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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Roasted Carrot Halves in Lemon Thyme Butter

So simple.

So delicious.

These were the best carrots I've ever had in my entire life.

Like many people, the wife and I are both of the mind that naturally 'sweet' foods are best when that sweetness is downplayed rather than highlighted.  

So with carrots, which can be really sweet, I usually opt for a very intentionally savoury route.

Enter the lemon thyme butter.

This is really simple; melted butter, lemon thyme leaves, and a pinch of sea salt.

I've actually long extolled the virtues of cooking vegetables with flavoured butters.  If you put a bit of effort into a delicious, herby, butter, it almost takes all the effort of the dishes you cook in it!

So it is the case with these carrots.

They are also very simply prepared.

Rinsed, lightly skinned, and halved.

 They get tossed in the lemon thyme butter, and then arranged on a baking sheet with the thinnest pieces in the middle, and the thicker larger pieces near the edges of the pan.  

I've also chosen to 'alternate' their orientation, all to facilitate an uniform and even cooking.

After about 15-20 minutes at 350°, they were soft, fully cooked, and only slightly crispy on the edges.

These were so freaking good.

I recommend this to anyone, whether typically a fan of carrots or not.

So delicious.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Flour-less (Gluten Free) Kartoffelnpuffer (Potato Pancake)

Not because I'm on the gluten-free bandwagon.  Honestly, I'm of the opinion that the only people who should be conscious of gluten in their diet are those who unfortunately live with celiac disease.  That's just my opinion of course... and there are a lot of people who swear by the health effects of a gluten-free diet.  

So, I'm not here to piss anybody off.

Instead, I'm here to talk about my ever-evolving potato pancake recipe.

Every few months I'll whip up a batch of these time-consuming and mess-inducing bad boys.  The wife loves them.  Some of them are simple, some of them are complex, but - at least up until this point - they've all contained flour.

They're supposed to.  I mean, they're potato pancakes after all...  However... seeing as I like to perfect things, and I've become relatively experienced making these... I have, periodically and gradually, lessened the flour content with each subsequent iteration.

Until today, when I just said F it (F is for Flour, children!) and concocted a way to completely omit flour from this batch.

I liked it.

You'll see.

So, the recipe itself is a little different from other kartoffelnpuffer batches I've made in the past, primarily, of course, because of the absence of any flour.

Because I'm fiddling with a time-honoured and well-tested recipe, I tried to think long and hard about this one.

Firstly, in order to compensate for the lack of flour, there will need to be some other sort of binding agent involved, lest the pancakes be hash browns instead.

I chose to double the egg content.  So two eggs.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, because flour negates (or incorporates, however you want to think of it) liquid on an almost 1:1 ratio, this recipe would need to cut back substantially on the amount of liquid.  Lest the pancakes be potato soup instead.

To satisfy this limitation, I withheld virtually all the liquid.  The two eggs, of course, but they'll congeal when cooked (which is kinda the point); however, other than that there was only a very small amount of butter added.  

Now here's a cool trick you may already know; when you DO have to limit the fat content in a recipe (especially butter or oil), something you can do which can give the illusion of a richer, more concentrated, butter flavour, is brown the butter.

Basically this just means frying up some butter until it starts to brown.  

This sounds easier than it is though, because butter has a relatively low smoke point, you have to do this on medium or low heat, and be very wary of burning.

I learned this trick with low-fat baking (like cookies and muffins), but why shouldn't it work with pancakes -- which, really, is kind of like a baking microcosm, isn't it?  

So, I browned some butter, but I like to soften my garlic and onion before adding them to pretty much anything I eat though (because, really, who enjoys munching on a wet and chunky raw onion in the middle of a soft, velvety, potato pancake?) :) so I added that to the pan shortly before the butter began to brown.  The butter will take like 10-15 minutes depending on the heat of your pan, but the onion and garlic only need about 3-5 minutes.

The browned butter, onion, and garlic mixture then got put into my large mixing bowl and set aside for the grated and squeezed potato.  You can see that there isn't really much liquid at all.  Hopefully should be good!

