Musings from a Seattle personal chef
Archive for the 'Recipes' Category
I admire über creative chefs who concoct culinary masterpieces, often from seemingly incongruous ingredients (Grant Achatz and Thomas Keller come to mind). Me? I’m more of a tinkerer. I derive inspiration from others, rarely creating a dish solely of my own design. However, I suppose one could argue original thought no longer exists — we’re all just idea borrowers.
I’ve been doing a lot of tinkering lately, with great success. Inspired by a recipe for baklava with cherries and chocolate, I turned my traditional baklava into a Thanksgiving-worthy delight by adding dried cranberries to the nut mixture and drizzling cranberry-infused syrup on top. Not only did it turn the baklava a rich ruby, it provided a welcome tang to offset the sweetness.
Next up was a sweet strata with panettone, Granny Smith apples, walnuts and cranberries for my monthly “Guinea Pig” gathering. Each month a group of chefs gathers to test out recipes on one another based upon a theme. In keeping with Christmas, we chose red and green food. However, salads were verboten (we had to show more creativity). I originally signed up for a savory dish, but all I could think of was quiche or crépes — both of which I’ve made several times. I then remembered the panettone French toast I prepared for a Christmas brunch last year and decided to give the strata a try. I added a bit of maple syrup to the custard (milk and eggs), tossed it with the cubed panettone, fruit and nuts and baked it for about 45 minutes.
But my greatest achievement? The Elvis ice cream.
When a couple of my friends announced they were preparing a vegetarian meal for our bi-monthly dinner, I thought I’d be funny and try out David Lebovitz’ candied bacon ice cream for dessert (we’re all meat eaters, but apparently they thought a vegetarian meal would be healthier). I bought some thick-sliced Applewood bacon from Whole Foods and followed David’s directions for candying it. No, that’s not entirely true. I overlooked his suggestion to place the bacon on a rack considering American bacon tends to be much fattier than the stuff he gets in Paris. Much of the brown sugar melted off along with the fat. I also left it in too long, resulting in charred sticks of slightly sweet bacon. Mind you, my darling and I still ate it, but it wasn’t good enough to go into the ice cream. I’d have to try again.
Since I had all the ingredients for the custard I started preparing it first thing in the morning to give it plenty of time to chill. As per David’s instructions, I poured half of the half & half in a pan with the butter and sugar, and the rest in a bowl sitting in an ice bath. As I grabbed my ice cube tray out of the freezer I spied my bag of frozen ripe bananas for smoothies. My mind started whirling: bacon and bananas — isn’t that what Elvis liked to eat on his sandwiches? A quick Google search revealed he preferred peanut butter and bananas, but he’d often add bacon as well. I now had my recipe.
I thought about adding dollops of peanut butter to the ice cream toward the end (along with the diced candied bacon and banana bits), but decided to make it a peanut butter ice cream base with the bacon and bananas added in. I stirred in about a half cup of creamy peanut butter to the hot custard until it melted, then whisked that mixture into the half & half in the ice bath. I then let that cool while I went for a run.
As I ran I thought of ways to present the dessert to my friends. I pictured a scoop of ice cream in either a martini or margarita glass, topped with a cookie or sweet wafer to carry out the sandwich theme. But then phyllo came to mind, specifically, large phyllo cups baked in muffin tins. I thought the crisp, buttery phyllo sheets would provide a nice textural contrast to the creamy ice cream. But then it hit me — ice cream sandwiches; duh!
I wanted something rather neutral so the flavors of the ice cream would shine, and I found the perfect foil in butter waffles (they’re basically flat waffle cones). I’ve since tried Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers with equal success (they provide a rich chocolaty flavor without overpowering the ice cream). The true star, of course, is the ice cream.
For my second attempt at candying the bacon, I placed it on a rack and rendered off most of the fat before adding the brown sugar. I also turned the bacon every 4-5 minutes until it was crisp and a deep mahogany. I added both the bacon and the chopped banana at the very end of churning the ice cream (just enough to let it incorporate). After letting the ice cream harden for about a half hour I spread it on the butter waffles and put them back in the freezer until ready to serve.
