Posts Tagged ‘good eats’

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.

I have not been able to bring myself to write up a Good Eats episode. My dad died on March 18th, after spending three weeks in the ICU; those three weeks were a roller coaster ride, as his condition fluctuated often and rapidly. At times, we thought he would soon be leaving the hospital to head to a rehab facility, but then he would head downhill again. Finally, on March 18th, he succumbed. We received a great gift that day, as Dad was suddenly the most lucid he had been in weeks. He was able to tell us that he was ready to go and he said his goodbyes to all of us.

Needless to say, my dad’s funeral was two days ago and I am still completely devastated, as I lost one of my very best friends, and also my key life adviser. Dad and I shared many common interests, but food and Good Eats were among them. Dad always loved to chat about the recipes I was cooking for my next blog post, and he often recalled watching particular episodes with me in earlier years. Although it is emotionally tough to write a post without him here, I also know he would want me to continue my project, as he thought it was really “neat.”

Carrot Slaw

For a make-ahead side dish, try Alton’s carrot slaw. Begin by washing two pounds of carrots. If they are thicker than an inch at their bases, peel them also.

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Two pounds of carrots.

Next, use a vegetable peeler to peel the carrots into thin strips. This was quite a noisy task in my house, as our coonhounds are obsessed with carrots, and they howled for the duration of my peeling!

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Two pounds of carrots, peeled into ribbons.

Place the following ingredients in a lidded container that is twice the volume of your carrot strips:  1/2 C mayo, pinch of Kosher salt, 1/3 C sugar, 1/2 C drained crushed pineapple (canned), 1/2 C raisins, 2 t curry powder, a pinch of caraway and/or celery seed, and 1 t minced garlic.

Whisk these ingredients together to form a dressing.

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The combined dressing.

Finally, add the carrot strips, place the lid on the container, and shake the carrots until they are thoroughly coated with the dressing.

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Carrot slaw.

You can eat the slaw immediately or refrigerate it for up to a week. We ate this slaw as a side dish with dinner and both found it to be a flavorful vegetable option, though I felt it was a little sauce-heavy. I don’t know about you, but we tend to get in a rut with our vegetable side dishes, so this was definitely a different choice. My carrot strips were pretty long, which ended up being a bit tricky to eat (like super long noodles), so I would recommend trying to make slightly shorter carrot strips. This recipe is a mix of sweet and savory flavors, and the raw carrots maintain a slight crunch. This could be a good make-ahead option for a summer potluck.

Glazed Carrots

In this episode, Alton refers to this recipe as his all-time favorite carrot recipe. When purchasing carrots, Alton recommends buying carrots with fresh-looking green ends; be sure to trim the stems to a length of one inch once you are home, as they tend to pull moisture from the carrots. And, if you want to store carrots as Alton does, keep them wrapped in bubble wrap. I tend to just opt for plastic wrap, myself. To make glazed carrots, cut, on the bias, a pound of carrots into coins that are 1/3″ to 1/4″ thick.

Place the carrot discs in a 12-inch skillet, along with an ounce of butter, a large pinch of Kosher salt, and a cup of ginger ale.

Heat the burner to medium heat, cover the pot, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Once simmering, decrease the heat to medium-low and cook the carrots for five minutes with the lid on.

After five minutes, remove the lid, add 1/2 t chili powder, and increase the heat to high. Resist the urge to stir the carrots, though you can gently shake the pan. Continue to cook the carrots until the liquid is almost gone, which should take about five minutes.

Check the carrots with the tip of a sharp knife – they should be just knife-tender. Sprinkle the carrots with a tablespoon of chopped parsley and serve immediately.

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Glazed carrots.

I have to agree with Alton that these glazed carrots are delicious. This recipe comes together super quickly and is perfect for any weeknight. I highly recommend this one for a side dish.

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake seems to be the most polarizing type of cake. For me, carrot cake is way up at the top of the list, so this recipe gave me a good excuse to have a few slices. To make Alton’s version of carrot cake, preheat your oven to 350 and lube the bottom and sides of a cake pan with butter. Coat the pan with flour, removing any excess, and line the bottom of the pan with a disc of parchment paper. When I watched Alton prep his pan, I recognized the pan immediately as the same one he used to make his cheesecake in episode 61.

