Saturday, April 16, 2011

Accidental Brown Butter

With the inspiration of the baby potatoes & huge parsnips I set out to make a garlic herb butter to toss them in before subjecting them to a very hot oven for roasting. A large blue LeCrueset Dutch Oven was on the stove top. I pictured dumping the vegetables right into the pot before spreading them on a baking sheet. I plopped a cube of butter into the big blue pan and turned on the heat.
Distracted by the pressure cooker and then obsessing on getting the pressure, just right, so that no steam was really escaping and it was cooking nicely and then… What’s that smell?
Oh my, boiling butter. I pushed the Dutch Oven off the hot burner and let it cool. It smelled good, not burned, just browned. But I didn’t want or need browned butter for my potatoes and parsnips. It wasn’t going to hold well in a hot oven, it was done, needed to be appreciated for what it was, not filled with herbs and garlic which would mask its nutty sweetness.
The asparagus were begging for the brown butter but they weren’t joining the dinner without the blood oranges coming along. I juiced a few of the blood oranges into the browned butter, added a little salt and white pepper. I roasted the thick asparagus in the oven and gave them a bath in the Blood Orange Brown Butter sauce before serving.
The potatoes & parsnips did get the Herb Garlic Butter & Olive Oil treatment I had promised them.
Sometimes kitchen mistakes turn into something quite tasty!

Carrot Soup with Ginger & Caraway

This week my cooking was inspired by a Food&Wine 'what to cook next' article. What caught my eye was a recipe for pressure cooker pork carnitas which promised tender pork shoulder in 35 minutes. I happened to have had just such a shoulder roast in my freezer.

On Tuesday I shared the carnitas dinner with my dad and family. Everyone was impressed with the tenderness of the pork in such little time. Magical Pressure Cooker indeed!

Later in the week I re-read the Food&Wine article concentrating more on the subject of the article: Nathan Myhrvold the author of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. And then my eye caught the carmelized carrot soup recipe.

Last weekend at the Mar Vista Farmer's Market we bought a bounty of produce that really needed to be used and soon! My refrigerator was bursting with:
• Tiny White Potatoes
• Huge Parsnips
• Heirloom Carrots
• Hearty Asparagus Spears
• Blood Oranges
But I wanted to use up the wilting fennel bulb and lonely single leek both lurking at the bottom of my produce drawer. They were begging for soup. Using the article as a guideline I created my own recipe:

Pressure Cooker
Carrot Soup with Ginger & Carraway
Six First Course Servings
5 Tablespoons Butter
1 lb. Heirloom variety carrots*
1 small fennel bulb
1 leek
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda** optional
2 Cups Carrot Juice
2 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
Peel the carrots and cut into ¾” slices. Trim the fennel bulb removing any wilted edges and removing the tough core. Slice into ¾” pieces. Use only the white and light green of the leek. Slice lengthwise and then into ¾” slices. Put the carrots, fennel & leek into the pressure cooker.
Add the butter cut into chunks. Cook uncovered until the butter melts. Mix well. Add the salt & baking soda if using. Cover and bring to 15 psi using your pressure cooker’s manufacturer’s instructions. Cook for 10 minutes at 15 psi. Cool quickly in your sink using cool water.

Return the uncovered pressure cooker to the stove. Add the carrot juice, ginger & caraway seeds. Stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer. Cook for an additional 5 minutes on low heat. Taste for salt.
Puree and strain the soup using either a blender or submersion blender & then a food mill or cheesecloth & metal strainer.
Serve hot.

*Heirloom Carrots I used a variety of carrots using up what I had as well as adding a few heirlooms for color. Note that some heirloom carrots have a VERY fibrous core. The red variety with a bright yellow core was so fibrous my Wustof chef’s knife would not go through it. These red carrots were the true reason the soup needed to be strained! Without straining, it was inedible, chewy soup.

**Baking Soda The original recipe was for “Caramelized Carrot Soup” and the baking soda is added to speed up the caramelization. I didn’t get any caramelization in my soup, but perhaps the baking soda helps break down the vegetables quicker, so I listed it here, add if you wish.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Farmer's Market Veggie Feast

It's what''s for dinner:

Heirloom Carrot Soup with Ginger & Caraway

Roasted Parsnips & Potatoes in Garlic Thyme Butter

Roasted Asparagus in Blood Orange Brown Butter Sauce