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Archive for March 24, 2012

FOOD HOLIDAY: National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day

The gourmet version of Raisinets, from Lake
Champlain Chocolates
(certified kosher).

 

Today is National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day. In the form of Raisinets, the dried-fruit-in-a-candy-shell is a movie theater staple and the third-largest selling candy in U.S. history.

To make the candy, raisins are coated with oil and spun in a hot drum with milk or dark chocolate. They’re then polished to a shine.

Raisinets are the earliest brand on record, introduced by the Blumenthal Brothers Chocolate Company of Philadelphia in 1927 (the brand was acquired by Nestlé in 1984).

We don’t know that the Blumenthals originated the concept. Hard chocolate was invented in 1847, enabling confectioners to develop all types of chocolate candies (the history of chocolate). No doubt, chocolate-dipped fruit was in the repertoire.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Secondary Sauces, Part 2, Cheddar Cheese Sauce & Sauce Suprême

Become a sauce master: Here’s Part 2 of chef Johnny Gnall’s tutorial on the secondary sauces. Start at the beginning with:

  • The Five Mother Sauces
  • Secondary Sauces: Béarnaise and Creole
  •  
    If you have questions or suggestions for other tips, email email Chef Johnny.

    BÉCHAMEL SAUCE BECOMES CHEDDAR CHEESE SAUCE

    It’s easy to make a robust Cheddar cheese sauce from a base of creamy, delicate béchamel (BAY-sha-mell) sauce. Just stir the following ingredients into one quart of béchamel:

  • 8 ounces grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  •  

    Rich, creamy Cheddar cheese sauce. Photo courtesy AztecaFoods-Europe.com.

     

    In addition to saucing proteins, starches and vegetables—and making a superior macaroni and cheese—it’s phenomenal for dipping hot pretzel nuggets at parties: A crowd tends to form around the bowl.

    Bacon Béchamel.
    If you believe, as I do, that bacon makes everything better, you can go big and cook some bacon to add to the béchamel (finely chopped). Or you can whisk in bacon fat that you’ve previously reserved (I always save the drippings when I cook bacon and store them in a small plastic container that I keep on the shelf of my fridge).

  • If you’re adding bacon to your béchamel, go lighter on the salt, as bacon has plenty of its own.
  • If you know in advance that you’re going to make a bacon béchamel, start your roux with bacon, similar to the first step of making tomato sauce. Just render the bacon on medium heat until crispy, then begin to stir in flour to make the roux, and continue with the béchamel as usual. You may need to supplement with a little butter if you run short on bacon fat and want to create more béchamel.
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    Roast chicken, garlic mashed potatoes and
    fiddlehead ferns on a bed of sauce suprême.
    Photo by JohnHerschell | Wikimedia.jpg

     

    VELOUTÉ SAUCE BECOMES SAUCE SUPRÊME (SUPREME SAUCE)

    Sauce suprême is a very rich sauce that adds cream to chicken velouté. It’s the perfect “luxury” sauce for roast chicken or pork. One chef we know calls it “the most upscale gravy.”

  • Reduce the velouté by a fourth at a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • Temper a pint of cream in a bowl. To do this, whisk a bit of the hot velouté into the cream to bring its temperature up. Then add it slowly to the simmering velouté.
  • Season with salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.
  •  
    Variations

  • Mushrooms. To make the sauce even more exciting, turn it into mushroom sauce by adding 4 ounces of sliced white/button mushrooms that have been sautéed in butter. If you add a tablespoon of lemon juice while sautéing the mushrooms, they will stay whiter and make your sauce that much more attractive.
  • Caramelized Onions. I like to add sweetness to a sauce suprême with caramelized onions (how to caramelize onions). Cook the onions to their sweetest, brownest, softest point (think French onion soup consistency) and stir them into the sauce along with any excess liquid in the pan. Then use an immersion blender (or countertop blender) to purée them into smoothness. Between the richness of the cream, the sweetness of the onions, and the depth of flavor from the reduced stock, you end up with a unique and complex sauce that works well with any number of proteins, starches and vegetables.
     
    There’s one more mother sauce/secondary sauce tip to go: demi-glace.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Pacific Beach Sweet Peanut Butter Spreads

    Pacific Beach Peanut Butter Spreads, made in sunny San Diego, tempt the palate with “mix-ins” in three popular flavor profiles:

  • Butterscotch: Butterscotch, Caramel and Toffee spreads
  • Cinnamon: CinnaYum spread
  • Chocolate: Child’s Play (M&Ms), Chocolate, Chocolate Raspberry, Dark Chocolate and White Chocolate spreads
  •  
    The sweet ingredients are ground along with the peanuts, creating a whipped texture that melts in the mouth.

    As a sandwich spread, cookie topping or straight from the jar, the spreads are delights.

    Read the full review.

    Don’t Like/Can’t Have Peanuts? Check out these alternative nut butters (almond, cashew, macadamia, pecan, walnut and more) from Artisana, another Top Pick Of The Week.

    Take Our Peanut Butter Trivia Quiz.

     

    Toffee-accented peanut butter is just one of the sweetly enhanced flavors of Pacific Beach Peanut Butter. Photo by Leah Hansen | THE NIBBLE.

     

      

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