Thursday, March 31, 2011

It Felt French....

So there we were, deciding what to do on a Saturday night.  Perhaps a calm night in?  Sounds good.  And we should cook.  Yeah!  Cooking together as a big groups will be fun.  We'll help each other, and each do a dish or two.  It will be easy and simple......

Of course, I don't do anything simple.  And neither do my friends.  So for a simple meal in together we made the following:
Caramelized Onion tart with anchovies and olives
Pork Wellington with apples and proscuitto
Tenderloin in a red wine reduction
Potatoes au Gratin
Bête Noire with Grand Marnier whipped cream

Oh, and did I mention there were only 5 of us eating?  That's right, a full French meal with two meat dishes for 5 people.  Now I know where the idea for fois gras came from.  All dishes were very very good.  Decadent and complicated good.  So much for the simple night in.

And of course we helped each other.  I helped Ivan wrap the tenderloin in puff pastry.  Migle watched the au gratin in the oven.  Jim managed the oven space.  Trey poured wine.  It all went well.  Until Ivan decided to help with the Bête Noire.  Now this is a very simple cake.  In fact, it requires eggs, sugar, chocolate, and butter.  Seriously.  That's it.  But it has about 48 steps that have to be exactly right.  One of them is whipping egg whites then gently incorporating them into the rest of the mixture.  Well, Ivan misunderstood my direction and poured the hot chocolate directly onto the whipped egg white deflating and partially cooking them.  Of course at that point there is nothing you can do but laugh and either bake it, start over, or skip desert.  We, being the experimental sort (no not that least not until after desert), threw the whole thing together and baked it.  Texture was a little off, but really not bad.  The whipped cream with Grand Marnier helped.

I'll give the cake recipe here.  The tart recipe came from the Beautiful French cookbook, and was very tasty.  Sounds strange to have caramelized onions, anchovies, and olives, but the anchovies and olives with their salty taste cut the richness of the pastry and sweetness of the onions beautifully.  I guess that's why they call it the Beautiful cookbook.

Well, here is the One, the Only, the Richest Chocolate Cake ever: bête noire!  Literally translated: The Black Beast.  I used the recipe from the Beautiful cookbook (the more I write that, the more I can feel the book jumping up and down in front of me shouting "look at me I'm so beautiful", which in fact it is, it is also the size of an atlas and nearly broke Charlotte's toe when she dropped it.  Good cookbook, but a little pretentious....).  Anyway, below is the one from Epicurious which is exactly the same except for the addition of vanilla.  Oh, and I used half and half 60% and 70% belgian chocolate.  Oh, and make sure you put the chocolate into the yolks not the whites.

For cake
  • 12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 12 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper or waxed paper; butter paper. Wrap outside of pan with foil. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Cool to lukewarm, stirring often.
Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 6 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until mixture is very thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Fold lukewarm chocolate mixture into yolk mixture, then fold in vanilla extract. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar, beating until medium-firm peaks form. Fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake cake until top is puffed and cracked and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack (cake will fall).
Gently press down crusty top to make evenly thick cake. Using small knife, cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Remove pan sides. Place 9-inch-diameter tart pan bottom or cardboard round atop cake. Invert cake onto tart pan bottom. Peel off parchment paper.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I made what?

As you know, I don't do anything simple.  Not even the currently popular "simple but elegant" type of things like pan-roasted steaks with a simple herb butter or fresh fruit with a Grand Marnier whipped cream.  Nope.  That's just not me.  I make chocolate eclairs for a BBQ and cognac-mustard sauce for a Tuesday dinner.  So what was I smoking when I decided to make MEATLOAF?!  That's right, I made meatloaf.  The classic ketchup-based variety.  I guess it was for the excitement in Trey's face when I told him I made meatloaf.  Its such a classic, simple, mid-week type of dish.  It actually turned out pretty good.  The ketchup and brown sugar topping I put on it was a little too sweet, but that's what you get when you don't measure anything for a dish you've never made.  In all, it turned out very well, if you like meatloaf (which I don't, so again, why did I make it?).

In a strange combination of dinners I made 2 similar menus, but both more classic and also more put-together than I usually do on a weekday.  On Tuesday night I had some friends and their kids over.  While the three girls (their 2 and mine) dismantled the living room my friend and I drank copious amounts of Sekt and I pulled random things out of my refridgerator and cooked them.  The menu actually turned out pretty nice:

Turkey in a White Wine Cream Sauce
Green Beans sauteed with lemon and garlic
Feldsalat with a white balsamic dressing
Bread (from a Pilsbury can....don't judge me, I made this all up as I went)
Meatloaf for the girls, and green beans without garlic and lemon for the girls too

The whole menu came as a "what in my fridge needs to be consumed before I leave town for a few days."  In all, I was pretty impressed.  Below are the recipes, or as much as I remember seeing as I was cooking with wine.  Well, cooking with Sekt actually.  I'll take Sekt any time I can get it :)

Turkey in White Wine Cream Sauce
1 Large Turkey Breast, cut into large pieces
1T Olive Oil
1 1/2C White Wine
1/4C Heavy Cream
1/2C Cream of Mushroom Soup (again I was making this up while I was drinking, don't judge me for using a can)

Pre-heat oven to whatever temperature you baked the bread at.  Brown the turkey pieces in a large skillet with the olive oil.  Remove turkey and place into greased baking dish.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, adding in 1/4C amounts, scraping browned bits off the bottom, and only consuming a little bit of the wine.  Or pour your self a glass and use the rest of the bottle for the pan.  That's actually easier.  When reduced to about 1/2C volume, stir in heavy cream and cream of mushroom soup.  Stir to combine and cook for about 2 min.  Pour over turkey and bake for 20-30min.  Serve immediately.

Green Beans with lemon and garlic
3 large handfuls of green beans, or as much as you want to eat (really? do I need to do all the math for you?)
1/2T butter for each handful of beans
1/2t Crushed Garlic for each handful of beans
1/2t Lemon Juice for each handful of beans

Boil beans in a large sauce pan for 4-5min.  Beans should be crisp-tender (no, that isn't an oxymoron, it means they are still crisp but not raw.  Seriously.  Don't debate me on this, just boil them for 4-5min and you'll figure it out).  Drain the beans.  Heat the butter in a large skillet.  Put beans in the hot butter and saute for about 2 min.  Add garlic and lemon to the pan.  Toss to coat.  Saute an additional 2-3min.  Remove from heat.  Serve immediately.

White Balsamic Dressing
2T Olive Oil
2T White Balsamic Vinegar (the White Balsamic Vinegar cream is even better)
1T Dijon Mustard
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of Pepper
Honey as needed

Mix all ingredients together with a whisk.  Add honey in 1/2t sections until desired sweetness is achieved.  Pour on greens.  Prepare for fawning....