Your Questions About Sourdough Cooking Temperature

William asks…

What is the best way to make grilled cheese and what stuff to put on it turkey peperoni maybe?

sourdough answers:

Grilled cheese 101

Grilled Cheese may seem like an easy choice for lunch, but the techniques for making the perfect grilled cheese are many and specific … not unlike the perfect making meat loaf, but that’s another entry.

Too many people are resolved to eat a grilled cheese that is greasy or burnt or completely inedible. That needn’t be the case. Armed with the proper pan [and lid!] the perfect grilled cheese is within your reach … and within the reach of your favorite teenager … who you can surely woo into making these for you! Isn’t that what kids are for after all … free labor?

Ingredients
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature [see Cook’s note 1]
2 slices 1/4 inch best-quality sandwich bread, white, whole wheat, sourdough, rye … your choice [See Cook’s note 2]
2 ounces cheese, shredded [see Cook’s note 3]

Optional:
Sliced tomato [maybe in September]
Favorite mustard
Super-thin ham, Genoa, salami, or prosciutto

Special equipment
Non-stick skillet w lid

Method
Spread approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons butter on one side of each slice of bread. Place butter-side down [if it’s too messy for you, put a piece of wax paper down on your work surface]. Sprinkle the cheese on one side. If you wish, grind some black or green or black and green peppercorns onto the cheese. Don’t go crazy. Put your accoutrement on the other side [tomato, mustard, ham]. Sandwich the two sides together.

Heat your pan to medium high for at least 2 minutes, time it if you need to [medium-high is between medium and high, yo]. Place your sandwich in the pan [if you have a tomato slice or piece of ham on one half, put the side with the cheese in the pan first] and clamp on the lid. If your non-stick pan doesn’t have a lid then cover thoroughly and carefully with aluminum foil. Leave it alone for 2 1/2 minutes, or even 3!

Remove the lid [or foil] and flip the sandwich over with a spatula. Uncovered, let the sandwich toast for another 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.

Flip it over again and, using the spatula, press down firmly. Let it toast for 30 seconds and then remove it to your serving plate.

Let it set for a moment, less you burn your mouth on molten cheese. Serve with a candied-gherkin [my choice].

Cook’s note 1: Bring 1 stick, 8 tablespoons, of butter to room temperature before you begin. Schmering the butter on the sandwich before frying will ensure the use of less butter, eliminating the greasy sandwich guaranteed if you were to add butter to the pan “as needed”. Too, you will likely be making grilled cheese sandwiches for the whole family once you’ve perfected this technique and need at least a whole stick. Shoot, better make it 2!

Cook’s note 2: The thickness of the bread here is almost as important as the next point. Bread any thicker than 1/4 inch will not toast and likely burn before the cheese has melted, especially at the temperatures required to toast the bread and melt the cheese.

Cook’s note 3: The fact is that shredded cheese melts much faster than a slice of cheese, no matter how thin the slice is [and who wants thinly sliced cheese in a grilled cheese?] Shred the cheese across the large holes of a box grater and keep it loose and cold.

Michael asks…

What is the best brand of caeser salad dressing?

just wondering.

sourdough answers:

Paul Newman makes a decent one, but I prefer to make my own.

Caesar salad w. Traditional Caesar dressing

Ingredients
1 oil-packed anchovy fillet, finely chopped
3 heaping tablespoons packed grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Reggiano
2 tablespoons Hellmann’s mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled, flattened
8 1 inch cubes crustless sourdough bread

2 hearts of romaine lettuce, leaves separated
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
Parmesan shavings, preferably Reggiano [I like to use a vegetable peeler for the shavings]

Method
Using back of spoon, mash anchovy to puree in small bowl. Whisk in grated Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil.

Cook’s Note: Dressing can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature and re – whisk before using.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add flattened garlic and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes; discard garlic. Add sourdough bread cubes and sauté until golden brown and crisp, about 9 minutes. Transfer bread cubes to paper towels and drain.

