Corned beef hash is certainly not the pinnacle of elegant cuisine. Out of the can it looks rather like dog food, but don’t let that minor aesthetic detail deter you. As a kid, this was the stuff of my dreams—-unlike my fellow 3rd graders, who probably favored pancakes with syrup, Pop Tarts, or some other sugar-y breakfast item, my breakfast tastes did (and still do) lean toward savory. On select Sunday mornings, when my vote happened to outweigh my younger brother’s (he’d usually lobby for the belgian waffles) my Mom would break out the canned corned beef hash. She’d scoop the mixture from the can into a very hot skillet, stirring it occasionally to encourage crispy bits to form—-once an appropriate degree of crispiness had been achieved, it was time to nudge a few holes in the meat/potato melange to accommodate several fried eggs. After the whites had set and the yolks were still runny, she’d serve one egg to us each with the crispy hash clinging to its edges. I still can’t think of anything much better.
When I developed the concept for a menu writing project I completed while in culinary school, corned beef hash was on my mind. In my attempt to re-visit and elevate packaged foods from my childhood, there hardly seemed a more logical place to start. With several months of French culinary training under my belt, I had developed a bit of a love affair with Duck Confit and given it’s fatty, salty flavor profile, I thought it would make a reasonable substitution for the corned beef version I grew up. Minus the actual making of the confit and preparation of the vegetables (I used a combination of root vegetables en lieu of just potatoes), this recipe strays very little from my Mom’s method: Hot skillet. Add hash. Encourage crispy bits. Add Eggs. Serve.
Although duck confit can be purchased ready-made at gourmet grocery stores, making it at home isn’t too difficult. The most challenging part of the process may be procuring the amount of duck fat necessary for cooking the cured legs. Lucky for me that when I was developing this recipe, I was in the production section of my education at the FCI—-my classmates and I were responsible for butchering the meat for the school restaurant, including a case of whole ducklings each night. After mowing though the box of ducks, quartering and cleaning each one, we were left with an awe-inspiring heap of fat, ready to be rendered and saved for confit. Although I’m sure that stranger things have been transported on the NYC subway system, I can’t imagine that my carrying home 2 quarts of rendered duck fat from class would have been considered ‘the norm.’
That said, other leftover cooked meats (though ideally not lean ones) could stand in for the duck.
pickled tomatoes (recipe follows)
1. Cook the carrots, parsnips and potatoes separately a l’anglaise (in boiling, well-salted water) until slightly undercooked. Shock in ice water, drain and reserve.
2. Preheat a large skillet before searing the confit duck legs skin side down. Reduce heat and slowly render until the skin is golden and crispy.
3. Remove the legs from the pan and separate the thigh portion of the leg—shred the thigh meat and reserve the intact drumstick in a 250°F oven.
4. Remove all but one tablespoon of duck fat from the pan before adding the chopped onions. Sauté briefly until the onions are just beginning to soften.
5. Add the reserved vegetables and sauté 3-5 minutes, stirring only occasionally to allow the vegetables to caramelize.
6. Add the reserved shredded thigh meat and heat through.
7. While still in the pan, make 8 circular openings in the duck/vegetable mixture with a spoon or spatula., exposing the surface of the pan.
8. One at a time, break the eggs into a bowl or ramekin and carefully slide the eggs into the openings.
9. Continue cooking until egg whites are set and yolks are still runny.
10. Plate each egg with the hash, the reserved drumstick, and the pickled tomatoes.
Makes 8 Legs
for the duck and cure mixture:
120 g kosher salt
8g minced garlic
25g roughly crushed peppercorns
2 bay leaves, crushed
4 sprigs thyme, finely chopped
8 duck legs, trimmed
1.5 K rendered duck fat
1. Combine the salt, garlic, pepper and herbs in a small bowl.
2. Sprinkle about half of the cure mixture into a hotel pan or casserole dish large enough to accommodate the duck legs in a single layer. Lay the duck legs into the pan, skin-side down. Sprinkle the rest of the cure evenly over the duck flesh.
3. Cover the duck with plastic wrap. Lay another appropriately sized pan on top of the duck and add a small weight to apply slight pressure to the curing duck. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
4. Remove the duck from the cure and rub off the excess salt mixture.
5. Melt the duck fat in a large pot (or two pots if necessary to comfortably hold the legs), then add the duck legs.
6. Cook the duck legs over low heat for 2-3 hours or until very tender when pierced with a fork.
7. When cooked, remove the duck legs to a sterile container. Strain the duck fat well and pour it over the legs to submerge them completely. Cool, then cover tightly and transfer to the refrigerator for storage
The pickling liquid used to prepare this garnish is a classic Swedish “1-2-3” recipe: 1 part vinegar, 2 parts sugar and 3 parts water, infused with plenty of aromatics.
