Thursday, June 30, 2011

I just saw some "just dug" potatoes. Aside from the usual roasting, mashing, gratin, et al. . what can I do with them?

Sometimes it feels like we just got finished with winter, so for many cooks it might be a little too soon to make a return to the root vegetable.  However, right now is the time to be experiencing the greatness that is the new potato. It hasn't quite yet developed the starch that it will in it's old age, so it has a distinct intense "potato flavor" but with a chewier waxy mouth feel.
In passing, a chef-buddy mentioned frying crushed potatoes in his last restaurant.  It didn't really stick at the moment he said it, but after this potato question I thought of it again.
This is my interpretation of what he spoke of, they turned out pretty well.
In general I do very little frying (not enough anyway) but potatoes are an ingredient that react very well to the cooking method.

Fried New Potatoes

New Potatoes (the amt. is irrelevant to the recipe, I'd use abut 8oz. per person)
Herbs, picked, cleaned, and dried well - any herb or combo of herbs works, I used rosemary and it was great.
4-6 cups of vegetable oil (corn, peanut, canola, vegetable, etc)

1. Rinse your potatoes and place them in a pot.  Cover them with cold water and add A LOT of salt.  I'd add three tablespoons+ per quart of water used.  It's to offset the mass of the potatoes, which benefits from being well seasoned.
2. Place this pot over high heat and bring it to a boil. Cook until an inserted pairing knife comes out easily.  This will take around 7-9 minutes but maybe longer.  Be sure to test the bigger potatoes, because they're the last to finish cooking.
3. Strain these and allow to cool slightly.  Once cool enough to handle, give them a half crush.  The idea here is to simply expose some potato flesh and create more surface area for browning in the fry oil.  You don't want to obliterate the thing, ideally it holds together or at worst splits in half.
4. In a separate heavy pot (ideally cast iron or a dutch oven), bring 4-6 cups of oil up to 375˚F.  Working in batches, and without over-crowding the pot, fry the crushed potatoes until they're nice and golden.  Using a spider if you have one or slotted spoon, remove to a rack and salt immediately.
5. Once all of the potatoes are fried, place them in a serving bowl. Drop the herbs into the oil, once they cease to bubble, fish them out and place them right on the potatoes.  mmmmmmm . . . .

I served these with homemade buttermilk dressing, the recipe is coming soon.

A Cool New Site is officially launching today. I dig this site for a few simple reasons, it compiles all of the recipes and info that food bloggers (myself included) have created and puts it in one place to allow more people access to our hard work.
You can go on and tell the site what you have in your fridge, and it'll recommend recipes from a slue of great bloggers.
Even more cool, is gojee's aspiration to work with stores around the country and, using their member's rewards programs, remind you what you have in your pantry and show you relevant recipes when you sign in.  If you're a New Yorker, you can give it a test run via your D'Agostino rewards. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Worth a Listen

I recently discovered the Kitchen Sisters, via their podcast "hidden kitchens".  It's a great project where they uncover some amazing cultural food pockets that are often overlooked.
I llistened to all ten podcasts in one sitting, they are short and sweet while being very interesting.  I wanted to taste the food discussed in every one.
My favorite entry was the story of the Angola Prison Rodeo, (you have to hear it) held at a farm-prison in west Louisiana.  The inmates participate in the rodeo, but they also prepare Louisiana fare using ingredients grown at the prison.
This sounds like heaven to me.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Baking with Nut Flours

by Lauren Rauh

I'm not jumping on the gluten free or wheat free bandwagon, but the increasing popularity of these lifestyles has brought about the greater availability of alternative flours for baking. Seeing quinoa, barley, coconut, and chestnut flours at the super market sends my mind soaring with pastry inspiration, but the prices keep me from ever bringing these flours home. An easy way to save some money and still be able to experiment is to make your own flours. For this you need a good quality blender or a coffee grinder. I decided because of the abundance of raw almonds in my cabinets, that I would make muffins using almond flour.

Nut flours are full of protein and good fats and add an extra nutritional boost to baked goods. They also impart a wonderful wholesome flavor. If you are making your own nut flours it is important to use only raw nuts and to not over grind the nuts, or you will suddenly have nut butter (also delicious, but not a good flour substitute). For these muffins I ground about three cups raw almonds in small batches using my coffee grinder. It gave me enough flour with a little bit to spare.

The following recipe is extremely simple and rife with opportunity to experiment. Add spices or herbs, try different ground nuts or a combination of different flours. As long as the proportions stay the same you should have hearty, moist muffins in no time.

The Goods:
1 ¾ cup finely ground almond flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
2 eggs
¼ cup walnut oil (or oil of choice)
¼ cup honey

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line your muffin tin. Mix the dry goods in a small bowl. Beat together the eggs, oil, and honey.

