Liege Waffles

31 03 2010

I’ll just put this out there right now – I love Eggo waffles. You can hate all you want but Eggo waffles with Log Cabin syrup is the shit. Part of the reason I think I like them so much is because homemade waffles have never done it for me. They just suck… too dry, no flavor, and just can’t compete with those frozen wonders of modern preservation.

I’ve had “Belgian waffles” in plenty of restaurants too. I always give them a try because there’s so much fuss about them but they just disappoint every time. The exception was in Amsterdam at these little snack shops that sell waffles… covered in icing and other good stuff, they’re basically desserts. They are amazing and I have dreamed about them for years. Turns out there are now joints selling that kind of waffles here and when I had one in Tahoe a few weeks back it took me right back. Good ness where have you been?

Well I did a bit of googling and it turns out these little beauties are actually called Liege waffles. Named after the city in Belgium where they got their start, these things are no joke and since I found that out I’d been pretty determined to bring them to my gut and make it possible to have them on a regular basis. Mission accomplished.

The trick is that the dough for these puppies is less like a normal waffle batter and more like a wet bready dough. The recipe and information come from a website full of waffle info, aptly titled Waffle-Recipe dot com.

 
Liege Waffles
adapted from Waffle-Recipe dot com

2 cups of flour
1 cup of pearl sugar (I didn’t have this so I substituted a mix of regular sugar and light brown sugar)
1 cup melted butter (this is ridiculous, I fully realize)
3 eggs
1 package active dry yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1.5 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Sprinkle the 1.5 teaspoons of sugar and the yeast on top of the water in a small bowl and let it hydrate for a bit (15 minutes or so – let it get a little foamy). While that’s happening, melt your butter.

Put the flour in a big bowl and make a well in the middle – pour in the yeasty water mixture. Add the eggs and butter and mix until you have a smooth dough – you might have to add some flour to thicken it up a little because of all that moisture. It should be thicker than regular waffle batter, but not as firm as a ball of bread dough – somewhere in between.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it sit for about 45 minutes to an hour until it has doubled in size.

Take about 3/4 of the cup of sugar and mix it in after the dough has risen. Let it sit again for about 15 minutes or so. Fire up your waffle iron.

At this point, tear or spoon off balls somewhere between a golf ball and a racquetball and roll them in a little bit of the leftover sugar. smash them into your waffle iron, spreading them out a bit with a wooden spoon or whatever you have. Close it and cook till they’re done.

Voila. Add syrup if you want but it’s really not necessary – the sugar you rolled them in will caramelize on the outside and makes from some pretty tasty coating. I think I was to do it again I’d cut back on the butter by a bit – a little too much for my taste, but otherwise they’re pretty perfect.

Enjoy.





Gougeres

27 03 2010

Right in time for your Sunday brunch…

I really really want to keep this a secret to myself (and the thousands of other people who own the Tartine book, of course) but I just don’t think it’s fair…

These are maybe the easiest, yet most impressive little puffs of amazing-ness. They’re really great and there are so many ways you could take them… I’m thinking savory eclairs…

It’s the same dough used for eclair shells and other stuff… pretty classic, (I guess?) choux paste.

Gougeres
A la Tartine

Choux Paste
1.25c nonfat milk (don’t use higher fat)
10Tbsp unsalted butter
1tsp salt
1 cup flour
5 large eggs
3/4 cup Gruyere
1tsp ground black pepper
1Tbsp thyme

Topping
1 large egg
pinch of salt
gruyere

 
Gougeres in 10 simple steps:

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350F.

Step 2: Put the butter and salt in the milk and bring it to a boil.

Step 2: Mix in the flour all at once and stir till it’s all mixed and smooth and pulls away from the sides.

Step 3: Toss it in the mixer, turn it on medium, and add the eggs one at a time. If you don’t have a mixer, just do it in a big bowl with a wooden spoon. Either way, mix it till you have a nice thick smooth shiny mass of goo.

Step 4: Grate the cheese and chop up the thyme.

Step 5: Mix in the cheese, thyme and black pepper with a rubber spatula. *Be warned, these are pretty peppery. If you want you can cut back on the pepper…. or just try it out and you can decide next time if it was too much.

Step 6: Transfer your goo to a pastry bag (or do it ghetto style like me and put it in a ziplock bag and cut off the corner). You see two bags here because naturally I couldn’t resist the urge to make at least a small batch with bacon in it… it was worth it.

Step 7: Prep a baking sheet with parchment paper, butter or a silpat (one of the greatest baking accessories ever.

