Archive for June, 2012

General Recipe Hint

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

If you’re like me, you don’t even follow your own recipes faithfully every time you cook them: a pinch of this here, a dash of that here; a substitution of something else because you happen to have a whole lot of it at the moment….  So what’s a cook who likes to improvise to do to keep track of the changes?

I annotate my cookbooks.

Any recipe I make, I jot down the date; the alterations made; and some notes about the results (what might I do differently next time?  or, don’t change a thing!).  Then, next time I go to cook, i don’t have to search my memory for what I might have done, because I have a note from my past self to remind me.

Building a Better Waffle through Science

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

I made some of the best peach waffles I’ve ever had the other evening.

Ok, so that boast isn’t that tough to back up (peach waffles rarely show up on menus), but these waffles were good, and in large part I credit that to putting science to work for me.  I followed my basic waffle recipe for the most part, but with these alterations:

  1. I added the zest of 1 lime to the egg whites when they were frothy.  Acid helps egg whites to hold their peaks (that’s why many meringue recipes call for cream of tartar).  The lime flavor was also a nice touch.
  2. Instead of adding the spices into the flour mixture, I melted them with the butter.  The fat-soluble flavanoids infused the butter, resulting in better flavor.
  3. I drizzled the butter into the egg yolks while whisking constantly.  The yolks emulsified the fat, so that it did not rise to the top when the milk was added.
  4. I diced a peach and added it into the batter.  I recommend getting lots of peaches as they enter peak season, slicing them, freezing them, and using them all year round so that your family can experience the taste sensation that is these waffles even in the dead of winter.

Make my waffles.  They’re f-bombingly delicious.

Black Currant Infused Beurre Blanc

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Perhaps it would be more accurate to call this stunningly bright sauce a “Beurre Pourpre” as it most certainly is not white, but it’s made with white wine, so call it what you will.

  • 2 ounces brandy
  • 1 pint black currants
  • white wine to cover the currants
  • 1/2 cup white wine (in addition to the white wine already listed)
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter cut into chunks and kept cold
  1. Heat a small saucepan.  Add the brandy and flame it.
  2. When the flames die off, add the currants and the first dose of wine (enough to cover them).
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until almost dry (will be fairly syrupy).  Refresh with the 1/2 cup of wine, being certain to use it to get all syrup stuck to the sides of the pan.
  4. Strain through cheesecloth.
  5. Return to a boil, then let simmer until syrupy.
  6. Whisk in the butter over low heat.  Add only a few small cubes at a time, whisk until they are melted and incorporated, then add a few more.  Repeat until the entire half pound of butter has been incorporated and the sauce has a luxurious texture and flavor.
  7. Remove from heat and keep in a warm (not hot) place until service.  Whisk occasionally as it sits.  If transferring to a different container for service, make sure that the receiving vessel is warm lest the sauce break.
  8. Leftovers of this sauce are best used as a spread—it is very difficult to successfully reheat this sauce without it breaking.

Here is the sauce, in context, as served with steamed Maine lobster.  It would also match well with many other types of fish; french toast, pancakes, or waffles; muffins or popovers; poultry cooked with a cinnamon spice rub; etc.

Today’s Menu

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

In honor of Fathers’ Day, the following will be served in The Sharrard household:

Steamed Maine Lobster served with a black currant-infused beurre blanc

Roasted Medley of Mushrooms featuring crimini, chicken of the woods, and maitake mushrooms

Braised Spinach garnished with thinly sliced prosciutto

Greens Salad

Homemade Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

Wine Selection: Chateau St. Michelle Brut

Nespresso Review

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Perhaps you’ve been seeing commercials for Nespresso lately.  This phenomenon seems to have followed me home from France: I had never heard of it before April, but the apartment we rented in Paris had a machine; and since returning from vacation, I have seen increasingly visible advertisements for it.

Nespresso= Nestle + Espresso.  It’s like a Keurig, except with a smaller capsule designed to draw a smaller cup (think a demi-tasse).

In Europe, Nespresso stores are ritzy affairs.  The sales clerks are dressed all in black.  There are multiple counters where one can purchase a prepared cup of the brew.  You’re shuttled to a different zone of the store depending on what you seek.  Chances are, the store has more style than you do—but they offer the hope that by buying one of their units, some of their hipness might rub off on you.

So what about the coffee?  Honestly, I only had one cup of Nespresso-brand coffee.  The rest of the time, we bought the off-brand capsules that were advertised as being nespresso-compatible.  Otherwise, there would be very little cost savings between brewing a nespresso at home and going to a cafe where a barrista would brew a real espresso for you.  I doubt that extent of competitive infrastructure exists in the US.  If you purchase their machine, you’re likely locked into their over-priced coffee.

The piece of equipment that made the most sense to me was the Aeroccino 3, a milk frothing unit that heats and froths your milk for you in just over a minute.  Thinking we had stumbled upon some piece of Euro-chicness that may never cross the pond, Rory and I sprang for one on the Champs-Elysees, and then bought a FR-EU electrical converter to plug it into our wall.  It’s really something spectacular. Nothing jazzes up a cuppa joe like warm, frothy milk.

I recommend buying it and a stovetop Bialetti as a far more economical way to make a latte or cappuccino at home.  There will be no plastic cartridge to dispose of after each cup; you’ll have a plethora of coffee suppliers from whom to purchase your beans; and you’ll have the opportunity to make a higher-quality cup whilst (and at the same time as) saving money on procurement of both equipment and coffee.

Burgers Worth Grilling

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

For a very long time, I have resisted the idea of grilling hamburgers.  It seemed like ground meat was a waste of my charcoal.  A visit from my parents gave me the nudge I needed to make grilling burgers a worthwhile experience.

My father told me about how he and my mother have been grilling onions to go along with their meat patties.  I figured, why not give it a shot? and added onions into my normal grilling repertoire.  That, plus making some homemade buns (recipe follows the photos) was all the nudge I needed to grill some very worthwhile beef patties.

Then, I stacked it all up on a homemade hamburger bun.

And, believe me, the final product was definitely worth my charcoal!

Here’s the recipe for the buns: