Easy Pancake Hacks – Nd Breakfast Edition

Jonathan Chodosh
Simpler than a waffle, with no special tools needed, this quick cooking, cost saving, kitchen hack includes a family friendly breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Too busy blender pancake batter!

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Roasted

Jonathan Chodosh

Traditional Japanese cuisine, known as kaiski cuisine, is known for its many courses and specific simple cooking methods. One of the many dishes to be served in a Japanese tea ceremony the yakimono plate. The yakimono dish describes how it is prepared rather than what is in it.  An expectation is that this dish is grilled but grilled doesn’t encompass all the possibilities. It can be prepared on charcoal, broiler, frying pan or even roasted in an earthenware vessel. It is a nice way of understanding that all these ways of cooking your dish cook transfer heat into the food in similar ways despite them looking very different. What does roasting really mean? How can we use it most effectively in our everyday lives?

Roasting is done by cooking food with dry heat, often very intense dry heat. Examples of roasting are grilling, pan roasting, broiling and often baking. Each of these ways transfer heat into a food without any additional water as a conduit. The heat moves into the food, often from one side requiring food to be rotated, until the center barely reaches the goal doneness. Here is a model of how heat moves and transfers. Hold on folks, I’m about to get really nerdy.

This is a form of Fourier’s law. It describes heat conduction. It will help us conceptualize how to leverage the tools we have.

q = − k ∇ T 

where (including the SI units)

q is the local heat flux density (heat flow rate), W·m−2 

k is the material's conductivity (this is constant for any solid single food item), W·m−1·K−1,

∇ T is the temperature gradient, K·m−1.

In other words, the type of food you are cooking and it’s starting temperature will determine the cooking time and temperature to achieve desired doneness. The only thing we can vary in this is the ∇ (change in) T (temperature). The larger the temperature differential is between the food and the heat the faster heat can move into the food. But there is a catch; the further the colder the food is the further (heat wise) we have to travel to become edible. In higher heat will transfer heat into the food faster but our food is not paper thin this transfer occurs within the food itself until the whole item reaches the same temperature. However, this is tricky science. If we make that temperature differential too large, you’ll end up with an inedible, burnt mess. And trust me, even I’ve done it.

Tip: start with room temperature foods when roasting. Imagine your two chicken pieces, one is room temperature 70F the other out of the refrigerator is 35 F. You will bake them both in the same oven. The exterior of the chicken will cook at nearly the same rate however the refrigerator chicken will take significantly longer for the middle to reach the safe 165F the room temperature one. If we imagine the chicken like a tree trunk with rings. The outer rings have been very hot for a very long time. That makes the cold chicken dry and the room temperature chicken juicy. If you can leave your protein on the counter for about an hour before cooking and no more than two. You will notice a difference.

It is difficult to illustrate this abstractly. The recipe below will give opportunity to expound on what exactly is happening.

Pan Roasted Fillet of Salmon

1 or 2 portions of salmon, 3-5 oz each
Salt and pepper to taste
light olive oil or neutral oil for lubricating pan
Lemon, wedge as condiment

Recommended: heavy non stick pan or cast iron and spatula (fish spatulas are great for fish)

In a cold pan drizzle in a very small amount of oil.

Salmon is an oily fish and will release some of its fats while cooking so don't add too much

Season the fillets with salt and pepper and place in cold pan skin side down.

Dropping a fillet into a hot pan makes the skin contract and separate from the rest of the fillet. Use a cold pan to start.

Place your pan on medium high heat. Once sizzling reduce to medium. Cook 3-4 minutes. Turn once and cook an additional 4 minutes. Serve immediately garnish with lemon wedge.

The first place finisher has the center of the fish just barely cooked. Overshoot and  the fish will start to overcook and dry out. Undercook and it isn’t quite edible.

Picture your cold fish being heated from only one side. The top half is completely raw and the bottom surface risks burning. You want to turn it about half way through the cooking process so that as the center of the meat approaches edible temperature we turn it over for the raw side to cook. We use medium heat so that the surfaces don't burn and please only turn it once. The more we play with the fish, the more it will fall apart. Fish is a fragile thing and we aren’t trying to make salmon salad in this article.

Some things demand a bit more char:

Grilled london broil with wet onion marinade
1 london broil about 1.5-2.5 lb

Marinade 

1 medium raw onion, rough dice
½ rib celery
Dijon mustard
1 tbs Salt
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs vinegar
3 tbs oil

London broil is one of my favorite cuts when done well. Sometimes it is too tough to enjoy. Poke the meat at the store. If it feels soft and tender that is one you should consider. If it feels hard perhaps you should move on to the next one. Not sure? Feel a ribeye steak for a great point of reference.

To make the marinade, puree everything together. I like the immersion blender. Marinade meat minimum 1 hour and up to how ever many days are left on your meats shelf life. Not sure? Most supermarkets give cut beef a four day shelf life. The label should have a packed on date. Check it to determine how long it is safe to marinade your meat.

Set up and preheat your gas grill on high heat. Shake off excess marinade from the beef and sear high heat for 3 minutes. Turn and reduce the heat to medium and cook an additional 5-6 minutes with the grill closed. Add  2 minutes to each step for a well done london broil.

Charcoal is a bit harder to use. Set your coals up in zones of high heat (lots of coals) and indirect heat(no lit coals at all). Sear for 1.5 minutes each side on the high heat and move to the indirect side with the lid on for an additional 6-12 minutes depending on how done you prefer your meat.

