Preserved Esrog

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People of the world, I am still alive! Let’s make preserved esrogim!

So, what’s a preserved esrog? Well, it’s like a preserved lemon, only with another citrus, namely – an esrog, aka – a citron. What’s preserved lemon you ask?? Well, the general gist of a preserved lemon is: you take a bunch of lemons, cut them up (whether in pieces, or only partially seems to be up for debate), bury it in salt, watch as the lemon juices and salt form a sort of brine, and voila, you have “preserved lemons,” this tart (possibly sweet, if sugar is added also), salty, briny thingy, that can be used in many sort of savory applications. And me thinks – hey why not preserve some esrog, so that’s what I did….The end…Good night everyone!

Ha! Sorry to say, but 2015 is not the year I work on my verbal diarrhea…moving-right-along.

First off, you might be asking yourself, nossi does realize that sukkos was like 5 months ago right? Surely even he realizes that even if I did decide to save my esrog, that by this time it would be, how you say, unusable? 

Well Mr Italics-pants, I do know all that, but you see I suffer from this thing called procrastination. It’s crippling; plus work, and stuff, so like whatever man. Just bookmark this post, and let’s get back to it sukkos time, ok?? Geez, do I have to do everything around here?? I would even say that I’ll remind you come next sukkos, so you save your esrog…but you and I know both know by now, that’s not gonna happen, because, well, see above…

Ok, so moving along, here’s an amazing fun fact for you brave souls still reading – the esrog/citron is one of the 3 original citrus fruits (the other 2 being mandarins, and the pomello…all other citrus fruits are some sort of hybridized/cultivated mutant).

So preserved esrog (or lemons, if you for some odd reason don’t have esrogim sitting around) as I said earlier is this sort of condiment/spice that is used to add a tart, saline, citrusy flavor to a dish, most notably it goes well with chicken.

As I mentioned above, the traditional way to preserve lemons is to bury cut up lemons in salt, which draws the moisture out of the lemon, and then salt and moisture mix, forming this brine solution.

Now this process is similar to any preservation technique, be it pickles (such as spicy pickled okra), or corned beef, the idea behind it all is to kill off bad bacteria, so good bacteria can take over and do it’s thing (enhance flavor/texture/shelf life…). We talked about the difference between “fermenting” and “pickling” back in the post on okra, so if you want we’ll all wait for you to catch up…go on…

The traditional approach to preserving lemons is more of a fermentation process, where just salt is added, which takes longer, and relies a little more on proper proportions (ratio of salt:water), but will have a more fermented taste (this process is sometimes referred to as “lacto-fermented”), but I decided to try and do a quick “refrigerator pickle” for the esrogim to preserve them. This process (which again is in the okra post) basically relies on vinegar to do the majority of the leg work in reducing bad bacteria, and kinda allows the good bacteria to flourish.

I cut up the esrogim, and discarded the interior (the pulp), and was left with the peel and rind. Now in most citrus fruits, the rind is too bitter, and we generally don’t want it, but in esrogim, it’s really the only useful part, but obviously can’t be eaten raw.

To add flavor I decided to take my dried up hadassim leaves (myrtle branch, also used on sukkos), along with salt and suger (about 1 tablespoon each), and added hot water to dissolve salt/suger, and to re-hydrate the hadassim. Then I added the vinegar, and submerged it all, and placed it in the fridge. The final proportion of vinegar:water should be about 50:50 or even 60:40.

Now I’ve never actually tried this with lemons, and never really made preserved lemons, I don’t see why wouldn’t work…but I ain’t no rocket surgeon, so let me know how it goes!

So now that you read all through that, you probably want to know what I did with it, right?

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I decided since preserved lemon apparently goes well with chicken, me thinks why not try this with chicken, I’m sort of a genius like that. Anyway, I threw some of the preserved esrog, along with shallots, onions, garlic, and home made chili paste (ie – s’chug), which shocker of all shockers, I made way back in the summer (with a litany of beautiful hot peppers from this CSA I was a part of) that I never posted…it’s kinda my MO, so deal with it!

I blended it all together

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and slathered it all over a chicken that I had spatch-cocked (best food word ever…it basically means to butterfly a chicken, by removing the backbone, and opening it up like a book..).

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Then I roasted the whole shebangbang, and to prevent the breast from overcooking, which it is wont to do, I covered the breast part with silver foil for the first hour or so

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then I uncovered the breast, and cranked the oven up to about 450-500 for another 25-30 minutes to crisp the skin

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That’s it boychick’ll…see you in 2016!

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Lasagna – Kosher Connection LinkUp

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Hey person, remember when I was a functioning member of the blogging world?? Yeah, neither do I…harrumph, either way, me thinks it’s time to get back on track, so enough chit-chat, let’s go make some lasagna.

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For this month’s kosher connection linkup, the theme is “The one food you would want if stranded on an island.” Considering my gluttonous ways, I’d probably be ok, with just about anything. As long as I can shovel it into my mouth we’d be good, but I’ve been meaning to write a post on lasagna, so (Russian accent:) “two birds, one stone!” Onward comrade!

