Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Butteriest Indian Butter Chicken - Murgh Makhani - Gluten Free

Several years ago, I visited an Indian restaurants in West Austin. We ordered the butter chicken, and it was so addictively good, we visited the same restaurant weekly for the dish. In my typical style, instead of being satisfied with eating it at the restaurant, I wanted to make it at home. I had dabbled in Indian cuisine often. The Hundred Foot Journey novel by Richard C. Morias was my style of food porn.
The butteriest butter chicken ever.
This would not be new for me, except that I couldn’t find a recipe that gave me the same results as the restaurant. Sometimes the sauce just wasn’t rich enough. sometimes I felt that the spices seemed really grainy. I just didn’t like the results. So the obvious next steps would be to create my own recipe with major changes to the original ones I found. My version is very buttery and rich with a slow burn. I found doing the yogurt thing (like many other recipes call for) didn’t work out well for me. I do use the traditional yogurt marinade in other recipes though. If you like cilantro, this will be like crack for you. If not, just leave the cilantro out.This recipe happens to be gluten-free as written. 
2-4 chicken breasts. Mo’ chicken, mo’ meat. Use less meat if you like mo’ sauce. Pound these babies flat like a pancake. You can use chicken thighs instead if you like.
4 tablespoons of butter to start. If you like that you need more butter, by all means, don’t let me hold you back.
1 medium onion, sliced into strips. You can chop it too.
4 serrano or jalapeno peppers (optional). Wash and slice on the diagonal. If you are feeling only a little brave, take out the insides or leave them out completely.
2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste - or make your own ginger garlic paste. (Subbing fresh garlic and chopped fresh ginger is fine too. Honestly, when you make this at home, no one is going to tell you what to do.)
Cumin, To Taste
Garam Masala
Fenugreek to taste
6-8 Tablespoons Butter
About 30oz tomatoes. I used canned diced tomatoes, and I run it through the Bullet blender for a quick minute.
1 cup heavy cream
1 giant bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 bay leaf

  1. In a large pan, heat up some butter on high heat. I like at least 6 tablespoons for two large chicken breasts. I use a deep 18 inch pan with a non-stick surface for this. Pounded flat, the chicken takes up quite  a bit of surface area. Once the butter is bubbling and starting to brown, I add in the chicken letting is sizzle away. Don’t fuss with the chicken like a wild 80’s hair-do. Just leave it be for several minutes. Once the chicken has brown crusty bits on one side, flip it over and crispy up the other side.  Remove chicken from the pan making sure to lets all the delicious juices fall back into the pan.
  2. With the pan still sizzling, add the garlic, ginger, and spices. Let the aromas bloom and marry together or a few seconds while stirring vigorously. Then add the onions into the pan and stir to coat. You can turn the pan down to medium at this point and add the bay leaf and peppers. The recipes call for four, but I put in 6-8 on a good day. If I’m cooking for others or kids, I leave out the peppers. Cook until the onions become translucent.
  3. As the onions are cooking, turn your attention back to the chicken. I personally like to chop the chicken into bite sized pieces. You can cut them into strips or leave them whole.
  4. Once the onions are translucent, add in your tomatoes and stir them in. I like to run my through the blender for a bit to get a smoother sauce. If you like yours chunkier, leave them diced. You can also add in the chicken at this point along with the drippings of the chicken from when you chopped the chicken.
  5. When the entire mixture is bubbling and heated thoroughly, throw in some handfuls of cilantro if you are a cilantro lover. Then slowly stream in the heavy cream and stir gently. I recommended 1 cup of cream, but you can add more or less depending on your creaminess preference.
  6. Serve with hot naan and/or basmati rice and sprinkle with more cilantro.

There you go. An untraditional recipe for a very traditional Indian dish. This one screams cream and butter that like you wouldn’t believe.
Browning the chicken in butter.
In goes the onions, spices, ginger, and garlic.
Finish it off with some heavy cream once all the ingredients have simmered.
After the chicken, tomatoes, and cilantro are added.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Japanese Souffle Cheesecake - Gluten Free

This is a recipe for a Japanese SoufflĂ© Cheesecake that is gluten-free and low carb. It is almost kind of paleo, but not really. No debates on dairy and paleo, please. I’m not on any one of those special diets, but if you are, this is a good option for you. When I make this cake, I do four at a time. It does not take but a little while longer to make four as compared to making one, and the only additional dirty dishes are the ones that you use for baking.

Fluffy goodness.

