Monday, September 29, 2014

Pumpkin Seed Brittle – Break Some Off This Halloween

This pumpkin seed brittle recipe was a lot easier to make than film. The procedure for nut brittle, or in this case, seed brittle, is very simple, but there are points in the recipe when you have to move fast, which is unfortunate when you have to move a camera and set up shots. 

Even with these challenges, it came out just fine, and I’m only complaining as a way to build confidence. Once your sugar mixture has turned a nice caramel color, you have to immediately turn off the heat, add your baking soda (be careful), then your nuts or seeds (be careful), and hastily mix until combined. As the concoction cools it hardens quickly, so transfer into your pan and press as soon as you can (be careful).

After that, you can relax, unless you are scoring yours into shapes. No pressure, but you only have about two minutes to make your marks. After the brittle is cool, simply break it up, and you’ll be enjoying a crispy, delicious, and very seasonally appropriate treat.

Regarding the salt: you can add it right into the mix like I did, or sprinkle it over the top surface before the brittle is completely cool. That does look kind of cool, but either way, it’s critical, and should not be omitted.

I can’t help you with the tricks, but at least you have one more idea for a treat now. I hope you give this pumpkin seed brittle recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes enough Pumpkin Seed Brittle for 12 witches or 8 zombies:
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt (3/4 to 1 tsp if using fine salt)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Does This Count?

As I recently mentioned, I'd really love to make it to Video 2,000, and I just thought of a way to do that a little quicker than seven years. I may start doing golf tips on off days. This is me demonstrating my famous backwards-between-the-legs shot. I couldn't take a normal stance with the ball so close to the edge of the sand trap, so this was the only option. My father-in-law Al is on the green, and my sister-in-law Jennifer is filming. We were playing the gorgeous, Fairbanks Ranch Country Club. I don't remember if I made the put. ;) Enjoy!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Crostini Dijonnaise – Mustard-Infused Toasts for Extra Special Spreads

If you’re going to serve your pate or rillettes with toasted bread and mustard anyway, why not save a step, and just make mustard-flavored crostini? That’s the question I asked myself while making the potted duck spread we just posted, and this was the answer. 

For a first attempt I was very happy with the results. These had the same crispy crunch of traditional crostini, but also offered a fairly noticeable, mustardy zing.

I’m looking forward to trying some variations using hot mustard powder, maybe mixed into a little olive oil. Speaking of oil, my only criticism is that these needed a little more fat. Next time I’ll use a little more of the butter spread, and/or drizzle in some olive oil to insure we don’t have any dry spots.

That aside, I loved the color, and as we head into entertaining season, I think these would make a great addition to your appetizer arsenal, especially when paired with something as extra special as a batch of homemade rillettes (hint, hint). I really hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for one baguette:
1 baguette, sliced diagonally
4 tbsp soft butter
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp yellow mustard
salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne to taste
- bake at 350 F. until crisp and golden brown
(Next time I may try to add a few tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of mustard powder to the mix)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Duck Rillettes – It Only Tastes Like Duck Butter with Extra Butter

Duck rillettes is one of the most amazing culinary magic tricks of all time. Even though most of the spread is made up of fairly lean duck meat, by emulsifying in a little butter, duck fat, and duck gelatin, you’ll swear the final product has the fat content of the finest foie gras torchon. By the way, I miss foie gras torchon.

The key here is to mash the large chunks of cold duck with the warm duck fat and gelatin. As the meat breaks down, the fat cools and turns the whole bowl into creamy duck spread heaven. Pack it in a crock, keep it sealed with a layer of fat, and you have an incredibly tasty snack that will last long into the winter months.

Some chefs prefer to let the duck sit overnight with the rub on, and “potpourri” in, but I skip that step, and instead let the duck cool in it’s own juices after roasting, and then sit overnight in the fridge, to continue developing flavor. Once made, it can be enjoyed right away, but if you can hold off a few days, it will really come into its own. Or eat right away, and in a few days.

