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October 2009

October 29, 2009

Duck, pumpkin, banana, Thai aromatics

This is the grown-up version of the dish I made for my nephew a few weeks ago.  It required a little more effort than roasting a duck, slicing a banana, and roasting a butternut squash, but it wasn't difficult to do. And, it gave me lots of leftover elements I could use in other dishes throughout the week (which you'll see in a future post).  Let's dig in.

I did this dish over two days, because one of the elements required time in the fridge overnight, so I'll start with that one: banana pudding.

The first thing I did was roast a banana, whole, in its peel (pierced in 3-4 places with a paring knife), in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes.

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When the banana was cool enough to work with (about 15 minutes of resting was all it took), I opened it up and weighed 50g of roasted banana for use in this part of the dish (I used the rest in banana pancakes the next morning).

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I combined the roasted banana with half-and-half, dried banana chips, salt, and sugar, and brought it to a boil:

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I whisked in some agar agar and boiled it for another 90 seconds, whisking the whole time like a Tasmanian devil on crack.

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I poured it into a bowl and refrigerated it overnight.

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I got up nice and early the next morning to work on the duck brine.  In a large saucepan, I combined jalapeno chili, lemongrass, ginger, gluten-free soy sauce, cinnamon (I used cinnamon sticks instead of ground cinnamon, because I thought the powdery texture of ground cinnamon would coat or cling to the duck as it brined, and I didn't want that to happen), brown sugar, salt, water, and the juice from two of these:

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I brought it to a boil, then turned off the flame and let it steep for 2 hours.


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After it had steeped, I strained the mixture into a bowl (nestled in a bowl of ice to speed the cooling process) and refrigerated it for another 15 minutes until it was cold.

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I put the duck tenderloins into the brine and let them stay in there for 3 hours (in the fridge).

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While the duck was soaking in the brine, I prepped the rest of the dish.

I zested a lime -- peeling off long segments with a vegetable peeler -- then removed the pith with a paring knife and cut them into thin strips, boiled them in water and cooled them before preserving them in simple syrup:

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Next, I made the fried pumpkin seeds.

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The recipe called for just 16 pumpkin seeds, but I made a bigger batch of them because they were going to be fried and covered in curry salt, and that sounded like something I wanted to snack on.  So, I deep fried the pumpkin seeds in batches (in canola oil at 400F) and laid them out on paper towels to drain:

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I tossed them with curry salt (hot curry powder, sweet/mild curry powder, and kosher salt, ground with a mortar and pestle) and put them in a deli container until I needed them for plating.

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The next thing I did was roast the peanuts in a cayenne pepper-salt-sugar-water glaze:

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When they'd finished roasting (300F oven for 25 minutes), I let them cool for a few minutes, then put them in a Ziploc bag and crushed them with a large mason jar:

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I kept them stored in the bag until I needed them for plating.

Also while I was making the lime zest, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts, I was roasting a butternut squash (one hour at 350F):

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When it had finished its roasting time, I took it out of the oven, peeled it and diced the flesh.  I weighed and set aside the 500g of squash I needed for this dish.  I put some of the diced squash aside for later in the week (a photo you'll see soon), and mashed a bit of the rest for a late lunch (topped with parm-reg):

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Back to the dish....

I put the 500g of squash into a saucepan along with some cream, water, sugar, and salt and brought it to a simmer.  Before putting it in the blender as the book suggests, I used my immersion blender on it while it was still in the saucepan.  My blender is kinda crappy, so I wanted to make sure it was well on its way to being creamy before I put it in there.

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After I'd blended it (had to do it in two batches), I strained it into a small bowl to keep it warm.

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With about an hour or so to go before serving this dish to my friends and neighbors, the last thing I needed to do was finish the banana pudding.  So, I skimmed all the recipes, running my finger along the pages to make sure I hadn't missed anything when.... HEY!  Banana froth?  Wait, but I already roasted the banana, and that was for the pudding, so I.... oh.... huh...... yeah..... whoops.

If you've got the book in front of you, you'll see I missed the Banana Froth step of the dish.  I have no excuse other than I just plain forgot to do it.  When I was planning the timing of making all the different elements, I think I thought I'd already factored it in (because the opening instructions for the pudding and the froth were exactly the same -- roast a whole banana for an hour at 350F), but I hadn't. 

No worries, I thought to myself as I scanned the list of ingredients.  I already had everything on hand, and it's a froth, so it can't be that difficult; I've made froth before.  So, I pulled the ingredients together, cranked up the oven to roast another banana, and skimmed the instructions to make sure I knew what I was doing, and came to this part: "Cover and let steep for 2 days." 

My flux capacitor and a DeLorean were in the shop, so I just had to bag it altogether.

I win the Duh Award for the day, I guess.

I finished the banana pudding by taking it out of the fridge (where it had been since the day before), scooping it into the blender, and blending in on high speed until it was smooth:

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I pressed it (in batches) through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, and then into a squeeze bottle for plating.

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Time to grill the duck and plate this sucker.  I reheated the squash soup, and removed the duck tenderloins from the brine and patted them dry:

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I put them on the stove-top grill and grilled them for 2 minutes on each side.  When they were done, I cut a few of the tenderloins into 2x2" squares for plating (I snacked on some of the rest of the duck, and saved some for lunch the next day).

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I sliced some Thai red chili, ginger, and scallion for the final plating, and pulled a few leaves of cilantro, as well.

To plate, I filled small custard cups with the butternut squash soup and assembled the duck on a spoon perched on each custard cup's rim.  Atop the duck went a blob of the banana pudding and all the little garnishes: scallion, Thai red chili, fried pumpkin seeds, lime zest strip, cayenne roasted peanut, ginger, and cilantro:

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As I sit here in my little home office, watching the brown, orange and yellow leaves flutter from the tree across the street onto the wet street below, I can almost smell the duck brine steeping and the butternut squash roasting, and taste the flavors all over again.  This was a dish that made me thankful for fall.

Let's start with what's on the spoon.  WOW.  First, the duck.  I love duck.  I almost always order it when I see it on a menu, but I never make it at home.  Now, I want to make it every week.  It was perfectly cooked, and the flavors of the accompaniments?  Fantastic! There was just enough heat, just enough brightness, just enough warmth, and because I'd steamed the cilantro for 30 seconds (a trick I learned from a chef friend), it didn't taste like soap or make the whole bite taste like soap.  I actually enjoyed the taste of it (I KNOW!).  Even those who didn't like duck really loved this bite:  "This isn't duck; it's good!"  "Wow, I actually like this!"

