Sweet Souffle, Savory Souffle


Okay, first things first. I know that “souffle” should actually be “soufflé”, but I can’t be bothered to type out “é” every single time I write souffle, so it will be souffle all the way down. Feel free to pronounce it “sooh-ffull” instead of “sew-flay” if you like.

Souffle is a kind of fluffy puffy egg custard dish. Fluffy and puffy, kind of like how you would become if you ate too many souffles. Many recipes I researched began with the caveat “souffles are known for how difficult they are to make, but actually, they’re easy!” That’s true to some extent. I failed in souffle making twice before I finally got it down. Once it was down, it’s fairly easy. As with all tricky dishes, there are a few key details that you should pay attention to, but as long as those details are taken care of, everything else is fairly forgiving.

Also, if this is your first time making souffles, I recommend that you try the chocolate recipe first. It is simpler, uses less ingredients, and will save you extra frustration if you need to try the recipe multiple times.

Before you begin, you WILL need an electric mixer (hand held is fine), and a few straight-walled ramekins. The recipes are made for 6 oz ramekins.

Case I: Chocolate Souffle

Thanks to practice, I no longer have trouble

Thanks to practice, I no longer have trouble “getting it up” when I need to.

Adapted from “The Joy of Cooking” cookbook
Cook & Prep Time: 30 minutes
Serves 3
Ingredients:

2 fresh eggs
3 oz semi/bitter-sweet chocolate
3 tbs butter + more for buttering ramekins
1 tbsp rum, coffee, or water
2 tbs sugar + 2 tbs sugar*
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

*If you have castor sugar (ultrafine) or powdered sugar, use that instead. Granulated sugar will also work. More details below on the practical differences.

Cooking

Begin by separating the yolk from the whites of the eggs. Keep each in their own separate container. You will need both but at different times. Heat a medium to large-sized pan or pot of water to just below simmer. You want the water to be hot, but not simmering. Preheat your oven to 375F (190C).

Try doing this with a human period, huh? Chickens are clearly superior in this aspect.

Try doing this with a human period, huh? Chickens are clearly superior in this aspect.

Combine the three tablespoons of butter, rum, and chocolate in a small bowl. Hold the bowl over the hot water and whisk until everything is silky and combined. Try not to let the bowl touch the water. Once everything is melted and combined, set the chocolate aside to cool for ten minutes.

COVER YOUR EYES CHILDREN! THIS ISN'T WHAT FOOD SHOULD LOOK LIKE!

COVER YOUR EYES CHILDREN! THIS ISN’T WHAT FOOD SHOULD LOOK LIKE!

Bring your bowl of egg whites over the hot water for a minute or two, swirling the contents so as to not cook the whites. You want to sort of bring the whites to room temperature-ish before beating it. When the chocolate has been cooling for 5 minutes, start beating your egg whites. Beat it on medium until it is foamy. Add the cream of tartar. Beat until soft peaks, and then slowly drizzle in your sugar. The less fine your sugar, the slower you should drizzle it. If you have granulated sugar, you want to add the two tablespoons over the course of an entire minute so as not to kill the foam. You are basically making a meringue, which forms the foamy structure of the souffle.

Like light, puffy, sweet clouds, with a small chance of salmonella.

Like light, puffy, sweet clouds, with a small chance of salmonella.

Continue to beat your meringue on medium until it has formed stiff (but not dry) peaks. Use a rubber spatula to move 1/3 of this meringue mixture into the container with melted chocolate and stir to combine. Dump the chocolate/meringue mixture back into the bulk of the meringue and fold everything together, being gentle so as not to kill all the air bubbles that were beaten into the egg whites. Brush the insides of the ramekins thoroughly with softened butter and dust the insides with sugar (again, castor sugar is preferred, but granulated is fine). Fill each ramekin to the brim with the chocolate mixture and swipe off any excess with a straight-edged utensil. Run your thumb along the inside rim of the souffle to carve out a shallow valley around the edge; this will allow your souffle to rise straight up (credit to Gordon Ramsay for this method). Bake for 10 minutes.

It's brown mesa, Black Mesa's edible and less dangerous cousin.

It’s brown mesa, Black Mesa’s edible and less dangerous cousin.

Top with chocolate shavings and/or whipped cream if available. Serve immediately. Souffles do not keep and will deflate very quickly after cooking, so plan accordingly.

Case II: Spinach, Shrimp, and Gruyere Souffle

They call me puff daddy.

They call me puff daddy.

Prep & Cook time: 45 min
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 fresh eggs
1.5 tbs all-purpose flour
1.5 tbs butter, plus more for brushing
3/4 cups milk
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt
3-4 medium-sized shrimp
1 cup raw spinach, packed
4 tbs gruyere cheese, grated*
2 tbsp cooking oil
3 tablespoons bread crumbs

*Yeah yeah it’s “gruyère” I know.

Cooking

The process begins a lot like the sweet souffle: separate your egg whites and yolks and reserve both. Place your butter into a small pot over medium-low heat. Melt the butter, taking care not to let it brown. Add your flour.

This is like, food porn as in the food version of porn that features your grandma. Just a friendly reminder that not all porn is created equal.

This is like, food porn as in the food version of porn that features your grandma. Just a friendly reminder that not all porn is created equal.

Generally speaking, most savory souffles follow a very simple guideline: cheese and egg yolks are stirred into a bechamel sauce which is in turn combined with a meringue along with whatever solid food objects, which is then baked in a similar fashion as a sweet souffle.

Cook the flour and butter for a while, being careful not to let it brown. If anything starts to turn brown or yellow, turn the heat down and remove the mixture from heat temporarily to cool it down. After a few minutes, slowly whisk in the milk. Let cook for 3-4 more minutes until the mixture thickens. Add nutmeg and white pepper, set aside to cool for about ten minutes.

If we use the Louis C.K. analogy of the Cinnabon being the

If we use the Louis C.K. analogy of the Cinnabon being the “fat faggot treat“, this would be the hot cum.

Heat another saute pan on high heat. Add your cooking oil. When the oil begins to smoke, saute your spinach until cooked, about a minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Add your shrimp (chopped into tiny pieces beforehand) and saute until just cooked, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Pre-heat your oven to 350F (176C).

When the spinach is sufficiently cooled to handle, squeeze the juice out of it and chop into small pieces. Set aside. Now, take out your gruyere and either grate or finely chop 4 tablespoons. Add both the cheese and the egg yolks to the bechamel while stirring rapidly. The stirring will help ensure your egg yolk does not cook upon touching the bechamel. Stir until the cheese is melted.

Do you see that fucking pricetag? Ugh. Real imported gruyere. I spent like 5 minutes just standing in front of the cheese section thinking about it before buying the smallest block I could find. Traumatized for life.

Do you see that fucking pricetag? Ugh. Real imported gruyere. I spent like 5 minutes just standing in front of the cheese section thinking about it before buying the smallest block I could find. Traumatized for life.

Now start beating the egg whites for the meringue. This time, add nothing except a pinch of salt once the meringue has reached soft peaks. Beat until stiff. Add 1/4 of this mixture to the bechamel. Mix to incorporate. Then, dump the bechamel back into the meringue along with the spinach and shrimp. Fold to incorporate. Brush the inside of two ramekins with softened butter and dust with bread crumbs.

You can also use grated parmesan. I don't have parmesan.

You can also use grated parmesan. I don’t have parmesan.

Pour the batter in, swipe the excess off the top with a flat utensil, and make a valley around the rim with your thumb as per the sweet souffle. Bake for about 18 minutes, until souffle has risen and is golden brown on the top. Top with shaved cheese and serve immediately.

Eat too many of these and you might souffle off your mortal coil.

Eat too many of these and you might souffle off your mortal coil.

Conclusion
Before I started this project, I remember thinking “who in the world would ever make a savory souffle? Well, in reality the savory souffle is just as good (if not better!) than the sweet souffle. It is warm, rich, creamy, and the light texture completely masks how heavy the dish actually is until you realize that you are suddenly full from having eaten such a small dish. A master stroke dish that is perfect as the first course of a three course meal.

Seared Salmon Benedicts


Almost nobody hates eggs benedicts. I was going to say “nobody” period, but Google search turns up 27 results for “I hate eggs benedict”, which means there are at least 27 people out there who suck and don’t count. The rest of the population of the world is then split into two categories: people who love eggs benedict, and people who haven’t had it but want to try. Up until yesterday I was in the latter category of people. But no more! It is definitely a dish everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.

Eggs benedict are a sort of super project for people who love to cook and are still learning how. It teaches you how to clarify butter, how to make hollandaise sauce, and how poach eggs; all very useful tools for many other dishes.

