Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Crispy Beer Batter Fish & Chips – Sorry, I Meant Fish & Crisps

Virtually every beer batter fish recipe looks crispy coming out of the fryer, and some even stay crispy for a few minutes, but then the inevitable sogginess sets in, and by the time you take that last bite, you’re wondering why you just didn’t bake it. Well, with this simple formula, and a few easy tricks, you can achieve what many think impossible; a fried fish where the last bite is as crisp as the first.

The keys here are keeping your batter really cold, and your fish really dry. If you use frozen fish, make sure it’s fully thawed, and you’ve carefully blotted off any excess moisture, before giving it a light coating of starch. I like rice flour for this, but as I said in the video cornstarch, or potato starch will also work.

If you do want to season yours differently, you can apply whatever you want directly to the fish before it goes in the beer batter. Keep in mind that salt draws out water, so don’t go too heavy, and make sure your fish is as dry as possible before it gets dunked into your ice-cold batter. I generally keep things very simple, but the occasional spoon of Indian spice, or chili powder makes for a nice change of pace.

If you make your batter ahead, which is fine, be sure to keep it in the fridge, and if you’re doing a large number of portions, maybe place the batter over a bowl of ice, so it stays cold as you fry. Other than keeping things cold and dry, not much can go wrong, except maybe calling your “crisps” chips, which will definitely trigger your British friends. Anyway, they’ll be fine, and so will you after making this easy, and crispy-to-the-last-bite beer batter fish. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions Fish & Chips:

For the fish:
4 (six-ounce) pieces of boneless white fish, such as cod, haddock, etc., cut in half lengthwise into 8 strips
salt to taste
enough rice flour to lightly coat

For the batter:
1 cup self-rising flour (or all-purpose flour mixed with 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp fine salt)
2 tablespoons rice flour, or cornstarch or potato starch
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
about 1 cup lager-style beer, plus more as needed to adjust
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Friday, April 19, 2019

Fresh Spring Vegetable Tart – Eat Your Heart Out, Giuseppe Arcimboldo

This spring vegetable tart only looks hard to make, and would be a perfect centerpiece for any special occasion meal, just as long as you put it out on the table a little bit early, since we’ll need to allow enough time for all the Instagramming that follows. And please, no flash photography.

As long as you use a wide array of colorful vegetables, and tuck them into a gnarly base of greens, this easy cheese tart/salad can’t help but look gorgeous. In fact, the hardest things will be deciding which vegetables to use, and how to prepare them.

As I said in the video, you can go with anything from raw to roasted, but my favorite way to prep the vegetables, is to simply blanch them briefly in boiling, salted water. Just cook them for a few minutes to take off the raw edge, and then plunge them into cold water, before draining, and dressing.

Above and beyond the veggies, this cheese filling will work with any soft cheese, but I think the tanginess of the goat cheese is an important factor, so if you use something milder, you may want to sneak in some lemon juice. Regardless, of what specific ingredients you use, I really hope you give this gorgeous vegetable tart technique a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for a 10-inch round Spring Vegetable Tart:
2 sheets frozen puff pastry (round or rectangular)
(This tart can be made with any type of shell, including piecrust, phyllo, etc.)
1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of water (for brushing, and then for the filling)
For the filling:
1 1/4 cups goat cheese
salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne to taste
1/4 cup freshly chopped herbs, like dill, parsley, thyme, tarragon, basil, chives, etc.
the rest of the egg wash
1/4 cup heavy cream
For the vegetables:
2 handfuls mixed colorful salad greens (including something light and frizzy if possible)
2 to 3 cups of bite-sized fresh vegetables, briefly blanched in salted water
1/2 cup thinly sliced raw radishes, and cherry tomatoes
For the dressing (this is what I used, but your favorite salad dressing will work):
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste
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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Easy Baked Beef Brisket – Slow and Low is Not the Tempo

Remember that time you waited all day for your “low and slow” beef brisket to finish cooking, and once it finally did, it was dry? It left you disappointed, disillusioned, and wondering what went wrong. Well, I won’t bore you with all the scientific, easy-to-Google details, but basically meat can “stall” during long, low-heat methods, and never reach the proper internal temperature to fully release all the succulent goodness. 

If you really nail it, the results can be amazing, and I’ve gotten lucky a few times on the smoker, but this significantly faster method is much less risky. Unless you really overcook it, you shouldn’t have to worry about dry meat, and you can instead worry about other things, like whether you cooked enough meat. By the way, I'm not sure if they invented it, but I adapted this from something I saw watching an America's Test Kitchen rerun, so if you have issues, please contact them.

Speaking of enough meat, if you decide to use a whole brisket, this method will work as shown, but you’ll probably need to give it a little more time at the end to ensure it’s fork tender. Or not, but there’s only one way to find out, so have your poking fork handy, and use as needed. Whether you’re looking for a brisket recipe for Passover, or you’re simply interested in moister meat in less time, I really hope you give this easy, baked brisket recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 6 portions Easy Baked Beef Brisket:
(Adapted from America's Test Kitchen)
3 pound beef brisket (the flat half of a full brisket)
4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

For the gravy/braising liquid:
2 tablespoons butter, oil, or rendered fat
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup apple juice or cider

- Bake at 325 F. for 1 1/2 hours, then reduce oven to 250 F., and cook for about 2 hours 15 minutes, or until fork tender.
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Friday, April 12, 2019

Lamb Borek and the Secret of Sogginess

Lamb borek is stunning to look at, and even more enjoyable to eat, which is all thanks to, believe it or not, intentionally soggy dough. This is something I didn’t grasp the first time I made it, and I just brushed melted butter between the layers, hoping for something really crispy, and flaky, which in Phylloland is standard operating procedure. However, since my dough was not made flexible by the egg/yogurt/butter wash we used here, it basically exploded in like seven spots when I tried to roll it up. Lesson learned.

Besides moisturizing the phyllo, this magic mixture also adds flavor, thanks to the tangy yogurt; and the melted butter helps create a fairly crispy exterior as well. So, while we don’t want to fully saturate the sheets, a light brushing really does wonders. If you use a 9 or 10 inch round pan like I did, three rolls should work out nicely, but this technique will work no matter what you bake it on. You can also skip the spiral effect, and keep them straight, or bend them into any other shape.

You’ll need a package of phyllo that provides at least 12 decent sheets, and I really hope yours is better than the tragic box I bought. However, as bad as mine was, it still worked out quite nicely, so I’m not exactly sure why I’m complaining. Anyway, whether you make the recipe as listed, or tweak the filling to your tastes, I really do hope you give this lamb borek recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 6 large portions:
(for one 9-10 inch round baking dish)

1 package frozen phyllo (filo) dough
2 teaspoons sesame seeds for the top, optional

For the lamb filling (you’ll have some leftover):
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 pounds ground lamb
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons currants
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cup water

For the egg/yogurt/butter wash:
1 large egg
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoon melted butter

For the yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons very finely sliced mint leaves
lemon juice to taste
1 crushed garlic clove, optional
enough water to achieve desired texture
pinch of salt and cayenne

- Bake at 400 F. for 35-40 minutes, or until browned and crisp.

Note: Save any extra phyllo, since the filling recipe above makes extra, and you can fold up some smaller, triangular boreks if you want.
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