Thursday, December 30, 2010

Planning a Cheese Course

I revised this posting on 2/31/10/
I am serving a cheese course on New Years Eve. I have served cheeses as part of a buffet or with drinks. I usually choose a brie or something Brie- like, a jalsburg or something similar, a cheddar, and, if J isn't going to be there, a blue cheese.

So I wanted to do something a little more exotic, not in a threatening way, but let's all stretch a little on the last day of the year and see if we can't discover something new and wonderful. My web searching turned up gourmet food store that called it's cheese department a fromagerie So off I went to Max's.

There are four Max restaurants in Rochester. One is cross the street from the Eastman Theater, and J took me there for my birthday this year. This was the restaurant where they asked my how I wanted my pork chop cooked. As in, did I want it rare. That was one of those moments when I realized that I had a certain view of the universe, and it was utterly wrong. I had the mistaken notion that pork was to be cooked well done, at least.

Cheese from Max's Market
So the shop I was setting off to is part of the Max's franchise. The front of the store is expensive jams and pickles, and other nonessentials. Nothing too strange, and sadly, nothing as nice as the Simon David  a lovely store where my mother would buy wonderful pastrami and lox. In the back of Max's is a takeaway gourmet meals area, and you can also order something to eat there. And there is the cheese case.

Chris, of Max's Market, helped me choose. This is what I brought home:

Bellweather Farms "Carmody" "A Bellwether original! Made from Jersey cow milk and aged at least 6 weeks. Naturally golden in color with a smooth texture and wonderful flavor, Carmody is a consistent blue ribbon winner at the Los Angeles County Fair."

Manchego. "The intense taste and crumbly texture make it perfect to eat it as is, with a slice of bread. As the focal point of Antipasto, Manchego can be served with olives, sun-dried tomatos, crusty bread and a robust red wine (Rioja) or a dry sherry (Fino).It is equally enjoyable as a snack or dessert with fruit or fruit tarts."

Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam Triple Cream "Just North of the San Francisco Bay, Mt. Tamalpais rises like a monument to Northern California's natural beauty. In deference, Cowgirl Creamery named its signature cheese MT TAM. It's a smooth, creamy, elegant, 10-oz, triple-cream - made with tasty organic milk from the Straus Family Dairy. MT TAM is firm, yet buttery with a mellow, earthy flavor reminiscent of white mushrooms."

Artisinal Carbecou Feuille. "Cabecou Feuille, a small disc of fresh goat cheese from the Perigord region of France, is dipped in plum brandy and sprinkled with coarse black pepper before being wrapped in two chestnut leaves to mature. Cabecou is smooth and creamy with aromatic brandy flavors and a tangy bite."

Capra Ubriaco al Traminer "Capra Ubriaco al traminer is a firm cheese steeped for a period of 10 days in a red grape must. The Traminer grape is a relative to the Gewurztraminer. The added wine flavor gives the pleasantly milky cheese more complexity and richness on the palate."

I didn't realize that the Carbecou Feuille was dipped in brandy. I considered replacing it with it with this Cowgirl Creamery cheese: "Cowgirl Creamery captures the essence of West Marin with its Red Hawk, a triple-cream, washed-rind, fully-flavored cheese made from organic cow milk from the Straus Family Dairy. Aged four weeks and washed with a brine solution that tints the rind a sunset red-orange, Red Hawk won Best-In-Show at the American Cheese Society's Annual Conference in 2003 and a Gold Ribbon and 2nd Best-in-Show in 2009." It also looked like it was too small to split 5 ways, so I took off for the Pittsford Wegman's to find a replacement.

If you don't live in the Rochester area, or one of the other lucky towns that have a Wegman's, you won't really understand the devotion that we have for this wonderful grocery stores! The Pittsford Weggies, nicknamed "Taj Ma-Weggies" by our friend Sherrie, has not only everything you might want to buy, but the absolute best of everything. And they are staffed by the most friendly, helpful, and customer-centered people that breath air. Seriously, I'm not sure why I didn't buy all of the cheese at Wegmans. Next time I will.

Wegman's to the rescue!
So, a young lady named Sarah carefully listened to my request for a washed rind cheese to complete my cheese plate, and suggested Bourboned Pie D'angloys, a cheese made from French cow's milk. Here's how this website describes this cheese: "Decadently smelly and drippy inside it is reminiscent of a very ripe brie. As you may have guessed from the picture of a tiled roof house, it hails from Burgundy. As far as I know, it is sold in the Francophone zone only (France, Southern Belgium, Luxembourg, Western Switzerland). It seems a recent - post-WWII - invention but what it lacks in pedigree it makes good in taste." This is indeed a stinky cheese. I'm hoping it won't be too off putting for my guests.

