Posts Tagged ‘vegetable’

Red Snapper en Papillote

When watching all of these Good Eats episodes, certain recipes really jump out at me. In this episode, the recipe for snapper en papillote was the one that made me super enthusiastic. I really loved the red snapper in a salt dome that I made way back in episode 10, so another snapper recipe made me excited. Unfortunately, the seafood store where I previously found whole red snapper has closed, so I had to turn to the grocery store; the fish monger was unable to get a whole red snapper, so I wound up with some other type of snapper (honestly, I don’t know exactly what it was). My fish was also not cleaned, so I had to do that myself, with a little help from my husband. If you do happen to be shopping for a whole red snapper, be sure to check the eyes of the fish, as true red snappers will have red eyes. If, like me, you cannot find red snapper in your area, Alton says you can substitute whole trout, tilapia, arctic char, or tilefish in this recipe. Regardless of the type of fish you use, for this recipe, a 1-2 pound fish will work best. Start by rinsing 1 C of couscous in cold water; sprinkle it with Kosher salt and set it aside while you prep the fish.

Prep the fish by rinsing your whole fish under cold water, scraping it with a knife to remove any remaining scales. Trim off all fins, but leave the tail intact. Pat the fish dry, including inside the fish, and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper, leaving a long overhang (the parchment needs to be large enough to fold over the whole fish). Place the fish diagonally across the parchment, sprinkling it all over (including inside the cavity) with Kosher salt and black pepper.

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My whole fish, sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Place a handful of fresh oregano and parsley inside the fish, along with a few slices of lemon and red onion. You can stick anything extra under the fish.

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My fish, stuffed with fresh oregano, parsley, red onion, and lemon.

Sprinkle the rinsed couscous all around the fish, along with 1 C of drained/quartered artichoke hearts, 1 C halved cherry tomatoes, and 2 t garlic. Place lemon slices and sliced red onion along the top of the fish, and drizzle everything with 1/2 C white wine. Finally, dab 1 T of butter along the top of the fish.

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Couscous, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, garlic, lemon, red onion, wine, and butter added to fish.

Fold the parchment paper over the fish, creasing the three open sides of the packet. Staple the whole package shut, placing staples about every inch.

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Parchment folded and stapled over fish.

Place the fish in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

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Fish packet in 425-degree oven.

Once out of the oven, cut the parchment packet open and serve the fish.

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Fish after cooking for 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, this recipe didn’t wow me as much as I hoped it would, but some of that may have been due to my fish, which was kind of “blah.” I am open to trying this again with a different whole fish. I did like that this recipe is a one-pan dinner with built-in sides of couscous and vegetables, and the fish was nicely cooked. My couscous did end up being slightly gummy, but the combination of flavors in the dish was great, and I did like the presentation. If you can get whole red snapper where you live, I think this might be a great recipe to try.

Salmon Fillet en Papillote with Julienned Vegetables

The second recipe in this episode is super easy and is made in individual servings, making it easily adaptable for any number of guests. As with the snapper recipe above, parchment paper is used here to create a pouch, but this time there is one pouch per person. Start with a fairly large rectangle of parchment, folding it in half. Use scissors or a knife to cut a large half-heart shape from the creased side of the parchment. Unfold the parchment to reveal your full parchment heart. Ahhh… takes me right back to 3rd grade.

On the right side of the parchment heart place 1/3 C carrot strips, 1/3 C fennel strips, 1/3 C snow pea strips, and 1/3 C leek strips.

Place an 8-ounce salmon fillet (skin side down) on top of the vegetables and season everything with Kosher salt, pepper, and 1/8 t ground coriander.

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Salmon fillet placed on top of vegetables. Seasoned with salt, pepper, and coriander.

Place the wedges of a small peeled orange on top of the fish and sprinkle the whole mound with a “wee shot” of vermouth.

Fold the parchment over the fish, creasing the edge at the top of the heart, and folding the edge up. Go halfway down the length of the fold, make a crease, and fold again, sort of like sealing a calzone. Continue creasing and folding all the way around the heart, twisting the parchment tip and folding it under.

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Parchment folded over fish and sealed by creasing/folding all the way around.

Place the whole packet in the microwave and cook on high for 4 minutes, or cook for 12 minutes in a 425-degree oven. Since there were two of eating Alton’s salmon packets, I opted, for comparison’s sake, to cook one packet in the microwave and the other in the oven. My microwaved fish was moist and flaking easily after 4 minutes, but my oven fish needed several more minutes to be cooked.

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Fish after cooking in the microwave.

I found this to be a successful recipe, resulting (in the microwave case) in nicely cooked fish. The orange wedges paired nicely with the fish and contributed a lot of moisture, and the whole dish had just a hint of vermouth.

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Salmon en papillote with oranges and vegetables.

Once again, this was a nice one-packet meal, as each packet included the fish and accompanying veggies. Plus, you can have this on the table in less than 30 minutes and it is healthy.

