Friday, June 29, 2012

Arancini - Italian Fried Delicious


Arancini is the most delicious way to eat leftover risotto. Arancini is usually fried and stuffed with a variety of fillings. The most common filling is ragu: a combination of pork, tomatoes and vegetables. It can also be stuffed with mushrooms, eggplant, corn or cheese. I went for the most easy one: the cheese arancini.

The word "arancini" is derived from the Italian word for "little orange", which is an apt description of the color and shape of the fried rice balls. You could call them an appetizer, but I honestly at them as a main dish alongside an arugula salad.

A couple helpful hints:

  • If you're making cheese arancini, use block pieces of mozzarella cheese. I use shredded mozzarella cheese and it was a lot more difficult to work with.
  • Use fine bread crumbs. I used panko and I feel like it would have been better with fine Italian breadcrumbs.
Arancini

Ingredients
  • Leftover risotto (I used mushroom, but plain risotto would work best
  • Cheese
  • Flour, egg and breadcrumbs for coating
  • Oil for deep frying
Directions
  1. Pour oil into a wok or deep pot. Begin heating to 350 degrees.
  2. Shape risotto in the palm of your hand into a disk. Fill with cheese or desired filling and wrap the rice around it. If necessary, pat rice on the top of enclose the filling.
  3. Roll risotto ball in flour, egg, and then breadcrumbs.
  4. Fry risotto balls for a couple minutes until the outside are a dark golden brown. Dry on paper towel and serve immediately with a green salad.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: Salt a World History - Mark Kurlansky

To view all of my book reviews (not just the food related ones), please check out my Goodreads account




Title: Salt: A World History
Author: Mark Kurlansky
Published: Penguin Books, 2002
Pages: 484 pages


This book was really interesting. Salt is such a common substance and I only knew vaguely of its history. I knew of its food uses (originally out of necessity and now as a delicacy) and a large part of the book gave me a craving for salt cod and bacon. I learned some great things but it was just too long. It was interesting for the first 300 pages but the next 150 pages were just dull. It was simply a rehash of the same themes covered before. All societies use salt, it was very valuable before the discovery of its abundance, and here are a few cool anecdotes and some really old recipes for salted food.

I would have given it 4 stars if it had been shorter.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dutch Crunch Bread


I consider Dutch Crunch the perfect sandwich bread for anything with a lighter flavor (fish, chicken, turkey, etc). For all things like roast beef and pastrami, rye bread will always be the winner. But after seeing so many posts for Dutch Crunch rolls after it was assigned for a Daring Bakers challenge, I knew I had to give it a shot.


That night, I had these rolls with a baked basa (a Vietnamese freshwater fish similar to catfish) sandwich with red wine vinegar coleslaw. It was delicious. I'm sure it would be perfect with tuna melts as well.


This post has been submitted to Yeastspotting


Dutch Crunch Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ tsp dry yeast
  • 1 ¼ cup warm milk
  • 1 ½ Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp veg oil
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • about 3 ½ cups bread flour

Ingredients for topping
  • 4 ½ tsp dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp veg oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups rice flour

Directions
  1. For the bread, combine yeast, milk and sugar to let yeast proof
  2. Add vegetable oil, salt and 2 cups of flour. Mix until it comes together
  3. Add more bread flour about ¼ cup at a time until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead dough until springy and elastic
  4. Place in oiled bowl covered until doubled in size (1 hour)
  5. Divide dough into 8 pieces and shape into a ball. Cover and let rest 15 minutes while preparing the topping
  6. For the topping, mix all ingredients together until a stiff consistency of icing (it should just drip slowly off the whisk. Let rest for 15 minutes
  7. Coat rolls liberally with the topping and let rest another 15-20 minutes
  8. Bake at 375 degrees 25-30 minutes until well browned.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mushroom Risotto - The best way to eat carbs


Risotto is my favorite way to eat carbs. It will always be my favorite way to eat carbs. It's creamy, savory and unctuous. It has all the flavors I crave in a dish, and it accompanies fish, chicken or meat perfectly (depending on the type of risotto). But who am I kidding, I can eat risotto as a dish all on its own.

Risotto is not complicated. It's not a food you have to order at a restaurant. The only reason it seems daunting is because one person has to stand by the stove while it cooks, but it only takes twenty minutes. It's worth every moment and every penny to make this dish.

Usually, mushroom risotto is made with porcini mushrooms, but because I wanted to make a frugal weeknight dinner, I substituted dried shiitake mushrooms for the porcini. It still has as earthy richness, but without the price.

This recipe makes about 6 main course servings. I usually cut the recipe in half because I use it as a side dish for fewer people.

