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French Baguette


As a secondary part of the Daring Cooks Challenge for this last month, I was supposed to bake a baguette.  As pâté is an undertaking in and of itself…I just couldn’t bring myself to do them on the same day.  Now, you should also understand that I intended on eating the pâté with the baguette…so it all works out in the end.  With no further delay…I bring you…true, traditional, authentic baguette.

Having never made baguette before…I was skeptical about getting a true authentic Parisian taste…but on the other hand…the first step in the recipe was to make a starter.

A little yeast, flour and cool water + 18 hours = baguette starter.

French Baguette
yield: Three 16″ baguettes

Starter
1/2 cup / 120 ml cool water
1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup / 240 ml flour
Dough
1 tsp / 5 ml active dry yeast
1 cup to 1 1/4 cups / 240 ml to 300 ml lukewarm water*
all of the starter
3 1/2 cups / 840 ml flour
1 1/2 tsp / 7 ml salt

*Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.


Make the starter by mixing the yeast with the water, then mixing in the flour to make a soft dough.
Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14-18 hours; overnight works well. The starter should have risen and become bubbly.

Mix active dry yeast with the water and then combine with the starter, flour, and salt. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you’ve made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough.

Knead for about 5 minutes on speed 2 of a stand mixer.

Place the dough in a lightly greased medium-size bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into three equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again.

With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 15″ log.

Place the logs seam-side down onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan or pans.

Cover them with a cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they’ve become very puffy, about 1 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450ºF (240ºC).

Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8″ vertical slashes in each baguette.  Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust.

Bake the baguettes until they’re a very deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack. Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2″, and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven.

The taste of the bread was spot on…which surprised me.  It was delicious, still warm from the oven spread with a little butter and sprinkled with sea salt.

The next day, it was also fantastic as a pâté sandwich with some cornichons, stout mustard, mayonnaise, and sea salt.

Dinner Last Week…


Bacon, Onion, Herb and Gouda Quiche

Last week was hectic.  I was getting over a cold…it was a week where we tried to see everyone before they left town on summer adventures, where we barely cooked…and where I had to think about and actually do lots of packing.  If you know me at all…you know I have issues packing.  We managed to pull off a quiche on Sunday night, hoping for leftovers for lunches during the week.

This quiche is slightly different.  You might notice the crust looks a little flakier, a little puffier – well…it’s puff pastry.  Besides being a little raggedy…it works very well.  The filling was onions, bacon, herbs and some aged gouda.  We were scrounging the dregs of the fridge since we left town on Friday…so it’s a bit of a hodgepodge.

High West Chicken Liver Pâté


The Daring Cooks strike again!  And this time…it was Pâté time…!

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

As I logged in to The Daring Cooks website to see what the challenge for June would be…I was filled with anticipation…and then I read the challenge – pâté.  Seriously…pâté, really….?  ‘Cause pâté has not been #1 on my list of things to make…but…okay…I guess.  Pâté it is.  Now if I were going to cook pâté…it was not going to be some vegetable terrine…it was going to be the real thing.  Authentic pâté, like with liver and everything!

So, I set out to collect the ingredients for such a culinary endeavor.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find fresh chicken livers…?  I realize I live in L.A. and can most likely find anything and everything I want or would need for almost any dish…but it’s really dependent on looking in the right place.

My first thought was that I would be able to find all of the ingredients at my local Whole Foods…yeah, nope…not at all…I actually struck out entirely…and almost had to put off then entire project until the next weekend.  I then drove to our favorite Latino supermarket – King Ranch…and yep, they were able to supply half of my list…including pork belly and pork blade, but I was still having trouble finding fresh chicken livers.  On a whim, and not wanting to end up at home with all but one ingredient…I thought, maybe…just maybe, Ralph’s might have them.  Yes and no.  Yes they had them, but no I was not going to buy them.  Soupy, liquidy, pre-packaged livers from Foster Farms…nope…a big fat NO!  I couldn’t do it…especially not for a pâté.

I ended up at home, deflated after a morning spent first at the farmer’s market, and then with stops at no fewer than 3 different grocery stores , and still did not have all that I needed.  But I did have the internet.  After a few searches, including on Yelp… I found a place.  Taylor’s Meat Market in Sierra Madre.  After a quick call, I rushed out the door, fearing that as a small place, they might not be open on Sundays, and it was memorial day weekend…and I assumed they would be closed on Monday as well.

