Happy Holidays, from Dear Martini!

Happy Holidays!

Dear Martini

Happy Holidays from Dear Martini

(Mia and Terri)!

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Happy Holidays from Dear Martini

Happy Holidays from Dear Martini

(Mia and Terri)!

Announcing… Video Playlists!

Hi Gang!

We’re busy keeping a cool project under wraps but for now let’s talk about something important:  VIDEOS.

Do you watch them?  Do you like them?  Are they helpful to you in your culinary pursuits?  We hope you say YES to all three!

To make things every easier for all you awesome home cooks out there, we’ve uploaded all of our current videos to YouTube for your viewing and sharing pleasure.  We’ve also made some playlists that group the videos together according to recipe.  Take a look and see what’s helpful.

Here is our Bacon and Egg Salad Playlist, for example:

We’ve got a playlist for each recipe we’ve featured here on our blog:  chocolate souffle, cranberry-orange scones, guacamole, Nicoise salad, pan-seared steak, vinaigrette, aioli… and more!

Remember to share the videos with everyone you know — especially that colleague or cousin whom you KNOW could use the help.  We’re  are in serious need of some increased numbers, so please help us spread the word.  Yes, the same videos are also still available on Vimeo, which we prefer to use; but we noticed that YouTube is still the standard when it comes to viewing and sharing.

And, as always, we wouldn’t be here without YOU.  It’s YOUR encouragement and support that keeps up wanting to make more great videos for you.  So THANK YOU for being here with us!

xxoo

Mia and Terri

A Conversation about Crying and Stinking… Onions and Garlic, that is.

The following is an excerpt from a general-composite conversation we’ve had with a number of people over the years.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent.  Perhaps the dialogue has not been transcribed verbatim…but whatever.  You get the gist.

Q:            Hey there, DearMartini, what’s up with the Onion-crying thing and the Garlic-stinking thing?

DM:            Onions and garlic are the most aromatic tools in the culinary world.  They offer flavor and aroma in so many different ways – without them, our lives (and tastebuds) would be terribly bland and boring.

Q:              Why does chopping onions make us cry?

DM:            That’s perhaps the most common cooking-related question in the Culinary Universe — the mystery of how and why onions make us cry… and how can we avoid crying.

Chefs Mia and Terri have taught home cooks like you the basic knife skill techniques for years.  Each time, when we reach that point in class where we have to face the inevitable onion-dicing lesson, we are pelted with a barrage of questions from students.  “How can we stop from crying?”  “OMG, my eyes are burning!  What’s happening to me??”  “Does that method where we chop them under water actually work?”  One of the best answers we have to the most common question, “How do we keep from crying when we chop onions?” is “Get someone else to do it for you.”

OK. All joking aside, if you wear eye protection in the form of goggles, contact lenses or scuba masks, then you’re pretty much out of the woods.  The rest of us, however, have to suffer the intense burning and eye discomfort as we prep for dinner.

So, why do onions make us cry?  The answer is both simple, and complex.

The simple answer is, onions have a natural defense mechanism to keep predators from eating them:  there is a compound in them that releases gases and fumes into the air when their cell walls are broken, which react to the delicate membranes in our eyes and noses that cause the burning reaction.

For a more complex answer, we turn to our most honored and respected food scientist, Harold McGee, who wrote the definitive book on food science, On Food and Cooking, the Science and Lore of the Kitchen:

“The distinctive flavors of the onion family come from its defensive use of the element sulfur.  The growing plants take up sulfur from the soil and incorporate it into four different kinds of chemical ammunition, which float in the cell fluids while their enzyme trigger is held separately in a storage vacuole.  When the cell is damaged by chopping or chewing, the enzyme escapes and breaks the ammunition molecules in half to produce irritating, strong-smelling sulfurous molecules… One sulfur product is produced in significant quantities only in the onion, shallot, leek, chive and rakkyo:  the “lacrimator,” which causes our eyes to water.  This volatile chemical escapes from the damaged onion into the air, and lands in the onion cutter’s eyes and nose, where it apparently attacks nerve endings directly, then breaks down into hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, and sulfuric acid.  A very effective molecular bomb!”

Q:            WOW.  TMI.  All we wanted to know is how do we REALLY keep from crying when we chop onions.

