Archive | November, 2010

Soup trio

29 Nov

Soups are always great during winter because they are so comforting. Often times though soups don’t get the same aesthetic treatment as main courses do. Here I made three simple and common soups but strove to make them not only delicious but visually appetizing as well.

The starting point for most dishes is always what is going to flavor the base. Here I neatly arranged the main elements that played in the layers of each soup. The first soup, a classic pumpkin cream, was complimented by cardamom and cloves. The second soup, a black bean puree, went hand in hand with ground cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper. The final soup, a bacon and split pea, relied on a touch of white pepper and sea salt crystals at the end. In addition to these spices I used fresh bay leaves for all three soups. On a side note, fresh spices and herbs tend to not give as much flavor as their dry counterparts.

Cloves, Cumin, White Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Cardamom, Fleur de Sel, and Coriander
Fresh bay leaves

For the first soup I started a simple base of melted butter with ground cloves and cardamom with the bay leaves. After the spices started bubbling a bit I added onions. Diced pumpkin followed with some chicken stock. Normally if I was cooking a larger amount of pumpkin soup I would bake it instead of steaming it in the pot with the stock (that way the pumpkin keeps more of its flavor). Once the pumpkin was cooked I pulled out the cardamom and bay leaves and blended it all together with some heated cream.

Base for the pumpkin soup
Cooking the diced pumpkin with the base
Blending once the pumpkin was cooked

For the second soup I sauted some red onions, bacon and garlic as a base. Although there are infinite ways to make this soup, I stuck to fairly standard elements and seasonings. Once the bacon had rendered some of its water and had started to caramelize a bit I threw in the cayenne pepper, coriander, and cumin. As soon as the base was ready I added the black beans along with some chicken stock and let it simmer. Once the flavors had developed I blended it all together.

Base for the black bean soup
Adding the spices to the black bean soup base

The final soup was probably the easiest, yet the one that took the longest. I rinsed the peas and cooked with them in water for roughly an hour. Once they had begun to break apart I added minced onions that had been sauteed in bacon fat along with a bit of cream and chicken stock.

Cooking the peas with the base

After all three soups had been blended I garnished them with elements that complimented the bases. For the pumpkin soup I placed drops of cream along with some toasted pecans. For the black bean soup I added some shredded chicken, some freshly fried tortilla chips, and a tomato paprika coulis. As for the split pea soup, I went with the traditional: steamed carrots and bacon bits.

The three soups nicely arranged
Soups arranged in a line!

Here are the recipes. Yum!

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Breakfast Reconstructed

28 Nov

Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day. In fact,”breakfast for dinner” nights at the cafeteria during my undergraduate days were the few times that I looked forward to using my meal plan.  Although North American breakfast can include a wide range of elements, the egg is generally the central feature in savory morning dishes. Most breakfast joints tend to focus on omelets and  fried eggs. However, the slightly more ambitious morning chef always takes a stab at poached eggs. Although Eggs Benedict is by and large the most common poached egg feature in breakfast menus, it is by no means the most impressive. The simple combination of bread, ham, poached egg, and hollandaise is delicious, but lacking in creativity and layered flavor. Here I have attempted reinvent the dish by adding some variations to the classic recipe. Although endless variations can improve the dish, I picked  four distinct elements to “spice” up the dish: paprika, thyme, rosemary, and mustard.

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Some of the ingredients in this variation of the classic recipe: Paprika, White Pepper, Dijon Mustard, Thyme, Rosemary, and Fleur de Sel

Pairing ingredients is often a key part of any culinary creation. Here I stuck to fairly conservative elements that work well together. The real challenge laid in how to best deliver these flavors so that the final dish would be layered, aesthetically pleasing, and an improvement on the classic dish.

Closeup of the final arrangement

I decided to use the thyme and rosemary on two levels. First as a minor garnish, and secondly to infuse the clarified butter for the hollandaise. The garnish involved nothing more than deep frying the twigs in olive oil and adding them to the dish as a final step. The infusion on the other hand was done by cooking the clarified butter with the herbs for a few minutes. Additionally, once the sauce was emulsified I added extra mustard to add an extra layer of flavor to the hollandaise and herbs. As for the paprika, I added it to the same oil I had used to fry the garnishes. Once it started bubbling, I passed it through a coffee filter and ended up with a fragrant deep red oil that I spooned over the poached egg.

 

Cooked to perfection

The egg itself was cooked so that the yolk would be slightly runny, but not so much that it would run onto the plate once the egg was cut.

Here is the recipe. Yum!

The Gilded Pig

27 Nov

Hello world! Welcome to the Gilded Pig, and the very first installment of what I hope to be the cornerstone of my culinary exploits online.