Lasagna, like ogres, is all about layers. You got your cheese, your sauce, and your noodles. The easiest layer is the lasagna layer (that is until one of you very grateful and generous and lucky people would love to sponsor a pasta maker lz”n a loved one). Now, I used to scoff at the idea at using no-boil noodles, but after doing some research, it’s actually a lot easier, and better in my opinion (which is all you’ll get here! Mwahahaha …yeah, so…didn’t you miss this weird blog???). so putting the noodles aside, let’s talk about the cheese and sauce.

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I like to really cheese it up, because I’m just that type of guy. First thing first – a cheese sauce; aka – mornay sauce. Mornay sauce = béchamel + cheese. Béchamel = roux + milk. Roux = fat + flour. So really Mornay= Cheese + (milk + [fat+ flour]). It’s actually pretty simple math. So let’s start by melting some butter, and toasting the flour. As with most rouxs, we go until it turns light blonde, and it’s smelling a little nutty, not very much unlike you (aw snap…). In this case, I also added some shallots to sautee in the butter.

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Just so we’re clear on what we’re doing, the whole idea of a roux is to add a starch to a liquid so it thickens it, but we’re also toasting it, which adds additional flavor. Technically, the more you cook the starch, the less it can thicken a given liquid, but that’s really only a concern, when you make a dark red type of roux, which is common in such dishes like gumbo…but I digress. After adding the milk, you need to cook it until the starch is “activated” and thickens the milk, and once that’s done, you now have your bechamel sauce. In order to complete the mornay experience, we add cheese.

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About the cheese, which I guess is really part 2a of this little layer party. Here’s the thing about cheese, its so diverse and multifaceted, that I don’t even know what to say about it. First thing first, I get it that shredded cheese is convenient and hassle free. I get it..in fact I use it from time to time. But here’s the thing – first of all so much of what makes cheese awesome is its moisture. Except for Parmesan, you want your cheese to be runny and gooey right? And that’s all thanks to moisture content, and by preshredding it, you’re basically removing a lot of the moisture (the second reason why preshredded cheeses are inferior is because they add starches to the cheese to prevent it from clumping [take a look at the ingredients next time], now technically speaking, that’s not as big a deal in this case because it will help thicken the sauce, but it does prevent from achieving maximum gooeyness, which is always a bad call).

So now that you remembered exactly how crazy I am, let’s add some grrrrated cheese to the bechamel. Take your shredded cheese, and add it to the hot bechamel, but off the flame and mix until its all melted and uniform. Now we can set that aside and focus on our sauce.
Tomato sauce is another one of those things where sure you can open a can of marinara sauce and kerplop it down, and that’s what I do many a time, however this isn’t a blog post about how to open a can of marinara sauce! Nay, this is a blog post how to open a can of whoop-ass on some lasagna, and show all of ‘Mrrrrrca what freedom tastes like!

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Oookkk, you still there? Well, for starters, I always keep a few cans of whole peeled tomatoes in the cupboard, because the easiest sauce you can make is to take a few tomatoes, drain the excess sauce, and grind up those tomatoes to the consistency you like, with whatever added spices you want. If you wanted to step it up a notch, sure you can sautee shallots in butter, add some anchovies and cook the tomatoes until reduced and thick, but come on! I know you, you’re still upset that I told you to shred your own gosh darn cheese, dagnabbit. (Maybe well do a post about tomato sauce in the future? Maybe…no promises..)
All right, so now that we have the cheese and sauce, let’s go crazy.

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I like to first put a little sauce in the bottom of the pan, so the noodles have something to stick to.

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On top of the noodles goes cheese sauce and tomato sauce, and guess what Mayor McCheese?? More cheese! Huzzah! Obviously you can use whatever cheese you deem fit. Mozzarella, gouda, colby, and jack are all good options.

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Then its just a matter of repeating layers. I always top the whole shebang with more grated cheese, and Parmesan on top.

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Now to cook it, I like to cook it covered at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, and then crank the oven up to 450 for another 10-15 minutes uncovered, so the top gets nice and crispitty crunchitty. (A nice little trick is to spray the side of aluminum that’s against the lasagna with some Pam so it doesn’t stick)
And that my friend is how you win the war on terrorism.

As always, click on the funny looking thing below to see what people who actually know what they’re doing are doing.

Boneless Chicken rollups with Porter reduction

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So apparently there are some people who mistakenly think that white meat is better than dark meat. Craziness right? Now don’t get me wrong, white meat that’s properly cooked, and fresh is awesome, and bad chicken is bad chicken no matter what color…however that being said, all things being equal, dark meat is way better. Now there are some that claim dark meat is annoying because it comes with bones, and these people, being the lazy people they are, don’t want to have to go through the trials and tribulations of having to work when they eat, so to these weird people, any sort of impediment in their course to stuffing said food down their gullets in one fluid motion is considered bad, so ergo, bone-in chicken is bad. I know what you’re thinking, who is crazy enough to think this, right?? Well I’m not going to name names (ahem – Dr Shmalexman) but suffice it to say, people like this do exist. Where am I going with this diatribe? Well what if we could take dark meat and remove the bone so even those lazy people out there can enjoy good chicken. I know what you’re thinking, why not just buy boneless dark meat, right? Well the only answer I have is, have you seen how much more they charge you for removing the bone? Just do it yourself, and it’s really not that hard. Onward!

