What is Chicago Style Pizza?


There is extensive research to point to the ancient Pompeiians as the creators of the first pizza, who formed a coarse bread dough in a round or rectangular shape and baked it in crude but effective wood fired ovens. Naples is still the center of pizza in Italy, but many areas of Italy have some form of pizza.

The history of Chicago style deep dish pizza began in 1943, when Ike Sewall and Rick Riccardo opened a bar and restaurant called Pizzeria Uno. In 1955, Pizzeria Due opened a block away. It is not clear whether either of the owners had anything to do with the cooking, but it is likely that Adolpho “Rudy” Malnati, Sr. and Alice May Redmond did. Not only did both work at Uno’s but each of them unquestionably knew how to make deep dish pizza. For years, Alice May Redmond, as well as her sister, Ruth Hadley worked at Uno’s, then were hired to work at Gino’s East. A 1956 article from the Chicago Daily News asserts that the original deep-dish pizza recipe was created by chef Rudy Malnati Sr. The recipe for the pizza was a closely guarded secret, but it consisted of a thick doughy crust, slices of mozzarella cheese, and canned tomatoes made into a sauce. If you wanted sausage, instead of bits of sausage, the meat (made by Anchini Brothers) was applied in a layer.

This type of pizza was a departure from the thin Neopolitan type pizzas, and it became famous. How the restaurant worked is that you ordered your pizza when you came in, and by the time you got a table (some 25-30 minutes later), the pizza was served. Cooked in steel pans that have developed a patina with use, it is brought to the table in the pan and served.

Uno’s has spawned many imitators, most notably Gino’s East, but I don’t like the Gino’s crust, which uses a lot of cornmeal. I guess I can’t get past the one time I had a pizza at Gino’s and found a large fly baked into the pizza. Yuck!

Pequod’s is a variation on the thick crust theme, with the cheese overlapping the crust so that it forms a caramelized cheese, and often burnt edge. Not bad, but not to my mind an improvement on the prototype.

It is the crust that defines what makes a great deep dish pizza, and I prefer the original from Uno’s or Due’s or Lou’s, and I also like the butter crust option available at Lou Malnati’s. Lou Malnati’s is by far the other best pizza in Chicago and is a restaurant chain started by Rudy’s son Lou of both sit down restaurants and takeout shops.

Lou Malnati’s sit down restaurants operate on the same model as Uno’s. Order the pizza, then wait for a table. It sounds more difficult, but it works. Salads are excellent, but the other offerings are OK, but, hey, you are there for the pizza, darnit!

Lou make a decent thin crust pizza as well, so if you must, you can try it. The sausage is in bits, not like the thick crust, but it is still good sausage. I’m an anomaly in that I don’t love pepperoni so I am not the one to ask about a pepperoni pizza,

Lou’s, Uno’s and Due’s provide the reason that Chicago style deep dish pizza is an iconic food. Forget thin crust, forget coal oven or brick oven or cracker crust, and especially forget pizza that folds when you pick up a slice. Now, before you all jump on me, I should state that I have been known to like a Neopolitan type slice as long as the crust is good. Still, when I dream of pizza, it is a deep dish pie from Lou’s that materializes. Despite what they claim, New Yorkers don’t understand great pizza. They have been brainwashed from childhood to think a pizza folds. Here we eat pizza with a knife and fork! That’s the Chicago way.

Now to the nitty gritty:

Authentic Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza


This recipe is from Pat Bruno’s “The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook” with some modifications by me.
Equipment needed: 14 inch round steel pan with 2 inch high sides.
Dough
1½ packages active dry yeast
½ cup warm water (105-115°F)
1 tablespoon sugar
3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup yellow corn meal
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup warm water
Topping
28 ounces canned tomatoes either Italian style plum tomatoes or 6-1 brand crushed tomatoes, or an equivalent amount of fresh, ripe plum tomatoes that have their skins removed, then crushed by hand.
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tsp. chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon oregano
to taste salt
10 ounces mozzarella cheese (sliced thinly) I prefer whole milk mozzarella, and it is not necessary to get fancy water buffalo Italian mozzarella
¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
½ pound Italian sausage, casing removed buy mild, not hot and let people add red pepper flakes to their slices if they wish
as needed extra-virgin olive oil

Dough
1. Dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm water. Add the sugar and stir well. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combinbe 3½ cups flour, salt, and cornmeal. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the yeast mixture, the vegetable oil, and ½ cup water. Stir and mix thouroughly until the dough cleans the side of the bowl and a rough mass is formed. (SDR modification–don’t put the cornmeal in the dough, use it on the bottom of the dough just before it goes in the pizza pan to get a bottom dusting of cornmeal).
3. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a well-floured work surface. Knead and pound the dough (using a bit of flour if the dough is sticking) for 5-6 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it proof for 1½ hours until it doubles in size.
4. Turn out on to the work surface and knead for 1 to 2 minutes. At this point, the kneaded dough could be refrigerated and used up to 24 hours later (not longer or the dough will lose strength needed for baking). Weigh dough portions to 26 ounces for a 14 inch pizza.
5. Oil the bottom and sides of the pizza pan with oil to get a thin layer. Spread the dough with your hands in the bottom and up the sides of the pizza pan. Do not use a rolling pin! It will spread more easily if left to rest in the pan for 10 minutes prior to spreading out to the sides. Pull the edge of the dough up to form a lip. Cover the pan completely with a towel and let the dough rise in the pan in a warm place for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 475°F.
6. Prick the entire crust with the tines of a fork, then parbake the crust for exactly four minutes to give the dough its initial “spring.” Remove from oven and brush the crust with a pastry brush and olive oil.

Assembly
1. Lay the thinly sliced mozzarella over the crust, leaving a ½ inch edge around the perimeter.
2. Combine the tomatoes with the basil, oregano, and salt. If using canned plum tomatoes, drain off all the liquid and crush the tomatoes with your hand, then add the seasonings. Spoon the tomatoes over the cheese. Sprinkle the parmesan over the tomatoes.
3. Add the sausage evenly over the tomatoes by flattening the sausage pieces between your thumb and forefinger to get complete coverage of the tomatoes. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil on top. Most restaurants like Lou Malnati’s, Uno’s or Due’s will put the raw sausage on top of the cheese, then the tomatoes, then the parmesan. This works due to the high heat of the restaurant’s ovens will allow for the sausage to cook properly. Depending on the fat of the sausage, it may be necessary to partially cook the sausage before placing on the pizza, to decrease greasy accumulation in the pie. I would definitely recommend this additional step.
4. Bake at 475°F for 5 minutes on the bottom rack, and another 30 minutes on a middle-high rack, until the crust edge is browned and the sausage is cooked through.

