Friday, October 25, 2013

Sous le Pommiers: Apple Pie with Cinnamon. Cider, and Maple

Everyone has his or her favorite apple. My wife, the red-haired food co-pilot, is partial to Granny Smith for their tartness. The young woman behind the cash register at the farmer’s market said she was “obsessed with Honey Crisp apples.” At another market a customer was waiting for her Jonathan apple fix.
I am more of an applications guy: What am I going to make?
It’s time for our weekly pie night. Autumn brings to mind certain tastes-cinnamon, freshly pressed apple ciders, and maple syrup (although made in the spring). I revisited my apple pie recipe and introduced these flavors; nothing astonishing, but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel all the time.
I used Cortland apples from a local farm market. Feel free to use your favorite apple.
You could leave off the top crust and cover the pie with a crisp-crumble topping. 
But don’t forget the vanilla ice cream.

Apple Pie with Cinnamon, Cider, and Maple
For one 9” pie
You will need pie dough for a double crust pie, or a single crust pie with crumb topping

2 ½ pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into ½” thick slices
2/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup maple syrup (accept no substitutes!)
1/3 cup apple cider
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

1. Place the sliced apples into a bowl.  Add the sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup and cider; mix to
distribute evenly. Set bowl aside for at least 20 minutes.
2. Roll the pie dough to an 1/8th inch thickness and fit it into the pie pan. Refrigerate until needed.
2. Heat oven to 450 degrees. After the apples have sat for 20 minutes, add the cornstarch and mix until the cornstarch is dissolved.
3. If you haven’t rolled out the top crust, roll it out. Spread the apples evenly into the prepared bottom crust; pour the juices over the apples. Wet the edge of the bottom crust with the egg wash. Place the top crust over the apples, pressing to seal it to the edge of the bottom crust; trim away any excess dough. Seal and crimp the edges of the pie (or cover the pie with your favorite crumble mixture). Make a small steam hole in the center of the top crust. Brush the crust with egg wash and sprinkle sugar over the top.  Place the pie onto baking pan and place the pie into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for an hour, until the filling is bubbling (Listen!). You can also test to see if the apples are cooked by sliding a toothpick into the steam hole to see how easily it slides through the apples. Remove from oven and let cool.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lobster Mushrooms

                        "And take a look you may see me on the ground
                                     For I am the parasite of this town.”*

Some parasites can be good. Take an undistinguished wild mushroom and let it play host to a parasitic fungus (Hypomyces lactiflourum, if you must know) and the result is a lobster mushroom, so called because its bright orange color resembles the shell of a cooked lobster.
Lobster mushrooms appear late summer and into the early autumn so I paired them with some corn, which will begin disappearing the deeper we get into autumn. This is a dish about a slow letting go now that summer has passed and autumn is here.
I paired them with gnocchi a la Parisienne, the French version of gnocchi made with pate a choux dough. You can pair it with regular gnocchi from the store or local Italian market or just pasta.
This recipe is a simple sauté, cooking the mushrooms and making a broth in the pan. Add the corn kernels and the cooked gnocchi, toss, taste, and serve.

Lobster Mushrooms and Corn with Gnocchi a la Parisienne
For 4 servings
¼  to ½ pound fresh lobster mushrooms (depending on how flush you are)
4 ears of corn, husked
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
1 to 2 Tablespoons minced chives, for garnish
Olive oil
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ to ½ cup water, or more
salt and ground black pepper
one batch of the gnocchi a la parisienne

1. Clean the mushrooms of any dirt. Trim off the bottom of the mushrooms and discard. Slice the mushrooms into ¼”wide pieces and set aside.
2. Cut the corn kernels off the cob; stand the corn upright in a bowl and slice down the length of the cob. Discard the cobs.
3. Heat a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallot and cook for two to three minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pan; add additional olive oil if the pan appears dry. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper; add the garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant. Add some water to the pan and reduce the heat. Cook the mushrooms for 3 to 4 minutes. A simple broth should be forming in the pan as the mushrooms cook. Add the corn, season with salt and pepper, and add additional water to the pan. Cook until the mushrooms are tender.
4.  Add the butter to the pan of vegetables. Add the cooked gnocchi to the pan and stir to combine. Test for seasonings and adjust. When the gnocchi are warmed through, divide between four bowls.  Garnish with a scattering of the additional minced chives and serve.

