Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Let's be real. Salad does not taste good when it's 50 degrees outside.
Yes, maybe after a big holiday feast, you may want to detox with some greens, but really, all I want to do when it gets chilly is eat mac and cheese in my fluffy pink robe, setting the bowl down only to crochet something.
I wasn't totally bad - my side was Brussels sprouts. So virtuous. :)
Anyway, this mac was the winning casserole in a contest that Mr. Amateur Gourmet Adam judged.
How I knew this was a winner: a) it insisted on a specific kind of cheese, and b)...
...well, it insisted on a specific kind of cheese. I did not have this particular kind of cheese, and it goes against my attempt to eat more locally to have it flown in, but I did have a rather fine 3-year aged cheddar from the Village Gourmet Wine & Cheese Shop down the street from me (not that I know if my cheddar is more local, but it seemed closer than getting cheese from Jersey - at the very least, supporting the local economy).
Anyway, I thought it was just about perfect. Yummy kale (even more virtue) and yummy almost-caramelized shiitake mushrooms in pasta and cheese. It was a touch too smoky for me, so I may decrease the smoked gouda or substitute Gruyere next time.
This may be the "winning" recipe for our annual day-after-Christmas dinner, too. And if Matty agrees when he gets home, maybe I'll be able to justify buying the Bobolink since they'll only be shipping to Matty's parents in upstate NY as opposed to all the way across the country to us.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Just a fun, recipe-less way to get rid of more leftovers (and the last of those mashed potatoes - yay!)
Some couscous mixed in with the andouille cornbread stuffing, stuffed into pepper halves, baked for half an hour at 350 degrees, served over reheated mashed.
I'm going to miss those potatoes.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Speaking of too much, I baked another Thanksgiving pie today.
Yeah. I know. I'm out of my freaking gourd.
We got invited to a leftovers party tonight, and we brought our mountain of mashed. Patricia had also mentioned that she was low on pie, so I used it as an opportunity to make this Nutmeg-Maple Cream Pie that I had seen in a NY Times slide show. When I saw that Deb had also blogged and gushed about it, I knew this couldn't wait until next Thanksgiving. Plus, I'm also on the lookout for a Christmas pie because Matty's mom and I are responsible for a dessert and an appetizer for his grandparents' Christmas Eve dinner.
I'm not sure pie could be easier. I was even patient and careful enough to not curdle the cream/egg mixture. Sadly, that made me very proud.
Also sadly, I didn't like this quite as much as I had hoped. Everyone at dinner did, and I really enjoyed the texture. It was just a little too nutmeggy for me, and I'm sure the fact that I didn't have freshly grated nutmeg didn't help. I guess I was just hoping for more maple.
While I was organizing my recipes (read: moving recipes that I've sent to myself from my inbox into alphabetized Word docs), I did find a straight-up maple cream pie recipe, although I cannot for the life of me figure out where it came from. This one calls for chilling the cream mixture until firm as opposed to baking it. Just have to try it, I guess. :)
Not quite sure what possessed me to make a fancy breakfast after all the cooking this week, but I did it.
Well, scratch that. I know. It was my desire to get rid of the mountain of mashed potatoes we have left over. Leftover mashed potatoes are a rare occurrence in this, the House of Carbs, but our friend Jeff brought over quite a bit, and our friend Vicki also brought over her grandfather's cheesy potato dish. So, lots of potatoes, that even we couldn't finish.
I thought I'd try to do little mashed potato cakes as a base for poached eggs. My favorite breakfast at the Alcove is their potato stack - latkes topped with smoked salmon, poached eggs and Hollandaise. I stuck some sauteed garlicky spinach in the mix to pretend that I was being healthy.
The dish came out great, but not perfect. I'm not great at controlling lots of variables at once, so the eggs came out not at all runny, and the sauce curdled quite a bit. The potatoes didn't transform into the crunchy potato cakes of the Alcove - rather, they were still mashed potatoes with a bit of (dark) crust on either side. Which is fine - mashed potatoes for breakfast is a rare and delicate treat. :)
There were plenty of recipes that called for the addition of flour and/or eggs to give the cakes structure, but I was a) too lazy, and b) already using more eggs than can possibly be healthy for one sitting, so I passed. There are plenty more potatoes to be experimented with, though, so I'm sure I'll figure it out soon. :P
Friday, November 23, 2007
And it was the most magnificent success I've ever had. Third time's always the charm, but that's not to say the last two were not successful. :)
Let's start at the beginning. I start with a Word document that contains 5 headings:
1) Menu - tested recipes become italicized or deleted, and a final menu is compiled.
