Recipes to Come

Happy New Year y Feliz Año Nuevo.

To Do: various recent recipes

  • Ajoblanco (White Garlic)
  • Omelette Francesa Deluxe (French Omelet Delux)
  • Mayonesa de Coliflor (Caulifower Mayonaisse)
  • Tempura Batter (for Cod / Bacaloa)
  • Conejo / Rabbit
  • Pork Loin
  • Scallops
See you soon; It's after lunch. Right now I'm headed for 1) a siesta and 2) a small party later

Fish Fumet

Made the Carrot Puree again (see below) but with less pepper and I forgot the garlic (!). As usual everyone raved about it - but that means I can't get any constructive criticism. Damn.

Am cooking for some other people this week (family) and went on a little spree - hopefully I actually bought enough of the correct stuff to combine it into decent meals.
Key purchases were the fresh cod (filleted) and the pulpo (octopus); which will become interest things over the next couple of days.

The first step was to make a fish fumet with the remains of the cod filleting (which I let the shop do - they're pretty good at it and I didn't bring my knives on this trip).

  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1/2 med onion chopped
  • 1 bunch leek (greens only) (some say whites only but I go with greens only as does Le Cordon Bleu)
  • parsely stalks (a little bundle)
  • 1 cod head (remove eyes, gills)
  • 1 cod spine (remains from filleting)
  • 1 laurel leaf
  • 1 small thyme stalk (fresh)
  • a bit of salt
You should sweat the veggies first, then sweat the fish bones and then proceed with te water an everything... but I just plum forgot. Oh silly me (turned out well anyway)
Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then simmer uncovered; skimming the skum; 1/1 hour.
Turn off, cover, and leave to go for a little drive on the new highway they open last week.
Return, bring back to a simmer and skim some more. Another 15 minutes go by and suddenly you notice it's changed from cloudyish to clear-ish. You're done. Don't cook too long at it can (and will) turn bitter (or so they say).
Haul out all the chucky bits and pour through a strainer (or chinois). Let it settle and gently pour off the clearest part from the top - not disturbing the crud that will have settled to the bottom.

Here you end up with fish fumet "gold" and will have to figure out something to use it in over the next couple or three days; as will I.

Appetizer: Eggs and Anchovies

This might be called a "pincho" if we were in the Basque country but we're in Galicia so it's just an appetizer.

Slice a baguette into pieces, thinish would be my recommendation.
Hard boiled egg - smash it up with
Anchovies - chopped
mix, and spread on the bread.

I would have liked maybe a little slice of roasted red peppers to top it off. And could have toasted the bread a little.

No foto - still having connectivity problems.

Sometimes Life is Simple: Steak

It was late, we'd been out shopping, then went to the Madrid city Christmas concert. So last night we just fried us up some steaks. 400 grams each (about 12 oz?) - and thick..
Got the frying pan out, splashed in a little olive oil (it´s a stainless steel pan - not non-stick). Heat on high until it's close as possible to smoking and the oil's real fluid and coats the pan easily. Toss in the steak -

  • cook side 1 for 1 minute to brown & carmelize,
  • side 2 for 1 minute,
  • lower the heat way low, turn the beast and cover the pan with a lid - wait 3 minutes,
  • turn & cover again - wait 2 minutes.
Cooking it covered is the alternative to sticking it in the oven for a few minutes at 170c. It cooks the meat through.

Thermomix: Carrot Puré (Puree)

Of course you all know what a Thermomix is, it's a blender with a built-in heating system. Cooks and stirs / blends at the same time! Quite unique one might say.

Today it was Carrot Puré (or is it puree?) - to use up stuff that I had in the vegetable box before it all went bad.

Ingredients: (all go in at once)

  • 500 gr carrots (peeled and chopped up some)
  • 3 leeks (white part only) (chopped up too)
  • 1 potato (peeled, raw [actually, I used 4 semi-minis])
  • 3 cloves garlic (smashed)
  • 2 T olive oil (1st cold pressed virgin 'cause we're basically `eating´ it)
  • 2 T veal stock powder concentrate (or cubes or whatever) (cheating)
  • 8 grains whole black pepper (actually, it was an assortment of colors that my sister had given me)
  • milk (to cover)

    Later when it was done I added:
  • 1 T ground white pepper
  • 1 dashing of nutmeg (fresh ground - but go easy with it)
  • salt, to taste, then a dash more
  • 2 T olive oil
  • milk (a little more to get a soupy consistancy) or cream, but I didn't have any
  1. Speed level 1 at 100C (this is a 1st generation machine so maybe about 5 on the new models - I'll have to research that some day)
  2. 20 minutes (okay, I forgot and it went for 40, no big deal)
  3. Try it and figure that it's too grainy
  4. 1-2 minutes at maximum speed to make it real fine
  5. Taste, decide it's too bland and carroty
  6. Add the second grounp of ingredients
Subtle carrot-leek taste; spicy from the pepper. Not meant as a whole big bowl of soup but more of a appetizer - a modest portion will do.

Alternative to the nifty machine: cook on the stove in a pot and attack at intervals (after 10 minutes to soften the veggies) with an immersion blender.

