French Fridays with Dorie: Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak~

25 04 2011

For once in my life, I’m ahead of the game with a dish from French Fridays with Dorie!  I was off work for Spring Break, ran across these little steaks while shopping, and the next thing I knew I was all set to prepare Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak.

Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak starts with butter and oil, peppered steaks, and morphs into a wonderfully sauced steak in the end.  I wrapped my peppercorns in waxed paper and smashed them with my kitchen mallet a few times.  No escaping peppercorns, and nicely crushed.  I like to toast dry herbs and spices, especially seeds before I add them to a dish, but this time, the peppercorns are actually a peppercorn crust on the steaks.  Since they’ll be getting direct heat all the while the steaks are cooking, they don’t need to be toasted.

When the steaks are cooked, while they rest, the sauce is made.  Pour off any remaining oil and butter, and deglaze the pan with cognac (or brandy).  This is the touchiest part of the recipe…the alcohol will likely flame if 1) you don’t cool the pan before adding the alcohol to the pan (the hotter the pan, the faster the alcohol produces the flammable vapors);  2)  you have a gas stove.  Flaming the alcohol is easy enough, and nothing to be afraid of, if you’re ready for what will happen.  Flames will jump into the air at least 18 inches and often a full 36 inches.  Be ready for that.  If you keep a lid that will fit the pan tightly within reach (or better yet, in hand), you can quickly smother any flames that get too excited.  Keep your head…the alcohol will burn off completely in a matter of seconds.  Next, add the cream and wait for the proper consistency to arrive.  It’s really good!


French Fridays with Dorie: Catching up!

19 04 2011

Sometimes when you just can’t…then you need to play “Double Up!”  That’s my term for seeing how many recipes I can work into one meal…especially when I’m behind in my cooking and posting.  Today, I’m posting the Quinoa Fruit and Nut Salad and the Garlicky Crumb-Coated Broccoli…both exceptional dishes from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

Leading off our dinner is Dorie’s Quinoa, Fruit and Nut Salad.   This recipe takes a little bit of prep time…you need to cook the quinoa (keen-wah) and let it cool, then assemble the ingredients (your choice of dried fruits, nuts and seeds) and dress it.  The salad mix tastes better if the flavors are allowed to blend and mellow some before serving (at room temperature) over greens.  I’ve been looking for a way to get more whole grains into our diet.  THIS is the recipe!  Yes, it’s a little on the sweet side…but that depends on the dried fruit you add.  I was planning on adding golden raisins, but found the dark ones first.  I’d love this with cranberries!  The options are pretty much endless.  Rather than adding a yogurt topping, this time I chose to sprinkle the salad with gorgonzola just before serving…seriously tasty!  The saltiness of the cheese was a great balance!

Quinoa is a quiet little “pseudocereal” (neither a grain, nor a grass…) that we’re going to call a grain for simplicity.  It’s tiny and looks completely innocuous.  It originated in the South American Andes mountains, and is a complete protein (containing complex amino acids) that swells many times it’s original size when cooked like rice.  I’ve used the seeds in breads for years, but never quite got around to actually cooking it.  WOW!  The recipe says that the grain is cooked when you see the little white belt around the grains.  Easy enough!

Let the grains come to room temperature, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add some chopped nuts, dried fruits and a few chopped herbs…dress it with a light dressing and you’ve got a great way to add whole protein grains to your salads.  The quinoa has a completely neutral flavor when cooked in water…I’ll bet you could play with this!  But…we still have food to prep for dinner…let’s get back to that!

Next up is Garlicky Crumb-Coated Broccoli.  It’s hard to get easier than this for a really nice side dish…  Steam your broccoli until crisp tender…mix up the garlicky crumbs and finish the broccoli in the pan with the buttered garlicky crumbs.  We polished this off in fine style…but who wouldn’t?  This time, I used broccoli crowns only…they were the same price as regular broccoli… Mine got a little more cooked than I would have liked, but that’s how things go when you’re cooking a lot of things at one time sometimes.

While prepping the broccoli, I was also poaching tilapia fillets in an herbed butter and wine mixture that turned into a buerre blanc at the end.  Unfortunately, I’d already used the last of my parsley in the garlicky broccoli…so my fish looks a little pale…but then…white fish with buerre blanc is pretty pallid!  Thankfully, the broccoli draws your eye, abd that’s what I want you to look at anyway!

