Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Valentine's Day Dark Chocolate Souffle With Raspberry Sauce

Dark chocolate souffles have long been one of my husband's favorite desserts.  So, when we had some guests over a month or two ago for a dinner party, and their contribution to dinner was making us four delicious chocolate souffles, he was thrilled.  I promised that I would replicate the feat at some point.  Since souffles are one of our featured recipes this month on A Kitchen In Brooklyn, I figured that now would be a good time to make him his favorite dessert with a bit of a raspberry twist.

I love raspberries and think that chocolate and raspberries make the perfect combination.  Coffiners (my husband's family) are the opposite.  Most (but not all) of them don't really care for raspberries at all.  However, my husband is the exception.  With a little prodding, I convinced him that he should eat his dark chocolate souffle with my raspberry Chambord cream sauce, and it worked.  He loved it!

When I decided to make a raspberry chocolate souffle, I was torn between preparing a chocolate souffle with a raspberry sauce or a raspberry souffle (yes, it would be that lovely pink color) with chocolate sauce. In the end, I decided to do both, but start with the former.  So, there will be a straight-up raspberry souffle coming your way soon.

The first step in preparing this recipe is to prepare a dark chocolate souffle.  Like Emily mentioned in her soup post yesterday, I am also not good at following directions; I never was.  As a kid when asked to color inside the lines in a coloring book, I never did - I drew my own picture.  I'm still that way - I prefer doing things my own way, which occasionally gets me into a bit of trouble.  However, souffles can be a little tricky, and unless you have made a lot of souffles, it's usually good to follow some sort of recipe, at least as a guideline - so even I am actually encouraging following directions here.  If you do things a little off (i.e. not enough egg whites, open the oven in the middle, fold in the egg whites too hard etc.), your souffle will not rise, or worse, will make a mess.

I looked at a number of recipes, before deciding on how to prepare the souffles.  A lot of the recipes I used made quite a bit more souffles than I was interested in, or had proportions I was not crazy about.  Based on all the recipes I looked at, I came up with what I consider to be a very basic dark chocolate souffle recipe.  I used the darkest (60% cocoa) chocolate pellets I could get my hands on at the grocery store.

Individual Dark Chocolate Souffles (Makes 4 servings in ramekins)
5 oz bittersweet dark chocolate (pellets or chips work best)
2/3 cup milk
1/2 T cornstarch
2 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/6 cup of sugar; plus more for souffle ramekins

Raspberry Cream Chambord Sauce
4 oz raspberries, pureed
3T sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp cornstarch

First, spray 4 ramekins with PAM and dust with sugar.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place the ramekins aside on a baking sheet.  On one burner, heat a large pot of water (to construct a double boiler - you could just use a regular double boiler if you have one).  On a second burner, combine the milk and the cornstarch over medium heat and bring to a boil, and stir until it thickens.  Once thickened, turn the heat off.  Melt the 5 oz of bittersweet/dark chocolate in your makeshift double boiler and combine with the milk mixture.  Transfer to  bowl and mix in the egg yolks.  Set this aside, and concentrate your attention on the egg whites.

Getting the egg whites right is key.  If you do not get the result that I describe here, you should discard the egg whites and start again until they are just right.  If they are not fluffy stiff peaks in the end, your souffle will not rise, and the entire experiment will be a waste of time.  It's happened to the best of us, but if you follow these instructions, it should work out.

Put the egg whites in the basin of your stand mixer.  Add the cream of tartar and beat for a minute or two until foamy.  Then continue beating, on the highest setting there is, while gradually adding the sugar (1/6 of a cup - fill a 1/3 measuring cup halfway).  Once the sugar is added continue beating for about three minutes, until shiny stiff peaks form.  The result should be nice and fluffy and it should form a stiff pointed peak when you test the consistency with a fork or spoon.

Next, gently fold the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture.  Gently!  Don't beat it in, just fold gently with a spatula.  If you are too rough in doing this, the souffle won't rise as well.  However, fold enough to make sure the mixture is mixed in full.

Fill four ramekins.  Then place in the oven right away (it is really important to have the timing right with a souffle, so make sure the oven is fully preheated by the time you get to this point).  Bake for about 13-15 minutes (watch using your oven light) until they have risen fully.  Don't open the oven until you are ready to take the souffles out no matter how impatient you are (I did this once and the souffle collapsed and was a disaster).

Have the raspberry cream sauce ready when the souffles come out, because they will fall in a matter of minutes.  To make the sauce, puree the raspberries and mix with the cream, cornstarch and sugar over medium heat until it thickens.  Add the Chambord and mix on the heat for another minute or two.  Allow to cook before using, because the hot chocolate souffle tastes great with the chill raspberry sauce.  By the way, the sauce is featured in a bowl that I made in a potter course I took last year.

Serve the souffles immediately (they will fall in a couple of minutes, but still taste great) when they come out of the oven with the raspberry sauce, and some fresh raspberries. My husband happily devoured two of these in a matter of minutes (seriously)!

We should have more souffle posts coming up this month from everyone here, but if you are in the mood for a dinner souffle, click here for recipes for a spinach souffle and sweet potato/apple souffle.


Sasha's Kitchen On The Road: Irish Guinness Stout Stew

About two years ago, my husband and I went on a family vacation to Ireland.  While we were in Dublin, a fun loving, carefree city, we visited, like most American Tourists, the Guinness Storehouse.  This was a highlight of our time in Dublin, which was a magical city to explore on foot (one of the other highlights was by chance catching a tiny R.E.M. concert at the Olympia Theater, which set us back a day or two in recovering from jet lag).  At any rate, while in Dublin, we tasted several excellent traditional Irish stews, prepared using Dublin's famed Guinness Stout.

Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout.  It has a deep, rich, heavy flavor (it's like a meal, really) that works well with a beef stew.  However, as guest writer Bryan noted to me last week, if you use too much Guinness, it will impart a bitter flavor to your stew.

I made this stew in a very impromptu manner.    I was unhappy with all of the recipes that I found online, so I started from scratch, and tried to create a hearty stew that would be enriched by the deep flavor of the Guinness.  I decided before I started that I was in the mood for a pretty unhealthy (but very tasty) version of this stew, which meant that I sauteed my ingredients using butter rather than my usual canola oil (I suppose Julia Child would be happy since I usually disregard her love for butter in favor of a healthier style of cooking with canola oil).

Here is the recipe that I used to make my version of this Irish classic:

Sasha's Irish Guinness Stout Stew

4 cups beef broth
4 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups Guinness Stout
2 lb stewing beef
1 large onion
3 T butter
2 T canola oil
three large handfuls of baby carrots
4 T of flour
3 T tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

First, I diced the onion, and sauteed the onion and carrots for a few minutes in the butter and canola oil, until the onion was soft in my Dutch Oven.  Then, I added the meat to the Dutch Oven, after tossing it in 2 T of flour.  I braised the meat in the butter and canola oil for about five more minutes, until it was browned on all sides.  Then, I added the herbs, beef broth, Guinness and tomato paste to the pot and brought the mixture to a boil.   After the stew was boiling, I reduced the heat to simmer and continued to simmer for quite awhile (about thirty to forth minutes or so) until the soup was thickened to a stew.

To thicken the stew, I used my mom's trick and added 2 T of flour (or, you could use cornstarch) to a half cup of the broth and mixed well before adding back into the stew.  This really helped the thickening process, while completing the process in the manner I suggested helps avoid clumping in the stew.

The end result was a delicious thick and hearty broth that had a strong thyme flavor, as well as the hearty deep flavor imparted by the Guinness.

Have some extra Guinness?  Make my Chocolate Stout Cupcakes next.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Emily's Parents' Kitchen in Connecticut: Impromptu Soup

This is my first post for A Kitchen in Brooklyn! My kitchen is officially in Seattle, but I am writing from the Keeler outpost in Groton, Connecticut.

So, I am all about "intuitive" cooking. I like to taste my way around the kitchen, scouting out ingredients like a culinary bloodhound. I go around like this: Aha, apples, yes, and sweet potato, okay, hmm carrots, yes, curry? Cheddar cheese? Perfect.

After my mother came home annoyed with my father and me for not thinking about dinner (my father is retired and I work from home), I decided the next day to actually think about things in advance, and by advance I mean about 10 minutes. Here is the result of my kitchen scouting: an impromptu soup of beta carotene-rich vegetables sweetened with apples, topped with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and homemade roasted chickpeas (croutons or pumpkin seeds would also be nice). If New England had a regional dish, this would be one of them. This version fills about four regular bowls. Just up the proportions if you want more.

Please note: I typically do not measure things. My teachers used to comment to my parents that I was a good student, but I never followed directions. So this is nothing new. I am putting down suggested measurements, but I recommend honing your intuitive cooking skills and trusting your own taste buds. (I sort of went overboard with the cayenne pepper in my version anyway.)

Impromptu Soup - Harvest Vegetable Soup Accented with Cheddar Cheese

Serves 4

1 tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, chopped into small pieces
4 or so carrots, chopped into small rounds
2 apples (I used Gala but I imagine Granny Smith would be splendid), peeled, cored and chopped
About 6 cups water
About 1 tsp. curry powder
About 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
About 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
About 2 tsp. salt, or to taste
Optional: about 1/2 cup of soy milk or cream to soften things up a bit, especially if you've added too much cayenne pepper
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese - as much as you like
Croutons, roasted chickpeas or pumpkin seeds for garnish

-Heat up the oil in a soup pot, then add the onions and garlic. Stir and let sit with the cover on for 5 minutes or until you're tired of waiting!
-Add the chopped sweet potato, carrots and apples.
-Stir everything together and add the desired spices.
-Now add the water. Add just enough so that the water level is about even with the ingredients in the pot. Too much water will yield super soupy soup. You can always add more water, but it doesn't work the other way.
-Put the lid on, let it boil, and go watch a half hour of television. After the soup is at a boil, bring it down to a high simmer. Check it periodically (like during the commercial breaks) and pierce the vegetables with a fork. The carrots are the last things to get soft. After about 30 or 40 minutes you should be in business, but rely on the fork-pierce test to determine the readiness of the vegetables.
-Take the soup off the burner and get your immersion blender ready. Alternatively, throw the soup, in batches, into the food processor or your Magic Bullet. A potato masher also works, but things won't turn out as creamy.
-Blend the soup.
-Taste it and adjust the seasonings. Choose to add cream, milk, or vegan milk if desired.
-When you're ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls. Top with cheddar cheese and/or desired toppings. Serve with hearty bread.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Crab Couscous with Green Apple, Mango, Saffron and Lemon

Crab is one of the featured ingredients of the month for February here on A Kitchen In Brooklyn.  For the first crab recipe, I decided to use some fresh lump crabmeat from my local fish market (unfortunately, I was not able to obtain king crab) and decided to prepare a couscous dish.  The crab was not intended to be the star of this dish, but to be featured as one of several complementary flavors.  There are several foods that I think make spectacular food combinations with crab.  These include green apple, tamarind, lemon, avocado, beets, sugar snap peas, snow peas, mango and eggs (not all in the same dish, of course).  I look forward to experimenting with different ways of presenting crab this month.

