Friday, February 26, 2010

Tim's Birthday Feast

I've got to start this post by apologizing for the annoying gap between posts! I've been super-busy this week, which is no excuse, so here is a nice long one for those of you who've been so loyally keeping up with my little blog.

The lineup

My buddy Tim celebrated his 25th birthday this past weekend.  Much to my dismay, I had to work Sunday night, so I was unable to join our little group of friends at Charleston Grill.  So, I promised him that our next day off together we would get together and cook a big feast. 

We didn't really have a plan for what we wanted to eat, so we shopped around until we found something we liked.  We ended up with a pork loin roast, which is kind of silly because the last time we cooked we did a pork roast too.  But, they're good, and affordable, and can feed several people at once.

We decided to rub the roast down with a paste of finely minced garlic and rosemary, salt, and pepper.

 All rubbed down.

Then, we seared it to give it a nice head start on the browning process.

  Onion bed.

So, in the oven it went, and we got started with a fun game of Apples to Apples, which always seems to get broken out when this particular group of kids gets together.  While everyone got started playing, Tim and I puttered around in the kitchen and whipped up some Caesar salads.

I love a good Caesar salad.

Tim's girlfriend, Amanda, got started on a kickass risotto, made with lots of chicken stock and wine.

 Tim was a big helper.

When we got closer to eating, we made some green beans with bacon (one of my favorite things to throw together)...

  Bacon makes everything better.

...and some carrots with chile and mint, inspired by this recipe from the March 2010 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  We didn't roast them because the pork was roasted.  Instead, we blanched them and sauteed them with butter, mint, and crushed red pepper.

Carrots are good for you.

Finally, it was time to eat.  I'm not gonna lie, we managed to overcook the pork, because, well, you saw the wine lineup.  So we threw together a simple red wine-pan sauce-reduction-type-thing for a little moisture, and it tasted fine.  Granted, the pork could have been a little more on the medium-rare side for us foodie restaurant kids, but the taste was there.


It was all good, but I've gotta give it to Amanda- the risotto was outstanding.  She stirred it the entire time- I don't have that kind of dedication.  But it was sooo creamy- and it didn't have a drop of cream or milk in it (one thing we forgot at the store)!

Happy birthday Timmy!

And now for the post-dinner, full-belly, wine-drunk pictures that everyone will just love that I posted:

Patrick, Cindy, Tim

Amanda, me, Brandon  

Let's not forget sweet Stella.

 She was so GOOD the whole time!

Mmmkay so that's about all I've got. Cheers to Timmy on his quarter-century!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My First Soufflé!

It fell a little while I was trying to get a good picture...
Ive been wanting to attempt a soufflé for a long time now.  I hate to admit it, but I've been putting it off because, quite frankly,  it intimidated me.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the soufflé, it is an egg-based dish that can be savory or sweet, in which whipped egg whites are folded into a base to give it a delicate lift when baked. 

Finally, I mustered up the courage to try this thing.  I decided on a savory cheese soufflé because I'm less familiar with savory soufflés than sweet ones.  I adapted the recipe from The Joy of Cooking, and I halved it for 2 individual soufflé ramekins:

Cheese Soufflé
 (makes about 4 servings)

For Béchamel (or white sauce):
(makes 1 cup)

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
pinch ground nutmeg 
herbs and seasonings to taste
*I used about 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley and a dash of lemon juice* 

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Whisk in flour until well-blended and smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk in the milk. 

Return the pan to heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.  

Continue to cook, whisking until the sauce is smooth and hot and has thickenened, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.   Add herbs and seasonings.
For soufflé:

butter and grated Parmesan for ramekins
1 cup Béchamel
6-7 tablespoons grated cheese
*I used about 3 Tbs Parmesan, 2 Tbs Gouda, and 2 Tbs sharp Cheddar*
3 egg  yolks, beaten
4 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously butter soufflé ramekins and dust the insides with Parmesan cheese.  Shake out the excess.

Bring the Béchamel to a boil in a large saucepan.  Remove from heat and let stand for 30 seconds.   Add the cheese, and stir well.  

Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition. 


Beat the whites until they are stiff, but not dry.  Fold into the cheese mixture.


Pour into the prepared ramekin(s).

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until risen and set.

Not gorgeous, but they puffed!

We had these for breakfast, with some bacon and fruit.  These could be a lunch or dinner-type thing as well, just remember that the timing is tricky.   I wish the tops had risen a little more evenly, but I don't know what I could have done differently to fix that. 

Mmm, breakfast!

