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Mar 02, 2015
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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By the Book

By the Book: Jeffrey Weiss’ Chorizo infierno

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

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Jeffrey Weiss’s Charcutería: The Soul of Spain, his hagiographic cookbook devoted to the art of curing meats, makes for heady reading. A full 30 pages are devoted to the science of charcuterie, including the freshman-chemistry precepts of pH, nitrates, salts fermentation and, yes, germ theory – or rather, sidestepping its dangers.

On a lazy Friday at the Sauce office, all of this (well, except basic food safety) is simply over my head. Plus, the thought of publisher Allyson Mace’s reaction after bumping her head against curing charcuterie hanging in the Sauce kitchen is too frightening to hazard.

So as a compromise, instead of true aged charcuterie, I made Weiss’ recipe for chorizo fresco. Then, I lit it on fire.

It’s tough to make homemade sausage in St. Louis without thinking of the city’s meatpacking heritage, largely by German and Eastern European immigrants. The vestiges of the meat-processing halcyon days can still be found here and there in Soulard, where tiny meat markets do business under the hanging fumes of beer brewed down the street at Anheuser-Busch. The tedium (and gross, gaseous noises) of sausage-making pulled me out somewhat of the idyllic charcuterie fantasy created by the cookbook’s photography. It is a lovely thing to behold, assuming your hands aren’t covered in ground pork. Weiss’ encapsulation of science and cultural trivia (along with a powerful forward written by Jose Andres) make this a captivating read.

Note well: Supplies for homemade sausage can be tricky to come by. After much searching, I borrowed a KitchenAid meat grinding attachment from Salume Beddu and purchased casings from Vincent’s 12th Street Market and the pork from Don’s Meat Market in Soulard.

 

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If using a pre-smoked cut of meat (I could only come up with smoked pork jowls), cut the salt in the recipe by at least a quarter, especially if you’re sensitive to it.

 

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When grinding the pork, place all of the sausage-making supplies – cubed meat, grinding components – in the freezer for at least and hour and half beforehand. This makes the grinding much easier.

 

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What makes this true chorizo instead of just sausage is the pimenton slurry, made with dry white wine, sweet and spicy paprika and oregano. Use good Hungarian or Spanish paprika for maximum flavor.

 

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Don’t forget to soak the sausage casings in water at least 30 minutes before stuffing them. Assuming you are using one long case, slide the meat downward as you go. You can separate it into links later on.

 

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The recipe’s greatest flaw is the logistics of cooking the sausage en flambé. Lacking a terracotta dish as instructed, I instead used a nonstick skillet and Georgia corn moonshine. Expect the flames to jump about 2 to 3 feet high, and for the ethanol to burn off far more quickly than the 6 to 8 minutes called for in the recipe. (Admittedly, the corn liquor may have been too high-proof, allowing the alcohol to burn away faster.) After singeing off a good bit of my arm hair, I just pan-fried the sausages in the skillet instead.

 

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Despite the deep vermilion of the chorizo slurry, it didn’t serve to color the meat as much as expected. While the taste was there, the flavor profile reminded me more of a well-made bratwurst – not that I’m complaining. A little heavy on the salt, a little light on the spice, the proportions on this recipe may need some slight recalibration, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.

 

Chorizo al Infierno
1 serving

1 chorizo fresco (recipe follows)
¼ cup (50 milliliters) orujo, aguardiente or other high-proof neutral liquor

• Warm a terra cotta or other flameproof dish over high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until it is very hot. Using a metal skewer long enough to suspend the sausage over the terra cotta dish, impale the sausage. Remove the dish from the heat and place on a heatproof trivet.
• Place the skewered sausage over the dish and carefully pour the liquor into the dish. With a long match, set the liquor alight. Cook the sausage over the strong flame (watch your fingers, eyebrows, and other body parts) for 6 to 8 minutes, turning as needed, until the sausage is charred and cooked through. Serve hot.

Chorizo Fresco
3 to 4 loops or 6 to 8 links of sausage per 2.2 pounds

Per 2.2 lbs. (1 kg.) of the following blend of meats, cut into large cubes: 40 percent aguja (pork collar), 40 percent panceta (pork belly), and 20 percent papada (pork jowl)
¾ oz. (20 g.) whole cloves garlic, peeled and destemmed
1 oz. (25 g.) kosher salt
¼ cup (50 milliliters) dry white wine, such as a Verdejo, chilled
¼ cup (50 milliliters) water, chilled
⅓ oz. (10 g.) pimentón dulce
⅓ oz. (10 g.) pimentón picante
⅛ oz. (2 g.) dried oregano
3 Tbsp. (45 milliliter) extra virgin olive oil, for frying, divided

Optional:
2 feet (60 cm.) 1¼- to 1½-inch (32- to 36-mm.) hog casings, soaked, or more as needed
Caul fat, as needed

• Place the aguja, panceta, and papada meats and grinder parts in the freezer for 30 minutes to par-freeze before attempting to grind.
• Using a mortar and pestle, crush together the garlic and salt to form an ajosal. If desired, you can finish the ajosal in a food processor fitted with the “S” blade.
• In a mixing bowl, combine the meats and ajosal. Toss together and set aside as you set up the grinder.
• Fill a large bowl with ice, and place a smaller bowl inside the ice-filled bowl. Grind the meat mixture once through a medium-coarse (⅜-inch) die into the smaller bowl. Be careful: The meat mixture is wet, so it may squirt and pop out of the grinder.
• In a small mixing bowl, combine the wine, water, pimentones, and oregano, making a slurry. Keep the bowl containing the slurry chilled until ready to use.
• Place the ground meats in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or you can just mix in a mixing bowl with a sturdy spoon). Begin mixing on low speed. As the mixer runs, pour the wine slurry into the bowl in a steady stream.
• Continue mixing on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until the wine slurry has been fully incorporated into the mixture, a white residue forms on the sides of the bowl, and the mixture firms up. Place the bowl containing the ground meat mixture in the refrigerator to keep it cold until you are ready to stuff the sausage into casings.
• To make a prueba, in a small skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place a small piece of the meat mixture in the skillet and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.

