after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Keller

bw > tk

leave a comment »

t says: Our newest castmember, bw, has been showing off quite a baking repertoire over the past 6 or so months.  But this time … he made a dish especially for me.  Ok, that’s totally not true, but it might as well have been – look at it:


bacon cheddar scones!

Ok … so … I don’t want to offend bw with this next statement, but I have to say it: it reminds me of a McDonald’s bacon egg and cheese biscuit.  Well – but it’s better!  It doesn’t have that mouth-coating-grease sensation, but packs a wollop of bacon and cheddar in a nice airy scone (and I didn’t even get ’em straight from the oven!).  Now I know what you’re thinking: “t … you like everything with bacon … so this isn’t fair”.    I figured you’d say that … so I brought out the one pig-eating person who doesn’t feel that bacon automatically increases deliciousness: g.  g ate hers in 60 seconds flat.  Afterwards she proclaimed, “wow – this is way better than at Bouchon Bakery”.

WHOA.  Hey there now.  Did she just go there?  Did bw just take down Thomas Keller?  Yea he did.

After her comment, I brought her attention to the truth: bw actually used the recipe from Bouchon Bakery cookbook (probably reproduced accurately here)!  So … bw versus full-time paid professionals … and bw for the win!  We tried to figure out how/why this could happen.  g suspected that it was due to the larger bacon pieces and larger size of the scone, allowing it to have more substance in the center.  I feel that bw’s was seasoned more aggressively, with brighter chives.  Well, whatever it was, we give him an A+!  And … because [according to TK] “you really only begin to learn the second time you prepare a dish” … we eagerly await the second time … although not too soon: my cholesterol levels are still recuperating from the 2.5 I ate this time …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

17 January 2013 at 3:46pm

Chocolate Chip Cookies (with pix)

leave a comment »

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)

leave a comment »

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

Pasta with Wine-Marinated Short Rib Ragu

leave a comment »

t says: Just the other day (over a year ago), g and I received a Williams Sonoma catalog in the mail.  On the cover, there was the most beautiful piece of cookware I had ever seen.  It was the “slate” Le Creuset Dutch oven.  The color screamed chic and classic at the same time.  The thing is … I didn’t really know how to “use” a dutch oven.  Wasn’t it just a super-heavy pot – why would anyone want one of those?  Perhaps it’s just a status symbol (like All-Clad and Viking)?  Fast forward to June 2009 – my parents found out that I had perused Dutch ovens at one time and purchased for me a beautiful red Le Creuset for my bday.  Trust me, I liked the red one a lot (I love the color red in general – I used to have a bright red pair of shoes and am on the lookout for a new pair of bright red shoes), but I was let down that slate was no longer available at WS (curse them and their “limited edition” colors).  Interestingly, k and her then-fiance/now-husband, cm, showed us their recently acquired Dutch oven at that time – it was the SLATE one!  Apparently, the WS they had visited happened to be clearing them out (thus, while online availability was nil, I guess some stores still had stock – but I couldn’t find any).  Fiddlesticks – I knew that the search for slate was over (unless I wanted a tiny slate saucier, which was the only thing ever in stock) …

Because I was still a neophyte to the wonderful world of enameled cast iron, I decided to do some research (and looked for alternative colors and brands).  I ended up browsing a line of cookware from Staub – the “other” French Dutch oven company with quite a following of devout anti-Le Creuset-ists (I kinda liked that).  I was impressed with the black interior and self-basting “spikes” (although sometimes I wonder if this is a gimmick because Thomas Keller and Molly Stevens both recommend parchment paper to line the lids of their braising vessels), but when I saw that they were just releasing a new, limited edition “titanium gray” color, I knew it was made for me.  I swapped the red Le Creuset for the titanium gray Staub (6.5 qt – it isn’t as classic as the slate, but, because it reminds me of a brand new dark gray  bmw, it has more bling).  I also immediately invested in a copy of All About Braising, as what is the purpose of having a piece of cookware but not knowing how to use it?  Over the ensuing 6 months, I braised everything – chicken, beef, pork, vegetables, seafood (although the latter two required a smaller vessel – so I used our other cookware).  The following is my favorite recipe thus far (probably because I <3 short ribs) and is adapted from recipes by Molly Stevens and Giada De Laurentiis, with a fine point or two from Thomas Keller.  This dish has finally allowed me to see a short rib recipe on a restaurant menu and NOT automatically order it (I <3 short rib), as now I know I can make a respectable version at home (although definitely NOT fancy – very “rustic”).


