Friday, February 29, 2008

Julia Child's Baguette aka Daring Bakers Challenge 2.2008!

Good webbing is one of the biggest goals of a good baguette in my opinion.

By Cookbad

Good croissants are easier to bake than a good baguette. Of this I am convinced.
Since December I have been trying out recipes.

I started with one from The Cafe Pongo Cookbook. Fine, but with only one rise it isn't tasty pretty much as soon as it cools off.

The second one was from the Crust and the Crumb by Peter Reinhart, which was my first experience using an indirect method for building a dough with pâte fermentée. I was pleased with the results of this bread and would really recommend his book.

The third was this little number.

All told, I think I have made about 25 loaves over the past 2.5 months.

Here is what I have learned:
1. The wetter the dough the chewier inside and crispier outside.
2. The slower the rise the taster.
3. More than one rise will get you far better webbing results.
4. The hardest part is shaping them.
5. A standing mixer makes the process tolerable.
6. Never clean up with a sponge that has an abrasive side. One gluten gets a hold of that stuff it will never let go.


I have made this recipe 3 times now. I love making it. I love the process, checking on the dough and it's progress. Still, I cannot for the life of me shape them properly. No one seems to care though. A loaf of this stuff doesn't survive in this house for more than 3 hours my family loves it so much.
good baguettes ready for a closeup.

One the most rewarding recipes I have ever made:

Julia Child's Baguette recipe
Making French Bread:
Step 1: The Dough Mixture – le fraisage (or frasage)
1 cake (0.6 ounce) (20grams) fresh yeast or 1 package dry active yeast
1/3 cup (75ml) warm water, not over 100 degrees F/38C in a glass measure
3 1/2 cup (about 1 lb) (490 gr) all purpose flour, measured by scooping
dry measure cups into flour and sweeping off excess
2 1/4 tsp (12 gr) salt
1 1/4 cups (280 - 300ml) tepid water @ 70 – 74 degrees/21 - 23C

Both Methods: Stir the yeast in the 1/3 cup warm water and let liquefy completely while measuring flour into mixing bowl. When yeast has liquefied, pour it into the flour along with the salt and the rest of the water.

Hand Method: Stir and cut the liquids into the flour with a rubber spatula, pressing firmly to form a dough and making sure that all the bits of flour and unmassed pieces are gathered in. Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky.

Both Methods: Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky. Let the dough rest for 2 – 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl (and the dough hook if using a stand mixer).

Step 2: Kneading – petrissage
The flour will have absorbed the liquid during this short rest, and the dough will have a little more cohesion for the kneading that is about to begin. Use one hand only for kneading and keep the other clean to hold a pastry scrapper, to dip out extra flour, to answer the telephone, and so forth. Your object in kneading is to render the dough perfectly smooth and to work it sufficiently so that all the gluten molecules are moistened and joined together into an interlocking web. You cannot see this happen, of course, but you can feel it because the dough will become elastic and will retract into shape when you push it out.

Hand Method: Start kneading by lifting the near edge of the dough, using a pastry scraper or stiff wide spatula to help you if necessary, and flipping the dough over onto itself. Scrape dough off the surface and slap it down; lift edge and flip it over again, repeating the movement rapidly.

In 2 -3 minutes the dough should have enough body so that you can give it a quick forward push with the heel of your hand as you flip it over. Continue to knead rapidly and vigorously in this way. If the dough remains too sticky, knead in a sprinkling of flour. The whole kneading process will take 5 – 10 minutes, depending on how expert you become.

Shortly after this point, the dough should have developed enough elasticity so it draws back into shape when pushed, indicating the gluten molecules have united and are under tension like a thin web of rubber; the dough should also begin to clean itself off the kneading surface, although it will stick to your fingers if you hold a pinch of dough for more than a second or two.

Both Methods: Let dough rest for 3 – 4 minutes. Knead by hand for a minute. The surface should now look smooth; the dough will be less sticky but will still remain soft. It is now ready for its first rise.

Step 3: First Rising – pointage premier temps (3-5 hours at around 70 degrees)
You now have approximately 3 cups of dough that is to rise to 3 1/2 times its original volume, or to about 10 1/2 cups. Wash and fill the mixing bowl with 10 1/2 cups of tepid water (70 – 80 degrees) and make a mark to indicate that level on the outside of the bowl. Note, that the bowl should have fairly upright sides; if they are too outward slanting, the dough will have difficulty in rising. Pour out the water, dry the bowl, and place the dough in it (Mary and Sara Note: Very lightly grease the bowl with butter or kitchen spray as well to prevent the risen dough from sticking to the bowl).

Slip the bowl into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic, and top with a folded bath towel. Set on a wooden surface, marble or stone are too cold. Or on a folded towel or pillow, and let rise free from drafts anyplace where the temperature is around 70 degrees. If the room is too hot, set bowl in water and keep renewing water to maintain around 70 degrees. Dough should take at least 3 – 4 hours to rise to 10 1/2 cups. If temperature is lower than 70 degrees, it will simply take longer.

When fully risen, the dough will be humped into a slight dome, showing that the yeast is still active; it will be light and spongy when pressed. There will usually be some big bubbly blisters on the surface, and if you are using a glass bowl you will see bubbles through the glass.

Step 4: Deflating and Second Rising – rupture; pointage deuxieme temps (1 1/2 to 2 hours at around 70 degrees)
The dough is now ready to be deflated, which will release the yeast engendered gases and redistribute the yeast cells so that the dough will rise again and continue the fermentation process.

With a rubber spatula, dislodge dough from inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping bowl clean. If dough seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour.

Lightly flour the palms of your hands and flatten the dough firmly but not too roughly into a circle, deflating any gas bubbles by pinching them.

Lift a corner of the near side and flip it down on the far side. Do the same with the left side, then the right side. Finally, lift the near side and tuck it just under the edge of the far side. The mass of dough will look like a rounded cushion.

Slip the sides of your hands under the dough and return it to the bowl. Cover and let rise again, this time to not quite triple, but again until it is dome shaped and light and spongy when touched.

Step 5: Cutting and resting dough before forming loaves
Loosen dough all around inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Because of its two long rises, the dough will have much more body. If it seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle lightly with flour.

Making clean, sure cuts with a large knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough into:
3 equal pieces for long loaves (baguettes or batards) or small round loaves (boules only)
5 – 6 equal pieces for long thin loaves (ficelles)
10 – 12 equal pieces for small oval rolls (petits pains, tire-bouchons) or small round rolls (petits pains, champignons)
2 equal pieces for medium round loaves (pain de menage or miche only)
If you making one large round loaf (pain de menage, miche, or pain boulot), you will not cut the dough at all and just need to follow the directions below.
After you have cut each piece, lift one end and flip it over onto the opposite end to fold the dough into two; place dough at far side of kneading surface. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic and let rest for 5 minutes before forming. This relaxes the gluten enough for shaping but not long enough for dough to begin rising again.

While the dough is resting, prepare the rising surface; smooth the canvas or linen towelling on a large tray or baking sheet, and rub flour thoroughly into the entire surface of the cloth to prevent the dough from sticking

Step 6: Forming the loaves – la tourne; la mise en forme des patons

Because French bread stands free in the oven and is not baked in a pan, it has to be formed in such a way that the tension of the coagulated gluten cloak on the surface will hold the dough in shape.

