Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Scream, You Scream...Shut Up! There's Homemade Ice Cream.

I'm not entirely sure if I was a good girl this year, but Santa saw fit to bestow upon me the gift of my dreams (well, one of the gifts of my dreams): my very own ice cream maker. I've been going on and on about how I'd love to make my own ice cream, come up with crazy flavors, and save a couple of pennies on ice cream that's high quality. Finally, a shiny new Cuisinart ICE-21 was dropped into my hot little hands. I used a slightly modified version of Alton Brown's Serious Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from early on in the Good Eats canon. Let's freeze some moo juice...shall we?

I started with 2 cups of half and half and 1 cup of heavy cream. When those are the first two ingredients in a recipe, you know it's gotta be good. Combine both of these in a heavy saucepan and pay no attention to the dirty stove, okay?

At Brooklyn Brainery's Hot Drinks class I was gifted with a Tahitian vanilla bean, and I saved it just for this recipe. The Tahitian strain is known for having a flowery scent and flavor best used in ice creams and dishes that don't require too much heat. I split it down the middle and scraped out the seeds or "caviar". The smell was incredible, above and beyond the scent of mere vanilla extract. Anyone who thinks vanilla is boring, has not smelled fresh, true vanilla.

Throw the vanilla pod and seeds into the in cream and half half, and whisk to disperse.

Now, before Alton adds the 1 cup of sugar to the milks, he subtracts 2 tablespoons of the sugar and substitutes it for 2 tablespoons of peach preserves. I'm guessing he did this to add another layer of flavor, and I'm sure there's a science reason too. But...I didn't have peach preserves. And I just wanted plain vanilla ice cream. So I put in a little less than 1 cup of sugar, because I didn't want the result to be too sweet.

 Are you wondering why you don't see any yolks? This is what's known as a Philadelphia style ice cream, meaning that it contains no eggs! Ice creams with egg bases (custard or French style) are really rich and velvety, but you gotta temper the mixture so it doesn't curdle and all that mess...and I wasn't in the mood for that. I was tired from Christmas cooking on Saturday and I had gotten up really Sunday morning to make this ice cream. Next time, I won't ignore the yolk.

I let this come to a bare simmer on medium heat, and as soon as I saw one bubble pop, I took it off. If you have a candy/fry thermometer, you want to look for 170 degrees. I believe if you let the mixture boil, you break the vanilla flavor and greatly affect the fats in the milk...I don't remember exactly what AB said...but it sounds correct. Someone correct me!

After I let it cool slightly off of the heat, I poured the sweet smelling elixir into a Tupperware container that had a tight fitting lid. The vanilla bean had given its all, so I took it out of the mixture.

Now, don't be an idiot like me and throw it away. If you rinse it with cool water, and pat it dry, you can put it in your sugar jar. In a couple days to a week you'll have fresh vanilla sugar.

I could have started churning the ice cream right away, which definitely an option because:

1. I am impatient
2. I already put the ice cream maker's bowl in the freezer 2 days ago, so I would be ready to go.

But, the trick to great ice cream is letting the cooked mixture chill and age in the fridge.This way the flavors you've created via heat can mellow and develop. Plus, the colder the mixture is, the smaller the ice crystals are in the final product aka creamy, even textured ice cream. Really, this should have sat overnight....but I gave myself 6 hours. Close enough.

*Six Hours Later*

Here it is. My precious little ice cream churning machine!

If you have a different make and model, go read the instructions. For mine, I just had to put the frozen ice cream bowl on the base, insert the paddle attachment, and lock the lid. Please make sure the machine is ON when you pour in your liquid or else it'll just freeze to the walls of the bowl. The dasher won't move and you will be screwed.

Here's the mixture at the start of the cycle....

This is about 10-15 minutes in.....

And here it is at about 20-25 minutes. Oh sweet tap dancing Jesus.

I would show you pictures of the paddle attachment when I took it out...but I licked it clean. I enjoyed every second of it, thank you very much. I scraped the ice cream back into the Tupperware (which I had rinsed clean) so I could stick it in the freezer to harden for an hour.

I would like to go on record right now and say there is absolutely nothing like homemade ice cream. NOTHING. The flavor after only 6 hours of aging was phenomenal, and I will let it rest for even longer next time. The vanilla flavor was just prismatic on my tongue as I ate it, blossoming with the heat of my mouth. By using no eggs in the base, the ice cream was light and refreshing while still maintaining the familiar creamy texture. I usually never eat plain vanilla ice cream, and that's about to change.

