Can I do it again? Will it be a three-peat? Can my kitchen accommodate any more appliances? Do I stick with sorbet? Do I go crazy with custard? Do I finally make that gazpacho sorbet that grosses some of you out?
There are no guarantees, but I will try my best! If you would like to come out and support me and my perennial ice cream bitch helper David, the Takedown will take place this Sunday, July 12th at the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Brooklyn from 12-2pm.
Last year I served up some some blue bacon crystal meth rock candy dubbed Bacon Bad and won a year’s worth of bacon from Hormel. That was FIFTY-TWO POUNDS YO! Fifty-two pounds that I ate in one sitting shared with family and friends!
I have no idea what I’m doing yet, but I do know one thing:
I would be thrilled to feed smoky, fatty, crispy, pork belly to you all again!
Now the deets:
When will you guys be serving up your insane bacon creations? October 19th from 2pm-4pm
Summer is ending too soon. The weather is still warm, but college students are already filtering back into the city and the streets are starting to fill with people who have been out of town. Despite not having gotten away, this summer has been a great one. I’ve seen good friends and made a few new ones. I’ve eaten, drank, and danced. There have been rooftop parties, intimate dinners, and a lot of laughter. As a bonus, the weather has been unusually clement, so this summer has been a pleasure instead of a hot, sticky pain. All in all, it has been the best stay-cation that I could have asked for — and a sorely needed one at that.
Before work resumes and teaching takes over my life again, I want to fit in a few more blog posts, so …
– Grossly underestimate how long it takes to prepare 2 gallons of ice cream at home.
– Fail to read the directions accompanying any new equipment in advance.
– Not have enough equipment to begin with.
– Wait until the last minute to start recipe testing.
– Have no back-up plan in case my freezer doesn’t get cold enough and/or my air-conditioner stops working.
I am happy to report that I took all the lessons I learned last year and this year, I started and finished early with (almost) no tears and minimal stress! Hooray!
1. Start early. Those stupid insulated bowls — which never really work that well to begin with — need at least 24 hours to freeze hard enough to churn your ice cream satisfactorily. So make room in your freezer, lower the temperature as much as you can, and park those things in the very back of it until they are frozen rock solid.
2. Buy all of your ingredients at the same time. Don’t wait. Don’t come back later. Just get them all when you see them. And buy enough to make an extra batch. Trust me. Once I had settled on a recipe and calculated how much I needed to buy in terms of ingredients, I realized that I would need 36-38 mangoes and about 80 limes. Does anyone want to haul home that much squishy fruit all at once without a car? No. What did I do? I only bought half of what I needed.
But I know my limitations and, more importantly, the limitations of my kitchen. I would have loved to have done a crazy flavor, but making it in a kitchen the size of a shoebox would have driven me crazy.
“Maybe it’s not wacky enough?” I asked myself.
Maybe that’s fine.
4. Use a stabilizer. Unless you are playing with liquid nitrogen, you will need something to smooth out the texture and prevent your ice cream or sorbet from having an icy or chalky mouthfeel. Stabilizers are additives to frozen treats that work to inhibit the formation of bigger ice crystals. Within that category, you can use guar gum or xanthan gum. However, a stabilizer does not necessarily need to be so exotic. You can use gelatin, alcohol, fat, sugar, and invert sugars such as glucose, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, and corn syrup.
5. Ripe ripe, Baby. If you are making a fruit sorbet, you want your fruit to be very ripe — verging on overripe. How will you know if your fruit is ripe enough? It will feel like . . . well . . . let’s try to keep this forum as family-friendly as we can.
6. Strain. Evenly-textured ice cream and sorbet doesn’t just happen. Smooth base in = smoother frozen dessert out.
7. A watched ice cream maker never churns. Ari watched me swear and smack my stupid ice cream maker on the side after it failed to churn sorbet after . . . 5 minutes.
“Daisy, it says it will take ‘as little as 25 minutes’ on the box. It hasn’t been 25 minutes!”
She was right. Go, go watch an episode of 30 Rock and come back later.
