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Jan 23, 2009 05:10 AM

Kitchen AKA laboratory

How many of you have gone out to buy ingredients just to mess around with rather than to eat? It can be a little wasteful but it's great fun.

One time I bought a baking potato and some cod, then sliced the potato paper thin and tried to wrap a square of cod in potato. That bit kind of worked (I par-boiled them obv.). But then the cooking time for potato (oven baked) is far, far greater than that of fish. By the time the fish was perfect (maybe thanks to the potato, it was moister) the potato was still fairly raw. I guess it would be better with pastry.

I once bought an entire jar of apricot jam to try and make an apricot-cream sauce to go with duck. I don't even like sweet with savoury: Epic fail. At least the g/f likes apricot jam.

I have had success with, for example, using a grill pan of water in a hot oven to steam and roast duck that's been "sealed" in a pan.

So, success or failure, what crazy experiments have you performed in your lab?

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  1. For your cod wrapping, have you tried crackers or seasoned breadcrumbs or even dehydrated potatoes instead? Raw potatoes/pasta/pastry are usually not in the middle of a meat because they'll cook slower than what they're surrounded by.

    We're currently doing that with 36 assorted sizes of black and white Oregon truffles. Since I can't get any clear advice as to what to do with them or how to effectively use them, I shaved a tiny white one into miso this morning (it was lost), Jim grated a medium small one onto a potato (good), and soon we will grind up a few to add to salt or rice or oil and try the same with whole pieces. I need some more inspiration.

    I might head to the local Quail farm to pick up 30 eggs to play with too, but that is more along the lines of tiny food than anything else. Unless I eat all of the yolks atop tiny biscuits of whites with shaved truffles on top. Mmm.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Caralien

      For the potato, it was the look and the crunch I was going for - hard to explain.

      And the truffles, the oil and with the quails eggs is a great idea. I think generally, people make the truffle the central flavour, and back it up with a small number of more subtle flavours.

      I've never eaten truffles before, but first, I'd definitely try it on its own. Then I'd look into making a simple pizza with buffalo mozzeralla and basil. Maybe some small tomatoes roasted in the oven with the seeds removed, garlic and a basil leaf in the middle, sprinkle of salt and olive oil drizzled over, ala Heston Blumenthal.

      May I ask how mcuh the truffles cost, and how big they are?

      1. re: Soop

        The whites are between gumball sized (3/4") to 1.5"x2" (1oz); the blacks are 3/4"-1" blobs + a 2oz piece that's about 3" x1.25". $122 including Fedex overnight from Oregon Wild Edibles


        They're not as truffle-y in scent as I expected, but then again, neither was the $80 jar of French Truffieres du Rabesse. My husband liked the taste, but didn't know what to expect. I have to buy a bottle of oil scented with the artificial "essence" of truffle so that he knows what he was supposed to compare it to.

        We knew it might be a bust, but will be playing with it. If it makes something wonderful? Great. If not? We'll keep trying and eventually might give up when we become distracted by something new.

        I will say that the smell of the fresh truffles is potent, drives both cat & dog nuts, and there does seem to be something amourous, relaxing, flakeyness inducing, and hunger inducing about them even though I am usually doubtful about aphrodesiacs. We rewrapped the truffles this morning and smelled the previous night's liner, then Jim took an extra 45 minutes to get ready, made his baked potato with some grated truffle + sea salt, dawdled a bit more, gave me a kiss, left, came back, another kiss, then off to work. It could be completely coincidental, but I'm glad it's Friday!

        1. re: Caralien

          Blimey, I was gonna say that's really expensive, but it could be worth it. I saw Michel Roux on a TV cooking show once. they have a section where the two chef guests try to make an ommelette as quickly as possible. So the other chef does it in about 30 seconds, and Mr Roux takes his time, just because he wants it to be a good ommelete! Then to top it off, he produces a truffle he got from his garden that morning and grates some on top of the ommelette. It's the only one I really remembered.

          Trying to think of other uses for truffles... How do you think fish would go? Salmon often has that earth flavour that might complement it, and it would be a good move away from lemon and dill. Plus, you could serve it with chinky chips (fries) and hollandaise sauce.

      2. re: Caralien

        One famously extravagant truffle recipe involves slicing them very thinly, then sliding them under the skin of a whole chicken, then roasting. The French name for this dish is 'poulet demi-deuil' which translates to 'chicken in half-mourning'.

        1. re: Louise

          roasters are on the plan for next week. Yes, I know, I have leftover bbq pork, and there will likely be some leftover bison, but variety is good! Is it bad that I (almost) feel guilty because there's such a bounty to be found locally and domestically? I'm not joking at all--I've been a partying city person for most of my life, but embracing locally produced (and these domestic truffles) has been an incredible eye-opener. What do I do with the blue pumpkins? Dunno. They're my shade of blue and pretty. Ok, how about making pumpkin pie (or crustless custard) from scratch? Ok. Wow. This is good (effective crock pot use #2). Seeds? From the blue? Not so good, but certainly edible. Just harder.

          Then there were the pints of habaneros for $1 from a local farm. Whatever would I do with these before they went bad? Slice them up, put in jar, shake with sea salt, cover with olive oil (I hate EVOO--just call it olive oil for goodness sake!), keep in fridge. Use as needed. They're still bright orange and can be added to soup or eggs.

