Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What the duck? Roti, pan sauce, and cookware selection


From Drop Box

With your shotgun, go outside when it's cold, wait for some ducks to fly over, and kill a couple of them.  Don't forget your duck stamps, waders, etc.
Or...you could go to your local grocery store (or particularly Asian market) and pick up some duck breasts or a whole duck.  The duck breasts can be frozen, that's not a problem.  As with anything frozen, you've got to get the water out of it.  You can do this by letting it sit in the fridge uncovered as the humidity of the fridge is generally pretty low (hence the reason for humidity drawers that prevent veggies from drying out).

Pan-roasted duck breast with glazed baby carrots

Notice the polarity of the duck breasts, one side has the skin, the other does not (if you got something like I used).  The presentation side is the skin side, and has the most flavor.  The subcutaneous fat sits right under the skin, and provides a bunch of flavor as well.  If you watched the Top Chef finale, one of the contestants made fried chicken skin and squash casserole for his first course.  Bold!  Dry rub the duck breasts with about equal parts chili powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, and cayenne.  Preheat the oven to 400. Heat your pan to somewhere around 350-400, which is close to the smoke point of butter and olive oil.  A useful tool for this is an infrared thermometer which you can use to measure the temperature of your pan.  This was a Christmas gift I got this year (thanks Cartwrights!).  If you don't have one, rely on when you see smoke coming from your fat. 

Which pan do you use?
Why do folks pay so much money for clad pans?  Sadly, it may have something to do with one being shinier than the other.  I won't get that far into metallurgy, but some points are worth considering.  Pans that hold heat well won't cool off very quickly when you either take them off heat or when you add something cold.  They're ideal for searing meat or filling with oil for frying (cast iron skillet, enameled cast iron dutch oven).  Other pans are great heat conductors, meaning they take the heat from the flame and efficiently turn that into radiant heat.  When they're off the flame, they cool quickly.  THIS is where you get your money's worth.  The model for this is copper cookware which is great, but costs a fortune and is difficult to clean.  The clad cookware (All-Clad) will frequently have a copper core.  This translates to you as this:  the better the conduction, (1) the lower the flame for the same job and (2) more quickly it cools when you take it off heat.  You want (2) for some applications because it will prevent you from over cooking.
Which pan would you use for the duck, then?  My ideal preparation would involve seared, crispy skin with a consistent doneness throughout.  Either the clad pan or the cast iron would work great.  The clad pan advantage is in making the pan sauce because it heats up and cools off quickly, so that's the one I used.




From Drop Box

The higher the temperature you "set" the skin side when you initially sear the duck, the less you have to worry about uneven cooking.  With varying oils, know the smoke points, heat your pan to high, and put the meat on at the temperature you want.  Realize that a pan with good conduction will cool off slightly when you add the meat, less so with cast iron or warmer meat.  From there, it's just like grilling, take it out of the oven when the juices are clear.  After you quickly sear the skin, put it in the pan and into the oven.  There are a lot of different ways to do this, so experiment.
  • Sear one side, flip, and roast.  This works great because it gets your pan up to the roasting temperature.  It needs only enough time one the burner to get your pan back up to temperature after you added the meat.  The longer you temper (let it come to room temperature) your meat, the shorter your searing time will be.
  • Sear both sides, roast.  This might result in overcooking one side.
  • Sear neither side, roast, and crisp under the broiler afterwards.  May work well, ideally you want your pan to be at temperature so you get even cooking.  Crisping the skin works great, particularly for poultry.
Like with any roasted meat, it needs to rest substantially, so do this on a rack so that steam doesn't build up and overcook the bottom side.  You may think I'm kidding; I'm not.  If you carve too soon, the juices won't have a chance to spread out.  The pan sauce was made by pouring off the excess fat, deglazing with orange juice and reducing until thickened, adding a little butter and salt to get it right, and pouring over served family style.  Accompanying this, I served it with glazed carrots.  You can find a recipe for this on Eric Ripert's website.



From Drop Box

Ratio application: muffins
















Did you know that the batter for banana nut bread is the same as it is for muffins?  I didn't know that for a long time, and until recently I had not eaten muffins that were not either store-bought or made from a store-bought package of ingredients.

There's no mystery to this.  This is a little more complicated of a ratio, but a ratio nonetheless.  Think of it as 3 parts:  wet ingredients, dry ingredients, and additives.  You can hand mix it, or do it in you stand mixer, if you'd like, using your whisk attachment.


Wet:
2 parts liquid
1 part egg
1 part fat.

For my liquid I used milk, for the fat I used melted butter.  4 oz of eggs = 2 large eggs.

Dry:
2 parts flour
Sugar to taste (about 1 part)
Leavening agent
Good pinch of salt.

For my flour, I  used regular AP flour, the sugar was regular granular sugar, the leavening agent was baking powder about 1 tsp per 4 oz of flour (you knew that was the ratio of flour to baking powder, right?).

Additives:
1 ripe about to throw away banana, diced
1/4 cup of chopped pecans.


Mix the wet ingredients first until well-combined.  You can sift your dry ingredients in, mix them separately then combine slowly, or throw caution to the wind and just dump the whole thing in.  The quicker you can combine the ingredients, the less tough your finished product will be (thanks, gluten).
Cook them on 325 convection bake (350 regular) until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean.


Variations on the theme
  • For the muffins I substituted Splenda for half of the sugar. Remember that Splenda does not substitute 1:1 for granular by weight, but is intended to do so by volume. That means you need to figure out the volume of your sugar.  Sugar isn't part of the ratio, but added at 1 part is a good start.
  • Other additives can be dried fruits like cranberries, cherries, figs, apricots, candied orange peels, etc.
  • Blueberries go great, classic combination!
  • You can sub a little oil for half of the butter if you'd like without major failure.  I did it on the muffins because I ran out of butter.
  • Especially for things with nuts, think about adding brown butter.  How to make, you ask?  Just add heat to your melted butter, don't burn it! 
  • Why not chocolate and chocolate chips?  Raspberry and white chocolate?  Bacon and asparagus? 
  • For a different texture, try varying gluten flours such as cake flour vs bread flour.  Find your balance of lightness vs texture/crust.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Salt

What's the big deal with salt, anyway?  I have to admit that before I started paying a little more attention to what I was doing, I was one of those people that on occasion would salt food without tasting it.  Now, I don't think I would ever do that, but hey, you live and you learn.  If you go to the gourmet food shop or even your local grocery store, you'll find several varieties of salt that are not interchangeable.  I dug through the pantry and found a few to offer for illustration.


From Drop Box


Clockwise from the top left these are:
  1. Kosher salt
  2. Fleur de Sel
  3. Grey salt from Colima, Mexico
  4. Regular iodized table salt
  5. Kona salt from Hawaii
    Close up pictures illustrate a few points.


    From Drop Box
    Kosher

    When you look at kosher salt up close, there is some irregularity to the size of the crystals. I've heard a lot of theories about why it is the preferred cooking salt of a lot of chefs, I think it has more to do with texture and the ability to better feel how much you're putting in. Believe it or not, with very little practice, you can feel how much a tsp of kosher salt feels like.  It also seems to have a lower salinity which is a good thing because you want to use salt as a seasoning agent, being careful to not overpower the dish.  This is not a finishing salt. More on that, next....


    From Drop Box
    Fleur de sel

    Fleur de sel, on the other hand is fairly uniform in size, beautiful and clear, and works great as a finishing salt. When or why would you use finishing salt, you may ask? The beauty of finishing salt is having a nicely textured, fine crystal of salt explosion while you're eating something. Beware that you'll only be salting the outer surface, so don't use this technique when you have something thick that needs uniform salinity. I use this on grilled bread, vegetable sautee that I have purposely left undersalted, thin meats and fish, citrus, etc.


    From Drop Box
    Grey salt

    The grey salt I have pictured here is nonuniform in size, but has a much more mineral flavor than regular kosher salt. The size differences make it a little less useful than fleur de sel for a finishing salt, but this one does have a similar flavor burst and delicate texture that the other has. Interesting one to try!


