Sunday

Recipe for Fresh Pasta (Homemade Noodles)



THESE ARE THE NOODLES that I made to accompany the boeuf bourguignon earlier this week. This is my own recipe: as far as I know, Julia Child never gave a recipe for fresh pasta or homemade noodles.

THIS RECIPE requires a pasta maker.
  • 1    cup Durum semolina (see Tips and Techniques, below)
  • 1    cup all-purpose flour (or another cup of semolina and additional liquid)
  • 3    whole eggs, beaten lightly  
  • 1    TB olive oil
  •        pinch of salt
  •        a spoonful or two of water, if necessary
MIX the dry ingredients, make a well in the centre and pour in the eggs and the oil. Mix with the fingers until everything is combined, adding drops of water if necessary to make a firm but cohesive dough. Doughs made with semolina require more liquid than those made with durum flour or regular flour.

TURN the dough onto a counter and knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and silky.  Semolina dough is rather stiff.

NOTE: You will learn the feel by experience: luckily, if your first sheet doesn't turn out you can re-mix the batch, adding a drop more water if it's too dry and breakable or a spoonful more flour if it's too wet and sticky, and letting it rest again. It's not like pie dough: you can't ruin it by handling it!

DIVIDE the dough into 8 equal parts, flatten them a bit, put them on a floured tray and cover them with plastic while they rest, for about half an hour. (This will relax the gluten.)

INSTALL the pasta machine and follow its directions for sheeting and cutting the pasta. (I put it through No. 1 seven times, through 2 to 5 just once; I leave it at No. 5 for cutting into fettucine.)

Let the sheets dry a bit on a floured cloth before putting them through the cutter; they will stick less that way. If the room is too warm, cool the dough before cutting it.

Coat the noodles with lots of flour or corn starch to prevent them from sticking. Shake off the excess before plunging into boiling water.

(You don't have to make noodles with the whole batch. Lasagna and ravioli are just two of the other dishes you can make with your own fresh pasta.)

COOKING THE PASTA. Even though many recipes say that fresh pasta only requires seconds to cook, I find that it needs the same amount of time as regular pasta from the store – i.e., about 15 minutes. I'm probably doing something wrong, but I've been doing the same wrong thing with the same great results for about thirty years!

Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at HomeGET THIS BOOKif you're serious about fresh pasta and noodles – and other authentic Italian home cooking. The fresh pasta chapter has 34 recipes!

Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home (by Mario Batali) is one of my favourites cookbooks of all time – and if you go by the customer reviews, I'm not the only fan.




TIPS AND TECHNIQUES

DURUM SEMOLINA. Durum semolina (and Durum flour) come from a special variety of high-protein wheat by that name; it's mostly grown in Canada. Durum flour is just finely ground semolina.

I use Durum semolina for all my pastas. They taste better and don't fall apart. 

I buy it at the bulk store, but it's usually available at health food stores and gourmet grocery stores.

I prefer the semolina over the flour because it keeps a little longer, but basically they're interchangeable. Both are sometimes called for in other Italian recipes, such as pizza and bread. Once you start stocking it you'll be looking for other ways of using it because you will love the distinct flavour it imparts!

In Italy, all pastas are made from 100% Durum semolina – just read any imported pasta label.

Semolina is more expensive than regular wheat flour: I have found that adding all-purpose flour in the proportion indicated in this recipe retains the quality while keeping down the cost.

If you use Durum flour instead of semolina, you may need to adjust the liquid.

Durum semolina and Durum flour should be kept in the refrigerator, as they tend to go rancid otherwise.

Saturday

I Test Boeuf Bourguignon In The Slow Cooker And With Noodles

*** SEE UPDATE HERE ***

GOOGLE HAS MORE THAN 50 PAGES on the subject of boeuf bourguignon and 40-plus on "beef bourguignon", prepared in the slow cooker (a.k.a. crockpot/crock pot), so I concluded there must be some demand out there for simplifying the preparation of that dish.