The butternut squash soup was so fragrant and creamy and wonderful.  Admittedly, it was really rich, and a tad too salty for my tastes, but it was still delicious.  In all, it was a lovely dish, and it was so great to hit another one out of the park.

Up Next: Pheasant, shallot, cider, burning oak leaves

Resources: Duck tenderloins from Fossil Farms; jalapeno, lemongrass, ginger, chilis, cinnamon, pineapple, curry powders, cayenne, lime, dried banana chips, banana, butternut squash, scallion, and cilantro from HMart in Wheaton; San-J gluten-free soy sauce; David's kosher salt; pumpkin seeds and peanuts from TPSS Co-op; citric acid and agar agar from L'Epicerie; Natural by Nature milk and heavy cream. 

Music to Cook By: Ray Davies; The Kinks Choral Collection.  Earlier this year, Ray Davies, lead singer and songwriter for The Kinks, worked with the Crouch End Festival Chorus to record part of the Kinks' catalog with full orchestra, band and chorus accompanying him doing lead vocals.  Their recording of "Days" is just beautiful.  "You Really Got Me"?  Hilariously odd and wonderful.  A friend got an early copy for review and set it my way.  It goes onsale here in the States on November 10, but you can listen to samples and pre-order it on Amazon.

Read My Previous Post:  Crab Apple, white cheddar, eucalyptus, onion

October 26, 2009

Crab Apple, white cheddar, eucalyptus, onion

So, now that you know where the crab apples came from, are you ready to see how the dish unfolded?

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Gosh, they're pretty little guys, aren't they?

I weighed 2 lbs. of them, and set aside the rest in a smaller bowl as a fall centerpiece on my dining room table (which lasted all of a day and a half, because they ripened rather quickly and the ants and fruit flies swarmed about -- drat).

I put the two pounds of crab apples (along with some salt and sugar) into two Ziploc bags, and cooked them en sous vide at 190F/88C for an hour.  I tried to get as much air out of the bags as I could, but wasn't 100% successful, so I had to use one of my Le Creuset pots as an apple-bag-pusher-downer to make sure they stayed submerged:

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After the hour was up, I pressed the now-softened crab apples through a tamis and into a bowl:

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It's at this point the book suggests using a refractometer to measure the Brix (should be 20 degrees) of the now-pressed apples, but I decided to use a different kind of measuring device: my tongue.  I know; I'm so low-tech. The refractometer, in this case, would have been testing the sugar content (just like in the mango dish back in March), so I thought I might just be okay with going with my tastebuds instead.  That served me well before, so I trusted it again.

After tasting a small bit, I decided it did need a little more sugar, so I added 2T and stirred to dissolve it in the still-warm apple mush.  In the cooking process, the apples lost a lot of their negative flavor characteristics (bitter, chalky, sour), and even though it was still slightly tart, it was delicious.  That Achatz chap knows a thing or two, I think.

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I put the apple mush (it looks like the pink applesauce my mom makes) into the fridge to let it cool a bit.  When it had cooled, I ran it through my ice cream maker for about 20 minutes, then stored it in the freezer until I needed it for plating the next day.

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I decided to take a few liberties in making the eucalyptus pudding.  Instead of eucalyptus oil, I decided to steep a few eucalyptus leaves in the 500g of water the recipe called for.  I brought it to a boil, turned off the heat, covered the pot, and let it steep for 15 minutes.  Oh, how wonderful this smelled.....

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I strained the liquid into another pot:

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I added the sugar, salt, citric acid, and agar agar to the still-hot eucalyptus water and mixed it well with my immersion blender.

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I poured this mixture into a bowl and let it sit on the counter until it had fully set.

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I scooped out the gelled eucalyptus liquid and put it in the blender, added 10g of canola oil, then blended until it was smooth:

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I strained it through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and stored it in the refrigerator until it was time to plate.

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Next step? The pepper tuile.

I fully expected this to flop.  Implode.  Melt all over my oven and give me the finger, culinarily, as it were.

I don't know why I thought this step would be Failure City.  (It wasn't)  Maybe it's because I had to go to the craft store for the fondant, and if there's one thing that gives me the creepy crawlies, it's a craft store.  I went to Michaels on Rockville Pike here in Maryland, and that place always smells like dirty diapers and old library books.  The other thing that drives me nuts about craft stores?  Inevitably, every single person in front of me will want a price check on some marked-down item with a 5-cent discrepancy.  And, without a doubt, at some point during my simple one-item/no-coupon/not-on-sale transaction, the manager will have to come over -- register key on a plastic coil around his arm -- and override some sort of something, or do a VOID (dunh dunh DUNNNHH), and make a big stinkin' deal out of it and HOLYCRAPIHATECRAFTSTORES.

Ahem.

Sooooooo, I put the fondant, glucose, and isomalt into a saucepan and melted it, continuing to heat it until it had reached 320F/160C.


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I poured it onto a Silpat and let it cool until it had hardened.

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While it was cooling, I made the onion jam.

The whole time I was making the onion jam, I kept beboppin', scattin' and hooo-hoooo-in' around like I was both of the MJs, singing, "Go with it, go with it... Jam.... it ain't too much to jam, it ain't too much...it ain't too mu-uch onion JAM."

Please send help.

Or, you know, onion jam... 'cause this stuff was really easy and really good.

I diced the onions and rinsed them quite thoroughly in a strainer under cold running water.

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Then, in a saucepan, I combined the onions, some water, glucose, sugar and salt, and cooked it over very low heat for about two hours.

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The onions were soft, but still had texture.  I drained them through a fine-mesh strainer, and kept both the onions and the liquid, separately.  I reduced the liquid until it became a syrup (took maybe 10 minutes):


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I poured that reduced liquid, now syrup, back over the onions, and let the onion jam come to room temperature.
 

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I used a little espresso spoon to taste it, and I almost wish I hadn't, because it was really, really hard not to devour the whole (tiny) bowl of it.

By this time, the base of the pepper tuile had hardened:

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I broke it into small pieces and turned it to dust in my coffee bean/spice grinder:

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I put the powder into a fine-mesh strainer and sifted it over a Silpat (on a baking sheet) into an even layer, then added fresh-ground black pepper:

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I put it in a 350F-degree oven for two minutes.  The powder was melted, and shiny, and ready to come out.

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I let it sit on the countertop to cool to room temperature, and began working on the olive oil, olive oil JAM.  It ain't too much, olive oi-oi-oil JAM.

I'm so sorry.  Really.

