Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kimchi - HTCE p230

Very spicy pickled vegetable it is, alas, kimchi it is not. While this tasty marinade can be reused for pork, chicken, beef, or anything meant for the grill, it is nowhere close to traditional Korean kimchi. Oh, let me count the ways.

First of all, the savoy cabbage never properly wilted to the right texture. This batch was started over the winter and the leaves are still crunchily raw. Letting it sit for 2 hours does zilch to a sturdy variety like the savoy. Secondly, and probably the most glaring, kimchi does not use soy sauce. I seriously paused when looking at the recipe, but fought my reputation as a recipe tweaker and followed the direction for 1/4 cup soy sauce. Thirdly, the sugar made this concoction way too sweet. The resulting taste of soy and sugar would be a tasty marinade for any grilled meats, but is nowhere in the realm of kimchi. Finally, whatever this should have tasted like, 2 pounds of caggabe is a heck of a lot for a measly 1/4 cup garlic to infiltrate.

8 months later, I find this interesting condiment still sitting on my fridge door. Maybe I can cuisinart what remains and convice people this is an asian-inspired cole-slaw? So what would I do differently next time? Start with chinese napa cabbage, lose the soy sauce, make a salt brine, increase red pepper and garlic. The color should be like the cheery fiery jars looking up at you in the Korean delis. And most importantly, it needs to sit out at least overnight to start the fermentation process.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chocolate Souffle 2 ways - HTCE p958

I was gifted with 10 dozen eggs from a Catskills farm this weekend, so it seems egg dishes are in my immediate future. I started with a New York Times recipe (Feb 11, 2009) from Mark Bittman that requires no flour. This simplified version relies on beating egg yolks with sugar until thick, to be combined with stiffly beaten egg whites.

The second recipe is more time consuming as it begins with a roux (equal parts butter and flour cooked over low heat). The roux is mixed with yolks, and combined with stiffly beat egg whites.

Both versions baked for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. The first version is airy and disintegrates into sweetened chocolate air in your mouth. The crust is slightly crisp and is reminiscent of toasted marshmallows. The second version is moist, less sweet, and has more of a bread pudding texture. Both recipes are rather timid with the chocolate, treating it more as a flavoring, rather than the point of the souffle. Maybe with 2 to 3 times the porportion of chocolate would you get the rich, dark chocolate souffle served at bistros.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pressed Tofu, HTCEV, pg. 640

Ben and I can't pass up a good challenge, so when Clare posted her tofu press machinations, we knew we had to show ours off too. Ben has been working on this variation of a press for a while now and thinks he's mastered it, but wants to take it one step further with two wooden cutting boards and a dowel in the center to hold the weights still so that they don't slide off the top.
suggests using extra firm tofu from this method in many of his tofu recipes. I am not a huge fan of tofu right out of the package, but this method makes the consistency much more palatable.
The system is simple: two cutting boards with holes cut into the sides to allow for two dowels on opposite corners to slide up and down the board. You insert the tofu in the center, place the top board over the food and then place heavy weights (in this case 10 pounds worked best). After approximately one hour, much of the moisture pours out of the contraption (use a towel and place near the sink to avoid a mess) and you have a delightfully extra firm piece of tofu.
After the tofu was nicely firm, Ben sliced it into nugget-size rectangles and sprinkled them with soy sauce and a touch Worcestershire sauce. He then dipped them in egg white and dredged them in cornmeal spiced with Italian herbs, paprika and some salt.
He then filled the frying pan with a 1/4 inch of oil and added the tofu in small batches once heated allowing each side to become golden brown. he then transferred the crispy tofus to a paper towel.
We ate the tofu over a bed of quinoa with artichokes.
It was a delicious, satisfying and filling meal.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Squeezing Tofu- HTCE Anniversary Edition, p. 444

Why is there a picture of weights in a pan you wonder?????

I love tofu especially when it is baked and dry and slightly crisp on the top. I never knew about pressing it to get all the water out before you bake it until I read page 444 and saw the neat little picture of a type of tofu press . Over a period of two months I have been rigging all of my pots and pans to create the perfect press.
This was my first try but it kept falling over.

This one actually fell over.

This one stayed up and pressed the tofu but I felt it wasn't heavy enough.

I love my George Foreman grill but it wasn't heavy enough either.
You can see the earlier versions were quite primitive and downright dangerous. I even broke the top of my favorite red heart shaped casserole dish when the entire thing toppled over onto the floor. I was too upset to take a picture of it. It seems that tofu is not very steady especially when you have all kinds of things piled on top of it.

After many configurations, I have devised the perfect press: two five pound weights and one eight pound weight in a pan placed on top of the tofu. Sometimes I just use the two five pound weights if I have more time.
Use plenty of paper towels to catch all the liquid that comes out. I prefer extra firm tofu to start with. I then bake it for an hour at 350 degrees with a little light soy sauce and end up with delicious baked tofu.
OK so here's the challenge............ What kind of tofu press have you used??????????
Bon Appetit.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Braised and Glased Brussels Sprouts, HTCE Anniv edition, p. 270

I love Brussels Sprouts and usually just steam them. This time, I wanted to see what Bittman had to offer. This recipe looked so simple that I had to try it. Put butter, chicken stock, and Brussels sprouts in pan, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. I used the liquid from home made chicken soup and I know that made a big difference.
Uncover, and boil off all the liquid, until everything becomes glazed and crisp. What could be easier than that? I had to sneak a few right out of the pan. The rest went over some pasta with a little fresh Parmesan cheese ground on top. It was delicious and I will definitely make this again! I forgot how good butter tastes when you cook with it. I love olive oil but once in a while it's nice to use real butter. The Brussels sprouts were tender yet crisp on the outside.
Bon appetit and as usual, a big thank you to The Bittman.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Basic Polenta, HTCE pg. 485

Taking it a bit easier tonight I decided to make one of Bittman's recipes with my basic crunchy kale and Herbes de Provence spiced chicken breast. The result was delicious.
As I began writing this I realized that Doris made this recipe once before, but it looks like we got different results. Doris' looks creamier and mine came out firm with some heft. This could have to do with cooking time. Bittman says that after you've brought the milk, water and salt to a boil, to whisk the polenta briskly to make sure it doesn't clump. I did that, but it solidified pretty quickly, calling into questions his directions to let it cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
By the time I had stirred in the butter (6 minutes or so) the polenta was thick enough to serve, and thick enough to mold into disks to fry if we had wanted.
Once plated we added grated Parmesan cheese and ground pepper. Next time I think I'll use chicken broth instead of plain water and will make Bittman's herb variation where you stir in sage and rosemary while cooking and minced garlic at the end. Sounds pretty good. This was such an easy dish, I know we'll make it again, especially on hectic weeknight.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Easiest and Best French Bread HTCE (Yellow) pg.224

Since my fish meal (see below) called for crusty bread as a side, and since it was Sunday and I had all day, I decided to make my own. I've made this bread before using this recipe with mixed results. I chalked those results up to the weather and temp. of my kitchen since they can play a part in the end result when baking bread (or anything else for that matter).

before rising

after rising

I tried putting 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup corn meal in place of 1/2 cup of the total white flour as suggested by Bittman to make the bread a little more interesting. As you can see, the bread didn't rise very much. This was my fault as I think my yeast was too old. The resulting bread was a little dense, but still tasted very good (especially still warm!). I will definitely make this again with the same flour modifications and fresher yeast.