Ramen Shrimp Pouch

The third recipe in Alton’s series of pouch recipes is for shrimp lovers and is definitely a quickie that could be prepped any day of the week. As with the salmon pouches above, you can make as few or as many of these packets as you need to suit your number of diners. To make this one, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lay out a large square of foil for each diner. On the center of each foil square, layer in this order:  1/2 of a block of noodles from a ramen package, 2 T chopped dried mushrooms, 5 large shrimp that have been peeled and deveined, 2 T chopped onions, 2 T chopped scallions, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a pinch of Kosher salt.

Ball the foil up around the top of the shrimp, leaving a small opening at the top. Use the opening in each foil packet to pour in 1 T vegetable broth, 1 T mirin, 2 t soy sauce, and 1 t sesame oil.

Crimp the foil closed tightly, leaving a tiny steam porthole in the top of each packet. Place the packets in the preheated oven for 15 minutes; you may want to place them on a baking sheet, just in case they leak.

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Shrimp packets in the oven.

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Shrimp packet after 15 minutes in the oven.

Though I am not a shrimp lover, I thought this was a very clever and tasty dish. The shrimp were perfectly cooked after 15 minutes and you could taste all of the flavors in the pouch. I will say that some of my noodles were a bit chewy, so I would suggest breaking the noodles up slightly before putting them on the foil, and maybe adding a bit more liquid directly over the noodles. With a little tweaking, I think this could be an outstanding weeknight shrimp recipe.

Stone Fruit Pouches

Alton finished up his pouch cookery with a dessert. For each person eating, lay out a large double layer square of foil. In the center of each square, place 1/2 C crumbled gingersnaps, 1 quartered plum, 1 sliced apricot (8 pieces), 2 t sugar, 1 t lime zest, a pinch of Kosher salt, and 1 T cubed butter. I had no choice but to adapt this recipe a little bit, as it was certainly not stone fruit season when I made them. I opted to use mango and quince in my pouches.

Fold up the foil, leaving an opening at the top, and pour in the juice of half a lime and a shot of brandy.

Seal up the packets, leaving a tiny porthole. These packets can be cooked in a 500-degree oven or on a grill. If using a grill, they should be done in 10 minutes, or after 15-20 minutes in the oven. Serve the warm fruit with vanilla ice cream.

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Warm fruit served with vanilla ice cream.

The gingersnaps almost caramelize, the fruit softens, and you taste hints of lime and brandy. I bet these pouches would be good with peaches or pineapple too, and they would make for a super easy prep-ahead dessert during grilling season. Yes, this is one to keep in your back pocket.

It is always fun in this project when I get to watch an episode of Good Eats that I have not previously seen; episode 80 was one I had definitely not seen before. The premise of this episode is that Alton goes on a local, schlocky morning show to discuss coleslaw. When the other scheduled guest fails to show, Alton becomes the main attraction, continuing on with recipes for other types of slaw. Now, I’ll be honest that I don’t get too overly excited about slaw, but Alton did make some slaws in this episode that looked pretty tasty. So, how did they turn out?

Coleslaw

A classic coleslaw was first in this episode. This recipe requires some forethought because the prep needs to begin a couple hours in advance. Start by combining 1/2 a head of green cabbage, 1/2 a head of red cabbage, and lots of Kosher salt in a colander. Leave the cabbage for a couple hours to drain any excess moisture.

For the dressing, combine 1/2 C buttermilk, 2 fluid oz mayo, 2 fluid oz plain yogurt, and 1 T pickle juice.

Whisk the dressing thoroughly, adding 1 t dry mustard and 1 T chopped chives.

When the cabbage has drained, rinse it very well with cold water and give it a few whirls in a salad spinner.

Add the cabbage to the prepared dressing, along with one sliced carrot, and toss to coat.

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A bowl of Alton’s coleslaw.

This coleslaw was good, but not exciting. I did like how the powdered mustard contributed a slight kick of heat, while the pickle juice added some tang. Otherwise, though, it was really just a classic coleslaw that you could buy in any deli. It would, however, make a nice condiment for a pulled pork sandwich.

Beet Slaw

After watching the episode, I was most excited about Alton’s beet slaw because I love anything with beets… and Asian pears… and goat cheese. Yep, this one appeared to be right up my alley. Before you do anything else in this recipe, you will want to steam a few beets until they are tender (it took about 15 minutes for my beets to be tender).

To make the dressing, combine in a large bowl 1/4 C red wine vinegar, 2 T lemon juice, 2 T honey, 1/4 t Kosher salt, and 1/2 t pepper.

Whisk in 1/4 C olive oil until emulsified.

To the dressing, add 2 C of jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks.

Next, thinly slice 3 C of fennel; this is easiest on a mandolin. Add the fennel to the slaw, along with 1/4 C of grated onion.

Again with the mandolin, if you have one, thinly slice one Asian pear and add it to the mix.

Finally, peel and spiralize your beets until you have 4 C. Add the spiralized beets to the bowl.

Toss all of the vegetables with the dressing and crumble in 6 ounces of goat cheese to finish.

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Goat cheese added to slaw.

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Beet slaw.

