1.06.2015

A Waffle of Insane Greatness (or What I'm Interested In This Year)

It has taken me a long time to find a decent waffle. So many recipes—particularly the sought after yeasted kind—require an overnight plan.  My wager is most people do not go to bed with the anticipation of wanting a waffle in the morning. 

Yet, I’d bet many of these same folks would not turn down a breakfast that includes maple syrup and butter.  Unless, of course, they have pledged to give up flour, or sugar, or dairy for 2015.  In which case, this subsect may very well be dreaming and scheming for a plate of stacked waffles knowing there is a kale smoothie in their immediate future.

I personally do not have any grand aspirations of mind-body domination for the new year.  Nor do I have goals that align with pureed vegetable drinks.  But I do hope to be kind to my body in the way you might be kind to someone who has just survived shingles or a forth grade piano recital.

So this will include the occasional waffle.

And a waffle of insane greatness is the only kind of waffle I am interested in making.  Particularly one that doesn’t necessitate advanced notice.  This recipe requires the usual suspects in the kitchen and thirty minutes of sitting time for the batter.  And that’s it.

What you get in return are crispy, light waffles that stand up to their hyperbolic namesake.  That they happen to smell faintly of vanilla and require dirtying only one single bowl is additionally motivating.

I will not bore you with descriptors.  You have probably had some decent waffles in your past, maybe even a few great ones.  This is the recipe when time is of the essence and a waffle is what you require. 

So if one kind of greatness will find you dreaming of waffles and one kind will find you actual waffles, I’d suggest the latter.  Insane resolution smoothies don’t last.  Insane waffles do.

The Waffle of Insane Greatness
Adapted from Aretha Frankensteins

Ingredients:

½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup whole wheat or spelt flour
¼ cup cornstarch
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup whole milk or buttermilk
1/3 cup olive oil
1 egg
1½ tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir to combine.  Whisk in the milk, oil, egg, sugar, and vanilla until no lumps remain.  Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.

To make the waffles, heat your waffle iron: cooking instructions may vary slightly depending on the type you are using.  (I lightly grease mine, which is this, with canola oil.)  Once the iron is preheated, pour in about ½ cup of batter.  Close and let cook about 2 minutes, or until the waffle is golden brown.  (If you are using a stovetop iron you’ll want to flip it after about 60 to 90 seconds; I keep mine on medium to medium-high heat.)

Repeat this process until all the batter is gone.

Makes about ½ dozen waffles.

Notes:

-The whole grain flour is there to make the batter a little more interesting and I’d highly suggest it.  I don’t see why you couldn’t go fifty-fifty, either.

12.23.2014

Double Taza Stout and Stracciatella Ice Cream Con Panna and Good Humans

Good humans are among us.  I recently started dating one.

For one, he always puts the half and half away after making coffee in the morning.  This may seem simple.  But you might want to think twice about a person willing to let your milk spoil.

He was also able to provide three concrete reasons for getting a Christmas tree this year.  The smell.  The lights.  And as a meaningful adjunct to holiday cookies.

He counts his afternoon walk to Flour Bakery, for a coffee and chocolate chip cookie, as activity points.

He is concerned about taking too many dinner helpings for fear there won’t be lunch leftovers.

And though he doesn’t play fast and loose with compliments, they are really something when he dishes them out.

They catch you off-guard. Like claiming you look gorgeous after having just brushed your teeth.  Or calling you a genius for making ice cream. 

You’ll find instructions for such praise-inducing ice cream below. A version of this one.  But featuring local stout aged on cacao nibs from the Taza chocolate factory in Somerville, Massachusetts.  Then more of the same chocolate is finely shaved with a knife and added in shards the Italians call stracciatella, meaning little tears or shreds.

Stracciatella is often made by pouring a thin stream of chocolate into cold, churning ice cream and served con panna, or with whipped cream, at your request.  And reminds me of the gelato I had in Rome over a decade ago.  So I borrowed on this memory, adding in some espresso for good measure.  The bitterness, balanced by dark beer and set upright by chocolate, somehow makes the final product even greater than its parts.

And I really can’t take credit for all of that.  The praise belongs mostly to the instruction of Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.  And to the fine people at Taza chocolate and Night Shift Brewing who did the heavy lifting, lending talent and honoring fine ingredients. 

But that’s the thing about cooking. The one in front of the stove gathers the spoils. You can use a blueprint belonging to someone else, selfishly add some favorite flavors, and a memory or two from your past, and suddenly you’re the genius.  The good humans who have lent part of themselves in the way of instruction, or cacao, or beer make it all possible though.

