Friday, December 20, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Some blank slates are meant to be written upon. Some are meant to be left pristine, looking like the glint off a sharp blade sounds in cartoons. This is relevant because today's quick perusal of Tastespotting yielded, among others, the following bread pudding variants:

  • "chai spiced maple pumpkin"
  • "crockpot (????) tiramisu"
  • "goat milk with mapled rhubarb" (the goat milk actually sounds good, but when did maple become a verb?)
  • "apple pie pumpkin spice" (FALL WORDS, EVERYBODY!)

Sorry, kids, get off my lawn. All I want in my bread pudding, aside from bread, is sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla, maybe raisins, and maybe cinnamon, plus a sauce containing alcohol. Talk About Good and Talk About Good II have unsullied Louisiana recipes for bread pudding as it should be.

Bread pudding, adapted from Talk About Good II
1 loaf French bread, preferably a day old
1 quart milk
4 eggs (5 if you like an eggier pudding)
1/3 c white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
Butter for pan, plus extra for top (1-2 tbsp)
Optional: 1/2 c raisins
Optional: 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat an oven to 350 and butter a shallow baking dish. Whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Tear the bread into small chunks and stir it in, along with the cinnamon and raisins if you're going there. Allow to sit until the bread has swollen and absorbed some of the liquid. Dump everything into the buttered baking dish. Slice the remaining butter and distribute over the surface; you can also sprinkle on more cinnamon if you wish. Bake 30-40 minutes or until the pudding is just set and the top is crispy.

Whiskey (or rum) sauce
1 packed cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
5 tbsp butter
pinch salt
3 tbsp whiskey or bourbon, or 1 1/2 tsp rum extract
Optional: 1/2 tbsp orange zest

Whisk together all ingredients over medium-low heat until combined. Raise heat slightly and bring to a low boil. Cook 5 minutes or until thickened to desired consistency. Serve warm over warm pudding.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bad pictures of tasty things

Not to be redundant, but: interviewing is a very filling process. So why, every time I'm home for 12 to 24 hours*, do I make something complicated rather than abstemiously nibble on field greens? This time around, my excuse is that Andy surprised me with a new metal spatula, zester, and sifter when I got home. A friend of ours also came by with a nifty little blender as a thank-you for caring for her cat**. The upshot is that I had all sorts of fun new toys to play with.

Without a doubt, I can say that this is one of the most delicious things I've ever made. It's shrimp poached in a lemon butter sauce, served over a potato cake and topped with a homemade spicy relish of sorts.

With the exception of the shrimp (which, to be fair, were fancy low-bycatch shrimp), the ingredients are inexpensive and accessible, given a decent olive bar at your local grocery store. The size of the dish, as composed, is also small; this may work better as a substantial appetizer or tapas-type dish than as a true main. In fact, I kind of want to do this as a one-bite appetizer, using a much smaller ring mold to shape the potato cake (and perhaps only one shrimp per).

And now, the award for worst presentation goes to...

Molten chocolate cake is awesome, though. I misunderstood Andy when he said he wanted something that was "the opposite of a big pool of chocolate" and made him, basically, a big pool of chocolate***.

Butter-poached shrimp on potato cake

3-4 baby red potatoes
1/2 lb shrimp, cleaned and shelled with tails left on
4 tbsp butter, divided
1 shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
dash white wine
1 lemon
1-2 tbsp capers
3-4 large Cerignola red olives, chopped
1 large artichoke, chopped either a good jarred variety or from an olive bar, grilled/roasted preferable
chopped parsley
salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 F. With a mandoline or very sharp knife, thinly slice the potatoes. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and paprika over a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Using a ring mold for shape, if you have one, layer potato rounds in concentric circles until you have rounds of 3-4 potato layers. Generously spray the tops of the rounds with olive oil and salt, pepper, and paprika them again. Bake until the top layer is crispy and browned; the edges may be a little charred, which I think is nice.

If you want to make a fancy sauce, start by clarifying the butter: In a small pan, melt 3 of the 4 tbsp butter. Set aside until the milk solids settle out, then skim off the clear butter floating at the top; this is what you will use. In a fresh pan, add the butter, diced shallot, juice of 1/2 lemon, dash of white wine, and garlic. Cook, whisking, until the shallot is soft, then remove from the heat and whisk in the final tablespoon of butter. If you want to skip the clarifying step, just use all 4 tablespoons and cook everything together.