In both cases rest 5 minutes, slice and enjoy or save whole to slice and enjoy later.

The fish and london broil sound rather similar. That is because they are. The method is doing both of these is identical though the tools may look different. The grill is a bit more aggressive and results are surprisingly alike. Goal is a barely cooked center with char or browning on the exterior.

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This Roux for you

Jonathan Chodosh

Roux, pronounced “rou” is one of the most useful techniques that culinary school has to offer. Learning how to master it will unlock the secret to pasta sauces, stews and soups. A roux is a way to introduce starch into a liquid in order to thicken it. This is the same concept as using cornstarch in pudding. The starch gelatinizes in the water portion of the milk, thickening it. In instant pudding the starch is pregelatinized (aka modified) and then dried for your convenience. 

Roux is a way to pre-cook the starch so that it won’t clump in a sauce. This is the method to make a classic Bechamel or white sauce, brown gravy and gumbo. The method is to ‘cook’ the flour in a fat, traditionally clarified butter, then add a watery liquid such as milk, stock or wine, and bring to a simmer. The result is a silky smooth thickened sauce. There are a few reasons for going through the trouble of cooking the flour.

First and foremost, if you would add flour to lots of milk it would clump into little bubbles of raw flour. Distributing the flour in the butter prevents the eyes from forming.

Another way of doing this is called a beurre manie — raw flour in cold butter (or other fat) mixed into a paste. This can be added warm sauces to thicken them but it takes about an hour to fully cook the flour. It is commonly used for stews to thicken once it is cooking in a pot. It is easier to control the amount of thicking with this method and is one less step to take while assembling the stew. Now back to the roux.

The second reason for making a roux is that it cooks the flour. By precooking the starch before adding the watery milk or broth the raw starch flavor and texture are never present in the sauce. It makes putting the sauce together a quick process rather than one intended for a long haul.

Third reason for a roux is that you can add big flavor to your dish. Cooking the roux for a long time on low heat results in a deep toasted flavor that permeates your dish. In Louisiana style cooking a brick red roux is used for most applications. It can take 45 minutes to prepare properly. Its flavor is unique and permeates the food it is used in. Don’t be intimidated! It is two ingredients in a pot on the back burner for a while. Just dont forget it or you will get a black burnt roux which is not tasty. The darker the roux, the less thickening power of the roux but the more toasty flavor.

The first application of the roux we will introduce is a bechamel sauce. Bechamel is one of the five mother sauces in classic french cooking. This can then be transformed into countless other sauces. Some examples are Cheddar cheese sauce for Macaroni and cheese, Alfredo (cream) and so much more.

Roux

¼ cup oil or butter
¼ cup white flour

Melt butter in a saucepan until all the water sizzles out. Add the flour and mix with a whisk or wooden spoon. Cook on medium heat stirring constantly for 2-4 minutes. Then you are done. You have a white roux.

Bechamel

1 batch white roux
2 tsp salt
2-3 cups milk

Add salt and milk to the hot roux pot, whisk/stir as it comes to a boil. Using hot milk makes this process take little to no time.

Cheese Sauce

1 batch Bechamel
1 cup milk
2+ shredded cheddar cheese

Add milk to the bechamel and bring to a simmer. This is to thin out the sauce since the cheese will rethicken it. Turn heat to low and add the cheese slowly stirring constantly. Start by adding a half cup of cheese at a time. Finish the last half cup in small pinches. DO NOT BRING THIS TO A BOIL. Boiling a cheese sauce can form clumps in the sauce making it feel gritty. Too thick? Add milk a quarter cup at a time. Too thin? Don’t worry the pasta you will put this on will absorb liquid tightening the sauce. Topp your favorite macaroni product for homemade Mac and Cheese. 

Note! If you are preparing in advance under cook the pasta and prepare your sauce to be extra thin. The noodles will absorb water out of the sauce when reheated. This can even be frozen!

Mushroom Cream sauce

1 batch roux
1 shallot minced
2 cups milk
2 tsp salt
1 cup Shiitake mushrooms
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup parmesan cheese

Before adding the milk to make the bechame, sautee the minced shallots in the roux for 2-4 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients except the cheese. Bring to a simmer to thicken the sauce and cook the mushrooms. Reduce heat to low/off and add the parmesan cheese. Enjoy on your favorite pasta

All of us have had the juice from the bottom of your roasted chicken. Here is something awesome to do with it.

Gravy for a roast chicken

Roux
¼ cup oil (light olive oil, canola etc)
¼ cup flour

Gravy

½ cup Chicken drippings (if you have more reduce the amount of stock)
1-2 cup chicken stock (from your homemade soup)
2 tsp salt
The same spices and herbs similar to how you made your chicken.
2 TBS Margarine (optional)

Prepare the roux just like you would for the bechamel except keep cooking the roux on medium low heat for an additional 5-10 minutes. This will toast the flour further creating brown flavors and decreasing the thickening power. Add the spices and herbs to the roux for the last minute of cooking to extract their flavor. Finish by adding the drippings, stock and bring to a simmer. The final step is called mounting with butter or margarine in this case. Add the vegetable butter to your hot sauce and whisk to incorporate. This final step makes the sauce have beautiful gloss and is optional. Serve on your poultry or on the side. 

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When Life Gives you Limes

Jonathan Chodosh

Make Margaritas!

