Bone Marrow

Bone marrow is an affordable luxury, which makes it an easy way to introduce a little decadence into a menu.

I bought eight marrow bones at the farmer's market this Saturday, six of which became Sunday dinner.  I simply roasted them at 450F for 15 minutes after being brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with green salt (salt food processed with parsley, bay leaf, and thyme) on both ends.  The salt forms a crust which helps hold the marrow in the bones when they cook through.

They were served with a parsley leaf salad with shallots and capers and olive-walnut bread toast  brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with green salt.  To finish the toast, I topped them with roasted garlic.  

A vinaigrette of sherry vinegar and olive oil with a half cup of orange juice reduced to one/two tablespoons added a nice citrus component.  I ended up grabbing some lemon wedges to supplement the citrus.

To eat this, I just ran a knife along the edge of the marrow and pulled out a tube of marrow, which I then spread on the bread, mixing with the garlic.  I then topped it with a heap of the parsley salad and added a squeeze of lemon.  It is a divine taste.  

I searched online a bit and it turns out it is a standard sort of dish.  I had in mind balancing the rich fatty marrow with an acidic component.  I also knew that parsley works really well with citrus, so I went that direction.  I knew I was going to use toast, so I thought I would make olive walnut bread to highlight the nutty toast.  The roasted garlic was in the same direction, but thinking that the sweetness roasted garlic introduces would add another balance to the dish.  


Preserved Lemons

Pickles, dried fruits, cured sausages and fish, dried milk have in common that they involve controlled degradation of an original product to create something that can be stored for much longer, often developing pleasing flavors and textures all their own.  Preserving foods is an ancient practice, and very easy to do.  There are a few forms of preservation, like pickling, curing, fermentation, and drying.  People have also been preserving milk by making yogurt, cheese, and the like, all examples of the controlled degradation of the original food to produce something that can be stored much longer under conditions that would cause the original product to spoil.   Drying removes water which makes it difficult for anything to grow.  Dried fruits are a clear example of this, and you've seen peppers, spices, and mushrooms that have gone through this process.  Dried milk is another good example, since it doesn't require refrigeration.  Another form of preservation is fermentation.  Pickles, olives, sauerkraut,  and preserved lemons etc. fall into this category.

I decided to make preserved lemons, to be used at a future date.  To do this, I cut some meyer, eureka, and lisbon lemons into halves and packed them with a 2:1 ratio of salt to sugar.  That is all there is to it.  Time does the rest.  These will sit in their jars to ferment for several weeks.

The idea behind preservation is to deactivate the enzymes in the food while creating an environment unfriendly to sickness-causing microbes.  The preserved lemons are also a fermented product, relying on the slow degradation of the lemon flesh to create an intensely flavored product which can be used anywhere lemons are called for, and more. In the preservation of lemons, the acid, salt, and packing creates an oxygen poor environment, which inhibits bacterial growth while promoting the fermentation of the flesh.  By destroying the living tissue of the food, this makes it unavailable to disease causing bacteria and molds, thus preserved foods can be stored indefinitely.

(The above is based on a quick reading of McGee)

Birthday Dinner

October 28, my birthday.

I used to want to go out to eat or something like that, but now I feel enough confidence in my cooking that I would rather make something for myself and the wife.  By coincidence I received the Bouchon and The French Laundry Cookbook in the mail a couple days before.  This has inspired me to make a few things the past few days, some of which I decided to do for my birthday.  While I cook every day, I think allowing me to make something delicious for others is a great birthday gift.  Nothing gives me more pleasure than offering such an experience to people.

I try to make as much from scratch as I can.  I do that so I can learn techniques and foundations.

