Monday, November 24, 2014

Cider Belly Donuts


So today I had to venture into downtown Albany to complete a very mundane errand on State Street. To wash the bad taste of bureaucracy out of my mouth I decided to pop by Cider Belly Donuts over on North Pearl as I have been vaguely curious about the joint since it opened. Also, it seems that lately we are all supposed to be super psyched about donuts. I am a sucker for fads...

I guess I should say that I don't really care about donuts other than cider donuts and cider donuts are inextricably linked with the experience of getting cider donuts in my mind. You go to the orchard/farm stand (Altamont Orchards or Indian Ladder for example), you poke about, you go stand in line, you get your sack of warm donuts. That is pretty much it. So I am vaguely suspicious of buying and eating a cider donut in the middle of a city. But I tried to forget all of that nonsense and just get a sack of donuts.

When you get close to Cider Belly you are greeted by the not altogether unpleasant stench of cooking donuts/donut grease. The decor is pleasant and the goods and donuts are attractively displayed. I ordered a 1/2 dozen sugared cider donuts to go and left with my prize for the reasonable sum of 5 dollars American.


I detected no warmth from the bag of donuts but I sort of expected that as I popped by at around 1100, well after the probable morning rush. I walked them back to my car which I had parked on the roof of the Sheridan Hollow garage. I had received a coupon for a free coffee at Cider Belly and as I don't drink that particular beverage I decided to leave it laying about for some lucky Albanite to discover. I put it on the emergency box in Stairway #2 on the roof level of the garage. For all I know it is still there.



Moving on to the business at hand. Here is one of the Cider Belly donuts.


Nothing like enjoying a cider donut on a rainy day inside a Toyota on the roof of a parking garage with a bleak view of urban decay and smoke stacks... 

Here be the crumb of the donut.


I thought the donut was OK. Sweet enough with a spicy sort of flavor and crusty with a cake-y texture. Very aggressively cider flavored in comparison to the other usual suspects in the area. 

If I was in proximity to Cider Belly again I would definitely pop back in to see what else they have going on. But I do not consider this to be a destination for "cider donuts." Separated from the traditional cider donut experience these are just pretty good donuts. If we are talking "cider donuts" give me the bag-mix beauties they churn out at Indian Ladder any day. 

All this said, Cider Belly is a charming joint with quality products and if you are down there you should give them a whirl.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Vichy Pancakes. (Pancakes W/Stewart's Vichy)


I am very interested in what I like to call -- "the lore of our grandmothers." All of those strange and wonderful tidbits of advice that have been passed on through the generations... If you go in the woods keep a piece of bread in your pocket as a ward against fairies, throw salt over your shoulder into the devil's eyes, pour Dr. Pepper on your ham... I delight in all of this wisdom of the ages.

When I posted about Stewart's Shops "Vichy" soda a year or so ago I was advised via the tweeters that wise old Upstate New Yorkers have been using Vichy as an ingredient in pancakes! Haha! I live for this sort of stuff. I made a mental note to give this a go and have only this very morning gotten around to some experimentation.

In the original advice which I received it was stated that Vichy was used instead of buttermilk or milk. I suspect that this is not entirely true. Vichy contains Bicarbonate of Soda which will only act as a leavening agent in the presence of an acid. I suspect that wise ol' timey pancake wizards were supplementing their standard buttermilk (contains requisite acid) pancake recipes with a bit of the Vichy right before cooking to give the pancakes an extra bit of lift. At least this is my hypothesis... And I will be testing it in the future. But for starters I thought I might see if adding a bit of Vichy would do anything in and of itself when thrown into my standard workaday pancake recipe.

I don't like pale, flabby white flour pancakes. On the rare occasion that I want to eat a pancake I go with a whole wheat solution. My recipe is - 3/4 cup King Arthur white whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 egg, 4 tablespoons melted butter, salt, and around 1 1/2 cups whole milk. This time I dialed back the milk by 1/4 cup and was a bit conservative with the salt as Vichy is very salty.

What I did was to prepare the pancake batter as per usual and let it rest for 5 minutes while I heated the pan and what not. Right before cooking I stirred 1/4 cup of Vichy into the batter.