I don't know about you, but I don't find it easier to cook with a slow cooker, and that's why I  hardly ever use it even though I've had one for years. My experience with it is limited to the cooking of dried beans, chick peas, whole yellow peas, and chicken stock. I like the way the beans and peas get really soft without falling apart.

So I went hunting for a beef bourguignon slow cooker recipe, limiting my search to a couple of reliable websites. Actually, all I wanted was a cooking time. I already had a very good beef bourguignon recipe for conventional cooking methods.


I used pretty well the same ingredients and recipe as the first one I gave here, with these differences:
  • I used my own salt pork for the lardoons, instead of bacon like the last time;
  • I added a few chopped tomatoes, which I had omitted last time (adds depth to the flavour);
  • The wine I used was Beaujolais Nouveau, instead of Pinot Noir (not a great idea);
  • There was more sauce, so I had to double the amount of beurre manié to thicken the sauce;
  • I served it with buttered noodles, instead of herbed potatoes. Next day I had it with rice – the noodles are definitely a better fit.
Both recipes gave the cooking time as 8 to 10 hours, so I figured that was the correct time.

How did it turn out?

So-so. I didn't like the texture of the meat; I guess it was overcooked because it was too dry. I didn't like the taste of the sauce either. It wasn't "my" boeuf bourguignon.

I'm not giving up though. I know folks are wanting to use their slow cooker for this dish, and rightfully so – so I'm going to start hunting for a way of making a perfect beef bourguignon in the slow cooker.

UPDATE: I kept my promise! Click here to see the excellent recipe I found.


Hmm.. a bit blurry... next time I'll use a tripod!


What did turn out great, though, was Julia Child's suggestion of serving boeuf bourguignon with buttered noodles instead of potatoes.

That rather complicated the recipe for me, because there's no place around here to buy fresh pasta, so I had to make the noodles from scratch.

I wasn't going to give you the recipe, I was just going to say, "Buy or make some fresh pasta", but then I remembered trying a new recipe once, from a website that I thought I could trust, and it was just awful.

Come back tomorrow for the recipe, or sign up for the email updates and you'll get it right in your inbox.



TIPS AND TECHNIQUES


Lardons. This is what lardons (or "lardoons") look like. You start with salt pork belly, which you slice then cut into little sticks. Simmer in water for a few minutes to get rid of the excess salt, then fry in their own fat till golden and crisp.

They're better than potato chips – and just as hard to resist!


Beurre manié. I mentioned in another post that beurre manié was easier to mix on a plate. Well, it is. 

This is what it should look like after you have mixed the butter and flour into a paste with a fork.

Thursday

A Brunch To Remember

I'VE STOPPED ASKING MYSELF why all my travel memories have to do with food.

Because they're so vivid,  I can recall them ever so clearly. A few years ago, I won a prize at journalism school for an article I wrote about a meal I had in the Peruvian Andes... in 1976.

My latest such memory has to do with brunch at the Algonquin Resort in Saint-Andrews-by-the-Sea (New Brunswick), this past summer.  I was returning from a week in Charleston, South Carolina, where I had several first-class meals, yet no other meal stuck in my memory like that brunch.

It consisted of two exquisite crab cakes, which were surmounted by a slice of Canadian bacon, topped by a fluffy poached egg bathed in a divine hollandaise sauce. This was accompanied by the best home fries I've ever had, some lightly toasted homemade bread, a cup of fresh chopped melon and three little jars of imported jams and marmalades. Of course the coffee was superb.

See for yourself:

Saturday

All I Want for Christmas Is... Tortilla Flour


IF THERE'S A MEXICAN COOK living in New Brunswick, I don't know where she gets her corn tortilla flour (also known as masa harina, or by the trademark name Maseca), but I haven't been able to find any. No ready-made corn tortillas either.

I asked my brother to send me some. He lives in Montreal and never knows what to get me for Christmas, so I'm sure he was delighted.

