21 May 2012

Experiments with "Modernist" Cuisine; Momofuku-Inspired Green Beans

E had been soliciting me, somewhat, for gift ideas. One of which was delivered to me on Friday night, and a good gift it was - a kit from Modernist Pantry for doing all sorts of chemical things to food. I can now make foams, turn anything into a gel, and generally try cooking some crazier things. And, amazingly, Diablo III hasn't completely drained the life from me, coating my fingers in Cheeto dust and my veins into rivers of Mountain Dew. I actually haven't had any of those things in recent memory (except Diablo III, which I've had quite a bit of). We cooked a decidedly non-modernist dinner with a few  flourishes of weird using the other part of the food present - a trip to Sur La Table to pick up stuff that would be useful, but not necessary, in my kitchen.
The kitchenware trip got me a hand blender (for beating things, mostly) and a bamboo steamer (for making steamed things, of course). Given that and the chemicals, we settled on "grain and beans" for the main, steamed artichoke, green beans, salad with solid vinaigrette dressing, and a dessert that read like something between ice cream and whipped cream. The things I was in charge of (namely, the chemical cooking) were interesting. On the other hand, the things E was in charge of (all the other food but the green beans) were actually delicious, an important quality for food. She definitely won the award that night. 
Now, the chemicals: the vinaigrette was, roughly, your normal vinaigrette with agar agar added. Agar agar is crazy - like gelatin you would find in, say, Jello, but vegetarian and capable of holding up even under moderate heat. The texture worked - I made a sheet of vinaigrette that we could then cut and scatter on salad. E disagreed with the texture; I couldn't see the point other than Science! so it was deemed a failure. The dessert was similar - interesting texture, not much else going on. Perhaps I need better recipes aimed at a novice.
The rest of the meal is not quite befitting of a recipe - spinach pasta with black beans, seasoned lightly. Delicious steamed artichoke with mayonnaise. Green beans cooked in a bit of browned butter in a cast iron, tossed with a pinch of salt and freshly-grated horseradish, liberally adapted from a similar recipe in Momofuku, devoured before the rest of the meal was ready.

14 May 2012


Instead of the usual cooking routine, I took time recently on refining and iterating on recipes. I've done this before, most notably when experimenting with shortbread, but never with dinner. It is odd, as well; there is no dinner I can cook that is distinctly "my" dinner. Maybe black bean cakes as I've cooked them a few times, though never really learned much from them. Or tofu and rice; but I season that what appears to be a unique way each time. The trout of last weekend, however, seems a good candidate.

E and I cooked it again, somewhat randomly, with a few attempted tweaks. I think I overcooked it, however, as it was not noteworthy as the last effort, though still a fine meal. The modifications this time were a bit more oil in the pan, a bit more flour on the skin, and (potentially?) a hotter pan. Also, I may have cooked it too much in the pan, making the three minutes it spent in the oven one or two too many. We had it with E's prep of oven-roasted veggies and also her take on a simple dish of farro, onion, and goat cheese that I cooked earlier in the week.
Though I complain of having no signature dinner dish, the same can not be said of breakfast. My pancake recipe is a frequent request from my tummy and others. A prep right before camping this weekend, and a discussion over camp breakfast the next day, had me decide to make the dry mix in bulk. I added a dash of both ginger and cayenne pepper to the recipe, and settled on 100% spelt flour for the "perfect" taste. I need to take a few times to weigh out bulk quantities of the recipe and get it to a happy place; the current prep is all volumes, pinches, and dashes. But, once done with that, I'll post the current state of easy-to-measure recipe and bulk-by-weight for all to enjoy.

07 May 2012

Crispy Trout, Rosemary Chickpeas, Ginger Libation

I can explain, I can explain - I haven't posted anything for so many weeks because I haven't made anything interesting. Part of this was having a stomach bug for a little over a week, during which time I was never really hungry and my stomach always felt unsettled, more so after eating and as the day progressed. The silver lining to that cloud was the day my hunger returned - I ate six meals and was still hungry the next day. That was on Thursday; cooking was cancelled on Friday in favor of pizza and drinks with a friend. Saturday, it was on.
E and I wrote down three recipe options from a book, plus knowledge of our main, and went to the store. The plan was crispy-skinned fish with rosemary chickpeas and either lentil strudel or Asian summer rolls as well (the last three of which are from The Herbal Kitchen). My grocery store, to add to the long list of things it lacks, carries neither phyllo dough nor rice paper, so we just opted for a salad. Which was a wonderful idea - handling phyllo dough for the lentil recipe looked Sisyphean, though the summer rolls looked plausible.
The fish also posed a conundrum; the store had wild Alaskan King salmon, a truly ostentatious fish I've cooked once before. This time, the butcher had accidentally skinned their fillets, leaving us with a single, pedestrian option: butterflied trout, farmed. Given the intended prep method, I think a leaner fish was the right (accidental) call. The fish was mostly crispy, flaky, and perfectly flavored with only salt and pepper. The rosemary chickpeas, somehow, seemed to go well with the fish. And E made a wonderful drink of ginger beer to go with the weather. A fine return to cooking, I say.
Crispy-Skinned Trout
Serves 2
1 trout, skin on, butterflied (we got a 0.62 lb fillet, already prepped)
olive oil
ground sea salt
ground pepper
semolina flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Do any prep necessary for your fish - we removed the head and some of the fins, though my knife wasn't sharp enough for all. In a oven-safe pan that can fit your fish, heat a thin layer of olive oil to just below smoking. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel, then rub it with a mixture of salt and pepper on both sides. Add a small dusting of semolina flour on the skin side and make sure there isn't any excess.

Place the fish, skin down, in the pan and make sure it stays flat so the skin is in constant contact with the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until it looks crispy, then flip the fish over and move the pan to the oven to finish. This took ~2 minutes for our fish, given how thin the fillet was; more may be required if you have a thicker cut. Serve immediately.

If eating with rosemary chickpeas (which are, essentially, heated chickpeas tossed with rosemary), I recommend the drink E made. Add a small amount of vodka (to taste) and a thumbs-length of rosemary to a highball/rocks glass. Muddle a bit. Fill glass with half a Bundaberg or so and add a slice of lemon. Let it site for a few minutes as the rosemary flavor won't immediately infuse.