Potato Hash

IMG_3167 I’m sorry I haven’t been posting any holiday related recipes. Do you guys want more of that stuff? Gingerbread, snickerdoodle and the like? For this post, I thought of one of my readers, Raseefa, who mentioned she loves the basic, every day South Asian (or not) recipes that she can make for her small family. Potato hash is definitely one of those recipes you should have your arsenal. It’s not complicated, but there is a small trick to getting it right…IMG_3152 Add potatoes first, remaining vegetables after. I can’t tell you how many times in the early days of my marriage, did my husband put up with potatoes with slightly burned, shriveled pieces of onion and pepper running through it. Because potatoes take longer to cook, I save time by getting them going in the oil first, while chopping the rest of my veggies. IMG_3154 This way of making potato hash won’t give you crispy potatoes. They’ll be tender and flavorful, but cooking them together with the peppers and onions will keep them from crisping up. If you’d rather fry them until crisp and take them off the heat, and combine them with the vegetables later, you’re more than welcome to. This version is easy, and gets eaten by the pickiest eaters in my household for breakfast, lunch or dinner. IMG_3155 I didn’t add any heat this time, mainly to cater to the young’ns. But diced jalapeno, chilli powder or even chipotle peppers would be so good with this. I just doused mine in hot sauce.

I recall my mom’s version of breakfast potatoes: aloo bhaji. She dices potatoes into matchsticks and fries them up generously in oil, seasoned with salt, turmeric and green chilis running through. Her version is delicious, but in order to satisfy my conscience a bit, I add veggies and use a lot less oil.

IMG_3158 Traditionally, potato hash gets topped with some eggs during the final stages of cooking. Since I like my fried eggs over easy, that doesn’t work for me. It easily goes from being breakfast side, to lunch or dinner by adding some diced leftover protein: chicken, beef, tofu, shrimp.

One final note: this dish is so much prettier with red bell pepper if you have it in your fridge.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 to 4 large yukon gold or russet potatoes, diced to 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, or half of a large one
  • 1 red/orange/yellow bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large wok or sauté pan. Add the potatoes in a single layer. Let cook while chopping up the remaining vegetables.
  2. Dice onion and peppers. Add to the pan and stir to combine. Mince garlic and add to pan. Add tomato paste, salt, pepper and paprika. Stir to combine.
  3. Cook, uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while to bring up the vegetables from the bottom to the top. If the vegetables at the bottom are scorching, turn heat down to medium and continue cooking.
  4. Top with cilantro and serve.

Boneless Short Ribs with Asian BBQ Sauce

IMG_3132 How can I explain to you how good these are? Do the pictures do justice to them? Are you drooling on your keyboard? If so, then I’ve done my job. IMG_3149Though I have a confession to make: I’ve never made short ribs before. I’ve never even had them before, you know, as a separate entity. Sure, I’ve eaten them as part of a larger curry, but not like this. IMG_3099 But hooray for internet, right? I checked my cookbooks and could not find anything for boneless ribs. They all had recipes for bone-in ribs, the type that you braise in a casserole. Balsamic braised. Beer braised. Red wine braised. But then, I found this recipe for easy bbq boneless ribs! And though I was grateful for Sunny Anderson’s (easy) cooking technique, I knew I wanted an Asian BBQ type thing, something rich in soy sauce and garlic with a hint of sesame flavor, but not one that was so authentic I needed to make an extra trip to my local Asian grocery. Na’m sayin? IMG_3103 In keeping with halal guidelines, I’ve never had korean or japanese bbq (I doubt any halal establishments exist in NY). But I knew I really wanted to try Korean BBQ short ribs, or Kalbi. The problem is, you need a special cut of short ribs to prepare in that way – called the flanken cut. And if I had thought a little bit in advance, I could have convinced my friends at Honest Chops to hook it up. But I didn’t. And here we are. IMG_3106 For this post, I took a page out of my research days, when, clueless about coding, I’d have to piece together bits from existing code, tweak it according to my data, and try to make some science! So I took a little from a recipe here, a recipe there, and badda bing badda boom. Definitely feel free to swap out the regular soy sauce for low-sodium. I served it here with rice, but I actually liked it better when it was shredded and wrapped in lettuce leaves. The cool, crisp texture and flavor of the lettuce worked perfectly with the slow cooked, soy sauce spiked flavor of the ribs. IMG_3124  I used Sunny’s cooking technique with an adapted version of the Kalbi recipe below (I didn’t have an asian pear, and I wasn’t about to venture out into this torrential rainfall to get some). And I had to add chili flakes. Had to. IMG_3147 I found by the end of the recommended 3 hours, the meat dried out a bit (that didn’t stop me from inhaling them). I did taste it at 2 hours, and it was tender enough. I would recommend for this amount of meat, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. And there is more than enough sauce. I actually used some of the leftover sauce to season some salmon. You can easily do 4 lbs of ribs in it.

