" /> I taste: June 2005
Curmudgeonalia
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June 25, 2005

Shallots vs. Scallions:

If you cannot find shallots, the white part of green onions is an acceptable substitute. Not as good, to be sure, but better than other onions.

Cutting Shallots:
If you want nice looking shallots--as for a salad or something you are not going to cook long--nip the tip off and slice it with a sharp paring knife in parallel cuts about 1/8 inch apart. Rotate it 90 degrees and repeat. Then place it on a cutting board and slice it in 1/8 inch slices. This will result in "pretty" small, square pieces. If cooking with it, it's faster to just chop it.

Cutting Scallions:
For most cooking, slice the white parts crosswise, then chop; slice the greens crosswise and add at the last minute. Cooking them for long will turn them into mush.

For a special effect, cut the green part into 3-4 inch lengths, then cut them lengthwise into ribbons. Use these strips to garnish salads or soups. They are especially attractive in clear soups.

Posted by respeto at 4:09 PM

Peeling tomatoes and peppers:

Many times, peeling makes for a better presentation. Peels are tough and unappealing in some situations.

To peel tomatoes, bring a 2-3 quart pot of water to a boil (smaller if doing only a couple of tomatoes) and immerse the tomato in the water for 15 seconds. Remove it and put it into cold water. Then the peel will come off easily in big sheets.

Tip: cut the peel into slivers and use it to garnish other vegetable dishes or salads.

To peel peppers, roast them in the oven till they begin to brown and blister, then put them in a zip-lock or a baggie and let them steam for a while. Cut, peel, seed and discard all but the good part. Do not cut before roasting. If roasting only one, and you have a gas stove, you can roast it like a marshmallow on a skewer. Faster and cheaper than waiting for the oven to heat up.

Posted by respeto at 4:02 PM

Bread Baking tips:

When baking croissants or other such--“scratch,” or out of one of those refrigerated grocery packages--a light egg-white wash will vastly improve both color and crust. (Use some or all of the yolk, too, if you want a darker brown.)

Whip up an egg white with a little water and “paint it” on lightly with either a thin pastry brush or a feather. (Feathers really work well, and are sold in most gourmet stores.)

Put the wash on the top and sides only, and just before you put it in the oven. Packaged “Pop-n-fresh” and other rolls and such will come out looking much more attractive. Be sure that you don’t put on so much that it slops off onto the baking pan. If it cooks together it might (though it likely won’t) seal it to the baking sheet and prevent it from rising as well.

Do it once and you’ll be an expert the 2nd time.

Posted by respeto at 3:58 PM

June 13, 2005

On Quiche Shells

Whenever doing a savory quiche, try this:
Bake the shell as directed, but before use, brush the hot shell with an egg wash containing a tsp. or so of prepared mustard and bake it for another minute or two. It sets the wash, seals the shell, and when you fill it the quiche the shell will not get soggy. Great little trick.

Similarly, with other quiches, use a little egg wash without the mustard to similarly seal the shell.

Ciao!

Posted by respeto at 4:28 PM

Roast Duck with Balsamic Vinegar

One 4 lb. duck
Salt & Pepper
16 dry figs, quartered
½ cup balsamic vinegar*
1 large white onion, diced
4 large carrots, diced
2 large shallots, minced
2 ½ cups chicken stock
½ tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Remove giblets and rinse duck under cold water and pat dry. Season duck inside and out with salt and pepper. Set duck on a rack in a large roasting pan. Place giblets in the pan, too and roast for 15 minutes, then brush with the balsamic vinegar.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees, place the onion, carrots, shallots and figs in the pan with the giblets and continue to roast, basting duck with balsamic vinegar every 15 minutes, until fully cooked, and skin is crisp and dark brown -- about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Transfer duck and vegetables to a warm platter; discard giblets and remove fat from roasting pan. Place the pan over medium heat, add 1 cup of the chicken stock and deglaze pan. Then transfer liquid to a saucepan and add the remaining stock. Simmer to thicken. Stir in cardamom and thyme. Simmer 2 min. more. Taste and adjust seasonings.

(*Fig balsamic vinegar is fantastic if you can find it, or you can prepare your own by marinating chopped figs in the balsamic vinegar for several days. If you prepare such, you will find other uses for it.)

Posted by respeto at 4:24 PM

Salmon and Wild Rice Quiche

(real men like this one)

1 refrigerated pastry shell (or do your own)
3 eggs
6 oz smoked salmon, skinned and flaked
1 c. half-n-half
1 t. hot, dry mustard
1 c. left-over wild rice
¼ t. pepper
¼ t. dill weed
1 ½ c. grated Monterey Jack
1 ½ c. grated Swiss

Pre-bake the crust as indicated. Set oven temp to 375 degrees.

Layer salmon in the baked crust and top with wild rice, then the cheeses. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, then add half-n-half, mustard, pepper and dill weed, mixing well.

Pour over the egg mixture and bake at 375 degrees 1 hour (more or less) until set.

Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

(For this and virtually all savory quiches I like to brush the baked shell, before filling it, with a little egg wash in which I have added a little stone-ground mustard and put it back in the oven for a couple of minutes to set it. Keeps the shell from getting damp!)


Posted by respeto at 4:18 PM