For Long Loaves - The Batard: (Baguettes are typically much too long for home ovens but the shaping method is the same)

After the 3 pieces of dough have rested 5 minutes, form one piece at a time, keeping the remaining ones covered.

Working rapidly, turn the dough upside down on a lightly floured kneading surface and pat it firmly but not too roughly into an 8 to 10 inch oval with the lightly floured palms of your hands. Deflate any gas bubbles in the dough by pinching them.

Fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the far edge down over the near edge.

Being sure that the working surface is always lightly floured so the dough will not stick and tear, which would break the lightly coagulated gluten cloak that is being formed, seal the edges of the dough together, your hands extended, thumbs out at right angles and touching.

Roll the dough a quarter turn forward so the seal is on top.

Flatten the dough again into an oval with the palms of your hands.

Press a trench along the central length of the oval with the side of one hand.

Fold in half again lengthwise.

This time seal the edges together with the heel of one hand, and roll the dough a quarter of a turn toward you so the seal is on the bottom.

Now, by rolling the dough back and forth with the palms of your hands, you will lengthen it into a sausage shape. Start in the middle, placing your right palm on the dough, and your left palm on top of your right hand.

Roll the dough forward and backward rapidly, gradually sliding your hands towards the two ends as the dough lengthens.

Deflate any gas blisters on the surface by pinching them. Repeat the rolling movement rapidly several times until the dough is 16 inches long, or whatever length will fit on your baking sheet. During the extension rolls, keep circumference of dough as even as possible and try to start each roll with the sealed side of the dough down, twisting the rope of dough to straighten the line of seal as necessary. If seal disappears, as it sometimes does with all purpose flour, do not worry.

Place the shaped piece of dough, sealed side up, at one end of the flour rubbed canvas, leaving a free end of canvas 3 to 4 inches wide. The top will crust slightly as the dough rises; it is turned over for baking so the soft, smooth underside will be uppermost.

Pinch a ridge 2 1/2 to 3 inches high in the canvas to make a trough, and a place for the next piece. Cover dough with plastic while you are forming the rest of the loaves.

After all the pieces of dough are in place, brace the two sides of the canvas with long rolling pins, baking sheets or books, if the dough seems very soft and wants to spread out. Cover the dough loosely with flour rubbed dish towel or canvas, and a sheet of plastic. Proceed immediately to the final rising, next step.

Final rise is also called proofing.

Step 7: Final Rise – l’appret - 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours at around 70 degrees

The covered dough is now to rise until almost triple in volume; look carefully at its pre-risen size so that you will be able to judge correctly. It will be light and swollen when risen, but will still feel a little springy when pressed.

It is important that the final rise take place where it is dry; if your kitchen is damp, hot, and steamy, let the bread rise in another room or dough will stick to the canvas and you will have difficulty getting it off and onto another baking sheet. It will turn into bread in the oven whatever happens, but you will have an easier time and a better loaf if you aim for ideal conditions.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees about 30 minutes before estimated baking time.

Step 8: Unmolding risen dough onto baking sheet – le demoulage.

The 3 pieces of risen dough are now to be unmolded from the canvas and arranged upside down on the baking sheet. The reason for this reversal is that the present top of the dough has crusted over during its rise; the smooth, soft underside should be uppermost in the oven so that the dough can expand and allow the loaf its final puff of volume. For the unmolding you will need a non-sticking intermediate surface such as a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood sprinkled with cornmeal or pulverized pasta.

Remove rolling pins or braces. Place the long side of the board at one side of the dough; pull the edge of the canvas to flatten it; then raise and flip the dough softly upside down onto the board.

Dough is now lying along one edge of the unmolding board: rest this edge on the right side of a lightly buttered baking sheet. Gently dislodge dough onto baking sheet, keeping same side of the dough uppermost: this is the soft smooth side, which was underneath while dough rose on canvas. If necessary run sides of hands lightly down the length of the dough to straighten it. Unmold the next piece of dough the same way, placing it to the left of the first, leaving a 3 inch space. Unmold the final piece near the left side of the sheet.

Step 9: Slashing top of the dough – la coupe.
The top of each piece of dough is now to be slashed in several places. This opens the covering cloak of gluten and allows a bulge of dough underneath to swell up through the cuts during the first 10 minutes of baking, making decorative patterns in the crust. These are done with a blade that cuts almost horizontally into the dough to a depth of less than half an inch. Start the cut at the middle of the blade, drawing toward you in a swift clean sweep. This is not quite as easy as it sounds, and you will probably make ragged cuts at first; never mind, you will improve with practice. Use an ordinary razor blade and slide one side of it into a cork for safety; or buy a barbers straight razor at a cutlery store.

For a 16 to 18 inch loaf make 3 slashes. Note that those at the two ends go straight down the loaf but are slightly off centre, while the middle slash is at a slight angle between the two. Make the first cut at the far end, then the middle cut, and finally the third. Remember that the blade should lie almost parallel to the surface of the dough.

Step 10: Baking – about 25 minutes; oven preheated to 450 degrees (230 degrees C).

As soon as the dough has been slashed, moisten the surface either by painting with a soft brush dipped in cold water, or with a fine spray atomizer, and slide the baking sheet onto rack in upper third of preheated oven. Rapidly paint or spray dough with cold water after 3 minutes, again in 3 minutes, and a final time 3 minutes later. Moistening the dough at this point helps the crust to brown and allows the yeast action to continue in the dough a little longer. The bread should be done in about 25 minutes; the crust will be crisp, and the bread will make a hollow sound when thumped.

If you want the crust to shine, paint lightly with a brush dipped in cold water as soon as you slide the baking sheet out of oven.

Step 11: Cooling – 2 to 3 hours.
(Mary and Sara Note: We know this will be the hardest thing to do for this challenge. But, if you do not let the French bread cool, the bread will be doughy and the crust will be soft. If you want to have warm French bread, re-heat the bread after it has cooled in a 400 degree oven, uncovered and directly on the oven rack for 10 – 12 minutes if it is unfrozen. If it has been frozen see the directions below)

Cool the bread on a rack or set it upright in a basket or large bowl so that air can circulate freely around each piece. Although bread is always exciting to eat fresh from the oven, it will have a much better taste when the inside is thoroughly cool and has composed itself.

Step 12: Storing French bread
Because it contains no fats or preservatives of any kind, French bread is at its best when eaten the day it is baked. It will keep for a day or two longer, wrapped airtight and refrigerated, but it will keep best if you freeze it – let the loaves cool first, then wrap airtight. To thaw, unwrap and place on a baking sheet in a cold oven; heat the oven to 400 degrees. In about 20 minutes the crust will be hot and crisp, and the bread thawed. The French, of course, never heat French bread except possibly on Monday, the baker’s holiday, when the bread is a day old.


delicious gluten driven deliciousness.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Turmeric Ice Cream or Semifreddo

Turmeric Ice Cream is florecent yellow and will stain anything in comes into contact with

By Cookbad

Happy belated Tết, everyone!

I've been planning on going to Little Saigon in Westminster, Ca for a year now. I unknowingly chose the day before Vietnamese New Year. I figured this out upon my arrival. It was like trying to navigate Fairway the day before Thanksgiving. The only difference is it was much more fun and much less a contact sport.

My sister was in town visiting and we did our favorite thing to do (besides drink and yell at the television) & went grocery shopping.

I skipped the buckets of pig blood (someday. . . .) but got some lovely things, one of which was a nicely decorated single serving hand coffee grinder--double as a spice grinder. Perfect for camping.
Tiny Vietnamese hand coffee grinder. Coffee goes in the top, comes out in the cute little drawer.

