French Frdays with Dorie

Friday, January 28, 2011

FFwD: Chicken B'stilla

The entire time I was making this recipe I was in love with it.  It smelled divine, it looked so good.  My sauce was smooth and creamy.  I was so eager to taste this, I was sure I was going to make a bad pun about the name - Be stilla my heart - was all I kept thinking.  All through my preparation I kept thinking, my God, this smells intoxicating, I can't wait to eat it.  And then, I tried it.  And, you know what?  It wasn't intoxicating anymore.  In fact, it was rather a taste let down.

Chicken B'stilla

The dish turned out beautifully.  I mean look at it.  Perfect shape, fantastic color.  And you know?  I found it disappointing.  I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't there.  It had everything going for it during preparation.  The only thing that did not track as I expected was the sauce reduction.  That took well over thirty minutes.  Maybe I did not have the heat up high enough, it was boiling briskly but the reduction was quite slow to take place.  Eventually, though, it was reduced sufficiently.  I added the eggs and honey, fearful that I would end up with scrambled eggs - but no - my whisking was sufficient to avoid that horror.  But still, when I tasted my slice, I wasn't thrilled.  It did not have quite the punch I was expecting.  It packs a nice presentation, though, so I will keep it in mind for the future.  I'm eager to share it with someone else to see how they feel about it.  I don't have high hopes for the longevity of the lovely pastry, but perhaps the filling will evolve (for me) and I will once again be having heart palpitations over this dish. 

Chicken B'stilla by the slice

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FFwD: Gnocchi a la Parisienne

I ask you?  What is the point of making the recipes on time if one forgets to post about them?  In my defense I did go out of town on Friday - however - I made the gnocchi a few days early to accommodate that.  Such is life, I am terminally disorganized!

I did not realize that gnocchi came in different flavors or could be made using so many different techniques.  I am an avid watcher of Top Chef and have seen Fabio make gnocchi - what? - five times?  Whatever, I always thought it had to be made with potatoes.  I also thought it was rolled into the snakes and then snipped.

What a surprise to learn that it can be made from pate a choux dough.  Such fun.  I have only made this one other time -at Sur La Table - when I took a class.  We made gougeres, I shall be making them again when I get to that recipe.

I found the gnochi themselves to be very easy to make.  I found the bechemel sauce to be a trifle odd.  It ended up being inordinately thick.  I should have thinned it down, but I thought, let me just bake it and see what happens.  I thought it might spread a trifle while in the oven.  It really did not.  The gnocchi did puff up beautifully.  They were light fluffy and delicious.  They were also quite rich.  I like rich food - I've rarely met a fat I did not like (I'm looking at you margarine) but I think the butter on top pushed this into the too much of a good thing category.  Next time, if I put any butter on the top at all, it will be less than half of what this recipe called for. 

I definitely want to try freezing the gnocchi for future use.  I wish I had only baked a small portion of these and saved the rest.  Next time.

TWD: Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

What is it with me?  Give me a complicated recipe and I am fine.  Give me something as simple as these muffins and I am a disaster zone!

I was a smidge surprised by the batter for these muffins.  I whisked together the liquid ingredients and found the mixture to be quite thick.  When I added that to the dry ingredients I was a trifle worried that I was overworking the dough.  Perhaps I did, incorporating the two mixtures required a bit of elbow grease.

Muffin craters

As always I found that I had more muffins than Dorie projected.  I had sixteen versus the twelve the batter was supposed to yield.  I tested them after about 13 minutes and they seemed to be done.  The inserted tool came out completely clean.  The tops were barely showing any color, but I removed the muffins anyway.  (Nasty buzzer sound) Not a good idea.  After about four minutes many of the muffins had massive craters in their tops and it was apparent that they were in fact still undone in their centers. 

Albino muffins - before the rebake
 So, back into the muffin tin they went (thankfully I had used paper liners) and back into the oven.  Of course, I forgot about them, so they are now a much darker brown color.  They are however only slightly dry.  The flavor is quite nice.  I will definitely make these again, but I think I will use fewer poppy seeds, there just seem to be so many.  Thanks for making this choice, Betsey of A cup of sweetness chose these.  You can find the recipe on her site or you in the book - page 10.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

TWD: Fluff-Filled Chocolate Madeleines

As is my wont, I failed to carefully read this recipe before starting.  I had skimmed over it and thought, lovely, easy recipe.  Then I got to the part where it said, chill for at least 3 hours and I thought, well, never mind what I thought, let's just say unladylike words filtered through my brain and one or two may have passed through my lips.  It isn't that chilling the dough is difficult.  It is that, once again, my photos would have to be taken without the benefit of natural light.  Drat!  I hang my head with shame each time I look at someone else's elegant photos and I vow to at least take mine with the beneficial natural light.  However, being an inveterate sluggard, I rarely manage to stick to that vow.

