Monday, December 28, 2009

More thoughts on recipe reading and writing . . .

In my recipes, and many I read, advice on seasoning isn’t mentioned. I always assume the cook is seasoning as (s)he goes, and then tests for seasoning before eating.
Many recipes are written this way.
Some recipes call for specific amounts of salts, but I find it seldom works out. Not only because the recipe doesn’t call for enough, but because salt level is such a matter of circumstance, preference and/or medical necessity.
Just remember, no matter where you find the recipe, or how great your ingredients, if you don’t season them well, the flavors won’t reach their full potential.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

How do I make a simple lobster pasta sauce?

This is a tricky one, the ingredients themselves are not that hard to come by. However, finding quality indgredients for it is key and can be very tricky. So keep that in mind. Overcooked lobster and bland stock will not make a good lobster sauce. {You can also prepare them yourself—That’s gonna be the topic of the next newsletter}

Simple Lobster Sauce

1 Leek, Julienned (nix the dark green part and that closest to the root)

½ cup Lobster stock

1 tbsp Tomato paste

1 tbsp Cognac

Meat from one lobster, roughly chopped.

1 tbsp Butter

3 tbsps Herbs (Basil, tarragon, thyme, chervil, parsley or any combination of these)

½ lb. Fresh Pasta, (I’m using fettuccine here, but papardelle or fresh spaghetti would work great as well)

1. Over medium heat, sauté the leeks until slightly sweated out.

2. Add the lobster stock, tomato paste and cognac. Reduce this mix until it comes together, You want it thick enough to stick to your noodles.

3. Add the lobster, stirring quickly until it is just warmed through. You REALLY don’t want it to get tough or stringy.

4. Toss in the *cooked* pasta with the butter and herbs (and maybe a squirt of extra virgen olive oil) Taste for salt and Enjoy.

Note there is no liquid running off onto the plate, all of the flavor is stuck to the pasta. Also, special thanks to my neighbors for being desperate enough to leave their basil plant with me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Plea for the Tomato Tube

Just a quick note, NEVER buy tomato paste in a can please.
It doesn't make any sense at all. It is impossible to keep once you open the can.
It dries out so easily, it gets funky, AND its a strong acid hanging out in an aluminum can. (not a good thing)
Worst of all, you never use the whole can. Recipes always call for just a teaspoon or two.
I'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest a very significant percentage of tomato paste in a can ends up the the garbage due to this fact.
Please get yourself the tomato paste in a tube.
You use as much as you need, put the cap back on and throw it in the fridge.
Simple as that.
It will lasts at least a couple of months.
You'll never have to throw away tomato paste again!

Friday, December 11, 2009

How do I keep my pork chops from drying out? . . . part do

Ok, You found the right pork chop.
Now we're going to cook it.
This is the easy part.

There is really no recipe here, just technique so I'm going to walk you through it.
What you'll need:
- A decent chop
- A heavy bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron or black steal)
- Salt and Pepper
- Some vegetable oil (canola, corn, peanut, grape seed, etc. )
- A pat of butter

Set out your meat ten to fifteen minutes before cooking. This goes for all meat. It lets it come closer to room temperature which allows for more even cooking. If you go straight from the fridge to the pan you wind up heating the outside of the meat, while the inside stays cool.

If the loin of your chop is encased in connective tissue, score the outside. This stops the pork chop from curling up when it hits the heat, preventing it from being in contact with the pan and browning.

These incisions are little deep, you just have to sever the white part on the outside.

Heat your pan well over medium high heat. Put in enough oil to finely coat the pan. Drop in your chop, it should sizzle and pop but not stick. Exactly how hot it gets and how long it cooks is up to you. In other words I think chop take take slower browning with lower heat (still in the medium high range though) while a thin chop would require a smokin' hot pan to brown it before it overcooks.
My chop here is between 1 and 1 1/2 iches thick.
Once in the pan I let the heat slowly penetrate. I would say this cut seared for around 4-5 minutes per side, but the time is kind of irrelevant as long as it is equal per side. All I'm really looking for is nice browning, and a pat of butter half way through the sear will really help accomplish that.
Why all the focus on browning? . . . Would you rather eat a teaspoon of sugar or a teaspoon of caramel? Well, essentially you're turning the sugars that exist in the meat (sugar more refers to the molocule than actual sweetness) in to caramel. So browning=flavor development!

A little butter will really contribute to good browing.

Check out the browning . . . freaking yummy.

Because of the thickness of my chops, they needed three minutes in a 350 degree oven to cook it through. Do this on a separate pan, rather than just sticking the skillet in the oven. If my chop were any thinner it would just be done in the pan.
How do you test for doneness? This is tricky and will definitely require some trial and error. There are numerous gimmicks, with poking and sticking, but my thermometer reads around 142-ish
Now wrap it in tin foil and let it rest. With every meat this is imperative. Browning and baking are extreme heats, this causes the proteins in the "tense up" and they need time to relax. If you were to go cutting into the pork, you'd probably see a raw center sandwiched by two overcooked strips. Resting also allows the heat and the juices to redistribute.

Now you just have to eat the thing!

This is how I love my pork, especially the slice on the right. It's a beautiful medium. and super tasty.

Disclaimer: As with everything you do in life, there is a risk involved with choosing to consume raw and undercooked foods.
If you're not comfortable with it or just don't want to, that's fine.

Special thanks to Ross for the kickin' branding iron, expect to see more branded ingredients.
And for the super die hard fans, email me and we'll schedule a meeting.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Do you have any ieas for holiday gifts that are easy to make?

