Thursday, September 6, 2012

Grilled Corn Agnolotti

Here’s the thing… this was the best dish to EVER come out of the Food Night kitchen.

It just so happened that said kitchen was not Food Night’s home kitchen, but rather the kitchen at Dr. Tom’s pad in Minneapolis.  And it just so happened to be served the same night as …

1). A bottle of 1993* Dom was consumed.
2). The neighbors came over to, um, comment that the volume on the musical component of the evening may be a bit… excessive.
3). The cops were called (or so I was told, they never showed up or anything), since said volume was never really, you know, adjusted.  Perhaps because…
4). Tom may or may not have been tasered and/or unconscious shortly after setting the Food Night record for “Most wine glasses broken in one evening” with 2. 

*Yeah, that Dom.  Not.  Shabby.  Thanks Rich.

The evening was certainly a huge success (unless you were the neighbors apparently).  I feel kinda bad not talking at all about the evening’s scallop course…

… but discussing anything other than the pasta course here would be akin to discussing how nice the (irrelevant thing) is at (your favorite food establishment).*

*Mad Libs. You know you want to.  Shout ‘em out in the Comments below.

Grilled Corn Agnolotti with Somerset Grapes, Almonds, Tarragon

Somerset grapes (Heartland)
Sliced almonds (toast them in a 350 oven until golden)
Parmigiano Reggiano
Fresh Tarragon
Butter (plus, truffle butter if you can get your hands on some)
One pasta dough recipe (duck eggs optional, use quality chicken eggs if you like)

Corn Filling

Grill 3 ears of corn with the husks still on over a hot grill, until husks are completely blackened.  Some corn kernels should be splotchy black as well.  Allow to cool, and cut the kernels off the cobs (reserve the cobs for stock, below). Puree the roughly 2 cups of kernels with approximately ½ cup greek yogurt (just barely enough to get the mixture to puree), a teaspoon of horseradish, juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper.   Strain, strain, strain the mixture.  Or, just puree the dickens out of it in a VitaMix.  Chill thoroughly, and place in a gallon ziplock bag. 

Corn Stock

Cut corn cobs in half and place them in a pot along with a diced onion, diced carrot, bay leaves, pepper corns and fresh parsley.  Cover with water, and bring to a very gentle simmer for 60 to 90 minutes.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer and reserve.


Make pasta dough.  Divide the dough into thirds.  Roll one third through a pasta machine down to the second thinnest setting, keeping the other two thirds of the dough covered in plastic wrap while you work. 

Lay the sheet of dough on a floured work surface.  Snip off about a half inch corner of the ziplock bag, and pipe a stream of filling onto the middle of the sheet of pasta, taking note to leave an inch margin on the left and right sides of the pasta.

Actually you know what…. Just watch this video beginning at the 1 minute mark.  These pictures will mean more than the 10,000 words I could/would write about agnolotti construction. 

Once assembled, use right away, or freeze agnolotti on heavily floured plates or sheet pans, then store in a ziplock bag until ready to use.  Agnolotti can go from freezer directly into boiling water.

NOTE: The agnolotti can be made to this point and frozen up to a week ahead of time.  If you don’t plan on freezing the agnolotti, make the filling and stock the day before assembly to save yourself some time the day of service.

To finish

Melt several (4 to 6) tablespoons of butter in a skillet.  Put a large pot of heavily salted water on to boil.  When water is boiling, turn it down (you don’t want it vigorously boiling) and add the agnolotti.  They are ready when they float to the surface, approx 2 to 3 minutes.  Do not over saturate the pot with agnolotti.

While the agnolotti is in the water, add ¼ cup of corn stock to the melted butter, swirl to combine and increase heat to create a saucy consistency.

Add the agnolotti and grapes to the pan, and gently simmer for a minute to let the sauce and the pasta get to know each other.  Toss in a knob of truffle butter at this point if you have it, and more corn stock if the sauce gets too dry.

Plate, topping with Parmigiano, almonds, tarragon and Maldon.  Should look something like this...

