Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seeing Red - Red Walnut Divinity

Nothing says the holidays quite like Walnuts.  They lend crunch to Fruit Cake and Brownies, speckle Divinity and Fudge and flavor Baklava and Nut Rolls.  In fact, it should be illegal to have Christmas without Walnuts. 

Historically, at least in the United States, we have had a choice between the mild transplanted "English" Walnut (which are really Persian) and the stronger flavored "native to the US" variety known as the "Black" Walnut.  But no more, for California has done it again.  They have successfully begun producing RED Walnuts.

Don't freak out, it's not a GMO, nor is it a gimmicky artificially colored food product.  The interior husk REALLY is Red.  From the outside, you would not be able to tell the difference between the standard English/California/Mission/Persian Walnut and the new Red Walnut (which is either a Livermore or a Yolo) developed at UC Davis by grafting a Persian red skinned variety to the more common English (insert litany of AKAs here) Walnut. 

Unlike "English" Walnuts, which take 2-3 years to begin producing, these red varieties can take as long as 8 before producing a significant crop.  Thus, those that were planted over a decade ago are now beginning to bear "fruit" as it were.

(Black Walnut, English/Mission/California/Persian Walnut, Red Walnut)

The harvest is still low, when compared to the massive quantities of English Walnuts produced by California. Heck, very low when compared to the copious amounts of nuts that are produced by California in general.  Texas, New Mexico and Georgia have their Pecans.  While Oregon and, to a lesser extent, Washington have their Hazelnuts.  Even though Hawaii is the land of the Macadamia nut.  It is California's harvest of Walnuts, Pistachios and Almonds along with a few Pecans, Macadamias and Hazelnuts as well, which culminates into 90% of the United States yearly nut crop.

Which only proves that California is seriously full of nuts.  I'm just sayin'

So what do "Red" Walnuts taste like?  To me, they taste more "nutty", almost like they have already been lightly toasted.  Here is the interesting thing though, they are lacking in that bitter tannic bite that English (AKA litany) and Black Walnuts have.  Thus, I think the "nut" flavor is more pronounced simply because they aren't as bitter as common Walnuts.  

I chose to use the few I was able to procure in a batch of Divinity.  I have covered Divinity several times before, both Lavender and with Black Walnuts, so I am not going to run through the procedure again in this post.

I am, however, going to show off my vintage Betty Furness "Westinghouse" thermometer set.  (I wonder if she's fictitious like Betty Crocker)

And show a picture of the addition of chopped Red Walnuts to the Candy mixture... Exciting, huh?

To be honest, though I was happy with the end result, I think I should have left my Red Walnuts in larger chunks.  They really didn't show up in the finished Divinity, which kind of bummed me out.  (and why I posted the picture of me adding them to the candy batch --  they really are in there)

I was hoping for a nice punch of red within the pristine whiteness of the candy. (sigh) Oh well.

The flavor was delicious and that is really the important thing.

So check them out and give them a try.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Marx Foods' Shrooms for Soup Challenge - Black Trumpet Oyster Stew

It's been a while, I know.   But I am back in the saddle momentarily; primarily because I cannot resist a good challenge.  Especially if it involves Mushrooms.  I'm just sayin'.

Thus, I am taking on the latest Marx Foods Challenge, which involves creating a soup utilizing dried Mushrooms.  (Shrooms for Soup)  This could not have been a more timely challenge.  I am totally in soup mode.  It's an Autumnal favorite of mine, in all it's permutations.  OK, disclaimer time....  (you knew it was coming)  All opinions stated here are my own and no funds have been exchanged between Marx Food's and myself.....   blah blah blah blah.... OK enough of that...

The selection from Marx Foods included Porcini (Bolete), Matsutake (Pine Mushroom) and Black Trumpets (Horn of Plenty, Black Chanterelles, Poor Man's Truffle, or Trumpet of the Dead).  Not your run of the mill mushrooms, that's for sure.

I am also positive that, if you have been following this blog for any length of time, the litany of AKA's for the Black Trumpet was a dead giveaway as to which one I chose to grace my soup recipe.  

Considering the flavor of Black Trumpets, being buttery, nutty and slightly smoky, I felt they would be the perfect with Oysters.  Of course, I have been craving oyster stew for the last couple weeks anyway, so this just made it that much better.  Though Black Trumpets season is now, being late summer and fall, they are one of the best dried mushrooms available.  They hold their flavor VERY well, so fresh or dried, I don't think it really makes no difference.

