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  SAUCE MAGAZINE
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May 26, 2016
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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: Classic Cocktails by Salvatore Calabrese

Friday, May 20th, 2016

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There’s something romantic about a classic cocktail. What’s romantic (or drinkable, for that matter) about an appletini? Nothing. The romance of a classic cocktail, though, is indisputable. Invented in dark underground speakeasies, on the beach of a far-off island or by a brash barmaid who doesn’t take shit from anyone, classic cocktails are the subject of Salvatore Calabrese’s unimaginatively titled but conveniently alphabetized Classic Cocktails.

Almost equaling my ridiculous affinity for romantic cocktail backstories is my newfound enthusiasm for rum (particularly the funky kind.). How delighted I was to find not the recipe for a Bee’s Knees, but a variation that swaps Jamaican rum for gin in a Honey Bee. Three simple ingredients and a vigorous shake later, you’re done.

While the idea was good, the result was unbalanced. I tried a version of this at home, which resulted in a sweeter, smoother sip, but the ratios in this recipe resulted in a drink that was sour and lopsided. The good news: These cocktails are easy, fun to play with and use basic ingredients. So go ahead, switch up the proportions, add a splash of bitters and create your own riff on a classic. Maybe there’ll be a romantic story of your own to go along with it.

Skill level: Easy peasy, lemon squeezy
This book is for: Thirsty, booze-loving romantics. Sigh.
Other recipes to try: Basil smash, sidecar
The verdict: While this book is easy to digest and chock-full of recipes, the unbalanced nature of the cocktail kept it out of the winner’s circle. Cuban Cocktails prevails.

 

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Honey Bee
1 serving
2 oz. Jamaican rum
1 oz. lemon juice
2 bar spoons organic honey
• Combine the ingredients in a shaker and stir the mixture to ensure that the honey is diluted. Add a scoop of ice and shake long and hard. Strain into chilled coupe. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Reprinted with permission from Sterling Epicure

 

By the Book: The Dead Rabbit by Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry and Ben Schaeffer

Friday, May 13th, 2016

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Making cocktails from The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual has the same allure as going back in time to the 19th century when most of its recipes originated. It sounds romantic, until you consider the realities of the situation. Do you enjoy reliable electricity and paved roads? Would you like to make more than a dozen tinctures before even getting started on a cocktail?

Like history, this book is just for reading, and it does make a great read. Each original recipe is led by a fascinating introduction on the history of the cocktail that inspired it. The drink I chose, Whiskey Smash à la Terrington, was inspired by the 1869 book Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks. As delightful as that sounds, I have never complained more (recently) than while making this drink. I’d like to say I chose it because the cocktail sounded fresh, balanced and delightfully seasonal – which is was. Instead, I chose this recipe because it required me to buy only two bottles of booze, instead of the 57 every other recipe demanded.

It’s probably the best cocktail I have ever made – but it took three damn days to make. First, I had make a tansy tincture. I had no idea what tansy was, but luckily Cheryl’s Herbs in Maplewood did. So, I infused Everclear and water with the dried herb for three days and had my tincture. Next, I had to make lemon sherbet. No, not the easily accessible frozen treat. Lemon sherbet is an intense syrup made with lemon juice and oleo-saccharum. (Again: what?) Oleo-saccharum is basically citrus zest muddled in sugar and allowed to sit until the oils release. The oleo-saccharum took half an hour, as did the sherbet, which then had to cool. This is a drink that will make you drink.

After the sherbet was cool, the cocktail came together like any other. Measure, pour, shake, strain, garnish, sip – one of the best cocktails I’ve ever made. Complex but balanced, fresh but rich, and it had the smooth, viscous texture of a professional cocktail It’s a drink that should be made by professionals who presumably have large batches of sherbets and tinctures at their disposal.

Skill level: Professional. The instructions are good, but the ingredients aren’t at all reasonable for a home bar.
This book is for: Professionals or a those interested in a cocktail education.
Other recipes to try: Champagne à la Fouquet
The verdict: This book is interesting and impressive, but if you want recipes you can actually make, Cuban Cocktails is a better option.

