Monday, December 26, 2011

FFWD Cauliflower-Bacon Gratin

I don't think I've ever owned a camera.  Maybe a plastic one when I was very young.  I have used a couple of disposable ones over the years, but that's really about it.  For this blog I've been borrowing Paul's camera, but I am absolutely clueless when it comes to photography.  I had Monday off of work this week so I decided to make the Cauliflower-Bacon Gratin for lunch.  This meant that for the first time ever, I was able to try to photograph something in natural light.  As you can see, my pictures look mostly like shadows.  I could tell shadows were a problem but I had no clue what to do about it (should I have actually taken the food outside to shoot?) and was frankly too hungry to care, so my photos are quite shadowy. I do like the brightness, though.  I can definitely tell that if I had any clue what I was doing photos taken in natural light would come out much better than the usual ones I take in the dark.

 Luckily, the gratin came out much better than the photos!  I bought 2 cartons of eggs last week thinking for sure that would be enough, but when I opened the fridge to make this recipe I realized I was down to four eggs.  I guess I went through a lot of them making dinner for Christmas Eve!  Oh well, I just used the eggs I had and decreased the amounts of the other ingredients a bit to compensate.  I also increased the ratio of milk to heavy cream, wanting to feel less guilty about eating this after big meals Christmas Eve and day.  

Gratin and shadows
Even with the changes, I was very happy with how this came out.  I especially loved the edges.  They browned and got a bit crispy, which I just love.  I served this with some brussel sprouts that I roasted simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper and some gougeres that were left over for Christmas Eve.  They weren't quite as good as fresh, but they did toast up pretty well!  This recipe was easy and we both enjoyed it.  It's definitely one I'll make again.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

FFWD Creme Brulee

Crème Brulee is probably Paul's favorite dessert.  This is often an issue when we want to share a dessert at a restaurant.  He often wants to order the creme brulee, and I very rarely do.  It's not that I don't like Crème Brulee.  Custard is one of my all-time favorite foods.  It's just that I think it's a little bit boring.  Unless the flavor is interesting--like lemon and ginger, green tea, chocolate--I always know exactly what to expect.  For our wedding, I finally got smart and registered for a creme brulee set which includes the ramekins and a small blow torch.  Now, I get to make  Crème Brulee at home, and when we go out we get to try more interesting desserts.

Loved the jam
I think David Lebovitz's recipe for Lemon-Ginger Crème Brulee (in Ready for Dessert) is probably my favorite, but I definitely liked this recipe.  It was incredibly easy to make, and I thought the custard had a perfect texture.  I used a black cherry jam that I found in my pantry, and really liked the flavor that it added.  It was definitely more interesting, and a nice contract to the smooth custard.

The only thing I had trouble with was caramelizing the sugar.  Did anybody try the browning sugar that Dorie recommended?  I didn't have any, so I used regular brown sugar for the first two.  I had a lot of trouble getting it to melt without burning it (like the ones in the picture below!).  For the next ones I used regular white sugar, which is what I've used in the past, and it seemed to work better.  I couldn't taste the difference and it was easier to keep from burning.  I'm definitely curious to try the browning sugar the next time we're in the mood for Crème Brulee.

Slightly burnt tops

Friday, December 16, 2011

FFWD Potato Chip Tortilla

By the time this posts, I'm hoping to be asleep on the beach in Puerto Rico.  It's been another busy week, but the good news is that this week ends in a vacation!  I did all of my cooking on Sunday this week because I had plans Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night (that absolutely never happens to me!) and then on Thursday morning we're flying to Puerto Rico for a short vacation.

I try to avoid buying my lunch at work, so I decided to make the potato chip tortilla and some broccoli slaw on Sunday to take for lunch during the week.  Before I tasted it, I was absolutely thrilled with how the tortilla turned out.  As I mentioned, last Sunday I tried to make a swiss chard frittata and while it tasted great, it looked ugly.  I had a lot of trouble keeping it from sticking to the pan, I tried to flip it which only made it more of a mess, and it basically turned into scrambled eggs.  This tortilla, however, came out looking beautiful - if I do say so myself.  I used a smaller pan and a little bit more oil which I think really helped with the sticking, and I love Dorie's broiler method.  It's always so much easier than trying to flip it over. 

Finished tortilla
Since I've been blogging I've been paying more attention to how dishes look than I used to, but I'm still primarily concerned with the taste.  On that dimension I liked, but didn't love, this recipe.  I was a bit wary - I can't remember the last time I purchased potato chips - but it was definitely easy and I liked the flavor they added.  The one thing I think I messed up was the salt.  I didn't add any because I thought the chips would add enough salt, but once I tasted it I wished I had.  It was good, but maybe a bit bland.  I liked the color the herbs added - I used what was left in my vegetable drawer: basil, parsley, and cilantro - but was surprised that they didn't add more flavor.  This is definitely something I'd make again if I had extra potato chips around, but I doubt I'd go out of my way to make it.  The broccoli slaw ( is definitely something I'd make again.  It was quick, easy, tastes good, and is actually reasonably healthy.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

FFWD Matafan

I'm sure I'm not the only one, but it's been another crazy week!  I'm hoping it will calm down in January, but this blogging schedule has been harder for me than I thought it would be.  I thought I would easily be able to post once a week for FFWD, and I'd probably post at other times as well.  I'm lucky if I get my FFWD post up by Sunday!  I'm definitely going to try harder, but it's hard because I do most of my cooking on Sundays, and then the work weeks get so crazy I have a hard time getting anything written up by Friday.  But anyway, on to the food....

We got our last CSA basket of the year on Friday and it was full of good stuff.  We got a 4.5 pound rutabaga - I've never even eaten rutabaga before, but I braised some with some of the turnips we got, roasted some with some more of the turnips we got, and mashed the rest up with a potato for a kind of mashed potatoes.  I was a little worried about it, but I actually enjoyed the rutabaga.  I still have some more turnips left, though.  I'm hoping to roast those tonight.  We also got a daikon, but luckily I learned that they store really well so I'm keeping that one in the basement for a while.  We got a napa cabbage which I used to make a big Asian-style salad with roasted peanuts and tofu.  We got some escarole which I made into an Italian soup with turkey meat balls.  And we got swiss chard.

The swiss chard would have been perfect for this week's Dorie recipe (chard-stuffed pork roast), but I don't eat pork.  So, since I completely missed last week I decided to make the Matafan everybody else made last week and serve it with a swiss chard frittata.  I wish I had read everybody's posts before I did my menu planning!  I thought the Matafan was going to be more like a potato latke, so I agreed when my husband suggested we eat pancakes for breakfast.  After breakfast I sat down to read everybody's blog posts, and noticed that several people said Matafans tasted a lot like regular pancakes.  It was hard to believe given the amounts of potato and flour called for, but you all were right!  I made them for dinner and they did taste a lot like regular pancakes.

Lots of Matafan
I don't think I'd make this recipe again.  I'm probably not a fair judge since it was my second time eating pancakes that day, but I really like pancakes and just didn't think these were that special.  I think I prefer my regular pancakes recipe (Emeril Lagasse's, actually) for breakfast, potato latkes for a dinner side dish, and the buckwheat blinis if I wanted something for an appetizer.  I was happy I got to use the food mill I bought a couple of weeks ago as part of an apple canning project (apple butter and apple sauce), though, and I also really liked the swiss chard frittata (from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food) so it definitely wasn't a bad dinner, just probably not something I'll make again.

Our dinner
P.S.  Paul asked if the pomegranate seeds went with the pancakes.  I told him they were just necessary to make the photo look less ugly.  Eggs and pancakes definitely aren't the most appealing combination visually!