Last weekend omegabeth and I attended dervishspin's "Snooty Foods" party. Challenged to come up with the snootiest, snobbiest, elitest, most exclusivest snotty food we could imagine, we invented arugula rugelach: arugula (and a little spinach), blended into a pesto with garlic, olive oil, walnuts and asiago cheese, and rolled up in little wedges of rugelach pastry made according to the King Arthur cookbook recipe.
Oh my heavens these things were good. A professional chef in attendance pronounced them the best dish he'd had in a long time, and begged us for the recipe. They disappeared faster than most everything else on the table.
A special shout-out goes to coraline for coming up with the name and inspiring me to actually try to make these work!
Our turkey still had a feather on it! That was so awesome.
Homemade pumpkin pie with oak leaf pastry decoration, courtesy of primal_pastry. Made from scratch, starting with a pumpkin! That woman is so cool.
The infamous chocolate cranberry cake: chocolate cake with a cranberry filling and chocolate glaze. Sugared cranberries and mint on top. It worked out even better than I expected: the cake was extremely dense (three times as much butter as flour) and the cranberry was sweet enough that it didn't clash.
This message has been brought to you by the department of improvised parchment paper, wax paper, fine mesh strainer, and wire drying racks.
P.S. Beth, you'll get the parchment paper and wax paper back first thing in the morning, I promise!
P.P.S. No, I didn't take anything else! Honest!
- Surprise visit and magnificent birthday cake from omegabeth in the morning
- Surprise visit and gifts from chaiya in the morning
- Long lunch and great conversation with ectophylla
- Surprise birthday dinner and magnificent birthday cake from keyne, Mom, Dad and the kids
- Lots of post-dinner visits from the neighbors to help polish off as much of the cake as possible.
The magnificent birthday cake from omegabeth was a chocolate layer cake with peanut butter frosting.
The magnificent birthday cake from keyne and npierce was.... a chocolate layer cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate glaze.
I think I may be getting predictable.
But enough of that. Here's what matters. All day long, I ran into people at every turn who were conspiring to make sure I had a good day. And wow, apparently I needed that more than anything.
Thanks and love to you all. You are my rockstars.
Embarrassing note of the day: I wore a tie but did not bring a jacket, as I no longer own one which fits me well. The staff had to offer me one. I don't think I have ever eaten at a restaurant which required a dinner jacket.
( the full menu )
The oysters and pearls: a sabayon is like a denser, more custardy zabaglione, and in this dish it was a savory, lemony custard in which were suspended the oysters, tapioca and caviar. Really lovely.
Foie gras: very intense, deep flavor, but gloriously balanced by sweet and salty flavors all over the place. This was served with an extremely thin, almost translucent disk of something that none of us could identify. Maybe it was the purple top turnip Parisienne?
Lobster: I do not generally like either lobster or artichokes. These were spectacular. The lobster was both firm and tender. The violet artichokes were tiny and very flavorful.
Duck. The duck was so firm and rich that it looked, cut and felt exactly like the beef course that followed. Only when you put it in your mouth did you get the duck flavor out of it. Amazing.
Pear sorbet: this must be the purest sorbet I have ever had. It was just like taking a bite from a very cold and tender pear, although no pear in the world is quite that soft. It did not taste like a sorbet at all and hardly felt like one.
We had the sommelier bring us wine pairings for most courses, but I'm too tired to type in the full wine list. Maybe another day. One of the amazing things about dining in a restaurant like this is that when the sommelier overhears you talking about the structure of the glass you're drinking from, she can tell you something useful and interesting about how the glasses themselves are made, like the fact that the bowl, stem and base are made by three different artisans and fit together after the fact. Fantastic.
Anyway. It was magnificent and spellbinding and you should go if your budget ever permits you to do so.
Morgan made his own banana bread last month! I stayed on hand to make sure he understood how much to measure for each item, how to fold gently, etc. but he did all the scutwork himself.
More at flickr.
It works, bitches:
It did not turn out to be painless. I followed the recipe in the Silver Palate cookbook, which calls for two egg yolks and 1½ cups of oil. I dutifully poured the oil into the running food processor in a hair-thin stream. Right up until the very end it was unbelievably perfect. After pouring the last of the oil and admiring my emulsified darling as it whipped around the bowl, I turned away for a moment to attend to the asparagus. When I turned back, it had fallen apart and collapsed into a curdly, soupy slop.
Julia Child insists that a turned mayonnaise can be fixed by whipping an egg yolk and emulsifying the failed stuff back into it. I did that, but about halfway through I could tell it wasn't going to finish, and in a few seconds there was nothing left.
Then I read that ¾ cup is the maximum amount of oil you can use per egg yolk. If you have never made a mayonnaise before, Julia confides, it is best to start with ½ cup. Oh. Well, then.
So I threw it out and started from scratch with three egg yolks instead of two, and gosh if it didn't, like, work. Damn.
The most amusing part is that it isn't even that good. After the first failed batch I got thinking that maybe I put in too much lemon juice, or mustard, or something that just made it a little too hard to hold together. So the second time I cut way back on all of those ingredients -- which of course are the things that actually make the aioli taste like something.
So what I ended up with is a sauce that tastes like .... 1½ cups of extra-virgin olive oil. And a little raw garlic. Yeah. Even I can't get enthusiastic about that.
But really, I barely even care. Because now I can make my own aioli. My new emulsifying technique is UNSTOPPABLE!
As a bonus, I even made pain l'ancienne out of The Bread Baker's Apprentice:
And yes, it tasted as good as it looks. Oh yes. Victory is mine, and it is hot and crusty.
