Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chocolate Valentino -- Daring Bakers Challenge February 2009

I wish I were more of a chocolate lover, as I might have appreciated this month's Daring Bakers challenge much more. It's not that I didn't enjoy it -- I did! But I'm not one of those all chocolate, all the time type people, and this month's challenge was really catered to the ultimate chocolate lover.

Info for February:

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.

We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

The recipe itself could not be simpler (and I made it even more simple), which was perfect for someone coming back from a 2-month hiatus. It uses 3 -- count 'em -- 3 ingredients: chocolate, eggs, and butter. As you can imagine, the quality of your ingredients matter a lot in this flourless cake; if one things tastes off, the whole thing is off. The original challenge stated that the finished cake would taste exactly like the chocolate used, and that cannot be emphasized enough. If you're a chocolate connoisseur, you'll probably need to use the super pricey stuff -- but you'll be amply rewarded.

Rather than go through the whole double boiler scenario, I melted my chocolate and butter by microwaving. I was very careful about this, only microwaving for 30-40 seconds at a time, and mixing after each time, to make sure the chocolate wouldn't burn and to fully incorporate the butter. I found that this also made the chocolate just warm, rather than hot, just enough so that it's melted. That was very helpful when adding the egg yolk, as I didn't have to worry about them curdling.

I loved the "batter," so creamy and gorgeously brown. I even loved it after folding in the egg whites and it looked grainier. I'm normally not a fan of licking the spoon or tasting batter (I know, I'm weird right? But I can usually taste the flour in it, and that's just kind of yucky), but that wasn't the case with this cake.

It was optional to use a heart-shaped pan (though if I'd been making this for anyone than just me, I might have tried to go find and buy such a pan), so I opted to bake mine as little cakes in ramekins -- a good choice actually, as right out of the oven, they had risen like little soufflés. And in fact, they sink with time just like soufflés as well.

I probably should have eaten them right in the ramekin, but mindful that this was supposed to be a cake, I tried to remove them from their baking dish and plate them ... not my best idea. It all fell apart (though that didn't make it any less tasty).

It's so cold here right now that I really could not imagine making ice cream (plus I have one of those tiny freezers that's already packed with all the stuff I freeze and forget about), so I also opted to make the suggested alternative of whipped cream, warmed up some strawberry rhubarb jam, and topped the cake with that. The cream, the tang from the jam, and the chocolate combination was wonderful.

The cake was so rich and so chocolatey, however, that I could not eat more than two of them (hence my wish that I were more of a chocolate lover -- or at least that I had a roommate or something who could have helped me finish).

Chocolate Valentino from Sweet Treats by Chef Wan of Malaysia

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

  • 16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs separated


  1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often. (Or you can do what I did; place the chocolate and butter in a microwafe-safe bowl and microwave 30-40 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until the mixture is fully melted and incorporated. If you do this correctly the chocolate will be just melted and won't be super hot, which is good for the egg step.)
  2. While your chocolate-butter mixture is cooling, butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
  3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
  4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
  5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
  6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
  7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375°F/190°C
  9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. (Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.)
  10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Friday Dinner: Mexican Breakfast

This week Trix and I seemed to have one of those brain-melding moments in which we had very similar thoughts about what we should do for dinner on Friday, even though it wasn't necessarily the exact same thing. I don't even know how we came to the conclusion we did, how it was raised in the first place: that's a blur. All I know is, we brought up the topic of dinner, and about 5 minutes later we had decided on Mexican breakfast.

I have to admit from the outset that I was at a disadvantage, having never actually eaten what I was proposing to make in a restaurant. Due to a recipe I'd seen at Homesick Texan, I was very eager to try making my own chorizo -- and one of the classic ways of eating chorizo is with scrambled eggs. It sounded easy enough.

Trix decided on huevos rancheros, which was more complicated than chorizo and scrambled eggs, particularly because she wanted to find an authentic ranchera sauce. She eventually found one here.

