Whipping up a batch of vinaigrette is kind of like throwing a party and inviting a bunch of people you know don't really get along. Things are fine for the first hour or so, with everybody milling around, chit-chatting and wrecking your carpet, but then they slowly start to separate into their cliques and groups. Thankfully, parties don't have to last very long, and it's usually at this point you start ushering everyone out the door before they find those extra bottles of wine you stashed away.
Vinaigrettes are, of course, emulsions (or colloids if you want to be really technical) and they are considered 'oil-in-water' emulsions since the particles of oil are suspended within water – in our case, vinegar. The main thing you need to know about emulsions is that they really don't want to be that way – they'd much rather separate out into their own parts. As mentioned in the show, honey and mustard are both great additions to the herb vinaigrette not just because of the flavors they add, but also because both honey and mustard are what's known as surfactants or emulsifiers because they help stabilize the vinaigrette. They're kind of like party games – they keep all those guests who want to separate together, at least for a little while.
That's all well and good if you want to make a vinaigrette that contains some kind of emulsifier – say, egg yolk for your caesar dressing or hollandaise – but what if you want just a plain ol' garden vinaigrette without the mustard tang or sweetness of honey? You may wonder how that Italian dressing you get from the store stays so nice and even – well, they're using commercial grade emulsifiers, of course, stuff not really available to the average consumer.
So what to do? Well, don't sweat it, that's what you do! Given the amount of time it takes to whip up a batch of vinaigrette (minutes, really) and how simple the recipe is (3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar + herbs or what-have-you) just make however much you need for that salad you want. This allows much greater customization for each salad you make, and you won't have bottles and jars of various specialty vinaigrettes in your fridge. If you've got a nice shake-able vinaigrette bottle, go ahead and make enough for a day or two – all you've got to do to bring that party back is shake it up a bit. So go experiment, bust out that immersion blender, and get to mixing!
FRESH HERB VINAGERETTE
2.5 oz DIJON
5 oz CHAMPAGNE VINAGER
5 oz RED WINE VINAGER
2.5 oz HONEY
2 oz SHALLOTS (fine dice)
1 C CHERVIL (fine chop)
1C CHIVES (fine chop)
1C PARSLY (fine chop)
½ t TARRAGON(fine chop)
32 oz BLENDED OIL
½ OZ TRUFFLE OIL
In small mixer combine all ingredients except oils
Mix until incorporated
On high speed Slowly add Oil to Emulsify
Salt & Pepper to Taste
If using a hand blender place all ingredients except oils in a 1 gallon container and mix till incorporated and then slowly add oil.
This week's episode of the Savage Kitchen demonstrates a play on the classic recipe of basil pesto, or pesto alla genovese, as it is denoted in Italian. The variation demonstrated uses sun-dried tomatoes instead of basil, for a brilliant red color and tangy flavor. Pestos, oils, purees, and other sauces can all be easily cranked out in a blender or food processor, but let's talk about something that many cooks might view as 'antique' – the mortar and pestle.
Electric kitchen utensils are, in the grand scheme of things, a mere blip in the culinary time line of humans. Some of the earliest known documentation of this brilliant device dates from well over a thousand years B.C.E, and even though the device is rather antiquated, there are serious advantages of a mortar and pestle over modern equipment.
Basil pesto, made in a mortar and pestle, will be smoother and pack more of a wallop than if it was made in a food processor. Why? Well, while the food processor rapidly cuts all the ingredients into small pieces, the mortar and pestle crushes and smooths out the garlic cloves and pine nuts, turning them into a fine paste. This releases all of the oils from the garlic into the pesto, and cements all the delicate flavor of the pine nuts into the pesto, rather than small chunks missed the blade and now just get stuck in your teeth. Pureeing the sun-dried tomatoes from this week's episode is, admittedly, easier in a food processor – but you can still start the pesto in one, and add your chopped tomatoes separately.
Aioli is another perfect example. Some people are fine with simply adding some chopped garlic to mayonnaise; others take it a step further and whip up their own aioli base with crushed garlic. The best, though, is to use the mortar and pestle for every step. Crush the garlic to a smooth paste first, then whip up the aioli with your egg yolks and olive oil directly in the mortar. All that wonderful garlic oil you crushed out of the cloves is now in your aioli, not stuck in pieces of the cloves or smeared on your cutting board where you chopped the garlic.
Sure, it may take a bit longer to make your sauce, and it may be a bit more difficult to clean, but once you try a sauce made the old fashioned way, you'll understand how sometimes beautiful things are lost in the switch to modern convenience. Try a fresh garlic aioli or pesto, crushed in a bowl with your own hands, and I guarantee you'll see (and taste!) the difference.
CLASSIC BASIL PESTO
*Yields about 1 1/2 cups
1/4 LB BASIL
5 EA CLOVES GARLIC
¼ C TOASTED PINE NUTS
1/2 C OLIVE OIL
½ C PARMESIAN CHEESE, GRATED
For pesto, in a blender container or food processor bowl combine basil, Parmesan cheese, oil, nuts and garlic. Cover and blend or process with several on-off turns until a paste forms, stopping the machine several times and scraping the sides.
Make-Ahead Tip: Store pesto in airtight containers. Chill up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 month. Bring pesto to room temperature before using. You may substitute 1cup Sun Dried Tomatoes
If there are two extremely vital sauces which every fine cook should know, they would be gravy and nacho cheese.
“But wait!” you may say. “I want to cook at a nice restaurant, not Momma’s Pie House. Nothing against Momma’s, that is, just… you know. Gravy??”
Well, here’s the beautiful thing about those two sauces: they’re both based on béchamel, one of the four classic sauces. Where’s it from? France, of course, and it was named after a steward for Louis XIV. Can’t get any fancier than that.