I did notice that the pancakes looked like they were getting a bit more lift than usual during cooking.


Perhaps the bicarbonate of soda in the Vichy reacts with the acid in the baking powder for some additional bubbly action. I don't think it could be the small amount of CO2 in the carbonation, but what am I? Some sort of scientist?

The pancakes cooked up very nice and brown but this is probably just because of my next level pancake skills.



I apologize in advance for my shoddy pancake photography but I am adhering to my strictly unprofessional standards for all pictures included in my posts... I am attempting to show you in the following picture that these were in fact some light and fluffy-ass pancakes.


It occurred to me afterwards that I really should have done a control group of pancakes sans the Vichy for comparison's sake. But that really sounds like a lot of work... So I probably will just rely on the very un-scientific opinion that it was the Vichy that was responsible for the fluffy-ass qualities of these particular pancakes. 

I encourage everyone to conduct extensive at home research into this fascinating topic. I am tentatively going with the opinion that Stewart's Vichy adds strange and magical properties to pancake recipes. 





Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dunkin Donuts' "Croissant Donut" is Suspiciously Similar to Their "French Cruller"


Pretty much every time Dunkin Donuts puts out some vomitous new donut I feel the need to try it. The last time I sated my morbid donut curiosity was when I looked into the void and ate some of a "Brownie Batter stuffed Donut."

This time we have the "Croissant Donut." This is Dunkin Donuts' lame (year late) attempt to jump in on the Cronut craze that was all the rage with the NYC novelty food set. They are a year late and a dollar short with this feeble attempt...

I have had a couple things purporting to be "cronuts" and they have been uniformly pretty bad. I guess the main rub is that the donuts are supposed to have "layers" sort of like a croissant. Most of the ones I have had reminded me of those cheap pull apart biscuit thingies that come in a tube. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting much.

What I wasn't expecting was deception!



Trickery I say! Remember Dunkins' "French Crullers?" (I stole the below picture from the internet) -


The godamn "croissant donut" is a godamn "French Cruller" with a slightly mutated shape! The texture/taste is to my sensibilities indistinguishable. It is my suspicion that some genius in Dunkin Donuts marketing had the bright idea to stick a different nozzle on the French cruller machine and call the result a "croissant donut."

For shame, for shame. You sir, are no croissant donut... On the bright side, if you are heavy into French crullers I guess you eat these now too.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pumpkin Spice-less Pumpkin Pie. All Glory to the Pumpkin! Down With the Spice!


So recently I have been rebelling against the "pumpkin spice" phenomena and advocating for use of the glorious orange fruit of the vine in ways that allow the pumpkiness to shine through. Pumpkin pie is one of the worst abusers of the meddlesome melange of spices. Most "pumpkin" pies should really be called "cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg flavored congealed paste pie." This is upsetting as the natural sweetness of punkin' fortified with a little more sugar (or some such other sweetener) doesn't really need much help... So I decided to come up with my own "pie spice"-less recipe.


I started with a head-sized specimen of my new favorite pumpkin. You can read all about the wonderful Long Island cheese pumpkin here. Mr. Pumpkin got seeded quartered, roasted at 350 for 2 or so hours, and finally skinned and ran through a food mill. This results in about 4 cups of punkin' flesh.

I find that one of the secrets to a good pumpkin pie is evaporated milk. It lends a certain richness and texture without the overbearing creaminess of actual cream. You can buy a tin, but for assuredly tasty dairy you can make it yourself. I reduced 2 pints of Battenkill Creamery whole milk until it became 1 pint. The whole mess goes in with the pumpkin flesh.



My next secret pumpkin pie weapon is some powder/paste made from roasted pumpkin seeds. This adds a roasty component as well as some fatty mouth feel to your pie. I grind up the seeds in my spice grinder with some salt. I add a third of a cup to the pie.


Aside from that - 2 jumbo eggs (from Stewart's of course), 1/2 cup white sugar (brown adds molasses notes that I find mask the punkin'), 1/3 cup honey, and a spare 1/4 teaspoon of good vanilla. I whisk it by hand. I don't mind a bit of a toothsome texture in my pies. 