DISCLAIMER: I have not tried the following recipe yet.

Clone of Lou Malnati Pizza


Here is a post I found on the web for an attempt to make a clone of Lou Malnati pizza:
Posted by JazzmanJazzman
April 2009 edited 2:25PM in EggHead Forum:

“I have become obsessed with making the perfect Chicago-style deep dish pizza over the past few months (specifically Lou Malnati’s), I have gone on pizza-making forums, bough supplies from pizza-making online stores, and experimented with several types of dough. The last 5-6 pies I have made are (IMHO) near-perfect, and I wanted to share this info with you. I read almost every post regarding pizza, and some of you are making wrong assumptions about authentic Chicago-style pizza.
#1 There is NO CORNMEAL in a Lou Malnati’s crust. I have this on good authority (I live 5 miles from a Lou’s), and you can also check the ingrediants in the pizzas they ship – NO CORNMEAL.
#2 You must use about 25% (by weight) Semolina Flour, and the other 75% bread flour. It’s the semolina that has people confused about the cornmeal – it gives the pizza a “yellowish” cast, and a nice cornmeal-y tasting crust.
#3 I always grease the bottom of the pan with Crisco, not olive oil – another trick I picked up on the pizza forum.
#4 the cheese MUST go on the bottom of the crust, followed by the ingredients, then the sauce LAST. Otherwise, the sauce and ingredients make the crust soggy on top.
#5 If you are a nut for authenticity, you must use the 6-in-1 brand of tomatoes, add some honey, garlic and spices.
#6 True Chicago-style Lou’s is not really super deep dish, so don’t roll out your crust too thick – roll it out like a normal crust and it will come out just fine.

OK – enough lecture 🙂 Here is the best Lou Malnati’s clone recipe you will ever find. I stole this from the pizza-making forum (with a few minor tweaks added by me), and I am not alone. Over 200 posts on the forum rave about this particular crust. This is for a 14″ sqaure pan, and it will make a bit too much for a 15″ round pan, but you can make some nice garlic braids from the extra!. On the pizza forum, they use ONLY weights, but I also included the “normal” measurements – and they are close enough to work perfectly.”

(Now my comments–The original Uno’s pizza did use the 6 in 1 brand of canned tomatoes. Lou Malnati’s uses canned tomatoes from California made to order for them, but they are plum tomatoes harvested at peak ripeness, peeled and canned. If you are making a sausage pizza, slightly precook the sausage to rend out some of the fat. Use mild rather than hot sausage and let people add red pepper flakes to their own piece. The sausage should be enough weight and volume to cover the entire pan surface to the edge of the crust. Use whole milk mozzarella in slices, not grated, and layer to completely cover the crust. Don’t make a rectangle, get a large 14 inch round pan with 2 inch sides. Do not roll out the dough, just flatten it with your palm and fingertips and take the dough up the sides for about 3/4 inch. I do not prebake the crust. SDR)

Here goes:

14” square
Flour (75%) 3 cups (hold back ½ cup)/ 407.85 g /
Semolina (25%) ¾ cup / 136.25 g
Water (47%) 1 cup / 255.58 g / 9.02 oz / 0.56 lbs.
Active Dry Yeast (0.70%) 1 tsp / 3.81 g / 0.13 oz / 0.01 lbs. / 1.01 tsp / 0.34 TBSP
Salt (0.50%) ½ tsp / 2.72 g / 0.1 oz / 0.01 lbs. / 0.49 tsp / 0.16 TBSP
Olive Oil (6%) 3 TBS / 32.63 g / 1.15 oz / 0.07 lbs. / 7.25 tsp / 2.42 TBSP
Corn Oil(18.5%) ½ cup / 100.6 g /3.55 oz / 0.22 lbs. /7.45 TBSP/ .47 cups
Butter (1%) ½ TBSP / 5.44 g / 0.19 oz / 0.01 lbs. /1.15 tsp / 0.38 TBSP
Sugar (1.5%) 2 tsp / 8.16 g / 0.29 oz / 0.02 lbs. /2.05 tsp / 0.68 TBSP
Cream of Tarter (0.75%) 1 tsp / 4.08 g / 0.14 oz / 0.01 lbs. /1.36 tsp / 0.45 TBSP
Total (175.95%) 956.78 g / 33.75 oz / 2.11 lbs. / TF=0.126875

I mixed the semolina and salt with the sifted flour, but withheld 1/2 cup of the flour. I added the water with the previously proofed Active dry yeast, mixed with a wooden spoon and by hand, covered and let rest for around 25 minutes in a warm part of the kitchen. Then added the rest of the flour along with the oil and the small amount of melted and cooled butter. After kneading for a very short time (est. 1 min.), I again found that I needed a teaspoon or two more of the flour, and then put the formed dough ball into a Ziploc bag and into the refrigerator for 24 hours. (NOTE: the dough will appear too oily, and you will question your sanity – this is NORMAL – it’s an oily dough!)

Taking it out of the refrigerator the next day about 2 hours before baking, I patted out the dough ball into my previously “crisco’ed” 14″ Pizza ware deep dish square pan with 2″ high straight-sides. I crimped or pinched the edges of the crust very hard to give the crust a nice real thin edge, as opposed to a thicker or fatter rim. Pre-bake the crust only 4-5 min I then put in a layer of sliced Mozzarella cheese (use whole-milk mozz), then added some provolone cheese pieces, then cooked sausage (you cook it first so it doesn’t add any “juice” to the pie – other wise things can get messy). I then added some drained 6 in 1 sauce (important to use the “6-in-1” sauce, and important to drain first!) to which I added Italian spices, minced garlic, sea salt, and a good dash of honey (key ingredient) then added a good amount of grated parmesan, and then baked the pizza at 450 degrees (make sure your grate temp is no more than 450, or you’ll burn it!). After 15 minutes I turned the pizza 180 degrees and continue to bake for about 10 minutes more.

Sorry for the long post, and sorry for no pictures, but I swear this is a perfect Lou Malnati’s clone. I grew up in Chicago, and have eaten Lou’s and Connie’s and Uno’s and Gino’s all my life. My wife swears these are the best pizzas she has ever eaten in her life.”