8. So your ice cream maker fails to churn satisfactory frozen dessert and you have a slushie instead of a sorbet. This is what happens when your freezer bowl is not cold enough, your kitchen is too hot, or the freezer bowl is so overfilled that it loses chill faster than it can churn your ice cream or sorbet. This is when you get creative. This is when you let the ice cream set up more in the freezer, stick your handy stick immersion blender in it, and use it to break up the ice crystals before letting it freeze the rest of the way. Do this a few times as it continues to set up and you will be rewarded with some super smooth sorbet.
The worst kitchen accident that I have ever had did not involve an immersion blender (knock on wood). I had put a saucepan in a hot oven and after about an hour, I reached in, grabbed the handle and hefted it onto the stovetop. As I had been cooking all summer, I had “kitchen hands,” tough, calloused paws that didn’t register that the handle was over 350° until it was too late. I left some skin from my palm and my fingers on that handle. I spent the rest of the week with my hand in a tub of arnica cream.
In any case, when dealing with immersion blenders, TREAT THEM WITH RESPECT AND ALWAYS UNPLUG THEM WHEN THEY ARE NOT IN ACTIVE USE!
Although I realize that some of these pointers are most applicable if you are churning out a massive amount for something like an ice cream competition, I think that many of them are equally as valid for smaller batches
A word on the recipe that follows: What is that chili powder stuff on top?
Tajín is the brand name of a Mexican fruit seasoning consisting of only three ingredients, three flavors: a chili spice blend, salt, and dehydrated lime juice. As the components are few, I imagine that you could probably hack the recipe pretty easily using a basic Mexican chili spice blend, salt, and either dried, powdered lime zest or squeezing lime juice on top before serving. That being said, Tajín is so darn inexpensive (mine was $1.25) that it seems silly to hack it. I got mine at the Mexican supermarket, but I have also seen online forum posts about people seeing it at Walmart, Target, and at their neighborhood supermarket in the “Ethnic Foods” aisle. For a few bucks more, you can also score it on Amazon.
Of course, this sorbet tastes amazing without it, but the seasoning really does make a difference. It is definitely worth seeking out! You can also use it on just about any kind of fruit or vegetable (delicious on corn).
Another word on the recipe that follows: Why are there so many mangoes in the pictures?
As I have scaled the recipe down from the one that I used for the competition, you will see more fruit and more ingredients in the photos than are listed below. My competition recipe was for 2-quart batches and this scaled down recipe given will make a third of that. To make a full 2-quarts, simply triple the recipe. For example, instead of 2 mangoes, you will need 6, etc.
1. Gently peel the mangoes with a sharp paring knife and cut the flesh away from the pit. Do this in a bowl so you don’t lose any of the precious juice.
2. Purée the mangoes with 1/4 cup of water in a blender or using an stick immersion blender. Press the purée through a fine-mesh sieve with a silicon or flexible plastic spatula. Discard the solids.
3. In a large bowl, combine the mango purée with the cane sugar, agave syrup, tequila, and strained lime juice. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.
4. Churn the mango sorbet mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If your sorbet fails to set up properly, churn it as best as you can in the machine, transfer it to a sturdy container, and let it harden in the freezer. After 45 minutes, use an immersion blender to blend the sorbet and break up any larger ice crystals. You can do this a few times to ensure that you have a really nice texture. When the mixture is smooth, return it to the freezer to harden completely.
5. To serve, scoop the mango sorbet into bowls and sprinkle liberally with Tajín.
This blog post is another contribution to the Genie De Wit’s Our Growing Edge. Our Growing Edge is a monthly event that aims to connect food bloggers, broaden our horizons, and encourage us to try new things. I am so happy to see Genie’s project grow and reach a larger and larger audience of bloggers and readers!Anyone can be a part of the party! For more information, please go to the page Genie has set up on her blog Bunny. Eats. Design.
This month’s host is Lindsey from Sneaks & Sweets. Thank you so much Lindsey! To take a look at the participating bloggers this month, click here.
IT WAS FREAKIN’ AWESOME, YA’LL! I GOT TO SEE SO MANY FRIENDS AND BY THE WAY I ALSO GOT A KITCHENAID STAND MIXER, AN ANOLON PAN, A WÜSTHOF KNIFE, A MICROPLANE GRATER, AND A LUCA & BOSCO GIFT CERTIFICATE BECAUSE . . .
A big write-up to is to follow but in the meanwhile, I would like to extend a giant thanks and many hugs to my friends who came out to the to support me. Thank you for letting me feed you full of frozen treats! Thank you as well to everyone who voted. It is such an honor! Thanks as well to all my fellow Takedowners! You guys make me excited for every event!
David Langkamp, you are the best ice cream bitch helper ever! Thank you for hauling all of my sorbet and for being the world’s best scooper!
And to Matt Timms, organizer extraordinaire, thank you and never stop rocking!
Last year I had so much nerve-wracking fun making my Backwoods Blueberry Buttermilk Sherbet that I have to make something else just as crazy this year. It’s hot, steamy, and sticky out there and when the weather is this gross, is there anything better than ice cream?
Especially ice cream made by me? 🙂
So please come out and let me feed you! As always, there are only a limited number of tickets available. Once they are gone, there are no more!
Tickets for the event are now available on the Bell House website at:
Most of you who follow this blog know that for the past couple of years I have been a regular competitor in a series of cook-offs here in NYC known as The Takedowns. However, it occurred to me the other day that for all of my blog posts announcing competitions and updating you on what happened at each one, I have never actually written about what it’s like to prepare and compete in one.
In contrast to what one might think, there is no cooking on site; the venue just isn’t set up to accommodate that. Rather, all the cooking happens at home and then the competitors — known collectively as the Takedowners — tote their creations to the venue about an hour early to stake out a table and set up the tastings. The tastings are open to the ticket-buying public — not just the judges — which means that each of us has to prep about 250 1-oz. samples for everyone to taste.
If 250 1-oz. samples sounds like a lot, it is! The majority of Takedowners do multiple test runs before deciding on a final entry, and most try to plan ahead so that they are not scrambling at the last minute to put together something that is both tasty and winsome.
I wish that I was one of those people, but partly due to my schedule and mostly due to my inability to get organized early, I am usually the Takedowner pulling out her hair and freaking out less than 24 hours before the event. I do console myself by thinking that stress and time constraints are the mothers of invention. Sometimes it works in my favor like last summer when I brought home two ice cream makers for my Backwoods Blueberry Buttermilk Sherbet.
Sometimes it just results in something damn weird that I am still damn proud of like my Miso Awesome Cookies.
I had a couple of ideas for this year’s Brooklyn Mac and Cheeze Takedown (pizza mac and cheese? garlic bread-inspired mac and cheese? chocolate mac and cheese?). Ultimately, I decided that a baked mac and cheese was the way to go.
My entry for this year’s Brooklyn Mac & Cheeze Takedown? Mac-sagna, the heavenly mash-up of mac and cheese and lasagna.
Using a gallon of homemade, three-hour pork and beef Bolognese, a gallon of béchamel, four pounds of macaroni, two pounds of shredded mozzarella, two pounds of grated Parmesan, and half a pound of garlic and parsley-buttered bread crumbs, I made two gigantic 21 x 12 inch trays of mac-sagna for champions.
It was delicious and I had to stop myself from eating it like this:
Sadly, there were so many other excellent mac and cheeses that I did not win. I did, however, get to see and spend time with good friends, taste a lot of amazingly creative and imaginative dishes, and be part of another drunkenly excellent Takedown. That alone is worth every sweaty second in the kitchen.
A scaled down recipe is forthcoming. In the meanwhile, you can check out my fellow Takedowners here and here, and read more about the lovely winner here.
So before the weather turns definitively spring-like, this will be rich comfort food’s last stand before making way for tender lettuces and baby veg. For those of you who have tickets, I look forward to seeing you there! And for those of you who were not able to score them in time, I promise I will keep you all updated!
In the meanwhile, here is how you can help me out. I am still mulling over ideas for the Takedown and haven’t decided what to make yet! Any and all ideas are welcome!
Even though your zodiac animal’s years are special ones, they can also leave you more vulnerable to bad luck and impending doom if you are not careful. To compensate for all the bad luck that you will likely experience this year, the universe promises — as a reward for your suffering — that next year will be amazing!
(On a side note, only the Chinese would think to remind you not to eat your zodiac animal during your zodiac animal year.)
