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Showing posts with label food porn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food porn. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lidia's Kansas City - Tiny Tables for Two, Big Flavors for All

I had the privilege recently to dine at Lidia's, which is arguably THE nice place to go in town, next to The American. Located in the Midtown/Crossroads area of Kansas City, it's nestled near other great places such as Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop(a new-er kid on the block, in comparison) and Grunauer. This place is a very upscale Italian-style restaurant that does not disappoint. The parking is fairly expansive for the area, and you get a great view of the bridges and the skyscrapers all lit up if you get out of the car just at twilight.

Walking in, the hostess stand is immediately to your right, across from a rack of coats which, I can only assume, belong to the other patrons. To tell you the truth, the idea of checking your coat literally next to the door with no employee directly next to it was a little unnerving, so I opted to keep mine. (Plus I get cold easily.)

We were seated within five minutes of arrival by a gorgeous Black hostess who, I must say, had the most beautiful head of hair I've ever seen. Her perfect red lipstick almost matched the decor. She sat us at a table that was easily the tiniest I've ever seen meant for two people and began to explain the wine choices for the evening. She stopped mid-sentence, though, to ask if we were over 21. I, a healthy 26, and my date, a robust 28, exchanged quizzical looks and promptly laughed as we nodded. "You two do not look over 21!" she exclaimed with a smile.

"Seriously? Look at his beard," I said. B laughed, she laughed, we all laughed.

The bread sticks, foccacia and compound butters and water were quickly brought to the table by our server, who was very well-versed at his job. The butters were vibrant hues of green and purple(one herb and one kalamata olive, if I had to guess) and both were and tasty. The bread wasn't my favorite, to be honest, but the fact that they make it in-house should be commended.

B was feeling a bit adventurous, and I know his appetite is always huge, so we went for a caesar salad and the antipasti plate to start with. The cheeses were served at near-room temperature, for which I was unbelievably thankful. We as Americans know nothing of eating cheese properly! Cheeses should always-always-always be served at room temperature! It's the only way to really appreciate the cheese's flavors and aromas properly. But, anyway, there were olives, salumi, pepperoni...all things that were good. There was this fantastic goat cheese, too, that I just loved. There was even vitello tonnato, an olive oil poached tuna that's left to sort of confit for awhile in that fabulous, flavorful fat. It was a little funky for B, so I happily polished it off. Thumbs up on the antipasti and it is definitely big enough to share! I don't know if B necessarily cared for his caesar, though; he made a comment about how he'd never had a caesar without the 'creamy thick dressing' before; this was more of a transparent-ish-vinaigrette style. It was good, but I can see what he meant. My darling Midwestern man...

See that? That's a big food coma, waiting to happen.
For dinner, he had the osso bucco, which was a dish he'd never had before. The meat was fall-off-the-bone, cut-with-a-fork tender and oh-so-flavorful I wanted to just crawl inside that shank bone and just make a house out of it. Perfectly done, if I do say so myself.

I saw that they had stuffed quail and just couldn't resist. Quail is fantastic little bird and is fucking delicious. I honestly have no idea for the life of me why it's not more of a thing in the US. The very classical Mexican/Spanish dish of Quails with Rose Petal sauce is divine, and you should try it if you ever get the chance. The mushroom-stuffed quail was pretty damn divine, too. The dish is just two perfect little quails, stuffed to the gourds with mushrooms, and served on a bed of roasted butternut squash and winter greens. The mushrooms were roasted well, as was the butternut squash. I loved the braised bed of greens that it was resting on, too. I really am a huge fan of dark, bitter greens, like kale or mustard greens, with game birds. I must say that my desire to be attractive and dainty miraculously kept me from sucking the meat off of those tiny little quail thighs in front of my date, so I made small talk and scraped it all off with a knife and fork like a lady.

It comes with two quails, forever entangled in a tango of flavor...
We were too full for dessert. I'm afraid we'll have to go back for it.

The service at Lidia's was excellent. We never saw the bottoms of our water glasses once; not even close. In fact, there was a point where I would take about three sips and a bus boy would come running with a pitcher of ice water. Our server was also cordial, professional, fastidiously groomed, and very knowledgeable about the menu.

