Tuesday, April 30, 2013

TWD Boca Negra and Rustic Potato Loaves

The good news is that with these recipes posted, the last thing I have to catch up on is croissants.  The bad news is that the croissants take 3 days, and that I'm due in 5 weeks and will most likely be behind again very soon...Anyway, I was not the least bit happy with my Boca Negra!  You can barely tell from the awful photo I took, but it didn't set at all.  After baking it for the recommended time it seemed done (based on the top) so I flipped it out of the pan as per the recipe.  Well, it looked like a puddle and didn't hold it's shape at all.  So, Paul helped me flip it back into the pan and I baked it again for a long time.  (I don't remember how long, but it was at least an additional 30 minutes).  Again, when I pulled it out it seemed done.  Again, when I flipped it over it didn't hold together.  At this point I was sick of all of the flipping so I decided to serve it as a pudding.  It tasted good, but I was completely annoyed by the recipe at this point.  It did set up in the fridge--to the consistency of fudge--but never felt at all like a cake (even a flour-less cake).  It was a fun Passover-friendly recipe to try, but definitely not one that I'll be making again.

The Rustic Potato Loaves, on the other hand, were absolutely excellent.  I followed the recipe exactly, except for subbing out half whole wheat flour for the AP, and was thrilled with how they came out.  I was worried they were too small when I was putting them in the oven--I don't think I've ever seen a bread recipe with such short rises--but they rose beautifully in the oven.  I normally make No Knead bread at home and we love it as an accompaniment for meals--it's great for dipping--but this might be the perfect sandwich bread.  I was able to cut nice big slices and it stayed fresh for days.  It had a nice flavor, but was definitely neutral enough to go with anything.  This is definitely one that I'll be making again.

Friday, April 26, 2013

FFWD Swiss Chard Pancakes

I probably should have read through the ingredients more carefully and really tried to imagine these when I was planning my menu for the week.  I trusted Dorie when she said that this made eight main course servings, and only needed a salad as an accompaniment.  I was talking to my mom when I was making them and she also didn't think they sounded like a main course.  She asked if I was serving them alongside grilled fish, which actually would have been a good idea.  I told my mom the book said they were a main course and I was sticking to it.  After Paul had a couple of bites, I had to start reading aloud the part of the book that insisted these were a main course.  I told him they were called farcous in French, and he made some terrible joke about someone playing a "farce on you."  He also asked where the sauce was, so I read him aloud the part that specifically said a sauce might be a good idea if you were serving these as an hors d'oeuvre, but made no mention of a sauce if you were serving these as a main course.

Well,  we didn't think these were substantial enough for a main course, and we also thought they definitely needed a sauce or something.  They tasted fine, but weren't anything special and we were both pretty hungry afterward.  This recipe also touched on one of my culinary pet peeves.  I am happy to "add salt and pepper to taste" when it's something that I'm willing to taste, but I can't stand when recipes for things you really don't want to taste raw--like hamburgers or pancakes--call for adding salt to taste.  I had no clue how much to add, and didn't want to taste the raw batter to find out.  I ended up putting what seemed like a lot (I didn't really measure but it was probably at least a teaspoon), and these tasted totally flat to me.  Paul said they weren't that bad, but they definitely could have used more salt.  These weren't too hard to make and would be a perfectly fine side dish, but I really doubt I'll be pulling out this recipe again.  Oh well, at least I liked everything else we made in April...On to May!

Friday, April 19, 2013

FFWD Cod and Spinach Roulades

When I read through this recipe I was annoyed.  I love serving simple fish and greens dinners, but this one just sounded like a pain.  With only 10 oz of fish I didn't think it would possibly be enough for four servings, and the sheer number of steps and components was overwhelming.  I described it to Paul as "very French," and not in a good way.  But, one of the main points of doing FFWD for me is trying recipes that I might not otherwise, so I decided to pair it with potatoes and another vegetable (hoping that would be substantial enough) and give it a go.  When I went shopping the store didn't have any cod, but did have gorgeous Alaskan halibut that was still a fortune at $5 off.  I debated using such a nice fish for what was essentially a puree, but decided to just go for it.  Other than that, I followed the recipe pretty carefully, except for substituting some arugula that Paul grew for half of the spinach.  (I'm still not quite clear on how Paul has so much fully grown arugula and mustard greens already.  I think it's been growing since last summer but I know that doesn't make a lot of sense.  This is clearly why I'm not a gardener...)  I was cursing the recipe again when it was after 9 o'clock and I was still cooking, but not after the first bite.  This was really, really good!  In some ways it reminded me of gefilte fish (not the flavor, but just because it's also made from chopped and poached fish), but I love gefilte fish so that isn't a bad thing.  Maybe it was all of the cream, maybe it was the halibut, maybe it was the combination, but the flavor and texture was just excellent.  Almost light and airy.  I thought the peppery arugula and tomato sauces were nice complements.  The extra sauce also made an excellent dip for my steamed artichoke.  I need to figure out a way to start putting Sunday dinner on the table a couple of hours earlier, but even though we were exhausted we really enjoyed this one.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TWD Madeleines

