12/31/2009

Crepes Suzette: Does Flambe Matter?

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First off, happy new year to all! I've been having a relaxing time at home over the holidays, and the break has been a good chance to try out some new things in the kitchen, including making crepes. It was Christmas morning, and we had a bunch of oranges in the house along with a nip of Grand Marnier, so I thought why not try Crepes Suzette? I've never actually eaten Crepes Suzette, but know of it as a classic recipe that utilizes flambé. The recipe I used was this one by Bobby Flay, that did not include any flambéing. An alternative recipe by Nigella Lawson states to "Warm the orange liqueur of your choice in the emptied but still syrupy saucepan. When the crepes are hot in the orange sauce, pour over the liqueur and set light to the pan to flambé them." (She also says to use store-bought crepes, so I don't know how much to trust this particular recipe.)

So what does flambéing accomplish? Is it even necessary? I had heard somewhere that it is simply for show, and nothing more. Others claim that the flames consume any alcohol in the sauce, thus changing its flavor--and then some. Wikipedia states: "Because alcohol boils at 78°C, water boils at 100°C and sugar caramelizes at 160°C, ignition of all these ingredients combined results in a complex chemical reaction, especially as the surface of the burning alcohol exceeds 240°C."



But that logic is assuming that the entire dish (or at least the surface of the food) is engulfed in flames during the process. If the flames are only above the food, this whole reaction won't happen (although some alcohol may be consumed in vapor form). This book explains that, in order to achieve a proper flambé, one needs to heat the liquor mixture to a temperature above the flash point, which is "the lowest temperature at which the liquid gives off enough vapor to ignite on exposure to a flame." Why vapor? Ethanol is more easily ignited in vapor form than in liquid form (even fuel is burned in vapor form rather than liquid). A cold liquor will not ignite because there is not enough vapor, which is why flambé recipes require heating of the liquor beforehand. Heat it above the flash point (for a 50-50 mixture of water and alcohol, it would be 75°F), and the vapors will ignite when a match is brought close to the pan.

So if only the vapors above the pan burn, doesn't it mean that the supposed caramelization of flavors doesn't really happen at all? The most that would happen, I would think, is that perhaps more of the alcohol would be consumed than if you simply simmered the liquor mixture. However, I must admit I have never actually flambéd anything, so anyone who has more experience cooking or tasting flambé dishes, give me your qualitative (or quantitative) opinions on whether it does more for your dish than create a fancy show!

12/24/2009

Happy Holidays from Lab to Kitchen!

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Hope everyone is indulging in some delicious holiday eats and drinks! Frohe Weihnachten!



And the indie rock version...

12/20/2009

Cherry & Amaretto Ice Cream

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After the more-or-less success of the fig & port ice cream from last post, I thought about other variations on this "alcohol plus dried fruit" theme. I had some leftover amaretto liquor on hand, plus some dried cherries from Thanksgiving... yes, another ah-ha moment--cherry & amaretto ice cream! This time I had less of both the liquor and cherries, so I cut the recipe down a little. No more amaretto also meant I couldn't add extra at the end if I felt it wasn't amaretto-y enough, which it wasn't, but this was not a bad thing.

The final product tasted a lot like Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia (but without the chocolate pieces, which one could easily add at the end). I would also say this had the best texture of all the ice creams I've made, due to the addition of alcohol that softened the final product and made it super creamy and scoopable.

Cherry & Amaretto Ice Cream

1/4 c dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/4 c amaretto
1 c whole milk
1 c heavy cream
3 egg yolks
5 Tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
  1. Combine cherries and amaretto in a bowl to allow the cherries to soften and absorb the amaretto, for about 2 hours or more.
  2. While the cherries soak, combine cream and milk in saucepan over low heat, add a pinch of salt, and bring to a simmer. As it heats up, whisk egg yolks with sugar until they turn pale yellow and fluff a bit.
  3. When mixture is simmering, turn off heat and pour 1 c very slowly into the yolks, making sure to keep whisking so the eggs do not scramble. Then add back to saucepan and turn on medium-low heat.
  4. Keep stirring over heat until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Then take off heat, cover and refrigerate until it cools. After the figs have soaked, use a few pulses of an immersion blender to chop the cherries to small shreds, but do not puree. Combine with custard and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Freeze in your ice cream maker.
Also I want to note that after soaking the cherries, they didn't become quite tender, which worried me. However, after freezing the combined custard, they became nice and soft as opposed to the figs from last post, which ended up a bit more firm. All in all, a delicious treat that (in my opinion) tastes better, more natural, and packs in more robust cherry flavor than any store-bought cherry ice cream. Very highly recommended!

Next up: Italian inspiration!

12/15/2009

Fig & Port Ice Cream

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I have developed a "like" of port wine over the past year for two reasons. 1) I received a bottle of amazing (and probably quite expensive) shiraz port for Christmas last year, and it changed my mind about how port can taste; and 2) Since then, a favorite recipe of mine is this one from Giada, pork with fig and port sauce. Of course for cooking I bought a lower quality port, which I found basically undrinkable as a result of being spoiled last Christmas. But I was amazed at the combination of figs and port, and from then always thought of using them together in a dessert. Tada, fig & port ice cream!

Sound weird? It's just a riff on rum raisin ice cream, which I thought I'd hate but really enjoyed. I used dried figs, half good port and half not-so-good port (best if you use a good-quality one, but I can understand that most people won't have it lying around). But because its flavor comes through so strongly in this ice cream, I would use a better one next time. Also the significant amount of alcohol in the custard will prevent it from freezing firmly, so I would freeze it in the ice cream maker, then keep it in the freezer overnight before eating it. Texture was softer than other ice creams I've made in the past, which was actually an improvement! The figs I ended up chopping with an immersion blender because I didn't want big chunks of frozen fig, but rather small shreds of fig dispersed throughout.

Fig & Port Ice Cream

1/2 c dried black mission figs, roughly chopped
1/3 c + 2 Tbsp good-quality port
1 1/2 c whole milk
1 c heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1/2 c sugar
Pinch of salt
  1. Combine figs and port in a bowl to allow the figs to soften and absorb the port, for about 2 hours or more.
  2. While the figs soak, combine cream and milk in saucepan over low heat, add a pinch of salt, and bring to a simmer. As it heats up, whisk egg yolks with sugar until they turn pale yellow and fluff a bit.
  3. When mixture is simmering, turn off heat and pour 1 c very slowly into the yolks, making sure to keep whisking so the eggs do not scramble. Then add back to saucepan and turn on medium-low heat.
  4. Keep stirring over heat until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Then take off heat, cover and refrigerate until it cools. After the figs have soaked, use a few pulses of an immersion blender to chop the figs to small shreds, but do not puree. Combine with custard and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Freeze in your ice cream maker.
I have to warn you that I was taken aback by the smell of this ice cream, especially in custard form. It scared me a bit, that I had ruined yet another ice cream, since the custard had such a strange, almost savory scent. Originally I had added less than 1/2 c of sugar because I thought the port would be overwhelmingly sweet on its own, but I eventually had to ramp it up spoonful by spoonful. Something about the intense, eyebrow-raising smell and taste of alcohol mixed with cream and eggs made me seriously doubt this flavor's success.

