One of our holiday traditions is attending a pot luck / lasagna party hosted by a good friend of ours. I’ll typically make some sort of bread. (Search the bottom of the webpage for “epi”, “focaccia” or “fougasse” for some examples.) This year it was a festive herbed focaccia created using a room-temperature overnight poolish as the base:
One day ahead I started the poolish: 800 grams of bread flour. 800 grams cool water. A few grains of Instant (not fast-acting) Dry Yeast, about 1/16 teaspoon. Mix thoroughly, cover tightly, and let sit on the counter overnight.
The next steps need to start at least 6-8 hours before consumption. Most of it is hands-off, but all up it comes out to over four hours of preparation + cooling.
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine 200 grams of bread flour, 2 teaspoons of Instant Dry Yeast, 30 grams olive oil, 20 grams kosher salt. Mix that briefly then add the poolish and mix on low speed for 8 minutes. Cover.
The total baker’s percentage formula comes out to 1000g flour, 800 grams water (80% hydration), 30 grams olive oil (3% of the flour weight), 20 grams kosher salt (2% of the flour weight), yeast.
Bulk rise until doubled in volume – this will take 1 – 2+ hours depending upon the temperature of the house.
Once doubled transfer the dough to a parchment-lined-and-oiled 18 x 13 sheet tray.
Lightly coat the top of the dough with olive oil.
Using your fingers, poke the dough all over down to the base.
Sprinkle on fresh herbs of your choice. I used rosemary and thyme from our raised garden beds. Which were buried under snow, so that took a couple of extra minutes to pick through for good stuff.
Cover the dough and start the oven preheating to 450F.
Let rise one hour. Sprinkle the dough with flakey (Maldon’s) salt.
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the internal temperature is at least 200F and the bread is pleasantly browned.
I accidently let the bulk rise much more than double. Between that and the starter poolish the dough was extremely loose and extensible. I sort of had to wrestle it into shape using a generous amount of oil to keep it from sticking to everything. Given a more correct rise time the dough should have been much more manageable.
I liked the festive appearance and the focaccia got nice feedback. I can see making this one again, though I think I may use a biga next time with the idea that it may make the dough more manageable in the shaping stage.
We were recently invited to a dinner party that involved dishes from a variety of cultures and places, sort of focused on North Africa and the Fertile Crescent. We brought naan. Pictured is a triple recipe to generously serve ten people:
I’ve made naan or naan-like things a number of times and basically winged it with decent-to-good results. This bake was for a discerning crowd so I wanted to use an actual recipe as a starting point to help ensure things didn’t go too far off the rails.
Ultimately I chose between Kenji’s Grilled Naan recipe on Serious Eats and a King Arthur website recipe. Kenji’s recipe calls for using an outdoor grill, so I mostly went with the King Arthur recipe because we were cooking on a grill pan instead of live fire. I used Kenji’s recommendation of bread flour instead of a mix of flours.
First, the King Arthur formula as written:
180g King Arthur AP Flour, 90g King Arthur Bread Flour, 142g warm water, 71g Full-Fat Greek Yogurt, 28g melted ghee or butter, 1-1/2 teaspoons Active Instant Dry Yeast, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt. Full recipe here. …After baking brush with butter and top with nigella seeds and cilantro.
My slight modification that includes honey and uses Baker’s Percentages:
270g King Arthur Bread Flour, 142g warm water (52% of flour weight), 71g Full-Fat Greek Yogurt (26%), 28g melted ghee (10%), 1-1/2 teaspoons Active Instant Dry Yeast, 2/3 teaspoon honey, 5g (scant 2%) salt. Combine all in a mixer for 6 minutes on low speed.
Cover and let rise until doubled, about 60 minutes.
Divide into ~100g balls. (The original recipe calls for 65g, which I felt were too small for that event.) Let the dough balls rest 20-30 minutes.
Preheat grill pan to medium/medium-high.
Very lightly oil a work surface roll out a dough ball to 8-10″ long. Then roll the next ball as the one on the stove is cooking. Resist the urge to roll out very thinly — the center may burn instead of bubbling.
Bake the first side about 45 seconds — until it the dough bubbles, then flip and bake another 45 seconds or until the naan is just cooked through. (Cooking them too long makes them tough.)
After baking brush with ghee and top with minced chives.
For transport we put a cooling rack on the bottom of a sheet tray, then piled on layers of naan with each level separated by parchment paper. We wrapped the entire thing in foil. Shortly before dinner the naan was reheated in a low oven while still wrapped in the foil.
