Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another Award or Two

I'm home on the prairie and enjoying the big, expansive blue sky and the field grasses. I wish there were more hours in the day to do everything I want to do {online}, but I've been enjoying a good book, sitting by the beach, watching the kids play in the water, and catching up with everyone. While I've been visiting family and friends, the food blogging community continues to inspire me.

Chriesi from Almond Corner, who is a blogger I admire and check regularly to see what’s cookin’ in her kitchen, has given me the Kreativ Blogger award. I’m honored to get an award from a blogger I so respect and admire. The originator of the Kreative Award is a very talented Danish woman named, Hulda Verden.

Now I get to pass this award along to a few of my favorite bloggers:

Luscious: amazing and creative food photography by a duo of a cook and a photographer

Bittersweet: beautiful photography, plus Hannah has a published cookbook

Aaplemint: Kate has stunning photography in every post

Thanks, Chriesi!

Also, Andreea from Glorious Food and Wine has given me the "E for Excellent" award. Based in Brussels, Andreea has an amazing list of food photography links and a wonderful food blog dedicated to gourmet food and restaurant reviews. Since I’ve already passed along this award, I’ll just say thanks, Andreea! You’re a sweetie!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Whisk Wednesdays—Bisque de Homard (Lobster Bisque)

Bisque de Homard (Lobster Bisque)Bisque de Homard, or Lobster Bisque, is a once-in-a-lifetime soup. At $16 per bowl and $97 for a tureen, the word “soup” seems too simple and unworthy a description. Technically, it’s a bisque, but it needs a name deserving of its expense and grandeur. So you know what you’re getting into. So you’re prepared to savor every sip. So you’re prepared to slave in the kitchen for a whole day!

A bisque is a thick, creamy soup, traditionally made with seafood, such as lobster, crab, langoustine, shrimp, or crayfish. Unlike a chowder, it doesn’t contain any potatoes. Recipes for bisque in the 18th century included the ground shells of the seafood to thicken the soup. In this recipe, the shells are used to flavour the broth, but then strained out.

The lobster

“You’re not going to use live lobster, are you?” {dad}
“I don’t want to be here for the execution!” {sister}
“Isn’t that torture?” {nephew}
“Did they scream?” {mom}

First, the lobster. At $15.99 Canadian per pound {flown in from Nova Scotia to the prairies}, these two little innocent homards set me back $65. Boxed up and on ice, they came home with me twitching their antennae and looking uncomfortable.

After seeing what was in my cardboard box, my nephew looked at me curiously, possibly wondering if I’d decided to bring home a new pet. When I told him why there was a pot of water bubbling and boiling on the stove, he again looked at me with his big, blue eyes and said, “Isn’t that torture?” Oh, this wasn’t going to be easy. I took a deep breath, avoided the question, and picked up the smaller of the two, quickly squeezing it into the not-so-big stock pot and held the lid on tight (so it wouldn’t escape?!).

After a steam bath of only two minutes, it was bright pink and ready to be cracked, arched, pulled, separated, and unhinged all in an effort to get the meat from the exoskeleton! Here’s a picture of a lobster’s exoskeleton all neatly arranged. Mine didn’t look quite so neat after I was done with it. In fact, I had lobster juice in my hair, on my nose, and even on my big toe!

In the middle of this dismemberment, my daughter walked in and asked what I was doing. Not wanting to spoil her dinner by having her view the gross green goo from the stomach that I was trying to get rid of, I quickly said “Oh, nothing. Why don’t you go play outside.” I failed. She saw it, and she’ll probably never eat lobster!

Finally, the meat extraction was done. I pulled out my mom’s 37-year-old Weight Watchers scale & bowl with its crooked red indicator arrow hoping I would have ¾ of a pound of lobster meat. 5 ounces! That’s it. That’s all. I thought about sucking the meat out of the small legs, but decided to hope for the best from lobster #2. The second lobster didn’t fare much better, but I went ahead with the 12 ounces total that I got from these two beasts.

Watch a pro clean a lobster
Here’s a great video showing how to get the meat out of the lobster, one of the hardest parts of this recipe.

I found this placemat handy that my mom got when they visited Prince Edward Island and attended a Lobsterfest.

How to Eat a Lobster placematThe cognac
After dealing with the lobster, you cook the aromatics (shallots, leek, carrot, tarragon, and parsley with some butter) along with the choice shells from the lobster for extra flavor. Next, you flambé the lot with 1 cup of Cognac!

FlambéAccording to the French, Cognac is made from eaux-de-vie, which literally means "waters of life". This strikes me as ironic after moments ago killing the lobster!

