Sunday, September 30, 2012

Where Have You Been All My Life?

As usual, I went about my cooking all backwards:  dessert first.  My conversion of ingredients from the English cookbook would have been easier, except my scale decided to die, so I had to rely on the internet.

By now, the process of cooking an ice cream base is second nature to me - to the point where I get weirded out by ice cream recipes that don't require it.  There were no surprises with this one - except for the fact that I needed to save four of the egg whites for the marshmallows, and that has nothing to do with the ice cream.  I had been imagining the Dime / Skor bar ice cream as being a flavorless / vanilla ice cream with pieces of candy in it.  What I discovered when I introduced the blitzed mixture was the fine particles became completely infused in the ice cream.

Verdict (ice cream):  Hello, where have you been all my life?  This was wonderful, and it really did taste just like a Skor bar - caramel, chocolate and goodness all over.  The bits did sink a bit in the freezer, creating a sediment, so I think I erred in that the base needed to be thoroughly chilled before being added to the ice cream maker ... but having strips of concentrated Skor in the finished product isn't necessarily a bad thing, either.

Next, I started on the marshmallows:  parchment paper into a 13 x 9 pan, then dusted with cornstarch, put the gelatin into a bowl of water, then added sugar, corn syrup and water into a pan with ... drumroll, please ... my new digital candy thermometer. 

This worked like an absolute dream.  It started to beep about 3 degrees below desired temperature and then reliably got me to fully cooked.  I was stunned when I added the mixture to the whipped egg whites at just how much sheer volume I ended up with:  it completely filled the mixer.  I ended up adding, I'd say, about two and a half teaspoons of chambord, which might have been a smidge too much.

The recipe says to sieve cornstarch on the top and then - after cutting - the sides, but I decided against it because I didn't like the slight texture change the cornstarch produced.  I decided to simply dust the bottom of my storage containers so the marshmallows would come back off and was careful to place them so they didn't touch.

Verdict (marshmallows):  You don't know what a marshmallow is supposed to taste like until you've made your own.  These are excellent - mine were a trifle dense, but very good.  The egg white method is much easier as it requires virtually no stirring.

I made the carrot salad next, as it was quick and intended to be served at room temperature.  I discovered the hard way that the problem with grating carrots is tiny orange flecks end up everywhere.  I do mean everywhere.

Verdict (carrot salad):  This is quite good, if a trifle acidic for my tastes.  It's simple, maybe too simple - feels like it needs something else.  I will probably try it again, but add another component.

Next, I prepped the patties and discovered that - gee, huzzah! - my spice grinder is pretty much permanently out of commission.  Word of advice for any of you who own one:  do not, under any circumstances, run almonds through it.  You will end up with paste, which will lodge itself inside the grinder, and at least with mine, there is no perceptible way to remove it.  I was relieved to find that I did not have the visceral headache reaction to the mint that I did the last time I cooked with it.

The mixture tends to ball up in the food processor, requiring the judicious use of spatula shifting.  Once out of the processor and into a bowl of its own, a quarter cup of chickpea flour turned out to be a surprising amount - just enough to bind it together.

Next, sauted the leek with the ginger, then added the bulk of the ingredients and fried it until the chicken cooked.  I remembered from last time that if you don't let the mixture cool sufficiently, it will cause problems in the blender; ended up using the food processor anyhow, but I was still cautious with it.

While the soup was coming to its final boil, I fried the pea-lafels.  They fried up what I thought was too quickly, but in hindsight, I may not have let them cook appropriately - the outsides were dark and crisp, but the insides were a trifle mushier than I wanted.  Next time, I'm going to try smaller balls, maybe go for 14 - 15 instead of the eleven I got.

Verdict (soup):  This is really a tasty and nuanced soup, with the almond prominent and the chicken noticeable even though it's only a flavoring.  I'll be happy to provide the recipe for anyone who might be interested.  My only objection is that it's so smooth that it's a bit boring to eat, as far as mouth-feel.

Verdict (pea-lafels):  Slightly underdone / too large or not, these are wonderful.  They taste a lot like their namesakes, but with the distinct sweetness of pea and just a hint of mint.  Love 'em.  Wish I had a double batch.

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