Once upon a time, in the glory days of the British navy, malnutrition was commonplace among the sailors. They would spend lengthy voyages at sea eating nothing but dried and salted meats or hard baked breads. Fresh anything was a fantasy to these poor sailors. It is no surprise that they became victims of an old fashioned disease called scurvy. The solution was proposed by a scottish doctor James Lind in 1747 who proved citrus juice is an effective treatment for this unfortunate illness. In the late 18th century the British navy began supplying their sailors with delicious and underrated limes.

The lime, not to be confused with any of its other citrus cousins, has a flavor unique to itself. The most commonly cultivated variety is the persian lime which is really a hybrid cross of a key lime and lemon. Other pure lime types that you may come across are kaffir lime, and australian limes. These are more challenging to find in the USA. Limes can be used in perfumes, drinks, marinades, salads and much more.

More bitter than a lemon, it is used in many cuisines around the world. It is a traditional ingredient across the Asian continent and majority of the Americas. It has been used for everything from medicines to an agent for curing meats.. Come and explore some common and less common uses of this fruit while it is in peak season. We will harness one of the most bitter citrus’ strengths and give our tables its extra punch.

One of the most misunderstood aspects of all citrus fruits are how versatile the separate parts of them can be to add flavor to cooking. Zest is bitter but strongly flavored, and a little bit goes a long way. Make sure you use a zester for any recipe that calls for citrus zest, as a peeler will leave you with too much of the “pith”, the white underside of the zest which is inedible and takes bitter herb to the next level. Citrus juice, on the other hand, is majority water, although it tastes rather sour to our palates. With a little addition of some other ingredients, such as sugar, onion, garlic, and salt, it can be transformed into a flavoring agent that will take all of your dishes to new heights. A great food hack: if you’re making a salad that calls for raw garlic or onion, soaking them in some citrus juice can soften up some of their raw “sharpness.” This works great if you’re using a lemon or lime vinaigrette.

Latin America: Traditional Red Snapper Ceviche

Snappers are caught all over the world and is a traditional choice for this preparation. Don’t like snapper? Replace with tuna or wild salmon. Make sure it is a fish that you would eat rare! This means ceviche is not meant for a fish like tilapia or cod. The fish is cured from the strong acidity in the lime juice. As it marinates the surface of the fish will appear to cook. That means it is perfect for eating and takes at least an hour to get to the perfect texture.

3/4 lb snapper fillets, skin off and medium dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, small dice
½ cup minced cilantro, chopped
1 ½ tsp salt
1 jalapeno seeds and membrane removed, brunoise (really small dice)
1 tbs salad oil
¼ cup or a little more fresh squeezed lime juice
Avocado and Tomato are optional

Mix everything together. Let sit 1-2 hours in the refrigerator covered. When you add the lime juice you start the curing process that can not be stopped. Enjoy with corn or plantain chips. Garnish with lime wedge and your favorite hot sauce.

Southeast Asia - Thailand, Vietnam: Stir fry

In Southeast Asian cooking lime is used to balance dishes. Coconut milk adds a creamy richness and the lime brings intense acidity keeping the dish fresh.

1-1.5 lb chicken breast or 1 lb cooked noodles such as spaghetti
1 shallot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dry ginger, minced
1 tsp crushed red chili
¼ lb sliced mushrooms
1 medium red bell pepper, julienne
1 cup thick slices of savoy or napa cabbage
Oil for sauteing
Water for cooking if needed

Sauce

¾  cup coconut milk
2 tbs fresh lime juice
2 tbs soy sauce (3 for noodles)
1-3 tbs sugar (how sweet do you want it?)
1 tbs corn starch

Pre cut all the vegetables and mix together. Pre cut the chicken and leave separate. Mix together the sauce in a separate vessel. Preheat a heavy bottom saute pan, cast iron ...pan or traditional wok until very very hot! Drizzle in a little oil. It should smoke. Immediately add ⅓ of the vegetables and mix constantly for 1 minute. Add ⅓ of the chicken or pasta and cook for 1 ½ minutes. Agitate the sauce to distribute the cornstarch (it will sink to the bottom) and add about ⅓ of it to the stir fry. Once the sauce comes to a boil cook for 1-2 more minutes stirring constantly. Repeat for the remaining two batches. Serve with torn fresh basil, cut scallions, and lime wedges.

Carribean: Original Daiquiri or Lime Aid

A challenge of making your own specialty drinks is commonly the issue of dissolving the sugar. If you add sugar straight to the mix it will sink to the bottom of the pitcher resulting in an over sweetened final cup and an astringent majority. Make a simple syrup first (I make it in the same pitcher) and dilute it with remaining ingredients. A hot water urn is an underutilized piece of kitchen equipment to make this step even “simpler.”

¾ cup sugar
¾ cup boiling water
1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
4 cups cold water
Ice

(Optional for adults only!)
¾ cup cuban style white rum for an original daiquiri

Mix sugar and boiling water until all the sugar is dissolved. Let sit a few minutes to cool to prevent over melting the ice. Add ice next to prevent splashing and finish with the remaining ingredients. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Lime buttery shortbread cookie

1 cup butter or plant butter
1 cup sugar
Zest of 2 limes
3 tbs lime juice
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cup flour
.5 cup corn starch
1 cup powdered sugar (optional)

Cream butter, sugar, lime zest, and salt. Add half the flour, then lime juice, and vanilla then the remaining flour and cornstarch. Continue to mix for an additional two minutes. Let dough rest for 15-30 minutes. Roll out and bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 12-14 minutes. Once cool toss in powdered sugar, shake off excess and enjoy.