Without the brown sugar and copious cinnamon of a standard recipe the orange color of the cheese pumpkin shows through in the batter.


A note on my choice of crust. I am very anal about certain things. Pumpkin pie is one of them. I believe it is one of those items that has a defined form that shouldn't be meddled with. Part of this ideal form is a shitty, processed, graham cracker crust. Trust me, I am no stranger to DIY kitchen projects. The things I have made by hand would flabbergast many an old kitchen hand. However, I have not yet gotten around to producing a wholesome version of the graham cracker crust. So as of now I leave pumpkin pie crust making to the fine elves of Keebler. You don't need to tell me about all of the heinous shit that processed pie crusts contain. I am fully aware. I make concessions for tradition's sake.

You should get two thinnish pies from this recipe. The custard of an ideal pumpkin pie should be somewhere between 3/4" and 1" thick. No thicker. Big 2-3 inch pumpkin pies look good on the pinterist but are shit for eating. 

Bake the pies for about an hour at 350 and there you have it.


Delicious orange pie. The sugar, honey, and hint of vanilla are all you need to support the flavor of the roasted pumpkin. If you don't like this pie, I'm sorry child, but you do not like pumpkin. You are allowed to continue purchasing PSLs and huffing pumpkin spice candles but what you are really a fan of is cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg (clove/allspice/mace too perhaps). I'm sorry if I have thrown you into crisis.


And that is that. I prefer my pie unadorned but some whipped cream would not be out of place. I am a pretty grim individual and even I can't help but smile at the site of a nice wedge of pie. 

Follow my example. Free your pie from the shackles of its spice. Not every pumpkin pie has to smell like the sachet of potpourri in your grandmother's underwear drawer. Let the flavors of the earthy orange globe shine through. This is all I have to say for the moment.




Thursday, October 16, 2014

Anatomy of A Cheese Pumpkin

Long Island Cheese Pumpkin

I love pumpkins. This is good because I happen to live smack dab in the middle of some the world's best punkin'/squash growing country (Upstate NY). Come fall our local farms overflow with squash of every hue, size, and description. Funny thing is, most of them probably end up on people's porches for the ravenous local squirrels (a plague on their fuzzy house!) to feast upon. It seems as if many people in the modern world have forgotten that punkins' is good eatin'.

The most pumpkin/squash flesh that many of my Upstate countrymen manage to get in their stomachs is via a can, or perhaps some frou frou soup at a restaurant. This is not how it should be. Heck, I can eat roasted pumpkin or squash out of the oven with some butter on it in the manner of a baked potato! In my opinion the pumpkin/squash family is overrated as decorations and underrated as food.

I just so happened to be over at Indian Ladder Farms the other day with my lovely family when I spied a stand of "Long Island Cheese" pumpkins. The LI Cheese varietal really is a beautiful pumpkin. They just beg to be roasted and put to delicious purpose. I chose the above pictured lovely example. It was 4 bucks (I forget the weight, approximately the size of a squished soccerball).


A day or two later I hacked into my prize revealing the vibrant orange guts and plentiful seeds. A pet peeve of mine happens to be the fact that a majority of Jack-o-lantern artists chuck the seeds along with the guts. This is a travesty. There are few healthier, tastier foods out there than roasted punkin' seeds. Wash them off, throw on some neutral oil or butter, salt well, spread on parchment, and roast at 300 for about an hour. This one pumpkin provided a cup and a half of beautiful seeds!


Most pumpkin preparations are going to begin with roasting the flesh. I see a lot of recommendations for putting the pumpkin pieces skin side up with water in a pan so they sort of steam. I am not a fan of this method. I smear the hunks of pumpkin with butter and bake (350 for an hour or two) flesh side up until I can stick a fork in without resistance. I think the brown roasty bits add flavor to any intended dish.


Cooked thusly the flesh comes away from the skin with much ease. I had intended to do a pie and a soup with this pumpkin but I got lazy and decided to go with two pies. I like to run the flesh through my little hand cranked food mill. I ended up with something like 4 or 5 cups of purty orange flesh.


To one punkins' worth of flesh I add - 2 cans evaporated milk, 5 large eggs, 1 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ginger, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. You could probably get three pies out of this but I did 2 big ones this time (graham cracker crusts). The pies bake at 350 for an hour or so.


