Sunday, September 8, 2013

Brussels Sprouts Kimchi


Last year I participated in a challenge set forth by these guys and I was assigned Crepes Suzette.  This year Zach and Clay have thrown out a Cover to Cover Challenge by having their readers make all of the recipes in the September issue of Bon Appetit.  I naturally signed up again and was anxious to see what recipe I was assigned.

I have to be honest here and was kind of bummed when I saw I was given the challenge to make Brussels Sprouts Kimchi.  Hmmmm, well, uh, OK.  After my initial and personal and selfish, pouty response to my assignment I decided to embrace the Kimchi.  I was going to have fun with this; after all, that is why I enjoy participating in things like this.

I've never eaten Kimchi, which is traditionally made with Napa cabbage.  I've always thought it looked really nasty in the jars on grocery store shelves and although I'm not shy when it comes to spicy, I've heard this stuff is really, really H-O-T.  II know it's the national food of Korea and that's about the extent of my knowledge.  How do you eat this stuff?  Is it a condiment?  Would my friend who eats pickled herring right out of the jar with her fingers do the same with Kimchi???

The real challenge in this challenge was finding one of the ingredients.  Pointedly, this stuff.  Gochugaru, a coarse Korean red pepper powder was difficult to track down.  They didn't have it at Central Market.  It wasn't carried at Penzey's, and it was nowhere to be found on the shelves at Whole Foods.  I did a little investigative work and discovered it was going to be hard to substitute because the key in this spice was not that is was red pepper powder, but that it is coarse ground red pepper so cayenne, for instance, wouldn't be a good substitute.

I tracked down a great (and huge) Asian Market called Super HMart in a suburb of Dallas. and took a little field trip on my lunch hour.  This place was amazing.  I couldn't understand any of the signage so I showed a helpful lady the recipe and the spice I was looking for and she pointed me in the right direction.  With my new found ingredient under my arm I was anxious to whip this recipe out.

The base, of course, are small, tender Brussels sprouts.  After washing, trimming, and cutting in half they were soaked in a brine for 4 hours.

A plate is placed on top of them to keep them submerged.

These are all of the good things that will become a bright red, hot, spicy paste.

The onion, scallions and garlic are roughly chopped and the ginger is roughly grated

Then they are dumped in the food processor bowl and all of the other ingredients are tossed in as well.

The mixture is pulsed until you have a bright red paste.

The Brussels sprouts are drained from their brine and rinsed off.  The canning jars, lids and rings were boiled for about 10 minutes just to make sure everything was sanitary.

The Brussels sprouts were tossed with the chili paste then packed tight into the quart jars.

Pickling liquid is poured into the jars and they are sealed.

The jars are then set in a cool place away from direct sunlight to ferment for 3 to 5 days.

I haven't tried this condiment since it is still in it's fermentation stage but I am encouraged to try it solely from the enthusiasm from my neighbor Martha who was excited to take a jar home to enjoy.  Kimchi is her friend and she thought this looked and smelled heavenly.  I will be honest that I am hesitant about trying this.  I know for a fact that Lovey won't have anything to do with it because of it's spicy nature.

At the right time I'll give it a try and let you know what I thought of it and how Martha and her family liked it.  One of the pleasures in life is to try new things.  It doesn't mean that we have to like everything but at least we've tried them.  Will send an update soon!
Brussels Sprouts Kimchi
From the September 2013 issue of Bon Appetit
Makes 2 quarts

1-1/2 lb. small Brussels sprouts
1/2 small yellow onion
2 scallions
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup gochugaru (coarse Korean red pepper powder)
2 Tbsp. Sriracha
1 Tbsp. grated ginger
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
2 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed

Wash and trim the stems of the Brussels sprouts and but them in half.  In a large mixing bowl mix 3.5 ounces of salt with 2 quarts warm water.  Whisk until the salt is dissolved.  Add the Brussels sprouts and place a plate on top of them to keep them submerged in the brine.  Let them sit at room temperature for 4 hours.