Step 8: Pipe little mounds about an inch and a half apart on the baking sheet. You can make them small – like 1″ mounds or making them bigger like 3″ mounds that will puff up into bigger balls. I like the small ones…

Step 9: Brush a little egg wash on each one and then sprinkle the topping on.

Step 10: Bake for about 25 minutes, until they’ve puffed up and browned.

Sorry I don’t have photos of the last few steps… you get the idea. Refer to the top for what they should look like when they’re finished. Now go stuff your face.





Cuban Roast Chicken + Crack Sauce

24 03 2010

And now, back to the bird. Every so often I get a serious craving for this chicken… The thing I miss the most about lunch in New York is Sophie’s. If you live there and you haven’t been, do yourself a favor and go for lunch sometime. If you work anywhere near the financial district and you haven’t been… shame on you.

The chicken part of this dish is, in the end, just a supporting role. The sauce is the real star, the reason you eat at Sophie’s at all (other than the roast pork, of course). The meat is great, but don’t kid yourself – the reason you’re eating it is just to get the green sauce into your mouth. We called it the crack sauce. I’ve googled and searched and can’t find a solid explanation anywhere of what it is. I decided to take a shot and see if I could make it happen. It’s been a while so it wasn’t so fresh in my memory but the taste of that sauce is pretty tough to forget.

The dish is simple and you don’t have to do much but the important part is that all of these simple bits have some flavor. Chicken, rice, beans, plantains, carrots and sauce. That’s it. Nothing complex and definitely not rocket science. Don’t mess with chicken breast though – go for the legs/thighs and be happy that you’re eating chicken with some flavor. “Wa wa dark meat is fatty bla bla bla” – you’re eating chicken! It’s not like it’s beef. Shut up and eat the good stuff and leave those dry flavorless breasts for the people who don’t know any better. If you have a problem eating dark meat, you should probably be eating tofu anyway…

 
Cuban Roast Chicken with the Crack Sauce

Chicken
Skin-on chicken leg & thigh pieces
Garlic
Oregano
Cumin
Salt
A little lemon juice

Sauce
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 jalapenos (I used canned but fresh would be even better as long as they’re hot)
Cilantro – a little or a lot, however you like it
Lime juice from half a lime
2-4 tablespoons plain yogurt (I used Trader Joe’s European Style)
Salt – a pinch

Beans
1 large can black beans (or cook some dry beans – obviously better but canned are fine too)
1/2 a medium onion (I use yellow ones)
2-4 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno (again, I used canned but fresh is good too)

Plantains
Ripe plantains
Oil
Salt

Rice
1/2 brown, 1/2 white, cooked with a couple cloves of garlic and some salt

And you can toss a couple of carrots in the roasting pan too if you like carrots – they go well and they’re good for your eyes, right?

————

First things first – get the rice steaming. If you don’t have a rice cooker and you make rice more than once a month – buy one. It’s an amazingly worthwhile investment and you’ll probably eat more rice because you have it.

 
Grind up the dry chicken seasoning (or mix if you’re just using ground spices), mix in a little lemon juice (it should still be fairly pasty) and rub it around under the chicken skin. Toss the bird in the oven at 350 for about 40 minutes. At that point crank it to 450 for another 5 or so minutes until the skin is brown and crispy.

 

While that’s working, you have plenty of time to fix up the rest.

The sauce was an experiment but it turned out great. It’s a creamy, green, garlicky, tangy, spicy *hot mess*. The sauce is creamy but I was at a loss as to what to use to get that consistency… Maybe it’s the Armenian in me… or no wait, there’s no Armenian in me… either way, yogurt was the first thing that came to mind. I’m not sure that it’s what they’d use in Cuba or at Sophie’s, but it got the job done… and got it done well. Add the yogurt a tablespoon or so at a time until you get a good consistency.

The Crack.

 
The beans get flavored with something like a sofrito, I guess. Just simmer the garlic, onion and pepper in some oil for about 10 minutes or so until it’s softened up and then toss in the beans and simmer until they’re nice and hot. Season with some salt.

 
At this point your chicken is probably halfway done or so. Take a minute to slice up those carrots however you want (I like to do big sticks where I basically just quarter them lengthwise) and then toss them in the roasting pan with the chicken. At this point you should have some fatty juices collecting in the bottom of the pan so you can try to slide them under the bird, maybe even lift the chicken pieces to get the carrots down in that juice.

 
The most crucial move when making plantains is choosing the right ones. You’ll be tempted to pick ones that are yellow, maybe even yellow with some dark spots – that’s because you’re used to choosing bananas. Put those ones back and grab a couple that look like they were forgotten at the bottom of the fruit bowl for a couple weeks. We’re talking black here. Soft, black and sweet – riiiipe. You see?