 

 

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Whiskey Smash À La Terrington
1 serving

3 dashes Tansy Tincture (recipe follows)
¾ oz. Lemon Sherbet (recipe follows)
6 to 8 fresh mint leaves
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
2½ oz. Bulleit Rye Whiskey
Fresh nutmeg, grated, for garnish

• Add all the ingredients, except the garnish, to a shaker. Fill with ice and shake. Strain into a punch glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

 

Tansy Tincture
10 ounces

1 oz. dried tansy*
4½ oz. Everclear
4½ oz. water

• Combine the tansy and Everclear in a jar. Allow to macerate for 3 days, then strain though a chinois into a fresh container. Due to the alcohol content, this tincture should last indefinitely at room temperature.

 

Lemon Sherbet
24 ounces

4 lemons
1½ cups granulated sugar
12 oz. fresh lemon juice

• Prepare an oleo-saccharum (recipe follows) with the lemon peels and sugar.
• In a small saucepan, combine the oleo-saccharum and lemon juice over medium heat, but do not boil. Slowly stir to dissolve the sugar. When the syrup has thickened, remove from the heat. Strain through a chinois into bottles. The sherbet will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

 

Oleo-Saccharum
8 servings

• Peel each lime, being sure to remove only the peel, with none of the white pith. A Microplane grater or vegetable peeler is best.
• Add the peels to a bowl, along with the sugar. Using a muddler or heavy wooden spoon, press the peels into the sugar. You will see oil from the peels collect in the bowl. Let the combination sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. Mix to collect all separated oils into the sugar before using.
• You may use the peeled limes for juicing as needed in the recipe above.

*Tansy is available at Cheryl’s Herbs, cherylsherbs.com 

Reprinted with permission from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

 

By the Book: Grillhouse by Ross Dobson

Friday, April 29th, 2016

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The last book in this grill-off isn’t a grilling compendium, but it does have recipes that move effortlessly from indoor grill pans to my trusty mini Weber kettle. Grillhouse: Gastropub at Home by Ross Dobson features elevated pub fare with relatively few ingredients and simple techniques.

The whole grilled chicken recipe I chose presented a few hiccups along the way, but turned out beautifully. Be sure to take note of the skill level at your grocery store butcher counter. Rather than butterflied or spatchcocked, my bird was handed over split down the breast (Fortunately, it cooked just as well). The chicken is simply prepared, stuffed with a lemon-garlic-rosemary salt before meeting the grill.

The recipe had impeccable timing. With less than 30 minutes on a hot grill, the chicken was cooked through completely. The crisp skin was imbued with a smokiness only charcoal can add, and every bite of white and dark meat was tender and juicy, with just a touch of lemon and rosemary. The only recipe confusion came with what seems to be an unnecessary flip on the grill before drizzling the bird with garlic-infused olive oil. Grilled chicken doesn’t get much easier than this.

Skill level: Easy. No fancy techniques or obscure ingredients required here. Basic knife skills and your average grocery store will provide all you need.
This book is for: Those who appreciate a proper pint while they grill – fans of Dressel’s, The Scottish Arms and other true gastropubs.
Other recipes to try: Stout beef burgers, fillet steaks with mushroom and whiskey sauce, crispy-skinned trout
The verdict: While last week’s steak au poivre was decadent and tender, Grillhouse needs no fancy sauces to take it over the top – just garlic, lemon, rosemary and smoke. We have our champion.

 

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Butterflied Chicken with Rosemary & Garlic
4 servings

12 cloves garlic, left whole and unpeeled
1/3 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. finely chopped rosemary
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp. sea salt flakes, plus extra for sprinkling
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 free-range chickens, about 3 lb. 5 oz. each, butterflied

• Peel and finely chop 4 cloves of garlic and place in a small saucepan with the olive oil over medium heat. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the rosemary and lemon zest and cook for 2 minutes or until the rosemary is aromatic. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Pour the oil through a fine sieve placed over a bowl, pressing to extract as much oil as possible. Stir the lemon juice into the oil and set aside. Transfer the solids to a small bowl, add the salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and combine well.
• Spread the garlic salt mixture all over the chicken skin, rubbing some under the breast skin. Set aside for 30 minutes.
• Lightly crush the remaining unpeeled garlic with the flat side of a knife.
• Preheat a chargrill to high.
• When smoking hot, place the chickens on the grill, skin side down; reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, ensuring the chicken sizzles constantly on the griddle, using a metal spatula to press down firmly on the chickens every 5 minutes or so. Turn the chickens over. Scatter the whole garlic cloves on and around the chicken and cook for another 10 minutes, again pressing down with the metal spatula. Turn the chickens over. Quickly stir the olive oil and lemon mixture and brush on the skin side of the chickens. Turn over again and cook for just a minute. Remove and cover loosely with foil to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Reprinted with permission from Lyons Press

By the Book: Feeding the Fire by Joe Carroll and Nick Fauchald

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

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All the other books so far in this grilling series have dealt with fire outside the home. Attempting to overachieve, I chose a recipe from Feeding the Fire that required flames inside and out: grilling and a flambe.