Cognac, FranceCognac is a brandy named after the town of Cognac in France. At the local “liquor board store”, I was able to find Hennessey, which is a prominent French winery that specializes in making cognac. After pouring this liquid gold into the pot, I lit it on fire. Everyone quickly took pictures. We watched. We waited. I had to hold my dad back from plopping the lid on top to put the fire out. Finally, after 5 minutes, the fire finally died out!

If that wasn’t enough alcohol, you then add a bottle of white wine. Finish it off with some tomato paste, salt, pepper, cream, and water. And let it bubble away for awhile. After straining it, I had to add some water to bring it up to 6 cups. This seemed a shame, as I thought it would dilute the taste, but it didn’t.

The meatloaf
While the bisque bubbled and with the lobster meat extracted, I was ready to make the meatloaf…I mean “mousseline”. That has a much nicer ring to it, don’t you think?

A bit of a purée in the food processor, a dash of salt and pepper, a drizzle of foamy egg white, a touch of cream, and a sprinkle of chervil. {Chervil has been playing hard to get with me. I’ve looked in every grocery store I go to. Finally, in the small prairie city of Regina, Saskatchewan, I find a lonely bag of chervil on the shelf. “Doesn’t have much taste”, my sister says. She’s right! It looks pretty, though!}

I shaped the puréed meat into footballs, or "quenelles" as they're called, {easier to do with your fingers than the two-spoon method}, and poached them in some of the expensive broth {I would use water next time to save the broth for mouths rather than frying pans} with a buttered parchment paper circle as a lid. Ten minutes later, the lobster meatloaf was ready to garnish the bisque.

The thickener
Finally, to thicken the bisque, you use rice flour and butter to make a roux. {I don’t know why rice flour is used instead of all-purpose.} After slowly adding the broth to the roux, it simmers again to develop even more flavor.

To finish the bisque, you add a liaison of cream and eggs. This time, the cookbook says to bring it all to a boil AFTER adding the liaison. I did not want any curdling action since I'd spent all afternoon and so much money on this soup! I heated it to a suitable serving temperature, and bingo, presto….finally the bisque was done.

Like the Cream of Chicken Soup, this bisque wasn’t thick or viscous. It was creamy, though.

Mise en place for Bisque de Homard (Lobster Bisque)You can find the recipe for Bisque de Langoustins (Langoustine Bisque) {I substituted lobster for langoustines} in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with this week's recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Bisque de Homard (Lobster Bisque)Tasting Notes
“This is the most expensive soup I’ve ever made!” {me}
“This is the best soup I’ve ever tasted.” {sister and mom}
“What a lot of dishes!” {dad}

This soup had a rich, creamy flavor that was smooth and pleasing to the palate. The quenelles that floated on top of the soup provided a different texture and satisfying bite of lobster meat.

A dollar for every sip. Was it worth it?

“A bargain at thrice the price~!” says my mom. {But she’s my mom.} Next time, I’ll use shrimp.

Bisque de Homard (Lobster Bisque)Next Week (August 6)
• Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes) pages 267-268

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $506.28 + $97.96 ($16.33 per serving!) = $604.24

Butter used so far: 6 pounds, 26 tablespoons

. . . . . . . . . .

Just a note that I'm away for a couple days at a cottage without internet (yikes), so I may not get around to everyone's blogs in the next few days. I promise to catch up when I get back.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie—Summer Fruit Galette

Summer Fruit Galette baked in paper bagsA galette is supposed to be rustic, and mine certainly looks that way! Baked in a brown bag, filled with a mixture of summer fruits including saskatoons, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, drizzled with pastry cream, and served with ice cream, this is a delicious and easy dessert.

Galettes are usually round, flat, free-form tarts with a thin, crispy crust that’s been folded over onto the fruit.

By its very nature, a galette is rustic and not meant to be perfect. It's a round of pie dough folded over the edges of a filling, and what makes it so charming are its pleats, bends and wrinkles.
Dorie Greenspan

The pastry for this galette is one we’ve made before for the blueberry pie. I just pile all the ingredients on the counter and pull it together with as much ice water as needed. I’ve made it several times, and it’s flaky and tender and holds up every time. A sprinkle of ground graham crackers before adding the filling helps soak up the juices that ooze out of the fruit during cooking.


Blueberries and Saskatoons
Blueberries and Saskatoons

It’s saskatoon season here in Saskatchewan. At the farmers’ market, pails are brimming with big, delicious berries. Although saskatoons look like blueberries, they taste very different. Saskatoons have a thicker skin and thicker juice.

