Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Looks like my usual butcher here in Cambridge is offering lunchtime sandwiches (11am - 3pm) as of May 17th. I work around the corner from Savenor's, so I will endeavor to see how these sandwiches stack up to old favorites like Darwin's and Hi-Rise in the next couple of weeks.
I've made Chicken in a Pot (Poulet en Cocotte) several times over the years... and as long as your favorite part of cooking a whole chicken isn't crispy skin, but is instead perfectly cooked and moist meat, I think it's a pretty easy and fool proof way to go. Before getting into the specifics of this particular Dorie Greenspan recipe, the general outline of this classically French method (see Julia Childs' recipe) is exactly what it says in the title: you are braising the whole chicken in a covered pot with some assortment of root vegetables. It's just about as easy to do as a roast chicken... though a bit more time consuming to get in the oven because you'll want to brown the chicken and vegetables for color and flavor first. Note that you can still overcook a chicken into a dry chalky mess this way, but it is significantly harder in my experience... the handful of times I've made Chicken in a Pot the temperatures of the breast and thigh where right on and didn't need to go back in the oven. Which is quite handy in this Dorie Greenspan recipe because you can't simply pop the lid off and check the chicken's temperature. Why? Because you actually seal the pot closed with a round of dough:
Which is cool but seemingly unnecessary? I mean, yeah, you can seal that lid up tight, but is it really so much better than a simple layer of aluminum foil? Dorie certainly seems to think so, and admittedly it's a pretty fun presentation, but I guess I have my doubts. You need something like a screwdriver to lever off the lid, but surprisingly, once the pot was cool, the dough round came off quite easily... in one piece and leaving very little in the way residue. So, fortunately, my fears of an arduous clean up process turned out to be unfounded.
A couple of other notes before the recipe: 1) it calls for preserved lemons which you can buy or make, and 2) Dorie likes her vegetables rustic. So for the latter that means big chunks of vegetables, whole (small) onions with the root end still attached, and whole unpeeled garlic cloves. I've come to like her treatment of whole shallots/pearl onions, but the garlic thing is more difficult to appreciate. I guess the issue is that the garlic would likely disintegrate into the cooking liquid otherwise, but chomping down on those papery skins on what you thought was a shallot isn't very pleasant. On the other hand, spreading that garlic onto a piece of crusty bread and sopping up that cooking liquid is quite delicious... so if you leave the garlic unpeeled as she suggests, just make sure whoever you are serving this to is ready for a true "homestyle" eating experience.
To sum up my thoughts on this recipe, to really maximize the positives and minimize the negatives of this recipe you're going to want to crack the lid at the table and serve people directly out of the pot... just let 'em dig in there. To that extent, I think I would go with a previously cut up chicken instead of a whole one if I were to do this for a dinner party... since with the whole one you are going to have to go back in the kitchen to carve it, which defeats a lot of the point of this kind of meal. This will never be my "go to" chicken in a pot recipe because of the added hassles, but it does have a lot going for it presentation wise... worth trying.
Adapted from Around my French Table
- 1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed well
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and each cut into 8 same-sized pieces (you can use white potatoes, if you prefer)
- 16 small white onions, yellow onions, or shallots
- 8 carrots, trimmed, peeled, and quartered
- 4 celery stalks, trimmed, peeled, and quartered
- 4 garlic heads, cloves separated but not peeled
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 thyme sprigs
- 3 parsley sprigs
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 1 chicken, about 4 pounds, preferably organic, whole or cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup hot water
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
- Slice the peel from the preserved lemon and dice it, discarding the pulp.
- Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, drop in the peel, and cook for 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat. In 2 or more batches, add the vegetables and garlic, season with salt and pepper and sauté until vegetables are brown on all sides. Spoon vegetables into a 4 and 1/2 quart or larger Dutch oven (or other large oven safe pot with a lid) and stir in the herbs and the preserved lemon.
- Return the skillet to the heat and add another tablespoon oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper and then brown it on both sides.
- Tuck chicken into the casserole, surrounding it with the vegetables.
- Mix together the broth, wine, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and pour over the chicken and vegetables.
- Put 1 and 1/2 cups flour in a medium bowl and add enough hot water to make a malleable dough. Dust a work surface with a little flour, turn out the dough, and, working with your hands, roll the dough into a sausage.
- Place the dough on the rim of the pot — if it breaks, just piece it back together — and press the lid onto the dough to seal the pot.
- Slide the pot into the oven and bake for 55 minutes.
- Use a screwdriver to break the lid off of the dough, and serve directly from the pot with crusty bread.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
OK, so ever since the poached scrambled eggs thing, I've been a little obsessed... but eggs without butter just didn't seem right to me. I honestly don't have a lot of experience with scrambled eggs because I was such a picky eater as a child. I didn't... or at least thought I didn't... like eggs at all, so it wasn't until my mid to late twenties that I started to realize that they are in fact awesome. So hopefully that gives a little perspective as to why I have been messing around so much lately with what, to many of you, seems like old hat. I really just don't have a "go to" scrambled eggs recipe, so I've needed to do a little bit of experimentation.
