Thursday, February 26, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Meringues Chantilly

In my last post I promised that my next post would be my Valentines day desert and here it is.  At first I was glad to see that the Barefoot Bloggers recipe for this month was a desert that looked like it would work for Valentines day.  I stumbled upon Martha Stewarts Valentines special (really - I don't watch Martha) where she had three pastry chefs do a Valentines desert.  After I saw that I kind of wished I could switch to one of those.  They all were very elaborate and looked fantastic.  Of course I also new I would have a hard time finding ingredients for them since they called for things like quinces and apple pectin.  Maybe next year I will plan ahead to make one of those.  My wife is more of a chocolate person so I think she might like one of those better.

I didn't really know what to expect with this recipe.  I had never done a meringue that you cook for 2+ hours.  The recipe was easy to make.  You make the meringue cups a long time before you need them since they are supposed to be in the oven for 6 hours.  I had just bought my cake decorating kit for my Wiltons class next month (get ready for those posts in March) so I pulled that out to form the meringue into the cups.  You can probably see from the picture that I shaped them into hearts for the occasion.  

The stewed berries were straightforward after I got over paying $3.99 for the tiny container of raspberries.  I didn't have any raspberry brandy so I used triple sec instead - I doubt it made much difference.  For the whipped cream I pulled out the good stuff - Grand Marnier - my little $30 bottle is probably a lifetime supply at the rate I use it anyway.

So what did I think of this recipe?  Like I said - I didn't know what to expect - but the meringues were very hard - it made them a little hard to eat.  I think that is probably what they were supposed to be after six hours in the oven.  They were also VERY sweet.  I'm not saying I didn't like them but they definitly were not a must have desert in my opinion.  They did look very nice with the white meringues and the red and blue fruit - and they made a nice desert for Valentines day - I am glad I got to try this recipe but I don't think I will keep these on my list to make again.

Thanks to BMK of Reservations not Required for this recipe. 

Meringues Chantilly
Serves 12 

  • 6 extra - large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Whipped Cream with Orange Liqueur, recipe follows
  • Stewed berries, recipe follows
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a small glass and a pencil, draw 6 (3 1/2-inch) circles on each piece of paper. Turn the paper face-down on the baking sheets.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a large pinch of salt on medium speed until frothy. Add 1 cup of the sugar and raise the speed to high until the egg whites form very stiff peaks. Whisk in the vanilla. Carefully fold the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar into the meringue. With a large star - shaped pastry tip, pipe a disc of meringue inside each circle. Pipe another layer around the edge to form the sides of the shells.
  3. Bake for 2 hours, or until the meringues are dry and crisp but not browned. Turn off the heat and allow the meringues to sit in the oven for 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Spread some of the sauce from the stewed berries on each plate. Place a meringue on top and fill with whipped cream. Top with berries and serve.
Whipped Cream with Orange Liqueur:
  • 2 cups (1 pint) cold heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur
Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When it starts to thicken, add the sugar, vanilla and orange liqueur and continue to whip until the cream forms stiff peaks. Don't overbeat, or you'll end up with butter!

Yield: 4 cups

Stewed berries:
  • 1 half-pint fresh blueberries
  • 3 half-pints fresh raspberries, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons framboise (raspberry brandy)
Combine the blueberries, one-half pint of raspberries, 1/3 cup water, the sugar and zest in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. The juice will become a syrup and the berries will be slightly cooked. Off the heat, stir in the remaining raspberries and the framboise. Set aside.

Yield: 8 servings

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentines Day 2009

One of the things I have done most years since Lara and I were married 18 years ago was to make a Valentines day dinner.  I try to make something a little fancy and something Lara will like.  Especially this year with Valentines day on a Saturday I am sure going to a restaurant would be crazy.  

This year I picked something fairly simple to make, I think it still looks elegant though.  For the main dish I made a Chicken Piccata.  It was very easy, and since you pound the chicken into thin cutlets, it cooks very quickly.  The Chicken was good and lemony - it went well with the buttered angel hair pasta (one of Lara's favorites) that I served with it.

I also have been wanting to try my recipe for no-knead bread that was in a cookbook I got for Christmas.  The bread takes hardly any work at all.  You mix the ingredients together the night before - they just get stirred together with a spoon.  You then let it rise overnight on the counter. 
 The next day you knead the dough just 10-15 times (this is the secret step in their "no knead" dough) and let it rise as a ball for another couple hours.  You then cook it in a very hot pre-heated dutch oven and turn the oven down for cooking.  The ingredients were a little different than most bread.  I did not use bread flour, it called for very little yeast, and used a lot of liquid.  I think it came out looking beautiful and tasted even better.  It looked like an "artisan" loaf that you would get at a nice bakery.  My only issue was that it did come out a little dark on the bottom.  I might try lowering the starting temp a little next time.

To end the meal we needed an elegant desert.  Well - I am just going to tease you with that right now since desert was my Barefoot Bloggers recipe for the second half of January.  It was very good and very appropriate for Valentines so check back on January 22 to see how that turned out.

