Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dirty Harry Cooks - Brandied Maple Soufflé

Soufflé always makes me laugh and puts me in a good mood.  Laughter being the best medicine and all.  You see, as crazy as it sounds, I always hear Clint Eastwood in the back of my head, saying, "Go ahead....  Make my Soufflé!" 

I am primarily a savory soufflé baker, except for my Butternut Souffle, but I was really in the mood for something a little more desert-y. It's an extremely simple formula and can be easily changed up.  This just happens to be the Brandy and Maple rendition, but these ingredients can be swapped out for such things as Orange Blossom Honey and Grand Marnier or Canton.... Maybe a little Lime juice and some Rum (sort of a fluffy Mojito)  Let your creativity run wild!

It has become obvious to me that I need some high sided soufflé dishes, or more ramekins to divide the batter between.  Things got a little out of control this time.  :)

Brandied Maple Soufflé  

4 4-inch high sided souffle dishes (or 6 4-inch ramekins)
Unsalted Butter (for the ramekins/souffle dishes)
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar, divided
4 large Egg Yolks
2 TB Grade B Maple Syrup (B has more flavor than A)
3 TB Apple Brandy (You can use regular Brandy or Cognac too)
5 large Egg Whites
Pinch of Kosher Salt
for serving - Unsweetened whipped Heavy Cream (or hit it with a little more brandy)

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees.
Smear the inside of the ramekins with butter, then sprinkle a little of the 1/2 cup of sugar into each ramekin to coat the bottom and sides.

In a large bowl, beat the Egg yolks slightly, then begin sprinkling the remaining sugar (the sugar left over from "dusting" the ramekins as well)

When the Sugar is dissolved and the yolks are pale and "ribbony", add the Maple syrup and beat well.

Add the Brandy, a little at a time, until completely incorporated.

In a separate bowl, beat Egg Whites with a pinch of salt,

until they reach stiff peaks.

Add a spatula full to the yolk mixture and simply stir it in to lighten the mixter for easier folding.

Fold in the remaining Egg Whites in 3 additions.

Divide the batter between the ramekins/souffle dishes.

Run your finger or thumb around the inside edge, creating a "ravine". this forces the sides of the souffle to rise up straight.

Place the ramekins in the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes,

until well browned on the top. (as well as well risen) ;)

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then serve with a dollop of unsweetened whipped Heavy Cream.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Chowin' on Chowder - Pacific NW Style Clam Chowder

Evidently Autumn has arrived.  Gone are the 90 degree days, for the sun is hiding behind the rain clouds and I swear the temperature dropped into the 50's...  This all means one thing.  It's time for soup.   Not just any soup. It's time for chowin' down on some chowder.

So what exactly IS a chowder?  Well, the best I can come up with is the word calderia.... Which is Latin for "a place to warm things"  This is the root that spawned words like caldera, as in volcano, and the word "cauldron" (boil, boil, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble)   :)   In France, these handy soup cauldrons that hung from a hook over the hearth fire, were called "chaudiere".  Ah HA!  First connection... Now it get's good, cause there are a lot of fish soups/stews on the northern coast of France... So, let's hop the channel over to jolly olde England and you will find the old English word "jowter" meaning fish peddler.   Second connection... 

Now we all remember from our European history class, right?  Let's refresh.  You see, the English really loved to visit France; regularly, as a matter of fact, and usually with a fairly large army... Thus there was a lot of cross cultural interaction...  (I am assuming)  I am sure, at some point, a jowter was in Normandy and made his fish soup in a chaudiere and the rest is history...  Say it three times fast...

A jowter makes chowder in a chaudiere...  Evidently, the name stuck.

What traditionally makes chowder different from soup or stew is that the ingredients were originally layered with old biscuits or crackers, which were the thickening agent.  Granted, today most chowders are not made with layered ingredients of onions, lean pork, biscuits (sea biscuits or hardtack crackers) and fish covered in water and cooked until the bread breaks down and thickens the "chowder", most chowders simply contain flour and starch from the potatoes as thickeners ...  But though our method of preparation has changed over the years, the spirit of chowder's humble beginnings remains, as most chowders are served with copious quantities of crackers to be sprinkled on top or hidden underneath.