DM:            Well, if you really can’t handle wearing your swim goggles in the kitchen, we suggest a couple of things:

1)   Keep your onions as cold as possible – the cold temperature slows down the enzyme, buying you a few more seconds of time before waterworks begin;

2)   Keep your cuts to a minimum – be as efficient as you can with your chopping.  No mincing or mashing, please.  Remember, the more cell walls that are damaged, the more the enzymes have a chance to tango with the compounds;

3)   Keeping your knife as razor-sharp as possible is related to #2 – a super-sharp knife can cut through just enough cell walls that it needs to without mashing, tearing or bruising more (which is what a dull knife would do).

4)   If you have a lot of onions to chop at once, keep your kitchen well-ventilated or light a match over the fumes.

5)   And if all else fails, get someone else to chop the onions for you!

Q:             Ha.  Ha.  Very funny.  Can’t we just buy them pre-chopped?

DM:            Well, you could, but that won’t minimize the effects of crying.  The compounds and volatile fumes only get stronger when they sit for longer periods of time.

Q:            So is that why garlic stinks so badly on our hands after we chop it?

DM:            You could say that…

Q:            Do you have any tips on how to get the garlic smell off our hands?

DM:            Try rubbing your hands with a stainless steel spoon under running water, then washing your hands with soap and water.  The steel reacts to the garlic compounds on your fingers and neutralizes the odor.  It’s always worked for us.

Q:            What if I want to get rid of garlic breath?  Can I rub a spoon all over the inside of my mouth, too?

DM:            Nice try, but no.  Sorry.

HOW TO DICE AN ONION

Without fail the cooking technique everyone wants to learn, and are always impressed with is how to dice an onion.

In order to create the dice (distinct cubes) you first make a series of horizontal slices, then a series of vertical slices, and then you cut across the grid you’ve made to complete the dice.

We’ve always taught the “old school method”, but after years of teaching this method we’ve found that it has a couple of flaws for most cooks –- if you don’t have a razor sharp knife it’s not that easy to do AND it can be pretty darn unsafe!

I just kept thinking there has to be a better way….  Dozens of onions later (remember Julia chopping onions in Julie & Julia) and I finally figured out a solution that made sense to me.

Sacrifice a tiny piece of the onion to create a flat surface on one of the sides of the onion.  Now the onion can be flipped up and down and it remains stable.  Use the power of your knife to cut down towards the board to complete both series of slices. No more dangerous sawing towards your hand because your knife is less than razor sharp…

Here it is — The “Flat Out Easier Method!”  Try it out and let us know if it works for you.

GAME OF SCONES

When I take an interest in something, I get obsessed with it. In this case, it was finding the recipe for The Perfect Scone. For nearly 2 months, I made a batch of scones every single day. I tried every method out there to achieve the butteriest (yes, that’s a word), flakiest, most tender melt-in-your-mouth scones ever produced on the planet.

I learned the hard way that nothing can be perfect (though our Italian Meringue Buttercream gets pretty close but that’s another blog post, of course). What I’ve developed instead, over the years of trial and error in search for the perfect scone recipe is more a fool-proof method for achieving the best results possible. To be honest, food science plays a big part. Just understand the principles of heat (and cold) management, how butter behaves, what steam brings to the party and how the slightest hint of gluten formation can wreck the tender texture of the scone.

Follow my simple rules and you can’t go wrong. I promise. It doesn’t matter which recipe you use. Just change the method to follow these principles.

Chef Terri’s Principles for the Best Possible Scones:

1) Keep your ingredients, especially the butter, as cold as possible. This is counter-intuitive, I know, when all you’ve heard all your baking life is how all ingredients must be at room temperature for good baking results. Chilled butter, not softened, is best for scones.

2) Mix your scone dough by hand with a wooden spoon instead of using a mixer. A mixer can over-mix your dough and develop that evil gluten. OK, a food processor might work well to cut the butter, but mix the wet ingredients in by hand, please.

3) Soak your dried fruit (such as raisins, cranberries, cherries or blueberries) in hot water for a few minutes. Drain them just before you add them to the dough. The dried fruits will soak up any moisture they can, robbing your scone of its precious steam during the baking process. Alternatively, the heat of the oven could dry out the fruit even more — producing hard pellets, not soft, luscious flavorful fruit.