For the appetizer I had some homemade lean bread, brushed with a honey-olive oil mixture and sprinkled with Maldon Sea Salt .  The bread is simple to make, requiring that you remember two things.  First, 5:3 ratio of flour to water.  This is the basic structure for the dough.  Adding a teaspoon of active dry yeast per 15-20 ounces of flour gets the bread to rise.  A bit of salt in the dough gives it flavor.  From there, you can make all kinds of variations from olives, roasted garlic, hard herbs, and I've made a chocolate/olive/walnut bread which was deliciously sweet & salty.  Second, you have to remember knead, double, knead, rest, shape, proof, or more simply: rise twice, rest twice. The kneading develops the gluten structure, which traps and holds the water and starch (food for the yeast).  The doubling gets the yeast time to be active.  The second kneading redistributes the yeast to new supply of starch.  Shaping and proofing allow the bread to develop its structure and the air pockets to develop.   It is important to knead enough so that the bread is elastic or you'll have flabby and dense bread rather than a light crumb.  Once you get the hang of it, it won't take you longer than about 30 minutes for the initial mixing, then it is mostly waiting and baking.  The kneading is also a great stress reliever and the results more satisfying, I think. The results will blow away your typical bakery and grocery store bought bread.

With the bread, I made an olivade. Homemade fromage blanc with chopped olives, capers, red onion, chives, tarragon.  Not finding fromage blanc at the grocery store, I decided to make my own.  Turns out it is very easy, and much cheaper to do yourself.  It requires a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, buttermilk, and whole milk.  You can add a bit of heavy cream to make it richer, but it isn't strictly necessary.  Lacking fresh buttermilk, I reconstituted  dried buttermilk I had left from a previous recipe to make a cup.  Mix the buttermilk and lemon juice, then add this to about a liter of milk.  Stir to incorporate and heat gently to 175F.  Stir a couple times, but leave the milk to heat on its own.  Make sure you don't scorch your milk (i.e. watch the temp closely).  Once it reaches 175F, take it off the heat and let the milk rest for 10-15 minutes.  Then carefully strain away the whey, leaving a very soft curd behind.  There you have it.

For the spread, I pitted and finely chopped some kalamata olives, minced some red onion, capers, chives, and tarragon.  Seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, this made a great spread for the bread.  It can also be used with meats, salads, fish, etc.

Next, I made a roasted beet salad.  I thought to add variety by using both gold and red beets here.  Beets were roasted in a foil package at 375F for about an hour to hour and a half with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Then quartered and marinated in a tablespoon or two of olive oil, sherry vinegar, and fresh squeezed orange juice for at least half an hour in the fridge.  I added chopped red onion, chives, and tarragon to finish.  This is a sweet and refreshing salad, very simple, and delicious.

For the main course, I had salmon with leeks.  The salmon was seared on one side until done half way through to produce a crispy skin and render the fat, while leaving the salmon tender. Leeks blanched until fork tender. Beurre blanc. Tender and succulent, the rich taste of salmon balanced well with the leeks.  The skin, with its fatty substrate was absolutely delicious with the tender flesh of the fish and leeks. Beurre blanc was made with a reduction of shallot, bay, and thyme infused in cotes du rhone and champagne vinegar until syrupy.

For dessert, I went simple again.  This is a basic vanilla custard creme caramel.  The caramel is made by melting sugar and water with some glucose (which helps inhibit crystallization of the sugar).  The caramel is then poured into the bottom of a few ramekins and left to cool and harden.  The custard is very easy.  5 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks beaten to smooth in a bowl.  Then, in a sauce pan, 4 cups of milk is mixed with a cup or more of sugar (depending on how sweet you like it).  Flavorings can be added here by incorporating extracts like vanilla, almond, etc., or by infusing mint and so forth.  Bring the milk to below a simmer, just so the sugar dissolves completely.  Then, let the milk cool a bit.   Whisking constantly, slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks.  Strain into a container with a spout so you can pour this into the ramekins.  Set the ramekins in a baking pan with hot water up about 3/4 to 2/3 the sides of the ramekins. Finally, bake at 300F for 30-50 minutes until the custard sets.   You then let the ramekins cool and chill in the fridge for a couple hours, at least.  When you're ready to serve, put the ramekins in a hot water bath for 30 seconds to a minute to loosen the custard.  Run a paring knife around the edge, carefully.  Put a plate upside down on top of the ramekin and invert.  The custard should fall out and, because of the hot water, the caramel will have melted and create a sauce on top.


Basic Knife Skills


Every cooking school I've read about and every chef I've seen talk about essential skills of a chef starts with knife skills.  This is an interesting topic to me because it seems obvious at first, but if you consider the whys of this starting point you see how there is much more to it than simply knowing how to chop vegetables.

