24 March 2008

the great st. patrick's day extravaganza.

It has taken me a long time to get this whole St. Patrick's Day feast uploaded for you all, and I am sorry about that. It has been a crazy couple of weeks. But here it is, with lots of photos to boot.

St. Patrick's Day is a big to do in our little group of friends. There is always a gathering, usually there is basketball (although this year we were a week too early for that tradition), there is beer and there is food. The food is usually made by me. And this year I was ready for the challenge yet again. Especially after I saw the cover of Bon Appetite's March issue. The grilled corned beef and fontina sandwiches were it, but first came dessert. Okay, I made it first... intending for it to be eaten last... but it was not. It was eaten first too.

Dessert was my second attempt at ice cream: Guinness Ice Cream. When our friend Nate gave us an ice cream maker for our wedding, I promised him Guinness ice cream for St. Paddy's. And I make good on my promise. And damn is tasted good. However, I am saving it for the next post. So the partner dessert will have to tide you over until then. I needed something to go with the ice cream. Cookies seemed right and added something else to munch on for the day. I chose Meyer Lemon Sablés by Orangette because I still had a couple meyer lemons from our meyer lemon curd expedition. They tasted great, but...

Since I baked them at a friend's house, I had no parchment and no silpat to bake them on as instructed. Not good. Obviously. But at least the crumbs tasted good. And we got a couple full cookies out of the deal.

On to the savory... as for the corned beef, I did not brine it myself. The week of preparation was just to much for me to commit to this year. But the pre-brined that I bought at Lund's tasted mighty good. I braised it with beer and peppercorns and a couple bay leafs and it came out great.

I also made Braised Cabbage with Carrots and Onions, also by Orangette. You just gotta have cabbage with the corned beef, whether it is in sandwich form or not.

I also did some rosemary roasted potatoes. Red potatoes, olive oil, rosemary, S and P. Simple and perfect.

Last but not least, the sandwich. These were amazing. Melty with cheese, tangy with Guinness Dijon Mustard and sweet with caramelized onions. Just great. I wish I had eaten a whole one instead of just eating bites of my husbands. Oh well, I guess I will just have to make them again!

Guinness mustard
Bon Appétit - March 2008

1/2 cup coarse-grained Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons regular Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Guinness stout or other stout or porter
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon golden brown sugar

Whisk all ingredients in small bowl to blend. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.

Grilled Corned Beef and Fontina Sandwiches
adapted from Bon Appétit - March 2008

Good bread, I used a french style loaf, but you could use rye or whatever you wanted
Guinness Dijon mustard
1 pound thinly sliced corned beef
8 ounces thinly sliced Fontina cheese
2 sweet onion (such as Maui or Vidalia), thinly sliced and caramelized
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided

Place 4 bread slices on work surface. Spread mustard on 1 side of each. Divide corned beef among bread slices. Top with cheese and onion. Cover with remaining 4 bread slices, pressing slightly to adhere.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in each of 2 large nonstick skillets over medium heat. Place 2 sandwiches in each skillet and cook until golden brown on bottom, pressing occasionally with spatula, about 3 minutes. Turn sandwiches over and cook until golden on bottom and cheese melts, about 3 minutes. Transfer sandwiches to plates, cut in half, and serve.

17 March 2008

meyer lemon ricotta pancakes.

Still basking in the glory or the Meyer Lemon Curd, and with a whole lot of leftover zest, Sunday morning brought pancakes. Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. I have always wanted to try these little guys, but at every brunch I have had the chance I always lean toward something else. I really am much more of a savory brunch gal. And I am very picky about my pancakes. In the olden days, I wouldn't eat a pancake unless it was very small... silver dollar sized. My mom made them for me special. High-maintenance, even at age 5.

So Sunday was the day for pancakes. These were a bit more time intensive then I would have liked. I mean, for me, Sundays mean ordering coffee, not whipping egg whites. But I was chipper and I whipped and folded with the best of them.

