Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Mumbo Jumbo and Filé Gumbo

First off, I hope everyone had a safe and Happy Halloween. I have to warn you that this is going to be a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG post, cause there is a lot of ground to cover and the witching Hour is upon me... but in keeping with the spooky "spirit" of the holiday, this post will be filled with torture, death and dismemberment, hey it even has a bubbling cauldron. I, myself, felt a little like one of the witches out of "that Scottish Play". You know... "Boil, Boil, Toil and Trouble, fire burn and Crayfish bubble..." Well, it was something to that effect anyway...

The point it, that I spent more of the evening making Gumbo, not just any gumbo, but Filé Gumbo (FEE-lay)... OK, so what is Filé Gumbo? Why, it's Gumbo made with Gumbo Filé, of course... ;) Seriously though, there are 2 ways to thicken a gumbo, at least only 2 ways that I know of. There is Okra, with it's mucilage thickening power, and there are ground up sassafras leaves, otherwise known as Gumbo Filé.

Factoid: the Cajuns learned about the thickening power of Sassafras leaves from the Choctaw Indians.

Anyway, I do not like okra, I have never liked okra, and I do not see myself liking okra in the near future either. Thus, I use Sassafras to thicken my Gumbo, ergo it becomes Filé Gumbo. (just like the song - Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, Filé Gumbo.... )
So now all my fellow Okra dislikers that were screaming in horror at the idea of okra... You can relax, there is NO okra in this recipe.

Let's talk about 3 other key ingredients to good Cajun cuisine... Seasoning, Holy Trinity and Roux. Let's tackle seasoning first, cause it's the easy one...

Creole/Cajun seasoning.... Most, if not all, of the prepackaged stuff in the store has "salt" as the first ingredient, meaning, you are buying expensive salt. So I make my own, sans salt, so I can change the salinity of whatever I am making separately from the other spices. Here is the concoction I use, please feel free to increase the Cayenne to your liking.

1 TB Onion powder
1 TB Garlic powder
1 TB dried Oregano
1 TB dried Sweet Basil
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
1 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1 1/2 tsp White Pepper
1 1/2 tsp Celery Seed
1 1/2 tsp Sweet Paprika
1 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika

Simply mix it all together in a small food processor into a powder.

The Holy Trinity... What is the Holy Trinity?
Well, the French have Miripoix... The Italians have Soffritto... and the Spanish have Sofrito. Basically, it is the building blocks of everything. In France it's Carrot, Celery and Onion in Butter or Olive oil. In Spain it's Garlic, Onion and Tomato in Olive oil. In Southern Italy it's Onion and Garlic in Olive oil. In Cajun/Creole cooking it's called "Holy Trinity" and consists of Bell Pepper, Onion and Celery.

Roux... May you never rue the day you attempted roux.
In it's simplest form, roux is Flour cooked in Fat... Ta Da!!! But Roux is much more complicated than that. At the risk of sounding like a sexist pig. Roux is like a woman, it needs to be treated gently and nurtured to allow it's beauty to shine forth. OK, maybe that was a little lame, but what seems so simple from the ingredient list, is much more complex. Roux should never be rushed, just like a good Risotto, it simply takes the time that it takes to make it. Emeril jokes that it takes 2 beers to make a good roux. I would tend to agree, when I make red roux it takes about 17-18 minutes. Red Roux?

You see, roux passes through several stages on it's way to being a burnt offering to the Cajun gods. There is White Roux, Blonde Roux, Brown Roux, Red Roux and Black Roux. (as well as multiple permutations in between like chocolate roux ) This is where I reiterate, that Roux CANNOT be rushed.

Let's take a stroll down Rue Roux, shall we?
OK, Place your oil and butter into a pan over LOW heat. (When I make darker roux, I use equal parts butter and olive oil cause butter burns REALLY easy in this process)

When the Fat is hot, add the flour and start whisking... and never stop or it will burn.

