(The Jefferson Restaurant®, Williamsburg, VA) Janet and I were celebrating our first wedding anniversary and we happened to pick the Jefferson Restaurant® for our dinner. What a fortunate choice, for all the food was delicious. We had never eaten peanut soup but I decided to try it and Janet chose the tomato bisque. Both were superb. The waiter gave us the recipe for the peanut soup but not the tomato bisque. I want you to try the peanut soup as it very likely will taste far different to you than you might first think. It is yummy! Meanwhile, I will try to clone the tomato bisque. Ingredients: (12 to 14 one cup servings) 1 medium onion chopped fine
Start the mixer on low speed and gradually pour in the egg mixture. Then increase the speed to medium.
Mix for about a minute. If the dough is too dry it will not form into a ball of dough. If that happens then add one tablespoon of water and mix for an additional minute. Repeat if necessary but do not add too much water overall or the dough will be sticky, and that is not good.
Remove the mixer beater and replace it with a dough hook.
Run the mixer for one to two minutes to knead the dough. The dough should not be at all sticky. If it is then add a small amount of flour, like one tablespoon, and knead the dough for half a minute longer. Be sure the flour is well mixed into the dough. Repeat the flour addition if necessary.
Remove the dough and separate it into four pieces. Flatten the pieces to a thickness of about 1/2" and a width of about 1" and wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for one hour at room temperature. NOTE: I use that hour to make the wonton filling that I will use later, which saves a lot time overall in the making of wonton soup.
I use a pasta maker attachment with my KitchenAid® mixer to convert each dough piece into one about two feet long and four inches wide, and somewhat less than 1/16th inch thick. You may have to roll out each piece of dough with a rolling pin. I recommend doing that using a long piece of plastic wrap on a hard counter surface that has been liberally dusted with cornstarch. You may also want to dust the top surface of the dough while you are rolling it to a thickness of about 1/16th of an inch or less, to facilitate rolling.
Use a sharp knife to cut squares of dough roughly four inches to a side and place each square in a pile, remembering to dust the top of each piece lightly with cornstarch before adding the next piece to the stack.
You are now ready to proceed with making the wonton soup.
Ingredients: (Makes four generous or six normal servings) Wontons: 36 wonton skins (about ½ pound, available in Asian markets for about $2/lb.)
2 ½ cups of ground lean boneless pork chops, roughly 12 ounces total weight.
1 cup of raw or canned vegetables (or more) ground, for the filling (Many different vegetables can be used. I used sliced water chestnuts, bean sprouts, hearts of palm, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms and a scallion. Bamboo shoots are also a typical filling ingredient.)
1 tbsp. Soy sauce
½ tsp. of Sea salt
1 raw egg
¼ cup of water (for an egg wash)
4 cups of water (for parboiling) Soup base: 6 cups of chicken broth (I used five cups plus one cup of beef broth)
12 frozen pre-cooked medium size shrimp, shelled and deveined (You can use anything that appeals to you for taste and appearance in the soup. Some folks use slivers of cooked pork. The recipe in the book also used egg strips. I did not.)