We also got some fresh Turmeric that my sister thought it would be fin to make ice cream. Dried Turmeric is the stuff that turns curry yellow. Fresh turmeric has a rooty, slightly ginger carrot flavor and will stain the hell out of anything that is comes in contact with.

Raw tumeric root.

It also recently occured to me that Semifreddo is the best thing to make if you don't have an ice cream maker. It is very simple, beautiful to serve and sounds fancy.

Here is how to make them both:

Turmeric Ice Cream:
Serves 6

1. Get together 5 or 6 oz. of fresh Turmeric root.
2. Change into all black clothing.
3. Peel Turmeric.
4. Place into a small food processor or blender with 1/2 c. of milk and puree.
5. Pour 2 cups of milk, 3/4 cups of sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you like your ice cream) and 2 scrambled eggs into a sauce pan.
6. Heat and stir over med. low. Do not allow the mixture to boil or you'll end up with milk sweet scambled eggs. Just stir more or less constantly for 10 minutes.
7. Put in the fridge or freezer to chill
8. Whip 2 cups of cream to peaks.
9. Once everything is cold, put it all into an ice cream maker for 20 minutes.

You can toss in some shelled pistachios. They add a nice texture and the green is ridiculously dramatic against the florecent yellow.

Turmeric Semifreddo:
Serves 6

1. Separate 3 eggs.
2. Beat the egg yolks with 1/2 c. of caster sugar until they turn pale yellow.
3. Beat the egg whites until they come to stiff peaks.
4. Whip 1.5 cups of heavy cream to peaks.
5. Put on all black clothing
6. Peel 5-6 oz. of fresh Turmeric root.
7. Puree with 1/2 cup of milk in a food processor or blender.
8. Line a loaf pan or any type of mold you would like with plastic wrap.
9. Gently add the Turmeric to the egg yolk mixture.
10. Gently fold the egg yolks into the whipped cream and egg whites.
11. When combined, pour into mold, cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Croissants

perfect amazing croissants

By Cookbad

I have never been more proud of anything I have ever cooked.

I couldn't believe that I made them and how perfectly they came out.

A few months ago I bought Nancy Silverton's (Original owner of
Campanile) Pastries from the La Brea Bakery.

It is pretty advanced baking and pastry making and many of the recipes call for very specialized tools or equipment that are not easy to procure and hard to find replacements that you would have around the house. I've made a few recipes from it, the rugelah was fine, but I found a better recipe here.

I also made the marshmallows, graham crackers, and a wonderful cookie called Nun's Breasts. I wish I had photos of these cookies. I made them for my xmas cookie baskets. They were keepers.

Anyway, I had been planning on making croissants for a while and either using Julia Child's recipe or Nancy Silverton's. I went with the Silverton one when I found a simplified version of her recipe in Epicurious. The comments and reviews were very encouraging.

The recipes can be found here and here:

BUTTER CROISSANTS
1 1/2 cups whole milk, heated to warm (105°F–110°F)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (from two 1/4-oz packages)
3 3/4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter

Special equipment: a standing electric mixer with dough hook, 2 kitchen towels (not terry cloth), a ruler, a pastry brush
Preparation
Make dough: Stir together warm milk, brown sugar, and yeast in bowl of standing mixer and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If it doesn’t foam, discard and start over.) Add 3 3/4 cups flour and salt and mix with dough hook at low speed until dough is smooth and very soft, about 7 minutes.

Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand 2 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, a little at a time, to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Form dough into a roughly 1 1/2-inch-thick rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until cold, about 1 hour.

Prepare and shape butter: After dough has chilled, arrange sticks of butter horizontally, their sides touching, on a work surface. Pound butter with a rolling pin to soften slightly (butter should be malleable but still cold). Scrape butter into a block and put on a kitchen towel, then cover with other towel. Pound and roll out on both sides until butter forms a uniform 8- by 5-inch rectangle. Chill, wrapped in towels, while rolling out dough.

Roll out dough: Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and lifting and stretching dough (especially in corners), into a 16- by 10-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Put butter in center of dough so that long sides of butter are parallel to short sides of dough. Fold as you would a letter: bottom third of dough over butter, then top third down over dough. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush.

Roll out dough: Turn dough so a short side is nearest you, then flatten dough slightly by pressing down horizontally with rolling pin across dough at regular intervals, making uniform impressions. Roll out dough into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle, rolling just to but not over ends.

Brush off any excess flour. Fold in thirds like a letter, as above, stretching corners to square off dough, forming a 10- by 5-inch rectangle. (You have completed the first "fold.") Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, 1 hour.

Make remaining "folds": Make 3 more folds in same manner, chilling dough 1 hour after each fold, for a total of 4 folds. (If any butter oozes out while rolling, sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking.) Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours but no more than 18 (after 18 hours, dough may not rise sufficiently when baked).

Roll out and cut dough: Cut dough in half and chill 1 half, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out other half on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and stretching corners to maintain shape, into a 16- by 12-inch rectangle. Brush off excess flour with pastry brush and trim edges with a pizza wheel or sharp knife.

Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Cut in half horizontally and chill 1 half. Cut remaining half vertically into thirds, forming 3 rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally in half to make 2 triangles, for a total of 6 triangles.

Shape croissants: Holding short side (side opposite tip) of 1 triangle in one hand, stretch dough, tugging and sliding with other hand toward tip to elongate by about 50 percent.

Return to work surface with short side of triangle nearest you. Beginning with short side, roll up triangle toward tip. (Croissant should overlap 3 times, with tip sticking out from underneath; you may need to stretch dough while rolling.)

Put croissant, tip side down, on a parchment-lined large baking sheet. (Curve ends inward to make a crescent shape if desired.)

Make more croissants with remaining 5 triangles, then with remaining rolled-out dough, arranging them 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Repeat rolling, cutting, and shaping procedures with chilled piece of dough.

Let croissants rise: Slide each baking sheet into a garbage bag, propping up top of bag with inverted glasses to keep it from touching croissants, and tuck open end under baking sheet.

Let croissants rise until slightly puffy and spongy to the touch, 2 to 2‚ hours.

Bake croissants: Adjust oven racks to upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 425°F.

Remove baking sheets from bags. Spritz inside oven generously with spray bottle and close door. Put croissants in oven, then spritz again before closing door. Reduce temperature to 400°F and bake 10 minutes without opening door.

Switch position of sheets in oven and rotate sheets 180°, then reduce temperature to 375°F and bake until croissants are deep golden, about 10 minutes more.

Cooks' note:
• Baked and cooled croissants keep 1 month: First freeze them, uncovered, on baking sheets until firm, then wrap them snugly in foil before returning to freezer. When ready to serve, remove foil and bake (not thawed) on a baking sheet in a 325°F oven 5 to 10 minutes.


These took me 3 days to make and were so completely worth it I will make them for every special occasion breakfast that comes along.

The house smelled like perfect croissants as they were baking.

I only have one rather crappy picture of the croissants. I was holding off some ravenous family members.

The dough really does freeze very well. I used half of it to make pain au chocolate a week later. Also, excellent.

