Drop by the Steampunk Cookery website.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Kilkenny Salad

There are two courses, or plates I suppose, that benefit from having names as opposed to being called by their components: salads and desserts. Think of some well-known salads: A Greek Salad, a Caesar Salad, a Cobb Salad, a Waldorf Salad; none of these are named by their components, but rather by an eponymous title of some type, denoting a general style for the salad (it contains Greek ingredients,) it was created by or for a particular person (Caesar and Cobb,) or at a particular place (the Waldorf hotel.) My tendency when naming salads is to go with a thematic name, rather than something directly related to the origin of the salad or its components.

This plate, for the most part, takes its ingredients straight from Irish cuisine: There's potato cakes, made like biscuits; there's a pear, poached in a syrup made from Harp Lager, sugar, and lemon zest and juice; A quenelle of goat cheese, seasoned and mixed with chopped parsley; and a vinaigrette made with lemon juice and salad oil, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. The salad itself is made with arugula, spinach, and an assortment of baby lettuces, a very springy, slightly spicy mix of greens.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Garlic Soup

It's no secret that I'm a fan of garlic. Between garlic sauce, zchug, and my penchant for Italian foods, garlic is consumed rapidly in my kitchen. This soup, however, takes the metaphorical cake, using more garlic per serving than any other recipe I've made, as far as I can calculate.

Served with some soda bread croutons, this soup is refreshing and hearty, and full of flavor without being overpowering. Granted, I like garlic, so you can take my opinion with a grain of salt, but...

Garlic has health benefits, too—from warding off vampires to anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties evident from lab tests. It's been used as a panacea since time immemorial, seen as a cure for a wide variety of ailments. It can help prevent scurvy, and has other traditionally-believed effects on the common cold, blood sugar, and heart problems—though not all of these claims are fully supported by science.

We know for sure that eating enough garlic will leave you smelling like garlic, so this soup is best shared with a large group of friends, if only to ensure that you won't be the only one whose very pores exude garlicky goodness.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Re-constructed Corned Beef and Cabbage

When St. Patrick's Day rolls around in the US, every food-service establishment with a changeable kitchen breaks out some form of corned beef, often in the "Traditional" construction of Corned Beef and Cabbage. Miss Kagashi over at The Steamer's Trunk has an excellent little write-up of St. Patrick's Day, including a discussion of this dish:
Corned beef and Cabbage is thought of as the staple dish of St. Patrick's Day, and this is true outside of Ireland. Back in the old country, a thick meaty rasher of bacon was the main course to the cabbage and potatoes, not beef. When thousands of Irish immigrated to America in the 19th and early 20th centuries, they found their usual cuts of pig to be far too expensive—so they took a cue from their Jewish neighbors who were enjoying corned beef.
This doesn't, however, mean that we have to abandon the concept entirely: rather, it is useful as a starting point for new versions of an Irish (-American) classic.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Victorian Tea Trifecta

Now and then, I am lucky enough to be able to take a project from my schooling, or an item from my work life, and utilize it for service to my friends and acquaintances—or my happy customers, in this case.

You've seen, I hope, my Earl Grey Panna Cotta. This is a dessert that builds on it, and with wild success. Plated desserts are made up of three main components: A main piece, a sauce, and a garnish. Chef Roger Holden, CEPC, would tell you that there's a fourth component: Crunch. It's important to have a variety of colors, flavors, and temperatures on a plate, to create something with visual and gustatory interest.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Polenta and Polonaise

Polenta is becoming more familiar to mainstream American eaters; many years ago, I first encountered it in this sort of log-shaped container, like Jimmy Dean's loose sausage or a one-pound bullet of ground beef. The polenta was this sort of gelatinous, textured mass that wasn't particularly good. My mother and father didn't really know what to do with it, whether to fry it or grill it or bake it... so my first memory of polenta is of a gritty corn burger. Not the most appetizing thing.

It was many years until I returned to eating polenta, and that at the hands of my culinary school instructors, who showed me the proper method to create smooth, dense porridge that we solidified in the cooler, cut, breaded, and deep fried; then, I was taught how to make it creamy, a mashed-potato substitute that makes a delightful base for braised meat.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A St. Patrick's Day Feast

This Friday (admittedly one day after the actual holiday,) I shall be creating yet another feast at Off the Beaten Path Books, themed on the immediately proximal day of excess and Irish pride. Seeking to avoid the traditional perception of Irish food as bland, boiled stuff, I have come up with a menu fusing traditional recipes with modern presentations and sensibilities.

For those of you in the area, seats are still available, so head to the event page to purchase your seat now—$25 gets you the whole menu.

