Friday, January 29, 2010

TFL #8 Lemon Sabayon-Pine Nut Tart with Honeyed Marscapone Cream

When I first left the workplace, I chose baking as a project to help me stay sane. Well, that came after repainting every room in the house and redecorating. Anyway, I used to bake. A lot. I mastered both Angel Biscuits and Buttermilk biscuits; made a decent pie crust, a perfect baguette (at least outside of Paris) and cookies, cakes and tarts galore. One thing that comes with the baking territory, at least in my experience, was a lot of specialty equipment. Baguette Pans, Tart pans of all size, Springform pans, cake pans, biscuit cutters, cookie cutters, and on and on. When it came time to remodel our kitchen, I needed to whittle down the list of equipment as much as I needed to whittle my waistline from all that baking! So I gave away most of my stuff. Fortunately, I kept some small tart pans.

Jim arrived home with some beautiful Meyer lemons, immediately I asked, "you got any plans for those?" In his usual WSH style he replied "whatever your creative instinct desires"  Isn't he just wonderful? I had this recipe in mind. In fact, this recipe appears in both The French Laundry and the Bouchon cookbooks. The only difference is TFL adds the side note of honeyed marscapone... I couldn't resist. So here we go...

The crust:

That's pine nuts (as in the title) , flour, sugar, an egg, room temperature unsalted butter and some vanilla. This recipe makes enough dough for three 9 in tart pans but thankfully, it freezes well. See my cute little tart pan there? I don't know how many I will need so I am preparing 3. (Note of hindsight: should have done 4.)  First you butter and flour the tart pans and stick them in the fridge.  Then you pulse the pine nuts in a food processor a few times, then add the sugar and the flour. Whir that up until everything is broken up and looks like this:

Then you load that into a mixer with a paddle attachment (or you can mix it by hand) and add the vanilla and the softened butter.  Mix it up until it forms a dough. You will need to divide it into three parts, and since I am challenged with eyeballing amounts, I used a scale. Wrap each piece up in plastic wrap and refrigerate (or freeze the other two for future use).

After the dough has rested in the refrigerator 10 minutes, press it into your tart pans with your fingertips, as evenly as possible and press it up to fill in the sides. trim any excess dough from the top.

The dough was a little thick, but in the end, not so bad. I could have done 4 of those little tarts easily with what I had left over. With the oven preheated to 350, put them on a tray and slide them in. Cook 10-15 min and then check them and rotate and cook another 10-15 min. The crust should be evenly golden brown.

Hard to see the golden brown, I know. I think a new camera will be on my birthday wish list.  Let the crusts cool. And get started on your filling:

That's lemons, 2 egg yolks, 2 eggs, sugar and unsalted butter. Juice the lemons until you have 1/2 c juice It took 3 smallish lemons for me. Keep the butter in the fridge until ready. You will need a pan with 1.5 inches of water brought to a boil and a metal bowl that can fit inside that pan. Here's my tweetle-dee and tweetle-dum:

Before you put the bowl in the hot water, in the bowl whisk the egg yolks, eggs and sugar until smooth.

 When ready place the bowl inside the pan and whisk! whisk! whisk!  while also turning the bowl to ensure even heat distribution and whisking. In case I haven't told you, I have been declared a "spazz" by a board-certified Neurologist... it's true!  So, obviously I cant whisk and turn and time and take pictures all at once. I had to call in reinforcements.  Whisk, turn, whisk until the mixture thickens, then add 1/3 of the lemon juice. Continue whisking and turning until it's thickened again, and add the second third of the lemon juice. Repeat with the last of the lemon juice and whisk until thick. Total cooking time 8-10 min.

When it's thick, turn off the heat, leave the bowl in the pan and add the pieces of cold butter, one at a time and whisk until combined, repeat until all butter has been used. Pour the mixture into the tart crusts and preheat the broiler.

