Showing posts with label homecooking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homecooking. Show all posts

Monday, October 26, 2020

To Make a Sweeter Balsamic Vinegar, Heat and Reduce

Transform ordinary balsamic vinegar into thicker, slightly sweet reduced balsamic to make a best-ever salad dressing. 

Reduction is a simple and effective way to increase flavor by reducing the water content of a liquid using heat or evaporation.



Reduction transforms inexpensive balsamic vinegar into an extraordinary sauce. At a restaurant supply store like Smart and Final, 5 liters of Italian balsamic vinegar sells for under $20.00. 5 liters will make 40 ounces of reduced balsamic, enough for a hundred servings.

Reduced Balsamic Vinegar

Like vinegar in general, reduced balsamic does not need refrigeration and will last indefinitely.

To make an oil and vinegar salad dressing, combine 1 teaspoon of reduced balsamic with 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. Mix well and drizzle over tossed lettuce, tomatoes and burrata or chopped Italian parsley and feta.

Time to prepare: 10-15 minutes or 10-15 hours depending on the amount of vinegar being reduced

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Italian balsamic vinegar to make a single serving or 1 large 5 liter bottle to make 40 ounces


Directions:

For an individual serving, pour 1/4 cup of vinegar into a small saucepan and heat over a slow flame. That will take 10-15 minutes and make about a tablespoon. Let cool and mix with olive oil to use as a salad dressing to serve 4. 

To make a larger quantity, pour the 5 liters of balsamic vinegar into a large pot. Open the kitchen windows and heat the vinegar. Be careful to keep the flame on low.  A gentle simmer is good.

As the volume of vinegar reduces, adjust the flame to avoid boiling, which creates an unpleasant flavor.

5 liters of vinegar will take 8-10 hours to reduce to 20% of the original volume.  Use a small spoon to taste the vinegar. When thickened, the balsamic has a slightly sweet flavor. Roughly speaking, 5 liters will make 40 ounces of reduced balsamic.

If the balsamic reduces too much and is too syrupy, add a cup of water, stir well and heat. Add more water until you have the consistency you enjoy.

Use a funnel to fill plastic squeeze bottles. I prefer a 4 ounce bottle for easy handling. 5 liters of balsamic vinegar will make nine to ten 4 ounce bottles.

As the balsamic reduces, sometimes, a film or solids might develop. If so, wet a piece of cheese cloth and put it inside a funnel placed into a squeeze bottle. Pour the reduced balsamic through the cheese cloth and fill the squeeze bottles. When all the bottles are filled, squeeze the cheese cloth so you capture all of the balsamic. Rinse clean and dry the cheese cloth.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Eggsellent – A One-Egg Omelet That’s All About Flavor

Right now, most of us are safe-at-home. Like most of you, we have cleaned out our pantry, refrigerator and freezer to inventory exactly what we have on hand. What we don't have will have to wait until we go to the market, which is now once a week, usually on Wednesday when we can also go to the local farmers market.



Maximizing those ingredients is important so we don't have to go shopping more than necessary. I have been writing about getting several meals out of one chicken and making pasta and gnocchi from scratch, because a few ingredients can make many meals.


But to eat well doesn’t mean denying yourself pleasures. In fact, consider the gastronomic advantages of a one-egg omelet.


THREE, TWO, ONE

A neighborhood restaurant we frequented for many years proudly publicized their three-egg omelet. The omelet was a plump 2-inches thick and settled on the plate like a seal sunning itself on a wave-washed rock.
After eating their three-egg omelet, I always felt like going back to bed.
Having consumed many omelets over many years, the realization hit me that what I like about an omelet isn’t the eggs. What I like is the filling.
At home I experimented. What I was looking for was a ratio of bulk: flavor that pleased my palate and wasn’t overly filling. Three eggs were never considered, and eventually two eggs gave way to one. Another significant milestone was switching from a stainless steel to the more forgiving qualities of a nonstick pan.

A THIN ONE-EGG OMELET IS A REMINDER OF DELICATE CREPES


One egg creates texture not bulk and places the emphasis solidly on the filling. Just about anything sautéed, roasted or grilled can find itself tucked inside an eggy bed. For me, I prefer fillings that are dry rather than wet, but experiment and find the ingredients and combinations you like. 
Whatever the mix of ingredients, the key to a good omelet is creating a warm creaminess of melted cheese.

The combinations are limited only by your palate preferences. The salty-sweetness of sautéed ham, Comte cheese, spinach, shallots and shiitake mushrooms complement the pliancy of the egg. Grilled asparagus and Parmesan cheese, dusted with finely chopped Italian parsley leaves makes an elegant omelet perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Shredded lobster, Manchego cheese, cilantro, raw red onions, a dusting of cayenne and a small amount of finely chopped ripe tomatoes transform an ordinary egg into a culinary adventure.
Adding country-fried potatoes, buttered toast with jam and crisp bacon or pork links, a tossed green salad or a bowl of fresh fruit to fill out the plate and the one-egg omelet creates an enviable meal, full of flavor and careful about calories.

One-Egg Omelet With Spinach, Cheddar Cheese, Shallots and Mushrooms


Use any cheese of your liking. I prefer a cheese that plays well with others. Strong cheeses, such as blue cheese, will dominate the other flavors in the filling. Mild cheddar, Comte, Manchego and soft goat cheese work well.
The recipe is for one, because making each omelet individually will result in the best looking dish. If you are serving more than one, multiply the number of servings times the ingredient quantities to create the correct amount needed to make all the omelets.
Use a 9-inch nonstick pan, understanding that nonstick pans are designed to be used on medium and low heat. Because fat is not required to prevent the egg from sticking to the pan, the butter is used for flavoring. Could the omelet cook on a nonstick pan without the butter? Yes, perhaps as serviceably, but that little bit of butter adds a lot of flavor.

The egg can be beaten by itself or with milk or half-and-half. 
Serves 1

Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients
2 teaspoons sweet butter
1 cup spinach leaves and stems, washed, pat dried, chopped
1 shallot, washed, ends and skin removed, finely chopped
2-3 mushrooms (shiitake or brown preferably), washed, root ends trimmed, finely sliced longwise
1 farm-fresh egg, large or extra large
1 tablespoon cream, half and half, whole milk or nonfat milk (optional)
⅓ cup freshly grated cheese, preferably white cheddar, Comte, Manchego or goat
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Directions
1. In the nonstick pan, melt 1 teaspoon butter and sauté together the spinach, shallot and mushrooms until wilted and lightly browned. Season to taste with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and cayenne (optional). Use a high-heat or Silpat spatula to remove the sauté from the pan and set aside.
2. Beat the egg and milk (optional) until frothy.
3. On a medium-low flame, heat the nonstick pan, melt the remaining teaspoon butter and pour in the beaten egg using the spatula to get every drop into the pan.
4. Swirl the egg mixture around to coat the bottom of the pan so it looks like a full moon.
5. Gently sprinkle the cheese on one half of the omelet — the half moon with the filling –and spoon on the sauté to cover the cheese.
6. When the cheese has melted and the egg is cooked the way you like, use the Silpat spatula to gently flip the empty side of the half moon on top of the filling.
7. Use the Silpat spatula to help slide the omelet onto the plate and serve hot.

8. Serve hot with toast, sautéed potatoes, a breakfast meat (crisp bacon or sausage links) and fruit.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Ready, Set, Go: Easy-to-Make Gnocchi is a Perfect Staying-at-Home Comfort Food



Monday, March 30, 2020

Ready, Set, Go: Easy-to-Make Gnocchi is a Perfect Staying-at-Home Comfort Food 

Making gnocchi is perfect for this time when we are spending a lot of time at home. If you make gnocchi already, you know how easy they are to prepare. If you have enjoyed gnocchi in Italian restaurants, you remember how these heavenly "pillows" make you happy.


