Pickled Lemon Asparagus

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1⁄2 pound asparagus
3⁄4 cup distilled white vinegar
3⁄4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 (3-inch) strip lemon zest
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon pickling salt

Trim the woody ends from the asparagus. Cut the asparagus into 2-inch lengths.

Combine the white vinegar, water, and sugar in a saucepan and heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Pack the lemon zest, garlic, coriander seeds, and salt into a hot 1-pint canning jar. Fill with the asparagus. Pour in the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1⁄2 inch headspace. Seal.

Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.  Let cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Store in a cool, dry place. Do not open for 6 weeks to allow the flavors to develop.

 

Chicken Dashi

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Meat dashi’s are pretty rare in Japanese Cuisine.  Here in the United States chef David Chang has made his bacon dashi infamous in culinary circles.

This Dashi can be made more luxurious by replacing the chicken bones with duck bones.

3 pounds 5 ounces chicken bones
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
2 scallions, white part only
3 1/2 ounces carrots
1 3/4 ounces of ginger
1 cup sake

14 3/4 cups cold water

Remove any bits of fat from the chicken bones. Rub the salt into the bones and set aside for 1 hour to allow salt to penetrate.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bones in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the scallion stalks in half and carefully char them over a gas flame on the stove or under the broiler. Wash and roughly slice the unpeeled carrots and ginger.

Transfer the hot roasted bones to a large stockpot and add the rest of the ingredients. Quickly bring to a boil, then simmer until the stock is reduced by half, skim off any scum that rises to the surface.

Remove the bones from the pot, and pass the stock through a fine sieve.

The dashi will keep in the fridge for a few days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.

 

Vegetarian Dashi

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8 cups cold water
14 ounces of vegetable offcuts and peelings from 4 different kinds of vegetables such as carrots, daikon, Chinese cabbage, pumpkin, turnip, etc.
2 slices of root ginger
3/4 ounces of konbu

Place all the ingredients in a pan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer until reduced by half.

Strain through a fine sieve and use as needed.

The dashi will keep in the fridge for a few days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.

 

Shiitake Mushroom Dashi

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5 cups Vegetarian Konbu Dashi Stock
11/4 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms
1 teaspoon caster sugar
pinch of sea salt

Add Vegetarian Konbu Dashi Stock to a pan until hot but not boiling, then remove from the heat.

Add the shiitake mushrooms, sugar and salt to the hot konbu dashi and let them soak for 2–4 hours. Remove the mushrooms, reserving them for another recipe.

Strain the dashi into a bowl avoiding any sediment or grit from the bottom of the pan.

The dashi will keep in the fridge for a few days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.

 

Vegetarian Konbu Dashi Stock

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11/4 ounces konbu
5 cups cold water
pinch of sea salt

Gently wipe the konbu with a damp cloth. Add the konbu and water to a pan, cover with a lid and let it stand for 8 hours or preferably overnight. The longer the soaking time, the more flavoursome your stock will be. At the end of the soaking time, remove the konbu from the water, add a pinch of salt and mix well. The konbu dashi is ready to be used.

The dashi will keep in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Niboshi Dashi

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This Dashi is a much stronger flavored version than the bonito and konbu dashi.  Excellent for Miso Soup and Ramen.

Pluck off and discard the fish heads, open up the fish stomachs and remove and discard the insides. Place the prepared fish in a pan with the measured water and konbu, or with the Traditional Fish Based Dashi, and leave to soak for one hour.

Bring the water quickly to a boil, skim off any scum that rises to the surface and simmer very gently for 6–10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and pass through a very fine muslin-lined sieve.

The dashi will keep in the fridge for a few days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.

 

Traditional Fish Based Dashi

11/4 ounces konbu
5 cups cold water
2 cups dried bonito fish flakes

Gently wipe the konbu with a damp cloth. Fill a pan with the  water, add the konbu and leave it to stand, covered, for 6–8 hours. Remove the lid and, on a low heat, bring the water to a near boil.

Remove the konbu just before the water boils as it will give off a strong smell and bitter flavour if boiled at this point.

Bring the stock to a full boil then immediately add the dried bonito flakes, remove the pan from the heat. Do not stir and allow the flakes to settle to the bottom of the pan for a few minutes, skim any foam from the surface. Pass the dashi through a muslin-lined sieve without pressing it.

The dashi will keep in the fridge for a few days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Culinary Fun Fact: How To Use Gelatin

Gelatin is a protein that dissolves in hot liquids and gels when cold. It is used to set light custards such as panna cotta among various other uses both sweet and savory.

The natural gelatin contained in meat and bones is what causes cold broth consommé or aspic to set.

Many of home cooks don’t like gelatin because if overused, it makes things rubbery. It’s best used in the smallest amount needed to get a liquid to set, about half the amount specified on the package, which says that one packet will set 1 cup liquid. In fact, one packet will barely set, which generally what you want, 2 cups of liquid.

When using powdered gelatin, soften it in about 3 tablespoons cold water per packet before adding it to hot or warm liquids.

Some recipes call for sheet gelatin, which happens to be the preferred form in Europe. When using sheet gelatin, soak it first in cold water until it becomes soft. It’s difficult to arrive at equivalents between sheet gelatin and powdered gelatin because different brands of sheet gelatin contain different amounts of gelatin per sheet.

 

 

“Red Truck Bakery” Inspired Country Ham Scones with Cheddar and Scallions

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3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed, plus 2 tablespoons, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1½ cups coarsely chopped (1-inch pieces) country ham
8 scallions, sliced into ¼-inch-wide pieces
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Cut the chilled cubed butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until broken down into pea-sized pieces.

Pour the buttermilk into the dry mixture all at once and, using a spoon, fold in the buttermilk quickly and as gently as possible. Add the ham, scallions, and cheese and gently mix until completely incorporated.

Flour your hands and reach into the bowl and under the dough and combine, flipping it around. Mix it up as gently as possible without being too tough on the dough. The dough will be sticky, but manageable. Add more flour if needed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and, working lightly, use your hands to pat the dough into a roughly 8 x 10-inch rectangle about ¾ inch thick.

Dip a 3-inch biscuit cutter into flour and cut as many scones as you can from the dough.  Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the pan after halfway through the cooking time, until the tops are light golden brown.

Meanwhile mix the 2 tablespoons melted butter with a pinch of salt.

Transfer the scones to a wire rack and brush their tops with the melted butter. The scones will keep in a tightly sealed plastic bag at room temperature for up to a day or so for best results.