2 cups of chopped Chinese cabbage (I remove most of the green leafy area and chop the wide white stems. Also, I used Napa, which technically is not Chinese cabbage.) Directions: Make the wontons first. Use a meat grinder with 1/8” diameter holes. Cut up and grind the pork chops. Cut up and grind the vegetables and mix them well with the ground pork. Add the sea salt and soy sauce and again mix well. I did this by hand but the next time I make wonton soup I will simply use my electric mixer to eliminate needless labor. In the future I may also beat the ground pork first (as I did in my sausage recipes to blend meat and fat into a paste) to get an even finer texture. Note: I used the mixer the second time I made this soup and the result was excellent. Make an egg wash by whisking the raw egg in a shallow bowl, then adding the ¼ cup of water, and then whisk again for one minute. Open the pack of wonton skins (which are really just very thinly rolled dough slices cut into 3” x 3” squares), put one in the palm of your hand and put about 2 tsp. of the filling into the center. Then use one finger of your other hand to dip into the egg wash and put a thin coating of egg wash along the perimeter of the skin about ½ inch wide. Fold the wonton skin and filling into a triangle shape, squeezing the air out as you press the skin edges together going from one end to the other. Set the wonton on a dinner plate and repeat the process until all the filling mixture is used. It is your choice how much or how little filling you use for each wonton skin. Note that anything more than 1 tbsp. of filling per skin will make the proper closing and sealing of the skin more difficult if not impossible. Note also that the amount of filling per skin determines how many skins you will need to use, so the number 36 shown in the ingredient list is variable. Chop the vegetables for the soup base and add all except the scallion pieces to the broth in a 6 quart soup pot. Add the shrimp, the salt and the soy sauce. Bring the mixture barely up to a scalding temperature (around 180º F) on low heat and hold it briefly at that temperature. Reduce the heat if necessary. Do not boil it. The essence of great Chinese cooking is to retain some of the texture and taste of each ingredient and overcooking will ruin that. Bring the 4 cups of water to a rapid boil on high heat in a separate pot to parboil the wontons. When the water is boiling add about six wontons and let them parboil on high heat for three minutes. Then remove them individually with a slotted spoon and put them into the soup base. Repeat the process until all wontons have been parboiled and added to the soup base. Bring the soup base with wontons to a gentle boil and cook for five minutes. Add the chopped scallion(s) and cook for one additional minute. Ladle the soup into wide soup bowls, making sure each bowl has an even/equal mixture of soup base ingredients and wontons, and serve it. You and your guests will be delighted. It is very attractive and great tasting soup.
Baked Potato - ☺♥ The baked potato is an unlikely entry in this recipe book as it is common and most folks know how to bake a potato. Some do not. A grilled steak with a baked potato and a tossed salad is so American that I decided to cover the bases and provide what most of the Internet experts agree to be the best baked potato, with my upgrades and explanations.
A word about potatoes is in order. Use fresh Russet potatoes and do not refrigerate them as that will screw up the sugar and starch balance. Do not use any potato that has green color anywhere on the surface. Cut out any bad sections from the potato prior to baking. You should not have to remove any eyes as that infers you do not have a fresh potato, but in any case remove any eyes. Wash the potato in a spray of cool water to remove any dirt and then dry the potato with a dish towel or paper towel.
The goal is to make a baked potato that has a crisp skin and a flaky interior, such that you want to eat the skin as well as the interior of the potato.
Ingredients: 1 medium large fresh Russet potato
1 tsp. of peanut oil
1 tsp. of Kosher salt Directions: Set the oven to 420º F. Use a fork to create 1” deep punctures in 12 different evenly spaced areas of the potato. Lightly coat the potato with the peanut oil, wiping off any excess with a paper towel. Rub the Kosher salt into the oiled potato skin surface. Bake the potato for one hour on the middle shelf of the oven, turning it over after the first 30 minutes. Remove the potato from the oven and serve it with butter, sour cream, etc. Explanations: My recommended baking temperature is anywhere from 20º F to 70º F hotter than what the experts recommend. Why? Well, they all coat the potato with oil and then inform you that if you do that the skin will not be crispy. Thus, I know that the higher baking temperature will produce a crisp and not burned surface. I also know that the higher temperature will assure that enough moisture is lost from the interior of the potato to make it flaky inside. The length of time necessary to bake a potato depends on the size of the potato. The main goal is to lose enough moisture from the interior of the potato so that it is flaky when opened, not dense and wet. A small potato will be done in 40 minutes maximum. A medium potato will take about 50 minutes. A medium large potato will take an hour. A large potato will take an hour and 10 minutes. An extra large potato will take an hour and 20 minutes. The depth of the punctures made in large and extra large potatoes prior to baking should be 1½” deep instead of the 1” deep recommended for a medium large potato in this recipe. What about Sweet Potatoes? Well, we don’t eat the skins of sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes have to cook longer than a regular potato to become soft inside. They are punctured to avoid any possibility of them exploding due to internal steam pressure. They are best baked inside an aluminum foil wrap, which is something you never want to do with a regular potato. The idea is that all the moisture of the sweet potato is desirable to keep inside the foil wrap, helping cook it to become soft, and the aluminum foil seals in the moisture. That is just the opposite of the goal and the method used for baking a regular potato. The baking temperature used for regular potatoes is fine for sweet potatoes, but give the sweet potatoes an extra 20 minutes of baking time for each given size. Enjoy!
