Vegetarian

Yolks, Yolks, and more Yolks. . . plus an Egg Custard and Nutmeg tart

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So I’ve been working on making some cupcakes for the past couple of days (maybe I’ll post something on that later).  What I originally planned to use with those cupcakes was a nice swiss meringue buttercream.  I was going to divide the basic batch in half or maybe thirds, and then tint and flavor them accordingly.  And since it’s a meringue, that meant just using the egg whites.

Fast forward to the part when you add the butter, and guess what happened next.  Well, the minute I added the butter, everything just deflated.  I thought, “That’s weird.  It’s not like I’ve never made this before.”  So fast forward to take two and lo and behold, the same thing happened.  That meant a change of plans.  It also meant that I had 26 egg yolks that were just kinda hanging out in the refrigerator (10 for each batch of buttercream, plus 6 from a batch of 7-minute frosting that I made as a replacement).

Now what do you do with that many egg yolks?  I didn’t have the foggiest idea.  The only thing that I could come up with was making maybe a gallon of lemon curd which wasn’t the best solution (in my opinion).  So after doing some searching, I came across a recipe for a Classic Egg Custard Pie with Lots of Nutmeg on Martha Stewart’s website.  It looks fairly simple, plus it uses 12 egg yolks!  Of course, I’ll still need to make a lemon curd anyway.  Or maybe a lime curd.

A couple of caveats — I didn’t have the correct pan so I had to improvise.  Since I didn’t have the correct pan, I had lots of extra filling.  So I just decided to have a couple of small baking dishes (which I use for baked eggs — I’ll post on that later) and an old ramekin act as stand-ins without crusts.  I also didn’t bother with the “sweet pastry dough” that was listed in the ingredient list.  I already had some pate brisee in the freezer so I just used that.  Plus, I didn’t have a vanilla bean hanging around, but I did have some vanilla extract. . .  Also, I didn’t have enough cream so I added a little roux to the mix.  Oh yeah, and some of the measurements could be a little off cuz some of the yolks had broken so there might be a little bit more in what I made.  Oops.  Wow — that’s lots of changes.  And I forgot; I don’t have arrowroot, so I used corn starch.

Here’s you’ll need for my version (but check out Martha’s at the link I listed earlier):

  • all-purpose flour for dusting
  • 1/2 pate brisee recipe (check out my earlier post)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 1 t. flour
  • 1 t. butter
  • 12 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 t. cornstarch
  • 1/4 t. ground nutmeg, plus more for dusting
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1.   Preheat oven to 350.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about a 1/8 inch thick round.  Place in a 9″ tart pan that was lined with parchment on the bottom.  Trim off excess crust (save the trimmings — form them into a ball and put them in the fridge or freezer).  Blind bake for 12 minutes, remove pie weights (or rice or beans) and bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown.  Place pan on a wire rack to cool.

2.  In a medium sauce pan, melt the 1 t. of butter with the 1 t. of flour.  Cook for about a minutes on medium and gradually add the milk while stirring to combine.  Add the cream and vanilla and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Remove from heat, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes.

3.  Whisk together yolks and granulated sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick, about 2 minutes.  While still whisking, add warm cream mixture gradually.  Add the cornstarch and nutmeg and whisk until smooth.  Pour through a mesh strainer into the crust.

4.  Bake until edges of filling are set but center is still slightly wobbly, about 40 minutes.  Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight).  Before serving, unmold, sprinkle with nutmeg, and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Dry Rub

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So, May is National BBQ Month (I have already mentioned this in a couple of previous posts).  When a lot of people think of a BBQ, it usually involves some family and friends in the backyard, ice cold drinks, maybe a couple of dogs running around, all revolving around someone managing the grill.  Depending on who you talk to, this is not a BBQ, but in fact grilling.  Grilling is a method of cooking done over a direct flame and high heat.  To purists, BBQ takes hours, slow roasting cuts of meat at a low temperature (low and slow!), all done in a smoker or a pit.  Some are wet (dripping in a variety of sauces) while others use a dry rub.