I marinated the ground pork for the chorizo overnight. I was excited about using my new Mini-Prep food processor for the first time. There are many times when I want to use a food processor to make a bit of something, but my normal food processor is simply too large to be effective. Especially as I'm usually just cooking for myself, I don't need a big batch of sauce that a normal-sized food processor effectively makes. Just some photos to illustrate:

As you can see, it was the perfect amount for the Mini-Prep, which worked great. The marinade consisted of guajillo chiles, onion, garlic, and apple cider vinegar. It was then mixed into the ground pork along with some seasoning:

This mixture was marinated overnight. To prepare, I simply browned it in a cast iron pan until fully cooked. I then spooned some into another pan and added some beaten eggs with milk. I scrambled it well (how I prefer) and served with some fried potato coins. The finished product:

The following day, I had the same thing, but dressed it up a bit -- I added pickled jalapenos and cheddar cheese to the dish and ate the chorizo and eggs with flour tortillas.

Trix began her efforts by chopping up green bell pepper for the ranchera sauce:

When that was cooking away she also heated up some black beans and rice (the latter not pictured):

And the delicious finale, with fried eggs, the ranchera sauce, black beans, rice, and white corn tortillas.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Butter ... the Popovers and Apple Kind

This repast is reminiscent of a late-night snack Trix and I had in New York. The Popover Cafe, located on the Upper East Side, was recommended to us, but unfortunately it was a big letdown. We don't know if they were having an off night or if the person who recommended it truly liked their extremely dry, almost burnt popovers. The only reason they were edible at all was because of the apple butter they were served with. (Ironically, the food we saw other people having that were not popovers, actually looked very good, even though the person recommending the restaurant specifically said that the rest of the food wasn't good; it was only the popovers that were worth eating. Given our short time in New York, however, we didn't waste a meal finding out if the regular entrees really were any good, or if they only looked good in comparison to the cardboard we were eating.)

Happily, homemade popovers and apple butter are actually very simple to make -- and are worlds better than what we had at the Popover Cafe.

These homemade popovers are made from Wondra flour, which I've never thought to bake with. It comes in a cardboard cannister, and advertises itself as ideally used to make gravies and sauces, because it's a special kind of flour that doesn't clump in liquid. That is, in fact, why I had it, because I'm fairly new to making gravy, and needed all the help I could get. The recipe is from Rose Levy Beranbaum. She describes Wondra as "a granular form of flour developed by General Mills. It dissolves instantly in liquid because it has been subjected to a process called agglomeration. It is produced essentially by misting flour with water and then spray-drying it with compressed air, which separates the flour into particles of even size and shape that will not clump when mixed with liquid." Therefore you need not worry that there is any leavening done by chemicals -- there isn't. If you don't have or want to use Wondra, that's fine, but in that case the dough will need a 2-hour or so rest before baking (whereas with Wondra, the popovers can go into the oven immediately after mixing).

The perfect popover, in my mind, is crispy on the outside and hollow and satiny on the inside. It's drier than regular bread and other pastries, but not dry. Its hollow insides are perfect for filling with melting butter and sweet preserves.

Perserves such as apple butter. I've never understood the name -- why butter? We don't call it strawberry butter or grape butter, so why is apple different? There isn't any dairy in apple butter -- just fruit, sugar, and spices. Well, no matter. It's delicious no matter what it's called.

And there are few things in life that go more perfectly together than warm popovers and apple butter. Perfect for breakfast and tea time!

Butter Popovers

Makes 6 regular-sized popovers or 12 mini-popovers

Recipe by Rose Levy Beranbaum (from her book, The Bread Bible)

  • 1 cup plus 3 tbsp Wondra flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled but still liquid, divided


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. If you're using a dark pan (such as the nonstick one I use), preheat to 400°F instead. Set a rack on the second level from the bottom of the oven.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Slowly add the milk, whisking steadily. Using handheld beaters or continuing with the whisk, add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition, until the batter is smooth. Beat in 2 tbsps of the butter, which may clump a bit -- that's okay. (If you don’t plan to use the batter immediately, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Beat it lightly with a whisk before using.) To make things go faster and easier, pour the batter into a pitcher with a pouring spout -- my 2-cup measuring cup worked perfectly.
  3. If you're using a 6-well popover pan, spoon 1 tsp of the remaining butter into each well. If you're using a 12-well muffin/cupcake pan, spoon 1/2 tsp of butter into each well.
  4. Use a pastry brush to thoroughly coat the inside of each well with the butter.
  5. 3-5 minutes before baking, line the oven rack with aluminum foil. Place the popover/muffin pan on top of the foil. Warm the butter until it begins to brown, but do not allow it to burn.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven, and fill each well about halfway. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Lower the temperature to 350°F and continue baking for 40-45 minutes for standard popovers or 20-25 minutes for muffin-size ones. The popovers should have puffed to about 3 times their original size.
  8. 5-10 minutes before the end of the baking time, make a small slit in the side of each popover to release steam and dry the insides a bit. Don't open the oven until this point, or you risk deflating the popovers.
  9. When the popovers are done, remove the pan from the oven. With a pot holder, gently lift them from the pan one at a time and place on a wire rack to cool a little. Serve while warm, with butter, apple butter, or your favorite jam.
Apple Butter