Mark Malnati gave Food Network the following recipe when asked about the buttercrust recipe. I can’t believe that it is the full true recipe (why give away something worth millions) but here it is:

Chicago Style Pizza from FoodNetwork Show Follow That Food, Episode Follow that Pizza


Recipe courtesy Marc Malnati, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, Chicago, Illinois

Prep Time: 20 min Inactive Prep Time: 4 hr 0 min Cook Time: 40 min Level:
Easy Serves: 6 serving

Ingredients
Pizza Dough:
16 ounces water
1/8-ounce yeast
1/2-ounce salt
2 pounds bread flour
1/4 cup olive oil (or melted butter for Buttercrust)
1/4 cup cornmeal
Toppings:
2 cups tomato sauce, jar or homemade
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup spinach, shredded
1/2 cup grated Romano
1/2 cup sliced pepperoni
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Directions
In a mixer combine the water and the yeast and allow the yeast to dissolve. Add the remaining ingredients except for the cornmeal and begin to mix the dough using a dough hook on low speed. Once a ball is formed mix on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes until the dough becomes elastic and smooth. Remove from the mixer and place in a bowl coated with olive oil. Allow the dough to rest for approximately 4 hours. Once the dough is rested, place on flat surface and dust with some flour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a deep baking dish or deep dish pizza pan, spread the dough using your fingers at the bottom of the pan and make sure to have enough dough to come up the sides of the pan approximately 1/2-inch high.

Begin by placing a layer of the mozzarella cheese on the bottom of the crust. Add the tomato sauce and all of the toppings. Place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden and crispy.

Serve pizza straight from the oven to the table.

Good luck and happy pizza making!

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How about a Tiki Cocktail?


Mai Tai–Roa Ae.  In Tahtian this means “out of this world–the best

Well, the weather is starting to show signs of spring and that makes me think of drinks with umbrellas in them.  Or, at least, drinks with a fruity note.  You know, pina colatas, tequilla sunrises, Long Island Ice Tea, mint juleps, whisky sours, margaritas, etc.  But especially the drink that is so poorly made these days—the Mai Tai.
America’s fascination with Tiki and the Tiki Cocktail lasted from the 30’s well into the 70’s and every few years or so someone says Tiki is back and a few soon-to-be-doomed bars open up, mugs in the shapes of skulls and pineapples are stocked and someone goes into the basement to dust off the Mai Tai recipe. Except for maybe the Old Fashioned, I cannot think of another drink which was created long ago and which is still commonly called for, but the modern recipe is a pale comparison to the original. My guess would be that 99% of bartenders don’t know how to make a proper Mai Tai. Order a Mai Tai today and who knows what you will get in there–bottled lemon sour mix, pineapple and/or orange juice, grenadine, even Amaretto or 151. If you’re lucky you may get two types of rum.

Fortunately these days we have a new breed of historians: – the cocktail researchers – who have delved into recipe books, collected old menus and done extensive research into our imbibing history.

So let’s clear up some Mai Tai misconceptions and correct the history:  The Tiki craze, along with the wonderful and colorful cocktails that it generated, came out of Los Angeles just a few years after prohibition was repealed. It was started by a man named Ernest Gantt who would later become known as Don the Beachcomber. Working with an impressive number of rums, many we may never see again, Don the Beachcomber became a master of blending different styles of rums into complex and elaborate cocktails. (The loss of the fantastic variety of rums from all over the Caribbean and South America is something we should lament more than the loss of any cocktail recipe). Quickly catching on to the budding Tiki revolution a man named Vic Bergeron – (later better know as Trader Vic) – started his own Tiki bar up the coast in Oakland. Now here is where things get funny. Both men invented a cocktail named the Mai Tai. And both are very different.

And although he may have been the second to create a drink with the name The Mai Tai cocktail, the Trader’s version took off and still lives on in the many Trader Vic’s restaurants across the world. I should also mention, as stocks of good rums diminished Trader Vic made great efforts to find other rums and use them in combination to replicate the flavor of the long extinct J. Wray Nephew.

Again: two men, two cocktails, one name, both recipes on the verge of extinction. I prefer Don’s version but most people are more familiar with the Trader Vic version.

What to buy: Orgeat is an almond-sugar syrup traditionally made from whole blanched almonds. The nut oil gives the syrup (and cocktails made with it) a richness that can’t be duplicated with a cheap syrup made with almond flavoring and sugar. Try to find a high-quality brand. Falernum adds cloves to almonds and limes.  Or, you can make Orgeat or Falernum yourself (more on that later).

 

Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai


1 1/2 oz Myer’s Dark Rum, dark body
1 oz Appletons Rum, medium body
3/4 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 oz Falernum, a sweet syrup with flavors of almonds, cloves and limes
1/2 oz Cointreau
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 dash Pernod
1 cup cracked ice

Shake all the ingredients and pour all the contents into a rocks glass.

Trader Vic's Mai Tai


1 1/2 oz J. Wray 17 year old Jamaican Rum, golden, medium body
1 medium lime, juiced
1/2 oz Orange Curacao
1 dash Rock Candy Syrup
1 dash French Orgeat, (almond flavored liquor)
1 cup shaved ice
1 sprig fresh mint

Shake well, pour into glass decorate with fresh mint.

Martin Cate's Mai Tai


2 oz aged rum
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice, juiced lime half reserved
1/2 oz orange curaçao
1/4 oz Rich Simple Syrup, also known as rock candy syrup
1/4 oz orgeat
1 cup crushed ice
1 mint sprig, for garnish

Use Rock Candy Syrup, which is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water.  Combine all ingredients except the mint sprig in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously, and pour the entire contents into a double Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with the juiced lime half and a mint sprig.

To make your own Orgeat:

2 cups raw almonds
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1 tsp orange flower water
1 oz vodka

Toast the almonds at 400º F for 4 minutes, shaking after 2 minutes.

Cool almonds then pulverize them in a blender or food processor.

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves.

Make your own Falernum

1/3 cup sliced raw almonds
30 whole cloves
1/2 cup light rum
8 limes
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

Toast the almonds in a 400º F oven for about 5 minutes.  Let cool.

Place the almonds and the cloves in a mason jar and pour in the rum.  Shake and let steep for 2 days.

Zest the limes, saving 4 limes for juicing after zesting.  Add the lime zest to the jar, shake and steep for 1 day.  Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, extracting as much liquid as possible.

With the juice of the 4 limes, add water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.  Let syrup cool, then combine with the strained almond and clove infusion.  Strain the mixture through a coffee filter and let rest for 12 hours prior to use.

The Don the Beachcomber’s recipe was a blend of medium and dark rums with Pernod and Cointreau as modifying spirits and incorporated spice (Falernum and Bitters) as well as good acidity (grapefruit and lime juice). It’s a well-structured, balanced and complex cocktail.   To tell you the truth, I think Don’s Mai Tai is a much better cocktail than Trader Vic’s.