So, my opinion of the Long Island Cheese pumpkin you ask? It is a superb cooking pumpkin. Fleshy, substantial, and sweet. The pie was light and custardy with pumpkin flavor peaking through all of the sugar and pie spices. I think this pumpkin would be suitable in all applications from pie to soup to stew. I am in love with the cheese pumpkin. It is my new favorite pumpkin. 

The moral of this story is that pumpkins and squash are an important local agricultural asset. You should take advantage of this by finding ways to eat them instead of simply putting them on your porch. 








Friday, October 10, 2014

One Year Old Aged Spiced Egg Nog. You Heard Me.


Maybe you will remember that 2 days short of a year ago I posted about whipping up some spiced egg nog which I planned on aging for a bit. As you may remember I am a big fan of aged egg nog (here is some commentary and one of my recipes). Generally I start a batch every year around Halloween to be cracked open between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But last year I got it in my head to push the boundaries a bit and see if I could go without opening a jar of the frothy nectar for an entire year. I succeeded...


This down and dirty batch of nog started its life off a year ago as Johnny Drum bourbon and Stewart's milk/cream/eggs. Very classy. Like me.

Here it is all fresh like for comparison with the above aged nog picture-


Now drinking year old eggnog isn't all disgusting and scary as it might seem. There is enough Johnny Drum in there to gag a horse which should (emphasis on should) have kept the baddies at bay. Tonight I decided to crack the bad boy open and hope for the best.

Here is a video of the uncorking -


video

All that goop on the lid is just butter fat from the cream. I gave it a sniff and it was a rather benign noggy/boozy stench. I was undeterred and decided to persevere with my mission of getting some of the nog into my gut.

Here is the pour -


video

Something I noticed during the pour was that the nog seemed rather thin in consistency compared to how it was at the beginning. I could hazard some guesses as to why this might have happened but I am a hack barely literate writer of a blog that is sort of about food, not a scientist. I will say that I didn't note any putrid chunks or green bits. This left me slightly encouraged.


So Dave, how did it taste?

Well, as is usually the case with experiments like this, it was shockingly normal. It tasted like a decent nog made with cheap bourbon. Very much like the 2-3 month old aged nogs I usually make. I will say that the hooch flavor was noticeably smoother for the aging. The year seemed to have taken the edge off of the Johnny Drum. As mentioned before the nog was noticeably thinner. Almost as if the cream had been removed from the equation. 

There were really no off flavors or any sort of spoilage that I could detect by taste. Perhaps I will die tomorrow of some horrid nog incubated pestilence... But I actually think I am going to be OK.

So I think the year old nog experiment was sort of a bust. I don't think 12 months was much of an improvement over 1 or 2 months. Color me disappointed. I expected either a transcendent taste sensation or a gloriously disgusting failure. Such is life. I got mediocre. 




Thursday, December 26, 2013

6 With the Works at Home (Capital Region Style Mini-Dogs)


So I bought a Kilcoyne Farms strip loin from Adventure in Food for a get together I am attending in a couple of days. I defrosted the beef and trimmed it down as I like to sort of "dry age" beef roasts in the fridge for a while before cooking. The cut of the strip loin was a bit funny... There was really no fat cap to speak of and there was a large-ish hunk of chain meat attached (if it was meant to be denuded it's funny that the chain was there). I like big presentation proteins to look sort of neat so I trimmed off the chain and some other bits and pieces. I was left with about 1 pound of fatty trim.

I took this as an opportunity to practice my Capital Region style mini-hot dog making. I have tried before with modest success but there is always room for improvement in the the sausage-y arts. I went all beef stuffed into lamb middles this time. I used the recipe for all beef skinless franks from Len Poli's site as a base (I made some additions and subtractions). 

If you are going to make the mini hot dogs, then why stop there? I took the further step of collecting the ingredients for a full-on batch of dogs with "the Works" (onions, meat sauce, mustard).

I ground the meat (prob. about a 65/35 meat to fat ration) through a fine plate twice. At the end of the second grind I sent through a handful of ice cubes for added moisture and to keep the paste cold. I mix it in my KitchenAide at high speed for a couple minutes to emulsify. 


