Dairy

Goat cheese and cherry swirl ice cream

the goat cheese popping untimed and irregular bursts of mild saltiness and cheesy aroma that cuts and balance the sweetness, which then welcomes a current of tangy and floral compote of black cherries and honey

So some of you may already knew from my Instagram that I was forced onto a whiskey distillery tour in Scotland in spite of my lifelong disagreement with this confounding substance.  Although against contrary evidences, I could swear I exercised a generous though painful effort to have fun.  But ultimately, on a jam-packed five days excursion dead set on the sole purpose of hunting and gathering overpriced barley water and thus sidelining the other, infinitely more joyous activity of plowing into flocks of free-roaming sheep at every turn, it’s safe to assume that I absolutely did not.

And this brings us to today’s topic, Mary’s Milk Bar.  If there was any highlights at all in my five days of being unpaid escort, it had to be this highly acclaimed ice cream shop in Edinburgh, sitting just at the foothill against the backdrop of the magnificent Edinburgh’s Castle.  A fine quality creameries aside, what makes Mary’s Milk Bar attractive, to me at least, are her seasonal, unique profiles of unexpected flavors, pistachios and cardamom, orange and almond to name a few.  But I’m not going to focus on the flavors that she already perfected, instead, I want to remake one that I felt could improve to my likings, and that was one called goat cheese and honey.

Even through the cold barrier of the glass window, I could feel the strong attraction of this combination in my imagination, but when I actually tasted it, it fell softly on the promise.  The flavors of the goat cheese was very subtly blended into the smooth cream-base almost to the point of undetectability, which I guess I could understand, for goat cheese being such a pungent driver of tastes that too dominant of a presence could potentially ruin what is meant to be a sweet summer dessert.  But I couldn’t help but reimagining that instead of a smooth blend, the goat cheese should come as frozen bits of surprises scattered throughout a pure and dense cream base, popping untimed and irregular bursts of mild saltiness and cheesy aroma that cuts and balances the sweetness, which would make such an incredibly rich and intense ice cream that welcomes a current of tangy and floral compote of black cherries and honey.

I put my theory to the test.  And let me just say that if I had this with me everyday, I wouldn’t mind the fact that I was on a whiskey tour.

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Extra-browns Browned Butter

Not double, not triple, but ten, twenty-times of (salty) browned bits.

You’ve never known browned butter this way.  You’ll never want to know it any other way.

The other day, two hours after midnight while I was peeling through the dense jungle of Amazon’s available silicone microwave popcorn makers to be exact, something hit me like a lightening slitting down a tree.

Browned butter.

A glorious thing, absolutely.  But what is wrong with browned butter?  No, no, let me rephrase.  What is missing with browned butter?  It’s a beautiful thing that is butter made even more beautiful by letting the remaining traces of milk – an inevitable remnant from the process of making butter from cream – slowly caramelize into speckles of browned bits that, I want to argue, is the unsung hero that truly gives browned butter its celebrated nuttiness and deep, rich aroma.

So here I ask again, as attractive as is, what is missing with browned butter?

I say, not enough browned bits.

Yes, think about it!  Think about how sick browned butter could be if it is accompanied by not double, not triple, but ten, twenty-times the amount of browned bits that separates browned butter from being a component to a stand-alone, self-sufficient sauce all on its own.

Because I’m not just talking about browned bits, but salty, salty browned bits.  Relentlessly nutty to a point of almost sweet aroma storming your nasal cavity, with the saltiness bringing out all the nuance of depth and flavor that plain fat couldn’t physically carry by itself (salt can’t melt in oil), this is what I am calling Extra Browns, the late-arriving amplification of what browned butter could’ve, should’ve, would’ve been if everyone has been making it this way.  You’ve never known browned butter this way.  You’ll never want to know it any other way.

Simply add milk.  Simply add milk, my friends.

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Simplified, tall fluffy pancake, stuffed with cheese

NO SEPARATION OF EGG WHITES AND YOLKS, NO WHIPPING THE WHITES AND FOLDING IT BACK IN, AND YEAH, NO MAYONNAISE EITHER.

