Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lobster Bisque (or: I Like My Friends)

Go Steelers...oh, this is about food, isn't it? Well, as we were wondering where we should watch the game, G was thinking a bar with a big crowd, I was thinking my couch with a big TV in front of me...a text came through from the T household: Super Bowl, their place, did we want to join them and another couple or two?

Of course we do. This is an event, after all.

Then comes the next text:
Can you make lobster bisque.

Yeeessss, I think, wondering if he is going to make fun of me for something or if he really wants to know...Yes, I text back.

DT: I have 4 (Florida lobster) tails. Can you make it for the game?

Oh, is THAT all? So K comes over with six tails (even better), luckily still in the shell--and I head out for ingredients. That's how I spent my Saturday evening. Well, that and cleaning, as you will see if you read on.

My go-to is Best Soups and Stews from the publishers of Cook's Illustrated...looks delish. And it IS delicious...but man, what a lot of steps.

And you know the part where they want you to process the shells into a paste? Imagine the lid of the processor getting knocked off by those hard shells and lobster schmutz flying All. Over. The. Place. I need to shower before bed tonight. I was wiping down walls for about 20 minutes.

Those shells went into the stock WHOLE.

Maybe the flavor is more intense with the paste, but this will have to do. Bourbon instead of brandy, too, because I am a Kentucky girl at heart..(oh, that and the fact that there was no brandy in the cupboard).

In the meantime, the tool toll: one stockpot, a cast iron skillet, a small bowl, a large bowl, a second stockpot, kitchen shears, a veg cutting board, a fish cutting board, a large measuring cup, a ladle, a fine mesh strainer, one large chef's knife, one pair spring-loaded tongs, the food processor (and a sponge to wipe down the walls after my topless accident) and a spatula. Oh, my shirt. My hair...I hope crunched up lobster shells don't hurt dogs too much, too.

Everyone had better LOVE this soup.

This, some empanadas and cookies for dessert? Nice start to a Super Bowl meal.

Here is the host enjoying the fruits of my labor/his inspired idea. He looks happy to me...

Go Steelers. (Later that night: Way to go, Steelers...Best. Game. Ever.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Gingerbread Cake (a.k.a. Wednesdays with Dorie in Babette Feasts Land

It was TOO hot last night in S. Florida to turn on the oven. Everyone would have complained.

So. I had everything set up to go this morning. Was up early and got my mise en place ready: chopped ginger, measured out dry ingredients, chopped chocolate, melted some for batter...Ready for G to walk out the door so I could fire up the oven without sending him into sweating misery.

Luckily I had just enough fresh ginger...A bit shriveled, but it worked. I cut off two knobs that sprouted and have asked at Kitchen forum if I can plant it and grow cool would that be?

I digress.

This goes together very easily...and of course, for those of you who have stuck with me through oh-so-many weeks of baking you'll know I occasionally (heh) mess up. And even as I am typing this, I think I forgot the extra couple of tablespoons of butter...or did I? We shall see..If I have one complaint about these recipes it is that so many of them are 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons of butter. Can't we just have the stick? Well, readers, we shall see, because my chocolate gingerbread cake has just one stick...

Also, I wonder why not blackstrap molasses? Because I had two things of molasses in my cupboard, one from the local Publix, the other a really special molasses I brought back from Barbados' Nicholas Abby (FABULOUS place)...and yes, they were both blackstrap. So I played with the recipe again..I had to use what I had, but I used a bit less in case the flavor was overwhelming. (Why not blackstrap, Dorie?)

So. Aside from my standard errors, I am finally understanding some of the science of baking...the texture of this cake will be nice and light and you can see that in the batter--it's the buttermilk reacting with the baking soda. Cool.
Dorie says pour batter into cake pan, but this isn't pourable for me...I scrape batter into prepared 8x8 and another mini loaf pan. (Dorie weighs in on the TWD homepage about the need for a true 9x9--don't have that in my I follow her advice and make the extra mini nice for sharing...)

The loaf has come out and looks lovely. Just waiting on the square. I'll let that cool and glaze it later...

Stay tuned.
Mmm. The house smells GREAT--these are some of my favorite flavors, the warm spices, chocolate and ginger...I just know this is going to be a winner...But those ovens, man, is it ever hot in here...I hope a cold front moves in soon.

The cakes came out of the pans so nicely...I always use parchment no matter use chancing clumps staying in the pan...Yum. Icing these after lunch.

