Archive for the 'Recipes' Category

Potato Leek Soup

21 April 2020 at 8:16 pm
by Berck

More with the recipes…

Use a lot more leeks than you can usually convince Jonah to buy. 8-12 leeks is a good start. I prefer to use only the white and white-green parts. If you move on to green-white it’s okay, but don’t use the green parts. They just tastes like grass. Slice the leeks thinly, and wash them. Wash them another several times. Wash them again, unless you like gritty soup.

Sautee them in butter and olive oil. I tend to measure butter in units of sticks. One stick is fine for this. You want some oil so the butter won’t burn/brown. I cook them on high heat for 10-15 minutes.

Peel and chop the desired amount of potatoes. Don’t over-potato your leeks. One large potato per leek, maybe? I prefer for the potatoes to be large bite-sized, which should still leave some big chunks after it disintegrates. I cook the potatoes with the leeks in the butter for awhile.

I like to add sliced garlic. It’s not necessary, but everything’s better with garlic. Toss it in when you’re basically done with the leeks and potatoes and cook until the garlic starts browning.

With the heat on high, add some vermouth, cheap white wine, or the alcohol of your choice. Let it bubble for a bit then add enough chicken stock until the potatoes are just covered in liquid.

Cook at a low simmer for an hour, with the lid covered. Longer is even better. When you’re about half an hour away from being ready to serve it, remove the cover, turn up the heat and reduce the liquid.

You want to boil down the liquid and you want the potatoes to mostly fall apart. I like it when there are still chunks of potatoes, but it’s also acceptable to run the whole thing through a ricer at this point if you want your soup to be smoooooth.

It’s important that you have a pretty thick thing going on, because then you need to add a bunch of milk and cream (or half and half). Add some milk/cream, stir, taste, correct for salt, repeat. Keep going until you get it where you want it. Boil briefly, reduce heat to low. Add freshly ground pepper. I usually add some pepper in the beginning and more just before I serve it. Potatoes are one of those things that really need more pepper than most people are willing to use.

Serve with crumbled bacon, plenty of high-quality cheese and sliced green onions.

Bread

21 April 2020 at 7:58 pm
by Berck

I’ve gotten several requests lately for my bread “recipe”. I don’t use a recipe for bread, and I don’t even really measure. In general, in order to make good food, it much better to learn techniques that get you toward an end goal than to follow a recipe. Baking a cake involves careful measurement, but bread does not.

I learned everything I know about bread from reading Peter Reinhart’s books and experimenting. I started with his recipes, but I’ve adapted them to my kitchen, temperament, ingredients and perferences. If you want a recipe, buy one of his books. Artisan Breads Everyday is probably a good place to start these days. That said, I’ll let you know what I do.

I’ll cover both sourdough and bread from commercial yeast. Other than the yeast source, I don’t do things much differently. I aim for a chewy, rustic, hearth-style artisan bread. I judge success by a loaf with a crumb that has nice large, irregular holes. I want the crust to be brown, ideally with some caramelized sugars on top that got there via enzymatic production.

I start with yeast and water. For commercial-yeast, I use SAF Red Instant. Any yeast will do, but if you use “active dry” yeast, you need to activate it with lukewarm water (100 degrees F). If you use instant yeast, this is not necessary, and I usually use cold, filtered watered from my fridge. I use one “packet” of yeast, though I buy it buy the pound and have a 2-1/4tsp measuring cup that is the same as a “packet”. I do measure the yeast.

I use roughly 2.5 cups of water. If I’m making sourdough, instead of yeast, I add roughly 8oz by weight of starter. I keep my starter as a 50/50 by-weight mix of water and flour which makes it easy to mix and easy to feed.

I use a mixer with dough hook. You don’t have to, but I’m lazy, and much of my techniques are optimized for laziness. Even if you’re planning on kneading by hand, it’s nice to bring everything together in a mixer. The nice thing about a mixer is that you can deal with very wet dough which, in general, produces a better result than dough that’s comfortable to work by hand.

