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Jan 19, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘cookbooks’

By the Book: Michael Chiarello’s Pesto Arancini Stuffed with Mozzarella

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

In the late 1980s, I considered Martha Stewart to be the queen of entertaining. I was only in high school, but I owned her Christmas book and had grand plans that when I grew up, I’d do special “Martha things” – not just to holiday food but also to pine cones and holly berries. I would put on fabulous parties and everything would appear as effortless as Martha made them.

Within that 25-year time span, more books have been published on entertaining than I care to count. And, while my shelves are crammed so tightly that a bookseller would report abuse, I’m willing to cram a little more in order to make room for Michael Chiarello’s Bottega.

Why? Because there is some sound cooking going on in this impress-your-guests-cookbook-coffee table tome. Chiarello shares tricks that I hadn’t thought of; and his recipes are not too contrived, meaning, an able home cook can not only manage these dishes, she can expect to get that wow factor from guests that she secretly craves.

I enjoyed Bottega so much that I actually prepared three dishes from it: Fritto Misto di Calamari with Aioli Nero, Chicken Wings Agrodolce, and Pesto Arancini Stuffed with Mozzarella. All of them were good, but the arancini won in the all-around competition. So let’s chat about that.

Pesto adds loads of flavor to the arborio rice balls. Chiarello offers his own pesto recipe, but you can easily substitute your house version or mess with a sun-dried tomato pesto or an arugula-based one and still expect a great outcome. So, lesson No. 1: Think outside the box with arancini add-ins.

In his introduction for the recipe, Chiarello recounts a conversation with a Sicilian pal who fills the arancini with enough mozzarella to make the cheese “stretch like a telephone wire.” Yes, yes! This recipe calls for four ounces of cheese, but I agree with that Italian fellow: The more cheese you can encase inside the balls, the better.

Chiarello instructs to put the arancini in the freezer to let the balls firm up. This is a great idea and one that I plan to experiment on with falafel the next time that I make that Middle Eastern ball of garbanzo goodness.

The final cooking lesson came when I removed the rice balls from the freezer and was instructed to dredge them in flour, then beaten eggs and panko. A double-dredge of wheat? Smart. Once fried, the outer skin of the arancini was perfectly crisped; the inner, moist, chewy and melty with cheese.

This is a keeper of a recipe and Bottega is a keeper of a book. While I’m still working on effortless entertaining, in the meantime, maybe I need to switch to special “Michael things.”

Pesto Arancini Stuffed with Mozzarella
Makes 16 arancini; Serves 4

3 cups cooked arborio rice, cooled
1½ cups Blanched-Basil Pesto (Recipe follows; You will need to double the recipe.)
4 oz. fresh mozzarella, preferably bocconcini
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
Peanut oil, corn oil or canola oil for frying

• Line a platter with parchment paper.
• In a large bowl, stir the rice and pesto together until blended. Divide the rice into 16 more-or-less-equal portions.
• Cut off about ½ teaspoon of mozzarella, and then, with your hands, ball up 1 serving of rice around the cheese so it’s completely encased in rice. Gently place on the prepared platter. Repeat to form 16 arancini.
• Slide the platter into the freezer for 30 minutes to allow the balls to firm.
• Before you take the rice balls from the freezer, set up your dredging station. Pour the flour into a shallow bowl, the eggs into another shallow bowl and the panko into a third shallow bowl.
• In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 inches of oil over medium-high heat until it registers 375 degrees on a deep-fat thermometer.
• While the oil heats, dredge each rice ball in flour and lightly shake off the excess.
• Dip each rice ball in the egg and then in the panko. Gently drop 4 to 6 balls into the oil and cook until lightly browned, 60 to 90 seconds. Don’t overcook or the cheese will leak out into the oil.
• Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer the arancini to paper towels to drain. Repeat to cook the remaining arancini. Serve at once.

Chef’s note: If you like, you can fry the day before, refrigerate overnight and reheat with great success. To reheat, bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

Blanched-Basil Pesto
Makes about 1 cup

3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. pine nuts, toasted (see Chef’s note at bottom)
1 tsp. minced garlic
½ tsp. fine salt, preferably ground sea or gray salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. powdered ascorbic acid
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

• Set up a large bowl of ice water.
• Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.
• Place the basil and parsley leaves in a sieve or colander that fits inside the pan. Lower the sieve full of herbs into the boiling water, and use a spoon to push the leaves under so the herbs cook evenly.
• Blanch for 15 seconds, then transfer the sieve to the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Let the herbs cool in the ice bath for 10 seconds.
• Remove the sieve, let drain, and then squeeze any water from the herbs. Transfer them to a cutting board and coarsely chop.
• In a blender, purée the herbs with the oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper and ascorbic acid until well-blended and somewhat smooth.
• Add the cheese and whir for 1 second or so to mix.
• Transfer the pesto to a bowl; taste and adjust the seasoning.
• Press plastic wrap directly on top of the pesto to keep it from turning brown and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze for it for up to 1 month.

