05/12/15

Lunch and Dynamics

It’s the wee hours of the morning, and already I’m sitting here thinking about eating lunch.

I packed a pretty awesome lunch today. Want to see?

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What have we got? A mini bagel and lox, broccoli and grape tomatoes, tiny potato salad, pistachios, muscat grapes (Superstore has them right now and they are positively addictive!), raspberries, and some chocolate chips. It’s a pretty darn cute lunch to boot!

I’ve been having a lot of fun packing bento lunches lately. For the most part, there won’t really be recipes to include, but I thought it might be fun to share. It’s too easy to fall into a rut and eat the same thing for lunch at work every day. You may not become a full out bento geek, but maybe you’ll see a fun idea or two you may want to include in your lunch repertoire. At the same time, I feel like maybe those of you who are out there in the binary ether of the internet are here for recipes, not pictures of how cute my lunch is. (Even though it is really cute.) Any thoughts?

And now, on to a recipe!

Raspberry Buttermilk Muffins

(recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

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1 Cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 Cup of softened butter

2/3 Cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1/2 cup buttermilk

2/3 Cup fresh raspberries

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350º F.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

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  • Beat the butter and 2/3 Cup sugar together until fluffy.

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  • Blend in the vanilla and then the egg, mixing until uniform after each addition.

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  • Mix in the dry ingredients and buttermilk, adding them in batches alternately until everything is just combined.

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  • Butter your muffin tray so that the muffins won’t stick!
  • Tear the raspberries in halves (the trick to a good muffin is to not over stir, so we don’t want to break up the berries by adding them to the batter and then stirring) and then fold into the muffin batter.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin moulds. Then sprinkle the remaining 1 Tbsp of sugar over top of the muffins.

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  • Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean (∼18-20 minutes).
  • Enjoy!

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These muffins are tasty little buggers. The sprinkling of sugar over the top just before baking gives the muffin top the sweet crunchy crust that one often finds in muffins bought at the coffee shop, yum! I’m definitely going to have to remember this for other recipes.

As you may have noticed in the pictures I had reserved a few of the raspberries to top the muffins with, thinking that they might look pretty nice, perched atop my muffins. It didn’t quite work out, it seems as though the batter doesn’t case harden particularly quickly, alas the raspberries sank into the batter instead.

That small disappointment aside, the best thing here is that the muffins were restrained but not bland. Not every item we eat needs to be intense or attention grabbing flavour, it can be very welcoming and comforting to sink your teeth into something comforting and undemanding to eat. This is not to say it shouldn’t taste good, just that in terms of dynamics these muffins are at more of a piano than a fortissimo.  With buttermilk and raspberries (and a delicious crunchy sugar crust atop) these little beauties hit all the right notes.

04/23/15

The Mighty, Mighty Mandarin

Mighty Mandarin Salad

1/4 Cup vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp chopped parsley

1/2 tsp salt

pinch black pepper

1/2 Cup sunflower seeds

1/4 Cup sugar

a head of lettuce of your choice (I used a spring mix), rinsed, dried and torn

1 Cup chopped celery, sliced thin

2 – 11 oz cans of mandarin orange segments, drained

Directions

  • For the vinaigrette, find a container with a tight sealing lid, a jar is perfect, and combine in it the vegetable oil, cider vinegar, mustard, first measure of sugar, parsley, salt, and pepper.

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  • Affix the lid to your container, and then shake, shake, shake until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Set aside as you prepare the rest of the salad.
  • Place a small frying pan on the stove over medium heat. Tip the sunflower seeds into the pan, and toast, stirring leisurely as the seeds take on a little colour and become fragrant. Then, sprinkle over the second measure of sugar, stirring as it melts until the seeds are coated. Remove the pan from heat, pour the candied seeds onto a plate or into a bowl to cool.
  • Put the lettuce, celery, and mandarin orange segments into a salad bowl, tossing gently so that the segments of orange don’t get broken up into mush.
  • With cooling, the sugar on the candied sunflower seeds will have recrystallized. Break the mass apart with your hands and sprinkle over the veg.
  • Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad just before serving.

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When serving salad, I like to employ the practice of dressing lightly and then serving the remainder alongside. This way, people who enjoy their salad lightly dressed can, and those who like to have theirs swimming in vinaigrette can too!

This salad is normally done with sliced almonds, candied up in the same way as I do the sunflower seeds. It’s definitely really nice that way but because Mr is allergic to nuts the almonds get substituted out these days. Use what you like, but I really would suggest to give the sunflower seeds a try. Whichever you elect to use, they bring an extra delightful crunch to each forkful.

As an additional option, if I remember correctly, my aunties who make this salad do so with some green onion chopped in. It would certainly be easy to add, but I’m not very partial to green onion and it’s my version of the recipe, so I don’t put them in!

I have a soft spot in my heart for mandarin, so I quite enjoy this salad. Crunchy, delightful, and sweet, it’s sure to please!

This time last year: Quintessential Quinoa Cakes

2 years ago: Pomegranate Jelly

3 years ago: Blackberry Lemonade Popsicles

4 years ago: Good Lemon Hummus

5 years ago: Raspberry Eskimo Pie

03/14/15

Hollandaise: Have No Fear!

Hollandaise sauce is one of those things that people get afraid of attempting in their kitchens, much like working with yeast for bread baking, or fish in general, there seems to be a level of trepidation people experience before they decide to take the plunge and make an attempt. What if it doesn’t rise? Or it rises everywhere? Fish is delicate; delicate is difficult. What if the sauce breaks? What if the egg yolks scramble?

What if it doesn’t work?

And I mean, really, sometimes things don’t work when you want them to. Especially on the first try. Mistakes are bound to happen, especially as you are learning a technique. I’ve even read before (though I have been unable to locate the specific source that I remember it from), that Hollandaise is kind of like a horse. If it know’s you’re afraid it’s going to react to you accordingly.

If you approach with some research, and a healthy approach that if it doesn’t work, fix it or try again, you can do it! And you may realize, like I did, that emulsifying some egg yolks with butter and lemon isn’t something to be apprehensive about.

Some how to notes, and techniques:

Mrs. Child even goes so far as to tell you how to fix your Hollandaise if it breaks, or still make it useable if the eggs clump. As always, she presents a wealth of knowledge.

Start at ~1:25 for him to start on the Hollandaise. He’s doing an Eggs Benedict episode, and part one can be found on Youtube if you’re interested, but I’m just here to talk about Hollandaise for now.

Now, I love Alton Brown, because he gets science-brained in the way I often do. The interesting thing here though, is that his technique is a little bit different than Julia Child’s. And they’re both making Hollandaise using the direct heat method! I’m not even bringing up methodologies that differ as much as say, the blender method for Hollandaise sauce. (This may be because I prefer the direct heat method…)  There are so many variables to get into balance, many approaches can get you to delicious Hollandaise territory, and there are many spots in which you can adjust to make sure that your sauce gets to what you would like it to be. While we experience some worry because there are a lot of places where things can go wrong it’s important to remember that those are all places that, with a little care, we can ensure that things go right.

Now the recipe that I was basing the meal plan off of, a tasty turkey hash to eat for brunch, used a brown butter Hollandaise. And if you’ve been reading around these parts, you would be familiar with the fact that my household likes brown butter. As written in the magazine, I could not get the Hollandaise to work. The action of browning the butter made it too hot, so that no matter how slowly I added it in to my egg yolks, everything scrambled. Frustrating.

Google led me to Lauren’s Latest, where she had made Eggs Benedict with a Brown Butter Hollandaise, and her technique was to not cook the egg yolks, just whisk them up, and then let the heat from the brown butter be what thickens them, while the whisking things into emulsion was in process. I cannot speak to how her technique works, as the addition of too hot butter had already left me feeling uneasy.