Friday, July 20, 2012

What is Food Night?

Food Night started as a two person gathering. The Host searing a couple 6oz beef tenderloins with a red wine reduction. The guest providing a couple bottles of exceptional wine to share. Curiosities were peaked. Fires were stoked. This was a thing that needed happen again. After all, the Host liked to cook, and the guest had a stash of obscenely excellent wine.

And so it went. The group grew to a core of four. Durden, Tommy, Alex and the Host. Roughly every 6 or 8 weeks they would convene and embark upon a night of pure culinary hedonism. Friendships were forged, indelible memories made, even t-shirts (below) were produced to commemorate “Food Night”. Food Night was an EVENT. It was something to look forward to, to plan for, to budget for, to anticipate, and to remember.

Then life happens, people get new jobs, people move to different cities, and it becomes more difficult to get the band together on a regular basis. But, Food Night perseveres.

So, what exactly is Food Night? The Host had a conversation with his uncle while sitting at the bar of a local restaurant, and the topic of Food Night came up for some reason. Uncle James has been a huge inspiration in the Host’s culinary pursuits, and they dine together on a frequent basis. Between bites of the most delicious, salty, crispy, moist chicken, James chimes in that… “Any night can be a Food Night. Heck, this right here is a Food Night”.

And that’s a distinction the Host had lost track of. There need not be a formal occasion to enjoy a proper meal and/or bottle with the right people. Food Night happens whenever, and for whatever reason. With the right people, or with no people. Food Night can be you on your patio on a Tuesday night with an ear of grilled corn and a Pabst. That’d be a helluva Food Night, actually.

So when Friend of Food Night Dr. Tom sent the Host a text that read “Any interest in a Food Night at my place on Friday August 10th?“… the Host’s one word answer was…


Food Night perseveres.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Olive Oil Poached Salmon

Google “olive oil poached salmon recipe” and you’ll find preposterous statements like “Start with a Quart of olive oil”. Or “I saved the 6 cups of olive oil I poached the fish in for another use, which makes the recipe more economical”. Really. You saved the oil you poached the fish in? Settle down there, Saver McSaverson. Food Night says, why not START the recipe with a modest amount of olive oil, saving you cash (in the form of olive oil), and saving a subsequent guest from the horrors of said recycled olive oil.

Well, here’s why not…. if you gently poach fish in the oven in a film of olive oil, you get these white coagulated protein globules on the surface of the fish. Totally edible and harmless, yet not the most appealing thing to look at. The fix? Brine. Brining the fish for 20 minutes in a 10% brine keeps the coagulated globules at bay. And that’s really where all globules belong, isn’t it? At bay.

Olive Oil “Poached” Salmon
Serves 2

For the Brine
Prepare a 10% Brine (1g of kosher salt* per 10ml of water**) by putting all but 100ml or so of the water in a sauce pan on the stove on high heat. Add the salt, stir constantly until dissolved, then pour into a bowl. Add approx 100ml or so of ice to the hot water to cool it down. The water should never come to a boil as the salt will dissolve first, and the ice should take the water back down to a cool temperature.

*Please use Kosher. But you knew that already.

**You’ll need at least 500ml water to have enough brine to submerge the salmon, depending on the bowl/container you brine in of course.

For the Salmon
  • Two 6oz pieces of Coastal Seafoods Organic Scottish Salmon.* Thicker the better. Skin and pin bones removed
  • Olive Oil**
  • Several sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Garlic clove, peeled

*The salmon really is the key to this dish (go figure, right?). As such, make sure it is QUALITY salmon that is fresh, never frozen. If you are lucky enough to live in the Twin Cities, go to Coastal Seafoods. Period. And if it happens to be Copper River Salmon season, or other Insert-River-Name-Here Salmon season, those are great options too.

** Two 6oz fillets in an 8’’ pan will require a max of 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Not (NOT!) a quart. Or 6 cups. Or any other such insane quantity.

1). Brine the fish for 20 minutes. Make sure the fish is completely submerged in the brine, weighing it down with a plate if needed.

