Archive for the ‘test kitchen’ Category

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Warning Test Kitchen Experiment in Progress: Chestnut and Acorn Squash Ravioli

November 21, 2006

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Experiments are good. However, sometimes you end up scratching your head when you fail. The individual pieces may work, but the combination makes you realize that not all things work together in the kitchen. I’ve been to a few restaurants, most of them leaning towards “fusion” cuisine, where there is such a discord of flavors that you are wondering who in the kitchen is tasting the food before it went out. (My wife and I have a restaurant in mind when we had one of those moments and it always gives a good chuckle to remember it.)

Unfortunately for me, last night, I had one of those moments. Caught in the frenzy for Thanksgiving, I tried to continue my exploration of very fall ingredients and give it some Turkey Day love. Oh, well, so sometimes you learn more from the effort than the results.

The new ingredients were acorn squash and chestnuts. Both are quintessential cold weather flavors and would require some effort to learn on my part. I had never used them. I had tasted both on a few occasions, liked them well enough. Yet, the only thing I was confident about them was that I would need to roast both ingredients before serving them.

It was after the thought of roasting them that my thoughts turned to ravioli. I decided I would make a filling from roasted squash and chestnuts. Then, I decided to serve them with a sauce made from braising a turkey leg. Now before you go “Ewww” too much, both pieces, the ravioli and the sauce, were delicious. My mistake was the combination. The problem was the ravioli’s filing was so sweet from the squash and the chestnuts and the sauce from the turkey was too heavy and too savory.

However, the ravioli are right. And seeing as this is a blog about the food I make and my wife eats, I felt I should share a bit of my work in progress. I don’t want people think everything I make is great. Trust me, my wife has eaten a few embarrassments over the years. Right now, I’m working on a lighter, better sauce to make this work. But until then, advice and experience of my readers could be hugely beneficial. I hope you enjoy and share ideas on my work in progress! Read the rest of this entry ?

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Cookies soft like a cloud… crème fraîche clouds

November 19, 2006

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Mmmm….. Cookies.

I’m all about a cookie’s taste. I don’t care for those fussy, frosting-laden creations, even if the resultant cookie is beautiful enough to merit hanging on our bathroom’s walls. Give me a humble, tasty cookie any day.

Well, these cookies fill the bill. They’re humble… little dollops of drop cookie that take abstract shape depending on the shape of your spoon and the tilt of your oven rack. Their only attempt to fit in at a fancy-dress party is an optional sprinkling of colored sugar over their uneven, pillowy tops. And they’re tasty; they have a wonderful, springy, cake-like texture and subdued sweetness that is complemented by a breath of nutmeg. They’re beautiful, moist and slightly spicy cookies that can be devoured by the fistful.

My mom always made these sour cream sugar cookies around Christmas time (they were then sprinkled with the obligatory red and green colored sugar), using a recipe drawn from a much dog-earred and crumbling, hand-written local cookbook. Once my husband tasted these cookies, he became a huge fan and would demand that I make them whenever we had sour cream, sugar, eggs, flour and nutmeg on hand. Which is not an infrequent occurrence.

Now my husband has found a way to expand that ingredient list to include crème fraîche, meaning that cookies can be in his future on an even more frequent basis. Bonus: He’s learned to make them himself. Not that I’m complaining… I may like these cookies even more than he does. You will, too, if you try them! Read the rest of this entry ?

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Look away, Daffy: Asian-Inspired Roasted Duck

November 17, 2006

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My husband and I have pretty similar taste buds, and we usually agree on what is good food. But there are exceptions, of course — and duck is one of them.

Duck is… not my favorite. Badly prepared duck is — let’s face it — gross. Well-prepared duck is pretty good (I will down my share of Peking-style duck at fine Chinese establishments), but not something I’d drive out of my way to get.

My husband, on the other hand, is duck happy. He’d probably drive to the ends of the earth if he thought there was a superior roasted duck at his destination. If we’re feeding bread crumbs to innocent Donalds and Daffys on an area pond, I’m exclaiming over their coloring, and he’s picking out the one he’d eat for dinner. He loves ’em.

Hence, when my dear hubby decided to prepare duck at home, I had mixed feelings. As he mentions in his backgrounder, my similarly duck-obsessed father had tried to make roast Peking duck at home with diastrous results. Despite using tools as diverse as a hair dryer and coat hanger and devoting hours to the project, the end result was an incredibly smelly house and a greasy, inedible (in my view) duck. So I greeted my husband’s efforts skeptically, to say the least.

And yet, he found success. I firmly believed that no home cook — no matter their skill level — could produce a duck that I might deign to eat. They’re too fatty, finicky and fishy, I thought. But my husband — to his delight, no doubt — has proved me wrong. His duck was not too fatty. The house didn’t smell. And the bird itself was succulent and flavorful.

He wins. But has he converted me to duck with his culinary coup d’etat? Not quite.

Donald, you’re still safe from me. But watch out for that maniac husband of mine. He’s got that glint in his eye again.