Since Trader Vic spent a great deal of time promoting his claim as the inventor of the Mai Tai we might as well just go straight to the source:
” I was at the service bar in my Oakland restaurant. I took down a bottle of 17-year-old rum. It was J. Wray Nephew from Jamaica; surprisingly golden in color, medium bodied, but with the rich pungent flavor particular to the Jamaican blends. The flavor of this great rum wasn’t meant to be overpowered with heavy additions of fruit juices and flavorings. I took a fresh lime, added some orange curacao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy Syrup, and a dollop of French Orgeat, for its subtle almond flavor. A generous amount of shaved ice and vigorous shaking by hand produced the marriage I was after. Half the lime shell went in for color … I stuck in a branch of fresh mint and gave two of them to Ham and Carrie Guild, friends from Tahiti, who were there that night. Carrie took one sip and said, “Mai Tai – Roa Ae”. In Tahitian this means “Out of This World – The Best”. Well, that was that. I named the drink “Mai Tai”.

You can  prepare a Trader Vic’s Mai Tai using creme de noyaux rather than orgeat. Both have an almond flavor but orgeat can more readily be found in coffee houses rather than behind a bar these days. Either will work, but note that the Noyaux will give the cocktail a reddish hue.

In any event, these recipes will open you to a new appreciation of the Mai Tai.  Have fun!

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The best chocolate chip cookie?


an update with some new thoughts, the additions are in bold typeface.

trustforce

Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies. Whether it is the original creation of Ruth Wakefield at her Toll House Inn in Whitman, Mass or the infinite numbers of attempts by commercial bakeries and home cooks to make variations on the primal concept, these cookies are all wonderful in their own way. However, the debate continues as to what might be the “ultimate” chocolate chip cookie.

This is not the first time I have visited this subject.  I posted the Grand Prize winner of the Orchards’ 1987 cookie contest (best of 2600 recipes) in my September 2013 blog, a great double chocolate chip cookie with nuts.  Exactly one year ago, I discussed the original “Toll House” cookie and America’s Test Kitchen reworking of the recipe.  In my quest for something even better, I have looked at many cookbooks and many recipes on the internet.  I’ve tasted a bunch of cookies from…

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It’s summer, time for some chilled soup and a nice salad!


I wrote a blog about gazpacho in August of last year, but I didn’t include any recipes for non-tomato variation or melon soups.  We had dinner at a friend’s house this week, and sh…

Source: It’s summer, time for some chilled soup and a nice salad!

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It’s summer, time for some chilled soup and a nice salad!


I wrote a blog about gazpacho in August of last year, but I didn’t include any recipes for non-tomato variation or melon soups.  We had dinner at a friend’s house this week, and she made a wonderful watermelon gazpacho, and I got her to share the recipe.  It is delightful.

Watermelon Gazpacho

Ingredients:

1 medium red onion, cut in rough dice for 1/2 cup, and in very fine dice for 1/2 cup

1-2 red bell pepper cut in rough dice for 1 cup, and in very fine dice for 3/4 cup

1-2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded, 1 cup roughly chopped, 1 cup in fine dice

1 jalapeno pepper, 1 Tbs roughly chopped, 1 Tbs in fine dice (more if needed for more spice)

2 cups fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped

7 cups seedless watermelon (more if needed)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 to 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (more is needed to counter sweetness of tomatoes and watermelon)

1 Tbs kosher salt

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Place the rough chopped ingredients (tomato, red onion, bell pepper, cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro) into a blender or food processor and blend to a smooth puree.  Add the watermelon and blend to a smooth puree (may have to be done in batches).   It can also be done with an immersion blender, but it will take much longer.  Pour into a large bowl.

Taste the puree and add red wine vinegar in an adequate amount to balance the sweetness of the puree.  Start with 1/4 cup and add more to taste.  Whisk in the salt and the olive oil.  Stir in the finely diced onions, bell pepper, cucumber and jalapeno.  Chill at least 1 hour or overnight.

J*** also made a lovely salad.  Here is the recipe:

Sweet Corn and Basmati Rice Salad

from BON APPÉTIT JUNE 2000

The Dijon mustard vinaigrette brings everything together.  If you can’t find basmati rice, long grain rice works.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs red wine vinegar

1 Tbs Dijon mustard

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

3 large ears corn, husked

1 cup chopped green onions

2 1/4 cups water

1 1/2 cups basmati rice

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped toasted pecans

3 bunches watercress (about 12 ounces total), stems discarded

Preparation:

Whisk red wine vinegar and mustard in a large bowl to blend.  Gradually add 1/2 cup olive oil.  Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper.

Using a large sharp knife, cut the corn kernels from the cobs.  Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a large heavy skillet with medium heat.  Add green onions; saute 30 seconds.  Add corn: saute until corn is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Both the vinaigrette and corn mixture can be prepared ahead and chilled, but warm the corn mixture before serving.

Make the rice with 2 1/4 cups of boiling water, to which is added rinsed rice and 1/2 tsp salt.  Reduce heat to low and cover, cooking about 20 minutes until the rice is tender.  Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.

Mix rice, corn mixture, and pecans in a large bowl.  Mix in vinaigrette and chopped watercress.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Happy summer!

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Weeknight elegance in 3 hours


Years ago, I made a recipe from Jacques Pepin’s great cookbook, La Technique for a dinner party.  It was chicken that was deboned and stuffed with a chicken forcemeat, and covered in aspic.  Served slightly cold, it was a fantastic appetizer but a lot of work.  However, a galantine does not have to be so time consuming and difficult.  The first thing is to learn how to debone a chicken, and still preserve the skin and meat.  For this, I direct you to a YouTube of a young Jacques Pepin showing the technique:  How to debone a chicken (Chicken Galantine).

I can guarantee that you will need more than 10 minutes to make the galantine, but it will get close to that time with practice.  I remove the leg and wing bones (preserving the end of the leg as in the video) to make a full deboned chicken, using the carcase and other bones to make chicken stock.  Once the chicken is laid out with the breast tenderloins in place (again, as the video directs, the tendon removed from the tenderloin), it is time to stuff the bird and truss it up.  You can use your imagination–chicken mousse, leek and cheese and bread, etc.  Tonight, I made a mix of mushrooms, fresh spinach, shallots, garlic and cream to stuff the bird, and served it with pan roasted fingerling potatoes.

Chicken Galantine stuffed with cremini and shiitake mushrooms, shallots, garlic and spinach.

image1

Finished chicken galantine with pan roasted fingerling potatoes

For the stuffing mixture:

1 bunch fresh spinach (about 1 pound); you will get about 6 to 8 ounces after all the stems are removed

1 pound cremini mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced

1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced

4 large shallots, thinly sliced

4 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced

3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Prepare the spinach by removing all stems.  Thinly slice the two different mushrooms (don’t use button mushrooms here, you need the more robust flavors from the cremini).  Place the mushrooms in a large skillet and sauté them with the butter.