I walked in and immediately knew I had found us a butcher.  A real honest-to-goodness butcher.  Total: $1.77 for 14 oz. of chicken livers…FRESH chicken livers!  I was ready…pâté cooking would commence in the morning.

Onions…?  Check.

Livers…? Check.

Duck Fat…?  Check

It just really wouldn’t be right to start out a pâté with olive oil, and luckily, we happen to still have a sizable quantity of duck fat lying around in our fridge.

Oh…maybe I should let you in on something…it’s called the recipe…

1 tbsp duck fat, or butter
2 onions, coarsely chopped
300g (11 oz) chicken livers, trimmed
3 tbsp brandy, or any other liqueur (optional)
100g (3 1/2 oz, 1/2 cup) smoked bacon, diced
300g (11 oz) boneless pork belly, coarsely ground
200g (7 oz) boneless pork blade (shoulder), coarsely ground (or ground pork see note below)
2 shallots, chopped
1 tsp quatre-épices (or ¼ tsp each of ground pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger is close enough)
2 eggs
200 ml (7 fl oz, 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) heavy cream
2 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped
Salt and pepper
NOTE: If you cannot find ground pork belly or blade, buy it whole, cut it into chunks, and pulse in the food processor. You can also replace the pork blade with regular ground pork.
Preheat oven to 200ºC (400ºF).
Melt the fat or butter in a heavy frying pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the chicken livers and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until browned but still slightly pink on the inside.
Remove the pan from heat. Pour in the brandy, light a match and carefully ignite the alcohol to flambé. Wait for the flames to go out on their own, carefully tilting the pan to ensure even flavoring. Set aside.
Put the minced pork belly and blade in a food processor, then add the onion-liver mixture and the
chopped shallots, and pulse until you obtain a homogenous mixture – make sure not to reduce it to a slurry.
Transfer to a bowl, and gradually stir in the chopped bacon, quatre-épices, cream, eggs, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Spoon the mixture into a terrine or loaf pan, and cover with the terrine lid or with aluminum foil.
Prepare a water bath: place the loaf pan in a larger, deep ovenproof dish (such as a brownie pan or a baking dish). Bring some water to a simmer and carefully pour it in the larger dish. The water should reach approximately halfway up the loaf pan.
Put the water bath and the loaf pan in the oven, and bake for 2 hours. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes. The terrine should be cooked through, and you should be able to slice into it with a knife and leave a mark, but it shouldn’t be too dry.
Refrigerate, as this pâté needs to be served cold.
Unmold onto a serving platter, cut into slices, and serve with bread.
NOTE: This pâté freezes well. Divide it into manageable portions, wrap tightly in plastic film, put in a freezer Ziploc bag, and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge before eating.

Start out sautéing the roughly chopped onions…making sure to just sweat them, don’t brown or caramelize them as you don’t want that sweetness.

Now, bring in the liquor.  I mean, here are all the other ingredients…or not all, but some.  Okay, moving on.  Oh wait…the Whiskey…I forgot to tell you all about the namesake of the recipe.

High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey – this is not just any whiskey.  This is risky whiskey.  This is Utah whiskey.  Utah…Whiskey…I’ll say it again, because it may not have registered in your brain…those two words… together…at last.  Now the secret is out, Utah is making liquor…call in the reinforcements…the gentiles are out of control.  I think it was only a matter of time; Utah’s long been known for their microbrews, so it is not surprising that someone wanted to brew something a bit stronger…more surprising…is that it’s LEGAL.

High West Distillery is the first legally licensed distillery in the state since the end of Prohibition.  Whiskey takes time, so the Rendezvous Rye whiskey is a blend of a 6 year-old whiskey and a 16 year-old whiskey.  High West blends the whiskey with local Utah waters and bottles it until their ‘distilled in-state’ whiskeys are aged and ready.  But this isn’t moonshine…it is surprisingly good…and even earned a place in the ‘Top 10 New Whiskey’s of 2008″ according to Malt Advocate Magazine.

Okay, back to the stove.  Once the onions have softened…dump in the livers.  Being somewhat gentle with them, toss them around a bit, coat them in onions…get ’em cookin’.

At this point, it is important to note…that your entire house will begin to reek of LIVER.  You may not think you know what the smell of liver is…but trust me…you do.  If you have a dog…she will be going a bit insane, her nose working overtime, and her drooling uncontrollable.  It’s a meaty smell, not a bad one…but certainly distinct.  Just be prepared…(not that you can turn back now)…but your house will probably smell like liver and onions for 2 days.  Don’t worry, I’m sure the furniture will recover.

