Friday, June 24, 2011

Salmon Cornets with Cold-Smoked Salmon

As teachers, my wife and I don't make the kind of scratch to afford dining at the finest restaurants.  Actually, we could afford it, I suppose, but would feel extremely guilty for doing so.  When we do go out, we have a few favorite Vietnamese, Chinese, and Mexican spots where we can have dinner for about $20 for the two of us, including tip.  In other words, I don't expect we'll be dining at The French Laundry anytime soon.

But eating on the cheap doesn't mean eating poorly.  With access to good ingredients and good recipes anyone can eat well with a little effort.  Thomas Keller's salmon cornets have always appealed to me.  Salmon tartare with creme fraiche in a savory tuile cornet, they sounded delicious.  Unlike some chefs who seem to favor form over substance, Keller's recipes always put taste at the forefront. 

This is not a recipe you are going to whip up for a quick snack.  While not particularly difficult, it is time consuming.  The cornets require the sort of finicky attention to detail that can try the patience of even a serene soul such as myself.  Should you have small children in the house, you might want to keep them far from the kitchen unless you want them to learn a-whole-nother vocabulary.  Words cannot express the frustration of watching a tuile slide off the slipat like a house in a landslide.  Still, a few F-bombs improves one's mood.  They can be made ahead of the day you intend to use them, so you will be in a better mood when filling them.

Keller's recipe calls for fresh salmon, but I used some cold-smoked sockeye salmon because I had just smoked it and had it on hand.  I also added some fresh dill.  I did not mince the salmon as finely as Keller does, but I like the slightly larger dice.  Deceptively rich, these make a wonderful appetizer for a small gathering.  I served them standing in bowls with tuerca de maiz which I get at Corti Brothers, the corn kernels anchoring the cornets but also providing another snack once the cornets were finished.

The recipe is in Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook.  It can also be found here

 Spreading the batter on a stencil on a slipat. 
The cornets after they've been removed from the forms.

Ready to serve.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Screw It! We're Doing Beanie Weinies Java Style for Dinner

The weather affects my mood.  My normally bubbling cheerfulness gruff forbearance, becomes downright grim when winter stretches through spring. The first week in June and Sacramento hasn't even seen the 90s.  We had a week of cold rain and tornadoes--in June, in northern California.  June usually finds me struggling to be heard over the roar of the rattling air conditioner in my classroom.  Monday the radiators were gurgling with steam.  Anyone tries to be perky around me these days--I'll gut them, make them eat their own livers. 

After putting together all the dishes for my 24 x 24 entry last week, I was looking for something less taxing.  Normally, I would be grilling in June.  The weather has put me in such a funk that I decided to go old school, cooking some baked beans with some homemade beef dogs.  I made the hot dogs earlier and had to find a way to use them up.  They were good dogs, smoky with a good snap, but how many hot dogs can a person eat?

Beanie weinies--a favorite of my brother-in-law, PapaBob--is a traditional American comfort food.  Baked beans with bacon (or salt pork) and hot dogs in a sweet sauce are a great dish for a cold, wet winter day.  So it's June; I don't care anymore. The days are dark and the rain is puddling in the streets. 

Baked beans call for cornbread. Cathy, over at Gastronomy, had a posting featuring some cornbread muffins recently. They got me salivating.  I had some corn to use up, so I decided to make up my own batch.  They didn't turn out quite as cheesy as I'd like, but they were very good.  Even with the miserable weather I managed to improve my mood. 

Soon we'll be in the 100s.  Good.  Great.  Bring on the heat.  As good as the beanie weinies and cornbread muffins were, I'd  prefer not to have an excuse to eat them until November.  It's time for margaritas and grilled meats.

Javanese Beanie Weanies

1 lb. small white beans, soaked overnight in 10 cups water
1 onion, peeled and diced
1/2 lb. bacon, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup kecap manis
1 cup coffee
1 cup pineapple juice
100 grams gula merah or dark brown sugar
3/4 cup tomato ketchup
2 tsp mustard

6 to 8 hot dogs, sliced in 1 inch pieces

In a 6 quart pot, fry the bacon until it is maybe half way cooked.  Add the onion and cook until softened.  Drain the beans, reserving the water.  Stir in soaked beans and the remaining ingredients except for the hot dogs.  Add reserved water to cover by about 1/2 an inch.  Cover the pot with foil and bake in 300º F oven for 5 to 6 hours, stirring every 90 minutes or so.  

Add sliced hot dogs and cook for another 30 to 45 minutes.  If beans are too liquid, remove the foil.  If too dry, add more of the reserved water, stir well and cook longer.  Serve with rice or cornbread.

The cornbread muffins recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan's which I found at  Serious Eats.

Corny Cornbread Muffins with Bacon, Jalapeño and Cheese

1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2  tsp baking soda
kernels from 2 ears of corn, or 1 cup of frozen kernels
4 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp, crumbled
4 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
6 TBS sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
3 TBS bacon grease
3 TBS vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 400º F.  Grease or spray 12 muffin standard muffin pan with no-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients.  In a large measuring cup mix the liquid ingredients together, beating the egg and egg yolk to mix thoroughly.  Add corn, cheese and bacon to the flour mixture.  Pour in liquid mixture and stir to make a thick batter.  Ladle or pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan.  Bake in middle of the preheated oven for 15--18 minutes until done.  Cool muffins on a wire rack.