after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Ad Hoc At Home

Philadelphia Almost Shut-out from James Beard

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t says: James Beard Award winners were announced recently.  Bibou didn’t make best new restaurant as I had dreamed.  The only Philly standout seems to be Osteria’s Jeff Michaud for Best Chef: Midatlantic – which is still quite an accomplishment.  A lot of NY and CA restaurants and chefs took home many of the categories – I look forward to eating at their restaurants … one day …  Separately, Ad Hoc at Home did get a cookbook award, but not Momofuku Cookbook … darn.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

9 May 2010 at 8:46am

Chocolate Chip Cookies (with pix)

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t says: Chocolate chip cookies hold a special place in nearly everyone’s heart (I guess maybe not if you’re allergic). I’ve always been on the lookout for great recipes, but never found one that 1) was easy and 2) gave me a cookie that I liked more than break-and-bake cookies (the new caramel-stuffed Nestle ones are a force to be reckoned with).

Enter Ad Hoc at Home. When I saw that there was a recipe for chocolate chip cookies in a book by Thomas Keller, I figured that it must be some sort of ridiculous 70-step monster. You see, TK has a knack for recipes that aren’t friendly for the home cook. For instance, his chicken soup recipe requires individually cooking each of the components (e.g. carrots, celery, chicken, dumplings) before adding them to a separately prepared broth in the very last step. I was happy to find that his chocolate chip cookie recipe was quite reasonable in terms of methods. And, when a friend (who shall remain unnamed to protect his/her identity so his/her mother won’t be offended by the following quote) claimed “they might be the best cookies he/she has ever had”, I just had to post the recipe for him/her, which was halved and modified for the ingredients we had on hand (TK normally calls for dark brown sugar and mix of milk and dark chocolates – as well as sifting the chocolate before adding it in so you can eliminate really tiny pieces of chocolate so your cookies “look clean” … yea … if he just started with a bag of chips like us, he wouldn’t have that problem).


__ 1 cup + 3 Tbs + 0.5 tsp all-purpose flour (don’t complain – I could have written 56.5 tsp)
__ 0.5 tsp baking soda, minus a smidgen
__ 0.5 tsp kosher salt
__ 0.25 lb (1 stick) cold unsalted butter (I don’t know why cold, but what TK wants, TK gets)
__ 0.5 c packed light brown sugar
__ 0.375 c granulated sugar
__ 1 extra large egg (although we have used jumbo from time to time – I think the cookies are taller – but I haven’t measured it)
__ 50% of an 11.5-0z bag of Ghirardelli 60% cacao “bittersweet” chocolate chips
__ x tsp baking powder (I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m contemplating adding just a smidge to get slightly cakier cookies)


1) Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

2) Cut butter into small pieces.  In a stand-mixer (with paddle), beat half of the butter at medium-low speed until smooth. Add the remaining butter, the granulated sugar, and the brown sugar, beating for a few minutes until the mixture gets fluffy and dry-looking. Slowly add the egg while mixing, until incorporated evenly.

2) Turn the mixer to slowest setting. Add the dry ingredients from step 1.  Mix until even, but mix as little as humanly possible.

Pre-Chipped Dough

3)  Remove bowl from stand and add the chocolate chips, folding them in until evenly distributed.

Post-chipped dough

4) Shape dough into 2 Tbs sized balls. Should make ~15 cookies. Put into freezer to chill for at least 30 mins.

Ok … so I’m missing one – only 29.

5) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place cookies onto sheet with ample space between (2 inches or more).  We have a thick cookie sheet and thin one (which I bought for $1 at Ikea), and we have a silpat and patchment paper.  I like the parchment paper and the thin sheet better.

Run! We’re being attacked by cookie dough balls!

6) Bake for 6 minutes. Rotate pans. Bake until the tops of the cookies lose their sheen (~12 mins, total).  The edges touching the pan will take on a brown color – that’s ok – but if they’re burning … you’ve gone too far.  Carefully remove the tray from the oven – if you bump it, the cookies will deflate.  Boo!

Note how shiny the dough on the left 2 cookies look … they’re not done!

