Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top 10 Desserts of 2010

Once again, a list in chronological order. Missing from both these lists are some rather fantastic muffins over the course of the year, but I wasn't sure where to put them!

Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes with Mint Cream - I conquered my fear of souffles this year. These are souffles that are supposed to fall ... making them even easier! The first time I made these, I overbeat the whipped cream, but I never made that mistake again. These cupcakes were so good and simple that they became a regular part of our work birthday celebrations thanks to one of my amazing co-workers.
Grapefruit Yogurt Cake - I've lost count of how many times I've made this dessert (both on request and as a pick me up surprise for people). It's easy to put together, even if some people claim the recipe is cursed (with luck your oil won't be rancid and your oven will cooperate!). My secret to making it extra rich is to use Liberte Mediterranean yogurt.
Chocolate Orbit Cake with Blackberry Cassis Sauce - This is rich, decadent chocolate at its finest. Some recipes I share so I only end up with a bite, other recipes I horde and keep mostly to myself. This one definitely fell into the latter category.
Blackberry Lemon Meringue Pie - Two types of curd topped off with a meringue? Yes please! It's the perfect summer dessert, except for that whole pesky needing to turn on the oven bit. Last night, a friend identified a source for meyer lemons for me, so I'm foreseeing making this again next year when the berries are in season. Maybe as a strawberry and meyer lemon meringue pie ... or what about a raspberry lime meringue pie? So many possibilities.
Cheesecake Marbled Brownies - After a summer-long brownie moratorium, I tried this recipe. It unseated my classic raspberry cheesecake brownie recipe (the same one that's somewhat responsible for this blog starting). The original calls for chocolate chips, but this recipe is divine with raspberries as well. I'll have a hard time trying another cheesecake brownie recipe.
Lemon and Cranberry Scones - The fact that I'm even considering remaking this scone recipe means it did something very, very right. If you're a fan of scones, you shouldn't miss these.
Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake - Rich, dense, insanely good, but a ridiculous amount of work. I love this cheesecake, but I'm not sure I'll ever make it again ... maybe for a VERY special occasion.
Spiced Pearsauce Cake - Moist and flavourful. This cake may have a special place in my heart solely because it saved several breakfasts for me while I was in Alabama for Thanksgiving.
Peppermint Meringues - A simple, cheap holiday dessert that tastes amazing. If you want to make it extra special, drizzle or dip in melted chocolate.
French Lemon Cream Pie - A last minute addition to Christmas dinner ... and I'm so glad I added it. This pie is ridiculously creamy. I've made a lot of lemon curd and cream variations over the past year and this one topped them all.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Top 10 Savoury Dishes of 2010

I suppose the top 10 of 2010 is a little cliche, but it's been a good year for cooking and after posting more than 150 recipes for the year, perhaps it's time to narrow the field to the recipes that were the most memorable. I had thought about picking the best recipe for each month, but that's a little unfair to the truly delicious months. I also realized that I have entirely too many desserts to do one list of favourite recipes, so here is the first installment ... the top 10 savoury dishes of 2010 (in chronological order). This list doesn't seem to capture a lot of my cooking for the year. Notably lacking are vegetarian dishes, such as couscous, lentil, pesto, and tomato/olive pasta dishes. I think it's because I see most of those recipes as things that I regularly adapt and throw together without closely following a recipe. The recipes below are things I would make again without changing things or recipes that were unique enough that I clearly remember them.

