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Ingredient of the Week: Blue Cheese

Blue Cheese (c)2011 LaDomestique.com

As Halloween draws near there is a chill in the air. In most parts of the country, farmers markets are wrapping up for the year. The pace of life slows down, if only slightly. Here in Colorado, we’ve already built a fire in the fireplace a couple of times. Our cooking is slower and we seek depth of flavor in food to satisfy our growing appetites. The ingredient of the week is inspired by Halloween- some might call it strange, weird, or even a little scary. Oh, and you eat it alive. This week at la domestique is dedicated to blue cheese.

Best enjoyed in the cooler months of the year, blue cheese can have a bracingly strong flavor accompanied by a freakishly pungent aroma. Eerie blue-green colored veins permeate the creamy flesh. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Most of the time blue cheese is used in fall salads with nuts and bitter greens, or as part of a cheese plate. However, if you’ve written blue cheese off because you’re not into the texture/appearance, you might want to reconsider. This week at la domestique we’ll explore all the ways to cook with blue cheese. Tomorrow is 10 Ways Tuesday and I’ll have plenty of creative ideas for using blue cheese in hearty autumn cooking. Look for inspiring recipes that will change the way you see this fungus filled food. Understand the science behind the cheese in storyboard Thursday. We’ll look at the best flavors and wines to pair with blue cheese. I’m excited to cook in the moment with you here at LaDomestique.com. When it comes to blue cheese, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

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This Past Week at La Domestique: Sriracha

This past week at La Domestique was dedicated to cooking with sriracha, the spicy Asian chili sauce that’s good on just about everything. More than a hot sauce, sriracha gets depth of flavor from red jalapeño peppers, garlic, vinegar, and a bit of sugar. Here at La Domestique we explored many ways to use sriracha in fall cooking, from glazing a roast chicken to garnishing soup and flavoring vegetable stir-fry dishes.

In case you missed anything, I’ve got a recap:

Monday:  Announcing sriracha as ingredient of the week.

Tuesday:  10 Ways Tuesday! Creative ideas for cooking with sriracha in autumn.

Wednesday:  Cook in the moment with a recipe for Sriracha Glazed Cornish Game Hens.

Thursday:  The story behind sriracha: where it originated, how to make it, cooking with sriracha and flavor pairing.

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Soup & Sriracha, a bowl of enlightenment

Last  Wednesday I experienced enlightenment while slurping a bowl of Chicken Soup Noodle at Boulder restaurant, Zoe Ma Ma. You see, I usually wolf down the soft and pillowy steamed pork buns for lunch, but on that particular day a chilly fall breeze was in the air and I had a hankerin’ for soup. Little did I know how this bowl of soup would change the way I think about food.

I picked up my generous bowl of Ma Ma’s Chicken Soup Noodle and found myself a tiny table in the corner. The bowl contained shredded chicken, bean sprouts, pickled greens and delicate noodles all suspended in rich homemade broth. Little globules of fat floated on the surface with scallions and cilantro. A fragrant steam wafted over me. I already felt the comfort one seeks from a mother’s chicken soup. Hungrily slurping down noodles and broth, it occurred to me that something was missing. Salt? Seasoning? I stopped slurping and looked up at an array of condiments on the counter. I was intimidated.

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Storyboard: Sriracha

Sriracha Storyboard (c)2011 LaDomestique.com

You’ve seen the large red bottle with an electric green top placed inconspicuously on tables everywhere from all American diners to Asian restaurants. Sriracha pronounced “see-RAH-chuh”, is a chili sauce. To call it hot sauce would be an insult. Sriracha has a flavor with depth and complexity. Initially it tastes a bit sweet, with the bright fruitiness of red jalapeño. Vinegar adds tang, the slightest hint of sour. Then the heat begins to build, slowly. In the background is a rich, pungent flavor- garlic. As the fire intensifies sugar is there always, mellowing the heat just enough. While researching sriracha I came across the same word over and over again- addictive. Those who know sriracha love it intensely and will proclaim that this spicy sauce is “good on everything” from pizza to Vietnamese pho. You know what? They are right.

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Cook in the Moment: Sriracha Glazed Hens

Sriracha Glazed Hens (c)2011 LaDomestique.com

Each week I contribute an article to “Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder” website expanding on one of the 10 Ways Tuesday ideas. For sriracha week I shared a recipe for Sriracha Glazed Cornish Game Hens that elevates this everyday sauce to something special. Reminiscent of hot wings, these hot hens are more sophisticated and provide variety: dark leg meat, moist breast meat, and crispy wings. The heat from the oven caramelizes the sauce into a rich glaze that envelopes the hens. In less than an hour, the hens are cooked and a spicy-sweet aroma fills the house. For the recipe, plus interesting info on sriracha and Cornish game hens, click on the icon below.

