Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mid-October Weekend Food Extravaganza!

So last Saturday, my favorite day of the week, we went to the McIntosh Florida 1890's Festival with hopes of rewriting history by snuffing out the Sherman Act of 1890 before it started; no avail. The bright side was a booth with homemade jams and preserves made by some McIntosh United Methodist Church congregation members. I only bought one jar just in case it sucked. When I said that I bet their Strawberry-Banana jam would make a vicious Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich the lady behind the table replied with: "You know, I've never thought of that. I mean I love peanut butter and bananas and I love strawberry and peanut butter, but I never thought of that!" Funny how that was the first thing to strike me. Anyway the Strawberry-Banana Jam is superb! Unfortunately they only make it once a year for that festival (argh). Here are some pics (I don't know if that's the church with the jams).

Earlier that morning I had gone to the farmer's market in search of fresh produce for cooking and pickling. I had actually gotten there at about 9:00am and it was almost a different place than to what I was accustomed (usually getting there about 11:00am). For $20.00 I got the most immaculate romaine I've ever encountered, organic grape tomatoes, green onions, sweet potatoes, sweet onions, cucumbers, yellow squash, fresh basil (a strand I never had prior), red and green peppers, and about 2 lbs of green beans!

Here's what 20 bucks got me:

On the way home from McIntosh we stopped at the Gainesville Pride Festival and checked out some Dixie Chicks wannabes and a drag show; both left a little to be desired (though I did live on South Beach for some time so I may have seen some of the better drag shows). Here's a grainy shot of the Pride Festival:

Also over the weekend I made brioche from a recipe that I called Last Ditch Brioche! Every time I attempted brioche in the past, at best the consistency was perilously close to that of Cornbread and at worst it was a desperately-in-need-of-salt brick! While there may have been something more wrong with execution than the recipes themselves, I was about to give up on Brioche entirely. I decided to give it one last shot. If this didn't work it would be over in more ways than one (it is impossible to find real Brioche in Gainesville). I used SteveB's Brioche Nanterre (slow page to load but worth it) recipe from over at!
The result? Near perfect! The draw back? When the author states that this will kill your KitchenAid he 'aint kidding. I have the 6 Quart 575 watt KitchenAid Professional stand mixer and it took about one hour of constant kneading until the dough was "satiny". By the time it was complete I could smell the motor! Also I think maybe I just barely over kneaded and I would up the salt by a pinch since I use kosher salt.

Since the author is the perfectionist he is, the formula is, rightfully, represented in weight not volume. I have converted it here, with consideration to the density of each substance, for those of us without the benefit of a scale (soon, yes, soon, it will be).

AP Flour (I used King Arthur Unbleached) ~ 6.85 Cups
Water ~ 4 1/2 Tablespoons
Eggs ~ 6 Large
Salt ~ 2 1/3 teaspoons
Sugar ~ 6 1/2 Tablespoons
Instant Yeast ~ 1 1/2 teaspoons
Butter ~ 3 sticks or 2 ounces

Good luck. Here are some pics:

Close-up to show texture

Toasted with the Church Jam. Unbelievable!

Well it seems like no post is complete without a recipe of some sort; so, I will leave you my burger recipe. See ya' next time!

The Almighty Burger

An important note about burgers
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when making a burger is timing. Timing will either elevate the burger to truly glorious dimensions or condemn it to mediocrity. Here are some general guidelines for timing to ensure proper "burgage":

Rest the cooked patty
Often overlooked but arguably the most important step to an amazing burger is resting the meat. Meats need to rest after cooking and the humble burger is no exception. Rest the patty on a grate or paper towel for no less than 45 seconds and not much more than one minute. Then serve immediately.

Adding cheese
Usually room temperature cheese to the hot side of the patty, just off the fire while resting, is enough to attain an ideal consistency (depending on the cheese). If need be, when just off the fire place the cheesed patty under a salamander (or the broil setting in an already hot toaster oven) until cheese reaches desired consistency. Use thinly sliced or grated cheese of choice. Consider this the resting period.

Adding sautéed vegetables
Sauté while the burger patty is cooking. Begin the sauté either when the patties initially hit the pan, or just after the flip, depending on what is being sautéed and the extent to which it is cooked (caramelized or sweated).

Adding other cooked ingredients
Whether it’s a fried egg, bacon, short ribs, or foie gras make sure the product is just off the fire and the last component added to the burger.

Bread Options
Grilled egg-based rolls are my personal favorite. Usually the first step in making burger is grilling the buns. Heat up equal parts butter and canola oil, cut buns in half, place cut-side down in pan until golden brown. Set aside. While burgers cook, begin "condimensation" (mayo, mustard, etc…).


