Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lobster Mushroom #4 - Tempura

To recap, I've used lobster mushrooms in Fish & Chips, Risotto, and Etouffee. Last night, I made tempura lobster mushrooms. I can't remember the last time I made tempura, so I had to look up a recipe. I fairly quickly settled on the recipe on the Food Network website, partially because I had all the ingredients lying around, anyway, long story short, I'm not totally happy with the tempura batter, and it's something I want to play with in the future. That being said, tempura is super easy and it did turn out to be quite tasty!

To make a dinner out of tempura I cooked up some udon noodles and stir fried some onions, carrots, garlic, sweet peppers, broccoli, and finished it with cilantro, green onions, liquid aminos, fish sauce, salt, and sriracha.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blue Cheese Cheesecake Bacon Maple Donuts

For Alex's birthday I constructed something ridiculously delicious - blue cheese cheesecake bacon maple donuts. Essentially it was a yeast donut, filled with blue cheese cheesecake and topped with maple icing and bacon bits. Here's the process:

After letting the dough rise a few times, sit over night and rise some more I rolled it out to about a 1/8-1/4 inch thick and used a circle cookie cutter to cut out circles of dough.

Every circle got brushed with egg whites and half the circles got a dollup of the blue cheese cheesecake filling which was just equal parts Humbolt Fog, Cream Cheese, and Sour Cream, plus a dash of vanilla and a sprinkle of sugar.

Then I made a sandwich with two doughy circles and the filling in between. I thoroughly pinched the edges together and then placed them on a tray to rise one last time for about 30 min.

Once they were all puffy and risen, I heated up a pan of canola oil for vegetarian doughnuts, and a separate pan of bacon grease for meaty doughnuts.

I let them fry until they were golden brown all over and then let the oil drip off on some paper towels.

While the doughnuts cooled, I made a basic milk icing with added maple syrup and then iced the doughnuts when they were cool. Vegetarian doughnuts were topped with sprinkles and the meaty doughnuts were topped with the famous Skagit River Valley Ranch Bacon. I was worried they were going to be too intense, but they turned out to be a big crowd-pleaser and there were only two left at the end of the party - perfect for breakfast the next morning!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fish & Chips

The best fish and chips you will ever have is not made with fish at all, but rather a fungus-infected mushroom. The plain white mushroom, Russula brevipes, gets consumed by Hypomyces lactifluorum, which contorts the mushroom and covers it with a hard bright red-orange coating. This appearance has won it the name of Lobster Mushroom. Russulas (and close relatives) have a unique cell structure that makes them "brittle like chalk". That's not to say they are delicate, Lobster Mushrooms in particular are quite sturdy, but if you try to bend the flesh, it snaps cleanly. This also gives it a wonderful "al dente" mouth feel. Here is what a Lobster Mushroom looks like in the wild:

To make this into fish and chips just follow the standard breading procedure, which is as follows:
1) Cut item to be breaded into pieces roughly 1/4 inch thick
2) Dunk a piece into flour, pat off the excess flour.
3) Dunk the floured piece into lightly beaten eggs, allow excess egg to drip off.
4) Plop the eggy piece into some seasoned bread crumbs. Cover the piece thoroughly with bread crumbs. (Season with salt at least, feel free to have fun with herbs or spices though)
5) Immediately fry the breaded piece in bacon fat or any other oil. Cook until golden brown!

Here's the logic behind the standard breading procedure if you're curious - The flour absorbs any natural moisture (this is incredibly helpful for breading meats that are naturally quite moist). Egg is essentially edible glue that can be used to stick dry things together, in this case, the egg is holding together the flour and bread crumbs while the flour is stuck to your food item. Then as you cook the breaded item, the egg works to cement everything together.

Now for the Chips part of Fish & Chips. Olsen Farm sells some amazing potatoes, in particular, the Bintje variety makes amazing fries! We just slice them up and fry them in bacon fat. Minimal turning/stirring helps to give them a nice crisp texture.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Salad

Few things are better than the simple pleasure of grilled cheese and tomatoes. For lunch today I made myself grilled cheese with Tall Grass Bakery's sourdough bread and Golden Glen Creamery's medium cheddar cheese. Then I grabbed a few cherry tomatoes and basil leaves from the garden, supplemented with extra basil and tomatoes from the farmer's market and whipped up a simple and delicious little salad. Oh and salt is an important ingredient for tomatoes, it really makes that delicious tomatoey flavor sing.