 

If you use the internet, you’ve probably seen this.  This super lofty, tall and wiggling souffle pancake, said to have originated from Japan, that will surely tickle the feathers of anyone who has a soft sentimental spots for stacked fluffiness.

I, for one, am not a pancake person.  Or at least, not in its traditional form.  But over the years, I’ve been patiently waiting for a game changer that would summon my inner fluff-craze that has been dormant inside my cold, pancake-less heart, and I thought, maybe, this is it.

Well, not quite.

Upon further investigation, I realized that the recipe for this pancake requires violating one of my many holy baking commandments – Thou shalt not ask for the separation of egg white and yolks, separate whippings, and folding them back in.  I am not thy bitch. – carved into a plastic chopping board and hung onto my fridge in permanence to remind me of the gods’ wrath against disobedience.  So typically, if I see such thing, I just walk away.  But something, a small voice inside my head, an imploding honey cake from the old ages perhaps, held my foot in the ground.

Thing is, whole eggs whip up marvelously fine just as well.

If it’s air that we’re after, whipping egg whites separately isn’t always necessary.  I thought, if I could just find the right ratio between flours and whole eggs that are whipped together with sugar until almost mousse-like in consistency, then I can streamline this recipe and turn this batter into a one-bowl, fuss-free and fool-proof epiphany that even I can’t fuck up.

And guess what, I did.  A super tall, lofty, spongy one-bowl batter that doesn’t need separation of white and yolks, no folding the whites back in, and yeah, no mayonnaise either.  My heart should be content.  My inner fluff-craze should awaken and shine lights upon the golden gate that welcomes me towards pancake enlightenment.  Right?

Well, not quite.

Thing is, like all other earnest yet disappointing pancakes that had come before it, flavor-wise, this pancake was still completely boring.  Cottony fluffiness, yeah, but remind me again why I want to eat cotton again?  I sat and stared, faithful, receptive, in waiting.  A sign will come.  It must come.  All these journeys of questions and answers, flipping and flopping, reincarnations and repetitions, can’t all be for nothing.  Pancake must mean something!  It must!

I waddled my slumbering, meditating body towards the fridge for a diet coke, the thought-juice if you will, and out the corner of my eyes, there it was – A Laughing Cow (regrettably not a sponsor).  Of course!  If the gods intend a purpose for this pancake’s spacious and buoyant volume, surely, it would be for nothing else but, stuffing!  And what is better to aid its mildly sweet and airy crumbs if not this exuberantly creamy and contrastingly salty cheese?

I put my theory to work, and it worked.  An unlikely but wondrous pairing that is texturally light yet creamy, flavorfully sweet yet salty, a faintly vanilla sponge moistened with a mildly cheesy funk.  In the end, excused by its entirely oil/butter-free crumbs, a slim waterfall of melted butter and a squirt of honey is appropriately commenced.  Pancake, is that finally you?  Oh where have you been…

 
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SIMPLE YET SURPRISING AMSTERDAM PANCAKE

 

I KNOW IT DOESN’T LOOK MUCH.  I PROBABLY WOULD’VE BYPASSED IT IF I WASN’T STUCK IN AMSTERDAM.  BUT I’M GLAD I WAS.  AND I KNOW YOU WILL, TOO

I’ve been to Amsterdam.  For a total of 18 hours.  I don’t know what people do during an overnight layover in a city they know nothing about, and I knew nearly nothing about Amsterdam.

However, pancake, seems to be a thing.

