Geek Chef

I cook, I talk, I geek

Vanilla+Ginger=Yum! January 8, 2010

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 3:48 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I have fallen in love with the vanilla beans from beanilla.com, they are of the finest quality and a great value.

Today I present one of my favorites, Vanilla Ginger Creme Brulée. This dish is on its way to becoming my signature dessert.

Custard is wonderfully simple to make and so rich and delicious. The addition of ginger was an idea I had to give the custard more depth. Using real, fresh vanilla beans instead of extract or that dried up old stuff you get in the spice jar is necessary to give the custard a luxurious taste and Beanilla’s beans from Tonga make it absolutely sinful. Vanilla beans from Tonga are often used by gourmet chocolate makers for the bold, pronounced, and unique flavor. This type of bean shines through the complex flavor of my brûlée.

Fun Fact: Tonga only produces 144 tons of Vanilla Beans annually. These rare and highly sought after beans are impossible to buy online, except at beanilla.com.

Ok! Enough gushing about the vanilla, here’s the recipe…

Vanilla Ginger Creme Brûlée

6 egg yolks
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar, fine grain bakers sugar is best
2 vanilla beans
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger

Garnish:

12-18 thin slices of ginger (2 or 3 per serving)
1 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of Beanilla’s Vanilla Fleur de Sel (or regular sea salt and half of one bean split and seeded)

Start by making the garnish the night before or earlier if you can – the longer it sits the better.

In an airtight container, mix sugar, (vanilla) and salt. If you are using a half bean here, cut the bean lengthwise and use your knife to scrape out some of the seeds from the bean, put the bean and the seeds into the mixture and give it a good stir with your knife to incorporate. Peel and thinly slice ginger into several rounds, like the ones you would see next to your wasabi, and drop into the container. Place the lid on the container and shake until the ginger is completely covered. Keep sealed and let sit at room temperature overnight or longer. Every once in a while shake the container to help the flavors infuse. This results in candied ginger for garnish and the most delicious sugar for the brûlée.

Now the custard.

Separate 6 eggs. I use a three bowl method – two medium-sized bowls and one small. You break and separate each egg into the small bowl, then pour the uncontaminated whites from the small bowl into the larger bowl and the yolks into the other. That way if you break a yolk it only effects that one egg instead of the whole batch. Hold on to the whites for meringue cookies or anything else you can think of, they will keep well in a sealed container for a few days.

Preheat the over to 300 degrees. Add sugar to the yolks and whisk until creamy and set aside. In a medium pot and a medium temperature, slowly boil cream and vanilla beans – splitting and seeding like mentioned above. Whisk cream occasionally, when the cream starts to boil, lower the heat and remove the beans. Slowly pour in the egg yolk mixture – whisking quickly to prevent curdling. You can also pour a little bit of the cream into the bowl first to temper the yolks before pouring into the pot. Continue to whisk for about five minutes and then take off heat.

Set up about 6 small ramekins (ceramic cups and small wide mouth glass jars work great too!) or one large ramekin in a baking dish and pour equal amounts of the custard into the dishes. Then carefully fill the baking dish about halfway with water, not getting water in the custard – the sprayer on your faucet works well. Place dish into the oven, center rack works best and bake for about 15-20 min. The custard should look solid but slightly giggly. Remove ramekins from the water bath and chill in the fridge for at least 15 min – you can make these a day ahead, adding the brûlée just before serving.

Remove the pieces of ginger from the container and shake off the excess sugar and place on a cookie sheet. *Take the vanilla bean and place in a small bottle or jar and fill with vodka, store it in a cool dark place and in a few weeks you will have vanilla extract!

Sprinkle the now infused sugar over the custard, giving it a good layer. Using a brûlée torch or the broiler of your oven, melt the sugar until it bubbles and turns golden. Using the torch, or broiler also give the slices of ginger a quick once over, not until brown just glossy. Place a few pieces on each dish and serve right away.

 

Cranky Cookies January 3, 2010

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 10:58 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve been in a bad mood today. I think it’s the cold weather and the fact that my vacation is over and I have to go back to work tomorrow. So to cheer myself up, I decided to make chocolate chunk cookies. I enjoy comfort eating, but I prefer comfort cooking (then eating), I feel like I accomplished something, burning a few calories and having something yummy to eat.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs
1 large bar of dark chocolate
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of baking soda

Unwrap one of your favorite brands of chocolate and chop into chunks. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until blended and creamy. Add vanilla and eggs and mix well, add chocolate chunks and then fold in flour mixture.
Place bowl in fridge to chill for 30 min. Preheat oven to 350 and drop spoonfuls of dough onto a baking sheet, allowing room for dough to spread. Bake for about 10 min or until cookies or golden.

