Archive for April, 2009
I’m a bipolar cook. When I’m putting something together in the kitchen I either want it to be something that’s is really challenging and involves multiple steps and stages or I want something earth shatteringly easy and beautifully simplistic. Now I say easy, but not Rachel Dogfood Ray easy. I mean learning how to cook things efficiently and perfectly easily. Eggs, pasta dough, soup, these are all things that tend to be pretty easy and really difficult at the same time. For me, the omelet has always been a sticking point. Sure I could bust out a pan of properly cooked eggs and drop in a few ingredients, fold the eggs over and serve. Problem was, the bottom would always be overcooked and leathery, or the insides wouldn’t be cooked enough, or the whole thing would taste like styrofoam. Any number of issues would arise to make a intuitively simple breakfast into a god damn lackluster meal.
So deciding that I had had enough of trying to figure out this egg dish on my own, I turned to who everyone should turn to when they can’t figure something out in the kitchen, Ms. Childs. Within a minute of opening Julia Childs’ The Way to Cook I found the technique for 20 second omelets. Brilliant. About 5 minutes after reading the method I was on my way to pick up fresh eggs despite the fact it was almost 10:00 at night.
Ok, let’s clarify that title. A French chef, makes a Chinese dish that is similar to Italian cuisine. This is a recipe I had to try after picking up a copy of God’s Jacques Pepin’s Fast Food My Way. The dish is actually called pillows of scallop and shrimp mousse, or a bit more accurately, scallop and shrimp stuffed Chinese pot stickers. Thinking this was something like a dumping, and loving the concept of a scallop/shrimp mousse, I busted the dish out for a few friends. Another aspect I really liked, was that you can pretty much use your wrappers to form any shape you want. Folding over like triangles or wrapping into actual wontons should work just as well. Like most new recipes out of a new cookbook, there were a few ups and downs, but the final product was solid and fresh and delicious.
The prep work for this one is pretty easy. You do need a food processor of some sort though, even a tiny, $10 will do, otherwise you have to mince the scallops very finely and be sure to defrost your shrimp if frozen. Also you need to get your hands on some wonton wrappers. I’d also recommend using them a few at a time since they tend to dry out so keep them in the bag till you’re ready to use them. The only tricky part is the pan searing/steaming process, but we’ll get to that in a bit. I would also definitely not skip out on adding a splash balsamic vinegar which pairs with the soft/crispy pot stickers perfectly.
Oh my fucking God. Just look at it! The glorious, glorious chasm that is the crack in a freshly baked loaf of bread. Can you hear the crackling!? That snap crackle and pop sound that is a deflating load of bread? Ahhhh.. Hallelujah.
So I’m not much of a baker. There’s something about the science of measuring every goddamn ingredient perfectly, slowly but surely mixing and mixing and waiting that drives me mad. But my buddy Robin, being the exceptional world traveler he is, has taken the art of bread making to heart, even making a point to bake his own sandwich bread every couple of weeks. Maybe it was growing up in San Francisco and one of the more progressive food movements in the country. Maybe it was his years of grad school in Paris surrounded by some of the best bakeries in the world. Or maybe it’s just that he loves the systematic, slow process of baking, but Robin knows his bread.
That being said, when the subject peaked my interest, Robin was the guy to talk to. He gave me some insight on a recipe he came across that even a baking hater like myself couldn’t fuck up. I wasn’t around for the first 18 hours of mixing and rising, but the no knead bread recipe Robin found made a lot of sense to me.
Ok, you’ve made your gnocchi now you need something to complement your fresh potato dumplings. If you have the right tools and a few key ingredients, a pesto is brilliantly quick and pretty versatile as far as what it can complement when you get it right. My favorite thing about pesto is there aren’t really and rules. You need a herb, some nuts and some oil. The rest is really up to you. Basil is the most popular, as are walnuts and pine nuts, basic ingredients. And to me, the dish isn’t complete without chopped, roasted garlic. Toss it with pasta, gnocchi, or use it as a spread to slather on a sandwich or in a salad.
Also, you don’t need a food processor to make pesto. It’s great if you have one handy, but a mortar and pestle work great as well. If nothing else, chopping and mashing the ingredients together with a knife and spoon can get the job done. Just follow the steps accordingly and put some elbow grease in there (not literally, that’s gross.. what’s wrong with you?).
Gnocchi is one of those great ingredients that you make yourself a few times and you’ll never go back to the store bought stuff. In fact the store bought stuff is fucking gross. It says chewy and never cooks properly like the cookbooks will tell you. Aside from using in a casserole I wouldn’t mess with the prepackaged stuff at all. The homemade variety, especially when fresh, is beautifully soft and light. They blend with any ingredients you toss with them and the dough melts on your tongue like any good dumpling should. Like pasta dough, there’s a little bit of a learning curve, but with the right tools and a little time it’s one of those ingredients you guests will immediately recognize as something special.
