Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thermodynamic Lesson

During Trey's block leave we decided to have a smoking party.  No, not the California-hippy style smoking party.   We smoked meat.  I mean, we smoked MEAT!  Full brisket and 5 or 6 racks of ribs (St. Louis cut).  Plus just to round things out I threw some veggies in the smoker for fun.  Smoking meat takes about 10 hours, depending on the size of the meat.  A brisket takes about 10 hours to get fork tender but not falling apart.   Of course during this time you must periodically stoke the fire, check the temperature, and check on the meat.  The active time is about 1 hour total, wedged into 10 hours of drinking beer and poking at a fire.  Trey is in charge of the smoking.  I open beers.  Its a good trade.

Of course, you can't consume that much meat yourself, so you must invite people over.  And if people are coming, you must have additional dishes to serve to round out the table.  Otherwise the table would tip over from the enormous amount of meat on one side.  I decided to go with basic BBQ style sides.  My traditional bluecheese coleslaw, baked potatoes, and because I can't stand to do a party completely simple..... chocolate eclairs.  With homemade pastry cream.

As you know, meat that is smoked usually has BBQ sauce either on it or on the side.  Trey made his own BBQ sauce.  He was heating it up at the last minute to pour over the meat for the last half hour of smoking.  In his effort to minimize the amount of dishes (smart, since he's the one that does them), he decided to heat the sauce in the Pyrex measuring cup.  Now Pyrex is a pretty amazing substance.  It goes from oven to fridge with no problem.  However, what he did not realize was that oven heat and stove heat are different due to the different thermodynamic properties of air vs. glass.  This lesson was made abundantly clear when the 4 cup measure containing the BBQ sauce exploded all over the kitchen.

I was just so happy that the explosion wasn't my fault that all I could do was laugh.  And then hand the 3 guys in the room mops and towels to clean up.  Luckily we had enough ingredients for another batch of BBQ sauce, which was made in a pan, and I got a brand new Pyrex measuring cup out of the deal.

Exploding sauce notwithstanding, it was an excellent party.  Good food, good company, whiskey tasting, and I won an argument with Ivan about whether meat caramelizes (it does, due to the natural sugars in muscle tissue).  At one point I came into the family room and all 4 children were furiously jumping up and down on the couch.  I guess the cookies that Mallory brought were a hit too.

Pate a Chou

  • 1 1/4 cups water

  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour

  • 4 to 6 large eggs

  • Preheat oven to 425.  In a heavy saucepan bring water to a boil with butter and salt over high heat. Reduce heat to moderate. Add flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until mixture pulls away from sides of pan, forming a dough.  Transfer dough to bowl of a standing electric mixer and beat in 4 eggs, 1 at a time, on high speed, beating well after each addition. Batter should be stiff enough to just hold soft peaks and fall softly from a spoon. If batter is too stiff, in a small bowl beat remaining 2 eggs lightly, 1 at a time, and add to batter, a little at a time, beating on high speed, until batter is desired consistency.

    Pipe onto cookie sheets covered in parchment paper.  Pipe mounds 1 1/2 inches in diameter, leaving 1 1/2 inches between circles.  Using a wet finger, smooth the tops of the mounds.  Bake at 425 for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 400 and bake an additional 20 min until golden brown and hollow sounding.  Turn oven off and let stand in oven for 30 min.  Then remove and allow to cool completely. 

    Vanilla Pastry Cream

  • 1 1/2 cups half and half

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Bring half and half to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk sugar, eggs, egg yolk and flour in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot half and half. Transfer to saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until mixture thickens and comes to boil, about 5 minutes. Boil 1 minute. Pour into medium bowl. Stir in vanilla. Press plastic onto surface of pastry cream. Cover; chill until cold, about 4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)

    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    Drinkin' and Drivin'

    There are many things you should not drive when you are drinking.  Cars, trucks, tractors, and a new one to add to the list is shopping carts.  Especially when said shopping cart happens to be in Feinkost Bohm.  For anyone who is a regular follower of my blog will now be slapping their forehead saying "oh no, she didn't go in there AGAIN?  Doesn't she know the devil works there?"  And in fact he does.  Yes, this is the tall, dark, handsome, vaguely-British accented man that convinced me to buy Iranian caviar and 2 bottles of champagne because of course I needed it.  Well, this time I was in for a quick shopping trip.  Yeah, yeah, I know, no such thing with me.  But I was also kind of playing hooky from work, so there were multiple reasons for my visit.  Plus I needed food to cook for dinner with my in-laws.....

    Cue suspense music.......

    And then he appeared, informing me that there was a special on a new, small vineyard champagne and I should try some.  So after a try, or two, I went on my merry way patting myself on the back for not succumbing to the temptation to buy an entire case of champagne.  And in my glow of self-satisfaction I decided to buy some steaks for dinner.  Upon glancing up and down the meat counter I decided on Waygu beef.  In filet and ribeye cuts.  They looked lovely and I planned to make them with a cognac mustard sauce.  I was feeling so proud of myself for avoiding the damage of a case of champagne and having a nice classic dinner planned.  And then I went to the register with my armful of parcels.

    Big cymbal crash as the monster leaps out........

    Yes, I had, in fact, bought the most expensive meat possible.  In the most expensive cuts.  Imported from Japan.  My pocketbook had a seizure, the credit card company began collectively shaking their heads, and all the while the devil is sitting in the background with a placid smile and a glass of Champagne.

    No more drinking and driving shopping carts.

    I will tell you that the beef was amazing, the sauce turned out perfectly, and the blue-cheese cheesecake that went on crackers as a sort of side dish was perfect with the steak.  I also made a green bean casserole which was good, but unremarkable.

    2 cuts of the most expensive steak you can find
    1T Olive Oil
    Pinch of Salt
    Pinch of Pepper

    Let steaks rest at room temperature while you consume your first glass of wine and explain to your spouse why you are now broke.  Heat olive oil in pan until very hot but not smoking.  Salt and Pepper steaks on both sides.  Sear steaks on both sides, 6 min total if Medium Rare.  If wanting another type of cooking, buy less expensive steaks.

    Cognac Sauce
    3T + 1/2C Cognac
    1T Dijon Mustard
    1/4C Heavy Cream

    Deglaze steak pan with 3T Cognac sauce.  Sip the rest, pouring small amounts into the pan to get the right consistency.  Add mustard and heavy cream.  Stir until thickened.  Salt and Pepper as needed, but taste first.  Salt and pepper from the steaks rubs off a little.  Pour over steaks.

    Blue Cheese Cheesecake
    1 Refrigerator Pie crust
    1/2 Package Cream Cheese
    4-6oz. Blue Cheese (depending on desired taste)
    1 Egg
    1/4C Heavy Cream
    Pinch Salt
    Pinch Pepper
    2 Large Onions
    2T Butter
    Pinch of Sugar (about 1t)

    Preheat oven to 375.  Blind bake the pie crust in 7in pie pan.  Remove from oven when light brown.  Cream both cheeses, egg, cream, salt and pepper.  Pour into pie crust.  Bake for 20-35 min, until cheesecake is solid in middle. 

    Cut onions into slices.  Heat butter in large frying pan.  Cook onions in butter until golden brown, stirring frequently.  Add sugar and cook for additional 3 min, until medium brown.  Serve on top of cheesecake.