Cook’s Note: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool completely, then store airtight at room temperature.

Arrange 4 large romaine lettuce leaves on each of 2 plates. Top each with 4 smaller leaves; top lettuce with tomatoes.

Cook’s Note: Can be made 3 hours ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

To serve: Drizzle salads with dressing. Top with croutons and Parmesan shavings. Season generously with pepper and serve.

John asks…

Has anyone ever made a mac and cheese with swiss?

Anyone ever made a macaroni and cheese with swiss cheese before? Any good recipes out there?
A friend is coming for dinner and can only eat hard cheeses like swiss or gruyere.

sourdough answers:

Greatest macaroni and cheese in the universe – it really is, lol

3/4 lb bacon (optional, but I think this really makes the dish!)
1/4 cup butter (margarine will do in a pinch)
1 1/2 cup bread crumbs (unseasoned, and don’t use sourdough crumbs either)
1 lb uncooked elbow macaroni
3-5 scallions, chopped
1 1/2 lb Swiss cheese

Cook the bacon until it is very crisp. When done, blot dry.
Put the butter in a small frying pan and heat at a low temperature until it’s melted. When melted, add the bread crumbs and sautae until the bread crumbs are browned, stirring frequently to avoid burning the crumbs.
Boil the macaroni in water according to directions on the package. Don’t overcook … It should be “al dente”. A little olive oil added to the pot will help prevent the macaroni from sticking together.
While the macaroni is cooking, grate the cheese and chop the scallions.
When the macaroni is done, drain it in a colander. The “assembly” is done in layers into a glass baking dish. Put a layer of macaroni on the bottom, then cheese, the crumble bacon and scallions on top of this. Make the layers thin; this way, you can get about three pasta/cheese/bacon layers. When all of these are in the pan, top with the bread crumbs and bake at for 20 minutes or until the bread crumbs are a little more browned and the cheese is melted.
Eat. However, it makes fantastic leftovers, so you won’t want to eat it all.

Steven asks…

Does anyone have a recipe for Original Pancake House buttermilk pancakes?

sourdough answers:

Those pancakes are good–and interesting–aren’t they?

They have distinctly yeasty (and perhaps malty) flavor, like beer. In the olden days, pancakes like this were made from a yeast-based, sourdough-type leavener. I suspect that OPH is cutting some corners by using mixes and/or flavorings, but I can’t say for certain.

I have thought about recreating that flavor too. I haven’t done it yet, but I have done some advance planning, and here’s how I thought I’d proceed:

1 teaspoon dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 1/2 cups warm milk (105-115 degrees F)
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar (or 1/4 cup malt powder)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp melted butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking powder

You have to make this the night before, at minimum. The afternoon before would be better.

Mix together all ingredients except eggs, butter and baking powder. All ingredients should be at least at room temperature or a bit warmer. Mix the ingredients in a bowl about 6 qt size, or about 3x larger than the volume of batter.

Keep this batter, covered with plastic wrap or foil, at room temperature–not warm like you would for bread dough. You want it to rise slowly. After a couple hours, the batter will begin rising. After it at least doubles in volume, stir it down.

The next day, beat in the eggs, the melted butter, and 1 tsp of baking powder (stirring the batter will cause it to deflate; the baking powder will restore some of that rise). You may need to adjust the consistency of the batter, most likely with a few tablespoons of water, although if the batter is too runny, you can add a spoonful or 3 of flour. Cook as you would pancakes.

Notes: I suspect, although I’m not 100% certain, that the OPH recipe contains malt. That’s why I have thought I’d try the recipe with it. It’s not an essential ingredient though. This is not the malt you buy for putting in milk, such as Carnation brand; it’s real malt powder that I suspect you can only get at a health-food store or from a home-brewing supply.

You can use all milk if you want, instead of the milk + water. You could also try replacing 1/4 cup of the water with 1/4 cup of flat beer (just the ordinary American lager). I often think these pancakes taste like beer, and that may be one of their secrets. Beer would be much cheaper than malt powder.

