Sunday, November 13, 2005


We don't get much of a chance to play around in the kitchen to try some new things without there being some kind of a deadline (catering or meal time). We didn't have anywhere to be today, and we had picked up some "orphan" mushrooms from the local supermarket yesterday, so...

("Orphan" foods are those repackaged vegetables that the produce staff at your local giant grocery store doesn't want to throw in the dumpster just yet. They slap a reduced sticker on it, trying to salvage some money on it. Last week, it was green onions, before that, cucumbers -- you get the idea. We'd much rather have the organic stuff, but that's not always available.)

Today's experiment involved white mushrooms -- two giant containers for a total of $2.00. As you can see from the picture, stuffed mushrooms was one of the results. We had wanted to find a new stuffing for our annual holiday party in December, and today's attempt was garlic, salt, pepper, soy parmesan, herbes de provence, fennel seed, oregano, bread crumbs and olive oil. The fennel seed turned out to be the surprise -- it immediately had that vibe that was missing from previous attempts. Funny how one little ingredient can do that...

Next was the Mushroom Pate from the "Millennium" cookbook -- we've made these before, but we wanted to tweak some of the proportions to see how much agar agar was needed for smaller sized ramekins. They might be giants something for the wine bar menu in the future.

Last batch was sauteed, then deglazed with some Coturri Charbono wine for tonight's dinner.

We also made veg stock this morning -- the good thing about the catering gigs is there's always enough scraps to make a good batch of stock. We do ours in the pressure cooker -- small amount of oil, peppercorn, bay leaves -- add the veggies (carrot peels and tops, onion and skins, leek tops, etc.) -- and begin to saute until they start to caramelize, deglaze the fond with a small amount of water, then add about eight more cups of water and pressure cook for about an hour (we've done it the old-school Escoffier way in the past, but the pressure cooker is faster and yields good results in a fraction of the time)

Speaking of old-school -- a brief side note -- if you get a chance to pick-up the biography on chef Alexis Soyer "The People's Chef : The Culinary Revolution of Alexis Soyer" by Ruth Brandon, it's worth a read. You get a glimpse of large scale Gentleman's Club cooking and kitchen design of 1830's England -- and the flip side of the coin -- Soyer's attempt at building a soup kitchen for the Irish during the Potato Famine. I could have done without the the book's structure -- Brandon's attempt at recreating some of Soyer's recipes in a modern context (and of course, the huge meat consumption). But, as a culinary history, it's not a bad read...

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