The single worst part of potato pancakes, in my opinion, has always been the grating and squeezing of the potatoes.  No matter how careful I try to be, I seem to always make a mess of my kitchen.  In fact, sometimes days after I've made P.P. I'll still be finding dried pieces of grated potato in places you'd swear it would have trouble reaching.  <sigh>

I like to use white or yukon gold potatoes for P.P. , and as always, 'new' potatoes are better.

Anyway, after grating all of those into one medium bowl,

I began the painstaking task of squeezing small handfuls of potato, and saving the juice.

And, being especially concerned about moisture content in this batch, I made extra sure to give each handful another squeeze.

The 'dried' potato got added to my large mixing bowl, with the browned butter mixture, while the freshly squeezed juice got saved for later in a small mixing bowl.

The starch from the juice starts to solidify real fast, and after only about 5 minutes, you can pour off the liquid portion.

What's left is almost all starchy goodness.  Which, of course, we'll be adding back into the 'batter'.

After we whisk in a couple of eggs though.

So, that's it for 'wet' ingredients.

Mix all that up (I find hands work best, even though it's - again - super freaking messy) and if you want add some signature spices.  I've done everything from oregano to nutmeg to rosemary here, it doesn't really matter.  Just pick one dominant flavour that will go well with the potato and onion and garlic flavours.

Then, as with most pan-frying, make sure your large skillet or griddle is heated, but don't go much higher than medium-high heat.

Then, using an heat-safe pastry brush, lightly brush some vegetable oil in your pan, immediately before lumping a small spoonful of batter in.

Using your hands, your flipper, or any implement you choose, gently flatten the batter, spreading it out as much as you can.  If you want to go for a thicker style, you can, just be sure to cook on medium-low heat, and maybe think of covering the pan.  I like mine 'thin' though.  So I spread them out evenly and then flip them when the tops start to look totally dry.

In a perfect world, I could have a commercial-sized grill and do like twelve at once.  But I don't.  :(  It can be really time-consuming to cook these... but still worth it!

So, after about half an hour of slaving over a hot stove, I've got about a half dozen, very crispy, very gorgeous, pancakes which I keep warm in the oven.

These worked out really well, and as you can see, are still really cohesive; certainly enough to still deserve the name 'pancake'. 

I like ketchup with my potatoes.  I receive a lot of negative comments because of my love of ketchup, but F y'all man.  I always retort with the fact that ketchup is actually not really all that bad for you.  Tomatoes?  Good.  Vinegar?  Good.  Sugar?  Well, OK.

Throw in an organic, home-made ketchup, and you're talking a condiment that is practically a HEALTH food!  :)

Anyway, I like ketchup, the wife likes sour cream.  Well, we haven't used sour cream since about 2005, as Greek yogurt is so much better (0% Greek yogurt is so thick and yummy, ever since first substituting that, we've never looked back!)

So I whipped up a 'dip' that consisted of 0% Greek yogurt, and ketchup.  Shut your mouth, it was delicious!!!

I also served up with some brown beans and some baked carrots, which were so good, I think they're deserving of their own dedicated post sometime here soon.

The beans, however, were simply brown beans in tomato sauce, but with a few of my own touches.

First, I added some of that gorgeous browned butter with onion and garlic mixture.

And a chopped jalapeno.  :)  (c'mon, there's a nice, cool, dip to go with it!)

And then the beans, with a healthy dose of oregano and ground cumin.

I actually had these simmering for an hour or so, while I was working on the pancakes. They were a perfect accompaniment.  In fact, the wife, normally so delicate, fastidious and meticulous, ended up just unceremoniously dumping beans and yogurt dip all over the potato pancakes, and eating them all up as one.

I took that to mean it was all good.

Anyway, the experiment turned out well, if I do say so myself.  

Flour-less, and gluten-free, potato pancakes that were very delicious and still cohesive.

Again, however, let me reiterate that this was not for dietary or health reasons - although if you are concerned about your gluten intake, by all means this would work - but for taste / consistency reasons.  These pancakes were very crispy and uniform, without the tell-tale gumminess of flour pancakes.  

So I consider it a success.  

A delicious success from which there were no leftovers.  :)

P.S. Stay tuned for my Roasted Carrot Halves in Lemon Thyme Butter.  The single best carrots I've ever made!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Holy Truffle Oil (Batman)!