While the Brussels sprouts are in the brine measure out and prepare all other ingredients.

Peel and coarsely chop the onion.  Slice the scallions.  Peel and crush the garlic.  Peel and grate the ginger.  Crush the coriander seed and the fennel seed.

After the four hours of soaking in the brine, drain and rinse the Brussels sprouts.  Place them in a large mixing bowl.

In the bowl of a food processor, place the onion, scallions, garlic, gochugaru, fish sauce, Sriracha, ginger, soy sauce, and coriander and fennel seeds.  Pulse until smooth.  Add to the bowl with the Brussels sprouts and toss.  I would suggest wearing kitchen gloves and tossing with your hands.  Pack the mixture to two 32-ounce canning jars, packing down to eliminate air gaps.

Combine the remaining .7 ounce of salt and 1 quart warm water in a large bowl, whisking to dissolve the salt.  Pour this pickling liquid into the jars to cover the Brussels sprouts, leaving at least 1 inch headspace.  Cover jars with lids.  Let sit out of direct sunlight at room temperature for about 3 to 5 days.  The kimchi should taste tangy and releases bubbles when stirred. Chill.

This recipe can be made and kept chilled for 2 months.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Sherry Cake

There was once a little cake that people just couldn't get enough of; correction...they still can't get enough of.  With the super elegant taste that it has you would never believe it is such a simple cake to make.  And using a boxed mix no less.

During the late seventies when my dear friend Tyra and I owned a little tea room in Midland, Texas this cake was always in high demand.

Tyra's mother Helen passed the recipe on to us.  It was given to her by a young man who was in culinary school in San Antonio.  Over the decades I have run across a gazillion people who have this recipe or something similar.  A co-worker of mine brings the exact same cake to work except he uses rum.  I'm actually surprised that I don't see it more often.

Enough of the history lesson, it's simply the greatest cake you can make and take anywhere for any occasion.

Simple ingredients:  yellow cake mix, vanilla instant pudding, eggs, water, canola oil, and dry sherry. 

A word on a couple of the ingredients if I may. 
Cake Mix - buy the yellow butter recipe
Pudding - make sure it is instant; also, if you can't find regular vanilla, I have used French Vanilla. 
Sherry - please make sure it is d-r-y; you don't need  an expensive sherry but make sure it's dry; and never use cooking sherry!!
Eggs - I crack my eggs into a bowl before adding to a recipe.  Trust me, if you have ever cracked an egg into a recipe and it turned out to be rotten, you might not crack another egg in your life.


This is why it's so easy...just dump everything but the nuts in the mixing bowl and mix.

 Begin by mixing on low for about 30 seconds to stir everything together

Now flip the switch to medium high and beat for about 2 minutes until the batter is soft and fluffy

Fold in the pecans

Prepare a Bundt pan by spraying well with vegetable spray and pour in the batter.

Here's what gives this cake it's 'wow factor'.  A sherry sauce made of sugar, butter and, what a surprise, dry sherry!

It's very important that the sauce be heated up slowly and boiled briskly for 2 minutes only.  Any time I've had trouble turning this cake out of the pan is when I did not let the sugar dissolve completely or I boiled the sauce for too long and it got to a soft ball stage and hardened too much while cooling in the pan.  The making of the sauce is timed so that it boils for two minutes prior to the cake coming out of the oven.  That's because the minute you take the cake out of the oven, you do this..

Pour the boiling sauce over the just-out-of-the-oven cake and watch it boil right into the cake.  The heat of the cake and the heat of the sauce just explode into bubbles.  See the wax paper under the cooling rack?  I put that there to catch any of the sauce that may boil over; just easier to clean up.

Oh my goodness, I wish you could scratch and sniff this photo; it is a-m-a-z-i-n-g.  Allow the cake to cool in the pan for thirty minutes so it can soak up all of that glorious sauce.

After the cooling time in the pan the cake will have soaked up all of that boozy, sugary sauce.

Turn the cake out on another cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.  Warning:  although the cake has been cooling in the pan for 30 minutes, the pan is still really hot.  So, take precautions when you turn it out of the pan.

