Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Blended Bacon Butter (& Friends)

One of the first techniques we learned in cooking school was for making compound butter. It's essentially just butter that's softened, blended with something flavorful, reformed and re-chilled for serving.

Compound butters are so decadent and so easy — though they never fail to impress guests when you make the effort — and yet, they're one of those delicious details I invariably forget about.

Bread & Butter
Why bread and butter when you could be eating a better butter?

Here's three recipes for compound butters — each supremely simple and very tasty. You'll notice the method is the same for each, so once you've made one or two, you can kind of go crazy and add in just about anything you like.

The Bacon Butter is divine on grilled vegetables (try it on your corn-on-the-cob), the Herb Butter is great sliced and slipped under the skin of a chicken you're about to roast, the Anchovy Butter especially loves steaks and broiled fish... and (surprise!) all three are delicious spread across the surface of a fresh baguette. Or maybe even a hot biscuit. Mmm...
Blended Bacon Butter
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup crisp bacon, finely crumbled (or proscuitto or serrano ham, minced)
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1. Blend the butter in a bowl with the bacon or minced proscuitto/serrano (a wooden spoon works well for this).
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll the butter into a tight log shape in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week. If you won't use it that day, wrap well (or seal in a freezer bag) or freeze for up to 3 months.

Zesty Herb Butter
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 Tbsp parsley, minced
1 Tbsp chives, minced
1/2 Tbsp tarragon, minced
1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1. Blend the butter in a bowl with the garlic, herbs, zest and lemon juice (a wooden spoon works well for this).
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll the butter into a tight log shape in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week. If you won't use it that day, wrap well (or seal in a freezer bag) or freeze for up to 3 months.

Garlic Anchovy Butter
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
4 Anchovy fillets, minced
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1. Blend the butter in a bowl with the minced anchovies, garlic, zest and lemon juice (a wooden spoon works well for this).
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll the butter into a tight log shape in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week. If you won't use it that day, wrap well (or seal in a freezer bag) or freeze for up to 3 months.


Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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8.14.2008

The Wisdom of Food Proverbs

Whenever I cook with tomatoes, I remember what my dad always used to say: "Where a tomato appears, basil is welcome." And you know what? It works. Bruschettas, sauces, lasagnas, salads, soups... When the tomato is involved, I add the basil and it's nice. This method might work less well in a salsa, but honestly, it wouldn't be bad.

That got me thinking about other food proverbs or traditional sayings.

Perhaps I'm just leaving a treasure of wisdom sitting out on the front stairs by ignoring the supposedly Polish proverb: "Fish, to taste right, must swim three times — in water, in butter and in wine." I generally just encourage my fish fillets to swim in a nice pool of olive oil, but I don't doubt that a few generations of unnamed ancient cooks are on to something.

There's certainly great truth in Benjamin Franklin's "Fish and visitors smell in three days." I've always tried to keep that notion in mind when I shop as well as when I travel.

As I poked around the internet, looking for food proverbs, I came up with "Talk doesn't cook rice," commonly credited to the Chinese, and "A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat," credited to anonymous, pithy New Yorkers. Both seem like very sensible, very practical notions.

Garlic Bulb
One free seat on the subway, coming right up.

And what about "There's no such thing as 'a little garlic'"? Much as I love the stuff, I've found that it really does proclaim itself the king of any dish in which it appears.

I think I'll have no trouble abiding the merry Czech proverb: "A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it's better to be thoroughly sure." On the same tip, we find the Egyptian: "Do not cease to drink beer, to eat, to intoxicate thyself, to make love and to celebrate the good days." As an amateur hedonist myself, I couldn't agree more.

Most endearing among the food wisdom I found was this one, credited to an anonymous Chinese author: "When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other."

I like that one a lot. It says a great deal about the value of beauty, and I'm going to try to remember it so I can keep it close at hand in my daily life.

Bread and Butter at Les Enfants Terribles

One last food proverb I found (commonly credited to an Arab source) seems less useful for developing culinary prowess, but ominously valuable as a life lesson, or rather, a warning: "He who eats alone chokes alone."

Have a favorite? I'd love to hear it. Post in the comments and you can share with anyone else who happens along this way on a quest for food wisdom.

Cheers, all!

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6.04.2008

Food Quote Friday: Alice May Brock



"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good."

Alice May Brock

More food quotes can be found within the food quote archive

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4.18.2008

Garlic Challenge, Part II

Oh, how time flies when you have a ticking time bomb sitting in your refrigerator.

I'm talking, of course, about my super-abundance of garlic, as mentioned in a previous post.