For the most tender texture, I think I would use bleached all purpose flour. I usually prefer unbleached flour, but I think if you do use unbleached flour, the results will be chewier than the restaurant’s–but still good. You could also use cake flour, if you can find it.

If you do try this recipe, I hope you will let me know how it is.

Thomas asks…

I need a recipe for mashed potatoes that are good but REALLY easy! As little ingredients as possible please!?

I need this for a demonstration speech that I’m doing! It needs to be fast, besides the boiling of the potatoes!

sourdough answers:

Pounds of potatoes
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of half and half (half milk & half cream)
6 tablespoons of butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Peel and quarter the potatoes.

1. Add the potatoes to a large pot with enough cold water to cover them by an inch or so. Add salt and bring the water to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. (About 15 minutes)

3. Drain the potatoes return them to the pot and cook the drained potatoes over low heat for a couple of minutes to evaporate some of the water still in the potato.

4. Mash by your method of choice. (I prefer a potato ricer)

5. Blend in butter, half & half, and any other ingredients you prefer.

6. Season with salt and pepper. Serve

recipe 2: step by step in mashed potato making
1. We used a blend of red and russet potatoes. This combination creates a slight texture variation in the finished mashed potatoes. Instead of having one consistent texture, you will create very small lumps in the mashed potatoes. If you prefer completely smooth mashed potatoes, this method still applies, but russet or Yukon Gold potatoes–with their high starch content–are the best mashers. (Potatoes with a high water content are better for frying or in potato salads, where they will hold their shape.)

We used 6 potatoes, 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup salted butter, and salt to taste.

Varieties of Potatoes
2. Peel the potatoes, removing as many of the eyes as possible with the tip of your peeler. The skin and eyes, while containing additional nutrients, do not mash well. Remove and discard them. (If you prefer more rustic mashed potatoes, keep the skin on half of them.)

3. Submerge the potatoes in a bowl of cold water to keep them from turning brown while you are chopping them.

4. Cut the potatoes into similar-sized chunks so that they will cook evenly: the cubes should be about 1½ to two inches wide.
5. Use a pot that is large enough to hold the potatoes with enough water to cover. Add salt, if desired. Place the pot over a high heat and bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer.

6. Simmer, covered, until tender–about 15-20 minutes. A knife tip inserted into a potato should meet no resistance; if the potato clings to the knife, the potatoes need to cook longer. When potatoes are done, remove from heat and drain immediately.
7. Reserve the potato water when draining the potatoes if you would like to use it in place of butter or cream when mashing, or if you plan to make a vegetable soup stock or sourdough bread.

8. Let the potatoes sit for a minute to dry and to allow any excess water to drain from the bottom of the colander. Meanwhile, heat the butter and cream in a small saucepan at a low temperature. (You can also use the microwave for this step.)

9. We used a food mill to make these mashed potatoes. A food mill or potato ricer are probably the best tools for mashed potatoes, as they avoid over-mixing them, which can result in a gluey texture. Other tools work just fine, however–but the finished product may not be as smooth and fluffy.

10. Using a ricer or mill ensures that once the potatoes have passed through the grate at the bottom, they’ll be lump-free: the potato is forced into small “grains” like rice. The biggest drawback with using electric mixers is that they can overwork the potatoes to the point where the starch molecules break. Use care: mix the potatoes enough to avoid lumps, but not so much that they take on a sticky, gummy consistency.

11. Once the potatoes have been passed through the mill, drizzle half of your hot cream through and around the grate to get every last bit of potato. Clean off the bottom of the ricer, and add any additional mashed potatoes to the bowl you have been working in. Gently stir in the remaining butter and cream.
12. At this point, taste the potatoes for proper seasoning and adjust it to taste. Test for consistency, too: if the potatoes are too thick, add more cream. Other herbs and spices can be added at this point as well–chopped chives, Italian parsley, Parmesan cheese, crumbled bacon, roasted garlic, chopped scallions or creamed leeks are all delicious matches.

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