From the pages of my Gastronomicon I summon….

Cold oil spherification…..mwahahahahaha…oh…sorry..I have a tendency to get a little bit melodramatic at times when it comes to cooking.  But one tends to do that when dealing with molecular gastronomy.  After all, its all about the show with this discipline of cooking.

Molecular gastronomy is a sub discipline of food science that seeks to investigate the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur in cooking. Its program includes three axis, as cooking was recognized to have three components, which are social, artistic and technical. Molecular cuisine is a modern style of cooking, and takes advantage of many technical innovations from the scientific disciplines.

The term “molecular gastronomy” was coined in 1988 by late Oxford physicist Nicholas Kurti and the French INRA chemist Hervé This.   Some chefs associated with the term choose to reject its use,  preferring other terms such as multi sensory cooking, modernist cuisine, culinary physics, and experimental cuisine.

As we all know, cooking itself is chemistry.  Regardless of what you are doing there are always complex chemical reactions happening in food.  Making a simple vinaigrette is a chemical reaction.  The browning of meat triggers the Maillard reaction.  Caramelizing sugar to form the crispy crust on a creme brulee.  It’s all chemistry.  And you don’t always need fancy expensive gadgets to do it.  Sometimes all you need is a tall glass filled with ice cold vegetable oil, a syringe, some gelatin and a liquid of your choice.

This past weekend I spent a majority of my time experimenting with spherification.  Spherification is the culinary process of shaping a liquid into spheres usually using sodium alginate and either calcium chlorate or calcium glucate lactate, which visually and texturally resemble roe (caviar).  Now you dont necessarily need all those fancy chemicals to achieve this.  It can also be done with a product called Agar Agar.  Agar Agar is a vegetarian gelatin substitute produced from a variety of seaweed vegetation. It is sold in health food stores in both flake and powder varieties, and can be used in a variety of dairy-free and vegan recipes as a stabilizing and thickening agent for custards,puddings, sauces and even vegetarian marshmallows and when used in the right way can also make liquid pearls.

How do you achieve spherification using gelatin? By using extremely and I mean EXTREMELY cold oil (either vegetable or olive).   The cold oil spherification method consists of cooling droplets of a hot agar solution below 35 ˚C (95 ˚F) by releasing them in cold oil using a syringe or pipette. Agar agar needs to be heated to boil for jelling and sets at a temperature of about 35-45 ˚C (95-113 ˚F). The droplets need to cool down and set before they reach the bottom of the cold oil container to keep a nice spherical shape. The amount of agar will differ based off the acidity level of your choice liquid but most recipes call for at least 1 teaspoon.  The reason for the tall glass is that the droplets need a longer period of time to travel through the cold fluid in order to completely solidify.  If dropped in a short glass by the time they hit the bottom they run the risk of bursting and becoming a rather gooey mess which hey might be tasty but from an artistic technical stand point is a huge flop.  Can’t find Agar Agar?  Gelatin sheets also work but make sure you bloom them (soften them) prior to incorporating them with your liquid.

For this experiment I went with just random run of the mill items found in my house.  Balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Sorry about the quality of the photos, my camera was being flaky.  The recipe will be listed below.  Before I begin I will state that measurements are everything with this process.  If you don’t use enough of the gelatin in the boiling phase you run the risk of not getting a solid in the end.  I eventually for the sake of it went out and purchased a digital scale for around $20 at Target to make sure I got the right increments.  If you don’t feel like doing that then it will be a process of trial and error.

ingrediants

 

I was able to find Agar Agar powder rather easily at my neighborhood International Food Market Jays.  I’m using balsamic vinegar as my liquid and EVOO as my suspension fluid.  I started the process by placing around 1.5 cups of olive oil in a tall glass and placed in in the freezer for about 45 minutes.  Now anyone who knows me knows that when I experiment with something the first time I get all anxious and can’t wait the full amount of time so I pulled it out at 30 minutes.  Needless to say the early extraction was evident in the final product.

I measured out 100 grams (7 oz) of balsamic vinegar (see why a scale is helpful?) and brought it to a low boil.  Once bubbles were achieved i added 1.5 oz of Agar Agar powder and whisked for two minutes until thoroughly combined.  Then I had to wait, again, for five minutes.  The point of the waiting is to allow the liquid to cool to roughly 50-55 C (120-130 F) is due to the fact that if the liquid is to hot upon entering the oil the droplets may not cool down completely before reaching the bottom.  This causes deformed beads, again not a bad thing but when its about the aesthetic of end result its vital. beads

After the cool down process (around 5-6 minutes) you want to load up your pipette, syringe, squeeze bottle, whatever you are using as your method of delivery. Place the bottle at a 90 degree angle around 6 inches above the top of the glass and slowly squeeze in your cooled gel liquid.  The heights is also important if your glass isn’t tall enough as it provides additional travel space to cool down prior to hitting the oil.  Also it increased the air speed velocity of your liquid (anyone get the reference? anyone at all? Please god say someone did) will cause the drops to submerge themselves.  To close and they will hover on the top and not sink.  Move your bottle around slowly to ensure appropriate distribution of your pearls.  Once done, take a strainer and pour out your pearls rinsing them completely under cool water.  This is to remove the access oil from the final product.

sriracha pearls

After they are rinsed you want to make sure to dry them off gently with a paper towel before using.  As I rushed my first batch of pearls I opted to not show the final product because well they were kinda slimey, tasted great but again aesthetically not to grand.  These however were the sriracha pearls I made which I was more patient with and although there are some inconsistencies with size and shape the method was better.

 

All in all it was a success and something fun to do to pass the time.  I plan on continuing to make these end implementing other methods such as reverse spherification which causes a skin on the outside of the liquid but maintains a liquid core.  If you want to learn more about molecular gastronomy, especially spherification please click the link below.  With just a few basic ingredients you can turn something as simple as sriracha into something unique and different 🙂  Remember you are only as limited as your imagination 🙂

 

Balsamic Spheres

  • 100 g (7 oz) Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1.5 g (1.5%) Agar Agar

Oil Bath

  • 1 cup of oil, cold from being in the freezer for at least 60 minutes

Sriracha Vinegar Pearls Ingredients

  • 50 g (3.5 oz) Sriracha sauce
  • 50 g (3.5 oz) chicken stock or water
  • or replace the above with 100 g of the desired liquid***
  • 1.5 g (1.5%) Agar Agar

Oil Bath

  • 1 cup of oil or enough to fill tall glass, cold from being in the freezer for at least 1 hour

***if using something with a high acidity level you may need to increase the amount of Agar Agar.  I found with pineapple juice it required at least 2.5 teaspoons of Agar Agar to achieve gelification.

