Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ginger Fried Rice

Leslie pointed out Smitten Kitchen's adaptation of Mark Bittman's adaptation of a Jean-Georges Vongertichten Ginger Fried Rice recipe* a while back. It was instantly printed yet I only made it last week. I too really liked the recipe. The dominant ginger flavor gives the rice a nice bite, which then is mellowed out by the egg yolk. It has an amazing, crunchy yet creamy mouth feel and a rich, savory flavor.

I adapted Smitten Kitchen's version of the recipe by substituting 1/4 cup canola oil for 1/2 peanut oil, low sodium soy sauce instead of regular and adding a touch of Sriracha** to the soy sauce and sesame oil mixture for spice. I took "salt to taste" a bit too far, each part tasted fine on its own but together I needed water while I ate, so I'll be toning that down next time. I used brown basmati rice cooked one day in a advance and I didn't bother to mold it into a beautiful presentation. Shocking, I know.

A plus to this recipe is you can get away with using a mere two dishes and really only one each day since the rice should be aged, which puts this recipe on par with its beloved cousin Sesame-Garlic Soba Noodles. I might one day seek out the original but for now it is safe to say this will go in my semi-regular meal rotation as is (which really means I'll make it once a month or something ridiculously rare like that).

*As I typed all the adapation's out I couldn't help but think of the numerous times in the Bible where they list genealogies of who begat who... They were always so tedious to read. I skimmed them.
**On a side note did you realize Sriracha is made in the U.S.? Fascinating. I really want to try the Jean-Georges Vongertichten recipe linked to that article as well.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Orange Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris. To quote her "The dessert is made of different layers: a pate sablee with orange marmalade, a flavored whipped cream topped with fresh orange segments and served with a caramel and orange sauce. You build the dessert upside down and then unmold the dessert so that the bottom layer (the orange segments) becomes the top layer."

I had never heard of this dessert but it is fantastic: creamy, light, bright with citrus and pleasantly sweet with a stunning presentation. When the challenge first was posted I was excited just to learn to to make marmalade but the whole dessert was an amazing learning experience. Since it is so time consuming I likely will revisit the marmalade long before the rest of it. Hopefully one day (anyone have a special occasion, the urge to go in on the ingredients and a mixer?) I will make tians again, perhaps even experimenting with other fruits like grapefruit, kumquat and a little ginger.

In a break from form I am placing the recipes below the pictures. I don't want to skip including them but they are LONG. I added a few comments to them and between the pictures as well.

Boiling the thinly sliced oranges, three times, to remove bitterness. No one ever said marmalade was fast.

The end result was a little chunky but super delicious. I wanted to eat it all with a spoon (and had trouble NOT eating it all with a spoon since I made this the weekend before the rest of the Tian). Next time I'll perhaps run the peels through the food processor a bit to make them finer...then again I like candied rind bits.

I segmented the oranges and made the orange-caramel sauce the night before I assembled the Tians. It was a good decision as it took longer than I expected. Unfortunately my orange slices were mandarin sized. I should have picked bigger ones! Learning the proportions for a flavored caramel sans using a touch of extract was useful. I always wondered how Baileys-Guinness Caramel happened and now I have some idea.

 The assembled Orange Tians as served. They were a success and worth all the labor involved. It would be nice to figure out how to smooth the Saran wrap a bit more to get the elegant clean slides but my krinkled ones were fine with me.

Pate Sablee tastes like a very light shortbread though less sweet... The leftover of it, the marmalade and the whipped cream made for lovely "ice cream" sandwiches that could be dipped in the orange-caramel sauce or eaten on their own.

For the Pate Sablee:
Ingredients U.S. Imperial Metric Instructions for Ingredients
2 medium-sized egg yolks at room temperature
granulated sugar 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon; 2.8 oz; 80 grams
vanilla extract ½ teaspoon
Unsalted butter ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams ice cold, cubed
Salt 1/3 teaspoon; 2 grams
All-purpose flour 1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons; 7 oz; 200 grams
baking powder 1 teaspoon ; 4 grams

Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.

Process until the dough just comes together. If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again to form a homogenous ball of dough. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle.

Using your cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and place on a parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.

For the Marmalade:
Ingredients U.S. Imperial Metric Instructions for Ingredients
Freshly pressed orange juice ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams
1 large orange used to make orange slices
cold water to cook the orange slices
pectin 5 grams
granulated sugar: use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked
[I added a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste!]

Finely slice the orange. Place the orange slices in a medium-sized pot filled with cold water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, discard the water, re-fill with cold water and blanch the oranges for another 10 minutes.