2. Add the sliced shallots and then add the minced garlic.  Adjust seasoning with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the spinach and cook until the spinach is just wilted, then add the heavy cream and reduce until thickened.  Remove from heat and let cool.  As an option, run the mixture in a food processor to make a fine puree.

To cook the galantine:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Using half of the spinach/mushroom mixture, stuff the galantine in the manner shown in the video.  Truss the bird with twine.  Place the trussed bird on a rack above a sheet pan or broiler pan.  In the bottom of the pan, use a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and then cut fingerling potatoes lengthwise, placing the cut surface down in the pan (mixing it around to evenly coat the potatoes).

Season the skin of the chicken with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cook for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and let it rest for at least 5 minutes.  You can serve it as is, or warm up some of the rest of the spinach/mushroom mixture as a sauce.

image3

The finished product

 

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HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT INTELLECTUAL FRAUD?


 

And by that, I mean plagiarism, to my mind one of the worst kinds of frauds, as it steals someone else’s ideas to present them as your own.

The particular example I found while researching a recipe for tomato vodka sauce, a not complicated but tasty way to spice up something to put on pasta.  I went to Epicurious and found several recipes, but then I found an anomaly:  the recipe from Rocco DiSpirito, one is lead to assume is taken from his book  Now Eat This, copyright 2010.  Now, I went to Amazon to look at the index of this book and can find no mention of penne alla vodka, and the Epicurious site has a heading stating this recipe is from Lidia Bastianich.  I am curious as to why Epicurious would have a separate posting to Lidia’s Penne Alla Vodka from 2001, with a misleading credit to DiSpirito.  Clearly, the recipe posted with Rocco Dispirito’s name is the Lidia Bastianich recipe, word for word.

 

PENNE ALLA VODKA

ROCCO DISPIRITO

 

EPICURIOUS FEBRUARY 2010

NOW EAT THIS

 

As simple a dish as this is, I have had requests for it in all my restaurants as far back as I can remember. I like the sauce a little feisty, so I’m generous with the crushed red pepper. You can add as much—or as little—as you like. Often, restaurant chefs finish this dish by swirling butter into the sauce at the end. You can do the same, or use olive oil to finish the sauce. I prefer olive oil, but I probably don’t have to tell you that by now.

 
INGREDIENTS

  • Salt
  • One 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) with their liquid
  • 1 pound penne
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Crushed hot red pepper 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil for finishing the sauce, if you like
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing if you like

PREPARATION

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Pour the tomatoes and their liquid into the work bowl of a food processor. Using quick on/off pulses, process the tomatoes just until they are finely chopped. (Longer processing will aerate the tomatoes, turning them pink.)

Stir the penne into the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and add them to the hot oil. Cook, shaking the skillet, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Lower the work bowl with the tomatoes close to the skillet and carefully—they will splatter—slide the tomatoes into the pan. Bring to a boil, season lightly with salt and generously with crushed red pepper, and boil 2 minutes. Pour in the vodka, lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and simmer until the pasta is ready.

Just before the pasta is done, fish the garlic cloves out of the sauce and pour in the cream. Add the 2 tablespoons butter or oil, if using, and swirl the skillet to incorporate into the sauce. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt and red pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the parsley over the pasta and boil until the sauce is reduced enough to cling to the pasta.

Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cheese over the pasta, and toss to mix. Serve immediately, passing additional cheese if you like.

Per serving: 280.0 calories, 35.0 calories from fat, 4.0g total fat, 2.0g saturated fat, 10.0mg cholesterol, 180.0mg sodium, 57.0g total carbs, 2.0g dietary fiber, 29.0g sugars, 11.0g protein

Nutritional analysis provided by TasteBook, using the USDA Nutrition Database

Now Eat This by Rocco DiSpirito. Copyright © 2010 by Rocco DiSpirito. Published by Random House Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved.

Hailed as the “Leading Chef of his Generation” by Gourmet magazine, Rocco DiSpirito received the James Beard Award for his first cookbook, Flavor. He went on to author Rocco’s Italian-American (2004), Rocco’s Five Minute Flavor (2005),Rocco’s Real-Life Recipes (2007), and Rocco Gets Real (2009). DiSpirito also starred in the Food Network series Melting Pot, the NBC hit reality series The Restaurant, and the A&E series Rocco Gets Real.

Now, here is the 2001 post of Lidia’ Penne Alla Vodka:

PENNE ALLA VODKA

BY LIDIA MATTICCHIO BASTIANICH

 

EPICURIOUS OCTOBER 2001

LIDIA’S ITALIAN-AMERICAN KITCHEN

This is more an American-Italian recipe than an Italian-American one. I found myself making this innovative dish, which always charmed our customers, quite a bit in the early 1970s.

As simple a dish as this is, I have had requests for it in all my restaurants as far back as I can remember: I like the sauce a little feisty, so I’m generous with the crushed red pepper. You can add as much — or as little — as you like.

Often, restaurant chefs finish this dish by swirling butter into the sauce at the end. You can do the same, or use olive oil to finish the sauce. I prefer olive oil, but I probably don’t have to tell you that by now.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • Salt
  • One 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) with their liquid
  • 1 pound penne
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Crushed hot red pepper
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil for finishing the sauce, if you like
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing if you like

PREPARATION

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Pour the tomatoes and their liquid into the work bowl of a food processor. Using quick on/off pulses, process the tomatoes just until they are finely chopped. (Longer processing will aerate the tomatoes, turning them pink.)

Stir the penne into the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and add them to the hot oil. Cook, shaking the skillet, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Lower the work bowl with the tomatoes close to the skillet and carefully — they will splatter — slide the tomatoes into the pan. Bring to a boil, season lightly with salt and generously with crushed red pepper, and boil 2 minutes. Pour in the vodka, lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and simmer until the pasta is ready.

Just before the pasta is done, fish the garlic cloves out of the sauce and pour in the cream. Add the 2 tablespoons butter or oil, if using, and swirl the skillet to incorporate into the sauce. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt and red pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the parsley over the pasta and boil until the sauce is reduced enough to cling to the pasta.

Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cheese over the pasta, and toss to mix. Serve immediately, passing additional cheese if you like.

Reprinted with permission from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Bastianich. © 2001 Knopf

 

As anyone can see, a word for word copy of the same recipe.  So, my question is this:  why is there any connection to Rocco DiSpirito to this recipe of Lidia Bastianich, and was it done with Lidia’s permission?

