March 27, 2004

Fire! Muffins are a-rising

With all due respect to The Cult, of course...

Messing about again with changes to some basic recipes. This time, southern cornbread muffins. I replaced the normal buttermilk that one finds in such a recipe with an equal amount of whole milk and then added 5-6 shots of Tabasco sauce. The vinegar in the sauce curdles the milk and provides the proper acid balance from the original recipe. Plus, Fire!

Topped each muffin with some very very sharp cheddar cheese. Baked as usual.

Posted by dowdy at 03:19 PM

March 24, 2004

3, oh, 3 is a magic number

I've been messing about with various ways of cooking tri-tip. I've normally done it in a fairly basic offset cooking method -- sort of half smoked and half grilled. But I've heard some people talk about cutting steaks from the tri-tip and grilling it more like a flank steak.

Tonight, I messed about with that. I'm not sure I'm all that thrilled with the result just yet. I think I didn't have the fire high enough, and need to go for more of a medium rare instead of the (quite) rare that I normally cook my steaks to. I think lesser cuts of meat need a bit more heat to help break down the fibers.

In other 3-sided cooking news, made up a batch of chocolate scones. Cut them into traditional (triangular) wedges, but this time used cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate as I normally do. Overall, still turned out an excellent weeknight desert. I wish that I had picked up some strawberries -- which is my favorite way to serve these.

"Every triangle has three corners, every triangle has three sides, no more no less, I must confess that three is a magic number."

Posted by dowdy at 08:01 PM

March 23, 2004

"Dye"ing for Indian food

This story in the Guardian claims that the food colors used to make tikka masala its trademark color is hazardous to your health.

I usually use tandori spice blend along with my own spices. I know the blend has powered food color in it, but I think I'm way under the limit here.

Posted by dowdy at 06:48 AM

March 21, 2004

Salt, salt, salt!

Winter cranks down here in California, and I'll admit that my last month and a half of cooking has been fairly uninspired overall (lame excuse for no writing, but hey). Lots of baked chickens and the sort. However, the past two weeks or so of unseasonably warm and fully blue-sky weather have jolted me out of these cooking ruts -- sort of.

I'm working on a braised short-rib recipe, which doesn't sound very warm weather at all! But today was 50ish when we woke up, so I made another run at it.

It's a basic braise of boneless beef short ribs (which for some reason are always available at Costco). I've settled on robust wine for 50% of the liquid (today was a fairly inexpensive Zin that upon tasting showed major amounts of cigar notes) and 50% beef stock for the rest. I browned off some bacon first and used the fat that was rendered to brown the beef, which I had cut into 1-1.5 inch chunks. I then tossed out the fat, added in the stock and wine, covered, and braised for about two hours.

I strained out the meat and put the liquid back on the fire to reduced to near syrup like stages -- and boy did it taste salty at this point! And for me to call something salty. Heck, ruined for sure. But, I went forward and made a mental note to not salt anything else.

While the stock was reducing I made a basic risotto of shallots, chicken stock, and saffron, and at the last minute stirred in parmasagn cheese. When the risotto was done (twenty minutes, if you will recall) I tossed the beef chunks back in the stock to re-heat and also added the reserved bacon slices.

Plated in huge bowels with just two or three beef chunks per plate on top of the risotto, and just a tiny smattering of the sauce around. Fresh thyme sprigs from the garden on top. No salt was tasted in the eating -- I guess that intense sauce thing works out in the end.

This is the 2nd run at this, and I think this dish is going to appear at a popular winter dinner later this year as a result. Blarg! It was intensely yummy!

"Blarg!" is my only word for this type of flavor. It is the intense, reduced, heavy, wined, meated, concentrated explosion that you get from this type of cooking. Putting the smallest amount of the sauce or meat in my mouth causes an actual physical reaction. I can feel the saliva drop from the back portion of my mouth. This, yes, this this this, yes, this! Why isn't this what I taste when I go out to eat most days?

The reason this dish works so well is the very clean and classic flavors of the risotto (which is also quite pale in color), matched with the almost overwhelming intensity of the meat (which is contrawise almost black in color). And, of course, a little herb on top so that you figure the $25 per plate was an excellent value. You don't need much of this, but boy is it worth the effort.

Posted by dowdy at 05:30 PM