What to do with all that Nor’easter bread and milk

GOES-EAST 4 Jan 2017 1512 UTC – click for a larger version

Nigella Lawson does her best in the segment below from 2006 to a) pad out the episode because they were two minutes short (I’m guessing), b) bolster the cliché of depressingly bland British food, and c) perpetuate the maddening sleb chef myth that putting a vanilla pod in dry sugar makes the whole bowl of sugar taste of vanilla – which I heard yet again last week, from Paul Ainsworth on “Saturday Morning with James Martin”. No one who has ever claimed this has actually tried doing it because it doesn’t work, full stop. Sure, the sugar bowl will smell of vanilla because – surprise! – there’s a vanilla pod in close proximity to your nose, but that’s the sole effect, I’m afraid. The sugar will taste like sugar.

The smarter way: Put some vanilla extract into a small glass bottle with a glass dropper so you can use small amounts. For reference, the half-ounce size is about 3½”/9 cm high and holds about a tablespoon. A small plastic funnel will make it easy to fill.

I doubt all those TV chefs are eager to spout that vanilla sugar nonsense – I’ll wager it’s chuckleheaded producers who cram it into the scripts most of the time.

A much tastier way to make a pile of bread and milk is over here – best made with croissants, of course, but you could substitute regular bread and it would be almost as good. Almost.

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This bears repeating every now and then

Something I wrote seven years ago:

A friend mentioned during a lengthy conversation that, though he texts a lot and was about to set up a Facebook page for his restaurant ’cause that’s what you’re s’posed to do these days, he didn’t really get the appeal of Facebook. I told him that it exists primarily in order to teach youngsters early to undervalue and give away every last remnant of their privacy so that Facebook and others can make oodles of dough selling as much of their data as they can. He had just been regaling me with tales of how various customers had pissed him off in the restaurant during the day and how disgusted he was with people generally, so I concluded by saying that Facebook and Twitter were a lot like people, only condensed and therefore worse. My, how he laughed.

I still haven’t signed up to any of those things, for the same reasons that I don’t quaff sulfuric acid with my breakfast, jab at my eyes with knitting needles, or taunt rabid raccoons with sticks.

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Better than no clams

Before picking up the repaired Boop standup this week, I was disappointed to learn that J.T. Farnham’s closed for the season on Christmas Eve, but the nearby and year-round Woodman’s, more touristy but in relative terms quiet as a ghost town in late December, is a helluva lot better than no clams. Their combination plate of clams, buttery soft scallops, shrimp, cod, onion rings, and fries (US$31.99) was huge, nearly three times what you see here, so I saved some and had the leftovers just now.

The informative part of this post: I usually reheat fried food in a convection toaster oven at 225F/110C for 30 minutes, more or less, after taking it out of the fridge an hour ahead. The fan heat at a low temperature restores a good amount of the crispness without drying the food out. To be sure, it’s not like fresh, but it’s half to two-thirds of the way there – again, better than no clams at all.

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Betty back from surgery

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A little tube repair, a fresh partial vacuum, a whiff of argon, and she’s good as new.

It’s been about twenty-five years since I found this hand-crafted wooden standup in a little seaside Marilyn Monroe/Betty Boop/Elvis memorabilia shop – at an irresistible post-season 50% discount. I imagine whoever made it back then would be pleased to know she’s alive and kicking.

It’s nice to have her aqua glow back in the kitchen.

Here’s a nifty clip from Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle (1932):

Her hula was rotoscoped from the dancer in the opening sequence of the same cartoon performed by the Royal Samoans:

The full cartoon can be viewed here.

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Hollandaise at will

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An email recipe link from ThermoWorks this morning inspired a breakfast-for-dinner tonight of Eggs Benedict with slow-cooked bacon and hash browns. Their article includes a fast and easy method for Hollandaise sauce using an immersion blender, room temperature yolk, and heated butter. This cut-in-half version is plenty for four tablespoon-and-a-half servings on poached eggs:

In a container a little wider than the head of your immersion blender – a two-cup Pyrex measure in my case – place the following:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

In a small pan, preferably with a pouring lip, melt 1 stick/4 oz./115 g butter and get it up to about 200°F/95°C. While running the immersion blender directly on the bottom of the yolk container, pour the hot melted butter into the yolk mixture in a thin stream and it will pretty quickly emulsify into Hollandaise. You may need to move the head of the blender up and down a bit to get it all to mix well, and you can finish with a small whisk if needed.

A side note on the claim in the linked article that “J. Kenji López-Alt has come up with an ingenious solution to all of these problems [of making Hollandaise]”: Utter piffle. While I don’t know if Julia Child invented the method, I do know it was in her Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1 under the title “Hollandaise Sauce Made in the Electric Blender”. The recipe employed a regular blender because immersion blenders weren’t available to the home cook in 1961.

Edited to add: I did not know the ThermoWorks blog was, like The Finley Quality Network, on WordPress, but so it seems to be. That means they got a pingback from this post of mine, and they’ve graciously adjusted their article and added a comment at the end after reading my post. I tip my hat westward.

Above that recipe, she instructs how to revive leftover Hollandaise. Many recipes you’ll find say, “Nope, can’t do that – use it or lose it.” More nonsense.

Also, I would advise against using the type of strainer they show in the article to drain the watery part of egg whites before poaching. I once tried that type with eggs that were only a couple days old – which therefore had pretty firm whites – and most of the whites went straight through. Instead, I use this perforated skimmer that happens to balance against the side of the sink perfectly. After draining, I place each egg into its own glass prep cup so they’re all ready to go in the water at the same time.

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Test puffs

Before doing the main batch, I did a couple of test profiteroles to ensure that using a #40 disher instead of a piping bag wouldn’t cause problems. They look pretty good to me – nice and crisp, too, after being slashed on the side and left in the turned-off oven for five minutes to dry the inside.

These are big enough that after I pipe the banana custard in, I can then slip the strawberry slice in through the side slash as a sort of surprise, with just chocolate ganache on top. (They are better with a good quality strawberry slice than without.) I made the ganache with bittersweet chocolate, double cream, butter, vanilla, and a tablespoon of rum.

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It’s like Christmas in December

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I was a fair bit off in my fried clam estimate the other day – it was more like thirty clams on the clam plate today, which was the same US$28 as last time at J.T. Farnham’s. The total was $72 for that plus the lobster roll and quart of seafood chowder that I brought home – four meals in all.

It was strange to see ice on the salt marsh and 29°F/-2°C on the outside thermometer, but the food was no less delicious than on a hot night in July.

A more traditional view from one of the picnic tables at Farnham’s in May 2014:

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Click below for a behind-the-scenes video at Farnham’s – please excuse the Fieri:

 

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