Cinnamon-Swirl Bread

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Last week Cook's Illustrated posted a new and improved recipe for Cinnamon-Swirl Bread on their facebook page.  I gathered the ingredients and got to cooking before even glancing over the instructions (I've made several cinnamon-swirl breads before, how hard could it be?). 

While this was definitely more work than some in the past, the results can't be argued with. I really like the addition of vanilla to the filling, and substituting powdered sugar for granulated makes for a less runny filling. 

This took me a solid afternoon to make, so don't plan on getting up early and having this ready for breakfast. 

The recipe make two braided loaves. Got some nice color on the top of
these guys, thanks to a quick egg wash.



No gooey swirl... nice crumb... lots of butter.

Pan-roasted dry-aged rib eye

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Welcome back!!... Now with more steak!


I've been on hiatus for way too long. I've been cooking less these past few weeks due to a combination of work, travel and lots of time running. But, enough about that... let's get going with this awesome steak. 

This meal dates back to Valentine's Day. I found this beautiful bone-in ribeye on sale at Whole Foods and without much of a plan, I went for it. I flipped through a few cookbooks looking for an interesting technique to cook this steak, and settled on the "Pan-roasted dry-aged rib eye" from Momofuku. It turns out, this is probably the easiest recipe in the entire book. 

To quote David Chang, this recipe can be summed up in a text message:
"Season it.
Sear it. 
Roast it.
Baste it.
Rest it.
Slice it.
Eat it. " 

Chang then gets into some colorful scare tactics about the responsibilities involved in cooking a $40 piece of meat. Since this steak wasn't dry-aged, and was on sale, I wasn't too worried about the risk involved in cooking a $15 steak. 

The Recipe:


The first thing I did was take the steak, which was about an inch and half thick, out of the fridge for an hour. I salted it very liberally with kosher salt and black pepper, then preheated my oven to 400F.


Once the oven was preheated, and the steak was at room temperature, I put my cast iron skillet over high heat and left it for a good 5-10 minutes. Then I browned the steak for about two minutes on both sides. Next I put the fatty end, opposite the bone, on the pan for 30 seconds.


I finished browning the steak, then put it in the oven for about 6 minutes. After the steak came out of the oven, I put the pan back over low heat and added butter, shallots and thyme to the pan. Next I basted the steak with butter for a few minutes, then took it out of the pan to rest while I sautéed some mushrooms.

 


I added a bunch of chopped mushrooms to the skillet with the butter, shallots and thyme. The pan had so much heat that the mushrooms cooked down in no time. 



The Result:

The steak came out a bit more towards medium than I would have liked. I think this is because the Momofuku recipe called for a 2 inch thick steak, and I just didn't adjust the cooking times down enough. But, the steak was still really delicious. Basting the steak with butter added so much flavor, and prevented it from tasting dried out.














This was a great special occasion meal, but really, it was so simple that it could even be a weeknight meal. And although bone-in ribeye steaks aren't cheap, if you find them on sale, then splitting one between two people is prety reasonable.

Did I mention that I then topped the steak with homemade sea urchin butter? Well, I did, but that will have to wait for another post. 

The Bottom Line:
Difficulty: 6/10 I would say this is really simple... but I managed to overcook the steak a bit.
Cost: About $20 if you make it at home... or $140 at Momofuku.
Best left to professionals? Did I mention that this costs $140 at Momofuku? It does.
Special equipment: Cast iron skillet 


The Bouchon Roasted Chicken

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Adventures in Whole Chickens 3:
The Bouchon Poulet Rôti



Last week when I posted about the Ultra Crispy Roasted Chicken, Sharon from Umommy sent me a link to the following video of Thomas Keller preparing the Bouchon Roasted Chicken. 


It seems almost too simple. I mean, no brining, a single temperature, no rotating the bird. The only step seemed to be trussing the chicken. With the impending snow storm on the horizon, I picked up a chicken and some root vegetables and set out to test this recipe. 

The Recipe:



I really just followed the steps in the video… but I still managed to forget one along the way. First I let the chicken come up to room temperature while I prepped the veggies. I should note that while I usually just let the chicken sit out at room temperature for about 20 to take the chill off, this time I followed Keller to letter and let the chicken sit out much longer.


