Friday, December 27, 2013

FFWD December 2013 (Gravlax + Onion "Carbonara" + Tuiles)

I'm not going to try to write about balance today.  People much more eloquent than I am who have given it much more thought have written plenty.  I'll just say that the last couple of months have not been balanced.  I've been working way too much.  I've tried to spend every second I wasn't working with Charlotte, and that hasn't left much time for anything else.  To say I'm overwhelmed and behind on everything in my life (including sleep) would be a serious understatement.  For the most part, we've been eating very simply around here and Paul's been cooking more than usual.  I have made all** of the blog recipes, but haven't had a chance to post.  Now that my work deadline is finally up, I'm trying to slowly catch up on things.

My Almond Orange Tuiles failed completely.  I followed the instructions exactly, but substituted almond meal for the blanched and chopped almonds.  I assumed that was my mistake, but from reading your posts it seems like other people made that substitution with no trouble.  I don't get it.  My cookies did not spread at all.  They tasted alright, but weren't the least bit pretty.

The Recipe Swap Onion "Carbonara",  on the other hand, was an absolutely winner.  It was very quick to put together, and served over pasta made an excellent dinner and pretty good lunch leftovers too.  I don't really like onions until they're thoroughly browned (caramelized are my favorite) so I was worried about this one.  I don't think I would have enjoyed the onions by themselves, but they definitely worked as a pasta sauce.

Because I'm Jewish and my family is local, we normally spend Christmas with Paul's family in Portland, Oregon.  We just traveled to Oregon in October, though, and traveling with Charlotte was not exactly easy, so this year we stayed put for Christmas and Paul's mom came to us.  So this Jewish girl ended up hosting Christmas Eve dinner.  I was nervous, but I think everything came out well.  I wanted to have substantial appetizers so people could come over early and hang out for a while before Charlotte went to bed.  (This part of my plan failed completely.  Charlotte stayed awake through dessert!)  I made the gravlax with homemade rye bread and mascarpone stuffed dates.  The gravlax was a definite hit.  Everybody loved it, and I loved that it could be made ahead of time.  For dinner our friends made a delicious salad, and we had roasted duck with potatoes, beets, and braised endive.  For dessert our friends made a Buche de Noel and a chocolate sausage and my mom made fruit cake.  It was an excellent night, and it's nice to finally have some time to relax and enjoy things.  I'm hoping the New Year will bring less work and more time with family!

**I'm hoping that maybe by posting about three recipes at once nobody will notice that I skipped the fourth?  I just wasn't brave enough to try making the chopped liver.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

FFWD Sugar-Coated French Toast

For  weeks now I've been telling Paul that I want to start making Challah on Fridays and last Friday, thanks to Tuesdays with Dorie, I finally did.  I figured the timing was perfect because I could use the leftovers to make this French toast.  Charlotte actually went to sleep early on Friday night, and our dinner conversation went something like this.

Jora:  So...The blog recipe this week is for French toast.

Paul:  Yay!  We can have French toast tomorrow morning.

Jora:  Well, it's really sweet really rich French toast, with extra sugar and heavy cream.  Dorie claims that it's a dessert.

Paul:  French toast isn't a dessert.

Jora:  Dorie insists that it is.  She says in France they would never serve this for breakfast.  Did I mention how rich it is?

Paul:  This is America!  I'm not a Frenchman.  Plus, that isn't true.  They use stale baguettes in France.  They always eat French toast for breakfast.

Jora:  But Dorie said....

Paul:  We're eating it for breakfast.

To clarify, Paul is a serious Francophile and means no disrespect, he just really wanted French toast.  So, against my better judgement, I halved the recipe and made four small slices of this for breakfast.  Paul is certainly right that there's a very fine line between dessert and breakfast, and I'm certainly not above eating pie for breakfast, so I really wasn't complaining.  This was definitely good, I thought it definitely stood on its own without any topping, but I doubt I'll make it again.  Paul clearly doesn't think this qualifies as a dessert, and I prefer a simpler French toast for breakfast.

Friday, November 22, 2013

FFWD Salty-Sweet Potato Far

In the almost 4 years that I've worked in the DC office of my company, I've probably purchased lunch less than 10 times.  Almost every day I just eat leftovers from the night before.  I think my co-workers used to be surprised by my unusual lunches (in part because I don't eat red meat, I eat a lot of unusual things like lentil "meatballs" for lunch) but by now they've gotten used to it.  So, when I brought my leftover far in for lunch they took one look at it and asked me what I was eating.  Someone guessed souffle, and someone else bread pudding.  I started to explain that I'm participating in this group that's cooking through a cookbook, and so I had to make this recipe this week even though it wasn't one I ever would've chosen.  Someone immediately cut me off, and challenged whether I really "had" to make the recipe.  I explained that I'm a total rules follower and so, yes, if the group chose it I had to make it.  I then started describing what was in the far: bacon (turkey), shredded potatoes, raisins, plums, and pancake batter (flour, eggs, and milk).  One of my co-workers commented, correctly, that it was like someone just took all of the traditional breakfast ingredients and crammed them together.  I think that describes this recipe quite well.  However, this was one of those cases where the whole seemed to be less than the sum of its parts.  I love all of the ingredients individually, and generally have no problem with recipes that mix savory and sweet, but I wasn't a big fan of this recipe.  It just seemed a little heavy, a little leaden, and a little bland.  I, stupidly, didn't listen to Dorie and reduced the salt called for which certainly didn't help, but even if the salt had been right I just don't think I would've been a big fan of this recipe.  It was okay to try, but it isn't one I'll be making again.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TWD Double Chocolate Cookies

I made the batter dough for these (it really was more like a batter) on a Sunday night, but we already had leftover chocolate cream pie from my dad's birthday to finish (life is hard around here!) so this sat in the fridge a couple of days until I was ready to bake it off.  The night I baked these off Paul got home late.  Charlotte and I finished baking them and I--luckily--dropped one while I was transferring it to the cooling rack, so since it was already broken I figured I might as well just eat it.  Wow, warm from the oven these were incredible.  As I was getting Charlotte ready for bed Paul got home, so after saying goodnight to her he wandered into the kitchen while I fed her and tried to put her to sleep.  Normally we both stay far away while the other one is trying to get Charlotte down--we wouldn't want to risk waking her--but that night Paul tip-toed back in with half a cookie and said I had to try it now while it was still warm.  Such a nice husband!  I, of course, didn't bother telling him that I'd already eaten one.  We both absolutely loved these cookies.  I used a mix of chocolate--some bittersweet Callebaut, another really expensive chocolate from Whole Foods, but also some really old (the outside had turned white-ish) Ghiradellis--and the flavor, along with the coffee flavor, was just incredible.  I had originally planned on bringing the leftover cookies in for my co-workers, but after one bite we decided we had to have these for ourselves.  We ate them for a couple of days and then I froze the rest.  Last night I took them out of the freezer to defrost, and "accidentally" broke one on the way upstairs, so I figured I might as well just eat it.  Even frozen, these cookies are excellent!  I'm sure it'll take all of my willpower to save some for Paul and not finish the rest off while I'm home tomorrow.

