Gratin Dauphinois | Potato Gratin

Potato gratin, a classic gratin dauphinois, or scalloped potatoes

I love this side dish for being so simple to make, yet extremely attractive. Similar to lasagna or moussaka, potato gratin should be cooked in advance, refrigerated to set, removed from the pan, sliced to portions while cold, and reheated before serving. If all steps are done in that order, a humble potato makes an eye-catching side dish, a beautiful element of any plated dinner.

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Gata

Gata

“My mom just made her signature Gata. It smells like summer, sun, and a mountain breeze.

— This recipe is traditional, — she anticipates my question.
— Why is your Gata ten times better than mine?!
— It’s the quality of ingredients. The sour cream and matsun are the freshest and made of real milk. The butter is a Flower butter I melted myself.

Flower butter! It is made in June-July when high in the mountains wild strawberries are ripe, and flowers are in bloom. Cows then are milked with cream, and the butter churned of this cream makes any other butter seem like a mockery. If happiness has a taste, it should be the taste of Flower butter.”read more: (in Russian) Narine Abgaryan Facebook post

After this story, I’ve been dreaming of the Flower butter, trying to imagine how it smells and tastes. Since Gata is made of 4 ingredients — flour, fermented milk, butter, and sugar — the quality of each component is what makes this pastry special. I can use the best there is in the states. And then a crazy idea came to my mind. What if I also add the flavor of edible flowers? How about Roman Chamomile? For the first experiment, I powdered 2 teaspoons of dry flowers and added them to the dough and the stuffing. For the second, I’ve infused heavy cream with Chamomile flavor and then fermented it. That was a hit!

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Tequila Tasting Party Recipes: Tipsy Tres Leches

Tipsy Tres Leches

Long time ago, I was on a quest to try as many different versions of Tres Leches in Austin as I can. For almost a year, I’ve been ordering, buying, and making it for dessert. It was fun! As a result, I found my favorite to buy (Downtown WholeFoods’ Tres Leches Parfait) and developed a few my favorite recipes to make at home (with baked milk and with cajeta, caramelized goat’s milk). I prefer versions where milk is the main source of flavor — no other ingredients like fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc. are allowed to overpower milk’s delicate and dreamy nature. For me, Tres Leches it’s a study on milk flavor. The recipe below is part of my ¡Viva Tequila! tasting event, featuring extra anejo tequila as an ingredient for the sponge feeding.

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Flammkuchen | Tarte flambée

Flammkuchen (leeks, uncured smoked bacon, creme frache, cheese)

It is known as Tarte Flambée in France and as Flammkuchen in Germany. The dish is popular in both countries and there are many variations for the dough as well as for the toppings. Traditional basic version is made with thinly rolled rectangle of dough, which is covered with a generous layer of schmand/crème fraîche/20-30% butterfat sour cream, topped with onions and speck/lardons/small strips of lightly smoked uncured meaty bacon, seasoned with pepper and salt, and baked in a wood-fire oven. Flammkuchen was the first thing I wanted to recreate at home after my trip to Germany and France. The goal was to find the right recipe for the dough and the best local ingredients for the toppings. This recipe of flammkuchen is not final yet, it’s version 1.0, the closest to my favorite so far.

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Chicken Liver Pâté | Terrine de Foies de Volaille

Chicken Liver Pate

This recipe is classic French/European recipe for chicken liver pate, except for the first step with soaking livers in starchy ice bath. Most recipes include soaking livers in milk. “It is often said that milk improves the taste, purges blood, lightens the color, or affects some other property of the meat.” (“Modernist Cuisine” (Nathan Myhrvold, p. 147) Soaking lean proteins in cold water (or flavored liquids) mixed with starch is “velveting”, a technique used to prevent delicate foods from overcooking. I’ve heard about it first from my Japanese friend and then found more in Chinese Gastronomy by Hsiang Ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin.

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Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp

Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp

For years, every season I’ve been looking for a pumpkin which taste would come close to those my parents were growing in Ukraine in nineties. There were so many varieties of pumpkins and winter squashes to try, yet I couldn’t find a single one exciting — too bland, colorless, and fibrous for my taste, especially after cooking. I was ready to give up after my latest disappointment with Sugar Pie pumpkin, when decided to give a try to a larger Cinderella pumpkin I avoided earlier because of the size. Well, so far this variety is the closest to Ukrainian pumpkins I remember. The taste is still not as bright and fruity-sweet as I’d like it to be, but the color and texture are exceptional! Sunny orange and silky juicy, it’s a pleasure to eat it just roasted or cook with its puree. To really enjoy this soup recipe, use your favorite, the best tasting pumpkins and always start from scratch.

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Japanese Soufflé Cheesecake

Japanese Soufflé Cheesecake with Texas Strawberries

Japanese soufflé cheesecake is also known as “cotton” cheesecake. It is extremely popular in Asian countries for its texture — fluffy and velvety creamy at the same time. I fell in love with it with the first bite. It’s a treat for a true cheesecake aficionados. Japanese cheesecake is not overly sweet, so having more than one slice at a time is difficult to resist. Enjoy it plain, or decorate it with whipped cream and fresh berries.

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Romantic French Menu: Oyster Soup

Oyster Soup

“The reputation of oysters as an aphrodisiac has been confirmed. They contain zinc and other important trace minerals important for testosterone production.”
— Two for Tonight: Pure Romance from L’Auberge Chez François by Jacques E. Haeringer.

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Smoked White Fish and Tactical Nuclear Penguin Soup

Smoked White Fish Soup with Tactical Nuclear Penguin

There are many Cullen Skink online recipes and articles about it. Some recipes are elaborate, other — quick and simple. Cullen Skink can be thicker and thinner, with higher and lower calorie count. No matter what recipe you trust, it is amazingly satisfying soup for cold weather. If you are in the U.S. and crave for true Cullen Skink — because you know what it is! — order Finnan Haddie online. If you are in Texas, have never tasted authentic Cullen Skink before, and not ready to invest too much money and efforts into its perfect taste — try my recipe below. I use easily available in Central Texas White Smoked fish found in Whole Foods, Central Market, and some HEBs. After you read about Nuclear Penguin below, you’ll start laughing ironically “Oh, yeah! Very easily available!” It’s my secret and teasing WOW-ingredient for coming Scottish Beer Tasting Party. It’s optional for this recipe.

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Culinary coach and personal chef with extensive knowledge of cuisines from cultures around the world. I invite you into my cooking lab to share my discoveries.
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