Chocolate Bavarois

10/22/2010

Chocolate Bavarois

Hey Guys! It’s Chef Z’s Birthday! So, to celebrate the occasion, I’m going to be a responsible blogger. On my birthday. BECAUSE I LOVE YOU GUYS.

A month or so ago, I picked up a cookbook called Cooking Essentials by Jane Price. I’m not normally a fan of generalized cookbooks, but this had pretty pictures and the recipes looked interesting. So, one day, when I had the kitchen all to myself, I pulled out a few recipes and cooked them up for review by a few good friends of mine. ALL of them were delicious, even with my minor alterations. So, long story short, or not so short,  go pick up Price’s cookbook. It’s totally worth it.

One dessert that I pulled out of Price’s Cooking Essentials was a recipe for Chocolate Bavarois; a rich, light-textured, mousse-like dessert. Please note, you WILL need and electric mixer (hand-mixer is fine). So, let me share with you:

Chocolate Bavarois 2

Chocolate Bavarois
(Recipe taken from Cooking Essentials: Appetizers, Entrees, and Desserts from Around the World by Jane Price)

1 1/3 cups chopped good-quality dark chocolate
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon gelatin
1 1/4 cups whipping cream

Combine the chocolate and milk in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until the chocolate has melted and the milk just comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until combined. Gradually add the hot chocolate milk, whisking until combined. Return to a clean saucepan and cook over low heat until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow to boil. Remove from heat.

Put 2 tablespoons water in a small heatproof bowl, sprinkle the gelatin in an even layer over the surface, and leave to go spongy. Stir into the hot chocolate mixture until dissolved.

Refrigerate until the mixture is cold, but not set, stirring occasionally.

Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form, then fold into the chocolate mixture in two batches. Pour into six 1-cup glasses and refrigerate several hours, or overnight, until set.

Of course, how you garnish is up to you. I chose to use chocolate shavings, a raspberry, and a mint leaf.

It’s not the easiest recipe to complete, but if you are able to, it is WELL worth the result of rich, chocolatey goodness.

Deux Chocolate Bavarois

Keep cookin’!
~ Chef Z

Tang Truffle

Tonight, I made truffles. I didn’t just make truffles, I made truffles with TANG.

“Why? Why would you do that, Chef Z?” might be the response of you, the Hardcore Reader. And I have  but one answer:

Because the Internet told me to.

For those not aware, I am an avid Tweeter. Judge all you want, but I just happen to love that 140 character goodness. One day, while browsing my Twitter feed, I see a tweet by the very awesome @awonger, reading:

“Dark Chocolate Infused With Red Chili”. They really need to make some chocolate infused with Tang.

The first thing I thought of were my Cocayoa Truffles – a dark chocolate truffle I make with cayenne pepper.  And I realized, @awonger was right.  If I could make truffles with pepper, I should damn well be able to make them with TANG.  I accepted his challenge. It was new, it was quirky, and frankly, I really do pretty much anything the Internet tells me to. Unless it involves a webcam. The Internet does not need any more of THAT.

So, this past weekend, I went to the local market and bought my first ever canister of Tang.

TangYou see, I didn’t grow up on Tang like oh-so-many of my peers. I knew it had a firm place in pop-culture and that it had something to do with astronauts, but that’s about it. (That, and also, it is an ingredient in the culinary art of bomb-making.) I opened the canister when I got home. It looked like those powdered cheese sauces that come with boxed mac ‘n’ cheese. I silently prayed I would not get the two mixed up.

My first thought was to break out the white chocolate. I figured “Tang + White Chocolate = Orange Chocolate.” THIS IS NOT TRUE. I have always had a troubled relationship with white chocolate and this experiment didn’t help at all. What I did learn is that Tang does not dissolve in chocolate. It just stays there as tangy little crystals suspended in chocolatey goodness. And that is how we learn.

Tang with White Chocolate

BECAUSE OF SCIENCE, THAT'S WHY.

I reformulated my plan. Tang in its powdered state was precious little good to me. I needed something more substantial. My plan? Tang SYRUP. A thick substance that would be easier to work with. So, I mixed together two cups of granulated sugar with two cups of Tang in a small pot. I brought the mixture to a boil, stirring often to keep any stray, undissolved sugar from burning, and let it boil on medium high for about five minutes. Then I turned the heat down to a simmer and cooked the mixture down to almost half volume, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point, I had a very hot, but viscous, Tang syrup. I poured it into a heat safe container and let it cool overnight at room temperature. (Don’t put it in the fridge, it will get MUCH too hard.)

