07
Mar 12

Mirepoix

mirepoix.

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This is the French name for a combination of carrots, celery and onions sautéed in butter. While there are regional differences, this base is commonly used as an aromatic flavour base for a wide variety of dishes, such as soups, stocks, sauces and stews.

Having pre-diced mirepoix in the fridge is one of my best time-savers in the kitchen. But I’m not a very diligent chopper. While I’ve got some pretty sharp and fancy toys to do the task at hand, I’ve taken to asking C. to prep for me. Not only does he have the most perfect square cuts from years of chefs school and service, but when we first started dating he casually said he’d do it for me anytime I wanted…

What can I say? Some girls want designer handbags, I just want perfectly diced vegetables for my fried rice, chicken soup and Bolognese sauce.

Add a little bacon, splash of wine – it’s a party!


12
Jan 12

Did Choux Know?

Did you know?  Choux is the French word for “cabbage,” and choux pastry forms little irregular cabbage-like balls that are hollow inside like popovers. Unlike popovers, choux pastry becomes firm and crisp when baked. It provides the classic container for cream fillings in such pastries as cream puffs (profiteroles) and éclairs, and also makes such savory bites as cheese-flavored gougères and deep-fried beignets, whose lightness inspired the name pets de nonne, “nun’s farts.”

Choux paste was apparently invented in the medieval times, and is prepared in a very distinctive way. It’s a cross between a batter and a dough, and is cooked twice: once to prepare the paste itself, and once to transform the paste into hollow puffs. A large amount of water and some fat are brought to a boil in a pan, the flour is added, and the mixture stirred and cooked over low heat until it forms a cohesive ball of dough. Several eggs are then beaten sequentially into the dough until it becomes very soft, almost a batter. This paste is then formed into balls or other shapes and baked in a hot oven or deep-fried. As with the popover, the surface sets while the interior is still nearly liquid, so the trapped air coalesces and expands into one large bubble.

The technique for preparing choux may seem tediously elaborate, but it’s a brilliant invention. It produces an especially rich and moist paste that the cook can shape and cook into a hollow, crisp vessel for other ingredients. Cooking the flour with water and fat tenderizes the gluten proteins, preventing them from developing elasticity, and it swells and gelates the starch to turn what would normally be a batter into a dough. The subsequent addition of raw eggs contributes the richness of the yolks and the cohesive, structure-building proteins of the whites, and things the dough into a near-batter so that air pockets in the interior will be able to move and coalesce during cooking. During the baking, the fat helps crisp and flavor the outer surface. And both eggs and fat contribute to a structure that resists moisture and stays crisp while holding the cream filling.

From “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” by Harold McGee

And for your listening pleasure, here is Corinne Bailey Rae singing her song, “Choux Pastry Heart”.


12
Jan 12

Blood Oranges

Did you know? Blood oranges have been grown in the southern Mediterranean at least since the 18th century, and may have originated there or in China. They’re now the major type of orange grown in Italy. Blood oranges owe the deep maroon color of their juice to anthocyanin pigments, which develop only when temperatures are low, in the Mediterranean autumn and winter.

The pigments tend to accumulate at the blossom end and in vesicles immediately next to the segment walls, and continue to accumulate after harvest when the fruits are held in cold storage. The pigments and their phenolic precursors give blood oranges a higher antioxidant value than other oranges. The unique flavor of blood oranges combines citrus notes with a distinct raspberry-like aroma.

From “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” by Harold McGee


22
Nov 11

Sous-vide

sous-vide.

“French for “under vacuum”. Sous-vide is a cooking method where raw ingredients are sealed in airtight plastic bags, then submerged in a water bath for a long period of time where it is cooked at an accurate temperature much lower than what would have been used for regular cooking (usually around 60 °C 0r 140 °F). The sous-vide method allows for the item to cook evenly throughout, thereby making for a “juicier” finish.

Read More by Amanda Hesser in the New York Times.

Beef cheeks from YU Ranch – C. vacuumed them up with red wine and mushrooms and we sous-vide them for a whole Sunday. Delicious.


09
Oct 11

Latte

latte / caffè latte / caffellatte. (lah-tey, kaffelˈlatte), noun.
Hot espresso with steamed milk, usually topped with foamed milk.

“A latte isn’t coffee,” he said with mild frustration and a furrow in his brow. “It’s milk art.”

—Morgan Yew, Coffee Tutor and Specialist


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