Basic Burger Patty

1 1/3 lb Ground Chuck
¼ tsp (about) Kosher Salt
¼ tsp (about) Ground Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
4 Tblsp Ketchup
3 Green Onions

Yields 3-5 patties

- Mix and cover for at least 1 hour at room temp or over night in fridge.
- Turn on 2 burners to medium and place on them heavy pans (preferably cast iron). Or use the grill!
- On a sheet of parchment paper place a 3 ¾” ring mold and fill with meat mixture until ¾” - 1” high (deep).
- Jiggle the ring mold while lifting it and gently press the meat mixture through the mold onto parchment to extrude.
- Repeat until mixture is gone.
- Place as many patties as your size pan will allow careful not to have them touch each other or the sides of the pan (or they will steam not sear).
- Fry until desired temperature (rare, medium, etc..)
- Add room temperature cheese while resting the patty on grate or paper towel for one minute.
- Assemble Burger

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

First, October

Alas October! Halloween, pumpkins, vibrant foliage, brisk nights, tolerable days, black and orange and yellow, decorations evoking youth, Haddonfield Illinois (huh?), I'm a sucker for it all! This weekend I shall put up Halloween decorations, including the Autumn wreath on the front door, after an early morning visit to the farmer's market in a last-ditch attempt at the remains of summer's bounty. Recently I'm given to baking so I'm looking forward to perhaps a nice fruit tart and maybe confiting some tomatoes. Over the last two weekends I've made some ciabatta bread which is so delicious that it is usually gone by mid-week! I've modified the Ponsford recipe slightly so that it is easier to work with and yields similar but preferable (to me) results.

Recipe follows but first a pointless rant:

Can anyone please explain how someone as abrasive and clueless as Andrew Knowlton became the restaurant editor for Bon Appetit? His sole qualification (as per wikipedia) seems to be "...worked in the restaurant industry". Yours truly "worked in the restaurant industry" for over ten years, maybe I too can con my way into their hallowed halls?

I'll do the same job for half the salary!

Let's face it, he's nowhere near Jeffery Steingarten (although he's desperately trying to be) and only slightly more reputable than Mo Rocca. He must give good tongue (by that, of course, I mean talking his way into landing good jobs).
And why on Earth is Mo Rocca even sometimes an Iron Chef judge anyway? Why the food media elite's love affair with condescending wannabes? They must give good head (by that, of course, I mean offering insightful and thought provoking view points).

Speaking of food media personas, has Bourdain finally bong-ripped the ultimate most pungent-stickiest-hairiest-chronic-funk-crypt this side of Rasta Nirvana? What else could explain his description of canned seafood as "supernaturally delicious"? Was it a perceived value influenced by the $220.00 price tag (yes for canned seafood)? I refer you to this clip from Penn & Teller's Bullshit for another plausible explanation.

Ciabatta Recipe
The Biga:
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 1/3 cups bread flour
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons rye flour
3/4 cups water

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, stir, and let it stand for 5-10 minutes.
Mix the flours in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Measure 1/2 teaspoon of the yeasted water into the flour mixture and throw the rest away
Add the 3/4 cup room temp water. Dough is firm and resistant to kneading. Add an extra tablespoon water only if absolutely necessary.
Place into a well oiled container, cover completely with plastic wrap and let sit overnight (18–24 hours) at room temperature.

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
fermented biga

Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle.
Mix on low speed until a rough dough is formed then increase speed to medium and continue to work the dough until it is fairly smooth, about 5 minutes.
Place the dough into a well oiled roasting pan.

Cover and ferment for 20 minutes.
Knead this way : Instructional Kneading Vid
Repeat above two steps 3 more times

After the last turning let the dough finish proofing for another 70-100 minutes (a total proofing time, with turns, of 2 1/2 to 3 hours).
Heavily flour a couche, tea towels or in my case a clean laundry bag!
Flour the top of the dough and the work surface and turn the dough out.
Cut the dough approximately in half. Gently shape and stretch into rectangles, then loosely fold into thirds like a letter.
Place ciabatte seam-side up on the couche or towels, sprinkle the tops with more flour and loosely cover.
Let them proof until they are very soft and well-expanded, and barely spring back when gently pressed, about 45 minutes.

With a stone or unglazed tile in the oven, preheat to 450 degrees.
When ciabatte are ready to bake, place a piece of parchment paper on a peel. In one fell swoop flip the loaves onto the peel, seam side down, and stretch them very gently to make them rectangular.
Dimple the dough all over with your fingertips, pressing all the way down to the paper (don’t worry—the bread will recover in the oven!).
Slide the loaves on the paper onto the baking stone.
Bake them until very dark brown, 35-40 minutes, rotating halfway through the bake time.
Let cool on a rack.

Here were my results:

Enjoy awesome homemade ciabatta!

Photograph Loaded for Harvest used with permission. Thank you Silliopolous for that wonderful shot!
Also for more on ciabatta and all things baking check out It really is a wonderful resource (thanks steveb!).
Someday I shall post that "links" section.