I remember the last Year of the Horse as being one of the worst years of graduate school that I had ever had. It was so bad that I moved to France (unbeknownst to me at the time, apparently traveling mitigates your bad luck since you will be physically removed from any potentially disastrous situations at home and can inflict your misfortune on a bunch of strangers instead). Furthermore, my grandmother died while I was away.
“Horseshit,” my cousin reiterated. “And I might remind you that your grandmother didn’t die. Our grandmother died.”
Touché, dear Cousin, but as I watched our family bicker around the table at New Year’s Dinner, I couldn’t help but think it was an omen, a portent of things to come. It didn’t help that every conversation that I had in the two weeks following Chinese New Year’s Day was awkward and stilted. Those interactions were so uncomfortable that I was beginning to think that 2014 would be better off spent in a menstrual hut somewhere in the New Mexican desert.
During that time I thought, “Oh no. It’s starting. Pretty soon, dormant volcanos will erupt and rising sea levels will cover and erase Indonesia.”
I was so in the dumps that an Indian colleague, deciding that enough was enough, pulled me aside one day. “Daisy!” she said while looking me straight in the eye, “In my country everyone is superstitious! I used to be so superstitious! Until I finally told myself that this was ridiculous and I am the only one who controls my destiny!”
Although it sounded like a load motivational speaker clichés, I was oddly swayed by S. Maybe it was the conviction with which she told me to (wo)man up and stop whining. Maybe it was the fact that I was already tired of being anxious about 11 more months of social ineptitude and imminent disaster. In any case, I was finally able to pull myself out of my funk and look forward to what 2014 might bring.
One of the resolutions that I have made this year besides learning to rock a funky, colorful sock (a much more challenging endeavor for me than you would think), is to wrap up loose ends from last year instead of just avoiding them until they are no longer relevant. At the very top of that list is this blog post which has been sitting in my drafts folder for an absurdly long time.
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Arrange the bacon in a single layer on a half-sheet pan. Roast the bacon until it is really crispy and most of the fat is rendered, about 20 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and let dry/drain until it is cool enough to handle. Either crumble or cut the bacon into bacon bits.
2. Combine the sugar, the corn syrup, and the water in a 4-quart saucepan. Stir the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and it just begins to boil. Stop stirring and insert the candy thermometer. Let the mixture bubble and boil until the syrup reaches the 300°.
3. While the sugar syrup is boiling, wash and throughly dry the sheet pan that you used to roast the bacon. Line both half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
4. When the sugar syrup has reached 300°, turn off the heat and remove the saucepan from the burner. Use a popsicle stick to quickly stir in a very small drop of food coloring (a little goes a very long way). Once the color is even distributed, divide the syrup between the two lined sheet pans. Tip the pans very carefully to make sure that the syrup spreads out and evenly covers the entire bottom of the pans. Divide the bacon bits into two equal portions and sprinkle each evenly on top of each tray of candy. Let the candy cool completely.
4. Once the candy has completely cooled, take a mallet, a hammer, or a meat tenderizer and crack the candy into very small pieces/crystals. Transfer the candy to airtight zipper-lock bags.
No one likes to admit weakness, but I will here: after years of heavy teaching loads and graduate school stress, I am prone to burn out. I used to think that I was invincible, a survivor who overcame those horrible stretches of apathy by plowing straight through them. In reality, I was only papering over my needs and making the situation worse.
Today things are different. I recognize the signs of burn-out more easily, those dark twinges that hang just outside of my metaphysical peripheral vision. Unlike then, I realize now that if I don’t take care of myself, I’m no good to anyone: family, friends, students, and colleagues alike. So I draw boundaries at the end of each semester, knowing that I need to take some precious time to recharge my batteries so to speak.
One thing that always helps me recuperate and regain my joie de vivre is food, particularly cooking. When life gets hectic and the stacks of papers that I need to grade grow higher, I pretty much cease to cook at home — an obvious mistake as cooking calms me and the food that I prepare nourishes both my body and spirit. I love trying new recipes and cooking from new cookbooks, but when I am really aching for something soul-sustaining, what I love most are recipes from family and friends. Those recipes and dishes are the ones that are really special because they make me feel as if that person is in the kitchen with me even though they may be thousands of miles away.