Once the broiler is hot slide the tarts in but keep the oven door open. The goal is to evenly brown them on the top. It should take only a half a minute or so, rotate during browning if necessary to ensure an even color.

Ok now to the final step: the Honeyed Marscapone Cream.  The culprits:

In a bowl situated in another bowl with ice (Thank God for my Wulfgang Puck stackable stainless bowl set!)
Whip the cream (1/2 c) until it's frothy, then add 3 T marscapone and 1 T honey and whip until it's sturdy. I'm sure there's a culinary-correct word but I am at a loss at the moment.  WHIP WHIP WHIP it good!
Until it looks like this:

I know its hard to see. Keep this stuff refrigerated until ready to use. Here's what the final plating looks like:

Verdict: the crust was lovely,crumbly and not too sweet. The lemon sabayon which is really akin to a lemon curd was out of this world. I'm into lemon as a dessert so I didn't really need the extra of the honeyed marscapone cream, but it added a nice balance. This took a fair amount of time but wasn't that difficult. I'd definitely do it again.  And oh, by the way, WANTED: neighbors looking for dessert!

See you soon.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The French Laundry #7? Cheesy Poufs! Gruyere Cheese Gougeres

I have to recount my entries; I think I missed one, but I'm in no mood for math this evening, in fact, I don't remember the last time i wanted to count stuff. This evening I made a nice little appetizer called Gougeres. As far my reading goes, it seems they are always made with Gruyere, my favorite cheese. These are very quick to make, take very few ingredients and are really pretty simple. I would recommend them for your Super Bowl party! They would pair well with both wine and beer.

Here's the mise en place:

Bring the water, salt, sugar, butter to a boil and add the flour all at once. Stir until excess liquid has evaporated, if that happens quickly, keep stirring for 2 minutes. Biceps, Anyone?

Turn the dough into a mixer with a paddle attachment and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds or so to cool it down. Then add all the eggs and mix again until the dough is silky. It should form soft peaks when the paddle is removed.  Add grated Gruyere and salt and white pepper to taste. Mix again until smooth.

Load the dough into a pastry bag with a 3/8 in plain tip (which I didn't have so I chose the closest thing). Onto baking sheets covered with silpat or parchment ..or in my case, a hybrid a silcone coated sheet, pipe about 1 Tbl. and leave 2 inches between (you can see that symmetry isn't my strong point which is one of the very many reasons why WSH is so good for me). 

Cover each mound with 1/2 tsp of grated gruyere and slide both pans into a preheated 450 degree oven for about 7 min. They will puff up! And unlike people, when cheesy poufs puff, they are beautiful!! Once puffed, reduce the heat to 350. Recipe says to cook 20 min more but mine were done in 10, so keep an eye on them. I know you can't see a lot of difference between the 2 pics, but believe me the second picture shows puffy, fluffy cheesy poufs!.  I reallty need to get a better camera setup or some lighting or something....

Serve hot out of the oven according to Chef Keller, but I found instruction from none other than Alain Ducasse  no sloucher himself, that these can be frozen and reheated (his recipe is also in the link). So that's what I'm doing!

While these are really pretty and smell fantastic, I found them to be a bit salty. The recipe calls for 1 T of salt, I would cut that back a bit; I am probably salt sensitive because I am always trying to reduce my sodium intake. Also, (duh!) I should have made an extra trip to find really high quality Gruyere. Trader Joe's carries a cave -aged Gruyere  that I love but I picked up a swiss import at Publix that was just ..meh. I know better !

Jim (Wonderfully Supportive Husband)  made some spectacular split pea soup today. I'll give you the recipe tomorrow.

Happy Cooking!
See you soon.

Happy Birthday to Rodrigo's Father!  Hope everyone had a wonderful 70's time!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pot Roast

Back to Chef Keller soon, promise.  We've had a busy week, for us at least, and the Keller recipes take a good deal of planning and organization. SO... I decided to cook a pot roast. Hello everyone, meet my friend Chuck. He is a roast. He will be our dinner for the next few nights.