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Salad Toss

Jonathan Chodosh

Right after the new year, it is the perfect time to reflect on the poor food choices we made and buy a gym membership we will use twice. Those that know me know that I am far from a diet expert however I do make an excellent salad. Salads don’t need to be those things we eat to punish ourselves for donuts and hot chocolate. Salads are a nutritious and fun way to eat many foods. Sometimes they don't require any cooking either. We will run through a few concepts in salad assembly that will help take your post latke salad to the next level.

Salads all have three major components. The base(s), garnish(s) and the dressing. Don’t believe me? Think of any good salad that doesn’t have all three. From tuna salad to the Caesar salad, they all contain these three essentials.

The base is probably the most important of the three major components. This is your lettuce in the classic idea of a salad but it could also be a grain, root vegetables like beets, pasta, tuna and much more. This will give volume and substance to your salad. It will also define how substantial and dense your salad is. If you are cooking something for your salad, prepare it with that in mind. Don't cook or undercook your pasta but do wash it, dry the lettuce all the way, prewash your grains so they don't clump together, wash any canned items such as beans to remove the canning liquid. This is going to be the majority of the salad so lets make sure it is good and not mess it up.

The garnish is what we all think of as what makes the salad. It is all the toppings. It is probably the most forgiving place to be creative in, with two exceptions. This is the only place you can add different textures and protein to a salad . That is why croutons are so important to the Caesar salad. Without the croutons it is not amusing to eat. Novel textures come in soft forms too, such as avocado or cooked sweet potato chunks. I also recommend raiding your leftovers for inspiration in this department too. Easy and high quality items to keep around that work as great garnish are slivered/chopped nuts, dried fruit, olives, and pickled vegetables.

The dressing is often the part that is store bought in a squeezy plastic bottle. It is priced lower than ketchup and we treat our instant ramen noodles with more respect (which make great garnish by the way). The dressing is what ties it all together. It isn't complicated to make yourself in largeish batches so you wont keep making it over and over again. You can make and store it in a repurposed disposable water bottle for convenience. Dressings are notoriously full of fat, salt and sugar and to make a scrumptious one they usually are. Here are some strategies to make some dressings for your salads that have a smaller footprint.

The vinaigrette is the classic salad dressing. It is now called ‘ITALIAN DRESSING’. It is a base of vinegar that is flavored that can mix temporarily with oil due to the use of mustard. Mustard is the emulsifier that helps a vinaigrette do its thing. This will the regular fat version but feel free to reduce some of the oil.

Simply epic vinaigrette

1 cup white vinegar

2 tsp dry garlic

2 tsp oregano flake

1 tsp black pepper

1.5 tsp dry mustard 

2 tsp salt (more to taste)

1.5 cup Salad oil

Classic assembly is to mix everything in a bowl except the oil and drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously. There are some other ways to achieve this too. The first and is my preferred method is to do a similar thing but use an immersion blender. This makes everything come together in under 20 seconds instead of a dead arm. An even simpler way is to pour all the ingredients into a bottle, tighten the cap and shake vigorously. Make sure there is room in the bottle for things to move around.

Oil choice is an important thing when it comes to making your salad dressing. This is the perfect place to use your high quality olive oil, flaxseed oil and sensitive nut oils. Something commonly done is to mix robustly flavorful and expensive oil with a less costly one in your dressing.

Variations

Berry Vinaigrette

Add 1 cup berries and ½ cup sugar, remove the garlic and oregano, Blender method is required

Semi-Classic Caesar

Add 1 small can flat anchovies or 2 tbs anchovy paste, 1 egg yolk(mix with vinegar and let sit for 30+min), add extra 1 tsp black pepper and 3 cloves fresh garlic, Blender method is required

Soy sesame dressing

Remove oregano and salt, add ¼ cup soy sauce, 1-2 tbs roasted sesame oil, ½ cup sugar

Light and creamy dairy dressing

My favorite light dressing is based on dairy. A dressing needs to have a slightly thick texture. The traditional way to achieve that is by adding enough oil that the liquid thickens. Use a thick and sour dairy product instead to make a lower fat yet full flavor alternative.

Classic tzatziki dressing

1 1/4 cup full fat yogurt (4-5% fat is much lower than other salad dressings)

1/2 cup shredded cucumber

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced or 2 tsp dry garlic

1 tsp black pepper

2 tsp salt

1 tsp oregano

1 tbs Extra virgin olive oil

Mix it all together and enjoy. This dressing needs to be refrigerated and used quickly because it uses fresh cucumbers.

Variations

Use peppers or celery instead of cucumber

Incorporate the variations from the vinaigrette section into the yogurt base

Add some vinegar for a bigger acid bite to your dressing.

Everyone I know falls into one of two camps. The political climate in our country is being destroyed by factions that demand either sweet or salty slaw. Which camp do you fall in? Here is a lighter recipe to your creamy cabbage salad solution.

Coleslaw

1/4 cup vinegar

1 cup mayonnaise

¼-½ cup dill pickle juice

1 tsp dry garlic

1-2 tsp Salt

pepper to taste

For sweet slaw add 1/2 -¾ cup sugar.

