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Weekend Culinary Plans: Success

by VM Brasseur on October 15th, 2006

If “success” is defined as “ticking everything off the to-do list” then this weekend can be considered one, culinarily speaking. Here’s a recap…

  • Salted Caramel Ice Cream
    I started this project on Thursday by putting together the ice cream mix. This involved making the very dark caramel (“take it to black”) and then dissolving it in the milk, cream and eggs. Set in the fridge overnight, I set to churning on Friday. Despite the fact that I ran the machine for about an hour I just couldn’t get the stuff to set up well. I know that sugar and salt both interfere with the freezing process, but I wasn’t expecting them to do so quite so obviously in this case. Frustrated (and sick of hearing the loud machine running), I scraped the pudding-like ice cream into containers and tossed them in the freezer. A night below zero ought to put it to rights.

    Except the ice cream never entirely firmed up. When it was served at dinner tonight it was still quite soft. Fortunately, it came out at just the right consistency to eat easily. This left absolutely no window between dishing it up and serving it, but that wasn’t a problem.

    The taste? If caramel were coffee with cream then it would taste like this. It’s a very interesting flavor but, as we discovered the hard way, it’s not to the liking of four year olds (but does make for some darn entertaining faces from said child). Definitely an adult sort of dessert. It went beautifully with a forty year old Colheita port.

  • Oatmeal Stout
    Man, I hope this stuff turns out well because I’m not too sure I’m going to make it again. There’s a step in beer making where you take the grain and steep it in hot water for a stretch of time before straining, rinsing and then adding the liquid to the wort (read: fledgling beer). For oatmeal stout the grains being steeped are oatmeal and brewers yeast. The problem with this is that oatmeal is more than a little absorbent. By the time it’s done steeping you end up with about a gallon of warm smelly glop. Glop which you somehow have to strain and rinse. Have I mentioned yet that my strainer, aside from not being made to contain glop, is nowhere close to large enough to hold a gallon of the stuff? There was “steeped grain” everywhere as I valiantly or foolishly attempted to get a couple of quarts of boiling water to seep through the sticky mess. Eventually I succeeded (or close enough for my patience), thankfully.

    After that there were no real problems. Five gallons of stout are now sitting in the primary fermenter in my closet, hopefully soon to start emitting carbon dioxide like there’s no tomorrow. Since this beer has such a high starting specific gravity reading (1.080!) I’ll have to attend to it more than usual during the primary fermentation stage, vigorously stirring it each day to make sure the yeastie buggers stay lively long enough to tough it out to reach secondary fermentation. Hopefully secondary will kick in next weekend. I ought to be able to find enough time to transfer it. We’ll see. The cooler weather might slow the process down a bit.

  • Beef Bourgingnon
    At some point during my grocery shopping yesterday the friend who was accompanying me asked whether I was going to make the beef bourgingnon that night or wait until Sunday. Thank goodness she did, since until that point it hadn’t occurred to me to start this dish the day before I intended to serve it. The advantages of this approach are twofold:

    1. Beef Bourgingnon, like many long-braised dishes, tastes far better a day or two after it’s made
    2. Starting the process the night before gave me some hope of pulling off my hair-brained scheme to make stout the next day yet still being able to be ready in time for my guests to arrive (little did I know they’d show up more than two hours early…).

    Just a tip for those who wish to make beef bourgingnon: it takes a lot of beef. Sure, three and a half to four pounds of boneless chuck roast doesn’t sound like that much. And it doesn’t even look like that much when it’s sitting there in one big beefy chunk. But after you cut it up into bits and pile them all up it seems like quite the overload of cow flesh. Mounds and mounds of beefy goodness. And not just beef. The wonderous pig gets to play a vital role in the part of salt pork, which provides the fat in which to brown the beef hunks. Mmm…pig… Take this Kilamanjaro of meat, add a few veggies, some demi glace and an entire bottle of wine (a decent French Syrah in this case), then put the whole lot into the oven for a few hours while you head out to the front room and catch up on the Veronica Mars that Netflix sent you almost a month ago. When it’s done just let it cool for a bit before tossing it into the fridge. The hard part is done.

    The next day prepare the mushrooms and pearl onions, glazing them with butter and more stock. Set them aside while you thicken the warmed stew with a fair quantity of beurre manie. Add the glazed goodies, mix to heat, then serve. I chose buttered egg noodles to accompany our stew. Aside from being fairly traditional they’re also kid-friendly, which is an important thing when two of your dinner guests are 2.5 and 4.5 years old.

    Those two young ones didn’t try the beef bourgingnon, but their parents did and deemed it a rousing success. I thought it was pretty good but there is room for improvement. First of all it could have used just a touch more salt. Not much. A couple pinches perhaps. Secondly I think the consistency left something to be desired. It wasn’t thick enough. Barely napé. No, not even. Sure, it thickened up a bit (no, not congealed) after it had been allowed to sit for a while. But it wasn’t there at the right time. Ah, well. Live and learn. The sauce was still lusciously unctuous and the entire thing was quite tasty. Which is good, considering how many leftovers there are.

So, yes, I accomplished all my goals for the weekend. In addition to that I also did four loads of laundry, ripped a lot more of my CD collection, cleaned my house and spent three hours following my friend around Ikea. This is one tired little gal who’s actually almost looking forward to the work week starting again so things can slow down to a more manageable pace.

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