I’ve never thought very much about DiSpirito’s talent other than his propensity for self-aggrandizement.  I remember seeing some of the reality TV show, The Restaurant, about the opening and launch of “Rocco’s on 22nd.  I remember thinking at the time that a restaurant that was planning to sell spaghetti and meat balls for over $30.00 a plate didn’t deserve to succeed, and I was right—the show was cancelled, DiSpirito was successfully sued by his financial backer Jeffrey Chodorow to ban DiSpirito from entering the premises, and the restaurant was shut down.  I can’t see any evidence that DiSpirito has done any restaurant cooking since, but he has been on TV and has written some cookbooks.  The question I have to ask is how much of what he has written is original?

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Gazpacho—A Summer Delight


Tomatoes are now at their best, especially if you can get them fresh at the farmer’s market.  And what better way to highlight some of the best of summer than to put these wonderful fruits to use to create one of the season’s best recipes, gazpacho.  There are many recipes for this cold soup, but let us do some exploration.

For years, we have used the recipe from the little cookbook that came with my first Cuisinart food processor.beard  In it is a recipe for gazpacho from Barbara Kafka:kafka  This recipe has become a summer staple—best when the tomatoes are at their best.  Even though this could be made the year round, somehow, it evokes Summer and farm stand tomatoes.  It is a chunky soup that can be made as spicy or as mild as one wants, with the use of jalapenos or hot sauce or both.  I like it garlicky, and so sometimes I use extra cloves to make it reek!  Here is the recipe:

Barbara Kafka’s Gazpacho, slightly modified

INGREDIENTS

1/2 sweet white onion, peeled and quartered

1 1/2 firm medium cucumbers, peeled and cut in pieces

2 small green bell peppers, seeded and cut in eights

6 medium to large tomatoes (ripe and fresh from the farm if possible), cored, cut in eights.  Kafka says to peel them, but I don’t think it is necessary.

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup tomato juice (or more)  We tend to use V-8 instead.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon chili powder or chopped chili pepper of choice, such as jalapeno or serrano.

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Optional (but I think necessary) 2 to 3 tablespoons cilantro finely chopped

PREPARATION

Using the food processor, chop the onion with the metal blade with pulses to create a fine dice.  Transfer the onion to a bowl.  Do the same with the cucumbers, and then the green peppers, adding them to the bowl after processing.  Process 5 of the tomatoes to a fine dice, and transfer to the bowl.  Process the last tomato with the garlic, tomato or V-8 juice, olive oil and chili powder (or chili pepper) until a smooth liquid is formed.

Combine the liquid and the chopped vegetables with some salt and pepper, and chill for at least several hours before serving.

Adjust seasoning just before serving.  Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

The spice level of this recipe can be adjusted by the amount of chili pepper used.  I like to use a serrano pepper, but one could even use a Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper, but it might overwhelm the taste of the soup.  As with any chili pepper, the spice level will be much increased if you use the ribs and seeds of the pepper as well.

Several weeks ago, Julia Moskin published a recipe in the NY Times for a blended, non-chunky gazpacho:  http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017577-best-gazpacho.  I tried it and liked it, so here is the recipe.

Julia Moskin’s Best Gazpacho

INGREDIENTS
  • About 2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and roughly cut into chunks
  • 1 Italian frying (cubanelle) pepper or another long, light green pepper, such as Anaheim, cored, seeded and roughly cut into chunks
  • 1 cucumber, about 8 inches long, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
  • 1 small mild onion (white or red), peeled and roughly cut into chunks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, more to taste
  • Salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste, plus more for drizzling
PREPARATION
  1. Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic in a blender or, if using a hand blender, in a deep bowl. (If necessary, work in batches.) Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
  2. With the motor running, add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle in more olive oil until texture is creamy.
  3. Strain the mixture through a strainer or a food mill, pushing all the liquid through with a spatula or the back of a ladle. Discard the solids. Transfer to a large pitcher (preferably glass) and chill until very cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.
  4. Before serving, adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. If soup is very thick, stir in a few tablespoons ice water. Serve in glasses, over ice if desired. A few drops of olive oil on top are a nice touch.

This is a very easy soup to make.  However, the America’s Test Kitchen version of a creamy gazpacho is, to my mind, a more complex and deeper tasting soup.

Because this recipe uses salt to enhance the flavor of less than perfect tomatoes, one can use store bought tomatoes.  As ATK states:

In the States, the classic -“liquid salsa” style of gazpacho reigns supreme. But in Spain, the birthplace of gazpacho, a variety of styles abound.

The most popular type by far comes from Andalusia, the southernmost region of the country. It starts with the same vegetables as its chunky cousin, but is blended with bread to give it some body. The result is a creamy, complex soup. But unless you have fresh, flavorful vegetables, in particular fresh, ripe tomatoes, this soup can be unremarkable and bland.

So how could we ensure a flavorful gazpacho if we had to rely on supermarket tomatoes? In a word, salt. Salting gave our tomatoes-even mid-winter specimens-a deep, full flavor. Figuring the same process could only improve the cucumbers, onions, and bell peppers, we salted them as well. To maximize the flavor of our soup even more, we soaked the bread in a portion of the vegetables’ exuded liquid, rather than water. With a garnish of chopped vegetables, fresh herbs, and drizzles of extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar, this Spanish classic can be enjoyed any time of the year.

For ideal flavor, allow the gazpacho to sit in the refrigerator overnight before serving. Red wine vinegar can be substituted for the sherry vinegar. Although we prefer to use kosher salt in this soup, half the amount of table salt can be used. Serve the soup with additional extra-virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, ground black pepper, and diced vegetables for diners to season and garnish their own bowls as desired.

Creamy Gazpacho Andaluz

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Source
Author: America’s Test Kitchen

Recipe Type: America’s Test Kitchen (PBS), Soups, Spanish

INGREDIENTS

3 pounds ripe tomatoes, (about 6 medium) cored
1 small cucumber, peeled, halved, and seeded
1 medium green bell pepper, halved, cored and seeded
1 small red onion, peeled and halved
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
1 small serrano chili, stemmed and halved lengthwise
1 to taste Kosher salt
1 slice high-quality white sandwich bread, crust removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley, chives, or basil leaves
1 to taste Ground black pepper

1. Roughly chop 2 pounds of tomatoes, half of cucumber, half of bell pepper, and half of onion and place in large bowl. Add garlic, chili, and 1½ teaspoons salt; toss until well combined. Set aside.
Cut remaining tomatoes, cucumber, and pepper into ¼-inch dice; place vegetables in medium bowl. Mince remaining onion and add to diced vegetables. Toss with ½ teaspoon salt and transfer to fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Set aside 1 hour.