Three egg yolks:

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Then, in a small saucepan, I brought glucose (clear) and Trimoline (white) to a boil over medium heat:

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I tempered the yolks with some of the glucose-Trimoline mixture, then mixed them all together, stirring thoroughly to combine.  I added some salt, and put this mixture in the food processor.


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As the food processor whirred, I slowly added the olive oil through the ... wait, it is called a feed tube, right? You know, the raised tubular part on the lid through which you add things?  It's a feed tube, right?  Why am I blanking on this right now and getting a little grossed out because it's awfully close to "feeding tube" for my liking?

So, I added the olive oil into the liquid through the feed tube (bllleeeaaarrrgh), as it was still processing, to emulsify it.

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I poured the olive oil, olive oil JAM into a bowl and kept it cool in the fridge until it was time to plate.

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The last think I had to make was the white cheddar sauce.  I shredded the cheddar, then added hot milk to it, stirred, and whaddya know?  White cheddar sauce!  Who says cooking is hard?

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Look how the black pepper tuile pulled up the edges of the Silpat with it as it cooled and hardened:

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Time to plate!

Oh wait... I realized just before plating that the assembling instructions called for some mint leaves and mint flowers, so I ran out to the garden and picked what I needed.  You can see how fresh it is by noticing the little spider running away as I picked up one of the stems to pluck off the leaves:

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The plating of this is really easy and kinda fun.  You just blomp all the elements of the dish on the plate, center the crab apple sorbet, and then stab the sorbet with pieces of the pepper tuile:

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It looked so pretty and smelled amazing, but I wasn't sure how I was going to eat it.  This happens every now and then, for me, when I actually eat at Alinea.  Should I take little bites of things separately, or try and get a little bit of everything onto the spoon to get one, cohesive taste?

I'd already tasted the individual elements as I made them, so I knew what they tasted like, each on their own.

So, I mashed it all together and made it look like this:

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And you know what?  IT WAS AWESOME!  The crab apple sorbet was just sweet enough, but still tasted like crab apples.  The notion of apple, cheddar, and pepper together, I love.  And, to have the olive oil and onion flavors in there made it all the more delicious.  The mint made it feel fresh and clean and light.  And then?  The eucalyptus just cracked it all wide open and made everything taste better, almost like it amplified every note in ways I find hard to explain.  It all made sense, and it was astoundingly delicious.  Really.  I'm not one to pat myself on the back or toot my own horn, but TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!!!!

Actually, my neighbor, Linda, said it best.  As she finished hers, she said, "You and Sean [that's her husband] both say the same thing about your dinners at Alinea -- that it's so much fun, and that there are certain dishes where you just take a bite and smile to yourself because it's so good, and all the flavors kind of unfold, and you just can't believe how good it is, and it's hard to explain because you kinda just have to taste it, AND NOW I GET IT.  I get what you guys are talking about!"

Prior to eating this dish, if you had presented me with an index card or piece of paper that simply listed the following: crab apples, black pepper, eucalyptus, olive oil, onion, white cheddar cheese.... I'm not sure if I could imagine what they would taste like together, or if it would even be good.  I mean, there are a LOT of competing aromas and flavors there.  Too much eucalyptus and you're eating a plate of chest rub.  Too much white cheddar, and it's like someone dumped a box of Annie's mac and cheese on your plate.  Crab apples?  Bitter.  Pepper?  Meh.  Olive oil and onion?  Yeah, sure, why not, but how?  But the nuances and subtleties of each of these flavors just came together in ways I completely did not expect, and thoroughly LOVED.

So, whether you smash it all together like I did, or taste the different elements separately, then together, on the same plate and say things like "wow," "whoa," "ooooh," after each bite?  It makes this cook a very happy girl.

Up Next: Duck, pumpkin, banana, Thai aromatics

Resources: Crab apples from Forge Hill Orchards; Domino sugar; David's kosher salt; Glucose from ShopBakersNook.com; isomalt, citric acid, trimoline, and agar agar from L'Epicerie; black pepper, onion, white cheddar, whole milk, and eucalyptus leaves from TPSS co-op; fondant from Michaels (ack!); eggs from Smith Meadows Farm; mint from my garden.

Music to Cook By: Kate Miller Heidke; Curiouser.  Love love love this album.  Love her voice.  Love that she's Australian but pronounces "sorry" like she's from Canada ("sore-y").  Love that it's boppy and fun and easy to sing along with.  Love that it's not JAM.

Read My Previous Post: Finding Crab Apples

October 22, 2009

Finding Crab Apples

Remember how helpful and supportive my mom was with my whole eucalyptus-magnolia confusion?

Well, she totally redeemed herself in my quest to find crab apples.  Yay, mom!

When I was in Madison, Wisconsin, I had a chance to go to their farmers market, which, may I say, WOW.  Hundreds of vendors, beautifully organized, hot coffee at the ready, cheese and other items for sampling, hot food carts at key points around the perimeter, good company on the stroll around the square... it's an incredible market, and I'm totally jealous.

On my walk from the hotel to the market early that cool and drizzly Saturday morning, my mind wandered to the tasks ahead of me that week both for work and for this blog, and I thought: It's October, I bet someone will have crab apples.  My flight was in just a few hours, so I figured I'd buy some, stash them in my suitcase, and hope they survived the trip home.  But I didn't know how many crab apples I needed; couldn't remember if I needed one pound, four pounds, eight bushels, twelve tons, or just three wee apples.

My parents were traveling, so I couldn't call them to ask them to check their copy of the Alinea cookbook.  My neighbor was minivans-deep in her kids' soccer practices, so I couldn't have her run across the street to my house and look it up for me.  Just before putting out an APB on Twitter, I texted my friend, Brad, who I knew would have his copy of the book nearby.

Of course, my text message woke him up (because it was 7 o'clock on a Saturday morning, and man, that was jerky of me to call so dang early), but he quite gamely looked it up, and texted back: 2 lbs.  Turned out no one at the market had crab apples, so I woke up Brad for no reason.  Whoopsie.  On to plan B.

I was going back to Pennsylvania to babysit my nephew that next weekend, so I called my mom a day or so beforehand to see if 1) the crab apple tree in our old house's backyard was still there, 40 years later; 2) there was anyone in town who had a crab apple tree I could pick from; or 3) there was still a crab apple tree at the orchard our uncle used to own.

She told me there was a crab apple tree on the wooded property behind their house (I hadn't known about that one!), but that the deer had already gotten to it, so that was a no go.  She didn't know if the crab apple tree at our old house was still there, so, she said she'd check over at the orchard, and let me know.

