Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Friday, December 16, 2005
Gruyère Cheese Gougères
Gruyère Cheese Gougères
Originally uploaded by ilmungo.
Last Sunday we hosted a Winter Feast in honour of our friend Indre, who successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation. Nick and I cooked a seven course meal. Most of the dishes were taken from the French Laundry cookbook, by culinary sensei Thomas Keller. Some others were recreations of dishes that Nick had at his brother's restaurant in Aspen. Each dish was carefully paired with its "perfect" wine.
The evening opened with these Gruyère Cheese Gougères, served on a silver platter as a fun bite-sized appetizer to eat with your hands. They are lighter than air and mostly empty inside, infused with just the right amount of cheese flavour.
These are relatively easy to make, considering it's a Keller recipe. Pretty straightforward. You bring some water and butter and salt and a pinch of sugar to a boil, then dump in all at once 5 ounces of flour — a side note here: I love that Thomas Keller gives weight equivalents for dry ingredients in a lot of his recipes. It is much easier to weigh out 5 ounces of flour that scoop it into a cup and a quarter — and stir over a medium flame until a ball of dough forms, about 2 minutes. Take it off the heat and tranfer to a bowl. Crack in four eggs and mix until a smooth batter forms, which should be at the soft-peak consistency. If too stiff (which was the case in mine) add an egg white. Then add lots of grated gruyère cheese.
This results in a sticky and dense batter. Transfer it to a pastry bag fitted with a rather large tip, and pipe it onto a silpat-lined baking sheet in tablespoon-sized mounds, spaced about 2 inches apart (they will spread and grow in the oven). Before you put it into the 450 degrees pre-heated oven don't forget, as I almost did, to sprinkle some more grated gruyère onto each single puff ball. Bake 7 or 8 minutes, until the gougères hold their shape, then turn the oven temperature down to 350 and bake another 20-30 minutes (20 was enough for me), until golden and delicious. Serve hot.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Hello Me, how about dinner and a movie?
Monday, July 12, 2004
More on gnocchi and salmon
I am so ecstatic to see that Nick is writing so much! As requested, I am adding a picture of the salmon dish from our French Laundry Day. Here it is:
A couple of words on my perspective on this dish. I have to say that this was probably my favourite dish of the whole evening, and that's against some stiff competition. Not by a lot, let's be honest, and in the midst of so many amazing dishes, it's hard to pick a winner. But this one hit a particular taste spot in me; it's definitely the kind of dish that I would make for a dinner, it has the Italian roots to it, together with the unexpected pairings and lightness that I look for in a dish, and most of all it gives the illusion of simplicity. The preparation, as Nick mentioned, is not particularly simple; as a matter of fact, when one factors in the making of the gnocchi, the brunoise (extremely finely diced turnips, carrots and leeks blanched in plenty of salted water, then dried and added to the stock) the tomato diamonds (blanch and peel tomatoes, then quarter them, cut away the seeds and ribs so you're left with a tomato petal, then cut on the diagonal to obtain several diamonds) the chive oil, the balsamic glaze (reduce 2 cups of balsamic vinegar to about 1/4 cup), the whole thing is starting to be pretty work-intensive. Not to mention warming the salmon in milk at a tightly controlled temperature. But, the thing is, once it is done and assembled and bit into, the flavors are surprisingly simple and harmonious, they just make sense, like they were supposed to be so.
All in all, it was not just a fantastic dish in itself, but more than that, since it was the official transition between the more "appetizer"-like dishes to the more "real meal"-like stuff, it marked the point at which Emeril Lagasse would have shouted: "Let's kick it up a notch!".
Friday, July 09, 2004
Guilty Solitary Pleasures... okay they're not really guilty
When I first came in, there were only the original four. They had already been deeply involved in this process of weekly dinners where one would cook for the rest in turn for about a year when I showed up on the scene. They had already surpassed the usual dinner party stages: dinner as an excuse to drink, comfort food, recipes taken from Gourmet magazine. They were at this point well into the really challenging stuff.
The chef of the evening is responsible for everything from the aperitif to the dessert, with an average of three courses in between. The guests bring the wine, which is chosen (white or red + preferred type) by the chef.
I don't even rememeber what I prepared the first time it was my turn. I was so nervous I didn't sleep the night before. I think I probably drank a little too much while I was preparing that meal. Whatever it was.
Now, I do like to cook. But this dinner party group was daunting for many reasons. One, I felt like the fifth wheel. These guys, though now I have come to love all of them dearly, scared the shit out of me. They are extremely well-educated, beautiful, talented people (and also exceptionally kind, though I was too nervous at first to realize it). Nick and Clementine were a couple. Luigi and Indre were best friends, and all four of them had spent many a night together. And I was the new girlfriend of Luigi, not sure how or if I could fit in to this seemingly sacred weekly event.
Two, everyone was in the habit of dressing up, and I had never in my life cooked wearing a skirt or any other nice thing. I am the kind of person who will find a way to douse myself in flour if I wear black, and tomato or coffee if I am wearing anything lighter than that. I drop forks, break glasses, and chop parts of my fingers off. In short, no one has ever accused me of being suave. I love to dress up as much as the next girl, but figure food into that equation and I get a little nervous.
Three, my experience cooking was decidedly limited. I have at times gotten really into baking. But my version of a meal had generally involved a dish that could be served on one plate. Like ratatouille and pasta. Simple.
But despite all of that, I thought it was an amazing opportunity, and a brilliant idea. All of us being relatively young and broke-ish, the fact that a good meal was guaranteed once a week, and the chance to challenge my own sense of what I could accomplish with food seemed to me a wonderful possibility. Not long after that, the knowledge that I would also be guaranteed good conversation and friendly faces put me at ease, and I started to really look forward to hosting.
Adam joined us shortly thereafter, rounding us out to an even six, and adding another big dose of jovial warmth. We don't actually meet as often as before, and I'm sorry for that now. It has turned out to actually be my favorite part of my new life in Los Angeles.
Thursday, July 08, 2004
I felt at the end as though I had lived through some kind of gastronomic rite of passage. I was a shiny new being.
Both Clementine and I had lost our mates to the planning and execution of this for days. We stayed out of the kitchen, or helped with what we could (she mentioned countless trips to the market, up until the last minute). But during the meal, we were not called upon to take care of anything but bringing the occasional dish back inside. With Indre and Adam, we were the Eaters. They were the Chefs. We drank and swam and lounged and digested. They sweated and cut themselves and produced the most amazing meal I have ever had.
We have all taken turns cooking, that's how it started, though I wasn't there at the nascence of it all. Everyone has prepared amazing meals, therefore I've eaten many. This was definitely the most indulgent. This meal was miraculous, transcendental.
Monday, July 05, 2004
Cauliflower Panna Cotta pictures
These are a true testament to the culinary skills of Nick, who is solely responsible for this dish and how amazing it tasted. It would be a crime not to have a picture up, so here it is:
What we're drinking with it is the Napa Valley Cuvée Champagne.
This is a closeup of the dish.
As always, the photographs were taken by caró.