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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Everything But The...Scrimshaw Serving Tray, Part One!

Ahoy matey! CSN Stores is kindly serving up this delicious Scrimshaw Tray by Thomas Paul for review on Evenings With Peter. The company also presents over 200 online opportunities to purchase everything from this swinging item to swing sets. And I thought my swinging days were over!

Baby and I discovered Thomas Paul's fantastic designs in Friendship, Maine over the summer and bought a set of melamine dinner and dessert plates that we really love and use all the time. We saw this particular whale platter later on when we were fishing around upstate but we let it get away, instead of hauling it into our shopping cart. How great to find it once again through CSN Stores--what a catch!

So be on whale watch, gentle readers, for a full review in the upcoming weeks!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mousse au Chocolat

If you've ever seen Rosemary's Baby, one lesson well learned is never have Ruth Gordon over for dinner! Apart from noxious tannis root, I'm not sure exactly what was in the "Chocolate Mouse" she served dear Rosemary, but here is a wonderful recipe for Mousse au Chocolat from Julia Child's The French Chef cooking show that will have your guests shrieking for entirely different, far more appealing reasons. It's darkly delicious, quite wonderful and can be made the night before serving your guests and frozen--but I think just chilling it the day of your affair is even better. Get the ingredients in order and measured ahead of time and have your selection of proper pots and pans prepared before diving in as you'll need many of them to make this marvelous mousse and will want everything at the ready. When it came time to whisk the yolk mixture in the bowl over the pot of hot water, I did that by hand (whisking away for about 15 minutes until reaching what I felt was the right "thick and creamy" consistency), but for the rest of it, I confess I spared myself the workout, instead relying on my KitchenAid mixer for assistance, alternating beater and whisk attachments!

Mousse au Chocolat
Adapted from Julia Child's The French Chef, my comments in italics
Serves 6

6 oz. semisweet chocolate, cut into small chunks--perhaps even use the morsels instead
1/4 cup dark rum or orange liqueur--I used both!
4 eggs separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup strong coffee--use what you have and let it sit for a while to find its strength
8 tbsp. softened butter, cut into chunks
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
Pinch of fine salt--try sea salt
1/2 cup heavy cream--although this recipe calls for a piped rosette of cream to top the mousse, the already luxuriant dessert hardly needs it!

Combine chocolate and rum in a small pot; nestle it inside a larger pot filled partway with boiling water. Cover smaller pot and set aside to let melt.

Beat egg yolks in another small pot until pale and frothy. Combine sugar and coffee in another pot; cook over medium heat until dissolved, 5-6 minutes. Pour into yolks in a stream, while whisking; set aside. Pour water into a large pot to a depth of 2" and heat over medium-low heat until hot but not simmering. This amount of water is important as eventually I almost submerged my eggs when nestling the pot in the next step! Nestle pot containing yolk mixture over pot and cook, whisking vigorously, until thick and creamy, 8-9 minutes. I found this took more like 15 minutes. Transfer yolk mixture to a clean bowl; beat with an electric mixer until cool, about 5 minutes. KitchenAid to the rescue again! Uncover chocolate mixture and stir; add butter and whisk until smooth. Fold chocolate-butter mixture into yolk mixture; set aside.

Beat egg whites in a bowl until just frothy. Add cream of tartar and salt; beat to stiff peaks. Stir one-fourth of the egg whites into chocolate-yolk mixture; gently fold in the rest. Spoon mousse into 6 serving cups or dishes. Cover and chill until set.

Here's what I didn't do, in anticipation of reveling in the sheer chocolate itself. Beat cream to stiff peaks; transfer to a pastry bag with a star tip. Pipe a rosette of cream onto each mousse.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shouldn't You Just...?

Invite a passel of friends over on a lazy Sunday for a brunch of mimosas, eggs, cream cheese stuffed French toast and sausages and encourage them to arrive in their favorite pajamas?

Modern advice on etiquette for the not-so-new millennium

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Meadow

The Meadow
523 Hudson St, btwn West 10th/Charles Sts

Should you be looking for flowers and chocolates (and a dash of…salt?) to indulge yourself, delight a friend or romance that special someone, The Meadow just might prove to be your one stop shop. Owners Jennifer Turner Bitterman and Mark Bitterman opened their charming doors in New York in the fall of 2010, having first founded their Oregon location in 2006.