Chef’s note: Toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet over low heat, shaking the pan frequently. Heat for just 1 to 2 minutes; as soon as you smell the fragrance of the pine nuts, slide the nuts out of the pan and onto a plate so they don’t burn.

Reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books.

What’s your favorite savory dish to make when cooking for a large group? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Michael Chiarello’s Bottega. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Mark, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won him a copy of Patisserie. Mark, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew. 

By the Book: Christophe Felder’s Crème Brûlée Vanille au Zeste de Citron Vert

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Christophe Felder’s Patisserie is an encyclopedic tome of French pastry. Wanna learn to make croissants or macarons? The book has complex recipes like these, broken down step-by-step and interspersed with process photos to guide you along the way (particularly useful for novice bakers). The vast collection of French desserts in this book is impressive alone. I chose to make crème brûlée because, surprisingly, I’ve never made it, and I’ve always loved it. It’s a quintessential French dessert but so much easier than the odyssey that is Marronnier (chocolate-chestnut layer cake) on page 346.

Many crème brûlée recipes have you bake the custards in a bain marie, which is a water bath, but this one didn’t, which I thoroughly appreciated. It’s always a pain to set those things up, and I inevitably spill water everywhere. Instead, the recipe instructs to place the custards in a 200-degree oven for an hour and fifteen minutes.

When they came out, I was excited that they were solid but trembling slightly in the middle – just like the recipe described.

The recipe does not tell you to chill the custards but to just let them cool completely. Well, my impatience got the best of me. I chilled one in the freezer for about 30 minutes and then brûléed the top under a broiler. It was not good. The custard was still loose, and because it wasn’t completely chilled, it still had a really strong egg taste, like a vanilla-citrus-scented soft scramble. Weird.

However, the next day, I tried another custard and the time-alone-to-itself period made a difference. The custard had a chance to condense; albeit, still runnier in texture than the thick, velvety versions I’m used to, it was much better. Perhaps an hour and fifteen minutes was not long enough to make it set in my oven. The flavor improved overnight too … less eggy and a lot more like the flavor of well … crème brûlée.

Crème Brûlée Vanille au Zeste de Citron Vert
(Lime-Vanilla Crème Brûlée)
Serves 4

Special equipment: individual gratin dishes

2½ vanilla beans
1 cup milk
5 eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
½ lime
½ cup light brown sugar

• Split the vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Bring the milk and vanilla seeds and beans to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and let infuse.
• Separate the eggs and place the yolks in a bowl. Whisk the sugar into the egg yolks, just until the sugar dissolves. The mixture should not pale in color.
• Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
• Add the cream to the egg yolk-sugar mixture, whisking until smooth. Then whisk the cooled milk into the mixture until smooth.
• Using a citrus zester, remove the colored zest from the lime in fine julienne strips, leaving the white pith. Or use a vegetable peeler and cut the zest into julienne strips with a knife.
• Divide the zest among the grain dishes. Ladle the custard into the dishes
• Depending on the size of the ramekins, bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes, just until the custard is slightly wobbly. Let cool completely.
• Sift ½ of the brown sugar in an even layer over the custards. Using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar. Or broil the custards on the top shelf of the oven. Sprinkle the crème brûlées with the remaining brown sugar and caramelize again.
• Serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from Rizzoli International Publications.

What’s your favorite dessert to order out and why? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy Patisserie. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Katie, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won her a copy of French Bistro. Katie, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew. 

By the Book: Daniel Galmiche’s Sauteed Jumbo Shrimp with Chile and Garlic Butter

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Daniel Galmiche’s French Brasserie Cookbook seemed like the ideal tool with which to finally conquer duck confit, one of the dishes I have neatly tucked into my “when I have time” folder. To me, duck confit is the epitome of French food: heavy on technique, time, fat and flavor. I imagined myself waking up early on a Sunday morning, weighing down a few duck legs until they released their juices, cooking them in their own rich fat, slathering them in sweet honey and then roasting them in a piping hot pan until their skin crisped and caramelized. Off to the store I went in search of a few fatty duck legs for my big French adventure. Except that my neighborhood store only had duck breasts and, much to my surprise, entire birds. Refusing to fold but determined not to waste any more gas, I called several other stores and received the same answer. More calls, same story. Looking at the calendar, I’d wasted days of valuable cooking time. If by some strange stroke of quack-filled luck I could track down a few duck legs in time for this post, finding 6 to 8 hours to follow Galmiche’s recipe for confit was out of the question. So I decided to make Sauteed Jumbo Shrimp With Chili and Garlic Butter.

A shrimp dish was the very antithesis of my big culinary quest: quick, easy and requiring ingredients that were readily available at the neighborhood market. Hey, if I couldn’t make a recipe that required a focus on the technique and time that characterized French cuisine, at least I could master fat and flavor. After all, the recipe called for an entire stick of butter.

