Saturday, January 29, 2011

Oysters Rockefeller (Page 52)

RECIPE #1247

  • Date: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 -- 6pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Karen H, Dave, Wes, Brad, and Deniz
  • Recipe Rating: B

I hadn't made this recipe yet, as oysters aren't so easy to come by in Lansing. There is a huge Whole Foods near my in-laws' house in Ohio though, so when we were visiting them over the holidays I seized the opportunity to make this hors d'oeuvre. My special gentleman graciously agreed to shuck the oysters for me (not my favorite job!). He also cleaned the shells once the oysters had been shucked. Meanwhile, I stirred together finely chopped Boston lettuce, spinach, scallions, dried bread crumbs, parsley, celery, and garlic. I cooked the mixture in butter, then added some Pernod, anchovy paste, cayenne, salt, and pepper. While the mixture cooled I cooked some bacon, then crumbled it. I stabilized the bottom halves of the oyster shells on a baking sheet using kosher salt. I placed an oyster in each shell and moistened them with some of the oyster liquor. I put some of the vegetable mixture on top of each oyster, then piled on some crumbled bacon and more dried bread crumbs. I baked them until the edges of the oysters curled, then we served them. These oysters were pretty good. The flavor of the vegetable mixture was nice and the bacon was, of course, a delicious addition. I didn't care so much for the extra bread crumbs on top. I can imagine bread crumbs that would have achieved a delicious crunchy texture. But the recipe called for fine dried bread crumbs which instead of giving the oysters a nice crunch, gave them a doughiness that I didn't like. The ratio of topping to oyster also seemed a bit high. So while they were tasty, they weren't amazing, and I probably won't make them again.

The recipe in The Book is very similar to this one.

Only 46 recipes left to go!

I did laundry today. As I was putting the second load into the washing machine, I realized that I hadn't done laundry in over a month. Yet somehow my underwear drawer was never empty and there were always clean pants in my closet. I haven't been to the grocery store in three weeks, yet there is food in the fridge. And while I have only loaded the dishwasher once or twice this month, all the dishes are clean. Basically my special gentleman is amazing. This month was tremendously hectic, and in the little free time that I had, I opted to get some sleep rather than help around the house. Not once this month did my special gentleman complain. Now, the tables are turning. The big things that were making this month crazy for me are now all off my plate, and my responsibilities are back to just the usual ones. My special gentleman, on the other hand, is entering a month full of travel, visitors, and extra time-consuming responsibilities. He is working even harder than usual. So today I did the laundry and made dinner. Tomorrow I will go to the grocery store. I will likely be doing most of the dishes this month. There is a rhythm to our marriage that I appreciate more and more with each passing month. When one of us is exceptionally busy the other person always manages to pick up the slack, without discussion. When we are both extremely busy, we work together to get the things done that absolutely need to be done. What I appreciate about it the most is that it's easy. I always imagined marriage as a partnership that would be empowering. And indeed it is. As a month of craziness comes to a close I am especially thankful for my special gentleman, and hopeful that as his crazy month begins I can be as supportive to him as he was to me these past four weeks.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Minced Squab and Pork with Rice Stick Noodles (Page 408)

RECIPE #1246

  • Date: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C+

There are three squab recipes in The Book, which I hadn't made because it turns out squab isn't so easy to fine. I finally got my hands on some though, so my special gentleman and I made this recipe. We started by soaking dried shitakes in water, then mincing them. I also minced some squab and pork tenderloin, then marinated the meat in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. While that was marinating, we deep-fried rice stick noodles. I made a sauce of water, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Then I heated some peanut oil in a wok and stir-fried the squab mixture with the mushrooms, scallions, ginger, water chestnuts, and the sauce. We served the meat on the rice noodles, with Boston lettuce leaves for wrapping. My special gentleman and I both had similar reactions to this dish. It looked and smelled like something we would really want to eat. But it didn't taste that way. Both components of this dish were disappointing. The deep-fried rice noodles were cool in a way. I had never fried rice noodles before and the way they puffed up was really interesting. But they were terribly bland, and as soon as the meat mixture sat of them for a few seconds they were soggy and gross. Ick. As for the minced pork and squab mixture, it just didn't taste very good. Squab has a distinct flavor which didn't go well with the Asian flavors in the dish. I would have liked the dish better with just pork. The pigeon definitely didn't help it. My special gentleman and I wanted to like this dish, but just didn't particularly.

