Reasons not to skimp: Best thing I’ve made in a while.

For whatever reasons, I become a cheap ass over the stupidest things. For example, I will buy foie gras from Hudson Valley Farms and during the same month think twice about buying peanut oil for deep frying because it’s “too expensive”. It makes no sense, but probably explains my wardrobe and other things that my wife and friends are too kind to point out.

This soliloquy brings me to the best thing that I have made in a long while. And had I been a cheap ass, I might have ruined the entire thing.

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Pictured is a homemade aioli made with grapeseed oil and a splash of Spanish olive oil. It totally made the dish that I am about to describe, but for some reason, more than once mind you, I nearly substituted pre-made mayonnaise. Why? Because I only needed 2 tablespoons and thought it would be wasteful to make an entire batch of aioli. After all, one cup of grape seed oil probably set me back $2!!! Never mind that I used $5 of saffron, but I hope you understand where I am going here. Not wanting to “waste” $2 worth of oil, I was willing to comprise the quality of dish that was going to cost $30 or $40. But I digress…

That brings me to the best dish I have made in a LONG time. Fideos in the style of paella. I like paella, but generally prefer jambalaya, probably because I can make jambalaya in about 45 minutes, while paella seems to take forever. This fideos dish takes just as long as paella, but for my taste is worth the effort.

Fideos are essentially chopped up vermicelli noodles. When the Moors brought pasta to Spain, the people didn’t know what to do with it, so they chopped it up and used it like rice.

This dish can be broken down into 3 parts for the mise en place. 1) make the aioli. 2) make the sofrito. 3) fry the fideos.

This aioli totally made the dish – 1 whole egg, 1 egg yolk, splash of champagne vinegar, dollop of Dijon mustard, good bit of ground saffron, clove of garlic, and oil. Blend everything sans the oil for about 15 seconds. Drizzle in 1/2 cup of neutral oil and about a tablespoon of EVOO until an emulsion forms. Add a pinch of salt and refrigerate until needed.

Sofrito – cook 1/2 diced onion and 1 side of a diced red bell pepper in EVOO until the onion starts to brown. Add a diced Roma tomato and a clove of minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and a big pinch of smoked paprika and cook until fragrant. Set aside until needed.

“Toast” the fideos – (they come as a 7 ounce package which is perfect amount) heat a 1/4 cup of oil over medium heat and add 7 oz of fideos. Stir constantly until the fideos start to brown. Drain on paper towels.

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For the dish. You will need:
1/2 lb chicken thighs cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup diced Spanish chorizo
12 mussels
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
Sofrito
Fideos
1/2 cup frozen edamame
Aioli
Saffron
Parsley for garnish
Additional 1 to 2 cloves minced garlic

Place on oven rack near the top and heat to 500 F.
Sauté the chicken in some EVOO until lightly browned. Add about 1/2 of the garlic and cook until fragrant, the. Deglaze with the wine. Cook until the liquid has almost evaporated. Set chicken aside and wipe out the pan. Heat another tablespoon of oil over medium heat and add the sofrito. Once the sofrito has warmed, add the chorizo and additional garlic and cook for about a minute. Add back the chicken and it’s juices. Add the fideos and stir to combine everything evenly. Sprinkle with saffron and add enough stock to barely cover the fideos. Bring to a simmer then transfer to the oven for 10 minutes. Add the mussels and cook another five minutes. Transfer pan to stove top. Set the mussels aside and stir in the edamame. Let mixture sit 5 minutes, then stir in 2 tablespoons of aioli. Nestle the mussels back into the fideos, sprinkle with parsley, add a pinch of salt, and serve immediately.

Jen and I could not stop eating this dish. Really good. There is plenty of toasty roasty flavor that in paella is the result of the soccarat, so this shouldn’t be total heresy to MAB.

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Saturday Morning Continental Breakfast Buffet

It’s free, so eat up.

  • Drones.  I wonder if this is next development in take-out or maybe even grocery delivery.  Forgot the carrots and onions for that braised lamb shank recipe?  We’ll have them right over Mr. Big Dawg.  I also wonder how it maneuvers around the 80ft trees, power lines, and the small engine aircraft flight path directly over my house.
  • If you don’t mention bacon in casual conversation at least twice per week, then you aren’t my friend.  I realize this is from 2009, but is Super Bowl weekend, and WOW that’s a serious Bacon Explosion.  We did already talk about bacon this week, right?
  • Thankfully, this is NOT where found homemade sausage, wine, and cheeses in Italy last summer.
  • But this is.  And it’s on TOP of the hill – so no boulders – and excellent everything else too.
  • I’ve written previously on this blog about the lemon trees I’m growing.  Not as prolific as they once were.  I currently have one (1) lemon that is ripe, so I may only be able to make one of these recipes.  Difficult decision.

More sous vide

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Another reason to sous vide. The technique allows for more interesting presentation of otherwise boring food. Take for example the lowly chicken breast. Pictured is a chicken breast “roll” that I prepared yesterday. I simply took two chicken breasts, seasoned them, placed them on top of one another in opposite orientation, wrapped in plastic wrap, and sous vide for three hours at 140°F. To serve, I sliced these into thick medallions, lightly dusted the cut side with flour, and gave a quick pan sear. Suddenly a chicken breast looks like a filet mignon. Even without transglutaminase, also known as meat glue, these chicken breast held together and appeared as if they were one muscle. The next time I fry chicken, I’m going to use this technique, wrapping the chicken roll with skin before sous vide, then flash fry at the end.

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Or slice a bit thinner, sauté with a thin coating of Panko and your ready for a dynamite chicken sandwich.

Sous vide for the home consumer

Once a tool only for the pros, supply has driven the price of immersion circulators down pretty significantly. While you can spend in the thousands, there’s no reason to do so. The one I have been using is a little pricey, but $200 will get you in the door these days.

No piece of gear will make you a good cook. Sounds obvious, but we forget that in the dazzling world of advertisement and mass media. Myron Mixon tells you he can outcook anyone with a trash can, and he’s probably right. So, let’s just rid ourselves of that fallacy and move on. Consider this scenario, though: steaks at my grocery store went on sale for half off. I bought a dozen, seasoned, vacuum sealed, and froze them. When we wanted steak dinner, I reheated them in the water bath at 125F for about 90 minutes while I made everything else, and then seared them as hot and fast as I could. The result was one of the most perfectly cooked medium rare steaks I’ve ever cooked or tasted.

Why you need one
1. Thawing. Nothing is as fast or effective, but it depends on a barrier between the food and the water.
2. Eggs. If you want fancy, soft boiled eggs, you can sit there with your egg timer, or you can do it this way. One is time and attention intensive, the other is fire and forget.
3. Flavor concentration. When it doesn’t diffuse either into water or oil, the flavors only intensify under pressure. It makes stuff taste more like what it is.
4. Timing. When you’re busy and you want your food cooked properly, you may not have time to sit there and babysit it. Considering you can’t physically make food go beyond the temperature set point, overcooking is (almost) impossible.
5. You don’t know what you don’t know. It opens up a completely new set of possibilities, most of which you haven’t even considered.

Why you don’t
1. Cost, but that’s inevitably going to come down. Like VCRs. Now no one has one.
2. Precision with regard to cooking times. Sometimes it can be hard to tell when something’s done, and you have to rely on web-published charts or experience. And we all know that although good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment.
3. Food safety. There’s a potential for decreased food safety with this technique, just be careful.
4. If you’re anti-plastic and don’t want it touching your food, this is not for you.
5. It won’t make you a better cook. Only time, repetition, and experience will.

Pearl: bacon substitutes

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What’s so great about bacon? Well first of all it’s bacon, dammit. It’s smoky, salty, crispy, chewy, porky, fatty, wrong but so right on many levels. It’s so complex, it really is irreplaceable as an ingredient. If you’re willing to compromise this little trick may be for you.
This is a Jennifer White original. Start with some thin sliced, store-bought smoked-turkey. Spray or brush a griddle with a little olive oil, and heat over medium heat. Add the turkey slices, flipping every minute or two until well browned and crispy. Pat dry with paper towels and serve as you would bacon, though it’s closer to pancetta. The only thing you have to worry about, is the occasional spattering and popping that occurs as the water cooks out of the turkey meat. This works for essentially any thinly sliced deli meat. It’s also pretty good thing to do if you have guests that, sic, don’t eat pork.

Pearl for the day

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Good to see the blog up and running again. I really like the idea of doing things a little differently, such as Mike Brown’s continental breakfast from yesterday. I doubt I will post too many recipes on the blog as the explosion of mobile devices has made finding virtually any recipe from any restaurant as easy as a touch of a button or the sound of your voice. Thanks Siri!
What I think I’ll do, is give little pearls of wisdom, that help me in my day-to-day cooking.
Today’s installment is coriander chutney. This coriander chutney has a good dose of coriander, Serrano chili, garlic, and salt. I don’t use this stuff for my formal meals or evening dinners, rather I use it to add a kick to a variety of lunch items – sandwiches, wraps, canned tuna, you get the idea. I use it similarly to how I use Sriracha. Is also fairly solid as an additive to a quick salsa. If you have a can of diced tomatoes, and onion, and a tablespoon or two this stuff, you’re never far from quick and tasty salsa. Search this stuff out in the international section of your local grocery store. Swad is actually a company from the United States that makes fairly tasty Indian condiments.