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Sunday, November 17, 2013

I love Hollandaise Sauce

I've mentioned it before, but I freaking love egg and butter sauces.

I mean, what's not to love.  They're emulsifications of butter and egg yolk.  So delicious.

I really should experiment with my own concoctions.  I mean hollandaise and béarnaise are perfect creations of deliciousness... but one of my absolute favourite things to do in the kitchen is to take the tried and tested through more trials and tests.  :)

I'm thinking something like garlic and shallot with fresh parsley...  Oooo, or even something like a minced cashew and mint... 

The possibilities are endless.  I mean the tricky part is getting the egg yolk and butter to blend smoothly and thickly over heat, but once that is done, you could really add a vast number of different flavours to your sauce. 

It is actually fairly surprising that there aren't more egg and butter based sauces out there in the world.

Anyway... I expect I'll do that someday.

For today, though, I wanted to talk about Hollandaise.

Of course the texture is gorgeous.  Soft, velvety, and smooth.  But the flavours ---  of a GOOD hollandaise, that is --- so unique and deftly contrasting.  Nothing compares to a professionally made hollandaise, with the tang of fresh lemon complementing the bright and sharp spiciness of white peppercorns.

Anyway, this post isn't about how to make hollandaise.  I think I've covered that before.  Sort of... you can check out this post featuring a lower-fat version of hollandaise:

But for today, this is just about how I love taking one really awesome component and incorporating it into everything for an entire dish.

All you need is a bunch of elements which you know will go well with the same one additive.  I think we've all had eggs with hollandaise.  Steak with hollandaise.  Mixed greens with hollandaise.  Asparagus with hollandaise is particularly common.

So, in order to smother an entire plate in hollandaise, I chose from these.  Steak, greens, and asparagus.

It might seem really unhealthy, but really that's a lot of good healthy things on that plate... you just might need to look underneath the copious amount of egg butter sauce.


The steak thing was actually new for me, I don't think I've ever just put a piece of steak down like that... I was planning on using eggs, but I ran out, AND I had the steak leftover, so it was serendipitous to use that instead.

Anyway, I don't need to tell you that this was delicious.  But I do encourage you to become practiced at the fine art of making these types of sauces.  Once you do, you'll experience the singular joy that comes from that magical moment when the yolk and butter thicken up to create a beautiful creamy emulsion.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Autumnal Apple Harvest Bounty

Although I am a fierce fan of my home province, Alberta, I have come to appreciate many things about Ontario. Namely, and as it pertains to what I want to say today, Autumn actually means something here.

Autumn is long here, lasting from September even right up until December sometimes.  This gives ample time for not just the plant-life, but also the people, to mellow and adjust to the thought of winter.

So not only is there a significant period of gloriously coloured foliage around, but there is also a sizeable harvest of fresh, local, produce.

Some of my favourite: Ontario apples.

Already come August, these are not just crowding the various farmer's markets around the province, but even manage to find their way into some of the large-scale grocery stores.

In any case, and in addition to many other fall-harvest fruit and vegetables, we always seem to end up with a tonne of locally grown apples.

This post is about one day in mid-October, when I realized I had over a half dozen beautiful ripe apples that needed some love and attention.

So, I decided to make an entire brunch out of apples.  Everything not only contained apple, but was completely saturated with it.

I made an apple sauce, for use in some pancake batter; apple glaze to coat some fried pork; and some apple syrup to top everything off.

And, of course, some fresh apple wedges to accompany.

I started by chopping and coring about 6 apples (medium-sized).

I don't believe in peeling fruit (most types of fruit, anyway) before puréeing them.  The way I look at it, not only is it better for you (nutrients), but also better for colouring, and I also like the flavour.  I have even taken this so far as to even start using more citrus peels in things.  Not just a little lemon zest here or there, but a whole bunch of lemon, orange, even grapefruit peel mixed in and puréed up. Yum!

So, core and seeds come out, but the peel stays on.

Into a blender that goes, and I decided to add a (very) generous amount of nutmeg to the mix.

I really like nutmeg, but in my opinion it can literally make or break a dish, and should be used with careful thought.

