Everything has a chance to provide and receive flavor. It is up to the cook to narrow the focus.
Everything has a chance to provide and receive flavor. It is up to the cook to narrow the focus.
We started by cold smoking whole, unpeeled beets. We put the beets in the pressure cooker and covered them with water. We used more water than we usually do for cooking beets because we had a good feeling about the flavors of smoked beet water. Our hunch was right. We strained the smoked beet stock. We peeled the beets and reserved them for another preparation. We divided the smoked beet stock in half. This way I wouldn't go head over heels in one direction. We took half of the stock and disolved 3% salt, 3% sugar and 0.5% curing salt. We added beef shanks. We vacuum sealed them in the brine. In 24 hours we shall start cooking.
The beauty of a restored hand cranked Berkel slicer is second to none. It ranks with restored cars, refurbished tables and antique barns. We are chasing the styles of yesterday with the know hows and conveniences of today. When we let either style or convenience lead the charge something suffers. Excellence comes from combining the design and structure from the past with the adaptability and usability of today.
April 21, 2009
Control is essential to consistent, delicious cooking. Whether using an immersion circulator, a CVap, or an Argentine inspired grill, precision and consistency are driving forces. Wood fired cooking is an art, craft, and science. At first glance you might think that wood and fire are all you need. But flames are often our enemy. The judicious use of controlled flare ups is essential for flavor development without charring or overcooking. Using a wood cage to burn logs and create coals allows the cook to control the heat. As with any cooking method this requires practice to develop skills and finesse. Cooking with a variety of mediums forces us to work through processes to maximize flavor and efficiency. The more skills you master, the more knowledge you accumulate, the better your ability to maximize flavor in any dish.
Massive hat tip to Chef Anthony Goncalves on sharing some insight on live fire cooking.
We are constantly looking to improve. Every situation is requires a new set of skills and a different perspective. We like to use limitations as creative springboards but sometimes things can get out of hand. When you get too focused on going over and around obstacles you lose sight of the end goal. You can't please everyone so you had better be happy yourself. If you don't like what you're doing you'll never convince anyone else, but if you have a passion for what's on the plate you can overcome any limitation.
April 19, 2006
It's Easter weekend and hard boiled eggs are everywhere so we decided to share the following recipe from our latest book, Maximum Flavor. It's slightly modified, we left out the pepper jelly recipe and encourage you to use your favorite red pepper jelly instead. You can brine the eggs or not as you wish, it could be considered a different and more delicious technique for coloring Easter eggs, though you won't get sparkly pastel colors. Even eliminating these two steps these are darned good eggs. The recipe is worth trying for the glazed bacon alone.
Bacon and Deviled Eggs
Classic deviled eggs are always a favorite. We’ve come to prefer the technique of steaming eggs to hard cook them, because it gives very consistent results with the added benefit of making the eggs easier to peel—you can say goodbye forever to that green tinge around the yolk and also to whites that are pitted and unattractive to set out as deviled eggs. A tea brine bath seasons the eggs after they’re cooked and makes them look beautiful and festive. The glazed bacon is crisp, sweet, spicy, and the perfect accent to the creamy eggs. While you can use your favorite store bought pepper jam, we encourage you to try the recipe below. It’s worth the extra effort, and you will find it useful for a wide variety of dishes once you have it in your pantry.
12 large eggs
½ ounce/ 15 grams Lapsang Souchong tea (about 6 teabags)
3 teaspoons/ 18 grams fine sea salt
½ cup/ 110 grams Dukes or other mayonnaise
1 tablespoon/ 14 grams Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon/ 14 grams sweet pickle juice
6 slices of bacon
¼ cup/ 85 grams red pepper jelly
6 teaspoons/ 43 grams red pepper jelly
Put 2 inches of water in a medium pot and set it over high heat. Bring the water to a boil. Put the cold eggs into a steamer basket and suspend them over the boiling water. Cover the pot and steam the eggs for 14 minutes. Transfer them to an ice bath and let cool for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the cranberry juice, Lapsang Souchong tea, and salt in a large bowl, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Use the back of a spoon to uniformly crack the eggshells all over without piercing the eggs or removing any of the shell. Put the cracked eggs into the brine and put another bowl on top of the eggs to keep them submerged. Refrigerate the eggs for 48 hours.
After 48 hours, take the eggs out of the brine and peel them, discarding the shells. Cut each egg in half vertically. Remove the yolks and set the whites aside. Put the egg yolks, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and pickle juice into a small food processor and puree until smooth. Scoop the deviled egg mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and put the bag in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 350°F/176°C.
