Royal Foodie Joust ~ Rice, tomato, bacon challenge

25 05 2009

I really enjoy participating in the Royal Foodie Joust.  It gives me an opportunity to put on the creative side of my apron and see where my mind takes me…  My husband always gets a big smile on his face when I start thinking out loud…using him as a sounding board for listing ingredients and techniques as I wander around my imaginary kitchen.  This was a great team-work production.  We thought about the ingredients, and Bruce was leaning toward a take off on a classic BLT…ok.  But with avocado.  Ok.  “But I need to use rice…”  “Well…make a BLT with avocado hand-roll…you know how much we hate those!”  I still wanted to work a twist in with something…  Rice paper wrappers worked for that.  But what to dip them in?  I hunted down a dipping sauce recipe…and got to thinking about Mexican salsa…  Thai sauces are a balance of sweet-salty-sour-hot…that’s all pretty complimentary to salsa…and the herbs are similar…cilantro is common between…Hmmmm….why not?  Here’s what we came up with….

BLT Rice Paper Rolls with Thai Salsa ~


The rice paper rolls are filled with a leaf of lettuce, herbs (green onions, cilantro, mint and Thai basil), bean threads (I wanted rice vermicelli here, but it wasn’t available), cooked, slivered bacon, tomato, yellow bell pepper, avocado, then halved, cooked shrimp, rolled up.  The Thai salsa brings it all together in an explosion of flavors…  Tomato, mango, diced jalapeno, minced shallot, with mint, cilantro, and Thai basil in a Thai dipping sauce of lime juice, brown sugar (palm sugar was recommended, but unavailable), and fish sauce.   Drizzle, ok…Spoon a generous bite of salsa into the spring roll and devour.  There are so many layers of flavor!  Bruce described it as “a rainbow of flavors that just kept coming!”  This is going to be a GREAT summer meal as they also hold well in the fridge!


Huge thanks to The Leftover Queen for reigning over this event!


TFF ~ French Onion Soup

21 05 2009

This has been a busy month!  Somewhere along the line, I ended up just needing soup.  You know how that is?  I knew I had a big bag of onions that needed to be used, and I actually had gruyere in the fridge and french bread in the freezer.  Oh yes…that works!!  And what the heck…if I’m going to make French Onion soup from scratch, why not check and see what Tyler might have up his sleeve?  That way I’ve researched a new Tyler Florence recipe, and done the background for my Tyler Florence Fridays post!  What a great plan!!

Tyler’s recipe called for the onions to be sweated down with a fair amount of butter, and cooked, and cooked, and cooked until they carmelized.  Either I did something really wrong, or this didn’t work out the way I like it to.   I think this is one of the places where a high-BTU commercial range is what makes the difference.  There’s no way those onions were anywhere near cooked down, nor carmelized in 25 minutes.  And it took a whole lot longer than 5 minutes to cook the wine off the onions.  I think this starts the reason I ended up with flavor I wasn’t as happy with as I anticipated being.  Translation: The soup was fine.  I expected something “more”, different…I don’t know, just not quite what I got.  I don’t usually use red wine in my French Onion soup either…but I didn’t see that as being a big deal…but maybe the quantity combined with the carmelizing problem.  Don’t get me wrong, please…it was good.  Hubby enjoyed it immensely.  It may have even been my “taster” that night.  I just didn’t enjoy this one as much.  Once the gruyere was on top, I didn’t mind so much…it was a whole lot better!   Gooey, melty cheese can mend a lot of boo-boos!


Editorial comment….  What would I do differently?  I think I’d use a different pan to carmelize the onions, maybe even two, so the onions don’t steam so much.  Sugar content can vary greatly between different varieties, so I often add sugar – not a lot though – just to help get the process underway.   I’ll try the recipe again with a few changes…and see how it goes!

