Sunday, March 28, 2010

Friday Night, Rack of Lamb

This menu started with the "persille'" that was a component of the lamb. It just takes that one seed to get things started. I was thinking about what I saw Jacques Pepin do on his cooking shows and he did something called a "persillade" to finish off a lot of his dishes. It's taking fresh parsley and garlic and chopping them together and chopping finely, then sprinkling it over a finished dish; meats, eggs, vegetables, etc... So I looked it up in my favorite book "Food Lover's Companion" to see what it said about it and basically it said just what I said but also...a dish finished in this fashion is often described as a persille'. For example lamb persille' is a lamb dish topped with persillade mixed with breadcrumbs." So the seed started to grow and here's the menu.

Creamy Mushroom Bruchetta, Watercress and Goat Brie Salad

I have been on this kick lately with mushrooms, I am discovering that they are pretty good. I have always ordered dishes without them or pushed them aside, and I am still not sure of some like I really don't think I like the portobello, maybe I'll try them again some day. Again, the show "Follow That Food" was on mushrooms and Gordon really raved about a dish that was made in Europe somewhere, "Sauteed Mushrooms in a Hot Crusty Pita". So instead of the pita I thought that same mixture would be good on crusty bread and so that's what I did. I used Baby Bella and I used some European style butter that I found in the cheese department at Whole Foods, that butter costs a little more but it's really something delicious. You can get that recipe on and instead of pita I took Chibatta bread and sliced about 1/2 inch slices and toasted them under the broiler on both sides, salt, pepper and olive oil. Then just for fun I saw this goat's milk brie cheese at WF, never had it before so I gave it a go and it's a little funky but it was very nice in our opinion. Along with the mushroom bruchetta I served the cheese and some good looking watercress tossed in some homemade shallot and sherry vinaigrette. Delicious!!

I probably wouldn't have done the horseradish creme with this dish because it already had a lot going on but Tony had picked up some fresh horseradish a couple days before and I wanted to use it. I mixed sour cream, lemon juice, fresh horseradish, salt and pepper, honey... I think that was it, just keep tasting it until it's right. I seasoned then seared the rack of lamb in a skillet and removed it to a plate. I brushed mustard on top of the rack where I wanted the persille' topping to go. For the persille' I combined a couple cloves of garlic with a handful of fresh parsley and chopped it, then mixed in an equal amount of fresh bread crumbs (that I let sit out for about 3 hours to dry a bit) and just pressed this mixture over the rack on the top side. I covered it and put it in the refrigerator just because I wanted to get that step done so there is less to do later. Then when I was ready to roast it I allowed the lamb to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before putting it in a pre-heated 425 degree oven. I roasted it for about 30 minutes but for me I should have left it another 5 -8 minutes. Tony thought it was perfectly done but he usually orders things more rear and I am more medium-well.

For the roasted garlic mashed potatoes I just roasted the whole head of garlic in a 400 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes. I first cut the top off and drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper over the garlic then wrap it tightly in aluminum foil then into the oven. Make the mashed potatoes as you normally would and just squeeze all the garlic from the paper into the mix.

For the swiss chard I cooked off some bacon and removed it from the pan. Drain the extra oil off and add in the swiss chard stems that are cut into 1 inch pieces. cook for a few minutes and add the swiss chard leaves that are cut so it's easy to eat. Season with salt and pepper and add the bacon back in to warm though. I used thick cut bacon just to get a more meaty bite, and it was good but you don't need too much bacon maybe about 1/4 cup to a whole bunch of chard.

