Monday, June 27, 2011

A Blip in the Action

So, my singular reader may have noticed the extended radio-silence.  I haven't abandoned my blogging efforts.  But I am going through a major life change that is making it much harder to cook.... we are buying a house! 

Yep, one of the specific-avoidance reasons my husband initially used to encouraged me to pursue this project has happened.  It started out so innocuously... oh, look at how affordable a rat-free house is (this is another story for another day, but lets just summarize as: there was only one, it has scarred me for life).  And look at how nice kitchens are in other houses.  How you can fit more than one person in them.  How you can have a face-to-face, rather than face-to-back, conversation while engaging in prep work.  His constant response has been 'but look at how nice your ocean view is from the kitchen sink.'  (A point I cannot refute, and the one thing I am giving up).  But he finally succumbed to months of pressure with looking... and looking has led to buying!

What does this mean for the blog?  Another hiatus.  Well, more of a hiatus from cooking, not necessarily blogging.  Because moving with a toddler, dogs, husband, and two tons of kitchen equipment is time consuming and (apparently) wrecks your wonderfully-organized kitchen.  Particularly when you need to take a new kitchen that is falling apart, and make it into something nice so that it can be a wonderfully-organized kitchen once more.

The upside to giving up cooking for a month?  A wonderful kitchen on the way!  One that we are currently designing!  New cabinets, a new granite countertop that does not require scrubbing with a toothbrush to get the dirt out from the grout, a u-shaped kitchen that will allow me to see people while I am cooking for them (come to think of it, this may be a downside).  And best of all... a dishwasher that makes my dishes CLEANER rather than DIRTIER when I run it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(yes, that sentence both got and deserves a whole row of exclamations.  You've never had to deal with my crap dishwasher that I can do nothing about because I rent.  Speaking of that - does anyone have any good dishwasher recs?)

I have actually volunteered for work involving strippers and power sanders, so maybe i'll take some before and after pictures of the remodel to share.  If I can remember.  In any event... yipppeeee!!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dinner #7: Alls Caught Up Again!

With the end of my sixth dinner, i'm pretty much back to real time.  Or something close to it (like a month behind instead of two...)  So maybe i'll be able to offer something memorable and witty about each of the dishes.  Or maybe this blog will continue to be about pretty pictures and vague instructions... your call :)

With that, coming up for dinner #7:

Blini-fest 2011!  aka 'how to wipe out three recipes at once'
Salad of haricots vert, tomato, and chive
Citrus marinated salmon with oranges, beluga caviar, and pea shoots
"Coffee and Donuts"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Salad du Printemps"

I've realized that my favorite thing about pretty much all desserts is that they can be done ahead of time, and plated right before serving.  This also makes it so that forethought and planning is MUCH more important.

I'm going to write out all dessert steps and ingredients from this point forward.

As i'm sure you can guess, this means that maaaybe I missed a thing or two here.  You would be correct.  Instead of making 'salad du printemps,' it was more like 'soup de printemps.'  But yummy nonetheless.

First came the "salad" - candied rhubard and fennel.

The peeled rhubarb strings were awesome!  I cooked these in some sugar, while I was cutting up the actual rhubarb.

Then cooked the rhubarb in the string-sugar for a good bit.

Then I did the same with the fennel.  You are supposed to cut the fennel into "sheets," which i'm not sure I accomplished.  It didn't matter in the end, since I just cut them into diamonds (parallelograms).

Next, curly cookies!  After my puff pastry disaster, I looked at the picture.  Glad I did.

Quick cookie batter - creamed butter, sugar, vanilla, and flour.

Not so quick stencil - I made it work though!

Then I made "fingers" using the stencil...

Proceeded by burning my fingers trying to roll them around a wooden spoon.  Ouchies.

Next, fennel oil:

Blanched some fennel and parsley

Which then got pureed into pretty oil.  Which I forgot to serve.  Not that it would have mattered given the last step.