Friday, November 15, 2013

FFWD Chestnut and Pear Soup

One of my favorite things about FFWD is that it forces me to try recipes that I would never have picked on my own.  This is one of those recipes.  I have mixed feeling about chestnuts.  I've always liked their flavor, but never their consistency.  Maybe it's just because I've always bought them in jars or vacuum sealed packages, but they've always seemed mealy to me.  Because I was so unsure about this recipe, I decided to pair the soup with salmon and roasted vegetables.  That way there would be plenty to eat even if we didn't like the soup.  Well, we loved the soup!  Paul commented several times on how good it was.  I had some homemade chicken broth in the fridge which I think made a big difference in the flavor.  I also liked that it was relatively easy to put together, although it took longer to simmer than I expected and we ended up eating dinner at 8:30 again this Sunday.  Oh well.  Charlotte actually went to sleep early so we got to sit down and eat dinner like actual adults!  We both were able to use both hands, and had an uninterrupted (if still unintelligible) conversation.

Friday, November 8, 2013

FFWD Compote de Pommes Two Ways

I've made applesauce on the stove top, in the microwave, in the slow cooker, and baked in the oven.  I've made it with apples and pears (I guess that would make it apple-pear sauce), with cinnamon and sugar, and plain.  I've canned applesauce several times.  I probably should have chosen the more interesting long-cooked (second) variation, but that only sounded good to me as a component of a dessert and I wanted something to eat on its own, so I went with the first version.  It was okay, but nothing to write home about.  I followed Dorie's advice and didn't bother coring or peeling the apples.  I just chopped them, cooked them, and then ran them through the food mill.  I like a chunkier applesauce so I used the larger disk, but I ended up biting into some seeds that made it through.  I guess I should have used the finer disk, although I'm not sure if I would have loved the consistency.  All-in-all this was okay, but I think I'll use one of my other applesauce recipes in the future.

Because photos of applesauce are boring, and my discussion of the recipe isn't much more exciting, here's a photo of Charlotte on her first Halloween.  She was not a fan of her pumpkin outfit!  Hopefully she'll like it better next year.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

TWD Pumpernickel Loaves

This recipe was kind of a pain.  It probably took me 20 minutes of hunting through the cupboards just to pull out all of the ingredients.  I ended up having to send Paul on a quick run to the store because we were out of molasses.  I also discovered that instant espresso can go bad (who knew?!) and had to substitute instant decaf coffee granules instead.  I couldn't bare to make (or seek out and buy) prune lekvar when I had apricot lekvar in the freezer***, so I substituted that instead.  Once all of the ingredients were assembled I turned to my heavy duty Kitchen Aid stand mixer to do the mixing and kneading.  It gave up about half-way through the kneading, so I had to finish by hand.  Luckily the bread still rose beautifully, Charlotte let me wear her in the carrier while I shaped the bread (I don't think I did this quite right, I found the instructions awfully confusing), and by dinner time we were eating delicious rye bread.  We ate the bread Sunday night alongside fish and salad, Monday night with squash soup, fried green tomatoes, and more salad, and Tuesday night as smoked salmon reuben sandwiches.  The bread really was excellent.  I happen to love rye bread, and this was a good one.  Paul commented--without my asking--on how professional the bread seemed.  I love the big slices that are perfect for sandwiches, and how soft the bread stays for days.  I'm glad I have a second loaf ready in the freezer!

***When I was telling Paul that I used apricot lekvar instead of prune "because I already had apricot lekvar in the freezer", he cut me off and reminded me that I may be one of the few people in the world who just happens to have apricot lekvar in the freezer.  I told Paul he's known me long enough not to be surprised by such things :-)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

FFWD Hurry Up and Wait Roast Chicken

Every time I make roast chicken I wonder why I don't make it more often.  It's quick, easy, and we love it.  There are also so many variations that it never gets old.  This week I was planning on roasting the chicken with potatoes, carrots, and onions, but the day got out of hand.  When we were in Portland we went on several 2-3 hour car trips and Charlotte was absolutely perfect, so we thought the 2.5 hour drive to spend the weekend at the beach would be no problem.  We thought wrong!  I know that all of the experienced parents in the group could have told me this, but simply because something works one week with a baby doesn't mean it'll work the next week.  We ended up stopping 3 or 4 times on the way home, and the whole thing turned into a 5 hour trip.  By the time we got home it was too late to go get the potatoes, so we were left with the onions I already had in the pantry, the carrots Paul had in the garden, and some swiss chard that Paul also had in the garden.  I was going to just roast the carrots and onions with the chicken and cook the chard separately as a side dish, but at the last second my laziness won out and I cleaned and chopped the chard and added it to the pot along with rosemary and the other vegetables.  It worked beautifully!  Paul said it was the best chard he had ever had and he was actually glad we didn't have potatoes.  I guess the moral of the story is that chicken fat can make anything taste good.

I'm still no expert, but I've been practicing carving chickens and thought this one finally looked good enough to present.  This is definitely a recipe I'll pull out again.  The method was easy and produced incredibly moist chicken with perfectly browned skin, and I could imagine making it with any number of vegetables.

