Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Za'atar Roast Chicken with Green Tahini Sauce

As I was catching up with my magazines early last fall, I came across this great article about Yotam Ottolenghi in Bon Appétit, and I promptly tore out the pages to make his za’atar roast chicken with green tahini sauce. And it was really fantastic. Although, note to self (and I know I’ve said this before, but this time I really mean it): for the love of God, stop serving chicken with the skin and bones! I wanted to give this recipe a chance as is, because it’s from Yotam Ottolenghi and all, but none of us here enjoy the skin or bones in a chicken, and especially here where the skin doesn’t crisp because of the marinade. So we remove the skin, but that takes away all the spices with it… I’m giving the recipe below as it was written, because I would have to adapt the cooking times to skinless, boneless chicken breasts and I haven’t had time to test it. Just know that the next time I’m making this, it’ll be with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The Engineer and I both love it, though! I roasted some potatoes at the same time to complete the dish, since I wasn’t serving it with salads like in the article. Also, the original recipe had you toss the pine nuts in browned butter, but I’d skip that step entirely next time ti keep the dish lactose-free, or omit the pine nuts entirely if I wanted a nut-free version.

For the green tahini sauce
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup (lightly packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems
½ cup tahini
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
kosher salt

For the chicken and assembly
1 3½–4-lb. chicken, cut into quarters, or 2 large skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts and 2 skin-on, bone-in chicken legs (see note above)
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic smashed
1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
1 Tbsp. ground sumac
1½ tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. za’atar
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted (optional, see note above)
6 pieces lavash or other flatbread

For the green tahini sauce
Pulse garlic, parsley, tahini, lemon juice, and ½ cup water in a food processor, adding more water if needed, until smooth (sauce should be the consistency of a thin mayonnaise); season with salt. If making ahead, cover and chill.

For the chicken and assembly
Toss chicken, onions, garlic, lemon, sumac, allspice, cinnamon, broth, and ¼ cup oil in a large resealable plastic bag; season with salt and pepper. Chill at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 °F. Place chicken, onions, garlic, and lemon on a rimmed baking sheet, spooning any remaining marinade over and around chicken. Sprinkle with za’atar and roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, 45–55 minutes.

Slice chicken breasts, if desired. Serve chicken with roasted onion and lemon, topped with pine nuts, with green tahini sauce and lavash.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Candlemas Crêpes - Juliette & Julia

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, or if you are familiar with francophone Christian culture, you’ll know that on February 2nd, we celebrate Candlemas with crêpes. And I’m told our neighbors to the south celebrate with tamales. (To be clear, I don’t believe I know anyone who still celebrates the religious aspects of the holiday, but the traditional culinary aspects, certainly. Those tend to be the best holiday traditions, in my opinion.) I made two kinds of crêpes this year, a new recipe and my old chocolate crêpes. I’ve now decided to renounce my old chocolate crêpes, because they’re really not that great, but I figured I’d share the new recipe. And then it occurred to me that I haven’t talked about last year’s crêpes either, as evidenced by the photo still on my hard drive! So I’m throwing that in. Note that both of these recipes are sweet, but many people will serve a main dish of savory buckwheat crêpes filled with a béchamel, ham and cheese, for example, before moving on to the sweet crêpes for dessert. Leftovers make for a great breakfast, too! And I’m going to mention this because just last summer, some friends of mine thought they were doing something wrong and they didn’t realize it’s par for the course: your first crêpe is usually going to be ruined. It’s really a tester for the heat of the pan and the amount of fat you’ve put in, and it almost seasons the pan for use. At our house, we call it the dog’s crêpe. I also recommend using 2 pans at the same time, to make faster work of the batch.

On a side note, ever since I saw Curtis Stone use a crêpe maker similar to this on Take Home Chef, I’ve been wondering whether that is what I need to make crêpes as thin as those I would like. My mother always made them in a pan, but somehow mine have always been thicker than hers. I always follow recipe instructions, I run the batter through a sieve and have even tried adding extra milk to make the batter thinner, but somehow my crêpes are never thin like hers! I do let the batter rest, and it’s not an issue of putting too much in the pan because even as I tilt the pan a bit to spread out the batter, it never reaches the edges before setting.