Makes 1 Qt. Tomatoes
For the Pickling Liquid:
3 cups water
2 cup sugar
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 small carrot, thinly sliced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
6 white peppercorns
4 allspice berries
1 t black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 quart bite-size heirloom tomatoes
1. Combine all of the ingredients except the tomatoes in a saucepan. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to help dissolve the sugar.
2. Once the mixture has reached a boil, remove from the heat and cool.
3. Once cool, transfer the liquid (including aromatics) to a sealable container and allow to chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
4. Strain the pickling liquid and discard the aromatics.
5. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl or other container.
6. Pour the strained pickling liquid over the tomatoes to submerge them completely, reserving any extra liquid for future use. Cover the tomatoes and refrigerate overnight.
7. Serve with the Duck Confit Hash.
Between finishing up culinary school and cutting my chops as a line cook here in NYC, cooking has become a bigger part of my day-to-day existence than I ever could have anticipated. That said, I haven’t been left with much time to transmit my culinary adventures (of which there have been no shortage) to you. My apologies.
In an attempt to catch up, I’d like to share the “menu project” I completed during my last few months at the FCI. Although my post on Food2.com flushes out the details of the project more fully, the main gist was this: create a four course menu with a theme of your choice and support it with recipes, photographs, and wine pairings.
Perhaps in reaction to all the fancy-schmancy food I had been preparing at work and school, I opted to base my project on the packaged foods of my childhood—-the decidedly non-artisanal ingredients that I grew up eating, culled from the center aisles and freezer cases of the grocery store. With strong memories in mind, I revisited some of my favorites—-French onion dip, potato chips, canned corned beef hash, English Muffins, instant butterscotch pudding—-and recreated them ‘from scratch’ them using my newly acquired French culinary training. The resulting menu looked something like this:
Duck Fat Chips
Caramelized Onion Dip
Baby Heirloom Carrot Salad
with Mustard Thyme Vinaigrette (pictured above and adapted from my recipe here)
Duck Confit and Root Vegetable Hash
Homemade English Muffins
Salted Caramel Pot de Creme
Bacon Cashew Caramel Popcorn
Over the next few days, I’ll publish the recipes for each dish. But why not start with dessert first?
Salted Caramel Pot de Creme
On Sunday nights, particularly when I was very young, we ate instant pudding. I remember vividly the old-school, hand-cranked egg beater my brother and I would use to beat the packaged powder with cold milk and the oh-so-slight skin that would form on the top of the pudding as it set up in the fridge. In revisiting this childhood favorite, I’ve adapted the original caramel-y flavor profile into a rich, pot de crème and topped it with a riff on Poppy Cock caramel popcorn—another childhood favorite.
800g milk (28 oz)
8 egg yolks
140g (5 oz.) sugar
2t vanilla extract
1/2 t sea salt
Bacon Caramel Popcorn, (recipe follows)
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Bring a kettle of water to boil and line a large casserole pan with parchment or a clean kitchen towel. Evenly space the eight ramekins in the pan. Reserve.
2. Place sugar in a saucepan with 3T water. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and continue cooking, swirling pan occasionally until sugar is a deep amber color. Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk. Return to heat and continue cooking until the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Reserve, but keep warm.
3. In a large bowl beat the egg yolks until light. Whisk a spoonful of the hot milk/caramel mixture into the eggs to temper them, then incorporate the rest of the milk.
4. Pour the custard into the prepared ramekins and cover each with aluminum foil. Carefully fill the pan with the boiling water, so that water reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in the preheated oven about 45-55 minutes, or until the custard is just set in the center.
5. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool on a wire rack before refrigerating.
Nonstick cooking spray
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1T vegetable oil
8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews, roughly chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1T light corn syrup
2T heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or coarse sea salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1/4-1/2 T freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a large, rimmed sheet pan with foil, then coat with the nonstick spray. Also prepare a large, heat-proof mixing bowl and spoons with non-stick spray. Reserve.
2. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy, then drain over paper towels and reserve.
3. Heat the oil and the popcorn kernels in a large, covered pot. When popping begins, shake the pot vigorously over the heat. When the popping stops, remove the popcorn to the prepared bowl and combine with the cooked bacon and chopped cashews.
