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Archive for May, 2010

Gateau de Crepes

I made this cake for the Resident Frenchman’s birthday and it was, if I do say so myself, pretty awesome. Nothing looks more impressive than a stack of crepes, with tangy lemon curd peeking through the layers.

Crepes may seem intimidating, but they are easy to master once you get going. You must accept that the first crepe will be terrible. The second crepe will be better and by the third, things will be going much smoother. The good thing about a gateau de crepes is that you can sneak in the odd shaped crepes into the middle of the stack and no one will notice!

This is a dessert that has several resting stages and therefore, is not easily done in one day. All crepe recipes I’ve read recommend resting the batter for several hours in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Do not skip this step – there are, of course, a variety of theories as to what resting does for the batter, but resting makes a huge impact on the taste and texture of the crepes. The good thing is that you can throw together a crepe batter in under fifteen minutes, stick it in the fridge and forget about it until you are ready to start making crepes. The other most crucial resting stage is at the end – the cake must be refrigerated after it is put together. Otherwise, when you try to slice through, the crepes will slide off each other and you will be very, very upset.

A few final thoughts on crepes. One, use a nonstick pan. You don’t need a specialized crepe pan, but for ease and less frustration, the pan must be nonstick. Two, use a metal spatula, or the stiffest silicon you have available. The firmer the spatula, the easier it will be to maneuver it with the crepes. Three, use a light hand when pouring the batter into the pan. Crepes should be thin – these aren’t pancakes. Finally, be sure to save your two best crepes to use as the base and the top. You will want a solid base and a pretty top.

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Braised Leeks

I actually made this dish ages ago. Like in February. But I’m posting it because it is delicious and I’m not sure how it fell through the cracks. And also because my grand plans for fava beans went bust. Yes, that is fava beans as in fava beans and a nice chianti. (As an aside, that movie haunts my dreams. Who lets fourth graders at a sleep over watch that??) But unfortunately I ruined them with some bitter orange zest. Which is a shame, because fava beans photograph beautifully – I took some glorious photos and they are going to live on in a future fava beans post. But it is leeks for today!

Leeks and shallots really just seem to go together. It is one of those classic pairings that just scream French food and Julia Child to me. This is a great simple side dish that could compliment any chicken dish or stand alone, perhaps with a poached egg and hunk of baguette. I think it also would be great dressed up with a dollop of sharp mustard mixed into the shallots and some panko bread crumbs on top. I love simple recipes like this because they are great bases on which you can build more complicated variations.

My only tip for this recipe is to carefully clean the leeks! I’ve included specific directions in the recipe text. The first time I made this dish, I was in a serious rush and I didn’t clean the leeks fully. Things were a little gritty, which is not exactly the texture I was going for.

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My mom bought me the last (sob) Gourmet cookbook and it is amazing. Seriously. This is why I miss Gourmet. I have been reading through it and literally marking down every other page. This is the first recipe I made from the book and now, I want to marry this cookbook.

This tart is delicious. The berries get soft and delicious, but not mushy. The crumble topping adds a satisfying crunch of pecan and sugar sweetness. And the contrast of the tart berries to the sweet topping is out of this world. It took way too much effort not to sneak extra bites of berries topped with extra crumble raked from the top. If this recipe is representative of Gourmet Today, this blog is going to evolve into one of those annoying (well I think so) blogs where an entire cookbook is cooked through.

The crust calls for shortening, which I have never actually used before. I substituted butter, but have any of you gentle readers used shortening in a crust? Leave me a comment and tell me why I should be using shortening! And where does one purchase it? I did use a pastry blender to make the crust. I have become a devoted fan of pastry blenders since I purchased one about a year ago. The Oxo is nice, but I purchased mine at TJ Maxx and it is perfectly fine. The beauty of the blender is that you can get perfect pea sized clumps of butter, but with a lot less work than doing it by hand and with a lot more precision than if you used a food processor.

P.S. Since this cookbook was a Ruth Reichl production, Aushak made it in! Check it out!

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Puff pastry is back! I eased up on it after my puff pastry filled beginning of the year, but I still had some in the freezer and it was calling to me. It was saying it felt unloved after all this time. And so, here we are again. I learned a new tip for puff pastry this time around. For once, I thought ahead and defrosted the puff pastry ahead of time. However, it should be noted, you should really unfold the puff pastry while it is defrosting. Not only does it speed up the defrosting, then the folds don’t stick to each other. I had a truly interesting time trying to un-stick the pieces to each other!

I only recently started to like asparagus (am still trying to broaden my veggie horizons). Like any weird person, I prefer the stalks. I really like my veggies crunchy and all that fiber makes me feel extra veggie virtuous. But, yes I am aware that the tips are supposed to be the best part. Really though, any vegetable tastes awesome on a bed of goat cheese on puff pastry. Maybe even broccoli rabe. (Which, frankly, blech to! So bitter! Is this an acquired taste I am missing or what? How do people eat that?)

So yes, this recipe. Delicious. Easy. Elegant. Everything looks better in tart form. That is the motto of my cooking. And also, puff pastry makes everything better.

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I cooked this at my parent’s house, which was wonderful. Everything looks super elegant on Blue and White plates!

This is one of my classic, go-to recipes for when I am cooking for myself. It is very light and it doesn’t take forever to put together, which is nice when you just want to eat already. This dish basically takes all that I love in the world – cooked onions, lemon and thyme – and marries them together. And it is one of those amazing dishes where the side and main are combined.

A few notes. One, the original recipe doesn’t call for potatoes, but I like to add in a few sometimes to add some more substance to the dish. Also because not everyone loves eating piles of cooked onions the way I do. Two, feel free to spice the fish something other than just salt and pepper. I recently bought McCormick’s Perfect Pinch Lemon Herb and it is amazing on fish. Finally, you can use any thin white fish for this dish. Martha recommends flounder, but any delicate fish will work well.
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