Archive for the ‘Season 1’ Category

Chocolate Mousse

Because I am human, I could not help but be excited for the recipes in the 13th Good Eats episode. I mean, who doesn’t like chocolate? The first recipe Alton conquers in the episode is his Chocolate Mousse. With a short prep time, and only six ingredients, this is a dessert that is fit to be made anytime. You start by combining semi-sweet chocolate chips, a pinch of Kosher salt (guess this makes it seven ingredients), espresso, dark rum, and butter in a double boiler.

Chocolate chips, butter, salt, espresso, and rum.

Chocolate chips, butter, salt, espresso, and rum.

While the chocolate is melting, you measure 1 1/2 C of heavy cream in a liquid measuring cup, pouring a couple of ounces of this into a metal measuring cup. Note:  The online recipe calls for a total of 1 3/4 C of cream, while Alton uses a total of 1 1/2 C in the episode. I went with the 1 1/2 C of cream, per the episode.

Heavy cream.

Heavy cream.

You want to keep the cream in the liquid measuring cup chilled. To the cream in the metal measuring cup, you add some gelatin, and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Gelatin.

Gelatin.

Gelatin bloomin in some of the cream.

Gelatin blooming in some of the cream.

By this time, your chocolate mixture should be melted, and you want to remove it from the heat.

Melted chocolate mixture.

Melted chocolate mixture.

While your chocolate cools, you beat your cream in a chilled metal mixing bowl, using a chilled beater. You should beat your cream until you have medium peaks.

Chilled mixing bowl and beater.

Chilled mixing bowl and beater.

Heavy cream, ready to be whipped into submission... or medium peaks.

Heavy cream, ready to be whipped into submission… or medium peaks.

A taste of the cream for "helper" #1.

A taste of the cream for “helper” #1.

And a taste for "helper" #2.

And a taste for “helper” #2.

The gelatin/cream mixture gets heated over a gas burner or a candle until all of the gelatin granules are gone. You do not want to boil this liquid. Once the gelatin is dissolved, you add the cream/gelatin to the chocolate mixture, stirring to combine.

Heating the gelatin/cream mixture over a candle.

Heating the gelatin/cream mixture over a candle.

Adding the gelatin mixture to the chocolate.

Adding the gelatin mixture to the chocolate.

Now it is time to combine the chocolate with the whipped cream, but you want to do this gradually and gently, beginning by stirring 1/4 of the cream into the chocolate. Then you will gently fold the remaining cream into the chocolate in two additions.

Side by side bowls of goodness, ready to be combined to make even greater goodness.

Side by side bowls of goodness, ready to be combined to make even greater goodness.

Stirring in about 1/4 of the whipped cream.

Stirring in about 1/4 of the whipped cream.

Alton stresses that it is okay to have streaks in your mousse. The important thing is to gently fold the cream into the chocolate, so as not to remove the air from the cream. I definitely had some streaks in my mousse.

The final product, after folding in the remaining whipped cream.

The final product, after folding in the remaining whipped cream.

You gently spoon the mousse into individual serving cups and refrigerate it for an hour before covering the cups with plastic wrap.

Yum. Chocolate mousse.

Yum. Chocolate mousse.

I made my mousse several hours in advance and we ate it for dessert three days in a row. I also shared some mousse with my parents. We all thought this mousse was delicious. It was light and fluffy, and mine had tiny bits of chocolate throughout, which I’m sure were not supposed to be there, but were actually a nice touch! The mousse was very rich without being heavy. There was a hint of rum in my mousse, but the espresso flavor was really not discernible. This is a recipe I will be making again because it is easy, fast, and delicious, and because my mom has already requested it!

Chocolate Lava Muffins

I will confess that I have made Alton’s Chocolate Lava Muffins a few times in years past, so this was not a new recipe to me. I still watched him prepare the recipe on the episode to ensure that I completed the recipe as prepared in the episode. When I made these in the past, I followed the online recipe, and as we know, there are usually differences between the online and episode recipes.

You start by melting chocolate chips with butter and vanilla extract.The online recipe calls for 1/2 t of vanilla, while Alton uses 1 t in the episode.

Melting chocolate chips with butter and vanilla.

Melting chocolate chips with butter and vanilla.

Once melted, you beat the chocolate mixture. I used my handheld mixer, which was given to me by my grandma about 15 years ago (she became quite the QVC shopper in her later years). It sometimes gets warm and emits a funky electrical smell, but it’s still ticking, and I use it occasionally.

The melted chocolate mixture.

The melted chocolate mixture.

One by one, you beat in four eggs, until incorporated.

Beating in the eggs, one at a time.

Beating in the eggs, one at a time.

Then you sift in your dry ingredients (Alton uses 4 T of flour in the episode, rather than the 3 T in the online recipe), and beat the mixture for at least 5 minutes (that electrical smell was present after that!) until the batter is light and smooth.

