Saturday, January 8, 2011

Friday Night December 31, 2010, Skirt Steak

Well I am back, it's been nice having a break from trying to come up with interesting menus (although I do love it) each week. Just simple cooking or just eating the food that Tony cooks was nice to do for a change. With all the chaos around November and December it's been fun but I am glad it's over! I got a new toy from Tony for Christmas called a "Whip-it". It's a foam dispenser where you can make your own creation using different flavors or just sweetened cream to make an easy whipped cream. Some of the recipes that are included with the Whip-it are basil foam, lobster bisque, white truffle foam, orange whip and quick tiramasu. All of the recipes have heavy cream in the mix and some include gelatin. I had to incorporate some foam into my first menu of the year....

Gruyere and Parmesan Cups with Tomato and Tarragon Foam

I made something called Frico, which is grated hard cheese that is piled on a baking sheet and cooked in the oven until it melts together and ends up creating a lacy look. I used Gruyere and Parmesan with some fresh thyme and ground black pepper in mine. Cook in a 400 degree oven for about 6-8 minutes until it's golden brown. Working quickly and using an offset spatula you remove them while they are still hot and use a form of some kind (I used a rolling pin) just to drape over the hot Frico, within seconds it forms to the shape of the rolling pin and hardens to a crisp. I figured I would use my new "Whip-it" and make a tarragon foam to fill into the frico cup. I didn't have a very strong feeling that this was going to be a winner, but I had to start somewhere. Using the same ideas from the whip-it recipe booklet, I created my tomato and tarragon foam. In the end I should have used more gelatin or cream. It was foamy for a second and it quickly liquefied, creating a soggy mess (if you waited more than 5 seconds to eat it). We still enjoyed the frico but in the end it's not the ideal vehicle for a foam.

Marinated Skirt Steak with Grape Mostarda

Another gift from Tony was a cookbook from Eric Ripert, called Avec Eric. I came across a recipe that interested me because I had some red grapes left over from Christmas I wanted to use up, the recipe was grape mostarda. It's cooked down balsamic vinegar and sugar with cracked yellow mustard seeds, a cinnamon stick, red grapes and mustard powder, delicious. The note with this sauce said it's usually served with rich meats*. In another cookbook by Thomas Keller called AD Hoc at Home I came across a recipe using skirt steak, it's marinated in woody herbs and olive oil for four hours or overnight and simply cooked in a hot skillet on the stove and finished in the oven. It is a fantastic cut of meat that I don't think I ever cooked in that manner before. I may have used it for beef fajitas because it's similar to flank steak and you would use one of those in a quick stir fry like that. It was so tender for cooking fairly quickly like I did. Tony said it was similar to a braised short rib in texture (which is fall apart tender).

*Eric Ripert is mainly known for seafood, his restaurant Le Bernardin in NYC is all seafood. I would love to go sometime but a little afraid I wouldn't love all the seafood ( I am still working on myself to like seafood more). He has only pre-fixed menus, which means they serve you about 6-8 courses that they decide on and it's like $200.00 per person or something outrageous like that. His restaurant has had four stars form The New York Times longer than anyone in history and three stars from Michelin which is really good for someone in the USA, I am pretty sure Michelin is usually only in the UK.

Slow baked Purple Potatoes

I wasn't sure how I would cook the potatoes, I thought maybe mashed?? Maybe baked whole?? As I was deciding "French Food at Home" was on TV in the back round. I heard her say..."coming up next I will show you how to make melted potatoes in stock"... So that's what I did. It was a show on slow cooking and this was potatoes thinly sliced and layered in a baking dish with slow cooked onions and fresh thyme. After layering the potatoes like a potato gratin you pour in some chicken stock to come up about 1/2 way up the sides and cover with aluminum foil. bake in the oven at 325-350 degrees for about 2-3 hours. Removing the foil towards the end to evaporate the liquid. They were very good.

Radish and Watercress Greens with White Balsamic Vinaigrette

I got some radish sprouts and some heirloom purple watercress at Whole Foods and decided with everything that was going on with the dish (the grape mostarda with it's sauce and rich meat) a spicy, fresh, clean "green salad" would be a nice complement. I made a simple white balsamic dressing with shallots, Dijon and honey.

Blackberry Tomato Crumble with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

This is where I went crazy. As I was flipping through my new Evec Eric book I came across this dessert. It is one created by the pastry chef at Le Bernardin restaurant. I thought it sounds crazy with the tomatoes but if they serve this at Le Bernardin, it has to be good. Also with all the sweets from the holiday's (cookies, pies, chocolate, creamy stuff...) I was ready to make something "not so normal". Basically you make a simple syrup with water and sugar, you add a cup of fresh basil and a couple sprigs of fresh tarragon and some lemon juice and zest. You macerate the blackberry's and grape tomatoes (that I removed the skins from) in this cooled down flavorful syrup for at least an hour. While it's macerating in the refrigerator you make the crumble by combining almond and regular flour with butter, 2 kinds of sugar and salt. After this mixture chills you bake it in the oven for about 10-15 minutes and let cool. When serving you spoon some of the macerated fruit into the bowls (tomato is a fruit too) and spoon some of the syrup over the top, you sprinkle some of the crumble over that and a scoop of homemade ice cream (which I followed the Le Bernadin way of making it) over that. Top with some grated lemon zest and fresh tarragon if desired (I left out the fresh tarragon garnish). It was interesting and different. I wasn't completely loving it the way I wanted to but Tony said he loved it. John and Lisa came over to ring in the new year and I gave them a sampling of the dessert, overall different and interesting were the words to describe this dish. The ice cream was fantastic!

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