This recipe calls for steaks so large, they were likely cut from a dinosaur, not a cow. I took the advice of the friendly butcher at Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions and opted for the bone-in version of the 2-inch thick strip steak. While the ingredient list calls for four of these monsters, I opted for three, which was enough to feed a family of four with one steak left over for a hungry Sauce team.

The grilling instructions were spot on. The two-stage fire made both a pretty sear on the steaks and the medium-low coals finished the cooking to a perfect 135 degrees. The sauce au poivre was a creamy, slightly peppery sauce that complemented the beef but could just as easily be spooned over green vegetables or potatoes. To flame the apple brandy, the recipe directed me to carefully tilt the pan toward the flame to ignite the alcohol. Those are also be the directions to burn down my house, so I turned off the burner, added the brandy and set it alight with the long-handled barbecue lighter. My house is still standing, and I learned that huge cuts of meat plus an abundance of fire equals primal cooking at its finest.

Skill level: Easy. The directions are easy to follow and the recipes are un-fussy, focusing on the quality of the meat and simplicity of preparation.
This book is for: Fans of the flame. There are recipes for vegetables and all kinds of proteins ranging from grocery store staples to more specialized cuts.
Other recipes to try: Chicken spiedies, grilled whole trout with lemon and garlic butter and charred long beans.
The verdict: Long was the reign of The Grilling Book, but this week Feeding the Fire came out on top.

 

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New York Strip Steaks with Sauce Au Poivre
4 servings

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. very finely chopped shallots
1 ½ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper, or more to taste
2 Tbsp. apple brandy
2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp. pink peppercorns
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 13-ounce strip steaks, about 2 inches thick

• Prepare a two-stage fire with high and medium-low sides in a grill.
• Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the coarsely ground black pepper and brandy and carefully tilt the pan slightly away from yourself to ignite the brandy (if you’re using an electric stove, carefully light the brandy with a match or lighter), then cook until the flames subside.
• Add the cream and pink peppercorns, bring to a simmer, and reduce by half. Season the sauce with more coarsely ground pepper, if necessary and salt to taste and keep warm over very low heat until ready to serve.
• Season the steaks generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Grill the steaks over high heat, turning every couple of minutes, until well charred on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the steaks to the medium-low side of the grill and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the middle of the steaks reads 135 degrees for medium, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
• Transfer the steaks to plates and let rest for 5 minutes then serve with the warm sauce.

Reprinted with permission from Artisan Press

By the Book: “Grill Skills: Professional Tips for the Perfect Barbeque”

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Grilling is a celebrated summer ritual in my family. We start out early in the afternoon, make a pitcher of margaritas and graze on tortilla chips and salsa while we fire up the grill. Grill Skills: Professional Tips for the Perfect Barbecue made for an excellent start to the season with approachable, internationally influenced recipes.

I chose a Swedish and American mashup: pork chops with rhubarb salsa. I’ve only cooked pork chops indoors before, and I’ve never worked with rhubarb, but it was worth it to explore the unfamiliar territory. I marinated the pork chops in a sweet, spicy paste for an hour before grilling as instructed, but I was disappointed that those flavors didn’t make it to the plate. More time to soak up all that goodness was definitely needed.

The rhubarb salsa, on the other hand, was a hit. Aggressive red onion was mellowed by the pickled ginger and honey. When we topped the pork chops with the salsa, it made up for the lack of flavor on the meat. I couldn’t find acacia honey, so I used an orange blossom variety. Like acacia, it’s lighter and milder than your standard clover honey bear bottle, and it helped to balance stronger flavors. I topped my salsa with a mix of toasted and black sesame seeds instead plain ones because I like the nutty flavor they bring to the party (and they were the ones I had in my pantry).

Skill level: Easy. Even with the global twists on recipes, it’s still the same process.
This book is for: People who want to grill outside the box and explore new flavors.
Other recipes to try: Grilled salmon with an apple and lemon glaze, Thai kebabs with the crispy noodle salad, and the triple smoky burger.
The verdict: While the rhubarb salsa wowed, the pork chops flopped. This round goes to Bon Appétit’s The Grilling Book.

