MACARONS WITH GANACHE NOISETTE

The filling for these French macs started with a pâte noisette concoction, which was suggested to me by my friend Jennifer, Pâtissière Extraordinaire. You can see a detailed description (in French) with a jump here.  I used part of this amazing paste in a cake (stay tuned) and what was left metamorphosed into macaron filling. The mixture of pâte noisette with ganache is the most gastronomically sensual thing in the known universe. Too superlative for you? Try it. If you disagree, we can discuss the matter further, sharing a few macarons while we are at it…

MACARONS WITH GANACHE NOISETTE
(from Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by this site)

for the pâte noisette (it makes more than you’ll need):
125 g hazelnuts, peeled
125 g almonds
160 g sugar
5 g water

for the ganache noisette:
100 g milk chocolate
160 g pâte noisette
140 g heavy cream

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
113 g almond meal
113 g egg whites at room temperature
a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
3:1:1 brown, green and yellow food coloring
1/8 teaspoon vanilla paste

Make the pâte noisette. Start by placing water and sugar in a large saucepan. Heat up to 245 F.   Then add the hazelnuts and almonds. Gradually, they will be covered with a white film.  Cook until the sugar dissolves and caramelizes, stirring constantly. Be patient, it is going to take a little time. Pour the mixture on a sheet of parchment paper and let cool completely.  Coarsely chop and add to a blender, the more powerful the better.  In a Vitamix blender, in less than 5 minutes you should have a very smooth paste, which is what you want.

Make the ganache. Heat the heavy cream almost to boiling point. Add to the chocolate, cut in pieces. Wait a couple of minutes and stir to completely dissolve the chocolate. Let it cool for half an hour, add the pâte praline made as described. Keep in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to get into spreadable consistency.  Reserve to fill macarons.

Make the shells. Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with your tip of choice. Pipe on the prepared baking sheets.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. Ina dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F. Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 12 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. The macarons should release without sticking. Check one or two. If they stick, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Use the air-brush and a stencil to decorate each shell. Pair them according to size and fill.

Filled macarons should stay overnight in the fridge before consumed. The texture is much better on the following day.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The air-brusher. I got it with a special discount from Groupon, after a tip from macaron-obsessed folks from a Facebook group. I am in love. First, it is pretty small and very easy to use. They advise you to practice on a piece of parchment paper, I did so, but realized it was pretty much a no-brainer. It has three speeds of spraying, I used the lowest, it gave good coverage without getting out of control. I mean, who wants to have a dalmatian with the ears sprayed gold? Second, it is super easy to clean. For me, that matters. Something that takes a lot of work to clean makes me think twice before using. This was a breeze. Warm water gets poured through the opening, sprayed inside a bowl with more warm water, done! You need special food color for the air-brusher, but I know it’s possible to improvise with normal dyes diluted in vodka or some other type of alcohol.  I used Chefmaster.

The filling. I suppose you can make a similar preparation using Nutella. But I tell you, making the pâte noisette from scratch and incorporating it in the ganache is a game-changer. It is nutty, almost smoky (it’s the caramel speaking), sweet but with a sharp twist to it. For my taste, it is close to perfection.  I had a little bit of ganache noisette left. It was enjoyed one tiny teaspoon at a time, standing up by the fridge, while telling myself: make this again, roll as truffles, coat in chocolate sprinkles, give to all the special human beings in your life.

Make your life sweeter, grab a pin!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Quiche with Asparagus and Fennel

TWO YEARS AGO: Fakebouleh

THREE YEARS AGO: Yellow Squash Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: Grilled Chicken with Tamarind and Coconut Glaze

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chicken-Apricot Skewers

SIX YEARS AGO:  Asparagus Quiche

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Two-stage Pea and Prosciutto Risotto

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Mellow Bakers: Corn Bread

 

 

 

 

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INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR: MAY 2018

Time to showcase recipes that are so simple they hardly qualify as such.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #1

CACIO E PEPE

Hard to believe I had never made this dish until now. It is such a classic, but for one reason or another I only had it in restaurants and not even that often. Guess what? After inaugurating it, I enjoyed it three more times over the following month. It is so simple and so delicious!  You must make it. I tried it with zoodles a couple of times, works wonders too. I was inspired by Geoffrey Zakarian in a recent Kitchen episode.

