Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hawai'i Cuisine: Rotisserie (Huli Huli) Chicken

According to the book, "huli" means to turn, and "huli huli" means to turn over and over. I enjoy saying "huli huli," so I planned to make Rotisserie (Huli Huli) Chicken (pg 60), knowing full well that I would annoy the crap out of anyone in earshot. Matt must have caught on, and conveniently scheduled an overnight work trip to San Antonio for today. Charlie didn't mind my celebration of the hulis, as long as I didn't place myself between him and Finding Nemo. 

I like the idea of this recipe, because Chef Choy gives a couple of alternative cooking methods if you don't have a rotisserie. He also provides instructions for cooking the chicken on a hibachi or under the broiler, turning it every 10-15 minutes, or to just bake it in the oven, untouched. I chose the broiling/turning method.

I don't know the purpose of the first step, but it's fun and barbaric. He instructs you to split the bird down the backbone and remove the neck bone. I chanted some ferocious "Huli Hulis" as I sawed through the ribcage with my almost-not-sharp-enough knife. My knife was definitely not sharp enough to cut through the neck bone, so I cut along the other side of the spine, too, and pulled the whole thing out. This process was so satisfying that I'm tempted to go buy another chicken so I can do it again.
Isn't it ghastly? I love it.
After rubbing garlic and oil into the skin and letting it marinate for half hour, I sprinkled a spice blend of salt, paprika, coriander, and pepper onto the bird and popped it under the broiler.

I popped it a bit too close to the broiler. I inhaled a face-full of smoke when I opened the oven door fifteen minutes later to huli my victim. After that, I put it on a lower rack, and didn't have that problem again.
All the charred bits are from that first 15 minutes. Woops.
The meat tasted like and had the same juiciness of any other chicken I've ever roasted, meaning that it was good, but I'm not sure it was worth all the dismemberment and flipping. The spice mix, on the other hand, is my new favorite blend for roasting a chicken. The crispy bits of skin were deeeelicious.

Conclusion: Liked it. I'll use the seasonings, but not the method again.

Huli.           Okay, that was the last one. Promise.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hawai'i Cuisine: Oriental Lamb Chops with Rotelli Pasta

Lesson #2 about Hawaiian cooking: the base of many recipes is ginger, cilantro, and garlic.
Lesson #3 about Hawaiian cooking: moderation is not a factor. A recipe for mashed potatoes, which I will not be making, involves two sticks of butter and a good splosh of heavy cream for four people. Holy moly. I'll bet it's delicious, but my conscience just can't do it.

I'm trying to decide if the recipe for Oriental Lamb Chops with Rotelli Pasta (pg 50-51) has a typo. It says that the lamb chop marinade includes 3/4 CUP of minced garlic. Whaaaaat?? Could that possibly be correct? Even if I had the patience to mince that much garlic, which I don't, the half-a-head I had on hand wasn't going to get me to 3/4 cup. I also needed some for the pasta, so four cloves went in the marinade and three were reserved for the pasta.

Also in the marinade: soy sauce, fresh ginger, a lot of brown sugar, red pepper flakes, fresh basil, fresh cilantro, and salt. This wasn't hard to throw together. I just had to remind myself at noon to do it. The instructions say to massage the marinade into the meat for 5-10 minutes. I felt ridiculous when I started doing this, but after about two minutes, I could tell that the meat was tenderizing, and by the end of five minutes, it was practically falling off the bone, uncooked. After they sit in the fridge for 4-6 hours, broil them for 3 minutes per side. The book says that will give you a medium rare. That gave me a raw. I threw it back under the broiler for a minute, and the chops came out perfectly. 
Heeeeere, lamby, lamby, lamby!
I would never want to eat a bowl of the Creamy Rotelli Pasta on its own, but with the chops, it was delicious. Stir-fry julienned carrot, zucchini, cilantro, and shiitake mushrooms in garlic, oil, and butter provide the flavor. I added basil, too, because I lopped more than I needed off of my plant for the marinade. Heavy cream and parmesan cheese are added at the end. Think of it as a dry Alfredo sauce.

The chops were sweet and tender, and the drippings that mixed into the pasta made everything even more delicious. Flavors of ginger, garlic, and soy were all there, but subtly.

As I ate this, I flashed back to a dish my Dad made just a few times when I was growing up. He'd taken a Chinese cooking class, and had a few favorites that he would make over and over. My favorite, and one that I don't remember him making often (blast!) was a sweet, caramelized fried pork. Obviously, lamb and pork taste nothing alike, but eating this lamb zapped me right to that pork. I have the binder where Dad kept all of his Chinese recipes. The ingredient list is so very very specific--as in, you are instructed not to deviate from the recommended brands--that I've just been hanging on to it as a keepsake and haven't attempted to cook from it yet. This lamb makes me want to try, though I think it's a lost cause until I can get my hands on a good Asian market.

Conclusion: I loved this lamb. I'd worried that it would be salty from all that soy sauce, but it wasn't. It was a lovely balance of salty, sweet, and herbal. We're off to a good start. I liked the pasta, but in the future, would probably just stir-fry some vegetables and serve it on rice.

I'm going to do my best to steer away from the cream and butter-based dishes. We'll see.

As a side comment, I was a little put off that the pic that accompanies this dish in the book shows none of the vegetables specified, but does show strips of red pepper, which are not in the recipe. Weird.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ready For Dessert: A Twofer

I'm getting a late start on my Hawaiian book. Lesson #1 about Hawaiian cooking: they marinate stuff for hours. Lesson #1 about my flaws in the kitchen: I don't remember that I need to marinate stuff until I start cooking. Tonight, we're having dinner with Matt's new CO, so tomorrow will be my Hawaiian debut.

In the meantime, I've been baking from Ready for Dessert. I was supposed to go to a book club meeting on Thursday, so I made his Fresh Ginger Cake (pg 42). I've been wary of this recipe, because his other two gingerbread recipes that I tried pre-blog were bad. This, however, turned out to be the gingerbread I've been searching for. I no longer need to scour cookbooks for the perfect recipe. I've found it.
What sets this gingerbread apart from any other recipe I've tried? 4 oz. of fresh ginger, to start. In case you can't visualize, that's a pretty sizeable stick of ginger. Between the fresh ginger, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper, this cake has a nice background heat to it, and the balance of ginger to molasses is perfect.

