Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Emulsion: a mixture of 2 or more inblendable ingredients

The last week has been consumed with my attempts to make the classic mother sauces from memory...mid-term next week. New favorite, Hollandaise (insert Madonna's "Holidays" song here..."Hollandaise")
I'm still amazed by this sauce...a true emulsion...egg yolks suspended in clarified butter...a most temperamental sauce. Temperature is EVERYTHING on this one. I've only tried to make it twice now, but I'm told it likes to make a fool of you when you least expect it. Here's the how to:
Clarify the butter (boiling & swirling to remove the milk fat solids). You need 2oz. clarified butter for every 1 egg yolk.
Make the reduction: 3 oz white wine, 1 oz cider vinegar, 1 1/2 oz. water, 1 tsp cracked black pepper, 2 TBS shallots. Reduce until almost dry...about 5 minutes.
Beat the egg yolks in a bowl and pour in (while whisking!) the slightly cooled reduction. Place the reduction & egg yolks over a double boiler (indirect heat here, people). Whisk & turn the bowl (1/4 turn), repeat. The mixture will begin to thicken as it cooks...keep whisking & turning. Once thickened, swirl in the clarified butter (clarified butter has less milk fat, and therefore a higher smoking point than regular butter), 1/3 at a time, until fully incorporated. Sauce should be slightly thickened and very flavorful...served at 120F or above. This sauce is very temp. sensitive and should be stored @ 135 F and only for a few hours (egg yolks held slightly above the danger zone temp...don't keep this one for too long!). This a sauce in which technique is paramount...too much temp...the eggs cook (scrambled eggs are bad here), too little (a weak, watery sauce). Season with lemon juice, salt, white pepper, Tabasco (I will always suggest cholulah here!), and a garnish of paprika. If the sauce is too hot, it will break (BAD!). This means that the egg & the fat have heated to the point of looks gross, and it is! If this should happen, whisk the hollandaise into the hot water (not the other way around!) until the two become friends again. This time, I served the Hollandaise with English muffins, prosciutto, and poached eggs = Eggs Benedict.
I'm still amazed by this sauce (no wonder it is finicky!)...the marriage of two things that are reputed not to belong together, and yet...the most delicious thing ever! I've had Hollandaise @ my favorite places for years, but now, the LBistro has the best :)

Friday, March 26, 2010

food porn

an exerpt from a book i'm reading "Heat" by Bill Buford

The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite. Without this, it is impossible to accumulate, within the slotted span, enough experiences of eating to have anything worth setting down. Each day brings only two opportunities for field work, and they are not to be wasted minimizing the intake of cholesterol. They are indispensable, like a prize-fighter's hours on the road. (I have read that the late French professional gourmand Maurice Curnosky ate but one meal a day - dinner. But that was late in his life, and I have always suspected his attainments anyway, so many mediocre witticisms are attributed to him that he could not have had much time for eating). A good appetite gives an eater room to turn around in.
-A.J. Liebling, Between Meals

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

cooking...a sensory experience

At the suggestion of my mom (aka: "my cheeser") I will be posting a "tip of the day". More like, tip of every few days, as I still have to make a living here people. Anyway, here is something I've learned...
I've always considered myself an artist...a singer, a writer, a cook. Sensory stimulation plays a huge role here...what you hear, see, taste, smell, and feel. I tend to rely heavily on this when preparing meals. Set the oven timer for cookies, but your nose will usually let you know when they are done. Smell good enough to eat?, that's the first clue. Listen for sounds as a cue in the process...sizzling like its searing hot?, put on the steaks. Smells like somethings charring?, add some water to your steaming vegetables. The senses are a chef's best tools, and not just the ones for taste. Use intuition to guide your cooking, relying on sensory information. Your senses will tell you when something is ready to be enjoyed. DISCLAIMER: for those moments when senses are impaired, the use of a meat thermometer and an oven timer is essential. Bon appetit :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

blog day afternoon

Sometimes its not until my hunger pains threaten to roar for the whole neighborhood, that inspiration strikes. Today, that inspiration was nearly divine inspired. I lamented for weeks the fact that my favorite pizza joint didn't deliver anymore. Until, I discovered the beauty of LaRocco's NY style pizza "for here" instead of "to go." The thin crust (I hear they import water for the dough from the city) crisps like a cracker after its trip through the oven. The ricotta cheese bubbles into little golden brown crowns. My guy & I order 2 slices each (I was already considering a third) and some canned sodas (much to my dismay, he chose root beer, which I consider to be an abomination to all good flavors), slipped in to a comfy red-checkered table with a view. The pizza maestro arrived carrying all 4 pieces, on 4 different plates, all at one time...with ease. I wasn't the only one who was impressed. I heard him returning to the kitchen, offering tips to younger servers on safely carrying multiple plates ("balance your fingers here", he offered). The first bites did not disappoint! Ry & I quickly exchanged bites, so we could try all 4 kinds (and because sharing is caring). I vaguely recall hearing somewhere that you look like a NY pie rookie if you don't fold your slices, so I quietly folded my pizza sandwich. For the next 5 minutes, silence. Always the sign of a good meal. My affection for both salty & sweet things is deep-seeded. I can alternate between the 2 for days. Luckily, Velvet Yogurt is right next door to my beloved LaRocco's. Ryan timed our walk like a waltz, counting 2 steps out LaRocco's door, and a left hand turn into our sweet treat haven. Their Eurotart is veritable yogurt cloud. Reminiscent of plain yogurt flavor, it is both sweet and tart. Topped with raspberries, blueberries, granola and a swirl of honey, the next 5 minutes were also spent in a blissful silence. Ok, its now 5pm and I'm happy. But, what kind of cheese should I snack on tonight?

Friday, March 12, 2010

everyday eats

After sweating it up in the kitchen all day, the last thing I want to do is labor over dinner. This is a favorite quickee. Who doesn't love a good quickee? I saw a version of this on Tyler's Ultimate (ah, thank you Food Network), and adapted it, as necessary. Everything bagels with cream cheese, tuna salad (I love to sneak lots of veggies into tuna salad: celery, carrots, shallots), tomato, red onion, cucumber, and lemon pepper. Serve open-faced. This night, we also had some butternut squash soup (organic boxed soup tonight!) topped with creme fraiche. Dinner in 10 minutes, no take-out necessary :) My chef's at school would tell me to use white pepper on this soup, but all I had was black voila!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I love just about everything that comes in a martini glass. I've tried several different versions of this salad...some with shrimp, one with green goddess dressing. It never disappointed! Google the cilantro-pepitas dressing recipe, it's similar to the El Torito recipe.

Lobster Parfait
Butter poached lobster tail, orange supremes, cherry tomatoes, hearts of palm, arugula, and cilantro-pepitas dressing.

gettin saucy

This is an idea I've been considering for a while now. Truth is, I think mostly about food...the food I made last night, the food I want to make, the restaurants I'd like to visit. Today's culinary lab (#6 now) stressed the importance of "mother sauces", classic sauces that can be turned into a variety of "small sauces" from there (the bechamel became a mornay cheese sauce, the espagnole sauce became a demi-glace). I liked that idea, sort of a culinary thing creating another, a variety of options. I'm the mother sauce in this equation, and this blog is one of my new small sauces. I cook, I eat, and now, I write about it. Oh jeez, did I really just call myself the mother sauce?