Friday, October 25, 2013

FFWD Not-Muenster Cheese Souffle

As much as I love going away on vacation, I almost always love coming home too.  (Italy is an exception.  I've been twice and didn't feel ready to leave either time.)  Especially after our first vacation with a four month old, I was very ready to come home to my own bed.  Despite having a million things to do, I was also very ready to get back into the kitchen.  (Unpacking can wait, right?)  This was a perfect first meal back.  It was delicious and fancy, but didn't take too much time to put together.  I know I should have been brave and tried the muenster (and maybe I will one day), but I'm not very adventurous with cheeses, have never liked muenster, and didn't feel like making a special trip to the store, so I used some Asiago that I had in the fridge.  It was excellent.  I love Dorie's instruction to cut the cheese into small cubes.  I usually grate it, but I think grated cheese can sometimes get lost in the dish.  The cubes created pools of gooey cheese; my favorite.  My only problem with this recipe is that the souffle didn't rise above the dish.  I didn't have the right size individual ramekins, and I think the dish I picked was just too large to get a proper rise.  Oh well.  It still tasted great!

Friday, October 18, 2013

FFWD Caramel-Almond Custard Tart

When this posts we'll be finishing up a whirlwind 4 cities in 8 days trip to visit Paul's family in Oregon.  This will be Charlotte's first plane trip, and her first trip to meet most of Paul's family.  I'm excited, but more than a little bit scared about all of the time spent on planes and cars.  So fingers crossed for us!  Since I don't eat beef I skipped the Boeuf a la mode and made this dessert before we left on vacation, as part of my birthday dinner....I just re-read my post from my birthday last year, and I'm happy to say that things are definitely feeling a million times better.  Pregnancy and having a newborn wasn't always easy, but Charlotte has brought so much happiness that I can easily say that 31 was the best year of my life.  However, my birthday celebration this year was not as exciting as it has been in year's past!  My grandma was in town and we all loved seeing her, but Charlotte is still unpredictable in the evenings (and is starting to go to sleep on the early side) so we all went out to brunch and stayed home for dinner.  Paul made an Italian feast--homemade bread, Caesar salad with homemade croutons, eggplant parmigiana, acorn squash puree, and spinach with garlic--and I was in charge of dessert.  I wanted to make something more exciting, but since my time is limited and I needed to make the tart before we left for vacation I went with the tart.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was relatively quick to put together and I enjoyed the caramel nut flavor.  It was like a sophisticated, less-gooey pecan pie.  This is definitely one I'd make again if I needed a relatively quick dessert for company. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

TWD Danish Braid

In my office we have a tradition that each person brings in a dessert to share on their own birthday.  You're then supposed to send out a group email announcing your birthday and inviting everyone to come eat the dessert at a set time.  I love making and sharing dessert, but hate announcing my birthday to everyone.  (This makes no sense because I work in a very small, 12 person, office and am friendly with everybody, but I'm a very shy person and it always feels like way too much attention.)  My first year I decided to circumvent the problem by making a banana bread to share.  I just put it out in the morning, skipped the email, and mentioned to people who noticed that it was my birthday.  The banana bread I made was Molly Wizenberg's.  This was probably my most successful year.  I love that bread.  I still make it often.  The next year I made a banana cake with chocolate frosting, and sent the dreaded email inviting everyone to come eat it at 3pm.  Banana cake with chocolate frosting is probably my favorite dessert and people seemed to like it, although not as much as the bread.  The third year I made apple pie.  It was okay, but not my most successful year.

So, as my birthday got closer I was trying to figure out what to make, going back and forth between the options, when I realized I needed to make the Danish Braid the weekend of my birthday (because of our upcoming trip to Portland).  I decided this was a perfect option to bring to the office.  It was way too much for Paul and I to eat ourselves, and because it's a breakfast item I could avoid the mass email.  Since the recipe served 6-8 I doubled it, which allowed me to make 4 of the 5 fillings.  I did an apricot and almond braid and a strawberries and cream braid.  This was a nice weekend project.  On Friday I mixed the dough.  On Saturday I did all of the rolling and folding.  (I remarked to Paul that after making croissants this felt surprisingly easy.)  On Sunday I made the fillings.  They all worked well except for the berry filling.  I followed the instructions exactly, using a 1-quart measuring cup in my microwave, and when I went down to check after 10 minutes the filling had completely boiled over and made a mess of the microwave.  Luckily, Paul managed to clean up the microwave and I still had about a cup of filling left, which ended up being enough.  On Monday morning I woke up early before work to assemble the braids, and give them time to rise and bake.  I was shocked by how big they were!  My office of 12 managed to eat them all, but I still couldn't believe the recipe said it only served 6-8.  It was a lot of pastry.  I think everyone enjoyed these.  I would dial down the sugar on the fillings next time, but hot out of the oven these were pretty incredible - and gorgeous.

Friday, October 4, 2013

FFWD Salad Nicoise

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of canned tuna.  This is probably why I've always liked Salad Nicoise.  (Except for the one time when I was at a work lunch and too nervous to pay close attention to what I was eating and accidentally took a bite with nothing but anchovy.  Wow!  Those little fishes are so strong.  It was all I could do not to spit it out in front of my co-workers and our clients.   I think that was the last time I ate anything with whole anchovies, although I'll occasionally use them cut or smashed into small pieces to flavor things.)  The Salad Nicoise recipe I make is from a Canal House cookbook.  It's very similar to this one and I've always liked the title, "A Nice Nicoise for Next to Nil."  If I remember right, that one does not have eggs, an addition that I definitely enjoyed.  They may become a new permanent addition in our house.  I made this with fresh potatoes, green beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and eggs from our CSA and it was delicious.  A perfect end of summer dinner.  My only complaint is that we ended up eating at 9 again.  I spent the afternoon making X Cookies and watching the Redskins game while Charlotte napped, so the kitchen was a mess and Charlotte was awake and ready to play right about when I wanted to start cooking dinner.  Plus, salads always take longer than I expect them to.  I always think they'll be quick because there's no real cooking involved, but there's so much prep work.  Oh well.  It was a delicious, beautiful, and healthy dinner that I know I'll be making again.