I loved how each flavor revealed itself. First came the subtle peanut butter, followed by the banana. Then came the smoky bacon with just a hint of saltiness. It was an incredible combination eliciting several “oohs” and “ahs” from my friends.
Of course, just when I was patting my creative bad-ass self on the back I stumbled across two other takes on Elvis ice cream: one with peanut butter, bananas and bacon mixed into chocolate ice cream, and another — from a Seattle ice cream shop, no less — that tops peanut butter and banana ice cream with chocolate-covered bacon.
It’s time once again for Easter decadence. As I wrote last year, I love to make desserts this time of year since there’s always plenty of people to help rid me of leftovers.
While contemplating this year’s concoction, I became inspired when I tried Tom Douglas‘ coconut cream pie at Etta’s. It’s loaded with coconut — in the crust, the pastry cream and in the garnish. The recipe is in his “Seattle Kitchen” cookbook, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. But as always, my brain started revving in overdrive. How could I make it my own?
I then remembered I had a half a bag of almond meal flour in my fridge, left over from a recipe for brown butter rhubarb-almond cake that Bill Gates’ pastry chef prepared when the premier of China came to town. Let’s see, what has almond and coconut? An Almond Joy candy bar, of course!
I figured I could incorporate the almond meal into the crust, along with shredded coconut. I’d then spread chocolate ganache onto the pre-baked crust before filling it with the pastry cream. Tom’s filling calls for regular milk, but I wanted to boost the coconut flavor by using coconut milk. I also added some almond extract to both the crust and the filling. In addition to the toasted shaved coconut, I garnished the top with toasted almond slices and dark chocolate (I found one with coconut bits, but you could certainly use plain).
I think this is about as decadent as it gets!
Continue reading Almond Joy Pie…
This past Christmas one of my clients — a woman VERY particular about how her food should be prepared and presented — decided she wanted popovers with strawberry butter for Christmas Eve brunch (she’s the same client who sent me home with half the foie gras and black truffles from said brunch). She had seen a chef on Martha Stewart prepare gigantic cheese popovers and wanted me to replicate them (she taped the segment so I could see what they looked like. Indeed, they looked delicious).
I’ve never made popovers before (although I did try my hand at individual Yorkshire puddings one year), but they didn’t seem too terribly difficult: mix milk, flour, eggs, salt and melted butter, pour into prepared popover tins, top with shredded gruyere and bake until puffed and golden brown. Normally I’d practice beforehand, but I didn’t have a popover pan, nor did I have much extra time given my marathon training. I’d just have to hope for the best.
When I downloaded the recipe off of Martha’s site I decided to check out the reviews. Practically all of them were negative; most people said the popovers turned out doughy and didn’t rise that much. This wouldn’t do! I then compared that recipe to others, including one in Baking Illustrated (I always trust the folks at Cook’s Illustrated). Martha’s recipe was for 12 popovers and called for 4 cups each of flour and milk and 8 eggs. The BI recipe called for just 1 cup each of flour and milk and 2 eggs for 6 popovers. Given the disastrous results so many people had with Martha’s recipe, I decided I’d take a chance and prepare the BI one, doubling the recipe.
As I was in the thick of things during the brunch I started to get nervous. I know how important my client’s Christmas Eve brunch with her family is, so I didn’t want to disappoint. I had considered fessing up to using a different recipe, but decided against it. I just prayed everything worked out.
Martha’s chef had you pour the batter to the top of the popover cup, so I did the same (even though BI said to divide the batter evenly). I knew I was in trouble as I filled up the 8th cup: I had barely enough batter left for one more. D’oh! Fortunately I’d only be serving 5 adults and 2 kids, so I thought I could get away with it (there was so much food, I didn’t think people would want seconds on the popovers). I sprinkled the gruyere over the batter and placed the tins back in the oven.
When the timer rang I looked in to see some rather lopsided popovers. They rose, but I think the gruyere kept them from rising straight up. I took them out of the pans and placed them on a rack, where they deflated slightly. I began to panic; have I just ruined my client’s brunch? Fortunately everyone seemed thrilled and no one said a word about the less-than-perfect popovers. I dodged a bullet.
