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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chicken Banh Mi-style Sandwich

This started out with the purpose of being entered into a burger cooking competition, it morphed as the process got on. Initially, I started out with the rough concept of making a large chicken sausage fattie, which would then be smoked and added to a sandwich. I also decided to go with some home made bread, largely because I didn't happen to buy some bread.

Step one was to marinate some chicken. This started with some aromatics, consisting of green garlic, ginger, green onions, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaf, bay leaf and cilantro. This was added and slightly muddled with 1/8 cup of my usual Red Boat fish sauce, 1/8 cup soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil. This was allowed to marinate for 8 hours, then chopped and lightly processed in a food processor to create a chunky mix for making into a sausage.

Step two was to julienne up some carrots, daikon and salt them down. Then a thorough rinse and a dunk in a pickling solution of 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons Red Boat fish sauce and 1 tablespoon each of Bragg's Amino and Tamari. Then I added 1 teaspoon of smoked salt and one of sugar. This is essentially a quick sugar pickle. A Persian cucumber was also sliced into 6 spears, then dunked into a similar pickle, minus the fish sauce and adding another 1/2 teaspoon sugar sauce and 1/8 cup cider vinegar. Here is a shot of the finished pickles in place.
And the rolls, specifically, a mix of bread dough and whole wheat dough, given around a 60% hydration and two rises under warm conditions, then formed and one final bench rise. Into the oven along with some water to create a little steam and a spritz onto the dough to encourage a crackling thin crust.
I ended up cooking the chicken and some pork sausage in a slow poach, instead of the grill. The aroma when processing convinced me that a more delicate and neutral cooking method was called for. Hence, wrapping the meat into heat resistant plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and into a poaching bath at 170F for two hours. I ended up with pale but incredibly aromatic loaves of chicken and prok, resembling terrine in texture. Tender and extremely moist with a lovely perfume and delicate flavors that develop throughout the palate.
The final assembly involved a citrus and wasabi mayonnaise and a light olive oil toasting to refresh the breads crunch. One layer of the chicken and one layer of the pork and some vegetables slopped on top, this made for an incredible sandwich. One of those simple pleasures with both delicate texture and great depth of flavor. Even the flavors of the pickled vegetables really played nicely with each contributing to the balance of the sandwich.
As you can see, the texture was somewhat coarse, what I was hoping for was a rougher texture while still getting a loaf out of the meat. The poaching, I believe was the correct method to tease out the maximum flavor from the aromatics. This was quite successful.

Chicken Marinade
2 stalks green garlic, chopped
1" length of ginger, roughly 1.5 tablespoons
3 stalks green onions. chopped
1 lemon grass, just the tender center stalk
kaffir lime leaf, 2 or 3
bay leaf, 2 or 3
roughly 1/8 cup cilantro
1/8 cup Red Boat fish sauce
1/8 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil

I like to muddle the ingredients for the marinade lightly just to get everything bruised. Then add the marinade to what amounted to 1.5 lbs of chicken.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Ugly Mandarin

After some 30 years in the design field, looking for the perfect response to every site, seeking balance, form and beauty with rocks and plants, soil and water, earth and sky, one can become easily guided by things based purely on an aesthetic appeal. I am fascinated with the simple and clean design of modern site and building design, I love the interplay of clean simple strong geometries and yet, I am often reminded that there is always more to behold than the visual. Such is with fruit, we are taught to be select the most benign and familiar of fruit, bananas that look like bananas and oranges that are bright orange and smooth, unblemished. Yet, I selected a lumpy, oblate mandarin and was quite well rewarded.
Called a Golden Nugget Mandarin, it is a recent introduction from a long breeding process at UC Riverside. Related to the easy peel mandarins, yet the size of a small orange. The fruit peels easily and the flavor is sweet, slightly honeyed and richer than the smaller mandarins.
The most interesting thing about it all is the peel, whole easily peeled, the rind was quite oily and expressed an exceptional amount of oil. The aroma was not only pungent, but, spicy and citrusy. I think this rind may be the most interesting aspect of this fruit.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Random Eating

Today, one of my usual dining companions and I decided this was a good day to grab a late lunch and maybe blow off a few rounds at some harmless paper dots that did nothing to warrant the violence, well, except for being paper dots. Which maybe is enough, I can't judge that. I can, however form opinions about falafel! And as we set out to dine at a Filipino restaurant that came highly recommended, we met and discovered that it was closed, as was the second Filipino place we went to, we were to be denied crispy skin pork. So we parked and determined we would walk until something was found. Barely 100 feet and we discovered the Mid-East Halal Meat and Restaurant.