As I was driving up their way that next Saturday morning, she called to say that there was, indeed, still a crab apple tree at the orchard, and that the woman she spoke to there said I was more than welcome to come by and pick whatever I wanted.  So I did.

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Just a mile or two from my parents' house, is Forge Hill Orchards, which used to belong to my great uncle.  I have such fond and vivid memories of this place.  Smells.  Sounds.  Watching my grandfather and cousins help the crew sort and pick out the bad apples on the conveyor belt.  Feeling the fuzz on a fresh-picked peach.  Eating nectarines, and enjoying the juice dribbling down my chin.  Begging my uncle for a nickel out of the cash register so I could buy a bottle of Nehi grape soda (in a glass bottle) from the soda machine behind the cider pressing barn.  Watching cider get pressed, and holding a cup under the spout to taste it before it was pasteurized.

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Yes, that's Three Mile Island off in the distance.  Lots of memories there, too, but for another time.

Many, many fall days when I was a kid, we'd rush home after school, pile into the car, and go to the orchard to pick apples, buy pears, or just stop by to see what they were working on.  I remember not being a very productive apple picker.  I more enjoyed climbing the tree, finding the perfect limb -- way high up, or so it seemed at the time -- to sit on and daydream, and picking one apple to eat while everyone else filled their baskets.  Turning off the main road onto the farm lane back to the orchard used to have such a distinct sound when the road was still gravel.  It's paved now.  That bums me out.

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I stopped part of the way down the lane and, for the first time, realized how big this orchard is.  I mean, it's not a huge, bajillion-acre commercial mass-production orchard, but for our area, it's significant. Peaches, nectarines, pears, chestnuts, apples, plums, strawberries, chestnuts, and fruits I'm sure I'm forgetting... as far as the eye can see.

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But I wanted crab apples.  Just two pounds of crab apples.

I poked my head into the little orchard store to say hello before finding my crab apple tree.  I made my way down a small hill past the old cider-pressing barn and farmhouse, toward the picnic pavilion and pond where we'd had cookouts with my mom's cousins in the summer, and standing there just before the pavilion was a crab apple tree.  Without realizing I was doing it until after I'd done it, I reached up and touched my right cheek -- I swear, I could feel the sting of that one hard, little crab apple hitting me smack in the face when I was 10 and my brother was 8, and his baseball-throwing (and crab apple-throwing) arm was a force to be reckoned with.

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I stood under that tree and just breathed in.

Just fifty feet away, the orchard workers were burning wood in a large, shallow burn barrel to generate enough smoke to help keep bugs away.  Twenty feet away in the other direction?  A small pond with a slightly murky smell, but familiar nonetheless.  I think the rowboat turned upside-down at the water's edge is the same one we'd use to ride out into the middle of the pond after the sun had set to listen for that distinct bullfrog crrrrroooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaak.

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Smoke, drying grass, water, apples, and now, under this tree, the smell of crab apples.  When they're blossoming, they smell ever so sweet and floral.  But when the fruit is ripe, they have their own distinct smell.  A little like feet, and a little sweet like an overripe grape, with a hint of spice and a hint of green.  Earthy. Sharp. Unusual.

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I had my half-peck basket in the crook of my left arm, and used my right hand to pick. 

I could've stayed there for hours.

The sun was shining, the air was slightly smoky and crisp and cool, there was an occasional breeze, and I could almost taste the hot dogs my cousins and I ate and the marshmallows we roasted not far from this tree those many, many Indian summers ago.

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I picked and I picked, and wondered, why am I remembering picnic food?  I should be remembering what crab apples taste like, and it dawned on me: I'd never eaten a crab apple.  They always seemed so ugly and wormy.  Great as weapons (my brother and I played out our love for each other with fruit violence apparently, because my only memories of crab apples seem to be getting hit by them, or winging them at someone hard enough to leave a red mark and a lump on their arm), but I had no idea what they tasted like.  Sure, I'd read about them and could imagine by their size and shape that they were sour, but I needed to know for myself.

I took one of the ripest-looking ones out of the basket and rubbed it on my shirt to clean and polish it.  Shiny, half-red/half-yellow, slightly larger than a golf ball.  I took a small bite.

Chalky, sour, sharp.  Slightly woody.  Tough, not crunchy, and really, really tart.  Maybe a tiny note of sweet for the first 0.00000000000000000000001 seconds of the bite.  A clean, pointed nose-feel that went all the way up into my sinuses and out through my tear ducts.  Bite-y but not acidic or vinegary.  Weird, but not bad.

I couldn't wait to see how this sharp, pointy-tasting, dense and chalk-like little fruit was going to be transformed into a tasty (I hoped) sorbet, complemented by a pepper tuile, eucalyptus pudding, olive oil jam, onion jam, and white cheddar sauce.  So, I finished filling my basket, hopped in the car, and listened to the Avett Brothers as made my way back out the farm lane and away from the orchard, fiercely missing the dust cloud the old gravel road used to churn up in the rearview mirror.  Stupid progress.  Stupid pavement.

I've made the dish, and will post it on Monday.

But now, just an hour or so ago as I stood in line at the Whole Foods in Silver Spring, the woman in front of me put a small bag of crab apples (who knew Whole Foods carried crab apples?) on the conveyor belt and said to her daughter, "I don't know what we're gonna do with these, but we'll figure something out."  She turned and smiled at me as she continued to move things from her cart to the conveyor belt.

I smiled right back and said, "You're buying crab apples?  I just made crab apple sorbet.  Wanna know how?"

She smiled again, much bigger this time, and said, "I would love to.  I just saw these and we'd never eaten them before and wondered what they were like.  It wasn't until you just now asked me about them that I realized I had no clue what to do with them." 

So, I hand-wrote on the back of an envelope she'd dug out of her bag what I hope were good, simple instructions for the sorbet... or at least instructions that will work for her, in her kitchen.  I hope she finds as much delight in eating those crab apples -- in whatever form they take -- as I did in finding mine.

Coming soon: Crab Apple, white cheddar, eucalyptus, onion

Apple

October 19, 2009

Wild Turbot, shellfish, water chestnuts, hyacinth vapor

Scott Weinstein, my fishmonger and my friend, is leaving Blacksalt, so I wanted to get one more seafood dish in before his last day (October 31, for anyone in the DC area who wants to stop in before he leaves). 

Every single bit of food in this recipe made me drool.  I had very high expectations for this dish, because turbot and shellfish and sunchoke puree?  Music to my ears.  I'm still having a hard time accepting the fact that summer is over, and this dish was the transition that is helping me love autumn once again: fish and shellfish from an ocean I miss so much, and a warm, earthy puree that makes this colder, windy weather a little more palatable.