Or so I thought.
I can never show up to Christmas Eve festivities empty-handed, but considering I typically have to work that day I’m always looking for recipes that can easily be made ahead. Deviled eggs to the rescue! I made the eggs and filling the day before, then assembled them at our cousin’s place. They were a HUGE hit.
As with most things, I don’t really have a specific recipe. For 18 eggs I mixed the yolks with about 3/4 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 cup sour cream. I then added salt, pepper and chipotle chiles en adobo to taste. You can mash with a fork or potato masher, but I like to whip everything up in a food processor for a nice creamy consistency. Enjoy!
Note to self: DO NOT sign up for another January marathon if you expect to have any time to celebrate the holidays.
I can’t freakin’ believe Christmas is just a week and a half away. I had such high hopes for this season — I’d prepare fabulous, homemade treats for all my clients, I’d send out Christmas cards at the beginning of the month, my house would be clean and decorated — but time has somehow managed to get away from me. Only one client will be receiving treats, and even then I’ve disappointed her (I prepared three dozen each of three types of cookies; one dozen of each for her, the other two for her daughter). However, despite the fact she’s on a diet and shouldn’t be eating such indulgences, the amount wasn’t enough.
So for now this blog will remain woefully ignored. I had actually started a post that consisted of various food “snippets,” — tidbits I’ve been collecting over the year that haven’t warranted a full post — but even posting those in a cohesive fashion has seemed daunting. For some reason I feel more compelled to write on my other blog, Eat Drink Run Woman, so if you’re really intrigued with my comings and goings, check that out.
In the mean time, I hope you enjoy my version of that holiday classic, Chex Mix. It’s an adaptation of Texas Trash from the El Paso Chile Company’s “Texas Border Cookbook.” (And yes, the photo above was taken LAST year, when I actually had time to make the stuff).
Puget Sound Trash
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup Chipotle Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
2 cups Fritos
2 cups Crispix cereal (or Chex)
2 cups Bugles
2 cups Cheez-its or Goldfish
2 cups Corn Nuts
1 1/2 cups pretzel sticks (the tiny ones)
1 cup pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)
1 cup peanuts
Preheat oven to 250. Mix melted butter, Tabasco, Worcesteshire sauce, chili powder and oregano together until well blended. In a large bowl, toss Fritos, cereal, Cheez-its, corn Nuts, pretzels, pepitas and peanuts. Pour butter mixture over and stir to combine. Bake for about an hour, stirring every 10 minutes, until lightly browned.
GOD! This is getting tough. It’s all I can do to keep from thinking about meat. Today was particularly excruciating as smells kept wafting toward us during our bike ride (including burgers from Kidd Valley. Mmmm… burgers!) I even dreamt I was gnawing on a big slab of steak. Perhaps my darling is right — maybe I AM the biggest carnivore on the planet! Fortunately we’re now into the single digits — only nine more days and we can indulge (assuming I don’t tear into the package that should be arriving at my doorstep on Wednesday).
I suppose I should fess up — I tasted some meatballs and flank steak during a client cook date last week. Technically tastes are allowed, but the reason for tasting is to adjust the seasoning. Once the meatballs were baked and the flank steak was grilled, there ain’t no adjusting. It wasn’t a huge taste — I merely scraped up a couple bits of meatball left on the baking sheet and sliced off the teensiest piece of flank steak — but the damage was done. I’ve only managed to go six days without eating meat (assuming you don’t count the beef broth for the Asian soup).
But once again I’ve added some clear winners to our vegetarian repertoire. As I was organizing my kitchen cupboards I found the box of whole wheat pasta flour I received at the personal chef conference this past summer. I’ve been meaning to come up with my own recipe for whole wheat pasta, but this was so easy: all I had to do was add water and send it through my pasta machine.
