Posts Tagged ‘buttermilk’

Since it appears that spring has officially sprung, this leek episode seems super appropriate, both for the ingredient and for the episode title. I have used leeks in many recipes in the past, but they have typically assumed more of a back-up role to other ingredients. In these recipes, however, the leek takes center stage.

Grilled Braised Leeks

This recipe is (or, at least was) Alton’s favorite leek preparation. If you have ever worked with leeks before, you will know that it is crucial to clean them thoroughly, unless you enjoy sand and grit in your teeth. To clean leeks as Alton does, barely cut off the white root tip of each leek, discarding the tips. Next, cut off the dark green leaves of the leeks and discard them.

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Trimmed leeks.

Place a leek on a cutting board such that the center oval inside the leek is perpendicular to the cutting board.

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Leek, placed so its oval is perpendicular to the cutting board.

Use a sharp knife to cut straight down through the top of the oval, slicing the leek in half lengthwise, while keeping the leek layers together.

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Leeks split in half.

To rinse the leeks, hold onto their white ends as you dip/swirl them in a large bowl of water; any grit should fall to the bottom of the bowl.

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Leeks, swirling in water to clean.

To store cleaned leeks, wrap them in a layer of damp paper towels, followed by a layer of plastic. This recipe uses a grill, so preheat your grill such that one end of the grill is hot and the other is cool. While the grill heats, brush the cut sides of eight leek halves (prepped as above) with bacon drippings. We happen to keep a jar of bacon drippings in our refrigerator, so I just melted some of the drippings in the microwave. After brushing the leeks with bacon fat, sprinkle them liberally with Kosher salt.

Place the leeks, cut side down, on the hot side of the grill, and check them after three minutes of grilling.

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Leeks placed, cut side down, on the grill.

You want your leeks to have grill marks, but you do not want them to get charred. My leeks were ready after three minutes. When your leeks have grill marks, transfer them to a large piece of foil and brush on some balsamic vinegar; Alton said he used about 1 T of balsamic vinegar, but he appeared to use more than that in the episode.

Reassemble the leeks by placing two matching halves together and fold the foil closed to make a tight pouch. Place the foil packet over indirect heat and grill for 10-12 more minutes, or until the leeks are tender.

Serve the grilled leeks with any combination of black pepper, goat cheese, artichokes, and greens. This leek recipe really showcases the leek. I served my leeks with pepper, marinated artichoke hearts, and goat cheese, and it was a fantastic combination of flavors.

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Grilled braised leeks served with pepper, goat cheese, and marinated artichoke hearts.

I do think my leeks could have used more time on the grill, as the outer layers of the leeks were pretty chewy and had a strong onion-like bite to them. The inner layers, however, were tender and had the sweetness of cooked onions. I definitely want to make these again, but I think I will let them sit on indirect heat for at least a good half hour. Next time, I will also purchase the smallest leeks I can find, as the larger leeks seemed to have much tougher outer leaves. These would be a perfect accompaniment to any summer (or spring) barbecue.

Leek Rings

For a twist on onion rings, Alton turns here to the leek. This recipe uses 12 ounces of leeks, and you’ll first want to remove their root tips and their dark green leaves. Next, slice the leeks into half-inch rings, separating the layers to form rings.

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Leek layers separated into rings.

To set up the breading stations for this recipe, combine 2 C flour with 2 t Kosher salt and divide the mixture between two containers. For the third station, combine 1 1/2 C milk with a beaten egg in a third container, and place the liquid container between the two flour containers.

Preheat three quarts of oil (vegetable, safflower, or canola) in a large Dutch oven to 375 degrees. While the oil heats, you can bread your leek rings by using your left hand to place a handful of rings into the first flour container, tossing them to coat.

Next, with the left hand, move the floured rings to the milk and toss the rings with your right hand.

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Rings into the milk station.

Also with the right hand, move the milked leeks to the second flour container and use a fork to toss.

Remove the breaded leeks with your left hand, transferring them to a spyder or to a plate. Use the spyder to gently drop the leeks into the hot oil, frying them for 30-90 seconds, or until golden brown.

Transfer the fried leeks to a rack over a sheet pan to drain.

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Fried leek rings.

