Emulsify, Reduce, and Slice on the Bias

UnknownNo recipes in this post, my friends, simply a few techniques which, if you’re not already employing, will surely elevate the results of your efforts in the kitchen.

Emulsify – put any thoughts of bottled salad dressing out of your mind forever, and learn how to simply emulsify the best dressings easily and from scratch.  Rule of thumb for a vinaigrette – 3 parts EVOO to 1 part vinegar, some minced shallot, Dijon mustard, touch of honey, S&P.  Whisk until emulsified.  You’ll know when, because the mixture will cease to look like a pool of oil and other stuff, and become a slightly thickened oneness.

Reduce – making anything with a sauce, be it a long-cooked stew, a braise, or a roasted chicken – remove the solids and reduce what’s left in the pot or pan while stirring or whisking over moderately high heat until it reaches a smooth, almost syrupy consistency.  No need to add flour or cornstarch to thicken – the reduction will be packed with flavor, and you’ll be tempted to eat it with a spoon.

Slice on the Bias when slicing vegetables, breads and meats, cutting on the bias exposes more surface area for both more exposed area of flavor and a lovelier presentation.  Even mundane vegetables like celery and carrots take on a restaurant-quality appearance when sliced on the extreme diagonal instead of chopped straight down.  A baguette of bread, too thin for a sandwich, yields sandwich-appropriate slices when cut this way.  Grilled boneless meats (and slow-cooked brisket) yield broader, more tender and flavor-packed slices when cut against the grain on the bias.

One more tip – keep those knives sharpened.  A dull knife will cut you more quickly than a sharp one when it slips off that onion or bagel you’re cutting.

 

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Emulsify, Reduce, and Slice on the Bias

UnknownNo recipes in this post, my friends, simply a few techniques which, if you’re not already employing, will surely elevate the results of your efforts in the kitchen.

Emulsify – put any thoughts of bottled salad dressing out of your mind forever, and learn how to simply emulsify the best dressings easily and from scratch.  Rule of thumb for a vinaigrette – 3 parts EVOO to 1 part vinegar, some minced shallot, Dijon mustard, touch of honey, S&P.  Whisk until emulsified.  You’ll know when, because the mixture will cease to look like a pool of oil and other stuff, and become a slightly thickened oneness.

Reduce – making anything with a sauce, be it a long-cooked stew, a braise, or a roasted chicken – remove the solids and reduce what’s left in the pot or pan while stirring or whisking over moderately high heat until it reaches a smooth, almost syrupy consistency.  No need to add flour or cornstarch to thicken – the reduction will be packed with flavor, and you’ll be tempted to eat it with a spoon.

Slice on the Bias when slicing vegetables, breads and meats, cutting on the bias exposes more surface area for both more exposed area of flavor and a lovelier presentation.  Even mundane vegetables like celery and carrots take on a restaurant-quality appearance when sliced on the extreme diagonal instead of chopped straight down.  A baguette of bread, too thin for a sandwich, yields sandwich-appropriate slices when cut this way.  Grilled boneless meats (and slow-cooked brisket) yield broader, more tender and flavor-packed slices when cut against the grain on the bias.

One more tip – keep those knives sharpened.  A dull knife will cut you more quickly than a sharp one when it slips off that onion or bagel you’re cutting.

 

Cobb Salad Redux

The last time I posted about Cobb salad was nearly three years ago – so long ago that I’d forgotten and had to check my blog post history.  It’s a favorite for dinner any time of year, but especially in warmer months when one wishes for a meal that requires no cooking.

All one needs is some really fresh, crisp romaine, a ripe avocado, red onion, crumbled bacon, your favorite blue cheese (mine is Societé roquefort, hands down), HB eggs, tomatoes, a pre-cooked quantity of chicken either from store-bought rotisserie or a package of grilled chicken pieces such as those from Trader Joe’s, and a really good dressing.

