Saturday, March 27, 2010

Duck Rillette

There are a lot of different animals that make a good rillette. Duck, specifically it's legs, is one of these. Here is a version that maintains the texture and color of the meat.
For more pictures and comments about this recipe visit my Picasa page here.
4 duck legs

20g salt
25 dark brown sugar
.5g tcm
1g fennel seed
8 all spice berries
2g elder flower, dried leaves
5 sprigs thyme
15 black peppercorn
5g garlic
50g pinot noir
50g pork lard
Around 2 tablespoons of Apple cider vinegar
Mix everything together except for the legs, lard, and vinegar, and stir to make the cure relatively uniform. It doesn't have to completely dissolve the salt and sugar. Place the legs into the bowl and cover them with the cure. Put everything into a vacuum bag being sure to get any little bits that try and stay in the bowl (I used a FoodSaver). Vacuum and seal the bag. Let cure for 48 hours under refrigeration. Remove the legs from the bag and rinse off the outside under cold water. Place into a clean vacuum bag with the lard and seal. Poach at 91F for 8 hours. Once poached place into an ice bath and cool to 40F. Open the bag and separate the legs and duck jelly from the fat. Pick the meat away from the bones, tendons, ligaments, and anything else you don't want in your rillette. Place the picked duck meat into a bowl. Gently heat the duck jelly with some of the fat in a pan until it just start to melt. Season the meat with this liquid and the apple cider vinegar to taste; you may not use all of the jelly and you definitely will not use all of the fat. Once the duck meat is succulent from the fat, acidic from the vinegar, and salty from the jelly, pack the rillette into a container for storage. Heat some of the remaining fat until it melts and pour it over the packed rillette. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Additional Comments:
Maintaining water bath temperatures over long periods of time can be tricky. Unless you have something that is specifically designed to do this for you, you are going to have to get creative. Gas or electric ranges are not designed for cooking like in this recipe, but I make mine work pretty well. I have played around with different pots, different amounts of water, lid or no lid, and the heat set at different levels. You are looking to find out a way to get the water to reach an equilibrium point. This means seeing what temperature the water stays at for extended periods of time. For this recipe I knew that if I brought a specific pot of water to a boil, turned down the heat as low as it could go, and dropped the legs in I could get the water to stay at 91F for as long as I wanted(or at least close). Once the water dropped to 91F I put a lid on the pot. After an hour my thermometer read 91F, when I checked on the legs 4 hours later to stir them, it was 90F. At 6 hours it was 92F and after 8 hours it was 91F. So this means I know what set-up(pot,flame,water,lid) I can use to hold something within a few degrees of 91F. I also know that this same set up, but without a lid, with sit around 61F. Now I know that 1 degree, or even 1/2 of a degree can make a big difference in some cooking applications, but until I see the need invest in something that can keep a water bath within .5 degrees of accuracy I will just have to avoid extremely sensitive recipes.
I like this technique so much because the integrity of the meat is maintained. It is not a mash of meat that is then covered in seasonings, it is heavily flavored and cured duck meat coated in some of it's own fat and jelly. You only need to add some acid at the end to make this rillette balanced.

Plate it up!
Duck rillette rolled in burdock dressed with beet juice, served with red sorrel, golden beet marmalade, and orange marmalade glaze.

I think that I could get away with calling this cooking method "confit". Which means that I am claiming that if you pick the meat from a confit and then add some of the fat and jelly to the meat you have a rillette. It tastes and looks right to me.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Brown Butter Consommé Pt.2 Clarification