I've made mussels and littlenecks here at home so many times I've lost count, but I'd never worked with razor clams before.  I see their shells on the beach every summer and I've eaten them quite a bit, but I've never cooked them.  They were kinda slurpy... meaning, after I rinsed them, they were moving in and out of their shells quite a bit and making a kind of slurping, slithery sound against the glass bowl as they did so.  A little creepy, but nothing at all like the Great Softshell Crab Trauma of 2007.  Not even close.

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In a large stockpot, I brought to a simmer some wine, vermouth, shallots, peppercorns (the book calls for 27 of them; I put in 28 just to be a dick), fennel, tarragon, thyme, and garlic:

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Then, one batch of shellfish at a time, I steamed the mussels, littlenecks and razors -- about 3-4 minutes for each, pulling each batch out with wok strainer thingie, and letting the shellfish sit in a colander over a bowl to catch all the liquid that might be hiding in the shells.


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After removing the shellfish from their shells and putting them in separate containers prior to the further cleaning of them, I strained the cooking liquid through a double-cheesecloth-lined strainer.  I wanted to make sure I caught all the sand and other gunk that might have ended up in the cooking liquid.  It looks murky in the photo below, but it was clean as a whistle.  No grit, no sand. 

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It was at this point that I checked the book again to see how much of this liquid I needed for the custard, for sous vide-ing the turbot, and for storing the shellfish.  I'm glad I did, because had I not rechecked it, I would have been screwed.

After cooking the shellfish and straining out the solids, I ended up with 490g of liquid (started out with 500g -- 250g white wine + 250g vermouth+whatever small amount the shellfish release when steaming open).  The books calls for setting aside 250g of the liquid to store the shellfish in, then to reduce the rest by half, which would be used for the custard and the turbot.  But, the custard required 350g of stock and the turbot needed 240g of stock, so I was perplexed as to how 240g of stock (since I had just 490g and already set aside 250g for the shellfish) could be reduced to equal 590g. 

So, I made the executive decision to not reduce the stock, and instead, set aside just 200g (instead of 250) for storing the shellfish in the fridge, which left me with 290g -- so I split it in half: 145 each for the shellfish custard and the turbot, then adjusted the corresponding ingredients in those dishes accordingly.

I love math.

Where were we?  Ah yes, cleaning the shellfish.  I removed the bellies from the razor clams (the belly is outside the clam and pulls off much like an outer filmy layer of a scallion or green onion), then sliced the razor clams on the bias:

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Next, I trimmed the littlenecks, removing the stomach and rinsing them to make sure all the sand was removed.

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I don't have an individual photo of the mussels being cleaned, but I just pinched then pulled off that outer blackish band from around the edge of each mussel.  Then, they all went into the now-strained cooking liquid and into the fridge while I finished prepping the rest of the dish.


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Onto the shellfish stock!  My kitchen, at this point, smelled amazing.... and got even more amazing as the afternoon went on.  I love the smell of cooking shellfish.  It's so fresh and fragrant and salty.  Bliss.

For the shellfish stock, I mixed the shellfish stock and some heavy cream and brought it to a simmer, then added some iota carrageenan (that's with a hard "g" sound, not "jeenan") and mixed it with my immersion blender.

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Poured that mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another saucepan, covered it, then stored it in the fridge until it was time to plate.

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Sadly, neither the farmers market nor three local grocery stores had sunchokes when I was shopping for this dish (which is odd), so I subbed in some Yukon Gold potatoes, because I knew they'd work, flavor-wise with this dish.  Sunchokes would have been better (I love love love them), but I had to roll with the punches and make do with what I had.

So, I peeled and cut the potatoes into small chunks, put them in a saucepan with heavy cream and salt, and brought them to a simmer.  I cooked them over low heat, covered, for 25 minutes -- at which point the potatoes were so, so tender.

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I put the potatoes and 2T of the cooking cream into the blender and pureed them until they were silky and creamy, and oh my....

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I put the potato puree into a small saucepan (over no heat) and got to work on the fish.


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Gulp.  Yes, Turbot is expensive.

I suppose I could have substituted halibut or sole or cod, but it's so rare that I eat Turbot, that I wanted to splurge and do it right.

I also bought a little more than I needed, because I knew I wanted this dish to be more entree-sized in its final presentation.

So, yeah... Turbot.  But look at it:

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I put each turbot fillet into a ziploc bag along with 10g butter and approximately 15g of shellfish stock.  Rolling them to remove as much air as I could before sealing them, I put them in a 138F/59C water bath for 20 minutes.


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With 5-10 minutes left to go on the fish's cooking time, I slowly and gently reheated the potato puree and the shellfish custard.  I also put the bowl of shellfish atop a large pot of simmering water (improvised double-boiler) to warm them.

To plate: turbot in the center, flanked by potato puree and a little fortress of diced water chestnuts

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I gently poured the custard in so that it surrounded the fish, but didn't cover it. Then, I topped the fish with a generous serving of shellfish, as well as a fresh fennel frond.

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So, how'd it taste?

Check out the reaction below from one of the neighbor kids (who, by the way, SPIT OUT the last two Alinea @Home dishes he tasted):

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Need further proof that this was a winner?

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You guys, this is one of the best things I've ever made.  It's certainly our favorite dish, so far, from the Alinea cookbook.


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Clean plates all around.  The turbot is rich, but not chest-clutchingly so.  The shellfish custard was creamy and fragrant, but not heavy.  The shellfish was perfectly, perfectly cooked (yay, me!).  Not a bit of grit or mealiness in any of mussels or clams (yay, Scott!).  The water chestnuts added a needed texture to it, and the potato puree was just lovely.  All the flavors worked so well together, and everything just tasted so gooooooooood.   It was one of those dishes that made me wish I had a fireplace, because I wanted nothing more than to curl up on the sofa under a blanket with a glass of Macallan 18 afterward. 

Now, those of you who have the book, or who remembered every word in the title of this post might be wondering: Carol, what about the hyacinth vapor?  Good question.  A few weeks ago, Grant posted an essay on his blog on The Atlantic's Food Section called "Fish, Flowers, and the Taste of Youth."   In it, he writes about the creation of this dish -- all the different variations, tests, and how it just wasn't coming together the way he wanted it to until he added the scent of flowers.  Smelling hyacinths as he cooked and ate this dish reminded him of fishing with his dad for walleye, and how they'd sit on the banks amid the spring wildflowers eating lunch.