Mushroom Risotto
  • about 9 cups chicken stock
  • 1 oz dried shiitake mushroom caps
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ lb sliced button mushrooms
  • ½ lb assorted wild mushrooms (I used enoki, miatake, and oyster mushrooms)
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp fresh minced thyme
  • 3 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine (not Chardonnay) at room temp
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Bring the stock to a simmer Remove from heat and add the dried shiitake mushrooms, soaking for 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms, squeezing out the liquid. Chop and set aside. Turn the stock back on to a very low simmer.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, sautee garlic in olive oil on medium heat. Add all the fresh mushrooms and cook until they are softened. Add the chopped shitake, parsley, thyme and half a cup of the simmering stock. Cook until thickened, then remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add rie to the pan and stir over medium heat until each grain is translucent with a white dot in the center. Add the wine and stir until that is completely absorbed.
  4. Add the simmering stock a ladle full at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. When stock is almost completely absorbed, add the next ladle of stock. Repeat, saving ¼ cup until the end.
  5. When the rice is al dente (tender, but slightly firm and creamy) Add mushrooms and stir to reheat (about 3 minutes) Remove from heat. Add butter and remaining stock. Season to taste and eat immediately.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Heidelberg Pastry Shop - A Restaurant Review


Heidelberg Pastry Shop
2150 North Culpeper Street
Arlington VA 22207
(703) 527 - 8394
http://www.heidelbergbakery.com/

Heidelberg Pastry Shop is within a couple miles of my house. I'd heard about this amazing German bakery and finally got the chance to try it out.

I looked first at their bread section. Most were soft sandwich bread looking loaves like multigrain or oatmeal breads. There was some great looking challah as well, but I was looking to try the baked goods that afternoon.

Pictured above are a pretzel, cheese crackers and marzipan. The pretzel was soft and chewy with that essential pretzel taste. They're made in house, as you can see from the ugly shape of the pretzels. The cheese crackers were very buttery and delicious. I could have easily eaten a whole bag of the. And the marzipan was delicious and beautiful. Regular price is about $4 but I got a day old piece which was only $2. They came mostly in fruit and vegetable shapes, but there were some animals as well.

I also discovered that Heidelberg sells real food as well. You can go in for house made sausages and German style potato salad. The sausages smelled fantastic and they were only served one way: with mustard and sauerkraut. No ketchup in this joint.

Check it out if you get a chance.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sourdough Danishes with Cream Cheese filling: my first adventures with laminated dough


Laminated dough always sounded intimidating. Croissants were items I bought at the bakery, not things I made at home. I knew it was going to be time consuming and I never thought I would have the time. But over a three day weekend, I decided to try this amazing recipe because I am always looking for new ways to use sourdough starter when I feed it.

This recipe took two days to complete, but most of it was inactive time. The first day was 5 minutes to make the ferment. The second day was probably a grand total of an hour and a half to make the dough, roll it, and add the butter. The third morning was only 20 minutes of shaping the dough and filling it.

My favorite shapes were the pinwheels, and vol-au-vents (both pictured) but there are plenty of other options for shaping. This recipe will make 16-20 danishes, depending on the size. I cut the recipe in half because I knew I didn't have enough baking trays. Be sure to leave plenty of space because they will expand.

For these pastries I used fresh blueberries, raspberry preserves and apricot/peach/passion fruit compote. The compote was definitely the winner.

This post has been submitted to Yeastspotting





Sourdough Danishes

Ingredients for ferment

  • 44 grams sourdough starter from the refrigerator at 100% hydration
  • 75 grams water
  • 134 grams bread flour

Directions

  1. Mix ingredients together with your hands until it forms a dry ball. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight for at least 12 hours

Ingredients for main dough
  • 341 grams bread flour
  • 77 grams beaten eggs
  • 135 grams milk
  • 60 grams sugar
  • 5 grams salt
  • 7 grams yeast
  • 41 grams softened butter
  • 361 grams cold cubed unsalted butter.

Directions
  1. Mix levain with all ingredients except 361 grams butter. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes and medium speed for 3 minutes. Remove from mixing bowl, pat into a square, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hour.
  2. While dough is chilling, roll dough into a 7.5x7.5 inch rectangle. between pieces of parchment paper. Chill in refrigerator.
  3. Remove butter to let it come to the same texture as the dough. Roll dough into an 11 inch square so it can completely enclose the butter. Orient butter so corners are in the middle of the sides. Fold dough around butter.
  4. Roll out dough into an 8 x 24 inch rectangle, starting from the middle and rolling outward. Cut off the short edges of the dough and fold like a letter. Fold the bottom edge up and the top edge over. Wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour.
  5. Orient dough with the closed side facing left and roll as before. into an 8x24 inch rectangle. Repeat 3 more times for a total of 4 folds total. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. In the morning, roll dough into an 8x24 inch rectangle. Cut in half to make 2 8 x 12 inch halves. Continue rolling each half to make two 9 x 18 inch rectangles. Trim all the edges and divide into 8 squares each.
  7. Shape dough as desired into squares, vol au vents, pinwheels and braids. Proof dough for 2 hours
  8. Fill dough with cream cheese filling (about 1 Tbsp each) and jam or desired. Brush with egg wash and bake for 10 minutes at 425 and 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Eat when still warm.