For leftovers: shred the beef, mix with some mayo/lemon juice, and fill a pita or other flatbread with it and some lettuce. So good.

Recipe adapted from Food Network: Kalbi, Easy BBQ Short Ribs.

Ingredients

  • About 2 lbs Honest Chops  GRASS FED boneless short ribs
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsps garlic and ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • a pinch of red chili flakes
  • 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 4 scallions, chopped at a diagonal in half in slices

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Measure out the first 4 ingredients in a large glass measuring cup. Add garlic and ginger paste, sesame oil, black pepper and chili flakes. Stir to combine.
  3. Add quartered onion into food processor. Process for a few seconds, then slowly drizzle in soy sauce mixture.
  4. Cut the short ribs into 1 1/12 to 2 in thick strips. Lay across a baking dish and drizzle the sauce over all the pieces.
  5. Cover with aluminum and bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, turning once half way, then once again 15 minutes before removing from the oven. Garnish with chopped scallions.

Brisket Burgers

IMG_3038For our third installment of HCxK3N (what? you don’t think it’s catchy?), we’re serving up some brisket burgers. Notorious for being overcooked, I’m sharing my experience in cooking these delicious burgers up. Don’t judge the placement of the cheese slice. It’s adjusted below.IMG_3062Just look at that caramelization!

And to give you some background, burgers are to Naureen as hunny is to ____. IMG_3036Pooh. The answer is Winnie the Pooh. Don’t judge my TV selections as of late. I LOVE burgers. But sometimes I wonder if I’m more about the burger fixins than the actual burger. For me the patty is more of a vehicle for the most wonderful combination of sauce, cheese, veggies and bread. I’m probably not supposed to be saying that but regardless I’m going to share with you the secret to keeping your burgers nice and juicy.    IMG_3092The secret’s in the sauce. No it isn’t. I’ll be sharing my not-so-secret sauce recipe below.

It’s in the cooking method. You want to cook it over pretty high heat so you sear the outside and you don’t want to overcook it. The longer it sits over the pan, the more juices that come pouring out. So I found 7 minutes on each side, on a hot cast iron skillet does the trick. This gets the burger to a medium doneness. If you can stomach a rare burger, 4 minutes on each side should do. Well done, 9-10 on each side. If your burger loses some of its juiciness at that point, compensate with sauce (that’s what I do…don’t hate!).

Ingredients

  • 4 1/4 lb Honest Chops Brisket Burgers
  • 4 brioche buns
  • 4 slices swiss or american cheese
  • a few slices of tomato
  • a few slices of red onion
  • a few slivers of pickles
  • some iceberg lettuce leaves
  • 2 tbsp mayo
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • a dash of hot sauce or chipotle adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp chopped pickle
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat a cast iron skillet or a non stick skillet over medium high heat. Season both sides of the burgers with salt and pepper. Add a little grease (veg or olive oil) to the pan. Add 1 or 2 burgers at a time depending on the size of your pan and don’t move until ready to flip (4 min each side for rare, 7 for medium, 9-10 for well done).
  2. When the burgers are done, top with cheese (you can add the cheese in its final stages of cooking, but I hate dealing with the mess of melted cheese) and set aside while assembling the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Warm the brioche buns in the same pan the burgers were cooked in or in your toaster oven.
  4. Make the sauce: combine mayo, ketchup, hot sauce, chopped pickle, salt & pepper in a small bowl. Smear sauce on both sides of the bun. Add burger and layer with whatever ingredients you like, I listed the classic toppers above but feel free to substitute caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms or avocado and cilantro. The choices are endless!

