Tuesday, December 02, 2014

roasting, toasting & ranting with Ruhlman

When I went to find the link to my post about the first time I met Micheal Ruhlman, I was amazed to find the entry was 7 years old. So much can change in 7 years...2007 feels like ancient history... I was just starting to connect with other food-obsessed people in the area. The St. Louis Food scene was on the edge of becoming the force it is today.

BFFs (Photo credit: Sauce Magazine)

This most recent evening's dinner was to promote Ruhlman's lates cookbook, How to Roast. I was there for Egg, a book I can't believe I only just got, considering it's the year of the Egg here on Iron Stef.

I am glad I waited because I now have a signed copy! And wonderful memories of dining with and talking to Micheal Ruhlman. How many people can say they've had dinner (and drinks... too many drinks) with one of their favorite authors? I was on food nerd cloud nine for days (BTW, you can still have a wicked hangover when you're on Cloud 9).

did I mention the drinking?

The dinner, sponsored by Sauce Magazine, was planned and prepared by Chef Rex Hale at The Restaurant at The Cheshire and his team. The menu based on recipes and teqniques from How To Roast... roasted seafood, brussels sprouts, root vegetables, beef... even dessert was roasted - roasted pineapple. It was an abundant and wonderful meal, with wine pairings to boot.
All the glasses and all the flatware. Serious.

Roasted cod with root vegetables.
Roasted Brussel sprouts with pork belly.
Roasted strip loin with potatoes.

Before each course, the Chef would tell us about the dishes and wines, and Ruhlman would stand up and preach the importance cooking and of real food. The man is passionate, you guys. He is keyed up about food, and insistent that people learn more about it and, most importantly, cook at home, from scratch (queue "Turn Down For What?"). This night was not ALL about gluttony, I swear.

Marketing has taught us that cooking is hard and inconvenient, and that artificial foods are healthier for us... these beliefs are simply not true! Wholesome meals can be cooked very quickly and with minimum ingredients, if you just plan a bit and learn some basic techniques. To quote Ruhlman:"Before you start to cook in the kitchen, think!" Cooking is not hard and not scary if you just go at it with some common sense and practice. As far as the "health" foods in boxes on the grocery store shelf with their promise of Low-Fat," they are not good for us, and often contain more sugar and more chemicals to make up for the flavor lost when fat is absent. Again Ruhlman provides a battle-cry: "Fat is not bad. Stupid is bad." (That one got some cheers from me and my fellow diners.)

So here I am, spreading the gospel of good cooking and good sense. The gospel of Ruhlman. I'd suggest he start a religion, but that would limit the audience... everyone needs to hear these messages. Food should be simple and nourishing, case in point, the following 2 "recipes" I made in one day from both Egg and How To Roast:

In the introduction to Egg, Ruhlman talks about how Alton Brown told him "Yeah, I've always like to say that the egg is the Rosetta stone of the kitchen." Ruhlman elaborates on this spot-on metaphor: 
"Like the Rosetta stone, the egg, far more ancient, unlocks the secret language of the kitchen. Learn the language of the egg–understand completely this amazing and beautiful oblong orb–and you can enter new realms of cooking, rocketing you to stellar heights of culinary achievement.
The greatest of all our foods, the egg combines beauty, elegance, and simplicity, a miracle of natural design and, as food, bounty. Containing all of the nutrients required to create life, eggs give our bodies a powerful combination of proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, antioxidents, minerals, and vitamins, a package unmatched by any other single food."

One of the recipes in the book is for warm, hard-cooked, creamy-yolk eggs to be served with ham and cheese and bread. 2 eggs, simply and quickly cooked in water in the shells, with some bites of cheese and bread make a satisfying and enjoyable breakfast or lunch that is nourishing and requires minimal effort. Anyone can do this. It was lunchtime when I was reading through the book, and decided to make this for my lunch... 10 minutes later I had lunch and only one pot to (barely) wash. 

For dinner that same day I made roasted cauliflower from How to Roast. Also a low-effort, high-result, simple and healthful dinner. Both books (as with all of Ruhlman's cookbooks) are great for giving you the basic knowledge and skills to help you feel increasingly comfortable in the kitchen. Good for both beginners and people who already love to cook.

-Get in the Kitchen and cook... but think first. It's that simple.
-Eat REAL FOOD. Everything in moderation (except, apparently, alcohol when you're drinking with chefs, authors and magazine editors)
-Be passionate about life.
-Go to author dinners, even if you can't find friends to go with or if it's a bit over your normal dinner budget. It will likely be worth it. 

Similar posts from the archives:
An Evening with Trevor Corson
Meeting Gale Gand
Learning from Rick Bayless

Friday, September 12, 2014

smoked salmon potato quiche/tart

Sometimes I get a whole loaf of pumpernickel bread because I want one fancy grilled cheese sandwich. When this happens I stress about the unused majority of said loaf for a couple of days until I either throw it in the freezer in a panic or make croutons. This time it came down to the wire. 

I wondered if I could make a savory crumb crust... like the graham cracker crusts I love on cheesecakes, but with bread crumbs. I toasted the pumpernickel and mixed it with butter.... it was crumbly but seemed to work. I filled the crust with some of pumpernickel's best friends.... smoked salmon, red onions and capers. And, yep, eggs. Boom. Quiche. I added yogurt to the eggs and half & half to give that tang that a cream cheese would give a traditional bagel & lox. And hash browns because hashbrowns (I think these also helped add structure to the crumbly crust.) 

I don't know if this counts as a quiche because the egg mixture doesn't cover all the fillings, but it does act as a binder. Maybe it's a tart? Either way, it's a savory, hearty, interesting slice of fun.

Smoked Salmon Potato Quiche/Tart 
-6-7 slices stale pumpernickle bread (you'll want enough to make about 2 cups of crumbs)
-spray oil (or you can brush on olive oil)
-onion powder to taste
-4 oz. butter
-1.5 cups shredded potatoes (I used those pre-bagged hashbrowns. If you are shredding your own, make sure to squeeze them dry thoroughly)
-1 medium red onion, chopped
-4 eggs
-3/4 cup half & half
-8 oz. plain greek yogurt
-1 Tablespoon fresh chopped dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill
-about 4 oz. of smoked salmon scraps, pulled or chopped into bite-size pieces
-1/4 cup capers, drained 
Heat the oven to 375ºF. Place the bread slices on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Spray or brush with oil and sprinkle with onion powder and salt as desired. Bake until fully dried and crunchy but not burnt (this will depend on your bread, but mine took about 15 minutes). 
Meanwhile, cook the onions in a little bit of oil until they are soft and just starting to brown. Remove from heat.

Crush the pumpernickle toast or pulse in a food processor to create bread crumbs. Mix with butter and press into a springform pan or a pie plate, going up the sides as much as you can, while keeping the bottom well-covered. place the shredded potatoes on top of the crumb crust. Top with the cooked onions, then the salmon, then sprinkle with the capers. Whisk the eggs, half & half and yogurt together, and season with a pinch of salt. Pour egg mixture into the pie crust. It will not cover all of the ingredients like a traditional quiche.

Bake at 375ºF for 30 minutes until egg is set and salmon is starting to brown. Let cool for about 5 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.

Previous Year of The Egg posts:

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