Allumette -> Small Dice
Of course, making even equal cuts serves two purposes.  First, it allows for even cooking so your food reaches temperature and texture at the same time.  It is a disaster if some of your potatoes are done cooking while other, larger, pieces still have a ways to go.  Second, a good cut is pleasing to the eye, while uneven cuts make a plate look sloppy.  This doesn't mean all cuts need to be platonic, but it does mean that your pieces should be isometric.

There is another reason, one that I think is no less important, although it is a subtle point.  Learning to making even cuts trains you to be laser focused on details.  It seems to me that this in particular has profound implications for the rest of your cooking beyond the mechanics of heat application or the aesthetic qualities of your dish.  The attention to detail separates good from great.  The finesse you pick up separates great from legendary.

Julienne -> Brunoise
I think knife skills also send a signal, to superiors and your guests, that you take your craft seriously. Also, it signals that what they are about to eat was prepared with care, and is likely to be good.  Sloppy cuts signal that you're too busy or careless to craft the dish--that what they are getting isn't your best effort.



Dinner 10-22-2011

After what feels like a long break (from the blog, not cooking), I'm back.  You might consider this a preview of the kind of thing I would try to do in the underground restaurant.  We had some people over for dinner last night.  For me this means an opportunity to put what I've been learning to good use.   Each dish really stood on its own.  I think each is visually attractive, and interesting to eat (like cracking through the prosciutto covering on the 1st dish).  That said, what I'm most proud of is that the overall progression of the menu felt coherent.

Poached egg, reduction of chicken stock, dijon mustard, roasted sunchokes, frisee, toasted sunflower seeds, dehydrated prosciutto di parma, cayenne pepper.

This is a fun one to eat. The diner has to crack through the crispy prosciutto to get to the dish, which is fun and dynamic. The crispness also adds a nice dynamic to what is a rich soupy dish with toasty notes, sweetness from the carmelization of the sunchokes, while still remaining earthy in nature. I only heard groans of pleasure from this one.

Pan-seared scallops with crushed fennel seeds, puree of peaches infused with cream, arugla leaf, and mint leaves.

I wanted something simple, not crowded with flavors because these scallops are fresh and cooked to a creamy medium-rare. The fennel really highlights the sweetness of the scallop here and the bitter arugala adds a nice contrast. The peach cream added a sweetly accented richness. A lesson in allowing the central ingredient to really shine.

Zucchini and yellow squash julienne, then tenderized for 20 minutes in salt. Accented with a lemon-lime soaked shallot (they turn a beautiful pink color in the presence of acid), and toasted almonds.

This dish served as a palate cleanser with earthy and sweet/sour notes. The texture of the zucchini and squash is like an al dente pasta. Crunch added with toasted almonds. A visually pleasing and tasty palate cleanser.

Candied roasted hazelnuts, smoked provolone, candied lemon zest, beer gel sheet, pink peppercorns.

The flavors stand individually and work in concert in this one. The beer I used was a Hoegaarden white ale, which has a subtle citrus note accented with the lemon zest. The candied hazelnuts had extra crunch due to their candy shell and were also salted, adding another nice contrast. Supported by smoky provolone. The pink peppercorns really did wonders to highlight the fruity aspects of this dish.

There's also the striking visual element here. I was happy with my efforts on this dish, but I see room for improvement.

Pan seared filet mignon, red wine reduction with reduction of beef stock, black mission figs, braised bok choy.

Tender beef, sweet tender fig = heaven. The bok choy was juicy and still had some crunch. The sauce is rich while retaining the nice subtleties of the bordeaux wine I used. Can't go wrong with this cut of meat, I think....unless you overcook it, which I didn't, so....there.

For dessert, I made eclairs, which I've attempted to make only once before. This was my best effort yet. The eclair shells were just about right hollow, dry, mostly crack-free, and relatively straight and even. The fondant was easy to make, but some practice is needed to get it to the right consistency with water/glucose when it is melted down. Also, the glazing needs more practice. Definitely a reject by professional standards, but I'm happy with it overall. A great achievement for at home, I think.

The eclairs are filled with an almond flavored pastry cream and a coffee flavored pastry cream. Choux and pastry cream recipes generously provided by Chef Francisco Migoya (www.thequenelle.com).


