Saturday, February 5, 2011

more food... quelle surprise

And now for a roundup of the last full month of food for the 52 Weeks of Food project. Only two weeks to go and we'll be done.

On the second day of the new year, Steve made some black truffle risotto. I had bought him two little Perigord black truffles from Bi-Rite and put them in his Christmas stocking, so we were racing against the clock by New Years, trying to make sure we used them before they got too old. We went through the cookbook collection and decided to do the truffle risotto from Avec Eric, and preserve what was left of the truffles using Thomas Keller's method from The French Laundry Cookbook. We still haven't used the preserved truffle, but it's safe in the freezer. It might get used for a Valentine's Day dish.

But back to the truffle risotto...

truffle risotto

We were going to have it for lunch that day, but the whole process of making mushroom stock took longer than Steve expected. We ended up having really mediocre burritos from El Farolito around 1pm—our usual places were closed—and then we ate the risotto around 4pm, when it was finally ready. On the plus side, there was still some light for the pictures. Unfortunately, we weren't exactly hungry for it at that time. I had at least gone easy on the burrito, so I was able to eat more of the risotto than Steve.

It really had nice flavor, although it was pretty intensely earthy. The thyme was also a good addition, since the recipe didn't have any herbs.

By the second week of 2011, we had come to the conclusion that Sunday lunches were good times to do our weekly dishes. That way, there was ample light, and I didn't have to worry about taking other pictures for the 365 project on my main work day. Putting the new Ethan Stowell book to use, Steve made Tagliarini with Totten Virginica Oysters, Prosecco, Chives, and Cream.

oyster pasta

The ingredients all sounded fabulous to me, although we made a few adjustments. First, I made Steve use dried linguine instead of making his own fresh tagliarini. I really didn't want him to be freaking out about pasta that wasn't behaving if I was on a schedule to get the picture taken and food eaten before I had to leave for work. Second, we used Marin Miagi oysters instead of Totten Virginica, since they were available and cheaper than our favorite Kumamotos.

The overall result wasn't as good as I hoped, however. The oysters poached in prosecco weren't my favorite, too much of the sauce for the pasta seemed to have been left at the bottom of the pan, and it needed more acidity that the prosecco apparently didn't provide. My theory is that this would be great with the right oysters, the right prosecco, etc. Anyway, none of that stopped me from eating the leftovers of the pasta the next day.

The following week, we finally did something with local dungeness crab. Steve had been talking about it for quite a while, so I had gone in search of recipes that were specific to dungeness crab. The top contender for me was Carrot Soup with Dungeness Crab from Sunset, a California lifestyle magazine/website that's been around for ages.

carrot soup with dungeness crab

Steve has an old recipe from Williams Sonoma for carrot-ginger soup with orange, so he decided to make that instead of the one from the Sunset recipe. To top the soup, he did the crab (finished in butter), some fried shallots, chives, and a quick infused chive olive oil. Once I had plated my serving, I realized that it was way too busy, rather than simple and clean like I wanted. The soup itself ended up being overly orangey as well, so Steve made some changes when he made it again last week.

This time, he used the same base for the soup (carrots, leeks, potatoes), but he used a little meyer lemon instead of the orange. (The Sunset recipe used regular lemon.) He also didn't bother with the butter on the crab; it didn't need it, and the color was prettier without it. Instead, I suggested he toss it with some of the meyer lemon juice and chives, like the Sunset recipe directed. And for toppings, we just used a few more chives and a drizzle of plain olive oil. It was simpler and tasted better. I'll have to take a new picture of it sometime, since I foresee us making it again.

Then there was the week of caramelized things from Avec Eric. I picked a couple recipes after looking at the index of the book online. The first was the Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Tart. I've been craving this sort of thing for quite a while, just waiting for the right recipe.

puff tart

It turns out, this is not quite that recipe. It didn't help that this was Steve's first time working with puff pastry. He didn't roll the dough out thin enough, so it puffed way more than it should have. There was also a bit too much oil in the tart as a whole and not enough flavor. I think it needed more cheese and more salt. It was worth a try, but the puff pastry thing would probably make a better appetizer than lunch. It looks like the search for the perfect caramelized onion tart-type thing will continue.

Part two of caramelized day was Caramelized White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Blood Orange Marmalade.

white chocolate panna cotta

It was another semi-failure. The white chocolate panna cotta was heavy/rich (too much gelatin?) and grainy from the chocolate. The blood orange marmalade was also pretty thick, but it had too much bitter flavor from the orange rinds and not enough bright orange flavor. I ate both of the little pots of it from the picture as leftovers, but that small size was definitely enough. The main thing I noticed was that each component really needed the other for balance. It was just too bad that the panna cotta and marmalade weren't better by themselves.

We chose another two recipes for last Sunday's lunch. This time, both recipes were for stuffed piquillo peppers. The first was one we saw Anne Burrell make on Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.

stuffed gnome hats

These were stuffed with a mixture of chorizo, manchego, and breadcrumbs and served on with a baby arugula salad with scallions and almonds.

When I was looking for that recipe, I saw another that also looked good: Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Goat Cheese on the Martha Stewart website.

gnome hats 2.0

The Martha Stewart ones were served cold, whereas the Anne Burrell peppers were baked in the oven and served warm. We were glad we did both; they went well together on the salad. The only thing we would change is the amount of lemon in the goat cheese stuffing. I like lemon, but this was too much even for me. Between that and a little too much vinegar in the dressing for the salad, there was just too much acid. That should be easily fixed, so we might do these two recipes together again sometime.

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