Saturday, June 9, 2012

Creme Brulee (Krem-BroolAy)

The original recipe for Creme Brulee can be found on at courtesy of one of my food heroes Alton Brown.

Creme brulee is a dessert that most of us have heard of, fewer have tried, and fewer still have attempted at home. Why is this? Because it's at the top of the pantheon of French desserts. We've been lead to believe this is a highly complicated dessert that only the most skilled chefs could hope to conquer (like most of French cuisine). How would you feel if I told you creme brulee only requires four ingredients to cook it? Yes you need a couple skills maybe some cooks don't know, and yes you need a couple pieces of new equipment. BUT this dish is attainable to even a newer aspiring home cook. I will also tell you I've had creme brulee a few times at some seriously nice restaurants, and this was better. Does that mean I'm a great chef... NO. It means that sometimes things are just better when they're made at home. This was the first time I've ever made creme brulee, and I was ecstatic with how easy it really was to pull off. So pull out and put on your fancy pants, because tonight we are having creme brulee for dessert!

For this recipe you will need:

1 quart heavy cream (carton may say heavy "whipping" cream)
1 vanilla bean
6 large egg yolks (no whites)
1 cup sugar

6 7-8oz ramekins
1 quart water
1-2 2" deep pans
Blow Torch

Before you begin set your oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium sauce pan pour in the entire quart of heavy cream. Set up your cutting board and get out your favorite knife. For this job I used my paring knife. Place the vanilla bean down on the board, and cut in half lengthwise. Take the back of your knife and scrape the vanilla bean's innards out. Put the vanilla innards in to the heavy cream, including the half of the bean that has been gutted, and repeat with the second half. Turn your flame on high, and heat until the cream starts to boil regardless of stirring. When the cream comes to a boil, fish out and discard the two vanilla bean halves, leaving the innards in the cream. Take the cream off the heat, and cover for 15 minutes.

Now that you're finished with the cream, get out your whisk and favorite whisking bowl. You need to separate the egg yolks from the whites. For this I actually cracked the eggs over a separate bowl, to ensure I didn't get any white in my whisking bowl. Once you've cracked all 6 eggs and have all 6 yolks in your whisking bowl, take 1/2 cup of sugar and pour that over your yolks. Whisk the yolks and sugar until your eggs become a pale yellow (this will take a little effort).

*Note: Most recipes will not tell you this, but let your eggs come up to room temperature. Most French recipes actually assume you will do this, because most French people do not keep their eggs in the fridge.

In case you don't know how, I've included an older video of me separating eggs.

While you're waiting for the 15 minutes to expire for your cream, set up your ramekins in your 2" deep pans. You need to pour hot water (doesn't have to be boiling) in the pans, NOT IN THE RAMEKINS, about half way up the side of the ramekins. After you've done this be careful, these pans will be awkward to lift in to the oven.

Once your timer has gone off, and you've set up your ramekins, you need to temper your eggs with the cream. It is crucial you do this properly, because if you don't you'll end up with scrambled eggs in cream... yuck.

Set up your bowl on a non skid surface (a rubber glove, or oven mitt with silicone is perfect). Start to whisk your eggs, very fast. While you whisk, ladle a small amount of the cream (which is still very hot) in to your whisk (WHILE STILL WHISKING! DO NO STOP ONCE YOU'VE STARTED THIS PROCESS). Once that first ladle of cream has been completely worked in, do another. Then another. Keep doing this until the whole of the cream has been worked in to your eggs. If you've done as I've instructed, and whisked fast and never stopped, and added the ladles slowly, you should have perfectly combined the cream and eggs with no scrambling. Once you've combined your cream and eggs, ladle the mixture in to all 6 ramekins until you've used it all, and put the pans in the oven. Set your timer for 45 minutes.

Once the timer goes off take both pans out of the oven, and get the ramekins out as soon as you can, set them on a towel to cool off for a moment and dry. Once they've cooled off for about 10 minutes move them to the fridge, for a minimum of 2 hours.

After the creme brulee has had a chance to chill for a couple hours at least, you can get them ready to serve. Place one on the counter, and with a spoon lightly shake a layer over the entirety of the surface. Take your blow torch and work the flame over the entire surface of the creme brulee. I'll give you this warning, it'll seem to take forever. Then out of no where it will melt down, and even get scorched if your not careful (yes, it happened to me). Let the creme brulee cool off for about 5 minutes, and serve!