So, if you can see the picture, you might notice that I don't have any mascarpone sorbet.  I made it.  It tasted good.  Except I forgot to freeze the ice cream bowl freezer - major 'doh! moment.  So I served it as a sauce instead.  Which was tasty and all, but way to sweet.  So word of advice: freeze your ice cream!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Peas and Carrots" - aka Lobster Pancakes of Yumminess

The last couple of posts have had a bit of a dearth of pictures.  This one is totally making up for it!

Oh, but first: the defining moment of this dinner.  Of any lobster dinner.  Perhaps of any dinner.  (prepare for some reading!)

I had to do the lobsters entirely by myself this time, unlike the last (where my husband helped me out with lobster-murder).  To cook the lobsters, you need to put them in pan, pour water to cover, pour the water off and into a pot, boil the water, then pour it over the lobsters to steep them.  This is a relatively simple process if you have two pots that can hold lobsters and enough water to steep them.

I don't.  Given this, its a bit more of a process - lobsters in the pot, pour water over using my big plastic prep container, pour as much water off as I can, fish the lobsters out, pour water back in, boil, pour boiling water into the plastic prep container, put the lobsters back into the pot, then pour the water over them.  Does this sound like a ridiculous process?  Because it is.

So, i'm pouring the water back and forth, and get to the "fish live lobsters out of the water" stage (I should mention i'm doing this on the floor, since its too heavy to do on the stove).  Its not easy, especially for someone who is squeamish about touching live lobsters that they are about to kill.  (I should also mention I have Lincoln Park blaring in the background as my 'lobster-killing' music, to theoretically bolster my chances of making it through this without crying).

After trying a couple of different methods, I try to pull a lobster out with a pair of tongs.  He bucks up, slipping out of the tongs.  I drop him on the floor.  He goes running, across the floor, waving him little lobster claws all around.  My dog checks him out through the baby gate, puzzled.  I'm too freaked out to do anything.  After collecting myself for a minute (lobsters can run!  or at least this one can!), I use a dishtowel to pick him up and set him in the box on the counter.  Lobster is ANGRY about this, and keeps bucking his tail to escape my grasp.  I get him in the box... and he starts climbing out, again waving his claws angrily.  This was a lobster seriously determined to escape death, the John McClane of lobsters.

Long story short: I won.  But I had to turn lobster-killing music up to 'insanely high' to pump myself up enough to go through with it.

The runaway lobster was truly a thing of beauty, even for someone like me who doesn't like lobster much.

Sadly, I had to chop up all of the lobster for the filling.

After cooking the lobster, I made a lobster broth using the bodies.

First I browned the bodies:

Then some herbs/aromatics:

Then I let it reduce down to a glaze.  It took a REALLY REALLY long time for it to get there, but it did.  (this is not there yet).

So... on with "peas and carrots"!

First, the "carrots":

Carrot Ginger juice - just mix some carrots and ginger in the VitaMix (or juice them, if you happen to have one of those things)

Next, reduce the juice to make a almost-puree.

Next, I took some of the reserved carrot pulp, dried it out, and ground it in the Vitamix:

(with all of this Vitamix-pushing i've been doing, they totally should have given me a free one.  You hear that Vitamix owners???)

On to the crepes!  I was so excited to make the crepes, so that I could show the world this:

My mom's crepe maker, gifted to me when my family moved last.  The thing is older than I am - and it still works!  (and doesn't it just scream 70's).

But first, needed to make crepe batter.  Usually (like I do this all the time, ha!  more accurate is: the once a year I make crepes) I just toss the batter ingredients in a blender.

This time I made it how Keller says - whisk everything together:

Strain it:

Finely mince some chives for the batter:


Oh, but truly, the moment I am sure that everyone has been waiting for... the crepe maker in action!

Since its not obvious to everyone (or at least everyone who wasn't alive during the 70's, a crowd that I belong to), the set-up is below.  I had a shallow plate that I poured batter into.  You flip over the little frying pan looking thing onto the plate with batter, and set it on the heating element.  It is super simple, so much so that it took less than 8 minutes to make a dozen crepes.  A dozen PERFECT crepes (other than the first one that I screwed up by dropping on the floor).


