Hot pork puns, Hot pork buns

Hot pork buns from the Momofuku Book

I could go full hog on this post and turn a sows ear into a purse but I am too busy bringing home the bacon to feast on the trough of puns available to me.  Just the mention of pork belly makes most women recoil with fear as they visualize themselves in their summer bikinis.  Continue reading

Putting some Chang Shui in my cooking and other strange Kombu-nations

I recently borrowed this book from work and have been enjoying it completely.  First of all it is a very fun read. I especially like the part where he talks about how he came up with the name of his restaurant “It is no accident that Momofuku sounds like motherfucker” he states. Continue reading

But if you try sometime….you’ll find….you don’t need to knead

My first attempt at No Knead Bread

So I have been curious about the no knead bread craze for awhile but it wasn’t until I read this blog post that I was motivated to try Jim Lahey’s famous NYT recipe.

I’m definitely a convert.  This is the easiest dough I have ever worked with and can literally be made in about 10 minutes.  Then you wait a day, crank up your oven, bake it in a covered stock pot for 30 minutes, remove the lid and finish the bread for another 15 minutes. Voila. Continue reading

You say tomato, I say tomatillo

Tomatillos ready to be picked

This spring I decided to plant a tomatillo plant.  The last time I tried this it failed miserably (pre-automatic sprinkler system).  This year I have a bumper crop.  I decided to make some Mexican Salsa Verde.  I was introduced to making Salsa Verde by my dishwasher when I was working at Culinary School of the Rockies.

Tomatillos are an interesting fruit.  You have to remove the papery husk to get to the fruit.  The fruit is very sticky and it takes effort to wash the sticky residue off your hands.  In order to use them to make Salsa Verde, you need to boil them or cook them in some way.  I will try to grill then soon to see how that Salsa turns out.

Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

1 lb. Tomatillos

1/4 onion small dice

2 limes

1/4 cup Cilantro leaves

2 Jalapeños (stem and seeds removed, unless you like it hotter)

1 tsp. Sugar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Peel the husks off the tomatillos

Place in boiling water and boil for around 5 minutes (they will change color to a lighter lime green)

Put into a blender with the chopped onion, cilantro, the jalapeños, lime juice and sugar

Purée until very smooth and then season with salt and pepper to taste

Place in the fridge to cool down and then serve with chips or as a topping for tacos, enchiladas, burritos and tamales

Overall it is a very easy and tasty sauce and it is especially rewarding when you are growing almost all the elements yourself.

Red hot tamale

Grilled vegetable tamale with poblano crema

If there is one project I have been fairly consistent about, it is the monthly entry for Deep Plate blog.  The above picture I sneaked in after teaching a class on Vegetarian cuisine, Flavors of the Southwest: Tamales.  It is the Deep Plate entry for August.

Some of you that know me well might be asking what are you doing teaching a vegetarian class, much less one based on tamales.  Well my new position as General Manager at The Kitchen Table means, that if no one else is available to teach a class, I teach it.

This was a full day class (we have been trying to get our day classes rolling) with only one self admitted vegetarian.  Continue reading

Cooking for the week or how to survive the recession

Cheddar broccoli soup

After my last couple of posts which found me amidst the beautiful people of SOBE who appear to be gliding through this recession carefree, concerned only with their next beautification surgery or whether to choose an Iphone over a blackberry; it seems a bit deflating to write a post about how to cook cheaply for the week.

We are a family of five and since I have been unemployed for the past 2 1/2 months (until yesterday) producing the dinner has fallen on me.  This has been a blessing as it forced me to reflect on the very topic of this post.   I want to feed my family good nutritious food my children will eat Continue reading

Don’t Ha ve a Gao, it’s just the inspiration for the March Deep Plate entry

Ha Gao on Bauscher March Entry Plate

Terrible puns aside,  I have been wanting to make these little shrimp Dim Sum treasures for over 6 years now.  Chinese New Year issuing the year of the Tiger seems an appropriate time.  Ha Gao are made from a wheat starch dough and can sometimes be cut with tapioca flour.