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Buttered and floured pan, lined on the bottom with parchment.

Next, shred 12 ounces of carrots on the large side of a box grater and place them in a bowl. Yes, this part is a pain, but at least your arm burns some calories, so you can eat a larger slice of cake later.

Dump the following ingredients into the bowl of a food processor:  12 ounces of flour, 1 t baking powder, 1 t baking soda, 1/4 t allspice, 1/4 t  cinnamon, 1/4 t nutmeg, and 1/2 t salt. Pulse the dry ingredients until combined and add them to the carrots, tossing them until coated.

Next, combine 10 ounces of sugar, 2 ounces of dark brown sugar, 3 eggs, and 6 ounces of plain yogurt in the food processor. With the machine running, drizzle in 6 ounces of vegetable oil. Add the wet mixture to the carrots, mixing ten times with your hands.

Pour the carrot mixture into your prepared pan and bake the cake for 45 minutes.

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Batter poured into prepared pan.

After 45 minutes, decrease the heat to 325 and bake for 20 more minutes, or until the cake has an internal temperature between 205 and 210 degrees (mine was at 208 after the initial 20 minutes). Oh, and when taking the temperature of a cake, place the thermometer half-way between the center of the cake and the rim of the pan.

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Cake after baking for 65 minutes.

Let the cake cool completely before frosting. I let my cake cool in the pan for the first half hour, and then removed it from the pan for the remainder of the cooling process.

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Cake, removed from pan after 30 minutes of cooling. Allowed to cool completely on rack.

For Alton’s cream cheese frosting, combine 8 ounces of room temperature cream cheese with 2 ounces of room temperature butter.

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Softened cream cheese and butter in mixer.

Add 1 t vanilla and 9 ounces of sifted powdered sugar, mixing until smooth.

Chill the frosting for 5-10 minutes before using it to frost your cooled cake.

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Frosted carrot cake.

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A slice of Alton’s carrot cake.

As I said before, I love carrot cake, and this is a simple one. I like the fact that the carrots are really the star of this cake, as there are no pineapple chunks, or walnuts, or raisins in this one. Also, since this is a one-layer cake, it is a cake that can easily be made on a busy day. Alton’s carrot cake is moist, dense, and has just the right amount of sweetness to balance with the sweeter cream cheese frosting. The frosting is smooth and creamy, and the recipe makes the perfect amount to frost the top of this carrot cake. I am actually making this cake again this weekend, as it is my dog’s 13th birthday on Sunday and he adores carrots. He will only get a tiny nibble, but we humans will eat the rest in celebration of him.

I have had a busy last few weeks and really not by any sort of choice. First, I found myself with a full week of jury duty, which saw me spending full days at the courthouse. While the experience was educational and informative, I am glad to once again have control over my schedule.

Unfortunately, right at the end of my jury service, my dad had an accident and broke eight ribs; two of the ribs were displaced and he also had a Hemothorax. Needless to say, I flew to be with him as soon as I could, and I spent six days visiting him. He is, unfortunately, still in the ICU, so I will likely be traveling to see him again shortly. I am hoping and praying for good news soon. It would be great to see him finally turn the corner. Yes, 2019 has not been kind to me thus far.

Coq au Vin

In an effort to distract myself and do something productive, I’m sitting down to write up a dish I actually prepared weeks ago:  Alton’s Coq au Vin. Coq au Vin is an old French dish that was originally composed as a means of cooking old, tough roosters (I was informed of this fact by both Alton and my dad). This dish certainly takes some time to prepare and you need to start a day ahead of eating. Salt pork is the first ingredient in this recipe, but you can substitute slab bacon if you are unable to find the salt pork. I lucked out and found salt pork at my local grocery store.

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Salt pork.

Cube six ounces of the salt pork and place it in a large skillet over medium heat, along with 2 T water. Cover the skillet and let the pork cook for 5-10 minutes.

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Cubed salt pork in skillet with water.