Yes as you probably figured, this week's video is the blow torch portion of this. Yes as you probably figured, it was my favorite part!

Creme brulee is fun to make, and excellent to eat! This turned out perfectly, which shocked me because this was the first time I have ever even attempted this dish. You guys are gonna love this, I know my little corner of the world did! Eat well everyone!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chicken & Dumpling Classic

The original recipe for Chicken and Dumplings can be found on at courtesy of one of my food heroes Paula Deen.

When you think of "southern cookin'" or "country cookin'" most likely the first dish you think of will be Chicken and Dumplings. This dish has become an American staple over our short history, and I'm willing to bet most people love some version of this dish (and there's a good chance it's a family's tradition).

This dish, actually this recipe, was one of my first real expeditions into the cooking world. My family history being what it is, I absolutely considered this an important dish to master. I made it according to the recipe, and though it wasn't really what I expected, it was tasty regardless. Over the years I've refined this recipe a touch to suit my purposes, and I'm happy with the result. Though certainly I give props to Paula Deen and her family's recipe, what your receiving today is actually a hybrid Paula/Idiotdadcooks version.

For this recipe you will need:

Chicken Soup:
1 Whole Chicken in 8 pieces (2-3.5 lbs)
4 ribs celery
1/2 large onion
2 bay leaves
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 10 3/4 ounce can Cream O' Celery soup
3 quarts water
1 Teaspoon (Red Robin Seasoning)

2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup ice water

2 Teaspoons Cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

*Note: If you wish to use Paula's original recipe simply follow the link above. The most noticeable differences between what you see there and here, are the following:
1. I only use 1/2 an onion, not a whole.
2. I use 3 not 4 quarts of water, otherwise in my opinion it's too soupy.
3. I use Red Robin's fry seasoning instead of Paula's "House Seasoning" because I don't feel like making house seasoning, and I think the Red Robin's seasoning is more flavorful.

If you aren't a fan of "exact science cooking" you're going to adore this dish. The first step you want take is get all your vegetables cut. Once this is done simply put all the chicken soup ingredients in the pot, flip your stove on high until it comes to a boil. Once it starts to boil turn your heat down to medium, and simmer for 40 minutes.

Make sure you're stirring the soup portion pretty often as it cooks. You don't want anything sinking to the bottom and getting burned. You also don't want any spices or whatnot being stuck on the bottom or flavoring only one piece of chicken.

While your soup portion is cooking, get your dumplings ready. This is easy as heck. Get one cup of water and throw a couple ice cubes in it. Stir your AP flour and salt with a fork in the bowl, and make a little hole in the middle. A couple teaspoons at a time, add the water to the hole while working it in to the flour. By the time you've used all your water all the flour should be used, and make a pretty stiff ball. If you have to, add a touch more water if you can't get it all to act as one stiff dough. Let the dough rest a few minutes, then flour your surface and rolling pin, and roll it out. It should be about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick. Take a pizza cutter, and cut 1" squares (or as close as you can) out of the dough. Let that rest for a while, while you finish your soup.

When your timer goes off to end the simmering of your chicken soup, take out all the chicken pieces, and throw away your bay leaves. Let your chicken cool down for a few minutes before your proceed. Peel off the skin (discard it), and pick all the meat off the chicken and put it back in the soup (discard the bones). Bring your soup back up to a boil. Add your Cream O' Celery soup, also at this time mix up a 1/4 cup of cold water and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch and throw that in too.

Once the soup has been boiling for a few minutes again start to carefully put your dumplings in the pot. Let them boil for 5 minutes, once this is done remove the pot from the heat. Allow this to cool for about 15 to 20 minutes and plate however you wish! I heated up some store bought mashed potatoes and poured the chicken and dumplings over them in the bowl, which was awesome! This will be a crowd pleaser, which is good because it will feed a crowd!

*Note: While cooking this I started to think about experimenting with the dumplings. I didn't have time to do it for this blog entry, if you wish you could put a couple teaspoons of baking powder in your flour via a sifter before you make your dough. That would make the dumplings puff up a touch, for a lighter fluffier dumpling. I may revisit this dish in the future. Until then, Eat Well Everyone!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Grandma's Plantation Puffs

Normally at the beginning of my blog I give credit to whatever website I pulled the weeks recipe from. This week we are very fortunate to be using my Grandmother's own recipe for Plantation Puffs, which I will be providing all of you to enjoy.