Oyster stew is a little tricky.  The whole point is to keep it as simple as possible and NOT over do it with added "stuff".  It's suppose to taste like a "creamy ocean" when you are done.  It's definitely a case of "Less is More".  That includes "less" Flour (this isn't a thick chowder) and "less" Oysters.  It should not be completely stuffed with meat.  Figure about 6-8 oysters per person.  That's all.  It's really all about the flavor of the delicate sweet & buttery milk broth.  mmmmmmmmm

This "less is more" philosophy is part of the reason I use Leeks in my soup; a lot of soups actually, but in oyster stew in particular.  Leeks are a member of the onion family; an easy going member of the onion family.  Like the friend who helps you in the kitchen without taking over your party.  Their unassuming nature makes 'em the perfect fit for Oysters, lending flavor without stomping all over the Oyster's delicate flavor.  As an added bonus, Leeks are divine with mushrooms in general.

So thus, armed with Leeks, Black Trumpets, Oysters and a significant amount of Butter and Cream, I present "The Ocean in a Bowl"

Black Trumpet Oyster Stew

24-32 Fresh Oysters (or 2 10oz Jars in Small or Petite)
1/4 oz Dried Black Trumpet Mushrooms (don't over do it)
1 Leek, quartered and sliced (white and light green parts)
1 Garlic Clove, minced fine
4 TB Unsalted Butter, divided
2 TB AP Flour
~1 cup Heavy Cream
2 cups Whole Milk
A good Slug o' White Wine
Italian Parsley, chopped fine

So, first, unless you have fresh Black Trumpets, you need to soak the Black Trumpets in some warm water to rehydrate them (just enough to cover them)

While the mushrooms are soaking, shuck the oysters, reserving the liquid, then filter the liquid through a fine mesh strainer, into a 2 cup measuring receptacle, to ensure there are no small bits of shell; set both the oysters and the liquid aside for now.

After you have shucked the oysters, the mushrooms should be thoroughly hydrated, so filter the mushroom juice through a fine mesh strainer into the same 2 cup measuring devise as the Oyster juice. (I left my Trumpets whole, but you can chop them up a little, if you like)

You should have about 1 cup of Oyster/Mushroom Juices.

Add enough Heavy Cream to make 2 cups, then set aside.

Begin melting 3 TB unsalted Butter in a 2 quart pot set over Medium-Low flame. (your goin' for a "sweat", not a saute)

When melted, add the Leeks and the Garlic and sweat until they begin to soften slightly.

Add the Black Trumpets and continue cooking for about 4-5 minutes longer.

Add the Flour and stir to thoroughly coat the Black Trumpets and Leeks, then continue cooking and stirring until the flour begins to smell nutty.

Pour in the Trumpet/Oyster/Heavy Cream mixture, stirring constantly to ensure the Flour is dissolved.

Add the Whole Milk as well, stirring again to ensure everything is well mixed, then let everything just sort of hang out over Medium-Low, stirring occasionally, while you deal with the Oysters.

In an 8 inch skillet, melt the remaining 1 TB Unsalted Butter over Medium flame.

Once melted, add the Oysters.

Cook until they begin to give off liquid and they sort of "plump up" and the edges just begin to "curl". (overcooked Oysters are disgusting leathery things that are just NOT tasty)

Remove the Oysters from the skillet with a slotted spoon and immerse then into the warm Soup.

Give the soup a good slug of white wine....  And, if you want, you can filter the liquid from the skillet through a fine mesh strainer and into the soup as well.

Season the soup with Salt and Pepper.

Cover the the soup and reduce the flame to LOW....

Way low...  As low as you can possibly go. You really only need to keep it warm for about 10 minutes to give all the flavors chance to get to know one another and meld into an elixir of unfettered deliciousness that makes angels weep.  (I'm just sayin')

Serve with a sprinkle of freshly chopped Italian Parsley. (and oysters crackers, if you like)

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM  The Black Trumpets were a perfect addition to my Oyster Stew.

Tasting of rich butter and nuts with an elusive spice quality that augmented the flavor of the oysters instead of fighting with it.  I really didn't get any smokiness, but I think I understand why Black Trumpets are often referred to as the "Poor Man's Truffle".  There is something exotically intoxicating about the aroma.

I will have to make my Oyster stew this way from now on.  I'm completely hooked. (no pun intended....)


Friday, August 30, 2013

Consumed with Corningware

In case you have not noticed, I have been a little MIA as of late.   There has been cooking and baking going on, but there has also been an extreme lack of time for writing and picture modifying and such. 

