Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Celery Root with Melted Onions

Two nights ago my tongue, in a fit of sheer joy, did a back-flip and high-five'd a molar. What would make my tongue do such acrobatics, you ask? Celery root with melted onions is the culprit. The rather benign looking pile of soft, wilted looking stuff is the celery root with onions. This is another TK recipe from Ad Hoc and it is another home run. In traditional TK-style he breaks components down and then loads each step with maximum flavor. This dish needs cooked onions. You could a) simply saute them for about 5 minutes or b) sweat all the moisture out and then simmer them in butter with garlic, thyme, a bay leaf, and peppercorns for 30 minutes. Option A is a fine choice, but B will make you write your mom. (I am killing two birds with one stone, because my mom reads about it here...)

To melt your onions take about 4 cups of sliced onions that have been sliced from end to end, not cross-sectioned. (End to end cut onions hold their shape better when cooked.) Put them into a saute pan over medium heat, and without adding any oil, slowly cook them for about 15 minutes or so. You are removing moisture from the onions and concentrating their flavor at this point. The onions shouldn't really brown at all, but just soften up a bit. Next add in a bay leaf, two whole cloves of garlic that have been lightly crushed, a dozen peppercorns, and some sprigs of thyme. If you have cheesecloth on hand, and I never do, this would be a good time to wrap all that stuff in it. Fancy people call this a sachet. You don't need to wrap it up, but it saves time at the end when you are individually picking peppercorns out... Melt half a stick of butter (in cubes) into the pan, swirling as you do to keep it emulsified. Now the recipe calls for a parchment paper lid. TK has a huge crush on parchment paper lids, and I finally broke down and made one. It took 2 minutes and I think it really made an impact on the dish. I'm not going to describe how to make it, but just go ahead and Google it. It is as easy as falling down and I am sold on it now. The onions are going to gently cook away on medium low heat for the next half hour. Other than stirring every 10 minutes don't do anything else to the pan.

While your onions melt take your celery root (a.k.a. celeriac) peel it, quarter it lengthwise, and thinly slice it using a mandolin or your mad knife skills. (Mandolins are cheap an exceedingly useful. Go buy one. And some band-aids.) Get a pan hot over medium heat, once again no oil, and add the celeriac and let it sit for 10 minutes or so to soften. Then add in another bay leaf, crushed garlic cloves, more thyme, and some canola. Cook until completely soft, 10 minutes or so. Remember to keep the heat on the medium side. You aren't looking for color, but just to cook and soften your veg.

When your onions are sufficiently melted, mine browned a bit, and the celeriac softened drain them both on paper towels. Combine them in a pan to heat them together and add a cup or so of good chicken stock. This helps with the creamy factor.

I didn't make enough of this dish. I used one large celery root for four people and that was a bad decision. From now on, we use one large root per two people. We also had some delicious grilled asparagus and Arista pork chops (also an Ad Hoc number). The frenched pork chops are from DuBreton and the others from Windy Hill Farms.

When in doubt, eat pork.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chicken, Mushrooms, and Cauliflower "Mac"

I have decided to treat mushrooms like bacon. To clarify, I am including them in almost every dish I now make. All foods have different properties (bacon's is that it is awesome!) and mushrooms have the ability to satisfy. They are high in the chemicals (the carboxylate anion of glutamic acid) that contribute to the taste, umami. (Leave it to the Japanese to give a name to the taste that is difficult to explain.) We are use to salty, sweet, sour, and spice as the four primary tastes. However, we are now aware of the fifth taste; umami. It is the feeling of savory, fulfillment, and soul-restorration that comes from eating foods high in it. My favorite example is miso soup. I would always eat it and think that there was something fundamentally awesome with it. It turns out that dashi (a component of miso soup) and seaweed are both quite high in umami! I am a genius.

The color palette of this dish is just shy of institutional boring-ness, but the flavors ran strong! As the photo (And yes, it was taken on the railing of our deck. I thought I would mix up the scenery a bit.) shows we have a big ole pile of cremini and button mushrooms. These were sauteed with about a tablespoon of minced thyme and then had about 1/4 cup of chicken stock ladled in near the end. The chicken stock gave its flavor to the shroomies and picked up flavor from the pan. This became the delectable sauce you see floating around on the plate. It was included because the chicken was un-marinated and needed some moisture. The cauliflower "mac" is blanched cauliflower florets that I mixed in with a cheese sauce. I miscalculated and ended up with far too much cheese sauce, but some would argue that is impossible. The cheese sauce starts with the classic bechamel sauce and then I whip in some grated cheese. I have read about bechamel for years and have just started making it. I think the fancy French name got all big, tough-guy on me and intimidated me away. Well not no mo'! I kicked Mr. Bechamel in the face and now realize the ease and utility of it!

Take two tablespoons of butter, melt over medium heat, and then whisk in two tablespoons of flour. Bring this to a light simmer for a few minutes. Slowly pour in hot milk while whisking until it thickens. This only takes a few minutes and it is like an ankle in a tattoo parlor: a blank canvas. The cheese goes in at the end. You want the milk hot because cold milk will make the sauce seize and then you have to whisk more. A lot more.

Enjoy this dish, we were both quite happy with it, and it was around 8 points on the WW scale.

p.s. good chicken stock makes a huge difference in every dish.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Speaking of yum...


This is a blog I read a lot feel free to click the link on the right hand side of my page to get there. Between Ruhlman's prose/cooking and his wife's photography it is a pretty killer site.

Yikes, that was a fast week!

Time flies by and suddenly I haven't posted anything in a week! On a side note as a restaurant manager, another Mother's Day successfully cooked, plated, and served with only minimal effects to blood pressure.

Life has been hectic and without time to do too much involved cooking. However, I did have time this week to compose a meal with some thought behind it. Sometimes it is those quick little jobbies that come out blazing and make you sit back and smile. This one was tasty albeit not mind-shatteringly stupendous.

What we got here is a case of Pa Zube caught brook trout stuffed with thyme and lemon, and then it was pan-roasted. The glazed carrots from a previous post (still cut with the "oblique cut" method). Lastly some asparagus that was also pan-roasted with lemon and minced shallot. Nothing like wild caught fish to make you feel good about eating. Yum.

My apologies once again for being a bad poster and this one being short. The next one will be better. And remember the first one is free... but then you pay.