CACIO E PEPE

pasta of your choice
Kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground (coarse) pepper (or to taste)
grated Pecorino-Romano cheese to taste
drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil

Two genius touches: first, you will cook the pasta in a pan just large enough to hold it, with about 1 inch water from the bottom. Add a little salt to the water. Cook without closing the pan until al dente.

Second: toast the pepper in a small skillet until fragrant, just a minute or so.

The pasta will be cooked with just a little water left, a water full of starch from the pasta.  Turn off the heat, add the pepper and cheese. Stir well, adjust seasoning with salt.

Serve and enjoy!

to print the recipe, click here 

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #2

SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH RICOTTA, TURMERIC & ZA’TAR

Another non-recipe for you. This simple concoction was my lunch more often than I care to admit. I tend to have these “phases” in which I might enjoy the exact same recipe over and over and over, not getting tired of it. Amazing what a little ricotta does to add creaminess to a simple scrambled egg. Add a couple of crackers, and I am a happy camper. For those who eat breakfast, this is a must-try. In a way, it’s my breakfast too, I just happen to “break-my-fast” a lot later than most people…

Heat some oil or butter in a non-stick pan. Don’t let it heat too much, add 2 eggs, slightly beaten, immediately drop in the center about 1/4 cup ricotta cheese, season with salt, pepper, and 1/4 tsp of turmeric. Cook, stirring gently over low-heat to your liking. Sprinkle za’tar when it’s almost ready to serve. Enjoy with bread or crackers.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #3

AIR-FRIED NEW POTATOES

Cut new potatoes in half. Add to a pan with a little cold, salted water. Bring to a boil, cook for about 8 minutes. Drain. Drizzle a little olive oil, salt, and Herbes de Provence. Place in the air-fryer, cook at 390 F (or as high as your machine will go) until crispy, 15 to 20 minutes maximum. Shake occasionally. The pan, not necessarily yourself, but depending on what’s playing I say go for it.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #4

RICE WITH TURMERIC AND CARDAMON

We eat rice often, usually plain. But every once in a while it’s nice to guild the lily a bit. I love the color of turmeric and the flavor of cardamon. Together they make a simple bowl of rice shine. Literally.  Inspiration came from the newest book by Nigella Lawson, At My Table.

RICE WITH TURMERIC AND CARDAMON

1.5 cups of rice, rinsed and drained
2.5 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp turmeric
3 cardamon pods, crushed

Add all ingredients to a pan. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat close tightly the lid.

Simmer for 20 minutes without opening the pan. Turn off the heat, open the lid, add a tea towel on the surface of the rice, close the lid again.

Let it rest for 10 to 30 minutes if you have the time, but it’s still nice if served right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I hope you enjoyed these simple recipes. It’s nice to have a bunch of quick choices that you can make without even thinking too much. The scrambled egg, for instance, I don’t even measure anything. I sprinkle some turmeric, I add ricotta until I feel it’s going to be creamy enough, sometimes I add za’tar, sometimes Herbes de Provence, it’s never exactly the same twice in a row, but whatever you do it will be delicious.

New Potatoes: if you don’t have an air-fryer, you can still do the same on top of the stove or even roasting them in a super hot oven. The texture I get with the air-fryer is pretty unique, though, and allows that fried aura without too much fat. Love it.