 

Molecular Gastronomy

Kimchi is my gateway drug

Asian markets will ultimately be the death of me.  Not because they will cause a financial strain on my wallet but because of the fact that they make it damn near impossible to decide on what to make for dinner.  That and I don’t know any other language other then English so figuring out what I’m buying is somewhat of an adventure.  All the time. But I still go weekly to my neighborhood international market to see what sort of new and interesting thing can I buy to cook with or taste because I’ve seen it on a cooking show.  I’ve enjoyed banana blossoms in soup and have braved the intimidating durian fruit.  I’ve had pork belly, beef shank, vegetarian ham and 100 year old eggs.  I’ve adventured more in the aisles of Jay’s International Market then I have across this rock we call Earth.  And as much as I enjoy wandering each aisle, getting lost in the mystery of the little silver foiled packages, last night’s trip had a purpose.  And that purpose?  Obtain the kimchi.

I don’t know exactly when I started to develop a love for the spicy fermented cabbage, but it more then likely had to do with my obsession of watching cooking shows.  Some people watch Gilmore Girls, I enjoy watching Chopped.  Give me a basket of mystery ingredients and I will do my damnedest to whip up an appetizer that isn’t a frisee salad in less then 20 minutes. One episode had kimchi as a mystery item.  Okay, it is by far one of the least intimidating ingredients but it peaked my curiosity about the delicacy.  So like most people who show an interest in something I went out and bought a random jar of kimchi at my grocery store. It was love at first bite and ever since I try to find ways of incorporating it into my weekly diet.

This week provided the perfect platform in which to enjoy kimchi but not masked in something as innocuous as fried rice or on a pizza.  Why?  This week was pouch week.  A mental as well as physical reset of my dietary habits to help me purge from my system any and all unnecessary carbs to make the most of my bariatric sleeve procedure I had three years ago.  Liquids for 2 days, transition to soft meats like tuna and fish on day 3, ground chicken and turkey on day 4 and finally normal food day 5.  All the while maintaining appropriate portion sizes which for me should only be roughly 8 ounces.  One of the things I have experienced however is a nasty 4 day migraine as a result of purging myself of carbohydrates.  A side effect, but ultimately the end results are worth it.  At the advise of a friend it was recommended that I eat something a little higher in salt then I normally would and recommended kimchi.  And as a way of incorporating protein into said kimchi dish while maintaining something that would not be hard on my system why not pork belly. It becomes extremely tender when braised or stewed for long periods of time.

After many a google search I settled (and believe me it’s not necessarily settling because if I could, in all honesty, I’d make all the dishes.  ALL THE KIMCHI!!!!!) on a kimchi jjigae primarily because it was low carb, featured kimchi as the star and well it’s a soup and I love all things soups and stews in winter.  So why not.

Now one of the things that I’ve been told is a nice change of pace from my blog is the fact that I don’t inundate my readers with picture after picture of what I’m doing.  Personally I find that rather intrusive especially if you’re doing something like making grilled cheese.  I don’t need a picture by picture play by play of everything you’re doing.  Just get to the recipe and tell me what I need to do.  And then possibly toss in a few pictures for fun and to break it up.

image000006 I’ll make sure to post the link to the website that I got my recipe from at the bottom of the page but will give you a rather reader’s digest version of how to prepare this dish.  The ingredients are rather basic and should be found in your kitchen pantry or cupboard and I’m sure if something is not relatively common in your area you can substitute it out like fresh ginger.  If you cant get it fresh then by all means use ground just make sure you google the exchange rate of raw to powder as to not inadvertently obliterate your taste buds.  I’ve done it.  It’s not fun.

The first step in this dish is prepping the pork belly.  I’m very lucky to have about five Asian style grocery stores near and around my neighborhood which have fresh butchered pork belly (both on the rib bone and off).  For this recipe you’ll want off the rib bone if you can find it.  You’ll want to make sure toremove the skin because we are stewing it and the skin will become tough and rubbery; however if you are feeling a little saucy and want to make chicarrons (pork skins) just toss them in a freezer bag and put them in the freezer for later use.  Once you’ve handled the task of scalping your poor little pig (I’m really really sorry but you deserved it) you can get to the task at hand.  Making the jjigae. Making jjiwha?  Jjigae!!!  Jjigae is a Korean dish similar to a Western stew.  There are many different varieties but it is typically made with meat (vague huh) seafood or vegetables in a broth seasoned with gochujang, doenjang, ganjana or saeujeor (uh..wtf?) and is best served up communal style and boiling hot..Like melt your face hot.  Deadpool after Francis pushed his last nerve Ryan Reynolds hot (hehe I like Deadpool…A little….dawwww he’s so cute!!!!!)…..oh..yeah recipe..sorry..got side tracked ^.^d406645f914286670fe808b3e332a576

Okay, so yeah jjigae, it’s pretty much a stew which can feature anything you want and this one features kimchi and pork belly.  After you’ve skinned your pork belly you’re going to take a sharp and I cannot stress this enough a SHAAAAAAAAARP (like Deadpool’s wit and katanas) knife and slice thin pieces of pork belly.  The reason is for the sharp knife is pork belly is essentially thick layers of fat with thin layers of actual muscle meat.  It is after all where bacon comes from and fat makes everything better.  The sharp knife also helps ensure that you don’t end up smashing it thus taking a lovely 2 inch pork belly and making it 2 centimeters.  Also freezing it for about 20 minutes will also help with easier handling but if you’re like most people and you ain’t got time for that, a nicely sharpened chef knife will do just fine. The recipe of course can’t have normal measurements by Americans standards so when it called for 150 grams translates roughly to 5 ounces.  Instead of busting out my scale and setting it up i just sliced up the entire thing.  Psssh never heard anyone complaining about something having too much pork and if they did they are obviously communists (I apologize to any Communists I may have offended.  I love you.  I love you hardcore!!! ^.^).  Toss delicately into a non reactive bowl (preferably glass) and then get to work scraping and grating your ginger and garlic.  Add a little bit of Gukganjang (soy sauce for soup…yes apparently there are 2 kinds of soy sauce and if you want to cook authentic Korean food don’t be a baddy.  Own both!) and then a little soju (vodka like rice liquor).  If you can’t find Soju apparently you can substitute out vodka, sake, maybe even mirin but do try to locate it if you’re a stickler for authenticity.  Allow all these lovelies to get a little kinky and nasty together in a bowl while you look away in shame at your food voyeurism and prepare the other steps of this dish.