Tasting Notes~
The quinoa dish took a little warming up to…  It’s good…but I don’t mix many fruits into my salads…  I guess I just don’t think of that.  However…this is really good on top of greens…so why not?  I can see me playing with quinoa a little more now…and I might give millet another try too.  Amaranth is a little smaller than quinoa, but could be subbed…much the same, it’s a seed grown in the Andes, and is a complete protein.  The garlicky broccoli came out great!!  I’d like to keep it back as a holiday dish though… We like broccoli just as it is most of the time.  The buttery-garlicky-yumminess is really worth working the recipe up…but like another blogging friend…it’s not quite healthy enough to serve this way all the time…but those special dinners…oh yeah!!

That catches the first two recipes of April at French Fridays with Dorie.  I’m still behind though… There are Vanilla Eclairs, Mustard Batons and Bistro Paul Bert steaks to fix by month’s end.  Hmmmm…. At least I’ve gotten 2 recipes completed this month!  LOL!

French Fridays with Dorie: Scallops with Caramel Orange Sauce~

27 03 2011

This week our French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Scallops with Caramel Orange Sauce.  In the sidebar of the recipe in Dorie’s Around My French Table cookbook was a notation that this recipe went very well with Spiced Carrots just a few pages away.  I don’t know why I thought Spiced Carrots were on our list this month…but I did, and jumped right on that!  So…I have a VERY ORANGE plate!  That’s okay, because she was right…the two go excellently together!

Scallops have been difficult to come by where I live.  I ended up picking up some at Trader Joe’s…not as large as I’d have liked, but wild-caught.  I could have gotten a nicer sear on my scallops…these are the pretty ones…the others were pretty pale in comparison.  I used a smallish, heavy bottomed pan…and figured out quickly that when the scallops were ready to turn, they released from the pan nicely.  The smallish pan didn’t allow the scallop juices to evaporate enough, and half of my scallops simmered more than got a sauté.  Although the others were pale, they didn’t over cook, and the sauce colored them up some.  Oh well…  I’d try this again, so next time…the sauté pan will be pulled out.

Tasting Notes~
This was a really nice recipe for scallops…and for carrots, but that’s another story!  The caramel orange sauce went together easily, and was much like a gastrique.  The scallops needed nothing more than a quick sprinkle with very little salt (I withheld the last salting in the pan because I already had a lot of liquid off the scallops to deal with) to make the flavors POP!  I served a side salad with a creamy savory dressing to break up all the sweetness.  It made a great foil!  The seriously sweet caramel sauce was tempered by the tanginess of the orange juice and the final addition of butter to mount the sauce.  We found the little strips of orange zest gave the sauce a bit of a marmalade flavor, but next time, I’d poach them in the sugar syrup as suggested.  I felt that the zest strips were tiny enough not to need the sugar…and that was mostly true.

I’d encourage anyone to give this recipe a try.  It sounds complicated, but it’s not.  The sauce takes several minutes to prepare, but it sits on the side nicely waiting to be used…and could even sit overnight!

French Fridays with Dorie: Beggar’s Linguine~

19 03 2011

French Fridays with Dorie is chugging right along without my help…  I’m having trouble making the time to shop AND cook.  Well…I’m getting cooking done, but it’s not “group” cooking!  LOL!  I promised to make dinner for a friend’s birthday…his choice…his choice?  Fried chicken.  And then there was the yen for salmon I couldn’t quite get away from either.  Oh well.  So…I finally got to pick up the odds and ends I didn’t have stashed in my cabinet (figs, pistachios) and we got busy with this.

The timing on this recipe is really pretty good!  There’s plenty of time to do all your mise en place while your water heats for the pasta.  It won’t matter if you’re still prepping when the pasta goes in.  It’s going to need to cook for about 3-5 minutes before you start making the sauce.  The sauce cooks pretty quickly, but stay with it so you don’t brown your butter too much.

I used a Le Creuset 2-1/2 quart casserole for making the sauce.  It provided even consistent heat, and would hold enough heat to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce.  All of the little bits and pieces are cooked in the oil, so everything disperses through the pasta pretty well.

I had a couple of hearts of rib eyes that were left from a previous meal that I broiled for a few minutes, just enough to heat them through well and get the juices moving again (had been med. rare).  I didn’t want it to cook much more, but I did want it hot…all the way through.  I mixed up a bit of Gorgonzola cheese with a pat of butter for a richly flavored steak topper.  The pasta went exceptionally well with the steak.  The flavors and textures complimented each other nicely.

