What’s in a Dish

Ingredients that I love to use!

Fennel Pollen

Fennel pollen is the most potent form of fennel, but also the most expensive part of the anise plant.  The yellow pollen is picked and dried and used to season many dishes.  After the pollen has dried, it has a tan/brown color to it and is very fragrant.  It is by far my favorite part of the anise plant to use, next to the bulb.  Fennel pollen is one of those ingredients that can completely transform a dish and is usually one of my secret ingredients when cooking.  Amazon has it available through multiple suppliers.

Rillette

I love the way the word “rillette” sounds, and it has turned into one of my favorite charcuterie spreads. I would call it a meat spread but that does not sound very appetizing. A rillette is a preparation done with meat that is similar to a pate, or liverwurst, minus the liver. Traditionally, it was made using pork scraps, being that pork is very fatty, it makes a smooth and creamy like spread. The pork (I have used rabbit, and duck) is salted heavily and slow cooked in lard, confit style. The pork, once fork tender, is then cooled in the fat. After it has cooled it is shredded with a fork and mixed with the pork fat to create a creamy spread. The pork is then packed into a ramekin and a thin layer of pork fat is poured on top to preserve it. When ready to serve be sure to bring it up to room temperature as it will be hard like butter if served cold.  Below is a duck rillette,  I made this from the sage duck confit that I had left over.

Truffles

These wonderful, underground, fruiting mushrooms are a delicacy everywhere; they are considered the diamond of the kitchen, and are found by using pigs or, more commonly, dogs.

White truffles are found in Northern Italy and parts of Croatia.  The mushrooms grow symbiotically with oak, hazel, poplar and beech trees and fruit in the autumn.  The flesh is pale cream or brown with white marbling.  White truffles can be sold anywhere from $1,000 to $2,200 per pound.

Black truffles are found in the Piedmont region of France and grow with oak and hazelnut trees.  Their flavor is slightly stronger than that of the white truffles and is not as delicate.

The Pacific North West is also a very popular place to harvest different but still edible truffles. Oregon is known for their famous “Oregon White Truffle”.  The act of finding truffles takes a well trained animal, patience, and the ability to keep your finds a secret.  Since truffles are highly regarded in the culinary world, no one gives up their hunting grounds.

Demi-glace

This is a very rich brown sauce that is very common in French cuisine that is used either as a base for other sauces or on its own.  Demi-glace itself is a derivative of an Espagnole (a roux thickened brown stock with the addition of a tomato product) and veal stock, where you combine equal parts veal stock and Espagnole, and reduce the stock by half.  This method yields a very high priced sauce that I use to serve with steaks and to help make a rich braise for beef or pork products.  Demi-glacee can be purchased at local butcher shops or Amazon.

Tapioca Maltodextrin

Tapioca Maltodextrin

N-ZORBIT M is a tapioca maltodextrin derived from tapioca that has been specially designed to have a very low bulk density. It dissolves completely when in contact with any aqueous medium. This product is primarily used to increase the volume of dry mixes and frozen foods. In addition, this bland tasting maltodextrin functions excellently as a dispersant for dry ingredients in low solids preparations. It can stabilize high-fat ingredients which can then be transformed into powders.

Bouquet Garni

French for Garnished Bouquet, this bundle of herbs is used to season stews, stocks, and sauces.  It is usually tied together with string or packed in cheesecloth.  Traditionally, they contain parsley, thyme, and bay leaf but the herbs can be changed to match the dish you are preparing.

Sunchokes

This root is probably one of my favorite root vegetables around.  I have been growing this in my garden for the past two years with great success.  It grows like a weed but can easily be controlled as long as you remember to dig up all the tubers in the middle of winter.  Last year, after it snowed numerous times, I went out to the garden to try to find some to add to dinner, and with four plants planted in the early spring, I ended up with a dozen little sunchokes.

This year I actually had one plant that grew to over 10 feet and flowered.  This species of sunflower, with no relation to the artichoke, is also refereed to as a Jerusalem Artichoke, and are native to the Eastern parts of North America.  The tuber resembles ginger, but when eaten raw, it tastes like water chestnuts, when cooked, it tastes like a mild artichoke.

The tuber also has the ability to create ethanol fuel, are an important source of fructose, and store the carbohydrate inulin (not to be confused with insulin) instead of starch.

Sunchoke Flower

Sunchoke Flower