The next step is preparing the stir fry aspect of this dish.  Take a white or yellow onion (I really dont recommend using a red onion for this at all), cutting it in half and making thin slices.  If you’re like me and you have a somewhat sloppy knife slice then by all means use a mandolin if you have it.  Work smarter not harder as Scrooge McDuck would say.  If you don’t have a mandolin I’m sorry you’re going to have to suffer..And try not to slice off your fingers.  Take your kimchi of choice and measure out 1 firmly packed cup (you can use more but don’t go crazy folks!).  Grab a towel you have no emotional attachment too and no not the towel your husband calls Wubby because um, yeah that’s a whole different therapy session right there and over a bowl squeeze out as much of the kimchi juice as you possibly can.  We want this dry so it can absorb the rendered fat of the pork belly. Set the juice aside for later use in the recipe. Don’t
throw it away.  Don’t..I’m serious >.< (<~~serious face!).  image000003

 

 

 

 

In a heavy bottom stock pot heat on a medium heat until hot.  The directions did not indicate as to whether or not to add oil but since the point of the hot pan is to start the rendering process on the pork belly I chose to omit any additional oil to stave off getting an Exxon Valdez oil slick in my finished product.  Add your pork belly giving it a quick stir to help bring up any bits of garlic and ginger that can burn from the hot bottom allow it to sit and render away to its heart content.  Probably roughly about 5-6 minutes depending on the thickness of your pork belly slices.  Once light browning has occurred add your dry kimchi and sliced onion and allow to saute “till fragrant”.  Okay when I think of kimchi the word “fragrant” doesn’t really come to mind.  More like “aromatic” but not the kind of aromatic that makes you go “mmmmmm” more “oh my god wtf!?”.  While your pork belly, onion, kimchi mixture becomes “fragrant” you want to complete the last step of the preparation.  The soup base.

Now at Jays the hardest thing for me to find were the pastes needed for this soup base.  With such names as gochujang and doenjang it had me scratching my head as to what exactly I was looking for.  With the assistance of one of the stockers I was quickly ushered to the refrigerated section where he handed me a container of soybean paste (doenjang) similiar to that of miso and then in the Korean dry item section a container of fermented red pepper paste (gochujang).  Okay let’s make it a little harder next time shall we?  I quickly whipped up my soup base adding the reserved kimchi juice, filtered tap water, both the soybean as well as the red pepper paste and some Korean chili flakes) and added it to my “fragrant” non liquid items.  Brought the soup up to boil and then reduced to a simmer and left it for about 40 minutes to do it’s thang and for me to face the mess that was my kitchen.  Sorry…I try to clean as I go but let’s face it.  I am a Jackson Pollack in the kitchen.  It’s not art unless I’m wiping splatters off of my cabinets, counter tops, the cat…Don’t ask..its always better NOT to ask.

image000001
Paula Dean would be so proud!

After the timer went off and the kimchi was to the texture I wanted I added the final ingredient.  Butter.  As if this wasn’t going to be epic enough let’s just add a little more fat.  The butter actually is quite necessary to help bring a creamy texture and consistency as well as help mute some of the heat should you have added to much chili flakes so please dont skip this step to be “more health conscious”..Sliced up a few green onions stems to whites an viola.  Soup’s done and ready to be eaten.  I was quite pleased with the finished product, of course whether or not it tasted legit was beyond me as I’ve never had jjigae before but it did the trick.  The headache from the carb withdrawals went away and I was left with a content feeling of joy as I saw curled up on my couch with my chopsticks in hand.  A quick text to Kyle to show him what I made plus a plethora of pics on Facebook/Instragram and the knowledge of knowing that tomorrow’s lunch would be something truly unique came with every savory mouthful.  The pork deliciously tender and almost melted in your mouth.  The kimchi still maintaining its structural integrity and a bit of a crunch.  But what got me was the broth.  I can’t even describe it.  It was spicy yet had a velvet texture that coated your throat and warmed you all the way down to the belly. It was both exotic yet hinted of something familiar.  It was just good eats.  Definitely a keeper that’s for sure.  I hope you try it!


image000000
잘 먹고 (Eat Well!)

 

Recipe:

INGREDIENTS

  • Marinate
  • 150 grams Pork belly – skinless (sliced thinly)
  • 15 grams Garlic (3 large cloves grated)
  • 7 grams Ginger – fresh (grated)
  • 1 tablespoon Gukganjang (Korean soup soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon Soju

 

Stir Fry

  • 110 grams Onion (1/2 small onion sliced thin)
  • 200 grams Kimchi (~1 cup tightly packed)

 

Soup

  • 1/2 Kimchi juice (squeezed from kimchi)
  • 1 1/2 cups Water
  • 2 teaspoons Gochujang (Korean chili paste)
  • 2 teaspoons Doenjang (Korean bean paste)
  • 2 tablespoons Gochugaru (Korean chili flakes to taste)
  • 225 grams Tofu – soft (cut into large cubes) Optional!!!

 

Finish

  • 2 Scallions (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon Butter – unsalted

 

Steps

  • Marinate the pork belly with the garlic, ginger, gukganjang and soju
  • Heat a heavy bottomed pot until hot and then add the pork belly. Allow some of the fat to render out of the pork belly, then add the onions and kimchi. Sauté until the mixture is very fragrant (bwaha fragrant!)
  • Add the kimchi juice, water, gochujang, and doengjang, stirring everything together to combine.
  • Bring to a boil and taste for spiciness, adjust with gochugaru to increase the heat to where you want it. Add tofu (if desired) and reduce heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes (or longer depending on how thick your pork belly is sliced)
  • When you’re ready to serve the kimchi jjigae, add the green onions and butter and give it a quick stir to incorporate.  I added my green onion at the end to give another texture profile to it as well as a bit of a raw element.  Place in communal bowl and either eat alone or serve up on top of rice!!!

Recipe can be found at Kimchi jjigae!

 

 

I’ve got the luck of the Irish at the foot of Canal Street

Sorry I’ve not blogged in a hot minute.  With wedding planning, working overtime and the inevitable bout of stomach flu hitting multiple members of my household I’ve been a little busy.  But with both Kyle and myself on the mend we decided to go out and enjoy some of what St Louis has to offer which is no easy feat for us as our tastes vary about as much as our styles in tattoos.  Asking each other what they want for dinner can vary based on the day, the time, the placement of the sun, if the moon is in retrograde or whether or not we are wearing matching socks (which thankfully we don’t….ever…that’s just weird!) but we are always in agreement that it be somewhere that has an interesting menu and can offer up a variety of different fares.

For the past few weeks I’ve been having a real hankering for authentic Irish cuisine.  After the debacle that was O’Connells Pub (which was neither pub nor Irish food) I’ve had a longing for a good hearty Guinness stew or a substantial plate of bangers and mash.  I practically kicked myself for even contemplating going somewhere else other then Soulard’s own Irish rose…McGurks Irish Pub and Garden.

Located in the heart of St Louis’s French Quarter Soulard sits John D. McGurks Irish Pub and Garden.  Mcgurk’s first opened their doors in 1978 as a one room pub house, and over the years has risen among the ranks to the head of the class among the Irish Pubs in St. Louis leaving such favorites and much loved Llywelyn’s Pub being the runner up.