So here we come to what you would call "soft" scrambled eggs... which I imagine to many would be equivalent to "not done" scrambled eggs. This was not something I had ever had before, as it is certainly not how they serve them at a local diner. It is however, how the fancy chef people seem to like them (Beard/Vongerichten, Ramsay, etc) so why not give it a shot?
There are an infinite number of variations to make them as you can see from the links, but the general concept is low heat and lots of stirring for a fairly long period of time... the James Beard eggs, for example, take 40 minutes. 40 minutes!? That's a long time for some scrambled eggs! Yes, yes it is. You can speed it up by using higher heat, but then you really have to know what you are doing because you'll need to take it off the heat periodically to make sure you don't overcook or get any browning (see the Ramsay video). Ruhlman's method is quicker than 40 minutes, though it still takes 15-20 minutes maybe? But it's significantly easier than working over high heat as a novice. You need to use a double boiler to do it, which most cooks probably don't have... but you can improvise one if necessary. The one we have... which Anna got for tempering chocolate... is nonstick and only $12, so it might be worth your consideration.
Since I had never done eggs like this before I really needed a practice run before I understood what exactly I was looking for. If you are in a similar boat I would do this with just the eggs, butter, salt, and pepper before I tried to make a big romantic breakfast or whatever. In my brief experience I've found that it's not "constant" stirring that you really want... you need some curds to form, you just need to keep breaking them up, and constant stirring prevents curds. A lot of this might be that the double boiler I was using is conical, not simply a pan on top of another pan, so the eggs' exposure to heat was different than the typical setup. You really just need to get a feel for what your double boiler set up does... so once again I recommend a test run, but it seemed to me in the beginning that I needed to wait maybe 5-10 seconds between stirs, but as they got closer to done it became more constant. YMMV.
This has definitely become my favorite way to have scrambled eggs. They are creamy, luscious, and delicious... but they are not fast. If you want scrambled eggs every morning before you go to work, then this is not your method: see the poached scrambled eggs recipe. If, on the other hand, you are looking for the "best" scrambled eggs you can make then try a soft scramble and see what you think.
Ingredients Per Serving:
adapted from Ruhlman's Twenty
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons butter
- 1 teaspoon goat cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped chives
- In a bowl, whisk the eggs until there are no pockets of egg white. This will take about a minute.
- In the bottom of a double boiler bring water to a simmer over medium heat (Note: the water should not touch the bottom of the top pan). Put the double boiler on top and let it heat up for a minute. Add the butter to fully melt.
- Pour the eggs into the top pan and stir/fold regularly with a silicone spatula. When nearly done (they will still be very moist, but curds will begin to form) sprinkle in the goat cheese and season with the salt. Stir gently and serve. Season with pepper and top with the chives.
Monday, May 14, 2012
This odd little dish caught my eye because of a) my recent foray into egg poaching and b) it's name doesn't make any sense. "Poached" and "scrambled" are two different ways to serve eggs... how can one preparation be both? Turns out it's extremely simple, and first discussed by Daniel Patterson in a New York Times article about his technique in 2006, though I first noticed it in Food52's Genius series. Before looking back at the Times article it was hard to know what to make of this method. Was there something wrong with the 9 million recipes (rough estimate) to make "perfect" scrambled eggs out there that you thought poaching beaten eggs in water was superior? Was he looking for a healthy way to avoid the butter or oil that are ubiquitous in other recipes? No, not really. Turns out he doesn't like cleaning egg out of pans... and since he opposes Teflon I guess that's fair enough?
So onto my thoughts on the recipe. As mentioned it's basically beaten eggs dropped into swirling boiling water for 20 seconds that are then strained and squeezed of excess water. Salt, pepper, and drizzle with oil or whatever (I tend towards a high quality soy sauce) and serve with your favorite buttered toast. So how was it? Fine. Certainly the cooking was easy enough... no careful tending and endless stirring with on the heat/off the heat OCD-ness... but they were pretty flavorless on their own, and I definitely missed the butter. It was neat to do, but I wouldn't make them again.
UPDATE: I looked back over the Food52 comments and noticed that the author suggested more heavily salted water for those who complain of tasteless eggs, so I may give them another go with that in mind (I just added 2 pinches).
