"It IS all about the TASTE"
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  • Cajun Blackened Seasoning

    Two weekends ago, my wife asked me for a Cajun style Blackened Seasoning mix for a recipe she was working on. Turns out she was preparing fish tacos. I’m not a real fan of fish, unless it is catfish, breaded and fried, but these were quite exceptional. I’ll coax the fish taco recipe from her, but in the meantime here is the seasoning mix I built.

  • Bread Dough Hydration (Baker’s Percentage)

    One of the key items in gaining a desired crust and crumb is the level of hydration in the dough. The percent of water to the amount of flour is the hydration level or the “Baker’s Percentage”.

    From Wikipedia:

    Baker’s percentage is a baker’s notation method indicating the flour-relative proportion of an ingredient used when making breads, cakes, muffins, and other pastries. It is also referred to as baker’s math, or otherwise contextually indicated by a phrase such as based on flour weight. It is sometimes called formula percentage, a phrase that refers to the sum of a set of bakers’ percentages. Baker’s percentage expresses each ingredient in parts per hundred as a ratio of the ingredient’s mass to the total flour’s mass

    For example, in a recipe that calls for 10 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of water, the corresponding baker’s percentages are 100% for the flour and 50% for the water. Because these percentages are stated with respect to the mass of flour rather than with respect to the mass of all ingredients, the total sum of these percentages always exceeds 100%.

    Flour-based recipes are more precisely conceived as baker’s percentages, and more accurately measured using mass instead of volume. The uncertainty in using volume measurements follows from the fact that flour settles in storage and therefore does not have a constant density.

    I.E. Use a SCALE!, do nothing by cups / tablespoons / pinches….

    Basing on my standard dough recipe, I.E. 500 grams of bread flour, the following can be assumed:

    Water in ml Hydration Texture Notes
    275 55% Stiff:Very firm, dry and satiny; not tacky dense crumb in breads such as bagels, pretzels
    290-325 58-62 Standard:Tacky but not sticky; supple dense closed crumb, in breads such as sandwich bread, rolls, French and other European breads
    325-400 65-80 Rustic:Wet, sticky airy crumb and large, irregular holes, in breads such as ciabatta, focaccia, pizza

    Stiff Doughs:

    Working a stiff dough requires a large amount of strength and as these are so dry, an incredibly long kneed time. I almost always use a stand mixer for this on very low, as anything else tend to burn on the motor or strip the gears. Great for very dense, chewy breads, bagels, pretzels.

    Regular Doughs:

    This dough is a pleasure to kneed, supple, silky, slightly tacky, gives us a good rise, stand up well to slashing, with a small crumb. Think Baguettes, crusty dinner rolls, loaves for sandwich.

    Wet Doughs:

    Very sticky stuff, can not be kneaded, use a stretch and fold. This will yield some of the most interesting boules, loaves, and rolls. Crispy crust, irregular crumb, greate for ciabatta, focaccia, pizza, and my favorite, crusty yeast rolls.

  • Chicken and Dumplings

    Absolutely perfect weather. For pneumonia… Cool to cold, bit of damp, and just enough sunshine / warmth to make think you can tough it out with a light jacket. (GUESS WHAT? You can’t, you will get that most miserable of all things, a spring cold.)

    Time to fight back a bit, time for soup, chicken soup, and If I am going to take the time to do that, I’ll go Full Valhalla, and make dumplings as well.

    I always have chicken stock in the fridge, (unless one of the lair denizens have drank it straight. Yes, they do that. 3/4 cup of Stock, bit of pepper, a mushroom sliced, and into the microwave for 60 sec. A fast meal)

    From Wikipedia:

    Chicken and dumplings is a dish which consists of a chicken cooked in water, with the resulting chicken broth being used to cook the dumplings by boiling. A dumpling in this context is a biscuit dough, which is a mixture of flour, shortening, and liquid (water, milk, buttermilk, or chicken stock). The dumplings are either rolled out flat, dropped or formed into a ball.

    It is a popular comfort food dish, commonly found in the Southern and Midwestern United States, that is also attributed to being a French Canadian meal that originated during the Great Depression. Chicken and dumplings as a dish is prepared with a combination of boiled chicken meat, broth produced by boiling the chicken, multiple dumplings, and salt and pepper for seasoning. In some areas, this meal is known as chicken and sliders.

  • Texas Red – Chili

    With the recently departed Stella, and the oncoming snow for the weekend, it is time for some serious hearty food. And for this Texas boy, that means meat, and since I live in New York, I have no time to spend hours cooking, so that means the slow cooker.

    From Wikipedia:

    Chili con carne, commonly known in American English as simply “chili”, is a spicy stew containing chili peppers, meat (usually beef), and often tomatoes and beans. Other seasonings may include garlic, onions, and cumin.

