Thursday, January 28, 2010

molten lava chocolate cake

recipe adapted from paula deen

one slash of a fork and its molten center will spill like a lush, saucy secret. this cake is unbelivably moist, allows you to play with flavorings and it's great for a small dinner party. i can't remember where, but definetely on a pastry chef's blog i read that this cake is boring and commonplace as old shoes. as i was reading all the reasons i shouldn't bother, the fiercest of cravings took hold.

people are sick of it? i refuse to believe it. it's cliche? ts ts, i can live with that. i could care less about which foods are trendy today. i like what i like and this thing will grace my table a lot more than any other chocolate dessert. it's very easy to make, it takes 25 minutes! 25! from start to ready-to-be-eaten, and it looks good enough to entertain. you can make multiple toppings and each guest gets their own little cake to dress up as they will. can't think of a better ending to a meal.

2 oz/56 gr bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa)
1 1/4 stick/140 gr butter
1/2 cup/ 75 gr all-purpose flour
1 cup/80 gr confectioner's sugar
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 ts vanilla extract
2 tb orange/hazelnut/peppermint liqueur

preheat oven to 425F/218C.
butter and sugar 6 x 6 oz ramekins or 4 x 7 3/4oz.
melt the chocolate with the butter in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds to avoid scorching or use a double boiler. add the flour and sugar. stir in the eggs and the yolks until smooth. add vanilla and flavoring of choice, i used some coconut extract. decrease to 1 teaspoon if you'll use extract instead of liqueur.
divide equally between ramekins. bake for precisely 14 minutes.

let cool a few minutes and invert unto dessert plates. i do not doubt for a second that more often than not we'll eat them straight out of their ramekins, but if you wanna get fancy, beat up a cup of whipping cream, divide it into smaller portions and mix each with praline, nutella, pistachio paste, peppermint brittle, cream of coconut or what have you, for pure, utter indulgence. as if the cake were not enough on its own!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

beef with sauce bearnaise

every now and then i get a song stuck in my head and it goes on and on. not a long while ago it used to be something from nirvana or queen or guns'n'roses. look at what life does to you: for the past two days the song i keep hearing is 'if you're happy and you know it'. i simply can't get rid of it. also clap your hands to support my daughter's budding organization, Say No to Potty, with its charming slogan that she obstinately announces every chance she gets: no potty never! no potty never! which is why i need this:

that and a nice relaxing evening, after the brat is down for the night. it's our version of date night. we just don't leave the house for it. in all honesty most days i don't have the energy to get dressed up and put make up on and arrange childcare to go to a restaurant. and since you're making the effort, you'd better go someplace nice, right? so there's that expense. and when i want to avoid it and go to a more accessible place i keep thinking i could've cooked better for half the dough. so instead i splurge on a nice cut of aged beef, which is what my husband would invariably order. filet mignon or ribeye or maybe a ny strip. either way this meal is ready in 20 minutes. i skipped the starch for lighter fare. roasted asparugus is plenty with the meat. i added red peppers before remembering said brat is not concerned :).

preheat oven to 400F. snap asparagus and line it up on a baking sheet. toss to coat in a tablespoon of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. roast for 20 to 25 minutes.
remove the meat from the fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking. season simply with salt and pepper, maybe some herbs de provence. in a large pan heat 1 tb butter with 1 tb olive oil. when the foaming subsides place your meat in the pan and back off. do not mess with it. after 4 minutes flip it and cook for another 2 for medium rare. do not exceed 4 minutes on side two or you'll be eating rubber.
the sauce is my husband's favourite condiment for steak. i love tarragon, so it's a reccuring piece. whisking constantly in a double boiler while keeping an eye on the meat may be easy when your nerves are not frazzled at the end of a long day. there's an easier way: prepare the reduction while the meat is getting to room temp, and while the meat is cooking blend the sauce. in the blender. ta-dam!
to make the sauce bearnaise:
2 tb shallot, chopped
2 sprigs fresh tarragon, chopped
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 egg yolks
1 stick butter, melted
2 tb tarragon finely chopped
1 ts lemon juice
salt, white pepper
combine the tarrgon, shallots, vinegar and wine in a small pan, bring to boil and then simmer until reduced by half. strain, set aside and let cool.
blend the egg yolks with the reduction. with the blender running start streaming melted butter slowly, and i mean slowly, until you have incorporated a third of the butter, then crank to high speed and pour at ease. blend until emulsified. add the chopped tarragon and lemon juice. season with salt and white pepper. keep warm if your meat is not cooked.
if you don't have champagne vinegar dry vermouth works just as well.

if you have leftover sauce don't toss it! use it the next morning instead of hollandaise for eggs benedict. i find them completely interchangeable. ever had shrimp bearnaise? makes for a quick delicious lunch. just be careful you don't scramble it when you warm it up.