This recipe isn't online.

Only 47 recipes left to go!

I haven't blogged in ages. I have been swamped this month. I had a bunch of work that needed to get done before the semester started, so I was working very long days during the first week of the new year. The second week of January was the first week of classes, which is always a bit of a mad house. And this past week, I was traveling for work from Sunday to Saturday. Missing the second week of classes was obviously not ideal, and it took some real work to get ready to go away. But some kind souls covered my classes for me, my trip went well, and now I am home. Being home again means catching up on all the things I got behind on while I was away. That includes not just work, but also things like running, cooking, and blogging! Also, relaxing. My flight got in yesterday afternoon, and I will admit that I spent the rest of the day napping, eating, and just hanging out with my special gentleman. It was delightful. Today, confronted with all the work I could have started catching up on yesterday, I regretted it a bit. But I needed a day off. It is looking like this is going to be another very busy week, but I am hoping things will settle down pretty soon. I knew that the month of January would be rough, but I am not traveling at all in February, so likely things we feel a little less hectic then!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Chocolate Prune Pave with Armagnac Creme Anglaise and Candied Orange Zest (Page 820)

RECIPE #1245

  • Date: Saturday, November 20, 2010 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Helen, Charles, Clara, Corbett, Mary, Allison, Ben S., Marcie, Kendra, Jubin, Watson, Linda, and Bob K.
  • Recipe Rating: B

When we hosted our pre-Thanksgiving dinner in November, I only had two desserts left to make for my project. I chose this one to serve with dinner. I had put this off for a long time because chocolate and prunes just didn't sound that good together to me. But the time had come to finally make this dish! I started by pureeing prunes with Armagnac in a food processor. I then forced the puree through a medium-mesh sieve. When I first read this recipe I noticed it had an Active Time of one and a half hours. But reading the recipe it just didn't seem like it could possibly take that long. In fact, that steps all sounded very quick, and they weren't very many of them. Well, I quickly solved the mystery of the hour and a half. The step that took forever: forcing that puree through a sieve. Prune puree is very, very thick and gloppy. It did NOT want to go through a sieve. That step took a nice long while. Once that was done I melted some chocolate with cream then added it to the prune mixture and blended it all in the food processor. I poured it into a loaf pan that was oiled and lined with plastic wrap. I chilled it overnight, then inverted it out of the pan, topped it with Candied Orange Zest, and served it with Armagnac Creme Anglaise.

This dessert was much tastier than I expected it to be. I was worried about the prunes, but they were very subtle. Knowing they were there, it was easy to detect their flavor, but if I hadn't known I probably wouldn't have guessed. They actually contributed a fantastic sweetness and fruitiness to the dish. The predominant flavor, though, was that of the chocolate. The texture was very smooth. The dessert was quite rich -- in fact it was so rich and chocolatey that I found it hard to eat more than a few bites. Eating a slice of this was like eating a giant prune and Armagnac flavored truffle. I would have preferred a chocolate cake to this pave, but it certainly exceeded expectations!

This recipe isn't online.

Only 48 recipes left to go!

This was the last recipe I had left to make in the Fruit Desserts section of The Book! This section had some odd things in it (the Broiled Grapes in Mascarpone come to mind), but overall I enjoyed making these fruit recipes. In no particular order, my top 5 recipes from this section:
  • Fruit Crumble -- I have to include this one because this has become my go-to peach crumble. I have made this at least 10 times since first making it in 2006. It is super-fast, super-tasty, and easy to make for a huge crowd. If you need to throw together dessert for 50 people in a flash, this is the recipe for you!
  • Strawberry Shortcake -- My special gentleman still talks about this recipe, which we made back in 2006, shortly after he and I met. It was indeed memorable!
  • Baked Apples -- I made this one at the very beginning of my project, before I even started taking pictures of the dishes! These are the best baked apples I have ever had, and the recipe is so, so simple. The baked apples are filled with creme fraiche at the end and the result is superb!
  • Chilled Sour Cherry Soup -- Soup cherry soup is one of my special gentleman's all-time favorite foods and I still remember the shocked look he gave me when he realized that we could make it ourselves! This is a good version of the dish, and we make it often in our household.
  • Blackberry Cobbler -- Nothing says summer like a good fruit cobbler, and this one was indeed good! The biscuit topping was delicious and moist and the berry mixture was not too sweet. A winner!
Another section complete! Yay! I have so far completed 11 sections of The Book with only 10 sections left to finish. More than half the sections are complete -- I can hardly believe it! Plus, three of the sections I have left only have one recipe remaining, so hopefully I will finish them off soon!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Candied Orange Zest (Page 820)

