Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Burrow Easter Eggs


Who doesn’t love hunting for movie Easter Eggs, especially in a Pixar film? My youngest daughter, Maddie, works at Pixar and directed the animated short, Burrow. If you watched the film on Disney+ (or in a theatre overseas), you know that a lot goes on in the film’s cutaways and backgrounds.


Some of the Easter Eggs, like the stuffed Kitbull toy, fly by but are in plain sight. But others may not be as obvious and might be harder to spot. Want a few Easter Egg hints?

 

WATCH the TVs. Recognize the two scenes from a 2013 short film?

 



SEE the restaurant? It’s based on a real one and you can find a recipe from the restaurant’s cookbook on this site.



SPOT the Bedlington? Like Kitbull, it’s stuffed, but this dog is real.



Burrow contains a host of other references that have special significance. Many of Rabbit’s co-stars represent family members. The best Easter Egg is the hidden matriarch that doesn’t live in a burrow but makes a brief cameo appearance. And see those two mice jumping on the bed? Don’t ask about that….


Good luck with your Easter Egg hunting! And speaking of eggs, you need them to make pancakes (here) and, of course, an Omelette.

 


p.s. David Lally did not write Burrow's music. Mozart did (not counting the bossa nova tunes, of course). 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Chickpea Stock



Ten Speed Press recently published David Kinch’s new cookbook entitled At Home in the Kitchen. Written with Devin Fuller, the book stays true to its subtitle: “Simple recipes from a chef’s night off.” Kinch, the executive chef at the Michelin 3-star Manresa, spends Tuesdays unwinding and cooking the comfort food featured in his new cookbook. Sourcing pristine ingredients, like sushi-grade fish for his Salmon Rillettes or Sashimi-style Raw Fish with Sushi Rice might prove a challenge depending upon where you live. But for the most part, the book’s 120 easy-to-make recipes are supermarket-friendly (even though my local market will probably never offer butter as deep yellow as the photogenic stick on page 12).

 



And speaking of butter, Kinch opens At Home in the Kitchen with a short observation called “Butter the Size of a Walnut”. He writes how recipes from his grandmothers and “some of the most austere French cookbooks I’ve studied as a chef” call for inexact quantities (e.g., butter the size of a walnut or half a glass of white wine). These descriptions forced him to cook with his eyes. Modern recipes, although often exact to the gram, still require cooks to adapt. Kinch writes: “[w]hen it comes to using [At Home in the Kitchen], everything is an estimate—albeit a thoughtful one. A potato will roast differently depending on how thinly you slice it and how hot 400°F actually is in your oven. So, if I say about 30 minutes, and the potatoes crunch when you take a bite, put the pan back in the oven and keep checking until they’re cooked through.”

 

This caveat came to mind after trying Kinch’s recipe for Mushrooms al Horno with Crusty Bread. He writes that the baked mushrooms “kick out their water, which combines with the wine, garlic, vinegar, and herbs to make a very flavorful sauce.” My mushroom medley must have attended the Garo Yepremian School of Kicking and Passing because the baked mushrooms came out of the oven stone dry—but still delicious. Next time I will try a different mushroom combination.

 

In keeping with Kinch’s theme of Tuesday is my night off, At Home in the Kitchen’s eight chapters focus on hospitality-friendly dishes. Chapter 1, entitled “Small plates to cover your table + condiments to fill your pantry”, stands out by offering outstanding stocks and other pantry items. I made Kinch’s Parmesan Stock recipe and used up all the leftover cheese rinds I had hiding in my refrigerator. I used the stock, which keeps for 3 months in the freezer, to make pilaf.

 

Another favorite recipe from this first chapter is one of the humblest. Kinch’s Chickpea Stock gives the cook both a flavorful stock and cooked chickpeas. Here are Kinch’s introduction and recipe, which makes about 8 cups of stock and 4 cups of cooked chickpeas.