2. Transfer drained diced vegetables to medium bowl and set aside. Add bread pieces to exuded liquid (there should be about ¼ cup) and soak 1 minute. Add soaked bread and any remaining liquid to roughly chopped vegetables and toss thoroughly to combine.

3. Transfer half of vegetable-bread mixture to blender and process 30 seconds. With blender running, slowly drizzle in ¼ cup oil and continue to blend until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Strain soup through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl, using back of ladle or rubber spatula to press soup through strainer. Repeat with remaining vegetable-bread mixture and 1/4 cup olive oil.

4. Stir vinegar, minced herb, and half of diced vegetables into soup and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours to chill completely and develop flavors. Serve, passing remaining diced vegetables, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and black pepper separately.

Jose Andres has his own take on gazpacho.
“This soup is a summertime staple in my house. I keep a big pitcher of it in my refrigerator so I’m always ready to pour a few cups on a hot day for friends and family. If you want to be original, try using ripe yellow and green tomatoes from your local farmers markets.
I make this in my blender, with filling up the blender container 3 quarters of the way with cut tomatoes, cucumbers (with the seeds cored out) and about 1/2 of a green pepper (seeds and ribs removed), 2 garlic cloves, and the other quarter is the water, olive oil, sherry and sherry vinegar. I then blend everything together to a smooth puree.”

Andalucian cold tomato soup

Author: Jose Andres
Source: “Made in Spain”
Web Page: http://www.josemadeinspain.com/recipes/andaluciaColdTomato.htm
Copyright: 2008

An elegant and authentic Andalucian Gazpacho by Jose Andres

Recipe Type: Appetizers, Great Chefs (From Pbs), Soups, Spanish, Spanish

INGREDIENTS

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 lbs ripe plum tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup Sherry vinegar
1/2 cup Oloroso sherry
3/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
Garnish
2 slices rustic bread, 1 inch thick slices
1/4 cup spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 each cucumber, diced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
to taste sea salt

PREPARATION

1. To make the soup, combine the cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, sherry, olive oil and 2 cups of water in a food processor or blender. Puree the ingredients until everything is well blended into a thick pink liquid. Pour the gazpacho through a medium-hole strainer into a pitcher. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. When cutting the cucumber, remove the seeds with an apple corer, and save the round cylinders of seeds to be used as a garnish.

2. For the garnish, preheat the oven to 450 degree F. Cut the bread into 1 inch cubes and toss in a mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Set the croutons aside to cool.

3. To assemble, cut the cucumber cylinders into about 1/2 inch lengths. Place them in the bottom of the soup bowls, and distribute the diced bell peppers in the bowls as well. Add the soup and top with croutons, and drizzle with 2 tbs of olive oil.

Servings: 8

The Andres recipe is a little different from the ATK recipe.  Both are quite good.

Now, this summer, I tried an experiment.  I took the Kafka recipe, and char-broiled the peppers, and the cucumbers.  I removed the charred skins from the bell and chili pepper (I used a jalapeno), and then made the soup with the same technique as the original.  The result was interesting, with a smoky character that was pleasant.

However, the end result with all the grilling and the peeling was not enough different to justify the modification to the original Kafka recipe; so for a chunky gazpacho, the Kafka recipe remains supreme.  I like the creamy andulucian versions a lot, and they are a nice counterpoint to the typical salsa gazpacho recipes.  It is up to you.  My solution:  try them all!

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The best chocolate chip cookie?


Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies. Whether it is the original creation of Ruth Wakefield at her Toll House Inn in Whitman, Mass or the infinite numbers of attempts by commercial bakeries and home cooks to make variations on the primal concept, these cookies are all wonderful in their own way. However, the debate continues as to what might be the “ultimate” chocolate chip cookie.

This is not the first time I have visited this subject.  I posted the Grand Prize winner of the Orchards’ 1987 cookie contest (best of 2600 recipes) in my September 2013 blog, a great double chocolate chip cookie with nuts.  Exactly one year ago, I discussed the original “Toll House” cookie and America’s Test Kitchen reworking of the recipe.  In my quest for something even better, I have looked at many cookbooks and many recipes on the internet.  I’ve tasted a bunch of cookies from bakeries.  I haven’t found a stellar replacement that was a quantum leap better until now.

A post by Michelle Norris on her browneyedbaker blog lead me to a July 9, 2008 New York Times article by David Leite.  This article does a great job of explaining the history of the chocolate chip cookie, and ends up with a recipe that is a distillation of all the secrets of making a great chocolate chip cookie.  Since this is copyrighted material I can’t reproduce it here but it is imperative to read the article to understand the underpinnings of the cookie recipe.  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/dining/09chip.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=1&adxnnlx=1426461985-2l7wZ43hFSY/Tzbyds0I5Q.

In her blog, Michelle posted a variation of the NY Times cookie, and more recently, a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie variation, but I will post the original recipe from the NY Times article:

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie

Original source The New York Times

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 ⅔ cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 ½ sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces)granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
  • Sea salt.

PREPARATION

  1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
  4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.
  • Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.  Ghirardelli makes a wonderful 60% cocao chip, available at Cost Plus and other retailers.

Now, some caveats.  This recipe is mostly derived from Jacques Torres’ bakery chocolate chip cookie.  You will note that it uses both bread flour (more gluten and protein) and cake flour (less gluten and protein).  Why use both in equal amounts, if unbleached all-purpose flour has a middle amount of gluten and protein.  I suspect the recipe calls for both flours, because Torres’ bakery may have bread flour and cake flour in large amounts due to the needs of the bakery, but might not have all-purpose flour.  I made the recipe using 17 ounces of King Arthur all-purpose flour, and the results were spectacular.  Now, having said that, it is possible that there is a difference that can be tasted by using the bread and cake flour mix, as there are differences in protein content of bleached and unbleached cake flours.  Protein content of the Softasilk bleached cake 6.9%, King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend 9.4%, Unbleached Self-Rising 8.5%, Unbleached Pastry 8%, KAF Unbleached All-Purpose 11.7% KAF Unbleached Bread Flour 12.7%.   No matter what flours are used, I strongly recommend that ingredients are weighted, not dry measured, for increased accuracy.  Since the time of the original posting of this article, I tried making the cookies with the bread and cake flour combination, and I find no real difference to the one made with the King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour.  I do think there are variations in the commercial varieties of flour, and I have switched to using King Arthur flours in all my cooking and baking.