The first recipe is the one I made last year. It’s Julia Child’s recipe, which I got from this app (though a scaled down version also appears on Epicurious). I followed the written instructions, which call for a blender, but upon watching the included video, I realized that Julia Child mixes everything by hand. I personally liked using the blender, as it eliminated any lumps in the batter and made things easier – especially for pouring batter into the pan. These are fairly typical crêpes and I would recommend them to anyone who’s making them for the first time.

1 cup cold water
1 cup cold lactose-free milk
4 eggs
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups flour
4 Tbsp. melted butter or margarine

Put the liquids, eggs, and salt into the blender jar. Add the flour, then the butter. Cover and blend at top speed for 1 minute. If bits of flour adhere to sides of jar, dislodge with a rubber scraper and blend for 2 to 3 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

The batter should have the consistency of very light cream, just thick enough to coat a wooden spoon. If, after making your first crêpe, it seems too heavy, beat in a bit of water, a spoonful at a time.

Brush the skillet lightly with oil. Set over moderately high heat until the pan is just beginning to smoke. Immediately remove from heat and, holding handle of pan in your right hand, pour with your left hand a scant ¼ cup of batter in the middle of the pan. Quickly tilt the pan in all directions to run the batter all over the bottom of the pan into a thin film. (Pour any batter that does not adhere to the pan back into your bowl; judge the amount for your next crêpe accordingly.) Your cooked crêpe should be about 1/16 inch thick (see my note above). This whole operation takes but 2 to 3 seconds.

Return the pan to heat for 60 to 80 seconds, then jerk and toss pan sharply back and forth and up and down to loosen the crêpe. Lift its edges with a spatula and if the underside is a nice light brown, the crêpe is ready for turning.

Turn the crêpe by using two spatulas; or grasp the edges nearest you with your fingers and sweep it up toward you and over again into the pan in a reverse circle; or toss it over by a flip of the pan. (You can also flip it with a spatula like a pancake if you wish; don’t be intimidated by these techniques.)

Brown lightly for about 30 seconds on the other side. This second side is rarely more than a sporty brown, and is always kept as the underneath or nonpublic aspect of the crêpe (the first side is the ‘hero” side used by food stylists, FYI). As they are done, slide the crêpes onto a rack and let cool several minutes before stacking on a plate. Grease the skillet again, heat to just smoking, and proceed with the rest of the crêpes. Crêpes may be kept warm by covering them with a dish and setting them over simmering water or in a slow oven. Or they may be made several hours in advance and reheated when needed. (Crêpes freeze perfectly, according to this recipe, though I’ve never tried it. If it’s anything like pancakes, then that would be perfect!)

According to the recipe, this should make 25 to 30 crêpes, each 6 to 6½ inches in diameter, but as you can see, I got fewer – I think it was 11, though they may have been slightly larger than recommended. I like big crêpes and I cannot lie.

The second recipe, the one I tried this year, is Juliette Brun’s recipe; I went to school with her and she is now the famous and successful owner of Juliette & Chocolat in Montreal. This recipe is different from those I’ve seen before because it contains a lot (a lot!) of sugar. But obviously, it’s absolutely delicious, and it’s once a year, so to hell with nutrition. In her restaurant, these would probably be served with fresh fruit, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Here at home, I went the more traditional way of lemon juice with sugar for some, and maple syrup for the rest. Warm Nutella also works really well. That being said, these are so sweet that they don’t need much accompaniment! You could halve the recipe if you’re not feeding an army. I keep the crêpes warm in the oven until I’m ready to serve them.

4 cups all-purpose white flour
2 cups sugar
1 pinch of salt
3 eggs
2 ½ cups lactose-free milk
1 ½ tsp. vanilla

Mix the flour, sugar and salt. Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and mix well. The ideal batter will have the consistency of 35% cream. Let the batter rest in the fridge overnight. (I made mine in the morning, ran it through a sieve before letting it rest, and took it back out again before dinner.)

Use a very hot nonstick pan or cast iron skillet – a drop of water in the pan should sizzle. (The recipe here doesn’t say anything, but I like using a tiny bit of oil in the skillet and replenishing it as needed; this would be less of an issue with a very well-seasoned cast iron pan, I suppose.) Cook the crêpes on medium heat (the technique is fairly standard, so just look at the recipe above for tips if need be).