MEGA Sandwich Chart

by Cookbad

As part of an ongoing effort to make our upcoming book, Fresh Eggs Don't Float (buy it now!) as awesome as it can be, I'm asking for a little input on a beta sandwich chart I'm been working on. The sandwiches included are:

Bánh mì, barros jappa, bacon lettuce & tomato, chip butty, cheesesteak, choripan, club sandwich, croque-monsieur, croque-madame, cubano, cucumber sandwich, dagwood, francesinha, french dip, gyros, hamburger, hero, submarine, hoagie, grinder, italian beef, hot dog, hot brown, lobster roll, loose meat, monte cristo, muffuletta, pan bagnat, panino, peanut butter & jelly, po' boy, primanti, ruben, sandwich de miga, smörgåstårta, sliders, sloppy joe, st. paul sandwich, tea sandwich, & torta.

The chart lays out what the sandwich is made of, entomology, variations, & origins.

I'm SURE there are spelling mistakes. Please ignore them.

The information is pretty solid, but sandwiches are very subjective. Any advice, opinions, ideas, blazing omissions, thoughts, design improvements, or fan mail would be greatly appreciated and might even land you a thank you in the book. Seriously.


CLICK ON THE CHART TO SEE THE ENTIRE THING

[sandwich.jpg]

Thank you!!

Mango Gelée

A wee Gelée before being devoured by toddlers.

By CookBad

This is a recipe from Cookie magazine. I in no way endorse Cookie. I found it on epicurious while looking for a gelée recipe that would work. I had tried Thomas Keller's Concord Grape gelée to go with his peanut butter truffles. Get it? Peanut butter and gelée? His were made with fruit pectin and even though I believe that I followed the recipe to the T, the gelée failed to gel. Sad. The truffles were ridiculously good tho.

These cute little things called for gelatin. I cannot abide standard store bought gelatin. So often it smells to much like what it is -- skin, bones, hoofs. I have gelatin sheets that I've been wanting to try, but these needed to be moulded. So, I went with agar agar.

Agar agar comes from red seaweed. In China, certain types of swallows eat this red seaweed, spit it up to make nests that hang on the sides of cliffs. These nests are then harvested (at great peril to the harvesters as they have to hang from clifts to get to them) and then sold for A LOT of money to make birds nest soup out of.

The agar agar I used come unchewed or spit up. I think I once read someplace that it has 4 times more gelling action that gelatin, so I went with that when subing it in. I'm going to double check this.

You can buy it at most asian markets in powdered form.

Cookie calls them, gummies, but they are not at all gummy, so I renamed them.
Here is the recipe:
Mango Gelée 1 cup fruit juice (pure juice-not a fruit-flavored drink) or nectar, such as Goya, Mott's, or Kern's, chilled or at room temperature 1 1/4-ounce package gelatin ( I used half as much agar agar, just to be safe) Preparation 1. Lightly coat 16 tartlet molds or mini-muffin tins with oil. 2. Place 1/4 cup of the juice in a medium bowl and sprinkle in the gelatin. Let sit for 1 minute. 3. Meanwhile, in a small pan, bring the remaining juice to a boil. Add it to the gelatin mixture, stirring until the gelatin is dissolved. 4. Spoon the mixture into the molds. Chill in the refrigerator until set, 2 hours. 5. Pop the tartlets out. Serve them cold or at room temperature within 2 hours, or store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Tip You can buy plastic or metal tartlet molds ($1.50 and up each, surlatable.com). An 8-by-8-inch baking dish also works-once the whole thing is set, just cut it into squares with a knife, or into shapes with a cookie cutter.

It was a bit tricky getting them out of the mold. It took a certain amount of slamming down.

These were nice. Cute. Kids ate half of them before they were even finished gelling. Sneaky evil kids. They reminded me of the little jelly candies that you can buy in china town in large tubs shaped like cats, or kids or teddy bears. Only healthier and without a huge amount of sugar.

I got the little tartlets from Surfas for $2.50. I think they will be great for making mini brioche someday.

Sweetbreads with artickokes

A soaked, but un-demembraned sweetbread. Presumably, the pancreas.

By Cookbad

Jacques Pepin calls sweetbreads the choicest of offals. Offal is what Bourdain calls, the Nasty bits. Sweetbreads are, in some cases, the thymus gland but more desirable are the pancreas.

I've had sweetbreads before and thought that they were delicious and have been meaning to try to make them for a really long time. I also just recently finally found a butcher in Los Angeles that doesn't snicker and say, "We don't have that!" When I ask for Pork Butt. So, here's to you, Bob's Market. May your butchers always get excited when I order non-standard cuts of meat.

I over thought this one. I read and read and read about it while it languished in the fridge. I settled on a recipe for the exceedingly comprehensive The Silver Spoon, but used Jacques Pepin's method of preparation, which added 24 hours to the process.

This the the abridged version of his method of prep. :
1. Soak in cold water for a few hours.
2. Put in a pan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil for 2 minutes.
3. Shock it in ice water.
4. Pull of all rubbery or sinew pieces that adhere to the meat
5. Wrap sweetbread in a clean dry cotton cloth, place on a cookie sheet, place a cookie sheet on top of the sweetbread and then place 5-7 lb. of books or whatever on top of the cookie sheet to press the sweetbreads.
6. Press overnight.


Arg.
The goal here being to remove any and all trace of pink.

Later I told my sister (a classically trained chef) about this method and she said the pressing was a waste of time. Boo.

I'm taking her work over Pepin's because it is easier.

Still, the soaking and the pulling off of all rubbery stuff is most certainly not a waste of time if you want it not to be gross.

Here is the basic recipe from The Silver Spoon:
1 tbsp. butter
1 lb. 2 oz. sweetbreads soaked and drained.
3.5 oz. prosciutto (my spell check wanted to change this to prostitute), cut into strips
3.25 cups dry white wine
salt and pepper

Parboil sweetbreads for 5-6 minutes, drain, cool, remove membrane and chop. Heat butter and bacon in a skillet, add sweetbreads, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with white wine and cook until liquid is eveaporated.

Serve with quarted steamed globe artichokes.



The final product. Fair.

Next time, I'm trying it with madeira wine and skipping the pressing part.

Cheese Straws

prebaked cheese straws

By Cookbad

I actually made the entire menu that went along with this, from Jan. 2008 Gourmet magazine, but these were the only part I got around to photographing.

The menu, which you can find here is ridiculously good and terrible for you. The fried chicken involves being fried in bacon fat (GENIUS!) and then is finished off with a bacon gravy and more just plain old bacon. I love a sentence that has bacon in it that many times.

I highly recommend the entire menu.

The cheese straws are wonderful because they take about 10 minutes to make and are very satisfying. If you skip or lower the amount of cayenne pepper kids love them.

They are also fun to make.

Here is the recipe:

CHEESE STRAWS
1/4 pound coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon salt
Rounded 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.

Pulse cheese, flour, butter, salt, and cayenne in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and pulse until dough forms a ball.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12- by 10-inch rectangle (1/8 inch thick). Cut dough with a lightly floured pizza wheel or lightly floured sharp knife into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Carefully transfer to 2 ungreased baking sheets, arranging strips 1/4 inch apart. (If strips tear, pinch back together.)

Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until pale golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheets on racks, about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pork Noodle Soup with Cinnamon and Anise

very pretty, rich and hearty.

By Cookbad

I've been thinking about and making a lot of stock lately. We just finished the first major draft of the stock chapter in our book. We pretty much stuck to the classic French style stocks.

I decided to make this soup, because the stock was so much different than what I had been thinking about and making. simple, straight forwards and spiced in ways that I hadn't ever spiced a stock before.

