Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Root Vegetable Croquettes

In the picture: Root Vegetable Croquettes and Poached Egg with
Kabayaki Sauce and Sriracha Hot Sauce
After making a ton of root vegetable mashed potatoes for Christmas dinner, my cousin's boyfriend suggested I use the leftover mash for making croquettes. The idea grew on me, and I decided to make them for breakfast this morning. This recipe can be very simple but for presentation purposes, it can get a little involved. I am going to give you the regular recipe and then the presentation recipe to supplement it. Make the basic one at home for your family and friends if you are short on time or aren't concerned with presentation. Make the presentation recipe when you're having a special meal and when you have the extra time.

These croquettes are great for any time of the day. You can serve them like I did with eggs in the morning, or you can serve them with meat, vegetables, or a combination of both for lunch and dinner. Think of the croquette as your hash browns, mashed potatoes or french fries. Anything you eat with those foods, you can eat with these croquettes.

Root Vegetable Mashed Potatoes

Personally, I hate mashed potatoes. They're just not my thing. I'm sorry if you disagree with me, and I understand why you would, but mashed potatoes just do nothing for me. Maybe it's cause I'm not big on gravy either. Who knows? Anyway, for Christmas dinner I decided to make a different mashed potato recipe using some root vegetables with potatoes. I've been really big on these root vegetables lately. Mainly because I believe this is the time of year to serve them.

It's important to cut the ingredients into the specified size as potatoes, parsnips and rutabagas all have different cooking times. If you cut the vegetables into the right shapes/sizes, each will cook at the right pace so that all of the vegetables will relatively have the same consistency.

How to scale a recipe and how to read a scaled recipe

Scaling is a new technique I've been practicing with molecular gastronomy. It is a more precise way to make a recipe and it makes converting the recipe into different sizes a breeze. The only thing it requires is a kitchen scale.

To scale a recipe, first you need an "index weight." Basically, you keep the weight of an ingredient or the total weight of all the ingredients constant. From there, you "scale" the weights of all your other ingredients by dividing the desired amount of the ingredient in the recipe by the amount you kept constant. Essentially what we're doing is listing the relative ratio of ingredients to some constant determined by you or the recipe. (In theory, you could actually use any arbitrary amount as long as you kept it constant.) Here are the two examples of how scaling works.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pasta with White Wine Sauce and Sausage

In the picture: Some basil garlic sausage with the white wine pasta.
Okay, this is one of these posts where I am going to leave the finer details up to you. With this recipe I intend not to give you an "in and out recipe," but rather an idea that you can mold and use to fit your own tastes. Now, I obviously used what I had on hand, which happened to be some of the things I posted about recently. You don't need to make these recipes though, except for the white wine sauce. Go to the store, pick up some pasta and a few sausages and you're ready to go. (As long as you have the stuff to make the white wine sauce.)

Buy some sausage from the store; maybe a chicken sausage with basil and mozzarella, maybe a pork sausage with Italian seasonings. The point is to get a sausage you like, add it to some pasta with a light butter and onion sauce and enjoy. Most sausages will be heavily spiced so there is no need to make a complicated sauce for this meal. The pasta and sauce act as the potatoes in the typical "meat and potatoes" dish so loved by Americans.

Basil Garlic Sausage

Grinding some pork
So here is my second post on making sausage. After my friend Maggie brought up the fact that most people can't make this at home, I realized it is best to make this post short and sweet.

If you want to do this at home refer to my first post on making sausage, or if you are really serious, buy Polcyn and Ruhlman's book, Charcuterie. That book will get you rolling out sausages and other meaty dishes in no time.

As you will notice, all of my measurements are in weight and not volume. This is how you make a large scale recipe as the variance in ingredients is too great with respect to volume. If you don't have a scale then pick one up! You won't be able to make sausage without it.

What I will make a big deal out of here is the cooling process involved with the sausage. We do this to keep the fat firm. If the meat is at or near room temperature, the fat becomes like butter and we get a mealy dough of sausage in the end. Keep the meat cold and you will get a sausage with professional definition.

This is a loose sausage recipe, but you can stuff it into casings as well. I did half of each when I made this as I am using some of it to make the sauce for my Umbrain Lasagna tomorrow.

Stuffed in casings
Basil Garlic Sausage:
5 lbs of partially frozen fatty pork butt
40 grams crushed garlic
10 to 20 grams chopped basil
10 grams coarsely ground pepper
40 grams coarse kosher salt
1 cup chilled red wine

1. Dice the pork into large pieces and toss with the garlic, basil, pepper, and salt. Put this in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool the ingredients before grinding. Put your grinder in the freezer during this time as well.
2. Grind your meat along with seasonings into a bowl.
3. Add the red wine and mix the sausage with a kitchen aid or by hand until it has a tacky appearance as seen below.
4. Use as a loose sausage or stuff the mixture into casings.
Before the binding (mixing)

After the binding

White Wine Sauce

This is the first sauce recipe I ever learned in the kitchen. Even though I hadn't made it in a long time I still managed to make this from memory. Having this recipe memorized can get you out of some tough spots. It's flexible and contains only common ingredients in your kitchen. You can coat just about any food with this sauce, including pasta, vegetables, and seafood.