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Asian Pork and Carrots

I made a recipe a while back that was loosely adapted from this one on Vintage Kitchen Notes: a crunchy Szechuan pork. But I don’t like heat, so I didn’t use Szechuan peppercorns, and therefore I don’t think my dish qualifies as Szechuan anything. Plus, my pork wasn’t crunchy. And I chopped the carrots instead of cutting them into matchsticks. I also think that where the recipe calls for corn meal, it should actually be corn flour (or the most finely ground meal there is, really). That’s what I’d use next time. Oh, because there will be a next time: we all loved this dish, and toward the end of the meal, the Engineer upgraded his original assessment and called it “lip-smacking delicious”. I made it with coconut ginger rice, which the Little Prince decided he liked after all (he doesn’t like rice as a general rule). Note that the quantities below make roughly 2-3 servings; I had doubled the recipe to make sure we’d have leftovers, but it’s too much for a single wok – I had to cook the meat in two batches, and even though I might do it again, I now know that this doesn’t double easily.

4 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
2 Tbsp. corn flour (or most finely ground corn meal you can find)
12 oz. pork tenderloin, cut into bite size pieces
2 medium carrots, cut into small cubes
1 small leek, halved (washed) and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
3 Tbsp. soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari sauce)
2 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. orange juice
3 Tbsp. mirin
chopped green onions or chives, for garnish
2 cups cooked rice, to serve

Put corn flour in a medium bowl and then add the pork pieces. Toss to coat and reserve.

Heat the wok over high heat. Add 2 Tbsp. oil and cook carrots and leek until beginning to brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and reserve.

Add 2 more Tbsp. oil to the wok, add pork and cook until brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the carrots.

Add ginger and garlic to the wok, sauté 1 minute and add soy sauce, honey, orange juice and mirin. Cook until sauce is somewhat syrupy. Add meat and vegetables and cook for 1 or 2 minutes.

Divide rice between two bowls or plates. Add pork mixture on top, dividing evenly. Garnish with green onions and serve.

Batch of links - GMOs

- I’ve talked a lot about GMOs in these batches of links. (Here’s a refresher on what is and isn’t true about GMOs.) A friend sent me an article about GMO labelling (a long time ago, true, but I’m only now getting around to posting these things!). While I’ve always been pro-GMO labelling and couldn’t understand why anyone would be against it, this nuanced article is making me reconsider my position. It turns out that there would indeed be real downsides to labelling items that contain GMOs – if we could even agree on what to label – and one should also keep in mind that non-GMOs are usually labelled as such, so people who wish to avoid them can already do so. (There’s also the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help.)

- Here are 10 things that would fix the food system faster than GMO labelling, actually.

- While we’re at it: 5 things to stop arguing in the GMO debate.

- Vermont recently required manufacturers to label products containing GMOs, but was promptly sued by four different organizations – on the grounds that it interfered with their right to the First Amendment, of all things.

- And just recently, I read that there is no scientific consensus on GMO safety. But then again, we don’t even know the levels of pesticide residue on our food, due to poor government testing. That’s not reassuring, and actually worries me more than GMOs. I wish more money were invested in that area!

- That being said, the USDA has approved new GM potatoes. Their DNA has been altered so that they produce less of a specific carcinogen when fried, and they also bruise less than traditional potatoes, meaning fewer will be wasted before reaching our kitchens. These sound like good improvements, really. This article gives more information on how they were created (they are cisgenic, if that makes anyone feel better).

Friday, February 27, 2015

Batch of links

- An interesting comparison of cow’s milk, soy milk, almond milk and rice milk from a nutritious standpoint.

- There’s a school in California that, starting next fall, will be serving meals that are 100% plant-based. This follows the news that Beyoncé will offer a vegan delivery service.

- You’ve heard about the Oscar swag bags valued at over $160,000 this year, right? They contain, among other things, $280 of maple syrup, a private tour of a sea salt reserve in the South of France, a gift certificate for a candy buffet, herbal tea-based lollipops adorned with gold leaf, apples, gluten-free cookies, and Dunkin Donuts coffee. If you get too jealous, remember that recipients still have to pay taxes on the lot!

- Symmetry Breakfast, an account I’m now following on Instagram. I love it even though it’s making me feel my breakfasts are inadequate.

- Watch what happens when American kids try international breakfast foods. Well, it could have been worse. I’ll admit that a century egg is not my thing, either.

- How one New-Yorker lives comfortably in 90 square feet. I have to admit, she lost me at “no private bathroom.”

- This is a must-read for everyone. To set up the scene: “In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdon — who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family — responded spectacularly” by dictating this letter.