Blanch the orange slices 3 times. This process removes the bitterness from the orange peel, so it is essential to use a new batch of cold water every time when you blanch the slices.

Once blanched 3 times, drain the slices and let them cool.

Once they are cool enough to handle, finely mince them (using a knife or a food processor).

Weigh the slices and use the same amount of granulated sugar . If you don’t have a scale, you can place the slices in a cup measurer and use the same amount of sugar.

In a pot over medium heat, add the minced orange slices, the sugar you just weighed, the orange juice and the pectin. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency (10-15 minutes).

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

For the Orange Segments:

For this step you will need 8 oranges. [I used juicing oranges and I needed so much orange juice for the recipe. I'd recommend another kind. Their segments were really small and made it hard to shape them into the top of the Tian.]

Cut the oranges into segments over a shallow bowl and make sure to keep the juice. Add the segments to the bowl with the juice.

For the Caramel:
Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
granulated sugar 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
orange juice 1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons; 14 oz; 400 grams

Place the sugar in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it.

Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture over the orange segments. [My sugar started to crystallize and get firm here but I just kept stiffing over lowered heat for a few minutes longer to work it out. Everything turned out fine.]

Reserve the other half of the caramel mixture in a small bowl — you will use this later to spoon over the finished dessert. When the dessert is assembled and setting in the freezer, heat the kept caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). You can then spoon it over the orange tians.

[Tip: Be very careful when making the caramel — if you have never made caramel before, I would suggest making this step while you don’t have to worry about anything else. Bubbling sugar is extremely, extremely hot, so make sure you have a bowl of ice cold water in the kitchen in case anyone gets burnt!]

For the Whipped Cream:
Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
heavy whipping cream 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
3 tablespoons of hot water
1 tsp Gelatine
1 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar
orange marmalade (see recipe above) 1 tablespoon

In a small bowl, add the gelatine and hot water, stirring well until the gelatine dissolves. Let the gelatine cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream. Combine the cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip the cream using a hand mixer on low speed until the cream starts to thicken for about one minute. Add the confectioner sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatine slowly while beating continuously. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade.

[Tip: Use an ice cold bowl to make the whipped cream in. You can do this by putting your mixing bowl, cream and beater in the fridge for 20 minutes prior to whipping the cream.]

Assembling the Dessert:
Make sure you have some room in your freezer. Ideally, you should be able to fit a small baking sheet or tray of desserts to set in the freezer.

Line a small tray or baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Lay out 6 cookie cutters onto the parchment paper/silicone. [I used ramekins lined with saran wrap]

Drain the orange segments on a kitchen towel.[I used a strainer and touched up with a paper towel. It was effective enough for me.]

Have the marmalade, whipped cream and baked circles of dough ready to use.

Arrange the orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter. Make sure the segments all touch either and that there are no gaps. Make sure they fit snuggly and look pretty as they will end up being the top of the dessert. Arrange them as you would sliced apples when making an apple tart.

Once you have neatly arranged one layer of orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter, add a couple spoonfuls of whipped cream and gently spread it so that it fills the cookie cutter in an even layer. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top so there is room for dough circle.

Using a butter knife or small spoon, spread a small even layer of orange marmalade on each circle of dough.
Carefully place a circle of dough over each ring (the side of dough covered in marmalade should be the side touching the whipping cream). Gently press on the circle of dough to make sure the dessert is compact.
Place the desserts to set in the freezer to set for 10 minutes.

Using a small knife, gently go around the edges of the cookie cutter to make sure the dessert will be easy to unmold. Gently place your serving plate on top of a dessert (on top of the circle of dough) and turn the plate over. Gently remove the cookie cutter, add a spoonful of caramel sauce and serve immediately.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gnocchi with Red Cabbage, Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes and Garlic

Gnocchi's texture lets me imagine I'm eating cookie dough while feeling healthy since being savory it skips sugar. Obviously that's awesome and makes it one of my favorite foods. I received a potato ricer for  Christmas, requested with the goal of making my own gnocchi, and just put it to use Sunday night.

I followed 101 Cookbook's recipe for Cooking Gnocchi Like An Italian Grandmother and found the instructions easy to understand. Riced potatoes are light, fluffy and look like Play Doh hair. While time consuming making gnocchi was easier than expected... For a first attempt I figure the most important thing is that they floated after being cooked, didn't disintegrate and had the requisite doughy texture. :) I definitely need to keep practicing to get the appropriate size and shape.

