Cookie & Milk

Cookie and milk

The Spatchcock

Spatchcocked Turkey
Spatchcocked Turkey

First spatchcocked.

Now on exhibit, bare-skinned and splayed. Disgraceful.

Spatchcock in Process
Spatchcock in process: removing the backbone

To spatchcock, the spine is completely removed from a bird so that the butterflied body can be flattened for cooking, usually on a grill.

My favorite explanation for the odd-sounding term is the theory that it is a combo of the words “dispatch” and “cock.” Fitting, since this is undeniably the quickest way to get the job done, with golden crisp skin and absolutely no dry meat, and the biggest miracle of it all…

A perfect bird in 80 minutes.

My single complaint about this experience is that manhandling bird carcasses pushed the limits of my work space. By NYC standards, my kitchen is plenty large, but flattening out a turkey calls for some serious real estate.

Supplies

Actual, real-thing poultry scissors – even kitchen shears probably won’t get it done
Step stool – to get the leverage needed to break the breastbone
Strong stomach – this is no job for the squeamish

Pumpernickel Bacon Stuffing
Pumpernickel Bacon Stuffing

I love Serious Eats’ nuts+bolts explanation and recipe on this technique, which I used as the foundation of my own spatchcocking experiment. Their gravy recipe is no less impressive; it is certainly the best gravy I’ve ever made.

By Request: Smutty Sweets

Boob Cupcakes: Styled A

My apologies to the easily offended. Candy solutions to off-color problems must be shared.

In my defense, lest I be judged a total lech, these cupcakes weren’t my idea. These naughty cakes were a special request from a friend, a gift to her husband at his birthday party.

If there is ever another occasion calling for such an inappropriate dessert, here is the method:

  1. Smash Orange Chews under a smooth-bottomed cup
  2. Poke the flattened chews through the center with a chopstick and stick a Hot Tamale through the hole
  3. Stick the candy combo on frosted cupcakes

I used plain vanilla frosting, but chocolate would work just as well, or vanilla with a little food coloring to achieve a more realistic flesh-tone.

Boob Cupcakes: Candy

Boob Cupcakes: Styled B

Baking Science

Eggnog Cupcake

Cocoa Anatomy

Cocoa beans naturally start out at about 50% fat.  After fermenting, drying, roasting, and de-husking, the beans are ground to a paste; at this point it’s essentially baking chocolate. When put through a hydraulic plate press, squeezing out about half of the cocoa butter, a hard disk of concentrated cocoa remains. This block is then ground into cocoa powder.    

Vocab

Cocoa Butter: fat squeezed from cocoa beans

Cocoa Solids: the substance remaining after the cocoa butter has been removed from cocoa beans

Cocoa Nibs: roasted, de-husked cacao beans broken into pieces

Natural Cocoa Powder: cocoa beans that have been roasted and ground into a fine powder. Baking soda, which is alkaline, is generally paired with natural cocoa in recipes to neutralize its acidity.

Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder: dark, milder tasting cocoa powder treated with an alkali (potassium solution) to neutralize its natural acidity. Baking powder, also near-neutral in pH, is paired with Dutched cocoa in recipes.

jill_cocoa powder

Black cocoa: cocoa powder that has been heavily-Dutched  Ex: Oreo cookies

Unsweetened/Baking Chocolate: pure, ground, roasted chocolate beans (cocoa butter + cocoa solids)

Dark Chocolate: cocoa butter + cocoa solids + sugar

Milk Chocolate: cocoa butter + cocoa solids + sugar + milk powder or condensed milk

White Chocolate: cocoa butter + sugar + milk powder or condensed milk (no cocoa solids)

Notes & Tips

  1. Cocoa powder can be used instead of flour to dust pans
    (especially if concerned with gluten free cooking)
  2. Because of the differences in chemistry, Dutched cocoa powder and natural cocoa are not reliably interchangeable in baked goods. The easiest substitution advice I found is:
    • To replace natural cocoa and baking soda with Dutch-process cocoa, substitute an equal amount of Dutch-process cocoa but replace the soda with twice the amount of baking powder.
    • For Dutch-process cocoa powder and baking powder, substitute the same amount of natural cocoa but replace the baking powder with half the amount of baking soda.
      (The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion)

cocoa

Seafood Curry

Seafood Curry

This fantastic bowl of food was made using this Nigella Lawson recipe as inspiration. It’s from the “TV Dinners” episode of her show, and although it is overall a fairly simple dish to prepare, any dish that involves shelling and deveining shrimp isn’t in on my list of quick & easy. I’ll try pumpkin instead of butternut squash next time for a more carb heavy, filling wintry main.