Eat it warm, room temperature or cold; it will not disappoint.  Personally, I like it warm.  Cut a slice, pop it in the microwave for about 20 seconds and it will taste like it just came out of the oven.

This cake freezes well too.  I have successfully frozen it whole and as individually sliced pieces.

Sherry Cake
Serves 12

For the Cake -

1 yellow butter recipe cake mix
1 3.4 ounce box vanilla instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 cup chopped pecans

For the Sauce -

1 stick salted butter (4 oz.)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dry sherry

Mise en place:
  • empty cake mix and instant pudding into mixing bowl
  • measure out water, oil and sherry
  • break eggs into bowl
  • chop pecans

Pre-heat oven to 325 °F.  Add eggs, water, oil, and sherry to the dry ingredients that are in the mixing bowl.  Mix on low for 30 seconds until all ingredients are wet.  With spatula, sweep sides of bowl and mix ingredients on medium-high speed for 2 minutes.  Fold in pecans.

Spray Bundt pan with vegetable spray.  Pour cake batter into pan.  In a circular motion drag a knife through batter around the center of the pan to break any air bubbles and even out the batter.  Place on rack in middle of oven and bake for one hour.

Place a piece of wax paper on cabinet top and place a cooling rack on top of the wax paper. You want the wax paper there in case the sherry sauce over flows.

While cake is baking, prepare sauce.  In a small saucepan place butter, sugar and sherry.  Set a timer to 2 minutes but don't start it yet.  Begin melting and dissolving ingredients over low heat. 

Here is where you want to find your timing.  With my cook top I start dissolving the sauce over low heat when the cake has about 9 minutes left to cook.  With a small whisk, stir as ingredients are dissolving.  When sauce begins to boil turn on your pre-set timer and whisk constantly.  If it begins to overflow lift the saucepan off the fire until the foaming subsides then set it back on the fire.

When the timer for the cake goes off and the tester stick comes out clean, remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack.  Slowly begin to pour the sherry sauce over the top of the cake.  It will boil and bubble so try to distribute around the top of the cake evenly.

Allow cake to cool in pan for 30 minutes.  Turn cake out on another cooling rack to completely cool. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Herb Savor Pods

You know what I love more than going to a kitchen store like Sur la Table or Williams-Sonoma and buying kitchen stuff?  Someone giving me kitchen stuff!!  And it is just icing on the cake when a certain gadget really works as it is designed and becomes a revered item in your kitchen
Char and Chris gave me these Herb Pods.  They are used perpetually and keep herbs fresh in my refrigerator 3 times longer than they would last under normal circumstances.  Normal circumstances meaning me being lazy and tossing them in the vegetable bin or plopping them in a vase like a flower.  Officially they are Prepara Herb Savor Pods. My set came with 3 pods.

These pods are a-m-a-z-i-n-g.  These herbs have now been in the refrigerator for 3 weeks....3 weeks!  They are as fresh as the day I bought them.

There is a white chamber that looks similar to what I would imagine a cryogenics chamber to look like.  Hmmmm...... it also looks a little like Woody Allen's Orgasmatron.  Name that movie.

Take time to trim the stems of your fresh herbs (as you would fresh flowers before you put them in a vase).  Place the herbs into the chamber then snap on the front clear face.  There is a hole at the back to add a little water and place the plug into it.  Simply place the pods in the refrigerator and you will have fresh herbs at your fingertips for weeks.

The herbs that I have had success with using this nifty little contraption are parsley, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and tarragon.  Basil does not do well in the refrigerator period (in my experience).

The bundle of fresh herbs I buy at the market is usually way more than I'm needing.  In the past I had to dry or freeze the leftovers.  Thanks to this smart little device I can enjoy them fresh without much waste.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Shrimp and Leek Quiche

It's hard to beat the creamy custard of a quiche.  Like an omelette, you can put practically anything in them and they will taste great.