When the shallots have softened and the sauce is done, cook the shrimp in it until they are just pink on either side. Meanwhile, to make the relish, mix the chopped artichoke, chopped olives, capers, a bit of the butter along with some of the shallots and garlic, and zest from the whole lemon. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, and additional chopped garlic to taste.

To assemble: lay a potato round on a plate and top with a couple shrimp. Grind some pepper and salt on the shrimp (I found I did not need much salt because of the relish and potatoes). On top of that goes some relish with additional butter sauce, lemon juice, or lemon zest as desired. Liberally sprinkle with parsley.

*Yup. Home from Boston, immediately turn around and leave for Philly.
**Which, if you're reading this, is totally unnecessary because he's the best cat in the world and I would spend all day with him if I could. Gratis.
***"I feel so guilty! I wish I'd done a caramel bread pudding like you'd mentioned."
" feel guilty for making lavish desserts because they're not precisely to my specifications?"
"I'm a terrible feminist. Deal with it."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Greasing the wheel

Despite the typical Thanksgiving excesses, I couldn't let Chanukah pass without some sort of culinary salute. Plus, I feel guilty that I'm about to go to Boston and Philly for 10 days straight, leaving poor Andy to fend for himself. Maybe if I distract him with enough fried food, he won't notice I'm gone.

These are sweet potato spinach latkes. Unfortunately, they ended up somewhat oil-logged thanks to the fact that my favorite kitchen utensil ever*, my slotted metal spatula, has gone missing. But you can't beat a great taste and some quality BCBs**.

The batter.
That's a nice, tangy cheese on top, although if I had sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, that would have been even better. Applesauce... not so much. The sweet potatoes were, well, plenty sweet.

If you need me for the next five hours, I'll be in the gym.

Sweet potato spinach latkes
2 lb sweet potatoes
3 sm onions
1 lb frozen spinach, defrosted
1/2 c flour or semolina or matzo meal
3 eggs
1.5 tsp baking soda
paprika, pepper, salt, cayenne to taste

Grate the potatoes and onions into a very large bowl or pot. Salt the potato mixture, let sit for 10-15 minutes, and then squeeze as much moisture as possible out of it. Defrost and demoisture the spinach as well; no need to salt it. Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. In the meantime, in a deep cast-iron or regular skillet, heat about 1.5 inches of oil until it shimmers and spits furiously when you dribble in some cold water. Form the batter into patties and fry until deep brown on both sides. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and eat warm with sour cream or Greek yogurt. Some chives might be nice, too.

*Absence could be making the heart grow fonder.
**Burnt crunchy bits, term courtesy of Terry Pratchett.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Until further notice

Residency interviews involve enough food that I haven't needed or wanted (!) to cook when I'm at home. Please excuse the temporary blog suspension while I digest, listen to "Bubble Pop!" and "Call Your Girlfriend" on repeat, pack, do Step 2 question sets, and try to finish re-reading A Suitable Boy before I leave for New Iberia tomorrow morning.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Evidence-based medicine

There are many common critiques of our current reliance on--and, practice-wise, deep trust in--evidence-based medicine. This article summarizes five of them and presents a quite reasonable assessment of how EBM should be used in clinical practice. Keep all that in mind... but oh, by the way, this article is just so cool. A relatively cheap, straightforward study examining a common test we've used on a common condition since time immemorial? I love it.

This has comforted me; better homemakers than I take really bad photos of food, which is my new excuse for this tentacled monstrosity.

Fresh octopus!

Post-braise, pre-strip of all the nasty outer parts I don't want to eat.

Finished dish.
This is a delicious, delicious octopus over orzo and vegetables. I paired it with caramels for dessert for no reason other than the fact that I'd made Andy a dense chocolate cake (ahem) with an amazing caramel glaze* the other day and had to get rid of the rest of the heavy cream.