So is the the size of my rear end.

*Note: Fats can pick up funky flavors in the the freezer, so lay a piece of parchment/plastic wrap over your ice cream before you put on the lid to ensure it'll stay fresh.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Oneshot: Refrigerator Pie! (Okay, Okay, It's Quiche.)

Before I started my short stint at Balthazar Bakery, we did a tasting of the menu, which included two types of quiche: Lorraine and Asparagus/Mushroom. I took tiny, bird-like bites of both. All I can say, I was heralded into a new world. The creamy richness of the egg and cream custard enveloped the Gruyere/ham/sweet onion goodness and just took me over the edge. I would have been more loony about the asparagus mushroom...if it had no mushrooms. Mushrooms taste like feet.

Anyway, I never thought I could love quiche. A childhood fear of cooked egg yolks (for some reason, eating fried eggs with the yolks in upset my tummy) has always kept me away from exciting egg dishes: frittatas, omlettes, and quiches. But I think that fear is more in my head now..and today I've decided to be unafraid!

That leads me to today, the outside world blizzarding like whoa, and craving some quiche for breakfast. This also makes a pretty damn good lunch when served with a small salad. I used Alton Brown's recipe because...I love him. Plus, this recipe is DEAD EASY. Really!

I started with two eggs and some heavy cream. You could use half and half..but why? Whisk the eggs in a medium sized bowl until well mixed and light colored, then throw in a cup of heavy cream. Mix well, and DON'T FORGET TO SEASON! Under-seasoned eggs are a travesty. I used sea salt, fresh black pepper, and a little Bacon Salt for good measure. The recipe called for fresh nutmeg too, but I forgot it. Oh well. Set aside while you prepare some fillings, in this case: thawed chopped spinach, canned artichoke hearts, and shredded (or grated) parm cheese. Please make sure you squeeze all the water out of the spinach, lest your pie bottom will be soggy. No one likes a soggy bottom. Chop your hearts finely, and then prepare for assembly.

Simply scatter the spinach on the bottom of a frozen pre-baked pie shell in a even layer, then the hearts, and then the cheese. Now, pour your eggy mixture evenly over it all, so the the liquid settles in evenly. Since the eggs will expand, you want it really surrounding your ingredients, or else it'll bake right out of the pan! Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet (in case of spilling) and slip into a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Before that time was up, I sprinkled some more cheese to melt on the top to make a crunchy crust. Extra yum. I could tell that it was done because when I stuck a toothpick in the middle, no eggs gushed out. Win!

Quiches are better when they're a little less than warm, so let this cool for like, 15 minutes. Patience!

Honestly, you can make this with whatever you have on hand: cheddar, bacon, caramelized onions, some blanched asparagus, peppers, leftover chicken...ANYTHING! Alton suggested Spam too, but I don't think I'll be trying that any time soon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What I Did On My November Vacation: Re-enacting Man Vs Food Pittsburgh!

I love being a New Yorker...but sometimes I just gotta get the hell out. See some sights. Visit some friends. And I did just that earlier last month, when I decided to visit my friend Lauren and her family, who live right outside of Pittsburgh.

Lo and I have been friends for going on 5-6 years now; I met her randomly on Friendster and we've been buds ever since. I hadn't seen her since she had her son, Connor, 2 years ago. Since work was burning me out something fierce, I figured that visiting her, the hubby, and toddler Connor was the right thing to do.

In the days leading up to my trip, I tweeted that I was flying into the Pitt area, and asked if there were any suggestions on where to chow down. Whilst fussing about on Twitter I realized that I was only 10 or so followers away from 100. And then I started thinking about ways to get it up there...and then I started thinking Man vs. Food.

Basically, I said that I would eat an order of Quaker Steak's Atomic Wings (Which Adam does in the Pitt episode of MvF) if my follower count got to 100. I was reasonable secure that it wouldn't happen...but my silly self went and posted this little challenge on Facebook. And then my lovely, lovely friends made very sure that this would happen. Creepers.

I could have very easily opted out of it, but I have a massive love of buffalo wings and Adam Richman. So, off into the hot sauce I went.

