sugar we still had about 2 quarts left so we froze them. I finally decided to use them so I made blackberry juice. Why? You ask... you'll have to tune in Thursday to find out.

For now, here's how you make juice.














For every 2 quarts of fresh blackberries you need a half a cup of water. Bring blackberries and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until blackberries are soft then mash the blackberries with a potato masher or fork. Pour all of that through a large wire-mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth into a bowl. Toss the pulp and ta da, blackberry juice.


I like to mix it with seltzer water and drink it cold but we are going to make it into part of a dessert.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Chip Redefined

I have to give full credit where it is due. This recipe is almost a complete rip off of My good friend Stephanie's sister, Kristin.

So here is to you, awesome-free-spirited-wild-lands-firefighter-chick! We salute you.

Here is the finished product:



(Presentation inspiration: Alinea restaurant)

Oven baked sweet potato chips with blue cheese and Sriracha sauce

- A few sweet potatoes
- Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt
- Blue Cheese dressing (yes, i was pressed for time and cheated)
- Sriracha hot sauce

Preheat oven to 400f.

Get a few sweet potatoes and cut them into roughly 1/8" slices. Once again, the mandolin comes in here.

Toss them in a bowl with a few tablespoons of oil and a generous amount of salt (like you would salt your fries.) Spread them on a cookie sheet and toss them in the oven.

Because of the high moisture content these guys take about a half hour, but don't worry, they are totally worth it.

Check them every 8 minutes or so and flip when they are to desired doneness. Remember that the other side wont take near as long.

Take them out when they are done and leave the room for a few minutes. If you don't you will promptly burn the inside of your mouth to pieces.

The sauce is as easy as pie. Mix as much Sriracha as you dare into a good blue cheese dressing (don't even think about the low fat stuff) and get to eating.

What you end up with in this snack from above is all you could ever ask for. Salty, savory, sweet and spicy are all here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Late Night Inspiration

I don't sleep much. I sleep when I feel the need to, it just doesn't come on very often. I also love to eat. This sounds like the beginnings of the next obesity special on 20/20 I know, but stick with me.

I try not to eat the stuff we all crave at 1 AM (for those of you who hit the sack at 9 PM on a regular basis these cravings are kind of like Gremlins...i.e. never good). Just a few minutes ago I decided to head to my kitchen to see if I could whip up something in less than ten minutes with what I had on hand. I'll start off by saying that my kitchen is probably not much better stocked than yours.

Soup was an immediate idea. I have stock (subject of not to future post), its quick and healthy, and its ridiculously cold here. I'd like to just lead you down my stream of consciousness to give you feel of how this went together.

Stock was a given.

One cup in the sauce pan.

Veggies on hand? Red cabbage. yep. Potatoes. yes, but they take to long. Onions. Of course, but you should probably use the onions confit that are getting near old. No problem.

Onions confit = Italian...I need pancetta. No, wait, healthy and quick. No Italian, no pancetta.

Sigh.

Asian then! The onions make it fusion. I'm so hip.

Well, in that case, ginger for sure (keep in in the freezer by the way, keeps forever). Raw garlic, its going to carry a wallop of a bite. Sesame seeds for texture and flavor (texture is HUGE...but that is for another post).

Stock is simmering. Add all veggies.

Taste. ALWAYS taste. Taste often. Adjust.

Salt is good, acid is alright. Needs something. Ahh, fish sauce (one of my secret weapons, I bust it out all the time).

Perfect.

Cilantro to finish.

Bingo.



It really is that easy. Try it.

Pancetta...PurePorkPerfection

The pig gets no respect...let's just admit that straight up. We see it as a solid second class animal, if that. Case in point, American pork producers have bred pigs these days to be leaner so that their fellow country men might eat them. What a joke. Never forget this...FAT = FLAVOR. I think that might have to go on my tombstone. Animal fat is not a bad thing.

That junk that comes in a tub, is pale yellow, and tastes just like butter is a disgusting fat.

The hyper modified fats (so they can stay stable at room temperatures in your hand...yum!) in the Snickers bars you secretly eat while huddled in the corner at work so no one can see you is disgusting fat.

This is sheer beauty:



God knew what he was doing...go figure.

This is pancetta, my personal favorite thing to do with a pork belly. This is the same cut that bacon comes from as well as samgyeopsal (Korean), rullepolse (Dutch), and some others.

Just in case it has been a while since you were in butchering class, here is a diagram to help you understand. I know the concept of "belly" should be obvious, but lets be serious, this is an age in which people have a hard time remembering even a few lines of The Pledge of Allegiance (think I'm joking?!? try it). Anyways, here is today's lesson:



So there it is. Shoot, its even in French for the vast multitude of you that speak it! Man I am helpful.

