Category Archives: Food

Posts having to do with food in any way.

Another year over

Joshua Fagans: Blog Photos 2012 &emdash;

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since the big birthday blowout but the calendar doesn’t lie. Since this was not a round number birthday the event was a good bit more modest but of course I cooked and shared the event with good friends. After some cheeses on my baguettes we had a first course of Delicata stuffed pasta in a brown butter sauce with dates and almonds. This is from the SPQR cookbook (local restaurant in San Francisco). I would have never put these ingredients together but wow what an amazing combo.

Joshua Fagans: Blog Photos 2012 &emdash;
Next up another SPQR recipe this time braised short ribs which were braised for 22 hours in the sous vide before being finished in the oven. Served these with roasted rapini and polenta.

Joshua Fagans: Blog Photos 2012 &emdash; For dessert I created a ricotta donut and served it fresh market plums and a marscarpone cream. Not bad for something I made up but somehow not perfect. Probably should have piped them out long.

Ricotta Donuts (using Bouchon Bakery Pâte á choux)

250 grams H20
125 grams butter
2.5 grams salt
138 grams flour
250 grams eggs
225 grams ricotta
25 grams sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste

Make standard Pâte á choux with first five ingredients. When cooled a bit add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Pipe into small rounds and freeze until ready. Fry for several minutes, until golden brown in 350 degree oil.

I got a number of awesome gifts (cooking related, go figure?) but this one is special:

Joshua Fagans: Blog Photos 2012 &emdash; I have been coveting this knife from a distance for a while but had so far managed to abstain. I made the mistake of picking on up at the cooking store and simply couldn’t put it down. I have never felt a knife better balanced and a handle better. I got some other interesting gifts as well but you will have to come back to the blog to hear about them ;)…

 

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Filed under Bouchon, Cookbooks, Cooking, Family, Food

Romanesco (aka Alien Cauliflower)

Spectacular heads of cauliflower are in season here in California. I couldn’t pass up this beautiful purple and my favorite, romanesco, which my son calls Alien Cauliflower. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is also one of the simplest: roasting.

Roasted Cauliflower

One head of cauliflower
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Butter

Preheat the oven to 425. Wash the cauliflower, core, and separate into bite sized pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a pan. It is best to place them in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Roast 20-30 minutes tossing occasionally until as tender as you desire. Toss with a little butter and check seasoning.

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California Borscht

We have some Russian friends that make a mean Borscht. I thought it would be fun to make a lighter version that used the milder golden and chiogga beets that I found at the market and some turkey stock I had lying around. I started by roasting the beets though I’m not convinced that is necessary. The results were amazingly good, I decided to call it…

California Borscht

Two bunches large beets (golden and/or chiogga, save the greens!!)
Two large shallots sliced
One clove garlic sliced
Stock to cover (around 4C, turkey, chicken, or veggie)

Was the beets and roast in a 350 oven until soft. Peel the beets and slice. Warm the olive oil in a large pot and sweat the shallots and garlic. When softened add the beets and then the stock to cover. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the beets are soft and the broth is flavorful. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Wash and roughly chop the greens and add to the soup. Stir a few times until tender and serve.

 

Also, still working on my bread which is still tasting good.

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Holding Court

Dungeness crab season began this week. I didn’t realize until I saw them at the farmers’ market stand. Suddenly I knew what we were having dinner. Dungeness is a crab not many have had off the Northwest coast of the United States. My understanding is that it doesn’t ship well which just means we get more ;). It is delightful if you ever get a chance to try. My favorite way to enjoy them is to cook them in a court bouillon, roll up your sleeves, and just be okay with the mess. We shared with some friends who chided me for “making stew” as I assembled the cooking liquid. I got the last laugh after we started eating…

Dungeness in Court Bouillon (adapted from Bouchon Cookbook)

1 Crab per two people works pretty well (I cooked four with below)
around 1 gallon water
one bottle dry white wine
two lemons cut in half and squeezed
two leaks cleaned well
bouquet garni (parsley, garlic, peppercorn, thyme)
handful of shallots cut in half
two fennel bulbs cleaned well and cut into quarters
some salt and pepper
some vinegar (maybe a cup or so)

I didn’t really measure much of the above so use as guidelines. Bring to boil and toss in the crabs. Boil for four minutes and then move pot of heat and steep for 30 minutes. Remove to platter. You can chill if you’d like but we just ate them when they were cool enough to touch. It was some of the sweetest, most delightful crab I have ever had and fortunately the children didn’t really eat their halves :).