I stuffed the paste into the lamb middles and tied into about 3" links.


After resting the hot dogs in the fridge overnight I poached them in 170 degree water until they were about 145-150 degrees internal temp. I wasn't going to drag the smoker out for just a pound of dogs... To compensate for the lack of smoking I added liquid smoke to the meat paste. A lot of people feel all guilty about doing this, but as long as you buy a quality brand of liquid smoke (ingredients should be something like "water and smoke") it is a completely viable way of adding smoke flavor. Heck, smoked salt is all the rage these days (I've been making it for years) and that ain't much different in concept.

Poaching lends a rather unattractive color to the surface of the hot dogs (grayish) but the insides were all nice and pink and hot dog-like!


I didn't have the time nor the inclination to attempt to bake my own buns so I picked up some mini-rolls (from Perotta's Bakery in Troy) at Hannafords.


I have repeatedly tried to refine my Capital Region style hot dog chili sauce with moderate to limited success. I am starting to think I am running into a sort of ketchup situation, i.e. making it at home is more expensive, time consuming, and will never turn out quite as good as just picking some up from Famous Lunch or buying the Hot Dog Charlie's stuff at the market. I think my main problem is not using enough celery salt and mustard powder. Getting the vinegar-y punch right has troubled me as well...

This time I just picked up a jar of Charlie's sauce.


I sautéed up some of my dogs along with a mess of white onion.


To assemble my 6 with the works -- I like to use a standard spicy brown mustard applied to the bun thusly.


Mini-dog comes next with a smattering of onion.


Then the red hued sauce bequeathed upon us by the gods of hot dogs is applied.


And here she is.


I'm pretty damn proud of my self. The actual hot dogs turned out very tasty. My hot dog making method is actually starting to result in an acceptable texture. These were light, fluffy, and snappy with a very good flavor. This mess of hot dogs with the works was probably about as good as it gets for homemade. Not quite as good as an order of Famous' or Charlies' but pretty damn close.

I am a hot dog wizard. Tremble in fear of my hot dog skills.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Arrival of the Annual Meat Gift! I Am Reinstituting the "Feast of the Annual Meat Gift."


I think I missed this annual holiday post-tradition for the last couple of years so I am bringing it back. If you don't know, I have some beloved family members that have made an Xmas tradition of sending me a big ol' box of Omaha Steaks items. Every year like clockwork I awake to find a giant styrofoam box of frozen meats on my porch. You can see Xmas 2008's box here2009's box here, and 2010's box here.

My dilemma is that the wife, children, and I (all appearances to the contrary) are sporadic meat consumers at best. The relatively large amount of frozen food tends to languish in the freezer for more time then I would like. So way back in 2008 (in the infancy of this horrible blog) I came up with a bit of a solution. I decided that I would prepare a glorious one-shot feast utilizing as much of the gift-pack as I could. That year I made a sort of Beef Bourguignon/Shepard's Pie deal which actually went over pretty well. I am naming this tradition -- "The Feast of the Annual Meat Gift"


This is what we have to work with this year.


We have filets, sirloin steaks, chicken breast, hot dogs, burgers, baked tater thingies, carmel apple thingies... I am going to have to devote some thought into what shape Annual Meat Gift Feast will take this year. I will surely update.

Anyhow, MERRY XMAS from the Mr. Dave family! May your eggnog be frosty and well spiced and may your Xmas roast beefs be a true medium rare! May you remember small-you gleefully ripping open presents like a little animal and see that same behavior reflected in your lovely children! Waes hail!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Albany Xmas Minor Miracle (A Repost)


For the past couple of years I have tried to come up with a sappy Christmas post concerning my memories of Albany Christmas' past... But this year I can't think of a good story. But isn't Christmas-time really a time for the retelling of old stories? So I thought I would re-share this minor miracle from my childhood in Albany. I originally posted this back in 2011 --

Have you been to Ragonese Imports over on New Scotland? Well I haven't, at least not in about 20 years. I hear it still has good food, but that is not where I am going with this post. This is a little holiday story from my family history that came to mind last night. I thought I would share. I don't feel I am too off topic here because it is the holidays, Ragonese has food, and the story takes place in Albany. I trust you won't mind this short little sentimental trip into my murky past.

