Monday, April 30, 2007

Saturday Night's Menu - Darren's Birthday

Oysters Mignonette
Pierre Morlet Grande Reserve Premier Cru Champagne

Apricot and Casera Tamales, Mache, Apricot Cumin Dressing
2005 Lewis Cellars Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Roast Turkey or Beet on Sweet Potato with Blackberry Sauce
Adrian Fog Two Sisters Vineyard 2005
Kosta Browne Russian River Valley 2005

Roast Leg of Lamb in Sauce Marchant du Vin,
Buckwheat Polenta, Wild Spring Vegetables (Morrell Mushrooms, Fiddlehead Ferns, Fava Beans)
Farfallone, Mushroom Sauce, Wild Spring Vegetables
2001 Larkmead Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Torbreck 'The Struie', the Barossa, Australia

Classic Creme Brulee, Assorted Shortbread Cookies
2000 Royal Tokaji - 5 Puttonyos

Darren posted photos and a lovely write-up of the evening!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Baby Artichokes

1 container (~1lb) fresh baby artichokes, cut in quarters
1T capers
1T caper brine
2T olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 1/2 c red and yellow cherry tomatoes, cleaned and halved.
3 cloves garlic, minced
1c chicken stocks
salt and pepper

In large sautee pan, over medium heat, add the garlic, artichokes, tomatoes, salt and pepper, capers, and caper brine. Sautee until aroma is released from garlic and artichokes begin to look a little brown and cooked around the edges. Season with salt and pepper and add the stock. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 12 minutes, or until broth is evaporated. Taste and fix seasoning, serve.

Note on cleaning artichokes: after rinsing them under cold water, cut the tail off, about 1/2" before it starts (into the bulb). Next, cut off 2/3" off the spiky end so no leaf tips are left on the artichoke. Finally, remove outer leaves, so that only the heart remains.

Alternative version: add pesto or romesco with the capers in the beginning.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hi-Hat Trials and Tribulations

Ryan and I bought some hi-hat cupcakes from Dean & Delucca which were magnificent. I decided I'd learn how to make them. I remembered that I had a recipe in a book Ryan had bought me last Christmas and I set about preaparing the delicious treats exactly according to the instructions.

The sour cream cake base turned out well. It has a nice indentation in the middle for some of the marshmallow cream to nestle in, creating a nice, stable base for greater height. Normally, I don't like cakes that dent in, but it matched the photo exactly, so I knew it was intentional.

Sadly, the "marshmallow cream" didn't share such a sunny fate. The recipe was a modification of a 7-minute icing, with more sugar and no water. The trick (apparently) is to get the mixture above 160F while beating continuously over a double boiler in order to melt the sugar and make a creamier consistency. Sadly, this is seemingly impossible. The whole process was supposed to take 12 mintues. By 15 mintues, I'd lost all volume, had formed a crust on the bottom of the bowl, and had a thick, crystalized mess.

I tried again, this time, I stopped when the volume looked right, at around 12 minutes. I still had not acheived 160F and I still had a grainy mess.

I dipped a few in chocolate and ate them anyway. The flavors are there, but the texture is wrong, wrong, wrong. I did some research on the internet and discovered that
a) there seems to be only one hi-hat recipe on the internet and it is identical to the one in my book (see here and here)
b) this recipe is flawed
c) people are PISSED about it

I have decided to come up with a version of the recipe that always works. My next experiment will use white mountain frosting, which is basically the same as this modified 7-minute frosting all over the internet, but which utilizes simple syrup instead of raw sugar.

Wish me luck. I'll post my updates here.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Moroccan-spiced tamales

Moroccan-spiced tamales
Serves 6

Tamale Filling and Sauce
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cans (14oz ea) plain tomato sauce
juice of 1 lemon
1 small onion, cut in half then sliced into half-circles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c golden raisins
1 c Thompson seedless raisins
1t chili powder
3t ground cinnamon
3t sweet Hungarian paprika
1t ground cumin
½ t ground cloves
1 ½ t unsweetened cocoa powder
½ t cayenne pepper
1c shredded Monterey jack
sour cream
1/2c spicy pumpkin seeds
2t corn oil
salt, pepper

Low-fat Masa
12 large corn husks
6c masa harina
1t kosher salt
1t freshly ground black pepper
1t baking powder
4c chicken broth (low sodium canned is fine)
2t white wine vinegar
2t olive oil
corn oil for brushing


Briefly rinse the corn husks under running water, then place in a large bowl and cover with water to soak.

Place the chicken and tomato sauce in a medium pot over medium heat.

In a separate, small sauté pan, toast the cinnamon, chili powder, paprika, and cumin, until their aroma is released and their color has darkened slightly. Remove immediately from heat and stir into the pot with the chicken. Add cayenne, chocolate, and lemon juice to the pot, season with salt and pepper. Add ½ c golden raisins and ½ c Thompson seedless raisins and simmer for approximately 45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and flavors are well blended.

While chicken is simmering, prepare the masa. Combine masa harina, salt, pepper, and baking powder in the bowl of a large mixer. Combine chicken broth, vinegar, and olive oil in another bowl. Using the paddle attachment on the lowest setting, mix the wet ingredients into the dry, being very careful not to overmix. The resulting batter should be the consistency of thick peanut butter. You may need to adjust the masa by adding more masa harina or water until the appropriate consistency is achieved.

Set aside until chicken mixture is finished.

When chicken is well cooked, you will want to separate the chicken from the sauce by straining the chicken mixture in a medium colander over a bowl. Return the sauce to a pot to keep warm. Shred the chicken into small, stringy pieces with two forks. Taste chicken and adjust seasoning as needed.

Place a large steamer pot on the stove to boil. Remove a large corn husk from the water. Hold it in your open palm so that the tapered end hangs over your fingers and the bottom edge hangs over the bottom of your palm. Brush the husk with just a touch of corn oil. Place ½ - 2/3 cup of masa on the husk and spread with an icing spatula or the back of a spoon. You will want to only cover the areas of the husk that are sitting on your palm. The tapered end and the dangling edge should be left bare. Spoon ¼-1/3 c of the chicken mixture onto the masa, along the top edge of the tamale. Place the tamale on the counter and roll edge to edge, top to bottom. Then fold the dangling tapered end up. Repeat until you have made 12 tamales. Place the tamales, folded end down, vertically into the steamer and cover. Cook over slowly boiling water for a half hour, checking frequently and adding more water as needed. Once the tamales are cooked, let them sit for approximately ten minutes in the pot with the water off.

While the tamales are cooking, prepare the sauce. Place 2t oil into a small sauté pan and cook onion and garlic over medium heat until translucent. Add to sauce with reserved 1/2c golden and 1/2 c Thompson seedless raisins. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Keep warm until tamales are finished.

To serve, place two tamales on each plate, top with sauce and cheese (for an extra touch, melt the cheese in the broiler). Garnish with sour cream and spicy pumpkin seeds

Note on Masa: You know what is fantastic? Prepared Masa. You go to the Mexican market, it's usually in one of the big fridges in the back of the store. You grab a giant bag, tell them how many pounds you want, and they scoop it out for you. Make sure that you confirm you're getting the masa for tamales and not torillas. This stuff is great!!!! Sure, it's not lowfat, but neither are we, n'est pas?