I tried three different methods of clarification, all of which used the same stock made in part one. The three clarifiers were egg whites, gelatin, and agar.
Starting with the egg whites:
600g brown butter stock base
85g egg whites
2 egg shells(optional)
Crush the shells and add them to the whites in a bowl. Whisk until lightly frothy, only a few seconds. Bring the stock to 130F, it should be a little too hot to hold your finger in for too long. Turn up the flame to high and pour in the whites. Stir the pot 2 or 3 revolutions every 60 seconds with a rubber spatula being sure to drag it across the bottom of the pan. Do this until a raft of whites starts to form on top of the stock. Stop stirring at this point and bring to a gentle simmer. Break a hole in the raft by spooning some of it on top of the rest of the raft.
Simmer for 30 minutes. Ladle, just the liquid, through a fine cheese cloth, leaving the raft behind.
Now the gelatin:
600g stock base
5g sheet gelatin
Bloom the gelatin in cold water and then add to 1/2 of the stock.
Bring to 130F and then whisk the warm stock and gelatin into the cold stock all at once.
Place in a container and freeze. Once frozen place the block of stock over fine cheese cloth and let it thaw in the fridge. I used a strainer to hold the cheese cloth and frozen stock so that the consommé could drip into the container below, but you can use any set up that makes sense to you. After a day or so in the fridge almost all of the liquid should have dripped through, there will be some frozen liquid(mostly water) and cloudy particles left behind.

Finally the agar:
600g stock base
2g agar
Whisk the agar into 1/3 of the cold stock base. Place into a pot and whisk over high heat. Bring to a boil and then maintain a boil for 1 minute. After the agar is hydrated, slowly stream the cold stock into the hot agar and stock mixture. Place into a bowl and let cool until the agar sets(at 104F) the entire bowl of stock. Gently break up the gelled stock with a whisk and allow it to drip through a fine cheese cloth.

Conclusion and Commentary:
The best method in terms of clarity(visual) was the egg white method. The best method in terms of flavor was the gelatin clarification, but it wasn't perfectly clear. Unfortunately, the agar clarification didn't get the stock clear enough for me to even call it a consommé, I had to clarify again with egg whites.
So, I had one complete win(whites), one partial win(gelatin), and one fail(agar). I will have to do more tests to see why this seemingly convenient and foolproof method did not do the job. On the right here you can see how the agar did gel the liquid, and it did weep, but the weeping liquid was not clear.

For more pictures and comments on these clarification methods look here. For more information on gelatin and agar clarification look here.

The final destination for this consommé was a skate wing.
Plate it up!
This is poached skate wing with pea shoots, fried capers, lemon, and parsley, just waiting for the hot consommé to be poured over it. A light, almost fat free version of skate in the style of the classic Grenobloise.

Unless the agar method can produce results as good as with egg whites I think I will be using gelatin in the future. Even though it is more work and requires more time, the natural concentration of the consommé that it produces is very noticeable in the end result. Also, I used the shells in the egg white raft because they help bulk-up and hold the whites together, but you don't really need them.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Brown Butter Consommé Pt.1 Brown Butter Stock

I have to admit that the title of this dish is slightly tongue-in-cheek. How much can a fat-free broth taste like brown butter? I maintain that the end result is highly flavorful, and aside from the fat soluble flavors that are not present, it wouldn't be too hard to convince someone it tastes like brown butter. Clarifying this stock is essential because the initial stock will be incredibly cloudy. All of the particles get in the way when tasting, but once clarified, the flavors shine through. This entry will be for the base stock, and then I will post on how I clarified it.
200g onion, large dice
130g butter
2g salt
2 points star anise (not 2 whole stars)
120g goat milk powder
100g milk
10g sugar
90g shallot, sliced
15g garlic, rough chop
8 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
4 black peppercorn
2500g water

Place the onions, star anise, salt, and 10g of butter in a small pot. Gently brown the onions over medium-low heat.
This takes a little while. Turn off the heat and set aside once the onions are uniformly just beyond golden brown. In a pot that can hold at least 3.5 liters of water, place the milk powder, milk, and the rest of the butter. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly. The mixture will dehydrate, break into fat and solids, and then start to brown. Cook until all of the milk solids are just beyond golden brown. Once this happens add the shallots, garlic, thyme, bay, pepper, sugar, water, and previously cooked onions. Bring everything to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Strain through a chinoise and cool.