You may remember my entry about finding a great olive oil on sale for very cheap a few weeks back. Well I may have gotten a little over zealous . . . and bought way too much; more than I could ever consume. but necessity is the mother of invention.
So I'm gonna put together an Olive Oil Salt Scrub that doubles as a delicious seasoning for meat and fish.
It's super simple, and something you can make large batches of for passing out at parties or at the office.

Citrus rosemary salt scrub rub

1 cup Coarse Sea Salt
1/2cup Fine Sea Salt
1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Zest of one each: lemon, lime & orange
Large sprig of rosemary, Leaves removed,

1. In a flat bottomed bowl muddle the citrus and rosemary with a few tablespoons of the kosher salt. The salt acts as an abrasive to release the essential oils. (this should smell amazing)
2. Simply add the remaining ingredients and mix it well.

As for the applications, as a scrub the olive oil contains polyphenols (antioxidants) that in addition to being good for you internally, do wonders for firming and tightening the skin. The sea salts act as a great exfoliator, and as the salt dissolves your skin absorbs the minerals. It also fights off some surface bacteria without any harsh chemicals.
But the fun doesn't stop there.
It's also delicious! A little bit on a piece of grilled fish is outstanding, it also compliments pork very well.

A little tip:
I like to put the scrub rub in mason jars, for a better display I lay a sprig in on its side and then pack the mixture on top.

This will keep better in the fridge.
I hope it goes without saying but I'm sayin' it anyways. . . while you can always take a little bit out of the fridge for the shower, you CANNOT leave it in the shower and then use it on food.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How do I keep my pork chop from drying out? part one

This is maybe one of my most asked questions. And I have a lot to say about it, so much so that I set out to write this entry and it quickly became too long. So, for now, it's a two part series.

Pork is something of a paradox across our beautiful country . . . .and the world I guess. Pigs are something many countries take pride in putting on a plate, holding it close and touting their indigenous preparations as the best in the world. French have their sausages, hams and various terrines and charcuteries. Italians have prosciutto, salami, and numerous other cures and Chinese have roast pork, with that signature red hue. Puerto Rico-Pernil, Poland-kielbasa, I could go on and on and on.
America is no exception. We have serious bar-b-q, a uniquely national staple and one of my favorite ways to utilize a pig. . . . parts of the pig that is. While almost every nation consumes some form of chop, there really isn't a country just known for their preparation of them.

A crazy pork crown, the entire loin: you can see where the chops come from.
The world over, there's a luminous cloud of mystery hovering over the pork chop, deterring traumatized cooks who've fretted over the frying pan, sweating the illusive window where pork is still moist but not pink.
But why do people have so much trouble preparing a good pork chop? . . . A few factors stand out.

The first is because it's kind of hard to buy a good pork chop (in the States anyways). At conventional supermarkets, chops are generally to be avoided. They have little to no fat content, a result of "The other white meat" campaign spurred by the fat craze of the 80's. A pork chop should have decent fat content including marbling throughout the loin. Not only giving it more porky flavor, but also lending to its juiciness . . . or the sensation of juiciness.
When you take a bite of something, a few thing determine juiciness:
- the actual water content, which disappears pretty quickly with chewing
- the fat content, which makes your mouth water as you chew, giving the sensation of juiciness.

Marbling in the loin is key!

Imagine a bite of grilled chicken breast. Even if it is perfectly moist going in, it may seem dry by the time you've chewed it up for swallowing. Not so, however, if its doused in a fatty sauce, say a butter sauce or aioli. In pork, regardless of the condiment, a little marbling goes a very long way to make it seem juicy.

Another trouble with conventional pork is the term "added water". Avoid it like the plague, it's one of the more infuriating tactics of meat factory farms. Yes, they have a longer shelf life, but they might just shorten yours. This "added water" which can make up as much as 11% of the weight of said chop, is composed of water, but also sweeteners (dried glucose) poly-phosphates, (to retain the water) preservatives and other "natural" flavors.
What's more, when you drop this pork in a skillet to brown, you will get puddles of white gunk forming instead of a nice brown crust.
So skip this if you ever see it.

The Second is the people's fear of pink pork.
It's a learned thing, almost a survival trait. Something like with wild mushrooms, we hear not to dabble with pinkish pork a few times in different contexts and something in our brains click "Never consume pink pork!!"

But why?
Can you get sick from eating pink pork? Sure you can, just like any other undercooked food: runny egg yolks, a medium rare burger, oysters and sushi etc. etc. but pork is not any more risky.

Trichinosis is the parasite that originated the fear of pink pork, it's a nasty worm that occurs when carnivorous animals (including ourselves) eat raw or undercooked meat of a carnivorous animal.  Trichinosis was an issue when pigs were fed raw meat scraps from - this has been out of practice for over a decade.  The instances of trichinosis are so low as to be almost negligible, and the ones that do occur are seldom associated with pigs (omnivores), but rather carnivores such as bear and cougar.
Also, the parasite trichinosis dies at 137 degrees, but the governments conservative suggestion is for 165 degrees . . . . tested not with a thermometer, but by hitting your chop on the wall . . . if the wall cracks or breaks, it's done.
This also goes back to making sure your pork is good meat from a reliable source.

Start to change the way you think about pork and it will change the way you appreciate it.

Move on to part two of this series

Disclaimer: As with everything you do in life, there is a risk involved with choosing to consume raw and undercooked foods.
If you're not comfortable with it or just don't want to, that's fine.
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