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eG Foodblog: Chris Hennes (2012) - Chocolate, Tamales, Modernism, etc.


Chris Hennes
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Posted Today, 05:03 PM

No argument here about the importance of the garnish to the dish overall: it's going to be there. But the sugar itself is a small component of that garnish, and if the garnish itself isn't flawless, it's not the end of the world. If I screw up the gruyere custard I'd have to toss it and start again. A small mistake in the garnish, however, is something I can tolerate on my first run through the dish.

You're right - the sugar itself, unless horribly burnt and bitter won't make a big difference. If it tastes good by itself, then I'm sure it'll be fine on the finished component.

I think you're right, Shalmanese. I was worried that if I didn't get it up high enough it wouldn't get hard enough to grind, but that probably wasn't really a concern.

Just for future reference, it'll get hard enough to grind once you hit hard-crack stage, which is about 150C/300F on a candy/deep fry thermometer. It doesn't need to take on any color to be hard enough to grind.

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I had a smooth one years ago and I couldn't even can on it--burners wouldn't get hot enough to bring the huge pot to a boil.

You need one with a "power-plus" element (Frigidaire pro line) - I often make chicken stock with frozen bones/pieces, fill large pot with cold water and it's simmering in 15-20 minutes.

I'm with Chris on this one - love my smooth-top. (Plus, er, there's no gas in my building.) :wink:

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Now, slkinsey's point about needing flat cookware is an important one, too. I do a ton of stovetop cooking in my dutch oven, which of course is very flat. I also use an All-Clad saute pan: again, very flat bottom. So if, like him, your cookware is more esoteric, I could see the smoothtop being a problem.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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OK, dinner tonight is Dan Dan noodles from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty and Stir-Fried Bok Choy from Grace Young's The Breath of a Wok. As those of you who stir-fry know, the single most critical element to doing a stir-fry is to make sure you have a top-notch mise en place: once the fire is on, you don't have time to do anything: absolutely everything that needs to be measured out must already be out. All prep done, and everything organized in a way that you can easily follow. You also have to memorize the order stuff gets cooked in: you don't have time to study the recipe while things are cooking.

So, I start by gathering all my ingredients:

Dinner 1.jpg

This recipe has my absolute favorite spice in in, Sichuan peppercorns. To use them you always should toast them first. While toasting, I pick through them and try to remove as many of the little black nubs as I can from the interiors of the husks: contrary to what you might think, the husks have the bulk of the flavor, and the nubs contribute a gritty texture, so I like to try to remove them.

Dinner 2.jpg

In the above mise I had forgotten the pickled mustard greens: these are house-made at the Super Cao Nguyen supermarket I go to, and they are fantastic. I might have been a bit generous with the quantity used here...

Dinner 3.jpg

Here's the baby bok choy:

Dinner 4.jpg

The dan dan noodles have a ground pork in them, so here's the pork butt:

Dinner 5.jpg

No way am I getting my grinder dirty for four ounces of ground pork, so I just chopped it:

Dinner 6.jpg

Here is the final mise en place next to my wok station:

Dinner 7.jpg

Here are the noodles waiting by the stove (they are the last thing cooked):

Dinner 8.jpg

Obvious first step: get the wok screaming hot

Dinner 9.jpg

In with the mustard greens:

Dinner 10.jpg

And out with the mustard greens:

Dinner 11.jpg

More oil:

Dinner 12.jpg

Pork:

Dinner 13.jpg

The technique I use most often when stir-frying is to hold the wok with my left hand and a long spatula with my right: as I toss the contents of the wok over the flame I work it back and forth in the wok with the spatula. The wok is very rarely actually sitting on the wok burner, I'm usually holding it when there is actually food in it.

Dinner 14.jpg

To the pork you add a tiny bit of rice wine and a tiny bit of soy, toss it a bit, and then you're done:

Dinner 15.jpg

More oil:

Dinner 16.jpg

Bok choy:

Dinner 17.jpg

Dinner 18.jpg

And that's it for the stir-frying. Total elapsed time from the first photo to the last: 2 minutes 36 seconds. Now inside to the noodles:

Dinner 19.jpg

Dinner 20.jpg

Dinner 21.jpg

Finished dinner:

Dinner 22.jpg

(Thanks to my wife for all the action shots, obviously I wasn't holding the camera at the time!)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Great wok setup. Is that a fire extinguisher I see behind the mise?

Here's a heretical question: does the fact that you need to lift the wok off the flame during cooking mean that your flame is too hot?

The food looks fantasic.


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Thanks for your wok cooking play by play. Your wok is a bit deep but I suppose the tossing movement keeps things from steaming. I am not familiar with this version of the recipe. I also see chili oil in your mise but I can't tell what is in the other dark bottles - various types of soy sauce? Also the noodles look quite toothesome in the shot where you are testing - were they packaged from the market as fresh or?

