~ Totally Undeserving of the James Beard Award

~ Completely Undeserving of the James Beard Award ~

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Roux, Roux, Roux Your Boat...

...Gravy Boat that is.

A roux is a mixture of four and fat, usually butter or perhaps the fat from the protein you just cooked which thickens a sauce and can flavor it as well. You heat the fat and whisk in the flour until it becomes one over a moderate heat, just be sure not to burn the flour. As you stir it will change color and brown to a blond roux, and if you continue it becomes a peanut butter color and darker and darker. It depends on what you are using it for and what you are trying to accomplish in deciding when it's the right color. Think etouffee, gumbo and french "mother" sauces, they usually all use it. Those mother sauces are a sauce in themselves and a base for other sauces. Make a roux, add milk and you have a b├ęchamel sauce...now add cheese and you have a mornay sauce as I explained here.

So, you can use a roux to thicken a sauce or you can use corn starch. Mix corn starch 1:1 with a cold liquid in a side bowl into a slurry. Some use 2:1, liquid over corn starch. Water works fine...I have also used wine and stock or broth, it just depends how you want it. However, by using a corn starch slurry, the liquid you are adding it to must be quite hot or it wont thicken properly. "So why can't I use that same method with flour, Mr. Blogger Man?" Well, Billy...you need to cook the flour and water solution to remove the raw flour taste...and didn't I tell you to stay out the kitchen?

There are many other methods to thicken a sauce. Arrowroot is one. Flour tends to make your gravy a bit  cloudy which may be fine with you, corn starch a little less cloudy...but arrowroot will keep it clear and shiny. Use it the same as corn starch. Some say arrowroot makes meat sauces look fake and weird and does not re-heat well and will make dairy based sauces slimy. Tapioca is also popular, there's potato starch and whole bunch of other strange stuff to use.

Because I will tryout the Traeger smoker /grill for the bird, I wont be using a roasting pan in the oven and catching all the wonderful yum-yums on the bottom of the pan for the gravy, I will need to use alternative #2 which I have used for the rotisserie method. That is to get some turkey wings and veggies and roast them up the weekend before...and start making my gravy ahead of time. How great is that!

Roasted up some turkey wings with a splash of olive oil and S & P, about 1/2 hour at 375.

Toss some aromatics in a big pot...an onion, 2 celery ribs, 4 carrots, which will help by also coloring the stock, fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme...they should make a song like that...a few peppercorns and head of garlic cut around it's equator. Some S & P. Stir them around in EVOO until they start to caramelize. No need to peel the onions and such as this will all be strained.

The toss in the wings and pan juices, deglaze the roasting pan as well to get the goodies that stuck, then cover with cold water...simmer for about 2 hours. I will make the roux and finish the gravy on turkey day.

If you are doing this to make and save for later, a cleaver way to do this is to pour 1 cup of the strained stock into a muffin tin and carefully set level in your freezer. Once frozen, warm the bottom a bit to loosen each one and toss in a freezer bag. You now have convenient, homemade stock at the ready in 1 cup portions.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Little Sneak Peak into the Secret World of a Famous Food Blogger...

Many people come to me and say…”Hey!…how can I be a cool, suave and debonair food blogger like you?”

Well, I say to them as I chuckle…you can, but only in you’re dreams!  That always gets me. But if you really want to know, there are a few hard fast rules to follow:

First you have to look the part. No jeans and t-shirts in our clique. No way, man. One thing is your shoes must match your belt…always, such as white belt, white shoes...which I have three sets of. Red is also good.

Make sure your hair is well past your collar and because of proper hygiene required in the kitchen, comb it all back with a little dab of whatever to hold it in place. And speaking of hygiene, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make sure you have plenty of aftershave on hand. Aqua-Velvet and Old Spice are my favorites…it should be applied hourly.

Pants and shirts should be very, very well fitted. Polyester, of course….and no boxers or briefs…commando is they way to go…a treat for you ladies out there!

You will next need a bitchin’, swinging kitchen…olive or mustard colors are a must for the stove, refer, dishwasher, microwave, Kitchenaid, blender, toaster, coffee pot, crock pot, electric fry pan.

Dishes? Corelle…need I say more?

Linens, towels, toaster cozies, oven mits and general decoration, bric-a-brac and knitknacks should all have either owls or mushrooms on them.

And when are not cooking or blogging, we usually hang out at the hot spots for inspiration, such as the local Holiday Inn lounge or a lounge at a Dennys.

I have to admit...I got most of my help and direction from my brothers.

I don’t know if I sound angry…or my t-y-p-i-n-g is angry but…boy, today…actually all week, my youngest kid keeps coming up to me and saying, “Hey Dad, can I have some food?”  WHAT!?  I said to him, “Hey, I work for a living,!  Do you know who I am? A world famous celebrity food blogger! I don’t have time to buy food for you!” The nerve of him.

Geez! Some people.

I do want to tell you about an incredible new food I found in the ethnic isle of the store, near all the Mexican stuff…”Manteca de cerdo” they call it. I am not sure what it is but, you have to try this stuff!...it's sooo good! It’s great on cereal, toast, watermelon, chocolate bars, crackers, in your coffee,  you can even melt it and eat it like soup…heck anything, I even just eat it straight out of a bowl with some chocolate sauce over it! I go though 3 to 4 buckets of this stuff a week!

Here's a couple of tips I thought I would pass along...something I personally can attest to.

A kitchen tip #1: I have found out this to be very helpful in the kitchen…when slicing through avocados, onions, radishes, cheese, peas, hacking through frozen meat…place it on a cutting surface, DO NOT hold it in the palm of your hand when you slice it all the way through.

Kitchen tip #2: Another thing I found out to remember:…when cooking with scotch bonnet or habanero peppers…DO NOT pop one in your mouth to munch on.

I hate to end on a sad note, but I am going to have to...I have to end a certain project I have been working on. For over three years I have been trying to train my cat to help me out in the kitchen...you know be my kitchen bitch...a prep monkey. I have been trying to train my cat to help out like measuring pasta or opening cans...a taste tester of boiling liquids (something he particularly disliked)...but it just isn't working out. Some of us are just not "foodies". The only task that has been a borderline success that he has shown some hope and aptitude is shredding meat. It's so cute, he likes to practice on my arms and face.

Music to Blog By?  "Wives and Lovers" by Jack Jones