Braised Lamb Shoulder

IMG_3010Happy Turkey Day everyone! In honor of this national holiday, I’m posting about…lamb. I know, I know – ill timed. But, come this weekend, when you won’t be able to stomach another ounce of turkey or leftover cranberry sauce, you’re going to looking for a hearty, warming meal like this one.IMG_2988 Now, most days are not braise days. Most days are mac and cheese from a box, or spaghetti aglio olio, or chicken curry days. I usually leave the braising of big cuts of meat (lamb shanks, shoulder, or short ribs) to the pros at my favorite Persian or Turkish or Afghan restaurants. But sometimes, you have to pull out the big guns. Visiting relatives. Someone got a raise, or maybe just got a year older. Or, perhaps you’re snowed in. IMG_2997Look at it just getting all cozy in its bed of tomatoes, onions and spices. IMG_2998When the occasion calls for a braise, the long, slow cooking of a piece of meat in order to render all of the fat and break down the muscle fibers to make for a tender, delicious meat, tomatoes and onions are my best friends. Many French or European recipes rely on the acidity of wine to get the job done. My mother and many on the Subcontinent might rely on green papaya as a meat tenderizer (strange, I know, but it works!). IMG_3003So, when deciding how to prepare this awesome lamb shoulder, I noticed most of the recipes in my cookbooks called for about 2 lbs cubed, boneless lamb shoulder (oops). Since this piece came bone-in, I decided to make the most of it! I love bones (it’s the Bengali in me). Since I don’t cook with wine or chicken stock for the most part, I rely on the bones in the meat I prepare to flavor the broth that it cooks in.IMG_3013 I reviewed many different recipes before I went ahead with this one. It’s a conglomerate of all of them (cooking technique based loosely on Andrew Zimmern’s stovetop method, spice mix based on Gourmet’s Ras el Hanout recipe). I used my dutch oven for this – it retains heat really well and the inside of the top cover is lined with bumps that allow the moisture to drip down and baste the meat. Any large pot will do, though. You want to cook until the meat is tender and falling off the bone, but not so long that the meat will dry out (not to worry, there is a fairly large window of time between the two). IMG_3016After a cooking time of 1 1/2 hours, I took the meat out and shred it with a fork. During this time, I took the pot off the heat, and blended all the chunks in the cooking liquid with my immersion belnder to make a satiny smooth sauce. You can do this in your blender, in batches, or leave as is for a more “rustic” look. I left the meat immediately around the bone in tact, for presentation purposes, or for the Fred Flinstone in your family. I served this with couscous cooked in a saffron broth, and vegetables lightly sauteed with garlic and rosemary.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Honest Chops lamb shoulder (this one was 1 1/2 lbs)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (1/4 tsp if you prefer it mild)
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 lb tomatoes, quartered (you can use the equivalent amount of crushed/whole tomatoes from a can)
  • 3 cups water

Directions

  1. In a large dutch oven or casserole, heat oil over high heat. Season the lamb shoulder with salt and pepper. Add to the pot. Don’t move until the side that’s down is nice and brown (2-4 minutes depending on heat level). Rotate to the next side, carefully. Repeat until all sides are browned (about 10 minutes). While this happens, dice the onion and assemble the spices. Take the shoulder out of the pan and onto a plate. Set aside.
  2. Add the diced onion to the hot pan, stirring vigorously to get the brown bits off the bottom. When they start to sweat, add tomato paste and ALL of the spices (up to the cloves). Add a splash of water, if necessary to dissolve all the spices and form a nice mush. Once the spices are dissolved and you have a nice onion/spice paste, add garlic, ginger and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Next, add the water, then nestle the meat in. Bring up to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer and put the lid on. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, rotating the meat every 20 minutes or so to ensure even cooking.
  4. After the 1 1/1 hours is up, remove meat from pot and check for doneness and seasoning (should be fork tender and delicious!). Shred most of the meat with two forks on a cutting board. Remove pot from heat and blend the broth with an immersion blender, or in batches in a conventional blender, or leave as is for a more rustic look. Also check the broth for seasoning. Return to heat and boil over high heat for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Add the meat back and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Serve on a bed of couscous or rice, garnished with a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Mughlai Paratha

