Thursday, September 29, 2011

Last few weeks to buy real garlic

Yesterday, I made the last garlic pilgrimage to the Wayland farmers' market for this year.  This is the only market the "garlic guy" from Old Sudbury Garlic Farm comes to.  As I found out from the farmer's market website, his name is Michael O'Connor.  But to me, he'll always be the garlic guy because what he grows is just unbeatable.  Comparing his garlic to the stuff you buy in the supermarkets (even Whole Foods) is like comparing Burgundy Premier Cru to a Two Buck Chuck.  But I've tried garlic from many local farms and Michael's is the best.  Best flavor, no blemishes, perfectly cured, and lasts forever.  I just bought myself 2 Lb to last me through the fall and beginning of winter.  The prices are very fair too.  A pound is only $7.

The only kind he had last month was German White.  But right now he is also selling Spanish Roja, Music, Siberian, and Italian (the exact name of Italian escapes me).  Michael should be at the market until mid-October, so you still have a few weeks to stock up on garlic.  Don't worry, his garlic won't start growing in a week the way supermarket garlic does.  I kept my last batch for a month and a half with no ill effects.  The best way to store it is in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Michael can be found at

Wayland Farmers' Market at Russell's Garden Center
Wednesdays, 12pm-5pm
June 22- Oct 12, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dicing an Onion Video

I am sure you've been practicing slicing onions all of last week. No, you haven't? That's ok, I still love you :) But please make sure to get comfortable with slicing before you get to dicing. Seriously, it will make your life a lot easier.

Youtube link: Dicing Onions

Videos you might want to watch before this one:

Add some diced carrots and celery to your onions and you've got yourself a mirepoix (fancy French word for the flavor base for all your soups and stews). If you can learn to make it efficiently, you should be able to get a job as a prep cook in a restaurant or please your family with many wonderful dishes.

Lentils Braised in Red Wine

Monkfish Osso Buco

Braised Boston Butt (Pork Osso Buco Style)

4 down / 46 more to go

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chanterelle Stew

Recreating my Grandmother's recipes is a hopeless undertaking.  Somehow they never take quite right when I make them.  What about recreating other people's Grandmothers' recipes that you haven't even tasted?  I realize it's not only hopeless, but completely ridiculous.  But ridiculous culinary undertakings are my specialty, so when I saw chanterelles at Russo's yesterday, I couldn't help thinking of Anna's comment on my mushroom post:

I know you are very busy with videos but when you get a momement maybe you can do a recipe for chanterelle zharkoye (stew) or send me a link to one. My grandmother used to make it but she's long gone and I cannot seem to find anything decent on the web. Or more like I do find stuff, but then I am not 100% if it works and I do not want to chance it with $20 per lb mushrooms.
This comment brought back many delicious memories because my Grandmother made a Beef and Chanterelle stew that was divine, and that I've never attempted.  Here are some problems with chanterelles.  They are at least $20/Lb.  Most of the ones I see in stores are somewhat rotten (I guess not many people buy they and they sit around in the store too long).  Even when I do buy them, they don't taste quite like the chanterelles do in Europe.  Here they are more meaty, not as delicate as the ones I remember from my childhood.  But in spite of all these drawbacks, when you can find them in good condition, their sweetness and apricot perfume are hard to resist.  Yesterday's batch of chanterelles at Russo's looked particularly good and I got some to attempt to turn them into a stew.

Dear Anna, I know that this is not going to recreate your grandmother's dish, but at least I hope you won't feel that you wasted $20 for nothing.

Chanterelle Stew
How to clean chanterelles: Please ignore the "rule" about not washing the mushrooms.  It's absolutely fine to wash them and dry on paper towels.  You need to get all the grit out of them.  Use a soft toothbrush to help you if necessary.

Note on stocks: I used a home-made brown chicken stock, but a beef stock or porcini liquid might be even better.  To make porcini liquid, soak 1oz dry porcini in 3 cups boiling water for at least 30 minutes.  Then drain through a fine mesh sieve lined with a damp paper towel.

Serves 4-6 as the first course or side dish

1 Lb chanterelles, cleaned
1 cup finely diced shallots (about 3 medium)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil (sunflower seed oil for a more authentic Russian taste)
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tsp tomato paste (optional)
3 cups home-made stock (see note above)
1/3 cup heavy cream (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cut medium chanterelles into halves, large ones into quarters, and leave really small ones whole.
  2. Set a 12 inch skillet with 1 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp olive oil over high heat.  Add chanterelles and a pinch of salt, and cook about 5 minutes stirring once or twice.  Before stirring, check one mushroom to make sure it is brown.  Remove mushrooms to a plate and set aside.  
  3. Turn down the heat to very low (on electric stove, keep the skillet off the heat until the burner cools off).  Add shallots, another tablespoon of butter, and a generous pinch of salt.  Cook stirring often until shallots are translucent and tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the flour, turn up the heat to medium-low and cook stirring constantly for 2 minutes.  
  5. Add the wine and tomato paste and stir constantly until everything is integrated and the mixture comes to a simmer.  
  6. Add the stock and chanterelles.  Turn up the heat and bring to a simmer stirring occasionally.
  7. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 45-60 minutes or until the mushrooms are very tender and the sauce is desired consistency.  If the sauce is too thin to your liking by the time mushrooms are done, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook stirring frequently until it thickens.  
  8. Stir in cream (if using) and bring to a simmer.  Serve.
Serving ideas
Spoon into bowls and top each portion with a poached or sous-vide egg and chives.
Serve as a side dish to roast chicken, scallops, halibut, duck, or steak.
Eat as is with plenty of good bread for dunking into the sauce.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How to slice an onion (video)

Here is another remake.