While the pork cooks, place four chicken thighs and four chicken legs on a metal rack over a sheet pan and season them liberally with Kosher salt and pepper.

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Chicken thighs and legs seasoned with Kosher salt and pepper.

Put 1/4 to 1/2 C flour in a large plastic bag and add a few pieces of the seasoned chicken at a time. Shake the bag to coat the chicken pieces with the flour until all of the chicken has been coated. Set the coated chicken pieces back on the wire rack and set them aside.

When the pork has darkened in color and has rendered some of its fat, remove the lid from the skillet and continue to cook the pork until it is crispy and brown.

Remove the pork from the pan and add 24-30 pearl onions to the pork fat. You will need to peel your pearl onions prior to using them; you can do this easily by cutting off the root end of each onion and cutting a deep V where the root was. Place the onions in boiling water for a minute and let them cool. Once cool, the skins should slide right off.

Cook the peeled onions in the pork fat until they are golden brown, and then remove them from the pan.

Next, add three or four chicken pieces to the skillet and cook the chicken until it is golden brown on all sides.

While the chicken browns, prepare a “bed” for the browned chicken by placing the following ingredients in the bottom of a Dutch oven:  two quartered ribs of celery, two quartered carrots, a quartered onion, 6-8 fresh Rosemary sprigs, three crushed garlic cloves, and one Bay leaf.

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Vegetable bed in Dutch oven: celery, carrot, onion, Rosemary, garlic, and a Bay leaf.

As the chicken pieces finish browning, place them on top of the vegetables in the Dutch oven.

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Browned chicken placed on vegetables in Dutch oven.

When all of the chicken has been browned, add 1 T butter to the skillet, along with eight ounces of quartered mushrooms. Scraping the pan, cook the mushrooms for about five minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Remove the mushrooms from the pan, let them cool, and combine them in a container with the cooled pork and onions. Set the mushroom mixture in the refrigerator until the next day. Pour any excess fat out of the pan and discard it (I had very little extra fat in my pan). Remove the pan from the burner and add 1 C Pinot Noir to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a spatula.

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Pinot Noir added to deglaze pan.

Add 2 T tomato paste to the skillet, stirring to combine, and pour the liquid over the chicken in the Dutch oven.

Finally, add 2 C chicken broth to the chicken, along with the rest of the open bottle of wine and another full bottle of Pinot Noir.

Put a lid on the Dutch oven and place it in the refrigerator overnight. The following day, place the Dutch oven in a cold oven and set the oven to heat to 325 degrees. Set a kitchen timer for two hours and check the chicken a few times to be sure it is submerged in the cooking liquid. After the two hour cooking period, remove the Dutch oven from the oven and use tongs to transfer the chicken from the Dutch oven to a packet of foil. Place the foil packet of chicken in the cooling oven to keep warm.

Strain the cooking liquid into a saucier, discarding the vegetables (or you can feed them to your dog, as Alton did in the episode).

Place the saucier over high heat and reduce the liquid by one third, which should take about 30 minutes. You can check the fluid level by placing a rubber band around a long spoon handle at the initial fluid level. When that level has dropped by 1/3, you are good to go.

Once the sauce has reduced, add the onions, mushrooms, and salt pork to the saucier and cook for 15 more minutes.

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Salt pork, onions, and mushrooms added to sauce.

Serve the chicken and sauce over cooked egg noodles.

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Coq au Vin served over egg noodles.

This is a really delicious recipe, but it does take some effort and time. For me, it took two and a half hours of prep the first day, followed by the cooking time the second day. I would certainly consider this to be a special occasion dish simply because of the amount of prep. We did, however, get several meals out of this one recipe, so perhaps the time per meal is not much. The chicken in this dish comes out super moist and tender, and has a slight purple hue. The sauce has many layers of flavor, but is light in body. If you want a chicken dish that can serve a group and results in perfectly cooked chicken with lots of flavor, this is the one.

This episode of Good Eats is unique because Alton does not actually cook anything. Instead, this episode serves to prove or debunk five culinary myths. Through a series of kitchen experiments, Alton evaluates each myth and concludes whether each is true or false.