I’d never made ghee, but it’s super easy. There are tons of recipes online but basically you just heat butter until warm/very warm, skim the surface until the solids drop out, strain. Done. We heated a couple of smashed garlic cloves in the finished ghee for a little background sense of garlic.
The naan was well received at dinner, so that part went well. I think the King Arthur recipe calls for too much liquid — I wound up adding a few tablespoons of flour and then a pinch of salt to keep the balance. If I had it to do over again I would have held back about 1/3 of the water initially to see how the dough shaped up.
I sort of feel like that’s not-uncommon in bread baking and recipe writing — too much liquid in the formula that then combines with generous amounts of bench flour to compensate. As a rule I try to do the opposite and incorporate as little raw flour as possible, which then also helps maintain the balance of the recipe. That’s why in Step #4 it calls for a lightly oiled surface, rather than floured or heavily floured.
Ten people ate twelve of the fifteen naan. Little or No Leftovers = Successful Recipe. I’ll use this one again.
The weather has been unusually warm so the arugula decided it was time to bolt. We enjoy arugula on pizzas and in salads. Friday night was a pizza / flatbread with blue cheese, arugula, pine nuts, and thinly sliced steak. What I thought was more interesting was Monday’s Pizza Pinwheels:
We served these with a red sauce made from last year’s tomatoes. The dough recipe is very easy:
300 grams AP flour, 50 grams greek honey yogurt, 165 grams water, 6 grams kosher salt, and 1 tsp instant yeast. Let the dough rise for an hour and do one or two stretch and folds (optional). Let the dough rise for another two hours. Preheat the oven to 375F. Roll the dough out thinly into a rectangle about 12″ x 8″. Sprinkle on chopped pepperoni, shredded mozzarella, and any other finely chopped herbs/aromatics that you like. (Don’t go overboard on fillings because it still needs to be able to roll up. ) Roll up the dough so that you have a tube 12″ long. Cut into 3/4″ to 1″ pieces and place on parchment or a Silpat. Bake for 15-20 minutes rotating the tray halfway through baking.
Soups are a great meal since they don’t generally require a ton of ingredients, are easy to make in a large quantity, are easy to make from a technical standpoint and don’t require a ton of attention. One of the simplest and most delicious soups I have ever come across is the creamy nettle soup at the old Le Gourmand space in Ballard. This soup was so good that I think it might actually be the best thing that I ever had there. Unfortunately the restaurant is long gone, but the chef, the great Bruce Naftaly, still runs cooking classes and shows you dishes that he served in the restaurant. Since we are approaching the tail end of nettle season, I figured that this would be a good one to put out there, especially considering the somewhat unpredictable Northwest spring weather. Not sure where to get nettles? Try Foraged and Found – they are at the U-District Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and Ballard on Sundays. You probably only have 1 or 2 weeks left in nettle season though, so you many want to hurry.
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1 medium leek, dark green part removed, quartered and rinsed and cut into ½ inch pieces, about 8 oz.
½ yellow onion cut into 6 parts, about 8 oz.
2 shallots peeled and quartered, about 4 oz.
1 Yukon gold potato, quartered, about 6 oz.
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
6 oz. nettles, washed
Salt and pepper
In a heavy bottomed stock pot, melt the butter until it stops foaming over medium heat. Add the shallots, leek and onions and stir. Cook for about 15 minutes or until they soften, stirring occasionally. If the veggies begin to brown, lower the heat slightly, you are looking to sweat them, not brown them. When the veggies are soft, add the potato and stock. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked (you can pierce them with the tip of a knife with no resistance). Add nettles and cover, cooking for 6-7 minutes until the nettles are wilted (this will also take out the stinging quality of the nettles). Remove from heat and puree in 2 batches, adding ½ of the cilantro to each batch. When done pureeing the soup, if the soup is too thick, stir in water or stock in small quantities until the desired thickness is achieved. If it is too thin, add some additional cooked potato puree to thicken it. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or warm with a few grinds of fresh nutmeg and some nice bread.
If you can’t find nettles, use spinach instead. It won’t be as good but you will be able to make the soup all year round. The recipe will feed 4-6 people and scales really easily and can be served as either a main course or an appetizer. It will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days but freezes well and reheats easily, so it makes for a nice meal in a hurry. This soup is ultra creamy and luxurious, and, best of all, involves no actual dairy and can be made completely vegan by using veggie stock and olive oil instead of chicken stock and butter.
