“Attention, This Vehicle is Reversing”

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I think in the States, if I multi-ton trash collecting truck was backing up using a warning voice, it would be something like, “Hey! You! Stop texting or playing Angry Birds and move your dumb-ass outta the way before I rub you into the pavement!”  Here in Edinburgh, you will hear in a calm and gentle voice, “Attention, this vehicle is reversing.”   Very different approaches to a common goal.

So on my way to cooking school I managed to live another day and make some darn tasty dishes, two of which I’d like to share with you.  Now I know some of you might be dismissive about soup and more specifically Mushroom Soup, but please give this easy and flavorsome soup a try!  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  The second dish I will post is Swiss Meringues.  The irony here is that I really like soup, just about any soup so I was excited about our first dish but when our instructors told us we’d be making meringues my nose wrinkled and I thought I’d be wasting a lot of time on cloyingly sweet little ‘precious’ puffs that would go directly into the compost after my critique. Not so!  Yes, meringues of course are very sweet but prepared in bite-size portions and cooked properly they are a delightful treat.  On to the soup! Then the Meringues!

Mushroom Soup

Serves 4

55g/ 2oz Butter

340g/ 12oz Button mushrooms, chopped

3 T Parsley, finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves, very finely chopped or, preferably,  pasted

2 Bread slices, crustless cut into small pieces

860ml/ 1 1/2 pints Chicken stock

Pinch of Nutmeg or Mace

Salt and Pepper to taste

3 T Heavy (double) cream

Fresh herbs for garnish

Melt the butter in a medium sized pot.  Add the mushrooms and chopped parsley and cook on medium high heat until mushrooms are completely cooked through and a little caramelized.  Add the garlic and bread and mix well, then pour in stock, nutmeg or mace and salt and pepper.  Bring to low simmer for about 10 minutes.  Taste to see if it needs to be reduced a bit more.  Pour into a blender or use a immersion stick blender and whiz. Pour pack into the same pot and reheat adding the cream.  Place in heated bowls and garnish with herbs.

 

Swiss Meringues

Makes about 50 small or 12 large meringues

 

4 Egg whites

Pinch of salt

225g/ 8oz Baker’s (caster) sugar

 

Filling (Optional):

200ml/ 7 fl oz Heavy (double) cream, whipped

 

Preheat oven to 225°F/ 110°C

Place parchment on 2 baking sheets.  Whisk egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry.  Add 1 Tablespoon of sugar whisking until stiff and shiny.  Continue adding sugar 1 Tablespoon at a time.  Drop meringue onto prepared sheet pans using either a small or large spoon – just make sure they are all about the same size.  Leave space between each meringue as they puff up during baking.  Depending on the size of your meringues bake from about 1/2 hour to 1 hour and a bit  What you’re looking for is to be able to peel the bottom of the meringues from the parchment easily and firm to the touch.  The color of the meringues should only go slightly off white otherwise they will be overcooked.

You can choose to sandwich the meringue (bottoms) two together with the optional whipped cream in the middle. Lecker!

Roasted Marrow Bones with Pickled Shallots

roasted marrow bone plate

Serves approximately 4

Ingredients

6 shallots, trimmed, quartered lengthwise with some root attached

1 cup of champagne vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon pink peppercorns

1 dried bay leaf (preferably Turkish)

1 dried chile de arbol

4 to 5 marrow bones

¼ cup parsley, roughly chopped

¼ of a lemon, sliced

flaky salt, such as Maldon’s

8 or more fresh slices of baguette, preferably homemade, toasted

 

For the Pickled Shallots

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Remove from heat and let cool for about 30 minutes.  Once cool, slice the shallots into julienne and place in a bowl with some of the pickling juice.

 

For the Marrow Bones

Preheat the oven or toaster oven for 450°.  Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil.  Stand the marrow bone upright with the widest end of the bone on the bottom.  Roast for 15-20 minutes.

Scoop out the marrow onto toasted baguette.  Sprinkle with flaky salt, lightly dress with lemon and top with  pickled shallots and parsley.

 

 

Getting in Touch with Your ‘Inner Chicken’

eggs-press yourself

Who wouldn’t like a little fun in their lunchbox?  Or bento box?  These cute egg molds are from Japan made by Kotobuki I purchased through Amazon.  There aren’t any instructions that come with the molds and the packaging is in Japanese so I had to do a little research.  Once you’ve boiled your eggs, you peel them under cold water right away and gently squish them into each shape, snapping it shut.  You can then place them in cold water that has been colored with food dye giving the egg a kind of tie-dye effect.  This might be a little creepy for little ones.

groovy!