I wound up not going to the book club, because we had the first thunderstorm of Charlie's cognizant life, and he was a bit upset by the thunder. It may be for the best, anyway, because Matt thinks that no one in their right mind would want to eat gingerbread when it's 100 degrees out, and that it would be a weird thing for me to present to a group of almost-strangers. Perhaps. More for me. To stop myself from inhaling the whole thing, I froze half of it.

Conclusion: Loved it and it's Charlie-approved! This kid's tastes are so unpredictable.

I didn't intend to bake another dessert this weekend, but I couldn't resist. Growing up, once a year, my Mom would make a plum cake during the very short span of time when Italian Plums were available in our supermarket. Her recipe was simple--she just cut the plums in half, pitted them, and placed them on top of a sheet cake pan full of boxed yellow cake mix batter. The plums would sink to the bottom and get juicy and wonderful during baking.

I saw Italian Plums, and I had to buy them. A friend was coming for dinner on Saturday, so that was all the excuse I needed. I bought a box of cake mix, but figured I'd scan through Lebovitz's book and see if I could find a similar type of recipe that I had all the ingredients for. Plum-Blueberry Upside-Down Cake (pg 40) jumped out at me.

The cake was good. The evidence speaks for itself...
Three adults ate 3/4 of a cake. Oy vey.
Something seemed wrong to me, though. In my Mom's cake, the plums are still tart and taste like plums. Here, they tasted like prunes. I don't know if I bought the wrong type of plum--they were labeled as Italian plums, so I thought it was right--or laying the plums and blueberries on brown sugar and butter amplified their sweetness so much that they turned pruney. It was good, but it did not satisfy my craving for my Mom's plain old box mix creation.

Conclusion: This recipe turned out to be different than I was hoping, but it was still good. Maryam said it had a good "plum to cake ratio", and everyone but Charlie went back for generous seconds. Liked it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wrapping Up So Easy, and Up Next (This One's for You, Pauline!)

Time of death: 3:14, Friday, August 26. I couldn't tolerate more than ten days of this book. So Easy contained a few standouts--the corn salad, the mocha java smoothie, and the pork piccata--but the bulk of the recipes I tried were mediocre, at best. I've cooked all the recipes that caught my optimistic eye, and most of them turned out lousy anyway. If those that I wanted to make didn't turn out well, I have no hope for the remainder, which I don't want to make.

These recipes are so uninspiring that I'm beginning to question my affection for The Food You Crave. 

Obviously, I'm tossing this book as soon as I copy out those few good recipes.

And now, for something completely different.

One of my best friends had the extreme good fortune of finding a job in Honolulu a few years back. She sent me a cookbook, Hawai'i Cuisine: A Sampler of Favorite Island Recipes by Chef Sam Choy, to ensure that I represent her adopted home on this little blog.

What do I know about Hawaiian food after my two visits to Oahu? I know that I love poi, preferably a day or two old. I know that I'll eat as much Kalua Pig as you put in front of me. I know that fruity drinks taste even better when the sunset over the ocean mirrors what's in your glass. What do I know about cooking Hawaiian food? Nothing.

Part of the reason Pauline chose this particular book was because Chef Choy makes the recipes accessible for a home cook, so you don't need to have an entire pig and a fire pit in your backyard. Where does one even get an entire pig?? I'm glad I don't need to find out.

So Easy: Egg, Ham, and Spinach Pizza

Egg, Ham, and Spinach Pizza (pg 99) is exactly what it sounds like. I went in thinking of it less as a pizza, and more as an open-faced sandwich. Take a store-bought whole wheat pizza crust, dump a butt-load of sliced spinach on it with a drizzle of olive oil, prosciutto, garlic, and grated parmesan cheese. Make four wells in the spinach, and break an egg into each. Then you bake for 12-15 minutes "until the spinach is wilted and the egg whites are fully cooked." In her intro to the recipe, Ellie says that the first time she had egg on a pizza "it was a revelation. When you cut into the egg, the yolk oozes out over the tender greens and crisp crust."

On closer reading, I realized that she was not waxing rhapsodic about this version of a pizza, but something she ate in Italy. I checked my pizza at 12 minutes, and the yolks were completely cooked, while the whites were not set yet. Because they were confined to these spinach wells, the white part was deeper than it would be just on a pan. By the time the whites cooked, there was no chance of any lovely oozing yolk. The yolk cooked faster than anything else on the pie, spinach and prosciutto included. Very disappointing.

I'm not opposed to having hard boiled eggs on a pizza. I ate that in Rome, and it was good. Not my favorite pizza topping of all time, but I still enjoyed it. The egg on this pizza was nasty. The texture was weird. I can't describe it. A little gritty, maybe? and the white seemed to cook in layers, so there were striations of toughness as I bit down. I pulled the rest of my egg off the pizza. Yuck.

On the plus side, the spinach did provide a nice faux-cheese layer of softness as you bit down, and the prosciutto crisped nicely, with its grease flavoring the rest of the pie.

Conclusion: Without the egg, just okay. With the egg, disliked. Since a key part of the recipe is the egg, I'm going to have to go with Dislike on this one.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Catching Up

I tried two more of Ellie's breakfast recipes. They were okay, but not anything that I'd bother making again.

First up, Chocolate and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast (pg 53). My strawberries had molded overnight, so I omitted them and had a few cherries on the side. Without the berries, this recipe is just ricotta cheese and a few chocolate chips sandwiched between bread, then you soak the whole sandwich in milk and eggs and cook it on the griddle. Ellie calls for a shocking 1.25 cups of milk per three eggs. When I make french toast, I add just enough of a splash of milk to loosen up the eggs. I would never use a full cup. I did it my way. I'd think her way would make the bread totally soggy and disgusting.
So maybe I used more than a few chocolate chips.
I thought that Charlie would love this. I mean, it's chocolate for breakfast. He wouldn't even try it, though. He is definitely his father's son: uninterested in sweets. It's better in the long run, I guess, but it makes no sense to me. After dinner the other day, I gave him a plate with a gougere and a small slice of the apple cake on it. The cheese puff wins every time. Oh well, more cake for me.

Conclusion: Just okay.