Truffle Honey
I will be serving these cheese on individual plates with a smear of truffle honey. I'll also offer three nice breads (also from Wegman's, of course!) One is a sourdough raisin, and I can't wait to pair it with the Pie D'angloys. I also have a nice whole wheat bread, and a white French baguette. Because I bought an entire jar but only needed one for the Remoulade sauce, I'll set out some cornichons. And while I'm at it, an apple and some dried apricots.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Years Eve Menu and Game Plan

We are having part of our family of choice over for New Year's Eve. I'm going to really do it up big--no holds barred! Here's the menu:

New Year's Eve Dinner
Miniature Crab Cakes with Remoulade Sauce 
Caviar, Smoked Salmon, and Blini Torte

Caesar Salad
 Field Greens with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, and Candied Walnuts, in a Hazelnut Citronette

Rib Roast, Twice-baked Potatoes, Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Flight of Five Cheeses served with Truffle Honey, and Two Breads

Ginger Cookies and Coffee

I love offering choices for the first course and salad. I get to make two,and I also can serve things that I know some of our friends don't or might not like. It also makes them fee extra well cared for and loved! My strategy is to make part of the meal something super easy -- in this case, the main course. I also make as much ahead as possible.

My schedule looks like this:

Tuesday: do the major shopping. Make the cookies, roasted beets, iron the table cloth, and assemble and wash the serving dishes. The main course will be served family style. Unfortunately, I have so little room in my kitchen that most of my serving pieces are in the basement and must be washed before using. The plates I will use are also in the basement but are in lovely cloth zippered cases, and won't need washing. They will, however,need schlepping.

Wednesday: Make the Remoulade Sauce, buy the cheese, set the table.

Thursday: Make the twice baked potatoes, wash the lettuces, make the citronette, make the croutons, buy the flowers and make the arrangement. Make the egg salad for the torte.

Friday Morning: Make the crab cakes, to the point of frying, slice the breads, slice the goat cheese for salad, prepare the Brussels sprouts for the oven

Friday Night: Roast the meat, potatoes, sprouts. Make the blinis. Prepare the cheese plates. Assemble the salads. Fry the crab cakes. Open the wine. And ENJOY!

The plan is that when everyone arrives, the main course is in the oven and everything is done, save for the crab cakes being fried and the tortes being assembled. Those represent about 15minutes of work, tops.

Here are the recipes:

The inspiration for my cheese course is here.

Caviar, Smokes Salmon, and Blini Torte
The original recipe is from Epicurious and can be found here

 Makes 2 servings
Active time: 50 min
Total time: 50 min


For egg salad
1 hard-boiled large egg, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

For blini
2 tablespoons buckwheat flour
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg, separated
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled, divided

For filling
1/4 lb thinly sliced smoked salmon at room temperature
2 ounces trout caviar, such as rainbow- trout caviar, or salmon roe


Make egg salad:
Stir together all ingredients and a pinch of salt.

Make blini:
Whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl. Add milk and yolk and whisk until smooth. 3Beat egg white with a clean whisk in another bowl until it just holds soft peaks. Fold into batter along with 2 tablespoons melted butter.

Brush a 12-inch nonstick skillet with some of remaining melted butter, then heat over medium heat until hot. Working in batches of 6 or 7, drop 1 level tablespoon batter per pancake into skillet and cook until bubbles appear on surface and undersides are golden, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Flip over and cook 1 minute more. Brush blini on both sides with some of remaining melted butter, then transfer to a plate and keep warm, covered with foil. Brush skillet with butter between batches.

Fill tortes:
Drape smoked salmon on 6 blini and top with egg salad. Spoon caviar onto 6 more blini, then stack on egg-salad-topped blini.

Crab Cakes with Remoulade Sauce

This recipe is from Wolfgang Puck's site and can be found here. 
Remoulade Sauce
1 tablespoon capers, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
1 cornichon, minced
1 anchovies (1-2 for 6 servings), minced
1 shallot, minced
Freshly ground white pepper
1 cup good-quality homemade or store-bought mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Crab Cakes
2 cups heavy cream
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely diced yellow bell pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 pound lump crabmeat
2 fresh jalapeño chilies, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), ground to a mealy consistency
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup clarified butter