Making pancetta is actually crazy simple. The biggest thing here is to get good meat. Why waste your time on inferior product? It is only going to cost at most a dollar more a pound for really good stuff, but it will be well worth your while. Get to know your local butcher and get some good meat. Hey, that would make a rad tee-shirt.

So here is the basic recipe:

- 1 (5-1/2-pound) piece of fresh, skin-on pork belly (1/2 of a whole belly slab), or 1 (11-pound) whole belly

For the cure:

- 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, plus 1 tablespoon for after curing
- 2 tablespoons whole juniper berries
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons curing salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 fresh or 5 dry bay leaves, torn into small pieces
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

1. - This cure mix above is for a half belly (5 1/2 lbs). Double it for a whole one.

2. - Make sure everything is REALLY clean. Meat curing is no joke. You can get people sick if you are not careful.

3. - Square up the belly making it relatively even. This is not an exact science so don't get out the ruler, but get close...it aids in drying time.

4. - Rinse the pork belly and pat it dry. Place it on a cutting board, skin side up. To remove the skin, use a sharp knife (boning f you have one). NOTE: Make sure your knife is sharp. Dull knives inflict major damage, especially when doing something difficult like this. Starting at the bottom left corner, slice in horizontally just under the skin but above the fat layer. Pull the flap of skin toward your body, holding it taut as you loosen it from the fat with a series of small horizontal cuts. Be careful not to remove too much fat or cut too deeply. (Pulling the skin toward you as you cut helps prevent this.)

5. - Crush the black pepper and juniper berries and then add all the other parts of the cure in a bowl.

6. - Rub the cure all over the pork belly surfaces, making sure to coat both the fat and lean sides, and all the edges and corners. Carefully place the belly in a large (2- to 2-1/2-gallon) sealable bag. Get out as much air as possible.

7. - Refrigerate the weighted belly for 7 days, flipping it over every day. After 7 days, remove the belly from the refrigerator and press down on it to check the firmness. It should feel uniformly firm throughout, as if you’re pressing down on a soccer ball. If the belly is still squishy like raw meat, return it to the refrigerator for up to 3 more days.

8. - Remove the pork belly from the refrigerator and rinse off the curing mixture under cool running water. You are not going to get off all the pepper and that is fine, just make sure to get off as much as you can.

9. - Pat dry and cover the flesh side with the remaining crushed pepper.

10. - Roll the pork belly very, very tightly into a cylindrical shape, starting at whichever end makes the roll most uniform. Make sure there are no air pockets inside the pancetta. Tie it very tightly with butcher’s twine at 1- to 1-1/2-inch intervals. Be sure to leave enough extra twine to hang the pancetta with.

11. - While most recipes tell you to hang your pancetta outside, I have found that your normal fridge works great. Cheese cloth is necessary to aid in slower drying times, but taste-wise the refrigerator piece that cures for ten days is just as good as the one that goes outside (in a cool dark place) for three weeks.

Here is my picture of my refrigerator piece:



It wont drip or anything if you have done it right. It wont even stink up the fridge!

Here is what it looks like whole, aged and unwrapped:



It keeps about three weeks in the fridge and four months in the freezer. But let's be honest, it wont last a week.

Pancetta forever.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chocolate Carrot Cake


So this is a recipe I ran across in a really really old church cookbook. Most of the time those recipes are.... umm we'll say interesting and NOT at all yummy sounding but every once in a while you find a gem. I fixed it up a bit and changed a few things but the basic idea is still the same.

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ginger powder
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
4 oz chocolate milk or dark
½ cup light ev olive oil
3 oz chopped walnuts
3 medium carrots, grated


Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan.
In a medium bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger, baking powder and soda.
Bring a small amount of water to a gentle simmer in a large pot. Break the eggs into a big heat proof bowl and add the sugar. Place the bowl on top of the simmering water, (or you can use a double boiler if you have one) using an electric whisk beat the eggs and sugar until it becomes a thick, light yellow cream. This will take a few minutes. Here's what it will look like when you are done.










Melt chocolate and set aside.
Add the flour mixture and the oil to the eggs and CAREFULLY stir it a little bit
Pour in the melted chocolate, the walnuts and the grated carrots. GENTLY fold everything together.
Pour the batter into cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool 10 minutes int he cake pan then remove and cool all the way on a cooling rack. Cut the cake in half and fill and frost with...

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

14 oz cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
6 oz chocolate

Melt the chocolate and set aside. Combine the cream cheese, vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar. Whisk until fluffy. Add the chocolate and whisk until you a have a smooth frosting.