Monday, January 25, 2010

casual friday: onion pizza

although it's monday. i just like the expression. casual friday is any day you feel like slacking a little bit. or a day when your consort keeps imploring junk delivery. and once your child hears the word 'pizza' being uttered it doesn't leave her brain, not for a flying pony. are you to order pizza then? to quiet the revolution and to honor casual friday - which, stop kidding yourself: it's bound to come around once in a blue moon. ts, ts, ts. i would go without pizza forever [gasp!] rather than submitting to that pizza hut racket. on a mad day i'll buy the dough and skip a step and still make my own, thank you very much. (which is not to say i've never ordered pizza - just that each time i did, i ate it with a side of bitter regret).

now this is casual, remember? no measuring allowed. [taps pen against teeth] except for the dough, if you insist on making it yourself - leave a comment if you'd like my recipe.

preheat the oven to 400F. stretch the dough with your hands to fit whatever sheet/pan/stone you're using to bake it. spread with a few tablespoons pizza sauce. chop some bacon and scatter it across, then a cubed red pepper. crumble a chunk of feta - not a lot, say a piece the size of an egg. then grate some parmesan and sprinkle both cheeses on the pie. for the grand finale, thinly slice a medium onion, and spread it in a single, continuous layer on your cutting board. pour a little olive oil on top, sseason with salt and pepper, and mix it very well with your hands, crushing it a little as you go, as if you were kneading. distribute evenly on the pizza.

bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of your dough and the level of char you like on the top ingredients. serve with a green salad if you like. there were no leftovers. not a crumb.

Friday, January 22, 2010

a cure for a crummy day

well, more like a band-aid. this was a special kind of crummy. the kind that combines a hateful migraine with piercing toddler wails, a messy house and an improvident trip to the market. ever had one of these? the market was by far its crowing moment, since i forget my wallet at home and their stupid machine kept refusing my check. a nice person who works there gave zhara a cookie to prevent bleeding ears in other shoppers, which she sneezed all over my glasses as i was fixing her scarf.
so it was nice to come home to these.

i made mini cupcakes because they're toddler-friendly and as a part of my ongoing Battle against Large Portions. fact is, we could use some dieting around here, but we're simply not able to resist food. any food. so at least we should rationalize how much of it we eat. yes, we should. in real life however, these filled my kitchen with an unbearably tempting aroma as they baked. i'm sad to report some of them never got to meet their frosting. some never even got to Be Cool. they are weightless and fluffy, especially when consumed the same day. be sure to cover if you have leftovers, as they will dry some if you don't.

1 1/4 cups/150 gr flour
1/2 ts baking powder
1/4 ts baking soda
pinch salt
1 1/4 sticks salted butter/140 gr
1 cup/250 gr sugar
2 eggs
3/4 ts vanilla extract
1/2 ts coconut extract
2/3 cups/150 ml coconut milk
3/4 cups coconut flakes, optional

preheat oven to 350F. mix the flour with the baking powder, soda and a pinch of salt and set aside.
cream the butter with the sugar until very pale and fluffy, about 10 minutes. add the eggs one at a time, then add the flavors. slowly mix in the coconut milk and the dry ingredients until just incorporated. fill your paper cups no more than 2/3, they will rise a bit. yields a dozen cupcakes, or in my case 24 mini and 6 regular size.

the before and after photo:

i left out the topping: i'm not much for anything that calls for cups of powdered sugar. use your favourite one or whip 1 cup cream + 2 tb powdered sugar + 1 ts coconut extract + some pink coloring. pink tastes better. and some heart-shaped confetti won't hurt.

notice the remarkable restraint in decorating, as i mostly tend to pile it on:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

red pepper pesto

my daughter's infatuation with red peppers continues, and i'm scrambling to find new recipes for them. i've stuffed them twice, with meat and with orzo, and i made sauces, for pasta and meatballs. yesterday i was going to do a sundried tomato-roasted garlic pesto, until i realized it was too late to start roasting garlic. so i went this way instead.

