Monday, February 14, 2011


I was going to title this post Pancake Porn as a little inside joke but having had some random conversations with a SERIOUSLY amateur psychologist and his take on various strange sexual  fetishes...well, let's just say my better judgment won out. There's no telling where my little blog might have been linked to!!

Jim loves pancakes. I couldn't make pancakes or biscuits for the first ten years of our marriage. Well, I could... but they were like rocks or hockey pucks. Fortunately for Jim, there is Alton Brown. On his show "Good Eats" Mr. Brown shines the light into the mysterious world of fluffy pancakes on an episode in which he wears his bathrobe most of the time. The recipe/short video can be found here.  And as with most things he does, Alton makes this pancake recipe SOUND tedious, when in fact it isn't. It's really pretty easy. The key is to make the "instant pancake mix" ahead and use it instead of say, Bisquick or some other shelf mix.
For four large pancakes I use: 1 c. "pancake mix" 1 egg, separated, 1 c buttermilk, 2 T butter plus a little more butter to grease the griddle.

The egg white is mixed in with the buttermilk. The egg yolk is mixed in with melted butter...something about protein molecules will combine better and fat molecules will combine better if combined separately. While you are melting the butter, why not heat up your real maple syrup... from vermont..not maple flavored PLEASE!  I don't own a microwave so this is my work around solution:

Once you have mixed the egg whites with the buttermilk, and the butter with the egg yolk, combine those liquid ingredients together. Now is the time to butter your griddle or cooking surface and heat it to 350.

Add the liquid to the dry flour mixture and stir just to incorporate. It is important not to overwork the batter. Lumps are ok!

Pour and spread with a spoon or spatula your 4 pancakes. They will puff up so just a little spreading helps them cook more evenly.

Kinda sloppy on the front one! Who Cares? They're pancakes!
Cook until bubbles start to form all over the pancake; you can barely lift one up to see that the underside has browned. If you are adding fruit such as blueberries, sprinkle them on the top of the pancakes before flipping. 

Carefully lift each pancake up and as gently as possible turn it over to the other side. The less "splat" the better.

See how fluffy they are ?

Ummm fluffy light flavorful pancakes. I even like them and I'm not a pancake fan.

Serve with bacon (or not) and warmed maple syrup.

 Try  it sometime! The pancake lover(s) in your home will be very grateful.

See you soon.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Improvisation - Osso Bucco (Bone with a hole)

It's raining....still. We've been in the low 30's with rain / sleet for days now. I'm not complaining! I happen to like rainy days, and especially compared with the rest of the country, we are very lucky. But hey, that's one of the great things about living in the South.

Anyway, I've been pestering  asking nicely for some veal shanks or meaty veal bones to make some more veal stock. Once you've lived with it, it's difficult to substitute. Besides, Michael Ruhlman, whose books have been my reading list for the past few months, says, " Stock is the first lesson taught in the kitchens of the best cooking schools for a reason. ... Ultimately, well-made stock is the ingredient that definitively separates home cooking from the cooking of a professional". (The Elements of Cooking pg. 3). He goes on to say how fine dining establishments make stock daily, but the home cook hasn't the resources to do that. (No Kidding.) BUT, since it freezes well, there is no good reason a home cook can't have veal stock on hand. Lord knows I do not aspire to be a professional cook but I'd like to be the best home cook I can be (and not just because I thought I was a Leo (arrogant and competitive) most of my life...only to find that I am truly a Cancer).  I don't want my new favorite author Mr. Ruhlman to think less of me in case he ever shows up at my house wanting a meal, so I need veal stock...Pronto!

As is the case with many accomodating people, WSH Jim thinks if 1 is good 5 is probably a lot better. In this case, the last time I asked for veal bones, he brought me ten pounds of lovely bones, but they had no meat on them to speak of. Via The French Laundry recipe I made a lovely veal stock but it uses a huge amount of tomato paste and is ridiculously hard and time consuming. This time I asked for "meaty bones" and here's what he brought:

Isn't that gorgeous? Ten pounds which was what I asked for, of what would you say? Bony Meat? In any case, while veal stock is truly a worthwhile endeavor, I couldn't bring myself to dedicate all ten pounds of this beautiful veal shank to stock. Hence, we are improvising Osso Bucco; and there isn't much better food for a cold rainy day than a slow braised meat.  Usually, Osso Bucco is made from shanks where the bone is 3-4 inches thick. These are cut thinner, but as I said, it's improv!

