Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Cookie Exchange

Madame's mixed doubles tennis team is doing a cookie exchange this week. The rules are that she must bring 2 dozen cookies, and several copies of the recipe. When everyone leaves, the recipes are shared and the cookies divided among the attendees so everyone gets to try some of every cookie. As the household cook (although Madame is actually a better cookie maker!), I am tasked with making the cookies. I suppose it is a punishment for being in a tropical place when everyone else is freezing body parts off.
These cookies use bits of Heath Bar brickle to give them a nice toffee taste. Lots of butter and sugar (of course) and oats to make us think there might be something vaguely healthy nearby.

Ingredients (2 dozen cookies)
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour - sifted with the baking soda
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups oatmeal (not instant)
1 cup zante currants
1 8oz package of Heath Bar brickle

Cream the butter and sugars until they are light and fluffy. Best done in a stand mixer unless you are feeling quite strong. Beat in the egg. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour slowly and mix carefully to incorporate. Add remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
Divide into 3 equal (about 1lb each) pieces. Form each piece into a log about an inch in diameter. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Divide each log equally into 8 pieces. Place 8 pieces at a time onto a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes - until golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet with a spatula, and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dinner theater

Last Saturday, Chef David Gilbert and I cooked for some high powered business women at my house. Madame was of course a guest. It was fun to be able to ask her not to help - at least during the event itself, She, of course, was her usual wonderful self beforehand (setting a beautiful table) and afterwards cleaning up the 48+ glasses, 56+ plates and the various cooking utensils required for a theatrical 4 course meal with appetizers and coffee/chocolates and liqueurs.
For me it was a chance to cook again with my good friend Chef David Gilbert. For him, a chance to trial some dishes that he will use at a later occasion. For the guests, an elegant party where they could let their hair down, have great food and appropriate wines.
The main theme was "modern Thai" although we deviated a bit. Thai cooking is often difficult to pair with wines because the core elements of Thai cooking simply aren't terribly wine friendly. So we used Thai accents on some familiar ingredients and then added some extra flourish.
It's not that easy to completely silence a table of 8 people, just with the presentation of food. But we did. A stunning achievement in the service of the dessert.
Most of what we did can be found at the Beyond The Kitchen (BTK) blog - Dave's online location for his cooking, eating and travel experiences. However there are a couple things that didn't make it there.

The first is the wine pairings - I mentioned them in the BTK piece, but didn't show them, so here they are:

  • The first course had the Gewurtztraminer - since the soup had the sweetness of some roasted garlic, we wanted to make sure the wine didn't fight with it.
  • For the scallops, a bone dry Sancerre did the trick
  • For the beef a well aged Haure Cotes de Beaune worked well. It had lost its youthfull fruit (such as it was!), and had developed into a mature long, slightly leathery wine that developed beautifully as it opened up. 
  • For dessert, the Ume blanc from Japan. A low alcohol (around 7% v/v) it, again exhibited the sweetness required for the dish.
 Many of the dishes used kaffir (Thai) lime leaves. We have had a kaffir lime tree for almost 10 years - so much so it feels like a family pet now. It gets cold here in the winter, so he has to come inside. However, he is getting to be a bit tall. At over 8feet now, he is going to have to be cut back next year.
In the BTK post, I mentioned the torchon of foie gras. Here it is in the circulator getting its 20 minutes of warmth.
The parsnips were also done in the circulator, so here they are coming up to temperature.
Last but not least, the beef roulade - also in the circulator.
The temperature of 50C is the upper end of the range for ensuring that the meat tenderizes. It comes out pretty unappetizing looking on the outside, so needs to be seared. The results can be seen on the BTK blog.