Spinach and Cheese Strata - The new year started off well with this delicious breakfast dish. Cheese and bread make me happy.
Peanut Curry Noodles with Seared Shrimp and Scallops - I am in love with the sauce in this dish. Over the course of the year, I think I've made this at least 3 times, sometimes with the seafood and sometimes without. It also seems to be fairly popular with the people in my office and the smell of it at lunch definitely makes me want to cook it again.
Shaved Asparagus Pizza - I had fun making a variety of unique pizzas over the course of the year, but I think this one was my favourite. Local asparagus makes me happy ... and of course goat cheese, tomatoes, and mozzarella can only make asparagus better. I look forward to making this pizza again when asparagus is back in season.
Spaghetti Carbonara - I made this before the whole egg salmonella scare and I'm glad I did, because otherwise I would've been hesitant to try this recipe. My only complaint with this recipe is that I can't have it for leftovers at work.
Chicken Tikka Masala - Don't let the ingredient list scare you away from trying this recipe. This recipe alone made me feel like 660 Curries was a good investment.
Bolognese Meat Sauce - There's a good reason Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is my favourite cookbook of the year. The recipes are generally simple, relying on quality ingredients. This sauce requires some patience (particularly if you up the quantity while cooking), but it's worth it.
Kung Pao Chicken - Be careful not to overdo it on the dried chiles! I may have been accused of trying to kill people from the fumes while this cooks, but I think the recipe is worth it. I have a huge soft spot for Asian flavours though.
Curried Peanut and Tomato Soup - This soup made me so happy, a last minute delicious dish before I went to Alabama for Thanksgiving and a nice welcome home meal after I returned. The best part of all is it can be made using ingredients that you generally have on hand.
Sweet and Sour Pork - I have some pork sitting in the freezer right now waiting to be used for this recipe. The sauce is simple and smells and tastes amazing. The next time I make this I'll probably skip the deep frying and make it an even quicker dish.
Black Bean Pumpkin Soup - I made this soup because I was trying to use up some excess pumpkin puree. I wasn't too sure about it at first, but I love beans (my top three are black beans, pinto beans, and chickpeas). After some mistakes and substitutions along the way, the end result for me could only be described as comfort food in a bowl.

Agree/disagree? Did I miss one of your favourites?

Baked Green Lasagne with Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style

This recipe is a bit intense to say the least, so what better time to make it than a lazy Christmas weekend when I have all the time in the world to cook exactly what I want to eat? This lasagna recipe also isn't what I traditionally think of. There's no ricotta, no overabundance of mozzarella, and it's more pasta intense. I took a huge short cut by not making my own lasagna noodles and I'm sorry to say the dish definitely suffered for it. I should've at least gone to Milano's to pick up some homemade noodles, but schedules being what they are, I didn't find the time and used boxed noodles. If I ever make this again with boxed noodles, I'd definitely make the bolognese layers thicker. They were too thin for pasta that was less than exceptional. My only other major complaint with this dish is I didn't check the seasoning after I added the bolognese to the bechamel and ended up with a dish that was severely underseasoned (1/4 tsp salt for the bechamel is not enough!). Despite the flaws, this is a great change of pace from my usual lasagna.

Baked Green Lasagne with Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

2 1/2 cups bolognese sauce (this time I made it with equal amounts of ground beef, veal, and pork)
homemade spinach lasagna noodles (see head notes)
2 tbsp butter
2/3 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
For the bechamel
3 cups milk
6 tbsp butter
4 1/2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt

1. Prepare the meat sauce and set aside. Note: If you've decided to increase the amount of bolognese you're making from the original recipe so you'll have some leftovers, be sure to allow for extra time in the simmering process.
2. Prepare the bechamel:
a. Put the milk in a saucepan, turn the heat to medium low, and bring the milk just to the verge of boiling.
b. Meanwhile, put the butter in a saucepan and turn heat to low. When the butter has melted, add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
c. Add hot milk to the flour and butter mixture, no more than 2 tbsp at a time. Stirring until it is incorporate, then add more. Repeat. When you get to 1/2 cup mixture, you can start adding more at one time.
d. Place the pan over low heat, add salt, and cook, stirring until the sauce is as dense as a thick cream. Keep warm.
3. [I'm omitting a very long discussion of how to handle your homemade noodles. Noodles are cooking, washed, wringed, and dried.] Preheat the oven to 400F.
4. Thickly smear the bottom of a lasagna pan with butter and 1 tbsp bechamel.
5. Line the bottom of the pan with a single layer of pasta strips.
6. Combine the meat sauce and bechamel [BE SURE TO CHECK THE SEASONING!].
7. Spread a thin layer of the sauce on the pasta [if you're using boxed noodles, you might want to make this a thick layer].
8. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese.
9. Top with pasta and repeat your layering. If you're using homemade noodles, you should have at least 6 layers of pasta. You'll probably want fewer layers if you're using boxed. On the very top, dot the Parmesan with butter.
10. Bake until a light, golden crust forms on top, 10 - 15 minutes.
11. Remove from oven and allow to settle for 10 minutes.

Chocolate Cinnamon Cream Scones

As Christmas Eve wore on, my thoughts turned to what I'd be eating for breakfast on Christmas morning. Somehow the bagels and cream cheese I'd planned on eating had mysteriously disappeared! The only major hurdle for my breakfast conundrum was a lack of ingredients ... the butter and eggs I had left were spoken for in tomorrow's dishes. How to make a breakfast without butter and eggs? Cinnamon rolls were out. Biscuits were out. Pancakes were out. Finally, I found a cream scone recipe. The original calls for lemon and dried apricot, but I was in more of a cinnamon roll mood. The final product was a little dry (it could be improved with an icing of some form), but it's a good recipe for when you're in a pinch.

