Friday, April 18, 2014

FFwD: Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snap Peas, and Garlic en Papillote

I'm going to keep this pretty short. The doctor put me on some medication yesterday because of some respiratory problems I'm having, and it's making me veeeery sleepy. I don't like it. Anyway, I'm going to blast out this post and take a nap, since my Mom is here to watch Charlie.

I was so happy to find bok choy, that I didn't care that it wasn't "baby." The size did complicate things a bit later, when trying to wrap the vegetables up in a foil pouch.
 I wound up folding them over onto themselves into a great heap. Didn't look great, but it worked. I couldn't find sugar snap peas, so I used snow peas, and I couldn't find the onions Dorie specified, so I used shallots. The peas worked fine, the shallots were a mistake. Maybe if I'd cut them into smaller pieces. They were bites of raw onion. No bueno. 

All in all, the vegetables came out okay. I liked the orange zest + mint action. I felt it needed a bit more oomph to make me want to cook it again, though.

I also made up a recipe: the Vegetable Barley Soup with a Taste of Little India. I remember that a lot of people said the soup could use a protein component, so I added rotisserie chicken. I loved it.
This is the chicken soup I want when I'm sick from now on. I added a lot of extra homemade garam masala and turmeric, and thought it tasted perfect. Loved it, loved it. The barley sucked up the liquid super-fast, though. By the time Matt got home from work, there was no broth left in the pot. Woops.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

FFwD: Ginger-Pickled Cucumbers

Once again, I cooked a make-up recipe for French Fridays with Dorie. The scheduled recipe is Quiche Maraichere, which I cooked and posted about during one of the club's freebie weeks in 2011. (For the record, I think this quiche is awesome.)

The savory dishes that I missed were often skipped because of lack of motivation, so it's no surprise that I'm not loving most of these catch-ups.

Last night, I made Ginger-Pickled Cucumbers. I'm not a huge pickle fan, and nothing about this appealed to me. It's so easy to make that I could hardly get away with avoiding it forever. Just salt some chopped up cucumbers to pull the water out of them for a half hour, then mix them up with rice wine vinegar, hot pepper flakes, and ginger. Let them chill for a few hours.
If gingery, vinegary cucumbers sound good to you, you'll like this recipe. I ate what I served myself, but have no desire to make this again. Check another one off my list.

On an unrelated note, I just want to say that one of the reasons I love Around My French Table so much is that I've gotten my picky boy to eat more food from this book than any other single book I've used. I cooked two of my favorites this week, after far too long of a gap--Beef Cheek Daube and the Swiss Chard Pancakes. Charlie gobbled both. High five, Dorie!
He's eating swiss chard, I tell you. SWISS CHARD!
He hadn't had those pancakes since we moved to Italy, so I'm glad to find he still likes them.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Taking It Back

I can't do Giada's Feel Good Food. I just can't. There's not much in there that excites me, or even sounds decent. I've been trying for a while now to make myself cook a few things, but I get depressed every time I look at the book. Not really depressed, just an "Oh my god I'm on a diet" kind of depressed.

Let's just pretend this never happened. (waves Jedi hand).

FFwD: Tuna-Packed Piquillo Peppers

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is for a basic cake called Visitandine. I'd posted about this cake a long time ago, when I'd been working on Around My French Table without any knowledge that there was already a cooking group dedicated to it. I wasn't overly in love with it, so I figured this was a good opportunity to make up another recipe.

I've been stalling to make Tuna-Packed Piquillo Peppers for months. I've had the ingredients on hand for ages, and could have cooked it with the group, but was so uninspired that I let it slide. Might as well get it over with.

Instead of stuffing roasted red peppers (I couldn't find piquillo peppers) with the tuna/caper/olive/lemon zest and juice/parsley combo, I sliced the peppers and piled everything on top of arugula.
Not bad, not good. It just is.

Check it off the list.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

FFwD: Recipe-Swap Onion "Carbonara"

I was supposed to cook Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India for this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe. For no good reason other than that I'd already made a big pot of soup this week, I decided to hold off on this recipe and make up one that I'd missed.

For some reason, I didn't expect much from Recipe-Swap Onion "Carbonara." To start with, steamed onions? Ew. Spaghetti alla Carbonara is one of the meals that I can always get Charlie to eat, and it's one of our standby restaurant orders for him. As such, I've tasted some excellent carbonaras, and a lot of mediocre/terrible versions. The worst are soupy and bland. Okay, that's not totally true. The VERY worst actually had curds stuck to the pasta. Cooked egg? Bad cream? I don't know. Gross. Charlie ate it anyway. I envisioned Dorie's version to be on the soupy/bland side. I was wrong.