French Fries with Batter Coating - ☺♥
I hope your membership in Weight Watchers® is active. You will need it because you will eat too many of the fries you will make with this recipe. They are really good.
Directions: Batter Method:
Slice potatoes into French fries, ¼” x ¼” by whatever length and parboil them and dry them as described in the basic French Fries recipe.
Heat oil to 350º F in a large skillet over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating, sift the flour, garlic salt, onion salt, sea salt, and paprika into a large bowl. Gradually stir in enough water so that the mixture can be drizzled from a spoon. The truth is that many different dry spices can be combined for the batter. Use your imagination. Do the initial frying in small batches for up to three minutes each and remove the fries to a paper towel to cool. Allow the fries to cool completely. Be sure to let the oil reheat to 350º F between batches. The fries should be very light in color after the initial frying.
Dip the cooled fries into the batter one at a time, and place in the 350º F oil so they are not touching at first. The fries must be placed into the skillet one at a time, or they will clump together. Fry until they are light golden brown in color and crispy, about three to four minutes. But you decide when to remove each fry based on your preference. Remove individually with tongs and drain on paper towels. Keep them on a platter in a 200º F oven until all batches are done.
Variation: (dry seasoning instead of batter coating) After the first fry, when the fries cool, mix some dry seasonings in with the fries to coat them all and they will come out with a nice flavor. Use different combinations of herbs and seasonings depending on what you want at the time. For example use salt, pepper, onion and garlic powders, and perhaps some Cajun seasoning. Rub that all over the fries and then fry them the second time. They will come out nicely seasoned and flavored, but if you want even more intense taste then dust the fries with dry spice(s) after the second frying.
Superb French Fries - ☺♥ The quality of French Fries made at home is typically inferior to that found in places like McDonalds® or a few good restaurants. Even typical restaurants often make inferior fries. The home cook usually encounters two problems … the outside of the fries is too dark by the time the interior is cooked, and, the fries tend to become limp and greasy instead of crisp as they cool. Both of these problems can be eliminated by using some of the tricks used by McDonald's® and other savvy frying experts.
There is a special recipe and research article in the New Recipes and Research section of Food Nirvana, which is the last Food Nirvana section of the web page. Within that area you will see a link for making so-called Perfect French Fries. Give it a look and you may decide to follow that recipe. It is similar to the recipe below but uses higher starting frying temperatures and less oil vs. the amount of potato being fried. Best of all, I tried it and it is better than my (now old) recipe was before. I didn't trash my recipe but the new one below has useful improvements to my old recipe, so I have made this version my official recipe. I disagree with the recommendation in the research article to heat the oil to 400ºF, for I prefer processing less potato pieces in more, lower temperature oil, to enhance control of the frying process and thus help the cook see when to remove the fries from the oil, at the optimal time(s). First, use fresh Russet potatoes. Peel them and cut them into strips no more than 1/4" thick … they can be wider than 1/4" if you want but not thicker, and of whatever length you have based on the size of the potatoes. Many of the better recipes recommend strips ¼" by ¼" to assure quick frying and crisp results, which I prefer. That is also exactly what is done by McDonald's®. Rinse the strips in cold water. Recently I decided to find a machine to process whole russet potatoes to make raw french fries of the perfect size in large quantities so that I could vacuum seal and freeze the fries after the initial frying, and have them available any time I wanted them, quickly. I found exactly what I was looking for at www.kegworks.com and a picture of the machine that I bought from them is shown below. It cost $68 plus $12 shipping and it is excellent. I determined that the machine pays for itself after making 50 medium size individual serving bags of French Fries at home vs. buying them at McDonald's®. You definitely will want to consider purchasing the machine as a labor and time saving device that creates many cut raw fries of the perfect size, quickly, if you scale up your production as I have. Yes, uniformity is important for consistent perfection, and reducing your labor is very important to making cooking fun. Do note that the picture shows only the machine and not the 