Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stepping away from BFG

I have realized that I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I really cannot seem to find the time that this blog needs to give it the proper attention it needs.

So, if you were one of the ten people who read this blog, my most heartfelt apologies. I will still be well dedicated to my original blog: as well as other professional matters related to baking and pastry... most importantly my job and all future culinary projects I have lined up.

I still hope for the day when I can actually go to St. John.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cucumber Salad with Mustard and Dill

From "The Whole Beast"

Very easy salad. Vinaigrette was very tasty, the mustard was present but not overwhelming. The the technique that was interesting which I had never heard of before was to toss the cucumbers in some salt and place them over a sieve; this would pull moisture out and make the cucumbers crunchier, plus it would salt them.

I think this salad is meant to be eaten with something else. I cannot see making a meal out of just cucumbers, tossed in a vinaigrette and dill.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Deconstructed Piccalilli

From "The Whole Beast", page 22.

This salad, besides being fun to say, is one of my favorites. It is is one of the items from this book that I have made often in the past. One of the reasons I like it is because it contains no lettuce, which is the one food that makes me feel like I am eating rabbit feed. But also the balance of salt, brine, tartness, richness and the texture, which is almost pure crunch. Plus, it is very easy to make.

Ideally it is dressed about 30 minutes before eating, which helps the vinaigrette cling properly onto the vegetables.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Snails and Oak Leaf Lettuce

From "The Whole Beast", page 21.
I have to come clean here: I find the though of eating snails revolting. I can eat conch no problem at all... in fact I love conch. So, not sure why, I have a problem with it's land cousin. Maybe it's the slime... the poop (which, these critters can produce plenty of during purging. What? You didn't know they had to be purged? If they weren't, you'd be eating snail poop). And it also has to do that I place them in the bug category, as ignorant as that may be, they are bugs to me. Which is contradictory for me even more, because I have eaten bugs and lots of them. In Mexico, where I am from, they are abundant and readily available in all shapes, sizes and forms. I have eaten grasshoppers, agave worms, ant eggs, etc. But I think it is also the sheer size of these babies. It's like a clam. I have eaten snails before too, when I was a kid and restaurants that were "fancy" and French back in the 80's would all serve them in their shells with plenty of butter, garlic and parsley. But that's all you tasted. There was no distinguishable snail taste.

They smelled delicious while cooking with the shallots, garlic and red wine. There was no "snail" aroma wafting from the pot, so that was a good start.

Once the ingredients were all tossed together, I tasted one of the leaves of lettuce, and it was pretty darn good. The next step was to taste a snail. It wasn't so bad. It reminded me of wet earth and fallen leaves. Which is, I suppose their living quarters.

I think I can do without snails for the rest of my life and not feel a craving for them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Breakfast radishes and butter

From "The Whole Beast"

It does not get any easier than this. Breakfast radishes and butter. I have tried them before, and I just didn't get it and I have to admit I still don't. Why would you eat radishes with butter? What does the butter add to the radish and vice versa?

There's not much you can do to this dish, so I made a quenelle of the butter and sprinkled some flake salt coated in ash. It was alright, but no big revelation. Not that everything has to be a revelation, but this was just underwhelming. And there it is.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Grilled Jerusalem Artichoke, Red Onion and Olives

From "The Whole Beast", page 19

No, I am not done with soups yet. There are two missing: the Pumpkin and Bacon soup (waiting till fall for Pumpkin season) and Cock-a-leekie (say that with a straight face), which calls for brisket, which needs to be brined for at least 10 days. So this Thursday or Friday it's 10 days are up.
Jerusalem artichoke, which is not originally from Jerusalem (anyone know the origin of this tuber?), and is not even close to being an artichoke, was an ingredient I had never worked with before. I have had it in soups and as chips, but never grilled. They taste and smell very similar to an artichoke (hence it's name, I know, but it should be noted for those who have never seen or eaten it), but are closer to a potato I would say.

I cannot overstate the deliciousness of this salad, and I am not a huge salad fan. I eat it because I have to and I resent their existence for that. I always feel like I am eating rabbit food.
This is a well though out combination of ingredients and temperatures that is beyond words. The sweetness and heartiness of the roasted onions, the nuttiness of the grilled Jerusalem artichokes, the bite of the watercress, the brine of the olives, and, as F.H. puts it"...and parsley (parsley acts as a great marrier of disparate parts in a salad, the dating agency of the salad world). The dressing is a very straightforward vinaigrette, doing its job to tie it all in and add some acidity and richness. I don't think I did so bad with this salad. Again, the recipes are spot on, except I would have mentioned that the grilled Jerusalem artichokes should be cut down to bite size pieces, since they can be quite long, and you don't want to eat your salad with a knife.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Season Garlic and Bread Soup

From "The Whole Beast", page 16

It really doesn't get easier than this. Basically you boil (then simmer) whole heads of garlic with chicken stock until the garlic is tender (about 45 minutes on low heat... covered). Pass the garlic through a food mill (or ricer), return the resulting pate to the broth and then season. Serve with dried day old white bread.
I have two observations though:
I think the recipe requires more than the amount of chicken stock it calls for, especially considering that it is supposed to be for 6 people. To which I should add that the recipe should also mention that while the soup is simmering is should be covered to reduce any evaporation, since you have so little broth to begin with.
Finally, I wish I was clear on what it means to use white it Wonder bread or just a lean dough? I used the guts of a loaf of Pugliese bread, which is a classic Italian bread, white as snow on the inside. Since I made this soup without reading ahead, I had no day old bread which is what it recommends, so I just cubed the guts of the Pugliese (by guts I mean the crumb without the crust) and tossed them in a dehydrator for about 30 minutes until they felt like day old bread.
It is important when eating this soup to make sure the bread goes in at the very last minute so that you can in fact have a secondary texture. You can of course go the opposite way and let the bread absorb all of the broth (note: dry old bread absorbs moisture faster than fresh bread, which is why day old bread is recommended for making French toast since it will absorb more custard than fresh bread), which turns into whole nother soup than what you started with. I very much appreciate how simple and straight forward this soup is, and I would make it again. What would I add or do differently? Well, definitely add more broth to begin with (I ended up adding more broth as the soup cooked) and cover it while it simmers. I don't know about adding anything, but I think this could be really nice with a fried egg on top.