They tasted better than I hoped they would! Very delicate and light, and the flavor was really nice.  Subtle but definitely there.  I'll make these again- they really weren't that hard!  First, I'm going to tackle chocolate ones for dessert.  I'll let you know when it happens!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Daring Cooks' February Challenge: Mezze!

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid. 

Mezze is kind of like a Middle Eastern version of Spanish tapas.  The required part of the challenge was to make hummus and pita bread from scratch, and to build your table from there. Here is my spread:

My spread, moving clockwise: At 9'oclock, you see a veggie plate with cucumbers, carrots, and roasted almonds.  Followed by grilled Haloumi cheese, couscous with chicken and parsley, pita bread in the black & white checkered cloth, hummus just below that, assorted olives, steamed artichokes with lemon garlic butter, and roasted cauliflower in the middle. 

Brandon, his brother Justin, and I all had a lot of fun eating this dinner.  None of the components were too difficult to make, but I did kind of get a little overzealous with the number of dishes I chose to make.  I stayed busy with all the prep, but I like keeping busy with that kind of thing so it didn't bother me.

First, the pita.  The recipe Michele chose was adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.  I'm glad we've been working with yeast in baking class, because I've never really had the guts to play around with it at home.  I think my class helped me not be too intimidated to try a yeast based dough at home.

 Kneading the dough.  I look pretty.

While the dough was proofing, I worked on all the other stuff.

  Hummus sprinkled with paprika, EVOO, and parsley.
This was not the first Daring Cooks challenge to remind me of how much I need a food processor.
 Cucumbers and carrots for dipping in the hummus, roasted almonds.

The veggies were nice, sprinkled with a pinch of sea salt. 

After the bread was finished proofing, it had to be rolled out and baked.  This was when I got the hot stuff going. 

Steamed artichoke. 

I absolutely loved this recipe for Artichokes with Lemon Garlic Butter.  I've got it bookmarked, and I will absolutely make it again.

 Grilled Haloumi cheese.

The cheese wasn't the prettiest thing you've ever seen, but it sure did taste good. It had a nice saltiness to it.

  Roasted cauliflower.

I definitely wouldn't consider myself picky, but believe it or not, until this year, I never thought I liked cauliflower.  Finally, I tried some at work, and I can't believe how awesome it is!  I mean, I've been craving it.  So, I simply roasted this with some EVOO, salt & pepper, and it was delicious. 


Finally, my pitas.  Mine didn't balloon up like so many other people's did (like they were supposed to), but they still tasted good.  They definitely brought the meal together. 

  Close-up view of the spread.

I didn't have a separate picture of the couscous (seen above in the middle, to the left of the hummus).  It was more of an afterthought, really.  I had some boxed couscous, and folded in some diced leftover chicken, lemon juice, and parsley.  I also set out a little olive plate. 

This challenge was really fun.  Brandon and Justin both devoured it, forgetting their largely carnivorous palates.  I was tickled to tell them the entire spread, with the exception of the bit of chicken in the couscous, was vegetarian.

I will definitely make this kind of spread again, but next time I will probably just buy pita bread.  It was nice to try making it, but the convenience stuff tastes fine, and would definitely cut down on messes and timing issues.   

To see everyone elses' posts, check out The Daring Cooks's Mezze page. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Culinary School Update: Cream of Broccoli Soup and Pate A Choux

Good for cold days.

This week in cooking class, we made brown stock and Cream of Broccoli soup.  The recipe calls for 2 cups chicken veloute, which is a roux thickened chicken stock, as my mother correctly guessed.  In class, we just added flour to the sauteed veggies, and added the 2 cups of chicken stock on top.  My friend Delia suggested that I post the recipe:

Cream of Broccoli Soup

3/8 oz butter
1 1/2 oz onion, medium dice
3/8 oz celery, medium dice
3/8 lb broccoli, chopped
2 cups chicken veloute
1 cup chicken stock
3 fl. oz heavy cream
salt and pepper
blanched broccoli florets for garnish

Over low heat, sweat the onions, celery, and broccoli in the butter, without browning, until they are nearly tender.

Add the chicken veloute (or sprinkle the veggies with flour and add chicken stock). Bring to a simmer, and cook until the veggies are tender, and the stock begins to thicken, approximately 15 minutes.  Skim the surface periodically.

Puree the soup, then strain through a chinoise, if desired.

Return the soup to the stove and thin it to the correct consistency with additional chicken stock.  Bring the soup to a simmer and add hot cream and salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish!

*This was good- it was nice and thick, and I did choose to strain mine to give it a nice, clean texture. 

In baking class, we made Pate A Choux.  

From this dough, we made cream puffs, chocolate eclairs, and profiteroles.

 Cream Puff.

The cream puffs were filled with pastry cream, which was then topped with whipped cream (chocolate or vanilla).
Chocolate Eclair.

