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Everything posted by Mottmott

  1. Della Croce has a simple recipe for chestnut cake in Veneto. It's not fancy, but as delicious as it is easy to make. It's one of my favorites and I make it often for its distinctive, chestnutty flavor. Of course this means stocking up on chestnuts when they're in season. Those on the lookout for flourless cakes might want to check it out.
  2. On the issue of substitutions generally. I recently made a gingerbread cake that called for sour cream and just switched in some drained yogurt with no notable difference. Is it safe to assume that one can generally make dairy substitutions, being careful to add some baking powder if swaping in something acidic for something more neutral? And I suppose one also need consider the relative fat content of the ingredients. ??
  3. My son & dil lived in Portland for awhile, so I had a chance to buy some of their fish in their retail store. Frankly I think they do what Ippolito's probably does, fob off what they haven't sold to restaurants or mail order retail where they must use the freshest fish to compensate for shipping timne. I was in RTM late this afternoon. I was in too much of a hurry to check out all the fishmongers as I was there for a stewing chicken. But I did look in the case of the fishmonger on the Filbert St side - where I NEVER shop. Sad, sad. Which brings me to the point that the first step is to have some idea of what fish/meat should look like. Trust no one completely. I sometimes buy strip steaks at WF. I look at them carefully and if they pass muster, select exactly which one I buy, concentrating on the amount and configuration of marbling. I usually get a decent one. To my surprise, most people just say how many they want and let the counterman randomly pull them out of the case. I agree with Vadauvan about frozen meat, and I don't buy any even though I'd like to support people who sell organic meat. They will preorder some things fresh for you, I believe, but I'm not usually that organized. Giunta now carries fresh organic meat and both Ochs and WF carry hormone/antibiotic free. Ironically, I have in my freezer two pricy gift packages of frozen beef from online Omaha.
  4. Vadouvan, have you ever checked out fish from other purveyors? In particular, Ippolito. I usually buy fish at Ippolito’s. They’re very responsive to preorders when I have a special need, say for never frozen wild fish for gravlaz. OTOH, if I query a counterman about the date of something like mussels, I get a blank response. And I must say, my experiences are mixed. One day I’ll get the most wonderful mussels, those next week? Acceptable. Shrimp? Ditto. When I can't make it there my coop carries a limited variety of fish from Ippolito/Samuels. Or I select carefully, usually only whole fish, at RTM. Meat? as I eat so much less of it these days, I’m seriously annoyed when it doesn’t justify its sat fat! I had some really good Waygu beef from D’Angelo some time back. A couple merely acceptable standing ribs (special ordered aged prime, supposedly) from Ochs. I’ve gotten beef from them for YEARS, and I can say they’re not what they used to be. When I shop for my daily/solo cooking, I do shop Ochs or WF, depending on my route for the day. I’ve only used Giunta for beef once (shortribs), so I won’t judge them yet. My coop carries Esposito’s meats. In the past I have shopped at 9th St. They are my very, very last resort. First, it is my impression that they do not carry the anitbiotic and hormone free meats. Second, I don’t really like their meat that much.
  5. I keep some raisins soaking in rum as a pantry item. I find they are lovely in most tea cakes and breakfast pastries.
  6. Happy Birthday. What a great feast. The food and drink look wonderful. But when you explain how simple it was to organize it all, I'm in total awe.
  7. I’m not a fan of frozen meals and have the luxury of avoiding them. But I do keep some frequently used elements of recipes on hand in the freezer to speed up cooking a meal. For me, one of the principle difficulties of frozen foods is retrieval! Mystery foods - so keep a sharpy marker in easy reach. And just as bad, the "I know it's got to be in there somewhere." So, for quick and easy retrieval, I freeze soups and sauces flat in ziplock bags in 1-4, etc. cup quantities. This makes it possible to group these together in a larger ziplock or filed upright in a plastic box container. There’s a good chance you can do this with any favorite basic sauce. I’ve seen people suggest doing this with white sauce/bechamel, though I’ve not yet tried it. I addition, if you freeze something really thin in a ziplock, you can break off a couple Tbs of stock or sauce when you need it, returning the rest to the freezer. To your list, I'd add other basics such as chicken/beef stock, tomato sauce, some soups. I routinely keep such things as mirapoix/soffrito, caramelized onions, duxelles, etc. on hand, parceled out in usable amounts. This allows you to start with, say, fresh fish or chicken, and put together an interesting dish, that tastes freshly made, quickly. (For me, most food that’s been totally prepared and frozen tastes like something from the freezer, but dishes incorporating frozen elements can taste like something freshly made.) You could also make ahead and freeze crepes to fill and heat at the last minute. (Just be sure to separate them with parchment/plastic/wax paper.) I find some baked goods freeze well. Pound cake works really well and allows you to slice off a few servings without defrosting first. Scones, rugelach, sables and other cookies work well frozen before baking, then baked just before serving. (note these tend to be high butter content goodies). Key here is to freeze them on a sheet pan, then bag or box them up. As I live alone, this allows me to have home made, freshly baked treats when they taste like something worth eating. I keep frozen dough on hand. You can roll it out, seal it well, then store it flat or shaped ready to bake (in something like a pizza box to protect it from being broken up). Otherwise, you need to remember to take it out the night before. You can, for example, put together quiche filling the night before and simply take it out when you get home and assemble it while the oven preheats. As a completed dish, Lasagna works well for me, too, when I bake it partially, then finish baking it from the freezer.