Cherries Jubilee aside a "Bruleed" Crepe Pie with Chocolate and Cherry Sauces

I saw a picture of a dessert where the crepes were stacked high and it looked like a cake with many layers. I remember trying this same idea along time ago, I don't remember if it was a success. I thought of the crepes I made about a month ago on Friday night the butter and sugar crepes, they were so good. So I thought I would do the same idea but stack them and the butter and sugar will kind of "glue" them together then I will cut a shape out of them and use the blow torch to "brule" the edges. Well the "brule" thing didn't work but the crepes were very good and I love how it looks. I found a jar of cherries at WF and I needed some kind of fruit to go with the crepe pie and I thought I would do Cherries Jubilee. It's cherries cooked with a little sugar and Kirsch (cherry flavored liquor), then you flambe' it and pour it over ice cream. I used Cherry Garcia ice cream. If you are going to have cherries you need some kind of chocolate so I made some chocolate ganache and to enhance the cherry flavor I got some cherry juice and reduced it to get a nice syrup for the plate. I was trying to made a decoration but it didn't work, I think the chocolate ganache was too thick, but it tasted really good!

Got some Sun

We've been considering another quick trip to Mohegan Sun Casino for a while now.  We needed to get out of the house, so today was the day...

We left the house about 11:30 and headed down Route 290.  By the time we arrived, we were hungry for lunch so we immediately tried to find Bobby's Burger Palace.  This is the latest restaurant by Bobby Flay of Food Network fame.  We had heard about the place from a feature on Channel 5's Chronicle program.

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After finding a seat at the bar, we each ordered a beer and a burger.  Jeanne went with the "L.A. Burger" and I did the "Napa Valley Burger".  I guess we were in a California mood today. We ordered one side of sweet potato fries to share.

The burgers arrived with a side of regular potato fries (not sweet potato), but this worked out OK.  They were well salted and crispy.  The chipolte dipping sauce they were served with was great.  The burgers were good, we were very impressed with the bun, creative toppings and the high quality pickle on the side.  Unfortunately, the burger itself was mediocre at best.  It seemed that not the best quality beef was used, or maybe it was just over handled.  It's hard to describe, but the burger meat had some little hard bits in it.  It was the type of thing that you avoid when you form your own burgers at home.

After lunch, we did some wondering around the casino.  After a bit we ended up at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville for a drink.  The margaritas were quality and the atmosphere reminded us of Key West (or at least the last Jimmy Buffet concert at Gillette Stadium).  Here's some video of the restaurant's hourly "blender" show....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday Night, Tilapia

As you all may know I am new to the seafood thing. Salmon is so far my favorite. I have tried Black Sea Bass (Momofuko restaurant) and that was a strong fish flavor so not one of my favorites. I had salmon a few ways and...It's good. A few people have said to try Tilapia so that's what I did. I think it was meant to be that I try this recipe because I was trying to get more familiar with sauces and in my "Food Lover's Companion" book, I saw a sauce called, Bagna Cauda [BAHN-yah KOW-dah] so I was reading about it and it's a specialty sauce made in Piedmont, Italy, made up of olive oil, butter, garlic and anchovies, usually served warm with raw vegetables. So I went on The Food Network about five minutes after reading about that sauce to look up a tilapia recipe. I came across "Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Couda". The only reason I was drawn right to it is because it was rated with 5 stars and about 250 people rated it. You know it's good when that many people rated it with 5 stars and I couldn't believe that the recipe included the very sauce I was curious about. So when I went to Whole Foods Market I went to the fish counter and the guy was just putting out some fresh tilapia, of all things. So It was meant to be...

Smoked Salmon Beggars Purses with Spicy Lemon-Dill Oil

I don't remember what gave me the idea to make these but I have seen different chefs do Beggars Purses in the past and if I made some, it was a while ago. It's crepes that are filled with something and then tied with a long piece of scallion or leek. I thought I would just put a dollop of creme fraiche (basically a sour cream and whipped cream combined) and smoked salmon and maybe some capers or chives, I wasn't exactly sure. I looked on and Michael Chiarello has a recipe that's pretty much what I was thinking except he was using marscarpone cheese and cream cheese, both of which I had in the refrigerator, so I decided to make it that way. His recipe doesn't have a sauce but I wanted to make something so I mixed together in a blender 1/2 of a bunch of fresh dill (blanched and shocked in cold water to help retain the green color), 1 tsp mustard, 1/2 of a lemons juice and zest, 1 Tbsp capers, 6-7 peri-peri picante peppers (tiny little spicy red peppers from a jar), salt and pepper to taste and olive oil to emulsify. It was perfect with the Beggars Purses. I garnished the plate with a few more spicy peppers and very finely cut scallions at a very sharp angle so you get long strands, then into ice water until they get crisp and curly.

Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Cauda Sauce

This is Giada De Laurentis' recipe, you can find it on We didn't get a very good picture of this but it was on the plate. The tilapia was simply cooked in a skillet with olive oil for a couple minutes on each side and the citrus bagna cauda sauce was spooned over. The mistake that we made was Tony offered to spoon the sauce on the fish while I finished cooking the rest of the fish fillets and I forgot to tell him that the sauce is 6 portions...the zest in the sauce was a little much, so if you make this don't use anymore than 1/6th of the sauce per portion. Otherwise it was good, very mild tasting fish.

Zucchini, Carrot and Baby Red Potatoes cooked en Papillote

En papillote means to cook in paper or parchment. In order to do this you really have to cut everything fairly thin, otherwise it can take forever to cook. I thought the potatoes might take longer than the vegetable so I made two packages. The potatoes I cut into 1/4 inch disks. I drizzled them with olive oil, salt and pepper and I added some sprigs of fresh thyme. For the vegetables I cut them into a very thin Julienne and put them on a piece of oiled parchment. I topped them with more thyme, a couple pats of butter, salt and pepper and a couple thin slices of lemon. You top the oiled parchment paper with another piece of oiled parchment and fold all around the edges to seal it tightly. I pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees and put the parchment packages on a sheet pan. I cooked the potatoes for 30 minutes and the vegetables for 20 minutes and they were perfectly done. I do like to cook this way because the flavor has no where to go. I really noticed this with the potatoes, they were very potatoey (if you will).

Caramelized Pineapple with Creme Caramel and Banana Ice Cream

This was from "Follow That Food" show on pineapples. I remember Julia Child saying her favorite dessert is a creme caramel and I had never made one up until now (that I can recall). I remembered she said that because Gordon Elliot (the host of the show) said the same thing. So I had to make it. I thought it was good but I'd like to do it again and add some Flor De Sal to the caramel, I love what salt can do to caramel. I almost did it but decided to follow the recipe exactly. I also would fill up the ramekin a bit higher to get a taller finished creme caramel. Otherwise it was very simple to do. The pineapple is cut into thin rounds and basically is macerated with a mixture of some of the caramel from the creme caramel, orange juice, rum, vanilla extract and raisins. As you know I would have made the ice cream myself but I couldn't find a good recipe using eggs. They all used corn syrup or sweetened condensed milk and I just gave up and decided to buy some. All I could find at the store was Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey which was perfect because the chocolate chunks in it worked with everything. It was all a great combination together.

By the way, I love how things happen. A few weeks ago I told you about a brazilan mojito I had at Bar Boulud's in NYC and how I was trying to make it at home. Well we got the April addition to Food and Wine magazine and Daniel Boulud was featured in it. One of the recipes they put in the magazine was a drink that was very similar to the mojito. It was a Caipirinha which is 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice, plus 3 lime wedges, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 ounce simple syrup and 2 ounces of cachaca. I changed the lime to lemon, I put in natural sugar cane granules, a bit of fresh ginger and some fresh mint and muddled all that then added the cachaca and ice and shook it with ice. I think that is it exactly!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Friday Night, Orecchiette Alforno

I thought we needed a good "comfort food" night. This is a recipe I had made many times before, except it usually is called Penne with Five Cheeses. Quick story... We had been to Alforno restaurant in Providence RI before, that's where we went the night Tony purposed to me. One day a few years later I was watching the Bearfoot Contessa on the food network. She was making this recipe and she said she ate it at Alforno restaurant and loved it, she asked for the recipe and this is it. So I printed up the recipe and soon after we went to the restaurant and it was still on the menu so I ordered it. I was soooo good, it was made with a really good imported pasta that was cooked al dente. It's mixed with a creamy cheesy mixture and baked so the top gets slightly charred and the bottom half is so creamy and yummy...

