Sunday, August 24, 2014

Oatmeal Carbonara with Duck Egg and Foie

Continuing my obsession with foie for breakfast.

I took an excellent recipe from Alex and Aki from Ideas in Food's Maximum Flavor cookbook and played with it a bit. Kind of similar to the foie and grits from a couple of weeks ago. Basically a different take on the same concept.

Oatmeal Carbonara with Soft Boiled Duck Egg and Foie Gras
Steel cut oats. Rolled oats. Oat bran. Duck stock. Scallion. Hatch chile. Duck egg. Hudson Valley foie gras. Peach and late harvest riesling gastrique. Fleur de sel. Black pepper.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Foie & Grits with Baked Egg Stuffed Avocado

This one just speaks for itself. Homemade brunch done proper!

Foie Gras Grits with Baked Egg Stuffed Avocado
White corn grits. Roasted poblano pepper. Roasted spring onions. Hudson Valley foie gras. Maple and late harvest Riesling vinegar gastrique. Avoacdo. Eggs. Tomatoes. Bacon. Scotch bonnet pepper sauce.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It's been awhile

So... I guess haven't posted on here in a long time. 

Rest assured, I've been cooking. I've been cooking as much, or more, than ever. I just haven't found the time/energy to go through the whole rigmarole of blogging about it. Let's say that recently I've been more interested in cooking purely for the joy of cooking and less interested in the photographing/writing part of it all.

Well my moods change from time to time and today I felt like photographing and writing.

Jessica is out of town in San Diego on business this weekend. Whether she is here or not, I cook. However, I find that when she is gone I tend to use it as an opportunity to experiment and push myself in directions I might not otherwise go. Since I'm just cooking for me, there is no harm done if I have an epic face-plant, so I'm more open to trying new things and pushing boundaries.

It is Spring time. If you are obsessive compulsive like me, Spring and cleaning go hand in hand. I went out to our chest freezer on Friday to grab something and after 10 minutes of freezer jenga realized I needed to do something about the state of the freezer... stat. I spent Saturday morning turning the gallons of collected chicken carcasses, lamb bones, lobster shells, etc. into various stocks. Not all that challenging, but time consuming... one of those things that takes some time up front but pays big dividends for months to come. I find that making stock puts me in a sort of zen place. It's great to have the stock to use at the end, but the process itself is as rewarding to me as the outcome.

During the process of cleaning out the freezer, I discovered a couple of beautifully fatty and marbled Dai Due wild boar pork chops that had been sitting in there for months. I immediately realized I needed to do something awesome with them and moved them to the fridge for thawing.

As fate would have it, I awoke this morning to a dreary rainy day coupled with a certain out of nowhere sense of nostalgia for Italy... specifically Tuscany. From this, the idea of a dish coagulated in my head.

Milk Braised Wild Boar Chop with Mushroom Polenta and Spinach
Dai due marinated wild boar chops, slow braised in milk and chicken stock. Polenta with porcini, alba, and crimini mushrooms finished with Parmesan and red wine vinegar. Fresh garden spinach... picked 5 minutes prior and gently wilted and salted. Sauce derived from braising liquid. Fresh basil. Crushed red pepper.

Pairs super nicely with a 2011 Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino... I just LOVE Tuscan wines.

This dish worked absolutely beautifully. 

I have often read about the Tuscan (esp. Florence) approach of milk braising meats, particularly pork and also often veal breast. This is the first time I actually tried it. The technique is magical, but you have to be VERY vigilant about your simmer level. +5 degrees too high and you curdle your milk... no good. I like a tough fatty collagenous cut of a relatively delicately flavored meat with this technique... Pork/veal, shoulder/leg/breast in particular would be good bets... Suckling pig would probably be the top of the mountain with this technique in my opinion.

Also, I am developing an addiction to Porcini mushrooms. Their over the top umami level is like culinary steroids. I put Porcini mushrooms and Vadouvan curry in the same camp of magical ingredients that are basically tantamount to cheating. Truffle and foie gras might also fall in that camp, but with both of those you actually have to know what what you're doing to cheat with them.

Anyhow, maybe one day I'll try to post something resembling a recipe for y'all. I hear folks ask for that frequently. My personal approach to cooking tends to be very ad-hoc and iterative and doesn't lend itself well to a specific recipe. To me, recipes are to good food what paint by numbers is to good art. It is a creative process, not a mechanical one and it it requires improvisation to get right.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Farewell to Spring

In Austin, Spring is fleeting. The lush, green days between mid-March and mid-May are quickly and wholly usurped by the sweltering hundred degree heat of June through September. Green becomes brown and the entire place slows down, overwhelmed by the relentlessly oppressive Texas summer.