I was lucky enough to have chef Mirko Paderno invite me into his kitchen where he did a cooking video showing how to make gnocchi. Please go this link to see Mirko make gnocchi.

Mirko's original recipe was designed to serve 8. I have adapted his recipe to serve 4 people since we cannot currently have dinner parties. I made other small changes as well.

Gnocchi Made with Cold Potatoes

For Paderno, two details are key to making the best gnocchi. The potatoes must be steamed over salted boiling water so the flesh does not become water-logged. 

Mirko lets his salt-steamed potatoes cool before he puts them into the food mill. By using cold potatoes, the dough needs less flour. Also, if hot potatoes are used, when the egg and flour are added, the gnocchi must be cooked immediately to avoid becoming soggy. By working with cold potatoes, he can make the dough, seal it in plastic wrap and use it later that day or the next.

Paderno uses Idaho russet potatoes because they have a neutral flavor, the better to work with a variety of sauces. But he suggests using any potato you enjoy, even sweet potatoes or purple potatoes. 

Paderno uses “00” flour which blends easily with the potato. If “00” is not available, use all-purpose (AP) flour. 

The amount of flour used partly depends on the moisture of the cooked potatoes. Getting the right density takes a bit of practice. The gnocchi dough should be not too dry and not too damp. Like pastry dough, with a dusting of flour, the gnocchi should roll out without sticking on the work surface. Watchthe video to see Paderno’s technique.

Serves 4

Time to prepare: 30 minutes

Time to cook: 30 minutes

Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Idaho russet potatoes, washed, skin on
5 ounces “00” or AP flour
2 tablespoons AP flour for dusting
1/2 extra large egg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Place a steamer on the bottom of a large pot. Add water only to the bottom of the steamer. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Place potatoes in the pot. Cover.  

Depending on the size of the potatoes, cook 20 minutes or until a paring knife can be inserted into the potatoes easily. Add water as needed if more steaming is required. Remove when the potatoes are soft but not mushy. 

Cool potatoes to room temperature or refrigerate. When it is time to make the gnocchi, peel and discard the skins or reserve to sauté with onions and parsley for breakfast. 

Run the cooked, peeled potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill using a fine blade. If neither is available, press the softened potatoes though a strainer or colander.

The potatoes will now look like strands of soft pasta. Place into a mixing bowl and add flour (preferably "00") and mix well together. 

Sprinkle work area with flour. Place potato-flour mixture on the work area and create a “volcano,” the way you do when making fresh pasta, with a depression in the middle of the mound.

In a bowl, crack open a raw egg and whisk with a fork until the white and yolk are well blended.

Pour 1/2 the egg mixture into the center of the volcano.  Reserve the other 1/2 for another use.

Using the fork and your fingers, work the egg, flour and potato together until all ingredients are combined into a ball. 

As you do with pasta (please see that recipe as well), roll the ball back and forth on the work surface. Sprinkle additional flour to prevent sticking. When the ball is smooth and well-formed, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place into an air-tight plastic bag and refrigerate for one hour or until the next day.

Before cooking the gnocchi, make a sauce. That can be as simple as a butter sauce with a little pasta water or as complicated as a braised meat ragu.


Shaping the Dough into Gnocchi

Sprinkle the work surface with flour. Work in batches. Cut the dough into four pieces. 

Form one piece of dough into a ball and then using both hands, fingers and palms, roll the potato dough back and forth until it takes the shape of a dowel, about 1” in diameter. 



The dough is forgiving so if the dowel breaks apart, start over.

Once you have made a uniform shape, create individual gnocchi using a pastry cutter or chefs knife. The gnocchi should be approximately 1” long.


It is important to mark each gnocchi using a fork, your finger or a gnocchi board. The indentations will help the sauce stick to each gnocchi.

Cooking the Gnocchi

Fill a large pot with water. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring to a boil.


The gnocchi cook quickly. To determine how much time is needed, place several test gnocchi into the water. 