They had great flavor, especially with all the lemon curd that I put on top of them. But they were a little too grainy for my taste. Next time I will probably use whole milk ricotta instead of part skim... hopefully that will help. One key point I will mention is that the batter is pretty thick, so pouring was not an option for me. I used a scoop and spread method which worked out better and help make the pancakes not to thick in the middle. Dave ate three platefuls, so, in my mind, that means the pancakes were a success.

Meyer Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
adapted from Gourmet

4 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups ricotta
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
melted butter for brushing the griddle
large dollops of Meyer Lemon Curd for topping

In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest, add the flour, and stir the mixture until it is just combined. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks, whisk about one fourth of them into the ricotta mixture, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Heat a griddle over moderately high heat until it is hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface and brush it with some of the melted butter. Working in batches, pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4-cup measures and cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary. Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in a preheated 200°F. oven.

11 March 2008

an amazing find.

I just wanted to share with you all this amazing thing that I picked up at Whole Foods the other day. Anyone who visits Whole Foods regularly knows that they have a great cheese department with lots of little sample to enjoy as you peruse their selection. Well, my cheese department wander led me to a fantastic find: Palatte Fine Foods Chili Honey. It was sitting there, calling out to me next to a pile of Dubliner Cheddar cubes that were just waiting to be dunked into their new neighbor. It was a pairing to jump around about. The honey has a deep honey sweet flavor with a hint of heat from the peppers, which is obvious, but not overwhelming. Paired with the slightly salty cheese, it is a match made in heaven. I couldn't resist. I picked up a honey jar and a slab of cheese and headed home excitedly to enjoy it with my fresh loaf of Olive Oil Focaccia from Lucia's To-Go. It was the best Sunday afternoon snack a gal could ask for. I highly suggest you try it.

10 March 2008

nectar of the gods.

Everyone who's anyone knows that it is meyer lemon season. And, I ask you, is there any better way to enjoy the lovely taste of lemon than in curd form? I think not. And enjoy it we did, my friend Megan and I, the whole entire process of the curd from zesting to custarding.

I never really knew what the deal was with curd and I never dreamed that I would be able to make it myself. But, I gotta tell you, it is so easy! It does take some tenderness to make sure that the custard doesn't curdle... no need for scrambled eggs in the curd. We actually made a triple batch and had no problems.

The whole process is a treat for the senses. The beautiful color of the lemons and the juice. Then the amazing smell that wafts through the kitchen while you whisk it... like lemon pudding but better. Rich and fresh at the same time. And then of course the taste. Good enough to eat straight off the spoon.

There may be a whole lot of butter involved, but I definitely will make curd again. Lemon, lime and more meyer lemon if I can get my hands on them.

Meyer Lemon Curd
3 to 4 Meyer lemons (about 1 lb)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Finely grate enough zest from lemons to measure 2 teaspoons and squeeze enough juice to measure 1/2 cup. Whisk together zest, juice, sugar, and eggs in a metal bowl and add butter. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking, until thickened and smooth and an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F, about 5 minutes. Force curd through a fine sieve set into another bowl. Serve warm or cover surface of curd with wax paper and cool completely.

Lemon curd keeps, covered and chilled, 1 week and can also be frozen.
If substituting regular lemons, increase sugar to 3/4 cup.

Enjoy your curd with a nice scone, some pancakes or just a nice spoon. A related recipe for Lemon Ricotta Pancakes that, topped with Meyer Lemon Curd, are out of this world, will grace this blog very soon.

04 March 2008

those pesky green beans.

The one thing that I failed to mention in the previous post is the one thing that we almost forgot to eat! Thank goodness for Megan and her memory.

When shopping for the goods we needed for our fabulous meal, we decided we definitely needed something green and healthy to complement our pasta. We thought briefly about brussels sprouts, but, after remembering the shallot sitting at home on my counter, ultimately decided on harcot verts with shallot and butter. During the all the cooking an churning of burnt ice cream, we sauteed the the chopped up shallot in some butter, added the green beans and heated them through to just hot but still crisp and green. Realizing that we still had some time to kill on the pasta, we stashed the lovely beans in a warm oven for safe keeping until we were ready for them. Well, in all the hustle-bustle of the meal, those little beans were forgotten in their warm oven. It wasn't until mid pasta did we remember them and I went running to the kitchen to fetch them. In a last minute flash of brilliance, we sprinkled some extra breadcrumbs on top. Although forgotten until almost too late, those beans had heart... and tons of flavor. They joined our meal happily and we were happy to have them.