Lay the bacon slices on a cutting board. Brush the top of the bacon with some of the 1/4 cup/85 grams pepper jelly and then lay the slices on an oven rack set over a foil-lined sheet pan. Put the bacon into the oven and cook for 15 minutes until the bacon is just crispy and glazed. Remove the bacon from the oven, brush both sides of the bacon with the jam, and put it back in the oven for 3 more minutes. Remove the bacon from the oven and let cool. Cut each slice of bacon into 4 pieces so that you have 1 piece for each deviled egg.
Put the egg whites on a cutting board or other flat work surface. Spoon ¼ teaspoon of the remaining pepper jam into the bottom of the each egg white. Pipe a rosette of about a tablespoon of the egg yolk mixture on top of the jelly. Top with a slice of bacon. Arrange the deviled eggs on a cutting board or platter to serve.
April 18, 2009
Eating a sausage sandwich, even a quick one on the fly, should always be an enjoyable experience. The biggest pitfall is biting through the sausage. The crisp skin may be delicious but when the hot juice spurts out I almost always burn my tongue or the roof of my mouth. So today, I sliced almost all the way through the link in several places before tucking it into the bread and mustard. Large bites and small bites were consumed without a struggle leaving me free to fully savor every bite. One small adjustment made eating a sausage sandwich a more enjoyable experience.
April 16, 2011
It never really feels like spring until our lovage begins to pop through the worn winter soil. Catching a glimpse of the herb's first growth brings a smile to our faces. Its presence ignites dormant ideas. Thoughts hidden beneath winters cold and heavy snow. With lovage in the garden potential abounds.
April 15, 2010
April 15, 2006
We started cooking in the 90's. This was before the internet. We had to buy books. We had to stage. We had to share stories. We had to eat out and collect menus. These are a few highlights from our library from that era.
And we could go on and on...but this will get you started.
We first learned about Salumeria Biellese while working with Marco Canora on Martha's Vineyard. Since this initial introduction 14 years ago we have been devout fans. They make traditionally cured air dried Italian salumi. They are the ones who created a HAACP plan utilizing traditional recipes and demonstrating the safety of the process of air drying to preserve meats. Their wide range of products are stellar. These days lots of chefs are fermenting their own salumi and creating some wonderful products. Not everyone has the space or the inclination to make their own. The team at Salumeria Biellese search out the best ingredients they can find and use their time tested recipes to create some of the best salumi available. They have a wide range of products and are able to maintain a consistent level of quality and flavor throughout their varied offerings.
The process of layering of techniques allows us to also layer flavors. Here we started with pressure cooked beets. Then we peeled them and marinated them in chimichurri sauce. After they marinated for about a day we grilled them and as we did so, we basted the beets with additional chimichurri sauce. The beets charred lightly on the grill and absorbed rich, smoky flavors. The chimichurri cooked and caramelized, accenting the natural sweetness of the beets. When the beets came off the grill they were ready to eat. They were crisp and tender, meaty and delicious.
This time we used beets. Other vegetables would also benefit from this treatment. As would fish and meat. And there are other avenues we could have wandered. We could have vacuum sealed the beets with the chimichurri before grilling. We could have dehydrated the grilled beet to concentrate their flavor. We could have fermented the beets with the chimichurri. The choices we make are influenced by the daily questions of who, what, where, when, why and how we are creating something. The answers send us toward certain paths, all of which have the possibility of creating something new and delicious.
April 12, 2006
This morning after I dropped off Amaya at school it occurred to me that it was Friday and it was Lent and there was a good chance that if I swung by my local fish store I might find something interesting. I was right, front and center in the case were these beautiful soft shell crabs. The bin looks sparse because I bought a bunch. I missed the whole season last year and I wasn't going to miss out today. The only question now is what to do with them? Marinate them in garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, and red wine and grill them? Dredge them in cornstarch and saute them, to have with creamed corn and arugula salad? Dust them in masa harina and pan fry them for soft shell tacos with guacamole and fresh pico de gallo? Tempura batter and fry them with marinated radish salad and garlic-ginger-soy dipping sauce? The hardest part will be making a decision.
Structure is key. One of the downsides of freshly extruded pasta is the structural integrity of the hollow shapes is less firm than that of dried pasta. Increasing the thickness of the pasta wall gives it more strength. It is a small adjustment that we didn't think of. Thankfully Marc Vetri did. He asked Maja, from Arcobaleno, if thicker walled pasta dies could be made. Maja worked with her "die guy" and a few thick walled shapes have arrived. We were fortunate to get one to test drive and were able to see and taste the difference. The thicker wall allows the rigatoni and its close cousin, hand cut penne, to stand up to being coated in sauce without collapsing and losing its shape. The texture on the noodles is fabulous. There is bite and chew. The sauce works its way into the hole filling the pasta, glazing it inside and out. Asking the right questions can make innovation possible.
