Friday, November 26, 2010

What to take for thanksgiving?

Our friend and uber hostess Deborah had us over for thanksgiving dinner yesterday. We knew it was going to be a feast but also wanted to make sure we contributed something other than our sparkling wit...

Foods at thanksgiving here in the USA can be rather rich - I didn't want to contribute to richness, but wanted to make something that fit the following:
  • Could be finished at the house anything from 2 hours to 4 after our arrival
  • Would not use a scarce resource (burner/oven)
  • Would not contribute to the richness factor
  • Was really tasty
A somewhat tough challenge until we remembered
  • The crockpot
  • Braising cabbage
  • Pairing apples and braised cabbage
So the decision was easy. Braised red cabbage cooked in the crock pot. Braising red cabbage always (well almost always) uses vinegar, so that definitely damps down the richness factor. So here's the dish we took:
1 head (about 3 lbs) red cabbage, tough outer leaves removed and sliced finely and evenly
3 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and sliced (24 slices per apple approximately)
3 Gala apples treated like the Granny Smiths
2 Medium yellow onions sliced into wedges (about 12 wedges per onion)
6 cloves + 2 broken fried chillies in a small spice bag. (Note I used a piece of cheesecloth and some kitchen twine to make the bag
2T Sugar
1C Cider vinegar
2t salt (more to taste after cooking)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter
Put the sliced apples and vinegar together in the bottom of the slow cooker (mine is a crock pot, btw). The vinegar helps prevent the apples from browning. Add the spice bag, onions, cabbage and the rest of the ingredients. Stir to mix well. Cook on high for at least 4 hours. Low for about 8.

Note we cooked it on high for 1 1/2 hours before we left home, then plugged it in at Deborah's house and cooked on high for a further 3 hours. It may not be salty enough for you, so have some handy.

You may also want to use a little less water, this had a little more liquid than I wanted. Nonetheless everyone seemed to like it.

The rest of the dinner was fantastic - Deborah had a TurDuckHen and it was wonderful. And then a carrot cake was my dessert of choice - and a very good one it was too. Of course the various other dishes played their parts well. I was stuffed. Madame (being more polite than I) was pleasantly full.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fig, honeycomb and greek yogurt

Yesterday evening we had Chef Dave Gilbert over to talk about his adventures as the Exceutive Chef at the American Pavilion in Shanghai. Dave, of course had a ream of pictures, some great stories and he brought me some fantastic oolong teas. But those are another story. We invited our next door neighbors over as well so it was a nice small group.

Main course was a fairly conventional salade nicoise so I won't bore you with those details. Dessert was a little whimsy and fun. The basic ingredients are (per serving)::

1 ripe mission or other whole fig
1T greek yougurt made into quenelles with 2 spoons
1 small 1/4" cube piece of honeycomb
a few drops of kaffir lime infused vodka (left over from the hallow-tini party.) (This would also be nice with cointreau or even a nice sipping rum if you don't happen to have any kaffir lime infused vodka handy).
Some tangerine zest

The pictures here arenot exactly as serverd - I remade the dish this morning to take photos.

Form the yogurt into quenelles using 2 tablespoons
Cut the stem off the fig leaving the top flat. Then cut vertically into quarters, leaving it just still attached at the bottom
Place the honecomb resting against the yogurt, and the fig up against that.
With a pipette draw a small amount of the liquor

Add a few drops of the liquor to the center of the fig.

Drop the rest of the liquor near the yogurt
Sprinkle a little tangerine zest on the yogurt.
Serve immediately

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pavlova Roulade

I got the idea for this from some cooking show that we were watching and realized it could be a bit of a challenge. After all how often do you get to try to roll something like meringue up?
We needed a quick dessert to take to what was going to be a fun party, so what better than to try it? It's the kind of dessert that can be repaired with powdered sugar if necessary. It wasn't even necessary.
The basic idea is, make a meringue base (a flexible meringue not a fully dried meringue), place it in a sheet pan, bake it, turn it out, slather on whipped cream and berries, then roll it up, dust with powdered sugar and it's ready to go.

Ingredients (Meringue)
5 large egg whites at room temperature
8 oz Superfine (caster) sugar
1 tsp vinegar (light coloured)
1 tsp corn starch (cornflour)
pinch salt (not kosher salt), use a fine regular salt

If the eggs are refrigerated, remove from the refrigerator and allow to warm slightly (to a cool room temperature).
Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with foil, leaving about a 2 inch "collar". Grease the foil with cooking spray - or brush on a flavourless oil. Do not use butter here as it has a high moisture count and we don't need more mositure. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
Place the egg whiles in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on medium speed until the whites are broken apart and foamy. Now increase to full speed and whisk to the soft peak stage.
Stir in the salt, corn starch and light coloured vinegar - carefully so as not to deflate the foam.
Whisk on high while adding the sugar until the mixture is smooth and glossy. About 3-4 minutes. It should now be at the stiff peaks stage.
Spread the meringue misture into the prepared foil lined pan.

Bake the meringue in the 350 oven on the lower rack (with no oven stone or pizza stone) for 20-25 minutes - until the exterior is brown and firm, but not hard. make sure you keep an eye on it and don't allow it to get dark. Your oven may read hotter or cooler than mine. If you have a fan-assisted oven then I suspect you will need to drop the temperature by 25 degrees, but I suggest that you experiment for yourselves.
When the meringue is "done", remove the pan from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes, and then turn out of the pan onto a sheet of parchment paper. Carefully peel the foil and allow the meringue base to cool.
Once the base has cooled, whip 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream + 1/4 t of vanilla and a pinch of sugar up to soft peaks. Take care not to over whip, you want it a bit floppy. Spread the cream on the meringue base, taking care to leave the long edge nearest you with a rim of about 1.5 inches with no cream. That's where the rolling will start.
Prepare some berries by hulling and halving them (strawberries) and washing them (any others). Sprinkle a few drops of creme de cassis or rose water over the berries. Spread the berries over the whipped cream.
Roll the meringue away from you, starting with the plain edge. The outside will crack a bit, but that is OK.
Once it is rolled, place on a serving platter, seam side down. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Scatter a few berries on the plate and serve.