One particularly awesome thing about nutmeg is its shelf-life.  I bought these pods many, many years ago, and I've kept them in a cool, dark place in a reasonably air-tight container.

And every time I bring them out and freshly shave or grate some, I am amazed at how fragrant and delicious they still are.

So, copious amounts of nutmeg here, but only because there is copious amounts of apple.

That gets puréed as much as possible (my cuisinart is not the greatest but does a satisfactory job on most things... until I get a vitamix and assuredly never look back.)

Then it gets cooked down for a good 30 minutes.

Yup, that's right.  Thirty minutes.  At least.  We want to concentrate this mixture as much as possible.

After it has blipped away messily for some time, I took it off the heat, and strained it once.  Just a coarse strain first.

The mash part of it is nice and thick (and rather dry which is a good thing as you'll see soon).  The juice part is still a little too chunky and watery for use in a syrup, so we're going to fix that first.

I started this by incorporating a small chunk of unsalted butter into the liquid.

This is of course optional - it's not going to make or break the syrup.  For breakfast and brunch styled syrups, I like a hint of butter flavour.  Plus it makes it a little runnier which will be good in a minute.  But for now, we're going to cook this down for another 30 minutes or so.  On relatively high heat ----> we want this to boil and reduce.

Hopefully by the end of that, the only liquid you'll have left in there will mostly be from the butter, and the majority of the water will have evaporated.

We do a fine strain now.  If you don't have a fine metal sieve like the one I'm using, grab some cheesecloth.

You can see there was still a fair bit of pulp in there, but what we have strained now is nice and pure concentrated apple juice with some infused butter and nutmeg.  Mmmmmmmm...


Keep all the purée though, and for now just set it aside.

Grab a clean sauce pan, or thoroughly rinse and dry the first one, and then pour the apple juice in.

Now comes the scary part that no one wants to think about.  I liken this sentiment to the majority of meat-eaters who yet don't want to think about killing animals.  People want to consume syrup --- because it's awesome --- but they don't want to think about how much sugar goes into it.

So enter this meal's villain.

Corn syrup.

Note that this stuff is bad for you.  It still should not be confused with 'high fructose corn syrup' (HFCS)... although technically many commercial corn syrups actually will contain some HFCS anyway.


So, check the ingredients.  Make sure it doesn't have HFCS or "glucose-fructose" as an ingredient.  That's the nasty component.  

I shouldn't even have this in the house; the wife wanted some caramels last Christmas (see my Vanilla Salted Caramels post!) and so that's from where this villain originated.

Because I'm writing this months after the fact, I can tell you, I don't buy this stuff any more. In fact, I've taken to making my own syrups using organic cane sugar... but that's a story for another post!  ;)


About a cup of syrup (of your choice) in there with the apple juice mixture, and mix that together on medium-low for a few minutes.  Not long.

Try to resist the urge to substitute sugar for syrup if you don't have any.  Sugar actually contains a surprising amount of water in it.  So, when a recipe calls for one, you can rarely substitute the other and expect results.  You CAN make your own syrup FROM sugar... but it does take time.  If you're interested, however, feel free to search this blog for 'syrup' and you'll find at least one post of mine on home-made syrups.

Once mixed, it will literally start to glisten and shine.  Mmmmm...

So that's our apple nutmeg butter syrup.

It can get put aside, bottled-up, or otherwise saved for later.

Time to glaze the pork.  You could use bacon of course, as that is more traditional, but I didn't have bacon, but what I did have was a pork tenderloin.

Sliced nice and thinly, glazed and then fried, these babies were even better than bacon, in my opinion.

I tried to let these soak in the glaze for as long as possible.  Ideally this could have 'marinated' overnight, but it wasn't that big of a deal.

Once fried up they looked (and tasted) amazing!

Once cooked, I piled them all on a plate and then smothered them in the apple syrup.

This was ready to go into the oven to warm until everything else was done.  I don't have a warming function on my oven, so basically I just keep it in there at the lowest my oven will go, which is 180°.

Now to start the pancakes.

I won't tell you how to make pancakes, you can use any recipe you like.  Just tweak some of the wet ingredients to allow for the apple sauce addition.