I happened to make this slaw when my brother was visiting, and he declared that he really liked this slaw despite not typically liking beets. Ted and I thought this was great also. This recipe is a fantastic marriage of flavors and textures. The jicama, fennel, and Asian pear are light and crispy, while the beets and onion are tender, and the goat cheese adds a lovely creaminess. Flavorwise, the earthy sweetness of the beets was great with the sweet Asian pear, nutty jicama, and spicy onion. The fennel added subtle anise hints. The dressing was tangy with a hint of sweetness, and the goat cheese gave a creamy tartness. All-in-all I was really happy with this one and will make it again. I will say that it is most aesthetically pleasing the day it is made, as the beets turn everything purple as the slaw sits.

Marinated Slaw

I actually started this blog a couple days ago, but am only just now finishing it. As I type, I am sandwiched between our two Coonhounds. Brixie, our beloved little “dogter,” had a rough day today, having a lump removed from her paw that could potentially be malignant. We’re all crossing our fingers and paws that we get a good biopsy report in the next few days. Now, back to the food.

If you are looking for a make-ahead slaw, Alton’s marinated slaw may be the one for you. Essentially, this is a pickled slaw that develops flavor for three days before you eat it. I don’t know about you, but I love anything pickled. For this slaw, grate 1/2 a head of Napa cabbage, and julienne 2 red bell peppers and 2 green bell peppers (I used yellow peppers, instead of green). Alton tells you to drain the vegetables in a colander for two hours, though this is really quite pointless without adding salt to the vegetables, as nothing drains away.

Once your vegetables are prepped, bring to a boil 3/4 C cider vinegar, 1 C sugar, 2 T Kosher salt, 1 t celery seeds, and 1 T mustard seeds; I found that this recipe did not yield enough marinade, so I had to make a second batch of marinade.

Pack your vegetables tightly in a mason jar (as tightly as possible, or they will float to the top), and pour in the hot marinade. Refrigerate the slaw for three days before eating.

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Hot marinade poured over slaw.

I made this slaw before leaving town for a few days, and it was ready just when I returned home.

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Alton’s marinated slaw.

The flavor of this slaw reminds me of bread and butter pickles, as the marinade is both sweet and tangy. The mustard seeds add some great pops of crunch and zest, and the peppers retain a lot of their crispy texture. This is a bright slaw that would be a good addition for a barbecue or picnic, or just as a side dish to dinner.

Asian Slaw

After making a coleslaw, a beet slaw, and a marinated slaw, what other type of slaw could you possibly make? Asian slaw is the final recipe from this episode, and it piqued my interest the most (along with the beet slaw) when I watched the episode. Alton also happened to mention that this Asian slaw is a favorite of his.

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Dressing ingredients: soy sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and peanut butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 T soy sauce, the juice of a lime, 2 T sesame oil, 1/2 C rice wine vinegar, and 1/2 C peanut butter.

With tongs, add the following items to the dressing, tossing to coat:  2 T minced ginger, 2 minced serrano peppers, 1 shaved carrot (use a vegetable peeler), 1 julienned red bell pepper, 1 julienned yellow bell pepper, 2 T chopped mint, 2 T cilantro, 3 chopped green onions, 1 head of shredded Napa cabbage, and 1/2 t pepper.

Toss everything together until well-coated.

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Asian slaw, tossed to coat.

We both liked this slaw a lot, and it had fantastic Asian flavor from the ginger, sesame oil, lime, and peanut butter.

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Alton’s Asian slaw.

We ate this only as a side dish, but I would like to make it again, taking Alton’s suggestion of serving it as an entree; for a vegetarian entree, this slaw could be served with noodles or tofu, while you could serve it with flank steak for meat lovers. Personally, I can totally picture us eating this with steak as a summer entree on the deck.

Alton did a good job in this episode of demonstrating the diversity within the realm of slaw. Most of us probably see the word “slaw” and think of one thing:  coleslaw. For me, the standouts in this episode were the beet slaw and the Asian slaw.

 

Artichokes were the star of the 70th episode of Good Eats. Alton first prepped artichokes in a traditional way, serving them cooked whole. There is no online link to this particular recipe, but I will spell it out as well as I can. This was my first time eating a whole artichoke in quite a long time, as my parents went through quite a phase with artichokes when I was a teenager. Seriously, we ate steamed artichokes a couple times a week for quite a while, and my brother and I were eventually completely burnt out. Having Alton’s version of the whole artichoke has rekindled my adoration for the thistle (FYI artichokes are thistles), and I will be serving them periodically as a side dish.

When selecting artichokes to eat whole, pick ones that are about the size of a large orange, are heavy for their size, and that have tight, crisp leaves.

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Whole artichokes.

Alton recommends storing them in the refrigerator in a 2-liter soda bottle that has been cut in half and placed back together to form a capsule. Prior to cooking your artichokes, dip them upside down in cold water, swirling them to release any debris in their leaves. Using an electric knife, cut off the tops and bottoms of the artichokes, saving the stems. Peel the stems prior to cooking and cook them with the artichokes; cooking the stems was new to me, but definitely worth it.

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Artichokes, tops and bottoms cut off, and stems peeled.

To cook the chokes, put 2 t Kosher salt in a wide stainless steel of anodized aluminum pot (artichokes can react with other metals, producing off-flavors and colors). Add the artichokes, stem side up and cover them with cold water by at least an inch.

The artichokes will float, but you can weigh them down with a steamer basket insert and a weight.