And here he is with his friends:

That's thyme, garlic, bay leaves, salt, pepper, canola oil, Ruby Port and Madeira wine. Most classy chefs use a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Pinot Noir.. but not me... I am different. I love the way beef and Ruby Port play together the Port adds a sweetness and a depth of flavor that enhances the beef's natural flavor. And just FYI the only reason the Madeira is there is because I didn't have a full cup of Port in the bottle and Madeira shares many of the characteristics of Ruby Port. Use whatcha got! That's my motto.
First thing to do is dry the beef with paper towels; let it come to room temperature. Then generously season both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper. I use sea salt for this. In a heavy pan bring canola or other oil up to high heat. I use canola because of it's high smoke point and I LOVE/HATE my smoke detector... Love it as a silent sentinel. Hate it when it's a banshee screaming...YOU"RE BURNING SOMETHING which usually means I am searing meat. Sear each side for at least 5 minutes.. don't touch it! Let it go the entire 5 minutes on each side

When it is good and browned on both sides, take the meat out of the pan and pour off excess fat. Then pour in 1.5 c liquid (mine was port, madeira and some water) and deglaze the pan scraping up the brown bits on the bottom. Next add your aromatics. A couple of bay leaves, a couple of thyme sprigs, 2-3 cloves of garlic smushed and peeled and I also had some shallots on hand so I sliced them up as well.

When the wine has stopped sizzling throw in the seasonings and then lay the meat on top

I have often expressed how important it is to plan and have all ingredients ready...mise en place!! However, ahem, today I was not entirely organized. Because I had roasted a chicken at 450 degrees the other day, I needed to set my oven to the Clean cycle. When you want to prepare a pot roast you do not want to see this

It's that "Door Locked" thing that gets in the way. So I simmered on the stove top. When the Oven Decides To Unlock.. put the roast in, covered, at 300.  Ideally you should have it in the oven for 2-3 hours on low heat to break down the connective tissue and tenderize the meat; it's the indirect heat of the oven environment that aids in this process. I didn't not have that much time due to the "Door Locked" issue. I had about an hour of oven time. In the meantime prepare your veggies.

Give them all a shower and in the case of the potatoes, a scrub, and chop them into pieces roughly equal in size so that they will cook at the same rate. I like to roast the veggies separately to keep their unique flavor. A little caramelization also brings out the sweetness in the carrots and onions. Feel free to use your favorite winter veggies... turnips, parsnips.. etc Once they are cut up, toss them in canola oil (high smoke point) and some sea salt or kosher salt, and some freshly ground black pepper.

Spread them out on a baking sheet.. don't OCD on the single layer, but spread them out.

When the meat is tender, take the pot out of the oven, place the meat on a resting platter. Deglaze the the brown spots in the pot with wine or water and get all that good flavor!  Meanwhile reset the oven temp to 450 and put the veggies in.

It isn't a pretty picture, but it's a ton of flavor! Once that's all done, strain the liquid into a fat separator and pour it back into the pot (minus fat). Reduce the liquid to sauce consistency (coats the back of a spoon) .

Slice up your roast removing the fatty parts and slice against the grain. throw the slices into the sauce/gravy mixture and toss to coat. When the veggies are tender pull them out and serve it up!

This is certainly not a photogenic dish. No elegant presentation's pot roast after all. I wish I could say this was the best pot roast ever! But.. it wasn't. The flavor was all there but the meat suffered from it's time on the stovetop. It would have been much better if I had thought ahead and set the oven on the cleaning cycle, say.. in the morning. So, yet another example of why planning and prep is important! Hope you try this sometime, it's great for a weekend meal, only about 30 min of your time, with 3 hours in the oven.

I'm hitting the books looking for the next Keller dish.

