CCC -a ragout, a toastie, and a gratin

This month’s Cottage Cooking Club selections included quite a few yummy-sounding dishes. I have to say, I’m a bit proud of myself, since I committed to two, but made three. And I’m so happy I did!

Just as I am getting settled in to my house in Sedona, it’s the time of year when work starts ramping up as projects must get started – so that we can “deliver Christmas”! Of course, just when I thought things were cruising along at the beginning of the month, and I was enjoying the gorgeous snow storms that are so beautiful against the red rocks, I totally forgot about snow=cold=freezing temperatures=frozen sprinkler pipes. Oops!IMG_0113

The doorbell rang at 7am one morning, and my neighbor informed me that I had a huge water leak! Yikes. I also found out that my storage building had flooded – and it was completely stuffed, with stuff! Luckily, I have a good support system, and by 7:51, I had a crew arranged to come and completely pull everything out of the building, sort it out, clean it up and put it the remaining items back. They actually had it all done over the course of 2.5 days, with one day for the room to dry out a bit. Whew!

These guys were so awesome, that I ended up having them do a full clean-up of the yard, new sprinkler system, and a general overhaul! They are about to finish today, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Moral of the story – sometimes bad things happen and it turns out for the best. A couple of overly daunting projects behind me, and a new wonderful crew of guys that I know. Best disaster ever! (I am knocking on wood!)

A few other things went right this month too! The first recipe I made was the Mushroom ragout with soft polenta. This is the kind of warming, nice recipe that makes for a terrific vegetarian meal. I’ve made other versions. This was a bit simpler – the ragout is really some well-seasoned sautéed mushrooms in a wine reduction. And the soft polenta is a bit different version than I’ve made but delicious. I didn’t have quick polenta on hand, so it took a bit longer, but that really wasn’t a problem.

I used Parmesan and smoked gouda in the polenta, then topped the ragout with some additional shredded Parmesan. This was yummy, something that I liked pretty well, though other recipes I like a bit more. But for a quick dish, very tasty.

I also made the Apple and blue cheese toast. It was on my list of “want to makes”, though not on my actual list. But I found myself with some nice home-baked bread, some Stilton and apples, and since I needed a quick lunch this seemed to be the ticket.

This doesn’t look like much – I thought I had better photos. Not, but it was delicious, and I will make this again. Perfect for a quick meal. This happened to be the same day that I was first treated to a big family of deer making their way on the path outside my office window.

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My final recipe for the month of February was Sweet potato gratin. I happen to love sweet potatoes, and was looking forward to this recipe. I love Thai flavors too, so I was intrigued by the peanut and lime layer. But, then I went to the grocery store. And they had gorgeous poblano peppers… so to go with my grilled-corn & shrimp chile rellenos, I made the gratin sans peanut better, and used some chipotle chiles in place of the fresh red chiles. I’ve made a similar recipe before, and I was certain that it would be great.

This was a great meal, and we loved the sweet potatoes along with the rellenos.

All of my dishes this month were terrific. I will certainly make some again when I get the chance. So February turned out a lot better than it started, all the way around!

I’ll be excited to see what the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club thought about their selections.

CCC – September – a month of make-ups and re-visits!

This month for the Cottage Cooking Club, we had another “make-up” or even “revisit” month. I ended up doing a little of both.

To start, I was so inspired by my fellow club members who raved about last month’s Summer garden lentils niçoise, that I decided I just had to make it. Well, I did. And it was fantastic. And I didn’t take a photo. Hmm. I loved the dressing on the lentils – and will definitely make that again.

Another recipe that I was supposed to make was the Tomato and mozzarella risotto. Others who made the recipe weren’t extremely excited about it, but I wondered if I could change the method just a little and make it a bit more interesting and less pizza in a bowl. I had just gone to the farmstand and purposely bought 3 lbs of tomatoes so that I could make the roasted tomato sauce again. This time – it turned out better – I think I roasted the tomatoes longer. But it still made all of 2-1/2 c of sauce. Not sure it was worth it. But we will see when it gets a bit later in the year and I pull out a bag from the freezer – it might just brighten up whatever I’m making.