Although the posted expiration date is past, they seem to be holding up well, so I've had some time to play with these stinky little gems.

bulb of garlic

After discovering the many ways one can use up one's supply of roasted garlic spread, making 40-clove chicken (twice), pumping out a bunch of Indian cuisine and sneaking slices of the stuff into everything short of breakfast cereal, I was casually wondering why I haven't had a date in weeks. That's when I received this note from an old friend:

Found your garlic dilemma interesting.

Here's a suggestion: I went to a party in Colorado a few years ago. The host, Tom Cavelli, made something he called bona calda. I don't remember the exact recipe — we both had a lot of beer that night — but it included a huge amount of garlic.

Here goes:
2 cups, yes cups, of finely chopped garlic.
4 ounces of anchovies
enough cream to kind of hold it all together

It seems like he sautéed the garlic and anchovies, then added the cream.

We all dipped bread and vegetables into the bona calda while it was still in the pan. I thought it was wonderful, but as I said, I had a lot of beer that night.

For the next three days, I could not get toothpaste to foam up in my mouth.


This helpful suggestion seems to fall into under the "when your cup runneth over with stinky bulbs, pile on fermenting fish" school of thought, and I believe that only the addition of Corn Nuts could ensure a more foul perfume.

But following Dan's lead, I did, indeed whip up a delightfully nasty frenzy of garlic, fish and fat. I recommend you pair this recipe with a hoppy India Pale Ale, a pile of Netflix and a weekend alone.

More commonly known as Bagna Cauda (bahn-yah cow-dah), this creamy-salty-fragrant sauce is of Northern Italian (Piedmont) extraction.

The name translates as "hot bath," and it's traditionally served as the hot bath for cut veggies. Think: fennel slivers, sunchoke strips, carrot sticks, sliced red peppers, zucchini sticks, etc.

As one of the folks in the comments mentioned, it's a popular Italian New Year's Eve appetizer (with, of course, attendant rumors of good luck and good fortune).

Additionally, as you might gather from the name, it's intended to be served warm (maximize that aroma!), but don't boil it.

Many folks do as Dan and his crew did, gathering around the kitchen and eating bagna cauda straight from the pan. A piece of bread is often used as an edible platform for any delicious drippings that are bound to occur.

Meanwhile, back at Chez Ginsu, five cups of garlic still remain in the fridge, so it seems some kind of garlic jelly looms in my future... I'll document that conclusion in Part III of the garlic saga.

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5.25.2005

Five Pounds of Garlic, Part I

There it was, towering among a pile of bleached garlic braids and heads at the sampling table at work. An industrial-sized bin. Five pounds of peeled garlic.

All my coworkers were, understandably, intimidated.

They took a head or two. They grabbed a braid for their kitchens. Awash in greed and drunk on self-confidence, I snatched the industrial-sized bin and sped back to my desk to adore my bounty.

And then, of course, the inevitable question. What the heck does one do with five pounds of peeled garlic?

Roasted Garlic Spread
Mmmm... delicious, savory vampire bane.

Garlic heads keep longer. Garlic braids can be dried and hung as decoration. Preserved garlic will sit in your fridge for months.

For someone who's been trained rigorously in the art of kitchen economy, five pounds of peeled garlic looms like a ticking bomb.

I had to meet a friend for a burger and beer dinner at her favorite dive bar, so the jug o' garlic came along for the ride.

Seeing it propped up there on the bar, I finally fully realized the burden of bounty.

Five pounds of garlic.

Nobody at the bar would take any of it off my hands (chickens) and I realized that casual use would only send me through slightly less than a head's worth every week.

Moreover, upgrading my regular garlic intake wasn't going to help my social life. My five-pound friend was threatening to go horribly bad before April, so I knew drastic measures were required.

I scrolled through a mental list of garlic-heavy recipes... 40-Clove Garlic Chicken might seem like a lot of garlic when you're doing the peeling prep work, but 40 cloves only actually amounts to about a half-pound.

That'd be 10 batches of 40-Clove Garlic Chicken and probable death threats from my roomie. Not acceptable.

There's always garlic jelly and pickling, truly time-honored preservation methods, but I had my mind set on something fast and simple. Something I could do on a Saturday whilst painting the kitchen.

The shining answer to my windfall woes? A roasted garlic spread, of course!

It's hardly worth a recipe, so I'll simply describe...

Generously bathe peeled garlic in vegetable oil (I like olive or canola), spread on a cookie sheet and roast until browned and soft in a 375°F oven. Remove from the heat and puree with a bit of salt and pepper. Pack the fragrantly sweet results into a pint or quart container.

Two and a half pounds' worth of silky white cloves turned gloriously golden and were ready to freeze, slather on flatbread or blend into recipes. This one delicious recipe got me half-way through the jug and bought me some serious fridge space.

So, 2.5 pounds down. I'll let you know in Part II of this post what happens to the other 2.5.

Miss Ginsu

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3.15.2005