Chocolate Cinnamon Cream Scones (adapted from epicurious.com)

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cups whipping cream

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cinnamon in large bowl.
2. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Add whipping cream and stir just until dough forms.
4. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently just until dough holds together. Form dough into 10-inch-diameter, 1/2-inch-thick round. Cut into 12 wedges.
5. Transfer wedges to large baking sheet, spacing evenly.
6. Bake scones until light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly. Serve scones warm or at room temperature.

Maple Pecan Pie

How can you make a classic pecan pie better? Add maple syrup of course! For me, this recipe feels like the South meets my new home. Best of all, this recipe is ridiculously easy.

Maple Pecan Pie (from epicurious.com)

1 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 9-inch frozen deep-dish pie crust
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk first 7 ingredients in medium bowl to blend.
2. Place unbaked crust on baking sheet. Spread nuts over crust. Pour filling over.
3. Bake until filling is set and slightly puffed, about 1 hour. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

French Lemon Cream Tart

I found this recipe on chowhound and decided on a last minute change to Christmas dinner plans. I'm certainly glad I did as this cream tart is nothing short of delicious (granted I have a thing for lemon dishes). I didn't make the tart shell, because as usual that would've been just a step too far (and I didn't want to run to the grocery store on Christmas Eve to buy more butter!). You'll need to plan ahead for this dish as the cream should rest overnight.

French Lemon Cream Tart (from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours)

1 9" tart shell, baked and cooled
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
1 cup plus 5 tablespoons (10-1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature

1. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
2. Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water.
3. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic.
4. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
5. Set the bowl over the pan, and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk—you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you'll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. It takes a long time and your arm my feel like it's going to fall off, but don't stop whisking.
6. As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender; discard the zest.
7. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.
8. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes.
9. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
10. When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Veal Scaloppine with Marsala and Cream

This is fancy enough for a special holiday meal, but quick and easy enough for a weeknight dinner. My only regret was not serving it with some pasta to soak up the sauce.

Veal Scaloppine with Marsala and Cream (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter
450g veal scaloppine (veal cuts pounded flat if your grocery store doesn't sell them pre-pounded)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Put oil and butter in a skillet, turn up heat to medium high.
2. When butter begins to foam and subside, dredge the veal in flour. Brown quickly on both sides (about 30 seconds) and transfer to a warm plate. If the veal doesn't all fit at once, do this in batches, flouring as you go.
3. Turn the heat to high and add the Marsala. Scrape any residue loose with a wooden spoon.
4. Add the cream and stir until the cream is reduced and forms a dense sauce.
5. Reduce heat to medium, return the veal to the pan, and turn them to coat with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Slow Cooked Scrambled Eggs with Cream Cheese

After a long quest for perfect fluffy scrambled eggs, I think I'm shifting directions in favour of rich, creamy eggs. These are the perfect breakfast for those lazy mornings when you only want to check on the stove occasionally. They're delicious with only butter, but even better when you use the last of that Liberte cream cheese you have sitting in the fridge. If you search online, you can probably find better recipes and a video of Gordon Ramsey explaining the method, but here is my interpretation.

Slow Cooked Scrambled Eggs with Cream Cheese

2 eggs
1 tbsp butter
1 - 2 tbsp cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small skillet, crack eggs and add cubes of butter and cream cheese. Use a whisk or even a spatula to break the yolks and mix the eggs together.
2. Heat skillet over low heat (I keep use 2 or 3 out of ten on the markers).
3. Walk away, occasionally check on it. When the egg starts to set on the bottom, stir with the spatula to mix it up.
4. Cook, stirring occasionally, until you have a creamy mixture perfect for spreading on bread (not that I ever have any bread handy). Be patient and keep the temperature low. Be careful not to overcook! Season with salt and pepper to taste when you serve.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup

I debated posting this recipe because I thought it was too similar to this recipe, but this soup made me happy this week, so why not share? I may have made it a tad on the spicy side because I've been sick and can't taste much, so spice at your own risk.

Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup (liberally adapted from Running with Tweezers)

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp pinch chilli flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup red split lentils
3 1/2 vegetable stock or water
1 can whole tomatoes
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked

1. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil and spices and fry until fragrant.
2. Stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until the lentils have softened.
3. Add cooked chickpeas. Puree the soup with an immersion blender.