Slice em “on the bias” so you get some nice surface exposure to caramelize.

Sautee them in some vegetable oil (or butter if you’re feeling fatty… nothing wrong with a little butter). Sautee them in low to medium heat until they are nice and brown on each side. There’s no rule about flipping here, just get em brown.

They should look something like the shot below. The darker ones on top were actually better – a little bit crispy, good and caramelized, and still soft inside.

 
Toss those carrots around a little more and crank that oven heat for the last few minutes.

 
And then, you eat. And make sure you make enough to have some leftovers – you’ll want more tomorrow.





Pho Sho

15 03 2010

As a cold wages war on my body I’m in need of some serious sick food. Chicken noodle soup was the obvious answer. One of my favorite noodle soups, chicken or not, is pho. Pho is the perfect example of Vietnamese food combining some of the best flavors – salty, umami, sour, spicy, sweet… and so many more. Pho traditionally contains rice noodles but I didn’t have any around. I did, however, have soba – Japanese buckwheat noodles – which are a little more healthy anyway so I decided to give em a shot. Good move.

I made fried chicken this weekend and decided to de-bone all the chicken before frying so I had a nice sack of bones in the freezer ready to boil for my soup broth. Ideally you’d simmer it for a lot longer but I’m feeling sick and was hungry so I only simmered it for about an hour. In my opinion, the thing that really makes pho broth distinct is star anise. This stuff is intensely licorice-y and you don’t need much of it. It works amazingly well in this broth. Coriander is also great in chicken pho broth but I didn’t use any this time.

Pho:

Hot broth
Meat (or not)
Noodles
Super thin sliced onion

Basil
Cilantro
Lime (or lemon if you have to but it’s really not the same)
Fish sauce
Hot sauce

That’s all you really need… the thing though, that makes it great and special, is the broth. I’m too tired to go into it but there are any number of versions… different broth for beef, different one for chicken, etc… this is a simple version that’s easy to throw together any night of the week. My Vietnamese friends will probably not approve…

If you want to make a vegetarian version you can but it really won’t have the depth of a meat broth. If you want to read about why broth made from bones is good, click here.

Bones – you can roast them first if you want a deeper broth, but it’s fine to just toss em straight in the stock pot and get right to it. Like I said, this is a quick version, so just toss em in the pot.

Water – cover the bones. I used about 2 quarts but what’s important isn’t a certain measure of water or bones, but the ratio between the two. Not enough bones and your broth will be weak.

Onion – this broth also depends on some serious onion presence. I peel and quarter an onion and toss the whole thing in. If you have time to spare, char the onion’s skin first over your stove’s flame.

Spices:
1 whole star anise
1/2 stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf

You can also add ginger, rock sugar (or regular), cloves, cardamom, fish sauce, salt… experiment. I just use what I have around rather than worrying about making sure it’s exactly like it’s supposed to be the way someone else made it.

Boil it for the first few minutes and skim off all the skum that bubbles to the top. Simmer for about an hour, skimming more as necessary. Boil it longer if you have the time, but at very least an hour. I also simmered the chicken meat with the broth to cook it at the same time and flavor the broth even more. You can roast it separately or simmer it in the broth – either is fine.

To eat – load your bowl full of noodles, slice the meat, slice an onion super thin and toss both in with the noodles. Ladle on the hot broth and then top it off with some basil and cilantro. Squeeze in the lime, spice it up with chili sauce and season it with fish sauce.

Now, this is where you have to trust me, if you’ve never had fish sauce… trust me trust me trust me. You’re going to say “well that sounds gross but since I respect your opinion so much I’ll give it a shot.” Then you’ll get home and open that bottle of fish sauce and wonder why you ever listened to me when you smell it. And again you’re going to want to leave it out. But trust me, ignore what you smell and shake it in. You will not regret. For as bad as it smells, it tastes twice as good.

And enjoy.

 
With my leftovers I chopped everything up and made chicken salad to toss on a baguette for lunch tomorrow. Chopped chicken, lime juice, cilantro, basil, fish sauce, a tiny bit of sriracha… and I’m gonna tie it all up with some mayo.

*Update – the sandwich with the leftovers was almost better than the soup itself! I will definitely be making that again. I tossed what you see in the picture with some mayo, spread it on a split open soft french roll, and toasted it until it was all nice and hot and crusty. Topped it off with some sliced avocado and wow… mmm mmmmmmm.