Sugar, flour, and salt.

Sugar, flour, and salt.

Adding the sifted dry ingredients to the chocolate.

Adding the sifted dry ingredients to the chocolate.

The completed batter, after beating for over 5 minutes.

The completed batter, after beating for over 5 minutes.

You chill the mixture to let it set a little bit. How long? This is not specified in either the episode or the online recipe. I chilled my batter for about 20 minutes. While the mixture chills, you can grease your muffin tin, and coat the cups with some cocoa powder.

Muffin tin, greased and dusted with cocoa powder.

Muffin tin, greased and dusted with cocoa powder.

Alton then tells you to use a 4-ounce scoop for each muffin. I used a ladle (not sure what size), and simply filled my muffin cups until they were about 2/3 full. This filled all 12 of my cups, while many reviewers on the Food Network site said they ended up with 8 or 9 muffins.

Batter in the muffin cups.

Batter in the muffin cups.

Once your cups are full, you stick the muffins in the oven and bake them for about 10 minutes, or until the sides are set and the centers are still jiggly. I checked my muffins at 9 minutes, but they were not quite done. Ten minutes was perfect for my muffins.

Baked lava muffins.

Baked lava muffins.

The baked muffins.

The baked muffins.

To serve the muffins, Alton makes a sauce by melting vanilla ice cream with espresso powder, and pours this over the top.

Melting vanilla ice cream with espresso powder.

Melting vanilla ice cream with espresso powder.

The completed sauce.

The completed sauce.

Lava muffin with sauce.

Lava muffin with sauce.

I have now made these muffins at least three times, so I guess that tells you that I like them. They kind of look like little chocolate hockey pucks. Perhaps filling the muffin cups a bit more results in more of a typical muffin shape, but I actually like the small size of these. They are very dense and rich, with an almost-liquid center and cake-like edges. I like them with the sauce, though I think they would maybe pair better with plain vanilla ice cream or barely sweetened whipped cream. The combo of the muffin with the sauce is just sweet on sweet. The muffins keep nicely for a couple of days, and while you can serve them warm, I think they are great at room temperature also.

With that, I complete Season 1 of Alton’s recipes on Good Eats.

 

Rice Pilaf

In the 12th episode of Good Eats, Alton educates the viewer on all things rice. He talks about the many types of rice, how they differ, how to store them, and how to cook them. Did you know you should not store brown rice at room temperature? The oils in brown rice can turn rancid at room temperature, producing off-flavors. Instead, you should store it in an airtight container in the freezer.

There is only one recipe in this episode, and it is for Rice Pilaf. We eat a fair amount of rice in our house, but I honestly do not know if I had previously made a rice pilaf. For this recipe, you steep some saffron threads in warm water while you prep the rest of the dish. I did not have any saffron, but I was able to borrow some from my parents.

Saffron threads

Saffron threads

Steeping saffron in warm water.

Steeping saffron in warm water.

You melt some butter in a heavy oven-safe pan that has a lid, and you cook some onion, red bell pepper, and Kosher salt until the vegetables are tender.

Melting butter.

Melting butter.

Onion, bell pepper, orange zest, and bay leaves.

Onion, bell pepper, orange zest, and bay leaves.

Cooking the vegetables.

Cooking the vegetables.

To this vegetable mixture you add long grain rice, stirring it until it has a nutty aroma. This step reminded me of how you start a risotto.

Stirring the rice until it has a nutty aroma.

Stirring the rice until it has a nutty aroma.

Once aromatic, you add chicken broth, a strip of orange zest, two bay leaves (the online recipe calls for one), and the saffron water. The saffron is used to add both color and flavor to the pilaf. You also want to add Kosher salt at this point, until your cooking liquid has the flavor of sea water. Alton insists that you stir the pilaf only once, and then allow it to come to a boil.

All of the ingredients in the pan.

All of the ingredients in the pan.

Once boiling, you cover the pan with a damp towel and the pan’s lid, folding the corners of the towel up onto the top of the lid. The pan goes into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Pan covered with damp towel before going into the oven.

Pan covered with damp towel before going into the oven.

Once out of the oven, Alton says the pan must rest, covered, for 10-20 minutes. This is an important part of the process, as the rice continues to cook. While the rice rests, you prepare some add-ins for the final pilaf:  green peas, golden raisins, and chopped pistachios. Once the resting period has completed, you turn the pilaf out onto a serving platter, add the add-ins, and fluff the pilaf with a fork.

Pilaf after resting for 15 minutes after baking.

Pilaf after resting for 15 minutes after baking.

Chopped pistachios.

Chopped pistachios.

Finished pilaf with peas, golden raisins, and pistachios.

Finished pilaf with peas, golden raisins, and pistachios.

