Posts Tagged ‘Michael Ruhlman’

Bastardized Pasta

Cavatelli or Capunti

For a long time now I’ve had a growing fascination with Italian cuisine, namely pasta in particular.

I constantly marvel at the innumerable shapes and sizes of pastas that Italy has created, and the myriad uses they have unique to each one.  For at least 6 months I’ve wanted to take a course that would teach me more about the intricacies of a subject I know precious little about, but as far as I can tell, such a course does not exist.  It’s unsurprising really, as I’ve noticed that Italians generally tend to be quite cagey when it comes to passing on their culinary know how to non-familial brethren.  If you are lucky enough to gain mentorship, I bet you sure as hell had to prove yourself first.  I’ve not yet found a person who thinks I’m worthy of what is to most a cultural birthright and so I continue on, on my own.  Perhaps when I make it to Italy one day I will track down a willing nonna who will share all her secrets with me.  One can always dream!

Barring any sort of official instruction, I’ve been messing around with pasta dough on my own more and more lately.  I’ve been meaning to buy the Encyclopedia Of Pasta ever since it came out, but my local bookseller never has it in stock and it’s definitely the kind of tome I want to page through before I buy it, just so I can make sure it’s really what I’m after.

In the meantime, I’ve been perfecting my stamped and ribbon pastas on and off for the past few months, so last night I thought I’d try something completely different.  Using Ruhlman’s pasta ratio I prepared 4 servings of dough in the morning and left them to rest in the fridge all day.  When I arrived home I started the basics of a red meat sauce on the stove by combining half a jar of my home canned tomato sauce with a lingering hothouse tomato, 4 grated zucchinis and half a pound of ground beef.  While the sauce simmered, I split the dough in half and began rolling out long, snaky tubes.  Snipping them down into 1 inch lengths, I rolled them a bit longer and thinner between my palms, then used a bench scraper to gently drag the dough nubs across the surface of the table until it formed either cavatelli or capunti.  I can’t say with certainty which one I made because so many pastas are so nuanced that they have only the faintest whisper of difference between them.  In this case, I think what I made is capunti, because I’m pretty sure cavatelli is usually made with a ricotta enriched dough.  As you can see from the above photo, some turned out rather well while others are an embarrassment to real pasta.  For a first attempt though I thought they were magical, and once they floated to the top of the briny, boiling water, I tossed them in a meaty tomato sauce and allowed the whole to soak in a little bit.

Like fingerprints, they’re all a little different, but definitely not quite perfect just yet.  The fun part about experimenting with pasta (or anything, really) is that in the end you can just eat your mistakes.

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A Flour By Any Other Name Could Still Be As Sweet

A First Look At Timtana

A couple of weeks ago, I entered and won a contest over at Kitchen Therapy that netted me a free bag of a new gluten free product called timtana.  Timtana is a milled all purpose flour ground from timothy grass, which is completely gluten free but full of lots of good for you nutrients like fibre, protein, calcium and iron (you can read more about it over at Kitchen Therapy if you’d like).  A company called Montana Gluten Free graciously provided the bags of flour for the Kitchen Therapy giveaway.

As I’ve previously mentioned, my mother in law is allergic to wheat, so I often keep an eye out for new developments in gluten free products, and have a whole drawer in my freezer devoted to the various alternative flours that I use when baking for her.  Over the years I’ve found that while gluten free baking is not easy, once you know what you’re doing improvisation is possible.

A 3 pound bag of timtana flour arrived at my door a little over a week ago, and has been sitting on my counter waiting for inspiration to reach out and strike ever since.

While an original idea has yet to take shape, in the interim I decided to use Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio app and the basic bread dough formula for a first pass.

The proportions are simple and include 3 parts water to 5 parts flour, plus a little bit of salt and yeast thrown in for good measure.  Because timtana is gluten free, I also opted to toss in a bit of xanthan gum (the gluten free baker’s friend) for some extra leavening power.

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Rabbit; The Final Frontier

Joli Lapin

When I was growing up I wasn’t exposed to much in the way of game meat.  Aside from the occasional curried goat roti (a nod to my mother’s Caribbean heritage) or a festive Cornish rock hen (often my father’s answer to preparing holiday meals for 2) I didn’t really develop a taste for wilder fare until I was in my early 20’s.

