Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fettuccine with Brussels Sprout and Pine Nuts

After realizing that my blog was awash with meat recipes, I decided it was time to go vegetarian for a day. A little known fact, I was a vegetarian myself for nearly three years. While I could have used one of my old standby vegetarian recipes I thought it would be nice to try something new. As always, when you try something new you have to acknowledge the risk that you might not like it, or that it might not work out. To hedge the risk of a failed meal I went with something simple. This is a six ingredient recipe with a familiar medium, that being pasta.

If you don't like brussels sprout, I suggest you give them a try here. Usually when people eat or serve them they're eating the boiled and therefore, bland version. They aren't boiled in this recipe. Instead, we thinly slice them and lightly saute them with the oils and pine nuts. This results in a totally different brussels sprout flavor. And it's a good one too.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How to boil water

Yes, I am writing about how to properly boil water. Why am I doing this? Isn't boiling water like, easy? Yes it is, it is dreadfully easy and I believe that is the reason why people usually get it wrong. By "wrong" I mean that there is a way to boil water which will make your food come out better. Maybe people think boiling water is as easy as throwing an indiscriminate amount of water in a pot, heating it until it is hot, and then throwing food in is all you have to do, but its not. People obviously know how to boil water, but I want to explain how to boil water better.

Pasta, vegetables, and even poached meats will come out better if you follow these three steps.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Roasted Split Chicken with Compound Butter and Vegetables

Unfortunately, this is the only picture I have of this recipe. The chicken went so fast I couldn't even snap a picture of it!
Yes, the name for this dish sounds a bit daunting but this roasted chicken recipe is just as easy any other. To make this recipe special, we brine the chicken and make a make a compound butter from garlic and fresh thyme. Compound butter sounds fancy, but really all we do is process softened butter and flavorings together to make a fatty paste that you apply to the chicken before you put it in the oven.

To make the meal more substantial we will also add vegetables on the bottom of the pan in which the chicken roasts. I recommend serving this version of roast chicken when you have four or more people to feed instead of my earlier roasted chicken post which will only serve three to four. Because were cooking for more people, we also need more meat. This recipe will use a 6 1/2 to 8 pound chicken which requires us to split the chicken in half so it can roast properly. Hence, split chicken.

How to split a chicken

Here's a quicky for my next post on split roasted chicken. This technique takes a whole chicken and turns it in to two large pieces that are best cooked at high temperatures. Splitting all other birds will basically follow the same technique as well.

Splitting a chicken:

Start with a whole chicken, breast side down:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sous Vide Chateaubriand with Peppercorn Oil

No, there is no turkey on this Thanksgiving table. Call me unpatriotic, but I really don't see the need to eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Or for that matter, eat any specific food on any certain holiday. I think you should make exactly what you want so you can reminisce about what you had years before and plan for years ahead. The monotony of turkey after turkey, Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving makes these special meals less memorable in my mind.

For this Thanksgiving, I want something different and something familiar at the same time. Something that you can remember from years past, and for years to come. To do this, I decided I would use a new technique on an old piece of meat. I decided beef tenderloin cooked sous vide was a good way to go. I never tried sous vide cooking before, but I knew a ton about preparing beef tenderloin.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Baked Apple "Pie"

Okay yes I hate turkey for Thanksgiving. In fact, about the only typical Thanksgiving day dish I do enjoy is apple pie. So I decided to make one. Since I like to complicate things I decided to take it to the next level, so to speak. Instead of making an apple pie, I made a "deconstructed" apple pie. Deconstruction, at least to me means that you leave all the flavors of the original food the way they are and then change the way it looks or vice versa.

Here I keep the flavors and slightly change the appearance. In this apple "pie" I remove the pie part and go for a whole apple look. Surprisingly, I would say this easier than making a real apple pie. It took less time too. So this is definitely a win-win for me.

Beggars Purses

Caviar is one of those things that everyone hears about but rarely ever eat. Why? Price. This recipe is for those of you who want to go out on a limb, or to indulge in one of your favorite hors d'oeuvre. The recipe per person will cost about 20 dollars. Stop now if you think that is too much for the gastronomic experience.

