Monday, August 16, 2010

An Austrian Celebration

This year, my father celebrated his 60th birthday. Since he is the definitive "man who has everything," we decided to make him an old school dinner as a tribute to his Austrian heritage. (My great-grandmother, Karoline, was born in Vienna; as a young teen, she migrated to the U.S. where she worked as a professional cook!) Of course, when I think of Viennese cooking, I think of breakfast pastries (they invented the croissant), intricate tortes, and schnitzel. So, the choice of Sacher Torte for dessert was a given. But how exactly does one incorporate the fresh gulf catch of the day into a menu based on the cuisine of a small, landlocked European nation? Turns out that lightly poached fish topped with a cucumber sour cream sauce was the perfect choice! Check out the rest below...

Pretzel rolls from 1994 issue of Bon chewy and salty.

Ben's luxurious snapper bisque -- a high note of the meal, made even more surreal by the soothing sounds of Vienna's finest composers.

An old-school throwback of German-style potato salad.

Spinach souffle seemed a logical choice given the German name - Spinatauflauf Karoline! The recipe came from Gourmet magazine's hardback publication of "Old Vienna Cookbook" -- another vintage keeper!

The main course of poached snapper.

The famous Sacher Torte - named after a hotel in Vienna, it is a light chocolate cake, filled with apricot jam, and glazed with ganache. It's sinful when topped with whipped cream.

The final touch of the evening was the genuine silver coffee service. An extremely tarnished coffee urn was polished to reveal the United Airlines logo! It appears to be a retro pot from the 1970s, used for service in the first class cabin. The rest of the set came from a 25th anniversary gift to Ben's parents. Note the whipped cream (or "schlag") -- a worthwhile indulgence that takes coffee to another level! Happy Birthday, Dad! Hope you enjoyed the gastronomic virtual trip to the mother land!

(Mom - thanks for taking the photos while we cooked!)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

More From Top Chef

Other recipes we've been working on at Top Chef are panzanella (Italian bread salad) and hummus! This salad recipe is a great way to get kids to eat their veggies; everybody wants to dive right into the salad that they made with their own two hands!

Hummus becomes extra magical when Auritte explains the ritual consumption in her homeland of Israel. Wipe it up with pita or spread it on a whole wheat dinner roll.

We make hummus at home from dried garbanzo beans, but canned is easier for the kids, and you might find out the same. This simple recipe has great results.

Hummus is a middle-eastern dip made with chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), seasonings, and tahini (sesame seed butter). The dip is often served with raw vegetables, spread on pita bread, or schmeared on a sandwich.

Drizzling in the olive oil helps us to understand the process of emulsification. Think about what happens when you try to mix oil and water. The oil will float to the top and will not mix in with the water. Emulsification is the process of blending the fat and liquid together. By drizzling the oil into the machine while it is running, we can emulsify the oil and create a smooth, homogenous dip.

Serves 6 people as a dip

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
Olive oil for drizzling
Paprika for sprinkling

1. Put chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and tahini in a food processor. Process until slightly smooth.
2. With the machine running, slowly stream in the olive oil.
3. Continue processing until hummus is smooth.
4. Taste for seasoning. Add more salt or lemon juice if necessary. Garnish with olive oil and paprika.

Whole wheat dinner rolls
Makes 12

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm (105 to 115°F) milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour

1. In a large bowl, stir together whole wheat flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Stir in milk, butter, and egg. Beat until the mixture is smooth.
2. Add all-purpose flour and mix again until the batter is smooth.
3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
4. Stir the batter to deflate it slightly. Grease the muffin pans with pan spray. Scoop even amounts of batter into each muffin cup.
5. Cover with plastic and set aside. Proof for about 1 hour, or until rolls have grown up over the top of the muffin pans. Set the oven at 400 degrees.
6. Bake rolls for 15- 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with homemade butter.

Top Chef Class

As many of you already know, I am teaching a few classes at Celsius & Beyond. This summer camp is more specifically called Top Chef. The kids range in age from 6 - 12. My lessons focus on fermentation and a few other processes of country cooking such as emulsification. In previous posts, I have laid out some of the recipes we have been working on: gazpacho, soft pretzels, & homemade butter.

Of course, the kids' choice favorite is always the cinnamon rolls. How can you resist that smell? With only a minimum amount of guidance, they cranked out some really gorgeous buns!

Feel free to try this at home - if the little guys can do it, so can you!

Cinnamon Rolls
Yield 12

6 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 ½ tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
Zest of 1 lemon
3 ½ cups flour (you may need to add extra flour if the dough seems very wet)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
1 cup water
6 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
4 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons water

1. Cream together sugar, salt, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle (on medium-high speed).
2. Scrape down sides of bowl. Mix in egg and lemon zest. Scrape down again.
3. Add flour, yeast, buttermilk, and water. Mix on low speed until dough begins to form a ball. Switch to dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 10 minutes.
4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Rest for 2 hours or until dough is doubled in size.
5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter. Roll the dough into a rectangle that is 12 inches by 14 inches.
6. In a small bowl, mix together cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar onto the dough. Roll the dough into a cigar-shaped log.
7. Using a serrated knife, cut the log into 12 pieces.
8. Transfer the pieces to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
9. Proof at room temperature for 60 minutes, or until doubled in size. Set the oven at 350 degrees.
10. Bake the cinnamon rolls for 20-30 minutes, or until golden. Cool for 5 minutes.
11. In a small bowl, whisk powdered sugar with water to make a glaze. Brush each roll with glaze. Serve warm.