For my couscous, I decided to complement the crab with some tang/tartness, so I selected green apple, lemon and mango, and also threw in the sugar snap peas.  I added the saffron because the couscous needed a bit of a pick me up, plus it made for a beautiful pale yellow color.  Saffron is very powerful, so you only need a little bit or else it will overpower the other flavors.  The balance of this dish is nice.  Don't forget the lemon at the end, as it adds an important complement and acidity necessary to balance the dish.  This might be one of my best recipes yet, and I'm sharing.

Sasha's Crab Couscous With Green Apple, Mango and Saffron (serves 4)

1 1/2 cups of couscous
1 cup of sugar snap peas (or snow peas, if you prefer)
olive oil (added as described below)
2 diced cloves of garlic
2 T mascarpone cheese
1 diced shallot
1 medium sized mango, diced
2 green apples, peeled and diced
1 lemon, cut into slices
1/8 tsp saffron
salt and pepper to taste

To prepare this dish, I boiled a quart of water and cooked the sugar snap peas until softened (I guess they no longer will "snap").  Then I removed the sugar snap peas and added the couscous to the water.  I cooked the couscous, as per typical instructions, until al dente, about seven minutes.  Then I drained the couscous from the remaining water and mixed with 2T of olive oil.

Next comes the fun part, deciding how to jazz up ordinary couscous to create a new recipe.  I sauteed the shallot and the garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Then I cooked the diced mango and apple for a few minutes, until softened.  Next, I added the sugar snap peas and the couscous and cooked for a few minutes over medium heat, adding the saffron and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Then, I added the crab and the mascarpone to the hot couscous and mixed well, to melt the mascarpone.  (you could substitute butter if you prefer).  

Finally, for presentation, I used a small bowl to mold the couscous, and garnished with some of the purple cauliflower presented in last night's post.  (I don't suggest eating the cauliflower with this dish, its too bitter, but it looks to pretty).  When you are ready to eat, season with some of the lemon juice.  I used a Meyer lemon.

This dish is one I will make again and again.  An aside here, it really bothers me when people eat lousy food (that I have to be present to see or smell).  I don't mean foods I don't like, per se, just poor quality food - frozen meals, bad restaurant food, poor quality ingredients, lots of chemicals that serve no purpose, msg etc...  You're putting this stuff in your body so you should care too.  Food is an art and should be treated as such, without dumbing down our taste buds.  

For another dish with crab, check out my crabcakes prepared using Marcus Samuelsson's recipe from his new cookbook.


Sasha's Kitchen: The Flavors Of Napa Valley (A Foodbuzz Contest)

When I decided to enter the contest to report on the finals of the Foodbuzz / San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition in beautiful Napa Valley, the answer was easy for me.  Napa Valley is my favorite culinary spot in America, both because of the breathtaking natural beauty of its surroundings and because it is a foodie paradise due to its incredible local produce.  Napa Valley is a perfect place, given its rich culinary tradition and lovely scenery, for chefs from around the world to compete to present the most incredible and delicious dishes.  I couldn't think of a better spot on earth to inspire such culinary creativity.  I love watching chefs create their masterpieces, like works of art.  I would love to be there to watch the challenge of so many superb chefs.

Thus, am first presenting some San Pellegrino sparking mineral water with the flavors of Napa Valley, in this post.    I decided to pair the San Pellegrino with the Meyer lemon, Napa's distinctive lemon.  The Meyer lemon is thought to be a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange.  It has a sweeter, less acidic taste than the ordinary lemon, and is, in my opinion, quite a star in itself.  The combination of the Meyer lemon and sparking water dazzles.

Next, I added another dish that I grew to love in Napa.  This is going to sound weird, but trust me with this one and just try it.  When I visited Round Pond Estate in Napa Valley, where they make their own limited production olive oils (and wine too, by the way), I had a marvelous buffet lunch all using local Napa produce (the best on earth).  They served vanilla ice cream with their Blood Orange Olive Oil.  I was skeptical at first.  Ice cream and olive oil?  Weird.  Bizarre.  And also amazing, especially with the blood orange complement.  Thus, this dish will alway be part of what I consider to be the distinctive flavor of Napa Valley.

To sum things up, I would love the opportunity to report live from the Almost Famous Chef Competition, and I'll have a glass of San Pellegrino, garnished with a wedge of Meyer lemon by my side, along with two of my other loves: food and writing.