Making it with fresh jumbo shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico makes it even better.  During a recent trip to Corpus my dearest friend Karen turned me on to her source for fresh seafood in Corpus.  Lorenzo Diaz, also known as The Shrimp Pimp, provides free delivery of the freshest brought-in-on-the-boat-that morning, seafood.  These 10-12 count shrimp were beautiful and only cost $7.50 per pound.  I brought plenty home with me.

That sounded like a paid advertisement.

The first order of business was to get the pie crust ready and in the pan.  I rolled the dough out for a 9" deep dish pie pan.  I then placed it in the refrigerator until I was ready to fill it.

I grated the Gruyere, chopped the leaks and prepared the shrimp by peeling, de-veining and cutting into bite-size pieces.  Lorenzo, the Shrimp Pimp was happy to pull the heads off for me.  Note:  If you are not traveling with your shrimp, take the heads!!!  You can make some great stock with them.

I sauteed the leeks in a little butter - olive oil mixture.

This is the olive oil I used.  Whenever possible, Lovey and I support products made in Texas.  Lovey picked this up at the Farmer's Market in Dallas.

As the leeks begin to soften, add the shrimp and toss quickly for one minute only.  You don't want the shrimp to cook through; just give them a little flavor.  Pull the leeks and shrimp off the heat and set aside to cool off a bit.

Preheat the oven to 375F°.  Sprinkle the cheese across the bottom of the pie shell.

 Beat your egg with the salt, a little cayenne to make it interesting and a light grating of nutmeg.

Heat the milk to the point that it has bubbles all around the edges of the pan.  Add a small amount of the hot milk to the bowl of beaten egg yolk and whisk them together.  Add small amounts of the hot milk a couple more times to temper the egg yolks, or get them warm so they won't curdle or scramble when you pour them into the milk mixture.

Stir the custard until it begins to thicken and coat the back of a spoon

Grate a little more nutmeg on top and give it a swirl.

Spread the leeks and shrimp on top of the cheese.

Gently pour the egg/milk mixture into the pie plate.  Top with the extra cheese.  Place in the middle of a preheated oven.

After baking in a 375° oven for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden, remove the quiche from the oven.

The advantage of making your quiche with the custard method (in lieu of pouring your cold egg/milk mixture over your fillings and popping it into the oven) is that you don't really have to let the quiche rest after it comes out of the oven.  It's ready to eat right then, hot and creamy.

Slice her up and enjoy!  I would suggest with a nice green tossed salad.

Quiche with Shrimp and Leeks
Adapted from a basic recipe for quiche in Bouquet de France - An Epicurean Tour of the French Provinces edited by Gourmet 1966.
Serves 8

Note that the ingredients below are for a deep dish pie.  If you wish to make this quiche in a regular 9" pie plate it is easily halved.

1 9-inch pie crust of your choice
2 tsp. olive oil
1 large leek
1 pound shrimp
1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, divided
6 whole eggs
3 cups milk, preferably whole

Mise en Place:
  • pre-heat oven to 375°
  • roll out dough and place in pie plate.  Set prepared pie plate in refrigerator until needed
  • grate cheese and divide leaving a little cheese to top the quiche with
  • clean and chop the leek (while and pale green only)
  • shell, de-vein, and slice shrimp into bite sized pieces
  • crack eggs into bowl; measure salt and grate nutmeg
  • measure milk into heavy sauce pan
In medium sauté pan, heat oil and saute leeks until just turning soft.  Add the shrimp and constantly stir quickly for 1 minute only.  Remove from heat.

Pull the pie crust out of the refrigerator and spread the majority of the cheese in the bottom of the shell; saving some for the top.

Arrange the leeks and shrimp pieces on top of the cheese.

Crack the eggs in a mixing bowl and whisk until combined and light yellow.  Set aside.

In a 2 quart saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until almost boiling.  You'll see bubbles all around the sides of the pan.

