Friday, December 30, 2011

Cauliflower Bacon Gratin

Cauliflower gratin and Tricia's creme brulee.  What more could you ask for over the holidays ?  Perhaps Dorie's delicious duck that Nana prepared for Christmas dinner......not to mention a specialty cheesecake from the local "Nuns of New Skete".  An adventure for sure ~

Per Tricia:

While many Doristas have browsed the French Fridays Cookbook
and made dishes in addition to the "selectees", I have barely
been able to make the ones selected each week and have not
strayed. Except for the cauliflower recipe, which I spied when we did
 the potato gratin and promptly made.  Over and over again. 

 It is a family favorite and perfect for the holidays anywhere,
 but especially in Vermont where it has been snowing just enough
 to add the perfect atmosphere
 (in lieu of providing enough to ski......). 

We enjoyed our "Feast of 7 Fishes" for Christmas Eve dinner, 
 but Nana decided to make the lovely duck recipe from FFWD
 for Christmas dinner.  It was delicious !

I also played catch up and made the creme brulee after picking up my
ordered creme brulee dishes at the JK Adams Kitchen Store. 
 I snapped a few photos of the outside after the fact as I forgot to take
 a camera inside when I picked up the dishes.  The store is a real
treat and if anyone ever makes it to south west Vermont, I
would definitely suggest a visit. 

 The first time we visited the area we drove past this industrial building
on the side of the road that surprisingly had a sign indicating there was
 a "kitchen store" in there somewhere. I got immediately excited- even
though I did not recognize that label, I could "tell it was interesting".

They have lovely goods, amazing gourmet food supplies and an
observation booth where you can look out over the manufacturing
floor in the back of the headquarters.  I since found their products as
I travel all over and have come to have a ridiculous amount of  pride
(which I am not technically not supposed to have) when doing so. 

Last note on the creme brulee -the taste was amazing and the
 boys got to do the torch.  I was hesitant and they were over the moon
 to see such a gadget.  I will be hiding it when we return to PA...... 

And now, the cheesecake. 

The nuns of New Skete are located in Cambridge, NY.
The monks have a monastery nearby.

It is about 45 from where we were in Vermont and somehow I have
 not gotten over there before.  But this time was different.

It was an adventure and did not disappoint. 
The cakes have been written up in the Rachel Ray
 magazine and other places. They also offer fruitcakes but holidays
 or not, we were not going there. The nearby monks of New Skete
 are the ones famous for their work with dogs and German Shepherds
in particular. It is funny because I bought their hardcover book years
ago in my local Costco, "How To Be Your Dogs Best Friend",
and it felt surreal to be standing at the actual monastery.

 The nuns ship the cheesecake but the real adventure
is showing up (if you can) as they have an honor system
after hours. We were lucky enough to visit when it was open
 so we could buy other goodies as well.

 The "deluxe" cheesecake is plain and it was delicious, though  I have
not met a cheesecake that I did  not like. It is a sweeter version with
a very thin crust which more closely resembles a sugar cookie than a
graham cracker.  Hope everyone enjoyed their own holiday goodies. 

 Happy New Year from Nana and I !!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee is one of our favorites and this French Friday gave us the opportunity to try it at home !

Per Nana:

Many years ago Tricia gave me a creme brulee set with ramekins
that included a kitchen torch.  I thought about using it a few times
 but just never got around to it.  I think that I was afraid to use the
torch for some reason and put it away with all the other
collectibles in the basement.
I was very happy to see creme brulee as one of the selections 
 for December.  However, finding butane fluid became a problem. 
 I tried a lot of various stores, William Sonoma, drug stores where
 cigarettes are sold, etc. and  all of them telling me to go
 to Walmart.  I don't know why this is so difficult to locate, but, viola,  
Walmart had four.  One for me and one for Tricia. 
 I left two for anyone planning on making creme brulee
this happy holiday season.

Dorie's version of creme brulee is a little different
since she uses a jam or jelly base before pouring the
 pudding into the ramekin.  My choice was a little
marmalade, but I did not taste it in the final results.
For the sugar topping I used raw sugar.

