Friday, October 14, 2011

FFWD: I Can't Be Bothered with the Weirdest Dinner

A few months ago, I was reading about getting kids to expand their food horizons and one mom wrote about how they decide as a family what cuisine they will eat on any given night of the week.  Then, they use that opportunity to pretend they are taking a trip there, learning about the culture and the foods eaten in, say, Thailand.  I thought it was a cute idea and something to file away for the future.

I was reminded of it, though, last night when I made a rather incongruous pairing for dinner.  See, we traveled first to Russia, by way of France, and then we either flew back to France, eating at a French-Mexican restaurant (yes, they do exist), or flew to Mexico to some Mexican-French restaurant.  I needed to make the blinis for FFWD, but then I had these poblano peppers I'd bought at the farmer's market.  I'd already planned to stuff them with goat cheese (used ubiquitously in the French version of Mexican food to stand in for cotija, I think), corn, and black beans, and thought they'd accompany some grilled chicken.  Or something.  Well, they accompanied blinis.  Oh, and we are/were going through a heat-wave so it was 97 degrees yesterday--normal temps are around 70--and we don't "do" air-con in this part of the world.  Yippy.  I don't know what that has to do with anything, that last part, but I wanted to complain.

Anyway, on to the blinis.  I've never made them before, and I never would've made them if not for FFWD, so that's cool.  Part of that never-would've-made-them-thing is that they were sort of an exercise in "I Can't Be Bothered" . . . except for when I could be.  At first, I thought I couldn't be bothered to make them, thinking I'd skip this week.  Then, I was waiting for a prescription and found everything I needed, except for the buckwheat flour and the creme fraiche.  I figured I couldn't be bothered to make buckwheat blinis, as I wasn't going on a scavenger hunt for the flour, and that I'd just make all-purpose flour blinis.  Well, at the 1 silly store here that carries creme fraiche, I just happened to stop by the baking aisle, and whaddya know?  Buckwheat flour.  I got home and realized I'd forgotten to find dill, which is not necessarily easy to find around here (strange since I live in the land of plenty, produce-wise). I figured I couldn't be bothered.  And I really wasn't.  I just snipped some chives off of my yard's chive forest and voilà!

First, I made the blinis Dorie-size, meaning with that 2 tablespoons of batter measure.  They were big:

Big Blinis
 The husband-man had been hovering over me in the kitchen, whining about being hungry, and so I made the two bits above and immediately served them to at least stave off the worst of his hunger.  He sat down and asked, "Why the sexy dinner?"  I have no idea what that means, and he couldn't really articulate it while shoving his blini into his mouth.  So, I sent him back to his cave while I finished off the rest of the batter.

I then decided that I'd make the blinis half-sized, with only 1 tablespoon of batter.  I liked them better that way. I also refused to use only the "barest hint" of creme fraiche, or whatever Dorie said...mostly because I can't say no to something that is creamy and fatty.  Mmmmmm.


Meanwhile, I heard some hollering from the man: "It smells really good!  When can we eat more?!?"

In the end, I think the blinis were a success.  HA!  Really, though, we both liked them and were coming up with other ways to eat the leftovers (like with strawberries, lightly sweetened creme fraiche, and mint).

The only thing missing was the champagne.  Man, I can't believe I didn't think to get some as it would've been a perfect pairing.  I opened a nice acidic, non-malolactic, barely oaked Chardonnay that worked well, but it didn't have that pop (literally and figuratively) that a nice brut would've lent to the dish.

Oh, and then we ate the stuffed peppers.  Thus ended probably the oddest dinner I've made in a very long time.  At least it all tasted good.

My question is: what's the weirdest dinner you've made, not counting those weirdo have-no-money-college-"dinners"?



Sunday, October 9, 2011

FFWD: In Which I Ponder Serving Size and Game Hens

As some may recall, I made the Olive-Olive Cornish Game Hens last week.  Of course, this week I notice that they are on sale for less than half the price I paid.  Typical!

This was a new experience for me as I've only ever made Cornish Game Hens once before.  Frankly, I'd rather roast a full-sized chicken, though I'm not really sure why.  I guess I just don't find them all that interesting, though they are pretty on the plate (and the more I think about it, the more I think that's why people like them).  Most of the times that I've had CGH's at other people's houses, they're overly dry and too huge for me to eat on my own.  This brings up one of my pet peeves: Why do we have such large serving sizes at dinner parties?  Or at restaurants, for that matter?

