Consider this post another chapter in my quest to identify ways to use excess sourdough starter when I do my weekly feeding. I’ve made cake, crackers, and biscuits so far. Unlike fresh starter, the pre-fed starter doesn’t contribute much to rise. Its role instead is flavor.

Thinking about Thanksgiving, I recently made popovers and thought I’d share the results with you so you could put them on your clients’ Thanksgiving menus. Who doesn’t adore airy popovers? Along with the intriguing sourdough flavor these have, I’ve added something a little extra: everything topping–you know, the topping you find on bagels. You can find everything seasoning online at King Arthur Flour and locally at Trader Joe’s. If you’re not a fan, no worries. You can leave them naked and dunk into a gravy or sauce. You can make them a little sweet by topping them in cinnamon sugar. You could also top them with finely chopped toasted nuts with or without sugar. Be bold! Or not if you or your clients are purists.

The other delightful aspect of these popovers is how ridiculously easy they are to make. You’ll heat up milk until it’s just warm–not hot! Then you’ll combine the milk with eggs, the sourdough starter, and a little salt.

Whisk in the flour–but don’t over mix. Even a few lumps are just fine. This batter is very forgiving. Notice I used the word batter, not dough. This mixture is very loose–like heavy cream. Don’t worry. It’ll work just fine.

It’ll start baking in a very hot oven. After 15 minutes you’ll turn down the heat and continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes. Try as hard as you can to time this with when you want to serve the popovers because these guys are best eaten right away. But, get this, I froze what I couldn’t eat immediately. When I wanted one, I pulled it out of the freezer and let it defrost, then heated it up in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes. It was still delicious.

If you are going to add a topping, melt butter in a wide little bowl just before the popovers come out of the oven. Then pull them out of the cups, dip, and roll.

Everything Sourdough Popovers
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes 6 popovers

Ingredients
8 ounces milk
3 large eggs
4 ounces sourdough starter, fed or discard
¾ teaspoon salt
4 ¼ ounces all-purpose flour
¼ cup melted unsalted butter
¼ cup everything topping (available from Trader Joe’s or King Arthur Flour)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450° and add muffin or popover pan.

Warm milk in the microwave or a small saucepan until it’s just warm to the touch.

Combine warm milk with eggs, sourdough starter, and salt. Gradually whisk in flour until it just comes together. Don’t worry about eliminating all lumps.
The batter will be loose, about the consistency of heavy cream.

Remove hot pan from the oven and spray it thoroughly with non-stick pan spray or brush generously with oil or melted unsalted butter.

Pour batter into the popover cups about ¾ of the way up. If you’re using a muffin tin, fill all the way to the top. Space the popovers around so each one is surrounded by empty cups to allow the popovers to expand while they bake.

Bake popovers for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 375° and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove the popovers from the oven. Dip the top into a small bowl of melted butter and roll in everything mixture. Serve immediately or cool and freeze. To reheat, defrost and place in oven at 350° for about 15 minutes.

Will you be making a baked side for Thanksgiving? What is your go-to recipe?

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For years I’ve been making pickles, mostly dill pickles. I never really thought of it as “fermenting.” But I recently researched and wrote a story on fermenting vegetables for the San Diego Union-Tribune. It was then that I realized that fermenting was exactly what I was doing. Perhaps you’ve been doing it too. Or, perhaps you’ve been curious about it and intrigued enough to want to do it for clients–perhaps as a gift of a healthy snack.

Thanks to my friend Curt Wittenberg, a scientist who has been fermenting everything from beer to sauerkraut and has been my guru through this, I decided to branch out and pickle some vegetables I had  using a salt brine. (Pickling with vinegar is just pickling.) And that’s what I did last month with a simple quart of vibrant purple cauliflower, a pretty red and yellow stripped bell pepper, huge jalapeños, and lots of garlic cloves. I kind of had the makings of a giardiniera so I thought I’d use the seasonings for that: black peppercorns, dried oregano, celery seeds, and red pepper flakes. No olive oil, though.

And, by the way, this is the perfect post-farmers market shopping project. Do it with your kids or grandkids. Hey, it’s a science project!

I had forgotten that several years ago I had contributed to a Go Fund Me for a little company called FARMcurious that was creating a fermenting set, with lids, stoppers, and airlocks. The set locks out air–and mold and yeast–and provides an escape for carbon dioxide. As a funder, I got one and put it in my garage–and it just became part of the landscape of the shelves. But no more. I pulled it out and was almost ready. But in interviewing Curt I realized I needed two other tools I didn’t even know existed (I had jars): glass fermentation weights, to make sure the vegetables stay covered by the brine, and a vegetable tamper, which you use to cram as much produce into your jar. I ordered those from Cultures for Health.