Like clockwork, the end of May brings the end of Spring and the onset of the inevitable future.

While at Whole Foods, I came across what is likely the last round of some of my favorite springtime ingredients. Already feeling nostalgic for the months gone by, I decided to cook them up and give Spring one celebratory final hurrah.

Dry Aged Ribeye Steak with Fiddleheads and Morels
Dry-aged grass fed ribeye, medium rare. Fiddlehead ferns sauteed with garlic and butter. Morels with thyme. Pillowy mashed potatoes. Veal demiglace.

I realized today that I haven't blogged in a very long time... almost six months. It's not that I haven't been cooking. I've been cooking up a storm, and gardening too. I've just not been able to find the time to photograph or write about it, save for a few short Facebook quips with iPhone photos. I also realized today just how cathartic cooking is for me. Some people unwind with yoga... or with golf... or with reading. I unwind with cooking. Jessica thinks I'm crazy because I prefer to spend my downtime in a sweltering kitchen juggling 6 different pans on 6 different burners rather than doing something "relaxing". For me, cooking is relaxing. It is my little zen place where I can go to escape the pressures of the world. I become wholly consumed by the act and by doing so am able to find a brief, fleeting respite from the stresses of everyday life.

So today I cooked. I cleaned out my freezer and cooked enormous batches of chicken and veal stock from the bones and chicken feet I had been accumulating. I blanched Italian green beans from my garden in preparation for freezing. I took the roasted beets from the garden that had been sitting in the fridge and made a batch of Thomas Keller's red beet ice cream. I made a caprese salad from my heirloom garden tomatoes for lunch. I made myself a lovely dinner (Jessica is out of town in Chicago). And now, finally, I feel relaxed and at peace.

And with that... Spring, I bid you adieu.

I hope that you will be hearing more from me soon.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Kohlrabi and Mustard with Short Ribs

The fall garden is going crazy and I wanted to do something with some of my harvest. 

I saw a great recipe in my Volt Ink cookbook, by the Voltagio Brothers from Top Chef. The recipe was simply titled Beef, Mustard, Kohlrabi. It was fairly advanced requiring heavy use of sous vide, pressure cooking, making a "cheddar cheese stock", etc. Used some molecular touches such as xanthan gum as a thickener. Anyhow, this was my type of cooking and I'd been wondering what I would do with my kohlrabi plants and mustard greens.

This time I followed the recipe almost exactly. They were doing some fancy tricks here, and I wanted to try to learn. The only change that I made was replacing the sous vide NY Strip steak that the recipe called for with a 36 hour (133F) sous vide beef short rib.

Kohlrabi and Mustard with Short Ribs
Kohlrabi puree with beer and cheddar. Sous vide baby kohlrabi slices. Mustard greens. Pickled mustard seed. 36 Hour sous vide short rib. Pressure cooker beef demi-glace. Mustard micro-greens.
Short Rib and Kohlrabi-1

This was a beautiful, amazing dish. It had many components, so it was fairly time consuming to make. The fact that I now know how to make "cheddar stock" alone was worth this recipe, though the cheddar flavor was actually very subtle in the kohlrabi puree. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Coq au Vin

The weather was unseasonably cool for early October... it felt like winter. I had just picked up Elizabeth David's French Provencial Cooking cookbook. I made her Coq au Vin nearly exactly following the recipe, though I replaced the Burgundy with a Brouilly Gamay. I put together an endive salad that felt particularly autumn-like along with a simple recipe of sauteed delicata squash with shaved fennel. I accompanied with simple traditional parsley potatoes. I served family style for a change, opting for rustic comfort over formal plating.

Very yum, overall. The Coq au Vin per the Elizabeth David recipe came out perfectly cooked, but the sauce was not quite as intense as I prefer with a Coq au Vin. I attribute this to the choice of the Brouilly over a Burgundy. The Bruilly was fruity and delicate... a nice Beaujolais style wine, but possibly not quite robust enough to hold up to the chicken. Her approach of pre-reducing the wine and then adding the chicken was right on, as every Coq au Vin I've had prior to this has sacrificed overcooked chicken in order to get sufficient reduction of the wine sauce.