To say that the food there is good is an understatement.  It’s authentic Irish cuisine that has the ability to transport you to the emerald isle where you can wander the Moores amidst the fields of heather in hopes of catching a glimpse of the fabled phantom island of Brasil off in the distance.  It’s seriously that wonderful.  As we walked in we were immediately greeted by a little sprite of a hostess who excitedly chatted with us about the upcoming Mardi Gras celebration that was to happen in a few days.  Her exuberance immediately brought a smile to my face as she told us of how it was her first one in St Louis and that she heard it was always a busy day.  I playfully told her that I apologize for all the tourists who will trash the outside of the restaurant and told her to wear sensible shoes and to carry a Xanax as a just in case.   The restaurant was not crowded by any sense of the word which to me is the ideal time to enjoy a meal.  The kitchen staff is anxious to get food out the door and the quality always seems to be more spot on when there’s a relaxed atmosphere without the stress of the row of tickets.  Our waitress quickly came and took our drink orders as we browsed the extensive menu.  Such favorites as fish and chips, bangers and mash, Guinness and lamb stew immediately caught my eye as did not so traditional local favorites like grilled tilapia, the John D McGurk’s burger and the grilled three cheese sandwich.  All the food looked so good but I was on a mission.  And that mission was good ole traditional Irish food and personally nothing says traditional like corned beef and cabbage.

What is corned beef?  Is it beef made with corn?  Tell me!?!?!  No..corned beef is pretty much beef that has been cured in a salt brine…for a wee bit of time.  Some recipes say to brine it up for at least 10 days..and anything beef can be corned.  The most popular at the inexpensive tough ole piece of beef like tongue and brisket which as they get more tender the longer they are brined and can withstand the low and slow cooking method of the crockpot, sous vi style or by good ole dutch oven on the stove methods.  Want to try your hand at making homemade corned beef from scratch here’s a link for you:

Corned Beef: How to Cure your own

We started our meal very simple with their Galway Bay crab cakes.  Two lovely crab cakes topped with double smoked bacon, sweet corn and a spicy remoulade sauce drizzled over the tops.  Now lets face it, St Louis isnt exactly known for their crab cakes so the idea of getting something that might be reminiscent of the Chesapeake Bay area is hit and miss. While it was not that of a Chesapeake Bay crab cake where the crab is the start it did have a nice mouth feel and wasn’t overly processed.  The pleasant crispness of the cold sweet corn combined with the spicy remoulade left a pleasant burn that lingered away after a minute it was an opener that left us eager for our entree.

20160204_190016Kyle had never been to McGurk’s to eat before so this was a rare treat indeed for my St. Patty’s day husband.  After looking back and forth on the menu and being torn between the ribeye, the corned beef and cabbage and the bangers and mash he decided on an Irish classic, the bangers and mash.  In house made sausages steamed and seared, served over Yukon gold potatoes topped with a decadent gravy which featured the famous Irish beer Guinness with a side of sauteed carrots and green beans.  One of the things I’ve come to learn about Kyle is if he enjoys his food he doesn’t make a peep.  He eagerly dug in to his meal making little noises of contentment with each bite. I couldn’t help but smile over my plate of corned beef and cabbage at him, his happiness making the dinner even more enjoyable.  I soon had to face my meal which was sitting in front of me cooling. 20160204_185954 My corned beef and cabbage.  I wish photography did the food justice. The plate consisted of a bed of steamed red potatoes and carrots with a rather healthy wedge of cooked cabbage. Two soda bread rolls accompanied the dish as did a little dish of horseradish and honeyed butter.  The corned beef cooked with the expertise that only your grandmother would master was neither bland nor over boiled.  That’s a normal issue I have with corned beef.  It’s boiled to utter death and you don’t get that pickled taste.  It’s just a complete rubbery piece of dead cow.  This however was a vibrant pink from the curing process with little to no fat (only slight traces of marbling).  I was not disappointed in my choice of entry.  Only in the fact that my tiny surgically altered stomach could only take so much before telling me it was done for the evening but hey perk to tiny tummy is delicious leftovers which i did enjoy..repeatedly 😀

I’ve always loved eating at McGurk’s and while my last experience has been nearly a decade ago I was not disappointed.  The wait staff was fantastic,  the creative masterminds in the kitchen were rocking Ireland hardcore that night and John D Mcgurk is well entitled to boast such esteemed acknowledgements as one of the best bars in America and #3 best Irish Pub in the U.S.A

If you are craving some authentic Irish fare or just a really laid back atmosphere where you can enjoy a pint or 4 with your friends over some music I strongly recommend hitting this place up.  If you find yourself in the city go to

1200 RUSSELL BLVD
ST. LOUIS, MO 63104

 

and if you find yourself out in O’Fallon, MO visit McGurk’s Public House located at

108 S MAIN ST.
O’FALLON, MO 63366

 

Now as you can probably guess by the title of this blog McGurk’s wasn’t the only culinary joy Kyle and I got to experience.  As many people may know this weekend was Mardi Gras weekend and I being a former resident of the Soulard area could think of nothing better then being as FAR away from the commotion of the weekend festivities.  So I decided to toss in a few hours of overtime at my job.  Around noon I started to feel the pangs of hunger and instead of surfing the vending machines located in my office I opted to end my day early and see if the spouse wanted to go grab lunch before he went off to work.  The plan of attack?  The Kitchen Sink located in the CWE (Central West End).  Family owned and operated it’s name implies that everything is on the menu “except the kitchen sink”.  Taking their flavors and food styles from the heart of creole country the menu is very remniscent of New Orleans having mild spice levels but big bold flavors and is a good place for the NOLA newbie to get their shoes wet.

Located right off of Union Avenue by the famed Forest Park, The Kitchen Sink finds itself home in CWE Apartment building.  You can find limited off street parking but your best luck is to park street side and walk the block to the diner.  Yes I said diner.  This offbeat diner is open seven days a week from 11 am to 10 pm Monday thru Friday and from 10 am to 10 pm Saturday and Sunday.  Immediately upon entering you feel as if you’re in a diner that would be found on Canal Street in New Orleans.  Floor to ceiling multi panel windows allow in large amounts of natural light which bounce and reflect off the white walls and counters without causing a glare on the myriad of photographs that plaster the wall with quaint quotes such as:

To the World you are One person, yet to One person you are the World

and

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity – Edgar Allan Poe

We came on a busy day.  Hello?  CWE on a beautiful Saturday afternoon?  I’m shocked we didn’t have a queue to get a table.  As I hoisted my short frame up onto my seat I immediately was drawn into the artwork which decorated the walls.  Above us was a blown up photograph of the funeral procession of John F Kennedy featuring the iconic salute of his son standing next to his grieving mother.  As we glance around at the potential goodies the other patrons were eating our server brings us two glasses of water in what my father refers to as “texas china”.  i.e Ball canning jars with handles.  Right away I smile with amusement because I find places who serve their beverages in fancy glasses to be a bit to pretentious.  Yes..something is too pretentious for me? Possibly the most food pretentious person on the planet (okay maybe that’s an exaggeration.  probably most food pretentious in my circle of friends).  We are handed our menus and start to look over the options.  Some of the options have very unappealing descriptions of what the food is.  For example.  S.O.S…Now being a military kid I know S.O.S to stand for “shit on a shingle”.  It sounds disgusting but is amazing because essentially its a chipped beef that is served on toast.  It looks like shit but tastes amazing and is quite possibly the best hangover food this side of the Mississippi.  Now of course The Kitchen Sink’s description was