What did I know about “Amsterdam pancake”, or as I later found out, pannenkoeken?  Not much, really, aside from that it’s starkly different from the verticality of common stacked pancakes, in fact, it’s one of the flattest stand-alone foods I’ve came across.  And in my long years of hunting for culinary clues, when something spreads so unseemly, so 2D, so unornamented to a point of bleakness, yet is still adored as “a thing”, further investigation is warranted.  And rest assured, I was not disappointed.  To clarify upfront, during the only few hours of daytime we had, we only tried Amsterdam pancake once, from an unresearched, random cafe close to our Airbnb apartment, and had only a single pancake with cheese which we shared.  All in all, what I’m trying to say is, I am no expert.  But from the moment since the waitress placed something that looked exactly like this in front of us, as unflatteringly as it came, and I tore a small corner from the edge and put it faithfully in my mouth,  I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Chewy.  Chewy was the first word that came to mind.  But soft though, really soft.  A combination of textures that, from the start, was already far more interesting than any of the spiritless associations of common pancakes, say, pfff, fluffy.  Flavor-wise, it wasn’t exceedingly eggy like Dutch baby or french crepe, nesting comfortably in the natural and mild sweetness of wheat flours and milk.  I also couldn’t stop thinking about how daringly minimal it presented itself on the table, a bare blanket of confidence with nothing else but a few slices of melted Dutch gouda on top, almost making a statement, declaring its independence from BS, secure with assurance.  It felt playful to eat, interacting, but comfortable, like having a conversation with a soft-spoken but funny stranger who underdressed with ease, while the whole time I wondered if it was too weird to ask if we could be friends for life.

And that’s exactly what I did.  All eight times of trials and errors.  It felt funny going after something, with this much effort, when I wasn’t even sure if it’s a classic representation in its category.  Is this the pannenkoeken?  I have no idea.  But I don’t really care.  I just want to find my way to back to that particular one that I really liked.  It was expectedly tricky to replicate that softly chewy texture which I hold as a key to its charm, leading to a combined conclusion of both wheat flour and potato starch in the batter.

I know it doesn’t look like much.  And I probably would’ve bypassed it if I wasn’t stuck in a city full of it.  But I’m glad I was.  And I know you will, too.

 
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SPRING CREAM PIZZA

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DOLLOPS OF SAVORY WHIPPED CREAM HELPLESSLY DESTABILIZE UNDER THE BLAZING HEAT OF THE OVEN, RENDERING INTO A PUDDLE OF SALTY, OILY, HERBY AND CREAMY MAGMA

You know, I try not to make pizzas nowadays.

Off carbs?  I wish.  Gluten-free?  Is there any other diet more torturous by design?  How about an oven that shuts down in the middle of nowhere for no reasons whatsoever?  OK, yeah I have that.  But, no.  No, not for any of those things.  In fact, the reason is a simple and straightforward one, in fact, one that deals with our most basic instinctual fear which drives, I believe, most human behaviors… the fear of dying alone.

Wait, pizza can do that?  Yes, pizza can do that.  How?  By making me fat.

 

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THE BEST, YET, ONE-SKILLET CREAMY EGG

 

THE RESULT WAS AN ONE SKILLET, BLINK OF AN EYE, ELEGANT AND REMARKABLE QUILT OF EGG MAGIC

Ever since I published a self-proclaimed genius recipe for my magic 15-seconds creamy scrambled eggs, I didn’t think a better one – and by “better” I mean it in the context where you need a speedy and easy recipe for morning eggs – could ever come across my path, which proves, again, that I know nothing.

A glimpse in one of the episodes in Anthony Bourdain’s Return To Catalunyain a fairytale land far far away they call Barcelona, there under the sparkling dim lights in a snuggly tapas bar, I saw it.  Quiet and flashing by, one can assume that among the dazzles of celebrity TV personalities and seemly endless flow of Spanish culinary bewitchment, this egg dish wasn’t even the heroine of the night.  But I saw it, I noticed, a hot cast-iron skillet cuddling what seemed to be the most beautiful, golden blanket of creamy eggs.  We locked eyes.  None of us said a word.  But just from that split second of eye contact, me and it, almost telepathically, we understood something deep about one another.