  8. I like the BBC site, too.
  9. Mottmott

    Ravioli Fillings

    In general, unless the ravioli has a really basic sort of cheese stuffing, I prefer to use a simple dressing such as lemon infused olive oil or sage and butter (of course the flavorings can be varied to suit the stuffing). Not exotic, but my frequent fliers include - short rib, beet, and mushroom raviolis.
  10. One thing you might want to look into: some freezers now seem to have the capacity to freeze more or less instantly or at least more quickly. I saw it somewhere on the Sears site.
  11. Bring inherently lazy, I've given up that sort of browning/blackening over to my cast iron pans. When I do need to clean my SS, it's BKF.
  12. Not only am I a cookbook addict, but I sometimes use them to diet. Somehow, reading about food makes not eating it more acceptable.
  13. I know for most people there's no such thing as too much ganache, so take my remarks with my bias in mind. I also made the Chestnut Caramel Chocolate cake for Christmas. My reaction was that I'd have enjoyed it more if someone else made it. I thought it was not special enough to justify the amount of work or expense or the calorie/cholesterol count. (It was $35 just for the jarred chestnuts, puree, and Valhrona chocolate, though to be fair, I still have a lot of jarred chestnuts left to use up.) I used bottled chestnuts from WmsSonoma and didn't find them mushy, just not exciting. Roasted might have been better flavor, too. I wanted to get marrons glacee, but couldn't find any locally. I think they would have been a nice touch. Part of the problem is that I didn't like the heavy ratio of ganache/glaze to the cake, despite my having used less than the recipe calls for. As I tasted the individual components, they were all fine. If I make this again, I think I'll use much thinner layers of ganache. It overpowered the cake so that one hardly tasted it. I think I might try the cake in a larger pan to get a thinner cake and either glaze it in one layer or perhaps 2, skipping the ganache.
  14. Hi Scase, dB was the first place I looked! I called dB (9th St) ahead as I had SEEN them there in November, but didn't want to travel there unless you still had them. I was told you had them. When I got to the old dB, there was a line out the door, so I went first into the little dB down the street to see if perhaps they had them there, too. A very sweet young man there offered to go down the street to get them for me to spare my decrepit back the wait in line. (Sorry, I wish I could tell you his name.) He came back empty handed as he'd been told you didn't have any. Thanks for letting me know that dB does have them. I live in the NW (a bit of a trip), so if I get down there while you still have them, I'll pick up a box to experiment with freezing them if you think that might work. What is their shelf life? Is there any way to keep marron glaces? I have the impression they have a short shelf life. I use them to garnish a cake I make from time to time and would keep them as a pantry staple if they would not go stale (as I assume you only have them during the holidays). I've looked at recipes for the process of candying them and they indicate the homemade ones are good for about 2 weeks.)
  15. Thanks Greg. I called WS, but they say they only carry the glass jars of chestnuts (steamed, I think) in the stores. The candied chestnuts are only available online. Bummer. The recipe I am using only calls for chestnuts to decorate the cake, so it's not the END of the world, but I wanted to gild the lily and use the glaceed chestnuts instead of the steamed. It's hard to believe that they are so unavailable in Phila!
  16. I forgot all about them. Back in the day, the E Germantown Coop used to order from them. I'll call them tomorrow if they're open, but looking at their website, there's no mention of maron glacee either as candy or fruit.
  17. Thanks, I'll give them a call tomorrow. I called a candy shop in town that had them - had being the operative word.
  18. I wanted to decorate a cake with marron glacees. Can't seem to find them. I have alread checked: Assouline, diBruno Fante's, Spice House (9th St), Spice Terminal, Chef's Market, Foodsource (BrynMawr). Am I really going to have to peel and candy them myself? Please! Help!
