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Kohlrabi (koal-RAH-bee) A vegetable that was first publicized in 1554 by a German botanist made kohlrabi a part of the German table faire almost immediately. This hardy plant was not field farmed until 1734 in Ireland, but became popular throughout Central Europe and the Mediterranean shortly after. Created by the cross-pollination of cabbages and turnips this awkward looking vegetable has a pale green and sometimes purple stem with dark green leaves that grows above ground similar to cabbage. The bulbous stem is best peeled and cooked as you would any root vegetable. With a mild, sweet turnip flavor this Kohlrabi is fun to cook with and lends itself to many applications in a commercial kitchen. As a crunch to a salad or another vegetable in a stir-fry this overlooked strange looking plant has flavor and style.
Kohlrabi in Sour Cream Dill Sauce
12 ounces kohlrabi, peeled and sliced
8 ounces sliced thin carrot
8 ounces of thin sliced sweet onions
1 ounce butter
1/2 ounce Chopped Garlic
8 ounces chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
2/3-cup sour cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 level tablespoon cornstarch
Salt and Pepper to taste
Thickly peel the kohlrabi to remove the entire woody outer layer. Slice thinly and sauté with the carrots, garlic, and onions in butter, being careful not to brown butter. When onions start to become translucent; add stock and bring to a simmer. Remove vegetables and place to the side. Blend the cornstarch with very little cold water to create slurry and stir into simmering stock. Bring heat back up to a simmer for about 5 minutes; add veggies back into mix with the dill and the sour cream, then adjust seasoning to taste. I like to use sea salt and white pepper for the final seasoning.
As I strolled through the grocery store my eye’s locked on a frozen food case that had a sign “Maine Lobster” frozen whole; raw. Wow! and how much??? $9.99 for a 1.5 pounder? Yes, it is true. With the weak economy this nation’s unsold live lobsters are frozen whole and discounted. One of my students said that they sell the same size alive for $40.00. Normally I’m not a big fan of frozen seafood, but I decided that I must do this for the sake of all that is culinary. I would risk life and limb and of course $10 for experimental purposes. I bought my favorite sea bug (I’ve seriously thought about getting a big lobster tattoo on my shoulder, but that is for another post) and carted it off home with my other groceries.
Cooked the lobster until perfect, cracked the meat out of the shell, I use lobster shears but you could use a clean pair of heavy scissors. Once I had removed the meat, I medium diced it (about the size of a sugar cube), and put it into the fridge for later. I admit the meat was not as firm as it would have been if it would have been alive, but for $10 who cares?
I made a classic lobster stock from the shells. Very rich and a perfect shade of rusty red. Reduced this lobster love juice by half. Thickened with a white roux. Until a perfect sauce consistency (it should coat the back of the spoon); called nape’. Let the roux simmer until starchiness was gone (this takes about fifteen minutes and you should be able to taste the difference as the starch is cooked out) and added heavy cream to finish (about 4 oz/pint). This is also known as Sauce Americon. Turn to low and went to work on the spuds. Six Idaho Russet Potatoes peeled and small diced. Simmered until fork tender. Drained very very well of the simmering water, I placed the nuggets of starchy goodness in the Kitchen Aid and began to whip the hell out of them. Normally, this is when I would add a little bit of warmed cream and butter, but this time I add a steady stream of Lobster Stock (Sauce Americon) to the whipping spuds. A tear rolled down my cheek as the potatoes turned a fluffy mass of pure love. It was perfect, but before I could serve them there was one more element to add. The Lobster Meat. What! Waste that meat in potatoes? Yes, it was a little much, but it was just the way it was supposed to be.
I imagine if God made whipped potaoes he would make Lobster Whipped.
School is in full swing and I have been slacking on the blog, but here is a dessert I did for a ladies lunchen. Well the truth is I did the dessert and with the extreme cold they canceled due to safty concerns. I had these little jewels ready to go, so I shared with some of the school’s staff and faculty.
What I did was take a cookie cutter and cut two same size disks from a sheet of puff dough. Then cut a smaller shape out of the middle of one of the puff dough disks. Egg washed the top of the whole one and glued the two together. Docked (made many small holes ) in the center of the bottom disk and baked until golden brown. While baking I took thawed strawberries in juice and sprinkled with sugar and a good douche of Grand Marnier. Stir them a couple of times carfully to not break down the berries. Cover and put in the cooler.
Next I made a classic pastry cream. The same filling that is in a Bismark doughnut of an eclair. After the puff dough cups were almost room tempeture a melted some apricot glaze to brush over the cups. The apricot glaze gives 3 great benifits to the puff cups.
- Adds a protection to the baked dough from staling or absorbing humitity.
- Is a pretty laquer “look” to the dessert. A real pro look.
- It is a sweet and flavorful taste. WOW! With that much benefit why wouldn’t everyone use it? It is a commercial product. Sorry!
Anyway I filled each cup with the pastry cream and topped wth the marinated strawberries and a side of lightly sweetened whip cream. To finish the plate. The juice that was left in the bowl was the perfect consistancy to use on the plate. It was garnish, flavor and a great contrast of color. Plus I love the way that the rich strawberry juice laced with Grande Marnier can be soaked up with the crunchy puff dough.