2) Stuff - the Williams-Sonoma/Sur La Table category
3) Guests - self-explanatory
4) Groceries - see above
5) Schedule. This is the most important part. It's a 5-day plan that includes hitting the Farmer's Market/grocery stores on Sunday, making the cornbread for the stuffing on Monday, having a night off on Tuesday for Katy Perry's EP release show, and the bulk of the work being done on Wednesday.
Except I got my schedule all screwed up. Got out of yoga too late and couldn't find parking, so I missed Sunday's Farmer's Market. Ended up doing all my groceries Tuesday night before the big show. The cornbread got moved to Wednesday morning before work. I also started playing with my new food processor (I'm sure a loving essay will be churned out later), and somehow managed to create four pie crusts that morning.
Thankfully, we closed the office early, so when I got home at 4:30p, I started out cooking. With a little Thai delivery break for dinner, I managed to get everything done in, oh, 8 hours:
- hollowed out onions per the Gourmet recipe that Deb posted on Smitten Kitchen. That took an alarmingly long time to do. Roasted the onions and let them cool while I made...
- Andouille Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing from Bon Apetit via Epicurious. The best part being the andouille from the European Deluxe Sausage Kitchen. Seriously, if you're in LA, you have to go there. This was my main stuffing last year, and this year, I thought I'd mix it up by stuffing it in the aforementioned roasted onions. I followed the recipe exactly except for adding the dry cornbread stuffing mix. As I did last year, I made up a box of Jiffy cornbread, cubed it and threw it in. After the initial 30 minute baking period, I stuffed it in the cooled roasted onions and stuck it in the fridge for Thursday reheating.
- made Sweet Potato Gnocchi, also a Bon Appetit recipe via Epicurious. It's kind of my thing. I could probably make it my sleep at this point. I prefer to individually form the gnocchi as opposed to creating ropes of dough and slicing off chunks. It's probably less efficient, but it's a lot more fun, especially when I recruit the mister to help. After we came up with two cookies sheets full of gnocchi, I stuck them in the freezer for Thursday boiling.
- made Ruby Port Cranberry Sauce, a recipe posted in the LA Times. Delightful. I don't generally like cranberry sauce, but this was wonderful. I'm not sure you could ruin anything that contained 1 1/2 c. of ruby port, though. Talk about nectar of the gods. :)
- made barbecue sauces to serve with our smoked turkey. If I do say so myself, it was a brilliant idea. We came across it accidentally - Matty wanted to modify our smoker, and one of the websites led him to Coffee-Flavored Barbecue Sauce, aka Texas Blackjack Sauce. It was a simple enough recipe - combine a bunch of things, simmer for 25 minutes. I freaked out because I hadn't read carefully enough that I needed a whole cup of Worcestershire (who has that much Worcestershire?!?), so I ended up only making a half recipe. It was good, but not very strongly coffee-flavored. And Matty makes a strong cup of coffee, so if we make this again, we'll have to make it even stronger.
- and because I'm an over-achiever, I had to have a trio of barbecue sauces. The next one was Molasses-Bourbon Sauce. Maker's Mark always figures prominently in Thanksgiving (as well as in life, mostly by being on the rocks), so I thought it should also have a place in our food. Last year, it was featured in a very spiked warm apple cider. This year, sauce. This recipe made a massive batch. It was good, but I should have followed some of the reviews when they suggested that 2 cups of ketchup was too ketchup-y. I did follow the tip to use 3/4 c. bourbon instead of 1/2 c. bourbon and 1/4 c. water, which was nice. :)
- and the last sauce, my favorite: Roasted Pepper and Maple Barbecue Sauce. It was so interesting. A roasted pepper base instead of tomatoes. Minus a leaky blender incident that cranked me up, it was perfection. I may have slightly overdone it with the chipotle, so I'll dial that down next time. I've never been good at spicy foods.