Ooh..nice glossy icing..yummm.

This is a keeper. It's not fussy and it's delicious...warm flavors of those spices and the ginger combine perfectly with the rich chocolate...

Happy Tuesdays with Dorie, all. Er...Wednesdays with Dorie (anyone else in my group?)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Our Indian Feast

I got to take a wonderful five-day trip to Connecticut recently to visit my sister and her family...we did it last year, too, in spite of the COLD. One of the highlights of both this year and last year is when Sushil, my BIL, decides he needs to whip up an Indian meal...or, as I would call it, an Indian feast...

This year there was no bread rolling...Sushil bought the BEST paratha (don't check my spelling on that)...

He outdid himself...a coconut chicken curry...Yes, we cracked the coconut and used fresh fresh fresh...And this is the curry topped with cilantro...Then a stewed green veg dish...think of it as the Indian version of our southern greens...spinach, potatoes, veg, all stewed with a touch of dal...

Then we had to have okra or bhindi as we call it in our house. That's right, that's what I said, okra. And can I just say, I now LOVE, I mean bhindi. I couldn't say that before. In Indian cooking, it's chopped, sauteed in hot oil and finished with spices...It's crispy, a bit good. Not gooey. Not gelatinous...It. Is. GOOD.Was there dessert? Probably not. I ate too much okra.

Ready to try your hand at some authentic Indian dishes? Check out my friend Monica Bhide's latest cookbook, Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TWD: Savory Corn Muffins..

Hmm. I learned two things with this week's TWD: don't rush through a recipe (okay, I learned that a long time ago. I forgot it this week) and never use too much chile powder.

The recipe is easy to put together. If you're not rushing. I over indulged in the chile powder category, hence the hue of the muffins...A touch of chile powder nice: too much, not so nice.
I over measured it and could have fished it out, but I wasn't using a jalapeno, so I thought: leave it in...The taste is overwhelming.

What I do love is that the whole corn kernels really push the corn taste and the minced sweet red and orange pepper (what I had in the fridge) and the flecks of green really dress these muffins up (look hard; if you look past that hue of chile powder, you'll see all those flecks)...

I'd like to try these again when I'm not rushing to get them on the table for dinner.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My trip to bountiful

It is prime harvest season here in South Florida, and those of us who don't take advantage of that while the wind and ice socks in the north? Well, we are not smart it we don't. It is far and away one of the BEST things about living down here...That and the winters.

So yesterday, I found myself in Homestead. First for a meeting of Les Dames d'Escoffier at Schnebly Winery--Les Dames (say "daahm." It's French, after all) is a group of wonderful women in the culinary field whose mission is to encourage culinary education among young women locally here...Anyway, the host was Denisse Schnebly and it was a wonderful day to be in Homestead. We finished with a lunch of "pupusas," a cornmeal/bean pancake (for want of a better word) topped with cabbage and light tomato sauce/salsa...muy latino. And muy delicioso...I fell in love with a salad of greens, Florida avocado and papaya, lightly dressed..a passion fruit-macadamia nut tart (from Cooking with Les Dames d'Escoffier. If you want a copy, buy it from me! It has recipes from the greats: Julia, Alice Waters, Lidia Bastianich and more, as well as from my friend, Jen Karetnik).....all washed down with Avocado wine..yep, that is what I said and it was fun, if very different.But I was only about 5 miles from Robert is Here, home of all fruits great and small. I pulled up and it was PACKED. I really wanted a milkshake, but the line was long...instead, I wandered around, listened to live music, snapped some photos and bought some deliciousness home with me...
This afternoon for lunch, I am enjoying a salad of mixed greens, my own balsamic, sliced Florida strawberries, some almonds and some pecorino staggionato (aged Tuscan pecorino. Don't check my spelling.) That's a photo of my salad up top.

It's yummy. Go hunt down some Florida strawberries and treat yourself right.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dorie's TWD Choice: French Pear Tart...

First of all, note to self: next time Dorie says canned pears work fine? Go with that. Why you ask? Because I brilliantly got pears over the weekend but didn't get to the tart til today.


Can you say overripe? I can. Overripe and brown. But what did I do? Rather than delay, I THINK i managed to salvage...or I managed to ruin..this expensive and delicious looking tart. We shall see in about 10 minutes...