Makes enough to just about fill a regular-sized jar of peanut butter.

  • 2 1/2 lbs apples (such as Fuji or Jonagold -- if you use a tarter apple such as Granny Smith, you might want to use more sugar)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cloves (optional)


  1. Preheat a slow cooker by setting it on High.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, and spices.
  3. Peel and core the apples. Chop into 1-inch pieces. Do this as quickly as possible, so that the apples don't oxidize too much. Drop the pieces into the sugar mixture as you go.
  4. Mix the apples in the sugar mixture until well coated, then transfer it all into the preheated slow cooker. Put the lid on.
  5. Cook on high for 1 hour. The apples will have released plenty of liquid. Give them a good stir.
  6. Turn the heat to Low and cook for another 9-10 hours. In that time the apples will soften even further and turn to a mahogany brown.
  7. Remove the lid and let it cook for another hour. Using a whisk, stir the mixture to break up the pieces of apple. Hopefully much of the liquid will have evaporated. That wasn't the case for me, so I transferred it to a small pot, set it to simmer, and let it bubble away uncovered for another hour. If you do this as well, make sure it doesn't burn. (You don't want the butter to have too much water/liquid -- it should really have a jam-like consistency.)
  8. To finish, transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. This step isn't necessary if you like chunky preserves, but I like the texture best when it's smooth and uniform.
  9. Store in an air-tight container. Lasts about 3 months.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Once in a Blue Moon

I try to be a health conscious individual most of the time, even if it's just to rationalize why I can/should eat something even though I shouldn't. At least I thought about it, right?

There's no rationalizing this one. I just want to eat breakfasts like this once in awhile. I need to. It's a desire that nags at me until I assuage the need. I never liked chicken fried steak until I had the one at Patty's Eggnest in Lynnwood. I liked the idea of it -- steak covered in a seasoned fried chicken batter -- but none ever lived up to the idea. Until I got the Big Foot Special at Patty's. It's an 11oz chicken fried steak with 3 eggs any style, toast, and hash browns. The steak is smothered in a sausage gravy that is the best cream gravy I think I've ever had (normally I prefer brown).

As I've already mentioned, I've been reading Jane and Michael Stern's Two for the Road, and just got past a chapter in which they provide a recipe for chicken fried steak. That started the cravings. I tried to resist; I tried to put it out of my mind. Then I thought about making it myself for the first time using their recipe ... but thought that was a bit unrealistic as if I made it, I'd want to make more than one since I was putting in the effort anyway (and I shouldn't have more than one), and I'd also want all the fixings -- gravy, potatoes, eggs, etc. -- which I didn't necessarily want to take the time to make. So then I kept thinking about going to Patty's ... and I kept thinking it until I went just the other day.

When I got there just before 10am I was told that they were out of the Big Foot -- but had their 6oz portion. Given no choice I had to take it. Just as well since I had leftovers anyway, but it's definitely not as good a deal. And it hit the spot, as expected. I don't think I'll need to have this again for a good long while, but boy did I have a good time while I ate my meal that morning!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hodge Podge Salad

Today I'm going to talk about salad. No, not the kind involving greens with some other stuff thrown on top along with a drizzle of dressing. That's not difficult for most people to put together (though it can be very time consuming, depending on what you like to have in your salad). The kind of salad I'm talking about is the kind where you mix together bite-sized ingredients that's held together by mayonnaise (or mayonnaise-like substance). Think potato salad, egg salad, chicken salad, etc.

In fact, I'm currently reading Two for the Road by Jane and Michael Stern, and this is the kind of salad that would fit quite nicely in salad bars in Iowa: "Salad bars in Iowa do not hold a shred of lettuce. Instead they carry things such as multicolored Jell-O, fruits and vegetables slathered with Miracle Whip or sour cream, and chocolate, tapioca, and vanilla puddings."