The decor and atmosphere was great. Above us were these fantastic chandaliers of blown glass orbs all woven into, what appeared to be, some kind of industrial chicken wire.The lighting was warm and the colors were welcoming and friendly without being kitsch. In fact, it was very upscale, in my opinion. My only grievance was that the tables were tiny. Like, oh my god, so tiny.

Lidia's Kansas City on Urbanspoon
I understand that you need small tables to fit X amount into a restaurant, but B and I are long, leggy people that were a bit awkwardly cramped while people of a much more rotund nature walked by through the narrow aisles between the other tiny tables. Also, I felt a little low to the ground...but maybe that was because I'm so tall.

All in all, I give Lidia's Kansas City a thumbs up. Great service, expertly prepared food from a chef who clearly knows what he's doing, and a well-versed staff all make for a great meal. The Chef has been there for many years, now, and has clearly gotten his game down pat. I highly recommend Lidia's for a date night. It's romantic, intimate...and the food is to die for. But maybe skip the appetizers and save room for dessert, which is what I plan to do next time.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bitterness in Varying Degrees(Chocolate)

Chocolate tart, praline cremeaux, blanc mange, chocolate biscuit...just lots
of different things. It tasted amazing. 
Many people, too many people, think that chocolate is sweet. It's not. Chocolate is bitter. Cocoa is bitter. It is bitterness, in varying degrees, which makes chocolate unique. It's by far the most luxurious ingredient there is. Fuck truffle oil. Forget gold leaf. It's chocolate. Nothing evokes luxury and romance like chocolate. Nothing evokes depth like chocolate. Nothing. It stands alone.

If someone says they don't like chocolate, I immediately distrust them. My CDC(Chef de Cuisine) said once he's not a chocolate fan. I'm slightly uneasy leaving him in charge of my dessert things while I run to Restaurant Depot, because he told me that once over a year ago. I don't think I'll ever trust him truly, but he is a very good chef and has made some of the best soups I've ever had in my life. I mean, he's like the soup guy. But I still will never fully, truly, wholly trust him. I mean, not liking chocolate seems just fundamentally wrong. It would be one thing if he were allergic to it, but he's not.

Spiced walnut & chocolate verrine w/ cherry
Yesterday, I had the good fortune to attend a Chocolate Workship/Pastry Demo at Johnson County Community College, hosted by Barry Cacao/Callebaut Chocolate with the recipes/works of Chef Rocco Lugrine. He said fall was his favorite season(mine too), so he came up with all of these wonderful chocolate desserts that featured praline and pecans and walnuts and coffee and fruit...all of these gorgeous things. "And, and, and..."I wasn't very smart in my planning in going; I didn't eat breakfast so by the time I got to work I had eaten so much chocolate I couldn't stand without shaking. I clocked in and immediately made myself the saltiest pizza I could so I could hoark it down and be stable enough to work my shift without going into some sort of diabetic coma. I swear, I wasn't anywhere near the possibility of becoming diabetic before my career switch to Pastry Chef...but I think I'll get there by age 30.

Impending Diabetes aside, I love chocolate. And I love being a Pastry Chef. It's made me explore deeper parts of my psyche, and kind of helped me deal with a lot of stuff that I didn't know I could deal with on my own. I'm not saying that this can work for everyone, but cooking is and always has been very theraputic to me. I find comfort in cooking because I know the rules. I find comfort in knowing what happens when you add X to Y at temperature Z. Things like these are constants in my life when nothing else is.

I will never love any person as much as I love this dog. Just accept
that and be offended on your own time. Howl and I will be
chilling, enjoying each other's company. 
I also find comfort in my dog, Howl. He's a charming creature, magnificent in his derpiness, and a big pile of shedding love. I find it comforting that he will never care what I do for a living or how much money I make or if I snore or whatever. Dogs don't care if you're dumb or wise or funny or skinny or fat. Dogs love on a level which we are, I truly believe, incapable of. I see pictures of animal abuse or hear stories of it and I feel sick. A few people get slaughtered, I feel sad. An animal dies in a movie, I'm inconsolable. But when a human dies I kind of feel like... "Eh, that sucks, but they were probably an asshole at some point." Oh my God, how sick is that?