Without a doubt, the one meat I’ve been an exceptionally slow adopter to is rabbit.  This is partly because the skinned carcass of a whole rabbit too closely resembles that of the small felines that share my home.  I make no bones about eating cute, fuzzy animals if they taste good, but the possibility of questionable provenance has held me back in the past.

It’s taken a few years, but I’ve gradually warmed to the idea of rabbit.  It may have started during a meal at Cowbell or perhaps tasting a terrine from The Black Hoof, I’m not quite sure.  While we were in Quebec City in the fall I enjoyed shredded rabbit confit linguine at Le Lapin Saute, and for our anniversary I consumed a similar dish at Splendido.  I’m still not a fan of rabbit rilettes, but I think I’ve made substantial leaps and bounds (har har!) towards getting over my mental distaste for it.

Recently, I even went so far as to buy a saddle of rabbit at Fiesta Farms, a place I know I can steadfastly trust not to sell me skinned kittens.  But for several days the packet of rabbit sat on the bottom shelf of the fridge, taunting me.

At first I’d considered using the Ratio app to make another batch of dough for tagliatelle, but pasta seemed an awful lot of work, and also not very far outside of my past 2 rabbit experiences.  I briefly toyed with confit as well, until I realized the duck fat was frozen. (more…)

There’s An App For That

Fin!

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself purchasing Michael Ruhlman‘s Ratio application from the iPhone App Store.

It’s a bit of a dirty little secret that I’ve become addicted to food and cooking apps, and I have the Epicurious, Jamie’s 20 Minute Meals, and Nat Decants apps to prove it, and now Ratio as well.

Now, I may have a fair amount of respect for the Charcuterie book (moreso for its co-author than for Ruhlman himself) but the more I see him on TV (typically on No Reservations) and with that whole “are we too stupid to cook” thing he blundered last week, the more I’ve started to view him as a pompous, self-aggrandizing ass.

But, I had bought the app for the inherent practicality of it, so I still intended to test it out.

Ratio Dough

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The Foodie 13 – Non Fiction Food Writing

It’s about that time again…  Well, actually it’s a little overdue for that time, but I’ve been madly twirling lately, so you’ll have to forgive me for the slight delay.  On deck this week is a dissertation on the 13 non fiction (food-based) stories I can’t live without.  So, without further adieu, on with the show…

I should probably preface this by admitting that I have a monstrous collection of food-based volumes.  I’m a pretty voracious reader and every time I go to Chapters I invariably end up with a stack of food books I had no intention of purchasing when I walked in.  My addiction has gotten so bad that we’ve had to purchase additional bookshelves just to store all my crap.  Given that, I’m sure you can appreciate why I spend a portion of every day wishing that the stupid Amazon Kindle would come to Canada already.  My list is devoted to those particular books that followed me home and found a permanent place in my heart.

1- My Life In France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme – Julia Child was such an incredible culinary force.  If you’ve ever watched her on TV, then you know she was larger than life (though in real life she was quite Amazonian, too).  This book is her story as told to and through her nephew Alex Prud’homme.  While at times it is sad (there were a few spots that caused me to cry) it’s primarily a jubilant tale of a woman who truly lived and loved life with all that she had wherever that might be.  On top of that, it allows the reader a unique perspective into the creation of her 2 most famous publications (Mastering The Art Of French Cooking Vols. 1 and 2).

2- Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell - Yes, another book that involves Julia Child!  As I’ve mentioned before, I feel a certain kinship with this tale.  The first time I read it, it really spoke to me because I’ve also felt stuck in a dead-end job wasting my god-given talents.  That the spasmodic Julie Powell is a part of the story is almost irrelevant; the moral to be taken away is that sometimes the best way to get out of your rut is to continually challenge yourself.  As is the case with just about any half decent book these days, they’ve made this one into a movie – one I will most likely not see unless it’s on a flight or some other captive audience situation.  Nonetheless, the essence of the tale unites and inspires.

3- The Omnivore’s Dilemma/In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan - I’ve listed both because one is really just an extension of the other.  I consider both to be essential reads for anyone claiming to be concerned about the state of our food supply and the ethical, local, organic sustainable movement.  Captivating, well written and thought provoking, they are proof positive that Michael Pollan should probably be running the US Department of Agriculture and saving us all from ourselves.

4- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver - I was initially drawn to this book because of it’s beautiful, homespun dust jacket, but once I explored the content within, I was completely and totally entranced.  I credit Barbara Kingsolver and the impact this book had on me with shoving me wholeheartedly into growing my own rooftop garden last year.  This is an amazing tale that represents just how much heart, soul, time and love really need to go into nourishing oneself and your family.  It goes on to show that a little effort and toil is always worthwhile.

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Saturday Night’s Alright For Jerky

One Giant Bowl Of Meat

Being the considerate, caring soul that I am, I noticed that the Everyman’s supply of jerky was dwindling yesterday.

The Everyman absolutely loves jerky, so every couple of months I spend a day making him an Everyman-sized batch that usually lasts for about 2 to 3 months.  It’s also a good way to use up all of the eye of round roasts we got in our split side of beef that I wouldn’t prepare otherwise (we’re not big pot roast-type people).  The first time I ever made jerky was after purchasing Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn about 3 or 4 years ago, while my father happened to be in town for a visit (and who subsequently thought I was insane).  But, back then I was doing it all by hand, which really is a lot of work and probably not worth it unless you’re fanatical about jerky.  When I finally decided to make guanciale this year, I impulsively bought a small countertop deli slicer, rationalizing that it would get plenty of use from all the charcuterie I planned to make.

Well, let’s just say I don’t have nearly enough opportunities to use the foodie equivalent of a circular saw; if only because the thing is so hard to clean that I dread pulling it out.  But, despite the hassle of clean up, it makes slicing half-frozen beef roasts a breeze, and it’s obviously a much easier method for maintaining uniform width.  I decided to go for the gusto and sliced up 2 whole roasts (one a round and one called a clod) which amounted to a triple batch of jerky, wet weight totalling almost 7 pounds.  Now that I’m getting a little more serious about homemade cured meats, I’ll probably use the slicer more often; I’ll just have to time my slicing so I do it all at once to minimize the cleaning headache.  Plus, now that we have the smoker, I can make smoked turkey that the Everyman can then shave on the slicer.

I use the jerky recipe from Charcuterie as a guide, but as with anything I like to make my own tweaks and modifications.  Firstly, I almost double the chipotle en adobo, because it’s a really striking flavor and there’s never enough of it.  Then I also add jalapeno flakes and a few small pinches of tomato powder.  I’ve occasionally added pimenton to the mix, but I find it tends to compete with the adobo rather than harmonizing beneficially.  A recipe, for your perusal;

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The Foodie 13 – Cookbooks

As promised earlier this week, we’re unveiling a new feature at Foodie and the Everyman today; book reviews and recommendations!

This also dovetails nicely with another addition to Foodie and the Everyman that I’ve started called The Foodie 13The Foodie 13 will be an ongoing series of lists about 13 really neat things in specific categories, that I intend to publish several times a month.  For our first Foodie 13, I thought I’d pick a subject that is near and dear to my heart; cookbooks!

So, without further adieu, and in no particular order, here are the 13 cookbooks I can’t live without:

1- Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn – There’s much that can be said about this great book, but primarily it’s the one I credit with sparking my carnivorous love affair.  After less than 10 minutes of paging through the book I was already plotting exactly where in my shoebox apartment I could fit a Bradley smoker.   Each new recipe I try from the book spurs me on to try even more.  A real winner.

2- Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz - A fantastic book laced with great recipes for enjoying the simple pleasure of homemade frozen desserts.  Since purchasing this book I’ve sampled approximately 20 of the recipes, and not one of them was bad.  The pear sorbet is definitely a recipe of note, as are the spicy, crinkled speculaas cookies, that are meant to be folded in to recipes but are amazing in their own right.

3- Local Breads by Daniel Leader - This is the most recent purchase on my list, so I can’t vouch for a very large percentage of the recipes yet.  From what I’ve already sampled and pored over pictures of though, it’s clear to me that this is a book worth having, as it conjures up an intense hunger every time I read it.  The pictures peppered throughout the book are colorful, rustic, and absolutely delicious.  And the Parisian daily bread is to die for, and as I’ve said before is worth the cost of the book alone.

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Sausagefest

I realize that some people might read this title and get the wrong impression, so let me stop you right there.  I spent several days this weekend perfecting my sausage-making technique thank-you-very-much.  That is what I did and that is what I’m going to talk about, and that is all.

