Sunday, September 13, 2009

Liquid Black Forest

A house favourite around here, especially when the weather is chilly, courtesy of the Sunset Grill & Tap's fabulous beertail menu! Is fearr de thú Guinness!

Liquid Black Forest

1 pint cold Guinness
2 shots (3 fluid ounces) cold framboise lambic (we like Lindemans)

Pour the Guinness into a pint glass.

Hold a spoon, bowl side (aka. curved part) up, directly over the surface of the Guinness. Slowly and carefully pour the lambic over the spoon so that it runs down the inside wall of the glass and into the beer. It should settle to the bottom of the glass.

Enjoy your beertail and, if applicable, your new-found bartending trick!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ina Garten's Brioche + Savoury Bread Pudding

The latest stretch of lovely, chilly, fall weather we've been enjoying has got me itching to bake!

I'm driving up to New Hampshire tomorrow to visit my parents (who are here on a very long vacation) and my grandmother (who has a sheep- for textiles only!- farm with a gorgeous mountain view). And since our freezer and fridge are overflowing with CSA goodies, I begged them to let me offload some in the form of bringing supper!

A few nights ago, over a dinner featuring, incidentally, flounder and whiting from our Cape Ann Fresh Catch fish share, I was thinking about what I'd bring tomorrow. Nothing too liquidy, as it has to travel well over MA highways and NH dirt roads; nothing too huge, as it has to fit into a cooler; nothing that I have to go grocery shopping (again) to complete; nothing that takes too long to put together or cook when I get there.

And then it came to me- a savoury bread pudding! The bread soaks up the liquid so it won't slosh all over the cooler, braising greens make it a great one-dish meal (though I usually can't manage supper without a salad, too), I can do all the prep and assembly work tonight, and it will cook in less than an hour.

One particular Epicurious recipe for Arugula, Bacon, and Gruyère Bread Pudding fit the bill perfectly, so I'm putting it together tonight.

I reeeealy didn't want to go back to the grocery store, so I went freezer-shopping and decided to use up some of our many sticks of butter on an old, easy peasy standby bread recipe that we love: Ina Garten's brioche. Instead of making rolls, you divide the dough in half, pat each piece into a 6"x8" rectangle, roll it up lengthwise, and place the pieces seam-side-down into loaf pans so they can do the final 2-hour rise. Brush with egg-water mixture, bake until golden brown and a tap on the crust produces a hollow sound, and voila! Fabulous, irresistible homemade brioche.

At the moment, the two loaves are rising. I'll bake them and then slice them into cubes, and then do a quick oven-toast because I don't have time to let them go stale naturally.

Braising greens, including arugula, will work in place of just arugula. I'll substitute parmesan for the Gruyère, too, because that's what we have. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention! With some herbed, roasted potatoes and a tomato + macerated red onion + red leafy lettuce salad, we'll have an easy, lovely cool-weather supper.

Next on my to-do-list: find a wine to go with all this food!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Christmas Cookies 2009. Already.

Yes. I am already thinking obsessing about this year's Christmas cookies.

The problem is that I like to make lots of different ones, and I haven't found too many recipes that I really love (and that warrant the time, energy, and expense of making tin after tin of sweets).

I will absolutely make my favourite gingerbread recipe, because to me, it's not a truly proper Christmas without it. Same goes for the pecan fingers/puckle warts, though those are a much newer addition to our must-have Christmas cookie list. My mom, in particular, looooooooves them, which is reason enough to keep them on the list.

I'm pretty sure that I will make molasses crinkles again, as they're easy and always a big hit. Part of me wonders if they're too much like the gingerbread, but then again, they satisfy my craving for cookies speckled with chewy, spicy pieces of crystallized ginger in a way that the gingerbread doesn't.

I've also fooled around with mint chocolate cookies and bitter cream & orange biscuits. Both were great, they didn't meet the last-more-than-a-few-days and ships-well requirements.

I could always choose from the slew of gorgeous, delicious Czech Christmas cookies my family makes... but honestly? I get huge boxes from two households every year, and they've been making them for ages, so how can my baking compare? I'd like to make something different for us and to give to friends and family.

Since the cookie recipes passed down in family all fall into the Czech (and already being made by others) category, my first inclination is to search for their highest-rated offerings. Italian fig cookies? Grasshopper squares? Salty-sweet langues de chat? Pâtes de fruits (aka. have I lost my mind)?

