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TIP OF THE DAY: Beurre Blanc, Beurre Noir & Beurre Noisette

Yesterday we wrote about LoveTheWild, a line of frozen fish entrées with pats of flavored butter (compound butter) that melt into a sauce.

The concept of compound butter comes from French cuisine, but French butter sauces don’t stop there.

Today, we take on three butter preparations that are used as sauces—sauces that you can easily make to spruce up your evening meal. You don’t need a lot of it to add richness to your dish.

There are other French butter-based sauces, of course: Check them out in our Butter Glossary.
 
 
BEURRE BLANC & BEURRE ROUGE (WHITE AND RED BUTTER SAUCES)

French for white butter, beurre blanc is a hot emulsified butter sauce made popular in Loire Valley cuisine. There it is made with Muscadet, the region’s best-selling white wine, which has been made since the late 16th or early 17th century.

The ingredients of beurre blanc—and the other sauces in this article—are simple:

  • White wine.
  • Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar.
  • Shallots.
  • Chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, basil, parsley or chives.
  • Optional: bay leaf and peppercorns.
  •  
    It is a popular sauce for fish and shellfish, including poached fish and Coquilles Saint-Jacques; as well as vegetables, such as asparagus. With the latter, a splash of tarragon vinegar or a bit of fresh tarragon is added——not part of the original recipe, nor are any fresh herbs. Nor are the bay leaf and peppercorns added by some cooks (photo #1).

    To make the emulsion, cold, whole butter is blended into the hot reduction of wine and vinegar. It is similar to the mother sauce hollandaise in concept, but is considered neither a mother sauce nor a compound butter.

    Beurre rouge, a variant of beurre blanc sauce, is made by substituting a dry red wine for the white wine and red wine vinegar for the white wine vinegar. The red wine supplies color and more of a tang.

    Here’s a recipe for beurre blanc.

    Some beurre blanc history: The chef Clémence Prau Lefeuvre of the Loire restaurant La Buvette de la Marine, is credited with the invention of beurre blanc. Cooking at the beginning of the 20th century, she developed the recipe by accident.

    The story is that she intended to prepare a béarnaise sauce for a pike dish, but forgot to add the tarragon and egg yolks.
     
     
    BEURRE NOISETTE (BROWN BUTTER SAUCE)

    For more depth of flavor, the butter is cooked longer. A step up from beurre blanc is beurre noisette (photo #2).

    Literally meaning hazelnut butter, but commonly referred to as brown butter, it is melted butter that’s cooked until the milk solids turn the light golden brown color of hazelnuts and the butter gives off a nutty aroma.

    Beurre noisette is popular for sautéeing and saucing meat, poultry, fish and fruit; as a sauce for pasta and vegetables; and in baking biscuits, cakes and cookies. We like it with polenta and grains.

    Here’s a recipe for beurre noisette.

     

    Oysters In Beurre Blanc
    [1] Oysters in beurre blanc (photo courtesy Oyster Club | CT).

    Ravioli With Beurre Noisette
    [2] Ravioli in beurre noisette, brown butter (photo courtesy David Venable | QVC).

    Beurre Noir

    [3] Beurre noir is butter cooked until it turns a very dark brown (photo courtesy Alchetron).

     
     
    BEURRE NOIR (BLACK BUTTER SAUCE)

    French for black butter, the butter is cooked over low heat until it turns dark brown (not literal black—photo #3).

    When the sauce turns brown, a few drops of red wine vinegar or lemon juice are added. Some recipes add capers and parsley or thyme. Modern cooks have amended the recipe to include balsamic vinegar, garlic, even minced hot chiles (essentially, sauces that should be called balsamic beurre noir, garlic beurre noir, etc.).

    Two famous classic dishes are calves brains in black butter (a dish, alas, that is not served much these days since the spread of Mad Cow Disease) and skate in black butter. Here’s a recipe for skate in black butter.

    Beurre noir is not to be confused with Jersey black sutter, an English speciality made by slowly cooking apples with cider, licorice and spices. It’s generally eaten on toast.
     
     
    BONUS: BEURRE MONTÉ, A COOKING TECHNIQUE

    Beurre monté is not a sauce, but a method of infusing meats and fish with the flavor of butter. Solid butter is an emulsification of butter fat, water and milk solids; beurre monté is a way to manipulate the emulsification into liquid form.

