A few months back, I reported my giant catch of delicious, bright-orange-fleshed lake trout from Lake Ontario. Although I usually avoid freezing fish, that time I had no choice. This gave me plenty of trout to use, to try and perfect this ballotine recipe.
Ever since I posted my first mors (the Russian berry cocktail) about two years ago, I’ve been trying to come up with an even better recipe. Something more than a pleasant fruit punch; a kind of uncompromising antioxidant and vitamin bomb with a delicious, concentrated flavor. Recent articles on ChefSteps about fruit juice and fruit soda boosted my quest.
Not that I have any plans to acquire a $5,000 high speed centrifuge, mind you. What drew my attention on ChefSteps was the use of pectinase, an enzyme that breaks down pectin. Finally, I could get a beautiful, clear berry juice that wasn’t viscous, without applying any heat!
ChefSteps didn’t invent anything (not this time at least). If you watch this video on how cranberry juice is made, you’ll see that the method is basically the same, apart for the addition of hot water and, most likely, large amounts of sugar:
Pectinase, aka pectic enzyme, can be purchased here. The next step is the choice of berries. This time, I opted for blueberries, blackberries, and a hint of strawberries, which provides both sweetness and acidity. All three are still discernable in the final product, and this is a great use of oft-neglected blackberries. For thick-skinned berries like blueberries, you might be able to extract more juice by using fruits that were frozen, then thawed. And I recommend you find a source of cheap berries, maybe by picking your own, because otherwise this is not a cheap drink. If you do your shopping at the Union Square Greenmarket, a quart will ultimately cost you about $30!
Finally, if you own a siphon, it’s worth trying to mix the mors with a few cartridges of CO2. Even without adding any acid, as is recommended by ChefSteps, the result is quite exceptional. This is not like adding club soda to mors; this is adding carbonation directly to the mors! Just keep in mind that CO2 cartridges are not the same as whipped cream cartridges, or you won’t get any fizz in your drink. (And yes, I had my own idiot-moment when I realized this ;))
Yields about 32 oz
22 oz blueberries
27 oz blackberries
9 oz strawberries
pectinase (see below)
4 oz water
1 pinch salt
- Process each type of berry, separately, in a blender on medium-high speed (you don’t want to break the seeds). Pass through a chinois, add 0.25% of pectinase, stir and let stand for about 30 minutes.
- Pass each type of juice, separately, through a paper filter. The weights at each step should be close to the ones in the table below. Adjust the weights of each filtered juice, and add to each of them the amount of sugar listed in the last column.
|berry type||whole weight||juice before pectinase||juice after filtering||sugar to add|
|blueberries||22 oz||16 oz||12 oz||1 oz|
|blackberries||27 oz||20 oz||12 oz||1.3 oz|
|strawberries||9 oz||6.4 oz||4 oz||0.5 oz|
- Mix the juices together with the water and salt. Of course, you can tune the proportions of juice, water, and sugar to your own liking.
- Refrigerate, and serve cold.
Yields about 32 oz
32 oz mors, cold
6 cartridges of CO2
- Pour 11 oz of mors into a half-liter siphon.
- Insert one cartridge of CO2, then gently shake the siphon, and release the gas. Repeat with another cartridge of CO2.
- Carefully open the siphon and pour the soda into an airtight bottle, or a drinking glass to enjoy immediately.
- Repeat with the rest of the mors.
Once again, Orthodox Easter came and went, and I didn’t have the time to finish my kulich recipe on time. At least now I’ll have it ready for next year!
A kulich is a kind of Easter bread, somewhat similar to a panettone, but usually denser. Just as with panettone, you’ll find many different recipes with varying degrees of richness. On one end of the spectrum, the more bigoted recipes consider it sacrilegious to have too much of a good thing, and therefore result in something that’s still close to plain bread and pretty dry. On the other end, the better recipes from the most reputable sources tend to resort to common tricks for achieving sinful dessert decadence: push the amount of butter to stratospheric levels, and liberally add more egg yolks, more sugar, more fruits.
My rendition belongs, of course, to the latter category. It distinguishes itself by the variety of dried and candied fruits I’ve chosen, to reflect the diversity found on Russian markets, and by the use of saffron, in accordance with traditional kulich recipes that recommend the use of a dominant spice (other possibilities include cardamon and cloves). I also serve it with a rum-raisin crème anglaise.
