Sunday, January 31, 2010

January with Julia, parts 2 and 3

Before January is a complete memory, I wanted to share my two final recipes from Julia Child, both of which were smashing.

For the second week, I made the Cream of Mushroom Soup (page 40 of MAFC). I used crimini mushrooms for added flavor. The soup is a multistage process and slightly time-consuming, but well worth the effort. My taste tester pronounced it 'ridiculously delicious.' I agree.

For the third week, I prepared Old-fashioned Chicken Fricassee with Wine-flavored Cream Sauce, Onions, and Mushrooms.

I varied the recipe only slightly, using boneless chicken thighs and incorporating the onions and mushrooms at the beginning. I decided not to strain the sauce, since I wanted all the vegetables to remain, but I would do so if I were serving it to guests, since it makes a more lovely presentation.

This dish, too, was quite delicious, certainly one I would make again. The recipe can be found on page 258.

Alas, there was no week 4, but I may play catch-up in the near future if time allows. After all, I need to finish with a dessert course!

February appears to be Tyler Florence. Hmmm, February with Florence. Not bad.

Daring Bakers: Ready for the Winter Olympics?

A slight delay in baking and posting this time, due to travel and illness, but I did make it before the end of the month!

First, the housekeeping:

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

The first step in this challenge was to make graham crackers, gluten-free if possible, or regular flour as an alternative. Because of time issues, I chose to make regular graham crackers. They were easy and fun to make, and I can personally attest that the raw dough is delicious. (Scraps? What scraps?) Some of the crackers were pulverized to became part of step two, Nanaimo Bars, in honor of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, now just days away. : )

When I realized that the Nanaimo Bars were no-bake cookies (and it took several recipe readings to understand this concept for some reason), then I forged ahead last evening while dinner was cooking.

Impatient family members could barely wait until the cookies had chilled sufficiently.

Then, I had to wait until morning's light to get some moderately decent photos.

We really liked these bar cookies, and, while some bakers declared they were too sweet, I found that using unsweetened coconut toned down the sweetness considerably. My favorite part is the vanilla cream layer.

Now I can cross off Nanaimo Bars from my Life Dessert List.

Stop by the Daring Kitchen to see the many imaginative renditions of these delicious bar cookies.

Starter Gone Bad

Science in action.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

BB: Crazy-good shrimp bisque

I have to say that this is a really, really delicious shrimp bisque. Must be the brandy, right?

For the last Barefoot Blogger recipe of January, Jennifer of
Our Blessed Home chose Shrimp Bisque. This really hit the spot, since I'm at the tail-end of a cold. The pinch of cayenne was perfect.

For those of you who have Barefoot Contessa at Home, the bisque recipe is on page 52. The seafood stock can be found on page 55. Before I realized that, I cooked my shrimp shells in chicken broth to get the same effect. Next time, I will try the stock recipe to compare.

The shrimp are added to the lightly cooked leeks along with some cognac or brandy and sherry, or white wine, in my case.

Once the shrimp are cooked, the mixture is transferred to a food processor and coarsely chopped. I think I would skip this step and just chop the shrimp by hand, maybe even before cooking it. While the texture of the bisque was ok, it would be improved if a) the shrimp were pureed to oblivion, giving a smooth finish; or b) the shrimp were in larger pieces. B would be my choice.

Next comes the bechamel sauce,

to which is added the shrimp-leek mixture, the seafood stock, some tomato paste, and seasonings. The bisque is then gently heated until warm.


I'm glad I only made half a batch; otherwise I would have eaten it all. Before me, as I type this, is the remaining bowl of bisque, reheated, and still very good.

Check out the Barefoot Bloggers to see what everyone did, and what the February offerings will be.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Out of commission, temporarily

After a soggy, three-day stay in Disneyland last week, my dear younger daughter decided to share her nasty cold with me.

I cannot breathe or smell or taste at the moment, so cooking/baking is temporarily on hold until the wee virus-laden beasties go away. I feel badly about missing deadlines for TWD and Daring Bakers, but will do my best to play catch-up soon.

Two Julia recipes are ready to be posted, hopefully by week's end. The remaining baking projects will be forthcoming when my energy level increases.

I can, however, still enjoy everything vicariously through everyone else's blogs.

