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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mushroom Tartlets sans Hollandaise Sauce--GC Menu #4

I'll admit I was getting a little doubtful about the cookbook this group is using (The Illustrated Kitchen Bible). Everything I'd made so far had seemed a little bland. Last week's empanadas, though good in theory, had a dough that was a killer to work with, so I was especially doubtful about doing another dough this week. But, at least for the present, TIKB has redeemed itself in my book. These tartlets were delicious, even without the Hollandaise sauce topping, and the crust was tender, flaky, and easy to work with.

The dough was flour, butter, egg yolk, and (ice) water. I also added a bit of salt. After being refrigerated for a half-hour, it rolled out easily. It's actually less of a pain to work with than making a full-size pie because it's simple to pick up the tiny piece of dough whereas the big piece of dough sticks to the counter, falls apart, and causes all manner of problems. I didn't swear once while working with this dough.
I spent most of the day making the Bostini for my cake blog. (It's next week's cake, but I'm going to be gone over the weekend so I had to make it ahead of time.) The Bostini is also my excuse for not making the other thing on the GC menu--vanilla custards. I'd just made a big pot of very rich, very delicious creme patisserie, and making vanilla custards seemed like taking coals to Newcastle. The Bostini is also why I didn't make the Hollandaise. I ran out of eggs, and I ran out of butter with the Bostini. (Two sticks of butter in the chocolate glaze!!!) But most of all, I ran out of steam. We invited people over mid-afternoon to sample the Bostinis, and by the time they left, it was late. But I was determined to make the mushroom tartlets.

The filling is easy. Dried porcini mushrooms, fresh mushrooms and onions, and cream cheese. The dried mushrooms are reconstituted; the fresh mushrooms and onions and sauteed in butter; and the cream cheese is quickly processed with this mixture; and then spooned into the prebaked tartlet shells. I'll admit that the tarts are not as attractive with the brown filling as they would be with a puffy Hollandaise topping--some grated Parmesan would probably have a similar effect and would be easier, as well as less caloric. Still, if you don't compare them to what might have been, they don't look bad. And they taste really good.

Taste-O-Meter Ratings:
Jim: 8.5. This is the first recipe I've really liked.
Marie. 9. Ditto.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Empanadas--part of Gutsy Cooks Menu #3

I was really looking forward to this week's menu selections: empanadas and white bean soup. I've been wanting to make empanadas for years, and never got around to it, and I love white bean soup. When I looked at both recipes more carefully, though, I had some doubts.

First, the empanadas were filled with a tuna and tomato sauce. Love tuna, love tomato, but, as a filling, it sounded odd and nasty to me. But I'm kind of a stickler for making a recipe as written the first time around. Fortunately, the recipe gave chorizo as an alternative to the tuna, which I thought would not only be a better combination but would also jazz things up. (So far, I've found the recipes from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible to be somewhat bland. Jim said, "What did you expect from something that's labelled as a "family cookbook.") As it turned out, we both loved the filling and hated the crust.

The white bean soup called for cannellini beans--to be soaked overnight. Not going to have time for that this week. I could have used canned beans, which probably would have been perfectly fine, but see above part about being a stickler.

So I set aside a few hours on Sunday afternoon to make empanadas.

The dough just about did me in. Just a glance at the quantities made me furrow my brow in puzzlement. So much flour, so little liquid? Well, I thought, maybe the eggs make a difference.
I'll confess that I made the dough in the food processor, because that works better for me. I added the 2 tablespoons of water and got nothing resembling a dough.
I dumped the mess into a bowl and added another two tablespoons of water. I got a thick, crackled mess that held together (barely). Since I'd already doubled the amount of water, I was reluctant to add more.

Maybe it'll be better after a half-hour in the refrigerator, I said to myself. Delusionally, as it turned out. I pushed that dough, I pulled that dough, I did everythig you're not supposed to do in an attempt to get it rolled out into some kind of usable form. Finally, I got it to about a 1/8-inch thickness. (It was supposed to be 1/16-inch).

Then I tried to fill the rounds with enough filling to be flavorful. The rounds only wanted to hold a mere dollop. Most of mine ended up oozing filling out of them after they were baked.
I am a crust person. Not since I was six years old have I eaten a pie's filling and left the crust. But this crust just wasn't very good. It was way too thick and not tender and delicious. Imagine the concept of edible cardboard.

I'll admit to not being at dab hand at making pastry, but I was willing to take part of the blame, but I thought something was amiss with the recipe.

So I did a Google search for "empanada dough," and, sure enough, the other recipes I found have much more liquid. Here's an example from, which has less flour but considerably more water. I should have had the courage to add even more water than I did.
Here's an example of a different recipe: this one is from For comparison, the amounts in TIKB's recipe are in italics:

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (3 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (1/2 tsp)
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (6 T.)
1 large egg (2 eggs)
1/3 cup ice water (2 T.)
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar (No vinegar)

The proportions in the recipe look a lot better to me, and that's the one I'll try, should I ever get up the courage to try again.