We ate our pilaf as our dinner entree, and we thought it was pretty tasty. The pilaf was nice and fluffy, as opposed to some “gummy” pilafs I have had in the past, and the rice had an “al dente” texture. I think our saffron was a bit older, as my pilaf did not have as much color as Alton’s did, but it still had a yellow hue, which made the dish more attractive than plan white rice. I really liked the contrasting textures in the dish – the al dente rice with the chewy raisins, popping peas, and crunchy pistachios. It was also quite flavorful. Though not a complete standout to me, this was an easy, successful dish that I may do again.

Pasta

Pasta is definitely a staple in our house, and it was something my mom cooked regularly when I was growing up. Thank goodness my brother and I were active bicycle racers growing up because we sure ate A LOT of carbs in our house! A typical pre (or post) bike race meal in our house was a huge bowl of pasta (often a recipe selection from a Marcella Hazan book), a loaf of bakery bread with lots of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a salad. In the summer, antipasto pasta salad was on regular rotation for our Thursday night time trial (local bike race) nights. Due to our family’s frequent consumption of pasta, it became one of the first meals I was comfortable fixing for my family. One of my favorite pastas to make as a kid had a simple sauce of olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, tomatoes, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and some grated hard cheese. Pasta, in my mind, is comfort food, and a great plate of pasta is one of my very favorite things.

In the 11th episode of Good Eats, Alton makes a simple pasta that uses the various ingredients you happen to have on-hand in your own pantry. To begin, he explains that the only way to properly cook pasta is in a very large volume of water. He recommends six quarts of water per pound of pasta, and of course, that the water be salted to the flavor of sea water.

Salted water.

Salted water.

Note:  I’ve listened to Alton’s recent podcast where he stated that there is a better way to cook pasta. In his own words, “I really messed up with cooking pasta in season 1. I said to bring a gallon of water to a boil before cooking dry pasta. Crap! Start in cold water and only use enough to cover the pasta.”

I have yet to try this cold water method of cooking pasta, though I did tell my brother about it and he told me he had great results. I’m sure many Italians are rolling over in their graves at the very thought of this new method of pasta cooking, but this Scottish/Irish girl is open to the idea and will be trying it the next time I cook pasta. Guess that means we have to have pasta again soon. Darn (sarcasm)!

Back to the recipe, as featured in the episode. You bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add your spaghetti, using tongs.

Spaghetti.

Spaghetti.

Alton stresses that you need to fan the pasta out, rather than dropping it into the water in a large clump. I consider this to be somewhat intuitive. I have never before used tongs when cooking pasta, as my tool of choice is the slotted spork, but I followed Alton’s recommendation and used the tongs. They were effective at separating the pasta strands in the water, but I found them to be more cumbersome than the spork. Alton tells you to cover the pot while the pasta cooks, which is something I never do, but I did it for this recipe.

While the pasta cooks to al dente, you pour some good olive oil in the bottom of your serving bowl and add some finely minced garlic.

Olive oil and garlic in the serving bowl.

Olive oil and garlic in the serving bowl.

When the pasta is cooked, you toss the hot noodles with the garlic/oil mixture until evenly coated.

Cooked to al dente.

Cooked to al dente.

Tossing the noodles with the garlic and olive oil.

Tossing the noodles with the garlic and olive oil.

Alton says the noodles will cook the garlic enough to get rid of the strong raw garlic flavor. At this point, you add whatever pantry ingredients you choose to have. I opted for orange cherry tomatoes and black tomatoes from the garden (Deer ate all of our San Marzano tomatoes on the day of this recipe!), fresh basil, pine nuts, kalamata olives, capers, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and goat cheese.

Black pepper, red pepper flakes, basil, pine nuts, capers, kalamata olives, black tomatoes, orange cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese.

Black pepper, red pepper flakes, basil, pine nuts, capers, kalamata olives, black tomatoes, orange cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese.

Final pasta with the pantry ingredients of choice.

Final pasta with the pantry ingredients of choice.

We thought this pasta was tasty, but not Earth-shattering, as it is not unlike the pastas I will throw together on a regular basis. We did find that a relatively strong flavor of garlic remained, but we love garlic, so we were okay with it. Of the recipes I have done thus far from Good Eats, I would say this was the least novel, though still good.

Whole Fish

I live in the Northwest, where we tend to eat a lot of fish, so I was excited for the 10th episode of Good Eats. I printed out the two recipes posted online and sat down to watch the episode. To my surprise, there was an additional (third) recipe featured in the show. Why this recipe is not posted online I don’t know, but it is for a whole fish cooked in a salt dome. I had never cooked a whole fish before, so I was excited and nervous about this preparation. Alton uses a six pound Striped Bass when he makes this on the show, and I knew we were going to need a considerably smaller fish. Still, when I made this last week, we had my parents over to share in our two pound Red Snapper. I will confess that we had a frozen pizza on hand, just in case I botched the fish!

