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Hiatuses and My Christmas Haul!

28 Dec

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I may have added a few bricks to that particular road by trying to cook and blog so close to Christmas.  Sometimes life happens and I don’t always get to do things exactly as I had planned.  And I suppose I might have forgotten how busy the holiday season can be.  However, Christmas is over now and it’s back to the kitchen with me!

What’s great is that I got some really cool kitchen stuff for Christmas that will help me in cooking from The Modernist Cuisine!

First up, I got a very nice digital scale.  This is the third digital scale I’ve owned, and I hope this one lasts.  The first one had a good run and finally gave up.  The second had a cruel run-in with our toaster.  Apparently it warps and stops working if you leave it on top of the toaster oven while toasting.  I don’t plan on keeping this one on top of the toaster so as to avoid that problem in the future.  Eventually I would like to have another digital scale to handle very small quantities, but this one will handle most anything I can throw at it for now.

I also got a digital probe thermometer.  This is really awesome because I’ve wanted one for what seems like forever!  I haven’t had an occasion to use it yet but I’m very excited to test it out!

Lastly, and most awesomely, I got a pressure cooker!  To be honest, I have never in my life used a pressure cooker nor do I remember anyone in my family ever using one.  However, this one piece of equipment opens up a world of possibilities for modernist cooking.  I got a stovetop model, not an electric one, but that suites me just fine.  With a small kitchen, the last thing I wanted was another piece of equipment that has to plug in and sit on the counter.  While excited to try this one out, I’m also terrified that I’m going to blow up my house!  It has safety features and whatnot though so maybe this isn’t such a big issue.  🙂

The other thing that I’ll say is that I bought some sodium citrate online.  Another new ingredient for me!  I didn’t have much luck finding it in stores around here, which isn’t much of a surprise.  Actually, Kyle (the hubby) asked about it at our local pharmacy per some advice I found online.  The lady there looked at him like he might be a terrorist!  He had to, very quickly, explain that he only meant to make macaroni and cheese, not a bomb.  Hopefully we’re not on any kind of watch list now.

So between a new ingredient and several new pieces of equipment, I have plenty that I can write about!  I haven’t picked out a recipe for next week yet (I can’t make mac and cheese like I planned pre-Christmas until I get the sodium citrate) but I know I have a lot more to pick from just by having the pressure cooker.  If anyone has any requests or recommendations, by all means let me know!  Thanks for reading and I’ll post again soon!

A New Ingredient: Xanthan Gum!

5 Dec

I thought that on my first endeavor into The Modernist Cuisine at Home  I would keep it simple.  I decided to start out with a new ingredient instead of going whole hog and buying a sous vide machine, though that thought did cross my mind…just a bit.  Anyway, I will admit that it was a little difficult finding a recipe I could make without buying a new piece of equipment, but when all was said and done, I found three!  This week I’ll be reviewing Tomato Confit and Pistachio Pesto, which uses our new ingredient, Xanthan Gum, as an emulsifier, from the Basics chapter.  I’ll be using those recipes as ingredients in the third recipe, a very yummy sounding grilled cheese sandwhich called the Goat Cheese on Baguette with Tomato Confit and Basil.

So what is Xanthan Gum?  The Modernist Cuisine defines it as a “naturally occurring carbohydrate” which I thought was a little vague, so I did a little more research.  It is more specifically a polysaccharide, created from fermenting corn, wheat, or soy with a bacteria, Xanthomonas campestris.  That’s the bacteria that turns your broccoli and cauliflower black and slimy.  The fermented bacteria is then dried and turned into a powdery substance.  Commercially, its commonly used as both a thickening agent and emulsifier in many everyday products including salad dressings, sauces, and even toothpaste!  In home cooking, it’s usually used in gluten free baking.  It helps to give the dough that naturally sticky feel.

The book suggests that you can buy Xanthan Gum at your grocery store and states that it should cost around $15 for 450 g.  That may be true for some people, but not for me.  I found it, not at my normal grocery store but at a higher end store, and for twice the price!  $15 for 226 g.  Don’t fret.  It’s not the end of the world!  The great thing about this ingredient is how little of it you have to use, usually no more than 0.2% of the weight of the dish.  However, I will say, when I start running low I will be buying my Xanthan Gum online.  It’s way cheaper there!  What can I say?  I’m frugal!

So that’s Xanthan Gum in a nutshell.  It’s a very cool, very modern ingredient, and I’m very glad to add it to my pantry.

Until next time…