Honey Harvest Quinoa (pg 63) has lots of good stuff in it--a diced apple, dried cranberries, honey, cinnamon, and toasted pecans on top, yet it still barely surpasses mediocrity. With the pecans, this was earthier and a bit more complex. Without the pecans (I ate leftovers when I got home from the gym), it was bland. It's amazing the a difference one single ingredient can make. Those nuts really tied the dish together.
Conclusion: Just okay. The only reason I'd make this again is because Charlie ate half of what I gave him. I'm instituting a new "Charlie Approved" category. This is mostly for my own benefit, so that on days when I'm bemoaning the fact that I can't get him to eat anything, I can click on the Charlie Approved label and pull up recipes that have had some success in the past. Unless you've got a fussy toddler and are looking for ideas, pay it no mind.

Much to my surprise at this point, last night's dinner of Pork Piccata was really good. I love me some piccata, and this tasted just as it should--caper-briney, garlicky, lemony, with a strong reduction of white wine. YUM. It was so good that Matt thought I'd changed cookbooks. HA!
Conclusion: Loved it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's Not All Bad

Apparently I like any smoothie that crosses my path. The Mocha Java Smoothie (pg 25) from So Easy is exceptionally tasty. I didn't realize until after I dissolved the instant espresso, cocoa powder, and a touch of sugar in boiling water that the recipe was actually for two servings. I gave myself the correct amount of milk, thickened up by a frozen banana, but I doubled up on the flavor. It was a good mistake.
Chocolate + Caffeine=Happy Ma
Conclusion: Loved it. Not the most filling breakfast, but definitely delicious.

I'm on the fence about Salmon Florentine and Quinoa Pilaf with Pine Nuts (pg 197). The Florentine part, which was spinach, shallots, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and red pepper flakes mixed with ricotta, was flavorful and a nice twist for dinner, but it didn't mesh perfectly with the flavor of the salmon. It would be great on top of breadcrumbed chicken (which would, of course, defeat Ellie's entire healthy-cooking premise).
This meal is Charlie-approved.
I thought the Quinoa Pilaf with Pine Nuts was boring, but Matt liked it. The quinoa is just mixed with toasted pine nuts, cooked onions, and parsley. Enh.

Conclusion: Liked the Florentine, though not on salmon. The Quinoa Pilaf was just okay.

Charlie had eaten his dinner earlier, but then he wanted mine, too, so I gave him a bit. Usually he just takes my food away from me and feeds it to the dog. Thaaaanks. I couldn't believe my eyes as he ate all of the spinach mixture and all of the quinoa I gave him. To give you some perspective on the impressiveness of this, he has spit out every single strand of spinach that has ever passed his lips. I may throw Florentine on everything from now on.

Monday, August 22, 2011

FFwD: Cafe Salle Pleyel Hamburger

I tackled this weeks French Fridays with Dorie selection--Cafe Salle Pleyel Hamburger (pg 240)--earlier in the week than I normally do. I wanted Matt to grill the burgers on the bbq, so it made more sense to do it on the weekend, since there's no telling what time he'll get home on any given workday.

This is unlike any burger I've ever had. First, you make an onion marmalade by simmering finely chopped red onion, coriander, butter, salt and pepper in water until it's a jammy consistency. I ate more of this with a spoon, hot off the stove, than I'd like to admit. It would be amazing on a hot dog. Just sayin'.

Grind up a seemingly random assortment of items (sun-dried tomatoes--I, again, used some of my slow-roasted tomatoes that are packed in oil in the fridge--capers, cornichons, fresh tarragon, and fresh parsley), then mix it in with the  burger meat.

The marmalade goes on the roll, the burger goes on the marmalade, and slivers of parmesan cheese and thin-sliced dill pickles are supposed to go on top. I forgot to buy the pickles. Woops. A leftover chunk of blue cheese was winking at me from the fridge, so I forsook the parmesan and used blue cheese instead. It worked beautifully with all the other salty and sweet components.

I overdid the tarragon a bit.  There was going to be too much left over that I had no plan for, so I threw in some extra, just to put it to use. It was still good, but the tarragon flavor was very prevalent and tipped the scales farther towards "sweet" than I think was intended.
I take terrible photos of meat.
This is not the recipe I'd tap to satisfy a messy, juicy, ketchup-slathered burger craving, but it holds its own place as something else. It's almost more like a type of meatloaf on a bun than it is a burger.

Conclusion: Liked it, and it lends itself nicely to variations on the basic recipe. Love that onion marmalade. I could eat it on anything--sandwiches, salads. Yum. 

Since I'm trying to backtrack and cover the FFwD selections that were cooked prior to my involvement with the group, I baked Marie-Helene's Apple Cake (pg 432) for dessert. Mine didn't come out looking like the picture, but it did come out tasting deeeeelicious. There was just enough of the vanilla and rum-spiked batter to cover the apples. I thought the cake would rise more in the oven, because in the book's picture, the cake covers the apples. Mine did not, but I think it looked quite adorable with the little browned chunks of apple sitting on top. The cake almost has a dense pudding or custard consistency, and is quite buttery and lovely. I could eat this every day. I won't though.
mmmm...cinnamon whipped cream.
Conclusion: Liked it very much.

This meal prompted an interesting conversation between Matt and I. He said that he's such a fan of Dorie that he would never argue against me buying any of her cookbooks (he doesn't understand my fascination with buying cookbooks, and acts exasperated every time I bring in a new one). I wondered if she would ever publish another cooking book, since her background is in baking. Maybe she'd put everything she had into this one book and would return to baking now. (I sure hope not.) Matt suggested that maybe the reason we love her food and I produce such good results from Around My French Table has something to do with her coming from a baking background. He thinks I'm "an awesome baker" (awww), and said maybe there's a common thought process of people who are natural bakers vs. cooks that makes a cookbook-written-by-a-baker work differently. I'm not sure if that's true, but it's interesting to think about. My hypothesis is that, because Dorie is trained as a baker, the food in this book really is the food she serves at her table. It's her food, with her own personal twists that are influenced and inspired by her friends and meals she has out, but were never tweaked according to the needs of a restaurant. In her intro to Baking, she says that Julia Child told her "We make such a good team because we're really just a pair of home bakers." I think the success of her fans' relationship with Around My French Table is the same. We make a good team because, with Dorie, via her book, we're just (several thousand) pairs of home cooks. What do you think? What makes this book different from others?

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Smattering of Ellies

I'm afraid my time with Ellie may be short-lived. Things are not going well. I'll give a handful more recipes a shot, but if they don't start impressing me soon, it's over.