1 12 oz jar (450 gr) roasted red peppers
1/2 cup (4 lg) toasted sliced almonds
2 small zucchini
1 cup parmesan
1 large garlic clove
1/2 ts salt
1/2 ts pepper
2-3 tb olive oil

we love pesto in any variety. and we like zucchini, but you can sub 3 cups basil leaves for a more traditional approach. you may need to add more salt and pepper, i try to use the bare minimum. this pesto does not require as much oil to emulsify, as the peppers are packed with moisture. so once you've toasted the almonds you just put everything in the processor and give it a whirr. yields 2 1/4 cups.
when i make pasta using this i like to add a good glug of heavy cream and more cheese on top. i also like this on bruschette, as a spread on sandwiches, over polenta or even as a base on pizza. it's nutty and sweet, but with a nice acidic punch.
i asked her if she liked it, and she made this face and said, mmm-hmmm:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

the crepe

seriously. my lifetime favourite crepe. hubby thinks so too. i asked, since i may be a little biased. i could eat the sole of my shoe if it were covered in that caramel sauce. it's the kind of thing you bite into and 'ode to joy' just blares off your taste buds into your brain.

the crepes are thin and crispy-edged and fried by my husband. what, those are all legitimate requirements of the perfect crepe. the filling is juicy, tart apples stewed until just soft and perfumed. as if it were not enough, the salted caramel takes it to eleven. dreamy.

for the crepes:
4 cups cold milk
3 eggs
pinch salt
4 tb sugar
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ts vanilla, optional

beat the eggs with the sugar and salt; stream in the milk and then slowly add the flour while mixing. you may not use all of it; the batter needs to be the consistency of a creme anglaise, or eggnog. slightly thickened liquid. way thinner than pancake batter. add vanilla only if you plan to keep all fillings sweet. refrigerate for one hour. although i've been known to skip this step. i'm a poor planner. i really wish i could foresee my cravings.
the apple filling i had leftover from this strudel i made the same day. it's very easy: mix a vanilla pudding into 2 cups apple juice. chop 4-5 apples - some that are tart and firm, and add them to the juice. cook over medium low heat while whisking the time the pudding will have thickened, the apples will be cooked through. or use the filling i stuff my pastry horns with.

i've seen this caramel recipe all over, but only here it's done with salted butter and that's what sold it. i made it as a gift and committed a major oopsie: i added twice the cream the recipe calls for. nobody was hurt. nobody noticed. but let's go with what it's supposed to be, when you're not on the phone holding your sides laughing cause you're talking to funny people.
1 cup sugar, 6 tb salted butter, 1/2 cup heavy cream. melt the sugar, add the butter, when it's all melted add the cream. it will bubble furiously, use a tall pot. stir. keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.

back to the crepes. heat a nonstick skillet and grease it either by lightly brushing oil with a balled-up paper towel or pastry brush, either with pam. must be repeated before each crepe. do a try-out to see how much batter you need for one: for a 8inch skillet a small ladle aka 3/4 cup will be perfect. pour the batter while twirling the pan to spread in a thin layer. fry over medium heat until set, about 4-5 minutes, then flip and fry 2 minutes more. fill as soon as cool enough to handle, with jams, nutella or what have you. if you wish to make a savory cheese crepe, put the cheese in the middle of the crepe after you've flipped it. fold in half. the cheese will melt and be delicious.

if you can resist this, who are you?

spinach green bean soup

this is the bastardized cousin of the portuguese kale soup i love. there was simply no kale at the grocer's. fresh spinach makes a nice substitution. in true slacker form, i buy the one in the bag, washed and trimmed. only this time, it was gargantuan, with stems the size of pencils, leaves thick and sorta ruffled. tasted fine, but it makes you wonder what in the hell kind of fertilizer they used. boy, do i miss going into the garden and just picking stuff.

i saved the monster, for chopped creamed spinach and used some baby spinach that was intended for salad. i know that picture doesn't look like much, but it's a delicious soup, and easy as sin. my daughter deemed it 'pink' and it was all good and dandy from there.