    From Drop Box
    Table salt

    Regular table salt. Fine, small crystals that add a uniform salinity to whatever you're seasoning, fit nice in a shaker, and is easy to measure. This type of salt may be easier to use in baking, dissolves readily because of the small crystals. It doesn't have the texture of kosher salt, so it may be a little trickier to take a pinch of it and know what you're getting. Still useful, don't throw it all away, but in my house, it took 20 minutes of scouring through the kitchen to find a salt shaker. I don't set them out anymore. If you're eating my food, you have to trust me that I seasoned it correctly.


    From Drop Box
    Kona salt

    Hawaiian Kona salt is fun because it's black, from the effect of volcanic rock. This makes it a little trompe l'oeil, "fools the eye." Use this as a fake out with white pepper. Frankly, I'm still trying to figure out ways to use this, and haven't really settled on anything. The salinity seems a little higher in this one than others, and it has a unique visual effect.

    There are tons of other options out there that I haven't tried, feel free to experiment!

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Craft

    Great weekend in the ATL with Knothead. Drove up Saturday afternoon, and despite miserable weather, was giddy about eating at Craft. (Yes! Colicchio has a restaurant in Atlanta, seems to be a trend of "celebrity" chefs of late). Because of the horrific traffic near Lenox/Phipps and the fact that it was cold and raining sideways, we decided to drop in early for our 730 reservations and have a few drinks at the bar. When we arrived at 640, they asked if we would like to be seated early...so that's what we did and planned to make a full night of it (much to the chagrin of our waitress, who didn't turn our table over once, ha!).

    First of all, we elected to eat at Craft Bar, not quite as intimate as Craft, and even though we were near midtown, had little desire to be viewed as a "couple". When entering Craft Bar, I was struck by the awesome firepit where lots of tasty meats were being grilled over mahogany and white oak...excellent first impression.

    After much debate, we decided to order single items for sharing in a methodical order, allowing enough recovery time in between sucessive dishes to avoid over bloatation. We failed miserable, but powered through 7 dishes.

    First, we starteds with Risotto balls, listed as a snack. 3 perfectly cripy risotto balls arrived filled with what I believe was a mascarpone cheesse mixture...nice start.

    Second, Pork belly, apple, curry, maple syrup. I can't tell you have good this freaking thing was...I'll be dreaming about this dish for months. I am definitely going to have to find a pork belly purveyor in the near future.

    Third, Sweetbreads, bacon jam, kumquat. All I can say here is, "very interesting". The sweetbreads were perfectly fried and almost pillowy and creamy on the inside. The bacon jam was interesting, but way too salty. I ruined half of my experience with this dish by smearing a huge dollop of this stuff onto my first bite of sweetbread. All I could taste was salt for 10 minutes, and I tried to clense my taste buds by swilling some vino, but alas... I didn't like the kumquat whatsoever. It was candied and tasted too much like an orange slice candy. Got nothing against those things, but I didn't think went with the rest of the dish. Kevin liked the whole thing, and he was reluctant to even taste it.

    Short rib cannelloni. Wow. My favorite of the night. Sounds good, doesn't it! Colicchio is a master of the braise, but it was the sauce that made this truly rememberable. The sauce was a dark sauce, ?veal-based. It was a bit sweet and had red and green peppers. It tasted like a refined version of a gumbo. There certainly was some alcohol as well, perhaps this was the sweet we tasted, Sherry?

    Veal meatballs, pappardelle. This was my least favorite dish. Not because it wasn't good, but because I could make something identical at home on any given weeknight. It was kind of a play on spaghetti and meatballs, the canned kind you'd eat as a kid. The sauce was a similar thick, orange colored sauce as the canned stuff.

    Carrot, oat, ice cream sandwich. If you like carrot cake, you'd LOOOOVE this. Very simple and doable at home. Basically you had "carrot cake" oatmeal cookies with a cream cheese ice cream filling. Fabulous!

    Finally, Smores, homemade graham crackers, homemade marshmallows, fancy chocolate cooked over that fabulous fire pit. Good stuff.

    Arrived at 640, left at 1040, in bed by 11. Didn't eat again until 1PM the next day. Cheeseburger and a Miller at the Falcons/Saints game. Not a bad weekend at all.

    JW

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Are you afraid of the silence?

    Who's going to be the next defensive coordinator at UGA?  The silence is deafening.  I really think we'd be in better position had we made our move last year.  Look at the competition this year, which is significant:  UF and FSU.  These are schools that are recruiting out of our backyard, and we're having to fight with them over a defensive coach, now?  Like MNF, "C'mon, man?!?!?"

    Don't get me wrong.  I've got the utmost faith in Richt about choosing someone that's more than capable of filling the vacancy, but it would be nice to hear something about interviews or at least discussions with someone other than Kirby Smart (forget it, seriously?) and Bud Foster (even bigger pipedream).  CMR is a man of faith, and I guess he's pushing ours to the limit.  The upside is the donation to the Hartmann fund is likely to be less than it was a couple of years ago.  So at least we've got that going for us.  Which is freaking nice.

    I'm still in, lock stock, and barrel.  But I don't have to like it.

    Frankly, I'm nervous, and becoming more nervous with every passing hour.

    GDSEWWWWW





    Didn't you get it?
    (go 'dawgs, sic 'em, woof woof woof woof woof)

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    MAB

    Caramelized pecan tart

    Pecan.  The way I see it, there are three ways to say this word, and at least one of them is wrong. I say this being a self-proclaimed authority as I'm from Mitchell County, GA, one of the top pecan-producing counties in the entire country. And when the old-timers down there say PEE-KANS, then by God, that's how you say it.  You can say pi-KAHN ("pin" not "pie") if you'd like. Just please don't say PEE-KAHN.

    Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. And if you really like pecans, check out this link to my uncle and cousin's farm. (No disclosures to report.)


    From Drop Box

    This is a recipe in two parts. One for the crust, and the other for the filling.
    I've wrestled with the pastry dough recipe for a few months, and I think I've finally found something that works for me. This is fun recipe because it strings a bunch of techniques together all into one, and I think it helps you become a better cook for other stuff. Here are the rules:

    1. Pie dough should be made with low-gluten flour or else it will be tough and shrink (it shrinks?). Low-gluten flour includes White Lily, Swansdown, and King Arthur cake flour. In general, the further north the flour comes from, the higher the gluten, having something to do with the grain variety and cold weather.
    2. There's a tradeoff between ease of use (Crisco or shortening) and flavor (butter). Butter gets too soft at room temperature or more precisely kitchen temperature, and if it forms a dough paste instead of staying flaky, the game's over.
    3. Acids and sugar make for softer dough because of their interaction with gluten.
    4. Add flavorings to your dough depending on what you're making (eg. cinnamon, nutmeg, grated parmesan, etc.).  Use the microplane grater.
    5. Sugar will set harder the higher the finishing temperature.

    Tart-dough (pate sucre) for 10-inch tart pan

    300gm low gluten flour
    200gm butter (or 50/50 Crisco and butter)
    1 tsp of salt
    1/4 cup of sugar

    Pulse this in the food processor until it looks like oatmeal or at worst coarse, wet sand. You can do this in a large bowl with the pastry blender, but it takes longer, and if it's not going well, you may have to take a break and stick in the freezer. Main thing is not letting the butter melt and form a paste.  Since it's winter time, do it outside.

    Add ice water a couple of tbsp at a time until the dough is wet enough to come together. This DOES NOT necessarily mean to pulse it until it forms a ball. Once you can get it together, wrap in plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Normally that would be while you're working on your filling, but not this one. After the 30 minutes, take it out of the fridge, and roll to about 1cm or 1/4 inch or so. Blind bake it at around 400F in your tart shell until just brown, don't forget to put parchment paper or foil down with pie weights (pinto beans that you can reuse).