I moved back from Mexico six years ago, but I never got over my yearning for Mexican food, and flour tortillas (the kind they use for "wraps" here) just don't cut it for me.

Now I will get to use the tortilla press I brought back from Mexico – it was the first thing I packed when I moved back to Canada. I keep checking it, to make sure it isn't rusting.

Therefore, this year, while you're having roast turkey I'll be having a great big dish of green chicken enchiladas. I can't wait.

Would you like the recipe?

Friday

What IS Boeuf Bourguignon, Anyway?

NOW THAT YOU HAVE at least three Boeuf Bourguignon recipes, don't you want to know what it is that makes this beef "Bourguignon" (meaning "from Burgundy"), rather than, say, "Bordelais" ("from Bordeaux") or some other French place?

I THOUGHT, is it because you have to make it with a wine from the Burgundy region? A sort of natural assumption, don't you think?

MY TRUSTY 1961 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique (The encyclopedia of food, wine and cooking, by Prosper Montagné [with Preface by Auguste Escoffier])  supplied the answer.

FIRST, let me tell you that there is no listing for "boeuf bourguignon" in the index. But there are two for "à la bourguignonne". The first one refers you to the article on "Burgundy" (on page 185), which I quote:

The cuisine of Burgundy is of the same level of excellence as its wines: it is all at once powerful and delicate, created for healthy appetites and strong stomachs. "This cuisine is not concerned with dishes made out of nothing except for the charm of an ingenious seasoning, exquisite but misleading works of art. What it needs first and foremost is a substantial and strong foundation, which demands rich accompaniments and vigorous sauces." (Report in Touring Club.)
   We are, however, beholden to this excellent cuisine for a method of preparation called à la bourguignonne.
   It is used mainly for large cuts of braised meat (also for eggs, fish and poultry). Its main features are a red wine sauce and a garnish composed of mushrooms, little onions and lardoons (the latter are omitted when preparing fish.

The second listing, on page 449, in the section on Garnishes, reads as follows:

   A la bourguignonne I – Small glazed onions; whole or quartered mushrooms, sautéed in butter; salt (pickled) pork, diced, blanched and browned.
   Uses: For large cuts of meat, especially beef.

   A la bourguignonne II – Exactly the same as the previous garnish, but without the pork.
   Uses: For braised fish.

Now we both know.

NOTE: there's a brand-new edition of the  Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia, Completely Revised and Updated

Sunday

Julie & Julia Stirs Up Nostalgia And Leaves Me Wanting More

Julie & Julia [Blu-ray]Last night, sitting on my favourite chair with my feet up on my red stability ball (makes a great hassock!), I slipped the DVD into my laptop and watched Julie & Julia – at last.

This morning,  I googled "Julie and Julia" for some material about the film, and up popped the Toronto Globe and Mail's review by Warren Clements, titled "Julie & Julia will leave you hungry for more."

That's an interesting coincidence: this morning, as I tried to think of a title for this review, reliving how I felt after watching it, the impression that kept coming to mind was that it had left me wanting more – not more of the movie, not more food: more of Julia Child herself.

As an amateur cook who had the nerve to open a French restaurant in a small Ontario town in 1972, I didn't really need a French cookbook in English as a source of recipes: after all, I was French-speaking, I had access to "real" French cookbooks, and I had lived in Montreal most of my life where food is practically a religion. 

In Montreal, as a downtown office worker I had eaten lunch in French restaurants nearly every weekday. (I remember my delight when cervelle au beurre noir (brains in brown butter) was one of the daily specials.) Socially, I had been invited to French and Belgian friends' homes for dinner regularly where I would watch as the paupiettes de veau and the endives au gratin were being prepared.

But mostly I had lived in France for several months in the late Sixties (where I boarded with a French family) and so I had experienced directly the whole French food thing.