I was a bit surprised to see the step of chilling, I've never done that before when baking madelines.  I've also never made chocolate madelines before.  I think previously I have done plain and lemon.  I haven't made madelines in a few years.  I don't know why not.  They are quick easy and impressive. 

I thought I had incorporated my melted butter thoroughly before chilling the dough.  I found when I removed it from the refrigerator that I had not.  My dough had striations of fat running through it.  Not very attractive.  Nonetheless, I persevered.  I loaded the batter into the mold and baked.  My madelines were massive.  They more than overflowed the pan.  I think I could have made at least four more cookies if not six with the batter I had. 

For appearances sake, I trimmed the excess baggage from my cookies.  Not being a wastrel (just a sluggard) I forced myself to eat the trimmings.  I must say, a chocolate madeline is a fine thing.

I let them cool down (one did break when removing them from the pan) and then I proceeded to attempt to stuff them with fluff.  I suck at stuffing cookies with fluff.  First of all, despite Dorie's instructions to insert the piping tip into the flat side of the cookie, I stuck it in the narrow bottom.  This caused one or two of my cookies to split.  I shall cleverly eat that evidence.  I'm not a big fan of marshmallow fluff so the paucity of this ingredient in the cookie will not be missed by me.

My ganache came together easily and I started dipping the cookies.  Looking at some of the other's photos I see that my cookies were not as smooth as theirs - or my dipping is not as pristine.  I don't know the specific cause but I see other madelines that look smoothly and professionally covered whilst mine look like they had a hit and run accident with a ganache bowl.  I am jealous, but console myself with the fact that my cookies are tasty.

If you want to see professional looking madelines, visit Effort to Deliciousness.  Margot selected this recipe for us this week.  It was a fine selection.

Friday, January 7, 2011

FFwD: Paris Mushroom Soup and Spiced Butter Glazed Carrots

Like Laurie I had a bit of trouble getting mushrooms this week.  I got them, that wasn't a problem.  The problem was they weren't the newest kids on the block.  I don't know if you are aware of it, but one of the signs of an older mushroom is that the gills just keep getting darker and darker.

In fact, here is one of the few produce facts I know, if you are purchasing mushrooms, you want to find ones that are totally tight to the stem.  The older the mushroom, the more the cap pulls away from the stem, the darker the flesh of the mushroom gets, and the gills get very very dark.

They still taste okay when the gills are a bit dark, but the moisture they eliminate is not especially pleasant to regard.  In fact, it will remind you quite a bit of watery mushroom soil.  This is, by the way, not something you generally want to contemplate eating!

However, I am accustomed to this and proceeded with my soup preparation, regardless of the color of my mushrooms' liquid waste.  I ended up with a soup that will never win any beauty contests.  It tasted okay, but I actually prefer my go to mushroom soup recipe.  That recipe is in the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook and for whatever reason, it always turns out fantastic for me. 

I am definitely going to give this soup another try - when I can get truly white - white mushrooms!  I prefer a lot of mushroom slices in my soup, so I pulled a few spoons-ful of sliced mushrooms out before I blended the soup.  I topped it with a dollop of sour cream, which proceeded to fall to the bottom of the bowl!  I forgot to pick up creme freche.  I remedied that today.

A few days ago I made the spiced butter glazed carrots.  Carrots are one of my favorite vegetables.  These were delightful.  I adore cardamom, so I was quite pleased to add it to my pan.  I like to cut carrots on the diagonal and then cut those slices into matchsticks.  I left these in the diagonal slice condition.  A few minutes later and I had tasty fragrant carrots.  I am quite enjoying these.  Encountering the small slivers of garlic is like finding the prize in the King cake.  Happiness.

02/08/2011: Update to the Paris Mushroom Soup: I found pristinely white mushrooms at the store yesterday.  So, I scooped them up and ran home to make this soup over again.  Just look at how much more appetizing last night's version of this gem was:

I made the salad in my bowl this time and was surprised by how much I enjoyed the green onions.  Normally I despise any form of raw onion, but it totally worked with this soup.  I am glad I gave it a second chance, the taste was so much better without the debris from the dirty mushroom gills.  I still prefer my cream of mushroom soup recipe from Good Housekeeping for cream of mushroom soup - but this is an excellent soup for the days when you want a lighter more springlike flavor.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

TWD - Midnight Crackles

Mmmm, dark chocolate, soft, chewy cookies.  Excellent choice!  I quite enjoyed these cookies.  I used about 3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate and 7 ounces of bittersweet chocolate.  I wasn't worried about them not being as tasty if I used all bittersweet, I just had a small stash of semi-sweet chocolate that was getting some age on it.  Chocolate, unlike wine (which you can't prove by me) does not generally improve with age.  I know the bloom doesn't much affect the taste - but it is just so darned ugly.

