Geek Chef

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Vanilla+Ginger=Yum! January 8, 2010

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 3:48 pm
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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.

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Comfort food September 11, 2008

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 12:28 pm
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I’ve been in a mood lately. Perhaps it’s a feeling of displacement after moving. Whatever it is, I’ve been craving comfort food. Rich starchy goodness that hugs me from the inside. Here are a few goodies in case you are feeling down.

Potato and portobello mushroom gratin

1 1/2 cups hot water
1 1/2-ounce package dried porcini mushrooms – or any wild mushroom of your liking
1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms
12 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced 4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes or white-skinned potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine 1 1/2 cups hot water and porcini in small bowl. Let stand until mushrooms soften, about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 2/3 cup soaking liquid. Chop porcini; set aside. Remove and chop stems from portobellos; place in large bowl. Using small spoon, scrape away dark gills from portobellos and discard. Cut portobello caps into 1/2-inch pieces; add to bowl.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped portobello stems and caps and sauté 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and reserved porcini and sauté until mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat each of two 13x9x2-inch glass baking dishes with 1 tablespoon oil. Combine remaining 7 tablespoons oil, potatoes, parsley, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in large bowl; toss to coat. Layer 1/6 of potato mixture in each prepared dish (there will not be enough to overlap slices). Top potatoes in each with 1/4 of mushroom mixture. Repeat layering. Top with remaining potatoes. Pour 1/3 cup reserved porcini soaking liquid over potatoes in each dish. Cover dishes with foil.

Bake gratins 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until tops are brown and potatoes are tender, about 40 minutes longer. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Cover with foil and rewarm in 350°F oven about 20 minutes.)

Rice Porridge or Jook

This is a traditional Chinese breakfast. Super easy and yummy, a perfect way to start a cold winter’s day.

1/2 cup rice: white, long grain or glutinous works (jasmine is my standard)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of sesame oil or peanut oil
2-4 cups water (depending on desired thickness)
2-4 cups chicken stock (depending on desired thickness)
a good chunk of ginger, sliced
an equal amount of chopped green onion
1 tablespoon of soy sauce

Rinse the rice, then add all ingredients into a large pot. Slow cook the rice for about 1 1/2 hours, time will differ depending on the amount of fluid used. After about a half hour, stir to loosen the grains on the bottom of the pot. Stir occasionally and add more water/stock as you see fit.
I like my jook nice and thick, but traditionally it’s pretty thin. You must decide what works for you… Just remember that the more water you add the thinner the taste.

Once the porridge is about the consistency of cream of wheat it’s ready to go. By itself it’s pretty plain, that’s where toppings come into play. Leftovers are a good place to start. Meat, sausage, diced onion, cilantro, tuna and fishballs are all great , chop it up small and toss it in and enjoy. My fav is egg and bonito flakes with a little extra soy.