I’ve been spatchcocking a lot of chickens lately. Partly because I’ve finally invested in a good pair of very sharp, spring-loaded shears, and also because I like how evenly and quickly the chicken cooks. The white meat emerges tender and moist from the oven, the dark meat is rich and succulent, and the skin comes out crispy, burnished, and golden.
For this particular chicken, I finally got around to trying a maple syrup-kissed rub/marinade that Victoria over at Bois de Jasmin mentioned in the comment thread of her post on Hot and Spicy Cranberry Sauce. Many people think of Bois de Jasmin as a perfume blog, but I always consider it much more than that: a celebration of life and of all things fragrant, including food and drink. Given that the olfactory and the gustatory are so intimately intertwined, is it surprising that many perfume lovers happen to be fine gastronomes as well?
Victoria calls this chicken an improvisation, but I call it genius. The chicken feels infused with a terrific depth of flavor. The maple syrup caramelizes to a sticky, burnt sugar-like glaze. Victoria uses a mortar and pestle to render the garlic cloves into a smooth paste. I would have done the same if I had one. However, as I do not, I made do with a garlic press. Regardless of which technique you choose, the garlicky chicken roasting in the oven will make your kitchen smell mouthwatering good. I used a pinch of cayenne pepper in place of a pinch of paprika, but Victoria also suggests a little bit a garam masala added to the mix — a delicious idea that I look forward to trying as soon as I get back to NYC.
As for the coconut oil-roasted sweet potatoes, I never would have tried a so-called Paleo recipe if not for On-Ke, who had recently completed 30 days of eating Paleo along with her daughter Siobhan and her family. I had initially gotten to know Siobhan through her wonderful blog Garden Correspondent. When we finally met in person, it was as if I had known her for years. Laughing and chatting animatedly over Italian coffee and pastries, Siobhan decided that she needed to introduce me to her mother, another “culture vulture” who lives rather conveniently around the corner from me. Needless to say, we hit it off right away and have spent this past fall terrorizing the city in a good way: museum visits, perfume sniffing outings, theater performances, and always food, glorious food! Siobhan, you are missed!
One afternoon, On-Ke served me a roasted and roughly cut up kabocha squash that was rubbed with coconut oil, seasoned with salt, and studded with cracked black peppercorns. Super classy woman that I am, I devoured what must have been half a pumpkin in one sitting. I couldn’t help it; there was something about that subtle coconut flavor that made that roasted kabocha squash even more irresistible. Ever since that afternoon, this has been my preferred way to cook just about any squash or yam. As I thought about a perfect complement for Victoria’s chicken, I couldn’t come up with a better one than these sweet potatoes roasted in the same way.
2. While the oven is warming up, you can begin to prep the chicken. To spatchcock any bird, flip the bird over so that its breast is facing down on the cutting board and its back is facing upright. Using a good, sharp pair of sturdy kitchen shears, remove the backbone by cutting along either side of it. Remove any excess skin that is dangling from the neck hole. Turn the bird breast-side-up. Remove the wishbone with a sharp knife. Now with the heel of your hand, press directly down on the breast bone until you hear a crack. Congratulations! You have just spatchcocked a bird! To finish, tuck the wings behind the breast. For the legs, you can make small slits in the skin on either side of where the tail used to be and push the ends of each respective leg through them. You can also leave the wings and legs as they are. Your chicken will taste the same either way, but as a firm believer in trussing, I like to have everything looking neat. To help visualize this, here is a video.
3. Combine the maple syrup, garlic, olive oil, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the mixture evenly all over the chicken. Lay the chicken out on a rack-lined sheet pan and let it marinate uncovered on the counter for about 40 minutes to an hour.
4. While the chicken is marinating, use your hands to rub each piece sweet potato with coconut oil. Season the pieces liberally with flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper, and spread them out in an even layer over another baking tray or in the bottom of a cast iron pan. I like my roasted sweet potatoes to be on the very roasted side, not exactly burnt, but just so that the surface sugars are caramelized. This should take about 40 minutes or so. If you prefer yours to be less roasted, you can remove them from the oven when they are softened and can be easily pierced with the point of a sharp knife.