Not what Kraft had intended.

Not what Kraft had intended.

The next day, I checked in on my Tang syrup. And lo and behold, it had cooled and thickened, not into syrup, but into a soft caramel-like texture. It wasn’t what I had expected (though, in hindsight, I should have), but I was not upset, as the texture actually lent itself very well to candy-making. Also, it tasted like an orange lollipop, which was pretty darn keen, too.

So, I painted the inside of some chocolate molds with some melted bittersweet chocolate and left them to set in the fridge while I whipped up an all-purpose, easy-as-pie faux truffle recipe. 1 14 oz. can of condensed milk, 18 oz. semisweet chocolate, a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and  1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, all melted together and mixed until smooth.  I set the truffle mixture in the fridge to chill while I took out the chocolate molds and began to fill them with Tang candy. I had two mold types, a shallow mold and a bonbon mold. The shallow molds were filled completely with Tang candy, by dipping a spoon into the Tang candy, lifting it to create a strand, and pinching off a piece of the strand with wet fingers. It sounds complicated, but after a few goes, it becomes surprisingly easy. After filling the shallow molds, they get popped back into the fridge to chill. Eventually, they are taken out, given a coat of chocolate on the bottom, and popped back in to chill for the last time. Once the chocolate bottom is hard, they are ready to be popped out of the mold.

Tang-filled Chocolate

The bonbon mold started out similarly. After a short chill, it is taken out and filled halfway with the Tang candy. Then, small balls of the truffle mixture are flattened into discs and pressed gently on top of the Tang candy layer. One last coat of chocolate created the bottom, and of course, a short chill between steps, and voila! The dual layer Tang Truffle.

Tang Truffle

And finally, I rolled out small balls of the truffle mixture and rolled them in a Cocoa-Tang coating: 2 parts cocoa to 1 part powdered sugar, with about a teaspoon of Tang for every cup of the mixture.

Tang-covered Truffles

And THAT, my Hardcore Readers, is how you make the Twitter Tang Truffle Trio. It was fun to develop, fun to make, and fun to eat. Make sure that you serve ALL of the candies at room temp, it’s just a better texture and flavor that way.
And yes, I know the shallow molds weren’t actually a “truffle”, and the rolled truffles were sort of cheating, and I didn’t actually “infuse” any of my chocolates with Tang. But you know what?

Twitter Tang Truffle Trio

I MADE TANG CLASSY.

So, I think that’s good enough.

~ Chef Z

Additional and full sized pictures of the creation and final Tang Truffles can be seen at Chef Z’s new photo gallery here.

Don Julio ReposadoHi all I am the Mighty Meatatarian and besides a variety of tasty dishes involving meat I am a very big fan of the alcohol, particularly Tequila!  Unfortunately this was supposed to be in celebration of Cinco De Mayo but I’m not only a lover of tequila but a total flake so it’s a little late.  Anyways, in this post we’re going to go over the basics of this wonderful liquid that I feel is perfect for any situation whether it’s a relaxing drink after work or with friends, a celebration, or mourning something sad in a dark and dusty room with random guitar playing in the background.

When it comes down to it, Tequila is a simple drink, you don’t particularly have to know too much to find a good brand other than a bit of background, a few defintions and what particularly works for your palate.

First off, lets consider a liquid known as Mezcal, (or Mescal) a beverage often confused with tequila since it is made from the agave plant much like tequila.  Mezcal is produced in a variety of locations while tequila is more specifically produced around the city of Tequila or with a very specific type of the agave plant.  Furthermore, Mezcal, unlike tequila has a worm in it.  The concept of the worm in alcohol is specific to the Mezcal as it is intended to not only imply that the liquid is alcoholic, but the worm lives in the agave plant and serves to change the taste and color of the Mezcal.  This means if you’re buying “Tequila” with a worm in it, it’s not Tequila.  The next very important piece of information when considering tequila is “100% Agave” or “100% Blue Agave”.  This is something you want to see on every bottle of tequila you are buying because if it’s not 100% agave then it’s usually a combination of agave, water, sugar, and other chemicals and alcohols that are very well known for resulting in stomach problems and very bad hang overs.  In particular this deals specifically with the very common Jose Cuervo which only produces one or maybe two types of tequila that is 100% agave.

