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Almost that time of year again…

December 21st, 2009 Comments off

We’re deep in cookie baking, tree decorating, house cleaning and all the other fun stuff that surrounds this time of year, not too much time to cook fancy things, but I did have time here and there to make some fun stuff. This will be more of a photo album kind of post, I’ll get back to Ad Hoc ad Home and other books soon though!

While at Whole Foods recently I stumbled over some Oregon Black Truffles. I had never heard of such a thing and the price wasn’t too outlandish, so I got me some. Packed in a small clam shell box with arborio rice. I was gonna post a picture, but they did not come out, just imagine little pieces of charcoal on rice :-) They have wonderful aroma, though taste is very faint, you need add quite a bit to taste them. Last time I had black truffles from Italy is years ago, don’t really have a reference anymore, but while these are good, I’d not run out to buy them again. We had some on “perfect scrambled eggs” made like Gordon Ramsey does here:

I served them on toasted multi grain bread with some fresh wild arugula salad:

Scrambled eggs on toast with black truffles and arugula salad

Scrambled eggs on toast with black truffles and arugula salad

Recently we watched Julie and Julia, fun movie and Meryl Streep is fantastic as Julia Child. Probably because that movie is out, PBS had a two hour special with some of “the best” Julia Child episodes, one of which was the omelet making one. Her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking has several pages with pictures on how to make this, I never quite got it though and hesitated to try. After watching her and seeing how easy it really seems to be, I made two 3 egg omelets today, grated some more of the truffles on top and added some parsley, just like Julia would have done :-) You know what? It’s really easy to make these in a non stick pan, I was surprised. You can see the episode (for now at least) at the link below:

Here’s how ours turned out:

3 egg omelette with black truffles and parsley

3 egg omelette with black truffles and parsley

Now, on to some meat! While shopping at Whole Foods recently I saw some fantastic pork shoulder roasts at the meat counter. About as picture perfect as I can imagine one, so I just had to get one:

Pork shoulder roast

Pork shoulder roast

I decided to cook this one in my Big Green Egg again, low and slow, spiced with salt, pepper, and cumin seeds, just like I make nice Bavarian pork roasts. Here it is, ready to roll:

Ready to roast!

Ready to roast!

To go along with it I caramelized some red and yellow onions and made some Semmelknödel, Bavarian dumplings made from bread and other stuff. These actually were from a package, I have yet to walk down the road of made from scratch Bavarian bread or potato dumplings. I also marinated some red and white radishes in a vinaigrette as a side salad. The roast came out perfect, I took it off the BGE once internal temp was about 140 degree and let it rest for a good 20 min or so. The meat was tender and juicy and succulent, one of the best pieces of pork I’ve come across in a while! And it was quite cheap, I think the entire roast cost about $12 and we had dinner 3 times from it!

I only have pictures of the first two, one with the dumplings, onions (where I added the drippings from the drip pan in the BGE and the juices from the cutting board) and some arugula salad. Later in the week I cut a big slize, fried it in the pan until a nice crust developed no the cut sides and sliced it. Meat was warm, tender, and had not cooked any further. This time we had some nice potatoes and yes, arugula salad. I just love that stuff!

Pork shoulder roast with Semmelknödel, caramelized onions and radish salad

Pork shoulder roast with Semmelknödel, caramelized onions and radish salad

Leftover pork shoulder roast, seared, sliced, and served with potato and arugula salad

Leftover pork shoulder roast, seared, sliced, and served with potato and arugula salad

Well, since then we had two sing fests at the kid’s schools and all kinds of other stuff going on, and I had to get things ready for cookie baking time! One thing we need for what’s here wrongfully called gingerbread cookies – Lebkuchen – is candied lemon rind. We used to buy this at Safeway, a jar full of oddly green or yellow colored tastes like nothing somethings. Last year Safeway ran out before I got to them, so we had to make them ourselves. And they are so much better that way, they’re not even the same thing! And so easy: peel a lemon with a knife, including the white pith, put into a pot with water, bring to a boil, drain and repeat two more times. That takes care of the bitterness of the pith. Then you weigh it, add the same amount of sugar and some water, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour, until translucent. Skim out, put on drying rack for two or three days, sprinkle with sugar and there you are. A delicacy, not only for baking, but all by itself too! Dip in chocolate for a real treat :-)

Some pictures of the process and the product:

To peel a lemon, cut in half, slice rind off with sharp knife. Then sqeeze out juice and freeze or use otherwise.

To peel a lemon, cut in half, slice rind off with sharp knife. Then sqeeze out juice and freeze or use otherwise.