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Artichokes, weighed down with a steamer basket insert and weight.

Bring the water, uncovered, to a boil over high heat. Don’t forget to throw in the stems! Artichokes contain both chlorophyll and acids, which are normally separate. However, when you cook an artichoke, the acids and chlorophyll combine, producing compounds that will turn artichokes brown; these compounds are volatile, so you can let them evaporate by keeping your pot uncovered. If you do not want to watch the pot, you can insert your probe thermometer, setting the alarm for 210 degrees. Once your water is boiling, decrease the heat and let the artichokes simmer for 10 minutes. Test the artichokes by inserting a sharp paring knife into the stem end – if the knife goes in with little resistance and comes out clean, the artichokes are done.

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Artichokes, after being brought to a boil and simmering for 10 minutes.

Drain your cooked artichokes in a foil-covered colander for at least five minutes before serving. To eat the artichokes, serve them next to lemon butter, dipping each leaf and scraping the “meat” with your teeth.

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Cooked artichokes, served with lemon butter.

Once you only have tiny leaves remaining, pull the leaves apart, exposing the hairy choke inside.

Pressing down on the choke with one hand, use a sharp paring knife to cut around the base, just under the dark green line.

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Using a sharp knife to cut around beneath dark green line.

Pull the top off and discard, and remove any remaining hairy tufts. Eat the remaining base of the artichoke, dipping it in lemon butter.

We really enjoyed Alton’s preparation of whole artichokes, especially since neither of us had eaten on in years. In fact, we liked them so much that we cooked them a second time last week. And, the bases and stems are totally worth eating – good eats for sure!

Broiled Chokes

Alton’s second artichoke preparation is for broiled chokes. For this recipe you will need a grapefruit spoon, a serrated knife (preferably electric), a vegetable peeler, two containers of acidulated water (water with lemon juice added), and a cutting board. Holding a whole artichoke, first pull off and discard all of its leaves until you have just a purple interior remaining.

Run a vegetable peeler down the sides of the choke and the stem. Also run the peeler around the outside until you have a smooth surface. To help prevent browning, dip your utensils in one container of acidulated water between uses.

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Artichoke, after being cleaned up with a vegetable peeler.

Once your choke is clean, use an electric knife to cut it in half. Use a grapefruit spoon to pry out the hairy choke, which will probably take a few tries. Place the cleaned choke in the second container of lemon water while you clean the others.

When ready to use, drain the chokes and wrap them tightly in paper towels. Toss them with olive oil, Kosher salt, and pepper, and broil them, face-up, on a rack 5-6 inches below the heat for five minutes. Flip the chokes and broil for three minutes on the second side.

Eat the chokes as they are, or do as Alton did in the episode and marinate them in his herb oil, which I will write up below.

Herb Oil

According to what he says in this episode, Alton prefers to marinate his broiled chokes (above) in herb oil. His oil can be made by heating to 200 degrees a pint of canola oil with a cup of olive oil in a saucepan. While the oil heats, add to a mason jar:  the zest from half an orange, 1/2 C fresh parsley, 1/2 C fresh thyme, 1/2 C fresh basil, 1/2 C fresh oregano, 1 dried arbol chile, and 1 t black peppercorns.

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Ingredients for Alton’s herb oil: fresh thyme, black peppercorns, fresh oregano, fresh parsley, orange zest, fresh basil, and a dried arbol chile.

Pour the warm oil over the herbs, letting the oil sit overnight; my oil got a little cloudy overnight, but later cleared again.

The following day, strain the herb oil by pouring it through cheesecloth into a jar containing your broiled chokes. Let the chokes marinate for a couple days before using.

And, what is Alton’s preferred use for his marinated chokes?

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Broiled chokes, after marinating for a couple days.

He prefers to make a pasta salad with bowtie pasta, the marinated chokes, some of the herb oil, red wine vinegar, small tomatoes, herbs, Parmesan, and pepper (he did not actually prep a pasta salad in the episode). I took his advice and tried his marinated, broiled chokes in such a pasta salad.

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A pasta salad made with Alton’s marinated chokes.

While the chokes were good, I cannot say that they were honestly worth all the effort. Honestly, I think the bottled, marinated artichokes from Costco are just as good as Alton’s, and for zero effort. While I am glad I now know how to prep an artichoke, I won’t be making these again.

The main star of the 60th episode of Good Eats was none other than eggplant. Eggplant, which is technically a berry, is a food that I have had limited experience with. My mom has an eggplant recipe that she still swears by, which was the only exposure I had to eggplant when I was young; I did not like it. Her version was sliced, breaded, cooked in butter, and coated with Parmesan cheese. A few years ago, I made a batch of Eggplant Parmesan for Ted and me; we did not care for it, opting for frozen pizza, or the like, instead. Still, I figured, if anyone could make me like eggplant, it likely would be Alton Brown.

