Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Brown Butter as a Base

We look at brown butter as a distinct ingredient. We forget that it is a flavor that can be built upon. We now brown butter and cool it down. We add other flavors to the butter. This blending allows the brown butter to play a supporting role. The nutty undertones of the caramelized milk solids are carried throughout the fat creating new and fully developed flavors. Recently we blended pistachio oil with brown butter. We have also tamed the porkiness of bacon fat. Of course the folks in India have known the powers of ghee for a few years now. The difference is how and what we flavor the fat with. And where we take it.

Thick Cut

We have been cutting vegetables too thin. To balance this out we started cutting vegetables too thick. These vegetables take time to cook. And they can take the heat. They just need baby sitting. In the end we are rewarded for the attention we paid during the cooking process. Tonight we put a large cast iron skillet on medium high heat. We coated the pan with a thick film of olive oil. When the oil shimmered we slid in a layer of thick cut zucchini rounds. We seasoned the rounds with salt. We cooked them until they were foxy brown. We flipped the rounds and seasoned their other side with salt. When the bottoms were equally browned we removed the zucchini from the pan and layered them on a plate. We topped the hot zucchini with globe basil leaves and shavings of Parrano Uniekaas cheese. The zucchini was caramelized and succulent. Some would say it had a meaty texture. What it had was a roasted vegetable texture. The basil added sweet aromatics. The cheese added a smooth, nutty salinity.

Plain and Fancy

In a household of three we can only eat so much cake. Given our current projects there have been quite a few sweets floating through the kitchen. Today I had a hankering for jam cake. Generally speaking that consists of light vanilla cake layers sandwiched together with jam and dusted with powdered sugar. This is not Alex's favorite kind of cake. So I knew that I was going to have to eat most of it myself, never a good idea. Once I mixed up my batter I divided it in half. I baked one plain vanilla layer for my cake, to be glazed with strawberry jam and dusted with sugar. I folded fresh blueberries into the remaining batter and covered the top with crumb topping. The result was the perfect breakfast cake that everyone will enjoy. Two totally different cakes from one batter. Who says cake has to be made in layers?

Lovage Slaw

This is a ranch dressing coleslaw. We added chopped lovage. We have used it on sandwiches and hot dogs. It has been served as a side dish for grilled pork chops. We are terribly sorry you can't join us for dinner. Thankfully it is easy to replicate in your own kitchen.

Knuckle Know How

We learned this technique for cleaning lobster knuckles from Chris Massi. I was more than sceptical when Chris explained the process. I have since eaten my words. And they were delicious. You use an oyster knife to run inside the first joint of the knuckle and pull out the meat. Then you use the knife to break off the shell at the joint. Finally you run the oyster knife inside the second joint and remove the remaining meat. The first few knuckles take some time getting used to. As you get into the groove the knuckle meat seems to fly out of the shells. The process becomes quick and efficient.

Blending Grains

We have been making noodles to explore the grains from Castle Valley Mill. The flavors are intense. The whole wheat is rich, grassy, slightly bitter and intense. By itself its texture resembles a cats tongue. That is not something we are usually going for. So, we blended the hard whole wheat with emmer flour. The emmer has its own nuttiness. It has strength and flexibility. We blended the two together. The noodle is intensely flavored by the grains. It has a good chew and the cat's tongue texture has subsided. For our initial tasting we used olive oil and butter. The combination lets the noodle shine. Perhaps too brightly. These noodles want sauce. There is so much flavor that on their own we are not used to it. The sauce brings balance to the equation. It demonstrates that sauce and noodle should be equal partners in delivering flavor.

Buttermilk Mozzarella

Tofu was not the only ingredient we started maturing in buttermilk. We put chunks of BelGioioso mozzarella into buttermilk seasoned with 2% salt. We refrigerated it for a week. The salted buttermilk has started to break the mozzarella down. The mozzarella has firmed up. The buttermilk has thickened. It has taken on the sweet creamy flavor of the mozzarella. We will continue to let the mozzarella and buttermilk co-exist and taste what develops. As a starting point we are onto something very flavorful.