April 10, 2006
We develop habits. We repeat the same processes over and over again because it works, because it is consistent, because we know what the outcome will be. In the kitchen, as elsewhere, our habits grow from our experiences. Where we cook, who we cook with, and what kind of food we cook, influences and shapes what we do every day.
Too often habits turn into ruts. Even good habits can have their downside. If you make something perfectly again and again you miss the opportunity to discover what else it could be. For instance we were making agnolotti yesterday. We have become proficient in the technique of piping, rolling and cutting. The pasta may vary slightly based on filling and application but the end goal is always a bite-sized pillow of dough stuffed with something delicious. As I was editing pictures of the process it dawned on me, why do we always make them small? Why not make long stuffed folded tubes? The habit of making perfect agnolotti had blinded us to the possibility of changing the size and shape. Taking a step back and looking at things from a different perspective has made all the difference.
April 9, 2005
We get hung up on minutiae. Learning to understand and work with the smallest elements in our processes gives us the ability to improve. Knowledge requires repetition. It invites analysis. It prompts research. Curiosity inspires a need to know why and how things work. Josh Waitkin explores persistence in his compelling book The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance. He shares the lessons learned from his journey of being a chess champion to his head first immersion into Tai Chi. He connects dots. He paves paths. He demonstrates the successful application of persistence in learning, how the small steps, the basics, the understanding of the processes allow for mastery.
We sliced rhubarb and added it to aged Italian kimchi.
We put it back in the jar. Now we wait for the flavors to harmonize.
April 6, 2006
April 6, 2005
We don't plan on working with rust. It builds up, slowly in small streaks, until suddenly it seems to overwhelm an object. Rust disguises potential. Removing rust is not easy. It takes time, patience, and effort. And some of the marks left from rust add patina. While damaging, rust adds character. We started with an industrial cart, thick with rust. It was heavy and sturdy. Beneath the imperfections we saw the possibility of beauty. We scrubbed, sanded, and wiped. The rust added character to the metal underneath. It gave the cart a signature look. Without that layer of rust we never would have been able to unveil the beauty beneath. The damage was the designer.
April 5, 2006
We've had some interesting conversations on Twitter lately about pursuing passion. The idea of doing what you love for a living is one of endless fascination because we all want to love what we do. Of course that doesn't mean it won't be difficult. It means that you are inspired enough by your daily activities to overcome obstacles and solve problems because it makes you happy to do it. That's a pretty lofty goal and sometimes the hard part is defining what you want to do and, more commonly, the hardest part is making it a reality. Truthfully it often comes down to your ability to sell. You're selling your passion to other people so they will pay you to do it. Sounds so simple as long as you're willing to put yourself out there to make it happen.
A few years ago I was invited to a cocktail party/meeting of Les Dames de Escoffier in Manhattan. I hadn't seen that particular friend in several years though we had reconnected via Twitter and I was feeling restless. Amaya was at an age where I finally felt comfortable sneaking away for an afternoon and evening and not being able to return quickly if needed. She spent the day with Dad and I hopped on a train into the city. I grew up in New York City and though I may never live there again, it always feels like coming home. Hanging out in Washington Square Park before the event, people watching and enjoying the afternoon, I was reminded that no matter how much changes in the city the core of it remains the same.
The event was exactly as I expected, several big names and semi-familiar faces, all of whom seemed to know each other quite well. It was wonderful to reconnect with my friend but I was reminded of how little I enjoy social events where I have to introduce myself to everyone. That's sounds terrible, doesn't it? Alex is very good at networking at these kinds of gatherings. He always has a smile and something to say to everyone he meets. That is not one of my special talents. One of the older ladies who noticed my discomfort gave my the eye and said "You know dear, you only get out of these events what you put into them. If you stand on the sidelines all night you may have wasted a trip." It was a fair assessment and one I took to heart. I still hate going to events with more strangers than friends, but now I try to remind myself that if I put some effort into things I can become the person who makes the introductions rather than trying to find a way to break into a conversation. I enjoy bringing people together, that is one of my talents. I just need to be comfortable enough to do it.
This Ted talk seemed somewhat timely given those recent conversations about pursuing our passions. Perhaps it's a good time to mention that we are planning to evolve our approach to workshops and create more small group classes to bring people together. While the one on one workshops are special, we want to focus more on interaction, bringing people together in a kitchen to share ideas, learn new techniques, and revisit old ones in a small hands-on environment because chefs learn best by cooking. You'll learn more about this soon. In the meantime here is a great talk by Sally Hogshead about how to fascinate your audience.