While the chicken was coming up to temperature, I diced some butternut squash, carrots, parsnips and onions. After the vegetables were diced, I sprinkled the chicken cavity with salt and pepper and then began the trussing. 















Once I had tucked the wings back, I followed Keller's instructions and ended up with a tightly wrapped chicken. I then liberally salted the chicken… like a lot of salt… a lot. Then I seasoned with some pepper and thyme.


I heated a pan with just a touch of olive oil, added the vegetables, placed the chicken on top, and put the whole setup into a 450F oven.


About 70 minutes later, the breast was registering just under 160 and the thigh was just about 175, and that's good enough for me. The chicken released a lot of juices into the vegetables, so while the chicken rested, I put the veggies back in the oven to reduce the liquid down.


The Result:


I have to say, I was absolutely amazed at how good this chicken turned out. The skin was crispy, the meat was juicy and flavorful. It was so simple, I'm astonished that this works, but it really does. This might become my new go to recipe… it's just so simple. I'm so happy that Umommy told me about this. 


The Bottom Line:
Difficulty: 5/10, Trussing a chicken takes a little practice, but it's a skill worth knowing.
Cost: This whole meal set me back about $15.
Best left to professionals? The "Poulet Rôti" at Bouchon costs $26, and this was so easy. You should do this as soon as possible.
Special equipment: Butcher's twine 

Crispy Roast Chicken

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Adventures in Whole Chickens 2: 
The Ultra-Crisp Roast Chicken




The choice between "Regular" and "Extra-Crispy" is not just refined to settings where your chicken is served in a bucket. Thanks to the good folks at America's Test Kitchen, I am faced with this decision every time I set out to roast a chicken (which is quite often in the colder months). So why would I ever choose "Regular"? 

Well, to make an ultra-crisp skinned chicken takes some planning ahead. Sure you can get a decent skin on your chicken if you just pat it dry, salt it liberally, roast it hot…etc. But, to get a crispy, cracker-like skin, you need at least a day to dry the skin. 

A brief warning to the faint of heart: This is going to involve a raw chicken, sitting in your fridge, uncovered, for 24 hours. If this freaks you out, then you need to relax… being a food ninja takes guts. Cleanliness, planning, and guts. Speaking of guts, make sure you save the giblets for stock!

The Recipe:


This has to be started at least 24 hours in advance. The First thing you want to do is clean up the chicken. This means patting it dry with some paper towels, and trimming some of the excess fat.


Then the next step is to separate as much skin from the body as possible. By separating the skin from the chicken, you're making it easier for the fat to render out. The more fat that renders off when cooking, the crispier the resulting bird. So you want to separate as much skin as possible from both the breast and the thigh.



Next you want to flip the chicken over, and make a few very shallow cuts along the back to create some more channels for the fat to run out of. Flip the bird again and make a few shallow cuts in the skin on the breast where you can see areas of increased fat. Then just use the tip of the knife to poke a few holes in the skin all over the bird. 

Now that the chicken is very dry and the skin is separated has a bunch of holes poked in it, you're read for the dry brine. A normal brine, a salt sugar and water solution, would hydrate the skin, resulting in a less crispy result. So this recipe employs a dry brine. This pretty much just means coating the chicken liberally with salt and letting it sit overnight. The salt will draw moisture out of the chicken, then the chicken will reabsorb this liquid which has now mixed with the salt… really a great way to concentrate a chicken's flavor. The only trick here is to include some baking powder (not baking soda) in with the salt. This will further dry up the skin, which really is the goal here.


After the chicken has been rubbed with the salt/pepper/baking powder mixture, it sits in the fridge, preferably in a roasting rack, for 24 hours UNCOVERED. The moisture has to evaporate, so you can't cover it. But don't worry… just give it plenty space so nothing touches the chicken. Keep it near the bottom of the fridge, so if it happens to drip anywhere, it won't drip everywhere. And just be careful not to touch it. Easy.


After 24 hours remove the chicken from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature while the oven preheats to 450F. Once the oven is preheated, roast the chicken (breast side down) for 25 minutes. Then flip the bird (breast side up) and roast another 20 minutes.


After the 20 minutes or breast side up roasting, raise the oven temp to 500F and continue roasting for about 15 more minutes, or until the breast is at 160F and the thigh is 175F.


