30 November 2010

Mrs. Hutton's biscuits

Thanksgiving is a trickier cooking time. When you cook for family, you have a broader swath of eaters than at any other time that you cook. There's Aunt Martha the vegetarian, and cousin Vinny who only eats hamburgers.

So on a Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, what do you cook that is delicious, but will meet everyone's needs? Biscuits is a start.

This recipe was handed to my mother by our small-town reverend's wife in the 1970s (Mrs. Hutton). My mom then handed the recipe to me when I went to college.
3 C flour
⅓ C sugar
3 heaping tsp baking powder
½ C butter
~1 C milk
Preheat your oven to 400° F. Sift sugar and flour. Cut in butter. Add milk and mix with your hands to a gooey consistency.

Making the dough

Roll out on counter and cut individual biscuits.

Rolling out the dough

Don’t handle them too much.

Cut biscuits

Bake at 400° F for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.


Serve. These are amazing the day they're cooked. Mrs. Dude thinks they're pretty good on day 2 as well. I disagree. Bake only as many as you think you'll eat the night you make them.

23 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from the Dude family


Thanksgiving to me means one thing.  Cranberry sauce.  My dad created the recipe for the cranberry sauce that we serve, perfecting it over the course of 30 years.  I couldn't imagine Thanksgiving without my dad's cranberry sauce.  Click on the link above for cranberry goodness.

I hope your Thanksgiving is full of delicious things.  For more delicious Thanksgiving tips, see livefire's roundup of Thanksgiving tastiness.

Happy Thanksgiving.

18 November 2010

Squab with madeira sauce

In my ongoing attempts to eat as many critters as I can, I present to you:  squab.

Whole squab

Squab is also commonly called pigeon. Or "rats with wings". The pigeons that are sold as squab are generally "utility pigeons", bred to grow quickly, and harvested fairly young.  So where does one buy "rats with wings"?  I got mine through special order at Iowa Meat Farms.  $15 each.  And these things are tiny.  A bit less than a pound each, I got two for Mrs. Dude, Bbq Jr., and myself.  Two tiny breasts each for Mrs. Dude and I, and all the tiny drumsticks that a little guy could want.  So this isn't something we're going to be buying ten of for a party.

The following recipe is really nice, because it requires about 10 minutes of prep time to dismember the squabs, followed by about 10 minutes of cooking.  Take that, Rachel Ray.  This is fast cuisine.  Straight from Meat: A Kitchen Education.

Start with:
2 squabs
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
½ cup madeira
¼ cup sherry vinegar
2 tbsp veal glaze
4 tbsp cold butter
Remove the organs from the cavity (if your squab comes with organs).

Squab liver

Chop the liver finely, and chop into it the 4 tbsp of cold butter.  Smush that butter-liver mix through a fine sieve.

Squab liver - with butter

Keep the butter mix cold.

Now.  Dismember the squab.  The instructions in Meat: A Kitchen Education are awesome, with very detailed pictures.  So go out and buy that book.  Really.  I'll wait.


Okay, so you're back.  I'll assume that you sliced off the drumstick/thigh portion by cutting through the skin around the leg, and then the joint attaching it to the bird.  Then you sliced off the breasts by cutting through the length of the breastbone, and down the length of the breast (just like you would a turkey).  Seriously, my description is deeply lacking.  Go get yourself a good meat dismemberment book like Meat: A Kitchen Education.  And save the dismembered carcass and hearts for making squab stock.  I've frozen mine tightly in a ziploc bag.


Dismembered squab

Generously salt and pepper the breasts and legs.  Bring to room temperature over about an hour.

Bring the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to a foamy mess over high heat.  Toss in the breasts and legs.  Gently.  That hot fat splashing on your eye will really hurt.  Seriously.

Saute squab

Two minutes, then flip.

Saute squab

Two more minutes on this side, then place the squab on a piece of paper towel.  Deglaze the delicious charred on bits with the madeira.  Reduce the madeira to thick slurry.  Add the vinegar, reduce again.  Add the veal glaze.  Whisk thoroughly, and adjust the consistency with water to get a nice sauce consistency.