It is too bad that these little guys were forgotten again by my silly brain as I was writing about the meal. Please forgive me, little beans.

03 March 2008

girls' weekend part deux.

There were some bright spots in the cooking that ensued during girls' weekend. In fact, most of the night was bright as can be. Shining glasses of red win began our journey through the edible wonderland that was Saturday night. Our starter course, taking a cue from Orangette, was a crunchy baguette topped with butter, fleur de sel and crispy sliced radishes.

Now, let me tell you, I used to hate radishes. Despised them. But as I read Orangette's post on radishes and butter and watched Anthony Bourdain eat them joyfully at Prune in the New York City episode, I knew that I needed to open up my mind to this pretty little vegetable. And I am so glad I did. This was a fabulous and refreshing way to start a meal and I will from this day forward eagerly embrace the radish at my dinner table.

Following the radishes, we moved onto the main course. We based this dish on Last Night Dinner's Scallops in a Snap, however neither of us is very fond of the tiny bay scallop, cute as they are, so we opted to change things up a bit for our recipe.

Angel Hair Pasta with Seared Scallops
adapted from Cappellini with Nantucket Bay Scallops from Last Night's Dinner

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
Kosher salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
Red chile flakes to taste
Sea Scallops, 2-3 per person
3/4 lb. angel hair pasta
Lemon zest
Toasted breadcrumbs

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Meanwhile, sear the scallops over high heat in a pan with a little butter and olive oil. Heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic. Saute until just beginning to brown, then add the wine and the chili flakes. Add the pasta to the garlic oil and toss together. Plate the pasta and top with fresh lemon zest and breadcrumbs (we used a piece of baguette that had been pulsed in the food processor and toasted in the oven with a little olive oil... these were the best breadcrumbs I've ever had and would highly suggest this method). Place the scallops lovingly on top and sprinkle with a little more olive oil if you wish.

I loved this pasta and brought leftovers, sans scallops, for lunch the next day. The chili flakes give is a great heat and the breadcrumbs add a nice little crunch to the whole thing.

Now, onto the good part of dessert: the fried part.

When I suggested salted caramel ice cream to end our girls' night meal, Megan, the genius that she is, requested that we also make Apple Zeppole. These lovely little balls of fried dough were dusted with powdered sugar and then dipped into cinnamon whipped cream. Had the ice cream tasted better it would have been a dessert that other desserts would have looked up to. We made the batter before dinner and then left it in the fridge until we were ready for frying. And fry we did. With our trusty sidekick, my new oil and candy thermometer, we did pretty well. Some were a little doughy in the middle from the oil getting a little to hot, but otherwise there were amazing. They made me think that one day I might be able to make regular donuts.

Apple Zeppole with Cinnamon Whipped Cream
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1 large apple, peeled and grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
4 eggs
Olive oil for frying

Cinnamon Whipped Cream:
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium saucepan combine the butter, salt, sugar, and water over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Take pan off the heat and stir in the flour. Return the pan to medium heat and stir continuously until mixture forms a ball, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the flour mixture to a medium bowl. Using an electric hand mixer on low speed, add eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg completely before adding the next. Beat until smooth. Add the grated apple and stir to combine. If not frying immediately, cover with plastic wrap and reserve in the refrigerator.

Combine the whipping cream, 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, and cinnamon in a
medium bowl. Whip until medium soft peaks form. Transfer the whipping cream to a serving dish.

Meanwhile, pour enough oil into a large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 325 degrees F.

Using a small ice-cream scooper or 2 small spoons, carefully drop about a rounded tablespoon of the dough into the hot olive oil. Turn the zeppole once or twice, and cook until golden and puffed up, about 4 minutes. Fry the zeppole in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper towels. Transfer the zeppole to a serving dish and sprinkle with powdered sugar using a small sieve. Serve with the cinnamon whipped cream alongside for dipping.