What it really boils down to, is that I have finally found the limit as to what I am capable of pumping out blog-wise.  Having 2 blogs makes things a little rough, for when one is being nourished with tasty recipes, the other one is starving.   At this point, it has been Culinary Alchemy that is suffering in lieu of Corningware411 posts on patterns, pieces and food. 

Not to mention my first ever Vintage Corningware Giveaway (that was a fun experience).

So if you are not following Culinary Alchemist on Facebook, to which all Corningware411 posts are also funneled, here are some of the things I have been Cookin' Up, Old School.

As you can see, there has been definite cooking happening, just not enough time to post on both sites. 

Because Corningware411 is still a fledgling blog and over 50% of the posts are regarding patterns produced by Corning Consumer Products Division over the years, I feel that it needs to be fed more diligently at the moment than Culinary Alchemy, which encompasses a substantial body of work already. 

Because of this, I am going to put Culinary Alchemy on hiatus for the next couple of months... I will be back in full swing by November, when the Holidays begin.  This is not to say that I will not be posting at all over the next couple of months, but they will be infrequent at best.  I will be occasionally posting links to Corningware411 recipes, but be forewarned, they will be extremely Vintage Corningware-centric.  LOL

I would like to thank all the readers out there for your support and interest in Culinary Alchemy.  I would also like to thank you for your patients while I try to  figure out how to divide my time more effectively between the two blogs.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Me, Myself and Indian Cuisine - White Mushrooms (Kumbh)

So, the other day I was thinking to Myself, "Self, you never cook anything from India".  Normally, and I use that term loosely, when "I" think to "Myself", Myself ends up traveling down some strange culinary rabbit hole leaving unsuspecting "Me" sitting in the aftermath thinking, "Whahappened?"   Yes, when "I" think to "Myself" it begins to worry "Me".

But Me being Me, the more inclusive of the three and spurred by some desperate need for "Self" preservation, as well as being more detail oriented than "I" or "Myself", piped in with "Ya know, for all the array of spices and herbs that We DO have, We are always missing something to execute a decent Masala."

After which "I" thought back, quite simply and succinctly, "Chicken".

"Don't bait Me"

"I'm just sayin'... Though "I" could really go for some Mushrooms, Myself"

And there it was....   White Button Mushrooms cooked in Spicy Butter and Milk.  Simple, elegant, and not requiring a full pantry full of the harder to find ingredients like Black Cumin, Nigella Seed, White Cardamom, Fenugreek and Curry leaves (yep, Curry is an herb too, not just a spice mix) or Mustard oil.  All We really needed was the contents already contained within the panty..... Cumin, Coriander and a little White Pepper.

Honestly, this dish tastes better with Cremini, Baby Bella, Champignon, Italian Brown, Brown Button, Chestnut mushrooms or whatever the current marketing BUZZ word is calling them right now.  They are all the same.  The original button mushroom (Agaricus Bisporus, mentioned above by the litany of names) mutated in 1926 while being cultivated in Pennsylvania, resulting in a "White" mushroom.  At that point in time, white foods, like white bread, were considered to be more healthy because they were "Pure".  (sigh) As if.  Anyway, all the white button mushrooms on the market are decedents of that original Pennsylvania mutation.  Me, Myself and I really prefer the flavor and texture of the Brown ones though.  The white ones have a rubbery texture and seem to be, almost, slimy on the outside after being cooked.  That's just Me.

White Button Mushrooms (Kumbh)

1 lb White Button Mushrooms (Cremini "Brown Button" are better)
4 oz Unsalted Butter (definitely NOT low fat)
3/4 cup Onion, minced
1 tsp Garlic, crushed
1 tsp Coriander, ground
1 tsp Cumin, ground
2 TB AP Flour
1 cup Whole Milk
Salt to Taste
2 tsp White Pepper

Remove the stems from your Mushrooms and save them for another purpose.

Set the Mushroom caps aside.

Place a large skillet over medium flame and allow the butter to melt.

Add the Onion and Garlic and Sweat for 5 minutes, or until softened.

Add the Coriander and Cumin, cooking until fragrant.

Remove the skillet from the flame and add the Flour, stirring to combine.

Return to the flame and cook until the color darkens slightly.

Slowly stir in the milk.

Once thoroughly combined, add the mushroom caps.

Cook for 5-7 minutes, stir every once in awhile... (The mushrooms should begin releasing liquid to mix in with the sauce)

Remove from the heat and season with Salt and White Pepper.

Serve, over Brown Basmati rice.

Now if you will excuse Me, Myself and I need to have another chat.  :)