We ate these a side with dinner one night and they were pretty fun. We thought they looked a lot like calamari rings. The nice thing about these was that they stayed pretty crispy, while onion rings can sometimes get a bit soggy. Before eating these, I wondered if they would need some sort of dipping sauce, but a little extra Kosher salt was all these needed for me. They have a slightly sweet onion-like flavor and a crispy outer shell. It was a little tedious to separate the leek layers and to bread them, but these were a fun thing to do for something different.

Leek Potato Soup

Alton’s take on Vichyssoise soup is the final recipe in this episode. It starts with melting 3 T butter in a lidded six quart pot over medium heat.

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Butter in large pot.

While the butter melts, prep a pound of leeks, as done above for grilling (trim, cut in half through the oval, wash). Slice the leek halves into thirds lengthwise, and then chop them.

Add the chopped leeks to the melted butter, along with a large pinch of Kosher salt. Turn the heat to medium-low and let the leeks sweat for 20-25 minutes.

Once the leeks are tender, add 14 ounces of Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped, along with a quart of vegetable broth.

Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to a simmer, put a lid on the pot, and cook the soup for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, use an immersion blender, or a regular blender, to puree the soup to a smooth consistency.

Combine a cup of heavy cream with a cup of buttermilk and stir the dairy into the soup; combining the dairy prior to adding it to the soup will help to prevent curdling.

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A cup of cream and a cup of buttermilk.

Finally, stir in a teaspoon of white pepper.

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Dairy and white pepper added to soup.

Serve the soup topped with chopped chives.

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Leek potato soup

This was a really delicious and simple soup. It was rich, without being heavy, and the leeks contributed a sweet flavor and aroma. This is a soup that could be eaten year-round, as you could serve it hot in colder seasons or cold in warmer weather. It is also a great vegetarian option, and it really highlights the flavor of leeks.

My brother and I ate pancakes often when we were kids, and they were always prepared by Mom. While we occasionally would have Bisquick pancakes, usually our pancakes were made with one of Mom’s two sourdough starters. The one starter gave pancakes that were thin and airy, while the other sourdough pancakes were thick, slightly crispy on the outside, and soft in the center; the thick ones were always my favorite, and I have that very starter in my refrigerator right now. I don’t know exactly how old that sourdough starter is, but I believe it is at least 30. Mom almost always made a blueberry sauce to go with our pancakes, and I vividly remember fights over every spoonful, and especially the very last spoonful. Mom, in her apron, often had to mediate, deciding which one of us would get that final bit of sauce, and promising that the other of us would get it next time. Dad, in his shirt and tie, would hide behind his newspaper shield, ignoring the commotion to the best of his ability, while eating his own share of the blueberry goodness. Ah, the beauty of the family pancake breakfast.

“Instant” Pancake Mix

Seeing as we are starting a four-day mini vacation today, what better way to begin the day than with homemade pancakes? Last evening I watched the 34th episode of Good Eats, and quickly mixed up a batch of Alton Brown’s instant pancake mix.

Pancake mix ingredients:  flour, baking soda, baking powder, Kosher salt, and sugar.

Pancake mix ingredients:  flour, baking soda, baking powder, Kosher salt, and sugar.

To make his mix, into a lidded container scoop 6 C of all-purpose flour; the moderate protein content of AP flour is ideal, as low-protein flours (like cake flour) result in pancakes that are too soft and light, while high-protein flours (such as bread flour) yield pancakes that are too dense and tough. Prior to scooping your flour, give it a good shake to aerate grains, as this will result in a more accurate measurement.

Spoon 6 C of flour into a lidded container.

Spoon 6 C of flour into a lidded container.

To the flour, add 1.5 t of baking soda, 1 T of baking powder, 1 T of Kosher salt, and 2 T of sugar.

Add 1.5 t baking soda.

Add 1.5 t baking soda.

Add 1 T baking powder.

Add 1 T baking powder.

Plus a tablespoon of Kosher salt.

Plus a tablespoon of Kosher salt.

And 2 T sugar.

And 2 T sugar.

Shake the mix well and use within three months.

Before shaking.

Before shaking.

After shaking to combine.

After shaking to combine.

Note:  This recipe can easily be scaled up or down – just use the following formula:  1/4 t baking soda per cup of flour, 1/2 t baking powder per cup of flour, 1/2 t Kosher salt per cup of flour, and 1 t sugar per cup of flour.