So butchery is a great way to take out some aggression, and I highly recommend cutting down a whole chicken at least once, just to get a feel for it (plus, the chicken always comes out neater, and another benefit is you can make chicken galantine, which you should definitely do), anyway, if you decide not to butcher a whole chicken, go grab some chicken legs, and lets start cutting. First you’re going to want to cut the drumstick from the thigh, and the easiest way to do that is to take the bottom, and squeeze the leg and thigh together and start cutting down, and you should be able to wriggle your knife in between the two pieces, and cut right through.

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Once you have the leg, you can slice down directly over the bone to open it up, and then slide your knife under the bone but on top of the meat, to completely separate the meat from the bone. Then kind of do the same thing with the thigh, but I’m sorry, because I don’t have any good pictures, but basically cut along the bone, and then slide the knife underneath to cut meat away, and where the two bones meet you’ll need to cut away, whatever,you’ll figure it out, right? Gravy sauce.

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Allright, so now that you have your cut up chicken bottoms (or bought deboned thighs, because I know you guys, and I know that you’re thinking, hey why go through all this work, when I can just buy it…well you’re what’s wrong with our society!)…ok sorry for that.. moving right along…so I took the chicken, and rolled it up so it would be thicker, and more uniform, and decided you know what would be a great application for these pieces of chicken? Braising.

Braising is, in my opinion, a very underutilized technique. The idea behind it is like this – the gentlest and easiest way to cook something is by using water as a heat transfer medium (ie – it’s more predictable to cook something in water, than in air [the oven] because of how well water can transfer heat), but there’s one caveat, high heat develops flavor. So braising combines the best of both worlds, you get high heat cooking, and liquid cooking. The way it works is thusly – first you brown whatever protein you’re cooking, remove the meat, and add whatever veggies. Then you add enough liquid so that it will end up submerging half of the meat, cover the whole thing with a tight fitting lid, and continue cooking.

For our application, I rolled up the boneless chicken, and tied it with some twine. Set up a dutch oven over high heat, and browned the chicken on all sides.

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While that was cooking, I mixed some honey, dijon mustard, hot sauce, and porter beer. I removed the chicken, added the liquid to the pot, and scraped the bottom while it was cooking (as the chicken browns, it develops what’s called fond on the bottom of the pan, which is a big source of flavor, so scraping it off the bottom helps). I added the chicken back, covered the pot, and placed in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes…I think.

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When it was all done, the porter had reduced by a lot, and made an excellent thick sauce, and the chicken was actually pretty awesome, and I think you should definitely give this a try.

So yeah, that’s all for now, if you have any questions, let’s talk.

I’m not going to lie, I miss you random people I mostly don’t know, so I’m going to leave you with an empty promise that I’m going to try and post more often. I really want to but you know, life and all that gets in the way, so yeah, first world problems…whatever…enjoy the snow.

Another one pot noodle thingamabob…plus a link up

Quite a catchy title there, I know. Anyway remember way back in the day when I used to post regularly? And one of those awesome posts was about the one pot noodle dishes that was all the rage a few months back? Oh you don’t? Well fear not, relive the experience by clicking here, but don’t forget to come back for some even more awesomeness. So much awesome, its awesome.

Anyway, moving right along, so this month’s link-up Kosher Connection, is all about comfort food. Well just what is comfort food? Well I guess its food that comforts you, duh…but what’s that? Well I don’t know, but who cares, let’s eat.

So ever since I posted that one pot linguine recipe I was talking about earlier, a few people have told me they really liked it, which is always nice to hear. And to be honest, I’ve made a few different iterations of the same dish, but this one stood out, namely because I actually remembered what I put in to it, and more importantly, I had some quasi usable pictures.

It all starts with stock. Vegetable stock to be precise, but not just any vegetable stock, a really quick vegetable stock; like 20 minutes quick. How, you wonder? Well, you’re going to have wait on that one…that post is coming up…eventually…maybe. Who am I kidding…more like don’t get your hopes up.

So anyway, you’ve got vegetable stock, which makes everything better (by they way, you can obviously use plain ole` water, if for some odd reason you don’t have stock handy), now it’s all a matter of throwing a few vegetables and some cheese together.

For this dish, I sauteed cauliflower, then added my noodles (orichetta), spinach (raw), ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. I added the stock, and let it all cook down.

While the stock was cooking, I took some feta cheese, and mushed it (which is the precise culinary term) with some chopped parsley.

Once the pasta was cooked through, and the stock was cooked out, I topped the whole shooting match with the feta-parsley awesomeness, and obviously some more parmesan, and then proceeded to be comforted.

Wow that was quick…I know you’re sad that that’s all, but if you have any questions type away in the comments below, and as always, click on the funny frog man under this paragraph to see what people who actually know how to blog are doing.