- And I have to talk about the dress: I’ve never seen so many individual responses as to what color it is! I initially saw white and gold, though now I see pale blue and pale black (gray?). The link has a scientific explanation, and you can see another example of a similar optical illusion here. (And perhaps the blue and black are appropriate, given the famous uniform of Mr. Spock – Leonard Nimoy passed away today at the age of 83.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sour Cream Pound Cake

Whenever we go to Whole Foods, we pick up lactose-free sour cream (and now cream cheese!) by Green Valley Organics. It’s such a treat to be able to eat those again, and I’m still not quite used to it. So it recently occurred to me that I should make a cake that calls for a lot of sour cream, since that is the kind of thing I can make now! This recipe is from The Kitchn, and it is a delicious sour cream pound cake, if I do say so myself! You could replace the sour cream with lactose-free Greek yogurt (or strained lactose-free plain yogurt) and still get a nice tang from it. I’ve changed the ingredients slightly because I don’t keep cake flour or pastry flour on hand, so I used a mix of all-purpose white flour and corn starch. (Note that to measure it, I found it easier to place a bowl on the scale and tare it, then put in the corn starch and top it up with flour until the whole thing reached 360 g.) This cake was dense like a pound cake ought to be, and was very pleasant to eat. We give it three thumbs up!

2 ½ cups + 2 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring the pan
6 Tbsp. corn starch
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (I used cold vegan margarine)
2 ½ cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 cup (8 oz.) lactose-free sour cream

Preheat the oven to 325 °F. Grease a bundt pan, being sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. Sprinkle in a few spoonfuls of flour and tap the pan to distribute. Tap out excess flour.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, corn starch, salt and baking soda. (I find that this is sufficient and I don’t have to sift the flour beforehand.) Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low, add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and mix again.

Sift half of the flour over the butter and egg mixture, and fold in with a spatula. Add the sour cream and continue to fold gently. Sift the remaining flour over the batter and fold until all the flour has been incorporated.

Gently pour the batter into the prepared pan and tap the pan softly against the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake for 60 minutes and check the cake. The cake is done with the top is deep golden-brown and a skewer or paring knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. If batter or wet crumbs cling to the blade, continue baking. Check every 5 minutes until the cake is done.

When the tester comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven and place the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes (I always leave it longer). Invert the cake onto the rack and wiggle the pan gently until it lifts off of the cake. Allow the cake to cool for another hour.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Batch of links

- In light of the recent uplifting of the California ban on foie gras, I enjoyed reading J. Kenji López-Alt’s most recent article on the subject. Production of foie gras is still illegal in California, but there are two (apparently ethical and family-run) farms in New York State that produce it. And I maintain what I said before on the subject: this particular food should not be singled out and banned, as it is more ethical (in the States) than most meat produced and eaten.

- The U.S. released a 600-page report with its new dietary guidelines yesterday, but Brazil might actually be the best example to follow.

- This free online knife skills class will teach you everything you need to know. (I didn’t take this class and can’t vouch for it, but it looks really good.)

- How to make baking powder out of baking soda, in case you ever run out.

- What’s the deal with Interstellar’s idea that corn and okra are the only two crops left in the future? Let’s ask a scientist.

- Finally, I have to talk about PoudingChômeurGate! (See here for the Twitter feed.) In a nutshell, last Wednesday, chef Caroline Dumas ambushed chef Danny St-Pierre on the air of a radio talk show and accused him of plagiarizing her recipe for Pouding Chômeur. The issue wasn’t so much that he was using her recipe on his website, but that it wasn’t being credited to her. And you know what? I completely agree with her (even though springing it out of the blue on someone during a live radio show isn’t necessarily the best way to approach it). From a legal standpoint, a recipe is a list of ingredients that can’t be copyrighted (though if the instructions are written in a particular style, that can be copyrighted; the headnote can be copyrighted; and a collection of recipes, such as a cookbook, can be copyrighted). Most chefs agree that if you change 3 ingredients or 10% of a recipe, it’s yours. That being said, I think that the proper thing to do is to give credit to the author of the recipe, even if you change something in it or adapt it (that’s what I do here). When I made that pouding chômeur recipe, I credited it to Au Pied de Cochon, because that’s where I had eaten it and, since I know it appears in Martin Picard’s cookbook, I assumed it was his (I haven’t read said cookbook and don’t know what was in the headnote). It turns out that Caroline Dumas gave it to both Martin Picard and Josée DiStasio, so at least I gave proper credit to someone. And it really is the best pouding chômeur recipe out there! I wasn’t aware, though, that francophones seem less likely to properly credit their recipe sources, and that’s something they should work on (including well-regarded publications like La Presse, it would seem).

