Friday, April 29, 2016

Easy One-Bowl, One-Step Hollandaise - A Miracle of Modern Science

I once saw a chef make hollandaise by using chucks of cold butter to the yolks, instead of whisking in hot melted butter, and it intrigued me. Not enough to actually try it, but enough to make me wonder what would happen if we dumped everything in the bowl at once, and just cooked it all together. No one was more shocked than I was when it worked. And worked beautifully. By the way, I’m guessing I’m not the only person to have thought of this, but until I see proof, I will claim to be it’s inventor.

The only way this doesn’t work is if your heat is too high. I don’t have to tell you what will happen if it is. However, over a low flame (or double-boiler if you’re scared) this will come together very gradually, right before your eyes, and you’ll be able to stop anytime you see fit.  

Eggs are cheap, so give it a try, and see what happens. Being able to just dump everything into the bowl, and make hollandaise in one step is well worth the investment, especially with Mother’s Day coming up. Hint, hint. I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 portions (this can be scaled-up to how ever much you need):
1 large egg yolk
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (you can always add more to taste)
salt and cayenne or hot sauce to taste
NOTE: If sauce gets too thick, just thin with a little hot water.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Perfect “Dry-Brined” Pork Chops – Come for the Oxymoron, Stay for the Juicy Meat

I’ve wanted to do a video on “dry-brining” for a while now, and was reminded of that fact after recently seeing a friend’s blog post on the subject. That friend would be the lovely and talented, Jennifer Yu, who publishes the blog, Use Real Butter.

Seeing those juicy pork chops in her post inspired this video, which features one of my favorite getting-meat-ready-for-the-grill techniques of all time. If you can call sprinkling salt on pork chops, a “technique,” and for the purposes of this post, we will. 

By the way, if this looks familiar, it should. We’ve used this trick before in previous videos, but just never called it “dry-brining,” mostly because that’s not a thing. By definition, a “brine” is a liquid, but since this contains the same active ingredients, and has the same effect, we don’t let a minor detail like no water get in our way.

I could go into a long, scientific explanation of what exactly happens here, but instead I’ll provide a link to this great article on Serious Eats, by J. Kenji López-Alt. Jen used his cookbook, The Food Lab, as a guide, and so we’ll send you his way for all the pertinent details.

While our friend Kenji will do a much better job explaining the science behind this magical method, I think I did a decent job in the video explaining how wonderfully this works. As long as you don’t horribly overcook your meat, this “dry-brine” technique will produce the juiciest, and most flavorful pork chops you’ve ever had.

So, a big thank you to Jennifer for inspiring us, as well as to Kenji for inspiring her. With peak grilling season right around the corner, I really do hope you give this amazingly simple trick a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 large pork chops:
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Mix and apply generously to both sides of the chops. Let “brine” uncovered in the fridge for 18-24 hours. Some say you can do this in less time, but I’ve always let it go at least overnight.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Kumquat Marmalade – Beautiful, Delicious, and Almost Easy to Make

If you’re like me, and marmalade is not your favorite type of fruit preserve, it’s most likely because of those bitter flavors from the white parts of whatever type of citrus was used. That is not an issue with this gorgeous kumquat marmalade.

The secret here is using a type of citrus that doesn’t really have any of those pithy parts, which is why kumquats are the only citrus I know of that you eat whole, skin and all. If you are going to enjoy au naturel, make sure you roll them first, to release all that sweet, fragrant oil.

However, if you’re going to cut them up as seem herein, then rolling each one is not necessary, as the oils will be release as we quarter, seed, and slice. This is a good thing, as we need all the time-savings we can get, since what we are going to do, is painstakingly remove the center white membrane.

I believe this will make your marmalade even less bitter, but mostly it’s for appearance. For me, those little white bits spoil the perfect, clear-orange jelly that’s produced. But if you think I’m crazy, and you want to save a half-hour, you can probably skip that step, as long as you get all the seeds. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 2 cups:
2 generous cups sliced kumquats (measure after they have been quartered, seeded, and sliced into small pieces)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
small pinch cayenne
1 cup white sugar
1 cup cold water
1 star anise (I remove after 10 minutes of simmering)
- Note: You can just go by appearance, but I took the temperature right before it was done, and it was bout 215 F., so I imagine when I was finished it was around 220 F. You can also put a spoonful on a plate in the fridge, and test that way.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cider-Braised Pork Cheeks – Eating with a Grin

Sometimes when I’m really bored, I’ll sit around trying to think up fake Mark Twain food quotations. For example, “The best beef stew I ever had, was pork cheeks in San Francisco.” That was inspired by the fact these delicious, easy to prepare clumps of pork really do taste like an extra-rich beef shoulder. 

