Friday, February 28, 2014

FFWD Garbure from the Supermarket

If my mom's favorite weeknight meal was the white meal, than Paul's mom's was boiled dinner.  In Paul's recollection it was cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and possibly celery, all boiled with a ham bone (or a piece of ham?  I'm not really up on my pig parts).  According to him once his mom made it she would serve it for weeks, although I have a feeling he might be exaggerating.  I would sometimes tease him about making him boiled dinner, but had never actually done it because I don't eat pork.  It didn't occur to me when I read the recipe, but as soon as I smelled the cabbage boiling I realized, Garbure is a fancy, French version of boiled dinner!  It has more ingredients, and the optional duck confit certainly fancies things up a bit, but at it's heart it's a bunch of inexpensive winter vegetables cooked with a small amount of meat to add some flavor.  As soon as Paul walked in on Friday night, he said it smelled like boiled dinner.  He was amazed by how distinct the smell is--I think it's the cabbage.  I was worried he'd complain, but he actually really enjoyed the Garbure.  He said it was better than his mom's boiled dinner.  (Although he's a smart man and knows which one of us he has to live with, so he definitely might have said that just to make me happy.)


I made a couple of changes to the recipe, based on what I like to eat and what I had around.  First, I substituted smoked turkey wings for the ham/pork shoulder.  I have no clue what ham tastes like, but I thought the smoked turkey gave the soup an excellent flavor.  Second, I coincidentally had some leftover duck fat that I needed to use, so I used that to cook the vegetables.  Last, I bought one package of  duck confit legs (it had two legs for $5.99) at the supermarket, and added those at the end as Dorie instructs.  Served with a freshly baked Challah and salad, this was a dinner that we both enjoyed.  I'm not sure what we're going to do with all of the leftovers (I froze some as an experiment), but this is definitely something I'd make again.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

FFWD Butter and Rum Crepes

A crepe pan is one of the many, many kitchen items that I've wanted to buy but Paul has talked me out of over the years.  I would never admit it to Paul (luckily he never reads this!), but we really don't have room in our kitchen for one more item.  It's taken some practice, but with my regular, not even non-stick, fry pan, I'm able to make pretty decent crepes.  I just use a small amount of oil or butter, and the two spatula technique that I learned from the Smitten Kitchen (it's described at the bottom of this post).  Because we were in a rush to eat dinner (when aren't we in a rush to eat dinner?), I asked Paul to blend the sauce while I was making crepes.  Normally I'm the one to attempt to cut back on oil/butter/sugar, but he actually suggested using less than the 7 tablespoons of butter that the recipe called for.  I think we used about half of that.  The sauce wasn't as thick as it was supposed to be, but it still tasted very rich and I love the combined honey and citrus flavor.  Overall these were good, but I doubt I'll make them again.  I generally avoid desserts that need to be made and then served immediately and, as much as I liked the honey and citrus, in my book raspberry, chocolate, (or nutella), and whipped cream crepes are impossible to beat.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

TWD Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake

For Valentine's Day, Paul and I tend to alternate between going out, and Paul cooking dinner at home.  With Charlotte, we easily decided that this was a year to stay in.  Paul made an incredible dinner, and we finished it with the cheesecake.  Every time I make cheesecake I wonder why I don't do it more often.  It's delicious, it's easy (as long as you don't care whether or not the top cracks), and it freezes beautifully.  I actually made it a couple of weeks ago, froze it in quarters, and now we can just have a few slices when we feel like some.  I thought this particular recipe was very good, but not amazing.  I probably won't make it again just because there are so many other recipes to try.

The rest of the dinner was excellent.  We started with a garlic soup with poached egg and crostini from my favorite new cookbook.  (Yes, I know that I needed another new cookbook like I needed a hole in my head!)  For the main course Paul made seared duck with parsley salad (from the same cookbook) and two side dishes from the Ottolenghi cookbook.  One had roasted potatoes, sunchokes, tomatoes, kalamata olives, and lemons.  The other had green beans and snow peas with hazelnuts and orange zest.  Both were excellent....A funny story about the second dish.  The dish was actually one that I had made, and we had both loved, about a month ago.  When I saw Paul had purchased all of the ingredients to make it, I just assumed that he remembered how much we liked it and decided to make it again.  Nope!  He had totally forgotten that I made it, and just independently picked it out as something we might enjoy.  He was pretty annoyed that we had already had it, but I thought it was pretty funny that we both picked out the same thing.

Monday, February 17, 2014

FFWD Helen’s All-White Salad

When we were growing up, my mom had a white meal.  She served it frequently (almost weekly), usually when she wasn't very hungry and my dad wasn't going to be home for dinner.  It was white rice, steamed cauliflower, and sauteed tofu.  In my mom's memory, she always served it with a nice, white cheese sauce.  In mine (and my brother's) memory, the cheese sauce was an infrequent, special treat, and it was usually served with a bottle of soy sauce for flavor.  It was not a favorite of ours!  My mom, on the other hand, still has quite fond memories of this dish.  She insists it's what she'd like us to serve when we sit shiva for her, and I don't think she's joking.

When I saw that we were making all-white salad, and especially after I read through the recipe, I was about as excited as I used to be when my mom would tell us that we were having the white meal for dinner.  It just sounded so bland, and boring.  Also, I know it's partially my fault for not peeling the celery, but the salad isn't even white.  It's much more of a pale green salad.  After all of that complaining, I actually didn't mind this.  I really like celery, thought it paired nicely with the tart apple, and liked the dressing.  I also toasted the sesame seeds, which made this salad even less white, but added a lot of flavor.  I doubt I'll ever make this again, it just wasn't that interesting, but it was fine as a one-time thing.

To serve with the salad, I made buckwheat crepes with (turkey) ham, egg, and cheese.  These were excellent.  I got the recipe from a Canal House cookbook, but you don't really even need a recipe except for the crepes.  I made buckwheat crepes, topped them with diced ham and some cheese, and then cracked an egg on top and baked them in a very hot (500 degree) oven until the egg white was set.  The crepes are definitely something I'll make again.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

TWD Onion Bialys

My grandfather had a complicated relationship with food.  Before I was born he successfully lost a lot of weight, so from the time I knew him he was always extremely careful--some would say obsessive--about what he ate.  He wasn't a dieter in the classic sense.  He absolutely loved rich foods, never avoided carbs, had dessert at least once a day, and I never saw him eat a salad.  He was just very careful about how much he ate.  In one particularly vivid memory, we went out to dinner and all he ordered was French onion soup (that was more melted cheese than soup) and cheese sticks with marinara.  I jealously ate my "healthy" fish and vegetable, while watching him enjoy his few bites of melted cheese.  Grandpa loved doughnuts, preferably Dunkin, and he loved bialys with smoked fish and cream cheese.  I don't eat bialys often, they're hard to find around here, but when I do I think of him.  Making these was fun, as was assembling my accompanying platter of smoked fish and vegetables.  The bialys themselves?  They were just okay.  They tasted very bread-y to me.  The bialys I remember had a texture more similar to bagels.  Also, I didn't think there was enough onion topping and wasn't happy with how much of it fell off in the baking and slicing process.  I'll take responsibility for the latter problem, I think it's a technique issue, but next time I want to make bialys I'm going to test out a different recipe.