And so, when you read my recipe, I hope you do not feel daunted by Hollandaise, either from the trepidation fellow cooks seem to have at the concept, or from the fact that I had to do a couple of tries before I got the technique down. Emulsions are nothing to be afraid of, a whisk is nothing to be afraid of, and options in technique are nothing to be afraid of either.  If I can make a Hollandaise, so can you! No fear, intrepid food explorers!

Turkey Hash with Brown Butter Hollandaise

(recipe adapted from Flavours magazine)

For the hash:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1 Cup potato, peeled and chopped

1 Cup sweet potato, peeled and chopped

1 Cup leftover turkey, chopped

1/2 tsp sage

salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs

For the Brown Butter Hollandaise:

1/2 Cup butter

2 egg yolks

1 Tbsp cold water

1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

pinch of salt

Directions

  • Before starting on the hash, brown the butter for the Hollandaise, and then set it aside to cool while you get the hash going. (For more detail on the process of browning butter, check out this recipe.)
  • Combine the olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. The thing that is lovely about a hash is the tasty, crispy, browned bits, and so if you’re a cast iron afficionado like I am, this is the time to pull it out. If you aren’t a cast iron cookware afficionado, just make sure to pull out something heavy bottomed to optimize the browned goodness of your hash.

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  • Once the fats have gotten bubbly, add the vegetables. Sauté until the potato and sweet potato have softened and all of the veg has started to pick up some colour.
  • Turn the heat up to medium-high, and add in the chopped turkey. Now that we are into brown and crisp territory, try not to move things around in the pan too much. Too much motion in the pan will prevent the process of browning, but the hash does need to moved around a bit, so that it doesn’t burn and so other surfaces get to brown too. I like to think of baking in moments like these; fold, don’t stir.

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  • Season with sage, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Turn the pan with the hash down to low heat, to hold until we’re ready for plating. Give it a little shake every once in a while so that things don’t start to stick on to the bottom.
  • Place the egg yolks in a small saucepan and whisk for about a minute, until they become paler and become more viscous. When you pull the whisk away from the bottom of the saucepan, the yolks will pull upward too, instead of just sitting at the bottom.
  • Add the water, lemon juice, and salt to the whisked yolks, and continue whisking for an additional minute.
  • Before we start adding heat to the Hollandaise process, fill a large bowl with cold water and put it nearby.
  • Place the saucepan over low heat, and whisk, whisk, whisk as the mixture slowly starts to thicken. The goal is to put heat to the eggs very slowly, so don’t be afraid to take the saucepan on and off of the heat if things are changing too quickly.
  • Once you begin to see the bottom of the saucepan between strokes with the whisk, the yolks have thickened enough.Remove the saucepan from the stove, and plunge the bottom of the pan into the bowl of cold water you set aside. This will halt the cooking of the eggs.
  • Working with the ever trusty whisk, continue to beat the egg yolks, adding the browned butter by droplets or small spoonfuls at a time, until the sauce thickens to the consistency of a very heavy cream. From this point, the rest of the browned butter can be added in a drizzle. Your Hollandaise should be thick, sunshiney, and completely emulsified. Magnificent!
  • Cook up an over easy egg for yourself and the person you’re going to eat breakfast with. Hello tiny perfect egg pan!
  • To plate, spoon a mound of turkey hash onto the centre of the plate, top it with an over easy egg, and then finish by spooning some brown butter Hollandaise over the egg.
  • Bon appetit!

I regret to say, I didn’t really take pictures of the Hollandaise process, what with one hand whisking away and the other holding a saucepan handle. Maybe next time I will see if Mr would hover over to take pictures as I go. But, you have to admit, this looks as though it would be worth eating.

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For your enjoyment (maybe while also enjoying some tasty turkey hash with brown butter Hollandaise), Recipe Wars actually does Alton Brown’s Eggs Benedict versus Julia Child and Jacques Pepin’s Eggs Benedict. Do you think that the right recipe won?

This time last year: Vanilla Sugar

2 years ago: Udon Noodle Chicken Soup

3 years ago: Pear Ginger Jam

4 years ago: Chocolate Strawberry Pavlova