And it struck me: fish and flowers is Grant's food memory.  Not mine. 

And yes, I could have found hyacinth or some other really, really fragrant flower to put in a charger-type bowl, and create vapor for this dish, but it didn't feel right.  It felt forced.  And, it's not like by not including it I was ignoring a specific technique or ingredient integral to the execution of this dish or its enjoyment by others.  Instead, the shellfish and turbot smell were more than enough to make us giddy and hungry and happy bite after bite.  Because when I think of shellfish, I think of the beach, I think of Quahog's, and I think of my friends and how much we all love a good meal together.  And, when my neighbor's kids think of shellfish, they always always always think about two things: the mussels at Central, and their favorite French Laundry at Home dish: "Linguine" with White Clam Sauce... and that makes me grin, because I wonder if -- when they're all grown up, out on dates or having dinner with friends or their own families -- when they see and eat mussels or clams they'll think about how much fun we've all had over the years eating at the same table, cracking jokes, trying new foods, and revisiting old favorites.

The next day, I worked all morning and treated myself to an Alinea-leftovers lunch -- DeBoles gluten-free/corn spaghetti with some leftover shellfish tossed in some leftover shellfish custard.

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And, just as I finished eating it (and it was divine), I heard the mailman's truck pull up outside, and I was hoping he had something I'd been waiting for:

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YES!  A brown, cardboard box from Amazon can only mean one thing:

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I love my life....

Up Next: Crab Apple, white cheddar, eucalyptus, onion

Resources: Shellfish and turbot from Blacksalt; Martini and Rossi vermouth; Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc; peppercorns, garlic, and fennel from the TPSS Co-op; thyme and tarragon from my garden; iota carrageenan from Terra Spice; Organic Valley heavy cream; Dynasty water chestnuts.

Music to Cook By:  Meaghan Smith; The Cricket's Orchestra.  I love this girl's voice.  It's young and soulful and really beautiful.  She's a modern-day Keely Smith, she is.

Read My Previous Post: Alinea? IS FOR BABIES

October 15, 2009

Alinea? IS FOR BABIES!!!

I recently had the great pleasure of babysitting my one-and-a-half-year old nephew, Ian, for a night at my brother's house in Pennsylvania.  Just before heading up there, I was in the thick of shopping for and prepping the Alinea duck dish (page 224), and as I read through the list of components in the dish -- duck, banana, squash -- I thought to myself: I wonder if the little monkey butt would eat duck, banana, and squash.  So, I picked up a duck at the farmers market, and a butternut squash and a banana at the supermarket on the way to my brother and sister-in-law's house.

I didn't do the full Alinea dish for him.  That comes later.  Instead, I just roasted the duck (after stuffing it with raw ginger, onion, and salt) and roasted the butternut squash.  The banana?  Just sliced and diced.

My bro and sis-in-law left for their event, and the kid and I settled in for a fun day of swinging on the swingset, checking out all the different kinds of bugs on the garage door, HulkSMASHing towers of blocks, reading the same book fifteen thousand times (and feigning surprise and terror over the shark fifteen thousand times), singing along with Moo, Bah, La La La, dancing along with videos on VH1 Classic.

Around 6 or 6:30, the duck had finished roasting in the oven -- the smells of which along the way resulted in Ian taking a break from playing to walk into the kitchen, point at the oven, and say "hot."  When I'd turn on the oven light for him to see what was in there, he'd smile and say, "Ooooooooooo....."

After the bird rested for about 20 minutes outside the oven, I cut a few pieces for him to eat, along with some of the roasted butternut squash (which I just threw in the oven whole, then peeled and diced when it had cooled along with the duck) and the banana.

I strapped the little guy into his high chair and said, "Alright, bud, Aunt Sissy made you some dinner -- it's sort of from the Alinea cookbook, and I think you'll LOVE it.  It's banana, squash, and duck!"

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Not exactly the response I was hoping for.

Then, I put the plate in front of him:

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That's a little better.  A little more enthusiasm.  A little more joie de vivre, as it were.

I said, "Hey goofus, how about a bite of the duck?"  I handed him a piece of the duck, and he did that thing where he just chews it with his front teeth so as to not really have to taste it.  I mean, it was a NEW FOOD and it MIGHT BE YUCKY:

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Not loving it.  But, not hating it.  (Notice his hand holding a piece of banana on the tray, at the ready, to cleanse the palate after the nasty duck)  He ate about four bites of the duck, and had had enough.  Up next? Squash:

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Then, bananas, then more squash...

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The squash was the hit of the night:

 

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Meantime, one of the dogs was desperate for something, anything to fall from the high chair tray.  I threw a few pieces of duck her way, which resulted in some really (not) pleasant smells in the living room later that night, if you catch my drift.  Lesson learned. Huskies + duck = Defcon 2.

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Once Ian saw that the dog was getting some of HIS DINNER, he crammed another piece of duck into his mouth:

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So, mostly a clean plate by the end of the meal, and a happy, happy baby:

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Up Next:  Wild Turbot, shellfish, water chestnuts, hyacinth vapor


October 12, 2009

Idiazabal

I have a number of Spanish-speaking friends from all over the world -- Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela -- and when I asked them how to pronounce Idiazabal, I got three different answers:

EE-dee-ah-zah-ball

ee-dee-ah-ZAH-ball

ee-dee-AH-zah-bowl

Oy.

So, I'm just going to call this dish Alinea Cheetos and be done with it.

Because that's what it is: cheese, flour, salt, water, a little bit of frying, and there you are.  Alinea Cheetos.

First, a mise en place:

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Clockwise from the top: water, cheese, salt, tapioca flour.

Next, I prepared the steaming portion of our program.  I don't own a steamer, and since I had no plans to buy one, I picked up this silicone splatter screen instead and figured I'd jury-rig equipment I already had to make this work:

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See?!?!?  You can use it to steam:

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I set a large pot of water on the stove to boil -- the circumference of which was the same as the silicone splatter guard -- and made the dough from the ingredients in the mise en place.

I combined 50g of the grated Idiazabal (saving 10g for the final step of the recipe) with the tapioca flour and salt in my food processor:

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While the food processor was running, I slowly added the water:

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The end result is that the dough looks like a blob of really nice ricotta:

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I put the dough between two layers of plastic wrap and rolled it with a rolling pin until it was 1/8" thick:

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By this time, the pot of water on the stove had come to a simmer and had begun to release steam through the holes of the splatter guard:

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Still in the plastic, I placed the dough on top of the steamer/splatter guard:

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I covered it with a pot of the same size and let it steam for 12 minutes.  Then, I flipped the dough and let it steam another 12 minutes on its other side:

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After the 24 minutes of steaming was up, I removed it from the splatter guard/steamer, and let it cool to room temperature:

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Once it had cooled, I removed the plastic and placed it on.... dunh dunh DUUUUNNNHHHHH, a rack in my NEW (well, used) DEHYDRATOR!!!