Gnocchi a la Parisienne
Unlike Italian gnocchi dough, which is made from potatoes, gnocchi a la parisienne is made from choux dough.
It is  piped from a piping bag, not rolled and cut like traditional gnocchi. Pate a choux is better known as the basis for cream puffs or éclairs. Here the sugar is omitted. The dough can be made ahead of time, kept in a lightly oiled bowl with plastic wrap pressed directly on the top.
All pate a choux recipes are basically the same with equal amounts liquid to flour. It is easier to make in an electric mixer but if you beat the eggs into the dough by hand it will be a fine workout.
Here are a few tips when using a pastry bag. After you fit the tip into the bag, twist the bag at the bottom and push it into the top of the tip. In this way the dough won’t escape before you’re ready.  To make the bag easier to fill, fit into a container with the top ends of the bag draped over the top edge of the container which will hold the bag open as you add the choux dough.
Don’t over fill the pastry bag. Twist to seal the bag and always press from the bottom of the bag.

1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup  all-purpose flour
3 Grade A large eggs
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon minced chive
1. Place the water, salt, and unsalted butter into a medium-sized saucepan. Place the pan over high heat  Remove from heat and let cool. Place the dough mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the eggs one at a time until each egg is mixed into the dough. The dough should be smooth. Add the cheese and chives and mix until combined.
and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the flour and mix until the flour is incorporated. Stir over the heat; a film should form on the bottom and sides of the pan.
2. Fill a medium-sized saucepan halfway with water; lightly salt the water. Bring the water to a simmer. Fit the choux paste into a pastry bag fitted with a 5/8” –wide tube tip (I use a #807 tip).  Rest the tip of the bag onto the edge of the saucepan and use a small knife to cut 1” pieces of the dough as you press out the dough; don’t over crowd the pan. Gently poach the gnocchi until they rise to the top; allow the gnocchi to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and let them drain on a paper towel lined baking pan. The completed gnocchi can be placed onto a lightly oiled tray and frozen. When the gnocchi are frozen, they can be transferred to a sealable plastic bag and stored for future use.
Makes approximately 80+ one inch gnocchi, enough for 4 servings

*Nick Drake, “Parasite”

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ca va faire une maudite poutine!

I had never heard of poutine, the Quebecois dish of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy until our youngest daughter returned from a class trip to Quebec about six years ago. Since then it has become more familiar south of the 49th parallel, invading much in the same way as Tim Horton’s franchises.

Poutine originated in rural Quebec sometime in the late 1950’s with several communities claiming to be its birthplace. One story says that the first person asked to combine cheese curds with French fries replied, ”Ca va faire une maudite poutine.” (“It will make a damn mess.”). Whether or not this is true, it's a great description of what you get.
There are now endless variations using everything from ground beef to chicken, to Bolognese sauce or beef bourguignon, not to leave out Au Pied de Cochon’s artery-ripping foie gras poutine with foie gras gravy (“Hand me my Lipitor!”) or versions made with duck confit (yes, please!) and even lobster (Montreal chef Chuck Hughes bested the perpetually smug Bobby Flay with this dish on Iron Chef). Friends have had a vegetarian version from a food truck while in Rochester for the jazz festival.
In Montreal there are poutine restaurants open 24 hours, so it’s not hard to imagine that poutine could be something of a late-night food after a period of drinking, much like going for a bag of White Castle sliders.