I always like to do a little search about different ways of making what I am about to cook and I came across Master Stock in the process. It's a Chinese practice of poaching meat in the same broth over and over and over--sometimes using the same stock for years.

I'm both repulsed and intrigued.

Anyway, this recipe is from December 2007 Gourmet magazine.
You can also find it here:
Pork Noodle Soup with Cinnamon and Anise
2 1/2 pounds country-style pork ribs
6 cups water
2/3 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup Chinese Shaoxing wine or medium-dry Sherry
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
3 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 whole star anise
5 1/2 ounces bean thread (cellophane) noodles

Garnish: chopped cilantro; sliced scallions
Preparation

Gently simmer all ingredients except noodles in a 6-quart heavy pot, covered, skimming as needed, until pork is very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Transfer pork to a bowl. Discard bones, spices, and garlic. Coarsely shred meat. Skim fat from broth, then return meat and bring to a simmer. Rinse noodles, then stir into broth and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until noodles are translucent and tender, about 6 minutes.

Loved it. Inexpensive and hearty. Perfect winter one dish meal.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Monkfish Liver aka fish offal

salted and posed in the early evening light

by Cookbad

I can already see from the look on your face that the idea of fish and liver don't make you think "me eat now!", like bacon does. I suppose for the most part, I would have skipped it too, but coming across this morsel was a 'perfect storm' kind of event.

1. I was in my local Japanese grocery store looking for something new. (I had bought insanely delicious pork belly there the week before).
2. My sister was in town and she knows how to cook anything very well.
3. I had just read that monkfish liver was in season.
4. At 4.50 USD it was cheap.

It looked very much like Foie gras, fatty, plump and light. I was also draw to the fact that some fish liver can kill you. Fugu - that fish that is reputed to kill those who have eaten it if prepared improperly - isn't the flesh that will do you ill, but the liver, ovaries and skin.

I also read The Serpent and the Rainbow by wonderful writer and ethnobotanist Wade Davis, who wrote in detail about the terrible things fish liver will do to you. One if which, is if not kill you, is turn you into a Zombie.

Anyway. . .
Ideally we should have cooked it the day we bought it, but. . . my sister and I had shared some questionable shrimp tempura for lunch and paid the price. We were off the fish, at least for the night.

My sister made it the next night as a little pre-dinner canape.
This is what she did:

1. Salted it.
2. Heated a cast iron pan and added a butter olive oil mixture (good for cooking pretty much anything) to almost a smoking point.
3. Seared the sucker on both sides.
4. Popped the pan and all in the oven at 350 to finish it up.

You finish it in the oven for a more even finish.
The hard part is telling when it is finished. My sister can tell by pressing on it. This is a trick that works with red meat as well. Basically, after it is seared (something you do to keep in all the natural juices), but before it has come to rare if you press on it it will be very springy, like pressing on a tight trampoline. When it is very rare, it will feel quite soft. Press all around the meat to feel that different spots have a different spring. This will be inevitable, as meats vary in thickness and density. If you were finishing your meat on a grill, you'd move it around more or less constantly for an even doneness.

As it cooks, it will become less soft signaling rare and so on, until it returns to it's original state of trampoline texture, signaling that it is well done. Depending on what you want for a finish, take it off the heat at any point in between.
beautifully and perfectly cooked.

My sister paid good money at a serious cooking school to get this skill down and refined it at more than one nice restaurant. Nonetheless, it is a great skill to practice and get down pat. And skillz (especially those related to meat + flame) make you look cool, so try it, a few times before just cutting into whatever you are cooking to check.

Back to the liver.

So it is done, rare, save for a couple of thin spots. We slice it up, slightly too thick and try it out.
cross section

Tasty, fishy, rich. A bit lobstery. Monkfish is sometimes called the poor man's lobster so this follows suit. My sister's 10 month old ate it. My Mother in law wasn't into it, my daughter wouldn't even look in it's direction.

The rest of us thought it was nice. We ate it standing up in the kitchen discussing it's pros and cons. Sadly, we had a crap baguette to eat it on, which was really the only bad part. I found my hunk of liver delicious on the so-so bread with a chunk of cold salted butter.

All around, something I would do again, but next time with better bread.



Ignore my slightly dirty thumbnail. I'm too lazy to photoshop it out.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Gobi Manchurian aka Indian-Chinese food!

a wonderful combination of flavors

By Cookbad.

I've had Chinese-Cuban food before. It took me a while to figure out where these 2 cuisines would possibly meet and I'm not sure I can claim I figured this out on my own, but the answer is/was communism. Delicious Communism.

Then, in this months Saveur magazine I was hit with another Chinese hybrid revolation. Chinese-Indian. Makes more sense geographically and turns out, not surprisingly to be delicious.

Very simple to make (if frying is something you like to do) and quite possibly one of the most delicious vegan things I've ever put in my mouth is Gobi Manchurian. A lovely batter fried cauliflower in a spicy sweet sauce that hits every level. Saveur suggested that it be served with white rice, but I went with black for dramatic effect.

It is kind of like an Indian influenced NYC version of General Tso's Chicken ( a personal favorite hangover cure).

Here is the recipe:
Gobi Manchurian
SERVES 4
12 cloves garlic
4 2" pieces peeled fresh ginger
(3 cut into thin coins, 1 julienned)
1 head cauliflower, cut into large florets
Kosher salt
2⁄3 cup cornstarch
2⁄3 cup flour
1 tsp. red chile powder
Freshly ground white pepper
2 tsp. plus 3 tbsp. soy sauce
Peanut oil for frying
2 small onions, chopped
8–10 Thai chiles, thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup ketchup
1 1⁄2 tbsp. sesame oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Cilantro leaves

1. Purée garlic, ginger coins, and 1⁄3 cup water in blender; set aside. Boil cauliflower in a pot of salted water until tender, 6–7 minutes; drain.

2. Whisk together cornstarch, flour, chile powder, 1⁄2 tsp. salt, and 1⁄4 tsp. pepper in a bowl. Stir in half the garlic paste, 2 tsp. soy sauce, and 3⁄4 cup water to make a batter. Pour oil into a large deep skillet to a depth of 1"; heat over medium-high heat. Working in batches, dip cauliflower in batter; fry until golden, 5–6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel–lined plate. Drain all but about 6 tbsp. of the oil. Add onions; cook for 3–4 minutes. Add chiles and remaining garlic paste; cook until paste is lightly browned, 3–4 minutes. Add ketchup, remaining soy sauce, sesame oil, and 1⁄3 cup water. Boil; lower heat to medium-low; simmer until thick, 1–2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste; toss cauliflower in sauce. Garnish with remaining ginger, scallions, and cilantro. Serve with white rice, if you like.
Cauliflower after being fried, but before the sauce

My only suggestion would be to cook the cauliflower for only 4 minutes and blot it dry afterwards. This will keep it crispier after it is fried.

Not bad left over either.


My One Year Cooking Anniversary

This is a Devil Dog Cake, see the previous blog posting



Well, I did it. I have cooked a brand new recipe every day for the past year. It has been a really great experience. I’ve learned tons, and had a lot of fun. I didn’t manage to blog everything, but I tried to make sure all the best stuff made it on. There were a couple of days that I missed, due to illness or other extreme circumstances, but only a few, and I always made extra new things afterwards to make up for it.

I loved this experience and I recommend that everyone try it. If you feel like that’s too much of a commitment, try making three or four new things a week. You’ll still be learning a lot, but you won’t have to feel overwhelmed.

