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Friday, March 25, 2011

Let's do dinner

It is a scary thing to invite a friend or friends over for dinner when, being called "the queen of the kitchen" was never in the list of endearments you have ever received. Especially if your friends are hard core foodies, that can make a 5 course dinner, wearing their 7 inch Jimmy Choo's and not breaking a sweat.

Cooking for friends should be about having fun. Being able to chat with them and drink a glass of Pinot as soon as they walk through the door. You don't want to worry about getting everything ready on time, or having to slave over the new induction top you recently installed for hours.

Simple combinations and stand out ingredients should be the way to go if you are lacking confidence in the kitchen. This way the food speaks for itself. Besides more complex an ingredient the more likely your guests pallet wouldn't be able to appreciate it.
So next time you invite friends over, dont worry so much and have fun. And when your friends tell you how delicious the food was simply smile and say " mmm it was nothing. Did you check out my new 7 inch Choo's.... Now that is something"!

Easy Rib Roast

one 7- to 8-pound beef rib roast (with four rib bones)
1/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup smashed garlic cloves (about 10 cloves)
1/4 cup canned anchovy fillets
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup fresh thyme leaves (from about 10 sprigs)
1 spring of Rosemary
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup beef or chicken stock, or canned low-sodium beef or chicken broth, or as needed
1/2 cup red wine

Tie the roast with cooking twine between the rib bones (in three sections) so it will hold its shape while roasting, and allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place the olive oil, garlic, anchovies, chopped onion, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and process until you have a smooth paste. (Alternatively, chop everything except the oil to- gether, then mash the mixture in a mortar and pestle until smooth; then incorporate the oil.) Set the paste aside.

Place the onion, carrot, and celery pieces in a roasting pan or a metal baking dish that is large enough to hold the rib roast. Using a flexible spatula, smear the paste on all sides of the roast. Set the roast on top of the vegetables and roast in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Continue to cook to desired degree of doneness, checking the internal temperature of the roast with an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part. It should read 125°F to 130°F for rare to medium- rare. If you would prefer the roast to be medium to medium-well throughout, add a cup of broth to the pan to prevent the vegetables from burning, and continue to cook up to 30 minutes longer.

Remove the roast from the oven and cut the string.

To carve the roast, detach the entire section of rib bones by slicing along the side of the roast against the bone until it is separated. Turn the roast on its flat side and slice across the grain to the desired thickness. Alternatively, you can serve the beef without separating the ribs: turn the roast on its end (vertically), and while holding it steady with a carving fork, carve slices by cutting against the grain with a very sharp knife. Or (probably the easiest way to envision slicing), lay the roast on a cutting board, ribs down, and carve by slicing the ribs apart.

Strain the juices from the pan and serve on top of meat.

Yield: 8 servings

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bruléed Apple Cinnamon Pots de Crème

Most novice foodies tend to shy away from making French desserts at home. They believe French desserts are a luxury enjoyed only when dinning out, or after a trip to the local patisserie. That the taste of sophistication that they carry is something that isn't quite achievable in your Ikea kitchen. Well your wrong!

Novice foodies rejoice. Some of the best French desserts are also the easiest to make and the most pleasing to eat. Lets take for instance Pots de creme, or "pots of cream." They are a rich marriage made from eggs, cream, milk, or half and half, and flavoring (typically chocolate). This mixture is then poured in tiny pots that are covered and baked in, that way ensuring that the custard will not develop a "skin"while baking. Also a water bath is used, allowing proteins in the egg to set slowly, resulting in a thick, silky, smooth texture.

When making Pots de creme, there are a few simple rules you should follow. First off, don't dump the sugar directly onto the eggs and let it sit; this causes the yolks to "burn". Yes eggs can burn. They turn into hard little lumps that interfere with your creamy custard goal, your trying to achieve. Rather then dumping your sugar directly onto the eggs try adding the sugar slowly while moving your whisk, this way, the sugar will be gradually incorporated into the eggs.

Second and most important rule is you must temper your eggs. Tempering is when you slowly add the hot liquid into the cold egg and/or yolks, adding only a little bit of liquid at a time. I bet your asking, Why is this so important? Tempering gradually brings the two mixture temperatures together and keeps you from making scrambled eggs. Think of it this way, would you jump into a bubbling hot jacuzzi or would you ease your way into the tube to slowly adjust to the temperature. The same theory applies to your eggs. Cold eggs need to adjust to the hot temperature, and if they dont then your eggs get shocked and you end up having a sweet scrambled egg soup on your hands.

Thirdly strain your mixture. Straining catches any unwanted burned or scrambled eggs and ensures a smooth, flawless custard, worthy of its French heritance.

So novice foodie next time you feel a craving coming on for French deserts, get out your whisk and set to work, cause with a little imagination, and some Pots de creme slipping across the tongue like satin, Paris not that far off! Enjoy!

Bruléed Apple Cinnamon Pots De Crème
yeilds 6 servings

1 medium to large Granny Smith apple,
peeled, core, and cut into cubes (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 tbls unsalted butter
2 tbls sugar
pinch of cinnamon
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 ground cinnamon
6 large egg yolks

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325F. Coat six 5oz ramekins lightly with non stick spray. Place ramekins in a large baking or roasting pan and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add apples and sauté for 2-3 min until they begin to soften. Sprinkle 2 tablespoon sugar and the pinch of cinnamon on top of the apples and continue to cook for another 4 minutes or until they begin to brown. Remove skillet from heat and divide apples evenly into the custard cups.

In a medium saucepan combine cream, milk, cinnamon and 1/4 cup of sugar. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and remaining 1/4 of cup of sugar until blended. Gradually whisk about one third of cream mixture into egg mixture. Whisk in remaining cream mixture. Add vanilla. Carefully pour custard mixture through fine mesh sieve into prepared rankings, dividing it evenly.

Place baking pan on oven rack and carefully pour enough hot water into pan so that it comes up the sides of the rankings. Cover pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 40-50 minutes, until custard jiggles slightly and are very shiny. Remove ramekins from the water bath and cool on wire rack for 30 minutes.

Refrigerate pots de crème for at least 3 hours.

Just before serving, sprinkle the top of each custard evenly with a heaping teaspoon of sugar. Using a household butane or propane torch, caramelize the top of each custard by heat the sugar until it melts and turns to a dark amber caramel. Let topping set for 5 minutes before serving.