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MHC Goes Molecular: Olive Oil Bonbons

November 6, 2006

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I don’t think it’s shocking to anyone that I’m a bit of an experimenter. And last week, while making brittle and talking about molecular gastronomy in relation to Top Chef, I decided to adventure out on my own and try to replicate a molecular gastronomy dish—the olive oil bonbon. This experiment was cause for great debate between my wife and I, but being the intrepid and confident one I proceeded. And her being the loving wife, she assisted and was vital in my mad lab.

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Cherimoya: Dinosaur Eggs, Smelly Feet and Seeds (Lots of seeds)

October 20, 2006

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I love globalization. While I know many people bemoan the state of affairs it has caused around the world, I like to proclaim my love for it. I love it because I’m selfish and a capitalist, but also because of the food. Because of this crazy global economy, I get to discover fun things at my local grocers. Add the adventure of my wife starting My Husband Cooks, and I’ve taken to embracing every single one of these oddities as a chance to eat and write. (e.g. dragon fruit.)

This week is about the Cherimoya. I’ve seen them recently, had them in my basket twice and took them out. I thought they looked awesome, but I had no clue what they were. Finally, I had an excuse—my sister-in-law, Missy, came for a visit. Now, there are jokes to be made at your “in-laws” expense, but she is like another sister to me. So like Tessie and the rest of my family, Missy is just part of food focus groups waiting to be fed new things.

IMG_2116.JPGAs a result, I bought cherimoyas. The best way to describe the way they look is dinosaur eggs. They look pre-historic. From what I read, and to my surprise, they grow from an evergreen tree that can be found in parts of Southern California. They are native to Andes Mountains near Peru, Columbia, Bolivia and Ecuador. They are ripe, like an avocado, when slightly soft. But most importantly, how do they taste? Our reviews are below.

Husband: I liked parts of it. It’s very seedy and fibrous around the seed. The problem is the seeds are everywhere and about the size and shape of tiny almonds. It had a bad smell and taste in spots (sweet-smelly feet). At its best, it had a smooth texture with a strawberry-banana like taste. I am curious what it would taste like if it were fresher. It has potential to be good, but I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt given that I bought it in Virginia and couldn’t tell you whether it was ripe or just off.

Wife: The seed to fruit ratio was very high — too high. Parts of it did taste bad, parts of it tasted OK. There was a 1/4 inch section that tasted pretty good.

Missy: I’ve never been wild about the texture of bananas, and um, it had a banana-like texture. Parts of it were good, and parts of it tasted like butt. It was bitter sour and gross, in parts. And there were too many seeds.

IMG_2117.JPGWant to know more?

California Rare Fruit Growers’ cherimoya info

A New Zealand site about cherimoya
Cherimoya.com

Any insight onto our new dinosaur egg look-a-like friend?

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My knives need an edge…

October 6, 2006

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IMG_1928.JPGIMG_1926.JPGBesides gun owners and golfers, there are perhaps no group of people who talk more about their gear than cooks. We love our tools. We love to discuss our pots and pans. I’ve had an hour-long conversation about the pros and cons of my Kitchen Aid mixer. Heck, my wife loves to tell the story of when we registered for gifts when we were getting married. I told her to stop obsessing over the price of everything, only to find out when we got home that we registered for a $120 pepper mill — and it was already purchased before I could make amends for my hubris. (But it’s a really, really nice pepper mill.)

So two weeks ago, I bought my wife a new knife. She had decided to join me in the kitchen, and the Wustof Grand Prix I’s we’ve had since we moved in together years ago were never quite right for her smaller hands. Her beautiful, razor-sharp Shun knife made it even clearer that my own knives need serious sharpening.

I’ve been looking for a solution for sometime. I have considered buying a sharpener, but I hear bad things. I have considered taking a national retailer up on their offer to sharpen them. And I know that I could always do it myself — but I must admit that I’m not inclined to learn on my own good knives.

So, I am looking for assistance from my readers. How do you sharpen your knives? Professionally? Personally? Do you trust those chain stores to whack away at your blades? And which ones? Any and all advice is welcome.

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Eat your heart out, monster: Orange Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

October 5, 2006

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Cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C. Heck ya.

Ah, the wonders of a fresh, warm cookie straight from the oven. Cookie Monster knew it. (Though now I hear he’s on a carrot diet.) I know it. My husband practically worships it. There’s something comforting about even the smell of cookies in the oven.

So, I can’t complain when my husband decides to run some cookie experiments in our kitchen. This particular one involved oatmeal cookies — one of my favorites. Fortunately, all phases of the cookie trials were edible, though they were vastly improved in their final iteration.

Among the many cookie offerings out there, the oatmeal cookie is unique. Humble in its ingredients, modest in its flavors, the oatmeal cookie is hearty and delicious, not cloying and syrupy. Now, my husband (and Gourmet magazine) have pushed the envelope by adding things like orange zest and chocolate chips to the simple oatmeal cookie. And I’m pleased to announce that it totally works. These oatmeal cookies preserve the hearty, chewy texture of the unalloyed oatmeal cookie, while adding the aroma of cinnamon, the melty goodness of chocolate chips and the surprising hint of citrus and orange in the zest.

Well played, my husband. And I think Cookie Monster would agree.

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