The big thing is that I've never done that en crapaudine technique.  I've never even butterflied a chicken, though I've often read it's a nice way to roast it.  I hate to admit that I'm not a huge fan of the whole removing the backbone thing.  I try not to be grossed out by that kind of stuff, as we tend to have an odd separation from our food sources as it is.  I don't mind sticking my hand under the skin to rub some olive tapenade-y goodness, however. Sort of an odd thing there.

I made the tapenade from scratch with Dorie's recipe.  And I followed the current recipe as directions as stated.  Overall, it was pretty good.  I paired it with some fabulous haricots verts I'd gotten that morning at the farmer's market, and we had the salad from last week as the first course.  I served each of us half a hen, and saved the other one for leftovers.  As you can see in the photo, it got some nice caramelizing/crisping of the skin and was overall a pretty easy way of dealing with CGH's.  I'm not sure how often I'll make this dish, but it's nice to know I've got a reasonably quick recipe ready to go.


As for the wine, we served it with a pinot noir from Central Coast California as I thought the fruity earthiness would pair well with the subtle olive flavors (and with the hens).  It was a good pairing, but I think a nice unoaked Chardonnay would've done in a pinch if it were a tad warmer outside.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sheepishly Returning to FFWD: Deconstructed (perhaps unconstructed?) BLT with Egg

It's been about 6 months since I've done a blog post.  I have cooked some of the recipes, but I became overwhelmed with work and everything.  And then I went to India.  And now I'm back to work.  Anyway, I really missed doing FFWD, and would follow along on Facebook, etc., so I'm excited to jump back in!

On to the dish:

I know that bacon is having its cultural moment right now, but I have to say I'm one of those people who loves it.  Thus, Deconstructed BLT with Egg sounded fantastic.  Well, it did until I saw that the egg is hard-boiled.  Sigh.  I have tried so hard to like hard-boiled eggs, and it's just not happening.  Between that and brussels sprouts, I've got my two food nemeses (and cottage cheese, but I've never tried to like that one).  Then, I read it and see it has fresh tomato in it.  Yay for me because I've got tomatoes from my garden.  Boo for me because the husband-man doesn't like fresh tomatoes. Nevertheless, I soldiered on because we both love everything else in the recipe--arugula, bacon, bread.

So I made 2 salads that were incomplete, or shall I say, Unconstructed: 1 without the fresh tomatoes and 1 without the egg.

Salad minus egg: the not as good one

Salad minus fresh tomatoes: the not as pretty one
Overall, I liked the salad, though I could see how the egg really, really makes it.  I can see how the texture (especially that slight creaminess of the yolk) would add a nice counterpoint to the varying levels of crunch in everything else.  The fresh-tomato-less salad still had that nice acid from the sun-dried tomatoes, and mostly suffered, I believe, from the loss of aesthetic beauty the bright red provides (and don't tomatoes just look scrumptiously good for you?)

In any case, it still got a thumbs up and almost, almost made me want to try to like hard-boiled eggs again.

Sadly, no wine pairing.  We had gone out to a birthday party at which I'd had a massive martini that I didn't even finish--you know the kind of place, the one with super-cheap drinks that are unexpectedly huge (I should've had a beer).  Still being on anti-malarial stuff has greatly affected my alcohol tolerance (sadly) and so I am somewhat surprised I was able to assemble said salad, much less take photos of it.  If I'd had wine, too, I'm not sure what would've happened.

Oh, and we served it with next week's Olive-Olive Cornish Hens, but we'll save that for next week!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

FFwD: Where has all the time gone? (Scheduled Recipes)

Ugh.  Work is crazy, my house is a mess, and I haven't blogged in 2 weeks.  But, I have at least been doing my weekly Dorie cooking!

This one will be relatively short because a) I think I haven't blogged in part due to thinking of all I wanted to say and b) it has come to my attention that I'm a little, say, long-winded.  The one issue is that I have cooked a lot of recipes from the book recently, so I'm breaking the posts up into Scheduled and Non-Scheduled Recipes.

First up?  Scheduled Recipes!  I'll go in reverse chronological order; thus, we are beginning with the Beggar's Linguine.

Beggar's Linguine
Verdict: Fast, easy, and tasty.  But would I add it to the rotation?  No...it's a good every-now-and-then dish.

