Monthly Archives: September 2013

Wifey’s Spicy Cornbread

This week I followed The Missus around and took pictures while she made cornbread. She makes fantastic cornbread and I thought it would be cruel not to share this with the world. There are those of you who will be aghast at the presence of sugar in the recipe; but I should let you know that neither I, nor my wife, comes from a family native to The South. I should also let you know that the original recipe we started with came from The Joy of Cooking. We’ve been tinkering with it over the years, but I should give credit where it’s due.

Adobo Chili Cornbread (for a 6 inch cast-iron skillet. If using an 8 inch skillet, double the recipe)

-7/8 cups cornmeal (1 cup minus 2 Tablespoon)

-2 Tablespoons sugar

-1/2 teaspoon baking powder

-1/2 teaspoon baking soda

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1 egg

-1 cup buttermilk (in a pinch you can fake buttermilk by mixing 1 Tablespoon distilled vinegar or lemon juice with 1 cup milk)

-2 chipotles in adobo sauce (available at most grocery stores with a decent Latin American selection)

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Butter up your skillet real good, then place in the oven and pre-heat to 350F.

Chop up the peppers in an 1/8 inch dice. I like to use a plastic bag so I don’t mank up my cutting board.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in one bowl, and mix the buttermilk and egg together with a fork in a separate bowl.

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Pour wet into dry, and whisk together quickly. Once the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda, the timer on leavening starts. Mix in the chopped chilis, remove the pan from the oven and pour in the batter. The batter will start to cook immediately, this is good just be careful.

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Put the pan back in the oven and set your timer for 20 to 25 minutes. When it’s done, a knife will come out clean. Let it cool about 10 minutes and it should pop right out of the pan. You can eat this immediately if you want, but the chili flavor will come out better the next day.

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Oyster Season! In Soup Form!

To me, the oyster is like an avocado in one important respect: I fail to see how you could possibly improve upon it in it’s natural state. Open, eat. Perfect. But there’s been a lot of oyster related stuff happening in my life lately: I just finished The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky, (a fantastic read if you have an interest in both food history and the history of New York City) I’ve recently picked up some part-time hours at a restaurant which is known for it’s bivalves, and most recently I’ve been plowing through How to Cook a Rogue Elephant, a gastrologue by Peter Van Rensselaer Livingston, which is both entertaining and highly informative about the history and preperation of a great variety of dishes. While most of his recipes are well into the complex end of the spectrum, he lists an oyster soup which, unlike similar recipes does not, as he puts it, “spoil both the oysters and the milk.” The key, apparently is to cook the oysters through as opposed to heating them slightly and adding them at the end. The recipe I’m using is sufficiently different that I’d feel weird calling it his recipe, but he still deserves the shout out.

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Oyster Soup

-3 cups half-and-half at room temperature

-1 medium onion, 1/2 inch dice

-2-3 Tablespoons butter

-1 pint oysters, strained with liquor reserved

-1/4 lb smoked sausage, 1/2 inch dice

-2 teaspoon sea salt

First, melt your butter over a low heat and add the onions. Cook them slowly until they are just getting translucent, but not brown at all. If needed, rinse off the oysters, then add them to the pot and bring the heat up to medium-high. A substantial amount of water will be released, this is fine. About 5 minutes on, the oysters should look a bit cooked. More of a matte finish, less of a high-gloss.

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Now this next part is important: Turn the heat down as low as it will go, add the oyster liquor and half-and-half (which should be at room temperature otherwise the shock can cause breakage.) Leave for at least one hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. If it gets too hot, it will break. If it breaks, it will still be delicious just not as pretty. Boo. Season with 2 teaspoons salt at this time.

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While you wait, brown the diced sausage over a medium heat until nice and crispy. I’ll level with you, I meant to take a picture of the sausage and forgot. You know what crispy looks like, right? Do that. Either swirl these in right before serving or sprinkle on top in each bowl. This soup will serve 4 as a starter or 2 as a hearty main course with salad and focaccia.

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Everybody Does a No-Knead…

No-Knead bread made the rounds online back in ’06 when Bittman made it famous writing for the New York Times. It wasn’t the first such recipe, but it definitely popularized the technique. Since then, there have been myriad variations and of course I have my own. I’ve also  experimented with combining this technique with a similar one I learned about in Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, called pain a l’ancienne, which I’ll talk more about later.

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No-Knead Boule

-14 oz. or 2 1/2 c. all purpose flour (you know I love my King Arthur)

-2 oz or 1/2 c. Whole Wheat flour

-1/4 teaspoon dry yeast

-1 teaspoon table salt

-1 1/2 c. water

The mass appeal to this recipe lies in the high fiddliness to tastiness ratio. By which I mean, it’s really tasty and really easy. The only problem with this recipe is that you need a cast iron or enamal Dutch oven. A steel stock pot will not work.

Step one is just mix all this together, cover and leave at room temperature for at least 12 but not more than 16 hours. For some reason leaving it longer than 16 hours has a slightly detrimental effect on the flavor. UNLESS you want to let it go a solid 24 hours, in which case you can also employ the pain a l’ancienne technique by making the dough with iced water, and leaving it in the refrigerator for 12 hours then moving it to room temperature for another 12 hours. The advantage here is a more complex flavor due to enzymes and stuff. Try it out, it’s fun.

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12 to 24 hours later, you’re going to have a big, wet, bubbly mass of dough. It looks pretty thin, that’s alright. Using a rubber spatula, maneuver the dough onto a well-floured surface into a round-ish shape. I like to use the whole wheat flour for this, and I’m serious about the well-floured part, you’re better off using an extra couple of Tablespoons of flour than having the dough stick to the counter. Let is sit for 15 minutes, it’s not going to look any different afterwards, but the glutens will relax and the dough will be much easier to work with.