Michelle’s Kitchen in Toronto: South American-Inspired Sausage and Vegetable Ragout

My cravings for meat continue with this dish inspired by the wonderful Columbian chorizo I bought at Segovia Meat Market (218 Augusta Avenue, Toronto, ON M5T 2L6
(416) 593-9904) in Kensington Market that’s been hanging out in my freezer for a few weeks. The ingredient list is long, but well worth the effort, another one of my food experiments gone right!
South American-Inspired Sausage and Vegetable Ragout
2 tsp olive oil
¼ red bell pepper sliced into short strips (or use a half if you don’t like the green peppers)
¼ green bell pepper sliced into short strips
1-2 carrots peeled and diced (use two if they are small)
1 sausage link diced (use chorizo or another Latin/Spanish-inspired sausage with lots of flavour)
3 stems green onion, chopped fine (this is again leftovers from the great Fish Fragrant Eggplants, but you could dice up half an onion and simply toss in the pan with the carrots if you prefer)
¼ c chicken broth
1 bay leaf
½ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp garlic powder
1/8 – ¼ tsp chipotle powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp taco sauce (I used Old El Paso’s Mild version)
Heat the oil in the pan at a medium heat. As I don’t have the greatest pan in the world, I also used some cooking spray to help the oil. Once hot, add the carrots, bay leaf, and a little salt to bring out the flavour; sauté. If you are using diced onion instead of the green onions, add them at this point. Sauté until they start to lose their rawness and add the peppers. Sauté a few minutes and add the other seasonings while this is happening and stir. After a minute or two, add the diced sausage. Cook until it is mostly cooked and add taco sauce; stir. Add the chicken broth and scrap the flavour bits from the bottom of the pan. This creates a nice sauce and cooks the sausage. Serve with some nice basmati rice and enjoy!
I didn’t have garlic in the house today so I used the powder, however if you are using fresh and want to omit the powder, add the garlic about a minute before you add the taco sauce. This is a great dish to make just because, or to help clean out your fridge. I had some cooked leftover rice from a curry I made so I just stirred that right in at the end to warm it!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Tuna Burgers (And My Unrelated Discovery Of Purple Cauliflower)

The Food Network's Bobby Flay inspired me to create a burger that combined the flavors of tuna, chipotle and pineapple from his similar burger in his new cookbook, Bobby Flay's Burgers Fries and Shakes.  However, my recipe differs from Bobby's with respect to several of the key ingredients and the way that I prepare my sauce.  He certainly was my inspiration in creating this healthier take on the burger.  The original recipe that I started with can be found here.

To prepare the burgers, you will need:

1 lb tuna steak
1 T dijon mustard
2-3 tsp chipotle puree (depending on how much heat you want)
1/4 cup red onion, diced (Flay uses scallions, instead but I much prefer the combination of the red onion with the tuna and chipotle)
1/2 T honey
1 T canola oil
2 T pineapple juice (my addition)

Cut up the tuna into small pieces and pulse until pureed in your Cuisinart.  Then mix in the other ingredients and form into four burgers.  Cook the burgers using a grill pan (or a regular grill, if you are somewhere other than Brooklyn in the dead of winter) for about 8 minutes, total over medium heat, being careful not to burn the burgers.

To prepare my version of the pineapple mustard sauce, which I turned into a honey mustard sauce, mix 4 T of Dijon mustard with 4 T of pineapple juice and 2 T of honey.  Top with fresh pineapple before serving on a lightly toasted bun.

Picture shows my tuna burger with pineapple and the pineapple honey-mustard sauce

Apparently I didn't get the memo that burgers are supposed to be fattening and unhealthy.  This one made me feel as good as it tasted.

Finally, I wanted to include an unrelated note about a pretty cool organic vegetable I discovered today at my local organic market here in Park Slope . . . purple cauliflower (which I had heard about but had never seen).  I am going to have to do something fun with it this week, but wanted to include a picture of it here first, in all its purple beauty.  This begs the question - did nature really create cauliflower this purple?  The answer is absolutely, this is not created wtih food coloring.  Rather, the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin (also found in red wine and red cabbage) gives it this beautiful color.  There is currently being research done, according to the Wikipedia page linked to above, that may support some use for anthocyanins with respect to cancer and apoptosis (programmed cell death).

I have some exciting recipes planned to prepare and write about in the next two weeks, including a crab couscous, turkish meatballs, scrabble tile cookies, some beer and food pairing, bread puddings and two new surprise cupcake recipes.

Eric's Kitchen in Jersey City: Guacamole & Chicken Fajitas (Super Bowl Special)

This post is really more about the Guacamole than the Fajitas as we were just trying to use up some leftover Grilled Chicken plus everyone seems to really like my Guacamole. It's a recipe that started as my Mom's but I have evolved it over the years a bit and I honestly think she likes mine more than her own now... I figured this is a good time to post my Guacamole recipe so that people can hopefully enjoy it during the Super Bowl!

These are the ingredients I use for my Guacamole:
2 ripe Avocados
1/2 medium to small tomato, seeds removed and diced
1/4 medium Vidalia onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Some sort of hot sauce or red pepper flakes
Fresh lime juice

I find that if you don't remove the seeds of the tomatoes it get can a bit too watery. I also insist on mashing mine up with just a fork instead of a food processor since the flavors remain more in tact and the consistency feels more natural to me. As long as the avocados aren't under-ripe, this should never be a problem.

The lime juice is probably the second most important step since it also helps to keep the color of the avocado from going brown if you have to set it aside for a while. I've also heard that keeping bits of the rind in your guacamole helps but not sure how true this is...

When it came time for my fajitas I just reheated my leftover grilled chicken with some sliced Pepper Jack cheese and then sauteed some mushrooms and onions. We also added some roasted garlic Green Mountain Gringo salsa, which is by far my favorite salsa.

In the end we had a delicious meal that certainly didn't feel like leftovers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kelly's Kitchen in Chicago: Sprout Restaurant

I just had the chance to go to Sprout Organic Restaurant- a new Chicago restaurant run by celebrity chef Dale Levitsky (Top Chef season 3) and sous chef Sara Nguyen (also from Top Chef season 3)

Sprout is a cozy and intimate restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago. The menu is centered around an affordable prix fix 3 course menu.

