All from The Cheese Iron
This morning I joined Dawn at the The French Press Eatery in Westbrook for some coffee and doughnuts. I went there on a single mission, their Maple Bacon Doughnut. Now, mind you, these plans were made the previous Saturday while we were eating at Nosh. Correction.. While we were eating multiple variations of pork at Nosh(five to be exact). How I am not dead or struggling for breath at this moment is beyond me. I do know, however, that I ate half of the Maple bacon and a few forkfuls of the other two(Elvis-pb, banana and chocolate and Boston Cream) at 10 am and I am still full.
Words cannot describe how f’ing good these are. The base of the doughnuts are dense, without being heavy and the outsides are crunchy, yet not greasy. To say that these are the perfect doughnut would not be an exaggeration. Then add on the toppings and you are well into the realm of pure gluttony. The epitome of that fact came when Dawn took her first bite, into Elvis, and was thoroughly covered in peanut butter and chocolate. For a moment she looked like a child diving into an ice cream sundae. Fingers, lips and chin completely smeared with sugary goodness.
The Boston Cream was filled with a balanced vanilla pastry creme that didn’t come off as cloying. Topped with the same ganache as the Elvis it was the best play on a flavor that I usually pass over.
The Elvis was as much overkill as you would expect, with peanut butter running out off the sides and stuffed with thick slices of banana. It was so rich that it was almost too much, but it was so good that it was hard not to keep picking at it.
Now, I had a lot of high hopes in the Maple Bacon after Dawn’s rave of it and thankfully it did not fall short of any of them. Like the pastry creme, the maple glaze was just sweet enough and the salt, lent from the bacon, helped eek a bit more sugar out of it.
We picked them over, and finished off 2 french presses, during the course of 2 1/2 hours and still couldn’t finish. I’ve never been defeated by food and this was a first for me. I bow to the Brothers Tranchemontagne, and their family recipe, for creating one of the most beautifully sinful things I’ve ever eaten.
And thank you Dawn for showing me the light.
The Food Section listed the Semi-Finalists for the James Beard Awards. While this isn’t the final list, it’s nice to see a few new names representing Maine. Fingers crossed that at least one of them makes the final list when it comes out next month.
BEST CHEF: NORTHEAST
Mike Andrzejewski, Sea Bar, Buffalo, NY
Lara and Steve Atkins, The Kitchen Table Bistro, Richmond, VT
Stephen Cavagnaro, Cavey’s, Manchester, CT
Penelle Chase, Phoebe Chase, Megan Chase, and Ted Lafage, Chase’s Daily, Belfast, ME
Dante de Magistris, Il Casale, Belmont, MA
Krista Kern Desjarlais, Bresca, Portland, ME
Gabriel Frasca and Amanda Lydon, Straight Wharf Restaurant, Nantucket, MA
Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows Restaurant, Ogunquit, ME
Gerry Hayden, The North Fork Table & Inn, Southold, NY
Brian Hill, Francine Bistro, Camden, ME
Steve Johnson, Rendezvous in Central Square, Cambridge, MA
Peter X. Kelly, Xaviar’s at Piermont, Piermont, NY
Michael LaScola, American Seasons, Nantucket, MA
Michael Leviton, Lumière, West Newton, MA
Tony Maws, Craigie on Main, Cambridge, MA
Marc Orfaly, Pigalle, Boston
Guy Reuge, Mirabelle at Three Village Inn, Stony Brook, NY
Bruce Tillinghast, New Rivers, Providence
Sai Viswanath, DeWolf Tavern, Bristol, RI
Eric Warnstedt, Hen of the Wood, Waterbury, VT
Just about three weeks ago the cheese making community in Maine lost one of it’s biggest contributors as Jennifer Betancourt, founder and co-owner of Silvery Moon Creamery, quietly walked away from the cheesevat that she manned for the past seven years.
Last December, Jen was featured in Liam Crotty’s updated “Freedom From Want”, based on the original from Norman Rockwell, photo that showed many of us, for the first time, some of the best of Maine’s food community.
Before Pineland Farms, now the biggest cow’s milk cheese producer in the state, there was Silvery Moon Creamery to lead the pack. Jen and her staff gained 5 American Cheese Society Awards–the Oscars of cheese for the geeks out there–and had recently published a 56 page study she conducted on aging options for cheese makers.
While she started with the basics, brie/camembert, cheddar and curds, she had recently moved on to lavender, vegetable ash(like an aged Morbier) and had even produced an aged raw milk cheese washed with Allagash beer. And then, what seemed to be overnight, it was all done.