My buddy, Mark, has a friend who has a father in Aberdeen that makes honey. His bees pollinate the flowers of Cascara trees, which is an incredibly important tree for the native peoples of this land. Way back in the day, before semis and international shipping, people here in Cascadia lived largely off of berries, nuts, roots, and wild game. Just before winter they built a long house, stocked it with food, and everyone "hibernated" in the long house for the winter eating only what they could preserve from the summer. Then in late spring, the salmon start running. Salmon are packed with calories and nutrients and it's tradition for all omnivorous/carnivorous creatures of this region to gorge themselves on salmon when the opportunity presents itself. Now, as you can imagine, eating nothing but ridiculous amounts of salmon after fasting on berries and nuts all winter can get a little digestively complicated. This is where Cascara comes in - the bark of Cascara is a laxative. According to Mark's friend, it's in quite high demand year-round, and growing up in Aberdeen kids used to make money by harvesting and selling Cascara bark. They would also play pranks on each other by saying the bark was natures candy... you know the jokes on you when you end up running for bathroom.

Anyway, the important part is that the medicinal compounds are only found in the bark. Which means honey made from bees that gather Cascara flower nectar is totally safe, and Mark and I made mead out it. We split a gallon of honey - diluted it was water, brought it to a boil, then cooled it with cold water, moved it to carboys and added Champagne yeast. Mark also added cardamom and white pepper to his carboy. Here are our babies, and in 9 months we will drink them!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Whiskey Earl Grey Ice Cream

I just realized I can link to stuff in my blog posts!! Blogging just got a lot more exciting! What's also exciting is the ice cream I just made. It's something I made for my 22nd birthday party and for some unfortunate reason this is the first time I've recreated it since then. It's basically a combination of three of my favorite things: ice cream, vanilla earl grey tea, and Irish whiskey. The original recipe was made with Paris Tea, which is basically just earl grey flavored with vanilla. The tea is suspended within delicate sachets inside an ornate tin to satisfy all your upper-class British sensibilities. I decided to use some high quality Cascadian tea instead this time. Here's the recipe:

2 cups Twinbrook Cream
1 cup Twinbrook Whole Milk
3/4 cup Sugar

- Put the whiskey in a sauce pan and boil until syrupy, add the milk and cream to the pan.
- Bring the cream and milk to a boil, turn off the heat, add the tea, and cover with a lid. Let the tea steep for about 5 minutes.
- In a separate (non-plastic) bowl, whisk together the eggs yolks, vanilla, and sugar.
- Pour the hot cream mixture over the egg mixture (through a strainer to catch loose-leaf tea) being careful to temper the eggs. In this case, tempering can be accomplished by simply pouring the hot liquid slowly and stirring vigorously.
- Cool the liquid until it feels cold to the touch, but not frozen. I usually do this in the freezer and it takes about 15 minutes or so. You could also let it cool in the fridge overnight if you're patient.
- Pour the cold liquid into an ice cream machine with a pre-frozen bowl, turn the machine on, and walk away (ahh technology!)
- When the ice cream is "done" in the machine it's at the soft-serv phase. Scoop it into a plastic container and put it in the freezer for at least a couple hours to let it "hard" freeze.

Several years ago when I was in culinary school, my friend Josh got an ice cream maker and started making so much ice cream there was even talk of him and our friend, Chris, starting an ice cream company called Wopanajew! ...Wopanajew never happened, but a lot of good ice cream sure did, anyway, I still use the method Josh taught me all those years ago! Thanks, Josh!

Monday, August 8, 2011


I think it's safe to say summer is finally here! Alex made a pretty awesome summery dinner last night. At the farmers market a "bunch" of basil was more like a bushel. So needless to say, we have a ton of basil now and Alex got inspired to make a salad out of nothing but basil, strawberries, and chevre. The chevre was so creamy, and the strawberries so sweet, it was like eating ice cream, except it was actually a salad! Brilliant! We made burgers to make a meal with the salad. Of course we used our standard Skagit Valley Ranch beef patties and Tall Grass Bakery brioche buns. Alex also cooked up an onion-eggplant-yellow squash thing that he intended to have along side the burger, but I easily talked him into putting it on the burger - it made a super yummy burger topping! He seasoned the eggplant-squash stuff with lime juice, white pepper, Liquid Aminos, and nutmeg. Here's a picture of Alex's plate before he put the eggplant-squash stuff inside his burger: