November 24, 2012

poached pear deluxe

For my birthday in September, my friend Daniel gifted me a bottle of dessert wine. I hoped to make a dessert with it (or to go with it), and since Daniel's birthday was this month I decided to use his gift to me and make a gift for him.

Being that I've been so busy/overwhelmed lately, I decided to keep things simple and do wine-poached pears. I've poached pears before, and I've poached mushrooms in white wine before, but this was the first time with pears and red wine. Had to dilute the wine with a bit of water so I'd have enough liquid to cover the pears. Also added a cinnamon stick and bay leaf for flavor. Brought the mixture to a boil and let it simmer for a little bit over an hour, until knife tender.

wine & pears poached

Decided the keep the whole pear intact because I thought it would be more dramatic. For toppings, I had caramel sauce and sweetened creme fraiche (tied in little ziplock baggies as makeshift mini piping bags), powdered sugar, and poaching liquid reduced and sweetened with agave syrup.

poached pear accoutrements

Spooned the reduced poaching liquid on first, then creme fraiche, caramel sauce, and the dusting of powdered sugar (through the mesh colandar) last. It looks pretty dramatic if I do say so myself.

poached pear deluxe

And it wasn't too sweet, because I didn't poach it with sugar. And Daniel liked it too. A warm and satisfying treat.

five+ spice turkey

Last year was the first year my family had a big turkey for Thanksgiving. My mom was the one who cooked it, and she was so worried it wouldn't turn out well. Except it exceeded all of our expectations. Besides being moist and flavorful, she also made a unique sticky rice & shiitake mushroom stuffing.

This year I wanted to tackle the turkey-making. As it was my first time, I was pretty worried too. I wanted to keep the sticky rice stuffing tradition going, so I thought the turkey should be flavored with Chinese five spice to be complementary. Cris found me this five-spice turkey recipe, which lays things out from start to finish. True to "me" form, I made some modifications to the recipe.

Started out with a 15-pound Butterball turkey. Took the neck out to make stock with later. Checked all of the cavities (or so I thought), but it wasn't till after the turkey was roasted and carved did the plastic sack of giblets turn out. So don't let that happen to you!

naked turkey

Anyway, cooked the brine with 5+ spices. Roughly 2.5 gallons of water (two of these pots), 1.5 cups of salt, handful of each of the following: cinnamon stick, clove, star anise, fennel seed, lemongrass, black peppercorn. Brought the mixture to a boil and let it cool (with some ice cubes to speed the process up).

brine & spices

Once the mixture cooled to about room temperature, it was poured over the turkey in double oven bags. The last minute addition of orange zest made it all the more fragrant. Tied the bags and put it inside an extra trash bag just in case. Then the whole thing went into the fridge.

turkey in brine

The turkey sat in brine for a good 24 hours, after which I dumped the brine, rinsed the turkey, and patted the turkey dry. Saved the spices though, and shoved them under the turkey skin wherever I could.

After overnight stay in the fridge to further dry out (to facilitate the skin being crispy when roasted), it was time to roast. First set the oven at 400F and roasted the breast side up for 45 min so the skin would brown. Then lowered the temperature to 350F and rotated the turkey every 30 min so it would cook evenly.

The soaked and stir-fried sticky rice was stuffed into the turkey at some point. Except it doesn't really cook in the cavity so I had to scoop it out and cook it in the rice cooker.

The turkey was pulled when the internal temperature was 155F. It came out glorious - skin crispy, super fragrant. And once carved, it was the moistest turkey I've ever had.

roasted turkey

Megan said the spices reminded her of the Chinese duck she likes to get. Very flavorful.

The only downside was that the bottom of the turkey was a little underdone. I think it's because I didn't roast the turkey breast side down, for fear the crispy skin would get soaked. Or maybe I should have let it roast for longer and pulled it out after the internal temperature reached 160F.

Not a loss though, because I used the bones and all the underdone parts to make turkey porridge, not unlike the chicken porridge I've made before. And that was delicious too.