Now you have a fatty and cloudy vegetarian stock. Clarification coming soon. Sorry, no plate up because this isn't ready to serve yet.

Some notes:
Cooking the onions with star anise produces more brown-meaty flavors than if you just brown the onions with the butter. Here is what Heston has to say about it.
The first time I tried to make brown butter consommé the process was a little more time consuming. The idea came from the fact that the flavor of brown butter comes from the milk solids left in the butter from the cream. I decided to try cooking skim milk(a lot of milk solids and notfat) in butter until it dehydrated enough to coagulate the proteins and start to brown. This worked well, but it took a lot of time and milk. Buying already dehydrated milk solids saves time and produces the same results. I used goat milk because that was all I could find, but any dehydrated milk powder would work.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Brioche Variation

The purest in me would like to believe that there is one brioche; one ratio of flour, eggs, butter, milk, etc. that when properly manipulated creates, "The", one and only brioche.  However, realistically, there are at least a few different recipes for doughs that can all be called brioche.  I decided to create my own variation with some inspiration from Michel Richard. He adds a small amount of apple juice to his version. I add a lot of peach nectar and do not use any milk.
Here is my recipe:
450g bread flour
3g yeast
4g salt
40g honey
116g whole eggs
18g egg yolks
80g peach nectar
114g butter

Place the yeast, salt and flour into a bowl. In a pot, warm the whole eggs, yolks, peach nectar, and honey while whisking, bring it just above body temperature. Heat the butter separately (I microwaved it) until is just starts to melt. You do not need anything to be hot, you just want the butter and egg mixture barely warm. Off of the heat, whisk the butter into the egg mixture, pouring at a constant, slow, stream.
Once this mixture is emulsified add it to the flour, yeast, and salt, all at once. Mix with a spoon until it starts to come together and then knead with your hands until the dough is completely even. The dough will be a little sticky, but, for 1 minute, really work the dough, mash it, twist it, and turn it (that is what kneading means to me).

Form the dough into a ball and place it into the bowl you were using and tightly cover it with plastic wrap. Let this sit out for about 2 hours, depending on how hot everything is will greatly vary the rising time. You want the dough to double in size. After the dough doubles, push out all of the air and reform it into a ball. Place back into the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours, longer is fine, up to two days. Keeping it longer will start to alter the bread in a number of ways(oxidation, added fermentation), but you can still use it, it just wont be the same. After resting in the fridge, place the dough into a baking pan and shape it so that it fills the pan evenly. Cover and let sit at room temperature for about 5 hours, you want the dough to double in size. Once this happens bake at 350F for 42 minutes, or until the top is a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and the baking pan immediately, placing the loaf on a rack to cool.

This enriched bread has a creamy soft interior that is perfect for French toast.
Plate it up!

Caramel lacquered "brioche" French toast with red plum-vanilla compote and red miso ice cream.

I am not sure if emulsifying the butter into the eggs first actually does anything other than make more work. Most recipes I read add whole butter to the dough a little at a time to achieve a uniform emulsified dough. I don't have, or really want, a standing mixer, so I make everything by hand. Working the butter into the dough this way was difficult and I wanted to see if there was a better way. I will try a few more variations of enriched bread doughs to see what the results are and do a side by side tasting.

Some additional photos and captions are provided to better show the process of making this bread here.


Thursday, March 11, 2010


The first time I ate a "pork rind" I was about 16. So, I'll be the first to say I am not an expert on fried pork skin, at least in the authentic-traditional sense. However, I have started to make a lot of one version of Chicharrónes that I enjoy. This post is my most recent recipe, and so far has been producing the best results. The reason I want to clarify this is because there is some confusion around how fried pork skin should be named. There are a lot of different way ways to fry skin(with a lot of different steps in-between), and they all produce very different results. Sometimes it isn't even fried, it can be baked or roasted. I found a lot of confilcting information during my research for this adventure in fried pork skin. I've heard many different interpretations, but here is my version. Some people are religious about pork skin(especially when it is fried) and I do not want to offend anyone.
Lets' do this.

