Friday, August 5, 2011

Radical Cooking - Cream of Anything



Better than take out
Faster, fresher, easier, healthier and cheaper.........



Cream of Anything
From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms
http://www.cheesecakefarms.com/


Ah, mushrooms!!!
It's always amazing how you can have a refrigerator full of food and there's nothing to eat.

That usually means that there's lots of little bits of leftovers - not enough to make a meal out of anything but too much to simply ignore or throw away.

Here's a nifty (and rather radical) way to use them up. I call it Cream of Anything.

The only down side is that when you want to make it again, you won't have exactly the same collection of leftovers.

You start with a béchamel. In Home Ec, you called it a white sauce.


Cream of Anything
Béchamel is the little black dress of the kitchen.
Learn the basics and you have thousands of recipes at your finger tips.

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Makes 2 cups white sauce
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2 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted)
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk (whole or 2% work best - see Karla's Tip #1 below)
Salt and pepper (to taste - See Karla's Tip #2 below)
Left over, cooked veggies, meat, seafood, chicken or eggs, rice or grains, cheese, beans
Chunky stew made from
leftovers

Over low heat, melt the butter in a sauce pan. (The heavier the pan, the better.) Whisk in flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.  Do not brown.

Slowly, whisk in a bit of the milk to make a paste. Continue adding  milk to the paste, whisking in a little bit at a time until it's all incorporated and the mixture is smooth.  (See Karla's Tip #3 below.)

Cook, uncovered and whisking, until mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Watch the pot carefully because it can boil over easily and make a horrible mess.  (See Karla's Tip #4 below.)

Here comes the fun part. Add whatever leftovers you have that you think will be good.

For stew
Make the mixture thick and chunky to serve as a stew - over noodles or a baked potato, if you want.

For soup 
Add some extra milk to thin to a consistency you like.  For a smooth, bistro chic soup, puree it.

Taste and correct the seasoning. (Add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary - but your leftovers may have enough.)  Heat to steaming.


Bistro smooth

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Karla's Tip #1 - Milk
You need some fat to make this taste divine-ly good but, if you insist, you can use low fat or fat free milk but the taste will be thin. You can also use almond or soy milk but the result will be the same as if you used skim milk.

Whole milk is only 4% fat so don't be afraid to have a little taste in your food. You'll get much more fat in a large order of fries, a cheeseburger or a serving of frozen yogurt.

The fat in milk is called butter fat because it's where butter come from but we've become so afraid of butter that we just call it "fat".

2% milk is, as it says, 2% butter fat.

Low Fat milk is 1% fat.

Skim milk has 0% fat.

Almond, soy, goat or other milks have varying amounts of fat so check the label to be sure.


Karla's Tip #2 - Salt & Pepper
You food will taste infinitely better is you use plain or Kosher salt in cooking.

Iodine leaves an ever so slight bitter background taste and can darken the color of some foods making them unappealing.

There are those who feel iodized salt provides the necessary nutrient iodine but that's an outmoded idea. Years ago, when iodine was first added to salt, the country did not eat as much fish as we do now or take vitamin supplements. Today we're naturally getting more iodine in our food - which is where it should come from.

You can use ground white for a really gourmet touch. White pepper will not leave the tiny black specks in the béchamel as regular dark pepper does but I prefer the taste of black pepper and I like the look of the black specks.  Either works well.

Karla's Tip #3 - Lumps
It's important to add the milk slowly, whisking to incorporate it into the paste.  If you add the milk too fast, it will be hard to whisk it in completely and you'll wind up with lumpy sauce.  If you do get a few lumps you can't mash, it's OK to whirl the sauce with the blender or strain it.

Karla's Tip # 4 - Boiling Over
If the sauce starts to boil over, immediately lift the pot "into the boil".

This means you lift the pot off the stove - don't worry about shutting off the heat - lifting it to follow the sauce as it rises. This trick catches the sauce and keeps it in the pot.

After you've caught the sauce, turn off or lower the heat and continue with the recipe.

Never, by the way, cover the pot.  Covering a cooking béchamel will cause it to boil over every time!

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