Once the liver has cooked through – I think it took about 10 minutes or so…it’s time for the fire.  Yep…not only did I tackle a recipe with organs, 3 kinds of pork, duck fat, grinding, puréeing, and of course…don’t forget the whole unmolding process…but I will also be flambéing.  It’s probably a good thing that Woody was busy at work through all this.

Safety first…I’m always thinking safety first – even though that might not ultimately affect the outcome.  So…first, when you’re ready…turn off the burner and remove your pan from the heat.  Then pour in the alcohol.  Next, light the alcohol with a lighter.  Done properly, you should see a blue flame…done improperly…you’ll need to call the fire department.  Make sure to swirl the pan so the flavor of the alcohol gets incorporated.

*Warning*  RAW MEAT!  There are a lot of raw meat photos…if it bothers you…skip down to the end.  Although, if all the porky goodness really bothers you…we might not be able to be friends anymore.

First – bacon.  Raw bacon is added to the pâté mixture after it’s roughly chopped.

Mmmmmmm….pork belly!  Skin and all…it is just what it says…the belly of the pork…err…pig.

Recipe called for ground pork blade…also known as shoulder…I ended up purchasing a package with thinly sliced, bone in, pork blade cutlets.

I trimmed them a bit and removed the bone, and gave them a rough chop.

Before beginning the mixing process, I wanted to have my mis en place ready to speed along the process.

Chopped shallots…

Quatre épices…aka ginger, ground pepper, nutmeg, and cloves.  Woody was a bit worried about these spices…but after tasting the final product…they are completely necessary to get a true flavor of pâté.

Thyme, shallots, and spices

I was unsure of exactly how many pans I would need for the pate…and how full each pan should be.

Don’t forget about the bacon, heavy cream and the eggs.

Grind the pork shoulder in your cuisinart, then dump in your chopped pork belly…and grind again.

Once you’ve reached a pleasant consistency, go ahead and dump in the cooled liver and onion mixture.  Pulse again.

And last into the cuisinart fun pool…shallots.  Toss ’em in and pulse a few times.

Dump everything into a large bowl.

*Note*  At this point, you might think to yourself…”eeewwwwwww!  It looks (and smells) a little too much like canned cat food.”  You might actually gag a little and feel as though someone has played a terrible joke on you by telling you that this is a real recipe, and ‘I promise…it’ll taste good’.  No…?  This didn’t occur to you…you didn’t have these exact thoughts…?  So you’re saying it’s just me…?  Okay…ummm…yeah…next step, please!

Add in the bacon…

Dump in the eggs…

…and the cream, thyme and spices…

DON’T FORGET TO SEASON.  I say yell this to make sure you won’t forget.  If you look closely, I did season…some salt and some pepper…and then a little more salt.  Hindsight is 20/20 and if you don’t season at every step…your dish will be bland.  Now…of course my pâté was not bland…never, but it could have certainly used a touch more salt.  For the extremely type A/anal/perfectionist cook…there is a fail safe way to make sure that you have the seasoning right…and they make you do this in cooking school…I’ve given fair warning.  Ideally you can bake, poach, fry, cook a small spoonful or canelle of the mixture until it is cooked through, then taste it and adjust the seasoning accordingly.  I did not do this…and the pâté could have used more salt.

Spread the mixture evenly in the dishes…no need to grease the pans…recall the 3 fatty delicious types of pork used!?!

Boil water for the bain-marie (fancy french term for a simple water bath).

Cover all dishes tightly with foil…no one like dry pâté.

*I had a small genius moment…always conscious of the potential for cuts, burns and the like, I thought to myself…”why not put the pans in the hot oven…and THEN pour in the BOILING water?“…all to avoid the sloshing of scalding water onto my delicate hands already scarred from time spent in professional kitchens.  I know, it’s the small successes.  I’m sure you all knew this and have felt smart for years…but let me bask for just a moment.

They go in the oven covered at a high temp, then the oven gets turned down,and they cook for a long time…then you pull the foil off and let the tops brown a bit before pulling them out of the oven and letting them cool.

*Note* Your house will now smell even more like liver…just letting you know.  There’s no turning back.

Make sure to let them cool entirely, refrigerate overnight or even for a couple of days in the pan.  If you unmold them while they are still warm, you will lose a lot of the fat that would get reabsorbed, and even though you had them covered for most of the cooking time…you’ll still get dry pâté.