We had reservations for Friday at 6:15. While it was a little bit of a rush, the atmosphere was warm and relaxing on a snowy 20 degree evening. Steve and I enjoyed some fantastic cocktails while waiting for our friends to arrive. I particularly liked the "Gingerdale" which was ginger and bourbon.

Here's the quick rundown:
At $60 for the courses, it's not outrageous but it also is more than we usually pay for a normal dinner.

The menu focuses on updating classic meat and potatoes with a playful touch.

For the main course- I enjoyed the lamb with potatoes and anchovies. Steve had a delicious short rib with truffled dumplings. Both were exquisitely well prepared and quite enjoyable.

The service was fantastic all the way.

The kicker- we even got to meet Dale!

You may ask why I don't have a picture with him . It's not because I'm shy. It's because I'm too polite, compassionate or something.

We asked if we could meet him before dinner. At the end of dinner the server said "he has like 5 tickets in front of him but he'll be out in a minute".

When he came out a few minutes later, he looked like he was working his butt off.

To that I say- Good job Dale! It's inspiring to see someone who obtained celebrity on TV bring it on in real life through hard work and creativity. The restaurant works and I'm excited we got to try your food! I can't wait until your patio opens in the spring!

Sasha's Kitchen: Classic Brooklyn Egg Cream

For this evening's post, I decided to prepare Brooklyn's signature drink.  The Brooklyn Egg Cream is probably one of the most memorable and distinctive foods to come out of Brooklyn's historic Jewish community.  It is quite simple to make, so I decided that tonight I would share the recipe for the Brooklyn Egg Cream, as well as discuss the history of this Brooklyn classic drink.

The Brooklyn Egg Cream does not, contrary to popular opinion, contain any raw eggs, and in fact does not contain any eggs at all.  The egg cream is, according to my research, exclusively a fountain drink - it is not possible to successfully bottle a Brooklyn Egg Cream.

There is actually considerable debate on the origins of the term "Egg Cream" to describe this drink, which is a mixture of seltzer, milk and Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Syrup (and you bet that you better use U-Bet syrup, or its not a real Brooklyn Egg Cream).  Some say that the origins of the drink are not known, while others say that it has its origins in the fact that many fountain drinks at the time the Egg Cream was invented (in the 1880s) actually did use eggs.  Another explanation is that the original version did use eggs and cream, but that eggs were dropped because of a shortage due to wartime food rationing.

Picture shows the U-bet syrups used to make egg creams, alongside a tradition Brooklyn Egg Cream and a New York Egg Cream, or Vanilla Egg Cream

My favorite explanation for the origins of the term "Egg Cream" is this popular explanation:  The Yiddish word "echt" means good cream and thus the term Egg Cream is based on the Yiddish word Echt, which sounds quite a bit like the term Egg.  Wikipedia presents a more complete view of the legend of the Brooklyn Egg Cream, as do other websites.  The legend of how the egg cream got its start here in Brooklyn is one of Yiddish folklore - the Egg Cream was invented by Eastern European Jews in Brooklyn in the 1880s (specifically Boris Thomashevsky), a founding member of one of the first Yiddish theaters in America, who, as the legend has it, had tasted a similar drink called a chocolate et creme in Paris.

Regardless of the origins of the term "egg cream" it is generally accepted that a Jewish candy shop owner named Louis Auster coined the term "egg cream" when he introduced the drink at his Brooklyn store.

To prepare a Traditional Brooklyn Egg Cream:

2/3 cup of milk
1 1/2 cup of seltzer
2 T U-Bet Chocolate Syrup

If you are not using seltzer under high pressure with a siphon or nozzle, and are just pouring it out of the bottle like I did, follow these steps - add the milk first (1 part); add either 2 or 3 parts seltzer depending on what you prefer (I did two parts seltzer) and mix in 2 T of the syrup.  You ideally want the egg cream to have a nice head, which takes a bit of practice, and can better be achieved by spraying the seltzer from a pressurized container.  Mine tasted amazing, but visually should have a bit more head.  That might be easier accomplished if I had used the 3:1 ratio of seltzer to milk rather than the 2:1 ratio.

The amount of the measurements do not matter at all.  What matters is the ration - for a creamier egg cream, do a 2:1 ratio of seltzer to milk, for a less creamy egg cream, do a 3:1 ratio.

Don't let Manhattan tell you the egg cream is theirs, because it's not.  Manhattan has its own variation though called the New York Egg Cream, which uses Vanilla U-Bet Syrup rather than Chocolate.

The Brooklyn Egg Cream is a classic Brooklyn drink that takes us back to the legendary days of the Coney Island Boardwalk.  This is a drink that is deeply rooted in Brooklyn's rich cultural and culinary history.

Michelle's Kitchen in Toronto : Valentine's Special - Steak with Scallion and Barbeque Sauce

This weekend, I was having a major craving for red meat so I thought to myself: "What could be more perfect for Valentine's Day than a romantic steak dinner for two?" And so, the experiment began! I started with a top quality organic Ontario strip loin steak from my favorite organic butcher here in Toronto; Sanagan's Meat Locker in Kensington Market where everything is always organic and local. To my mind, a good quality steak is key to making it perfectly. I used the whites of the scallions that were left over from my great Fish Fragrant Eggplant experiment that I previously posted, however you could use the whole scallion, a sweet onion or a shallot if you prefer. I bought a steak that was about 8-12 oz and I found that I only needed half for myself along with a green salad, however you could certainly double the recipe if this is not enough for you and your guest. This is a nice recipe for those of us who do not have a barbecue, or live in sub-zero climates as all you require is a pan and an oven!