Fabada (Asturiana)

Yesterday I made Fabada - probably the 2nd best known dish of Spain after paella.
Basically it's a really excellent pork and beans.

Serves: 4 (maybe 6)

  • 500g dried Austurian Fabada beans (Fava beans, Butter beans)
  • 2 morcilla (spanish black sausage, not the rice version) 250g
  • 2 chorizo (sweet, not spicy, sausages) 250g
  • 250g pancetta (bacon) in one piece
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped very fine [or leave whole])
  • 1 pig's ear (or foot)
  • 1 large onion (whole)
  • 1 large carrot (whole)
  • bay leaf
  • saffron threads
Directions - short version
  1. Soak beans overnight
  2. Put all ingredients in a big pot (saffron at the end)
  3. Cook for 3 hours or so - don't boil it
  4. Remove onion, carrot, pig's ear, bayleaf, garlic (if whole)
Directions (and what I actually did):
  1. Soak beans in a bowl with lots of water (the dry beans should fill about 1/3 of the bowl and fill with water)
    8 hours. Overnight, the `book´ says 10-12 hours - depends of the beans
  2. If it's salted or smoked bacon you can soak that separatley
  3. I pricked the skin and boiled the chorizo for 2 miinutes to remove some of the intense red (paprika) color
  4. Discard water
  5. Put beans and all ingredients except the saffron into a very large pot (maybe a dutch oven, I used a glazed clay pot [barro]). Leave everything whole (althoough I quartered the onion 'cause it was huge).
  6. Cover with water (just barely). On a burner - high heat to start (I did 15 minutes). Some use chicken stock, maybe a light veal stock; I don't
  7. Skim off foam / skum (if any)
  8. Lower heat to medium, low, to avoid boiling - simmer only (to avoid breaking [smushing] the beans). Feel free to manipulate the heat level during cooking - I did)
    - Don't stir the pot - shake it instead (to avoid breaking the beans)
  9. Top up with water as required to keep the beans covered (to prevent them splitting)
    Or to kill the boiling action if it gets too active
    I put the timer on for 30 minute intervals to remember to check it
  10. Add a bunch of saffron threads when the beans seem to be `just about´ ready (I added them when I reheated it the next day)
  11. 3 hours (depends on the beans) - until they're tender
  12. Remove onion, carrot, pig's ear, bay leaf, whole garlic (everthing except the beans and meat)
  13. Leave to sit for 15 minutes (I left it overnight)

  14. Reheat in the same pot (which is when I added the saffron)

  15. If there's too much liquid (which is the case with mine) take a half cup of beans, puree them and return to the pot - to thicken the liquid (sauce)
That's it.

Roast Pork Loin

So I takes a little loin o' pork and try to figure out what to do with it.
Several seconds of research on chef2chef yield a half a dozen choices and I mix several all together an come up with:

  • oven temp 180 C
  • cook to an internal temp of 60 (the low end of recommendations - keep good pork done only lightly)
  • mustard
  • maple (maple syrup) [I love Canada]
  • soy
  • olive oil
  • cider vinegar
  • garlic cloves (2)
  • marinate it
Whisk together 2 tablespoons of each ingredient - double up on the vinegar and use French grainy mustard.
Marinate the thing for at least an hour (better would be 3) - turn once if I remember rightly

Next: the "crust" - 2 tablespoons of rosemary (I ground the dried version in my mortar)
1 tsp coarse salt (to help the mortaring)
mix with
2 big tablespoons of Dijon mustard
Remove pork from marinada, smear mustard-rosemary mix on the pork.
Put in a clay pot and pour the marinade around (not over) the meat
Into the oven at 180 until it reaches an internal temp of 60. I got nervous about the time it might take and cranked it to 200 C (my bad). And I turned off the upper element of the electric oven ... so it actually didn't `crust´ up at all. Took only 40 minutes for about 3/4 kilo.

Remove from oven and let the damn thing alone on a board or plate for 15 minutes. It will be much more tender, although you will not be eating the meat hot. Big deal. Put a foil temp over it if you want to retain more heat.

Easy, Fast, Tasty.

Tomorrow - Fabada.

But Not at Any Price

I only found foie mi-cuit and I wanted raw lobes. I want the fun of deveining them and everything. But with mi-cuit running from 60 Euros (canard/duck - Spanish) to € 160 (French - goose) a kilo (divide by 2 for $ per pound [I think]) - - at that price I'm not making a terrine today.

Maybe a nice pork roast will do instead. I'm thinking... a dijonmustard, maple, rosemary crust. I'll have to do some research. here I come (a favorite research source for recipes).

Still Crashed & Foie Gras

Here I am, a week and a half later and still no new hard drive. It's on order though and is expected to come in about a week - a week ago. Ah well. (frown) .
Now working from the (new) home machine (ordered the same time as the drive). I have no connectivity between this machine and my camera phone now my PDA camera so no pictures.
No big deal for the moment - although pictures do seem to be important ot food blogs, especially for one who is not a great writer.

Meanwhile, word of the day: sennight = seven-nights; just like fortnight = fourteen-nights

This week I'm going to make a terrine of foie-gras (duck liver or goose liver). We'll see how it goes. Recipe to follow - probably.