          It's like seeing kumquats--the first time I remember having them was at the office. They were there, I recalled a story of my sister loving them as a toddler. Ok. Eat. Couldn't drink the coffee. Was wired beyond belief. Ok. So there's something to this natural vitamin C thing.

          There are so many oddities until you start picking them up and embracing them. Or finding that they're useless, at least for you. If you have a bounty, use it. In everything.

          I told my husband that we can't play with truffles in the AM on work days (see above), so we'll embark on more experiments this weekend.

          I'm somewhat of a purist, so I've frozen grapes and ginormous blueberries to eat frozen. Or put into a bowl, apply milk, then coat a 1/4-1/2" layer in sugar. Wait until the sugar hardens, then crunch the top and eat. It's an amazing treat. I lucked out on finding some blueberries recently and they were HUGE. So I froze half of them. The little ones don't work (better for pancakes or waffles), but the large ones? It's better than candy. And I'm a recovering sugar freak (merengues or nougat eaten during the 15 minute walk to school--whee!).

          I got totally off topic. Food is so good.

          1. re: Louise

            Oh my, Louise, you NEVER roast a poulet demi-deuil, you poach it! In a bouillon de volaille, with carrots, onions, turnips and potatoes. Then you mash the veggies after everything's cooked for an hour, slice the chicken up and lay it on the mashes veggies. Roasting truffles will destroy them; turn them into flavourless truffle chips in fact.

            How do I know this? Because I made a poulet demi-deuil last night. With a 60-gram truffle. It was, um, delicious.

            1. re: barksducks

              I defer to your superior culinary experience. I have never made or eaten this, only read about it <sigh>.

        2. Once, some years ago, I bought some fresh (uncured) olives, because - well, just because they were there. I've never seen them in a supermarket before or since.

          For the record, uncured olives are hard and inedible. These ended up as cat toys.

          10 Replies
          1. re: BobB

            lulz :) I like the ethos of buying things "because they're there". Introduced me to things such as sharonfruit (bad) and p.. uhm... These things that taste like slightly bitter orange flavour cherries, with a papery cover. They were nice.

            1. re: BobB

              My grandparents had a black olive tree, so as with the crab apples, I took one and bit into it. Then spat it out. The crab apple tree in my parents' back yard was near the 2 cherry trees (eventually all destroyed by lightning), so I would pick and taste. I really tried with the crab apples (if they're this astringent, they must somehow be healthy or an acquired taste?). No go.

              1. re: Caralien

                I think I must have eaten them as a kid. I definitely remember my grandma giving me slices of cooking apple while she was making apple pie, and I remember someone (mum?) telling me I wouldn't like them. I loved them, they were really sour. I kept telling my Grandma not to put so much sugar in the pie so it would come out sour.

                1. re: Soop

                  I've convinced myself that crab apples were grown for making hard cider or to mimic cherries as decorations. Come to think of it, pomegranate molasses has a similar flavour--that was one of the binge purchases which we haven't found much use for, but it seems like something you may want to try (if you haven't already).

                  1. re: Caralien

                    pomegranite molasses.. Sounds like something that would be hard to get in the UK - especially since Poms are going through the whole superfood-du-jour in the states right now.

                    Now you say something about crab apple cider...

                    *edit* bah, I could have sworn there was a TV show where there was crab apples and crab apple cider. It's an English show called "What to eat now". ANyone remember?

                    1. re: Soop

                      see if you can find a middle eastern shop--they'll be in pint sized bottles there. I discovered the pomegrante molasses at one of those shops, as well as honeycombs, and mushroom soy sauce when I was travelling or living in Europe.

                    2. re: Caralien

                      You should read Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire. He gives a very interesting history and science lesson about apples, including the genetics of crab apples.

                      1. re: mpjmph

                        thanks! I just reserved it at the library!

                  2. re: Caralien

                    Interesting - I had a cherry tree in my back yard growing up, and it also was struck by lightning - it was split down the middle and half of it died.

                    What is it about cherries that attracts lightning?

                    1. re: BobB

                      It's the open fields? The pointiness? The ancient apple tree (2' diameter) in the middle of the 3 acres was hit a few times until we finally had to cut it down. The mulberry trees next to the barn, however, were a great treat for us (sit on fence and gorge) as well as for the horses!

                2. I refer to the grocery store as my hobby shop!

                  1. Scoop, try wrapping the the fish in your thin sliced potato, then searing the the packet in a saute pan with a little olive oil. the high heat will brown up the potato nicely then stick the whole saute pan in a 450 oven to cook the fish through. I used to prepare fish like this back in my restaurant days.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: jscott65

                      Awesome! Thanks for the idea - did you use anything to stick the layers of potato together?

                      And FYI, it's Soop - I get Scoop a lot :D

                      1. re: Soop

                        The best way to get the potato to stick it to wrap the whole packet (potato wrapped fish) in plastic wrap (tightly) and stick in the fridge for 30 minutes - not much longer because the potato will brown - then sear and roast in the oven.

                    2. Peanut Butter Soup!

                      From time to time, I'll wrap fish like cod, halibut or salmon in potato sliced paper thin on a mandolin.

                      Heat a frying pan over medium-low heat, melt a bit of butter, fry the fish 2 – 3 minutes on each side, thicker cuts of fish will allow the potato time to cook before the fish is to dry.