Friday, March 18, 2011

Sauces, Condiments, School and Everything Else......

As I sit at my computer to write this I have time to reflect on today's date which lets me know that I only have a couple of days before the end of my latest block of classes which makes me happy. Another milestone reached and so far, my GPA has remained intact. I've heard my next block is more than just challenging since it's referred to, with dread, as the pairing down class, designed to pressure everyone who won't be able to cut it "out in the world" and those that are just playing at cooking from those that will actually try and make a go of it. Some of our comrades took this course early (they're not in the full degree program) and 3 of the girls cried several times that first week. There are many stories such as this.....

Rene and I are looking forward to the challenge so we can be tested. We know we are up to it. We will do well, of that I have no doubts. No more recipes will be given out, no more hand holding (something I complained about) and no more "making nice". Good, about time. I can feel it and will be ready. Let's get going!!!! Who Hoo! But I've got finals next week, turning in the last projects early, making a cooking video "a la Food Channel" to present (making amped up Crab Cakes) and then we get our Spring Break which couldn't come at a worst time. We don't need to relax and slow down, we need to get going and speed up. Taking time off is never a good thing in this example, but whatever.....

In the meantime I'm still working on the Charcuterie Project I told you about, delving into the mysterious world of all things preserved, brined, salted, smoked and flavored. The more I get into it the more I wish I could wrangle out an Externship with someone who does all this for real so I could learn it from someone who knows their stuff. That would be amazing! But then I'd also like for Mario Batali to teach me Rustic Italian Cooking (I'm working on it) or someone like that, wouldn't that be great? I'd be willing to work for almost nothing and do the grunt work too just to learn..... Have someone like Eric Ripert teach me about Fish & Seafood..... Work in a lodge up in Alaska (fantastic fish!), or in Seattle? Opium dreams? Maybe, maybe not....

Today I'm waiting for dinner to get done and as usual I'm deciding on what sauce to make. I know I'm a saucier at heart and a wonderful, silky or rustic full flavor sauce melts my black little heart like nothing else.... well, maybe Kitty's antics come a close second.... but sauces are my weak spot no doubt about it. I'll do some research into what I need to do to get a posting in a place like that maybe..... very interesting how tangents suddenly appear.....MMmmm...

Speaking of sauces and condiments, here are some tasty bits for you to try, they're amazing!
I will let you in some comments as we go along and I hope you will consider these whenever you're looking for an "extra", ok? First of all is Mayonnaise. You might think it's just for sandwiches of salad but the truth is that it's a great all-purpose sauce that be used for anything, as long as it's good (Miracle Whip doesn't even count here, ok?) First rule is make your own. It takes a couple of minutes yet makes a world of difference. Add some flavorings and you're set. Use 1 egg yolk per 250 ml of oil, use a whisk or better still, a mortar and pestle and you'll get thick face-cream stuff. Add some lime, cumin, cayenne for Pork- Saffron and garlic for Fish- Lemon juice and Tarragon for Chicken- horseradish for Beef.... quick and easy.

Aioli.- A type of mayo using flavorings that brings this creamy mixture to heights without limit. Add roasted red peppers and it turns into "rouille" which is served with fish- Add some saffron infused water and it's extraordinary- use it with anything at all. You'll need:

1 large egg yolk (organic is always best)
1 1/2 tsp water
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or to your taste)
1 tsp garlic, minced or mashed to a paste
1 cup EV Olive oil

Mix the yolk, water, vinegar, salt, some drops of lemon juice and garlic in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk continuously while you drizzle in the oil, begin drop by drop, then thin stream (as it begins to thicken) until it's all incorporated. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add some drops of water if too thick. Don't forget to think of variations.

Chile Mustard.- I've seen a couple of different takes of this, but it's still pretty tasty.

1 Poblano Pepper, roasted, de-stemmed, de-seeded, peeled
1 Serrano Pepper (or Jalapeno, your choice of heat), roasted, de-stemmed, de-seeded, peeled
1 tbsp cumin (from seeds that were toasted and ground)
1 tsp thyme, dried, crushed
1 tbsp chile powder (Ancho chile powder or your choice), ground
1 tbsp Dry mustard powder
1/4 cup dark beer (or your choice)
3/4 cup lager
1/4 cup honey (or sugar, white or brown)
3 tbsp Tequila (or Pulque)
4 large egg yolks

Mince the Poblanos and Serranos fine. Using a bain marie (double boiler) add all the ingredients and stir to combine well. Continue to cook while your water simmers for about 20-25min or until it's smooth and thick, but maintain a calm whisk pace since you don't want to beat too much air into this. Once it's thick, remove from the heat and refrigerate, covered until cool.

How about making your own Sweet Pickles? I love these!

1 lb cucumbers, sliced
1/4 lb onions, sliced
1 cup vinegar (cider or white or your choice) or mix half and half
1-2 tbsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 cup sugar (or more)
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1-2 whole chile de arbol, dried (the little red ones, Thai ones too)
1/2 tsp cumin, ground

Put all the ingredients into a large pan and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook for about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature, place in a large jar, cover and refrigerate.

So many things to make and share there isn't enough time for it all. One thing takes you to another and then a tangent hits and you're off on another adventure..... you never know where you'll end up except that it's sure to be a tasty journey, right? So go ahead and make something great tonight and savor your results.... nothing comes close.

Wishing everyone a great weekend full of great food and drink. I think I'll make a wonderful Wine Vinaigrette to go with the Mixed Baby Greens, Goat Cheese and Bacon Curls and I've got a good White wine that will do very nicely (plus there's leftovers to drink too!). Also have a Creamy Poblano, Corn Pasta with a Garlic Cream Sauce on the stove and we're ready for a late night meal.... no school tomorrow so no worries. Have a great night! Talk soon....

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