Because kitchen gadgets and cooking tools are such popular items to give and receive during the holidays, chances are many home cooks have a few new culinary toys to play with this month. But what exactly should one do with a block of pink Himalayan salt? And is a crème brulee torch strictly for caramelizing crème brulee? Here four local chefs provide recipes and tips for using the trendy culinary devices Santa might have left under your tree.
Crème Brulee Torch
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If you’re using this classic dessert tool to give crème brulee its signature caramelized crust, Hans Bergmann, executive chef at Cacharel, says to start from the outside and work your way in, moving in a circular motion and more quickly when approaching the middle. (The tenured chef should know, as he’s torched up to 200 at a time.)
But for an alternative, a light and airy dessert that’s easy to prepare and sure to impress guests, try Bergmann’s champagne mousse.
“You can prepare it ahead of time and, when ready to serve, do magic with your blowtorch,” he says.
The uses don’t stop at desserts. Try the torch in place of a grill to lightly char romaine lettuce or tomatoes for salads, melt cheese, toast bread crumbs, or get wild at breakfast and take the torch to your brown sugar-topped oatmeal.
Pink Himalayan Salt Block
These marbled slabs come in many shapes and sizes and are most commonly used on the grill as a plank for steaks. But Shinjuku Station executive chef Scott Kaiser likes to incorporate the block into an interactive cooking experience for the diner, presenting it scorching hot on the table to sear shrimp and bison strips. The mineral-rich brick is known for enhancing the flavor of anything placed on it, adding just a subtle hint of saltiness. Also use it for curing fish, frying eggs (replace the skillet with the block) and as a baking sheet for cookies.
Aside from the obvious use, coffee grinders are great for pulverizing nutrient-rich ingredients such as flax seeds, chia seeds and almond meal, says Laura Slayton, new owner of Hattie May Inn Bed & Breakfast.
“I’ve never used my grinder for coffee,” says Slayton, who’s also a holistic nutritionist and natural-foods chef. Having completely converted Hattie May’s breakfast menu into one that’s strictly vegetarian, Slayton gets creative with recipes, like using flax seed as a binder for her black-bean burgers.
“They have an enormous amount of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, which you’re not going to get from hamburger meat,” she says. “I’ll also regrind packaged almond meal so it has a finer texture and lighter consistency, like flour. If someone is paleo and can’t have grains, I can still make them cake.”
Slayton recommends staying away from pre-ground flax seeds, as the omega-3 content can lead to rancidness. Grind the seeds yourself and add them to yogurt, oatmeal or smoothies, too.
Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
Sous vide is an increasingly popular French method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags within a water bath or temperature-controlled steam environment, resulting in incredibly tender proteins. The technique also provides a new purpose for the classic vacuum sealer. Le Cep executive chef Sandra Avila says it’s one of her favorite ways to cook, so much so that she has a Sous Vide Supreme water oven in her home kitchen.
“Meat juices are literally trapped within the meat itself during the cooking process,” she says. “This enhances the flavor of the meat and also leaves it incredibly juicy. Because the meat cooks slowly at very precise temperatures, one can consistently produce the desired degree of doneness with a great level of precision.”
Also use the tabletop appliance to make everything from fresh ricotta and sous vide fruit to barbecue and custards.
• 1/2 teaspoon gelatin
• 1 tablespoon cold water
• 2 pints raspberries
• 7 ounces whipping cream
• 4 ounces sugar
• 2 egg yolks
• 4 ounces champagne
• 1 lemon, juiced
• 4 mint sprigs
1. Mix gelatin with cold water and set aside.
2. Divide raspberries across four large martini glasses, reserving four for garnish.
3. Whisk cream to soft peaks and keep chilled.
4. In a bowl, combine sugar, egg yolks and champagne. Over a double boiler, whisk until mixture thickens. Add gelatin and lemon juice and remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature and then fold in the whipped cream.
5. Fill martini glasses with the mousse and refrigerate three hours. When ready to serve, burn top of sabayon mousse with blowtorch and garnish each with a raspberry and a mint sprig.
— Hans Bergmann, executive chef, Cacharel Restaurant, 2221 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington, 817-640-9981, www.cacharel.net
Salt Block Ishiyaki Salad With Miso Soup
All ingredients can be found at Central Market.
• 1 large pink Himalayan salt block
(available online or at Williams-Sonoma)
• 1 quart plus 1 cup cold water
• 1 piece kombu (edible kelp)
• 4 ounces katsuobushi (dried, fermented
and smoked tuna)
• 4 ounces shiro-shoyu (white soy sauce)
• 2 ounces shiragiku vinegar (rice
• 1 tablespoon yuzu juice
• 1 ounce shiro miso paste (white miso
• 4 ounces grapeseed oil
• 10 rainbow chard leaves, washed
• 2 ounces firm silken tofu, cubed
• 6 pieces dried wakame (edible
• Green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish
• 4 black tiger shrimp (21/25), peeled
and deveined with butterfly tails (keep
• 6 ounces bison strip loin, trimmed and
very thinly sliced at a 45-degree angle
into wide strips (keep chilled)
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees or highest setting. Place the salt rock on the rack closest to the heat source and heat for at least 30 minutes.
