Monday, March 30, 2015

Baking Chez Moi: Lemon Madeleines and Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars

Earlier this month, I made Dorie's Lemon Madeleines. Matt and I were leaving our son with a friend and flying back to the states for a funeral the following day, and since I'd already planned to make them for Tuesdays with Dorie, I went ahead and baked them, in an effort to distract myself from all the emotional stuff going on. I figured I'd bring the madeleines to the airport for breakfast, because they had to be better than an airport cornetto. (If you're not familiar, cornetti are Italy's less-delicious version of a croissant. Shaped the same, but always stuffed with cream, nutella, or jam. Every now and then, I get a good one that someone actually made, but the vast majority seem to be mass-produced mediocrity.) I'm assuming that I was too distracted to do the madeleines justice. They were a hot mess. I overfilled the pan, so every one of them overflowed and then fell apart when I tried to pry them out. Yes, I buttered and floured the pan. Also, they mysteriously were really greasy. It's entirely possible I botched something up.
These were the "best" ones I made. Oy vey.
They were so ragged by the time I was finished that I didn't even bother bringing them to the airport. They would have been reduced to crumbs by the time I got there. I tossed them in the freezer, where I will very likely forget they exist until I move this summer.

I always feel like I'm missing something when it comes to madeleines. People love them so much. This is the fourth recipe I've tried, and I haven't found one that made me swoon. Granted, this particular failure was all my fault, but still. I don't get it.

I made Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars to bring to my book club this morning. They were tasty, but not addictive. I consider this to be a good thing. I ate one, thoroughly enjoyed it, and that's all I wanted.
Perfect with a cup of coffee.
They reminded me of chocolate chip cookies, and they remind me of Rice Krispie bars, but didn't have the same eat-the-entire-batch quality as either one of those things. Huzzah! It's very rare that I find a sweet that I can have in the house without sticking my face in it.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

FFwD: Next-Day Beef Salad

I couldn't quite wrap my brain around this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe. Next-Day Beef Salad was created as a way to use up leftovers. Conveniently, I'd made a roast beef earlier in the week, so this used up the remainder.

Dice up the meat, then mix it together with a hodge-podge of refrigerator ingredients: tomatoes, capers, olives, red pepper, a tart apple, all mixed up with a mustard/mayo mixture, and served over lettuce (I used arugula). I also added cheese, because cheese improves any salad it touches. I like a thin smear of either mustard or mayo on a sandwich, so the thought of covering an entire salad in a combo of the two sounded kind of icky to me. Knowing this, I halved the dressing recipe.
Kind of tasted like deli pasta salad, which I hate. So why couldn't I stop eating it?
Even after eating it, I can't decide whether or not I liked it. I didn't think the dressing was great, but I did enjoy the crunchy/chewy/salty/sweet-tart elements, and that no two bites were exactly the same. I may play around with the dressing to tweak it to my liking, but this is a solid way to use up leftover meat. It certainly beats the hell out of simply reheating it.

I also have three makeups from this week.

Spice-Crusted Tuna was fine. I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. Part of my problem is that I got food poisoning from a piece of tuna a few months ago, and I've had an aversion to it since then. This aversion is also preventing me from making up any of the Dorie's recipes that involve raw fish. I'm not ready. ha! So, I don't think I ground up my spices enough. I don't really like getting mouthfuls of practically whole coriander. This was not the right time for me to try this recipe. I may cook it again in a year, and have a totally different response to it.
My side dish--Broccolini with Sweet Tahini Sauce (I think that's the name), from Plenty More, is DELICIOUS, though.
I expected to like Jerusalem Artichoke Soup, because I've enjoyed the majority of Dorie's soups, and nothing about this one struck me as a risk. I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. In the absence of fresh truffle to shave on top, as Dorie suggests in her bonne idee, I stirred some truffle cream stuff that I'd bought in Umbria into the soup. Oh, Nelly. In the interest of fairness, I tried the soup plain, and it was good, but this cream stuff (it was too solid to be a sauce. I'm not sure what to call it.) brought it to another level. The flavors were made for each other.
Not the prettiest plate of food.
Last, but definitely not least, I made the Veal Marengo from a few weeks ago. I'd planned to cook this on time. I'd bought the veal, and everything. But then life got in the way, the veal went in the freezer, and cooking went on the backburner. Happily, I finally had the chance to make it.
Ooh la la! This cow was born in France, and was killed when it was younger than 22 months. Very informative label.
The sauce from this dish is one of the best things I've ever eaten. I don't even need the meat. I want to put the sauce on everything I ever make, going forward. I always thought that I didn't like normal white mushrooms. Apparently, my mistake was that I wasn't cooking them in enough butter. I'm embarrassed to confess how many of them I ate directly out of the pan, but not nearly as many of them made it into the stew as I'd anticipated. I couldn't find small white onions, so I omitted them, and I had to use red wine instead of white, and still, this was just mind-blowingly delicious. It joined the ranks as one of my favorite recipes we've cooked from the book.

My only complaint would be that the meat was still kind of tough after the recommended cooking time. I don't think there was enough liquid in the pan to have cooked it much longer, though, so I'm not sure what the solution is. I'm afraid that adding extra liquid would mess with the glorious balance of this sauce. I don't really care, though. So, so good.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

FFwD: Cote d'Azure Cure-All Soup

I'll admit that I wasn't remotely interested in cooking the Cote d'Azure Cure-All Soup from Around My French Table. On paper, 10 cloves of sliced garlic, steeped in chicken broth with herbs (sage, bay, and rosemary instead of thyme), then thickened with egg yolk and Parmesan, and drizzled with olive oil sounded, at best, boring, and at worst, nasty.
Charlie wouldn't taste it, but he was impressed by the polka dots.
I came down with a cold on Monday, and all of a sudden, this soup sounded like the only thing I wanted to eat. I don't know if you have to be sick to like it, but this was a surprise hit. It was cozy and comforting and, because of the thickening from the egg and cheese, soothed my throat. I loved it. It didn't cure my cold, but, for a few minutes, it made me less miserable. Good enough for me!

I can't believe that we only have 10 recipes left to cook from Around My French Table. It's blowing my mind. I don't think I'm going to manage to complete all of my make-ups--I have more desserts than my judgment thinks I should bake in three months, and there are some things (dilled gravlax, chicken liver gateaux, arman's caviar) that I flat-out refuse to make. Including those, I only have 22 to make up after this post, so I'm going to try my damnedest to get that number down. So, here are some make-ups:

I always thought of Orange and Olive Salad as being an Italian dish, so I was surprised to see it here. Because I've made what was basically the same recipe in my cooking class here in  Napoli, I stalled on making Dorie's version, because it's not one of my favorites. I put this together this week, and I don't know what went wrong, but by the time I was done, my oranges, which were extremely sweet on their own, tasted BITTER with the onions and olives. That didn't happen when I made it in cooking class. Maybe the type of olive I used changed the flavor. Regardless, neither Matt nor I enjoyed this.

In the same meal, I made Salty-Sweet Potato Far. This has a strange list of ingredients--grated potatoes, bacon, prunes, raisins, eggs, milk--but I like all of those things individually, so I was open to the idea of them coming together and creating something glorious.
Maybe I didn't use enough bacon (I cut up 3 strips), but this was underseasoned. For the first few bites, I couldn't figure out if I liked it, though I was leaning toward yes, for it's nursery-type blandness and bread-pudding texture. Halfway through my portion, I'd had enough. Matt thought he liked it, but a few hours later, he tried to eat a cold piece, and he said it was disgusting, which ruined it for him.

I didn't hate it, but I wouldn't make it again.