Friday, January 28, 2011

FFwD: Chicken B'stille

Yeah, I know.  Two difficult-to-pronounce items in as many days.  What am I thinking? 

I'm thinking I'm really challenging myself, participating in both the Daring Bakers and French Fridays with Dorie.  But to tell the truth, I'm really having a lot of fun!

I've never made Moroccan food before.  Ever.  This recipe is a great introduction to Moroccan cooking, as well as Moroccan eating!  As with all the FFwD challenges, we're not allowed to share the recipe, but you've all gone and bought the book by now, right?  Right?  You should, even if it's just for this one dish.  Oh my goodness--if you could smell my house over the past two days you'd be running to the bookshop right now!

This recipe starts out really simply, unless you're like Mr. Boom and myself.  Essentially, eight chicken thighs are thrown into a dutch oven with onion, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.  This concoction rests for one hour.  Dorie calls it marinating; Mr. Boom says you can't marinate without liquid.  I say an onion by other name...

Anyway, after an hour you stir in some stock and some more seasoning, and boil the mess until the chicken meat falls off its pretty little bones.  And your whole house smells like a warm place in a land far, far, far away...

The bones are removed from the chicken, eggs are added to thicken the sauce, and then the solids are reintroduced to the liquids.  This is a very happy marriage, and will result in many years of bliss (lived out on my hips, of course).

I let the chicken mixture hang out overnight, then continued on with the recipe on day two.  Just because it's day two, doesn't mean the process is any less fragrant. 

Toasted almond slices.  Need I say more?

Filo dough lines a well-greased cake pan and is then sprinkled with the toasted almonds.  The chicken marriage is plopped in next, followed by more toasted almonds.  More filo dough covers all that up, and then a light sprinkle of cinnamon sugar finishes off the pan.

While this is baking, your brain will not be able focus on the snow outside, the chill in the air, or anything else non-tropical.

With luck, which I had (hooray), the b'stille will flip out of the cake pan onto a cutting board, and then will re-flip back over onto a serving platter. 

Now, Dorie says this dish needs no accompaniment, but Mr. Boom would have appreciated a salad or some other greenery on the side.  To me, a little glass of port was the perfect little side dish needed.

And what to do with the left over filo dough?  Chirp chirp made baklava, all by herself.  I love that kid!

P.S. Go check out some of the other folks who made this same dish.  There's real inspiration to be found over at this link!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January Daring Bakers: Biscuit Joconde Imprime Entremets

Don't worry, you don't have to be able to pronounce the name in order to enjoy the beauty and taste of this month's Daring Bakers Challenge.  It's french, and the french know their desserts, so smile and nod and dig right in!

But, first things first.  I had no reason to be nervous about my interview with the Master Gardeners selection committee on Tuesday.  The panel was kind and wonderful...and they let me in!  Hooray!!! I now have about 200 hours of training to go through, two years as an intern, and then I'll have earned my way into the program.  I am so excited, and can't wait to get started.  The first class isn't until the end of February, so I'll have to contain my excitement for a little while longer, so let's just move on to the cake.

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

 A biscuit joconde imprime is sponge cake with a design baked right into the cake itself. Two separate batters are made, each with it's own flavor and/or color.  The first batter is either piped or spread onto the sil-pat into any type of pattern desired. I used my decorating bag and piped out a crazy swirl of blue batter on the sil-pat, then added polka dots, and then stopped myself before things swerved too much further out of control.

After the first design is frozen, a second layer of batter is spread over top the first layer. 

This the joconde imprime is then baked, and strips are cut out to line a springform pan.
In hindsight, I should have put the bottom layer upside down.

The joconde imprime was the required part of the challenge.
How to fill the dessert was left up to each Daring Baker...and, since this was my own birthday cake, I felt really free to put whatever flavors of filling I wanted to on the interior.
For the bottom layer, I made a raspberry/blueberry mousse.

Atop this layer, I spread a layer of rosewater gelee.  Unfortunately, the mylanta pink liquid seeped through the joconde imprime, leaving unsightly botches on the outside. 
However, it was my own cake and I chose not to feel too bad about it!

Atop the gelee, I glopped on a layer of orange water infused stabilized whipped cream.
The final layer was a blueberry rosewater sauce.

I loved making this challenge, and I loved the result.  The rest of the family just about gagged on the rosewater flavoring, but I relished the new flavor.  This challenge really brought out the best of so many other Daring Bakers.  The artistry of the imprime was astounding, and the flavor combinations that people came up with were mind blowing as well.

Someday soon I'm going to have to try the chocolate version of the joconde recipe, maybe filled with chocolate mousse and topped with caramel?  What about marshmallow fluff and peanut butter?  Perhaps the world's fanciest strawberry shortcake?  The sky is the limit with this dessert! 

Even if I still can't pronounce it exactly right...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'm nervous!

I have an interview in one hour.