Run your fingertips under the edge of the dough to make sure it’s not sticking, then fold the dough into thirds like a letter. ‘Cause you know, that’s still a relevant turn-of-phrase. Now fold it in thirds the other way, so you have a nice looking ball. Do your best to brush off any major lumps of flour.

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Flour up a piece of fabric (butter muslin, a linen napkin or even a tee shirt, but not terry-cloth) which you can transfer the dough, seam side down, onto. Fold the corners up to loosely cover the dough and let sit 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Whatever you do, don’t let it get wider than the base of your Dutch oven. Speaking of which, put the Dutch oven in your oven now and pre-heat to at least 500F, or higher if your oven goes higher.

No comes the fun part. When the oven is heated and the bread is risen do these in this order:

-Unwrap the bread, make sure the edges aren’t stuck to the fabric.

-Take the super-hot Dutch oven out of the oven, take the lid off, leave the oven door open.

-Pick up the dough, with your hand under the fabric.

-Flop the dough, seam side is now up, into the pot. Shimmy the pot a little to center the dough. It’s fine.

-Lid on the pot, pot in the oven, shut the door, set timer for 20 minutes.

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After the first 20 minutes, take the lid off the pot and set your timer for another 20. Depending on your oven you may need 25 minutes, the bread is done when the crust is brown and crunchy.

Remove from Dutch oven, let cool to room temp, enjoy. Feel free to knock off any excess flour.

This bread makes a particularly excellent grilled cheese sandwich, by the way.

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Marbleized Shortbread

Shortbread was one of the original posts I wanted to do for this site, but it seemed a little too simple. I don’t want this to be one of those blogs that posts a recipe for scrambled eggs or a cheese sandwich. I’d considered perhaps posting two or three different recipes, e.g. Scotch, brown sugar, and chocolate to make up for the utter simplicity of them, but that still didn’t seem right. Yesterday it hit me all at once, marbleize the Scotch shortbread and brown sugar shortbread. It took a little tinkering to make sure the consistency would be the same for both, but I worked it out and am pretty pleased with the results. Right after I put it in the pan I realized that next time I make this I should make an Earth, or if The Missus has her way, Westeros. Break out a little food coloring and the possibilities are nearly endless.

Marbleized Shortbread

makes an 8″ round (12 pieces)

For Scotch shortbread:

-1/3 cup white sugar

-1 stick butter, room temp.

-1 cup all purpose flour

-1/8 teaspoon salt

For Brown Sugar Shortbread

-1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

-1 stick butter

-1 cup all purpose flour

-1/8 teaspoon salt

-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

I would suggest making the Scotch shortbread dough first so you won’t have to wash the bowl between batches. The technique for making each is the same, so I’ll just go over it once. Preheat the oven to 350F.

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Place the butter in a mixing bowl and whisk it good for at least one full minute, then add the sugar and continue whisking for another minute and a half. When the butter climbs the sides of the bowl, just scrape it down and continue whisking. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour and salt just until it becomes a solid mass. Place the dough on a plate and start over with the brown sugar, don’t forget to add the cinnamon with the flour this time. For an even more dramatic color difference, you can substitute 1 or 1.5 Tablespoons of cocoa powder for the flour with no  ill effects.

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I baked mine in the 8″ cast iron, but if you don’t have a cast iron skillet you’re comfortable baking in you can use a glass baking dish of the same size. Shockingly, there is no need to grease the pan for this recipe. Take little hunks of both doughs and randomly distribute them around the pan.

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When you’ve got a pretty even distributiton, use your fingertips and gently press it down to make sure the height and density are even. Now use the back of a spoon or the bottom of a glass to smooth out the surface. Good. Now score it with a knife to make 12 pettiecoats (as they are called) and poke it all over with a fork. No one knows why.

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Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, turning about halfway through. When done, the edges will be browned, although the center may feel a little soft. Re-cut the score marks and let cool in the pan 15-20 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. The color will darken as it cools, serve at room temperature.

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Clafoutis, Southern Style

I don’t do a lot of desserts here, which is weird because I do make a lot of them in my day-to-day life. One of these days I’ll get around to making a Queen of Puddings, but today I just wanted something quick and fruit-based. I’ve been on kind of a French kick lately so I decided on a nice clafoutis. Also, as it turns out, since the recipe is mostly eggs, milk and fruit, it’s very easy to convince yourself (and spouse) that this is a suitable breakfast. Awesome

The first question of course is, which fruit? Cherries are the traditional filling because cherries are cheap and plentiful in Limousin, the province of France from which this dish hails, and it’s meant to be a simple dessert. Not anything you’d have to go far out of your way to make. In my case (Northern Georgia in the late summer,) that means blueberries.

I strated with a recipe I found in French Feasts, but figured it would need some alteration due to the juiciness of blueberries, so I dipped into the classic Mastering the Art… which is one of those books I don’t pull out very often, but when I do I’m glad to have it. And as luck would have it, the section on clafoutis has instructtions for a blueberry variation calling for additional flour. Now, this isn’t a verbatim reprint, Mrs. Child and I still have minor disagreements over things like the use of vanilla extract. But I still go to her when I have a question about desserts.

Blueberry Clafoutis

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-1 1/4 lb fresh or frozen blueberries

-1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

-1/4 cup sugar

-1 cup milk

-2 eggs

-2 Tabespoons sugar

-butter for the pan

First, butter a pie pan or 8×8 baking pan and preheat the oven to 350F. Place the berries in the pan and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, milk and eggs. Whisk until smooth. Pour the batter over the berries, and let it sit 5-10 minutes to settle in the crevices. Bake for 1 hour, it will be puffed and browned when done. Sprinkle all over with the other 2 Tablespoons of sugar and let cool to room temp by which time it will have sunk.

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