In search of inspiration

I haven't posted in a few days for a few reasons.  Prime among them is my recent struggles with macarons.  Tricky confections to make, indeed.  I've never experienced heartbreak like this in the kitchen before, or for that matter such a thrill from success.   I'll have a post on my efforts with these prized Parisian cookies soon (as well as a posts in the works on spherification, a meditation on variation and simplicity in cooking).

To be honest, I'm not sure where all my efforts will ultimately take me.  The constant questioning and self-criticism makes me wonder if I can really strive for what inspires me and succeed.  Do I have the energy and imagination for the kitchen?  Seems like a calling for the young.  34th birthday coming up.  Maybe subconsciously that's driving this self doubt.  I mean, I read about 24 year-olds working in Michelin starred restaurants and think...what the hell am I thinking?  Am I crazy for wanting to do a stage in a restaurant here?  At my age... 16 hour days of hard labor...yeah right.

Yet, there are small victories.  Silly thought it may sound, I derive great pleasure from handling my knife better and better day after day.  The ability to cut effortlessly, quickly, and unthinkingly is a manifestation, small though it is, of progress.  The tray full of macaron success was a high point.

And then there is the French Laundry.  Unlike others who are doing great work, I am inspired by what goes on there.  A lot of times I see what some people are doing with their art and think...fuck me, I could never do that.  But somehow, one of the greatest evokes the exact opposite.  The simplicity and flawless execution makes me think I can do it.   I guess that's what makes the French Laundry so great in my eyes.  They make it look easy, but the more I learn the more I know, this shit is hard.

Today is another day.  Time to push a little further.  Practice a little more.


Puff Paste wrapped banana, butterscotch sauce, fried apples, dried apricots, coconut ice cream, vanilla salt

The combination of hot/cold in your mouth is fantastic. Add to that the sweet/salty combo and it is already great. Never mind that the flavors work so well together.  Do not try this at home, you may go into convulsions

Dessert tonight. Used some of the remaining puff paste to wrap a banana. Baked @ 425 F. Made caramel sauce (melted sugar + cream). Fried apple slices with sugar and cinnamon. Dried apricots. Quenelles of coconut ice cream. Dash of vanilla salt. Sinful plate.

What is juicy and sweet and delicious?

Salt encrusted trout, for sure.  This was done up very simply since the flavors of the fish and herbs really shine. So, without much commentary:

Partially encrusted trout lying on a bed of salt with bay leaves and thyme. Stuffed with more bay leaves and thyme and apples.

Post cooking. 500 F oven for 10 minutes.

With some care, the filet can be take right off the skeleton. The fish was tender, juicy, and sweet

Yogurt, roasted garlic, cucumber, pomegranate

I used the homemade yogurt from a few days ago. Puree of half an english cucumber with seeds removed, a head of roasted garlic, dried mint leaves, meyer lemon juice, salt. Slices of cucumber. Pomegranate. Ta da:

Roasted garlic pureed in a with mortar and pestle, then mixed with cucumber puree and yogurt, mint leaves, and salt. Chilled.

Simple and delicious.

Should note this is not a traditional presentation and the traditional recipe modified somewhat.  I think the traditional way is more of a cucumber salad, with the yogurt/garlic mixture acting as a dressing.  The garlic doesn't seem to be typically roasted, and there are no pomegranates.    I made this on a half-remembered recollection of what khyar bi laban is and improvised.  This dish is interesting because it has elements of sweet and savory.  The roasted garlic and pomegranate has a natural sweetness that is balanced by the earthy cucumber and the slightly acidic yogurt.


Fish & Chips

Inspired by a blog all about Fish & Chips, I decided to make Heston Blumenthal's recipe for the "perfect" fish and chips.  I enjoyed it with a nice Dogfish head 60 minute IPA. Folks, this is once a year kind of stuff.  The taste and textures are so amazing, but my god...just look.

