Thursday, July 23, 2009

Brown Butter Ice Cream, or, how to make ice cream in a blender


I'm a bit ice cream crazy right now.  Not that I really needed to point out something that's out there for the world to see, both here on the blog and on my twitter feed.  I blame it all on summer, and on that David Lebovitz.  It's his new book, The Perfect Scoop, that's got everything churning, eating and talking ice cream!  If you haven't got it yet, I'd get one, immediately. His recipe for Malted Milk Ice Cream -which my friend The Amateur Gourmet Adam loved so much he composed a song about it on his blog- is what's on my dessert menu this weekend.   

Ice cream is not, however, my only infatuation of the moment.  I've also gone mad about brown butter.  For this I blame Jeffrey Steigarten and his brown butter article in Vogue a month or two ago.  (It doesn't appear to be online so I couldn't link to it, sorry.)  In it, Jeffrey not only sang praises, no, composed odes, to brown butter.  He also gave an ingenious cookie recipe from a friend in Thailand, which I'm going to try very soon.

The French name of brown butter, beurre noisette, came from the wonderful hazelnut aroma that develops after the butter has been melted and cooked until golden brown.  It adds such an intense aroma and wonderful flavor to pretty much anything.  Most of the flavor in brown butter comes from caramelized fat solids, the brown bits floating in the sea of golden butter.  Though most refined French recipe calls for straining the brown butter before use, I find that if the brown butter is cooked correctly, that is to say it's not overly burnt, it's actually better to leave the brown solids in it.  (Michael Ruhlman did a thorough piece on brown butter a while back, go there if you need more information on this.)  

My brown butter ice cream recipe is a result of an experiment.  Or perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a quest: one to see how much brown butter I can get away with adding into a pretty classic, basic ice cream base recipe.  I want my brown butter ice cream to actually taste like brown butter, not just hinting at it.  I also don't want any other flavoring that would interfere with the pure flavor of brown butter, so you won't find gratuitous vanilla or brown sugar or anything of the sort here.  It's just ice cream base and brown butter.   The amount I ended up with is the ratio of 1:3 butter to other dairy, that is to say, a @#$% load.  (Yes, that is a technical term.)  

How do I go about blending 8oz of liquid fat into an ice cream base?  With a blender.  Yes, your regular old blender.  It does the work for you with no sweat at all.  The result? Smooth, creamy ice cream that is unmistakably brown butter-y.  So easy I can say it's almost fool-proof.  Try it and you'll see how beautifully it works.  This method has been working so well I'm now fantasizing about how to use all kinds of other liquid fat in my ice cream.  That olive oil gelato, like the one I love so much at Otto, might just be next.  

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Thyme Flower Ice Cream - glace aux fleurs de thym


There is something magical about herb flowers.  Don't you agree?  They are like a softer, more feminine, and altogether prettier version of the herbs themselves.  It's a pity they are not used more often in the kitchen.  That might perhaps be because they are not easy to come by, if you buy herbs at the store you probably wouldn't see the flowers.  Most commercial growers - or even the more diligent of home gardeners - snip them right off as soon as they appear, to prevent the herbs going to seeds and die.  But if you're one of the lucky ones with an herb pot or two growing by the window, or better yet a patch of herbs in your garden, try letting a few go to flower, you'll love the results.  Rosemary flowers are great sprinkled over meat dishes, especially the ones cooked with the herb already.  I love using cilantro flowers in salads, they work wherever I'd use regular cilantro leafs.  And my current favorite, thyme flowers.  

Most people think of thyme as a rather strong herb, suitable for something equally strong, like lamb chops.  I beg to differ, use judiciously, thyme can be subtle and don't overpower more delicate dishes like fish or even -wait for it- ice cream.  Yes, ice cream.

I'd take credit for coming up with this brilliant idea but, as Goethe purportedly said, there's nothing new under the sun.  I remember having an ice cream made with thyme flowers in France years ago.  I also remember tremendously enjoying the deliciously creamy, old-fashioned custard-based ice cream and being delighted by the unexpected and savory flavor of thyme in it.  

So, when my thyme bloomed this year, I set out to replicate that ice cream.