Still, Julia Child was a constant presence in that little restaurant, in 1972. Yes, we cooked some of her recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking and later, when From Julia Child's Kitchen came out, we used her recipe for whole wheat bread word for word in the restaurant. (See my earlier post about this.)

But that's not the real reason that Julia Child was important to the success of the restaurant. It was because the customers had read Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or seen The French Chef  TV series on PBS, or heard about them, maybe even cooked from them. My puritanical anglosaxon clientele had become aware that French food existed, and so when I opened the Auberge du Petit Prince in 1972, I feel that Julia had paved the way for it to become the instant hit that it was.

Like the movie last night, she had left them wanting more.

Thursday

A Cooking Tip

Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet AccompanimentsI'VE BEEN EXPERIMENTING with homemade ice cream recipes.

Yesterday, I tried a new coffee ice cream recipe from Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments (my current favourite ice cream cookbook), but I had to throw away the whole batch because the heavy cream that I used had an off-taste.

How could I anticipate that? The expiry date was weeks away.

I didn't realize the problem until I tried to make maple syrup-flavoured whipped cream with the rest of the carton. It tasted awful so I sniffed the carton and eeww!

So here's a bit of advice: don't just check the expiry date – sniff and taste every ingredient before using it!

Sunday

"From Julia Child's Kitchen": A Book Review, a Bit of Bread Nostalgia, and a Chocolate Substitution Table

From Julia Child's KitchenBY THE WAY I keep referring to this book you may have guessed that From Julia Child's Kitchen is one of my favourites. In fact, it has been – ever since it came out, in 1975.

I had been in the restaurant business for a mere three years by then, and we were looking for something to distinguish our restaurant even more than it already was – by then it was already rated as one of the best in Canada – and we found it in Julia's Basic Rye or Whole Grain Bread Recipe on page 454.

We made the whole grain version fresh every day, and served it alongside an excellent crusty loaf supplied by a local Portuguese bakery.

That whole grain bread is as good today as it was then, in spite of all the new books, methods, recipes and websites dedicated to what is now called artisan bread.

There's an excellent review of From Julia's Kitchen on amazon.com (you can access it by clicking on the picture, above) and I won't even try to improve on it, except to add that I think it's the only place in the world where you can find complete directions on how to substitute cocoa for chocolate.

Here it is:

SUBSTITUTIONS: WHEN YOUR RECIPE CALLS FOR ONE KIND OF CHOCOLATE AND YOU HAVE ANOTHER

When you want unsweetened baking chocolate and you have cocoa:

For each ounce of chocolate required, blend 3 level tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, shortening or cocoa butter (buy it at the pharmacy).

When you want semisweet baking chocolate and you have cocoa:

Proceed as above, but add 3 tablespoons sugar.

When you want semisweet chocolate and have only unsweetened chocolate:

To make 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate, use 2 ounces unsweetened chocolae, 7 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, shortening or cocoa butter.

When your recipe calls for a name-brand "sweet chocolate", like German's, Dutch, Eagle, or a French brand:

Use regular semisweet baking chocolate, either just as it is, or enrich it with a little unsweetened chocolate – 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate for every 3 or 4 ounces of semisweet.

TIPS AND TECHNIQUES

1. Never hesitate to substitute cocoa for chocolate by using the above guidelines: these recipes for unsweetened chocolate substitute, bittersweet chocolate substitute and sweet chocolate substitute work really well for any recipe calling for either product. Sometimes, the taste is even improved, especially if you use butter instead of shortening or cocoa butter.

2.  Did you know that you can also substitute chocolate for cocoa powder? Hot chocolate can be made with practically any type of chocolate. It melts faster if you chop it first and it gets nice and frothy if you mix it with a hand blender. Adjust sugar to taste.

3. Speaking of cocoa powder, forget about buying hot chocolate mix! Why pay cocoa price for sugar and a bunch of chemicals? I think the reason people buy that junk is because folks have forgotten how to use cocoa – a technique which my generation learned at our mother's knee. Here it is:

-- While the milk is heating, mix the cocoa and the sugar in your cup with a spoonful of cold milk. (The proportions are 1 TB cocoa and 2 TB sugar per cup.)

