Posts Tagged ‘sauce’

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YOU GOT VERJUICE NOW, MAN. (VERJUS)

April 13, 2012
Used Grapes. Gouache and pencil on paper bag
(This is a reprinted article I wrote a while back (6/16/08) for a site called cookingdistrict.com, formerly gigachef.com. I edited a bit of the blahblah but it’s still good stuff.)
    Verjuice is the slightly sweet, slightly tart juice of unripened wine grapes. It is bottled like vinegar or wine but it is neither fermented nor does it have an alcoholic content. The word verjuice or verjus is derived from the French word pairing ‘vert jus’ translated ‘green juice’ meaning the liquid pressed from unripened wine grapes. It will last for several years unopened, deepening in fruitiness and color while it ages. Once uncorked, it has only a few months to last in the refrigerator since it is an unfermented product and does not have the same stability as a fermented one. Its applications are wide and open to creativity.
    When used to deglaze the pan after roasting or sauteing meat or vegetables, the natural sugars in the young grapes help caramelize the leftover bits beautifully. In salad dressings, verjuice will not compete with wine being served, unlike vinegar or lemon which infamously sour the palate. The touch of acidity brightens soups, sauces and in my recipe-tweaking opinion,  goes swimmingly well with seafood. Dishes that normally call for white wine benefit from verjuice’s fruity, roundness without having to ‘cook out’ any of the alcoholic essence. Seemingly it shines in pared down recipes where the goal is to use just a few ingredients that are unique and/or possess some special quality that takes a simple dish to the next level.
    I like to splash some into the pan when wilting greens or as a part of a marinade. Not only a real winner* for savory courses, it can be used to poach or macerate fresh fruit or make a mean glaze when buddied up with some sugar.
    Verjuice is not a new ingredient. Its appearance in cooking dates back to the 1300’s. Now it is making a comeback for its merits of playing nicely with wine as well as the many above-mentioned uses. Though historically it appears in European and Middle Eastern cooking, an Australian chef, Maggie Beer, is credited with bringing it back to modern kitchens. She bottles and sells verjuice from her country’s Barossa Valley but most wine producing regions have their versions too: California, France, Italy (where it is called agresto), South Africa and locally here in New York on Long Island (Wolffer Estate), my personal favorite. Like everything, verjuice can be purchased online but also look out for it in wine shops and gourmet groceries.
Oh, and sometimes it is used for drinking straight up… or maybe on the rocks.
* I vaguely remember enjoying heavy use of the phrase ‘a real winner’ back in ’08.

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DRESSING UP. (SOY GARLIC OR PEANUT NOODLES)

March 31, 2012

As the weather warms it is natural to lighten up one’s cooking style. Cravings change and colors make a comeback as the Earth wakes from her dark slumber. One of the things that helps me bang out dinners that are quick (and acceptable for pre-bikini season eating) is having a few jars of salad dressing type things waiting for me in the fridge.

A good dressing is easy to whip up and can make proud almost any flavor profile. Perfect when tossed with leafy lettuces, these concoctions get even more use in my kitchen over grains, noodles, beans, grilled meats/veg and steamed tofu. From a spicy smooth peanut sauce to a chunky sundried tomato and fresh herb dressing, they are an indispensable part of the hustling spring/summer repertoire.

Pictured above is a throw-together dinner that was good! Glass noodles were tossed with fresh herbs and sliced jalapeños and topped with some leftover roasted fish and carrot-daikon pickles made using the basic brine in the last post. A drizzle of this powerfully savory Soy Garlic dressing ties all the stuff together. The recipe which is listed below is versatile, it works as a dressing, dipping sauce or marinade. It would also be super-duper for seasoning the broth of a gingered chicken soup or a kale soup or something similar which would be delicious right now as, even though spring keeps trying to rise, lady Earth just kinda wants to sleep in like a hungover teenager.

SOY GARLIC DRESSING

(makes about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons sugar

1-2 small red chiles, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons lime juice

6 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup oil

drizzle of sesame oil (optional)

black pepper

• Place all ingredients a lidded jar or container, stir to dissolve the sugar.

• Replace lid and shake vigorously to combine.

• Check for seasoning. Adjust.

Here is the world’s quickest peanut sauce since I mentioned it… Good for everything.