I came across one of my favorite Chinese cookbooks in a used bookstore recently. It is Chinese Technique: An Illustrated Guide To The Fundamental Techniques Of Chinese Cooking by Ken Hom. It's no longer in print so if you find it in a used bookstore it is almost always a bargain. Totally worth the money. I could tell you all about but I think I'll let the book speak for itself.
We add vanilla, in this case ground Tahitian vanilla beans, to our pie crust. The addition of intense aromatics provides unexpected flavor. The approach is often overlooked. It brings a level of complexity to the combination of butter, flour and sugar. Pie crust should always taste as good as the filling. Now we can begin to think beyond just adding flavor and contemplate the best ways to do it. The foundation is flour, butter and sugar and the question is how we can use them to absorb and emanate flavor and aroma in the finished pie? We love working with the pieces of the puzzle to create a delicious solution.
Define your own style. Focus your attention. Have a voice.
March 28, 2009
Some days getting dinner on the table isn't easy for any of us. I'm a fan of organic frozen vegetables. There I said it. They are my secret weapon and there's always a few bags stashed in the freezer. Amaya loves soup and if I'm organized I manage to roast a chicken for dinner early in the week. I've been saving roasted chicken bones and any leftover skin to make pressure cooker stock. I shred the left over meat and store it in an airtight container. I don't have to get crazy about stripping the bones because any chicken left on there only adds flavor to the broth. It's nothing fancy, just the skin and bones and any remaining roasted vegetables with water to cover, cooked at high pressure for 25 minutes. Strain and throw it in the fridge or freezer until I need it. The hardest part is remembering to make it the morning after a roast.
Since Alex and Amaya both have a thing about leftovers, I wait a day and then mix the shredded chicken with, you guessed it, organic frozen vegetables and the pressure cooked broth. Add a slurry of cornstarch and tapioca starch or some roux if you like your stew on the thick side. I season it with salt and soy sauce. Then I top it with scoops of biscuit dough. I use a 3/4-ounce ice cream scoop for this, the one with the purple handle. I bake it until the stew is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown, about an hour. Then we have a one-pan meal people will appreciate for very little effort. One chicken, two meals. Gotta love that.
March 27, 2010
March 27, 2006
Every picture is a recipe. In the digital world, notebooks are still essential. But there is a wonderful synergy going on. Writing down notes is often faster, smoother and cleaner. Trying to type quickly on a phone or tablet sucks. Once one person writes down a recipe everyone can take a picture. Actually, one person can take a picture of the notebook and the picture can forwarded.
What happens to all those pictures of recipes? Where do they go? How do we sort them and organize them? These were issues that troubled us in the kitchen. And this is my favorite feature of Kitchen Scratchpad. A picture can be attached to a recipe or a note. The picture can be of a notebook. The recipe can be that simple. And at a later date, it can be transcribed into a proper, clean recipe. Using the split view of photograph and recipe template nothing is lost.
The recipe can grow with your time. It is not easy to organize in a fast, rapid moving environment. But information can be collected and easily sorted once out of the fray. And of course, once the recipe exists it is easily shared via email or with others already using Kitchen Scratchpad.
After the microwave banana bread is baked we let it cool. Then we take the bread out of the cups, use scissors to cut them in half and griddle them in a skillet in sweet butter. We cook only one side. We get a thin layer of butter toasted banana bread and the soft ethereal substance behind it. We have done this with many other microwave cakes and breads. This fine layer of toasted bread shows the importance of both texture and restraint in highlighting flavor.
After several days air drying in the refrigerator it was time to slice our sunflower seed "cheese." The powdered wakame formed an oceany, vegetal crust that was the first flavor to hit our palates, followed by a rich earthy tang from fermentation, which rounded out into the rich, nutty flavor of roasted sunflower seeds. The flavors worked very well together. It's always exciting to create something unique and delicious. Now we are looking at new ideas for seed and nut cheeses and their coatings. We are also looking at ways to culture and flavor vegetable purees. The various pieces can be assembled into numerous flavorful creations.
March 23, 2010
March 23, 2005
First up with the banana pudding was making microwave banana bread. This sparked a new model for microwave cakes and breads. In Maximum Flavor we make Lemon Fairy Cakes with microwave lemon curd as the base. Lemon curd is similar to pudding in texture and I figured I could swap one pudding for another. We blended the banana pudding with eggs, powdered egg white, melted butter and our gluten free flour blend. (What IiF Flour works splendidly in this recipe.) Powdered egg whites are our go to addition to microwave cakes because they add body and texture without diluting flavors with extra water. We pureed the mixture, put it into an whipped cream canister, and charged it with nitrous oxide. Then we dispensed the batter into paper cups and microwaved them for 30 seconds. The result was a light, airy, moist, and tender, a flavorful banana bread. In final execution this was a very quick bread. And being able to look at flavoring microwave and conventional cake batters with pudding bases opens up new doors to discovery both savory and sweet.
