It’s been six weeks since our stove and oven quit working. The saga of the long delay will have to wait for another blog – when and if the stove gets repaired. This time I will deal with how someone who likes to cook copes without a stove.
Six weeks is a long time to go without cooking for some households, at least ours. During this time, we have eaten some delicious meals at Carol’s house, and for that we thank her. We have eaten at some little neighborhood restaurants across the street. But we have also depended upon our supply of plug-in appliances, along with a slow cooker that we borrowed from Carol. Waffles with the waffle iron, panini from the George Forman grill, and rice from the rice cooker have all been on the menu. The main thing I have done, though, is to use the slow cooker. It works beautifully and confirms all of the enthusiasm for its utility for busy people. You toss some things in the pot, turn it on, leave it unattended for a few hours, and return to a delicious dish just waiting to be served. The only problem, in my hands at least, is that everything comes out looking and tasting like stew. I know that there are myriad cookbooks filled with interesting recipes. I know that there are even some enthusiasts who claim you can bake a cake! I have not succumbed.
The one appliance I haven’t used since the demise of household fire is our Sunbeam rotisserie. I have written about it in the past; it really does do a good job of roasting things as if they were on a spit. It’s my turn for Sunday family dinner, so I thought it would be a good time to get out the rotisserie. It also seemed like the opportune time to try out Sarah and Evan’s recipe for roasted chicken that appeared in this month’s issue of Food and Wine. (Check out “Winner, Winner” on page 46 of the October, 2017 issue.) Since Douglas fir trees don’t grow at this altitude in Southern California, I substituted rosemary. Also, since the original recipe was for oven roasting, I have made a few changes to accommodate the absence of the stove and the demands of the rotisserie. Otherwise, everything is the same. The chicken is brined over night in a bath of buttermilk, salt, sugar, garlic and rosemary with the secret ingredient of porcini mushroom powder. The mushroom powder adds distinct umami to the mixture. The final touch of roasted garlic oil is also an important taste profile. Without a stove, I had to use the microwave to heat the garlic slices in olive oil. Surprisingly, the garlic browned, although I am sure it could easily burn and become bitter. In any event, the process worked well, and the family had a pleasant Sunday dinner.
I will be glad when we get our stove back.
Buttermilk-Brined Roast Chicken
- Kosher salt
- 11 garlic cloves, 9 smashed and 2 thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons rosemary leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 1 chicken, 3 to 5 pounds
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Combine ¼ cup Kosher salt, smashed garlic, sugar, rosemary and bay leaves in a large microwave-proof bowl. Stir in 2 cups of water. Heat in the microwave on high for 6 minutes. Remove from the microwave, stir to dissolve any undissolved sugar and salt. Add 2 cups of water and cool.
- Transfer the mixture to a large container big enough to hold the brine and the chicken. (I used an 8 quart plastic bread-proofing container.)
- Grind the porcini mushrooms to a powder using an electric spice grinder.
- Whisk the ground mushrooms and buttermilk into the salt and sugar mixture. Place the chicken in the mixture, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Be sure to remove any giblets that have been packaged inside the chicken.
- When you are ready to roast the chicken, remove it from the buttermilk brine, drain it well, and pat it dry with paper towels. With kitchen string, truss the bird: tie the legs together; tuck the wings behind the back and tie them firmly. You should wind up with a compact package that will fit easily on the rotisserie spit. Season all over with salt.
- Arrange the chicken on the spit so that it is firmly seated and will not come in contact with the heating element. Cover the rotisserie with the protective lid and turn on the spit.
- After 15 minutes, stop the rotisserie, brush the chicken all over with the softened butter. Restart the rotisserie, and roast for an additional 50 minutes or until the temperature of the thickest part of the breast reaches 165°F as measured with an instant-read probe thermometer.
- Transfer the roasted chicken to a cutting board. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the sliced garlic and olive oil in a small microwave-proof cup or bowl. Heat the bowl in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. The garlic should brown. Check to make sure it does not burn. Remove from the microwave.
- Remove the trussing from the bird. Cut into serving pieces. Brush lightly with the garlic oil. Serve immediately, passing the remaining oil at the table.
I’ve been watching more of my DVDs from The Great Courses and the Culinary Institute of America. I have particularly enjoyed “The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts.” The presenter is Chef Stephen L. Durfee who is an instructor at the Greystone campus of the CIA. He certainly has earned his chops – he is a James Beard Foundation winner and has been the pastry chef at The French Laundry, among many other accomplishments and awards. His lessons have been very instructive, and his style has been friendly and conversational.
The lessons have come in handy. Susan has had a minor procedure needing a soft diet for a few days. That seemed like a perfect time for me to try out Chef Durfee’s recipe for panna cotta. What could be easier than panna cotta? On top of that it’s very tasty. Another nice thing about the recipe is that it invites variations. Buttermilk gives an interesting flavor, but the usual fruit toppings were out. What could be easier than chocolate ganache?