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Y'all, I was just so freakin' sick and tired of failing miserably at trying to dehydrate things in the oven.  My lovely friend, Heidi, offered to loan me hers, but on a lark I searched Craigslist one Sunday morning and there it was.  An Excalibur 4-drawer food dehydrator.  Being sold by someone mere minutes from my house.  I called the number on the ad, and within the hour (and for $50), this lovely machine was mine.... alllll mine.

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The dough went in to dry out at 130 degrees F for two-and-a-half hours.  I checked it, and it was still a little wet at that point, so I let it go another 30-40 minutes until it had fully dehydrated and was crispy.

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Meantime, I ground some BLiS smoked salt and maple granules with my mortar and pestle while I waited for the canola oil to get hot enough so I could fry the now-dry Idiazabal dough:

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Once the oil had reached 425 degrees, I gently slid the flat of dough into it, and let it fry for about two minutes -- when it had become puffy, light, and airy:

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I let it drain on a few layers of paper towels before breaking it into cracker-sized servings.

I used a pastry brush to brush on a thin coating of BLiS maple syrup (which seriously? Rocked my damn world, that stuff is SO GOOD and I love it so much I wanna marry it), then sprinkled it with the maple granule-smoked salt mixture.  Then, I sprinkled the remaining 10g of Idiazabal on top before putting it under the broiler:

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I took them out after about 30 seconds, and let them cool on a cooling rack.

Here's what they looked like:

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I put them in a bowl, and made my usual round of phone calls to the neighbors to have them come over for a taste.  And, freakishly (but lucky as hell for me), no one was home, so I settled in for the evening with a TiVo full of Mad Men and Glee, a glass of Podere Forte, Castiglione d'Orcia (Petrucci, 2005), and proceeded to eat every last one of my Alinea cheetos.  All by myself.

And they were fantastic.

Idiazabal cheese is made from unpasteurized sheep's milk, and it has a smoky flavor, even though it's not smoked.  It's slightly nutty, a little buttery, and I love it shaved over gluten-free pasta with a little olive oil.  I also like to grate it over sausage and lentils, or beef shortrib soup with kale and chard.

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So it's a cheese I already loved.  And now made into a light, airy, crispy cracker with hints of smoked salt and maple.  A crispy crunch, with sweet, salt, smoke, and a little nutty buttery nose feel.  Made with tapioca flour, so I didn't even have to think about how to adapt it to make it gluten-free. 

I mean, YOU tell me which one of these you'd rather have:

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Yeah, I thought so.

Up Next: Wild Turbot, shellfish, water chestnuts, hyacinth vapor

Resources: Idiazabal cheese from Whole Foods; tapioca flour from Bob's Red Mill; David's kosher salt; canola oil from HMart; BLiS smoked salt and maple syrup; Buck Hill Farm maple granules.

Music to Cook By: Mayer Hawthorne; A Strange Arrangement.  A young soul singer from Michigan, Mayer Hawthorne (not his real name -- it's something like Andy Cohen, I think) has incredible talent.  I love his voice, and the production values on this album make me feel like I've been dropped into the 60s, listening to a hybrid of Smoky Robinson, Curtis Mayfield, and maybe someone a little more beachy and coastal.

Read My Previous Post: Corn, (not)coconut, cayenne, mint

October 01, 2009

Corn, (not)coconut, cayenne, mint

Here's where we veer a little off-course from the Alinea cookbook.  One, because if I eat coconut, I break out in hives all over my arms and that's no fun.  Two, because I really don't like the taste of coconut anyway, so even if I didn't have a weird systemic reaction to it, I would've done a substitute for this dish because I'm stubborn like that.  And three, I wanted to mix things up a bit and not do a recipe verbatim.  I really wanted to pair corn with tomato and tarragon, as a sort of farewell to summer because I was not AT ALL ready for summer to end.  Mid-August into mid-September is my favorite time of year.  The food, the weather, my state of mind... it's just the time of year when I'm happiest and love everybody.  Seriously y'all, I'm NICE, and I smile ALL THE TIME.  It's weird.  It's like it's not even me.  It's Bizarro Me. 

Corn, tomatoes, tarragon, scallops, grilled hanger steak, and coffee from Wawa at the beach... that says end-of-summer to me.  But corn?  I could write a thousand love songs about corn.  I can't get enough of the stuff, and it makes me sad every year when the season ends (which is why I blanch and freeze a ton of it in early September so I can treat myself during the winter).

Corn and tomatoes were still in abundance here in the DC area until the very end of September (we had a cold, rainy June, so everything got a late start), so I was happy to have beautiful, fresh ingredients to work with.  The challenge, for me, was figuring out the best way to make this dish work with the ingredients I wanted, while still honoring the intent of the original dish.  One of the things I love most about the Alinea cookbook is that each dish has a number of sub-recipes, and those sub-recipes can be used in so many different ways.  Now that my work schedule is starting to become a little more normal and I'm not on the road as much, I'll start doing some posts about how I incorporate some of the sub-recipes into my everyday cooking, or adapt them in ways that might complement other dishes.

But today, let's talk about corn and tomatoes, tarragon and mint, and remind ourselves what the end of summer tastes like as we slip on a sweater and welcome the crisp fall weather.

Instead of coconut sorbet as the first layer of the dish, I did a tomato sorbet.  I cored and seeded 5 large tomatoes and put them in the food processor, then strained it through a china cap into a large mixing bowl.  To that, I added a tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of kosher salt, and a teaspoon of red wine vinegar, and stirred until everything was dissolved and incorporated.

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I poured the liquid into a 9x13" baking dish and put it into the freezer.

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While that was freezing, I made the corn sorbet.  I knew these sorbets would have a different texture, and I was okay with that.  I knew the tomato sorbet would be a little icier, a little more like a granita, while the corn sorbet would be smoother, and a little more like a sherbet.  Fine with me.  I just wanted to taste the two together and see how it'd turn out.

I bought a dozen ears of fresh, sweet, white corn from the farmers market, husked it, and cut off the kernels using an electric carving knife while holding the ear of corn in the center of the bundt cake pan you see below...