Alton tells you to use a pound of Kosher salt per pound of fish.

A pound of salt per pound of fish.

A pound of salt per pound of fish.

This is combined with egg whites and some water, and mixed by hand. For our two-pounder, I used two pounds of salt, two egg whites, and a bit less than 1/4 C of water.

Salt with egg whites and water.

Salt with egg whites and water.

Mixed to a mortar-like consistency.

Mixed to a mortar-like consistency.

You spread a 1/2″-thick layer of this salt mixture on your baking sheet as a bed for your fish.

Bed of salt for the fish to bake on.

Bed of salt for the fish to bake on.

Your fish is placed on top of the salt layer, and you fill his cavity with whatever aromatics you have on hand. For my fish, I used fennel, dill, lemon slices, and orange slices.

Dill, fennel, orange, and lemon.

Dill, fennel, orange, and lemon.

Red Snapper stuffed with aromatics.

Red Snapper stuffed with aromatics.

The remaining salt mixture is mounded over the fish’s body, forming a dome with only the head and tail visible. I had a little more salt than I needed, but I still had a healthy layer of salt all over my fish.

Fish in his salt dome, and ready for the oven.

Fish in his salt dome, and ready for the oven.

I baked my fish at 450 degrees, checking it after 20 minutes, and it happened to be done. You want to cook your fish to a temperature of about 130-135 degrees (you can take the temperature of the fish straight through the salt dome).

Post-baking.

Post-baking.

I let my fish rest for about 5 minutes before beginning to remove my salt dome. In the episode, Alton suggests using a mallet or hammer to crack your dome, but I simply used the serrated edge of my pie server (the tool Alton recommends to use for serving the fish) to form a crack along the front of the dome. I was nervous that my dome would shatter into a million messy pieces, but the lid lifted off in one beautiful piece, revealing a perfectly cooked Red Snapper inside.

Salt dome removal.

Salt dome removal.

At this point, you remove the skin from your fish and cut the meat from the top half of the fish. You grab the fish’s tail, give it a twist, and the bones should lift out in one big piece. This actually worked seamlessly for me, and, as a bonus, the head popped right off with the bones, which meant I no longer had that creepy eye looking at me. Once the bones are removed, you have access to the bottom half of the fish, which you can lift right off the skin for easy serving.

Bones came out in one easy twist.

Bones came out in one easy twist.

Completed fish, served with lemon.

Completed fish, served with lemon.

Ted, my parents, and I all thought this fish was a big success. The fish itself was moist, and the flavors of the various aromatics really came through. I particularly tasted the dill and fennel. Ted and my mom commented that they thought the fish had a hint of saltiness, but it was far from salty. Lemon wedges were the only adornment needed. I served the fish alongside couscous with currents and almonds, and a minted pea salad. This recipe intimidated me a bit at first, but it was super easy and delicious, and the presentation is fun. This is one I will be making again.

Pan Fried Fish

The second recipe in the 10th episode is for Pan Fried Fish. For this recipe, you use a fillet of fish, and we happened to have some frozen Copper River Salmon fillets on-hand.

Copper River Salmon fillet.

Copper River Salmon fillet.

You season your fillet with salt and pepper and dredge it in flour.

Fillet seasoned with salt and pepper.

Fillet seasoned with salt and pepper.

Fillet dredged in flour.

Fillet dredged in flour.

Meanwhile, you heat Canola oil in a skillet, along with some butter. Once the butter has ceased foaming, you put your fillet into the pan.

Butter and oil in the pan.

Butter and oil in the pan.

Fish in the pan.

Fish in the pan.

Alton emphasizes that you want to jiggle the pan for a few seconds to keep the fish from sticking. Once the fish is golden, you flip it to the other side, again jiggling the pan. 8-24-2014 021You want to cook the fish just until the muscles start to separate, and then remove it from the pan.

Fish after cooking.

Fish after cooking.

You pour out the fat, add additional butter to the pan, and fry some capers, which will visibly plump.

Caper and lemon sauce.

Caper and lemon sauce.

You remove the pan from the heat, add the juice of a lemon, and pour the caper sauce over the fillet.

Finished pan fried fillet.

Finished pan fried fillet.

Super easy, super fast, and super good! The fish paired with the briny capers and the tangy lemon makes an excellent combination. We tend to grill fish most of the time, but this is a great alternative.

Grilled Salmon Steaks

The final recipe from the 10th episode is for Grilled Salmon Steaks. I typically tend to prefer fillets to steaks simply because you do not have to deal with the bones when you have a nice boneless fillet. I recall a time when I was a freshman in college and I went to a party at a friend’s house. It was a BYOM (that’s Bring Your Own Meat) party. The grill would be fired up, but it was up to you to cook your meat at the party. I was not a huge red meat eater at this time, so I opted for salmon at the grocery store. I made the mistake of getting a salmon steak, rather than a fillet. Not knowing that I needed to prep the steak prior to grilling, I simply threw it on the grill as it was. I remember being very disappointed with the plethora of bones I encountered, and I made every effort to get fillets from there on out. Honestly, that may have been the last time I cooked a salmon steak prior to this recipe of Alton’s.