The instructions were short and straightforward: Just saute the raw crustaceans in a generous amount of oil and butter, remove them from heat, add even more butter to the pan, toss in chiles, garlic and fresh parsley, then return the shrimp to the pan just long enough to coat with the pungent sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime.

The result was as simple and delicious as promised, yet the editor in me would have loved a tad more description. For instance, a small handful of parsley is different for me than it is for you. Exactly which kind of red chile are we talking about here? And, at the very least, how many people does this dish serve? But the recipe reminded the food-lover in me of the way cooking – yes, even French cooking – should be: prepared quickly and made with fresh ingredients that are lying around the house.

The finished dish could have used a bit more lime juice and a bit less butter, but those who are used to cooking with a great European butter like Plugra will love the wonderful richness it lends to the sauce. Feel free to add more shrimp to this recipe since there was enough garlicky butter sauce to bathe at least another six. Or you could just do what I did: Grab a loaf of crusty French bread, sop up all that sauce and bask in the rustic French meal you just created (remarkably, in less than 10 minutes).

Sauteed Jumbo Shrimp with Chili and Garlic Butter
Courtesy of Daniel Galmiche
Approximately 2 servings

8 jumbo or 24 small shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 Tbsp. olive oil
6 Tbsp. butter
1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed with the flat edge of a knife or your hand and finely chopped
1 small handful flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Wash the shrimp and dry them on paper towels.
• Warm the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. When the butter is foaming, throw in the shrimp and saute 4 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.
• Add the remaining butter, chile, garlic and parsley to the skillet. When the butter is foaming, put the shrimp back in the pan and toss 1 to 2 minutes.
• Season with salt and pepper to taste, add a few drops of lime juice and sprinkle with the lime zest, then serve immediately. Simple and delicious.

What dish do you consider the epitome of French cuisine and why? Tell us in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy French Brasserie Cookbook. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Stephanie, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won her a copy of Lunch in Provence by Rachel McKenna and Jean-André Charial. Stephanie, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew. 

By the Book: Jean-André Charial’s Eggplant Gratin

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

I’ve planned a fantasy trip in my head to go to Monte Carlo for a few days where I will dine at Alain Ducasse’s Le Louix XV and then take a train to the French city Aix en Provence. There, I will rent a cute little cottage, visit the local shops and cook food for my family and friends just like Julia Child did at her Provencal cottage, La Pitchoune.

That’s why I was excited to cook out of Lunch in Provence by Rachael McKenna and Jean-André Charial.

I decided to make Eggplant Gratin and it turned out fine, for the most part, despite the bitter taste of some of the eggplants. The recipe was quite short, but the way it was formatted was overly complicated which made a rather easy recipe become daunting. There were also a couple of details missing in the recipe. For example, the recipe calls for a bunch of fresh basil, but it doesn’t cite a measurable amount. Additionally, while there’s no cheese in the recipe, there appears to be cheese in the photo of the finished dish.

Yet, these are minor details, and I don’t think they affected the overall quality of the  dish. I loved that the dish was both vegan and low-carb, but it was really oily and the flavor was just average. This oily issue could be remedied by drying the eggplants on paper towels longer or topping the dish with great, crusty bread.

Aesthetically, Lunch in Provence is pleasing and would look cute on my coffee table. It includes photos of the countryside and lavender fields, and it’s dotted with loving quotes about Provence from famous writers and artists. The book makes Provence look like such a sunny and happy place. But did Lunch in Provence at least partly satiate my Provencal fantasy? Not really. I felt pretty ambivalent about both the contents of the book and the dish; I guess I’ll have to keep on dreaming.

Eggplant Gratin
Gratin d’aubergines

Serves 6

4½ lbs. (2 kg.) tomatoes* (I used whole, peeled tomatoes from the can.)
Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. finely granulated sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
1 small sprig fresh thyme, chopped
1 bay leaf
½ bunch fresh basil or tarragon leaves, chopped
4 eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthways*
Generous ¾ cup olive oil
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
Scant ½ cup breadcrumbs

• First, prepare the tomatoes: To peel the tomatoes, cut a small cone from the base of each tomato with a sharp knife. Cut a small cross in the base, and the plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for about 12 seconds, then in cold water for 15 seconds. The skin will just fall off. Slice the tomatoes lengthways, then with the knife remove the seeds and pulp, leaving only the flesh.
• In a cast-iron pan, lightly saute the garlic in the olive oil. Add the chopped onion. Lightly cook (don’t brown) then add the peeled tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and basil or tarragon. Cover and cook for 1 hour over a low heat.
• While the tomatoes cook, in a large pan, cook the eggplant slices on both sides in the olive oil until they are golden brown. Work in batches, draining the cooked eggplant on paper towels as you go.
• Brush the inside of a gratin dish with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
• Put a thin layer of the tomatoes on the bottom of the gratin dish, then place a layer of the eggplant on top. Sprinkle with chopped basil. Form a second layer of tomatoes, followed by eggplant and basil, then a third of tomatoes. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
• Turn the oven to full heat. Put a dish containing 1 inch of water in the oven. To prevent boiling, place a sheet of newspaper folded in half in the bottom of the dish.
• Place the gratin dish in the bain-marie and bake for about 15 minutes.