Thankfully, when I froze it the next day, it was delicious... but not immediately. It required a little thought. I ate a spoonful, and it was a shock to the senses at first, then a sort of "ahh, it's port and figs" moment. Any hint of "savory" went away with freezing, which was a big relief. And yes, you can definitely still taste the alcohol.

Next up: Same but different!

12/02/2009

Apple Crisp with Ginger Ice Cream

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First I must apologize for the lack of posting these days! I have had quite a month... including swine flu (yes, really--they even swabbed my nose for it!), missing being a maid of honor because of said swine flu (congrats again, Jen + Jordan!), and hours upon hours of basement lab torture (of both the experimenters and the experimentees). On the upside, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends, actually my first without any family members present. I wanted to share the recipe that some would say was the hit of the night, haha. First I wanted to make a pie, but alas, the lab prevented something so time-consuming. So I thought, what's easy and fast? Immediately I thought of apple crisp, since I've made it in the past and as desserts go, it doesn't take very long to put together.

I found this recipe by Ina Garten that I altered a little, threw in some homemade ginger ice cream, and the results were fabulous! I really enjoyed the combination of the two, and it was interesting to see people's reactions--some favored the crisp more, others were fascinated by the ginger ice cream. Ginger seemed like a natural choice, since its spiciness would go well with the sweetness of the apples, as well as complementing the spices already flavoring the apples, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Apple Crisp with Ginger Ice Cream

For the apple crisp
6 medium to large Braeburn apples, peeled and cut into wedges
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c rolled whole grain medley (oats, wheat, barley + flax seed)
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 lb cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch sized pieces
  1. In a large bowl, combine apples, sugar, lemon juice, zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix until apples are evenly coated with juice and spices.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine flour, whole grains, sugars, and salt in a smaller bowl. Add cold pieces of butter and massage with hands until mixture becomes crumb-like and largest pieces are about centimeter sized.
  3. Arrange apples in casserole dish or ramekins, then generously sprinkle crisp topping over apples. Bake for about an hour, or until apples are bubbly and soft, but not overcooked.
For the ice cream
1 1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c whole milk
4 egg yolks
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
5 Tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
  1. Combine cream and milk in saucepan with grated ginger and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar until they turn pale yellow and fluff a bit.
  2. When mixture is simmering, turn off heat and pour 1 c very slowly into the yolks, making sure to keep whisking so the eggs do not scramble. Then add back to saucepan and turn on medium-low heat.
  3. Keep stirring over heat until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Then take off heat, strain into a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Freeze in your ice cream maker.
One thing to note, I had some trouble with the ginger ice cream. The first time I tried to make it, the ginger actually reacted with the milk and cream, causing them to curdle. So I acted quicker the second time and tried not to over-simmer, and it worked better, but didn't thicken to the extent prior custards have. Also I noticed when I strained the custard, there were some bits of cooked yolk that caught in the strainer, oops. But when I froze the ice cream, it came out less creamy than I would have liked, but overall not bad.

Also notice that in the picture, I used a ramekin, but that was only one of two that I put remainder apples and topping into. Don't think I was crazy and brought tens of little individual ramekins to my Thanksgiving potluck dinner! I had one of those large rectangular foil pans with high sides, and reheated the whole thing in the oven before serving it with the ice cream. If you do choose to use ramekins, make sure to cut the apples in smaller pieces like cubes, not wedges.

Next up: Not sure yet!

11/17/2009

Panko Breaded Asparagus with Pecorino Romano and Thyme

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I picked up some nice asparagus at the fruit market and was wondering what to do with it when I realized I had panko breadcrumbs left over from the family vacation that I hadn't used yet. My mom usually uses them for breading shrimp, but I thought panko breaded asparagus would be something new and worth trying. Panko breadcrumbs are much "fluffier" and have more crunch than traditional breadcrumbs since they are made from crustless bread. This was my first attempt at panko-ing anything, and I thought it turned out quite well. The asparagus was fully cooked inside (maybe a little too soft, I might turn up the heat next time so the breading cooks faster), very tender and the rich earthy flavor came through nicely with the crunch of the panko. Also I enjoyed the sensation of eating something panko-ed with thyme and a strong cheese, as opposed to traditional Asian-style accompaniments.

Panko Breaded Asparagus with Pecorino Romano and Thyme

1/2 bunch asparagus (8 to 10 spears)
1 c Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c flour with sprinkle of salt
1 egg
Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprig of fresh thyme
1/4 c Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  1. Cut off ends of asparagus spears and wash. Prepare 3 shallow bowls or plates: one with beaten egg, one with tempura flour, and one with the breadcrumbs.
  2. Meanwhile fill a large saucepan with about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil over medium-low heat. The oil is ready for frying when a piece of breadcrumb sizzles and turns golden brown after a minute or two.
  3. Dredge the asparagus first in the flour, then egg, and lastly in the breadcrumbs. Drop in the oil and fry on one side until golden brown, then same for the other side. This shouldn't take more than a few minutes on each side. Then place them on a plate with paper towel to collect excess oil.
  4. After doing this for all the spears, arrange them on a plate and season with pepper, more salt if necessary, red pepper flakes, grated cheese, and fresh thyme.

Next up: An ice cream for autumn!

11/05/2009

Warm Confetti Potato Salad

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As I noted in a previous post on brussels sprouts, Russ Parsons has dug up some interesting facts about the vegetables we eat every day. This time, about potatoes, he writes: "Tubers reproduce asexually. As every elementary school science student has learned, if you cut a potato into pieces and sow them in the ground, each piece will grow a plant exactly like the one you started with (they are true clones)." How creepy! Although potatoes do tend to have an alien look about them sometimes, with their amorphous figures and eyes that stare. Kind of reminds me of the cover of this old Stephen King book of short stories my parents had with the drawing of a hand with eyes all over it.