 

Variations

Jalapeno slaw

Blend fresh jalapeno peppers with the seeds and membrane removed for mild jalapeno slaw

Soy sesame slaw 

Remove pickle juice, increase vinegar to ½ cup add ¼ cup soy sauce, 1-2 tbs roasted sesame oil, ½ cup sugar

Citrus slaw

Reduce mayonnaise to ½ cup, remove pickle juice, add ½ cup citrus juice of your choice increase salt to 2.5 tsp

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One Size Fits All Dessert

Jonathan Chodosh

This one is going to be short and (bitter)sweet, just like making these chocolatey recipes should be. Dessert is a course that can either take no time to make (especially if you buy ready-to-eat) or a long time (when you sit decorating your little cartoon character birthday party cookies.) Here is a one size fits all chocolatey cake/brownie/cookie recipe.  One dry mix fits the bill for all three. Change the ‘wet’ part to make them what they need to be.

Let’s explore a bit of what makes these deserts different, in addition to the different flavors contributed from the subtly changing ingredients. Two major differences contributed by altering the ‘wet’ portion of the ingredients is the level of gluten development, and flour hydration. The wet portion contains primarily fat (oil, chocolate), and water (eggs, water, liquid). The other ingredients are for flavor or emulsion. We will explore how these factors affect the one size fits all recipes.

In this cake, the gluten (protein in wheat) is near fully developed but weakened by cocoa powder. Gluten traps the lift given off by the baking soda/powder. A fully developed gluten network gives us a light and airy cake. Weakening it gives us a smaller crumb and bubble (in the cake) size. Fully hydrated flour will make the texture moist, almost wet. It will bake to be a texture like bread or cake.

Cookies are as far from the cake as possible. The only water present in the recipe is contributed by the eggs. Gluten is only developed in gluten producing grains in the presence of water. Oil, despite being a liquid is completely dry and void of any water. This near dry recipe will make the least amount of gluten. The cookies will spread when baked and have a slight well from the little gluten made. For cakey cookies look for recipes that contain more water. Want a chewier cookie? Try replacing your all purpose flour with bread flour.

Brownies are an anomaly. Really they shouldn’t be good, but they are heavenly. Whether you like cakey or fudgey, a good brownie is somewhere between a cake and a chocolate custard. They are super forgiving because it is a dough that you can't overwork. The added melted chocolate makes the difference between an under leavened cake and this brownie.

Many desserts require a dry bowl and a wet bowl. Here is a set of three recipes I have come up with that leverage a single dry mix for three separate creations.

Dry mix (per batch)

1 ⅔ Cup Flour

1 ½ Cup Sugar

½ cup light brown sugar

1.5 tsp Baking powder

.25 tsp Baking Soda

1 Tsp salt

Mix 2 cups dry mix with the following wet ingredients to get your one size fits all cakes, cookies and brownies. Tip put the wet phase on the dry mix to help prevent a face full of dust.

Brownie Cookie Cake
Choc.chip/chunk 1, Melted 2 - Cups
Neutral oil of choice 3/4 1C, 2 TBS 2/3 Cups
Eggs (large) 2 2 2 Cups
Liquid(water/almond milk) - - 0.75 Cups
Boiling water, (add last) 1/4 - 1 Cups
Vanilla extract 2 2 2 Tsp
Baking Soda - - 1 Tsp
Bake Time 25 12 35+ @ 350 F

Brownie directions: Mix all the ‘wet’ ingredients for the brownies so the chocolate is fully incorporated. Incorporate all the dry ingredients. Bake in your prepared brownie pan.

Cookie directions: In a mixer or immersion blender put the eggs and vanilla. With it on slowly add the oil. It will come together quickly. Add to the dry mix and toss in the chocolate chips. Dish out the cookies and bake.

Cake directions: Mix together the dry and wet ingredients except for the boiling water and baking soda. Mix for 2 minutes in a stand mixer or 4 minutes by hand. Add the boiling water with the baking soda dissolved in it. Mix completely. The batter will seem thin. Move cake to a prepared cake pan and bake. Toothpick test will come out clean. 

It isn’t the fanciest dessert but they are always crowd pleasers. Once committed to memory throw it together in a flash or make the dry mix in bulk for an activity with your kids on those rainy Sundays. 

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Miracle of Oil

Jonathan Chodosh

Every year as the cold becomes bitter, Jews across the world will light up the night and loosen their belt buckle. This time, we expand the waistline with another gluttonous endeavor--frying. Some people pan fry, deep fry, oven fry or air fry. Let's look at how and why frying works the way it does and make even the last drop of oil count.

Excuse me while I get scientific. When something is fried, there are an enormous amount of variables to consider. Oil type, heat, cooking time, coating, and lastly, the choice of food. Soaking in water and blanching are special steps used to french fry. Let’s take this one item at a time and unpack each one.  

Why is this oil different from every other oil? Oil is 100% fat. All oils are, and there are no exceptions, sorry. It is sugar free, carb free and most importantly contains NO WATER. This is important! Oil can reach temperatures higher than water. Keep going too far and the oil will burn. When you fry something the exterior of the food is cooked in a dry heat environment. All the water on the surface of the food will boil off and what is left is hopefully a golden brown jewel. If a drop of water gets into your hot oil it will pop and splatter. This misstep is the cause of many a kitchen burn.

The oil of preference for most commercial applications is soybean (also known as vegetable oil) and/or canola oil. These oils have a neutral flavor and wont go rancid too quickly for frying. Peanut oil (allergen) is excellent for frying and tends to give food a crispier texture. Corn oil, palm kernel oil, cotton seed oil, low quality olive oil,  beef fat, duck fat, and clarified butter are traditionally used for frying purposes. Do not use toasted sesame or extra virgin olive oil for frying. They contain tasty impurities that taste great when raw or slightly heated but will burn and give your food an unpleasant flavor.