-- Mix to a paste with a spoon.

-- Pour in the hot milk gradually, stirring constantly.

If you own a hand blender, perform the above operation in the blender's cup, then whir the mixture till you get a nice froth.

Serve in a beautiful mug with mini marshmallows on top – better yet, a dollop of whipped cream – maybe a sprinkling of cocoa or cinnamon, or try some chili powder.

4. There's cocoa, and then there's cocoa. Check out this Cook's Illustrated article about the different kinds of cocoa powder, and how they rated in a taste test.

5. If you're looking for a substitute for chocolate because of health reasons, carob powder is all there is... it's definitely inferior and you sure won't get the same buzz!

6. Recent recipes are likely to call for a certain percentage of cacao; in that case try to approximate it by using the above table as a guide.

I find the above especially useful because I always have cocoa powder around; I buy it in large quantity at the bulk store – it keeps better than chocolate and there's no temptation to eat it!
   
Print out this list so it'll be handy when you run out of chocolate and all you have is cocoa.

Saturday

Brown Beef Stock in Six Simple Steps

DID YOU NOTICE that all the beef bourguignon recipes call for beef stock? You just can't get that rich beef flavour without it.

I know, you can now buy both chicken and beef stock in that awful Tetrapak packaging (do you know it's not recyclable?), and it looks real enough. I mean, Rachael Ray uses it, and so do all the celebrity chefs on the food channel, so it must be good, right?

It's okay, but in their own restaurant kitchens, real-life chefs have a helper who makes all the stocks, and there's a reason for it: it's much, much better than anything you can buy. Not to mention a lot cheaper, because it's made with scraps, leftovers and vegetables that are no longer fresh enough to serve, like limp carrots. In my own restaurants, we always made all our own stocks.

AFTER my cross-rib roast shopping spree (the one that propulsed this whole blog), once I had the freezer stocked with 20 lbs of ground meat and 8 nice little pot roasts for four, I had all those lovely trimmings of fat, gristle and meat, so of course I made brown beef stock, (also known as beef broth, bouillon and consommé).

You will see from these pictures how easy it is!



Step 1. You need beef scraps, fat, gristle, (bones if you have any), a couple of unpeeled onions, halved, a couple of stalks of celery, halved, two cloves of garlic, unpeeled.

Had I had some carrots around I would have added some (unpeeled, cut in two lengthwise and in two crosswise).

Are you thinking, "Oh my, so much fat!"? Don't worry. It's only there for the flavour. Once the stock is done, all of it will be removed.

I love using my big non-stick turkey roasting pan for this, because it's big enough to have everything in one layer, which is essential for proper browning.


Step 2. Place the roasting pan in a 450-degree (220°C) oven and roast until brown on top – check frequently.

Stir and return to oven until everything is a deep brown but not burned.


Push the ingredients aside: this is what the bottom should look like. This means that all the juices have caramelized enough.

Take the pan out of the oven and turn the temperature down to 325 degrees (160°C).


Step 3. Now, pour in COLD water gradually, scraping the brown bits until they're completely incorporated. Pour more cold water until everything is covered, and a bit more.

Add a sprinkling of thyme, two bay leaves, three peppercorns and two allspice berries (the latter is a secret I learned in Mexico).

Step 4. Bring to a boil on top of the stove, then place in 325-degree (160°C) for at least two hours. You could use the extra oven shelf for making a stew, roasting a chicken or baking potatoes.

ALTERNATIVELY, you could transfer all the ingredients to a stock pot, scrape the brown bits from the bottom with water, pour those juices into the stock pot, add water to the stock pot to cover, and simmer the stock on top of the stove for at least two hours.