The Master Gardener program in our area is top notch. Over the years I’ve received incredible amounts of help from their volunteers. They offer a weekly diagnostics clinic, to which you can bring your plants for help with all manner of problems such as pests, diseases, nutritional deficiencies, or just to find out what the heck the plant that your neighbor dug up and shared with you is called. The volunteers almost always know the answer, and when they don’t know it right off they find out and get back to you. Invariably. Reliably. Promptly.

Want to know what type of grapes grow best in your part of town? Ask a Master Gardener. They’ll tell you which is best for eating, which is best for wine, and which is best for jelly. They’ll tell you what to plant next to it, when to prune it, and when you’ll need to be prepared for the glut of fruit. They also show up at the health department when you bring down the berries your toddler ate off a plant that you can’t identify* while you’re on hold with poison control…

How do they know all this stuff? They get trained! Lots and lots of training goes into the making of each and every Master Gardener. Just think about how mind-blowing the trainings must be. I love learning new things, and I really want to do better in my own garden, and I want to start paying back my debt to the community for all the help I’ve previously received.

So, in one hour I have an interview with the Master Gardeners. Will they take me on? Will they accept me into their fold?

Most likely, they will. They take almost anyone…

But still, I’m a little bit nervous.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

*Privet. Not lethal to humans, but can result in stomach aches and other gastro-intestinal distress. Provide lots of liquid and a handy receptacle for catching any barf.

Friday, January 21, 2011

FFwD: Michel Rostang's double chocolate mousse

This week's French Friday's with Dorie challenge was a perfect treat for a post-holiday family get-together.  Everyone wants something yummy for dessert, but we're all a bit sick of the heavy December desserts.

The dessert isn't really a cake, and it isn't really a torte.  It's mousse that's baked, and in this case, baked twice.  I've heard of baked potatoes and twice baked potatoes.  But I'd never heard of baked mousse, and certainly not twice baked mousse!

On the day the dessert is made, the taste is something like a brownie that you spent WAY too much time making.  But on the second day? 

Oh. My.

As you're probably sick of hearing me say, we're requested not to share the recipes for these challenges on our websites, but from the photo you can see that this is one treat you won't have to run to the store to find your ingredients. 

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler...

Add the sugar, half the salt (I accidentally added it all),
the butter, and the egg yolks.
I was tempted to stop at this point and just eat the bowlful of warm chocolate goodness.

Fold in the whipped-up egg whites very carefully. 
The mousse needs to remain as thick as possible.

If you don't have an 8" ring, you can use a springform pan without the bottom.  I had a significant gap in places, as my ring (like so much of my world) was warped.  I tied some sturdy string around the pan to hold the ring down tight.  There was still a bit of a gap, so I tightened up the strings by twisting a toothpick round and round until the string was taught.  I poured in 1/3rd of the mousse and put it in the oven to bake.

The contraption still leaked, but this was not a problem.  This was a planned that I'd be able to taste the baked mousse prior to continuing on with the process.

After thoroughly chilling the base, I scooped the remaining mousse onto the top, and then re-baked.

The mousse broke into several pieces during the transition from pan to plate, but the cocoa powder helped hide some of the more minor cracks.

I served this for dessert, and everyone really liked it.  But the next evening, after the baked mousse had chilled for 24 hours (instead of the 4 called for in the recipe), the dessert took on a whole 'nother personality.  It tasted somehow lighter, and fluffier, and silkier...

It went from a brownie to a gift from the gods...or at least from Dorie Greenspan and Michel Rostang!

To see how other bakers' double chocolate mousse (or mousses?) turned out, look here!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

FFwD: Gnocchi a la Parisienne--the outtakes!

Remember the part of this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe that calls for dropping the pate a choux into the boiling water?  The part where I said you can either use a pastry bag or a couple of spoons to shape the little dumplings before dropping them into the water to cook?

What I didn't tell you was that as I sped along, quickly snipping off bits of the "rope" as the dough came through the pastry bag, I got a little carried away.  I prefer to think of it as carried away, as it sounds a little more intriguing than does the word sloppy....

The pattern was something like snip, snip, snip, dip scissors in the boiling water to clean, snip, snip, flinch from the splash of boiling water, snip, dip, snip, snip... etc.

Until, oops!  Do you see what happened?

  I snipped off the very end of my pastry bag!  It plunged into the pot stuck fast to the little gnocchi! 
Oh, yeah, and company will be here in an hour!

Oh crap....

Bingo!  Found it! 
(It's stuck there on the right side of the gnocchi.)
Carry on, nothing more to see to here....and please don't tell the guests!

Friday, January 14, 2011

FFwD: Gnocchi Parisienne

French Fridays with Dorie was, this week, a real winner!  But when you start with copious amounts of grated smoked Gouda and apple-smoked cheddar, plus a little Parmesan to boot, it's hard for a recipe to fail, right?

Also, since Mr. Boom had his two upper wisdom teeth removed yesterday afternoon, this was a nice soft treat.  