I just spread half the frosting in the middle and half on top with none on the sides. I think it looks pretty that way :)


I didn't realize Alexis was testing the frosting.

Monday, January 5, 2009

My new favorite kitchen gadget

I don't like most of the junk marketing gurus come up with to sell lazy cooks, but sometimes a great tool comes around. Enter the Kyocera double edged mandolin:



This bad boy is amazing. I shredded half a head of cabbage in about one minute. Not only that, but it gets paper thin:



This tool lends itself to many applications, such as the immanently awesome potato chip. Now, unless you have ever had fresh potato chips you have never beheld the true glory of the spud.

Here is my recipe for a glorious basket of fried tuber goodness:



- 4 large potatoes, washed but left unpeeled
- 1 mandolin slicer (or be better than Masaharu Morimoto with a knife)
- 1 deep bowl filled with ice water (as in water that has ice floating in it)
- 1 dutch oven (cast iron works awesome...forget about nonstick)
- 1 liter Canola oil (don't skimp...seriously)
- 1 thermometer (instant read or candy/fry thermometer. You'll be toast without it)
- 1 box of kosher salt or coarse sea salt (do yourself a favor and get some)

Russets are the all American fry potato and in all honesty a monkey could fry them. They don't burn very easy, crisp up nice, and have huge "potato" flavor (yes, that is a bit obvious, but I only share what taste tests have revealed). As multiplicative as those factors are, my preferred potato is the Yukon Gold. Yes, it burns like an albino in Florida on spring break. Yes, it doesn't have as distinct "potato" flavor as the Russet, but they are a thing of golden sweet and salty goodness when done right.

After washing the potatoes cut them as thin as possible. Like I said before, this is mandolin territory. Move them immediately into the ice water and let stand for at least 30 minutes, but preferably an hour or more. Leaving them overnight is kosher as well. While the very American gotta-be-moving-at-every-second in you wants to just charge ahead and fry them bad boys wait. The starch needs to be removed from the potatoes in order for them to fry right.

Heat your oil to 370. Not much more, not much less...especially if you decide to buck the trend and go for the Yukon Golds. Rinse the potato slices with cold water in a colander, shake dry very well and drop into the oil. DON'T do them all at the same time. Do about a handful at a time. When they look like the above photo remove and put into a bowl lined with a few paper towels. Immediately christen with salt (don't be stingy...seriously...you've just gone through a lot of work to make something fried in oil...now is not the time to be worried about your sodium intake). Move your next batch into the oil and then dig into the pile of fried goodness. Hurry or your friends will beat you up and take them.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Freestyle Pad Thai

I hate recipes. They often end up hamstringing you creativity-wise. The trick is to use them as a guide, a suggestion. Rules were meant to be broken in the kitchen.

I also hate going shopping for a meal. Don't get me wrong. If I am about to make a multi-course meal for a group I love it, but the run of the mill meal does not make me want to run to the store. I have learned to substitute things on the fly...this does not always work out. One of the marks of a truly great chef is their ability to make something out of junk. I am no master, but I am trying to create something out of what I've got. The best news is that every bad experiment experience is vivid enough to make you REALLY want to improve. This is unique in cooking. Unless you have the time/lunacy to just toss food you will actually eat what you make...however horrendous it turns out to be. I'd go into the time I fried up Top Ramen with onions, fish sauce, Sriracha, and canned sardines, but that would make you vomit...just like my wife who was well along in her first pregnancy at the time. Needless to say I wont be mixing that deadly concoction again, but it remains a vivid lesson that I will never forget for better or for worse.

With that being said I give you a meal I did a few days ago. If it looks good to you make it. If you feel like being creative change it and let us know what you did.



Freestyle Pad Thai

NOODLES:
1 handful of rice stick pho noodles soaked in warm water for 2 to 3 hours.
2 tablespoon Canola oil
1 tablespoon garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sauce (fish, oyster, hoisin, anything you have/enjoy)
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (or more)
3 cups chopped stir fry vegetables (baby bok choy, cabbage, snow peas, sweet peppers, onions, green beans, bamboo shoots, etc)

EGG STRIPS:
2 egg
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon garlic

CHICKEN (optional):
8 oz. breast or thigh, boneless and skinless, cut paper-thin.
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Black pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest

- Be sure to soak the noodles (unless you are lucky enough to get them fresh) for at least three hours…they are hard as rocks if you don’t. Longer is fine.

- Mix egg and soy together. Heat oil and garlic in a small nonstick pan in the style of an omlette. When completely cooked remove from pan and set aside. When cool cut into ¼ inch strips.