Link to YouTube: Slicing an Onion

I owe the trick of nicking the outer layers of the onion with a knife to make peeling easier to one of my youngest students, Connor Goggins.   Thanks Connor!

Videos you might want to watch before this one:

If you want to practice slicing onions (2 Lb or more), I suggest you caramelize them. I can't think of a savory dish that would not be better with caramelized onions: tarts, pizzas, meats, pastas, sandwiches. For example, add caramelized onions to a plain grilled cheese and your family will beg you for more. They might even volunteer to do dishes if you promise to feed them this sandwich every week.

Caramelized Onion Apple Walnut Grilled Cheese

Tomato Caramelized Onion Tart

3 down / 47 more to go

Monday, September 5, 2011

Claw and Pinch Grip Video

You know how they remade the Star Wars movies a few years ago? Well, I remade my claw grip video. The last video was one of my first and it really sucked. Why should you be excited about this? Because mastering the claw grip is crucial to accurate and bloodless chopping. If you think about it, the remake of the claw grip video might be more life changing for you than the remake of the Star Wars. Don't you chop veggies more often than travelling to other galaxies?

Youtube link: Claw and Pinch Grip -- How to keep blood out of your veggies

Videos you might want to watch before this one:

1 down / 49 more to go

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ricotta Gnocchi

There are no ricotta gnocchi more heavenly than the ones served at Zuni Cafe in San-Francisco.  There is a recipe for them in the Zuni Cafe cookbook by Judy Rodgers.  Here is the unfortunate thing -- it is either a recipe for bliss or suicide.  The only time I got it right was with ricotta I made myself.  Even an experience cook can try to do it just right, yet after spending hours and dirtying half the dishes in her kitchen end up with  ricotta explosions instead of ricotta gnocchi.

When I was testing recipes for my upcoming Gnocchi and Spaetzle class, Zuni Cafe gnocchi were out of the question.  But I came up with a recipe that is 90% as heavenly with only 10% of work.  My recipe was inspired by Cook's Illustrated ricotta gnocchi.  It can be served with a savory sauce (the one in the picture is chive cream) or fruit and sugar (the one in the picture is nectarine).

Ricotta Gnocchi 

Since ricotta quality and wetness varies tremendously, it’s important that you stick with Calabro Whole Milk Ricotta at least for the first time to get a good feel for this dough. After that, feel free to substitute home-made ricotta, or other high quality brands, draining them as necessary to achieve the right texture.

Serves 4

16 oz container Whole Milk Calabro Ricotta, see note above
1 large egg
1 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table salt)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1.25 oz all-purpose flour (about ¼ cup scooped and leveled)
3/4 oz panko bread crumbs
1/2 oz parmesan cheese, grated

Optional flavorings:
2 Tbsp finely minced fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp finely minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup cooked leeks (see the Sauces page for recipe)

  1. Find a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet to use as a weight. If none is available, stack a few Calculus books and place into a plastic shopping bag so that you don’t mess them up. Place a triple layer of paper towels on a rimmed baking sheet (12x17 of whatever size will fit a square piece of paper towel). Spread ricotta on paper towels into a shape that is slightly smaller than your cast iron skillet (or books). Cover with a triple layer of paper towels and a piece of plastic wrap. Place the weight on top and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Once the excess liquid is removed you should have about 12 oz of ricotta. 
  2. Break an egg into a medium bowl. Add salt and pepper and whisk lightly to combine. Add drained ricotta, flour, bread crumbs, parmesan, and any optional flavorings. Stir well to combine. Refrigerate dough for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 day. 
  3. Lightly dust work surface with flour. With floured hands, roll lemon-sized piece of dough into 3/4-inch-thick rope, rolling from center of dough outward. Cut rope into 3/4-inch-long pieces and transfer to parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, dusting work surface with flour as needed. Cook immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hours uncovered. 
  4. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot over high heat. If planning to serve with a savory sauce, salt the water. If planning to serve with fruit, leave water unsalted. Reduce heat so water is simmering, then gently drop half of gnocchi into water. Stir with a slotted spoon to make sure no pieces are stuck to the bottom and cook until all pieces float to surface. Continue to simmer until gnocchi are cooked through, about 2 minutes longer, adjusting heat to maintain gentle simmer. Using slotted spoon, scoop gnocchi from water, allowing excess water to drain from spoon; transfer gnocchi to skillet with sauce and cover to keep warm. Repeat cooking process with remaining gnocchi. Using rubber spatula, gently toss gnocchi with sauce until uniformly coated. Serve immediately. 
Fruit and Sugar variation
Warm up sliced fruit or berries in a small saucepan or microwave just until warm. Toss with cooked gnocchi, butter, and sugar to taste.