Friday, February 26, 2010

Drink of the Week: Toronto

We had dinner last weekend at The Highland Kitchen in Somerville. You must go, and you must order the goat stew (it is super spicy) and if they're still on the menu, may I recommend the Buffalo-fried brussels sprouts. Just trust me.

The Toronto was on their list and seeing it reminded me how much I enjoy cocktails that contain a good dose of Fernet Branca (the Hanky Panky is also a good choice). The one I was served at the Highland was really great. Ice-cold and clear, it made for great sipping.

The Toronto Cocktail
Combine in an iced shaker:
  • 2 ounces rye
  • 1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup (I used Scrappy's Gomme Syrup which gave a really luscious mouthfeel to the drink - buy yours here at The Boston Shaker)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail and garnish with a disk of orange zest (think a really wide and round twist).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Storing that Great Loaf You Baked

Ok, so you have a glorious loaf of bread. Maybe it's a loaf of no-knead bread you baked, maybe it's a crunchy, rustic loaf you picked up at your favorite bakery.

How are you storing that bread? Not in plastic right? (You know better than that of course.) Maybe you're wrapping it in a paper bag. That's not bad, but it's still going to dry out pretty quickly.

This, my friends, this is how you store that loaf. Place it cut end down on your counter, or for ease of mobility, on a plate. Your bread will will stay fresh-ish for several days, as you slice it down to a crusty nub.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Week of February 21

I had the pleasure of teaching a class titled "Thai Cooking at Home" at Jewett Farms Studio on Friday night. A group of eight joined me to learn to make several Thai dishes including Tom Yum soup, Pad Thai and green papaya salad. Jill from North Shore Dish joined us and wrote up a great recap of the night. Check it out over here.

Menu for the Week
Roast chicken with citrus
Beet and fennel salad
Crispy potatoes

Silken comfort tofu (from food52)
Jasmine rice
Broccoli with togarishi (Japanese chile/sesame/seaweed sprinkle)

Jennie's homemade manicotti (also a food52 find)
Green salad

Beet greens-stuffed baked potatoes
Green salad

Beef stew with spaetzle
Green salad

Dinner out

Friday, February 19, 2010

Smoke 'Em if You Got 'Em

Looking for something new to try in the kitchen this weekend? May I suggest tea smoking some duck for dinner?

Tea smoking is a technique you can use to add a subtle, smoked flavor to dishes. The smoke flavor you'll get will be softer than a hardwood smokiness you may be more familiar with.

I refined my recipe after consultation with Matthew Barros, Executive Chef at Myers and Chang in Boston's South End. They serve a tea-smoked pork rib and we got to see part of the smoking process on our most recent visit to the restaurant. They dry-rub the meat with spices and salt, then smoke the ribs slowly to cook them. At service, they brown and crisp up the ribs to order.

I applied these principles to some duck breasts that I got from Yellow House Farm (well I actually got a whole duck and removed the breasts for this recipe). I scored the breasts, rubbed them with salt and spices and let them sit at room temperature for about 90 minutes. Then I scored the skin and seared the breasts in a skillet to render out some of the fat and brown the skin. Finally, I smoked them, let them rest and served them up! In the future, I'm going to switch the smoking and searing steps so the skin ends up a little crispier at meal time.

I'm including some action shots so you can see how everything looked during the process. I served the duck over French lentils with braised swiss chard and a blood orange and endive salad.

Tea-Smoked Duck Breasts
serves 2-3, depending on what you're serving them with

For the duck:
  • 2 duck breasts, about 6-8 oz. each
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • salt, pepper and crushed coriander for seasoning
The tea-smoking blend:
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 2 tablespoons black tea
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
The tea smoking rig:
  • a wok (a wok is traditional, but you can use shallow pot or stock pot)
  • LOTS of aluminum foil
  • a rack that will fit in your wok or pot and will hold the duck in one layer
  • pot lid
Score the skin side of the duck breast in a cross-hatch pattern. Rub the duck with the salt, sugar, pepper and coriander. Set aside for at least one hour. Put the duck in the fridge if you're going to wait longer than an hour.

When you are ready to cook, set up your smoker: line the wok with multiple layers of foil. Make sure the foil is long enough to wrap over the lid - you'll want to seal in all the smoke. Mix together the smoking ingredients and place them in the bottom of the smoker. Place the rack over the smoking mixture.

Turn on the exhaust fan and turn off your smoke detectors. Seriously.

Place a saute pan over medium-high heat. Wipe any moisture off the duck breasts and sear them, skin-side-down in the pan until the skin is dark brown. Lay the duck breasts on the rack in the wok.

Place the wok over medium-high heat until the rice mixture starts to smoke. Cover the pan and crimp the foil over the lid to seal in the smoke.

Turn the heat down to low and smoke the duck for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the duck covered for another 10 minutes. The duck will be medium-rare. If it's too rare for you (check with a quick cut in the no-skin side of the breast), place the duck in a 350 oven for 5-10 minutes until it's cooked to your liking.
Open the smoker and set the duck breasts on a plate or cutting board to rest for another 5-10 minutes.

Slice the breast into thin slices and serve.

Note: I think next time I will flip the searing and smoking steps. Let me know if you try it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Menu for the Week of February 14

Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours! We had our fancy-pants Valentine's dinner last night: farmed Little Bay oysters on the half shell, pollock polpette (fish meatballs - trust me) over home-made linguine (topped with crunchy breadcrumbs), roasted beet and fennel salad. For dessert, we enjoyed a goat's milk rice pudding with cajeta (like dulce de leche). Lordy be, what a meal.