1 italian sausage, casing removed
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 red pepper
2 carrots
2 cups green beans
4 cups baby spinach
3-4 tb tomato sauce
2-3 tb heavy cream
1-2 tb lemon juice
1/2 ts cinnamon
2 tb chopped parsley
salt, pepper

i never measure anything. sometimes i stray even when baking. just taste and adjust accordingly. do not forget the cinnamon. in my book, this is something i use in desserts. and to top my cappuccino. the only time i used it in a savory dish it was accidental - and catastrophic. well in this soup it sings.
slice the sausage and roll each slice to round it up, like tiny meatballs. tiny. sear on all sides in a bit of hot oil. remove to plate and add the onion, and after 5 minutes the garlic. cook 2 more minutes, then add the chopped pepper. saute 5 minutes more. add 6 to 8 cups of water or stock. bring to boil. get the spinach in there and the beans, if using fresh or frozen. if using canned, add them with the tomato sauce. this is when the cinnamon takes a dive. bring to boil again and simmer partialy covered for about a half hour. then add tomato sauce, heavy cream, lemon juice and simmer 5 minutes more. sprinkle the parsley and turn off the heat. cover and let it rest for 15 minutes.
you can also add a bit of allspice to it, and use chickpeas instead of green beans. that is what the kale soup calls for but i've an unexplained antipathy for chickpeas. or to be honest, more like extreme prejudice: can't stand them with the glorious exception of roasted red pepper hummus, which i just might make this weekend.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

orange chicken

my princess ate an alarming quantity for dinner. she ate an alarming quantity of meat! actual, real, meat. not hot dogs, not ground meat, but chicken breast!! i prepared it a lot of different ways for her and it never hit home, until now. and that is not all: i served the chicken with an asparagus risotto, that i made more for myself, but which turned to be magical. i'll call it the speechless risotto, which is what i was, when i heard the words: 'more asparagus, please' coming out of my daughter's full mouth. aaaand, she ate a whole tomato. courtesy of the tomato flower i bothered to make.

1 boneless chicken breast
1 egg
handful of flour
salt, pepper

for the glaze:
1/2 cup apricot jam
3 tb orange juice
3 tb hoisin sauce
1 tb soy sauce
1 ts rice vinegar
pinch cayenne

cube the chicken breast, and season it. dredge through flour, then the beaten egg, then again through flour and fry on all sides until golden. remove to paper towel to drain.
mix all the ingredients for the glaze and bring to boil. simmer for a couple minutes or until it coats the back of the spoon. put the chicken in and mix. serve immediatly.
at least this once dinner was a successful affair!


we love this little treat as an appetizer or for lunch with a salad. i used to buy it prepared in those aluminum trays that you just bake, but the last ones i got were just so oily i was put off. the filling was fine, but that tray had a puddle of fat in the bottom, and the dough was anything but crispy, laden with it. not to mention you save a lot if you make it yourself.

the only important thing to remember is phyllo dough dries quickly so you have to work fast. plan to make this when you'll have no interruptions. i made the filling while my daughter was drinking her milk before the nap, thinking that'll be enough to finish. it's like she knows when i need her to be good and take a long nap - she slept for a half hour. so i just baked one dozen and froze the rest. it's great, actually. cause then you can just bake it on a whim.

1 pack phyllo
2 packs frozen spinach
5 strips bacon
4 medium onions
5 garlic cloves
1/2 lb feta cheese
1 ts herbs de provence
salt, pepper,

defrost the phyllo overnight in the fridge or 5 hours at room temp. the bacon was an incidental discovery. one day as i was making this i realized my favourite saute pan which i use for the onion was occupied by some bacon i was frying to make a turkey club for my husband. i figured, how bad can it be, to fry the onion in the rendered fat? so now that's how i always make it. i always have a million uses for bacon, that's never going to waste. so fry 5 strips and remove. finely slice the onion and add to the hot fat. add a pinch of salt, pepper and herbs. saute over low heat for about 10 minutes. while that's happening, defrost the spinach in the microwave and drain very well. mince the garlic or use a press if you've got one that actually works. add it to the onion and mix. cook two minutes. mind that you don't burn it, you'll have to toss everything because it gets very bitter. [taps pen against teeth: don't ask how i know that.] in goes the spinach, mix and turn off the heat. crumble the feta and mix it thoroughly in the spinach. let cool completely.
while that cool, set your work space for the assembly. line a surface with plastic wrap and place the phyllo dough on it. immediatly cover with wrap and moist paper towels on top. melt some butter and have it ready. your workspace needs to be clean and completely dry. if you have 7mm dough 2 sheets are enough. if you 5mm use 3. so take the sheets and lay them flat, its lenght parallel to the counter. (be sure to cover the rest.) brush the edges with melted butter. cut in 5 strips and place a dab of spinach on each.