    Filling

    1 1/4 cup of light brown sugar
    1/2 cup honey
    1 tsp salt
    1 1/2 sticks of butter
    1/2 - 1 cup of water (optional)

    Put all of this in at smallest a 2.5 quart saucepan, preferably 3 qt, and heat it until it turns amber and starts to foam a little bit, about 10 minutes.

    1 cup heavy cream
    1-2 tsp of curry powder (trust me)

    You'll need a candy thermometer to do this, or some experience making candy. Add your final ingredients, and bring to high heat. If you have a lot of water in there, it may take longer to get to your target heat.

    Here's where you can diverge a little. If you have a candy thermometer, you want the mixture to get to 240F and immediately take off heat. If you don't have a thermometer, you can set up a cup of ice water and intermittently slide a few drops of your candy into the water. It sets immediately, and that's going to be the final consistency. You want caramel (soft ball stage), probably not as chewy as tootsie rolls. Remember, the higher the heat, the harder the candy. Of course you can try this way (from Ian Kelly's biography of Antonin Careme, Cooking for Kings)

    • Freezing his hand first in iced water, Antonin then plunged it straight into the boiling sugar, and back into the cold. A kitchen-boy gasped - CarĂªme's patissier trick never failed to impress. He repeated the process, then took a knife, dipped it into the top of the sugar-lava and then into the cup of water. He brought it straight out, cracking the crystalline sugar clean from the knife and announced in his thick Parisian accent, 'Cassa.' The sugar was cracked and ready to spin. Antonin stood back from the stove with the first spouted pan. He held the base mould at his waist and raised the pan to head height and started to pour. The thread of sugar fell towards the mould, like a perfect skein of hot wax, and Antonin laced it round in one continuous movement.

    When you get the consistency you want, act quickly. Pour the caramel into your tart shell, drop some pecan halves in there (about 1/2-3/4 pound). My picture shows a full pound, which is too much.  You can put the pie back into the oven at high temperature for a couple of minutes. What this will do is harden the top of your candy and the exposed pecans. Don't leave it for more than 5 minutes or so. The caramel will continue to cook making it too chewy.

    Final notes

    • The curry powder isn't necessary but it adds a nice sharp tang to it, just don't add too much.
    • The salt is in it because most everything needs a little salt to add accent to flavor.  According to Thomas Keller, the only seasoning agents are salt and acid.  Pepper is a flavored spice.
    • You can add water to the caramel mixture as you start to use the "wet method."  This may make it take a little longer to get to your target temperature, but sometimes that extra time is nice.
    • The higher the butter percentage of your pastry dough, the colder it needs to stay.  Shortening is easy to use because it's solid at room or kitchen temperature.  Butter starts to melt at 75 or so.  An average kitchen with an oven on is hotter than that.
    • Blind baking is a useful technique because fillings may frequently finish at a different time than the crust.  Most recipes you can cook filling and crust separately, and put them together at the end.
    • If you don't have brown sugar, you can make caramel with regular granular sugar.  I've made it this way and I used molassess instead of honey.  It's a slightly different flavor profile, but still comes out great.  Brown sugar makes it darker (obviously), but the addition of molasses, corn syrup, or honey adds a non-sucrose sugar to the mixture that helps prevent crystallization.

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Not As Bad As It Could Be

    No, really, it's not. Truett Cathy should have paid more attention to who was selected for his namesake bowl. The Hello Kiffy machine at UT is being investigated by the NCAA in the middle of recruiting season, for sending ho's to high school games of potential recruits with signs and other "sundries". And that's just since Kiffy took over.

    And on the Dawg front, I was listening to the pre-game show before the UGA vs. St. Johns basketball game tonight (12/9) in Madison Square Garden, and Scott Howard offered this statistic: Georgia Basketball is 10-47 (or maybe it was 42?) in non-neutral away games in the past 6 years - that's a win percentage of 17.5%. There are just 3 t0 5 neutral games per season.
    Just think about the football program having that type of winning percentage, and be thankful Mark Richt has been a 10 win per season coach til this year.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Changes

    You gotta know that the past few years have been tough for CMR, culminating in agony over the last 2-3 days, despite the win at Tech.  I wonder if the demeanor that we saw from him when he got doused in Gatorade was because he knew he was going to have to do something almost unthinkable and didn't feel like celebrating.

    We'll probably never know, just like we'll never know why he fired both Jancek and Fabris, although either one probably had some probable cause in their bodies of work.  He did say that it was to make more room for CWM's successor, but maybe that was a contingency of someone they already had in mind.

    One thing seems clear to me, though.  Richt is dead serious about moving the Dawgs in the right direction, and didn't make a half-hearted decision.  Does he already have a replacement in mind?  I'm almost positive that he does, or else you wouldn't have seen the move that was made today when he fired Martinez, Fabris, and Jancek.  Who the replacements will be obviously remains to be seen, but they have acknowledged to the fan base that the bar has been raised, and the status quo wasn't cutting it.

    Again, our football future lives in dangerous times, because we're about to be in competition with the biggest dog on the block for a defensive coordinator.  The rumors are that Charlie Strong (DC at Florida) is being considered for head coach at Louisville which would leave that job vacant, but they aren't going to approach him until after the SECCG.  Expect UGA to make a quick and fierce move, maybe even this week.

    The fate of Rodney Garner

    I guess you have to ignore most everything that I predicted last night, because I was just proven wrong by CMR today.  The one thing that hasn't been decided yet is what's going to happen with Coach Garner.  By all accounts, he's a helluva recruiter, bonds well with the kids, and is integral to the program.  But if I had to guess, I'd say that there's something off under the surface.  David Hale reported some interesting stuff about him that suggest if he's not promoted to DC, he's gone.  Could be, don't know, and without inside knowledge of the program, it's hard to say what affect that will have.

    So, hold on to your hats, change is coming.  Of course, there's no guarantee that it will be for the better, but one can only hope.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    From the Munson Archives, circa 2006

    "We are on the 4 1/2 yard line, third-down. You win or you lose here. 12 to 7, Georgia Tech. Mikey Henderson has come in, which means...if we can get the ball to him...speed.... Tech at the moment in a four-man line. we got four receivers out wide, Stafford retreats, looks, pumps, throw... TOUCHDOWN!! TOUCHDOWN!! TOUCHDOWN!! MY GOD A TOUCHDOWN!! TOUCHDOWN!! TOUCHDOWN!!
    (crowd roars and barks) MASSAQUOI!!!!"

    "Dan, did you see this? He did this, he didn't throw, and he just stood there."

    "Stafford is in a shotgun, we want a two-point play. Massaquoi goes in motion. And Stafford now running to the right," (Bobo from the booth next door "There it is!!!") "...fires... and its COMPLETE!!! We caught it 1 yard in, Massaquoi! Now you've got 105 seconds to hang on, don't celebrate now, for God sakes! 15-12, we lead. 15-12, we gotta hang on, 105 seconds, and were too TIRED to hang on!"

    Fortunately, we hung on.  I frequently find myself thinking about how many seconds are left in the game, even in the first quarter.  God, I miss Munson.

    30-24, the Governor's Cup returns to it's rightful home.


    You only need to look at the tape under Washaun's eyes to know that the guys in red and black came ready to play.  Quite simply, they

    OUT-TECHED TECH AT TECH.


    I RUN.  THIS STATE.

    Yes, you did.  To the tune of 339 yards.  Maybe that could be the new area code for Tech's campus.
    The good news for Tech is that their pants were the same color before and after they pissed themselves in classic Reggie Ball fashion.  How sweet the taste of Tech's tears- I could live off the stuff if you could bottle it!
    Go DAWGS, thanks for an interesting year that resulted in the bottom of too many bottles.
    Go to HELL Jackets, see ya next year in Athens!!



    Football expectations and predictions.