You can use skin from anywhere on the pig. I have not tested different parts side by side, but in this post there is skin from the hind leg and back. Both seem to perform identically, but if I can get a cross-sample of the whole animal together it will share the results. Maybe there is a prime area for the best fried skin?  Whatever part of the animal you choose, you are going to want to remove most of the fat and meat before cooking.
Again this may not be true in all preparations, but just bear with me here. The skin pictured here is from the back, and there is a decent (this was a small pig) section of "fat-back". There is also a small amount of muscle. These are both precious and have potential in other applications (lard, sausagesauce), so trim and save. Start by laying the slab, skin side down. Place your knife just above the skin(you are going to cut into fat) and fillet the pork back like you would a fish. Check the pictures above for the general idea. Once you separate the skin from everything else(you can leave a little of the fat on) place it into a pot and cover with water. Boil for 2 hours, covering is a good idea, but not necessary. Take the skin out of the water and lay it out on a tray. Let it cool at room temperature and then set the gelatin by putting it into the fridge. Once chilled, take out the skin and scrape the fat away from the skin. Be meticulous. I use a knife after getting 98% off with a spoon. A bench scraper, or dough knife also work well. Once you have isolated the skin, lay it onto a non-stick tray and put it into your oven on the lowest setting possible, I think 140F should be the lower end, but you can try lower if you can go lower. A dehydrator would also work, but I just do it at 170F(thats as low as I can go) for at least 8 hours. You want the skin to look inedible, like this.
At this stage you can store the skin a room temperature for a few weeks, months if you are brave/stupid(I do). To turn into delicious puffed skin, after all that, all you have to do is fry it. Break the skin into the size you want, they puff a lot so just be ready; huge ones are fun to eat too.I've tried frying at 350F and they come out great. I've also put them in at 250F in a small pot of oil and then cranked the heat to high. These rising temperature chicharrones have a more uneven inflation and are also good. I cannot decide which I prefer, but the 350F ones are much easier and more consistent to make; try those first. Once fried, at least season with salt, you are going to need a fine salt, any coarse salt just doesn't stick evenly, even if you add it immediately out the the oil(it turns out alright, but finer salt can make a perfectly even seasoned rind). The addition of some powdered acid is a great idea, and some dried chili. You could make your own, but Tajin is ready to go and tastes great. I bet is was designed for applications like this.
Plate it up!

Maybe seeking out pork skin specifically to make Chicharrónes is a little much(probably not though), but I hope I have at least communicated that if you ever are in possession of a piece of pork, never throw away the skin!
I am interested in making fried skin/meat/fat versions. The incredible puff of this version is due to the purity of the skin, however, in some instances sacrificing the puff for a more crunchy/crisp texture sounds great to me.

Finally, I have decided that blogger just isn't convenient enough to post all of the pictures I take during production, with all of the formatting details that I want. So, I will be linking to my Picasa page for some posts.  I will create entry specific albums if the topic warrants it.
This one warrants it, check it out here.