the spiced EtOH:
__ 1 bottle of tasty, inexpensive red wine (For this, I like something a little less “fruity” – not Australian Shiraz or Argentinian Malbec, rather, something a bit more rustic, like some Sangiovese-based Italian blend or dip into Spain.  I personally don’t opt for Chianti because I’ve run into a lot of bad Chiantis until I started getting up into the Chianti Classico range at $20+ … which is WAY too much $$ for a recipe like this.  In short, pick a red wine you want to drink that isn’t insanely fruity.)
__ 1 tsp black peppercorns
__ 0.5 tsp allspice berries (optional)
__ 4 whole cloves (optional)a few rosemary sprigs
__ 2 bay leaves, broken in half
__ 1 tsp kosher salt
__ Cheesecloth and kitchen string (optional)

the meat:
__ ~3.5 lbs of beef short ribs bone-in (not thinly sliced)
__ Kosher salt and pepper
__ <0.5 c olive/canola oil mix (olive oil adds nice flavor, but smokes a lot – canola oil is neutral, but has a much higher smoke point – so I go 50/50, but sane people can just use whatever oil they want!  I hear grapeseed oil is good for frying, too!)

the braise:
__ 1 large onion (for this, I prefer sweet and yellow onions > white onions > red onions), diced
__ 4 cloves garlic, minced (I prefer fresh to jarred)
__ 5 roma/plum tomatoes, cut into large dice (or 4 if they seem exceptionally large, or 6 if you REALLY like tomato)
__ 2 Tbs Dijon mustard
__ <2 c beef stock (I used Kitchen Basics “Unsalted”)

the finish:
__ 0.75 lb pasta (medium-sized shape like penne, farfalle, or, my favorite, cellentani) – if using a small shape like elbows, use 1 lb
__ 1 small bag of frozen peas (you won’t use the whole bag)
__ some Italian parsley (optional)
__ Grated Parmigiano Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano (I probably use ~0.3333333333 c of each, but I just buy a small block of each, and grate it as needed to taste/texture – feel free to use one or the other depending on which you prefer or is available)


-1)  To marinate or not to marinate?  If you know you’re going to make the dish well in advance, you could marinate the beef the day before.  Unfortunately, not everyone is able to do this.  I’ll pretend that you don’t and then make recommendations afterwards if you do.  So … if you are going to cook all of this in one day … Gently pour 1.5 cups of wine into a saucepan.  Slowly turn up the heat until the wine just reaches a boil.  Turn off the heat.  When the wine stops bubbling, add peppercorns, allspice, cloves, rosemary, bay leaves, and 1 tsp kosher salt.  Stir.  Proceed to step 0 as the pot cools.
Words of wisdom re: Step -1:
a)  If you have cheesecloth, you may instead bundle the herbs/spices into a satchel tied off with kitchen string, and add the satchel to the heated wine (like a tea bag).  I have no cheesecloth, so I instead will just strain the herbs/spices after I’m done.
b)  If you’re going to marinate your meat overnight, start with a larger volume of wine (~3 cups).  Then, after the wine cools to room temperature, pour it into a high quality 1 gallon plastic bag (one you would bet your fridge on).  Seal the bag with as little air as possible, place the bag into a large bowl (to prevent spills), and place the bowl into the fridge to cool for ~1 hour.  Add the short ribs to the bagged wine and seal the bag with as little air as possible.  Return the sealed bag-o-meat-and-wine to a safety bowl in the fridge.  Marinate in refrigerator for 24-36 hours, turning at least once to ensure that all of the meat is submerged in wine at one point or another.
c)  Any remaining wine will be useful to sip as you continue with the braise.

