November 28, 2003

Wine from Missouri?

Carol and I went over to our friend's house for Thanksgiving. Derrick did the cooking (I helped a little). His dad provided a very interesting assortment of wines, including one from my parent's state.

We had a Chambourcin that was amazingly good and just look at that price! I've had Missouri wine before, but I don't think I ever had a red before, or if I did it certainly wasn't one memorable enough to recall.

Advance cooking/prep for the party continues. I've finished the stocks:
- 1 gallon oxtail
- 2 cups glace de viande
- 2 quarts dark vegetable
- 1 quart vegetable demiglace
- 2 quarts light chicken
- 2 quarts light vegetable

On Sunday Derrick is coming over to help make:
- crab bisque base
- crab butter
Bisque is a rich soup that you make by crushing the shells of the shellfish (lobster, shrimp, crayfish, and crab are all common to use). It is thickened by rice that has been long-cooked and also then ground. The whole mixture is strained through a very fine mesh. At this point, the base can be safely frozen.

The shells are then ground (in a Kitchenaid via the paddle attachment) with butter and the butter melted/heated for about 45 minutes -- it turns a very bright orange/red color. Water is added and the mixture again strained. Placed in the fridge, the butter rises to the surface and solidifies where it can be taken off and frozen.

For service the bisque base is re-heated and heavy cream added. The crab butter is then whisked in as well.

Bisque wins the contest for "most creative use of kitchen equiptment" by a long margin. It also makes an enormous mess. Not that difficult, just messy. Did I mention that it starts with live crabs? Certainly one of those things to get out of the way prior to a real day of cooking.

- sun dried tomato gnocchi
- spinach gnocchi
- butternut squash gnocchi
All three of these are the same basic potato and flour mixture with various flavorings/colorings added. We'll form them up and freeze them raw. For cooking, we will boil them and shock them in ice water a few hours prior to service (with a light coating of oil to keep them from sticking). For service they will be re-heated in butter with some sage leaves added.

I almost always have a stuff/filled type pasta on the menu. They are easy to make ahead. Because of this so you can be creative/fancy with them without adding workload the day of the party. I actually find they tend to cook better from a frozen state. They also are easy to make flavorful and keep them vegetarian.

- foie gras terrine
I've got the foie already. You can buy it cryovaced in a frozen form -- most producers flash freeze and cryovac a pretty decent percentage of their product. Butchers get it in this frozen state and you can ask for them to give you one that is still frozen, or to order some if they don't have it already. In the month leading up to the party I ask at high-end supermarkets and when they have it frozen I pick it up. I have it defrosting in the fridge right now.

Derrick has never cleaned foie before, so this should be fun. It is a weird substance and between the newness of it and how expensive one knows it is, can be a bit off-putting at first. But it is actually very forgiving, especially when the end product is going into a terrine. I usually wear latex gloves for this, which helps with the slippery nature of the foie, and also because you are going to cook it very rare. Duck itself is not a large carrier of salmonella. However, I like to avoid transfering anything from myself onto the meat.

The terrine itself is simple. The foie (after being cleaned and sliced) is sprinkled with salt, pepper, a dash of nutmeg, and cognac. It is layed into the terrine mold with a line of truffle wedges down the middle. Baked in a water bath at 250 for around 20-25 minutes. The internal temperature gets to around 110-120 -- although I usually go by the sight of the melted fat. The fat is poured off and reserved. The terrine is then pressed in the mold with a board and a brick and placed thus into the fridge. Once it has firmed back up, the reserved fat is re-heated and poured on top to seal the terrine. I then wrap the entire thing in several layers of film wrap. The terrine needs to rest a few days at least in the fridge, and can easily keep for multiple weeks with the fat-seal in place. Making it 6 days ahead is no problem.

For service, one simply runs a knife around the edges, unmolds, removes the fat (which one saves for later use in making potatoes!) and slices like a meatloaf. Okay, that's probably not the proper comparison...

We'll probably do the foie first. I don't want to flavor the terrine with any stray crab bits, and I also want to avoid cross contamination that way (both from a sanitary and possible alergic standpoint). The crab will be next followed by a complete wash-down of the kitchen, and then the gnocchi last because it is the easiest -- plus the potatoes can bake while we are working on the bisque.

Posted by dowdy at 07:39 AM

November 07, 2003

Allow me to Clairify

Some folks at work were asking me about clairified butter a few weeks back after I admitted that I usually keep between one and two pounds of the stuff on my stove.

Last night with Bravo re-runs of The West Wing playing, I figured I might as well make some more and write up how I go about it. At least it goes with the name of the blog.