It starts with 2 complete foies. That would be about a kilo (2 pounds for the metrically impaired)

Last Week's Hard Drive Crash

The drive on my machine crashed again. A new (100 Gb) drive is on order and I'll be back in business sometime quite soon I hope.
Meanwhile, this entry is being done from a free internet connection in a McDonald's in Paris - on a borrowed machine.
Life's like that.

Ravioli of Cod

ravioli (on flickr)

This is the first thing I've been allowed to actually
cook during service.

It's a bacalao (cod) and veggie mixture (a sort of pisto) that's wrapped in long slices of cucumber, dipped in tempura and deep fried. The circle of stuff on the plate is the same stuff that's in the raviolis. There's a streak of a red sauce on the place and a dusting of fresh parsley flakes.

I'm quite happy about being allowed anywhere near the stove during service; it's a step up from salads and deserts. Feels somewhat more chef-like. Next step... something in a frying pan maybe?

Looking at the plating of this dish I'm not all that excited about it. The raviolis are nicely browned, fried but not greasy; crisp. But the ravioli on top of the swirl of sauce doesn't look "right" to me and the sprinkling of parsley isn't visually appealing. It needs some thought.

Zucchini Dust

On Sunday I was experimenting in the restaurant's kitchen by making dehydrated zucchini in the microwave. The idea was to make zucchini dust, zucchini powder, zucchini flakes - - or whatever you want to call them. Real fine, lightly flavored, green, mini flakes of vegetable.

I'll do it again this weekend a make a foto.

The process:

  • Peel strips of zucchini skin (mostly the green part, minimized the white) using a potato peeler (maybe a microplane ribbonizer would be good here)
  • Lay on paper towels
  • Zap in microwave for 1 minute (the time was pretty arbitrary)
  • Open microwave to let steam escape
  • Lay paper towel on top and turn over to the other side
  • Zap for another minute; open door to de-steam
  • Repeat until the strips are crisp (I did it 3 times)
  • Crumble strips to crumbs by hand
  • Chop the crumbs up some with a sharp knife.
Worked like a charm; and much faster than the electric dehydration machine.

They have quite a bit of flavor - not neutral at all. It sprinkles well. I don't know what the tendency to rehydrate will be when it's lying around the kitchen.
I think it would be a good highlight, dressing, to a dish that includes zucchini anyway. Also maybe good on certain flavors of ice cream.

Baguette Attempts

Baguette Attempts
Originally uploaded by willsong.

Back in May/June I did a Boulangerie course at Le Cordon Bleu - Paris.
The chef (JC) was not too happy about this attempt. These 4 baguettes, from 4 different people, are supposed to be rather more smilar than they appear to be in this picture.
Better luck next time - maybe.

Food in Art

Today I made an excursion into Madrid to visit the Prado museum. It's a holiday today; the Feast Day of Nuestra Señora de la Almudena: Madrid's patroness.

In keeping with the food theme I went to find paintings about cooking. There were so few (¿none?) that I modified the investigation to search simply for paintings involving food. In this I did have some success.

The bird picture is by Goya; it's dead pigeons (presumably in a kitchen someplace).

The other one is by Bosch, it was painted about 1500 and is called "De Jardin des Délices" (The Garden of Delights). It's kind of weird freaky 1970's sort of painting - but done 450 years or so before its time. Psychedelic. There's lots of food in it. The theme is debauchery (and, one assumes, the evil thereof). And it doesn't seem fair to me that debauchery is being associated with food.

Busy Weekend at the Shop

The exec "bought" all the staff a drink after the service. This is my Cardhu.

My 'stage' continues (unpaid work in an actual restaurant kitchen [training is what you would call it]). I work Thurs-Sun-day in a small, stylish, restaurant as 3rd cook in a two cook kitchen.

Usually the place runs at a nice even pace but this weekend (it's only open Friday to Sunday [Thursday's for prep]) we were very busy for both Saturday's & Sunday's lunches. Not overwhelmed but quite a bit of a peak in the middle part of each service for the main and at the end for the desserts.

The difference now is that during prior "rushes" I was shuffled to one side and my role was to stay out of the way. Now, I'm actually expected to contribute! So instead of being relegated to appetizers, petit-fours and runner I'm now plating certain salads from start to finish and doing parts of some desserts. And, in turn, having the chef yell at me for being too damn slow - which is true. But after making this same salad 8 times I've developed something of a rhythm and am fairly productive. Naturally I'm not allowed to touch any protein yet - that's still the sole purview of the head & the sous.

Fiesta Food

Was a a little birthday fiesta on Monday. This was the main table of food. (Warning telephone camera)

There was dancing (music of the 70s & 80s prevailed).

And a lovely discovery from the Ribera de Duero region of Spain: Torres de Anguix (shockwave link). There are so many good wines in Spain it can be hard to locate a specific one in the local shop so talking to the bodega directly is usually most effective.

In keeping with the Spanish habit we arrived (¿fashionably late?) at about 10:30pm; which was, of course, prior to the start of the dinner buffet. Things start later and end ... later; often much later.

Adding a RSS / XML / ATOM Feed

For those who are into that sort of thing I am adding a link to the RSS feed to the sidebar (the links over on the right). It looks like this .
It's not there right at the moment; but should show up in an hour or so.