 

“If you find yourself wondering why soups and sauces at restaurants taste so much better than the ones you make at home, it’s probably because restaurants use house-made stock. Stock is the foundation of a dish, and particularly good stock can be the jumping-off point that takes a home-cooked meal to the next level. This is a wonderful, versatile stock that happens to be vegetarian. Perfect for Date-Night Risotto with Crab (page 147) or Chickpea Minestrone, Genovese Style (page 214), this stock, in particular, can also be widely used in place of water for just about any recipe to add complexity of flavor. This recipe also leaves you with 4 cups of cooked chickpeas. I recommend using them for the Raw Fava, Chickpea & Tahini Hummus [on page 35].

 

2 cups dried chickpeas

1 bay leaf

2 pieces star anise

4 sprigs thyme

1 head garlic, bottom root trimmed, head halved horizontally, skin on

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 medium white onion, halved

2 carrots, ends discarded and peeled

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt

 

In a large pot, immerse the chickpeas in water and soak for 2 hours. Alternatively, you can soak overnight, but decrease the cook time to around 1 hour in total so as not to overcook the chickpeas.

 

Drain the chickpeas and discard the water. Wrap the bay leaf, star anise, thyme, garlic, and peppercorns in cheesecloth and tie shut with string to make a sachet.

 

In a large pot on high heat, bring the chickpeas and 10 cups water to a simmer. The pot will form a scum resembling soap suds. Skim off the scum and turn the heat to low. Add the onion, carrots, herb sachet, and sugar and bring the stock back to a simmer.

 

After 45 minutes, stir in a couple pinches of salt. Avoid the temptation to add salt at the beginning because this toughens the skin of the chickpeas. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the chickpeas have cooked through, about 45 minutes more. The chickpeas are finished when they no longer taste dry but still remain some of their texture.

 

Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let the chickpeas cool completely in their broth, ideally overnight. This allows the final extraction of flavor, and the results will merit the extra time.

 

Remove the herb sachet, carrots, and onions and discard. Strain the chickpeas over a large bowl to reserve the stock. Both the stock and the chickpeas can be used immediately or stored separately in airtight containers in the freezer for up to 3 months.”

 

One of the things I like about this particular Chickpea Stock recipe is what I like most about At Home in the Kitchen: the advice that Kinch shares throughout the cookbook. In the case of his Chickpea Stock recipe, I learned to infuse the cooked chickpea stock with its ingredients overnight to extract extra flavor. At Home in the Kitchen includes a treasure-trove of these culinary gems, especially on how to increase the flavor of a dish.

 



Of late I’ve noticed a number of cookbooks with some nice chickpea recipes. Jeremy Fox’s On Vegetables (2017) has a recipe for Chickpeas in Broth, Lots of Olive Oil & Black Pepper, Pan con Tomate. (Fox worked for Kinch at Manresa.) Nancy Silverton’s Chi Spacca (2020) includes a Whole Roasted Eggplant with Chickpea Purée and Zhug recipe. And Eric Ripert’s brand new cookbook, Vegetable Simple (2021), features a super simple Chickpea Salad (page 73). All these recipes start with dried chickpeas. A chickpea variety that I really like is called sultano. Gustiamo, an on-line retailer, imports these special dried chickpeas from Italy. Although pricey when compared to the dried chickpeas that often reside on the bottom shelf of supermarkets, these small, organic Italian chickpeas have a pronounced nutty flavor. They make great falafel, too. 

 



I religiously follow cookbook reviews and I am not sure why At Home in the Kitchen isn’t getting a lot more press: I think it is one of the best spring 2021 cookbooks along with Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown by Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho. I have a long list of recipes from At Home in the Kitchen that I want to try: Farinata; Jambalaya, New Orleans Style; Roast Chicken; Oyster Stew; and Almond Granita. Adding to the entertaining/party vibe of At Home in the Kitchen, Kinch recommends a musical pairing with each of his recipes. What tune pairs well with Chickpea Stock? “Cadillac Lane” by Buck Owens.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Kokostoppar


In the weeks leading up to Easter, I baked a lot of different cakes and cookies. One simple cookie stood out. The recipe comes from Magnus Nilsson’s The Nordic Baking Book (2018). Nilsson calls the cookies Coconut Pyramids. In Danish, they go by the name kokostopper, and in Swedish, kokostoppar. If you like coconut macaroons, then you will love these buttery cookies. The recipe makes about 20 pyramids.