 

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Pork Chops with Rhubarb Salsa
4 servings

4 large pork chops on the bone
2 Tbsp. mild paprika, preferably smoked
1 ½ Tbsp. oregano
2 tsp. cumin
1 ½ tsp. chili powder, preferably ancho
1 lime, grated zest
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
Salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil

Rhubarb salsa
5.25 oz. rhubarb
2 tsp. sesame oil
¼ cup olive oil
½ red chili, sliced
2 Tbsp. mint, chopped
1-2 Tbsp. acacia honey
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1/5 cup pickled ginger, chopped
½ red onion, thinly sliced

• Make a cut in the fat at the edge of each chop and pat them dry.
• Mix all the spices, lime zest, garlic, sugar, sal, and pepper. Add olive oil and stir into a thick paste. Massage the paste thoroughly into the meat. Allow to stand for at least 20 minutes. The marinated chops can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours but remember that they should be at room temperature when you put them on the grill.
• Use this time to make the salsa: Slice the rhubarb (peel it if it’s tough). Mix the sesame oil, olive oil, chili, mint, honey and sesame seeds and add. Mix in the ginger and red onion. Add salt to taste. You can even cook the salsa for 10 minutes, but in that case add the mint after cooking.
• Place the chops on the grill over direct heat and allow them to color on both sides. Move to the edge of the coals and put the lid on. Grill until an inner temperature of 145 degrees is reached. Place on a serving plate and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
• Serve with the salsa.

Reprinted with permission by Schiffer Publishing

 

By the Book: “Bon Appétit’s The Grilling Book” edited by Adam Rapoport

Saturday, April 9th, 2016

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I don’t usually grill. The whole to-do about cleaning the grill, setting up and lighting the charcoal, waiting for it to get to temperature … It’s not exactly my favorite. However, if a friend is willing to do all of that for me, I’m down for the cooking part.

I chose to cook out of Bon Appétit’s The Grilling Book with its clean design and delicious-looking pictures. I made skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, both of which were new to me. The simple recipes are exactly the kind I enjoy when I’m entertaining: quick dishes with bright flavor.

The chimichurri sauce is acidic and herbaceous with savory, pungent raw garlic. Treat it like a condiment that brightens up anything grilled. The recipe makes enough for leftovers, and it will go well on a number of things: seared fish, grilled lamb and roasted vegetables. As for the meat, it doesn’t get much easier than flank steak. Pat the meat dry, season with salt and pepper, cook four minutes a side and enjoy medium-rare.

Skill level: Easy. There’s a ton of recipes, so there’s something for everyone. The recipes seem easy to follow and uncomplicated. Some are time-consuming (ribs take several hours) but not difficult.
This book is for: People who want creative grilling recipes and people who like to entertain.
Other recipes to try: Cantaloupe-basil agua fresca  and Chinese-style lobster with ginger, garlic and soy sauce
The verdict: Check back next week when the first challenger takes on The Grilling Book.

 

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Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
4 servings

1 1½-lb. skirt steak, cut in half crosswise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for brushing
½ cup chimichurri sauce

• Season skirt steak lightly with salt and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pat dry with paper towels and season again with salt and pepper.
• Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Brush grill grate with oil. Cook until meat is nicely charred and medium-rare, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
• Transfer steak to a work surface; let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice thinly against the grain and serve with chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp. kosher salt, more as needed
3 or 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced.
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 Fresno chile or red jalapeno, finely chopped
2 cups minced, fresh cilantro
1 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh oregano
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

• Combine vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, garlic, shallot and chile in a medium bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, parsley and oregano. Using a fork, whisk in oil.
• Transfer ½ cup chimichurri to a small bowl, season with salt to taste, and reserve as sauce.
• To use as a marinade with beef or lamb: Put beef or lamb in a glass, stainless steel or ceramic dish. Toss with remaining chimichurri. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.
• Remove meat from marinade, pat dry and grill. Serve with reserved sauce.