* The crushed tomatoes and the eggplant can be prepared several hours in advance. The gratin, however, should be cooked immediately before serving.

Reprinted with permission from Flammarion.

What’s your foodie travel fantasy? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Lunch in Provence by Rachael McKenna and Jean-André Charial. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column. 

And now we’d like to congratulate Hugh, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won him a copy of Paul Bocuse: The Complete Recipes by Paul Bocuse. Hugh, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

The Month in Review: March 2013

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

After nearly a foot of snow kept us cooking soups and braises far after the official turn of the season, today’s gorgeous weather makes us want to climb up to the sunny rooftop and scream: Spring is here! Spring is here! As we get ready to reveal our new issue, we take a look back at some of our favorite stories, recipes, dishes and drinks from March. You know what they say: Fall back, spring forward.

Coffee connoisseur Mike Marquard led The Scoop with news of his new coffee shop; we paid our respect to the grande dame of the kitchen: cast iron; Meatless Monday columnist Beth Styles gave spring a warm welcome with a veggie-lovers pizza; art director Meera Nagarajan shared her love for everything Home Made; we went green for St. Patty’s; New and Notable reviewer Michael Renner visited Ben Poremba’s new restaurants, Elaia and Olio; Vegetize It columnist Kellie Hynes took the schmaltz out of matzo ball soup; we reveled in Cary McDowell’s recipe for cast-iron sea scallops; we got to meet one of our favorite Top Chefs; we proved that great salads need no lettuce; we had breakfast for dinner; Gerard Craft got another nod from James Beard; we made pot pie in less than an hour; we chatted with the guy behind the guys (and girls) in STL’s restaurant kitchens; we peeked into a new deli downtown; we offered a darker take on canapes; we gave rotisserie chicken the respect it deserves; we made shakshuka at 2 a.m.; and managing editor Stacy Schultz embraced her inner sweet tooth with a 1-dollar wonder.


By the Book: Deb Perelman’s Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Don’t let my last name fool you; I’m a shiksa through and through. And if Yiddish had a term for a gentile who can’t bake, I’d be that too.

Then why did I choose this recipe for challah? I like the challenge. And challah is delicious. And if you celebrate Passover, I figured this would be a good week to gorge on bread. But mostly, I chose to make it because if anyone can teach me how to bake a fancy-looking bread like challah (in a gentle, non-intimidating way), it’s going to be Deb Perelman.

In Perelman’s much-anticipated cookbook The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, she includes over 100 recipes organized by course: breakfast; salads; sandwiches, tarts and pizzas; the main dish: vegetarian; the main dish: seafood, poultry and meat; sweets; and party snacks and drinks. For those of you who follow her blog, she assured me in a phone interview that less than 15 percent of her book came from her blog. When creating the book, she wanted to make sure that the end product would still be of value for those who had been reading her blog for a long time.

On my first attempt at this challah, I used sorghum in the place of honey because I was too lazy to go to the store. I figured it would work the same, but then the dough didn’t rise. This could have been the result of a number of variables, and I probably should have just waited longer than Perelman recommended (one hour), but I was too impatient and threw it away, opting to start over again the next day and use honey like the recipe called for. On my second attempt, while the dough was rising, I made the fig filling. I got a little overzealous with my zest, accidentally tripling the amount, but in Perelman’s ingredient list, she said that I could use “more as needed,” so I took this to mean that this accident was OK.

On my second attempt, the dough did rise, but I was too tired to finish the rest of the process, so I wrapped it tightly in Saran wrap, put it in the fridge and returned to it two days later. When I then rolled out the dough, it was a bit tough and didn’t seem to roll into as large of a rectangle as I needed, which I’m fairly certain was because I had left it in the fridge for two days, but I decided to work with it anyway.

Once I spread the fig filling across the dough, I rolled it into a snake. The dough still didn’t seem “right,” but the fig filling woven into the dough looked so impressive, I assumed that no matter what happened, this bread would still turn out decent.

As the directions directed, I made four snakes total, arranged them like a tic-tac-toe board and then starting weaving them to resemble as Perelman said, “an eight-legged woven-headed octopus.” This is why I love Perelman. If she had used a technical baking term, I would have had no idea what she was talking about, but with the octopus reference (and the step-by-step photos), I felt confident that, yes, I can make a giant octopus out of dough.

I don’t think my snakes were quite long enough because the final woven look of the bread was certainly not as pretty as hers.

However, the challah turned out looking sort-of nice, and, more importantly, it tasted amazing. I feel like my second attempt (well, third) at this bread will be much more successful.

Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah
Yield: 1 large loaf

2¼ tsp. (1 packet—oz. or 7 g.) active dry yeast
¼ cup (85 g.) plus 1 tsp. honey
2/3 cup (160 ml) warm water
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil, plus more for the bowl
2 large eggs
2 tsp. flaky or coarse seal salt, such as Maldon, or 1½ tsp. table salt
4 cups (500 g.) all-purpose flour

Fig filling:
1 cup (5½ oz. or 155 g.) stemmed and roughly chopped dried figs
1/8 tsp. freshly grated orange zest, or more as needed
½ cup (120 ml) water
¼ cup (60 ml) orange juice
1/8 tsp. sea salt
Few grinds of black pepper

Egg wash:
1 large egg
Coarse or flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

To make dough with a stand mixer:
• Whisk the yeast and honey into the warm water, and let it stand for a few minutes, until foamy. In a large mixer bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the remaining honey, the olive oil and eggs. Add the salt and flour, and mix until the dough begins to hold together. Switch to a dough hook, and run at low speed for 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to an olive-oil-coated bowl (Or rest the dough briefly on the counter and oil your mixer bowl to use for rising, so that you use fewer dishes.), cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.

To make dough by hand:
• Proof the yeast as directed above. Mix the wet ingredients with a whisk, then add the salt and flour. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together. Turn the mixture out onto a floured counter, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until a smooth and elastic dough is formed. Let rise as directed above.

• Meanwhile, make the fig paste. In a small saucepan, combine the figs, zest, water, juice, salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the figs are soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, and let cool to lukewarm. Process the fig mixture in a food processor until it resembles a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Set aside to cool.
• Insert figs. After your dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured counter and divide it in half. Roll the first half of the dough into a wide and totally imperfect rectangle (Really, the shape doesn’t matter.). Spread half the fig filling evenly over the dough, stopping short of the edge. Roll the dough into a long, tight log, trapping the filling within. Then, gently stretch the long as wide as feels comfortable (I take mine to my max counter width, about three feet.) and divide it in half. Repeat with remaining dough and fig filling, creating four ropes.
• Weave your challah. Arrange two ropes in each direction, perpendicular to each other, like a tic-tac-toe board. Weave them so that one side is over, and the other is under, where they meet. So now you’ve got an eight-legged woven-headed octopus. Take the four legs that come from underneath the center, and move them over the leg of their right (like jumping it). Take the legs that were on the right and, again, jump each over the leg before, this time to the left. If you have extra length in your ropes, you can repeat these left-right jumps until you run out of rope. Tuck the corners or odd bumps under the dough with the sides of your hands to form a round.
• Transfer the dough to a parchment-covered heavy baking sheet or, if you’ll be using a bread stone, a baker’s peel. Beat the egg until smooth, and brush over the challah. Let the challah rise for another hour, but 45 minutes into this rise, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
• Before baking, brush the loaf one more time with the egg wash and sprinkle it with flaky or coarse sea salt.
• Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes. It should be beautifully bronzed; if yours starts getting too dark too quickly, cover it with foil for the remainder of the baking time. The very best way to check for doneness is with an instant-read thermometer—the center of the loaf should be 195 degrees.
• Cool the loaf on a rack before serving.

Reprinted with permission from Alfred A. Knopf

Have a story about botching a recipe and then redeeming yourself on your second attempt? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a SIGNED copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Patty, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won her a copy of Small Plates and Sweet Treats: My Family’s Journey to Gluten-Free Cooking. Patty, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew. 

By the Book: Michael Ruhlman’s Mac and Cheese with Soubise

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

“Only by reducing cooking to its core techniques can we begin to understand the infinite nuances that contribute to making something good, and what elevates the good to the great. Cooking can be broken down into these few parts, and doing so is enormously useful no matter what level you cook at – whether you’re a beginning cook or an accomplished one.”

In these two sentences, Michael Ruhlman summarizes the premise of his new cookbook Ruhlman’s Twenty. Ruhlman attended the Culinary Institute of America in order to “write a book about what you need to know to become a chef.” This cookbook lays bare the 20 techniques that he considers essential for operating in today’s kitchen. (Technique No. 1: Thinking.) While some skills – roasting, braising or poaching – are expected, others like egg, butter, sugar and acid are not. Ruhlman explains that while the latter are ingredients, they are also tools, and using tools is technique.

I opted to prepare Ruhlman’s recipe for Mac and Cheese with Soubise because 1) It is still winter coat weather, thus the time for hearty sustenance has not yet ended; 2) I wanted to pit Ruhlman’s version against my current mac-n-cheese fave (Thanks, Joe Bonwich.); and 3) Every home cook needs an onion tutorial every now and then.

Ruhlman devotes an entire chapter to the onion, which he considers to be “the chef’s secret weapon” and a “powerful flavoring device’ that “transforms food in many ways, in nearly every style of cuisine around the globe.” Caramelized onions are what transform the typical mac-n-cheese sauce, béchamel, to a soubise. Ruhlman reminds readers that caramelizing this root vegetable takes times; he also recommends an enameled cast-iron pan because it resists sticking, which leaves the caramelization on the onions instead of the pan.