After doing this first set, I was on a roll.  
Hubby loved it, so not wanting to waste the rest of the
heavy cream, I decided to try the recipe that came with the set. 
 This called for only cream, less vanilla, and more egg yolks. 

This was equally delicious, and at this point, I think it
 is just a matter of taste on the individual's part. 
Now that I have mastered the kitchen torch,
I wonder if Tricia and her family would like
Baked Alaska for Christmas dessert.  

Per Tricia:
Yes, please !
So far my only contribution to this week has been to taste test
numerous versions of Nana's creme brulee.  She was on a roll indeed
and I have gained at least 5 pounds from her fantastic creations ! 
 My creme brulee will be coming for holiday dessert as we
 are on our way up to Vermont again to celebrate and I have
6 creme brulee dishes waiting from me at a lovely little
kitchen shop who special ordered them for me. 
 It is actually a retail shop located at the "JK Adams" woodworking
 company whose company headquarters is in a small Vermont town. 
They are famous for their carving boards that are sold all over
 the world and by such retailers as Crate and Barrel, LL Bean, etc.
They have  an amazing "cooks store" and I put a few ramekins
on order at Thanksgiving.  I will take photos of this neat shop
when I pick them up tomorrow and post them later, but for now
 I wanted to get Nana's results posted before we head out.
PS- when my younger son's reaction was priceless when he found
creme brulee a la Nana sitting in the fridge.  His eyes popped open
and he turned around slowly, asking "can I"?
He loves this treat as much as his mother, who had it more times
 than she is going to admit while visiting France :)
Happiest of Holidays to Dorie and all the Doristas !!!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Potato Chip Tortilla

A day late and an ingredient short....
Once again Nana has made it in before the deadline while I spent last Saturday cooking the pork (was to be posted by last Friday).  I beleive this is going to be the holiday trend of playing "catch up" around here.  But I have been enjoying the early results of Nana's cooking - especially the creme brulee, which we will post on another French Friday !

***(update- I "caught up" this morning and added the results to the bottom of this post......)

Per Nana :

I had to make this potato chip tortilla just to prove
to myself that it wasn't as wacky as it sounds.

The recipe is extremely simple and using the chips makes
 short work of the traditional Basque tortilla.

After mixing the eggs with the rest of the ingredients,
 I added this to the potato chips and stirred.
I did think the mixture was a bit too thick so I
added an additional egg which really helped.


The cooking method was nice, starting on top of
the stove and finishing the tortilla under the broiler.  
I was pleased with the results, and hubby and
 I both enjoyed it.  

As far as I'm concerned, the flavors were perfect. 
 I will definitely do this one again.

Per Tricia:
Chard-stuffed pork roast anyone ? 
 Nana's results were so beautiful (and delicious) that
I had to make this one right away, even if I missed
the French Friday deadline. 
I was very curious about all the flavors that were combined
 for the stuffing and also happy to get to use the cardamom
 that does not make it out of the spice drawer often enough.
Raisins and red pepper flakes ? Not a typical combo. 
And just like Nana, I had to use skewers since we left 
our kitchen twine in Vermont. Twine would have been best.
   The flavors were lovely but I mostly came away
 wondering why I do not serve pork roast more often
when I have company- since this was a fairly
 impressive looking dish for very little effort. 
As usual, Dorie inspires us once again. 
 Now to make that tortilla dish for breakfast tomorrow.....

Update- I was not kidding about making it for breakfast.
It was fabulous. You know you are profoundly behind when
you don't even read the recipe to realize it was a quick
 and easy potato chip omelet.  A keeper for sure !

 Prep time !

   Would the chips be covered...they were !
So far so good....
Out of the broiler- yay !
Now on to the creme brulee !  Kidding.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chard Stuffed Pork Roast

Nana made it in before the deadline this week and her results are so delicious that I am vowing to catch up over the weekend - Happy French Friday !

