Inga's Indulgence

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Almighty Tater

In my opinion, the potato was a gift from up above. Though it wasn’t exactly the greatest looking or smelling fellow from the get-go, once our predecessors figured out what to do with it, man did it take over. Aside from being one of America’s most popular crops, potatoes are versatile as heck. The ultimate side dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner, spuds seem to have most people salivating just thinking about them.
I happen to like potatoes because they’re easy. Yeah, I said it. When I need to get lunch or dinner on the table pronto or when I unexpectedly end up with a swarm of hungry people in my house, it is none other than the potato that saves the day. They cook in no time and they’re a guaranteed success (unless you undercook them, don’t undercook them). Think about it, have you ever met anyone that didn’t like a potato? Me neither.
With the help of characters like butter, cheese, sour cream, bacon, etc. it’s unsurprising why many seem to forget that the potato is in fact a vegetable with lots of essential nutrients and vitamins like fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6, just to name a few. Yes, we do love and require crispy fries, cheesy potato gratin, and creamy mashed potatoes on occasion. We mustn’t forget, however, that sometimes the potato is strong enough to stand on its own.
One of my all-time favorite potato preparations highlights the star ingredient beautifully, and is, perhaps, one of the simplest recipes you will ever make. My Oven-Roasted Steak Fries have a short ingredient list and a load of flavor. The cooking medium performs two important functions in this recipe. Besides allowing us to indulge healthily, the oven lends a beautiful roasted note. Keeping the skins on these fries also functions to retain many of the potato’s nutrients. Oh, and these guys are the perfect “soaker uppers” of any flavor profile you want to impart on them. Whenever I make this recipe, I slather them with whatever spices or flavorings I’m in the mood for, (or whatever I have on hand) whether it's barbeque sauce, garlic-dill butter, pesto, or chipotle rub.
Well, with no further adiue…
Oven Roasted Steak Fries
Yield: 4 servings

2 ½ lbs Idaho Potatoes (about 8 or 9 medium potatoes)
¼ cup canola oil
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut the potatoes in half and then slice each half into 3 or 4 wedges, depending on the size of the potato. In a medium bowl, toss the potato wedges with oil, salt and pepper. Lay wedges onto an aluminum foil lined sheet pan. Make sure to provide adequate space between each potato. Bake potatoes 40-45 minutes until golden and tender. 
*If you want to flavor your potatoes with spices or sauces (i.e.: chili powder, cumin, pesto, barbeque, chipotle, mustard, etc.) add these to the mix before roasting.
*If you want to add a flavored butter to your potatoes (i.e.: garlic butter, herb butter, truffle butter, etc.) toss into the potatoes as soon as they come out of the oven.

Let Them Eat Cake

It seems as though, literally, everyone is due this year (and for some unknown reason, everyone’s having boys!). Though being pregnant did have its perks, I may be enjoying the pregnancies of my friends and family members a whole lot more than my own.
 My pregnancy enthusiasm has inspired me to voluntarily sign up for making the cake for my best friend’s baby shower. Yikes!
As far away from being a pastry chef as I am, on occasion I like to experiment or test my patience (cause we all know that pastry requires a lot of patience). A few weeks ago, I decided to use my son’s 6-month birthday as an excuse to experiment with fondant. Fondant is that smooth, play-dough like covering that professional cake makers typically use to give their cakes a flawless appearance. It also provides a nice, clean base for cake to be transformed into art.
Unfortunately, fondant is usually the only thing people leave behind on their plates because of its unappealing texture and overwhelming sweetness. Not to worry, I found a better tasting recipe for fondant made out of marshmallows instead of the usual straight sugar and glucose concoction. Well, to be honest, I initially chose this recipe because of its simplicity and short ingredient list, but later learned that its flavor was pretty good too.
So after making my first ever fondant covered cake (which proved to be quite satisfactory in terms of presentation and flavor, yay!), it is only natural for me to assume that I can go on to make the kind of cakes seen on Ace of Cakes. I’m like five seconds away from hitting up a cake supply store and buying everything in sight. Let’s see, if my son’s cake, which  was pretty small, (8 inches in diameter and 4 layers tall) took me like 6 hours to make, then this baby shower cake will take me 3872642356287 hours to complete. The shower ‘s in 3 weeks. If my calculations are correct, I should have started working on this cake last year. I can vividly picture the day before the baby shower – my kitchen covered in confectioners’ sugar and cake crumbs, my nights occupied with cake nightmares for the next several months.
 No, I’ll be fine…I think. The only thing I can do at this point is plan the most awesomist cake ever! Let the brainstorming begin. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sushi Fix: When Cravings Call

I don't mean to toot my own horn or anything, but coming up with a cooked sushi roll was a breeze. Though my creation was not a particularly innovative one, swapping the white rice for brown and using cooked salmon (the king of omega-3's) made it the perfect choice for a pregnant chick (or anyone else for that matter).
In the midst of making the roll, I couldn't help but lend a little indulgent flare by dredging the whole roll in tempura batter and pan-frying it for an added crunch factor. What?! At least I didn't deep-fry the roll.
My roll came out scrumptious and kind of ginormous. The brown rice and salmon lent a meaty texture, and all in all, the combination of flavors and textures made it pretty darn satisfying. So, mission accomplished - a satisfying, cooked sushi alternative for my pregnant sis. Yay!