I really do enjoy shrimp, but since I am picky about where it is sourced and how it is processed, it tends to be spendy so I don’t eat it that often. For a recent party, I was tasked with making the small bites, so I decided to go with my take on a classic, shrimp and grits. I wanted something that was really easy to make and would still be fun an interesting, so I came up with this. It works nicely on a rice cracker and can be served as a sit down app or main course.
½ head cauliflower (about 1 lb.) trimmed into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 oz. grated cheddar cheese
1 oz. grated parmiggano reggiano
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 smoked jalapeño (can be replaced with adobe)
The Spice Rub – make a spice mix. In a coffee grinder add 1 part each chili flakes, smoked paprika, cumin and oregano, the smoked jalapeño (or one part adobe) and 2 parts each garlic powder and kosher salt. Pulse until a fine powder. (You can skip the grinding part if you are not using a whole smoked pepper as everything will already be powdered).
The Grits – steam the cauliflower in a covered pot for 10-15 minutes until tender. Transfer to a blender and add ¼ cup of the steaming liquid and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Blend until smooth. If the puree is too thick, add a little bit more water to thin. Transfer the puree back to an empty pot and add butter and cheese, stirring until combined. Check seasonings and add salt and pepper as necessary.
The Shrimp – heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil until just smoking. You are going to work in 2 batches with the shrimp. In a bowl, toss half the shrimp with 1 teaspoon of corn starch and 1 tablespoon of the spice rub until coated. Before putting the shrimp in the pan, shake off any excess. Cook the shrimp in the pan 2 minutes each side (don’t move them around) until done. Move to a plate, wipe out the pan and repeat with the second batch of shrimp
Serve the shrimp over the cauliflower grits.
I didn’t give exact measurements for the spice rub since it is scalable – you can use either a teaspoon or a tablespoon as your base measure, so the 1 part would be 1 teaspoon or tablespoon and the 2 parts would be 2 of either. You can easily adjust or change the ratios to go with your likes. You can use any size shrimp you want (I don’t think that I would recommend anything smaller than 26-30 count), but you will need to adjust the cooking time according to the size. You will still need to work in batches regardless of the size of the shrimp – you don’t want to crowd the pan when you cook the shrimp. I would also recommend that you don’t by any shrimp treated with Trisodium Phosphate (if you buy them in a bag, it should say. If you buy them from a fish counter, ask and don’t buy them if they are not sure – they should know), it affects the texture and you will end up with mushy shrimp.
I recently got asked for this recipe again and realized that I have made a few tweaks to it from the original. Basically, make a graham cracker crust rather than using a pie crust if you want this to actually look like a cheesecake. It is easy if you have a spring-form pan. I also updated the recipe to use a single type of chocolate rather than the blend that I was originally using.
13 oz Chocolate – roughly chopped (Dark Chocolate, somewhere around 70% works the best
1/3 cup coffee liqueur or strong coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound Silken Tofu (extra firm) drained
1 tablespoon honey
1 9 inch graham cracker crust or pie crust
Pre-bake your crust (if necessary) and let cool. If you need to know how to make a graham cracker crust, check here (just leave out the sugar, you won’t need it). Melt the chocolate, liqueur or coffee and vanilla in a bowl over a sauce pan of simmering water, stirring often. (This can also be done in a microwave, but be careful of burning the chocolate). In a blender or food processor, combine the tofu, honey and chocolate and spin until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. That’s it. You have dessert. Serve with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, or just eat it as is.
I personally use a good single origin, 70% chocolate, but if you don’t have access to a really good chocolate shop, you can use pretty good chocolate like Callebaut or Schaffen-Berger, which are available just about everywhere these days (read – most mega marts carry them). Just remember, chocolate is the dominant flavor in this dessert, so go with one that you like the taste of. If you like it sweeter, add more honey, but I would recommend waiting until after everything is combined and tasted. This will set into the consistency of something resembling a dense cheesecake. If you want something more pudding like, I would recommend using a less firm silken tofu.
Well, the Mayans were wrong and what a better way to celebrate the fact than throwing a hedonistic feast in their honor. I will do this post in a couple of parts – this one with the menu, descriptions and any links to existing recipes that I used to make them (along with any tweaks) and a second set of posts with the remaining recipes (some of these are a pain to write out, so it will take a bit to get them out there). I really wanted to have fun with the meal, so I opted for simple preparations with fun plating and names. So, without further delay, I present to you “Meal of the Apocalypse”!