    A few drops of water and chunks of butter are whisked over a moderate heat to melt the butter and keep it emulsified—a solid, creamy sauce. Foods are cooked in it, meats are rested in it, sauces are made with with it. “It’s an extraordinary vehicle for both heat and flavor.” says chef Thomas Keller.

    Here’s his recipe.

      

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    RECIPE: Coffee Cake Mug Cake & The History Of Mug Cakes

    Mug Cakes Cookbook
    [1] Get a book on mug cakes, and have an almost-instant cake fix whenever you need one (photo courtesy St. Martin’s Press).

    Coffeecake Mug Cake

    Coffee Cake Mug Cake
    [2] and [3] Coffeecake Mug Cake from Ava’s Bakery.

    Cup Of Coffee

    [4] While the cake bakes, make a cup of coffee (photo Sxpng | Canstock ).

     

    Mug cakes have been around for a while. They’re a handy solution when you’re jonesing for a piece of cake. Simply combine some basic ingredients in a coffee mug and microwave for 2 or 3 minutes.

    Yet, a survey among our cake-loving friends and colleagues indicates that few of us make mug cakes. So today, National Coffee Day, we’re encouraging the practice with the Mug Coffee Cake recipe below.

    If you like mug cakes as much as we do, there are several mug cake cookbooks. Start with Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth (photo #1).
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF MUG CAKES

    While unleavened cakes date back to ancient Egypt, most were savory cakes, some garnished with honey. Without leavening, they did not rise.

    It took another few millennia, until the 18th century, for bakers to discover the technique of whipping eggs to make cakes rise. While it required many hours of beating, the wealthy had enough labor in the kitchen. These unsung bakers heralded the dawn of modern baking.

    By the 1840s, baking soda had been invented, followed by baking powder in the 1860s (the difference). These chemical leavening agents meant that most cooks could make a cake rise.

    With cakes came cupcakes. The original cupcakes were baked in coffee cups; hence the name. They were actually mini “test cakes,” to test the heat of the oven.

    From the prehistoric dawn of the oven to the latter half of the 19th century, there were no thermostats to regulate the temperature of the oven, which was fueled by a wood or charcoal fire. Delicate cooking like baking required great technique (the history of ovens).

    In 1851, the Bower’s Registered Gas Stove debuted at the Great Exhibition in London, featuring a revolution: a thermostat. It became the basis for the modern gas oven.

    As ovens with regulated temperatures became available, and sugar became affordable to most people, more home cooks were able to bake to their hearts’ content. This resulted in more creativity in recipe development. The modern cake as we know it began to take shape in the mid-19th century.

    Finally, The Microwave!

    The next great leap forward, the consumer microwave oven, was launched in 1967. But it took another 50 years or so to popularize a microwaved cake-in-a-mug. Finally, in the Information Age, it quickly gained popularity via online cooking forums.

    The technique uses a mug as the cooking vessel and takes just a few minutes to toss the ingredients into the mug: flour, sugar, baking powder, seasonings and fats (butter, cream, oil). The mug goes into the microwave; as the fat in the mixture heats up, it creates air pockets that cause the cake to quickly rise.

    Here’s a fun idea for National Coffee Day: a coffee mug cake filled with coffee cake (photos #2 and #3).

    If that sounds like too much of a tongue twister, let us explain:

    Ava’s Cupcakes, a winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, has created a tongue-in-cheek cake for National Coffee Day. It’s a mug cake—made in a coffee mug. And that’s a streusel-topped coffee cake in that mug.

    You’ll also need a separate mug of coffee to drink with the mug cake (photo #4)…but what a memorable coffee break!

    If you’re in the neighborhood, Ava’s Bakery has a retail bakery in Rockaway, New Jersey. If not, there’s a large selection of products available online at AvasCupcakes.com.
     
     
    RECIPE: COFFEE CAKE IN A MUG (MUG CAKE)

    Ingredients For The Cake

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • Dash of salt
  •  
    For The Crumb Topping

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Optional garnish: powdered sugar, ice cream or whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SOFTEN the butter. Place the sugar in the mug, add the butter and combine. Add cream, vanilla and cinnamon, and stir.