7) Slide parchment paper with cookies onto cooling rack – without bumping them, of course.  Although the dough no longer looks “wet” like it did when only 6 minutes had past, you might note that the cookie is still very flimsy – as if it was undercooked.  Don’t fret – let it cool.  In a few minutes, the poofy, flimsy dough will have solidified into a deliciously cakey cookie.  I feel that five minutes later is a perfectly acceptable time to wait before eating them – but I like ’em soft.

A mouth’s eye view … and these are only HALF the height of the cookies made straight from the freezer.

Getting fancy with some additives: dried cherries, candied ginger.

Still delicious.

Extra tips:

1)  TK suggests that if you want softer cookies, mist lightly with water before baking.  I don’t even bother with this step anymore, as they are plenty soft.

2)  You can keep the dough balls in the freezer or refrigerator – I’d put them in a sealable container so they don’t lose too much moisture.  If you choose the fridge, then I probably wouldn’t go for any more than a few days, as it does have raw egg in it.  But, what I recently found is that, despite what TK says (and what I used to espouse), I see nothing wrong with taking these dough balls straight from the freezer to the oven – I’ve done the head-to-head test between frozen and defrosted dough balls (i.e. ones that were in the fridge overnight) and they come out no different at all!  One may also try to NOT refrigerate the dough at all and go straight to baking after you assemble the ingredients, but these cookies definitely turn out flatter – so I don’t like that option …

2.5)  I noticed that the longer you let the cookies sit in the freezer (e.g. two weeks vs. 1 day), the taller they stay after baking – I’m not sure why this is the case.  I’ve achieved approximately 67% taller cookies by waiting one week.

3)  Re: salt.  You can sprinkle some kosher salt on top of the dough balls to give it that nice salt-chocolate taste.  I also tried rolling the dough balls in salt – yea – bad idea – it didn’t look like a lot of salt, but it was …  Once, I ran out of unsalted butter, so I used salted butter and cut the kosher salt in half – worked fine!

5)  Re: chocolate.  I tried to use this recipe with a mix of milk and dark chocolates (from Naked Chocolate) – it just isn’t the same.  I think because I used light brown sugar, I depend on the dark Ghirardelli chips bring more flavor to the party.  I once substituted the dark Ghirardelli chips with Nestle dark chocolate – also note the same (the Nestle chocolate was kinda wussy).  Also – if you do remove the dark chocolate (or use not-as-dark dark chocolate, like Nestle), cut back on the salt some – I found the cookies to be on the verge of “salty” when I used milk chocolate.

6)  I did try the recipe including dark brown sugar (3:1 dark:light), but found that the cookie, itself, just didn’t taste “right” anymore – it didn’t bring the right contrast to the dark chocolate chips.  Maybe if I used milk choocolate it would have been better?  I don’t know.  But because I will always use dark chocolate chips, I’m now never going to use dark brown sugar … although I have to suffer through the remaining dark brown sugar so I have an excuse to buy some light brown sugar …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

20 February 2010 at 2:52pm

Salt-Entombed Striped Bass (with pix)

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t says:  We saw this beautiful salt-entombed fish on Iron Chef America (followed by raves from tasters), and Thomas Keller has a great photo of one in Ad Hoc at Home; but it never occurred to us that we could actually do this ourselves.  g and I rarely cook fish – it’s not that we don’t like it, but we fear screwing up when cooking it (no one likes dry fish) when it’s way more expensive than, say, chicken (and it doesn’t keep that well, either).  Our friends who have no such fears and share similar television-viewing tastes to ours, were also intrigued by salt encrusted fish; however, they actually had the activation energy needed to make a plan and execute a Sunday night dinner.  They invited us to join their scheme and off we were to Reading Terminal Market to purchase a large [to us] striped bass.  We settled on Wan’s seafood (despite the better reputation and cleaner appearance, John Yi’s striped bass had a little glaucoma) and watched as they scaled and gutted it.  We joined up with our friends, k and cm, and, guided by a few recipes, we prepped the fish, we cooked the fish, and we ate the fish.  Poor Herbie never stood a chance.  The whole procedure ended up being quite simple (with minimal prep time, as the fishmonger did all the hard work), but the results were phenomenal – both for our eyes and our mouth.  Why hadn’t someone told us that this is the easiest way to cook tender, juicy fish, ever?  Below is the recipe that we constructed (adapted from Thomas Keller’s and Alton Brown’s recipes).  It was so easy and delicious that we did it again the following day (with Herbina) just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke – it wasn’t (g’s cousin, d, informed us that indeed, it wasn’t … it was a striped bass).