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Mission Accomplished

A few years ago my wife and I were wine tasting in Napa Valley on a Monday. As often happens we got to talking with the tasting room staff and they asked us where we were having dinner. Ad Hoc we told them. “Is it fried chicken night?!” they asked. We told them we didn’t know. They looked it up for us. “It is!” Everywhere we went we heard the same thing: “Ad Hoc? Is it fried chicken night? They have the best fried chicken ever!” The excitement built. I was sure that no fried chicken could live up to the hype. It turns out I was wrong and to this day Ad Hoc serves fried chicken every other Monday night.

When the Ad Hoc cookbook came out I was excited to try the fried chicken out. It was good but not as good. The chicken came out a bit dry and somehow the coating wasn’t what I remembered. I was sad but fried chicken isn’t the kind of thing you can keep cooking until you get it right without repercussions so I put it on the back burner. This weekend felt like the right time to try again.

The market did not have the small chickens called for in the recipe which definitely made me nervous. I was worried that thick pieces would require cooking too long and burning the outside. I decided that rather than just cut the breast into two pieces like the recipe called for I would cut it into three or four based on its size and shape to restore balance. I remembered the pieces being fairly small at the restaurant. The chicken is then brined in a highly flavored bring for 12 hours (or 9 in my case) and then brought to room temp before coating with seasoned flour and buttermilk. The recipe has specifics for peanut oil temperatures and times that are different for the different cuts and then finish with a little salt and thyme. This time it was every bit as good as what I remembered. An amazing crunch that you can practically feel in your toes, moist flavorful meat, and a taste that keeps you eating long after you probably should. Mission accomplished. I was practically giddy.

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Filed under Ad Hoc, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food

Dropping Acid (and Anise)

When it comes to cooking there is one thing I wish people knew more about: acid! When you are doing the final seasoning of a dish don’t just reach for salt and pepper. I’m lucky enough to have a lemon tree in the front yard. Lemon is nicely neutral in its effect on dishes but there is a whole palette of acidic options. Beans and lentils love red wine vinegar which brings a darker, more complex tannic flavor. Sherry, rice or cider vinegar also offer complexity that are super in a lot of soups. If you don’t have a lemon tree try Champagne vinegar which has a similar neutrality. And I haven’t met many things that don’t taste better with some thick, aged balsamic. Acid has a wonderful way of bringing out flavors and adding brightness all while reducing the amount of salt you need. Give it a try!

Red Kuri is an odd squash because the skin will actually soften as it cooks so you don’t even have to peel it. It also has a simply wonderful, rich flavor. This is a modification of a recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s excellent Around My French Table (again!). I wanted to add a few more layers of flavor so I made a sachet with some herbs and spices.

Red Kuri Soup

1 Red Kuri Squash
1 1/2 large leeks white and light green parts only
sachet (bay leaf, few sprigs thyme, few peppercorns, few sprigs parsley, half star anise)
3 c milk
3 c water
Acid!
Pernod

Wash the squash then halve it and scrape out the seeds a fibery material. Take the pointy top and blossom nub off then cut into slices. Dump this in a pot with the well cleaned leeks and everything else and bring to a simmer. Add a bit of salt too. Cook until everything is soft (about 30 minutes) and puree (taking the sachet out first of course). After pureeing season to taste with salt, pepper, acid, and Pernod if you have it. Pernod is an anise flavored liquor which compliments the star anise nicely. I used some lemon juice and a little sherry vinegar. Enjoy!

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Dinner for 6 (aka the importance of a larder)

Hen tortellini with nasturtium in consommé

We had some first time visitors for dinner Saturday. I never quite know how people are going to react to their first dinner. I never know how many times my wife will have to apologize for her crazy husband’s cooking. I’m happy to report we did well on both fronts. The dinner was complicated by us being out Friday night, me participating in a running event Saturday morning, and my son acquiring a remote controlled airplane which, of course, required spending some time in a field trying to get it in the air.