    • Coach Martinez will not be fired.  He might resign, but he won't be fired.
    • Coach Garner will leave.  Interestingly, he has not signed a contract, and all things point to his having a bad relationship with Damon Evans.  This might hurt the team because of his recruiting and nurturing of several players, but is there already a rift between him and other coaches, players, and/or the administration?  Maybe in the big picture, it will help, but he's going to be hard to replace.
    • Coach Fabris will not leave, but Richt will step up and visibly ramp up the special teams coverage.
    • We're going to struggle to fill the DC spot if it comes vacant.
    • Aaron Murray is going to be the starter next year.
    • Bobo and Searles are quite secure.
    • Bryan Evans is going to get a raise.
    BTW-check out the link to these game pictures by a fellow named Josh Weiss.
    Anyone else with any thoughts about it?

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Chef Pretty Hair

    FYI - Chef Pretty Hair (Eric Ripert) was on Charlie Rose Tuesday nite (November 17th). You can watch it at http://www.charlierose.com/. He talks about his new show on PBS called Avec Eric which just started this Fall. One point I didn't realize is that his producer is the same one Julia Childs had.

    I was surprised by the fact that he went on a wild boar hunt in one episode. He is apparently more of "natural (no steriods, free range, etc.)" than an "organic freak", which is how I had him pegged. Anyway, it's a good show if you get a chance to watch it.

    In December, I plan on an end-of-year review series of posts, one of which will be (Finally!!!) my experience at his NYC restaurant Le Bernardin, and meeting Chef Ripert (pronounced Rip-air).

    MAB

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    A favorite, under-utilized kitchen gadget

    First, I apologize for pirating pictures from the web for this post, but the recipe described was quickly gobbled before photos could be taken!

    Second, I want to talk briefly about one of my favorite kitchen gadgets...a small mechanical scoop. Basically this is a small ice cream type scooper that rarely gets use but is really nice when you need it.Mine has a black handle but you get the idea. This is perfect for making small round things where you don't want to dirty your hands or when you have a dough that you don't want to overwork. Perfect for dumplings, meatballs, fish balls, and last night appetizer...crab tater tots!


    I got a copy of Michael Symon's new book from Amazon for a deal and this idea/recipe had to be attempted. I love me a crab cake, I love me a tater tot...The method is interesting in that he makes a choux paste as a binder and it works great!


    Crab tater tots


    2 T butter
    1/4 cup water
    1/4 cup flour
    1 egg
    1 cup mashed potato
    1/2 lb crab
    Panko
    Oil for frying (he deep frys, I pan fried with excellent results)
    salt & pepper


    Start by making the choux paste. In a non-stick pan, combine butter, water, and flour over high heat and cook stirring rapidly until everything comes together in one mass and colors slightly. Remove from heat and let cool in pan for about 5 minutes. Add the egg and stir like mad until well combined, about 1 minute. One the mixture is cool, add the potatoes and crab meat and mix well, but be gentle with the crab. Pour some panko into a dish and using the scooper, make perfectly round crab balls, roll in Panko and set aside. I suggest forming 1/2 as your oil heats and making the other half while your first batch is frying. To cook, add enough oil to a skillet to come about 1/3 of the way up the sides of your tots. Fry for about 1 1/2 minutes on the first side, then turn until brown on all sides. Transfer to a cooling rack over a baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt. Repeat with the second batch. Can be made about 1/2 hour ahead of time and reheated in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and sauce of your choice...I like a spicy aioli :)

    JW

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Shrimp and grits: the concept of layers

    From Drop Box

    How do you make a heavy dish taste light? There has to be acid to balance it out. Shrimp and grits as a traditionally Southern dish is notorious for being way too heavy, but there's a way to lighten it on your palate. The inspiration for this dish came from watching (don't laugh) Martha Stewart when she had David Chang from Momofuku restaurant in New York City, who has been featured in several magazines lately and considered the new guard of Asian cooking in the Eastern US. I've never eaten there, but I'm intrigued because the weakest link in my repertoire is definitely Asian.

    From concept to satisfaction

    Shrimp and grits are about a few main ingredients, the sine qua non, because without these ingredients, shrimp and grits barely exist if at all. But as you build the layers separately and add them all at the end, you'll taste that complexity in the final product. Sure, you could just make grits, add some cheese, and add some shrimp, but you've limited the depth.
    Obviously shrimp and grits, but also bacon, butter, and something acid to balance the flavor. The David Chang version included dashi, soy sauce, and hot chiles to give it a distinctively Asian flavor profile. The bacon and soy sauce are a surprising combination and an easy dressing to any Asian style noodle dish, but...that's another post (was that too Alton Brown?).

    One guy's version of shrimp and grits
    The recipe is not important, because if you're Southern, and you like to cook, then you've likely eaten it, or at least tried it.

    This was a 3-4 pan dish.

    1. High volume water pot at 140F to soft boil two eggs (serving was for 2 people). I can't swear about the time on these, but my thought was that as long as they cooked no higher than 140, they couldn't be bad. They cooked for about 20 minutes.
    2. Sautee bacon, shallot, and minced garlic. Low heat is the key, don't really need to brown it, particularly the veggies.
    3. Grits, of your choice, cooked to almost done. The higher the quality of the grits (yes there are different kinds like instant, quick, regular, fresh, etc.), clearly the better the dish. Chang swore by Anson Mills in Columbia, SC. Y'all hear that, CSRA? Have you tried them? Whatever you do, add butter to the grits as they're cooking.
    4. Garnish of finely diced scallions.

    Cook the above, use the sautee pan to cook your shrimp. Deglaze the pan with water and reduce, add to the grits for flavor. Don't skip steps like these, they'll be the difference between good and irreproducibly great.

    Assembly
    Once the grits were cooked, I added the sautee of bacon, shallot, and garlic to them and added 1 tbsp of butter and heavy cream until the consistency was right. Added the shrimp (sauteed in a Dizzy Pig rub that obviously had a hint of curry powder), and stirred it up to mix.
    Side note: the egg. Crack the shell CAREFULLY and place in a slotted spoon. What you want is a coagulated layer of egg white around the creamy yolk. Add to the dish, garnish with something fancy.

    Other ideas
    • For acid, you could use vinegar, but the "volume" is to high. A little squeeze of lemon or lime juice (not enough to taste) would do. Probably not zest, because you need the flavor and the acid.
    • This would have been infinitely better with a higher quality of grits. The wife got a funny look when all I could find were Quick Grits. As I learned in My Cousin Vinny, "No self-respecting Southerner cooks instant grits." Nuff said.
    • Go Asian, cook your grits in a seaweed broth with smoked or unsmoked pork belly. Add soy sauce to the grits, it goes GREAT with butter.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Three Couples and a Limo – Part I

    Charles Dickens once wrote:

    “To begin our trip with the beginning of our trip, I record that we settled into the Tahoe to journey to the airport. At precisely three thirty on Thursday, we arrived at the Newman residence, where the clock began to strike, and I began to cry simultaneously.”


    Since I probably just angered the living descendants of Dickens, I will now regale you, in less than Dickensesque prose, with the details of our trip to San Francisco, and the Sonoma/Napa area.

    Chapter 1 – Nutella
    As we are prone to do when traveling, we paid a brief visit to the ATL A17 Crown Room between connections. It began with a beer and ended with a double scotch less than 15 minutes later.

    During that brief visit, medicinal beverages were prescribed, prescriptions filled, and beverages consumed with the efficiency of an Intel processor and the accelerated effect of the first hour of controlled-release Ambien. The accelerated effect was, unfortunately, not sustained for the in-flight beverage service. So disappointing was the unsustainability that I refused to exercise the free drink voucher that I received in Augusta for having TSA discover a small handgun in my blazer as it went through the x-ray. A diversion I will not yet detail.

    Also during that brief visit, a man discovered Nutella. The versatile hazelnut spread created in 1940s Italy because cocoa was in short supply due to war rationing. (FYI – you can win 12 jars online at Nutella) The modern-day discoverer was Danny Newman. Enamored is the word that comes to mind.