Saskatoons grow on deciduous shrubs and are common in the prairie provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta). They are classified as a pome, or apple, and not a berry and have a variety of names: service berry, may cherry, june berry, june bush, shad bush, shadblow, shad berry, shad blossom, shad wood, sugar pear, Indian pear, grape pear, lancewood, box wood.

I only know of one farm in the Ottawa region that grows saskatoons, Ovens Berry Farm, so I feel lucky to be in the heart of the harvest here in Saskatchewan. I knew I couldn’t get away without tossing some handfuls into this summer fruit galette.

Saskatchewan, the province, got its name from the Saskatchewan River, which the Cree called Kisiskatchewani Sipi, meaning “swift-flowing river” and Saskatoon, the city, got its name from the edible berry native to the area, which the Cree called mis-sask-guah-too-minute, meaning “wild berries”.

Prairie Cherry Spread

Prairie Cherry SpreadSince I’m visiting Saskatchewan, I found some local cherry spread (not called jam since the Canadian Food Inspection Agency thought it didn’t have enough sugar in it to be labeled a jam). It’s made by Prairie Cherry, a local organic orchard who is bringing fruits to the harsh climates of the prairies. They’ve crossed the Mongolian cherry (Prunus fruticosa) with the Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus) to create a wonderful fruit that is perfect as the jam-base for this galette.

Brown-baggin’ it
I saw a picture in the latest Cooking Light magazine of a galette sitting on a paper bag, and I thought it would be a neat idea to try baking Dorie’s galette in a paper bag. The shape of the bag helped the galette hold its form, although in a rustic way. I should have made the sides of the pastry rectangle higher to hold the juice in better.

I also tried making the galettes in a round coffee filter, but this paper was too flimsy to hold its shape so I plopped these inside a ramekin before baking.


Ingredients for Summer Fruit GaletteYou can find the recipe for Summer Fruit Galette in the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. To see how the rest of the TWD group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger! Thanks to Michelle from Michelle in Colorado Springs who chose the recipe for this week.

Summer Fruit GaletteTasting Notes
I love the versatility of this dessert since any bowl of fruit in season will work. The drizzle of pastry cream in this recipe took this galette up a notch. Once again, the pastry was crispy and flaky and one I’ll use for pie-baking in the future. This bumbleberry galette filled with summer fruits is a perfect dessert.

Recipe for Next Week (August 5)
Black and White Banana Loaf on page 232 chosen by Ashlee of A Year in the Kitchen.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More This and That

Strawberries and KumquatsI can't believe how busy July has been, and I apologize for not being able to catch up with everyone's blogs and posts lately! Right now, I'm visiting family and friends in Saskatchewan and trying to squeeze in some blogging in-between.

It's so nice to get an award and even better when it's from bloggers I admire. Over the last week, this has happened twice! I feel so lucky and honored and flattered and astounded!

First, Holly from Phemomenon, gave me the Yummy Blog Award. Holly is a phenomenally creative chef in the kitchen! You have to check out her Peanut Butter Bars!! She is also extremely friendly and drops by so many blogs to provide feedback and encouragement. She's a true inspiration. Thanks so much for the award, Holly!

Now, it's my turn to share the award with a few of my favorite bloggers:
seven spoons
Taste Buddies
The Food Librarian

Next, Anne from Anne Strawberry gave me the Brillante Weblog award. Anne bakes and cooks and blogs all while taking care of a baby boy! She's amazing. Check out her Cupcake Pops! I definitely want to make those someday! Thanks, Anne, for the award. You're a sweetie!

Here are a few more of my favorite bloggers:
Daisy Lane Cakes
Crazy Delicious Food
Lemon Tartlet and the Dust Bunnies

Finally, Lore from Culinarty included my choux swan as part of her round-up of 10 Original Food Photos #2. Thanks, Lore! What a week!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Whisk Wednesdays—Velouté Agnès Sorel (Cream of Chicken Soup)

Velouté Agnès Sorel (Cream of Chicken Soup)White soup. White stock. White chicken. White button mushrooms. And a touch of pink from the ham. This is Velouté Agnès Sorel, a cream of chicken soup. Agnès Sorel was a mistress of French King Charles VII in the 1400s and this is one of several dishes named after her.

This could also be the soup mentioned in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice:

“As for the ball, it is quite a settled thing;
and as soon as Nicholls has
made white soup enough
I shall send round my cards.”
1. Make Stock
The first step is to make stock. Since I’m currently not in my kitchen with access to all the chicken stock piled in my freezer from earlier lessons, I made some fresh chicken stock to start this soup. {I’m visiting family and friends in Saskatchewan and having fun raiding all the cupboards for food props!} Although the first thing I was supposed to do was truss the chicken, it came that way from the grocery store so I just had to plop it into my sister’s large stock pot.

