Tuesday, January 27, 2009

By special request from a 10 year old

I love my kid. He eats his veggies, still calls me Mommy, and cracks me up on a daily basis. Before too long, he will be taller than me - yikes!! For weeks now, he has been requesting French onion soup. Yes, he is 10, but he is an adventurous eater for sure.. So, I pulled out one of my many "bistro-ish" cookbooks just to get the proportions right, and chopped lots of onions, cooked slowly in my Le Creuset to the desired brown-ness, and used up the rest of my store of beef stock & a splash of port. YUM!

There are very few things that make me happier than the smell of sauteeing onions. I had baked a very nice baguette earlier in the day for the croutons, brushed with some minced garlic & olive oil before toasting,

and used Dubliner cheddar insted of the considerably more expensive gruyere (there is a recession on, after all).

This got rave reviews, I knew it would so I served it in huge bowls instead of the cool FireKing soup crocks I have. The pot was literally clean at the end of dinner. We are loving this soup night thing. Carrots were 78 cents for a 2 lb bag this afternoon, so carrot soup is up again on Monday, or Tuesday due to pub quiz night.
On a side note, just finished reading Kathleen Flinn's "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry".. and entertaining read with a good recipe for "ragu" that I made Sunday & we enjoyed thoroughly (though it really tasted more like "stroganoff").

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We cooked, but no camera!

We spent a nice 3 day weekend at my in-laws' "beach house", a little fixer-upper in Los Osos, CA. It is right down the road from Morro Bay, on the coast from San Luis Obispo. A really perfectly situated place for visiting wineries, the beach, Hearst Castle, whatever. Friday night we somehow appeased the traffic gods and were able to get there in time for some crispy chicken tacos at Taco Roco. We love this little place, always fresh salsa, friendly service, bottomless chips, and.. the tacos.. yum! So good that we went back again with my brother & sister in law and nephew on Monday.
After enjoying some nice pastries at Carlock's (mmmm bacon & cheese fritters) Saturday we spent a few hours in San Luis Obispo: Mo's for BBQ and some time at an INDEPENDENT record store - what fun!! Then, we went to Morro Bay and were too early for the farmer's market. So, the guys played catch on the sand by the rock, and we hung out a bit. By then, it was market time -- we had to get some olive tapenade from the olive guy, they have a bruscetta mix that is awesome (we actually left it there in the fridge for my inlaws that are going next weekend), some salsa from the tamale truck (our first try.. this stuff is great), and some rock cod from the fish guy. Very tempting were his fresh oysters, but alas we don't have an oyster knife at the house... will be remedied next time we go up! The fish was pan fried simply with some s&p, butter & olive oil, then a simple sauce made with wine and a bit more butter - Andrew is the master of fish!! I roasted up some brussels sprouts --- our 10 year old requested them much to the delight of the seller -- and made a quick salad. What a great meal, rounded out with Harmony Riesling. Once my brother & sister in law and nephew arrived, we played "Jenga" (a generic version), watched Top Gear, and had many drinks.
Sunday we went to Carlock's to find them not open :( -- who closes a bakery on a sunday? So, we all settled for cereal, toast, coffee, etc. before heading down to Pismo Beach. We stood in the line for Splash chowder in bread bowls, ate that on the beach, walked around a bit, then split up. The boys wanted to play some frisbee on the beach, and Andrew and I needed to do some shopping. He needed new sneakers so we stopped by the outlet mall only to end up at Big5 instead. No worries, because we were on our way to Spencer's Market, on the north end of Morro Bay. It is a small local grocery chain, and we have found that they carry the best quality beef - we picked up some steaks for dinner. After thoroughly enjoying chips with the great salsa, plus some guacamole and onion dip, we grilled up steaks, roasted potatoes, and had an overall awesome meal. We all topped it off with more drinks, and s'mores over the fire pit in the back yard.
What a great weekend!! I would have had photos of all of the cooking and fun food, but my camera was sitting on my kitchen counter :(
We are so thankful to have a great place to hang out with friends and family!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Easy tomato soup

Soup night was pushed back to Tuesday this week, we were working on a baseball-related project for our garage. I have really been down this week what with not having success in a job search, so wasn't highly motivated. I pulled up the old internet to find a simple tomato soup, and found one as easy as it gets. 4 cups chicken stock, 1 can crushed tomatoes, 1 cup cream. Season to taste with salt & pepper, add basil to garnish (which I did not do... basil in January seems so very wrong). I think using home-made chicken/turkey stock was part of what made this soooo tasty. Served it with a foccacia from the stored dough split in half and filled with raw milk cheddar.
I cooked this loaf on the George Foreman grill that my brother & sister in law gave us for Christmas. It has lots more surface area than my panini press. That turned out really great also, since the bread is baked on an olive-oiled sheet & has oil drizzled over the top it gets nice & crusty.
Too bad it was 80 degrees out, we would have enjoyed it even more!