The only thing that I am particular about with this recipe is the reduction of the wine. You want to fully evaporate all the alcohol from the base of the sauce before you add the butter. To make sure you reduce all the alcohol from the sauce, watch the bubbles at the bottom of the pan. When you add the wine there should be an instantaneous cloud of evaporated alcohol and water rising from the pan. (If there isn't don't worry, your sauce will be fine.) After the cloud of vapor, there will be bubbles forming at the bottom of your pan. Observe the size of them. They should be very large at first. Once they get to be about 1/2 to 1/4 the size of the biggest bubbles you observe, your alcohol is evaporated.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Duck Prosciutto

Here is another Charcuterie post to follow some more of Polcyn and Ruhlman's Book, Charcuterie. This is one of the simplest and most accessible recipes in the book as it only requires a few easy to obtain ingredients. All you need is a good duck breast, some kosher salt, pepper, butchers twine and cheesecloth.

This was my first introduction to air drying meats and I learned a lot from it in the process. I also ended up with two perfectly delicious duck prosciutto breasts, so I am pretty happy with this recipe. However, I'd suggest trying duck prosciutto yourself before you invest your time and money in it. It is a very complex dried meat, at least in my opinion, and should only be made if you are going to actually like it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Menu

I am planning on doing a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new for Christmas, including a reverse spherification of horseradish cream. There is also a vegetarian option.

Blowtorch Prime Rib Roast with Horseradish Cream Spheres 
Root Vegetable Mash, Green Beans

Miso Roasted Tempeh
Mushroom Sauce, Root Vegetable Mash

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Duck Confit

Confit, noun (con-fee): meat that has been cooked and preserved in its own fat.

The first time I heard that word I thought to myself, "Confit? That sounds detailed and hard to do. After all, it is french." I would later find out that the technique of confit is actually very simple and straightforward. Now, obviously any recipe can be worked into a real difficult thing to make. While that would be fun and all, the point of this entry is to acquaint you with the basics of confit. Maybe in later posts I'll mess around with seasonings and all that but here, we only need two things: duck legs and duck fat. If you aren't familiar with confit, that's okay because luckily, it's simple to explain and understand.

Green Salad and Vinaigrette

I think a salad should be simple and easy to make. When you're pressed for time, or busy making other things in the kitchen, it's good to be able to whip up your salad in a minute or two. You can do so with this recipe.There is really nothing to cut or process except for crushing some garlic and whisking the dressing.

The most important thing you do here is the whisking and though and it may be a little extra work, it should be done right. What we do is slowly add and whisk the oil instead of mixing everything at once. This way we can create an emulsion of oil and vinegar. An emulsion occurs when liquids of very different densities are mixed together. By slowly adding oil into the vinaigrette and whisking we are able to mix the two different density liquids into one homogenous liquid. Most dressings you buy off the shelf will have emulsifying agents in them to aid in this process so that once mixed, the different liquids are easier to homogenize, or make it so the two liquids will never separate, or both. While a molecular gastronomer may have some extra emulsion agents laying around, we don't, so were going to have to do it the old fashioned way using a whisk.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pumpkin Panna Cotta


I made a lot of this pumpkin panna cotta stuff a couple of days ago but I never got to post about it until now. I was on a small hiatus as I was a bit busy studying. I am back now though and ready to get some cooking done.

As always, don't let the name of this recipe fool you. It sounds fancy but you could actually call this "cream of pumpkin jello," if you wanted to. Really all were going to do here is cook some cream with pumpkin puree in it, add some gelatin and chill it. It's really that simple.

The recipe yields something of a new age pumpkin pie. The panna cotta has the flavor of pumpkin pie filling and the texture of a creamy custard. The best part of this recipe though is it's serving flexibility. You can use my recipe to make the 8 panna cotta that I did, or you can put it in small 3 oz bathroom cups to serve about 16 people as a small dessert bite in a cup.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shrimp Scampi and Fettuccine


Shrimp scampi is an iconic dish served throughout America at nearly all levels of cuisine. You can throw it on all sorts of things from sandwiches, to pizza and even soups. Here we will be throwing it on some pasta. I think this is the best way to make shrimp scampi since pasta is usually the most reliable way to serve seafood.

