Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Cooking and Baking...

On Monday we had salmon. I had gotten two salmon filets, some asparagus and wild rice at WF figuring that I'd figure out what to do with it when I got home. Originally I thought I would bake the salmon in the oven over the asparagus, but the salmon had the skins on and I thought I'd check some of my cookbooks for a different recipe. I had also picked up some pecan panko. In the Gourmet Cookbook I decided between salmon in a balsamic reduction (is there any other kind?) and salmon cooked on a bed of salt. I went for the salt!

It was pretty neat, if I may say so. The recipe called for two cups of sea salt/kosher salt to be put on the bottom of a pan, heat on high for four minutes or until the salt begins to smoke a bit. Pat your salmon filets dry and season with salt and pepper (I also added the pecan panko to the top of the filets... Then you place your salmon filets on the salt, skin side down. Cover and watch the fun begin until the salmon is cooked through. It was pretty nifty, I came back a few minutes later (after setting up my asparagus to roast in the oven in a citrus dill marinade and got the wild rice cooking) and there was my salmon all pink! Unfortunately, as we do not yet have an actual exhaust fan that exits the house, the kitchen has smelled like salt/salmon since Monday but the overall outcome was really tasty and incredibly easy. The salmon was nice and moist and was a great accompaniment for the asparagus and rice.

Then, tonight I made my version of cobb salad-- I threw in the kitchen sink including mini heirloom tomatoes, red peppers, ham, chicken, avocado, blue cheese, monterey jack and hardboiled egg. But, where's the challenge in putting together a salad? I also took my first try at Madelines.

Since trying honey madelines at Fauchon in Paris I had been on a quest to make my own. The Mom got me a bone fide made in France madeline pan and then it was just off to find a recipe. I had found a recipe on the web, the Mom had sent me one, there's one in Ina Garten's Paris cookbook, there's one in Baking with Julia, there's one in the Martha Stewart cookies book then there's one in "The New French Baker". Problem? They're all slightly different. The one on the web had me using unbleached all-purpose flour. Patricia Wells? All-purpose flour and under no circumstances use "unbleached"! Gourmet, Martha and Julia? All use cake flour. Turns out the difference between all-purpose flour and cake flour has to do with the gluten content and thus the "toughness" or doughiness. Bread flour has a high gluten content, all-purpose is a blended flour with intermediate gluten levels, cake and pastry flour being those with even less gluten so they are considered "softer" flours.

Then, to add even more confusion to this process, some of the recipes have you baking at 400, some at 350, some at 375. Some people have you refrigerate the batter for up to an hour before baking. It seems there is little consensus in the world of madelines and of course, I couldn't find the "official" Fauchon recipe.

I ended up going with the Gourmet recipe, even though it called for cake flour and all I had was unbleached all-purpose. I also wanted to try and make these "honey" flavored like what I had at the Place de Madeline so I used three spoons full of Fauchon acacia honey once the batter was final. The end result? Really tasty! The color was a bit uneven (the shell/fan side was a bit more brown than I would have liked which I attributed to the fact that I had buttered/floured the pan) but that's something I can work on. I figure next time I'll get some cake flour and maybe try the Julia Child version. One of my cookbooks also had a chocolate/orange recipe-- I think I may just try the orange... we'll see what a little Grand Marnier can do!

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