For as long as I’ve been reviewing restaurants, I’ve been complaining about the mediocrity of their Beef Stroganoff: “the filet mignon was chewy, cooked beyond well done”, “another example of how to transform an expensive and tender cut of beef (the tenderloin) into shoe sole”, “the overabundant mushroom sauce had the gooey texture of something made with a store-bought mix”, “the leftovers sit unclaimed in our fridge”. While some restaurants have fared a bit better (here and here), I felt like I should give my own version to justify my criticisms and prove that yes, you can make a good Beef Stroganoff, and it’s not even that hard.
I recently adapted a recipe for Jarred Salmon In Olive Oil from a Russian cookbook titled Pro Okhotu I Rybalku [Of hunting and fishing]. Here’s another idea I yanked from this book: adding pork fat to fish to make burger patties. Although I’m using salmon today, you could choose almost any fish you like.
The rest of the recipe is my own invention: baked tomato halves for additional juiciness, a kind of bean ketchup (with a lot of olive oil to balance the beans’ dry mouthfeel), and potato buns. There will be a recipe coming for my homemade potato buns very soon, but in the meantime you’ll have to cope with the store-bought ones that don’t taste like potato (because they contain nearly as much food coloring as potato flour) and are pre-cut in a less than optimal fashion (see my picture above). On the side, whole fingerling potatoes are deep-fried exactly as for the perfect fries, and topped with fried parsley. The result isn’t quite as crispy as real fries because of the lower starch content of the fingerlings, but is still rather excellent.
ETA: The potato bun recipe is here!
March 31, 1814. With the Austrian, Prussian, and Russian armies having defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Paris, the War of the Sixth Coalition is now over. Tsar Alexander I of Russia receives the key to the French capital from Talleyrand, and enters the city at the head of the army, cheered by the crowd. Talleyrand, master of political flip-flopping, started to distance himself from Napoleon several years earlier, and is now eager to participate in the new government. He sends a message, through the Russian diplomat Count Karl Nesselrode, offering the tsar a place to stay at his palace.
Talleyrand’s chef at this time is none other than Antonin Carême, the first celebrity chef of sorts. So impressive is his cuisine that Alexander I takes Carême with him when he moves from Talleyrand’s digs to the Elysée Palace. During these few months of Russian presence in Paris, Carême creates a luxurious chestnut ice dessert in honor of Count Nesselrode. The Nesselrode Pudding is born — or, at least, this is how the story goes according to Ian Kelly’s excellent Carême biography, Cooking for Kings.
Spring is here, and despite the persisting snowfalls throughout New York State, the ice fishing season is coming to a close. I haven’t had much luck recently. No matter how hard I tried and how long I froze my butt (sometimes way after all the other fishermen had given up), I didn’t land anything. I’m starting to doubt whether some of the lakes I’ve been to actually contain fish at all. So I decided to have my small revenge and just buy some fresh salmon at the store.
For a change, here’s a recipe from the “let’s make a trivial dish with 3 ingredients and write about it” school of blogging. It’s inspired by something I found in a Russian cookbook called Pro Okhotu I Rybalku [Of hunting and fishing]. Not only does it come with very appetizing pictures, and cover most wild game and fish you’re likely to kill for food, but it offers a different take on preparing your catch. There are traditional Russian dishes of course, but also more creative recipes (such as partridges in chocolate sauce or pigeons with kumquats and couscous).
Whether you want to celebrate the last day of Maslenitsa, Saint Patrick’s Day with a Russian twist, or the coming birch sugar season, this is the drink for you. The Irish-cream-like mixture dilutes the intense flavor of birch syrup, helping to reveal its complexity. This might be my favorite way to consume the syrup, in fact!
I originally thought I could take inspiration from Bailey’s, the mother of all cream liqueurs. The main ingredients are well known and advertised, together with the nutrition facts, on their web site. Reproducing the same proportions of sugar (from the birch syrup), fat (from the dairy) and alcohol (from the vodka) should give a similar result, right? Well, not quite. It was a starting point, but the mixture came out way too fatty and boozy. It took me a few rounds to get the balance right, but the result is very enjoyable.
This recipe is inspired by the crab salad I ate at Baku Palace in Sheepshead Bay a few weeks ago (my restaurant review will come soon, but for now the place is still without power since Hurricane Sandy). The original recipe was terribly deceptive, as the dish, priced at $20 for two people, consisted of julienned cucumber, ground walnut, and… surimi.
So, in order to get rid of the feeling of being cheated, I figured I’d do my own version at home, for about the same price but with real king crab. I added a couple of elements to the recipe and I’m serving it on toasted bread, but the spirit remains the same. Compared to many other posts on my blog, this is surprisingly quick and easy to make. And still delicious!