To ferment the sausages:
• If stuffing: Stuff the mixture into the casings and tie into 12-inch (30-cm.) loops or 6-inch (15-cm.) links. Using a sterile pin or sausage pricker, prick each sausage several times. Place in the refrigerator to ferment overnight.
• If not stuffing: Form the mixture into 8-ounce (226-g.) patties. Wrap in plastic wrap or caul fat, if using. Place in the refrigerator to ferment overnight.

To cook the sausages:
• If stuffing: If you have stuffed the sausages into links or loops, warm the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, until they register an internal temperature of 150 degrees. You can also oven roast or grill the sausages at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until they reach the same internal temperature.
• If not stuffing: Warm the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and fry the sausage patties for 8 to 10 minutes, until they register an internal temperature of 150 degrees.
• Remove the sausages from the heat and serve.

Reprinted with permission from Surry Books.

What needlessly ambitious dish(es) have you attempted in the kitchen? Tell us how it turned out in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Charcutería.

By the Book: Diane Kochilas’ Stuffed Lenten Cookies

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

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As a Catholic kid who hated seafood, Lent was not a season I looked forward to. The 40 days of fasting and reflection to prepare for Easter is traditionally observed by abstaining from red meat and poultry on Fridays – not great news for the cod-averse. During these dinners, I subsisted mostly on plates of cold spaghetti in meat-free red sauce (which I also hated). Thankfully, my palate has since matured, now welcoming both tomatoes and seafood, and I enjoy Lenten fish fries along with thousands of other St. Louisans, regardless of religious identity.

Fortunately, my newfound love of fish has also segued to healthier dietary habits, something Diane Kochilas’ new cookbook, Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life, and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forgot to Die, has in spades. I’d never heard of Ikaria (located here) but Kochilas says much was made of this small Greek island a few years ago when a study revealed that, on average, its people were reaching age 90 almost twice as often as Americans. The reason for this robust longevity, Kochilas explains, was a relaxed, stress-free lifestyle and a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, seafood, legumes, potatoes and wine.

Kochilas loves Ikaria, its people and especially its cuisine. Her book is filled with simple, intensely flavorful dishes, each with a story and its purported health benefits. Simple onion pies, braised peppers, rice pilaf with clams and other dishes showcase a cuisine created from the abundance of humble but delicious ingredients on and surrounding the island. Ikarian desserts are simple sweet pleasures, usually involving fruit, nuts and honey. Since Lent began last Wednesday, Feb. 18, I chose to try my hand at Kochilas’ Stuffed Lenten Cookies, which are filled with ground nuts and spices and look suspiciously like empanadas at first glance.

 

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Sauce executive editor Ligaya Figueras often talks about her quest for the healthy cookie. This recipe can certainly give any contenders a run for their money. No butter or eggs; in fact, they are completely vegan. Instead, the dough calls for flour, two full cups of extra-virgin olive oil, orange juice, spices and just two-thirds cup of sugar. The filling is simple mixture of ground walnuts, orange zest and honey.

 

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While bringing the dough together was simple enough, I found the actual process of rolling out and cutting the cookies problematic. The dough, which had the consistency of very wet sand, crumbled as I rolled it out. I stopped frequently to pat it back together with my hands, only to watch it crumble again under my rolling pin. Perhaps there was too much flour, yet the olive oil stuck to the pin and my board with equal persistence.

 

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My solution: try again tomorrow. I treated the cookie dough like a pie crust, refrigerating it overnight to let it come together. It still fell apart somewhat, but the cookies were easier to cut and transfer to the cookie sheet. I struggled to fold the crumbly dough over the filling, but it was nothing a few quick pinches with my fingers couldn’t fix, and the final dusting of powdered sugar covered the imperfections.

 

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My efforts were well worth it. These flavorful bites had the texture of shortbread with the heady spice of gingerbread. The walnut filling offered a nutty sweetness, and my Sauce coworkers immediately offered ideas for other fillings I should try (fig preserves, dried apricots, even carrot jam). I’ll certainly have the chance; this recipe makes nearly three dozen big cookies, and I have another ball of dough waiting for me at home.

 

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Stuffed Lenten Cookies (Skaltouinia Nystisima)
Makes 25 to 30

Finikia Dough (Recipe follows)
2 cups ground walnuts
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ cup raisins (optional)
Grated peel of 1 orange
2 Tbsp. Ikarian pine or other honey
Powdered sugar or granulated sugar for garnish

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Prepare the finikia dough and divide it into 3 balls.
• In a bowl, combine the walnuts, cinnamon, cloves, raisins (if using), orange peel and honey.
• Roll out a ball of dough to a round about 15 inches in diameter. Take a 3-inch glass or cookie cutter and cut rounds out of the dough. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each circle and fold over to form a half-moon. Wet the inside edges with a little water and press closed with your fingers or with the tines of a fork. Continue until the dough and filling are used up. Gather any excess dough and roll it out and fill it, to finish off the cookies.
• Bake until lightly golden, about 25 minutes. Removes the skaltsounia from the oven and cool slightly on a rack. Sift a generous amount of powdered sugar over them.

