January 22, 2007

Last Weekend

Last Saturday was a bit of a cooking marathon. I rendered the duck fat and used it to cook the duck confit, made stock out of the duck carcass, and braised the oxtail in red wine. And for dinner I made Chicken Cacciatora.

Sunday morning I made pancakes for breakfast, pizza margherita for lunch, and we had the oxtail with Dan and Carmen for dinner. I got the recipe from the Zuni book, but to chef it up a bit I turned and glazed some carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and pearl onions to go with the ribs (following the instructions from the Bouchon book). It turned out quite well, but I need a bit more practice turning and glazing vegetables.

January 18, 2007

And so it begins...

I've started my latest project, charcuterie. Tonight, while Emily was working, I hiked 3/4 of a mile to Drewes Bros to pick up a duck, 5 lbs of unrendered duck fat, and a 4-5 lb oxtail.

My plans for the Duck are:
Duck Prosciutto - I've salted the duck breasts, which I will cure for 24 hrs and hang in a cool place for a week or two. With luck I'll have duck prosciutto at the end of the process.

Duck Confit - I'll apply a milder cure to the legs, cook them in duck fat, and store them in the fat.

The rest - I'm planning on making a broth out of the carcass, maybe reduce it to a sauce or glacée. And, the extra skin &c will be rendered into duck fat.
The oxtail, a separate project, will be braised in red wine, using a recipe from the Zuni cookbook. We'll probably eat it Monday as it needs to rest a bit after being cooked. We've had good luck with short ribs in red wine - I look forward to seeing how the oxtails turn out.

January 15, 2007

Pot au Feu

Above is the "Pot au Feu" that I cooked last week. For the photo, I plated the serving with the bone on a white dish so the sauce would show up nicely. But the other serving, on the black dish, ended up being a bit better plated. Oh well. The meat and sauce was quite tasty, but the veggies were just so-so.

The recipe was rather fussy (or chefy), but it was a good learning experience. I learned some new knife techniques and got a better understanding about how dishes are built in restaurants, by preparing parts ahead of time. I'd definitely marinade with red wine again, but I think I'd try to get more of the flavor of the broth into the vegetables. My next beef dish will likely be the braised oxtail dish from the Zuni book. (I also have duck confit and Pâtes á Choux on my todo list, and I need to learn how to glaze vegetables.)

Last weekend I made the Zuni chicken again. I also tried my hand at Crème Brûlée using a propane torch and one of my mint Pots de Crème. And Sunday night I made a batch of cinnamon rolls using an Alton Brown recipe. They turned out quite well, although next time I'll spread them out a bit more and perhaps make a smaller batch. (I did tweak the instructions a little so I could make it in one night.)

January 12, 2007

Pots de Crème

fancy vanilla pudding chocolate cinnamon
Since I got back from Christmas vacation, I've made three batches of the Pots de Crème recipe from Thomas Keller's book, Bouchon. The first batch was split between chocolate and vanilla. The second was cinnamon, and last night I made a mint one.

Pots de Crème
This is a half batch of the recipe from Thomas Keller's book, Bouchon. The book has much more detailed instructions and highly recommended, but this should be enough to pull off the dish.
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp sugar
  1. Combine cream, milk, and 2 1/2 tbsp sugar. Cut the pod in half, scrape in the vanilla seeds, and add the empty pod.
  2. Bring to a simmer and make sure the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat, cover, and let it steep for an hour.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks and 2 tbsp sugar together.
  5. Rewarm the liquid and strain it.
  6. Slowly whisk the liquid into the yolks.
  7. Gently stir the liquid. Then fill ramekins with the liquid.
  8. Refrigerate for a day to let the flavors meld (optional).
  9. Put the ramekins in a 9"x9" cake pan, fill with water 1/3-1/2 way up the side of the ramekins. Place the cake pan on a cookie sheet, to protect it from the heat.
  10. Cook in a 300 degree oven for 45-55 min. (They should be set, but jiggle slightly. It'll take longer if they just came out of the fridge.)
  11. Remove and place on a cooling rack
  12. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, at most 3 days.
After step 5, gently warm the sauce and stir it into 3oz of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (about 55% cocoa). Gently stir until the chocolate melts.

In step 1 add 4 cinnamon sticks and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon.

In step 1 add a handful of mint leaves (about 1/4 oz).

In step 1 add 1/4 cup toasted, sliced almonds.

January 07, 2007

Weekend Update

This weekend I finished putting together the wardrobes for the bedroom, Emily finished painting the windows. We need to clean, but we're pretty much ready to move back into the bedroom. It turned out that our low voltage outlet (and one electrical outlet) ended up in the middle of my side of the wardrobe - so my wardrobe has internet! (yay)

Saturday evening, I made Murgh Korma. It turned out well, I cranked up the ginger a bit, but the rice didn't turn out so well.

For lunch on Sunday, I made a couple of pizza margheritas, which worked well (7 minutes @ 525 degrees). And, for dinner, I made the "pot au feu" from the French Laundry cookbook. I started it Saturday morning, cooked it Sunday morning, and finished Sunday evening. Details and photos to follow in a separate post.

January 01, 2007

Christmas Vacation

Christmas vacation is now over. It was relaxing, although our schedule was very full this year.

We only stayed in Michigan for a week this year, so I didn't get a chance to see everyone I wanted to see. We had two Christmas events on my side of the family - one up north, in Harrison with my mom's parents, and our traditional Christmas get together. On Emily's side we also had two Christmas get-togethers - at Sheri's house and at the farm in Illinois.

I did find time to cook while I was in Michigan. On three different nights, I made the Murgh Korma, Roast Chicken, and Baked Orecchiette. I also helped on Christmas day by making some side dishes: my mashed potatoes, some green beans, and cucumber kimchee.

When I got back, I spent the remainder of my free time cooking and playing NWN2. I made the Zuni Chicken, both vanilla and chocolate Pots de Crème, Rosemary Focaccia, and Chimay Braised Short ribs.

The focaccia had been on my todo list for a while. I ended up rolling it out a bit too thick, so it turned out a bit tall. But it turned out quite well. I used the recipe from Jamie's Kitchen, but substituted milk for half of the water and threw in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and some minced rosemary. The texture was just right, the only issue was the thickness of the loaf.

The Pots de Crème were from the Bouchon book. The turned out quite well, the chocolate one was a little dense but smooth, a combination of the chocolate and perhaps cooking it a bit too long. The vanilla was light and silky. I have since made a cinnamon batch, and will do mint and cardamom versions eventually. Then I'll move on to Crème Caramel and Crème Brulée.

The Chimay braised short ribs were easy and tasty. We didn't get a photo, but I will be making it again. This sunday I'm planning on making the "pot au feu" from the French Laundry cookbook out of the remaining ribs.