One of the perks of my job as The Amateur Gourmet is that people sometimes send me free stuff. When someone e-mails me and says that they want to send me something for me to write about on my site, I tell them my official policy. My official policy is this: “You can send me free stuff and if I like it, I’ll write about it, but if I don’t like it I won’t write about it.” It’s a very good policy.
Recently, someone who works in publishing wanted to send me a book that you see advertised in my blogads. That book is “The Seasoning of a Chef” by Doug Psaltis. This book is a highly controversial insider look at some of the top kitchens in New York. I told my contact person that he could send it but that I probably wouldn’t be able to read it because of school. And sure enough he sent it and sure enough I was too busy to read it. But every time I look at it I say, “My that looks like a good book. Maybe one day I will read it.”
But this write-up isn’t about that book. The next week, that same someone who works in publishing asked me if I’d like a copy of Mark Bittman’s new cookbook: “The Best Recipes in the World.” I leaped at the opportunity. But because leaping isn’t a clear communication when it comes to the internet, I e-mailed him and told him to send one my way. Here it is!
So first of all, this book is like an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia of world food with recipes. And it’s by Mark Bittman. I’m a latecomer to the Mark Bittman party: he’s been doing The Minimalist for years, but because I only got into food fairly recently I have to nudge my way over to his corner of the room and sniff around before I make my approach. I like his show on TV where he cooks alongside great chefs and tries to simplify their recipes. I think it’s safe to say he’s a man after my own heart. We’re both food populists.
As you can see by the above picture, my approach to this book involved mini-post-it notes. That’s because I knew flipping through it would be a time-consuming endeavor and that it would be wise to mark the recipes I want to make in the future. Otherwise, I may be intimidated to go back. Among the recipes I marked are:
– Chicken Adobo
– Fish Tacos
– Arroz Con Pollo
– Black Risotto with Seafood
– Pad Thai
– And, of course, churros.
Now those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while won’t be surprised that of all those recipes to try first the one that woke me into action was the desserty one. Here’s why I went for churros: I had all the ingredients, I could make an individual portion, and it was late at night (this was last night) and I craved something sweet and fried. Plus I’d get to use the pastry bag tips I bought at Williams Sonoma a few months ago.
To make churros (as per this recipe) you need:
– olive, corn, or grapeseed oil for frying [I used vegetable oil and it was fine]
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs sugar
– 8 Tbs (1 stick) butter
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1 cup flour
– 3 eggs
To start [and I hope my publisher guy doesn’t mind that I’m giving away this recipe!**] do the following:
[**The publisher has asked me to insert the following:
“Excerpted from The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman Copyright (c)
2005 by Mark Bittman. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of
Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be
reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.”]
1. Put at least 2 inches of oil into a large saucepan or deep skillet and heat to about 350F. mix the cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar together on a large plate.
2. Combine the remaining sugar, butter, salt and 1 cup water in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat to low and add the flour all at once.
Stir constantly until the mixture forms a ball, about 30 seconds.
Remove from the heat and beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring until smooth after each addition.
Note: I felt that the finished churros, while delicious, were a tad bit too eggy. I wonder if one could get away with only 2 eggs? It’s worth exploring.
3. Spoon the dough into a pastry bag with a large star tip (or you can simply drop spoonfuls of the batter into the oil.)
Press strips of dough about 4 inches long into the hot oil.
Cook as many as will fit comfortably at once, turning as they brown, for a total of 5 to 10 minutes each.
4. Remove the churros from the oil and drain them on paper towels, then immediately roll them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve hot or at least warm.
Now before I show you the glorious finished product, a brief note on my ghetto pastry bag. I used the Alton Brown technique of a Freezer Bag with the corner cut out. This worked very well until, with the second set of churros, the tip shot out of the corner of the bag into the hot oil!
[This is the tip after being resurrected from the oil.
inspire a musical!]
Ahhhh, and now for the finished product. Who’s ready for some churros?
Great writers make themselves vulnerable and so I will lay myself bare and admit that I ate many many of those churros you see above. In fact, I ate almost all of them. And this was at 1 in the morning. I am a nutritionist’s nightmare. In fact, it’s a good thing Yom Kippur’s here: I have churros to atone for!
In conclusion, I hope you can see by my candidness about getting free stuff that I’m not shilling for anyone. But this Bittman book has great stuff in it. So if you’re into world cuisine and you’re inspired by churros, go check it out! Just don’t spray yourself with oil. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.