Whisk in the cold butter/liver mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, until you have a nice gravy.  Drizzle over the squab and serve.

Squab - served

I wish I had gotten a picture of the interior of this breast. It had just a hint of pink, cooked medium. (Indeed, squab is safe to eat medium to medium-well).  I also wish I could get a photo of how it tasted.  This was ridiculous.  Like steak.  Only more tender.  Like lamb.  Only more flavourful.  And ten-minute meal?  Hell, yeah.  Dismember the squab in advance, and this is a ten-minute meal.


16 November 2010

Dulce de leche

I have been remiss. I live only half an hour from Mexico, but I have not been taking full advantage of the cuisine of our southern neighbors. Aside from a dessert topping, and an occasional fajita.

So how will I resolve that?  How about a dessert topping?  This classic dessert topping, known as cajeta in parts of Mexico, dulce de leche more commonly, is caramelized, milkish goodness incarnate.  I used the recipe in My Sweet Mexico.  It makes approximately one cup of dulce de leche:
4 cups goat or cow milk
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp light corn syrup
¼ tsp salt
1 vanilla bean
¼ tsp baking soda, dissolved in 1 tbsp water
Slice the vanilla bean open from end to end.

Vanilla bean

Scoop out the vanilla guts into a pot. Toss in that wretched vanilla bean carcass on top of the vanilla guts. Pour the milk, sugar, salt and corn syrup in.

Vanilla and milk

Bring to a boil, and remove from heat. Add the baking soda dissolved baking soda, and watch it bubble and boil furiously. The baking soda will aid in the caramelization of the sugar. When the boiling subsides, put back on the heat. Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, being careful to not burn the milk.


Caramelizing milk

And stir.

Caramelizing milk


Caramelizing milk

And stir.

Caramelizing milk


Caramelizing milk

And stir.

Caramelizing milk


Caramelizing milk

And finally, after 2 to 2 ½ hours of simmering and stirring. When the mixture has reduced to a golden brown mixture. It will thicken on chilling.


Keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks. This delightful dessert topping works well as an ingredient in other desserts, or on top of cakes, muffins or ice cream. Enjoy. Delish.

11 November 2010

Cornish hen in a salt dome

I was very disappointed this weekend to discover that Iowa Meat Farms doesn't routinely stock squab. Go figure.

What's a guy to do when he's planned to make squab, but there is no squab to be had?  Apparently, the answer is Cornish hen.  Oh yeah, baby.

Raw cornish hen

And conveniently, one of my favourite bloggers, Hank Shaw, has recently posted a recipe for a small bird cooked in a salt dome.  I love salt.  I love domes.  Done:
3 tbsp olive oil
2 Cornish hens
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
bunch of fresh thyme
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 pounds kosher salt
Remove the completely thawed hens from the fridge thirty minutes prior to cooking. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Dry off the Cornish hens. Heat the oil over high heat in a large pan, and brown the hens in the hot oil on all sides.

Browning cornish hen

Mix enough water with the salt to create a slurry of salt that can be packed. If you add too much water, just add more salt. You want a nice soft clay texture, not a mushy soup.

Lay down a layer of half an inch of salt on the bottom of a baking pan.

Season the Cornish hens with the paprika and pepper.  Stuff the insides of the hens with the rosemary and thyme.  And pack 'em in the salt.  You want to cover them with at least half an inch of salt.

Bake 'em for about 40 minutes.

Salt dome hen

 Remove from oven, and after resting a few minutes, crack off the salt dome, now hardened into a contiguous crust.

Cooked hen

Brush off the excess salt with a basting brush, carve and serve.

I will merely quote Mrs. Dude: "Oh my! The rosemary! This is amazing!" Thanks, Hank.

09 November 2010

Miso bagna càuda

I'm in danger of seeming a miso fanatic.  But it's a tasty source of umami flavours, and, well...  Umami!