As a result the dinner required dipping into the strategic reserves. One of the guests is French so my mind landed on featuring lamb and flageolets in the main course. I love lamb and thought about doing racks but they are just horribly expensive. If you move down a touch you can find the chop. I’ve started buying the whole cut that turns into chops and then taking both pieces of meat off the bone and tying them together to form a roast. I did this Thursday night seasoning with rosemary, salt, pepper, and anchovies (yes try it!) then left them to cure. Before the guests arrived these got dropped into the Sous Vide machine to cook to rare over two hours before browning on the stove. One of the guests claimed it was the best lamb they had ever had. Who am I to argue ;)?

The rest of the menu fell in to place after consulting a few more cookbooks and the larder. A nice make ahead is the Comte crackers from Dorie Greenspan’s excellent Around My French Table.They can be made ahead and then sliced and baked as your guests arrive. With the crackers I served some bread with roasted Piquillo peppers and sheep milk cheese. I had roasted and frozen these a few weeks before not knowing when I would use them. The first course was the tortellini that I had learned to make at Flour + Water in a consommé, both of which were also in the freezer. With the lamb and beans (which were also cooked and frozen) I served a Heston Blumenthal inspired salad of radicchio, greens, shaved blue cheese, hazelnuts, and pears. And since my wife won’t eat lamb I did butter basted chicken for her.

On the list of things to try was a cake from Miette, a local bakery that produces some killer cakes. I had just read an article that put their Tomboy cake on a short list of best cakes in the country so how could I resist even though I have limited experience with layer cakess. Not as pretty as their versions but quite tasty. It is a rich, double chocolate cake with a raspberry buttercream.

I am pleased to announce that we were also able to consume five bottles from the wine fridge over the course of the long evening! I chose a nice creamy Benovia La Pommeraie Chardonnay to pair with the tortellini. The Selyem Rochioli and Beuhler Cabernet accompanied the main course. The sparkling cider is what we call “kid’s wine” and the sparkling fermented juice was served at the beginning of the evening. The pairings were quite successful.

It was a fantastic evening. There is nothing quite as satisfying as cooking in front of an appreciative audience and our friends were that and more. The meal has left a lingering glow in the house even after the last of the wine glasses was cleaned and put away.

 

Sous Vide Lamb Roast

kosher salt 3/4 tsp per pound
few sprigs of rosemary
freshly ground pepper
one anchovy fillet per pound
touch of lemon zest
olive oil

Chop the rosemary and anchovies and then rub together with the salt and lemon zest. Add olive oil until you have a spreadable “paste” and rub all over the lamb roasts (I trimmed some of the extra fat as well) and marinate for 24-48 hours. Tie the roasts and vacuum seal. Warm the sous vide to your desired doneness in my case 130 F (54.5 C) for the bottom end of medium rare and cook for around two hours. Pull and dry the roasts while you heat a pan. I added some garlic, thyme, and butter to some olive oil and seared the roasts while basting them. Slice and enjoy!

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Filed under Baking, Cookbooks, Cooking, Family, Food, Napa, Russian River, Sous vide

Brutti Ma Buoni (aka Ugly But Good)

My recent forays into ice cream and pasta have left a lot of egg whites lying around. Add to this a pressing need to conjure a dessert for a neighborhood party and I turned to my well worn copy of Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. In it are these Piedmontese cookies which provide a nutty crunch that is a nice counterpoint to the things you will find on most dessert tables. They also go well with your morning coffee, or so I’ve been told ;). I’m not sure I think they are all that ugly but I do think they are good. They would be a great accompaniment for ice cream as well.

