Sunday, July 11, 2010

crispy fried fish, sweet potato chips and BLUEBERRY COBBLER!

"I'm very angry about all these fish. Also, I'm angry about this grandpa fishing hat I'm wearing. I'm just really angry." Seriously - Jeremy refuses to smile when he's posing for a picture... so I refuse to stop making fun of him for it.
The fish should be the angry ones, shouldn't they? Guess they're not really smiling either...

Anyway, fried catfish is something Jeremy and I make often. Especially during the summer. Especially during THIS summer. Jeremy has totally become the king of catfish. So when he caught a mess of catfish at the lake last weekend I thought it'd be a good time to try Chef Keller's Crispy Fried Fish. And what goes better with fish than chipes? Fish and chips, right? So since I'd been so disappointed with the fried fingerling potatoes I tried again using sweet potatoes. Adn finally the ultimate summer dessert - blueberry cobbler.

I want to start by confessing that after trying several different fish fry recipes, we found one last year that we absolutely love - Zatarain's New Orleans, Breading Fish Fry Seasoned, 10-Ounce-TWO BAGS. The problem is that we discovered it in Murray, Kentucky and we can't find it around here! So I ordered a case online and we use it on all of our fish. We've tried Paula Dean's recipe, Emeril's recipe and several other box reciped - and nothing is as good at Zatarain's New Orleans. So I'll be honest and say that I made about half of the fish our usual way and the other half using the Ad Hoc recipe. Chef Keller's recipe is a wet batter coating, rather than a seasoned dry coating like we usually use. It was developed when he was working on waffle batters of all things!

The recipe starts with putting milk and butter in a pan to warm together, and meanwhile proofing the yeast. Proofing the yeast means to activate the yeast by sprinking it over warm water:
So I proofed the yeast, let it dissolve for 10 minutes and then stirred it together to dissolve and added the flour, sugar and salt to it. Oh yeah - and the milk and butter. I covered it tightly with plastic wrap and set it aside for an hour and a half.

I don't think you can really see it very well in the picture - but the butter mixture was bubbling (the yeast, ya know). So after an hour and a half, I whisked in a little baking soda and two eggs. The fish itself needed to be cut down to diamond shapes approximately 2 inches by 2 inches.

I used the big fryer this time so I didn't have to guess or use the stupid candy thermometer to figure out if we were at the right temp. So once the oil was at 350 degrees, I dredged the fish in flour, dipped it in the batter and dropped it into the hot oil.

In the upper left corner you can see the fish we did our usual way with the Zatarain's. I'll be honest and say I kind of had my doubts about the heavy battered fish. The Taylor family joined us for dinner so I subjected them to my little fish experiment. I think the opinions were pretty well divided. The Ad Hoc Crispy Fried Fish was good, the batter was kind of on the sweet side and there was a lot of it! It's such a thick batter that there's no way to keep it from making a very thick coating of fried batter on the fish. That being said, that's exactly what made some people like it so much. Personally, I still prefer the crispy dry breading method. And of course Jeremy liked both versions. Alot.

Now since we had the big fryer out and I knew the oil temperature would be perfect I grabbed my mandolin and sliced up a nice big sweet potato.

I popped them all into the fryer for a couple of minutes while we were waiting for the fish batter to be ready to go, took them out and sprinkled with kosher salt while they were still nice and hot.

Since I'd been disappointed the first time I tried to make the chips, I only made one of the four sweet potatoes I got at the grocery store... shoulda made 'em all. THIS WAS AWESOME. They were very thin and crispy with that bit of natural sweetness you expect from a sweet potato. Salty and sweet are one of my favorite combinations so these were right up my alley. I'm going to be making these every time we have the fryer out. Really easy, really delicious and a big hit.

But speaking of big hits...this weekend brought me my favotite recipe from Ad Hoc so far. The Blueberry Cobbler. Now I've been making cobblers forever. Dude - my family is Southern. We know from cobbler. I've made cobblers with biscuit drop tops, I've made cobblers with granola crumble topping, I've made individual cobblers, I've done it all. And this was my favorite cobbler of all time.

Yes, Mary Beth, that is a little container of cinnamon sugar with a "CINN SUGAR" label on it. This is where Mary Beth will make fun of me and my love of a good label maker. Labels make me happy! Sue me. I guess this is karma for making fun of Jeremy's "angry tough guy face" in pictures.

I like blueberries, but Jeremy loves blueberries. It's funny, his mom doesn't care for them so he never had blueberries when he was growing up. When he had his first taste of blueberries and fell in love with them, he actually scolded his mother for not feeding him blueberries as a kid! :) Anyway, here's some "food porn" for Jeremy:

Mmmm, blueberries...

To make the topping, I creamed the butter and sugar together, then added the rest of the dry ingredients and buttermilk in alternating batches.

The filling was even easier. I tossed the blueberries with sugar, flour and lemon zest. (More food porn for Jeremy):
After spreading the filling evenly in the bottom of a 9 x 11 baker, I dropped dollops of the batter on top - then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
Popped it in the oven for 40 minutes or so and voila! The best blueberry cobbler of all time, ever. There's only one cup of sugar in the entire recipe - so it's not overpoweringly sweet. And the topping wasn't too fluffy as biscuit style topping tend to be, but it wasn't heavy and overpowering either. It soaked up a bit of the blueberry liquid but was still crispy on the top.  

I wish there was some way for you all to taste this cobbler. I can't express how much I love it. It tastes like summer at my grandparent's farm in Kentucky when I was a little girl. Fresh fruit, cobbler and a big glass of cold milk. I'm 5 again and can't get enough!