(Shit on a Stick) Different marinated meats charbroiled & served on a skewer

*insert crickets*..Wait..different marinated meats…What type of meats?  It didn’t say so it was like okay what the hell are we gonna get.  So being the culinary risk takers that we are Kyle and I opted for that as our appetizer.  Now to the bigger task at hand.  The entree.  With a selection ranging from chicken and waffles to jambalaya and quite literally everything in between we were having a difficult time in narrowing down what we wanted our first experience to be.  And then we saw it.  Nestled at the bottom of the entree selection 3 little letters.  I.D.K.  What in the hell?  The description read that of a game of tummy roulette

“You don’t know what you want?  Neither do we but we’ll try..No Refund”  What the hell was that supposed to mean?  We’ll try.  Were the chefs going to randomly select something off of the menu?  What if it had pork in it or black olives, or worse?  What if it was a mixture of two things that totally don’t go together like biscuits and gravy with peanut butter and jelly?!  I wanted it.  I wanted it bad.  So I take the plunge into the hands of chefs I don’t know and order it, my only stipulation was it could not contain ANY black olives.  Allergic reaction was not on my menu for today’s lunch.  Kyle ordered the same and our server showing her obvious excitement stating “We don’t know what it is and the chefs dont until they get the order but everyone loves it”..That’s both promising and terrifying but hey what’s life without a few risks.   And then..the waiting game.

Being a person of industry I totally understand what it’s like to be both a patron in a busy restaurant as well as an employee working the busy lunch shift.  People get ansty, annoyed causing a ripple effect amongst the staff.  Our server checked on us periodically ensuring our order was being handled and that it would be out as soon as possible.  We politely say no rush we understand and our minds set to work at what possibly is waiting for us.  We see tray after tray of food coming out, each more delicious looking then the last.  Belgium waffles cooked to a golden brown served up with crispy fried chicken, art deco style bowls filled with gumbo and jambalaya and etouffee.  Salads that make my stomach wiggle with excitement, but I could not help but wonder what my lunch was going to be and what were the meats going to be in our S.O.S.  The answer to the second question was quickly answered as long awaited appetizer was laid in front of us.

20160206_134330

 

Laid out in a little row were three pieces of charcoal grilled pieces of skewered meat next to what looked like an etouffee.  On the first piece of “meat” was a bleu cheese type cream sauce, the second was naked and the third was topped with a cheese over slightly warmed diced tomatoes.  Okay still not sure what it was so I cut into the first piece and am given the identify of my protein selection, chicken.  Breathing a very audible sigh of relief I try the “etouffee” and confirm what my eyes had told me.  Only it was missing the crayfish and the chicken and the shrimp.  Essentially it was vegetarian.  Kyle cut into the tomato cheese covered skewer and woo 2 for 2.  Chicken.  That only left the naked skewer which was shocker, chicken.  And then…the main event…The I.D.K

Served up in two vibrant orange art deco style bowls were two completely separate dishes.  Can you imagine being the server who had to decide who got what?  I’d be a nervous wreck if I had to be the one to do that.  I can barely decide on what type of socks to wear on a daily basis.  By means of the playground rules she did the “eeny meeny miney mo” method and handed me the bowl in her right hand and presented Kyle the bowl in her left, although in hindsight whatever she presented both of us would have been happy with.

gumbo

I wish the photograph did my bowl justice however I was ravenous and while I normally want to get just the perfect picture, my stomach had other ideas which primarily focused around instant gastro-satisfaction.  Hunkered down in a bowl of rich flavorful gumbo were little fried hidden treasures of shrimp, catfish, tilapia and crayfish.  The gumbo itself was a veritable trove of tasty meats featuring chorizo, andouille, crab, crawfish and shrimp. The breading slightly spicy with that definitive southern style technique using seemed like cornmeal.  It wasn’t heavy, it was crispy without that aftertaste of oil and it didn’t lose its crunchy texture in the gravy of the gumbo.  Each bite offered more and more flavor as I dug through the the bowl like a kid playing in a sandbox that has buried treasure in it.  I was so wrapped up in my own lunch that I completely spaced about Kyle and what he had in front of him.

We are still attempting to figure out what exactly Kyle had because it had a very prevalent feel of being Asian in style yet with it being a creole/cajun diner we were curious if it was a play on a teriyaki stir fry but using bourbon in the sauce.  bourbon shrimp His also was presented in an art deco style bowl served over a bed of white short grain rice and showcased expertly seared shrimp with a lovely saute of zucchini and yellow squash.  The “sauce” had a lovely smokey quality which hinted to the possibility of bourbon with a sweetness that reminded us of a simple rustic teriyaki.  I wish I could get more descriptive with Kyle’s but he was not in the mood to share and made quick work of his lunch, being ever so quiet as he savored every succulent bite of shrimp.  It smelled amazing and I wish I had the opportunity to try his but I was enthralled in my own lunch and while I offered up some for him to try I was very happy when he turned me down.  I didn’t want to share it.

As we paid our bill which was roughly $46.00 for the two of us we looked at our to-go containers and experienced a brief moment of sadness over the fact that the I.D.K we had today may never be the I.D.K we will order in the future.  I failed to ask our server how many times the chef team repeats an order but since its a crew of 9 young chefs eager to stretch their culinary legs and make a name for themselves then I doubt there is much redundancy.  Knowing that made my lunch experience all the better.  The possibility that my lunch was unique just to me and that no one else would get to experience the same dish in quite the same way.  Yeah…I’m good with that.

So all in all both of these restaurants offered up unique experiences which did not take from the other.  McGurk’s with its rustic old world Irish pub feel, amazing homestyle Irish food and friendly wait staff started my week out amazingly and The Kitchen Sink brought it all home to mama.  These are two spots in St. Louis I strongly recommend you going to be it the first time or the seventh time.  Good places are hard to find but once you get there oh the joy you experience.

If you want to plan your next outing around these two fine St Louis establishments please take in the other sites that their location has to offer.  McGurk’s is located on the edge of Soulard which is home to a pretty awesome farmers market and provides an eclectic environment to wander and casually stroll about the streets.  The Kitchen Sink is located a block away from Forest Park where you might want to go after you eat to work of the sleepies that come with eating rich food.  Either way you can’t really lose…Unless you go on a day when they are closed.

Enjoy and let your food experience be amazing.  I’ve provided the websites for you to look at and as a FYI for the Kitchen Sink online menu?  The I.D.K does not appear.  It’s on the menu inside the restaurant.