Blooming gelatin wrinkles the surface
Bittersweet baking chocolate to be chopped
Panna cotta ladled into the serving dishes and ready to be chilled
Orange liqueur (my favorite, Patrön Citrónge)
Buttermilk panna cotta with chocolate ganache topping
Buttermilk Panna Cotta
- 2¼ cups buttermilk
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place 1 cup of the buttermilk in a wide-rimmed bowl, reserving the rest
- Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface of the buttermilk and let rest for 5 minutes to bloom the gelatin. The surface should wrinkle up as the gelatin blooms. You can ensure an even process by exposing more of the buttermilk by breaking the surface with a whisk.
- In a medium sauce pan, dissolve the sugar in the cream and bring to the boil.
- Pour the boiling cream into the bloomed gelatin mixture and stir to completely dissolve the gelatin.
- Add the vanilla extract and reserved buttermilk to cool the mixture.
- Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve. This step is very important to remove any clumps of undissolved gelatin and buttermilk..
- Pour the strained, cooled mixture into 6 serving dishes or ramekins. The mixture should be cooled before pouring it into the dishes or ramekins. Otherwise it might separate into layers.
- Refrigerate several hours or over night until the panna cotta is set.
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 5 ounces heavy cream
- 1 ounce corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional)
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces about the size of an M&M candy to make sure it will melt with the added hot cream before the cream cools off. . Transfer to a medium bowl.
- Combine the cream and corn syrup, stirring to make sure the syrup is completely dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil in a small saucepan..
- Pour the hot cream and corn syrup mixture into the chopped chocolate. Let sit undisturbed for a moment or two to let the chocolate begin to melt.
- With a spatula, stir the chocolate from the center outward until the cream has been completely and evenly incorporated.
- If desired, add the orange liqueur and stir until completely incorporated.
- Cool for 10 minutes or so until just warm to the touch.
- Ladle one or two tablespoons onto each of the tops of the chilled panna cottas. Return to the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour. This will form a firm chocolate layer. If you want something softer, use more cream when you make the ganache.
Probably everyone who reads this has a favorite zucchini bread recipe. And probably everyone who reads this has worn out that recipe in the last few weeks. “Abundance” is not the right word for our current supply of zucchini. They are in the fridge. They are packed away in the freezer. They are on the kitchen counter. And they just keep coming even though we don’t have a single plant in our garden.
Summer squashes make a light side dish for a summer supper on a hot day. But they shine in sweet breads and cakes. Like carrots, they make a moist tender cake or bread. You don’t need to peel them, just grate them in the big holes of a box grater, and pack them lightly in a two-cup measure without squeezing out any moisture. Here is a good all-purpose zucchini bread recipe that I found in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1984, p. 553) I have substituted buttermilk for milk.
Grated raw zucchini
Coarsely chopped walnuts
Ready for the oven
Just out of the oven
Cooling on the baking rack
Ready to eat
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup vegetable shortening, melted
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups grated raw zucchini
- 2 cups walnuts, very coarsely chopped
- In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs lightly and then add the buttermilk, shortening, and sugar. Beat until well combined.
- Then, by thirds, beat in the flour mixture until completely combined.
- Beat in the zucchini and walnuts.
- Divide equally between two 8½ x 4½ inch bread pans that have been greased and floured. Bake in the middle of an oven that has been pre-heated to 350° F. Bake for 50 minutes or until a broom straw or skewer inserted straight down in the middle of the loaf comes out clean
- Remove from the oven and cool on a baking rack for 5 minutes before turning the loaves out to cool completely.
Fresh corn on the cob is in season, and we always try to take advantage of the harvest before it’s over. Our favorite way to prepare fresh corn is to boil it for a few minutes, slather it with butter, season it with salt and pepper, and eat it directly off the cob. In our family, there are those who use the circular approach, eating the kernels in orderly fashion as they turn the ear of corn in their hands, and there are those who use “the typewriter” approach, working systematically from one end of the ear to the other before starting over. Either way seems to work.
Very atypically, we had some boiled ears left over after a recent meal, but I didn’t want them to go to waste. My first thought was to make corn soup or chowder. That can be delicious as we found out when Sarah and Evan served it at one of their demonstrations in Shreveport. Then I remembered, I had some leftover bacon (Is there such a thing as leftover bacon?) and that made me think of waffles.
First, I cut the corn kernels off the cob using my special corn cutter. It really doesn’t work all that well, but it is one of those gadgets I am reluctant to throw away. I think a sharp chef’s knife works as well or better. I roasted the corn by popping it in a medium oven for twenty minutes until some of the kernels were lightly caramelized. Then I added the roasted kernels to the cornmeal-based waffle batter and went from there. Here’s the recipe.