 

Mangez comme le Français September 29, 2009

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 3:40 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Since I haven’t posted enough recipes lately, I figured I’d post a fancy one for you today. Now it sounds fancy and you should sell it that way, but it’s not that hard to make.

The version I’m posting is vegetarian. But the original recipe has ground meat, feel free to add if you like.

eggplant

Aubergine au Gratin

1 large eggplant
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 can of chopped tomatoes  or one large tomato chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup white wine
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon Herbs du Provence (or a mix of Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano, Sage and Basil – or what you have on hand)
1 cup grated Swiss cheese

Slice eggplant into cubes or 1/4″ rounds. Heat a large skillet and cover the bottom with olive oil, add eggplant slices once the oil is hot, if you do it before it will suck up all the oil. Cook for about 10 min on each side. Do not crowd the pan too much, do a few rounds at a time if necessary. Remove eggplant and set aside.

In the same pan, add a little more oil and the mirepox (onion, carrot and celery) and cook until onions are translucent. Add crushed tomatoes, white wine, garlic and herbs. Cook for another 10 min then add cream and stir until incorporated.

Place half of the eggplant pieces into a greased baking dish, then place half of the sauce on top, add second layer of eggplant and remainder of sauce. Cover with grated cheese and bake at 350 for about a 30 min or until the cheese is brown and bubbly.

 

Special Request July 14, 2009

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 10:03 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Twitter friend Nick has requested recipes with a Spanish flair and I aim to please. Tapas are great for parties, you can impress your guests with several small dishes without spending the whole day in the kitchen. These two recipes are pretty easy and one should be done ahead of time, allowing you to enjoy your guests.

Ceviche

1 lb shrimp, salmon, octopus, halibut or sea bass (or combination)
Juice of 2-3 limes
1-2 jalapenos, chopped fine
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large firm tomatoes, diced
1 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro

Clean and roughly chop seafood and place in a large container with lid. If working with octopus, tenderize the meat before chopping. Juice limes, add oil and jalapenos and lightly mix with seafood. Let sit for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Before serving add chopped tomatoes, avocado and cilantro, season with salt and lemon juice as needed. Serve on a tostada or with corn chips.

Plantain and Black Bean Empanadillas

1 can refried (or whole) black beans
1 large ripe plantain (black or close to it)
1 package puff pastry
4 oz crumbled goat cheese
1 onion, chopped

Defrost puff pastry and preheat oven to 350.  Peel and slice plantain and saute in butter until soft, mix in beans and cheese and let cool. Roll out pastry dough and out cut circles, spoon some of the mixture on each circle, top with a little onion  and fold dough over. Be careful not to overfill the empanadillas, they will burst while cooking. Use fingers or a fork to seal the edges and place on a baking sheet, I like to line mine with parchment paper but you can grease the sheet if that’s easier for you. Bake until golden brown and lightly sprinkle with paprika.

 

Bork-bork, Meatballs June 19, 2009

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 2:56 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I was a little too busy eating to take photos of my last culinary exploit, so today you get a peek at the first chef to inspire me.  I could not be where I am today without his chocolate mousse recipe: “you put the chocolate on the moose”.

Last night I made Swedish meatballs. An easy and tasty meal. Traditionally using beef or pork, but I used ground turkey. I don’t work with ground chicken much, it’s not as common and tends to cook a little too dry. For this recipe a higher fat content is preferred as it will produce more drippings for the gravy.  Note: you might notice, I add brown gravy mix to most of my ground meat dishes. I think it adds a nice meaty flavor to the meat – it’s one of my secret ingredients 🙂

Swedish Meatballs and Baby Red Potatoes

Meatballs:
1 lbs ground meat
1 egg
3/4 c. bread crumbs (or 2 slices bread torn into pieces)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 c. brown gravy mix
salt and pepper to taste

Potatoes:
1 lbs new red potatoes
1/2 c/ salt

Gravy:
1/2 c. flour
2 c. chicken or beef broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the meatball ingredients into a bowl, lightly oil and heat a large saute pan. Roll meatballs into balls about the same size as the potatoes. lightly brown the meatballs on all sides in the large pan, then transfer pan to oven. Cook about 15 min or until thoroughly cooked.

Fill a medium pot with water, potatoes and salt, slow boil until fork tender.