Friday, January 9, 2009

First Thursdays: Challenging Myself

I had already planned a tofu dish for dinner tonight, so I couldn't really find a challenge in that. But for me, the most daunting kitchen task of all is making pie crust. I don't really like pie all that much though, so if I make it I buy refrigerated rolled out dough. So, that was my challenge. I happen to have some frozen from fresh blueberries in the freezer, so what the heck. I used Bittman, and made enriched sweet pie dough for a rustic berry tart. I can't believe I had to get my food processor dirty just to combine butter & flour/sugar/salt. Hmmm.... must find a pastry cutter in kitchen gadget drawer.... The combining into a ball really started to make me angry though. I added the egg yolk and some cold water, and really just had a pile of flour with a clump of dough in the middle. I finally got it to come together mostly, and put it in some plastic wrap.
Yes, my camera is not screwy, this is purple plastic wrap. I ran out of clear the other day and haven't made it to Target yet this week.
That sat in the fridge while we ate, then I rolled it out into more or less a circle (on the 2nd try).
I filled it with berries, brushed on some melted butter, sprinkled on some sugar and cinnamon, looks ok so far right?
I baked it while we played some Rock Band 2, and it came out mostly non-retarded looking I think.
It definitely didn't taste retarded. Yay, me! I made a dessert crust that didn't cook into a tasteless brick! And both my son and my husband said I should make it again! Well, maybe.. if I can find that pastry cutter.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Succotash Soup - say that 3 times fast!

I was browsing soup recipes for Monday night, trying to keep it light after a month of excess and found this one on Epicurious and thought it sounded good. After a quick consult to make sure that Lima beans were not offenders, as white beans are, I picked up the ingredients to make this soup. Most of the ingredients are pantry, though I did need to pick up the frozen (yay! easy!) beans and a can of creamed corn. Luckily those things are really cheap. This made a big pot of soup as well, gave me lunch Tuesday and dinner Wednesday along with the 3 of us all eating 2 huge bowls.
I did pass on the black pepper sourdough croutons, fried in a pan with butter, and instead made croutons with my own freshly baked bread, in the oven with olive oil. Either way though, croutons are awesome with soup.
I thought that the creamed corn, as weird as it sounds, gave the soup some body. The bell pepper, on the other hand, was totally expendable. It didn't really add anything to the soup except that it is a traditional succotash ingredient. I was thinking that next time I might roast the pepper before adding it. I would probably make this soup again (especially since I have half a bag of Lima beans left over). It was a big hit.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Year Sunday Supper

For my first Sunday dinner of the new year, I had to feed some tired off-roaders. The guys went to Vegas for the weekend, drove off-road trucks and did other stuff that they don't mention. So, I spent Sunday working on another gem from Sunday Suppers at Lucques -- what a great book! I don't think we have had a dud yet, I highly recommend this book. Today's task was Boeuf a la Niciose. Saturday was spent running around for ingredients. Thanks to the brand new Mother's Market here in Santa Ana, I didn't have to make the trek down to Whole Paycheck for papardalle and Nicoise olives. Now only if Mother's sold real meat.....
Some boneless shortribs that were hiding at Ralph's and a leftover filet from NYE were cut up & marinated overnight with some thyme, some orange zest, and some garlic. I browned this up, then sweated some fennel, onion & carrot, tomatoes, a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf. Then came some balsamic reduced to a glaze, some red wine, and some beef stock. This all went in the oven for 3 hrs to braise. The best part - some whole canned tomatoes are split, seasoned with S&P and thyme, and roasted in the oven for an hour and a half - these get tucked in at serving, next time I will make more - yummmm!!
The papardalle gets tossed with some braising liquid and olives after cooking, then spinach & more herbs are wilted into that, with the beef being served atop.
This got rave reviews from everyone, and it makes spectacular leftovers. I really can't recommend this book enough! I am also thinking there must be some other applications for the roasted tomatoes (I mean besides just eating with a loaf of bread).

Friday, January 2, 2009

Good Riddance, 2008!

Every year we do some sort of home gourmet meal with friends and family. Last year, our neighbors had a fun party with lots of us, but this year we did the scaled down version. 7 of us, multiple courses and wines. My husband did the menu layout, here it is with photos, footnotes for the wines.

For passing

Canap├ęs (1) - Gougeres and Bresaola with Peppered Chevre

Gougeres were from The French Laundry, but I used some raw milk cheddar instead of gruyere.

Bresaola and chevre idea was a good one, next time with a roasted pepper or sun dried tomato slice.

For sitting

Salmon Tartare (2)

From Bouchon. Lots of chopping. Mine is not quite as meticulously chopped as the photo from Bouchon, and for some reason there was not enough egg yolk for all the plates.

Mushroom Soup with Truffle Cream

This is Bourdain's soup recipe again, but I added a bit of truffle oil to some heavy cream & frothed it a bit with my immersion blender. Yum!!

Mixed Greens, Pears, Pecans and Stilton (3)

Just a "go to" fancy salad, with Trader Joe's Pear Champaign Vinaigrette

Beef Wellington with Bordelaise and baby carrots (4)

I did individual Wellingtons with Costco filets which I admit were too big. And cheated with a sauce base. But still good!

For after sitting

Gingerbread & Pear Trifle (5)

Our friends Kate & Andy made these, the pears were poached in brandy and the creme anglais had some Bailey's in it - it was fantastic!

For toasting (6) - we had some Godiva chocolates, but we never got to opening them. We went out into the fog and pulled confetti poppers instead.

The sacrifice to ward off evil spirits

(1) Perrier Jouet Fleur de Champagne, 1996

(2) Claiborne and Churchill Pinot Gris, 2007

(3) Bernard Morey et Fils Chassagne Montrachet Vielles Vignes, 2002

(4) Tensley Syrah “bmt” magnum, 2004

(5) Chateau Clos Haut-Peyraguey Sauternes, 2001

(6) Phillipponant Clos Des Goisses Champagne, 1992

Another great use of leftovers

I had some leftover mushrooms and onions. I cooked the onions for a long time but left the mushrooms raw. Add a bit of Boursin cheese, 5 minute artisan bread dough - presto ----
It wasn't too pretty, and totally stuck to the pan, but it really tasted good.