So delicious.  So intense.  So expensive.

I like it.

Rather than buy a truffle for $30, and shave off small bits at a time, I admit I do enjoy getting truffle 'infused' products.  

Such as truffle butter.

Or truffle paste.

Or truffle oil.

I like this stuff.

I use it in everything from pastas to salads, and everything in between.

Incidentally... I've started to make my own truffle oil.

I bought some truffle paste the other day, and as I use it, I plan on filling the remainder of the jar with olive oil.

Because truffle flavour is so intense, the oil will have zero problems picking it up after even a small amount of time.

Me like.

Friday, October 11, 2013

French Vintage Dining Chairs

So, like I said we would, when I was talking about our new Reclaimed Barn Wood Harvest Table, we picked up a couple of dining chairs to match.

Well, I use the word 'match' loosely.

They're not intended to match, and honestly we knew we were likely going to choose these chairs even before we picked out the table.

See... the thing is... the wife has LONG been searching for some sort of super girly seating for this room.  My argument has always been that it's a dining room, what do you need that kind of seating for in a dining room.  But, that argument was (of course) unheeded.  

So, some of the things she's looked at over the years have been: chaise lounges, settees, and - lately - bergère chairs.

Well, none of these things were perfect, nor could double as dining table seating... until the wife got the singularly genius idea to get these nice dining chairs and just arrange them as 'reading' chairs for the times they are not needed at the dining table.

Pretty clever idea, and it solves both dilemmas at the same time.

So, for most of the time, these chairs sit here, by the windows, with an ottoman and a reading lamp.  However, once in a while, like when entertaining, they'll sit at the foot and head of the dining table.

They don't exactly match, but they don't exactly clash either.

Anyway... we're happy.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ragoût Français

So, this is really like most of my other "British" style stews.  I'm not sure why I'm calling it 'French' nor even if the French typically do many stews. They must, mustn't they?

Really, it's just that this particular iteration of 'stew' has a fair bit of French FLAVOURS in it.  

Des saveurs Françaises... si tu veux.

Namely shallots,   

and a generous allotment of Brandy.  :)

But I also made up a really large bouquet garni consisting of such typical herbs as rosemary, sage, and fennel, but I also snuck in some bay, parsley, and carrot tops.  

That's a large bouquet garni!

Also I used green peppercorns rather than black, and heirloom carrots rather than standard garden carrots.  

And... something really special... some l'huile de truffe.

Other than the flavouring, this is essentially the same as every one of my other (seemingly yearly) stews.  So I won't go into it a whole lot, but rather just skim over the production relatively quickly.

Browning the beef is always the first step, and involves cubing some cheap cut, coating it in flour, and then searing it on high heat for a brief length of time.

For large amounts of beef, searing in batches is recommended, and carefully removing and setting aside those pieces that are done.

You can see that these pieces, while delightfully browned on the outside, are still really rare (and bloody) on the inside.  That's the trick to a good stew!

Almost all of the rich dark brown flavour in a stew comes from that, and to no small amount, from the leftover gribblies in the pan.

Look at all that flavour.

So, we need to de-glaze the pan, scraping all that good stuff into the sauce.

Any liquid will do, stock, consommé, jus, wine, port, even water.  But... I had a jar of beef stock from a roast I made almost a year ago.

Complete with chunks of solidified fat at the top of it!  YUM!

Anyway, after that gets whisked and scraped about in the bottom of my pot, you can see that most of the gribblies have become incorporated into the sauce.

Now it's just a matter of dunking everything in.

The beef, the carrots, the potatoes 

Some garlic and some onion

And three shallots, all puréed first.

So, once all that is added, and the spices and the bouquet garni is added and stirred around, I put the lid on the pot and let it simmer for the afternoon.

Periodically I would add a bit of brandy, but otherwise this just blipped away for about 6 hours.

Just prior to serving it up, I took out the bouquet garni, put it aside in a large bowl for a few minutes to cool down.

Once cooled, I gently wrung it out, being careful to save as much of the liquid as possible.

That, of course, gets stirred back into the stew!

About a half-hour later, out comes the ladle, and we serve up a couple of piping hot bowls of stew!

Absolument parfait sur un soir plein froid comme celui-ci!