Having the oil/pan/oven preheated to the proper temperature is very important. Proper heat management is needed to maintain the frying temperature. In the oven it is easy, while on the stove can be a bit trickier. You can test your oil by using a thermometer or use a less precise method of gently dropping in a small bit of what you are frying. Look for the bubbles and sizzle you expect. If you see it start to burn immediately, you are too hot. If it doesn't do anything you are way too cold.

Continuing the proper heat throughout the cook is important too. You want to maintain a constant sizzle and bubbling in your fryer/pan. If you get too hot the food will burn. If it gets too low, the food will be soggy with oil. It is a popular food legend that frying your items too low will lead to more oil being absorbed by the food. This has yet to be verified.

Time is completely variable to what is being cooked. Fried chicken can take up to half an hour where tortilla chips are done in about 10 seconds. A good rule to follow is the larger the pieces are the longer they need to cook using a slightly lower temperature.

A batter coating or breading is used for many fried foods. Most cultures have their coating of choice. Batter up? What do you choose? Below will be a standard three stage breading. 

Special techniques for french fries.

When handling fresh cut potatoes they turn brown quickly. One way to avoid that is to place the cut potatoes in a bowl of water. This will remove the surface starch and prevent the potatoes exposure to oxygen causing the browning. Removing this starch should get you crispier results.

Blanching is a method used to make french fries. They are fried twice. The first time is called the ‘blanche’ and the second time is the ‘fry’. The blanche cooks the fries through but the texture is lacking. They are drained and slightly cooled while the oil is reheated for the next round. The second fry makes them crispy, golden and delicious. Season after they are out of the second fryer.

When my forefathers we in the old country, we ate fried everything. Today we try to limit our exposure to such things. So oven frying and air frying are some of the newest frying innovations. They are both pretty much the same thing. I highly recommend coating the item to be oven or air fried with some oil to replicate the oil on the surface of frying. The air is much less dense than oil and therefore a less effective conductor of heat into the food. We try to compensate for that with by using your oven on convection mode and very high heat.

Latke

5 pounds golden potato, washed

1 pound onion, peeled

6 eggs

1 Tbsp salt

¼ cup flour or cornstarch

Oil for pan frying

Make the batter first! Use the S blade in your food processor to puree everything but the potatoes in the food processor. Add one potato and continue to puree. Yes, you read that right - only one. Move that to your work bowl. Then shred the remaining potatoes and put directly into the batter as fast as possible. Having the batter ready prevents over exposing the shredded potatoes to air and letting them brown.

Heat saute pan (straight sides) with at least ¼ inch oil to frying temperature. Shape your latkes with your hands. Try to make them equal thickness so they will finish cooking at the same time.

Three Stage Breading for Chicken

2# Chicken breast for breading, Thin cut or in nuggets

1.5 Cup flour

3 Eggs

¼ cup water

1 Tbsp Salt

3 Cups bread crumbs

Herbs and spices (to your taste)

Make three breading (stage) dishes. In the first goes the flour. In the second the eggs, water and salt. Third does the bread crumbs. Season the eggs because that is the easiest to disperse the salt into. The flour absorbs the eggs which sticks on the most bread crumbs. Pan/oven or deep fry until the internal temperature reaches 160F.

Hand Cut Fries

Washed, cut and soaked russet potatoes

Salt

Malt vinegar (or condiment of your choice)

Oil for deep frying, peanut recommended

Drain and thoroughly dry potatoes. Preheat oil and as it is heating drop in a single fry. When it starts to ‘dance’ it is ready to fry. This is a lower temperature than most other deep fried foods. When dropping the fries move your hand over the oil and away from your body in one fluid motion. This motion will make any oil splatters occur away from the cook. Remove fries and allow oil to reheat for approximately 2 minutes to re-fry in medium high heat. Gently fry the french fries until they are golden and delicious.

When a cool food is dropped into a deep fryer, oil temperature will drop like water cooking from an ice cube. Increase the heat for a few minutes to help the oil rebound back to the proper temperature.

Frying in a rush? You can also fry the long short way. Cook them until the form sets but potatoes are still raw and finish the whole bunch in the oven.

Hope this article clari-FRIES some of the misconceptions and fears about frying in oil.

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This Bird Floats

Jonathan Chodosh

We’ve all been there. A Thanksgiving meal where we sit down with the anticipation of a juicy piece of turkey and stuffing, only to bite into the turkey and feel...nothing. It’s dry. It has no flavor. It’s overcooked!  It is a tragedy the way these birds end up,requiring a heavy smothering in some thick sauce to make them swallowable. Instead, let me offer a few ideas that will save your holiday from the food horrors that should be left to other's tables.

There are three options to save your birds (and no, I’m not sure if there’s any hope for the Eagles this season) and none of them are mutually exclusive.

1. Brine your bird

2. Cut it up before cooking 

3. Deep Fry. 

Each of these steps does a different thing to help you keep your turkey tasty and moist. Even if your family always has leftover turkey, try these tricks and you may be wishing you got a bigger bird.

