Mackenstein

31 10 2008

Or, The Modern Procheesius

Just in time for Halloween, I smacked together a jumble of Ingredients That Needed To Be Used and called it Macaroni and Cheese.

Tillamook Cheddar?  Good.  Chorizo?  Good.

Which it was.  Only I didn’t have macaroni, so I used twirly pasta instead.  And I also threw in some chopped up chorizo, because hog+cheese=good things.  And some peas, because I was going to serve them on the side, but then decided I didn’t want to get another pot dirty.  But I did take the time to make Béchamel, and I used 100% Tillamook cheddar, just because I could (and because the damn refrigerator still hasn’t been fixed and I’ll be really upset if I have to throw Tillamook away).

Normally, when I make Macaroni and Cheese, I make fresh breadcrumbs, toss them with a little butter, and use that to top the gooey cheesy deliciousness.  Being Cuisinart-less, I resorted to using boxed breadcrumbs, which, in retrospect, was a mistake.

Don't call it casserole!

Still, it tasted homey, and was the perfect meal for yet another cold, rainy night.  The chorizo gave little bursts of smoky goodness, and the peas kept us from feeling like total pigs.  In fact, Nick gave me an engagement ring over a very similar meal almost exactly four years ago.

Happy Nevada Day!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: Félibrée

30 10 2008

For my second post in the (hopefully) ongoing French beer series, I will be spotlighting an organic beer called Félibrée.

Félibrée

Brewed in the Dordogne region using organic hop flowers, this beer is produced in small batches that apparently have a tendency to vary.  The one I tasted had a light bitterness set off by a hint of acidity on the finish.  It is unfiltered and unpasteurized, which adds to the handmade feel of the beer.

Nick commented that it tasted a bit like a homebrew he once made.  I concurred.  Félibrée definitely has that homemade quality.  It is by no means a perfect beer, but somehow that adds to its charm.  If I wanted a sterilized, predictable macrobrew, I’d have a Kronenbourg.  Like anything, when you start mass-producing beer, you lose a certain amount of character in favor of putting out a consistent product.  The slight flaws in the Félibrée (a little too sour, a little funky smelling) render it endearing and charismatic in a way that a technically perfect beer can never be.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





The Winter Squash Saga, Part II: Dessert

28 10 2008

As I promised yesterday, I’m back today with the winter squash, orange, and sage dessert.  I initially liked the idea of using these ingredients in a dessert because it seemed like more of a challenge.  Sage, in particular, is not usually used in sweets and I thought I could do something interesting with it.

Warm, fragrant, and fuzzy, sage is the freshly laundered blanket of the herb family.

The squash part was easy.  Winter squash-based sweets abound: pumpkin pies, cheesecakes, muffins, and even pancakes feature on menus everywhere this time of year (well, not in the southern Hemisphere, I guess).  In my first restaurant job I was given a recipe for butternut squash flan.  I thought it was a great idea, but the stupid thing never worked right.  My theory was that if we had just put a thin layer of caramel in the bottom of the molds, like you’re suppposed to when you’re making flan aka crème caramel, they would have come out beautifully every time.

The correct way to make crème caramel

So I did just that.  I also reduced the amount of cream in favor of milk (not something you’ll hear me say very often), because traditionally, crème caramel is the lightest of the baked custards and made using only milk and whole eggs.  Plus, I wanted that lighter texture.  I think it balances the richness of the caramel and helps to make more of that delicious sauce you get when you finally unmold the dessert.  I snuck some of the orange butter into the caramel to play up the orange flavor in the squash (I reserved some from the lasagna and puréed it using my beloved immersion blender).

Water baths are not a big deal.

After a short spell in the oven, their custards were ready.  I prefer mine just-set, by which I mean barely holding together.  Feeling pleased with my success so far, I left the custards in the fridge to chill overnight.

“But what about the sage?”  You must be wondering.  In one of those flashes of inspiration, it came to me.

Read the rest of this entry »





The Winter Squash Saga, Part I: Lasagna

27 10 2008

Acorn squash, orange, and sage.  These are the ingredients for the November Royal Foodie Joust chez The Leftover Queen.  Luckily for all of us residing outside the United States, it was deemed appropriate to substitute any orange-fleshed winter squash.  I thought I’d use a patidou, but they seem to have disappeared from the markets.  Ah, well.  Potiron is plentiful and cheap, not to mention tasty.

A hunk of potiron

But what to do with it?  The combination of winter squash with orange sounds good, ditto with sage.  All three together, however, pose a bit more of a challenge.  It’s not exactly an intuitive pairing.  After a good amount of brainstorming, I had come up with two good ideas, or so I thought.  I ultimately rejected the homemade pork-sausage-stuffed acorn squash, not only because of my change in squash, but because it seemed a little too obvious.  Sure, it would be delicious, but I wanted something unique.  The other idea, for a dessert, did come to fruition, but that’s tomorrow’s post.

Somehow, while wandering through the market, basking in the glory of the new fall produce, a new dish began to take shape in my head.  We had picked up some Swiss chard, and after getting some preparation tips from Chez Loulou, I was excited to try my hand at some fresh chestnuts.  (A brief aside: I learned this weekend that while chestnuts are most commonly referred to here as “marrons,” the correct word for edible chestnuts is “châtaignes.”) 

Fresh chestnuts, pre-roasting

Nick mentioned lasagna somewhere along the way, in reference to something else entirely, and all of a sudden it fell into place: Orange-roasted squash lasagna with chestnuts and Swiss chard!  A little Béchamel sauce and Gruyère to pull it all together… this is going to be fantastic!

