Thursday, January 29, 2009

Orange and White Chocolate Mousse with Cocoa and Pistachio Tuiles

I hadn't made tuiles since I was at Culinary School, so I couldn't be happier about this month's Daring Bakers challenge! Tuiles can be a little tricky to make and they're all about timing. Once you take them out of the oven, you really have to act quickly as they will become too rigid to mold in a matter of seconds. I decided to make mine with a hint of cocoa (mostly for color) and sprinkled the sides of each circle of batter with chopped pistachios. I then rolled them into little cigars and served them alongside a orange white chocolate mousse.

This month’s challenge was brought to us by Karen at Bake My Day! and Zorra aka Kochtopf at 1x umr├╝hren bitteRecipe

Cocoa and Pistachio Tuiles
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces all purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons of cocoa powder
A handful of pistachios, chopped

Cream the butter and powdered sugar together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the egg whites and vanilla and beat until just coming together. Add the flour and cocoa to the butter mixture and mix until incorporated. Do not overmix. Use right away or store in the refrigerator, taking it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it.
Cut out two 4 inch round stencils in a piece of card stock paper and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread a little of the batter over the stencils, carefully lift the card stock paper, and bake 5-8 minutes at 350F until the edges are just starting to get crispy.
Shape the tuiles as soon as they come out of the over. Roll them and leave to set, sealed side down.

Orange and White Chocolate Mousse
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 cups unsweetened whipped cream
1/2 cup melted white chocolate

Melt the white chocolate and set aside. In a stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water, combine the egg yolks, Grand Marnier, sugar, and orange zest, and whisk to incorporate. Whisking constantly and removing from the heat from time to time, cook until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon into a sabayon, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
Fold the whipped cream into the cooled sabayon, then fold in the melted chocolate.
Leave to set in the fridge for at least 4 hours and serve. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Grilled Fennel and Goat Cheese Salad

I've had a bit of a love affair with fennel in the past couple years. Many have turned it down considering it a second rate vegetable. As recently as last week I was asked "How can you like its anise flavor, it's so overpowering?" I think I slightly blushed. I sometimes have a whole fennel bulb for lunch, sliced in paper-thin slices, and lightly drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Does that make me weird? I think it might, but regardless, I stand by my vegetable. Fennel tastes differently when it's eaten raw, grilled or roasted. If you're not big on the anise flavor, enjoying fennel grilled is a good way to go.. and with goat cheese too, it's really hard not to like.

Recipe, serves 4 (adapted from Donna Hay)
1 small fennel bulb, cut lengthwise
1/2 goat cheese log, cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
A handful of mache
1 tomato, sliced

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Slice the fennel lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices taking care to keep it intact. Drizzle with olive and the dried oregano and season with salt and pepper. Lay out on parchment lined baking sheet. Cook for 5 minutes. Take the fennel out and turn on the broiler. Add 2 to 3 slices of goat cheese on each fennel piece and return the baking sheet to the oven. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the fennel is soft and the goat cheese nicely golden brown. Serve atop of the mache and sliced tomatoes. Drizzle with extra olive oil, salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shrimp Gratin with Panko Bread Crumbs, Lemon and Rosemary

You know how people tend to talk about the weather when they have nothing to really say to one another? In Montreal, talking about the weather is more like talking about a secret society that every person in the city is a part of. It's been bitterly cold here in the past couple days: the kind of cold that makes your eyelashes water and then freeze. The cold is not particular sexy either, and is really not the best time for street interactions. I caught myself laughing today as I looked up onto one of Montreal's busy streets only to see a dozen bright red faces ahead of me, all of them looking down at their shoes, with over-sized mittens, snow shoes and scarfs, yet holding their regular sleek briefcases or leather purses. It was quite the scene.

My mother had called me a couple days ago, complaining about how cold it had been in Paris. I don't think you know cold until you've experienced Montreal cold though! However, cold and bitter days such as these force you to catch up on warmth whenever you can. My kitchen has been full of steaming hearty goods, and meals that make you appreciate being home. This shrimp gratin surely warmed up the night. The recipe, which is Ina Garten's, uses a lot of butter, and I am already thinking of ways to make the dish next time to cut down on some of the fat. Nonetheless, this was a delicious and easy meal, made complete by a bowl of steaming white rice.