I had tried many different versions of these soufflĂ© cakes inspired by my visit to Uncle Tetsu's at the Taipei train station in Taiwan, which are absolutely delicious. However, I am lazy. I don’t really like to measure dry ingredients, and I definitely don’t want to clean up spilled flour or cornstarch. I am clumsy, therefore I tend to spill things. I developed this version to fit my laziness and desire to make things in large batches. There are only three base ingredients to this recipe (super simple) along with optional ingredients depending on what flavors you like. Individuals with gluten-intolerances have tried these with no ill-effects.

You can make these any flavor, even savory. Vanilla, matcha, and almond are my favorite. I also made a black tea flavor by brewing the milk with several tea bags prior to starting the recipe. Make sure to give those tea bags a good squeeze to get all the flavor out. Make whatever flavor makes you happy.

Japanese Souffle Cheesecake - Gluten free, low carb version - makes four 9 inch round cakes 
  • 1 cup of milk, any kind of milk work just fine. If you feel like there isn’t enough fat in your life, add a stick of butter to the milk.
  • 24 ounces of cream cheese, cubed.
  • 18 eggs, separated. Make sure to keep the egg whites completely free of egg yolks. If you have a little bit of egg yolk in there, you will fail.
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tarter. Optional, but it'll make your egg white whipping easier.
  • 4-5 tablespoons of agave nectar if you are making a sweet version.
  • Flavorings you like. I typically use 1 teaspoon of vanilla rum or ½ teaspoon of extract flavorings. For dry flavorings like curry powder, Italian seasoning, or matcha, I use 1-2 tablespoons depending on how bold you like the flavor.

  1. In a non-stick pot, heat the cup of milk and add in the cream cheese. Use a whisk to slowly incorporate the cream cheese and milk into a smooth texture. This often takes some time. I’m usually separating the eggs while this happens. Once the milk and cream cheese are completely combined, add in your flavorings and allow to cook for a bit. If you are making a sweet souffle cake, add in your agave nectar (or other sweetener). This is also the time to taste your batter to see if it is the desired sweetness and flavor you had in mind.
  2. I’m usually still separating the eggs. Pure egg whites in one bowl and yolks into the other. Make sure those egg whites are super pure, meaning free of yolks or anything else. Fat in the egg whites at this point will doom you. No joke. If the cream cheese mixture is cool enough to not curdle the egg yolks, now is the time to add them (egg yolks only) into the mix. I usually mix in a few at a time.
  3. Once you have all the egg whites separated, add in your cream of tarter and using a clean whisk, beat those eggs like there’s no tomorrow. Or if you can use a stand or hand held mixer. I like to use my Kitchenaid mixer. Whisk until the egg whites are stiff peaks.  
  4. While the egg whites are whisking away, I prepare my pans and water baths. These can be cooked without a water bath, but they tend to be dry and a bit too crusty. for each pan that you use, line the bottom with parchment paper. I use four 9 inch round pans for a batch this large. Use whatever you have. Many people line the sides of the pan too, but I haven’t had to do that with these recipes. I simply line and spray coat the sides and the bottom of the pan.
  5. The egg whites should be done by now. You can incorporate all these cream cheese mixture with the egg whites or you can do half at a time. Or you can do a single cake at a time in a separate bowl. If I’m making more than one flavor of cake at a time, I like to do it in half. Put half of your cream cheese mixture in a bowl along with half of the egg whites. Fold the two together gently. Very gently. If you are a macaron or angel food cake baker, you’re probably a pro at folding egg whites. If you have only mixed things until they were a homogeneous blob, please take care to be gentle with this folding.
  6. Divide the batter into the pans evenly and bake in a water bath at 375 for one hour. I let the cakes sit in the oven until completely cool. That’s part of my laziness in not taking them out promptly.
  7. Serve warm or chilled. I can put away an entire cake per day.

You can use any flavorings you want. Here's some of my favorites - almond extract, vanilla, rum flavoring, and matcha powder.

Here's the cream cheese and milk melding together.

Once the cream cheese and milk is thoroughly mixed and cool enough to not curdle eggs, add in the egg yolks.

Egg whites whipped to stiff peaks.

This is what it looks like after I start folding the egg whites and the cream cheese mixture. This was plain vanilla.

Into the pan and into the oven.

Fresh out of the oven. So light and fluffy. Like cotton heaven.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hacking Google Forms to Grade Paper

It should not come as a surprise to you that I am a fan of spreadsheets and forms. I use forms for collecting canine data, scheduling volunteers, managing birthday databases, and even grading papers.