We recently had the great fortune to dine at Morimoto Napa, while visiting the lovely wineries of Napa Valley.  It's a pity I forgot my camera in the car, because in addition to being one of the tastiest meals of my life, it was also one of the most beautiful.  But none of the dishes was more magnificent than the bagna càuda.  It was an umami bomb coated in vegetable oil.  A little blob of brown paste at the bottom of a ceramic container, covered in a deep layer of olive oil, and warmed by a candle underneath, this stuff was like heaven.  Rich, sweet, delicious.  A hot dip for the perfect and crisp vegetables that were served.  And when I asked the server what it was, he said it was a dip made of anchovy paste, miso and dashi.  Well here's my attempt to re-create that delightful umami bomb.

Traditional bagna càuda is (according to the Wikipedias) Piedmontese for "hot sauce":
The dish, which is served and consumed in a manner similar to fondue, is made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil, butter, and in some parts of the region cream.
I used the bagna càuda recipe in Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking as the starting point, and modified it, more olive oil (though most of it not mixed in), plus red miso - I had no dashi on hand for this attempt:
3 large heads garlic
1 cup whole milk
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp anchovy paste
½ tsp red miso
salt and pepper
Crush and peel the cloves in 3 large heads of garlic.

Crushed garlic

Cover with water, and bring to a boil.

Blanching garlic

Discard the boiling water, and retain the garlic. Repeat twice. These steps extract some of the stronger, bitter flavours of the garlic, and mellows it a bit. It also extracts a tiny bit of the color, resulting in pure white gloves of garlic.

Blanched garlic

Now pour in the milk.  Bring the milk to a boil, and boil for ten minutes, or until the garlic is tender.  Discard all but 1 tbsp of the milk.  Again, this extracts some of the fat soluble bitter compounds.  This is going to be some very mellow garlic.

Purée the garlic in a food processor until smooth.  Add the anchovy paste, the miso, the reserved milk, salt and pepper to taste and 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Purée until smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, place some of the paste in a small serving dish.  Heat in the microwave (or over a candle, if you have such an apparatus).  Heat the remaining olive oil on the stove until hot and cover the hot paste with hot olive oil.  Serve immediately with fresh chopped vegetables.

Bagna cauda

This was really great. Very tasty, but missing something. It wasn't as dark in colour or rich in depth of flavour as what we had at Morimoto Napa. Still, we all ate a ton of this.  When I asked Mrs. Dude, "If what we had at Morimoto was an A+, and and F is the bottom grade, where does this fit?" She thought for a moment, "B-". Okay, well clearly I have some work to do to get this up to par. But really, if on any scale that Morimoto ranks an A+, I get a B-, I suppose I can't be too sad.

I'll be working on this recipe some more. Stay tuned.

04 November 2010

Miso cheesecake

About a year ago, we visited the delightful restaurant Providence in Los Angeles.  The food there is exquisite.  But the dish that I've been dreaming about over all that time is their miso cheesecake.  I had been initially unenthusiastic, because, well... cheesecake:
I confess, I was prepared to be bored by the dessert in this tasting menu. It was miso cheesecake. I'm not a huge cheesecake fan. It's often heavy, and too sweet. Cheesecake done well can be quite good, but it's a little boring, and I was hoping to be excited by the food at Providence.
Well, it wasn't cheesecake.  What they brought out was more a panna cotta (at the time I thought it was a flan, but later reconsidered).

And it was amazing.  Look at that, all nestled in black sesame crust goodness, with peach and a sorbet.  I still swoon thinking about that dessert.