It was key to watch Alton’s preparation of the salmon steaks, as it was hard to visualize the technique from simply reading the online recipe. To begin, you run your fingers over the surface of the steaks, removing any pin bones with tweezers.

Salmon steaks.

Salmon steaks.

Now, some of these bones came out very easily for me, while others were real buggers. The next step is to trim the cavity sides of the steaks. You do this with a sharp knife, and then use scissors to cut out the bony center. At this point, Alton smoothly and seamlessly glides his blade down the stomach flaps, leaving one side without some skin and the other without some meat. This will allow the excess skin on the one flap to perfectly overlap the skinless meat on the other flap. This step was not quite so effortless for me, and I’m sure I hacked away more of the fish than I needed to, but I made it work.

Trimming the cavity side, and shortening the flaps.

Trimming the cavity side, and shortening the flaps.

After this trimming, you roll the two flaps up into the center of the steak, overlapping the longer flap over the shorter flap, and you secure the round with butcher’s twine. I was actually quite surprised that my steaks looked as good as they did after this step. Mine had a bigger “hole” in the center than Alton’s did, but they otherwise looked pretty good.

Rolled up and secured with twine.

Rolled up and secured with twine.

8-24-2014 005 Once your steaks are tied, you make a seasoning blend of cumin seed, coriander seed, fennel seed, and green peppercorns. This blend is toasted over the grill, just until fragrant.

Cumin, fennel, coriander, and green peppercorns.

Cumin, fennel, coriander, and green peppercorns.

Prior to grilling the steaks, you coat them with oil (along with the grill), sprinkle them with some Kosher salt, and then liberally sprinkle them with a ground blend of the toasted seasoning mix. We had an extra pepper grinder in our kitchen, so I used that to grind the spices.

Oiled and salted steaks.

Oiled and salted steaks.

Steaks with spice blend.

Steaks with spice blend.

Alton tells you to grill the steaks for approximately three minutes per side, but I found that my steaks took a few minutes longer than that. Once done grilling, you simply cut the twine with scissors, and the skin comes right off with the twine.

Steaks after grilling.

Steaks after grilling.

The skin came off easily with the twine.

The skin came off easily with the twine.

Grilled steak.

Grilled steak.

Ted and I were both surprised at how good we thought these steaks were. The fish was moist and the spice blend paired excellently with the salmon. There were almost no bones in either of our steaks. Though the recipe first appeared to be labor-intensive, it really was pretty easy to execute, and with further practice it could be a quick go-to for grilled salmon.

 

French Onion Soup

I’m not gonna lie – I was excited when I saw that Alton’s French onion soup was next on the agenda. I have loved French onion soup since I was a kid, even vaguely recalling the first time I had it. I was in a restaurant with my parents and brother (I believe it was a restaurant called Jonathan’s, but I may be wrong on the location) and my parents encouraged me to try onion soup. When I saw the crock full of steaming broth, crusty bread, and bubbling cheese, I was not sure how to go about “attacking” it. My dad, describing the best onion soup he ever had, instructed me that the key to properly eating French onion soup is to be sure to get a bit of broth (and onion), bread, and cheese in every bite. Oh, and he also advised me to use the side of the crock to help to “cut” the cheese. It was love at first bite for me, and I, along with the rest of my family, have continued to love this classic soup ever since. Somewhere along the line, French onion soup even managed to become our go-to Christmas Eve meal. How? I don’t recall, but I know the idea was my mom’s… and that it was pure genius.

I have made a plethora of French onion soup recipes, including those from Julia Child (though delicious, I do not recommend this recipe if you plan a family outing in a confined car the following day), Thomas Keller, Tyler Florence, and Cook’s Illustrated. I am sure there have been others. Last weekend, I added Alton Brown’s recipe from Good Eats to this list.

I watched the 9th episode of Good Eats, taking notes on Alton’s preparation in the show. He strictly recommends using sweet onions (preferably Vidalias), or a combination of sweet and red onions. I opted to do the latter. Since I was making a double batch of soup, I ended up using about eight pounds of onions, with half being of each type of onion. Alton suggests using an electric skillet for the soup, but I do not have one, so I used a standard stockpot.

Per Alton’s instructions, I melted butter in my pan and added my sliced onions in layers, sprinkling Kosher salt over each layer.

Melting butter

Melting butter

First layer of sweet onions in the pan.

First layer of sweet onions in the pan.

Combination of sweet and red onions, along with salt.

Combination of sweet and red onions, along with salt.