Tasting Notes~
Okay.  I confess.  I planned to blow off this recipe because I’m timid about combining sweet and savory.  There.  I’ve said it.  Is there a “program” for people like me?  *Ü*  Dorie’s FF Bloggers changed my mind…everyone thought it was so good…  I asked hubby if he minded a little trip to the wild side…and he was game.  He’s so good about such things!  Still…I was prepared to not like the dish.  The flavors are difficult to explain…  First off, this dish is not sweet.  Banish that thought.  It has an essence of sweetness when you encounter a raisin, but still not really sweet.  Remember, there’s a lot of butter and pasta here.  The toasted nuts mellow the butter and the sweetness of the fig (which actually wasn’t all that sweet, nor particularly to my liking…but I got past my objections) and the raisins.  The ratio of tidbits to pasta is nicely balanced so you don’t get bites that are without flavor, nor too many bites with too many tidbits.  It was really, no kidding, good.  I loved the essence of orange that spread throughout the dish.  It was just a whisper… Thanks, Bloggers,  for all your comments on the site forum! You won me over and I’m SO glad!  LOL!

FFwD: Short Ribs~

26 02 2011

One of the first things I learned to cook successfully as a young bride was short ribs.  In the mid 70’s they were cheaper than cheap…but then in the mid 70’s a lot of things were cheaper than…let’s not go there.  That’s a whole “nuther” post!  Short ribs have a wonderful flavor and truly benefit from long, slow braising.

Now, I want to confess straight up, I went just a bit astray from the recipe in a couple of places…  I dusted my short ribs with flour before searing them…I didn’t use port…but pretty much beyond that, we were running about the same.  I used a Cabernet for my red wine…I didn’t want to use Chianti, which was the red wine I had open at the moment.  Yes…wine actually gets to serve more than one recipe here! LOL!  I seared my ribs on all sides in a 5 qt. cast iron casserole, then added the chopped veggies and a bit more oil (I’m using rice bran oil and I love it! I just wish someone local carried it!) and stirred things around a bit before adding the cooking liquids.  I have my own beef stock canned, so I used that and the wine to season the pot.  And waited 3 incredibly long hours (you’ll understand when you start smelling it).  I did need to add a little water part way through, because I didn’t use the foil seal.  I used a 5 qt. cast iron dutch oven for a third of the recipe.  You’ll want something a bit larger…7 1/2 qt. or bigger, for a full recipe.

Tasting Notes~
This dish pretty much cried out for mashed potatoes…couldn’t help myself!  The carrots cooked up perfectly in the dutch oven with the ribs.  I started the potatoes about 20 minutes before the ribs were due out of the oven, and we were right on target.  This is one of those melt-in-your-mouth dishes.  Deeply soul-satisfying, home-cooked, comfort food at it’s best.  There wasn’t anything but a bit of gravy left of this dinner.   Note to self…watch for short rib sales!  It was so worth the wait!

I remember the first time we approached the Rendezvous Inn… Kim was preparing short ribs… I knew that was what I wanted for dinner!  Oh my heavens!  The aroma that wafted out into their garden!  I still haven’t had his short ribs.  They sell out quickly every time he makes them.  This dish reminds me of that.

Essentially…absolutely a keeper…whether the recipe is followed precisely or not.

On Sick Leave…

19 02 2011

We apologize for any inconvenience…however our kitchen is currently closed due to the flu.  We’ll be fine…as soon as these bugs get out of our bed and go live with someone else or DIE!  There just isn’t much cooking going on..and I’m totally off schedule with everything, and I do mean everything! I made it to work one day this week…  Quickie soups are about the extent of my energy level.  We play thermometer roulette for major chores…the one with the lowest temp gets to do the chore of the hour!  We feel lousy, but we’re managing to survive!  We’re being doted upon by our loving and protective dog, Jasmine.  If I could only teach her to do some of the other chores too… Right now, she specializes in bed-warming and pillow stealing.  But she’s a love…until she kicks me in the face in the middle of the night! *giggle*cough-cough-cough*  Wish I could kick the symptoms!  I’ll be back on deck, cooking up a storm as soon as I can…

Anyone with TMT posts is still welcome to send them in to me for round-up!!  I can manage to round up the participants meals, even if I can’t toss one together myself just yet!  That will probably be one of the first meals I attempt though…something easy and soothing…  See you back here real soon!

French Fridays with Dorie: Basque Potato Tortilla~

4 02 2011

For the moment, I’m on schedule with French Fridays with Dorie!  That doesn’t happen often, so I’m enjoying it while I can!  The recipe of the week comes from Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan.  Just buy it.  You deserve it, and you know you want it.  Your family will thank you again and again!

Back to the dish…I cooked my potato mixture in one pan, and switched to a smaller pan for the actual tortilla making.  I reduced the recipe by half…that is, I only put half of the potatoes in the “tortilla”, which looks and cooks strangely like a Frittata, but we won’t tell!  I used half as many eggs as the recipe asked and poured the mixture into a smaller nonstick skillet, generously oiled with a good olive oil.   The edges bubbled up and set quickly, and with an adjustment to the heat, we had controlled cooking to set the remaining tortilla.