With a 1/4 cup measuring cup slowly begin to add the hot milk mixture, in a stream, to the egg mixture, whisking as you go.  Do this about two more times.  What you are wanting to accomplish here is warming the egg yolks enough to be able to add them back to the milk mixture without the eggs scrambling.  Once the eggs are tempered slowly add them to the milk mixture whisking constantly until the milk/egg mixture comes to a boil.

Continue to beat the custard mixture until it starts to become thick.  When the mixture coats the back of a spoon it is ready.

Slowly pour the custard into the pie shell.  Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet and bake in the 375° oven for about 30 minutes or until the custard is set and the top is golden.

Serve hot, directly from the pan.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Baked Salmon Croquettes

Lovey and I have been long time fans of salmon croquettes (cakes, patties - whatever you grew up calling them).

I used to use canned salmon but I thought it might be fun to try them with fresh salmon.  And am I glad I did!

I started with making some poaching liquid of water, white wine, celery leaves, Italian parsley and black peppercorns

Once the poaching liquid comes to a boil it's lowered it to a simmer and the salmon is added. I prefer wild caught salmon. Poaching time is about 12 minutes; possibly shorter if you slice the salmon into smaller filets.

When the salmon has cooled enough to work with it it gets gently shredded; by hand or with a fork

Seasoned dried bread crumbs are tossed with the salmon.  I used crumbs from a stale French baguette.

The mayonnaise mixture is what will give these croquettes a creamy moist inside. I find it easier to use an 8 ounce jar of Hellmann's rather than measuring it out; I tend to use too much mayo if I measure it myself.

It will be evident that this is a wet mixture. I usually put the mixture in the refrigerator for awhile and let it firm up a little.

Just before you put them in the oven, form the croquettes and coat them in Panko crumbs. You can also form the patties and let them rest, on waxed paper, in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake (don't dredge in the Panko crumbs until you are ready to put in oven - the crumbs will get soggy if you do).

The cooking time is about 40 minutes because the croquettes are cold when placed into the oven .  Be sure to watch yours so they don't brown too much.  I found that by the time the exterior was browned to a nice golden color the croquettes were nice and hot in the middle.

Perfectly crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Baked Salmon Croquettes
Yields 8 croquettes, serving 4
Adapted from Sheila Lukins' "U.S.A. Cookbook"

For the Poaching Liquid
4 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
4 sprigs celery leaves
6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp Kosher salt
6 black peppercorns
1 pound salmon fillet

For the Croquettes
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried mustard
1 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise (an 8 ounce jar is easy)
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 Tbsp drained tiny capers, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
 Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup Panko crumbs

Prepare the poaching liquid by combining all the ingredients, except the salmon, in a large saucepan.  Gently rub your fingers along the surface of the salmon filet and remove any bones that may have been left. Bring poaching liquid to a boil then reduce to a simmer. 

Add the salmon to the poaching liquid and simmer until it can be easily flaked with a fork, about 12 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon remove salmon from liquid to a dish and set aside to cool.  When the salmon is cooled enough to handle, remove any skin and bones and flake the fish into  large bowl.  Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl combine the 1/4 cups dried bread crumbs, the thyme, oregano, and mustard. Gently combine this with the cooled, shredded salmon.

Measure 1 cup of Hellmann's mayonnaise in a medium mixing bowl.  Finely dice onion and celery; add to mayonnaise.  Coarsely chop the capers and parsley; add to mayonnaise.  Measure the Worcestershire into the mixture and lastly add the lightly beaten egg.  Mix well.  Combine the bread crumb/salmon mixture with the mayonnaise mixture. Salt and pepper to taste

Place the mixture in the refrigerator to firm up a bit. Using a 1/4 cup scoop you should get around 8 patties. You can make smaller hors d'oeuvres - sized patties as well to serve as appetizers

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°.  Pull croquettes mixture out of refrigerator, form patties and gently roll both sides with plain Panko crumbs.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes until the Panko begins turning  a golden brown.

These can easily be prepared to the shaping stage and covered with plastic wrap and cooled overnight, putting Panko on prior to putting in oven. 

A nice side salad of iceberg lettuce and marinated pear tomatoes would round out the meal.