I am a "New England Style" person...  Not so big on the "Manhattan" version which made it's debut in the 1800's as the popularity of tomatoes increased.  But I get a little weird about tomatoes and seafood.  There is also Rhode Island Style, which is a clear broth style, similar to Delaware and Hatteras styles... Then there is the Minorcan style from Florida, which is a kicked up (datil chile laced) version of Manhattan.  Even though I am a big fan of New England style chowder which contains bacon, (awesome!) my favorite recipe is a Pacific NW affectation.  Bacon/salted pork sits on the sidelines, to be replaced by Butter and Smoked Salmon....   mmmmmm  Thus, you have the "Pacific NW Style" clam chowder.

Pacific NW Style Clam Chowder

3 TB Unsalted Butter
1/2 cup (2 oz) (56 g) Celery, fine chop
1 cup (3.5 oz) (100 g) Onion, fine chop
2 TB Shallot, minced
1 medium (9 oz) (255 g) New Potato, diced
3 TB AP Flour
a 6.5 oz (185 oz) can of Clams
2 oz (56 g) Smoked Silver Salmon, flaked
1 1/4 cup (10 oz) (295 ml) Whole Milk
1/4 cup (2 oz) (60 ml) Half and Half
2 TB Sour Cream
8 oz (235 ml) Clam Juice (in the bottle)
2 TB Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
Kosher Salt (If your smoked salmon is really salty, you won't need this)
Copious amounts of Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
Finely chopped Flat Leaf Parsley for serving
Crackers and Butter for serving.

In the bottom of a medium pot, melt the Butter.

When the foaming subsides, add the Celery, Onion, Shallot and Potatoes.... and sweat until the potatoes and celery are tender.

Sprinkle the vegetables with the Flour and cook until the flour smells slightly nutty. (about 5 minutes)

Drain the Clams and reserve the juice.

Add Clams, Smoked Salmon...

Then add both the bottled Clam Juice and the reserved Clam Juice.

Stir in the Milk too.

In a small bowl, whisk Half and Half with Sour Cream,

then add this to the pot as well.

Season with copious quantities of Black Pepper and simmer gently until slightly thickened. (about 15 minutes)

Place Crackers in the bottom of the serving bowls.

Ladle the chowder over the crackers (the crackers will further thicken the chowder) or serve with "Oyster Crackers" or Saltines on the side if you like your chowder a little more loose.

Hit it again with freshly ground black pepper...

Place a small pat of butter on top and sprinkle a small amount of chopped Flat Leaf Parsley.

Kick back and watch the rain fall while exuberantly consuming your bowl of liquid warmth.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gratuitous Puppy Pics - Hunter at 10 Months

The "puppy".
Who is NOT suppose to be in the chair... and knows it.  So I took a picture..  LOL

He is 10 months old now, 26 inches at the shoulder, and weighs in at 60 lbs.

Only 8 more months of growing....


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hoppy Birthday Little Bro! - Tres Leches Cake with Sugared Hops

It's that time of year again.....   My little brother just aged another year.  And just like last year, he decided on a Tres Leches cake.  Last year, when I made it for him, I kept the decor on the utilitarian side however, in lieu of the fact that he has become quite the biermeister over the last year, I decided that a little celebration of his beer making prowess was in order.

In the quest to improve his beer, he decided to grow his own hops this year.  Cascade, Willamette, Saaz, Hood, and Kent Golding to be exact.  SO, when he wasn't looking, I denuded his Hop plants of a few leaves and the one lonely hop flower that was overlooked during harvest. (It's OK, he's already harvested this year's crop and the plants will begin dying back in another couple weeks).

A little reconstituted Meringue Powder from Wilton, a Paint Brush and some Granulated sugar...