You will have to speak with an actual real, live butcher, but they’re generally harmless, and if they sell fresh pork, I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to order you some cheeks. While I’m very proud of this recipe, and I think the hard cider makes for a perfect cooking liquid, feel free to simply take your favorite stew, or braised beef recipe, and swap in the pork cheeks instead.

Once everything’s in the pan, all you have to do is cook this until the meat is fork tender, and the sauce has thickened enough to coat the meat. Be careful not to use a too-salty broth, otherwise it may be too much once reduced. I really hope you give this cider-braised pork cheeks recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
* I used 6, but the amounts will work with 8, and give you 4 portions)
8 large pork cheeks (about 2 pounds)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
flour as needed
2 tablespoon clarified butter
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 cups hard cider
2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon finely chopped sage leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 rib celery, diced

Note: if you want extra sauce, you can add an extra tablespoon of flour to the veggies when they are sautéing. Then add an extra cup of cider and broth, and proceed as shown.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Koji-Rubbed Steak – New Age Dry Age

First, let me give credit where credit’s due; and by “credit,” I mean possible blame. I got the idea from this article in Bon Appetit, where they showed how to use koji rice to simulate dry aging a steak. They say they borrowed the idea from Trentina chef, Jonathon Sawyer, and we’ll take them at their word.

Anyway, I tried it out, and had mixed results. The smell and flavor were vaguely reminiscent of dry-aged beef, but it didn’t have those same cheesy/funky/earthy background notes. As far as the texture goes, there was no difference from a regular steak, and it may have even given it a somewhat firmer texture.

That may have come from letting it go almost three days, instead of two, but hey, I was within the range. Besides, I’m not even sure anything happened. The idea here is that the fungus on the koji rice, which breaks down the proteins in beans, to make things like miso, would work the same magic on a steak.

While it did look like the koji had “bloomed” a bit, and there was more “white stuff” at the end of the process, there was no obvious signs that the meat had been “broken down.” The appearance was darker, and it kind of had that waxy look of dry aged meat, but that could’ve simply come from sitting uncovered in the fridge.

I found it a bit suspicious that there were no other posts regarding this online, but maybe it’s just too new. Time will tell. I'm looking at you, food blogger. In the meantime, any and all feedback is welcomed, especially if you are familiar with using koji rice. I’m not sure if you should give this a try, but, as always, enjoy!

koji rice (I used this one)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Puffy Tacos – Part Three of the Taco Trilogy

When it comes to things like fast food, fair food, and street food, I’ve never been a big fan of recreating it at home. The only place you’re supposed to eat deep-fried butter is at the Iowa State Fair, and nowhere else. 

However, I will make an exception if I can’t find that certain something nearby, and this puffy taco is that something. I just don’t get to San Antonio, home of the puffy taco, as much as I’d like. 

I’ve actually only been there once, and as far as I know there are no puffy taco stands in San Francisco, so I decided to try them at home. This fast and simple to make taco shell is an addictive hybrid between your soft corn tortilla, and the crunchy, hard shell variety, preferred by America’s youth.

As long as you can find masa harina, which you can, the recipe and procedure are pretty simple. For the best results, make the dough, and use it right way. I’ve tried to make it ahead of time, but the tortillas didn’t seem to puff up nearly as much.

The same goes for serving. Get your meats and fixings ready ahead of time, so all you have to do is fry-and-fill. These only take a minute to cook, and you can use a larger pan to do two or three at once. I really hope you give this fun, puffy taco shell recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 small puffy taco shells:
1 cup masa harina
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
canola oil for frying

- Deep-fry at 350 F for about 90 seconds, or shallow-fry in a small pan until the tortilla is puffed and cooked through.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Beurre Blanc – This French Butter Sauce was Spot On

I can’t believe after all these years of posting videos, I hadn’t done a proper beurre blanc! Well, I guess I still haven’t, if you take into account bit of cream we sneak in, as beurre blanc purists do not approve. That’s okay; we’ll just distract them by pronouncing it wrong.