I spent the last year attempting to recreate it as a panna cotta, and while I created some tasty things, nothing really sung in the way that this dessert did.  Miso, gelatin and cream.  Miso, gelatin, cream and dark molasses.  Miso, gelatin, cream and vanilla.  Fail, fail, fail.  On the advice of the lovely folks at Two Foodies - One Journey, I contacted Providence directly.  And I'm so glad that I did.  Adrian Vasquez, the pastry chef at Providence sent me the recipe.
cream cheese at room temperature*
red miso
sheet gelatin

* I'm leaving quantities blank until I hear from Adrian that he doesn't mind me publishing the recipe
And this list shows why I was failing previously.  The name of the dessert gives the secret away.  I had only been trying to make a miso panna cotta.  But the reason they call it miso cheesecake is they include cream cheese.

Start by re-hydrating the gelatin in ice water.  Soak the sheets individually in ice water while you prepare the other materials.

Gelatin sheet

Heat the sugar and water, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.  Then add the cream cheese, a tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in the red miso.  Then remove the gelatin from the ice water bath, and squeeze out the excess water.  The gelatin will be all swollen, flexible (but fragile).  Add the gelatin to the cheesecake mixture.

Pour into serving ramekins, and chill in the fridge, covered, for 6-8 hours.

At serving time, remove from the fridge.  Run a knife around the outside of the panna cotta, then hold the bottom of the ramekin in a bowl of hot water for a few seconds.  Immediately invert on to a plate and shake gently to unmold.

Providence serves this with a sorbet and stone fruit, and I discovered that this dessert abslolutely requires an acid counterpoint.  Indeed, given the rich flavour (another commonality it shares with cheesecake), this panna cotta should be served in small servings.  But it. is. amazing.

Miso panna cotta

I served it with a small scoop of pomegranate-thyme sorbet.  A beautiful acidic complement, for a spectacular dessert.

02 November 2010

Beef shanks with red wine and mushrooms

Southern California is normally sunny for months. It can get kind of monotonous. A single cloud in the sky, and that's poor weather.

This past Saturday, I got up, and it was cold, cloudy and drizzling rain. I went to work, and five hours later when I left, it was still cool and drizzlish. Comfort food, is what I thought. Something heavy. Meaty. How about something from my newest recipe book Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson.  (Yeah, I'm sure you're surprised that a barbecue blogger is buying new meat books).

So I bought some beef shanks, at less than $3 a pound, a nice cheap cut.  And by the time I exited the grocery store, it was sunny, warm and beautiful.  Comfort food.  On a warm beautiful day.  I suffer.

raw shank

5 cross-cut beef shanks
olive oil
3 whole cloves
2 onions
5 carrots
1 head garlic, halved
bouquet garni
3 cups full-bodied red wine
3 cups chicken broth
3 tbsp veal stock
1 pound cremini mushrooms

Heat some oil in a pan until it's screaming hot. Drop in a couple of the shanks at a time. Sear them on each side. About 5 minutes per side.

browning shank

browning shank

Pull the shanks out, and repeat with all the other shanks. Fit the browned shanks into a casserole pot. Cut the onions in half and peel. Place cloves into onions. Peel the carrots, and chop them up. Put the onions, carrots and garlic into the pot.

Prepare a bouquet garni of celery, fresh thyme and bay leaves tied up.


Place bouquet garni into the pot. Pour wine over the mix.

wine and shank

For the wine, we used a 2 buck chuck Shiraz. Not a bad use for it, really.

2 buck chuck

Top up with chicken stock and water to cover everything.  Add the veal stock and boil for two to three hours, until the meat softens up.

Fish out the meat and the carrots.  Be gentle, as the bones will have loosened.

Cooked shank

Discard all the other solids (onions, bouquet garni, etc).  Boil the remaining liquid for 30-40 minutes, until reduced to half the volume.

Heat the oven to 400°F.  Add the meat back to the reduced sauce.  Add the mushrooms.


Bake in the oven, uncovered for 40 minutes, basting frequently.  You want the meat to take on a nice glaze, and to cook the mushrooms.

Serve with a nice loaf of fresh bread.

Shank with mushrooms and wine

This is comfort food at it's finest.  Meaty, rich, delicious.  And the bone marrow that survived through the process was quite a nice treat.  And the broth is something really special.

Make this on a cold day in this winter.  You'll love it.