Making Mascarpone Cheese

I love making mascarpone cheese, it's so versatile for desserts, pastas, or one of my favorites is to fold it into creamy polenta. I worked in a restaurant where we made mascarpone cheesecake with golden raisins and pine nuts, it was the best! I'm just hungry and rambling down mascarpone lane.

I recently caught up with a colleague of mine that I worked with 20 years ago. We worked in a hotel where I had a "Cheese Lab" as a side project. The first thing he asked me was "Are you still making cheese?".....To answer your question Joe, yes of course I'm still making cheese!

We Need To Step It Up!

If you go to Cancun Mexico and stay in the "Hotel Zone" you might want to get away to see some other areas. Take the #2 city bus for 8 pesos to downtown. There's some pretty great markets and food to experience there. This post will surprise you because it's assumedly a somewhat mundane trip down aisle's of predictability, plus you already have a comparable to benchmark it against.

Pictured below is a traditional vertical rotisserie called a trompo for making tacos al pastor. The trompo is used to stack marinated pork with pineapple and onions. The meat is sliced off very much like making shawarma. The sliced meat is transferred to a hot griddle where its briefly crisped and placed in a warm corn tortilla with some onion and cilantro.

So here's the comparable I was talking about....This is at Walmart! Precio Bajo! Check out the picture of mole, this was one of 12 different moles they offered. The last picture is the fresh egg selection, unrefrigerated like most of the world.

There was also a huge bakery with 50-60 different types of traditional Mexican baked goods. A great selection of conchas,  bolillos, empanadas, crispy feite, flans, and churros. The best part about the bakery was that none of the items were pre-packaged, you are simply handed a tray and a pair of tongs to go through the bakery and pick what you want instead of buying a dozen of one item.

We need to step it up, when I go to Walmart here in the states I now want the aromas of real cooking, the variety of local flavors and farm fresh eggs.

Hip Parsnip

Caramelized Parsnip Pave
fresh thyme, dijon, and shallots

The pave had a golden almost candied exterior, which provided an earthy yet sweet flavor. After experimenting with this recipe I began to wonder about the natural sugar content of parsnips. Here's what a little research revealed.

The starch in a parsnip readily converts to sugar when exposed to cold. This means that winter parsnips will be sweeter than autumn parsnips. It also means that they get sweeter when refrigerated.

Parsnips enclose natural sugars that give the vegetable a sugary flavor. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, people in England used parsnips in the form of a sweetmeat by adding honey and spices to it. In addition, they cooked the thick root of the plant and served it as a vegetable. In parsnips, carbohydrates are stored as natural sugars. This is something different from potatoes, wherein carbohydrate comprises 90 per cent starch. In effect, compared to carrots, parsnips are considered to be sweeter, as nearly three fourth of the sugar enclosed by parsnips is sucrose - the same sugar which is extracted from sugar cane. Comparatively, in carrots, sucrose forms just one third of the root vegetable's sugar content. When sucrose is consumed in its natural form along with the parent plant, it is not harmful for our health.

Smoked Leg of Lamb

Three Easy Steps to Great Lamb:

This was a really, really great leg of lamb - sweet, hickory, rich, tender goodness. The next day try using the leftover lamb thinly shaved for making panini with fig jam. I suggest it because that's what I did and believe me when I say, it was an epic sandwich!

1. Apply a good coating of dry rub. Try paprika, brown sugar, cumin, coriander, kosher salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, dry mustard, and....well, you get the idea.

2. Place in a smoker at about 225 degrees.

3. Cook until desired doneness and the crust is so beautiful that it seems like a crime to slice it!

Bucket O' Chicken

“Eight Piece Bucket”
Hickory smoked chicken wings with maple-bourbon glaze. Smoked corn hush puppies, Maytag blue cheese dressing.