Next I made the filling, which consisted simply of mixing lobster pieces with cheese, salt and pepper, shallots, more chives (and I think maybe a little cream creme fraiche?  I hate blogging about this weeks after I cooked it).

As my little man would say (about chocolate - he still can't eat shellfish, so he can't take a side in the lobster wars): MMMmmmmmmmm.

And now, the annoying part - remember that lobster glaze I made, waaayyyy waaayyy above?  I kept thinking it was for a sauce, and thus ignored it while making this.  Then I realized I was supposed to add it to the filling.  After I had already filled the crepes, of course.  So, basically, I wasted three lobster bodies - no bueno.

Finally, making the pancakes!  I had a hard time figuring out exactly how to fold these, but after playing with it a little, got the lobster pancakes to look exactly like the picture (well, within reason).  To help my reader out there (thank you thank you lone commenter!), I photographed a step-by-step guide.

First, place filling in pancake:

Next, fold one side over, then a second (like you were making a triangle point):

Third, fold the third end of the "square", then fold the long end over parallel:

Fourth, fold the triangle onto the bottom:

(I know the written descriptions are terrible, so hopefully the pictures help)

Brush with butter, then these delicious morsels of fear are ready for cooking!

Done!  My pea shoots were a little small/sad, but I think it looked ok (other than that).

And how were they?  Well, i've said like a zillion times that I don't like lobster much.  I thought i'd like it even less, given my horrifying lobster experiences beforehand.  I was WRONG.  These were amazing.  The lobster filling didn't taste super lobster-y, but I imagine the glaze would have added more flavor (personally, I wasn't too upset about it, given my feelings about lobster).  Would I make this again?  AB-SO-LUTELY!  Despite the hundred pictures above, it really wasn't that hard.  It was impressive looking.  Rich, but had a little bit of vegetable to offset the butter.  Definitely a top-ten.  Maybe even a top-three?  My point: MMmmmmmm.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ashed Goat Cheese and Beets

If you are ever looking for a quick and easy (well, relatively) TFLC recipe to start with, this is a good candidate!

First, I roasted a bunch of golden and regular red beets in foil.  Forgot to take pictures of them.  My bad.

I also "juiced" a bunch of beets in my Vitamix (see beet murder for pictures), and put the juice in a pan to reduce.

The upside of "juicing" the beets in the Vitamix was that my pulp was all strained out afterwards.  The French Laundry Cookbook says to spread the pulp on parchment and microwave for like an hour.  I thought this sounded like an exceptionally bad idea (not to mention a massive waste of energy!), so I put it in a barely-on oven with the door propped a little open.  Yes, it took 6 hours to have powdery beets... but the upside is that my house was a little warmer!  (although I live in San Diego, summer hasn't been around in a couple of years... my house is ALWAYS cold!).  After the pulp was all dried and shriveled, I put it in the Vitamix and blended.  You could totally see the air pattern in the mixer - it was awesome!

Finally I cut the cheese (heh), into 7 portions (one extra since I had an extra person for dinner).  A beautiful ashy goat.

Everything being done, it was time to plate!  I used a round mold to cut the golden beets, and julienned the red ones.  I also put a line of beet juice down the side.  One was absolutely perfect, the rest sucked - messy beet juice everywhere.  But I bet you can guess which one I took a picture of :)

Finally, sprinkled a little beet powder, finished with some pea shoots (I can't remember what kind of greens I was supposed to use... but I do remember I couldn't find it).


The reaction: great amongst the not-picky crowd, not so great with the picky crowd.  I loved the beets.  I did not, however, manage to change my brother-in-law's opinion about the beets.  Or the "weird" cheese... but no worries, it didn't go to waste - lots of forks dived in to grab a bite.

And my bonus picture - after I was cleaning up a chive oil bowl and beet glaze pan.. it totally looked like Christmas in my sink.  I'm thinking this is going to be my Christmas card next year.