I baked Walnut and Dried Cherry Bars (pg 40), which she describes as "tender, cakey, and perfectly sweetened with a great nutty crunch and fruity chewiness." Sounds like a good breakfast, right? Wrong. They're dense as a protein bar and dry out your mouth. They maintain no crunch or chewiness. When I saw the serving size, I thought there must be a mistake. Then I ate one. No one would ever want to eat more than that teeny little bar.
I put the plum there for comparison's sake. It's teeny.
Conclusion: Hated it.

Last night's dinner of Marinated Flank Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce (pg 177) would have been great if it involved a thick, juicy cut of beef. With good meat, I see no reason to bother with the marinade (balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, garlic and oil). I couldn't find anything labeled flank steak, so I bought some slices of eye round, because I figure Ellie was probably calling for a lean cut. They were quite thin and un-beefy, though. I basically flash-seared each side and got them off the heat as quickly as possible.

The blue cheese sauce was delicious, and I'm locking it away in my brain for future use. Just mash up a bit of blue cheese with an equal bit of buttermilk and a splash of Worcestershire sauce until it's creamy. I would guess that the quality of the cheese will effect the quality of the sauce. Mine tasted bacony. Yum.
Conclusion: Liked it.

Tonight, dinner was Prosciutto-wrapped Cod with Pesto Potatoes and Green Beans (pg 154). The one (only) thing this recipe has going for it is that it is, in fact, easy. Wrap prosciutto around cod. Cook for a few minutes on each side. I, of course, had some kinks, because fate likes to complicate things. The prosciutto I bought seemed to have been sliced on the short side. There was no way to wrap it. I made do. Didn't matter because the prosciutto wasn't potent enough to penetrate the boring old cod. Blech.
Conclusion: Hated it.

For the side, I used asparagus instead of green beans. You just cook the potatoes and asparagus and then mix store-bought pesto in. I made my own, but you get the picture. Ellie says to use 3 tablespoons of pesto for 1.5 pounds of potatoes and 1 pound of green beans. She must be joking. I used everything I made--at least 1/2 cup, but probably more--and it still wasn't enough. Those potatoes just suck it right up.

Conclusion: Just okay.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

FFwD: Eggplant Caviar

With her Eggplant Caviar recipe (pg 23), Dorie accomplishes the near-impossible: making vegetables luxurious. Two weeks back, I made eggplant caviar from The Best International Recipe, and wasn't very impressed with it. I'm glad I made it, though, as a point of comparison to the recipe in Around My French Table.
You can tell this tastes better than TBIR just by looking at it.
There are a few key differences:
1) TBIR cooks the onion. AMFT leaves it raw.
2) TBIR uses few (any? can't remember) fresh herbs. AMFT has basil, cilantro, and thyme, plus the zest and juice of a lemon.
3) TBIR instructs you to halve the eggplant and score it deeply in a diamond pattern, and drain it in a colander for 30 minutes after its cooked. AMFT tells you to throw the eggplant in the oven whole. No draining. Much less fussy.

With the exception, perhaps, of the raw onion, Dorie's version wins on all counts. I didn't mind the onion, but it's not my favorite thing.

Two weeks ago, when French Fridays with Dorie made slow-roasted tomatoes, I noticed that the sidebar suggested using them in eggplant caviar, so I did. Unfortunately, I can't tell you how they contributed to the dish, because while I was eating, my son sat on my lap and happily fished out and devoured every tomato. Hygienic? No. Adorable? Yes. Once he found all the tomatoes, he started licking scoops of eggplant off of a pita chip. Next time, I'll make it without the onion, because he kept spitting those bits out. It was one of those lovely, peaceful moments where you just enjoy watching your child eat well. I have to say, I've had lots more luck getting him to eat good food out of Around My French Table than I've had with any of the getting-your-kid-to-eat books that I have. Thanks, Dorie!

Conclusion: Liked it. Creamy, herbal, and fresh. What's not to like?

So Easy: Pork & Mango Stir-Fry

The word "pork" is usually enough to make any recipe catch my eye. Add "mango" to that title, and that recipe just rocketed to the top of my list. There seemed to be enough going on in the Pork and Mango Stir-Fry (pg 129) that I thought it would have good flavor, and be a little different because of that mango. I stand corrected.

This is a fairly standard stir-fry, so I won't go into too much detail as to the steps. Cook the pork, remove it from the wok, then cook red onion, red pepper, fresh ginger, garlic, and snow peas. I used this gorgeous bag of teeny rainbow peppers that I bought last weekend at the farmer's market instead of one big red pepper.
 Once they're softening, add in chicken broth with corn starch, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, Chinese five spice powder, and crushed red pepper flakes. Chunks of mango go in for the last minute.
This got us to eat a lot of veg, but it was bland.
Me: I already know I won't make this again, but what do you think of it?
Matt: Totally flavorless.


Conclusion: Just okay. I hope these recipes improve soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's Good to Eat Color

I didn't intend to make yesterday's lunch from So Easy, but I had all the ingredients for Cheddar-Apple Quesadilla (pg 26), so figured I might as well. Technically, this is in the breakfast section, but whatever. I blame this recipe, with it's full page photograph that my book always seems to open up to, for being one of the primary reasons I so quickly disregarded the collection when I first scanned it. I mean, it's just cheddar and apple slices melted together in a whole wheat tortilla. This warrants a recipe?? Granted, I never would think to put an apple in a quesadilla, but still. It seems to take "easy" and turn it into "too easy to be taken seriously."

Since I had everything I needed to make it, I figured I should stop grumbling about the stupidity of this recipe and just make it, or else it would bother me for the entirety of the month.

Shock of shocks, it tastes like cheese and apple in a whole wheat tortilla. Nothing interesting going on.
It is what it is.
Conclusion: Just okay. Good in a pinch, if you're starving and have minimal groceries on hand. Can't imagine making it otherwise.

Dinner was Chicken with Warm Tomato-Corn Salad (pg 144). The chicken portion of this dish is a shame. Thin-cut breasts, seasoned only with salt and pepper, are browned and cooked through. That's it. COME ON.