Ragonese has always been one of my Albany childhood landmarks as it was right near my elementary school (School 19, I don't know what all they are calling the place now). That was also the neighborhood that I grew up in. As with most other children, I wasn't too interested in Italian specialties back then. My parents used to go in from time to time for a sandwich or cold cuts. My father has always enjoyed good food.

Do you remember the Cabbage Patch doll(many were produced in Upstate, NYdon't you know?) craze of the mid-eighties? Albany was hit every bit as hard as the rest of the nation and my older sister caught an itch for one in the worst way. My mother took upon the mission of obtaining one of the plastic-noggined things with a sort of grim determination.

I have a fairly vivid memory of being toted along to Toy"R"Us over on Wolf Road with my Ma and standing in a hectic line waiting. But alas, we were not among the lucky chosen. The dolls were all gone. Leaving the store, I am sure my mother felt a disappointment that I only now understand as I have a darling daughter of my own.

Some days later, as my mother tells it, she stopped into Ragonese for some cold cuts and as she came to the counter to pay do you know what she saw? Several true blue Cabbage Patch dolls sitting on a shelf in their boxes, for sale, right there in the middle of a local, independent Italian deli. This was at a time when you could absolutely not find the dolls anywhere. Of course she purchased one along with her salami and cappicola and it must have warmed her heart to know that she would not have to let my sister down on Christmas morning. Nobody has ever been able to explain to me how or why the Cabbage Patch dolls were at Ragonese Imports, maybe it is a question that shouldn't be asked.

So there you have it folks. A little ol' Albany Christmas miracle from my family history. So when you are muscling through the hordes of humanity at the mall and exiting into the bleakness of an Upstate winter day this year, when you are fighting traffic on a road lined with piles of dirty snow, always remember that there are still tiny miracles out there in the world. You just have to recognize them, put them in your pocket, and take them with you throughout your life.

By the way, I know it is horribly commercial of me, but I may or may not have bought an absurd amount of presents for my little ones this year. I know that these are tough times and I should be saving my money (or giving it to someone who needs it more), but there are tiny faces in my household that simply must have ear to ear smiles on them (at any price).

Friday, December 13, 2013

You Got Chardonnay-ed.


Last night I was reminded (on the Twitters) by a friend of an old gag I used to love to play on folks back in my barfly days. I hardly, if ever, get out to the area drinking establishments anymore due to my munchkin tending duties at home. So I thought I would share my little gag here as the world needs nothing if not a source of mirth or two more.

It involves a drinkable so it is not too out of place here among my food oriented scribblings... I call it "Chardonnay-ing" people. If it happens to you then you got -- "Chardonnay-ed."

This joke won't really work at a wine-bar and is best reserved for when you are imbibing at your favorite dive bar. I hate to assign gender roles to beverages, but this is probably best inflicted on a guy rather than on a girl. It is a very simple joke really.

All that you do is head to the opposite end of the bar from your victim and send them a glass of Chardonnay (stemware is necessary, ice cubes enhance the humor). Hopefully you know the bartender a little so he/she can make a big production of throwing down a napkin in front of the unsuspecting patsy while proclaiming, "here you go, one Chardonnay on the rocks."

The reason I enjoy this seemingly not that funny gag is because when you think about it for a bit, it is really pretty logically perfect. I don't remember my philosophy 101 but I am sure someone out there could set it up with the symbols and what not... But let us assume the condition that your friends obey the social convention wherein if someone buys you a drink then you accept it graciously and drink it whether or not it is your favored tipple. That is how I was raised at least.

Anyhow, if you are Chardonnayed and you refuse the drink, then you look like an idiot for being rude. Likewise, if you are Chardonnayed and you graciously accept the drink, then you also look like an idiot because you are walking around a dive bar with a glass of Chardonnay on the rocks which is really very funny.