Recipe (serves 6)
2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1/4 cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 extra-large egg yolk
2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
Lemon wedges, for serving
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Brownies with Caramel Creme Fraiche

I remember trying to make brownies as a child with my mom and it being a total disaster. Well, that might be a bit of an over-statement... it's hard for baked chocolate and sugar to turn out horribly wrong, but they were dry, overly rich and just not very good. Maybe it was the French in me at the time.. I really didn't grow up on brownies and didn't really know what to look for when I was making them. When I bought the Baked Cookbook a couple months ago and saw their recipe for what they say are the best brownies in the world, I knew it was time to give these beauties another try. I'm glad I did because they were absolutely delicious and are now high on my list of best brownies out there. I served them warm with caramel creme fraiche and they were a wonderful treat.

Recipe (makes 24 brownies)
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces of dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon of instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13 inch glass or light colored metal baking pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder.
Put the chocolate, butter, instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan and let the mixture come back to room temperature.
Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or the brownies will become cakey.
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk) fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.
Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies kept at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Caramel Creme Fraiche:
A good dollop of creme fraiche
A couple teaspoons of liquid caramel sauce
Mix the caramel sauce to the creme fraiche and serve over the warm brownies. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Leaving 2008 with Plenty of Good Food

Here are 6 of my favorite recipes made in 2008 - it was definitely a good food year! I attended culinary school in New York City a year ago almost to the day and have since dedicated my professional career to two of my greatest passions: food, and photography. Let's hope 2009 brings many more great culinary finds!

I also want to let all of you know that the 2008 Food Blog Awards are open until tomorrow 23h59 EST so don't forget to vote for all your favorites!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Tomato, Feta and Olive Mille Feuilles

First of all, I must apologize for my lack of posts these past few weeks. Between Venice, Paris and the South West of France I had grand plans of posting many recipes and accounts of my holiday adventures but things didn't quite happen as planned. For all of us who spend quite some time trying to get the 'perfect' food photo, we know that a lot of elements must be reunited at once to make that happen: good food of course, an idea of how the given dish will look its best, a good dose of natural light but mostly time! Not to worry though, I have now filled my culinary curiosity and have plenty to tell. I am now back, ready to start the new year with many more recipes!

This first recipe is a fresh tomato and cheese 'mille feuilles'. My mother had picked up food at a lebanese take-out restaurant and came back with this wonderful red and white mille feuilles, as well as a myriad of stuffed vine leaves, tabouleh, hummus and other treats. And while conversations were animated around the table, the only thing I could concentrate on was how I would try I recreate the dish at home. I think my concoction does the trick! The mix of the goat and feta cheese produces a texture that is both creamy and crumbly. The end result is a beautiful, fresh, intricate dish, although it is deceptively rich so serve in small quantities.

Recipe (6 people)
5 roma tomatoes
50 grams of creamy goat cheese
50 grams of creamy feta (use a good quality feta, stored in liquid)
1/2 lemon, zested
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
10 kalamata olives, pitted
A handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the tomatoes into paper thin slices and lay them out on paper towels to suck up excess moisture. Cover with extra paper towels and press down gently. In a bowl, mix the goat cheese, feta, olive oil and lemon zest. Mash with the back of a fork until the mixture seems smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Finely chop the olives and basil together and reserve. Line a small square dish with plastic wrap making sure to leave excess wrap on the sides of the dish (you will need it later to cover the mille feuilles). Line the bottom of the dish with a tight layer of tomato slices. You may need to cut some slices to fill in gaps. Add a second layer of tomato making sure to create an even layer. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Break half of the cheese mixture into little knobs and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Add another layer of tomatoes over top and push down using your fingers to smooth out the cheese layer underneath. Add the olive mixture and the rest of the cheese. Top with another two layers of tomatoes, pushing down on the tomatoes as you go. Add the remainder of your tomato slices making sure to gently push down. Fold in the excess plastic wrap and tightly pack. Gently weigh down with canned goods or baking beans and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Gently remove the plastic wrap and invert onto a serving platter. Cut using a serrated knife and serve with a green salad and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy!
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