  19. I don't recall seeing any posting on the Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake I am considering taking to my DIL's Xmas dinner. If anyone has tried it, could you please comment. I won't have time for do-overs. --First, did your family, guests, you like it? Would you make it again? On request from others? --Second, any tricky bits in the making? --Third, do you think using marron glaces in place of the jarred chestnuts would be better or worse than the plain jarred chestnuts? Sweetness overkill? I'm making more than one cake, so if everyone isn't enthusiastic about chestnuts, there will be something else for them. The only chestnut cake I've made was a simple not very sweet one from Julia della Croce's Veneto. It was essentially a nut cake, using chestnuts instead of flour and unadorned but for a dusting of confectioners. I loved it, but my family was not impressed. I think Dorie's considerably more festive cake would appeal to them. Who could resist all that chocolate? And coincidentally I bought a kilo bar of milk chocolate and a bag of semisweet feves recently (both Valrhona Guanaja).
  20. When I made the Country Ragu (last winter), I used the fresh pork instead of the sausage, ground the meats at home (I can get a coarser grind this way), and followed the recipe carefully. I find the result is in another class from Hazan's recipe. In addition to being "richer, deep and complex," it also has a subtlety that makes it special. When I made Hazan's ragu, I had it on pasta the first night and have frozen the rest to use in a lasagna or other baked pasta dish where bechamel and/or cheese will balance it.
  21. I just made the Apple Spice Bars and agree that they're terrific. I took them to a meeting where they were complimented by everyone. As one of the "less sweet is more" camp, my single dissent is the glaze. I think the bars are already quite sweet and at most need a dusting of confectioners' for the look of it. And if I were to glaze them again, I'll use something that does not stay so gooey. They're a bit messy as finger food. Question. Would omitting the corn syrup be enough to tighten up the glaze?
  22. In the Country Ragu, not only are there 3 raw meat sources but there is also the pancetta, prosciutto, and strong stock. Then, too, the amount of tomato is much smaller. I think all this contributes to the more balanced flavor. You're right about the long simmering of the tomatoes. But in this case the ragu simmered more than 4 1/2 hours after the tomatoes were added. I stopped simmering only after the ragu had no visible liquid left. To continue cooking, I would have had to add liquid. While as the front and center dressing of pasta this sauce may be a bit unbalanced, I think it will work very well in lasagna where the tomato-yness will be moderated by the cheese and bechamel. Context can be everything.
  23. I'm brewing an earthenware pot of Hazan's ragu on a back burner. And while it's not fair to judge after only an hour's braising, I must say that it seems tomato heavy and to lack the complexity of the Country Ragu (Kasper, p 48) that I've made in the past. The plus side of the Hazan ragu is that I needn't run to the Italian deli for pancetta and prosciutto. (I've taken to keeping some pancetta in the freezer, but that doesn't work so well for prosciutto.) The funny thing is that the first time I made Kasper's ragu, I thought at first I'd miss the heavy tomato thing, only to discover I liked missing it. On another note: I'm having trouble finding tomatoes (even San Marzano) that are not packed with tomato paste instead of the clear juice. And it's especially annoying that it's not always noted on the label. edited to add: jury's in. The Hazan ragu - to my taste buds - is good, but not as good as the complex unctuous Kasper Country ragu which uses veal, beef, pork, pancetta, prosciutto, stock and hardly any tomato.
  24. Just a regular non-stick Bundt, unscratched, never dishwashed I don't think. It wasn't THAT resistant to cleaning, just tougher than I would have expected after soaking it all night. By tougher, I mean it didn't simply pour out with the water. I can only assume I mixed the ingredients well, because it tasted fine, and the texture was good--very moist, an even crumb, etc. The recipe also has a cup of stout and 3/4 c. vegetable oil. You know how newspapers sometimes run recipes in advertorials, and they're a little sketchier than they would be if a newspaper or magazine food editor had been scrutinizing them and forcing the celeb chef to adapt for the home kitchen? That's what it was. All kinds of odd measurements (1 1/2 T. of cinnamon, eg). So I'm wondering if some instruction or other was missing. Thanks for your detective work. It might just be me (or my pan). I had this problem wth one of Dorie Greenspan's bundt cakes, too. It came out more easily on my second try, but didn't taste as good. Or maybe I just enjoy cakes more when I have the license to dig in with my fingers because the cake's a goner anyway! Susan ← I have a new Nordic Bundt pan which I've used only twice (on Dorie's recipes). I melted butter and brushed it in. I let both cakes rest til they pulled away from the sides of the pan. They plopped out nicely when turned over. Hope this helps.
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