Monday, September 5, 2011

Ad Hoc Buttermilk Fried Chicken

I've cooked a lot of dishes out of Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc At Home, but, until yesterday, I had not tried to make the book's signature dish, buttermilk fried chicken. I had some buttermilk leftover from a cobbler that I made last week, so the half empty carton provided the perfect excuse to give this recipe a try. It's good. In fact, this recipe produces the best fried chicken I have ever had. I can see why this is the signature dish. The key is the super lemony brine that infuses the chicken with flavor. I also really like how Keller cuts the chicken breast into quarters, so you get a better crust to meat ratio.

If you aren't afraid of deep frying (something I am reluctant to do at home since it makes the apartment smell like frying oil for a few days afterwards), try this recipe. It's been posted about a million times on other blogs and websites, so I won't repeat it here.

Hurricane Dinner Party

It's been more than six months since my last entry here....I've been busy, and, when I have been cooking, I've mostly been repeating dishes that I've already posted here and/or forgetting to take pictures. Last week, the confluence of friends from grad school coming into town (some moving here, others passing through for a conference) and a hurricane provided the perfect excuse to stay indoors, cook lots of food, drink lots of good wine while we waited out the weather. The theme for this dinner party was Asian, or, more specifically, the Momofuku cookbook, which I have been reading a lot of but not cooking a lot of. Two of the four courses for this dinner were directly from the cookbook, one borrowed an ingredient from the cookbook to jazz up an old favorite, and the fourth dish involved me just cutting up some super fresh fish from Black Salt.

We started out the meal with a trio of raw fish. Here's an action shot of the dishes being prepared.
Here's a finished plate.
In the foreground are slices of ivory salmon (which I had never heard of before I walked into Black Salt looking for fish earlier that day) and king salmon. Being late August, king salmon are at their peak. I love the bold striations on this salmon. The ivory salmon was soaked in lime juice for a couple of seconds, then topped with a Spanish olive oil, smoked salt, and a lime zest. The king salmon was simply topped with some nice grassy tuscan olive oil and a bit of cracked pink peppercorns. The third dish, in the little bowls in the background, was an Ahi tuna poke. To make the poke, I cut the ahi into cubes (about 1 cm) and let it marinate in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, and scallions with a dash of rice wine vinegar, and pinch of red pepper flakes. Just before serving, I tossed in some sesame seeds and then topped the poke with some strips of toasted nori.

Next came the veggie course: pan roasted asparagus and grilled king oyster mushrooms with miso butter and slow poached eggs.
Although I don't really like mushrooms, I really like the look of this dish. For some reason, the combination of the mushrooms and asparagus piled on top of the miso butter with the whole eggs has a really rustic, "farm to table" look to it. To make the slow poached eggs, you need to let the eggs sit in 140F water for around 45 minutes. If you were plating these individually (as they do in the Momofuku cookbook), you would spread out a bit of miso butter, artfully arrange the asparagus, and then place the poached egg across the top of the asparagus. In this family style preparation, the eggs would have all slid off to the side of the plate and, when serving, the yolks surely would have broken on the serving plate, leaving all of the yolky goodness behind. When served this way, everyone gets to crack their own egg, which is much cleaner and, besides, its fun.
The third course was miso and sake marinated sea bass with scallions, sunchoke puree, and bacon dashi. Sea bass is something I've posted before. It's a great dish for a dinner party since all the flavor comes from letting it marinate for a long time (in this case, 48 hours), but it is really quick to cook. While we were eating the second course, I just stuck the fish under the broiler for about 10 minutes. You will need to flip the fish about half way through so it cooks evenly and the sugar in the marinade doesn't burn too much. The bacon dashi is a pretty straight forward (and brilliant) recipe from the Momofuku cookbook. Just steep some konbu in water for a few minutes, remove, then simmer some smokey bacon in the broth for about 30 minutes, chill, skim off the fat, and reheat before service. For the sunchoke puree, just peel the sunchokes, boil until tender, and puree in a food processor with butter. Season with salt and pepper. If you wanted to make this really rich, you could simmer the sunchokes in cream.
For the last course, we had steamed Chinese buns that Abby had made earlier in the day (see the freshly formed buns, waiting for the steamer below) with roasted pork belly, quick pickles, and other accoutrements.
Like the fish, the pork belly is a dish where all of the work is done ahead of time. I cured the pork belly in salt, sugar, pepper, and five spice powder for 24 hours, then roasted it at 450F for 45 minutes followed by another 3 hours at 250. Then, I chilled the pork belly over night, sliced it, and reheated it just before serving. Here's a finished pork belly bun.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Asian style snapper baked in parchment

Baking fish in parchment is a great way to infuse a lot of flavor into the fish. It's also really easy to make, which is an added bonus. Just throw in the ingredients you want, wrap everything in a parchment envelope and roast for about 30 minutes. You can be pretty creative with the ingredients, but keep in mind that the whole concept of this type of cooking is that moisture released from any of the ingredients or generated from any liquid that you add will steam the fish. As such, more aromatic ingredients will probably do a better job of flavoring your fish. For this dish, I added lemon slices, ginger, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno and scallions. I also drizzled the fish with a little soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil. Because you don't have to do any complicated prep work, this is the sort of dish that you can have done, start to finish, in under an hour.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Valentine's Day Dinner for Abby

Seared muscovy duck breast is one of Abby's favorites, so this was at the center of our dinner on Valentine's day. I made a blackberry, rosemary and ginger gastrique to go along with the duck breast, and served roasted sunchokes and roasted brussels sprouts with maple syrup, pine nuts, and shaved parmesan as side dishes.