When I started this, I thought it would be tough to find 365 new recipes that I wanted to make, but I have found that just the opposite is true My year is up, and there are still so many things I never got around to.

That’s why I’m going to keep at it. From now on I’ll try to do four new recipes a week, and I’ll keep blogging the best ones. Don’t think we’re abandoning you. There will still be a few new posts a week. I also want to re-make some of my favorites from the year, to see if they hold up to my memory of them, I’ll be posting my re-reviews of those as well. We’ve also got a book coming out next Christmas, with all the great tips we’ve learned. We’ll keep you updated about that.

Devil Dog Cake



To celebrate my one year cooking anniversary, I made this Devil Dog cake. It’s not made out of devil dogs, it’s just resembles one. It got a top score (four out of four forks) on Epicurious, and it used a technique that I haven’t tried yet, so I thought it would be fitting for my last recipe of the year.


For cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process) plus additional for dusting
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups water

For frosting
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preparation

Make cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour an 8-inch square cake pan (2 inches deep).

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well, then beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture and water alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until just combined.

Pour batter into cake pan and smooth top, then bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 1 hour. Transfer cake to a cake plate.

Make frosting:
Combine frosting ingredients with a pinch of salt in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and beat with a handheld electric mixer at high speed until frosting is thick and fluffy, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat until slightly cooled. Mound frosting on top of cake. Dust with additional cocoa powder.

Cooks' notes:
• Cake, without frosting, will improve in flavor if made 1 day ahead. Cool, then keep, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature. Frost cake just before serving.
• The egg whites in the frosting are not fully cooked. You can substitute pasteurized or reconstituted dried egg whites if salmonella is a problem in your area.


The cake it’s self is pretty straightforward, creaming the butter and sugar, and adding in turns. My square cake tin doesn’t have a removable base, so I made sure to use baking paper for easy removal. The best way to do it is to let it cool for a couple of minutes, then put a dish over the top of the cake and flip the whole thing over. That way you can just lift off the pan, and peel off the paper. If you want to turn it back right side up, just put another dish over it and flip it again.

The frosting was new for me. It was an interesting method. Like making meringue, but in a double boiler. It sounded intimidating, but it was fine, once I got used to having an electric mixer in one hand and an oven glove on the other (the bowl kept slipping in the pot). It took the full 7 minutes, but it came out amazing. It was sticky and frosting-y and tasted just like marshmallows. I loved it.

The recipe mentions that the cake improves in flavor if you refrigerate it over night, and it’s no joke. This cake was good on the day it was made, but it was excellent the next day.

I would make this again, probably for a kids event more then a grown up event, thought it would be fine for either. I agree with the four forks rating, I will make it again.

Garlic and Rosemary Lamb Chops with a Balsamic Reduction



For balsamic syrup
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns

For chard
1 bunch Swiss chard (1 lb)
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon water

For lamb chops
8 rib lamb chops (1 1/4 lb total), trimmed of all fat
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Preparation
Make syrup:
Simmer syrup ingredients in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart nonreactive saucepan (see cooks' note, below) over moderate heat until just syrupy and reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 8 minutes. Pour through a sieve into a small bowl, discarding rosemary and peppercorns.

Sauté chard:
Cut stems and center ribs from chard, discarding any tough portions, then cut stems and ribs crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack chard leaves and roll into cylinders. Cut cylinders crosswise to make 1-inch-wide strips.

Cook onion and garlic in oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Add chard stems and ribs, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until stems are just tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in chard leaves and water and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes.

Broil chops while chard cooks:
Preheat broiler. Sprinkle chops with garlic, salt, rosemary, and pepper, then broil on a lightly oiled broiler pan, 4 to 5 inches from heat, turning over once, for medium-rare, 6 to 7 minutes total. Serve chops and chard drizzled with balsamic syrup.

Cooks' note:
Stainless steel and enameled cast iron are nonreactive, but avoid pure aluminum and uncoated iron.


I got this recipe from Epicurious. It’s a really great website for recipe ideas.

I chose this one for Valentine’s day because lamb chops are good and pretty festive, and also because this recipe looks and sounds really impressive, even though it’s super easy and fast.

It worked out great.

I couldn’t find any Chard, so I used some other greens instead. They came out really wonderfully. The balsamic reduction takes no time at all, but tastes really good like a fancy sauce.

This was a great dish. It was tasty and easy to make and it felt very special. Perfect Valentine’s day fare.

Double Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

I thought I had a photo of these, but I guess I forgot to take one. You can see what they look like Here. I got them from the magazine, but they are also on Epicurious.


For dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3/4 pound fine-quality white chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Equipment: a 1 3/4-inch fluted round cookie cutter
Garnish: decorative sugar (optional)
Preparation

Make dough:
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Divide dough in half and form each piece into a 6-inch square, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

Make ganache while dough chills:
Bring cream and corn syrup just to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan, then stir into melted chocolate. Stir in butter and vanilla until smooth. Cover surface with parchment paper and chill, stirring occasionally, until very thick, about 30 minutes.

Cut and bake cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter 2 large baking sheets.

Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into a 14- by 10-inch rectangle (1/8 inch thick). Slide dough in parchment onto a tray and freeze until dough is firm, about 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.

Cut out as many rounds as possible from first chilled square with cutter, reserving and chilling scraps, then quickly transfer cookies to a buttered baking sheet, arranging them 1/2 inch apart. (If dough becomes too soft, return to freezer until firm.)

Sprinkle half of cookies with decorative sugar (if using), then bake cookies until baked through and slightly puffed, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on sheet on rack 5 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely (cookies will crisp as they cool).

Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll only once).

Assemble sandwich cookies:
Beat ganache with an electric mixer at high speed just until light and fluffy. Transfer to a sealable plastic bag (snip off 1/8 to 1/4 inch from 1 corner with scissors). Pipe ganache onto flat sides of plain cookies, then top with sugared cookies to make sandwiches. Chill, layered between sheets of parchment, in an airtight container until filling is set, at least 1 hour.

Cook's notes:
• Dough can be chilled up to 2 days.
• Ganache can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, its surface covered with parchment. Bring to room temperature, then beat with mixer before using.
• Sandwiched cookies keep, chilled, 4 days.

These came from a copy of Gourmet magazine . that cookbad sent me from the States. What a great magazine! This was the Christmas cookie issue, and it had so many amazing looking cookies, I hardly knew where to start.

I chose these because of their double chocolate-ness. I couldn’t resist.

The recipe looks pretty complicated, and I’m not going to pretend that it’s a quick and simple one, but if you just get into the idea of doing it in phases, then it’s no big deal.

I left the dough to sit in the fridge for much longer then it said to because I made the dough before going out in the morning. It’s fine to do that, but you have to keep in mind that you’ll have to let it warm up a bit before it is soft enough to roll. That actually worked out even better for me because although it was really hard to roll, I was able to roll them out, cut them and transfer them to a baking sheet without having to re-chill the dough.

The cookies come out really beautifully crispy and light.

Then the filling… my advice to you is to use the best quality white chocolate you can find. I skimped a bit, and I felt like it made a difference to the quality. They were still really good cookies, but they could have been even better.

I don’t have a piping bag, so I used a freezer bag with the corner cut off. That worked really well. Using a spoon, did not. I only did that for one cookie.

I will definitely make these again, they were like fancy Oreo cookies.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hoisin sauce, & some things you can make with it

These are the tofu snacks..

