Recipe Review: Chawan Mushi with Shrimp and Spring Peas, Herbed Pea Sauce (Spring is Here!)

Chawan Mushi with Shrimp, Spring Peas, Mushrooms

Chawan Mushi with Shrimp, Spring Peas, Mushrooms

Chawan Mushi is a Japanese steamed, savory egg custard made with dashi broth and eggs.  Bon Appetit April 2013 has a great recipe that adds fresh spring peas, shrimp, and shiitake mushrooms.  Spring peas are now in season, and are worth the extra work compared to frozen peas.  The peas, mushrooms, and shrimp are first individually steamed in a bamboo steamer.  The egg custard is made by mixing eggs with a dashi broth.  Dashi is a Japanese stock made from dried kombu (seaweed) and shaved bonito flakes that imparts a lot of umami.  Instant dashi granules are available in Japanese markets.  When the eggs and dashi mixture is steamed, it produces a very light, flavorful custard, punctuated by the shrimp and vegetables.  Great recipe!

Cost: about $5-10 (one needs to buy dashi granules) for six servings

Level of difficulty: not too difficult, but requires bamboo steamer and multiple steps of steaming peas, mushrooms, shrimp, and then the chawan mushi

Time: about 1 hour

Deliciousness: excellent (4 out of five stars)

Health: pretty healthy

Make again: definitely

Link to recipe here.

A good recipe in the accompanying feature on spring peas is the Herbed Pea Sauce.  It is simply blanched fresh peas, sauteed in butter with scallions, parsley, lemon zest, and chives.  It is a nice, easy accompaniment to meat or fish such as sauteed tilapia.   Link to Herbed Pea Sauce recipe here.

Sauteed Tilapia with Herbed Pea Sauce

Sauteed Tilapia with Herbed Pea Sauce

Cookbook Review: Bouchon Bakery Cookbook (and 100th post!)

Chocolate Bouchons

Chocolate Bouchons

Thomas Keller is chef-owner of a number of high-end restaurants including the French Laundry in Yountville, CA and Per Se in New York City.  He started the Bouchon Bakery to supply his restaurants as well as the public with delicious breads and pastries, and there are locations in Yountville, New York, Las Vegas, and Beverly Hills.  The Bouchon Bakery in Yountville is one of my favorite bakeries, so I had been eagerly anticipating this cookbook.  His previous cookbooks, like the French Laundry cookbook, are classics known for their high attention to detail.  The Bouchon Bakery cookbook is a massive 400 page tome written in that same tradition that provides his, along with pastry chef Sebastien Rouxel, approach to French pastries and bread-making.

The level of detail is incredible, and one can really learn how things are prepared at a high-end bakery.  I enjoyed learning about the many tips for how things are done at Bouchon Bakery.  For example, allowing muffin batter to rest in the refrigerator for 36 hours for the flour to absorb moisture.  The downside is that baking muffins takes two days, instead of, say one and a half hours.

However the level of precision can also be a source of frustration.  Eggs are given in volume or weight measurements; instead of a recipe calling for one egg, it might call for 75 gm or 1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp, preferably strained through a fine mesh strainer.  FYI, one extra large egg is approximately 50 – 54 gm.  When it gets really frustrating is when a recipe like the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie calls for 62 gm of egg, or just a little more than one egg.  Who would crack another egg just to get that extra 8 – 12 gm?  Well, me, but still – why did the authors not scale the recipe for just one egg?  I know baking is precise, but I wish the recipes were adjusted to be a little more practical.  And this was just the first, supposedly easiest recipe in the book.

The recipes also use vanilla paste, which is more of a syrup flecked with vanilla bean seeds and is not carried by typical grocery stores but can be found on-line or at Williams-Sonoma.  It is not really explained why vanilla paste is used rather than the more available vanilla extract.  It would have been helpful to provide a conversion.  As an aside, a lot of specialty items required in the book are sold at Williams-Sonoma including molds to make treats like madeleines and bouchons.  There is definitely some sort of corporate synergy strategy between Thomas Keller and Williams-Sonoma.

The Chocolate Bouchons are tiny chocolate cakes in the shape of a cork and are Thomas Keller’s take on brownies.  These are excellent and pretty easy.  I have made this recipe twice, first using Trader Joe’s Cocoa Powder and the second time using the recommended Cacao Rouge by Guittard (available at Spun Sugar in Berkeley for readers in the Bay Area), and I preferred the Guittard version.  To get the right shape one needs the special silicon mold, but a 2-3 ounce ramekin would probably work as well.

The Madeleines are light and airy cakes made in special molds that reminded me of ones served at bakeries in Paris.

The Chocolate Cherry Scones were a big hit and relatively easy to make.  The recipe is pretty straightforward scone recipe that incorporates chocolate chips and dried tart cherries, which can be found at Trader Joe’s.  The dried cherries are macerated for several hours in a simple sugar syrup with vanilla bean.  Then the macerating syrup is used to make an icing.  Nice technique, and easy to do.

For the very patient and resourceful baker, the Bouchon Bakery cookbook is very comprehensive, a great reference, and produces delicious baked goods.  I look forward to attempting (and tasting) some of the more challenging recipes in the book.  Definitely recommended.

Link to Bouchon Bakery cookbook here.

This is my 100th post.  Thanks to all readers and subscribers for stopping by!

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