They consider it “cheating,” since adding cream helps you create a more stable base for emulsifying in cold cubes of butter. I don’t get how that’s a problem, unless the cream somehow ruined the taste of the sauce, but it doesn’t, and you could argue it actually enhances it. I also think it makes for an even more beautiful color.

Cream, or no, the technique is not at all difficult. Once your wine/acid mixture has reduced by about 75%, turn your heat to low, and whisk in the butter a few cubes at a time. That’s really it. By the way, feel free to use a saucepan for this. I used a sauté pan because it’s easier to film in, but it does make the process a little riskier.

You can switch up the type of vinegar, or go with lemon juice; and the shallots can be switched out for garlic, or finely minced onion. Chives are nice in this, but many other herbs will work, such as tarragon; or chervil, if you’re sexy. No matter how you pronounce it, or what ingredients you use in it, I really hope you give this easy sauce recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Note: Yes, I can see there’s a spot of sauce splattered on the lens during the final scenes. These things will happen. Just pretend it’s not there. Thank you.

Ingredients for 4 portions Beurre Blanc:
1/2 cup of white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or white wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, herb-infused white vinegar, etc.
2 teaspoons very finely minced shallots
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 ounces of cold unsalted butter (1/2 cup or 1 stick), cut in one-inch cubes

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Pecan Sour Cream Coffee Cake – Now with More Crumbs

I’m sure I’ve said it here before, but I’m not a big cake guy. I’ll take a few bites at a wedding for appearances, and of course on a birthday, since that’s what you do, but besides that, cake is none of my business. However, one big exception would be the crumby goodness that is pecan sour cream coffee cake. 

As I mention in the video, the best part of a coffee cake is the crispy, crunchy, buttery crumbs; so we significantly upped the amounts used. I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t do this…maybe their health? Regardless, it creates what I think is the “ultimate” coffee cake experience.

One tip for placing on the second layer of batter: You can use a piping bag to squeeze an even layer, and then touch it up with a spatula. Having said that, as you saw in the clip, even if you spread by hand, and mix in a few nuts, it still comes out beautifully.

This recipe is really foolproof, but mind your baking time. I used an 8” x 12” cast iron casserole dish, and it took about 35 minutes, but times will vary for glass dishes, as well as for slightly larger dishes, like the classic 9” x 13.” I’d start checking around 30 minutes, and go from there. I really hope you give this extra crumby coffee cake a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 to 12 portions:

For the crumb:
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the cake:
1/2 cup room temperature butter
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1 7/8 cups all-purpose flour (Almost 2 cups. Do not pack cups. Spoon in gently.)
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

- Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Friday, April 1, 2016

New & Improved Chicken Parmesan – This is No April Fools Joke!

On those rare occasions I find myself dining in one of America’s casual restaurant chains, chicken parm is one of my go-to meals. I love chicken parm, especially when it’s made with fresh mozzarella, which it almost never is. 

It usually features the same bland, rubbery stuff you find on cheap pizza, and even though I know this going in, I’ll order it anyway.That’s how much I love chicken parm. Of course, at home we can use the real stuff, which is much more flavorful, and significantly less rubbery, but it can be pricey, and not everyone has access, so I decided to try something new. Instead of mozzarella, I made a cheese spread using ricotta, fortified with sharp cheddar.

The creamy ricotta made a great base into which you could add any melting cheese. I really enjoyed the cheddar, but I’d like to try this with other options, such as provolone, fontina, or even gruyere. And of course, if you prefer the tender meat of baby cows, this technique will work just the same with veal.

So, if you love chicken parm as much as I do, but aren’t crazy about the typical bland-but-bouncy mozzeralla topping, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Also, this is my last video, as I’m retiring at the end of the day. Thanks for everything, and as always, enjoy!

For 2 portions New & Improved Chicken Parmesan:
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour
1 beaten egg
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
olive oil for frying

For the cheese spread:
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano for the top

- Serve with hot marinara sauce, and chopped Italian parsley.