*Note: Instead of sprinkling powdered sugar on the cookies after baking, you can sprinkle them with a generous amount (about 2 teaspoons per cookie) of granulated sugar before baking.

Finikia Dough

6-8 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
2 cups Greek extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup sugar
Juice of 2 oranges, strained.
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Heaping ¼ tsp. ground cloves

• In a large bowl, sift together 6 cups of the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
• In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the olive oil and sugar until fluffy. Add the orange juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and beat to combine.
• Add 2 cups of the flour mixture to the batter and whisk to combine. Remove the whisk attachment. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, slowly add as much of the remaining flour as you can in ½-cup increments to form a smooth, soft, but dense dough, kneading as you add.

Reprinted with permission from Rodale Books

What’s the best healthy dessert recipe you’ve tried that still feels like an indulgence? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Diane Kochilas’ Ikaria.

 

 

By the Book: Clodagh McKenna’s Authentic Lasagna

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

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My mom is an amazing cook. She would say that’s she’s the best –modesty doesn’t exactly run in my bloodline when it comes to skills in the kitchen. Because she’s so good, I always want her recipes. I’ll ask her how to make a dish and she’ll give me her recipe: a confusing jumble of words that contains vague instructions, approximations of ingredients (“You could add cumin, if you feel like it, sometimes I like it sometimes I don’t.” What?!) and cook times and temperatures that actually don’t make sense. In short, if I wanted to learn how to make a dish of my mom’s, I’d have to watch her make it a few times and write down the recipe for myself. That’s how I felt when I cooked out of this latest book by Clodagh McKenna, Homemade: Irresistible Recipes for Every Occasion.

I had high hopes for this book. At first glance, the recipes seem to be right up my alley: Banana bread pudding, baked eggs, lasagna, potato gratin, all some of my favorite things. I decided to make her Authentic Lasagna. In the end I thought the recipe could have used a bit more editing. Like my mom, it felt like she just left some important details out of her recipe, which can be frustrating.

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Another pitfall: The béchamel sauce was too thick, and the writer adds a note saying to add more milk to thin it out if it is too thick. (That’s so my mom.) To me, that instruction indicates the recipe needed more milk, I would have preferred that she just gave a more accurate volume of milk in the first place. It’s not like baking, where humidity and other subtle factors can affect how much liquid your flour will absorb that day. This is a sauce. The amount of milk (3½ cups) to the amount of butter (6 tablespoons) and flour (¾ cup) was not right. I would have added an extra cup of milk.

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My biggest issue with this recipe was the lack of clear instruction on seasoning. In the recipe for the meat sauce, there’s no measurement of salt and pepper, and it just says to season the sauce during the meat-browning stage. There’s tons of great flavor in the sauce with the mirepoix, the meat and the wine, but it needed extra salt at every stage to bring all those flavors out. Also, there’s no salt or pepper in the béchamel at all, just a pinch of nutmeg, which leaves the sauce tasting floury.

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In the end, I was left with an OK lasagna that was underseasoned and carried a faint taste of flour. In other words, not cute. At least it’s a lasagna. Lasagna always gets eaten.

Authentic Lasagna
6 servings

2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ stick butter, plus a little extra for greasing
2 onions, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
½ celery stalk, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2¼ lbs. freshly ground beef
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1¾ cups red wine
1¼ pound canned chopped tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves, torn
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
12 fresh lasagna noodles

For the béchamel:
¾ stick butter
¾ cup all-purpose flour
3½ cups milk
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • Place a flameproof Dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter, followed by the onions, carrot, celery and garlic. Stir and cook for 5 minutes until softened.
  • Stir in the beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef has turned a light brown color. Pour in the red wine and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and fresh basil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour, or more if you can. The longer you allow it to simmer, the more tender the meat becomes.
  • To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour, and cook for 2 minutes until it resembles a small piece of dough. Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring all the time. Turn down the heat and cook until the sauce starts to thicken (it should coat the back of a wooden spoon). Stir in the nutmeg. The béchamel sauce should be creamy in texture; if it becomes too thick, add more milk.
  • Preheat the oven to 350.
  • Grease a shallow baking dish. Pour a layer (about 1/2 inch deep) of meat sauce into the baking dish so that it covers the base. Follow with a thin layer of béchamel sauce and a grating of Parmesan cheese. Place a layer of lasagna noodles on top. Continue with two or three more layers. Finally, smear a layer of béchamel sauce on top of the last lasagna noodles followed by a final generous sprinkling of parmesan.
  • Bake in an oven for about 40 minutes until bubbling all over and a knife slips easily through the layers of lasagna

Reprinted with permission from Kyle Books

What recipe forces you to improvise – and improve – the original? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Homemade.