bring the left corner over the filling to form a triangle. then you just keep 'rolling' the triangle upwards and you get a pocket sealed on all sides. that's how long ago a dear friend taught me to roll up shopping bags so i'd always have on in my bag. read the picture right-to-left:

i started on the right.the one on the left has a single upward turn to be complete.
preheat oven to 400F. brush with eggwash or melted butter and spinkle some sesame seeds. bake for 20 minutes. serve hot or room temp. to freeze, put them on baking sheet and put the whole thing in the freezer until they're frozen solid. you can then transfer  to a bag. bake from frozen at 425F for 25 minutes. freeze any leftover dough, just roll it up as is in the plastic wrap. it'll be easy to unroll when you defrost it.
i really like this, throw a green salad with it and it's a nice meal. spinach and feta were just made for each other, and the garlicky backdrop doesn't hurt one bit. and it's all stuffed in a crispy, light pocket. yum.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

lemon ricotta cake

this is another breezy spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. completely unpretentious. sometimes i just get, and i'm sure this never happens to any of you, the sloth state. it's very annoying when the sloth couples with cravings. you don't want to bake, but the bakery where they have the good stuff is a half-hour drive away. not to mention you can't drive there in your pajamas. sigh.

it's lemony sweet and very light. i used to make this with mascarpone, but my grocer must've confused it with golden talking puppies when he priced it. so i got ricotta al latte instead. typically i'd make a mousse, but i was out of gelatin. so i just mixed it with whipped cream and lemon curd and it was surprisingly smooth and creamy and delicious.

for the cake: 6 eggs, 6 tb sugar, 12 tb water, 14 tb cake flour, 1 ts vanilla extract.
preheat the oven to 350F. separate the eggs. beat the whites stiff and set aside. beat the yolks with the sugar and water and when pale and creamy start adding flour, slowly. add vanilla. fold in the egg whites, gently. pour into buttered pan and bake in the middle of the oven for about 20-22 minutes.
in the meanwhile, whip the 8 oz ricotta with a tb milk. ricotta al latte is moist and creamy, but there's still a grainy texture to it. whip until very smooth. pour 1 cup heavy cream directly over it and continue whipping until good and stiff. now fold in lemon curd, between 6 to 10 oz, according to taste. lemon curd is very sweet, so taste before you add more. trader joe's has a good one for cheap. find it by jams. or if you're not lazy you can make it, like this. anyhoo, mix it in and refrigerate. when the cake is cool cut it in half, sprinkle with some simple syrup and fill it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

blood orange cake

a quick no-bake dessert, easy to assemble, that looks fabulous. do you have other requierments on a weeknight? the hardest part is waiting for it to set, in the fridge, for at least 3 hours to overnight.

8-9 blood oranges
1 3/4 cups orange juice
2 cups whipping cream
1 vanilla pudding mix
2 tb sugar
3 tb powdered sugar
20 ladyfingers or so
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar

make a pudding using 1 3/4 cups orange juice instead of milk. i always get the unsweetened ones because i can better control the taste of the finished product. so add 2 tb sugar or don't. let cool.
make a simple syrup by boiling 1/2 cup oranje juice and 1/4 cup sugar. let cool.
peel the oranges making sure to remove the pith at the same time. slice them across the segments to make them look like flowers. line a cake pan with saran wrap and then arrange the orange slices, trying to fit them close together, like a puzzle. line the walls of the pan too.
beat 2 cups of cream until you have soft peaks, then slowly add 3 tb powdered sugar while beating untill stiff. add the pudding to this and mix gently from top to bottom.

put half of the cream on top of the oranges. then layer ladyfingers which you briefly rolled in the syrup, just a second on each side. on top pf those put the rest of the cream, then another ladyfinger layer. bring the ends of the wrap over the cake and refrigerate for as long as you have but no less than 3 hours. it's light and very refreshing. blood oranges are my favorite winter fruit. it's a brief window of opportunity with these, and each season i feel i didn't have enough of them. like it happens with cherries in the spring. i can never have enough cherries and blood oranges.