Anyway – I decided that I would make the risotto without the tomato sauce, just adding fresh mozzarella at the end, and add the tomato sauce on top.

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Well, it was tasty – but not even close to my favorite. Still and all, a fun process.

Another recipe that I wanted to try was the Leek and cheese toastie. This one was a huge hit with others, and I had every intention of making it before. But. Well. This is a super simple recipe. The leeks are cooked until tender, cream is added, then cheese. It all gets piled onto the top a substantial piece of toast, topped with a bit more cheese and broiled until browned and bubbly. Some fresh herbs are added – thyme in this case.

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I also had some cherry tomatoes from the garden – a few of which were starting to be a little sad. So I also prepared the Honey-roasted cherry tomatoes – one of my favorites. I made a “toastie” with those as well and it turned into a very festive, colorful and flavorful lunch! I used a combination of swiss and gruyere for my cheese. I’m certain other cheeses would be terrific too. This is definitely one to make again (and again!).

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Finally, I had a small dinner party. The goal was to serve vegan. As it turned out, the friend that practices a vegan diet isn’t all that strict, but it’s always a fun challenge. While the Mushroom “risoniotto” isn’t strictly vegan, I just eliminated the butter, didn’t add any cheese (just at the table), and would have left out the cream – but was told I should just go ahead and add it. I’ve made this before and it’s delicious! To go with that, I made the Grilled asparagus spears with lemon dressing. To be honest, this is a pretty typical offering, so instead of the skewers, I just used my grill pan.

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The spears get “dresssed” with some lemon juice and a little shredded fresh mint.

IMG_4638For our salad, I decided to make the Tahini-dressed zucchini and green bean salad. I thought it was interesting that the dressing was at least inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi. Because of Andrea, our Lioness, I have his latest book on order. But aside from that, this just looked and sounded good to me.

The salad calls for grilled zucchini and oven-dried cherry tomatoes – I decided to just grill the tomatoes along with the zucchini on my grill pan – I’ve done them that way before and they are delicious. The green beans get blanched. And the dressing comes together easily. It has the juice of half of an orange in addition to the lemon – an interesting combination. And quite yummy too!

IMG_4640The dinner was a huge success. I had some fresh baked bread to go along with. A delicious, healthy evening!

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And what better for dessert than an apple pie? IMG_4634

So despite being late to the party for posting (and only iPhone photos!), it was a delicious month with the Cottage Cooking Club

ffwd – the “aha” moment (aka, the top 5)

For the next several weeks, the participants in French Fridays with Dorie will be exploring our experiences over the past several years to answer a few interesting questions. This week’s challenge is to “choose your favorite, loved the most, best recipe in FFWD to share this week and tell Why? Also share with us your Top 5 favorites list”.

Not surprisingly, this is turning out to be a difficult task. After hundreds of recipes – there are many choices. One of the most interesting things will be to read about what all of the others chose as well. Since we are a diverse and international group – I hardly think that the lists will be the same (though I suspect a couple will resonate across the board).

And making things a bit more interesting over the next few weeks, there are a couple more challenges – The Never-Doubt-Dorie Moment and The Play-It-Again-Dorie Recipe, prior to our finale and last hurrah! from this particular book. Lots of potential for crossover! And I have to say, that as I look through the recipes, and when we made them, we really came out of the gate at a grand pace! Lots of contenders from 2010 and early 2011! And a warning: some not-so-great photos of some of my top favorites! At least I maybe have learned a bit more the just how to make some great French recipes!

So, on to Candy’s Top Five Six!

