Wednesday, January 28, 2009

fancy french eggs and simple french soup

i am obsessed with all things french right now - especially cooking. i am reading two books about french cooking and i just ordered julia child's famous cookbook
"mastering the art of french cooking."

in honor of one of my childhood heroes - hell, present day hero - i attempted two of julia's recipes recently. (did you know she didn't even start cooking, like at all, until she was 36?! f'n amazing.)

anyways, two frenchy recipes a la julia child: oeufs en crocotte and potage parmentier.
aka, fancy french eggs and simple french soup.

first, the eggs.

to start i buttered four ramekins and layered a lil' cheese on the bottom. now, since it was not yet payday and i was low on provisions i didn't have any fancy cheese. all i had was this:

a weight watchers cheese stick that kp left for me a few days back.

it's not gruyere (which i have since used and is absolutely heavenly) but hey - ya' work with what ya' got. so instead of foregoing cheese i cut up a cheese stick. i'm not too proud.

then i cracked an egg right into each ramekin.

then i topped each one with about 1 1/2 TBLs of heavy cream, a lil salt and pepper and the rest of the cheese stick.

i put them in a baking dish and poured boiling water into the dish until it reached about halfway up the ramekins.
a water bath if you will.

then i cooked them in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

man oh man. mmmm. mmmm. mmmm.

again, due to the low provisions i only had two pieces of (almost stale) bread and one was the heel. i gave my guest the whole slice and i took the heel. this was fucking killer. really, really killer. i have made these like 4 times since this virgin voyage. i have used gruyere, blue cheese and i hope to use spinach in the bottom one of these days.

make these eggs now. right now.

on to the soup - potage (not "portage." sheesh!) pamentier.

it's a combo of like the simplest ingredients but it is pretty kick ass when they come together. all you need is potatoes, leeks, water, salt and pepper and a lil' heavy cream. no joke.

so i chopped the potatoes into cubes (skins on) and washed and chopped the leeks.

then they went into my stock pot with like 3 or 4 cups of water and salt and pepper.

this simmered about 45 minutes or so until the potatoes were fork tender. this is at about twenty-five minutes.

once the pots are tender you mash everything in the stock pot with a fork or potato masher. then right before serving you stir in a lil' heavy cream.

i topped the soup with a lil' shredded gruyere and some fresh chopped parsley. we also had some goat cheese so we spread it on some toasted french bread as an accompaniment. délicieux!

since you can't fill up on potage parmentier alone (and the eggs were long gone since we ate them around 9am) we also had a rump roast.

oh man. look at this baby. dumas never disappoints.

mike was in charge of the entree and side dishes (my sole responsibility was the soup) and he rubbed the roast down with salt and pepper and then poked a few garlic cloves into slits all around it.

this went into a 275 oven to roast for several hours. in the meantime he made an awesome sauce with chopped mushrooms and pearl onions.

i'm not sure what all was in there but it cooked on really low heat for a really long time and was freakin' delicious.

we also had a lil' braised cabbage to round the meal out.

all in all last saturday was a culinary delight!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

what baby wants baby gets

i have a friend with a bun in the oven. i wanted to make dinner for her and her lil' bun.

i told her i had two russet potatoes and a bag of frozen peas but it was up to her to pick the protein.

her response, "i can do whatever, though i am shying away from anything that is cooked rare or medium rare right now as i find it unappealing. i'm also a little on the fence with fish, unless it is deep fried, in which case, i'm all fucking over it."

how's about fish 'n chips?

her response, "god i love you. fried fish is my passion right now."

hahaha! fish 'n chips it was!

i spent a few minutes surfing the interwebs since i'd never made fish 'n chips before and in the end went (mostly) with alton brown's recipe.

i stopped by klein's seafood after work and grabbed some cod. through my research i learned cod was the number one choice but haddock would've been the second choice. since klein's is tops they had delightful fresh cod.
here it is after i cut it into smaller pieces.

i rinsed and dried the fish, wrapped it in plastic wrap and kept in the fridge until i was ready to bread and fry. i whipped up the beer batter using a whole bottle of left hand brewing's sawtooth ale. alton suggested a "brown beer" but i thought a nice ale would be good. plus i wanted to drink the other five!

alton suggested safflower oil for frying but i didn't have any of that. i did have some butter flavored crisco though so i melted it down in the single woman's dutch oven. here it is coming up to temperature
(i was waiting for 350 degrees before starting the chips).

alton said to fry the chips in batches just for a few minutes until they were "pale and floppy." yikes! my preggo friend and i agreed that nothing pale and floppy sounded very good but we trusted alton so pale and floppy it was.

i drained the chips and let them cool to room temperature before bringing the oil up to 375 degrees and frying them again. once they were nice and brown i put them on a wire rack/cookie sheet in the oven at 200 degrees to stay warm.