Love will come and go. Relationships come and go. I've learned to not make plans, since it seems like every time I do, something comes up. I've learned that the language of my life is one of fluidity, so it's best to just strap in and go with the flow. But life has also taught me that with sweet, comes bitter. Sometimes I fear that there is so much bitterness built up within me that none of the sweet will ever do any good. Am I palatable? Will I ever truly be? Why do I care so much?

Everybody wants to be loved. Is that so wrong? I am loved by my family and my friends and, of course, my dog. I feel love in the way the world works. I sometimes feel that I'm fooling myself when it comes to love. But I am coming to realize that it's because of my past. I'm letting my past hurt my future with my fear, my scars, my bitterness. This is something I've seen ruin every other love around me, and I had always vowed to myself I would never allow to happen to me. But I find that I'm making a conscious effort to not let my past bitterness destroy my present sweet.

Chocolate mousse, pecan caramel, short crust, etc...
I realize that this blog is turning into some weird, sappy, emo kid bullshit rant, so I'll sprinkle in a few pictures of the stuff we learned how to make at the workshop here and there. The things we learned about were so gorgeous, so perfectly executed. I learned that I need to use my immersion blender more, as it is, apparently, the Pastry Chef's greatest ally, aside from the knife and scale. I actually started using it for my chocolate stuff tonight at work and found it to be an amazing tool that I have seriously under-utilized. Maybe I'll post a blog about that in the morning.

But it's late, now, and I feel happy and hopeful and yet afraid. I wonder if this is how it's supposed to feel when you're my age? I wonder if there is any real such thing as "supposed to" at this point. I think we are coming to the realization as a collective mind that "supposed to" is a subject that is incredibly open to interpretation. God, I'm sleepy...


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cannolis

Cannoli are Italian pastry desserts. The singular is cannolo (or in the Sicilian language cannolu, plural cannola), meaning "little tube", with the etymology stemming from the Latin "canna", or reed. Cannoli originated in Sicily and are a staple of Sicilian cuisine.[1] They are also popular in Italian American cuisine. In Italy, they are commonly known as "cannoli siciliani", Sicilian cannoli. [wikipedia]

I would be lying if I said that I loved cannolis. Mostly because I'd never really had them until recently. A coworker of mine was getting married, and we - of course - hosted their wedding party rehearsal dinner. I didn't make their wedding cake because their mother wanted to, but I did get to fill up their tasty request for dessert on the night of their shower: cannoli. And by fill, I just mean piped filling into little premade shells.

WHOA WHOA, KOLIKA!! PRE-MADE SHELLS?!?!?! BLASPHEMY!

Hey, slow down, homie. There's something to be said for convenience, and it costs exponentially less to buy these little shells versus taking the time to make them, including special equipment. If you want to make them yourselves, by all means: here's a link to do so, courtesy of Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. But I didn't, because I had never eaten one before and had never made them before. I didn't want to screw it up. Again, not a classically trained pastry chef over here. Just a savory-learned girl with a knack for sugar.
OMG "Crispeamy" isn't a word, Mom...

Anyway, the filling is traditionally a ricotta/marscarpone mousse-like kind of tastiness with a hint of anise/allspice going on, as well as folded-in chocolate chips. I ate one of them when I filled them up, and it was nice. It kind of reminded me of an Italian version of a French eclair. Nice! So they were easy to do. But I only filled about 30 of them at a time, since I didn't know how long the party was going to go on and I knew a cardinal rule of the cannoli: fill to order, if you can at all help it. Pastries like these are wonderful, but only if you have that fabulous contrast of texture: crisp and creamy. Crispeamy.

Fast-forward to present day, I looked in the freezer and realized: "Oh, dear! I've bought far too many cannoli shells! They're just sitting there! Not being eaten!"

Well, we can't let food go to waste, can we? There are children starving in Africa. Totally insulting to waste food. And I can't send cannoli shells to Africa. (Or maybe I can? I haven't looked into it.) So I made my own version of the cannoli filling and sold it as a dessert special that night. It usually calls for ricotta, but I prefer marscarpone's mild flavor and creamy texture. It turned out great. Here's how you can make it at home!