Corn kernel cutting tool
Roasted corn and bacon waffles with butter and maple syrup
Roasted Corn and Bacon Waffles
- 2 ears boiled corn
- 2 eggs
- 1¾ cups buttermilk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- ¼ cup melted bacon fat
- 8 slices of bacon, cut into 1 inch squares
- Cut the kernels of corn off the cobs with a sharp knife or with a special tool. Place the cut kernels in a rimmed baking sheet and place in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 350° F. Turning every five minutes, roast the corn kernels until they are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Then stir in the buttermilk.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cornmeal, whisking together with a spoon or fork
- Combine the dry ingredients with the liquid ingredients until smooth
- Stir in the roasted corn kernels.
- Add the bacon fat, and stir until incorporated.
- Ladle the batter into a heated waffle griddle, making sure the corn is well mixed in. Then sprinkle 4 to 6 bacon pieces on each waffle segment.
- When the waffles are brown, repeat until the batter is used up.
- Serve the waffles while still warm with a poached or fried egg on top or with butter and maple syrup.
- Makes 8 to 10 4½ inch square waffles.
In a previous post, September 10, 2013, I wrote about Sarah’s panna cotta recipe and added some images of her making it and a berry topping down in the basement prep area of Rich Table. That version uses fresh buttermilk from the restaurant that is a byproduct of their house-churned cultured butter.
This is a slightly different version of the panna cotta using commercial buttermilk and ginger as the principal flavoring. I used it as the centerpiece of the dessert for our recent pot luck birthday party: ginger-scented panna cotta with cajeta and sea-salt-sprinkled chocolate sables.
It is very easy to make. The only special step is to strain the panna cotta into the ramekins to remove any bits of ginger root and undissolved gelatin.
Ginger-Scented Buttermilk Panna Cotta
- 1¼ cups heavy cream
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 6-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 packet unflavored gelatin
- ¼ cup water
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the ginger root pieces and simmer for 15 minutes
- Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the water in a small bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
- Stir the softened gelatin into the simmering cream mixture and stir vigorously until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
- Add the buttermilk and simmer gently for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Remove from the heat, cool for a minute or two, and then strain into six 6-ounce ramekins
- Cool to room temperature and then cover each ramekin with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
A good-sized piece of ginger root
Pieces of ginger root simmering in the cream and sugar mixture
The finished dessert: ginger-scented panna cotta topped with cajeta and served with a sea-salt-sprinkled chocolate sablé
Even though Sarah is trained as a savory cook, by default she has also been doing baked goods and desserts at Rich Table. She doesn’t think of herself as a pastry chef, but her success proves otherwise. Desserts have been among some of the most popular items at Rich Table since it opened over a year ago. There is always pressure to keep some of the old favorites on the menu, but there is also pressure to introduce new items on a fairly constant basis.
Two recent additions are:
Blue corn cake with honey-griddled plums, and vanilla ice cream. This dessert is a riff on Sarah’s favorite cornbread recipe, but made with blue corn meal. I suspect that comes from her interest in New Mexico traditions. She also has a good source for blue cornmeal from Tierra Vegetables in the farmers market at the San Francisco Ferry Building.
Blue corn cake with honey-grilled plums and vanilla ice cream
Bittersweet chocolate ganache with almond butter crunch and passion fruit meringue.
Bittersweet chocolate ganache with almond butter crunch and passion fruit meringue
Panna cotta is one of the old favorites, but Sarah has come up with lots of variations that have kept it popular and fresh. Some of those variations include buttermilk, coconut, and more recently cream cheese. Panna cotta is a cousin of flan, crema catalana, and crème brûlée. Those custards are made with eggs which are cooked gently to provide thickening. Panna cotta has gelatin added for the thickening agent. In commercial kitchens, leaf or sheet gelatin is the form most commonly used, but that form is not often available in grocery stores and is a little trickier to use. That’s ok, because a perfectly good panna cotta can be made with the granulated form, although you may need to experiment and cut back on the amount of the gelatin if the finished panna cotta too firm for your taste.
Sarah’s current cream cheese panna cotta is delicious, but if you want to try it at home you will need to tinker with the amount of gelatin you use. The firm texture of the cream cheese sets up too hard with the usual amounts of gelatin.
I think her buttermilk panna cotta is every bit as good. Sarah makes it with fresh cultured buttermilk that the restaurant gets when it house-churns its own butter. That’s not practical at home, but fresh commercial buttermilk will work. That’s my version below.