The menu will be as follows:

Cabbage and Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad

Soda Bread Crouton - Potato Crisp

Poached Pear - Goat Cheese - Oven-Baked Potato Cake
Mâche - Arugula

Colcannon - Soda Bread

Bread and Butter Pudding - Whiskey Sultanas
Whiskey Sauce - Blackcurrant Fool

"What butter and whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for."

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs of Beef

Food is cyclical. In the Victorian era, most every cut of beef was used by someone, whether poor or rich, delicious or disgusting. Just as the brisket was often used by poor Jewish people as a food source, short ribs have also long been used as a cheap but delicious piece of meat. For a time, they fell out of style; now, there is a trend of using the underused parts—shanks, brisket, short ribs, cheeks, oxtail. These cuts had once been popular as cheap alternatives to the more expensive steaks and roasts, and now they have found a place in high-end restaurants as gourmet pieces.

They are first marinated in red wine, spices, and aromatics, then slow-cooked in brown sauce, aromatics, red wine, and the leftover marinade. Rosemary is the primary flavoring in this particular version, but the concept is a very wide-ranging one that can be used in many circumstances

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Practical Housekeeper's Salad

While my presentation of this dish may not quite resemble what the authors of The Practical Housekeeper (written in 1857) had in mind, the ingredients and method of preparation are more or less the same.

The book says:
Coss-lettuce and blanched endive make the best salad, the green leaves being stripped off, and leaving nothing but the close, white hearts, which, after being washed and placed for an hour or two in cold water, should be wiped quite dry. To this should be added a head or two of celery, a couple of anchovies (which are far preferable to the essence), and several chives, or young onions, all cut small, while the lettuces should be divided lengthwise into quarters, and cut into rather large pieces.
Generally speaking, blanching endive isn't done much these days, since it's now commonly used as a liner item, the base of a salad plate, and not necessarily a primary component of the salad itself.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Apple-Butternut Velvet Soup

Puréed vegetable soups are delightful. They're ridiculously simple to create, being little more than a cooked and reduced mixture of vegetable and stock or water, and they're often delicious with little effort invested. The thickness and texture of the soup are easily managed by the amount of puréeing that is done, and the amount of liquid used to cook the ingredients. The main vegetable can be cooked before the soup is created, even—roasting, grilling, or poaching various ingredients can lead to a multitude of flavors and a wide variety of soups created from a small palette of basic items. Simple food, done well, is a motto and watchword in modern culinary arts, and it can be traced back to some of the recipes present in Victorian cookbooks—soups with only three or four ingredients were not uncommon. Mrs. Beeton's Turnip Soup calls for:
3 oz. of butter, 9 good-sized turnips, 4 onions, 2 quarts of stock, seasoning to taste.
This simple concept for soup is replicated here, using slightly different ingredients.

Butternut squash is wonderful, as a basic item. They're usually rather inexpensive (I find them regularly for 99¢ per pound) and contain a great deal of flesh with little effort required to seed them. The effort saved in seeding is ceded to peeling them, as they have a rather tough skin that does not peel off easily. If you are willing to move past this—or, indeed, roast them before cooking them into the soup—the results are well worth the effort. A somewhat sweet item, the squash pairs well with apple and nutmeg flavors, leading to the creation of this simple yet elegant soup.

A garnish of nutmeg-spiced chantilly cream (sweetened whipped cream) and an apple crisp make this dish sweet, delightful, and texturally interesting.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lamb Purses with Garlic Sauce and Zchug

Sometimes, recipes are complex and only applicable to themselves. Other times, a recipe uses some basic techniques which can be applied and re-worked into many different recipes.

This recipe is one from the latter category. It combines a simple pastry dough with a savory ground lamb filling, a combination which can be re-worked time and time again. The original version of this dish is based on a recipe from the Elizabethan era in England, and can be found in various styles throughout the ages. It's similar to a meat pie, and indeed I am using a pie dough recipe for the pastry in this version.

The filling is seasoned in a middle-eastern style, with parsley, rosemary, hot paprika, sumac, salt, and pepper. It's chilled and the flavors are allowed to mingle overnight. Small portions are then wrapped in the pastry, egg washed, then baked until brown, delicious, and cooked through.

I served these delightful little pastries with a thick Garlic Sauce and the eternally popular Zchug.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Guest Cook: Pain Rustique

Hi! I'm Aaron's bread guy. He asked me to share a recipe with you all, and suggested this bread. It's one I made for him, and he liked its crispy crust and light crumb. The recipe incorporates a couple of techniques which may be unfamiliar to those of you who don't bake on a regular basis, so let me review those first. (For those of you who are seasoned bakers, bear with me.)

It's worth developing an understanding of these techniques as they can be incorporated into other bread recipes, (I've adapted some to a 100% whole wheat recipe with wonderfully flavorful results) and their benefits justify the extra effort.