Friday, October 29, 2010

ffwd - marie-helene's apple cake

I've made this cake twice now. The first time, to finish off our dinner of hachis parmentier last week. That time, I served it with some dulce de leche ice cream (would have loved cinnamon, as suggested); the second time, all on it's own. Both times we very much enjoyed the cake. With apples, I almost always add cinnamon, but resisted with this recipe. Like all of the recipes from around my french table, this one relies on the subtle combination of flavors. It's really all about the apples - well, of course there's the butter and vanilla... oh, and the rum...

My only problems were also all about the apples - what does Dorie call a "large" apple? (fairly obviously smaller than what I do!) And why won't those apple pieces sink in the batter? - they keep popping up!! Delicious nonetheless, I'll certainly make this again when I'd like something yummy, but maybe not something all that decadent (after all, there's no chocolate!).

my ingredients, ready to begin
4 varieties of apples, some not-quite-dark rum, and some really good vanilla

mixing the batter - a different method than a typical "American" cake - the butter is melted, and added alternately with the flour mixture

apples cut up, and ready to stir in
I ended up using 3 - 1/2 apples, 4 just seemed like too many

not a lot of batter, barely enough to cover the apples

ready for the oven 
I decided not to bother with the springform pan (I think it's more difficult to get a cake out of the pan)
this is an 8" cake pan (straight sides), lined with parchment - it never fails

this was my better-looking attempt
at least some of the batter covered the apples, but they did seem to float to the top
the cake came out of the pan perfectly (both times)
I will definitely try this cake again. For the amount of effort, it's really good. And a nice, light cake that could be served at any time, and equally good served warm or cold. Served with ice cream, it was the perfect amount of "rich". But would be great with a terrific cup of coffee too, for a nice little break.

Friday, October 22, 2010

FFWD - hachis parmentier (a French Shepherd's Pie)

This seemed like such a warm and comforting food - and it was!! I decided to invite some friends over who are interested in my little project, and make this for them, as well as a number of other recipes: really, a retrospective of our October recipes. We began with gougeres, served with a French sparkling wine, then the starter for our dinner was Gerard's mustard tart made with fresh tomatoes, served with a simple salad. Then on to the main course! We really loved the "pie", its subtle flavors wonderful. It didn't hurt that we enjoyed a lovely Merlot from Bennet Lane Winery alongside! We finished our dinner with next week's recipe - Marie-Helene's apple cake, embellished with some dulce de leche ice cream - yum! A simple meal, well suited to a cool (for the mountains in AZ) October evening! A wonderful evening... around MY french table.

This recipe was deceptively good. Plenty of steps, but nothing difficult, or even time-consuming, except waiting for things to simmer. I made a double-batch because initially, I thought there would be 7 of us, and it was easier to just double rather than do 1.5 recipes. As it turned out, we didn't touch the 2nd pie, but it made for some wonderful leftovers, even plenty to share! 
my ingredients for the beef and bouillon
I did use the cube-steak as suggested, along with some fresh parsley from the garden

all of the beef ingredients, ready for their long, slow simmer

the remainder of the filling ingredients
the beef that was cooked with the aromatics, along with the sausage and tomato paste

once the beef was coarsely chopped, and the bouillon strained and set aside, it was time to brown the sausage

the filling, ready to go
it seemed like the perfect amount of juice, though I worried that it wasn't enough later, after chilling, but it was

using my new ricer (thanks Clayton!)
with the double batch (4 lbs of potatoes), it made it a lot easier to get a creamy topping

my 2 recipes all ready for the oven, a nice grating of gruyere cheese on top

serving up our wonderful hachis parmentier... a delightful meal to share

 Once again, Dorie has created a terrific recipe that was easy, flavorful and welcoming. (and yes, the leftovers were terrific!). This is something I'll definitely make again.

Friday, October 15, 2010

ffwd - spicy vietnamese chicken noodle soup

This is one of the first recipes I looked at when I saw the book "around my french table". I love Asian flavors, and anything with coconut! Unfortunately, I forgot to pick fresh herbs when I was in Sedona Tuesday, so I had to settle for some from the market.

One of the best things about this kind of soup, is that you get to "customize" your bowl, adding just the right amount of spicy chile sauce, fresh chopped herbs, and in this, case hoisin sauce. I love to mix together herbs: the different flavors of cilantro, mint and basil make an unbeatable combination.

Luckily, I usually have most of the ingredients (including relatively exotic ones) on hand, so this was no stretch. And fast, too!! I made this on a Wednesday evening after work, it probably took no more than an hour. Wonderful comfort food!!! And beautiful too!