You see, I’ve been meaning to try sausage-making ever since I bought Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book several years ago.  So far the only thing I’ve managed to make from that book is some beef jerky for the Everyman that I somehow managed to overcook.  Who knew that was even possible?  For several years I’ve also been meaning to invest in a smoker of some kind so that I can get further into the book, but I just haven’t been able to justify the cost and waste of prime garden real estate on my roof.  Yet.  I’m sure I’ll get there.  Just this weekend I re-examined the book and found a half dozen new things I wanted to try making in the near future.  More on that later though.

If you’ve never made sausage before, you can’t quite appreciate exactly how gross the process is.  Grinding up all the meat and mixing it with spices; that’s child’s play.  The fun really begins when you start working with casings.  If you’re a normal home sausage-maker, you’ll probably be using hog casings that have been packed in salt.  I found mine at a Fortino’s in Brampton (of all places) and not realizing exactly how many yards were required for a single project, ended up stockpiling close to 100 yards in my freezer.  After hearing how hard the Everyman laughed at this number, I figure I’m set until the end of eternity.  So first off, you have to remove all of that salt from the casings so that they’ll soften up and be pliable enough to stuff.  That requires a soak in some warm water for about a half hour.  So far, so good, no big deal, right?  Next, you have to flush the interior of the casing, to make sure that there’s no salt particles left inside either.  In order to do that, you have to start fiddling around with the slimy little bits of innards to find an opening.  As if that’s not gross enough, then you have to tie off an end and feed it onto your stuffing tube.  Lucky for me, I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer and sausage attachment, so I was able to be pretty hands-off after that.  Basically you start shoving your meat mixture down the feed tube and the auger twirls and pushes it into the sausage casing.  The hardest part about this is trying to make sure your sausages are properly packed without letting the casing burst.  I had a few bursts myself, but you just tie them off and start over again.

For the maiden voyage I opted to start with chorizo because it’s a sausage that both the Everyman and I enjoy quite a bit.  The funny thing about chorizo though is that there doesn’t seem to be a standard for what does and doesn’t constitute its ingredients.  I reviewed approximately 20 recipes and they were all wildly different.  Not wanting to put all of my eggs in one basket in case the results were bad, I chose 2 different recipes that produced approximately the same yield; a hot chorizo (nice and smoky red in color) and a Mexican chorizo (a really anemic grey).  Pretty much the only ingredient these recipes had in common was the pork butt.  Other than that they were like night and day.  Making each of them over the course of two days also helped me to understand what I do and don’t like in a sausage-making experience too, which will be valuable information once I start concocting my own.

The hot chorizo was firm and contained very little liquid but a ton of spices.  This made it really easy to pipe out of the stuffer and resulted in some beautifully reddened, appetizing looking sausages.  In the end I was left with about 10 fat 4-5 inch links of this sausage.  Conversely, the Mexican chorizo was quite watery, even after I reduced the amount of liquid in the recipe by half.  It called for vinegar and a boatload of guajillo chillies.  By the time it was finished marinating it smelled good, but was still much too soupy.  Trying to stuff sausages with this mixture felt like a battle too.  The machine seemed to create a vacuum and kept getting clogged with the mooshy material.  It also split much more than the first batch did, which made things a bit messier and more frustrating.  To top it all off, trying to ram the material through the machine with the tamping stick kept spraying watery sausage juice all over the kitchen;  juice which I will undoubtedly still be cleaning off surfaces in the weeks to come. This recipe was slightly smaller and amounted to about 7 lumpy 4-5 inch links.

I have not yet had a chance to do a taste test of the results, but will post my findings once I have.  If I had to judge based on looks alone, the hot chorizo wold be the clear winner.  Only time (and my tastebuds) will tell though.  I’ve already decided that once we plow through all of this chorizo, my next project is going to be a blueberry baco noir sausage similar to one I purchased from Viva Tastings last year.  The relative success of this first project has also inspired me to jump into charcuterie a bit more and attempt some guanciale.  I happen to really love guanciale and am always heartbroken whenever I visit The Cheese Boutique or The Healthy Butcher and they don’t have any around.  I’m sure that once the Everyman gets over the psychological hurdle of cheek and tries it, he’ll love it too, because it really is just a porkier, silkier version of prosciutto that I’ve recently seen referred to as Roman bacon.  The Healthy Butcher will be helping me out with procuring some jowls too, so in just over a week, I’ll have them in my hot little hands and be ready to start curing.

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