Totally didn't measure anything other than the exorbitant amount of octopus I purchased. Instead, here's a list of ingredients, along with some instructions:

white wine
your choice of vinegar
juice of two small lemons, plus the rind of one half lemon
plum tomatoes
bay leaves
kosher salt

I combined everything but the sugar, tomatoes, and most of the salt in a huge pot and filled it with just enough water to cover the octopus, then simmered him** for about an hour, until nearly tender. I stripped a lot of the mucoid outer skin with my hands--how much you want to work on this depends on how much the texture bothers you--and broke down the octopus as I reduced the boiling liquid and added some extra vinegar and salt, as well as sugar. Then I let the octopus slices soak in the briny liquid for about another hour to chemically tenderize it. Just before it was done, I made orzo browned in butter with plum tomatoes, kale, and garlic, and served the octopus over that. Top with plenty of parsley and cracked black pepper, and maybe a squeeze of lemon; it needs the parsley freshness for sure.

*Seriously, I could have eschewed the cake and just eaten the glaze. It cooled to a sort of thick, praline-y texture that was just ridiculous.
**Every once in awhile I'm bothered by eating octopi, as they're supposed to be quite intelligent.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Do a barrel roll!

I've made croissants. I've made baked Alaska (with neither a broiler nor a blowtorch). I've made yogurt and marshmallows and butter. But I've always sworn to myself I'd never make phyllo. Until I wanted to make strudel and didn't like that most recipes I found called for thawed, frozen, unrolled phyllo. Premade dough is not my jam. Snob? Where?

Unlike baklava, strudel doesn't call for any hellish folding or cutting maneuvers... it just requires one to delicately, delicately roll paper-thin dough over spiky, lumpy apple slices. Sprezzatura? Where?

I almost forgot to take pictures and had to shakily maneuver my camera with my one non-butter-covered hand. They sort of kind of came out. Amateur? Where?

There were initially walnuts and raisins to put in this, but I snacked them into oblivion between the grocery shopping and pastry making. Glutton? Where?

Oh, and it turns out my camera has a nifty white balance (three guesses which two of the above I took after figuring that out). Goodbye, jaundiced pictures!

Apple strudel

200 g all-purpose flour
pinch kosher salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp white or cider vinegar
1/2 c lukewarm water

In a bowl, with a fork or dough hook, mix ingredients together until they come together in a shaggy ball. Knead with dough hook or on unfloured surface for about 3 minutes, or until you have a soft, smooth lump of dough. Coat in more canola oil and rest in a plastic wrap-covered bowl for at least an hour. The longer it sits, the more pliable it will be when you go to stretch it out.

1 1/2 pounds sliced, peeled apples of some tart variety that won't break down when baked (preferably fresh, local, interesting varieties)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 to 1/3 c sugar (depending on the sweetness of your apples)
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 c panko
6 tbsp melted butter, divided

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan until just starting to brown. Add the panko and toss over medium-high heat until they're toasty. Set aside.

Just before assembling, toss the apples, spices, sugar, and 2 tbsp of melted butter.

This is the tricky part. On a clean, dry, lightly floured surface, roll out the dough in a vaguely rectangular fashion, as thin as you can get it by rolling. Pay close attention to the edges of the dough so as not to end up with a thick rim. When it will roll no more, gently and evenly begin stretching the dough over your palms and forearms until it's as near translucent as you can get it without tearing it. A few holes are fine, of course.

When you have a rectangular-ish sheet of extremely thin dough, lay out the apples along a long edge, leaving a few inches of overhang. Evenly spread the toasted panko on top. Fold over the overhang, and carefully, as evenly as you can, begin to roll the whole thing into a long cylinder. Gently slide the cylinder onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, curling it into a horseshoe or circle or whatever you need to fit it. Brush with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle with a little cinnamon sugar. Bake at 400 F for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and flaky. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes, then slice and enjoy.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Seasonal appetite disorder

I just finished The Violent Land, by Jorge Amado, on the way home from a recent residency interview. It was Halloween and cold and I had stuff to carry, so I treated myself to a cab ride home from Penn Station, and the cabbie serendipitously turned out to be from Brazil. It also turns out he's an exceptionally well-read person who recommended some lesser-known Amado works, and the author Clarice Lispector. We also discussed Chagas disease. This, ladies and germs, is why I'm having a hard time envisioning a life outside NYC at the moment.

Winter is actually upon us*. I have pathetically little experience making tomato sauce, but what I do know is that winter tomatoes are generally gross. Canned tomatoes are anywhere from good to completely unpalatable. Unfortunately, having neglected to spend the warmer months actually learning to jar fresh tomato sauce made from quality summertime goods, I have to figure out how to bolster the best-quality canned ones I can get**. Solution: a little red wine.