Cannolis

  • Cannoli shells A/N
  • 8 oz marscarpone 
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 c powdered sugar/confectioner's sugar
  • 1 pt heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Heavy pinch of kosher salt
  • Semisweet chocolate chips A/N(I used about 3/4 of a cup, but you can do whatever)
  • **Chopped toasted nuts, such as pistachio or hazelnut
Start with your marscarpone, which is chilled. You can either put it in the bowl of a standing mixer(which I did not) or just mix it by hand with a wooden/exoglass spoon(which I did). Mix with the vanilla, egg yolk(don't freak out, this is safe, it's pasteurized, and you're using sugar), half the sugar, and salt. Just stir to combine. Whip the remaining sugar with the cream using a standing mixer or just by hand with a whisk. All up to you. 

Fold this mixture together in thirds. As in, take a third of the whipped cream and stir it into the marscarpone mixture to lighten it up, then the other third gently, and the last third gently. Folding is an easy pastry technique, but words are hard so here's a picture:



And here's the link to the tutorial in case that's too vague: Joy of Cooking.

Once your mousse is all folded together, you can fold in your chocolate chips, and toasted nuts(if you want). I left the nuts out because of nut allergy possibilities, but you can add whatever you like. Pipe the filling in using a pastry bag with a plain tip...or just a plastic/disposable pastry bag with the end snipped off...or just a plastic bag with the corner cut off. Do whatever. Fancy pastries don't have to have fancy equipment all the time. I also garnished with a fresh fruit salad of berries and orange supremes, and powdered sugar. You can top with whatever you want, if you want to top it with anything. I think these guys are pretty fun just plain on their own, but, again, it's your cannoli. Just don't fill it until you know they're going to be eaten. It takes about 10-15 minutes for these little dudes to go completely soggy and gross(factoring in a high humidity in my area), so fill to order if you can at all help it. 


Happy filling and happy eating, guys!

Also, I now have an Official Fan Page for my blog at Facebook.com/WannaBGourmande, so please visit and "Like" and share it! Thanks so much for your support. It really does mean a lot!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pound cake French Toast



Leftover pound cake?

Soak 2 slices in 1 cup milk, 1 large egg, 1/2 tsp almond extract and 3 Tbsp sugar for 10 minutes to create the best French Toast ever.

Fry in butter. Slather with syrup or jam.

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Brownie Sundae



Chocolate chip brownie, vanilla ice cream, chocolate and salted caramel sauces, whipped cream, and chopped pistachios.

Because I'm an adult and it's my turn to decide what that means.

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pancho's Villa(dos)

I would have written "part deux," but we're a Mexican/Latino restaurant. It wouldn't have been right.

Anyway, things at work are going well. We're slowly expanding, but still not nearly enough people know about us. Today was Super Bowl Sunday and I knew we were going to be slower than usual - just like most of Parkville seemed to be - so not only did we clean-clean-clean...but I had some fun with our FOH manager taking fun pictures of our delicious food, and I even got to have some fun along the way with it. Here we go!

Enchalupa. Nomz,
This little item was my lunch today. For those of you following me on Tumblr have seen this before, I made it again - and it was DELICIOUS!

Sadly, this isn't on the menu(yet), as I've only recently invented it...but I hope to make it a lunch special sometime in the near future. It's something I call an "enchalupa." It's a flour tortilla deep-fried with the chalupa 'mold' so it forms a cruncy-fried bowl. Layer a touch of our queso dip, chicken, tomatoes, onion and enchilada sauce. Top with shredded cheese and pop it under the salamander til everything is melty and delicious. I like it with sour cream and cilantro on top. Serve this with beans and rice, and BAM! Instant lunch for the Chef.

Isa's pork taco lunch
This next item is the pork tacos. We have three types of meat at all times at the restaurant, which are chicken, pork and beef. They come in the form of chili colorado(red chili, beef), chile verde(green chile, pork) and our boiled chicken in broth.

The favorite of the FOH staff seems to be the pork, or chile verde. Our two FOH managers both absolutely love pork tacos, and usually put that in as their lunch orders. Isa was nice enough to let me take a picture or two of her pork tacos right after I made them for her lunch. She's very nice to me.


