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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bacon and Eggs and Asparagus Salad - French Fridays with Dorie

I'm almost a week behind, and not sure when I'm going to have time to make the rice that's scheduled for this Friday. But I wanted to write about this salad because it's so French: good, simple ingredients that are individually excellent and even better in combination. Dorie recommends this as a starter or a lunch dish, but, along with a hearty French roll, it was perfect for dinner.

Really easy to put together too--I cooked the asparagus, bacon, and eggs at the same time. Although Dorie is very firm about cooking the eggs for exactly six minutes, I like a seven-minute egg. So I disobeyed, and cooked mine for seven minutes, not allowing for the extra cooking time when the egg was rolling around in the bacon fat. That was fun, by the way.

At seven minutes, the eggs were a little over-cooked. If I'd cooked them for six minutes, they would have been perfect. I should have listened.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spanish Meatballs and Pisto Manchego - Gutsy Cooks Selections

I picked the May menus for Gutsy Cooks, so I figure I really should make them. The tapas-style menu of meatballs and Pisto Manchego was scheduled for the first weekend in May, so I'm nearly two weeks behind. But I'm determined to make all the Gutsy and Dorie selections for May, even if I have to stay up until midnight on May 31.

I love meatballs. Any kind of meatballs. Oddly, one of the few phrases I know in Spanish is "No me gustan las albondigas," meaning "I don't like meatballs." But I do, so I've never had any occasion to use this phrase of rather limited usefulness. Still, these meatballs were a little odd. They're supposed to be made from ground veal and ground pork. Whole Foods didn't have ground veal, so I substituted ground turkey--otherwise, I pretty much stayed with the recipe. While the sauce looks lovely and brown in the book's photo, it actually was an unappetizing maroon; the only ingredients were onions and red wine. I added some beef broth to tone down the sauce, but it still looked a little purple.

If I made these meatballs again, I'd add some ground beef to the mix, increase the beef stock so that it and the wine would be about half and half. I'd also add a little tomato paste. They are meatballs, though, and me gustan las albondigas.

The Pisto Manchego, on the other hand, was perfect. The recipe called for two green and one red bell pepper, but I'm not a huge fan of green pepper, so I substituted a yellow and an orange pepper for them. This recipe is here. Pisto has its own Wikipedia entry. To be authentic, it should have green peppers, so my substitution made it Faux Pisto, but we Americans are always messing about with classic recipes. We can't help ourselves.

The vegetables are cooked, but they taste very fresh and delicious. The small amount of red wine vinegar, along with an equally small amount of sugar, work together to emphasize the vegetables' flavors; I added chopped basil instead of parsley, mostly because I put parsley in the meatballs and I wanted a different herbal flavor for the vegetables. It's a good thing we liked these vegetables because the recipe makes a mammoth potful. Fortunately, they can be eaten cold, at room temperature, or warm. They can be eaten as an appetizer, or for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We should be done with them by the time I make last week's recipes: Pad Thai and Mango and Papaya Salad.

Jim: "I really like the vegetables. I'll give them a 9. I like the meatballs, too, but not as much. They still get an 8 though."
Marie: "I pretty much agree. The Pisto Manchego is very good, and versatile. I think a 9 is about right. I think I'll give the meatballs a 7.5 because they're not as good as I thought they would be."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spinach and Bacon Quiche - French Fridays with Dorie

Pie is not my thing.  And a quiche is just a savory pie with a French name.  But I had to make something for my book club, so I decided I’d double the recipe and make two quiches for the hungry readers.  But I forgot I didn’t have two tart pans.  I also forgot that I broke my trusty Pyrex pie pan (I had only one) a few weeks ago and hadn’t replaced it yet.  Hint:  Do not set a hot glass pie pan on a granite countertop.  I do have a lovely Emile Henry deep dish pie pan—it was way too deep for this shallow quiche, but sometimes you have to make do with what you have.

I had no trouble making the filling, which was easy as you-know-what.  Because when I say that pie is not my thing, I really mean that crust is not my thing.  Every now and then I get a crust that’s flaky and delicious.  But mostly not.  But the filling was fun:  lightly cook the spinach, squeeze the bejesus out of it, and add it to sautéed onion and garlic.  (You’re supposed to chop the spinach, too, but I forgot to do that).

This mixture, plus the lovely, aromatic bacon, is set in the bottom of a pre-baked pie shell.  I didn’t take pictures of the pie crust making process, mostly because I was too absorbed in making the dough to think about taking pictures.  Pour cream and eggs over the vegetable/spinach  mixture, top with grated Parmesan, and it’s ready to go in the oven. 

You can see that there’s too much crust showing on the Emile Henry pan.  And the tart pan crust doesn’t look slickly professional.  It looks like it should come with a tag that says that the imperfections you see are a sign that this was made by hand. 

I got so busy getting dinner ready that I forgot to take pictures of the finished quiches.  (I realize that I forgot a lot of things, but in my defense, I’d like to say that I just got back from a two-week vacation in France and was still on French time.  You try making a quiche at 3:00 a.m. (body time) and see how successful you are). 
The book club loved the quiche filling, but most people left bits of crust on their plates.  If the pie crust is good, people eat it all.  If it’s not so good, it’s left on the plate.  But here’s a shot of one forlorn piece left in the Emile Henry pan.  I used Dorie’s all-purpose tart crust recipe on p. 498.  Since it’s Dorie’s go-to recipe, I assume it works for her.  I loved the quiche filling—it was just about perfect.  But next time, I’ll try another tart dough in my never-ending quest for the crust that gets eaten.  I guess I’d also better buy another pie pan.