Ingredients

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (about 1 2/3 cups)
1 tbsp red Thai curry paste
1 1/2 cups fish stock (I used broth from boiling the shrimp shells for about an hour)
3 tbsps fish sauce
2 tbsps sugar (I left this out)
3 lemongrass stalks, each cut into 1/3’s and bruised with the flat of a knife (I used a tsp of ground lemongrass)
3 lime leaves, stalked and cut into strips (I couldn’t find this in my grocery store)
1/2 tsp turmeric (I forgot this)
2 1/4 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cut into large, bite-sized chunks
1 lb salmon fillet, skinned and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 lb peeled raw shrimp
bok choy or any other green vegetables of your choice (I used peas)
juice of 1 lime
cilantro

I added:
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
4 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 medium white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, julienned

Skim the thick creamy top off the can of coconut milk and put it into a large saucepan with the curry paste, over medium heat. Beat the cream and paste together until combined. (Here I added the onion, then the garlic and ginger). Stir in the rest of the coconut milk, fish stock, fish sauce, and lemongrass. Bring to a boil and then add the squash (and red pepper). Cook on a fast simmer until the squash is tender, anywhere from  5-15 minutes.

You can cook the curry up until this part in advance, maybe leaving the squash with a tiny bit of bite to it (it will soften and cook as the pan cools). Either way, when you’re about 5 minutes from wanting to eat, get ready to cook the seafood.

So, to the robustly simmering pan, add the salmon and shrimp (if you’re using frozen shrimp they’ll need to go in before the salmon). When the salmon and shrimp have cooked through, which shouldn’t take more than 3 to 4 minutes, stir in any green vegetable you’re using – sliced, chopped or shredded as suits – and tamp down with a wood spoon. When the bok choy is wilted, or other green vegetable is cooked, squeeze in the juice of half a lime, stir and taste and add the juice of the remaining half if you feel it needs it. Take the pan off the heat and pour the curry into a large bowl, and sprinkle over the cilantro; the point is that the cilantro goes in just before serving. Serve with more chopped cilantro for people to add their own bowls as they eat, and some plain Thai or basmati rice (I used brown rice).

Zigzag Brownies

cheesecake brownie

To get that perfect surface zigzag:

Pour your favorite brownie batter into a greased pan. Fill a piping bag with cream cheese mix (for a 9″ square pan: 8oz box of cream cheese, an egg, sugar and perhaps a flavoring or extract). Pipe thick lines of cream cheese filling across the length of the pan. Drag a knife through each line of cream cheese, alternating direction with each stroke. Voila!

White Chocolate Brownies 2

white chocolate brownies

Behind the Scene

World's Greatest Dad

Food styling requires a critical amount of pure invention and creative problem solving. Check out the ‘skeleton’ that remained after I dismantled a cookie diorama I photographed for Eleni’s New York. Museum wax is a staple in any food-stylist’s kit, but absolutely anything available is fair game when I’m working: here I used fake ice cubes, ramekins, straight pins, a paintbrush, and metal picture hanging hardware to support the cookies.

Behind the scene 2

Behind the scene 1

Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes

Flourless Chocolate

I prefer my brownies baked just enough to remove the fear of eating raw eggs from the experience, gooey enough to require a spoon. Rumor has it that Suri Cruise sides with me in the fudgy vs. cakey debate

Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks + 2 tablespoons butter, warmed to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 300°.  Melt chocolate (carefully!- do not overheat) and put into mixing bowl fitted with paddle attachment. Add softened butter in small chunks to melted chocolate on low-speed. Mix and heat water, sugar and salt until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add warm (again, not hot!) water mixture to chocolate mixture once butter is incorporated. Add eggs and egg whites slowly on slow speed.  Mix, scrape down sides of bowl, then mix again to make sure batter is combined. Fill cups a 1/4 inch from the top and bake mini size for 30 minutes, standard size for 60 minutes.