The recipe I'm sharing today may not look very fancy. It may not sound very fancy. It doesn't even have a name -- my grandmother just called it "salad" -- so I've given it one. But it has the most important quality I look for in food: it's delicious. And it's a dish near and dear to my heart, as it's something my grandmother used to make when I was a little girl. I don't know how she got it into her head to make this, or if she got the recipe from somewhere, but I'm glad she did.

A quick review of the ingredients may turn some people off. Believe me, I'd be one of those people had I not already tried it without any biases. I am specifically referring to, of course, Miracle Whip. Those who don't like mayonnaise-type dressings are already gagging, and even those who DO like mayonnaise are gagging, because a majority of people, I've found, prefer 'real' mayonnaise. In fact, I don't think I have ever heard of anyone stand up for Miracle Whip, and yet the product is still on the shelves, so someone must be buying it.

I am not here to defend Miracle Whip in a general sense. If I'm eating a sandwich or making ranch dressing, or probably 99% of other uses for mayonnaise, I prefer 'real' mayonnaise (homemade, if possible). But I've tried using mayonnaise in this dish. It doesn't work. The resulting product tastes bland, boring, unappetizing. Using Miracle Whip makes it delicious every time. Why that is, I don't know. But it works. And you don't have to fear -- using Miracle Whip in this salad not only transforms the salad, but transforms the Miracle Whip. You don't actually taste the dressing, but the combination of salad ingredients. It's as if you used mayonnaise, but added a few other undefinable seasonings as well. Make this for a potluck. It'll get rave reviews and it'll look so simple that people will go home and try to make it themselves. But somehow it won't taste the same as yours; it won't be the same as yours. And they'll be befuddled, because it's just 4 ingredients and some mayo; what did they do wrong? And only you and I will know that the difference was Miracle Whip.

There was something special about the way my grandmother made it that imitators find difficult to duplicate. I think the secret is its simplicity. My mom tried various ways of 'improving' on it, only to be told that it wasn't as good as grandma's. The ingredients that go into the salad, as well as the way in which they are cooked, are very particular in that they create the perfect texture that this salad is supposed to have. Nothing should stand out. When you're eating it, it should be a mouthful of yummyness, with no single ingredient distinguishing itself from the rest (such as the time my mom tried using raw carrots).

I don't have a precise recipe to share. I make it a little different every time. The quantities of the ingredients you use also depend on personal preference and how much you're making. There are 5 primary ingredients to this salad: ham (the Oscar Mayer kind), eggs, carrots, celery, and the aforementioned Miracle Whip. You can add peas, maybe some corn, maybe finely diced potato, without changing it too much. Anything else and it becomes a different salad entirely. In fact, if you add too much potato, it becomes a glorified potato salad. I recommended just sticking with the 5 primary ingredients for the best flavor and texture.

Now, how to go about putting it all together? Get a large bowl. The ham is the easiest part. All you need to do is chop it up into little bite-sized squares (it's conveniently already in the shape of a square, so I just slice it into rows on the vertical, then the horizontal) and place it in the bowl. The eggs need to be hard boiled. Then they too are sliced into bite-sized pieces and placed in the bowl. Include as much or as little egg yolk as you like. It has great nutritional value, but also a lot of cholesterol. The carrots should be peeled, then boiled to the point that they aren't crunchy anymore, but aren't mushy. They should still give a slight resistance to the tooth. The same goes for the celery. Celery in particular cooks very quickly, so all you need to do with them is basically blanch them for a minute in hot water. Both the carrots and celery should then be diced into -- you guessed it -- bite-sized pieces.

Now scoop out some Miracle Whip and add it to the bowl. (If you MUST use regular mayonnaise, you'll need to add some salt at the very least to bring out the flavor of the salad.) Mix well and add more dressing if needed. Since mayo and its ilk are all calorie fests, I like to add a bit at a time to make sure I'm using the minimum needed to make the salad come together. It shouldn't be gloopy with dressing, but the mixture should be well coated. Here's another important step: put it in the fridge. It will be very tempting to eat it straightaway, but it won't be as good. This salad needs to be given the time for the different flavors to mingle and served cold.