Also, as the article details, let the cookie dough rest and hydrate thoroughly for 12 to 36 hours (the longer the better).  It definitely makes a difference in the end result.  I did tests at 1 hour, 3 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, and 36 hours.  At 36 hours, the cookies are much more complex, with caramel and toffee notes in the taste that is extremely pleasant without being overwhelming.  I used 60% Ghirardelli cocoa chips, and did not bother to get the fancy fèves.  The 3 ½ ounce size of each cookie make a monster five inch cookie, with the 3 rings of flavor that Mr. Rubin talks about in the article, but in my oven, it cooks in 14 to 15 minutes.  A 1 ½ ounce size produced a 3 inch cookie, and took 11 minutes to cook.  This is less of a monster, but with similar taste, but with a less pronounced 3 ring effect.  Update note–I now use a combination of Ghirardelli chips and Callebaut 60% cocoa.  I buy a 5 kilogram “bar” and slice off the needed amount with a knife, and then use the knife to create small chunks of chocolate (with the added benefit of tiny residual chocolate bits and powder which gets thrown in as well).  The combination creates a very interesting mix of texture and enhanced chocolate intensity.

Despite what Dorie Greenspan says, I think this cookie is fine without the addition of a sprinkle of sea salt.  There is enough salt in the dough and I think the salt counterpoint on the top of the cookie is overkill.  Timing is everything with this recipe, from the resting of the dough in the refrigerator to the exact cooking time (just a light color to the top of the cookie without the edges getting too well done) to the resting on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before the transfer to the wire rack.  This 10 minute rest on the cookie sheet finishes the cooking process, so don’t forget or prolong the time.

As usual, nothing but the best ingredients gives the best results, and this is particularly true concerning the chocolate.  The cookie will taste very different if made with Nestle’s semi-sweet morsels, or with milk chocolate chips.  Nuts can be added if desired (I use 1 cup of raw pecans into a recipe).  Update 3/20/17–I ordered the Belcolade 60% cocoa discs that Jacques Torres mentions in the NY Times article from Amazon (it is not the custom made quarter size discs that Torres has specially made for his use) and I will update the post after I have tried the new chocolate.  I haven’t opened the package yet to see the size of the chocolate.  Torres sells the quarter size chocolate feves on his website for $17.00 for 2 pounds (plus $16.50 shipping to the Chicago area), and the picture on the bag of 2 pound feves says made in Brooklyn!  So maybe Torres is not using Belcolade chocolate anymore.  I have to see how chunks from the Callebaut block compare to the Belcolade discs.

This is not a recipe for instant gratification, but it is worth the extra effort and time.  For all you cookie lovers out there, this is a must!  Don’t be impatient!  Using the brown butter technique of America’s Test Kitchen could be applied to this recipe but it did not make a notable increase in the end result.

There is one more thing that will make cookie making much easier.  Making the cookie balls from the refrigerated dough is a bit of a pain to do, and I’ve come up with a better solution.  Once the cookie batter is done, form your cookie balls with the help of an ice cream scoop.  I weigh each ball to get a consistent and equal cookie (whether the 1½ ounce or the 3 to 3½ monster cookie).  I have been making the 1½ ounce size and it is easy to combine 2 cookies to make a monster cookie prior to baking.  I put the 1½ ounce balls in a ziploc bag for the 36 hours rest.  It is also easy to freeze the cookies after the 36 hour rest, and for those with instant gratification issues, having a supply of cookie dough in the freezer makes baking on a whim much easier.  Wait 20 minutes after removing from the freezer and press the ball to flatten the disc prior to baking.  Cooking on a silpat or parchment paper with the baking sheet is a must for good results.

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Belly up to the bar cookie take 2


Another holiday season, and all the blogs and cooking sites are trying to claim that they have found the perfect cookie (or pie or entrée [you get the idea]).  I would not want to make such a outreaching claim, but I did find a nice alternative to make a pecan bar from Michelle Norris at Browneyedbaker.com.  She published a recipe that she put on her blog last month, and I made a batch (http://www.browneyedbaker.com/chunky-pecan-pie-bars/).  They are quite good.

Now, the reason I am slightly reserved in my enthusiasm for Michelle’s Grandmother’s recipe is that there is a better pecan bar, Ina Garten’s pecan squares (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/pecan-squares-recipe.html).  However, this praise comes with a major caveat—the recipe uses over 1 kilogram of butter (for you non-metrics, that 2.2 pounds)—in fact, it uses 2.25 pounds of butter.  Yes, it makes a ton of cookies.  Yes they are great.  But you have to worry about several things that I will detail in a minute.

So, let’s do the numbers.  Michelle’s recipe first:

Chunky Pecan Pie Bars

INGREDIENTS:

For the Crust:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
¼ cup packed brown sugar

Filling:
3 large eggs
¾ cup corn syrup
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¾ cups coarsely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chunks in a bag!)
1½ cups chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

2. For the crust, mix together the flour, butter and brown sugar until crumbly. Press into the baking pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown.4

3. For the filling, beat the eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla extract with a wire whisk. 1

Coarsely chop the pecans.2

Stir in the chunks and pecans.3

Pour evenly over the baked crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or until set.

4. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cool completely and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (or in the refrigerator if you live in a warm/humid area with no air conditioning).  Steve’s notes:  put the pan in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to chill prior to cutting the bars.  Use a plastic knife or spatula on the outside edges of the cookies to free them from the sides of the pan before chilling.  Because of the chocolate, it is best to store these cookies in the frig.

These bars are excellent, and they are a snap to make.  They are not as dense or as rich as Ina’s squares, but they are not meant to be an equal.  If you want to make the best pecan square, then Ina’s is the “nec plus ultra.”  It is not the easiest bar to make, and some special care is needed.  I recommend that you don’t try to make this on a typical half sheet pan, as it will overflow and mess up the oven, even with the precaution of using some aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch spillovers.  Nordicware makes a half sheet pan with 2 inch high sides, and it works perfectly for this recipe.

I also think that the recipe as Ina has written it has a little  too much citrus, so I would cut the amount of lemon and orange zest in half, and use 1/2 teaspoon of each.

Ina, when demonstrating this recipe on her show on Food Network, finishes the bars by dipping them in chocolate.  This is a little bit of a mess, and you can do better.  The squares definitely benefit from the counterpoint of a dark chocolate on top, so make a dense ganache of 2/3 bittersweet chocolate and 1/3 heavy cream (6 ounces 60% cacao chocolate, 3 ounces heavy cream, melted together in a double boiler).  Drizzle this over the top of the uncut cookies, or make a little squiggle pattern on top with the ganache.  That is a winner.

Barefoot Contessa Pecan Squares

Ingredients:
Crust:
1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Topping:
1 pound unsalted butter
1 cup good honey
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.
For the topping, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.
{published in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, 1999}

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