That is it. Go fourth upon the earth and Chardonnay your friends.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I Have Secured the Holiday Beef


I am quite excited as I have secured my holiday beef! You see, most years during the holiday season I like to gather up some friends and have a small beef feast. I generally try to track down a nice strip loin or rib roast and do it up simply and serve with horseradish sauce. Nothing says the holidays to me like a goodly roast of beef! I also frequently attempt to inflict whatever ungodly fruit cake/egg nog experiments I have created for the year unto my unsuspecting (pretty suspecting actually) friends...

Anyhow, this year I was glad to finally be able to do business with Adventure in Food Trading over in Menands. I have been looking to check the place out for a while as their product list is very expansive and has many interesting things (especially of the meaty variety). As I have been attempting to avoid commodity meats lately I thought Adventure in Food would be a good place to start my questing for a responsible slab of beef.

I spied Kilcoyne Farms strip loins and rib-eyes on the product list and shot out a quick query via tweet/email. I was surprised at how quickly I received a response from the good folks at the establishment. I know their main game over there is restaurant supply so it was nice to see that they pay attention to the individual customer as well. I placed an order for a strip loin (they were out of the rib-eyes) and picked it up this very morning.

I am pleased with the product I obtained as well as with the price and ease of the transaction. I know they stock a lot of responsibly raised game-meats and pork so Adventure in Food will most likely become my favored establishment for obtaining flesh for all of my meaty projects.

In any event, if you are looking to purchase a main event type protein for a holiday meal maybe peruse their product list before you go to your local grocer. Just a little advice from ol' Mr. Dave.

I will surely post details on how I decide to deal with this particular hunk of beef.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

'Nduja Butter Croissants. I Didn't Think It Would Work But It Did.


Some time ago I made a large chub of what I called "'Ndjutica." You can read all about that here. The 'Ndjutica was my take on the traditional Italian 'Nduja that substituted Utica grind red pepper for the Calabrian red pepper. I ate most of my 'nduja straight but some of it went into a rolled compound butter sort of thing.


I recently got a new fridge/freezer and when I was cleaning out my old one I found a nice size chunk of the 'nduja butter lurking in the back. The stuff was well wrapped but probably at the very very end of its usability time frame so I wanted to think of a way to use it up promptly in one shot.

I started thinking about croissants. 'Nduja has a very high fat content so I thought the compound butter might just work for croissants... I decided to proceed with the experiment. 

I won't burden you with the specific techniques of croissant making. I use a fairly standard recipe and should you be interested, that is what the googles are for

I started with the yeast dough.


Flattened the remaining 'Ndjutica butter into a rough square. I wasn't really too anal with shaping/squaring everything because I really didn't figure these would turn out too well.


Mmmm.... Doughy fat block.


Here she is after the first fold... Not very appetizing to the eye. Sort of looked like what I imagine a fresh zombie thigh would look like. Either that or a really horrible bruise after it has faded a bit.


Anyhow, after all of the requisite chillings and foldings I was surprised at how little the meaty paste affected the texture of the dough. I wouldn't have know there was anything but butter in there except for the color.


I cut the dough to make smallish croissants.


Rolled and proofed for 45 minutes in a cozy spot. I threw on an egg wash before baking.


Into a convection over for 15 at 400 degrees and then 350 for a further 15 minutes.

I was very surprised at the end result of my little experiment. The croissants looked perfectly normal. They were a nice crusty brown with nice definition between the layers. Except for the tiny red flecks you would not know that anything was outside of the norm. I expected the 'nduja butter to run out in a greasy mess or for the croissants to ugly little fat lumps. That didn't happen... Color me surprised.


Mmmm... Nice and crusty on the outside with an airy/buttery inside. The flavor was good and spicy with the delicious and funky undertones characteristic of my 'nduja. Absolutely delicious. I polished off two while they were still warm.


This is why I indulge myself in experimenting with my (often bizarre) culinary flights of fancy. Often my idears turn out horrid, but just as often they turn out good. Who would have thought that funky meat butter would make for a tasty croissant? I would actually make these again. Too bad I am out of 'ndjutica... Shucks. I will just have to make a fresh batch.

By the way, I hear that The Cheese Traveler has 'nduja made by La Quercia out of Iowa. I hear extremely good things about La Quercia so I am going to have to go over there and get some.
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