Friday, January 27, 2012

FFWD Broth-Braised Potatoes

I spent 45 minutes this weekend making a list of everything in my freezer, and I didn't even have time to organize it!  It's a little bit scary, I have a couple of different kinds of home-baked bread, half of Marie Helene's apple cake, Christmas cookies, peach freezer jam,enchiladas, lasagna...We have a normal freezer/refrigerator upstairs and a stand-alone freezer in the basement.  It's overwhelming.  The good news is, when I don't have much time to cook I can usually find something pretty good to eat in the freezer.

To go with these broth-braised potatoes, I made broccoli and pulled out some leftovers from Christmas Eve.  This was my first year hosting Christmas Eve.  We had gougeres as an appetizer, pumpkin soup as a first course, and then I served lemon focaccia, slow roasted salmon, chicken with figs, artichoke torte, and braised cabbage with apples.  After the main course we had my favorite salad (a Canal House one with blood orange and hearts of palm) with cheese, and then fruit cake, pumpkin pie, and Buche de Noel (I didn't make the last two desserts!).  We've finally managed to eat most of the leftovers, but I still had some artichoke torte and chicken in the freezer, so they made a perfect easy dinner.  As for the potatoes, we definitely liked them, but I didn't think they were that much better than my typical boiled potatoes with salt, pepper, and butter.  I don't make potatoes as often as I'd like to, though, so it's always nice to have a reminder to make them.

Boiled potatoes and leftovers

* * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I also made a couple of other Dorie recipes this week.  On Sunday night, I made the Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans to go with my fresh baked bread (White Loaves for Tuesday's with Dorie) and salad. In November I bought two pumpkins, roasted them, and put the flesh through a food mill (which was quite a mess), but I ended up just freezing the pumpkin when I ran out of time to make pie.   This was a perfect reason to pull the pumpkin out of the freezer.  We both loved the flan.

Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flan

Not quite as pretty as Dorie's
I also made the filling for Chicken B'Stilla on Sunday, to save myself time when I got home Monday night.  I found a half-used packaged of filo dough when I was cleaning out the freezer, and thought it would be perfect for the B'Stilla.  Unfortunately, when I unwrapped it on Monday I learned that it had crumbled to pieces.  (I'm thinking maybe it's bad to freeze and re-freeze filo?)  I did the best I could to use the bigger pieces to line the bottom of my pan, and then just mixed the remaining shreds with butter and scattered them on top.  Not nearly as pretty, but it still tasted great!

B'Stilla and my favorite salad
On Wednesday night, I made the Garlicky Crumb-Coated Broccoli to go with omelets.  My omelets always turned into scrambled eggs before I read Alice Waters' method in the Art of Simple Cooking, but now I love to make omelets (although I still love scrambled eggs too!).  I enjoyed the crumb-coated broccoli, but it probably won't replace my usual steamed broccoli on typical weeknights.  Broccoli doesn't feel quite as healthy when it's coated in four tablespoons of butter!

Broccoli and omelet

Friday, January 20, 2012

FFWD Quarter-Quarts

Quarter-Quarts cake with peach preserves
I know it's January and we're supposed to be eating healthy, but this post is about two cakes (and a reasonably healthy soup).  In my defense: (1) about five years ago my New Year's resolution was to quit dieting.  It hasn't exactly worked - sometimes I'll briefly try a new diet - but I have definitely improved.  Call me pessimistic, but I just can't resolve to stop eating chocolate, or butter, or heavy cream, or pizza, when I know it won't last anyway.  So, this year I'm just trying to only eat while sitting down - something which is surprisingly hard for me.  (2) I didn't actually make both of these cakes in the same week.  I made the Quarter-Quarts cake last week, and Marie Helene's Apple cake this week.

I wasn't sure about the Quarter-Quarts cake, it sounded kind of boring.  It was very easy, though, and I already had all of the ingredients on hand.  I put it together while my M. Jacques Armagnac Chicken was in the oven, and slid the cake in as soon as the chicken came out.  When the cake was done, I put it on the drying rack and went back to the living room to watch football.  All of the sudden, the brown sugar popped into my head!  I had completely forgotten to put it on top of the cake before I slid it into the oven.  So much for the nice glaze.

