Friday, September 30, 2011

What's the best way to clean up the black marks off a pan? or better yet, what's the best way to prevent them in the first place?

Those black marks are usually burnt food and/or oil.  
The hotter you're cooking, the more careful you should be about stuff sloshing around inside (as it burns easily onto the sides) and dribbling down the outside of the pan.  (usually if you try to pour stuff out of a pot/pan you see that your food sizzles rapidly and sticks to the side also some escapes down the outside, these are the hardest one to clean.)

Of course, cooking over lower heats will result in less marks. 

In terms of cleaning the tough spots, unfortunately soaking does not have much affect on them.  I like bartenders freind (aka bon ami aka comet) and a scotchbrite pad.  (the straight green one).  Beyond that, you're gonna need a lot of elbow grease.  There is no easy answer for this one.

And for the record, I keep the inside of my pans looking like new.   For the outside, I clean them with every use, but I confess,  I DO NOT keep them looking like new.  I am not a neat freak, but my tools must function well.  Some of my pans have quite a build up on the outside, which probably affects how they heat up a little. So as I work in new pans to my collection I'm a little more diligent with the outside.

(How did you like my use of parentheses in this post?)

**Note**- For those of you with enamel cast iron pots and pans. DO NOT use abrasive cleaners. (comet, bon ami, bartenders freind, ajax, etc.)  Companies that make this enameled cookware have a specialized cleaner designed specifically for these pots. I don't know what it is, or how it works, but it DOES work. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I made a recipe that called for one anchovy filet, now I have an open container just sitting there. What can I make with these?

If you're going to hold onto anchovies for an extended period of time, transfer them to a container (ideally glass) with a tight fitting lid.  Stored well, they'll last up to a year.  (probably longer, but if there sitting in your fridge for a year, it's time to come to terms with them.)
They're great ingredient to have around and can be use in place of salt in many savory preparations.  (dressings, sauces, soups, etc)  Similar to soy sauce, they bring a unique flavor to a dish in addition to seasoning it.

This is my version of a classic Italian preparation typically made around the holidays.  The catch is that it's consumed as a dip for bread and raw veggies, so I like to whip it up in the summer and fall when there are great vegetables to be had at the farmers market.

What I do is not very traditional, but it does create a very tasty anchovy dip. It's a great way to showcase the yumminess of anchovies, without an overpowering affect.  It also calls for A LOT of garlic, so maybe it's not a great option for date night.

Bagna Cauda (my version)

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup, extra virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and halved.   remove any
2 table spoons of anchovy paste (or a 2 oz. can of anchovy filets)
3 tbsps panko bread crumbs

Optional - 1 fresh habaƱero or 1 tsp of chili flakes

1. Place the milk, olive oil and garlic in a sauce pan over medium heat. (Add the habaƱero or chili flakes now it you're using them)
2. Once it starts to bubble, lower the heat to medium low and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the garlic is very soft.
3. Stir in the anchovies and bread crumbs and turn off the heat.
4. Buzz well using a stand up or immersion blender.  The bagna cauda should be thick enough to coat a spoon easily.  (It should be good for dipping) If it seems loose, add some more bread crumbs and buzz again

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Krushed Kabocha

On bottom: the most common Seaiyou Kabocha, above: the sunshine kabocha

On bottom: the most common Seaiyou Kabocha, above: the sunshine kabocha 
The word kabocha is simply Japanese for pumpkin or squash. In the States, kabocha generally refers to varietals hailing from Japan and they are, in my opinion, some of the most overlooked in the pumkin pile.  It's a unique squash, with a great sweet flavor, but it comes with extra starch, which gives it an exceptional texture.  

A lot of people recognize that winter squash are durable things, but you actually don't want them to be too fresh.  Like an avocado, most "just picked" squash are not yet ready to eat.  Kabocha in particular should should ripen 10-14 days after picking around room temeperature, and will easily develop another month stored in a cool dry place.