This is penne alla vodka, with red wine in the tomato sauce as mentioned. Yes, it's basically booze sauce with extra booze. Yes, it was rich and delicious.

Time to wrap up the Great Apple Tasting of 2013:

Golden Russet: Kind of grassy, with a thick, slightly bitter skin. Very rustic-tasting!

Snow: Just say no. The sign at the apple stand called this variety "crisp with beautiful pure white flesh." The aesthetically pleasing innards could not overcome the mealy, watery texture.

York: This one tasted sort of like a cider apple, not too sweet, and again very rustic. Just my style, but I can see how it wouldn't be for everyone.

*Stupid short days. All I want to do is stare morosely at the pitch-black sky at 5 p.m. and binge-eat everything in the house.
**Which, as it turns out, come from Trader Joe's.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Our Cod is an awesome Cod

Waterzooi: the Belgian bouillabaise.

While this was leek-ier than I intended--note to self: recipes probably do not intuit that you're buying massive farmers market leeks when they call for "three leeks"--it was also incredibly good. The soup is traditionally thickened with heavy cream and egg yolks. I slimmed it down a bit by going for olive oil instead of butter and just a little whole milk and egg.

Professional chef I am not. It took awhile to messily
julienne all these vegetables... and the unpictured leeks.

Best paired with a local Hudson Valley dry cider!
I slimmed it down for the wallet by buying on-sale cod instead of the halibut or mixed seafood traditionally used in the dish. The stew was definitely less rich than a waterzooi should be, I suppose, but it got the point across. I still put in saffron, so it still counts as fancy! Other reasons to use the cheap fish: dropping $15 on many, many apples at the Greenmarket. Crazy? Maybe.

I bought enough for a dense, moist apple cake based on a recipe from the Talk About Good Louisiana Junior League cookbook*...

Hard not to eat off the crispy top before even turning out
the cake. Sort of wish I'd glazed it with honey, too.

Warm, moist, spicy delicious.

So. Much. Chopping.
..and still have enough for my newly annual apple tasting. I'm holding myself back to two or three apples a day, so here's the progress so far (with quarters for size reference).

Ashby: Meh. The thick, tart skin was the best part, but the flesh was rubbery and the taste not all that distinct from a Golden Delicious.

Baldwin: Aside from being quite pretty, this one had an interesting, creamy undertone with hints of melon.

Black Twig: Generic, but not in a bad way. It was... an apple, but as fresh and apple-y an apple as you could ever wish for. Unfortunately, it looks like a Mackintosh, which puts me off because those are mushy and gross.

Winter Banana: I've mentioned these before, and they were just as delicious this time around.

*Nope, not kidding whatsoever.

Friday, October 25, 2013

One year without an accident

This is a fascinating case. This is a heartbreaking case. Read them both!

It's been a year since a gigantic hurricane munched its way through Manhattan. Imagine that! In commemoration, I am going to turn on my heat and cook a meal using all that delightfully uninterrupted electricity.

I've got a little pasta conundrum. Rolling out fresh pasta is an exhausting chore, one for which I would appreciate some mechanical assistance. Unfortunately, the KitchenAid stand mixer pasta attachment is very expensive, but a cheap twenty-to-thirty-dollar pasta roller takes up more room than we have. Time to put some muscle in it.

These pappardelle are not thin enough. Fortunately, they're still tasty with roasted shaved brussels sprouts, anchovy and garlic oil, shaved pecorino, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

I'm a glutton for punishment, sooo... ravioli next week?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thank you for smoking

My mother is a nurse in a low-acuity PACU in Colorado. Hospitals, like happy families, are all alike--for instance, all nurses' lounges accumulate little treats on the desk that, unless clearly labeled, are assumed to be fair game. So it was not unusual that Mom, upon seeing some gum in a cute little package on a desk at the nurses' station, took out two pieces and chowed down. It was unusual that she shortly thereafter became tremulous, diaphoretic, tachycardic, nauseated, lightheaded... and discovered the gum was nicotine gum. She got so sick she had to end her shift early and, after a period of significant discomfort, crash in a recovery chair (per my copy of Goldfrank's*, nicotine causes a biphasic reaction with first activating, then sedating symptoms). Her supportive care consisted of supine positioning, sleep, and ginger ale. Go on, laugh; I certainly did, at least as soon as she assured me she was fine.