At this point we have the set edges, and just a jiggly center…time for the broiler!

I used the advice given about wrapping the handle of the pan with foil…that worked well.  I knew my cast iron skillet was jut too big for this dish halved.   I kept the broiler door open so I could control the contact with the heat.  In retrospect, I should have rotated the tortilla inside the pan so it got toasted all over on top.  Next time.  Because there will be a next time.

I didn’t have any problems with removing the tortilla from the pan.  I had been running the spatula around the edges as instructed, but just before going into the oven, I loosened the tortilla from the bottom too.  By that time the edges were completely set, and lightly browned.  A few minutes under the broiler, and we were ready to plate.

Tasting Notes~
This was easy, a bit time consuming, but not too bad, and it’s a great base to build on.  I was disappointed in the lack of flavor.  I seasoned my eggs with all of the ingredients, I seasoned my potatoes as well.  Still…it lacked a bit of something…umami.   We ate it fresh from the oven for brunch, and enjoyed it, but we were wanting for some other taste that simply wasn’t there.  I know eggs are great when Bruce doesn’t reach for Tabasco sauce.  This had him reaching for the ketchup as well…and me too, I’m almost ashamed to admit!  We both felt a bit of bacon or ham…sausage…something with a more pronounced flavor would be helpful.  Still…we wouldn’t hesitate to fix this again, but as more of a base element rather than the whole rodeo.

French Fridays with Dorie: Paris Mushroom Soup~

7 01 2011

It’s fog season in Northern California.  The Sierra’s have their snow-pack and the skiers are happy.  The rain has swollen the rivers, and the farmers are happy.  The temperatures and the dew point are colliding and the fog…creeps…in…on…little…cat…feet…  What could be better on a foggy night than a soul-warming bowl of soup?  Soul-warming soup with fresh rolls.  What great timing to be making “Paris Mushroom Soup” from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

Don’t ask me.  I was delusional.  It made dinner soooo late…  What the heck.  That’s one of the advantages of not having small children in the house.  With just the two of us, if either of us is going to faint from lack of food (yeah, right!), said person can grab nuts, yogurt, cereal, or any number of other reasonably healthy snacks.  It was also Friday night…and who wants to push Friday night out the door?  I’ve waited all day for this time!  LOL!

This soup goes together remarkably easily.  Someone had mentioned that it would go together even more quickly if someone bought pre-sliced mushrooms.  That someone would be me.  I work a 40+ hour week, so short cuts work for me!  I bought sliced for the soup, but fresh buttons for the salad.

The rolls?  The recipe for the rolls came from Nick Malgieri’s Modern Baker.  I found a recipe for Elegant Dinner Rolls…and that worked for me.  The dough was put together in a food processor…first time I ever did that!  LOL!  It came out very soft and light, like brioche dough…glad I didn’t have to hand beat that!  After their rise, they formed lovely little rolls that popped up so nice and pretty!  They were so pretty, I gave them not only an egg wash, but a sprinkle of poppy seeds as well.

Timing wasn’t difficult at all.  When the rolls went into the oven, it was time to finish the soup.  The immersion blender gave a rather coarse texture initially.  I wasn’t too sure I cared for that.  I boosted it up to high speed for a few seconds and the texture smoothed measurably.  Another dash on low brought out a nice, thick relatively smooth mushroom soup.  Salads were built in the plates, and soup was ladled over the paper thin slices of vegetables.  What a combination!

Technique & Tasting Notes~
The instructions for this recipe left me scratching my head a little bit in the early stages.  I had so much liquid coming off my mushrooms, and it sounded like the broth was supposed to evaporate…Not at my house!  LOL!  I finally gave up and proceeded because I’d cooked the vegetables and the mushrooms the right amount of time…  It was fine.  The directions about the use of a blender versus using an immersion blender was helpful.  I knew not to expect a smooth soup…unless I wanted to clean another appliance.   I was really surprised at how thick the soup was in the end.  It looked like it would be a brothy mess, but it pureed up beautifully thick and hearty, with an elegant flavor.   Hubby said he wasn’t sure he cared for it at first bite, or second, but by the fifth or sixth he was hooked.  He had two bowls.  I think that pretty much says it.  I’ll save the rolls for a tine when I’m blogging about the Modern Baker book.  That’s another winner!