November 18, 2012

cake pops

For my roommate Megan's birthday I thought about making funfetti cake, since funfetti mix is her favorite. However, when I stumbled upon a funfetti cake pops box, I knew I had to get that instead.

I've never made cake pops before, and as with anything I've never made before there was a bit of mystery attached. Like how do you get the cake pop to be round? Or the stick to stick?

Turns out you start with actual cake. Which is crumbled and moistened with frosting. While this cake mix and frosting were included in the box, you can easily substitute your favorite cake recipe and whip up an easy powdered sugar + milk (or water) frosting.

crumbled cake & frosting

Then you portion out the crumbly cake mixture and form them into ball-shape with your palms. Apply lots of pressure so the cake balls get firm and dense and don't fall apart on you.

Melt some chocolate in the microwave (at 15 to 30 second intervals so it doesn't burn). Dip one end of the cake pop stick into the melted chocolate and stick it into the cake ball. If you don't have cake pop or lollipop sticks, you can break up disposable chopsticks and sand the ends down with a nail file. That's what I did because the box was missing a stick.

cake balls & couverture

Put the naked cake pops into the fridge to chill. Or if you're impatient like me, stick them in the freezer.

In the meantime, prepare more melted chocolate and sprinkles/decoration. Once the cake pops are thoroughly chilled, roll them each in chocolate, cover them in sprinkles, and stand them up to dry/set in a container full of sugar (dense enough to hold them up).

dip & sprinkle

Rather than give Megan just a cup full of cake pops, I made her favorite yellow cake to use as a cushion.

cake pop cake

Although the cake was frosted with whipped cream, it didn't look too nice because I didn't have my offset spatula. So I covered the cake with cake crumbs, which worked out because it made the cake look more like a cushion.

And despite the yellow cake mix being a boxed one, I ended up enjoying the super moist crumbly texture a lot. So I'm going to reverse engineer my own yellow cake mix based on the ingredients on the box. Will report back once I have some findings!

November 11, 2012

citrus fennel chicken

This was the last Sauces class of the year, so Chef Morse set up our final to be kind of Iron Chef-style. Each team got to pick from three proteins: beef, chicken or fish. Our team picked chicken and fish, and I was in charge of the chicken.

This recipe was emailed to my inbox not too long ago, and I decided to adapt it. Instead of clementines I used segmented oranges.

This is me segmenting oranges, one of the first things I ever learned to do in culinary school. And it was taught by Chef Morse too.

segmenting oranges

After that I cut up fennel in segments too.

cutting fennel

Frank helped me marinate them in olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, mustard, brown sugar, salt and pepper.

marinating orange & fennel

Meanwhile I prepared the other seasonings in the dish: butter, lemon, toasted almond slices, toasted fennel seed, thyme, parsley (chopped and whole leaf) and fennel frond.


Scott seared off the chicken breasts, seasoned with cayenne, salt and pepper.

seared chicken

Jen contributed a delicious Israeli couscous, made with chicken stock and seasoned with cucumber, fennel frond and feta cheese (the feta changed everything).

couscous with cucumber & feta

After all this we still had some time to kill, so Jen and I candied some orange peel, to further play on the citrus theme and to provide a different textural element.

candying orange peel

Once it got close to plating time, I started on the sauce. I took the pan that the chicken had been seared off in, and mounted the pan with some butter.

butter & chicken fond

Then I threw in the marinated orange & fennel, along with some marinade, and cooked that off.

sauteeing orange & fennel

In went the other seasonings I had prepared: lemon juice, toasted almond slices, toasted fennel seed, thyme and chopped parsley.

adding all the seasonings

Cooked everything until the sauce was the consistency I wanted.

orange fennel sauce

Then came plating. Or rather, some contem(plating), haha.

contem plating

Bed of couscous first, then chicken, then sauce.

actually plating

We garnished with parsley leaf, fennel frond, slivers of orange peel, and an orange segment.

the plate

Besides the chicken being a little dry from finishing too long in the oven, everything tasted pretty good. Citrus + fennel + chicken = good combination.