Pot Roast - Without a Pot

Still lousy picture taking - -sorry - dirty lens I think.
A variant of my prior
Pot Roast - Sans Pot.
Except: smaller piece of meat, started at a lower oven temp, variants in the ingredients (although the principal remains the same, and I forgot to pan fry the thing before wrapping it in foil! Everything went directly into the pouch. It's in the oven right now. I wonder how it will turn out. (See bottom of recipe for adjustments due to this slight oversight)

  • 750 grams meat - in this case a low cost cut - cooked slowly (you should brown in a frying pan prior to putting in pouch - I forgot)
  • chop
    • 1 small onion
    • 1 large shallot
    • 4-5 cloves of garlic
    • (remove meat and brown / soften these in the frying pan too; add the tomato [see later] for that matter)
  • smear meat with
    • chunky salt
    • 2 t ground cumin
    • 1 t white pepper
  • place 1/2 of onion/shallot/garlic mixture on foil (lots of foil; you're going to make a pouch)
  • slash in some olive oil
  • place meat on mixture
  • put rest of mix on top of meat - smear in
  • pour on 1/4 c of balsamic vinegar (I used Vinagre de Aranjuez - very much the same thing, but Spanish)
  • pour on some oil
  • add a handful of black raisins (I use moscetal raisins)
  • 5 tomatoes; deseeded and chopped; go on top and around the meat
  • seal the pouch

Into the oven at 125c for 1 hour and them lower to 100 for 1 hour (or until it reaches 60c internal temp)

Remove and rest, in the foil, for 20 minutes - this is important, don't skip this step

Open pouch, slice and eat. Enjoy.

Fixing my mistake: The meat was fine. The "sauce" was not really cooked. And too acidic from the vinegar. So, remove the meat (cover with foil to keep warm); all the sauce and leavings go into a sauce pan. Boil. Reduce until it has very little liquid; cook for 5-10 minutes. The vinegar sweetens and the garlic and onions softened. Came out pretty well although the tomato pieces lost their bright red color and sort of went brown. But it tasted really good I was told.

Edited to mention browning the meat 1st; re-edit to add pic and the fix for the sauce.

Garbanzos and Chorizo Sausage

Clearly I need to work on my picture taking skills. Lens got fogged.

  • 700 grams of garbanzos (1/3 lb) covered completely (& more) with water
  • soak overnight (or all day - max 2 days)
  • drain, save the liquid
  • 1 chorizo sausage, de-skinning the sausage is my preference
  • 1/4 the chorizo and slice (basically, make little triangles slightly bigger than a garbanzo)
  • fry chorizo to remove / reduce fat; 5-6 minutes
  • drain on paper towels, set aside; and wipe the pan lightly to remove excess oil/fat of the chorizo
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic; finely minced; peel them, 1/2 'em lengthwise and remove the "kernel" from each one; really really finely minced please
  • in 1 tablespoon of olive oil; low-medium heat - fry the garlic 'til browned; 1-2 minutes
  • 1 small onion, fine julienne (1/2ed and sliced thinly)
  • add more olive oil and the onion to the garlic
  • 1/2 t of thyme (tomillo)
  • a bay leaf
  • salt
  • more salt (don't be afraid)
  • fry it all up until the onion is softened and brown (it'll smell great)
  • 1/4 c of white wine (any old cheap stuff will do); reduce to nothing and scape up anything sticking to the pan
  • add garbanzos
  • garbanzo liquid to cover
  • bring to a boil and reduce to medium-low (simmer); partially cover with a lid
  • skim off any skum that forms (after about 10 minutes)
  • continue simmering until garbanzos are done / tender (maybe 45 minutes - they're hard to overcook); stir occasionally; taste occasionally
You can make them in advance and put them on hold at this point - for hours; then follow these steps
  • remove lid; and bring to a boil again to reduce the liquid until there's very little
  • add back the chorizo; heat it all up
  • serve
  • delicious (they tell me)

Botin: The Oldest Restaurant in the World

My sis and her guy have been visiting and on their last day we wanted a special meal. So, we went to The Oldest Restaurant in the World, Botin; more accurately known as Sobrino de Botin - Brother in Law of Botin - - which is what the sign over the door says. It's been there since 1725 and had an eatery on that spot since 1500 something. That's quite a while.

We were seated in the "Filipe IVth" room - which is up 2 flights - a bit of a climb but quite lovely. They really pack the tables in so it's full/crowded but not as bad as (for example) your typical french bistro.

We had the obligatory, and well worth it, Suckling Pig (one, me) and three had the Roast Lamb. For starters we had Morcilla (of Burgos), Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)[with egg] and Anchovies with Roasted Red Peppers. My sister loved the morcilla, as I do; that must be because of our Scottish heritage (it's a type of blood sausage with rice). We also ordered a green salad with onion for 4 instead of having the fries that normally accompany the meat. Wine was a normal Cune Rioja [lotsa wine at a reasonbable price]. The bill came to about €€150ish for 4. Not bad at all and really big portions.