In many ways, this all makes very little sense.  And, yet, perhaps the best way to reconcile it is to pillage yet another idea. A witticism from a storyteller artist and fellow human.

There are things you do because they feel right and they may make no sense and they may make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other and to eat other’s cooking and say it was good.” –Brian Andreas

To share, and to care, and to eat chocolate may very well be the answer.  Merry Christmas.

Double Taza Stout and Stracciatella Espresso Ice Cream Con Panna

Ingredients

2 cups whole milk, divided
1½ tbsp cornstarch
1½ ounces cream cheese, softened
1¼ cup heavy cream
2/3 cup dark muscovado sugar
2 tbsp brown rice syrup
pinch of salt
2 tbsp instant espresso
80 grams (just shy of 3 ounces) dark chocolate (i.e. Taza), cut into small shards
½ cup chocolate stout (i.e. Night Shift Brewing Taza Stout)

Optional: ¾ cup heavy cream (for a whipped cream topping)

Instructions

In a small bowl, mix 2 tbsp of the whole milk with the cornstarch.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth. 

In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining milk, heavy cream, sugar, brown rice syrup, and salt on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture boils.  When it reaches a slow rolling boil, continue to stir occasionally for 4 minutes more.

Remove pan from the heat and stir in the instant espresso until it dissolves.  Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl with ice and a little water and put a smaller bowl inside the larger bowl with ice.

Return the infused espresso milk back on medium-high heat; gradually add in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until it thickens (this will take a few minutes).  Remove from heat and slowly whisk some of the hot liquid into the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the cream cheese mixture to the saucepan with the remaining liquid; add stout; whisk to combine.

Pour into the prepared bowl on ice.  Let cool for about 30 minutes and then refrigerate until fully cooled (or overnight).

When ready, churn the mixture in an ice cream machine for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it gets thick and creamy and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  At the very end of the churning, add in the chocolate shards (we are technically cheating here, deviating from stracciatella form).  Pack the ice cream in an airtight container.  Cover with parchment paper cut to fit the container and freeze for at least 4 hours.

If desired, before serving whip ¾ cup heavy cream and top ice cream.

Makes about 1 quart.

Notes:
-Chocolate covered cacao nibs would likely be great here too for added texture, but I'd encourage the chocolate shards regardless, they melt ably in the mouth.


-The brown rice syrup here is a stand-in for corn syrup, which can be used in a pinch. As can dark brown sugar in place of the muscovado.

11.28.2014

Cranberry Port Gelée. A.T.

The older I get, the less consistently I floss.  I also worry less about butter than about sinking coastlines and the state of honeybee hives.  So much of our future is unknown.  All of it, in fact. 

So you might as well eat happily.  And this includes bringing the cranberry sauce. Life is too short to eat something congealed from a can. 

Especially if you live in New England.  And have twenty minutes to spare.

The recipe is a Canal House classic.  Mix in a few arguably unusual ingredients.  Juniper berries.  Black peppercorns.  Fortified wine.  Then cook down some native fruit and strain and chill.  And, ta da, you have a new standby.  Plus an excuse to open a bottle of port. 

So please forgive the inappropriate timing.  Quite the nerve coming to you the morning after Thanksgiving, I know.  But there was a turkey to cook. And flossing to neglect. And—as my brother and I established with our oven timeline yesterday—there’s a clear linear delineation of B.T. and A.T. 

Before Turkey.  And After Turkey.

This means Before Turkey is behind us. But we have a whole world of After Turkey yet to discover.  And in this time I suggest, at some point, you make cranberry gelée.  It’s intriguingly floral and yet not too much of a departure for the traditionalists. 

Because cranberries can exist more than once a year.   And you just might need something for your turkey sandwich today.

Cranberry Port Gelée
Adapted by Food52 and the Canal House

Ingredients:

1 cup port
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp juniper berries
10 black peppercorns
pinch of salt
1-12 ounce bag of cranberries

Instructions:

In a medium saucepan, place the port, sugar, juniper, peppercorns and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the cranberries and return to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the berries burst and soften (about 10 to 15 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Using a wire mesh sieve, strain the solids into a bowl. With a rubber spatula, press to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Towards the end the liquid will get thicker.  Stir the extracted thin and thick solids together.

Pour into a serving dish and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill until firm and ready to serve (at least a few hours or overnight).