    2. MIX the flour, salt and baking powder together in a separate bowl, and add to the cup. Blend.

    3. MAKE the topping: Soften the butter, add flour, cinnamon and brown sugar, and mix until crumbly. Crumble the top onto flour mixture, patting down gently.

    4. MICROWAVE for 2 minutes, let cool for 1 minute. Garnish as desired and consume!

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 25 Ways To Serve Avocado Boats

    A BRIEF AVOCADO HISTORY

    Spanish explorers in Mexico encountered new foods, including avocados*. Martín Fernández de Enciso (ca, 1470-1528) was the first European to describe them, in a book written in 1519.

    The Aztec name for the fruit is ahuacatl (ah-hwa-CAH-tay); the Spanish pronounced and spelled it it aguacate. The returning conquistadors brought avocado trees back to Europe [source].

    In 1653, a Spanish padre, Bernabe Cobo, described the different varieties of avocado in Guatemala, Mexico and the West Indies.

    Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish naturalist, is believed to have inadvertently coined the word “avocado” in 1696, when he mentioned the plant in a catalogue of Jamaican plants. He also called it the “alligator pear-tree” after the fruit’s pebbly skin.

    George Washington was one of the people who described eating avocados in the West Indies. He visited the Barbados in 1751, and later wrote that the “agovago pears” were a popular food.

    Avocados Come To The U.S.

    Henry Perrine, a horticulturist, first planted avocados in Florida in 1833. However, they didn’t become a commercial crop until the early 20th century.

    The fact that avocados on the tree looked like testicles (in fact, the Aztec word ahuacatl means “testicle”), and were purportedly an aid to sexual prowess, kept them off the tables of polite society.

    In time, they gained acceptance. By the 1950s, avocados began to appear in salads; and avocados stuffed with chicken, crab or shrimp salad became a popular ladies’ luncheon choice.

    Stuffed potatoes and squash also became known as “boats”; hence, the avocado boat.

    Here’s more history of avocados.

    We love avocado boats, and have compiled 25 different stuffings. Other recipes, including baked and grilled versions, cook eggs in the boats. But these options simply require a ripe avocado and the filling.

    Whatever you choose, a garnish of fresh herbs—basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, thyme—adds an extra flavor dimension, Lovers of spice can add a sprinkle of red chile flakes or a spicy seasoning blend.
     
     
    AVOCADO BOATS AS A FIRST COURSE

  • Caprese salad with grape tomatoes and perlini mozzarella balls
  • Chickpea salad (recipe)
  • Citrus salad (optional feta or goat cheese)
  • Israeli salad
  • Tropical fruit salad (coconut, kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple in honey-lime juice)
  •  
     
    AVOCADO BOATS AS A LUNCH COURSE

  • Asian chicken salad
  • BBQ chicken (recipe)
  • Buffalo chicken
  • Ceviche
  • Chicken taco salad (recipe or pulled chicken)
  • Crab, shrimp or shrimp salad
  • Egg salad
  • Salmon poke or smoked salmon salad, topped with salmon caviar
  • Seafood salad in vinaigrette (shrimp, mussels, clams, squid)
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Sloppy joe (beef or turkey)
  • Tuna poke (recipe)
  • Turkey BLT with bacon, chopped tomato, fresh spinach
  • Veggie pizza (chopped veggies of choice, pasta sauce topped with mozzarella, plain or melted)
  •  
     
    AVOCADO BOAT SIDES

  • Chopped salad
  • Corn and bean relish
  • Cucumber salad
  • Grain salad (quinoa, etc.)
  • Pico de gallo or other salsa (Chopped tomato, red onion, garlic granules, jalapeño, cilantro, sea salt, and lime juice._
  • Seeds and sprouts (recipe)
  • Three bean salad
  •  

    Stuffed Avocado With Curried Chicken Salad
    [1] Avocado boat with curried tuna salad. Here’s the recipe from Kara Lydon.

    Tuna Poke Avocado Boat
    [2] Trendy poke is delicious in an avocado boat. Here’s the recipe from Anya’s Eats.

    BLT Avocado Boat
    [3] A BLT avocado boat. You can make it a chicken or turkey BLT. Here’s the recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

    Caprese Avocado Boat
    [4] A Caprese avocado boat. Here’s the recipe from Souffle Bombay.