While I used fettuccine for this dish nearly any string pasta such as spaghetti or angel hair will work. Or, don't even make the pasta, just eat the shrimp by themselves. A nice piece of garlic bread and some shrimp scampi will probably fill you up for dinner and cut down on cooking time since there is no pasta to make.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Beef Osso Bucco

In the picture: Beef osso bucco with a reserved marrow bone and some simple risotto.

Every great cooking culture has a dish like osso bucco. Meat slowly cooked in sauce is something that we all have come in contact with at some point. While there are a lot of recipes that use this technique, osso bucco is my favorite by far.

Traditionally, osso bucco is made with a cross cut veal shank, a portion of the calf's leg with the bone sitting in the center. This is the best way to make it, but it makes the recipe nearly inaccessible since veal shanks are hard to find and also very pricey. Beef shanks though, they're cheap and easy to find. I was lucky enough to find some beef shanks cross cut at the store and I just knew I had to make some osso bucco once I saw them.

Monday, December 5, 2011

CTC: Chocolate Tofu Cake

This is the easiest and healthiest chocolate cake recipe I think I have ever seen. Yes, you use tofu to make the cake. Yes, this may turn you off instantly. I get it. But if you are vegan, adventurous or even just a little curious as to how this might turn out, try it. A block of tofu will run you about three bucks, and the cake mix can be about three to four dollars. All in all you'll spend six to eight dollars making this cake. Add some frosting and it's about ten to twelve. Depending on how many slices you cut, this cake will be about a dollar or two per serving.

Chocolate tofu cake is a healthy, vegan, cheap and different. Don't tell people there is tofu in it and see if they can guess the special ingredient. I bet they'd never guess it is just made from a box with some tofu blended in. I topped mine with some crème fraîche frosting, but any of your favorite frosting's should work, homemade or not.

I have to note one thing before you proceed. This should only be made with a food processor or immersion/stick blender. It is too thick to blend so do not try this is a blender. The batter is too thick to be mixed efficiently in anything other than a processor or immersion blender.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cream of Broccoli Soup with Scallops

If you read my post on butternut squash soup, you'd know that it takes very little effort to make a quality vegetable-based soup. This recipe is asking a little more of you, as searing the scallops does take a little more effort. The soup process is the same though. We cook the vegetables and blend them, that's it. After that, all you need to do is sear the scallops while you keep the soup warm. The amount of scallops you will use can vary. You can make a lot or a little, depending on how many scallops you want to eat. This soup is fine on its own as well.

In the picture above I plated the soup and scallops with a garlic crouton and some parsley oil. To make a garlic crouton, crush some garlic in a cup, add some butter and melt it in the microwave. Apply the butter to some sliced pieces of bread and bake until crunchy.

How to make a parsley oil

This is a quick and easy way to add a little flavor and a lot of color to your dishes. It is also a good way to use up extra parsley that you may have lying around after you made something else. Use this oil as a way to finish a plate; do not use it as a cooking oil.

Crème Fraîche Potatoes

In the picture: Sous vide petit filet (from the tenderloin last week)
crème fraîche potatoes and some green beans
This is a recipe to follow up my last post about crème fraîche. To me make crème fraîche potatoes we start with the standard mashed potatoes and butter, but instead of using milk or cream to thicken we add crème fraîche. This creates a thicker and creamier mashed potato because crème fraîche is much thicker and creamier than milk or heavy cream. I suggest trying this if you like sour cream on your mashed potatoes, as crème fraîche is essentially a homemade sour cream with a nice nutty flavor.

If you don't want to make crème fraîche, or you don't have the time to do so, most supermarkets will carry crème fraîche. The larger the store, the greater the chance they will have it. I usually find it in  the corners of the cheese section, but it could just as easily be with the other diary products as well. Check both thoroughly before you give up searching. They will only reserve a small amount of space for it, which makes it difficult to find sometimes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crème fraîche

Crème fraîche noun. (krem-fresh): heavy cream thickened and slightly soured with buttermilk; often served on fruit.

Crème fraîche is something that I would like to have on hand more often as it is just too expensive to buy at the store and just too good to pass up in a dish that calls for it. I like to think of it as a super flexible sour cream, because that is basically what it is. You can drop this stuff anywhere you would use sour cream and many more places. You can use it with fruit, caviar, starches and carbohydrates, put it in sauces or even make a cake frosting from it. It basically goes with anything, as long as it is thoughtfully used. Having a lot in the fridge is no big deal. You'll end up using all of it before it goes bad. On top of that, I think it gets better with age. So letting it sit in the bottom of the fridge is actually a good thing.

While it is hard to find in the store, try and use pasteurized heavy cream instead of ultra-pasteurized heavy cream. The less pasteurized the quicker the crème fraîche will come together. If you do have to use the ultra-pasteurized version thats okay, just realize that the times involved will be longer than stated below.
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