Myth #1 – The juices of meat are sealed in by searing.

For this myth, Alton weighed two steaks prior to cooking. The steaks were both oiled, but no salt was added, as salt pulls out liquid. One steak was seared on both sides in a hot skillet, while the other steak was not seared. The seared and unseared steaks were placed in a 400-degree oven at the same time, and a probe thermometer was placed in the center of each steak; the thermometers were set to beep when the steaks reached a temperature of 140 degrees. The seared steak reached 140 degrees faster than the unseared steak, so the seared steak was removed from the oven and allowed to rest for five minutes. After four additional minutes in the oven, the unseared steak reached 140 degrees, and was removed from the oven/allowed to rest.

After both steaks had rested, they were weighed a second time. The unseared steak lost 13% of its raw weight, while the seared steak lost 19% of its original weight. Based on these results, Alton concluded that searing does not seal in meat juices, and declared this myth to be “SMASHED.”

Myth #2 – Birds can be killed from the toxic fumes of nonstick pans.

In all honesty, Alton did not conduct any actual experiment for this myth. Instead, he simply talked about the conclusions that have been made by studies conducted on this topic. It has been found that nonstick pans release toxic fumes when they hit a temperature above 500 degrees, and especially when they are empty. These fumes can kill birds and can also cause humans to have flu-like symptoms. Alton opts to avoid all high-heat cooking in nonstick pans, including searing, frying, broiling, and even sautéing. This myth is “TRUE.”

Myth #3 – Mushrooms should not be washed because they absorb water.

The method for this experiment was to place four ounces of mushrooms in a hand sieve, which was then placed inside a glass bowl; four of these mushroom/sieve/bowl combos were set up. A liter of water was poured over the mushrooms in three of the four bowls, while the final bowl of mushrooms were left dry. The first bowl of mushrooms was allowed to sit in the water for 10 minutes before removing and draining the mushrooms. The second bowl of mushrooms was allowed to sit in the water for 20 minutes before removing and draining the mushrooms. The third bowl of mushrooms sat in the water for 30 minutes before removing and draining the mushrooms. The final bowl of mushrooms was rinsed thoroughly under running water and allowed to drain.

After all of the mushrooms were drained, the mushrooms from each sieve were weighed to analyze how much water they had absorbed. The mushrooms soaked for 10 minutes had gained 0.2 ounces of water, or about one teaspoon. The 20 minute mushrooms had gained 0.25 ounces of water, or about a teaspoon. Thirty minutes of soaking resulted in the mushrooms gaining 0.15 ounces of water, or about a teaspoon. The mushrooms rinsed under running water had gained 0.2 ounces of water, or about a teaspoon.

This experiment demonstrated that mushrooms absorb a small amount of water regardless of length of exposure to water. Since mushrooms tend to have a fair amount of grit and dirt on them, Alton concluded that he will thoroughly wash his mushrooms. This myth was “SMASHED.”

Myth #4 – Adding oil to pasta water keeps noodles from sticking together.

To test this myth, Alton added a gallon of water, 1 T of olive oil, and a pinch of Kosher salt to a pasta pot. The pot was covered and placed over high heat until the water reached a boil. Once the water was boiling, Alton added a half pound of pasta to the water, decreased the heat to medium-high, and cooked the pasta until it was al dente.

After cooking, Alton drained the pasta, allowing the liquid to drain into a long, clear tube beneath the strainer. After several minutes, the drained liquid had separated into its oil and liquid phases, with the oil rising to the top of the tube. Alton calculated the drained amount of oil to be 0.43 ounces, which was about 85% of the original tablespoon of oil added to the pasta water.

Since only 15% of the olive oil remained on the surface of the drained pasta, Alton concluded that not enough oil coated the pasta to prevent the noodles from adhering to each other. This myth was hereby “SMASHED.” Alton did, however, state that adding oil to pasta water can prevent the water from foaming by oiling the bonds of the starch released from the noodles. Or, you can just use a larger vessel with more water.

Myth #5 – Water can explode when microwaved.