Me and Lauren hit the Quaker Steak for dinner on my second night. I must admit...I cheated a little.

I also covered my lips in balm. I must have looked like a lunatic.

I ordered real food beforehand, because I didn't want the wings to be my only dinner. I had a chicken sammy with cheese and bacon atop a garlic butter roll. On the side, homemade chips with GUINNESS CHEESE SAUCE. I could have drank this with a straw.

Me holding up the menu in abject fear:

The waitress didn't fail to point out that they now had SUPER Atomic Wings, and would I like to try those? Hell no woman! Just give me the regular Atomics so I can get this foolhardiness over with!

They came to the table packed in a mini egg carton , garnished with what looked to be like pickled jalapenos. Super cute. I could smell their evil-ness though.

First bite:

HATCHI MATCHI (points if you know where that's from)! A strong stinging sort of heat blanketed my whole mouth. It wasn't like a scotch bonnet pepper, where the heat is insanely uniform and punishing. More like a mean vinegar tang. It did taste good though, even though I would preferred them to be saucier and more buttery.

In the end, it was the wings that won; I could only eat three of the five. Even with the milk I ordered on the side, my mouth was sore and hurting. Oh well. I'm really glad that I got through them at all!

The other two places in that episode were Primanti Bros. Sandwich Shop and Deluca's. Since I've already been to Primanti's, Deluca's was our next stop.

Deluca's is  in the Strip District in downtown Pitt, which is home to a lot of different flea markets, cool cafes and restuarants, and nifty murals like this:

Best breakfast in town? We'll see about that!!

The menu was pretty huge, and everything sounded delicious. The place was bustling, and everyone looked so happy and full...I wanted to be like that too!

In the end though...I think I made the right decision...Strawberries and Cream buttermilk pancakes..

Eggs, fresh sausage, hashbrowns and bacon...

And biscuits. For good measure.

Obviously, it was a little too much food, but I did my best.

Verdict? Absolute deliciousness. Everything was extremely fresh, and the portions were huge for the price. I was pretty crazy about the sausage, which usually isn't my go to breakfast side, and I was in love with the fluffy pancakes with the fresh toppings.

Oh, and to end with some shameless cuteness, Lo's son Connor playing with the Sweet N Low packets. He's such a little prince.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oneshot: Fatty McFatterson Breakfast - Croissant French Toast

....yes, I have no shame.

The first time I took part in this insanely delicious treat was with my friend David at Maureen's Kitchen in Smithtown (Long Island). I was in love with the place at first site, squealing over the adorable cow print motif and cozy atmosphere. I had their baked oatmeal with warm milk, which tasted like a warm, gooey oatmeal cookie and a huge cup of tea. What really stole the show though was the croissant french toast with blueberries and apple cinnamon cream cheese. Good God. I like my french toast on the crunchier side, and all those buttery flaky layers in the croissant soaked up the custardy batter without making it soggy. With the fresh fruit and slightly sweetened cheese: fantastic. I dreamed of remaking it at home, and years later...I did. What can I say, I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes.

If you look at the picture, you notice that there's some juicy berries, Nutella, and wait...some cream cheese on my lovely creations. Before I got started with the toast, I prepared those first. The cream cheese was just softened (via microwave) and mixed with 2 spoons of sugar. The berries were macerated with sugar and a little red wine for hutzpah and oomph...and other emotive words. 

For the french toast itself, I used croissants from Balthazar Bakery because, I used to work there AND because I think they're delicious. But you can use any that you fancy, but just make sure they're good quality. Don't use the whomp canned kind.

Whenever I make french toast, I kinda just put it together off the top of my head. I used (for 4 croissants) 2-3 eggs, beaten well, added some whole milk (skim will NOT DO), a couple spoonfuls of sugar, a generous teaspoon of vanilla, and shakes of nutmeg and cinnamon. I used a whisk to get it nice and homogenized. Get a nice heavy pan/skillet on the stove and set it to medium heat. Let it get all warm and happy.

Slice the croissants so that they open like a book. You want that yummy batter to really soak in. I try to use a shallow dish to dredge as many pieces as I can. Make sure you let them soak a bit on both sides!