next - the fish. here is my set-up.

i brought the oil back up to 350 degrees. i dredged the cod in flour before submerging it in the beer batter and then it went right in the single woman's dutch oven.

i turned the fillets often to be sure they were nice and brown on all sides. i drained the finished pieces on a wire rack before serving.

and here it is. my first go at fish 'n chips.

see those weird lumpy things to the left of the peas? those were my attempt at hush puppies. although the fish 'n chips were a major victory the hush puppies failed. i don't know. too corn-mealy. better luck next time on those i guess.

me, my friend and her lil' bun enjoyed this dinner while watching ninotchka. what a movie!! great garbo is my latest old hollywood crush. seriously, watch this film. it was excellent!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

je vais tres bien, merci!

we all know that french cuisine is pretty much where it's at. book after book i come across french techniques and dishes that likely taste as beautiful as they sound. the two very best restaurants i ate at in san francisco were french bistros.

portage parmentier, bifteck saute au beurre, puree de pommes de terre a l'ail, boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin. don't all of those sound absolutely amazing? they probably taste wonderful but i have no idea what they are!

well, that is not entirely true. i can use the ol' context clues and photographs and descriptions help as well. but that isn't good enough. i want to KNOW what all of these dishes are just by reading the name.

so, i signed up for a french class. beginning french 101.

so far i can tell you who i am, (je m'appelle erratic epicurean), how i'm doing (je vais tres bien, merci!) and what time it is (il est neuf heure moins le quart).

whew. learning french is difficult. a friend suggested i practice speaking it with fluidity and to avoid sounding guttural. i told her i was guttural by nature but i'd do my best.

now onto something that isn't french but rather italian. spaghetti and meatballs. well, maybe that is more an american spin a la chef boyardee but i'm rolling with it.

i've been eating a lot of spaghetti. why? it is cheap. very cheap. i can cook up some noodles and make my sauce from scratch for less that $5 and eat it all week. do i enjoy doing this all the time? no. of course not. but frugality is climbing higher and higher up on my list of priorities.

so, spaghetti it is. i thought to spice things up a little i'd make some meatballs. mmmmm. i had some ground beef and i picked up some ground pork as well.

some saturday mornings i tune into america's test kitchen on PBS and i learned a little trick regarding moist, delicious hamburgers. i thought i would employ it with meatballs and after surfing the interwebs for a few recipes i discovered that several others were onto this trick - milk.

i mixed up about 1/2 c. milk and 1/2 c. breadcrumbs and put it aside while i chopped some onions and parsley. i added the chopped veggies, the meat and some salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to the thick milky bread mix. then i rolled lil' meatballs.

some recipes fried the meatballs on the stove top in a lil' oil and others baked them in the oven. i decided to try both ways.

i quickly learned that like all frying this caused a mess. a mess i did not feel like dealing with. i stuck the remaining meatballs in the oven.

i made my sauce - you've seen it before - and added about 7 or 8 meatballs to it once they had cooked about 30 minutes in the oven. i kept them in the sauce on low for about 10 more minutes.

then i boiled some acme brand angel hair pasta and toasted a lil' bread and voila!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

old news

i have a lot of catching up to do. for all this remembering i think i'll enjoy the coal porter that old man viper left in my fridge the other night. mmmm.

first things first - short ribs 2.0 part II.

now, you'll remember i braised the short ribs the day before the mini-dinner party for about 2 1/2 hours or so. i took them out of the oven and let them cool before covering them with foil and putting 'em in the fridge overnight.

this is what they looked like the next day.

i skimmed the fat off and cooked them over low heat on my stove top until about 15 minutes before serving them.

in 2.0 - part I i mentioned the pumpkin puree. i decided a pumpkin roll was way too time consuming and way too fattening and a nice soup would be a much better way to use the puree.

in the fall when szalay's was kickin' i picked up some baking pumpkins and roasted them and then put 'em in the food processor to make puree. i froze it in 2 cup increments and they have just been hangin' out ever since.

first i melted a lil' butter and sauteed half of an onion. once they were soft but not brown i added some vegetable broth and brought it to a light simmer. then i got to use my handy, dandy, new immersion blender. (thanks barb!)

once the soup was nice and smooth i put it back on the stove over low heat and added the pumpkin puree, about 1/2 can of coconut milk, more veggie stock and some black pepper. curry would've been pretty kick ass here but i didn't have any. such is life.

right before serving i wanted to stir in some heavy cream to thicken it up and make it really smooth and creamy. but i didn't have any heavy cream and i didn't feel like spending any money so i checked out some substitutes. bless the internets. the substitute of milk and melted butter actually worked pretty well.

