Monday, 31 January 2011

A Little Trip to Italy and Spain: Homemade Gnocchi with Romesco-esque Sauce, Fresh Dill, and Grated Parmesan

When I first bought my bag of mini red skin potatoes a few weeks ago, I had intended on cooking them up with some dill and calling it a day. Yesterday, I had purchased some hazelnuts I intended to use in my Nutella chip cookies but never got around to doing so, and alongside some leftover jarred pasta sauce and mini Italian bread, it was about time I used up some of these ingredients. To get this accomplished, and as alluded to in the title for this post, I revisited one of my favourite (but nevertheless challenging) recipes: gnocchi. Thankfully, I can report it was one of the best rounds of gnocchi I've made to date, and my Romesco-esque sauce brought in a ton of flavour that's much needed for essentially boiled potatoes.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

An El Salvadorian Dinner and a "Rustic" Dessert

Tonight, more than any other night here at Denison, served as a reminder why I enjoy cooking with others. And despite the hours of searching for recipes, perfection and understanding only arrive upon trial and error.

Yesterday, I was talking to one of the student workers and explained to him that I had been thinking about what to cook next this weekend. After some convincing, I took on the challenge of making pupusas. Little did I know until last night's research that what I had signed onto was actually making a staple dish of El Salvador. I had agreed to attempt to cook something that he, and the rest of El Salvador it seems, holds very dear and true to his heritage.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Leftover Mac 'n Cheese: Mac 'n Cheese Frittata

On more than one occassion, my cooking has been criticised as unnecessarily complicated, and to a certain degree, I'd agree. Give me a big enough kitchen and the right cooking toys to do the job and I'm sure the kitchen won't look like a complete mess... maybe. Anyway, after last night's culinary fun, I packed up the leftovers and tried to think of what I could specifically do with the left over mac 'n cheese. And what I've "cooked up" (get it? ha ha..) is an incredibly simple recipe inspired by David Rocco's Pizza Pasta Recipe, which I had first seen on the Cooking Channel over the summer: mac 'n cheese frittata.

Béchamel, Attempt 2 (Successful); Meringue, Attempt 1 (Not so much)

It's a bit difficult to spend time plating and taking photos while having hungry guests, so this was all tastier than this photo leads you to believe...

This evening, I set out to master my béchamel/Mornay sauce and came across an astounding revelation. Okay, it wasn't exactly astounding, but I was certainly geeked about it: the proportional ratio for this sauce is 1:1, 1:1, 1:1. For the roux, for every tablespoon of butter you melt, incorporate a tablespoon of flour. And for every tablespoon, you need an equivalent cup. For every cup of milk you mix into the roux, add a cup of cheese off the heat. Also add a pinch of sea salt and a pinch of ground black pepper, to taste, off the heat as well. You can finish the sauce off with a touch of nutmeg or for the recipe below, paprika. So, all of that said, two of the guys in the res hall I live in joined me for tonight's culinary tasting lab, or rather "dinner." Tonight's menu included empanadas, mac 'n cheese (with béchamel and bacon, and a side of broccoli), and nectarine blueberry meringue pie. In addition to my overjoy when it came to this whole ratio deal, I should also note that the majority of this meal was Food Network chef guided and inspired.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Béchamel, Attempt 1 (Successful): Croque Monsieur

And so, I caught the end of the week and have restarted the culinary journey in written form.

For those of you who are reading this and don't know by now, I'm working at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, which itself is anywhere from 20-45 minutes from some part of Columbus. I'm on a meal plan here, but as I'm sure some can attest to, that hasn't stopped me from cooking... entirely. It's certainly slowed me down, but that's where this year's challenge comes in.

As best I can, my aim is to photograph my culinary journey and reflect on what I learned in the process, sharing recipes and such along the way. In contrast to my previous blog and challenge, which set forth benchmarks of basic technique that I thought I had to master within a short period of time, this particular challenge has no time frame and aims at referencing what I've "sensed" before, and without breaking down each technique in checklist form (for example). For ye who may be thinking "what in the world does he mean by 'sensed'?" I mean food I've "heard of, seen on tv before, perhaps made and thought went awry or perfectly," and so on, and so on. Okay, feeble attempt at explaining what I'm trying to do aside, let's begin.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

New Year, New Challenge, New Post

After much consideration, I figured it would be easiest to continue this blog and not create an entirely new one. Besides, the title certainly matches what I have finally determined as this year's culinary challenge (and hopefully one that will extend beyond 2011): simply put, I challenge myself to learn through food.

But first, I'll officially end this new post with something I wrote quite early one morning...a few days ago:

"M.A.'s Revamped Culinary Cooking Challenge (Prelude)"
Saturday, January 15, 2011, at 5:41a.m.