The chocolate eclairs were piped with pastry cream, and dipped in chocolate ganache.

They were good, but really rich.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fun Photos for a Rainy Day

Since today is rainy and nasty, I thought I'd write a not-all-food-related post about recent things in my life that might make you smile.

Here is the most bizarre:

double - yolked egg.

For some strange reason, the carton of eggs that is currently in my refrigerator has so far produced 3 out of 8 double-yolked eggs.  I cracked the first one the other day and was really surprised and kind of excited because I have never seen one before.  Then, when I cracked another one a few minutes later, I got kind of weirded out.  I mean, I spend more on the organic, cage-free eggs, but does this mean they're all genetically mutated and stuff?

So, I looked up a ton of stuff online about it, and apparently, these eggs happen on a fairly regular basis, especially with young layers.  Since they weigh a little more than single yolk eggs, they tend to get grouped together by the machines.  So, if you find one in a carton, you have a good chance of finding a few more.   I will keep you posted on how many more end up being double-yolkers.  Weird stuff.

*Update: 6 out of 12 eggs ended up being double-yolkers.  I was on the fence about it, but I've decided that this definitely weirds me out.  I'm going back to the local Celeste Albers eggs - don't know why I ever veered away from them to begin with! They're worth the extra small effort!  If you live in Charleston, you can find them at The Glass Onion when the Marion Square Farmers Market is closed for the winter season.

  "Party like it's 1989" employee party

This is a special one of Brandon and I at our employee party this past weekend.  The theme was 80's inspired, so we got all decked out.  What you can't see is that he sported 2 earrings all day and had his pants all rolled up. Yes, that is a white windbreaker that he wore around his waist all day long.   I'm definitely rockin' the side pony and leggings, although you can't really tell from the photo.


Dad and Chloe.

My mom sent me this one last week and I had to share it.  This is my dad with Chloe, one of two recent additions to their household.  Chloe and her two sisters Joey and Muffin (who my sister is now taking care of) showed up on my parents doorstep about 6 months ago, tiny, sick, and starving.  Seems like they've adjusted fairly well.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Culinary School Update: Minestrone, Foccacia, and Cinnamon Rolls!

So, I need to post about school before I get too far behind to catch everyone up.  

Mise en place for minestrone in cooking class.

First, I'll go over my Culinary Arts class this week.  We put together a chicken stock, and made minestrone in groups of two.  While the minestrone was cooking, we made roux.  For those who aren't familiar with what a roux is, it is a mixture of equal parts flour and fat (oil, butter, bacon grease, whatever) that is used to thicken things (like soup or gravy).

Blanc, Blonde, and Brown roux

We didn't use the roux to thicken anything, it was more like a skill development exercise. And by the way, yes, I dropped a little spot of brown roux into my blonde roux example :( .  The chef said my blonde roux was just a teeny bit dark, but the brown roux was perfect.  Made me want to make a New Orleans style gumbo or something.  I've never actually had to make anything with a brown/black roux- it takes a lot of patience to get it that dark without burning.  We're talking like 20+ minutes of constant stirring!

I still can't eat minestrone without thinking of sledding and snowmen.

My best friend Brenna's  mom used to make minestrone on every snow day.  Now Brenna makes it for her own kids.  This was pretty good, but it wasn't the same.

So, that's about it for Culinary Arts class. Now for Baking...

Last week in baking class we made lean yeast rolls, cheddar cheese rolls and foccacia bread.

Cheddar cheese rolls and lean yeast rolls.

These rolls were pretty good, but the foccacia bread was great.  We turned it into pizza... mmm.  Here is my pizza.

  Almost the whole pizza.

Yes, there is a piece missing.  I was hungry and almost forgot to take a picture.


Okay, this week in baking class we made cinnamon rolls, and they were delicious!  Cinnamon rolls don't usually get me going, but these were so soft and tender.

  Same dough, different shapes and decorations.

The rolls in the pie tin were definitely my favorite.  We put a caramel coating on the bottom of the pie tin, laid in the dough rolls, proofed and baked them.  Then, when they came out, we flipped the tin so the caramel was on top.

These make me drool like Homer Simpson.

We made traditional looking cinnamon rolls, of course, and we also made these braided loaves.  These were pretty fun and fairly challenging to make. 

Not perfect, but not bad.

Okay, well that's about it.  That was a long one.  Ya'll let me know how you feel about these culinary school posts - do they need changing? I don't want to go into too much detail because I don't want to bore you to death.  

Also, I'm now officially on Twitter as @danidishes.  I need you guys to help me figure it out- it doesn't make complete sense to me yet.  So, until next time...