Clairified butter is butter which has had all of the water and milk solids removed. As a result, you can use it for high heat cooking without fear of burning. You traditionally also use it for emulsion sauces, although melted butter also works fine there and has a bit more flavor. Because it has had the water removed, it keeps well without refridgeration for several weeks (at least in my experience -- web searches turn up no solid information on this).

I keep mine in a small 1 qt covered saucepan that has seen better days such that I don't care to cook much in it. I leave it on the back of the stove unless I need the room. I use the same pot for doing the actual clairifying. It's just big enough for about a pound and a half of butter without having a foam-over problem.

To do this, melt 1 pound of butter. It can be either salted or unsalted -- salt is water soluble and thus you are going to remove it anyway. Since this butter is going to be a cooking medium rather than a main ingredient, I tend to use cheaper butter for this. Costco sells butter in 4 pound packs that I usually pick up for this purpose, freezing the unused blocks until again needed.

After the butter is melted, turn the heat down to low or medium low. You want the water to actually boil off, so exact heat isn't important. You don't want it to be really high for two reasons: 1) the pot can foam over 2) the solids will eventually settle to the bottom of the pot where they can burn. I usually use a large soup laddle to stir the butter every once in a while in order to encourage the water to boil off.

Once the water has fairly well cooked off, reduce the heat and allow the liquid to obviously settle into solids at the bottom and oil at the top. If there are bit of foam at the top, spoon these off. Pour off the oil into another container and remove the solids, any remaining water, and what's left of the oil from the pot. Wash the pot with water and dry. Pour the oil back into the pot, taking care not to catch any stray solids you may have missed in the first pour-off. Done.

You can either discard the milk solids, or if you have been careful not to allow them to brown and are thrify, can make use of them. They make a nice addition to bread recipies that already call for oil, butter, or milk. Two weekends ago I added them to a Rosemary/Olive loaf that I'd put about 1/2 C of whole wheat flour into. The butter solids helped to soften and tone down the whole wheat just enough.

Posted by dowdy at 08:55 AM

November 05, 2003

Chicken Run -- "I don't like gravy"

Carol made a chicken pot pie the other night and it reminded me that I didn't think I'd ever made one before. So, tonight I threw together a very unknowing pie.

For the filling I used:
- 4-5 raw skinless chicken thighs, medium cubed
- 2-3 raw skinless chicken breasts, medium cubed
- 2 carrots, small dice
- 1 stalk celery, small dice
- 8 mushrooms, thin slice
- 2 cans of commercial chicken broth (gasp!)
- 6 T butter
- 2 T flour

I ran up a quick sauce of the flour, butter, and broth and then seasoned it with pepper, sage, rosemary, thyme, and parsley. Salt wasn't needed because the broth was plenty salty. I tossed the rest of the ingredients (all raw) with the sauce in a large souffle dish. The filling was about 1.5-2 inches below the top edge.

For the crust, I used
- 2 C flour
- 1/4 butter (salted, so if using unsalted, add salt)
which I ran up in the Kitchenaid until large pebbles of butter remained and then ran in about 1/4-1/2 C cold water until it came together. I made it pretty soft rather than a "pie crust" type dough. Rolled it out to about 1/2 inch thick, and tucked the resulting disc down onto the pie. Poked 3 large holes in to let out steam and juices. Which was needed. See below.

Baked at 350 for an hour. Poured off extra liquid into a pot. Continued cooking for another 30 minutes. Removed from oven and again poured off more liquid. Reduced liquid in pot while allowing pie to cool. Dished up pie with extra gravy poured on top. I probably could have skipped this last step, but I am a complete whore when it comes to thick sauces...

The part that I think worked well was having the ingredients at small sizes, but raw, and then cooking the pie all together for a long-ish time.

Tastewise: flavorful. Chicken-y. Crust: more of a dumpling, but still very nice. Next time: either more flour or less broth in the filling. Not a bad first shot, however.

And you may ask yourself: why didn't I make this before?

Posted by dowdy at 07:44 PM

November 01, 2003

Recipe Development - Part 3

I did a batch of Gulub Jamun today as a test. It appears that the correct fry temperature is quite low -- about 300-325 in order to keep them cooking for 5 minutes without burning.

I also tested adding cocoa to the mix, and it appears that an addition of an equal amount of cocoa to flour is about right. The mix didn't get too dry as a result and had a nice chocolate taste. I'm also pretty impressed with the recipe as a whole. It seems quite easy and forgiving. I've been taste-testing them without the sugar syrup, but will add that in next weekend.

William and I discussed this desert and we sort of thought about doing a second dish to parallel the Gulub Jamun. My thought is a Rosemary flavored cream puff stuffed with a very rich dark chocolate mousse. I'm thinking of calling it "Rosemary-Chocolate Fraternals" because they are twins in ingredients and shape, but not really in production.

So far, looks pretty interesting.

Posted by dowdy at 02:35 PM