Cocktail: Heart of Darkness
I am pretty sure that I didn’t make this one up, but I have absolutely no idea where I would have come across it either. It is a champagne based cocktail, which are always delicious and refreshing and this takes about 1 minute to make.
Here is what I wrote about the drink on my menu:
The story Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is the inspiration for one of my favorite movies, Apocalypse Now. It seemed appropriate to make a drink based on that, given the theme of the night.
Since I like you, I will give you the recipe here.
The drink is 1.5 oz. blood orange juice or soda, 4 oz. sparkling wine, 3 drops Scrappy’s Chocolate Bitters and a frozen strawberry, served in a wine glass.
I would recommend using a drier sparkling wine for this so that you don’t get overloaded with sweetness. I personally used Washington produced Treveri Pinot Gris sparkling wine in this version.
First Course: My Last Meal
Being Italian, it seemed logical to start off the meal with pasta. I did a meat ravioli with a taleggio, shallot and sous vide egg cream sauce and topped it with a sprinkle of guanciale, just because I could. It was decadent and over the top, but it pared nicely with the 2010 Wilridge Pinot Grigio, which has a bit of sharpness to it that cut the richness of the dish.
My notes on the dish:
One of the components of my last meal on earth, if I got to choose it, would be something that my dad made for me when I was growing up. This is my adult version of the meal that I enjoyed as a kid.
Second Course: The Mayan Slaughter
I wanted to make mole without making mole, so I basically took a bunch of the spices that are used in mole and made a spice rub for some pork tenderloins. Then to get the chocolate component of the dish, I made a chocolate gastrique as a side sauce that was meant to be eaten with the pork. I really felt like I nailed this one as the combination of the spices and the chocolate really reminded me of a mole, although a more complex one than you might expect since the fruit notes in the chocolate really came out. I served it with a toasted quinoa hash (quinoa, black beans, queso fresco) that I got the basic idea from Modernist Cuisine at Home. I pared this with a completely killer Argentinian Malbec from my cellar that a friend brought me back from Argentina – 2006 LaGarde Riserva Malbec.
There was one problem with calling this dish the Mayan Slaughter:
The Spanish brought pigs to the new world and they became a main protein of Mexican cooking well after the Mayans. A deconstructed mole sauce is a tribute to the Mayans, although the Mayans didn’t really invent it and quinoa is actually from South America. We will just ignore those little details.
Third Course: Side of the Road Salad
Just a simple salad of wild arugula, dandelion greens, truffle oil, 30 year old balsamic vinegar and alder smoked sea salt. I wanted to add some sun chokes to this, but my attempt at making a sun choke crouton didn’t work. I served this with a 2009 NHV Rose which wasn’t a fan favorite by itself, but worked well with the salad.
No picture of this since: A) salads are boring and B) I forgot to take a picture of it before I started eating.
My story about the salad:
You could, in theory, survive in Seattle eating nothing but foraged food (there are people who do this willingly), if you know where to look. This just proves that you can do it and still eat well.
Fourth Course: Raid the Emergency Supplies
This was one that I went really creative with the presentation. What better to celebrate the world not ending then with eating your stockpiles of emergency supplies? I made my Belgian Beef Carbonnade recipe, topped it with a potato slice and served it in a tin can. Of course, since I went with the really classy presentation in a can, I had to serve a great bottle of wine, in this case the 2001 Conti Sertoli Sforsato in a mason jar.
Here are my thoughts on this:
You should have a stockpile of emergency supplies including canned goods in the event of a natural disaster. If Dinty Moore beef stew tasted this good, I probably would be eating it every night. When serving stellar food in a can, it is only appropriate to serve a killer wine in a mason jar, just to keep it classy.
Dessert: Last in Line for the Human Sacrifice
I really needed to have a human sacrifice as part of this meal; it just seemed fitting and, after much debate, decided that it would be at the end of the meal. So how do you have a human sacrifice without killing an actual human? Well, you first take an altar made out of chocolate pudding. You then take a human made of a sugar cookie and place him on the altar. Then you take some raspberry blood and dot that on the plate. Then you take a spoon and kill your cookie man and enjoy. Just for the hell of it, you pair this with a Maison de Pagett Pillow Talk Vanilla Port. Human sacrifice has never been as fun or delicious as this one.
