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, 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???

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.

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.  

Friday, February 4, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: When a Tortilla is Not a Tortilla

I suppose I should give full disclosure right up front: I'm Basque by heritage (well, with some Italian and Croatian thrown in for good "even tempered" measure).  I've been to the Basque country, for my honeymoon(!), and I have two things I'd like to share.

1. In the "Bonne Idée" when DG writes that this comes from "the land of ham"?  She ain't kiddin'.  I was dying for some chicken by the time we finished traveling around that part of Spain and France (and northern Portugal too, for that matter).  Talk about a departure from Mediterranean cuisine!  It was good and all, but at times I felt like I was the guy from Forrest Gump: pork/ham sandwiches, pork/ham po' boys, braised pork, pork bacon,  pork lardons, pork prosciutto, etc.  In retrospect, that trip may have been why I didn't really cook pork for a year or so, other than bacon (of course).

2. One of my favorite stories to tell is about our arrival into the Basque country at our hotel in San Sebastian.  We have been flying for many hours, from the Western US to Madrid, via NY, and then on to Bilbao where we picked up our rental car.  I'll add here that we got a super deal and paid only 400 dollars per ticket.  Yes, that's right.  400 per ticket, including taxes, because of a constellation of reasons (just after 9/11 and an airline decided to go international to the US right then).  Anyway, we drove the hour or so to San Sebastian and headed up to our hotel overlooking the bay and the entire city.  It was one of our splurge nights and I had requested for there to be a bottle of sparkling wine in our room.  Apparently, we arrived a bit earlier than they expected, even though it was already 5 pm local time.  This rather austere looking woman was speaking to my husband, who's fluent in Spanish (and I mean fluent--not that "I can get around" type of fluent), and she asks what type of sparkling we'd like: a champagne or a cava.  My partner in life told her that, since we were in Spain, it would be fitting to have a Spanish wine.  As we are both grinning the now severe-looking woman replied, "You are not in Spain.  You are in the Basque Country."  Whoops!  That's the way to endear yourself to the locals!  It's likely a better story in person, but you get the picture.  It was awkward.

There it is.  Also, these are some of my people and I'm super excited to see that I can order the cerises noires online!  Now I can make the cookbook's Gateau Basque and not worry that I'm using my one and only jar that I got from France.

On to the dish!  This week's recipe was a Basque Tortilla, which is really not a tortilla.  It's like a frittata.  I keep threatening to look up the etymology of the word "tortilla" so that I can understand why/how/if the Spanish egg version came first and why the floury/corny Mexican tortilla has the same name.  I clearly have yet to do so. 

The things I did differently