This is not a recipe I would've chosen to make on my own, unless I was in some weird mood, due to the preponderance of dried fruit (figs and raisins).  I'm just not a huge fan.  But, the sum is better than the constituent parts and I can see how this would be soul-warming when jet-lagged and cold.  I didn't alter the recipe at all, but for using penne because I forgot to buy linguine and for using 1 tbsp less of the butter because I really didn't feel like hunting up an extra stick just for that tablespoon.

Wine: I served it with a Burgundian Chardonnay from the Côte de Beaune.  Chardonnay is a really acidic grape, which of course makes it a wonderful food wine.  The French style really showcases the grape rather than the oak barrel or malolactic fermentation, so if you're a fan of big, buttery chards, this is not the wine for you.  I specifically chose a French Chardonnay precisely because the pasta itself is rather big and buttery and I wanted to complement, rather than match, that.  According to my guinea pigs, they agreed that a)the recipe was lovely and b) the wine paired quite well.

In the end?  The best part was the taste of the nutty butter.  Mmmmmm....

FFwD: Non-Scheduled Recipes that I Made in the last 2 Weeks

I'll keep this one pretty short, too.

The recipes I've made:
-Chicken in a Pot: the Lemon-Garlic Version
-Gateau Basque
-a non-Dorie recipe, Caramelized Apple Skillet Cake
-another non-Dorie recipe, Adult Cracker Jacks

Friday, February 25, 2011

FFwD: The Short Ribs Were So Good That I Can't Think of a Witty Title

Hi everyone!  I missed last week, even though I had all the ingredients.  It was the Grading Monster's fault: we were in an epic battle and I only won last Tuesday.  Unfortunately, we'll begin battle again tomorrow, though it'll be more of a skirmish this time.


Anyway, on to the Short Ribs!  This is the second time I've made short ribs.  The first time I made them they were really good, and I got the recipe from another excellent cookbook, Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks by Linda Carucci.  For that recipe, I used bone in short ribs and it was all very nice.  But, I've been (ahem) eating a bit too much since the holidays and I was wondering about using boneless short ribs, particularly since they sell them at Costco.  Lo and behold, Cooks Illustrated had already done their magic experiments and found that using boneless short ribs only had about 1/6 of the fat (comparison based upon how much they skimmed after it had cooled) AND the lack of bone marrow, et al did not create any appreciable loss in flavor.  What they did notice was a different texture, so they suggested adding 1/2 tsp of unflavored gelatin to the sauce, while the meat is resting separately, if need be.  Needless to say, I was sold.


How I Changed the Recipe, Which Was Kind of a Lot

Friday, February 11, 2011

FFwD: Comparing Apples and Oranges...er, Pears and Oranges

Hi everyone!  Oooh, this week was a great one--at least, in my opinion.  I've been baking for much of my life and never once have I made something that, when I looked at it, I (or anyone else) exclaimed, "It looks like something I'd have bought when I lived in Paris!" or "It looks like something you'd see in a bakery in Paris!"  Until I made the Orange-Almond tart, and then the Pear-Almond Tart.

But first?  Yesterday was a glorious day at my house.  No--I made the tart last week for a dinner party.  Instead, yesterday was the day that I picked up my local CSA box and found???
STRAWBERRIES.

Of course, the best part is that they taste like candy.

On a side, but related note, I'd like to lobby that we consider choosing somewhat seasonal recipes while doing this FFwD.  I don't know if some of you read about it, but Mexico has had some terrible freezes and Florida's "backup" crops are also not doing well.  That leaves mostly produce from California to tide over everyone's appetites for things like, well, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet/bell peppers, and green beans.  What that also leaves is we the consumers with an ever-emptying wallet due to the expected huge hike in produce prices.

Now, enough of that serious (and rather depressing) stuff.

The TART!
I made the Orange version of this just before I decided to join FFwD.  It looked good, I had some extra time, and a crap-ton (that's a technical term) of oranges from my CSA box.  Suffice it to say, it was amazing.  I reluctantly let my oranges dry for a few hours, not because I didn't trust Dorie, but because I didn't want to wait the long(!).  It is a technique I'll continue to use as it really is successful in upping the flavor factor of the oranges while also avoiding the whole liquid in the almond cream problem.

One of the big things I'd like to share with you all is a recipe for ALMOND FLOUR.