Disneyland was fun, but exhausting. Because of the rain, we didn't have to battle crowds or wait in long lines. We became experts on rain ponchos. And some of us ended up like this:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rain check, literally

Baking will return late next week. The family is off to Disneyland for several days to play in the rain.

Friday, January 15, 2010

HBin5: It's Official

January 2010 marks the official beginning of the HBin5 Baking Group. There were two warm-up challenges in November and December, but the baking list has now been finalized and we're off and running.

Our first recipe was the whole wheat bread Master Recipe, from which we were tasked to make one loaf of bread, one epi or wreath, and some crackers. I will discuss my results in reverse order since the baking went from bad to good during the whole process.

My dough came together easily and rose exceptionally well, so I can't quite explain the failure of the epi-wreath, described below.

The crackers came last.

I played around with these and found it was easier to lay the strips of dough on the cookie sheet before cutting them into bits. I used kosher salt, toasted sesame seeds, and nigella seeds as a decoration instead of the chili powder. I think I docked them a bazillion times, but some of them obstinately puffed in the oven.

The ones that baked the longest turned out to be the chewiest, whilst the ones that baked in the least amount of time came out the crispiest. Go figure.

The second baked item was the loaf of bread. I just kept it simple. It rose nicely and had good oven spring when baked.

The first bread I baked with the dough was the epi-wreath. It appeared to rise just fine, but shrunk while baking. It was flat, flat, flat. Like a frisbee.

I nearly threw out the rest of the dough, but gave myself 24 hours to think it over. In that time period, the dough rose again, even in the refrigerator, so I went ahead with the loaf and the crackers.

I don't know why the bread didn't rise. It tasted fine. It photographed fine. But it was a failure. It's a mystery.

To see how the other HBin5 bakers fared, check out the blogroll on Michelle's blog, and feel free to join us if you dare!

BB: Indonesian Ginger Chicken

Our first Barefoot Blogger recipe for 2010 was Indonesian Ginger Chicken, chosen by Todd of A Cooking Dad. This was similar to the recent Daring Cooks challenge in that we marinated the chicken in a mixture of honey and soy sauce and literally a ton of garlic and fresh ginger.

I halved the recipe for two of us, and used boneless chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken. After the chicken marinated overnight, it was easy to pop it into the oven and bake it. I also put in a pan of vegetables to roast at the same time, making it a really easy dinner to fix.

While this was a delicious meal, my daughter thought it was way too sweet, and I tend to agree with her. I make a similar marinated chicken dish with honey, but use only a tablespoon or two at most, and it is perfectly balanced.

I’m curious to read what the other Barefoot Bloggers thought about this one.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Pork Satay

The January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day.

It seems like such a long time ago that I made Pork Satay for the Daring Cooks latest challenge. To be exact, it was Christmas day. Satay was our holiday meal.

This was an easy preparation. The key thing was to marinate the meat in a mixture of onion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and spices. I had everything on hand: there’s usually a pork loin in the refrigerator, and my spice cabinet (which smells heavenly) contained the cumin, coriander, and turmeric.

I chose to stir fry the pork since I don’t have a grill.

I served it with rice, stir-fried vegetable and two dipping sauces, one made of peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce, and spices, the other with tamarind paste, soy sauce, garlic, and green onion. Both sauces were very good and complemented the pork.

This is certainly a versatile dish. If I ever get a grill, I will make it again and compare the flavors from the two cooking methods.

Mosey on over to the Daring Kitchen to see what the other Daring Cooks did, and to Cuppy's website for the recipes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

TWD: Mrs. Vogel's What?

I have a history with deep frying. It started back in high school when I wanted to make doughnuts.

Any careful mother would, of course, turn down my request, and mine was no exception. "You'll burn the house down." (Or is that shoot your eye out. . . . Same difference.)

Not one to be rejected like that, I
began my plot plan to make doughnuts. I quietly assembled all the ingredients and hardware, then waited patiently for the right moment to strike.

My mother decided to go into the city to shop, and I begged to stay home. Instead of driving, she always took the bus, which stopped in front of our house.

As a sneaky calculating teen, I counted the seconds until the bus disappeared down the street, and immediately began my great doughnut adventure. I knew when my mother would be returning; therefore, I knew my timeframe.