this is not my invention but i can't assign paternity, because i don't remember it. i think i've seen it done with blood oranges and mascarpone cream on a brazilian blog, and then i've seen a million versions using, er, orange oranges. i would love to come across that brazilian blog again, it really was extraordinary.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

red pepper meatballs

my daughter's culinary likes and dislikes change by the week. she now has a thing for bell peppers, especially the red ones. so lately i've put them in everything, and it made it somewhat easier to convince her to eat. it's still a struggle. she does not tolerate meat near her plate, with the glorious exception of hot dogs and ground meat. (i want to roll my eyes every time i remember this, of all the meat that's available, of all the cuts, she wants ground meat, gah.) not a big fan myself, except for meatballs and stuffed cabagge, i could care less if i ever see another burger or lasagna or whatever else they make with ground meat. i wouldn't know.
these, however, are liable to become the default meatballs. i put peppers both in the meat and in the sauce, and they impart a sweet flavor.

whatever meat you choose, do not get extra lean. fat is moisture. you want some fat in there. do not use dry breadcrumbs, they suck out too much moisture. pulse a slice of bread in the food processor to make fresh breadcrumbs.

1 1/2 lbs ground meat
1 red bell pepper
1 onion
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
3 tb chopped parsley
1 egg
1 24 oz can crushed tomatoes
salt, pepper

place the meat in a bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes. finely chop the onion and the pepper. sweat the onion over low heat for a couple minutes and then add half the pepper. continue cooking, without browning, until soft, about 10 minutes total. let cool and add to the meat with the parmesan, breadcrumbs and parsley.

 preheat oven at 350F. form meatballs. heat oil and sear on all sides, in batches if you have to. remove to plate. drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat and saute the other half pepper. deglaze with a glug of wine or stock, cook for a minute and scrape to release all the bits at the bottom and then add the tomatoes. put the meatballs back in pot and bring to a boil. cover and put it in the oven for one and a half hours. serve over pasta, mashed potatoes or polenta. the one i made is very basic, to let the meatballs shine: 4 tb instant polenta for every cup of chicken broth, poured slowly while whisking, to prevent clumping, cooked for 5 minutes, with a handful of parmesan added at the end. that sauce is amazing over it. and it's only better the next day in a meatball sub.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

prime rib au jus and bacon potato torte

potato torte adapted from melissa d'arabian

my husband is a meat eater. he likes pretty much everything i put on the table as long as there's meat somewhere in there. i figured he'd be on cloud nine, right? wrong. this was overkill. it is impossible to eat anything but salad with this potato pie. it's not a side dish. and i'm pretty sure the prime rib is no garnish either. it's also likely to knock the wind out of your partener if you cook it at valentine's. probably more literally than you'd think.

the meat is very simple to prepare. i know it can be intimidating buying - and possibly wrecking - such an expensive cut of meat. this is just a very basic preparation, you barely have to do anything but plop it in the oven and wait for it to cook. all you need is patience and a meat thermometer.
get the prime rib (6 to 7 lbs) out of the fridge about half hour prior to roasting. preheat oven to 350F. peel and slice 8 garlic cloves. make tiny slits all over the meat and insert one garlic slice in each. season liberally with salt, pepper, and herbes de provence. place the meat on a rack inside a roasting pan and roast about 2 hours or until 135F for medium rare. remove from pan, tent with foil and let it rest 20 minutes before cutting. like melt-aways? you'll like this meat.
bring the pan to heat, add 1 cup beef broth and a glug of wine and cook until reduced by half. spoon this over the meat when serving, and all over the garlic mashed potatoes you'll make instead of pie.
also made a horseradish sauce, 3 tbs prepared horseradish, 3/4 cup sour cream, dash of hot sauce, squeeze of lemon juice, pinch of salt. can't have prime rib without it.

now this pie here. (hope you like it with a side of glare!) it is incredibly good. and it really stands up for itself, it's not going to be put to shame by no piece of meat. all you want with it is a green salad.

for the dough:
2 sticks butter, very cold and cubed
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 ts salt
8 to 10 tb ice water

pulse the salted flour with the butter in your food processor until it's a coarse meal. add ice water by the tablespoon just until larger clumps start to form. divide in two and shape into disks. wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. take one out and roll it to 10 inch diameter, line a pie dish with it and return it to the fridge.