When picking one out, the squash should feel heavy and be without soft spots.  The telltale sign of ripeness is the stem, it should be dry, withered a little and almost corky (see the pic),  if not, it might need some time to ripen. You don't have to worry too much about the squash going bad before you get to it.  It'll be a fine decoration until you get hungry.

The kabocha can be applied to most winter squash recipes, but the carbohydrates that develop lend themselves nicely to an old fashioned mash.  

This is the what I used at last year's Pig Island event. 

Crushed Kabocha
3 cups      Roasted and cleaned kabocha squash
4 tbsps     Butter
1/4 cup     Heavy Cream

To roast the kabocha, remove the stem and carefully cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. (seed recipe)  Using your hands, rub vegetable oil over the flesh and skin of the the squash.  Season liberally with salt and pepper. Lay cut side down on tin foil and roast at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until a pairing knife inserted, comes out easily. Scrape out the meat of the squash and set aside.

Using a masher, or a sturdy whisk, crush the Kabocha with the butter and cream.  (or for a finer puree, blend in a food processor) Season to taste and enjoy!

Notes:  This mash goes great with fish.  It's sweetness is the perfect complement to sea scallops with sage and brown butter. . .
yummy yummy stuff.

Monday, September 19, 2011

If a recipe calls for white wine (or red), how do I know what KIND of white wine (or red) to use? I know that's a pretty broad question, but I thought you might be able to provide a general rule of thumb...

I like this question.  It's one I usually answer circumstantially.  For example, if we're drinking white wine, and I need a splash to cook with, chances are I snitch from from the bottle we're savoring.
If you'll be drinking, simply cook with what you'll be drinking, especially if the required amount is small.  (The exception might be a chardonnay with lots of wood or smoke flavor, whose characteristics can take over. )
I tend to be a little more selective with red wine.  Anything with much tannin can become very intense if reduced.  I prefer fruitier reds that fall in the middle of the flavor spectrum. (merlot, shiraz, chianti, etc.)
If I'm buying specifically for cooking, I will usually pick up a blended wine. Usually it will just say "Red" on the label, this is made from a mix of grapes and is typically designed to please everybody - which makes for good cooking wine. ( I dig the Coppola "Rosso" and "Bianco")
These blended wines are usually pretty cheap too, also a good trait in a cooking wine. However, I'd like to note that if you're going to make a wine reduction sauce, not to go too low.  Because reducing a poor quality wine only concentrates the poor quality.

Monday, September 12, 2011

3 Steps to a Better Roast Chicken

A roast chicken is one of those preparations that manages to be comfort food in many countries of the western world.  Which is great in that it pleases many palettes.  The catch is this: despite its simplicity, it comes with more stigma, lore, secret tricks, and wive's tales than just about any preparation I can think of - many of which confuse and lead astray. 
All chicken roasting myths aside, a few simple steps and a little forethought can lead you towards a phenomenal roast chicken.

These are chickens pictured on the farm where I purchased mine.

  1. Buy a Better Chicken - Chicken is an ingredient where a few extra dollars will earn you a far superior product.   If you can, go to a farmer's market and purchase from a farmer with whom you can speak about the chicken.  In a super market, spring for the organic bird, they take just a little longer to raise and have more time to become tasty. ***
  2. Brine it- A soak in salty water goes a long way to accentuate the flavor and retain moisture during the cooking process.  Also, it doesn't require as much forethought as one might think - as little as three to four hours in a strong brine will do the trick. 
  3. Dry it- If dry = brown and brown = delicious, then dry = delicious. Right?  Yes, pat your chicken dry with paper towels or a tea towel inside and out.  Or more ideally, set it on a rack in the fridge overnight to completely air dry.   This allows for crispier skin and so leads to tastier chicken.

A Better Roast Chicken Recipe

1 whole chicken 3-5 lbs.