Yes, I absolutely love using them for grading papers. Here's some examples of forms I've build in Google Docs: beer exchanges, weight submissions, and the example that I'm showing. If you haven't used Google Forms before, here's a how to guide. It is super simple and totally free.
Before I jump into the example of grading papers, here's why I love it.

1. Reduce paper consumption. I hate wasting papers. They get lost. They get eaten by my dogs. They have to be physically transported. If a student is handwriting the paper, the handwriting probably isn't as nice as print.
2. I have a digital record of when they paper was submitted. The whole "I put it in your mailbox by *insert date*" claim won't work.
3. I can check the papers from anywhere - my laptop, my ipad, and even my iphone.
4. That also means, I can grade the papers on my ipad! It is fantastic. I used to load the documents on the ipad and grade them while I'm on the elliptical.
5. Once I grade the papers by adding the grades as a column on the end, I merge them with my excel gradebook. I can also keep all their papers (each in an xls sheet) along with their grades all in a single file by copying the sheets into my gradebook.

This long screen shot is the entire form I use for paper submissions. I include all the relevant information in the description at the top. That includes the prompt, due date, my contact information, and other materials. The questions follow.

Here's a zoomed in version of the questions. I make sure that the name and ID fields are required, otherwise students will forget to identify their own work.

This is what the file spreadsheet looks like when you are read to evaluate your students' work. Everything is in a nice and handy file that is easy to merge with their grade sheets. Give it a try, save time, and be super efficient.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Maple Leaf Duck with Sonya Cote

A few weeks ago, I participated in a Twitter chat hosted by the Boston Wine Expo and Maple Leaf Farms. As part of the Twitter chat, participants were gifted with duck (YAY!) to prepare and pair with wine. Luckily for me, I was able to enlist the help of one of Austin's most accomplished chefs, Sonya Cote, to give me some advice on duck prep.  If you've been in Austin for even just a little while, you would have heard of Sonya Cote, Chef and owner of Hillside Farmacy, Eden East, and the Homegrown Revival.  

Becker Cabernet Sauvignon to go with our duck.

I'm so thankful that she took the time to show me some tips and tricks in the kitchen. During our initial conversation, I thought that Sonya was going to make a dish or two out of the duck. I was very delighted and amazed that she was able to whip up four dishes in what was literally the blink of an eye. I don't have exact recipes, but here are some of the methods. Feel free to play with these ideas to make your own duck creations. For Austinites interested in getting local duck, Sebastian from Countryside Farms at the Downtown Austin Farmer's Market is a great option.

The first dish was a warm duck bacon salad. This could not be any easier. Cook the bacon in a pan and put it on top of greens and garnished with shaved rainbow carrots for a beautiful presentation. Chef Sonya dressed the salad with an emulsion of apple cider vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, salt, lemon juice, dijon and pepper. Top with a poached duck egg for an extra omph.

There goes the bechamel on the poutine. Pretty much anything on top of fries is good.
Two dishes that she came up with using the roasted duck includes the duck poutine and a duck stuffed purple potato using the roasted duck. Once defrosted, just use your hands to remove the meat from the bones. Use the bones to make a broth for the next dish. I won't go into a discussion on how to make poutine or baked potatoes as those are pretty straightforward with many variations on how to do it. However, I'll show you some drool worthy photos.

Is this not the most beautiful duck stuffed baked potato with fried parsnips you have ever seen?

Moving onto the duck breast, Chef Sonya's preferred method of cooking is to slow render the fat. You can leave the skin intact or you can score it crosshatch. Crosshatching the skin will help it render faster, but you ought to get the same results either way. Fry the duck breasts skin side down on medium heat until the fat starts to melt out. As the fat comes out, remove the fat from the pan (and into a jar or storage container for future use), and keep on rendering. The idea is to get the fat out so that the skin does not become chewy; it should start to crisp up as the fat comes out. For each duck breast, it takes about six minutes to render the fat and crisp the skin. Once the skin is done, you'd flip the breast over and cooking the other side until the duck is to your preferred level of doneness. Or you can pop it in the oven to finish cooking. And as if we  need to remind you, don't forget to deglaze the pan for some

Rending the fat of the duck breast will help you achieve a crispy skin.

Chef Sonya served the sliced duck breasts with a popcorn grits and garnished with broccolini florets. To sauce it up, she made a sauce of duck stock, green onion, orange peel, and a little red wine. Duck breast is a versatile and delicious ingredient. I hope some of Chef Sonya's dishes gives you ideas for your next duck venture!

Duck breasts, popcorn grits, broccolini and dijon mustard. Looks amazing doesn't it?