2). While the fish is in the brine, preheat oven to 250 degrees. Film an oven going skillet with enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. The 8’’ skillet should be large enough, especially if your salmon fillets are thick, but upsize to a 10’’ or 12’’ if your fillets won’t fit in the pan without overlapping. Add the thyme and garlic, and gently begin warming the pan over med-low heat when the fish has about 5 minutes left in the brine.

3). After 20 minutes, remove fish from the brine and pat thoroughly dry. When the oil is warm, place the brined and dry fish into skillet (skin* side goes down). There should be NO sizzling sounds when the fish hits the pan. If there is, allow oil to cool a bit and try again.

*Well, where the skin used to be, before it was… skinned.

4). Place the pan in the oven. Give the fish a nudge (or gently shake the pan) to make sure it isn't sticking to the pan. Again, at no time should the fish be sizzling, the idea here is a gentle poach. Remove pan from the oven when the bottom of the fish is cooked, and the top is still raw. Approximate cooking time should be around 8ish minutes, but will of course vary with the thickness of the fish.

5). Once you remove the pan from the oven, tilt it to one side and use a spoon to baste the fish with the warm oil.

Perhaps put the thyme on top of the salmon to help the warm oil extract it’s thymey goodness. The idea is to just barely cook the top of the fish. Once the top of fish is uniformly opaque, it’s done. Serve (as pictured below) with sautéed crispy kale, or your favorite veggie accompaniment.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Food Night Cheeseburger

One of Food Night’s most crowd pleasing and easy to make dishes is…. The Cheeseburger. Food Night’s “slider” is inspired by the cheeseburger at the 112 Eatery. Simple, tasty, and guaranteed to turn a vegetarian into a carnivore (at least for one night), the slider comes together in no time.

But before we get into the how-to, let’s go over the fundamentals. Food Night’s Four Burger Commandments, if you will (and even if you won’t);

1). CAST IRON. It’s how Food Night cooks burgers. Grilling is great of course, particularly in the summer, but try cast iron. Mkay? A pan costs $18 and lasts for life. Or longer.

2). FAT. Moderation makes every good thing better by preserving its “wow” factor. Not this gal’s version of moderation, but ACTUAL moderation*. If you are going to make a burger… make a REAL burger. Don’t make some 95% lean crumbly dry beef frisbee. Fat is part of a proper burger. And as such, there will be fat in this recipe. Do not be afraid. Embrace it, and treat yourself once in a while, in moderation.

*Food Night is obviously not happy about anyone’s misfortune… but it kiiiiiiinda seems like Paula Deen contracting Type 2 Diabetes is about as surprising as getting wet while taking a shower. If Food Night is remembering things correctly, “gluttony” is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, while “moderation”… is not.

3). THE ENGLISH MUFFIN. Can you use your favorite hamburger bun instead? Of course. Will it be as good as an English Muffin? No. Get a nice thick English Muffin like Wolferman’s, available at Kowalski’s in the Twin Cities. Brands like Thomas and Crystal Farms are great for toasting and holding your favorite morning preserves… but will fail miserably as a burger delivery system.

4). GARNISH. Quality Triple Cream Cheese and pickles. The End. Nothing else. Bacon, ketsup, mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, fried egg, foie gras… all wonderful things. All don’t go on this burger. Food Night uses a super delicious Delice de Bourgogne, also available at Kowalski’s. You want a cheese that isn’t overly salty (there is plenty of salt in the burger already), and has some ripeness/acidity/tartness that will cut through the richness of the burger. The Delice de Bourgogne is a fabulous choice.

The Food Night Cheeseburger is rich, decadent, and delicious. Please do not operate heavy machinery after consumption, as the consumer of said cheeseburger has a tendency to nap shortly after consumption. Kinda like this guy.........