The experiment for this myth involved placing a tall, narrow, glass bottle (picture a Snapple bottle) full of water in a microwave. The water was microwaved for three minutes on high power, which resulted in water spraying all over the inside of the microwave. This “explosion” of water is called spontaneous boiling, which occurs when the temperature rises above the boiling point without the formation of any bubbles. Since the inside of the glass bottle was perfectly smooth, there were no nucleation sites, which are spots where bubbles can form. In addition, the small opening of the bottle kept the water still, so when the heat energy built up within the bottle, one large bubble was formed and the water sprayed everywhere. To avoid this, when microwaving, use a container with a large opening and stir the contents regularly. This final myth was deemed to be “TRUE.”

Seeing as it is currently 12 degrees outside here, it really isn’t peak melon season. I take the episodes in the order they come, though, so we enjoyed a couple melon recipes in February. Although the melon was not of the greatest quality, these recipes still managed to give us a little taste of summer.

Hot Melon Salad

I have wanted to make this melon salad since I watched this episode with my dad when it originally aired in 2005. I remember that it just sounded so good to me when I first watched this episode. Alton prefers to use a high-powered outdoor gas burner for his wok, which is a setup my dad adopted after watching Good Eats. I do have my dad’s outdoor burner, but it needs a new hose, so I used our flat-bottomed wok on our regular old stove. Whether you are cooking indoors or out, heat your wok on a hot burner until water droplets instantly turn to steam upon hitting the pan. As with any stir fry, be sure to have all of your ingredients ready ahead of time, as the cooking goes very quickly. The ingredients for this dish are 1 1/2 T olive oil, a thinly sliced red onion, 8 ounces of cubed honeydew melon, 8 ounces of cubed cantaloupe, 1 T basil chiffonade, Kosher salt, black pepper, 2 t red wine vinegar, 2 ounces feta cheese, and 1 T toasted pine nuts.

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Ingredients for salad: red onion, basil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, toasted pine nuts, and feta cheese. Not pictured: melon.

Speaking of cantaloupe, did you know that all of the cantaloupes in this country are really muskmelons? Anyway, once the wok is hot, add the oil to the pan and swirl to coat.

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Oil in hot wok.

Add the sliced red onion and toss until heated through.

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Onion added to hot wok.

Next, add the cubed melon and toss again, cooking until the corners of the melon just start to brown slightly. Add the tablespoon of basil, along with a pinch of Kosher salt and some black pepper.

Drizzle the vinegar into the pan and transfer the salad to a serving dish. Finish the salad by sprinkling on the feta and pine nuts.

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Alton’s hot melon salad.

We had this as a side dish one night and we ate the entire salad. I really like the flavors in this salad and how they compliment each other. The melon becomes sweeter from the heat, yet the red wine vinegar gives just a light touch of acidity. The feta adds some much-needed salt, while the red onion gives some pungency. The crunch of the pine nuts is a nice addition to a salad that is otherwise composed of ingredients with fairly similar textures. To me, this dish would be a perfect summer grilling side dish, and I intend to make it again, just as soon as deck season arrives.

Melon Sorbet

A fresh melon sorbet is the second recipe in this episode, and it is super easy to throw together.

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Sorbet ingredients: watermelon, lemon juice, vodka, and sugar.

Puree a pound plus five ounces of watermelon in a food processor.

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Pureed watermelon.

To the pureed melon, add 3 T fresh lemon juice, 2 T vodka, and 9 ounces of sugar. The vodka serves to lower the freezing point of the sorbet, making the texture softer and less icy.

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Lemon juice, vodka, and sugar added to watermelon puree.

Refrigerate the melon mixture for at least two hours before churning in an ice cream maker.

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Churning sorbet after chilling.

Once churned, transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and freeze for 3-4 hours before eating.

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Watermelon sorbet.

