Thursday, November 22, 2012

Recipe: "Gramercy Tavern’s Gingerbread by Claudia Fleming" posted by Smitten Kitchen.
Rating: Great
Status: Cooked twice.

This makes a gingerbread with a cakey crumb, and a strong spicy kick of ginger and a slight background of the other warm spices.

The first time I made this it was horribly stuck to the bundt pan (which didn't have a non-stick coating), and looked awful when it was unmolded and was missing to large sections even though I buttered and floured it well. The second time I used a silicon coated cupcake pan (I baked them for 28 minutes though that was a little bit too long); there was no sticking (you can use cupcake liners if your pan isn't silicon coated).

The second time I made this I left out all of the white sugar, since we thought it was too sweet the first time; I prefer the version with less sugar--it is definitely still sweet enough.

Use a large whisk to help break up clumps of flour in the batter, but don't try to get rid of all the clumps because you will overmix the batter. Some clumps are okay.

Alfredo Sauce with Mushrooms and Pasta

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Recipe: "Cream and Butter Sauce" (also known as all'Alfredo) is from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan.
Rating: Excellent. Quick, easy and tasty once you know what the consistency of the sauce should be. Chanterelle mushrooms are excellent in a creme sauce.
Status: Cooked once.

Both Marcella Hazan and Saveur claim to have the original recipe, however I'm not sure who is right since they differ in whether cream should be added. As the Saveur article says, it is important to use a warmed bowl or pan to toss the Alfredo sauce in order to melt the Parmesan. That's why Marcella Hazan suggests to put the cream sauce in a pan on low and to toss the pasta in it.

I made 1/2 sauce recipe and added some sautéed mushrooms that I had around and added it to 1/2 pound of pasta shells.

  • The Parmesan (or in this case I used Pecorino Romano) is what thickens the sauce. Adding too much Parmesan makes it clumpy. So you should really use about the amount of Parmesan that the recipe suggests, or even start by adding some, stirring and adding a little more until the sauce is as thick as you like. Consequently, if you also don't think your sauce is thick enough, you can add more Parmesan or gently heat it to thicken the cream.
  • Use a firm pasta that can stand up being tossed. This sauce requires the hot pasta to be tossed with the Parmesan to melt the cheese and to thicken the cream. So a tender pasta, like gnocchi, will fall apart or break into pieces when you try to toss it (I made this mistake the first time I attempted this sauce). Dry pasta is a good choice. If you use fresh pasta, then use one that is strong--don't use an overly delicate one (so no egg fettuccine or angel hair pasta) since it will break apart when you are tossing it.
  • Since this sauce has few ingredients, all of your ingredients should be high quality, and this needs a good dose of salt to bring out its flavors. I added 1 tsp total of salt (I first put 1/2 tsp and then another 1/2 tsp).
  • I tossed some sautéed mushrooms (I think they were golden chanterelle and maybe trumpet royal mushrooms) that I had leftover into the pan when I was melting the butter into the cream. I really liked the mushrooms in this dish, so next time I would add them again, sautéing them in a pan on medium-high with some butter to sear them until their water has evaporated and then melting the butter and cream into the same pan.
  • An idea for next time is to try using truffle salt instead of regular salt if I am also using mushrooms.

Rice Cracker Snacks

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Recipe: Modified from "Rice Cracker Snacks" from "Burma: Rivers of Flavor" by Naomi Duguid
Rating: Great! Makes a good crunchy snack and is a great use of leftover Thai sticky rice.
Status: Made several times.

Shape Thai sticky rice into a flat disk about 2 inches across so that they are firmly stuck together, but don't mash them. Be sure to press your risk disks together firmly; otherwise they will fall apart when you fry them. Spread the rice cakes out on a baking dish or plate; cover loosely with a cloth and let dry for at least 2 to 3 days. The dried rice cakes can be stored for months.

To cook the rice cakes, add enough peanut oil to fill a heavy high-sided pot to 1 1/2 inches. Heat peanut oil to over medium-high heat (about 350 F). To test the temperature, toss in a small piece of the sticky rice; if the oil bubbles around it, then it is ready. Add the rice disks one or two at a time (leave lots of room in the pot since the rice cakes will puff up considerably as they cook). The rice will sink at first and then puff up and rise about 30 seconds later. Turn them over, and cook for a total of a minute or two, until puffed on all sides. Drain using a spider or fish them out using chopsticks, and place either on a drying rack with paper towels underneath or on a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle immediately with some salt. Repeat with the remaining rice crackers. (Shown in the picture above, sprinkled with aonori.)

* You can use leftovers from white Thai sticky rice or purple sticky rice.

Purple Thai Sticky Rice

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Black Thai sticky rice is an unpolished version of a certain subtype of Thai sticky rice; it has a beautiful and striking purple color after it is cooked.  It is often used in Thai desserts (e.g. Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango).

It should be marked as black sticky rice or "sweet rice" grown in Thailand or Laos.  Since it is unmilled ("brown") rice, it takes longer to cook and is less sticky than white (milled) rice.  Thus, a mixture of black and white rice is usually soaked and cooked together so that the final texture will be sticky.  Often the mixture is half regular Thai sticky rice and half Thai black sticky rice, but we prefer 2/3 cup white sticky rice + 1/3 cup black sticky rice or 3/4 cup white sticky rice + 1/4 cup black sticky rice because we prefer the soft sticky texture of the white rice (the purple rice has a slightly crunchy texture).  Adjust this ratio to the amount of rice you want to make; so for instance if you want to make 1 1/2 cups of rice, then you should use 1 cup of white rice and 1/2 cup of purple rice.  The two types of rice are soaked together overnight, and then steamed the way normal Thai sticky rice is, except purple sticky rice needs to be steamed for 45 minutes or more.  The black rice will dye the white rice; the resulting rice mixture will purple in color.

If you have left over cooked Thai sticky rice you can make Rice Cracker Snacks.

After soaking the two rices overnight:
Cooked rice:

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