here's everything going at once.

i transferred all of the ribs to the dutch oven and strained the sauce from the cast iron skillet. i added the strained liquid back to the skillet and made some gravy.

i put a couple of tablespoons of flour and a lil' milk into a plastic container and shook it up. i added it to the skillet with a lil' beef stock and black pepper and whisked and whisked until it was nice and thick. mmmmmm.

i also grilled some asparagus but those weren't anything to write home about. another lesson learned.

ok. catch-up #1 is done and i need another beverage. this time i'll go with an old standard that just happened to be on sale at acme last week - dogfish head's 60 min IPA.

one of my very favorite friends to eat and drink wine with and discuss food and drink just recently denounced her vegetarianism. i honestly never thought i'd see the day but apparently her love of good food overpowered her veggie spirit. one bite of bacon at breakfast and she was full throttle. woohoo!!

to celebrate her new label-ess eating habits and the sweet bouchon cookbook j. got her for christmas she decided to roast a whole chicken a la thomas keller.

i was so super thrilled to be invited. it was an amazing experience and for her first roasted chicken - pretty damn delicious!!

i was so proud!!

after letting it rest for a while she rubbed that baby down with a stick of butter. now THAT is what i'm talking about. full throttle!

after all this delicious reminiscing the dinner i ate before beginning this post seems a little lackluster.

a pseudo tuna melt, rosalie's leftover cucumber dip and some fresh cauliflower.

still tasty though and i am excited about the ground pork and beef and fresh parsley in my fridge that tomorrow will become what i hope is some delightful meatballs. a big heapin' plate of spaghetti and meatballs with some good toasted bread and a bottle of $3. red wine. mmmmm. perfect comfort food for the arctic zone.

Monday, January 12, 2009

farewell to a friend

i love cooking. i love cooking because i love eating and i love eating because really good food tastes sooooo good. and i know about the good stuff because i have had people in my life who were there to cook good food and teach me how to cook it for myself.

someone who taught me a lot about cooking, eating, grilling and just enjoying good food and drink is my uncle stu-hoo.

i spent a lot of time at my aj and uncle stu-hoo's when i was kid and i remember him cooking. i remember the "kitchen's open dad's cookin'." i remember the tall slender salt and pepper shakers and the molly mcbutter and the "what good happened to you today" dinners. i remember the 'bon apetit' magazines beside his recliner.

he always brought the turkey and stuffing to thanksgiving and as we all grew older he and aj started having monthly sunday family dinners. i casually mentioned pulled pork and one sunday he got up early to slowly grill a pork shoulder all day. a few months ago he dropped off a box of cooking magazines on my porch after i mentioned one day i was thinking about getting a subscription
to one.

i will miss my uncle stu-hoo more than i can even express in words. he was an inspiration and i love that he read and enjoyed this blog.

he was amazing cook and an amazing person and i loved him a great deal, rain

or shine.

good bye stu-hoo.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

short ribs 2.0 - part I

i am having a small psuedo dinner party tomorrow and i'm serving short ribs. i snagged said short ribs from my dad's meat freezer. he bought a 1/2 a cow at the county fair which resulted in a big deep freeze full of beef. for my birthday he said i could raid it and raid it i did. i grabbed three packs of hamburger, a pack of ribeye steaks, shanks, a roast and a pack of short ribs. mmmmmm.

i've made short ribs before but this time i tried a new method based on this recipe and some tips from michael ruhlman's book 'the elements of cooking' (great xmas gift - thanks aunt aggie!).

so i seasoned the short ribs with salt and pepper.

and then i seared them over high heat in a lil' olive oil.

since i have the single woman's dutch oven (which i LOVE but isn't up to snuff for braising seven short ribs. this is my dream oven. sigh....) anyways, i had to use two pans.

before i started any of what i already said i chopped up carrots, celery and an onion. one thing i learned this year - FINALLY - is that is best to have everything you need ready to go before you start.

SO many times i have been a step or two behind but tonight i finally had my shit straight and was able to pay total attention to searing my ribs.

and then all hell broke loose.

i started sauteing the veggies in one pan and still had ribs searin' in the other - the rest of the ribs were over on a platter. after about 7 minutes of sauteing i added half a bottle of wine to each pan. i deglazed the pans and reduced the wine by about half. then i put the ribs back in and added enough beef stock to just reach the top of the meat.

for multi-tasking like this you'll need a nice cold beer. i suggest a christmas ale before it is all gone.

which leads me to my latest idea - i've decided that the holidays aren't over until i can't get christmas ale anymore. i mean, could you part with this tree? i can't.

the recipe i was using said to bring everything to a boil and then put it in a 350 degree oven. but when i consulted "the elements of cooking" i discovered that you should never boil - just gently simmer - and you should not braise in an oven over 300 degrees.