Ingredients

Serving someone eggs benedict - useful for when you're trying to give someone heart disease and still have them think they like you the entire time.

Serving someone eggs benedict – useful for when you’re trying to give someone heart disease and still have them think they like you the entire time.

Cooking + Prep time: 1 hour
Serves Two*

6 eggs**
2 1/2 sticks butter + 2 tablespoons, OR 1 cup clarified butter + 2 tablespoon unclarified butter
1 English muffin
1 tbsp water
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 four-ounce (120g) portions of salmon
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley (garnish, optional)

*There is enough hollandaise in this recipe for 20 benedicts. Take this into consideration when scaling the recipe for a large crowd.
**You will need four yolks plus two whole eggs. Use the freshest eggs possible for best results in terms of both taste and cooking.

Cooking

Clarified butter is (probably, I never actually checked) available for purchase at your local grocery store. However, if you, like me, don’t have any, you will have to make some yourself. Take a small pot and place it over the stove at the lowest heat you can manage. Place your sticks of butter into the pan and let them melt.

They're melt their way into your heart, then clog it up and kill you.

They’re melt their way into your heart, then clog it up and kill you.

After 20-30 minutes, you will have a layer of white scum floating atop a pool of piss-colored oil (poetry was never my strength). Use a spoon to scoop the stuff off the top. Then, if you have a cheese cloth, pour the melted butter into a container covered by the cheese cloth. Otherwise, do your best to siphon out as much of the white solids as you can.

A Chinese man will tell you this represents Yin and Yang in perfect balance. A Frenchman will tell you the Chinese man is lying, you should scoop out that white shit because it's ruining your ability to make a good hollandaise.

A Chinese man will tell you this represents Yin and Yang in perfect balance. A Frenchman will tell you the Chinese man is lying, you should scoop out that white shit because it’s ruining your ability to make a good hollandaise.

Now, crack four eggs and separate the yolks out into a glass or metal bowl. Bring a pot of water to a bare simmer. Whisk the yolks until they are slightly paler in color and a bit foamy. Meanwhile, prepare your lemon juice and have your clarified butter in a pourable container within easy reach. You will need these ingredients in short order soon.

Start by whisking the egg yolks by themselves over the pot of barely simmering water. The bowl of egg yolks should benefit from the heat of the water, but the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Then, add a small amount of butter into the egg yolks and whisk to incorporate. Each time the butter is incorporated, add another bit of butter, in slowly increasing amounts, until all the butter has been whisked into the egg yolk. The sauce should start to thicken slightly. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper (optional). Whisk to combine, then take it off heat.

You could probably make this sauce look really nice by having good lighting and some fancy shaped porcelain container as its receptacle, set on a table with a clean patterned tablecloth overlooking an open window that shows the house is situated near a cliff with a view of the blue ocean. And maybe a pretty girl with lovely breasts is standing next to the table wearing a summer dress. If a picture is worth a thousand words this caption would really have to be really really long in order to be its equal.

You could probably make this sauce look really nice by having good lighting and some fancy shaped porcelain container as its receptacle, set on a table with a clean patterned tablecloth overlooking an open window that shows the house is situated near a cliff with a view of the blue ocean. And maybe a pretty girl with lovely breasts is standing next to the table wearing a summer dress. If a picture is worth a thousand words this caption would really have to be really really long in order to be its equal.

Now, either using the same pot of water or a separate pot, keep (or bring) the water to/at a bare simmer and add a splash of vinegar. Slice your English muffin in half lengthwise and begin toasting it. Heat up two tablespoons of butter in a non-stick pan over high heat. When the butter in the pan stops bubbling, add the salmon. You want to sear it quickly on both sides to give it a bit of brown without overcooking the fish, about a minute or two on both sides depending on the power of your stove.

One smells like fish, is soft to the touch, and is pink and moist, the other is a fillet of salmon.

One smells like fish, is soft to the touch, and is pink and moist, the other is a fillet of salmon.

Have two eggs on hand. When the pot of water comes to a bare simmer, crack the eggs and gently release them into the water as close to the water as you can. Do not disturb the water while cooking. Let the eggs cook for about 4 minutes, or until the whites are cooked and the yolk is still runny. Gently lift the eggs out of the water and trim off the excess ribbons of white from the main mass.

The asparagus in this meal is like the diet coke in a Big Mac combo meal, it keeps things healthy.

The asparagus in this meal is like the diet coke in a Big Mac combo meal, it keeps things healthy.

Assemble your benedicts: place half an English muffin as the base, a piece of salmon, then the poached egg on top. Generously spoon (but do not drench) hollandaise onto each benedict. Serve immediately.

The general rule about hollandaise is that it should be used (or frozen, according to some sources) within two hours of creation, before the raw egg yolks become a health concern. Plan accordingly if you are serving to many guests for an occasion.

The Result

Might as well spread the love.

Might as well spread the love.

I had a mouth orgasm on the first bite. That is all.

Conclusion

Sorry about the photos, they did not come out as well as I thought they would. Maybe I can try cooking at an earlier time when the lighting is better. But it was certainly one of the best dishes I’ve had in recent memory. Try it sometime, you or whoever you make it for won’t be disappointed.

Confit Byaldi


Have you ever looked on Google images for pictures of confit byaldi? They all look somewhat sloppy and lopsided… except for Thomas Keller’s. His is beautiful, neat, and clean, like he chiseled it out of a fucking rainbow. When I started making this dish, I aimed to create something that is also beautiful, neat, and clean. But it turned out sloppy and lopsided like everyone else’s were. I simply wasn’t able to find vegetables of the same width to make the slices layer identically.

The lesson here is that as insane as I might be to try this shit and do it all by hand, master chefs are just slightly more insane in their drive for perfection, and their ability to be damned near perfect.

Confit Byaldi is the version of ratatouille that Thomas Keller invented for the movie “Ratatouille”. It is aesthetically the best looking ratatouille I’ve ever seen, and after having tasted it, it is also the best tasting version too.

Ingredients

Cheap immigrant labor? I’m an immigrant and I did it all for free.

Prep Time: ~4.5 hours

Serves 3-4

Piperade:

1/2 yellow pepper
1/2 red pepper
1/2 orange pepper
~3 medium sized tomatoes (12 oz, or 325g worth)
1 small clove of garlic
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig parsley
1/2 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

Vegetables:

1 medium zuchini
1 medium yellow squash*
1 thin Japanese eggplant**
4-5 roma tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil

*I’ve seen fuckers try to sound bourgeois and call them “courgettes”. Don’t be a wanker. Until you’re a chef standing in the kitchen of own restaurant they’re yellow squash.
**You want the long, thin Japanese eggplant, which may be difficult to find depending on where you live. Try to find an eggplant that is as similar in diameter to the squash and zuchini as you can.

Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon of piperade
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt
pepper

You will also need: A good knife or a mandolin. Mandolin is highly recommended for those who aren’t insane.

Assembly

Preparation starts with the piperade. Cut your peppers in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and ribs from one half of each pepper. Lay them skins side up onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 450F (232C) for fifteen minutes.

Making this dish was like running my own sweat shop, except I’m the only worker.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil. Make small x-shaped incisions on the bottom of your tomatoes and drop them into the boiling water for 15 seconds. This will allow you to easily peel your tomatoes. Now remove the tomatoes from the water and peel them. Cut the tomatoes in half width-wise. Use a spoon, remove the seeds from each tomato over a plastic container. You want to keep the seeds, pulp, and juice that drips out. Finely chop your peeled and deseeded tomatoes.

Show those vegetables no mercy.

Peel your clove of garlic and mince that. Cut your onion in half and finely chop that also. Group the onions and garlic together and keep your tomatoes separate. At this point, your peppers may be done. Take them out of the oven and let them cool.

On the stove, pour two tablespoons of olive oil into a pan over medium heat. Dump your onions and garlic into the pan and cook for about 8 minutes. Let the onions and garlic soften but do not brown them (this means stirring the vegetables every 30 seconds or so). After 8 minutes, dump in your tomatoes and herbs. Pour in the juice from de-seeding the tomatoes but do not let any seeds get into the piperade. Keep the herbs in sprig form. You will be removing them later.

Ratatouille is French, but confit byaldi was invented by an American. USA! USA! USA!

Cook the tomatoes for about 10 minutes to soften, but do not brown. At this point in time the peppers should be cool enough to touch. Peel the peppers and finely dice them as well. Dump the peppers into the piperade after 10 minutes is up. Simmer for about another 5-10 minutes, until there is no excess moisture. Remove the herbs and add salt to taste.

Hundreds of years in a French kitchen one cook said to the other “What the fuck is this mush?” Then the other cook said “Mush? No. We will give it a fancy name… say “piperade” or something, and everyone will love it.”