1' by 2' by 3/4" board and the 3, 1 1/2" by 1' by 3/4" slats in three places under the board to receive screws and keep the board level, that I used to mount it. Why mount it? The force you apply with the long lever when you push a potato through the cutter requires something to hold the machine in place. Each leg/foot has a mounting hole so I suggest mounting it as I did and later using two, 4" "C" clamps and a 1 1/2" by 12" by 3/4" piece of wood and fastening the back end of the machine board, temporarily, to a counter top, before using it. The machine board and the slat are used in combination to sandwich the countertop so that the "C" clamp does not touch the countertop directly, which potentially could damage it. The machine directions recommend that it be mounted directly to a counter in a restaurant kitchen, but my temporary attachment method makes more sense in the home environment. Second, use peanut oil if you want the best fries. Corn oil and soybean oil will work okay as long as you keep the oil temperature at or below 380ºF, but the best taste comes from using peanut oil. I buy peanut oil in bulk at Costco® and thus I keep the price low. In addition, the peanut oil can be reused many times provided you use it only for the fries and avoid saving anything but the clean oil after it cools. Avoid the gunk in the bottom of the frying pot. I put my used oil in labeled quart canning jars, and I typically use it three or four times and then throw it away. Thus, you save money both by buying peanut oil in bulk (about four gallons) and by judicious use of the oil. Third, parboil the potato strips before attempting to fry them. This will remove excess starch, which tends to burn in hot oil, and, parboiling gently for only up to ten minutes will not hurt the potatoes ... provided you use vinegar, for without it the potatoes will turn into mush. They will still be firm and flexible when cooled and dried after parboiling when you parboil them with some vinegar and salt in the water, but they will no longer be raw, so they will fry quickly. To parboil, cover the rinsed strips from two extra large cut potatoes with fresh water in a two quart saucepan. Add one tablespoon of sea salt and three tablespoons (1 1/2 tbsp. per extra large potato) of rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil on high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to simmer and partially remove the lid. After ten minutes, remove the cut potatoes to a strainer or remove them with a wide scoop utensil with holes in the bottom, to eliminate excess water, and then let them dry on paper towels or on clean dish towels, with the individual pieces separated from each other to facilitate even and sufficient drying. The parboiled potato strips are now ready for frying. Note: If you are preparing a large quantity of French Fries then put small batches of raw cut fries into an already boiling/simmering large pot of water, vinegar (scale the amount up to 1/3 cup per quart of water) and salt and remove them after ten minutes of simmering to a dry paper towel to absorb the water, or, to a drying rack. As before, give the hot potatoes about ten minutes to evaporate water and become dry. You may add a small additional amount of vinegar (one tbsp.) to the boiling water after each two batches of potato strips have been parboiled if you are using the saucepan method instead of the pot and also doing more than four extra large potatoes. Heat the oil to 380ºF in a deep fat fryer or to about 385ºF and a depth of 5" less than the top of a large pot. Use a frying or candy thermometer if you are using the large pot method. It is best to fry smaller amounts of cut potatoes as that will avoid cooling the hot oil below optimum frying temperature (about 350ºF). I suggest heating one quart of oil minimum for each serving of parboiled potato strips you want to fry in one batch. Your deep fat fryer or pot size will be the limiting factor, so you will know how to limit your batch size. Fry each batch for one minute and check the color of the fries. They do not have to be tan in color. Actually, it is best if they are light blond in color. If your oil cooled below 340ºF you may have to extend the frying time by another minute. Remove the fries from the oil with a slotted spoon or similar tool, allowing excess oil to run/drip into the pot, and then cool the fries on a paper towel or on a cookie cooling rack over a cookie tray, separated from each other. You can recapture excess oil with the second method, and that becomes important when you are frying many batches. Remember to heat the oil back up to 385ºF, if using a pot, before starting the next batch. If the temperature tends to go too high then reduce the heat under your pot. Deep fat fryers typically have automatic temperature control. When all your batches of parboiled potato strips have been fried and cooled, then freeze the fries.
