Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Where's the Beef

It amazes me that often when I order a steak at different restaurants using the same terminology for the same type of steak, I often get different degrees of doneness.

To me that just goes to show that a persons idea about what a steak should look like is as different as the steak involved. And it really should not have to be that way.

The amount of time steak is cooked is a personal preference; shorter steak cooking times retain more juice and flavor, whereas longer steak cooking times result in drier, tougher meat but reduce concerns about disease.

The best thing to remember is that before you cook a steak, let it come up to almost room temp. That means, DO NOT just take a steak out of the 41 degree fridge, slap it on the grill or in a pan and expect the cooking times to be the same. The ideal temp for a steak before cooking is about 55-60 degrees. So next time, take the steak out of the fridge about 30 min. before you cook. As long as you keep it on a clean plate covered and never out more than 2 hrs you should be fine. Also, never take out more than you will use. And always use safe handling practices to avoid cross contamination.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pasta

Pasta is my weakness! I admit it as I belive I have before confessed. If I did not have a Western European family history, I would have been born with a linguine in my mouth instead of a baby pacifier.
Dinner with Al, as in alfredo..sauce...!


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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fresh Tart

On Friday evening I spent a few hours visiting a professional colleague. Elizabeth Beekley, owner of Two Tarts Bakery was holding a class on a topic that is close to my heart.. French Macarons.

The perfect French Macarons are for some people a goal that has yet to be achieved. For me, I wanted to learn how different places do different recipes. Elizabeth has a reputation on high standards of freshness, using when able, local products, followed by a very creative ideology. Her ideas, as well as some of the shops best selling items have come from a whim or in a magical moment of "oh yea, now that sounds good!"

This evening was no different. As well as the standard fair of a simple almond recipe, we tried coconut, ginger, hazelnut and rice flour. All interesting, with wonderful results. The combinations seemed endless. And that was just the cookie. We still had to create a filling. Fillings were just as interesting as the cookie. Butter cream with lemon, or black currant or even a raspberry ganache. So I, and five other lucky people doned our colorful aprons and listened to Elizabeth, the shops "Queen of Tarts".


We started out by blending the dry ingredients in a food processor until fine and fully blended.




Next we used egg whites and whipped them until they were stiff. Taking the dry ingredients and then folding them into the meringue. Folding until fully incorporated.


With piping bag fitted with a wide tip, we filled the bag and piped out quarter sized buttons of the mixture.



Then tapping down any peaks, we placed them in the oven in hopes that the "foot" would appear.




After a few min, and not allowing them to go too long, our macarons came out in the way that only a true macaron should. Firm on the outside but soft and tender in the middle. Combined with the filling, I had my sweet tooth quenched.




After our class we all talked about the possibilties of different flavors and mixtures, like lavander or a jalapeno chocolate to name a couple. The choices, we decided, can be endless.

Two Tarts Bakery conducts several classes through out the year. And if they are all this fun, as I experienced, I may have to take another. Besides, you DO get to eat what you make!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Easy Hollandaise

Many vegetables are coming to your market. Among them are asparagus and artichoke. Both of which lend themselves well to a rich and smooth sauce, like hollandaise.

The standard sauce calls for whisking the eggs over a double boiler while adding in the butter until fully incorporated. It can be time consuming as well as if you don't add the butter with enough emulsion the sauce can "crack" or separate.

Here is a much better way to get the same results.

Easy Hollandaise Sauce

1 stick (yes, a whole stick) unsalted butter (this is 8 tablespoons / 4 ounces)
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher here)
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
Pinch white pepper (traditional recipes also call for a pinch of cayenne)

Melt the butter in a small pot or microwave glass container till fully melted and hot. In the mean time, fill blender with remaining ingredients. Cover and blend for 30 seconds. Uncover (or through the center hole) drizzle hot butter very slowly into the whizzing blender, allowing time with each little drop for the butter to absorb into the eggs and emulsify. Serve immediately over asparagus or use as a dipping sauce for those artichokes.

Leftovers - This recipe makes about 3/4 cup of hollandaise. But leftover hollandaise can become a added plus! It can turn a plain omelet into heaven, and of course there is eggs Benedict as well as over poached Salmon.

To rewarm Hollandaise - A gentle warming is key, otherwise the egg cooks and the texture becomes more grainy than smooth. A double boiler works best.

On your next cooking event, see if this simple sauce can become a part in making some of the more ordinary foods richer and tasty.