Missing brown sugar topping

I hurried into the kitchen and put the brown sugar on.  For some reason I thought maybe if the cake was still warm enough the sugar would melt.  It didn't work at all.  Then, I thought maybe I could use the blow torch to melt the sugar.  That didn't work very well either!  It mainly burned and didn't really glaze, although it did add some interesting texture to the cake.  Luckily, because I was worried about the cake being dry, I already had a topping planned.  I made some peach freezer jam this summer and it didn't set up at all (still don't understand why!) but it does make a great topping for pancakes and was an excellent sauce for the cake.  All said, we definitely enjoyed this cake.  Paul, especially, really liked the simplicity.

Bruleeing the sugar didn't quite work
I did a much better job following the instructions for Marie-Helene's cake.  I had a lot of fun picking out four types of apples (Mcintosh, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Fuji) and the cake was very easy to put together.  I put it together while simmering my citrus marmalade and brought it to our friends' house that night.  We loved this cake as well.  I liked that it was really all about the apples with very little cake, but the cake itself had a great flavor (from the rum!).

Apple cake and marmalade

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On Monday night I made the Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup for dinner.  It took a little bit long for a weeknight - probably about an hour - but it was very easy, and we both enjoyed it.  It has nice clean flavors and almost feels light (if you somehow block the can of coconut milk out of your head!).  Plus, I always think it's fun to put out a whole plate of garnishes!


Friday, January 13, 2012

FFWD M. Jacques Armagnac Chicken.

Sunday dinner
It's been another busy week around here so I'll keep this short.  We loved this recipe.  It reminded me of one of my favorite dishes from growing up.  We didn't eat very much meat at our house, but for Shabbat dinner on Friday nights my mom would often make chicken.  My favorite was a baked chicken dish with potatoes and carrots.  I never gave too much thought to what was in the dish, and I was shocked when I finally asked my mom for the recipe and it involved onion soup mix and apricot preserves.  My mom shops almost exclusively at the organic co-op, and almost never uses packaged anything!  This was almost as shocking as the time I discovered that she made my favorite chocolate cake by adding an extra cup of chocolate chips to a boxed cake mix...But anyway, I have no problem reaching for packages when I'm short on time, and I still love that chicken!

This chicken was certainly more sophisticated than my childhood favorite, but also very comforting in a way only meat and potatoes can be.  I loved the complexity that the armagnac gave the dish, and I also liked the addition of the prumes.  I'm curious to see if buying armagnac was really necessary.  I wasn't planning on it but I was out of cognac anyway so I decided to give it a try.  I also really loved how easy this dish was - I set it up and then had plenty of time to make an onion soup for later in the week and the Quarter-Quarts cake (which I'll write about next time) while the chicken baked.  We almost never eat in front of the TV, but we made an exception this Sunday so we could watch the end of the Broncos-Steelers game (I don't even know what to say about Tebow), and this was a perfect easy and comforting meal to end the weekend.  I also thought the leftovers held up very well - maybe even improving.

Chicken out of the oven

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

As part of my goal to catch up on all the recipes everyone made before I joined FFWD, I made the Spiced Butter-Glazed Carrots to go with our dinner on Wednesday night.  We loved these - I really thought the cardamom added a lot.  They were much more interesting than my usual glazed carrots (not that there's anything wrong with those!).  I served it with some string beans, and an onion soup.

Friday, January 6, 2012

FFWD Bubble-Top Brioche

I love baking bread.  I've been making it for almost five years now, and it never fails to amaze me when it actually works.  Maybe it's because there were so many times, especially early on, when I messed something up and my bread failed to rise, but it makes me happy every time when I see my dough start to rise.  This was a perfect recipe.  I loved Dorie's very detailed instructions.  This recipe also made me very grateful that I own a stand mixer.  The dough was incredibly sticky - I can't even imagine having to beat this one by hand.