4. In a medium sauce pan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup. Place over medium-low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Raise flame to high and continue cooking the sugar mixture—do not stir, but swirl pan periodically to promote even cooking. As you go, brush away any sugar crystals that have formed on the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush.
5. When the sugar mixture has turned a deep amber color (about 8-10 minutes), remove from the heat and add the cream, cayenne, salt and pepper. Stir well and pour over the popcorn mixture, using the oiled spoons to toss thoroughly.
6. Transfer the popcorn/caramel mixture to the prepared sheet pan and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, tossing periodically until popcorn is shiny and well coated.
7. Cool popcorn and reserve in an airtight container. Serve with the Pot de Créme.
Hi folks! Just thought I’d pass along the link to my most recent post on Food2.com-‐it’s yet another installment of my experience at the French Culinary institute, this month in the high-volume cooking/butchery oriented Level 4. The above photo is from the ‘family meal’ portion of the level, in which we were responsible for cooking a nightly meal for the whole school-‐on this particular evening, [an epic quantity of] roast leg of lamb was on the menu.
More news soon!
Can blogs have birthdays?
If so, My Kitchen/Studio is turning two today. To mark the occasion, I stuck two candles into the above cookie (a delicious gingersnap, I might add), promptly blew them out and as we speak, am proceeding to eat said cookie. Needless to say, we’re keeping it pretty low key for this year’s festivities.
It was the end of my senior year at RISD when I penned my first post and it’s kind of nuts how much has changed since those last few months in Providence. I had started this blog to document my foodie exploits and to divert my mind from the harsh whack of ‘the real world’ following 16+ consecutive years of schooling. Back then, I would have never imagined that two years later, I’d be more than halfway through culinary school and working on the line at a New York City restaurant. Pretty crazy stuff, eh?
In honor of hitting the two year mark, I’d like to review a handful of ‘greatest hits’ on the blog. Some of the following recipes have been heavily viewed over the past two years, while others are just staples of my at-home cooking repertoire.
1) Banana Bread: This recipe was handed down from my grandmother and is one that I have fully committed to memory. I return to it almost once a month when we happen to have a few overripe bananas kicking around. Studded with loads of walnuts, it makes the perfect tea-time snack, especially toasted and smeared with cream cheese.
2) Tuna Pasta: A staple of my college years-‐a cheap and healthy dinner that results from pantry-ready ingredients.
3) Joy of Cooking Hot Fudge: This is one of the most frequently visited recipes on the blog. Straight from the pages of The Joy of Cooking, it’s a classic that’s pretty hard to argue with.
4) Ice Cream Pie: Although the original post is for an ‘autumnal’ ice cream pie, this is an infinitely adaptable special-occasion dessert. I made one for my birthday party this past February-‐it featured a gingersnap crust, alternating layers of dulce de leche and vanilla ice cream, and homemade butterscotch sauce. It disappeared within seconds.
5) Granola Bars: A great breakfast item–highly portable and hugely satisfying.
6) Bulgar Salad with Eggplant, Feta and Mint Dressing: A great flavor combination and perfect for weekday lunches. I just bought the ingredients to throw together a batch this weekend.
7) Savory, Spicy Squash Soup: This is another frequently viewed post and a staple recipe in my kitchen. With a few croutons on top, and perhaps a dollop of plain yogurt, it’s one of my favorite meals. Ever.
But before we hit the whole-month-without-a-post mark (gasp!), I might as well fill you in on the lack of culinary tidbits being published by yours truly. Truth is that I’ve been doing no shortage of cooking lately-‐I’ve started working at a restaurant here in NYC, and between that and school, I’m on my feet chopping, mixing and sautéing six nights a week. It’s not at all that I’m burnt out on cooking-‐I’d be thrilled by the chance to clock a few leisurely hours in my apartment kitchen, developing some tasty recipes, crafting my favorite confections or baking a big ol’ batch of oatmeal cookies. But between homework, trips to the laundromat, and squeezing in some shut-eye here and there, I’ve had little time to hit the grocery store, let alone take on any serious cooking projects. At lunch, one of the few meals that I reliably eat at home, I’m usually cobbling together some variation on bread and cheese or scrounging around in the freezer for leftovers that have managed to evade us until now.
But truth be told, I’m really pretty happy with bread and cheese. I’m my book, this is one of the world’s most infallible food combinations and when I’m home alone, there are few things I’d rather eat. Grilled cheese! Toasted cheese! Even an English muffin ‘pizza’ (a definite relic of my childhood) will do the trick when the fridge inventory is dwindling. Paired with a few fresh greens, maybe some apple slices or good chutney or jam, cheese sandwiches are pinnacle of simple food.