Steak with Scallion and Barbeque Sauce
For the steak:
1 8-12 oz strip loin steak
2 tbsp barbeque sauce (I used Gourmet Original Diana Sauce; my favorite!)
1 tbsp pomegranate barbeque sauce (I used President's Choice amazing Memories of Damascus sauce but you could omit this and add more Diana sauce)
1/2 - 1 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp olive oil
salt to taste

Rub the steak with the sauces and coriander powder. Ideally, allow to marinate for 30 minutes to an hour. Preheat your oven to 375F. Heat your pan with the oil so it's smoking hot. Just before you add the steak to the pan, sprinkle with salt to taste. Sear the outside until the steak has nice colour, but only flip once. Take steak from the pan and put in the oven on a foil-covered sheet pan, keeping the heat on in the pan as you will be making your sauce while the steak cooks. I cooked it another 8 minutes in the oven to get it to rare but you could try cooking it 10 minutes to medium rare or 12 minutes to medium-well.

For the sauce:
4 stems scallion whites (see my blurb about ingredients above)
1/4 cup red wine (I used Pelee Island Winery Merlot Reserve)
1/2 - 1 c chicken broth
2 tbsp barbeque sauce (again, I used Diana Sauce)
salt to taste

In the heated steak pan, add the scallions and cook until the rawness has just gone out of them but not burning them, about 30 seconds. Add the wine and allow the alcohol to burn off; scraping all the good steak flavour bits off the bottom of the pan while you do it. The alcohol is usually gone about 30 seconds to a minute after you start smelling the wine in the pan. To this, add the barbeque sauce and stir. Add the chicken broth and allow sauce to cook down to whatever consistency you want it. Adjust salt in the last minute or two of cooking as the broth has quite a bit of salt as well and you may not need more.

I added a nice green salad to my plate as well as my glass of Pelee Island Winery Merlot Reserve that I not only cooked with, but drank as well.

Gourmet Original Diana Sauce

Memories of Damascus Sauce

Pelee Island Winery Merlot Reserve


Monday, February 1, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Mongolian Hot Pot ("Chinese Fondue") Part Deux

Prior to writing this post, I have unfortunately not had the opportunity yet to dine at a restaurant where Mongolian Hot Pot (known as "Chinese Fondue") was served - certainly my loss.  However, after reading about Hot Pot from guest Bloggers Kelly and Eric, I decided that I had to give it a try myself.  Truthfully, Mongolian Hot Pot is meant to be served to a group of diners, such as at a dinner party.  However, since it was my first try, and I was recipe testing, I decided to prepare Hot Pot for two - myself and my husband, Brad.

The first step was purchasing a hot pot.  I didn't get one of the fancy traditional hot pots, but the model I purchased at Tarzian West Housewares in Brooklyn was perfectly acceptable for making Hot Pot.  I bought the Presto Kitchen Kettle Multi-Cooker/Steamer which can function as a Hot Pot, among other things.  Apparently it can also be used for a wide variety of other tasks, from braising to deep frying, so I will be sure to use it next time I prepare my deep-fried NOLA beignets.  Thus, I selected my hot pot, which is pictured below.  It came with an internal basket, but I plan on purchasing additional small metal baskets on my next excursion to Chinatown, to use for a dinner party so each participant can have their own basked to make their hot pot fondue.  Last night, however, we made do with one basked and made one hot pot concoction that we shared.

The next step was to prepare the broth in the hot pot.  Although some diners may just use a simple beef or chicken stock, that would not do the trick for me.  I think the broth is really the most important ingredient in hot pot because it gives all the other vegetables and meats their flavor, as you want them to "soak up" the savory broth.  I was extremely pleased with the broth recipe I concocted, so I am going to share it below.  I really wanted something with a chicken broth / coconut flavor with lots of thai and asian spices, and a just a bit of heat.  I accomplished that in a very satisfying way.

Sasha's Mongolian Hot Pot Broth

7.5 cups of low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup white cooking wine
2/3 cup coconut milk (leftover from the coconut meringue buttercream cake I baked on Saturday)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 T rice vinegar
1 tsp diced garlic
1 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp saffron
1/2 tsp dried lemongrass
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

I prepared the broth in the hot pot and allowed it to simmer, much the same way I would have prepared a broth if I did it on a pot on my oven.  Like I said above, I was quite pleased with the results.

The next step was to select the ingredients that would be cooked in the hot pot - and for this step, the sky's the limit.  The possibilities are endless but I settled on the following:

london broil
fresh scallops (cut into small pieces, perhaps I should use baby scallops next time instead)
udon noodles

Next time, I will probably include some red pepper as well!  I seasoned all of the ingredients differently, using various combinations of pepper, soy sauce, scallions, rice vinegar, and sesame oil.  The tofu, broccoli and scallops were actually my favorite because they really absorbed the tasty broth extremely well.  I cooked my hot pot at about 200 degrees (my husband wanted me to turn up the heat, but I preferred to keep it down, and allow the ingredients to cook a bit more slowly).