The process is simple. Chop up the vegetables to the size you like. Make a salt brine of water and salt. Make sure everything you touch–from the jar to the fermenting set to the tamper to the weights–is perfectly clean. Then start filling the jar. Add your spices first, then the vegetables. You can layer them by vegetable type or mix them up. I layered these. Tamp them down. Then add the brine. Top with the weight (and carefully pull out any little random pieces of vegetables or spices. Screw on the lid of the fermenting set. Set it out on your kitchen counter, away from direct sun, and let science do its work.

That’s it. If you don’t have a fermenting set, no worries. I never used one before and have been making pickles for seeming centuries. Instead use a clean lid and “burp” the jar, meaning slightly loosen it and then tighten it again once a day for the first few days. This lets that carbon dioxide escape.

Here’s a quick note from Curt about the proportions for the brine and vegetables. In short, it’s kind of improvisational. It depends on the size of the vegetable pieces and their density. So, he suggests having an extra bottle or bottles in different sizes in case there’s overage. You can always rummage around your fridge and add more vegetables if you didn’t prepare enough for another quart jar. And save any excess brine to add in case some bubbles out of the bottle or to add after you remove your pickle pebble and want to start sampling.

After a few days or up to 12 days (I pegged it for five days, at Curt’s advice, given the hot weather), unscrew the fermenting set and replace it with a regular screw-on lid and refrigerate. Then eat! Add these to a sandwich or a cheese or charcuterie platter–or just snack on them.

So, here we were on Day 1. I was hoping: A) No mold develops and B) It tastes terrific. I expected that those vibrant colors of the first day would fade but with luck/science, the colors would be replaced by big flavor.

Instead, I was surprised to find that the purple from the cauliflower leached through the mixture to create a jar of fuschia pickles. And they are wonderful. Crunchy and briny, but with the essence of oregano coming through. I love snacking on them, even the slices of jalapeños. In fact, they turned out so well I made a second jar with conventional cauliflower and sans the peppers for my mother, who is tickled with them.

Fermented Giardiniera
Adapted from Curt Wittenberg’s Lacto-Fermented Mixed Vegetable recipe
Yield: 1 quart

Ingredients
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Approximately 1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
6 black peppercorns
4 or more peeled garlic cloves
1 cup cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 red pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 large jalapeños, thickly sliced

Instructions
To prepare brine, warm 3/4 cups of water, add salt, and stir to dissolve. Add 3/4 cups cold water to bring brine to room temperature.

In a quart jar add the oregano, red pepper flakes, celery seeds, peppercorns, and the garlic cloves. Fill jar with vegetables, leaving about 1 ½ inches of headspace. Pour brine over all, just covering the vegetables and leaving the headspace. Top with the glass fermentation weight.

Cover jar with lid and airlock, if using, or tight lid. Ferment at room temperature for 3 to 12 days. If using a tight lid, be sure to burp the jar by slightly loosening the lid and then tightening it again daily for the first few days of fermentation.

Once the vegetables have developed the desired acidity, move them to cold storage.

Have you gotten into fermentation? What do you make and what advice do you have for beginners?f

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It’s fig season and if you and your clients are like me you consider figs to be rare and wonderful things that should be enjoyed as much as possible while they’re around.

Now I know personal chefs aren’t usually focused on desserts, but for those of you who have clients who want dessert from you or who cater dinner parties, I hope you’ll try these Orange Poached Figs with Vanilla Custard Sauce. This custard is cooked stovetop. It’s more labor intensive than simple baked custard and you’ll get a bit of a steam facial but the flavor and texture are so marvelous it’s worth it–and can be done in advance if you’re entertaining, then put together when you’re ready to serve it.

To make this delicate sauce you’ll be using a double boiler. To avoid it curdling cook the custard over, not in, the boiling water in the lower pot so it won’t get too hot. Stir the mixture constantly. Cook only until the custard leaves a thick coating on the back of a metal spoon, then remove it from the heat to keep it from cooking. If worst comes to worst and you see streaks of scrambled eggs, you can either pour it through a fine sieve into a bowl or pour it into a blender jar and process it until it’s smooth again, then return it to the heat.