Antipasto Platter with Homemade Ciabatta Bread

I wanted to do an appetizer with an array of different flavors and textures because the main dish would be just the one pasta dish. So I did some different olives, cherry peppers stuffed with cheese, artichoke hearts, caprese salad (stacked mozzarella, fresh tomato and fresh basil) and what I thought was going to be something different and ended up being a fancy biscuit. I saw this recipe for "Pancetta and Peccorino Cakes", and read the recipe quickly and it seemed like something different, and it looked like something that was going to be baked and crispy (which I wanted something crispy for the texture). It was good but I had made the homemade ciabatta bread and it was like having two breads. It was all very good and the bread was great, I love that book I got called "My Bread" by Jim Lahey. If you want to impress your friends you must try his recipes.

Orecchiette Al forno with Five Cheeses and Pancetta

Al forno is Italian for "baked or roasted". This is an easy and great recipe, it's not low calorie though. In a bowl add 2 Cups heavy cream, 1 Cup crushed canned tomatoes, 1/2 cup grated peccorino romano, 1/2 cup shredded Italian fontina, 1/4 cup gorgonzola, 2 Tbsp ricotta, 1/4 fresh mozzarella and 6 basil leafs chopped. Par-cook Penne or Orecchiette pasta, about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way done. Combine with the cream mixture and pour into a gratin dish then dot with a bit of butter to help it brown. Place in a pre-heated 500 degree oven and bake for 7-10 minutes until bubbly and brown on top. I like to add some thick cut pancetta that I cook ahead of time and chop, just add it to the cream mixture when you add the par-boiled pasta.

Frozen Chocolate Malted, Malted Milk Balls and Gourmet Smores Stack

Well guess what? I bought some malted milk powder and it was inspired by our NYC trip. When we stopped at Momofuko's Milk Bar for cake that night Tony had a chocolate cake that had malted milk crumbs and charred marshmallow between the layers. I got some malted milk powder when we got home. So I saw a recipe for the Frozen Chocolate Malted and decided to do that. So what goes with something like that??? I remembered Tony's cake had the marshmallows and so I made homemade marshmallow, homemade Graham crackers and made a double stack of the smores with chocolate rounds that I melted and formed into the same size round as I made the other two components. Put it in a low oven for about 5 minutes so everything is ooowy and gooey. I needed one more thing to make the plate look finished so I made the malted milk balls, which is just melted white chocolate mixed with the malted powder until it's thick enough to form into balls and then chill. Once the are hard dip them in melted chocolate and chill again.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Saturday Night, Birthday Pork

Yes that's right, Saturday night this time. Well I don't know where I got it, but I got a cold that took away my taste buds, which was not very nice. I went to the store for all the ingredients on Thursday and did some prep. When I woke up on Friday, I just wasn't feeling up to cooking, or eating, because everything I ate had no taste. I got about 30% of my taste back on Saturday so at least I could taste a little. Saturday was Tony's 39th birthday and I asked him what he wanted for dinner. He suggested... "a whole pork roast maybe the one you made before with peaches"... I made this recipe from Jamie Oliver a few years back and it was very good and I have been meaning to make it again. It calls for a whole pork roast with the bones in. Bone-in makes a big difference in the finished roast, but I have trouble finding bone-in unless it is around the Holiday's. I thought well I will make the pork with peaches if the store has a bone-in pork roast but if they don't I will make this other pork roast in my Thomas Keller cookbook. Well they didn't have bone-in and so I made Fig Stuffed Pork Loin from Thomas Keller.

