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Posts Tagged ‘spice mixes’

Do not, and I mean DO NOT believe people when they tell you oil and water do not mix.  Yes, they do.  Under the perfect set of circumstances they can produce a beautiful, viscus sauce that coats your mouth with flavor and never leaves a slimy, clingy after coating on your tongue.  In simple language an emulsion is a combination of oil and water along with additions that create the unique flavor of whatever emulsion you are creating. 

Most of you know that to thicken a sauce the most common technique is to add a starch (flour, cornstarch, arrowroot) and let the liquid surrounding it swell the molecules, thus increasing the viscosity of the fluid.  When you make an emulsification, you don’t use starch but instead you bond little droplets of oil and water molecules.  This “bonding” process makes it difficult for the water to move away from the oil and, thus, a thick, creamy consistency results.  The most fun emulsification I like to make is a combination of Balsamic Vinegar, Honey, Jack Daniels Honey Dijon Mustard, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  I beat my ingredients to death with a whisk and all of a sudden the mixture begins to cling to itself and thicken.  Within 3 to 5 minutes I have a spectacular emulsified salad dressing that is sweet, sour, salty and above all else creamy and thick. 

The key to mixing an emulsification until well bonded is technically known as shearing.  In my case, I often use a whisk.  This takes a lot of “sheer” muscle power and time, but works great.  Modern cooks are lucky to have mixers that do the work for them.  For those of you who make your own mayo you know how handy a metal bowl with whisk mixer can be!!  You may wonder why having an electric whisking device is better than hand whisking an emulsification.  The answer is simple enough:  shear power.  With greater shearing power the better the bond you are creating between the molecules and the less chance you will have of your emulsification separating.

Finally, always remember that shearing power isn’t the end all beat all to a great emulsification….oh  no, you need a great emulsifier to get a stable emulsification.  Emulsifiers are those “bonding” agents that allow oil and water to mix properly.  Soy bean sauces, cream, and egg yolks are all great emulsifiers.  In the big world of chef’s emulsifiers will always include food grade gums such as Xanthan.  I’ve never used the stuff and have no idea how to.  This should make a good study for those of you curious about emulsification with Xanthan.

There we go…..Emulsification 101. 

 

Photo of  Home Made Mayonnaise Courtesy of:  http://whatscookingamerica.net/Sauces_Condiments/Mayonnaise.jpg 

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If you remember, and I barely do, that our last post dealt with an incredible Khmer curry paste recipe, then you will also remember my promise to post an incredible Khmer Curried Chicken recipe.  Well, there it is.  You’ll want to make sure your spice paste mix is ready to go.  Just check my last couple of posts and follow the directions and your paste will be ready.  I must say this chicken recipe is so delicious that you’ll want to place a table outside in the evening, light many candles or hanging lights in the bushes and trees around you and place a delicate and soft Cambodian CD on the stereo and relax and take your time to enjoy your company and your food.  Linger, talk softy, chew as long as you can and just let your palate and your olfactory sensors baste in the pleasure of this incredible dish from a beautiful and incredible country.

Khmer Curried Chicken (Using Khmer Curry Paste)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons Unflavored oil (corn or vegetable oil will work fine here) 

1 pound chicken breasts (cut in 1/4 slices).  The easiest way to do this is place the chicken in the freezer until it begins to freeze.  When it is lightly firm, remove it and it should slice in a lovely way)

1-2 tablespoons unprocessed, cane sugar

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 carrot sliced extremely thin (I use a slicer to ensure overall slice thinness)

1 potato, chopped into 1/2″ squares

1 medium sweet potato, chopped into 1/2″ squares

1 medium onion (sliced very thin)

1 cup unseasoned chicken broth (freshly made)

Salt to taste

5 cups teamed rice

4 saffron strands

1/16 teaspoon turmeric powder

Preparation

Place enough rice and water in a steamer to make 5 cups.  Add 4 saffron strands and 1/16 turmeric tsp. turmeric powder.  Turn on steamer and let rice cook.

Heat oil in a wok until hot.  Fry , stirring constantly, 2 Tablespoons of Khmer Curry Paste for one minute.  Add sliced chicken breast.  Stir for 2 minutes.  Turn down to medium heat.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar and stir well.  Cook chicken until done.  Toss in vegetables   and stir.  Stir gently for another minute and then add 1/2 cup coconut milk, salt to taste and fresh chicken broth.  Heat through.

Serve over the steamed rice and truly enjoy.

As a note I would like to add that some folks do like more curry paste in their recipe.  If you find you would enjoy more paste, add more the next time.  This is a better strategy that adding much too much spice early on and ruining a recipe.  On that note…………………………………………drift way to Cambodia.