At any rate, my only issue with these cookies was the initial chocolate melting.  We were to melt the butter, sugar (brown) and chocolate over low heat until it was smooth and shiny.  Mine was never really smooth. I  could always see the crystals from the sugar in the melted mixture. I  gave it some extended time on the burner - over 30 minutes, but I saw no evidence that the crystals were going to turn into shiny smoothness, so I finished mixing the dough with the shiny, but gritty chocolate mixture.

The dough seemed to come together with no issues, I divided it and put the two halves in the refrigerator.  After an hour or so I pulled it out and began to make balls of dough.  The edges of the dough were rather firm, but the center was totally malleable.  The only minor issue I had was pressing down the colder balls of dough.  I guess the larger lumps were the correct size because some of my smaller ones did more cracking along the edges than in the middle.  In general, my cookies were quite a uniform size and did not develop sway-backed centers - they stayed round and puffy.

In a very few instances when I bite a cookie I get a sensation of sugar and wonder if I really should have tried for a totally smooth melted mixture,but it is rare and it is not an unpleasant taste, just a slightly gritty texture. 

I have three dozen in the freezer, gave away another dozen today and have been munching on them pretty regularly.  The yield was great - close to sixty cookies 

Monday, January 3, 2011

I'm back with Beef Daube, Potato Leek Soup and Not Just for Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread Cake

The question is, am I better than ever?  Well, one can but dream.  I rarely make New Year's Resolutions.  For me they tend to be New Year's Eve Resolutions and last about that long!  However, this year, I am vowing to be a better blogger.

To that end, I have been trying to catch up on my all of the Dorie recipes.  This doesn't just mean Tuesdays with Dorie.  I am also now a member of the group French Fridays with Dorie.  I have the suspicion that I am going to be a fairly silent partner in this group as I can not get its website to cooperate with me in the least.

Apparently I am a word press moron.  I get logged in and get taken to my profile.  That's it folks.  If I want to see the website contents I have to look from an unlogged in perspective.  Rather daunting since we get to vote on these recipes and I love to spread my opinion as far as I can.

I have made two of the French Friday dishes so far.  I made the Beef Daube and the Potato Leek Soup.  I am accustomed to be stunned by how tasty Dorie's recipes are and the Beef Daube is no exception.  It took me a bit longer to pull it all together, than I expected, but the taste was worth it.

After browning the beef cubes, I slowly cooked the onions and shallots.  I added the beef, carrots, and parsnips to the pan and prepared to add the red wine.  I used a delightful Yellow Tail Shiraz - not because of the taste - I have no wine taste buds.  I bought it solely based on price.  I know, I know, cook only with something you would drink by the glass - but honestly - they all taste the same to me - that being the case, I figured saving seven or eight bucks was the wise choice. 

I then learned that I had no clue how to work my Pampered Chef corkscrew.  I am positive I did it wrong because (a) a little metal thing and some plastic shards came off of it and (b) it barely budged the cork.  However, with the help of a paring knife and infinite patience I was able to work the blasted cork out of the bottle.  Oh, for a saber and the skill to simply lop off the top of the damned bottle!  After a quick visit to Sur La Table, I am prepared to open bottles without a sword, once again.

Regardless.  The stew simmered for the requisite 2.5 hours and when pulled from the oven, it both smelled and tasted divine.  Don't judge it by this mediocre photo. I have been eating the stew for the last few days and it is getting a little forlorn looking.

I am still slightly undecided about the potato leek soup.  It has a lovely pale, pale green color to it and a nice flavor.  However, it is decidedly leek and not so decidedly potato in nature.  I think it may be a soup that is tastier on the second day, so I shall make my ultimate decision after it chills for a time. 

I pureed my soup with my immersion blender - a tool I rarely find the opportunity to use but am liking more and more every time that opportunity does arise.  I chose to do that because I got a bit sidetracked when making the stew and it boiled longer than necessary.  I actually thought it was a lost cause.  I swear that blasted milk had separated into water and whey!  Tres gros!  However, a few quick swirls with the blender and I had creamy loveliness. 

If I am still on the fence after my next tasting, I shall boil up a potato or two and toss them into the pot.  I am sure their addition will bring this soup from pretty good to fine and dandy.

Finally for Tuesdays with Dorie, where have I been all these weeks?  Well, sometimes baking and not posting and sometimes not getting my act together to bake.  I have certainly made more of the last few months selections than one can tell from my blogs and I will get those postings online as soon as is feasible.  I made the cranberry shortcake several weeks ago.  I absolutely loved this cake. 

I must have spread my jam more thinly than was anticipated because I had quite a bit of the jam remaining.  I wanted to make more of the jam for Christmas presents, but I never saw cranberries in the grocery store this year.  Most have been another blight of some kind!

Everyone who had a taste of this cake pronounced it excellent.  It was easy and quick to bake and will definitely become part of my go-to repertoire.