Speaking of terrible things that can happen to your lungs, I searched for a picture of "currant jelly sputum" online and got this little guy:

Armadillos may carry leprosy, but Klebsiella? Not to my knowledge. A quick click explained everything.

And speaking of what not to do: do not use the last of your cultured butter to make hollandaise sauce. It will taste like delicious fresh buttermilk, but it will not go well on youcrêpes with goat cheese, capers, and crispy kale chiffonade.

Before you criticize me for not folding the crêpes into neat triangles comme on fait en France, please note that in the background was another cooking crêpe and rapidly cooling hollandaise. Nevertheless, I wish I'd done this as a savory mille-crêpe filled with whipped goat cheese instead of pastry cream. Next time!

Also, before next time, I'm shelling out for an offset spatula.

*Despite the fact that I ultimately chose neurology, the authors of this textbook remain some of the clinicians I admire the most. Toxicologists are very smart and have lots of fun with what they do while also being very good at it.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

American as.

As regular readers of this blog (read: my in-laws) may or may not be aware, I. Love. Fruit, apples most of all! Conveniently, next weekend is Applepalooza, to which I was clued in by tonight's fantastic cider tasting, courtesy of the NYSoM Food and Wine Club. A witty and intelligent "drink nerd" named David talked us through five ciders, from a very sour Sarasola Sagardoa to the caramel sweet Eden ice cider (made like ice wine). I learned so much, and now I desperately want to try making one of my beloved whiskey sours with a dry or off-dry cider (local or Spanish). Alternatively, I want to drink lots of the Eden, or use it to make a caramel sauce to go over an apple and blue cheese galette. Would aficionados consider that a waste of fine cider?

After the tasting, I bibilously brought half a glass of an off-dry, sour cider upstairs to incidentally pair with tonight's dinner of tortilla.

No, not that kind. This kind:

I actually like my tortilla to be lighter on the eggs than the traditional. This recipe manages to be substantial with anything from 4 to 6 eggs. Chorizo (or Field Roast (TM) brand vegetarian chorizo) is amazing in this, with a little less oil and a little more parsley.

1.5 lbs russet or baby red potatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
2 small Spanish onions, sliced thinly.
olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
4-6 eggs

Heat a good amount of olive oil in a heavy skillet. Toss the potatoes in the hot oil, cover, and let cook for 5 minutes; toss, cover, and let cook for 5 more minutes. Repeat until the slices have been uniformly cooked until tender, but with some bite (e.g. not quite fully cooked) in the hot oil. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and add the onions. Cook just until they begin to soften. In a springform pan (or in the drained skillet), concentrically place 2 layers of potato slices. Salt, pepper, and paprika liberally. Evenly spread the onions and parsley on top of that, spice again, and pour over the beaten eggs (optional: reserve some of the egg to pour over the top just before baking ends). Layer the remainder of the potatoes, and spice again. Bake in a 375 F oven for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and crispy, pouring the reserved eggs over the top in the last 3 minutes of cooking if desired.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Also newsflash

Orange-flavored psyllium husk + vanilla-flavored protein powder + fat-free Greek yogurt doesn't taste like a Creamsicle either.

More like a Creamsicle than the death liquid from a couple days ago, I guess.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Orange-flavored psyllium husk + vanilla-flavored whey protein powder does not taste like a Creamsicle. It tastes like evil. That is all.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pulaski > Crusher

There was that little bump in the road with Dr. Pulaski at first refusing to acknowledge Data as a sentient Starfleet officer equal to any flesh-and-blood sentient Starfleet officer. Otherwise, she smokes Dr. Crusher in every way: she can recite Klingon literature from memory, demonstrates her knowledge of technology-independent medical care in the second-season episode "Contagion," and has a snarky sense of humor that dovetails neatly with her firm-but-caring bedside manner. And, in a little human touch, she's afraid of the transporter. That beats out noblebright, tap-dancing Beverly in every way, in my opinion.

The important stuff being out of the way, I can keep talking about butter.

I've written about brioche before, but that brioche did not incorporate homemade buttermilk and cultured butter. This one does, which makes it strictly better. I was brainstorming things to make from the approximately 1 kilo of dough this recipe yielded. Brioche buns stuffed with caramelized onions and sage, brioche pain perdu, brioche cinnamon rolls, brioche crostini... brioche crostini!