Per Nana:

This week's selection is a winner and will definitely
be added to my collection of recipes.  Hubby and I both
 enjoy pork and the addition of the chard stuffing was delightful. 
I thought the combination of onions, garlic, raisins and
 chard with the added pinch of red pepper flakes was pleasant.  
I considered adding some toasted pine nuts but decided to
 follow Dorie's instructions.  I might try that another time.
As you can see from the pictures, I had to substitute
 skewers for kitchen twine.  With all the planning there is
always something you miss, but the skewers worked just as 
well since the piece of pork was just under two pounds.
I am looking forward to Dorie's suggestion of making a pork
sandwich ( with a little mustard or mayo on seeded rye bread). 
 Sounds delicious, doesn't it? 

Friday, December 2, 2011


Otherwise known as "fluffy mashed potato pancakes".
These were fun to make and fun to eat ~

Per Nana:

I made the matafan for dinner to serve
with Italian sausage and a green salad.
Two russet potatoes baked on a layer of  Kosher salt
 for 1-1/2 hours and then put through a ricer.
 I normally use my microwave for baked potatoes, but I
 followed Dorie's directions and really did enjoy the
way these turned out.  

After mixing all the ingredients together,  I covered
 the bowl and let it rest in the fridge until dinner time.

We liked the texture of the fluffy pancakes,  the flavor was tasty,
and I used a little applesauce on the side.  I think I would prefer
a little bit of onion flavor in these pancakes and I just might
try that sometime.

All things said, this is a nice recipe but next time
I would make blini size pancakes as an appetizer
and serve them with sour cream and caviar.  (Ha Ha)

Per Tricia
We love potatoes in this household it was going
to be a long shot for this recipe to fail. 
While tempted to"nuke" the potatoes, I did follow the
directions and roasted them instead.  I was curious to see
the impact of using a bed of sea salt.   It definitely did
 absorb the moisture - see photo of salt where potato rested.

 The ricer was fun to use as well and between it and
 the whipped egg whites,
 the two potatoes really expanded in volume.

The fried pancakes smelled lovely and tasted great.  They were
 a bit on the plain side but as Dorie suggested, there are a
 myriad of ways to enjoy them.  My husband and younger
son tested them and were very pleased - they immediately
started coming up with ideas on how else to enjoy them,
 including creating an "eggs Benedict" type dish where the
Matafan would be used in lieu of the English Muffins.

  I told them I had to clean the kitchen first......:)

PS- I had to share a shot of the wonderful FFWD corn soup Nana
made over the Thanksgiving holiday. We knew when we
 made it the first time that we would re-do it over turkey day
and it did not disappoint. 

We paired it with plain old grilled cheese sandwiches. 
The key was that I got the bread before I left Philly,
from the "Le Bus" bakery store. 

 It was their "Pullman White" loaf and I can not rave
enough about how this bread works in grilled cheese. 
 My entire family was RAVING about it and declared
the simple meal to be one of the best ones ever.  
And I did not even have to separate egg yolks...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spiced Squash, Fennel & Pear Soup

We are breaking our "code of anonymity" and actually publishing a photo.  Ta da !  In addition to having the Pear Soup recipe this week, Nana and I enjoyed a book signing by Lidia Bastianich at our local Williams Sonoma and we could not resist including it this week. We hope Dorie doesn't mind :)

Per Nana:

I made this soup using an acorn squash that I cut and
roasted as per Dorie's instructions. She mentioned using a
 knife to test for doneness rather than the clock, however
 I had to take mine out of the oven before
the 60 minute timer went off. 
 It was quite well done, and I scooped the meat
 out of the shell instead of peeling it.

At this point, I liked the taste of the vegetable, but the
 combination with the rest of the ingredients just did not work for me.
It is  simple to make. I used my Cuisinart to blend the
 soup and the result was very smooth and creamy.

Unfortunately, the soup was so bland that
 Hubby and I did not enjoy it.  
I decided to share the rest of the dish with Tricia's
family, hoping perhaps it will work for them.
Per Tricia:
I was really looking forward to trying this one -
 just based on it's title.  Love it all. 
But after Nana delivered her pot of soup over here,
 days before I was to try mine - well, you guessed it. 
My incentive to try the recipe went south.
 I decided that if my family enjoyed her soup, I would go
ahead and make a pot myself to work through the recipe.
It was not a hit.  