2. While the rock is heating, start the “dashi,” or miso soup base: Add water to a 2-quart sauce pot over low heat. With a damp cloth, wipe the kombu to remove any gritty substances and place in the sauce pot. Slowly bring water to a simmer, which will take about 30 minutes. Do not boil. Add katsuobushi to the water and turn off the heat. Let stand for 30 minutes, then strain into a 2-quart container through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Reserve sauce pot for a later use.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup of prepared dashi with white soy sauce, vinegar and yuzu juice to create a sauce. Reserve.
4. Rinse reserved sauce pot and fill with remaining dashi. Whisk in miso paste and heat to a simmer. Keep warm until ready to serve.
5. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 ounces of reserved sauce with 1 ounce grapeseed oil to create a salad dressing. Stack the chard leaves, roll up like a cigar, then cut into small rounds. Toss chard rolls with dressing and divide across two salad plates.
To set the table and serve:
1. Set the table with chopsticks, the prepared chard salads and remaining sauce divided across two ramekins.
2. To serve the miso soup, place tofu and three pieces of dried wakame into two soup bowls. Pour the hot soup broth into each bowl and garnish with green onions.
3. Place shrimp and bison onto a serving platter for the table and place remaining grapeseed oil into a small bowl next to platter. Set the hot salt rock on a trivet next to the platter. Dip shrimp and bison strips into oil, then place on the salt rock for about 45 seconds on each side. Shrimp should be cooked until bright pink and bison may be prepared to desired temperature. Place shrimp and bison atop chard salad and enjoy with soup and sauce.
— Scott Kaiser, executive chef, Shinjuku Station,
711 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-923-2695, www.shinjuku-station.com
Black Bean Burgers
Makes about 8 burgers
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 large garlic cloves,
• 1/4 cup tomato paste
(about half of a 6-ounce
• 1 jalapeño pepper, diced
• 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic
• 1 tablespoon Worcester-
• 3 cups canned black
beans, drained and rinsed
• 1/2 cup fresh parsley,
• 1/2 cup fresh cilantro,
• 1 tablespoon mustard
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 tablespoons ground
flax seeds mixed well with
6 tablespoons water
• 1 cup rolled oats, plus
more if needed
1. Saute onion with garlic. Add tomato paste, jalapeño pepper, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer.
2. In a food processor, mash about three-fourths of the beans and add to skillet. Turn off heat. Add parsley, cilantro, mustard, salt, pepper and ground flax seeds and combine. Add rolled oats, then combine mixture with remaining beans, making sure to incorporate flax seeds throughout. Add more oats if mixture does not stick together. The mixture should feel wet but not heavy. Refrigerate at least one hour.
3. Shape mixture into patties and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until patties feel crunchy on top. Serve with avocado slices or fruit salsa.
— Laura Slayton, owner, Hattie May Inn Bed & Breakfast, 712 May St., Fort Worth, 817-870-1931, www.hattiemayinn.com
Sous Vide Beef Tenderloin
With Tarragon Sauce
• 4 4- to 5-ounce beef
tenderloins, about 1 inch
• Kosher salt & black
pepper, as needed
1. Preheat sous vide circulator to 134 degrees.
2. Season tenderloins on both sides with salt and pepper. Use less seasoning than you normally would, as sous vide cooking tends to intensify flavors.
3. Individually vacuum-seal each tenderloin. Submerge the beef packages into the sous vide and cook for at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours. Chef Sandra Avila prefers 3 1/2 hours.
4. Before serving, remove tenderloins from bags and pan-sear 1 minute on each side for medium-rare, 1 1/2 minutes for medium, and up to 2 1/2 minutes for well-done. Let the tenderloin rest over a pan rack 1-2 minutes before slicing. Serve with Tarragon Sauce.
• 1 ounce canola oil
• 1 cup shallots, finely
• 2 chicken livers, chopped
• 1 cup chicken or beef stock
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 4 ounces butter, unsalted
• 1/2 ounce fresh thyme
• 1 cup fresh tarragon leaves
• 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
• Kosher salt and black
pepper, to taste
1. Heat oil in a saucepan and saute shallots until translucent. Add livers and saute until cooked through. Discard the livers and stir in 1/3 cup stock. Cook until the stock is almost fully evaporated, then add another 1/3 cup and repeat. Add remaining 1/3 cup stock along with the heavy cream and Dijon mustard. Let simmer for five minutes.
2. Add the butter and, as soon as it melts, turn off the heat and immediately add the thyme, tarragon, and parsley. Transfer to a smaller pot and blend well with a whisk. Season with salt and pepper and pour over tenderloin slices to serve.
— Sandra Avila, executive chef, Le Cep, 3324 W. Seventh St., Fort Worth, 817-900-2468, www.leceprestaurant.com