Tuesday
Jun212011

Podcast Episode 12: Cook Your Vegetables

Thank you for joining us for the 12th episode of our podcast. If you have any ideas for what we should cover on the podcast, please drop us a line.

Tuesday
May312011

Wontons

This is my fifty-second post for A Year From Scratch. We're going to keep on with the site, just at a slower pace. This is one a few recipes that's been on the list of projects since the very beginning, but that we just hadn't gotten too. Pity. It was pretty easy.

Ingredients!

This is going to make a pretty simple dough. Mix everything in a bowl until it comes together, turn out on a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth. About 3 minutes. Let the dough rest while you mix the filling.

The filling is pork, garlic, chives, salt, pepper and sesame oil (it adds a little spice). I'm not listing values here, or in the ingredients section because I just eyeballed it.

Chop all of that finely, and mix it with ground pork.

 You can also beat in an egg. It will help it stay together, and add a little flavor.

Halve the dough, and roll it out.

Once it's rolled out, cut the dough into squares.

It's important that they be square. Some of these weren't, and I couldn't fold them properly.

As you can see. These take some practice and finesse. All of these came out fine, in the end, but I wouldn't want to serve them at a party without more practice. Ideally, you want to fold the wonton in half diagonally, so it makes a triangle. Then fold the two side points together so the wonton is hugging itself.

Drop the wontons in hot oil, a steamer, or boiling water or broth.

When they're done, serve them with your favorite soup, noodles, or salad.


Ingredients:

1 egg

2 cups (250 grams) all purpose flour

1/3 cup (75 grams) water

1/2 tsp (a pinch) salt

Ground pork

pepper

Sesame Oil

Chives

Garlic

Ginger

Procedure:

1. Mix the flour, egg, salt, and water together in a bowl

2. Stir until everything comes together

3. Turn out on to a floured surface and knead until smooth

4. Let sit for 10 minutes

5. Halve and roll out the dough.

6. Cut it into squares, and fill with your favorite filling.

7. Fold the wonton diagonally, and pinch together. You may need to use egg wash.

8. Fold the two side points around the filling. 

9. Steam, fry, or boil until done.

 

Monday
May302011

Madeleines

My initial post for A Year From Scratch was a manifesto, of sorts. It started with a simple French recipe, of a sort. But it wasn't even a recipe, it was about a lifestyle, the lifestyle you have when you start making more of your food from scratch. It was about Croutons.

Roughly one year has passed, and I have, on average, made one dish per week that people normally think of as something that you purchase, but instead can be made at home, From Scratch. More often than not, the dishes that we made here at A Year From Scratch have been pretty simple to do. Not all of them have been easy, and not all of them have been successful, but it's been great getting a feel for just what is involved in making your life one with more things in it made From Scratch than bought from the store.

My favorites, by and large, have been the Utility Ingredients. Things you (usually) wouldn't eat on their own, but are added to another dish to make it better: mayonnaise, chili powder, creme fraiche, and so on. Little fuss, high flavor, and something that gets added into all of the things that you make throughout the year.

For my final recipe, I've decided to go with something French, to bookend with my French post. It's not quite as simple, but it's not all that difficult. In a rare move, this item requires a piece of equipment that, frankly, you're probably not going to use for anything else. Yes, a unitasker. Oh, if you're concerned you could make some chocolate truffles or jello in it or something. Maybe some fancy ice cubes, or soap. But really, it's a madeleine pan, and it's for making madeleines.

At the coffee chain Starbucks, which you may have heard of if you live in a big city, most of the pastries are fairly dismal. The one thing they make that isn't so bad is the madeleines. So, if you're desperate, get those. But, better yet, you should just make some at home, like so.

If you don't have nut allergies, start with 1/4 cup of almonds:

Madeleines 1

and process in a food processor:

Madeleines 2

Take the sugar and eggs and mix in a stand mixer:

Madeleines 3

For a couple of seconds until you realize that not only is your beater blade making a weird squeaking noise that it's never made before, but frankly this is entirely the wrong blade for this anyways and you should be using the whisk attachement:

Madeleines 4

Whip until it doubles in volume, essentially loses all the yellow color, and forms a nice stream of egg-mixture for a few seconds after you lift the beater out of the mixture. This is the ribbon stage, and is pretty standard way to mix eggs and sugar.