    Between the Nutella and Biscoff cookies consumed or squirreled away in pockets, and the 8 to 12 gratis prescriptions that were filled, I’d say we
    covered the annual membership fee.

    Chapter 2 – Chinatown
    Visiting San Francisco requires most people to ride a cable car, take a taxi, or drive the Bay City of Starsky and Hutch. We refuse to follow the tourists with small calves, and instead, walk from our hotel, in a circuitous route, to Fisherman’s Warf [sic]. Along the way, we discover buildings, sites, structures, and objects that we have never before encountered. Chinatown was an exception.

    We had tasted Chinatown, but never experienced the Pork Bun (cha siu baau). Being from the South, the mention of almost any pork product elicits Pavlov salivation. Dr. Newman was told of the phenomenon known as the pork bun by a patient, and was determined to sample their sweet and savory glory. So, we rooted them out like truffles. At 10:30am PST, only 45 minutes after a large breakfast at Sears Fine Food (which has amazing corned-beef hash) we shared three pork buns and a wad of meat in a dumpling wrapper. The pork buns were like eating a big fat yeast roll from the Western Sizzlin’, stuffed with Sconyer’s BBQ that was dipped in John Boy and Billy sauce. It was heaven on a bun. In reality, it was a baked yeast roll variation with pork belly and an oyster/hoisun sauce. I hear you can get them steamed too. I did not taste the meat wad in the dumpling wrapper, which got mixed reviews from the other participants.

    The six of us had beer and Dungeness crab at Fisherman’s Wharf (which I have always found to be good) then trotted our sufficiently exercised calves onto the cable car, and rode it back to the hotel. The guys quickly left the hotel for some afternoon carousing at Johnny Foley’s Irish House one block from the hotel. The intent was to pub crawl, but the variety of 18 beers (each of which was poured into the correspondingly branded glass), the conversation with locals and travelers, and the advent of tasting a lamb slider kept us there.

    The technique used by the bartender to pour beer was unusual and virgin to our eyes. A beer glass was placed, inverted, under the tap. A second glass (the consumptive glass) was placed on top, right-side up, and the tap was eased down about half way, so that the beer poured slowly. Once filled, the beer was allowed to settle in place, then the tap was slot-machined in order to put a head on the beer. An outstanding and entertaining way to pour beer.

    The sliders were not exactly what you would expect on a pub menu. A slider is simply how mid-western Americans grew up referring to a Krystal or White Castle burger. The concept is great, and the lamb sliders were outstanding. They were Niman Ranch Lamb (famous ranch in the wine country) topped with arugula, eggplant, goat cheese, and a mint aoli. I believe I will attempt a recreation of the sliders in the near future.

    To be continued… [Chapters 3 thru 5]

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Faux gras. Not.

    I saw this on Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie, and figured why not. Instead of foie gras (fat duck or goose liver), they made it out of chicken livers. Basically, the concept is enrich chicken livers with a creamy stock and ton of butter. Why not, if you can get chicken livers for cheap? Don't you have a bait store close by? Or Bi-Lo?

    Faux gras
    1 lb of chicken livers, cleaned of sinew
    2 sticks of butter
    1/2 cup of heavy cream
    1 cup of diced onion
    1 garlic clove
    salt
    pepper (white if you have it)

    From Drop Box


    Take your livers and clean them of sinew. There's a ligament that separates the lobes, not to mention some blood vessels. Don't stress too much, you'll strain later, and get most of it out.

    Take your onion and with a couple of tbsp of your butter, soften over super low heat. Add the garlic after a couple of minutes with the cream. Keep going another few minutes until you're sure that the onions are softened, and kill the heat. Adde the butter, and set up a bain marie in the oven at 300 F like you would for creme brulee'.

    Bain marie
    Preheat the oven to 300 F. Put a tea kettle or pot of water on to boil while you're doing the other stuff. The purpose here is to use steam heat (gentle and low) and humidity to "set" your mousse or custard, or whatever you're making. You'll put your mixture in ramekins in a baking dish, and fill the dish with boiling water until you've come about halfway up the ramekins.

    Take your livers and the onion/cream mixture and blend until very smooth. Make sure that:
    1. You have a cover to your blender AND...
    2. That your two year-old doesn't wander by and turn on the blender.

    From Drop Box


    Once you've got your puree, force it through a sieve (wire mesh strainer) with a ladle or something like that and pour into your ramekins. Cook in the bain marie for about 30 minutes or until it's set.

    From Drop Box


    Cool in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.

    What the recipe doesn't tell is what the heck to do with it. I tried to make it like regular foie gras, had caramelized some apples and made a sauce out of that. I noticed a little problem with the consistency, and I tried to form what looked like liver slices.

    From Drop Box


    The result? Good grief. Quite simply some of the worst looking stuff I've ever seen or made, and trust me, I've seen plenty in my job. Inedible.

    From Drop Box


    So, we didn't eat it. And it made a HUGE mess compounded by the toddler that turned on the blender whose lid we had just lost. Not to mention that until you steam it, it's raw chicken liver. Not exactly the kind of stuff you want all over your kitchen. Where did it go wrong?

    1. I didn't have a complete pound of liver. I only had 10+ oz, because I had made a Jacques Pepin recipe earlier that night that required 5 livers cut in quarters. That's the main thing I can think of.
    2. I watched this again on the website, and Ruth Reichl (the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine) makes it with a more reduced onion/cream mixture. She doesn't mention that it's a requisite.
    3. Did I use too hot of a skillet? I experimented with various heat combinations, and none of them worked out properly. I also (dummy) used my stainless pan and burned it.

    What I wound up making was caramelized apples with an apple reduction sauce.

    "Apples and sauce"
    1 whole apple, peeled and cored, sliced pretty thin
    Sautee in butter until caramelized over medium heat
    Deglaze the pan with about a cup of chicken stock
    Add apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper
    Finish with a little butter to add thickness

    Reduce until thick and strain, pour over the apples. Sorry no picture, but it was simple and really good!

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Online Cooking School Revisited...

    Just stumbled onto this site while doing a google search for endothelin and a specific thing I'm looking for in the lab...go figure. Looks pretty good. I'm going to add to the links.
    Got a new gadget for the Kitchen Aid for my B-day. Will be posting the results in a few.
    JW

    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    Insanity.


    As Richt even alluded to in a press conference not too long ago, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. As much as I'm sure there will be some coach bashing after UGA embarrassed themselves against FU (again) giving up 41 points (again), that wasn't the problem. It was discipline, plain and simple.
    The refs are not going to be helping UGA for a long time, and FU gets away with a lot. I though for sure Penn Wagers would be officiating this game, but when I saw him calling something in the Auburn/Ole Miss game, I thought we might actually have a chance. Richt got in their ear a little bit, but it wasn't enough. What's maybe not so crazy is that Florida had the perfect gameplan: sit back, do their thing, and watch us implode. They played well, particularly on special teams, but they didn't have to beat us. They did, but we helped take care of that ourselves.
    I hope the seniors enjoyed the black helmets and black pants. We're going to catch hell and ridicule for it as a desparation move. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. It was fun, but considering the weather that we were about to be facing, you have to think it was the wrong thing to do. Black absorbs heat, right?
    A final word about the coaches. There's going to be a lot of talk about how bad the coaching was. Florida came out running a different offense, heavy on misdirection that was eating us up for their first two drives, but noticeably, Marinez made the proper adjustment and we started holding them. Bobo and company had the run offense going, inexplicably against the best defense in the country. The playcalling was 90% effective, subject to execution. The special teams play was there. Good kickoffs, decent coverage, even success in the directional kick.
    This game was yet another in the many implosions we've seen this season. Penalty after penalty, and many of them couldn't have come at worse times. Joe Cox is a gunslinger, but like the dude in Top Gun said: "Son, your ego's writing checks your body just can't cash." I have not doubt about his heart as a DGD. But for every brilliant flash, we've seen at least as much that is inexplicable. 3 interceptions, and he has yet to have a game where he doesn't throw a pick. The attempted throw aways that go to a defender for an easy pick. The pressure that he never sees and gets plowed. The wide open receiver that he doesn't throw to, opting instead for the guy in quadruple coverage. As good as some of the blocking was, you can point out just as many blown assignments that have just about gotten Cox killed.
    This loss won't be about bad scheme or playcalling. This was about bad decisions and lack of discipline. I don't know who to pin that one on, and frankly I don't care. The bottom line for me is that since 1991, we've beaten UF 3 times. Got that? 3. Despite 2 coaching changes since I graduated from high school, NOTHING HAS CHANGED. I'm tired of coming up with commentary or suggestions. I just know that whatever we're doing now isn't working, and it would be insanity to think that a different result would come from doing the same thing over. And over.