Most caviar is served with some creme fraiche on a blini or some type of fine bread, maybe topped with chives. Here, we are going to reinvent that typical serving method using the Quilted Giraffe's technique of replacing the blini with a crepe. We will also replace the creme fraiche with sour cream to provide a more American take on this serving method. To finish, we wrap up the crepe into a "purse" and tie it off with a few blanched chives.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

I recently bought Thomas Keller's book Ad Hoc at Home. To be honest, I wasn't overly impressed with the book as a whole. However, I can see how it would be a great book for other cooks looking for "Keller influenced" cooking that doesn't involve a lot of time and money. Anyway, I am not here to be a critic. What I am here to do is share a recipe with you. A damn good one if you ask me too.

Let me note that I am not using his recipe exactly here. I actually doctored it into what I thought was a better recipe so I wouldn't have to worry about any intellectual property complaints.

The only brine you'll ever need

If you have seen my post on Roasted Chicken, you would know that I am a huge proponent of brining poultry. In fact, I would venture to say that I will always brine chicken before I cook it, provided I have the time for it. The effects it has on every cut of poultry is just too much to pass up so I've decided to post my brining recipe and rules in a standalone post.

Brine recipe:

1/2 gallon hot water
1/2 gallon cold water
1 cup kosher salt (1/2 cup table salt)
1/2 cup white sugar

1. Add salt and sugar to hot water and stir vigorously.
2. Add the cold water and stir vigorously.
3. Let the water come to room temperature, or chill it to room temperature before adding meat.
4. Add meat and brine to a nonreactive container. (Glass, plastic, stainless steel, and ceramic are all nonreactive.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

Having a good soup recipe on hand during the fall and winter months that you can prepare in large amounts for Thanksgiving or Christmas is essential. I believe it should be as simple possible because you are probably in the midst of preparing other food for dinner that day. So, with that said I have decided to post my "back pocket" soup recipe. This one is so simple and so good, while at the same time it has very little calories and lots of nutrients. The presentation is actually my favorite part though. The contemporary color of this soup will be something you wont be forgetting anytime soon.

The recipe is very simple. So simple in fact that I am not using any measurements. (Except for the chicken broth.) I used medium/average sizes for all the vegetables and it works every time. Be sure to add more or less of each ingredient if you're using a large or small butternut squash, respectively. (Oh and no tempering needed here. We do not want to brown the vegetables, so take them straight from the fridge if you want.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Coming up: Thanksgiving

Next week for Thanksgiving I'll be making:

Brown Butter Crepe, Caviar, Creme Fraiche

Sous Vide Center Cut Beef Filet With Peppercorn Oil

Whole Apple Baked in Sauce, Vanilla Ice Cream

Posts to follow!

Edit: 25th of November
The recipes are posted. Click the links above.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


For years I was perplexed as to how professional cooks got meat to look the way it did when it came out on the plate. Whether it was the prototypical X marks on steaks and chicken or perfectly seared pieces of tuna, making food look they way I wanted it to always eluded me.

Just to clarify, I want to show some examples of what I think some food should look like and what it should not look like.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sausage, round one, fight!

Here it is. My first charcuterie post:

After weeks of salivating over Ruhlman and Polcyn's book Charcuterie, I have finally made my first batch of sausages. I wanted to start off simple, so after reading every damn recipe in the book I decided Jagerwurst was the way to go. After picking this recipe I realized however, I am no authority on German cuisine. Not even in the least bit. I know they like sausages and cooking things in fat, but that is about it. So here in this post I'm killing two birds with one stone; my first sausages and my first attempt at German cooking.

Since I am using Polcyn's recipe I won't be posting the exact details of how to make Jagerwurst. What I will do  however, is explain the basics of making most sausages. After that I will give the general steps used to get to a pretty little meat shaped into tube form.

As you read the rest of this post you'll see that making sausage does take an upfront investment of about 100 dollars. After this investment you'll be buying cheap cuts of meat to make a ton of sausage and sooner or later making your own sausage is going to pay off.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stuffed Cornish Hens

I've recently noticed that the Hannaford down my street is beginning to diversify their meat department. I noticed oxtails sitting next to the veal products and was determined to make Pho for dinner. Unfortunately they weren't there yesterday morning, so I decided to pick up some Cornish game hens. To my surprise they were not frozen and expensive as usual, but rather fresh packaged and decently priced. I knew exactly what to do with them when I saw them too.