 

10 Ways Tuesday: Sriracha

I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with sriracha in fall:

 

1.  Soup

My light bulb moment regarding sriracha happened over a bowl of chicken noodle soup in Zoe Ma Ma, a Chinese restaurant in Boulder. The big bowl of soup included rice noodles, chicken, pickled greens, sprouts all suspended in rich, homey broth. Even with a garnish of cilantro and scallions, something was missing. Someone suggested I add Ma Ma’s homemade sriracha, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Comforting beef pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, is also delicious with sriracha. Even a hearty vegetable soup benefits from the warming heat of sriracha.

2.  Glazed Roast Chicken

Basting a whole chicken, Cornish hen, or chicken pieces like wings or drumsticks with sriracha is the same concept as hot wings, with an Asian twist. The heat of the oven caramelizes the sriracha sauce, deepening its flavor and keeping the meat moist. Try Martha Stewart’s recipe for Sriracha Glazed Chicken Wings.

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Ingredient of the Week: Sriracha

Sriracha (c)2011 LaDomestique.com

This week at la domestique is devoted to sriracha, the spicy Asian condiment that’s good on just about everything. Sriracha is a chile sauce that most of us know as “rooster sauce”, the ubiquitous red bottle with an electric green top found in diners, Asian restaurants, and trendy upscale joints across the U.S. It’s every man’s condiment. At $3 a bottle, sriracha sauce is affordable. Gourmands love this fiery chile sauce for its complex and balanced flavor. To call sriracha a hot sauce would be an understatement. It’s sweet, hot, pungent, and bright. Don’t be intimidated by the heat. Sriracha is addictive because the heat is intense without overwhelming the palate. In The New York Times, Chef Bryan Caswell from Reef Restaurant in Houston is quoted saying, “It burns your body, not your tongue.”

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This Past Week at La Domestique: Barley

This past week at La Domestique we cooked with barley in all its forms: the grain, flour, flakes, and grits. This versatile grain is full of nutty, malty flavor. It brings an earthy character to comforting fall soups and stews. Barley is higher in fiber than any other grain, and adds variety to our diet. Use barley in baking for its rich flavor and ability to hold onto moisture, prolonging shelf-life. Looking for inspiration on cooking with barley? The last week is full of ideas from cuisines around the world: Italy, France, India, America, Africa and the Middle East.

In case you missed anything, I’ve got a recap:

 

Monday:  Announcing barley as ingredient of the week.

Tuesday:  10 Ways Tuesday! Creative ideas for cooking with barley inspired by cuisines around the world.

Wednesday:  Cook in the moment with a recipe for Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Barley, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Rosemary served over a bed of sautéed kale.

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Barley-Sesame Flatbreads

Barley-Sesame Flatbreads (c)2011 LaDomestique.com

This week at la domestique we’ve explored barley, an ancient wheat-free grain. Today I’m baking with barley flour. For thousands of years the people of Africa and the Middle East have used barley ground into flour for their flatbreads. Barley flour is slightly sweet with a bit of a malty flavor. It enriches bread dough, resulting in a more moist loaf. However, barley flour is low in gluten, so it must be used in combination with higher gluten flours to maintain the structure of the bread. I was excited to discover an Afghani recipe for Barley-Sesame Flatbreads in the book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison.

In the recipe, Deborah combines active dry yeast with several types of flour. Why use yeast in a FLATbread? I know it seems odd, but yeast adds flavor and creates air bubbles. The air bubbles give the bread structure in the form of pockets which makes for a lighter (not dense) texture. Barley flour, whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, and bread flour come together for a flavorful dough that bakes up like a soft pillow. Toasting the barley flour in a dry pan is key to releasing its nutty flavor. Use your intuition when making this recipe, as I found the dough to be very wet and ended up tossing in about 1/4 cup more bread flour. The humidity and your measuring technique can affect how much flour you will need. Maybe you feel that your dough is way too dry? Carefully add more water a little at a time.

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Storyboard: Barley

Barley Storyboard (c)2011 LaDomestique.com

The earthy, nutty flavor and hearty texture of barley lends a comforting character to soups and stews. Is it the history of this ancient grain packed into a little brown kernel that makes us feel nourished? For thousands of years our ancestors have cultivated barley. It’s high in fiber and has a low glycemic index. A meal that includes barley is sure to be a satisfying one.

Growing

According to the book, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, barley is a highly adaptable grain that grows well in climates and soils across the globe. Though intensive farming corporations grow genetically engineered grains, heirloom varieties of barley can be found growing in the U.S. Diversity is important to the health of nature, so look for different types of barley like black, bronze, and gold versions.

The various forms of barley

  • Barley Flour

Barley flour adds a nutty, sweet and slightly malty flavor to baked goods. It also makes baked goods more moist.  However, it’s low in gluten, and must be combined with higher-gluten flours. In the cookbook, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, Maria Speck advises that if you are substituting barley flour into a recipe, replace no more than a third of the flour with barley flour so the bread will maintain it’s structure when baked. Purchase barley flour or grind your own. The Splendid Grain is a great resource for directions on making your own barley flour.

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About Jess

Jess O'Toole is La Domestique

Hi, I’m Jess, aka La Domestique. No matter how busy or cooking-challenged you are I can help you live the good life and enjoy fresh, healthy meals at home every day. Find out more

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