    Don't send the lifeboat. I'm going down with the ship, wallowing and basking in the masochism and perpetual self-inflicted misery that appears to be mandatory to be a Georgia football fan. If only the black and gold nerds could beat the white and gold nerds tonight in the game down the street (GT vs Vandy).

    Halloween-UGA vs FU

    Nothing to say other than I'm dressing as an eternal optimist. That's right, I'm a UGA fan that thinks we can win today!

    GO DAWGS!!!!!!! HBTD, GATA!!!!!!

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Filet mignon with sauce Bernaise

    Filet mignon, one of the most coveted pieces of meat, is awesomely tender, but low on flavor. That's probably why you see it served with sauce just about everywhere you go. Almost uniformly, the sauce is based on some fat emulsion because fat provides an irreplacable combination of flavor and mouthfeel.

    Filet mignon with sauce Bernaise

    Bernaise sauce is an augmentation of Hollandaise sauce adding shallot, herbs like chervil and tarragon, white wine, and white wine vinegar. Hollandaise sauce, in its purest form, is an emulsion of butter and egg yolks. It's like mayonnaise made with butter instead of oil. The technique to make it is different because to get butter in liquid form, it takes heat, and heat scrambles eggs.

    For the filet, dry well, lightly oil and season as you wish with dry ingredients. Salt and pepper are really all you need, but you can put other stuff on there.
    Sear in a heavy-bottom pan over high heat, open your windows or turn on your hood ventilation system. My preference is rare to medium rare.
    Take the filet out, set it aside and let it rest on a wire rack about 5-10 minutes, save the juice if there is any. This should be made to order, and will take about 10 minutes total, depending on whether you already have them seasoned and your pan is ready to go. The reason to rest meat on a rack (particularly with a temperature sensitive meat like filet) is to prevent steam from being trapped on one side (the down side on the plate) and either overcooking or cooking unevenly.

    For the sauce, get your Hollandaise setup with a simmering sauce pan of water, ice bath in the sink, and a non-reactive mixing bowl, preferably steel or something that will cool quickly.
    Mince 1 tbsp of shallot, put in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of white wine (dry preferable over sweet) and white wine vinegar. Reduce by at least 1/2. That's your augmentation, although I didn't have the herbs. Since I was serving with salad (and I didn't have chervil), I left it out.
    Strain and add that to your melted butter (about 1.5 to 2 sticks, yeah, no joke) and keep it warm.
    Take 3 egg yolks, a little salt, a little pepper, 1 tbsp of lemon juice +/- 1/2 tbsp of water and whisk in your steel bowl. Dice up a couple of tbsp of cold butter and add to the egg yolks. Put this over your simmering water and start whisking. If it gets too hot, take it off heat. If you don't use the double boiler techique, you could really get it too hot, and that's where the ice bath comes in handy to cool it quickly. Curiously, the melting butter can look a little like scrambled eggs, but don't be dissuaded- press on! When you're done with this part, you should have a nice sticky yellow goo at the bottom of your pan.

    To this you'll emulsify the melted butter/shallot-wine-wine vinegar reduction, slowly at first (drop by drop) until you get it started, then faster towards the end until you get the consistency you want. The only thing I can say about the consistency is that you want smooth and creamy like a salad dressing as opposed to thick like mayo. Check the Julia Childs instructions on classic Hollandaise for full instructions including bail out tips if you screw it up.

    A little time consuming, but the ingredients are pretty cheap. Done that way, it's worth about 20-30 bucks per plate at the restaurant if you can even find it.
    Below I've served it with sweet potato gnocchi and a basic green salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

    From Drop Box

    Ridin' on empty: roux part deux

    Just as a follow up to MAB's post, I wanted to put up some pictures of a roux that we made for a recent gumbo. If you'll recall the Seinfeld episode when Kramer and the guy from the car lot drove the demo until it ran out of gas, it's like that. Go until you can't stand it, then go a little more. "I've never felt so alive!"

    For roux ingredients, you have some choices. It's going to be about equal parts by weight of flour and fat (butter, oil, or animal fat), and the amount will vary on how much you're going to make. A rough estimate is about 1-2 oz of fat to each quart of final product. I used either a 5.5 qt or 8qt enameled cast iron dutch oven and it's pretty full. For that, I used a whole stick of unsalted butter, and I added flour to it until it had the consistency of something between heavy cream and pudding. Clarified butter might be better, but requires an extra step. I heated it up until it was barely bubbling, stirring the whole while for about 20-30 minutes, maybe longer.

    White Roux
    From Drop Box

    Blond Roux

    From Drop Box

    Brown Roux
    From Drop Box

    Brick Roux/Dark Brown Roux

    From Drop Box



    It goes really slowly, then it goes really quick, as depicted above. That's why you have to hover because there's a fine line between perfect vs burnt and ruined. Rurnt. Also remember that it will continue to cook when you add the veggies.
    The color should be more like chocolate sauce before you throw the trinity veggies in (onion, celery, green pepper). Throw the veggies in and give them a few minutes to soften, then add the stock. From there, add the meat in reverse order of cooking time. Whatever you can find in the bayou or the ditch out back will do. While you're at it, throw some alligator meat in. I don't think I've seen any recipes without Andouille sausage.

    Final notes
    1. The roux provides taste, color, and thickening. Using a reduction method would require several gallons of stock and a lot of time, but could be done. Add okra if you can, because okra does the same with regard to thickening. Finally, file' powder is added just prior to serving which has an interesting aromatic flavor, but also is a thickening agent. In the end, the consistency is up to you, but the thicker the better. Think stew, not soup.
    2. Oil-based roux is a little easier to work with because butter burns so easily. You can also work with it at higher temperature than you can the butter based roux.
    3. The darker the roux, the less the thickening, the more the flavor. If you want to go really dark, you'll need more roux to get the same thickening.
    4. Black flecks=burned=throw it out, start over. Those burned pieces will make it taste awful. The flavor of the dark roux will be something like toasted chocolate coffee. With butter!
    5. The gumbo "base" is made when you soften your veggies and add stock and aromatics. From there it's a matter of adding the meat. You can stop at this stage, simmer for an hour or two, depending on how meticulous you were with your stock.
    6. The next time I make it, I'm going to sautee the uncooked meats and add them with the cooking liquor/pan sauce towards the end. Again, the better the stock is to start with, the less you have to rely on the added meats to provide an extra layer of flavor.
    7. Adding beer is fine, but it's probably a cheat to make the gumbo look darker. Think Abita Turbo Dog or Guinness, not Miller Lite.
    8. Does the technique of making a roux then adding a flavorful stock sound familiar? It should because it's the basis of bechamel/veloute'. Gumbo is a veloute' (roux + stock) based on a dark roux with Cajun/Creole veggies and meats, served over rice. Cajun style is dark, Creole is a little lighter, don't forget the tomatoes.

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Dinner party with the Newmans

    Danny and Meredith dropped in last Saturday for a dinner party/wine tasting at our house. I made 4 simple dishes, all of which were quite good. The 3 appetizer types will definitely be featured time and again at future JW-led events.