Monday, September 30, 2013

TWD X Cookies

I'm not going to sugar-coat this (no pun intended!).  These cookies were a total pain.  First, I couldn't find candied orange peel at the grocery store and didn't have time to mail-order or try another store.  Luckily, David Lebovitz has a recipe for candied citrus that's pretty easy to follow, although it probably still took almost 30 minutes of hands-on time plus additional time waiting for things to boil.  Once that was made, the dough and filling came together pretty easily in the food processor.  I did run out of ground cinnamon and had to grate cinnamon sticks myself, but that's my own mistake.  But then the shaping started.  I know I'm slow, but it took me two hours to shape all of these cookies!  It was kind of relaxing, and I got to watch the Redskins win while I worked (although if I'm honest it was a terrible football game), but there definitely were more important things I should have been doing while Charlotte napped.  After all that, I  really wanted to love these cookies.  I love Fig Newtons and thought these would be a better, more complex version, but I was under-whelmed.  I actually really liked the bites of filling I ate straight from the food processor (everybody does this, right?), but I thought the flavor got lost in the finished cookie.  The combination of the dough and baking the cookies muted the flavor, at least for me.  The most fun part of this experience for me was probably making the candied citrus peel.  I ran out of white sugar and had to substitute sucanat so these are darker and not as pretty as they should have been, but I really like the flavor and I have a lot left.  I'm looking forward to thinking of ways to use them up.

Friday, September 27, 2013

FFWD Rice Pudding and Caramel Apples

Right now I'm working Monday through Wednesday, and staying at home with Charlotte the rest of the time.  Sundays are always fun, but exhausting.  I always try to spend as much time with her as possible, get us all ready for the week, and watch the Redskins game (luckily I don't have to waste my time with them anymore!).  My Sunday dinners aren't as complex as they used to be, but I still try to make something nice.  This week I made the Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds from Jerusalem, sliced tomatoes, and the pudding.  Paul grilled corn and okra and made a chicken on his rotisserie.  We were hoping to have a nice quiet dinner, but we ended up taking turns eating with one hand while holding Charlotte with the other (a frequent occurrence).  I liked everything about this dinner (except for the okra which Paul turned into charcoal), but the pudding was my favorite part.  As I've mentioned before custards and puddings are probably my favorite dessert, and this was no exception.  I find the simple, clean flavors of rice pudding very comforting, but really loved the addition of apples and caramel.  We were both skeptical when I read Paul the description, but both pleasantly surprised at how well the flavors worked together.  I also loved how easy the caramel apples were.  This is definitely one I'll be making again.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

FFWD Tuna-Packed Piquillo Peppers

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of canned tuna fish.  I was pretty excited when I saw this recipe finally got chosen.  I was less excited when I started looking online for piquillo peppers - they are so expensive!  I decided it was okay for a one-time thing, and after looking at lots of different options (at a pretty wide range of prices) I ordered some nice ones.  Selecting which peppers to buy was probably the hardest part of the whole recipe.  The tuna fish was a pretty basic recipe (I think it would also work well in a sandwich) and stuffing the peppers was easy.  The only challenge for me was keeping the outside of the peppers pretty and clean.  I kept getting tuna fish on them.  I don't really have the patience for appetizers on weeknights (especially now that we're always trying to eat quickly before Charlotte needs our attention), so I served these together with sandwiches (turkey bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocados) and roasted vegetables (patty pan squash and green beans).  The tuna was good, but nothing to write home about.  For the cost I wanted to love the peppers, and I didn't think they were that different from regular roasted red peppers.  The highlight of this dinner was actually the roasted green beans.  I have some nice green bean recipes, but when I just want them as a quick side I almost always boil or steam them.  Roasting was delicious.  It's definitely a technique I'll use again.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

TWD Espresso Profiteroles

The first time I made profiteroles was several years ago for Paul's birthday dinner.  I used a David Lebovitz recipe and made cinnamon ice cream, hot fudge sauce, and candied almonds ahead of time.  On the day of the party all I had to do was make the puffs (is profiterole the name of the puff or the name of the dessert as a whole?).  I must have made them three times before they turned out.  The first time I didn't cook enough of the liquid out before adding the eggs.  The second time I was impatient and used eggs straight from the refrigerator.  I'm reasonably sure I cried.  Paul kept trying to console me and telling me he was sure the runny blobs I was trying to spoon on my baking sheet would taste fine, but I knew they were wrong.  The third time I waited until the eggs were at room temperature and cooked more of the liquid out before adding them.  They still didn't look like much on the baking sheet and I stood anxiously watching them while they baked in the oven, but miraculously they rose into lovely golden puffs.  Our friends loved the dessert, which made me particularly happy because I had broken my usual rule and made profiteroles for friends who are actually French.

After my first profiterole experience I had high hopes for this recipe.  I love the cinnamon and chocolate combination (if you ever have extra time, money, and calories on your hands go make this) and am a sucker for anything with coffee (unfortunately decaf these days).  Unfortunately, these were kind of disappointing.  The chocolate sauce and ice cream were okay, but I liked David Lebovitz's recipes better for both of them.  The puffs were good, but neither Paul nor I could taste the coffee at all, and I brewed an extremely strong pot of coffee.  I'm going to try a plain puff tonight--I think the chocolate sauce might have over-powered the coffee flavor--but I don't think the brewed coffee and beans added much other than a pretty look.  Oh well.  These weren't bad, but from now on I'm sticking to David's recipe.

Friday, September 6, 2013

FFWD Fresh Tuna, Mozzarella, and Basil Pizza

The "rules" for eating while pregnant or nursing are enough to drive a sane person crazy, and I probably wasn't totally sane to begin with.  They're numerous, vary from source to source, and based on research that's suggestive at best (and usually merely correlational).  The whole debate about eating fish is enough to make my head spin.  Without getting into it and saying something that might get me in trouble, I'll just say that I've been generally avoiding sushi grade tuna.  For this recipe, I decided to substitute some wild-caught salmon in it's place.  I wasn't totally sure about eating the salmon raw, so I pan-seared it on very high heat until it was almost cooked in the center before proceeding with the recipe.  While I was being "wild and crazy" and making substitutions (everything's relative, right?), I decided to use some French goat's milk feta that I had in the fridge instead of buying fresh mozzarella.  I was nervous about the substitutions--the recipe seemed like such an odd combination of flavors to begin with and my substitutions probably made it even crazier--but actually really enjoyed the finished dish.  I don't normally serve cheese with fish, but for some reason the combined flavors really worked together.  Maybe it was the puff pastry.  I can't think of anything that wouldn't taste good on top of Dufour Puff Pastry.  In a smaller version, I think these would make a fun appetizer for a party if I ever have time to entertain again.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