IMG_2977Mughlai paratha is a traditional flatbread they serve in Bangladesh. It’s a rich dough, stuffed with eggs, cilantro, onions, chili peppers and sometimes ground chicken. It’s pretty hard to track down a recipe. This post is a culmination of verbal consultation with my mother, taste testing at Bengali fast food joints, and YouTube research. It’s a little bit ridiculous, I know, because it’s not exactly a 30 minute meal. There are several steps, practice and patience required. But I figured with the upcoming holiday weekend, we all might have some extra time to get in the kitchen (it’s cold outside!), roll up our sleeves, and maybe even involve the kiddies (my little ones LOVE getting their hands on the rolling pin and dough whenever they can). Also, there will no doubt be lots of leftovers that would work perfectly as a filling for these guys. IMG_2957This baby has been in the pipeline for a looooooong time. I’ve been meaning to make it for ages. I’ve been experimenting recently, since I’ve been getting to know my rolling pin a bit better (hello, pie season). I’ve tried making it with pizza dough (which was delicious but resembled more of a calzone than a traditional mughlai paratha) and all kinds of ghee to flour ratios and cooking techniques (shallow fry, deep fry). And this is the glorious, delicious result! IMG_2958 Yes, that is my Fresh Tinted Lip Balm on my kitchen counter. Where else would it be? IMG_2968 I would love to add more filling. It would make the paratha even more delicious. But I err on the side of less filling just to avoid leakage and it running all over the pan. You, though, are at liberty to experiment with as much filling as you’d like!IMG_2969For those of you who aren’t familiar with ghee, it’s delicious. It’s butter that’s been melted, milk solids removed. You do that by melting a stick (or two) of butter in a small saucepan, allowing the solids to drop to the bottom, then utilizing the melted fat on top. It’s slightly nutty and has a higher burning temperature than regular butter, which is what makes it so great for this recipe (among others: pancakes, mashed potatoes, and so on). So I hope you guys give this recipe a try! And don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come out super thin the first time. Practice makes perfect!

P.S. I utilized the leftovers from my last Roast Chicken.

P.P.S. How great is this manicure? It’s not gel and it still looks great 1 week later! Check out Primp and Polish at their pop up shop on Crosby street, right next to Bloomingdales.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsps ghee (that’s clarified butter – preferable) or oil plus more for the pan
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1 green chili or jalapeno, minced (or more if you can handle the heat)
  • a handful of cilantro or parsley, minced (cilantro is preferable)
  • 3/4 cup chicken or 1 chicken breast, diced
  • a pinch of salt

Directions

  1. In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine both flours, ghee or oil, salt and water. Combine with hands or with paddle attachment at low speed until combined. If it looks wet, don’t worry. You’ll be adding more flour when rolling it out. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest while you prepare the other ingredients (20 minutes to 2 hours).
  2. Whisk eggs, onion, green chili or jalapeno, cilantro and chicken together in a separate bowl.
  3. Sprinkle a handful of flour onto a clean surface for rolling out the dough. Grab a handful (baseball size) and roll it around in the flour. Pat with your hand to flatten to a disk. Grab  your rolling pin and aggressively roll back and forth a couple of times. Rotate 90 degrees and repeat. Do this about two more times. Then, get it really, really thin by rolling outwards on all sides. You’re supposed to get it to look like a rectangle but I am hopeless. Thin and oblong is good enough for me!
  4. Warm a tsp of ghee or oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add two tablespoons of the chicken/egg mixture on top of the paratha. Pull the far side towards you, covering the filling halfway. Pull the bottom side up to meet and slightly overlap the first side, like an envelope. Fold over the right and left sides. Ensure the paratha is sealed. Place in hot skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, adjusting the heat as necessary. Increase cooking time if your paratha is not as thin as it should be.
  5. Serve with a salad, pico de gallo or Sriracha.