To call this place a restaurant was to grant it some leeway, as there were just a few tables, in the middle of a meat market, with goats and lambs and such being carried by. But, we ordered lamb and beef shwarma plates and we got this...
That is a plate piled with lamb and beef, pickles, hummus, rice and tabouleh along with a falafel and some harissa. Then there was a couple slices of Jerusalem bread and a plate of Ful that was offered for free since we asked for a taste. This was an ample serving and while eating it, it kept occurring to me that each item alone would be terrific. This was some very good food we discovered by just walking and looking for something. I love discoveries like this.

One of the things I liked about this was that while prepared inside on restaurant equipment, it was street food and had the distinct feel of something that is meant as everyman's food, something for the masses meant for a grab and go. And yet, the guy serving it to us served it with a great deal of pride, he knew he was serving good food.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ribeye and rutabaga

Yep, it must be that time again, time for the On Our Grills Four Ingredient Challenge and this time, the ingredients are rib-eye steak, polenta, rutabaga and frozen strawberries. A rib steak seems quite simple and the challenge is going to be in getting that rutabaga and polenta to sing together well. So a little research resulted in two things, one, rutabaga can be quite similar to potato in terms of texture and flavor. But, the other thing I found out is that rutabagas are high in potassium, which is something I am not supposed to be eating. So are potatoes for that fact, it was clear there were going to have to be some changes to the menu.

Still, there was the challenge, I decided on making a grilled rib-eye steak, with grilled sugar snap peas and a Napolean of rutabaga, potato and polenta. First was to make some polenta, which took a little dry polenta, some water, butter and a few seasonings. This was simmered until softened, this took 45 minutes at low temperature. Then it was put into a pan to cool for cutting.
Then the rutabagas and potatoes were sliced, coated in olive oil, in this case some locally pressed extra virgin stuff, a little smoked kosher salt and some medium ground black pepper, my new standard is the Phu Quoc black pepper I have recently been able to source. A little goes a long ways. Rutabagas on top, potatoes on the bottom, ready for the kettle. The plan is not to smoke them, just get them cooked in a neutral heat, could be done in the oven just as well.
Finally, a Naturewell rib-eye steak, this one was a medium sized steak and really could serve as a meal for two. Actually, I ended up eating only half of it tonight. Naturewell beef is not the usual grass-finished beef I often buy, in this case the usual beef was unavailable in the grass-finished beef I prefer. The steak was decently marbled and tasted great though. I treated it with just some kosher salt and ground black pepper. Then onto a hot grill for a few minutes each side. I head for medium rare with this cut always, and judge using the finger poke method. I poke with the index finger, if it gives with a gentle push, then it is done.
Plating was a simple matter of placing the steak and some grilled sugar snap peas that got the same treatment as the potatoes and rutabagas. The polenta was cut into rounds, then seared in some spare duck fat I had laying around. The polenta was placed, then the rutabaga and finally the potato rounds. Finally, I used the frozen strawberries to make a gastrique for saucing the Napoleons.
In the end, I realized I wanted to layer a little more flavor into the dish, so I added some Shiitake mushrooms and caramelized onions to the dish, a classic accompaniment to steak and a perfect rich foil for the gastrique. In the end, I had to remove the rutabaga, as it appears to no be allowed. The juices from the steak, which poured out when the meat was cut, melded with the strawberry gastrique beautifully.

Strawberry Gastrique:
A gastrique is traditionally a mixture of an acid, usually vinegar, but sometimes citrus juice, with a sugar base. The desired effect is a sweet and sour flavor profile. I used this to highlight the mild sweetness I expected from the rutabaga, potato and polenta.
1 cup vinegar
6 large frozen strawberries
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch white pepper
Use 3/4 cup vinegar and combine with strawberries, salt and pepper. Heat to reduce by 2/3rds or until thick and add in 1/4 cup vinegar to return to sauce thickness. Test for desired sweet and sour profile. I add the last bit of vinegar to return brightness to the reduction.

I am not averse to the use of ready made polenta from a tube, it is certainly convenient and fast. My decision to make my own if based upon the fact that you cannot get the texture in polenta from the ready made stuff. I like to use a load of dairy to add smoothness and richness to the polenta.

1 cup water (or 1/2 cup each water and milk)
1/4 cup dry polenta
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon Todd's Dirt or similar herb mix, finely ground

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Combine all ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes over very low heat. Stir occasionally. Do not let simmer dry, add water or milk as necessary to keep moist.

Larry Gaian of The BBQ Grail - Entry Here
The BBQ Grail website was created in 2007, initially to document the author’s quest to find the perfect backyard BBQ experience. Since that time The BBQ Grail has become one of the more popular BBQ blogs on the internet and is listed on as one of the top BBQ blogs.