Baba Ghannouj

First up in Alton’s eggplant repertoire was his take on Baba Ghannouj. For this recipe, you’ll need two eggplants.When selecting eggplants at the store, opt for ones that have a green stem and smooth skin, and that are heavy for their size. Larger eggplants tend to be more bitter than smaller ones. Also, when possible, choose male eggplants instead of females. Who knew there were male and female eggplants? Male eggplants have a small circle on their non-stemmed end, while females have a larger oval shape. Apparently, female eggplants have more seeds and are more bitter (insert bitter female joke here). Oh, and store eggplants on your kitchen counter for 1-2 days, or wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for longer storage. To make this recipe, prick your eggplants a few times with a fork and roast them on a grill over indirect heat for about a half hour, turning them every 7-8 minutes.

Wrap the hot eggplants in plastic wrap and let sit until cool enough to touch.

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Hot eggplants wrapped in plastic wrap.

When the eggplants have cooled, keep them in their plastic wrap and cut off their stem ends with kitchen scissors. Squeezing the eggplants like a toothpaste tube, squeeze their flesh into a strainer and discard the skins. Note:  this tip sounded cool when I watched the episode, but it did not work for me at all.

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Cut the stem end off of your eggplants and squeeze out their flesh. Didn’t work for me.

I wound up cutting my eggplants completely open with shears and scraped the flesh out with my hands. You will want to have about 2 C of eggplant for this recipe. Let the eggplant drain for about 30 minutes to get rid of its bitter liquid. I also pressed on the surface of my eggplant with paper towels to absorb any excess liquid.

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My eggplant flesh, draining.

Once your eggplant is ready, combine it in a food processor with 2 cloves of sliced garlic, 3/4 t salt, 5 T lemon juice, and 4 T tahini (Alton used twice as much tahini in the episode as in the online recipe).

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Eggplant combined with garlic, salt, tahini, and lemon juice.

Process the mixture until smooth, and add salt and pepper if needed. If your dip tastes too bitter, add some honey.

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Honey, salt, and pepper added to the mixture.

Finally, add 1/2 a sprig of parsley and pulse a few times.

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Fresh parsley added.

Serve the Baba Ghannouj with pita chips.

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My Baba Ghannouj with pita chips.

Honestly, neither Ted or I expected to care for this much, but we actually quite liked it. I did have to add a little bit of honey to my dip to cut the bitterness. Sadly, I think the reason I liked this was because it really did not taste like eggplant to me. It had a bright, lemony flavor and hummus-like texture, with only the faintest hint of bitterness. Hmmm… maybe this Alton guy can make me like eggplant afterall?

Eggplant Steaks

I bravely made Alton’s eggplant steaks for dinner one night last week. Afterall, when Alton cooked them on Good Eats they looked rather appetizing. He explained in the show that eggplant is like a sponge, so it is first necessary to get the eggplant to purge its liquid. To do this, slice your eggplant into 1/2″ slices, place the slices on a rack over a sheet pan, and sprinkle the slices liberally with Kosher salt.

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Eggplant slices, sprinkled with Kosher salt and left to purge their liquid.

After 15 minutes, flip the eggplant slices over and sprinkle them with more Kosher salt. Allow the eggplant to sit for 1-3 hours. There should be quite a lot of liquid on the sheet pan after the purging period.

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Eggplant after purging for 3 hours.

Thoroughly rinse the salt from your eggplant and wring each slice with your hand, as if wringing a sponge. Finally, wrap your slices in paper towels to dry further. Alton’s eggplant slices magically remained round after he wrung them out with his hand, while mine became ugly, oblong blobs; if you want your slices to be round, I’d suggest skipping the wringing step.

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My eggplant slices after being rinsed and wrung out.

Now that the eggplant has purged, it will no longer absorb liquid, but you can get liquid to stick to its surface. Next, combine with a whisk 1/2 C olive oil, 1/4 C Worcestershire sauce, 1 T cider vinegar, 1/4 C steak sauce, and 2 T honey.

Toss the eggplant slices in the sauce mixture until thoroughly coated, and place them on a rack over a sheet pan.

Broil your eggplant “steaks” for ~3 minutes/side or until they start to char around the edges.

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Eggplant “steaks” after broiling for ~3 minutes/side.

Finally, sprinkle your eggplant slices with shredded hard cheese of your choosing (I used Parmesan) and stick them back under the broiler until the cheese has melted.

I went into this recipe pretty optimistic. It turns out my optimism was unfounded. We really did not care for this recipe at all. The eggplant steaks had a texture that sort of reminded me of mushrooms, and their skin was slightly chewy. And, quite frankly, we just didn’t like the taste of this at all. Perhaps we just don’t like eggplant?

Eggplant Pasta

The third (and final, thank God) recipe of this episode was for eggplant pasta. For this recipe, you will need one medium-large eggplant and you will want to peel it before slicing. As in the recipe above for eggplant steaks, you will need to purge the liquid from your eggplant by slicing the eggplant, sprinkling both sides of the slices with Kosher salt, and allowing them to sit for 1-3 hours.

You will then want to rinse the slices, wring them out, and dry them in paper towels.

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Wrung out eggplant slices.

You can complete this purging process ahead of time and store your eggplant slices in the refrigerator for about a week. If you do that, this recipe comes together in no time. In addition to your eggplant, you will need olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, a small tomato, cream, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.

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Ingredients for Alton’s eggplant pasta: red pepper flakes, tomato, Parmesan, garlic, basil, eggplant, bread crumbs, olive oil, and cream.