    Geographic and personal tastes involve different types of meat and ingredients. Recipes provoke disputes among aficionados, some of whom insist that the word “chili” applies only to the basic dish, without beans and tomatoes. Chili con carne is a frequent dish for cook-offs and is used as an ingredient in other dishes.

    From way back in my youth, these are the days my mother made chili, or Texas Red, no beans, no tomatoes, no mushrooms, no tofu, absolutely nothing fancy, just beef, stock, Allium, and capsicums, and perhaps some cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and other trace element style spices. (Alliums are the onion family, onion, garlic, etc, and capsicums are peppers.)

    To quote a description:

    Texas red if it walks the thin line just this side of indigestibility: damning the mouth that eats it and defying the stomach to digest it, the ingredients are hardly willing to lie in the same pot together.

    If one looks at all the legends of how chili was discovered, there is one thing in common…. ABJECT POVERTY, so the meat involved is not going to be the best, but since it will be close to the horn or the hoof, I am sure it will have flavor beyond compare, and collagen beyond believe. (And this is a good thing….)

  • Dahl Bhat with Chicken

    The recent Winter Storm Stella has me going in an entirely different direction. Like straight up … As is straight up a mountain in the high Himalayas. When on thinks about what you see in all the mountain movies about the Himalayas. Himalayas, gurka‚Äôs, Curry and rice

    Dhal (Lentil Curry) is usually a soup, this time made with our Asian chicken stock. But as always, we’ll look at some dried red peppers, or maybe serve with a hot pepper / vinegar finishing sauce on the side…

    One could forgot the rice and serve over orzo, or perhaps riced potatoes, or even just with a couple of slices of crusty ciabatta.

    Background

    Dahl bhat is a traditional South / Central Asian and staple dish which is essentially rice (bhat) and lentil soup (dal). This is a very common food in South Asian countries specially Nepal. In general eaten twice a day with another (usually spicy, maybe hot /sour) dish called tarkari which can be either vegetarian or non-vegetarian..

    The recipes vary by locality, ethnic group, family, as well as the season. Dal generally contains lentils (different types are used according to taste), tomatoes, onion, chili and ginger along with herbs and spices such as coriander, garam-masala and turmeric.

  • Thai Chicken Stock

    As the great storm stella barrels down upon us, bringing heavy snow, high winds and low temperatures, I feel a need, a need for stock, chicken stock, rich, spicy, liquid gold for the production of good soups, gravies, noodles, just about anything. This is a twist on my standard stock that adds an Asian taste to the stock. This would be a natural for the Chicken and Coconut soup, or as the broth component of a chicken curry, or as a broth for Thai noodles, or as the liquid for Dhal …

    From Wikipedia:

    Stock is a flavored liquid preparation. It forms the basis of many dishes, particularly soups and sauces. Making stocks involves simmering animal bones or meat, seafood, or vegetables in water or wine, adding mirepoix or other aromatics for more flavor.

    Traditionally, stock is made by simmering various ingredients in water. A newer approach is to use a pressure cooker. The ingredients may include some or all of the following:

    Meat
    Leftover cooked meat, such as that remaining on poultry carcasses, is often used along with the bones of the bird or joint. Fresh meat makes a superior stock, and cuts rich in connective tissue such as shin or shoulder of beef or veal are commonly recommended, either alone or added in lower proportions to the remains of cooked poultry, to provide a richer and fresher-tasting stock. Quantities recommended are in the ratio of 1 part fresh meat to 2 parts water. Pork, although a popular base for stock in Chinese cuisine, is considered unsuitable for stock in European cooking due to its greasiness[citation needed](although 19th-century recipes for consomme and traditional aspic included slices of mild ham), and mutton was traditionally avoided due to the difficulty of avoiding the strong tallowy taint imparted from the fat.
    Bones
    Veal, beef, and chicken bones are most commonly used. The flavour of the stock comes from the cartilage and connective tissue in the bones. Connective tissue has collagen in it, which gets converted into gelatin that thickens the liquid. Stock made from bones needs to be simmered for longer than stock made from meat. Pressure cooking methods shorten the time necessary to extract the flavour from the bones.
    Mirepoix
    Mirepoix is a combination of onions, carrots, celery, and sometimes other vegetables. Often, the less desirable parts of the vegetables that may not otherwise be eaten (such as carrot skins and celery cores and leaves) are used. The use of these parts is highly dependent upon the chef, as many do not appreciate the flavours that these portions impart.
    Herbs and spices
    The herbs and spices used depend on availability and local traditions. In classical cuisine, the use of a bouquet garni (or bag of herbs) consisting of parsley, bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, and possibly other herbs, is common. This is often placed in a sachet to make it easier to remove once the stock is cooked.

    I am known to reserve chicken bones from spatchcocked chickens for the purpose of reenforcing my stock. (The addition of chicken feet will also add to the gelatin content)