The sides were great... It's hard to go wrong with delicata squash, especially if you keep the preparation simple. I sliced it 1/8" thick and then used a circular cookie cutter to core the middle, which made it look quite fancy. I sauteed until caramelized and added some simple raw shaved fennel over the top and salt and pepper. The endive served as a salad in this meal, but would also make a great seasonally appropriate "finger food" hors d'oeuvre. Very simple... use the endive as a "boat" and stuff with a salad of finely diced seasonal ingredients (celery, apple, walnut, bacon, parrano cheese in this case) with a little mayonnaise to bind together and lemon juice for acidity. The potatoes... what can I say. Thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I think I may have mastered the art of potatoes... In this case, I peeled into uniform spheres, parboiled, cooled, raked with a fork to "increase surface area", pan fried in hot olive oil, and tossed with parsley.

Coq au Vin
Chicken. Brouille wine. Homemade chicken stock. Salt pork. Button mushrooms. Pearl onions. Brandy. Herbs.
Coq Au Vin-4

Autumn Endive Salad
Belgian endive. Bacon. Walnut. Celery. Apple. Parrano cheese. Mayonnaise.Balsamic vinegar. Parsley.
Coq Au Vin-1

Delicata Squash Rings
Delicata squash. Shaved fennel. Olive oil. 
Coq Au Vin-2

Parsley Potatoes
Baby Yukon gold potatoes. Parsley. 
Coq Au Vin-3

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fresh Garden Ingredient - Eggplant

Ratatouille Terrine with Sous Vide Duck Breast
Sous vide duck breast. Garden eggplant. Yellow summer squash. Roasted red pepper. Roma tomato. Tomato jelly. Mushroom duxelles. Verjus gastrique.
Ratatouille Terrine With Duck-1

Fresh Garden Ingredient - Sweet Corn

Lobster with Foie Gras and Sweet Corn
Butter poached Maine lobster. Seared Hudson Valley foie gras. Garden sweet corn. Enoki mushrooms. Scallions. Fig champagne gastrique.
Lobster Foie and Corn-1

Lobster Foie and Corn-2

Fresh Garden Ingredient - Okra

So I haven't posted anything in quite some time... Work, the garden, and now football season have been keeping me busy. That said, I have still been cooking, just not taking pictures and posting as often.

In the spirit of trying to get caught up a bit, I'll post a series of mini blog entries of meals that I've built around specific fresh ingredients harvested from our new garden.

Chicken Gumbo with Okra
Chicken and Okra Gumbo-1

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Steak n' Stuff

Jessica was out of town on business last weekend, and we had just gotten back from Napa the week before. To top it off, our garden was going crazy with stuff I either had to harvest or let go to waste. I was worn out, so it was a bit of a decision between ordering sushi delivery or cooking a dinner for one, but at the end of the day I was feeling inspired by the Napa trip and my fresh garden vegetables... cooking won.

I promise to post more on the garden. We have lots of great pictures on Jessica's camera. In the meantime, though, I will post some pictures of the results. Here is last week's dinner for one. Lonely and lovely at the same time. Glad to have my beautiful bride back this weekend!

Steak, Potatoes, Broccoli, and Chard 
Prime filet mignon. Garden broccoli. Mashed potatoes. Creamed garden rainbow chard.
Steak Broccoli Chard-2

Atkinson Family Farm Salad
Butter lettuce. Arugula. Micro spinach. Frisée. Shallot red wine vinaigrette
Steak Broccoli Chard-1

A few tidbits learned on this one for me:
  1. Home Grown Vegetables

    Especially when harvested within an hour or so of cooking, home grown veggies are WAY better than even the best stuff I can find at the farmer's market or Whole Foods. I don't know how much of it is the psychological effect of growing it myself and how much of it is just how super fresh they are, but my home grown veggies are ridiculous.

    As a cook, growing my own vegetables definitely inspires me to pay more respect to the ingredients... to delicately coax out and maximize natural flavors rather than over seasoning. Self sourcing ingredients inspires good cooking.
  2. Creamed Chard

    If you haven't tried creamed chard, you must.

    Big pot blanch the chard leaves until just tender and refresh in ice bath. Separately blanch the chard stems until bright and just tender... longer then the leaves. Refresh in ice bath. Place in saucepan with a little butter and cream and simmer for a few minutes until cream thickens. Just liked creamed spinach, but with chard.

    I personally prefer creamed chard to creamed spinach, as the bitter bite of the chard better balances with the cream. You may need a squeeze or two of lemon juice to balance the acidity and certainly some salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Broccoli with Steak

    Best way yet I've found to prepare broccoli with steak. Big pot blanch broccoli until just tender and bright green. Refresh in ice bath. Refrigerate until ready to use. Pan cook steaks to completion. While steaks are resting, toss broccoli in pan and warm in steak fat. Very nice!