the filling:
6 slices bacon
2/3 cup heavy cream
5-6 medium potatoes
1/4 cup grated gruyere or parmesan
1 egg, for egg wash

preheat oven to 375F. cook the bacon until brown but not too crispy, let cool and crumble it. heat the cream on low heat - you can infuse it with thyme or rosemary if you like. thinly slice potatoes, (if you have a mandoline, that works great) and working in circles make layers on your crust, making sure to season each layer with salt and pepper and bacon bits. make an even layer of cheese on top and then pour the cream slowly, all over the dish, to allow it to seep evenly. roll out the remaining dough disk. place it on top and crimp the edges to seal. brush with egg wash and make a couple slits to let the steam escape. put it on a baking sheet and bake it for 50 to 60 minutes. cover the edges with foil if they get too dark too soon. once you remove it from the oven let it rest at least 15 minutes before cutting.

i'd tell you about dessert, but there was no one left breathing after this meal. completely exhausted, did not even bother with the dishes until the next morning. gah. now i have that 'it's good, it's bad' song stuck in my head.

Monday, January 11, 2010

flathead animal cookie

although my daughter is, by her own definition and in her own words: a lady-princess, she did not bat a lash at the prospect of getting elbow deep in cookie dough yesterday. i have no pictures of this process and it's probably for the best. the cookies will speak volumes. rest assured, they didn't suffer, the puppies, chickens, bears, bunnies and one unicorn we made. their heads are dreadfully bashed in, but it was all done in love. we got a bit overexcited. we're a good team though. i made the ears, noses and eyes, and zhara pasted them onto the heads. take a peek here to see how they're supposed to look.

1 stick butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 ts vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups flour
1 ts baking powder
1 tb cocoa

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tb butter
1 tb cocoa

make sure all ingredients are room temp. sift the flour with the baking powder and set aside. cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. beat in the egg, then the vanilla. mix in the flour. put about 3 tb dough in a different dish and mix in 1 tb cocoa. wrap both of them and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
mix the condensed milk with the cocoa and butter on low heat, whisking continuosly. you want to get it creamy but not too thick, it will harden some as it cools. when it's cool use two teaspoons to roll into small balls and refrigerate until cold. be sure to grease the surface, even waxpaper, these'll stick like a bad habit.

remove all sharp objects. appoint one toddler on decorating duty. breake or cut to portion dough to match the number of filling balls you've made, up to 35 if you've the patience to make them that small... i've made 24. so flaten the dough, put the filling in the middle, roll and give it a round shape. make ears out of the cocoa dough. use chocolate sprinkles for eyes. i only had red hearts, and zhara said they're scary as puppy eyes. bake at 325F for about 10 minutes. as soon as they start to brown underneath they're done.
zhara was very proud of herself. she kept dancing around, looking in the oven, singing 'mommy and zala made cookie' !!! over and over. (that swooshing sound? me melting).

when you come in from the snow have these with a cup of hot chocolate milk for a satisfying, cold-chaser treat. we loved the filling, it's called brigadeiro and it's a favorite in brazil. the original recipe called for more sugar, but i don't like my cookies very sweet, they were perfect for us as they were. soft and crumbly, with a backdrop of vanilla and that luscious caramel inside. i'm pretty sure these will become a staple around here. they'll be hearts for valentine's for sure.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

a treat to make you forget the flu

we've had a lot of snow lately and cold to last me a lifetime. my general tendency is to make stews and hearty comfort food to counter it. but as i'm having the third cold of the season i have no appetite so i figured i'd better make a dessert to bring my palate back to life. hey, i've only gained barely a pound this christmas! so no need to lighten up. beside, have i mentioned what's going on outside? how am i to eat salad in this weather:

they're called parisians, and they are puffy, wonderfully soft horns filled with the most amazing apple pastry cream. be warned: you are not going to believe how good this is. you are not going to be able to stop eating. just so we're clear.  original recipe by laura.

the dough:
3 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cube fresh yeast or 1 packet dry
1/3 cup sugar
10 oz milk
4 tb butter
1 egg
pinch salt

the filling:
2 apples, peeled and cubed
2 eggs
1 generous tb sugar
1 ts vanilla
1 tb cornstarch
4 tb butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water

i make most of my doughs in my food processor. first be sure to have all ingredients at room temp. then sift the flour, add salt and sugar and make a well in the middle. cream fresh yeast with a bit of sugar and milk to dissolve and put it in the well. cover with flour. when the flour cracks add the soft butter and the beaten egg and pulse. slowly stream in the milk. transfer to bowl to rise.
place the apples with the sugar on medium high heat to caramelize. add the water and cook until it's all absorbed. puree the apples finely, or coarse if you want some texture. melt the butter and let cool. add the heavy cream, the eggs, vanilla and cornstarch and mix well. add this to the apple puree and cook until thickened. set aside to cool.
fetch the dough and divide into 8. roll each into rectangles. imagine the rectangle divided in half. now from the midline cut thin horizontal strips all the way out, so they're loose. place filling on the whole half and roll thightly. place seam side down.