One of my must stops in San Francisco, is Yank Sing, a Dim Sum restaurant.  I don’t even think of the price and just grab whatever catches my eye when they come by with their cart.  I’m sure many locals might recommend cheaper places in Chinatown (I’m all ears) and it seems like Yank Sing has a  feel that is more catered to Westerners.  Regardless, it is amazing and you can tell it is at the height of freshness.  One of my favorites is the shrimp dumpling or Ha Gao.  I love that you can see the cooked shrimp through the thin translucent glutinous wrapping.  It kind of breaks the limitations of a traditional ravioli where you have no idea the surprise that lies inside.  There is a leap of faith in a traditional ravioli.  I have taken that leap with less than satisfactory results at some restaurants and overwhelming deep sustaining blissful delight at others.

During the IACP conference, Andoni Aduriz, presented a dish he described as the thinnest new pea ravioli ever.  The tiny peas were wrapped in a completely thin transparent veil of poaching liquid.  He had created a dish that has the sensation of a ravioli but was completely transparent.

Andoni's pea ravioli

Ferran Adria also has taken this concept even further by creating his Olive Oil Sphere.  Spanish EVOO mixed with a hydrocolloid and then dropped into a calcium rich water bath which allows it to form a membrane as thin as the one around an egg yolk.

My hope was just to replicate the thin transparent wrapper I got at Yank Sing.  Not so easy as I was to find out.

Following the recipe presented on a package can lead to unusable results.

Look at the recipe. The big white log beside the package is what I eventually came up with

If you follow the above recipe you end up with great papier maché mix.  The ratio I came up with to create the above white log is 1 cup of wheat starch to 3/4 cup of boiling liquid.  I would be nice to know if that is the ideal ratio.

I then rolled the tube into a longer tube of 1 1/2″ in diameter and cut the tube into 1 inch thick medallions.  My children thought they were marshmallows.

Individual medallions of dough for the Ha Gao

I then took my Chinese cleaver and pressed those medallions into as thin a wrapper as possible.  I pleated the top edge, filled the cup with my shrimp filling and sealed the two edges.  Easier said than done as the dough can break apart if you are not careful.

Pleated top edge of dumpling and filling

A long time ago a friend and co-worker at CSR,  Chris Clarke,  gave me a stack of small metal dumpling steamers.  I was finally able to put those to use.  I cut out some wax paper to put on the inside and sprayed it with vegetable spray so they didn’t stick.  I have a small French copper sauce pot that the steamer inserts fit into perfectly.  I put in about a cup of water, brought it to a boil and placed my stack on top.  It took about ten minuted for them to cook.  The dough became somewhat translucent (with more practice I could make them thinner) and became firm.

They were quite good, but I have a way to go to replicate the ones at Yank Sing.  I would probably have to make 20,000 before I could get anywhere close to the speed of a guy I saw on You Tube.

Here is the picture I will submit to Deep Plate for the upcoming March entry.

The Recipe: Yield 24 dumplings

2 Cups of wheat starch (see above brand)

1 1/2 Cup of boiling water

2 tsp. canola oil

1 tsp. salt

Mix all dry ingredients, add oil then pour the boiling water in a little at a time.  Bring together as a dough and knead to get a nice homogeneous dough.  Roll into a log 1 1/2″ in diameter and then cut into 24 x 1″ thick medallions.  Cover them with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.  Use a Chinese cleaver to flatten them or a rolling pin.  Get them as thin as possible, but still workable.  Pleat the top edge to create a pocket, fill with shrimp mix and seal into a crescent shape.

Filling:

1 lb. peeled and veined shrimp

1 T. finely minced garlic

1 T. finely minced fresh ginger root

3 T. soy sauce

2 T. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. Sambal Oelek

1 bunch of scallions finely chopped

1 T. chopped cilantro

Mix together in a bowl:  soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sambal, sugar, garlic, ginger, green onion and cilantro.  Chop the peeled and veined shrimp into small pieces and mix with the above mix.

Making Dulce de Leche in a pressure cooker

When I went to Uruguay last year I ate at the Bouza vineyard and they serve me a flan with two quenelles of dulce de leche.   I’ve read it is not hard or long to make in a pressure cooker.   So I am giving it a shot and will give you my play by play.