 

Roast Chicken and New Potatoes with Herbed Butter

IMG_2954I have an exciting announcement to make! No, I’m not expecting baby number 3 as my mother would so desperately hope for. I am partnering with awesome, organic, halal and quality meat provider Honest Chops! Gone are the days when us strictly zabihah halal eating folks were limited to the options available at our local butchers (God bless them, but good luck if you’re looking for a steak or any other sizable cut of meat). With Honest Chops, not only can you get a great selection of cuts, but you can rest assured the animals are local, were raised humanely without steroids or antibiotics, and are zabihah halal. Some, including the lamb and beef, are even grass fed! YUM! For the next few weeks I’ll be posting a new recipe each week highlighting some of the great cuts of meat they have to offer. I love you guys. I love them. I hope you guys love them as much as I do!IMG_2923 For my first post, I’m offering a turkey alternative for your Thanksgiving spread. I promise, non-turkey poultry is not sacrilege. Plenty of people (ahem, husband) aren’t fond of turkey. Some people do cornish hens, maybe even a large roasted fish (Everybody Loves Raymond, anyone?).  A roast chicken is perfect for a more intimate gathering. The way I do it here, in a cast iron skillet, is wonderfully homey, rustic and easy! No need to get down the giant roasting pan (or purchase one just for this once a year dinner). You just need to ensure your skillet is well seasoned (read: greased). If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, any heavy, large, oven proof pan or casserole will do the trick. IMG_2929 I used an herbed butter to flavor the bird and the surrounding potatoes. It’s got some of the traditional fall flavorings: sage, thyme, orange and lemon zest. But don’t be alarmed by the amount of seasoning – it’s enough for the bird, potatoes, and probably one more roast chicken. You could substitute other root vegetables in lieu or in addition to the potatoes – you just want to ensure it’s cut big enough to withstand the long cooking time. This was a pretty small bird, weighing in at 2.5 lbs. It only took 1 hour at 450 degrees F for the internal temperature at the thigh to reach 165 degrees F. I believe it’s an additional 15 minutes per pound – but your best bet is either a meat thermometer or slicing into the thigh to see if the juices that run are bloody or clear. IMG_2936Just in case you needed a visual for where to place the meat thermometer.IMG_2944 Now there are all these different techniques for ensuring juicy breast meat. Flipping the bird (not that kind!) halfway through the cooking process. Spatchcocking. Dorie Greenspan suggests Joel Rubechon’s technique of cooking the bird on its side, flipping to the other side, then after it’s done, turning it upside down and doing a rain dance (for moisture, of course). Ok, I made up the dance part just to show what lengths some will go to. The fact of the matter is – white meat is white meat. It’s inherently more fibrous than dark meat. But with a bird this size, I doubt you will run into issues with it drying out. I say this after roasting this in one position for the whole time, without any basting. Though, I will say, with the herbed butter spread between the skin and the meat, that ensures a sort of self-basting.  IMG_2952If you don’t have sage, I’d imagine rosemary would work well. Or even tarragon. Something earthy! The last thing you need is some kitchen twine to tie the chicken’s limbs to the body (you don’t want the limbs flapping about, otherwise they’d overcook). With that said – happy eating and start to a holiday season!

Ingredients

  • 1 all-natural whole skin-on chicken 
  • 1 stick of butter, at room temperature
  • 1 orange, zested, cut in quarters
  • 1 lemon, zested, cut in quarters
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or made into a paste by pushing through a microplane, plus the rest of the head of garlic
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped sage leaves
  • 1 tsp finely chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt (I know this sounds like a lot, but you only use a fraction of the herbed butter for the chicken and vegetables) or to taste
  • 1 tsp black pepper or to taste
  • 1 1/2 lbs new potatoes or yukon gold potatoes, rinsed and scrubbed
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse the chicken, removing any remaining feather shafts that might remain. Remove giblets and neck, setting aside for stock or curry. Set on a large plate or cutting board and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Add butter, orange zest, lemon zest, minced garlic or garlic paste, sage, thyme, salt and pepper into a bowl and mix well. Place chicken, breast side up, and rear cavity facing you. Insert fingers between the skin and breast meat to separate (careful not to tear the skin). Add a spoonful of butter and spread throughout the breast, under the skin. Repeat for other breast. Smear more butter over the skin, over breasts, legs, thighs and wings (though don’t butter the back side, the side that will be in direct contact with the skillet). Stuff the cavity with the remaining garlic head (sliced through the middle like this) and however much of the remaining citrus you can fit (giving the fruit a little squeeze before inserting).
  3. Cut two pieces of kitchen twine: one to wrap the legs together, the other to tie the wings to the body (see picture). Wash hands.
  4. Preheat greased skillet over medium high heat for a few minutes. Add chicken, then potatoes around the chicken. Drizzle olive oil or vegetable oil over the chicken and potatoes to ensure the butter doesn’t burn. Use a pastry brush if necessary. Stick into preheated oven and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of your chicken. A meat thermometer inserted into the thigh (see picture) is the best indicator of doneness (reading should be 165 degrees F). Otherwise, cut a slit into the thigh meat to see if the juice is clear or bloody. If bloody, stick back into the oven for 10 to 15 min more.
  5. When done, leave it out to rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. Dot the potatoes with the herbed butter and slice in half for serving. You can serve directly on the skillet, or carve on a cutting board like a champ. I am not a champ so most of my chicken pieces were torn off with my hands with a bit of help from my carving knife for ligaments ;)