Sopapilla con hiel

This is a sopapilla. It's a beautiful dessert of deep-fried tortilla strips tossed in cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg, and served with ice cream. Being a Kansas City restaurant, of course we support Belfonte, which is a local company that makes premium dairy products for the public. I absolutely love their vanilla ice cream, which is both rich and light, while being super indulgent. Top it all off with honey, and you have our favorite dessert at Pancho's Villa. Also, here are a couple of pictures I took this morning of downtown Parkville. Enjoy!

100 S Main Street - that's us!

Sitting on a bench, looking out!

From the porch

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bouche de Noel

So thanks to my dear friend Sellina, I have pictures of her final from Capstone, a culmination class of our Senior year in school at the Art Institutes International - KCMO. She made a wonderful French pastry, the Bouche de Noel. She also made this beautiful thing I don't remember the name of...but it was beautiful. Here's a few pictures!

Aaaaand how pretty is this?
For those of you who don't know, a Bouche de Noel is a really fun cake that's traditional around the holidays. You can find a good recipe in just about any Bon Appetit nowadays, but I like to stick to Food Network. Here's the recipe that they had:


Ingredients

Coffee Buttercream:

Marzipan:

For Finishing:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Red and green liquid food coloring
  • Confectioners' sugar

Directions

To make the buttercream: Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.
Turn the genoise layer over and peel away the paper. Invert onto a fresh piece of paper. Spread the layer with half the buttercream. Use the paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder Transfer to baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until set. Reserve the remaining buttercream for the outside of the buche.
To make the marzipan: Combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of the electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until the sugar is almost absorbed. Add the remaining 1 cup sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary; the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly. Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
To make marzipan mushrooms: Roll 1/3 of the marzipan into a 6-inch long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths. Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms. Smudge with cocoa powder. To make holly leaves: Knead green color into 1/2 the remaining marzipan and roll it into a long cylinder. Flatten with the back of a spoon, then loosen it from the surface with a spatula. Cut into diamonds to make leaves, or use a cutter.
To make holly berries: Knead red color into a tiny piece of marzipan. Roll into tiny balls.
To make pine cones, knead cocoa powder into the remaining marzipan. Divide in half and form into 2 cone shapes. Slash the sides of cones with the points of a pair of scissors.
Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position the larger cut piece on the buche about 2/3 across the top. Cover the buche with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark. Transfer the buche to a platter and decorate with the marzipan. Sprinkle the platter and buche sparingly with confectioners' sugar "snow."
Storage: Keep at cool room temperature. Cover leftovers loosely and keep at room temperature.

Chocolate Genoise Sheet:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa
  • Special equipment: 10 by 15-inch jelly-roll pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment
Set rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees (test with your finger). Attach the bowl to the mixer and with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume.

While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour, cornstarch, and cocoa.
Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until well risen, deep and firm to the touch. (Make sure the cake doesn't overbake and become too dry, or it will be hard to roll.)

Use a small paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a rack and let the cake cool right side up on the paper. Remove the paper when the cake is cool.
Storage: Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several days, or double-wrap and freeze for up to a month.
Yield: 1 (10 by 15-inch) sheet cake

And just because, here's the picture of the other tasty pastries that Sellina had. Maybe if she likes my blog enough, she'll be kind enough to share HER recipe with us?

  Now how beautiful is THAT? They look way too pretty to eat, right?

Don't worry, though. I totally did. I thought my eye was going to get poked out, but then I remembered I'm a pan-face(laughing at yourself is healthy) and don't really have that danger.

The spun sugar was so delicate - it tasted like what I imagined gold to taste like. It was obviously a wonderful "meal". So glad I could capture her talent!

 
Also, I went to the Rieger Grill and Exchange last night with my Garde Manger class for a field trip, so look for that blog/review soon. I will also be doing a review on the Grunauer here in KC very soon. And if you're not doing it already, follow me at Twitter.com/WannaBGourmande, or on my Tumblr account for fun photos of food at any time. 

And just for kicks, here's a picture of all the people enjoying Sellina's treats.

I think it's weird when people look at the camera on "candid" shots

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes - Part 3, Turkey

The turkey.
The big bird.
The big cheese, so to speak.
(Although, ironically, there was little to no cheese at the first Thanksgiving but the star was venison, not turkey.)