See you soon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bouchon #1 Roast Chicken

Bouchon is a type of Restaurant in Lyon France. It is also a Thomas Keller restaurant and cookbook! The focus of the food is very much Parisian Bistro fare which is not to be confused with American Bistro, which more often than not simply implies casual. From the Introduction in the book:
Whereas the French Laundry Cookbook is about using the ideas and techniques of classic cuisine as a springboard for the imagination to create new dishes, Bouchon is about maintaining classic traditions, renewing our respect for those great dishes, holding them up to the light to understand them, in order to perfect them.
Further on he states:
Bistro food is not about specialized ingredients, rather it is about precision of technique brought to bear on ordinary ingredients. It's easy to make foie gras and truffles taste good. But how do you combine lettuce, salt vinegar and oil in a way that is elegant and exquisite? Indeed the very fact that these dishes have fewer main ingredients, typically common and inexpensive ingredients- chicken and salt, let's say - only raises the bar.
No pressure there!   The full recipe can be found here, straight from the book. First you get a chicken and rinse and dry it inside and out.  Then you truss it.

Then you rain salt on it and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 450 and when the oven is ready put the bird in a roasting pan and slide her in. I've never roasted a chicken in this way before..certainly never at 450.  But the key is the dry high heat; we don't want any steaming going on.  I hope my smoke detector doesn't go off!

No smoke detector! A win for me!  The skin was sooo beautifully crispy and the meat very juicy.

We ate this with steamed broccoli although I think a simple salad would have been better. Try this sometime, it's a wonderful roast chicken.

See you soon.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yabba Dabba Do -it-again

Usually soup is my go to for using up leftovers .. sometimes meat and stuff in homemade tortillas. But this time I wanted something different so I began to ask myself WWWF do? (Wilma Flintstone) We had leftover potatoes and some of that lovely beef and some onions... then it came to me.. Hash! Immediately I set to work: diced potatoes and minced onions and cut up the beef.  I sauteed the onions and then added the potatoes, which in hindsight, I would have reversed the order. The potatoes take longer to cook through and the onions got a little caramelized. That is never a bad thing, it was just unintentional in this case. I used salt and pepper to taste and when all was ready threw in the beef chunks, and covered to help them warm through. I wanted to cook them as little as possible. Here's how it looked:

To be completely decadent, I used the last bit of veal stock and the saved pan drippings ( minus fat) to make some gravy to go on top. Oh, and yes, I'm sure we had some green vegetables.. I'm certain of it! This was really yummy comfort food on a cold and rainy day.

Also, my very sweet neighbors came by with these beautiful flowers for me... aren't they pretty? They also brought some of those disposable plastic containers... just in case I have more left overs to share. Don't worry Cathy and Jon, we're counting on you guys to help us eat!


See you soon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

TFL#6 The Staff Meal - Lasagna

Never having worked in a restaurant, all I know about the Staff Meal or Family Meal as it's sometimes called is that it is prepared for the crew and shared together before service begins. The idea is to make use of any excess ingredients in a creative and hopefully delicious way. To be honest, this is what American households used to do..before convenience foods and rows upon rows of prepared,  prepackaged items. But the difference I would guess is that instead of perhaps one finicky teenager, the person preparing Staff Meal has a room full of co-workers knowledgeable and discerning about food. Yikes! Scary.  As an aside, I'd like to comment that 99.9% of the people who work in the hospitality industry, especially in restaurants, and closest to my heart, especially cooks, are not compensated anywhere NEAR the level that they contribute. Most of them do this out of passion for food, they work very long hours, and devote more creative energy to their jobs in one year than I will in a lifetime. SO, three big cheers to those who feed us! Special shout outs to my gaming friends Nerubius, Lydmius, Gullah and Corneliu as well as Tomas Lee a local chef to whom I have loosely related familial ties.

Seeing as the spirit of this recipe is about using up what you have, I have taken a liberty in this one by adding mushrooms that are not called for in TFL. I had crimini mushrooms from the Yabba Dabba Do that got replaced with some nice looking oyster mushrooms when someone (who shall remain nameless) got cilantro instead of italian parsley and I had to go to the store.

