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!