By the Book: Joumana Accad’s Falafel Loaf with Tarator Sauce

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

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Maybe it’s because I’m such a food grazer that I love a good meze. I salivate just imagining a smorgasbord of Middle Eastern bites like olives, yogurt-, vegetable- and legume-based dips with pita, salads such as fattoush or tabbouleh and finger foods like stuffed grape leaves and meat pies. Some years ago, I presented an assemblage of such fare to a Turkish dinner guest. He thanked me profusely, telling me how much it reminded him of home.

Although I have never visited Turkey or any Middle Eastern country, I do feel at home preparing and eating food from this part of the world. It’s food that I taught myself to make primarily via cookbooks, so it was fun to sift through Joumana Accad’s Taste of Beirut. Among the 150-plus recipes (and lots of color photos), are all the classics – from kibbe to kafta – along with a few contemporary innovations spun from traditional dishes. I chose to prepare an item from the latter camp: falafel loaf with tarator sauce.

Falafel is a mix of puréed chickpeas, eggs and seasonings usually rolled into balls and then deep-fried. Accad’s version called for baking the falafel mixture to make a vegetarian meatloaf of sorts, which piqued my health-inclined sensibilities.

 

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Lebanese cooking is not hard or involved. In this instance, you first make a garlic paste pounding the cloves with salt using a pestle and mortar. Next, open a couple cans of chickpeas (or cook your own to control the salt content), crack a few eggs, gather spices and purée in a food processor before transferring it to a loaf pan.

 

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While the loaf was baking, I made the tarator. It’s a tangy sauce that is akin to mayonnaise for the Lebanese. If you’ve never made this tahini, garlic and lemon juice sauce before, it’s one you’ll want to keep in your back pocket. It’s useful as a salad dressing or atop cooked vegetables.

 

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I baked the loaf 15 minutes longer (and covered with foil during this time) than the prescribed 35 minutes so it firmed. Once it was done, I let rest the pan a good 10 or 15 minutes before unmolding and slicing it. The falafel was moist and delicious, a light, healthy alternative to the fried variety. I may never board a plane to Lebanon, but I like to travel there often in my kitchen, and Accad is a fine travel guide.

 

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Falafel Loaf with Tarator Sauce
8 servings

2 15.5-oz. cans chickpeas
3 large eggs
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 large white onion, chopped
1 tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. paprika or Aleppo pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 cup Italian parsley
1 cup cilantro
1 Tbsp. garlic paste (recipe follows)
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup tarator sauce (recipe follows)

• Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
• Drain the chickpeas and transfer them to the bowl of a food processor. Add the eggs, breadcrumbs, onion, baking powder, cumin, coriander, paprika and salt, and process until mixture is doughy. Add the parsley, cilantro, garlic paste and olive oil, and process until the mixture is smooth and all the ingredients are well combined.
• Transfer to a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the loaf comes out dry. Serve at room temperature with the tarator sauce.

Garlic Paste
Makes 1 tablespoon

6 garlic cloves
1 tsp. salt

• Peel and cut the garlic cloves lengthwise; toss out the clove if it contains a green shoot, which indicates that it is old. To peel the clove easily, knock it decisively with the handle of a knife.
• Chop the garlic fine and place in the mortar with the salt. Pound away for 2 or 3 minutes until the mixture is the consistency of a paste. Use in cooking right away or store in the freezer, wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in an airtight container. You can prepare several such small packages at one time.

Tarator Sauce
Makes 1 cup

1 tsp. garlic paste
½ cup tahini
¼ to ½ cup lemon juice, according to taste
¼ to 1/3 cup water

• Place the garlic in a bowl, add the tahini, and mix well. Add the lemon juice and water gradually, stirring until the sauce is the consistency of a creamy yogurt. Add more water slowly if needed. Taste and adjust the sauce as needed.

Variation: Add ½ cup chopped parsley to the tarator and mix well prior to serving. This herby tarator can be used to dress salads.

Reprinted with permission from Health Communications

What cookbook author takes you on a cultural adventure in your kitchen? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Taste of Beirut.

 

 

By the Book: Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway’s Whole-Wheat Banana Pancakes

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

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Reading Thug Kitchen, the cookbook inspired by the profanity-laced blog, is a chore. The authors became roiled in controversy when their weakly urbanized, off-key “thug” voice, which ends up sounding like an affluent white millennial’s, was revealed to be just that: 29-year-old Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, as white and as Hollywood as they come.

Aside from their problematic co-opting of a persona that reads queasily like a bad caricature of African-American vernacular, the very concept of Thug Kitchen is a head-scratcher: What exactly are vegans Davis and Holloway going for here? If it’s a vegan ethos that swaps out green thumbs for potty-mouthed snark, why not convey it in less appropriative, less flippant terms, especially given our moment of sociocultural reflection?

I hope that at least Davis and Holloway would deliver ace recipes. To an extent, they measure up. Apropos of blustery February, I opted to make banana pancakes, easily the whitest breakfast food recipe in existence. Mercifully, the authors tone down the offensive language in the recipes proper, though are still prone to roundabout, tiring phrasing that distract from the recipe. If you can stop rolling your eyes, you’ll find these dishes quite tasty.

 

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Mashed banana makes a lovely emulsifier. You’ll find the batter can be whisked together faster than even regular flour-and-egg pancake mix. Add cinnamon or other baking spices as desired. Fair warning: the raw batter is safe to eat and quite addictive.

 

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Davis and Holloway may be ham-handed writers, but they offer workmanlike replacements for the usual ingredients. Here, almond milk adds a marvelous, subtle nuttiness to the pancakes, complementing the syrup, banana and wisp of coconut oil used to grease the pan. Leftover batter keeps in the fridge for at least a day or so.

