Mmmm pumpkin. Like many others out there, I eagerly await Fall and the return of pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pancakes, and … these amazing pumpkin rolls. When I took one to the in-laws for Thanksgiving last year, I was told I wouldn’t be allowed back without it in future years. With a cream cheese frosting center and layers of pumpkin sponge cake topped with even MORE frosting and a dusting of pumpkin pie spice? Yes, it IS just that good.
This post is for all of those who got a new immersion circulator for Christmas, or just took advantage of the many sales leading up to it.
For those new to the idea, Sous Vide is a revolutionary new(ish) cooking method that has been in use at high-end restaurants for many years, but is just starting to enter the home market. The basic idea is to seal your food in a vacuum sealed or ziplock bag and place it in a water bath kept at a consistent temperature by an immersion circulator. There are a number of benefits to this method of cooking. First, it’s incredibly easy and forgiving, simple enough for even the most basic cook. You just set the temperature and walk away. If you accidentally cook your chicken breast for a two hours instead of an hour and a half? No big deal, it’ll just be a little more tender. Since the water bath is the temperature you want your food cooked to, it (mostly) can’t overcook. If you leave it cooking for far too long, the worst that’ll happen is that it gets TOO soft. The second benefit is extremely moist, tender food. Since the higher the temperature you cook meat to, the more moisture is lost, this method results in very juicy meat. The possibility of cooking for extremely long periods of time means you can take very tough pieces of meat such as pork shoulder and short ribs and cook them for 48-72 hours, resulting in extremely tender meat. So with sous vide, you get a simple, hands-off approach to cooking that gives you some of the most moist, tender meat you’ve ever had. What’s not to love about that?
This post is less about a specific recipe than brining and a new rub that’s amazing on pork. Are you brining your pork? If you aren’t, you should be. Taking the time to brine your pork, chicken, turkey, or fish will result in meat that’s both more tender and juicier. Once you get the habit, you’ll wonder why it ever took you so long to start.
The rub in question is a combination of granulated maple sugar, black pepper, red pepper, and garlic powder. It’s simple, but the maple really enhances the natural sweetness of the pork, the two types of pepper give a nice contrasting heat, and garlic is, well… garlic!
I’ve been experimenting with Indian omelets lately, after watching the amazing 100 Foot Journey. It’s only recently that I’ve cooked omelets at all, having previously just made messy scrambles instead. After watching that movie, though, I resolved to learn the proper technique for a smooth, fluffy omelet. The keys are a good, small nonstick pan, low heat, and lots of shaking and stirring to ensure large curds don’t form. It’s remarkably easy and delicious, all it takes is a little practice. Plus, while learning, even the mistakes come out delicious.
I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but sous vide is amazing. This pork tenderloin, first brined for six hours then cooked sous vide with rosemary and thyme, is absolutely amazing. It’s simple, low work, and absolutely delicious. The key is getting a good sear in an extremely hot pan, to give it that rich, full flavor and beautiful crust.
In my continuing effort to be healthier, I occasionally make up batches of healthy snacks to have around, and I’ve found that date and nut snack balls are amazing. In these, the date and the apricot act as a binder, the almonds provide some nice texture, the peanut butter adds nutty flavor and a little sweetness and salt, and the spices really round out the flavor. You can substitute any nut, other dried fruit, and even add a little kick to these with cayenne if desired.
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a fancy dinner recipe, so I cooked up this North African dutch oven chicken recipe last night, and boy was it delicious. It’s a decent amount of work, between making the spice rub and prepping all the vegetables, but it’s worth it. One thing this dish really demonstrates is the beauty of layering flavors. From the spice rub to browning both the chicken and the vegetables, then finishing it by caramelizing some tomato paste and deglazing all the pan fond with chicken stock, you really add a lot of flavor compared to just dumping everything in the pot and cooking. I’ve simplified the recipe somewhat, omitting the saffron and ginger (mainly because I didn’t have them around when I thought I did). So if you don’t mind putting in a bit of work, here’s a fantastic, healthy, and unusual chicken dish for you to try!
Too often asparagus is cooked to death. Even outside of the boiled asparagus of my youth, it’s quite easy to overcook. Therefore, my two favorite ways to cook it are quick and simple. The first is to broil it with Parmesan, and this is the second. It’s wrapped in paper towels, microwaved quick to steam it, and then you can finish it however you’d like. Grated Parmesan, simple salt and pepper, or here I use grated nutmeg and lemon zest. However you season it, this technique is quick, simple, and delicious.
I call these coco brownies to differentiate them from melted chocolate brownies. I find they’re two totally different beasts, the one with melted chocolate being fudgier, and these being cakier. Interestingly enough, they’re both very chocolaty, but then again, I did use Black Onyx cocoa powder rather than standard cocoa powder. Either way, these are simple, easy brownies that I found just as delicious as the ones I pulled out the double boiler to melt chocolate for. The original recipe came from Alton Brown, though I modified it by using half butter flavored shortening, primarily because I ran out of butter. I also didn’t sift anything, though you will want to make sure the brown sugar doesn’t have any hard lumps in it. If you have enough butter, feel free to try that version as well, I’m sure either would be delicious.
To start out Valentine’s Day weekend, I decided to make a fancy breakfast for my wife. This may have been a bad idea, as I’m extremely sick, but I went ahead anyway. Dishes were broken, steps were forgotten, and I realized I REALLY should have rested, but the end result was quite amazing. I cooked the eggs with a little cream in a sous vide bath, though you could also cook them in a bowl set into a pan of simmering water. I also baked some prosciutto in mini muffin tins, browned some butter for a finishing sauce, and topped it all with Parmesan and basil. Quite delicious little bites!
Warning: there will be deliriously unhealthy food here. There will be wholesome, nurturing cooking here. There will most definitely be crazy ideas, harebrained schemes, and madness. Continue at your own peril.