Thursday, August 7, 2008

Intermission - What I Am Reading

I have been trying to get through Marion Nestle's "What to Eat", (Northpoint Press, 2006) which is an interesting read on our food, what is in our food, the marketing that the large manufacturers do to sell the food (have you ever thought about supermarkets being in business to make money? then how do they make money? how do food products compete for your attention? what goes into those products? who is making them?) and the hype that a lot of consumers believe about food. I say "trying", as digesting the content makes for slow reading since each chapter is deserving of consideration. Translation - I get exhausted after each chapter.

I've also been enjoying "The Only Bake Sale Cookbook You'll Ever Need", by Laurie Wolf and Pam Abrams (HarperCollins, 2008) and wish I had the time to test each recipe in it.

I've just borrowed Alice Waters' "The Art of Simple Food", (Clarkson N. Potter, 2007) which I have yet to start.

I also am reading Steve Berry's "The Venetian Betreyal" (a thriller).
I have taken advantage of electronic media and have downloaded books to listen to while walking. It makes the time go faster for me when I exercise.
My son and I have completed the children's versions of Moby Dick and Robin Hood. We might take a stab at Ivanhoe next, but he wants to read Moby Dick over again.

Thank goodness for libraries :-)

Menu 4

I broke up this meal into 2 parts as we aren't used to eating such rich food.

For breakfast we had the Smoked Salmon Crepes, which garned a resounding "yum!" from my son. There was no specification, so I used cold smoked salmon, which was soaked in milk overnight, then patted dry. I made the crepes, filled them with salmon, baked them in the creme fraiche (made from buttermilk and heavy cream), and served them plated with chives and caviar as garnishing, and scrambled eggs and a beefsteak tomato from the garden on the side.
A few nights later as my son was drifting off to sleep he said, "Can we have salmon crepes for breakfast again with the black stuff on top?"
These savory crepes would also be good for a brunch or mini crepes for hors d'ouvres since you can make them in advance and pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes before serving.
I saved one crepe for my son and spread Nutella on it as a midmorning treat.

For dinner we had the Roast Leg of Lamb. Since I could not find a leg with the bone in, I used a deboned leg and rolled and tied it. It was studded with garlic and sprigs of rosemary. I made the au jus that is part of the recipe, but we are bigger fans of eating lamb with mint jelly.

The Swiss Chard Gratin is something we will definitely be making again, as we grow our own chard. This was a nice change from a broccoli or cauliflower gratin. I learned from this recipe that you can scrape the tough outer parts from the stem of the chard using a peeler (much like with broccoli), slice it thinly, the cook it in boiling water for about 10 minutes and it is perfectly edible.

For dessert it was Pineapple Sorbet. Much too sweet that it made my teeth ache. It did give us a few ideas about trying the process with other fruit in season using about half the sugar instead. Though quicker to make with an ice cream maker, it is easily made without one by placing the pureed fruit mixture mixed with a sugar syrup (aka simple syrup) into a large pan (more surface area, thus faster freezing) then scraping it up to get the icy grains of a sorbet. A less sweet version would be good to serve as a palate cleanser between courses for a formal dinner.
In case you were wondering - in order to serve the sorbet in the pineapple, we froze the body (and the top of the fruit) before we filled it with the sorbet so it kept its shape. We then put the whole body of the fruit back in the freezer to keep it frozen before serving a few of hours later.
Just a note that we do not eat like this nightly. I only cook the Le Cordon Bleu At Home menus once a week on a Saturday or Sunday night. The rest of the week we eat well, but avoid much of the meat, butter, cream and flour. We dine on chicken, fish and at least on one night a week we have a vegetarian meal. I usually bake a cake or pie once every two weeks.

Intermission - Prime Rib and Apple Pie

Roast Prime Rib of Beef - comfort food, specially when served with mashed potatoes and horseradish sauce. The beans were picked that morning from our garden.