And what is a dry rub?  Essentially, it’s a dry marinade.  It is a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices that is rubbed on the outside before roasting.  Everything is allowed to marinate for several hours which draws out a lot of moisture which, in turn, concentrates the flavor of the meat.  This also draws in a lot of the flavor of the marinade.

Now, I like this kind of stuff a little on the sweet side, so this recipe has more sugar than most (I do have a rub that is a lot more spicy, too).  It works well when used on the grill because the sugar helps to give a nice caramelized coating on whatever you are grilling, meat, veggies, or otherwise.  This recipe does make a lot, but it should last you the whole grilling season (depending on where you live and how much you use).   It might seem needlessly complicated, but every ingredient does do its part.

Here’s what you need:

  • 10 T. brown sugar
  • 3 T. salt
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1 T. cocoa
  • 1 T. ground coffee
  • 1 t. paprika
  • 1 t. galangal
  • 1/2 t. dry mustard
  • 1/2 t. onion powder
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1 t. chili flakes
  • 1 t. whole anise
  • 1 t. celery seed
  • 1 t. whole coriander
  • 1 t. whole cloves
  • 1 t. cumin

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the brown sugar, salt, chili powder, cocoa, coffee, paprika, galangal, mustard, onion powder, and garlic powder.  In a dry saute pan, toast the chili flakes, anise, celery seed, coriander, cloves, and cumin.  Add to the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and pulse until a fairly uniform powder is formed and the dry rub is cool.  Store in an air tight container.

Note — this is something that I came up with after lots of trials.  There’s a lot of ingredients, so I suggest just trying to simplify things and just go with a basic dry rub.  Start with just the brown sugar, salt, and chili powder.  Add stuff as you go and see what you like.

Fiddleheads

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It’s spring and I again have an unbelievable craving for fiddleheads.  I haven’t had any since I lived in Maine which was several years ago.  There they weren’t as “odd” an ingredient cuz I could just drive up to the Hannaford up the road and get them.  It might be a cultural phenomenon, which I think is due to the large French influence in the area (Quebec is just north of Maine), and I have found several rustic French recipes that use them, usually from Northern France.  That region is a lot more similar in climate to Maine and Quebec so that could explain the regional popularity of them; similar climate, similar flora.  It’s that whole work-with-what-the-land-gives-you kind of thing.  I am not a horticultural anthropologist, so who knows if it’s true, but it makes sense to me.

Apparently these all come from the ostrich fern.  For those who don’t know, fiddleheads are the immature shoot from the fern.  Now do not go and just start harvesting some ferns from your backyard.  Some ferns are toxic to eat at any developmental stage and if you don’t know what you are doing you could be making a big mistake.  Which is why I just try to scour the markets for them.  I did find them once at a market in downtown Ann Arbor, but they were not in good condition.  The season for them is very very short keep an eye out for them.  That’s probably why there are a lot of pickling recipes out there.  The University of Maine does have a page of info that you should check out.

It’s hard to describe the taste.  I’d say it’s a cross between asparagus and mushroom.  Not like a button mushroom, but more earthy from like a woodland mushroom or morel.  It’s a very delicate flavor, which could be easily overpowered.  So recipes tend to be fairly simple with few ingredients.

Now to prep them, you have to thoroughly clean them.  Since these are hand harvested, I imagine that there isn’t some gigantic mechanical produce cleaning machine to process them.  You’ll have to bear with me (or is it “bare”?) because it has been some time since I’ve made this.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. fiddleheads
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. grapeseed oil (or some other neutral tasting oil)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh dill, to taste

1.  Melt the butter in a saute pan with the oil over medium heat.

2.  Add the shallot and cook until tender and opaque, about 2 minutes.  Throw in the garlic and saute until the garlic perfumes the dish, maybe 1 minute.

3.  Add the fiddleheads and cook for about 3-5 minutes.  Add the salt and pepper and toss.  Cook for another 3-5 minutes until tender.

4.  Sprinkle on your fresh dill and serve.

Again, it has been a long time since I made this so the timing might be a little off.  I still am having some difficulty finding some fiddleheads here.  But I am trying to encourage folks to try something that they might not consider.  Expanding your horizons can be delicious!