- If using chicken: Marinate chicken in sake, soy and black pepper for at least 30 minutes. Add oil to small skillet or other heavy bottomed pan over high heat. Stir-fry chicken till almost done. About 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon. Set aside.

- Heat the oil in a wok or large heavy bottomed skillet over high heat.

- Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds, adding the noodles and sauces. Keep the noodles moving so they don’t stick. Continue till coated.

- Toss in vegetables and stir well to integrate into the noodles. Lower to medium heat. Cook till vegetables attain desired consistency.

- Add chicken along with any juices that are in the pan with it.

- Continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

- Plate with egg strips and serve immediately.

Roast Chicken Leftovers, part 1

I am a big believer in using everything you buy. We waste more food than can possibly be imagined. There are many parts of the world where people live off the kind of stuff we throw away and do it really well.

I decided to do a few posts on what I am doing with the chicken I roasted yesterday. This first post is admittedly pretty simple, but I hope the following posts are a bit more creative and get you thinking...maybe even inspired. I have found that living well and living resourcefully often go hand in hand.

For lunch today we made chicken salad sandwiches. Like I said, nothing special. Until you have had a chicken salad sandwich from fresh leftover roasted chicken however I would have to say you have never lived. Forget that boiled chicken that is so dry you NEED four cups of mayo to make it not stick to the roof of your mouth.



The reality is that Chicken Salad is an intensely subjective dish. I have heard innumerable variations. Use your own, the chicken is the key. Here is my preferred way:

- 2 slices of my wife's amazing whole wheat make-you-want-to-slap-your-mama bread (the subject of a future post), toasted
- 3/4 cup chopped chicken
- 2 T. Mayo
- 1 T. Sriracha hot sauce
- 1 clove garlic, minced.
- touch of dried basil (because the fresh stuff is all gone)

Roasted Chicken...Minimalist style

I love cast iron. Its a bit of an obsession. There really is nothing like it. At around 20 bucks you can get an indestructible piece of goodness that only gets better over time. Good bye non-stick.

Last nights dinner showed off the beauty of the cast iron in rare form.

My wife worked last night and I was in sole rule of the roost. My two children, Alexis (4) and Jake (2) are a few of my favorite things in the world...and also happen to be the harshest food critiques I have. I had a thawed whole chicken in the fridge and needed some inspiration.

In looking for a good way to roast the bird I ran across this post by the guys at 'The Paupered Chef' (great stuff, go there, lose a few hours of your day), who in turn got it from the Minimalist. It is the most ridiculously simple thing in the whole world.



1 Whole Chicken
Salt
Pepper
1 bunch fresh Thyme (or Rosemary)
Cast iron pan (big enough to fit the chicken...like this one)

Preheat the oven to 450 f. That's right, crank it.

Wash off the chicken, pat dry, and rub with a good amount of salt (NEVER be stingy with salt) and crushed black pepper.

Get the pan really hot over high heat on the stove and put in the chicken, breast up.

Move immediately into the oven.

After 20 minutes stuff the cavity with the herbs. Make sure you don't burn your arm off, it's really hot.

When the thirty minutes are up, pull the chicken and cover it for 5-10 minutes. Don't neglect this. As much as you want to start burning yourself with dripping chicken grease and hot bits of
chicken goodness, it needs to rest in order for the juices to absorb.


(Look at that skin!)

Carve that bad boy and eat!

DO NOT neglect the ugly goodness in the pan...it is liquid platinum. This schmaltz can be used as a flavor filled fat for any number of things.

Remember to save the carcass...it is gold waiting to be turned into stock.

Beer for the New Year

After neglecting the brew kettle for over 5 months (due mainly to the fact that we had about twenty gallons stockpiled) I kicked off 2009 with two brews.



On the right is a 9% Scottish Wee Heavy that will be mixed with American Oak soaked in Bushmills Original Irish Whiskey. On the left is a strong golden ale variation that will be secondaried with french toasted oak that has been sitting in a few cups of Pino Grigio. Should be awesome.