#5 – Hachis Parmentier. This was also a candidate for the Play-It-Again-Dorie category. I have made this quite a number of times, always to rave reviews. But this kind of dish, as something French was a revelation. I’ve made it in the different versions, and it still remains a staple. And of course, seeing it on the menu at French restaurants (once within a month or so of its first appearance) sealed it as a resounding favorite.

#4.5 – Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs. I almost forgot this. What an amazing dish! Perfectly cooked mushrooms with shallots, and added cream, with a bit of thyme. Served on toasted Brioche with soft poached eggs. This is a to-die-for dish. Rich yet simple, and utilizes a number of French techniques. Can’t believe I almost missed putting it on the list!!

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#4 – Scallops with Double Carrots. The original recipe called for Monk Fish. None to be had here – but good quality scallops can be found. The sauce created by using carrot juice in addition to carrots themselves – well, it made the dish. Oh, and you can’t go wrong with bacon and scallops either. It was a completely new idea to me to create a sauce that way, and so it was a great lesson learned. So creative! I can’t for the life of me find a photo. Really? Do a search – many images of other Dorista’s versions available!

#3 – Salted Butter Break-Ups. No Dorie Greenspan book would be complete without an amazing dessert recipe. And even more quintessential, a cookie recipe. This recipe for oversized cookies that get broken apart at the table – well it makes for such a charming way of serving (assuming you are not surrounded by unreasonable germaphobes), but it also produces a dramatic, lovely and incredibly delicious cookie! Crunchy parts for those who love that – a bit more chewy for that preference. All in one cookie. Something for everyone!

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#2 – Roasted Salmon and Lentils. I am not a huge fan of salmon (unless I just caught it!), and had never really had any lentils that I liked (or, let’s face it, tried many) until this recipe. Oh. My. Goodness! This recipe single-handedly made me a convert to Lentils de Puy, as well as salmon. It’s that good. The lentils are perfectly seasoned, the salmon cooks perfectly, it’s hearty, healthy and very elegant in a French manner.

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#1 My Favorite, Best Recipe is: Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake. I thought about this a lot. But decided that this typically French apple cake, with it’s marked butter flavor, bursting with apple chunks got my vote. Yes, its relatively simple, but it seemed to embody the idea of a meal around Dorie’s French table.

This was a fun journey back in time to re-visit posts, what I thought, and also, what I thought was good enough to make again. All of these dishes fall well outside of the category One-And-Done. And while I had to rely on the original photos (or none at all!), they all offered something so good, that I was willing to brave the reminder of some pretty poor photography skills!

There is a celebratory air around the French Fridays with Dorie group, you can get a peek into all of the participants’ posts at the site.

ffwd – chanterelles with napa and nuts

The photo of the chanterelle mushrooms is one of the enticing things about this recipe. They are indeed beautiful. I was even able to find some. Of course, they are wildly expensive, so I decided to make this more of a mixed wild mushroom dish. I opted to use some fresh shitakes and a few crimini to replace a few of the chanterelles. This dish also requires napa cabbage and toasted hazelnuts.

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To be honest, there are a couple of things I don’t like here – I hate organic napa cabbage because there are always bugs and things (this time no exception, bugs and a worm even, yuk!); and I really dislike the mess from toasting hazelnuts and removing their skins. I don’t know why, just one of those things. But, still, I moved forward. I have to say, the chanterelles are lovely mushooms though, aren’t they?

Once everything is prepped, the shallot is sautéed in a bit of olive oil, then the mushrooms are added for a short period of time – they finish off cooking in a bit of broth and a dash of soy sauce.

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Finally the finely shredded napa cabbage is tossed in along with the chopped hazelnuts. It’s supposed to be finished with a bit of parsley as well..oh well.

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This certainly makes for a lovely dish. It really reminds me of fall, and there’s an earthiness about it that is appealing. It was interesting too, because I actually had this as a main course, to really taste the different mushrooms.