Stuffing smaller birds such as quail, game hen, and poussin is a nice way to cook a whole meal in the oven. The bird is the protein/fat component and the stuffing takes the carbohydrate/starch component. It also looks very nice at the end with very little effort. Since it is fall right now I decided to use apples, cranberries and walnuts in the stuffing along with some cinnamon and honey. The base of the stuffing is a mix of Isreali couscous, orzo, baby garbanzos and red quinoa. While you might not be able to find exactly what I used, any type of grain, bean or grain/pasta blend should work.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cacio e Pepe

Nothing can get simpler than this. Cacio e Pepe translates to cheese and pepper in Italian because those are all the ingredients used to make this pasta dish. This is something everyone can make, its cheap and its quick, but it can still impress. Everyone's recipe and technique will differ on how to make this, but a few things are essential:

High quality dried spaghetti: Use a name brand spaghetti product. There are only four ingredients so we want the best of all of them. (I use De Cecco.)

Good hard Italian cheese: I used pecorino this time, but it is preferred that you mix parmigiano-reggiano (parmesan) cheese with pecorino. (Do not use the Kaft shake stuff here please. It says parmesan on the package, but it really isn't...)

Fresh cracked pepper: This is also important. Were making cheese and pepper pasta, so we want the pepper to be top notch. This is only achieved by grinding fresh black pepper. Pepper from the tin or the shaker will mar this dish I promise you.

Extra virgin olive oil: Make sure it says extra virgin and the oil has a dark green tone. "First pressed" e.v.o.o. is the most preferable here.

A lot of well-salted boiling water: I've said something about this before, but I will elaborate on why we need this for good pasta.

PPP Pizza

That's right. Pear, prosciutto and pecorino pizza is what I am making for this post. A completely contemporary take on the old peasant dish, this pizza pairs cured meat with sweet pears, salty cheese and a tangy balsamic glaze to finish it all off. The recipe is a little involved for a homemade pizza but store bought dough makes this a fail safe meal.

We need to prepare two ingredients before we get down to making this pizza. Here they are:

Peppery poached pears:
2-3 medium ripe pears, peeled, quartered and cored
1 quart water
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1. Bring water sugar and pepper to a boil in a pot.
2. Add the pears.
3. Boil for 10-12 minutes until tender, then remove from water and reserve. (Its best to get them to room temp.)

Balsamic reduction:
3 cups of any kind of broth, or water
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon butter

1. Bring first three ingredients to a boil in a sauce pan and reduce by half.
2. Add balsamic vinegar and reduce until about 1/3 of a cup is left.
3. Remove from heat and whisk in butter. Reserve for pizza.

To make the pizza:
1 lbs store bought dough
Crushed tomato (enough to achieve your desired amount of sauce)
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Grated pecorino cheese
4 oz. prosciutto
Peppery poached pears
Balsamic reduction
Parchment paper

1. Put oven rack to lowest position possible and set the oven to 500F.
2.  While the oven preheats, roll out dough into a 14-16 inch circle as best you can. Throw a piece of parchment paper on top and flip the pizza over so that the parchment is on the bottom. (Roll it out more if you need to after doing this.)
3. Fold a paper towel in half twice and soak it. Squeeze out most of the water then dab the 2 inches around the outside of the pizza with it. Roll the edges on the wet dough to make the crust.
4. Spoon the desired amount of tomatoes on the pizza and sprinkle a 1/4 cup of mozzarella on it as well. Slice the pears thinly and add to pizza in a uniform manner. Pull the prosciutto into pieces using your hands and evenly distribute over pizza. Throw a 1/4 cup of mozzarella on top of that and then cover the pizza in shaved pecorino cheese, to taste. Using a wisk or fork fling the reduction over pizza to lightly cover pizza. (You can always add more at the end.) Finish with salt and pepper.
5. Slide a sheet pan under the parchment paper and check oven temp. Make sure its up to 500F, this is a key to making a good crust.
6. Put the pizza in the oven for at least 10 minutes and check. Cook to your desired degree of doneness by poking the crust to see how hard it is. (I prefer my pizza brown with a crispy crust so I usually go for 13.)
7. Let the pizza rest at least 5 minutes, then cut.

When you're done, it should look something like this:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Umbrian Lasagna

I was feeling a little adventurous because of the new snow on the ground this Sunday. I decided to make a traditional lasagna from the Italian region of Umbria. This recipe is a little different from what we usually make in America for lasagna because there is no ricotta used for this lasagna. While some people are put off by this, I can assure you it is still lasagna and yes, it is still delicious.

The real trick to this dish is making fresh pasta dough. If you haven't made fresh pasta before it is probably because you know it is not an easy thing to do. However, it can be easily learned after one or two tries as long as you pay attention to your ingredients. I looked on youtube for awhile to find the best hand made pasta instructional video I could find. Here is what I found:

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