After adhering to Ruhlman’s instructions on caramelizing onions in the recipe and even in the chapter introduction, the now browned, sweet and savory onions are stirred into the béchamel, which is then puréed. The sauce meets the Gruyere and then gets tossed with al dente pasta, poured into a pan, topped with more cheese and panko, and baked some 40 minutes until the cheese turns golden.

How does this souped-up sauce and its end result rate against my current fave? Soubise supersedes béchamel. But this version was over salted for my palate. I bow down to Ruhlman for prescribing fingered pinches instead of teaspoons of salt (Know thy salt, Ruhlman teaches you in Chapter Two.), so finger down on the salt, axe the fish sauce and this mac-n-cheese just might take top honors.

The takeaway on this book, however, is not whether Ruhlman gets a No. 1 ranking for this particular dish. “If you know these fundamentals, there’s very little you won’t be able to do in the kitchen,” Ruhlman writes in the introduction. Those words – and this book – should be met with open arms by any cook who seeks a personal trainer to help tone and condition her culinary muscles.

Mac and Cheese with Soubise
6 Servings

9 Tbsp. butter, separated
1 medium onion, sliced
Kosher salt
1 shallot, roughly chopped
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1½ cups milk
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. sherry
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 to 2 tsp. dry mustard
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 or 7 gratings fresh nutmeg
¼ tsp. cayenne (optional)
¼ tsp. smoked paprika (optional, substitute cayenne if you wish)
12 oz. macaroni, penne or cellentani
1 lb. Comté, Gruyere, Emmenthaller, cheddar or a combination of these cheeses, grated
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
½ cup panko breadcrumbs

• Make the soubise: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium pan over medium heat and add the onion and a four-fingered pinch of salt. Cook, stirring until the onion is nicely caramelized.
• In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 more tablespoons of butter. Add the shallot and a three-fingered pinch of salt, and cook until some of the water has cooked out of the butter, about 1 minute. Add the flour; stir to mix it with the butter, and cook until the mixture has taken on a toasted aroma, a few minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and stir with a flat-edged wooden spoon or spatula, to make sure the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, until the sauce comes up to a simmer and thickens, a few minutes more.
• Stir in a three-fingered pinch of salt, the white wine vinegar, sherry, fish sauce, dry mustard, black pepper, nutmeg, cayenne and smoked paprika (if using). Add the onion to the sauce and stir until heated through.
• Transfer the sauce to a blender and process until puréed, or purée in the pan with a hand blender. Keep the sauce warm over low heat. You should have 2 cups.
• Cook the pasta al dente, drain, then return it to the pot. Use 1 tablespoon of melted butter to spread on a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or another appropriately sized, ovenproof vessel.
• Sprinkle half of the Comté cheese into the soubise and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and pour over the pasta. Toss the pasta and pour it into the baking dish. Top with the remaining Comté. The pasta can be baked immediately or later in the day, or it can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days before baking.
• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• If using the Parmigiano-Reggiano, toss it with 2 tablespoons of melted butter.
• Sprinkle the pasta with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. In a small bowl, toss the panko with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter and spread this over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes (longer if it has been chilled in the refrigerator). Remove the foil and bake until the cheese is nicely browned, or turn on the broiler/grill and broil/grill until the top is browned, 15 to 20 more minutes.
• Serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books.

What is the cooking technique you most want to master and why? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Ruhlman’s Twenty. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Lizzie, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won her a copy of Rook Cooks. Lizzie, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew. 

By the Book: Lou Rook’s Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels in a Spicy Tomato Vermouth Broth with Grilled Crusted Bread

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

The Chesterfield Valley wasn’t always The Chesterfield Valley. When I was a kid, that area was grassland and soccer fields as far as the eye could see. Oh, and there was The Smokehouse Market. After two or three hours of running after a black-and-white speckled ball (or away from it, in my athletically inept case), my prize for the energy exerted was lunch at The Smokehouse Market. We’d go up to the counter and stand on our tippy toes to order a smattering of house-made items, forming makeshift sandwiches out of fresh cheeses and roasted vegetables on thickly sliced whole-grain bread. Dessert was a chocolate chip cookie from the counter right next to the cash register that my sister and I had to split. When the flood devastated the area in ’93, I worried that my beloved lunchtime market had gone with it. Indeed, it had filled with several feet of water, as had Annie Gunn’s restaurant that sat next to it. But fortunately, Tom Sehnert, who owned both eateries, planned to rebuild.

Enter chef Lou Rook. Together, Rook and Sehnert created a new concept for Annie Gunn’s – one that infused fine-dining reliability with farm-to-table roots. After a series of slow changes to the menu, everything from the meat to the produce to the cheese came from local farms, and the food that Rook created using these ingredients was fantastic. Twenty years later, chef Rook has released his first cookbook, Rook Cooks: Simplicity at Its Finest, filled with many of the mainstay dishes that have made Annie Gunn’s worthy of a trip to Chesterfield for even the most jaded critics of West County.