RECIPE #1244

  • Date: Saturday, November 20, 2010 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Helen, Charles, Clara, Corbett, Mary, Allison, Ben S., Marcie, Kendra, Jubin, Watson, Linda, and Bob K.
  • Recipe Rating: B+

This recipe was a component of a dessert I made for our pre-Thanksgiving dinner a while back. This was super simple to make. I peeled some navel oranges and cut the zest into thin strips. Then I combined the zest with Cointreau and simmered until the liquid had evaporated and the zest was translucent. I spread the zest out on waxed paper to dry. That was it! This sort of thing is difficult to grade. Candied orange peel basically tastes like candied orange peel. There isn't a huge amount of variance. This peel was less sweet and more boozy than some though, which was an interesting change. It was pretty, and worked nicely as a garnish for the dessert that it was served with (which I will blog about next).

Only 49 recipes left to go!

I have been thinking the last few days about what my resolutions for the new year should be. Here are some that I have come up with:
  • Run every day that I am not traveling -- Over the last few years I have learned something about myself. If I resolve to run three days a week, I won't run at all. If I resolve to run every day, I will do it. Apparently, having the option of not doing it some days leads to me not doing it every day. The one exception I am giving myself: when I am traveling. Often when I travel I have little control over my schedule, and trying to fit in a run becomes very stressful.
  • Finish the Gourmet Project! -- Yes, I said that last year, and didn't quite make it, but this year I am going to do it! I have less than 50 recipes left, which is very manageable. I will finish in 2011!!
  • Eat some fruit every day -- Every year I say I am going to eat more fruits and vegetables. The reality is, I already eat a lot of vegetables, but I am just not a huge fruit person. It's not that I don't like it, but I never crave it, and hence don't eat it as much as I should.
  • Get eight hours of sleep every night -- I know, that sounds totally ridiculous. Who actually gets eight hours of sleep every night? Certainly not me. But I realized recently that when I do sleep a full eight hours I feel happier, more motivated, and I can think more clearly and hence get more work done. My special gentleman and I don't have kids so we still have the luxury of setting our own sleep schedule, and in 2011 I am going to take advantage of that. I am aiming for eight hours a night!
  • Bike to work every day -- I did a good job of this in the fall semester, but I would like to be sure to continue biking in 2011!
  • Stick to my work schedule -- I am more productive if my schedule has some structure to it, so I have a system that I use to self-impose some structure. In the fall, though, with the craziness of starting my new job, I got off schedule early in the term and never completely got back on it. In 2011 I am going to try to stick to my schedule a little better! I have LOTS of other work resolutions, but I won't list them all here.
  • Answer emails more quickly -- This one is in the front of my mind, as I have many, many emails awaiting response in my Inbox.
  • Explore the Lansing area and the rest of Michigan -- The fall was so busy that I didn't have time to do much exploration of the area we now live in. In fact, I haven't even gone hiking once since I moved here! In 2011 I would like to see more of Michigan: the sand dunes, the upper peninsula, etc... I want to go to a Lansing Lugnuts game, visit the zoo, canoe on the river... I have a long list!
  • Continue to build relationships in the math department, in the residential college, at church, in our neighborhood, etc...
  • Be a good wife, family member, and friend.
That's plenty to start off the year with! Looking at the list it seems to me that everything is very achievable (well, maybe with the exception of sleeping eight hours a night!). Hopefully a year from now I will be reflecting back on the success I had with my resolutions!