Instead of keeping it simple and pairing the gnocchi with tomato sauce, I decided on Red Cabbage, Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes and Garlic, a tasty mixture on the slightly sweet side of savory. The cabbage's crunch, roasted garlic's richness and the slightly peppery, nutty finish of the Jerusalem Artichoke contrast well with  Gnocchi's smoothness but the "sauce" needed to be a bit thicker or to not exist. I'm not sure which yet.
Approximate recipe for my accompaniment... Preheat the oven to 475 while dicing a medium onion, not too finely, peeling and thinly slicing Jerusalem Artichokes and Garlic. Toss these items with Olive Oil, Salt and freshly Ground Pepper, then roast approximately 30 minutes until slightly crisp and caramelized. Set aside  Jerusalem Artichoke pieces to top the plated dish. Next add half a head of thinly sliced red cabbage to the roasting pan and pour in roughly 2.5 cups of Trader Joe's Organic Vegetable Stock, salt generously if you use low sodium broth. Roast this mixture in the oven for approximately 30 minutes taking it out and turning the cabbage occasionally so it cooks evenly.

Next time I will probably saute the onion and red cabbage, set it aside, and then use the broth to make a real sauce that would coat everything better. I may also try veggies that impart less natural sweetness. Anyway, if you decide to try the rough recipe don't put the gnocchi in until you are ready to eat as mine turned a bit lavender, which tasted fine but looked strange.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Quick and Spicy Tomato Soup

When April forwarded this Quick and Spicy Tomato Soup recipe from Giada De Laurentiis recipe noting that it was "kind of cheating but it's amazingly delicious for how quick and simple it is," I knew I had to try it. After all she doesn't even like using recipes so it had to be good.

I substituted roasted vegetable stock for store bought, pearl barley for the pasta and dipped Wasa Whole Grain Crisps in it while eating. April added about 1/3 C of freshly grated Parmesano-Reggiano and some freshly ground black pepper and served it with crusty bread.

I may have misread the recipe and used too many red pepper flakes because I found the spiciness overwhelming. I like spice but when eating the soup requires a tissue it is over the top. The easy remedy was swirling in a tablespoon or two of plain (greek) yogurt and eating it cold.

In the future I'll probably adjust the red pepper flakes and/or add them later in the simmering stage to reduce the spice. I may also saute the carrots a minute or two longer since they were pretty crunchy. Regardless this will definitely be revisited! I had to stop myself from buying ingredients to make it again this weekend...a sure sign of love.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thin Mints

To celebrate my friend Danielle's birthday I made her Baking Bites' Thin Minties, as Thin Mints are her favorite cookie. The resulting cookies weren't machine perfect but they were crisp with a hint of mint and the requisite chocolate coating.

I added approximately 3 tablespoons of milk to the batter to make it form cohesive logs and I would recommend adding a bit more mint extract (perhaps to the chocolate coating) to make the mint flavor more prominent. I'd make a recommendation for my biggest issue with the cookies but I have no ideas... The chocolate coating never hardened!

I let the cookies cool completely prior to coating them in the chocolate/butter mixture and ultimately let them sit overnight with wax paper over them. In the morning? They were still soft. I ended up putting wax paper pieces between each one to prevent a mess and ultimately suggesting that Danielle keep them in the fridge, which isn't so bad as Thin Mints always taste good cold.

These were fun to try but I don't think they are worth the effort involved. I'll probably stick to supporting the Girls Scouts (or stealing cookies from others who support the Girls Scouts) when I want Thin Mints in the future. If you live nearby feel free to arrange a visit for a frozen cookie or two in the next few weeks... I have extras in my freezer.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lemon-Kissed White Bean and Kale Risotto

33 minutes left to post this Daring Cooks' Challenge before the deadline! Between 1 p.m. and now I have burnt my fingers making cookies, cut my hand on a can, "run" 4 miles in 45 minutes at the gym (furthest ever), freaked out about the apartment beside ours in the building next door catching on fire and made this risotto. So I'm a bit tired. We'll see if I can string together coherent thoughts. If not just act like I did please...

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf. The recipes can be downloaded here. In addition to making risotto all Daring Cooks were to make their own stock.

Since I'm not eating meat this month I made roasted vegetable stock, which I had not made previously. The recipe creates a very rich, dark stock though I'm not sure the time involved is worth the flavor. It was my first time successfully keeping a stock at a simmer so it was a very clear stock, even if it was almost black, and that was exciting.

I liked the Eleanor and Jess' chosen risotto recipe. It was much simpler than the version I have used in the past and still creates a warm, comforting risotto. This time I added a bunch of Swiss Chard cut into ribbons, the zest of a Lemon, a tablespoon of Lemon Juice, a half cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Salt and Pepper to taste to create a nutritious main course. I liked the end result! The lemon kept things bright and the swiss chard broke up the creaminess of the risotto and beans. In the future I would probably try to make the lemon flavor more intense as there was only a hint of it.

