Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mad World

Mad Men is back! And I have no memory of what happened on the season finale! Good thing I have On Demand and was able to watch the end of last season (on Friday when I was laying prone on the couch struck down with food poisoning-ugh). The Season 4 finale did happen over 17 months ago, so I think it's valid to have forgotten a few of the plot points. I wonder if 1960s advertising execs ever forgot the basic elements of their pitches after they had those 4 martini lunches...and the occasional (frequent!) dip into the office bar.

Speaking of which, you might as well whip up some martinis and a few of these snacks for the 9:00 pm Season 5 debut tonight! Martini purists would scoff at my use of vodka and would probably gag at the blue cheese stuffed olives, but I think it's a clever way to have an appetizer and drink all in one! (Truth: I didn't invent this recipe, I just particularly like it!) I opted for an American classic, Maytag blue cheese, to keep it 1960s real. And just be sure to look for olives that are packed in a water based liquid vs. olives packed in oil, otherwise you will end up with an oil slick on top of your drink. So not Mad Men chic.

The Mad Men Maytag Martini

Maytag blue cheese (or similar blue)
Green olives, pitted and drained, olive brine reserved
2 1/2 ounces top shelf vodka
Dash dry vermouth, or to taste
Splash olive brine, or to taste

1. Fill a martini glass with ice water; set aside. Stuff each olive with cheese. Skewer 2 or 3 olives onto cocktail picks; set aside.

2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the vodka, vermouth, and olive brine. Shake for 1 minute. Dump the ice water out of the glass. Strain into the chilled martini glass and garnish with the cheese stuffed olives. Serve immediately. Makes one drink.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Free Food!

NYC Peeps: Get thee to a macaron shop ASAP to enjoy a free macaron in celebration of Macaron Day NYC 2012! Click here for a list of participants! Oo la la...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pots de Irish Cream

It's a little strange that I am writing a St. Patrick's Day related post.

1. I'm not Irish.
2. I don't like or drink beer. Especially green beer.
3. I hate parades.
4. I hate drunk people at parades.

So...let's just say that it's not really my day. But when I realized that I actually had some Baileys Original Irish Cream, I figured that the least I could do is come up with a use for it.

Pots de crème is also the last thing that, for anyone who knows me, I would ever be found making.

1. I hate pudding/flan/panna cotta.
2. I hate sour cream.
3. I hate mayonnaise.
4. I hate yogurt (unless it's Greek and has lots of granola and honey mixed in).

Are you seeing a pattern here? I have a texture problem. I do enjoy chocolate mousse, but it's chocolate (duh) and it's light and airy. I also enjoy a creme brûlée, but it's a super delicious concoction with a crackly sugar top, creating a textural counterpoint. So why make pots de crème? I don't know, except that making it myself with really good chocolate creates a dense and chocolatey result that I seem to be able to make an exception for. (Hi. My name is Tina and I'm a chocoholic. Thanks, dad!)

I also made my own crème fraîche, something else that I shouldn't like, but I just thought that it was too cool that you can make yourself. (You can totally use it in savory dishes too FYI.) BT Dubs, if after 24 hours your cream isn't thickening, move it to a warmer location. I had mine sitting on the kitchen table and nothing happened, so I moved it closer to the oven and it thickened up right away. I think you ideally need a 70˚F room.

Also, here's a tip when making your custard. When you whisk the tempered egg yolks into the remaining hot cream and then cook over the heat for 4 minutes or so, do not turn the heat up too quickly or your mixture may curdle. Like mine. I did take a photo of it to show for reference, but it looked disgustingly like something else, so I decided that you could just use your imagination. I was also using an enameled covered cast iron pot which perhaps retains heat too well in this scenario, so my mixture heated way too quickly and I scrambled my custard. I started over again and mixed the eggs back into the cream off the heat, then turned the heat back on very low and then very slowly raised it to medium until the mixture thickened. You don't want it to come to a simmer, but just to let off a little steam here and there.

So it might not be corned beef and cabbage, soda bread or Guinness stew, but I bet you wouldn't say no to a little Baileys infused chocolate custard with your green beer. Erin go bragh!

Milk Chocolate Pots de Crème
Adapted from Food & Wine

10 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons Baileys Original Irish Cream (optional)
Crème fraîche or whipped cream and chocolate shavings or cocoa powder, for garnish

1. In a large heatproof bowl, combine the chopped chocolates.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, heavy cream and sugar to a boil, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Gradually whisk in half of the hot cream. Whisk the egg-and-cream mixture into the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the custard coats the back of the spoon (see below), about 4 minutes. Pour the custard over the chocolate and let stand for 2 minutes, then add in the Baileys if using, and stir until smooth.

3. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until very smooth, about 1 minute. Pour the mixture into eight 4-ounce ramekins and refrigerate until chilled, 2 hours.

4. Let the pots de crème stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Garnish with crème fraîche or whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Serves 8.

TIP: The pots de crème can be made then refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Crème Fraîche

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk

1. Mix the cream and buttermilk together in a glass container. Cover the mixture and let sit out on a counter for 12 - 36 hours. (The area should be warmish to activate thickening, so stay away from air conditioners.) Stir well before covering and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Deep South

View from the Westin

So, yeah. I've been kind of MIA. Had to go to Aruba for work. I know. Poor me. Woe is me. Blah blah blah. But YOU try being "on" for 18 hours a day. It's exhausting! It's hard enough to travel with friends, let alone with work peeps. Plus, the wind was blowing a constant 20 knots. I still have sand in my ears. Anyhoo, that's a lame excuse for my lack o' blog posts. After 8 days of restaurant dining, I need to cut back hard core. So I've looked to some veggie relief.

I found this recipe on the Food & Wine website and it just sounded tasty and healthy (once I reduced the oil by half). Since I feel like I need to cut back on white food (rice, bread, pasta, sugar) I ate this recipe for dinner as is, without any sides. But you could serve it with Basmati rice and it would be a bit more filled out and super delish. Enjoy it with my travel photos below...

View of Aruban east coast

View from inside Bushiribana Gold Smelter Ruins

View from the (collapsed) Natural Bridge area

Sand dunes north of the California Lighthouse

Sunset at sand dunes

Curried Eggplant with Chickpeas and Spinach
Adapted from Food & Wine

2 large garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
One (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
Freshly ground pepper
One (5-ounce) bag baby spinach
Warm naan or Basmati rice and plain yogurt, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. On a work surface, mash the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt.

2. In a large roasting pan, mix the paste with the curry powder and vegetable oil. Add the eggplant, onion, chickpeas and ginger, season with salt and pepper and toss thoroughly.

3. Spread the vegetables in an even layer and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the eggplant and onion are tender. Stir in the spinach and roast just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Serve with warm naan or rice and yogurt. Serves 4, or 2 without sides.