Now you can start on the vegetables! You want to slice all the vegetables into 1/16th inch (or 1.5 millimeter) slices. You will need approximately 2/3 of a zuchini, eggplant, and yellow squash, and 4-5 tomatoes. Do try to slice them as thinly as possible, it gives a nice texture and appearance. Place your eggplant slices in a small container with lightly salted water to prevent them from browning.

Recipe invented by white people, vegetables picked by brown people, dish processed by yellow people. It’s an international collaboration.

Now, spread your piperade (reserve a few tablespoons for the vinaigrette) all over the bottom of a baking dish. Down the center, lay down 8 alternating slices of vegetables, approximately 1/4 inch apart.

The beginning of tedium. An activity so dull even my camera couldn’t maintain focus.

Continue laying down rounds of vegetables until your entire pan is covered in vegetables. Pre-heat your oven to 275F (135C). In a separate container, whisk together a clove of minced garlic, two tablespoons of olive oil, the thyme, and salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon of each for me). Spread this mixture over the vegetables.

You could try first placing the vegetables vertically, then pushing over the last slice so they fall like dominoes. I’ve never tried it.

Cover the baking pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 2 hours, or until the vegetables are tender (poke them with a knife. If the knife runs through easily, the vegetables are tender). At the end of 2 hours, uncover the pan and bake for half an hour more. Remove from oven.

But in the movie it took them only 3 seconds to make! Pixar you bastard!

As the dish cools, whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Equal portions of olive oil to piperade, and 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar for every tablespoon of oil. You want about 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette per portion of ratatouille. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

The Result

The vegetarian version of escargot.

Why would you ever spend so much time making this? I dunno. It is pretty good though. The vegetables are very soft, in a melt-in-your-mouth kind of way. There is a ton of compressed flavor within the thin slices of vegetables. I would even venture to say that this is probably as good as it will ever get for vegetarians. But for the rest of us, there is MEAT. Yes, I could go for a nice steak right about now.

Conclusion

The making of this dish was inspired by immaculate beauty. The result was… not quite the same? In the similar way in which God made man and man tried to make man but ended up with Frankenstein. How many Frankensteins will I have to make until I can make man? I don’t know, but keep your eyes peeled for a flood of monsters, each slightly better looking than the last.

Fun with Eggs


…Specifically, eggs of the chicken. Most people will agree that chicken periods are considerably more palatable than human periods. Furthermore, they are cheaper. Requests for human egg donors in the classified section of newspapers often offer thousands of dollars for a single egg.

This blog entry isn’t as much about egg dishes as it is about what you can do with eggs. The first dish is a broccoli and tomato salad with home made mayonnaise. The second dish is a cherry clafoutis. Both dishes use eggs in a supporting role, but the eggs are critical enough that the dishes will not work without them.

If you hate eggs, this is not the blog for you. And shame on you for hating on eggs.

Module 1: Tomato and Broccoli Salad

Hullaballoo

What came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken, of course. Eggs can’t come.

Prep Time: ~30 minutes
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 lb broccoli
1 lb tomatoes
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp salt

Mayonnaise

1 egg yolk
1/2 cup dijon mustard
2/3 cup oil*
1/2 tbsp salt**
1/4 tbsp pepper (white pepper if you want consistent coloring)
1 1/2 tbsp wine vinegar or lemon juice

*Typically you will want to use a neutral tasting oil. I used half olive oil and half vegetable (sunflower) oil. Pure olive oil will have too strong a flavor for making mayonnaise.

**I tend to under-salt my dressings and my food in general. You may wish to up this to a full tablespoon for the final salad.

Cooking

Bring about two quarts (2 liters) of water to a boil in a pot with 1 tablespoon of salt. Meanwhile, cut your broccoli into bite-sized pieces.

I bet you can’t spot the egg in this picture.

Blanch the broccoli (which means to cook something briefly in boiling water) for about a minute, keeping the heat on high. When you first put the broccoli into the water, it may cause the water to stop boiling. The water should come back to a rolling boil before the minute is up. This will quickly cook the broccoli until it is slightly tender, but the broccoli should still retain some of its crispiness.

Just kidding, there weren’t any eggs in the previous picture.

Lift your broccoli out of the water and let it cool in a colander. Do not dump the hot water yet. As the broccoli cool, you can start on your mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is quite easy to make, but also easy to screw up if you do not pay attention. Crack open an egg and separate the yolk and the white. Discard the white. Deposit the egg yolk in a medium sized bowl. Add the mustard. Mustard is a good emulsifier, which means it will help bind the oil to the egg yolk.

Salmonella? Never heard of her. Is she hot?

Whisk the mustard and the egg yolk together while holding the bowl over the hot water. You will want to bring the two to room temperature without overcooking the eggs, so check the bottom of your bowl every now and then to make sure that it is not too hot. Oftentimes mayonnaise recipes will tell you to use “room temperature eggs”, and this is the best and safest way to bring eggs to room temperature. Simply leaving egg outside for a few hours will “age” the egg significantly and it will be considerably less fresh than if you used the method described here.

Once the yolk and mustard mixture is well whisked and at room temperature, you are ready to make mayonnaise. Have your oil ready at hand and add ONLY a few drops to the yolk. The key to mayonnaise is to start adding oil very slowly. If you add oil too quickly, the mayonnaise will never form and you will have to restart.

The mayonnaise starts out yellow and becomes paler over time. As a Chinese living in the United States, that’s the story of my life right there.

Whisk the few drops of oil into the yolk until it is smooth and uniform. Add a bit more oil this time, and whisk the oil in. Continue to add oil, increasing the increments each time, and whisk the oil completely into the mayonnaise before continuing on.

Whisk until all the oil has been incorporated. Now you can season the mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper, and vinegar or lemon juice for acidity.

The primordial ooze of French cuisine

The time for salad assembly is now. Cut your tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Throw in parmesan and toss your vegetables together with the mayonnaise (add as much as you need). Serve right away, or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Vegetables just aren’t the same without a ton of fat drenched all over it.

Module 2: Cherry Clafoutis

A custard had sex with a flan once upon a time. The flan got pregnant and gave birth to the clafoutis.

Adapted from Julia Child’s recipe
Prep time: ~1 hour
Serves 3-4
Makes 1 8-inch cast-iron pan

2 cups ripe cherries*
5/6 cup milk (or part milk, part cream)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla eggstract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
butter, for buttering pan
1 tbsp powdered sugar

You will also need: a vessel which is both stove-top and oven-safe, such as a cast iron pan.

*The traditional dessert can be made with either apricots or cherries (pitted or not). I used unpitted bing cherries, which allegedly gives a more intense flavor. You can either pit the cherries, or use pitted canned cherries. Drain the canned cherries of syrup before use.

Cooking

A clafoutis is like a mix between a flan and a custard. It can be eaten either as a dessert or for breakfast. It is fast and easy to make. First, pre-heat your oven to 350F (175C) sift your flour into a bowl. Add eggs to the flour and mix together into a thick, yellowy batter.

Chopsticks, so named because they are excellent tools for chopping objects. If you disagree, it means your kungfu is weak.

Add sugar, mix thoroughly again, then add the milk slowly while mixing to avoid lumps. Add salt and finally vanilla extract. You should end up with a very thin batter.

If you stir 13 times counter-clockwise using your feet while doing a handstand underneath a ladder with a black cat as witness, a unicorn will appear and grant you one wish.

Prepare your cherries however you want them to end up in the clafoutis. Butter your pan. Turn the heat to medium on the stove top and place your pan on the stove. Pour a thin layer of batter into the pan, just enough to cover the bottom. Heat the bottom just enough for the layer to thicken slightly, then pull the pan from the heat. Place all of your cherries into the pan in a single layer and pour the rest of the batter into the pan.

This clafoutis just got clafruity.

Stick the clafoutis into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Check in at about 40 minutes. Once the edges are puffed and brown, and a knife stuck into the center comes out clean, the clafoutis is ready. Dust with powdered sugar and serve at room temperature.

Don’t forget to warn people about the cherry pits when you serve this to them, unless you secretly hate them.

Conclusion

Aren’t eggs useful? And not even in the impregnation/reproduction way either. Even when they are not the centerpiece, they serve as critical instruments that bind many dishes and sauces together. I like eggs, and so should you. Eggs are there to serve. They exist for your nourishment. Instead of beating your children or your wife, consider beating your eggs instead. You will discover that the results are much more desirable.

Brioche Dessert Applications


Brioche is fantastic on its own, but it is also a great “utility bread” for making all kinds of other dishes, both savory and sweet. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for you, I have a tremendous sweet tooth, so after having made brioche my mind immediately went to all of the dessert applications that such a rich bread could have.