The Tomato-Corn Salad, on the other hand, was perfect. Fresh corn, halved grape tomatoes, garlic, and the whites and greens of scallions are cooked briefly--just long enough for the tomatoes to release their juices and the corn to warm up, but not lose any of its crispness. You're supposed to serve the chicken on top of the salad, and then top that with avocado, lime juice, and cilantro. I did't realize until I saw my pan full of glorious color that not only was so much of the food I cooked from Best International Recipe vegetable-deprived, but it was brown, brown, and more brown. Just looking at this salad brightened my day considerably. Shoot, looking at it now is cheering me up.
I could have eaten a big bowl of the salad by itself. No chicken necessary. I don't understand why Ellie made this pairing. If this salad were served with some shrimp quick-cooked with garlic and oil (my suggestion) or with a grilled london broil (Matt's suggestion), it would have been great. Even if the chicken were seasoned with some southwest spices, it would have improved things. I don't understand the deliberate decision to serve bland chicken on something that doesn't have a sauce.

Conclusion: Since I didn't like the chicken and I loved the salad, I'll meet it halfway and say Liked It. I'll be making the salad again, often, and will never make the chicken again.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wrapping up The Best International Recipe

I'm ready to call it on The Best International Recipe and move on to something with more vegetables. Cooking from this book is like dating a really nice guy who you're just not attracted to. There's nothing to be done for it. For the most part, the recipes are fine, but they're not delicious or memorable. Without scrolling back through my posts to jog my memory, the only two standout dishes I can think of are the scones and the colcannon soup (and the spaetzle Matt made prior to the book's inclusion in the blog).

I don't know if it's because the whole concept of America's Test Kitchen is to analyze every little thing about a recipe and tweak it and tweak it until it's "perfect," but, for me--and I know that there are staunch ATK supporters out there who will disagree--this food has no soul. You can almost tell it was created in a laboratory, far removed from the personal influence and experience that gives a good book's food its unique spark. I feel like I'm missing something with the whole ATK phenomenon, because people are really adamant in their support for them. It's not them, it's me. Maybe.

Anyway, the short of it is that my shelving real estate is far too precious to be wasted on a book of "good enough" dishes. If I had all the space in the world, I'd probably keep this one and whip it out once or twice a year to try something new. Given my space limitations here, and in whatever house I have to move to every two to three years as our duty stations change, I'd rather fill my shelves with books that bring special food to my table. I'm going to toss it, right after I photocopy that spaetzle recipe.

Up next: So Easy by Ellie Krieger. I adore Ellie's previous book--The Food You Crave. Prior to this blog, I can say with full confidence that this was the one and only book that I cooked from over and over again. She makes healthy, nutritious food that actually tastes good. REALLY!

I found Ellie when my cousin had me over for dinner and cooked her mac and cheese (with butternut squash puree mixed in. It's delicious). It was so good that I went home from the meal and immediately ordered The Food You Crave. It wasn't until I received the book and saw the Food Network stamp on cover that I even knew Ellie had a show and was, I guess, a "celebrity chef." I've never seen her show, so, personally, I don't count her among the Giadas and Bobby Flays, because her personality and presentation have nothing to do with why I love her. She holds up on her own.
Easy will be a nice change of pace.
Because I'm such a fan of The Food You Crave, I pre-ordered So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week when Amazon alerted me to its existence. I was super-excited to get the book, until I opened it. I can't put my finger on what the problem is. Even now, the recipes just didn't inspire me to cook. To date, I've cooked exactly nothing from it. Time to change that. Worst case scenario, it'll get more vegetables into me. Fingers crossed, here we go...

Oooh, Amazon just informed me that I can pre-order her newest book. Refrain, Eileen! Refrain! Break the cycle! ha!

TBIR: Greece and Turkey

The least time-consuming recipe I could find in the Greece and Turkey section was Circassian Chicken, aka Chicken in Walnut Sauce (pg 360). Like so many of these recipes, it was too fussy to justify the mediocre result.

For example, first they have you brown one side of the chicken breasts, then you flip it over, fill the pan with broth, and poach it until it's done cooking. They claim this produces "moist, well-seasoned chicken breasts," in addition to building up "flavorful brown bits" on the pan. I wound up with a poached chicken breast, just like any other chicken breast I've ever poached, and didn't have any fond build up on the pan. Not a big deal, really, but just an example of the ways that these recipes provide extra steps that aren't worth it to me.
The sauce for this is toasted walnuts, broth-soaked sandwich bread, onion, garlic, cayenne, and lots of paprika (4 teaspoons), pureed in the food processor. I ran out of regular paprika midway through, so supplemented with smoked paprika. Shred the chicken and mix it with the sauce. I threw grape tomatoes in, because, once again, there were no vegetables.

This tasted like gritty smoked paprika. Not bad, but not good. I barely ate half of what I took. Sigh.

Conclusion: Just okay. I wouldn't make it again.

Friday, August 12, 2011

TBIR: Mexico

This little Texan city of Corpus Christi, where I find myself biding Navy-mandated time for another year, has one, and only one, style of cuisine that it does right, and that's Mexican. If you want good food, don't bother with a restaurant. Instead, go to one of the hundreds of taco stands. Why am I telling you all this? Only to make clear where I'm coming from. I've grown quite fond of the cheese enchiladas at my favorite taco stand--Nano's Taco Run. They are now the gold standard by which I judge all enchiladas. They're understated and not heavily sauced (though the homemade hot sauce they give in teeny cups is smokey, complex, and amazing), allowing the corny goodness of the homemade tortillas and the actual flavor of the cheese to stand out.

I don't know why I expected the Cheese Enchiladas (pg 21) in The Best International Recipe to follow in that vein. I guess because they claim to be the best, and the best, to me, equals Nano's Taco Run. To be totally honest, these tasted almost exactly like the Lean Cuisine enchilada dinner, only lots spicier. As far as frozen dinners go, the LC enchiladas are pretty good. Would I ever call them the best enchiladas out there? Absolutely not.
"Give me a three day bellyache." Yeah, that's right. I'm quoting the musical Oklahoma. What of it?
The sauce was too spicy for me, and there's way too much of it. My biggest problem, though, is with how stale and heavy this whole thing tasted. There's a bit of fresh cilantro mixed in with the cheese, but not enough to add any fresh flavor.
 The one benefit of this recipe is that it introduced me to queso fresco, which I'd never knowingly had before. It reminds me of a tastier version of that cheese I made for the Indian dish. It would be great in a salad. Yum. I'm glad I know about it now. 