5. When the sweet potatoes are done, remove them from the oven. Put the chicken in the oven and carefully pour about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of water into the bottom of the sheet pan. The water should not touch the bottom of the wire rack. Roast the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°, this should take between 1 hour and 1.5 hours depending on how big your chicken is. If at any point you notice that the garlic is beginning to burn, you can loosely tent the chicken with a sheet of aluminum foil, removing it when the it is almost done so that the skin can brown. When the chicken is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 10-20 minutes before carving.
Serve the chicken with the roasted sweet potatoes.
There is a special kind of shame that comes when you tell someone that you have a food blog and the last time you posted anything was almost a month ago. This has not been by choice, but rather necessity. As many of my friends know, my teaching load this semester has been a particularly brutal one. Not so much in terms of how my students are (they are truly lovely this semester), but in terms of how many of them there are (about 100). With class planning, grading, emails, and other assorted administrative tasks, I have hardly had any time for my friends. Let’s be honest: I have barely had time to feed myself properly. Currently, my fridge has only two things in it: booze and soy sauce. Sadly, the soy sauce has been untouched for so long that it probably has become booze — a stomach-churning yet strangely intriguing thought…
I had big dreams for the Takedown. Starting last year, I had this marvelous idea of doing mini bacon éclairs stuffed with Velveeta crème. Disgusting you say? Well, I didn’t try to make them so I don’t know, but I suspect that they would have been AMAZING! I was so obsessed with the thought that I even did some bicoastal brainstorming with Paul over at That Other Cooking Blog who suggested that maybe hand-piping 250 mini-éclairs wouldn’t be such a chore if I froze the choux pastry ahead of time.
Well, that idea evaporated when time got away from me. I thus turned to thinking about things that wouldn’t need any cooking at all — like bacon “Napoléons” created entirely out of smashed Twinkies, potato chips, and bacon bits.
Earlier in the summer, I had the privilege to see the artist Émilie Baltz talk about food at a Creative Mornings event. That morning, she spoke about her book Junk Foodie, a tome dedicated to reproducing classic French dishes using only American junk food. She described in loving detail how she recreated a Napoléon using Twinkies and crushed potato chips (she scooped out the filling, reserved it, rolled out the cake, cut it into rectangles, and reassembled the whole thing with layers of crushed chips and smears of the reserved cream).
Equally disgusting you say? She claimed it tasted just like a real Napoléon and I believe her. Unfortunately, there was no way that I could ensure that the chips would stay crispy layered under all that moist Twinkie cake and cream for the duration of the event. Sadly, that idea got scrapped as well.
Finally, while texting back and forth with another Paul about Breaking Bad, he threw out the name “Bacon Bad,” and I found the name so irresistible that I had to use it.
With my teaching schedule, I knew that cooking something elaborate was going to be out of the question. But cooking several pounds of blue bacon rock candy was absolutely doable, especially with the help of my professional candy-making neighbor downstairs.
Did I win?
To my utter shock and surprise, I won Honorable Mention from the judges which netted me a T-Shirt, a Microplane grater, and a wallet printed with bacon strips.
That’s not all: I also won Best Booth which means that my table decorations scored me A YEAR’S WORTH OF BACON!
That’s 52 pounds of bacon, yo!
None of this would have been possible without the help of my friends. Thank you all for coming out and supporting me! And many thanks to everyone who voted!
To Kalay, many thanks and hugs for coming over early, feeding me, helping me get everything to Brooklyn, helping me throughout the event, and keeping me sane! I could not have pulled it off without you. Thank you for your friendship and support!
Another heartfelt thanks goes out to Kelly O. for lending me the “lab equipment.” It pays to have scientists as friends 🙂 And I think you can continue to use those flasks for cocktails and for other off-label uses without fear 🙂
A big thank you to Paul, without whom I would probably have been serving reconstituted Twinkie mush. Thank you for the name, the fantastic idea, and the inspiration. You’re brilliant! And thank you for helping me get everything home!
A final thank you to Matt Timms for being such an amazing organizer, host, and friend. It is always a pleasure to be a part of your events and always an even bigger pleasure to share a beer afterwards. Here’s to next time!
For another write-up about the event, I direct you to Brooklyn Exposed’s photo gallery here.