I can sit here and speculate a million different theories or rumors as to why she left but my grandmother would remind me that it’s not my place, so I won’t. I know that Smiling Hill is suppose to be making their own cheese, though of the more mass produced variety and may or may not be doing so under the Silvery Moon label, but it won’t be the same. Luckily, though, you can still find some of the aged cheeses, that Jen had a hand in making, around at Whole Foods, Rosemont and K hortons.
Hopefully, as it’s been told to me, she won’t be keeping herself from the cheese vat for long. Here’s to hoping she decides to fill the void of a Maine produced sheep’s milk cheese.
Just weeks after saying they would go on a hiatus, Ferran Adrià has decided to permanently shut downEl Bulli in 2011.
I first learned to make Hummus at an Internet Cafe that I worked at back in 1996. I had no idea what Tahini was or what a chickpea tasted like, but I needed a job and I think the owner took pity on me. So, over the past 14 years I can say that I’ve found my preferred recipe through experimenting with add-ins and herbs. It’s no surprise really, when I saw the challenge for this month’s Daring Kitchen’s Challenge was Hummus, that I thought, “Well, that’s not really daring at all, now is it?” It was, however the pita bread that caught my interest and made me slightly panicked.
Like many of us who live in multi-unit aptartment complexes I have very little counter top to speak of. In fact, it’s been a bit of a problem that seems to have followed me from apartment to apartment all of my adult life. Currently my counter space consists of an area just slightly larger than a cafeteria lunch tray. It’s not pretty, nor conducive to making bread and is the sole reason I’ve used a bread maker for the past few years. But, I had no choice–I couldn’t flake on another challenge again–so I made peace with my small counters and trudged into it.
Dry Yeast 2 teaspoons–Not quick yeast
Water 2.5 cups–Lukewarm
All Purpose Flour 5-6 cups
Salt 1 Tablespoon
Olive Oil 2 Tablespoon
1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F.
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn’t puff up, don’t worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.
Overall, the recipe wasn’t complex though I can definitely say that the pita’s struggled to puff up. These were the best:
The Hummus…well, it was hummus. The only fancy part was using the “Garlic Confit” recipe from ‘How to Roast a Lamb‘ from author/chef Michael Psilakis.
Chickpeas 1.5 cups Can use dry chickpeas soaked in cold water overnight (or feel free to use well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking
Lemon juice 2-2.5 whole lemons
Garlic cloves 2 – 3 cloves Peeled & crushed
Tahini (sesame) paste 4 Tablespoon
Flavorings ½ cup or to taste
It wasn’t until the “Optional” part of the challenge came up that it got interesting to me. To completely counter the simplicity of the recipes I decided to face a nemesis of mine–Phyllo Dough. I’d like to say that I have a recipe to give for the Spanakopita that I made from it, but it was more of a mashed up hybrid bastard of many that I came across that ended up giving me this awesomeness:
Spanakopita, Pita, Hummus, Dolmas, Feta Stuffed Greek Peppers and Castraveltrano Olives
Superbowl XLIV(44) has come and gone and the day after I am still shocked, elated and stuffed. Though I had big dreams, in what was going to be a NOLA-centric menu, work caught up with me and I only made one Louisianna food–though, to be honest, I did cheat and pick up some premade pralines from Whole Foods for our dessert.
The easiest thing I could come up with, using Donald Link’s Muffuletta recipe, was actually started three days prior when I made the Giardiniera–olive and veg relish–for the topping.
1 1/2 cups cauliflower florets
1 small carrot, chopped into 1/8-inch pieces
1/2 small onion, chopped into 1/8-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 celery stalks, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/ 2 cup Pimento-stuffed green olives, roughly chopped
1/4 cup Pepperoncini
1 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
5 teaspoons black peppercorns
Toast bay leaf and peppercorns. Combine vinegar, olive oil, salt, sugar, pepper flakes, and oregano in a pot and bring to a simmer. Add bay leaves and peppercorns. Steep 5 minutes.
Strain bay leaves and peppercorns. Reserve liquid. Place vegetables in a 1 gallon container. Pour liquid over vegetables and let sit for two days before using. Strain liquid and puree vegetables.
I used Salame Rosa instead of Mortadella and a large round Focaccia bread that a friend made. Truly, had I made the whole 12″ round into one massive sandwich–this one weighed 1 1/4lbs per slice–we wouldn’t have eaten anything else that night. Because my partner had requested wings, it gave me the opportunity to take this:
Way too much food…Way too much yelling..Way too much fucking fun. Whether or not the Saints can do the same next year will be determined in a few months but I don’t think I’ll be waiting that long to make another Muffuletta sandwich.