Stir the dry mix into the wet ingredients. The batter will be very wet. Evenly divide the muffin batter between six muffin cups.

Bake in the center of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center of a muffin comes out clean. The tops should be a deep, golden brown.

You may want to double or triple this recipe since six muffins will not last long!

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Very Cool Cookbook

Recently my pal Ori, introduced me to this book.
"Kitchen Garden Companion" is an outstanding and very comprehensive reference to have on the shelf.  It's information is similar to Alice Water's Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook, but times 100.
It is organized by ingredient.  With each, the book covers some history and lore, it covers how to grow and treat the plants, from sprouting seeds to pruning stems and everything in between.  Then, it goes on to cover how you would go about turning these ingredients into a delicious dinner.
At 122 clams, it's no small investment, but given the wealth of information I consider it a great value. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Homemade Fudge Pops

By Lauren Rauh

It is ice cream and popsicle weather! Now, I know popsicles are so hot right now (see what I did there?), but for me, the convenience and fun of a cold treat on a stick usually lacks the satisfying creaminess of a bowl of ice cream. The happy medium and one of my personal favorite frozen goodies is the fudgsicle. Chocolately, creamy, and icy icy cold. Fudgsicles (the store bought ones) are also chock full of those long, hard to pronounce ingredients that just send alarms off in my head. On this sticky, muggy day I escaped to the grocery store for some air conditioned food shopping. In the frozen foods isle I had the beautiful thought, "what if I could make fudgsicles at home?" And like even the most profound thoughts in this information-rich, internet-saturated age, a million people had the thought before me. So I did a little research, bought myself a popsicle mold, and came up with this ridiculously simple, delightfully delicious recipe:

You will need:

8 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup milk
1.5 cup cream
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized bowl. In a small sauce pan, combine the milk, cream and cocoa. Whisk the mixture over medium heat to dissolve the cocoa.

Heat to a simmer and pour the hot liquid into the bowl of chocolate. Let the bowl sit for two to three minutes, add the vanilla and then whisk the mixture until the chocolate is fully melted and the liquid is smooth.

Divide the fudgsicle mix into six popsicle molds.

Allow the pops to freeze for about three hours, remove from the molds, and enjoy!

Two Notes: I apologize for not having a photo of the finished product. While I was waiting for the pops to freeze, I forgot this important detail. By the time they were frozen my roommates and I were too overwhelmed with anticipation to realize the necessary photo op. Three pops were distroyed by premptive removal, and three were destroyed by ravenous mouths. Oops. In addition, when I make these pops again, I will add the step of blending the ingredients in a food processor or blender for a few minutes before pouring the liquid into the molds. I think this will eliminate any grainy residue from the melted chocolate. DO try this recipe at home, you will NOT be disappointed.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I have a little herb garden in my back yard, but I don't really know how to use herbs. Can you give me some pointers?

In general, I find herbs to be a very misunderstood means to a delicious end.  They can smell so distinct, and it seems as though it would be simple to impart their aroma to a tasty concoction, but often the only perceptible trace in a final dish is specks of green.
Herbs act a variety of ways in different situations.  Overall, you can roughly determine the best method for using a specific herb by the stem:
"The sturdier the stem, the longer the cooking time it can withstand."**
The best way to think of more delicate herbs (AKA fine herbs or herbes fines) is as tea for food.  With tea you don't boil the water with the with the tea itself in the water.  You boil the water and then you steep it for a few minutes.  The same goes with herbs - say you're cooking a tomato sauce for the fine purpose of tossing with spaghetti.  If you add in basil leaves early in the process, they can be almost imperceptible in the final product.  (though, I would like to point out, not completely without purpose.) However, if you wait until you are tossing the hot pasta with sauce to fold in some basil, the aroma of the basil will be much more prominent.  
Also, consider this: just as with freshly ground coffee, when you chop a fresh herb and add it to hot food, it can smell amazing - this is the point at which you should be consuming it.  The smell of amazing is the herbs yumminess escaping into the air.  So, with finer herbs err towards the end of the cooking process.  

Sage roasted chicken
Thicker stemmed herbs, such as rosemary and thyme [and sage despite it's softer stem] can withstand heat a little better.  Add them to roasted vegetables, potato gratin, and stocks and braises. (and know they'll still stand out more if you wait until the last hour or 30 minutes.)
I love to stuff sage and butter under the skin of a chicken and roast it.

AND keep in mind that this advice is for cooking herbs.  Any herb can be used raw (with varying degrees of delicious) in room temperature or cold food applications.