I do not like my Cobb salad composed with ingredients separated.  If it’s served that way at a restaurant, I ask that they toss it together for me.  The beauty of this salad is getting a little of each flavor with every forkful.

This is what we had for last night’s dinner, with just a few Stacey’s Parmesan Pita Chips for crunch:

RONI’S COBB SALAD

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HONEY-MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE:

Whisk into an emulsion the following – 4 Tbsp EVOO, 4 tsp white balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp finely sliced shallot, 2 tsp whole grain mustard, 2 tsp honey or maple syrup, S&P to taste.

SALAD ASSEMBLY:

Tear a head of romaine into pieces and divide between two large plates.

Add sliced red onion, chopped tomatoes (preferably Campari), and avocado, cut into 1/2″ chunks.

Toss each plate with about 2 Tbsp dressing.

Add crumbled bacon, shredded or chopped chicken (4-6 ounces each plate, depending on appetite),  and blue cheese, and toss again with remaining dressing.

Place quartered HB eggs around edge of plate.  Add some pita chips if you need some carbohydrate crunch.

No-Knead Pumpernickel with Raisins

Having perfected, in my opinion, the best deli caraway rye I’ve ever tasted, these past several months of bread baking have emboldened me to experiment with my second holy grail of loaves – pumpernickel.  Actually, raisin pumpernickel, as described in The Silver Palate as a “uniquely New York bread” also known as “Black Russian.”

Like the deli rye, this takes planning ahead, as the dough must be allowed to proof for 15-18 hours.  Start this between 3-6PM on day one and you’ll be ready to shape and bake by late morning or early afternoon the next day.  I usually allow the full 18 hours for my caraway rye, but was getting a bit antsy this morning to test the results after a 15 hour rise.  Turns out nothing was lost in that short-cut, and I’m thoroughly kvelling over the results.  I know there are raisin-haters among my followers, and so you can simply leave them out, but I found the addition of 1/2 cup golden raisins to this dough was well worth the inclusion for a moist counterpoint of sweetness in every bite:

RONI’S NO-KNEAD RAISIN PUMPERNICKEL

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INGREDIENTS:

1-3/4 cups lukewarm water

1/4 cup molasses

2 T kefir, plain yogurt or buttermilk

1/2 t SAF instant yeast

1/2 T instant coffee or espresso granules

2 t kosher salt

1 cup rye flour

3/4 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill artisan bread flour

1 T vegetable oil

1/2 cup golden raisins

Egg wash – one egg white lightly beaten with a t water

Caraway seeds

PREPARATION:

Stir together the lukewarm water, molasses and yeast in a 5-quart mixing bowl and allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Stir in the instant coffee or espresso, salt, rye flour and cocoa powder.  Add the whole wheat flour, bread flour, kefir (or buttermilk or yogurt) and the vegetable oil and stir well until all combined into a wet sticky dough.  You could use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer for this, but I found it easy enough to stir the wet dough by hand.  Cover with plastic and allow to rise 15-18 hours.

Turn out dough onto lightly floured work surface or bread board and rinse out and dry your bowl.  Then flatten the dough slightly and sprinkle 1/2 the raisins all over.  Fold the dough over, flatten and repeat with remaining raisins.  Shape the dough into a boule and place on sheet of parchment back in your mixing bowl.  Cover with plastic.

Preheat oven to 450º with a 4-quart Dutch oven on middle rack while letting the dough rest for 30 minutes.  Just before baking, brush all over with the egg-white wash and sprinkle with caraway seeds.  Make three shallow slashes across top of bread.  Carefully place the dough in its sling into your very hot Dutch oven, cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Then remove lid and bake another 16 minutes.  Remove from pot with oven mitts and allow to cool on a rack for about an hour before slicing.

Enjoy by itself, with a schmeer of cream cheese or butter, or as a unique bread for your favorite sandwich.