When I told my mom I was making it, she was like, but I thought you didn't really like mayo. And I said, yes, that's true, but I LOVE this salad, I don't know why. And she said, "Well, everybody likes it." That's really all that needs to be said.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Seared Chilean Sea Bass and Scallops

I decided to try my hand at preparing Chilean sea bass, which is one of my favorite kinds of fish. I love the way Bonefish Grill prepares it, especially with their chimichurri sauce. I wasn't attempting to recreate that dish here, however; I don't have enough experience with cooking fish (other than steaming), so I didn't want to be too ambitious.

What I ended up doing was borrowing Mark Bittman's method of cooking salmon in this recipe -- searing both sides of the fish and popping it into an oven for a few minutes, and serving it on a bed of spicy stir-fried cabbage. Yes, the very same recipe as the one I mentioned using for the last Friday dinner. What can I say, I love it!

I also used a few scallops in the dish, for textural and flavor variety, preparing them the same way I did the fish.

The dish was very tasty, though I think I might have overcooked the sea bass a tad. The only challenge I had with the preparation was that the fish kept sticking to the pan. I used a seasoned cast iron pan, but maybe it wasn't seasoned enough, or maybe I just need to use a different sort of pan. When serving the fish broke off into chunks, which didn't diminish the flavor, but isn't quite picture perfect.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Friday Dinner: Seafood and Vegetable Medley

This week was supposed to be a boring Friday night dinner. Trix and I both had food aplenty in the house and didn't feel like spending the time or the money to get more. We listed the items we each had, and the only things we had in common were vegetables -- and then, not even the same vegetables. Just in the fact that we both had vegetables. We could just have a generically themed dinner. What about a vegetable medley? I suggested. Trix said she had some scallops, and would use those in her medley.

Sometime during the week I discovered Melissa Clark's recipe for roasted shrimp and broccoli (one of the veggies I had), and I decided I wanted to make it, so the theme turned instead to a seafood/vegetable medley.

What started out as a plain, generic veggie medley therefore turned into a couple of delectable, repeatable meals -- one I'd personally like to have again and again.

The recipe for the roasted shrimp and broccoli is easy. Melissa's recipe calls for a few spices, but you could probably just toss the whole thing with salt or salt and pepper, maybe some butter, and it would be equally as good -- maybe even better. This is a recipe I'm definitely going to experiment with. As for roasting the broccoli in the oven, that's something I should have thought of doing long ago. I'm the one who loves broccoli pizza, after all, and go through the same steps when I use it as a pizza topping. So why haven't I ever just made it on its own?

Trix turned hers into a seafood/vegetable casserole by adding pasta and cheese to some squash and mushrooms.

To finish, we spent hours making raspberry & brie fillo rolls from scratch...okay, no we didn't. We took the easy way out and had some frozen ones from Trader Joe's.

They were yummy, but in my opinion, they really are better served as appetizers (as the box suggests) instead of dessert, even though to me, raspberry and cheese just screams dessert. It's not very sweet though, which is why the appetizer verdict. In retrospect I should have served it with some of the lemon curd I recently made from my Meyer lemons; I still have 10 in the package so I may yet do that. Perhaps the sweetness of the lemon curd will make these rolls work better as dessert.

On the side I had more veggies -- the shredded half of a head of cabbage, to be precise. I love stir-fried cabbage, especially when you cook it until it's completely wilted with some hot sauce and soy sauce or salt. Mmm delicious.

Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli (recipe by Melissa Clark, spice conversion by The Wednesday Chef)

Note: I halved this recipe with no problem, and used bottled lemon juice because I had it.


  • 2 pounds broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and chili powder.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  4. Spread broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes.
  5. Add shrimp to baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and golden around edges, about 10 minutes more.
  6. Serve with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over shrimp and broccoli just before serving.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Meyer Lemon Sablés

When life gives you Meyer lemons, you make? Lemonade is too boring. You can make lemonade with regular lemons and it tastes pretty much the same. So what, then? What is worthy of beauties such as these?

The color of these lemons is not a trick of the camera. They're practically orange. Which is appropriate, because Meyer lemons are sweeter than the average lemon. In fact, if you're making a recipe that requires Meyer lemons and you only have regular ones, the substitution is to add a bit of orange juice.

