Monday, November 14, 2011

Coulibiac (Page 308)

RECIPE #1283

  • Date: Saturday, September 24, 2011 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Helen, Charles, and Clara
  • Recipe Rating: A

The Book describes this recipe as perfect for "weekend hobbyists." The description scared me off a bit. Indeed, the recipe is a bit time consuming (the 3 and a half hour active time is no joke) but worth it! That golden brown pastry shell that you see above was filled with salmon and a delicious mixture of rice and mushrooms. It was a beautiful, delicious dish! But I am getting ahead of myself. I started preparing this dish by poaching salmon steaks in a mixture of water, white wine, and salt. I refrigerated the poached salmon and reserved the poaching liquid. I then made the dough. I proofed the yeast then added melted butter, warm milk, eggs, sour cream, flour, and salt. I kneaded the dough then let it rise until it doubled in size. I then cooked rice in the reserved fish poaching liquid. I cooked onions in vegetable oil and butter, then cooked finely chopped mushrooms in a similar manner. I mixed the mushrooms, onions, and rice along with dill, parsley, sour cream, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. I then divided the dough into two pieces and rolled out one of them. I sprinkled it with bread crumbs, then spread it with rice mixture and topped the rice with the salmon. I topped the salmon with chopped hard-boiled eggs, and topped the eggs with more of the rice mixture. I then rolled out the second piece of dough and draped it over the filling. I pressed the edges to seal, cut some steam vents, and decorated with some cut-outs. I brushed the whole thing with egg wash, and baked it until it was golden brown. I then served slices of the dish drizzled with melted butter.

This dish was fantastic! The bread exterior was flavorful and texturally perfect. The salmon was also nice. What made the dish for me though was the rice mixture, which simply tasted great. It was perfectly seasoned, and the ingredients came together in a wonderful way. The dill was pronounced without being too strong. The rice itself was flavorful from being cooked in the poaching liquid. It was a wonderful complement to the fish and hard-boiled eggs. This dish claimed to serve 6, but it would easily serve 8. We froze the leftovers, and when we ate the last slice I was terribly sad to see it go. This wasn't a quick and simple dish but the effort was worth it. Yum!

This recipe isn't online.

Only 10 recipes left to go!

And suddenly, it is the middle of November. The semester is winding down (Only three and a half weeks of classes left!), the winter weather is slowly settling in, and I am left wondering, as always, where the time went! The last couple weeks, in particular, have flown by. Two weeks ago our friend John was visiting. He's a mathematician in my special gentleman's field, and he came here to give a couple talks. He stayed with us for most of a week and it was great fun. I like having mathematical visitors stay with us, but occasionally people come who are bad guests: high-maintenance, or unpleasant. John, on the other hand, is the best kind of guest: fun, easy-going, appreciative, self-sufficient, and willing to go with the flow. The three of us had a fun week: scary movies, hard work-outs, a basketball game, a dinner from The Book, etc...

This past week my special gentleman and I headed down to Virginia. We were each invited to give talks at the University of Virginia (in two different seminars) so we opted to go the same week and travel together. Our friends Mike and Tim live there, so we stayed with them, gave our talks, and worked with people in the department. I also had the opportunity to do a little cooking! Mike has participated in this project since the very beginning. The first recipe from The Book that I cooked with Mike was back in February 2006. We made Tomato Sauce. It wasn't very good, but we had a fun time making it. It was only the 39th recipe I made. Since then, the Project Index tells me that Mike has cooked and/or eaten 113 recipes from The Book with me! He has been a great supporter of this project all along, so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to cook and eat one of the last ten recipes from the project with him. As it turned out, the recipe wasn't so good. But that seemed only fitting. Mike is the only one of my friends who often says things like, "Let's cook something from The Book! Pick something that sounds gross!" It's true, he likes the culinary adventure of trying the questionable recipes. Some of them have turned out wonderfully and some of them have not (Fig Pudding comes to mind). We always have fun though! In this case, it was especially wonderful to be able to make the last seafood recipe while in a town where a variety of seafood is abundantly available (unlike here in East Lansing!). One trip to the Whole Foods a few miles from Mike's house and I found everything I needed! So my trip to Virginia was not only research productive but also productive for my project. Multi-tasking!