I must say that a life of no joy would be a waste; let’s call tonight’s joy a Manhattan. A Manhattan can simply be defined as a whiskey martini, artistry in motion or as my mother would say “an elegant way to take a shot”.
The basic recipe is two shots of a fine whiskey or bourbon, shaken up or on the rocks a 1/2 shot of sweet vermouth and a cherry to garnish. I also like a heavy handed splash of cherry juice. Nectar of the gods. A sweet butt kicking drink that if is created with the right booze will be smooth as velvet. I prefer mine “up”. “On the rocks” is more common, but hell, why go common!
The best Manhattan I have ever had was a Crown Royal shaken hard with a fresh sweet vermouth. If I could have crawled into the glass and bathed in it, I would have, it was that good.
After a student today was talking about different shows on the food network he mentioned a No Reservation with Tony B. where he was in France and drinking absithe; was great and interesting. Could I offer anything to the conversation? I had not seen Tony under the influence of this beverage of folklore. Absinthe was a hit with the free thinking artists of Europe during the early 20th century. For the past 80+ years it has been against the law to sell or buy this licorice flavored beverage with bitter under tones in America. Why? Simple because this strong libation is laced with a mild hallucinogenic poison derived from wormwood. A fan of many of histories greatest most creative minds, such as Goya, Oscar Wilde, and my favorite Ernst Hemingway, I’ve long been curious to experience the beverage.
I failed to mention that the students’ conversation about Absithe reminded me that several years ago an employee picked up a 1/5th for my enjoyment while he was traveling in France. I had forgot that this bottle of delicate narcotics had traveled in box 2000 miles from the west coast to the Midwest without a thought of what it could offer in the form of research. Before now, I had opened the bottle but had never had a drink. Tonight was the night. A virgin experience! For flavor it wasn’t too bad. I love black licorice.
It is said that true absinthe will makes you see green fairies. The absinthe brought to me from France was not true absinthe but a version called Absente, as you can see from the label. Made with a different type of wormwood, not the “grande” wormwood of true absinthe, it is one of the forms of absinthe that is legal to enjoy in the U.S.
I was asked this question today:
“I’ve been meaning to ask you how to make a cheese sauce. Mine always turn out a failure. I can’t get the cheese and whatever I’m mixing with it to make it cream to homogenize for more than ten minutes. My dad keeps telling me to use Velveeta, but I want to know how to make something that, you know, is real. So I can say to people “I made this with a 12-year-old aged Gouda” instead of “I threw Velveeta in the microwave.” Help me, Chef Klink, you’re my only hope.”
So what is it that makes cheese sauces break (definition: the separation of fat and protein. It is easy to spot, as the oil floats on top while the nasty looking goo lurks underneath). Simple, it is science. Or Escoffier. What’s important to remember is that a starch will fix a cheese sauce and keep it from looking nasty. Sure you could use a “Cheese Food” which will remain un-named at this point (who knows? I may someday need to ask Kraft for a grant!), but a cheese food product will limit the flavor and scope of your sauces.
Without writing for hours about why a starch works or if and how it falls under classical application, I will say this is the simplest of the possible solutions. The base sauce or the “Mother Sauce” as I teach my students is béchamel. It is a simple sauce of scalded milk, cream or 1/2 & 1/2; sauted minced onions; thickened with a roux that is cooked until it is at a light white color stage.
Roux is a 50/50 mix of fat and flour worked together until smooth. Escoffier wrote that roux should look like sand at low tide. 50/50 is easier to think about when first working with this thickener. I use clarified butter and an all purpose flour. A healthier version can be accomplished by using olive oil as your fat source.
- Saute 2 tablespoons of shallots in a little oil (whichever one you choose for your roux) until transparent.
- Deglaze with about 2 oz of white wine.
- Bring back to a simmer; add your dairy.
- Scald (heat to 180 degrees).
- Add your roux (watch the tempature. If you just made it it could be to hot. If it is to cold it could lump).
- Slowly whip in the roux. About 2 Tablespoons per pint of dairy.
- Cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat.
Now for the cheese. Different cheese textures will fulfill different needs; so for today I will use a Mornay Sauce. A Mornay Sauce is a swiss cheese sauce. It goes great on everything from pasta to seafood. Finely grate your swiss into a bowl while your béchamel cooks; about a cup per pint. Sprinkle with a little white wine. The acid will breakdown the cheese proteins. Add a little of the hot béchamel to the bowl to tempur; now whip into the béchamel that is still in the pot. Season with a pinch (very small amount) of nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. The sauce should be a little thicker then cold heavy cream. Cheddar cheese will work similarly but omit the wine and whip the grated cheese into the béchamel. Softer fattier cheeses may need a little higher ratio of flour to your roux mix. After all of that; the roux is the answer to how to make a “good” cheese sauces that keep from breaking and avoid the dreaded fake processed cheese that “works” every time.
!!! Remember that the flour binds the fat and protien!!!
If you have any questions on this or any other food hurdle please ask. I will do my best to explain it. Thanks for reading!