Step 5. The stock is done. Note how much it has reduced: this is normal. Strain it through a fine sieve. Transfer it to a clean container and refrigerate overnight.

Step 6. See how the fat has congealed? Remove it with a slotted spoon. (If this were chicken fat, you could save it for making cookies.)

You now have a completely fat-free, slightly jellified brown beef bouillon. (With bones it would have jellified much more.)

By the way, it's important to remove the fat; otherwise, the stock will not keep well.

If you want a really clear stock, bring it to the boil and strain it again through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth.

At this point you have a beautiful, dark, fairly clear, but quite tasteless product.

Heat up a small quantity, add salt, and taste it. If it tastes like you could use it as is – with a  deep, beefy flavour – then it needs no further input.

If it's tasteless even after adding enough salt, you may have added too much water. Put it back on the stove and reduce it somewhat.

If what you want is a glace de viande, put it back on the stove and reduce it in half. (At that point you could freeze it in ice cube trays, then transfer it to a zippered bag, from where you could extract a cube or two when you want to use the real thing instead of a bouillon cube.)

Whatever you do, do not season it before storing it. If you're used to bouillon cubes, you'll find yourself adding more salt to your dishes than usual, but when you don't want the extra salt, it won't be there.

Don't you think it was worth the fifteen minutes or so of active preparation time? (The rest happened all by itself.)

So, apart from Beef Bourguignon, what would you make with your own home-made stock?

Friday

Boeuf Bourguignon, the Other Julia Child Version

AS PROMISED, here's the link to the version of Boeuf Bourguignon that appeared in From Julia Child's Kitchen in 1975.

The differences are subtle, but the instructions are much more precise.

In addition, even though in the earlier recipe she wrote that boiled potatoes are the classic accompaniment, she never mentions them in the new recipe. As she writes in the introduction to the "Plain Brown Stew" master recipe: "Although steamed potatoes are in the French tradition, I prefer rice or noodles with my stew." She then goes on to leave them out of the recipe, entirely.

Be that as it may, you really should try it with the potatoes I suggest in my own recipe.

What do YOU think?

Wednesday

The Julia Child Boeuf Bourguignon Recipes

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1
Did you notice the plural? 

YES, there is more than one Julia Child Boeuf Bourguignon recipe.

THERE'S the one published in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I, in 1961, and there's the one she published in 1975, in her lesser-known book, From Julia Child's Kitchen, which she wrote without the partipation of either of her previous co-authors, Simone Beck and Louise Bertholle.

IN THE latter book, she has a section on beef stews, and Boeuf Bourguignon is just one of six stew recipes.



BON APPÉTIT!

Monday

Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy Style)

I got this sudden urge to make Boeuf Bourguignon.

Nothing to do with Julie and Julia, which I haven't seen yet. It was the boneless cross-rib roast on special at the local SaveEasy: I was buying some to grind into hamburger meat, and then I thought I should buy an extra package and make a stew.

The only beef stew that came to mind was Boeuf Bourguignon, which is really funny since I hadn't made it since 1979, the year I sold my first restaurant and moved to Mexico.

I made it from memory and it was so fabulously good that I thought it should be my first recipe here.

Afterwards, I checked online recipes, and that's when I discovered that everybody who saw Julie and Julia wanted Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon recipe.

I didn't need the recipe (I own Mastering the Art of French Cooking and I confess that my bourguignon recipe is hugely inspired by it) – but I did order Julie and Julia from Zip.ca

CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE

 
WHAT ABOUT YOU ? Do you have a favourite beef bourguignon recipe?

Sunday

Welcome To The Cook's Corner Blog

Yes, Welcome to this new blog.

What will you find here? Well, everything related to good food: recipes, tips and techniques, growing your own, reviews, opinions... stuff gathered during my fifty years of eating and cooking, both personally and professionally.

You're also invited to visit my other website: http://www.my-green-home-project.com if you want to see some of the trouble I've been getting into since I gave up the restaurant business.

Be seeing you!