I add 1 tablespoon salt. (I do measure the salt. For commercial yeast, I taste and correct the dough, but I’m not a fan of consuming raw sourdough, so I try to get it right.) Then I’ll add flour slowly, running the mixer incrementally until it looks like I have a dough that’s clearing the sides, but still sticking to the bottom of the mixer. I turn off the mixer and wait awhile. 5 minutes to half an hour. I try to mix at medium-high speed for 5 minutes, let it rest 5 minutes and repeat until it seems like it’s done. I aim to leave the dough too wet to comfortably hand-knead. Note that it’s much easier to add flour than water, so I try very hard to never wind up with a dough that’s too dry.

After mixing, I take it out, put it in a zip-lock bag. If I’m planning on baking the next day, or it’s always if it’s sourdough, I leave it on the counter for a few hours. When it’s roughly doubled, I let the air out, seal it up and stick in the fridge. Overnight is fine, 24 hours is better, 4 days is starting to push it. The longer you let it go, the more flavor you get. If you’re making sourdough and are seeking a more “sour” flavor, go for 3 days in the fridge. More than 4 days and the dough starts to break down.

I take it out in the morning and put it back on the counter for 4 hours or so, at which point it’s warmed up and happy again. Because the dough is way too wet to handle, I dump it onto a well-floured counter. I carefully shape it into a loaf and place it on some parchment paper. I try not manipulate it more than necessary, and use shaping techniques that result in a stretched outer surface. I cover it and let it proof until it’s ready.

Ideally that should happen it about 4 hours. I preheat my oven to 550 with a baking stone in the lower third of the oven. Don’t use convection settings unless you want a moon rock. I score the top of the bread with a razer blade for better oven spring. You want to make sure the stone is very nice and hot. When Jonah yells at me the oven’s been hot forever, I put the bread in and pour about a cup of near-boiling water on the bottom of the oven for steam. (You should probably use a pan, but I’m lazy and I have a gas oven, so I just pour on the bottom.) Close it up, reduce the temperature to 425 and bake for 15-20 minutes or so until it’s golden brown. You can thump it and it’ll sound hollow, but after you dial in your process you can tell by crust color. Let cool for at least half an hour. Ideally you should let it cool overnight, but it’s hard to resist warm bread.

In order to keep the crust crusty, I either cut it so I can balance the cut side face-down on the cutting board, or cover the open portion with aluminum foil. Don’t wrap the whole thing in plastic or you’ll ruin the crust.

Things that are important: Use good flour. If you want rustic bread, it’s hard to get good results with all-purpose flour. It doesn’t have enough gluten and will be too fluffy. Good bread should not be fluffy, nor should it be too dense. Americans have a thing for bland, flavorless, fluffy, white bread. If that’s what you’re after, the supermarket will sell you a loaf for $1.50 baked that day, and you can save yourself the trouble.

I’ve settled on King Arthur bread flour until recently because quarantine bakers have made it completely unobtainable for me. I’ve ordered a 50-lb bag of high-gluten ADM flour, and I’m excited to see how that works out. It has substantially more protein than King Arthur, and it may be that extra kick I’ve been looking for. Or it might make rocks…

It’s harder to make dough too wet than too dry. The wetter the better in the long run. It requires less kneading. If it’s too wet, you can’t get it to hold its shape. In my experience, it should be unpleasant to handle–it’s going to want to stick to everything if you’ve gotten it right.

You can bake bread the same day you mix the ingredients, but it won’t be anywhere near as good, and you probably need to work it a lot more for decent texture. I consider overnight to be an absolute minimum fermentation time for this sort of bread. Long, cold, slow fermentation makes for great flavor. Additionally, you get good enzymatic breakdown of the flour which makes it easy to shape, and gets you that beautiful irregular cell structure.