There are many, many ways to prepare this superstar player in the Thanksgiving game, and we're going to explore several of them. Here at the Wannabe Gourmande's house, we like options. But first, let's look at a few fun and simple facts about the domesticated turkey:

Domesticated turkeys are too big and fat to fly, whereas wild turkeys can fly for short distances.

Mature turkeys have about 3,500 feathers; the Apache Indians considered them to be a timid bird, so they would never eat them or use their feathers for arrows.

Benjamin Franklin thought that the turkey was so American that it should be the national bird to signify America, instead of the eagle.

Okay, now that that's over, let's look at the anatomy of the domesticated turkey.

The breasts of the turkey are way too big for flight or any practical usage for any animal that would exist in the wild. Fortunately for us, this means big white breast meat that's lean and easy to cut for leftovers. I think that's why people like white meat. Just easy to cut. I personally prefer dark meat(the legs, thighs, etc.). This is great for us, but when roasting for long periods in the oven. It's too high on the bird to stay moist while all the rest of the bird is cooking, so when oven-roasting, the solution is simple: brine that bitch.

A brine is a solution of salt, sugar, and spices that's been boiled and cooled. It's like a marinade only totally better. Alton Brown on the "Romancing the Bird" episode explains it best, but for the purposes of saving you the trouble of hitting ctrl+T and YouTubing it, allow me to explain:

The bird is sitting in a salty solution of flavorings. Salt draws out moisture first, but that's only the first part. The moisture level inside the bird is now even with the water outside, and water is doing osmosis back and forth between the turkey and the water, carrying the salt and flavorings in between. the salt and flavor, however, gets trapped inside the bird along with all this excess moisture. So now after a good long soak(overnight is best), the breast of the turkey(as well as all the other yummy parts) will stay fabulously moist.

Going back to my notes from school, there are actually ten different cooking methods, broken down into three categories: Dry, Moist, and Combination.

Dry
Braised turkey legs are nice
  1. Saute
  2. Deep-fry(there's no water involved, so technically this is a dry method...trust me, I asked myself in class.)
  3. Grill
  4. Roast
Moist
  1. Boil
  2. Parboil
  3. Blanch
  4. Steam
Combination
  1. Braise
  2. Stew
The turkey is a big, massive thing that can be(technically) cooked in all these ways, but for a moist bird you want to carve at the table, you'll probably want to stick with roasting or deep-frying.

I never deep fry turkeys because I'm a big fat pair of testicles when it comes to that and I'm constantly afraid that this will happen, but here's some tips I learned from my friend Don(a guy I know from school):

  • Regulate the temperature and check it often so the oil doesn't boil over and catch fire
  • Thaw the bird completely and thoroughly(otherwise it will probably explode)
  • Pat the outside and inside of the bird dry thoroughly before immersing in the hot oil
Teaching geeks to cook since 1999
So I'm sorry to tell you that low and slow is not the way to go. It's best to start off with a high temperature to brown the skin(around 400) for about an hour and then cover(either with a shield of aluminum foil molded to the turkey breast or the cover for your turkey pan) and cook on a lower temperature(about 350 to 325) until the turkey is done. You're looking for about 170 degrees when stuck into the deepest part of the bird. Alton Brown has some great tips on it, and you can actually watch many of his episodes of Good Eats on YouTube.

But let me say that you should probably leave the stuffing out of the picture. No, seriously. I know I'm probably going to offend some people by saying not to actually STUFF the bird, but not only does it rob the bird of moisture, but it adds mass and cooking time and soaks up juices for Salmonella to develop. So just do dressing and use the cavity to introduce some new flavor.

Traditional aromatics are called mirepoix, which is a 2:1:1 ratio of onion, carrot and celery. You don't have to cut them up nice and pretty, just break them up to be small enough to stuff in the turkey. (I would grill the onion a little bit to bring out some flavor, but whatever.) The turkey's cavity brings out a great deal of possibilities. Some ideas are:
  • Apple halves
  • Orange/citrus peel
  • Celery stalks
  • Grilled peeled carrots
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Sage leaves
  • Rosemary sprigs
  • Thyme sprigs
  • Tarragon sprigs
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Garlic cloves
  • Onion halves
I am totally hot and lightly seasoned for you
Another option of introducing flavors is rubs. Many rubs can be found nowadays for great prices in your local supermarket premixed. You can also be creative and make your own. Just do me a favor and keep the salt content on your rubs LOW. You want to do this because a.) the brine will already season your bird, and b.) salt draws OUT moisture onto the skin and therefore will prevent proper browning for your turkey in the oven.