The banana was not a puree and not a gel. It was a super-rich, thick pudding. It was thickened by its own natural pectins and starch. We combined bananas, milk, cream, sugar and salt and cooked them in a Thermomix for an hour. When they were done cooking we increased the speed of the Thermomix and pureed the mixture until it became smooth. Then we poured it into a glass baking dish to cool. The resulting banana pudding was thick. It had an elastic pull. Its texture had a light graininess. The next step is to see if we can smooth things out by reprocessing in a blender. From here we have a solid platform to take the flavor of banana and integrate it into dishes from dehydrated chips to banana mousse to microwave cakes. First on my list is microwave banana bread.
We took our cultured sunflower seed yogurt and drained it for several days. It is now dense and firm enough to hold its shape. At this point we are looking to add flavor and help it form a crust. We have some powdered wakame in the pantry and decided that a earth and sea combination would be interesting. We coated the disk heavily with the dark green powder. Now we are air drying it in the refrigerator to see if it will develop a rind.
And that got us thinking about dusting. And flavored powders, and seasoning from the outside, which led to the idea of creating seasoned layers, whether they are on the outside, inside or winding through the interior. The light application of intense flavor allows us to the deliver new tastes in concentrated bursts.
There is a demand for recipes. And an even greater demand for substitutions for everything within the recipes, from ingredients to techniques. Recipes are guidelines. Recipes show the way. How and why you make changes will determine the outcome. Is it motivated by a need to be creative? Is it an allergy? Is it a lack of ingredients? Is it a shortage of time? And before you start ripping apart a recipe, you may look for an alternative. The recipe you want may already exist, it just takes a little more time to find it.
We have been working with Max Moore to develop and release Kitchen Scratchpad, the very first Ideas in Food app. Kitchen Scratchpad is designed for the kitchen and beyond. We've tested it with chefs, home cooks, food writers, and mixologists. It is the notebook that is always with you. Even if you lose or crash your phone, computer, or tablet, your information is stored securely in the cloud, ready for you to access it. Kitchen Scratchpad allows cooks, chefs, writers, food fanatics and dreamers to easily record and share their creations.
Kitchen Scratchpad allows you to create, capture and collaborate. It is a digital notebook for the kitchen. One key feature is being able to photograph a piece of paper or a notebook and then add it to a recipe. Your chicken scratch can then be transcribed into a proper recipe when you have more time. That recipe may then be shared with your entire team. You can also take step by step photographs of techniques and snapshots of finished dishes that can be attached to recipes to show exactly how a dish or ingredient is to be prepared and plated.
On the personal side of things, Kitchen Scratchpad has a place for prep lists, notes, private recipes, and other ideas. Grab screen shots and add them to a notebook of ideas for the future. Travel to markets and photograph ingredients. Add them to a notebook with thoughts on ways to use them.
You can e-mail recipes, notes, and ideas to colleagues or even to yourself. Start a recipe and send it to your sous chef to get things started in the kitchen. With Kitchen Scratchpad your work can be shared or kept private.
The built in calculators allow you to convert measurements and temperatures in addition to completing your calculations. You can pull it up in the app and use it as you're creating recipes.
What about all the recipes you already have? Import the documents into Kitchen Scratchpad and then they will be available to everyone on your team. There's no excuses for forgetting a garnish if they can access the recipes on their phones. We prefer to use the web App on our computer for large imports. It's easier to work with a larger screen and be able to access your archives in order to organize your recipes in their new home.
Forgot which notebook that recipe was in? If you've put it into Kitchen Scratchpad you can always find it with a quick search. And as you tweak and adjust dishes, you can update the recipe and the changes appear universally to everyone who has access to the file.
Concerned about the wrong people tweaking your recipes? Allow read only options. That way you maintain control of your dishes.
There is one huge disclaimer. Kitchen Scratchpad does not create recipes for you. It's a tool to help you organize and share your recipes. You have to create the material. When you do, Kitchen Scratchpad is there to help to help you capture the details, organize the collection, and share it with your team.
This was the Harbison by Jasper Hill Farm. It wasn't quite ready when we bought it so we let it temper under a glass dome at a cool room temperature for 24 hours before we lifted off the top. The cheese was elastic and smooth. It had a haunting smokiness to it, perhaps from the bark that was wrapped around it. It was creamy and earthy, with the complex flavor of springtime sunshine in the meadow beside the the barn. We made a meal out of it and savored every bite. This is the kind of cheese that exemplifies what great cheese is all about.