With a whiff of the unexpected in the air, The Meadow is an elegant boutique designed with the heart and senses in mind. Freshly cut flowers may be plucked out of antique vases and tin buckets, or special arrangements may be ordered as they are also full-service florists—and they deliver. Over 300 kinds of dark, milk and flavored chocolates are on hand, including truffles and sipping chocolates. There are also scads of gourmet items in stock to assist in stocking your bar and kitchen as well. Unfortunately due to New York liquor laws, the well-curated selection of wines and vermouths from Oregon and Europe only fill the shelves of the Portland branch, but they still offer a host of bitters to add to your Manhattan cocktails right here in Manhattan.

So how does that niggling mention of salt figure into all of this? The Bitterman’s take their various artisanal salts very seriously. They have amassed a wild collection of over 100 sea salts and quarried salts and apart from sprinkling it on some of their chocolates, their careful selection is aimed to effectively enhance just about any dish, thereby delighting guests at any table. Mark Bitterman took his fascination with salt to create Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral with Recipes, which also happens to be a brilliant “field guide”, chronicling the history of the ancient ingredient accompanied by 50 recipes.

Clearly The Meadow is not to be taken with a grain of salt.

First published for Next magazine.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Lesson In Evisceration

Much like a cassoulet or braised meat for instance, I've been stewing over just how to write this post.

At a dinner party I threw in November, I'd invited a rather prominent French chef over to teach me how to properly prepare Sole Meuniere. To me at least, it didn't go well. It's amazing how people can either choose to inspire or simply dreadfully consume with their influence. I was deadened and devastated after this dinner--and the surprising thing was it had nothing to do with anything I cooked to accompany the entree of fish. I quickly learned the only thing more finicky than the French are French chefs. Let's see, among other things: he thought the kitchen in our beautiful apartment was too small; he didn't like the wine our guests had brought; he was allergic to the mussels in the soup I had made. He did like my terrine however. How terribly magnifique.

For me, the whole crux of the dinner fell apart with the extraordinarily expensive sole that Baby and I bought. When the Galloping Gaul arrived, after one look, he flung the sole on the counter like I had just handed him...well, a dead fish. Can we talk about utter gall? I had received an email from a member of his personnel of just what to purchase to prepare for the dinner: several pounds of sole, eviscerated, half with skin on and half with skin off. I called several of my friends in the know--what exactly does eviscerated mean? Filleted? Everyone agreed, and the careless, impudent girl working for customer service at Citarella couldn't get off the phone fast enough when I placed the order and checked back in several times. Clearly preferential to attitude over professionalism, she ended up causing me great frustration and regrettably I had relied on Citarella's overblown reputation and purported expertise. I just called them again the other day, simply unable to get over this transgression; I currently lie in wait for reparation of some sort.

A lesson in evisceration: when eviscerating a fish, the organs are removed but the bones stay in--and by the way, I've never encountered a recipe for Sole Meuniere where the bones are in question at all.

I felt like I had been eviscerated but as dining disasters do occur quite frequently, and despite the poor, unfortunate sole, that evening I managed to keep my spine, back straight.

At one point The Galloping Gaul made an apology to Baby for being so rude--he didn't apologize to me, even though I arranged the whole thing--and then proceeded to actually thank him for not having tossed him out on the street for his impertinence. I wish I had. As a supposed educator, what a lost opportunity to educate! The whole point of the evening was utterly lost. My ire still keeps me up at night, in fact right now.

I'm working through my anger. What is patently obvious: when you are a guest in someone's home, being rude or dismissive is impermissible and the worst dish imaginable. Bon appetit.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Shrimp Mess

During New Year's our Southern friends introduced us to "The Shrimp Mess", a name they didn't feel was very elegant, but in making this preparation of a Low Country Boil over time with family, the moniker stuck. Whatever you choose to call it, I think you'll agree you can simply call it delicious. Although we reined in this particular Mess, when the warmer months roll around, harness an outdoor picnic table, flood it with newspaper and pour out the whole lot and enjoy!