It's enough to make me crazy (or maybe it's just me making myself crazy?!). Funny how as the colder weather moves in, visions of sugarplums swirl in my head as I try to fall asleep.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Formatting. Hrmph. A Move to WordPress?

Blogger's formatting issues are making me crazy. Am contemplating a move to WordPress, not least of all because I like the colours on one particular template. They remind me of this moscato label, actually. Hrm.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like... I'm an OCD Planner?

Yesterday, I ordered our New Year's Cards... for this year AND next. I got the New Year's Card bug from my mom, who was always late with her Christmas cards until she decided to screw it and do cards for the New Year instead, since they can be sent out whenever you wish. Apparently, I also got the planning-ahead bug as backlash to my mom being late with everything. So yes, I know. I'm insane (L/mr. petite gourmande informed me of this, in case there was any question).

The problem is that I've discovered tiny*prints. And I have become completely and utterly addicted.

Rather than putting pictures of ourselves on the cards, though, I opted to use our furry little troublemaker. L and I are both camera shy, and honestly? We both agree that it's a little odd to receive holiday cards that showcase pictures of people we see regularly. We know what you look like, people! I can see why people use pictures of their kids, as they change and grow so quickly- that makes more sense to me.

To each their own, I suppose. It's just not for us.

Anyway, tiny*prints has one design that I've been drawn to for the past year, which I wrote off because I didn't have a furbaby picture that suited it. And with my luck, I know they would discontinue it before I got to use it for one year's cards. So yesterday, I bribed the pup with some tiny Trader Joe's liver treats, draped some tinsel around his collar, and fooled around with the camera until I got some (mostly crap +) a few great shots. I need to use that camera more or I forget about all the cool settings.

He wondered what the hell I was doing for about two seconds, and then decided the treats were all that mattered. We think he's part pig.

How does this OCD-ness relate to cooking? Well, I bought all the spices for my Christmas gingerbread cookies last weekend. Of course. I was so happy to find whole mace at Eastern Lahmajun (in Watertown). I have to make the cookies before the end of October, or they won't have aged properly by December!

The only thing left to think about is what I want to make out of gingerbread this year. Last year I did cookies and iced trees (why didn't I take pictures of those? stupid stupid.), and my hands ached for days afterwards- all that rolling, cutting out cookies, and then holding an icing bag steady for an entire evening. The trees were the most fun, but they don't ship well to family and friends, which is a problem. Cookies can get boring towards the end, but are certainly the easiest decision. A gorgeous iced house or two would be so much fun, but those take good planning and are really hard to share with my family across the country.

Decisions, decisions...

Maybe all this is my subconscious longing for snuggly cold weather clothing, lovely snowstorms and winter vacation?

Monday, September 7, 2009

My Mom's Alsatian Fruit Tart

my mom's pluot tart, ready for half-baking (then we add the flan!)

My mom is an amazing cook, though she doesn't believe it when we tell her that.

My family is here (where my mom grew up) for three weeks. They're visiting other family and friends during the weeks, and coming back to us each weekend. Last night, we had a dinner for friends and family, and as I'd been drawn to some odd-looking, mottled pluots and bought a kilo on a whim (we used all but 4 of the pluots for this tart), I asked my mom to show me how she makes this tart. I have the recipe, but I hadn't watched her make it in a few years, and I like cooking with her better than following a recipe anyway.

It's super gorgeous and very easy. You make a buttery pâte brisée (no blind baking the shell) and line the tart pan with it. Then you put, cut side up, as many firm plum/pluot/apricot halves as will fit in the raw crust. Put this into a 400'F oven for 30 minutes or so. While it's baking, mix up the custard ingredients (this recipe would work nicely). Carefully pour this mixture into the hot, half-baked tart and bake until the custard is set and browned.

If your fruit is very juicy, skip the flan, sprinkle sugar on top of the fruit, and just bake it until the crust is golden, the juices are bubbling, and the sugar is a bit caramelized and crunchy.

We made this with elephant pluots, which were sort of dreary looking on the outside but turned out to have beautifully vivid, sweet-tart flesh. My mom makes this tart with all sorts of firm stone fruits (damson plums and apricots being her favourites), though the original recipe is for a tarte aux pommes alsacienne (Alsatian apple tart). The original recipe is from Elle Magazine en français, ca. 1970s, which she had a subscription to because she liked the recipe cards and knitting patterns, and because she liked to keep up her French reading skills. Not that she needs the help- she's a language whiz.

I was lucky enough to grow up thinking that everyone ate desserts like this.