I’m Mostly Belgian Myself Saison

3.5 lb. Pilsen liquid malt extract
3.5 lb. Wheat liquid malt extract
1 lb. Belgian candi sugar – light
8 oz. pilsner malt
8 oz. Cara-20
8 oz. Unmalted Wheat
1/2 oz. Saaz (60 min.)
3/8 oz. N. Brewer (60 min,)
1 oz. Goldings (30 min.)
¼ t. Grains of paradise (15 min.)
1 oz. sweet orange peel (15 min.)
½ oz. Coriander (15 min.)
1 oz. Goldings (5 min.)
Wyeast 3944 Belgian Wit

Oaked Mack Suit – Variation

1 lb. 2 row
4 oz. Black Patent Malt
13 oz. Pale Ale Malt
9 oz. Chocolate Malt
10 oz. Crystal Malt 80
8 oz. Honey Malt
7 lb. Dry Light Malt Extract
.5 oz. Northern Brewer (60 min.)
1 oz. Cascade (30 min.)
1 oz. Yakima Goldings (5 min.)
Wyeast British Ale 1098

Improved 4 Fold Gold (golden ale)

1 lb. Cara-Pils/Dexatrine Malt
1 lb. Pilsner malt

7 lbs. Light LME

5/8 oz. Chinook (60 min.)
1 oz. Cascade (20 min.)
3/4 oz. Cascade (10 min.)
5/8 oz. Cascade (5 min.)

1 Pkg. Nottingham Ale Yeast

Secondary

2 C. Pinot Grigio
2 oz. Toasted French oak chips

Wee Awesome

1 lb. Simpsons Crystal

3/4 lb. Digemans Biscuit

1/4 lb. Simpsons Rasted Barley

6 lb. Gold Malt (boil 60 min)

6 lb. Gold Malt (boil 15 min.)

1 1/4 oz. Northern Brewer (60 min.)

Wyeast Irish Ale

2 oz. American untoasted oak (soaked in 1 C. Bushmills Original) – Added to secondary

Cran Celis (Celis White ripoff)

6 lb. Wheat Malt Extract
1 lb. Belgain candi sugar (clear
1 lb. Oat flakes
1 oz. Crushed coriander
1 oz. sweet orange peel
1 oz. Crystal hops (60 min)
Wyeast 3944
4 oz. Crasin, (packed ¼ cup) chopped (5 min)
4 oz. Crasin, chopped and glazed in honey

Put oat flakes into a grain bag. Add 1 gal. of water and bring temperature to 155° F. Turn
off heat and let oats steep for 30 min. Remove bag and drain completely. Stir in malt
extract and candi sugar. Add enough water to bring to 2 gal. Bring to a boil. Total boil is
60 min. Add hops and boil for 50 min. Add orange peel and coriander. Boil 10 min. more. Turn off heat. Steep for 10 min., remove hops, cool, and transfer to fermenter. Add 3 gal. cold water. Pitch yeast at 75° F.

Add glazed crasins to secondary.

Mack Suit Porter (Black Butte Clone)

4 oz. Black Patent Malt
13 oz. Pale Ale Malt
9 oz. Chocolate Malt
10 oz. Crystal Malt 80
8 oz. Honey Malt
7 lb. Dry Light Malt Extract
.5 oz. Northern Brewer (60 min.)
1 oz. Cascade (30 min.)
1 oz. Yakima Goldings (5 min.)
Wyeast 1028 London Ale

Mash:
4 Pints @ 145 deg. (60 min.)
4 Pints @ 152 deg. (30 min.)

Sparge:
1 Gal @ 190 deg. (2 min.)

4 Fold Golden Ale

1 lb. Cara-Pils/Dexatrine
5 lb. Extra Light Dry Extract
.5 oz Chinook (60 min.)
1 oz. Northern Brewer (20 min.)
.5 oz. Cascade (10 min.)
.5 oz. Cascade (5 min.)
1 Pkg. Nottingham Yeast – Ale

Spro Stout

3/4 lbs American Chocolate Malt
3/4 lbs Roasted Barley
3/4 lbs Crystal Malt 10°L
3 lbs Dry Dark Extract
7 lbs Liquid Light Extract
.5 lbs Light Brown Sugar
.5 lbs Molasses
8 oz Cocoa Powder – added during boil, 60 min
.5 oz Chinook (60 min)
1 oz Chinook (15 min)
.5 oz Saaz (5 min)
WYeast 1056 American Ale
4 c Coffee – added to secondary

Moose Drool Clone

7 lb. Light Malt Extract
½ lb. Flaked Oats
½ lb. Crystal Malt 80L
¼ lb. Chocolate Malt
¼ lb. Carapils Malt
2 oz. Black Patent Malt
1.25 oz. Kent Goldings (60 min)
1 oz. Hallertauer (20 min)
1 oz. Hallertauer (5 min)
Wyeast 1028 London Ale

Smoked Scotch Ale

7 lb. Light Malt Extract
1 lb. Light Dry Malt Extract
1 lb. Wheat Dry Mat Extract
½ lb. Munich Malt
½ lb. Crystal Malt 40L
¼ lb. Belgian Caramunich Malt
¼ lb. Peated Malt
1 oz. Northern Brewer (60 min)
½ oz. Kent Goldings (15 min)
WYeast 1728 Scottish Ale