You will first want to cut your eggplant slices into thin strips. Next, heat 1 T olive oil in a skillet. Once the oil is hot, add 1/4 t minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

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Garlic and red pepper flakes added to olive oil in skillet.

Add your eggplant to the skillet next, followed by 1 small tomato, seeded and diced.

Stir in 3 T heavy cream and 1 T basil chiffonade.

Finally, stir in 1-2 T shredded Parmesan cheese.

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Shredded Parmesan to top it off.

Serve the eggplant with breadcrumbs, as desired.

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Alton’s eggplant pasta, topped with breadcrumbs. Even the dog is indifferent about eggplant.

I had high hopes for this recipe, but we did not like this one at all. The texture and flavor of the eggplant were completely unappealing. After completing this episode of eggplant recipes, I think it is safe to say that we just do not like eggplant. I would be curious to know what a true eggplant lover would think of the recipes from this episode, as I do not feel that I can fairly judge them. It is safe to say that this has been my least favorite episode thus far. Thank goodness for the Baba Ghannouj recipe, or this entire episode would have been a dislike in our household! On the plus side, we now know not to order eggplant at a restaurant.

 

Shred, Head, Butter and Bread

Cabbage is not a vegetable we eat often in our house, aside from the occasional slaw to accompany fish tacos or the like. I was curious to see what we would think of Alton’s cabbage preparations in the 40th Good Eats episode. Alton says that the first recipe in this episode originated from his mother.

Ingredients:  butter, seasoned croutons, dry mustard, caraway seed, green cabbage, Kosher salt, and sugar.

Ingredients: butter, seasoned croutons, dry mustard, caraway seed, green cabbage, Kosher salt, and sugar.

5-6-2015 074 To make Alton’s mom’s cabbage, fill your biggest pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil over high heat.

Big pot of water over high heat.

Big pot of water over high heat.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 1/2 a stick of butter and add 1/2 C pulverized seasoned croutons.

Half a stick of butter in a large skillet.

Half a stick of butter in a large skillet.

Melted butter.

Melted butter.

Pulverized seasoned croutons.

Pulverized seasoned croutons.

Pulverized croutons added to butter.

Pulverized croutons added to butter.

To this crouton mixture, add two big pinches of dry mustard and 1 t caraway seeds.

Dry mustard and caraway seed added to butter/crouton mix.

Dry mustard and caraway seed added to butter/crouton mix.

Continue to cook this mixture, stirring over medium heat until the butter browns and you have a nutty aroma. When you have reached this point, take the pan off the heat, but leave the mixture in the pan for later.

Stirred until browned and nutty.

Stirred until browned and nutty.

Next, you want to shred a small head of green cabbage. Alton explains that he prefers small heads of cabbage because they are sweeter. To shred your cabbage, cut the head into quarters and cut the hard white core out of each quarter. Lay the cabbage quarters on your cutting board (curved side out), and slice perpendicularly to the board. If this is tough to visualize, there are lots of videos online.

Whole head of green cabbage.

Whole head of green cabbage.

Cabbage cut into halves.

Cabbage cut into halves.

Cabbage cut into quarters.

Cabbage cut into quarters.

Shredded cabbage.

Shredded cabbage.

When your cabbage is shredded, add 1 T Kosher salt and 1 T sugar to your pot of boiling water.

1 T Kosher salt added to boiling water.

1 T Kosher salt added to boiling water.

1 T sugar added to water.

1 T sugar added to water.

Why cook your cabbage in a lot of sugared/salted water? The large volume of water dilutes acid that seeps from the cabbage. The sugar preserves the cabbage’s cellular structure, while the salt increases the boiling point of the water to promote faster cooking. Add the shredded cabbage to the boiling water. You will notice an immediate color change in the cabbage, as it becomes a more brilliant shade of green; this is because the cabbage is releasing gas as it cooks, allowing the true color of the chlorophyll to show.

Cabbage added to water for 2 minutes.

Cabbage added to water for 2 minutes.

Cook the cabbage for a scant two minutes and drain. Alton used a salad spinner to drain his cabbage, but a colander works fine too.

Cabbage drained after cooking for 2 minutes.

Cabbage drained after cooking for 2 minutes.

Add the cabbage to the butter/crumb mixture in the skillet and toss to coat with tongs.

Cabbage added to skillet with butter/crouton mixture.

Cabbage added to skillet with butter/crouton mixture.

Final cabbage.

Final cabbage.

We ate this cabbage as a side dish and we both really liked it. The cabbage maintained a nice texture and color, avoiding looking like a “wet Army Jeep,” as Alton described. The caraway seed’s flavor came through, but was not overpowering, and the overall dish had a buttery, slightly sweet flavor. We both agreed that we would make this again as a vegetable side dish.

Home of the Braise

Alton’s second cabbage preparation uses red, rather than green, cabbage. This recipe involves braising the cabbage in acidic liquid, which the purple pigments (anthocyanins) in red cabbage love.

Ingredients for braised cabbage:  canola oil, Granny Smith apple, apple juice, caraway seed, Kosher salt, black pepper, red cabbage, lemon juice, and butter.