Rest the chicken, uncovered, then carve and enjoy.

The Result:



It's a lot of work… but the result is certainly worth it. Super crispy skin all over the chicken. And the kind of skin you don't feel too bad eating, because most of the fat renders out. We served this with some roasted veggies and brown rice. 

Also,  I was sure to save the carcass and bones to use in a chicken stock. Roasted chicken makes delicious stock (recipe to follow soon), and is a great way to be a little more economical. You pay about $2-3 a pound for a chicken and you get a meal for two and chicken stock. 


The Bottom Line:
Difficulty: 6/10 You'll need a bit of prep work to separate the skin.
Best left to professionals?: If you're looking to save a little money, roasting whole chickens is for you.
Cost: $2-3 per pound (depending on the chicken, I like Bell & Evans)... for a 4 pound chicken about $10.
Special Equipment? A roasting pan and a v-rack



Stocking Up, Part 1: Beef

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Stocking Up, Part 1: Beef


Recently I starting rereading Michael Ruhlman's book, The Elements of Cooking. For good reason, the book starts with a description of several different stocks. Stock is, after all, a basic building block of the kitchen. While there are brief discussions of chicken, beef, fish and vegetable stock, several pages are dedicated to veal stock. While I've made chicken stock many times (it's one of my favorite kitchen activities along with roasting chickens and baking breads) I have never made beef or veal stock. After reading Ruhlman praise the virtues of veal stock, I really want to try it. But, since I imagine veal bones and feet are a bit more expensive than beef bones, I decided to do a trial run at a beef stock first. 

Like chicken stock, beef stock can be made a few different way, but most recipes fall into two categories: Blanched or Roasted. Blanched stock is made from bones and meat that has been boiled briefly, drained, then covered in fresh cold water and simmered for many hours. Roasted stock is made from bones and meat that has been roasted, then covered with water and simmered. Since I was making this stock with French Onion Soup in mind, I decided I would want the roasted flavor in the end result.

The Recipe:


Beef stock requires both bones and meat. The bones add gelatin to the stock and the meat adds flavor.  I used about 6 pounds of marrow bones, and 3 pounds of beef shanks.

Pre-roast.

To start, I roasted the meat and bones in a preheated 475F oven for about 45 minutes.

Post-roast.
Once the roasting was done, I put everything into a giant stock pot. I then deglazed the roasting pan with some water and added this liquid to the stock pot as well. I covered the bones with cold water (6 quarts to be exact) then slowly brought everything up to a simmer. And I mean slowly… it took about an hour and half. According to Harold McGee if you bring the stock up to a simmer slowly, the proteins coagulate more slowly and form larger pieces which can be skimmed off the top easier.

The start.
Once the stock was at a bare simmer, I just monitored the temp and skimmed the surface all day and night.

7 hours later.
 After about 7 hours of simmering I added the aromatics, which consisted of a few roasted carrots and onions, a head of garlic cut in half, thyme, parsley and a charred onion half. To char the onion, I left the onion half, cut side down in a nonstick skillet for a few minutes.

The roasted aromatics.
I let the stock simmer with all of the aromatics for another hour, then began the straining process. First through a colander, then through a kitchen towel. 

The Result:


I was left with 2 quarts of deeply colored beef stock. While there was definitely a beefy flavor, I think next time I would add more meat, to give the stock an even stronger flavor. After a night in the fridge, I could see that plenty of gelatin had been extracted from the bones.

Mmm.... lots of gelatin.
In On Food And Cooking, McGee states that the standard 8 hour simmer only extracts about 20% of the gelatin in beef bones. So, I decided to reuse the bones, and simmer for much longer (like 24 hours… I'm on hour 8 now… probably hour 18 by the time this is posted).

These bones still have some life left.
Since I don't want to make a proper stock with meat and aromatics, I'll probably just use this liquid as a base for the next stock I make… possibly beef, possibly charred onion. 

While I'm sure I'll end up making beef stock again (and definitely veal stock), I don't think it's quite the economical move as making chicken stock. The beauty of chicken stock is that it is essentially born of leftovers. However, for beef stock, most people don't have 6 pounds of beef bones laying around the house, unless you throw a big dinner party with bone marrow... not a bad idea.