I know it’s a little early for edible holiday gift ideas, but keep this one in mind. The only problem is, once you’ve given duck rillettes as a gift, you’ll never give a gift as good. Just a little heads-up. That aside, I really hope you give this preserved duck spread a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 3 cups of Duck Rillettes:
1 whole duck (about 4 1/2 pounds)
- For spice rub:
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 generous teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
- For the potpourri:
12 cloves garlic
six 1/4-inch slices fresh ginger
3 bay leaves
peel from 1 orange (only orange parts)
1 generous bunch fresh thyme

- Roast duck at 250 F. for about 5-6 hours, or until meat pulls away from the bones

To finish:
cold pulled duck meat
1 tablespoon Armagnac or cognac or other brandy
2 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
2-3 tablespoons warm duck fat (add as needed)
2 tablespoons warm duck stock
2 teaspoons parsley
1 teaspoons chive
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne

Friday, September 19, 2014

Remoulade Sauce 2.0

I believe there’s a very old remoulade video floating around the channel somewhere, but after making some to go with our salmon cakes, I figured it was high time to share an updated version. Better known as tartar sauce, this easy and adaptable condiment isn't just for fish sticks anymore.

As I mentioned in the video, it was originally invented to go alongside meat, so it comes as no surprise that it’s excellent on everything from grilled pork chops to double cheeseburgers. And when it comes to sandwiches, as long as you have some of this sitting around (should last at least a week), no mayo should touch your turkey on whole wheat. 

Regarding the dried tarragon reduction at the beginning; this is an old-school step that many people will skip, but if you can find dried tarragon, I really think you should give this method to try, as the flavor is quite different than if fresh is used. With condiments like this, every single ingredient is “to taste,” so be sure to adjust according to yours, especially when it comes to the pickle combination.

If you’re going to serve with something on the spicy/tangy/savory side, you may want to include some bread-and-butter pickles for sweetness. On the other hand, if you're doing something like fried scallops, which have a naturally sweet flavor, you may want to go with just dill pickles to balance the flavor. Either way, I hope you give this remoulade sauce a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 1 1/2 cup of remoulade sauce: 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 cup finely diced dill pickles
1/4 cup finely diced bread & butter pickles
1 tablespoon chopped capers
1 tablespoon minced green onions
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fresh Salmon Cakes – Uncanny

Salmon cakes are one of my go-to, emergency meals. We keep a few cans of salmon in the pantry, and when faced with that dreaded “there’s nothing in the house to eat” situation, we pop one open, and are soon enjoying a batch of these easy, affordable, and pretty delicious patties.

That’s the typical scenario, but every once in a while I like to use fresh salmon. Salmon is one of those products, like chicken, that’s very easy to get into a rut with. People generally find a few recipes that work for them, and just stay with those, but this fairly simple preparation should be easy to add to anyone's rotation.

Like other seafood “cakes,” we want to use the minimum amount of filler. Just a touch of breadcrumb is all you need here, as the raw salmon is the real binder. That’s one of the big advantages over canned salmon cakes, where we’re cooking something that’s already cooked. The result is something much moister, and more tender.

As far as flavorings go, you’re faced with an infinite number of possibilities. Using this basic method, you can go hog-wild with variations, including, but not limited to, actual hog parts. These are also perfect for a burger bun, as well as a base for poached eggs. That may be my favorite use. I hope you give these fresh salmon cakes a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 salmon cakes:
1 tbsp extra olive oil
1/4 finely minced onion
2 tbsp finely minced red pepper
2 tbsp minced celery
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp capers
1 1/4 pounds fresh wild salmon, trimmed, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs (any will work)
2 clove finely minced garlic
pinch cayenne
pinch Old Bay
1 tsp Dijon mustard
additional olive oil for frying

Monday, September 15, 2014

Video 1,000! Your Most Frequently Asked Questions

As I joke in the video, this little Q & A should serve as irrefutable proof that I’ve made the right decision to stay off camera. Talking while being filmed isn’t that hard; it’s the part about making sense that’s the real challenge.

