Monday, February 23, 2009

Post-Oscar debriefing

The final menu for the Oscar party deviated only slightly from what I’d planned. My friend B brought bacon salt dip, and gutless rumaki (bacon-wrapped water chestnuts). The squash soup was served sans greens, and the cheese plate was postponed. Also, no carrots.

The desserts went over well. I also had some ice cream to go with them for those who wanted.

I really enjoyed the broiled citrus topped with butter and brown sugar, in a shallow pan, broiled till browned and bubbly.

The poached pears also were pretty good. I tried a trick with them, and it worked pretty well. I did not want to spend forever peeling the pears, so I split them in half and scooped out the flesh with a melon baller. They were a little uneven, but came out fairly well.

Oh, the other thing I had was a champagne punch. This was based on a recipe I got 10 years ago but never made. I modified it a bit because there was no raspberry sherbert at the store, but otherwise it was pretty close to the original

Broiled citrus fruits
3 grapefruit
3 oranges
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Mix butter and brown sugar. Section grapefruits and oranges, reserving excess juice for another use. Toss sections into bowl to mix.

Spread fruit out in shallow baking dish so all fruit is in one thin layer. (can be done in advance to this point). Sprinkle brown sugar butter mix on top. Broil about 4-6 inches away from the heat for 5 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and just beginning to brown. Watch it carefully so that it does not burn. Serve warm.

Pear spheres poached in red wine
6 pears, firm, slightly underripe
1 bottle red wine
¼ teaspoon Chinese Five-spice powder
brown sugar or honey to taste, ¼ cup or more
orange zest from one orange

Cut pears in half. Using a melon baller, scoop out spheres, being careful not to hit the skin on the pears. (Can be done about a day aheadIf doing ahead, sprinkle with lemon juice and cover with plastic wrap). Add pears and the rest of the ingredients to large saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 45 minutes, letting the wine mixture reduce.

Using a slotted spoon, drain pears out of wine. Cook wine down a little bit more until it starts to get syrupy. Return pears to syrup, turn off heat. Serve warm, chilled or at room temperature. Can make a day in advance. Reheat or bring to room temp to serve.

Lemon Berry Champagne punch
Make sure all ingredients are chilled before you start.
1 bottle champagne
1 bottle rose wine
1 pint strawberry sorbet
¼ cup frozen lemonade concentrate
1 cup frozen raspberries

Mix all ingredients except for sorbet and raspberries. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop ice cream into punch. Stir to combine. Add raspberries and serve.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oscars Party Planning

Out of the trifecta of the Emmys, Grammys, and Oscars, the Oscars are my favorite. And not just because my good friend B and I host a party every year. There’s simply something glitzy and glamorous about them in a way that the other two awards shows aren’t, and I like that. It gives me a chance to put on airs, and show off a little bit.

Just putting the finishing touches on my Oscar party menu. I’m part of a year-round CSA and I got a turkey from some family friends in the area, so I have a ton of food on hand to play around with and use for the menu planning. Not only is it thrifty, since all the food’s already paid for, being a localvore is uber trendy right now.

Here’s my menu as it stands right now. I’ll post the final version the Monday after.

Roast Turkey with sage and garlic gremolata
Celeriac and New potato mash
Butternut squash soup with kale and assorted greens
Italian garlic bread
Orange maple ginger glazed carrots
Cheese plate: Smoked cheddar and jalapeno Monterrey
Poached pears in red wine sauce
Warm baked citrus fruits

Until then, please, enjoy some Oscar links, courtesy of Mahalo. These links will be updated to-the-minute on Oscar night.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Improv Recipe: Tangy, creamy, quickie custards

I’ve been having some bad luck with egg-based desserts lately. Well, not bad luck so much as laziness backfiring on me. I haven’t been measuring ingredients.

Yeah, cooking catastrophe waiting to happen, I know. Two pumpkin custards in a row never set on me, and when I tried to wing it and estimate the amounts of a chocolate mousse, which didn’t go well.

But I had some leftover eggs from a souffle I'd made, half a carton of heavy cream, and I wanted custard, and I didn't want to have to find a recipe for it or be bothered with "measuring."

So I knew I was tempting fate here. However, I had learned from my previous mistakes and discovered a few rules:

1. Use a water bath, and use hot water. Doesn’t have to be boiling, but microwaving a cup of water until it’s good and steamy will work.
2. The ratio of eggs to other stuff is important. More eggs is better if you want a custard to thicken properly. When unsure, err on the side of more eggs. You might get something closer to sweet quiche, but at least it will be solid.
3. Baking the custard in smaller containers will help even cooking and setting. One large container will take forever to come to temperature and will cook unevenly. Several smaller containers will prevent this from happening
4. Add less liuqidy ingredients when you can. I added a half a cup of strained greek yogurt (essentially sour cream) to the custard mix to help thicken it up before I put it in the oven.
5. Use a trusted recipe. Even if you’re not measuring your ingredients, it will give you a proper ratio of eggs to liquid.

With these precautions, I successfully made an improve custard, which was quite good. The greek yogurt gave it a denser body and a nice tang, a little like a cheesecake.

Improv custard for two

3-4eggs (at least 3 egg yolks and 3 egg whites)
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons maple syrup
pinch of salt
½ cup of greek strained yogurt (or sour cream is fine)
¼ t cinnamon

Beat eggs until uniform and lighter yellow. Add other ingredients and mix until combined. Pour into ramekins or custard cups. Put cups in a high-sided baking pan or baking dish that will fit both of them without touching.

Microwave 4 cups of water on high for 2 minutes or until steamy. Be careful not to boil. Pour water around cups, but don’t get any into the custard.

Bake at 300 degrees until just set in the center. Check after 40 minutes for doneness. You want the edges to be set but the center to be a little wobbly. Turn off oven, leave custards in oven for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour. Serve warm, or cover and refrigerate.