Reprinted with permission from Andrews McNeel Publishing

 

By the Book: “Crossroads” by Tal Ronnen

Friday, April 1st, 2016

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I’ve been curious to try Tal Ronnen’s cookbook, Crossroads, since I heard an interview with him on “The Splendid Table.” Ronnen is chef of Los Angeles eatery Crossroads, a restaurant lauded for revolutionizing plant-based dining. The dishes aren’t intentionally health-focused, nor a mash-up of Frankenfoods laden with chemicals. Only one recipe calls for tofu – and it’s not one you’d expect. Instead, you’ll find recipes for plant-forward dishes using classic cooking techniques and a few clever tricks to provide flavors and textures familiar to omnivores.

Ronnen’s recipes are clear and precise. Balsamic-roasted mushrooms with shallots and toasted Marcona almonds had a long name for a small plate, but it produced divine results. I reduced balsamic vinegar and agave syrup to make a sweet, sticky glaze that I tossed with shallots and cremini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms. The whole mixture roasted in the oven before hitting a saute pan with even more shallots, garlic, balsamic and sherry. Mixed herbs and crunchy almonds added necessary vibrancy and texture to the finished dish.

Since this is a small plate, there’s a lot of flavor packed into each bite. The balsamic glaze nearly overwhelmed the more delicate oyster and shiitake mushrooms, but bright herbs kept it from tipping into too-sweet territory. While we devoured the dish on its own, we agreed that serving it with a base – garlic toast, polenta, a bed of arugula – would have rounded it out and given those strong balsamic notes something to mingle with.

Skill level: Intermediate. While complicated recipes like artichoke “oysters” and fresh pasta dishes abound, there are plenty of simpler options available, too.
This book is for: Home cooks anxious to throw dinner parties where no one realizes the meal was vegan until the last bite of dark chocolate rice pudding.
Other recipes to try: Spaghetti Squash Noce Moscata, Roasted Fennel with Clementine Beurre Blanc and Toasted Buckwheat or Sweet Corn Risotto with Buttered Leeks, Cherry Tomatoes and Tomato-Sherry Cream Sauce
The verdict: After much debate, this dish fell just short of Battersby’s Farfalle with Gorgonzola and Pistachios, which we felt best represented a complete dish. However, we’ll repeat this recipe and slather it atop garlic toast (or ditch the vegan concept altogether and add burrata) very soon.

 

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Balsamic-Roasted Mushrooms with Shallots and Toasted Marcona Almonds
4 servings

Mushrooms
2 lbs. mixed mushrooms, such as cremini and shiitake, stemmed, wiped of grit, and quartered
4 large shallots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into large slices
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup Balsamic Reduction (recipe follows)
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup dry sherry
2 Tbsp. Balsamic Reduction (recipe follows)
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, hand-torn, plus more for garnish
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, hand-torn, plus more for garnish
4 fresh dill sprigs, hand-torn, plus more for garnish
4 fresh chives, sliced into 1-inch pieces, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup toasted Marcona almonds, smashed with a mallet or heavy pan

• To prepare the mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Put the mushrooms and shallots in a mixing bowl and drizzle with the oil. Pour in the balsamic reduction, season with the red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper, and turn the mushrooms and shallots over so they are well coated. Spread the vegetables out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are tender and deep brown. Set aside. (The roasted mushrooms and shallots can be prepared a couple of hours in advance, covered, and held at room temperature.)
• Put a large saute pan over medium heat and coat with the oil. When the oil is hot, add the roasted mushrooms and shallots, toss in the minced shallot and garlic, and cook, stirring, until the shallot and garlic soften, about 1 minute. Add the sherry and balsamic reduction and cook, stirring, until the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the mint, parsley, dill, and chives, tossing to distribute them evenly. Season with salt and black pepper.
• Transfer to a serving bowl or individual plates and scatter the almonds on top. Top with more herbs and serve warm.

Balsamic Reduction
½ cup

½ cup agave nectar
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Heat the agave in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it thins out and is warmed, about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and shallot and gently simmer, swirling the pan a few times, until the sauce has reduced and thickened to the consistency of maple syrup and coats the back of a spoon, about 50 minutes.
• Remove the shallot and add a good pinch each of salt and pepper. The reduction can be stored covered at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Reprinted with permission from Artisan

By the Book: Sea and Smoke by Blaine Wetzel and Joe Ray

Friday, March 25th, 2016

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Sea and Smoke: Flavors from the untamed Pacific Northwest by Blaine Wetzel and Joe Ray is many things. It’s a narrative account of acclaimed restaurant The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, located just outside of Bellingham, Wash.; it’s a visually delightful walk through beautifully foraged and prepared dishes; it’s the world’s largest piece of marketing collateral. It is also a “cookbook.”

