Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Impressing the Colleagues

I had folks from work over last Friday night. Why I feel like I have to make that even more spectacular, I'm not sure - but I did. I ended up with a French-ish menu (something that I could do while working most of the day).

Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Roasted Beets
Apricot Tart

I went with an easy salad so I could get it done quickly. I roasted the beets in foil for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, pulled them out and left them on the counter. After they cooled, I ran them under water and wiped the skins off - totally easy. If I were really on top of it, I would have done the aoli afterwards and used the lemon to get the beet dye off my skin (it wasn't that bad anyway because I was under the water). I did my usual mustard, balsamic, olive oil and spices dressing.

I was a bit disappointed in the bouillabaisse. I used Anthony Bourdain's recipe - and this is seriously the first non-fantastic experience I've had with his Les Halles cookbook. I think part of the problem with fresh direct (moldy garlic, so I subbed with the jar stuff I keep in the fridge for emergencies, but...) but the second part was the direction that I most hate in all of cooking (cover with water -- do these people not realize that stuff floats in water and what does cover mean, just cover? mostly up to the top? etc.) Anyway, the fish and everything was great, but the broth didn't have the flavor I was hoping for (I think it was too watery (see above), because the complexity was there, but the power wasn't)) - but it was probably my fault and I probably will try the recipe again, just with a little more oomph. I also didn't have the greatest luck with the aoli (hand held 'food processor', huge garlic cloves (ended up with three egg yolks instead of one (basically I tripled the recipe), etc.) So, everyone still raved, but I didn't love it.

The tart was amazing - and potentially the EASIEST thing I have ever made. Basically you mix sugar and butter, add a little vanilla and almond, add a bit of flour, push it out on the pan - throw a couple of things in with the creme fraiche and halve the easiest fruit ever (the practically tear themselves in half). It seriously could not have taken more than 10-15 minutes for a truly amazing tart. I will make this again. Definitely!


Tonight I made dinner for my book club. I've never put together such an incoherent menu before - but it was just all stuff I really wanted to eat, so that's what we had. And luckily, everyhting was good enough that the invitees were happy as well.

Le Menu
Twice Baked Goat Cheese Souffle
Ropa Vieja
Rhubarb Strawberry Pie

Seriously - there is no logic that you can draw to this menu.

I like a first course salad and this sounded good. It was actually pretty easy to do - if I hadn't been running extraordinarily late. But still, not that bad. It was all eaten - even by the folks who don't like goat cheese (2/7). The thing to remember about this one is when they say that the you bring the roux+milk to a 'boil', you have to remember that it's already practically a solid (so interpret 'boil' loosely).

I've been craving Ropa Vieja. And it's pretty easy - just a little time consuming. I braised in the morning while working. The rest of the stuff was just some (very) easy chopping and then throwing stuff together. Seriously, this is a cheap and easy dish (I served 7 (including seconds for most) and have left-overs (plenty of left overs)).

And every weekend, I drive by the farmers' market and say that I should stop and get rhubarb and strawberries. And I finally made the pie (though it was fresh direct (with not exactly the freshest rhubarb (I had to throw half out))) and it was fantastic!! I had to change from Elise's recipe a bit - I forgot tapioca (used 3T of cornstarch instead, someone in comments said 1T cornstarch + 1T flour wasn't enough, my mom suggested 6T (but I don't love cornstarch), so I compromised with about 3 (maybe closer to 4)), I forgot orange (no substitute) and used a Crisco crust instead of butter (I don't have a food processor, so the butter crust, while very appealing - seems impossible).

So, fabulous meal - just not really a Martha-type coherent menu. Everyone enjoyed though, so what else do you want.