Besides big portions the food was good too. Well roasted meat from their 200 year old wood oven. Delicious.
It's at Calle Cuchilleros 17, in Madrid; right behind the Plaza Major. Worth a visit. They're usually fully booked so reservations are advisable but we just dropped by at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon and they managed to squeeze us in. The back-up plan was to go to Posada de la Villa just a little further away.

No pictures - I completely forgot; we were having too much fun to bother with that.

Tortilla de Cebolla

Tortilla de Cebolla Originally uploaded by willsong.

Also known as: Spanish Tortilla (Onion), Spanish Omelette, Tortilla Español.

The wine: a simple El Coto crianza, 2002.

The recipe: (serves 3 or 4)

  • 4 onions
  • 6 eggs (or I could have done 8 eggs)
  • olive oil (no substitutes; and use the good stuff - not super processed cheapo olive oil) This is a dish where the oil is an actual foodstuff in the recipe, not just a cooking aid.
  • salt & pepper
  • frying pan (25cm? 10" or so); non-stick or good old cast iron (it's got to be a not sticky pan)
  • flat plate the same size or larger than the above mentioned pan
  • colander (sieve, chinois)
  • bowl
  • wooden spatula (okay, plastic if you must)

How to:

  • peel onions; 1/2 them from top to bottom (through the root, not around the equator); slice very thinly (think... potato chips); (optional: put the onions in the bowl)
  • Pour lots of olive oil into the pan; about 1+cm (1/2") deep; lots of oil (you'll pour much of it off later); heat the oil to medium hot (lower than a frying temperature [was - tempurature])
  • Dump onions into oil; turn the heat up ('cause putting in the onions cooled the oil); bring back to medium temp.
  • Cook onions slowly, without frying & crackling noises. Basically you're "poaching" the onions in oil.
  • Cook slowly until soft and limp - 20 minutes might be good. They will not get colored at all - they remain white.
  • When onions are "done", drain the oil (put the colander in the bowl and dump the onions in the colander). Let this sit and cool a little (5 minutes; crack open a beer); don't bother wiping the pan clean
  • Put the drained oil into a (metal? glass) container for reuse (yes, we reuse oil); wipe out the bowl
    e.g. use the oil to make another tortilla next weekend
  • Dump onions from the colander into the bowl
  • Add salt & pepper (be generous)
  • Crack the 6 or 8 eggs into the bowl; mix with the onions
Okay, now, making the tortilla:
  • The pan will be oiled but not oily (if there's a visible pool or oil pur it off)
  • Heat the pan until the oil starts to smoke (it's olive oil so it will be hot but not all that hot; don't use any other type of oil - it won't work)
  • Dump the onion/egg mix into the hot pan

    In the first 30 seconds of cooking...
  • Toss the mix a little (once or twice), quickly, like sautéing veggies (sort of coats the edges of the pan with egg mix)
  • Use the spatula to stir the mixture twice (only twice; only two circuits of the pan)
  • Spatula the cooked mix off the edges of the pan; basically you're cleaning the edges of the egg mess and making it look tidy

  • Lower the heat; by now it's starting to coagulate (firm up); take it completely off the heat if you feel like it might be overbrowning the underside.
    If you're good at this you can just hold it 1cm above the heat instead of turning the heat down - I'm not that good.
  • Keep cooking until the top of mixture shows some signs of being "set". You're going to flip this tortilla over so it must not be too mushy

  • Take away from the heat
  • Place plate, upsidedown, over the pan; hold loosely but firmly (not too tight; if you panic everything will slip all over the place).
  • Invert, flip, the plate/pan combination.
  • The 1/2 cooked tortilla is now on the plate; remove the pan (ta-da!)
  • Slide the tortilla back into the pan; to cook side 2 (yes, this can be a little messy)

  • Turn the heat back up to finish setting the mixture and browning the sucker
  • Tidy up the edges while it cooks; to give a nice round shape
  • Meanwhile, clean the plate
  • When done... flip the beautiful tortilla back onto the plate. Yes, flip it again, don't slide it off; 'cause the second side is usually prettier.

By the way, the picture above is my first really successful tortilla. It took me more than a couple of tries to finally get this thing right. Good luck.

edited 29-10 to add salt & pepper

Txitxarro; a Much Better Picture

I see that the oil from cooking is drizzled over the fish and that the puré de patatas (potatoes) has slices of fried garlic on it.
Those julienned roasted peppers might have the oil over them too - but that would be overkill as they're quite delicious all on their own.
Sprinkled with very finely chopped parsley.
I like this one.

Txitxarro (Jurel, Mackerel) - Braised

Txitxarro (pronounce as chit-char-o), filleted, pick the tiny bones out, braised in a little oil (for color) and finshed in the oven (170c) [It seems that the pros almost always finish things in the oven].
Served with 2 (green) chiles, puré of potatoe and garlic, and julienne of roasted red peppers.

(phone camera - sorry)

Life in the Kitchen: One Day at Work: Making Things Smaller

Working in a kitchen can be fun - but it's not all about actual cooking. A lot is about making things smaller. Lessons learned: work on your knife skills.

Here is what I did in one day at work (our "prep" day - when the restaurant is closed). Actually, I missed taking pictures of a whole bunch of stuff but you get the idea. The day consisted almost entirely of cutting veggies into assorted sizes.