The amounts of watermelon flavor and aroma in this sorbet are amazing, especially considering that I could not get great fruit. The color of the sorbet also seemed more vibrant than the color of the melon itself. As for texture, this sorbet stayed pretty soft and scoopable, and had very few large ice crystals. This sorbet truly is a taste of summer. It is quite sweet, so I have to wonder if a slight decrease in sugar could make this even better, though I suppose that could also alter the final texture of the sorbet. Perhaps I will just have to make two batches of sorbet once melon is in season – one with the original sugar concentration and one with a slightly lower concentration. I also intend to try this with some other types of melon, though I would imagine the sugar would have to be adjusted accordingly for the sugar contents of different melons. This sorbet is super refreshing, easy, and can brighten up even the coldest of winter days.

I was not overly stoked for an entire episode of pudding recipes. I mean, pudding is fine, but it’s not exactly exciting. I did, however, get very happy when I was a kid and my mom would leave pudding in the refrigerator for an after-school snack; chocolate pudding was my brother’s favorite, while I always preferred butterscotch. Speaking of butterscotch pudding, if you have not tried the butterscotch pudding in Alton’s latest book, it is a must-make. Here is my rundown of Alton’s pudding recipes, and I must say that two out of three wowed me.

Indian Rice Pudding

Indian rice pudding is the first recipe in this episode. The ingredients in this recipe are 1 C cooked rice, 1 C milk, 1/2 C heavy cream, 3/4 C coconut milk, 2 ounces sugar, 1/4 t ground cardamom, 1 1/2 ounces golden raisins, and 1 1/2 ounces chopped unsalted pistachios.

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Rice pudding ingredients: cooked rice, milk, heavy cream, coconut milk, sugar, cardamom, golden raisins, and pistachios.

For the pudding, put the milk and rice in a large skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring.

Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and simmer the milk/rice until it has thickened slightly, which should take about five minutes; if you run a spatula along the bottom of the pan, the liquid should be thick enough to part and stay parted.

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Rice and milk after coming to a boil and simmering.

When you have achieved this desired consistency, increase the heat to medium and add the cream and coconut milk, followed by the sugar and cardamom (use a whisk to incorporate the cardamom).

When the mixture has reached a boil again, decrease the heat to low and cook for five more minutes.

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Pudding cooked for 5 more minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the raisins and nuts.

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Raisins and pistachios added to pudding off the heat.

Transfer the pudding to your desired serving vessel(s) and enjoy immediately, or you can chill the pudding overnight, which is how Alton prefers it. If you do opt to chill the pudding, press plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding to prevent formation of a skin.

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Alton’s rice pudding.

I tasted the rice pudding when it was warm, but chose to refrigerate it overnight before eating a full serving. This rice pudding is delicious. The pudding is thick, rich, creamy, and indulgent. The subtle flavor of coconut milk is in the background, while pistachio flavor is predominant. The raisins add little punches of fruit flavor, while the nuts add a little crunch. This is great for dessert or for breakfast, or for both! I fully intend to make this again soon. In fact, I am really wishing I had some right now! Excellent recipe.

Tapioca Pudding

I do not recall ever having tapioca pudding prior to making this recipe. I asked my parents about tapioca pudding the other day and my mom said she remembers her mother making it, while my dad did not think he had ever had tapioca pudding. Tapioca, by the way, is a starch from the cassava plant. Tapioca is sold in several forms, but this recipe calls for large pearl tapioca. The recipe begins by soaking 3 1/2 ounces of tapioca in a pint of cold water overnight; you can do this at room temperature.

After the soak, drain the pearls and put them in a crock pot, along with 2 1/2 C milk, 1/2 C heavy cream, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Stir the pudding, put the lid on the cooker, and let the pudding cook on high for two hours.

After the two hour cook time, beat one egg yolk with 1/3 sugar in a bowl – this will form a paste.

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Tapioca after cooking for two hours.

Temper the egg yolk mixture by slowly whisking 1 – 1 1/2 C of the warm tapioca into the eggs.

Once tempered, add the egg mixture back to the crock pot of tapioca and whisk to combine. Add the zest of a lemon to the cooker, place the lid back on, and let the pudding cook for 15 more minutes.

Transfer the tapioca to an airtight container, pressing plastic wrap directly onto its surface. Let the pudding cool to room temperature before refrigerating until it is thoroughly chilled.

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Pudding after cooking for 15 more minutes.

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Chilled tapioca pudding.