The Food Night Cheeseburger
Serves 4

For the Cheeseburger
1lb ground beef (80% lean, at most)
4 egg yolks
3T butter
1 medium shallot, finely diced
1T fresh tarragon, finely chopped(optional, but encouraged)
Kosher salt
English Muffin
Triple Cream Cheese

For the Pickles
1 English or pickling cucumber
Rice wine vinegar
1 Fresno chile

1). Make pickles. Slice cucumber and Fresno chile as thinly as possible on a mandolin. Layer cucumber in a very small bowl, add small pinch salt and as much sliced chile as you like. Add additional layer(s) of cucumber and chile and salt. Add enough vinegar to mostly submerge. If your bowl is small enough, you should only need ½ cup or so of vinegar. When your burger is ready, the pickles will be too.

2). In a large bowl, add beef, yolks, tarragon and salt to taste (don’t be bashful with the salt, Food Night uses about 2 teaspoons for a pound of beef, perhaps more). Saute the shallot in the butter over medium heat until translucent, and add the butter/shallot mixture to the beef. Mix everything together with your hands. Let stand at room temp for 20 minutes.

3). Heat a well seasoned 12’’ cast iron pan over medium-low to medium heat (maybe 4 out of 10). Form beef into thick ¼ lb patties.

4). When hot, but not smoking, place burgers into the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. If you made the burgers thick enough, you will have enough room to cook all 4 at once. Cook for approx 3 minutes per side, a tad longer if you must. The goal is to achieve a nice crust on the exterior and a medium (hot pink) center.

5). Remove burgers to a plate when done, turn the heat down to low-ish on the pan , and put the cut* side down of two English muffins in the pan. Press down, cooking until caramelized. Yes, there are burger remnants in the pan, and yes you want them on your English Muffin. You’ll be able to toast two English Muffins at a time, add more butter to the pan for the second batch.

*It’s worth using a sharp knife to make a clean cut in the English Muffin, rather than separating it with a fork or your fingers as you may do for breakfast. The cleaner cut caramelizes better in the pan.

6). Place burger on English muffin, top with a hefty slice of cheese, and cover with the hot English muffin top. Wait 1 minute to allow cheese to begin to melt (yes, WAIT. 1 minute. You can do it). Devour with the pickles. And beware of your neighbors at the table.........

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Food Night would like to take a moment to express thanks to everyone that has brought their time, resources and intellect to the table these past few years. And of course, thanks to every one of you that has read the musings on these pages. This is just the beginning.

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. – If you are looking for how to prep your turkey in future years, look no further than this roast/braise combo from Michael Ruhlman. That's how Food Night rolled this year, to absolutely perfect results...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Proper Pan Roasted Chicken

Chicken. Some say it’s boring. Some even use it as a catch all “flavor” descriptor for bland and boring food stuffs. “Tastes like chicken” has basically become a punch line. So take your chicken to the next level by following these simple steps, and you’ll be amazed how delicious chicken can be.

Before we get to the technique involved here, let’s touch on three things you can do before the fowl hits the frying pan that will facilitate success:

1. The pan. Use properly seasoned cast iron. Or, use a nice stainless steel pan (such as All Clad). A 12’’ pan will allow you to cook 1 or 2 pieces of chicken. Never exceed 2 pieces in one pan.

2. The pan must be hot. Not warm, not nuclear… but hot.

3. The chicken. If at all possible, buy your chicken at Heartland. Why? Because the chicken there is fresh, properly butchered, and air dried in the cooler so the skin is DRY. Which is a very good thing, since it’s impossible to crisp up wet, soggy skin. If you can’t get to Heartland, buy an ethically raised, hormone free, skin on chicken breast, leave it UNCOVERED on a plate in your refrigerator for two or three days to dry out the skin. And yes, this step is worth it if you don't get your poultry at Heartland.

Pan Seared Airline Chicken Breast

1 (or 2) Kadejan Farms Airline* Chicken Breast(s)
Oil (not olive, ideally peanut or grapeseed, but canola would suffice)
Salt (kosher for seasoning, Maldon for garnish)

*An “Airline” chicken breast leaves the first joint of the wing (i.e. the “drummie”) attached to the breast. Also, the skin is left on, which is key, since it’s hard to get crispy skin without, you know… the skin. And you absolutely do want crisp skin on your chicken.

1. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking, pat any moisture off the chicken with paper towels, and place skin side down on a plate. Sprinkle kosher salt over the flesh side. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. Put your dry pan on the stove over medium to med-high heat. When it’s hot (not warm, not nuclear), film your pan with oil, a generous teaspoon per piece of chicken. It should instantly ripple, perhaps smoke slightly. Add the chicken skin side down, and note the loud sizzle when it hits the pan.

3. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes on the stove, add butter (approximately 1 tablespoon per piece of chicken) to the pan, gently lift* one side of the chicken so that the melted butter has a chance to get between the skin and the pan.

*If your chicken is stuck to the pan… forget lifting it, and just put the pan with the butter in the oven. Maybe try to lift it again after it’s been in the oven 5 or 10 minutes.

4. Put the pan in the oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on size of chicken.

5. Chicken is done at an internal temperature of 165F. If chicken isn’t done after 15-20 minutes, turn chicken skin side up and return to the oven until done. Note chicken will continue to cook approximately another 5 degrees after it’s removed from the oven. When done, allow chicken to rest on a plate for 4ish minutes before slicing.

6). Garnish with Maldon. Devour* while standing over the sliced meat in the kitchen, or in a civilized manner at the table with your favorite accompaniment(s) (Dijon mustard? Sriracha? Mixed green salad? Caramelized brussles sprouts and a sunny side up duck egg?........).

*Make sure you freeze the wing bone in a freezer safe bag, to reserve for making chicken stock. You’ll be making this chicken often enough that you’ll have a bag full of wings in no time.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Grilled Sweet Corn Ice Cream

Food Night is excited to bring you this timely* post at the height* of sweet corn season in the upper Midwest;

*False. Though it was timely a short while ago.

Do you have in ice cream maker? Well, if you have one of these…

… then, yes, you do. And if you do have a Kitchen Aid, and you are reading this, then you should own this and this. The pasta attachment and the ice cream attachment are two things Food Night really wouldn’t be the same without. Well, those two things and plenty of this…

Anyway, Food Night VERY passionately endorses making your own ice cream. In all seriousness, it is A). Easy, and B). Vastly superior to anything you can buy in a grocery store, and you can buy some pretty deece stuff these days.

So if you’ll allow Food Night to spend your money for you; buy the ice cream attachment, and then buy this book. It’s all you need. Well, that and this recipe for…

Grilled Sweet Corn Ice Cream

5 egg yolks
1c whole milk
1c cream
6T sugar
2 ears corn
Pinch salt
1T bourbon
Pinch cinnamon (optional, but recommended)
Pinch paprika (smoked, preferably… optional, but recommended)

1). Grill corn on med-high direct heat, while still in the husks, until husks are blackened on all sides (seriously, blacken the hell out of them). Remove husks, some kernels should have slight to moderate char. Cut kernels off cobs, cut cobs in half and reserve.

2). Combine milk, cream, sugar, corn, cobs, and salt in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Add cinnamon and paprika if using. Remove cobs from the pan, puree corn/cream mixture with an immersion blender, retrun cobs to pan and steep for an hour.

3). After an hour, remove cobs, squeezing liquid from the cobs back into the pan. Set up a medium bowl in an ice bath. Wisk yolks together in a separate medium bowl. Rewarm corn/cream mixture, and temper the yolks by pouring the warm cream mixture into the yolks very slowly while constantly stirring.

4). Return mixture to the pan, and the stove, and cook slowly on med-lowish heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture reaches at least 170 degrees, or the custard coats the back of a spoon.

5). Pour mixture through a (medium mesh) strainer into the bowl in the ice bath, add bourbon, and stir to cool for a moment.

6). Strain. Strain. Strain. And once you’ve finished straining the mixture, strain it again. (Recommend; start with the medium mesh strainer, as the mixture isn’t pureed terribly finely by the immersion blender. Then do at least 1 preferably 2 passes through a fine mesh strainer. Straining is KEY to a smooth result).

7). Cover the mixture with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the custard. Chill overnight. Then freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.