Youngest daughter has wanted me to make poutine at home. Until recently, the only fresh cheese curds I could find were available on line from Wisconsin, but I had to order twenty pounds.
As I said, that was until recently.
I discovered that two of our local farm markets carry ½ pound containers of locally made cheddar cheese curds. While poutine purists might say that the curds should be the Frommage Beaucronne brand and they should be squeaky fresh. I wasn’t too worried about that detail in order to make poutine. If Mr.Sub, the Canadian chain of sandwich shops can make a “Philly cheese steak sub,” then I can make a poutine here.

You don’t have to follow our lead. I am sure many Canadians make poutine with frozen fries that they bake in the oven and use the St. Hubert brand of gravy in a pouch. Gravy in a pouch?
But not here, O, Canada!
The longest part of the recipe is making the fries. You’ll need Idaho or Russet baking potatoes. You can choose to peel them or not. Cut them lengthwise into ½ “ x ½ “ batons (you know, French fry shapes) and soak them in cold water. Before you fry the potatoes, dry them thoroughly with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels (youngest daughter is genius at this). If you don’t have a deep fat fryer, choose a deep pot.  You should also have a frying thermometer. You will need about 1½ “ of vegetable oil; not very deep but it works. You may need to fry the potatoes in batches but that presents no problem.
French Fries need to be fried twice, once to blanch the potatoes and cook them through then a second time at a higher temperature to brown and crisp them. Between both steps you need to drain them on a baking tray lined with paper towels. Salt the completed fries: you can keep them warm in the oven (325 degrees).

The gravy for poutine is based on the classic French veloute sauce, which is a roux mixed with stock. You can use beef or chicken stock; I used some chicken stock I had in the freezer. Season the gravy with ground black pepper and a touch of red wine vinegar.
What do you serve with poutine? Well, to lessen any guilt, we made a huge salad. It may not be traditional but after all, our poutine may not be la vraie poutine but it is une vraie putain.

A recipe like this easily expands to feed more people even though we made it for the three of us
2 to 3 Russet or baking potatoes
8 ounce container of cheese curds

1. Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into ½” thick batons  Store the cut potatoes in a bowl of cold water.
2. Remove the curds from the refrigerator on cut them into bite-sized pieces, if necessary. Set the curds aside until needed
3. Prepare the gravy:

Veloute gravy

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken or beef stock
salt and ground black pepper
½ Tablespoon red wine vinegar

1. Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter. After the butter has melted whisk in the flour. Continue cooking the roux for several minutes until brown; you may wish to lower the temperature beneath the pot during this process. When the roux is a nice medium-brown color, remove the pot from the heat. Carefully whisk the stock into the roux, return the pan to the heat and whisk until the veloute gravy comes to a boil and thickens; it will not be a thick gravy. Remove from the heat, season with salt, ground black pepper, and the vinegar. Set aside.
2. Prepare the fries: A word or two about frying in hot oil. Exercise caution and monitor the temperature of the oil. If the oil ever spikes above 375 degrees, reduce the heat and let the oil cool before proceeding.
Drain the potatoes and pat them dry.  Add about 1 ½"of vegetable oil (canola oil) to a pot. Place a thermometer into the pot and bring the oil to a temperature of 325 degrees. Blanch the potatoes for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the potatoes and drain them on a tray lined with paper towels. Let the oil temperature recover to 325 before frying a new batch of potatoes. After all the fries have been blanched, raise the temperature of the oil to 375 degrees and fry the potatoes until golden brown and crisp. Salt the fries and keep them warm in the oven.
3. Assembling the poutine: Warm the gravy. Divide the fries between plates or bowls. Scatter the cheese curds, about 2 ounces per serving, over the fries and top with some gravy. Serve and enjoy your maudite poutine.

All of this has been made possible by the discovery of Honeybrook cheddar cheese curds, made by September Farm which are  available locally at R&J Farm Market
or Merrymead Farm.

Congratulations to Jeremy Denk and Vijay Iyer, two pianists (one classical, one jazz) recently named MacArthur Fellows.