This pudding was good, but not amazing like the rice pudding. Since I am not a tapioca pudding expert I cannot say for sure, but I felt like the texture of this pudding was maybe a little thinner than it should be. I liked the added texture from the slightly chewy tapioca pearls, but the base was a little on the soupy side. As for flavor, it was just sort of creamy with subtle lemon overtones. I may make this again, simply because I have half a bag of tapioca pearls remaining, but I won’t add this one to the permanent recipe vault.

Chocolate Pudding

What pudding episode would be complete without a recipe for chocolate pudding? This is a two-step recipe, in which you first make a dry pudding mix, and then use the mix to make the pudding. To make the dry mix, in a lidded container combine 1 1/2 ounces non-fat dry milk, 2 ounces cornstarch, 1 t salt, 3 ounces Dutch cocoa powder, and 6 ounces powdered sugar. Shake the container to combine the ingredients.

To make the pudding, put 1 3/4 C of the dry pudding mix in a saucier. Whisk 2 C milk and 2 C heavy cream into the dry pudding mix.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and simmer for four minutes, whisking.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 t vanilla.

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Adding vanilla off the heat.

Pour the pudding through a sieve and into a serving bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent the formation of a skin, and refrigerate the pudding for at least four hours before eating.

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Alton’s chocolate pudding.

This is the best chocolate pudding I have ever eaten. The pudding is super rich and creamy in both texture and flavor. It is smooth and chock full of chocolate flavor, and a little goes a long way. I am going to whip up another batch of this pudding shortly. It is super good.

This January has given 2019 a little bit of a rough start for me. I had a short, nasty stomach bug for the first two days of the year, which was followed up with back pain for several days. After that, I traveled to be with my dad while he had cancer surgery. Two days after I returned home from my trip, I came down with a nasty flu-like bug that knocked me out for 10 days. Whew! Good riddance, January!

Turkey with Stuffing

Although the holidays are long gone, this recipe certainly has a holiday feel to it. While Alton’s other turkey recipes have really featured the turkey itself, this one is all about the stuffing. In the episode, Alton actually goes into very little detail about prepping/cooking the turkey, so I opted to brine my turkey, using the brine recipe from the original Good Eats Thanksgiving special. The premise of this recipe is that Alton can make a well-balanced stuffing that will cook inside the turkey, and that the turkey and stuffing will reach their desired temperatures at nearly the same time. To make the stuffing, chop 1 C each of onion, celery, and green bell pepper.

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A cup each of celery, onion, and green bell pepper.

Toss the chopped vegetables with 1 T vegetable oil and 1 T Kosher salt. Spread the vegetables on a sheet pan and roast them for 25 minutes at 400.

After 25 minutes, add 3 C cubed Challah bread (I made my own) to the vegetables, give everything a toss, and continue roasting for 10 more minutes.

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My Challah bread, ready to be cubed.

Next, place two ounces of dried mushrooms (porcini, morels, or shiitakes) in a bowl and pour a quart of boiling chicken stock over them. Let the mushrooms rehydrate for about 30 minutes.

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Shiitake mushrooms, soaking in boiling chicken broth.

When the mushrooms have finished their soak, drain them (reserving their liquid), chop them, and place them in a large bowl, along with 4 ounces dried cherries, 2 ounces chopped pecans, 2 beaten eggs, 2 t dry rubbed sage, 2 t dry parsley, the roasted vegetables and bread, and 1/2 t pepper.

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Dried cherries and chopped pecans.

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Chopped mushrooms added to cherries and pecans.

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Chopped mushrooms added to cherries and pecans, along with eggs, rubbed sage, and dry parsley.

Add enough of the reserved mushroom liquid to moisten, but not saturate, the mixture; I used about a cup, though Alton was vague about this in the episode and it actually appeared as if he added all of the reserved liquid.

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Challah, vegetables, pepper, and mushroom liquid added to mixture.