 look here for detailed step-by-step pictures. let rise on their baking sheet for another 45 minutes. (i only had the patience the second time i made it). brush with egg wash and bake at 375F until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

if you can, wait until cooled to dig in. good-bye, ol' pastry cream. you have been replaced. i plan to use this filling in choux and eclairs and on pretty much everything. now before i knew how amazing it is, i used some nutella to fill a couple of horns, just to defend the idea of chocolate. it's not a bad way to go, but the apple filling is really fingerlickin' goooooood.

the second time i made them, which might have been the next day, i divided the dough into 16 parts to make smaller horns. we like miniature around here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oeufs a la Neige Or My Childhood in a Pot

this thing was the top of my Most-Wanted list as a child. for some reason my mother made it so rarely, and she even had some kind of saying along the lines of 'less is more' to shut me up when i got too insistent asking for it. the word-for-word translation from romanian is 'bird's milk', which i don't find too appetizing, so in keeping with the french denomination, let's call it snow eggs. imagine the lightest, fluffiest marshmallow ever. and then imagine that coated with a fragrant vanilla custard, or rather something like melted icecream.

4 1/2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean
6 eggs
7 tb sugar
1/8 ts cream of tartar
1 vanilla sugar, optional
1 ts cornstarch, optional

the cornstarch is optional, and i don't always use it. i've seen it done with a lot of it, to make a thick sauce, but that doesn't have my name on it; also, my mother's recipe instructs to poach the meringue in the milk, but in doing so i always, always burn the milk. it's like i'm cursed or something: no matter how carefully i watch it, it always ended up sticking to the pot.

heat the milk with the split vanilla bean to infuse. separate the eggs. beat the yolks with 4 tb sugar and cornstarch if using. temper them by slowly pouring a ladle of hot milk, stirring constanly.pour this back in the milk and keep stirring until thickened. set aside to cool.

heat 2 inches of water in your widest pan. beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form then start adding the remaining 3 tb sugar and the vanilla sugar. beat until you have a stiff luscious meringue. then using a spoon place blobs in the hot water to poach, 1 minute on each side. do not crowd the pan, as they will puff a bit.

remove to a colander and let drain. then put them in a serving bowl - or individual serving bowls and pour the thickened milk mixture on top, taking care to cover them completely. chill for several hours, ideally overnight.

it is like biting into a perfumed cloud. it's the kind of dessert that's a sure hit with kids, but their parents will enjoy too. and i think it's fancy enough to entertain. and it's the perfect make-the-day-before thing.
i like to serve it with a dusting of cacao mixed with a bit of powdered sugar, or vanilla sugar.

Chicken Schnitzel, Two ways

quickly, while my daughter naps and i should be cleaning: this dish is one of my husband's faves, and it's gotten to be something special aroud here, as i don't make it very often because of the infamous clubhand. use tongs, you'll say. can't, impossible, incapable.
anyhoo: cut and tenderize the chicken breast and season with salt and pepper. and a bit of garlic powder and paprika if you're so inclined. beat 2 eggs with a healthy glug of milk and season that too. 2 handfuls all-purpose flour, seasoned, on a plate. mix about a cup plain breadcrumbs with 1 cup grated parmesan. take half of this mix, put it on a different plate and add 1 cup crushed/sliced/slivered almonds.
heat a thin layer of oil in the largest frying pan you've got. proceed to getting goop on your hands. dredge the chicken through the flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. fry until golden. do the cheese mixture first, then the almonds.

serve with whatever sidedish and a salad. the one i like best is just a bunch of baby spinach, 1 avocado, 2 tomatoes, 1 green pepper, 1 small onion, a bit of feta cheese, lemon juice and olive oil. zap.

if you get a bit carried away and make a ton because, say, you don't make this very often, do this the next day:

a bit of cream cheese on the bottom slice, some baby spinach, the schnitzel, a blob of dijon on the top slice. throw in a cup of soup and there's lunch.