After the onions sweated for a while, I began stirring them every 15 minutes until they had drastically cooked down and were caramelized to a dark brown. This took at least a couple hours for my onions.

Onions beginning to cook down.

Onions beginning to cook down.

8-12-2014 010

Onions after a couple hours on the stove.

Onions after a couple hours on the stove.

Once cooked down, I covered the onions with Gewurztraminer (Alton recommends this or a Chardonnay), and allowed the wine to cook down to a syrup-like state.

Wine to add to my onions.

Wine to add to my onions.

Onions with wine.

Onions with wine.

At this point, the remaining liquids were added:  beef consomme, chicken broth, and apple cider; in the show, Alton says it does not matter whether the cider is filtered, so I used filtered cider.

Beef consomme and apple cider. Not pictured:  chicken stock.

Beef consomme and apple cider. Not pictured: chicken stock.

The bouquet garni is also tossed in at this point, and the soup is simmered to allow the flavors to combine.

Bouquet garni of thyme, parsley, and a bay leaf.

Bouquet garni of thyme, parsley, and a bay leaf.

After simmering, the soup is seasoned with Kosher salt, pepper, and Cognac.

Completed soup, simmering.

Completed soup, simmering.

To serve, the soup is topped with toasted bread (toasted under the broiler), grated Parmesan, and sliced Fontina. The bowls go back under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and voila!

Bread to be toasted under the broiler.

Bread to be toasted under the broiler.

Soup with bread on top.

Soup with bread on top.

A combination of cheeses to top the soup.

A combination of cheeses to top the soup.

Parmesan and Fontina cheeses on the soup.

Parmesan and Fontina cheeses on the soup.

The completed soup.

The completed soup.

I shared some of this onion soup with my parents, and Ted and I had it twice for dinner. My parents felt that the soup was a bit too sweet, but we did not think the same. To me, all onion soups are sweet, and this one actually had a nice tang on the finish. Perhaps it was the cider that my parents did not much care for. Overall, I thought this was a very good French onion soup. It was far less labor-intensive and time-consuming than some others I have made, but it still had well-developed flavors. I also really liked the combination of Parmesan and Fontina to top the soup. Traditionally, my mom always topped her soup with Gruyere or Emmentaler, but I think I maybe liked Alton’s combination more. Alton’s recipe is quite different from some of the others I have had, using white wine and chicken stock, as opposed to red wine and beef stock. The addition of cider is another twist. I think that the flavor of the actual onions shone more with Alton’s recipe, as the onions were not overpowered by liquids in the soup, and the soup still had a nice “bite” to it. I think it is safe to say that we will be turning to this recipe again in the future… Christmas Eve, perhaps?

This post is far overdue. I suppose Summer has gotten the best of me! Without further ado, here is my recap of the recipes featured in the eighth episode of Good Eats, featuring gravy.

I was not raised on gravy. Yes, you read that correctly. Our family did not eat gravy at holidays. While there was a place on our Thanksgiving dinner table for sauerkraut, gravy rarely, if ever, made an appearance. I realize this is a rarity in our country. The funny thing is, I did technically eat gravy as a child… it just wasn’t called gravy! My grandma and my mom would make Chipped Beef or “Shit on a Shingle (SOS)” for us, and it was one of my very favorite breakfasts. I never realized I was eating gravy because SOS was, to me, its own entity. Every time I eat Chipped Beef I recall eating it at Grandma’s house with my brother, Rusty, and my cousins, Jimmy and David. I have gone on to make SOS for my husband, and it remains a family favorite to this day. I guess this proves that gravy, or SOS, or whatever you choose to call it, truly is comfort food.

White Roux

The first recipe featured in the 8th episode of Good Eats is for White Roux. Alton explains that the white roux is the thickener used in the actual gravy recipe. While the online recipe uses 4 T of fat and 6 T of flour, Alton uses equal portions of fat and flour (by weight) in the episode. I used 2 oz. of butter and 2 oz. of flour.

Two ounces of butter and two ounces of flour.

Two ounces of butter and two ounces of flour.

The butter is melted in a pan, and the flour is added to the pan, whisking until the mixture is combined and starts to thin.

Melted butter.

Melted butter.

Flour added to melted butter.

Flour added to melted butter.

At this point, the heat is reduced and the roux is cooked until it smells as if it has been toasted.

Completed white roux.

Completed white roux.

A key note is that the roux should be used to thicken a liquid of opposite temperature; so, a hot roux should be combined with a cool liquid, while a cool roux should be used to thicken a warm liquid.

Gravy from Roast Drippings

The primary recipe in the eight episode is for a gravy made from roast drippings. Since this recipe uses drippings from a roast, I roasted a pork tenderloin to get some drippings. Since tenderloin is such a lean cut of meat, there was not a large yield of drippings, so a different cut of meat with a greater fat content may have been better suited for making this gravy.

Pan drippings from pork tenderloin roast.