Now take a pat or two salted butter (you can use unsalted too), and swirl it around your skillet. Let it foam and turn a little brown...I usually turn down the heat a tad because my stove has demons. Slap those bad boys in, two at a time, for 3-5 minutes on each side. Replenish the butter as needed, and let them get real golden brown and delish. As they finish up, i put them on a foil covered sheet pan in a VERY low oven to keep warm. REALLY LOW, because i didn't want them to get to crispy, aka BURN.

I served them up the way I had them at Maureen's, like a sandwich. Nutella on one side, cream cheese and berries on the other. Smushed together, with a little maple syrup drizzled over the top. To keep me honest!

Egg whites, bacon, and sausage links round out this perfectly HEALTHY and NUTRITIOUS breakfast!

I figure if I type it in large'll make it true.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup...With No Soda On the Side.

My mom was in the hospital a couple weeks ago (she's doing a lot better, thank goodness), and I had really wanted to have something warm and comforting waiting for her when she was released. What better than the classic chicken soup, right? My mom's chicken soup is pretty epic in its deliciousness, but I never really paid enough attention whilst she was making it to know how to make it (Lesson to be learned kids: pay attention when your parents/grandfolks/random family members cook). I was nervous, but, this was for my mamma. Gotta keep calm, and carry on.

I decided to use PW's Recipe for Chicken with Noodles as a guide, because, well...I just love her.

I started with, well, a whole chicken. I went to my supermarket and picked out a nice kosher bird; it was either 4-5 lbs, and got it cut up by the butcher. I was ready to make soup from scratch, but I don't think I'm ready to dismember a chicken on my own. Just not on that level yet. I just asked him to cut it up for soup, and he obliged.

I washed my little birdie pieces with cold water and fresh lemon juice...because that's what  we Caribbeans do. When I see people preparing chicken on TV, or even in a friend's home, I always get skittish when they don't wash the they want it to taste like chicken coop and...fluids? Anyway, I washed each piece and dried them. No pictures of this because I didn't want chicken-y essence all over my cell phone.

I put my chicken pieces in a big ol' stock pot and covered them with 4 quarts (and a little more) of water, seasoned with sea salt. In the recipe, she uses what looks to be a Le Creuset dutch oven, which I do have at home...but I got paranoid and thought that I would need something bigger.

I brought the water to a rolling boil, then dropped the heat to medium and let it simma simma for about 30 minutes.

While that was going on, I diced up some carrots and celery. I usually hate celery, but I love it in soup. All that acerbic flavor is cooked out, and it really mellows in the broth.

I would've added a potato or some parsnips...but I forgot to pick them up at the market. :-(

After the 30 minutes was up, this is what the broth and chicken pieces looked like:

See that glossy stuff on the top? That's schmaltz, or chicken fat. I don't skim that....cause it's good. I took out the chicken pieces with a slotted spoon, and kept the broth simmering on low.


Take two forks...AND SHRED! I used the forks to take as much meat as I could off the bones. This was FLIPPING HOT, so I tried to be very careful.

Such a beautiful pile of chicken goodness. I put ALL the bones back in the broth and covered up the meat with foil to keep it warm. Simmer for another 45 minutes...this soup making takes a while, so do yourself a favor, and start this ish early. Or invest in a pressure cooker, if you're in a hurry. Or, if you're REALLY in a hurry, get some soup in a can, ya lazy bum.

I walked around my house a bit, took a little nap, then came back to take out the bones. They looked so sad and depleted...oh well. Their loss is my gain. I threw in my veggies, and added some seasoning: thyme, lots of black pepper, and dried parsley. Then another 10 minutes of cooking to let everything get friendly.

See that big white square? That's a flat noodle. I bought a bag of nifty Pennsylvania Dutch-style noodles, broke them up in the bag, and added them in with the chicken meat after the 10 minutes. I forgot to take a picture. I'm only human, guys!! Let this cook until the noodles soften, and then.....


In PW's recipe, she added a little mixture of flour and water to thicken the soup...I decided against that because I just wanted a traditional chicken noodle soup. BUT, next time I will def use a lot less water, and the dutch oven style pot, because I feel like I had to boil the bones and stuff a little longer to really get that chicken-y flavor. Less water = less time to get to the concentrated flavor.

This was ready by the time my mom woke up from her post-hospital nap...and she loved every bit of it. She had two big-ass servings!! I was so proud that I could give her what she'd been giving me for years: bowl after bowl of love.