ONE YEAR AGO: Tangential Quiche with Asparagus and Fennel

TWO YEARS AGO: Fakebouleh

THREE YEARS AGO: Yellow Squash Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: Grilled Chicken with Tamarind and Coconut Glaze

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chicken-Apricot Skewers

SIX YEARS AGO:  Asparagus Quiche

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Two-stage Pea and Prosciutto Risotto

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Mellow Bakers: Corn Bread

 

 

 

FRENCH STYLE BAGUETTES

I have never met any person living in France who worries about baking baguettes at home. Why would anyone do so, when they can walk a few steps from the front door and find the very best examples, fresh from the oven? But when you live in the US the situation is totally different. The stuff you see sold as “baguettes” could bring Paris back to 1789. Some, if held up, will fold. Wrap your mind around that. A baguette with such poor inner structure, with so much stuff added to the dough to prolong its sorry life, that it folds under its own weight. I have a few recipes for baguette in the blog already, but decided to bite the bullet and try America’s Test Kitchen version. I say bite the bullet because, as my friend Cindy always says, their recipes ensure that you will dirty every single pan, bowl, utensil you have. They don’t cut corners. They create them. In the case of their baguettes, the issue is not so much messing up stuff, but the timing and super detailed instructions. You can find the full recipe in their site, I will give just a very minimal overview, as I could not get permission to publish their method.

FRENCH BAGUETTES
(from America’s Test Kitchen)

¼ cup (1⅓ ounces) whole-wheat flour
3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (optional)
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ cups (12 ounces) water

OVERVIEW OF THE METHOD

Make a dough with all ingredients by kneading with a mixer for about 7 minutes. Leave it at room temperature and knead by folding three times, letting the dough rest for 30 minutes in between folding cycles. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove dough from fridge, divide in half, work with half the dough at a time. Follow their precise measurements to obtain four portions of dough.


They will instruct you to pre-shape the dough, minimizing how much you handle it, and with a lot of waiting time in between each manipulation, including the final shaping and stretching to a size compatible with home ovens.

After a final rise of 45 to 60 minutes, the baguettes will be ready for a 500F oven, baked for 5 minutes covered with a disposable aluminum baking pan (excellent method to create steam), and uncovered for the final 15 minutes for proper browning.

for full recipe, visit this site

You will be able to bake two baguettes at a time. I did not bother retarding the two last baguettes in the fridge, as the baking takes a reasonably short time.  Overall, it is a good recipe, just pretty convoluted in terms of all the instructions given for handling the dough.

The inner crumb had the uneven holes that are the mark of a good baguette, but I expected a slightly more open structure. Taste was pretty spectacular, I think the proportion of whole wheat and all-purpose flour is perfect.  I will probably do a few changes in the way I shaped it, because I suppose a bit more surface tension could be better, two of the baguettes were not as round as I would like.

America’s Test Kitchen insists they should be consumed within 3 to 4 hours. I beg to differ, and find that they freeze quite well and a small visit in a toaster oven brings them back to life…

ONE YEAR AGO: Sad Times

TWO YEARS AGO: Slow-Cooker Carnitas Lettuce Wraps and Paleo Planet Review

 

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SMOKIN’ HOT MEATLOAF AND HOMEMADE KETCHUP

Time flies like a Boeing-777. Cliche, I admit, but truth is we got our electric smoker in December, but only now, almost 6 months later I get to share a recipe with you. It’s not for lack of playing with it, we’ve made salmon countless times, we’ve made ribs, we’ve smoked chicken wings, chicken thighs, even a big piece of brisket. But the recipe I decided to share with you first is a bit unusual – meatloaf. Yes, smoked meatloaf. It was superb. If you have a smoker, do try it. If you don’t you can do the exact same recipe in a 250 F oven, and add a touch of liquid smoke to the mix and half a teaspoon of smoked paprika.

SMOKED MEATLOAF
(inspired by Alton Brown and other sources)

½ cup ketchup (store-bought or home-made, recipe follows)
¼ cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped fine
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 pounds ground chuck
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup almond flour
1 medium shallot, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2.5 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
black pepper to taste
2 large eggs, beaten

Combine the ketchup, tomato paste, brown sugar, chipotle, adobo sauce and cocoa powder in a small bowl.