Pan drippings from pork tenderloin roast.

Following the recipe in the episode, Alton instructs you to deglaze the pan (with drippings), using red wine.

Deglazing the pan with red wine.

Deglazing the pan with red wine.

This liquid is then strained into a pan, and the broth (low-sodium is specified in the episode), bay leaves (2), and peppercorns are added. This liquid is reduced to approximately 2 1/4 C.

Drippings, wine, broth, bay leaves, and peppercorns.

Drippings, wine, broth, bay leaves, and peppercorns.

At this time, you whisk 1/2 C of the liquid into the cooled white roux. The remaining liquid is whisked into this mixture over high heat, reserving 1/4 C.

Hot liquid combined with cold white roux.

Hot liquid combined with cold white roux.

Alton encourages you to leave your gravy on the thin side, as it will thicken as it cools. I added all of my liquid to my roux, and it definitely ended up being on the thick side.

Finished gravy.

Finished gravy.

Conversely, the online recipe tells you to utilize only 2 T of the white roux to thicken your gravy. This is a large difference in the amount of thickening agent. I probably would use less white roux if I were to make this again. The resulting gravy had a very pleasant flavor. The red wine flavor really did come through, which I really liked. In fact, it was probably my favorite gravy I have had. Ted said he also liked this wine flavor, though it was different from the more traditional gravies he is used to having. I will go to this recipe in the future for any gravy needs I have!

Sawmill Gravy

When I saw Alton make his Sawmill Gravy, I immediately recognized it as a version of the “gravy” I grew up eating. I took some liberties with this one, and made my grandma’s version of sawmill gravy, which differs (only slightly) from Alton’s. Alton’s recipe uses fat from sausage or breakfast meat. To this, flour is added and stirred until a nutty, toasted aroma is present. The pan is removed from the heat and milk is added, whisking. This is cooked over high heat until thickened. My grandma’s version uses butter, which is melted over medium heat.

Melted butter.

Melted butter.

To this, a whole jar of shredded, dried meat is added. The jar’s label instructs you to rinse the meat before using. Ignore this, or you will shamefully rinse the goodness (aka flavor) down the drain.

Shredded canned beef added to butter.

Shredded canned beef added to butter.

The meat is stirred until thoroughly coated with the butter. 8-1-2014 021To this, flour is added, and this mixture is stirred until the flour is no longer visible and a toasted aroma appears.

Flour added to beef and butter.

Flour added to beef and butter.

Cooking out the raw flour taste.

Cooking out the raw flour taste.

Gradually, milk is added to this mixture, stirring until each addition begins to thicken.

First milk addition to meat.

First milk addition to meat.

Beginning to thicken.

Beginning to thicken.

8-1-2014 026

Finished Chipped Beef.

Finished Chipped Beef.

The final mixture is served over toasted English muffins. I like mine topped with lots of fresh ground pepper and a dash of Tabasco. I am sure that all nutritionists would highly frown upon this use of sodium-laden jarred beef. It is worth it. Trust me.

Shit on a Shingle!

Shit on a Shingle!

 

Southern Biscuits

I have previously mentioned that differences exist between the recipes featured on Good Eats and the online versions of the same recipes. The recipes from the 7th episode had many differences, so I, of course, made the recipes as made on the show. The first of these recipes was for biscuits, as made by Alton’s grandmother. In the episode, Alton explains that it is desirable to make biscuits with soft flour, which has a lower protein content. You can use self-rising flour for this, or you can simulate soft flour by combining 3 parts of all-purpose flour with 1 part of cake flour; I did the latter. No mention of soft flour is made in the online recipe. In the episode, Alton tells you to use 10 oz. of flour, while the online recipe calls for 2 cups. He also tells you to weigh one ounce of butter and two ounces of shortening, while the online version calls for 2 T of each.

I combined my dry ingredients, and then cut in the fat with my fingers until I had a crumb-like texture.

Combined dry ingredients.

Combined dry ingredients.

Buttermilk, shortening, and butter.

Buttermilk, shortening, and butter.

Cutting in the butter.

Cutting in the butter.

Crumb-like texture.

Crumb-like texture.

I then mixed in my buttermilk, being cautious not to overwork the dough. Alton and his grandmother emphasize this point in the episode, saying overworking the dough can lead to tough biscuits. My dough seemed wet and sticky, and like it would possibly be difficult to work with once turned out onto my board.

Adding the buttermilk.

Adding the buttermilk.

Surprisingly, it was actually very easy to work with. I cut out my biscuits with a 2.5-inch cutter, and placed them on my baking sheet so they were just barely touching. I indented the top of each biscuit with my fingers (this was another thing mentioned in the episode that is not in the online recipe) to prevent having domed tops, and baked them until they were golden brown.

Indented biscuits pre-baking.

Indented biscuits pre-baking.