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Man, can't you just smell the corn-y deliciousness in that photo?  As I was cutting off the kernels, I was waxing rhapsodic in my head about Grant Achatz and how I loved him so for including a dish in this book that uses one of my most favorite foods ever.  I may have even begun to sing a little self-composed ditty about Grant, and corn, and summer, and love, and sunshine, and loveliness, and corn and bliss and again yay for the corn, and then it all went into a five-spiral crash when I had a bit of a cornsplosion as I began spooning all that corn into my juicer to make corn juice. 

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Corn was spilling everywhere, shooting back out of the top of the feeder tube; and, the front pulp and juice holders blew off just after that photo was taken (luckily, I caught them both against my abdomen and in the crook of my elbow before their contents spilled), and my love song about corn turned into a metal thrash involving vocabulary not fit for a PG-13 audience.  Or, an NC-17 audience, if I'm being honest.

I ended up with 745g of corn juice (the book calls for 750g --whoot!), which I poured into a saucepan.  I added glucose and salt, but skipped the stabilizer the book calls for.  I'd been having some difficulty getting my hands on it to begin with, and I wanted to see if I really needed it for this dish to taste good.  I know restaurants and commercial entities use stabilizers to maintain the product's structural integrity and reduce the formation of ice crystals (which come with temperature fluctuations in the freezer), but I've made enough ice cream and sorbet here at home (thanks to my lovely friend, David Lebovitz), that I wanted to see if I could make this without it.  I know that stabilizers also act as an emulsifier, but knowing there was butter in this recipe, I thought that might be enough of a lipid to make it work.

So, corn juice and salt:

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Adding the glucose:

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I brought it to a simmer over medium heat, whisking to incorporate the glucose, then transferred the liquid to my blender.  I put the blender on low speed, and added 50g of cold butter, one teeny little chunk at a time.

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It was perfectly seasoned -- no additional salt required -- and because I don't have a Pacojet, I chilled the corn liquid in the fridge for an hour or so, then put it in my ice cream maker for 40 minutes to begin to freeze.

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I took the now-frozen tomato sorbet-granita and scraped the top to get enough for a taste test, and yummmmmmmm..... it was so flavorful -- I couldn't wait to see how the two would do together.

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I poured the corn liquid onto the frozen tomato layer and put it back in the fridge for another hour or two, until it had frozen.

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Meantime, I made the mint puree... and added some tarragon to it.  I'm getting near the end of my tarragon in the garden, and while I know I'll make a nice big stash of tarragon butter to freeze and use over the next few months, I wanted to change this recipe a bit and make it a mint-tarragon puree rather than straight mint, since I'd already swapped out the coconut for the tomato.

I blanched and ice bathed 40g of mint leaves and 30g of tarragon leaves:

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After their ice bath, I strained the leaves and put them in the blender along with some salt, sugar, ice water, and Ultra-Tex 3 (which sounds like a shapeware bra for someone with giant bazongas, doesn't it?), and blended it until it was smooth:

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Strained it and funneled it into a squeeze bottle:

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As I poured it into the squeeze bottle above, I noticed it was a little more runny than I expected, so rather than it being a lovely blob of puree atop the frozen sorbet square as it is in the book, I knew I'd have to use it as a sauce, of sorts, in the plating process.

I got out the cayenne, fleur de sel, zested a lime, and cut the now-frozen sorbet into little squares for plating.

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You can see the tomato layer is a different texture than the corn layer, and that it broke off while being cut.  No worries.  This kind of plating wasn't working for me visually or otherwise, so I decided to prepare bites on spoons instead.  First on the spoon went the mint-tarragon "sauce", topped with the tomato-corn sorbet, which was topped with a pinch of cayenne, pinch of lime zest, and a pinch of fleur de sel:

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I'm not sure everyone liked this as much as I did.  The kids didn't like the flavor combination.  The adults weren't jazzed about the frozen nature of it.  I, however, could've eaten the whole tray of it myself.  Is it better than a fresh, room temperature salad of tomatoes, corn, tarragon, mint, lime, salt, cayenne, brown butter, and red wine vinegar?  No.  But it's not a contest.  This was, for me, a lesson in adaptation and reconfiguration... a way to test what I thought I already knew, and how to make it better using ingredients I love.

The tomato sorbet was so fresh and bright and the corn sorbet was so smooth and creamy, and... corn-y.  It was odd eating them together in a popsicle/ice cream-texture, but not off-putting in the least.  I love how the lime, salt, and cayenne played off each other and brought out the flavors even more -- and I was thrilled that I got their balance right.  The tarragon-mint component brightened it without overpowering any of the flavors.  This was a dish that tasted like summer, and from a temperature and texture perspective may have been more enjoyable in July (from the frozen nature of it, but oddly, before those ingredients are truly in season).

Peace out, summer...I miss you already...


Up Next: Idiazabal (or, as I like to call 'em, "Alinea Cheetos")

Resources: Corn and tomatoes from Musachio Farm at the Takoma Park Farmers Market; Domaine des Vignes red wine vinegar; glucose from ShopBakersNook.com; David's kosher salt; 365 unsalted butter; mint and tarragon from my garden; Domino sugar; Ultra-Tex 3 from Terra Spice/Alinea; cayenne from Adriana's Caravan; lime from HMart; fleur de sel de Camargue.

Music to Cook By: Aterciopelados; La Pipa de la Paz.  I was in New York visiting friends a few years ago, and heard Aterciopelados' song Florecita Rockera in a bar and thought if I ever needed an alias or alter-ego name, that would have to be it... because "buttercup rocker"??? How awesome is that?  She's sweet and lovely like a buttercup but SHE ALSO COULD KICK YOUR ASS.  Discovering that song led me down the path of everything Aterciopelados has done, and I just love their sound.  I think I have every album.  Bolero Falaz is great, as is El Estuche.  I wish I was more fluent (or even conversational, heck) in Spanish, because these really are good windows-down, sun shining in, volume up, singalong songs, and I'm sure they way I'm butchering them phonetically has the potential to cause some sort of international incident.  I'm still shocked that the nation of India hasn't bombed us over my phonetic rendering of "Jai Ho."

Read My Previous Post: King crab, vinegar, aromatics, seaweed

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  • Your comments and questions are welcome. However, please think of this web site as if it were my dining room table, and make sure your comments reflect the manner in which you'd treat someone in their home, as if you'd only just met them and were sitting across from them, sharing a meal. I've got thick skin and can take constructive criticism (because ultimately, we all learn from it), but nasty, rude, grossly off-topic, attacking, baiting, or blatantly self-promotional comments aren't welcome and won't be posted. It's just not cool.