Wednesday, June 3, 2009

No Knead To Boast

A couple of days ago I was reading an article about Jim Lahey from Sullivan St. Bakery and how he had perfected a technique for making bread without any kneading involved. While I had no reason to not believe Mr. Lahey, I was very skeptical. After all, I started off my fine dining career as a morning bread baker. I would show up to the restaurant in the still dark hours of the morning there I would start up a series of scales to weigh ingredients, and whirring mixers each tirelessly kneading balls of dough for the various types of house breads we offered. I would meticulously measure each ingredient, even testing the day's air and adjusting the water-to-flour ratio slightly to achieve the the right consistency. Each day as I showered after work I would have to remove the hardened clumps of dried bread dough which bound themselves mercilessly along my arms up to the elbow.

You can imagine my anger when I discovered this technique for making bread which basically requires no work. To think, I could have been sleeping in all those days and coming in only to read a magazine while the bread was baking in the ovens. I was further angered to discover the article I was reading was from 2006!

The result was beautiful. It looked done at the 30 minute mark but it took a full 50 to actually be cooked. Looks great, right? The top of the bread is perfect! I couldn't ask for anything better.

Unfortunately the only hiccup was that it stuck to the pan in such a way that I could barely get it out. Next time I will use a much more generous amount of dusting flour on the bottom of the loaf to prevent sticking. The pan was 500 degrees when I put the dough in so I thought that would be adequate to quickly sear the crust and avoid sticking. I could not have been more wrong.

Jen and I had a disagreement yesterday about wedge salads. Jen proposed that a wedge salad could only be done with iceberg lettuce. I made it a point to prove her wrong. This particular wedge is made with Boston lettuce (ironically from Tiverton, Rhode Island) along with a mustard-bacon vinaigrette (rendered bacon, shallots, cider vinegar, Lyle's Golden Syrup, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper). It's also not in the shape of a wedge but I'm sticking by my guns and calling it a wedge salad. Pesto used to only mean basil, garlic, cheese, pine nuts, and oil. Now pesto seems to refer to anything that is ground up. I think I'm a trendsetter. I'm breaking down the walls of wedge salads so that our children can grow up in a world where you can't put a label on a salad based merely on its appearance.

For dinner I used the remaining mustard and made a creamy mustard sauce with mustard, Worchestershire sauce, diced shallot, some chicken stock, whole grain mustard (that we got in France last summer!) and a touch of cream. I used this as a base for some of these beautiful pork sirloin steaks. I also grilled up these beautiful little baby bell peppers for the top.

Tonight's dinner was brought to you by Cricket Hill East Coast Lager. I wish I could say that was because they paid me a lump sum of hard cash to write this but unfortunately it was only because that's what I had to drink while I prepared the tail end of dinner. Cricket hill is brewed in Fairfield, New Jersey which, as far as I can tell, was named using the random New Jersey Town/City Name Generator. All you do is put the words: River, Fair, Lawn, Field, Ridge, and Water into a hat and pick out two at random. Give it a try!

  • Ridgelawn
  • Fieldwater
  • Fairriver
  • Waterlawn
  • Ridgeridge
  • Waterfield
  • Fieldlawn
  • Etc.river

See? Anybody can do it!

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