Otherwise it's your standard recipe; mix all dry, make a well,

Mix all wet.  If you don't have buttermilk handy, (and who does, really?  Seriously - if you regularly keep buttermilk around, I'd be interested in hearing from you!  :D) - anyway, if you don't have any buttermilk, you can perform the following substitution.  

Buttermilk is essentially milk with a higher acidity. You can 'sour' some regular milk (even non-dairy 'milk' like soy or almond milk!!!) by allowing a small amount of acid (I prefer lemon juice) to sit with the milk for about 5 or 10 minutes.

Once ready, mix the buttermilk or 'sour milk' in with the other wet ingredients (butter, eggs, vanilla, etc.) but try and cut the total amount of liquid by a third or so.  I chose for this to come out of the butter and milk portion.

That is ready to be poured into the dry ingredient 'well', and then loosely mixed together. You probably already know this, but remember that it is actually beneficial to leave your pancake batter intentionally lumpy

If you did not already know that, I'll tell you why, and I'll try to keep it brief because I know everyone hates science lessons ;'(  As usual, I'll flag it in red so you can carefully avoid it if you're afraid it will make your brain explode.

The short answer is that your pancakes will be higher, softer, and fluffier. If you overmix your batter, the pancakes will be flatter, denser, and chewier.

The long answer is that gluten in the flour tightens the mixture and doesn't allow much room for the leavener to create a lot of rise.  So by limiting how much the gluten is allowed to react (and form strings and webs) there is more room and opportunity for the CO2 created from the leavener to expand and essentially 'blow up' the pancake like a balloon.  A tiny amount of mixing is necessary, so that a modicum of gluten chains are created; this ensures that what gas is produced by the leavener will still get "held in" the pancake rather than exhausted to the air.  But for a very fluffy, high-rising pancake, you only want the barest minimum of gluten strands holding this gas in.
Anyway... lumpy pancake batter = good.

So mix loosely, with many lumps, adding in the thick apple sauce purée we had set aside earlier.

Get a pan nice and hot (not super hot I suppose, but still pre-heated, and on medium to medium-high) and then start frying up those cakes in the pan!


I like to grease the pan a little bit before pouring in the batter.  Just a very small amount of vegetable oil (canola in this case) brushed on the pan before each batch.

Then it's just a couple minutes per side.  You can tell when they're ready to be flipped by all the bubbles forming on the surface.

Once ready, transfer them to a shallow dish or pan and place in a warming oven.

I made many of these small guys, and after sitting warming for about 15 minutes, they lost a little of their lustre, but were still warm, soft and fluffy!

The final touch is a couple of the nicest of the fresh apples, sliced and then tossed in a small amount of lemon juice (to keep them shiny, and to prevent browning).


Taken all together, this truly was a bounty of autumnal apples, and although not recommended for diabetics, this was absolutely delicious.

Of course the dominant flavour was apple.  In everything.  It made everything taste so fresh.  The nutmeg was particularly delicious in the pork's apple glaze.  Those little morsels of glazed pork were so good.

But really, it was the combination of all of these concentrated apple elements, with a splash of the real thing for juxtaposition, that made this dish exquisite.  Honestly this sort of fare is usually quite common in North America, but infusing everything with apple really made it seem special; it certainly made it feel like autumn.

Monday, November 4, 2013

ijj's Epic Search for the Perfect Whisk... Finally Over.

A while back, I posted about whisks.  In fact, you can read it HERE, if you like.

Anyway... I ranted a little bit about why I like them, why I need so many different kinds of them, but most importantly, how I've been searching my whole life for a very particular type of whisk, and with soul-crushingly paltry success.

Until today.

I've managed to find it!

A very small whisk head, with a very large (normal adult-sized) handle!


I'm so happy <wipes tear>.

Believe it or not, this is actually a bar tool.  That's how I found it, anyway.  

So, I'm assuming a drink mixer.  

Whatever dudes, it's far, far, far more useful to me as a long-handled meticulous mixer of sauces.

Culinary Spatter's whisk-town is now population awesome.