Mixed results for sure.  I found that when I tasted it
I spent all the time "deconstructing" the flavors in my mouth,
rather than just thinking "this tastes great". 
Could not say that I disliked it, but I also couldn't say
 that I like it very much either.
  My younger son tried the soup and instantly
 turned up his nose after one spoon.  Done.

  My husband has an adventurous palate and declared
 that he liked it very much.  I said that I would then make
 a pot which he responded that I need not go that far.

Nana and I did agree that we loved the texture of this soup.
 We have often commented that we would love to replicate
 various soups we have enjoyed in France, and Dorie
 inspired us this week to get back in the kitchen and experiment.
 That makes it a successful French Friday after all !

And P.S. - I told Nana I would handle the lamb next week  
since another thing we have learned from FFWD is
who does and does not like Cardamom........

Chef Jimmy from Ralph's Restaurant.  His demo was phenomenal and filled the whole store with mouthwatering aromas. The Chicken Trombino was so amazing that we will be loading the car soon enough to head into Philly so we can share seconds with the rest of the family.....
Claims to be the oldest Italian restaurant in Philly. Lidia is a fan and included their Chicken Trombino recipe in her new book, so they were invited to join the book signing. Lucky us !

Thursday, November 3, 2011

20 Minute Honey Glazed Duck Breasts

This was a great introduction to preparing duck for us - simple ingredients, easy prep and quick cooking time.  This recipe was a hit all around ~

Per Nana:

If I submit another blog about not ever doing, tasting 
 or using another item that has appeared in any recipe
 from FFWD,  I will really have all you Doristas wondering
 what I have been doing for 80 years !

That said - I had never tasted duck before.
I truly love it. 
 Hubby has been telling me for years how fatty
and greasy it was when he last ate it (on an airplane???)
 so I never attempted to cook it before.

Over the years (with various failed diets) I have come
to dislike  chicken with a passion.  Thinking this
would be similar, I was not initially enthused. 
Turkey I can handle - once a year, cause I know
there is pumpkin pie at the end.

This recipe, however, is a winner.

After preparing the breast I sliced it and it was quite rare. 
 However, I asked hubby to please try one slice "as is"
and the rest I zapped in the microwave to make everyone happy. 
 (After 57 years of marriage, I have picked up a few tricks)

Surprisingly, we both enjoyed it  rare.  
The sauce was drizzled over the meat
 and it was wonderful.

The preparation was very simple, truly
 fast food, and quite elegant to serve.

Per Tricia:

 As much as I enjoyed cooking this recipe and the
family's raves over the results - I have to share my
 favorite part of this French Friday. 

 Nana ran reconnaissance to secure the duck breast for us
 and that certainly kept us on schedule - ahead in fact. 
My younger son walked in after school and football
find me with the "Dorie book" out and an unidentified substance
on the counter.  "What's that ?"  I responded that it was duck. 
 All of a sudden he got a very confused look on his face
and said - with great alarm- "wait - what day is it ??" 

 Yup - my attempting to complete the recipe on a Wednesday
 had THAT affect on the household.  My second favorite part
 of this dish was that the duck breast came from the company
(D'Artagnan) Nana and I visited in the Chelsea Market earlier this
year - so great memories were associated with that. 
 Yup, this dish was bound to be a winner !

This recipe was everything Dorie said it would be and as usual,
everything behaved as Dorie told us it would.  And boy, was I
glad I used that big iron ware casserole as Dorie wisely suggested
 - that duck did indeed splatter everywhere when cooking. 
My family agreed that this sauce was even better
 than they anticipated.  With the strong ingredients of fresh
 lime juice and balsamic vinegar in the mix, my husband was
 particularly surprised at how well they all complimented each
 other without one overpowering the flavors. 
 I would make this again in a heartbeat - if duck ever goes on sale :)