Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Summer Tomato Tart – Better Than a Nude Beach

One of these days Michele and I will travel to the south of France, where we’ll make it a point to eat this amazing tomato tart at least once a day. It’s going to be hot, since we’ll have to go in the middle of summer, so we can enjoy the best possible tomatoes, but that’s fine, as long as they don’t run out of chilled rosé.

While beautiful in its own way, this tart doesn’t necessarily look like it’s going to be one of the most delicious things ever, but then you bite into the crispy, buttery crust, which is the perfect delivery system for the tangy Dijon, and sweet, caramelized tomatoes, and you’re like, yeah, that guy was right.

By the way, if you want to learn some really good French swear words, call this a “French pizza” in front of a French chef. They don’t quite agree with the analogy. However, there is one common denominator. Both can be ruined with too much topping. Just like we don’t want to overload a thin-crust pizza with a ton of sauce and cheese, we need to be restrained with this as well.

One layer of tomato is plenty, since more than that will make for a too wet tart, which means your pastry will not stay crispy. Besides that, there’s not much that can go wrong, unless you use subpar tomatoes. But, since we’re right in the middle of peak season that shouldn’t be a problem, so I really do hope you give this tomato tart a try soon. Enjoy!

enough puff pastry to make your shell
enough extra-strong Dijon mustard to sauce the inside
enough sliced tomatoes to fill the tart with a single layer
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
several big pinches of Herbes de Provence (or an Italian herb blend if you can’t find)
extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, as needed
fresh chopped herbs to garnish

- Pre-bake tart shell for about 10 minutes at 400 F.
- Let cool about 10-15 minutes, then fill and bake at 400 F. for about 25-30 minutes, or until pastry is well-browned and crisp.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Pouding Chômeur – This Unemployed Man’s Pudding Isn’t Cheap

This Pouding Chômeur, which translates to “unemployed man’s pudding,” is one of your more ironically named recipes, since the main ingredients aren’t cheap. The good news is you probably don’t want to eat this more than a few times a year anyway, so it shouldn’t break the budget.

If you use a bigger baking dish than I did, and pour over all the maple cream syrup, your cake should float over a pool of what will eventually be your sauce. If you just use a deep pie dish like me, then you’ll have to serve the extra sauce later, which may work out even better anyway.

Be sure to stop between 1/2 and 1-inch from the top of your dish, because this will soufflé up, and the molten syrup will run all over. Which reminds me, be sure to use a sheet pan underneath, as neither maple syrup nor heavy cream is recommended for the bottom of your oven.

This is the perfect dessert to pair with summer fruit, and I hear that a scoop of vanilla ice cream only improves things further. So, thanks to my French-Canadian friends who suggested this recipe to follow the Poutine, and to all of you, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 Portions:
For the syrup:
2 cups maple syrup
2 cups heavy cream
Note: I had plenty extra, so you may be able to reduce these amounts
For the batter:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs (use room temperature for best results)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

- 425 F. for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Poutine – You'll Ruin French Fries and Like It

As the old joke goes, it takes a lot of time and effort to make poutine, but at least when you’re finally done you get to eat soggy fries. And, what incredibly delicious, soggy fries they are. 

Once you get past the fact that this is how they’re supposed to be, you can focus on the overall awesomeness of the dish, especially the rich, freshly made beef gravy featured herein.

I realize most you won’t actually use this gravy to make poutine, which is totally fine by me, since this is so good, on so many other things. While I don’t have any problem with you buying the cheese curds, or using frozen fries, I really do hope you make the sauce from scratch, as it is profoundly better than anything from the store.

I should mention that none of the “authentic” poutines I’ve had included chunks of beef in the gravy, but I really enjoy the extra meatiness, and this way everyone knows we made it from scratch. By the way, if you’re of the vegetarian persuasion, some severely caramelized mushrooms, and a decent vegetable stock (which I still need to do a video for), will produce a perfectly fine version. Either way, I really do hope you give this a try soon…at least the beef gravy. Enjoy!

For the Beef Gravy:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or lard
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef short rib, chuck, or brisket, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced onions (you can also add some garlic if you want)
salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne to taste
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups homemade beef broth, or a low-sodium, all-natural prepared broth
fresh chives to garnish

For the Fries: click here for video

For the Cheese Curds: click here for video

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Homemade Cheese Curds – Plan B

Making your own cheese curds at home requires several special ingredients, takes many, many hours, and there are a lot of steps. Other than that, it’s a pretty quick and easy thing to do. So, if you’re planning on making poutine, and there’s a store nearby that sells fresh curds, you should really consider that Plan A. This recipe is Plan B.

Having said that, this is still a fun, satisfying project, and even someone as inexperienced as I am can produce a decent product. Keep in mind; we’re eventually going to pour hot beef gravy all over these, so that should help everyone stay relaxed. Some of the ingredients below sound exotic and kind of scary, but they’re all easy to find in health food stores, or online, and used properly, are completely safe.