They were pretty good.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the amazing, wonderful, fabulous lamb chops, but the recipe is here if you want to try them.


Hoisin Sauce
½ cup dried adzuki beans, rinsed
2tbsp toasted sesame oil
1tbsp minced garlic
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
¼ tsp Asian chile garlic sauce, or ¼ tsp dried red pepper flakes, or more to taste

Place beans in a medium sized saucepan and add 5 cups of water. Bring the water to boil over a high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Let the beans simmer gently, uncovered, until they are very soft, 1.5 to 2 hours. Drain the beans in a colander and let them cool. Puree the beans in a food processor until smooth.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, but not smoking, add the garlic. Cook the garlic, stirring occasionally, until it is soft but not browned, 2-3 min.
Add the bean puree and the brown sugar, cider vinegar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and 2 tbsp of water to the skillet and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally until it is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, 10 – 15 minutes.
Add the chili garlic sauce to the hoisin sauce and sir to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding more chili sauce as needed. Let the hoisin sauce cool to room temperature. It can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 10 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the refrigerator over night.

I was always under the impression that Hoisin sauce had plums in it, and this recipe has none to be found, but I really wanted to try the Hoisin tofu snacks, and I happened to have some adzuki beans lying around, so I gave this a go.

It’s from Food To Live By, which is one of my all time favorite cookbooks. The two recipes that follow are from the same book.

This was easy to make, and it made enough to make two batches of tofu snacks, and a lamb chop dinner, so it’s worth making.


Hoisin Tofu Snacks
14 to 16 oz extra firm tofu
½ cup home made hoisin sauce
2tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1tbsp hulled sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350f/180c
Cut the tofu into rectangles, approx 1 inch wide by 2 inches long by 1/3 inch. Arrange the pieces in a baking pan just large enough to hold them in a single layer. To make sure the tofu get crispy all over, the slices should be slightly separated.
Combine the hoisin Sauce, tamari, and sesame seeds, if using, in a small bowl and pour this mixture over the tofu. Turn the tofu so that both sides are evenly coated.
Bake for 30 min. Remove the pan from the oven and use a spatula and a large spoon to flip the tofu pieces. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes longer. Then turn the tofu over again, and bake until deep golden brown, 10 min more. Remove from the oven and allow the tofu to cool for at least 5 min. The longer it sits out the firmer the tofu will become. Serve warm. The tofu snacks will keep, covered in the refrigerator for up to three days (although they will lose their crispness).


These were incredibly easy to make. I pressed the tofu first so that it would have a better texture. It’s easy, just wrap it in a clean towel, and pile an absurd amount of books on it, then wait. I thought they were fun, my husband loved them. I made a second batch by request.

Just to let you know, About halfway through they start to smell a little like they are burning. They’re not, they just smell that way. It happened both times, and both times they came out fine.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Mongolian Sauce
2tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
2tbsp minced garlic
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
½ cup ginger vinegar, or balsamic vinegar
2tbsp firmly packed, light brown sugar
¼ cup toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
¼ cup hoisin sauce
1tbsp Asian Chili Garlic sauce
8 loin or rib lamb chops

To make the marinade, place the ginger, garlic, shallots, vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, tamari, teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce, and chili sauce in a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine.
Place the lamb chops in a large re-sealable plastic bag and add the marinade. Let the chops marinate in the fridge for at least 8 or up to 48 hours, turning the bag occasionally to distribute the marinade evenly.
Set up the barbecue grill and preheat it to medium.
Remove the chops from the marinade and transfer them to a platter. Strain the marinade through a fine mesh sieve into a small saucepan. Discard the solids. Bring the marinade to a boil over high heat and cook until it thickens to a sauce, 3-5 min.
Place the lamb chops on the hot grill and cook them for about 2 min on each side. Baste the chops with some of the boiled marinade. Cover the grill and cook the chops , turning once, until cooked to taste, about 6 min longer for medium rare. To test for doneness, insert an instant read thermometer through the side into the center of a chop without touching the bone. It will register 145f when the chop is done to medium rare.
Let the chops rest for 5 min, then serve them with the boiled marinade on the side.

These are amazing. I don’t make lamb chops very often, but I might start now. My advice to you is to make the hoisin sauce, portion it out and freeze it so that you can make these whenever you want to. Because once you make them once, you will want to make them again.

I used the grill in my oven because we don’t have a barbeque. It worked fine, though I had to cook them for 2 minutes longer then the recipe instructed. I think that the cooking time might vary slightly from one grill to another.

Try this recipe for yourself and find out.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Pad Thai



225g wide dried rice noodles
450g raw prawns (I used tofu instead)
2tbsp ground nut oil
3tbsp coarsely chopped garlic
3tbsp finely sliced shallots
2 large fresh red or green Thai chilies, seeded and chopped
175g fresh beansprouts
2 eggs, beaten
1tbsp light soy sauce
1tbsp lime juice
2tbsp fish sauce
1tsp sugar
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Garnish:
1 lime, cut into wedges
3tbsp coarsely chopped fresh coriander
3 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal
3tbsp coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
1tsp dried chili flakes

Soak the rice noodles in a bowl of warm water for 20 min. Drain them in a colander or sieve.
Peel the prawns and discard the shells. Using a small sharp knife, remove the fine digestive cord. Wash the prawns in cold water with 1tbsp of salt, then rinse well and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat until it is hot. Add the oil, and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the prawns and stir fry for about 2 min. Remove the prawns with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reheat the wok, add the garlic, shallots, and chillies, and stir fry for 1 min, then add the noodles, and stir fry for another minute. Finally, add the bean sprouts, eggs, soy sauce, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and pepper, and continue to stir fry for 3 min. Return the prawns to the wok, mix well and stir fry for 2 min.
Turn the mixture onto a warm platter. Garnish and serve at once.

This was from Ken Hom Cooks Thai. Ken Hom is a Thai cooking god. You should buy this book. I have made a ton of recipes from it, and the worst of them have been good, the best of them have been all time favorites that will blow your mind they are so good.

This one was fabulous. It was as good or better then what you would get at a Thai restaurant. I love this recipe.

I made a couple of changes. For one thing, I used the precooked noodles that are meant to go right into the wok. The only reason was because it was all I could find on short notice that had the right shape to it. You really do want flat noodles for this dish. I used more then the recipe said, because dried ones would have expanded, whereas mine were already cooked. I think I used almost twice the weight, and it made just enough to serve four.

The other change I made, was using Tofu instead of prawns. Partly because prawns are so expensive, partly because I was looking for a tofu recipe, and figured this one would convert well. It did.

I pressed the tofu first, which worked out really well. You just wrap it in a clean towel and put a baking sheet on top of it, and then weigh it down. I used four heavy cookbooks, and left it for a couple of hours (in the fridge). It gets rid of excess moisture, and gives the tofu a much nicer, more firm texture.

Because of the substitutions, I skipped the first couple of steps. I didn’t need to soak the noodles, or to precook the tofu, I just added it at the end, when you would have been adding the prawns back in.

I have to stress that this dish is all about the garnishes:



That is what makes it so super, crazy, unbelievable, over the top good. Also, it took about 10 min of chopping and measuring, and about 10 min of cooking. So if you make it this way, then in only 20 minutes time, you have a fabulous dinner, that is a little something different.