It’s worth noting that in my experience, even the homemade variety lacks that amazing delicate texture after a few days in the freezer, so try to use what you can the same day they’re made. If not, toss into a freezer bag and they should keep for 3-5 days no problem.
I think I could spend the rest of my life eating cheese and bread. Seriously, sometimes I’m just amazed that these artisan cheese making nations even developed their own cuisine since I probably would have just stopped at mastering dairy cultures. Meat? Why they hell would i kill the animal that I need have to milk to get my cheese.
This, being my first post exclusively about cheeese actually seems a bit retarded. You see, I’m about to recommend a cheese that I have no story behind. Full disclosure: I was hardley able to discover anything noteworthy about this cheese except that I found a lot of people refer to it as “goats milk cheese” which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but further investigation will be done. At the end of the day, this was damn good cheese, cheese definitely worth writing about so I’ll just put it out there. You can find it at Whole Foods and a handful of online cheese shops. It’s called Miticana de Oveja.
Right off the bat, if you recall from your highschool Spanish, this is infact a sheep’s cheese from Murcia, Spain. Very soft, and nicely mild. Similar to the more popular French variation, Bucheron, this stuff is made for spreading all over a torn off piece of bageutte. Procuitto is a great complement as well.
What I love most about this cheese is that it has three very distinct and very excellent layers. You have the outer rind of edible mold that’s a little bitter and calky. Immediateley the next layer is this membrane of ripe, creamy glupe that is just begging to be smeared. Finally you get the crumbly, claylike core of the log. Semi-firm in texture, the core intensifies with age but still maintains a buttery tanginess. This isn’t a cheese you want to eat chilled, you want this to sit out and brought to almost room temperature.
There’s a lot of different stuff going on with this cheese. Tangy, sweet, soft, basically if you like goat cheese at all you’re going to dig this cheese. It’s one of those that I’ll only eat a little at a time because your palate will get a bit worn out nibbling on this delisiousness and it seems a shame to waste of morsel.
Balls. Yup, just balls. Only reason you’ll need. So after a few attempts with the risotto recipe, you may have found it doesn’t always come out so brilliantly. But you don’t want to waste your ingredients. The rice is a little too crunchy, or the final product was a thick and heavy blob of cement. These things happen, at least they happened to me more than a few times. So when I found out that I could turn my fuckup into a really tasty drunk munchie I was more than a little pleased.
Man, I love shrimp. There’s something about the texture about these bite sized, fleshy little crustaceans that always has me coming back for more. Sauteed, grilled, fried, steamed, peeled, unpeeled, there’s a lot you can do with these guys. I also love garlic, especially if I have an extra 10 minutes to roast the cloves whole first and bring out their nutty, soft flavors. Garlic goes with everything, but I think shrimp is one of the best combos. What’s that citrus? Oh yes, yes, you’re part of the BFF team as well.
This is not a dish you probably want to be making for a first date however. Garlic and seafood are two ingredients plenty of people have problems with. This is one for those long term couples that are appreciative (or at least tolerant) of one’s complete addiction to garlic and/or seafood. In my case, it’s just one more item on an already long list of traits my future wife with have to be patient with me regarding.
Ahh puttanesca.. who said cheap and easy, couldn’t be something a boy could settle down with and raise a family? To have and to hold. To cherish and honor. Puttanesca, won’t you be mine? Will you be mine? I really am a sucker for girl that is both nutty, briny and spicy.
Pasta alla Puttanesca translates loosely into “whore’s pasta” in Italian, but she’ll always be classy to me. She goes brilliantly with farafell, penne, or in today’s case, bowties, but any type of pasta will be great with this sauce. Just be sure to use a deep pan so you can toss the pasta into the sauce to finish cooking, and save a little pasta water to thin and flavor the sauce.
After a little hiatus, AMF is back in action with a new look and a few new features. What’s new?
- The Nuts and Bolts section is well on its way to being a useful resource to those quick, how-to questions.
- FINALLY got my new camera in so image quality will be considerable better from here on out. I also fulfilled a life long dream of owning a professional camera despite me asking for one since I was 14. Yeah Mom.. 14, you know this to be true.
- New site layout is up and running after countless hours pathetically working my way through piles of HTML code. Still pretty simple, but looks damn nifty if I say so myself.
Also, it seems fitting that AMF jumps back into it on Easter Day. Fitting because while the phrase is taken from Hemingway’s Collection of short stories about his life in Paris, the phrase actually has origins rooted in the roving holiday. “A moveable feast” references the Easter day feast that always shifts based on when the 2nd Sunday every April occurs. This is what the Interwebs tells me anyway. It could be bullshit.
Bottom line, peruse the new layout, more improvements to come, and stay hungry AMF fans.