Brine

1 1/4 Cup Salt

1 cup sugar (optional)

2 gallon Water (16 cup)

½ cup pickling spice mix finely ground in a coffee grinder (or other spices of your choice)

Brine is a salt water solution. When you submerge a meat in a brine you are exposing the cells to a complicated and convoluted scenario. There is a chemistry phenomenon called osmotic pressure, where the salt concentration inside the meat cells is lower than the brine. Salt will migrate across the cell membranes into the cells. Once salt is in the cells it will then have the same effect on the water in brine causing the cells to plump with salt and water. In this recipe’s case, sugar and flavor too. In short, the brine makes the turkey absorb extra salt, and flavored water. When it comes time to cook the meat it will be plumped with extra seasoning throughout, not just on the surface. The added water will be an insurance policy against overcooking. You will be rewarded with extra juicy turkey every time. 

I pre-cut my turkey for 3 reasons: It is easier to fit in my brine, platters more beautifully and cooks faster. Cooking your poultry faster is the key to juicy meat. When you roast the bird whole some parts cook faster than others. The white meat will be done and the dark meat needs more time. With your bird in parts the whole cooking process will take less than 45 min in a 400F oven, which means no more overcooking! A thermometer will tell you when it is safe to eat (165F). 

A third way to avoid a dry turkey is to deep fry. It will take 30-45 min to fry a whole turkey. The reason this works better is that the heat transfer from oil to food is much faster than the air in the oven to food. Fried turkeys have the added benefit of being submerged in oil adding fat and flavor to the turkey. The goal isn't to be crispy but to have edible skin. A side note: the frying temperature on a turkey is lower than most things in order to keep the outermost part of the turkey from burning before the center most part of it is heated to a safe temperature. This is a dangerous project and not one that should be left to an amateur cook! It is also necessary to account for the level of oil displacement you will have once you submerge your Turkey into BOILING HOT frying oil. Please only try this if you are an experienced fry-er, with the proper equipment.

An alternative to all of this is to cook the turkey Sous Vide (see sous-vide-or-not-sous-vide, 25 September 2019). I think we will need a bigger pot to try that one. 

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The Case of the Convincing Custard

Jonathan Chodosh

 

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I thought that we’d stay away from the Turkey (although, more on that in the next issue) and focus on one of my other favorite things to eat during the Thanksgiving meal -- custard. We eat them often, sometimes without even realizing it. Some are sweet, others salty and they are usually sumptuous and make us want that next bite. 

The first matter of business is to define what is a curd or custard. We will define them as a liquid thickened by eggs. Sometimes other thickeners are added too, but by definition, they must contain egg. People are usually intimidated by the process of making homemade custard, but keep reading and you will be fearlessly bringing on the curd to your extended family potluck. 

The quintessential classic custard would be a creme anglaise (English cream). 

2 cup whole milk (or half and half or parve creamer/milk)

½ + 2 tbs cup sugar

½ cup egg yolk (or whole)

2 tsp real vanilla extract

¼ tsp salt

Method 1. Mix everything together. Heat very gently until just thickened. Today we can double check things with a thermometer. Goal is 180F. Over 160 it is safe to eat. 

Method 2. Mix eggs and sugar. Scald milk in the pot. Drizzle slowly and mix vigorously the hot milk into the egg mixture. As the egg mixture warm you can add the hot milk faster. Once most of the milk is added to the eggs you can reverse the pouring and move the entire batch back into the pot and finish it on the stove on medium low heat. Cook until just thickened. Goal is 180F. Over 160 it is safe to eat. 

The second method uses a technique called tempering eggs (not to be confused with chocolate). In this technique the egg portion is heated gently enough that they don’t curdle (scramble). If we would pour all the milk into the eggs we would get little bits of egg scramble in your vanilla sauce giving a gritty unpleasant texture. 

Now that you made a vanilla sauce now what? Well there are many variations you can do that use the same method.

Freeze Creme Anglaise in your ice cream maker and you will have traditional vanilla ice cream. For Pastry cream, a close relative to vanilla pudding add ⅓ cup corn, potato starch, tapioca or arrowroot starch and cook until it just breaks a boil stirring constantly. Cool immediately in ice bath to prevent lumps of over cooked eggs. For a double chocolate creme anglaise add ¼ cup of cocoa powder and 2 oz dark chocolate. 

We can even use the same ingredients to make a baked sweet custard. Mix it up and bake in ramekins for the custard of creme brulee or steep the hot milk on whole coffee beans before mixing up the custard base for the coffee pot de creme. Garnish with a chocolate covered espresso bean. Or fill a pie with a chocolate pastry cream base for a chocolate tart. Note! The trick to a these baked custard is a water bath. Set the vessel(s) on a pan with a lip in your hot oven. Fill the pan with near boiling water until about halfway up the sides of your custard dishes. Bake at 325F for 40-60 min depending on size. This water is a buffer for the heat to make sure you don't overcook the custards. When you do you will know it because the texture will be unpleasant.

Other common curds you will find

Pumpkin pie

Pecan pie ( sugar in an egg curd)

Stuffing!

Stuffing is traditionally a savory baked custard. We don't need a water bath for it like the others. A little curdled egg will be just fine. Keep some high quality leftover bread in large cubes dried or toasted. Sourdough bread makes a great stuffing. You should use a bread that you enjoy eating. I pre saute my vegetables on high heat for 3-5 min. I want them a little under done so that there is some texture to the stuffing. 

Method: Saute vegetables, mix in bread cubes, put in baking dish (greased will help clean up). Heat stock and herbs, use to temper eggs. Ladle  stock mixture onto the bread and vegetables. You should be able to see some of the liquid in the dish. There is no need to add it all. Let sit 5-10 minutes for bread to soak up stock. Bake 30-60 minutes depending on the dimensions of your dish. Enjoy my personal fall guilty pleasure. 

