Basics – Roasted Garlic

garlic cloves in oil
There are few smells better than roasting garlic.  The top 5, according to me, of most heavenly, coma-inducing kitchen smells are:

1. Bread baking
2. Garlic roasting
3. Onions cooking in butter
4. Browning butter
5. Bacon sizzling in the pan

We have plenty of days where our house smells like baking bread, but I don’t have that smell of garlic roasting near enough.  Roasting garlic turns the garlic into an almost caramelized, savory paste that softens the intensity of raw garlic, mellows out the flavor and makes it perfect for dressings, soups, pasta dishes, breads, and that doesn’t even include the wonderful uses of the garlic oil that is produced from the roasting process.  Garlic oil=liquid gold.

So today, in the first of my series on cooking basics, I’ll show you my process for roasting a head of garlic and then below, a simple recipe for garlic aioli that can be used on sandwiches as an amazing spread alternative to mayo!

First, lop off the top of a head of garlic and place in a large piece of tin foil.  Put that little package in a small dish to catch leaking oil.  Generously salt and pepper the cut tops and drizzle with about four tablespoons of oil.
ready for roasting
Next, place both cut-side down, crimp the foil together to form a tent and place in a 400F oven for about 30 minutes.  Your garlic should look like this when it’s done:

roasted garlic
I checked mine about half-way through to make sure I wasn’t cooking it too fast.  Let the head of garlic cool to where you can handle it and then just pick it up and squeeze, popping out all the cloves.  You’ll end up with this:
roasted garlic cloves in oil
Place the cloves in a jar and fill up with oil to cover the cloves.  This allows your oil to become infused with garlic-goodness and it keeps the garlic cloves from drying out.  Store on the counter to use for anything you can think of!  We use the oil to make a quick aioli to spread on burgers, sandwiches, or as a dip for roasted potatoes – heaven!

garlic in oil

Garlic Aioli

1 large egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup garlic infused oil

Place the egg, lemon juice, salt and pepper in the bottom of a tall immersion cup.  Add the oil and submerge your immersion blender to the very bottom of the cup.  Turn the immersion blender on and slowly lift as you blend.  The oil will combine with the rest of the ingredients and by the time you get to the top, you should have a smooth consistency.  If you are using a basic blender or food processor, add the ingredients except for the oil.  Turn on the blender and then slowly stream the oil until all the oil is added.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.  But it probably won’t last that long!

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Homemade Goat Cheese

pure goat cheese

Good Monday Morning to you all!  I’ve been meaning to blog about homemade goat cheese for several weeks, now.  I stumbled upon this process because I’d bought a quart of goat’s milk when Olive was starting to wean and I read or heard or saw somewhere that goat’s milk digests easier than cow’s milk, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  I naturally tasted it before I gave it to her.  It tasted like liquid goat cheese.  I wouldn’t personally want to drink that, but I let her try it in the name of not pushing my personal tastes onto my child.  She wouldn’t take more than one sip.  Actually cried (this was around 9 months) so I bought a quart of whole cow’s milk instead and we haven’t looked back.  So I turned the goat’s milk into a nice, creamy 4 ounce log of goat cheese with garlic and herbs.  It was delicious.

I guess I’ll take this time to tell you that I don’t believe in eating something just because it has health benefits.  Eating grass straight from the yard is probably beneficial in some way, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to do it.  I believe things should have flavor, seasoning, and should taste wonderful in addition to however many antioxidants they might have.  So this, I suppose, ties in to the way I have always cooked for Olive.  I haven’t ever given her something without seasoning.  From 6 months, whatever she’s eaten has been seasoned with something (yes, less salt than I’d prefer, don’t worry.) And now that she’s eating from the table, it’s game ON.  Welcome to the wonderful world of food, Ollie.  We have chocolate!

Making goat cheese is easier than making bread, but the two go together quite nicely.  I don’t personally think that it’s easier or cheaper than buying goat cheese at the store.  I think a quart of goat’s milk is comparable to a cheap log of goat cheese.  However, it’s fun to do stuff from scratch, it’s creamier, tastier and gives you a sense of self satisfaction that you did something the old way.  Isn’t that reason enough to at least give it a try?

 

DIY Goat Cheese – adapted from Serious Eats
makes one, 4 oz log of goat cheese

1 quart of full fat goat’s milk (I bought this brand)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from one large lemon, maybe two)
1/2 clove freshly grated garlic
a few pinches of salt
Herbs – whatever sounds good to you (rosemary, chives, herbs de Provence, non herbs like honey, chopped dried fruits, etc.  Possibilities are endless.  If you use something sweet, omit the garlic)

Fill a medium saucepan with goat’s milk.  Heat gradually until it reaches 180F.  Watch closely.  It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.  A candy thermometer works nice in this situation, but I used a probe meat thermometer the second time because it was more accurate (pictured here was my first attempt.)
cooking goat milk

Once it hits the magical temperature, remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let stand until milk starts to curdle, about 20 seconds. Don’t expect curdles, like cottage cheese curdles. Slight clumping will occur, but nothing too drastic. You can add a few extra droplets if nothing is actually happening.

Line a colander with a thin, flour sack kitchen towel.  Or lots and lots of layers of cheese cloth that you probably don’t have on hand.  Most of you have a thin kitchen towel that you can almost see through. As long as there aren’t holes, use it.  It’s efficient, it works great and just remember to wash it quickly and don’t throw it in the used-towel bin for a week all wadded up in a sweaty goat cheese smelling ball.  Like I did.

