September cooking group

September 21, 2009

We hosted our monthly cooking group yesterday, and it was a hoot. This month’s cooking adventures were inspired by Michael Ruhlman’s book “Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.”

To quote a review of the book from the Gastronomer’s Bookshelf

“Ask older cooks how to make a scone dough, pie pastry, custard, or many other standards and they might well reply with a list of quantities: “a pound of flour to half a pound of butter to 1 egg” or something like that. This type of relationship of ingredients–a ratio–was fundamental to much domestic cookery, and Ruhlman argues ratios are wired into the brain of every chef. He believes that modern domestic cooks have been blinded to these simple ratios by the chains of seemingly new recipes, each with a tweak here or there. By learning the underlying rules, the domestic cook might be free to cook with their own creativity.”

Plan for the Menu:

  • Dueling pie crusts/tart crusts: Using the same ratio (3 parts flour:2 parts fat:1 part liquid) and our collective creative license for the ingredients, let’s make two different pie/tart crusts, and fill them as we feel inspired to fill them.
  • Parisienne “gnocchi:” Using ratio for Pate a choux – The book outlines this process, and then we can have fun with saucing them up!
  • Ratio-ed vinaigrette (3:1!): For a green salad and/or other steamed or sautéed sides
  • Pound cake: Using Ruhlman’s classic pound cake recipe:  1 flour:1 butter:1 egg:1 sugar – Who can turn down pound cake?
  • Chocolate ganache: (1 part great chocolate, 1 part cream) – If we don’t use it with anything else, we can just eat it out of the pan!

It turned out beautifully. We met earlier than usual since we met on Sunday. Our results:

Tart #1: Free-form rustic gallette. Used lard, water, and flour for a gorgeously flaky crust. Filled with roasted poblano peppers, bacon, crème fraiche, and sage. Next time: add more salt to the crust.

Tart #2: Rustic tart. Also used lard, water, and flour, same wonderful flakiness, albeit a tad underbaked. Filled with pears, prosciutto, mix of bleu/gorgonzola cheese, black mission figs, and butter-fried sage. Next time: Again, more salt in the crust, also bake until truly golden brown.

Parisienne “gnocchi:” My favorite of the night—and we have some leftovers in the freezer! Used the ratio above, but added parmesan cheese to Pate a choux batter. Very labor-intensive process of piping the dough onto a sheet to chill was worth the wait. These little dumpling pillows were briefly boiled until they floated to the surface of the water, then browned in butter and dressed in a marvelous compote of oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic. Next time: Make more!

Pound cake: Took a full hour to bake this incredibly dense cake – full recipe could have been done in a single loaf pan (8”). Flavored lightly with lime and lemon zest, very delicate and delicious flavor. Once cooled slightly, poked with toothpicks and poured over a lemon glaze. Next time: Use a tiny bit less lemon glaze, or perhaps booze up the glaze with whiskey or rum.

We skipped the ganache and the salad – but we did construct a lovely amuse bouche – a tiny sandwich: Toasted baguette, horseradish spread, a hunk of amazingly tender brisket, a glorious leaf of arugula, drizzled lightly with a reduction made from the drippings of the brisket. We’ll DEFINITELY eat this again!

Note for 2010: we have GOT to start taking photos…

One Response to “September cooking group”

  1. […] stand mixer (a recent gift from my dear hubbie), I pulled out Michael Ruhlman’s book “Ratio,” and I got to […]

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