If the first gnocchi breaks apart, either the water is boiling too fast and/or the potato dough needs more flour, in which case you can return to the work area, gather up the gnocchi, sprinkle with flour, knead together, roll out and cut again.

If your gnocchi hold their shape in the boiling water, test how long they should cook. Taste one after 30 seconds. Taste another after 45 seconds. And another after 60 seconds and so on. Decide which you like and use that timing to make the rest. For my latest batch, 120 seconds worked the best.

Working in batches, carefully drop a dozen gnocchi at a time into the boiling, salted water. 

Using a wire strainer, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water. 

Drain and add to the heated sauce, which can be as simple as sautéed San Marzano tomatoes with olive oil or a tablespoon or two of pasta water mixed with a good quality melted butter. Or more robust with slices of grilled sausage or coated with pesto sauce.

Serve each plate of gnocchi hot, topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Easy-to-Make Rotisserie Chicken and Roasted Vegetables

I haven't been home for the last three weekends and I'll be traveling the next two as well, but I'm not complaining. It's been good to get out of Los Angeles and break my routine. But traveling means eating out and even if the food is great, I miss home-cooking.

When I got home I wanted to make a meal but I needed to cook something that didn't take too much effort. A rotisserie chicken definitely fit the bill. With only a couple of minutes of prep, I could walk away and let the chicken cook itself. The skin seals in the meat's delicious juices while it crisps on the outside. You get the best of both worlds: moist and crisp.

Whenever I've seen rotisserie masters like Thomas Odermatt of RoliRoti, they always put potatoes and onions in the drip pan at the bottom of the rotisserie. The vegetables soak up the drippings and fry crisp-on-the-outside from the indirect heat. I correctly assumed that a lot of other vegetables could be added to the drip pan and gain a flavor advantage.

If you don't have a rotisserie, no problem. You'll get a similar effect if you roast the chicken in the oven. Just turn the chicken every 30 minutes so it cooks evenly. About the vegetables, I used potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts but you can add just about any you like--eggplant, squash, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, turnips...

Chicken-Roasted Vegetable Soup

And there's a two-fer here: save the bones and make stock, then chop up the left over roasted vegetables or sauté new ones, and make a chicken-vegetable soup. Top with homemade croutons and you have a second easy-to-make home cooked meal.

Rotisserie Chicken and Roasted Vegetables

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 2 hours


Ingredients

1 farm fresh 3 1/2 – 4 pound chicken ( washed, pat dried, legs and wings trussed)

2 carrots (washed, ends trimmed, peeled, cut into 1/4" thick rounds)

1 yellow onion (washed, ends trimmed, peeled, roughly chopped)

1/2 pound Yukon (washed, cut into pieces 1/2" square) or fingerling potatoes (washed, cut in half, lengthwise)

1/2 pound mushrooms (washed, dried, quartered)

1/2 pound Brussels sprouts (washed, root end trimmed, quartered)

Olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves

Sea salt and pepper


Method


Rub olive oil on the trussed chicken, season with rosemary leaves, sea salt, and black pepper. Put onto the rotisserie spit being careful to tighten the wing nuts so the chicken doesn’t slip during cooking. If a rotisserie isn’t available, roasting the chicken in a 350 degree oven and turning every 30 minutes will have a similar result.

In either case, put the vegetables into a roasting pan, toss with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. If using an oven, put the chicken on a roasting rack over the pan. If using a rotisserie, position the chicken on the spit so its juices will drip onto the vegetables.


Every 30 minutes, toss the vegetables for uniform cooking.


Cook for 2 hours or until the legs move easily, remove, lay a piece of aluminum foil over the chicken to let it rest 5 minutes. Put the vegetables on a plate and either lay the whole chicken on top or, what I prefer for ease-of-serving, cut apart the chicken and slice the breast pieces.

Thanksgiving's Best Appetizer: Turkey Liver Pâté

Usually we order a twenty pound turkey to feed the twenty to twenty-five friends and family who gather at our home for Thanksgiving. In this...