Place the shallot, carrot and celery into the bowl of a food processor and process
until finely chopped.  Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan and add the processed veggies, season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant and the veggies start to soften. Reserve, cool to almost room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the two types of meat with the ketchup mixture, reserving about 2 tablespoons to brush on the meat later.  Add the almond flour, eggs, all seasonings. Mix it all gently without overworking the meat. Shape as a loaf on top of a heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Close the foil around the meatloaf.

Heat the smoker (or use your oven) to 250F. Load it with the wood chips of your choice. We used applewood. Flip the package and poke holes at the bottom of the foil to allow fat to drip down.  Invert it again and place in the smoker, foil tightly closed for about 50 minutes.

Open the package and fold the foil back. Brush with the remaining ketchup mixture and continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches 130 ° F, about 40 minutes longer.

Remove the meat loaf from the smoker and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

LOW-SUGAR KETCHUP
(adapted from Bacon & Butter)

1 ½ cups tomato paste
¼ cup water
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

In a large bowl, combine the tomato paste, water, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, pepper, and cloves. Whisk thoroughly to combine. Transfer to an airtight container. Chill for 1 hour to allow the flavors to incorporate.

ENJOY!

to print the recipes, click here

Comments:  I had never made ketchup from scratch, and this is obviously not the authentic way to do it, but I wanted something slightly less indulgent and simple to put together. It is not as sweet and thick as a normal ketchup but it delivers similar flavor. For a more authentic recipe, definitely try this one from my friend Karen.

Brown food is no eye-candy to a camera, but it tastes sooo good!

The texture and flavor of this smoked meatloaf were pretty spectacular. You’ll need to cut thick slices because it is so fragile it tends to crumble a little, but it’s not a serious drawback at all. Leftovers were good for three days in a row, twice for my lunch and one final appearance for our dinner. Yes, I did not get tired of it. At all.

The ketchup had a second chance to shine also. It was outstanding to make a bit of cocktail sauce for oysters on the half-shell.  I realize oyster season is over, but as I mentioned, this adventure happened a few months ago, when we were having oysters pretty much once-a-week.  One of the few things I love about cooler months.

ONE YEAR AGO: Banana Bread with Espresso Glaze

TWO YEARS AGO: Slow-Cooker Carnitas & Paleo Planet Cookbook Review

THREE YEARS AGO: The Making of a Nobel Reception

FOUR YEARS AGO: Fennel Soup with Almonds and Mint 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin

SIX YEARS AGO: Farfalle with Zucchini and Ricotta

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Slow-baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Hoisin Explosion Chicken

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FRAISIER CAKE: A CELEBRATION OF SPRING

Fraisier is a classic cake in French patisserie. You will find countless versions for it. The cake can be round, square, rectangular, the topping also quite varied:  meringue, a thin layer of gelatin, or some marzipan. You can also go with a more rustic version topped with just a dusting of powdered sugar. The common denominator is two layers of cake, separated by a filling of strawberries in buttercream (preferably mousseline, which is buttercream on steroids). Some of the strawberries must be cut in half lengthwise and sit at the edge, so that they will be visible in the assembled cake.  What’s not to like? For my version I used a simple genoise brushed with Cointreau-syrup, a mousseline cream with a touch of white chocolate, and for the topping a thin layer of almond paste.

FRAISIER CAKE
(adapted from many sources)

for the cake:
6 eggs
5 tbs butter
1 cup (225g) sugar
1 + 3/4 cup (210g) flour
1/2 tsp vanilla paste

For simple syrup:
6 Tablespoons water
6 Tablespoons sugar
3 tsp Cointreau

For creme mousseline:
2½ cups (600ml) whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (56g) corn starch
454g  butter, softened, divided
100 g white chocolate, melted and cooled

For decoration:
Hulled and halved strawberries for perimeter of the cake (I used 19 halves)
Diced strawberries for the filling (about 12 large strawberries)
100 g almond paste
powdered sugar for rolling

Equipment: One 10-inch round cake pan; one 9.5-inch cake ring or springform pan.