I purchased some cod for the fillets of fish.  The batter is amazingly crispy, unlike any I had used before.  This is owed to the alcohol content, which evaporates quickly.  Using beer and vodka instead of water.  On top of this, additional bubbles of carbon dioxide are added using an iSi siphon with a soda charge.  The fish itself is cooked perfectly to a moist and flaky texture.  The fish was seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne, then covered with a batter of  50/50 AP flour/Rice flour.  Fried at 425 F, the fillets only take a few minutes to cook through and brown.

The chips are crispy on the exterior, fluffy on the interior, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Great with some mayo and malt vinegar.  The fries are first cut and boiled gently to cook through and rough up the edges.  Cooked to just before they fall apart, the cracks allow oil to crisp up the exterior.   Allowed to cool and dehydrate in the fridge for 30 minutes, they're cooked in relatively cool oil of 250-275 F until they take on a little bit of color.  Then, they are allowed to dry and cool in the fridge for 30 minutes again.   The final fry at 375 F gives them their golden color and crispy texture.

In More Depth

Batters and dough share much in common.  Both have the core ingredients of flour and water.  How are they different?  Clearly, batters have far more water than doughs. What effect does this have?  To understand this, we look at why we use flour in the first place.  As you might already know, most of the flours we use for bread and batters come from wheat, so I'll focus on that.

The principal chemicals in flour we take advantage of are starches (carbohydrates) and gluten (proteins).  When we make bread, we want the protein to develop a tight structure that traps the starch and water like a finely woven net.  This is why we knead the bread until it achieves an elastic texture and allow it to rest.  When yeast is added, this gluten structure traps the gas, which produces the bubbles that give some breads its airy texture.  When mixing batters, such as those to coat foods like the fish above, or for pound cake, we only mix to just incorporate the flour.  The gluten is secondary, helping to hold the mix together when it is cooked.  In batters, the starch plays the starring role.

Starch, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, comes from a 15th century Dutch word that means to stiffen (sterche).  Starch molecules come in a crystalline form, appearing as granules that absorb water, helping to thicken the liquid.  This is why we use flour to make slurries, roux, and to thicken sauces.  The starches swell up and stick to each other, creating the tender structure we like in batter cakes and coatings for fried foods.  So, in Heston's recipe, we use some all-purpose flour, which has some gluten, but we also use a starch flour without gluten, the rice flour.

So, why does Heston's recipe call for injecting more bubbles in addition to those given by the beer?  The answer lies in the leavening of the bubbles.  According to Harold McGee the bubbles, "...not only divides [the batter] into innumerable thin sheets surrounding the gas bubbles, it makes the batter more viscous." (more viscosity = thicker).  This does two things for our fried fish.  First, the additional viscosity helps the batter stick to the food.  Second, the layers allow the outside to cook quickly, releasing the water and browning. Since water boils at 212 F, we need to get rid of it to promote browning and crisping, which occurs at higher temperatures.

There is much more science going on here in this simple, but delicious dish.  This is one of the exciting things about cooking: endless variety and depth.  As we promote understanding, we enjoy cooking more, and can use the principles we learn to create new variation and improvements in existing foods.


Brunost/Gjetost Fail

I was searching for what to do with the whey left over from making yogurt and found a Norwegian & Swedish cheese and butter made from whey, called Brunost. It is simple to make (you just cook out the water from the sugars and protein in the whey). Well, even with this simple task:  Brunost fail :(

I cooked it ("whey") too long. The milk sugars carmelized very quickly while I was preparing a cooling bath for the cheese.  Part of the fail may be the fact that I had so little whey to start with.  Next time I make cheese, I'll use a gallon of milk and get more whey. It has an interesting flavor though. Sour-salty and a hint of sweetness. I like it and I think this could have interesting applications in a dish down the line.

Yogurt and Granola

Update: I made more yogurt and found an easy way to do it.  Heat the milk, cool, and inoculate as below. Use mason jars (found in every grocery store) and add the inoculated milk to them.  Then, add water at 120F to a small cooler and place the mason jars in the warm water so the milk inside them is about level with the water.  Close up and leave to sit overnight up to 24 hours.  Voila!  Yogurt.  And no having to deal with reheating the inoculated milk.

Slightly tart and sweet, creamy, and 100% delicious.  Yogurt is one of the staples in our fridge.  There never seems to be enough of it around, and it is kind of pricey to buy at the grocery store.  Why not make your own cheaper, tastier yogurt?  Yes, why not...