Simmering in sugar syrup

Simmering in sugar syrup

Candied lemon (and tangerine rind, the orange ones) on the drying rack

Candied lemon (and tangerine rind, the orange ones) on the drying rack

And that’s it for this post, the next update will have lots of cookie pictures (though no recipes, family secrets! Well, maybe some, we’ll see) and a little side step about Italian meat balls made from scratch in a moment of temporary insanity :-)

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Cooking with Ad Hoc at Home – Cauliflower Soup

December 7th, 2009 1 comment

I really love this book! There are quite some things I want to try my hands on, the first that I had flagged was cauliflower soup, which incidentally also was the first dish we got to try at a book signing with Thomas Keller, so I guess I really had to make it now :-)

I made the whole recipe, which is supposed to give you about 6 portions. It uses two heads of cauliflower (4-5 lb), a leek, some onion, milk, cream and butter (of course), 1/4 tsp curry, s&p. and you add croutons and beet chips. All together it probably took me about 2hrs, though you could take quite some short cuts here, buy croutons, buy veggie chips, blend with an immersion blender if you don’t mind it a bit more rustic and skip the cup of blanched and fried in butter florets on top. This could be a relatively quick to make dish if you skip those mostly presentational things.

In this cased I followed the entire recipe, except that I used curry powder I have from the Indian store.

I cut two heads of cauliflower into chunks, half an onion and one stalk leeks. I did not really measure these out in cups, just eyeballed it. They go into a pot with butter and 1/4 tsp curry powder and some salt, where they steam under a parchment paper lid (seems to be one of TK’s favorite things and really does work very well) for some 20 or so min, until almost tender.

Cauliflower, leek and onion

Cauliflower, leek and onion

You add 2cups milk, 2 cups heavy cream, and 2 cups water, bring to a good simmer and let go for an other 30 min or so. Then you’re ready to blend it all up. He recommends the VitaMix (I have a feeling that we have some paid product placement here….) which I don’t have, I had to use our stone old:
Picture 65
Oysterizer Cycle Blend, which actually did a fantastic job! I can’t imagine what a VitaMix would have done better. I started on slow and eventually worked my self up the row of buttons until I hit liquefy and ended up with a super smooth light and foamy, velvety, almost whipped cream like soup, out of this world! Super creamy:
Picture 62

Once that’s all done, you’re basically good to go, you could just eat right now, but there are a couple garnishes to do if you want to copy the recipe exactly.

As I have never deep fried anything, I figured this is as good a time as any to try my hands at it, and I won’t need a huge pot of oil. I took my smallest pot and filled it with about an inch of peanut oil, heated it up to 300 degree F. Meanwhile I peeled one beet and sliced it on my mandolin into very thin slices. Once the oil reached temp, I fried them in batches of 5:
Picture 63
I put them on a cooling rack and salted them with fine sea salt.

Next it was time to blanche the cup or so of florets I had reserved, just in salted water with a dash of vinegar. Once done they go in a frying pan with a Tbsp of butter until browned. I used the same pan I had used for the croutons with the remainder of garlic oil still in there, figured I might as well.

Well, there you have it, soup, browned florets, croutons, beet chips. To plate I poured two ladles of soup on a bowl, added some florets in the center, croutons on top and a stack of chips on top of that. For a bit of color I added one water cress twig, sprinkled some black salt and pepper around and drizzled a bit of good olive oil on. Served with thick slices of rustic sourdough bread, this dish is heavenly! The soup is rich, fluffy, airy and light, very very tasty. The different add ons give great different textures, from soft to very crunchy and the bread is what you need to soak up every last drop and wipe the bowl clean.

Ad Hoc Cauliflower soup with Beet Chips

Ad Hoc Cauliflower soup with Beet Chips

This soup is delicious and I see lots of other add ons one could play with, things like bacon, different greens, etc. A flexible delicious base to play with. Or just stick to the book, I’ll definitely make this again.

I still have a bit less than half of it for left overs, wondering if it would freeze well? Might try with just a cup to see what happens. This would be a great soup to bring for a potluck or to share at Christmas with family, just get some good quality croutons or make some that day, everybody can get a small cup to warm up and get ready for dinner!

I will be making more things from this book, it’s not a 30min quick glop book, the recipes take some work, but it’s also not the French Laundry book. It’s full of recipes any good cook can make, if one is willing to spend a bit time in the kitchen. As you can imagine, I highly recommend this book, check in my store for a link to buy it via Amazon and support this site at the same time!

Oh, I just came across some nice video with Thomas Keller on the Borders Books site, check it out:

Thomas Keller about Ad Hoc at Home and cooking some recipes

Categories: Ad Hoc at Home, Cooking, Dinner Tags:

The no shopping for a week (or longer) challenge

November 18th, 2009 Comments off

A couple of months ago my online friends at egullet.org came up with an interesting challenge: don’t shop for food for a week or more, and only use what you have. I was intrigued by the idea, but never got past reading along with them, while happily filling my house with more food.

Well, they’re at it again, and this time I decided to join in. I probably have enough food to last us until next year, aside of fresh fruit, salad, veggies and milk.