Heat the oven to 350 F. Prepare a 10 inch cake pan by buttering the interior. Then dust with flour and set aside.  

Place the butter in a small dish and cover then melt in the microwave. Set aside to let cool. Fill a pot with about 1 inch water over medium high heat. Once it starts to simmer, sit the bowl of a stand mixer over the pot. Put the eggs and sugar in the bowl and beat with a whisk until it warms up to a temperature between 130 to 140 degrees F. Return the bowl to the stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk the mixture on high-speed. Continue to beat until the batter is cool to the touch. The end result should be a light batter that has tripled in volume.

Set aside 2 tbs of the batter in a small bowl. Add the flour to the large bowl of batter in increments, gently folding until no dry streaks remain. Blend together the 2 tbs of batter with the melted butter. Pour into the large bowl of batter and stir until incorporated. Fill the prepared cake pan with the batter. Place pan in oven and bake until cake springs back when lightly touched. Baking time should be about 30 minutes. Remove pan and invert cake onto a rack to cool.

While the cake is cooling, make the simple syrup by heating the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat and stir the Cointreau. Set aside to cool.

Make the mousseline cream by combining in a saucepan the milk and vanilla paste, then bringing to a simmer over low-heat. Do not let the milk come to a boil. Reserve. Place the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk vigorously until the mixture turns a light shade of yellow and becomes slightly thick and frothy, about 3 minutes. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until completely incorporated.

Slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the warm milk into the egg mixture, and whisk continuously to temper the eggs.  Add the rest of the milk, always whisking. Once all the milk has been added to the eggs, pour everything back into the saucepan, and over low heat keep whisking until the cream comes to a full boil, but do it slowly. Keep removing from the heat and placing it back if you feel it is boiling too quickly. Do not stop whisking, and make sure to go over each little spot of the bottom of the pan to prevent the cream from scorching.

When large bubbles start coming to the surface, continue whisking for 15 seconds, then remove from heat, let it stand for a couple of minutes and add half of the butter, then the melted and cooled chocolate. Pass it through a fine sieve to remove any little lumps and place in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight, with a plastic film on top to prevent a skin from forming.

When fully cold, remove from fridge, place in a Kitchen Aid and beat at full speed for 5 minutes or longer, to bring it to room temperature. Now add the other half of the butter, which must be softened.  Beat until fully smooth. The mousseline cream is ready to use.

Assemble the cake: Place a piece of acetate film against the inner surface of the cake ring. If needed, trim the top crust of the sponge cake, to level it. Split in half and place the bottom half (cut side face up)in a 9 1/1 inch cake ring set over a cardboard cake round of the same size. Brush with half of the Cointreau syrup.

Place each strawberry half upright inside the ring, forming an interior circle. The stem top should be face down and the cut side facing the inside of the flan ring. Smooth one cup of the mousseline cream over the split cake inside the flan ring. The cream should cover all exposed cake. Then place diced strawberries covering the center of the cake.  Fill all spaces with the mousseline cream by using a piping tip and covering until you reach the top of the flan ring. Then place the other cake half over the cream layer and brush the top with the remaining syrup. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll a piece of almond paste very thin, make a pattern on the surface if you have an embossing rolling-pin. Cover the cake with a very thin layer of mousseline cream, then set the rolled almond paste on top, with the pattern facing up. Decorate with strawberries, if desired.

Refrigerate until serving time.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: One thing that makes it easier to assemble a Fraisier is placing acetate film to line the  perimeter of the pan. I used my beloved elephant pins (a gift from my niece) to keep the acetate in place (see 2nd of the smaller photos in the composite above). The film makes sure that once you lift the ring the sides of the cake won’t be messed up, by smearing the cream or moving the strawberries in the process. Super clever.

