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Tag: Cooking

Coffee and Kleinur

Kleinur, the long twisted diamond shaped donuts of Iceland, are among my favorite treats that I look forward to on my visits there. More dense than the typical donuts that you’d find here in the U.S., I like to think of them as a more sophisticated version so that I feel less remorse after eating a handful of them.

With the holidays here, my girlfriend and I have taken on making these ourselves for friends and family. Here’s the most commonly shared recipe that I could find online that we’ve used with success:

3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk or buttermilk
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. nutmeg
4 1/2 cups of flour, with extra for rolling dough out on surface

Beat eggs slightly and add sugar and beat some more. Gradually add the sour cream mixed with baking soda and milk alternately with the dry ingredients. This will take about 4 1/2 cups of flour. Mix it and pour out onto the floured board and divide into three portions and roll each out to approx. 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1 inch wide strips and then into about 2 1/2 inch long pieces. Put a slit in the center of each and fold one end through the slit. Fry in oil at about 375 degrees. Keep turning them till they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Allow them to dry on paper towels.

Serve with coffee. Somewhat related, here’s a believable recipe for an Icelandic Christmas Fruit Cake that calls for 1 bottle of whiskey.

Afield, Whole Larder Love

Released last fall, Afield and Whole Larder Love both approach cooking with local sustainable foods, advocating home gardens, wild gathering, and game hunting. The recipes found in each are fairly simple to follow if you have basic kitchen experience, and it’s refreshing to see more education in an area where there is large disconnect between dinner tables and food sources.

Page layout wise, Afield has more of a traditional cookbook feel, while Whole Larder Love uses a trendier style (no doubt influenced by the general styles of the publishers – Afield is from Welcome Books, and Whole Larder Love is from powerHouse). Both are worthwhile to have though, and I think are among the highlights of last year’s otherwise stale cookbook industry.

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Hearty Meals for Fall

My favorite season brings my favorite dishes and it’s now time for squashes, chanterelles, slow roasts, and Dogfish Punkin Ale. While I’m always learning new recipes and techniques, there are a set of meals that I routinely make which I’ve pulled from my two main cooking inspirations: Thomas Keller’s cookbooks and Le Pichet, a local restaurant. All of these are relatively inexpensive and easy to make:

Butternut Squash Souprecipe
This recipe is time consuming but worth it. For turning the squash mixture into a soup, I use a food mill instead of a blender (this one in particular) – this works well for most soups I make, and if it’s for an occasion where presentation is important, I also put the soup through a fine sieve to make the texture consistent.

Roasted Chicken on a Bed of Root Vegetablesrecipe
My favorite part about making this is that there is not much of a mess to clean up afterwards – all of the work can be done in a single roasting pan or cast iron roaster and I often just cut up the vegetables right over the pan with a paring knife without bothering with a board.

Baked Eggs (Oeufs en Cocotte)
This is a nice treat for anytime of the day. Basic steps, borrowed from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking: boil some water, turn your oven up to 375F, line the inside of a ramekin with butter, crack two eggs into the ramekin, pour in a little bit of cream or olive oil, add salt and pepper, place the ramekin into a deep sided baking dish, pour the boiling water into the baking dish so that the water comes up to about half the height of the ramekin (this will help the eggs cook through consistently), place the baking dish with the ramekin in it inside the oven for about 10-16 minutes depending on how firm you’d like the eggs to be.

There are countless variations and techniques for this, and you can add all sorts of ingredients. At Le Pichet for example, they have a signature egg dish which is baked under a broiler called Oeufs Plats, Jambon et Fromage (eggs cooked with ham and cheese).

Sauerkraut Platter (Choucroute Garnie)
Choucroute Garnie is very common in France and Germany, and it is basically cooked sauerkraut served with different preparations of pork (I prefer bratwurst, blood sausage, and pork loin). While my method is not this complicated, I like the steps outlined in this piece on Saveur.com and will try it next time I make it:

He began by melting a generous dollop of duck fat in a Dutch oven, the first step in making silky sauerkraut. He pointed out that it’s also important to rinse the choucroute before putting it into the pot: “In the end, the flavor should be delicate, like wine, not brine.” After seasoning the fermented cabbage with salt and pouring in a few cups of dry Alsatian riesling, he added a bouquet garni of bay leaves, cloves, and juniper berries. Now it was time to add the cured pork. There were two types of slab bacon, salty and smoky, and échine, a delicious cut from the back of the pig’s neck that I’m sorry to say isn’t available in the United States. While the pork and sauerkraut baked in the oven, chef Schillinger simmered the sausages on the stovetop: frankfurter-like knackwursts; garlicky, cumin-flecked Montbéliards; and mild, white boudins blancs. A thick round of boudin noir, or blood sausage, was cooked separately and sliced before serving.

Note the use of a bouquet garni, an important part of many preparations. If I have leeks on hand, I make them by binding up the herbs into two wrapped leaves. For a drink pairing with this dish, try a hard cider – my favorite being a recent vintage of the common Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie.


The Canal House Cookbooks

Among my favorite resources for dish ideas are a series of small cookbooks published under the name of Canal House Cooking. They are released seasonally when you can easily find ingredients for the recipes (the latest one has the blue cover) and just about all of them are easy to prepare if the right tools are on hand. You can buy them online and in some specialty cooking stores like Williams-Sonoma.

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Ad Hoc at Home

Thomas Keller’s latest cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home, is his most approachable one yet. It’s very true to its subtitle of “family-style recipes” and all of them are easy to do (I’ve successfully tried about a dozen of them so far). Best yet is that no fancy equipment is needed and just about all of the ingredients that he calls for can be found in most grocery stores. Keller does provide some interesting insights of his throughout the book as well, such as why he prefers canola oil or why you should use palette knives instead of tongs.

Ad Hoc at Home
True foodies might be disappointed by this book as it’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff like Under Pressure or French Laundry, but for everyone else it’s an excellent resource of information and would be a good second or third cookbook to have (after classics like Joy of Cooking, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking).

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