The Kitchen Sink: The Name Speaks for itself

 

John D McGurk’s Irish Pub

 

 

 

 

Robata Of Maplewood: Sushi, Ramen Yakatori Review

“A bowl of ramen is a self-contained universe with life from the sea, the mountains, and the earth. All existing in perfect harmony. Harmony is essential. What holds it all together is the broth. The broth gives life to the ramen.” (Maezumi – The Ramen Girl 2008)

Like most Americans I was introduced to the wonderful world of ramen via a tiny cellophane wrapped package.  Located in the soup aisle on the bottom shelf, rows upon rows of ramen in every possible flavor a kid would want.  Beef, chicken, shrimp, oriental.  And for the more adventurous, creamy chicken, chili, roast beef.  Plus growing up poor in the heart of the Midwest it was also cheap.  Like $.10 a package cheap.  So there was the allure of the crinkly package with the mystery foil pouch.  But was it true ramen? To me then yes I would say it was ramen but after last night?  It would be remiss of me to say yes after eating at one of the new ramen shops located in St. Louis, MO.  Robata in Maplewood.

Nestled into a tiny converted Church’s chicken sits Robata of Maplewood with its floor to ceiling glass windows and obscure parking lot.  Robata of Maplewood is the first of its kind in the tiny little borough but is part of a rapid growing trend in the St. Louis metropolitan area and it is a welcome addition to the culinary scene here.

It caters to the dinner crowd, opening its doors at 5 pm and closing at 11 pm Monday through Thursday and 5 pm through 12 am Friday and Saturday.  The quaint restaurant seats 35 patrons and offers a variety of sitting from bar style to table which flank both the kitchen where you can watch the hustle and bustle of the chefs working the line in a kitchen no larger then half my bedroom or alongside the glass windows which offer up a view of the patio as well as Manchester Avenue.   The genius behind Robata are the former owners of the now closed Sekisui, husband and wife team Thom and Emily Chantharasy so needless to say, given my long standing patronage of Sekisui, I was more then ecstatic to experience and subsequently enjoy the culinary treats of this new venue.

Upon arriving we were immediately greeted by one of the servers who inquired as to whether or not we wanted to sit at the bar or at one of the tables located to the right of the door.  Normally I’d want to sit at the bar to watch the preparation of the meals but I diverted from my traditional seating and opted to sit in the small and cozy dining area.  Due to the cold weather outside and the comfortable temperature inside, the ceiling tall windows were covered in condensation and provided a rather unique albeit unintentional water feature to our dining experience. The restaurant was near full capacity yet did not seem to be inundated with noise from the conversations had at each of the individual tables.  It was cozy yet did not feel cramped with that busy bustle feeling that did not make one think they were intruding.  The longest we waited was 3 minutes for our water while both Kyle and I glanced over the over sized menus with a child like enthusiasm. Almost immediately I squealed with delight as I noticed the a la carte menu.  Listed were the traditional St Louis tempura options: shrimp, crab stick, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli and my personal favorite, sweet potato. As we sipped our hot green tea and choice caffeinated iced beverages we perused the menu with an unfiltered enthusiasm.  Deep fried garlic, tempura soft shell crab, bacon enoki yakatori it all looked so good.  It all dragged you further and further down the menu, but our goal was the ramen.

They offer three different broth types: pork broth, chicken and vegetarian.  Kyle being the porcine lover and supporter that he is quickly opted for first option and chose the tonkotsu to be the broth vessel in which his ramen experience would be voyaged.  Proclaimed to be the most holy grails of ramen broth it displays a thick, creamy nearly white in color flavor adventure obtained from the pork marrow bones which had been cooked to oblivion and back.  Each bowl came with the “standard” ramen fillers of roast pork, spinach, a lovely halved hard boiled egg with a still somewhat soft yolk, seasoned bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, nori, red ginger and kikurage (wood ear mushrooms).  That in and of itself is a sure palate pleaser yet Robata offers even more tantalizing toppings ranging from pork gyozo (fried) and takana (pickled mustard greens)..  You were only limited by either your wallet ($8.95 for a basic bowl and no additional topping being more then $4.75 for scallops) or your aversion to going outside your comfort box and well lets face it.  If you’re at a ramen shop in the middle of Maplewood at 7:30 on a Wednesday and your main staples are White Castles or Taco Bell then you’re already out of your comfort zone and I commend you for it.  Along with the cornicopia of toppings as well as broth types you are also given four options in noodle style from regular cut, thin cut, fat cut and for an additional $1.95 rice noodles.  I opted for the corn miso with the add ins of kimchi and takana as I love pickled and sweet vegetables and felt it would be a beautiful accompaniment to the.

ramen

 As we talked of our day and enjoyed our appetizers we were quickly gifted two large bowls of steaming hot ramen, our mouths forming perfect little cherub o’s as we let our eyes wander over the the humble feast before us. Our conversation quickly went quiet as we attempted to the best strategy in which to consume the luscious noodles and broth.  Remembering recent episodes of “In the Mind of the Chef” i recalled Chef David Chang saying that eating ramen was not a graceful act as you are more shoveling your noodles into your mouth bite after bite.    Kyle quickly opted for the mixing of toppings option where I preferred to obtain a little of each in every chopstick full.  The kimchi and takana played perfectly with the chicken based broth of the corn miso.  The little kernels of sweet corn burst in my mouth contently and provided a necessary crunchy component to the harmony of delicately steamed vegetables.  The constant chatter from the other tables seemed to fade away into the background.  There was nothing but these never ending bowls of ramen before us.  As Kyle finished his bowl I leaned back in my chair to see the dent I had made and I was astonished at how much I had left.  Not because I didnt like it but because it was that filling.  Our waiter quietly presented us with our check and as I asked for a to go container he quickly whisked my bowl away and brought it back in a plain white soup container.  Our total bill for the two of us was only $42.90 which is less then what we normally spend at a sushi restaurant for a nice dinner.  We were thanked for our patronage and told to come back soon as we journeyed back out into the cold dark night of St Louis in January with our bellies full and a lighter happier mood at the notion that the following day I’d be able to enjoy the ramen all over again at my job for lunch.

All in all our experience at Robata was stellar.  The proximity of the tables to each other did not take away from our experience.  It actually enhanced our experience as we were able to exchange conversation with our neighbors without feeling as though we were intruding.  The food while humble in origin was not lacking in flavor or presentation.  The portion size was amazing for the price and the serving staff personable and inviting.  It is a place worth visiting and worth visiting again and again be it for a special occasion or just as a adventure destination for dinner.  Not wanting to wait in line?  Call ahead and place a pick up order.  Kyle and I plan on going back and enjoying the sushi and yakatori along with more delicious bowls of ramen.  Hope you discover this little gem and enjoy what the steamed up windows have to offer.