I waited days, and by then…it looked like this when I unmolded it.

I trimmed just a little, mainly so it would sit flat on the plate, and wiped away some of the gelatin that was in a few places.

Tah Dah!

Slice thinly and plate with cornichon.

Serve with bread of choice, flake sea salt…and enjoy!

Whewwww!  That was a marathon of a post.  Perhaps my longest post to date…but in fairness, also in the top 3 for longest cooking project.  If you’re inspired to make this…please tell me…how did it go for you…?  Do you like pâté?

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Dinner Last Week…


Some may scoff at posting such a simple dinner of Crazy Bugs and Broccoli…

However, this has been a standard for us since the early (and poor) days of grad school.  It’s very cheap (about $1.90 per box + the cost of a head of fresh broccoli), and due to the inclusion of green vegetables…is healthy.  Woody likes to spice it up with some sriracha, and with the arrival of summer, we’ve been enjoying our dinners on the back patio.

It is also important to note why we choose ‘Crazy Bugs’ as our box macaroni of choice.  First, I was never a fan of Kraft mac and cheese…not when I was 5, not when I was 11 and definitely not when I was in high school or college…the bright orange threw me off, the texture was gummy and thick and it just held no appeal to me.  After college…out on our own, Woody and I would have mac and cheese 2-3 times a week at least – but we stepped it up just a little with Annie’s brand shells and cheese.  Here’s my problem with the shells and cheese – the shells can fill with powdered cheese goo and prevent it from mixing in and becoming saucy – and then you get an explosion of concentrated cheese powder coating your mouth, immediately creating a dusty desert oral environment.  The shells also flatten and suction themselves to mixing spoons.  This lead us to find Back to Nature brand ‘crazy bugs’ which are ideal pasta vessels for somewhat real powdered cheese sauce because of their shape and texture.  Shape and form allow for maximum cheese coverage and easy pick up with a fork.

Okay – a little over the top for a post on boxed mac and cheese…but what can I say…it will always have a special place in my kitchen!

Delicious!

Speaking of Onions…


There is a fascinating article on the chemistry of onions and garlic in the New York Times here.  I highly recommend it.  It reinforces my love of onions (and chocolate – different story for another time) as the basis of cooking and developing flavor profiles.  Did you know that if you left garlic on the skin, it can cause chemical burns…and yet we eat it almost daily.

(photo courtesy of New York Times)

Ridiculously Good BLT’s and Malts! (inspired by Pop)


This is dedicated and inspired by Bill Thompson – or Pop as most of us know him!

My first visit to Minnesota, Woody and I were invited over to Pop’s for BLT’s and malts made with his very own home grown tomatoes.  It seemed a perfectly fitting meal for this past weekend.

The supplies: bread from “the Breadman”, thick cut bacon from “Taylor’s Meats” (my new favorite butcher!), farmer’s market arugula, tomatoes and fresh herbs!

Tarragon, thyme and basil

Homemade aïoli – simple – egg yolk, mustard, garlic paste – whisked together.

Pour in a steady stream of a neutral oil (or olive oil depending on the flavor you want) while whisking.  The proteins in the egg yolk and the mustard are emulsified with the oil into a suspension making magical aïoli!

Keep whisking and adding oil until it is the proper thickness.

Don’t even try and tell me this bacon doesn’t look heavenly…?  And it’s not even crispy yet!

Clearly, Cleo would have appreciated a sample of the slobber-inducing bacon…the smell was driving her crazy.  Look at how patient she can be!

Basil chiffonade

Basil, tarragon and thyme…in that order.

Herbs added, sprinkle in salt and pepper and make sure it is irresistable.

There really is nothing better than a summer tomato…luckily we are at the very beginning of the season still!

Mmmmm….bacon….(a la Homer)….

Oven-ready bread – we are sans toaster at the moment.

It takes much willpower to leave each piece of bacon untouched…and really the only way of guaranteeing this…is knowing that each piece you sneak now…will be one less crunchy bit on your sandwich!

Malt preparation – I had to refer back to my resident MN expert for this part.

Serve with crunchy potato chips, and a crisp pickle.

It’s a good weekend if these are on the menu – my only complaint was cooking them late enough that we didn’t get a chance to enjoy them outside on the deck…really the only appropriate place to enjoy a BLT and malt!

Happy Memorial Day!

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