First the sauce:

It's the dead of winter so while the recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, I had to use canned, which actually, these days, the good brands are almost as good as fresh for cooking. We also have tomato paste, minced garlic, diced onion and olive oil.

Sautee the onions and garlic in the olive oil about 3-4 minutes, then add tomato paste, stirring to incorporate. The oil will turn a vivid orange.

Let that simmer about 10 minutes and then add the chopped tomatoes (or canned in my case). And then let that cook for 2 hours, stirring every ten minutes or so. I must have had the heat too low because mine took way longer than that. You want to end up with a thick, chunky sauce about a quart in quantity. Once cooked down, let it cool to room temperature and added chopped oregano. I also added salt and pepper to taste.
This can be done either in the oven for 3-4 hours or on the stovetop for 1-2. The stove top requires stirring to prevent scorching, the oven method requires you to use high school math and visual engineering skills to make a parchment lid for your pot.  Needless to say, I chose the stovetop. Stirring is easier than math any day.

For the filling:


 3 eggs, chopped parsley, whole milk ricotta, salt and pepper, grated fresh mozzarella and lasagna noodles. (This was another Sallyism, TFL calls for the boilable kind, we had the nonboilable kind on hand). And as you can see, my sauteed mushrooms are there as well. Mix the eggs, ricotta, parsley and salt and pepper in a bowl. Season the grated mozzarella with salt and pepper to taste

You know the drill, sauce, noodles, ricotta, repeat until the top where you add the mozzarella. I added the mushrooms somewhere in the middle. It was a nice addition I thought, giving some meaty texture. This was so much easier than some other lasagna recipes I've tried. Once I tried Tyler Florence's Ultimate Lasagna which I saw on his Food Network show. The ingredients and prep were all great, it was the assembly that was so vexing. He actually had me believing that I could make wet noodles stand up on the sides of the dish. I tried for at least 40 minutes and finally gave up. Wet noodles stand? Must take a stylist with magical sexy powers....

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or so until the top is bubbly and the edges golden brown.  I am calling in the neighbors on this one, we will barely make a dent.

Have a great weekend everyone and Happy Birthday to you-know-who on Friday! I love you very much and wish I could make you a Birthday Dinner...remember when Mom did that for us? I always chose breakfast with real butter on toast... not much has changed in 40 years.

I'll be posting some home "Staff Meals" with the leftovers from our Yabba-Dabba-Do !

See you soon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

TFL #5 "Yabba-Dabba-Do" Rib Steak with Golden Chanterelles and Bordelaise Sauce, Pommes Anna

I decided to number the French Laundry entries to keep track of how few I have actually done. LOL.  In reviewing this one, Golden Chanterelles were clearly going to be the sourcing issue so I asked my friend Nerubius (an honest to goodness chef) what an acceptable substitute would be and he said Oyster Mushrooms. BUT he said, sweat them in the oven first because they are so wet if you don't dry them out "they'll piss all over your dish"!  I am very fortunate to have several chefs in my online gaming community all knowledgeable and advising in language I can understand. I am going to write this is the order I accomplished it (more or less) because some of it can be, and some must be,  done ahead.

The Meat: Part 1
A double cut rib steak (bone-in with the bone frenched) 2-2.5 lbs.  I think WSH went a little larger, what do you think? You season it with salt and pepper the day before you plan to cook it, keeping it refrigerated until at least an hour prior to cooking to allow it to come to room temperature before searing then roasting.

The Bordelaise sauce:

Cast of characters: Cabernet Sauvignon, Veal stock, sliced carrots, sliced shallots, sliced garlic, sliced mushrooms, parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, a bay leaf and six -- count them with me - six black peppercorns. Cook everything but the veal stock and peppercorns until the wine has mostly evaporated, add veal stock and peppercorns and then simmer until it's a sauce consistency.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer and set aside in a small sauce pan.

