5.17.2015

A Dietitian's Confession and Vanilla Bean Yogurt and Orange Blossom Mango Pops

There is nothing more awkward than explaining to someone you are counseling on weight loss strategies that you make homemade ice cream. I think as a dietitian people assume you subsist on field greens and skinless chicken.  And when hunger hits, you simply pull out your bag of celery sticks and twiggy carrots and quickly reach snack nirvana.

I am not sure who first promoted this tactic as a method of weight loss.  But I propose this person has ruined lives. And I hope he finds himself in some weird purgatory where there is nothing but an endless buffet of celery stalks and baby carrots—the ones that have gone through a nice chlorine rinse—and fat-free French dressing.  Because fat-free French dressing is about as joyless a substance as one can encounter.

Anyway, it seems the perception is dietitians are incapable of experiencing any real pleasure other than that which is brought from baked chicken and infinity celery.  It is one of the reasons why my office computer screensaver is a picture of homemade ice cream. 

To get technical, it is actually frozen yogurt.  But it contains full fat dairy and heavy cream, two items society implies dietitians—and perhaps women more broadly—are not supposed to look at, let alone ingest. 

Unless, of course, we are status post breakup.  Or premenstrual. Or are depicted in advertisement wearing silk and red lipstick, consuming a 100-calorie version to stay sexily deprived.

So even though the picture occasionally gets me into trouble with a few evangelical lactose haters and black-and-white thinking dieters, I keep it up.  For one, it is a humanizer.  I am a real person.  I have needs.  Sometimes those needs include high fat dairy. 

But it is also a symbol of the importance of savoring.  We have become pretty terrible at allowing food enjoyment.  Instead we have guilt, substitutions, and green coffee bean extract to counteract our sins.

I also believe that if you have the opportunity to make ice cream, you gain appreciation of the time it takes to create.  And this might also help slow down consumption so that the whole pint is not sacrificed in a single sitting.  Maybe.

I realize in saying all of this that I come here today with a yogurt pop recipe.  I assure if it is ice cream you desire, there are plenty of catalogued recipes.  In fact, this black raspberry one and this chocolate truffle version, courtesy of the famed chef Fergus Henderson, are two all-time favorites. 

Either way, the concept is the same.  The inclusion of fat is a must.  As is the use of ingredients you can pronounce. 

The difference is really a matter of investment.  I am six weeks away from getting my master’s degree.  I would also wager that you are likely pretty busy and may not have the time (or desire) to make ice cream.  So although the yogurt needs to drain overnight, the actual prep requires all of ten minutes.  And dirties fewer dishes. 

So please accept this very solid substitute for busy souls. 

The popsicles are tangy, and floral, and tart.  I prefer grassiness of sheep’s milk yogurt, but any regular whole milk yogurt will do.  The coconut and mango lend a subtle tropical vibe. And the stripes of bright orange running through white vanilla bean-flecked sections are not the worst thing to look at, visually speaking.

The point is there are numerous ways to enjoy frozen dessert without sacrificing your sense of self.  That and maybe … just maybe … there is more to life than celery.

Vanilla Bean Yogurt and Orange Blossom Mango Pops

Ingredients:

1¾ cup whole milk yogurt (see note)
scant ½ cup coconut milk cream (see note)
1 vanilla bean
2 to 3 tbsp honey
1 Ataulfo mango or small regular mango (see note), skin removed and chopped
juice of ½ large or 1 small lime
½ tsp orange blossom water
pinch salt

Instructions:

The night before, place the yogurt in a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter or heavy-duty paper towel. Set over a bowl so the liquid can drain out; refrigerate overnight.

The next day, discard the drained liquid.  In a medium bowl, combine the thickened yogurt and coconut cream. Split the vanilla bean with a knife and scrape the seeds into the yogurt.  Add the honey to taste.

In a food processor, add the mango, lime juice, orange blossom water, and salt. Whirl until pureed.

In the base of each popsicle mold, layer about one-third of the yogurt mixture and then alternate with the mango and yogurt until the molds are filled, ending with yogurt (you will have enough for 2 to 3 layers of each pending preference). Insert popsicle stick or handle.  Freeze until solid (at least 4 hours).