This blog will showcase two desserts that can be made with brioche. Both are fruit related and relatively simple to make. If you only wish to make these desserts and not the bread, feel free to buy the bread from a store. You can also substitute any rich, egg-heavy bread for brioche if you wish.

Sortie I: Brioche Pear Tart

Boobies.

A pair of pared pears does not a healthy dessert make. Appearances can be deceiving. In fact, health is not a peartinent factor in the prepearation of either of these desserts. Pearmit yourself these simple indulgences, or pearish after living a flavorless life.

Prep time: ~25 minutes
Adapted from Jacque Pépin’s “Fast Food, My Way,” episode 220.
Serves 4

2 large pears*
4 slices of brioche
~3 tbsp of butter
~4 tbsp of sugar
4 tbsp honey
salt
1/2 cup whipped cream

*This is if you are using muffin tins to make single-serve tarts. Use 1/2 pear per person. Try to find pears with the width slightly wider than your muffin tins themselves. You can also make a large tart with an oven-safe, non-stick pan. You will need 4 large pears or 5-6 medium-sized ones. If you do not have pears, apples and peaches can also work.

Cooking

This is a quick and dirty dessert. First, take your pears out. Peel and core them. If you are making single-serve tarts, the best way is to cut them in half through the cross section. Core the pear and trim the top half so it is as spherical as the bottom half. That way, you can layer a single piece of fruit onto each “crust” made from brioche. If you are making a large tart, dice the pear into 1-inch slices. I know in my photos I diced my pears, but in retrospect that is not the best way to prepare the pears for single-serve tarts.

lots of boobies

LOL WUT?

Place the pears into a non-stick pan (oven safe pan if you are making a large tart. The pan will hold the tart as it bakes in the oven). Add honey, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and a tablespoon of butter. Cook over medium heat, covered, for about 3-10 minutes depending on how ripe and soft your pears are. The crispier your pears, the longer you will need to cook them until they are tender.

Once the pears are tender (or almost tender), uncover and cook the pears down until they are golden and caramelized.

Best boobies you've never seen.

King Midas could do this instantly but you’re gonna need a few minutes on the stove.

As the pears cook, slice your brioche if it isn’t sliced yet. If you are making single serve tarts, cut circular shapes out of the brioche the size of the muffin tin tops. These circles will be the “crust” on which the fruit ultimately rests on. Otherwise, you will want to cut the brioche in such a way that you can lay pieces of it over your pan of fruit to form the crust.

Boobalicious boobies

Be careful not to stab yourself with the knife. Blood is not a required ingredient in this dessert.

Pre-heat your oven to 400F (~200C). Butter your brioche on one side and sprinkle some sugar over them. Spoon the pears into the muffin tin (or keep them in the pan) and place the brioche circles on top of the pears, with the buttered side facing UP. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the bread is toasted and caramelized on top.

Tantalizing boobies.

A fairly easy dessert, right? Even if it’s not as easy as your last night’s dessert of six sugar packets poached from the nearest coffee shop.

Remove the muffin tin (or your pan) from the oven when the bread on top is crisp and a bit brown all over. Wait a few minutes for the tin to cool, then place a plate or pan over the tin and flip it over to unmold. If you kept your pears in halves, it should be easy to remove the slices from the tins.

Serve lukewarm, topped with whipped cream.

Boobtastic boobies.

Fattening? Not unless you feed it to other people. MUHAHAHAHA.

 

Sortie II: Summer Pudding (Proper)

I know I’ve made summer pudding before, but this time I will show you the “proper” summer pudding, which uses berries instead of tropical fruits. It is as easy to make as the other one.

Ingredients

Delectable boobies.

You can use all kinds of berries, except for dingleberries. I would not recommend dingleberries.

Prep time: ~6-12 hours (mostly waiting)

~1 pound of assorted summer berries*
1/4 cup baking/castor’s sugar (not powdered sugar, but finer than granulated sugar)
1/4 cup berry jam/jelly**
Slices of brioche (3 per single-serve pudding)

You will also need: either some circular molds or spare mugs in which to keep the berries; some weights to sit on top of the puddings as they marinate; plastic wrap.

*The traditional mix is of red/black currants, raspberries, black berries, and strawberries. Depending on where you live, some of these berries may not be available for purchase. Use what you have. You can also use other berries, such as the blueberries that I have here.
**The flavor of jam depends on which berries you are missing. Where I live I am unable to acquire currants, so I used red currant jelly. Try to use a jam of a single flavor and avoid “mixed berry” jams. You want the jam to make up for the flavor of the berry you do not have, so it should be a concentration of a single berry flavor.

Assembly

Wash your berry mixture and set it aside. Slice your strawberries so that they are of similar size as the smaller berries.

Why were we talking about boobs again

It’s a pudding, but it’s British, so it’s not really a pudding, but it’s called a pudding, and so forth.

Over medium heat, measure out your sugar and jam. Cook until the jam has melted and add the berries. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the berries have released a bit of their juice, then take it off the heat. You do not want to fully cook the berries. The raspberries especially are prone to disintegration when cooked for too long. Let the berries cool.

Well, I mean, everyone likes boobs.

That is one expensive pan of fruit. For the same amount of money you can probably feed an Ethiopian family of four for a week.

Cut your brioche into circles that will fit loosely into the mugs. You do not want the brioche to fit too snugly because that would make removal difficult. You can also try fitting the inside of the mugs with a layer of plastic foil so that you can remove the pudding more easily, although that presents its own challenges.

Once your fruit has cooled, separate the fruit from the juice in the pan. Dip both sides of each brioche circle into the juice. You do not need it to soak thoroughly, simply to get the surface of each bread circle wet. Place one layer of bread, one layer of fruit (around 1 inch or 2 cm deep), another layer of bread, fruit, then a final layer of bread, making sure to soak each layer of bread. Cover the final layer of bread with a little juice. Cover the bread with plastic wrap, then place a weight (a can of soda or a bottle filled with water will do nicely) on top of the pudding. Let the pudding sit for at least six hours in the refrigerator.

After completing your puddings, you should still have some juice and fruit left over. Save these for now. They will be useful when it is time to plate.

Right? Boobs?

Bury the berries beneath the brioche bread.

After six hours (or however long you’ve managed to wait) has passed, you can plate and serve. If you layered your mug with plastic wrap, simply pull the pudding out gently and plop it upside down onto the plate. If not, place a plate over the mug, flip the mug over, and tap on the mug until the pudding drops down. Sometimes the top slice of brioche is still stuck in the mug. If this is the case, take a spoon and gently edge the brioche slice out by its edges. It should still remain intact. Top the pudding with more fruit and juice. Serve either as is, or with whipped cream or ice cream.

Titillating.

The fugitive berry made a run for it, but was shot in the back.

Conclusion

Thus ends this tale of two desserts. One warm, one cold. One French, the other British. Both ended up being devoured by ravenous gnashing teeth, to re-emerge as identically brown, very un-food like pastes which were flushed into the capable, well-maintained sewers of the city of Seattle. But that is another tale, which will most likely never be told. It is a reminder that although every meal begins differently, they all end in the same way.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Until next time, make sure to eat enough fiber to stave off constipation. That shit is never fun. Like, literally.

Brioche


When I first started researching recipes on brioche on the internet, it became immediately apparent that there are not many bakers any more who have the cojones (or ovarios) to make this bread by hand.

What is so special about this bread that it makes eunuchs of all these bakers? Well, most people who have tried to make this bread talked about how difficult it is to knead butter into the dough. The butter seeps out of the dough and makes an oily mess all over the work surface. This, apparently, doesn’t happen with bread machines. But just when all hope was lost, I came across this youtube video:

Brioche by hand. The emasculation of bakers everywhere averted by an Asian man with the voice, mannerisms, and body shape of Julia Child.

This video is great because unlike many other bakers on the internet, he is willing to actually show his kneading process in detail and for a fair length of time, which is absolutely crucial for a video designed to teach people how to make and develop their bread dough properly.

So without further ado, this blog is about how to make brioche by hand, using the recipe adapted from the youtube video above.

Ingredients

Brioche, for when you must have rich, buttery bread. Side effects include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a slight increase in overall unattractiveness to the opposite sex. Batteries not included, utensils sold separately.

Prep & Wait time: ~12 hours (mostly waiting)

3 cups all-purpose flour[1]
2 tbsp milk
2 tsp salt
4 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tbsp yeast
1 cup (2 sticks) butter[2]
5 eggs, + 1 more for eggwash

Tools that you will need: A rolling pin or rolling pin-like object, a dough scraper, or otherwise small rectangular sheet of plastic/metal that can scrape sticky dough off a work surface, some parchment paper.