FFwD: Spiced Carrots~

30 12 2010

My recipe selection this week was Dorie’s spiced carrots.   I fixed carrots with something else recently, and kicked myself for not fixing these…they were on the list, and I wanted a slightly sweet, slightly spicy contrast side dish.  Which is what I wanted again today.  A slightly sweet, slightly spicy side, to offset the saltiness of the ham and the creaminess of the au gratin potatoes.

The ingredient list is short, as is the prep…you’ll need carrots, onion, garlic, fresh ginger root, cardamom pods and chicken broth.  Oh, and a bit of butter, salt and white pepper.  This was my first experience using cardamom… I may be hooked.  I’m definitely studying it a little more now…especially since I’ve already invested in the whole jar of cardamom pods!

Tasting Notes~
The carrots get some sweetness from the ginger and the onions, but could benefit from careful cooking to caramelize them just a bit.  If you have the patience.  I was ready to eat as soon as the liquid evaporated and we had a butter sauce! LOL!  This might cook better in a covered skillet…  I’m just thinking that everything cooked just fine, but I didn’t cover the pan, and I cooked for 15 minutes, and still had a lot of liquid to cook off.  My carrots were stacked up in a saucepan.  I was thinking about how to spread them out more for caramelization…just a little color and sweetness…  As they were, they were completely delightful and quite easy to fix.  This could be a really nice “go to” sliced carrot recipe!

Happy New Year!!
As we close out another year, I thank you for dancing along this culinary path with me.  Every year I meet new folks and learn about new groups, and discover new cookbooks to explore.  Thank you dear Kayte…without your influence I wouldn’t have met Dorie, or Nick, or have 5 minute healthy artisan bread.  *giggle*  I love them all.  Thank you sweet Angela…Italian is at least a weekly visit, oftentimes twice a week.  When I say “pasta” my husband no longer cringes, but says, “What did you have in mind?”  You also introduced me to Giuliano Hazan…thank you so much! LOL!  Natashya…from cooking with Tyler on Fridays I met Deb, and have increased my reading.  What a joy that’s been!  Shari…you started it all when you “whisked” me off my feet and took me to LCB at Home.  Thank you dear, courageous Lady.  It’s been about 2 years now…maybe more…and it’s been a wonderful journey that I look forward to continuing, because I love learning!

FFwD: Beef Daube and Spiced Nuts~

24 12 2010

One of the recipe selections for December is Dorie’s “Go to Beef Daube,” which is basically a take on braised beef with what you choose to put with it.  Dorie chose carrots and parsnips, so that’s what we have in ours as well.  You can find the recipe in her book, Around My French Table.  This recipe is unique in that it calls for an entire bottle of a fruity red wine (a syrah was recommended) for braising.

Tasting Notes~
My own beef stew is hearty and full of thick gravy and vegetables, so I won’t be converting anytime soon, HOWEVER…  If you ran across a recipe challenge where you wanted to showcase a particular red wine, this would be the recipe to work with.  The recipe is solid and tasty.  I’d like to see what happens if it were left to marinate overnight…just for my own curiosity.  We enjoyed it as a stew with hot bread one night, and then converted it to Mexican shredded beef for tacos for a second go round by adding some red chili sauce and cumin.

Another of the selections for the month is Spiced Nuts:

These little nibbles couldn’t be easier to make, and they’d be hard to mess up.  It was only after I was well into the process that I realized I didn’t have chili powder.  Chilies, yes…chili powder…no.  I know that’s as hard for you to imagine as it was for me! LOL! So…I grabbed some fajita seasoning (it’s got chili powder in it…along with other seasonings) and added an extra pinch of cayenne pepper and a bit of extra sugar because the fajita seasoning also had salt in it…a little paprika as well…then the cinnamon…like I said…can you foul this up, really?  Could anything be much easier to mix up either?  Goodness!  I was trying to envision this…but it was so much easier than what I conjured up in my mind’s eye!  I selected pecan halves, raw Spanish peanuts and natural almonds for my mixture.   The nuts toast perfectly in the oven.

Tasting Notes~
Oh…these are nasty!  It’s hard to eat just one!  I can see that these little nibbles could easily find their way into a holiday repertoire!  A vellum cone of these little treats tied up with a bow and you’ve got a hot-sweet-spicy-salty snack that begs you to eat more-more-more!  As I mentioned, using raw, un-roasted nuts isn’t a problem, as they roast and toast nicely in the oven during the drying process.  The crust melts and forms a really yummy coating on the nuts that hardens nicely as the nuts cool.  Keep in a tightly closed container until the nuts disappear…I’m thinking they’ll be gone by the day after Christmas.  They’re just too addictive!  In my humble opinion, this is another good reason to purchase Around My French Table!  Definitely a “keeper” recipe!!

Shhhh…I’m sneaking back to the kitchen…