Start by making a bouquet garni, which is some aromatic herbs wrapped in cheesecloth to flavor the sauce and not incorporate pieces in to it. When it's done just pull the cheesecloth bundle out. This is 1 bay leaf, some rosemary and thyme, 1 clove and few peppercorns.

Next heat some canola oil in a cast iron or heavy skillet until it shimmers. While it's heating, salt and pepper the shanks and dredge them in flour, shaking off the excess.

Put them in the skillet and brown both sides, around 4-5 minutes each.

When that's done remove the shanks to a platter and throw in chopped celery, onion and carrot and cook until translucent, just a few minutes. Then throw in a clove of minced garlic to cook for about 1 minute. longer.

After the veggies have cooked a few minutes, add 2/3 cup of white wine and let it cook down. Remember to remove the skillet from the heat before you do this. In making my most recent pot roast I remembered this rule and chose to ignore it... at my own peril. We almost ended up with Sally Flambe!  Anyway, let the wine cook down and add 2 cups of chicken stock (preferably homemade but low sodium if store bought) also add 1 Tablespoon of tomato paste. I buy the paste in a tube, because I think that's one of the coolest inventions ever... I never use more than a T or 2 of tomato paste and anything left over in the can goes to waste.  Let all this simmer together a few minutes before adding the meat back into the pot - taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Once in, cover and simmer low and slow for about 2 hours. By this time your house will smell heavenly. Check the meat frequently and turn it over as needed. Add chicken stock as needed, liquid should always be a level in which 2/3 of the meat is submerged. When the meat is tender and falling off the bones, remove it from the pan and cut it into bitesized pieces. Meanwhile strain the liquid (or if you are lazy like me just remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon). Let it reduce a bit until flavors are concentrated.

Add the pieces of veal back in the pan for a few minutes to heat through and get married with the new concentrated pan sauce. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Oops missed a carrot I see.

This magical stew is often served on Polenta. Being born and raised in the south, Jim prefers grits, and they are almost the same thing. I cooked up some stone ground grits and added just a touch of extra sharp cheddar cheese. To plate, spoon some grits into a shallow bowl, add the stew and garnish with chopped Italian parsley and a bit of lemon zest.

That's a bowl of goodness right there. The tenderness of the veal and it's delicate flavor are divine. The sauce has a good bit of veal flavor, kicked up by the bouquet garni. I actually liked the grits better than a polenta base for this. This is the first time I've made Osso Bucco, I really liked it. This recipe is a mix of several I found, all had roughly the same ingredients, all used this technique.

I can't post a Veal recipe without adding a note about Veal.  I know a lot of people won't eat veal. I understand that, I used to be one of you. But ask yourself this: Do you eat Lamb? Do you know that the Chicken you eat  lived just a few short weeks?  When I heard John Mackay interviewed once (founder of Whole Foods and a vegan himself) he was asked if he had misgivings about selling meat in his stores. He said he didn't buy the animal death argument, because everything alive will one day die.  It's the treatment of the animals during life and at the end that matters. I've often pondered that eternal paradox: that life requires death. OK too philsophical for a food blog but it's a worthwhile reflection. Bottomline on veal is, if you want to try it. Just buy it from a responsible and humane source. It costs more but to me, it's worth it.

I'll be doing more "other tasty bites" and less French Laundry because quite frankly it became boring. Thomas Keller is a genius, an artist and an inspiration, but I am not Thomas Keller. I'll still post things from Bouchon and Ad Hoc because they are more my style.  I'll be busy making veal stock the next day or two, hopefully I'll find an inspiring recipe to share while it simmers on the stove. OH! and Jim gave me a fancy shmancy skimmer which makes my stock making so much easier!  Thank you Jim!

See you soon.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Coming Soon!

I only know of one person who still checks in here, and just to let that person know... I am working on a new post for this weekend.  Hope my pictures turn out ok!

See you soon. No. Really.