    1. Salmon cornets ala the French Laundry, super easy, damn good. Cheated on the cornets and bought these crunchy little pastry cups from the Fresh Market. I actually preferred these to the overly buttery cornets that Keller makes.

    2. Ceci bruschetta, the amuse buche that Batali serves at Babbo... Since there was only 4 people, I actually used the $250 basalmic Jennifer bought me for Christmas last year...decadent.

    3. Zucchini crudo salad...details on Ruhlman's blog. This is wonderful, please try it!

    The main dish was a pan-seared grass fed petit filet topped with a bacon/mushroom/red wine demi with pan-roasted white asparagus.

    Had a bit much to drink, so the main dish could have probably been prepared better. I made ala minute after course 3 and after 6 glasses of the vino.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    I Tore My Rotator Cuff Making Roux


    I tore my rotator cuff making roux
    The whisks were more than a few
    It cooked for an hour
    I required a shower
    To clean my sausage for the stew.

    I’ve attempted, successfully I might add, to make a gumbo on only three occasions. The first two were magnificent. The third (last week), was acceptable, but not up to my expectations. The first two were for tailgating at Georgia games, and included some interesting ingredients. The last was during the family mountain trip on the night assigned to Laura and me for dinner. I got no complaints from the adults, but I was completely disappointed with the final product.


    The History
    Round 1, I made a stock with chicken, whole crawfish, and shrimp shells, along with the customary root vegetables (onion, leeks, carrots), peppercorns, bay leaves, and thyme. It was a 4-hour stock, and was delicious. For the gumbo, I included chicken, andouille sausage, and some quail that my good buddy Danny Newman shot. Quite good.

    Round 2 involved making a brown chicken stock (chicken browned in the oven and then simmered on the range with leeks, carrots, onions, bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns) and a seafood stock (shrimp shells and crab leg shells). The gumbo included chicken, andouille sausage, crawfish tails (meat only), and alligator sausage. Again, this was good.

    Round 3 involved the same brown chicken stock above, no seafood stock was used. The gumbo included chicken and andouille, both of which were browned in the oven. Here’s where I made the mistake. In round one and two, the chicken was brown, but the sausage was not. I was using an unfamiliar stove, and left the sausage to brown while I had a glass of wine and walked to the nearby raging river (this was in the TN mountains) to relax. We came back early to check the sausage only to realize it was overcooked. I knew better than to leave it, but needed to relax for a while. Lesson Learned: Never leave your sausage unattended (I know – “that’s what she said!”).


    Roux
    Now, about that roux. I make roux scared. Not that I scare the roux. It scares me, cause I’ve read too many gumbo recipes that say “if ya see black specks while makin’ yer roux, throw that mess out – iss dun burnt up.” Since I like the dark variety, it takes quite a while on low(er) heat. I could crank it up and get it done in about 25 minutes. On low(er) it takes close to an hour. Hence the rotator cuff incident. When “they” say stir constantly, “they” ain’t kiddin’. You never put your whisk down. Or your roux paddle. Yeah, I never heard of one either. There's a crawfish paddle and a gumbo paddle too. BS if you ask me, but here's a link if you are interested - http://www.cajunbrands.com/proddetail.asp?prod=KMays%2DPaddles&cat=103.
    My roux has a wonderful nutty aroma and flavor, and has the color of the bottom of the Guinness foam layer, just before it hits the liquid layer. It has lost most of its thickening power at this point, but it adds a wonderful flavor to the gumbo. Without it, Round 3 would have been hassenpfeffer without the rabbit.

    MAB

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Surf and surf: tuna and scallops with an asian twist

    Check PBS, Eric Ripert (famed chef of Le Bernardin in NYC) has a new show out entitled "Avec Eric." The first episode I saw is mostly gushing over a local garden and it restaurant in California where s**t like that can happen. I'd wager to guess that it's not that feasible in Missouri, Tennessee, or Georgia for that matter.
    The good part of the show is that at the end, he demonstrates his cooking technique for various cuts of seafood, and let me just say that there are few in this country that can rival the technique. If you watched Top Chef last season (and if you didn't you should have if you are interested in cooking) the contestants went to his restaurant in NYC, tasted his dishes, and the challenge was to reproduce them as best they could. We do that all the time, but this was on an incredibly different level.
    Digression: Ripert demonstrated a slightly Asian style of cooking salmon that looked awesome. He demonstrated that making a marinade was not about making emulsion, it's a broken sauce with fat on top (oil).
    His recipe called for salmon marinated in soy sauce, ginger, and olive oil, seared on the "flat top" (his stove top searing station) over peas and pea shoots with a sauce based on the marinade. Salmon didn't look as good as the tuna today, and we were in the mood for some scallops, so what the heck.

    "Avec Eric" surf and surf (tuna and scallops)

    Tuna: fresh 3/4 pound steak
    Scallops: 1 pound of U6 (about 6 total)
    3 bunches of baby bok choy

    Marinade for tuna
    brunoise of ginger, about 1/2 cup
    1/2 and 1/2 soy sauce and EVOO to just cover fish in a tight dish
    **lay off the salt, the soy sauce probably has all you'll need

    **(see problem below) Marinade for scallops
    Yuzu and olive oil, same ratio and coverage as before
    salt, pepper to taste

    To cook with:
    Sautee pan for both. This will be a future post: what pan should I cook ____ with? These fish are best when they stay cold until cooked, and they need a heavy pan that holds high heat and won't cool off when fresh cold fish is applied. Oil or fat well (use EVOO or butter or a mixture of both, up to you!), and bring to at least medium high heat.

    **Problem!!! The marinade for the scallops was the wrong thing to do. Why? Well, it made the scallops "wet" and the wet surface=no browning. It doesn't matter because they cooked properly thanks to raging high heat, but they didn't brown the way I had intended. In retrospect it would have been better to dry them well, season with pepper only, and then sear the heck out of 'em. They were still tasty, but could have been better. Lesson learned.

    The tuna was first, I seared it like crazy on the cast iron griddle on my stove top. It worked great, but splattered EVERYWHERE and I probably will never use it again for that. 2-3 minutes per side, give about 2-3 mm of doneness on each side (just look at the thing), and take it off rare. This you can do, of course, because you got a respectable piece of fish. If they're putting artificial color in your fish to make it look hot pink, don't buy it.

    Scallops second, again over as high of a heat as you can stand. The temperature for both fish is rare to medium rare. Again, both fish should be good enough to eat raw if it came down to it, so any sear you put on it is just to create Maillard reaction.

    Set the meat aside to rest, it's done most of it's job.
    Reserve marinade (or make some anew) from the tuna, strain out the ginger if you haven't already. This is going to be your sauce.

    Take the bunches of baby bok choy, cut the leaves off, preserving as much of the stem as you like, and put in a hot skillet with some of the scallop marinade, wilting until bright green. Takie it off heat, and plate immediately.

    To finish, it's bok choy, tuna on top, scallops on the side, and then provide a layer of sauce on the bottom to finish.

    **Note about bok choy: it's like a lettuce with a charred poblano pepper flavor. I couldn't swear that I could have placed the flavor until today, but it's a nice twist, should go well with anything Asian you're trying to do.

    From Drop Box

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Quick recipe: caprese consommee

    The summer's officially over when there's frost on my car. More's the pity, but it doesn't mean that I can't still pine away for it. This is a soup recipe that requires a little technique and some cool flavor combinations put together in a way that I hadn't previously thought of or eaten anywhere.

    Caprese consommee

    2-3 quarts of chicken stock, skimmed and defatted. I made this chicken stock with some left over chicken parts (carcass) from a couple of whole birds that I smoked and pulled the meat from. It was basically just a big stock pot with the chicken parts and mire poix, bay leaves, and bouquet garni. I let it simmer for about 4 hours, skimming the crud off of it all the while, and chilled in the fridge to solidify the fat which I was able to strain off before the clarification process.