Makes 6

Notes:
-I prefer sheep’s milk yogurt, but no matter the animal I recommend full-fat.  The yogurt should drain to about a 1 cup portion.

-Coconut milk cream is the separated substance found at the top of a can of unshaken coconut milk.  I added it to increase the fat and reduce the water content so the popsicles are not as icy.


-Ataulfo mango is honey-flavored and easy to puree, which makes it a no-brainer for this recipe.  I suspect other versions could be employed in a pinch. 

4.28.2015

Olive + Gourmando Brownies with Espresso Ganache Chips, Of Time and Chocolate

When someone suggests that you ought to go to graduate school, what they are really saying is that in two to five short years, you will arrive with a master’s degree wearing pants that have become hard to button, permanent under eye circles, and a new distain for structuralism. 

All for the cost of a down payment on a house.

I have worked as a dietitian for ten years and gastronomy graduate student for five.  Food has become a lens through which I view pretty much everything. 

I have examined French nationalism through wine and peered at fascism through a pasta noodle. Viewed the sensorial language of restaurant chefs using a twelve course tasting menu.  Analyzed normative gender identity in a professional kitchen. And theorized beer to be a fluid entity built by microbes and societal flux.

And I mention all this because I am tired.  I have one more class to go.  And have officially hit writer's block. 

It turns out the quintessential brownie can no longer be summed up so quickly.  That and I desperately need a vacation. So forgive me.

This recipe is a wonderful example of the complication that food often provides.  It is the best brownie recipe I have encountered.  And it comes from Canada. 

Specifically, from a bakery called Olive + Gourmando, which I visited a few years ago during a trip to Montreal.  It is the kind of shop that labels pastry baked in a muffin tin with a disclaimer that reads, “this is not a red velvet cupcake,” in typewriter font next to platters of chocolat belge biscuits and thick brownies. A place that can get away with holding its middle finger up high.

An unlikely source of such a treasured archetypal American dessert.  And yet, poetically appropriate.

These brownies are of the fudge-like persuasion.  They are unapologetically dense and deep, studded with homemade espresso ganache chips that shimmer like moonlight through the pines.  They call for advanced planning by a day or two and a shocking quantity of high quality chocolate. But if you are craving sensory overload, there is no better fix.

And if you want them, you had better get on it.  This is not the type of recipe built on hastiness. Like so many worthwhile things it requires an investment of time, and of chocolate.

Olive + Gourmando Brownies with Espresso Ganache Chips
Adapted from Dyan Solomon of Olive + Gourmando 

Ingredients:

for the espresso ganache chips

375 grams (about 13½ ounces) 70% chocolate
½ cup heavy cream
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
½ tsp cinnamon

for the brownie batter

3 sticks (1½ cups) butter, cubed
455 grams (about 16 ounces) 50% chocolate, cut into cubes ½ to 1-inch
6 eggs, room temperature
1½ cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1½ tsp salt

Instructions:

for the espresso ganache chips:

These need to chill, so plan to make them a few hours ahead (or the day before).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place a metal bowl over a pan of slowly simmering water about 1-inch deep.  Melt the 70% chocolate in the bowl, stirring regularly.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, warm the heavy cream and mix in espresso powder and cinnamon; stir to dissolve. 

Pour the heavy cream into the melted chocolate; stir rapidly to combine and pour on parchment paper, smoothing the chocolate out towards the pan edges.  Place in the fridge to cool.

for the brownies:

Set the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two baking dishes with butter and cover with parchment paper—letting the paper sides hang over the dish (this will make it easier to remove the brownies). Grease the parchment paper with butter. (I used a 9 x 9 and a 6 x 12 pan: you may be able to get away with one large rectangular baking dish but it may alter the cooking time.)

Place the butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat to melt; add in the 50% chocolate and stir constantly; taking care not to let the chocolate burn.  When the chocolate has melted, remove from heat and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract; beat until it turns a pale, frothy yellow (about 5 minutes). 

In a separate small bowl, sift together flour and salt.  Remove the ganache from the fridge and break up into bite-sized pieces.

Drizzle the melted chocolate into the egg mixture (the chocolate should be warm but not scalding hot); fold together. With the mixer on low, add the flour in three additions; remove the bowl from the stand.

Fold in the ganache chips and continue to fold until no flour remains, taking care not to over mix.

Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the top looks set and starts to crack.  (Since the batter is so rich, it will be difficult to use a toothpick to test for doneness.) Let cool and then refrigerate overnight in the pan; this will aid in creating a fudge-like texture.

Makes about 25 brownies

Notes:

-You’ll want to use high quality chocolate, especially as it is such an integral part of the recipe, Callebaut or Valrhona are two options.

3.14.2015

The Dead Rabbit in Old New York

There is a bar near Battery Park in lower Manhattan that is a cross between the kind of saloon with sawdust on the floor and a spot where you can order a cocktail with bitters and not get the stink eye.  Inside is a patchwork of black and white photos hanging from the ceiling and some sort of ceramic rabbit wearing a shamrock bib and Mardi Gras beads sitting amid the booze bottles. The place is called The Dead Rabbit.

All of this should help set the stage.

If you are going to name your place after a deceased furry mammal, you are probably not a sentimentalist in the traditional sense.  What they are sentimental about, however, is cocktails. The co-founder, Jack McGarry, tested scores of recipes from the mid-nineteenth century to create his historically-rooted bar with an Old New York meets Irish-American feel.

Brett and I stumbled in on a Saturday at approximately 11 am, found the two best bar stools in the joint, and did not leave for the next three hours.  We drank a number of cocktails that day. If asked to recall them, I probably would not get much further than a sweeping implication of gin and beer, forced into a number of wonderfully barbaric midafternoon combinations.

But right before we were about to settle up, our bartender —who had a Southern drawl and was not particularly attentive that day—set down an Irish coffee.  Which I suspect was meant as a peace offering for spotty service.

We were drunk on booze and charm by this point.  But she did not know that. One sip and another was promptly ordered.  The drink became legendary thereafter. And thanks to The New York Times, we were able to uncover its secrets.

As is the case with Irish coffees, a fresh pot is brewed and whiskey is righteously employed.  The cocktail is delicately sweetened with a demerara simple syrup that plays to the barrel-aged vanilla notes of the liquor. Perhaps the piece here, however, that truly sets the cocktail apart is that the heavy cream is left unsweetened and whipped only until “ropy.” It looks like a cumulus cloud, spreading to fill the glass and floating delicately on top, graced with nutmeg in its final moments.

The whole thing ends in a pretty harmonious, self-congratulatory clink of glasses. Brett and I have become sort of crazy for them.  Also as unlikely sentimentalists in the traditional sense, we have fondly named them Dead Rabbits.

It is at once a classic and romantic cocktail.  Not too sweet, to be sure.  And with the guts that any drink from a good Irish bar would have.

It is only a slight coincidence that this information comes to you a few days prior to St. Patrick’s Day.  In the event that a superlative Irish coffee is needed this weekend, you’ll know how to drink the rabbit dead.

The Dead Rabbit
Adapted from The New York Times, courtesy of Jack McGarry from The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog

Ingredients:

1 tbsp Demerara syrup (see below)
about 3 to 4 tbsp whipped cream (see below)
3 tbsp (1½ ounces) Irish whiskey (Jameson works in a pinch)
4 ounces hot fresh coffee
dash of freshly ground nutmeg

demerara syrup
1 cup Demerara sugar
½ cup of water

whipped cream
1 cup heavy cream

Instructions:

for the Demerara syrup

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water over low heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves; set aside.

for the cocktail

Brew a pot of coffee. Meanwhile, warm a coffee mug with hot water (slightly below boiling works well).

In a medium bowl, whip the cream until it achieves a ropy consistency; it should be firm but still loose.  Place in the refrigerator until needed. 

Pour out the water from the warmed glass.  Add the syrup and whiskey.  Pour in the coffee; stir to combine.  Gently spoon the whipped cream on top. It should float if properly whipped.  The amount used will vary slightly depending on the size of your glass, but you’ll want it about ¾ inch thick and covering the liquid.

Grate nutmeg over the top.

Makes 1 cocktail

Notes:
-It’s easier to make some of the components in bulk.  The whipped cream makes enough for 3 to 4 cocktails.  You’ll have extra syrup beyond that, too. (Store the syrup in the fridge.)


-It just so happens The Dead Rabbit has won a number of awards, including Best Bar in North America last year. They do not mess around.