Sunday, August 22, 2010

Friday Night Bites #9

The last couple restaurants we have been to served thin bread sticks as a bar snack and I love the idea. They are thin and crispy and not too filling (as long as you don't eat too many). So I wanted to start things off with some homemade bread sticks. So I had to start of the menu with...what else??? I knew I wanted to try something new for dessert. I always make butter cakes when I make a cake as many people do. A butter cake starts with the creaming method (creaming butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add eggs and vanilla then incorporating the flour mixture in along with a buttermilk or sour cream kind-of-thing). I wanted to try a different method. I tried making a Genoise cake years ago and I remember thinking "I will never make that cake again, It's terrible", well that's why I wanted to make it. I know it's made by many pastry chefs as a go-to recipe and I wanted to concur it. It turns out I did a much better job this time and I will definitely make it again. I was also interested in making a Dacquoise which is a baked meringue that turns chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside (It has been a while since I made a dacquoise but in a different way, I made "mushrooms" and a "crust" for a "pizza cake" one time). I pictured the dacquoise layered with the genoise and chocolate and berries and whipped cream holding it together. Now I had to figure out the small bites between the bread sticks and dessert...

Herb Bread Sticks

My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead MethodI wanted them crunchy and flavorful. I decided the best recipe to use would be by favorite new pizza crust recipe in the Jim Lahey bread book (which you can order by clicking on the link below) because I love the crunchy crust and this recipe never disappoints, and the ease of it. It's so easy you mix about 5 things together for 30 seconds and let it sit for 2 hours and you've got the dough. After it sat for 2 hours I rolled out the dough to about 1/4 inch and used a pizza cutter to make long thin strips, about 1/4 inch wide. You want to go pretty thin because they will rise slightly in the oven and end up being about double the size you cut them. Before putting them in the oven I brushed the strips with olive oil then seasoned them with salt, pepper and fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme and oregano). I baked them in a 350 oven for 15-18 minutes. We loved them. Next time I will try adding some Parmesan cheese to the dough too.

Beet Custard with Whipped Goat Cheese Salad

I have wanted to make this Wolfgang Puck idea for a while. Every so often I see an article or something about Wolfgang's recipe ideas and the combination of red beets and goat cheese both cut into disks and layered nicely is always there. I am assuming this is sort of one of his signature dishes. I have done many salads with goat cheese and beets but not for a Friday Night. So I had the idea of putting my own spin on it and making it special by making a beet custard, then whip the goat cheese maybe with some heavy cream to make it super creamy. So I found a recipe for a savory custard and I kind-of followed it but kind-of did my own thing too. I heated some olive oil in a pan and added a couple shallots minced. After the shallots softened I added about 6 small beets that I roasted the day before and cut into small pieces. I found some beet juice at Whole Foods so I added some of that along with some half and half and reduced it a bit. Pureed it with my stick blender and strained it, then let it cool. Once cool add more half and half, 3 eggs, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. I baked them in oiled ramekins in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes (the ramekins were cooked in a water bath too). The goat cheese I just brought it to room temperature and whipped it with heavy cream until the consistency was just right then I seasoned with salt and pepper. I dressed some watercress with reduced beet juice and balsamic vinaigrette. I plated the watercress around the un-molded beet custard with a dollop of whipped goat cheese over top.

Fish and Sweet Potato Chips

I saw someone on foodtv make a skinny and long piece of fish that was battered and cooked in the oil in just about 3 minutes total, because it was cut so thin, about an inch at the most. It was stacked up on a plate with some fries and I thought that's a cleaver idea and it would make a good "Friday Night Bite". I found a batter on line for fish that was 1 cup flour, paprika, salt, pepper and then slowly whisk in 3/4 cup beer. I got some Halibut (I had never had halibut so it was new for me) I cut it in long thin strips and coated the fish with flour before dipping into the batter. I fried them in hot oil until golden and crunchy. I also threw in the oil some pre-roasted sweet potatoes just to crisp them up a bit (I saw someone do that on foodtv) I probably should have left them in longer to get them really crispy but they were still good. I served some lemon wedges on the side and I have to say it was pretty good.

Buffalo NY Strip Steak with Cherry Sauce, Fresh Corn Polenta and Snap Peas

For the first time in Friday Night Bites history, we were so full and we still had dessert coming so we made this dish for lunch on Saturday instead of Friday Night. This portion would have been much smaller if we had it Friday. I got a Buffalo NY Strip steak at Whole Foods. They say it tastes the same as a NY strip steak you get from a cow but with a lot less fat (the same as a skinless chicken breast). I thought I'd give it a go. I thought a cherry sauce would be nice. I softened some shallots in oil then added a good handful of jarred sour cherries and about 1 cup of sour cheery juice. I reduced that down then added a couple Tbsp of balsamic vinegar. I had some beef stock in the freezer that I cooked down from a quart to about 1/2 cup and added that in. I tossed in some finely chopped rosemary (about 1-2 Tbsp) and cooked another 10 minutes just to meld the flavors and to thicken slightly and just before plating I swirled in a Tbsp of butter. The Polenta was from Bon Apetite August 2010. It was very good just simply cooked with water and course corn meal simmered for 30 minutes then add in some fresh kernels from the cob and cook for 5 minutes and finish with a little marscarpone cheese. We charcoal grilled the buffalo steak and I made a parchment pouch to cook the snap peas on the grill just olive oil, salt, pepper and a wedge of lemon along with the snow peas for about 7-8 minutes on the grill. It was really good, the fresh corn polenta was really good with the cherry sauce dripping down from the steak. The steak was good but slightly underdone for me but perfectly cooked for Tony (I only got one steak with the idea that we would each just have a few slices over the polenta). Because the buffalo has much less fat I didn't want to overcook it and dry it out but next time I know to leave it on the grill a bit longer. The snap peas were good too, they still had a nice snap to them and still bright green.

Layered Dacquoise and Genoise with Fresh Raspberries and Chocolate

As I said in the opening these were two things I wanted to try the Dacquoise was the cooked meringue combined with ground almond and hazelnuts and the Genoise was the chocolate cake part. I layered the four layers (2 of each) with sweetened vanilla whipped cream, chocolate ganache and the top was something else I wanted to make which was Seven Minute Frosting. Its a frosting that is very much like a soft meringue, it's heated to 140 degrees over a water bath beating the whole time then continue beating on high speed while still in the water bath for exactly 5 minutes, remove from the water bath and beat 2 more minutes to cool it down. Over the Seven Minute Frosting I mounded some fresh raspberries because my favorite thing with chocolate is raspberries. By the way I also flavored the whipped cream with raspberry liquor and brushed some on top of the cake layers for more raspberry goodness and moistness. I really liked my new adventurous cake.

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