0)  Brace yourself.  Preheat oven to 315 degrees.  Slowly heat Dutch oven or some other wide, lidded, oven-proof pot (mine is 28 cm in diameter – the smallest size capable of holding all of the ingredients for this recipe is ~5 quarts) on the stovetop to medium-high heat.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and buckle up for some cooking!  N.B. If you marinated the meat, remove the ribs from the marinade (ensuring no peppercorns, cloves, etc are stuck to the meat), pat the meat dry, and reserve 1 cup of the marinade (liquid-only – no herbs, spices, etc) – do NOT accidentally drink it.

1)  Sear the meatSeason the short ribs with kosher salt and pepper.  Next, add enough oil to the heated Dutch oven to just cover the bottom.  Brown the ribs (in batches) in the Dutch oven on all sides until beautifully crusted; set aside all ribs.  When you’re on your last side of your last batch of ribs, turn the heat down to medium-low.

2)  Assemble the braising base.  Add onions to the cooking vessel and keep them moving to avoid burning; cook until translucent.  Add garlic and mix.  As the garlic becomes fragrant (~30 seconds), add half of the tomatoes and them down until the tomatoes start getting softer.  Add the rest of the tomatoes, and cook until all the tomatoes are soft.  Add 1 cup of the spiced wine (i.e. reserved marinade) – there should be NO herbs/particles in it, as they’ll be a pain to remove later.  Mix and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden/plastic/nylon spatula to release the “brown bits”.  Cook until the new liquid (from the wine and tomatoes) reduces in half (a few minutes depending on how hot the vessel was).  Add the mustard; mix to combine and cook until simmering again.

3)  Bring on the meat.  Nestle the ribs into the Dutch oven.  Add beef broth until the total liquid in the pot reaches half-way up the ribs.  Place lid on the vessel (if your lid doesn’t have re-basting spikes or is not completely flush, put a sheet of parchment paper between the lid and the vessel).  Place into oven.

4)  Set the temperature.  Check on the vessel in 15 minutes.  If the bubbling is any more than a “very light simmer”, reduce the heat by 10 degrees and check again in 15 minutes.  Continue reducing heat in this manner until the desired bubbling is achieved.  After 1 hour of cooking, flip the short ribs.  Total cooking time will be ~3 hours or until the meat easily pulls away from the bone and is fork-tender (if you can’t poke a spoon through the meat, it’s not done yet).  Enjoy that glass of wine while you wait …

5)  Make the pasta sauce.  Remove the ribs from the cooking liquid, and set aside under a foil tent.  Let the cooking vessel sit for a few minutes, and, using a large spoon, remove any excess fat from the surface of the cooking liquid.  Alternatively, a gravy separator would also be handy.  Using a ladle, transfer the entirety of the remaining cooking liquid into the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Process/blend until the mixture is smooth sauce.  An alternative is to simply let the vessel cool, stick it in the fridge overnight, remove the congealed fat the next day with a spoon, and then sticking the vessel it straight back into the oven at a low temp just to re-heat it before proceeding to step 6.  Meats braised like the short ribs in this recipe often benefit from a night in the fridge!

6)  Make the pasta.  Cook your pasta of choice as you perform step 7.  Use a timer so you don’t accidentally overcook your pasta (step 7 is very distracting).  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water when done.

7)  Disassemble the meat.  Remove the meat from the bones.  Using 2 forks, shred the meat into smaller pieces.  Some may also want to remove large pieces of fat as well – do as you please.

8)  Ta-da!  In a serving bowl, combine pasta, the sauce, and the meat.  If the sauce needs to be thinned (which it hasn’t for me, ever), add some of the reserved pasta water (but be careful, because you might have salted the pasta water – and both of the cheeses could be salty).  Add frozen peas until the desire pasta:pea ratio is reached.  Add grated cheese(s) until the sauce takes on a creamy, cheesy texture and the desired taste.  Season with salt and pepper if necessary (given these cheeses, you’ll likely not need much of the former).  Add chopped parsley until desired parsley density is reached (adds a little vegetal zing to the dish … I find it unnecessary).