This one is for you,


Monday, March 8, 2010

Soufflé Series Part 2

In the first part of this series, I made a soufflé from traditional pastry ingredients.  This time I am going to try and mix up the recipe a little with the addition of agar agar(look here for more info) and baking soda.
36g butter
26g flour
2 green cardamom pods
82g honey
60g milk + 35g separate
15g sugar
2g agar
50g egg yolks
Amounts per soufflé made - 40g egg-whites, 6g sugar, 1/4 pinch malic acid powder, 1/8 tsp baking powder
Add the butter and cardamom to a small pot and melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk. Turn the heat to high and add the honey. Once incorporated stream-in the milk and cook until it boils, it will be very thick. ---->
Let this cool until close to room temperature(you just don't want to cook the yolks). Pour the agar and sugar into a small dish and mix them up to disperse the agar in the sugar. Whisk this mixture into the cold 35g of milk and then add the yolks. Pour all of this into the thickened milk and flour mixture. ----->
Stir and pass everything through a chinoise.
Decide how many soufflés you are going to make(up to six from this recipe) and butter and sugar 5oz. ramekins. All of the ingredients to follow need to be adjusted depending on how many soufflés you are making, the amounts are for one soufflé. Scale into a bowl, 45g of the base. To this base add 1/8 teaspoon of baking powder. Add 40g of whites into a separate large bowl. Add 6g of sugar and 1/4 of a pinch of malic acid powder to the whites. Whip the whites to medium peaks and add half to the scaled base. Mix until they just start to combine and then add the rest of the whites. Gently fold-in the rest of the whites and spoon into the ramekin, fill just to the top. Bake at 400F for about 9.5 minutes. Plate it up.

I know... these didn't come out as nice. Here is the analysis:
The results from this modified recipe were not better than the traditional.  It is possible to produce just as good a soufflé as the traditional recipe, but there was more opportunity for error. For instance look at this soufflé. It rose a lot, and it never fell. However, it blew itself up. The addition of the baking powder gave the soufflé extra rising power, causing the soufflé to turn itself inside-out near the end of the baking process. Still tasted great, but it
doesn't look great. This was the most common defect - continuing to try and rise after the top was set, and then breaking the top open.
The two pictured soufflés, side by side, were made from the same base, but the one on the right had the sides slightly stick to the side of the ramekin and it promptly turned itself inside-out as it rose. The one of the left was almost identical to the traditional method soufflé, but it did bulge a little on top, not appealing ascetically.

I hope to try out more versions of the modified soufflé base, however this attempt was mediocre, coming out slightly worse than the traditional version in the best instances. It turns out this recipe is actually more temperamental than the original, without any benefits.

I''m going to conclude with a few more thoughts on this recipe and the last.
The sugar added to the whites does make it harder to whip the whites to peaks, but it also makes the whites more viscous, the sugar binds water, and therefore the result is more stable. I am will to sacrifice the ease of whipping whites without any sugar for the extra stability, plus every time I did a trial I was able to get to soft peaks by hand in less than a minute even with the sugar.
The agar agar was meant give stability and enhance the texture of the soufflé, both inside and out. However, unlike the baking soda, the effects of the agar weren't really noticeable. The souffle was as stable and had as creamy a texture as in the original trial.  It did help maintain the structure of the soufflé once it cooled, but only once it completely cooled, well beyond ideal eating temperature. Any benefits that the agar could have produced were already being taken care of by the yolks.
At least with this general approach to making soufflés, agar and baking soda are duds. Maybe they could be beneficial in the future if I come at this technique from a different direction.
I'll post more on this after putting up some other stuff, I can only eat so many soufflés.

With love,

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Soufflé Series Part 1

I decided to start from scratch and create my own recipe for sweet soufflés. This first post will be a classical attempt, the next part of the series will deal with using non-traditional ingredients in an effort to produce a more stable and higher rising soufflé.
The general idea in making a soufflé, as far as I understand it(I am sure there are other versions), is that whipped egg-whites can be used as the sole leavening agent for a flavored base. The combination of fluffy whites, dense flavored base, and heat of the oven create a heavily leavened, light, flavorful, yet fleeting, treat.
In creating a recipe that would achieve these results I thought that the denser and more flavorful the base, the better the result would be. The whites only act to leaven and modify the texture of the soufflé, they do not add any flavor(other than egg-whitiness). Therefore, the base needs to be flavorful enough to stand-up the dilution of the egg whites and have enough stabilizers to rein-in the whites and prevent them from falling after rising. 
I am using 5oz. Aplico brand porcelain ramekins to hold the soufflé.
64g milk
1g salt
100g honey
28g flour
35g butter
50g yolks (about 3 extra-large eggs worth)
50g whites per soufflé (maximum recipe yield is 6)
6g sucrose per soufflé 
1/4 pinch malic acid powder per soufflé(you can substitue another acid, explained in method)
extra butter and sugar for lining the ramekins

You do not have to make all of the soufflés at once because the base keeps very well. It is best to make a batch of base and then add only as much egg-whites as you need; this is why I have written the recipe in this format.