Robata in Maplewood is conveniently located at 7260 Manchester Rd, Maplewood, MO 63143

The divinity of porcine

There is no love lost between me and this even toed ungulate.  I’ve never been partial to the swine.  One to many canned hams coated in a gelatinous goo that turned a stomach and made one green in the gills.  No, me and pork will never be Facebook friends.  I will however use it to experiment with.  My beloved Kyle however is a huge supporter of the Suidea family.  Serve it up as chops, ribs, bacon, sausage, slathered in gravy, shoved in a tin and called SPAM the boy loves it.

It had to have been a few months ago when I first started toying with the notion of experimenting with pork belly.  I recall it was around the time i was making roasted butternut squash gnudis (totally different blog post but sooo damn good!!!).  A local osteria here had been posting videos on line which featured items served in their restaurant and there was a pairing of butternut squash gnudi and smoked braised pork belly.  Color me intrigued.  I promptly went out and purchased 2 pork bellies at the local Asian market (I live for that place) and then put them in the freezer and promptly forgot about them.  A few days ago whilst digging through freezer bags filled with roasted tomato puree, marinara sauce, roasted butternut squash puree and persimmons i came across both bags of pork belly and immediately wanted to play with them.  But what to do.  It was pouring rain outside.  The idea of setting up my chiminea for smoking sounded as inviting as a sudden outbreak of shingles and I haven’t yet purchased my stove top smoke box.  So what was a kid to do to inundate this slaughter slab of sow with flavor.  And then it dawned on me.  Why not dry age it.  You always hear of dry aged beef but not a whole lot about pork.  After doing some research (link provided at the end of this blog) and reading up on the process I quickly found a dry rub that I felt would provide me with that smokey taste as well as a (hopefully) a good bark.

I quickly went to my pantry and pulled out a plethora of herbs.  Whole coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, star anise, whole black peppercorn, smoked paprika, things that I thought would imbue and permeate the pork belly with flavor without taking from the richness of the fatty piece of meat.  A quick toast in a dry skillet and a few whirls of my magic bullet and I had an aromatic rub that cleared my sinuses for days.

 

I “carefully” scored the skin of the pig in a criss cross pattern, being mindful to not cut to deeply into the meat and then applied a generous amount of scotch bonnet sea salt.  salting

Then….chaos.  I went nuts with the rub.  I was bound and determined to push the entire cup and a half of rub into and onto this pig in order to get the results i wanted.  I may have gone overboard.  Just a little…a tiny bit…just the taddest bit overboard…>.>…..<.<rubbed to death

Then into a zip lock bag for 3 days to sit in the fridge until Sunday.  Why Sunday?  I had read several recipes that said to allow it to sit in the rub for 3 days. Why?  In all honesty I havent the slightest clue but I’m sure as I continue to experiment with this and ask questions I’ll discover the reason.

Three days went by and bam Sunday.  The day of reckoning.pre roast  Did it work?  Did it fail? Are we bound for the ER?  No clue.  So we whip the oven up to a whopping 450 degrees and lay the perfumed porker on a bed of roughly chopped onions which were liquored up with a bottle of my favorite shandy from Leinenkugel, the grapefruit shandy. I picked this particular ale in hopes that the acidic qualities would help to balance out the richness of the fat.  Tossed that bad boy in for 45 minutes,  reduced the heat to 250 degrees and continued to roast for another 3 hours, pouring a second beer in at the 2 hour mark.  And this was the end results.

pork done

The onions were beautifully cooked in the comfit of pork fat and beer.  The pork displayed a bark that made me bounce with giddiness at the hopes of a success…Now would it be as tasty as it looked or was this a complete and utter kitchen nightmare. After a 10 minute rest (which felt like an eternity).  I sliced the slab of goodness in half.  Kyle stood patiently next to me eager to try the bounty of 3 days of waiting.  We were not disappointed.  Well not entirely.  The rub offered a nice bit of heat which did not overwhelm the palatte.  It crept up slowly along the back of the mouth and lingered just long enough for you to enjoy the sweet and salty flesh.  The thin layer of fat which had not rendered off literally melted like butter on the tongue.  The only disappointment was the skin.  While the bark gave the illusion of a crispy skin it was anything but that.  In error I had not read the recipe completely.  I was only to have coated the actual meat and not the skin, leaving it exposed to the elements.  The dry rub essentially sealed in all the moisture and turned it into a sort of rubbery exterior.  Definitely not good eats but easily remedied.  I simply cut it off.

inside pork

The plans for this piece of pork heaven is not yet decided.  Will I slice it thin and serve it up with a bit of celery root puree or will i have it along side some ricotta ravioli with grapefruit buerre blanche.  I dont know yet.  All i know is this adventure was both educational as well as delicious and while I might not be a fan of the three little pigs quite yet, this little bad boy is definitely on my list of things to do again.

 

2015: a year in review

Last year was an okay year.  It wasn’t stellar.  It didn’t suck.  It was merely….okay.  I experienced highs and lows and a lot of in betweens….I traveled (albiet just to Minnesota and Wisconsin and back), I loved, i lost, I loved some more and I made a commitment to myself and to Kyle that 2016 would be filled with as many amazing moments as possible…Oh this is Kyle…god that’s a horrible picture of him.  Oh and that’s me, in the deadpool hat..and the obscurred Thundercats t-shirt.  AnywaysCHICAGO

2015 was a pretty okay year.  One thing that I did more of was cooking as well as venturing outside my culinary bubble.  This all happened in May after we moved from our rather tiny Harry Potter-esk type closet of an apartment to a spacious 1200 square foot beauty with a kitchen that pretty much was my idea of the dream starter kitchen.  Counterspace for days and cabinets that went up to the ceiling.  It was amazing.  And it spurned in me a desire to do more cooking.  It’s hard to get motivated to make a meal when you’re stumbling over your own two feet to get to the fridge and then working in a tiny space to create a meal which feels like a meal. Let alone the old pit was rather gross and unwelcoming and I hated the idea of having people over so why bother cooking when it was just the two of us.

That tune has since changed and I find myself wanting to cook every day, multiple times a day if given the opportunity.  Inviting friends over even if just for breakfast or snack type foods.  It’s amazing.  I’ve created so many awesome meals in my apartment.  I’ve cooked ethnic food that I’ve not tried my hands at.  I successfully prepped, prepared and pulled off 3 Sunday supper club events as well as 3 large family meals.  And I loved it.  To have a group of people come into my home on a random Sunday for a meal thats been in the making for a month fills me with a certain giddy joy.  While I dread the washing of dishes I love seeing the faces of my family and friend around my now larger dinner table as we sit and ask to pass the peas or wasabi marinated grilled skirt steak from one person to another.  It’s happiness at that table.  And its food that caused it.  Well and me and my friends..they take a little part in it im sure.  But yeah this year has been an okay year but an amazing culinary year.  May 2016  be filled with amazing meals shared with new friends and old friends

 

 

 

Please sir, may I have some more?