Once that's done, take your almonds, salt, and flour (or just salt and flour if you  didn't want almonds)

Madeleines 6

Combine together, pour into the egg mixture, and fold…

Madeleines 13

(notice the color of the egg mixture compared with a couple of pictures up) …until combined. Folding, incidentally, means that rather than stirring, which will likely develop more gluten than you want, you take a spatula or similar and draw a J from the center of the bowl, down, and to the left. You rotate the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. It should take you about 10 iterations of that until the mixture looks like:

Madeleines 14

Take your melted butter…

Madeleines 7

…add the butter into the batter, along with some extract…

Madeleines 15

…and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, though you can cool it overnight if you want. Which, incidentally, makes it a really good dish for brunches.

Madeleines 16

Once the batter is chilled, preheat your oven to 375°F and prepare your madeline pan with a flour/fat mixture, either in spray or homemade form:

Madeleines 19

Yes, you need it even with the silicone baking pan (that is as much a note to myself as to you. I made the mistake once of thinking the silicone would release properly. It did not).

You'll probably need to stir the batter a bit to make sure the butter is mixed in well. Then use a disher to add the batter to the pan:

Madeleines 23

Cook for  11-15 minutes, until it looks like

Madeleines 26

a golden brown and delicious treat, especially around the edges. Let cool for a couple of minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack. Once they are cooled, share and enjoy.

Madeleines 30

Thank you for joining us for our year-long journey through making foods From Scratch, whether it was every week (on average), or even if you only looked at a recipe or two. We do have the entire archive available on the web site, including all of the dishes we did and our run of podcasts as well.

Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup almonds, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp of almond extract or 1 tsp of vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Whip the eggs and the sugar together until the color is almost gone, it doubles in volume, and reaches the "ribbon stage"
  2. Combine the salt, flour, and almonds together, pour into the egg mixture, and fold until combined.
  3. Add the melted butter and extract, stir to combine.
  4. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  6. Put batter into prepared madeleine pan and bake for 11-15 minutes, until golden brown and delicious.

Makes 18 Madeleines.

Monday
May302011

Barbecue Sauce

There are people in the world that are very proud of their barbecue sauces. Some of those people are professional barbecuers, who live and die on the strength of their rub and their sauce. You are unlikely to get their recipe out of these people.

Other people have secret barbecue sauce recipes that consist of adding some grape jelly, cola, or bourbon to a store-bought barbecue sauce. While there is nothing wrong with customizing an existing sauce to your needs, you lose some things by doing it this way. Aside from all of the usual problems with processed foods (preservatives, inferior ingredients, too much salt, and so on), you are at the whims of the manufacturer. If that sauce changes its formula or stops being sold, your secret recipe is gone.

At A Year From Scratch, we don't like to simply customize an existing product, nor do we like keeping secrets. For you, I have made a barbecue sauce, and more importantly, a method for creating a barbecue sauce of your very own. I hope you share your sauce with others, but I know how some people get with barbecue.

The great thing about a barbecue sauce is that it is, in this case, essentially a tomato sauce, of the kind you can make without a recipe. To that end, I didn't use a recipe when I made this one. I just picked a bunch of ingredients I thought would taste good and added them into the normal tomato sauce. What I got was not a barbecue sauce that you'd really point to and say, "Kansas," "North Carolina," or what-have-you. Melanie thinks it's a lot closer to a Mexican or a South American style barbecue sauce.

You start with some vegetables. I used carrots, celery, onion, chiles, and garlic. The important thing is a base of aromatic vegetables that will go well with your other ingredients. You're likely to want some spice in there, but how much is up to you.

Barbecue sauce 1

Clean and dice all the veg:

Barbecue sauce 4

And set aside your other ingredients:

Barbecue sauce 8

That looks like some whole tomatoes, a leftover, frozen chipotle chile in adobo sauce from when I made chili, some chili powder, cocoa powder, liquid smoke (you can make this from scratch, but I never have), sorghum molasses, and bourbon.

Next comes the soffrito. This is also known as a "sweat", and in Italian it means "softly fried." The idea is that you want to cook your vegetables over lowish heat to get their cell structures to weaken and to release flavorful juices, but without changing the flavor with the maillard reactions. The best way to do this is to add your harder to cook vegetables first, followed in turn by the next hardest to cook, and so on. You can get recommendations for what to cook in which order for standard ingredients (carrots, then celery, then onion, then garlic, for example), but you can also get a feel for the vegetable by determining how dense it is and how tight the cellular structure is. If it's hard to bend and it's heavy, it'll probably take longer to cook.

Start with the carrots and the chiles. I would add some salt at this step to help soften the structure:

Barbecue sauce 10

Cook for a bit, add the celery:

Barbecue sauce 11

Cook for a bit, add the onions, add a bit more salt:

Barbecue sauce 12

Cook for a bit, and finally add the garlic:

Barbecue sauce 13

Once your garlic has softened a bit, add everything else, and simmer for an hour or so, covered.

Barbecue sauce 14

When the flavors are working together fairly well, understanding that it the flavors won't be final until you've pureed, reduce down the sauce for a bit. You don't want it as thick as ketchup, but you want it a bit thicker than standard tomato sauce.

Barbecue sauce 15

Now puree, either with a stick blender or with a regular blender. If you have time, let it cool off first.

Barbecue sauce 16

Taste, and make any adjustments that you feel are worthwhile. Then put over some tasty food, and enjoy.

Barbecue sauce 19

If you want something a bit more traditional, try working from the ketchup recipe and modify from their to suit your tastes. My ketchup was pretty close to a barbecue sauce as it was, so it wouldn't take much to bring it the rest of the way.

South American Style Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 celery sticks, diced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 3 chiles, seeded and diced,
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2, 28-oz cans of whole tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 scant tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 cup molasses, sorghum if you have it
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 4 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 ancho chile in adobo sauce

Directions

  1. Soffrito the carrots, celery, onion, chiles, and garlic.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients
  3. Simmer for 1 hour, covered
  4. Remove cover, simmer to reduce buy 1/4
  5. Blend with regular or immersion blender.
  6. Salt to taste

 

 

Friday
May272011

Horseradish Sauce

I was in Pittsburgh on business, eating at an establishment known for its beer selection and the spiciness of its wings. I had ordered some sandwich or another that came with a side of horseradish sauce. I expected good things from this sauce, based on the fearlessness of the spice in the wings.

I was disappointed. It was a weak, weak horseradish sauce. I had to strain just to detect hints of horseradish. It made me sad. I made uncomplimentary remarks about the chef's daring and sense of adventure. I may have called the chef some derogatory names that indicated a general lack of intestinal fortitude. And, most importantly, I was left wanting good horseradish sauce.

Fortunately, horseradish sauce is pretty darned easy to make, in theory. There are two steps: preparing the horseradish and mixing it with the base.

Making horseradish is much like making mustard, because they use the same source for their heat. A good mustard, horseradish, or wasabi will, on touching the roof of your mouth, pierce straight through the brain with its heat. It's a very different experience than capsaicin, which is responsible for the heat in chiles.

So to process horseradish, you start with the root:

Horseradish1

Peel the root

Horseradish2

Grate your horseradish

Horseradish6

You could have instead cubed your horseradish and used a food processor to grate it. I didn't need that much, though, and didn't really feel like cleaning the food processor.

Combine your horseradish with water, and wait up to 15 minutes. The longer you wait, the hotter the horseradish should be. When it reaches the desired heat, add in some vinegar (or citrus juice, or some other acid) to stop the reaction which generates the heat.

Horseradish13

Combine with your base. Generally, you use sour cream, but I made a batch of creme fraiche instead, because why not?

Horseradish10

Don't forget the salt!

Horseradish7

Enjoy with the traditional roast beef. Or, if your Whole Foods doesn't understand the difference when you order it, the corned beef that they actually give you.

Horseradish12

Unfortunately, after all was said and done, the horseradish sauce was pretty weak. I tried a couple of batches, but I suspect that the quality and/or freshness of my horseradish root was not what it needed to be. The technique is solid and simple, though, so I will search through different stores to find a good supplier of horseradish. And I will apologize to the unnamed and unknown chef whom I maligned, even though that person never knew. Perhaps ingredients in Pittsburgh were as weak as they are in Charlottesville. Perhaps spring horseradish is not as good as winter horseradish. I will search until I find the answer.