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pad Krapow Moo - spicy stir-fried pork with Thai holy basil


I have Bai Krapow growing in my garden.  They are called Holy Basil around these parts.  I put two itty-bitty starts in the ground four weeks ago, and they now look so happy and thriving I've decided it's time to harvest some.  So last night I did.  I made a favorite fast Thai dish, Pad Krapow, which is basically a spicy stir-fry with the holy basil as the star flavor of the show.  

Pad Krapow is a ubiquitous fast food dish in Thailand.  You can walk into just about any food shack on any street corner and ask for Pad Krapow, they'll make one for you.  You can also have it with just about any protein you want, pork (minced or cut into bite size chunks), chicken (ditto), beef (yup, ditto too), or even tofu.  Some people like to add cut up onions or sweet bell peppers to add a little more interest to the dish.  But the best thing about it, besides being really delicious, is that it's so simple to make you hardly need a recipe.  So I'm not going to give you one.  Instead I'll tell you how you can easily make it at home.  If you can't find Bai Krapow or Holy Basil, you can even use the regular Thai basil you can find at any Asian markets near you.  In which case you'll technically be making Pad Horapa (Stir-fry with Thai Basil) instead of Pad Krapow (Stir-fry with Holy Basil), but it'll be good just the same.  

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Lard, your fat of choice?


Going through the pictures I took in New Orleans, I stumbled upon this cute sign inside the fantastic Kitchen Witch bookstore in the French Quarter.  It got me thinking about lard.  Even with renaissance of our love affair with pork, I don't hear much about lard as the fat of choice in our cooking.  I myself love lard.  When I was growing up in Thailand, there was always a crock of home-rendered lard right above the gas stove, from which our cook would scoop up the semi-congealed fat by the ladle every time she stir-fried or deep-fried something.  If I had a choice, my last meal would be crisp Thai-style omelette fried in lard, on top of fragrant steamed Jasmine rice with lots of Sriracha (see-ra-sha) sauce.  It had to be lard, of course, because other fat would not fry the eggs as fluffy and as crisp.

What about you?  Are you, too, happy because you eat lard?  Or are you afraid of it?  What's your fat of choice in your cooking, and why?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Rachel's Yogurt and Cottage Cheese, et moi


I have yet another exciting news. Yes, yes, I know I’m full of news this week. Besides the launch of my book in the UK this week (more on this and a giveaway tomorrow) plus the announcement that the US vesion is coming out on September 1st and to be followed pretty much immediately by the German (German!) version, I also have yet another fun project. I’m partnering with Rachel’s to help launch the new line of cottage cheese and yogurt.


My life as a foodie is all about having fun with food, about trying new things, and about expanding our foodie horizon. It’s also about eating food that’s good for us, and about making smart choices that respect the environment. That’s precisely what Rachel’s products are all about, and that’s why I’ve found such synergy in working with them. 

Rachel’s products are all natural and contains live yogurt cultures. They don’t use dairy producs with rBST growth hormone, nor is there anything you can’t spell or pronounce on the label. But the products are not just about being good for you, it’s also about having fun, trying new, exotic flavors, adding a little excitement to your day.  (Oh, and, speaking of a little extra frisson in your day, we have a little contest at the end of this post so be sure to read on - the winners get yogurt and my new book! So read on!)

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Monday, June 01, 2009

New Orleans Pralines


You didn’t think I forgot I had a blog, did you?  Well, I almost did.  With all the trips and the non-piggie Flu I picked up along the way, I’ve been neglecting the space here for quite a while.  (If you’re following me on Twitter you’ve heard it all before.)  Sorry.  But I’m back, and I brought you a pretty cool souvenir from the road, an amazing (and amazingly easy) recipe for true New Orleans pralines.  For me, one of the best things about traveling is learning how to cook local specialties so that I can bring that taste home with me and recreate it when I want to.  So imagine my delight when Ms.Linda and her husband Peter (my friend Josh's dad) invited me over to their place to make pralines with them.

