"It IS all about the TASTE"
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  • Baked Cheese

    On my way back from a client in Brooklyn I passed a new establishment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where I found a very nice little appetizer of baked cheese.

    The restaurant / lounge was less than packed so the owner / chef had a few minutes to chat. Of course, we all know who wheedled the recipe from him, and chatted about some possible addins..

    Consider the well seasoned 12″ cast iron skillet, black, heavy and with it’s own baked on non stick surface. Now add cubed cheese, some olive oil, (my first add / change, bacon drippings or bacon cubes browned off in the skillet), thin sliced garlic, seasonings, and of course herbage. This is then baked until the cheese melts, bubbles, and browns.

    This is then served bubbling hot, with a selection of thin slices of crusty french baguette, (Toasted and not toasted) and maybe the chunks of browned bacon on the side.

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  • Quiche

    Time for food, but given the recent set of medical stupidity one must go a bit lighter. So maybe eggs, but sunny-side up, over easy, scrambled, just is NOT going to do it for me.

    I WANT TASTE!. I WANT TEXTURE! I WANT SAVORY…. So a quiche, but one with real bacon, real veggies, and lots of cheese and eggs..

    Quiche is essentially an custard made with milk and eggs poured into a pie crust and baked. You want just enough eggs to set the milk, but not so many that the quiche becomes truck tire. You want a bit of wobble in your quiche as it comes out of the oven. Wobble means silky, melt-away custard in every bite.

    The fool-proof part comes courtesy of the French. They long-ago settled on the perfect formula of one part egg to two parts milk. A standard large egg weighs two ounces and a cup of milk is eight ounces, so a good rule of thumb is two eggs per cup of milk. One can bump this up a bit to make a more substantial quiche and go with three eggs and a cup and a half of milk in a nine-inch pie crust.

    Or as one person wrote:

    I always use the Julia Child ratio: put the eggs in a large measuring cup and add enough dairy (cream/half & half/milk) to bring the total up to 1/2 cup per egg. So, if you used 4 eggs, you’d add enough dairy to make 2 cups of custard. So simple to remember and a perfect blend of dairy and egg: not too thick, not too liquid, just right.

    Now as per quiches, they have a reputation as a fancy French entree, and for being rather persnickety to prepare, but quiches are actually very easy to make. With a little science, some good chemistry, a proper ratio and a bit of technique, quiches can be a very good selection for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a late night snack.

    There are some things key to good quichery :

    1. Flaky Crust
    2. First of all, the pie crust must be tender and flaky. A good tart crust, works well.

    3. A tasty Filling
    4. The filling must have some kind of structure so the pie will hold together when sliced. As the eggs cook, they set, forming a custard. A basic quiche recipe using the proportions of 1-2 cups of dairy with 3-4 eggs will work. Any other add ins, (bacon, sausage, mushrooms, onions, etc) need to be fully cooked and cooled, BEFORE adding to the filling. In this case, 1 cup dairy to 4 eggs, plus my add ins. I am looking for hearty here.

    5. Proper Baking
    6. Following baking times and temperatures are KEY to a quiche that is cooked but not rubbery. I.E. The center is set and the outside edge is golden brown.

    You can fill your quiches with just about anything; they’re wonderful refrigerator Velcro. Leftover bacon, cooked chicken, ham, cooked vegetables, bits of cheese transform into a “slice of heaven”

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  • Chicken Biryani

    In my last post I mentioned Biryani, it happens to be one of my favorite mid-easterd dishes. This is a simple chicken biryani, one can add all sorts of things, lamb, beef, etc, but for a basic fill your stomach meal, this is the one.

    Background

    Biryani is a set of rice-based foods made with spices, rice (usually basmati) and [[meat](chicken)]/vegetables. The name is derived from the Persian word beryā(n) which means “fried” or “roasted”.

    Biryani was brought to India and Pakistan by Persian travelers and merchants and local variants of this dish are not only popular in India and Pakistan but also in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and among Muslims in Sri Lanka.

    The spices and condiments used in biryani may include but are not limited to: ghee, peas, beans, cumin, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander and mint leaves, ginger, onions, and garlic. The premium varieties include saffron. For a non-vegetarian biryani, the main ingredient that accompanies the spices is the meat—beef, chicken, goat, lamb, or shrimp. The dish may be served with dahi chutney or Raita, korma, curry, a sour dish of eggplant (brinjal) or a boiled egg.

