Tag Archives: recipe

How To Make Chocolate Truffles, Fill A Pastry Bag and Temper Chocolate

Chocolate truffles have a decadent reputation, with good reason. For one, they are chocolate. The other main ingredient is heavy cream. Surprised? Here’s how you make them at home, for birthday presents, dinner parties, or cuz, you know, its Wednesday!

Chocolate Truffles
For the ganache centers:
1 lb good quality bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 T light corn syrup
2 T butter, softened
2 T brandy, cognac, rum, cointreau, or other liquor to your taste

For the enrobing chocolate:
1 lb bittersweet chocolate
~2 cups cocoa powder

For the ganache middles:
Cut the chocolate up into small pieces and put in a bowl. Meanwhile, combine the heavy cream and the corn syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate pieces and let sit, uncovered, until the chocolate is mostly melted, about 3 minutes, then stir to combine and any remaining chocolate lumps should melt away. Add the butter and the liquor and stir until everything is well combined. Pour the ganache onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and allow it to “set up” or harden slightly and lose its shine. Fill a pastry bag and pipe out the truffle centers. Here’s how to do that:

Once you have all of your middles piped out, place the cookie sheet, uncovered, into the refrigerator until the centers are completely firm, at least an hour.

Ganache Centers

The next step is to “enrobe” your centers, or dunk them in melted chocolate. You could just melt chocolate and dunk away, but if you want that characteristic crisp shell around your truffle you have to temper your chocolate. Tempering chocolate means that you have to heat the chocolate up to a temperature high enough to break the chocolate molecules and then cool it down to a temperature where the molecule start to form again in the shape that you want them, in this case truffle-shaped. At least I think that’s how it works. Here is an article from Fine Cooking magazine that explains the food science behind tempering chocolate.

How to temper chocolate:
You’ll need an instant read thermometer

1. Break your 1 pound of bittersweet chocolate up into small pieces and place in a glass bowl.

2. Microwave on High in 30 second increments until the chocolate is mostly melted, stirring at every stop. Then, switch to 10 second increments.

3. When the chocolate is melted, start taking its temperature at 10 second increments until it reaches between 110º and 120º. This is where the chocolate crystals break.

4. Next, you have to cool the chocolate down to between 91º and 87º. There are two ways to do this: stir and take the temperature every 10 seconds until the chocolate cools off on its own, or add “seed” chocolate. This is chocolate that has already been tempered and hardened again, and speeds the cooling process, but I am guessing that if this is your first tempering experience, you don’t have any seed chocolate laying around, so stir.

5. When the chocolate hits 91º it is “in temper” so start dunking! To do this, I drop a ganache center into the chocolate and press it down with a fork to completely coat it. Then, lift it out on the fork, let the excess chocolate drip off and drop into the cocoa powder. Toss GENTLY to coat and then use a slotted spoon to remove the truffle to a parchment-lined cookie sheet to continue to harden, no touching for at least 5 minutes.

6. Repeat until all the ganache centers are enrobed or you get bored – whichever comes first!

Truffle Mess!

This is messy and it takes a while but there are an infinite number of variations – change up the liquor in the ganache, or try rolling the truffles in toasted ground nuts or coconut – or both! So much more fun than going to the store and buying someone else’s creativity, don’t you think?!

Truffles

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Chicken Liver Paté

I’ve come to believe that the appeal of chicken livers lies deep in the psychic memory of one’s childhood. Either you dreaded being forced to eat them and they conjure memories of sitting in the dark at the table until the last bite was choked back, or, if you’re like me, your mouth waters with the scent-memory of onions sizzling in butter.

If your situation is the former, I encourage you to take another dip in the liver pool. (Sorry! I couldn’t resist!) I made this recipe for a lunch party and as promised, ladies, here is the recipe. Its easy and good for days spread on thinly sliced and toasted italian or french bread.

Chicken Liver Paté
4 T unsalted butter
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
6 chicken livers (the ones I bought came in a pint container. I used them all, drained, rinsed and patted dry with paper towel.) 
6 oz dry white wine 
4 oz good chicken stock
1 T tomato paste
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
2 T capers, finely chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
salt & pepper

Italian bread, thinly sliced and toasted

1. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat until just transparent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the chicken livers and sear until lightly browned. Try to keep the livers in a single layer on the bottom of the pan.

3. Add the wine and cook until it reduces to being almost dry in the pan.

4. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, anchovy, capers and thyme. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

5. Use a slotted spoon to move the chicken livers into the bowl of your food processor. Add about a half cup of the juice from the pan and pulse until smooth, adding liquid in small increments as necessary to get to the desired consistency…like peanut butter. (*optional, add a tablespoon or two of cognac or brandy at this point.)

6. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.

7. Refrigerate until cold. Serve with toast.

8. Use fancy Italian name to impress guests: Crostini di Fegatini.

A Turning Point for The Gourmand & the Peasant

Lots of wonderful things have happened as of late and I apologize for the delay in sharing them with you – but soon you’ll be excited too and you’ll forget all about how you’re cross with me for dropping off the planet for a week (or two.)

#1 The Village Voice printed my letter to Sarah DeGregorio, author of Is Foie Gras Torture? in the letters section of today’s edition. You can see my name all shiny under the Voice’s masthead here.

#2 The first incarnation of The Gourmand & the Peasant Gastropub’s menu debuted to exciting reviews from my instructor/conduit to investors as well as my culinary management classmates. It was pretty awesome to print and hold the menu, an object of proof. A harbinger of a key to a space somewhere out there.

#3 I learned yesterday that I am the 2009 – 2010 recipient of the Culinary Trust’s Sustainable Agriculture Conference Grant for Emerging Professionals, which means that I’ll be blogging from Denver April 1-4! More info on the conference can be found here, and the program schedule is here. Its foodie porn. 

#4 My first real life cooking with a chef experience was in James Beard’s kitchen. Well, his former kitchen, as he is dining at the banquet in the sky these days, but his townhouse in Greenwich Village has been made into a gastronomic alter of sorts and hosts world class chefs nightly to create dinners for anyone to come and enjoy. I had the honor and privilege of working with Chef Kerry Heffernan of South Gate and his staff. As soon as they post pictures, I’ll send the link, but for now, you can read about the James Beard Foundation and see upcoming events here.

Finally, I owe you a recipe! Fresh from the pages of the Gourmand & the Peasant’s menu:

Tangy Sorghum Baked Beans

1 pound dry beans

(go wild in the Goya isle, I’ve had success with all the varieties I’ve tried. I personally prefer larger beans like cannelini but little ones work too, just adjust your cooking times accordingly.)

6 slices bacon
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup sorghum
1/4 cup Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar 
1 cup brown sugar
2 T Worchesershire sauce
2 T whole grain mustard
1 T Sriracha hot sauce
1 1/2 T salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dry garlic
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp hot smoked pimentone
1/2 cup onion, diced

On the day before you want to eat the beans (or several days before, but the day before you want to cook the beans) place them in a colander and rinse them under cold water, sifting through carefully to make sure that all that’s in there are beans, not rocks or diamonds. Place the beans in a large pot, bowl, or other container and cover by four inches with fresh water. Allow to sit at room temperature, uncovered, overnight.

The next day, you’ll see your beans have expanded, but they are still raw. Pour off the soaking water, give the beans another quick rinse and set aside. Fill a large pot with plenty of water and and bring to a rolling boil. When the water is rapidly boiling, add the beans, wait until the water returns to a boil, and reduce the heat so that the water is just simmering. Don’t cover the beans. If you do, all those gases that some people find unpleasant will be trapped in the pot and absorbed into the beans, and then you. Leaving the cover off allows the gases to escape pre-digestion.

Boiling time depends greatly on you bean choice, and how low a simmer you use. My rule is to simmer for 30 minutes, and eat a bean. If they aren’t done, and they never are at this point, I set the timer and eat a bean at 15 minute intervals until they are tender to the tooth. If they get mushy or explode, you’ve gone too far. Finish the recipe, but next time, don’t cook so long. This simmer is the only softening process the beans will undergo, so make sure you get them to the texture you like before taking them off the heat.

While the beans are cooking, start your bacon rendering in a sautée pan over VERY low heat. The key to rendering fat is “low and slow” thus the fat has a chance to melt away leaving behind crisp bacon slices, as opposed to making the fat itself crispy. Yuck. Flip the slices over every few minutes to cook evenly.

While that all is going on, combine all the remaining ingredients except the onion in a large mixing bowl.

When the bacon is rendered and crisp, remove it from the pan and drain it on paper towels. Add the diced onion to the bacon fat and turn up the heat. Cook the onion just a minute or two, then dump the contents of the sautée pan into the mixing bowl, yes, bacon fat and all, and chop the drained bacon into small pieces and add that to the bowl as well.

When the beans are cooked to your liking, drain them and add them to the mixing bowl. Give a good stir to fully coat all the beans in sauce, but be gentle and break as few beans as possible. Pour the contents into a 13×9 glass baking dish and bake uncovered at 350° for 1 hour, stirring once halfway through. 