Sam and Jeremy went fishing tonight and when they got back, Sam had a piece of cobbler. I think this says it all:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Red Potatoes & Green Bean Salad and Fingerling Potato Chips

Hands down, the most exciting part of this post is that it involved making aioli - which is really just mayonnaise (which was a challenge for me previously), but with garlic oil rather than vegetable oil. And I'll go ahead and let the cat out of the bag - I succeeded this time. And on the very first try. Yay, me!

Okay - moving on. Jeremy and I hosted a Father's Day gathering on Sunday and since I had to make three tons of food, I threw a few Ad Hoc recipes in the mix. I made Glazed and Rubbed Pork Spareribs again, and got a ton of compliments on them. I think I've found my permament ribs recipe - as a matter of fact, Jeremy wants to experiment with making pork steaks the same way. I'll let you all know how that works out. Jeremy and his dad went boar hunting in Texas last February, so half of the ribs I made were from that hunting trip (the other half from Dierbergs) - nice Father's Day tie-in, huh?

The new recipes for this week were Red Potato and Green Bean Salad (with Creamy Pepper Dressing) and Fingerling Potato Chips. The Red Potato and Green Bean Salad recipe included two other Ad Hoc recipes - Aioli and Creamy Pepper Dressing. So I really knocked four recipes out this week.

We'll start with the Red Potato and Green Bean Salad. I needed to make the Creamy Pepper Dressing ahead of time - and it included aioli. So I gave myself PLENTY of time to mess it up and do it over and curse and throw things and to go get stitches if they were required after the inevitably violent temper tantrum. I hauled my way too expensive mayonnaise/aioli-making-machine out of the pantry, took a deep breath, burned some sage all around the kitchen and offered up a small prayer. Threw in the egg yolks... and started the slow stream of garlic oil (which was left from the garlic confit that I made for the Smashed Marble Potatoes).
I was honestly amazed when I was able to get all of the garlic oil to emulsify without the whole batch breaking even once.
There was much celebrating in the kitchen - it may or may not have involved dancing a jig and saying things like "Yes! I am the *#!$^* master! I rock!" So there ya go - I have now used my way-too-expensive-mayonnaise-making machcine TWICE. Turns out I didn't need all that extra time after all.

So the next day I tackled the rest of the recipe. The potatoes needed to be boiled along with a sachet. So I smooshed a clove of garlic and put it on a square of cheesecloth, along with a bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme and black peppercorns, then wrapped them all up. Easiest recipe yet.

Next up, the creamy pepper dressing. This is what I made the aioli for the previous night. I got my mise en place together...
And then remembered that I had to crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle. So I did it - but then I didn't take the mise en place picture again. Whatever. Semantics. You get the idea. It's not easy to take five bajillion pictures while cooking all this stuff, ya know.
Okay, so my peppercorns are crushed and my aioli is ready to go. The peppercorns went into a small saucepan along with a little Banyuls vinegar and honey. After simmering for a while, there was some foam to be skimmed and discarded. I let it simmer until there was a 1/4 of reduction in the saucepan. In a separate bowl I whisked together the aioli, a bit of buttermilk and crème fraîche. Then added the still warm reduction to the mixture along with a little salt and pepper.
Another recipe down! Creamy pepper dressing - and it's yummy! Jeremy loves pepper, so I think I'll be making this for him quite a bit.

So anyway - back to the whole point, Red Potato and Green Bean Salad. My mise en place:
I threw the sachet into a large saucepot of water along with a couple of pounds of red potatoes and salt to boil.
While the potatoes were boiling, I blanched a pound of hariacots verts (skinny green beans) for a few minutes and then threw them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. This keeps them nice and bright green, but cooks them just enough to be delicious!

After chiffonading a couple of heads of Bibb lettuce, I tossed the lettuce, potatoes, and beans with a few diced shallots and chives. I poured in most of the dressing and tossed it together.
Honestly, it may not look like all that much, but it was delicious. Since everything is tossed together at the last minute, the lettuce, shallots and green beans were nice and crunch. The potatoes are soft and creamy - and with the dressing all over everything it was delicious. This could be a main dish on it's own. One of my favorite things is a baked potato with sour cream, butter and a little too much salt and pepper - this is what that tasted like, but a LOT better.  Everyone really enjoyed it and Mary Beth specifically asked to take the leftovers home. I think this one will go into the regular rotation as well.

I wanted to knock another recipe out and though homemade potato chips would be a hit with the kids. So I also made Fingerling Potato Chips. This one's mise en place was super easy: potatoes, salt and oil.
And... I got to use my way-too-expensive-mayonnaise-making-machine AGAIN! I used it to thinkly slice my fingerling potatoes. Dude, seriously, my cost per use here is plummeting!
But here's where things get a little less super easy. All I had to do was heat the oil to 350 degrees, fry the potatoes and voila... Yeah. Right. Voila. So if the oil isn't quite 350 degrees because your candy thermometer isn't meant to attach to the side of a cast iron skillet full of oil and because it keeps touching the cast iron itself it's measuring the temp of the cast iron and not the skillet but you don't notice that because you're busy doing a hundred other things like preparing a Father's Day feast for twelve people and seriously it's not my fault, OKAY??? Soggy chips. That's what you get, soggy chips. If the oil isn't quite 350 degrees and you fry the potatoes in said oil - it's soggy chips. Stupid soggy chips. The small ones were crispy and delicious - you know when you go to a restaurant that makes their own chips and they're always so much better than bag chips? Well that's what the small ones were like - yummy. The rest of them were more like... um... soggy potatoes.

But they looked pretty!