After 3 minutes, you have White roux (the flour will just start to become fragrant)

At 5-7 minutes, you have Blonde roux (the Nutty aroma of the flour increases)

At 10-13 minute, you have Brown roux (Also called Peanut Butter roux)

At 15-18 minutes you have Red roux (Also called brick)

At 20 minutes you have "Black Roux" (I didn't go this far tonight, cause it's way to close to the burning mark)

The problem with roux, is that the darker you make it, the less thickening power it has... Thus, when making Gumbo, the roux needs help from either Okra or Gumbo Filé.

OK, I have laid down the basics, so let's get to cookin up some trouble in the kitchen, cause I am STARVING now.....

First I had to murder some Mud bugs/Crayfish/Crawdads, whichever you prefer to call them. (See I told you there would be Torture, Death and Dismemberment in this post) I only had 20 live Cray fish, I really needed 100 but, oh well... I had Seafood Medley from Trader Joe's to make up the difference.

20 live Cray Fish
2 Quarts of Water
1/2 bottle of wine ---- Just kuz

Bring the Water and Wine to a boil, salt the water and plop the little mud bugs in the water for 6 -7 minutes. (No, in case you were curious, they didn't knock the lid off the pot or anything)

Remove from the water with tongs (If you are working in batches like I did) and allow them to cool enough to handle.

Strain the resulting "stock" through cheese cloth and set aside.

Pull off the tails and claws, then remove the shells and de-vein as necessary.
Yep, it takes alot of time for very little meat... Just look at the carnage.... Gruesome, huh?

Filé Gumbo

1/2 cup Pure Olive oil (Not Extra Virgin)
1/2 cup Butter
1 cup AP Flour
cups Onions, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups Celery, coarsely chopped
2 cups Green Bell Pepper, coarsely chopped
3 1/2 cups strained Crayfish "stock" (or seafood stock)
2 1/2 cups Chicken stock
2 TB Creole seasoning
1 1/2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
2 TB Gumbo Filé Powder
2 lb Seafood Medley

For Serving:
4 cups hot cooked rice
Meat from 20 Crawfish

Dice up your Holy Trinity....

Melt butter and oil over low heat, then add flour and begin whisking constantly until the roux turns a dark reddish brown. (See above)

Remove from heat; add onions, celery and green bell pepper, stirring constantly until vegetables are tender.

Add stock and Creole Seasoning to the roux and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer and add Garlic and Gumbo Filé.

Continue simmering, covered, for 75 minutes.

In the meantime, make about 4 cups of rice (after being cooked, it should be 4 cups)
Add thawed Seafood Medley to the Gumbo and bring back to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Salt to taste and serve by placing rice in the bowl, topping with crawdad meat.

Spoon File Gumbo over rice and garnish with a Crayfish.

Now if I only had some Blackened Catfish... LOL


Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Spy with My Little Eye - Apple Ricotta Cushions

The best thing about BakeSpace, is being exposed all sorts of people from all over the world, and the wonderful recipes that they cook. Such as my friend Dajana in Modena, Italy. These little pockets of apple goodness are positively divine. You can check out the recipe in it's original form here on BakeSpace under "Apple Filled Ricotta Cushions"... You can also check out her blog "Baker's Corner... Somewhere in My Kitchen", it's full of all sorts of delicious recipes.

These Apple Cushions were a perfect application for one of the 'Northern Spy' apples I had picked up at the Farmers Market. Ah yes, the Northern Spy (spie).... Yet another apple of New York State origin that has found a permanent home in the heart of the Pacific Northwest as well as the hearts of those that live here. Especially with it's propensity for ripening in late October and November, when most other apples are coming from cold storage already.

It's crisp, juicy and lightly sweet with a very aromatic tartness. I personally like the fact that the flesh tends to be harder, while the skin is very thin and easy to peel. This makes it great for most cooking applications where you want some integrity to the filling, like tarts and pies. It's sweeter than the Newtown Pippin, so you can use less sugar, which also makes me happy.

Apple Filled Ricotta Cushions

1 big apple; Diced
1 TB Lemon Juice (about 1/2 lemon squeezed)
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
1 TB Raw Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Mace

3.5 oz (100g) AP Flour
3.5 oz (100g) Spelt Flour
2.5 oz (70g) Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
a pinch of Kosher Salt
3.5 oz (100 g) Whole Milk Ricotta
4 TB Light Olive Oil
4 TB Whole Milk

Peel core and dice the apple.

Toss the apple with Lemon Juice then add zest, Raw Sugar, Cinnamon and Mace.

Cook the apple mixture in a sauce pan for about 7-8 minutes or until they just become soft, then remove from heat and leave to cool.

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Whisk both flours together with Sugar, Salt and Baking Powder.

In a separate bowl, stir the Ricotta, Olive Oil and Milk together.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix with a fork or your hands...

until a soft dough forms.

Turn out onto a floured surface and roll into a square about 14x14.

Cut it into 12 squares.

Divide the apple filling between the squares.

Fold the squares, leaving the side opposite the fold open, and press the two side edges together before placing on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 15 -20 minutes; then remove to a cooling rack.

Let them cool completely before sprinkling with Confectioners' sugar.

MMMMMMMM These are SO unbelievably mouthwateringly good, that you can't stop at just one, you may need to make a double batch. Thanks Dajana! This recipe Rocks!!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm a Hound For Huckleberries - Huckleberry Sauce and Brussels Waffles

It's that time of the month folks. The BakeSpace Challenge for October 2009.

This month we are cooking with local ingredients, somewhat following along the lines of the somewhat trendy philosophy of "Locatarianism". A Locatarian limits the range of their food foraging to within 100 miles of their abode. Considering my new local in the Pacific Northwest I assumed that I would have very few difficulties coming up with something... HA!!! That is until key ingredients to the dishes I had planned started falling out of my 100 mile radius... Simple things that, with modern delivery methods, are available all year long, but aren't grown even remotely close.

Examples.... Lemon, Orange, Lime and Grapefruit... California and Florida are WELL beyond the 100 mile marker. I even had to watch the flour and sugar... OK, I will admit it... Sugar was impossible... It comes from Hawaiian Cane (I know people who are allergic to Beet Sugar). The worst thing though, was not being able to use chocolate... :( It was a sad day....

Then it hit me, like a big bag of "duh"! I have been pining away for the succulent, bright tartness of the Pacific Northwest Huckleberry for 13 years... I should be centering my dish around that!!! (Sometimes I am a little dense) And what better way to showcase a delicious huckleberry, than by applying it to the top of... Oh yeah, you guessed it... One of my favorite foods... WAFFLES!!!

So here is my Brussels (Belgian) Waffle Recipe, revisited with as many local ingredients as possible, all topped off with a delicious Huckleberry fruit topping. I did not photograph the waffle process, because I have already done it before, the only difference is that I substituted 1/2 cup of Bob's Red Mill Unbleached Wheat Flour with 1/2 cup of Spelt Flour from Azure Farms. The eggs were local from the lady down the street and the Honey came from a friend of my parents, Star, who has a winery and manufactures her wines using local wild flower honey.. :) Of course I had to go ahead and use Tillamook Butter (They use to only make cheese)

1 package active dry yeast (OK, yes it was Fleishman's which is from Canada although I am closer now than before) ;)
1/2 cup warm Goat milk (105 to 110 degrees)
2 cups Bob's Red Mill Unbleached flour
1/2 cup Azure Farm's Spelt Flour
1/3 cup C & H Pure Cane Sugar
1/2 tsp Pacific Sea salt
2 Eggs from the lady down the street, separated
1 1/2 cups lukewarm Goat milk (105 to 110 degrees)
1 tsp Vanilla extract (ok, this came from Madagascar)
8 TB Tillamook Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled

2 cups Pacific Northwest Huckleberries (frozen - Cause picking season is over)
1 TB Cornstarch (It's Argo, I have no idea where it comes from)
1 TB Local Wild flower Honey (from Leaning Star Winery - She use honey to make her wine)
Pinch of Pacific Sea salt
1 TB Tillamook Butter

OK, Go ahead and make the waffle batter and bake the waffles...... I will revisit the topping afterwards.