Mabe the pastry was where I started to go wrong, really: Dories says to leave it "crumbly." Me? NoOOooo. I press it and pat it into the pan. The pan I forgot to butter (why on EARTH do you need to butter this, which has a gazillion ounces of butter in it? I don't know. But I DO know if Dorie says to butter, you BUTTER. Too late. Maybe we'll be chiseling it out of the tart pan. We shall see in about 9 minutes.

I poached the pears--simple and nice (well, I'll bet it is with not overripe pears)...let them cool in the syrup and turned my attention to the pastry, which was super simple, and I'm betting is delicious. It's shortbread--my favorite cookie--made into a tart shell. Butter, sugar, flour. Does the world need anything else?

I love almond cream...OH SHOOT. I forgot to add the rum. Drat. I was looking forward to that. I like booze in all my desserts. We shall see about THAT in about...oh, 7 minutes.

(Long day. Jury duty. Woke at 4...just because...couldn't fall back asleep so I got up and worked on my VisitFlorida dining blog. You'd forget the rum, too. But still. Shoot. I love my rum. Maybe I'll work it into the glaze...)

Where was I? Almond cream: butter, sugar, almonds, egg--spread this in the shell, place poached (or, in future, CANNED) pears on top, bake. The almond cream puffs up around the pears. It's so pretty (or would be if it weren't for those brown, ripe spots. Avoid those...)..

Ding. Ooh, time to take it out.

No, leave it in. I want the center to brown more. (heh. A real time TWD. How 'bout that?) I think I have to go without the rum, because the alternative is to dust it all with powdered sugar, thus hiding any brown pear spots.I bet none of you will EVER come to eat at my house. Boy, do my desserts need work (I was hired as a pastry chef once. Heh. Me, the best they could do???? Sad. Don't worry. I gave two weeks notice after two weeks. And became a writer.)

The tart? Oh, really really really good. If you cut around those brown pears, that is....The crust is unbelievable, my favorite. And pears and almonds are simply a perfect match. Washed down with my daily dose of vino...Vino O'Clock, as threedogblogger says. (Told you I was SO stealing that...)

So? What are you doing with YOUR tart? I'm off to visit all your blogs.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Creamy Cheesecake: TWD Catch-up Time

So, I believe the last December TWD (Tuesdays with Dorie, for all you who haven't read about my previous baking efforts here and here...and here, for example) was Tall and Creamy Cheesecake (pages 235 to 237 of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My home to Yours). A true classic, but Dorie lightens I don't know how because I'm still learning the science behind baking.

I know these things: it gets a lot of time in the mixer, so it is well aerated. I used sour cream (option was heavy cream) because I love sour cream--and it gets baked slowly in a water bath, which gives it a lovely LOVELY creamy consistency.

I admit to screwing up the can that be? It's almost soggy when it should be crunchy. It's one of those great things about cheesecake to start with and, frankly, not that difficult. The pan was double wrapped with foil...maybe it didn't cool enough before I put the cheesecake batter into it? Maybe I made it too thin? Who ain't rocket science but I managed to mangle it...

Still, this is very tasty. Maybe won't replace my inclination for Italian ricotta cheesecake, but it is lovely. If I make it again, I will certainly try one of the variations. Like chocolate. Mmm. But for now, this is straight up good and decadent.

This coming Tuesday, January 6, I believe, I'll be blogging Pear Tart, which was chosen by Dorie herself...pears are waiting on my counter even as I type.

Now would someone come to my house and indulge in this cheesecake before I consume it all?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year and Savory Palmiers: Barefoot Blogging

I am trying to jump back on the bandwagon, both with Barefoot Bloggers and Tuesdays with Dorie...I've missed baking and blogging for my own self, having let so much other stuff get in the way (real life and all that)...

So I had a wonderful invite for the whole family last night. We all headed out late to a party at my friend Jen's. She and her husband have a wonderful big house on what must be one of few big lots in Miami...I didn't even feel like I was in Miami--this was a proper yard!

At any rate, Barefoot Bloggers, the group blogging Ina Garten recipes, had Savory Palmiers last week (or two...I said I was catching up, right?) and what could be easier? Store-bought puff pastry, homemade pesto (remember it's growing season all year, and I got basil plants from friend Rachel for my November bday), cheese, sundried tomatoes and pine nuts. Spread on dough, roll up, chill, slice, bake. All good, except I didn't remember to take them to Jen's. Ah, well, I did remember the champagne, though. Either way, these go great with the bubbly, there are plenty left here and that sounds like a nice snack for later.

Happy 2009, Blog world. Thanks for reading here--I hope you keep on visiting.