I found a basket of these lovelies at Whole Foods, and bought two. I've been wracking my brain with what to do with them. Naturally, one of the first places I checked for a Meyer lemon recipe was Orangette, since her recipes are usually quite pleasing to me. That's how I came to make these cookies, which are basically like lemon shortbread cookies. They're light and buttery, and though I wish they were a little crispier, or maybe a little chewier, they're addictive to eat. The problem is that the recipe makes 80 cookies, and well, there's just me!

Now I have two zested Meyer lemons and haven't decided yet what I'll be doing with the juice/pulp. But I'll come up with something soon, and when I do, you'll be the second to know about it.

Meyer Lemon Sablés

Recipe originally found at Orangette

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Meyer lemon zest (from about 2 good-size fruits)
  • ¾ tsp coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ¼ cup coarse Turbinado sugar, for rolling logs of dough


  1. In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder, and whisk to mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  2. Put the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl). Beat (with the paddle attachment, if you’re using a stand mixer) on medium-low speed until the butter is creamy; then add the confectioner’s sugar and beat for a minute. Add the granulated sugar, and beat for a minute more. Sprinkle the lemon zest and salt into the bowl, and mix briefly to just combine. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing briefly to incorporate after each addition. With the mixer on low, add the flour in three doses, mixing just until the flour is absorbed. Use a rubber spatula to do any last scraping and stirring; do not overmix. The dough will be quite thick and dense and sticky.
  3. Divide the dough between two large sheets of wax paper. Using the paper as an aid, smoosh and roll and shape one blob of dough into a rough log about 1½ inches in diameter. Roll up the log in the paper, and twist the ends to seal it closed. Repeat with the remaining blob of dough. Chill the two logs until the dough is cold and firm, at least two hours and up to a couple of days.
  4. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F, and set a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Put a large sheet of parchment paper on the counter, and pour the Turbinado sugar onto it, making a ridge of sugar approximately the length of the dough logs. Remove a log from the fridge, unwrap it, and roll it lightly in the sugar to press the crystals into its sides. Coat the log as thoroughly as you can; then slice it into ¼-inch-thick slices. Lay the slices on the baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Refrigerate the remaining dough.
  5. Bake the cookies for about 10-12 minutes or until just golden around the edges, rotating the sheet 180 degrees halfway through the baking time. Cool them on the silicone mat or parchment paper on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough.

Note: Store the cookies in an airtight tin at room temperature for up to three days, or freeze them in a Tupperware, with a sheet of wax paper between each layer.

Yield: about 80 silver-dollar-size cookies

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Creamy Scallop Soup

This soup is not your everyday soup. It takes too much time and too many premium ingredients for that. But it's the perfect thing for a dinner party or special occasion. All the work and effort you put into it is worth the time it takes to concoct this gorgeous, sophisticated soup. The base is silky, creamy, and rich, and yet has a slight tang from the lemon, and a hint of nuttiness from the crème fraîche. And let's not forget the jewels of tender, succulent scallops that are swimming lazily in the broth. The recipe doesn't make much, but it's enough to serve 4. Why? Because something this rich and satisfying doesn't need more than a small bowl. More, in my opinion, lessens the experience; tips it over to the side of being too much. Serve it in small bowls, so each drop can be savored, as it should.

The soup begins with a white fish stock. Where does one obtain the fish heads/bones/frames necessary for the stock? Call a local fish market, or even a regular grocer, and see if they'll reserve you a pound or two of it. They'd likely discard it anyway, so might even give it to you for free (or would charge a nominal fee). I got mine from Whole Foods. I called them the morning I was going to make the stock to have them reserve heads/frames from white fish for me. They charged me $0.99/lb.

Next comes the crème fraîche, the French version of sour cream. But, to no one's surprise, it's better than the usual sour cream. Why? Because crème fraîche has a nutty flavor that imparts itself to the final soup -- so I'd recommend you use the real thing. You can buy a small tub of it (just enough for this soup, actually) made by Bellwether Farms for $2.99 from Trader Joe's. If you can't find it, you could probably subsitute sour cream or whole milk yogurt, but it won't be the same. Alternatively, you could try making an imitation. Do this by adding a tablespoon of buttermilk to a cup of whipping cream, then heating it gently to 110°F (45°C). Let the good bacteria culture grow in a warm place (think rising dough), keeping it there from 8 hours to a couple of days, until it's thick. Once it's the right consistency, transfer it to a small container and store it in the fridge. It'll thicken some more while in there, and will be good for about three weeks. But the truth is, it's a poor substitute. If you can get real crème fraîche, you should definitely splurge.