So – the verdict? Despite using Penzey’s beef base in place of a bouillon cube, the sauce had a “packaged” taste to it that I didn’t really love. Also, I have to say that the $30.00/lb. chanterelles weren’t even my favorite in the dish, though certainly good. But the fresh shitakes were very good. Will I make it again? I don’t know, but the idea was really good, and something like this would certainly be fabulous served along side a perfectly cooked roast or steak. If you would like to see what other cooks thought of this recipe, you can check out their posts via our French Fridays with Dorie website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ffwd – creamy mushrooms and eggs

Unfortunately, life has gotten in the way over the past few months. I was remodeling the exterior of my house, and then it was the holidays. Then my Dad’s health went downhill and we lost him in March. Of course (at least for me) with Easter comes hope and renewal. One of the big things that needed a re-start was my connection with friends. Not the least of which are my friends in the French Fridays with Dorie community. I’ve missed them, and I’ve missed a lot of recipes, and haven’t kept up with all of the posts, but with some of them over the past couple of months, I’m not sure I was too worried. :).

This recipe is not one of those. I’ve made this a couple of times, though probably not always as close to the recipe as possible. This time, I thought – “pick up the correct bread, serve it the correct way”. Well, at least I thought that.

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This really is a simple recipe – sauteed mushrooms and shallot, finished with a bit of cream, served over toasted brioche or challah along with a poached egg.

There are only a couple of decisions to make with this. Namely, how to poach those eggs. I almost make Dorie’s ruffled eggs because they are so cute – but when I reached into the cabinet to pull out an appropriate bowl or cup to support putting them together, I saw my egg “poachers”. Now Martha (or Julia) would probably tell you that they aren’t then actually poached. But then again neither are they if they are cooked inside a little sack made of plastic wrap.

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Doing it this way meant that my eggs and mushrooms would be ready about the same time. Of course, I wasn’t quite so organized, but that’s ok.

The mushrooms get a quick saute with the shallots in a mixture of a little butter and olive oil. They also get seasoned with salt and pepper. In this instance, I thought I’d go ahead and use my truffle salt (love, love) to just add that much more yummy!

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This all comes together quickly, since the cream only needs a minute or two to thicken slightly. I used chives to finish the mushrooms off – the suggested rosemary would be great (as would thyme). I’ll be interested to see how others fared with the addition of mint per the recipe.

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I think this dish is delicious and easy. Very easily company-worthy. It would be a perfect meal with a salad and a glass of wine. And it takes maybe 20 minutes even if you’re not completely organized. It’s also great with some softly scrambled eggs (the French way, where they turn out creamy!), which makes it even quicker.

If you’d like to see how others prepared this dish, here’s the link!

ffwd – herb-speckled spaetzle

This was a recipe that I was a bit indifferent about. I remember my Dad liking spaetzle (and schnitzel – one of my favorite words!), because he traveled to Germany a lot for business when I was a kid. And while it wasn’t unknown in my part of the midwest, it just didn’t ever hit the radar often.

I ended up not getting the recipe made on time – trading it in for dinner with my nieces who will be returning to University in a couple of days. But happily, that allowed me to see a couple of other posts about the recipe. The dishes looked terrific, and some of the stories totally charming. And recently, I’d even seen spaetzle on menus with interesting, yummy-sounding combinations.

So, I really just had to get this one made, and I was glad that I did. After reading about the amounts this recipe makes, I decided that I’d only make a third of the recipe (there are 3 eggs, makes it easy). I didn’t take any pictures of the dough – it’s just a simple egg dough that’s pretty sticky and came together very quickly. There was no resting, and waiting, and  fiddling with it, which was nice. I didn’t have fresh herbs (which I’m sure would have made a difference), so just used a Parisian Herb Blend that I had on hand. I used a regular grater to make them, squishing the dough/batter through over the top of the boiling water. Once I got the hang of it, it was really simple. And it does, in fact, cook very fast.