Some recipes instruct you to cover the center of the cake with whole strawberries standing with the pointed end up, but I think that would make a bit harder to cut the cake in slices. I decided to dice the fruit instead and distribute the pieces more or less evenly on the surface. I like the way it turned out.

The sun shinning through the window, cast a bright yellow tone on the slice of cake I served in our department mail room. Interesting effect…

For the topping, my goal was to imprint a pattern on the thin layer of almond paste. I used a wooden rolling-pin, but unfortunately the effect was barely visible.

Points to consider in the future

Exchanging thoughts with Patissiers Extraordinaires Gary and Jennifer I realize a few things that could be improved. First, instead of baking a single round cake and slicing it in half, it would be nice to bake a cake in a sheet pan and cut two layers of the desired size. They could be any shape, circular, square, rectangular. The advantage of that method is that you don’t have to worry about slicing the cake horizontally and both layers would be absolutely equal in height.

As to the design on the almond paste, Gary suggests using a silicone mat instead of the rolling-pin. I think that is a great idea, and will definitely incorporate it on my next time. Perhaps even adding a bit of green food color to the paste, I’ve seen many examples that do so.

Another possibility that makes this cake even more appealing is to completely hide the cake when assembled. You achieve that by placing the strawberries outside the perimeter of the cake, which is then cut about one inch smaller than the ring. The mousseline will be outside, on the sides and top of the cake. You can see one beautiful example here.

All things considered, I am happy with the way my first attempt turned out. The almond paste layer gives a nice almond-y flavor to the cake, and the texture is not harsh at all, it gets quite a bit softer in contact with the mousseline cream underneath. No doubt there is room for improvement, but isn’t that the case for many things in life?

🙂

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Zucchini Frittata with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

TWO YEARS AGO: Playing with Pectinase

THREE YEARS AGO: Poached White Asparagus with Lemon and Pistachios

FOUR YEARS AGO: Dan Lepard’s Saffron Bloomer

FIVE YEARS AGO: Fesenjan & The New Persian Kitchen

SIX YEARS AGO: Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pasta Puttanesca

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Miche Point-a-Calliere

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SAVORY OATMEAL WITH BACON AND CHEDDAR AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW

This is a long overdue post. I made this recipe last month, but have been meaning to write about this cookbook ever since I bought it, back in October. Seven long months ago. Shocking.  Oatmeal is definitely something associated with breakfast, and served on the sweet side. With milk, brown sugar, cream, maybe some stewed apples or bananas. In her book Adventures in Slow-Cooking, Sarah di Gregorio shares a version for savory oatmeal and raves about it. I had to try it. It was really tasty, and she gave me permission to share the recipe with you… So, without further ado…

SAVORY OATMEAL WITH BACON, SCALLIONS, AND CHEDDAR
(published with permission from Sarah Di Gregorio)

1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats
Kosher salt
½ pound thick-cut bacon
5 scallions, trimmed, light green and white parts thinly sliced
8 ounces sharp cheddar, grated (about 2 heaping cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fried or poached eggs, for topping (1 per person)

Generously butter a 5- to 7-quart slow cooker. Add the oats, 4 cups water, and I teaspoon salt. Cook until the oatmeal is thick and tender: on LOW for 4 hours or on LOW for 2 hours followed by WARM for 6 to 7 hours.

Put the bacon into a cold large skillet and bring the heat to medium. Cook, flipping a couple of times, until the bacon has rendered a lot of its fat and is deeply browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels, then coarsely chop. You can do this right before serving the oatmeal or the day before, in which case store the crisped bacon in an airtight container in the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature before using.