I ripped up a rotisserie chicken and threw it into the pan with a pound of steamed onions, to make it a one-pot meal. I also transferred a bit of bacon grease over from the pan I'd cooked the bacon in, because bacon flavor is more than half of the appeal of carbonara. Am I right? Of course I am. I did need to add a little extra cream, because the chicken bulked things up farther than the sauce would spread. I used Italian panna da cucina. They have different kinds of cream here. I never know what I'm buying. This stuff is practically solid. It's awesome. It helped reduce the soupy factor.
I was also wrong for wrinkling my nose at steamed onions. Much to my surprise, they turned out to be sweet, and a nice texture.

This was a delicious meal. No pasta necessary.

Conclusion: Loved it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

FFwD: (Shrimp) and Onion Tartes Fines

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is technically supposed to feature scallops instead of shrimp, but my kid eats--no, gorges on--shrimp, so I'm game to cook them as often as I can. The swap was a no-brainer.

To make Shrimp and Onion Tartes Fines, you start with Dorie's favorite method of preparing puff pastry. Namely, weighing it down with a cookie sheet while it bakes to prevent it from puffing. She uses this technique in a number of recipes, and it's fine, though I don't think I'm as enamored with the outcome as Dorie is.

After the pastry is baked, cook some pancetta, then slow-cook onions in the pancetta grease until they're caramelized. I cooked the shrimp in this delicious glop, then topped the puff pastry with it. In the original recipe, you would slice raw scallops very thinly, then briefly pop the assembled tartes back in the oven.
This was straightforward and tasty, and I think that the onion/pancetta/shrimp combo makes a delicious topping for a salad, assuming that you don't care if your salad is coated in pancetta and its grease. I know that this works as a salad because my giant wedge of puff pastry collapsed on itself when i picked it up, so I ate most of it with a fork. Guess that's why Dorie says to cut them into nicely presented circles. Oops.

My big adventure for this recipe involved locating puff pastry at the Italian supermarket. I walked out with this...
At no point was I sure that I'd purchased puff pastry instead of pie dough, and the box was no help. Of all the dishes it could have shown, the image on the box depicts what seems to be an artichoke gallete. Obviously. That clears everything up. Even though galletes are made with something closer to a pie dough. Right? Beats me. I'm happy to report that "Pasta sfoglia" is, in fact, puff pastry. Phew! This could have been a hot mess.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Few Dories

I'm trying to kick my Dorie make-ups into high gear. News that Dorie is publishing a new book in the next year, and the realization that we only have a year's-worth of recipes from Around My French Table yet to cook has spurred me on to catch up to the group. I really want to "finish" the book, since that's the whole reason for the club.

I cooked three recipes this week, but didn't get my post written until now.

I'll start with the recipe that was slated for this week: Sausage-stuffed Cornish Hens. Honestly? I was indifferent to this. My hens took A LONG time to cook. Much longer than specified, and even when the thermometer read the correct temperature (which I had to look up in How to Cook Everything, because Dorie doesn't supply one), and the thighs ran clear when stabbed, they still weren't cooked through. Grrr.
I also found my sausage-to-bread ratio to be off, with the emphasis on sausage. Maybe if I had made the pan sauce, it would have married the chicken and sausage flavors. As it stands, the stuffing and the hen seemed like two totally unrelated entities. I was starving by the time the damn things were finished cooking, and had no patience for making sauce, though. Whaaatever.

Most of the recipes I have yet to complete are desserts. Fortunately for my waistline, my friend recently decided to start a book club, so my plan is to always bring a Dorie dessert to book club. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate tart dough? Ugh. So many tarts to do. Anyway, this month I chose the easiest possible baked good that I'm behind on: Financiers.

These were perfect for a morning book club. A friend described them as "exactly the right amount of sweet," and I agree. Charlie ate two in the morning, and the two I saved for him as soon as he got home from school. He was furious when he realized that those two were all he could have. It's not often he inhales something that's not a chocolate chip cookie, so I call that a win. And almond flour and egg whites means it's healthy right? Right. We'll just pretend the 1.5 sticks of butter never happened.
Lastly, I made Butter and Rum Crepes, Plain (sans Rum). I've never made crepes before, and wasn't totally confident that I'd end up with anything besides a pile of deformed crepe. However, the crepes were surprisingly easy to work with, and delicious, to boot. I doubled the recipe, and they were GONE in about five minutes. My favorite preparation was to smear them with nutella and homemade tangerine curd. Holy moly. YUM.

They were gone so fast I never took a picture. My bad.