Set your lined colander over a deep bowl and ladle in the milk.  It will seem like it’s all seeping through, but don’t fret. Tie up the ends of the towel and suspend over the bowl and let it drain for about 2 hours.
straining goats milk

Transfer the cheese to a bowl and mix in seasonings to taste.  The first time I did it, I added the grated garlic, salt and about a teaspoon of herbs de Provence.  The second time, I roasted my garlic and added in olive oil.  SO GOOD. This time, I left out the garlic and stirred in some raw honey and a little salt and used it in a salad recipe from the Bonne Femme cookbook.  Amazing results.  Have fun with it!

After you mix in your flavors, if you want to be able to cut it or have some sort of shape, wrap it up in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for a couple hours to let it firm up.  (see below) then you can cut it for bread or whatever you like.

goat cheese with baguette and raw honey

 

With just bread and extra honey it’s basically a dessert!

goat cheese honey salad

 

On top of baguette slices, broiled and then drizzled with extra honey.  Set on top of a mixed greens salad with toasted pine nuts and a sherry vinaigrette.  An excellent lunch!

Corned Beef – this is your Monday post

open faced corned beef sandwich

I once saw a segment on the Martha Stewart show where she had a guest on and they were making pastrami sandwiches.  In her typical, incredulous, Martha-tone, she said, “Doesn’t everyone corn their own beef?!”  I balked.  I would have asked, “Does anyone make their own corned beef?!”  Making my own corned beef seemed not only like a giant waste of time, but I don’t even crave the stuff, so why would I want to let a gigantic stock pot filled with a brisket sit in my fridge for a week when I could go buy a nice, pre-packaged Hormel version for $4?

Because I’m married to Matt Palmer.  He is extraordinary.  He always sees the potential in a long process.  He has endless patience.  He can set out with the process in mind, not the finished product.  He enjoys learning how to do something from scratch, whether it be something widely appealing like home cured bacon, or as unappealing and death-smelling as pickled diakon, which sat on top of my computer for a week, fermenting (but hey, it made an interesting dip!)  The point, for him, is always the learning process.  I have learned so much in the last 9 years of knowing him and 8 years living with him.  He’s never once lost his patience and thrown something against the sink to watch it explode because it didn’t work out right (ahem), and even spent one Sunday afternoon making homemade mayonnaise 5 times in a row for 2 hours because the emulsion kept breaking (I remember crying that day.)  Needless to say, he’s greatly influenced where I am now and how cooking has become therapeutic for me.  He is the reason I keep trying to do things better, for better’s sake.

So when he got me involved in his latest corned beef endeavor, I was less reluctant.  He got it in the brine, and I finished it on the stove a week later when it was ready.  It makes a TON, so I will be slicing it and freezing it really soon.  But the other day, I sliced some thin strips, heated them up in a skillet (unnecessary, because it’s cooked, but appealing because it sizzles) and made a corned beef sandwich on rye with store-bought sauerkraut that was fermented in someone ELSE’S place of business instead of my garage, thankyouverymuch.

The results were good.  I’ve taken the corned beef recipe directly from Michael Ruhlman’s blog, because that’s who we look to when it comes to charcuterie recipes and we didn’t deviate from the recipe a bit.  For the sandwich, I just toasted some rye bread, spread mayo and dijon mustard on each side, topped it with sliced cornichons and sauerkraut and melted some swiss cheese on top of the beef.

corned beef sandwich

Home-Cured Corned Beef

1-1/2 cups kosher salt*
½ cup sugar
4 teaspoons pink salt (sodium nitrite), optional
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons pickling spice
1 5-pound beef brisket
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in two
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped.

In pot large enough to hold brisket, combine 1 gallon of water with kosher salt, sugar, sodium nitrite (if using), garlic and 2 tablespoons pickling spice. Bring to a simmer, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.

Place brisket in brine, weighted with a plate to keep it submerged; cover. Refrigerate for 5 days.

Remove brisket from brine and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot just large enough to hold it. Cover with water and add remaining pickling spice, carrot, onion and celery. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer gently until brisket is fork-tender, about 3 hours, adding water if needed to cover brisket.

Keep warm until ready to serve. Meat can be refrigerated for several days in cooking liquid. Reheat in the liquid or serve chilled. Slice thinly and serve on a sandwich or with additional vegetables simmered until tender in the cooking liquid.

*A note about the saltSalt level not hugely critical here because it’s basically boiled and excess salt moves into cooking liquid.  You can weigh out 12 ounces here if you feel better using a scale (approximately a 10% brine).  Or you can simply make a 5% brine of however much water you need to cover (6.4 ounces per gallon).  When you cook it, season the cooking liquid to the level you want your meat seasoned.  Another option is wrapping the brisket in foil and cooking it in a 225 degree oven till tender, but only do this if you’ve used the 5% brine.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

Pickling Spice

2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon ground mace
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
2 to 4 bay leaves, crumbled
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger.

Combine peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a small dry pan. Place over medium heat and stir until fragrant, being careful not to burn them; keep lid handy in case seeds pop. Crack peppercorns and seeds in mortar and pestle or with the side of a knife on cutting board.

Combine with other spices, mix. Store in tightly sealed plastic or glass container.