- last thing for the day: the Cranberry Chocolate Tart I had made here. Kevin couldn't stop talking about the crust, and Marcela made an advance request for this pie for her birthday. In July. She also insisted that it was the best dessert I had ever made. :)
Okay, that brings us up to midnight-thirty. Time for bed.
I was going to wake up early to go to the gym to counteract the calorie-fest, but it didn't happen. :P
Started roasting potatoes for the Smoked Salmon Tartare on New Potato Slices. I had made it once when Gabe and Allison came over for brunch, but here's a better photo:
(Bad-ass place-card/food identifier idea courtesy of yumsugar. Mini apples were found at the Farmer's Market; the card stock was actually Avery Clean Edge Business Cards that I had leftover from my days as a freelance music publicist).
Next up was the gorgeous and delicious Jam Coffee Cake that I made here, this time with blueberry preserves. I thought I had over-compensated for the first layer of batter, but somehow, my preserves still ended up near the top, as opposed to in a lovely ring in the middle. Ah well. Still wonderful. Monica said that's how all cakes should taste like.
The mini quiches were a fun experiment, too. I've made Elise's Caramelized Onion Quiche more times than I can count, but I've never miniaturized them before. Christened my new mini muffin pans with them. Used two batches of pate brisee and a perfectly-sized water glass to cut out rounds. Filled them with the onions, a sprinkling of Gruyere, and then spoon-fed about 3 teaspoons of the egg mixture into each one so it wouldn't overflow. I think I ended up baking them for about the same amount of time - 35 minutes.
Then it was baking the apple tart crust with the Honey-Pecan Pumpkin Pie (are you sensing a trend with Bon Appetit/Epicurious? That's because, on the whole, their recipes are brilliant). I think sharing the oven space really increased the amount of time the pumpkin pie needed to bake. And then I ended up forgetting/not hearing the timer because I was watching the Cowboys game. :P The top ended up kinda dark, but the extra time didn't affect the texture and taste at all. I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to keep it away from our dear friend Greg, whom I've dubbed "the world's worst diabetic." Last year, I had made the pecans but forgot to serve them, and they weren't really missed, so I just skipped them altogether this year.
Next up were apples: Mark Bittman's Blue Cheese Apples and the Apple Custard Tart I made for Halloween. This time, the apples were massive and wouldn't fit in the pattern I tried earlier, so here's what I ended up getting:
Bittman comes through yet again. Like I said, add a cup of port and I'm there. Add Gorgonzola, and I'm even closer. I ended serving these at room temperature because the oven was already full with reheating two potato dishes (one each from Vicki and Jeff), creamed spinach (from Jeff), and my stuffing. They were really great, though, and I think I'll make one my lunch with the leftover cheese and cracker tray. :)
Boiled up the gnocchi, browned some butter, threw sage in, poured it over the gnocchi. One of my favorite dishes of all time.
As soon as I finished that, Matty declared our turkey done. Apparently, you're supposed to let the internal temperature reach 176 degrees, but it had hit 162, remembered we had taken it out early last year, too, and we were tired of waiting, so we just took it out to rest. I give you, our tur-bacon. :)
It wasn't supposed to have bacon on it. But Jeff brought a package, and it was too late for brunch, so we draped it on the turkey after about 3 hours in the smoker. Another 3 1/2 hours later, we had our star.
Gravy. Like cranberry sauce, I don't like making gravy either. If it wasn't freaking tradition, I wouldn't make it at all. However, I did find a recipe for Cider Gravy that I thought would be interesting enough for me to experiment with, but also traditional enough for the purists to have on their turkey.
It seemed to call for a massive amount of liquid (4 c. stock and 1 1/4 c. apple cider), and I didn't want to whisk forever, especially with the turkey only needing so much time to rest, so I only ended up using the 1 1/4 c. of cider, 2/3 c. pan juices and the 1/2 c. stock that I mixed with flour for the thickener. Obviously, it ended up being very strongly cider-y, so I added a couple dashes of chicken bouillon powder until it tasted right.