Ingredients for braised cabbage: canola oil, Granny Smith apple, apple juice, caraway seed, Kosher salt, black pepper, red cabbage, lemon juice, and butter.

To make this cabbage, heat a large skillet over medium heat, adding 2 T canola oil to coat the pan.

2 T canola oil heating in a pan.

2 T canola oil heating in a pan.

Add 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cubed, and toss.

Granny Smith apple added to the pan.

Granny Smith apple added to the pan.

Once the apple is lightly browned, add 1 pint of apple juice, preferably unfiltered. The acid from the apple and apple juice serves to keep the final cabbage red, rather than blue.

A pint of apple juice added to the apple.

A pint of apple juice added to the apple.

Increase the heat and add 1/4 t caraway seed, 1 1/2 t Kosher salt, several grinds of black pepper, and 1/2 a head of shredded red cabbage.

Caraway seed, Kosher salt, and black pepper added to the apple mixture.

Caraway seed, Kosher salt, and black pepper added to the apple mixture.

Cabbage halved, and ready to be shredded.

Cabbage halved, and ready to be shredded.

Shredded red cabbage.

Shredded red cabbage.

Shredded cabbage added to the pan.

Shredded cabbage added to the pan.

Put the lid on the pan, shake the pan to get everything coated, decrease the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes.

Lid on the pan, heat turned to low, and left to cook for 20 minutes.

Lid on the pan, heat turned to low, and left to cook for 20 minutes.

To boost the pigment of the final dish, sprinkle lemon juice over the cabbage just before serving.

Lemon juice added to boost pigment.

Lemon juice added to boost pigment.

Alton also likes to add a pat of butter to cut the acid from the lemon.

A pat of butter melted into the cabbage.

A pat of butter melted into the cabbage.

The finished cabbage.

The finished cabbage.

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Why is caraway seed so often paired with cabbage? Aside from pairing well flavor-wise, caraway seed helps to limit cabbage’s production of hydrogen sulfide gas, which is what can make your house smell like cabbage for days. We ate this cabbage as a side dish last night and we liked it even better than the first cabbage recipe. While the first recipe was sweet, buttery, and mild, this dish was much more tangy and bold. Again, Alton showed that cooking cabbage properly can maintain the texture, flavor, and color of a vegetable that so often gets a bad rap. You cannot go wrong with either of Alton’s cabbage recipes.

Hail Caesar Salad

I am a salad person, and I love a good Caesar salad. My mom makes a fantastic Caesar salad, and I knew Alton’s recipe from Good Eats was going to have its work cut out for it to rival Mom’s recipe. In both watching the episodes and reading the online recipes from the show, I have learned that subtle differences often exist between how Alton prepares the dishes on the show and the recipes posted online. I choose to follow what Alton does on the show when there are any differences.

My mom often made homemade croutons when we were growing up, so I am slightly biased when it comes to store-bought versus homemade croutons. Really, there is no comparison. For my croutons in the Caesar, I used a store-bought loaf of Pugliese bread.

Pugliese bread cubes.

Pugliese bread cubes.

It was not day-old bread, but the croutons still managed to dry sufficiently in the oven. Alton was right… tossing the crispy bread cubes with the hot garlic-flavored olive oil definitely made my mouth water!

Garlic, olive oil, and salt.

Garlic, olive oil, and salt.

Hot garlic oil.

Hot garlic oil.

Croutons tossed in garlic oil.

Croutons tossed in garlic oil.

I used two hearts of Romaine that were pre-washed and bagged, as our salad spinner (the same one Alton recommends on Good Eats) died in a tragic accident on a hot stove years ago. Note:  Do not place your clean plastic salad spinner on the stove to air dry without checking the burners first.

Hearts of Romaine.

Hearts of Romaine.

Following Alton’s recipe, I cooked my eggs for one minute, and gradually added the dressing ingredients to my lettuce, tossing after each addition. I did like the flavor of the Worcestershire sauce in the dressing, though I’ll admit I have also had Caesar salads with anchovies that I have enjoyed. Adding the barely cooked eggs to the dressing made a creamy dressing that thoroughly coated the greens and paired nicely with the crunchy garlic croutons.

Gradually adding dressing ingredients.

Gradually adding dressing ingredients.

Worcestershire and lemon juice.

Worcestershire and lemon juice.

Adding the one-minute eggs.

Adding the one-minute eggs.

The final Caesar.

The final Caesar.

All in all, I thought this was a very good Caesar salad. Was it as good as Mom’s? Sorry Alton, but I think hers still wins.

Veni Vedi Vinaigrette

I tend to like my salad dressings on the savory, tangy, acidic side. Fruity, sweet salad dressings just usually are not my favorites. Often, I just drizzle olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper straight onto my greens. Alton’s vinaigrette recipe reminds me somewhat of my grandmother’s spinach salad dressing, so I knew I would like this salad dressing before I even tried it. Per Alton’s instructions, I first combined my vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Gathering vinaigrette ingredients.

Gathering vinaigrette ingredients.

Combination of vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Combination of vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper.

I then added my olive oil and shook the dressing until it was well emulsified. I left mine at room temperature for a few hours before having it on a lunch salad I made with tomato, marinated artichoke hearts, cucumber, kalamata olives, walnuts, avocado, and fresh parmesan.

Olive oil added to other ingredients.

Olive oil added to other ingredients.

Final emulsified vinaigrette.

Final emulsified vinaigrette.

The result was a bright, acidic, tangy dressing that would brighten up any plate of greens, and you can throw it together in a matter of minutes. Why buy salad dressing when you can make something so much better at home?

The Baked Potato

Following the success of my trial of the first episode, I continued my foray into Good Eats land with the recipes featured in the second episode about potatoes. Next up was the humble baked potato, which, by the way, I paired with the steaks I made from the first episode. The first time I attempted to make Alton’s baked potatoes (recipe here), I was in the process of getting everything ready to go when I discovered we had run out of Kosher salt. This NEVER happens at our house, but, of course, it had to happen on the very first day of my project. If it had been early in the evening, I would have simply run to the store for more salt, but it had been a busy weekend day and we were already on schedule for a very late dinner. Alton would, I presume, be happy to hear that I did not simply substitute other salt, but rather I postponed the commencement of my project until the following day. It is comical now, but at that time, I viewed it as some cosmic sign that my project was perhaps not meant to be.

The following day, I prepared baked potatoes per the Good Eats method, after, of course, watching the episode. Prior to baking these potatoes, I had always made my baked potatoes by wrapping them in foil and baking them in the oven. Alton’s method, by contrast, involves coating the potatoes with oil and Kosher salt,

Potato coated with oil and Kosher salt

Potato coated with oil and Kosher salt

and then baking them directly on the oven rack with no foil. It is wise to put a baking sheet on the rack below the potatoes, as they do drip while they bake. My husband and I were both happy with the resulting potatoes, which had crispy, salty skins.

Baked potato with crispy, salty skin.

Baked potato with crispy, salty skin.

Baked potato with butter, salt, and pepper.

Baked potato with butter, salt, and pepper.

Mashers

Continuing on with the potato recipes in the second episode, next up were the mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes are not something we eat regularly, but rather tend to be reserved for holidays. Why? I don’t know, but perhaps it’s because they strike me as a rich, heavy dish fit for gluttonous holidays. I did go through a phase a few years ago when I couldn’t stand to look at mashed potatoes, but that was because I had worked as a food scientist on a mashed potato project that saw me tasting/modifying mashed potatoes all day at work. Trust me, you can get burnt out on mashed potatoes pretty quickly. After a year-long hiatus from mashed potatoes, I can say that I do enjoy them again, though they’ll probably never again be something I want to eat on a regular basis.

Alton’s recipe is here, and is really quite straight forward. As he states in the episode, really the important part of this recipe is the ratio of russet potatoes to red potatoes. Per his recommendation, I weighed my potatoes, getting a 2:1 ratio of russets to reds.???????????????????????????????episode 2 recipe 2-2 episode 2 recipe 2-3 While my potatoes gently cooked, I heated my dairy mixture with garlic.??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????Sure enough, my potatoes were ready for mashing about 20 minutes after coming to a boil. They mashed easily, but I quickly discovered that I needed more of the dairy mixture than I had prepared. I quickly heated some more dairy on the stove, and added it slowly until I had the fluffy potatoes I desired.episode 2 recipe 2-6 ??????????????????????????????? Ted declared these the best mashed potatoes he has had, and he’s a Midwestern boy, so you know his opinions on meat and potatoes are valid. We ate ours with extra salt and pepper, and some creamed horseradish.

Mashed potatoes with salt, pepper, and horseradish.

Mashed potatoes with salt, pepper, and horseradish.

Potato/Portobello Gratin

The third, and final, recipe in the 2nd episode was for the potato/portobello gratin. One reason I was excited to begin this project was to employ some of the kitchen gadgets/equipment we have that are not so frequently used. Enter the mandolin. Ted bought a mandolin years ago for some particular recipe which I cannot recall. It has since sat on a shelf, rarely used. For the gratin recipe featured in this episode, the mandolin was a huge asset, if not a necessity. It yielded uniform slices of Yukon gold potatoes, and saved me a lot of time. In fact, following the prep work for this recipe, I found myself wondering why I have not utilized this tool more often.

Uniform Yukon Gold slices.

Uniform Yukon Gold slices.

I followed Alton’s recipe, but threw in some fresh tarragon I had lying around, and used Parmigiano-Reggiano. I had enough potato slices for three layers, while Alton created four layers in the episode.

Gratin layers prior to baking.

Gratin layers prior to baking.

In the online recipe, the directions are to check the gratin after baking for an hour, but I followed the slightly different instructions from the episode, which were to check the gratin after about 45 minutes. My gratin was cooked through at that point. I also ended up using more than the recommended 3/4 C of half-and-half from the online recipe. I just added more until the liquid came up through the layers when I pushed down with my hands. Though I thought it looked like it had a bit too much liquid when I pulled it out of the oven, it set up nicely after allowing it to cool for 20 minutes, and the potatoes were nicely cooked without being soft.??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? As a bonus, the tarragon was nice with the potatoes. This recipe really is something to experiment with, as you could throw in whatever you have on hand. Next up:   Episode 3.