Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A beautiful Tarte Tatin of my very own

Baking class last Saturday, focus on layered doughs (croissant, puff pastry, pate a choux). We made a tarte tatin in class, and it was very nice. So I decided to try my hand at it with a mass of puff pastry that still needed its "turns" and so needed to be rolled and folded six times.

Cooking the apples is interesting, in that you have to take a couple of leaps of faith: first that the skillet you've just put a stick of butter, a cup of sugar, and six sliced apples can really hold it all. It did - barely at first, then just right as the apples cooked down. Then also faith that boiling all this stuff on high heat isn't going to create a burnt sugar mess. It didn't. As you can see, it turned out beautifully! I did not do the concentric layout of the apple slices -- I didn't see any like that when I was in Paris, and you can get more apples in if you let them settle themselves into position.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A twist on eggs benedict

What do you do when you have Dungeness crab meat, tarragon, and puff pastry just begging to be used? I don't know what you do, but I made a nice brunch dish today:

Made puff pastry shells, and a "real" Bearnaise sauce out of Peterson's Sauces. Moistened the crab meat with a little sauce, put it on the shell, topped with poached eggs, sauce all over, asparagus on the side. Yum...a little Champagne never hurts, either...

The Bearnaise was the challenging part, as I had to whisk the egg yolks and 1T water per yolk over simmering water until it turned into a very thick foam (a sabayon). The nice thing about doing the sabayon, though, is that you don't have to worry about the sauce breaking when you put in the clarified butter, so you don't have to dribble it in, just pour in slowly and stir gently with the whisk off heat. Then add the seasoning reduction and salt to taste. I'm glad it turned out well.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Homemade Mexican - one of my labors of love

I've always loved Mexican and Southwestern food. I've been cooking from "Feast of Santa Fe" by Huntley Dent for more than twenty years. Homemade tortillas and tamales and refried beans are just so incredibly different from the stuff in cans and most of what you get at "Mexican" restaurants. I haven't made these things in ages, and got a hankering for some of that this week. It was triggered by the nice meaty pork spareribs I bought on sale -- all I could think about was marinating them in mojo, cooking them low and slow, and shredding the meat. Shredded pork has so many yummy applications. First, soft tacos. Homemade tortillas, homemade red chile sauce (basically a Rick Bayless recipe), and guacamole. There's nothing like a freshly made tortilla! Except homemade tamales are even better. Take the shredded pork, add some red chile, some raisins, cinnamon, cumin, and toasted chopped almonds. Make the masa (with real lard, not shortening) and beat it until it's really fluffy. That's how you get really light tamales, not those heavy concrete ones that sometimes show up on my plate in a Mexican restaurant. Now, this is not a quick-prep meal. Making 16 tamales is time-consuming, then you need to steam them for about 90 minutes. I also put pinto beans on this morning, and while the tamales steamed I seasoned and mashed them up for frijoles refritos. During that time I also finished the chile sauce for the tamales -- red chile paste, tomato puree, some guajillo chile powder (for more heat), and simmer until the raw flavors are gone. Shred up some lettuce and jack cheese, slice a few radishes, and you've got one heck of a meal. Best thing about homemade tamales? They keep and reheat wonderfully. So I can look forward to some more tomorrow! I'm sorry about no photos today, we ate everything up before I even thought about taking a picture ;-) P.S. The weather is nowhere as nice today -- cold wind, rain, thunderstorms, and hail. And the soups turned out really well. Added diced red pepper to the beef barley, since Dave likes that and it's for his lunch. He says it's really good. (I can't eat bell peppers, even though I can eat chiles.)