Besides these downsides, they are delicious cooked in every which way, and come in so many great colors and shapes. I bought a baby potato medley and thought I would try my own take on a simple recipe by Parsons. You don't have to use the fancy colored potatoes (although they certainly look beautiful), but make sure to use waxy potatoes for this recipe, not starchy potatoes. According to Wikipedia, "For culinary purposes, varieties are often described in terms of their waxiness. Floury, or mealy (baking) potatoes have more starch (20-22%) than waxy (boiling) potatoes (16-18%)." Russets are known as baking potatoes, and their plentiful starch cells absorb water when cooking and separate, leading to fluffy potatoes. Also that's why you see russets specified often in recipes for gnocchi, since you want that lightness of the dough. Waxy varieties (I assume all the potatoes in my medley were waxier than russets) have less starch and tend to hold their shape better during cooking.

Warm Confetti Potato Salad

1/2 lb confetti potatoes (I used a mix of baby Yukon Gold, Purple Peruvian, and Red La Soda potatoes)
1 Tbsp butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp whole-grain mustard
1 tsp ground cumin
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cut potatoes (skin on) into small cubes, about 1-2 cm a side. Steam until easily poked with a fork, while still retaining their overall shape (about 15-20 minutes). Meanwhile in a bowl, combine butter, mustard, and cumin.
  2. When potatoes are done, add them to the bowl directly from the steamer basket and mix everything until potatoes are well-coated. Salt and pepper to taste, then sprinkle rosemary on top and serve.
A two-step recipe, an amazing first for this blog, especially with the lengthy souffle recipes of late. Simple, yet delicious--the butter and starchy water from the steamed potatoes forms a sort of thickened base that reminded me of a sticky potato salad. Hence the name, but I definitely prefer this side warm rather than cold. I tried both, but I thought the warmth went better with the spice of the cumin and mustard, which I felt became rather muted straight out of the fridge. A very "cozy" tasting dish, highly recommended as a simple winter side.

Next up: Something panko-breaded!

11/02/2009

Butternut Squash Souffle

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In my last post, I learned a valuable lesson regarding why my previous souffle had fallen. The main gist: I didn't allow the souffle to cook long enough, which prevented the egg white proteins from fully denaturing and reforming a cage-like structure, and thus causing the top of the souffle to fall without sufficient structure below to hold its weight. With this in mind, I decided to make a Thanksgiving themed souffle using butternut squash (although pumpkin could easily be substituted) and spices.

Butternut Squash Souffle

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and roasted (for instructions go here)
1/2 c heavy cream
1/4 c whole milk
2 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1/4 c sugar, plus extra for dusting the ramekins
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Splash of vanilla extract
Butter to grease the ramekins
  1. Puree butternut squash with blender and set aside to let cool.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat cream, milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla to a simmer.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk yolks and sugar until pale yellow. Add a cup of the hot cream mixture very slowly into yolks while continuing to whisk. Then add yolks and cream back to saucepan and keep stirring over low heat. Mixture should thicken in a few minutes, then turn off heat and incorporate into squash puree.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, making sure the rack is near the bottom. Place a baking sheet in the oven. Butter your ramekins and dust the insides and rims with sugar.
  5. Then take egg whites in a clean bowl and whisk until glossy. It should form stiff peaks when you remove your whisk from the bowl, and should be able to hold the weight of an egg. Use a spatula to combine the egg whites scoop by scoop into the squash mixture, making sure they form a fully homogeneous mixture, but do not overmix.
  6. Carefully scoop your mixture into the ramekins up to the rims. Bake on lower rack for about 25 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. They should rise, but with firm tops and jiggly centers. Makes about 4 souffles (or one large one if you wish).

To tell you the truth, I still messed up in the end! I undercooked the souffle (but this time less so), as you can see from the photo above. The tops are not golden brown, so if you replicate this dish, leave them in for longer. These souffles did deflate slightly, but only after several minutes, instead of right after removing them from heat as with the black tea souffle, and not to the same extent. So I have yet to master the souffle as some people have, but I suppose I'm on the right track. The flavor itself was delicious, very reminiscent of pumpkin pie, but with such an airy and feather-light texture. I could easily see this as either a side dish (you could cook it in a large casserole dish) or a dessert alternative to traditional pumpkin pie.

Next up: A super simple side!

10/28/2009

BLT Prime's Giant Popovers

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A restaurant on my "Must Try" list is BLT Prime, supposedly one of the best steakhouses in New York, featuring dry-aged steaks and mouth-watering sides courtesy of chef Laurent Tourondel. I saw him and his restaurant featured on After Hours With Daniel, and the giant popovers he serves as pre-meal bread looked amazing--huge and crusty, with a soft spongy inside. The recipe for these popovers is no secret, but I must admit that the recipe doesn't seem to quite live up to the real thing (as far as I can tell) since mine didn't come out quite as crusty-looking. (Anyone know the science behind crusty bread?) But they were delicious nonetheless, and I would make them again, with maybe a tweak to the recipe here and there to try to get them as beautiful as Laurent's. Also I added some grated Pecorino Romano and chopped rosemary on top instead of the usual Gruyere.

BLT Prime's Giant Popovers

2 eggs
1 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
Olive oil to grease muffin tin
1/2 c grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
  1. Grease a muffin tin with olive oil and place in an oven heated to 350°. Sift flour and salt into a bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, heat milk over medium heat until it begins to simmer. As it heats, beat eggs until frothy in a large bowl, then slowly add milk while whisking as not to scramble eggs. Then add flour and salt slowly until you have a smooth batter.
  3. Remove muffin tin from the oven and add batter about 3/4 full in each cup. Drop muffin tin from an inch or two off the table to tease out excess air (so you don't get a hollow center). Add a sprinkle of cheese and rosemary over batter.
  4. Place on baking sheet to catch drips and cook for 15 minutes. Then rotate pan for an even rise, and cook for another 35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and serve.
A light and airy--as well as dramatic--alternative to traditional biscuits or rolls for your Thanksgiving meal. I wish I added more cheese on top, since I didn't get enough cheese or rosemary flavor as I wished, but perhaps incorporating them into the popover batter could help solve that issue. Also, no deflating occurred because I cooked them sufficiently which allowed the egg proteins to fully set and support the structure of the popover. Which clearly failed to happen with my previous souffle, but lesson learned! To prove this point, I removed one popover a bit early, before the top had turned a golden brown, and it immediately started to lose its proud puffy structure. When I opened it up, the middle was mushy, hence the toppled top. Last time when my souffle fell, it was most likely due to the fact that I hadn't cooked it thoroughly enough (I had been afraid of overcooking). Time to take on the dreaded souffle once more!

Next up: Using what I learned to make a festive dessert (or side)!