[1] Bread flour might work, but haven’t tried it. Brioche is so rich it’s practically half cake so all-purpose flour should be fine. You will also need a tablespoon or two more for dusting your work surface.
[2] Non-negotiable. You can kick and scream about it being unhealthy, but if you’ve ever bought cake or brioche or whatever from a bakery they’re pretty much using as much if not more butter.

Baking

The most important thing to get right when making good bread is to get the dough right. And to get dough right while working by hand, you must practice making bread many times. But do not worry! Even if your dough does not come out perfect, you can still bake it, and the end product will still be tasty.

Dough or dough not, there is no try. Well you’re WRONG, Yoda. You have to keep trying until you can dough it right.

Begin with a large bowl and a smaller container. Crack all five eggs into the smaller container and measure out two tablespoons of milk into it. You do not need to beat the eggs. In the larger bowl, measure out all your dry ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Keep your butter in the refrigerator for now. Use a spatula to mix together the dry ingredients until homogenous.

Dump your eggs and milk into the dry ingredients. Mix with your spatula until you get a sort of shaggy looking mass.

OK great! You’ve made it this far! Ramping up the difficulty in 3… 2… 1…

Lightly flour your work surface and dump your dough onto the surface. Knead the dough for a while (check out the youtube video if you need some assistance on how to knead. You are essentially pushing the dough out a little bit with the heel of your hand, folding the dough back in on itself, and rotating the dough to repeat the process). The dough should be fairly easy to work with right now. It might stick to your hands a bit. Refrain from adding any more flour, just go with the flow and keep kneading until the dough is somewhat smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Bring out your butter now.

Why have bread and butter when you can just have bread, with an ass-ton of butter already mixed in.

Roll out, with a rolling pin or your hands, your dough until it is an oval roughly 5 inches by 8 inches, or ~13 cm x 20 cm. Unwrap your cold butter and beat it to flatten and soften it with a rolling pin or some other blunt object.

What happened to your butter? It…. it fell.

Place the pieces of butter on top of your flat dough. Fold the dough in half around the butter, encasing the butter completely around the dough, and start kneading. Push the dough out (about half an inch to an inch or so at first, so as not to tear the dough), fold the dough back on itself, rotate, fold again, push dough out, and so on. Now is the time to bring out your dough scraper. It is [i]extremely[/i] useful at this point in time, so if you do not have a dough scraper, look for a flat piece of plastic or metal that you can use as a substitute.

As you are kneading, bits of butter will inevitably seep out of your dough, start melting, get sticky, etc. Do not worry about it. Keep kneading, occasionally bringing bits of butter back into your dough as you go along. As time goes on, the butter will melt more and more, and goop up around your work surface. That’s fine, keep kneading. Now is the time to use the scraper to scrap the goopy butter back into your dough as you knead.

After about 5-10 minutes, the butter will have been completely incorporated into your dough. You should have a very sticky, un-dough-like mass. Well done! You are exactly where you should be! Now continue to knead to the best of your ability, scraping often to gather the muck that has stuck to your work surface. Do not use any flour, do not add water or oil. Simply keep kneading and scraping. After 10-15 minutes, the dough will start becoming more coherent, and no longer stick to your work surface or your hands as much (but it will always be a bit sticky).

The dough will also become increasingly elastic, so you can pull it out about 3-5 inches before having to fold it back on itself. When you get to this point, the dough is pretty much done. The test that many bakers like to use for the dough is to stretch a bit of it out. If you can stretch a bit of dough out so that part if it looks translucent (partially lets light in from the other side) and not tear the dough, your dough is done. Fold it in on itself and shape the dough into a nice soft ball.

He’s got big balls, and she’s got big balls, but we’ve got the biggest balls of them all.

Lightly oil a large pot and deposit your ball of dough into the pot. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least eight hours. The most difficult part of making brioche is done!

Eight hours later, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Fold the dough on itself a couple of times, then divide it equally into at least three pieces. You will notice that the cold dough is considerably less sticky and easier to work with,

Don’t dread the kneading. Have a sip of mead, get relaxed instead, tread lightly but don’t stop making bread until you’re dead.

Fold the pieces in on themselves a bit- this increases the surface tension and improves the quality of the crust. Then, shape your pieces into balls. This will allow you to create large ball-shaped loaves of brioche bread, which can be consumed either as-is or be used as parts of other recipes (future blog nudge nudge wink wink? maybe).

Shape each piece of dough into a ball and place them, evenly spaced, onto a piece of parchment paper. Leave them in a warm place for 2-3 hours to rise.

So you see, the dough has doubled in size. And you can double in size too, from eating this bread.

Now you are almost ready to bake. Pre-heat the oven to 350F (175C) Beat an egg in a small bowl, and brush the egg wash over each ball. If you do not have a brush, just use a paper towel. Crumple it up into a rod-like shape and use one end to soak up the egg wash. Brush the loaves once, wait for the layer to dry, then brush them a second time. Cut a cross shape on the top of the loaf. You should make your cross shape larger than I made mine, since mine did not prevent the loaf from splitting elsewhere due to expansion during the baking process.

You should also space the loaves further apart than I did to avoid making Siamese brioche twins.

Bake the loaves for about 30 minutes, depending on your oven, rotating the pan once during the baking process. Start checking in as early as 20 minutes to make sure you do not burn the egg wash.

I love the smell of brioche at 1 AM in the morning. It smells like… victory.

Wait at least five minutes to cool before consuming.

The Result

I heard that bread always lands butter side down, so I dropped a slice of brioche. It couldn’t decide which side had more butter so it just spun around in mid-air.

You can probably see that I need to work on getting a better oven and probably finding a more attractive way to shape my loaves. But I was very satisfied with the way the brioche turned out. First, the smell of fresh baked bread, of eggs and butter, permeated the entire house. Second, the crust had a gentle crunch to it, while the inside was fluffy and soft, somewhere between a bread and a cake. Brioche is great eaten as is (or as part of a sandwich), but it can also be used as a component in various other dishes both sweet and savory.

Conclusion

Bread, despite being a staple food, is surprisingly time consuming and complicated to make. Good bread is tricky. It requires thorough understanding of how the ingredients work in relation to each other. It requires repeated failures to build up experience on how to handle and knead dough.

But god damn is it satisfying to make. Every time you make bread you learn something new, and you unravel more of the secrets of bread making. And even if it does not come out absolutely perfect, it still tastes pretty damned good. If you enjoy learning new things with ample rewards during the learning process, bread making is for you.

Oh, and fuck bread machines.

French Onion Soup


Every francophile I’ve ever met has sung praises about French onion soup. THE French onion soup, because you have to assume that there’s more than one type of onion soup in French cuisine (and there is). But it’s just called French onion soup in the United States. Even before I had any idea what the soup might look or taste like, it has carried some kind of mystique about it, like it was the ambrosia of soups.

Now I finally have a chance to make the soup and taste for myself what all the fuss is about. French onion soup, like many French dishes, can take either a really, really long time to make or not that long at all, depending on how thorough you feel like proceeding. It can also be quite cheap to make, or quite expensive. For this blog, I have chosen the “very thorough and long” route, and a “middle of the road” budget. Along the way I will point out where you can make cheaper or more expensive substitutions as appropriate. Of course, you can always use store-bought shortcuts for any step you feel necessary.

Ingredients

Note to self: napalm flamethrower not a viable cooking utensil.

Prep time: 1.25 – 3 hours
Serves 4-5

4 yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 5 cups of sliced onions)
5 cups beef stock[1]
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cooking oil
salt
pepper
pinch of sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 medium baguette[2]
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp oil (preferably olive)
1/2 cups Swiss cheese[3]
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley or scallions (optional)

[1]You can make your own from beef bones or buy beef stock or use bouillon, which is significantly cheaper and faster.
[2]This is to make the croutons. Of course, you can always make your own baguettes too, like I do 🙂
[3]Most recipes call for Gruyere, which is quite expensive. Use generic Swiss as a substitute.

Cooking

French onion soup has three base components which must be assembled before the soup itself can come together: the baguette, the beef stock, and the caramelized onion.

Baguettes can be bought or made. I have made my own baguettes ahead of time for this recipe. If you have never made baguettes before and are unsure on whether or not you wish to make them, try reading through a few recipes online. Baguettes are cheap but rather tricky to make, and are one of those things that require repeated attempts to understand and improve upon. You will need one medium-sized baguette to make about 3-4 cups of croutons.

I see your baguette is as big as mine. Now let’s see how well you use it.