**The exception to this rule is sage, which has a more delicate stem, but can handle some heat.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Macerated Strawberries

by Lauren Rauh

There is nothing more beautiful (and simple) than a bowl of fresh juicy strawberries. It's exciting to see local berries begin to appear at the farmer's markets. Finally, fruit in it's best form, recently picked! To enhance the flavor and appearance of fruit, particularly strawberries, there's a little trick of the trade known as "macerate." To macerate, an acid or sugar is added to the fruit to allow it to release the flavorful juices.

Here is the most straightforward approach to macerating strawberries:

Slice your berries in the shape and size you desire and place the pieces in a bowl. Add a tablespoon or so (depending on sweetness preferred) of powdered sugar and mix the contents well. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. The finished product should be a nice mixture of berries and a slightly thickened juice. Use these berries as a garnish on a dessert, or serve straight up with a little whipped cream.

Some additional ingredients used to macerate strawberries could be balsamic vinegar, orange juice, cointreau (a tablespoon or two) or red wine. The method and ingredients are simple and flexible, but the outcome really adds a professional touch to any use of raw strawberries.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Have You Ever Heard of Fideua?

Fideuá is somehow one of the more overlooked dishes hailing from that tasty country of Spain, especially considering the flavor profile is one that appeals to almost the whole world.  At the risk of oversimplifying it, Fideuá (AKA Fideuada) is essentially paella made with noodles instead of rice. 
As with many outstanding dishes from around the world, it originates with poor people, fisherman in this case, making due with what they have.  With time and economy, the dish has changed from its modest origins, but the heart of the dish remains the same - a simple way to enjoy great seafood.

This doesn't fall under the category of "easy recipes" but if you make the effort you will be rewarded well. 

You'll notice that there is a long list of seafood, this is only a suggestion. I used everything here and it was almost too much to fit in the pan.  Feel free to use what you have access to and/or like.  And, as with any recipe, the freshest seafood is key. 
Traditionally this dish is made with "fideos" - an thin spanish noodle that are toasted in the pan before the recipe starts.  Angel hair pasta is the usual substitution, but I prefer the texture of a thicker noodle.  You could use fideos or angel hair, but know that the cooking times would be reduced greatly once the noodles are added. 

1 link of dried chorizo (approx. 8 oz.), cut on a long bias
8 sea scallops
8 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
12 mussels, rinsed well and beards removed
6-10 clams, rinsed well
1/2 lb. calamari, bodies cut into 1/2" rings
1/2 lb. sturdy fish such as monk, sword, mackerel or hallibut, cut into 1/2" cubes

1 lb. Spaghetti noodles, broken into 3"-4" segments
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tbsps, aji amarillo or piquillo puree, finely chopped roasted peppers would also work 
2 tbsps, tomato paste
1 tsp of sweet paprika
a pinch of Saffron (15-20 threads)

6 cups shrimp stock (Fish stock is the best plan B, otherwise chicken or veggie stock will do)

1. Spread the broken noodles out on a sheet pan and toast them in a 350˚ F oven until they're slightly toasted.  Around 8-10 minutes
2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  (14" or bigger, traditionally a paella pan would be used for this, so if you have one, now is the time to get it out.)
3.  Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the whole skillet, let it heat to just about smoking.  Drop in the chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally,  until lightly browned on all sides.  Remove the chorizo and set it on paper towels to drain. 
4.  Salt and pepper all of the seafood and fish.  Working in small batches, brown the scallops, shrimp, and calamari in the same oil.  Once browned well, set them aside. - The idea here is to simply brown the seafood and start the cooking process, NOT to cook the seafood through - that happens later in the process. ----> I only brown the scallops on one side to prevent over cooking
5.  Add the onion to the same oil (add a little more oil if there's not still enough to coat the bottom of the pan ) Add a pinch of salt and cook until slightly translucent then add the sliced garlic and stir to combine.
6.  Add the aji amarillo, paprika, tomato paste, saffron and noodles.  Put enough of the shrimp stock to cover the noodles.
7.  Simmer the noodles, stirring often at the beginning to prevent clumps. 

8. Once the noodles have absorbed most of the liquid (8-10 min.), add a splash more of the stock.  Insert the clams and mussels, hinge side down.  Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low.  (If you don't have a lid, use tin foil.)

9. Cook on low until the clams and mussels have just begun to open.  Disperse the remaining seafood over the top of the fideuå.  Replace the cover and continue to cook on low for another 5-7 minutes.   ** At this point the mussels should have opened, discard the ones that haven't**
10. Turn off the heat, poke the slivers of chorizo in and allow this whole dish to rest covered for 5-10 minutes.  Finish it with a dusting of chopped parsley, a healthy squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of good olive oil.  Enjoy!

Fideuá is often served next to a bowl of freshly made aioli. 

**Special thanks to Shawn Sowers for help with the photography on this entry.
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