I freeze the fries in a deep freeze, in layers, on paper towels on cookie trays and then I later vacuum seal individual portions for long term freezer storage. It sure makes life easy going to the freezer any time I want and taking out as many single portion packages of frozen fries as I need for the occasion. If, like me, you vacuum seal the fries you can expect them to be perfect if kept in a deep freeze for easily a year or longer. That basically means you will likely learn to bulk process potatoes from peeling through the first frying, which is a great labor saver, and then you can eat fries many times without having to do anything more than drop the frozen fries into hot oil for the second frying. You can also skip the second frying by defrosting the fries in your microwave oven and then baking them, separated from each other, on a cookie cooling rack above a sheet of aluminum foil in a 350ºF convection oven for 15 minutes. There is some sacrifice in flavor using the baking method, but also lower fat content in the finished fries. When you are ready to use the frozen fries, heat the oil to 380ºF and put each batch into the hot oil for a second frying. This time remove the fries when they have a light tan appearance, after about three minutes, and drain excess oil from them with paper towels. Salt them lightly. Place each batch into a 200ºF warming oven on a drying rack or on layered paper towels on a plate until the last batch is made.
Note that the second frying is also started at a high temperature. This provides for the reheating of the frozen fries and you have the opportunity to observe the frying so that you can remove the fries before they become too dark. The second time around the oil temperature will go below 350ºF because the fries were frozen when immersed in the hot oil. This is fine, for your control of the frying is much easier at lower temperatures, such that you can see exactly when the time is right to remove the completed french fries from the hot oil. Do try, however, to keep the oil temperature at 325ºF or more during the second frying. When you are done frying and ready to eat the fries, again salt them lightly and serve them hot. Let each person decide if they want more salt or ketchup or vinegar to enjoy with the fries. Some people even use mayonnaise or pepper. You will have happy guests as your French Fries will be attractive, uniform in color and crisp and not burned, and, they will taste great. You have likely guessed that it is the second frying that results in the fries staying crisp instead of becoming limp. And by now you know that the parboiling allowed you to limit the frying time for finishing the cooking of the interior of the French Fries, so they do not come out too dark. The insides of the fries should be fluffy. The freezing process helped break down the interior of each fry to support more rapid loss of water in the second frying, thus the fluffy interior. Note: The flavor of the fries can be enhanced even further if you use a seasoned batter coating prior to the second frying or a dry spice application after the second frying. See the seasoned coatings recipes below. French Fries with a batter coating: Prepare the following batter using any one or more of a number of spices in the amount shown below: (Old Bay® Seasoning, Cajun, Mrs. Dash®, Blackened seasoning, crushed peppercorns, etc. … Whatever you want to try is fine … So try multiple batters and pick out the one(s) you like best). ½ cup of water
2 tsp. of Spice Mix the batter. If it is too thick then add a tablespoon of water and mix again. Repeat as necessary to develop a fairly thin batter that will mostly drip/run off a fry quickly. The time to use the batter is just before the second frying. Dip each fry individually and let excess batter run off, then put the fry into 350ºF hot oil. Note the lower starting temperature. The lower temperature keeps the batter from burning or becoming too dark. Do this for each fry to avoid having a bunch of them clump together during frying. Remove fries individually when the color indicates that they are done (light to medium tan). Keep a close eye on the oil temperature as frying fewer fries has less of a cooling effect and the oil temperature can become way too high very quickly. If that happens then turn the heat off and continue to do the fries and then turn the heat to a low setting once the oil temperature is back to 350ºF. Drain excess oil off using paper towels, and then keep the fries crisp and warm on a heated platter in your oven until they are all done. Another variation is to sprinkle seasoning on the fries after frying. That method will produce a more intense spice flavor. Some restaurants offer fries dusted with Old Bay® Seasoning. Use your imagination. Enjoy … Join Weight Watchers®!!!