Pita Bread

Winter does strange things to you. There's a point where just below freezing starts to seem "warm." For me, it makes me incredibly reluctant to go on a quick grocery store run, which means I spend more time improvising. I wanted some bread to go with my soup, but was too lazy to go out to the store (not to mention grocery store pita bread usually isn't that good) and of course had no bread products in the apartment. I'm not sure how authentic this is, but it's good ... as long as you have patience. And for all of you who are afraid of yeast, it's time to get over it. Yeast isn't scary at all. :)

Pita Bread (from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp sugar

1. Combine flour, olive oil, yeast, salt, and sugar in a food processor.
2. Turn the machine on and 1 cup water.
3. Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky.
4. Put the dought ball in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until dough doubles, 1 to 2 hours.
5. When dough is ready, form into a ball and divide into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest until they puff, about 20 minutes.
6. Roll each ball to 1/4" thick. Let rest 20 minutes.
7. Choose your cooking method: preheat oven to 350F and bake on a pizza stone or baking dish or use a heavy skillet and fry. You'll probably need 5 - 6 minutes per side.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

A quick post before I run out the door, because I've been horribly behind on posting lately. I'm not completely happy with the cupcake portion of this (although it is good, I'm just a perfectionist), but the frosting is spot-on. I scaled the recipe in half, otherwise the one below makes 2 dozen.

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes (from Tracey's Culinary Adventures, originally Annie's Eats)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1 cup strong brewed coffee, at room temperature
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. Combine the milk, coffee and peppermint extract in a small bowl.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
5. Add the eggs to the bowl, one at a time, letting the first incorporate fully before adding the second.
6. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix only until everything is incorporated.
7. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

6 large egg whites
1 3/4 plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
food colouring (if desired)

1. In a heatproof bowl (ideally your stand mixer bowl), stir the egg whites and sugar together.
2. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160 F and the sugar has dissolved.
3. Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites and sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8-10 minutes.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more.
5. Stir in the peppermint and vanilla extracts (and food colouring if desired) and mix just until incorporated.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting

Gingerbread cookies are fine, but I think cupcakes are an improvement. I realized while making batch one of these that I need to learn to trust my instincts and not go with cupcake recipes that seem like they're missing key ingredients. Luckily, epicurious provided an excellent batch two. I also think I've figured out my lifelong dislike for cream cheese ... I don't like Philadelphia cream cheese, but Liberté is delicious. Unfortunately for me, the frosting on these is made with Philadelphia because the Metro was out of Liberté (also unfortunately for me, I'll lose my favourite cream cheese if/when I leave Quebec).

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting (cupcakes adapted from epicurious.com, frosting from The Culinary Chronicles)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Into a bowl sift together the flour, the ground ginger, the cinnamon, the cloves, and the salt.
2. In another bowl cream 1/2 stick of the butter, add the granulated sugar, and beat the mixture until it is fluffy.
3. Beat in the molasses and the egg, beating until the mixture is smooth.
4. In a measuring cup combine the baking soda with 1/2 cup boiling water and stir the mixture to dissolve the baking soda.
5. Stir the mixture into the molasses mixture (the mixture will appear curdled) and stir the molasses mixture into the flour mixture, stirring to combine the ingredients well.
6. Line twelve 1/2-cup muffin tins with paper liners and spoon the batter into the liners, filling them halfway.
7. Bake the cupcakes in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Transfer the cupcakes to a rack and let them cool.

10 Ounces Cream Cheese, at room temperature (I only used 250g)
1/4 cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
1/4 Cup Molasses
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
3-4 Cups Confectioner Sugar, sifted

1. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy.
2. Mix in molasses, cinnamon, and cloves.
3. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Continue adding sugar to desired consistency.
4. Fill a piping bag with the frosting and pipe large swirls on top of the cupcakes.

Christmas Macarons

December's busy schedule is catching up with me as I desperately try to catch up on holiday baking before everyone leaves on holiday. I had 8 egg whites leftover from another recipe that I'd stored in the freezer and then defrosted, so I decided it was time to tackle macarons (aged egg whites are apparently key because they have less moisture). I made 2 attempts ... the second using more food colouring and peppermint extract. Neither was perfect, but at least both sets had feet!
I found an amazing recipe source online (with video!) that I tweaked only slightly. I added some peppermint extract and green food colouring to the outside to make it a little more Christmas-y. I increased the powdered sugar by 10g and decreased the ground almond by 10g, because ground almonds are sold in 100g packages here. I substituted dark chocolate for the milk chocolate in the filling ganache to make the taste a little more grown up. Finally, I didn't let the finalized macarons sit for 24 hours because I didn't see those instructions until it was too late. The finished product wasn't perfect, but people did seem to appreciate them, so I'd encourage you to give these a shot!