Conclusion: Just okay. I'm not impressed, but it wasn't bad. Maybe before I moved here, when I didn't know better and thought that enchiladas had to be drowned in sauce and cheese, I would have liked these more.

On a side note, inspired by Rose over at One Expat's Life, I've decided to backtrack and complete the recipes previously covered by French Fridays With Dorie before I joined up. Since the point of the group is to cook every recipe in Around My French Table, it makes sense to tick off all the boxes. It shouldn't be too bad. There are only 16 recipes that I haven't already done on my own, and a lot of them appear to be desserts, soups, and side dishes, so they shouldn't interfere too much with my regularly scheduled programming.

In that light, I made Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts (pg 18) for a treat for myself, since Matt went out with friends for a guy's night. These are spiced with sugar, cinnamon, salt, and chili powder. They're good, but they're not as good as David Lebovitz's mix, which is posted on his website here. I single-handedly ate three batches of Lebovitz's mix last winter. With Dorie's recipe, I was able to stop eating after a few nuts. On second thought, maybe I should stick to Dorie's in the future.
Conclusion: Liked it, though it's not as crave-able as Lebovitz's.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

FFwD: Salmon and Potatoes in a Jar, aka A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

When I read the recipe for Around My French Table's Salmon and Potatoes in a Jar (pg 182), I broke out into a cold sweat. You cure salmon in salt and sugar for 12-18 hours, rinse off the brine, then pack it into jars with layers of herbs, carrots, and onions and cover it all with oil. Potatoes go in a separate jar. Nothing about the book's photo, with its uncooked salmon and raw vegetables submerged in oil, made me want to eat it. I like sushi, but something about these big chunks of uncooked fish (is it still "raw" if it's cured? I don't know) skeeved me out. If someone served it to me, I would try it, but I really didn't feel like making it myself. However, I told myself that I was going to do it. I would fall backwards and hope that the recipe would catch me.

Then I went to the supermarket. The available salmon looked totally washed out, color-wise, and was cut into sad, thin fillets. Skin-on. I asked the fish guy if he could skin it. He said no. I brought the fish home and prepared to cure it. It smelled fishy.

I wanted to be a good sport. I wanted to suck it up and prepare the recipe as written, but there was no way I was eating this sorry fish without cooking it. I flipped the page and noticed a bonne idee in the sidebar for Roasted Cured Salmon. Perfect! I could still participate, without poisoning myself and my loved ones. I cured the salmon overnight. I don't know anything about curing, so I was not prepared to find the dish full of water the next day. It makes sense in retrospect, but a heads up would have been nice.
Be afraid.
Once you rinse the brine off the fish, Dorie just says to cook them for 5-7 minutes. No oil, no nothing. Just rinse off the brine, pat them dry, and put them in the oven. One of her ideas for serving is to top it with a pesto, so I made one while the fish cooked.

I opened the oven door, and the fish stink flashed me back to when I was a kid and my Mom would drive past the South Street Seaport on the FDR Drive to get to Sloan Kettering Hospital. Not good. Matt told me to stop being a baby and just try it. He popped a piece in his mouth...and gagged. I hate to admit how much I enjoyed watching him spin around, looking for help, before spitting it out into his hand. I asked him if it was as delicious as he thought it would be. His response: "That's PURE SALT!! Next time, just trust Dorie!" He said it would be better uncooked, because cooking it concentrated the salt. That's fine, but Dorie provided the roasting option. How was I supposed to know it would be wretched?
Be VERY afraid.
I DID taste it, just to say I had. It WAS pure salt, with a fishy, fishy side note. Disgusting. Absolutely, unequivocally disgusting. Thank God for the pesto. We boiled up some linguine, mixed in the pesto, and dinner was finally served.

Conclusion: Hated it. I'm so curious to see what the other French Fridays with Dorie participants thought of the jarred version. Maybe--maybe--if it gets a good response, I'll try it again. Maybe. Probably not, but maybe.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ready For Dessert: Cranzac Cookies

Charlie has three teeth coming in simultaneously, which is super annoying for all of us. He's not eating, not sleeping, etc.

After about three weeks of this (two teeth down, one to go), I submitted to the old parenting pressure of making something--anything--that he would eat, despite the pain. I landed on Cranzac Cookies (pg 203) from Ready for Dessert. I figured that with a cup of rolled oats, dried cranberries, and swapping out regular flour for The Sneaky Chef's baking mix, if he'd eat it, he'd get some form of nutrition, even if it was in conjunction with lots of coconut and sugar.

Lyle's Golden Syrup is used as the main wetness of these cookies. Have you ever heard of this stuff? I hadn't. It's an English product, and I found it in the international section of the supermarket. It is buttery and delicious, sort of like a thin caramel or something. Now I need to figure out what else to do with it, because I'm in love. The bottle says you can get a recipe booklet off their website. Don't mind if I do.

The dough was pretty hard to handle. It's crumbly and didn't want to roll together into balls. It mostly stuck to my hands. That's okay, though. Since there's no eggs in this, I was at liberty to lick my fingers clean.
Lebovitz says these cookies are "a riff on Anzac biscuits that were created as sustenance for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac)." From this description, I worried that this would make a hard, dry, coconut biscuit. I was wrong on all counts, thankfully. I don't know how they compare to the original, but they're good. The coconut lends more moisture than flavor. The closest thing I could compare these to are a moist, non-cinnamoney oatmeal cookie.

Conclusion: Like, though I think I prefer the Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookie recipe from the Quaker Oats box. With the coconut, these cookies pack more calories into my boy, though, which is okay. The doctors are always nagging me that he's not heavy enough, so a bit of coconut won't hurt him. (Mind you, they don't ask what or how much he eats. They'd prefer I shove french fries at him instead of strawberries and cheese, as long as he were gaining weight. I think it's a load of crap, but whatever. They're the ones with the charts and statistics.)

My scheming has worked, to some extent. Charlie ate a cookie. Woohoo! I ate three. Not-so-woohoo.

TBIR: France, plus a Dorie recipe

Due to the veg deprivation, I was drawn to the recipe for Minted Zucchini Tagliatelle with Cucumbers and Lemon (pg 124) in Around My French Table. I already planned to make this before Dorie posted on her facebook fan page that Rick Bayless (is that how you spell his name??) out in Chicago had tweeted that he made this as part of an all-Dorie meal. That's right, I'm blogging that Dorie facebooked that Rick tweeted. We live in a strange time.