Brutti Ma Buoni

11 ounces slivered almonds
1 c + 3 tbsp sugar
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
salt

Turn the oven to 300 and run to the market to get slivered almonds (or anything without skins). When you get home start the egg whites and a pinch of salt in the standing mixer. Dump the almonds and sugar into a food processor and grind until as fine a powder as you can. If you are crazy, like me, finish your egg whites to stiff peaks with the vanilla in a copper bowl (they really are better!) and dump the almond mixture into your the now empty mixer bowl. Add some of the egg whites to the nut mixture and stir until well combined. Add the rest of the whites and mix until combined as gently as you can. Scrape into a piping bag with no tip and pipe 1 tbsp sized cookies. They will spread a bit in the oven so give them 2 inches of space. Place in your oven and turn as necessary to get a nice brown over 30 minutes or so. Take your shower so you look decent then put the still cooling trays of cookies into the trunk of your car and get to the party.

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Filed under Baking, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food

Back to School (aka The Nasturtium Conundrum)

It was back to school week so it seemed appropriate to head back to Flour + Water for more pasta class, this time with a friend. I had jumped in at the intermediate class and quickly decided I had to come back for the advanced class. I heartily recommend these classes to anybody in the Bay Area interested in learning how to make pasta. The staff is great, you meet some interesting people, and you get to eat! You also learn and practice how to make pasta under the supportive and expert hands of the Flour + Water cook staff (this time Matt and Ryan aided by Stephanie thank you guys!).

We made two pastas: Cappellacci Dei Briganti and Tortellini. The Tortellini was a Nasturtium dough with more nasturtium leaves in the filling. It smelled fantastic. When dinner rolled around they served it in tomato water “brodo.” What an inspired idea! I was psyched to get home and try myself.

You can imagine how crushed I was to venture into the garden and find the thriving Nasturtium plant we had was gone. Never one to give up, I decided to use some herbs instead. I pulled out the dehydrator and dried fresh parsley and tarragon which I then ground into a fairly fine powder. I put close to 2 grams each into around 350 grams of 00 flour.

For the filling I roasted some chickens as I worked on my tomato sauce. The next day I made the filling and with some help from my daughter rolled out and made a crowded half sheet pans worth of tortellini.

Hen Tortellini Filling

1 Large Shallot chopped
4 cloves garlic sliced
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Half bunch Yellow Chard (or some greens you like)
1/2 tsp fresh toasted and ground fennel seed
1/8 tsp chili flakes
8 oz cooked hen (or chicken)
1/4 c grated parmigiano
2 Tbsp chopped chives
2 Tbsp chopped tarragon
2 eggs

Sweat the shallots in the olive oil for a few minutes and then add the garlic. Rinse and tear the chard from the ribs and roughly chop, drain and add it with the fennel and chili. Throw everything except the eggs and herbs into a food processor and grind. Season to taste with salt and pepper adding the herbs. I let it sit in the fridge for a while to come together and then added the eggs.

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Double Trouble (aka how to trick kids into cooking)

A few years ago Buy Rite ice cream opened up in San Francisco. The flavor that got the most excitement was salted caramel. As soon as I tried it I knew I had to figure out how to make it at home. The trouble was the salt in the recipe lowered the freezing temperature. My ice cream maker (the kind you put in the freezer) churned its heart out but could only deliver slush. So, of course, I “needed” a freezer with its own compressor. The problem was I was never satisfied with the results! And so every now and again I would pull the machine out and try again but it was always the same: icy texture.

 Recently both Buy Rite and Humphrey Slocombe (another local ice cream place) came out with cookbooks. It was time to try again. This time I had a thought. What if I let the ice cream maker get fully cold before I started? When it was good and frosted up I poured the base in (which had spent 10-20 minutes in the freezer) and viola perfect texture! Why the instructions don’t tell you to do this I don’t know but please, let your machine get good and cold before you pour!


Of course I needed to make a lot of ice cream to practice. I thought it would be fun to have the kids each pick a flavor and then help me make it. Connor chose Mint Chocolate Chip and Annabelle chose White Chocolate Raspberry. It is interesting to note that I would not have personally chosen either of these but they were both fantastic! And what do you do with all those egg white? How about homemade ice cream cones made in a Pizzelle machine!

You can find the recipe for the salted caramel ice cream here at Serious Eats although I will say that unlike the poster I always use the dry caramel method. I would also recommend the Buy Rite ice cream cookbook. I have yet to be disappointed!

 

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