 

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Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes
12 servings

2½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. brown or white sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 cups nondairy milk (like almond)
1 small banana, mashed (should be around 1/3 cup)
Grapeseed oil or coconut oil for cooking the pancakes

• In a big bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Make a crater in the middle and add the milk and mashed up banana. Mix that all together until there are no more dry spots, but don’t go crazy. Mixing it too much will make your pancakes tough, so just chill the fuck out sir mix-a-lot.
• Now, you probably know what to do once the batter is done, but in case this is your first time at the griddle, keep reading. Grab a skillet or griddle and heat it over medium heat. Lightly grease the pan with some oil and pour some pancake batter onto the griddle for each pancake you want. Cook the first side for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on top. The bubbles mean your pancake has cooked through. Flip and continue cooking the other side for 1 to 2 minutes or until the pancake looks golden brown.

Reprinted with permission from Rodale Books

What’s your secret ingredient to elevate your breakfast food from ho-hum to heavenly? Tell us in the comments for a chance to win a copy of Thug Kitchen.

Editorial interns Rima Parikh and Victoria Sgarro contributed research and reporting to this post.

 

 

By the Book: Alice Medrich’s Ricotta Cheesecake with Chestnut Crust

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

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Alice Medrich’s new book Flavor Flours poses an intriguing question: What if wheat flour didn’t exist? Though I’ve used almond flour for baking (and engaged in a brief foray with spelt), I haven’t delved deeply into non-wheat flours before. Still, I’ve had success with Medrich’s recipes in the past, and so I thought if anyone could walk me through the technicalities of coconut flour, rice flours and others, she could.

The book is divided into eight chapters discussing everything from oat flour to buckwheat and teff. I selected a stunning-looking ricotta cheesecake with a chestnut-flour crust. Of course, on the next page (after the beautiful photos) was this note: Patience Required. “I’ve never made a cheesecake that did not improve with at least a full 24 hours, if not 48 hours, of mellowing in the fridge before serving,” Medrich writes. This supposes the baker to possesses enough will power to not touch a cheesecake staring her in the face every time she opens the refrigerator. Patience should be called for up front, along with the springform cake pan, food processor and other special equipment.

 

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Tracking down the ingredients proved more difficult than the recipe itself. After several phone calls, my coworker wisely suggested trying DiGregorio’s Market on The Hill. After all, chestnut flour is often used in Italian desserts, she reminded me. Rice flour was an easier find; a bag of Bob’s Red Mill was quickly located at my neighborhood supermarket.

The dough for the crust comes together in a snap, though it looks much wetter than a typical tart dough. Molding it to the pan takes some work (sort of like spreading cold peanut butter), but keep at it and use a piece of plastic wrap and a water glass as Medrich suggests to get an even thickness.

 

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My patience was first tested during the parbake. My kitchen smelled like the fire-roasted chestnuts heralded in The Christmas Song, and I had to remember I was not allowed to eat the crust prior to pouring the thick, lemon-flecked ricotta filling. Back into the oven again, and then, against my better judgement, not into my mouth but into the refrigerator.

The final product was worth every agonizing minute. The buttery crust, nearly chocolate brown after two rounds in the oven, was deeply nutty and contrasted beautifully with the rich, savory ricotta studded with slivered almonds and pine nuts. Medrich’s brilliance came through for me once again, though I must confess: We only waited 24 hours, not her prescribed 48, before slicing. Everyone has their limits, after all.

 

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Alice Medrich’s Ricotta Cheesecake with Chestnut Crust
12 servings

For the crust:
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (115 g.) chestnut flour*
¼ cup (40 g.) white rice flour or 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. (40 g.) Thai white rice flour
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. (75 g.) sugar
Scant ½ tsp. salt
9 Tbsp. (130 g.) unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks
3 Tbsp. (45 g.) cream cheese
1 egg yolk mixed with a pinch of salt and ½ tsp. water, for the egg wash

For the filling:
3 cups (665 g.) whole-milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup (150 g.) sugar
1 Tbsp. white rice flour
1½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. chopped candied orange or lemon peel or golden raisins
2 Tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted
¼ cup (30 g.) pine nuts, toasted

Equipment:
Food processor fitted with the steel blade (optional)
9-by-3-inch springform pan or cheesecake pan with removable bottom
Baking sheet
Handheld mixer