    The difference between biryani and pullao is that while pullao may be made by cooking the items together, biryani is used to denote a dish where the rice is cooked separately from the other ingredients.

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  • National Pound Cake Day

    National Pound Cake day, 03/04. Sorry, I’m a day late with this, but it is all the sweeter for it.

    A classic cake. From the very old definition / recipe a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of butter and a pound of eggs which were assembled via the creaming method. (Not as some say, the weight each slice adds to you…)

    “Sour cream pound cake” is a popular variation in the United States, which involves the substitution of sour cream for some of the butter, which also is intended to produce a more moist cake with a pleasantly tangy flavor.

    Pound cake refers to a type of cake traditionally made with a pound of each of four ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. The traditional recipe makes a cake much larger than most families can consume, and so the quantity is often changed to suit the size of the cake that is desired. As long as the ratio is preserved, the resulting cake will be identical to that using the traditional recipe. Hence, any cake made with a 1:1:1:1 ratio of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar is also called a pound cake or lbs cake, even if the quantity used is smaller or larger than an actual pound.

    There are numerous variations on the traditional pound cake, with certain countries and regions having distinctive styles. These can include the addition of flavoring agents (such as vanilla extract or almond extract) or dried fruit (such as currants or craisins), as well as alterations to the original recipe to change the characteristics of the resulting pound cake.

    As the photo above shows, one can mix the batter straight up for a “white cake”, portion 1/2 of the batter to the pans and then add coco / chocolate to the remaining mix, portion and swirl for a marble cake. This works very well with fruit, (say blueberries), or nuts (say crushed walnuts.)

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  • Mega Chops

    For all my friends out practicing their “chops”, and others who love to bust my chops… Time for some serious chops…

    While at the store I found a very good price on a pork loin roast. (Think of it as bone in pork chops, still connected…)

    These chops will render out to be between 1 1/2″ to 2″ thick, so a sear and bake approach will be needed. I will brine them for flavor and moisture, maybe even slater them with Dijon Mustard, olive oil and cracked pepper for an extra taste kick.

    First one must break down the close to primal loin roast and produce 4 thick succulent chops. Then build a brine and soak the chops for 4 hours.

    I’ve dealt with how to make a brine in You have to be FREAKING kidding…. (How to make a Brine), and the effect of salting / brining in Improving Cheap Beef, Gaucho Style, so I’ll not dwell on those items.

    Pork chops are very easy to ruin. The modern porcine critter has very little intra musculature fat, making overcooking to an dry, gristly meat all too common. Braising a pork chop eradicates the fear of overcooking while providing a savory sauce to accompany your meal. The addition of aromatics and fruits enhances the flavor of the meat and the resulting sauce.

    Braising (from the French “braiser”), is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavor. Braising of meat is often referred to as pot roasting, though some authors make a distinction between the two methods based on whether additional liquid is added.

    Most braises follow the same basic steps. The food to be braised (meat, poultry, but also vegetables or mushrooms) is first seared to brown its surface and enhance its flavor (through a process known as the Maillard reaction). If the food will not produce enough liquid of its own, a small amount of cooking liquid that often includes an acidic element, such as tomatoes, beer, or wine, is added to the pot, often with stock. The dish is cooked covered at a very low simmer until the meat is fork tender. Often the cooking liquid is finished to create a sauce or gravy.

    A successful braise intermingles the flavors of the foods being cooked and the cooking liquid. This cooking method dissolves collagen from the meat into gelatin, to enrich and add body to the liquid. Braising is economical, as it allows the use of tough and inexpensive cuts, and efficient, as it often employs a single pot to cook an entire meal.

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  • Braised / Roasted Chicken

    One of AirMail’s favorite dishes to beg scraps from, she was an absolute chicken fiend.

    Simple Roast Chicken, there is no such thing. Chicken is constantly relegated to the pedestrian side of cooking, when it is a much of a super star as turkey, steak, and roasts. Chicken just needs to be treated properly

    There are MANY recipes and methods to roasting a chicken, from the insanely high-heat, (which produces a delicious fully flavored bird), to the absurdly low-heat, (which makes an incredible moist bird), but none of them provide a nice crisp skin, and a fall off the bone, moist meat bird.

    Now IF I start with a cast iron pan, (all the better to make a pan gravy in…), roast my bird for 30 minutes covered, then add a flavored sauce and finish off uncovered to produce a crisp flavorful skin, then use the drippings to make the pan gravy…..

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