So, here are my rules for this week and probably more:

No more shopping for food except for what the kids need fresh, like milk. I won’t buy any major food items, the only things I allow myself is maybe some special spice or sauce I might need for a particular dish to work myself through the freezer. I’ll also try to finally bake my own bread again, and make some pasta and pizza dough from scratch, projects I had planned for anyway.

First night’s dinner was rib eye steaks with oven roasted beans, self made potato chips (i.e. thinly sliced potatoes, parboiled and then fried to finish) and sauteed crimini mushrooms. Turned out great.

Lunch will be a piece of an other sülze I made with turkey. Basically turkey with veggies in chicken broth based aspic. Yumm!

This challenge makes me realize just how much food we have in the house, I really think we could live a month with no problem. Would not have salad, but there are frozen and canned things, rices and beans, potatoes and lots more.

Now I’m thinking about setting up a simple proofing chamber and start feeding my sourdough starter so I can bake some bread this weekend.

Hopefully I’ll think of taking some photos along the way :-)

2nd night dinner was going to be something with pork tenderloin. I had a vision of cubed pork tenderloin in Asian sauce on skewers on the bbq, maybe some apple on there too, rice, salad. Sadly once thawed ,the meat had an off smell despite that I froze it right after I bought it. Even after a thorough washing it had a sour smell and was somewhat grainy on the outside. I could not bring myself to cook with it. Ne resolution: from now on I will unpack every shrink wrapped piece of meat I buy, inspect it, and then vac-seal it again for freezing. Then I could at least return it if it’s bad…

So I decided to pull out some wild mushroom and truffle flat breads from Trader Joe’s, along with one 3 cheese flatbread. I still made a nice salad, one quarter of a gigantic avocado from the Asian market, pomegranate, persimmon, wild arugula, olive oil and sherry vinegar, s&p. Of course, I did not expect some what ever it was that fell/dripped down in my oven to burn. Literally. I open the oven and there’s a small pile of something on fire on the oven floor! Now, that’s a new one! What ever was down there was either new or had hidden very well before, I sure did not see a big fat lump of something down there when I turned it on. Needless to say that you can smoke some things in some ways to deliciousness. Well, now I know you can also smoke things into something almost inedible….

You know, just one of those days. Started with a dropped cup of coffee in the hallway. The one with carpet. A flat tire on my wife’s car, a misscheduled surprise playdate for my boy, more complicated faimly home work than I realized, fire smoked flat breads, just an odd day.

I don’t eat breakfast, made English muffins with Nutella for the kids and a sandwich for my wife to take to work. Lunch was mac&cheese for the kids, they’ve been after me for days for that, and I finished my poultry in aspik Sülze thing with some bread.
I did find an other pork tenderloin in the freezer, this one seems just fine, so I’ll be making the pork with raisins and pine nuts and balsamico from Marcella Hazan’s book tonight. Glad I found that recipe as I have an open package of pine nuts waiting to get eaten in the fridge. Salad will be some more of the gigantic avocado, persimmon from the inlaw’s garden, the other pomegranate I have and wild arugula. Might make some rice to go along with the meat.

I did buy more milk and English muffins today for the kids, there’s just no way around that. And minor cheat (I hope), some extra herb salad. And coffee.

Now, I just got word that my 1/6th of a cow will arrive tomorrow and a small turkey on Tue. All this was ordered weeks ago and of course has to show up in my no shopping week. I might use some of the fresh beef instead of thawing what I have, depending on the cuts I’ll get. Since I bought this stuff weeks ago, I’m not sure it qualifies as shopping. But since I have assorted poultry and beef in the freezer too, it probably doesn’t matter much.

I must say that it felt a bit strange to walk out of Safeway with one gal of milk, 3 packs of English Muffins and one box of salad (plus the coffee). I had to keep my eyes from wandering and my brain from wanting….

As for condiments, I could probably feed a small army with pickled things, sauces, powders, dried leaves, curries, etc. That’s what I’m actually really looking forward to with this experiment – going shopping at home and discovering hidden treasures!

Having fun so far :-)

Oh, and my sourdough starter just finished it’s first round of re-activating, off to it’s next feeding and I can turn the light in my cooler (improvised proofing box) off. Couple more days and I’ll be baking some real San Francisco Sourdough. Yes, they make it just down the road from me, but this will be selfmade and not shopped for. Well, aside of the ingredients of course.
I also see a sourdough pizza in my near future, I’m just starting a canned tomato tasting project and have 5 or 6 or so different brands to play with.

LOL, I’m starting to wonder if I secretly planned to open a small food store here???

We have an other surprise play date, this time for my little 2 year old. Friends are prepping their place for sale and their little boy is here to play with Mia. Hopefully I’ll be able to work on dinner w/o the rest of the house turning in to chaos :-D

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