When the oatmeal is done, stir in the bacon, white and light green scallion slices, and about three-quarters of the cheese (about 6 ounces). Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary and a few grinds of pepper. Serve in bowls topped with the remaining cheese, the dark green sliced scallions, and eggs, if you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’ve always been intrigued by the use of oatmeal in savory dishes. I am not an oatmeal fan in traditional breakfast preparations, but decided to open my mind and give it a try. I don’t normally eat breakfast and found that this meal was perfect at lunch time. Kept me full until dinner, and was full of flavor.  I also made a vegetarian version using sautéed mushrooms instead of bacon. Worked great too, I made sure to brown them well and added a touch of soy sauce at the end. Delicious! In Sarah’s words:

Speaking of the egg: I know most people are tired of the image of egg yolk flooding whatever is served underneath, but forgive me… this was too good to skip…

OVERVIEW OF ADVENTURES IN SLOW-COOKING

by Sarah di Gregorio

First, let me share with you the review I wrote for it at amazon.com

I fell in love with this book at first page. I don’t have much patience for long introductions and considered just skipping that part to dive into recipes. Well, I could not stop reading. Sarah is a talented writer and definitely knows how to use the slow-cooker the way it is intended to be used. No dump and run approach. This is slow-cooking for gourmet cooks, those who will not accept anything with the “crock pot texture.” I bought this book even though there was only ONE review about it. Took a big risk, right? Well, I am so glad I did. I own more than 500 cookbooks, and this might very well be my favorite for slow-cooking. Awesome. Just awesome. Buy it and you will not be disappointed. Now, if you are part of the team of dump it and forget it, this book is NOT for you. This is not a criticism to you, just a warning that you might not like it that much….

That pretty much explains why I had to review it here, I think that anyone who owns a crock pot will benefit from this book. I have a file in my computer (way out of date) called “The Best from Each.” In that file I list recipes from my Kindle cookbooks that appeal to me. Sarah’s cookbook broke the record for the largest proportion of recipes that made into that folder. From 120 recipes, 35 made the cut. That’s almost one-third of them. Pretty impressive.  Here is a cut-and-paste job from my computer:

Classic Chicken Stock (wings)

Winter Tomato Sauce (Marcella Hazan)

Lentils, beans, chickpeas method

Grains, farro, barley, black rice etc method

Smoky Chipotle Ketchup (interesting)

Crisp Chicken Wings with Szechuan Caramel

Chawan Mushi (interesting savory custard)

Pistachios, Coconut, and Cardamon Granola

Savory Oatmeal with Bacon, Scallions and Cheddar

Crustless Quiche with Smoked Salmon

Summer Tomato, Basil and Burrata Grain Bowl

Roasted Red Pepper, Caper, Walnut and Tahini Grain Bowl

Creamy Barley with Corn and Green Chile-Lime Salsa

Farro Puttanesca

Shakshuka with Feta and Olives

Caramelized Cherry Tomatoes

Stuffed Meatballs in Lots of Sauce

Spiced Lamb Meatballs in Harissa Tomato Sauce

Smoky Barbecued Brisket

Chipotle Almond Braised Beef Tacos
(Quick Pickled Onions) – to go with it, very nice method

Orange, Olive and Fennel Chicken Tagine
(Turmeric Yogurt) – to go with it

Miso-Butter Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Buttery Duck Confit 

Harissa Pork Chili with Toppings Galore

Sticky Gochujang Pork

Za’tar Roast Chicken

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Maple Caramel

Coconut Banana Cake with Brown Butter Caramel Sauce

Matcha-White Chocolate Pots de Crème

Vietnamese Coffee Pots de Crème

Cannoli Cheesecake with Biscotti Crust

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Earl Grey Cream

Cardamon-Molasses Apple Upside-Down Cake

TEASER RECIPE:  from the list, I made the Farro Puttanesca. To die for! Farro cooked in the crock pot has perfect texture, this preparation was luscious, perfect by itself or as a side dish for roast chicken, grilled salmon, steak, pretty much anything you’d like. A very creative way to serve farro. Made a lot, but froze well too…

 

Sarah, thank you and your editors for allowing me
to publish one of your recipes.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Air-Fried Carrots, Two Ways (most popular post on my blog!)