The dish I had at Bouza winery

First of all you use Borden’s Sweetened Condensed milk.  You can use other brands but don’t you just know Borden’s is better because of the picture of Elsie the cow on the front.  This product holds very strong childhood memories of our time living in Algeria. My parents would bring this stuff camping and my brother and I would eat it by the spoonfuls.  We would put it in our coffee and generally scarf the stuff down.  I know that Dulce de Leche also triggers powerful memories for everyone in latin America that grew up on the stuff.

How could you not trust Elsie?

I did a little research on other blogs so that I would have a starting point on my experiment.  They all said to take off the wrapping off the cans. Easy enough.  Then came all the different methods of cooking.  Most called for putting the cans in a pan. Filling it with water to 3/4 of the way up the side of the can  and cooking it covered for up to 3.5 hours.  I stumbled on another recipe which gave me a recipe for the same technique in a pressure cooker.

Now in my new role as a stay at home Dad playing Mr. Mom, I have become very acquainted with my pressure cooker.  I never really used them until last year.  In France people use their Cocotte Minute all the time.  They are great and especially in our mile high city where we are lacking some air pressure.  I purchased a Fagor pressure cooker.  I have been told that Khuns are better, but I saw a few destroyed while working at CSR.

My Fagor

The blog I consulted told me to submerge my label free cans with water.

Covered with a 1/2" of water

I put the lid and cranked it full blast until I saw the pressure indicator pop up.  I turned down the heat to the lowest possible setting and let it cook for 30 minutes.  The blog recommended 20, but I wanted a very caramelized product.  Once my timer went off, I poured cold water on the surface of the pressure cooker until the pressure indicator sank.  I took the cans out and put them in the fridge (you could put them in ice water).  Don’t try to open them hot or you might have a sticky clean up job.

I told my son we would open them the following day and when he got home from school that day he was quick to remind me.

Voila, ready for consumption

It was very firm (cold) and very caramelized.  After the sampling,  I would agree with a slightly shorter cooking time of 20 minutes.  My son and daughter loved it.

Soupe au Pistou

January entry for Deep Plate Blog: Soupe au Pistou

Being at home non stop changes my whole routine, but shouldn’t limit what I can do in the kitchen.  My kitchen at home is well equipped and I can still make a lot of nice food without the vast easy availability of food at my former workplace.  I will continue to submit entries to the Deep Plate Blog each month.  However it will require much more thought and planning than before.

Normally my entries are done pretty quickly after I receive a plate from Bauscher.   Due to recent events it took me a little longer to complete my January entry.

Another major benefit of my new status is that my body is not subject to the 2,000 calories of daily food consumption that came with my teaching position.  I have a much healthier diet now and I am making purchasing decisions  that will feed my family with less meat protein yet leave them satiated.   I’ve been thinking a lot about Provence and France lately.   As I was thinking about my plate presentation for Deep Plate, I remembered a Soupe au Pistou we cooked once with my friend and co-teacher Michel Depardon.   He made his version of Soupe au Pistou and I was completely drawn to the beauty of its simplicity and the complexity of its flavor.

Michel Depardon showing Lisa Dawkins how to sauté

Michel's Soupe au Pistou

I decided I wanted to make similar soup yet keep all the elements whole.   Pistou refers to the garlic, basil and parmesan purée that is put into the soup at the last moment.  Pistou is a very close cousin to Pesto.  In Michel’s version of Soupe au Pistou we used fresh coco beans.  Little white beans that are a lot of work to shuck but add an unmistakable fresh legume flavor to the soup.  I chose instead to use dried cannellini beans, which are available in bulk at Whole Foods.

My recipe for Soupe au Pistou:

2 lbs. Dried Cannellini Beans (you could substitute navy beans or great northern)

1 gl. of Chicken stock

2 Tbsp. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 onion

1 leek

6 cloves of garlic

2 carrots

3 zucchini

For the Pistou:

1 oz of fresh basil

2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 cloves of garlic

2 Tbsp. of grated Parmesan (preferably Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano)

Method:

Soak the cannellini beans in water overnight.   If you live at altitude like I do, I recommend pressure cooking them, if you are at sea level you can cook them until tender in the chicken stock.