10/27/2009

Brussels Sprouts Lardons with Cherries and Walnuts

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With Thanksgiving coming up so soon, I started thinking about what kinds of dishes I could make for the occasion, specifically sides and desserts (in my opinion, the most fun parts). Two Thanksgivings ago, I discovered my love for brussels sprouts. Before that day, I never tried a brussels sprout in my life, if you can believe it. My sister and I roasted them whole, with olive oil, salt and pepper. I loved the explosion of flavor as you popped them in your mouth and bit into them, a very earthy and rich flavor with some crisped up bits on the outside. Even more recently, I saw what they look like on the stalk--alien-like, even! How could so many people dislike such a great vegetable?

Turns out that most people overcook them and, as Russ Parsons describes, they are "high in chemical compounds that produce hydrogen sulfide when exposed to heat for a sufficient amount of time." What's so bad about hydrogen sulfide? Wikipedia responds: "Hydrogen sulfide is the principal odor of untreated sewage and is one of several unpleasant smelling sulfur-containing components of flatulence." Hmm, so now I see the potential downside of brussels sprouts...

But! If you cook them correctly, they will be a delicious side to your Thanksgiving meal. I riffed on this recipe for brussels sprouts lardons, also imparting some wisdom from Parsons on how best not to produce excess hydrogen sulfide. P.S. "Lardons" refers to the pancetta in the recipe (although actually it is supposed to be straight-up fat) used to flavor the brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts Lardons with Cherries and Walnuts

1 lb brussels sprouts, halved and with small cut down the middle of stalk
1/2 c dried cherries
1/4 c chopped walnuts
2 oz pancetta (or bacon), cubed
1/2 c low-sodium vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat, then add pancetta. Allow to cook until browned and crisp, then turn off heat and remove pancetta only (keeping the leftover oil and fat in the pan).
  2. Reheat pan over medium heat and add brussels sprout halves, stalk-side down. Cook for 8-10 minutes, then add stock to pan and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until stalk has become slightly tender.
  3. Then toss sprouts around for a few more minutes and add cherries, walnuts and pancetta. Cook until all components have evenly been heated, and the cherries have absorbed some liquid.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste, then serve!
What a simple recipe, and the components went together really well--the earthiness of the sprouts and the saltiness of the pancetta, along with the sweet-tart cherries and crunchy walnuts for texture. I also enjoyed this method of cooking brussels sprouts, as a good alternative to my usual roasting method.

Next up: Another festive dish!

10/25/2009

Eat Your Pasta: Handmade Pasta with Pancetta and Butternut Squash

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One meal I had in Rome that stands out was the signature dish of a family-run restaurant in Trastevere called Trattoria di Lucia. The dish is apparently unique to Rome, called spaghetti alla gricia, and only requires two main ingredients: guanciale (cured pork cheek) and Pecorino Romano cheese. So simple, yet delicious. I wanted to add more of a "fall/winter" spin on it, and found some good-looking butternut squash and brussels sprouts at the fruit market that I thought could go well with the pancetta (unfortunately I found no guanciale) and cheese.

Handmade Pasta with Pancetta and Butternut Squash

1 lb. handmade (or store-bought dried) noodle pasta
1 medium butternut squash, split in half and peeled
4 oz. pancetta, cubed
1 1/2 c of brussels sprout leaves
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  1. First roast the butternut squash: place in roasting pan with a little oil, roast at 400° for about 30 minutes or until soft. Cut into cubes and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, start boiling a pot of water for the pasta, making sure to salt and oil the water. Put the pasta in when boiling, remove and strain when al dente.
  3. Heat olive oil in saucepan, then add pancetta and cook over medium heat until slightly browned. Remove only pancetta from saucepan and place on paper towels. Add brussels sprout leaves to saucepan with oil, toss to coat and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add butternut squash to pan with brussels sprouts and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Then add cooked pasta and pancetta to pan and toss for a few minutes.
  5. Plate and grate a generous amount of cheese over the pasta.
The pasta turned out quite good, although I would probably eliminate the brussels sprouts next time since they didn't provide much flavor. Also the noodles themselves were a bit too thick, as I mentioned in my last post. But overall, I thought the butternut squash provided a smooth and sweet counterpart to the salty pancetta and Pecorino Romano. P.S. In case you are wondering what the garnish is, I wanted to try frying some sage leaves that I had leftover from the ice cream of a few days ago. They looked nice, but I have to be honest, I didn't end up eating more than a bite!

Next up: Some holiday dishes!

10/24/2009

Make Your Own Pasta (By Hand)

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I recently visited Rome and must admit that, despite my dreams of heavenly Italian food at every corner, I had both good and bad food experiences there. Because I was doing all the typical tourist activities (Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Vatican City, etc.), I frequently ended up at the more touristy restaurants selling the more mediocre food. But I did happen to have a guide book with me (an excellent one, by Rick Steves), which was great help in terms of sifting out the hidden gem restaurants, and the rest I found through walking around more neighborhood-y areas and outdoor markets.

So in the end, I did get a taste of some delicious and interesting foods: chocolate tiramisu from a store that sells nothing but different kinds of tiramisu (it was amazing), unknowingly buying and cooking horse meat (wasn't bad, but a bit too funky-smelling for my tastes), chestnuts roasted by street vendors on top of what looked like antique stoves, to-die-for panna cotta with "caramello" on top, the most tomato-tasting tomatoes I've ever had in my life, and on and on. Oh and one can't forget the once-a-day gelato quota, where I had some flavors that to this day I'm still not certain of ("cassata siciliana"?).

When I returned back to the States, I thought... why not try making my own pasta? I thought also of gnocchi, but pasta seemed easier to me and a good first step. I don't have a pasta machine, or even one of those pasta rollers (which now I know are probably very worth it to buy if you plan to make pasta often), but I found a recipe that claimed you could make noodle pasta without any additional equipment.

Handmade Pasta

2 c all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp olive oil
  1. Sift flour and salt onto cutting board, and create well in the middle. Break eggs into well, and also add milk and olive oil into well.
  2. Using your fingers, mix liquid and dry ingredients together carefully until you form a ball of dough. Dust your surface with flour and knead the dough for several minutes, then wrap in plastic and let sit for 15 minutes.
  3. By now the dough should have a nice, slightly elastic texture. Dust your surface again, more generously, and roll out the dough as flat as you can (I would even suggest working with half or a quarter of the dough at a time), less than 1/8 of an inch, to a rectangular shape.
  4. Flour some more, then pick up the rectangle and fold it loosely into thirds. Using a large knife, cut thin strips to make your noodles (I would recommend about 1/4 of an inch thick).
  5. Hang them over something (I used a laundry basket) to dry for at least 3 hours. Then cook as you would your regular dried pasta.