Menu for the Week
Persian pilaf with greens, herbs and potato crust
Black-eyed peas with walnut sauce
Roasted "fiestaflower" (that's what my market called an orange cauliflower I picked up there)

Pad Thai (making sure I'm in good shape for teaching y'all on Friday)
Papaya salad with green apple

Duck confit
Stewed lentils
Herbed beets
Green salad with lemon dressing

Winter squash panade
Green salad

Last Night Dinner's gnudi (from the freezer) in marinara
Green salad
No-knead bread - I think a baguette-style this time

Thai cooking at home class (still a few spaces let in the class - c'mon down!)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Breads

Jim Lahey is the owner of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. He opened the bakery in 1994 and has been spreading the love of great bread since then. Lahey's no-knead bread recipe achieved amazing popularity in blog circles in November 2006 when Mark Bittman published a story about this method in the New York Times.

Since then, several books have been published (not by Mr. Lahey) about the method. This past fall, Lahey finally published his book of recipes and techniques: My Bread. I'm not going to give you any recipes from the book, because I want you to go buy it. If you want to test-drive the recipes, follow the Bittman link for a basic recipe and method.

My Bread has really revolutionized the way I'm baking bread these days. That basic principle behind this method is that of hands-off gluten formation. Gluten strength can be developed in one of two ways: by kneading the dough, or by letting the dough rest and letting the yeast do all the work. Letting the bread do the work for you makes a lot of sense.

Think about it: in ye olden tymes, back before the days of a Kitchenaid on every counter, people baked bread. Yes, they probably kneaded it by hand, but even with steady kneading the bread wouldn't have gotten worked over the way our modern mixers do it. Also, traditional baking relied on natural leavening which would have required longer rising times.

The no-knead method has one major disadvantage: it's not for the speedy baker. The dough really does need to work on its own. This means a minimum of 8-10 hours of rising time. But this also mean more flavor in the bread.

You don't need a lot of special equipment to make this bread. You do want a scale (but you should own one anyway) otherwise your results won't be consistent. Other than a scale, a big bowl, a rubber spatula and covered dutch oven are all you really need. Feel free to use this an excuse to buy a fancy Le Creuset or Emile Henry Dutch oven if you wish. I've done fine however, with a knockoff Dutch oven from Home Goods or Target, or a Lodge cast iron Dutch oven. You can also use a stainless pot with an oven-safe lid.

Now the breads (I'll be posting more pictures in this Flickr set as time goes by):

The glamour shot at the top of this post is rosemary-olive bread.

The bread in the pot is a wheat/white combo halfway through baking.

The sandwich loaf was made by gently folding the dough into a loaf shape and then placing it into a well greased loaf pan. This batch was over-proofed when it went into the oven: You can see that in the crappy oven spring (see how that slit in the top didn't really open up?). The flavor was still great and the bread made fabulous toast.

The flatbreads are made from the dough after its first rise. Take the dough, portion it into small balls (about 6 per recipe) and then roll them our into flat, tortilla-like discs. I baked them in a hot cast iron skillet. They bubbled up beautifully as you can see.

The pizza is made from a different recipe: it's much stiffer than the bread dough. It makes for a deliciously crisp-crusted pizza. You load the dough up with toppings, sliced super-thin and then blast the pizzas in a 500-degree oven. These are pictures of the tomato and onion pizzas.

Other no-knead bread posts from friends in the blogosphere
Smitten Kitchen: No-Knead Bread

Menu for the Week of February 7

Those there are some pretzels. Sorry for the lousy photo: iPhones aren't known for their phenomenal photographic ability. These are from the recipe in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine. I used rye flour from Schartner Farms in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. I have to admit to a slight bit of crankiness when I saw that Pete Wells did not include weight measurements for the flours he used.

My gift to you: the weights I used to produce mine. I've put the entire ingredient list below, refer back to the NY Times site for the instructions.

Rye Pretzels - Ingredient list
  • 0.25 ounces (2.25 tsp) ounce active dry yeast
  • 0.75 ounces honey
  • 5 ounces rye flour
  • 12.4 ounces bread flour + another 1.75 ounces kneaded in while I was working the dough
  • 1 tbs kosher salt
  • 1 ounce melted butter
  • 2 ounces baking soda
Menu for the Week
Superbowl Sunday
Mrs. Wheelbarrow's chicken wings
Green salad
Egg salad (this was supposed to be deviled eggs, but the eggs would not peel - argh!)

Pad Thai with tofu
Papaya salad

Creamy polenta with sauteed homemade kielbasa, artichoke hearts and swiss chard

Fish chowder (this is a great recipe for using up the bits of fish from my CSF deliveries)
Some kinda bready-dippy thing

Tea-smoked duck breast (thanks to Matthew Barros of Myers and Chang for a tea-smoking consult)
Lentils with braised spinach

Pizza night

Friday, February 5, 2010

Drink of the Week: Jewel Cocktail

Welcome to the weekend! The Jewel (also known as a Bijou - as made for Jimmy Fallon by Rachel Maddow) is a serious way to start the weekend. Like any drink with chartreuse as a key component, it has very strong herbal notes. The sweet vermouth softens the spiciness, while the gin provides a smooth background for the flavors. Crack out that bottle of Chartreuse you have hiding in the back of the liquor cabinet (you do have a bottle, don't you?) and give it a try.

Jewel Cocktail
In an iced cocktail shaker, combine:
  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce green Chartreuse
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • dash orange bitters
Stir until very cold. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

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