I used green because that’s all I had.  It looks a bit like mold, I think.  Next time maybe I’ll go for purple or another color that is more appeeeeeling – get it?  Ok, painful I know.  I’ll get a vote on this very important topic when the grand kids arrive.

It’s the journey…

I have to say overall I don’t travel well…or smart.  I’m definitely not one of those people that seem to stay mysteriously fresh looking throughout their travel experience.  I really envy those who dress smart and look perky and seem to know where their gate is via some internal GPS system.  I, on there hand, look like a train wreck, feel half dead, normally lost, drink way too much caffeine followed by beer, wine, champagne, followed by way more caffeine while I manage to food crawl through hours of layover.  I need to learn how to spend down time more productively no doubt.

On the brighter side, the 12 weeks at Ballymaloe Cooking School has ended and some students have found employment!  Well done for them.  Others have accumulated some valuable culinary knowledge that they will impart in one form or another throughout their lives.  I’m looking forward to seeing how much information from this experience will stay in my noodle and for how long.  The most enjoyable part of my time abroad was meeting so many fantastic people and working with them (and playing with them) in a very unique and intense environment.  I’ve made some new friends and that in itself was worth the journey.  Please stay in touch and look for posts from the green isle and other places in the near future.  Cheers!

Whew at Ballymaloe!

It has been a whirl wind lately.  I finally made it to Ballymaloe Cooking School in Ireland!  Last time I tried to make it over for their 3 month course a volcano erupted in Iceland – that little devil Eyjafjallajökull – yes, it is now a curse word in many parts of the world.  I made a pact with myself that I would faithfully update my blog and emails daily, but have failed miserably. Unfortunately there’s no internet in my cottage and we’ve been going flat out at the school.  We have survived the first hectic week which has been packed with information from short pastry making to fire safety.  I hope to get a little more organized and include some of the amazingly delicious recipes soon, but for now a very brief glimpse of arriving, learning and cooking:

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Brain Food

it's alive

For many, a new year has started.  The need to dust off our tranquil state of mind and focus on things far more cerebral than who has more distinguishable tan lines – has arrived.  It’s back to school time!  Time to rev up those synapses and dendrites.  If you’ve never thought of PIZZA as brain food, it’s really a simple adjustment of the toppings.  Slap those ingredients that are heavy on the Omega-3’s and you’ve got pizza brain food (proof!).  Having spent far too many years in school (mostly remedial no doubt) I will top mine with salty, meaty, fatty, anti-brain-enhancing deliciousness.

thin crust hawaiian pizza

The dough is made using a stand mixer so it comes together relatively quickly.

For the Dough:

1/2 cup warm water (between 105° and 115°)

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups ’00’ flour or bread flour

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing container

With your warm tap water running, place an instant read thermometer under the flow.  When you have dialed in the temperature within the degrees mentioned above, rinse a measuring cup a few times to reach that temperature then fill the measuring cup to 1/2 cup.  Add the yeast, sugar and salt stirring to combine.  Let this rest for about 5 minutes.  The yeast should foam, if not consider buying new yeast.  Place the flour and oil in the bowl of the mixer.  Add the yeast mixture and stir on medium speed for about 7 minutes; wait until all the dough has collected together.  Grease a large, clean container lightly with olive oil.  Pat the dough into a ball and place it in the greased container making sure the dough is coated on all sides with the oil.  Cover the container with plastic wrap or lid.  Let the dough rise for 2 hours in a warm place.

Once the dough has risen, pat it into a ball and place back into the container for another 20 minutes at room temperature.  On a flour dusted cutting board begin dimpling, stretching, and tossing into a thin disc.

work from the center outward

let gravity work for you

try a little toss!