You use a peeler to slice zucchini into long, fat "noodles", stopping when you hit the seeds. With thin little bits of cucumber and sweet onion, lemon zest and mint, and tossed with a lemon vinaigrette, this seemed like a healthy, refreshing side salad to complement some burgers.
Conclusion: Just okay. I like the idea of it. I think it would be lovely at a big bbq with lots of food, where you fill your plate with little bits of everything. It would work in that situation as a light palette cleanser, and a nice minty reprieve. Piled high on a plate, it was too raw zucchini-ey for me. I got bored eating that much of it. This salad would benefit from being one dish among many.

I had a hard time picking a dish from the France chapter of The Best International Recipe, because Dorie covers most of it, and I'm 95% sure her recipes have more pizzazz. No offense, TBIR. I decided to go with Pan-Seared Steak (pg 197) with Red Wine Sauce (pg 198).

The preparation of the steak (strip or rib-eye) is pretty standard. Salt, pepper, a bit of oil, and into the hot pan. I cooked them for less time than called for, and they were still more well done than I would like. I realize now, looking at the recipe again, that the steaks I bought were thinner than what's called for, so I won't lay that on the book. They were still good. The thing that we loved best about this steak was the herb butter that went on top. It had shallots, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper mixed in, and it was delicious.

Conclusion: Liked it. Strip isn't my favorite cut of meat, but it was good.

The red wine sauce was similar to things I've done in the past--cook a shallot in oil, add red wine, and stir in some butter at the end. One interesting twist was to add brown sugar and chicken stock with the wine, and then allow it to reduce. Off the heat, add some thyme.

Conclusion: Liked it. This was a very flavorful sauce, though on anything but the meat, it was a bit aggressive. I think the sugar amplified the wine, somehow. It was good on the steak, but when I mopped some up with bread, it was a bit unpleasant.

Monday, August 8, 2011

TBIR: Southeast Asia; Russia and Eastern Europe

Allow me to apologize to Southeast Asia for the disaster of a dish I prepared last night. In no way do I believe that this preparation of Ca Kho To, aka Catfish in Salty-Sweet Caramel Sauce (pg 494), represents your food as a whole, nor do I suspect it remotely represents this actual dish, as the Vietnamese would recognize it.

This seemed fairly easy to make, and included ingredients that I already had in the house (except, of course, for the catfish.) Basically, all you do is make a maple-colored caramel in a pan, then add two cups of boiling water, 1/4 cup of fish sauce, and black pepper. Add the fish, and let it simmer for 25 minutes. At the end of this time, the sauce will have "thickened to a thick, syrupy consistency." Methinks there's one extra "thick" in that sentence. Ah, well.

I had two problems with the execution of this.
1) I only used two catfish fillets. If I'd used 5 (as specified in the recipe), there's no way they would have fit in my 12 inch skillet (as specified in the recipe) without overlapping (as specified in the recipe), nor would this have been enough fluid to submerge it all. It ticks me off when the reality of the cooking doesn't match the version in the book.
2) After 25 minutes of simmering, I still had a pan of watery liquid. I removed the fish, raised the heat, and gave it ten more minutes. It still wasn't anywhere close to syrupy, but I was hungry, so served it as it was.
My mouth dried out just looking at this.
I couldn't eat this. 1/4 cup of fish sauce = SALTY. Holy mother of whatever god you pray to. I'm a big fan of fish sauce (except for the straight-out-of-the-bottle ass smell of it), but it needs to be used judiciously. Even when I scraped the sauce off, the fish itself had absorbed too much of it.

Conclusion: Hated it. I ate a peach for dinner. To be fair, Matt said it was okay and ate both of ours, but he was guzzling water for the rest of the night. He eats a lot more fast food than I do and is always adding salt to things, so we have a different threshold for how salty is too salty.

I'm afraid I'm skimping the Russia and Eastern Europe section a bit with my selection of Eggplant Caviar (pg 375). I haven't been eating nearly enough vegetables since I started cooking out of this book, so the fact that this recipe is all vegetable won me over, despite the fact that French Fridays with Dorie picked her eggplant caviar as its dish for the week after this. Oh well. It might be interesting to compare the two. Besides that, the heat index tends to be over 100 degrees these days, and I could not bear the thought of goulash or pierogies or stuffed cabbage or paprikash, tasty as they may turn out to be.

I found this eggplant caviar to be pretty bland. It doesn't even taste of eggplant. I guess 1 teaspoon of tomato paste was enough to overwhelm the dish.

Maybe my eggplant was too small, or maybe I didn't cut my onion up small enough, but the proportions of eggplant to onion seem to be way off. Also, my onion could have cooked for a few more minutes. It was too firm to just melt into the eggplant mush, if that's what it was supposed to do.
I hope Dorie's recipe is better.

Conclusion: Just okay. It's boring. I'll eat it, since I made it, but I mostly am using it as an excuse to eat pita chips.

Friday, August 5, 2011

TBIR: Spain and Portugal

I had big plans to cook paella from the Spain and Portugal section of The Best International Recipe. However, after going on a wild goose chase to find Asian sesame paste (different from tahini) to make sesame noodles from the China section, I needed a quick and easy replacement dinner. Spanish Tortilla (pg 224) was the only thing I had all the ingredients for.

As you probably know, this dish is just potatoes and onions cooked in a pan, then you add 10 scrambled eggs and stick it in the oven to cook for about ten minutes. What's Spanish for "Voila"?

I don't have a whole lot to say about this one. It was good. Exactly what I expected, being a fan of tortillas as an afternoon snack when I was in Barcelona. Matt said it was good, "But tastes like breakfast." I added a little red pepper to it, because I once again realized at the last minute that I'd forgotten about vegetables. Vegetables don't seem to figure much in this book.
These recipes keep reminding me of a Tom Petty concert I went to once. It was good, but it bothered me that he sounded exactly the same live as on CD. The concert was solid and well executed, but not particularly interesting. I don't know if that's really a complaint about the book. It's certainly valuable to have recipes that give you exactly what you expect them to. It's not very exciting to cook from day after day, though.

Conclusion: Liked it.