My results were delicious - I recommend serving with just a bit of the broth, and with a homemade sauce made of soy sauce, rice vinegar, a bit of sugar, ginger and a touch of sesame oil.  I plan to get those mini-baskets very soon, and have a hot pot dinner party in the near future using my broth recipe to cook up everything and anything that I'm in the mood for.

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Margie’s Kitchen in Boston: Valentine’s Day Special Brunch Drink – Irish Coffee

Photos by Lena
This year, 2010, Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday and for this reason I am suggesting a menu for a Valentine’s Day Brunch. In my previous blogs I began with Crunchy French Toast, followed by Strawberries Romanoff. Now I am ready for the finale, Irish Coffee. I must admit that if it wasn’t for a trip to Ireland three years ago (Brad In the Kitchen and Sasha in the Kitchen were there, too), I would have never, ever, ever suggested any drink with whiskey. But a little roadside bar/ restaurant on the Ring of Kerry between Killorglin and Glenbeigh next to the Kerry Bog (Peat Bog) Museum, changed my opinion. Inside the venue were two women preparing Irish coffee for the tourists. Mind you, it was 10 in the morning. They had quite a production line that began with trays of glass mugs filled with some sort of syrupy-looking concoction, then they poured coffee over this mix and ended by pouring cream(with a bit of a head) on the top of the brew. After watching the expression on the faces of the tourists who drank the potion, I was enticed (by a fairy no doubt) to partake in the drink myself, even though I was dreading the taste of whiskey. I didn’t look precisely at how they achieved each step, but the final product was a piece of art ‒ on the bottom a syrupy swirl, then the dark, clear black coffee, and floating on the top was a beautiful creaming head. To optimize the pleasure of the drink one must drink through this cream, and I must tell you it was quite heavenly! It was so good that I even took my finger and swirled it around the empty glass to taste every last drop; this act of desperation coming from a woman whose favorite expression to her children when they were in a public place, “Don’t touch anything!”

So the challenge in preparing the drink in the USA, I thought, was only to make sure that I had all the ingredients in hand so that I could mimic the process I observed in Ireland. Most Irish coffee recipes call for a shot of good Irish whiskey*, two teaspoons of sugar, either brown or granulated (I used brown), whipping cream, and coffee. The cream should be whipped slightly.

So let’s begin:

Warm up the glass with warm/hot water and let it sit for a minute or two. I would suggest using a tempered-type glass. Pour out the water add the sugar and whiskey, stir and let the sugar dissolve. Then add coffee, followed by the whipped cream, which is to be poured over a large spoon placed over the glass (concave side up). Unfortunately, none of my recipes specify amounts of coffee or cream, and my first attempt looked more like a milkshake.

On my second attempt, I poured less coffee (½ cup) and just placed the head of the cream gently on top of coffee mix. It was a bit better looking but not what I saw in Ireland. As for taste, the milkshake version was quite good, and my second take did not have enough cream; neither compared to the brew I had in Ireland. Maybe I needed to add some fairy dust!

SOS to Bryan’s Kitchen in Dublin: Can you ask any of your Irish sources for tips on the art of making Irish Coffee?

*Bushmills and Jameson Brands.


Eric's Kitchen in Jersey City: Fried Rice

I made this with leftovers from the Mongolian Hot Pot we had at my Mom's which is ironic since usually fried rice is a way to use leftover rice. This is actually my 2nd attempt at fried rice and the first time I managed to burn the rice and it was pretty much ruined.

So this time around I decided to check our family cookbook from my Chinese side of the family. Sure enough we had a recipe for fried rice and it called for 'day old, cold cooked rice'. I thought maybe this was some sort of rice cooking process I didn't know about and maybe that was why it didn't come out right the first time so I looked up a few recipes online and it's exactly what it sounds like. Cooked rice that has been cooled for a day.

The meats and veggies we had from the hot pot weren't exactly what I would think to normally put into fried rice but I also thought it might make it interesting. We had sliced lamb, fish, chicken, shrimp, napa cabbage, mushrooms and snowpeas... Overall I found the napa cabbage and the fish to be my favorite parts followed closely by the shrimp which I found interesting as I never would have normally put the napa cabbage or fish into this dish.

My Ingredients:
3 cps cold, cooked rice (day old)
hot pot fish
shrimp (~12)
1/3 cup sliced lamb
1/3 cup sliced chix
handful fresh chopped cilantro
juice from two slices lemon
pinch of sliced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
1.5 bunches scallions
black roasted sesame seeds (~tbsp)
chili oil
sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
dash rice wine vinegar

I cooked the chicken and lamb first with some scallions and the cabbage. I used sesame oil, garlic and some chili oil in a pan and added some roasted sesame seeds as well to give them some flavor but in hindsight I think I should have marinated them as they really didn't get too much flavor from that plus I overcooked them a little.

I then cooked the rest of the veggies, shrimp and fish, again with scallions, sesame seeds and garlic in sesame and chili oil but this time I also added fresh lemon juice and a bunch of cilantro (which my Grandma calls Chinese parsley). I think I must have just timed this batch perfectly because all these ingredients tasted amazing. I set these aside with the other meats and veggies and started my rice.

I got more oil hot in the pan (Maybe 1 tbsp?) and then added my rice and stirred it until it was coated evenly with the oil. Then I added the rest of my scallions (probably a full bunch, chopped) and soy sauce (1 tbsp) and stirred until it was evenly mixed. We also had some leftover dipping sauce from the hot pot meal which was essentially sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and scallions (maybe 2 tbsp total) which I dumped in. The rice wine vinegar and ginger definitely stood out when we ate it and I would have to use them both again next time.

