Monday, 25 August 2014
Gas Stove Adventures
For the passed few days I have been apartment sitting for one of my best friends while she's been on a business retreat in Cancun. As I type this, I am enjoying my last night here as she returns tomorrow morning. She has been in this apartment for just under a month so it's new to both of us. One of my assignments was to eat as much of her produce before it spoils. A pretty nice perk, if you're a foodie. In general she has a lot nicer kitchen stuff than I do. So that has been a nice perk as well. However all of these things combined could not equal the ultimate coup de gras, this apartment has a gas stove! I have had electric stoves all my life. The first time I ever really used a gas stove was during my brief experience on MasterChef Canada. Electric stoves are fine and all but heat distribution is never as even as it's gas counterpart and they take longer to heat up. Most homes across Canada have electric stoves, so people like myself are not uncommon. You can bet any culinary guru who has the privilege of choice will have a gas stove over an electric one.
So needless to say, I have been a cooking fool during my stay here. I wanted to share a few of the dishes that I prepared. I'll start out with breakfast. My first morning here I made a potato and veggie hash with a fried egg and fresh micro basil. This dish was made entirely with items that were already in the kitchen.
I took some red gem potatoes, chopped and parboiled them before sautéeing them with red onion, red bell pepper, cremini mushrooms and garlic in olive oil. I seasoned the hash with salt, pepper, paprika, dried thyme, chili flakes and ground cumin. Hash makes a great breakfast because it's hearty and satisfying. I topped it with a sunny side up egg which not only added protein but I left the yolk runny so that, once burst with a fork, would create a bit of rich sauce to enjoy the hash with. The micro basil added colour, freshness and herbaceousness. I made enough hash for two servings and there were more eggs and micro basil so I got to enjoy this same dish for breakfast the following day too.
I made a trip to the butcher shop on the weekend and picked up a beautiful veal chop which turned out to be my best dinner of the whole experience. I served the veal chop with a Marsala pan sauce, blue gem potatoes, green beans and carrot.
I patted the chop dry with paper towel and seasoned with salt and pepper. To a heavy skillet over medium-high heat I added olive oil, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2 fresh sage leaves, a sprig of fresh rosemary and a few sprigs of fresh thyme (the trio of sage+rosemary+thyme is brilliant with red meats). As the garlic and woody herbs infuse their flavours into the olive oil, I developed a good sear on all sides of the veal chop in the same pan. Then I placed it in a preheated 375F/191C oven for about 10 minutes until it was just cooked through but still springy to the touch (medium rare). I removed the pan from the oven and set the chop aside to rest at room temperature. I discarded the garlic and herbs and mopped up the fat and oil using a wad of paper towel and a pair of tongs. The chop had left a brown residue on the skillet called a fond, which is packed with concentrated flavour.
I lit a high flame under the skillet and deglazed the pan with a generous splash of Marsala, which is a sweet, Sicilian wine with characteristics similar to sherry. I let the wine boil which not only cleans the fond off the skillet (thus taking on its flavour) but also to burn off the alcohol and reduce the wine into a syrupy sauce. Once I had it at the right consistency, I turned off the heat and stirred in a bit of butter for richness and a glossy shine. I then tasted for seasoning and adjusted before plating with the veal, potatoes and veggies. In total the pan sauce took about five minutes, which was all the chop needed to rest.
Although hardly worth mentioning, I also made a very basic green salad with some of the produce. My friend had a premade salad mix of baby bok choy, arugula, spinach and dandelion greens to which I added cucumber, red onion, red bell pepper and grape tomatoes. I dressed that with some extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.
So again, the salad was very basic, involved only chopping, mixing and no cooking whatsoever. But it made for a nice picture and I shared it on my Instagram (@bramdoublel) so I figured it would get a mention on the blog here. Although maybe it's just a nice picture because of the pretty salad bowl. lol!
Finally, I will share the dinner which I prepared last night, pan fried trout over roasted vegetables with brown butter and fresh lemon juice.
This is another classic cooking technique for filleted fish with the skin still attached. I'll be surprised if I haven't shared it on the blog already. I went to the fish monger and asked him what was the freshest catch available which turned out to be trout. Trout is an oily, red-fleshed fish similar in flavour and texture to salmon. I asked for the thicker half of one fillet. In a skillet over medium-high heat I melted some butter with a little olive oil (the olive oil helps to prolong the butter's endurance before burning). I browned the butter over medium-high heat, which just means that once the butter had melted I allowed it to simmer for a few minutes. During that time the butter's colour goes from yellow to brown and it takes on a nuttier aroma and flavour. While the butter was browning I patted the trout fillet dry with a paper towel and seasoned it with salt and pepper.
I placed the trout fillet skin side down in the brown butter and left it to cook, completely undisturbed. This is a very simple technique. The hardest part is just resisting the urge to poke and prod at it. Allowing it to cook on its own is imperative to a beautifully cooked and evenly crispy skin. Most fish changes colour as it cooks. Fish like salmon and trout are the clearest indicators because its raw flesh turns from reddish-coral to a pale pink when it cooks. As the fillet is frying in the butter, you will notice the fish changing colour gradually upward. When the colour change reaches 3/4 to 4/5 of the way up the thickest part, flip the fillet only once to cook the other side. For a fillet of this thickness the second side takes only about a minute. Every time I have tried this technique the fish has come out perfect. It produces moist, flaky fish with a warm but just slightly rosy center. It's gorgeous. This technique works great with just about all kinds of fish fillets. To plate, just pour a little bit of the excess browned butter over the fish and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It's up to you whether you decide to serve it skin side up or down. I usually just choose whichever happens to look nicest.
For the vegetables I parboiled some yellow gem potatoes and then tossed them with some zucchini, carrot, red onion, crushed garlic and sprigs of thyme with olive oil, salt, pepper and dried chili flakes. Then I roasted them for about 25 minutes at 375F/191C.
That about does it. I am really looking forward to cooking in this kitchen again. It is so inspiring and with a gas stove I find that you have so much more control over what you are preparing. You will want to stay tuned for those upcoming posts.
We went over quite a few techniques today, mostly French. I hope you learned something new or at least got inspired to try a version of one of these dishes yourself. You can make any of these dishes with an electric stove as well. It will just take a little more patience.
Until next time, guys!