I do sometimes use bread pans if I want squarish loaves for sandwiches. I find them to be a lot of bother, and I’m generally okay with oval sandwiches. Even when using a pan, I still bake on a stone. If you’re shopping for a stone, you want the biggest, thickest one you can find. Thin pizza stones don’t absorb/transfer enough heat.

Baking without parchment paper is a lot harder–corn meal works, but it’s still almost impossible to move dough as wet as I like from wherever you’re proofing into the oven without parchment paper–it’s just too sticky.

Grapes and Sausage

17 April 2019 at 8:06 pm
by Jonah

My boss taught me this recipe, and it is so good.

Ingredients:

1 lb Italian sausage

1 big bunch red seedless grapes

Balsamic vinegar.

Take a Dutch oven. Put one pound of good Italian sausage in it. My favorite is sausage from our local meat market Andy’s, but in a pinch I have also used Boulder Sausage. I have used both sweet and Italian sausage, and both are good. Loose sausage is best, but you can also take links and squeeze the sausage out of them. Destem and dump in a big bunch of red seedless grapes. Dump in enough balsamic vinegar to come halfway up the grapes that are resting on the bottom. Cover and put on a grill on moderate heat until the sausage is cooked all the way and the balsamic vinegar has cooked into a sludge, usually about an hour. Smash the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula. Serve with fresh bread.

If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can also use a pot and put it in the oven. You can also cook this on a burner on the stove, but you have to be careful that it doesn’t stick.

This is a great dish for the summer because you can cook it outside and not heat up your house. You can also use the grill to cook other things while it’s off in a corner cooking away.

Operation Barbacoa

1 January 2018 at 3:02 pm
by Jonah

Operation barbacoa: two blisters and two bags of charcoal (to melt through the frost layer) and many hours later

Berck is exultant about his hole.  The leg of lamb is thawing in the laundry room and a stack of maguey leaves is waiting in the garage.  Berck has fashioned wire handles for the pot from Mexico.

We have test-fit the grate on the pot. We have firewood stock-piled next to the hole. We have a plywood cover and tarp ready for the hole. There are garbanzo beans soaking in water upstairs.

Tomorrow morning, we have to get up super early to make a fire.

Step one, giant fire in a giant hole early in the morning.

Roasting maguey.  On shelf support brackets, the Mexican way.

Lamb, wrapped in maguey, in the hole…

Now we spend the next 8 hours wondering if there is enough heat in there…

The moment of truth.

No go.  The meat is still raw.

Next day 2nd try.

Need more wood.  Doesn’t everyone do fire mitigation cutting down dead aspens on Christmas morning?

We have cooked meat! Second attempt much more like success. Wonderful rare roasted lamb, delicious chicken. Doesn’t taste anything like barbacoa, but still quite good.

Potatoes and beans did not cook.  Rice turned into mush.  But we have a hole ready for our next attempt!

Chicken tortellini soup

10 November 2017 at 7:53 am
by Jonah

My friend T once served me some delicious chicken tortellini soup.  I got the recipe from her and modified it heavily.  Here’s my version.  It is so good.  Even Mikey likes it.

 

Chicken tortellini soup

1 lb chicken breasts cubed

1 lb sliced sausage (I like to use Andouille)

3 quarts of chicken broth

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 cup vermouth

24 oz fresh or frozen tortellini

2 cups sliced carrots

2 bunches chopped green onions

4 teaspoons basil

1 teaspoon oregano

1 small head garlic minced

1 package fresh spinach

2 cups shredded white Cheddar

1 cup cream

pepper to taste

seasoned salt to taste (about 1 tablespoon)

 

Sauté the carrots in a little bit of olive oil. Add garlic and sausage.

Bring to a boil everything except the tortellini, spinach, and Cheddar.  Add the tortellini, the spinach and Cheddar, bring back to a boil, and simmer  10 minutes or until tortellini is done.  Add cream and serve with more grated Cheddar on top.

Fortunately, it’s soup and it doesn’t really matter what you do.