To pressure cook the beans.  Place the beans in the pressure cooker and cover with chicken stock . Cover and put on high heat until the pressure indicator pops.  Turn down the temperature and count off twenty minutes.  After twenty minutes cool down the pressure cooker by pouring cold water on it.  Check the consistency of the beans.  If you are happy with them then set them aside.  If not continue to cook them under pressure in small time increments until they are done.

While the beans are cooking, cut all the vegetables into a small dice.  Add a little olive oil to a pan and cook the onions over low heat until they are translucent.  Approximately 10 minutes. Then add the carrots and the garlic.  Continue to cook until they are almost tender.  Then add the zucchini.  Season and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.  Add the vegetables to the beans and stock.  If necessary add more chicken stock to reach the desired consistency.

To make the Pistou:  Pick the leaves of fresh basil and blanch them very quickly in boiling water.  Then submerge them in ice water.  Remove the basil leaves and wring out any water.  Mince the garlic very fine and then in a blender add the garlic, basil leaves, grated Parmesan and the extra virgin olive oil. Blend until very smooth.

Heat up the soup and serve in a bowl and top with the Pistou.  Enjoy.  If you want to make Michel’s version purée the soup and then top with the Pistou.

Salade Niçoise

For the last 180° Dining event I featured a remake of the classic Salade Niçoise.  I then featured it on FOX 31 TV to promote our Ten ingredients in Ten minutes” challenge that we are doing in tandem with The Food TV Network to commemorate our schools Ten Year Anniversary.  Finally, I  took advantage of the same dish to present it as my next entry on Bauscher’s “Deep Plate” blog.  That’s how to get mileage out of an idea.

Salade Nicoise presentation up close

Salade Nicoise presentation up close

Presentation I submitted to Deep Plate

Presentation I submitted to Deep Plate

Salade Niçoise

Serves 4

Ingredients:

8 oz Ahi tuna sliced 1½” thick

½  oz Nicoise olives, pitted

2 heads of heart of romaine

1 vine ripened tomato

2 oz. fine French green beans (haricots verts)

4 new potatoes

4 whole eggs

4 white anchovy filets (Italian or Spanish)

1 tsp. Sherry Wine Vinegar

1 T. E.V.O.O.

Method:

  1. Coat the Ahi tuna filet with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper
  2. Heat a non-stick pan coated with a little oil on very high heat
  3. Add the tuna filet and sear for about a minute, flip over and sear for another minute
  4. Place tuna in the freezer while preparing the rest of the dish
  5. Pit niçoise olives, by crushing them with the side of a knife, remove pit from each olive
  6. Core tomato and cut into quarters, remove the seed and cuts into a small dice
  7. Set a small pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil (salt water heavily)
  8. Cut both ends of the French green beans and quickly blanch in the boiling salted water
  9. When the beans are cooked but still a little crunchy place in cold water to stop the cooking
  10. Prep new potatoes by cutting them into tube with pastry cutter and slice into ¼ in. slices, place in a pot with cold salted water and saffron
  11. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, strain and set aside
  12. Hard cook eggs, by starting in cold water and bringing to a boil, remove from heat source, cover and count off 16 minutes
  13. Cool the eggs with cold water. Peel eggs and set aside
  14. Take white anchovy filets and roll into a turban keeping the shiny skin side facing outward
  15. Place a bed of French green beans on the plate
  16. Take cleaned romaine hearts and cut into 2” segments and place on top of green beans
  17. Combine oil and vinegar in a bowl and whisk vigorously with a whisk
  18. Disperse vinaigrette on romaine
  19. Lay slices of potato on either side of romaine heart
  20. Top romaine with chopped tomato
  21. Slice Ahi tuna against the grain and arrange on top of romaine
  22. Top sliced tuna with anchovy filet
  23. Cut hard cooked eggs and arrange around the romaine tower
  24. Garnish with pitted niçoise olives
  25. Drizzle with E.V.O.O. and season with salt and pepper
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