Saturday, March 31, 2012

How to pan sear scallops

If you don't already know about fin fishmongers located out of Altamont, now is a good time to try their stuff out. This was the second time I bought seafood from them, the first time being a little experiment with shad roe and a butter poached lobster tail. Today I cooked griddled cod and pan seared scallops for dinner, along with a little asparagus and anchovy butter.

Anyone who knows or loves seafood will tell you that a good seafood meal starts with a great product and ends with a simple preparation. Beef, chicken, and other flesh are just different in this respect. You can make a cheap cut of pork amazing with a little know-how. Unfortunately, this just doesn't seem to hold up for seafood. If you want a good seafood meal you must start with a high quality product. After you have ascertained your seafood you must proceed by not messing it up or cooking outside of your boundaries.

Luckily, the fruit of the sea plays nicely with simple preparations like the ones above. For the cod I coated it in melted butter, dredged it in flour, and then cooked it on a griddle. After it was done cooking I finished with a little anchovy butter and that was it. Not only was the fish cooked in a manageable and time saving manner, but it also upheld all the flavors of the cod.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Easter Dinner, French Style

After spending a ton of time mulling through what I should make for Easter dinner I decided to go full on French, using Le Guide Culinaire as my compass. I sifted through many recipes, only to realize that there were just too many choices to pick from. I decided that it would be best to go as French as possible at this point, and I decided to do a little research on what is traditionally served in France on Easter. I read many different articles explaining what is typically served for dinner, and yet I found no real consensus on what they usually make. The one thing that did stand out was lamb. Nearly every article suggested lamb, so that was my starting point. After about another 30 minutes of research and contemplation I came up with this menu:

Salade Foie Gras:
Frisee, Walnut, Haricots Vert, Green Apple, Truffle Oil, Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette

Carré d'Agneau: (Rack of Lamb)
Meat glaze, Sauce Soubise

Baguette et Fromage:
Homemade Baguette and Cheeses

Gâteau d'Amande: (Almond Cake)
Kirsch Syrup, Chocolate Shavings

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cooking Escoffier: Goulash à la Hongroise (Hungarian Goulash)

I got my copy of Auguste Escoffier's legendary book Le Guide Culinaire last week and I have been dying to cook something from it ever since. Since I've been busy I decided to go with one of his simpler recipes and this is what I came up with. For most people goulash is a pasta dish with a meat sauce made from ground beef. As you can see from the picture above, this is not what I made at all. I actually bent Escoffier's recipe a little bit but the foundation of this recipe is all the same. In my recipe I added the tomato to hold the meat and replaced boiled potatoes with gnocchi. The rest of the recipe is all Escoffier, and let me tell you this was a good one. The ground beef and pasta version of this dish holds no candle to this preparation of goulash.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pasta with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, Guanciale, and Gorgonzola

So now that you have your Gorgonzola butter made, it's time to actually put it to work. I really like pairing any type of moldy cheese with mushrooms since the flavors seem to interact well without losing any integrity from the original ingredients, and here we will do just that.

Now if you don't have any guanciale on hand it's okay because bacon happens to be a great substitute here too. If you would like to get a hold of someone though head down to Adventure in Food and snag some from their charcuterie section. I use guanciale in essentially every way that I use bacon such as topping burgers, adding it to salads, and when making a traditional spaghetti carbonara.

Gorgonzola Butter

Boy I've really been lacking on the posting lately. Then again just about everything in my life is coming to a halt as I keep studying. I don't really mind though. Anyway, I made some Gorgonzola butter earlier this week since I had a bit of the cheese sitting around in the refrigerator. It is easy to make so I figured I would include two applications of how I used it, as well as a few other ideas to work with. (It can pack a punch, so a little of it will go a long way when dressing your food with this stuff.)

The most important part to making this the right way is buying a mid range Gorgonzola cheese. It would be wasteful to use a high quality cheese to make this butter since you're basically diluting the cheese in butter. It would also be pointless in using low quality cheese. Low quality Gorgonzola tends to be rather bland in both taste and mouth feel; basically not worth buying at all.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Brioche Buns

I believe that humility is necessary if you want to be successful in the kitchen and life in general. It would be pretty hard to go through life not taking others advice, always assuming you're right, and never backing down from an argument. I try and practice humility as much as possible when I make something new, or when I don't think I have something down perfectly. Using or listening to someone else's view can save you a lot of time and frustration. This is not one of those times though. I'm not saying this recipe is perfect, and I am not saying it is the best. What I am saying is that this recipe far exceeded my expectations, and I can pretty much guarantee it will do so for you as well.

Before I go any further I have to nod my head to Smitten Kitchen for the skeleton of this recipe. I would never pull a recipe like this out of thin air, so I think it is important to give credit where it is due. That said, SK's recipe was for a light brioche bun, so I messed with that recipe and opted for a heavier brioche bun by doubling the amount of eggs and using heavy cream in place of milk then I applied my typical technique for yeast breads to the dough as well.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pizza Eggs

I don't know if pizza eggs will go with your morning coffee, but I do know that it is a great way to cure some of the debauchery from the night before. We went out to celebrate my sisters 21'st birthday the night before I made these so I decided to share my "hangover cure" with the rest of the world. Not that I was hungover or anything when I made these...

The truth is I don't really see this as a hangover cure. (The only real cure for having too much the night before is drinking a lot of water.) Pizza eggs are just the college kid's meal after a night of drinking since just about everyone in college has some leftover pizza and some eggs lying around in the refrigerator.

I should mention that the pan flipping does take a little skill if you want it to turn out nice and pretty. Luckily, you do have an alternative to this technique. You can add the parmesan, salt, and pepper before step 5 and then bake it the rest of the way in an oven, or even broil it for quicker and easier pizza eggs.

P.s. If you got the reference to a certain TV show that this idea came from you are definitely awesome. I'll give you a clue: Mary-Louise Parker is the main character.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Homemade Ricotta

Making your own cheese is hard. It takes a lot of patience, knowledge, and equipment to get a quality result in the end. This is especially true with hard cheeses, which is why I never took up the hobby of making cheese in the first place. Going to the store and picking up a half pound of a quality hard cheese just makes more economic sense to me. There is an exception to this rule though. Ricotta is an exceptionally easy cheese to make with normal household ingredients and equipment. All it requires is some dairy, a little acid, some heat, and a bit of cheesecloth. It doesn't even take that much time to make either. In fact this only required about ten minutes of "active" time for me to make, and about an hour overall.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Red Pepper Coulis

A coulis is a great place to start making sauce if you have never made one before. It requires nothing other than a blender as far as equipment goes, and it usually doesn't require any cooking time either, though I think the best part of a good coulis is how the ingredients are handled. A coulis is essentially a strained puree, which gives it a extremely simple but very powerful flavor using whatever you make it from. Since we add no heat once it has been pureed, the integrity of the natural flavors in the food remain intact as well. In the end you are left with a sauce that exudes all the tastes and aroma of the natural ingredient in a sauce form.

How to roast red peppers

Roasted red peppers in olive oil have to be one of my least favorite things to buy at a supermarket. This isn't because they are bad quality or hard to find. They're just really expensive for what they are. Ever since I learned how to do this on my own, I have rarely bought a jar of roasted red peppers. I mean, I spent one tenth the amount of money for fresh peppers and got about two times the yield for what I would normally get. That is a twenty fold savings right there! So, lets see how this is done.
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