__ 1 striped bass gutted and scaled, fins and gills removed, head and tail intact (4-4.5 lb in weight before gutting).  We have read that snapper and tilapia are similar to striped bass and therefore may be substituted – we haven’t tried it [yet].
__ 3 lb kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand is what we used – we used Morton’s once and the proportions were all wrong – stupid variable coarseness between brands) (n.b. If you use a larger fish, you will have to use more salt, as the listed amount was perfect for the size fish we purchased)
__ 4 egg whites
__ 0.75 c water
__ handful of flat-leaf parsley
__ 0.5 bulb (+ fronds) of fennel, cut in half (so you’ll have two quarters of the bulb)
__ 0.5 lemon, sliced into at least four slices
__ 0.5 orange, sliced into at least four slices


0)  Set oven to 425 degrees.

1)  Rinse and pat the fish dry.  Stuff with fennel, lemon slices, and parsley.

Meet Herbina. Isn't she pretty?

Herbina's stuffed.

2)  Combine salt, eggs, and water in a bowl.  Hand-mix.

3)  In a pan (lined with aluminum foil for easy cleanup), put a half-inch thick layer of salt mixture to lay the fish on (just a little bigger than the fish’s actual size).  Place fish onto its salt (kind of like a body in a chalk-outline at a crime scene).  Lightly pack salt to completely cover the fish.  We used the entirety of the salt mixture for our sized fish.  Some exposed tail is ok (we had to cut the tail because of the small oven).  You don’t have to suture the slit where you stuffed the fish, just close the wound manually and cover with salt to keep closed.  When you’re done, give it a look over to ensure there are no obvious cracks.

"It's like burying your feet in sand at the beach!"

Where'd she go? Into her sarcophagus! (macabre, I know)

4)  Transport fish to oven.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Rotate pan 180 degrees.  Cook for 20 more minutes.  If you have no faith that the fish is done, you could attempt to penetrate the crust with a fork or skewer into the thickest part of the fish, wait 5 seconds, and then remove the object and touch it to your lip to ensure it’s warm.  Alternatively, you could just test the temperature of the thickest part with a thermometer (I think 125 degrees is the desired temperature, but I don’t know for sure – obviously we did NOT use a thermometer).  Let rest for 10 minutes (this is vital).

Herbina's in a sauna.

5)  In a dramatic fashion, crack the crust with a stern stroke of a large spoon or a mallet or a [clean] hammer.  Attempt to remove the crust in large pieces if possible; try not to accidentally pierce the skin and introduce salt to the tender meat underneath, especially when removing salt from the open slit where you stuffed the fish.

Hammer and chisel (i.e. butter knife).

Look inside! It's Herbina!

She's almost free!

Free at last.

6)  Remove the skin from the exposed side of the fish.  Remove the exposed fillet of meat resting on the ?spine?.  Remove the ?spine?, bones, and stuffing (the stuffing doesn’t taste good – we tried it).  Remove the remaining fillet of meat.  Depending on your meat-removal skills, you may have to eat with a little bit of caution, but most of the bones in a fish this size are large, so it’s not as bad.  The trickiest bones are the ones where the fins (if your fish still had fins) would connect to the body.  Brush up on your fish anatomy (google works) if you want to be an expert filleter.

Herbina's beauty is more than skin-deep.

"Fish have layers ... like ogres."

After you remove a fillet, remove the shrubbery.

Yikes - Herbina's looking a little ... thin ...

Written by afterdinnersneeze

16 February 2010 at 10:33pm