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Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Dinner

My husband and I recently established a Friday night ritual of going to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Randolph, MA – Pho 98 Cuisine – where we usually enjoy a first course of brightly colored and flavored cabbage salad garnished with duck, chicken or shrimp, and then a chicken or pork dish for each of us.  We missed doing that this past Friday, and my taste buds were feeling deprived.

I solved that matter yesterday with a stop at Kam Man market in Quincy after an appointment in the area, and stocked up on some of their beautiful produce and other staples that I keep on hand for Southeast Asian cooking at home.  My specific craving was for a lemongrass roasted chicken with spicy cucumber salad and sesame noodles on the side.

A quick search of the web led me to the Fine Cooking recipe archive for a truly spectacular recipe for Lemongrass Roast Chicken, which I found to be almost exactly the same as the recipe in my Mai Pham cookbook, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table.

I rarely follow a recipe exactly as written, except when it comes to breads which can be tricky if you mess with them.  This one, however, spoke to me in a language I could taste and so, except for altering the method of roasting, I used the exact ingredients for the marinade, the added coating of lemongrass and cilantro, and the exquisite dipping sauce.

Rather than reproduce the whole recipe here, simply click on the link above to find detailed ingredients, and do try the method I mentioned in my review – butterfly the chicken and roast it in a 12″ cast iron skillet at 400 for 45 minutes.  When done, it will look like this and you’ll want to spoon the gorgeous sauce all over it after cutting it with poultry shears.  NOTE:  One long stalk of lemongrass produced the required 1/2 cup of minced…I did not need the 3 suggested in the recipe.

LEMONGRASS ROAST CHICKEN 

(from Fine Cooking)

Lemongrass chickenThe spicy cucumber salad and sesame noodles were perfect accompaniments.

SPICY CUCUMBER SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp water

1 tsp Thai chili sauce

1/2 very large English cucumber, sliced in half vertically, seeds lightly scooped out, and cut into thin half-moons

1 small shallot halved and thinly sliced

Several sprigs cilantro and mint leaves torn into small pieces, or chopped

In medium bowl combine first 5 ingredients until sugar is completely dissolved.  Add the cucumber, shallot, and herbs and stir to get everything covered with the dressing.  Refrigerate until time to serve.

SESAME NOODLES JORDAN

Follow the link to this recipe which I submitted years ago to Epicurious, and which appears in the cookbook they later published.  It’s best served warm or room temperature, but leftovers can be enjoyed right from the fridge.  I did not add the usual complement of optional vegetables such as snow peas, red pepper or mushrooms for this meal’s side dish – simply a handful of the Thai basil from Kam Man to keep it simple.

The resulting meal was as good as anything I’ve ever enjoyed at Pho 98 or any other Vietnamese establishment.  And the kitchen did smell like there was a restaurant in the neighborhood.IMG_3950

 

 

 

Perfect for Passover Chicken

Another Passover approaches, another year when ronicooks is not doing a Seder.  So sad to admit that my many years of hosting a sumptuous Passover feast and a Seder led by my son have come to an end.  Family members are far-flung or departed, along with my will to cobble together a table of friends for the occasion.

And yet, the desire to prepare dishes that are Passover-perfect is still strong, if only for the immediate family.  This Sweet & Spicy roast chicken, adapted from the NYT cooking site, is just such a dish.  I make it in a 12″ cast iron skillet, but if doubled or tripled for a large gathering, it can easily be done in a larger roasting pan.

Husband and I are having this for dinner tonight, along with the challah I baked this afternoon, along with a skillet of oven herbed oven-roasted red-skin potato wedges and steamed snap peas.  But if you’re doing a Passover dinner, lose the challah, substitute matzo and potato kugel, and make this ahead of time because it keeps well and merely needs reheating while you enjoy the proceedings with your guests:

SWEET & SPICY ROAST CHICKEN

(adapted from New York Times)

INGREDIENTS:

1 Meyer lemon quartered and sliced thinly

3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp kosher salt

3 tbsp orange or ruby red grapefruit juice

4 tbsp EVOO

1-1/2 tbsp whole grain mustard

3 tbsp honey

1 bay leaf

1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 4-lb air-chilled chicken cut into 8 pieces, wing-tips removed