Mirepoix (large - could have been left whole 'cause the stock cooked for a whole day)

Brunoise of Carrot (large)

Chopped Onion (roughly)

Julienne (very fine) of Onions, Carrot, Leeks, and Mushrooms (sliced)

Brunoise (very very fine) of Onion & Green Pepper

Sliced Onion

Jardiniere (large sticks) of Carrot and Zuchinni

Julienne beans, carrots, zuchinni

Garlic, sliced (to be fried later)

Garlic, chopped superfine

Julienne of celery

Julienne of celery

Then, after work, a burger and a beer at the local cafe.

Here's an Idea

I just spent the last 4 days at work (well, 3 1/2 actually) and took a whole mess of pictures of what I did (camera phone). It's going to take a bit to assemble the blog entry. Please stand-by.

Top 50 Things to Eat Before You Die

According to the BBC the top 50 things to eat before you die are:

  1. Fresh fish
  2. Lobster
  3. Steak
  4. Thai food
  5. Chinese food
  6. Ice cream
  7. Pizza
  8. Crab
  9. Curry
  10. Prawns
  11. Moreton Bay Bugs
  12. Clam chowder
  13. Barbecues
  14. Pancakes
  15. Pasta
  16. Mussels
  17. Cheesecake
  18. Lamb
  19. Cream tea
  20. Alligator
  21. Oysters
  22. Kangaroo
  23. Chocolate
  24. Sandwiches
  25. Greek food
  26. Burgers
  27. Mexican food
  28. Squid
  29. American diner breakfast
  30. Salmon
  31. Venison
  32. Guinea pig
  33. Shark
  34. Sushi
  35. Paella
  36. Barramundi (maybe)
  37. Reindeer
  38. Kebab
  39. Scallops
  40. Australian meat pie
  41. Mango
  42. Durian fruit
  43. Octopus
  44. Ribs
  45. Roast beef
  46. Tapas
  47. Jerk chicken/pork
  48. Haggis (maybe)
  49. Caviar
  50. Cornish Pasty

43 down - 7 to go.

An odd thing is that I just saw the list at and it's the same result except I have had reindeer and kangaroo (in Canada & Australia respectively).

Comments - Word Verification

I have had to turn word verification on for comments since the comment spam is getting bothersome.

Been on the Beach

My sis is visiting from way far away & we headed down to the beach for some sun; thus I have not been blogging (have been tanning instead [not bad for October]).
Let's see what I can find from my camera phone - maybe even a pic with food in it.

Brochetta in the town of Almeria
On the beach terrace in Vera.

I also noticed that in the sofrito thing I posted below I should have put the hamburger on the bottom and the veggie mix on top. It would have been much prettier.

Sofrito y carne picada

Sofrito y carne picada
Originally uploaded by willsong.

Some veggies & ground beef

1 onion
1 shallot
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 garlic glove

Burnoise very very fine (important!) -
fry in olive oil - 20 minutes or so
salt / pepper
No, I said very very fine. No, even finer. You ought to be making veggies "dust". The pieves will be as small or smaller than the ground beef bit.

cook the vegs 'til soft
add thyme & marjoram
keep cooking - it will reduce in volume
You dont want to develop any color - really you are poaching it, not frying

In another pan:
700 gr ground beef (beef only - no mix)
fry in a hot pan - not non-stick - you want some color to develop
add salt

cook until the liquids are evaporated (the sound will change)
add 1 tsp Picante Pimenton de Vera (hot paprika)
add white pepper
add a dash of Lea and Perrins
cook until the oil sort of absorbs the flavors (if you have good meat you can hear the change)
Add 3 eggs (beaten together lightly) while the meat is hot helps hold the cooked beef together

Plate with (big) rings
- layer of the vegs
- layer of the ground beef
decorate with tomoto wedges around the ring (hides the leaky juices from the sofrito)
and tomato slivers on top (hide the bland color of the meat)

Reportedly this was delicious.

A real winner and so damn easy. Made from what just happened to be in the 'fridge. The idea was a "sweet" (thyme/marjoram) base of veggies with a slightly spicy (pimenton) meat topping.

Seems to have worked.

Camera shot was from my new Nokia phone.

Bit of a Mess Right Now

What with the new job, school starting again, no internet connection 4 days out of 7 & assorted other stuff I've been neglecting the blog. I'll try to get back into the rhythm again soon.
Meanwhile, enjoy this: Pigeon flan with poached pears - part of the new fall menu.

Restaurant eleven, Lisbon

So, yesterday I visited the kitchen of Restaurant eleven in Lisbon, Portugal (that's "Lisboa" in the local lingo). Just to watch - and try to stay out of the way. Not easy given the limited amount of space in the kitchen and the large number of chefs and assistants; a dozen or more.

Got to meet the sous chef (Cyril)- a very nice guy. We chatted some about the mass of government regulations that the French have for running commercial kitchens. Also about sauces and how you have to make your own fonds.
Met the executive chef; he's got several restaurants and a number of Michelin stars in Spain.
Met (one of) the owner(s), briefly. He was passing through the kitchen and asked the sous who the new guy was (me); although I was not really "new" but just visiting.

Maybe having these contacts could eventually lead to some real work (maybe even paid work?).