Come to think of it...granola seems like one of those tasty treats that is also overpriced.  You can make your own for less money, and it is tastier.  You can add a mix of sweet and savory flavors to your granola to make mixes that are out of this world.  And....goes great with yogurt.

Here we go.  This took about a day.  Maybe 45 minutes from start to finish for the granola.  Another 15-20 minutes to get the yogurt going...and then waiting.  Delicious breakfasts or snacks.

First, the granola, cribbed from here.  4 cups oats, 1/2 cup coconut flakes, 1 cup chopped almonds, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, ground cinnamon, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, fresh ground nutmeg. You can play with what you want to add. I've seen suggestions for adding cardamom, for instance.

For the binding liquid, use 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1/4 cup honey or agave nectar. You can use whatever dried fruit you want, but I used cranberries since they pair really well with the fennel and coriander seeds and spices I used (basically think spiced cranberry sauce).

Mix up the dry ingredients. Heat up the wet together in a microwave (20-30 seconds) or sauce pan. Add wet to dry, mix, and add to a sheet pan. Bake at 300 F, stirring occasionally until the granola is golden. place in a bowl and lightly pack and let cool.

Now, the yogurt. This is versatile stuff. You can use it in sweet or savory applications. You can strain more of the whey out to make a really soft cheese. Mix it with cucumber, lemon, garlic, and so on. Serve it with meat. Eat it for breakfast with the granola, or as a dessert. Whatever you can imagine.

First, get 4 cups (1 liter) of milk and a tablespoon (15-20 grams) of yogurt with active cultures.  I used fage brand greek yogurt.  Heat the milk to 180-190 F, just about a simmer.  Then allow it to cool to about 120 F.  Incorporate the active culture and let it sit for 14-20 hours at 100-120 F, covered.  Heat it occasionally to maintain the temperature.  I used a warm water bath.

When the milk has become yogurt (see above), you want to strain away the whey.  The whey can be put to good use in other applications, which will be the subject of another post after I do some research.

Yogurt separated from whey.


Tobacco cream, fennel, cranberry; Pliable ganache & teas; Vanilla ice cream, sesame, coffee

Three desserts shown together. Foreground to background: Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Ganache, and Layered Gelee

Component one of "Three Desserts"

Quenelle of vanilla ice cream atop a sesame tuile and dusted with nescafe freeze dried coffee. Paired with another tuile and a garnish of lavender air.

Component two of "Three Desserts"

4 Teas and Chocolate Ganache

Pliable chocolate ganache recipe from Alex Stupak of wd~50, which he developed at Alinea. The use of agar-agar is what makes the ganache stretchy/twistable.

I wanted a tea component, so I made four of them. From bottom to top: rooibos tea, lemongrass tea, rose hip & hibiscus tea, and lavender tea.

I included pistachios for salt & crunch.

Ok, so...chocolate...it was awesome. 'nuff said. The teas added a nice herbal component, but the flavor needs to be concentrated more. They were nicely paired with the chocolate, though. Chocolate ruled them all on the palate, so that needs to be tamed some how.

Component three of "Three Desserts"

Layered gelee & Tobacco

First layer is gelee of home made cranberry juice. Second layer is home made fennel juice. Third is tobacco cream I made, adapated from Alinea, but instead of a gelee I made a whipped cream out of it. Topped with lime zest

This was the best of the three. The flavors were surprising, harmonious, and together made something better than the individual components.

Sin In A Bowl

 If you've seen the film Julie and Julia  then you probably know about Boeuf Bourguignon.  It is a stew that is rich, silky, with meat that falls apart in your mouth, tender vegetables, and tastes like sin in a bowl.  The sort of thing that you would be happy to have in your repertoire.  It is great alone, but I recommend some good butter and french bread, which is easy to make.  I'll talk about bread in another post.

I added vanilla crepes which I cut into a chiffonade, and garnished with fresh parsley.

First, make brown beef stock. This recipe is adapted from Thomas Keller. Yields a little over 3 quarts, which you can freeze and use to enhance many sauces or as a base for soup. Get your mise ready before you start.