Add the butter to a small pot, something you can use a whisk in, and melt it. Add the flour and stir until incorporated, you are making a roux for a dessert.
Turn the heat to high and whisk(make sure this is not a flimsy whisk) in the honey and salt. Once the mixture is starting to get hot, stream in the milk, it doesn't have to be very slow, it is just easier to incorporate when not added all at once. Bring this to a boil, the flour will thicken the base until it is almost impossible to stir, and the batter will stick into the whisk. Press the thickened base out of the whisk with a small spoon and place all of it into a small bowl. Once the base has cooled to around room temperature, add all of the yolks and stir until well combined. This can now be stored for several days, but needs to be tempered before use by being brought back to close to room temperature.
Decide how many soufflés you are going to make and place 46g of base for each one, into a bowl. See here.->
In a separate bowl add 50g of whites per desired soufflé.  Line each of the ramekins with a thin coating of butter, and then put in a small amount of sugar and turn the ramekin until there is a coating of sugar covering the entirety of the inside of the ramekin.
To the whites, add 6g of sugar and 1/8 of a pinch of malic acid powder(again,with both of these, per soufflé). Whisk the egg-whites until they are at medium peaks, slightly drooping, but not too soft. Take 1/2 of the whipped whites and stir it into the base. Then gently fold the rest of the whites in, trying to keep as much air in them as possible, the base does not have to be completely uniform, just mostly. Spoon this batter into each of the lined ramekins until it reaches the lip of the vessel, do not over or under fill. Place into a 400F oven for about 9.5 minutes(I highly recommend cooking a test soufflé to get the timing perfect, but 9.5 has been working well for me).

Adding the malic acid powder, you don't need very much.

This soufflé is over filled(I thought filling above the rim would make it rise more) it ended up being top-heavy and rose out as well as up.
This next soufflé is properly filled, and rose evenly upward, was stable after taking out of the oven, and was airy and moist in the middle, success. This one plates itself up!

Some concluding explanations:
I incorporate the yolks into the base after cooking the flour because I want the yolks to thicken only as the soufflé starts to rise. I tried making the based with cooked yolks, but then I realized that uncooked yolks in the base make it seem thinner than it is. What I mean by that is the base wont be overly thick at room temperature(the thickening power of the yolk has not been activated yet), but once heated, it will thicken and stabilize the soufflé.
The flavoring for this soufflé is honey, I use local wildflower honey that I bought at the Union Square Green Market. It has a lot of flavor, and I use it because the quality of the honey in this recipe is essential in the quality of the end result. I knew that the base had enough flavor because when I tasted it, it tasted heavily of honey. Once diluted, in the end, there was a pleasant, but distinct honey flavor present.
Also, I add sugar and an acid to the whites because I find that they whip into a more stable and smooth mass. You do not need to use malic acid powder, I have a lot of it, it tastes good and I only need to add the smallest pinch to have an effect. A little lemon juice would have a similar effect.
Finally, the reason that I butter AND sugar my ramekin, even though in Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking(p.113) it is suggested otherwise, that combination produces the best rise. Take a look at these three soufflés. All three have batter from the same mixing bowl, all chocolate flavored, and baked side by side in the oven all at once.  The one of the left is a dry ramekin, in the middle is just butter, and on the right, butter and sugar; judge for yourself.

I was very happy with this classical souffé adventure, but I want more, I want to see if I can get a higher rise, better texture, and more stability. In the next part I will document how the non-traditional soufflés turn out.

I'm yours,