4) Don’t use a rolling pin. There is no knead for it. ;) Instead, gently use your palms to flatten the dough into one even layer. Lift up and fold it in half, then give it a quarter-turn and pat down again to flatten. Do this 4-6 more times. Your hard work will be rewarded. Our patting-folding-turning method is great to achieve multiple layers of butter and dough with very little toughness, rewarding you later with tender flakes when it’s baked.

5) Chill your dough between every stage — even before sliding the prepared scones in the oven. In fact, the best scones I ever made were frozen before they hit the hot oven. Remember, if the dough (and consequently, the butter) is warm and soft before it goes into the oven, the butter will melt quickly and not have a chance to leave behind the flaky layers we so desperately desire. If ever you feel as if your ingredients are getting warm at any time during the scone-making process, just return everything to the fridge for a few minutes to firm up the butter. You’ll be glad you did.

Remember, when working with our recipes on the blog, simply hit the blue hyperlinks to see the technique video associated with the recipe. It’s our way of guiding you through the recipe. Alternatively, you can view our Vimeo Portfolio, where all of the scone-related videos are bundled: http://vimeopro.com/dearmartini/scones

Cranberry-Orange Scones (Makes 24 scones)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 cups plus ¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Zest of one orange

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup cold heavy cream

1 egg, beaten for egg wash

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (or regular sugar) (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Soak the cranberries hot water for 10 minutes, or at least as long as it takes to prepare the rest of the recipe. Drain and set aside.

Cut up the butter sticks and keep in the freezer until you are ready to use them. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest with a wooden spoon.

Add the butter. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or by rubbing the butter and flour together between your fingers. Do this very quickly and randomly. You should still have lumps of butter varying from small (pea-sized) to large (blueberry sized). Do not let the butter get soft. If it does, return the bowl to the fridge for a few minutes.

Combine the eggs and heavy cream together and add to the flour mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy, lumpy mass. It’s ok that it’s not smooth or uniformly mixed in. It’s ok to see random lumps of butter still not mixed in. Drain the cranberries and add them and the remaining cup of flour to the dough. Mix gently until the cranberries are distributed evenly in the dough.

Transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface and gently, with floured hands, pat it down into a rough rectangle shape about 1-inch thick. Use a spatula and pick up one end of the dough and fold it over in half. Pick up the entire dough piece and turn it 45-degrees. Flour your hands and pat it down into another rectangle. Pick up one end and fold it over, then pick up the entire dough piece and turn it 45-degrees again. Repeat this patting, folding, turning method 4 more times. Keep flour dusted underneath the dough as you turn it.

For the last pat-down, make sure the rectangle is about 10-12 inches long and 6 inches wide. Use a sharp knife and cut three strips of dough, each strip being about 2 inches wide and 10- 12 inches long. Cut each strip into 8 triangular pieces and lay each piece on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or foil. You can fit 12 pieces on one tray, and prepare another tray for the remaining 12. Refrigerate the scones for about 30 minutes to firm up the butter.

Just before baking, lightly brush the egg wash over the tops of the scones and sprinkle the tops with the turbinado sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool.

ZEST FOR LIFE


It’s a fragrance that easily transports me… The heady aroma of lemon oil hits my nose.  I’m spiraling into a special place…  It’s the zest.  Lemon zest, to be exact, though pretty much the oils from any citrus peel will do it for me. RuBo tweets daily about the effects (benefits) of smoking tangerine zest*.

So, what is zest, anyway?  Is it an ingredient?  Is it a technique?  Is it a utensil? Here’s our first-ever compilation video treating the concept of zest.  Enjoy!

Don’t try this at home.

I used to hate to zest.  Now I live for it.

In the old days, zesting meant having to drag out that dented, rusty old box grater, dread mounting in my heart as I knew I’d also be skinning my knuckles, trying to get the treasured citrus peel off the fruit for my recipe.  Oh yes, picking out the zest from the clogged grater holes with the tip of my knife…  knowing I look like a complete idiot when I do that…  right, and then there’s that well-meaning-yet-equally-useless kitchen tip that suggests you cover the grater with a layer of parchment paper (or even more horrifically, plastic wrap) so you can “lift” up the zest from the grater … and presumably some bits of paper (or plastic) along with it.  No thanks.