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Great wok setup. Is that a fire extinguisher I see behind the mise?

Yes, it's a fire extinguisher. When you're cooking something fatty and give it a good toss the flames leap up pretty high: better safe than sorry.

Here's a heretical question: does the fact that you need to lift the wok off the flame during cooking mean that your flame is too hot?

I'm not holding the wok off the flame to regulate the heat, per se, I'm just continuously tossing the food. At the downsweep of the toss the wok gets pretty close to the stand.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Thanks for your wok cooking play by play. Your wok is a bit deep but I suppose the tossing movement keeps things from steaming.

Sort of: see if you can track down a copy of Modernist Cuisine, they have a fantastic cutaway shot of a wok mid-toss, demonstrating all the various zones of cooking, one of which is steaming that occurs in the column of tossed food.

I am not familiar with this version of the recipe. I also see chili oil in your mise but I can't tell what is in the other dark bottles - various types of soy sauce?

Chile oil, regular soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice wine, chinkiang vinegar. I think that's it

Also the noodles look quite toothesome in the shot where you are testing - were they packaged from the market as fresh or?

They are sold as "fresh," but are perhaps not as terribly fresh as I might like. Plus I bought them Saturday and didn't use them until today. The one I tested in that shot was still a touch firm, I cooked them for a bit longer than the package stated.

Edited by Chris Hennes
Corrected vinegar type (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Great action shots, for sure. I'm curious about the noodles, too. Did you buy them or make them?

Also, are you actually holding the wok handle in your bare hand, no side towel?

The noodles are store-bought. As for the lack of side towel: yes, bare hand, absolutely. Thin carbon steel is a terrible conductor of heat, the handle barely warms up at all in the 2.5 minutes the process takes.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Thanks for your wok cooking play by play. Your wok is a bit deep but I suppose the tossing movement keeps things from steaming.

Sort of: see if you can track down a copy of Modernist Cuisine, they have a fantastic cutaway shot of a wok mid-toss, demonstrating all the various zones of cooking, one of which is steaming that occurs in the column of tossed food.

Voila, courtesy SE: http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/02/modernist-cuisine-the-wok-shot.html

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Good morning. Now featuring the 2007 edition mug (which for some reason I had thought was older than yesterday's, I was trying to go in order!).

Coffee.jpg

Today's main cooking project is the assembly of a lasagne al forno for dinner. Although I claim to be using Bugialli's The Fine Art of Italian Cooking for this recipe, I'm actually going to be making the pasta from Modernist Cuisine, and I already made the bolognese. Those of you who are used to the tomato-sauce-based lasagnes more typically served here in the States will get to see something different: the only tomato in this dish is the tomato paste in the bolognese. For this lasagne, there are many thin layers alternating between the bolognese, a balsamella (bechamel), and a mozzarella/Parmigiano blend.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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OK, I started in on the pasta for the lasagne. This is based on the recipe for the Herb-Embedded Pasta Veil from Modernist Cuisine: I don't use the same flavorings, but the ratios are the same, with the exception that I always wind up needing more water than the MC recipes call for for pasta.

Ingredients: AP flour, egg yolks, xanthan gum, olive oil

Pasta ingredients.jpg

I'm actually making two kinds of pasta: a plain one and a spinach one. In alternating layers it creates a neat pattern in the lasagna (and is what Bugialli's recipe calls for). So here's some spinach:

Spinach.jpg

After being chopped and washed, I saute it until it's softened:

Spinach cooking.jpg

Then puree it:

Spinach puree.jpg

This is used as the main liquid component in 2/3 of the pasta dough (the other 1/3 is the yellow pasta and just uses water). The two doughs get kneaded a bit and then packaged up for a few hours' rest in the refrigerator.

Finished dough.jpg

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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The xanthan is just added to the pasta dough: I stir it into the flour to get it evenly distributed. It's scaled at 1%. Here are my scales:

Scales.jpg

The big scale reads to the gram, the medium one reads in tenth grams, and the little one reads to thousandths of grams. I can't recall the accuracy of any of them, but they've been adequate for most of my purposes.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Yeah, we'll see. I haven't tried the MC recipe in lasagne yet.

For those of you who compost, what do you use in your kitchen to hold the scraps? This is my compost bucket, next to my cutting board:

Compost container.jpg

I don't like it: it's ugly, and it has a rim that stuff gets caught in. On the plus side, I think it cost $0.99 at the Home Depot. I'd love to replace it with something easier to clean and a little more attractive.

Here are my outside bins at the moment:

Compost bins.jpg

Compost.jpg

Getting to be about time to turn over that big one.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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