Straining berry mixture for the sauce base
Containers of berry sauce lines up to go into the cold room
Blackberries and raspberries
Sauce with mixed berries
Chunks of cream cheese before blending
Blending panna cotta mixture
Mixing cream cheese with immersion blender
Sheet gelatin set to soak
Gelatin bloomed and ready to be added to the panna cotta mixture
Heated cream ready to receive the gelatin
Individual panna cottas ready to be chilled
¼ cup water
- 1 packet unflavored gelatin
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (optional)
- Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let stand for 5 minutes or until the gelatin softens. Do not let it stand too long or it will turn into a solid blob that is hard to dissolve.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, buttermilk, and sugar. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Using a whisk or immersion blender, stir in the softened gelatin. Stir for at least a minute. Make sure that the gelatin is completely dissolved. Otherwise it will sink to the bottom and form a separate gelled layer.
- Stir in the orange blossom water and optional Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur.
- Pour into 6 6-ounce cups. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.
- Serve with fresh berries or your choice of toppings.
During our recent visits from children, one of the big food hits was making Danish ebelskivers (ebleskivers, æbelskivers, æbleskivers – lots of alternative spellings) with the grandchildren. I took down the heavy cast iron pan hanging on a nail in the garage, cleaned it up, and got it ready for the process. After many years, the pan was in great shape for a ritual that our kids remembered with fondness from their own childhood. Honestly, the procedure is more fun than the finished product, but the little, round pastries are delicious, with a little hollow just begging to be filled with jam or jelly.
Our cast iron ebelskiver pan is at least 40 years old, but new ones are available in cooking shops or online. There are also more “modern” versions made of cast aluminum and lined with no-stick coating. I have never used the modern pan, although it has its adherents. Of course, there are lots of complaints about the traditional version – too heavy, rust, not suitable for use with modern smooth-surfaced kitchen ranges, limited to a single use, special turning tools are too expensive, etc., etc.,
To the critics I offer the following comments:
- Cast iron cooking tools are, by design, heavy. That’s the whole point – to hold the heat and make it consistent so that cooking or baking is even for whatever is inside .
- Any cast iron implement will rust if you don’t take proper care of it. Heating it to dry over an open flame after you wash it (If you need to) and sealing the surface with a thin coating of cooking oil before you put it away will prevent rust. I have 5 cast iron skillets along with a three-legged spider, the combo pan for my Tartine bread and several cornstick pans. None of them is rusted because of that approach.
- Can’t help with the cooking surface. If you choose infra-red or inductive cooking surfaces for their looks, you just have to deal with your cooking options.
- It is true that ebelskiver pans have fairly limited use, but creativity increases their versatility. One of the Iron Chefs on a recent International Iron Chef Showdown used an ebelskiver pan for cooking diver scallops to perfection. You could probably use the pan for a variation of cornsticks or even cupcakes. Besides, if you are a kitchen gadgeteer you probably have lots of other single-use tools that languish in a drawer or a shelf in the garage. (How about deep fryers, truffle slicers, or panini presses?)
- You don’t need an expensive turning tool. A disposable wooden skewer or metal skewer will work. The only concern there is that especially the metal skewer could scratch and ruin any non-stick coating.
If you can get past all of these concerns, you can actually have fun with kids making this special breakfast treat. You can also test your creative streak for party appetizers – ball-shaped blini with a dollop of red caviar, grown-up-suitable fillings, batters made with different flours like spelt, whole wheat, or cornmeal. Just lighten up a bit and have a good time.
The only other instructions that are important before you start are to heat the pan until it is evenly hot and the right temperature. Medium heat will probably work. Too hot and the ebelskivers will burn on the outside before they are done; too cool and the ebelskivers will never get the golden brown color you are looking for. Before each batch, use a paper towel soaked with vegetable oil to wipe each cup before refilling.
Cast iron ebelskiver pan
Egg whites whipped to stiff peaks
Batter baking before the first turn
Filled with raspberry jam
- 3 eggs, separated
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Set aside.
- Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until they form a ribbon. Then stir in the buttermilk to form a smooth batter.
- Stir together the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Then stir into the batter and mix thoroughly.
- Fold the stiff egg whites into the batter by thirds. Do this gently so that you have a light batter.
- In the meantime, heat the ebelskiver pan over a medium flame. Oil each cup generously with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.
- Spoon into each cup enough batter to fill about 2/3 full (A large tablespoonful is usually about right.)
- After about 20 or 30 seconds turn each ebelskiver a half turn using a wooden or metal skewer. Uncooked batter should run down into the cup. Repeat the process by half turns until you form a baked balls that are golden brown, plump, and hollow with just a tiny opening on one side.
- Adjust the heat so that the ebelskivers are finished baking in about 1 minute, neither too dark nor too light.
- Remove to a serving plate and serve along with your choices of powdered sugar, honey, maple syrup, butter, jelly, jam, or whatever comes to mind.
- Repeat the process until all the batter is used up. The recipe should make at least 5 to 6 batches.