 

Christmas is just a mere two days away and I find myself wearing short sleeve shirts, light weight jackets and the threat of shorts is a very real fear.  This crazy bipolar weather we have in St. Louis, MO.  Where’s the snow?  Where’s the chilled pink cheeks and the steamed up glasses?  Where’s the endless bowls of soup?!?

One of my most favorite things to enjoy on a cold day is a bowl of soup.  Chicken noodle, chili, chowder, vegetable, but mostly tomato soup.  There’s just something blissful about sitting down in your favorite chair with a blanket on your lap, wearing your ugliest yet most comfortable pair of yoga pants and a long sleeve shirt as you enjoy a bowl of creamy tomato soup.  The acidic tang of the tomatoes, the slight undertone of celery and onion,  maybe a tiny bit of heat from red pepper flakes just invoke a memory of when you were younger and you would crush up an entire pack of crackers only to end up with this amalgamated glob of tomato goodness.  Combine that with a perfectly toasted grilled cheese sandwich which served as your eating utensil and your day was made!  Nothing could top it sans Saturday morning cartoons or the promise of brinner (breakfast for dinner) later that day.

As a child growing up I was fortunate enough to have parents who placed value in even the most humblest of dishes.  There was nothing fancy about tomato soup and grilled cheese.  It was simplicity at its finest.  Open a can of soup from the cupboard, if we had milk great if we had water, meh we made do.  Grab a block of american cheese and some bread.  Slather it up with butter and if feeling especially wild toss on a slice of onion or maybe a tomato and grill it up to the point where any longer and you run the risk of burning it and that was dinner.  And it was always well received.  And still is to this day.  The only thing that has changed for me and mine is the method in which the soup is made.

Instead of going to the pantry for the old beloved standby I find myself more often then naught, making my childhood favorite from scratch.  Sauteing up onions and celery with garlic, adding a can of crushed tomatoes (if none fresh are available), a bay leaf, a few peppercorns for good measure and a generous grind of sea salt.  There’s just something about that smell that just makes even the toughest of days seem a little bit more tolerable.  Then comes the grilled cheese.  Oh that glorious toasted bread filled with rich gooey goodness.  The tempestuous joy/terror when you bite into it, pulling it away only to leave a long string of molten dairy magma hellbent on either falling off and adhering to your face or dripping into your soup.  It’s a delicate dance of antici……..pation (yeah I went there).  It’s in that moment that I truly feel alive (okay so that might be a slight exaggeration but dammit, its pretty awesome!).

It’s not unusual for food to invoke happy memories in me.  Most of my happy moments involve people who are preparing food.  My father and his grilled cheese and tomato soup.  My mom and her bread.  My grandma and her Polish feasts of amazingness.  Its happiness for me.  And on days like today where its unseasonably warm and wrapped up in torrential storms I want nothing more then to wrap myself up in a bowl of happy memories and let the warm creamy liquid goodness take me away.

 

So.  Now that I’ve somewhat dragged this on, one thing I plan on doing with this blog is sharing recipes of what I write about (if able) to share with you my readers.  So since this entry is all about tomato soup I want to share with you my recipe for homemade tomato bisque which is a favorite in my home for both Kyle and myself.

 

Enjoy!

 

Roasted Tomato Bisque with Rosemary: can substitute if out of season

  • 15-20 heirloom tomatoes (can use a plethora of colors: yellow, orange, red. doesn’t matter)
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic whole
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • olive oil
  • sea salt (my current favorite is pink Himalayan sea salt)
  • 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 stalk celery diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 4 oz can tomato paste (or can even use roasted tomato pesto if you like)
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • salt/pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (204.44 Celsius) and line a cookie sheet with heavy duty aluminium foil.  Wash/core/slice longitude across the tomato’s Prime Meridian (fancy huh? slice from where the stem is).  Line tomatoes slice  side up on baking sheet with onions and garlic scattered throughout.  Sprinkle peppercorns, sea salt, red pepper flakes and sugar over the tomatoes an onions.  Drizzle olive oil to coat tomatoes and place in oven to roast off for 45 minutes to an hour.  Once desired level of carmelization has occurred remove and let cool completely.  Transfer all contents, including roasting liquid to a separate bowl.

If unable to find ripe tomatoes (especially during the winter season) you can easily use canned tomatoes and just omit the roasting stages and pick up from here

In a large stock pot over medium heat, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Saute carrots, celery and onion until translucent (10-15 minutes).  Add herbs and allow them to bloom until fragrant (2 minutes).  At this point you’ll want to take a spatula and form a slight well in the center of your stock pot.  This is where you will add your tomato paste to allow it toast slightly before incorporating it in with your sauteed vegetables.  Allow to heat, stirring frequently to discourage scorching until the you smell the slight acidic tang of concentrated tomato goodness.  It is at this time that you will add your roasted tomatoes (or if out of season as previously mentioned: your cans of tomato: can be diced, whole, petite, your choice:  about up to 32 ounces or so).  Drop in your bay leaf, bring up to a simmer, cover and reduce heat allowing the soup to simmer for about 45 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender.   Carefully remove stock pot from heat, fish out the bay leaf and either transfer in batches to a blender to puree to desired texture or if you’re lucky utilize your immersion blender until desired texture achieved.  After pureeing you can either return it to the same stock pot for continued cooking or you can pass the puree through a fine mesh strainer to ensure that there are no of vegetables left (for those friends that have texture issues like my friend Ruby) and then return to the stock pot.  At this point you can add your heavy cream.  Start with one cup at first and depending on the volume of tomato base you have you can either increase it or leave as is depending on your personal preference.  Once heated through (about another 5-7 minutes) transfer to either individual bowls, or if serving family style a large ceramic dish which will retain heat.  Serve with your choice of crackers or croutons as well as a fantastic grilled cheese sandwich or two.

Viola.  Homemade tomato soup.  Now I know not everyone has 2 hours to devote to making soup so please know that you can do all of this ahead of time and freeze for later consumption.  Just omit the cream prior to freezing.  Take out and thaw at room temperature, bring up to temp and add the cream.  Or if you like it, go grab your favorite can of tomato soup and dig in :).  Who are we to judge the vessels of our culinary happiness.

 

Enjoy!

The heart of a home is the kitchen

Some of my fondest memories from growing up involves me and my family gathered in the kitchen.  Something was normally always being created in my family kitchen.  My mom’s amazing pierogies.  My father’s wonderfully delicious potato soup.  Those dishes when thought about now as an adult invoke a feeling of comfort and love.

This blog is to share with those that read and follow it my deep appreciation for food.  My goal is to hopefully show that it is not just a means to temporarily satiate our hunger but it also has the means of sustaining our soul and very essence of being.

Follow me as I take you on my culinary adventures.