The Pommes-Anna:

Ingredients: (cue the laugh track please) Yukon Golds, clarified butter, minced shallots, grey salt, chicken stock and... prunes.  Yes, you heard me. PRUNES. I could rename them dried plums, but I happen to like prunes. Molly Wizenberg  Orangette says that they are the only food that comes with a built in laugh track. I find them to be very complex and sophisticated, sort of sweet sort of wine-ish. Anyway, I struggled with this seemingly odd couple. Potatoes and Prunes!! Prunes and Potatoes??   But that's what this blog adventure is all about. Broadening horizons and trying new things. SO off we go!

Simmer the prunes in chicken stock until they are soft and plump, then chop them up and add grey salt and minced shallots to taste. Would you like some glare with that prune pot? Final product looks yummy,eh?

Peel and slice the Yukon golds to 1/16th of an inch and place them in water to remove the starch. Once ready, put some clarified butter in a nonstick ovenproof pan and dry your potatoes...or at least get some of the moisture out.  Here's is pic of our potatoes drying.

Can you see that the top half is perfectly uniform and symmetrical? The bottom half is much more randomly placed, but was much faster. Can you guess who did which half? I know CR and Liz can. WSH (a little OCD) has a penchant for symmetry and order. I am quite sure he would have a much longer career as a prep cook at the French Laundry than I would. Not that I am completely haphazard,  I do mise en place and I keep things cleaned up, but seriously, I don't line up sliced potatoes. LOVE YOU JIM!  Anyhoo, you line the pan (symmetrically of course) with overlapping shingles of potatoes, salt and pepper, then another layer of potatoes. Then comes the tricky part: you "spread the prune mixture carefully and evenly over the potatoes taking care not to disturb the potato layer" Hmm. Do you know how sticky prunes are? And how slippery potatoes are? I have no photos of this process because my fingers were covered in prunes and I was cursing all the way. 2 more layers of potatoes, 1 more layer of prunes and 2 more layers of potatoes with seasoning in between.  Mercifully WSH took his OCD self upstairs during this process. I was a Neanderthal at the careful spreading but with enough butter and potatoes how could it be bad? Final prep step is to pour 1/4 c clarified butter over and then sizzle it on the stove top.

 After 3-4 min pop it in the oven until browned and done. This can be done ahead. and reheated in the oven and inverted on to the serving platter when ready.

The Salad:

Though not part of TFL I love this salad. Made up of Baby Spinach, toasted almonds, pear pieces... (if I was motivated I would have made pear pearls with a #12 melon baller), gorgonzola crumbles and a dressing comprised of Olive Oil, Balsamic (plus I add a little white wine vinegar) Maple Syrup and salt and pepper, its so easy and so good.  Originally shared with me as 1 T of each of the liquids, play around with it and see what you like. Try not to burn your almonds while you are taking pictures for your blog.

I wish I knew how a food stylist does what they do.  Obviously, I do not. Nor do I know much about  photography. But it's all an experiment and a learning experience.

Meat Part 2
Pat the meat dry before searing and then sear for about 5 minutes each side. When that's done put it in the oven with a meat thermamator. My desired doneness is medium, Jim's is medium rare/rare. We took it out at 120 degrees knowing there would be a slice for everyone. Let it rest at least 10 minutes before cutting.

I sauteed the piss-free Oyster mushrooms until tinged with brown around the edges, we cut the beef and plated with the bordelaise and mushrooms. Damn I wish I could take better pictures. This looks like something from Golden Corral but was actually much prettier and more appetizing.

The final single plating looked like this:

The beef and mushrooms were great! We always like the salad so that doesn't count. The Pommes Anna just weren't for us. The prunes lost their unique complexity in the cooking. I am sure this is a classic french dish so I will not question it and the most likely thing is that I screwed up the execution. Still, I'd say either a straight up scalloped potatoes or a layered dish with maybe a cranberry chutney to bring some sweet-tartness might be better.

Whew! I'm tired.

See you soon!