Remember the whole "sorry" thing? I'm very sorry that I didn't smoke my own salmon for this. Andy told me to shut up and make more crostini.

Brioche salmon things

I used this recipe for the dough, except with fresh buttermilk instead of the whole milk, a little over 6 oz of salted cultured butter, and a little less salt. The dough will taste very sugary; while the end product is not as sweet, you may want to reduce the sugar if you know you'll be using the bread for a savory recipe.

To bake: generously butter the cups of a muffin tin. Remove the dough from the fridge and gently deflate it. Fill each muffin cup half to two-thirds of the way to the top with dough, working quickly while it's cool and malleable. Allow to rise in a not-too-warm place until the dough just crests the top of the cups.

Preheat the oven to 425 F. About 5 minutes before baking, brush the tops of the brioches with egg yolk beaten with a little buttermilk or melted butter; just before you put them in the oven, brush them again. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, or until the tops are a deep golden brown. Remove from the tin and cool completely before using as below.

Cut the mini brioches into 1-inch-thick slices, reserving the domed tops for bread pudding (or snacking). If you like, brush the tops of the slices with butter and broil until golden brown and crispy. Slice the cucumber into quarter-inch slices and pat dry. Lay a cucumber slice on each brioche slice. Pipe on some fat-free Greek yogurt or other thick yogurt (or sour cream, or crème fraîche, or slightly softened cream cheese, but I personally think that's way too rich) and sprinkle liberally with chives. Top with a rosette of smoked salmon, lox, or sushi-grade raw salmon, and finish it off with a fine grating of lemon zest and some cracked black pepper. If using raw salmon, also add a sprinkling of coarse sea salt. Other options: using fresh dill instead of (or in addition to ) the chives; add on chopped smoked or raw almonds for crunch.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


I apologize frequently. Very frequently. Things I have apologized for in the past 24 hours or so include:

1. Someone running into me
2. Not having exact change for a sandwich
3. Not knowing Andy's favorite dessert category wasn't cookies and making him dozens of cookies over the years instead of "dense cakes."

That third one is particularly rich (ba-dum *tsssss*). Seriously, though, I've been putting together pastries and cookies and pies to the deliberate exclusion of cake, and then the other shoe drops. Time to make cake after cake after cake in penance! Or I could make everything but cake, including more pastries and cookies and biscuits. But wait, I have an excuse!

Despite the advice of this book, I like to make butter. With butter, ricotta, and other mild dairy products, the labor is worth the pure, fresh flavor of the resulting product. One day, when I'm an attending and my loans are paid off*, I will buy fancy local milk and make butter and ricotta and clotted cream that will have that grassy, sunshiney flavor of quality dairy.

Until then, though, I'm using Fairway's conveniently on-sale heavy cream and Greek yogurt to make cultured butter. Technically, cultured butter uses fermented cream**, but I took the hasty American route and mixed the cream and yogurt, then left it for about 24 hours in a warm-ish corner of my apartment before whipping it, draining off the amazingly delicious fresh buttermilk, and washing, salting, and pressing the final product.

I used the butter and fresh buttermilk to make biscuits, and then I used more of the butter to make galettes bretonnes. These very simple butter cookies are made in--surprise, surprise--Bretagne, using the region's traditional salted butter. Nothing coming out of a miniscule galley kitchen could possibly measure up to beurre en Bretagne, which is one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted. Nevertheless, I deemed my product acceptably rich and tangy for use in these cookies, whose sole purpose is to show off the flavor of the butter with which they are made.

Galettes bretonnes
250 g cake or pastry flour
100 g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
140 g cultured butter (or 100 g regular butter + 20 g sour cream), very cold
1 egg
for glazing: 1 egg or 3 tbsp melted butter
sea salt for sprinkling

Mix together the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter or food processor, crumb the butter with the dry ingredients. Add egg and mix. If the dough does not quite stick together, drizzle in buttermilk or sour cream, for a maximum of about 1 tablespoon. Chill the dough for 2 hours, or until very firm.

Working in small batches, roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut using a biscuit or cookie cutter; traditionally, these cookies are pressed, but who (except my in-laws) has a cookie press lying around the house? Prick with a fork all over and brush with whichever glaze you choose. Bake at 375 F for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

There's still half a pound of butter left. Butter-poached vegetables, anyone?