Also got to eat lunch there; both the staff lunch (in the basement) and the menu (out front). Well worth it (the menu that is; and the staff lunch was not bad either). This place will likely have stars in a year or two.

Got a Gig in a Kitchen

And that's why I was out for a few days. A small, 40 seat, restaurant in a beautiful but tiny Guadalajarian village. There's the Exec, the sous and I'm the assistant to the sous; that is, the 3rd chef in a 2 chef kitchen. 4 days - 40 hours. And lordy but I'm tired.

The pic is a starter: terrine of foie, carmelized - quite lovely.

Time off

Probably no posts for the next few days. Feel free to chat among yourselves.

Chocolate Muffins - Later the Same Day

Second set of muffins. Did you know that it's about 900 grams of batter for 6 muffins? That's 150 grams each; but let's not count calories here. I'm actually not filling the cups right up (yet) so it's only about 120 grams per.

These are much better - bad a tad dry. Need to work on that.

Chocolate Muffins
Makes 6 muffins - with some batter over / Oven: 180C

These are mixed in the "muffin method" - that is, just barely mixing the liquid with the dry ingredients. There should not be large pockets of flour in the finished batter, but occasional small sprays may be visible.

280 gr flour, all-purpose
15 gr baking powder
1/2 t salt
34 gr cocao
- mix these together and sift

1 egg, large (55 gr)
200 gr sugar
60 gr butter melted and cooled at little
280 gr yoghurt
1 t vanilla (4,5 gr)
- mix these together
(yes, sugar is a liquid ingredient today)
  1. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cocao in medium bowl until combined; sift onto anther larger bowl

  2. Whisk egg in second bowl until well-combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds
  3. Add sugar to egg and whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous, about 30 seconds
  4. Add melted butter in 2 or 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition
  5. Add yoghurt in 2 additions, whisking just to combine

  6. Pour liquid ingredients into dry; fold with rubber spatula until batter comes together and flour is moistened, 25 to 30 seconds. Small spots of flour may remain and batter will be thick. Do not overmix.

  7. Use large spoon to drop batter into silicon muffin tin.
  8. Bake until and toothpick comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes; rotate pan from front to back halfway through baking time
  9. Place on rack and cool 5 minutes
  10. Turn muffins out onto wire rack, stand them upright, and cool

Chocolate Muffin

These are, by the way, from scratch. No mixes for me; no siree.

Heavy on the cocoa - thus, delicious.

They're the cakey type of muffin, and you can see in the pic that they have a rather flat top; that was a dissapointment. Neither were the tops circular; sort of drippy and wierd mutant shaped.

Per the JoC the cause of irregular tops is too high a heat.
Not raising up well is due to too low heat. This may present a problem. Perhaps a different recipe is called for. I'm not happy with this one.

2 eggs
200 gr sugar
- mix those 2 together
130 gr flour (all purpose)
35 gr cocoa powder
2 t baking powder
- sift these
1 t vanilla
160 gr milk
- add all the above together & mix gently
160 gr butter (melted, cooled)
- fold into the above

6 large muffin cups
@ 350C for about 30 minutes
'til toothpick comes out clean
In the pan on a rack for 5 minutes
De-pan them

optional (I didn't) add 120 gr choc chips after the butter [toss chips in a little flour to help prevent them sinking]

glossary: JoC = Joy of Cooking

source for recipe:

La Cúpula - Pizzeria

Probably the best pizza in the area of Madrid.
La Cúpula Pizzeria in Las Matas (exit 24 on the A-6). Hard to find, as so many good restaurants are. It's on Calle Goya. Small place; just a 1/2 dozen tables or so and a summer terrace.

Using a wood fired, italian built oven; mostly organic & natural ingredients. Producing Napolitana Pizzas. thin crust; hand rolled - made with care.

This is their Sicilian - delicious.

nacha restaurant - II

This was the place by the way; it's just a scan of their business card.

And I have a pic of one of the dishes:
Carpacchio of Pigs Feet

But my photographic ability really sucks with the PDA's camera. I think I need a little more light and to be slightly further away. I have more pics but they are similarly "quality impaired".

Well, photgraphically, I tried.

This came with a sort of sesame crusted filo tube in the center, filled with some greens. The toasted sesame seeds go great with the meat and its marinade.

The pic realy fails to communicate how 1) pretty and 2) tasty this was.

Update: Since so many people land on this post from internet searches I'll add their phone number: +34
949 28 40 85

nacha restaurante, El Olivar (Guadalajara)

Update: Since so many people land on this post from internet searches I'll add their phone number:
949 28 40 85

Today's lunch was lovely. The place: "nacha restaurante" in El Olivar (province of Guadalajara); about 100 km outside of Madrid (Spain). A little village of just a few hundred - with a top-class resto. In English that would be "nacha restaurant"; (yes, all in lower case). So you see, translations are not always that tough to figure out.