Overall the dough was quite easy to work with, although I definitely broke a sweat rolling the dough so thin (which in the end wasn't quite thin enough, hence I say thinner than 1/8 of an inch). That's the crucial part, I think, in making a decent pasta. Because I didn't roll mine thin enough, the texture was not as enjoyable as a store-bought kind, and plus some noodles had tiny air bubbles trapped inside. Perhaps next time I'll try a ravioli or a simple hand-torn pasta rather than the effort of noodles.

Next up: What I made with it!

10/21/2009

Honey Sage Ice Cream

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It has been awhile since the last interesting ice cream, so I decided to post a quick and easy ice cream with ingredients I already had--and it turned out to be my favorite one yet! The other day, I bought a whole bunch of nice-looking items from the fruit market (hopefully to be used in a recipe to come), fresh sage being one of them. Just the way sage smells is intoxicating (according to Dr. Martin Lersch, sage may have common odorant molecules with chocolate!), and I'd gladly take any excuse to use more sage in cooking. I originally had something else in mind for its use, but I had a bit of an "Ah-ha!" moment when I thought... sage and honey flavors in ice cream--I have to try this!

Honey Sage Ice Cream

1/2 c heavy cream
1 1/2 c whole milk
About 8 large leaves of sage
3 egg yolks
1/4 c honey
  1. Combine cream and milk in saucepan with sage leaves (squeeze them to bring out their oils for more flavor) and bring to a simmer. Then remove from heat, cover and let infuse for 1 hour.
  2. After infusing, remove sage leaves and put back on low heat. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and honey until they turn pale yellow and fluff a bit.
  3. When mixture is simmering, turn off heat and pour 1 c very slowly into the yolks, making sure to keep whisking so the eggs do not scramble. Then add back to saucepan and turn on medium-low heat.
  4. Keep stirring over heat until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Then take off heat, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Freeze in your ice cream maker.

This ice cream really blew my mind! First off, even the custard smelled heavenly, but tasted a bit too sweet. Freezing tempered the sweetness and it turned out much better than I expected. The contrast of sweet honey and refreshing sage in a cold, creamy form (along with the crunch and spice of a gingersnap cookie that I ate with it) was to die for. A winning recipe for sure, that I can see myself making again and again. Next time maybe I'll even put a gingersnap cookie crumb swirl into the ice cream itself.

Next up: Inspiration from Italy!

10/17/2009

TGRWT #19: Round-Up Posted

4 comments

After every TGRWT ("They Go Really Well Together") challenge, to which I submitted my Black Tea Souffle, a round-up of all the entries is posted by the host blog. The full round-up of TGRWT #19: Tomato and Black Tea can be found on Medellitin here. All in all, a really fun experience! It definitely got the mind and senses churning to try and come up with something. I'm really curious as to what the next pairing will be. Whatever it is, you can guarantee I'll be entering!

Next up: Now I know!

10/15/2009

Food Place: Chincoteague Island, VA

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My family and I recently took a trip to Chincoteague Island off the coast of Virginia, a beautiful vacation spot with beaches, wild ponies, and plenty of seafood just waiting to be plucked from the ocean and eaten. There are opportunities to fish, crab, and pick fresh oysters, mussels, and clams. We caught blue crabs, oysters, and mussels (pictured above)--all were delicious. I'd say my favorite was the fresh raw oysters, although it was a shame we didn't catch more of them.

We went crabbing first, which I thought consisted of simply putting a trap in the water and waiting, but the woman at the bait shop said we could lure them towards the water's edge with a piece of fish on a string. Then you net them, which actually turned out to be the most difficult part. Getting them to take the bait was fairly easy, and there were plenty of them lurking around the bottom although some were too small to take. The crabbing area itself (photo below) was actually in Assateague Island, directly east of Chincoteague Island.


We caught a total of nine blue crabs, and killed them first by placing them in boiling water very briefly. This caused their pretty blue shells to turn a typical red--as for why this happens, look here. A simple question, a really complicated answer! But essentially it seems a protein that is one of the main components of many crustacean shells normally is bound to a molecule called astaxanthin, but when this protein is denatured by heat when the crustacean is cooked, the change in configuration releases its bond with astaxanthin and this molecule then causes the red color.


We opened them up, removed the upper shell, then chopped them in half and put in a large pot for a crab kimchi stew. Along with the crab halves, we added water, onions, kimchi, tofu, and various other spices (my parents made it so I don't have exact ingredients).


Also bought some shrimp for the grill, which was delicious even with no seasoning, but a little hard to peel.


As seen in the first picture, we also caught tons of mussels (a huge netful, to be exact). We steamed them in beer, with some onions and garlic. Delicious! Actually we originally went to the area for clams, but couldn't find any, but my mom did find tons of mussels! Plus a few oysters, which tasted amazing straight out of the shell with no accompaniment.


All in all, a great vacation and highly recommended spot. Make sure to stop by Woody's Beach BBQ for fried chicken and ribs!

Next up: Not sure yet!

10/05/2009

Make Your Own Slow-Poached Egg

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According to my parents, I was such an egg fan when I was a baby that I would laugh and point whenever I saw anyone even cooking an egg. But somehow over the years, I started to dislike eggs--well mostly, I despised the egg whites. I would always pick out the chalky yellow sphere from any hard-boiled egg I was given, or spoon out the runny innards of the over-easy egg, much to the outrage of my parents. What happened? Did my taste just change over the years? I still love egg yolks (but only runny ones, except for in egg salad), but my taste for egg whites diminished after years of rubbery and/or netty whites, improperly cooked.

Those unnatural textures made me lose my appetite, not the "flavor" of the white. For instance, I love a poached egg where the white is slightly fluffy and soft. So when I read and saw about how one can slow-poach an egg, I thought I would give it a try.

The science behind the slow-poached egg (as written by chemist and molecular gastronomist Herve This) is that the proteins in white and yolk begin to denature, or lose their structure, at different temperatures (white at 63° C and yolk at 65° C). When you place an egg in boiling water (100° C), it is an easy and thermometer-free way to take the temperature of the egg up enough to denature the proteins and thus have your cooked egg. But the timing (usually "4 to 6 minutes" for soft-boiled) is inexact because it will vary from egg to egg depending on its size. So theoretically, to get your perfect egg (runny yolk, set but not rubbery white), you must keep your egg somewhere between 63° C and 65° C until all white proteins have fully denatured.

Experimentally, it takes some practice. For instance, how long do you keep the egg at the given temperature? Various sources state times ranging from 20 to 60 minutes. It all depends on how you like your eggs (and how accurate your thermometer is). Wylie Dufresne, who popularized the slow-poached egg on his menu and on Top Chef Masters, prefers his yolk with a fudge-like texture and says to heat to 64° C for 55-60 minutes.

Because I do not own a circulator, I used a plain oven thermometer and a pot of water over very low heat. I tried to maintain temperature at about 150° F for 40 minutes.