TWD Blueberry Muffins and Sweet Fig Fougasse

As I've written about before, I'm not what one would call a flexible person.  I like to follow instructions and rules, dot my i's and cross my t's, and seemed to have completely missed my rebellious phase (or maybe it's yet to come?).  When it comes to cooking, this means that I usually try to follow recipes exactly.  I'm trying to learn to be more flexible and at least make simple substitutions based on what I have available, but I rarely think to tinker with a recipe just for fun.  Paul, on the other hand, is much more creative in the kitchen.  He's always suggesting modifications to recipes, and will often read through and combine parts of several recipes for things that he's really into making (such as bread and pizza).  Paul went through quite a lemon zest phase several years ago.  I'm not sure if he had ever had it before, and once he tried it he was hooked.  No matter what we were making, he would always ask whether I thought we should add some lemon zest.  It drove my rule-following self absolutely crazy.  I remember getting into serious arguments over whether we should add lemon zest to muffins, scones, and pancakes.  Well, why am I bringing this up now?  I thought the Blueberry Muffins recipe could have used some lemon zest!  Or orange zest, oats, or whole wheat flour.  Something to add another dimension to the flavor profile.  While I definitely enjoyed the muffins, especially the very light and airy texture, I thought that they were a little one-note.  In general, this would be my main critique of Baking with Julia so far.  I think that the recipes have worked and have generally been good, but many have felt like they mainly tasted buttery or sweet, and could have used an additional flavor.

Last time we had a "Choose your own Adventure Week" the over-achievers in the group made me me feel bad for not having made both recipes.  Since it was Labor Day weekend and I had a little extra time I decided to make the muffins on Saturday morning and the Sweet Fougasse on Sunday night.  For the Fougasse, I decided to use the figs which are finally ripe on our tree instead of going out to buy berries.  I thought the figs worked beautifully.  My only complaint is that the streusel covered them up.  The finished pastry was not nearly as pretty as the working version.  It will probably be a long time before I make these again--they are enormous, and after splitting one we now have 11 downstairs in the freezer--but I do think they're something I would make again.  I enjoyed the mildly yeasted taste of the foccacia with the sweet fruit and streusel, and thought that they were relatively easy to make once the foccacia dough was ready.

Friday, August 30, 2013

FFWD Floating Islands

Floating Islands are another thing that I know about because I've seen Ina make them on TV, but have never gotten around to trying.  Paul and I aren't normally big fans of meringue, so I was never too interested.  Boy was I wrong!  This was delicious.  Most of the meringue I've had has been hard and not very flavorful (a notable exception are the excellent chocolate meringue cookies that my mother makes for Passover!), but this was delicate, light, and airy.  I especially enjoyed the caramelized top, but the whole "island" was delicious.  I--stupidly--overcooked my creme anglaise and it didn't have the smooth consistency that it should, but it still tasted good.  I'm still unclear on how I managed to overcook it.  My instant-read thermometer said 174.9 when I took it off, but it was definitely curdled.  That happens to me almost half of the time when I make ice cream.  I guess I just need more practice making ice cream, creme anglaise, and other custards :-)  Creme anglaise is also something I first learned about watching the Food Network.  I can't remember what show, but I remember the host saying that you could make it yourself but that it was the same--and much easier--to just use melted vanilla ice cream instead.  I tried it once and was unimpressed.  Maybe the ice cream I bought just wasn't good enough, but i think a homemade creme anglaise is much better.  Last, I rarely turn down an opportunity for fudge sauce and chocolate ice cream, but since we're nearing the end of summer I couldn't bear not to add fruit to the dessert.  I served this with poached figs.  I thought they paired excellently with the simple vanilla flavors.

Another thing I loved about this dish was that the meringue calls for 6 egg whites and the creme anglaise for 6 egg yolks.  I wonder if that's why they're traditionally served together.  It made me so happy not to have to throw away (or freeze and then forget about) either whites or yolks.

Friday, August 23, 2013

FFWD Boulevard Raspail Corn on the Cob

As I was getting out my copy of AMFT to check the recipe for the week, I told Paul that I couldn't wait to read the story Dorie came up with to explain the presence of a corn on the cob recipe in a French cookbook.  Paul has spent some time in France and we have good friends who are French, and they had all told me that in France corn is only used for feeding pigs.  Well, Dorie did it again!  I love her creativity.  As much as we like French food, I think it's so fun that this book also has recipes for corn on the cob, tzatziki, Vietnamese chicken soup...It makes the group so much fun.  The story was very cute and she's right, this is the perfect method for cooking corn.  We normally grill corn, but roasting has definitely replaced boiling as my rainy day fall-back method.  I started with delicious, fresh corn that we got from our CSA the same day, and the roasting only intensified the flavor and made it even more delicious.  I served this with Ina's curried chicken salad (quick and easy since I already had some roasted chicken breast in the freezer) and her scalloped tomatoes.  The tomatoes were incredible.  It's hard to go wrong with fresh CSA tomatoes in August, and this recipe really highlighted their flavor.  I have her cookbook, but the recipe is also online here.  The only change I made is reducing the sugar to one scant tablespoon.  Our tomatoes were so delicious they really didn't need the extra sugar.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

TWD Johnny Cake Cobbler

This was cook's choice week for TWD.  We got to pick between a Johnny Cake Cobbler and Raspberry Fig Crostata.  We are very lucky to have two fig trees in our front yard.  Last year they produced very well and I made all kinds of things with figs, including the crostata.  I can't find any pictures of it to post (probably because I forgot to take them!), but I remember loving it.  Figs and raspberries are two of my favorite fruits, and I loved the addition of sesame seeds to the crust.  It made it crumbly to work with, but I thought the extra flavor made it well worth it.  This year we still don't have any figs.  I think some of it is the oddly cool weather we've been having (not that I'm complaining!) and some of it is the squirrels.  Poor Paul is fighting a hard battle, but the squirrels are definitely winning.  This weekend he carefully put baby socks on all of the figs that were close to ripening, and secured them with rubber bands.  On Monday the squirrels managed to get most of the socks off and eat the figs inside them.  We now have colorful baby socks all over the yard, and still no figs to eat!  He's going to keep trying (any tips are much appreciated!), but for now I decided to just make the cobbler.