Next up is beef stock. Beef stock is not difficult to make, but costs significantly more than a few blocks of bouillon. You can make it by browning a couple pounds of beef bones and scraps along with some chopped carrot and onion, and covering with 6 cups of water to simmer for about 90 minutes. Remove the bones and strain the vegetables from the stock when ready.

Slick product placement on the lower left corner.

When you have both the baguette and the beef stock, you are ready to start making the soup! Begin by thinly slicing about 4-5 yellow onions. You want about 5-6 cups of the stuff. And yes, that shit will make you weep.

No woman no cry? Bob Marley never chopped any fuckin’ onions.

Melt two tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon of oil on high heat in a pot. When the butter foam has subsided, add your onions and cook with a lid on the pot for about 5 minutes. This will steam and wilt the onions to prepare them for caramelization. After 5 minutes, uncover the pot and switch heat down to medium (medium-low on gas stoves). Add 1 teaspoon of salt and just a pinch of sugar to help the onions brown. Cook the onions, stirring with a spatula every 2 minutes or so, for about 40 minutes to caramelize the onions.

This isn’t something you can hurry along. Fast equals premature.

While your onions are cooking, you can start working on your croutons. Chop your baguette into 3/4 inch (2 cm) medallions, then cut them into approximately 1 inch pieces. In a separate bowl or container, add 1 minced clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons of oil (olive oil is best), and about half a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Dump all of your bread pieces into this and shake around to coat.

Make precise cuts. Think premeditated murder, not crime of passion.

Bake your croutons in a 275F (135C) oven, turning them every 10 minutes for about 40-50 minutes. These croutons need to be dryer than regular croutons because they need to withstand being placed in onion soup without falling apart.

While your croutons are in the oven, your onions should caramelizing nicely, and look something like this:

Interestingly enough this is also an effective dog poison.

Cook for about five more minutes. At this point in time, the caramelizing process will give significantly diminishing returns the longer you cook it. Sprinkle in two tablespoons of flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Pour in about 5 cups of hot stock to cover, and 1/3 cup of white wine. Season well with salt and pepper- you will need approximately an entire tablespoon of salt to counter the sweetness of onion. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Not that I’ve ever poisoned any dogs with this. Really.

Sometime during when your soup is simmering, your croutons should be done. Taste a crouton to make sure that it is completely dry throughout. It should not be moist or soft in any part.

If you have bad teeth you should probably not chew these without soaking in the soup first, or without first stealing granny’s dentures.

When the soup is almost done, turn the broiler on in your oven. Prepare as many bowls as you are prepared to serve. Ladle your soup into the bowls, then top with croutons and Swiss cheese. Stick the bowls into the oven under the red-hot broiler for 30 seconds to melt the cheese. I left mine to broil for a full minute, and the croutons burned. Top with your herb of choice and serve immediately.

The Result

The title of this soup has French, onion, and soup. The soup itself has two out of those three things. Oh well.

How wazzit? Wouldn’t you like to know? Well, the soup has an interesting dynamic. The first bite is delicious. There is the crunchy, aromatic croutons (which are slightly soggy on the bottom), the rich beef broth, the sweet caramelized onions, an entire symphony of flavors and textures. Then the next bite isn’t quite as good, and the next is a bit less good, and by the fifth bite you’re wanting to finish the soup and move on to something else. So, I wouldn’t recommend serving more than 1 cup’s worth to anyone for any one meal.

Conclusion

Fuck. I’m fairly certain that hearing all these people talk about how great French onion soup is has ruined French onion soup for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good (for the first bite especially), but it’s not the mind-blowing epiphany that I was expecting. Long story short is, don’t let people tell you how great some food is. It’s far better to just assume that something is “pretty good” in a modest sort of way, so you can always leave more impressed than you were prepared to be.

How is French onion soup? It’s pretty good. You should give it a try some time.

Coq au Vin


You wouldn’t visit Egypt for the first time without visiting the Pyramids. Likewise, you wouldn’t learn French cuisine without making coq au vin at least once.

Coq au vin translates to “rooster with wine” in English (or cock with wine, but in this day and age that phrase is easily misconstrued). It’s basically a chicken stew made with a ton of wine. There are many ways to make coq au vin. For my inaugural attempt(s), I decided to go with Julia Child’s version, which is designed for the American supermarket. It certainly requires more work than some of the other versions, but all of its ingredients are readily acquirable in a supermarket.

This is going to be a long blog for a long recipe. I will be showing you how to make everything in the recipe from scratch, which takes anywhere from 3.5-5 hours depending on your hardware and multitasking skills. I strongly encourage you to read through the recipe before attempting the dish in the event that there is some hardware or ingredient requirement you do not meet. Of course, if you do not feel like spending much time/effort, feel free to take any store-bought shortcuts you deem necessary.

Last but not least, a ton of thanks to www.teamliquid.net member endy for answering my newbie questions and lending his vast culinary knowledge.

Ingredients

If you consider yourself a mature individual, you’ll probably want to skip the captions ahead. Coq talk incoming (aren’t you glad I tipped you off?).

Prep Time: 3.5-5 hours
Note: I know this looks like a lot of ingredients, but there’s a lot of repeats. And yes, you need all parts.

I: Brown Chicken Stock

Chicken giblets & bones
1 medium carrot
1 yellow onion
3 cups water
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 bay leaf
few sprigs of parsley
cooking oil

II: Brown-braised Mini-Onions [Oignons Glacés à Brun]

~ 2 dozen mini (or pearl) onions*
1.5 tbsp butter
1.5 tbsp oil
1/3 cups brown chicken stock**
2 sprigs parsley
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 bay leaf
salt
pepper

III: Sauteed Mushrooms [Champignons Sautés au Beurre]

1/2 pounds (~225g) mushrooms (button or brown is fine)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
2-3 tbsp minced shallots OR chopped scallions
salt
pepper

IV: Coq au Vin

A 4-5 pound chicken, cut into pieces***
3-4 oz salt pork OR bacon****
1/2 cups cognac
3 cups wine*****
2 cubs brown chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
3 tbsp parsley leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt
pepper
2-3 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsp flour

*Do not use large onions. You should be able to find some small or pearl onions that are roughly 1 inch in diameter or smaller. They do cost about 10x the price of regular yellow onions though.
**The original recipe says 1/2 cups of stock, but if you “simmer slowly” as the instructions direct you’ll never be able to simmer away all the liquid by the end of 50 minutes. 1/3 cups should be more than enough especially since the pearl onions I (and probably you) use are smaller and should cook faster than those in the recipe.
***Try to procure a good chicken, like a free-ranged type. Since you will be shelling out a lot of money for all the other ingredients, it doesn’t make sense for the star of the show to be of low quality.
****What you really need is a lump of high-fat salt pork that hasn’t been smoked. If you cannot find these, use bacon. Full instructions will be included below.
*****You want a full-bodied red wine. White wines also work, but my personal experience is with red. Merlots are a good choice for a cheap wine that is still full-bodied. If you have money to spare, a Burgundy, a wine from the Vallee du Rhone region made from Pinot Noir grapes, or a Chianti should also work.

Cooking I: Brown Chicken Stock

The cooking process for coq au vin begins and ends with the chicken. If you purchased a whole chicken, it should come with some giblets and a neck. Set these aside and de-bone your chicken. You should end up with two breasts, two thighs, two wings, two drumsticks, the spine, a few extra pieces of skin and fat, and the ribcage. Cut the spine in half to produce two additional pieces of dark meat chicken.

I’m not exactly an expert deboner. But your grandmother is, when she’s naked.

Bag the breasts and stick them in the refrigerator. They will not be used for this dish. Set aside the giblets, skin, and bones, and refrigerate the other pieces for now. These random pieces of chicken will be the base for the brown chicken stock.

Taking chicken stock to brown town. Coqs are involved.

Chop one onion and one carrot. Pour a tablespoon of two of oil into a pot and brown the chicken, onion, and carrot. After browning, add three cups of water, bay leaf, thyme, and a few sprigs of parsley. Salt and pepper isn’t necessary at this point. Bring the water to a boil then turn the heat down. Simmer the stock for about 90 minutes. Strain the solids out and keep the stock for later.

I dub it the coq stock

Cooking II: Brown-braised Mini-Onions

Wash and peel your mini-onions (you can do this while your stock is simmering). Place your butter and oil in a non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat. The butter will melt, then begin to form foam bubbles on the surface of the oil. Wait until the foam has subsided; this indicates that the oil is ready to receive your food. Dump your onions into the hot oil and brown them on all sides to the best of your ability, rolling them around to brown all surfaces.

Pearl onions, because you can’t have coq au vin without the family jewels.