TWO YEARS AGO: Five Minutes in L.I.T (a tour of our laboratory!)

THREE YEARS AGO: Chicken Thighs with Artichokes and Capers

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pea Pancakes with Herbed Yogurt

FIVE YEARS AGO: Mushroom Stroganoff

SIX YEARS AGO: Tomato Sourdough

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Gamberetti con rucola e pomodori

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Flirting with Orzo

 

 

 

 

 

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FLANK STEAK CARNITAS

FELIZ CINCO DE MAYO!

Carnitas are a favorite in our home…  All you need is to place some over a tortilla, add a few toppings and call it a day. Those who prefer a low-carb path can grab a hearty leaf of Romaine lettuce instead of tortilla, and enjoy it while apologizing to the Taco Gods that will certainly frown upon such heresy. In this preparation, we put the pressure cooker to play, giving the flank steak a very pleasant texture. I’ve made it three times already, after seeing the original post from Kalyn. My recipe is a slight modification of hers, with a little additional step at the end.

PRESSURE COOKER FLANK STEAK CARNITAS
(slightly modified from Kalyn’s recipe)

1 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 flank steak, about 1.5 pounds
1  cup salsa verde (like Herdez)
1/2 cup tomato salsa (like La Victoria)

Heat the oil in the pressure cooker, add the minced shallot and cook 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add  the ground cumin and chili powder and cook about a minute more.

Cut the steak lengthwise and then again crosswise.  Add the steak pieces to the pressure cooker with the red and green salsa, lock the lid in place,  and cook at high pressure for 45 minutes. Shut down the burner and let the pan cool for 15 minutes, then do a quick release of steam under the kitchen faucet, and open the pan.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the meat, leaving the sauce in the pressure cooker.  Let the meat cool for a few minutes on the cutting board, then use two forks to shred the meat apart. Right before serving,  place it on a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add small amounts of the sauce left behind in the pressure cooker. You can add as much liquid as you feel like it, but allow the pieces of meat to get a bit browned in the pan first.

Use it to top tortillas with all your favorite additions, guacamole, shredded cheese, shredded avocado. Or enjoy it with white rice and beans.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: We are not big on cooking with ready-made sauces but make an exception to bottled salsas, because there are so many great brands out there. We love La Victoria, although it is not the easiest one to find. Leftovers go in mini-muffin pans straight to the freezer, and then inside a plastic bag. They do get a bit watery in the freezing-thawing process, but we mainly use them as addition to guacamole or stir-fries, so that’s not too serious a problem.  Sometimes I defrost them over a small sieve, so that the excess water drips away. 

This is one example of a recipe I would never try if it did not come from Kalyn’s site. I can see myself twisting the  nose at something made opening two different bottled products… but she raved about it, and I totally trust her. Indeed, it is a big winner. I don’t know what happens in the mixture of the green and red salsa, but you definitely end up with something that is more than the sum of its parts. In a very good way…

You can make the flank steak in the pressure cooker, in the instant-pot, or in a slow-cooker. Stop by Kalyn’s site to get specific instructions for each method. It is a great way to tame the fibrous texture of this meat, and give it a lot of spice without making it overly hot. I suppose you could go for a very hot salsa if you so desire… I’ve been in a more mellow phase lately. Such is life.

ONE YEAR AGO: Sesame and Poppy Seed Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken from Southern at Heart

THREE YEARS AGO: Lamb Shanks en Papillote with Cauliflower-Celeriac Purée

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chestnut Brownies and a Blog Award!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Quinoa with Cider-Glazed Carrots

SIX YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday: Heirloom Tomatoes Steal the Show

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pain de Provence

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Golspie Loaf, from the Scottish Highlands

 

 

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