Although our stove is largely collecting dust these days, I did fire it up a few days ago to whip up a simple cheese-friendly condiment-‐born out of a nearly empty refrigerator, the catalyst for this chutney was a half empty jar of fig preserves. Quincy and I had purchased it a few weeks back to accompany a wheel of brie, and frankly, it was pretty unremarkable. In an effort to jazz it up, I melded the remainder with some caramelized onions, a little cider vinegar and a handful of dried fruits and in a short time, had a sweet-savory accoutrement for any sandwich in need of a little jazz.
Quick Fig Chutney
This recipe is quite informal and as I mentioned, came from an almost empty fridge-‐if you have a half onion kicking around in the crisper, or the dregs of a bottle of $3 buck chuck, or maybe some apple or apricot preserves, those could be good stand-ins for the following ingredients.
neutral oil for sauteing
1 small onion, very thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp. cider vinegar or dry white wine
1/4 cup dried cranberries/golden raisins
6 oz. fig jam
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a medium-sized skillet and film generously with the neutral oil. Add the onions and saute for about 10-15 minutes, or until they begin to caramelize. Remove the pan from the heat, add the vinegar/wine and use a wooden spoon to begin to loosen the brown bits that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan (a.k.a. deglazing). Depending on the size of your pan/the quantity of onions you sautéed, you may need to add more/less liquid. Return the pan to the heat, add the dried fruit and continue cooking briefly until most of excess liquid has evaporated. Add the jam and cook over low heat for about 2 minutes to begin melding the flavors. Season well, transfer to a container and store in the fridge.
Just a heads up: the recipe you are about to read yields a truly addictive product.
If you already find yourself defenseless when faced with a bowl of cocktail nuts, particularly of the roasted/honey-roasted variety, you might want to click the ‘back’ button and steer clear of the following recipe. Otherwise, you might end up hoarding 1 lb-bags of nuts at home, just in case you need to make an impromptu batch for a cocktail party, the airing of a new episode of 30Rock, or to celebrate the completion of the after-dinner dishes. That is to say, once you have this little recipe up your sleeve, you will rarely find a occasion that not complimented by a handful of these little morsels. You’ll want to have them on hand all the time-‐it’s a rather slippery, albeit delicious, slope.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get down to business: in essence, these are nuts coated lightly with beaten egg white, tossed in a mixture of salt, sugar and spices, then roasted in a 300 degree oven until the coating dries to an irresistibly crunchy, sweet-salty shell. It is quite remarkable, really, how 1 measly beaten egg white can adhere such a hefty amount of sugar-y goodness to each nut, but this is one feat of culinary magic I choose to accept without question-‐I suggest you do the same.
Sweet and Spicy Candied Nuts
adapted from From Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country, via SmittenKitchen
The sweet/salty/spicy combo in this recipe can be easily tweaked. If you’re not into spicy, let up on/omit the cayenne. The black pepper is also optional, though delicious. Note that it’s possible to sample a nut after they bake (carefully! they’re hot!) to refine the seasoning-‐I typically give the finished batch a few extra grinds of fresh-ground pepper.
1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (I like them with a ‘kick’, but start with a just a pinch if you like)
scant 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (plus more if you like)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg white
1 pound of the nuts of your choice, mixed or otherwise
Line a large, rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
In a bowl, mix together the sugar, salt and spices-‐aim for an even dispersion of all ingredients and no lumps in the sugar. In another bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy but not stiff (see image 1 of 3 in the series above). Pour the nuts into the beaten egg white and stir to combine. Add the sugar/spice mixture to the nuts and toss briefly until each nut is well coated. Pour the sugar-crusted nuts onto the prepared sheet pan and spread into an even layer. Bake in the preheated oven for about a 1/2 hour, stirring the mixture and rotating the tray every 10 minutes or so. Remove the nuts from the oven. Taste, add a few extra grinds of black pepper, if desired, then allow to cool completely before breaking up any major clusters that have formed. Transfer to an air-tight container to store.
Time for another installment of culinary school adventures! Check out my fresh post on Food2, detailing the level 3 experience at FCI. We’ve just started cycling through the ‘stations’ of a traditional restaurant set-up, and the above dish (a fillet of barramundi, shrimp, and mussels, bathed in lobster-brandy sauce) was created during my recent stint as Poissonier. Needless to say, I continue to be well fed.
Happy weekend to all!