Dear heavens, was that all? Here's the recap then:
Hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well! Already have test recipes lined up for Thanksgiving '08, mostly stuff I didn't get around to testing this year. It never ends, does it? :)
I'll leave with what not to do with a creme brulee torch. I had read in the LA Times about a Bruleed Pumpkin Pie, but the recipe looked too intense, and I really like the pumpkin pie recipe I had, so I set out some sugar and a torch if people wanted to brulee their own slices. Maybe next time, not so much. :)
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Jam Coffee Cake
filled with blueberry preserves
Smoked Salmon Tartare on New Potato Slices
Cheese and Olives
Crab Spinach Dip
Mini Caramelized Onion Quiches
Smoked Turkey w/ Cider Gravy, A Trio of Barbecue Sauces,
and Ruby Port Cranberry Sauce
Texas blackjack sauce (coffee-flavored), Molasses-bourbon sauce,
Roasted pepper and maple sauce
Andouille Cornbread Dressing in Roasted Onions
Blue Cheese Apples
baked in port and filled with blue cheese
Rosemary Carrot Scones
Sweet Potato Gnocchi in Sage Brown Butter Sauce
Apple Custard Tart
Bruleed Honey Pumpkin Pie
Cranberry Chocolate Tart
Whew! I'm exhausted from just typing out the HTML. Can you imagine the actual cooking?
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Another winner from the Mark Bittman book. I'm even making one of the recipes for Thanksgiving without testing it first. I know, *gasp*!
Dinner tonight was the Rich Zucchini Soup, subbing butternut squash for the zucchini. It's under the "Eggs" chapter because it uses two eggs as a thickener/flavor-enhancer. Basically, it's egg drop soup, but it's supposed to be tempered and whisked in so slowly that you don't see any egg bits.
I was doing really good until I stopped whisking for a second to grab a paper towel to wipe up a spill. As you can see, the egg bits could not be held back. It's okay, though. Still extremely delicious. And it reminded me of a soup from my childhood, so
it was extra comforting. :)
I also made Rosemary and Carrot Scones to go with the soup. I was bored, and Matty wasn't home from his session yet. These had been on the Thanksgiving test recipe list, but after making the executive decision to not try to do everything myself, they had been removed without trying them.
I'm glad I did try them, though. They were so very good. When Matty came home, he snacked on a couple (he had already had dinner at the studio), and I believe his exact words were, "What the hell are these? They're really freaking good."
Fine. Onto the Thanksgiving menu they go. A couple tweaks - I had been lazy and just used shredded carrots instead of grating them (I hate grating, and I had already grated half a damn squash), but I think I'll have to suck it up and grate for Thanksgiving. The carrot pieces were just too big and weird. I also used about half whole-wheat flour, and I wonder if that's why they didn't come out as golden and delightful as Clotilde's. I'll use all regular on Thursday.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
These Key Lime Mascarpone "Cannoli" were so good that I posed for a "got caught" picture licking filling off my finger. :P
It's been a quiet week for cooking and today there are two posts! (Too many good shows in town - Dan Wilson on Monday, KT Tunstall on Tuesday, Clarence Bucaro on Thursday, and Katy Perry on Friday). Right in the middle of all that, Matty and I managed to celebrate our 3-year anniversary on Wednesday. :)
The canoli are a rain-checked anniversary present - no time to make them during the week, you see. And boy, do you ever need to have plenty of time to make them. Worth it, though, as they combine two of Matty's favorite desserts, cannoli and key lime pie.
The filling is simple enough; it just needs to chill for 4 hours. The "cannoli" shell dough is super easy, too - I don't have a food processor, so there was no grinding of the sweetened coconut. I didn't think it was necessary, either, and after rubbing the butter in with my fingers, I used a fork to mix in the milk, and we were in business.
Now here's the time-consuming part. You can only make 4 of the shells at a time. Mine took 12 minutes to bake up properly. Once out, you cool them for 30 seconds, and then put them around a cannoli form to harden. I destroyed the first one, but it still made a delicious snack. :P After rolling the cookies up, I set them (still on the cannoli form) seam-side down so they'd stay put. Re-use the parchment squares (mostly because I was out, but also because it's not necessary to waste more parchment), make 4 more cookies, repeat. And repeat again. I got about 12 cookies (including the destroyed one).