As a final note – don’t toss those pan drippings! We’re not gravy crazy around here so I made a quick pasta and peas dish. Simply toss the carcass and remove the vegetables from the pan. Warm it over medium high heat. Add half a pound a cup of frozen peas. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add cooked long pasta (half a pound of spaghetti or fettucine). Cook until warmed through. Add a sprinkling of grated parmesan.

Chocolate Pastry Cream (Chocolate Pudding)

IMG_2887 There’s a story behind these plates: we got them for free from our last CB2 purchase. I’m assuming because no one else would buy them. There are like 4 of them, all rectangular appetizer plates with quirky stick figure/food illustrations. This is the first time I busted them out. Somehow the bite taken out of the cream puff worked perfectly with this ugly little dude.IMG_2890 I was inspired to bake these delectable cream puffs after purchasing Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. There’s so much goodness in this book. I was surprised at how much Moroccan cuisine permeated French food culture (as interpreted by Greenspan). The result is a multitude of really promising mezze/hors d’oeuvres, salads and other veg-centric dishes. IMG_2891The cream puff is made from a standard pate a choux recipe (minus one egg) – serving only as a vehicle for my silky smooth chocolate emulsion. Once I made and chilled the pastry cream, I started it eating it by the spoonful. I couldn’t help myself. That’s when I realized pastry cream is barely different from the more conventional pudding. Not the type of puddings that are thickened by just cornstarch, rather the ones that are thickened (and thus made more rich) by egg yolks. It’s great as a stand alone dessert. I piped these into the cream puffs using a pastry bag fitted with a long tip.

Now I couldn’t just leave well enough alone. It’s not enough to use great quality chocolate and a recipe from a James Beard award winning chef. I had to add a thing or two. In my case it was some instant coffee and vanilla. I added half a teaspoon of each. Next time though, I might try 1 tsp each and see if it accentuates or overwhelms the chocolate flavor. To be continued!

I’ll share one more thing with you: some of them I filled with jaggery (gur), or sap from date palm trees. If you’re South Asian you’ve no doubt seen this sweetener in steamed rice sweets. Or if you’re Muslim, with your pre-dawn Ramadan meal. Think of maple syrup, but thicker and slightly bitter. The flavor is sweet yet complex and pairs surprisingly well with cream puffs! I’ve been adding it to my morning oatmeal for a wonderful change up.

Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 6 tbsps granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch, sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • 7 oz bittersweet choc melted (I used 4 oz bittersweet choc and 3 oz semi sweet)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 2 1/2 tbsps unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature

Directions

  1. Warm the milk in small sauce pan until it’s scalding (you see bubbles around the edges).
  2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, sifted cornstarch, and salt until it’s blended together. While whisking continuously, drizzle in 1/4 cup of the milk (to raise the temperature of the egg yolks). Then, in a steady stream, add the remaining milk and whisk continuously. Multitasking folks. A flat whisk is great in ensuring you get all the bits around the edges. Bring to a boil and whisk for 1-2 minutes more, until thickened (it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon).
  3. Stir in the melted chocolate, coffee granules and vanilla. Whisk until combined. Let stand for 5 minutes. Then add butter and stir until the mixture is smooth. At this point, I like to push the custard through a strainer to make sure it’s uniform consistency. This is optional. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (at least 20 minutes).