• To make the crust by hand, put the chestnut flour, rice flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and whisk until thoroughly blended. Add the butter chunks and cream cheese. Use a fork or the back of a large spoon to mash and mix the ingredients together until all are blended into a smooth, soft dough.
• To make the crust in a food processor, put the chestnut flour, rice flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Pulse to blend. Add the butter chunks and cream cheese. Pulse until the mixture forms a smooth, soft dough. Scrape the bowl and blend in any stray flour at the bottom of the bowl with your fingers.
• The dough may seem much softer than other tart doughs. Use the heel of your hand and then your fingers and/or a small offset spatula to spread the dough all over the bottom of the pan. Press it squarely into the corners of the pan with the side of your index finger to prevent extra thickness at the bottom edges, and press it as evenly as possible about halfway up the sides of the pan. Have patience; there is just enough dough (although you may not think so at first). If there is too much dough in one place (or hiding in the corners of the pan), pinch or scrape it off and move it elsewhere. Spread or smear it smooth with the spatula. Here’s a final trick for a perfectly even crust: Press a sheet of plastic wrap against the bottom and up the sides of the pan and lay a paper towel on top. Set a straight-sided flat-bottomed cup on the towel; press and slide the cup all over the bottom and around the sides to smooth and even the surface. Leave the plastic wrap in place. Refrigerate the pan for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight and up to 3 days.
• Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
• Peel off the plastic wrap and place the pan on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, checking after 15 to 20 minutes. If the crust has puffed up on the bottom, press it back down carefully with the back of a fork. Continue baking until the crust is golden brown with darker edges. Remove the pan from the oven but leave the oven on. Brush the bottom and sides of the crust carefully with a thin coating of the egg wash. Return the pan to the oven for 2 minutes to set the egg wash. Set the pan on a rack to cool for at least 20 minutes or until you are ready to finish the cake. The crust can be wrapped and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.
• Set the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
• To make the filling, beat the ricotta with the sugar, rice flour, and vanilla with the handheld mixer just until well blended. Beat in the eggs one by one, just until blended. Mix in the candied orange peel or raisins, the almonds, and pine nuts. Scrape the batter into the crust. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 (degree symbol) F and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted about 2 inches form the edge of the pan comes out clean. The center should still be jiggly. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack before unmolding. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours (48 hours is even better) before serving. Leftovers keep, covered and refrigerated, for another few days.

*Chestnut flour is available at DiGregorio’s Market.

Reprinted with permission from Artisan Publishing

What’s your favorite non-wheat flour to work with and why? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Flavor Flours.

 

By the Book: Ben Mims’ Grapefruit-Blackberry Bars

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

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Breakfast is supposedly the most important meal of the day, but I’d argue that the title should really go to dessert. Ben Mims seems to agree in his new book, Sweet & Southern: Classic Desserts with a Twist, the pages of which are filled with mouthwatering recipes for cakes, pies, custards, cookies and even frozen treats to tempt us dessert advocates.

Grapefruit always seems to be an underdog in the kitchen, never getting the attention it really deserves. So when I saw Mims’ recipe for Grapefruit-Blackberry Bars, I was intrigued by its combination of fruity, sour and sweet flavors.

 

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The cookie-like crust was an easy task, just quick mindless mixing of dry ingredients. The recipe called for a 9-by-13-inch pan, but I only had a 9-by-9-inch one available, so I made a mental note to let the bars cook a bit longer than the prescribed time. I also let it rest overnight in the refrigerator before baking the next morning while I made while I presumed would be an equally easy blackberry sauce.

However, my frugal self opted to buy an actual pomegranate instead of the $13 bottle of juice at the grocery store. Only when I returned to the Sauce office did I wonder how on earth I was going to juice a pomegranate. Squeeze each individual seed? Stick it in a blender? Maybe jam a straw in it and see if gravity could help me out? I ended up scooping the pomegranate seeds into a plastic zip-top bag, sealing it tight and whacking it until I had the entire tablespoon – yes, just a tablespoon – of juice needed for the sauce. It may not be the most professional way to do things, but it was certainly efficient (and entertaining to my audience of Sauce editors).

 

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The grapefruit makes it appearance in the filling, a mixture of more sugar, flour, eggs, and the juice and zest of a lemon and a grapefruit. Zesting an entire grapefruit proved to be quite the arm exercise. This recipe really makes you work for every tablespoon of flavor.

I poured the filling over my cooled cookie base and drizzled the blackberry sauce over it. I took some creative liberty to create a swirly masterpiece before popping it in the oven for 45 minutes, remembering my note to add time for my pan size, then moved it to the refrigerator later.

Four agonizing hours later, the result: sweet-tart bars oozing with citrus and berry flavor. The blackberry swirls on top were a feast for the eyes, as well. My bars were quite runny in the middle – akin to a half-baked gooey butter cake – but they were delicious nonetheless. The rich crust baked beautifully and served as a textural contract to all that slippery filling. I’d recommend skipping the confectioners’ sugar and using vanilla bean ice cream as a garnish instead. Your sweet tooth will thank you.

 

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Grapefruit-Blackberry Bars
12 to 16 servings

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3¾ cups granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
⅛ tsp. kosher salt
6 oz. blackberries
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. pomegranate juice
2 Tbsp. grated grapefruit zest
½ Tbsp. grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh grapefruit juice
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
6 large eggs
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

● Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan evenly with baking spray.
● In a bowl, beat the butter and ½ cup of the granulated sugar with a handheld mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and mix until combined.
● Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press it into the pan to cover the bottom and about halfway up the sides. (Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough and press so that hands don’t stick to the dough.) Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.
● Bake until light brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
● In a small saucepan, combine the blackberries, ¼ cup granulated sugar, the lime juice, and pomegranate juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 10 minutes.
● Remove from the heat and press through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract all the juice from the berries. Let cool completely. Discard the solids.
● In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup flour (this is to prevent lumps of flour from forming in the filling), then add the grapefruit and lemon zests, grapefruit and lemon juice, and the eggs and whisk until smooth.
● Pour the filling onto the crust, then drizzle the blackberry sauce in stripes over the top. Drag a toothpick or knife through the filling and sauce to create swirls.
● Bake until the filling is just set in the middle but still slightly jiggly in the center, about 35 minutes. Let cool completely at room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours to set the filling before cutting into bars.