For the Pizza:

1/2 cup marinara or pizza sauce of your choice

1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded

1/2 cup ham, chopped

1/2 cup pineapple pieces, drained

1/2 cup feta, drained and chopped

1/4 cup black olives, sliced

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven with pizza stone to 450°.  Flour a pizza peel lightly.  Place the formed dough on the peel and add sauce and toppings.  Give your peel a little wiggle to make sure the pizza will easily slide onto the pizza stone.  If there’s lack of movement, try to loosen the pizza with a spatula and shake the peel again.  If it’s really stuck gently remove the pizza back onto the floured cutting board and add more flour to the peel.  Transfer the pizza back to the peel and give it a wiggle.  Carefully slide the pizza from the peel onto the preheated pizza stone.  Bake pizza until browned, about 14-16 minutes.  Remove from oven and place on cutting board.  Cut into pieces and drizzle with olive oil and basil.

less sauce = less soggy

easy on the cheesy

any pre-cooked meat will work

hawaiian pineapple

olives for color and flavor

more cheese!



Basil Chicken, Basil Corn, & Basil GG Salad Dressing – Go Basil!

This is the best grilled chicken we’ve enjoyed in a very long time.  The recipe comes from a popular restaurant in Pennsylvania called JohnJJeffries and was recently posted in the Epicurious RSS.   This flavorful dish is brined, marinated and served with a chimichurri sauce. The process is a little lengthy, but worth it.

Allow for 1 hour brining and 4 hours marinating.

Serves 4


CHICKEN:

1/4 cup fine sea salt

2 teaspoons pickling spice (buy fresh if it’s been around a long while – this brine is only as good as your pickling spice!)

2 tablespoons honey

4 1/2 pounds of chicken pieces, or whole chicken backbone removed

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, chopped

1/3 cup fresh basil, rough chopped

1/3 cup flat parsley, rough chopped

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped


CHIMICHURRI SAUCE:


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh flat parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 garlic clove, minced

pinch of red pepper flakes


FOR THE CHIMICHURRI SAUCE:

Put all the ingredients in a processor and puree until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and refrigerate.


FOR THE CHICKEN:

If you are using a whole chicken, removing the backbone as well as spliting it in two makes handling much easier (to ‘flatty’ a chicken see previous post: Roasted Flatty Chicken with Compound Butter 7/17/2010)

Boil 2 cups of water with pickling spices and 1/4 cup of fine sea salt in a large pot.  Stir and heat through until salt has dissolved.  Let cool on stove top.  Add 6 cups water and honey stirring until combined.  Place chicken pieces in pot and let brine for an hour.

Meanwhile mix 1/2 cup olive oil, shallot, basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme and garlic in a processor until finely chopped.  Place herb mixture in a 13x9x2 inch glass dish.  Rinse chicken in cold water, pat dry and place in herb mixture.  Turn all the pieces coating all sides.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or more.

Prepare barbecue for medium heat.    Remove excess marinade from chicken pieces and place on a baking sheet.  Salt and pepper all sides.  Grill the chicken covered until cooked through turning about every 30 minutes.  Watch for flare-ups!  Move the chicken to cooler locals if necessary.

Alternatively, pre-heat oven to 325°.  Bake chicken for an hour and 40 minutes or until a thermometer reads 165F.  

Serve with the chimichurri sauce.


Basil Lemon Corn on the Cob

This  version comes from the September issue of Food Network magazine.  We excluded the flavored oil side, because we think the water the corn cooks in is flavorful enough.


Serves 4

1/2 cup basil, whole leaves

1/2 lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt

4 ears of corn, cleaned

Bring 4 cups water, basil, lemon, oil and a pinch of salt to a boil.  Carefully add corn and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain and enjoy!

creamy basil green goddess dressing

This salad is from Ina Garten with only a few tweaks.  The dressing is very creamy and a little goes a long way, however it tastes very herbaceous and light because of the citrus, basil and tarragon.

serves 4

1 cup mayonnaise

4-6  green onions, thinly sliced

1 cup fresh basil, rough chopped

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons tarragon, rough chopped

2 teaspoons anchovy paste

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoons fresh black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 cup sour cream

2 heads of bibb or butter lettuce, cleaned and dried and chopped

2 tomatoes, cut into wedges


You will likely have far more dressing than required to dress your salads, but it also works well with baja fish taco, salmon sandwich or fajita, tartar sauce substitute and countless other applications.

Place the first 9 ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth.  Add sour cream and blend briefly.  Serve with tomatoes and lettuce.  We found that fresh croutons added a much needed grounding for this very rich dressing so you may want to cube some bread up, toss it with some olive oil, salt and pepper and bake approximately 15 minutes at 350°.