Next you want to consider how it’s aged if it’s aged at all, Tequila much like many other alcohols becomes more complex and more smooth with age so these definitions really make a difference.  Blanco is completely unaged, distilled and put right into bottles, it has no color and has a very strong and some would call “mind numbing” taste.  Next is the Reposado which is personally my favorite, this is aged a minimum of 2 months and less than a year; most commonly in oak barrels which have sometimes already been used to age whiskey, scotch, and wine, giving it a slightly more complex taste and a darker color.  Finally is Anejo which is also aged in oak barrels that have been used for the other alcohols listed above as well as reposados and this is usually aged for a minimum of one year but no more than three years giving it an even darker and more complex taste.

While I am a fan of shots if the occasion calls for it, I personally prefer enjoying the taste of my alcohol and instead of the classic salt and lime, I drink it straight and slowly with a bit of lime only if it needs any chaser.  My favorite producer is Don Julio however I also recommend Herradura.  While I am not a fan of margaritas a good tequila really does make a good margarita, I urge you all to go out and order a shot, see what works and in the future I’ll make sure to post about one of the few tequila combinations I enjoy, The Mexican Breakfast.

chive blossom

Oh, hey! Chef Z, here. Been buried underneath finals and whatnot, but I’m back for the night to share with you a neat little dish. We all remember  my past fresh pasta post and the pictureless-but-delicious ravioli. And tonight, I bring you the next evolution:
Cilantro Ravioli with Chive Blossoms

I’ve always been a proponent of edible gardening and I do my own edible garden every year (more on that later). And I’ve always been a fan of herbs, especially edible flowers. And while I have not the expertise of the Saucier on such matters (she is the resident expert herbalist here at Hardcore Kitchens),  I DO know how to make some good use of herbs and flowers in the culinary craft. So, I was super excited when my chives from last season survived the winter and flowered recently. Chive blossoms are beautiful and have a delicate, but distinct onion taste.

So, remembering a dish I had seen on Iron Chef (Egg Battle, I believe), where herbs had been rolled into pasta dough, I set out determined to emulate and evolve the idea into something awesome.

BEHOLD.
Parsley Pasta with Chive Blossoms

Cilantro Ravioli with Chive Blossoms

Ingredients:
1 batch fresh pasta dough
1 bunch fresh cilantro*
15 oz. ricotta
1 egg
1/4 c. chive blossoms; or chopped chives**
salt and pepper

Start with your basic pasta recipe. Roll out sheets on the thinnest setting, just like you would with normal ravioli. Now comes the fun part – getting that beautiful pattern into your pasta.

Place cilantro onto half of the pasta sheet in the pattern of your choice. Don’t be afraid of having the leaves close together, it all stretches out later.
Open Parsley Pasta

Fold over the pasta so that the cilantro is sealed into the pasta.
Parsley Pasta Fold

Roll the pasta on the second-to-thinnest setting, rotate the sheet 90 degrees, and roll the sheet again on the thinnest setting.
Uncooked Parsley Pasta

Now, for the filling. Mix together ricotta, egg, and salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold in the chive blossoms (or chives). Cut the pasta sheets into thick strips, twice the length of your desired size of ravioli.
Parsley Pasta Strips

Place a dollop of filling on  one half of the strip.
Parsley Pasta Filling

Wet the edges of the strip, and fold the strip over, sealing the edges, taking care to press out as much excess air as possible.
Uncooked Parsley Ravioli

Cook in rapidly-boiling, liberally-salted water for about 10 minutes. Remove from water, plate, and serve with the dressing of your choice.
Parsley Ravioli

*Parsley may be substituted for cilantro for those folks who cannot abide the taste of it.
** When working with home grown herbs, or ANY herbs, really;  be sure to wash and check the leaves and blossoms thoroughly for any debris or insects. Not delicious.

Behold, I return!

After significant tragedy and just general life suckage, I’m back, with a sassy little salad perfect for those (gross, muggy,) long days of summer ahead. With key ingredients including a salty Spanish cheese and homemade vinaigrette, this is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters (unless of course, they are allergic to nuts or lactose intolerant…)

I’ve had several different versions of this salad, at different Tapas restaurants. One with greens and fennel, and one without. I liked both, but I found the version with the greens to be much more satisfying, and generally more like a salad as people in most of North America would think of it.

Ingredients:

Greens:

Now, you have several choices here as far as greens go. I don’t know what kind they used in the place where I discovered this, but I suspect that it was baby Arugula, and that’s what I purchased. It has a slightly bitter, peppery flavour, which I find delicious in contrast to the sweet apples and salty cheese. If you are looking for something a bit sweeter or more tender I would go with Watercress. In a pinch, baby spinach would probably be alright as well.