The gory details:
A line from a George Carlin bit about being lost. No proper post-apocalyptic meal would be complete without a sacrifice at the end. There was also much debate among my friends about where in the meal the sacrifice belonged. We will try it here.
So I am going to show you want to do with the instant pudding recipe. I have modified the original recipe and that change will be described in the notes. This is fairly quick to make and tastes so good when it is done.
1 ¾ cups of pudding mix
4 cups of whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the mix and milk in a medium sauce pan. Whisk together until combined. Heat over medium heat until mixture begins to boil (7-10 minutes) constantly whisking gently. When boil is reached, reduce heat to low and simmer for 4 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove heat and whisk in vanilla. Transfer mixture to a single bowl or individual serving bowls. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding if you don’t want a skin to form. Refrigerate or just eat it warm. Using your finger or a spatula, remove any chocolate pudding still in the pot and consume.
The original recipe called for 2 cups of heavy cream and 2 cups of milk. I replaced the cream with the milk and did not really notice much difference in the texture or flavor. I need to try it with replacing some of the whole milk with skim milk to see how that affects the product. I also tried doubling the recipe. It increased the cooking time from 10 minutes to almost 30 since there was much more cold milk to bring up to temperature.
I like simple desserts. I am not a baker and I don’t like spending a ton of time putting things together if I don’t have to, but I do like chocolate and specifically chocolate pudding. Yes, you can buy it premade (which tastes like crap) or the instant pudding mix in the store but really, do you want all of the chemicals and stabilizers in it? Here is the ingredients list for Jell-O Chocolate Pudding:
SUGAR, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, COCOA PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, DISODIUM PHOSPHATE (FOR THICKENING), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SALT, TETRASODIUM PYROPHOSPHATE (FOR THICKENING), MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES (PREVENT FOAMING), RED 40, YELLOW 5, BLUE 1, ARTIFICIAL COLOR, BHA (PRESERVATIVE).
They actually add food dye to chocolate pudding? Sheesh. What if I told you that you could make your own instant pudding mix at home with a handful of ingredients and have it taste about 100 times better than any box mix that you can get? Well, thanks to the culinary genius that is Alton Brown, you can.
4 oz. Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
2 oz. Cornstarch
6 oz. Powdered Sugar
1 ½ oz. Non-Fat Dry Milk Powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Take all the ingredients and combine them in a large bowl or container with a lid. Cover and shake until completely combined. That is it. You are done. That took about 2 minutes. Store covered in the fridge for 3 months.
I actually increased the amount of cocoa in this recipe by 1 oz. (it originally called for 3 oz.) because I wanted to. A teaspoon of espresso powder added to this mix would throw this totally over the top. Use a really good cocoa powder, it is your dominant flavor and you want the best you can get. I suppose you want the recipe for making pudding, huh? Well, you will just have to wait a few days for my next post to get that one.
Ok, I promise this is the last of the tomato recipes I will post for a while. I just have about 25 lbs. or so of tomatoes that I have been trying to make my way through, so I have been coming up with new and creative ways to use them. The other night, I thought chicken cacciatore, but I had a bunch of other ingredients I wanted to use and I had a hankering for some black beans, so I decided to do a Mexican version of the classic Italian dish.
8 oz. chicken breast, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground adobe or paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup onions, sliced thin
1 large bell pepper, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tablespoon chile pepper
¾ lb. tomatoes, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup minced cilantro
Heat a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil when hot. Pat dry the chicken and combine in a bowl with the cumin, garlic, salt and paprika. Toss to coat. When the oil is just beginning to smoke, add the chicken to the pan. Sear for 2 minutes until just beginning to brown (you are not trying to cook it, just brown it). Transfer to a bowl. Add one table spoon of oil. Reduce heat to medium and heat the oil for one minute. Add the onions and sauté until they become translucent – about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and oregano and cook until the tomatoes have just begun to fall apart. Add the peppers and cook for about 8-10 minutes until the tomatoes have completed broken down into a smooth sauce. Add the chicken and cilantro and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until the chicken is cooked but still tender – 5-7 minutes. Check seasonings, adjust as necessary and serve.
I served this over yellow rice and black beans, but you could serve this over whatever you would like. I used a pablano pepper, but if you like hotter, use any you would like. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water, white wine or stock. You want it to be moderately thick before you add the chicken. If it is too thin, keep cooking it before you add the chicken until it reaches the thickness you want. I didn’t bother seeding or peeling the tomatoes, but you could do that if you desire. The recipe serves 2 easily – we actually had leftovers.