All went well. I didn't burn the house down. There was, however, a large plate, piled high with fresh doughnuts, on the kitchen counter, and nary a dirty dish in sight. From that moment on, my mother was a believer, and I could cook or bake anything I desired.

I haven't stopped since.

When Teanna of Spork or Foon? chose Mrs. Vogel's Scherben as our TWD recipe this week, I was thrilled. I could deep fry again! And, using the very same pan that I used all those years ago in high school for the doughnuts. (I made sure that my mother didn't give it away, but give it to me instead.) Yippee!

Isn't she a beauty? A genuine Corningware electric frying pan, circa 1960s. It's not deep, but it does have an automatic thermostat control making it a breeze to deep fry.

The dough was quick and easy to make. I didn't have any issues with it being too dry or too wet. It was just right. Made the dough on day one, then chilled it. Rolled it out on day two, and chilled the strips for several hours.

Then, after dinner on Friday night, I started frying,

and draining,

and sugaring.

They were like potato chips. You know, where you can't eat just one?

I only wish the cinnamon sugar would have stuck better, but oodles of powdered sugar didn't hurt. Check out Teanna's website for the recipe, and have fun with frying.

(Yes, those are chopsticks you see above, the big kind used for cooking, not eating. I alternate between tongs and chopsticks when frying. Much easier than a slotted spoon.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

January with Julia, part 1

This year, to suit myself, I decided to play a One-Chef-Per-Month game. January's chef is Julia Child. Choosing recipes is challenging because of all the wonderful and varied dishes that Julia created.

I selected Quiche Lorraine as my first recipe, partly because I love quiche and partly because I remember a most delicious slice of Quiche Lorraine that I ate during a visit to the Alsace-Lorraine region in France. It is a simple dish, but very tasty.

Start with a partially baked pie crust.

Even though the classic recipe uses bacon, Julia also offers an alternative of sauteed ham.

Place the sauteed ham/bacon into the pie shell.

Pour on a mixture of eggs and cream or half & half, and dot with butter.

Bake until the filling is puffed and golden. Although the recipe calls for 30 minutes, my quiche took closer to 55 minutes.

The filling was soft and delicate, a lovely appetizer, or light meal when served with a vegetable and a salad.

The recipe will be forthcoming when I have some extra time to copy it out. Or, alternatively, go to page 147 in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

TWD: Birthday Edition

Today the TWD bakers are celebrating a special occasion: our two-year anniversary. Thanks to our fearless leader, Laurie, for inviting other bakers to join her while exploring BFMHTY, and thanks to Dorie for creating the really wonderful recipes contained in BFMHTY. It's been a fun ride for nearly two years (I joined in February 2008) and there are still quite a few recipes to bake.

Laurie gave us the choice of making either Cocoa Buttermilk Cake or Tarte Tatin. Since I have never made a tarte tatin, that is what I chose.

I made my pie crust on Saturday, so it would be ready to go at a moment's notice. While I was pretty sure I had enough apples, I didn't want to be caught short, so I stopped by the grocery today on the way home from my quilt meeting. Even though I'm swamped with work at this time, I didn't want to pass up the chance to play along on this special day.

I used five Gala apples and one Honey Crisp that decided to jump ship and hide amongst the Galas. I had a spare Fuji waiting in the wings in case I need extras. When I worked at the restaurant, I made many, many individual apple crisps, so I can peel and slice apples in a flash.

On the other hand, it seemed to take forever for the sugar to caramelize. I'm guessing at least 20 minutes, and it's a testament to my patience that I didn't quit early and have pale apples.

The pie crust topping was ready to go.

It shrunk up nicely in the oven.

Now, I don't know quite what I did when I flipped the tarte out onto the rimmed serving plate, but I do know that I was covered in caramel. There was plenty on the tarte, plenty on the plate, and plenty on me. The never-ending caramel sauce. My arms kept sticking to my shirt, so I gave up and changed clothes.

It actually worked!

Now that I've finished dinner, I will head over to the kitchen and cut a slice. The camera batteries died, of course, just after I unmolded the tarte, so there are no photos of slices tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

I still want to bake the chocolate cake, but that will be sometime in the future. Meanwhile, thanks again to Laurie and Dorie and to all the other TWD bakers who make this an enjoyable group.