 

2 eggs

90g sugar

200g desiccated coconut

good pinch of salt

75g butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

 

“Preheat the oven to 175°C/345°F and line a baking sheet with baking (parchment) paper.

 

Put the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk until mixed. Add the desiccated coconut, salt and the butter and stir until fully combined. Let the batter sit for 20 minutes so that the coconut can absorb a bit of the moisture and swell, this makes shaping the pyramids considerably easier.

 

Spoon 20 piles of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and shape them into pyramid shapes using your hands or a spatula. Bake for 10-15 minutes. They should be golden on the edges of the pyramid but blonde on the flat sides. Coconut pyramids go dry if overcooked. Remove from the oven and leave them to cool.”

 




This might be one of the tastiest—and certainly the easiest—cookies I have ever made. When I first read the recipe, I wondered if shaping the pyramids might be tricky, but it’s not. I used my hands to form some of the pyramids and a spatula to make others. I think hands work best. In his introduction to the recipe, Nilsson writes that “[t]hese pastries don’t have to be shaped like pyramids, I just like them that way. It works just as well to simply spoon them out onto the paper in rough piles before cooking them.” I like the pyramids, too. The shape makes for a fun cookie.

 

What makes kokostoppar special is the rich butter and coconut flavor. Many of the coconut macaroon recipes that I have collected do not include butter and use only egg whites. I have eaten plenty of these versions and some are great. Personally, I like the option of making a rich coconut cookie. I also like that these kokostoppar aren’t too sweet. 




Sunday, January 31, 2021

Fortissimo Durum Flour


I recently purchased a bag of Fortissimo durum flour from Cairnspring Mills in Burlington, Washington. According to the North Dakota Wheat Commission, “[d]urum thrives in a climate characterized by cool summer nights, long warm days, adequate but not excessive rainfalls and a dry harvest….”  Although California, Arizona and North Dakota produce the majority of US-grown durum flour, Fortissimo, developed in 2006, performs well in certain Pacific Northwest regions. Cairnspring’s Fortissimo grows in Washington’s Skagit Valley.

 

Fortissimo is a very hard variety of durum wheat. Cairnspring claims that during its early milling trials, the wheat broke its mill stones. Durum’s protein content can range from 9 to 18%. Fortissimo has a protein level between 10-11.5%, which is just a tick below average. Cairnspring mills and then sifts its Fortissimo to a Type 90 flour, which has slightly more texture than Central Milling’s Extra Fancy Durum. Neither Cairnspring’s Fortissimo nor Central Milling’s Extra Fancy Durum flour resemble traditional semolina, which is a granular flour composed of evenly sized endosperm. 

 


When I first came across Fortissimo on Cairnspring’s website, the mill only had 50-pound bags of the durum available for pick-up in Burlington. As I write, Cairnspring now offers 2.2-pound bags that it will ship (but, per the website, supplies are limited).

 

I’ve made a number of batches of pasta blending 60 grams of Cairnspring’s Fortissimo durum with 90 grams of Central Milling’s Organic Type 00 flour. To hydrate the flour, I add one whole egg and two egg yolks, which together weigh just under 100 grams. Using a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, I slowly add the egg mixture to the flour blend until the dough just comes together. I then tightly wrap the dough in plastic film and let it hydrate at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling the dough out in my Imperia R220. I plan on using the same flour blend to extrude pasta with my torchio, but will cut back on the amount of the egg mixture to make a harder dough.

 


I try to support my local Pacific Northwest food industry, especially newer ventures like Cairnspring Mills, which started in 2016. Its Fortissimo durum flour feels like the freshly milled and sifted flour that I grind with my Komo grain mill. The pasta I made with Fortissimo using my preferred 2:3 ratio of durum to Type 00 flour had a balanced, firm texture and lovely yellow hue. Although not traditional, I especially like to use this 2:3 flour blend when making pappardelle destined for a hearty sauce.