One Year Ago: A less festive dessert, Espresso Chiffon Cupcakes with Fudge Frosting

Christmas Macarons (adapted from Daydreamer Desserts)

Macaron Shell
90 grams egg whites
210 grams powdered sugar (see notes above)
100 grams ground almonds (see notes above)
25 grams granulated sugar
1 tsp peppermint extract
green food colouring

1. In a bowl whisk together the powdered sugar and ground almonds. Sift through a sieve twice and set aside.
2. With a hand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites until they appear foamy, approximately 30 seconds. While the mixer is running carefully pour in the granulated sugar in a slow stream and continue beating the whites on high until they reach a consistency similar to that of shaving cream.
3. Add in peppermint extract and green food colouring (10 drops or so until the shade is right) and beat until mixed in (the second time around, I added this too early and couldn't get the right consistency, I think this is the right point to add it, but feel free to experiment).
4. Be careful not to over-beat, or the meringue will be too dry.
5. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the meringue all at once. Begin folding, continue folding until the batter resembles a thick pancake batter. The folding should not take more than 50 strokes.
6. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit.
7. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
8. When ready, bake for approximately 16-17 minutes, depending on the macaron size they might require a longer baking time. Allow them to cool, then transfer to a wire rack.

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 ounces dark chocolate

1. Heat heavy cream and chocolate in a small dish in the microwave. Stir until melted completely. The original suggests chilling in the fridge, but I find it makes the ganache too difficult to spread later and just allow it to chill on the counter (my apartment is fairly cool this time of year!).

Assembly (I didn't follow these, but they're all good ideas!)
1. Place ganache in a piping bag fitted with a small star tip and pipe ganache onto your macaron shells. (or spread with a knife)
2. Sandwich macaron shells together, place them in a sealed container in the refrigerator and let them rest for at least 24 hours.
3. Remove macarons from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving, and enjoy withing 7 days after making them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chicken with Lemon Grass

When I first tried this dish, I was a bit disappointed. I was expecting something spicier and more flavourful ... and the taste is just a bit mild. Granted, I substituted curry paste for chili paste, but I also upped it from 1 tsp to 1 tbsp, so you'd think it would balance out (Any ideas where to find chili paste in Mtl? It keeps hiding from me!) However, after trying this dish a day or so later (and having 2 co-workers taste it), I think it's blog worthy and tasty ... I just have to change the name from "hot and spicy chicken with lemon grass." I'm still waiting for a recipe from this cookbook to completely wow me. Hopefully that will happen soon!

Chicken with Lemon Grass (adapted from The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking)

1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp water
450g skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced 1/4" thick and 1.5" long
3 tbsp vegetable oil
10 whole dried chilies
1/4 cup minced lemon grass (I used 3 lemon grass which was less)
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp red curry paste (or 1 tsp ground chili paste if you can find it)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 yellow onion, sliced into thin wedges
1 cup julienned carrots
cooked rice

1. Combine cornstarch and water in a large mixing bowl. Add chicken, making sure it's well coated.
2. In a small pot of boiling water, blanch the carrots (cook for 2 - 5 minutes). Drain and shock in ice water.
3. Heat oil in a nonstick fry pan over low heat. Add the dried chilies and cook until they puff up, about 10 seconds. Remove, drain on paper towels, and set aside.
4. Increase heat to high and add lemon grass, garlic, sugar, and curry paste. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
5. Add chicken and stir to separate. Cook until chicken turns opaque, 3 - 4 minutes.
6. Add chicken stock, fish sauce, salt, onion, and carrots and continue cooking for 3 - 4 minutes.
7. Add reserved chilies and serve over rice.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Goat Cheese and Asparagus Risotto

I woke up this morning in pain. It took me a good 20 minutes of pondering off and on before I realized why my poor little arms were so sore ... snow shoveling. I also had plans for a delicious brunch this morning, but then my brunch partner called to cancel ... something about not wanting to brave the snow/sleet combination to drive back to the island and my resolve to walk to brunch crumbled in the face of entirely too much snow. Instead, I ended up at the Val-Mont staring at a bundle of delicious looking asparagus for only $2. Winter, you may leave me in pain and ruin my brunch plans, but I'm going to live in denial and pretend it's spring. I decided to throw together some flavours that make me happy ... asparagus, goat cheese, and prosciutto. The goat cheese may overpower the prosciutto a bit, but this little creation still makes me happy. The trick while cooking this is to not eat too much asparagus and prosciutto while the risotto is cooking ... or maybe that's the key to this meal.