The beans will keep up to a week.

Macaroni & Cheese

Best served with meatloaf. Its also a great way to use up odds and ends of cheeses that aren’t at their freshest anymore but you can’t bear to throw away something you spent $22.99/lb on. Or just plain old cheddar works too.

Macaroni & Cheese
1 lb box of pasta (elbows, twists, twirls, shells, bow ties, tennis racquets, whatever) 
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon butter (clarified, if you have it, otherwise, whole butter is fine)
1 tablespoon flour 
2 cups grated cheese (cheddar, swiss, gruyere, parmesan, fancy cheeses, or a mix)
1 T dijon mustard (optional)
1/4 cup seasoned breadcumbs 

Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil. The water should be as salty as the ocean. On a second burner, heat up the milk in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, in a 6 quart saucepan, make a blonde roux. To do this, get the pot hot, then add the clarified butter. Add the flour and whisk in so that their aren’t any lumps. When the roux just starts to darken and smells like buttered popcorn, add the milk. Whisk together and bring the mixture to a boil, then turn off heat, add the cheese and whisk gently until most of the cheese is melted. Its okay if there are some small lumps remaining. If you are using the mustard, add that too.

Butter a casserole dish and when the pasta is about two-thirds done (gives when you bite it but not quite al dente) drain the pasta and pour it into the casserole. Pour the cheese sauce (classically called Sauce Mornay) over the pasta and sprinkle the top with seasoned breadcrumbs.

Bake at 350° for 45 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the top has crisped.

Restaurants That Close on Mondays are Annoying

I was all excited last night to go out the Sidecar in Brooklyn with The Gourmand and our close friends. I had this hunch that  I’d better just call and make sure that they are open and, sure enough: Closed Mondays.

I suppose that everyone is entitled to a night off, but, well, I don’t have a better solution. I guess that Monday is the most obvious choice.

Instead, we had:

Modified Arroz con Pollo

Ingredients:
1 leftover bone-in roasted chicken breast
1 cup (give or take) left over wild rice from roasted chicken dinner
half an onion, finely chopped
1 lb frozen mixed vegetables
3/4 tsp saffron, bloomed in hot water
hot sauce (I used siracha) to taste
splash of white wine
splash of fruit juice
sea salt 

1 avocado, chopped 
1 lime 

How To:
Remove the chicken from the bone and chop fine. In a bowl, mix the chicken, rice, onion, frozen veg, saffron with the water, hot sauce, wine, juice and a generous seasoning of sea salt. Transfer to an appropriately-sized, over-proof dish. Bake, covered with foil, at 350 about an hour, until hot all the way through. The liquids should have all been absorbed by the rice.

Serve with chopped avocado, extra hot sauce, and a squeeze of lime juice.

Reschedule Sidecar for Wednesday and stay tuned for a review!

Nasturtium Flowers and Meyer Lemons

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, and although I haven’t attended church in years, I still keep the tradition of a big spring flavor-themed meal and yesterday was no different. M & I started on Saturday at the Grand Army Plaza Green Market, just starting to come back to life after the winter dormancy.

We helped ourselves to a bag full of beautiful young shoots – pea, sunflower, arugula – all crisp and fresh and peppery. Next to the greens on the the table was one remaining box of nasturtium flowers, which I had never actually eaten. The flowers were brilliant orange and red and stood out from the cold morning and came home with us.

If you’ve never eaten a nasturtium flower, I hope that you will someday. The petals are light as air and stick to your tongue a little, almost as if they are melting. There’s a certain sensuousness to eating a flower. I felt like a Greek goddess, eating these spicy colors. At the base of each set of petals, there is a tiny drop of nectar that is so sweet, but you have to pay attention or you might miss it hidden in the pepper.

Next we went to Fairway Market in Red Hook and right inside the front door was a huge pile of Meyer Lemons. These lemons are actually (according to Wikipedia) a hybrid of a regular lemon and a tangerine so they are sour-orange and lemon flavored. M & I bought one and hoped that for $1.50 per lemon (!) it would be worth it. We bought leeks, asparagus, a fennel bulb and tarragon for what was intended to be a strata, but ended up a bread-free fritata due to inadequate soaking time. This required cheese, so we bought aged gouda and for a side dish, barley, cilantro, a yellow bell pepper and shelled soy beans.

Following are the recipes, and I hope you’ll feel free to experiment and share you culinary explorations! After all, the joy of cooking is all in the making.

Peace and peas.