After yet another Clarence Bucaro gig, we came home, I filled the cannoli, and watched Matty melt into the biggest smile I'd ever seen. The filling is very rich (I might use ricotta next time instead of the cream cheese) and super-tart from the lovely Key limes, but the shell is the perfect sweet complement. I might even cut out a little of the granulated sugar next time, but as is, it's not overbearingly sweet. Crunching the cookies make quite a mess, though, so I wouldn't suggest eating them on your, say, beautiful vintage couch.
Matty had only one suggestion to make it better. One of his favorite treats from the Keys is a slice of key lime pie dunked in chocolate and frozen. Maybe we'll make little frozen cannoli popsicles with the leftovers. :)
My new favorite cookbook is Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. My sister gave it to me for my birthday.
At first, I thought to myself, "Where are the pictures?" Simple-minded, I know. But as I read through the book, sticking Post-Its onto almost every page (and only of the recipes that I felt I needed to make immediately), I was thankful there were no pictures. For all of the ideas in this book, there would have to have been a separate volume for photos! I loved how each recipe had at least 3-5 variations listed after them. I've never been all about meat substitutes in my quest to make my diet more plant-based (even though I really like RFD's seitan), so my favorite part of the book is the majority of the recipes are just simple, but great, ways to make veggies/eggs/dairy.
Breakfast this morning was the Egg Hash from that book, and the completely non-vegetarian Roasted Asparagus Bundles Wrapped in Prosciutto from Michael Chiarello/The Food Network. I had made the asparagus for last Easter brunch, so I knew it was a winner. As I did then, I skipped the bread crumbs. This time, I had forgotten to blanch the asparagus before roasting them, so I just added 5 minutes to the roasting time. They still came out perfectly, and I saved myself the trouble of washing one extra pot. :)
The Egg Hash was brilliant. Just potatoes and hard-boiled eggs cooked to wonderful golden-brown perfection in a cast-iron skillet. I halved the recipe because I didn't want leftovers, especially for this week. Matty ended up wanting seconds. Oops. :P
Saturday, November 10, 2007
This Butterscotch Mascarpone Cream Layer Cake is one of those whose pictures make me audibly gasp and then immediately clap my hand over my mouth in case any of my co-workers heard me. :P I knew I had to make it for my and my sister's co-birthday celebration at our parents' house.
I started with a screw-up. My tiny American brain had managed to change the 250 gr of butter required for the batter to its equivalent of 9 oz, but it did not manage to figure out that 9 oz. does not equal 9 T. of butter. Which is how I read the recipe. So basically, I only put in half of the butter I actually needed. Why I didn't just put 2 sticks of butter on the print-out is beyond me.
Then, the recipe says to pour the batter into two 8-inch cake pans and after baking/cooling, split each in half. Problem #1: I only have one 8-inch cake pan, and it's a springform. Problem #2: I suck at splitting cake layers.
Solution: Pour batter into 3 9-inch cake pans. Obviously, they didn't all fit on one oven rack, so I rotated their position every 10 minutes. Which only ended up being once because the layers were cooked in 20 minutes. Sweet.
Went to the gym while the cake cooled. Came back, whipped up the mascarpone cream, assembled the cake.
It definitely looked like a homemade cake. Kinda tumbly, kinda crumby, but it was delicious. Didn't even miss the extra butter, surprisingly - I rather liked the crumbly texture of the cake layered with all that delicious cream. I'll just have to try it again with more butter to see how I like it then. :P
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Had a lot of vegan happiness for dinner tonight. :)
Matty had a late rehearsal, so I had plenty of time to make this Barley and Shiitake Mushroom Soup from Vegalicious. I suppose you could take a time shortcut by simmering the barley in some vegetable stock while the mushrooms soaked, and then added the mushrooms later, but I'm sure simmering the mushrooms with the barley for an hour in the soaking liquid is part of the point.
While the mushrooms soaked, I cut up some butternut squash to make Butternut Squash, Corn and Cilantro Phyllo Rolls from the Real Food Daily cookbook. While the barley was simmering, I cooked up the squash with all the other goodies, used real ricotta instead of tofu ricotta (so not that much vegan happiness), and then filled phyllo strips to make rolls.
