Thursday, June 16, 2016

Victoria Versus Lodge Cast Iron

Have you ever heard of Victoria cast iron cookware?


I got my hands on a few pieces, and at first glance I was impressed by the quality.


I’ve been putting the Victoria 6 ½” egg skillet through its paces. Here’s how it stacks up against the Lodge 6 ½” skillet.


As many of us know, the Lodge is pre-seasoned with soy-based vegetable oil. Victoria’s factory seasoning is kosher-certified single-source Colombian palm oil. The Lodge has a slightly smoother surface, but the Victoria skillet is significantly smoother than any Chinese CI I’ve seen. Both brands seem to have casting voids here and there. The Victoria is nearly a quarter of a pound heavier than the Lodge. The source of much of the extra weight? The gently curved handle of the Victoria is about an inch longer. I felt both handles were equally easy to grasp and both pans were equally easy to maneuver, even when hot, but the difference in the weight, shape, and size and overall ergonomics might be more noticeable with heavier large pans. The Victoria has enormous pour spouts comparing to the Lodge. In fact, they are so large that they don’t give a Dutch baby all the support it needs as it bakes and rises, causing it to split at the rim and resulting in a less than attractive but nevertheless delicious specimen. But, and this is a big but, the spouts work beautifully well for pouring. Not a drop of oil dribbles down the side of the pan! The same cannot be said about the Lodge. Both the Lodge and Victoria seem to brown food and release food equally well. Dutch babies bake and color evenly in both skillets. Sunny-side-up eggs slide out of both skillets with ease. Overall, I’m extremely pleased with how the Victoria skillet performs and I’d recommend it. You might like it especially if you find Lodge handles to be uncomfortable. One other point of interest about Victoria CI: according to a company representative, the factory recently installed the same machinery that Le Creuset uses, and they’re in the process of migrating all molds to the new machine. I cannot wait to see what they come up with next!

Thanks to Creative Home & Kitchen for providing the Victoria cookware samples.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Chinese Green Onion Pancakes in Cast Iron


Last week I whipped up batch of these for lunch. Since I used cast iron in the process, I took a couple of quick snapshots with my phone and posted them in the Facebook Cast Iron Cooking group just for fun. Within minutes I was inundated with requests for my recipe. It was such a pleasant surprise I felt I had to write it up and share it!

This flatbread, which is a favorite at dim sum restaurants, is at once flakey, crisp, and chewy. It’s a bit unusual because it’s made with a hot water dough. And because the rolling process results in many thin layers of dough and oil sandwiched together, it’s a laminated dough of sorts.

To be honest, I never measure any of the ingredients except for the flour and water for the dough. The thing to know is that the ratio is 2 parts flour and 1 part boiling water by volume. The procedure may seem a little long, but it’s really quick and easy and fun to do once you get the hang of it. Take care to slice the green onion very thinly or it will tear through the dough. A short dowel roller, which can be found for around $2 at most Asian markets, is ideal for rolling these out.

Chinese Green Onion Pancakes
Printable Recipe

½ cup plus ¼ teaspoon all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Kosher salt
¼ cup boiling water
¾ teaspoon dark sesame oil
¾ teaspoon canola oil, plus more for frying
1 large green onion, thinly sliced
Soy sauce, for serving

Mix together ½ cup of the flour and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Add the boiling water and, using chopsticks, mix until all of the flour is moistened and the dough is cool enough to handle. Then knead for a minute or two until smooth and elastic. The dough will be somewhat sticky. Cover with a second inverted bowl and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the sesame oil, canola oil, and ¼ teaspoon of the flour in a small bowl.

Cut the dough into thirds and form each portion into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 ball of dough to a 6 to 7-inch wide circle. Drizzle about 1/3 of the sesame oil mixture over the dough circle and spread it evenly with the back of a spoon, leaving a ¼-inch border at the edge. Sprinkle over about 1/3 of the green onion.


Roll up the dough circle like a jelly roll.


Then coil up the roll like a snake.


Tuck the outer end of the roll under the coil to secure it and then press down on the coil lightly with the palm of your hand to create a disc. Make more discs with the remaining dough, sesame oil mixture, and green onions in the same manner.

Roll the discs out in the same order as you made them: On a lightly floured surface, roll out each disc to a 6 to 7-inch wide pancake.


As you work, stack the pancakes on a plate between sheets of parchment paper to keep them from sticking to each other.

Fry the pancakes in the same order as you rolled them: Heat a cast iron griddle over medium-low heat until very hot but not smoking. Add a generous drizzle of canola oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the griddle. Add 1 pancake and cook without disturbing for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown.


Using a spatula, turn the pancake and continue to cook over medium-low, pressing down on it lightly with the back of a spatula, another 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.


Remove the pancake to a cutting board. Fry the remaining pancakes in the same manner.

Cut the pancakes into wedges and serve hot with soy sauce for dipping.

Makes 3 pancakes, enough for a generous snack. Feel free to double or triple the recipe if you have to share.

Monday, January 4, 2016

L'Arte della Sfoglia, Part 4: Other Pasta Shapes

In addition to tortelloni and tortellini, Claudio and Ida make a variety of other pasta shapes. Using their supple sfoglia, they make bowties.


And garganelli. The ridged tubes are created using a pettine.


They make small cuts for soup.


Ribbons in a variety of widths.


Narrow ones are paired with butter or fish. Tagliatelle is served with ragu, and mushroom and game sauces go with wide pappardelle. The strands are cut to order sometimes by hand, sometimes by machine and formed into nests.


It seems that forming the perfect nest is an art in itself.


Requiring just the right amount of fluffing.


Separating of the strands.


A precise weight.


And a certain winding motion.


My nests never look so artful or voluminous. They layer sfoglia with ragu for lasagna, to be be baked for precisely 45 minutes at 180˚C.


The extruder was not put to use the day we visited.


Claudio explained that they use 90% semolina and 10% 00 flour with a mix of egg and a little water for their macaroni.


Incidentally, they do have a small display of Giuseppe Cocco dry pasta, because for certain dishes, only dry extruded pasta will do.

Flavored pastas are also made in the shop. Spinach pasta is mixed using the ratio of 8 eggs and 100 grams spinach to 1 kilogram 00 flour. Cordonetti, named after shoe laces, is made with 1 kilogram integrale—that’s Italian for whole wheat—flour, 200 grams 00 flour, 10 eggs, and 170 grams water. This dough cannot be rolled as thin as dough made from 100% 00 flour, and the resulting pasta looks more like spaghetti alla chitarra. It’s served with ragu and all kinds of other sauces. Neither of these were on the prep list the day we visited.

After our brains were filled with so much knowledge, it was time to fill our bellies. Ida cooked up a lunch of gargantuan portions of tortellini in cream sauce and then lasagna, which we ate at a tablecloth-covered workbench. Needless to say it was outstanding.

We thought we learned so much about the art of pasta that morning. But as Claudio pointed out, 100 kilometers away from Bologna all of the pasta shapes and all of the fillings are completely different. We’ve only just scratched the surface!


Previously: L'Arte della Sfoglia, Part 3: Tortellini.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Flavored Butters on AM Northwest

That’s me making Pie Spice Butter on AM Northwest! After the show my students gave me a hard time for not scraping out the bowl!

Flavored Butters is full of “tasty-sounding recipes” that are “a new way to liven up a meal” according to HeraldCourier.com.
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