We continue our culturing explorations. This time we went in a different direction. We pureed our honey roasted sunflower seeds with water and added fresh yogurt. We cultured the mixture in the CVap at 44°C for 5 hours. Then we chilled it. The sun-yogurt gave off a surprising amount of whey. The flavor of the yogurt was sweet, nutty and rich. The whey tangy and honeyed. Since the whey wanted to separate we opted to follow its lead. We have the yogurt hanging in cheese cloth, concentrating even more. We shall see if they are better apart or together.
March 15, 2011
With panna no-cotta under our belts, custard was next. We put sugar, salt and egg yolks in a blender. We put milk and cream into a pot. We turned the blender on low as we brought the dairy to a boil. Then we drizzled the hot cream mixture into the running blender with the yolks. We increased the speed to medium high to fully blend the ingredients. We turned off the blender and checked the temperature of the custard base, it was 75°C. We poured the mixture back into the pot and cooked it over medium low heat until it reached 82.5°C. Then we cooled it down to 44°C and stirred in some yogurt to culture the custard.
We decanted the base into a variety of bowls and placed them into a CVap Pod set at 44°C for 5 hours. The custard firmed and gelled. It still had some wiggle. We put it in the refrigerator to cool overnight. When we tasted them this morning the custards had a delicious tang and a nicely balanced flavor. The lactic notes kept the richness of the yolks and sweetness of the sugar in check. Unfortunately, the texture is still not quite right. Perhaps with the addition of cream, sugar and egg yolks we need more time to culture the custard so it thickens a bit more. I forgot to add the non fat milk powder in this version, which also would have increased the culture's ability to thicken the custard. We put several back into the CVap this morning to culture further. We shall see what the additional time does for the texture and flavor.
With pistachio yogurt under our belt the next step was making a cultured panna cotta. Panna cotta is a dessert that has made an indelible impression on us. At its best it is smooth and luscious, delicate, rich, and softly sweet. Funny that it was the first thing that popped into our heads because we were never planning to cook this cream.
We combined milk, cream, sugar, non-fat milk powder, salt, vanilla and yogurt in the blender and pureed it until smooth. This generated a frothy head of tiny air bubbles. I hastily poured the mixture into a shallow baking pan. I opted not to decant the base from the air bubbles. This ended up being a controversial decision. We put the mixture into the CVap set at 44°C. (110°F.) and cultured the mixture for 4.5 hours. When I pulled it from the CVap it had a light wiggle and the air bubbles had set into a honeycomb layer. We chilled the panna no-cotta overnight. When we spooned into it it had a layer of firm bubbles with a smooth tangy base beneath. It was a beautiful panna cotta. The bubbles were not my favorite, though Aki liked the texture. Next time I'm going to decant the bubbles so we can compare. And I think another hour in the CVap will give us a slightly firmer texture that will mimic our favorite panna cottas.
March 13, 2009
We started with the base yogurt recipe from our book Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work. Then we modified it. We didn't bother to heat the milk. We put the milk, salt, roasted pistachios, yogurt, and non fat milk powder in the blender. We pureed the mixture until the nuts appeared to be obliterated. Then we strained the mixture into a shallow pan and put it into a CVap set at 44°C, (110°F.)
The yogurt set in 3 hours and 15 minutes. This was a much shorter time than we had previously experienced with plain yogurt. The shallower pan and the nuts may have expedited the process. When we scooped into the yogurt we saw that it had layers. The nuts had risen and formed a slightly darker layer on top although the flavors of both the nut and yogurt permeated the entire mixture.
So why did we use milk and yogurt instead of just nut milk and a starter culture? We like the way they balance out the intense flavor of the nuts. Too often I end up trying to do things the most difficult way just to see if it works, instead of searching for the most delicious results. We may work on a pure nut-milk or coconut-milk yogurt. We had great success with cultured coconut in Maximum Flavor. This time we thought we'd rather eat a blend, letting the creamy dairy flavors round out the deep, nutty pistachios. It's opened up a world of possibilities.
1200 grams whole milk
315 grams roasted, salted pistachios
150 grams whole milk yogurt
40 grams non fat milk powder
Put the milk, pistachios, yogurt, and non fat milk powder in a blender. Turn the blender on low and increase the speed to high. Puree the mixture until it looks and sounds smooth, about 1 minute. Turn the blender off and strain the pistachio milk into a shallow pan. Put the pan in a CVap set at 44°C. (110°F.) Culture the yogurt for 3 hours and 15 minutes, until it appears to have thickened and set. Remove the pan from the CVap and cool the yogurt. Think of some cool and delicious way to enjoy it.
