Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spanish Syndrome

I have so many new food stories to share, I don't even know where to begin.

I guess we will go back in time to Spanish Night (for an intro please check out the post: When Our Powers Combine, We Are...). 

The night went over well. After five bottles of wine split between four people, how could it have been bad? The wine was all very good and very red. As soon as I learn more about wine, I will be happy to post more info on my blog, but for now I just know I like it.

Here is the Menu:

Miscellaneous Charcuterie and Cheese that was already in my fridge, along with freshly "brined" olives
Roasted Sweet Onions with Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts
Roasted Garlic
Baby Artichoke Hearts with Tomato Sauce
Fried Potatoes with Pureed Garlic Allioli
Quail with Lentil Stew
Cinnamon and Rice Creme Brulee

I am working on my food photography skills. After a VERY taxing photo shoot for a different project I was too lazy to go get my reflector or any lights for this so I used a pan. It worked, I think. Olives...

Photo by Robin

I think the two biggest hits of the night were the Valdeon Spanish Blue...

Photo by Robin

and the Roasted Onions with Pine Nuts and more blue cheese. Marc, Megan, and I all loved the Valdeon, but Chris was overwhelmed by the saltiness of the Valdeon in large quantities, so we just used Roaring Forties on the onions. It is a much sweeter blue (I am sorry I am a shameless photo whore)...

Photo by Robin

Here is an image of that deliciousness (I apologize, after a whole bottle of wine, photos get a little blurry :oD )

Photo by Robin

The potatoes and artichokes just look like red deliciousness, the quail looked tasty, but it needed color. Hummm...

Photo by Robin

I thought everything was amazing except the quail itself. I think it just didn't have enough flavor. After the meal I deboned the rest of the meat and added it back into the stew. There is a lot to say for crispy skin, but in this case I really think flavorful meat is a better choice, and this seemed to work.

For desert Marc and Megan made really tasty Rice and Cinnamon Creme Brulee. It was photographed while being torched, but alas it looked to good to stop for another photo mid chew and I had to eat it. Your loss I suppose :)

Overall I would say it was a good meal.

As a follow Chris and I decided to go to Oyamel to see if we were emulating Jose Andres' cooking well...

Oyamel has the best Guacamole... YUM. Delicious cocktails (I like the Oyamel Ponche... Simebrea Azul, White Wine, Patron Citronge, and Agave Nectar), and spiced hot chocolate. I was most excited to try the cricket tacos. Chris loved them but I thought they had the texture of chicken skin, just a little crunch, and they were really sour. Not my favorite but certainly edible. We also had the baby pork, and fish tacos, both amazing. Chris decided to order the Tamal Verde which was a very tasty chicken tamal, and I had the Cammarones (shrimp with a green sauce). Everything was nice and refreshing so we had to have desert. Chris opted for the a Tres Leches Rum cake and I had a sort of warm Chocolate Lava Cake. I have eaten desert at Oyamel prior to this and I must say, overall I am not so excited about their desert. Maybe its just a personal thing but the textures and flavors don't hit it for me. Next time I will just add a cocktail or stick to the hot chocolate.

There is so much to try on the Oyamel menu and for under $100 it was totally worth it to stuff ourselves.

I think that is a lot of updating for today, I have lots more to share as this was a highly productive eating week so check bask very shortly for more food adventures.

Hollandaise Sauce

I need to begin to tackle things I have learned in culinary school. My first topic in this vein is the most delicious sauce of the French mother sauces: Hollandaise. 

Hollandaise is probably the most well know mother sauce because it shows up, quite flavorlessly I might note, on just about every brunch menu everywhere. It is also one of overpriced restaurants' favorite accoutrements to asparagus(I think they just use it for color most of the time). I have even seen some sort of dried version that you can get in paper packages and reconstitute with water, sad. 

Hollandaise is my favorite because I have had the real stuff, and I have been making it for as long as I remember. Unfortunately, Hollandaise has a reputation as being really difficult to make, and make correctly. Honestly, it isn't. 

There are a million ways to make it. In our sauce class the other day I learned that I make it the hard way, but there is less effort in my opinion. This is my recipe which originally came from my nana:

6-8 oz butter, melted in the microwave until there are just a few pieces that haven't quite melted yet, I melt in a measuring cup with a spout to help pouring later
2 tbl cold butter chopped into pieces
1 tbl cold water (I like to put this and the butter in the freezer until I am ready for them)
3 egg yolks (be careful to only get the yolk)
1 tbl lemon juice (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk egg yolks in a saucepan (I use my le creuset) over low heat for about 1 min until they become thick and sticky, and lighten slightly in color. 
Add water, and lemon juice and beat 1/2 min more.  
Turn burner to lowest setting possible, or simmer, and add 1 tbl of cold butter. Remove from heat and beat in the other 1 tbl cold butter. 
Continue beating yolks with whisk pouring in melted butter a few tablespoons at a time until sauce thickens into heavy cream, you will probably have to move on and off the heat for this. Use all melted butter. Season with s&p, and more lemon juice.

It may sound complicated, and you should probably have lots of eggs on hand to practice with. It might even be worthwhile to just practice whisking an eggs yolk in your pan on low heat to see how long it takes to curdle. Just watch carefully.  Make sure you can make a sound omelet before trying hollandaise. As long as you know what egg yolks look like as they get hotter and scramble, you should be able to recognize when to add cold water and butter to the hollandaise to cool the temperature. 

In cooking class the other day, we first melted butter on the stove until the foam on top began to subside (this is called clarifying and it removes the water). Then removed the butter from the heat while we cooked the yolks. 
For that we made a double boiler, whisked the egg yolks in a metal bowl on top of the water, until they were warm to the touch.
We removed the yolks from the heat and poured in the butter a few tablespoons at a time while still whisking. Then we added lemon juice and s&p to taste. 
I think this method is more foolproof because you are much less likely to curdle the yolks with the indirect heat. In fact I think everyone in the class made their hollandaise nearly perfectly and no one had done it before, except for myself. 

Now honestly, I am sure many of us watched the episode of Top Chef where Leah made hollandaise with a bad consistency and everyone gave her a hard time. I don't know what the correct consistency should be. I think as long as it coats your food and isn't a river on the plate, its perfect.

I think hollandaise is worth a few trys, eventually you'll get it right, and when you do, its sooooo worth it.

I like my hollandaise on eggs benedict, or with a meal of oven fried chicken, rice-a-roni, and asparagus, or with steak, but honestly, its most delicious right off a spoon...