Here is the pile of crusts I left on my plate:

Taste-O-Meter Rating:
Jim: "I guess I'll give them a 5, but they're not very good. I gave the roulade a 4, and these are better than those were. I'd give the filling an 8 if I could just rate that by itself."
Marie: "A 4 because of the crust.  I agree that the filling deserves a higher rating, but the crust was crap."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ricotta and Arugula Roulade

Where the first Gutsy Foods menu was meant for linebackers (or couch potatoes who like to watch linebackers in action), the second was meant for ladies. This roulade is the quintessential dish for a light ladies' lunch.
I wondered about the flavors in this recipe. With the exception of arugula, the ingredients were all pretty bland. And after I tasted my arugula, which didn't have that fresh, peppery bite that good arugula should have, I wondered even more. I decided to add some sun-dried tomatoes, as suggested in the variation using spinach instead of arugula.
When Jim saw me strewing sun-dried tomatoes over the flat roulade, he thought I was making some kind of pizza, and, because he loves pizza, he was thrilled. I told him it wasn't going to be anything like a pizza. "Calzone?" he asked hopefully. "Nope," I said. "More like an unsweetened sponge cake." He didn't think that sounded as good as pizza.
Neither did I, to tell the truth.
The already-baked sponge rolled up easily (I was expecting a lot of falling apart and ineffective patching), and there it was, ready to eat.

I don't think Jim ever erased the notion that he was having pizza from his mind, because he was really not very happy about this meal. "It's too light and insubstantial," he said. "I'm not feeling satisfied." Fortunately, I had a dessert to offer him. But not the Quindim, which was an optional part of the Gutsy Cooks menu. It sounded interesting to me, but coconut is one of Jim's least favorite food items and Quindim, a Brazilian dish, is rife with coconut--coconut milk, fresh coconut, and dessicated coconut. I'll save that for another day.

Taste-O-Meter rating:
Jim: 4. Maybe if it had a sauce or something, I'd give it a 5.
Marie: 6. A useful dish to know about, but not one that I'm pining to eat again.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Baked BBQ Wings with Blue Cheese Dip and Potato Skins with Cheddar and Bacon

Gutsy Cooks Menu #1

My daughter Sarah was at our house tonight, and when I told her what we were having for dinner, she said, "You're making chicken wings!?? I can't think of anything less likely for you to have for dinner--unless it's potato skins. But it sounds good to me." (I told you my daughters called me a food snob).
I told her that I was a Gutsy Cook. After some predictable confusion, we got it straight. Another cooking club--this time where I'm just following orders. And if I'm ordered to make wings, I will do it. Even if I'm a little bit late in posting.

A word about the name: in the spirit of democracy, I'm going along with the majority vote, which was pretty enthusiastic about Gutsy Cooks as a title. I've never thought of myself as "gutsy" about anything, but I'll admit that "Gutsy Cooks" has a more can-do spirit than "Cowardly Cooks." So, for purposes of making these weekly menus, gutsy it shall be.
These wings are very, very easy, and despite my general lack of enthusiasm for chicken wings, they were pretty good.  I shocked Sarah again when I started eating the chicken wings with a knife and fork.  "Mom! You have to eat wings with your fingers.  It's like trying to eat corn on the cob with a knife and fork." It's very nice to have children who give you friendly advice.

All the ingredients (olive oil, tomato paste, oregano, brown sugar, shallot, garlic, hot pepper sauce) go in a food processor. I used sriacha sauce, and I should have used at least twice as much. The wings marinate for a while in the sauce, and then they're baked.
The potato skins are heavy on potato. Actually, they're just heavy--with bacon, cheddar cheese, shallots, butter, and milk, this is not a light snack. On the other hand, how can you go wrong with that list of ingredients?

Too late, I realized I'd forgotten to add the chopped parsley to the potatotes. That was the only green thing included in the meal. (I was going to make a salad, but that would have been almost as bad as eating the wings with utensils.
Oh but wait! There was another green thing--the chives in the blue cheese, sour cream, and chive dipping sauce.
This trio orecipes is what makes me a sucker for the idea of cooking your way through a cookbook.  You end up trying things you wouldn't otherwise try.  Sometimes you like them, sometimes you don't.  These were winners, although I'm not sure I'd have them for dinner.  On the other hand, if I wait until I have a Super Bowl party to make these
again, it'll be a long wait.

Taste-o-Meter Rating:

Jim: I'd give the wings a 7 1/2, which could go up to an 8 if they were spicier. 7 for the potato skins.
Marie: 7 for the wings; 8 for the potato skins.