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I probably should have just stuck with the recipe as written. I’m sure that the broth and mushrooms would have been terrific (particularly if I’d had those fresh herbs!). But someone mentioned something about cheese… and I just happened to have some lovely freshly-grated Gruyere sitting in my refrigerator begging to be used. So instead, I did saute mushrooms, then made a bit of a cream sauce with them.

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This got mixed in with the spaetzle, along with some cheese, and a little more on top.

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I had this bake for just a few minutes while I prepared steaks. This would have been even better with some green vegetables (bad, lazy Candy). And I have to admit, that here, the stars were really the mushrooms with the spaetzle (and cream) just lending a nice background. I’m sure that the original recipe would be delicious. That said – um, this was great. Comfort food for sure. And the amount was truly generous for two people. It was certainly easier and faster than homemade pasta. And it did remind me of the gnocchi that we made earlier. Don’t know if it will be something I’d make often, but it was really, really good.

100_2232So, this was a fun, unexpected, start to 2013 for French Fridays with Dorie. I’m looking forward to cooking with you all again over the next year!

ffwd – chicken, apples, and cream a la normande

This week’s recipe is a classic French one. I know that Julia Child has many recipes for chicken with cream. But this one has ingredients that I really love, apples, mushrooms, Calvados! I’ve never made it before; either Dorie’s recipe, or Julia’s; mainly because it’s probably not that good for me (though worse than other things?… I think not!).

I almost didn’t get this done. And indeed, I’m late posting this. This has been really a crazy month or so. I work in retail real estate/construction – so we’re supposed to be kicking back at this time of year. Maybe a trip up north, just to get the feeling of the season (oh, and some serious work 🙂 ). This year has been different. Since the week after Thanksgiving, it’s been flat-out.

I’m happy that I did get this done. Like many recipes of its kind, it seems more difficult and time-consuming than it actually is. In fact, I had everything but the chicken on hand. So Dorie turns some pretty staple items into something wonderful, and comforting at the same time.

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I happen to love (love) Calvados. I think I started using it in an amazing apple cake a few years ago, and try to have some on hand. It’s wonderful in both sweet and savory applications (as well as on its own or in cocktails), adding a layer of depth you don’t get elsewhere. In fact, I used up the last of mine with this recipe, so now I get to add that to my list! Otherwise, just chicken, butter, cream, onions apple and mushrooms. Drat American over-sized everything! I had intended to make just a half-recipe, but as I took out the chicken, the pieces were so large, that I was sure that it was enough for the entire recipe. (of course, I could have thrown one in the freezer, but…). To begin, the chicken gets dredged in flour with a little salt and pepper. Then added into a (non-stick) pan with a bit of butter and oil to brown on both sides.

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While that’s cooking away, I prepped the vegetables. I had some leftover sliced mushrooms, so they got a quick chop, the apples into large chunks and the onions in a fine dice.

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Unfortunately, my original pan wasn’t big enough! I really should have known better. If I hadn’t goofed that up… this ends up being essentially a one-pan meal (and how nice is that?). I should have started with my nice straight-sided pan, it would have been fine even without a non-stick coating.

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Once the vegetables and apples get a bit of a coating from the oil/butter, then some stock is added, and that simmers for a bit. After that, the Calvados is added and the alcohol allowed to cook off. Finally, the cream is added, and simmered to reduce a little to make a wonderful sauce.

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All this needs to finish it off is a bit of a seasoning check for salt and pepper. I took Dorie’s advice and served this with some simple broccoli. I had some jambalaya rice on hand, so served that too (and though good with this, the sauce would have shown through better with something more plain). This was really, really good. And something easily manageable for a weeknight – company or no. Definitely a technique that everyone should learn. I am sure there are many other possibilities for this dish, though the classic was just right!

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I can definitely see this appearing again. A great idea in the wings for when I need something at the last minute or with no time. If you’d like to see what others in our French Fridays with Dorie group have come up with, look here.