...and you have the perfect cake decorations for one who, for all intensive purposes, is a hop-head. (Yes, he is an IPA, NWPA fanatic)


Wordless Wednesday - Petits Madeleines with Adderley & Newbridge


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cobbler Gobbler - Blackberry Cobbler

I was originally planning on posting this on CorningWare411, but I realized that I would pretty much prepare this in the same fashion regardless of whether I baked it in stoneware, Pyrex or fore mentioned CorningWare.  Thus, this most humble of comfort foods shall reside on Culinary Alchemy instead.  :)

Cobbler, the un-pie or would that be semi-pie?  Perhaps partial pie? Somewhat sloppy, a little goopy, but oh, so heavenly spooned over Ice Cream.  Yeah.... Childhood memories abound of picking the wild blackberries that grew along the length of the driveway (our driveway was kind of looooooong) and over in the neighbor's back pasture (Sorry, Mr. Uyetake).  Those that were not immediately conveyed directly into eagerly awaiting mouths by purple fingers, would make their way into mom's kitchen.  She would peruse the bounty and announce, "Looks like cobbler for dessert.", at which point we would all perform the dance of joy. (I am just kidding about that last part, but we WERE extremely happy)

Mom's preparation was at once simple to prepare, yet complex in ingredients.  I say this simply because she not only used flour to thicken the berries, but quick tapioca as well.  Quick tapioca is a little different in texture than the normal large, medium, and small pearl varieties.  It's broken up into crystals about the size of Demerara or Raw Sugar.  My assumption is that it allows it to thicken things quicker because it has no outer "skin" like the pearls do.  Then again, I may be wrong.  All I know for sure is that it works really well.  So well, in fact, that I use it in my Marionberry pies too.

Mom's "covering" came in two forms.  It was always a sweet biscuit dough (shortcake), but sometimes she dropped it from a spoon into the prepared berries (like making dumplings) while other times she would roll it out and cut disks to lay on top of the berries.  Either way, it was always delicious.  There is nothing quite like a berry juice soaked biscuit.  I will even go so far as to say that cobbler might even better than pie.  (Maybe

Blackberry Cobbler

4 pints Blackberries
1 TB Quick Cooking Tapioca
Juice of 1/4 Lemon
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup AP Flour
2 TB Unsalted Butter

Shortcake Biscuits (Sweet Biscuit dough)
2 cups AP Flour
1 TB Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Sugar
4 TB Unsalted Butter
1/2 - 2/3 cup Whole Milk (This will depend on the humidity of your flour)

First you need some beautifully fresh and juicy Blackberries.

Wash and drain the berries. (I only do a few at a time, cause I don't want them to get smushed in the the colander.  In the grand scheme of things I suppose it doesn't really matter, but it's a habit.)

Place them in a bowl that will be big enough for tossing.

Sprinkle with the Quick Cooking Tapioca. (don't toss yet)

See, it's all broken up, no pearls here!
Squeeze the lemon wedge over the berries and toss briefly, then set aside to allow the tapioca to absorb any latent moisture.

In a small bowl combine the Sugar and Flour and whisk together briefly, then set this aside as well.

Making the Biscuits...... 
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk AP Flour, Baking Powder, Salt and Sugar together.

Add the Butter, cut into small pieces.

Begin working the Butter into the flour mixture, either with fingers or a pastry cutter, until you have a cornmeal consistency.

Add 1/2 cup of the milk to start.

and begin stirring everything together with a fork until all the flour is moistened and a dough forms that "follows the fork around the bowl".  You may need the remaining milk, but you may not.  (Basically, add just enough moisture so that a soft dough forms that will cling to the fork and not the bowl)

Roll the dough out on a WELL floured surface....

Cut 2 inch rounds.

Bringing it all together.....
Sprinkle the reserved Sugar/Flour mixture over the berries and toss everything together.

Pour the berries into a 10x10 CorningWare baking dish. (you can use a 9 x 9 Pyrex too)

Dot with 2 TB of Butter, cut into tiny pieces.

Lay the Sweet Biscuit rounds on top of the berries, leaving a little room in between for the berry juice to bubble up and coat the sides of the biscuits too.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 15 minutes.

Spoon liberally over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and gobble it down.  ;)