When you crack the egg open, make sure to do so over a bowl because basically a poached egg comes tumbling out! Very weird. It worked out fairly well, probably more in a Wylie-style than my own--I would have liked a more runny yellow, but it was more fudgey. Next time I might try a longer period of time at a lower temperature, because I want the white slightly more set and the yolk more liquid. Still delicious though, and no rubbery or netty white part! I'm thinking of many accompaniments to decorate this new kind of egg!

Next up: Some food photos!

9/29/2009

TGRWT #19: Tomato and Black Tea

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I promised you some real science this time, and well, you will get it but not really in the way I originally intended. I had something else in mind, but deadlines are deadlines. And October 1st is the deadline for monthly cooking challenge TGRWT #19: Tomato and Black Tea hosted by Pablo at Medellitin. TGRWT (They Go Really Well Together) was initiated by Dr. Martin Lersch, a chemist with an interest in finding new and fascinating flavor combinations based on "the hypothesis that if two foods have one or more key odorants in common it might very well be that they go well together and perhaps even compliment each other." Essentially this stems from the fact that an estimated 80% of a given tasting experience comes from odor. Read more about pairing by odor on Martin's blog here.

I decided to try my hand at this month's TGRWT, tomato and black tea. Not an easy combination of flavors, I would say, since I've never heard of any dish combining the two. Actually I have to admit that I never had a sweet or savory dish that used black tea at all, except tapioca milk tea which doesn't count as a dish really. So to start with, I decided I wanted to do a sweet dish, and in particular a souffle for a couple reasons. For one, a souffle is a bit of a "blank slate" similar to ice cream where one can infuse almost any flavor, and souffles are even more versatile since savory flavors are readily accepted. And second, I've only made one souffle in my life--at a cooking class with my sister, where all 20 or so of the students' chocolate souffles fell--so why not take on a new challenge? Lastly, on the first episode of the show After Hours with Daniel, Daniel Boulud serves this unbelievable-looking, super-tall green tea souffle for dessert. Green tea... black tea souffle?


Upon searching online, I found two recipes from which to base the souffle off of: this jasmine tea one by Ming Tsai and, of course, one by Daniel himself. I decided to leave the black tea flavor largely untouched in the souffle (just a tiny bit of vanilla), and used tomato and plum in the caramelized sauce.

Black Tea Souffle with Caramelized Tomato-Plum Sauce

For the sauce
2 plums, peeled
4 tomatoes on the vine
4 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp butter

For the souffle
2 Tbsp black tea
1/4 c + 1 Tbsp heavy cream
3 Tbsp whole milk
Splash of vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
2 Tbsp sugar, plus extra for dusting the ramekins
Butter to grease the ramekins
  1. Peel plums and blanch tomatoes to peel them, by plunging in boiling water for a several seconds (until you start to see splits in the skin). Cut both plums and tomatoes into medium-sized pieces, then puree with blender.

  2. For the sauce, melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar spoonful by spoonful and stir, waiting for each to melt before adding the next. Then add half of puree, wait for sugar to melt once more, and add remainder. Let reduce by about half, then take off of heat and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat cream, milk, vanilla and tea to a simmer. Then take off of heat and let infuse for about 20 minutes. Then strain mixture, add 1 Tbsp sugar, and put back on medium-low heat.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk yolks until pale yellow. Add a ladle of hot cream mixture very slowly into yolks while continuing to whisk. Then add yolks and cream to saucepan and keep stirring over low heat. Mixture should thicken in a few minutes, then refrigerate for about an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, making sure the rack is at the bottom. Place a baking sheet in the oven. Then take egg whites and whisk until glossy. It should form stiff peaks when you remove your whisk from the bowl. Use a spatula to combine the egg whites scoop by scoop into the cold cream mixture, making sure they form a fully homogeneous mixture, but do not overmix.
  6. Butter your ramekins and dust the insides and rims with sugar. Carefully scoop your mixture into the ramekins up to the rims. Bake on lower rack for 15 minutes. They should rise, but with firm tops and jiggly centers.
  7. Warm up the sauce, and serve with the souffles.

First, the good news: The souffles tasted really good (pretty much like tapioca milk tea in a warm and fluffy form), and so did the sauce (tartness of the plum, sweetness of the tomato). And did TGRWT? Overall, I thought this was an eccentric but successful pairing. When I first smelled the tomato and black tea together, I thought it made sense--it reminded me almost of a tomato and herb combination. Implementing it was more difficult, but nonetheless, I thought the bold and earthy black tea was offset well against the sweet and tart tomato-plum combo. The tomato here showed off its true "fruitiness", being treated as such in the puree, but it also kept its distinctive "heartiness" in the aftertaste.

The bad news: The souffles fell! Sadness all around:


I tried to mask it with the sauce here, but you can still see the sad wrinkles on top. Clearly, I failed to whisk the egg whites long enough on one hand (I did it by hand... arm cramps), and on the other, I didn't bake for long enough (I did 12 minutes instead of 15) for the outside to set. This isn't the end of the souffles for me, I'm determined to make them as good as Daniel!

Next up: A different way to cook a household staple!

9/26/2009

Momofuku's Cereal Milk Ice Cream

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During my last trip to New York City, I felt inspired by a number of mouth-watering foods: freshly made spicy guacamole at Dos Caminos, frisée Lyonnaise (with chicken livers and a poached egg!) at Bar Boulud, a flight of chilled red wines at Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar, and Shake Shack's 'Shroom Burger--a portobello mushroom and hunk of cheese breaded and deep-fried. In terms of dessert, my sister and I went to Momofuku Milk Bar for some of their trademark (literally) cereal milk soft serve, which was delicious and interesting with a definite essence of cereal milk in it. But I wondered how the overall effect would be as a more solid ice cream rather than as a soft serve, and figured it should be quite easy to make.

So I did... and it turned out decadent and rich, with the sweet taste of Honey Bunches of Oats (my chosen cereal) contrasting the slight tartness of pure milk. I decided to use a higher cream-to-milk ratio than I did with the previous ice creams, to try something different. I personally thought it was a bit too rich (as in, I probably couldn't eat a whole bowlful), but others preferred the thicker texture.

Momofuku's Cereal Milk Ice Cream

1 c heavy cream
1 c whole milk
1 c cereal of your choice
3 egg yolks
1/4 c sugar (approximately, depends on sweetness of cereal)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine cream and milk with cereal of your choice. Refrigerate for up to 30 minutes.
  2. Strain cereal out and discard. Put mixture in saucepan with sugar (to taste) and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks until they turn pale yellow and fluff a bit.
  3. When mixture is simmering, turn off heat and pour 1 c very slowly into the yolks, making sure to keep whisking so the eggs do not scramble. Then add back to saucepan and turn on medium-low heat.
  4. Keep stirring over heat until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Then take off heat, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Freeze in your ice cream maker.