Once the onions are suitably browned, pour 1/3 cup of your brown chicken stock. Add salt and pepper to taste, thyme, bay leaf, and sprigs of parsley (you may notice a pattern in the herbs involved). Turn the heat down to low and cover the onions. Slowly simmer for 40-50 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated. If you are using a dark (teflon) pan, it may be difficult to discern if there is still any liquid left or if there is only oil. You can always tip the pan a bit to find out, or taste an onion. It should hold its shape, but be soft enough to melt in your mouth.

Cooking III: Sauteed Mushrooms

This step can be done ahead of time, or later while your chicken is simmering in part IV. Wash and thinly slice your mushrooms. Meanwhile, melt your butter and oil in a pan (medium on gas stove, high on electric). Again, the way to tell that the butter is ready is when the foam rises then subsides in the pan.

Bubble pop, bubble pop.

Toss the mushrooms for about five minutes. The mushrooms will first absorb all of the oil, then gradually release it to coat all the mushrooms with a nice slick sheen. There should never be any water or juice in the bottom of the pan while you are sauteeing. If you do see water collecting, turn your heat up.

Chop some shallots or scallions while you are tossing the mushrooms. Add them to your sauteed mushrooms and toss for another two minutes. Salt and pepper to season. Remove from heat and set aside for now.

Up until now neither coq nor vin have made their appearances yet. But hold your fucking horses, it’s coming. By which I mean the coq.

Cooking IV: Coq au Vin

We are now ready to assemble the dish! Bring about 5-6 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Cut your bacon into pieces and boil them for 10 minutes to remove the smoky taste. If you are using salt pork, you can skip this step. Once your bacon is boiled, drain the water.

To do this step completely from scratch, first smoke your pork to make bacon, then boil the bacon to remove the smoky flavor.

Fry the bacon in a pan with two tablespoons of butter until the fat has been rendered from the bacon. Remove the bacon from the pan.

Take your dark meat chicken pieces out of the refrigerator. Use 6-8 pieces of paper towels to pat them dry. This step is very important! It may seem wasteful, but it is essential to dry the surface of the chicken so that you can brown them without steaming them.

Heat the bacon-infused butter oil until it is smoking, then brown your chicken on all sides. Salt and pepper them at this time. Make sure to cook your chicken on a single layer, and do not crowd your pan. If you have a small pan like I do, brown your chicken in batches.

Cutting it up and frying it in butter, the French sure have a way with coqs.

Once your chicken is browned, collect them in a pot. Add the bacon back to the chicken and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes, turning the pieces once.

Pour it on your coq and set it on fire.

Now, take the lid off the pot. Pour 1/4 cup of cognac all over the chicken and light that shit on fire, using either a match or a lighter.

It’s like that scene in the park in that movie Baby’s Day Out. You know what I’m talking about?

Carefully shake the pot from side to side while it is on fire, making sure not to catch on fire yourself. Now, add to the chicken two cups of brown chicken stock, three cups of wine, one mashed garlic clove, a tablespoon of tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoons of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of salt, and some pepper. Cover the lid, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Coq and vin, finally united.

At the end of 30 minutes remove the chicken from the pot. Yes, the pieces will be a dark purple. And that’s fine. There should also be a brownish film over the soup in the pot. Use a ladle to skim all of this off- this is most of the fat that have been used so far in the dish. Then, turn the heat as high as it can go. Boil the liquid down until you have about 2 cups left skimming off any scum that rises to the surface, then turn the heat down until the sauce is at a bare simmer.

That coq residue right there ain’t good for eatin’

Mash together 2-3 tablespoons of room temperature butter with equal parts flour. Dump this mixture into your reduced sauce, and whisk (use a plastic spatula if you are using a non-stick pot like I am!) the butter into the sauce to incorporate. Simmer for a few minutes more. Return the chicken to the pot, and add the mushrooms and onions. Fold into the sauce. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve hot with potatoes, pasta, or rice.

You know a dish isn’t half-coqed when you’ve been cooking it for the past 5 hours.

The Result

Les filles, elles adorent mon coq.

A lot can go wrong when someone as immature as I am has to talk about tasting a dish called coq au vin. I’ll say that it is pretty good. Cooking all the ingredients separately means that they all have a unique identity in the dish. The chicken is nice, tender, and chickeny. The onions, sweet from caramelization, melt in your mouth. The mushrooms are nice and mushroomy, and when you chew them the rich flavor of butter come bursting forth. The rich wine sauce ties everything together nicely.

Conclusion

Man, this writeup was really long. It’s probably really long for you to read too, so I’ll keep this short. French cuisine is fucking fun to cook, I enjoyed every minute of the five hours or so it took to make the dish. Sure, if you’re not so into cooking you can buy stock from the store and significantly cut down on the cooking time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the near future I have some baked goods projects planned, so stay tuned!

Cabillaud à la Provençale


Welcome ladies and gentlemen! Were you surprised by the unintelligible gibberish in the title? It’s written in a language called French, and it says something like “codfish cooked in the Provence style”. In Mark Twain’s book “Huckleberry Finn”, the character Jim had the sense to ask why these Frenchies can’t speak Americanese like the rest of us sensible folk, and well, I don’t know. Anyhow, these French people are allegedly world renowned for their cuisine, topping even McDonald’s and Taco Bell in the techniques and flavors of their food.

I have once again been called to do some mercenary cooking for my room mate, who managed to bargain for a rather nice looking piece of cod in exchange for some mere pieces of green-colored paper. This Provence way of cooking codfish is what I decided upon, after reading through a couple dozen recipes involving frying, searing, poaching, and baking this fish. The recipe comes directly from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. It is unadulterated, since I am still new to the French way of cooking. If you plan to follow this recipe, please read through the entire recipe (or at least the recipe as it appears on page 219 of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”) so that you are not caught off-guard by any equipment required.

Ingredients

The Lona Misa

Yes, all these things just to pamper that small piece of fish on the left. Its 15 minutes of fame before disappearing forever into someone's gut.

Prep and cook time: ~1 hour
Serves Two

1 lbs cod fish fillet, cut into 3-4 pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion
1 lb tomatoes, peeled and seeded*
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 cups white wine
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt
pepper
1/2 tbsp flour
1/2 tbsp softened butter**

*instructions will be provided on how to go about this below.
**must be at least room temperature! Plan ahead for this if you keep your butter in the refrigerator.

Author’s Note: normally I will say something like “feel free to leave out whatever you do not have or are not willing to shell out money for”, but if you are really interested in learning French cuisine, you should try to obtain as many of these ingredients as possible to really understand the full gamut of what each ingredient is trying to accomplish in the dish. Also, the cooking process is rather long and complex compared to some of the other dishes I have written about. Please follow the instructions as closely as possible because each step has a very specific reason. Omitting any step can result in a significantly different result.

Cooking

We will start by bringing a pot of water to boil. While the water is heating up, start on your prep work by mashing your clove of garlic, dividing and salt and peppering your cod, washing your tomatoes, and chopping your onions. Salt the cod more lightly than you would pork or beef. It is very easy to over-salt your fish.

Fresh herbs?!? This guy really sold out from his roots as a dirt-cheap cook. You bet your ass I did.

Once the water is boiling, dump (or dip individually with a ladle) your tomatoes into the water and submerge for 10 seconds. Remove them from heat immediately afterwards. This will allow you to easily peel your tomatoes.

Look how red those tomatoes are. You could wave this jpeg in front of a bull and he would charge.

Peel the tomatoes and remove that brown dot where the stem of the vine connects to the tomato. Cut each tomato in half across the width (the latitude). Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and soft juicy parts of the tomato. Either use these in another dish or discard them. Meanwhile, dice and collect the rest of the tomato. These will be used as the bulk of the sauce for this fish dish.

They're so juicy and plump and smooth. Then you GOUGE OUT THEIR INSIDES AND CHOP THEM ALL INTO TINY BITS.

It’s time to move on to the fish! Pour two tablespoons of olive oil into a pan over medium-high heat until the olive oil begins to smoke. Saute your fish pieces for 1-2 minutes per side to lightly brown each side. Remember, the fish should sizzle when you drop it into the oil. If you do not audibly hear the sizzle, take the fish out and wait for the oil to heat up further.

It's poissonous.

Remove fish from the heat and set aside for now.  In the same pan, gently cook your onions for about 5 minutes to soften but not brown. You will need to turn the heat down for the onions. Preheat your oven to 325F (160C) After five minutes add the tomatoes, garlic clove, oregano, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for five more minutes.

If it wasn't for human fixation on meat this could easily be a tomato dish with cod playing a supporting role.