It’s surprising, really, how many common things we associate with junk food or ball park eats or what-have-you and, truth be told, those exact things have very austere origins.
Bechamel is a beautiful sauce in its simplicity, and white gravy is almost exactly the same. Milk, butter, flour. Add some black pepper, maybe some sausage, you’ve got a great biscuit topping. Add some sautéed shallots instead, a bit of white wine and maybe some truffle oil? Same sauce, sure – but now with a totally different flavor profile.
Now, take that béchamel, add some cheese, and you’ve got a mornay (this week's episode). If you use cheddar, maybe a bit of American cheese, some canned tomatoes and jalapenos, you’ve got a damn good nacho cheese sauce. But what if you, instead, use some gruyere instead? Pour it over a toasted baguette with some thin sliced, quick seared ham? Well, now you’ve got a croque monsieur, one of the best sandwiches in the world. A sandwich that’s a tad bit fancier than, say, nachos. Or if you use some blue cheese and pour it over a chateaubriand? Top that. I dare you.
So if there’s one thing to take away from all this, learn the béchamel – it’s like a Swiss-army knife, tons of uses both fancy, and homey.
1Qt HEAVY CREAM
SALT & PEPPER
1 DICED SHALLOT (OPTIONAL)
Melt butter in a sauce pot, when melted the flour is added. The mixture is stirred until the flour is incorporated, and then cooked until at least the point where a raw flour taste is no longer apparent about 2 minutes. Slowly add the cream stirring constantly to a smooth consistency. Simmer about 5-8 minutes. If sauce gets to thick just thin to desired consistency by adding more cream.
If using the shallots add in with the butter and cook about 1 minute.
Remember this sauce is a base for many other sauces.
I imagine that if you took one of your ancient relatives (just a couple hundred years back) and brought them to the present day, and then showed them the inside of your refrigerator, they’d probably scratch their head in bewilderment.
“Why?” you would ask them. They would point to the bottles of pickles and jellies, cured sausages and maybe that package of bacon, and then turn to you and ask, in the same tone, “Why?”
A lot of the stuff we cook with (and don’t necessarily think about) has a specific reason for being the way it is. That reason almost always boils down to preservation, or namely the lack of a proper method. – at least before the advent of refrigeration, and that’s really a rather recent accomplishment.
This week we cover pheasant confit (not the usual duck or goose). Confit is one of those old-school methods of preserving food, and it’s unique in that it really uses two methods. The first is brining, which is a method of increasing the amount of salt in a product, thereby making it less hospitable for bacteria. The second part of a confit is the storage – in the fat it was cooked in. The procedure originated in France, and like a lot of other unique foods, was originally designed to dramatically increase the shelf life of a product.
We’ve grown so accustomed to these items as staples that we continue to practice the same techniques developed hundreds of years ago, but now simply for the development of their flavors. That great flavor of a ruben, with the smoked meat and sauerkraut, is almost entirely thanks to old preservation techniques.
So enjoy your confit, and take a moment to thank those old French chaps for not having a fridge of their own.
6ea Pheasant Legs
16c Rendered Duck Fat
2ea Oranges (cut into 8 pieces)
2ea Lemons (cut into 8 pieces)
½ c Kosher Salt
½ c Sugar
1c Orange Juice
10 Garlic Cloves
2 Bay Leaves
1oz Fresh Thyme
1oz Fresh Rosemary
1oz Fresh Parsley
6 Black Peppercorns
Place all ingredients for brine in an 8qt sauce pan and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from flame and cool. Once brine is cool, pour into a 2 gallon container and place legs into the brine and let set for 12 hours covered in the refrigerator. If running short on time you do not have to simmer the brine as we demonstrated.
Pour brine through a colander and discard liquid. Place pheasant legs in a roasting pan and cover with some of the remaining mixture from the colander. Melt the fat and pour over the duck.
Place pan in a 250 degree oven for 4to6 hours or until the meat falls of the bones. Start with 4 hours and check in 30 minute increments. Cool and store in duck fat. (You may leave it in the fridge for several weeks; just make sure the legs are covered completely in fat)
Okay, so this is a bit of a preemptive strike against any foodies who may start clamoring about the usage of the term ‘bisque.’
You see, bisque is one of those dishes whose definition, and thereby ingredients, has changed over time. Classically, a bisque is just seafood. Well, if you go farther back than that, like, before the 17th century, then classically-classically a bisque is a soup made with, and thickened by, game or seafood. They mostly used crayfish as the seafood, and as time passed, crayfish and lobster ended up becoming the main ingredients.
Even now, French culinary dictionaries are gonna say that a bisque is exclusively seafood. American ones will say that the term can include soups made with other meats or exclusively vegetables.
“So,” you may ask, “What’s the big deal?”
Well, nothing, really. What the stalwart defenders of culinary lexicon have probably forgotten is that food changes over time. The terms should shift as well. If a ‘bisque’ is seen more as a dish that’s thickened by pureeing the ingredients, then we can lump in the vegetable bisques and what-not.
So, cut the chefs of the world some slack if they use a term that, according to Culinary Dictionary X, is wrong. Unless, of course, they’re trying to call a pile of scrambled eggs on a plate an omelet. That’s just not cool.
- Chef Savage
1 ea Yellow Onions Rough Chopped
6cans Artichokes In Water (16oz)
1qt Heavy Cream
1/4lb Gruyere Cheese (shredded)
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Sauté Onions in butter until soft.
Add Artichokes do not drain.
Add cream simmer 1 hour.
Blend with immersion blender till smooth.
Add cheese and blend again.
Pass through china cap.
Serve with warm crabmeat.