Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Paella, Brownies, and Duck

I have a bit of catching up to do, so here's one big post about a couple totally unrelated things I've been cooking recently. First is paella. At least, my initial intention was paella, inspired by my Spanish coworkers. But then I realized I don't really keep paella ingredients just lying around, so this is my Cascadian Paella:

Blue Bird Grains wild rice pilaf blend, Skagit Valley Ranch breakfast sausage, chicken stock, onions, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, cilantro, paprika, saffron, and cayenne. Breakfast sausage is officially no longer just for breakfast!

A few days after the paella adventure we hosted an Indian-fusion themed potluck. I made gluten free chai brownies and they were amazing! First I have to show off a new toy that I used for this recipe; it's essentially a sauce pan with a round bottom that becomes the top half of a double boiler. The rounded bottom is really nice to have for making cooked-egg emulsion sauces like hollandaise or sabayon. But I just melted butter and chocolate in it this time:

I followed Julia Child's recipe for fudgy-gooey chocolate brownies, substituting Bob's Red Mill gluten free flour and adding coriander, cinnamon, and cardamom.

That was Friday, then on Sunday we went to the farmers market. Stokesberry farms had duck again and we couldn't resist. I decided this was a special duck that deserved special treatment so I rummaged through my cookbooks for a while and finally settled on a recipe in Thomas Keller's French Laundry cookbook. The recipe was for duck breast wrapped in cabbage leaves and poached for just a couple of minutes. Thomas Keller wrapped them in plastic wrap for poaching, which seemed excessive to me--I just tied the cabbage on with butchers twine and it worked perfectly. Oh and I poached it in duck stock from the last duck that we got. Here's the finished product served with pilaf:

That was just the breasts. For the rest of the duck; I roasted it and then plucked all the cooked meat off and cooked it in butter with onions, garlic, and carrots. Mean while I made a duck demiglace, washed some spinach, and cooked some pasta.

Then I combined the demiglace with the buttery duck and veggies to make a pasta sauce, seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper, and finished it with the spinach so it just barely wilted. Then I mixed in some cooked pasta and grated a bit of Gouda for garnish. Voila!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This Aint White Castle

Tall Grass Bakery was selling mini hamburger buns at the farmers market this week, so I took the opportunity to make sliders! I mixed up some Skagit River Valley Ranch ground beef with their signature spice mix and some left over Mt. Townsend Seastack cheese. I mixed this together with my hands of course. I'm all about cooking with my hands, here is how I check to see if the burgers are done:

There's a trick I learned somewhere a long time ago to train your finger to be like a meat thermometer. If you touch your pointer finger to your thumb with one hand and use the other hand to poke the flesh just below your thumb, it's about the exact same texture as a medium rare piece of meat. Each finger touching your thumb then corresponds to a done-ness of meat, like so:

Anyway, back to the sliders... Here's the line up with Alex making some french fries:

There's Golden Glen Creamery cheddar cheese, demi-glace mayonaisse, salad greens, caramelized onions, garlic and peppers, mustard, and way in the background I was toasting the buns with the bagel setting! (Finally owning a toaster from this century is really exciting).

I need to digress from the sliders for another minute to talk about demi-glace. This is something I've thought of doing for a while and I have no idea why I'm just now getting around to it. Demi-glace is just very concentrated, reduced stock. I made about four gallons of stock and then boiled it down to less than a gallon of thick rich deliciousness. I then froze this in an ice cube tray so it takes up less space in the freezer and then I can just mix an ice-cube with some water to make stock for cooking in the future! Also, demi-glace by itself is pretty amazing...

Anyway, Sliders!!:

I swear burgers taste better when they're tiny...