Reprinted with permission from Rizzoli Publishing

What’s your favorite way to use grapefruit? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Sweet & Southern.

By the Book: Marco Canora’s Roasted Asparagus and Lemon with Chunky Pesto

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

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Marco Canora’s A Good Food Day is all about making healthy, tasty choices. I figured for the sake of the new year and my new 2015 figure, this would be a strong start to clean eating (at least until February).

Like most home cooks, I gravitate toward recipes that are easy and quick – and if it’s somewhat healthy, that’s a bonus. The recipe I chose, roasted asparagus and lemon with chunky pesto, was so perfect it could double as a Just Five recipe.

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You start by roasting asparagus in olive oil, salt, pepper and thinly sliced lemon. Once it’s out of the oven, finish it with a pesto, sans olive oil. For me, it turned out delicious. The cheese in the pesto began to melt as soon as it was sprinkled over the asparagus, so each bite showcased every flavor: bright basil, pine nuts, lemon, cheese and the asparagus. It looked pretty too, like something I could serve to friends and family. Plus, it’s a technique that could work with a variety of vegetables, including Brussels sprouts or broccoli.

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Other recipes in the book have you roast a vegetable and finish it with something to make it more of a fully realized dish, not just a side. Consider the roasted broccoli with hazelnuts and pecorino, or the roasted carrots with millet and mint-pistachio pesto, both of which sound like they’d fit into my cooking repertoire nicely. Other, more robust dishes, such as the Japanese chicken and rice soup or the wild salmon in parchment with olives, fennel and lemon, make for easy, good-for-you meals I actually want to eat.

Roasted asparagus and lemon with chunky pesto
Serves 4

1 bunch medium asparagus
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 lemon half, cut into thin slices, ½ reserved for serving
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (3-inch) chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Trim the asparagus by holding each stalk horizontally and bending until the tough, woody end snaps off. On the baking sheet, toss the asparagus with the olive oil, lemon slices, and salt and pepper to taste. Roast until the asparagus is tender and the lemon slices are lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

While the asparagus is roasting, use the tines of a fork to crumble the Parmesan into small nuggets, about 2 tablespoons total. Pile the cheese, pine nuts, and basil together on a cutting board and chop until they’re well combined but still chunky.

Transfer the roasted asparagus and lemon slices to a serving platter, add the chunky pesto, and toss together. Squeeze the juice of the remaining lemon half and top with a drizzle of olive oil.

Reprinted with permission from Clarkson Potter.

What’s your go-to healthy dish that’s not “health food”? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Marco Canora’s A Good Food Day.

By the Book: Dana Cowin’s Steak au Poivre

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

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It takes some moxie to admit one’s own shortcomings. Imagine being the editor of a preeminent food magazine and publishing a cookbook of confessions about where you’ve gone wrong in the kitchen. That’s what Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief at Food & Wine magazine, did in her Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen.

“I am going to be honest: I am not a great cook,” begins Cowins in the introduction. “As the longtime editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine, I’ve learned a lot about food by eating in extraordinary restaurants, tasting recipes in our test kitchen daily and talking to chefs. Yet, despite all that, there’s one culinary area in which I am not an expert: actual hands-on cooking.” But, with help from 65 estimable chefs worldwide, Cowin learns the tricks for tackling everything from soufflé to pan-roasted lobster.

As I paged through 100 recipes and learned of Cowin’s snafus with eggs, soups, seafood and more, I thought about the single-most area of cooking in which I need to improve. Without a doubt, it is meat. I’m great at making stock, which is why I hoard ham bones and chicken carcasses like a dog. But the actual meat – that scares me. I don’t want to ruin a prime cut. I’ll gladly whip up a salad, casserole, fritatta or curry while someone else tends to the meat.

As much as I would have delighted to cook Quickest Cucumber Kimchi following tips from David Chang or Pan-roasted Lobster with Red Miso and Citrus Sauce with advice from Eric Ripert, I knew I needed to face my fear. So I opened the cookbook to the meat chapter and put myself to the test with steak au poivre.

I knew that my chances for a better-tasting end result would improve drastically if I began with high-quality beef. At Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions, owner Chris Bolyard cut me 1-inch New York strip steaks from Shire Gate Farm in Owensville. He asked if I wanted bone-in or bone-out. Bone-in would give more flavor, he said. I opted out, though, because I wanted my steak au poivre to look like the photo in Cowin’s book. This column is called By the Book, after all.

 

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While at Bolyard’s shop, I sought as much advice as possible. How long would the steaks need to come to room temperature? Let them sit out 30 minutes, 45 tops, Bolyard said, but far more important is to let the steaks rest five to 10 minutes once cooked.

 

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The raw meat gets salted, then rolled in a pan of cracked peppercorns. Once the oil in the saucepan is smoking hot, it’s time to add the steak. Steaks cook fast, and I didn’t want to overcook and burn them. Cowin’s instructions to “let the steaks cook until the underside is nicely browned and they don’t resist when you try to flip them” was a helpful pointer.

 

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While the meat rested, I focused on making the steak sauce, which was fun since it involves igniting cognac. I had my mise en place in order – shallots grated to a paste, Dijon, creme fraiche, lemon juice and water – so after the fire show, the sauce came together quickly. To serve, the steak is garnished with parsley and lemon zest. You can drizzle this divine sauce on the meat, but I served it on the side. Me and my meat had nowhere to hide. I tensed as I awaited the meat critique from my dinner companions. Cut. Chew. Moan. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Winner, winner, steak dinner!