Take pan from oven and set meatballs aside, leaving the drippings in the bottom of the pan. Add flour and return pan to stove, mix flour with drippings and cook until lightly brown, then add broth and stir constantly until gravy has thickened. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve meatballs and potatoes with gravy and lingonberry jam, garnish with chopped parsley.

 

Mirepoix June 10, 2009

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 8:51 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

From wikipedia: Mirepoix (pronounced /mɪər ˈpwɑː/) is the French name for a combination of onions, carrots, and celery celeriac). Traditionally, the ratio for mirepoix is 2:1:1 of onions, celery, and carrots. These three ingredients are commonly referred to as aromatics.

Mirepoix derives its name, as do many other elements of French cuisine[1], from the patron of the chef who established it – in this case one of the house of Lévis, seigneurs of Mirepoix since the eleventh century and a famous name in Languedoc.[2

Those simple ingredients make the base of most stocks, soups, stews and sauces.  As far as culinary holy trinities go, mirepoix – in my opinion – is second only to garlic, onion and extra virgin olive oil. It is safe to say I am a fan.

Mirepoix is standard in many cuisines and can be found in many supermarkets packaged together, pre-chopped. I believe that pre-chopped mirepoix is a sin. But it’s one of those minor sins, like red meat on the sabbath. I do it all the time, for the sake of time, but I do not recommend it for the more delicate dishes. Take the time and chop the ingredients, it adds love to the food and that is the best ingredient. </soapbox>

Tonight’s dish is not French, but uses celery, carrots and onion the way is was intended. The following recipe is for Australian shepherd’s pie. NOTE: no Australian Shepherds were harmed in the making of this meal! This is the Aussie version of an English classic, traditionally using lamb but beef and turkey work equally well. This is a popular dish with the men in my life, and I would assume works just as well with kids. It is a meat and potato meal, while slipping in a good deal of veggies.

Another thing to note, I make my version using ketchup. Tomato paste, tomato sauce or ketchup, it’s been greatly debated and I stand by my choice. It’s the same question with Pad Thai and my answer is the same there. I just like the way it makes stuff taste.

Now, on to the food…

Aussie Shepherd’s Pie

1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
1 lbs ground meat
2 tbs flour
2 cups Beef stock
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 dried bay leaf
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs ketchup

For Mashed Potato Topping:
4 potatoes, cubed
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk

Sauté onion, carrot and celery in a large saucepan with olive oil for 5 minutes or until soft. Add ground meat, stirring occasionally to break up lumps, for 5 minutes or until the meat changes color. Sprinkle the flour and cook for 2 minutes or until combined. Add stock, bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and zucchini. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a large pot cook potatoes until tender. Drain well. Return to the pan, add butter and mash with a potato masher or fork until smooth. Add milk and stir until incorporated. Season to taste and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350.

Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with breadcrumbs, then add the meat mixture. Pipe the mashed potatoes on top of the mixture to make the “crust”. I make a piping bag out of a large ziploc – fill bag and cut the corner. Bake until the top is brown and the filling is bubbly.

Enjoy!

 

Sweet and Comforting May 13, 2009

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 10:04 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I recently told someone that almost everything I make is guaranteed to kill you slowly. This dish, full of butter and sugar is no different. I stop short of saying it is a requirement for comfort food… but I do believe the foods that make you happy from the inside out are often made with equal parts love and cholesterol.

This is a generic recipe for fruit cobbler, I adjust it slightly depending on the fruit I use. I like to use fresh fruit from the farmer’s market, but canned fruit works too, just use less sugar.

Fruit Cobbler

Crust:

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter softened
1 tsp vanilla

Filling:
2 cups Fresh, frozen or canned fruit – sliced and peeled (if necessary)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fruit jam (berry works great, but get creative)*
1 tsp cinnamon*
1 tsp ginger*
1 tsp ground cloves*

Directions:
Clean and slice fruit and place in a bowl. Add sugar, spices and jam and toss gently. Let sit while you create crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix flour sugar and vanilla in a bowl, add softened butter and mix together with your hands until fully incorporated. The dough should be the consistency of wet sand and about as responsive – will form into a ball but crumbles easily. If it feels too wet or dry, just add more flour or butter – you can also add a little water if you feel there is enough butter.

Depending on your fruit to crust ratio preference, you might want to double/half the crust part of the recipe.

Pour the fruit into a baking dish, crumble the crust on top of the fruit and bake until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbly.

Serve with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

Enjoy!!