1 large sweet onion halved and thinly sliced

3 cups carrots thinly sliced on the bias

2/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill chopped date pieces

1 tsp dried thyme

Garnish:

thinly sliced scallions, chopped parsley or cilantro, and chopped pistachios

PREPARATION:

In a small saucepan, combine lemon juice, orange or grapefruit juice, olive oil, mustard, honey, bay leaf, pepper flakes, and black pepper.  Bring a boil, then simmer about 5 minutes and remove from heat to cool.

In a large bowl – 5 quart mixing bowl, for example – combine the cooled sauce with carrots, onions, dates, cut-up Meyer lemon, and thyme, and then add the chicken pieces and turn several times to make sure everything is incely coated.  Refrigerate as long as overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 and remove chicken pieces from the bowl so you can easily pour everything else into a 12″ cast iron skillet or small roasting pan.  Lay the chicken pieces atop the vegetables, skin side up.

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oven-ready

Roast for 35 minutes, basting occasionally, ubntil skin is nicely browned.  Reduce temperature to 350 and roast another 20 minutes, continuing to baste.

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and done!

To serve, remove chicken pieces to serving platter and pour sauce & veggies over.

Garnish and serve.

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garnished with parsley, scallions & crushed pistachios

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my dinner plate – yum!

 

Light Brioche Buns from NYT

Making a tavern-style hearty burger at home has always been one of my favorite quick dinners, and there was a time when the only buns that could stand up to a juicy 8-ounce patty were the brioche buns that Whole Foods now sells for $1.50 apiece.

But then, New York Times Cooking site came to the rescue.  So now, in keeping with my months-long commitment to home-baked breads, I can reproduce six of those hearty buns – with sesame seeds for added interest – for about the store-bought price of just one.

This recipe is adapted from the one on the NYT site.  My modifications are to make just 6 instead of the recommended 8, to add the sesame seeds, and to increase the baking time a couple of minutes because of the larger size.

Some of my friends are already baking these also, and have sworn off the store-bought bun forever, so why not try this……..

Hearty Sesame Brioche Buns

(adapted from NYT Cooking)

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INGREDIENTS:

3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp kosher salt

2-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1 cup warm water

3 tbsp warm milk

2-1/2 tbsp sugar

2 tsp SAF instant yeast, or other active dry yeast

2 large eggs

Sesame seeds

PREPARATION:

In a glass measuring cup, combine the water, milk, sugar and yeast and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, beat one of the eggs.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flours and salt, and add butter by rubbing in with your fingers until crumbly.  Add the yeast mixture and the beaten egg, and use the flat blade of your mixer to stir until a soft dough forms, then switch to dough hook and run mixer for 8 minutes on medium low to knead the dough.  Shape dough into a ball and cover with plastic, let rise until doubled 1-2 hours.  The full 2 hours realy makes a difference in texture, so be patient.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and divide dough into 6 pieces.  A kitchen scale comes in handy here, as you’ll have 30 ounces of dough and each bun should be 5 ounces.  Roll each piece into a ball and place with ample separation on your parchment-lined baking sheet.  cover with a cotton towel or napkin and let rise again 1–2 hours (prefereably 2).

Set a large shallow pan on bottom rack of oven and fill halfway with water.  Preheat oven to 400.  Beat remaining egg with 1 tbsp water.

Brush the risen buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds to taste.  Place rack in center of oven and bake for 17 minutes.  Enjoy the luscious aroma of baking bread in your oven, then remove and cool on a rack for about an hour.

This may sound like a lot of steps, but trust me – it’s very little hands-on time, and so much worth the effort.

VARIATION:

you can sbstitute 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour + 1 T vital wheat gluten for 1 cup of the bread flour.  I’ve done this and like the wheatier taste.  Still very light texture.