Once the rice was done I just mixed everything together in a big mixing bowl. Overall I was very happy with the results!

Here's a link to Sasha's Tropical Chicken Pineapple Fried Rice

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Rose's Heavenly Coconut Meringue Buttercream Cake (Cookbook Recipe Testing)

Yesterday, I decided to delve into my newest cookbook, Rose's Heavenly Cakes, from the famous cake-goddess, Rose Levy Beranbaum.  This cookbook has amazing and simply beautiful recipes for every kind of cake one could possibly imagine, and I am looking forward to testing some of those. This book, is just about the closest thing to a cake baker's bible, if there is such a thing - from, like I said above, the goddess of cakes herself.

I decided to start off grand, and prepare a two layer coconut meringue buttercream cake from her cookbook.  The recipe for the cake (which I won't re-post in its entirety here) can be found in her cookbook, Rose's Heavenly Cakes, which is hot off the press, having just been published in September, 2009.  She is also the author of The Cake Bible, the legendary 1988 cookbook that has certainly lived up to its name.

The recipe that I tried, is called the Southern (Manhattan) Coconut Cake With Silk Meringue Buttercream, found on pages 23-27 of her cookbook.  A few warnings before you proceed - this is not a cookbook for beginning bakers.  The recipes in the cookbook are wonderful (I've tried two so far, and certainly plan to try and test many more) but you should experiment with simpler recipes before delving into her multi-stage recipes.  In addition, I generally recommend that aspiring bakers begin with cupcakes before graduating to cakes because the scale is smaller and little mistakes can be a bit more forgiving.  Finally, although the recipes in this cookbook are amazing and extremely well put together and conceived, the instructions can be a bit complicated and intimidating for beginning bakers.  However, at this point, I am advanced enough to give a try, and the results did not disappoint, though perhaps I still have a few things to learn when it comes to cakes.  However, the result of this one was some true cake eye candy.

The first step in this recipe, was to create two layers of an light coconut cake.  The recipe, on page 23 of Rose's cookbook was fairly simple to execute.  It involved using a combination of coconut milk (the real deal - lots of calories - not lowfat coconut milk) and coconut extract to achieve a coconut flavor.  The cake used cake flour, as well as superfine sugar, a lighter sugar, that melts faster and allows the cake to have a lighter, more airy texture.

My mistake, and one I will not make again, was to use two (older) metal cake pans, by different manufacturers - which resulted in the layers of the cake being a bit uneven.  Both were fine on their own, but I had some difficulty stacking them into a two layer cake.  Thus, I instead made two delicious single cakes (because I really need to eat two entire cakes, and have a 4000-calorie a day diet - once again, I may have prepared too much food, and need to share!)  Next time, I will use two uniform silicon cake molds, which I think will get the job done and allow me to make a layer cake.

It's a bit tricky also to determine when the cakes are done baking.  You want to make sure they don't become crispy around the edges, but are cooked through.  It's an art and requires testing the inside of one of the cakes with a candy thermometer and with a toothpick.

Rose's recipe for the frosting for the cake(s) - depending on whether you are doing a two layer monster, or two separate cakes, is for a silk meringue buttercream.  Preparing this frosting is an art in and of itself, that requires multiple stages that are not for the novice baker.  As the name implies, the frosting requires preparing an Italian Meringue, and also a Creme Anglaise.  It also requires an eye-popping amount of butter.  (Really, as a baker, it is incredible to see the amount of butter and sugar that go into so many delicious baked goods - mind boggling, so consume in small portions).

First, I prepared the creme anglaise, which is a type of custard.  This was relatively easy and involved mixing and heating sugar, egg yolks, coconut milk, vanilla extract and coconut extract until you have a coconut flavored custard.  Then, this was set aside while I prepared the meringue.

Meringue has been the one aspect of baking that has always intimidated me.  Until yesterday, quite honestly, my meringues were always failures and I always avoided meringue recipes like the plague.  But finally Rose presented a sure-fire formula that I was able to figure out and prepare a winning meringue.  So, I suppose those meringue desserts need no longer scare me off.  In fact, I enjoyed preparing the meringue and it was almost as easy as preparing whipped egg whites for a souffle, just with a sugary-twist.

To prepare the meringue, which I will discuss in detail, I used the following ingredients:

2 large egg whites (separated from the yolks) at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 2 T superfine sugar
2 T of water
1/4 tsp cream of tarter

I beat the egg whites, as instructed by Rose's recipe, in my artisan mixer (fitted with the whisk attachment) until foamy.  I heated the 1/3 a cup of sugar and water in a saucepan to form what was like a simple syrup.  Next, I added the cream of tarter to the egg whites and beat until soft peaks formed, and then gradually beat in the other 2 T of sugar until it formed stuff peaks.  Then, I heated the sugar-water to about 248 F using a candy thermometer and then beat the egg whites gradually adding the sugar water.  Low and behold a meringue formed!! The consistency was perfect and the meringue tasted - well meringue-like.  So, I am eternally grateful to Rose for those perfect directions that helped me figure this one out.  Meringue, you no longer scare me!

The final step here was to combine the butter (her recipe called for four sticks of butter (yes, four, you are reading that correctly) with the other frosting components.  I don't care for such a buttery frosting, so I used 2 and a half and it was just fine and still plenty light and airy for me.  I beat in the Italian meringue, coconut shavings and creme anglaise into the delicious frosting.  

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