March 30, 2011 · 7:15 pm
Smokin' Earl Grey-hoping not to inhale
Dinner Party this Saturday, April 2.
Have decided to tea-smoke salmon. Partly because I have been dying to try it for years. And partly because saying to my guests, “Oh, the salmon? I just tea-smoked it.” seems so satisfying. Even as I say it to myself in my head it sounds good. I imagine myself replying, “My you’re a talented cook!” Then I wink at myself, “Also, your hair has great volume!”
Anyway, the recipe is from Skye Gyngell’s first cookbook “A Year in my Kitchen”. And tea smoking is a technique the chef likes to use for oily fish (like trout, mackerel or wild salmon). Essentially you need a baking vessel with a lid, a cooling rack, some ramekins (to balance the rack on) and a few tinfoil cups to put the tea –which you mix with sugar– in. Then you place your fish on the rack, tea underneath, cover the fish and heat the whole thing over med-high on top of the stove, over two burners.
Not so hard, right? But wait…more than once the words “extractor fan” are mentioned in this process. I have no stove hood, no extractor fan but I do have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, though I am not sure how that helps me if I’m dying of smoke inhalation. At least when the firemen check the house they’ll be able to say, “yep, she had a fire extinguisher, too bad there wasn’t a fire–also, the salmon’s ready.”
Ah well, I’m being pessimistic, I can’t say for sure there won’t be a fire.
I’ll keep you posted. I’m going to smoke the salmon Friday. That way the dinner guests can make other plans if things should go awry. No one can say I’m not a thoughtful hostess.
March 29, 2011 · 10:05 am
Supple, fruity, nutty Comté on Rye
My first Toast Post. I can’t say that I planned on using Comté specifically, but it was in the fridge–and this is always the magical thing about cheese and toast–the element of surprise. Cheese and toast is not planned for– you just reach into the cheese drawer and see what’s left. You also end up doing an impromptu “tasting” when making any version of this. For you will surely have nothing to do while you await the toasting of the toast, but lean against the kitchen counter and snack on a bite of cheese and contemplate life.
And in the case of Comté you will think, “man, this is good, why don’t I buy Comté all the time? I should totally pack this in my purse for an impromptu snack if I get stuck on public transit. It so smooth and supple and mmmmm, if that toast doesn’t hurry up all my cheese will be gone.”
Comté in 11 words or more: AOC designated cheese from France (Jura mountains). Raw cow milk. Must pass a 20 point rating system where a 15+ score is an A and the cheese gets a green label. A rating under 12 means the cheese cannot be sold as Comté. Huge wheels (75-120 pds) originated to keep the cheese through harsh winters. Comté producers are fairly small in size and produce about 12-24 wheels a day. There is an aroma wheel for Comté which includes 83 terms, grouped into 6 families–let me know if you smell some boiled egg yolk in your cheese…..
March 28, 2011 · 4:03 pm
Italian Wedding Soup at home
I know it might not seem auspicious to begin a newly minted food blog with a rave review for the restaurant chain, East Side Mario’s, but I won’t deny any lip-smacking food and I’m telling you right now that the Italian Wedding Soup that came free (free!) with my main course at East Side Mario’s last week was deee-lish. Replace the slightly overcooked Acini di Pepe (peppercorn shaped pasta) with something a little more al dente, then pop that bowl onto a white tablecloth (or reclaimed wood slab) and any fine-dining restaurant would be $12 richer faster than you can say “Budda boom, Budda bing”.
OK, so I realize that Italian wedding soup is an ‘American-Italian” creation. I did a little double checking to make sure–nope, couldn’t find it anywhere in The Silver Spoon cookbook (bible of authentic Italian cooking that it is) even though they do feature recipes such as “Farmhouse Rainbow Pie” (which I think suffered somewhat in the translation) and sounds like it should definitely be served at an East Side Mario’s somewhere out there–alongside Pot o’ Gold Penne. But to the point: essentially the soup is a broth with tiny meatballs, spinach and pasta. Wedding soup is actually an incorrect translation of minestra maritata (married soup) implying that the veg and meat go well together.
ANYWAY, though I enjoyed the restaurant version of the soup, I did feel that I could make it with slightly less salt and additives– and whatever else that made it taste so friggin’ good at the “Mario”– at home. So I did a little internet searching and combined two recipes. One is from Giada De Laurentiis, it’s pretty straight ahead, the meatballs were good and I liked the addition of the egg and parmesan at the end. The other tip I stole from Susan Sampson. In her recipe she cooks the meatballs and pasta each separately in boiling water before adding them to the broth so the broth doesn’t get cloudy. Which made a lot of sense to me before I started and as I watched the scum accumulate from my boiling meatballs while they cooked. The recipe makes a big batch, I made big meatballs, and we ate it all up in a couple of days.
The soup was so yummy that it occurred to me that instead of adding spinach to the hot broth, maybe the flavourful liquid could mask the taste of hideous kale. Kale is my frenemy. I love the smug feeling of good health and sound meal-planning I exude while kale is in my shopping cart, but don’ like its defiance once at home and the way it endlessly pops out of the crisper no matter how much I try to shove it to the bottom. I just don’t like the taste. I’ve tried to braise it and sauté it and I have yet to chop it up very tiny and put it into lasagna (which was my next plan of attack). Because it is SO HEALTHY, right?
So I gave it a go in the soup.
It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship (or should I say marriage?). Thank you East Side Mario’s, you helped me kick kale’s ass. Or at least boil it.