Makes between 1 to 2 cups (depending on how long the cranberries are cooked)

Notes:

-Red wine could also be employed in place of the port.

11.01.2014

Buttermilk Buckwheat Beet Crepes: A Brief Tutorial

Here is what I know about about crepe making.  Do not attempt them under the following circumstances:

If you do not have a sturdy sauté pan.  (It does not have to be non-stick, but you cannot be evangelically opposed to butter.)

If you have had more than two cocktails.

If you have had any cocktail named as follows: the Boilermaker (postmodern hipster version: Dad’s Manhattan and a Rolling Rock); Wrath; Sheena Easton; anything that comes in a Scorpion Bowl.

If you are down to a single pair of knee-high orange stripped socks and are procrastinating the laundry.

If you have said, “I don’t know why I’m crying,” in the past twenty-four hours.

If you are ovulating.

If you are someone who angers easily about ovulation jokes.

If you are over thirty and have recently been asked why you aren’t married.  Give yourself two points if it was a relative.

If you have just listened to Seger’s “Turn the Page,” as covered by Metallica.

The point is crepes require your full attention.  Distractions will only complicate matters.  You must have your mental prowess. You must not be easily shaken by emotional shrapnel, housekeeping interference, or more than two fingers of whiskey.  For at least a good 30 minutes.

I know this because the day I finally nailed this recipe, I was as calm as the ocean is blue.  It took a few attempts to work out the kinks.  But it certainly didn’t help that prior efforts were on less than six hours of sleep, with laundry piling, and a plague of circling fruit flies with aspirations of biblical proportions.

Crepes can sense these sorts of things.  I swear they collapse on purpose.

But they are worth making.  For one, the recipe is vetted.  It involved a weird two weeks during which I ate beets daily.  We won’t talk about the aftereffects.  The dedication was apparent.

But these are simply beautiful.  They are fuchsia-colored with black buckwheat specks.  They don’t taste particularly beet-y, but they have a slight lingering earthiness and resilient chew. The buttermilk lends its tang and all of this taken together nearly threatens sensory overload, until you remember that you are eating a crepe.

Never mind the pink. Actually, totally mind the pink.  The pink is the point. Never mind everything else.

Buttermilk Buckwheat Beet Crepes

Ingredients:

1 medium-large beet (about 3-inches), cooked and peeled
1 cup buttermilk (have extra around if your batter needs a little thinning, see below)
1/3 cup buckwheat flour, sifted
2/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp sugar
4 eggs
2 tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus more for greasing the pan
scant ½ tsp kosher salt

Instructions:

Puree the beet in food processor, thinning it out with a little water (about ¼ cup) until the mixture starts to loosen slightly.  Using a wire mesh strainer, separate out the pulp; reserve the solids for another use.  You should get about 1/3 cup of liquid.  Pour the beet juice into a measuring cup.  If it’s just a little shy of 1/3 cup, simply add a bit more buttermilk than called for: you’ll need 1-1/3 cups total liquid between the juice and the buttermilk.

In a medium bowl, combine the liquid with the flours, sugar, eggs, melted butter, and salt; whisk together.  Let the batter sit for an hour (this is important).

When you are ready to prepare the crepes, heat a 9-inch sauté pan on medium-high heat. Butter the pan, discarding any pooling fat.  Pick the pan up and pour 1/3 cup of crepe batter in the center of the pan and quickly swirl it with your wrist to evenly distribute the batter.  This will probably take a few crepes to get the hang of it. 

The crepe will cook for about 30 to 60 seconds (until it starts to look dry to the touch on the top side).  Using a rubber spatula, gently flip the crepe and cook for another 15 to 30 seconds.

Re-butter the pan, as needed (I did about every other crepe, wiping out the excess butter). Repeat until the batter is gone. 

Makes about 10 crepes

Notes:
-Buttermilk provides a nice tang but it is a bit tricky to work with because brands have varying consistencies and some can make the batter a little thick.  If you want to avoid this altogether, just use milk. Ultimately, your crepe batter should be the texture of cream.  (I’ve thinned it out with a little water in a pinch, but it should also settle as it sits.)  Which reminds me: don’t neglect letting the batter sit, the crepes are easier to handle and hold together much better after resting. And hang tight, the first few crepes are typically troublemakers. 

-The crepes will last about four days in the fridge.  Or you can freeze them between pieces of parchment or wax paper for longer.


-To cook beets, I roast them in foil with some olive oil and salt at 425 degrees until they’re knife-tender.