Also, don't baste. Unless you're the Olympic Gold Medalist in basting speed, the constant opening and closing of the oven doors, changing of pressure and temperature will just ultimately harm your bird and keep it from cooking properly for a very long time. So just save yourself the trouble and leave it alone and let it get all hot and sexy on its own. This guy has the right idea.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes - Part 2, Cornbread

Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without side dishes or salads or soups(maybe?), but there is a staple that is such a...well, staple that it's often included without even needing mention. I speak, of course, of rolls. Either soft yeast dinner rolls or cornbread skillets, a table isn't complete without bread.

"Challah" atch'yo girl!
I mean, seriously. In the food world, bread is amazing. Everybody loves it, and it costs - like - not even a dollar to make a few loaves. The world has been shaped and even some cultures are undeniably recognized by their breads. The French have the baguette, the Jews have Challah, the British have scones, and we have...Wonder! Yay!

My point is that we can't have Thanksgiving without bread of some kind, and in Culinary school I have cooked a lot of bread. Not to my chagrin, mind you! I love bread - and I love it even more when any skinny/fat girl says "Eeew bread is so bad for you!"

Bitch, please. If this stuff was really that bad for me, I'd be dead in a ditch somewhere. I love bread so much more violently out of my hatred for those girls.

(By the way, for those who don't know, I define a Skinny/Fat girl as a girl that doesn't want to lose weight in a normal healthy way such as eating right and exercising over an extended period. No, this is the person that takes drops under the tongue and eats a 500 calorie-a-day diet to lose 30 lbs in 30 days - which just seems FREAKISHLY unhealthy to me. I also define that bitch as the 20-lb-dripping-wet-ho that says "Oh no Tiffany, you're not fat - I'm fat!" THOSE are skinny/fat girls. I'll probably reference those more in my blogs in the future. Anyway.)

They're so shiny with butter! They almost look plastic!
But, no, I love bread. All kinds. This particular bread dish I would like to share with you is the twist on a classic: Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins! It screams cornbread classico, but with a bit of a twist. This recipe is straight out of my notebook from Culinary school, and the best part is that it's only a tad spicy, for those sensitive folks out there.

Of course, feel free to take this cornbread muffin recipe and make it your own. The beautiful part of this recipe is that you can pretty much add anything, with a few minor adjustments here and there, which we will discuss later. But you can add any little ingredient to this recipe and make it your own - and let it become your new Thanksgiving Tradition for your family to enjoy through generations. And don't worry, nobody has to know that you got the recipe from a 23-year-old girl with chipping toenail polish.

Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins
Muffin Method

  • 12 oz cornmeal
  • 12 oz pastry/A.P. flour(mixed if possible)
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 24 fl. oz buttermilk
  • 6 eggs
  • 8 fl. oz oil
  • 6 oz corn kernels
  • 6 oz grated cheese(we used cheddar/pepperjack)
  • 4 oz jalapenos, brunoise
(Please measure via weight using a scale. It will work out SO MUCH BETTER.) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare your muffin tins by greasing the cups or by lining them with paper liners. Seed and finely dice the jalapenos, and set aside. If buttermilk is not readily available, you can easily create it by combining the necessary amount of milk with a few teaspoons of rice wine vinegar(my personal favorite) and letting it sit for at least 15 minutes at room temperature on the counter.

Don't ask me who's in the background. I forgot.
Combine all dry ingredients together in a large bowl, ideally via sifting. Whisk together the buttermilk, cheese, eggs and oil. Keep the corn kernels and jalapenos to the side, as they will be mixed in last. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients.

Stir a maximum of 12 times, scraping the bottom of the bowl. You don't want to get rid of lumps. You only want to combine the ingredients - they don't call muffins 'quickbreads' for no reason! Fold in the corn kernels and jalapenos right at the very end, mixing a minimal amount of times.