Can I make a confession? I hate phyllo. It's such an attention whore. You have to budget thawing time. You have to cover unused sheets with plastic wrap AND a damp towel while you're working with other sheets. I think I may hate it more than making bread.
This is my second attempt at working with phyllo. The first was Mushrooms En Croute from Halaire Walden's The Book of Finger Foods that was not aesthetically appealing enough for even my low photography standards. These rolls were actually fine, but they looked nothing like the golden cigars of deliciousness featured in the cookbook. Far from it. Disappointing. The insides tasted fine, but they weren't pretty, and the phyllo was kind of a weak contrast to the filling. At least now I know I won't have to spend my Thanksgiving making either of those recipes.
The soup wasn't too attractive either, but it was really delicious and hit the spot for a cold evening. I've never had barley before except as beer, so it was an interesting experiment. I ended up adding about 2 cups of water and tons of soy sauce to compensate for the water addition, and I may have overcooked it or let it sit (on the stove/off the heat) too long because it was more like stew than the lovely soup pictured on Vegalicious, but it still tasted great. My only complaint was that it had a weird aftertaste. Don't know if that's what barley does, or if it was a product of cooking/sitting too long. In any case, it worked.
Friday, November 2, 2007
So the steak dinner was in honor of our Friday night date night. We've been saving up money, so we haven't really been going out for date night. The fourth quarter is always rough financially - I had a birthday a couple weeks ago, our anniversary is next week, and, the biggest wallet destroyer of all, Christmas.
True, filet mignon isn't the most frugal of all dining options, but two from Gelson's beat two from anywhere that serves filet mignon. The recipe is an old favorite: Bon Appetit's (by way of Epicurious) Blue-Cheese-Crusted Steaks with Red Wine Sauce. From previous experience, I skipped the red wine sauce - not worth the hassle. I heated up the leftover creamed spinach (which tasted a little better today), and went for Thanksgiving test recipe #I've-lost-count, another Bon Appetit/Epicurious contribution, Potato Gratin with Porcini Mushrooms and Mascarpone Cheese.
To be honest, I thought it was a perfectly good waste of mascarpone. And expensive porcini mushrooms, for that matter. It's not that it wasn't good - it tasted just fine. It just wasn't awesome. And for having spent that much on just a gratin, I was kind of annoyed. Although I managed to make it look a lot prettier, it was also no this. I may have to take back what I said about not making it for Thanskgiving.
And now for this Apple Custard Tart from new-to-me blog, Alpineberry:
Yep. The prettiest pie (well, tart) that I've ever made. I can't wait for the opportunity to make it while I still have some natural light. :)
You guessed correctly: this was also a TTR. I thought I would try it out on a day I had an occasion to share it with others, since my increased baking habits have certainly wreaked havoc on both of our waistlines. I thought I'd bring a little hostess gift for my friend Liz who was throwing this Halloween party. I IM'ed her a couple days ago to make sure it was cool that I bring something. And that was my downfall.
See, I intended to make this yesterday when I had more time. But turns out, I didn't. Because Peter Bogdonavich's "Running Down A Dream" called. Wow.
Anyway, so I had already promised the pie, but I only had a couple hours to do it between work, dinner and the party. It ended up working fine. I sliced apples while the gratin baked (I peeled 4, but only ended up using 3), the custard was super easy, and I only got up once in the middle of dinner to turn the tart in the oven and make sure the apples were still in the custard. The rush only caused one small problem - I forgot to weigh down the crust when I baked it, so it shrunk a little. Oops.
Well, I guess two issues: the time crunch also meant I couldn't taste it first. No, not because I'm greedy, thank you. But rather, I would never normally let people have food I hadn't QC'ed first. I've got a reputation to uphold! :P
So, with fingers crossed and devil horns on, I packed up the tart (and a bowl full of Reese's I couldn't pawn off on the children last Wednesday), and took my cowboy out. :)
EDIT: My dear friend Johnny (and Liz' boyfriend) wrote this on my Facebook wall the next day: "That pie is right up my alley cuz I'm not a huge fan of the pie crust (although I prefer it to be present) which is minimized while the good stuff is maximized."
Sweet. It's going on the Thanksgiving menu.