As we finish up our month of cooking from cookbooks penned by St. Louis culinary stars, I was ecstatic to cook from one of my very favorite chefs in town (Bonus: Chef Rook is an incredibly nice guy.). This recipe for mussels epitomizes what I believe Rook is trying to accomplish with this book: quality yet easy-to-find ingredients that are prepared simply to provide big flavor. (I must note that not all of the recipes in this book do so, such as those which call for making stocks and sauces that, on their own, would take many hours and dollars.) And boy did this one deliver. The 1/3 cup of minced garlic and the full tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes tossed into the broth made for a load of flavor that tickled my taste buds with every bite. While milder palates may prefer to knock the garlic and pepper flakes down a few notches, my heat-loving household happily sopped it up with the grilled bread I served alongside.

For the tomatoes, Rook recommends the only canned tomatoes that you should ever buy: San Marzanos, available at just about any corner grocery. I opted for the white wine I had in the fridge, but if you happen to have vermouth lying around, by all means pop it open for this savory and spicy broth. I do wish Rook was a bit clearer on the rest of the ingredient list, however. After all, what exactly is pure olive oil and did I really need it? A call to Extra Virgin, An Olive Ovation in Clayton quickly answered that question: “Mussels will taste better with extra virgin,” owner Marianne Prey quickly affirmed. And what is clam broth? A little research proved that it’s just the juice that canned clams are packed in. The grilled bread mentioned in the title of Rook’s recipe was left out of the recipe completely, but figuring out how to make it proved easy.

The instructions, however, were fairly spot-on, especially the note on how to de-beard the mussels and smoothing out the sauce with a touch of honey. It worked like a charm. The only tweak I’d recommend: more mussels. With a 28-ounce can of tomatoes and a full 2 cups of clam broth, this broth was begging for more of those meaty little prizes inside the shell. Next time, I’d double the number of mussels and make this a meal for four.

Twenty years after the flood, I’m still a regular at both of Rook’s eateries as they both continue to hold a special place in my heart. On the day my boyfriend and I brought home our first puppy, we sat on the patio at The Smokehouse and ate fresh cheese and roasted vegetable sandwiches. While The Valley may now just, unfortunately, be The Valley, Annie Gunn’s and The Smokehouse Market remain the gems among a breathtakingly large line of chain restaurants. And that makes this cookbook a treasure of its own.

Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels in a Spicy Tomato Vermouth Broth with Grilled Crusted Bread
2 Servings 

24 Prince Edward Island Mussels
¼ cup pure olive oil
1/3 cup minced garlic
1 Tbsp. red peppercorn flakes
1/3 cup dry vermouth or white wine
1 28-oz. can crushed tomato, preferably San Marzano, Muir Glen or your homemade crushed tomatoes
2 cups clam broth (Note: I used the juice from canned clams.)
Italian parsley
Basil (optional)
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. honey (optional)
Kosher salt, to taste
Butter (optional)

• Scrub the outer shells of the mussels and de-beard them. Set the mussels aside.
• Add the pure olive oil to a 4-quart stockpot and begin heating the oil on high heat.
• Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook them to a light toast.
• Deglaze the pot with the vermouth, then add the crushed tomatoes and clam broth. Let the pot simmer for 30 minutes.
• Add the mussels and steam them until they open.
• Lift the mussels out of the sauce with a strainer or slotted spoon and place them onto a platter or into two bowls.
• Finish the sauce with Italian parsley, basil, 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and salt to taste.

• Spoon the sauce over the top of the mussels and garnish to your liking with fresh herbs.


  1. To de-beard mussels, simply use a rag to pull the beards from the mussels while you are washing them. The beard is the part of the mussel that hands outside of the shell.
  2. If the sauce seems a little on the acidic side, smooth it out with honey.
  3. Prince Edward Island is world-renowned for their high-quality mussels with distinctive flavor – they truly do set the standard. The broth can be made in advance and can hold up to a week in the refrigerator.
  4. Butter is always good in anything, so you can add a little to finish the sauce if you would like.

Recommended Beverages:
Light lager, wheat beer, riesling, Gewürztraminer or Missouri Traminette

What’s your favorite memory from The Smokehouse Market or Annie Gunn’s? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Rook Cooks. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Joe, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won him a copy of Stone Soup Cottage: A Vignette of Seasonal Recipes. Joe, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew. 

By the Book: Carl and Nancy McConnell’s Fresh Fennel and Clementine Salad

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Stone Soup Cottage: A Vignette of Seasonal Recipes
is the first cookbook written by Carl and Nancy McConnell of Stone Soup Cottage. Like many cookbooks these days, it’s divided into seasons, but the McConnell’s take their book a step further by splitting each season into three six-course tasting menus.

For example, one menu looks like this:

First Course:
Roasted butternut squash soup with maple and brie cheese croquette

Second Course:
Seared foie gras with cranberry compote, black sesame tuile and autumn greens

Third Course:
Sauteed skate wing with lemon and capers

Fourth Course:
Fried sage and sweet potato tartlet

Fifth Course:
Smoked beef short ribs with anise au jus

Sixth Course:
Petite apple tarte tatin

Sounds good to me.