     
    If we’ve overlooked your favorite avocado boat filling, let us know.

    ________________

    *Avocado, beans, bell pepper, cacao, chile peppers, corn, potato, pumpkin and other squash and vanilla are some others.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pimento Cheese Spread & Pimento Cheese Pizza Rolls

    Pimento Cheese Spread Recipe
    [1] A popular Southern snack: pimento cheese with bread or crackers (photo courtesy Wisconsin Cheese Talk).

    Crudites With Pimento Cheese
    [2] Pimento cheese with crudités (photo courtesy 33 Greenwich | NYC).

    Roasted Red Peppers
    [3] Other subspecies are easily substituted for pimento. They’re sold as generic “roasted red peppers” (photo courtesy Kalyn’s Kitchen).

    Pimento Cheese Pizza Rolls

    [4] These pizza rolls are delicious with wine, beer and cocktails (recipe below, photo courtesy Bev Cooks).

     

    Pimento cheese, long known as a Southern specialty, has been called the caviar of the south.

    Yet it was actually a Northern invention: a blend of sharp cheddar with cream cheese, chopped pimento and seasonings.

    Here’s the history of pimento cheese, from Robert Moss, a Southern food historian.

    No matter which side of the Mason-Dixon line gave birth to pimento cheese, we’re glad it’s here. It was our mom’s favorite way to serve cream cheese, and when we were young that was easy: Philadelphia Brand sold pimento cream cheese.

    While Philly is out of the pimento cheese business, you can find other brands on the shelf; or make your own with the recipe below.
     
     
    IS IT PIMIENTO OR PIMENTO?

    Pimiento (pim-YEN-toe) is the Spanish word for a particular sweet chile pepper similar to a red bell pepper. It’s heart-shaped, about 3 to 4 inches long by 2 to 3 inches wide.

    Pimiento is the pepper used to make paprika, and is stuffed into green olives. Its flesh is sweet, succulent and more aromatic than that of the red bell pepper.

    Pimento is often bought in jars or cans. Other subspecies are jarred as well, and labeled either with the subspecies (“roasted red piquillo pepper”) or a generic “roasted red peppers.”

    But look around and you may find freshly-harvested pimentos: They’re in season from late summer through early fall.

    Now to answer the question: Is it pimento or pimiento?

    Pimiento is the Spanish spelling, pimento is the Portuguese spelling. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the primary spelling is pimiento, with pimento as a variation.

    For English speakers, it’s easier to pronounce by leaving out the “i”; but the choice is yours.
     
     
    HOW TO SERVE PIMENTO CHEESE

    The versatile spread can be served at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and for hors d’oeuvre and snacking.

    From pimento mac and cheese to cheeseburgers to the pizza rolls recipe below, you can substitute pimento cheese anywhere a soft cheese is used.

    Here are 20-plus ways to use it, plus a recipe for new-style pimento cheese, substituting mayonnaise for the original cream cheese..

    We prefer the original cream cheese-based pimento cheese, used in the pepperjack pimento cheese recipe below.

    Pepperjack? What happened to the cheddar?

    Jack cheeses are often substituted for the cheddar, and some people use white cheddar. We’ve used Cabot’s Hot Habanero Cheddar or Horseradish Cheddar instead of sharp cheddar.

    Just a thought: For for harvest season and Halloween, the more orange the color, the better.

    Want even more variety? Here are different pimento cheese recipes from Southern Living.
     
     
    RECIPE #1: PEPPERJACK PIMENTO CHEESE SPREAD

    This recipe (photo #4) from Bev Cooks, does double duty as a spread with toasts or crackers. She also uses it in mini pizza rolls.

    These are particularly nice to serve with beer, wine or cocktails.

    Thanks to Organic Valley cream cheese for sending us the recipe.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded pepper jack cheese (substitute sharp cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 jar (4 ounces) diced pimentos, drained
  • 5 dill pickle slices
  • 2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
  • 1 tablespoon pickled jalapeño juice, optional
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • Toasted baguette slices or crackers
  • Preparation

    1. PLACE the pepper jack, cheddar, cream cheese, pimentos, pickle slices, pickle juice, jalapeño juice and mayonnaise in a food processor.

