Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Almost Perfect--Special guest post

This post has been a long time coming. Not because it wasn't delicious, just because there were so many other recipes I want to share (and I still need to get the parsley entry).

A while ago, a friend asked us to a BBQ, and would I please make a salad? Not a problem, I love making salads and they tend to get good reviews. Then I was asked to bring dessert and I said, "Oh *&^%$!" and promptly started looking for recipes. Seeing me in an utter panic, my sweetie gallantly said he would make dessert, and even make it a creme brulee,  a trend which I hope doesn't go away any time soon.

So without further ado . . 

The Almost-Perfect Creme Brulee

For this creme brulee recipe, I used Alton Brown's and Paula Deen's as the basis, but there are ingredients and steps that make it mine.


1 Pint Heavy Cream
1 Vanilla Bean , cut lengthwise in half
3 Large Egg Yolks
1/4 Cup Sugar
4 Tbsp Cognac
1  tsp Xanthan Gum
2-3 Qt of water.

Preheat the oven to 325F. It's very important to use a good oven thermometer here. Custard is one of the least forgiving things I do.

Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean

Scraping seeds from the vanilla bean

In a small saucepan, bring the vanilla bean seeds, cream and half of the cognac to a simmer. As an aside, never, ever cook with booze you're not absolutely delighted with. I used Remy Martin's 1738. Let the mixture come to a simmer, but not to full boil. Remove from heat. 

Place the mixture in a blender. Carefully and slowly add the Xanthan gum while pulsing it. You really don't want this to clump, and it will if you let it. Blend for another 30 seconds or so to make sure it's smooth, and then let sit for about 10 minutes.

Take the 3 egg yolks and the half of the sugar, and whisk until slightly lightened in colour. <em>Slowly</em> add the cream mixture while whisking. 

Put the ramekins in a roasting pan or similar, and then pour the boiling water so it covers about half-3/4 of the way up. Then slowly pour the cream-egg mixture into the ramekins. This will come really, really high. Don't worry, it will shrink a bit.

Bake for about 15-20 mins. Turn it to cook it evenly, and bake for another 20 minutes or so. They should be jiggly but not bubbling. My first batch was bubbling. Oops.

Take them out of the oven, and let them sit, hot water and all, until the ramekins are cool to touch. Remove the top crust layer, and "discard". Then mix the custard until it's even and smooth. Put it in the refrigerator for minimum of 2 hours. 

In a small saucepan, mix the rest of the Cognac and the sugar, and warm it a little to get the alcohol to start evaporating, then turn off the heat. Make sure all loose clothing, hair, etc., are tied down. Torch the sugar several times to get most of the booze out. Let this mixture sit and cool for the rest of the 2 hours.

Before serving, warm the flambe'ed mixture a little, and then divide it evenly on top of the creme. Take the torch, and in quick, circular motions, melt the sugar. Being stingy with the sugar here will help it melt easier before it burns. 

Let sit for 5 mins or so, then bon appetit

Monday, July 4, 2011

Scarborough Fair Part Three--Thyme Potato Salad

When it comes to potato salad, I have some non-traditional preferences. I like skins on, for flavor, texture and yes, because peeling takes so much time. I prefer a vinegarette or olive oil-based dressing over mayo. No pickles, either. I love pickles by themselves, but I've never been one for including them in potato salads and keep them the heck away from my tuna.

The grocery had a sale on purple potatoes last week, and I'd never used them before. The package was just big enough to make a salad for two, so I didn't get any other potatoes to mix up the color a little bit. Check out the color:

I love it, it's practically the same color as the cutting board. 

Ingredients, not perfectly measured:

2 cups potatoes in bite-sized pieces
1 t salt divided
freshly ground black pepper
fresh lemon juice to taste
1/4-1/3 cup of olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme.

Boil potatoes in water with 1 t salt for slighly less time than you would if you were cooking them for mashed. When you stick a fork in them, you should feel a little bit of resistance in the center. Otherwise, when you stir, they will fall apart. It'll still be tasty, but it won't earn you any points on presentation. Strain the potatoes and rinse with cold water. Allow to cool, about 20 minutes.

When it comes to mixing salad dressings, I like to use a medium-sized glass jar, such as one left over from salsa or jam. 

I start with the juice of one lemon, which yields about 1/4 cup. add olive oil, salt to taste and several grinds of black peper. Add the thyme, and mix well. This is where the jar comes in handy, you can just seal and shake.

Once the potatoes are cool, gently toss with the dressing. This goes very well with poultry. If I were to serve beef, I'd try it with fresh tarragon. With pork, probably rosemary.

Questions? Comments? Death threats? I'd love to hear from you!