Sunday, January 13, 2019

Gnocchi Number One


Eggs Benedict turned out better this week, but still not great. Last week I over-cooked everything, so naturally, I under-cooked everything this week. Poached eggs were too runny (2 minutes is also not better than 3), and the Hollandaise came out too runny. I'm sure I was afraid of over-cooking the egg yolks again and pulled them off too soon.



Sourdough loaf this week took an interesting turn. After a couple weeks of amazing Sourdough flavor, we're edging back toward the good old White Bread loaf we started out with a couple months ago. Trying to think about how we can keep the starter as sour as we want it while keeping up with feedings as it needs. Tricky balance that we still have yet to even begin figuring out.

For our first attempt at Gnocchi, I turned to my new obsession, Nancy Silverton. In her Mozza Cookbook, she has a Gnocchi with Duck Ragu recipe that we decided to try. Unfortunately, the meat in our grocery store is not exactly the greatest, and unless we wanted to buy a whole frozen duck (that felt harder than a rock this morning in the grocery store freezer), then we needed to find an alternative. So we bought Lamb instead.

The meal turned out amazing. The gnocchi was actually gnocchi for the first time, instead of turning into mashed potatoes at the last minute. I would attribute some of that to the straining technique we used this time vs. what we've done in past attempts. When we used a colander in the sink to drain the water, the gnocchi seemed to always condense and mush together into a fancy version of mashed potatoes. Using the wire strainer to pull the gnocchi out of the water prevented that from happening this time, and made a huge difference. The size of the gnocchi turned out a little large. I think they're supposed to be smaller... But otherwise, they were fantastic! (Thank you, Nancy!!)



The sauce was very good. The Lamb was a good substitute for the Duck, although we'd like to try and actually find Duck Legs one of the next times we try this. And the idea of maybe adding a little heat was intriguing. We keep hearing about Calabrian chili sauce. Maybe that would be good here? We'd also be interested in trying a Brown Butter sauce instead, or something maybe a little less acidic.  Overall though, an amazing start to this cooking challenge!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

January Jambalaya


EGGS BENEDICT:

I have made one perfect Eggs Benedict in my life. A beautiful Hollandaise Sauce with flawlessly Poached Eggs. I kind of thought I had it down.

Today, I was rudely reminded that the Eggs Benedict I refer to above was made more than a year ago. The version I made this morning was a sorry excuse for the dish, and if served at a restaurant, would have been thrown back in the chef's face. I attempted my first round of Hollandaise as a single serving, cutting down the recipe I had to a single egg yolk and all other ingredients at the same ratio. It was going alright until I poured in too much Worcestershire Sauce and walked away for 10 seconds too long, totally scrambling the egg. I thought I could salvage it, but the sauce turned out runny and gross. In the trash it went.


I quickly rebounded to made a second attempt at the sauce, this time babysitting it like I knew I was supposed to. I got the sauce to a good consistency, but the butter I'd rationed out hadn't all been used up yet. So instead of being smart and just stopping where it looked good, I tried to get all the butter in there. And of course, it also looked way to runny now. So I threw in another egg yolk. Bad idea. The sauce thickened a little more, but it was not right. I still ate it though.

My eggs were poached well (a little over done - 3 minutes is better than 4), and the ham was delicious. English Muffin was under toasted though, and now I have two rounds of sauce dishes to worry about cleaning for the rest of my morning. I look forward to hopefully doing better next week.


SOURDOUGH BREAD:

Something went slightly awry with the bread loaf this week. When we made the dough, I forgot to stir the starter before using it, and I think that was the major issue. We didn't get the same rise out of it during the proofing processes, and it ended up baking very oddly... the center rose almost too well, while the exterior "skin" barely grew at all. We ended up with an almost rose-like shape this week which feels very dense and heavy. We also unfortunately found an undercooked portion in the center of the bread. The taste, however, is just as good as last time. So we will be happy to still enjoy it very much this week!



JAMBALAYA #1:

We needed a base to start out with for Jambalaya, because I didn't have a saved recipe from any time we may have cooked it before! So we started with Emeril's Jambalaya recipe that we found on the food network's recipe website. It was a really good start, but we've already taken a few notes for next time: more salt, less rice (it made SO MUCH), less cook time for the shrimp, more paprika for the color, and chicken and sausage are always so much better when they're hard seared first. So we'll try all of that next time. Notes are taken, recipe is revised and we're ready for the week ahead. 5 day countdown to the next adventure!



Saturday, January 5, 2019

Our 2019 Resolution


Now that we're settled into our new house with a gorgeous kitchen, calling my name every weekend, we've decided to use this year as a time to master some of our favorite dishes. All of them are challenging in some way, requiring some practice and time to master. Some require lots of technique while others need help getting the spice level and taste just right.