As I mention above, the amount of sugar (and overall flavor, of course) will vary with the cereal you choose to use. I chose Honey Bunches of Oats because that's what I've been eating lately, and I had it handy. Also I thought the honey flavor would go well with the "pure milk" flavor. I think Milk Bar has made cereal milk ice cream with Fruity Pebbles and some other cereal I can't remember right now. But I could easily see making this ice cream again, maybe with a chocolate flavored cereal, and also because it is so easy to make compared to other ice creams. No pureeing or major straining/juicing involved!

Next up: Some real science!

9/24/2009

Eat Your Ice Cream: Peach Cornbread

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Peaches are officially out of season now, but I saw a few remainders at the fruit market and thought I would try to make something that went with the sweet corn ice cream from a few posts back. As I mentioned in the post, a scoop of the ice cream over a warm piece of cornbread would be simple and delicious, and seeing as I was inspired by a recent taste of the best cornbread ever (at Woody's Beach BBQ in Chincoteague Island, VA), I decided to make some peach cornbread.

The thing is, this cornbread I had wasn't your typical kind--it was very sweet and had the texture of a cake, with almost no grittiness. So I tried to find a recipe that called for less cornmeal and more flour, and found this one. The description sounded like what I was looking for, but unfortunately (and by no fault of the recipe, just not the type I wanted) it was still too gritty and not fluffy enough. It also wasn't as sweet as the Woody's cornbread. But as a regular cornbread, it was still okay. Next time I would add more sugar and probably increase the flour-to-cornbread ratio.

Peach Cornbread

1/2 c white cornmeal
1/2 c flour
1 peach, diced
3/4 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp butter, melted
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. In one bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg with milk and melted butter.
  2. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, and gently whisk together until just combined with minimal lumps.
  3. Fold in the diced peach, and pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake for about 20 minutes.


After the cornbread was done, I let it cool slightly and then cut a square, placed a scoop of the ice cream on top, and surrounded it with pieces of peach sauteed with some sugar and honey. The peach and corn flavors melded very well together and was a nice summery combination, although I wish the cornbread had been more cake-like.

Next up: Copying a famous ice cream...

9/21/2009

Cinnamon Beet Ice Cream

2 comments

I promised a unique ice cream, didn't I? A few posts ago, I mentioned that I picked up some things that looked good at the farmer's market without having ice cream in mind, then thought "what if...", and the first item was sweet corn. The second thing I bought was a bunch of beets to maybe make a beet salad. I had never worked with fresh beets before, and now I understand why people complain so much about everything turning red in their kitchen after peeling and cutting fresh beets. Imagine using an immersion blender to puree your beets--I had plenty of red splatter marks everywhere, including all over the very laptop I'm typing on now.

Beet ice cream doesn't immediately come to mind when thinking about what to use beets for, but I also didn't think it was such a stretch. Beets go well with "sweet", for instance in beet salads often there will be a sweet component like honey or fruit. And indeed I found recipes online for beet ice cream, most of them riffs off of a recipe by Thomas Keller. I followed the recipe for the most part, but decided in the end that it was a bit too "pure beet" for my tastes and added some cinnamon and a little vanilla.

Cinnamon Beet Ice Cream

About 1 pound beets
1 1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c cream
3 egg yolks
6 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Peel and dice beets. Puree with blender (or juicer if you have one). Strain with a sieve, pressing down on pulp, and set juice aside.


  2. Remove pulp from sieve into a saucepan with milk and cream. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, then remove from heat and let infuse for up to an hour.


  3. Strain the mixture and place the liquid back into the saucepan. Discard beet pulp. Turn on medium-low heat once more, and add 3 Tbsp sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Meanwhile, beat 3 yolks and remaining 3 Tbsp sugar in a separate bowl until it turns a bit frothy and pale yellow in color. Pour about 1 c of the simmering mixture slowly into the yolks while whisking to prevent scrambling. Keep whisking for a few minutes, then transfer all back to saucepan.
  5. Keep stirring the mixture until it thickens to a custard, and coats the back of a spoon. Then refrigerate overnight.
  6. Take the beet juice from earlier and reduce to about 1/8 c over low heat. Also refrigerate overnight.
  7. Combine the custard and beet juice, then freeze in your ice cream maker.

The ice cream certainly tasted very strange, a much stranger sensation than the sweet corn ice cream. The beet flavor is overwhelming, even with the cinnamon added in, and and first I thought it was too weird for me to enjoy. But as I had a few more bites, it started to grow on me... earthy and sweet, with a bit of spice. My sister also enjoyed it, and said it reminded her of sweet potatoes. I still would say that beet ice cream isn't something I would make all the time, but with the right food pairing, it could be delicious. Any ideas?

Next up: Something to eat your sweet corn ice cream with!

9/19/2009

Make Your Own Horchata

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Whenever I go back home, I try to visit a Mexican place downtown for two reasons--amazing guacamole with housemade chips and the horchata. Horchata (at least in the form served at these Mexican places) is a refreshing rice-based drink with a hint of cinnamon and nutty flavor. Kind of like rice pudding in milky drinkable form, and since I'm a big rice pudding fan, I thoroughly enjoyed horchata from the very first sip. I didn't know whether the horchata I'd previously had was housemade or not, but after my attempt to make my own, I have to assume it was probably store-bought in a powder form. Not to insult the taste or quality of it, but rather to say I found horchata much more difficult to make than I thought it would be. A lot of work for a drink! I made some mistakes along the way as well, unfortunately.

I based the recipe off of this one from Rick Bayless, except I ended up adding more ground cinnamon as the flavor from the stick alone wasn't strong enough. My first mistake was trying to blanch the almonds myself. Various sources claim that after pouring boiling water over the almonds and waiting for 5 minutes, the skins "slip right off". I must have done something wrong because I resorted to rubbing them one by one on a grater to start with, then peeling the remaining skin off with my fingernails (plenty of almond got up under them too, which hurt). Even if the skins on all the almonds came right off (some of them did), what a pain to have to peel a tiny skin off of 1 1/4 c of almonds--more than this many:


Horchata De Almendra

2/3 c rice, medium or long grain rice (I used jasmine rice)
1 1/4 cup almonds, pre-blanched
3-inch piece of cinnamon stick
Ground cinnamon to taste
2 c whole milk
2 1/2 c hot tap water
Sugar to taste (about 1 c)
  1. Combine rice, almonds, water and cinnamon stick in a bowl. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight.