 

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Dana Cowin’s Steak au Poivre
2 servings

1½ Tbsp. black peppercorns
2 1-inch New York strip steaks (about ½-pound each), excess fat trimmed, at room temperature
Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
¼ cup cognac
2 small shallots, grated to a paste (preferably on a microplane)
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup creme fraiche
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

• Put the peppercorns on a small rimmed baking sheet and crush them with a small heavy skillet; be sure not to bash them. Season each side of the steaks generously with salt, then mop up the crushed peppercorns with both sides of the steaks.
• Heat a large heavy stainless steel skilled over high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. When the oil is smoking hot, carefully place the steaks in the skillet, laying them down away from you (so that if any hot fat splatters, it splatters away from you). Let the steaks cook until the underside is nicely browned and they don’t resist when you try to flip them, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook on the second side until well browned, another 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the steaks onto their fat edges and brown them until the fat is nice and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer the steaks to a serving dish or dinner plates and let them rest while you make the sauce.
• Pour off and discard all but a very thin layer of fat from the skillet. Take the skillet off the heat and add the cognac. Carefully return the skillet to the heat – the alcohol should immediately burst into flames (not a bad thing!); if it doesn’t, ignite the cognac with a long match or lighter. Once the flames have subsided, lower the heat to medium, add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cooking, stirring, until the raw shallot aroma disappears, about a minute. Whisk in the mustard, creme fraiche, lemon juice and water. Season the sauce to taste with salt, and add more water if you prefer a looser consistency. Remove from the heat.
• Whisk half the parsley into the sauce and sprinkle the steaks with the remaining parsley. Season each steak with a pinch more salt and scatter the lemon zest evenly on top. Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission Harper Collins Publishing

What’s your cooking resolution? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Dana Cowin’s Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen.

By the Book: Charles Phan’s Hot Buttered Rhum Cider

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

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Flushed and teetering slightly, I executed my final By the Book dish of the year more liberally than others, multiplying the yield by many times, swapping some ingredients, fudging others. If the writer’s occupational hazard is drinking, I’ll ration the danger by making my poison in batch form, thank you very much. Heaven forbid I drink alone.

The opportunity came to me at Sauce’s holiday party this past weekend, where my potluck contribution was a steaming jug of Hot Buttered Rhum Cider. The recipe for the festive concoction came from Charles Phan’s The Slanted Door, the cookbook inspired by his eponymously named Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco which happened to win Outstanding Restaurant honors at the 2014 James Beards.

Phan – who claims no professional culinary training – styles himself a home cook, and his recipes show it. Each dish is engineered in a straightforward single page of instructions opposite stark, colorful photography. Think uncomplicated dishes like halved lobster tossed in melted herb butter, an easy Vietnamese fisherman’s stew and a stout lineup of simple cocktails.

Mulled cider makes an amiable base for this drink, which masks (and yet is enhanced by) the flavor of the dark rum. For additional texture and richness there’s the spiced compound butter, a degenerately sugary concoction that I stopped eating with a spoon only because our party guests began to arrive. Into the drink the rest of it went, forming a soupy froth on top. The final product needed a few minutes to steep and recalibrate itself to unify the flavor. When it did, I simply left it on low for the roaring duration of the party, guests ladling steaming cupfuls for themselves throughout.

 

 

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The recipe outlines the proportion for making one serving, but it’s easily scaled up as needed. I again summoned my ancient Crock-Pot from a few months ago, using it first to mull the cider with spices, then to warm the finished batch of grog. Leave cider to mull for at least an hour in the slow cooker on high.

 

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Let the butter rest at room temperature for a few minutes so it can soften enough to cream with a fork or spoon.

 

 

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The finished batch totaled approximately three quarts, the mere dregs of which remained at party’s end. The recipe is quite customizable. Leave the mulling spices in or out, add more rum or butter as your palate desires. This is holiday time, people – you get to decide. Just make sure you don’t spill any on that nice sweater.

 

Hot Buttered Rhum Cider
Makes 1 cocktail

1½ oz. aged Haitian Rum, preferably Barbancourt 8 year
1 Tbsp. spiced compound butter (recipe follows)
6 oz. mulled apple cider (recipe follows)
Cinnamon stick
Clove
Star anise

• To prepare this drink put the alcohol, mulled cider and compound butter into a saucepan and heat until the butter has dissolved and the drink is steaming. Pour into a 10-ounce handled heat-proof mug. Garnish by floating a disc of orange peel studded with a clove, star anise and a cinnamon stick.

Mulled Cider
• We juice apples on a hydraulic press daily for this drink. Unless you have an apple press at home, you should find the best unfiltered apple juice available. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, Philo Apple Farm Bates and Schmitt makes a good one. Add apple juice to a pot with the skin of an orange studded with the clove, cinnamon stick and star anise. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

Spiced Compound Butter
• Soften and cream 8 ounces of unsalted butter with a paddle in a mixing bowl. Slowly add 2 ounces of brown sugar, 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and allspice, a pinch of ground ginger, cloves and kosher salt. Scrape the sides to ensure that all of the spices are blended. Roll the butter into a log and wrap it in wax paper. Refrigerate.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

What’s inside those glasses you clink with family, friends and loved ones during the holidays? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of The Slanted Door.

 

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