9/100: Roast turkey. The book recommends brining for 4 hours and letting it air-dry for 8 hours. Due to timing restrictions (didn't get started till midnight Wednesday) I brined it for about 8 hours and let it dry for 4. Still it came out well. I overcooked it a bit but it was not completely dry when it arrived at the table. The roasted vegetables in the pan were, sadly, totally carbonized. Notes for next time: if the bird is under 14 pounds, don't be afraid to check it early and often.
10/100: Giblet pan gravy. Very tasty. keyne pointed out that this recipe is awfully cumbersome and not a huge improvement over making it from pan drippings. She's right. On the other hand, due to the aforementioned overcooked bird, we didn't actually have any useful pan drippings, so it's just as well I did this.
Other dishes at our table, not blessed by America's Test Kitchen:
Key lime pie, from the recipe on the key lime juice bottle: perfect. And dead easy, too. You can't get any more rock-stupid than this: egg yolks, lime juice, condensed milk, beat well, slosh into pie crust and throw in oven at 350. Nice.
Pumpkin pie: every year we lose our recipe for lactose-free pumpkin pie and go hunting for another one. This time I gave up and just substituted 10 oz Lactaid milk with 2 tsp. cornstarch for 12 oz condensed milk. Texture was good but it wasn't quite as sweet or rich as I'd like.
Creamed spinach: from a randomly chosen recipe found on the net. Not bad. I used 2% milk and Greek yogurt in place of whole milk and sour cream. Whole milk would have rounded it out better. Maybe even a little half-and-half.
Mashed potatoes: made from potatoes. Smart.
Dressing: from a bag, but what you gonna do?
Honey-wheat banana rolls: from an old DAK bread machine recipe book. At the last minute I dumped them into mini-loaf pans instead of forming them into rolls. I liked the result -- very Outbacky.
We used at least a pound and a half of butter.
thomasyan and brother brought a very nice bottle of Australian tokay (!) which we had with dessert. Also some homemade pork dumplings (!!) which we completely forgot about in our madness. We had homemade pork dumplings in our house and didn't even serve them. I can't believe it. They were both lovely dinner guests and extraordinarily tolerant of the circus acts which are our children.
After coffee and tea and pie and wine, we gave in to the kids' pleas and settled in to watch some Pink Panther from Netflix. As the food coma started to descend, the brothers Yan took their leave of us for the drive back in to the city and we got the boys to bed. Not bad.
#19: Cook at least 100 recipes from The New Best Recipe. Recent additions include:
6/100: Pancakes. Nothing special. They're fine, but no particular improvement on Joy that I can tell. It was nice to see them explicitly recommend the lemon-and-whole-milk substitute for buttermilk that I've been improvising for the last couple of years.
7/100: Lemon-parmesan brown rice pilaf. I love brown rice. My family does not. So I try to sneak it into our meals at every possible opportunity. keyne is very polite and patient but consistently avoids it.
This, she told me, was probably the best brown rice dish I'd ever made. Brown rice cooked slowly in broth in the oven, then tossed with lemon juice, lemon zest, and parmesan. She went back for seconds. It was a home run.
8/100: Butternut squash soup. I made this tonight for T-day tomorrow, so the jury is not entirely in, but I'm not sure I did right by it. I ended up with a lot more liquid than they said I would (about 4 cups rather than 2½-3) and it didn't blend very smoothly. I'll try it another time when I have a proper vegetable steamer and see if it works out better.
Tomorrow: brined turkey, at last!
Ellen brought home steaks last night, so we made steak au poivre. It was my first ever attempt at a flambé, and boy do I wish I had a picture of that.
Crush a big handful of peppercorns in a mortar and pestle. Roll the steaks in them so they're thoroughly coated. Melt a big hunk of butter in a saucepan on medium-high heat and sauté the steaks on both sides until nicely browned.
Pour in a few tablespoons of brandy or cognac, take the pan off the flame and light (preferably with a long-handled match, because we like you to stay out of the emergency room). Call the children in to the kitchen to admire and envy that Daddy gets to play with fire. Once the flames die down, remove the steaks to a plate, return the pan to the heat, add some cream and stock and cook down until it's nice and thick. Pour the sauce over the steaks and try not to swallow whole.
We served them with oven-roasted potatoes and holy smokes, they were good. Ellen ate them even though they were still pinkish-red inside, which is saying a lot.
( my Omnivore's 100 )
57 out of 100: not as good a showing as I thought I'd have. I suspect there are dishes here that I have had and just don't remember: carp? curried goat? criollo chocolate? Sure, possibly. But there are certainly a lot of gaps in my culinary experience.
Which means that of course we need to choose a domain name. Possibilities include:
savoro.us (I really wanted omni.voro.us but it was not available)
We are seriously indecisive! Which of these make you say, "Why, that sounds like people who I want to come to my house and feed me extravagant food"? Go vote in Beth's poll. It will make my day. Hers too.
When Erika works the evening shift at the restaurant, she brings home the unused focaccia that they otherwise would have thrown out.
The loaves they make are, no joke, the size of serving platters. Last night she brought home six. Here are five of them, with my humble coffee cup for perspective.
It's very tasty bread! But there's, um, a lot of it. I think we see breakfast strata in our future. And possibly some kind of savory bread pudding.
Oh well. In for a penny, in for a pound. I'm sure I'll set up a wiki or something at some point to track all of this stuff.
( cleaning, cooking and cajoling )