PEANUT SAUCE

(makes about 2 cups)

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

2 limes, juiced or more to taste

1 clove garlic, grated

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 drizzle toasted sesame oil

cayenne pepper and/or hot sauce to taste, don’t be shy

  • Measure all ingredients into a mixing bowl. 
  • Whisk until thoroughly combined and season to taste. 
  • Thin with water if needed.     
I love it when a meal comes together.
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We all want to be useful. (FISH SAUCE)

April 12, 2011

During a recent class at the Astor Center, I was asked a question that I thought deserved public answering. One of the recipes we prepared included fish sauce. As an ingredient that is often used sparingly, my student wondered how to make a dent in the bottle that sits around after being used only once in an experimental while. In other words –allow me to paraphrase– ‘what the hell do I do with this stuff?’

A little background on fish sauce; it is the liquid extracted from salted and fermented fish or shrimp. Lending an aquatic (as in the bottom of an aquarium) and briny note, it is a major ingredient in many Asian cuisines. Each country has its own process by which they produce the stuff but Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Laos, Korea, Southern China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan all use a variation of fish sauce in alot or at least a little of their cooking. In my experience with Vietnamese food, it is a ubiquitous and staple item, sort of like the t-shirts they sell in tourist shops that say ‘Good Morning Vietnam!’.

The truth is, it stinks like no one’s business only to be intensified when heated. This should stop aforementioned no one from using this product. Once mixed with other ingredients it turns on its magic, amplifying the existing flavors, doing that umami thing that I can’t describe. It does something to make a dish taste as delicious as it did sitting on a small plastic chair, overlooking the beach at Nha Trang.

Wikipedia does a great job of providing mostly the truth and lots more fish sauce details. My mission is to list a few ways to help get through that bottle a little quicker.

TOP 15 USES FOR FISH SAUCE

  • in a curry
  • in salad dressing
  • as a marinade
  • as a dipping sauce
  • in a peanut sauce
  • in a crab cake or fish croquette
  • in a vegetable soup/stew (fish sauce loves kale!)
  • in beef stew
  • in (Asian style) chicken soup
  • in fried rice
  • sprinkle on fish before roasting/grilling
  • in a dumpling filling
  • tossed with noodles
  • in kimchi
  • in a stirfry

(‘in a stirfry’ is such a cop-out.) Enjoy!

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And some excess. (MALAYSIAN BUTTER SHRIMP)

February 17, 2011

I have never been to Malaysia. But as the five senses can help recall a strong memory, they can also conjure a fantasy. That is why this dish and all of its toasty coconut, hint of sweet spicy-ness and the way texture of the shrimp pops in your mouth, makes me feel like I am on a beach in deepest Malaysia… eating this creation from a piece of foil with my buttery fingers, leaving a pile of shrimp shells at my feet. Can you hear the waves lapping?

In reality, midwinter Brooklyn, UPS truck grumbling by, this dish is plain tasty. It entails a two-step cooking process that is maybe a little decadent but I think we deserve it. First, shell-on shrimp is fried in oil. This gives the shrimp a bright color and firm bite without drying it out. After making Butter Shrimp several times with students, we realized that for maximum flavor potential, it is nice to then peel the fried shrimp so it gets really doused in the butter sauce that forms in the final steps. And anyway most people prefer not to peel-and-eat, they just want to hurry up and eat. Do what you wish. In keeping with my Malaysian daydream, the shell stays on, but never mind.

MALAYSIAN BUTTER SHRIMP

(serves 2-4)

1 lb. jumbo/large shrimp, heads removed
2 cups canola oil, for deep frying
3 tablespoons butter
3-4 small red chilis, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine or sherry
1/2 cup grated coconut, toasted

  • Prep the shrimp by making a slit down the back to de-vein. Pat dry.
  • Heat the canola oil in a skillet with high sides or wok. To test that the oil is hot enough, drop a tiny piece of butter into it. If the butter bubbles and sizzles, it’s ready to use.
  • Deep fry the prawns in the oil, do not crowd the pan, until pink and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
  • When cool enough to handle remove shells from shrimp, leaving just the tails, if desired.
  • In a clean skillet, melt the butter. Add chilis, scallions, garlic, salt and fry for 2 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Add shrimp to the skillet with sugar, soy sauce, wine, and coconut. Cook over high heat for 1-2 minutes until heated through, stirring constantly. Serve immediately.
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Video. (CHOPPING HERBS)

January 26, 2011

Yes, lets talk about chopping herbs for six full minutes. Pertains to the recipe for Salsa Verde