But times are better now.  Now, peeling/zesting oranges (lemons, limes, tangerines… etc) is a snap.  Just make sure you’re using the right tool for the job/type of zest you need.

Why not try some for yourself?  I’ve included two of my favorite recipes.

Orange-Cinnamon Shortbread Cookies (makes about 36 cookies, depending on the size)

2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

zest of 1 orange (microplaned or minced)

3 ¼ cups all purpose flour

2-3 cookie sheets covered with parchment or foil

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 5 – 10 minutes or until the mixture is light and soft and fluffy.  Add the cinnamon and orange zest and beat for 2 minutes more to incorporate.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the flour by hand with a rubber spatula.  The dough will be soft.

Place a handful of the dough at a time on a lightly floured work surface.  Use a floured hand to press out the dough until it is about 3/8-inch thick – don’t make the dough too thin.  Cut out the shortbreads and place them on the prepared pans about 1 ½ inches apart.  They don’t spread, but they will puff up a bit during baking.

Continue until all of the dough has been rolled out and cut – you can press the scraps together and roll it out as well until all of the dough is used up.

Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes making sure they are just a very pale golden color.  Slide the parchment onto cooling racks.

Wild rice salad (serves 6-8)

1 cup wild rice

1/2 small red onion, small diced

1 stalk celery, small diced

1 small carrot, peeled and small diced

2 tablespoons julienned orange peel

½ cup dried cranberries (optional)

½ cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

½ teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Rinse wild rice in a sieve under cold water, then combine with cold water to cover by 2 inches in a 5-quart pot. Simmer, covered, until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Wild rice is done when all of the seeds have split open.

Rinse the cooked wild rice in a sieve under cold water and drain. Stir together rice, onion, celery, carrot, orange zest, cranberries and pecans.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a small jar, combine the garlic, vinegar, and olive oil and shake to emulsify.    Toss dressing with rice mixture and fresh parsley.  Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper.  Serve at room temperature.

Salad can be kept for 3 days, covered and refrigerated.

*Ruth Bourdain is a fictitious character celebritweet with an equally fictitious penchant for deep, dark vices.  Do not smoke tangerine zest. In fact, don’t smoke anything; unless it’s using one of these.

WHAT’S A DEAR MARTINI?

Mia & Terri

I’m sure at least of couple of folks have been wondering why we’re called Dear Martini and why two chef instructors who teach COOKING are using a name that references a cocktail.

Is it because of this guy?

Well…. yes, we like his music… but no.

Or because we like to drink these?

Um… actually, we DO enjoy these from time to time… but no.

Nope — actually, it came about a little over a year ago.  We were going round and round trying to come up with a name for our new startup and using our initials (TDMC) just didn’t do it for us.  It sounded too corporate, too enterprising.  We wanted something that sounded interesting.  Something that rang like a bell.  Something people would want to learn more about when they heard it.

In an absolute random moment one afternoon, just for giggles and grins, I ran “Mia and Terri” through an online anagram generator.  Lots and lots of letter-rearranging came out with some serious gobbledegook.  But ONE word leapt off the screen and smacked me in my face:  dearmartini

When I suggested it to Mia, she agreed.  It was a good name.  We started using it right away.

So there you have it.

Now — if only the name for our PRODUCT could come just as easily…

WELL, THAT WAS AWKWARD…

Darlings, we’re all human. No one is perfect. Oh, and haste makes a huge pain in the ass.

It is with great humility that I inform you that last night, as I was in a rush to prepare dinner for myself, I experienced a most inconvenient kitchen accident.

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What you see here is a triple-bandaided left index finger, minus its fingernail. In fact, it’s hard to type this.

But I thought you all should know — even professional chefs make mistakes and cut themselves. Though we should most definitely heed our own advice, sometimes our own digits get in the way of the knife. Even Chef Ramsay isn’t immune from such tragedy.

In fact, what happened in that video was exactly what I did last night. Except, no Ellen, no audience, no vegan stir fry (gorgeous recipe, by the way) no TV cameras (thankfully). I admire how he just kept on cooking…

Expect an in-depth how-to video on proper knife skills in the near future.

;

Postscript:
Two days later, the throbbing is still there… Any guesses as to how long it’ll take to grow back??

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