From its wet and almost undone surface, its slightly firmer and rippling bottom, and fact that it was served being cradled inside a warm cast-iron skillet, it whispered to me how it was made, like watching a movie unrolling, but only in my mind, a glowing mirage of prophecy.  I saw one hot skillet, butter in a hypnotizing swirl, then almost abruptly, the flame wisp away only to welcome the stream of eggs into its warm embrace.  Barely guided was the slow and perfect congelation, and the restrain to apply any unnecessary heat was absolute, resulting in an one-skillet, blink of an eye, elegant and remarkable quilt of egg magic.  At that point I’ve never met it, tasted it, but I immediately understood its calling, its noble mission of life – to ensure that no one on this earth bestowed with the gift that is eggs, will ever, ever taste a bad one again.

And what it understood about me?  Well, you’re reading it aren’t you.

 
ONE-SKILLET CREAMY EGG

Serving Size: one

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. Before you start with the eggs, you can prepare the toppings if any. I fry a clove of thinly sliced garlic in 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, then I add 1 tbsp finely chopped herbs (basil and mint) and a pinch of ground white pepper and chili flakes, then added toasted pine nuts. But the topping can be as simple as crumbled feta with olive oil, or shaved pecorino cheese, or really, nothing would be fine as well.
  2. A note on the skillet. The size of the skillet is important. You want the eggs to spread across the diameter in a fairly thin layer. A 9" is perfect for 2 large eggs. 10"~11" for 3 eggs. 12"~13" for 4 eggs.
  3. Beat eggs and sea salt until slightly frothy (I find that thoroughly beaten eggs results in a creamier texture), set aside. Place a 9" cast-iron skillet, or any heavy NON-STICK skillet over medium-high heat. Preheat 1:30 min for cast-iron skillet, or 2 min for NON-STICK skillet. The preheat time may vary based on the skillet you use, so the first time may be a test-run for you to get a feel of it. Basically we want to have enough heat to accomplish the following result, no more no less.
  4. Add 2 tsp unsalted butter and swirl the skillet without lifting the skillet away from the heat, until the butter has fully melted. Now turn off the heat, and add the beaten eggs. Use a spatula to gently push the edges of curdled egg towards the center, then tilt the skillet to let the remaining runny egg fill the empty space. Do this until you don't have much runny eggs left. The surface of the eggs should look UNDONE at this point. DO NOT ATTEMPT to apply more heat to cook the egg. The residual heat will warm through the surface as it sits and makes it perfectly soft.
  5. Serve immediately with whatever toppings you fancy. Or really, nothing is perfect, too.
https://ladyandpups.com/2017/05/15/the-best-yet-one-skillet-creamy-egg/
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DIM SUM MONTH: GLASS DUMPLINGS W/ MUSHROOMS AND SMOKED GOUDA CHEESE

DIM SUM MONTH STILL CONTINUES…

OK, I know it’s not February anymore, but there’s still a couple more dim sum I want to share so DIM SUM MONTH is oozing into March a bit…

WHAT:  Glass-like translucent dumplings stuffed with caramelized mushrooms and a soft-hearted center of smoked gouda cheese, all in a beautiful tear-drop shape.

WHY:  Because the only tears you’re gonna cry are happy ones when you try this.

HOW:  This wrapper is actually my favorite not only because it’s so beautiful, but it actually freezes well, or should I say better than the more common and popular crystal shrimp dumplings.  It has a pleasantly bouncy and chewy mouth-feel, and it gives the audience a preview to whatever fillings you put inside!  In this case, we’re doing deeply oven-caramelized mushrooms that are bound together by a bit of ground pork and parmigiano-regiano cheese (and a hint of truffle oil if you can splurge), creating an earthy, warm and aromatic cradle that rocks a soft and temperate center of smoked gouda cheese.  Nothing is going to shout “funk!” in this flavor-profile here, only modest but confident display of a well-tolerated harmony.  The only accessory it likes is a brightening dab of heat from this chili sambal romesco sauce.  But the sky’s the limit here.  How about grassy colored spinach filling with a stronger punch of blue cheese, or sweet and red-cheeked carrots or beets and funky goat’s cheese?  Dream wild.

* I believe that the next post will be the final chapter of dim sum month, and I’m going to list out a complete game-plan on what, how and when to prepare certain items ahead of time, and throwing then all together at our virtual dim sum party :)

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