2. Prep Garnish
Next, I prepped the mushrooms and ham (since tongue, which is mentioned as an alternative, is not something I really want to eat!), slicing them into julienne. When the chicken was poached, I sliced off the breast meat and cut it into julienne too. Still practicing that julienne!

3. Make Liaison
The last step is to make the liaison, which is a mixture of cream and egg yolks that thickens the soup and adds a richness of flavor. This is the trickiest part of the recipe since the eggs can curdle. Slowly whisking some hot stock into the cream and egg mixture is key. After “tempering” the cream and egg mixture by bringing it up to a similar temperature as the stock, I combined the rest of the stock and liaison in the pot. Then, I stirred and stirred and stirred and watched it carefully on the heat to thicken it a bit more. I was careful not to let it boil, but it never thickened as much as I expected it to.

Although the name of this soup says that it is a Velouté, there is no flour in the ingredient list to make a blond roux. I imagine if I added 2 tablespoons of flour, it would be a thicker soup, but the soup doesn’t need to be thicker.

“it is the duty of every housekeeper to learn the art of soup making”
~ Fannie Farmer in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1918) ~

Ingredients for Velouté Agnès Sorel (Cream of Chicken Soup)You can find the recipe for Velouté Agnès Sorel (Cream of Chicken Soup) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with this week's recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Velouté Agnès Sorel (Cream of Chicken Soup)Tasting Notes
This was a delicate, smooth soup that absorbed a smoky flavor from the ham. The chunks of chicken, mushrooms, and ham made it meal-worthy. I added more salt to boost the flavor, but it was a creamy, delicious soup that I’d love to make again. Coriander instead of parsley and coconut milk instead of cream and a few other Thai ingredients could quickly turn this into one of my favorite Thai soups: Tom Kha Gai!

Next Week (July 30)
• Bisque de Langoustins (Langoustine Bisque) pages 185-186

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $482.99 + $17.49 (stock) + $5.80 (soup) = $506.28

Butter used so far: 6 pounds, 14 tablespoons

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie—Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler

Cherry Rhubarb CobblerThis is the second cobbler I’ve made from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours, and the second one I’ve made in my life! I’ve made several crisps, but not cobblers. One of my favorite flavors is ginger, and this cobbler includes it in the filling and topping, which gives both a little zing.


Cherries and RhubarbI’m so glad I planted rhubarb in the garden last Fall since I’ve been able to use it in several recipes this year. I was able to pick up some red and golden cherries from the grocery store, which made the final dessert very pretty and pricey! {In the batch I bought, I found the red cherries were much sweeter than the golden ones.}

The topping contains whole wheat flour, which gives it more bite and texture. To make the topping, I dropped all the ingredients on the counter and my daughter and I had fun squeezing it together. It came together into a very wet ball. I checked the recipe several times to make sure I was supposed to add all the milk and found no hesitation or indication to add a tablespoon at a time, so we poured it in and tried to catch all the dribbles. Then we used an ice cream scoop to drop this wet batter on top of the filling.

Pots & Jars
During a shopping spree at an arts and crafts store earlier this spring, I bought a few mini terracotta pots thinking they would be fun to bake something in. I put a bit of the batter in the bottom to cover the hole, topped it with the cherry-rhubarb filling, and then scooped some batter on top. I also used the pie-in-a-jar idea that I tried earlier with sugar pie since it’s so easy and great for portion control!

Ingredients for Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler ToppingIngredients for Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler FillingYou can find the recipe for Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler in the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. To see how the rest of the TWD group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger! Thanks to Amanda from Like Sprinkles on a Cupcake who chose the recipe for this week.

Cherry Rhubarb CobblerTasting Notes
I loved the hint of ginger in both the filling and topping. It gives this simple cobbler a bit of sophistication. I would definitely use the filling again in either a crisp or a pie, but I preferred the “cobbled” top that we used for the Mixed Berry Cobbler. Whole wheat flour has a strong taste that doesn’t play well with others and needs a stronger tasting fruit medley. However, my pie-lovin’ daughter thought this dessert was delicious!

Recipe for Next Week (July 29)
Summer Fruit Galette on pages 366-367 chosen by Michelle from Michelle in Colorado Springs.

This must be where I first got the idea...Mari from Mevrouw Cupcake. I loved the idea, but then forgot where I'd first seen it. Mari tells a great story in her post about growing up eating the finest and freshest ingredients available. Thanks, Mari for your creativity!