[Update, Feb. 24th, 2015: I’ve actually looked at both recipes online (Caroline Dumas here, and Danny St-Pierre here), and I have to say… this is not a case of copy and paste, as Caroline Dumas alleges. I don’t know whether the online content was changed recently, but while both recipes are very similar, one has more sugar, and they are written differently. Moreover, the one with the interesting headnote is Danny St-Pierre’s! He credits it to one of his employees’ grandmother. Strangely enough, though, in the video, he says that he used brown sugar in the sauce along with the maple syrup and cream, but that doesn’t show up in the ingredients, and no one has replied to comments from 2012 about this.]

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Swiss Chard, Pear and Gruyère Tart

This lovely tart is from the cookbook Small Plates and Sweet Treats, by Aran Goyoaga, and I got the recipe from an interview she did for CTV. I seem to be making a lot of her recipes these days, but it wasn’t planned that way! I found the crust incredibly hard to work with, even using parchment paper to roll it out, and it shrank back a little too much for my liking once it was baked (this is probably due to the amount of fat it contained). That being said, it was very good, and once the tart was filled, you really couldn’t tell that the crust wasn’t perfect to begin with. You could substitute a regular wheat crust if you wanted. What I loved about this, though, is that it used coconut milk instead of the typical cream and it totally worked. I hadn’t used coconut milk in savory dishes (except curries) because I was afraid that the taste would be overwhelming, but here I couldn’t even tell it was an ingredient. This is another great tool in my arsenal for lactose-free dishes! And hey, any recipe that gets us to enjoy Swiss chard is a hit. I used a 9” tart pan with a removable bottom, but a 14”x5” dish works, too. You could serve this tart with a salad for a light meal, but I served it with a sweet potato crisp (in which I used coconut milk instead of the cream, and that was less of a leap for me because of that dish’s flavors).

For the pastry crust
½ cup (70 g.) superfine brown rice flour, plus more for dusting
1⁄3 cup (45 g.) quinoa flour
1⁄3 cup (35 g.) almond flour (I used almond meal)
2 Tbsp. potato starch (I used corn starch)
2 Tbsp. tapioca starch
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 stick (8 Tbsp. or 110 g.) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
6 to 8 Tbsp. ice water

For the filling
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium leek, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups (175 g.) chopped Swiss chard (remove tough ribs but use the tender ones)
2 Tbsp. white wine
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. sweet rice flour or cornstarch
½ cup lactose-free whole milk
½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
½ oz. parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 oz. lactose-free gruyère cheese, grated
1 medium Bartlett or Bosc pear, thinly sliced, preferably with a mandoline

For the crust
Add the first seven ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to aerate. Add the cold butter to the flour mixture and pulse ten times, until the butter is cut into pea-size pieces. Add 6 Tbsp. ice water and pulse until the dough comes together (it will not form a ball). Check the dough to see if it holds together when pressed between your fingers. Add more water if needed.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, knead it a couple of times, and press it together to form a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap. Press it down to flatten it and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Line your work surface with parchment paper if you wish (I find this helps a lot when working with gluten-free tart/pie dough). Lightly dust your (preferably cold) work surface with superfine brown rice flour and roll out the dough to a ¼-inch thickness. If the dough cracks while rolling, pinch it back together. Fill the tart mold with the dough and press it gently into the mold. Cut off excess dough. Refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes.

Blind-bake the tart by covering it with a piece of parchment paper and topping the paper with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and paper and continue baking for another 10 minutes, until lightly golden. Let it cool slightly while preparing the filling. (Leave the oven on.)

For the filling
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leek and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the Swiss chard, white wine, ½ tsp. of the salt, ¼ tsp. of the black pepper, and nutmeg. Cook until the chard is wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk together the eggs, sweet rice flour, milk, coconut milk, parmesan, 1 oz. of the gruyère, remaining ½ tsp. salt, and remaining ¼ tsp. black pepper.

Fill the tart crust with the Swiss chard and top with slices of pear. Lightly press the filling down and pour the custard over it. Top with the remaining 1 oz. gruyère.

Bake at 375 °F for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let it cool slightly before cutting.