Friday, July 30, 2010

First dinner in France

I'm working a back-log of entries, so the dates are a little delayed from when I actually cooked some of this.  But I thought I'd write about the first meal I made during our vacation in France.  This was after I got over the alien infestation in my stomach and was able to stand without doubling over in pain and consume more than two bites of plain bread without my stomach turning into the gastrointestinal version of Mount St. Helen.  So, with that mostly behind me, I set out to cook for the 8 of us as I had originally promised to do.  Through sheer luck, and Trey's superior planning ability, I had everything I needed for a complete dinner except for vanilla, which was easily aquired at the store.

The first course was Potato Croquettes, not because I set out to make them but because there were 2 types of left over potatoes in the fridge and I hate having leftovers hanging around.  So the two leftover potato dishes got mashed up with cheese, butter, and bread crumbs, then dredged in rice crispies and fried.  I have to say I was quite impressed with the rice crispy outside.  It made a perfect coating.  They crisped up very fast, so I definitely wouldn't recommend using rice crispies for something that needs to cook all the way through, but for croquettes it was perfect.

The Panzanella Salad was the first time I had done it, and all I knew was that it consisted of fresh tomatoes, onions, and dried bread.  And since Trey likes caramellized onions so much, I decided to caramelize them and add them hot to the salad.  The only bad part was that I burned some of the bread, and the salad would have been a little better if I had let it sit for about 20min before serving it, that way te bread would have gotten a little softer and soaked up the juices.  But overall I was pretty pleased with the taste.

The chicken with pan sauce turned out fine, nice and tender but kind of unremarkable.  Which I guess was good since the kids liked it.

Desert was Croissant bread pudding, since we had a bunch of sweet croissants that we hadn't eaten and needed to be used or thrown out.  This one was pretty good, would have been better in a different baking dish.  And it DID NOT go well with the coffee icecream that I served it with for myself.  But luckily everybody else got to learn from my mistake and eat it without ruining it.

Potatoe croquettes
1 1/2 C Cooked Potatoes, mashed
3/4C Soft Cheese (cream cheese can substitute if you don't have access to really nice fresh cheese)
1/2C Milk (whole milk is best)
3/4C Bread Crumbs
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 C Rice Crispies, roughly crushed
1/2C Oil for frying

Mix potatoes, cheese, milk, salt, and pepper.  Consistency should be fairly stiff.  Add milk slowly to avoid making the mixture too soupy.  Add more bread crumbs to make it stiffer.  Shape into balls about the size of a golf ball.  Roll in rice crispies, pressing rice crispies into the balls and flattening the balls into disks.  Heat 1/4C oil in a pan until smoking.  Fry the croquettes until golden brown, about 2 min on each side.  Add more oil to the pan as necessary to keep the level at about 1/2in.  Serve immediately.

Panzanella salad
3 Fresh Tomatoes, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 Loaf Bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
3T Olive Oil
3T Herbs d' Provence
1t Salt
2 Medium onions, chopped into slivers
3T Butter
1/4C Olive Oil
3T Dijon Mustard
1T Honey
2t Balsamic Vinegar
1/2t Salt
1/4t Pepper

Place bread cubes in a single later on a baking sheet.  Drizzle 3T Olive Oil over bread cubes, sprinkle Herbs d' Provence and 1t salt over bread, tossing to coat.  Toast under the broiler until dark brown, but not burned.  Remove and set aside.  Caramelize onions in 3T butter and set aside.  Whisk together olive oil, mustard, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper in the bottom of a large bowl.  Add tomatoes, bread, and onions.  Toss to coat with dressing.

croissant bread pudding  - Recipe to come later.  Here is a link to a good one, just substitute croissant for bread  I'll put my actual recipe up later.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Out of Practice

I had a friend and his nephew over for dinner.  And I'm in about as good a shape at cooking meat as the Tin Man after a salt-water bath.  It was a great concept, pork loin stuffed with onions and apricots, topped with a mustard pan sauce.  I won't even bother to put the recipe down, because it turned out terrible.  Well, actually the sauce and the stuffing were pretty good.  But the pork was really really tough.  I think I mis-handled the braising.  However, I did have oven roasted potatoes with homemade aoli and a very good strawberry pudding cake to make up for the mediocre pork.

The farmer's market is one of my vices.  Now, you would think that a market with fresh fruits and vegetables would be the exact opposite of a vice.  But I tend to impulse buy.  And currently the impulse is strawberries.  Well, actually it is any type of berry.  Which is fine, as long as I practice moderation and only buy 1 container.  But of course I didn't, each booth seemed to have better and better strawberries......  So 4 cartons of strawberries later I can't figure out what to do with them.  Thus the pudding cake described below.  One of the cartons was a little bruised and didn't look very good, so this was the perfect solution to use them.

Strawberry Pudding Cake
(adapted from Rhubarb Strawberry Pudding Cake on Epicurious)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Butter an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.  Stir together water, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, then simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in strawberries.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl.  Whisk together egg, milk, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.  Reserve 1/2 cup fruit mixture, then add remainder to baking dish and pour batter over it, spreading evenly. Drizzle reserved 1/2 cup fruit mixture over batter. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake portion comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 23, 2010

New Computer

I don't have any recipes tonight.  Or even anything culinary to talk about.  But Trey got me a new computer.  A Mac Book.  So I could watch shows and type emails in bed.  And so I could talk to him at night from bed as opposed to sitting in front of the desk in the living room.  Which is wonderful.  Especially because curling up in bed makes me so much more expressive.  Although the tiredness is starting to lay in now.  Perhaps it is the Sekt also.  Regardless, no matter how much I like the smooth feel of the new keys and the slivery metal computer outside I need to rest.  I'm hoping the new computer will help me with writing in this blog.  If I ever want to really make something of myself in the culinary world, I need to practice the kind of consistency that I in engineering and wine tasting.  Yeah, I said wine tasting, those of you who know me are probably scoffing and asking how many glasses qualify as a taste for me.  Ah well, I have my vices.  Food and wine among them.  And now, to sleep.  Perchance to dream.....of sourdough bread, caviar, and angel toe cheese.