The Shrimp Mess
30 pieces cooked corn
Smoky and spicy kielbasa
3 lbs. large peeled shrimp with tails on
Tons of Old Bay seasoning
5-6 quarts of water
A squeeze of two lemons with the rinds thrown in
Rendered bacon fat

Bring water to a boil
Add kielbasa and the rest of the ingredients (except for corn and shrimp) for a second boil
Then toss in the corn
Throw in the shrimp at the end for 2 minutes

Our lovely shrimp before being tossed into the Mess!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Everything But The...Vitamix!

Behold the Vitamix! As proud parents of our newly acquired blender, we absolutely love it. If you're always in the kitchen, this little baby is worth the investment. As the box attests, it is "the brand chosen by leading chefs worldwide" but as the kindly folks at the French Culinary Institute have told me personally, this is the machine to use. It's all somewhat overwhelming and I am still in awe of its sheer power and versatility. Recently a recipe called for corn meal, which we didn't have, but after throwing a few handfuls of popcorn kernels into the Vitamix, we soon did!

Among other things, the Vitamix makes salad dressings in a snap, frozen cocktails which we look forward to in summer, silken, creamy fondues and smoothies-to-go. The Vitamix also functions at such a high speed (2 horse power) that soups are not only readily made, they are finished fully cooked and steaming hot as well.

Here's a soup we made to comfort us this winter, just for starters!

Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 6

Sautee one chopped onion in two tbsps olive until softened and translucent, about 10 minutes. Set aside. Roast at least two pounds of peeled, cleaned squash cut into one-inch cubes, coated with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt, pepper and nutmeg in oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and put squash, onion mixture, a can or package of roasted chestnuts, zest of half an orange and two sage leaves, 1/4 tsp. of freshly grated nutmeg in the Vitamix. Cover with vegetable stock by two inches. Puree, gradually turning speed to high for roughly five minutes, until steam is rising from blender. Season with more salt and pepper to taste, stir in a swirl of 2% Greek-style yogurt (about 6 oz.) or perhaps sour cream and serve!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Broccoli with Cheetos

Baby and I spent a wonderful New Year's weekend at a friend's beach house in Ocean City, on the Jersey Shore--without a whiff of that reality show darling Snuggie or whatever she's called. However, taking a cue from her spray tan, we did make a dish which featured the similarly preternaturally colored orange Cheetos. Mere coincidence?

Here's the situation, gentle readers: this is a dish that delighted all and unlike reality television actually had some substance to it. I like to take a cookbook or food-related magazine with me whenever I go to a friend's house for a holiday or simple overnight when we plan to cook. I then choose something to make and there we suddenly have a page or two of food-spattered memories. Here's what came up so far this year and on an even more personal note, I now want to put Cheetos on everything. My comments below in italics.

Broccoli with Cheetos
Adapted from Saveur, Number #135
Serves 6
"Chef Craig Koketsu of New York City's Park Avenue Winter, who is a big fan of Cheetos, uses the crunchy snack food as a garnish for broccoli served on a sauce made with Gouda and Parmesan cheeses."

2 cups heavy cream less is fine
3 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. minced shallots
6 black peppercorns I used more
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups grated aged Gouda
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Kosher salt, to taste
1 1/4 lbs. (about 2 large heads) broccoli, cut into small florets, stems cut crosswise into 1/4" slices this chopping needn't be too overwrought
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
2 cups original Cheetos, crushed by hand not too finely crushed

I did step 2 first, see below!
1. Make the cheese sauce: Heat cream, 2 tbsp. garlic, shallots, peppercorns, and bay leaf in 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in cheeses until melted, and season with salt. Set a fine strainer over a small saucepan and strain sauce, discarding solids. Set aside and keep warm. We didn't have a fine strainer at the beach house so I just plucked out the bay leaf and it was fine. The peppercorns bend to the heat and didn't threaten to crack anyone's fillings.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add broccoli and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain broccoli, transfer to bowl of ice water, and let chill. Drain and transfer to paper towels to dry; set aside. Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining garlic and chili flakes and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add broccoli and cook, stirring often, until just subtly browned, about 6 minutes. I did this step first and instead of all the bother of the ice bath, I just rinsed the broccoli in cold water to retain the color and put it in a covered bowl in the refrigerator several hours before I needed it, so it would be ready and would save time in the eventual preparation.
3. To serve, spoon cheese sauce evenly among 6 warm serving bowls or small plates. Top sauce with broccoli and a generous sprinkling of Cheetos. Serve immediately.