Prepare a baking pan. Place your fish on the bottom and pour your tomato sauce on top. Cover the pan (use aluminum foil if you lack a lid). Bake at the bottom third rack for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Add 1/2 cup of white wine and return the pan to the oven for 10 more minutes. In retrospect, my cook’s instinct tells me that this step is critical. The addition of wine half-way through the cooking process lowers the heat of the dish and prevents the fish from overcooking.

I wonder if some 10 year old will ever stumble onto this blog and go "What? They call this fish cod? Those fuckers totally stole that name from Call of Duty."

As your fish is baking, finely chop a tablespoon or two of parsley and mix together your flour and butter into a paste.

According to CSI if you zoom in closely enough onto the reflection in the spoon you could see my face.

After 20 cumulative minutes in the oven take the fish out. Separate the sauce from the fish fillets. Keep the fillets warm somewhere. Dump your sauce back into the pan and boil on high heat until you have less than a cup of it left. Don’t worry about the chunky tomatoes, the heat will reduce them into near oblivion by the time your sauce is done. At this point, add a tablespoon of tomato paste and your butter/flour paste and cook for another minute.

What if the reason why god isn't real is because there was a typo a long time ago, and we were supposed to be praying to cod all along?

You are almost done! Take the sauce off heat and dump in your chopped parsley. Mix. Prepare a number of plates. Arrange your cod piece(s) onto the plate and pour sauce onto the cod. Serve warm.

The Result

All that work for such a small portion. Oliver Twist would look at this and ask you for more.

 ??? / 5  Another mercenary effort so I am not entirely sure exactly how good it tastes. The sauce is pretty good at any rate. It is a bit tart, since I still can’t be arsed to grow my own tomatoes and supermarket tomatoes in the United States are typically rather poor in flavor compared to homegrown. If you have access to homegrown, ripe tomatoes, I highly recommend you try this dish with it. You will see a huge difference.

Conclusion

An interesting anecdote is that while I was growing up, raised in a traditional Chinese family, we always looked down on “Western” cuisine as rough and simplistic. My only contact with Western “cuisine” at the time being cafeteria food from school, I was inclined to agree. Steamed peas? Green beans boiled until they were turning yellow? Raw vegetable salads? These foods seemed so basic and flavorless compared to the stir fries of Chinese cooking which involved much washing, slicing, cooking, and saucing. And so I relayed these observations to my parents, who used these findings to reinforce their prejudices against western cuisine. To this day, many first-generation Chinese immigrants hold onto these same prejudices even after having lived in the United States for decades.

But you know, and I know, that these people, as proud as they are of their own cuisine, are missing an entire world of food. To me, right now, French cooking is still a bit of a novelty. It is exotic, complex, and a lot of fun. I, for one, do not want to miss out on what my fellow (ex-) countrymen are too disdained to try.

The moral of the story is to not be be afraid to try out new foods, even if you do not like it the first time you try it. At the very least you’ll leave the meal with an interesting story about that time you tried wild boar’s sphincter poached in the tears of seven year old children, or whatever that dish may be!

Saute Rabbit


Recently my room mate (who likes to buy a lot of organic/super healthy stuff) has commissioned me to help her cook her rabbit meat. I’ve never eaten or cooked rabbit before, so of course I immediately thought it would be a really cool thing to cook and then blog about. The thing is, these furry lagomorphs clock in at roughly $8 per pound. The prospect of being allowed to cook something like this just sends chills up my spine, but the possibility of fucking up is also quite real.

So, saute rabbit. This is the cooking method I decided upon after much research on the subject of lagomorph cookery. It is a method suited for cooking a young, tender rabbit (or fryer rabbits). The recipe is lifted directly from Larousse Gastronomique (the bible for French cooking; 2004 First American Edition, page 375 of the Meat, Poultry and Game volume). Here is the exact text of the recipe:

Jesus fuck that's one tiny paragraph.

It’s the simplest recipe in the book for rabbit with the least amount of ingredients. From what I have read on rabbits from the internet, the flavor of the meat is somewhere between chicken and turkey. It certainly seems possible to re-create a cheaper version of this dish using chicken.

A NOTE BEFORE I BEGIN: I’M A TOTAL FUCKING NEWBIE AT FRENCH COOKING. I FOLLOW THE RECIPE TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY USING WHAT I KNOW ABOUT COOKING MEAT. IF YOU’RE LOOKING AT MY PHOTOS AND THINK THAT IT LOOKS LIKE SHIT, PLEASE JUST FOLLOW THE RECIPE DIRECTLY WITHOUT GOING ALONG WITH WHAT I’M DOING.

Ingredients

Looks like dis wabbit is vewy vewy dead.

Total prep/cooking time: 25-30 minutes.

1.25 to 1.5 pounds (~600g) of rabbit
1/2 cup white wine
~2 tbsp lemon juice
2.5 tbsp butter, divided into 1.5 tbsp and 1 tbsp
4-5 tablespoons of stock*
1 small shallot
salt
pepper
parsley**

*The recipe did not specify what type of stock, so I assume any type is fine. I actually did not have any stock on hand, so I used the trimmings from the rabbit to create a tiny batch of makeshift stock.
**Italian parsley pictured, since it looked significantly fresher than the other parsley at the supermarket. You need only about 1/4 of what is pictured here.

Also worth noting is that this is a recipe for young rabbit. Do not use it for old rabbits or hare, which have a different type of meat.

Cooking

We start with the prep work as always. Give your parsley some gentle chopping and thinly slice your shallot. Roll your lemon around to loosen its juices for easy squeezing.

Bugs Bunny, rest in pieces. MUHAHAHA

Complement your dead animal matter with some dead plant matter. It'll taste better.

On the rabbit side of things, wash and rinse off your rabbit pieces. Trim off any excess fatty bits. Rabbits are quite lean so you shouldn’t have to cut off too much fat. Pat the pieces dry with a paper towel. This is important so that your pieces will brown while they saute instead of steam. Salt and pepper the pieces after you have pat them dry.

Meanwhile, prepare a lightly oiled, oven-safe vessel and pre-heat your oven to 200F. This step isn’t directly in the recipe, but the recipe did say to keep the rabbit warm once they are pulled off the saute pan, and the oven is my chosen receptacle for when the rabbit is finished sauteing.

Elmer Fudd can learn a thing or two from whoever killed this rabbit. No need to go digging for buckshot here.

Over medium-high heat in a non-stick saute pan, melt 1.5 tablespoons of butter. The butter should be smoking before you put the rabbit pieces into the pan. If you place your rabbit into the pan and do not immediately hear sizzling, take the rabbit out and let the pan heat up more.

Saute your rabbit pieces on one side until it is brown, then saute it on the other side. From hindsight, I think I did not completely brown the pieces thoroughly enough (it’s difficult to judge because the recipe did not provide pictures, but from the text it seems as if you are supposed to completely cook the rabbit through simply by sauteing. I had to finish cooking the rabbit in the oven at 300F for about 6 minutes). Cover your pan with a lid while sauteing to keep the heat from dissipating.

If you think about it, before a dish passes into the annals of history, it also had to pass through the anals of history.

When the rabbit is done, transfer the pieces into your oven-safe vessel and stick them into the oven for warm safe-keeping. Pour 1/2 cup of wine into your pan and dump in your chopped shallot. The wine should help loosen up all the stuck bits of meat, which will form the flavor base for the sauce.

Peering through the mists of time.

Keep the pan uncovered and boil away the wine until it is at almost nothing. Then, add your stock, and reduce again to a few tablespoons. At this point add your last tablespoon of butter along with a squeeze of lemon juice. Melt the butter until you get a congruous looking sauce.

When I die, I'll ask to have a sauce prepared like this one poured all over my dead body too.

Plate your rabbit. Pour the sauce over it and sprinkle on some parsley. Serve warm with potatoes or rice or salad or whatever constitutes a meal.

The Result

Don't think about Bugs Bunny. Don't think about Bugs Bunny. God dammit. Looks like he took the wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up done like dinnah.

?? / 5 Well I didn’t eat it, I cooked it for someone else. This is what French cooking is about, right? Right? Oh, well. I should probably eat out more at restaurants that serve this type of thing so I know what I’m dealing with. There certainly is some appeal about this type of cooking: it is simple in principle and uses few ingredients, but the amount of depth, skill, and possibilities to master the dish is tremendous to behold. Here’s hoping it turns out good enough for me to have another chance at cooking something like this.

Conclusion

Learning to cook is both exciting and daunting. You can be putting your best foot forward at all times, yet never be satisfied with each dish you make, because you know the next time you make that dish, it will turn out even better. All you can do is continue trudging forward, and one day, sometime far in the future, you just might become a bad-ass cook.

Until next time, feel free to shoot the next furry bastard that crosses your path (unless it’s Robin Williams or something like that), because it’ll certainly be delicious. Happy cooking.