Beef and Broccoli noodles



225g wide dried rice noodles
450g Chinese or ordinary broccoli
450g lean beef steak
2tsp, plus 1tbsp light soy sauce
1tsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1tsp sesame oil
1tsp cornflour
3tbsp groundnut oil
2 eggs, beaten
2tbsp fish sauce
1tsp sugar
1tsp chilli flakes or powder
3tbsp oyster sauce
Garnish:
1tbsp ground nut oil
3tbsp coarsely chopped garlic
3tbsp roasted peanuts, crushed
Soak the rice noodles in a bowl of warm water for 20 min. Drain them in a colander or sieve.
If you are using Chinese broccoli, cut into 1 inch pieces. If you are using ordinary broccoli, separate the florets and peel and thinly slice the stems on the diagonal. Blanch the broccoli in a large pot of boiling salted water for 3 min, then drain and plunge into cold water. Drain thoroughly.
Put the beef into the freezer compartment or the refrigerator for 20 min. This will allow the meat to harden a little for easy cutting. Then cut into thin slices 1.5 inches long. Put the beef slices into a bowl and add the 2 tsp soy sauce, the rice wine, sesame oil, and cornflour. Mix well and let marinate for 20 min.
Heat a wok or a large frying pan over high heat until it is hot. Add the groundnut oil, and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the beef and stir fry for about 2 min. Remove the meat and drain it in a stainless steel colander set inside a bowl, leaving about 1tbsp of oil in the wok.
Reheat the wok, add the noodles and the broccoli and stir fry for 2 min. Then add the eggs, the remaining soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and chili flakes, and continue to stir fry for 3 min. Then add the beef and oyster sauce, mix well and stir fry for 2 min more. Turn the mixture onto a warm platter, wipe the wok clean and reheat until hot. Add 1tbsp of oil and stir fry the garlic until golden brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle the garlic on top of the noodles together with the peanuts. Serve at once.

This is a Thai take on a classic Chinese dish from Ken Hom Cooks Thai.

I liked the trick about putting the meat in the freezer for 20 min. It worked like a charm, it was really easy to cut.

The marinade doesn’t have to work long, but it really does make a difference to the flavor of the meat. We don’t eat beef too terribly often, and all through dinner my youngest kept saying “I love the brown chicken, can I have more brown chicken please”. Needless to say, this was a big winner, clean plates all around.

All that and quick and easy to make. Thanks again Ken Hom!

Apricot Glazed Chicken



½ cup finely chopped shallots
¼ cup finely chopped, peeled ginger
2tbsp vegetable oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup soy sauce
1 cup apricot preserves (12oz)
16 chicken drumsticks

cook shallots and ginger in oil in a small heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 5 min. Stir in vinegar and boil until reduced by about half, about 2 min. Add soy sauce, preserves and ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 15 min.
Puree sauce in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids), then cool to room temperature.
Divide chicken into two large sealable bags and pour marinade over chicken. Seal bags, pressing out excess air, and marinate, chilled, turning bag over occasionally, at least 8 hours.
Preheat oven to 425f with rack in the middle
Line a shallow heavy baking pan with 2 slightly overlapping sheets of foil, then lightly oil the foil. Arrange chicken with marinade in 1 layer in the pan. Roast, turning once, until deep brown, cooked through and glazed, about 40 min total.
Can be marinated up to 24 hours.

I got this recipe from an issue of Gourmet Magazine that a friend sent to me. It’s a shame we can’t get this one out here. It’s beautiful, and the recipes all look amazing.

I tried this one right away because it looked so child friendly, and because it doesn’t require any real work on the day you are going to eat it. The sauce was easy enough to make while I was doing other things the day before. I only made half the amount, because the original recipe makes quite a bit.

Just a note, they are not kidding about being careful when you blend hot liquid. I used a stick blender, and a bit splattered onto my arm. The burn mark lasted all night.

The next day it was just pour and bake. Easy as pie, and it came out wonderfully. Both boys loved it, and so did we. It’s sweet and sticky and all the things you want drumsticks to be. I will use this recipe anytime I am cooking for kids. I also think it would make great summertime barbeque or picnic food.

Thai Grilled Salmon



4 salmon fillets
1 red chili, seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1tbsp fish sauce
1tbsp sesame oil
2tbsp runny honey
¼ cucumber, diced
½ red onion, diced
4tbsp Sweet chili sauce, mixed with a squeeze of lime juice

Put the salmon in a bowl with the chili, garlic, coriander, fish sauce, sesame oil, and honey. Season with pepper and refrigerate for at least 20 min, or overnight.
Grill the salmon until it is crisp at the edges. If you like it cooked all the way through rather then rare in the idle, then keep cooking till the fish feels firm to the touch. Serve with the cucumber and onion sprinkled over and the sweet chili dipping sauce.

This was part of the Thai kick that I was on last week, but it was from 101 Global Dishes.

These books are really fun, and though once in a while you get a stinker, many of the recipes are really, really good.

This was one of the really, really good ones. Simple to make, super quick. I set mine marinating at lunch time, and then cooked it for dinner, but you could do it the night before too, if you are out all day. The cooking it’s self took about 10 min.

I have to say that this recipe was so good, that even thought I totally forgot to serve it with the garnishes or the dipping sauce, it was still loved by all (even my more fussy older son).

This is sweet and flavorful, and an all around great thing to do with salmon.

Chicken with Chorizo, Beans and Spinach



1tbsp olive oil
8 chicken pieces (4 drumsticks, 4 thighs)
175g fresh Spanish chorizo, cubed
1 onion, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1tsp mild chili powder
3 red Romano peppers, halved, seeded and cut into chunks
400g passata
2tbsp tomato puree
150ml chicken stock
1X400g and 1X200g can of butterbeans, drained
a small bunch of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g bag of baby spinach leaves
3tbsp roughly chopped fresh coriander or parsley

Preheat to 190. Heat the olive oil in a heavy flame proof casserole, and brown the chicken pieces all over. Lift them out onto a plate and add the chorizo to the casserole. Cook the chorizo for 2-3 min, until the red oil starts to run, and then add the onion, garlic, and mild chili powder. Cook over a low heat for about 5 min till soft.
Now add the peppers and cook for another 2-3 min to soften them. Stir in the passata, tomato puree, stock, beans, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 10 min. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Return the chicken pieces and any juices to the casserole and bring to a simmer. Then cover and bake in the oven for about 25min. Remove from the oven and uncover. If the sauce looks too watery, place the casserole over a medium heat, and boil to reduce until nice and thick. Stir in the spinach and coriander or parsley. Allow the spinach to wilt into the stew. Remove the thyme and bay leaf from the casserole and serve.

This is the first recipe I’ve tried from Nick Nairn’s top 100 Chicken Recipes. The book looks promising, the recipes are quite varied, and many of them looked intriguing.

I started with this one because I was feeling uninspired, and I asked my husband to make a suggestion about what I should make for dinner. His suggestion was something with Chirizo in it. Good suggestion, not terribly specific, but it gave me something to go on, and it led me to this.

This was delicious. It had all of the deep flavor that you expect from a chorizo recipe, and it had beans and greens al in the same pot with the chicken and chorizo, so it was really a complete meal all by it’s self.

Do be careful of the passata that you choose though. There are a lot of them out there these days, and I accidentally got one that had basil mixed into it. It worked out ok, and my husband was totally over the moon for it, but I’m sure it would have been even a little better if I had paid more attention to the passata that I bought.

Serve it with crusty bread, and it will be a big winner.