  • Muscovy duck breast
  • 1/4 cup blackberrys
  • Ginger (just cut a couple thin slices)
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt, pepper
Score the skin side of the duck breast, season both sides with salt and pepper. Preheat a pan over medium heat, and add the duck, skin side down. Cook for about 6 or 7 minutes, lowering the heat if the rendered fat begins to smoke or the skin begins to char. The duck will render a lot of fat, so you may have to drain some of it midway through. Turn and cook until done. You can begin checking after it has cooked on the second side for three or four minutes. You can test by feel or, if you just make a little incision into the middle of the duck breast, you can test by sight. The middle should be rare. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes and slice.

To make the gastrique, add the sugar to a saucepan with a splash of water over medium heat. Eventually the sugar will melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the sugar just begins to turn a golden brown color. Quickly, add the vinegar and stir to recombine everything. Add the black berrys and rosemary and let the mixture continue to cook for a few minutes over medium to low heat. Add the ginger and let the mixture simmer for another five minutes or so. Remove from heat and pick out the ginger and rosemary. The gastrique should thicken up a little as it cools down, but if it is still thin, just reduce everything until it gets to the desired consistency. Reheat before serving. The gastrique should keep in the fridge for a few weeks and would probably go really well with something like a roasted pork tenderloin.

  • Sunchokes
  • Oil (grapeseed, canola, or olive)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Rosemary and thyme
Cut larger sunchokes in half. Toss with oil and season with salt and pepper and herbs. I used some garlic oil that is the byproduct of garlic confit, which I regularly keep in my fridge. Roast everything at 425F to 450F for 45 minutes to an hour.

  • Brussels sprouts (~16)
  • Maple syrup (2-3 Tbsp)
  • 2-3 Tbsp pin nuts, toasted
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper
Cut the brussels sprouts in half, lengthwise. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I used garlic oil, but you can also just throw in a couple of chopped cloves of garlic. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and place the sprouts, cut side down, on the backing sheet. Roast at 425 to 450 for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle the maple syrup over the sprouts, using tongs to toss everything together. Return to the oven (the sprouts don't need to be cut side down anymore) and roast until they are done (another 15 minutes or so, depending on the size of the brussels sprouts and the heat of the oven). Once the sprouts are done, toss in the pine nuts (candied walnuts would also be a really good substitute) and then top with shaved Parmesan.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Crispy, braised chicken thighs with oven roasted tomatoes, olives, and garlic confit

This dish utilizes a couple staples that I like to have in my fridge at all times: garlic confit and oven roasted tomatoes. To make garlic confit, just buy a bunch of peeled garlic cloves at the grocery store, throw them in a small pot, cover with canola oil, and simmer over very low heat until the garlic cloves are very soft and a knife or fork easily slides through them. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up a month.

For the oven roasted tomatoes, cut a bunch of roma tomatoes in half, lengthwise, place them cut side up on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and then scatter some fresh thyme over everything. Roast in the oven over very low heat (~250F) for 8 hours. Store these in an airtight container, covered in oil, for up to a month.

Now, on to this dish.

(2 servings)
  • 4 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on.
  • 8-10 oven roasted tomato halves.
  • 6-8 cloves garlic confit.
  • 1 cup assorted olives.
  • 2 tsp sherry
  • 1 Tbsp garlic oil (from the garlic confit)
  • 1 shallot, minced.
  • 1/2 to 1 cup white wine.
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • salt and pepper.
Preheat a 10 to 12 inch skillet over medium to medium high heat and preheat the oven to 350F. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Add oil to the pan, and once the oil begins to shimmer, add the chicken, skin side down. It is important to make sure the pan and the oil are adequately preheated before adding the chicken, otherwise the skin will stick to the pan. Let the chicken cook for a few minutes. Periodically, check the chicken by seeing if you can move it around without getting any resistance. At first, the skin will stick to the pan, but once it is cooked enough, the cells in the skin contract and, magically, almost, they stop sticking to the pan. If you try moving the chicken to early, you'll get burnt skin stuck to the bottom of the pan. No good. Once the skin is nice and crispy, turn the chicken thighs and cook for another minute on the other side. Remove to a plate, drain the oil and accumulated fat, reserving about 1/2 Tbsp.

Add the shallots and garlic confit. Cook until the shallots become translucent, then add the wine, sherry, tomatoes, olives, and thyme sprigs (you can leave these whole and remove before serving). A little smoked paprika might be a nice addition to this dish as well, if you happen to have some lying around the pantry. Let this mixture simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add the chicken back to the pan along with any drippings that have collected on the plate. Place the whole thing in the oven, covered, for about 15 minutes. Remove the cover and blast the chicken under the broiler until the skin crisps up again. Alternatively, you could just leave the chicken uncovered in the oven.

This dish goes well with roasted potatoes.

Christmas Dinner

Our Christmas Day Dinner menu featured a prime rib roast, garlic smashed potatoes, brussels sprouts with bacon and apples, and a beet and orange salad, along with some really nice wine from Matthews Estate, provided by family friends.

For the rib roast, I followed the advice given here, and was pretty pleased with the outcome. I let the roast sit out on the counter, covered, for a couple hours to bring it up to room temperature (this helps ensure even cooking), then I cooked it at about 250F until the center reached the desired temperature (about 5 hours), followed by a 15 minute blast at 500F to brown the outside. This approach helps ensure more even cooking and I would highly recommend checking out the link above next time you make a roast.

Christmas Eve Dinner

For Christmas Eve, my sister and I put together a number of different dishes for a buffet style dinner. Here are a few of the dishes that we served.

Deviled eggs.
Brie en croute.
Mushrooms, sauted with butter, garlic, and thyme.
Braised kale with smoked ham hocs.
And braised short rib sliders with homemade cucumber and onion pickles.