 

Photo Courtesy of:  http://www.images-photography-pictures.net/Angkor-Wat-Cambodia-sunset-zrim.jpg

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Good evening everyone.  Imagine my delight late last night when I was just about ready to enter this post and BAM!  Yes, BAM!  I found out that an old episode of Desperate Housewives was on featuring guess who?   Who?  Say it!  Yes.  BAM!  Dougray Scott.  Needless to say all thoughts of my favorite Indian spices went out of my head and I became glued to the television.  Dear God, how could she choose a plumber over Dougray Scott.  Sigh.  Now that I have those feelings out the way, its down to business!

Indian cooking is one of my favorites.  The flavors are so varied by region and even by cooks within regions that I believe Indian cooking is some of the most interesting in the world and the spices used, some of the most complex.  Here’s a list of the most common Indian spices.  Most of these can be found in grocery stores in larger cities.  If you, like me, are unlucky enough to live away from such an urban area, there are plenty of Indian groceries on the net to satisfy your spice searching.

1.  Green Hot Chillies.  Don’t touch your fingers to your eyes when handling green hot chillies.  Indian green chillies are about 2-4 inches long and filled with white seeds.  It is the white seeds that cause all that burn.  So, if you don’t want the burn, use latex gloves and remove as many seeds as you can. Indians call these chillies Hari Mirch.

2.  Red Hot Chillies.  Again, a warning about the heat.  These are really  interesting chillies.  When you place them in boiling oil they will puff up and the skin will darken.  It is believed that even the darkened skin lends a special flavor to Indian cooking.  The Indian name for these red chillies is Sabut lal mirch.

3.  Fresh grated Coconut and Coconut Milk.  Coconut milk is made by grating coconut, placing it in water and then squeezing out the juice.  Ummmmm.  Fresh grated coconut meat freezes and unfreezes easily so it is an easy item to keep for future use.  Fresh grated coconut is referred to in India as Nariyal.

4.  Coriander Seeds.  Coriander seeds are used often in Indian cooking.  They are usually freshly ground before used in any recipe.  The Coriander plant itself is also used in Indian cooking as a herb as opposed to a spice.  Coriander leaf is used much like we use parsley in Italy.  In order to flavor wet dishes the leaves are often tossed in and cooked for the addition of their aroma.  Indians call Coriander greens Kothmir.  Coriander seeds are often called Dhania or Sabut.

5.  Cinnamon.  Cinnamon sticks are most often used in rice and meat dishes.  The Cinnamon sticks are used for flavor and are not eaten. Their Indian name is Dar Cheeni.

6.  Whole Cloves.  Again, whole cloves are often used in meat and rice dishes for its aroma.  Indians refer to cloves as Long (as opposed to short–just kidding).

7.  Cayenne Pepper.  Hey this is one we all know about, huh!  It’s Indian name is Pisi hui lal mirch.

8.  Cardamom.  Cardamon seeds come from the Cardamom pod and are black and highly aromatic.  If you are using the pod with seeds included you should not eat it only use it for its aroma.  The seeds can be eaten and ground.  Cardamom seeds are referred to as Elaichi.

9.  Green Mango Powder.  Green Mango Powder is just as it says–a green mango that has not ripened.  The unripened mango is sliced and dried in the sun.  Both whole slices and powdered slices are sold in Indian groceries. I’ve only used the powder and can not speak to the use of the sliced Amchoor.  Amchoor is extremely sour and tastes somewhat like lime.  It is referred to as Amchoor Powder.

10.  Asafetida.  This is a resin with a strong odor that is usually found in Kashmir.  Someone in a cooking class once told me it smelled like truffles.  Ummmmm.  I’d say earthy is right, but to me it smelled closer to really old manure that no longer smelled like excrement but was once excrement.  Again, my palate can’t be trusted.  Since that class I have never used it even when a recipe has called for it. 

11.  Fennel Seeds.  Ah, another one I use often.  Fennel seeds have a liquorice-like flavor–not as heavy as anise but the taste is definitely there.  Fennel seeds are often roasted and placed on the last course in a meal as a breath freshener.  At an Indian grocery ask for Sonf.

12.  Fenugreek Seeds.  Many of you have used Fenugreek seeds in Mediterranean cooking.  They are a squarish, brownish-yellow seed that have a definitely mushroomy or earthy flavor (without the excrement included ; ) ).  Indians refer to these seeds as Methi.

13.  Cumin Seeds.  Indians usually roast their seeds in a pan and use them whole or grind them. 

There we have it.  These are the very basic spices used in Indian cooking.  Tomorrow we will look at another basic spice mixture used as a “base” (or a beginning) in Indian cooking–Gram Masala.  It is easy to make at home and is delicious by itself or after more spices/herbs are added to further enhance the flavor of a recipe. 

Alas, I must leave you for this evening.  Like Dougray Scott I am here, but not really here–I’m in the ether.  Goodnight and good eating!

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