    Clarification (making the consommee)
    I think there's been a previous post in here before about the process, but it basically takes egg whites which you temper and add back to the stock. Bring to a boil, whisking the whole time to keep from just simply poaching the egg whites, and it miraculously will clear the solid components. The alternative is to add some mire poix ingredients to help give the solids something to cling so that it will form a "raft." That's not necessary, but it makes it a little easier.
    To this I added a bunch of basil leaves from the garden, the last of the season to infuse it with that flavor as the base of what we were doing. That's really it, the rest is garnish.

    Garnish
    I found some water packed mozzerrella at the grocery store and rinsed them so they would give off too much cloudy fluid. If you're going to all the trouble of making consommee, don't let anything make it cloudy. To this I added just enough balsamic vinegar to give it color, some diced fresh tomato and small chiffonade of basil just to reinforce it.

    From Drop Box

    Backing off the ledge. A little. UGA over Vandy!

    In the coldest October game that I can remember going to, UGA came to my backyard and once again bullied the class nerd. Vandy had called for a "Blackout" but stuff like that only happens when the stadium is at capacity (it wasn't), most of the fans are pulling for the home team (they weren't), your fan base is all on the same page (not even close).

    Notable points about Saturday that we noticed from our seats:

    1. Vandy-UGA is typically Vandy's homecoming. But there are a whole bunch of UGA fans in Nashville, and the stadium was full of red. If you haven't been to this game, it's a lot of fun!
    2. Mike Bobo was calling plays from the sideline. First time I've ever seen that from him. A change needed to be made, and it was a step in the right direction.
    3. Joe Cox is really up and down. I imagine he's really thankful that a guy named A.J. Green is on his team, because if not, UGA's 2-5 at best this year, and Logan Gray is our quarterback.
    4. Speaking of Logan Gray, the one punt I saw him back for he didn't fair catch, instead trying to return it for -2 yards. Huh?
    5. Boykin is incredible as a kick returner and is improving in pass coverage.
    6. UGA's defense played with a lot of fire, laying big hit after big hit. The TV coverage didn't really show it that well.
    7. Any enthusiasm about the running game should be cautious at best. About half of our yards came after the game was out of reach.
    8. Munzenmaier did his best Herschel impression, plowing a defender inside the 10 to go rumbling into the endzone for a touchdown.
    9. One reason Drew Butler has the longest punting average in the country has got to be because of where he's kicking from. We still go three and out way too often, and he's usually kicking from his side of the 50. I don't how to look that up.
    10. The kickoff coverage was vastly improved. Although, it was Vandy, not LSU or Florida.
    11. Vandy either doesn't allow us to bring our full band, or we just don't. They also don't dress up in their typical Redcoat uniforms. Weird.

    One last note: we went out and hit Broadway Saturday night and I saw one of the most unbelievable things I've ever seen from a live band. The majority of the patronage was UGA fans, out carousing and having fun. The band started asking for money to play requests. When no one made any requests, they said they were going to play Rocky Top unless someone paid them not to. They played it, we screamed and cursed and left. Unbelievable. I guess that's what I get for living in Tennessee.

    Staring in to the abyss

    The UT loss was one of the lowest points of the Richt era, without much question. JW and I have talked about it on many occasions, and I agree that at some level, it was an important loss in terms of recruiting and losing grip on the East. When UGA began their successful run with Richt, we all knew that a major hurdle was getting over the UT bug and putting ourselves in position to beat Florida. Whether we did it or not frankly would be the difference between getting into the SEC championship game which you must do in order to have a shot at the whole enchilada or not, assuming that you can hold everyone else off.
    Losing ground to UT is part of the standard deviation, but it's a dangerous time for Georgia. Tennessee has done all it can to buy their way back into contention with their coaching staff, and is going to expect a near immediate return on the investment. Kiffin himself swore to his players and said they would never lose to Georgia as long as he was the coach.
    The coaching staff has heard just about everything this past week, so there's really not much else to say except that we're worried and we want to know what's going to be done to fix the problems that this team invents for itself week after week.

    My question is this: do the coaches know what's wrong?

    In a previous post I included a quote from an LSU player who basically said what we've known all along: we're easily predictable. Everyone has the formula for how to beat us. Take this quote from Crompton in the Banner-Herald:

    "We got the right plays because we knew what they were going to do," Crompton said.

    I can't help but think that everyone involved in this game prepares for the other team and looks at film, tendencies, patterns, anything that you can to come up with a game plan. But what do you do when that game plan fails? There's got to be a plan B, and personally, I don't feel like we've been able to implement that. I'm not one of these that is begging Van Gorder to come back, but I will say that everyone knew they had better get their points against us in the first half, because his second half adjustment was going to clamp them down. "He ALWAYS makes an adjustment," is a quote I often heard from UGA fans with regard to BVG.



    Stubbornness. Failure to admit that the current strategy isn't working and changing it. Is that our problem?

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Recovery

    Like any close game that your team loses, all you can think about is "what if?" The unsportsmanlike penalty didn't help, but could hardly be blamed as the sole reason for UGA losing an all-out war on Saturday night. Sometimes the other team just makes a play, and LSU definitely did. The frustrating thing is that we've seen flashes of brilliance from this team that exceeded our expectations, and we dared to dream a little bit. But we as fans have only done that because we had faith in the leadership surrounding the team as well as the players, that they would somehow find a way to compete. And to see them make the same mistakes over and over again is eternally frustrating.
    Rex Robinson had one of the most insightful posts I've ever read about this. If you're interested, check it out here at Roughing the Kicker. There's a level of stubbornness that I think we're seeing from this coaching staff that needs an intervention. Is Damon Evans going to be able to do that?

    The main problems that appear to be facing this team are:

    1. Kickoff/punt returns and coverage, to be fair mostly kickoffs. Is this is a coaching problem? If so, who's responsible for that?
    2. Running game. Richt thinks it's his players more than it is the line, and how can anyone argue? Knowshon got a lot more production out of what was considered an inferior line, despite Sturdivant's injury. Maybe we overrated our line because Knowshon was just that elusive.
    3. Player productivity. We've got some "superstars" out there that look absolutely lost. One thing we'll probably never know as fans is how the coaches can increase productivity with anything other than tyranny. Recruiting shouldn't be a major issue because we've consistently had highly rated classes. Is this coaching? Is it personnel? We may never know, but I think it's safe to assume that coaching plays a significant role because these players develop quite a bit during college. But we all recall great teams of the early 2000's that couldn't catch a pass if their life depended on it. Do we just always play tight because we're pressing? Is the fanbase, press, coaching staff creating that type of environment that the players can't just get out there and play? Even Richt said in his press conference that this particular team seems to need a spark before they can get going.
    4. We're getting outschemed. This is wholly on the shoulders of the coaches. Joe Cox was off, and that didn't help. But John Chavis has been around for years, and he knew exactly what we were going to do. We broke a few big plays off in the 4th quarter, and AJ is AJ. When we're wrong on our scheme, we can't adjust. Bobo seems like he gets into a little bit of panic when stuff isn't working and starts throwing anything out there that he can. It's like there's not an alternative plan, or any anticipation that the defense may have figured out that we run play action out of the I. Guess what, PA pass doesn't work unless you can run, and we can't. I'd love to hear what the coaches said about this, but the first half, it looked we were doing the same thing over and over, and it wasn't working, but we couldn't adjust. 1 first down, but the biggest problems were coming on 1st down which got us into a 3rd and long almost every time. And just to take the suspense away, to all of UGA's opposing teams, if you see #1 on offense, it's a reverse. Why? Because that's all Bobo's called with him on the field, as best I can tell. We can also recall defensively that when Van Gorder was the DC, most teams got their points in the first half, and the defense always got tougher as the game went on because he adjusted well. I haven't seen much of that, but again, this game is not on the defense.

    Again, these are the differences that are keeping us out of the top ten, which we could have been close to with one more win. I guess there's nothing left to do now but to take it out on UT and Vandy, let's hope we can...