Monster Tempura Sushi (with Roasted Salmon)

Monster Tempura Sushi (with Roasted Salmon)

Yield: 4 large rolls

1 lb salmon filet (or 2, 8-oz steaks)
3 tbsp unagi (eel) sauce or Teriyaki Marinade
2 1/2 cups cooked brown rice (medium or short grain)
4 tbsp sushi seasoning
4 sheets nori
(roasted seaweed sheets)
2 scallions (green parts only), cut into 3 inch pieces
1/2 of an avocado, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 an 8-oz package of cream cheese, sliced vertically into 1/4-inch strips
tempura batter, as needed
canola oil, as needed

*If you can't find sushi seasoning, just combine 4 tbsp rice vinegar with 4 tbsp sugar in a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before using.

Tempura Batter
1 egg
1 cup ice water
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup All-Purpose flour
pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne pepper

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Will Coconut Milk do the Trick?

Today, I decided to tackle one part of my mission to make pregnancy-safe versions of my sister's favorite foods - ice cream and sushi. I continued to explore alternatives to the typically used creme anglaise base. The fact that I was stuck in the house all day without a car or a babysitter did limit me in terms of the ingredients I was going to use. I raided my pantry, and found several things for making sorbet. But that was too easy. My pregnant sister wanted ice cream - creamy, rich, decadent ice cream, not sorbet. And when I saw a can of coconut milk in my pantry, I was sure that ice cream was exactly what she would get.

Really Rocky Road Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Really Rocky Road Coconut Milk Ice Cream
yield: about 1 quart

2, 14-oz cans unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp almond extract
7 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup mini marshmallows

1. Place coconut milk and sugar into a saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches faint simmer. Remove pan from heat and whisk in almond extract and 4 oz of the chocolate.

2. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Chill in freezer for 1 1/2-2 hours. Pour chilled mixture into ice cream machine and prepare according to manufacturer's instructions (my cuisinart took about 15 minutes). Add remaining 2 ounces of chopped chocolate, almonds and marshmallows to the ice cream right before turning machine off. Transfer ice cream to a container and freeze.

Once frozen, this ice cream becomes very hard, so make sure to thaw it before serving. For best indulging experience, serve half melted.

Preggers, again?

No, not me! Don't worry. I just gave birth 6 months ago. I know some people do it, but I am not a baby-making machine. Besides, I'm still recovering from labor. 

Actually, it's my sister whose pregnant, and it's a pretty convenient situation for the both of us. Why, you ask. In just a few months, I will partake in possibly the biggest spring cleaning ever, ridding my house of baby swings, bassinetts, bouncers and mounds of baby clothing. It's fantastic, I get so excited just thinking about it! As for my sis, she gets to soak up all the pregnancy nutrition info still so fresh in my head. On occasion, I'll even cook for her.

You see, I was an obsessive control freak when it came to my own pregnancy nutrition, steering clear of foods that had even the slightest risk of causing me or my baby harm. Making fun of my paranoia then, my sister, now in my shoes, relies on me as her personal pregnancy diet guru. She literally won't put anything in her mouth without calling me first. She also calls me to discuss the significance of her cravings.
So every now and then I'm assigned the task of satisfying her cravings for foods that she's not allowed to eat. It's not easy, but someones gotta do it.
This week's challenge - making pregnancy-safe homemade ice-cream and sushi.
If my sister could live off of one thing for the rest of her life it would be either ice-cream or sushi. Give her both, and she'd be one happy camper.
I know what you're thinking. Sushi restaurants offer plenty of cooked sushi rolls, right? So why bother making your own?
When I was pregnant, I avoided all sushi rolls (cooked or not) while eating out, for fear of cross-contamination. Call me crazy, but I wanted to be safe. And besides, it's funner to make your own (you can make your rolls extra large!)

Same goes for ice-cream. Store-bought ice-creams are, for the most part, pasteurized and safe for pregnant women. But sometimes you just want to have fun and test out that ice-cream machine that's been waiting patiently in its box since your wedding day.

So the game plan is to create a cooked (and preferably nutritious) sushi roll & a decadent home-made ice-cream that does not use the typical creme anglaise base (a custard made from egg yolks and cream or milk). This should be interesting...