Cheese:

Half the name of our salad is in deference to the cheese around which the salad is based. Manchego is a sheeps’ milk cheese, manufactured in the La Mancha region of spain, and manufactured exclusively from the milk of Manchega sheep (hence the name.) It is semi-firm, and cuts easily. It can be mild or sharp depending on how long it is aged, but at the minimum (three to six months) it has a mild, salty flavor. It is readily available at most markets with a large cheese section (I got mine at Whole Foods.)

Apples:

The other half of our dynamic duo. (Manzanas is Spanish for apples.) Granny Smiths seem to be the traditional choice for this dish. Aside from going along with our lovely green and white colour scheme, they don’t get mushy quickly and they give a nice hint of tart-sweetness.

Walnuts:

Halved is best, the more crushed they are, the harder they are to get on the fork. Make sure they are as fresh as possible, or they’ll lose the buttery taste and consistency that makes them perfect in this dish.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil:

Making up three fourths of our dressing, since it features so prominently it is important that you purchase a high quality variety. In keeping with the theme, I bought “all Spanish” EVOO from Whole Paycheque. Do not skimp and use “virgin” or “light” varieties. You will not get the depth of flavour you want.

Sherry Vinegar;

This was a bitch and a half to find, but it was worth it. I suppose a red wine vinegar would suffice if you can’t come up with it, but if you use that you may want to add a little sugar to your dressing, because the sherry adds an additional sweetness that I doubt you could come up with from ordinary red wine.

Ok, now that I’ve rambled on, let’s get cracking!

To make the dressing, pour one and one half cups of your EVOO into an empty wine or other large bottle. Add to this one half cup of the sherry vinegar. (You can make as much as you want, just keep to the 3/4 to 1/4 ratio.) Cork or cap, and shake until emulsified (till it’s not layered and see through anymore.)

Cut the cheese (tee hee) and the apples into bits.  Every time I’ve had this at a restaurant, the apples and cheese have both been cut into “matchsticks” that were maybe a third of an inch square. I chose to cut my cheese into small squares instead, because I like to have variety in my food (also the apples and cheese are sort of the same colour, making it difficult to tell what you’re getting a mouthful of if you aren’t paying attention.)

Throw a handful of cheese, apples, and walnuts on top of a bowl of greens, toss in some dressing, and enjoy!

Manchego Y Manzanas

I don’t think anything is necessary beyond this point, but if you choose, you can sprinkle on some salt, black pepper, or even sugar to taste. Serve immediately, and happy crunching!

Ahhh, warm days are finally upon us at Hardcore Kitchens. And there is only one way to celebrate warm weather – the infamous Mojito!

Courtesy of drinksmixer.com



3 fresh mint sprigs
2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 oz light rum
club soda
In a tall thin glass, crush part of the mint with a fork to coat the inside. Add the sugar and lime juice and stir thoroughly. Top with ice. Add rum and mix. Top off with *chilled* club soda (or seltzer). Add a lime slice and the remaining mint, and serve.

Oops.

04/21/2009

Sorry, delightful readers. I was planning to give y’all an awesome post about risotto. Unfortunately, the ventilation for my kitchen hood sprung a leak and it is now raining over my stove. Not gonna lie, it’s been a long couple weeks and I have finals coming up. So, Hardcore Kitchens is taking a hiatus for a wee bit. We’ll be back on regular posting in a couple weeks. Thanks for being cool.

Cheers!
~Chef Z

Joy! My good friends Micah and Erica are visiting this weekend, so I dedicate this post to them.

Once upon a time, I used to work as an administrator/tasting coordinator for an upscale catering company/event venue in Baltimore City. (Coincidentally, it was also the same place that The Saucier had worked in long before I had met her.) In our building, we had THREE bars. THREE bars that we could access merely through stepping in an elevator. And a fourth bar right across the street. And a fifth bar about a half block away. It was pretty damn sweet.
And of the three bars in our building, our company owned two of them. And being that most of my coworkers, as well as myself, wanted nothing to do with our work once we punched out, we often frequented the third bar. It was a Russian bar located in the basement of our building with a surprisingly sizable dining area (that we never saw used) and Russian karaoke in the corner (which, again, thankfully, we never saw used). The bartender was young and friendly and probably happy to liven up the 5:30 Tuesday lull with a bunch of cute salesgirls from my office. So, it wasn’t entirely rare to occasionally be treated to a free drink on the house.
One night, the bartender offered me a free shot and I agreed, if he took one with me. He agreed and asked what I wanted. I glanced over their SIZABLE collection of Russian vodkas and saw a pepper vodka. THAT was what I wanted. And that was how I earned my badass points with the bartender that day.