My ingredients ready to go: it turned out that I didn't have coriander seeds so I had to use ground, and I used Penzey's chicken soup base

Which is the "Dorie-size" bunch of cilantro?

herbs and spices for the broth, ready to tie up in a cheese-cloth package 

the broth simmering with it's flavoring packet, and chiles, to this you add cooked noodles

chicken breast poached in the soup, ready for shredding along with the condiments: fresh chopped cilantro, mint & basil; with lime, hoisin and sriracha chile sauce

the finished soup, ready for serving...yum!!!

 This was so easy, fast and yummy - great for a chilly evening, or even to replace traditional chicken soup when you have a cold!! Certainly, some of the comments by others, or even Dorie's suggestions would be great, but this totally hit the spot!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

around my French table

Not content with "only" making the recipe of the week, I've made a couple of other things from the book...

I made "creamy, cheesy, garlicky rice with spinach" the other night (p380). I looked to see what I could make with what I had on hand. The "French" version of risotto was wonderful, easy, and very delicious. I did dress it up with a drizzle of truffle oil.

I also made "roast chicken for les paresseux" (for lazy people... fitting! p200). I'm looking forward to trying this again, as I probably overcooked. But still delicious. With the leftovers, I made a recipe from another favorite cookbook, The Taste of Mexico. Enchiladas Verdes Estilo Meson Santa Rosa... Chicken enchiladas with a green sauce of tomatillos and chiles.

Just made mt next ffwd Dorie recipe, but can't say anything yet! Will have to wait until Friday.

Friday, October 8, 2010

FFWD - Gerard's Mustard Tart

The great thing about FFWD is that having someone else choose your recipes means you end up making something you wouldn't have chosen otherwise (much like my book club). I likely would NOT have picked this one, though my friend Teri (Butter n Thyme), who is in my book club and got me started with all of this, DID pick this recipe as the first to make when she got the book. Since I had already sampled the main recipe in the book, I decided to make the original tomato version.

I always have difficulty with butter pastries, and getting them to be pliable enough to roll out, but no so much that it's too soft. I used a new pastry flour, since I'd just purchased it, hoping that it would make things better. I had to keep putting my pastry dough in the freezer (probably doesn't help that it's AZ - still over 100 outside!) as I worked through the steps.

pastry ingredients ready to go!

butter incorporated  - they said not to worry about the size being all the same, so I didn't

the dough comes together with the addition of the egg and water

nice ball of dough, ready to get wrapped up

ready to chill!

hopefully it will roll out

This whole part of the process, the literally hours, was a little long for me. Easy & quick to pull together, but the entire process seemed to take forever. 
finally, ready to pre-bake

done! well, the first part...

ingredients for the filling

all of the filling ingredients  since I was making the tomato version, the rosemary went into the mix

ready for the oven

just out of the oven, smells great, and looks pretty!

a nice puff, and the crust looks good!

I was really sceptical about this, in fact, I took it over to my brother's house to share it (let's be honest, in case I didn't like it, I wouldn't have to eat it all). We all thought "mustard" tart? But we gamely tried it, serving up pieces that cut beautifully! The first impression was of the crust, which was perfectly golden and sturdy. When we tasted it, it was a wonderful explosion of flavors - the contrast between the tangy mustard, the juicy sweet tomato, and the crisp flaky crust was amazing. I almost had to threaten them to leave me a tiny piece to reserve for my lunch!

This was a terrific recipe, and a terrific adventure in creating something new, that I would likely not have tried. We LOVED it, and I'm sure I'll be making it again!

Friday, October 1, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie - Gougeres

Excited to start FFWD! Gougeres are light little cheese puffs - delicate and golden. Might as well say it up front, this was a great recipe! I've made these in the past using different recipes, but they really weren't that special. What yummy little morsels they turned out to be!! To be honest, it was hard to stop eating them! Good thing you can limit the number you bake at a time!!
I particularly wanted to try out Dorie's suggestion for freezing, and then baking them.

Ingredients all together - not that there are many! I accidentally picked up extra-large eggs, so I switched 2 out for some smaller ones from a local chicken farm up north... I used gruyere cheese, but cheddar would be yummy - maybe with a stilton filling - but I digress!

The dough comes together exactly as promised

After mixing the eggs into the dough, adding the cheese

Looks beautiful!

Ready to make into puffs!

Ready to bake...

They puffed beautifully, and look gorgeous!

And we have to have with "dijon's famous aperitif" a Kir

My next baking challenge came with freezing the unbaked puffs as suggested, then baking them. I was having people over to try them, so hoped they would turn out!

Out of the freezer - they're tiny, so don't take up a lot of space!

They turned out perfectly too! What a great idea for the busy holidays!

I had such a great time baking these... I can't wait for the next recipe!!