I love fruit crisps and cobblers.  I think in terms of enjoyment relative to cooking time, they are the best possible dessert.  The fruit filling was quick and easy to put together (I used a combination of plums, peaches, and nectarines).  The biscuit topping came together in no time in the food processor.  My only regret was not making individual cobblers.  I have the dishes to do it, but was in a lazy mood.  In hindsight, the individual ones are much cuter and I love having my own dessert.  I was also annoyed by the baking times in the recipe.  The recipe said making a family sized color would only take a couple of extra minutes of baking.  Mine was golden after after 15 minutes, but I probably moved the cobbler in and out of the oven every 5 minutes for almost an hour, trying to get the inside to bake.  When it finally baked we definitely enjoyed it, especially with the addition of the optional ginger.  My only comment is that I wish there had been more filling for the amount of crust, and it definitely needed heavy cream or ice cream for serving.

Friday, August 16, 2013

FFWD Chef's Choice/Makeup Week

I'm sure it won't last, but I'm actually all caught up with FFWD at the moment.  I've made all of the recipes, except for the handful that I've skipped because the main ingredient is something I don't eat (i.e., red meat or mushrooms).  Since we also spent the last week at the beach, I decided to truly take the week off.  Instead, here are a couple of photos from our beach trip!

Note:  Although we were at the beach in Lewes, DE, you would never know from the pictures because Charlotte didn't love the beach.  Our first day there Paul accidentally kicked sand on her face, and she also hated when we tried dipping her toes in the ocean.  So we spent most of the week relaxing at the rental house and wandering around.  Oh well.  I know she'll learn to love the ocean!

Friday, August 9, 2013

FFWD Duck Breast with Fresh Peaches

It's 3:30 PM and Charlotte is finally napping in her own crib.  She's been awake since she woke up at 8 AM.  I don't mind having her awake all day but--just like her mom--she gets very fussy when she's tired.  I can't complain, she's an excellent sleeper at night, but we're having trouble convincing her that a nap every once in a while isn't such a bad idea.  Anyway, what does this have to do with food blogging?  Nothing, except that I'm worried she'll be awake any second now so I'm going to keep this post extra short.

This was the second time I cooked duck at home.  The first also was with FFWD.  I like duck--and Paul really likes it and was thrilled to see me making it--but I just never think to make it.  It's also a fortune!  I don't know if I'm just buying expensive duck, but I think the only brand they had at the store I went to cost $30 for 2 pounds.  Coupled with the $9 I spent on peaches (I love peaches and bought a lot of extras), this was a delicious, but very expensive dinner.  I would definitely make this again, but I'll probably save it for a night in which Charlotte actually lets us sit and enjoy our dinner for more than 3 minutes.  Maybe in a few years....I served it with roasted squashed topped with lemon and parsley.  Paul is growing so much squash we could eat it every night and still have leftovers.  I'd appreciate any recipe suggestions that use up LOTS of squash!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

TWD Eastern Mediterranean Pizzas

I enjoyed making this recipe.  Like the savarin, it had multiple components but none was too hard.  In the morning I quickly mixed up the sponge and left it to rise.  In the afternoon Charlotte "helped" me add the rest of the ingredients, kneed the dough, and start the second rise.  (By "helped", I mean she slept nicely in her carrier and allowed me to cook.)  When we were ready for dinner, all I had to do was make the filling (while the oven pre-heated), shape, and bake the breads.  (I totally forgot to mention that I don't eat lamb so I substituted ground turkey.  I make the substitution without even thinking about it!)  I wasn't quite sure whether this was an appetizer or a main course (I'll be very curious to how the other Doristas served this), but I decided to try serving it as a main with the leftover tzatziki and crudite from the previous night.  I set the table with candles and grape juice for Friday night, put a pizza on each of our plates, and put the tzatziki and crudite out as well.  Paul sat down, took one look at the table, and asked me what was for dinner.  He was less than thrilled when I told him that was dinner, and said that he didn't see a main course.  We each ate two pita pizzas along with our vegetables.  With cake for dessert I thought it was enough food, but I guess next time I would serve the pizzas as an appetizer or as part of an entree with some more substantial side dishes.  Oh well.  I did enjoy the dish.  Anything with fresh summer tomatoes is a winner in my book, and I really liked the flavors of cinnamon and allspice.

(Here is a phone shot of Charlotte and I cooking.  Paul laughed at me for taking a photo of the ceiling, but I was home alone and it isn't exactly easy to get a good angle with one hand :-) .)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

FFWD Tzatziki

I was surprised to see a recipe for Tzatziki in a French cookbook, but it's hard to argue with the results.  This was another quick, easy, and delicious recipe.  I wanted to serve it with the Eastern Mediterranean Pizza we're making for TWD, but by the time Charlotte and I finished our (very rare) afternoon nap it was too late to start the pizza.  So, pizza will wait until tomorrow (hopefully!) and we enjoyed the dip tonight with some plain cut vegetables.  The only thing that surprised me about this recipe was the portion size.  This makes a lot of Tzatziki.  We ate a lot tonight and hardly made a dent in it.  Luckily it's very versatile, so I'm hoping we'll find other ways to use it in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

TWD Catching-Up on June (Savarin and Cheese and Tomato Galette)

June was the most exciting, happiest, and most overwhelming month of my life.  My daughter (although we didn't know her gender until she was born) was due on June 2nd.  I was told I would likely deliver late, though, so I bought the stuff to make the Savarin and was planning on making it the first week of June.  It never happened.  I kept meaning to get started on it, but was surprisingly busy trying to finish things up before the baby was born (including the wedding scrapbook which I was so close to finishing!) and the recipe sounded overwhelming, so I kept deciding to start it the next day.  Well, I went into labor on the night of the 4th and still hadn't started the recipe.  Luckily, the only ingredients I had purchased for it were the berries and cream and we were able to put those to use in simpler recipes our first week home from the hospital.  I kept putting this recipe off in favor of simpler things for a few weeks, but last week I finally decided I was ready.  After all that, it was so much easier than I thought it would be!  Yes there are a lot of components, but none of them is hard to make.  I did skip making the raspberry puree.  It felt like too much trouble for only two tablespoons.  I replaced it with blackberry jam (homemade and canned last summer!) thinned with the leftover sugar syrup from soaking the cake (it seemed silly to use water and sugar when I had sugar water sitting right there) and thought it made a delicious fruit sauce.  I was thrilled with this recipe.  Paul, our guests, and I loved the combination of the sweet yeasted dough with the berries and cream.  I love recipes that look harder than they are.  This is definitely one I'll be making again.