And if you’re thinking I took the easy way out here, just sitting around, talking to the camera, think again. These things are like a hundred times harder than a regular recipe video, so you’ll have to pardon all the questionable editing techniques. Despite the challenges, I really did enjoy finally getting to solve some of these mysteries for you.

By the way, if I didn’t happen to get to your question in this video, I will be doing the same thing for video 2,000, so hold that thought.  A heartfelt thank you for all the support you gave during the first 1,000, and we’re on to the next one. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Next Up: Video 1,000!

It wasn't for a lack of great ideas, but I'm here to confess, I wasn't able to decide on which recipe to film for the big milestone. It was just too much pressure. So, instead I'm going to finally answer the most commonly asked questions I've received over the last seven years. 

Do you have a restaurant? Why no written recipes? What's with the cayenne? I'll also make a rare appearance on camera, which will help answer the one about "why don't you appear on camera?" Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fried Peach & Pancetta Pizza – A Savory Twist on a Childhood Sweet

Growing up, I always loved when my family made pizza from scratch, but what I loved even more was what came after the meal. Any extra dough and scraps were rolled out, left to rise, fried, and sprinkled with sugar to create a simple, but delicious donut-like treat.

Here we’re doing a savory twist; using the technique to make a pizza featuring ricotta, pancetta and peaches. Obviously, you can use any and all classic pizza toppings, but this particular combo comes highly recommended.

Besides a fun change of pace, this method is great for making a bunch of crusts ahead of time, and then dressing/baking when needed. Imagine setting up a “make your own pizza” bar, with your guests customizing theirs any way they want. Add a couple cases of beer to the mix, and you’ll be hosting a pizza party of epic proportions. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

For One Small Fried Peach & Pancetta Pizza:
(all ingredient amounts are purely guesses)
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese, plus a pinch of salt if needed
fresh thyme leaves
fresh ground black pepper
2 ounces pancetta
5-6 slices fresh peach
freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
extra virgin olive oil, plus regular olive oil for frying

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Great Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano) Experiment! – Penny Wise, Parm Foolish

I've wanted to do this little demonstration for a long time now, and it has nothing to do with proving people wrong. Okay, that has a little bit to do with it, but mostly I really want people who could be enjoying “the good stuff,” but don't because they think it’s too expensive, to finally realize that's not the case.

As you'll see, a little bit of real, imported Parmigiano-Reggiano only costs about 20 cents per serving. Basically, for the price of a large gumball, you could be enjoying this world-class cheese. Of course, some people still won't buy Parmigiano-Reggiano, even after seeing this.

For them, cost really has nothing to do with it. This is a convenient excuse they use because they secretly enjoy that stuff in the green canister. Hey, there's nothing wrong with that. To each his own, but at least be honest, and don't claim frugality as your motivation.

By the way, I edited this video while in New York visiting family, and somehow lost a small portion of the audio. So, in the middle of the clip you’ll hear a change in the quality, from the usual mediocre sound, to something much worse. I didn’t want to wait until I got back into the studio to re-record, so I'm posting as is.

Nevertheless, I hope I’ve persuaded some of you to switch over to what you should have been using all along. As a wise man once probably said, “Life’s too short for fake cheese.” Enjoy!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Next Up: Parmigiano-Reggiano Math

My vacation is over, and I'm going to celebrate by proving many of you wrong. I'd like to apologize to companies that make fake Parmesan in advance. Stay tuned! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Chef John is on Vacation!

Just wanted to let everyone know that I’ll be on vacation this week, visiting family in New York (my last one this year, I promise). Of course, we’ll continue to publish your comments and questions while I’m away, but I won’t be around to answer them. That means you’ll have to rely on your fellow foodwishers, which I’m sure will work out just fine. 

By the way, many of you have been contacting me with suggestions for my 1,000th video, which is only a few uploads away. If you have an idea, please pass it along. Thanks, and we’ll see you next week!