Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Elote (Mexican Grilled Corn)

My weekly supermarket trip derailed the plan to continue with egg/breakfast items. Fresh corn was on sale, and grilled corn is lip-smackingly good, whether served dressed up on straight on the cob. Having been away from NYC for a while now, I haven't had the grilled corn from Cafe Habana for a long time, so I decided to make a slight departure from my lesson plan. And since the textbook didn't have any tidbits on grilling corn, I winged it with info from the internet.

Elote is Mexican grilled corn, a street food, and I loves me some street food. I started off by heating my electric grill to full blast (425 degrees). I stripped off the husk (the leafy green part) and the silk (the yellow threads) of the corn, and then rinsed them underwater; not sure if you need to do that for corn since the husks should protect it, but I guess it's force of habit.

The corn then went onto the grill to be cooked until nice little black marks appeared all around. I placed the corn so that they touched each other, and covered them with a loose tin-foil tent, both of which was to keep the heat around the corn as much as possible. Even with those measures though it took a good 25-30 minutes to get the corn cooked all around.

While the corn was grilling, I prepared the dressing. This super-duper tasty concoction is merely some mayonnaise (I used light mayo), and queso cotija, a firm, crumbly Mexican cheese with a sharp and salty taste. I understand that this sounds rather gross, but you're going to have to trust me.

A handful of the grated cheese went into the mayo to make sweet, beautiful dressing love. When the corn was ready, I slathered on the mayo-cheese.

The final touches to this were to sprinkle some cayenne pepper (the magic red dust here) on top, and then served with wedges of lime.

If you've never had this treat before, you must try it. Simultaneously sweet, spicy, tart, and tangy...aye caramba!

Knowledge Nuggets

1) Some of the internet info called for grilling the corn in a few leaves of husk, after soaking it in water for about 15 minutes. That would actually be steaming the corn (wet heat) and not grilling the corn (dry heat). Plus you won't get those lovely grill marks.

2) If you cannot find queso cotija in your international dairy section, try queso fresco or queso seco; they all taste similar to me.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shirred Eggs with Ham

Breakfast seems like a good way to start this culinary quest, and nothing is more quintessential to breakfast than the egg. The textbook clearly agrees with me, as it has eggs in chapter twenty-one. I don't care, it's early and no one's gonna stop me from skipping ahead, so eggs it is.

My fridge is a bit sparse (good start), meaning I need a simple egg recipe. This one is for shirred, or baked, eggs with ham; it requires only eggs (duh), ham (double duh), and some cheese.

First I preheated the toaster oven to 325 degrees, and then buttered up a ramekin to prevent sticking. Step two was to line the ramekin with a slice of ham, forming a cup.

I cracked an egg into a separate bowl before sliding it into the ham cup (breaking the egg into a separate bowl first makes it easier to pick out any shell pieces).

The ramekin goes into the oven for 10 minutes. After time's up, I removed the dish with tongs; at this point the egg is still a little bit liquidy in appearance. Grated cheese then went on top of the egg. The cheese here happens to be gruyere, so this dish is sort of like a croque madame without the bread. Also, the recipe called for the addition of one tbsp of hot heavy cream here, but I omitted this because there's enough fat in this dish already, and also because I don't have cream in the fridge.

Slid it back into the oven for another 5 minutes, and there's the shirred eggs.

The taste reminded me of an Egg McMuffin, but better because of the gruyere. And also because I can make this at any time of the day instead of hauling myself to a McDonald's before 10:30am.

Knowledge Nuggets

1. Egg whites are called the albumen, and contain a quarter of the egg's calories, and more than half the protein and riboflavin. Yolks, the yellow part, contain the rest of the calories, most of the vitamins and minerals, plus all of the fat. This is why skinny celebrities order egg white omelettes.

2. Egg grades are synonymous with the freshness of the egg, as determined by the egg's cohesiveness. When you crack an egg onto a flat surface, the less it spreads, the higher the grade (AA being the highest).

3. Try to minimize the contact of the egg with the external part of the shell. Salmonella can be found in a chicken's digestive tract, and while it doesn't get into the egg, it can reside on the outer shell.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's Finally Here!

So this blog isn't really off to that great of a start, namely because I hadn't gotten the textbook yet. Which was because my laziness prevented me from ordering it. But I came home today to find this on my doorstep:

Geekedly tearing it open revealed:

You've all been on the edge of your seats, don't lie. The first thing we'll be learning is...restaurant history!

Yuck, no thanks. I'll rifle through the first few chapters and when we get to some actual cooking I'll be back on the blog about it. Yeah yeah, pretty boring stuff so far. If you stick with me, I'll eventually make you something yummy, promise.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Chop Chop

Like any artist, a professional chef is a master of a craft. Mastery requires several things: passion, determination, hard work, creativity, an understanding of the tools and ingredients... the propensity to cuss like a sailor (or so Bourdain would have us believe). Beyond these traits, there is one very tangible thing needed to be a pro: approximately $16K to attend a culinary school (as I found out when I phoned some of the local culinary schools last month). So here's the deal: I don't have any of the aforementioned qualities, and I sure as hell don't have $16K to spend on a culinary degree in this depressed economy. I do however have:

1) $80 to buy a cooking textbook.
2) A decent arsenal of cooking gadgets.
3) No real fear of trying out a recipe.

Food should not be intimidating; it's not like I'm going for recipes that require me to, oh, rip the faces off of crabs. I want to turn out good, simple, well-executed dishes, food that feeds the senses and satisfies the soul. I want to learn to be a professional home cook.

This blog is going to chronicle me on my mission. If I have any improvements or tips to share as I go through the lessons and recipes, I will most definitely do so, and if you have any tips to reciprocate, please shoot them to me. With a little elbow grease and trial and error, I think this can be fun. Thanks in advance for joining me!