However beautiful, it more espouses an ideal than provides practical recipes. The Willows serves prix fixe menus of ingredients foraged that day. It’s a beautiful concept that, for a cookbook, is completely inspirational and evocative and completely useless. Two pages in the book acknowledge the usefulness issue, including a disclaimer begging the excuse of imprecise recipes, wonky cooking temperatures and hyper-local ingredients described as simply “unusual.” Like dried woodruff leaves.

Flax Seed Caramels was one of two recipes that didn’t require condensed clouds from the Chuckanut Mountains or freshly foraged love. With mostly sugar, a whopping cup of flax seed oil and two cups of “very fresh heavy cream,” the recipe was straightforward and came together easily. The end result was a gooey, too-soft caramel better suited to ooze over the top of a brownie than a standalone dessert. I don’t fault the recipe but rather my ancient candy thermometer and lack of candy-making intuition.

Skill level: Hard – but mostly for ingredient accessibility
This book is for: Foodie dreamers, lovers of photography, people planning a trip to upstate Washington and want to know where to eat.
Other recipes to try: Ripe Pears Buried in Hot Embers – just kidding. Maybe you can find the ingredients for Whole-Roasted Kohlrabi with Crushed Currants and Mussels.
The verdict: Salt and Smoke made me want to forage morels and pursue native Missouri ingredients, but it is not a practical cookbook. To the coffee table with this one. Battersby’s Farfalle with Gorgonzola and Pistachios reigns supreme.

 

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Flax Seed Caramels
Yields more than 100 cubes

Scant 2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup plus 2½ Tbsp. flax seed oil
2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. very fresh heavy cream
¾ cup evaporated milk
2 cups flax seeds

• Heat the sugars, corn syrup, flax seed oil, cream and evaporated milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring it up to 230 degrees, whisking every 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue heating until the temperature comes up to 242.5 degrees.
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flax seeds with ¼ cup of water, spread them across a quarter-sheet pan lined with Silpat mat (it is best not to use parchment paper here) and bake until crisp and darker in color, about 30 minutes. Remove the seeds from the pan, returning about 2 tablespoons to the Silpat mat lining the pan and spread them out evenly.
• Reserve about ¼ a cup plus 2 tablespoons toasted flax seeds. Working quickly, whisk the remaining flax into the caramel, then pour the mixture onto the seed-lined sheet pan. Sprinkle the reserved flax seeds evenly across the top. Allow the caramel to cool to room temperature, then wrap pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it sets.

 

Reprinted with permission from Running Press

By the Book: “Le Pigeon” by Gabriel Rucker and Meredith Erickson

Friday, March 18th, 2016

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Aside from name recognition, I chose Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird because of the book’s breadth and its initially charming, conversational tone. One recipe is titled Avocado Salsa (No, This Is Not Guacamole) – which is kind of cute. And then you read the “Love Letter to Plymouth Valiants,” bro-ing up the middle of the cookbook. Not so cute. Then you notice the In Foie Gras We Trust seal, sporting a goose with a funnel shoved in its mouth. Yuck.

However, if you can get past its Portland cool-kid bravado, the book is pleasantly readable. These people know what they’re doing. They run the gamut of proteins with dishes at a range of complexity from simple roasted pork loin to a beef cheek Bourguignon that would make Julia Child roll up her sleeves – all with clear directions for home cooks.

I made the lamb shepherd’s pie because I love lamb chili, and it sounded simple enough with big flavor payoff. But shepherd’s pie is one of those deceptive dishes that sounds quick and easy, but is actually kind of annoying. It looks like a one-pot meal, but it destroyed my kitchen. Luckily, after preparing the vegetables, sauteing stuff, making a slurry, blooming spices in warm cream, mashing potatoes and so on, it tasted pretty good. I would have liked for it to taste very good, coming from Le Pigeon and dirtying so many dishes, but it’s hard to argue when you still finish all the leftovers.

Skill level: Moderate. You can find a simple recipe, but some get pretty intense. However, the recipes are so well written that it’s a good book to try stretching your cooking skills.
This book is for: Bros in the kitchen or people who enjoy reading about bros in the kitchen
Other recipes to try: Duck breast, goat cheese pierogi; simple roast pork loin
The verdict: It was good, but not good enough to beat Battersby’s elegant pasta from last week.