Pre meal:
Wine: Enate Cab/Merlot 2003
Some olives to snack on (it is, after all in El Olivar).
A little shotglass of Gazpacho de Sandia (watermelon)

Ensalada de Reo (trout, salmonish)
Carpachio de Manitas (pigs feet)

Arroz de Pescado (I love a good rice dish - especially for Sunday lunch)
Mejillas de cerdo (pork cheeks)


Mousse de fruta

I'll post some pictures of the actual dishes later. Meanwhile make do with this nice pic of the restaurant interior (and the wine). Note the newspapers on the table - it was, after all, Sunday lunch; a time to sit back, relax, and recover from the week just past - - and prepare for the week to come.

Update: Since so many people land on this post from internet searches I'll add their phone number: +34 949 28 40 85


Originally uploaded by willsong.

Very pretty I think.

I got some very nice organicly grown Fennel (Hinojo) so it's going to be another attempt at fennel with fish next week some time.
This time I'll actually acquire all the ingredients in preparation for making it (i.e. Pastis). Might use some fish instead of the Dorada (Bream) though.

Carrot Cake

I've not had much success doing carrot cake either. So I'll try another box...just as a baseline; while I work on my own recipe.

Ingredients that seem to have worked (27 minutes @ 180C):

  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • vegetable oil
  • Carrots (dried) (5% by total weight)
  • dextrose (a.k.a. sugars)
  • modified starch (tapioca & cornstarch)
  • raising agents
    • sodium bicarbonate
    • monocalcium phosphate
    • sodium acid phosphate
  • corn starch
  • emulsifiers:
    • E477, Propane-1, 2-diol esters of fatty acids, propylene glycol esters of fatty acids
    • E471, Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (glyceryl monostearate, glyceryl distearate)
  • salt
  • spices
  • color: E150d
  • stabiliser: E466
  • flavorings

  • plus
    • 3 eggs (medium)
    • 200 ml water
    • 70 ml vegetable oil
Into 2x 20cm (8") round cake rings (pans)

Turned into this:

Not bad at all; although the frosting's not what I need it to be. I made lemon instead of orange like I wanted ('cause I had lemons but not oranges in the fridge). And the frosting needs a little highlight/color or something; it's too damn plain white.

Crab Bisque

I'm not just making muffins from a box... today I also made a Crab Bisque. No pic (let's face it - soup is not generally photogenic) but it tasted really very good. Went lighter on the cream than the recipe calls for (lower calorie motivations) and substitute maizena (corn starch) for the rice flour to thicken it; maybe agar-agar would have been a good idea?


I've not had much success doing muffins here in Spain. It must be the ingredients (maybe the flour?); it certainly couldn't be me could it?

Here's some muffin ingredients that seem to have finally worked (24 minutes @ 180C):

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Blueberries (15% by total weight)
  • vegetable oil
  • dextrose (a.k.a. sugars)
  • modified starch (tapioca & cornstarch)
  • raising agents
    • sodium bicarbonate
    • sodium aluminum phosphate
  • wheat gluten
  • emulsifiers:
    • E477, Propane-1, 2-diol esters of fatty acids, propylene glycol esters of fatty acids
    • E471, Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (glyceryl monostearate, glyceryl distearate)
    • E481, Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate
  • salt
  • stabiliser: xanthan gum
  • flavorings

  • plus
    • 1 egg (medium)
    • 110 ml milk
    • 30 ml vegetable oil

Yes, it's a mix! For shame!

But, but, but... I'm doing this as an experiment; to have a muffin
that's a baseline for my future attempts. I will also be going to get a
Starbuck's blueberry muffin for further comparison.

This is how they turned out: taste is okay but too dense a grain.

You're Making Sauce! Not Soup!

Wise sayings from our LCB Chefs:

  • Too cold egg whites don't whisk up
  • High acidity apples have higher pectin
  • Grand Marnier - Yellow Band (ribbon) for cooking; Red Band for drinking
  • You're the chef - control the heat
  • Mushrooms will soak up pretty much whatever you offer them; use little butter
  • Don't eat wild snails - due to concentration of pesticides
  • When plating rare sliced meat put sauce under not over the meat
  • Poaching pears first ensures they release less liquid during frying
Just a few odd and ends - since I didn't actually make a dinner tonight and lunch was Sunday leftovers.
Maybe something interesting tomorrow.

Fish - Bream

Sea BreamWhite Bream
Pretty close; very similar you'd think. But no-o-o.
I was planning to do a Dorada (Sea Bream) and Fennel (after all, I'd been practicing - remember?). But they were out of Sea Bream so, since the White Bream looked so close I decided to take those. 1/2 a mistake.
There was no fennel to be found either - so I bought leek (not even close) and slow cooked/poached it, fine julienne, in a little butter for a half hour, to provide a bed for the fish presentation.

White bream is 1) bonier 2) smaller fillets 3) less 'fine' a meat 4) greasier (I think).

They also curl dramatically as compared to regular (Sea) Bream. I cut crosses / lines in the skin side of the fillets but they curled up anyway. By the way, the skin's harder than a Sea Bream's too.

And, in the excitement of doing 8 fillets simultaneously, I under-cooked 2 of them - drastically. I really completely failed to check on the doneness before plating them. Idiot!

So, with a little care you can use White Bream instead - but it takes experience (and using bigger fish to get similar sized fillets). Learn from your mistakes. I hope I've learned from mine.

White Sea Bream: Diplodus sargus sargus (Linnaeus, 1758); Family: Sparidae Order: Perciformes