Golden brown biscuits.

Golden brown biscuits.

Biscuits straight from the oven.

Biscuits straight from the oven.

Split and buttered biscuits.

Split and buttered biscuits.

We ate our biscuits warm from the oven, split, and buttered. My dad has made biscuits for years, and his are quite different from these biscuits. I grew up with super light, flaky biscuits, while these biscuits were more cake-like and dense. I thought they were very good, and they are such a quick breakfast treat. Having listened to some of Alton’s podcasts, I have gathered that he now uses a round pan when he makes biscuits, and that he covers them when they come out of the oven. Perhaps I’ll have to try a round pan next time, along with self-rising flour.

Scones

Like the biscuit recipe, the scone recipe differs between the episode and the online recipe. As in the biscuit recipe in the show, Alton recommends using soft flour for the scones. The sugar content in the two versions of the recipe is different, with the episode calling for 2 T of sugar, while the online recipe has 1/3 C of sugar, and Alton tells you to bake your scones at 400 degrees F, while the online recipe uses a temperature of 375 degrees. The overall recipe process is very similar to that of the biscuits, beginning with combining the dry ingredients.

Dry ingredients.

Dry ingredients.

To this mixture, you add your fat, cutting it in with your fingertips, and then you add your cream and egg, mixing until combined.

Cutting in the fat.

Cutting in the fat.

Adding the cream and the egg.

Adding the cream and the egg.

Currants or dried cranberries (I used currants) are then lightly mixed into the dough, which is turned out onto a board and cut into individual scones.

Currants mixed in.

Currants mixed in.

Dough round.

Dough round.

I used to work at a bakery and we made our scones in triangles by cutting the round of dough into pizza-like slices. I opted to make my scones this way, rather than using a round cutter. I also brushed my scones with melted butter, and sprinkled them with some sugar before baking.

Brushed with melted butter, sprinkled with sugar, and cut into triangular scones.

Brushed with melted butter, sprinkled with sugar, and cut into triangular scones.

Scones ready to bake.

Scones ready to bake.

The scones turned out well, with a crumbly, slightly cakey, texture. They were not particularly sweet, which went well with coffee in the morning.

Golden scones.

Golden scones.

Ready to eat for breakfast!

Ready to eat for breakfast!

This was not my favorite scone recipe of all time, but they were still pretty good. If I make these again, I’ll likely add a different fruit, such as berries.

Shortcake

The final recipe in this episode was for shortcake. Again, the basic dough was similar to that of the biscuits and scones, though, again, there were some differences in the two versions of the recipe. Actually, this recipe had a lot of disparities.The printed recipe tells you to preheat your oven to 450 degrees, while Alton uses a 400 degree oven in the show. As with the biscuits and scones, in the episode Alton suggests using soft flour, rather than the all-purpose flour in the online recipe. The online recipe omits baking soda, while the TV version calls for 1/4 t of baking soda. The sugar also varies between the two recipes, with Alton adding 1/3 C of sugar in the TV episode, while the online recipe calls for only 1 T of sugar. Alton tells you to weigh your butter and shortening (1 oz of butter and 2 oz of shortening), while the online edition uses 2 T of each fat. The final deviation in the recipes is the amount of half and half used:  1 C used in the show and 3/4 C online. How is it possible that the online recipes differ so substantially from the show recipes? This just confirms that I need to continue watching each episode prior to making the recipes.

As with the other two recipes in this episode, the dry ingredients are combined, the fat is cut in, and the liquid is added.

Dry shortcake ingredients.

Dry shortcake ingredients.

Half and half, shortening, and butter.

Half and half, shortening, and butter.

Cutting in the fat.

Cutting in the fat.

Adding the liquid.

Adding the liquid.

Resulting shortcake dough.

Resulting shortcake dough.

The resulting dough is then dropped onto a baking sheet, brushed with butter, sprinkled with sugar, and baked.

Dough dropped onto baking sheet, brushed with melted butter, and sprinkled with sugar.

Dough dropped onto baking sheet, brushed with melted butter, and sprinkled with sugar.

Completed shortcakes.

Completed shortcakes.

We ate our shortcakes in several ways:  with ice cream, with berries and whipped cream, and with nectarines and whipped cream.

Shortcake with ice cream

Shortcake with ice cream

Shortcake with berries and whipped cream.

Shortcake with berries and whipped cream.

The shortcakes were best when they were first made, as they had a light, crumbly texture. A day later, the texture was less crispy and more on the cakey side. I tried “refreshing” our shortcakes with a few minutes in a warm oven, which helped to somewhat restore their original texture. I thought the cakes had just the right amount of sweetness to pair well with the fruit and whipped cream, which was my favorite of the ways we ate ours.

Of the three recipes in this episode, the biscuits were definitely our favorite. The shortcakes followed, with the scones not far behind. Thank goodness we work out a lot!