Portion the batter into the prepared amount of tins as quickly as you can. Time is important, because baking soda and baking powder are time-sensitive, and the longer you wait, the less fluffy-muffiny-goodness you have. Therein, make sure that EVERYTHING is ready, because you don't want your batter sitting and going flat while you prepare your muffin tins. So do be deliberate. An ice cream scoop is ideal for portioning quickly, but two large spoons will do just fine in a pinch.

Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes then lower the oven to 350 until done, about another five minutes, if that. You basically just want to watch until they are GBD, or "golden-brown delicious" around the edges. Test with a toothpick, but be brief when you do. Every time you open your oven, you lower the temperature and change the pressure of the baking conditions, which can harm your final product, and that's not what we want.

Once removed from the oven, make sure to let them rest in the pan for at least 10 minutes before overturning them. After that little period of rest, you can take them out of their tins and let them hang out on the counter, ideally on a cooling rack. I understand that not everybody has them, but they're not even ten bucks at a local Walmart, and really worth the investment for superior baked goods - or at least baked goods that can cool faster and go in your mouth sooner.
Ignore the red stuff. Or not.

Serve these warm with a compound butter of your choice. These are seriously awesome.

For those of you who don't already know, a compound butter is just butter that's been whipped together with flavorings such as lemon juice, minced garlic, herbs and spices, or other tasty things to make everything seem a tad more special. My personal favorite is honey butter, which is so easy and so tasty that you'll want to keep a batch or two on hand in your fridge for bagels and toast. Also, most compound butters freeze perfectly, so they can be made in advance in blocks. For an extra kick, pipe them on a plate with a star tip to get that "Wow" factor.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes - Part 1, Succotash

So my glorious editor at the illustrious StyleCoven.com Facebooked me the other night asking me if I knew of any delicious recipes for Thanksgiving. "Of course!" I said with a little laugh. "What did you have in mind. And by when do you need it?"

With the wonderful and fabulous 'cackle' that belongs only to Marie, she said "Blow me away with your genius."

That was pretty much it and the end of our conversation. Marie and I first met in Los Angeles several years ago at a Coven meeting celebrating Mabon in North Hollywood. I was buying a black dress for the ritual and she came right over to me, all 5' 2" of her, and pushed my bosoms up saying "Oh, good, darling! Now we need some fishing line to perk these girls up, and wear combat boots with it." Being a wide-eyed and aspiring fashion designer at the time, I immediately fell in love with her. But enough about that.

Thanksgiving began circa 1621 when the Plymouth colonists shared their autumn harvest meal with the local Native Americans, the most-famous of which is probably Squanto. He was the one to teach those stuffy Brits how to live off the land, harvest and plant, catch fish and what have you. Truthfully, the first Thanksgiving feast did have turkey, and more wild game birds such as duck and goose.

However, if you want to talk about authenticity, the big hit at the first Thanksgiving was venison! Not that there wasn't a lot of food, mind you. They had all sorts of things like pumpkins, eel, lobster, oysters, cod, bass, gooseberries, cranberries(but not cranberry sauce because they didn't have sugar), and lots more! They also didn't have stuffing, but they did use dried corn that was made into cornmeal and succotash, which is a kind of  thick soup that they ate all winter. Succotash itself is kind of a staple of New England cuisine, nowadays.  So why not use it as a new staple in your Thanksgiving feast? Not only is it rich in veggies, but it is oh-so-rustic-chic.

Many succotash recipes vary nowadays, but they will always contain corn and some kind of beans, usually Lima beans. I got this recipe from Martha Stewart, the ultimate Domestic Diva.

I told you it could be chic

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, seeded, deveined, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 medium zucchini, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 ten-ounce packages frozen lima beans, rinsed under warm running water and drained
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (4 ears)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon picked fresh thyme leaves

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion; cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add bell peppers, zucchini, lima beans, and corn. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in herbs, and serve.

Succotash is perfect for an appetizer or side dish. And the best part about it is that you don't have to wait til Thanksgiving to have it. This glorious dish can be made all winter, and is just perfect.