Paul said this was a lame excuse and he's probably right, but I would have done a much better job with this recipe if the ingredients list had said "2/3 cup sugar, separated" instead of just "2/3 cup sugar."  Obviously I should have been paying more attention and working more slowly and carefully, but when I saw the instruction to sift the flour with the sugar and salt I added all of the sugar--I completely missed that it was only supposed to be 1 tbsp of the sugar.  I realized when I got to the next step and I had no sugar left to beat with the eggs.  I know at that point I should have started over, but I couldn't bare to throw out my 2+ cups of cake flour and sugar and really didn't have time to start over (as it was we ended up eating at 9PM again on Sunday night) so I continued with beating the eggs sans sugar.  It took forever, but my eggs finally did reach the right consistency even without the sugar.  However, as soon as I tried folding the sugar/flour mixture into the eggs I knew I was in trouble.  I'm not that great at folding anyway, and with that volume of dry ingredients I completely deflated the eggs.  My batter was so dense that I was only able to get 18 Madeleines, instead of the 24 the recipe was supposed to yield.  They actually still had a nice flavor, but the consistency was completely off.  They're chewy and dense; the opposite of light and airy.  Oh well.  I'm not going to punish myself by making these again anytime soon--there are too many good things to try--but I am looking forward to the next time we make a genoise batter.  I'll definitely pay more attention and hope for better results.

Friday, April 12, 2013

FFWD Financiers

Every week I tell myself I spend too much time cooking and need to simplify, and every Sunday I seem to end up spending most of the afternoon in the kitchen cooking.  Part of it is that I love to cook and love having food ready for the week ahead, and part of it might be that I'm avoiding the other projects (finishing the wedding scrapbook--our 3 year anniversary is this week (!), finishing organizing my part of the basement--sorry Paul, organizing the linen closet, etc., etc.) that I really should be working on.  Oh well.  The good news is that those projects will always be there, and I really do intend to get to them next weekend (unfortunately I say that every weekend).  This Sunday was relatively relaxed.  I made the Financiers, the Rustic Potato Bread for TWD (preview--loved it!), granola, prepared salad stuff for the week, and also made Sunday dinner (masa crepes with chard, jicama and cucumber salad, and beans from this book).

My favorite thing about the financiers was how easy they were.  After browning the butter, which always makes me anxious, the batter was easy to put together, and I loved that it was just sitting in the fridge hanging out until I was ready to bake.  The only problem I had was filling the tins too full.  I should have paid more careful instruction to the directions, which I know said not to fill them all of the way.  They took longer than I expected to bake--probably 18 minutes in mini muffin tins--and many of them had grown together.  Luckily, all of the butter still made them surprisingly easy to get out of the tins.  The grocery store was having a huge sale on the champagne mangoes that we love (10 for $5!) this week and I couldn't resist buying 10 of them, so when I noticed the fruit variation I decided I'd have to try it.  The mango didn't add a whole lot, I mainly enjoyed the rich almond flavor, but it was pretty, cut the richness, and used up one of my 10 mangoes.  I didn't like these quite as much as the Coconut Friands we made last year, and am not sure if I'd make them again (there are just so many good things to try), but I know we'll enjoy eating the rest of them.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

FFWD Pierre Herme's Olive Sables

I have a funny relationship with Passover.  I was raised Jewish and definitely still consider myself Jewish, but would not call myself observant at this point in my life.  I can talk for hours about why the dietary laws of Passover don't make any sense (don't get me started on why using flour is not allowed, except for the purpose of combining it with water to make matzoh, which you can then grind back up into matzoh meal, which then has to be used in place of flour in recipes...), but I still keep the holiday every year.  I don't change my dishes and I don't have separate milk and meat dishes so technically it doesn't count, but I am very careful about what I eat for the 8 days.  I'm not sure why it's so important to me.  I think it's about family tradition.  I can still hear my grandfather saying that he doesn't know why, but he just can't bring himself to eat bread for those days.  I feel the same way.

Anyway, what does this have to do with sables?  I usually make my FFWD recipes on Sunday, but Sunday was still Passover.  I decided to make the dough on Sunday and keep it in the fridge until the holiday was over.  (I know that more observant Jews, including my mother, would not do this.)  So Wednesday night after work I came home, took the sables out of the fridge, and started to slice and bake them in batches while I cooked a vegetable chowder.  I wasn't at all sure about these--the ingredient combination sounded so strange--but it was very hard to start eating them.  I LOVE olives, and really liked the sweet-savory combination.  These would be an excellent appetizer with drinks.