Preheat the oven to 375°F.
1. make the Remoulade: In a bowl, stir together all the ingredients until well blended. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
2. For the crab cakes, in a saucepan, combine the heavy cream, garlic, rosemary, and paprika. Boil over medium-high heat until the cream reduced to half its original volume. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
3. Meanwhile, in a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and red and yellow bell pepper and sauté, stirring frequently, just until glossy but not yet browned. Transfer the vegetables to a plate and leave to cool to room temperature.
4. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, crab, jalapeño, basil, parsley, tarragon, 1 cup of the panko, salt, white pepper, reduced cream, and sautéed vegetables. Carefully mix until well blended.
5. Divide the mixture into 12 equal portions, each about 3 ounces, shaping them into round, slightly flattened cakes each about 3 inches in diameter by 1/2 inch thick. Spread the remaining panko on a dinner plate and turn the crab cakes in them to coat them generously.
6. In an ovenproof sauté pan, heat 1/4 cup of the clarified butter over medium-high heat. Place 6 crab cakes in the pan and pan-fry until their undersides are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. With a spatula, carefully turn the cakes over. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake for 2 minutes more. Remove the cakes from the pan and repeat the process with the remaining butter and crab cakes. Serve immediately with Remoulade Sauce.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Feasts

I'm making a pretty simple meal for Christmas this year. It's just us this year. We are having friends over for New Years Eve, and I'll do it up big for that evening.

We do have a tradition of "Christmas Crackers" - J indulges me by wearing her paper crown.

We don't have much of a tradition for what to serve Christmas Eve -- most years I do a rack of lamb and some sort of potatoes. We seem to be having lamb quite a bit recently, so I suggested we do steaks this year. J was in agreement, so steaks it was. . Here's the menu for tonight:

Shrimp Cocktail

These shrimp are absolutely huge -- I think 6 to the pound! I cut a lemon in a zig-zag pattern, put it in a decorative martini glass, put a dollop of cocktail sauce in it (extra horseradish for me!) and then position the shrimp. Doesn't that look nice?

Caesar Salad
This is J's favorite salad. I made the salad dressing myself in the food processor -- it is essentially a mayonnaise with anchovies and dijon mustard. Enjoy the recipe at the bottom.

Porterhouse Steak. Baked Potatoes. Asparagus
This part of the menu couldn't have been easier -- pan broiled steaks, baked potatoes, and asparagus. It seems like some kind of miracle that we can have asparagus in the middle of winter!
New York Style Cheesecake

The Cat keeps my chair warm between courses!
Normally I would have gone for Wegman's Carrot Cake, but they kind of looked strange, like perhaps they had brought in people to help frost them. They were in the shape of the London Gherkin. It's always good to have a "Plan B" so I had discussed options with J, and cheesecake it was!

Tomorrow, Christmas day, we'll cook a chicken on the rotisserie, stuffed with sage and thyme. That rotisserie makes the best chicken ever! The skin is nice and crisp, and the meat is is ultra juicy. No basting necessary.

Here's hoping you are eating as well as we are!!

Caesar Salad Dressing

3/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
4 anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dijon style mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 large egg yolks from coddled eggs

1. To coddle the eggs:
Put eggs in a small saucepan with water to cover. Bring the water to a boil, turn off heat and let the eggs sit for no more than one minute. Crack the eggs and save the yolks to a small dish. Set aside. Discard the whites and shells.

2. Place the garlic, eggs, anchovy, lemon juice, salt and pepper in the bowl of the food processor.  Pulse until well combined, scrapping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

3. With the processor running, pour the oil in a slow thin stream into the feed tube. The mixture will begin to emulsify, making a dressing about the thickness of mayonnaise. This will only take as long as you need to pour in the oil. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

This makes about 1 cup of dressing. It will last about a week in the fridge.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Molasses Cookies for Christmas

I'm not much of a baker. Oh,I can whip up a pie. With J peeling and slicing, we can have an apple pie "as quick as a cat can wink it's eye." And my parents baked bread all the time -- brioche, white bread, salt rising, even baguettes baked in loaf pans made from down spouts. It was the 1960's, and there wasn't a Williams Sonoma on every corner!

As you can see, the cookies are a "can't miss" recipe!
 But not cookies. I never baked many cookies.

So at the holidays, I would bake only four kinds, and none of them fancy. Toll House, peanut butter, oatmeal, and ginger. Ginger are my favorite.

They were my mom's, too.

I don't think of Mom around Memorial Day when she died, or in January, on her birthday. But I do miss her as I'm making the one batch of cookies I will make this year. I wish she was around to enjoy one with me.

Molasses Cookies
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

3/4 cup margarine, melted
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup white sugar

In a medium bowl, mix together the melted margarine, 1 cup sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the molasses. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger; blend into the molasses mixture. Cover, and chill dough for 1 hour.
Roll dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining white sugar. Place cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until tops are cracked. Cool on wire racks. Makes 30-36 cookies.