Place the stuffing in a cotton produce bag, or use cheesecloth to make one – you can seal it with butcher’s twine. Place the bag of stuffing in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it on high for six minutes. Also, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To put the stuffing in the turkey, prop the open end of the turkey up on the side of a bowl and use tongs to plunge the bag of stuffing into the bird. If you have a plastic cutting board, you can form it into a tube shape, insert the tube-shaped cutting board into the cavity, and push the bag through the tube.

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Microwaved stuffing placed inside turkey.

For this recipe, you will ideally want two thermometers – one inserted in the thigh and one inserted into the center of the stuffing; I only have one oven-safe thermometer, so I placed that in the thigh and checked the stuffing periodically with an instant read thermometer. Place the bird in a roasting pan and roast it for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. After 45 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350 and cook until both the stuffing and the thigh meat are about 170 degrees. When done cooking, remove the stuffing bag with tongs and place the stuffing in a serving bowl.

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Turkey after cooking to thigh temperature of 170.

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Alton’s stuffing.

Tent the turkey with foil and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. Okay, so there were some good things about this recipe and some bad things. This stuffing has a wide variety of both flavors and textures, with flavors ranging from sweet/tart to umami, and textures that range from slightly crunchy to moist and soft. I will say that the stuffing would have been too wet, and probably overpowered with mushroom flavor, if I had added all of the mushroom liquid as Alton appeared to do in the show. My biggest problem with this recipe was that it didn’t achieve the goal of having the stuffing and turkey finish cooking at the same time. For me, the stuffing was done cooking long before the turkey was, so I ended up pulling the stuffing out early while I had to continue cooking the bird for a good 20 minutes. In my mind, that makes this recipe a failure. Also, I think the bird could have done with a little less cooking. While I would consider making the stuffing again, I would not attempt to cook it in the bird again. Instead, I would opt for either the original Good Eats roast turkey or the butterflied, dry brined turkey.

Stuffed Squash

Since the tendency with stuffing is to stuff vegetables into meat, Alton decided to formulate a recipe where a meat filling is stuffed into squash. Acorn squash are the squash of choice for this recipe, as they are perfect for individual servings. To make four servings (I only made two), cut the lids off of four acorn squash and scoop out their seeds; be very careful when doing this, as I discovered it is very easy to poke a hole in the bottom of the squash! Be sure to save the lids for later. If your squash will not sit flat, you can also cut off part of the bottoms to make them level.

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My two acorn squash, ready to be prepped.

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Lids off and scooping out seeds.

Set the prepared squash on a parchment-lined sheet pan. To make the filling, cook 1/2 pound ground pork in a large skillet over medium heat until the pork is no longer pink. Transfer the pork to a small bowl and set it aside.

Return the pan to the burner, but decrease the heat slightly. Add 1 T olive oil to the pan, along with 1/4 C chopped carrots, 1/4 C chopped celery, 1/4 C chopped onion, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Cook the vegetables until they have softened a bit.

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Celery, onion, and carrot added to hot oil, along with a pinch of Kosher salt.

Deglaze the pan by adding 1/2 C white wine and scraping up any browned bits.

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Wine added to deglaze the pan.

Follow the wine with 10 ounces of thawed/drained/chopped frozen spinach, 1 1/2 C cooked rice, 1 1/2 t dried oregano, the cooked pork, and 1/2 C toasted pine nuts.

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Spinach, rice, oregano, pork, and pine nuts added to the skillet.

Stir the filling until it is heated through and add a few grinds of black pepper. Remove the filling from the heat and place 1/2 T butter in the bottom of each prepared squash.

Spoon the stuffing into the squash, avoiding tightly packing the stuffing.

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Filling spooned into prepped squash and lids placed on top.

Place the lids on the squash and cook them for one hour at 400 degrees, or until the squash are just fork tender.

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Alton’s stuffed squash.

We ate these squash as our dinner entrée and were pretty happy with them. Ted really does not care for squash, in general, but he agreed that the sweetness of the squash paired well with the very savory pork filling. This is a an easy meal that really gives you both your protein and veggies in one, and the individual squash “serving dishes” are sort of fun. The squash also did not become mushy, as some squash are wont to do. I could see making the filling ahead of time for these, and on a busy weeknight you would only have to fill the squash and put them in the oven. Super easy!