 Butter, salt, water.  Such a lowly beginning for a delicious meal.  The rules of the game say we can't share the recipe on our blogs, but the gnocchi in this recipe aren't potatoes, they're actually savory little cream puffs!  Any recipe you find online or on your bookshelf will work. 

Add flour all at once, and stir until you have a nice ball of dough in your pan.

 Add eggs one at a time and beat until your arm falls off.  I switched back and forth between using a wooden spoon and a silicon spatula.  The spoon was best at the initial incorporation of each egg, but the spatula worked well for getting all the dough homogeneous.

Scoop the batter into a pastry bag, and pipe little pieces into boiling water.  I found that by dipping the scissors into the boiling water every five or six snips helped to make a nice clean cut.  Alternatively, you can just scoop teaspoonful-sized bits into the water.

After boiling for a few minutes, the "gnocchi" are soft and pliable, but not rubbery at all.

Butter a baking dish and sprinkle with a little (or a lot!) of Parmesan cheese.

Make a bechamel sauce (butter, flour, salt, and milk).

 Spread a little sauce over the Parmesan, then add the gnocchi, then cover with (lots!) of cheese.

 Bake about 20 minutes until golden and bubbly.

 Serve hot and beware the onslaught of hungry zombies, or medication riddled wisdom-tooth-less members of the household.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bee update

Strange things are happening around here.

On Saturday the temperature rose and rose and rose some more, until we were well above freezing.  Sitting in the living room, Chirp-chirp gasped! 

"Mom!  A bee flew by!"

There are so many things wrong with that statement, but she has a good eye, so I began to wonder...

Last I checked the hive, wasps had settled in and the dear little honeybees were making no effort to chase them off.  Usually, this is a sure sign that the queen is dead and the hive will soon die out, or at least move on.  So, since Halloween, I've just written the bee project off.

"Mom!  I'm not kidding! Another one!"

We have more than a foot of show on the ground, and there aren't any flowers blooming now, nor will there by for another couple of months, at least.  No bee in it's right mind would be flying around in the snow (not that I have any bees, sane or not, out there anymore, ahem!).

Except there you go!  Bees!  Everywhere! If you look closely at this fairly craptastic  cellphone photo, you can see them sunning their fuzzy little souls on the pallet and on the fence just behind the hive cover.

Many of the poor little creatures were coming out the door and landing in the snow, quickly perishing as their little bit of body heat was drained.  I put the board in front as a landing strip of sorts, then put a little sugar water in the blue lid for them to sip at.

We left for the day, and didn't return until the next afternoon.  By then, the weather had reverted to winter and the board was entirely buried in the snow. 

I don't know what to make of it.  I do know that a little more hope for a healthy hive come spring has entered my soul.  The weather is doing its best to quash it, though.

Friday, January 7, 2011

FFwD: Paris Mushroom Soup

Okay, so that challenge I issued?  The one about grabbing one item off your resolutions list and doing. it. right. now? 

I failed.  Instead of doing one of two big things I've been wanting to do for the blog, I ran off to the big city far away to take my grandma to visit her son who was visiting his son.  After dropping Grandma off, we went to Mr. Boom's brother's home to spend a few days. New Year's was a blast, but I felt guilty the whole time about not doing what I said I would.  So guilty, in fact, that I haven't been able to show my face around here. 

Enough is enough, though.  I'll just throw those two items on the list of my regular resolutions.  I hope they'll happen!  So much of that list never gets done, which is why I really like the challenge of crossing one off before the new year even starts.

My birthday was on Monday, and my most favoritest present of all was a mandolin.  I've been practicing and practicing and I think my fingers might fall off any minute now.  I'm grimacing as I type this, having just finished up a "jam session" with Mr. Boom who is a very accomplished (at least in my mind) guitar player.

I'm getting a little bit better every day, and I can now play five chords!  Five whole chords, people!  Furthermore, the cats aren't running out of the room every time I pick up my pretty little mandolin to play.  That's progress right there, baby!

This week's French Friday's with Dorie challenge was Paris Mushroom Soup. 
You don't need a recipe for this soup, per se, although I wouldn't dissuade anyone from buying this book, ever!
But really, soften up an onion and garlic in butter,
add a pound of mushrooms, and a bit of white wine
(I had no white wine on hand, so I left this out).
Cook until dry, then add chicken broth.
Whiz it all up (I used an immersion blender) and serve.

It's not pretty, but it's really fast, really good, and very creamy despite the fact that it doesn't have any cream in it at all.
Best served with a side of "Rocky Top" chorus chords jotted on the back of an envelope.

Chirp-chirp made this recipe for tiramisu up all by herself.  I love the fact that she's so comfortable going into the kitchen and experimenting with ingredients.  She made a ganache and a cream-coffee-nutmeg-cinnamon dip for Nilla Wafers.  There's also some (instant) coconut pudding and I'm not sure what else in there. 

Yummm.  In fact, I'm going back for more!