1 stick cold butter
1 bunch sage
1 head garlic, peeled and sliced

To brine your chicken, dissolve 6 tablespoons of salt in two cups (16 oz.) of hot water. Once it's dissolved, add 15 ounces of ice to cool the brine (if you don't have a scale, the brine should fill a quart container once you add the ice)  Submerge your whole chicken in the brine for at least three to four hours and up to 7.  If you expect to cook it directly after brining, you can brine it at room temperature.

1.  Dry it- whether or not you have brined your chicken, you should dry it out.  Pat it well inside and out with paper towels. 

optional: I love to stuff goodies under the skin of my chicken and one of my favorites is a trio of butter, garlic and sage.  I do this by scooting a spoon under the skin both from the cavity side of the breast and from two incisions at the hip joints.  Then I push the butter, sage, and garlic under.  If there is any sage or garlic left, I put it in the cavity.

3.  Season it- If you haven't brined your chicken, season it very well with salt.  If you have, you will still want to give it a light dusting of salt. 
4.  Cook it- Set your oven to 450˚F and keep it there.  It should take around 50-60 minutes in it's entirety.  To check for doneness a thermometer should should read 155˚F at the thigh.  If you don't have a thermometer, give the thigh a stab with a paring knife and the juices should run clear.
5. Rest it- Before doing anything to your bird, let it rest for 15 minutes.  This lets it finish cooking, and it lets the extreme heat redistribute. 

***Organic requirements for chicken - includes - organic feed, no animal byproducts, no hormones, no antibiotics, outdoor access, no irradiation, no pesticides (for the feed), no synthetic fertilizers, no sewage sludge (yes, folks, you read that right), no synthetic pesticides, and no GMO.

A side note: Typically I would truss a chicken, which involves tying up the legs and pulling them close to the body.  This adds mass to the area at the base of the breast and results in more even cooking. . . I didn't have any string.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Snacks For a Rainy Weekend

By Lauren Rauh

It was the night before the hurricane was supposed to hit. By the time I made it to the grocery store that evening the shelves were pretty picked over. In the pre-hurricane panic, it at first seemed the masses were most worried about starving. But on closer inspection it wasn't clear the most practical things they wanted—canned beans, instant rice, the nonperishable staples—it was the junk food isles that boasted the long stretches of bare shelves. Perhaps everyone was less worried about starving and more worried about boredom…nothing like a bag of Cheetos to chase the cabin fever away! Now, I’m no health nut, but I usually find junk food much too salty and never filling enough to justify the price and purchase. No, I prefer to make my junk food; popcorn, candies, spiced nuts, by the bowl full for parties and movie nights. But the hurricane gave me ample time to think up some additional snacky snacks.

With all the canned beans stacked in my cabinets, I thought of the yummy, crunchy, spiced snacks that I ate by the handfuls in India during parties and holidays (I studied, worked, and traveled in India for two inconsecutive years, by the way). These snacks were always fried however, and I wondered if I could recreate the taste without all the messy hot oil. I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with this pleasing protein-packed snack, but I’m quite happy with the outcome. My roommate and I gobbled up the goodies during our Saturday night movie marathon to weather the storm.

1 lb. cooked chickpeas (about 4 cups or 2 cans worth)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If using canned beans drain and rinse them well.

Carefully and thoroughly dry the rinsed beans. If the fiber casings come off while drying you can discard them or leave them behind, they’ll get crispy in the oven.

Combine the oil and spices in a large bowl. Toss the beans in the bowl, making sure they are evenly coated. Spread the beans evenly on a baking sheet and bake the beans until they are crispy.

Stir the beans every 10 minutes or so for about 40 minutes. The beans should be crunchy all the way through, don’t worry about over baking them. Let the beans cool and snack away to your hearts delight!  These will keep for up to a month in an airtight container.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Prodigal Blogger

Hey everybody, I have been away for a little while working and playing hard.  So there has been a little lag in blog posts and newsletters.
But I'm back, and I will bloggin' atcha a lot in the very near future. 
Thanks for stickin' with me.
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