Ingredients for cream cheese filling
  • 250 grams softened cream cheese
  • 113 grams granulated sugar
  • 19 grams butter
  • 28 grams flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 21 grams beaten egg

Directions
  • Mix together all ingredients until softened in stand mixer.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sunomono


Sunomono has always been one of my favorite salads. It's just Japanese quick pickles with seaweed and a dashi sauce, but it's so light and refreshing. It's sweet and savory with an herbal quality as well. It makes a perfect summer salad and a great accompaniment to any meal. If necessary, you can make it a couple days ahead of time too and the pickles will keep their fantastic crunch.

Traditionally, you want to use Japanese cucumbers that have been rubbed with kosher salt to remove the bitterness. They're relatively small and very thin, but they can occasionally be hard to find in your grocery store. You should not use regular cucumbers, but you can use English cucumbers (the hydroponically grown ones wrapped in plastic). The salad is traditionally dressed with Sanbaizu, meaning "three flavors". 

Sunomono

Ingredients

  • 5 very firm Japanese or English cucumbers, sliced
  • 2 or 3 shiso leaves
  • wakame seaweed to taste
  • kosher salt
  • Sanbaizu dressing (recipe follows)
Directions
  1. Slice cucumbers very thin on a mandolin and salt liberally with kosher salt. They should taste oversalted. 
  2. After about 20 minutes, squeeze the cucumbers in your hands. The salt will draw out the water and make the cucumbers crunchy. If the cucumbers aren't crunchy yet, leave them for another 10 minutes. If they're too salty, rinse them in water and squeeze. The cucumbers can be made about 4 days ahead if you squeeze the water out every day.
  3. When you want to serve the cucumbers, take a couple tablespoons of dried wakame seaweed and rehydrate them in cool water. Squeeze the water out and toss with the cucumbers as much as desired (about 2 parts cucumber to 1 part seaweed)
  4. Chiffonade the shiso and mix with the cucumbers and seaweed.
  5. Dress the salad with sanbaizu and garnish with sesame seeds.
Sanbaizu
  • 3/4 cup dashi
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp mirin
Directions
  1. Mix all ingredients together and serve.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Corned Beef - It's Not Just for St. Patrick's Day



I wanted to make corned beef for St Patrick's day, but I didn't want to spend the money on enough corned beef for a large party and leftovers. I wanted to make it myself, but pre-brined corned beef was cheaper than a regular brisket. It's funny how that works. Additionally, all the briskets I found were half fat and would yield very little of the lean meat when I finished trimming it.

But at the asian market, I found a great, very lean brisket ideal for pho at a sale price. So what if it was May. I still wanted to make corned beef and try my hand at brining it myself.

There are a variety of recipes for pickling spice. For the most part, they always involve peppercorns, bay leaves, hot pepper flakes, coriander, mustard, allspice and cinnamon. I added a few more things that I know I enjoy based on how I've had them before. First, I'll give you my recipe for pickling spice. 

Pickling Spice
Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp juniper berries
  • 1 Tbsp allspice beries
  • 12 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken
  • 1 Tbsp cloves
  • ½ Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp celery seeds
  • ½ Tbsp thyme
  • 2 star anise pods

Directions

  1. Toast peppercorns, mustard, coriander, juniper, allspice and star anise in a skillet until aromatic
  2. Mix together with remaining ingredients and crush with mortar/pestle. Store in airtight jar.

I thought this was a great recipe but I would make a few changes next time. I'd all a little more cinnamon and more juniper. I would also NOT replace the hot pepper flakes with 2 szechwan chilis (the only thing I had in the house). It gave the beef a great flavor but it made my cabbage way too spicy. I've never had a spicy cabbage that was not kim chi, so this was surprising.

When you have your spice, you can finally start making your corned beef.



Corned Beef
Ingredients

  • 1 4lb brisket
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery rib
  • 1 onion
  • 10 oz kosher salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 Tbsp pickling spice

Directions

  1. Combine 2 or 3 Tbsp pickling spice with 1 gallon of water, salt and sugar. Bring ingredients to boil until sugar and salt are dissolved. Let cool completely
  2. When mix is cool, add brisket, making sure it’s submerged in liquid. Leave brisket in refrigerator for 5 days
  3. When ready to cook brisket, remove from brine and rinse thoroughly. Cover brisket with water and add 2-3 Tbsp pickling spice, onion, carrot and celery. Bring to boil and simmer for 3 hours or until brisket is fork tender.
  4. Just before brisket is finished cooking, add potatoes, cabbage and extra carrots to cooking liquid and cook until done.
  5. Store leftovers in a little cooking liquid and refrigerate.

We only had a two and a half pound brisket but that didn't matter. The extra salt comes out in the cooking liquid and it still tasted fantastic. We even had leftovers for reuben sandwiches the next day, which is always worth it.


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