Devils on Horseback

If you read my last post it was about our trip to NYC last weekend and this was my recreation of one of the appetizers we had at The Spotted Pig. It is prunes stuffed with pear wedges and then it's wrapped in bacon and roasted. I first soaked the prunes in port wine for about an hour and I roasted wedges of pear for about 15 minutes. Assembled them with the bacon and put them in the oven until the bacon was crisped up. I thought they were very close to the restaurant but Tony thought they tasted sweeter than he remembered. Maybe my taste buds were off because of my cold, so he may be right. But we did eat them so fast that I didn't get a chance to snap a picture of them.

Fig Stuffed Pork loin

You brine the whole pork loin for 10 hours and then remove it from the brine, rinse and dry it. Cut a hole through the middle of the pork to make way for the stuffing. His recipe for the stuffing is figs, balsamic vinegar, sugar, black peppercorns and lemon juice. After making it I realized he probably meant fresh figs. I used dried figs. It tasted fine in the end but mine didn't break down like his looked. I made the filling a couple days ahead so when I took it out to use it I reheated it and added a bit of water and let it cook down for probably an hour, I wanted it to soften up a lot. To finish the fig filling you saute some bread pieces and fennel in oil then add the fig jam with some chicken stock. Let it cool before stuffing it in the pork. I stuffed it and trussed it and put it in the oven for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees and it was perfectly done.

Glazed sweet potatoes

These were really good too. They are another Thomas Keller recipe. They are cut into thick steak fry shaped wedges, placed in a single layer in a baking pan, pats of butter over the top of them, covered tightly with aluminum foil and then baked for 35 minutes (that can be done ahead of time). Just before serving dip one of the cut sides into brown sugar and back into the baking pan with the sugar side up and then placed under the broiler until it caramelizes. I thought it would have been fine with less butter and no sugar. The extra butter and sugar were good but not necessary.

Tempura Brussels Sprouts with Spicy Soy Vinaigrette

This was another NYC dish we had at Momofuko. It was so good and I think even with only 30% of my taste buds working, I did a good job on these. The first hint was that Tony couldn't stop snacking on them as I was making them (before sitting down to eat dinner), and all I heard was mmmmmmm, woww, yummmm. I have a book that gives the definition of everything food related and for Tempura it says...A Japanese specialty of batter dipped pieces of fish or vegetables. It is usually accompanied by soy sauce...So I looked in my Joy of Cooking book and found a tempura batter which to my surprise was only two ingredients...2 cups of ice water to 2 cups sifted self rising flour. You mix the flour and water together, not too much, it will be a bit lumpy. Then I thought OK well I need a soy vinaigrette and the one that was served at Momofuko was a fish sauce vinaigrette. I don't have any fish sauce so I combined a little worcheshire sauce, soy sauce, saracha hot sauce and bit of honey to even things out a bit and then I whisked in a little olive oil to make it a vinaigrette. It was perfect. After draining the fried tempura Brussels sprouts on paper towels I tossed them in the bowl with the vinaigrette.

Banana Cake with Hazelnut filling and Hazelnut Praline Crunch

I wasn't happy with this cake. It was OK but I was trying to reproduce the cake at The Milk Bar in NYC and I wasn't even close. I made a banana cake recipe from Martha Stewart and I found the Gianduja Chocolate at Whole Foods that I had never heard of before. It's a hazelnut flavored chocolate. I made the hazelnut praline crunchy bits. I thought the filling was almost caramel with the hazelnut chocolate mixed in so I made Dulce De Leche by slowly heating sweetened condensed milk and it slowly turns into a caramel color, texture and taste. So I mixed it into the chocolate that I melted and as I was mixing it, it started to seize up. I thought it would be OK but it ended up hardening too much and it wasn't the owy, gooey, deliciousness that the other cake was. The cake itself wasn't banana-ee enough and I made a cream cheese frosting that wasn't on the original (I am not sure what the frosting was). So we just have to go back to NYC so I can try it again and study it better.