 

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Lamb Shepherd’s Pie, Curry Mash
4 to 6 servings

Kosher salt
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. ground lamb
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. curry powder
¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1½ lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, lightly beaten

• Prepare an ice water bath. Over high heat, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the peas and blanch for 1 minute. Using a spider or large slotted spoon, transfer the peas to the ice water bath and cool for 5 minutes. Remove the peas and pat dry; set aside.
• In a saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the lamb and saute, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt. Using a slotted spoon, remove the lamb from the pan, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the onion, carrots, tomato paste, oregano and garlic. Add 1½ teaspoons of the curry powder and season with a pinch of salt. Saute for 3 minutes. Add the white wine and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced to about 1 tablespoon, 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the stock and bring to a boil.
• Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together the cornstarch, vinegar and 2 teaspoons of water. We’re forming a thick paste here, called a slurry. Add the slurry to the vegetable mixture along with the browned lamb and the peas. Cook for 4 minutes longer; it should thicken quite a bit. Spread this mixture in the bottom of a 9-inch-square baking dish, smoothing it out with a spatula.
• Onto the potatoes: To a large pot of heavily salted water, add the potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes give no resistance when pierced with a knife, 10 to 12 minutes.
• While potatoes are cooking, in a small saucepan over low heat, warm the cream and the remaining 1½ teaspoons curry powder to let the flavor of the curry bloom, about 6 minutes.
• Using a colander, drain the potatoes. If you have a ricer, push the potatoes through the ricer back into the pot. If not, return the potatoes to the pot and mash using a potato masher. Add the cream, butter and eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine and season to taste with salt.
• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Using a spatula, evenly spread the potatoes over the lamb layer. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the heat up to broil for the last 5 minutes to get nice and brown potatoes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving family-style.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

 

By the Book: “Battersby” by Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern

Friday, March 11th, 2016

BTB_Mar16_Round1_1

 

When I see anything with pistachios on a menu, I have to order it. The pistachio ravioli at Pastaria hooked me – ravioli in a rich browned butter sauce finished with cheese, pistachios, mint and lemon. I now add pistachios to whatever I can: salads, pasta dishes and desserts. When flipping through Battersby: Extraordinary Food From an Ordinary Kitchen by Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern, the farfalle with Gorgonzola and pistachios naturally caught my eye.

The sauce was easy: a little garlic and chile flake (I used dried red pepper flakes instead of the hard-to-find Calabrian chile.), a lot of heavy cream along with Gorgonzola, pecorino and Grana Padano. Toss that with cooked farfalle and finish with pistachios for crunch, basil for a little sweetness and orange zest for a burst of freshness. The dish is rich but balanced by the bright orange zest and basil.

Skill level: Moderate. Many of these recipes take patience but they don’t seem complicated.
This book is for: Home cooks who want to elevate their game
Other recipes to try: Vanilla-glazed beets with Gorgonzola and walnuts, shrimp with pimento pepper, potato and chorizo
The verdict: Check back next week when the next restaurant cookbook takes on Battersby.

 

031116_bythebook

 

Farfalle with Gorgonzola and Pistachios
6 servings

Gorgonzola sauce
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
½ tsp. chopped Calabrian chile
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 oz. Gorgonzola cheese
1½ Tbsp. finely grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1½ Tbsp. finely grated pecorino Romano cheese

To serve
Kosher salt
1 lb. fresh farfalle, homemade or store-bought
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup finely grated Grana Padano
¾ cup pistachio nuts, toasted and crushed
1 orange
8 to 12 small fresh basil leaves

• To make the sauce, heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chile and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and slowly bring it to a boil. As soon as it boils, remove the pot from heat, season with salt and pepper and pour the mixture into a blender. Add the Gorgonzola, Grana Padano and pecorino and blend to emulsify, about 20 seconds. Serve immediately or let cool and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 24 hours.
• To serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 2 minutes.
• Meanwhile, bring the reserved sauce to a boil in a wide, deep saute pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in the butter, melting it.
• When the pasta is done, drain it in a colander and transfer it to the pan with the sauce. Toss well to coat the pasta. Add the cheese and pistachios and toss well.
• Divide the pasta among 6 plates. Finely grate some orange zest over each serving and garnish with the basil leaves. Serve.

Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Life & Style 

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