Thanks to Eleanor and Jess for hosting a great, affordable challenge!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Soft Pretzels

When someone says a recipe is a fun weekend project you should take them seriously. Do not start making soft pretzels at 8 p.m. on a Monday, especially not after watching the Oscars in Harlem the night before and getting home at 12:45 a.m. They will smell heavenly but you will be tired and hot because keeping the oven at 450 degrees this long is woah.

I would have put this project off but I had committed to making the pretzels for tonight's volunteering last week. And when I commit I really commit. Even though as I write this I'm up later than I would like I have to tell you the pretzels were fun to put together and easy.

The dough rose beautifully and just kept rising. It had this fantastic smooth, elastic texture that I could have rolled out for hours and I might have done so while trying to get the pretzels perfect only it was so late that I was saved from my perfectionism. I used parchment paper instead of greasing the pans, which made clean-up a breeze, and kosher salt instead of pretzel salt as I already had it.

These are delicious, at least as good as Costco's soft pretzels. I highly recommend you make them on a weekend!  My only caution to you is don't over poach the dough. Over poached pretzels will end up sticky/uncooked on the bottom and a little creepy though still tasty if you remove the doughy layer.

When I read the entry's comments I noticed that someone had wrapped veggie hot dogs in the pretzel dough and made stuffed pretzel bites. Yum. I might have to try that next or a soy-ginger glaze or a cheese-green chile filling like a jalapeno popper or pb&j...there are endless possibilities!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Guiness Floats

This month I promised myself I wouldn't eat out or eat meat other than seafood. I knew it would be a challenge not to eat out but it is much harder than expected. I hadn't thought about how I planned to define eating out... Is it simply buying pre-made food elsewhere? Or does it include rejecting food other people buy and give to me? It probably should exclude things like the mediocre pizza I had a work meeting but I have trouble declining free anything and the pizza would have been thrown out. The meat thing really isn't so bad though, especially since I'm still eating seafood and I'm not a die hard carnivore in the first place.

Last night Meg improvised a dinner for us. She's a whiz in the kitchen, who cooks intuitively. As a recipe lover this impresses me to no end. She deboned then cooked Chilean Sea Bass with Sesame Oil, Soy Sauce, Marsala Wine, Garlic, Ginger and a decorative Lemon slice over a bed of Spinach in a foil pouch. Once done she had this amazing flaky fish and a silky, Asian-Italian fusion sauce I took far too many slices of baguette to sop up. Since the whole thing cooked a mere 15 minutes the ginger and garlic retained a lot of their bite, which is rare and enjoyable.

My job was dessert. I thought about making 6 different things and then realized I should reign in the dessert making. After all I did eat that Tiramisu basically by myself. To keep things simple I opted to take Meg's suggestion and bring the ingredients for Guinness Floats, which as you can imagine involve Vanilla Ice Cream and Guinness. I like both ingredients separately and the rich, slightly bitter coffee-like flavor of Guinness goes well with the sweetness of ice cream. Given my sweet tooth though I kept wanting to increase the ice cream into a milkshake proportion. Strange as I like Guinness on its own...I guess once I meet sweet I find it irresistible and want more.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Braised Pork with Caramelized Leeks and Apple Cider

I successfully braised pulled pork! Braising Pork with Caramelized Leeks and Apple Cider using the linked recipe and selecting the proper cut of pork i.e. something fatty like pork butt results in succulent, tender falling apart pork. It easily could been shredded more but I was happy to leave it in the form it fell into when I removed the excess fat since the mixed textures appealed to me. 

The sauce has a hint of sweetness and is super rich thanks to the deeply caramelized onions and leeks. Seeing how all the liquid I was supposed to cook down was gone when I took off the Dutch Oven's lid my onions and leeks may have over browned but it was easy to fix. I just added some extra apple cider to deglaze the pan and then cooked the mixture down. Nothing tasted burnt so I was golden.

I ate the pork and its sauce over mashed celeriac. The celeriac provided an intense, very vegetable flavor that was a refreshing contrast with the meat. To create the mash I peeled the celeriac, boiled it, drained it reserving some of the water, and then mashed it up with the reserved water, salt, pepper and half and half until the taste and texture suited me.

To make this healthier, I recommend making it one day ahead and letting the sauce chill overnight in the fridge. That way you can remove a lot of the unnecessary fat; mine had spoonfuls that I could scoop off the top. Yuck. I'll probably make this pulled pork, or another variation, again though not just for myself as it is too much rich meat to eat alone.