With that in mind, I encourage you to do some research on things like sterilizing equipment, and other best practices. While their times, temps, and procedures are slightly different, I referred to these fine videos by ChefSteps and Gavin Webber. In regards to complexity of technique, my method falls somewhere between those two, but they’re both well worth checking out for more info.

Besides the time involved, the hardest thing is keeping everything at those relatively low temps. A sous vide set-up would be prefect for this, but a double-boiler does work. Just keep a thermometer in place, and once the milk gets up to 90 F., alternate between low heat and no heat to get where you need to be.

Is it worth all the effort? I’m not sure, but fried cheese curds are a very nice treat, and having a cube of fresh cheese to pop into your mouth anytime you get the urge is pretty sweet, and then of course we have Poutine. Which is the only reason most people know that cheese curds are even a thing. So, if Plan A isn’t an option, I really do hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 1 Pound Cheese Curds:
1 gallon whole milk
1/2 teaspoon calcium chloride crystals, diluted in 1/4 cup of water
1/8 teaspoon mesophilic culture
1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet, diluted in 1/4 cup of water (Check directions on package, as the strengths can vary. Mine was “double-strength”)
*kosher salt to season finished curds

* You want to apply exactly 1% kosher salt based on the weight of the finished curds. For example, if you end up with 400 grams of cheese curds, then season with 4 grams of salt.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons – What a Difference an “O” Makes

I’ve always found it amusing that macaroons, which are one of the easiest cookies ever, has the same name, give or take an “o,” as the famously difficult macaron

Even though they have the same origin, which the Italian word maccarone (also where we get macaroni), they couldn’t be more different in texture, as well as the skill they require.

Since we did (and totally nailed) the hard one, I figured I should do the easy one, especially since I just got back from vacation, and something simple seemed like a really good idea. Speaking of easy, using sweetened condensed milk streamlines the operation, and produces a very nice texture, but if you can’t find it, there are many macaroon recipes that use white, or powdered sugar, so don’t let that slow you down.

Regarding the chocolate dip, you can just melt, and use any kind you like, but for that extra professional touch, I suggest tempering the chocolate before you dip.  There are many complicated demos online, which involve heating and cooling the chocolates using very specific temperatures, and they work great, but I generally don’t have the patience. 

Instead, I use a shortcut method that involves chopping up some dark chocolate into the size of peas, melting 75% of it, and then stirring in the other 25%, until it melts. That should get you pretty close, and at the very least you’ll have a firmer, snappier texture than if you just melted all the chocolate at once, and started dipping. Either way, I hope you give these easy coconut macaroons a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 24 Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons:
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 large egg white
3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
- Bake at 350 F. for 20 minutes, or until golden.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Chef John is on Vacation

I wanted to let everyone know that I’ll be on vacation for the next week or so, and really looking forward to doing absolutely nothing. I'm sure I'll do some cooking, since it's always fun to experiment with new recipes without the pressure of having to film and edit them at the same time. Who knows, some of them may even end up making it onto the channel. 

I may also brush up on my golf game, which is currently not good. As you can see from the video below, I really need to learn how to hit the ball the right way, and not backwards between my legs. Anyway, I'm looking forward to a nice, relaxing break, and suggest you use this time to catch up on any and all videos you may have missed. We have a ton. Thank you, and stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Steamed Barbecue Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao) – Sweet, Steamy Memories

In younger, leaner times, I’d often rely on the delicious, inexpensive calorie bomb that is the steamed barbecue pork bun. They were twice the size, and for a few bucks you could get very full…for about 30 minutes, and then you were starving again. Nothing a Mission-style burrito couldn’t fix.

Anyway, the filling was chopped Chinese-style barbecue pork mixed with some kind of mysterious, gelatinous red sauce, which was significantly sweeter than what I’m doing here. 

That’s probably why they don’t seem to come out quite the same as I remember. I probably need a lot more sugar, as well as copious amounts of MSG. Having said that, I was pretty pleased with my insides, but as usual I encourage you to freestyle. 

Here’s a link to a fairly classic pork bun filling recipe, in case you want something slightly more authentic, and since it looks just like the stuff I mentioned above, I might give it a try next time. But, regardless what you fill yours with, I really do hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 12 Steamed Barbecue Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao):
For the dough:
3/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
2 cups *self-rising flour
For the filling (this made more than I needed):
2 cups chopped Chinese-style barbecue pork, or other barbecued pork product
1/4 cup finely sliced green onions
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup hoisin sauce, or as needed
salt (soy sauce) and cayenne to taste
2 teaspoons white sugar, optional

*If you don't have self-rising flour, you can use 2 cups all-purpose flour sifted with 3 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon fine table salt.