Mise en place:

2-3 Tablespoons of oil with a high smoke point (canola or vegetable works well)
About 5 pounds meaty beef necks, knuckles, ribs
2 small yellow onions peeled
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into medium dice pieces
1 large leek, roots trimmed, split lengthwise, rinsed well, and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 large sprig of thyme
1 large sprig of Italian parsley
3 bay leaves
1 head garlic
A teaspoon salt
A teaspoon black peppercorns


1. Preheat oven to 475 F. Roast the bones in a roasting pan with the oil (Just enough to coat the meat, not too much) for 45 minutes or until all sides of the beef bones are a rich, deep brown. Don't let them turn black or your stock will have a bitter taste.

2. Meanwhile, cut one onion in half and sear with the cut side down over medium heat. This will take about 20 minutes. Remove. Add veggies over high heat and brown them on all sides. This develops color and rich caramel flavor for the stock. Be patient and attentive.  Don't fiddle too much so your vegetables can brown properly.  Reserve the veggies on the side.

3. Take the bones out and remove from the roasting pan. Carefully drain off the fat, trying to retain as much of the browned solids as you can.

4. Deglaze the roasting pan over medium-high heat. Use about a cup of cold water. Scrape up as much of the stuck on brown bits as you can. This is called the fond. Let it simmer and reduce by half.

5. Meanwhile, transfer the bones to a large stock pot. Add enough water to cover.

6. Add the fond to the stock pot and S-L-O-W-L-Y bring to a simmer. This will take longer than you expect (1-2 hours).  If you heat it too quickly, you'll end up boiling the bottom of your stock pot, which will make your stock cloudy and produce an inferior result.  If you have a thermometer, you want the water to be 190-200 F. If you don't have a thermometer, you want it to bubble a little, but not a full boil. The water "trembles".  If your stock boils for too long, the veggies and impurities will emulsify in the water and you'll have cloudy stock that will go bad much more quickly.

7. Skim, skim, skim. You'll see foam and fat rise to the surface 15-20 minutes after. This won't happen if your temp is too low. Skim every 15-20 minutes for the first hour. Check every half hour after that and skim if necessary.

8a. Continue like this for at least 4 hours. 5 or 6 hours is better.  I like to let my stocks go for 8-10 hours to extract as much flavor and collagen as possible.

8b. 2 hours before you stop, add the vegetables and garlic.  

8c.  1 hour before you stop, add the parsley, bay, peppercorns, thyme.

9. When finished, strain the stock through a fine strainer. Do not jostle, shake, or press the solids. Let the liquid flow. Any of the above makes your stock cloudy as fine particles will get into your liquid. Be patient.

10. Strain again through double layered cheesecloth or a dish towel, or coffee filter.

11. Cool down the stock quickly in an ice bath so no nasty bugs get a chance to develop.  Using a metal mixing bowl works best to conduct heat away from the stock and cool quickly.

12. Store in the fridge.

13. Take off any fat that solidified on the surface.  The stock freezes nicely, and keeps for months.  It will go bad in the fridge in about a week.

14. Enjoy all that work. You'll never want to get the store bought stuff again, which is weak, lacks body.

Up Next: the Boeuf Bourguignon

Served with french bread I made (very simple, for another post)

Mise en place:

At least 2 lbs beef, cubed, you can use more.
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sale & Pepper
2 Large carrots, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 Onion, large dice/rough chopped
1 Leek, rough chopped
2-3 Celery
4-5 cloves of garlic, roughly cut
1/4 cup Cognac
1-2 cups Red Wine (what you don't use, drink!)
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 Bay leaves
3 sprigs of parsley
3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour


1. Season your beef with salt & pepper on all sides. Add oil to a hot skillet and brown the meat on all sides. Don't crowd the pan, work in batches if necessary. Otherwise your meat will steam.

2. Remove the beef. Add veggies and get a golden brown color all over, as above.

3. Add cognac. Get your head out of the way and be prepared to reset your smoke alarm. Light the cognac.

4. Remove veggies and deglaze the pan with about a cup of wine, scrape up all that tasty fond.

5. Add meat and veggies, stock, and more wine until the meat is barely covered. Cover the pan with or tight metal lid

6. Stick it all in the oven at 250 F for at least an hour, up to 2 hours.

7. At the end of its time in the oven, move the pan to the stove top and bring to a simmer.

8. Meanwhile, make a brown roux. Start by melting the butter in a sauce pan and then add flour and mix well with a fork or whisk. Let this cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn. The roux should begin to take on a brown color. It is ready when it takes on a color of caramel, or rust.