Lasagna is hardly a quick-and-easy dish, and this was a project, for sure.  Roasting and peeling the chestnuts, trying to find the right balance between orange and squash flavor, making the sauce, grating the cheese… you get the idea.  The approach I took was a relaxed one, doing one component at a time, stretching the prep out over the course of the day.  You could go the other way, roasting the squash and chestnuts simultaneously while cooking the chard and Béchamel, but since I cook on schedule all week at work, I prefer a leisurely pace when I’m cooking at home.

the Microplane.

Besides, cooking the slow way leaves plenty of time to take copious notes, not to mention innovate along the way.  While the pumpkin was in the oven, I decided to use the orange zest to make an orange butter with which to baste the squash.  I liked it so much that I ended up using it in the dessert, too.

Mini onion piqué

Béchamel sauce makes not-uncommon appearances in my kitchen, so that was no problem.  Combined with sautéed Swiss chard, fresh sage, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, it made a scrumptious, creamy dish that could easily stand alone.

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Chicken’s in the Microwave, Beer’s in the Freezer

24 10 2008

No, it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds.  The microwave is a nice, compact, heat-retaining place to keep things warm.  Like the roast chicken I just bought down at the butcher.  (It was the last one of the night!  Lucky me!)  And the fridge/freezer still isn’t working properly, so the freezer is the place to put things you want to keep really cold.

Well, it’s Friday once again, and I wanted to find some awesome YouTube video that perfectly sums up my week (haven’t found it yet) or make a nifty food-related playlist for you all to enjoy over the weekend.  However, I am supposed to be hard at work writing recipes and editing photos for a monster post scheduled for Monday.  (Oh, it’s going to be good, believe me.)  But instead I am going to leave you with this little game, only food related in its title, but just as addictive as wasabi peas.





Stranded on a Desert Island…

22 10 2008

…with only 5 non-native ingredients!  Hope tagged me with this little exercise in restraint a while back, and I have probably WAY overthunk it by now.  The rules are as follows:

You are stranded on a desert island for an indefinite amount of time.  You can bring along five food items and are allowed one sentence to justify your decision.  It is an island so assume plentiful fish, coconuts, and sea salt.  Storage is not an issue, as you also have a large solar powered refrigerator.  Play along, tag who you want, and link back!

My thought process was long and convoluted.  The pastry chef in me insists on sugar and flour, but then I think that maybe I can figure out a way to get palm sugar out of the trees.  Luckily I like coconut, and coconut water is such a refreshing drink.  Then I start thinking about savory foods, and the ingredients that I use the most.  Onions and bacon immediately spring to mind.  Not sure I can live without tomatoes, and then it occurs to me that I need dairy!  What would I do without butter, cream, and cheese?  Though maybe I should be thinking about what goes well with fish.  Chili peppers and lime for ceviche and fish tacos?  Where am I going to get tortillas, though?  Got to have a starch, then, too.  Potatoes and rice are both so good and versatile.  Is bread allowed?  I’m really digging on winter squash lately, but that happens every year around this time.  I might get tired of it if it was all I had.  And it went on like that for several days.

At long last, I have settled on my list.  (Ask me next week and it could be completely different.)

1. Onions – Can’t cook without them, plain and simple.

2. Cream – So many uses on its own, plus it can be turned into butter or cheese!

3. Smoky, peppery bacon – It’s great with seafood, and a life without hog fat may not be worth living.

4. Potatoes – They’re just so much more comforting than rice.

5. Eggs – Fried, baked, boiled, scrambled, deviled, meringue, sabayon, hollandaise…  Mustard seeds – That way I could make my own mustard as well as grow some delicious greens!

Judging from my final list, I’d say France is the right place for me.

Now for the tags.  Cathy and Jody from Where’s My Damn Answer? because they visit often and leave comments, which I love.  Gloria from Cookbook Cuisine, because she posed a similar question a while back.  And Trisha from The Zest, because I think she’s a pretty creative cook.  Of course, feel free to play along even if I didn’t tag you, and for those of my readers without blogs, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: Étoile du Nord

21 10 2008

France is not known for its beer.  This is not without reason – most French beers pale in comparison to those of its neighbors to the North, East, and West.  Belgian beers are quite easy to come by in French bars and grocery stores, while German and English beers are less common.  So when Nick announced that he had found a beer storethe other day, I was mainly excited to get my hands on some Spaten or Newcastle. 

While many of the beers in stock were Belgian, they tended to be the less common ones, so we stocked up on small batch Gueuze and Lambic before perusing the other offerings.  No Spaten or Newcastle, but they did have a wide selection of German Hefeweizen and a handful of French craft beers.  We decided to pick up a few of these, to see if French microbrew was anything like its counterparts abroad.

The first one I was drawn to bore the name Etoile du Nord (North Star) and I picked it up because of the words “Bière blonde houblonnée” meaning “hoppy blond beer.”

Etoile du Nord

If there’s one type of beer I miss, it’s the highly hopped microbrews of the Pacific Northwest.  I was hoping to get a little of my fix with this beer.  And I wasn’t hugely disappointed.  When poured, this beer had a very large head, but once you got down to the golden liquid, it had a distinct hoppy aroma and the mildly spicy flavor of fresh hops.  If this is what French microbrewers have to offer, I’m intrigued.  I can’t wait to get out there and start trying some more.

The topic of French beer came up in a discussion over on she eats, which is what got me thinking about doing a series on French beers.  I hope to post periodically about small-batch French beers that I think are worth drinking.  K, since you asked so nicely, here you go.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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