At first I thought about doing some sort of squash ravioli — either butternut or pumpkin. But I just couldn’t face making them without including the classic pairing of bacon, prosciutto or pancetta. As I was perusing Epicurious for ideas I saw a recipe for goat cheese and arugula ravioli. Viola! What a great way to use up the last bit of arugula in my crisper. Topped with a chunky sauce of baby grape tomatoes, spinach, Kalamata olives and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, they were light, yet filling (my recipe follows). The next night I used up the dough to make cheese-filled ravioli with a sauce of tomatoes, basil, garlic and pine nuts.
Today’s regularly scheduled blog post has been canceled so we may bring you the following special presentation: Tastes of France.
That’s right — on the 6th day they ate meat.
Lest you think we so quickly lost our resolve, rest assured the experiment is still on. We merely took a “bye” to thank our cat/house sitters with a French-inspired dinner. Sure, we could have made it vegetarian, but we wanted to ensure they’d be willing to sit for us again if need be. (And there was NO WAY I was going to let them enjoy the treats without indulging myself).
We began with an interesting aperitif I made up. The weekend before I had poached some apples for a dessert, then reduced the poaching liquid down into a sauce, adding some Calvados. I had a bunch of the sauce left over, so I decided to make champagne cocktails. Because of the pectin from the apples the sauce turned to jelly in the fridge. I placed a dollop in the bottom of a champagne flute, then stirred in a bit of champagne to help it dissolve. Some of the jelly still remained, but the apple flavor infused into the champagne. They were quite tasty!
These two friends love my chicken liver mousse, and I just so happened to have some in my freezer. In June I had some black truffle pieces that needed to be used up, so I included them in the mousse. I made way more than I could eat at the time, so I decided to experiment with freezing it. I was pleased to find it tasted just as delicious as it did freshly made (not surprising considering the amount of butter that goes in). I spread the mousse on crostini slices and topped each with a halved cornichon to balance out the richness. We gobbled them up while sipping our cocktails.
Next up was the beef carpaccio. I’ve never made it before but became enamored with it in France. I quickly seared pieces of beef tenderloin to help develop the flavor, then wrapped them in plastic wrap and stuck them in the freezer for two hours so they’d be easier to slice. I sliced them about 1/4″ thick, then pounded them until they were paper thin. I placed the slices on the serving plates, wrapped the plates in plastic and put them in the fridge until serving time.
Mmmmmm… Fried egg rolls.
I couldn’t resist — I just HAD to try the egg rolls again deep fried. For the filling, I kept the shiitake mushrooms and extra firm tofu for some oomph, but added shredded carrot, Napa Cabbage and green onions to the mix. And instead of Lapsang Souchong I sprinkled in a bit of freshly ground Sichuan peppercorns. I made a simple dipping sauce my mixing plum sauce, shoyu and red pepper flakes (I would have used Sriracha, but we were out. Who the heck is stealing things out of my pantry?)
I hate to admit it, but I liked the deep fried rolls better. The fillings were both winners, but I liked how crispy the deep fried ones got. And the more I think about it, I’m not so sure they’re any more caloric than the baked ones. Fried properly, the egg roll wrappers should form a protective layer upon hitting the oil so it doesn’t seep into the filling (they certainly didn’t taste oil-soaked). If you had seen the baking sheet after the baked egg rolls came out, you wouldn’t consider them to be “healthy” (I was quite generous brushing the butter/sesame oil mixture on). But unless you have a deep fryer (and even if you do), cleanup can be quite messy.
I served the egg rolls with a simple green salad of Napa cabbage, romaine lettuce, sliced green onions and cucumber in a dressing of yellow miso, wasabi, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and canola oil. Very light and fresh.
So day 5 of MFaM is behind us, and I can’t say we’ve felt deprived. In fact, my darling said he has more energy than he’s had in quite some time (I’ve heard that can happen when switching to an all-vegetable diet). It’s been difficult for me to tell given my cold (which appears to have finally left me). However, I have noticed my hunger pangs seem more frequent and severe. But again, it could be because my cold sapped my energy, so I would just nosh on small nibbles (and then be ravenous a short time later).