First, we must get something straight.  I don’t care where you are in -or even out- of the country, you’ll need to learn how to pronounce the word right - and by ‘right’ I meant the way they do in New Orleans.  Repeat after me.  PRAA-leans.  Not praa-LEANS, or PRAY-leens.  And definitely not PRAA-lynes.  Got that?

Ok, now that we know how to pronounce it properly, it’s time I confess something.  This recipe makes textbook-perfect New Orleans pralines, yes, but it’s actually not from New Orleans!  Ms.Linda -she’s a proper Southern Lady so it’s Ms.Linda to you and me- said she got the recipe from “a Greyhound Man in Mississippi”.  I was hoping that she would say she got it from a man she met on a grayhound bus in Mississipi, wouldn't it be such a fun story?  Alas, no, she just got it from a man who worked there.

Still, the recipe makes pretty perfect New Orleans pralines, and I learned it when I was New Orleans, so it’s New Orleans Pralines to me.  (Oh, and, yes, if you bought any marmalade from my last batch on Etsy, you got some of these tucked into the box.)

The recipe is so easy you won't believe me until you try it yourself.  

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chicken porn (Thai grilled chicken, Gai Yang)

gai yang

Well, it's actually just a Gai Yang, or Thai grilled chicken.  But it does look mildly obscene, don't you agree?  The poor innocent chicken, stripped bare and spread out in a rather immodest position for all the world to see.  It's also quite immoderately delicious, and inordinately easy to do.

There's a term for this flatten out chicken, it's called "spatchcock".  To spatchcock a chicken is to remove its backbone and flatten it out before cooking.  I doubt the folks grilling the chickens on the street in Bangkok know the proper culinary term, but this is precisely how they do it over there.  It makes things a whole lot easier to do a whole chicken on the grill.  I also think that it normalizes cooking time so that the breasts, legs, and thighs finish cooking at about the same time.  I've never had dried out breasts and undercooked thighs when grilled like this over low fire.

This chicken got a Thai seasoning rubbed all over and let marinated for a bit.  It doesn't take that long, really, just prepare the chicken before you set your barbecue afire.  By the time the fire dies down enough to cook the chicken, the marinade will have done its job.

In Thailand, a grilled chicken like this is usually served with two sauces: one is often referred to as "grilled-chicken sauce", which is basically a sweetish chili sauce you can buy in a bottle, and the other is a Jaew sauce, which is basically this dressing I used in my Ugly Salad post last week.  You can use either, or both, or none at all. 

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jazz Fest Love

ecstasy at jazz fest

ecstasy at jazz fest

ecstasy at jazz fest

ecstasy at jazz fest

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pebble Beach Food & Wine, see you this weekend?

Pebble Beach Food and Wine  

I'm going to be here this weekend.  See you there?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The best chocolate chips cookies ever?

Once in a while, along comes a recipe that changes the name of the game.  Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe published by Mark Bittman in the NY Times two years ago was one.  It got so many cooks - who hitherto dared not touch yeast bread - to fashion themselves a veritable French boulanger, baking loafs after loafs of crackly, crusty bread, and even turning more than a few of them into petty thieves.  Then, a few months ago, the Times struck again, this time with a chocolate chips cookies recipe that purported to be no less than perfection itself.

The key to that recipe?  A little patience, said the indomitable David Leite who penned the piece.  Let me just tell you that it was quite an understatement.  Unlike the good Mr.Leite, I don't live in a world where restraining oneself from devouring, entirely raw, the whole batch of chocolate chips cookie dough during the 36 hours called for in the recipe constitutes a little patience.  And not just any chocolate chips cookie dough, mind you, but one so rich, so deliciously salty-sweet, and so -ever, ever so- tempting.  In my world, chocolate chips cookie dough can speak.  And it's calling my name - the whole, half a box of scrabble's worth of alphabets in my name.

So, did I give in, you asked?  Of course I did.  Although not entirely, I should give myself credit.  I waited 24 hours before I baked my first small batch, and the rest managed to last the 36 hours required.  And, no, no, that little elf that kept sneaking into the fridge to steal mini bites of the cookie dough was not me.  Not me at all.  It must have been my cat Ella, in her human/elven suit.  True story.

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