Then there’s the photography: artful and delicious. Admittedly the photos are shot by Sauce contributing photographer Carmen Troesser … so I guess it’s safe to say we like her work.

While this dish didn’t have a photo to accompany it, I chose to make the Fresh Fennel and Clementine Salad which turned out citrusy and super-clean. The dressing called for orange juice concentrate which I’ve never used in a dressing before, but I will in the future.

On its own, the concentrate is obviously over the top with orange flavor and sugar, but with the addition of shallots, vinegar and water, it completely mellows and has great flavor. This ingredient is definitely one to keep in my back pocket for future use.

I think the recipe was a success, but it lacked a few small details. For example, the recipe says to slice the fennel paper thin but doesn’t offer a suggestion as to how. Mandoline? Food processor? By hand? It also calls for segmented clementines, but I wasn’t sure if the McConnell’s meant to supreme them instead.

Fresh Fennel and Clementine Salad
Serves 4

For the salad:
1 small fennel bulb, peeled and sliced paper thin
2 clementine oranges, segmented
1 handful arugula leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Honey for drizzling

For the vinaigrette:
1 Tbsp. shallots, minced
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• First, make the vinaigrette. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well.
• Dress the fennel and oranges with the vinaigrette.
• Drizzle the arugula greens with honey. Sprinkle the arugula with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the fennel and oranges.

Had a chance to visit Stone Soup Cottage? If you have, what’s the most memorable dish you tried? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Stone Soup Cottage: A Vignette of Seasonal Recipes. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Cherie whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won her a copy of European Tarts: Pastries Like a Pro; Divinely Doable Desserts with Little or No Baking. Cherie, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew. 

By The Book: Helen Fletcher’s S’mores Tart

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

For the second book in our local cookbook series, I baked from Helen Fletcher’s European Tarts: Pastries Like a Pro; Divinely Doable Desserts with Little or No Baking. During an interview with Fletcher, who was featured in February’s Cook’s Books, she impressed me with her kindness and humility; but what really wowed me was her resume. When I was assigned her book, written by a woman who bakes pastries for Tony’s and is basically St. Louis’ version of Julia Child, I figured me and my kitchen were in for some failures.

Boy was I wrong. This recipe for the S’mores Tart literally took me six minutes to make. Granted, I cheated by buying a graham cracker crust (rather than making my own with Fletcher’s recipe), yet, even if I made it, this would still be an easy recipe.

And if it hadn’t been easy (some of her other recipes look more challenging), she includes links to the book’s website for how-to photographs. Not only did Fletcher hold true to her cookbook’s promise that this was a “divinely doable dessert with little or no baking,” the dessert tasted decadent and delicious.

I mean, marshmallows, heavy cream, chocolate and peanuts? This couldn’t have tasted bad.

My only concern? Fletcher claims that the pie serves 10 to 12. Fletcher might want to add a note there – “Pie serves 10 to 12 if you don’t allow yourself to stand in front of your open fridge with a fork in hand in the middle of the night. In that case, pie serves three.” 

S’mores Tart
10 to 12 servings

A true delight for young or old, this is quickly made and quickly eaten! I have been told that s’mores don’t have nuts in them. All I can say is, mine does!

Plain Graham Cracker Crumb Crust (recipe follows)
¾ cup, whole, shelled peanuts (85 g. or 3 oz.)
2 cups mini-marshmallows (85 g. or 3 oz.)
1 cup 40% cream (heavy cream)
12 oz. milk chocolate (340 g.)

• First, make the crust.
• Place the peanuts and marshmallows evenly in the crust. Set aside.
• Bring the cream to a boil, submerge the chocolate, and set aside for 5 minutes.
• Stir to melt the chocolate, whisking to smooth completely. Pour over the peanuts and marshmallows, which will rise to the top. Chill to set. Release.

9-inch Graham Cracker Crumb Crust

½ cup unsifted powdered sugar (55 g. or 2 oz.)
1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs (buy them in crumbs or run the crackers through a food processor) (170 g. or 6 oz.)
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (114 g. or 4 oz.)
½ tsp. vanilla
1 quiche pan

• Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl. Add the crumbs, mixing well. Add the butter and vanilla and toss with a fork until the crumbs are completely coated.
• Spray the bottom of the quiche pan and press 2/3 of the crumbs (200 g. or 7 oz.) evenly over the bottom of the pan. Distribute the crumbs evenly against the sides. Press firmly against the sides.
• Add the remainder (160 g. or 5 2/3 oz.) to the bottom of the pan and press firmly.

What’s your favorite no-bake dessert and why? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a signed copy of European Tarts: Pastries Like a Pro; Divinely Doable Desserts with Little or No Baking. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Jason whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won him a copy of Sanctuaria: The Dive Bar of Cocktail Bars. Jason, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew. 

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