I prepared the dough the night before while I was cooking my New Year's Eve dinner. The first thing I did when I woke up on New Year's Day was shape the dough for the second rise.  Years ago, I was watching the Food Network and Ina Garten was baking cookies.  She stood there with her kitchen scale and measured out exactly one ounce of dough for each one, so they'd be perfect.  I thought she was absolutely nuts, and couldn't understand how anyone could be that exacting....Well, when I found myself weighing out each 3/4 ounce ball of dough and carefully placing them - pretty sides up - in my muffin tins, I knew I had finally lost my mind!  It was worth it, though, I was very happy with how nicely the rolls came out.

This definitely required coffee
While the rolls were rising, I started on breakfast.  I've been wanting to make Ina's blintzes for a while now - blueberry blintzes are one of my all-time favorite foods - but kept deciding they were too unhealthy.  So, I decided they'd be our special treat for New Year's brunch (my diet always starts tomorrow!), before I was planning on making brioche.  Blintzes and brioche together were a bit starchy, but they both tasted great.

Blintzes with blueberry sauce

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Eve

Most years Paul and I go out for dinner on New Year's Eve, but this year we decided to eat at home.  Sometimes when I decide to make a nice(r) dinner, I already have something that I want to make in mind.  This time I didn't have any idea.  I had just cooked a large meal for Christmas Eve, though, so I was looking for something less time-consuming.  I started flipping through my Ina Garten cookbooks, and found a recipe for Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter.   On the last night of our honeymoon we went to this incredible little restaurant in Rome (The Library), and I had this pasta with truffles that I still think about.  It had cheese, butter, cream, and shaved white truffles.  Not exactly health food, but it was amazing.  The Ina recipe didn't sound quite as good, but it did sound simple and less expensive.  (I looked just for fun and the cheapest fresh truffles I could find were $70 an ounce!)  So, I decided on that for the main course.  The rest of the menu came together around that.  I decided on more substantial appetizers since the main course didn't have meat and a big salad since the main felt so unhealthy!  For dessert, I decided on the eclairs I have been eyeing from my new Tartine cookbook.  Then, for some crazy reason that didn't sound like enough, so I decided to make sorbet too.  I wrote out the menu while I was procrastinating.

Both appetizers were from the Canal House cookbooks - I love these!  The deviled eggs were good, but the pickled celery was really the hit of the night.  It sounds strange, I was definitely worried about it, but it was really excellent.  It was pickled in mirin and rice wine vinegar with ginger and some other spices, and had a very complex but still subtle flavor.

For the salad, I combined a couple of recipes.  First, I made a roasted artichoke recipe from Ina Garten.  Then, I started to make a preserved lemon vinaigrette from Canal House, but I got lazy and realized that the artichokes were also marinated in a vinaigrette, so I ended up adding my minced preserved lemons to the artichokes, throwing in some extra olive oil, and calling it done.  I served it on top of mixed greens and also added some olives for color.

Ina's pasta was even better than I hoped it would be.  The hardest part was ordering the truffle butter and the pasta she recommends!  I prepped the other ingredients before dinner - I dutifully shaved 3 oz of parmesan with a vegetable peeler as she instructs, although I didn't think it was necessary and would probably just grate it the next time - and got the water boiling before we sat down.  Then, the whole pasta came together in five minutes.  This wasn't an inexpensive entree, but we loved it.  I'll definitely be making it again.

Before the eclairs, I served David Lebovitz's green apple sorbet.  This was good, but not amazing.  It tasted just like frozen applesauce.  I shouldn't have been surprised because that's exactly what it was, but for some reason I was hoping for more from it.  I also wasn't completely happy with my eclairs.  The eclair part and the glaze worked beautifully, but my pastry cream was way too thin.  I couldn't piped it like I'd wanted to, so I had to split the pastries in half, spoon it in, and cover them back up.  It still tasted great but I was mad at myself.  For some reason, I listened to the instructions which said to stop cooking the pastry cream as soon as you see bubbles.  I've made pastry cream enough times to know that you really need to cook it until it coats the back of the spoon.  Oh well, I still enjoyed the left-over eclair I ate after lunch today!

2012 is off to a good start!  I didn't make any resolutions this year - they never seem to last anyway - but I do hope to keep cooking, and keep enjoying the food with family and friends.  I'd also like to be more consistent with this blog.  My goal is to catch up with French Fridays with Dorie - I joined a year after it started, and would love to make all of the recipes I missed!