A day spent cooking, mostly

After voting this morning – wouldn’t you like to know who I voted for? – I spent most of the day in the kitchen.

I started off by trying to make the dry caramel recipe from the Alinea cookbook.  It’s the last course we had when we ate there earlier this year, and it seemed fairly easy.  And it is fairly easy, but let me stress, you need to have tapioca maltodextrin – tapioca starch is not a substitute.  I’d done a little research on-line to know this, but I guess I just had to see for myself.  Tapioca starch may be good for certain things, but it does not have the same characteristics as tapioca maltodextrin.  It did dry out the caramel, but not as dry as it should be, and the flavor was remarkably starchy (I haven’t done much research on the topic but I’m guessing that the starch needs to be cooked just like cornstarch does in order to lose its flavor).

The next thing I set about doing was drying out slices of tomato for something I’ve been meaning to try out for a long time now.  Fortunately the temperature on my oven goes very low, so I was able to let them go all day without much fuss, so long as I didn’t forget about them completely.  This evening I then sprinkled some fennel pollen on them alon with some Maldon sea salt and we had some tasty treats.

I’d gotten the idea for this a couple of years ago when I dried out some Roma tomatoes for a vegetable terrine.  When I’d tasted the dried tomatoes they reminded me of the flavor of pizza.  With the fennel pollen the flavor was undeniably that of pepperoni (fennel pollen is the predominant flavoring in pepperoni).  There are certainly many ways to take this little dish, and I intend on spending some time again, just to see what else could be added (like in the way of mozzarella cheese and other toppings). 

Next, as a surprise for Erin’s birthday, I put together an apple crisp while talking to my mom on the phone.  I found the recipe on-line somewhere and it’s fairly simple:

  • 3 lbs tart apples, cored, peeled and sliced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup flour (I used bread because that’s what I’ve got)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 4 tbsp cold butter, diced

Combine the first five ingredients and place in a 9×9 greased baking pan.  Combine the next three ingredients in a separate bowl and “rub” in the butter either by hand or with an electric mixer.  Put the topping on top of the apples and bake for 30-45 minutes at 375.  That’s it.

Of course I haven’t actually made the apple crisp yet, but how could it not be good.  I’ll be sure to post a photograph.

And finally, I made a strawberry and balsamic sauce to have with seared foie gras (for Erin’s birthday I bought her a lobe of foie gras, along with 6 duck legs and 2 pounds of duck fat, not to mention the duck breast that comes complimentary with the purchase of the foie gras).  We had some strawberries in the freezer from earlier in the year (obviously), so I pureed those, strained the liquid into a saucepan, added some balsamic vinegar, honey, salt and pepper.  A little while ago  I seared the foie gras and it was tasty with the sauce.

The last thing for me to do today is to bake the apple crisp, which I’m just about to do.  I’ll make sure to get some photographs up in the next day or so.


5 thoughts on “A day spent cooking, mostly

  1. Consider adding twice the nutmeg. I think an 1/8 is very small. It could not hurt to use a 1/2 cup of white sugar instead of only 1/3 cup.

    I was looking at the “Alinea at Home” web site. You should consider doing “Bouchon at Home”.

  2. The original recipe called for more nutmeg, but I cut it down because Erin doesn’t care for it and I know it can be pretty overpowering stuff.

    The cinnamon at 1/2 tsp was right on, but it could use maybe a little more. We ended up serving it with cinnamon ice cream we had hanging around from the chocolate veloute, so that probably took care of the cinnamon.

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