Paul Haight of No Excuses BBQ Entry Here
The No Excuses BBQ website was started in January of 2009 as a way to record the author’s goal of cooking outdoors at least once a week throughout the year and showing the results to the world.  Somewhere along the way things got out of control…

Hanneke Eerden of The Dutchess Cooks Entry Here
The Dutchess Cooks was started in 2010. After years of cooking, grilling, baking and reading other people’s blogs, I thought “why not start my own blog??” And I did, in 2010, but already after a short period of time, a blog wasn’t enough, and I started my own website. It’s not my goal to publish or come up with fancy and difficult recipes:  just good and delicious food with an international twist! Straight from my plate to yours!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fresh Pasta and Bread

Well, it started out as a sourdough starter for waffles, then it became pizza dough, and finally, it became bread. Tasty, tasty bread, with a nice sour touch and excellent texture. I also made some pasta, hand-cut spaghetti, with a combination of semolina and AP flour.

Pasta Dough:
1/2 cup each stone ground semolina flour and King Arthure AP flour
1 T white pepper (I used the very aromatic Phu Quoc Pepper form Vietnam)
1 large egg
1 T warm water
1T extra virgin olive oil
I use the standard method of creating a pile of flour with a well in the middle. I blend the egg, water and olive oil into a slurry, which I then dump into the well and use a fork to combine the liquid and flour. This makes a soft dough that need to be wrapped and chilled for 1 hour. The dough puck comes out like this.
From here, I hand rolled to half as thick as the puck, folded and rolled again. Repeated this process 4 times, each time getting thinner until I was about 1/10 of an inch thick. It is best to let the dough rest halfway through the process, makes working it a lot easier. Then I cut the pasta into strips. They are a little uneven, I call it rustic.
I hang and dry the pasta for 30 minutes to let the pasta cure a bit. This improves the texture of the pasta. From here, into boiling water for 5 minutes, then into a simple marinara of canned San Marzano tomatoes, fresh celery, garlic and onions. Lots of olive oil to 'fry' the sauce and then the pasta to thicken.

The bread dough was left over from the pizza making process of Sunday. I used my Dutch oven to create a moist environment. The oven and Dutch Oven were preheated to 350F for 30 minutes, the Dutch Oven is well-seasoned, but, I decided to brush a little more oil into the DO. The dough was then just dumped from the bowl.
This was baked for 40 minutes covered in the DO, then 10 minutes uncovered, pulled and rested for 1 hour. Here is the finished loaf sliced up. The texture was absolutely nailed, tender crumb, crisp delicate crust, a light airy loaf with just a touch of souring.
The final product, pasta and bread, with a little olive oil drizzled on the bread.  This was a lovely fresh dinner.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Flat Bread

I am making flat bread, it won't be pizza, but hopefully it will be delicious. So far, I have been hydrating the following:

8 oz. King Arthur Guinevere Pastry Flour
8 oz. King Arthur Bread flour
12 oz. warm water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

All measurements are by weight. The autolyse process was allowed to sit at room temperature for 40 minutes. Autolyse, it ain't pretty.

I then added:

1/4 cup sourdough starter
This was allowed to sit for 1 hour. Then it was kneaded with some bench flour to develop the gluten. Another rest, this time, the big sleep, into the refrigerator overnight. The dough was pulled on Sunday morning, allowed to rest for two hours at 67F, because that is what the kitchen was. I went to coffee for two hours. Made up some dough balls, with a light final kneading. Here is the final proof balls.
As you can see, the dough is quite soft, this is mostly due to the 75% to 80% dough hydration. This was on purpose to achieve the texture I wanted for these. I tend to be a dough puller, as opposed to rolling, pushing or tossing. There were pulled and topped with a couple of variations. The oven, by the way, was ripping along at 500F to heat the stone. I set the stone on the lowest rack, and switch to a high broil just before popping on the pizzas/flat breads. I did not have time, due to work demands to fire up the kettle. Here is Pizza One, with Arbequina Extra Virgin olive oil, grated parmigiana, paper thin garlic slices, sesame seeds and kosher salt.

Pizza Two was prepared with shredded potatoes, parmigiana cheese, Phu Quoc black pepper and Arbequiba extra virgin olive oil. As you can see, there was a little more creativity with the shaping of the pizza. It got even more creative becauce I spilled the olive oil onto the peel, this is never a good thing.
Odd shaped be darned, this pizza tasted great. It looks a little overdressed, but, it was actually just right. The potatoes, which were left over from yesterdays breakfast, crisped up nicely. For me, pizza is all about the bread and the bread on these pizzas was thin enough to have a bit of crack and still enough to taste very good.