Chicken Piccata
(Source: Cuisine at Home sample issue)
Serves 2

  • 2 Boneless, skinless breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • Nonstick spray
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. capers, drained
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Fresh lemon slices
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  1. Cut chicken breast lengthwise to form two cutlets each.
  2. Pound the chicken breasts into even 1/4 inch thick cutlets
  3. Season cutlets with salt and pepper, then dust with flour.
  4. Coat saute pan with non-stick spray, add oil, and heat over medium-high.
  5. Saute cutlets 2-3 mins on one side then flip and saute 1-2 minutes with the pan covered.  Transfer cutlets to a warmed platter; pour off fat from pan.
  6. De-glaze pan with wine and add garlic.  Cook until garlic is slightly browned and liquid is nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add broth, lemon juice, and capers.  Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side 1 minute.  Transfer cutlets to plate.
  8. Finish sauce with butter and lemons.  When butter melts, pour sauce over cutlets.
  9. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Almost No-knead Bread
(Source: Cooks Illustrated, Jan 2008)
Makes 1 Large round loaf

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons mild-flavored lager
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl.  Add water, beer, and vinegar.  Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.
  2. Lay 12 by 18 inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10 inch skillet and spray with non-stick cook spray.  Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and knead 10 to 15 times.  Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle.Transfer dough seam-side down to parchment lined skillet.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until doubled in size (about 2 hours).
  3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest setting, place 6-8 quart heavy bottomed dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.  Note:  Most dutch ovens come with handles that should not be used in 500 degree oven.  You can get metal handle from Le Creuset or I just used a metal cabinet door handle from Home Depot.
  4. Lightly flour top of dough and, using a razor blade or sharp knife, cut a 6 inch long 1/2 inch deep slit in top of the dough.  Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid.  Pick up dough using overhanging parchment and lower into the pot.  Cover pot and place into oven.  Reduce temperature to 425 and cook 30 minutes.  Remove lid and continue to bake until deep brown and instant read thermometer reads 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer.  Carefully remove bread from pot and cool on a wire rack for about 2 hours.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Real Spaghetti and Meatballs

After my last cooking disaster it was good to see a recipe in Barefoot Bloggers this month for Spaghetti and Meatballs - a nice easy recipe that wouldn't be too easy to mess up.  The recipe actually looked pretty close to my standard spaghetti recipe.  I think the sauce is exactly the same except that my normal recipe does not use the red wine.

So does anyone else have trouble finding ground veal in supermarkets?  I do have some places I can find it but with the kid I don't always want to go running around for ingredients.  None of my standard supermarkets carry it.  I think I just need to stock up on some for the freezer since any of my meatball and meatloaf recipes call for this 1 lb ground beef to 1/2 lb ground pork to 1/2 lb ground veal.  Well I didn't manage to buy any before I made the recipe so I just used extra ground beef.  I don't think it makes a lot of difference - I think the ground veal just makes the meat a little more tender.

The recipe went off without a hitch and was delicious.  I haven't decided if I like this version better than my normal recipe without the wine - I think I would need to taste them next to each other.  I think the non-wine recipe has a "fresher" taste and the wine version is a little deeper.  Both good in their own way.  

The meatballs were very tasty.  I didn't have any seasoned bread crumbs so I just added a little oregano and thyme for seasoning.  My only complaint is that I don't think the recipe made the proper ratio of meatballs to sauce.  I got thirteen good size meatballs and probably only enough sauce for 4-5 servings of spaghetti.  That is OK though - I think I will just put together a nice meatball hoagie for lunch tomorrow.

Thanks to Rebecca at Ezra Pound Cake for this recipe.    I think I might need to try out her recipe for Huli-Huli chicken - it looks mighty good in her picture.

Real Meatballs and Spaghetti
Serves 6


For the meatballs:
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil
For the sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For serving:
  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
  1. Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.
  2. Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.
  3. For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  4. Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Eggs Benedict Arnold

What are Eggs Benedict Arnold you might ask.  It is when your eggs and everything else turn traitor on you.  It has been a while since I have posted anything so I thought I needed to try something new.  One of the things on my unwritten list of things to try was poached eggs.  

Poached eggs was probably one of the things that got me started in cooking.  I remember cooking lots of poached eggs as a child.  Not "real" poached eggs but the kind you make in the little cups.  As a kid I remember liking how perfect they looked if you made them right.  You had to time it just right so the yolk was runny but the white wasn't.  Then I would flip them over on toast and if everything went right they didn't break until you were ready to break them.

Well that was over 30 years ago so I thought it was time to try making poached eggs for real - in boiling water.  What better way to use poached eggs than in Eggs Benedict.  That way I would get to try out making a Hollandaise sauce too.

 How many things can go wrong in one recipe.  My first mistake was believing that I could make the Hollandaise sauce ahead of time.  The timing is kind of short on Eggs Benedict so I liked the idea of pre-making the Hollandaise.  I have fallen for the same make-ahead thing twice when making butter cream frosting and it didn't work either time.  It didn't work here either.  Making the Hollandaise does take a little while and you need to stir the whole time but it wasn't too hard and this step actually went well.  The sauce looked and tasted good.  The recipe said I could store it and reheat at 50% in the microwave - stirring every 10 seconds.  As soon as it started to get warm the sauce separated and the eggs started to cook - it ended up looking kind of curdled.  

I think the bad sauce would have been enough wrong but that wasn't the end.  I cooked the English muffins in the broiler and burnt them - not too big of a disaster - I threw some more in and got the next batch right.  The eggs ended up over done too - probably because I was so flustered dealing with all the other stuff.  

Considering all the issues they didn't taste too bad - you could tell what they were supposed to be at least.  I won't make you view any pictures of this one though - it wasn't pretty.  I will put this on my list to try again.  Give me a month or two to get over it and I will try again and hopefully get it right next time.