Monday, January 16, 2012

Current Culinary Preoccupations...

I haven't had the chance to blog as often as I'd like... and most of that has to deal with work.  It's been busier than anyone expected post New Year's.  Which is good.  I take it as a sure sign the economy isn't doing as bad as we'd like to believe.  It's been a good year.  I hope that 2012 continues in that vein.

Lately, I've had the opportunity to do a lot more dried salumi work.  Quartino is one of the few restaurants to actually have a FDA approved room for sausage work.  And a chef who knows his stuff.  I've dealt with mostly the other end of charcuterie work the last fifteen years and it's a refreshing change of pace as far as (re)learning older techniques.

I've also been making all the ricotta in house.  We estimate 50 gallons of milk a week.  During the slow season.  20% yield is considered awesome.  But the end product is phenomenal.  You really have to come in and eat. 

I'm going to make a resolution to post more frequently now that things have settled down a bit, but if my posting is sporatic, please continue to stop on in.  There's plenty more to talk about.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Chester Copperpot

Anne & I's new toy.  Sur La Table had this baby on sale, coupled with a coupon and our professional discount, dropped this bowl into a *very* affordable range.  As you can tell, I'm excited.  Zabaglione, sabayon, and candied nuts are now within our grasp at home.


Happy New Years! Buddah's Palm Info & Stuff.

First off, Happy New Years!  Today I'd like to highlight a little used ingredient that I enjoy to cook with.  Buddah's hand or Buddah's palm citron is a traditional asian ingredient that has come to represent happiness, wealth, and longevity during the New Year.  I'm thinking these are all things we could use a little more of, right?

I found this hand at Meier in the 'burbs.  They aren't too hard to find, they're just one of those things that makes you wonder how you're going to eat it.  Hell, it has tentacles or something.  For those who read H.P. Lovecraft, it looks like a cross between Cthulhu & Big Bird from Sesame Street fame. 

Oh, and by the way, these suckers are fragrant.  Beautiful to look at, they'll last out at room temp. for a few weeks if fresh, perfuming the room you keep 'em in with a natural lemony scent.  My wife says it reminds her of Fruity Pebbles.  Strangely, that's how I feel about lemongrass.

Anyways, I immediately cut this baby into quarters, while I got a batch of 2:1 sugar to water simple syrup up to a simmer.  When you cut the palm into quarters, you'll notice that the rind isn't too thick and the middle is almost all pith.  Some varieties are more bitter than others, luckily mine wasn't too bad.  If you have a more bitter fruit, I suggest pre-blanching in water before adding to the syrup.  This baby didn't need it though.

I took a Japanese mandoline and shaved the quarters into thin pieces (a little less than half a julienne width or so), and then added them to the syrup.  I cooked them gently until they turned translucent, before they'd lose any structure.  I then turned off the heat, and let them rest in the liquid for a few minutes.

Oh crap!  We had to get to a party last night and I wanted to get these done before leaving.  So I used my ghetto dehydrator to speed shizznit up.

Yes.  You heard me right.  My ghetto dehydrator.  That's my microwave, suckas.  Word. 

I dried off the cooked pieces on paper towels and placed 'em in a single layer on a dinner plate.  Microwaving in 30 second bursts, until they dried and before they burned, I flipped them once to dry both sides.  On average, it was taking about 3-4 minutes to dry them out enough to have the zest stiffen. 

Then, all I did was toss 'em in some granulated sugar and serve them to our friends.  I think they liked it, since they were gone in about half the time it took me to make them.  Wishing y'all happiness, wealth and longevity in 2012.

That's assuming the Mayan prophecies aren't real.  Considering the strange snowless weather we're having in Chicago, the End may already be here.