For the figs, poaching is a dream. You can riff on the liquid flavorings–using red or white wine or a dessert wine or water and juice or even balsamic vinegar. Add sugar, perhaps herbs, vanilla, or citrus zest. I focused on orange, with a syrup made of cointreau and orange zest. The flavor perfectly complements the vanilla custard sauce. Combine the ingredients, bring to a simmer for five minutes, then add the figs and simmer for another five minutes. If necessary turn the figs as they’re cooking to be sure the figs poach evenly. Then remove the saucepan from the heat and let the figs cool in the syrup.

When serving, quarter the figs and place them on a plate with a lip and spoon the custard around them.

Orange Poached Figs with Vanilla Custard Sauce
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 cup orange liqueur
Zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 cups water
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 vanilla bean, split
8 fresh figs (I used brown turkey figs)
2 cups milk
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt,
Seeds scraped from 1-inch length of vanilla bean

Prepare figs first. To make poaching liquid combine liqueur, zest, water, thyme, and vanilla bean into a non-reactive medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for five minutes.

Add figs to the syrup and continue simmering for another five minutes, periodically turning the figs to ensure they cook evening. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the figs cool for about 10 minutes in the syrup. Then remove to a plate. You can save the syrup by straining it into a container.

Prepare the custard by bringing water in the bottom of a double boiler to the boil. In the top of the double boiler scald the milk. Then slowly stir in the egg yolks, sugar, and salt. Stir the mixture constantly over (not in) the boiling water. Once it has thickened enough to coat the back of a metal spoon remove the custard sauce from the heat and continue beating to release any steam. Stir in the vanilla seeds. Pour into a dish and chill in the refrigerator.

To plate the dish, quarter the figs to show off their interior. Place two each flower-like on a plate with lips or shallow bowl. Carefully pour the custard around the figs.

Do you have a favorite recipe for using figs? Please share!

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Want Sustainable Meat? Try Rabbit

Filed under: Special Ingredients , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , May 7, 2018

Rabbit is one of those meats that has yet to find a place on a mainstream U.S. menu. While it’s more commonly found in European countries, like France and Spain, just try to find it in a supermarket in the States.

And yet, farm-raised rabbit is a lovely, mild meat and lends itself well to a variety of dishes—if you know how to treat it. Because it’s so lean, it needs moist heat. And, because it’s so lean, it’s very healthy. Some call it the true white meat.

Rabbits are commonly braised or stewed—because of their leanness. If you have a whole rabbit, you can stuff the cavity with spices, truss it, sear it in fat, and cook it in a roasting pan or tagine surrounded by mire poix, stock, and potatoes. Not unlike cooking a whole chicken.

You can also break down the body. Trim the hind legs like chicken quarters by following the line and breaking at the joint. Cut the rest—a rather bony rib cage and a saddle attached to the spine—by cutting away the rib cage to use for stock and then cutting the saddle in half along the spine. Braise the pieces stovetop with olives and pine nuts or in the oven with stock, red or white wine, beer/ale, or cider, accompanied by root vegetables, earthy mushrooms, sliced apples, citrus, or herbs. Or, as a winter dish, cook it in a crust of Dijon mustard and horseradish.

If you do buy a whole rabbit, be sure to keep the liver and whatever fat you get. You can stuff the fat back into the whole rabbit when you braise it. And the liver? It’s sublime sautéed in bacon fat and sliced. You can also add it to flavor gravy or make paté.

Because rabbit is so lean, you have to be careful about not overcooking it. Be sure to use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. You want the temperature to reach no more than 145 to 150 degrees, then remove it from the heat and let it rest. The meat will continue to cook as it cools, and you should get a resting temperature of 160 to 165 degrees.

While braising is a virtually foolproof way to prepare and serve rabbit, don’t limit yourself to that; rabbit’s very versatile. How about making rabbit street tacos? This is a dish I learned from San Diego chef Karrie Hills. You can grill meaty legs outdoors or sear them on the stove and then finish them in the oven, flavoring them with the smoke from a cedar plank.

Once the rabbit legs are cooked, slice the meat from the bones and build your tacos with sliced avocado, cheese (Hills uses feta, but you can use whatever appeals to you), and pico de gallo. You’ll turn a conventional SoCal dish into something deliciously memorable and unique.