*Did you know that in Canada, med school costs between $3,000 and $22,000 a year, and fourth-year (or third-year, in the case of three-year programs) students receive a small stipend from the Ministry of Health?
**a.k.a. crème fraîche or smetana or viili or leben or amasi or... basically, many world cultures have intriguing varieties of fermented dairy. Maybe one day I'll have a chance to try kumis.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Life updates

1. I watched a horror movie called American Mary--very twisted, very witty--on Netflix. My related recommendations include a cheesy comedy called The Cleaver Family Reunion. I'm guessing the link has something to do with hacking implements, but still, Netflix clearly needs to make a few adjustments, particularly since Zoolander was the next recommendation.

2. Powerlifter Dan Green has some great tips on fixing common errors in your sumo deadlift. The one about spreading the hips rather than dropping the butt is life-changing. Seriously, I instantly did 3 additional reps on my top set (for a total of 7 at 200) and 4 additional on my drop set (for a total of 8 at 185), with less effort than it took me last week to do nearly half that amount of work. If I ever meet that man, I owe him a few scoops of whey powder.

3. Andy and I had a plan to hike Breakneck Ridge today, it being the last day of summer and all. I even made an all-out picnic lunch, complete with blanched green beans! To my disappointment, it rained all night, and even though the weather today was perfect, we woke up and surmised that since it was still raining on the mountain, we'd go out there to a sticky, slippery mess and be miserable for half the climb. Next weekend, I hope... but I was still crushed. To comfort ourselves, we went to Smorgasburg in DUMBO, like every other white 20-something in the five boroughs. I got a seitan steak sandwich and halo halo, and Andy got a Milk Truck grilled cheese with a twist and dulce de leche doughnut. At least we still got to enjoy the amazing day from Brooklyn Bridge Park; as Andy put it, the worst thing about living in Manhattan is being unable to enjoy the skyline view from across the East River.

Side note: if anyone knows where I can get the components for halo halo, hit me up. That stuff is addictive.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Let's talk about ugly.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a monkfish. It's a moist, dense fish that, if cooked properly, has a similar texture and taste to lobster (thus it's nickname, "poor man's lobster") and is truly delicious. It's also cheaper than halibut at Fairway by nearly half, and, unfortunately, it's difficult to butcher. I foolishly assumed that because the fishmonger at the grocery was being extremely flirtatious, if I played nice instead of telling him to lay off the innuendo I'd get a good filet.

As you can see, it had a whopping great bloodline down the middle. So much for putting up with strange men behind fish counters.

The pistachio crust came out just as I anticipated, though, as did the creamed corn with green beans and tomatoes. All the flavors are, well, generic enough to pair with a variety of fishes or even meat, for those of you who are into that kind of thing.

Pistachio-crusted monkfish over creamed corn
Technique based on this article

1/2 lb monkfish filet, gray membranes removed
Dijon mustard
3 tbsp panko
2/3 cup raw pistachio meats
salt, pepper

2 large or 3 regular ears corn
1 cup chopped green beans
1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup Greek yogurt (more or less to taste; I actually used about 1/4 cup, but I like mine a little less creamy. You can also finish this with butter.)
2 cloves garlic
salt, pepper, paprika


Preheat the oven to 475 F (yes, you read that right), with a cast iron skillet or heavy grill pan in the oven during the preheating. Rinse the monkfish and pat it dry. Liberally oil one side of the filet and set it down on that surface. On the non-oiled surface, rub some mustard and sprinkle with a bit of pepper. In a food processor, pulse the pistachios, panko, and a touch of salt until it resembles coarse crumbs. Gently pat the nut mixture onto the mustardy fish. When the oven is preheated, carefully slip the filet, oil-side down, onto the preheated pan. It should cook in 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish; cover the filet with a sheet of aluminum foil if the crust browns prematurely.

For the creamed corn: remove the kernels from the corn and put all but 1/2 cup into a food processor. Using the flat of a butter knife, "milk" the cobs into the food processor. Add 2 cloves garlic and puree. In a saucepan, cook the green beans, tomatoes, corn puree, and reserved kernels just until the green beans are tender; stir in the yogurt at the end. Season with pepper and paprika and a touch of salt.

To serve: slice the filet and lay over a mound of the creamed corn mixture. Finish the whole thing with a few grinds of sea salt and a sprinkle of chopped parsley and chives.