The recipe calls for whole sea scallops, which are then quartered. I've made this soup twice now, once using whole sea scallops and once using bay scallops. I liked the flavor of the sea scallops more, but bay scallops, with their pleasing whole-mini-scallops look, make for a nicer presentation. Which you use should be determined by which aspect is more important, depending on the occasion for which you're making the soup. A 1-lb bag of frozen bay scallops can be had at Whole Foods for $6.99; a 1-lb bag of frozen, wild sea scallops can be had at Trader Joe's for $10.99; and a 1-lb tub of fresh, wild sea scallops can be had at 99 Ranch for $9.99.

Creamy Scallop Soup

This recipe is originally from Orangette, who calls it "Cream of Scallop Soup," per the Gourmet recipe she got it from. However that makes me think the scallops have somehow been pureed into the soup, which is not the case, so I like my name better.

  • ¾ lb. sea scallops, tough ligament removed from side of each if attached
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 cup white fish stock
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 7.5oz (213g) crème fraîche (about ¾ cup)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped chives


  1. Rinse the scallops, and then pat them dry. Quarter them, and season them with 1/8 tsp. salt.
  2. In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the stock, wine, shallot, thyme, and ½ tsp. salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and boil for 5 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing on the solids before discarding them. Return the liquid to the saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then stir in the scallops and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the scallops are just cooked through, about 2 minutes. (Do not overcook. If anything, leave them rare; they will continue to cook after you remove them from the heat.) Remove the scallops with a slotted spoon, and keep them warm, covered. Reserve the cooking liquid in the saucepan.
  3. Meanwhile, put the crème fraîche in a small saucepan, and bring it to a simmer over medium-low to medium heat. Simmer until it reduces slightly, about 3 minutes. Add it to the cooking liquid in the medium saucepan, stir well, and simmer together for another 3 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, ¼ cup of the crème fraîche-cooking liquid mixture, and pepper. Add half of the remaining crème fraîche mixture to the yolk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Then pour it all back into the medium saucepan, whisking. Cook over very low heat, whisking, until just slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Do not boil. Remove from the heat, taste for seasoning, and salt as needed.
  5. Divide the scallops among 4 small soup bowls, and then ladle the soup on top. Sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Malay Satay Hut

One of my favorite Asian restaurants in the Puget Sound area is Malay Satay Hut. The food is always fresh, good, and high quality. The prices are decent. The service is definitely lacking -- the waitstaff there seem perpetually sullen. So go with an interesting companion or immerse yourself in a good book, and that part won't bother you as much. There are apparently two locations, but I've only been to the one in Redmond. I hear that they're both about the same in all those qualities. Best time to go is during lunch, when they offer a wide selection of their menu at slightly lower prices, and everything comes with a small bowl of soup as well.

The best appetizer on the menu, in my humble opinion, is the roti canai. It's a fried bread similar in texture to a scallion pancake, slighty crunchy and chewy at the same time. Dipped in the small bowl of potato curry that it comes with, and it's a little bit of heaven.

The soup of the day is usually a clear, flavorful broth with a few bits of veg.

Their spicy prawn noodle soup is very good, and not very spicy at all, despite how red it looks. A friend from Singapore ordered this particular bowl with half rice noodes and half thick egg noodles -- her favorite way of eating noodle soups.

My favorite entree is the curry beef brisket. It comes with delicious melting tendon. I've never had this underdone at Malay Satay Hut. Some places don't cook brisket for long enough, and there's nothing worse than hard, stringy brisket. It should be tender and practically melt in your mouth. I've never been disappointed. There's also a sister item to this one on the menu -- curry beef brisket noodles. Sometimes I'll indulge in that, if I want a really rich meal. The curry soup is extremely flavorful (and probably immensely fattening).

Another shot of the curry, with mostly potatoes peeking out. It's not a large portion, but it's enough to fill you, particularly after the soup and appetizer, if you order one.

Curries also come with a 'bowl' of rice.

The best thing to do, of course, is to mix the two. There's nothing better than spooning hot, fragrant, slightly spicy curry onto rice and eating them together. Simply delicious!