Considering we’re runners, we have to make sure we eat enough protein during this experiment. There’s no way we’d do this if we had to give up eggs and cheese (so no, there won’t be any VFaM posts — Vegan for a Month). A gal can only go so far, you know?
I fully intended to write this post while berry season was still in full swing, but life got in the way. I made this pie as dessert for our marathon training celebratory lunch but obviously only had the stamina to write about the lobster rolls. Besides, I’ve been a bit scatterbrained. Not only have I been consumed with our training, I headed to Philadelphia for five days for the national conference of the U.S. Personal Chef Association (for which I also had to conduct a presentation on “A Day in the Life” of a personal chef). I returned to a full week of client cook dates, then had to prepare for the Danskin Triathlon. Another full week of cook dates followed, as well as a rehearsal dinner for 25 and a sit-down dinner for 11. Oh, and did I mention we’re going to France? Holy FREAKIN’ Moley! I have six days to pack, pay bills, clean the house for the house-sitter, finish my costume, figure out how to auto-respond to my email (hopefully without also sending emails to all the spammers), make a list of restaurants/food shops to visit in Paris, write a blog post on my costume on Eat Drink Run Woman, record outgoing messages on my business line saying I’m out of town, craft a proposal for a 60th birthday buffet, come up with dinners for the week that use up the food in our fridge, stop the newspaper, make copies of our house keys for our house-sitter and our neighbors and learn French. Oh, AND I have clients every day THIS week. I mean, really, who has time for all this…
Oh wait, where was I? PIE! That’s right, PIE!
I recently listened to a culinary podcast where they posted the question, “Pie or cake?” Both have their merits, but I’m definitely more partial to pie, especially berry pies. I’m not huge on sweets, and therefore prefer the tartness a berry pie provides.
I’ve been a berry girl ever since I was young. Raspberries are my all-time favorite, and I’ve been known to steal a taste whenever I can. The pea patch at the end of our street posts warning signs that the produce is only intended for those who have contributed to the upkeep of said patch, but the raspberry bush beckons me as I return from my runs around Greenlake. I rationalize my larceny by telling myself the berries would just rot on the bush if not picked. And doesn’t picking the berries assure they’ll come back even stronger the next year?
But given I was preparing the quintessential Maine lunch, blueberry pie was in order. Of course, the blueberries we get here on the West coast aren’t quite the same as the smaller, more flavorful berries of Maine, but they’d make do. (Hush up — I know what you’re thinking: FIRST I’m not satisfied with the hot dog rolls available out here; only the New England-style ones will do. NOW I’m not happy with the berries. I suppose next I’ll be saying that the fall foliage is WAY better in New England — more colors and brilliance. Well, if you’re so much happier with New England, why don’t you move there, Betsy? Or marry it? Huh? Huh?)
Ummm, where was I? (See — I TOLD you I was scatterbrained).
The other day I was overcome with client envy. No, it wasn’t their lifestyle I coveted (although I’m sure I could get used to it); I yearned to have a refrigerator full of chef-prepared meals. All I’ve been getting lately are bean tostadas and pizza. (Okay, so they have been pretty tasty, and yes, they were prepared by a chef. But she’s been increasingly lazy with our dinners).
The one dish in particular that piqued my taste buds was my adaptation of the CIA’s Korean braised beef short ribs served at St. Andrews Cafe (it’s one of four student-run restaurants on campus and features healthy cooking techniques. I attended one of the culinary bootcamps a couple years ago and dined at St. Andrews our first night). All of us who enjoyed the ribs that night did nothing short of swoon. The beef was fall-apart tender and cloaked in a velvety smooth sauce. You would never guess it didn’t contain an ounce of butter.
I was surprised they agreed to share the recipe, but once I looked at the ingredients and preparation, I knew I’d have to make several modifications if I were to prepare it in a home kitchen. It not only was for 30 servings, it called for gallons of veal stock and consomme — ingredients most home chefs don’t have at their disposal. But I was determined and after several tinkerings I believe I’ve come up with a reasonable facsimile. They’re not as sublime as the original, and to save time I’ve included some beurre manié (butter kneaded with flour) as a final thickener.