When ready to make your pancakes, for every 2 C of pancake mix, you will need 4 T of melted butter, 2 C of buttermilk, and 2 eggs, separated. Oh, and fruit, if you want to have fruit in your pancakes. Alton used blueberries in the episode.

Pancake ingredients:  2 C pancake mix, 2 C buttermilk, 4 T melted butter, blueberries, and 2 eggs, separated.

Pancake ingredients: 2 C pancake mix, 2 C buttermilk, 4 T melted butter, blueberries, and 2 eggs, separated.

To give you an idea of how much mix to use, for us this morning, 2 C of pancake mix gave us 9 pancakes, made using a 3 oz. ladle. Measure your dry pancake mix into a large bowl.

2 C of pancake mix in a large bowl.

2 C of pancake mix in a large bowl.

For the liquid ingredients, buttermilk and butter go together like oil and water, so, for proper mixing, add the egg whites to the buttermilk and mix with a fork; since egg whites are mostly water, they will mix easily with the buttermilk.

Adding egg whites to buttermilk.

Adding egg whites to buttermilk.

Buttermilk/egg white mixture.

Buttermilk/egg white mixture.

Separately, add the egg yolks to the melted butter; the yolks will mix well with the butter because their lipoproteins like both fat and water.

Adding egg yolks to melted butter.

Adding egg yolks to melted butter.

Egg yolk/butter mixture.

Egg yolk/butter mixture.

Finally, combine the egg white/buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk/butter mixture, and whisk.

Combining liquid ingredients.

Combining liquid ingredients.

Once combined, heat a griddle or skillet to 350 degrees. If you plan to serve pancakes to numerous people at once, you will also want to put a towel-lined baking sheet in your oven and heat it to 200 degrees. We do not have a griddle, so I used a large, heavy-duty nonstick skillet. I was given an infrared thermometer for Christmas, so I used that to determine when my skillet had reached 350 degrees.

Large skillet preheating.

Large skillet preheating.

Pan just about ready.

Pan just about ready.

If you do not have an electric griddle or an infrared thermometer, you can tell that your skillet is ready when water droplets dance on the surface. When your cooking surface is heated, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix just until combined. You do not want to over-mix your batter, and do not worry about lumps, as they will cook out.

Adding wet ingredients to dry ingredients once the pan is hot.

Adding wet ingredients to dry ingredients once the pan is hot.

Mix just until barely combined.

Mix just until barely combined.

Lube your hot pan by rubbing it with a stick of butter, and then wipe it with some paper towels until no fat is visible on the pan.

Hot pan lubed with butter.

Hot pan lubed with butter.

Using a 3 oz. ladle, gently spoon pancakes onto the pan.

3 ounce ladle.

3 ounce ladle.

Batter in the pan.

Batter in the pan.

If you want to add fruit to your pancakes, sprinkle it onto the pancakes now.

Fruit sprinkled on.

Fruit sprinkled on.

Cook the pancakes until bubbles set around the edges and the undersides are golden brown. Flip the pancakes and cook the second sides until they, too, are golden brown, which should take about half as long as for the first sides.

Flipped pancakes.

Flipped pancakes.

You can hold the pancakes in your warm oven for 20-30 minutes, or serve them immediately with butter and real maple syrup. I opted to eat mine with just butter.

Blueberry pancakes with butter.

Blueberry pancakes with butter.

Alton's blueberry pancakes.

Alton’s blueberry pancakes.

If you have leftover pancakes, Alton says you can cool them completely on a cake rack, wrap them individually in paper towels, and freeze them in a plastic bag; they can be reheated in a toaster or microwave. We had five extra pancakes, and they are in the freezer as I type. We thought these pancakes were really good, and they cooked up very nicely. They were thick, fluffy, golden brown, and slightly crispy on the outside. The tang from the buttermilk was evident, and paired well with the sweetness of the blueberries. Chopped bananas would also be good in these pancakes. Perhaps I will be making these pancakes when our family comes to visit next week. We may not have any chocolate chip cookies left (see my previous post here) but we do have pancake mix! If you are looking for a good, fast pancake recipe that is superior to commercial mixes, Alton’s pancakes are great.