I have something insanely special to share with all of you today. This recipe is actually my grandmother's recipe for Plantation Puffs. These little frittery doughnutty gems are fantastic for anyone of any age. They are fast, they are economical, and best of all they taste far more complicated than what they actually are. This can be used for an appetizer at a party, as a desert, or as a special breakfast item on the weekends (which is what my family used them for mostly). Regardless of the time of day or event these will be a show stopper for all who try them.

For this recipe you will need:

For the Puffs
2 cups AP flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 rounded tsp. baking powder
1tsp. salt
1 tbsp. melted butter
1 large egg

For the Coating
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

Before we get in to the nuts and bolts of this recipe I'd like to address frying. I do not have a lot of experience in frying, as you will find out later on. It produces fantastic results when done right, and it actually quite quick compared to other forms of cooking. Frying is also inherently dangerous due to the fact you are essentially cooking in napalm, and will feel like it if you get splashed. I urge everyone to please be careful when frying anything.

Basically you can fry two ways. If you are fortunate enough to have an actual "Fryer" it is much easier and less messy. The Fryer will actually maintain your heat for you, and you usually can just cap off the fryer when done and leave the oil in. Personally I do not own a Fryer so I use my cast iron dutch oven to do the job, which is quite common. The cast iron will help maintain heat for you, and is durable enough to withstand long exposure to high temperature without damaging the pot. Using your dutch oven will require a fry or candy thermometer, and a metal spoon or a "spider" to fish out your product (pictured below). There are also many oil options you can use. The recipe called for shortening (Crisco), which I did not use (I didn't have enough). I usually use Peanut Oil when I fry, mostly because of the flavor it provides.

Similar to baking the first step to frying is starting to heat up your oil. For this recipe I found it's best to keep your oil in the 360-380 range. Make sure you monitor your oil temp regularly to ensure you don't under cook, or over cook your puffs.

While your oil is heating up go ahead and get out a mixing bowl and put your sifter in the center of it. Put the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in your sifter and sift until it's all in the bowl (yes... I know normally sugar is technically a "wet" item but for this recipe it's not necessary). At this time put your egg in, and about a half cup of milk to start.

*This is where my grandmother starts to make this a lookin' thing. You have to realize she didn't measure many things while cooking, a lot of it was purely by eye. You have to add your milk a little bit at a time until you get the right consistency. The right consistency should be a sticky dough that appears kind of furry, almost like a tuna salad. After you have the right consistency, add your butter and stir it in.

Another item to complete before frying is getting your coating ready. This is extremely  simple, just put your 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tbsp. of ground cinnamon in to a bowl, and mix well.

Now as long as your oil is at the right temp, we are ready to fry. I set up an assembly line to make things a little more organized for my self (pictured below). First the bowl of batter, next the oil, next the cinnamon mix, and finally a plate (with a paper towel on it) to put the final product.

Using two kitchen table spoons dish out a ball about 1 maybe 2 inches (max) across in to the oil. Fry for about 4 minutes, until you have the right color and ensure it's cooked thoroughly. Trust me on the 4 minute minimum, I actually screwed up the entire first batch I made by not frying long enough. They were raw in the middle. Also the smaller the puff, the less fry time it requires. Trust ya boy on this. This weeks video shows an example of this assembly line, and I will admit I did not fry the puff in this long enough.

After the puff is fried put it in the cinnamon bowl and roll it around. If you need to, spoon the coating over the puff to ensure full coverage and put on the finishing plate.

I will warn all of you, these suckers are addictive. The end product is a cross between a fritter and a doughnut, and you can't eat just one! I have to admit this was actually a very satisfying recipe to cook. I have many memories of my grandmother cooking, and in many ways she is one of the biggest inspirations I have had in the kitchen. This is a recipe that will always be in right in the front of my folder, and I hope you all enjoy these as much as I have. Eat well everyone!

*Note: I wanted to present my grandmother's Plantation Puffs per recipe, and they are fantastic without any fiddling around. I will admit in the future I'll be trying a batch with cinnamon in the batter (maybe some nutmeg too), just to see how it would taste. Just an idea ;)