On the other hand, as soon as I saw the Cheese and Tomato Galette recipe I was excited to make it.  This was one of the first things I got around to making after Charlotte was born.  I made the crust when I had some time early in the day, and then the Paul helped with the quick assembly and baking at dinner time.  I was inadvertently out of the cheeses called for (I thought my mom had bought them for us, but it turned out she was just storing them in our fridge to take to her house...) so I substituted some goat gouda I happened to have.  It was delicious.  We both thought that the very flavorful cheese worked better than the mozzarella and jack would have.  I'll definitely make this again with the goat gouda, but am also excited to try it with other cheeses.  As Paul said, it's like a pizza with lots of butter.  What's not to love!?!

Friday, July 26, 2013

FFWD Non-Dieter's Tartine

There were a couple of years in graduate school during which I tried almost every diet under the sun.  Luckily they never lasted for more than a day or two.  I think my longest was maybe a week.  Maybe it's my lack of discipline, but I quickly got tired of being hungry all of the time, missed whatever it was I wasn't supposed to be eating, wanted to go out with friends and eat normal things, etc., etc.  So I would quit that diet, be back to normal for a while, and then try a new diet.  One year I decided just to break the cycle, so my new year's resolution was to quit dieting.  Of course I couldn't even maintain that!  I did try fewer diets that year, and over time I've become less and less interested in dieting--or just too busy to care.  So, I had to laugh when I saw the recipe for this week.  Coincidentally, a few weeks ago Paul was reading through AMFT, happened to notice this recipe, and announced that it sounded awful.  I wasn't thrilled about trying it either, and really didn't think Paul would go for it, but I'm finally caught up so I didn't want to skip it.  I'm not a dieter though, so when the store didn't have fromage blanc I bought the full-fat sour cream that I usually buy, to mix with the low-fat cottage cheese that I already had in the fridge.  I also served this with some roasted potato and fennel soup, to make sure that it definitely wasn't a dieter's dinner.  With the fresh summer vegetables (including cherry tomatoes that Paul grew!) we actually both really enjoyed this tartine.  I'm surprised to say this, but it's actually a "recipe" that I want to make again this summer.

Monday, July 22, 2013

FFWD Swordfish with Frilly Herb Salad + Sable Breton Galette with Berries

My mom and I struggle with garnishes.  Very frequently I'll chop parsley or cilantro to add to my dish at the end, finish the dish, plate it, eat dinner (we're usually very hungry by the time dinner is ready!), go back to the kitchen, and then realize that the garnish is still on the cutting board.  My mom does this all of the time too, and then spends the rest of the night beating herself up for forgetting the cilantro.  Paul, on the other hand, doesn't see the point of garnishes.  He once said to me that he knows that parsley is supposed to look pretty, but he doesn't think it's worth having green stuff stuck in his teeth.  I tried explaining to him that parsley and cilantro aren't just garnishes--they also add flavor to the dish--but he was unconvinced.  So, when I saw the recipe for the frilly herb salad I was pretty sure Paul wouldn't go for it.  I made it anyway and hoped for the best.  Paul didn't say one word about it (he's a smart guy!) but he very carefully sat and picked all of the parsley off of his fish before he started eating.  Oh well.  Honestly, I like parsley but I wasn't a big fan of the salad either.  I wish the parsley had been chopped instead of left whole (I think I was following the recipe, although maybe I just missed a step), and I thought there was way too much of it.  I did enjoy my fish, though.  The marinade was excellent.  I ate salmon and Paul ate swordfish and I thought the marinade worked well with both fishes.

I also made the Sable Breton Galette this week, which means I'm officially all caught up on FFWD recipes (except for the few I skipped because I don't eat the main ingredient and couldn't think of a substitute).  What can I say about it?  I'm really starting to appreciate recipes that have parts that can be made ahead.  One day I made the gallette dough, the next I made the lemon curd, and then that evening I baked off the gallette dough.  None of the components were hard or especially time consuming, but it was nice to be able to divide the steps.  Since there are only two of us I cut the tart into wedges, and added curd and berries to each one only as we were ready to eat it.  We really enjoyed this--I absolutely love lemon and summer berries are hard to beat--and I also appreciate how adaptable the recipe is.  I can imagine making this in the winter with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

TWD Summer Vegetable Tart

I was so happy when I saw the recipe selections for this month.  I love that they relied on seasonal fruits and vegetables, and that both were relatively quick to make (at least in terms of hands-on time).  I tried to start this earlier in the day but only got to cutting some vegetables before Charlotte needed my attention.  Luckily, I was still able to get it made in about an hour after Paul came home.  I followed the recipe pretty closely, but cut the butter in half, used regular butter instead of clarified, and substituted yellow squash for the mushrooms.  I don't like mushrooms, and Paul's yellow squash plants have been insanely prolific the summer, so it was an easy substitution.  The hardest part for me--again!--was getting this out of the pan.  I had a lot of overhang (maybe I should have trimmed it before I baked this?) and I kept breaking it as I was trying to cut it neatly to get pieces out of the pan.  The first piece was definitely the hardest, but the second wasn't exactly easy either...Oh well.  This is another winner in my book.  I love the idea.  I'm sure I'll it again with all kinds of fillings.

Friday, July 12, 2013

FFWD Whole-Cherry Clafoutis

For some reason, I associate clafoutis with Ina Garten.  They obviously are a classic French dish, but I think watching the Barefoot Contessa make them must have been my introduction to the dish.  Although she always make them look delicious and easy, I never got around to making one.  I'm glad FFWD gave me the push I needed.  This was ridiculously quick and easy--I was able to prepare it in the short time that Charlotte sat happily in her bouncy seat looking out the window--and we both really enjoyed it.  Custard is probably my favorite dessert and I loved the subtle flavor of this one, and it's hard to go wrong with fresh summer cherries.  I kept forgetting the cherries had pits in them which made this a bit of a challenge to eat, but I loved how flavorful and juicy the cherries stayed, and it was so much easier than pitting them.  This is definitely one I'll make again.  Hopefully with all kinds of fruit.

Friday, July 5, 2013

FFWD Wheat Berry and Tuna Salad

I realized while I was pregnant and trying not to eat too much of it, that I really like canned tuna fish.  I think of it as a totally different food than fresh tuna, which I also really like, but it's a quick, convenient protein source and can really be delicious in the right recipe.  So I was very happy when I saw this recipe on the June schedule.  It's the type of thing that's right up my alley.  I was a little bit worried that Paul would complain about the wheat berries (he complains about almost all whole grains), but he doesn't get nearly as mad at me when I'm able to tell him that the recipe was for the blog.  This was the first recipe I attempted to make while wearing Charlotte (who was strapped into the baby carrier).  It was definitely slower than usual, but a success.  I cooked and dressed the wheat berries earlier in the day, during two different naps, and after letting them sit for a while to let the dressing soak in I put Charlotte in the carrier and prepared all of the other ingredients.

Mixed together,  the salad was lovely.  It need a surprising amount of salt, but I really liked how all of the different flavors came together.  I thought the apple was an especially nice addition.  It made this more interesting than a lot of the tuna salads I usually make.  I prepared this the night before to eat for lunch the next day.  I know Dorie said this needed to be eaten immediately, but I thought it still tasted great a day later.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

TWD Baked Yogurt Tart

I'm definitely a "Type A" person.  I always have a to-do list, I love nothing more than checking things off my list, and while I'm doing one thing I'm usually thinking about what I can get done next.  At the end of my pregnancy I had very detailed lists of things that needed to get done before the baby was born, in the hospital immediately after the baby was born, later in the month of June, and later in July.  After coming home from the hospital, I tried to maintain my habit of making and keeping to to-do lists, even if the "to-dos" included things like "take a shower."  I'm starting to learn that, at least for me, with an infant it just isn't possible.  My pre-natal yoga teacher advised renaming all of my to-do lists to "tentative to-do lists."  I like that.  I'm trying to think of it more as goals for the day, and not as things that need to get done.  None of the things on my list are that important, and there's always tomorrow.  Right now, the only really important thing is to take good care of Charlotte and enjoy the time I get to spend with her, and I'm happy even if we get nothing else done all day.

All this to say that I'm trying to forgive myself for being a day late in posting.  I really wanted to get the tart made on Monday and the post up Tuesday.  It didn't happen.  Then I thought I could both make the tart and get the post up on Tuesday.  When I pulled the finished tart out of the oven at 10 last night I decided it just wasn't going to happen.  I also didn't have a chance to taste the tart on the day it was made, which I really wanted to.  I'm worried it won't be as good today.  If it isn't, I definitely won't blame the recipe.  Parenting challenges aside, this was a really easy recipe.  The hardest part for me was getting the crust into the pan.  I used a 9" cake pan and rolled the crust to 12", as the recipe suggests, but my crust barely went up the sides of the pan.  There definitely wasn't any overhang.  I don't quite understand what I did wrong.  Maybe my cake pan has especially high sides?  The only other challenge was getting the tart out of the pan.  I wasn't going to bother, but this morning while Charlotte was napping I decided to brave it.  The first time I flipped it it didn't budge at all, but I flipped it back over, ran the knife around the edges again, and the second time was a success.  Even if it doesn't taste great, I'm happy with how the tart looks!  This would definitely be a perfect dessert for the 4th.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

FFWD Socca from Vieux Nice + Top-Secret Chocolate Mousse

I promise that I will *try* not to let all of my posts become all about the baby, but this post should be subtitled "fussy in the late afternoon and evening + sleep-deprivation (or, the case of the missing chocolate)."  First, Charlotte Madeleine was born on Thursday 6/6 at 8:58 in the morning.  She weighted in at 8 lbs 12 oz and 21 inches.  This has been the most challenging, but by far the happiest, 3 weeks of my life.  She doesn't do much yet except for eat and sleep, but it's been incredible watching her grow and develop.

At the time I thought I was going a bit crazy, but I'm actually really glad I cooked and froze so much stuff before she was born.  Charlotte is a great baby but 4:30 to 7:30 is definitely her fussiest time, which has made cooking and eating dinner challenging at best.  Most nights, we just pull something out of the freezer and add a salad and dinner is done.  The Socca from Vieux Nice was the first thing I actually attempted to cook since she was born.  What's great about the recipe was that I was able to put it all together after lunch while she napped, start the baking while she was still in a good mood, and then Paul was able to finish it (and take photos) when she was fussy.  Unfortunately, I realized after I made it that it wasn't a great thing to eat since I'm supposed to be avoiding beans, so I was only able to taste it.  Last summer we went on a trip which included two day in Genoa, Italy (probably our last big trip for a while).  We had carefully researched and planned all of our meals (Paul gets very obsessive about these things), but on our first day it turned out that the lunch place Paul had picked out was closed.  We wandered around and walked into a place just based on how it looked--something we almost never do.  What caught our attention was these delicious looking farinata in the window.  The place was so good that we ended up ignoring our plans and eating lunch there the next day as well.  It was fun to realize that the French Socca is actually the same as the Italian Farinata.  The Socca I made wasn't as good as the one in Italy (the wood-burning oven definitely gave them an advantage), but we definitely enjoyed it.  It's a recipe I'll make again.

I also decided this was a good time to make the quick and easy chocolate mousse that I skipped because I was avoiding raw eggs while I was pregnant.  For the recipe I pulled out a block of excellent Callebut bittersweet chocolate that I happened to have in the pantry.  I had used it before so it was already split into two pieces.  One was about 3 ounces and the other about 5, so I cut a small piece off of the 5 ounce bar and combined it with the 3 ounce piece to make the 3.5 ounces the recipe called for, coarsely chopped the chocolate, and made the recipe.  I thought the texture seemed strange when I folded the egg whites into the chocolate, but I've never made mousse before and am not that great at folding, so I figured the problem was with my technique.  I finished the mousse (it certainly tasted good), put it into cups, and put it into the fridge, figuring that it would set-up and the texture would improve once it chilled.  As I was cleaning the kitchen, I found the bag that I was using to store the chocolate but I couldn't find the extra 5 ounce piece of chocolate. I looked all over the kitchen, including in the trash can, the fridge, and the pantry--the usual places where I find my misplaced kitchen items--and couldn't find the chocolate anywhere.  I asked Paul, thinking he would find it somewhere obvious and laugh at me, but he couldn't find it either.  It's still possible I'll find it somewhere eventually, but as I think about it I'm guessing that I accidentally chopped up all 8 ounces of chocolate and put it into the mousse.  The mousse tastes good, but it's pretty dense--almost like a ganache--so I'm guessing the extra chocolate is the culprit :-)  I'm going to blame the sleep deprivation--I never used to do things quite this stupid--and try to enjoy our fudge/ganache.  I'll definitely have to try making the mousse again when I'm a little more with it!