Whisk Wednesday ~ Menu 1

21 05 2009

Sometimes my postings have to be sandwiched between numerous other projects.   We had a full week, a full cooking weekend, another big week,  followed by a school project weekend (and an trip to the emergency room for sutures – not mine!), and, and…and…  Whew!!!  It’s yet another full week, with another batch of after-work projects.  I just got home from a dinner at a 4-star restaurant as a chaperone for 20 5th graders.  That might sound a little intimidating to some, but…these kids are really special, and that’s another story!  We’re gathered here to read about Menu #1, so grab your favorite beverage…I did all three dishes at the same time…that’s what I need to learn!  Time management!!  LOL!

The task before me this time was to prepare 3 separate menu items, either singly or all at one time.  The menu items for this class were Aubergines Bayildi (Gratin of Stuffed Eggplant) pages 255-256 of Le Cordon Bleu at Home, Rouelles de Veau Bourgeoise (Veal Shanks with Pearl Onions and Mushrooms) pages 18-19, and Gratin de Fruits au Marasquin (Fruit Gratin with Maraschino Liqueur) page 376, LCBH.  Of course, living where I do. there has to be some compromise and substitution.  Maraschino Liqueur?  Yeah, right.  Not in this area, no possible way.  I hunted.  Figs??  Let’s not push our luck.  No chance.  I found the veal.  I considered that my big coup for this menu!  If you follow the “Whisk Chicks” at all (really great nickname donated by Kayte’s son, Matt), you know that substitution has almost become my middle name.  I live in a culinary desert!

I told myself that by this time I should know how to execute each cooking method successfully.  The only real challenge was to put it all together and get it done at the same time.  I compared the recipes for cooking time…what needs to simmer, roast, marinate, cool?  The eggplant needed to roast, drain and cool.  The veal shanks needed to simmer, then cook.  The fruit needed to macerate.  Ok.  Everything has a little time element and there’s lots of little prep work to do in between.

I finally got a game plan sketched out in my head and went to work.  I fired off the oven and prepped the eggplant for roasting.  The recipe called for peeling the eggplant, as the plan was to make a 6-8 serving terrine which was to be wrapped in the skin slices.  There are only 2 of us.  In an effort to reduce the recipe by half, I elected to stuff the terrine mixture back into the eggplant shells.  I cut the eggplant in half from stem to blossom end, brushed the surfaces with olive oil and placed them, cut-side-down, on a baking sheet.  For some reason, which now totally escapes me, I was also roasting beef bones for stock, so I roasted the two together.  Unfortunately, the eggplant took up a bit of the rendered beef fat, and pretty much fried the cut surface.  It lifted away harmlessly, and the rest of the pulp went into a strainer to drain and cool for awhile.  As I started the roasting, I also started the veal dish.  I put the shanks in the water to poach and started the rest of the mise en place.

Onions needed to be peeled.  Mushrooms needed to be cleaned and quartered, then sauteed.  A roux needed to be prepared and left to cool.  We needed chopped red bell pepper, green bell pepper, onion, garlic and tomato.  Needless to say, it was easy to pass the time while the eggplant roasted.   When the poaching was finished it was time to add the onions and the bouquet garni and let it simmer awhile.  Meanwhile, the kettle with the roasted bones went on a back burner to simmer, and I started cutting the fruit for the dessert.

Dessert…What a challenge!  There isn’t a bottle of Maraschino Liqueur within 75 miles.  Maybe even farther.  When I went to pick up my fruit, no figs.  Plenty of mangoes, ripe and perfect, but no figs.  Ok…what to sub for figs and the requested liqueur…  We thought about melon…and using a melon liqueur, but neither of us really cares for Midori.  Scratch that choice.  I considered kiwi…I’m still not sure about that one.  I’ll get back to you on that.  *Ü*  The only other seasonal fruit availabe was strawberries…Hmmmm….Strawberries?  Sure!  Why not?  But…what liqueur?  I considered both Amaretto and Frangelico…I favored nuttiness over a lot of other concepts.  And then I ran across a rogue bottle of pomegranate liqueur!  Sold!  So, the fruit was diced and macerated with Pama, and set in the fridge to chill.  Next?