Sprinkle yeast over the 1/2 cup warm milk in a small bowl; set aside about 5 minutes to wake up.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar and salt together.
Lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork in a small bowl
In another small bowl or glass pitcher mix 1 1/2 cups warm milk with vanilla
Add melted Butter, then add the beaten egg yolks.
Add butter/milk/yolk mixture to the flour/sugar mixture, beat until smooth.
By now your yeast should be good and bubbly; Stir it down to get it well dispersed though the milk.
Then stir the yeasted milk into the batter.
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; fold gently into batter.
Cover and refrigerate overnight. If you want to make them now you can leave it out on the counter for about 1 1/2 hours until doubled in volume, but the flavor is better if refrigerated overnight.
Preheat an electric waffle maker.
Remove from refrigerator and stir down batter.
Spoon about 1/2 cup batter into each waffle grid and use the back of a spoon or an icing spatula to spread over the grids a little.
Close iron; cook until waffle is well-browned and the waffle is no longer steaming (about 4 to 5 minutes).
Transfer cooked waffles to a wire rack and keep warm in an oven, set to 200 degrees, until all the batter has been cooked.

Makes 10 waffles. (that's 5 double squares by American Belgian irons)

Huckleberry Topping

This is the same way I make my filling for a Huckleberry Pie, which is really more of a tart as I refuse to actually cook the huckleberries, it ruins their texture especially once they have been frozen...

2 cups Pacific Northwest Huckleberries (frozen - cause picking season is over)
1 TB Local Wild flower Honey (from Leaning Star Winery - She uses honey to make her wine)
1 TB Cornstarch (It's Argo, I have no idea where it comes from)
pinch of Pacific Sea Salt
1 TB Tillamook unsalted Butter

First divide the berries evenly, placing 1 cup in a sauce pan and 1 cup in a bowl (set the bowl aside).

Add Honey and Salt to the Berries in the sauce pan and allow them to juice up for 10 minutes.
Pour the juice off into another bowl and make a slurry with the juice and the cornstarch.

Add the slurry back to the saucepan and place over medium flame;

cooking, while stirring, until thick and bubbly.

Remove the sauce pan from the flame and fold in the remaining berries from the bowl.

Then fold in the butter until melted.

Serve over your Waffles whith Whipped Heavy Cream..... AWESOME!!!!


Monday, October 26, 2009

Beefing Up Your Appetite - Bresaola

I am not usually big on Beef. Lucky for me, Italian cuisine tends to focus on Pork, which makes me a very happy camper. And while I am thoroughly convinced that man can live by Pancetta and Prosciutto alone, every once in awhile I DO like to mix it up a little. Thus was the case when I was able to get my hands on some delicious Bresaola.

Bresaola hails from the Italian alpine valley of Valtellina in the Lombary region of northern Italy. It is made in a similar process as Prosciutto di Parma in Emilia-Romagna, being a salted and air dried Beef though, instead of pork.

Normally it is served similarly to the dish carpaccio; with Arugula, olive oil, lemon juice and shaved Parmegiano-Reggiano. I decided to twist it up a bit. Using Gruyere and rolling the bresaola to be used as an appetizer.

Bresaola Appetizer

Zest of 1/2 Lemon
2 TB lemon juice
1 TB olive oil
12 slices Bresaola
36 Arugula leaves, washed
Black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup shaved Gruyere (or Parmegiano-Reggiano)

Combine Lemon zest, Lemon juice and Olive oil in a small bowl and whisk until emulsified.

Lay out your Bresaola.

Top each slice with 3 Arugula leaves, drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with pepper.

Crumble the shaved Gruyere over the top and roll the Bresaola up.

Place on a serving plate, seem side down and repeat until all the Bresaola is used.
Drizzle the plate with any remaining dressing and serve.