Sunday, August 28, 2011
I cooked dinner for my relatives last weekend, however, the irony is that the star of the show, namely, roast chicken, failed. The real star turned out to be something unexpected, something that was the byproduct of the ideas jostling in my head.
There was supposed to be roast chicken. Ridiculously moist roast chicken. This roast chicken. Judy Rodger's Roast Chicken. Salted 24 hours before, the bird absorbs the salt, which is then released back to the skin, rendering it the crispiest, most tender meat you will ever lay your hands on (and I say hands because that's the only way to eat chicken).
Then for the fourth time in my life, the chicken threw a fit. It set off the fire alarm, its fat smoking. I wish I could say smoking hot, but that would be inaccurate, it was emitting-plumes-of-heavy-smoke-I'm-going-to-suffocate smoking. And it didn't taste bad, but it wasn't spectacular either, I've used the recipe many times and this time, it let me down. I'll share it with you another day, meanwhile, there are other dishes that I promise, won't have you cursing 235 times under your breath.
Like this corn soup. I looked here and here for inspiration, strapped on my apron, husked and chopped corn, spraying juices left right and center, as kernels bounced off the floor. I sliced up an onion, followed promptly by a stream of tears. I sauteed the gangly rings until translucent, added the heaping pile of golden nubs, dumped in chicken broth, blended the mixture, and added more liquid to reach a thinner consistency.
But the magic step was the addition of feathery dill. Simmering the herb drawed out its grassy, floral notes, levitating the soup to a new heights of freshness. Without it, the soup is passable, but throw in a few sprigs and it's like crowning it with Tiffany jewels--simply ravishing.
Next time though, I'll try roasting the corn in their husks first, because when the kernels caramelize (Oooh did you just go weak in the knees?) I think we will have struck gold. And why not simmer the cobs in water to leech out as much corn flavor? Or try these ingenious tips.
For dessert, there was blueberry galette, which uses I Loathe Making This, also known as sweet pastry dough or pâte sucrée. Harry Potter is to Lord Voldemort as I am to Pastry Dough. Since I began baking leisurely 6 years ago, it has always cursed me with migraines, bruises, and cuts. It haunts my dreams. It's temperamental, it doesn't like to form into a smooth ball, it likes to crack before the touch of a rolling pin, and no matter which recipe I tackle, making sweet pastry dough is akin to wrestling a bear, what's the point?
I tried a new recipe for pastry dough from Baking with Julia and immediately, my hands felt the difference. Perhaps it was the addition of yogurt, but as I massaged the cold butter into the flour mixture, adding tablespoons of cold yogurt and water, it came together slowly but surely. It's never been such a cinch to roll out pastry dough, it was obedient, it barely broke apart, it was as silky as a baby's skin. After forming it into a thin round, I dumped blueberries into the centre, folded the sides over and baked it. Minutes later, as I removed the baking sheet, a hot breath of fruit swirled around me, the berries had shriveled, it's deep purple nectar seeping through the pastry creating its own a jammy river.
We ate it at room temperature, when the blueberry juices had congealed to the texture of barely cooked jam, like homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, but not nearly as sweet, more tame, more chunky. The pastry dough was a bit too soft for my taste, I prefer it a bit crispier, but it sure was flaky, the yogurt makes a brief appearanace, lending the galette a slight tang. And the best part? It was one less thing to worry about.
Corn Soup with Dill
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
I use a chicken broth that doesn't contain MSG (monosodium glutamate), I urge you to do the same. Alternatively, you can omit the chicken broth and use vegetable broth or water instead. Or you can do what Heidi recommends and boil the cob to create a corn broth, which is a superb idea.
5 ears corn, husks removed
4 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ onion, chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
freshly ground pepper
3 large sprigs of fresh dill, rinsed
Fresh dill, to garnish
1. Start by bringing the water to a boil in a large pot. While it is heating use a knife to cut the kernels from the cobs of corn, reserving them in a bowl.
In the meantime, heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat, add the shallots and garlic, cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently.
2. Add corn kernels and the salt to the pot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stir frequently. Add chicken broth and water, simmer over medium-low heat. I like soup a bit chunky, so I don't puree too much for the mixture. But if you prefer smoother soup, you can definitely blend the whole pot to your liking. Blend with immersion blender or in batches in a food processor. Add more water to mixture if soup is too thick.
3. As soup is simmering, add sprigs of dill, allow it to cook for 5 minutes. Taste the soup, if it's not strong enough, add more dill, if you like it, fish out the dill and discard. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve with a sprinkling of fresh, chopped dill.
Adapted from Baking with Julia, contributed by Flo Braker
3 tablespoon of sour cream (or yogurt or buttermilk)
1/3 cup (approximately) ice water
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, cut into 6-8 pieces
To make the dough by hand: Stir the sour cream and ice water together in a small bowl and set aside. Put the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and stir with a fork to mix. Drop the butter pieces into the bowl, tossing them once or twice just to coat them with flour. With a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour, until the butter pieces are no larger than small peas. Smaller pieces will make the dough tender, larger ones will make it flaky.
Sprinkle the sour cream mixture over the dough, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all of the sour cream, the dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed (if not, add cold water 1teaspoon at a time until you have a soft malleable dough).
To make the dough with a food processor: Combine ingredients in the work bowl of your food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse to combine. Drop butter in and pulse 8-10 times, until butter pieces are pea sized or smaller. With the machine running, add the sour cream mixture and process just until the dough forms moist soft curds.)
Turn the dough out of the bowl. Divide it in half. Press each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
2 cups fresh berries (a mixture is great too: raspberries, blueberries, black raspberries. Do not use frozen fruit, it will be too runny)
2 teaspoons of sugar, divided
2 tablespoons of cold butter, cut into 16 pieces
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll each dough ball on a lightly floured surface into a disk about 6-7 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch in thickness.
Place one dough on the parchment (it helps to wrap it around your rolling pin and unfurl it over the parchment) and pile half the berries in the middle. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon1 of sugar and dot with butter. Fold the edges of the dough up and over the edge of the berries. Brush water on the edges of the dough and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Repeat with other galette. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.