Take a prime rib, salt and pepper it and rub some oil on it. Place it on a roasting pan and into an oven at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and leave in the roast, at 15 minutes per pound for a medium rare roast. Mix 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard with 3 tablespoons of fresh horseradish and a quarter cup of sour cream for the horseradish sauce.

My apple pie to finish the meal.

Menu 3

Whomever wrote this menu certainly didn't eat it. Or could be a proponent of the "eat a meal where all the tastes are similar" school of thought so you eat less. Except that in this case you may have a heart attack. 14 egg yolks and 12 egg whites, 10 tablesoons of butter, 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of heavy cream and a pound of semi-sweet chocolate all in one meal. And everything was brown and beige. In cream sauce.

This may not look like much - it is a Gratin of Hard-boiled Eggs. Basically hard-boiled eggs with a sauteed onions and a bechamel sauce poured over it. It's fine, but not something really to our taste.

Veal Shanks with Pearl Onions and Mushrooms. Quite good, however a bit too rich (butter, flour and eggs) for us.

Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnuts and no whisky (I have a kid, what did you expect?) with Chantilly Cream on top. This was really, really good. I would serve this to any girlfriend having a crisis. It will take your mind off anything and all you taste is the chocolate, the hazlenuts and the gooey creaminess in your mouth. Heaven.

Chantilly cream is whipped cream with vanilla and confectioner's sugar.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Birthday supper - Sukiyaki and Sans Rival

For my birthday dinner I made Sukiyaki. I bought the beef (already sliced) at Trader Joe's, since this saved me a trip to an asian store.

Marinate some thinly sliced beef (preferrably rib eye or sirloin) and marinate in soy and sugar. Take a couple of onions and saute them in butter and oil, set aside. Saute the beef in the same pan until partly cooked, add in some carrots, napa cabbage, mushrooms, leeks and tofu. Add in rice noodles that have been softened in hot water. Pour in the sauce of soy, sugar and beef broth. Simmer a few minutes and adjust seasoning. Serve with a fresh egg in a bowl and pour the soup over it.

Dessert was Sans Rival. This is a dessert that we used to buy at a place called La Cibeles on Padre Faura in Ermita when I was a child. La Cibeles closed many years ago, but my memory of their Sans Rival led me to recreate it for my family. It is drizzled with caramel strands. My husband says he prefers Sans Rival to any other dessert.

Sans Rival is a dacquoise - a merengue and nut mix (almonds in this case) baked into wafers, then filled with a french buttercream frosting in between layers (4 here) and covering the pastry. The final layer of buttercream is topped with chopped almonds then drizzled with caramel and chilled. In the Philippines, cashews are used in a Sans Rival.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Intermission - Puchero and Chocolate Cake

I grew up eating Puchero. It is a hearty Spanish-Filipino stew of chicken, beef, pork and chorizo with chick peas, green beans, cabbage and potatoes in a tomato sauce with onions and garlic. It is served with a side dish of roasted eggplant mashed with minced shallots, garlic and vinegar.

I thank my special friends who sent me a copy of Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cooking Techniques. I wish you were here to share my chocolate cake.

My chocolate cake took me years of searching for the right cake recipe and I thank my friend Marivic who made suggestions for the frosting recipe I spent years trying to perfect. Finally, I've got it!

Menu 2

I made the chicken stock over the weekend to save myself time during the week, using the chicken carcasses I've been saving in my freezer for the soup. I definitely do not have an extra 2.5 hours during the work week to make fresh stock, so I froze it.

Country-style Vegetable Soup with Noodles. Cabbage, leeks, chicken stock and vermicelli pieces. Maybe I should have strained the stock before I used it for the soup so it would have been a clear broth. It tasted fine.

Veal Scallops with Apples and Brandy. Veal scallops lightly fried and smothered with mushrooms and shallots in a cream sauce, garnished with baked apples.

Caramel Custard. Eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla and voila! One of our favorite sweets.

I probably won't be making the soup again and will add shredded chicken for a heartier soup. I would also add a couple of potatoes and blend them into the stock for a thicker broth. It's just a matter of preference.