9a.  Ladle some of the liquid from your braising pain and whisk it into the roux to remove lumps.  Continue until it is smooth.

9b. Add the roux to the hot Boeuf Bourguignon and stir. Add more wine if necessary. Season to taste.

10. Enjoy.


Braised pork belly, miso, butterscotch

 This was adapted from a recipe posted by Michael Ruhlman. The dish was absolutely delightful. I made puff paste to provide additional texture to the dish.  That was a fun way to spend a day.  I may make a post on puff paste later.

Pork belly braised at 250 F for 6 hours in orange juice, with bay leaves, black peppercorns, coriander seed, bay leaf, shallots, garlic, and onion. Then seared and served with a miso-butterscotch sauce. Butterscotch made in the typical way (melted brown sugar & cream), and added to a miso, butter, chickenstock, braising liquid, soy sauce, garlic, shallot. Sauce reduced and then the seared pork is cooked to reheat in the sauce. Garnished with red and green chilies. The salad from last night made another appearance. Interestingly the shallots turned a really nice shade of pink.

Random Links (Sundry Sundays?)





Scallops, peaches, corn, dandelions

 Harmonious!  Occasionally I'll post photos of dinner and a brief description of what went into the preparation of a dish.  Any questions will be answered in comments.

I bought peaches, radishes, corn, and scallops at the farmer's market today.  I was particularly excited to get the scallops because they are extremely fresh, brought in by some fine folks here in town.  They are dry packed, so no excess moisture or breakdown of the tissue.  On to the dish.

Scallops are pan seared on one side (this is done to prevent overcooking).  They are seasoned with a vanilla salt and chopped bay leaf with a dusting of cayenne pepper.  Only the presentation side was seasoned.  To go with the scallops, I took some white corn off the cob and gently cooked it in Insigny Ste Mere butter.  After that I pureed it in the blender with fresh butter, about 2 grams of salt, about a tablespoon of heavy cream, and kefir to give it an acid note.   I thought it was a little too runny, so I added cornstarch (about a teaspoon) and returned it to heat in a small saucepan to thicken and get out the lumps.  This was paired with slices of fresh peaches, which were peeled with a paring knife.  The salad consists of dandelion greens and radishes (I later added some chopped walnuts, not pictured).  I also added a vinaigrette (3 parts fat: 1 part acid) and capers.  The dressing was made of the juice of one lime, grapeseed oil, small diced shallot, a pinch of salt and ground white pepper.

Everything on this plate worked together. On top of that, it was delicious.  The scallops were cooked just right.  To me that means fall apart in your mouth when you press a piece against the roof of your mouth and they have a sort of tender-melty quality as you chew. The sweetness of the bay and cayenne kick were marvelous with the scallops as well.  The peaches and corn is simply decadent, owing in part to the cream-butter enrichment, but also because these are two flavors that work extremely well together.  Balancing all this richness were the bitter greens and radishes, which were tender.  The vinaigrette added a nice mouth coating citrus note.

Overall, I'm very pleased with this dish.  I think it could be served as-is, but I want to play with the flavors and presentation more in the future.

How does one learn to cook?

  Michael Ruhlman had a recent post about cookbooks that teach.  Of course, cookbooks can serve as references for recipes and ideas for cooks at any level.  And, as Ruhlman points out, they can be written didactically, one of their important functions.  It seems to me that it is also crucial to be able to read recipes comparatively.  What is different in one recipe from another?  Why are they different?  What are the effects of changes in proportions of the ingredients. This is something I want to do more of.  So, I thought I would start by taking stock of the books I have so far.  I'll write annotations for my books and put it on a page later today.

Note: If you're using an ad blocker, you won't see the links to Amazon.com .  Disable the ad block for this site only (I promise there are no ads enabled, only links to the books).  In Google Chrome, click the ABP icon in the address bar and uncheck "Enabled for this site".

 Not cookbooks, but cooking and food related: