March 31, 2010

Fluffy, Puffy Little Clouds

I'm not usually a recipe follower, baking excepted, but I am an exhaustive recipe researcher.  It's easy for me to get lost in cookbooks and on the internet reading recipe after recipe; scrolling through all the comments to see what others felt worked or fell short.  Then I take alllll that information and make up my own version.  Seriously, how did anyone live without the internet?

My journey with marshmallows started months ago.  They look innocent enough: simple ingredient list, straight forward directions yielding homey little squares to challenge those iconic tubular Jet-Puff marshmallows.  Yet I kept reading lackluster tales of rubbery impostors and kitchens covered in sticky stringy goo.  Not to mention how wildly different each recipe was from the next.  I became wary.  And so I dropped the idea for a good couple months.

I'm not even sure what brought me back to the marshmallow idea, but back it came, and this time I was ready for the challenge.  After another lengthy session of research I settled on an Alton Brown recipe.  The man knows his food science so surely his recipe would lead me through this experiment successfully.  And did it ever.  With only slightly gummed up kitchen shears and the occasional poof of powdered sugar/cornstarch mix on the counter, there were no awful kitchen clean-ups to speak of.  The recipe makes nearly 10 dozen little fluffy pillow-y clouds, which is far too much for a girl to keep around, so I packaged them up in little paper bag parcels and gave them away to friends.  And although the looks I got when I told people I made them, from scratch, was as if I were crazy if not a little bit brilliant, they sure were tasty roasted over a friend's backyard fire pit.

Vanilla Marshmallows
Adapted from Alton Brown

Aprox. 9 ½ dozen

3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar (about 1 ½ cups)
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping.

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture, or kitchen shears. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

March 26, 2010

Love Affair with a Sandwich

I'm not in the habit of mastering exotic cuisines.  It's so unsatifying to cook up a craving, only to be disappointed by the results, I'd rather leave it up to the experts.  But people, such is not the case for this sandwich.

Banh mi are delicious.  Banh mi are cheap.  Unfortunately, there are no Vietnamese sandwich shops that sell banh mi near my house.  There is a shop right near my school, K Sandwiches, that used to be convienent, but with all my classes being online this semester I just can't make myself drive 10 miles for a $2 sandwich. Enter Bon Appetite magazine.  While the recipe is a little fussy (especailly when you're cutting the veggies into a julienne by hand, sans mandoline), it's pretty straight forward and the ingredients aren't hard to track down in a grocery store.  Typical me made a few changes to the original recipe (julienne the veggies instead of grating, used plain mayo instead of one seasoned with Sriracha) based on personal preference and to better match the specimens I've bought in the past.

The result?  A party in my mouth!  The meatballs are flavorful and not a bit dry.  It's got all the elements: savory, spicy, sweet and sour.  D. says he'd happily eat this every day, and I've got say, I'm pretty impressed by the results too.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi
Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2010

makes 6 sandwiches

1 pound ground lean pork
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil


2 cups julienned carrots
2 cups julienned daikon radish
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
6 6-inch French style sandwich rolls
2-3 jalapeño chiles, thinly sliced
Fresh cilantro sprigs

Toss carrots, daikon radish, rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Gently mix all the meatball ingredients in large bowl, excluding sesame oil. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Cut each roll in half horizontally, not quite all the way down.  Spread mayonnaise generously over one half of the roll. Fill each with meatballs. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro along one side of the meatballs and the drained pickled vegetables along the other.  Serve with Sriracha at table.

March 24, 2010

Spring Fever

Hello world.

It's springtime! The days are getting long and I'm getting antsy for warmer sunshine days. The flowers are blooming. Cute little baby animals are getting born. And you can taste it all in this here bowl of soup.

Fresh Pea and Mint Soup

Adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home

6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 cups chicken stock
20 ounces frozen peas
2/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup freshly chopped chives
garlic croutons, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the leeks and onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the peas are tender. Off the heat, add the mint, salt, and pepper.
Puree the soup in batches in a blender. Whisk in the sour cream and taste for seasoning.
Serve topped with the chives and garlic croutons.