i trusted the latter and put the two pans - covered - into a 300 degree oven and let them go totally unattended for 2 1/2 hours.

this is 2 1/2 hours later.


these babies are cooling on my counter and before i go to bed i'm gonna cover them and put 'em in my fridge. then tomorrow i'm going to skim off the fat and braise 'em for another hour or so.

i'll also be serving some grilled asparagus and a chicken breast which is currently marinating in some fresh rosemary, garlic, a lil' olive oil and the juice of half a lemon for the shitetarian. she is bringing along her new roommate (wink. wink.). those two will be bringing smashed potatoes and homemade tapioca and aNw and kMw will be bringing a lovely salad.

i may attempt a pumpkin roll for dessert since i have some homemade pumpkin puree a la pioneer woman hangin' out in my freezer and a package of unnecessary cream cheese. we'll see.

Monday, January 5, 2009

holidays are done. i'm still bakin' cookies. a baker wannabe's work is never done.

since i have a camera now i figured i'd write a blog. then i realized that this evening was no epicurean delight and really not worth blogging about. but...since i'm not doing anything else....

so, i ran to acme after work for supplies for wednesday and i also grabbed some stuff for my lunch. lettuce mostly. and some carrots (which can also be used on wednesday) and one tiny scoop of dried cranberries. the fixin's for some fabulous salads.

i hate bagged lettuce. it is TOTALLY OVERPRICED and it consists of the crappiest of the greens. the ones that are hanging off and broken and the outermost layers. boo hiss. convenience, perhaps but taste a value, FAIL. it goes bad super fast and if one piece is slimy they all go slimy!

[hops off soap box.]

so i bought this romaine for $1.56.

i rinsed it and then spun it in my salad spinner and dried it on the counter. then i chopped it up and put it in a freezer bag. while doing this i enjoyed a brooklyn black chocolate stout. mmmmmmm. (thanks martini!)

i made myself a salad and i ate the other half of the chicken sandwich i got from lockview earlier in the day at the "the holidays are officially over" luncheon.

then i baked more cookies. cookies. cookies. cookies. i swear i have baked more cookies in the last three months than i have in my entire life.

you! you're going to be the death of me!

these babies are minnesota bound. watch out land of 10,000 lakes. these kick ass cookies are headed your way!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

should old acquaintance be forgot....

well, it's all over. good bye christmas. good bye 2008. on the food front the holidays appear to have been a huge success. my jams, sauces and cookies seemed to go over very well. i made parmesan toasts for my christmas eve appetizer and those were a mega hit (they always are. thanks diane!). then i hooked my family up with a sheet pan of duck fat potatoes and homemade irish cream for their coffee on christmas morning. then today the mother of all holiday dishes - pork and sauerkraut. mmmmmm.

i LOVE pork and sauerkraut. pork, big surprise huh? i woke up several new year's mornings at the barton household to the smell of diane's killer pork and sauerkraut. oh, it was soooooo good. i remember my dad used to make it to but since he doesn't read this i'll go ahead and admit that the barton pork and sauerkraut was much, much better. this year i attempted to recreate it and i think i was pretty damn close.

i headed out to duma's the other day to pick up a kick ass pork roast. man, i love that place. i got a 7 1/2 lb. custom cut pork shoulder for $12. $12!!! they sell t-shirts now that say, "friends don't let friends buy grocery store meat" and my god it is the truth. please, make the drive. pick up some homemade sausage and bacon while you're out there. mmmmmmm.

so the pork roast. big. fantastic looking. i also grabbed two packs of sauerkraut and a 5 lb. bag of russet potatoes and then i had all the elements for what i knew was going to be a killer new year's dinner.

this morning i put salt and pepper on the roast and laid it fat side up in a lovely bed of kraut. i covered it in foil and it cooked at 300 degrees from about 9:00 am to 3:30 pm. my apartment smelled soooooooooooooooooooo good. and the pork just fell apart. happy new year's indeed!

since i had damn near 8 lbs. of pork and 5 lbs. of mashed potatoes i invited some peeps over. we sipped champagne, beers and super potent french roast and pigged out on pork to "the bad news bears" and the mother of all new year's movies, "four rooms." ("there's a big fat needle from god knows where, stuck in my leg, infecting me with god knows what....")

the large salad that aNw brought was just the icing on the cake. the cool, crisp finish to a huge plate of new year's tradition. i like to make a potato volcano and then fill it up with the pork and the sauerkraut and then i stir it all up. oh, that is the only way to eat it. mmmmm.

so i didn't catch the meal early on but i did snap a photo after we all mauled it.

happy new year's! i hope your 2009 is a good one!