I really enjoy reading other peoples blogs. Last week I came across this post which reminded of the soups my aunts would make when I was boy. They were immigrants from the Azores and we all lived in a little community in Artesia. The ingredients depended on what grew in the garden, how much money was left after expenses, and how many people were staying. So salted cod was on my mind.
Yesterday I walked by the Korean section of the market — packaged dried cod.
My morning ritual is to look in the fridge to see what I need to use. The cod was hydrated… On the way to work, in my minds eye, I pieced together what I remembered of cod soup.
At home, I had half an onion in a ziplock bag, potatoes, canned tomatoes, eggs. I sliced the onion, crushed two cloves of garlic and sweat them in a drizzle of olive oil in a Dutch oven. I added 1/2 a can of crushed tomatoes. To develop flavour I reduced the tomato until it started to stick to the pan and the mass glistened with oil. To melt the flavours seared onto the enamel into the soup I poured a jigger or two of white wine and stired hard.
For seasoning my aunts used what was at hand: bay leaves, whole allspice and black pepper pods. I was out of allspice, so I substituted grains of paradise.
I added water, layered the fish over whole potatoes — I left the skins on for that little bit of extra flavour and bite. No hard boiled eggs! I put two eggs in their shell into the pot, covered with water and simmered on low for half an hour.
I tasted. Not flavourful enough, but the fish didn’t dominant. I added the rest of the tomatoes, salt, two springs of fresh thyme and just a pinch of saffron
I bit into the fish first. The flavour transported my mind from my little kitchen in Japan into the eyes of that little boy looking up at apron strings and weathered hands. Moments like these are one of the pleasures of cooking.
Portuguese Cod Soup
Tier one — you must use
- Dried cod hydrated overnight (if you’re using salted dried cod, you’ll need to change the water several times)
- Potatoes (my aunts always peeled, but our generation has new traditions and ideas)
- white wine (to your taste)
- olive oil (to your taste)
- 1 can of tomatoes
- 1 onion
- 1 – 3 cloves of crushed garlic (they provide a burst of flavour if ladled in your bowl)
- 1 Bay leaf
- 5 – 10 whole allspice and black pepper pods
Tier two — suggested
- Parsley stems, thyme, marjoram (optional) to taste.
- A leaf of kale
Tier three — optional
- a pinch of saffron
- cabbage (to stretch the soup and for flavour)
- a slice of rustic bread (to float on top when serving)
- olives and capers to your liking (a flavor option)
Method: Drizzle olive oil in the pan, add onion and garlic and sweat for five minutes — do not brown. Add tomatoes and cook until they stick to the bottom of the pan and the oil comes out (they glisten). Degrease with white wine and stir vigerously to loosen the caramelised bits and evaporate the wine. Add a little water to stop the cooking so you can layer potatoes, slices of hard boiled egg, olives, capers, fish. Add enough water to cover the fish. Put your spices in, bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes and taste. Adjust the seasonings.
Note: If you use the kale or cabbage, add it the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Foodies can be elitist. If your macaroon — or pasta, or x, or y, or z — isn’t exactly as so, it doesn’t count; so follow me they say, mine is The Way, the only way that’s right. That approach to food keeps people out of the kitchen. I’m going to show you what I mean by teaching you a different way to make Apple Pie Your Way. (The recipe is at the very bottom of this post.)
But first, what is Apple Pie?
The universal ingredients are apples and crust, which I’ll call top tier. Often they’ll include sugar and a starch, like flour or corn starch, which I’ll call second tier. And sometimes flavourings, most commonly cinnamon, third tier.
To bake or not to bake?
Since crust is one of the two main components of apple pie, it’s important that it come out flakey, so for this pie I’m going to pre-bake the crust, waterproof it, the place a cooked filling into the shell.
We can talk about the mechanics of pastry here (with recipe and tutorial), but for now chose your crust. Mine is 3:1, white all purpose flour:butter. To achieve a golden brown color I add a one teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. I only pierce the bottom with the prongs of a fork so the side bulges and flakes even more. To prevent the bottom from rising during baking, I put a sheet of wax paper with cup of uncooked rice. I bake it in a hot oven for ten minutes, then remove the wax paper with rice and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it reaches the colour I want. I want to make sure the crust is waterproof, so at this point I have some options:
1) Whisk and egg white it a teaspoon of water and brush that over the inside of the hot crust and bake for five more minutes.
2) After the crust is cool, melt cocoa butter and brush it all over the inside of the crust. Inexpensive cocoa butter is better as it has no cocoa fragrance, but it must be cocoa butter because it melts at body temperature and will not affect the mouthfeel.
3) Almonds are a perfect match for apples, so roll a sheet of marzipan as thin as you can and place it inside the shell of the cooled crust. The oil in the almonds will repeal the moisture in the apple filling.
Standard apple pie fillings have you pour a mixture of peeled apples, sugar and flour into a raw pie shell and bake. But apples, even in the same variety, are different: Some have more juice, others take longer to cook — and sweetness varies. To make a fool-proof apple pie filling try making it on the stovetop. After the filling has cooled you can clearly see, and taste, what your pie will be like and adjust. Here’s how:
Peel, core, and slice four to eight apples and arrange them in a nonstick fry pan or skillet. (Peel and slice your apples so that one apple yields eight slices.) (you can also slice the apples into halves or quarters, if you like.) Taste a slice. Think about how tart the apples are and how sweet you want the finished pie to be then pour a measure of white sugar over and around the apples with several nobs of butter. A good starting point is 1/4 sugar per apple, which you can adjust later.
Think of the flavour profile you’d like. A stick of cinnamon or a split pod of vanilla, either are a nice addition just before cooking, but not liquid extracts or alcohol which will evaporate
Cover the pan and turn the heat on low so that the juices in the apples release, liquifying the sugar, and cooking the apples. This will take between 30 minutes to one hour depending on the apples. (If you’ve never done this, every 15 minutes taste one of the apples to see how the flavours develop.)
As the apples start to become translucent uncover, taste and decide. Do you want the pie less sweet than it is? Then remove the apples and caramelise the sugar. Is the pie not sweet enough? Add more sugar, starting with 1/4 cups. (note: if you want to cut back on the calories but keep the sweetness use liquid stevia — always start with drops.) Add your flavourings, turn off the heat, and let the mixture cool.
In the morning arrange your filling in the pie and refrigerate. Congratulations! You’ve just made an Apple Pie Your Way.
Try serving it with creme fraise.
Tier one: You must use
- 4 – 8 large apples
Tier two: Suggested ingredients
- 1/4 cup white sugar per apple (for a less sweet pie, or for caramel notes use 50% brown sugar)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- pinch of salt
Tier three: Optional ingredients
Any one of the following flavour combinations personalises the finished product
- 1 Vanilla bean, split lengthwise (added at beginning of cooking)
- 1 cinnamon stick (added at the beginning of cooking)
- marzipan to seal the crust, raisins and 1/4 cup Armangnac (near the end of cooking)
- raisins and 1/4 cup rum (near the end of cooking)
- crushed praline, creme fraise, or whipped cream on top of the pie
Peel, core, slice the apples and place in a non-stick fry pan with the sugar. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 – 60 minutes. Adjust sugar. Add third tier flavourings. Taste, adjust, taste again. Take off heat and let cool. When cool arrange in baked pie shell. Refrigerate.