    2. COVER and pulse until mixture is a spreadable consistency, about 5-10 pulses. Serve with toasted baguette slices or crackers.
     
     
    RECIPE #2: PIMENTO CHEESE PIZZA ROLLS

    Create your own twist on pizza rolls: Use the spread recipe above as a filling for store-bought mini pizza dough or crescent roll dough.

    Preparation

    1. ROLL out the dough and top with cheese spread. Roll up. (Cut in half width-wise if using mini pizza dough.)

    2. BAKE according to the dough package directions until the rolls are golden brown.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fall Pies & Pie Crust Decorations

    What’s your favorite fall pie? We put together this list of popular options.
     
    1. PIE TYPE

    What type of pie do you hanker for? For the autumn season, we particularly like:

  • Apple and apple combinations, such as apple-cranberry and apple-pear
  • Caramel apple, pear, pecan, etc.
  • Cherry pie
  • Maple-nut
  • Maple-pear
  • Pecan and other nut pies (almond, hazelnut, macadamia, walnut)
  • Pumpkin, squash and sweet potato pies
  •  
    You can take any pie you like and tailor it to your aesthetic preferences. Just follow this simple guide.

    2. PIE FORMAT

    Next, pick a shape:

  • Conventional round pie
  • Deep dish pie
  • Galette
  • Hand pie
  • Pan pie
  • Slab pie
  •  
    3. PIE CRUST TYPE

    There are choices beyond the classic flaky pâte brisée. A soft, tender crust, it is made of flour, water and fat, and designed for moist fillings.

    (Pâte sablée, tart dough, makes a harder, cookie-like crust. The fat, typically butter, is creamed together with sugar; then the eggs and flour are added.)

    But step away from the tried-and-true, and consider other choices:

  • Cake batter crust
  • Cereal crusts: corn flakes, granola
  • Cheddar cheese crust
  • Cinnamon roll crust, made with sliced cinnamon roll dough
  • Coconut crust
  • Cream cheese crust
  • Crushed cookie crust: Biscoff, chocolate wafer, graham cracker, gingersnap, oatmeal, shortbread, sugar cookoie, vanilla wafers
  • Dried fruit crust, with chopped dried cherries, cranberries or other fruit(s)
  • Nut and seed crusts, including salted almond and pecan. The nuts or seeds are mixed with flour, but can be all nut for a gluten-free crust.
  • Pretzel crust
  • Surprise crust, with candy (e.g. M&Ms) on the bottom
  • Other flour crust: gluten-free, whole wheat, etc.
  •  
    Note that some fruits, e.g. blood orange, simply go better with a tart crust.
     
    PIE CRUST RIMS

    What type of edge (rim) do you like on your crust? Photo #1 will give you some ideas (there’s a larger version of it below).

  • Braided edge
  • Classic fluted rim/rope crimp
  • Finger crimp
  • Folded/pleated edge
  • Fork tines, parallel, chevron, crosshatch
  • Scallop crust (made with the tip of a spoon)
  •  
    TOP CRUST

    You can add festivity to the top crust with :

     

    Pie Crust Decorations
    [1] Different crust styles; see them more clearly in the photo below (photo courtesy Sur La Table).

    Cookie-top Pie
    [2] Petticoat tail nut shortbread tops a pumpkin pie (photo courtesy La Brea Bakery).

    Pie Top Cutter
    [3] Pie cutters are available in numerous designs, including holiday themes like pumpkins and snowflakes (photo courtesy Nordicware).

    Braided Pie Crust

    [4] Can’t decide? Go for some of everything, like Judy Kim of The Judy Lab.

  • Cobblestones, squares of dough like those atop cobblers
  • Cookies, either design shapes (leaves, flowers) or petticoat tails (photo #2)
  • Dough appliques
  • Lattices
  • Streusel or nut crumble
  • Stencils (cut-outs—photo #3)
  •  
     
    CHECK OUT OUR PIE GLOSSARY FOR THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PIES

    Pie Crust Varieties

    Top row: scattered leaf appliques, mini applique edge, lattice. Middle row: applique flowers, classic fluted
    edge, applique leaves. Bottom row: stencil cut, braided edge with leaf applique, full leaf applique top.

      

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