Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

I'm a huge fan of deep, dark, dense pots de creme.  Pudding be damned-I'll take the French version any day.  I love how my spoon stands up in it and, when I order it in a restaurant, how the cup seems so small but I never manage to finish it, rich, rich.  When I saw the picture above in today's New York Times my mouth was watering. Then I read the article and was surprised to see it was actually panna cotta.  This Italian dessert is not pudding it all.  Translating literally to "cooked cream", this light custard is stabilized with gelatin to give it its distinctive silky texture.  Its the smooth talking sister to the bold pots de creme.  This particular recipe takes the milk chocolate hazelnut spread, Nutella, combines it with good quality bittersweet chocolate and a combination of cream and milk.  Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Panna Cotta...probably wont convert me from pots de creme for good but will certainly convince me to give it a try.  And, to boot, the recipe is from The Craft of Baking by Karen Demasco so you know it's going to be tasty. 

I've always loved the idea of a stove top smoker.  I have a friend who uses hers to make bacon, that's right-homemade bacon.  If that isn't enough to get you to run out and get one I don't know what is.  We recently invested in a bigger, backyard version that works much the same way but has three racks inside (I'm sure the neighbors love us when we're smoking salmon out back).  Either way, these recipes from today's LA Times for home-smoked pork belly, scallops, ribs, or game hens look totally doable at home and well worth the neighborhood smoke-out, even if you don't own a smoker.  Take a close peek at the game hen recipe-they use a method I've taught in my class and it works swimmingly.  You line a heavy wok with foil, fill it with a layer of white rice, brown sugar, and aromatics (anything from black tea to star anise to lemon zest), cover it with a rack, and put the lid on.  After a few minutes over high heat the mixture begins to smoke like mad-I take off the lid and add whatever it is I'm smoking (for the game hens they are pre-roasted but for something smaller like a piece of fish or a duck breast, no pre-cooking is needed).  Cover the wok back up tightly and in under ten minutes the meat is beautifully lacquered and smoked.  It's a great method for you to try if you don't want to invest in a smoker...pretty amazing.

Leek Smothered Pork Chops...mmmm.  I guess if you throw the word "smother" into a recipe with any kind of meat it makes it sound uber-appealing.   Using a tip from Julia Child, the recipe from today's Washington Post calls for browning the chops first then quickly brasing them in a combination of white wine and chicken stock.  The entire recipe takes about 45 minutes but much of it is unattended, leaving you time to make a salad, some veggies, or pour a glass of that white wine for yourself. In fact, you could probably do all three-perfect for a weeknight dinner.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

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