March 12, 2011
It's funny how certain food memories stay with you. I've been an avid pizza lover my whole life but I couldn't tell you when I had my first slice. What I can tell you is about the first time I ever really tasted cheese and crackers. I was young, not yet in school so maybe 4-5 years old and the neighbors across the street were having some sort of small afternoon party. They had three kids one of whom was my age so I spent a lot of time over there playing with them. That particular afternoon they must have had nibbles out for their friends because I remember being offered a plate of cheese and crackers.
It was sliced sharp cheddar cheese (I found this out later) and every slice was laid out on a cracker, probably Ritz or Stoned Wheat Crackers. You weren't supposed to take one without the other and I was hungry so I tried the combination. I remember the slightly nutty flavor of the cheese, salty and creamy against the crunch of the cracker. It was crumbly and sweet, crunchy and savory and I immediately knew I was going to want more. Being a practical child, even then, I asked what we were eating and the mom showed me the square log of Cracker Barrel sharp cheddar cheese. I noted it and afterwards when I went home I asked my Aunt Marie to buy me some. We went to the supermarket together, okay we almost always went together, but it was especially important that time because I was able to pick out the cheese myself and make sure it was the right one. I went home and recreated the perfect cheese and crackers and never looked back.
This spawned a lifelong love affair with cheese. I never did manage to develop a taste for mild cheddars, they are too bland and buttery for me. That said, my fascination with the rich tang of sharp cheddar is still with me, happily supplemented by a desire to taste and experience every new cheese I come across. From the rich triple cremes to the dry Parmigianos there is always something wonderful about a carefully made cheese, wrapped and stored with love and expertise. Even now Alex and I occasionally make a meal out of cheese and crackers, with salad on the side. It's a perfectly satisfying meal that hits all the high points in my mouth and takes me down memory lane. Of course now there are usually a few more choices on the cheese plate and we each cut and spread our own but the heart of the meal is the same.
March 11, 2006
215 grams radish greens, from 2 bunches of radishes
150 grams olive brine, from a jar of olives
75 grams olive oil
0.66 grams xanthan gum (0.15% by weight)
Remove the green, leafy tops from a bunch of radishes. Wash the radishes and their greens. Set a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. Blanch the radish tops in the boiling water for 2 minutes, until tender. Transfer to the ice bath and cool completely. Do not leave them in there too long or they will get waterlogged. Squeeze the water out of the radish tops and put them in a blender with the olive brine and olive oil. Turn the blender on low and increase the speed to medium high. When the radish top puree is smooth, turn the speed down to low and sprinkle in the xanthan gum. Increase the speed to high for 5-10 seconds to fully disperse and hydrate the xanthan gum. Transfer to a bowl and use immediately, dipping radishes in their own sauce.
March 10, 2005
We combined eggs, ricotta, pesto and spaghetti squash. We poured the mixture into a pan and slid it into a CVap set to 75°C with no additional browning. The frittata took longer than we estimated to cook. We ended up leaving it in the Cvap for 1hour and 45 minutes. When it was done we let it rest for ten minutes before slicing it. The texture was soft and smooth, silky as a custard. The spaghetti squash was nutty, with a hint of roasted bananas. There was a slight crunch from the almonds in the pesto and a rich earthy flavor from the herbs. The slow, gentle cooking allowed the essence of all the ingredients to come forward, while leaving us with a juicy, just set frittata unlike any we've tasted before..
March 9, 2009
We put equal parts sugar and honey into a pan set over medium high heat. We added raw hulled sunflower seeds and salt. We cooked the seeds in the sugars, stirring constantly. The honey and sugar started to color first. The seeds followed closely behind. When the seeds were golden brown we removed them from the pan and put them on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. When the seeds were cool they were crunchy and slightly sandy, nutty and totally addictive.
March 8, 2012
March 8, 2005
I love ramen, it's one of my favorite things. Pete Wells wrote about it this week for the NY Times and with all this cold weather it's been on my mind. I grew up eating ramen and udon. As a kid, I would always order noodles at Japanese restaurants. Dumplings, negimaki, and noodles were the only things I ordered for years. Instant ramen was always in the cupboard at home. It was one of the first things I learned how to cook. My mom and I loved going out to little hole in the wall places for ramen and gyoza. Years later, decades later if I'm honest, ramen has passed through being a fad to being a staple, especially in my hometown of NYC. The only thing I don't like is how few people cook it at home.