Assembling the eggplant terrine / stuffed eggplant came next.  The vegetables needed to be sauteed together and then thoroughly mixed together with some fresh bread crumbs.  I mounded the mixture into a single eggplant half-shell and suddenly this little imp started crooning….”Au gratin…cheese…gruyere…mmmmmm!” in my ear!  The next thing I knew I had a block of gruyere in one hand and the grater in the other, and the whole top was smothered in an avalanche of finely shredded cheese.  So much for the concasse with anchovies.

I decided that I should wait until it was time to finish the veal dish before I put the eggplant into the oven.  That worked out just about right.  When the veal had finished cooking, I removed it to a platter while I worked the sauce and heated the mushrooms.  I had already added the cooked and cooled roux to the dish, and then it was time to add the egg yolks to further thicken the sauce.  This is a tricky bit of work.  The egg yolks are beaten and the hot cooking liquid from the pot is drizzled in slowly to warm the eggs, but NOT to cook them!  The technique is called “tempering.”   When the temperature of the eggs has risen to hot, the mixture can be stirred back into the hot cooking liquid to thicken it.  This yields a silky, rich looking sauce that doesn’t have any cream in it.  A little tricky, but manageable!

I managed to have everything ready to serve all at one time, but I don’t want to talk about how many hours it took me to make these 3 little dishes!  LOL!  We were kind of neutral on the veal dish.  I could be equally happy with beef shanks at a fraction of the cost.  It was easy enough to make, it just didn’t “WOW” me.  The eggplant, I confess, I came extremely close to tossing in the compost, but I’m glad I didn’t.  I don’t “love” eggplant.  It’s taken me a lot to merely tolerate it.  I’m glad I didn’t.  It came out quite different and rather good.  We decided next time we’d add even more garlic and we’d mash a few anchovy fillets into the cooking oil somewhere.  Both of us were quite taken with the cheese crust too.  I’m sorry…I just couldn’t help myself!  LOL!

The one thing we didn’t have was dessert.  I was so darn late getting it all on the table that we just didn’t care.  So, we left the fruit for another time, which turned out to be a few days later.  Rather than have the fruit as a dessert, we had it as a light HOT weather brunch item, layered with Greek yogurt and strawberry preserves.  Note to self and friends….  Pama is a unique liqueur…very tart.  I does NOT go well on strawberries.  Do not repeat this mistake.  However, Pama goes very well with mango…repeat as needed!  LOL!

Finished products….





and dessert…well…it could have been…more on that when I edit!


I’ll come back and finish this post.  It’s getting late, it’ s been a BIG day, and tomorrow is still about to happen!  And I need to get another post done!  LOL!

TFF ~ Potato Latkes

14 05 2009

It’s time for Tyler Florence Friday again.  This week finds us serving up Potato Latkes.  I first found the recipe in one of Tyler’s cook books, and now that it’s time to put my post up, I find it’s also on line!  I almost didn’t find it!  It isn’t listed on its own, it’s listed with Beef Brisket.  These were wonderfully light and crisp.  They were a really great choice to go with grilled steaks.  A little something different.  We had another batch the next morning at brunch.


I imagine they’d freeze up nicely for appetizers too…if you can leave then alone that is!

Whisk Wednesday – Under construction!

6 05 2009

A few weeks back Shari made us aware that we were close to completing the initial technique lessons from Le Cordon Bleu, and our remaining lessons would be actually completing 3 menu items.  The plan is to cook all 3 dishes in the curriculum list for a single sitting, and to post each week a third of the lesson.  I’m ready to tackle that challenge, so I’m not posting this week.  I’m trying to get the remaining ingredients together for the 3 dish session.  I have my veal shanks (only ONE challenge!), and I have some of the rest, but not eggplant and no fruit yet.  I’ll get there.  While you’re waiting on me to get my dishes cooked, you can check out the other members of our group here.