Yesterday was a Hale and Farewell (welcome new colleagues and say goodbye to old) for one of Matt's co-workers, who is about to head out for a tour in Afghanistan. (On a side note, I love the Navy's phraseology for things. I laugh every time Matt says he has to "hit the head." We're not on a boat, dear. lol) Happy for any excuse to bake, I made Black and White Cookies (pg 192) from Ready For Dessert.

I have a huge soft spot for black and white cookies. They seem to be in every bakery in Brooklyn, but they're often dry cake and bland icing (ahem, stale). Even so, I love them. My first thought when I saw this recipe was, "What the hell does some San Franciscoan ex-pat in Paris know about New York black and white cookies??" My second thought was, "If this recipe works, I'll be the happiest girl in the world."

Well, my friends, the recipe works. Gloriously. These cookies are everything they should be, but exponentially better. I may never be able to eat a store-bought one again. The cookie is a cookie/cake hybrid, but Lebovitz's was moist and buttery. The chocolate icing was rich, but it didn't overpower the nicely balanced vanilla/lemon side. Mmmmmmmm.

My one gripe with this recipe is that, once again, even though I precisely measured out the amount of dough he advises--2 tablespoons per cookie--my yield was half of what he says it should be. That means that I only made 12 cookies. Fortunately, they were intended for a fairly small event, but if I expected to feed a larger group of people, I'd have been screwed. This is the second cookie recipe that this has happened with. Not cool, David. Not cool.

Conclusion: Love. They're even better than the original.

FFwD: Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

I made Dorie's Slow-Roasted Tomatoes (pg 342 of Around My French Table) for the first time a few weeks ago. French Fridays With Dorie selected it as the first recipe of August, and that was all the encouragement I needed to roast these sweet little babies up again. They're delicious bursts of deep tomato flavor, and I want them to be available to me at all times.
Mmmm...a double batch.
This time, I roasted them up with extra cloves of garlic, because the tomatoes that butt up against the garlic and take on its flavor are my favorites. I added a sprig of basil in addition to the thyme and rosemary that the recipe calls for.

I couldn't think up a spectacular use for them, so I kept it simple and made a quick lunch (if you can count a lunch as quick when one of its components takes three hours to roast) of goat cheese and tomatoes on toast.

I jarred the remainder and covered them in oil. There they sit, in my fridge, waiting to be mixed with pasta...or fish...or chicken...or put in an omelette...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

TBIR: Africa and the Middle East

Africa and the Middle East seems like an awfully large chunk of territory to be smashed into one chapter. I'm fairly familiar with Middle Eastern food, but if you asked me to name an African dish, I wouldn't get much farther than "tagine." Because of that, I bypassed familiar standards--hummus, kebab, couscous--in favor of Ethiopian-Style Spicy Chicken Stew. I ate Ethiopian food once when I lived in DC. I remember grabbing handfuls of heavily spiced raw meat with torn-off pieces of a wet pancake-type of bread, and I remember liking it, but I don't remember what it actually tasted like.

I've been known to bypass recipes entirely, just because the first instruction is to brown bone-in, skin-on chicken. I hate doing it. It makes a huge greasy mess, I always burn myself, and it takes forever to finish up the batches. I sucked it up and carried on, bracing myself for vicious little spits of oil. Grrr. The rest of the recipe was simple. Drain most of the chicken grease, and cook an onion in it. Once soft, add a number of spices--tomato paste, garlic, fresh ginger, chili powder, cardamom, nutmeg, and something called fenugreek, which I omitted. I couldn't find it in the store (big surprise), and it was obscenely expensive online. Add some flour to thicken up the broth, then throw in red wine, chicken broth, and water, and let it cook for an hour, with the chicken pieces. After the hour, remove the chicken and allow the liquid to cook down. In the last minute of cooking, throw some already hard-boiled eggs in, just to warm them up and cover them in sauce.

I have to admit, I had my doubts about this dish 3/4 of the way through. I tasted some on a spoon after I removed the chicken, and it was awful. It tasted like watered-down socks. I added some salt and pepper, crossed my fingers, and allowed it to reduce the remainder of the way.
This wins no points for presentation. Trust me, it tasted good, though.
I am pleased to report that once the sauce cooked away and thickened up, this was really rich and delicious! It manages to taste like a beef gravy, which I did not expect. The chicken was tender and tasty, and the texture and flavor of the eggs actually complemented the whole. I served this over brown rice, though the directions say to make a flatbread and serve it with that. I've had enough flatbread baking for a while, after that naan. My pan hasn't fully recovered yet.

Conclusion: I liked this very much. I had no idea what to expect, and was delighted with what I wound up with.

Monday, August 1, 2011

TBIR: Italy

In search of an easy dinner, I landed on Salerno-Style Spaghetti with Fried Eggs and Bread Crumbs (pg 293). This is spaghetti mixed up with parmesan cheese and oil infused with garlic and red pepper flakes. You're supposed to mix parsley in, but I forgot to buy it. Make breadcrumbs, toast them up with oil, and sprinkle them on the pasta. Top this with a fried egg.
In reading the recipe, it occurred to me that there were no vegetables. I had a brilliant scheme to cook arugula in with the garlic. I forgot about it until everything was mixed together, so then I figured I'd just fold it in and let it wilt from the heat of the pasta. I pulled out my bag of arugula from the farmer's market, and found that more than half of it was totally bug-riddled. Especially since it wouldn't be cooked, I didn't want to use it. That accounts for the few pathetic specs of green in the picture. At the last minute, I panicked at the non-vegetables, and threw some tomatoes in.

Conclusion: Just okay, though I'd only make it if I had absolutely nothing in the pantry, or if I were preparing to till a field or something. This is a heavy plate of food.

Yesterday, Matt looked at the bag of cherries in our fridge and said, "You should make that Dorie cherry thing again to use these up." I liked where his head was at, but decided to make a Cherry-Almond Cobbler (pg 99) from Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert instead. In the name of fiscal responsibility, I had to make some dessert. I had no other choice. As I stood at the sink, pitting all those damn cherries, I wished I'd gone for Dorie's clafoutis instead.
I also had a slug of heavy cream left. Whipped cream was the only responsible choice.
The topping for this cobbler was cakier than I'm used to, but I liked it better. Almond paste is mixed in with the batter. mmmmm.

Conclusion: Liked it. Almond paste apparently makes me very, very happy.