  2. Blend on high with about 1/2 c sugar until the mixture is as smooth as possible, until the graininess is very fine.
  3. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth, trying to get out as much liquid as possible. Pour into a pitcher, add milk and more sugar and cinnamon to taste. Serve over ice.

The second mistake I made was using just a sieve to strain out the remaining solids of rice and almond. It ended up too grainy, and I had to let the drink sit for some time and then ladled the liquid off the top (I had no cheesecloth with me). I would highly recommend using the cheesecloth. But overall, the horchata itself still turned out delicious and refreshing, and I dare say better than the horchata I've bought in the past. (Note: I also saved the pulpy solids from above to try my hand at an horchata ice cream. Will report back later.)

Next up: A unique ice cream, for real this time!

9/16/2009

Sweet Corn Ice Cream

3 comments

As I mentioned in my first post, I recently bought an ice cream maker (this one) with the idea of making interesting flavored ice creams. At first I thought of the flavors I've had in the past that were less common but enjoyable such as ginger or red bean, but then I thought, what would happen if I made some really off-the-wall flavors that could maybe work, but would nevertheless be a totally new taste experience?

I decided to trek forward with this thought in mind as I started with some ingredients I already had from the farmer's market, the first of which was sweet bicolor corn. Now I'm kind of a corn fanatic. It is one of those "go-to" foods, that I can never get enough of, and often order a dish at a restaurant simply because of the presence of corn. I've been stuffing myself with bicolor corn all summer, and now that we're at the tail end of it, why not celebrate with a refreshing treat that combines two summer essentials: sweet corn ice cream.

Having never seen or eaten sweet corn ice cream before, I found some recipes online (these two) to start with, and went my own way from there. I decided not to add vanilla or any other flavor accompaniment because I wanted the pure fresh taste of "just corn" to shine through, and I also didn't want it too sweet.

Sweet Corn Ice Cream

1 ear sweet corn
1/2 c heavy cream
3/4 c whole milk
3 egg yolks
2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  1. Shuck corn, cut kernels off into a bowl, and break the cob into thirds.

  2. Put cream, milk, kernels, and cob pieces into a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 2 Tbsp sugar and bring to a boil. Remove cob pieces into a bowl and blend mixture with immersion blender until kernels are fairly pureed. Infuse for up to 1 hour with cobs added back in.


  3. Meanwhile, whisk yolks with 1/2 Tbsp sugar until they become lighter in color and airy, about a minute or two. Bring corn mixture back to a simmer, then turn off heat.
  4. Slowly pour in 1/2 c of hot corn mixture into the yolks while whisking to prevent eggs from scrambling. Keep whisking for another minute, then add back to saucepan over medium-low heat.
  5. Make sure to keep stirring the mixture until it thickens to a custard, and coats the back of a spoon (it took 10-15 minutes). Then put custard through a sieve, pushing it through thoroughly, and refrigerate the custard for at least 4 hours.
  6. Freeze in your ice cream maker and eat!

I made a small amount because I was experimenting, but I thought (and others too!) that the ice cream turned out fantastic. Not overly sweet, and bursting with the crisp taste of fresh corn. Also would be delicious scooped over a warm slice of cornbread or with honey drizzled on top.

Next up: Another unconventional ice cream!

9/10/2009

Eat Your Radish: Vietnamese Sticky Chicken

3 comments
So after making the simple pickled radish, I needed a meal to eat it with. I found this recipe for "Vietnamese sticky chicken" in a lettuce wrap style that uses a similarly pickled daikon. However, I don't own a benriner (a Japanese-style mandolin), which is suggested in order to thinly slice the chicken. I would like to buy one, but since I just bought an ice cream maker and subsequently also an immersion blender (this really cheap one, has worked out great so far!) for the ice cream bases, I should probably lay low on purchasing kitchen appliances for awhile.

So I sliced the chicken in thin pieces by hand instead, and didn't use a real grill which I'm sure would have made it taste better. Also made some modifications to the recipe in terms of accompaniments to the chicken. But overall, not bad. Not as "sticky" as I would have expected but I did enjoy the marinade. I would also recommend marinading for longer than 30 minutes.

Vietnamese Sticky Chicken

For chicken
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp Asian fish sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 1/2 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices


Accompaniments
Pickled daikon radish
Fresh herbs: Cilantro, basil, mint
Seaweed squares and/or romaine lettuce leaves
Rice
  1. Combine garlic, sugar, fish sauce, oil, lime juice, and Sriracha sauce in a large bowl. Mix until sugar is dissolved, then add chicken slices and toss to coat. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Afterwards, put chicken on grill batch by batch (I used a George Foreman grill) with tongs, and cook thoroughly on both sides for about a minute. Then remove from the grill and onto a plate, then cover to keep warm.
  3. Then arrange and eat with accompaniments however you please, usually with some rice, chicken, herb sprig, and radish on top of a lettuce leaf or seaweed square.

Here's the spread of the chicken with various accompaniments:


I tried every combination and this was my favorite:


Seaweed square + rice + chicken + radish + cilantro. I did think this was a dish that highlighted the crispness of the fresh pickled radish.

Next up: Interesting ice creams!

9/08/2009

Make Your Own Pickled Radish

1 comments
A coworker gave me a bunch of daikon radishes the other day and encouraged me to try pickling them, saying it was super easy to do. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to try, they had wilted badly and refused to even peel properly, so I bought a nice new one from the fruit market. I used this recipe, except I replaced the canning salt with kosher salt (which is OK, but regular table salt is a big no-no for pickling). Also the recipe is for radish and carrots, but I wouldn't recommend the carrots. They seemed a bit out of place to me, and I ended up just eating the radish.

Pickled Daikon Radish

1/2 pound daikon radish
1 carrot
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 c water
1/4 c distilled white vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp red pepper flakes

  1. Peel the radish and carrot, and cut them into thin (1/4-inch) half circles.
  2. Sprinkle the salt on the cut veggies, then mix them around with your hands. Let them sit for 30 minutes to let some water out. Afterwards, squeeze them handful by handful and get as much water out as possible.
  3. Pour over the mixture of vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes.


  4. Pack the veggies in a jar, refrigerate overnight, and they will be ready to eat the next day (but taste better after a week). Can be stored for up to 4 weeks.


Overall, they turned out quite tasty and not too spicy, but it is really worth making them a week or so in advance to allow them to develop a sharper flavor. Coming up, a meal to eat them with!

9/07/2009

First Post

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I decided to jump on the food blogging bandwagon mostly as a way to document all the little things I want to try in the kitchen as well as out. Things like... interesting ice cream flavors (just bought an ice cream maker!) and making food you would normally buy (pickles, butter, etc.). Plus whatever random thing outside of the kitchen I feel like trying. Enjoy!