Goat Cheese and Asparagus Risotto

1 bundle asparagus
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
4 cups chicken broth (more or less)
2 tbsp lemon juice (more or less)
1/2 cup dry white wine
70g goat cheese with fine herbs
4 slices prosciutto, torn into slivers

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Bring the chicken broth and lemon juice to a simmer in a pot.
2. Snap asparagus stalks into bite-sized pieces. Place in an oven safe dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Roast the asparagus in the oven for 10 - 12 minutes while you start cooking the risotto.
4. In a deep skillet, melt the butter and fry the garlic.
5. Add the rice and brown in the melted butter for 1 minute or so.
6. Add the white wine and simmer until wine is absorbed.
7. Add a cup of broth and stir. Simmer until broth is absorbed.
8. Continue adding broth 1 or 2 ladles at a time, stirring, and simmering to absorb the broth until rice is cooked.
9. Remove from heat. Stir in goat cheese until melted.
10. Stir in asparagus and prosciutto, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Peppermint Meringues

I had originally planned on attempting macarons for a holiday party, but sadly forgot to thaw the egg whites I had stored in the freezer in time. I was discussing what to bring with the host when she requested meringues. This recipe was fairly simple and turned out wonderfully. My only complaint was that my egg whites never reached the stiff peaks stage. I'm not sure why, but it made the meringues more of a pain to pipe. Hopefully yours will work out better. [ETA: I'm fairly sure I added the extract too early. Recipe has been adjusted accordingly below.] I believe this is a Martha Stewart recipe, but I forgot to bookmark it when I found it and don't feel like searching for it again when I already remember the ingredients!

One year ago: Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

Peppermint Meringues

3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

1. Bring a pot of water to a simmer. Preheat oven to 175F.
2. Combine egg whites and sugar in a metal stand mixer bowl.
3. Place bowl over the simmering water. Stir until sugar is melted and mixture is warm, about 3 minutes.
4. Beat egg whites on high for 5 minutes or ideally until stiff peaks form.
5. Mix in the mint extract.
6. Pipe the egg whites into quarter sized cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (If you're feeling fancy, you could incorporate red stripes, but really, that's a step too far.)
6. Bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes at 175F.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spicy Red Beef Curry

It would appear that it's been more than a week since I last posted. My apologies, but lately I seem to have trouble finding the time to cook (it's a good thing my freezer is well stocked!). I wish I had a stunning recipe to give you given the absence, but instead we'll have to make do with something that's just good. My main complaint with this dish is I expected it to be spicier. Of course, this recipe comes together in the time it takes to cook the rice, so I can't complain too much. Making it a second time around, I would probably double the curry paste and spices and omit the bamboo shoots entirely. In terms of other changes, I cut the bamboo down to 1 can, added some bean sprouts, cut back slightly on the sirloin, omitted the kaffir lime leaves, subbed basil for Thai basil, and omitted the fresh cilantro. Original recipe with a few notes is included below.

One year ago: Egg Drop (an excellent template for breakfast)

Spicy Red Beef Curry (from The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 shallots, sliced
2 tsp red curry paste (consider doubling)
1/2 plus 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 tsp ground cumin (consider doubling)
1/2 tsp ground coriander (consider doubling)
1 tsp paprika (consider doubling)
450g sirloin, cut into thin strips 2" long by 1" wide
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 kaffir lime leaves, cut into slivers (I omitted)
2 cup canned bamboo shoots, boiled 5 minutes, rinsed, and drained (consider subbing bean sprouts)
1/2 red bell pepper, julienned (I used a whole)
20 fresh thai basil leaves, cut in half
8 fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
steamed rice (for serving)

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a skilled over medium heat.
2. Add shallots and curry paste and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk and stir for 2 minutes.
4. Add cumin, coriander, paprika and stir to dissolve spices.
5. Add the beef and toss in the seasonings for 1 minute.
6. Add 1 cup coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, sugar, lime leaves, and bamboo shoot and bring to a gentle boil.
7. Cook uncovered until tender, 10 - 15 minutes.
8. Add red bell pepper and basil (and bean sprouts if using) and removed from heat.
9. Garnish with cilantro and serve with steamed rice.