Thursday, October 22, 2009

Recipe: Chestnut Ice Cream....the collusion of the warm against the cold

This article is part of the Chestnut Series!

An inspiration from my visit to Hokkaido....

Sometimes the senses from the ice cream trickling down your throat that much more exciting while walking against the chilling wind....

Chestnut Ice Cream

Makes 2 quarts

1 quart milk
7/8 cup heavy cream
10 egg yolk
1 1/4 cup sugar
8 ounces chestnut puree
1 ounce rum
10 sweet roasted chestnuts or Marron glacé - chopped into bite size

1. In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Add the cream. Bring to boil again. (Do not cook after the liquid has reached the boil.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is a very pale lemon yellow, and a ribbon forms when the whisk is lifted from the mixture.

3. Pour the hot milk and cream into the eggs, and mix thoroughly. Add chestnut puree and rum.

4. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Over low heat, stir it with a wooden spoon until it thickens slightly and coats the spoon - about 5 minutes. DO NOT BOIL. (To be certain the mixture is ready: With a finger draw a thin path through the mixture on the surface of the spoon; the mixture is ready when the path will not close up.)

5. Pass through a fine sieve. Refrigerate until cold, then churn with ice cream maker.

6. Stir in the chopped chestnuts when ice cream has completed churning.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, October 19, 2009

An Autumn Ingredient for the Chilling Weather....the Chestnut Series!

The Nor'easter storm brought in the first October snow, and a harsh reminder of the chilling winter ahead. All those thoughts of black ice was wiped away by the sight of these golden luscious nuggets at the local Chinese market. The hearty fruits of the winter....

As a member of the nut family, fresh chestnut fruits have about 180-200 Kcal per 100 grams serving, much lower than its cousins like walnuts, and almonds. As with any plant product, chestnuts contain no cholesterol. They also contain very little fat, mostly unsaturated, and with its no gluten properties, it can play an important role in the diet of individual with gluten sensitivity. Chestnuts can be dried and milled into flour, which can then be used in gluten-free baked goods, and Italians often use it to make pasta and gnocchi.

The French and Italian brought this fruit to the next level by candying them in a vanilla infused syrup, and the exquisite marrons glacés was born in the 16th century. There is almost nothing more heavenly than a marrons glacés with sips of espresso. They are also the basis for many desserts, among which the famous “crème de marrons”, itself a staple ingredients for more desserts such as the mont-blanc, ice-creams, cakes, sweet sauce or garnish for other desserts.

Even with these delicious treat that would satisfy any gourmet, it is hardly a match against the sensory explosion caused by the fragrance of the Sweet Roasted Chestnuts 糖炒栗子 on the streets of Hong Kong.

This Chinese street food was dated back in the 10th century, and poems were written to dedicate its glorious caramelised colour and a scent that sends those with a devotion to the heavens.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sometimes it takes a desperate situation for the invention of a gourmet's adventure....

Stumbling upon my friend's travel blog has invoked fonded memories of strolling along Hokkaido's food markets.

A place that is well known for the exquisite sea urchin (uni or うに-雲丹), the monstrous giant red king crab (tarapa kani or 鱈場蟹), the creamy and luscious sea scallops (hotate gai or ホタテ貝), and various fruits with scents and tastes that have been engineered by the Heavens, it is this cured fish that topped the list of inspirations for this culinary adventure, the "Overnight Cured Flower Crucian Carp" originated from Japan's Chiba Prefecture (日本千葉縣一夜干の花鯽魚).

Prior WWII, the Flower Crucian Carp (花鯽魚) was considered as the "poor men's fish", due to its quick spoilage nature. As natural resources became scarce as the war began, this carp was distributed in the northern regions as dietary protein. A restaurateur of an Izakaya chain in Hokkaido took this as an opportunity to explore the use of this fatty fish, from preservation to recipes execution, created a dish that, not finding it on a Izakaya menu in Japan would be a challenge!

The preservation procedure is rather unique but simple. Unlike most cured fish, it takes only one night to dry. The fish is first cleaned and gutted, then soaked in salted water. The salted fish is then hung to air-dry overnight to remove excess water, and therefore concentrate the rich oil and flavour within the fish. The cured fish is either sold in the wet market, or vacuum-packed for distribution within Japan.

Due to its richness in fat this cured treat is often prepared by passing over a charcoal grill. With such a simple treatment comes with an unexpected delight in all senses, that words can hardly make justice. This dish shared the freshness of the uncured cousin. The slightly firmer but extremely moist texture of its flesh balances well with the crispy charred yet slightly gelatinous skin. But I believe it is the aroma from the carbonisation of fish oil that solidified this culinary experience.

It takes a desperate situation for the invention of scientific preservation, but it takes an artist to transform an underprivileged ingredient into a dish that would satisfy a gourmet!


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