Friday, October 9, 2015

Pumpkin Zeppole – You “Can” Do It

It may sound strange, but the only way to mess up this pumpkin zeppole, is by using a fresh pumpkin. Like virtually every other pumpkin dessert, I think using pure canned pumpkin will give you the best results. That really is the trick to this Halloween treat.

If you take a pumpkin, roast it, and scoop out the flesh, it may look similar to the canned stuff, but you’ll be surprised at how little sweetness and flavor it actually has. It sounds like a great way to go, but in reality, it is not. And what about “sugar pumpkins;” that smaller variety of pumpkin specially grown for cooking? They are definitely better, but still, it’s been my experience that even those don’t have as concentrated a flavor.

Like all things cooking, people will vehemently disagree with me, and claim they can achieve results that are just as good using fresh, but even so, that’s a lot of work for something that’s basically the same. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide.

Special thanks to my old friend, Jennifer Perillo, for this recipe was adapted from one of hers. I’m not above stealing a recipe from total stranger, but it’s nice knowing the foundation for a recipe is coming from someone who actually knows what they’re doing. I hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 24-30 depending on the size:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup (8 ounces) fresh ricotta cheese, well-drained
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1/4 cup white sugars
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Canola oil for frying

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Crab Rangoon – Rhymes with Swoon

Many people are surprised when they find out that crab rangoons are about as Asian as Buffalo chicken wings, but it’s true. Even though they’re commonly found on Chinese and Thai menus, they were actually invented in San Francisco, at Trader Vic’s, in 1956.

While not “authentic,” these crispy crab and cream cheese wontons are one of the most addictive, delicious, and crowd-pleasing appetizers ever created. That is, if the filling has enough crab in it. Most of the restaurant versions I’ve had are probably 3 or 4 parts cream cheese, to 1 part crab, but here we’re using a 1 to 1 ratio, and the results are amazing.

Besides being generous with the crab (or lobster, or chicken), the other critical factor is the “warhead” fold. Even though you can fold these over once to make a simple triangle, I highly recommend using the method shown herein.

The “turnover” fold is easier, but you don’t get nearly as much crispy goodness, and that’s what makes these so great. It’s that contrast between the warm creamy center, and those four crunchy edges that makes this such a magical bite I really hope you give them a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 60 Crab Rangoons:
8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces crab meat, drained well
1 clove crushed garlic
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch cayenne
60 square wonton wrappers
canola oil for deep-frying

For the sauce:
(Note: I only made a half batch in the video. This should easily be enough for 60 rangoons)
1 cup ketchup
1/4 rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce, or to taste

Friday, October 2, 2015

Easy English Muffins – A Model of Buttery Deliciousness

I don’t watch a lot of food television, but every once and a while I’ll catch a show where celebrity chefs sit around describing the best things they ever ate, and this English muffin was inspired by one served at the Model Bakery, in Napa, CA.

These muffins were fried in clarified butter, and looked (and sounded) absolutely amazing. I didn’t actually use their recipe, since I wanted to experiment with a simpler, faster method; but if it makes you feel any better, I did cook them in clarified butter.

Speaking of which, I’ve never done a video for clarified butter, but you don’t need one, since all we do is melt some unsalted butter (the only kind I ever use), and once it’s melted, take a spoon and skim off the white, foamy milk solids from the top. That’s it. Once clarified, you can use it without fear of the butter burning from high temps, or long cooking times.

If you want, you could just briefly brown each side and finish these in an oven until cooked through, but I did mine all the way in the pan, a la Model Bakery, and it worked out fine. They took about 7 to 8 minutes per side, and really took on a great buttery flavor.

Over the years, I’ve tried several different methods, including the traditional batter cooked in ring molds system, but I think this technique is much easier, and produces something very close to a classic English muffin. I hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes 6 English Muffins (recipe can easily be doubled):

- First mix:
1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water
- Wait 15 minutes to see if yeast is alive, then add:
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg white
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup warm water
- Mix dough and let double
- Form 6 seamless balls of dough, press on to a lined baking pan, coating both sides  with non-hipster corn meal.
- Allow to double in size and fry in clarified butter for about 7-8 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Let cool before splitting!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup – Legend of the Fall

This roasted butternut squash soup is probably my favorite fall soup of all time, which is why I’m so shocked we haven’t posted a video for it before. It’s cheap, easy, nutritious, and absolutely delicious; and should probably go into the once-a-week rotation for a few months at least.

As I mention in the video, there’s really no great reason to simmer this for an hour like I did, but I think it does help harmonize the flavors, not to mention humidify your home. A cold, rainy day just looks better through steamed-up windows.

If you’re feeling like something a bit more substantial, try this topped with a handful of crispy bacon. Of course, I wouldn’t say no to some diced ham either. Add a hard roll, and you can’t get a better autumn meal. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 portions:
For the sage brown butter:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
6-8 large sage leaves (or a lot of tiny leaves like I used in the video)
For the soup:
3 1/2 pound butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 cup sliced carrots
6 garlic cloves, peeled
sage-infused brown butter
2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
6 cups chicken broth, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or other vinegar)
cayenne to taste
creme fraiche and chive to garnish