I had to take a little writing break because it has been busy. Three birthdays in the house, and two big catering events. I have been cooking/baking A LOT.
So here are a few highlights and recaps:
When I can, I like to buy big cuts of meat and break them down myself. It is cheaper this way and I feel like you get a better understanding of the meat.
I bought a 15 lb cut of pork shoulder. This is sometimes labeled pork butt. It is not butt. It’s from the pork shoulder. Don’t get me started on meat labeling…..that’s a whole other post. The shoulder is a working muscle and has a lot of connective tissue. Therefore, it needs to be cooked low and slow for a long time.
The white “stuff” is not fat. That is the connective tissue. I clean as much of that off as I can. Work the tip of a knife under it, and begin to cut away from yourself. You probably won’t get all of it, but get as mush as you can see without hacking away at the meat.
Pork shoulder is great in a crockpot (pulled pork), or braised all day in the oven (pork stew). I made pork rillette. It is the French version of pulled pork turned into a rich spread.
For Christmas I got some molecular gastronomy chemicals- this takes playing with your food to a whole new level. I had some time to prep and set up a twist on a caprese salad.
I started by making tomato juice. With fresh tomatoes, I peeled the skins, seeded them and cooked the liquid down slightly seasoning it with a little salt and pepper.
Then I added sodium alginate to the tomatoe juice and chilled it. I made a water bath with calcium lactate gluconate. I then squeezed tiny drops of the tomato juice into the water bath and got spheres or tomato pearls.
Next I made a balsamic and red wine reduction and added agar agar to make a gel.
Then using fresh basil I made a basil oil and turned it into a powder. My brother got me a 1.5 pound container of tapioca maltodextrin. I guess I will be making lots of food powder.
I then put it together on a spoon with a small piece of fresh mozzarella.
Lastly, I made one of my favorite desserts. Baklava.
1 pound pistachios and walnuts, coarsely ground, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
1 cup ground biscoff cookies
2-3 sticks unsalted butter, melted ( I start with 2 and then melt more as needed)
16 sheets phyllo dough (thawed, if frozen)
For the Syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 6 -to-8-ounce jar honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Combine the nuts, cinnamon and ground cookies in a bowl.
Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with some of the butter. Layer 10 pieces of phyllo in the dish, brushing each piece with butter before adding the next (keep the remaining dough covered with a damp towel). Sprinkle a quarter of the nut mixture over the dough. Layer 4 pieces of phyllo on top, brushing each with butter before adding the next; sprinkle with another quarter of the nut mixture. Add 4 more phyllo pieces on top, brushing each with butter, then add another quarter of the nut mixture, 4 more pieces of phyllo with butter, and the remaining nuts.
Layer the remaining 10 pieces of phyllo on top of the nuts, brushing each with butter; brush the top piece with extra butter. Cut into the baklava to make strips, about 1 1/2 inches wide. Then make diagonal slices, about 1 1/2 inches apart, to create a diamond pattern. Bake until golden, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, make the syrup: Bring the sugar, honey and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat and cook, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and boil 2 more minutes, then let cool slightly.
Pour the syrup over the warm baklava; let soak, uncovered, at least 6 hours or overnight. Garnish with nuts. * Note: you may only need 2/3 of the syrup depending on how much it soaks up the syrup. I start with 1/2, let it sit a little while, then add more.