Now my special gentleman and I are back at home. No visitors this week. My special gentleman and I are each making short (separate) trips to Canada in the next week or so to give talks, but other than that we are in town until Thanksgiving! I'm not sure I am quite ready for the craziness of the holiday season yet, but I am starting to feel more prepared. One of my absolute favorite times of the year is the few days between when finals end and when we head to Wisconsin/Ohio for the holidays. I love going to see our families, of course, but in those few days we spend at home before we leave I work by the fireplace, bake cookies, write Christmas cards, drink hot chocolate. It is an absolutely lovely way to start the winter break. I look forward to that time every year. It's hard to believe it is only about a month away!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Scallop Mousse with Ginger-Infused Veloute (Page 74)

RECIPE #1282

  • Date: Saturday, September 24, 2011 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Fellow Chef: Helen
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Charles, and Clara
  • Recipe Rating: B

I had a free Saturday in September and I decided to do some serious cooking. I picked two time-consuming recipes from The Book (this one and another) and invited Helen, Charles, and Clara over to share in the fruits of my labor. I started this recipe by cooking leeks, shallots, fennel bulb, carrot, celery, star anise, and ginger in butter. I added some white wine and reduced, then added fish stock and reduced again. I added heavy cream, salt, pepper, chives, parsley, cilantro, and tarragon, and let the herbs steep. I strained the sauce, then added ginger matchsticks and reduced it again. I seasoned the sauce with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. While all that was going on, I also made the scallop mousse. I pureed scallops, egg white, salt, and white pepper in the food processor, then added cream and processed it some more. I divided the mixture amongst ramekins, which had been buttered and lined with waxed paper. I put the ramekins in a baking pan with boiling water coming halfway up the sides of the ramekins. I baked them until a toothpick came out clean. I inverted each mousse onto paper towels, then a plate. Helen helped me sauce them, and sprinkle them with herbs before serving.

I put off making this recipe for a long time because pureed seafood products really don't appeal to me. So the word "scallop" next to the word "mousse" set off red flags for me. However, this dish wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The sauce had an excellent flavor. There was a lot of depth to it, which wasn't terribly surprising given all the additions and reductions that went into it. The flavor of the mousse was ok too -- a little bit too much like scallop-flavored whipped cream for my taste, but it wasn't bad. No one had any major complaints about this dish. My special gentleman said he would have rather just eaten a seared scallop with the yummy sauce rather than the scallop mousse, but there was not consensus at the table on that point. Although the dish exceeded expectations, I won't be making it again. No one was terribly wowed by it.

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Only 11 recipes left to go!

This was the last recipe in the Hors D'oeuvres and First Courses section of The Book! This is one of the longest sections of The Book, with 110 recipes in it. There were definitely times when I felt like I would never make it through this section. But here I am! The section is complete. Below, in no particular order, are my favorite five recipes from this part of The Book:
  • Sweet Potato Chips with Lime Salt -- It's hard to go wrong with deep-fried potato products, but these chips were exceptionally delicious even within that genre. The lime salt was a wonderful complement to these ultra-thin chips. So very, very delicious!
  • Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves -- Despite what my dear friend Mike says, I am happy to admit when my grading of a recipe was wrong. In this case, I clearly made a mistake by giving this recipe an A- when it truly deserved an A. This is a beautiful, delicious hors d'oeurve which I come back to again and again. I have made this dish for several baby showers, bridal luncheons, Easter dinners, department parties, etc. I passed this recipe on to my mother-in-law, and now she makes it for special events too. It is super simple to throw together and super delicious. Definitely worthy of an A!
  • Arepas with Yucatecan Pulled Pork and Pickled Onions - These little cheesy corn cakes topped with pulled pork and pickled onions were out of this world! I made these and another appetizer when we had our crawfish boil last year and these just flew off the plate. Absolutely delicious!
  • Coconut Shrimp with Tamarind Ginger Sauce -- Seafood is not my favorite, and shrimp is certainly not something I usually crave. But these coconut shrimp were amazing! The breading was awesome, they were perfectly fried, and the dipping sauce complemented them wonderfully. Easily the best coconut shrimp I have ever eaten. I made these for New Year's Eve at my in-laws house, and everyone loved them!
  • Candied Walnuts -- I made these walnuts for a Tuesday dinner back in graduate school. They were fantastic! I love the sweetness and crunch of good candied nuts. The combination of powdered sugar, cayenne, and salt really worked well with the walnuts. And deep-frying made them extra crispy. Yum!
There have been sections of The Book where it has been difficult to identify five truly outstanding recipes. In this section, however, I had the opposite problem. There are so many delicious recipes in this section that several things I make frequently (like Pita Toasts and Cheese Straws) didn't even make my top five list! It was tremendous fun to make the wide variety of hors d'oeuvres and first courses in this section. And although some didn't turn out so well (the Scallion, Mushroom, and Shrimp Custards come to mind), for the most part they were very tasty!

And now I am one step closer to finishing the project! I have now completed 15 sections of The Book, with only 6 left to finish! And truth be told, I am a little behind in my blogging but I have already finished another section. So really I only have 5 sections left to go! I can hardly believe it.