I have a surprising love of pepper vodka. In small doses. I’m normally not a fan of hot foods, but for some reason, a good pepper vodka just perks me right up. The first time I ever had it, it was the homemade concoction of a good friend of mine, Micah, and it was always my favorite memory of the drink. Be warned, this is not for everybody. The vodka IS hot and you can feel it trace a burning path down your esophagus. Too much, and you WILL hate yourself for it later. But honestly, everyone should try one shot at least once in their life.

There are a couple ways to make this drink: One way is to take about 8 whole chili peppers, put them in a quart of vodka, and let steep in the freezer for about a week. Or, if you are particularly daring and don’t mind setting fire to your stomach, quarter a whole habanero pepper and put it in a quart of vodka and let steep in the freezer for a couple days. Check the flavor daily until you get it at your desired level of hotness.

On a final note, DO be careful with this drink, especially if brewing your own. It can be VERY hot and VERY rough on the stomach.

Wiping her hands of all liability,
~ Chef Z

So, this is a busy week for me. I should be studying the various nuances of bumper height regulation statutes and federal administrative regulation citations. Did you just find yourself incredibly bored with that last sentence? I sure did. And I have more than just a sentence to have to read over. So, the gods of academia can forgive me if I take a moment to hang out with you, the readers, for a few minutes, instead. A while ago, I went to a potluck/game-night/birthday party with The Saucier and The Meatatarian for a good friend of ours. You may remember, The Saucier made Garlic Squares, which I will attest to being downright delicious. I surprised everyone by simply remembering what day it was. But in addition, because the birthday girl was a close friend of mine, I also brought some homemade bread (I swear, recipe to come), a bottle of Gewürztraminer, and a chocolate tart with caramelized pear topping. The tart went over REALLY well, and I believe one guest asked what sort of “devil witchcraft” I had put into it to make it taste that good. And that is what I want to share with you.

I found the recipe off of my favorite food blog – The Smitten Kitchen. I talk about this blog ALL THE TIME for a good reason. Everything off of her blog is AWESOME. The food, the photos, the writing, and oh hey, the FOOD. I used her recipe for the tart only – I used a pre-bought pie shell. On her blog, she has a recipe for a scrumptious looking ginger-snap crust which I wish I had the time to try. I’m re-posting the recipe for the tart filling here, but really, what I’m saying, is go to Smitten Kitchen and read the recipe there. It’s very much worth getting acquainted with her blog. Then come back and skip down to the pear-topping.

Chocolate Tart with Caramelized Pear Topping
(Slightly modified from The Smitten Kitchen)

Chocolate Pear Tart

(Photo courtesy of my Mom. HI, MOM!)

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pre-made pie shell
3 Bartlett pears, diced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

First, let’s get the tart ready. Whisk the chocolate and heavy cream in a saucepan over a low heat until smooth. Take the pan off the heat. Whisk together the yolks, egg, sugar, flour, pepper, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Carefully and slowly, whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and mix until smooth. Pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake for about 30 minutes, until the edges puff and the centre is softly set. Remember, it’s not going to be as firm as a cake or brownies, so keep that in mind.

While the tart bakes/cools, it’s time to make some pear topping. Melt the butter and sugar together over medium heat until bubbling. Then, add your pears and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. You can cook your pears for as little as 10 minutes, but I turned down the heat and continued to cook the pears for an additional 10 minutes. You want the fruit to release its liquid and to be generally caramelized.

Hold off on adding the topping until just before serving.

Enjoy!

~ Chef Z

Does this look familiar to you?

maniwine

Then you are likely Jewish and/or live in New York.

Happy Passover.

This week’s FDP pays tribute to the holiday of Passover with a salute to a wine that is forever bound with Jewish holidays – Manischewitz wine.

Personally, despite my Hebraic heritage, I cannot abide the stuff. It is a sweetened concord wine that I feel is closer to sugary spit in a bottle. Which is why I find it HILARIOUS when oh-so-many of my gentile friends profess a secret love for the stuff. (Though, I do hear the blackberry variety is downright tolerable.)

What really breaks my heart is the use of Manischewitz when some damn respectable kosher wineries are available. (May I suggest Golan wines from Israel? EXCELLENT.)

But, for better or for worse, Manischewitz wines have inextricably wound themselves into the Jewish tradition. So, for just for this week, we at THG salute you, Manischewitz.

Happy Pesach to all my Tribe,
~Chef Z