I'm not talking about instant ramen, though that can be dolled up into a substantial meal. I'm talking about a fresh bowl of ramen noodles, cooked in a pot of boiling water and added to soup with various vegetables, proteins, and spices. There are some wonderful books on noodles but they don't do much to dispel the Tampopo myth that great ramen cannot be had without perfect long simmered broth. Here's the truth, that broth is why you eat ramen in restaurants. At home any rich, tasty broth will work. In essence it's noodles and soup with a few garnishes. Chicken broth pressure cooked from leftover bones from that roast chicken dinner and reinforced with leftover spare rib bones from the freezer will be delicious. Seaweed dashi soaked overnight in the refrigerator and then simmered with shrimp and vegetables will make a light delicious bowl of ramen. Leftover chicken soup with fresh vegetables, a simmered egg, and hot noodles will be one of the most comforting meals you'll ever have. Let's make real ramen at home. Nobody says it has to be authentic, it just has to be delicious.
The ramen above evolved after Alex stumbled on some beautiful beef ribs. We salted them and left them on a rack in the fridge. A few days later we ended up braising them, just to save them. Sometimes our schedules don't allow us to cook as much as we'd like. Yesterday afternoon he carved out some time and made me and Amaya some homemade ramen noodles. Lacking a pasta extruder you can buy fresh ones in any Asian market and dried noodles in most supermarkets. Then he warmed up the ribs in their braising liquid, leaving it brothy instead of reducing to a glaze. We shaved some leftover cabbage, sliced some green onions, and added some kimchi from the ever present jar in the fridge. The final touch was a few sliced jalapenos and dinner was done. Ramen, our way.
March 6, 2005
We combined Parmigiano Reggiano, cream, milk, sugar and sodium citrate in a Thermomix. We brought the mixture to 80°C and cooked it for 45 minutes. Then we sheared in 0.1% guar gum by weight. Finally we tempered in buttermilk for an additional lactic punch. We strained the base and quickly chilled it down and froze it.
When the gelato blocks were solid we popped them out of the molds and shaved the Parmigiano Reggiano gelato as we would the cheese. We piled the shavings on a chilled plate. We added a spoonful of sherry reduction and a sprinkling of Murray River pink salt. The gelato looks like a simple plate of cheese. Upon tasting diners discover a surprise in temperature and texture, cool and silky, melting on the tongue, with the intense flavor of the cheese.
The idea of covering an ice cream with a foam stems from Sam Mason's work at wd-50, grapefruit in grapefruit. His initial exploration of the idea has stayed with us. Reflecting years later, Sam just replaced one foam with another: whipped cream for grapefruit, or beer. It was that simple substitution which opened the flood gates of possibilities. Most recently we took blood orange sherbet and covered it with a lemongrass tonic foam. The cold infusion of lemongrass balanced the bitterness of the quinine. The lightness of the foam allowed the flavor to coat and then dissipate on the palate letting the buttermilk and blood orange linger. We have all topped ice cream with whipped cream. We have not all seen the possibilities of changing what we already know and do. Seeing opportunity in the everyday is a skill worth polishing. What can we rework with that is right in front of us?
We often reach for confectioners sugar to add sweetness to a dish. What we overlook is how easy it is to add flavor. You can grind powdered sugar with other ingredients, from nuts to freeze dried fruits to whole spices, in the food processor to create something powdery and flavorful. The cornstarch in the sugar helps absorb any moisture from the other ingredients and keep everything soft and light. Savory blend-ins like Szechuan peppercorns or chile powders actually benefit from a touch of sweetness to balance their spice. Once we make some seasoned sugars we look at what dishes can benefit from a dusting of flavor, and a whole new world opens up.
March 2, 2005
Changing form changes function. Often we eat sauteed apples on steaming bowls of oatmeal sprinkled with brown sugar. Here we made a toasted oat flour cake studded with apples. We added a crackling sugar crust. The same base ingredients create remarkably different products. Both are sweet and satisfying breakfast options with various applications. Looking at what we use and how we use it opens up the possibilities to new ideas.
March 1, 2011
March 1, 2009
March 1, 2007
March 1, 2005
Michael Recchiuti made burnt caramel famous. By following his passion he has mastered caramels. From the packaging to the flavors these caramels deliver. The clean lines of the box lure you into the decadent trifecta of caramel inside. The salted butterscotch was our favorite. The fleur de sel caramel and dark chocolate enrobed caramels are close seconds. These caramels demonstrate that simplicity and complexity are best when balanced.
Young Thai coconuts are delicious and pretty easy to deal with once you get the hang of them. Wen you see them in the stores they are rounded with slightly pointed tops. The point tells you where to open them. You want to cut into them 2-3 inches from the tip. You're basically paring away the outer hull to get to the shell over the center. Once you've exposed the rounded shell use the base (heel) of your knife to flick it open. Voila. You'll never have to drink canned coconut water again.