Rabbit Street Tacos

From Karrie Hills
Yield: 10 tacos

Ingredients
2, 8-ounce rabbit legs
1 tablespoon powdered galangal
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons bacon fat
1 orange, quartered
½ yellow onion, peeled and sliced
5 to 6 whole peeled garlic cloves
5 dried red chiles
3 sprigs fresh oregano
4 tablespoons butter

Cedar plank
10 small corn tortillas

For Pico de Gallo
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
¼ onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
½ jalapeño, seeded and chopped
Juice from 2 limes
Pinch of salt

1 avocado, sliced lengthwise—enough for each taco
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese

Combine the galangal, oregano, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper to make a rub. Pat dry the rabbit legs and apply the rub. Let set from 15 minutes to 4 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the 3 tablespoons of bacon fat in a frying pan. Heat the pan over high heat until the fat is close to smoking. Reduce to medium heat and add the rabbit legs. Brown three to four minutes on each side and, using tongs, pick up the legs and brown the edges.

In a baking dish, create a bed of the quartered orange, onion, garlic cloves, red chiles, and oregano sprigs. Top with the rabbit legs. Top with butter and sprinkle with salt. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover and continue baking for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is 145 to 150 degrees. Remove from the oven and let rest. The internal temperature should rise to 160 to 165 degrees.

While the rabbit is cooking, making the pico de gallo by combining all the ingredients.

Heat the cedar plank on the stovetop (you’ll need a gas stove to do this). Once it starts to smoke, place the rabbit on the plank and cover with foil to smoke while heating the tortillas. Melt more bacon fat or a neutral oil in a pan and sauté the tortillas.

Remove the rabbit from the cedar plank and pull the meat off the bones. Slice the meat (keep the bones to use for stock).

Make the taco by adding rabbit meat to the tortilla. Add a slice of avocado. Spoon on the pico de gallo, and top with crumbled feta. Garnish with cilantro.

Have you cooked with rabbit? What are your favorite dishes?

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The world may fall into two distinct camps: those who love garlic and how it perfumes whatever it touches — and those who detest it.

I belong to the first camp and so I was naturally intrigued when I learned about black garlic many years ago. Yes, it’s garlic. No, it’s not a unique variety. And, no, it’s not rotten. It’s the same head you’ve been cooking with for years only it’s been aged and fermented for a month to the point where it’s softened, turned black and has taken on a sweeter, mellower flavor. Think molasses or figs. Dark and deep and complex. Some restaurant chefs have figured out how to make it on their own and there are directions on various sites for making it but it’s readily available online at Black Garlic North America, Mondo Food, Amazon, at specialty spice shops, and some Whole Foods stores. And there are plenty of sites with recipes for using black garlic that you can do an easy search for. Basically, though, use it as you would use roasted garlic, understanding that the flavor will be different.

One dish I’ve made with black garlic is pesto. The pesto is your basic basil, parmesan, nut variety but I substituted fresh garlic with the black garlic. The results were a deep dark sauce with nutty flavors but sweet instead of pungent. To offset the sweetness I added red pepper flakes.


Pesto with Black Garlic

3 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts (I used walnuts this time)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
9 cloves (1 head) of black garlic
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to the bowl of a food processor and let it run until the ingredients have been thoroughly mixed and pureed. Then, with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

I expected the pesto to be much darker given the color of the garlic, but it’s still quite green. The pesto will be perfect, of course, with pasta, but with warmer weather on the way, it’s perfect for drizzling over tomatoes and roasted vegetables like fennel. It’s also perfect on pizza and drizzled over fish.

Black garlic is also a perfect ingredient for roasted chicken. Here’s what I’ve done successfully: make black garlic butter. But I upped the flavor by also including fresh ginger. It’s easy to do. Use a mini food processor and puree two tablespoons of softened butter, three cloves of black garlic and about an inch of peeled ginger chopped into a few pieces. Just for myself, with a whole chicken leg I spread half under the skin, added salt and pepper to the skin, threw in a beautiful spring onion I had trimmed, sprinkled a little olive oil on both. The chicken and spring onion roasted at 400 for about an hour.

 

 

With the rest of the compound butter, I sautéed lovely miniature (not “baby”) carrots. These are no more than an inch-and-half long (many even smaller) in colors ranging from cream to orange to red. They have all the flavor of full-sized carrots but are precious on the plate. Once the carrots were cooked through, I added about a tablespoon of brown sugar and a sprinkling of dill and cooked it for another couple of minutes. You can use fresh chopped dill, of course. I had on hand a bottle of dill I had dried on my own (spread the dill fronds on a baking sheet and bake at low heat for about 10 minutes, then turn off the oven and let it sit until the dill is thoroughly dry being careful not to let it burn. Break it up, chop and store.)

What unique ingredient is now your “secret ingredient” and how do you use it?

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