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Slate has the goods:
Naturally-occurring sour milk had in the mean time become increasingly rare, thanks to modern refrigeration. So commercial dairies, spotting an unfilled niche, began to culture it themselves, and sold the new product widely as buttermilk starting in the 1920s. This was much like the buttermilk we find in grocery stores today: Made from low-fat milk and lactic acid bacteria that grow best under moderate heat conditions. Dairies used low-fat milk because it was cheaper than whole milk, but still took on a thick, creamy body when cultured. Low-fat buttermilk also appealed to what Mendelson calls “a nascent fan club of dieters brought into existence—just at this time—by a new 1910s and 1920s cult of slenderness.”There is more history at the link, though strangely there is no discussion of pasteurization. Presumably it isn't available outside of New England but Kate's of Maine does in fact sell butter byproduct milk (as well as very good butter). I wouldn't be willing to bet that you can taste the difference between the real stuff and the cultured version in, say, a batch of biscuits... but it is possible to purchase in some places at least.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Friday, May 4, 2012
Happily whites freeze really well so that you can have them on hand at a moments notice, for cakes, cookies, and cocktails. Large eggs, by definition, weigh two ounces, or between 50 and 60 grams. So if you’re using frozen whites stored in a deli-cup (for easy removal), chop off and weigh out 40 grams, or 20 grams per serving. If you’re not using a scale, use the above method.I always felt like we had to use 'em up before they went bad. Good to know. Click through for Ruhlman's recipe for a Whiskey Sour. Yes, there is indeed an egg white in a Whiskey Sour. And no, he is not backing down on the scale thing.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Real life has really gotten in the way of my blogging... nothing really in the way of cooking for the past couple weeks, as we've really eaten out quite a bit. Obviously being at a conference doesn't give one much choice, but it's still not ideal... and since I've gotten back I've been much more inclined to order a pizza than make dinner. Anyway, I'm going to give a brief overview where we ate (Anna came with me for this trip)... with the caveat that I'm not a restaurant reviewer, and one good/bad experience doesn't make or break a restaurant. However I know lots of people go to conferences in San Diego and tend to spend all their time in the Gaslamp district... and I already did the legwork by making lists from Chowhound threads so I thought I'd share it. We were basically looking for entrees in the $20-30 range (or less) with decent looking vegetarian option. Not being total idiots we did tend to prioritize Mexican food.
The Hopping Pig
Not actually on my list to visit... we were just wandering around a little dazed after our West Coast flight and picked it out.. I think because it said "beer" and "gastropub" on the menu which maybe isn't the best criteria. It was crowded on a Saturday night, but eventually we did get a table and just did tacos, sweet potato fries, and beer. Everything was great. Was pretty loud, so not the best choice if you want a quiet chat.
After saying all that about doing my research, this was another spur of the moment choice... dictated by only having a bit of time after watching talks and needing to stand in front of my poster to meet up with Anna for brunch. She had a great meal, but mine was pretty disappointing. The omelet had pieces of shell in it, and I'm just... very particular about my omelets I guess. They prepared it in this little cast iron pan which was cute and all, but more like a frittata than an omelet. Despite this I would probably go back since they seemed to have lots of options... I just would stick with crepes.
My favorite dinner of the entire trip. I assembled a meal solely from small plates that included chicharrones, ceviche tacos, and beef cheek tacos. Believe it or not I'd never had pork rinds... so the chicharrones were pretty interesting, but it was definitely the tacos that were eyeopening. I especially liked the ceviche ones because the acid made them much lighter than your typical taco. Totally recommend that place.
Rockin' Baja Coastal Cantina
This is not a great restaurant. Once again this was a lunch where I was limited time wise, and on this occasion I went into the first vaguely Mexican place I saw. Got a seafood enchilada and it was a'ight. Probably better than I had any right to expect from a place that appears to specialize in "Baja Buckets"... whatever they are... and more evidence that the worst tacos in San Diego may in fact be better than the best in Boston.
We went there more for "all night happy hour" (always a little strange being that Boston allows no such things) than food, but it was still a good choice. The guacamole and flautitas were great while the street tacos were merely "very good"... got cochinita, pastor, and ranchero shrimp and they were all delicious.
An onsite dinning option at the convention center that was dictated, once again, by lack of time. Never eat here. Though being that I had probably the worst burrito I've ever had (yes, worse than a microwave bean burrito) it did prove that there is no mystical force causing all Mexican food served in San Diego to be delicious.
This was not a bad meal by any means, but based on the entree price I think we were expecting a little more... also because it's apparently a sister restaurant to Saltbox which we obviously enjoyed (but we did not know this at the time of making our reservation). In addition, the server was a little pushy with the option of adding lobster tails to dishes(is this a thing?) when she learned I was going to be reimburssed. I will say the seared butterfish (a fish I had never tried) was excellent however.
A little out of the way relative to the Gaslamp, but since it had such a wide variety of vegetarian Mexican options we felt like it was worth a trip on the way to the zoo. Definitely the cheapest place we ate, with very large portions... I ordered a torta and a fish taco and felt like I was going to explode afterward. An interesting vibe to the place since it's kind of punk rock/Mexican/vegetarian... presumably popular with the kids after the bars close, but the service is on the slow side. I wouldn't say the food was spectacular, but it was solid... mainly worth a trip for a vegetarian.
A quick dinner before catching our red eye back to the East Coast... it's right next to La Puerta and didn't seem to be quite as good. In fact I don't even really remember what I ordered, but it was probably fish tacos. Might have been a little burned out from the zoo I guess... but what was memorable was a flyer announcing doors at 5 and drinks starting at 6 AM for their upcoming Cinco de Mayo festivities... and I thought Bostonians on St. Patty's Day were a disaster.
So that's that. I'll finish off here is a slideshow from our visit to said San Diego zoo:
Notice the bonobos, which are of particular interest to us here at Chimpanzee Tea Party, where this visit was the first time I'd ever seen them in person.