We figured out of 52 weeks, there will likely be at least 4 that require us to travel somewhere for something. So we figured 48 weeks of cooking: 8 different meals, cooking them 6 times this year to see if we can get them to a point of "easy."
  1. Jambalaya
  2. Gnocchi
  3. Chicken Coconut Curry
  4. Spaghetti Carbonara
  5. Sushi
  6. Chicken Thigh Mole
  7. Parmesan Risotto
  8. Chicken Pad Thai
We figure that each of these lend themselves to lots of learning. And if we start getting flavors right in the first few tries, there are other challenges we can throw ourselves into. Jambalaya might get us into our own sausage making, and Spaghetti Carbonara might allow us to learn how to make a great home-made noodle. But first, we need to master the sauces and flavors.

Today or tomorrow, we will start with some Jambalaya. I'm going straight to the obvious choice and we're going to make Emeril's Cajun Jambalaya recipe this first time around. I figure we can't get a better start than with the king of Cajun food, right? From there, we'll take some notes on what we liked, didn't like, and what to do different next time.

We'll also keep up with the Sourdough, especially now that our Starter is so much better. And I also have a personal goal to master the perfect Eggs Benedict (Hollandaise Sauce and a Poached Egg to perfection still evade me). But since the hubs won't eat that meal, I just need to maybe start my own little tradition.

So Happy New Year to all of you - here's hoping that you are just as excited about your 2019 Resolutions as we are about ours.  <3

Monday, December 31, 2018

Finally Sour Sourdough Bread


The new starter we decided to put together last week made a huge difference in our bread loaf this weekend. We're finally getting a little bit of a tang in the flavor! The bread came out golden brown outside and super soft inside. By far, my favorite loaf yet.

A little bit of the dough making process here for you this week too:





New Year's Eve, 2018


The hubby and I have been enjoying the last week of Holiday time at home and at work. The office is always so quiet this time of year with most people out on vacation, it makes the days easy to manage and likely to end early. As always, we've been taking the days we did have off to cook too much food and work a little on the house. While we've been out of boxes for a while now, there's always the big effort to truly organize and make the spaces all function properly. So I've been spending a lot of effort to do that. Happily, I've been able to cross a lot of "to-dos" off of my list and the house is really starting to come together better!

We started our long Christmas weekend with another loaf of Sourdough Bread, getting better at this every time. But we still weren't getting the taste we wanted, so we decided to create a brand new starter, to see if we could get it a little more sour...



With the last of our old starter, we also made a good old loaf of white bread for Christmas Day French Toast, and tried Pizzas on the grill again. Pizzas were better this time - still some work to go though getting the dough just right.


For Christmas Eve, we always do Italian meal at home. We had a gorgeous loaf of Sourdough already, and decided to make our own Pasta Dough, Filling and Bolognese Sauce for Ravioli Dinner. It turned out amazing! Creme Brulee for Dessert.






Christmas Morning is made for Cinnamon Rolls, and we made Stuffed French Toast this year. Bacon, Cream Cheese and Jelly might sound odd, but turned out really good.



Tonight, we will cook up some traditional New Year's Eve Steaks, take a two-year Aged Beer out of the cupboard and count down to another new year together. 2018 has been another big year for us, and we're looking forward to building up this new California life in 2019.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Hanging Pictures and Fourth Loaf of Sourdough


This weekend's loaf of Sourdough turned out so much better than any of the others. Our only real change was the bake time. We took it down from a 35 minute bake to a 31 minute bake, and ended up with a much softer interior, and a lighter colored crust on the exterior.




The taste, however, is still lacking that Sourdough "funk" that we're really looking for. We bought a loaf of our favorite bakery Sourdough yesterday, and it definitely has a very sour bite that ours hasn't found yet. Still some research to do on that part of it, but the improvement we saw in just four weeks of consistent baking has been encouraging.

We also spent the weekend putting up some pictures and decorations that have so far been left in piles around the house. Little by little, the house is becoming more and more a home.


Sunday, December 9, 2018

Outdoor Patio and Third Loaf of Sourdough Bread


We changed up a few things this time. First, we fed the starter with some Dark Rye Flour on Friday, before we started the new weekly bread ritual on Saturday morning. Not only did it make the starter start to smell more sour, but the fermentation was also really happy about this change. It bubbled over after both feedings, and made a huge mess of the baking pan it was sitting in. (Thank goodness for the hubby's forethought to set it on a pan, so the explosion didn't destroy the floor of our oven).


We made sure not to overwork the dough again, and regulated the temperature a little better this time, too. Unfortunately, our timing was a little off today, as we were also working on the back patio, and we think we left it out of the fridge too long before we baked it... But other than that, I'm not quite sure how to describe what it is that we're missing. It's probably just a matter of more practice and eventual expertise, so we'll hopefully just get there naturally.




Notes for this week:

  1. We think we should try a loaf of Raley's sourdough in comparison to ours to see if we can pinpoint what we think we're missing.
  2. Just keep practicing...


In addition to our third loaf of sourdough this weekend, we also set up some new lighting and heating features in our back patio area. Excited to now have an outdoor area that's usable year-round. One of the amazing advantages of living less than 2 miles from the Santa Cruz beach.  <3