Ingredients:

¼ cup oil

½ cup diced onions

½ cup diced celery

½ cup diced carrots

½ cup shiitake mushrooms

2 lbs Bread cubed dried or toasted, sourdough works especially well but use a bread you enjoy.

2 qts stock

5 whole eggs

1-2 tsp dry sage 

3 bay leaves (Don’t eat!)

½ tsp thyme

½ tsp oregano

Salt (add salt to the vegetables while sauteing to draw out moisture, add to stock to flavor the whole dish)

Egg size matters! I use large eggs. You might like Jumbo. Keep that in mind while making all recipes and add more or less of that ingredient that you personally vary. 

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To Sous Vide or Not Sous Vide

Jonathan Chodosh

We all fantasize about comfort foods that we associate with warm, fuzzy feelings, the ones that take us back to family dinner tables (when they were still fun and cell phones didn't exist). For me - it's always about the brisket, the perfect brisket. You know, the one that is soft but with the right chew. It should slice perfectly and not crumble and heaven forbid it is dry - but remember, step brother-in-law is on a diet so it can’t be fatty. We must ask ourselves: how can we recreate something that we only remember?

Whether your family likes their brisket sweet or savory, drowning in sauce or dry (but really, who likes it dry?!) the makeup of your brisket will more or less start the same way, with a big piece of meat. Brisket is off the chest of the cow, making it a naturally tough cut. This is why people don’t slice off a chunk of brisket and attempt to eat it – it would be nearly impossible to chew. This being said, even though it is tough, it is super flavorful. A low and slow cook will soften it up by breaking down connective membranes in and around the muscle fiber bundles. However, we’ve all eaten those briskets that cook for too long. The challenge with this cut of meat is to prepare it so that it cooks enough to become tender yet stays moist.

If you go to the grocery store, you’ll find two different types of brisket - first and second cut. They either come attached together (one on top of the other) or separated. First cut is easily identifiable because all the grain runs down a long flat piece of beef. It should have a layer of fat on one side, though many butchers trim theirs off. My advice to keep it moist is to leave some fat on. First cut is always the leaner option of the two, even with some of the fat left on. Second cut brisket doesn’t have much external fat and does not look like the typical strip of beef we generally recognize as a brisket off the shelf. Instead, second cut brisket is awkwardly shaped and unsymmetrical. It is different from first cut brisket in that it has strips of fat that run through the meat, which will cook down as the brisket heats up, keeping it much more tender than first cut brisket. It is way easier to keep second cut brisket moist than first cut, but it is more challenging to slice. This is my general preference for brisket.

Traditionally, brisket recipes are braised. The procedure is as follows. Sear meat, submerge meat until it is covered to about halfway, braise in a pot or oven until tender (1-5 hours), then slice and serve. Along the way, different flavors and seasonings are added. I use this method for my second cut brisket with one variation. After 1 hour of braising the meat is cooked through but very tough. I remove it and slice it then. With the beef still tough I can get thin whole slices that once tender would shred the meat. Put the sliced brisket back in its sauce and keep going another 1.5-3 hours until soft.

As great alternative that is a fast yet slower way of preparing your brisket is Sous Vide. Sous-Vide is French for ‘under vacuum’. The food is sealed under vacuum with seasoning and submerged in a hot water bath. The Sous Vide machine or immersion circulator will heat the water bath to the exact temperature and circulate the water. With this method you can cook the entire piece of meat to an exact temperature and later sear the outside or slowly cook your tough brisket until it is tender but not dry. This is my preferred method for first cut brisket. Cook beware! The long slow cooking process is great for not overcooking your meat but may yield under cooked vegetables when cooked together in the same vacuum bag. To follow is my classic onion brisket recipe using both methods. Braised and sous-vide. Which one will you choose?

Brisket ingredients
4 – 6 lb Brisket
2 large Onions frenched (think orange segments)
2 large Carrots cut in coins
2 ribs Celery chunks
¼ cup oil (sous vide only)
2-3TBS Tomato paste
½ tsp dry Thyme
½ tsp dry Oregano
1 TBS black pepper
1+ TBS salt to taste
2 QTS or 8 cups Water, (2 cups sous-vide)
variations replace some of the water with wine (I like marsala)
Add 1 cup brown sugar sweet brisket
Add 1 lb. sliced mushrooms for a deeper flavored broth.

Braised brisket Directions
1. Turn on oven broiler and ready broiler pan
2. Coat brisket in the seasonings, herbs and tomato paste
3. Broil brisket and vegetables on High for 4-7 minutes on each side until a crust begins to form
4. Move all the ingredients and water to your favorite braising pan or Dutch oven
5. Braise 1 hour in the oven(375F)
6. Remove, let cook 20 min so you can handle it, slice and put back in the braising pan
7. Braise an additional 1.5-3 hours until the pieces are tender.

Sous Vide Brisket Directions
1. Sweat everything except the water and brisket in a Sautee pan for 20-30 min. Medium heat. This is to cook all the vegetables through properly.
2. Coat the brisket in the seasoned vegetables and seal in your vacuum sealer. You may need to split into 2 bags
3. Prepare your immersion circulator sous vide machine 155F, for 22-26 hours.
4. Let cool in the bags completely if you are saving it for another day. Save the liquid it is your sauce!

NOTE: temperature sensitive food needs to be held over 140F or under 40F. Prolonged exposures to temperatures between this encourages bacteria growth and is not recommended by the National Restaurant Association.

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