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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Crab (shrimp) and Grapefruit Salad - French Fridays with Dorie

There's not much to say about putting this salad together. It's really just a loose set of recommendations, and you could make it a dozen times with it tasting a little different every time. The essentials are grapefruit, some kind of greens, and seafood--the recipe specifies crab, but as I feared, there was no fresh crabmeat available in these parts. The only thing I saw was a large tin of expensive lump crabmeat. I bought this once before to make crab cakes, and, although it came highly recommended, I thought it was more than a few notches less satisfactory than fresh crab. So I substituted precooked shrimp, a substitution that made the salad a cinch to put together.
As happens more often than I'd like it to, I neglected to thoroughly read the recipe, and missed the step about cutting the grapefruit a few hours ahead of time. I dried it ferociously in paper towels, and I thought it was just fine. So I've just started this recipe, and I've already concluded that crab isn't necessary for a crab salad, and preparing the grapefruit ahead of time isn't necessary for a grapefruit salad.
While I started in this devil-may-care manner, I did everything else according to Hoyle. Cucumber, orange pepper, mint, chile pepper....everything else was just as it was supposed to be. I loved the fresh flavors of the chile and mint, and the general lightness and healthiness of the salad.

I piled a generous dollop of guacamole on top of the salad. For years, Jim has claimed to dislike avocados and guacamole. While we were in Mexico, though, he ate it twice a day (at least). I was a little unhappy that he ate it all, because I was thinking he'd eat around it and leave it for me. He claimed, though, that guacamole in Mexico was a completely different thing than guacamole in Minnesota. But I noticed that he ate his Minnesota guacamole too. Apparently he's getting flexible in his old age.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cocoa Sablés - French Fridays with Dorie

Of all the 30-some recipes that I'm behind in FFWD, about a third of them are desserts. Not that I don't like desserts. Far from it. It's a matter of trust. No matter how much I like, say, a pan of potato gratin, I know I'm not going to go to the refrigerator and gobble up the leftovers in one sitting. Rich, chocolatey cookies? That's a different matter. So I wouldn't have dared make these unless I had a plan to give them away. A meeting where people love it when I bring in treats was scheduled for Monday afternoon. These people are all wild about chocolate and wild about cookies.

Not only is the dough chocolatized with cocoa (delicious Italian cocoa), but also with a quarter-pound of chopped bittersweet chocolate. This is considered optional, but I would say it's required.

It makes a dark, dark cookie dough, which you roll out into a dark, dark cylinder.

If you don't read the recipe ahead of time annd want to make the cookies immediately, you're out of luck. I've done that before, but not this time, since I know by now that sables, being fancy refrigerator cookies, have to be refrigerated for a while. I made the dough in the morning, saw a movie in the afternoon, and baked the cookies in the evening--rolling the logs in sugar before slicing them and putting them in the oven.

Decorating sugar would have been nice, but I only had about two teaspoons, so granulated sugar had to work. They sugared cookies looked a little odd, I thought, but it at least gave some contrast to the dark cookies.

I was the hero of the hour when I brought a tin of cookies into the conference room. Never underestimate the power of chocolate.

And a catch-up salmon dish. This wasn't the best salmon I've ever had, or even that I've ever made. But it's the easiest. The French lentils cook very quickly, so dinner can be on the table in just over a half-hour.

AND a question: Do any of the other land-locked people out there have ideas about the crab for the upcoming salad? The only thing I've seen is a very expensive tin of crab meat, which I'd rather not buy. Do some of you have plans to substitute?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cheese Souffle - French Fridays with Dorie

Why have I never made a cheese souffle before? After making this, my first, I have no idea why it's taken me so long. If you can make a cheese sauce and beat egg whites, you can make a cheese souffle.

Seriously. It's that easy. You stir the butter and flour together long enough to get rid of the floury taste, then add hot milk, cheese, and egg yolks.

I used gruyere, which was lovely. But I think it might have been even lovelier to use a mixture. In fact, I'm pretty sure that a cheese souffle is a perfect vehicle for using up dribs and drabs of cheeses, as long you show a little restraint.

The egg whites are folded into the cheese sauce mixture, poured into souffle dishes, and put in the oven. That's it. Then you just have to wait.

I cut the recipe in half. My souffle dish was too big for a half-recipe, so I used a few small dishes. Here's what I learned. A rim at the top of a dish really messes with the souffle's rising.

I used two rimmed dishes and one without a rim. For some reason, the rim made the souffle crazy.

The one in the straight-sided dish was normal.

Both normal and crazy souffles tasted great.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Saint-Germain-des-Pres Onion Biscuits

I'm on vacation in playa del Carmen, Mexico, and I'm trying to finish this post on my iPad so I can post it for FFWD. Which means posting it tonight because I have to get up early to go to Tulum tomorrow. Somehow getting up early on vacation is worse than getting up to go to work. I'm having problems editing this on the iPad, but it'll have to do.

I like biscuits as much as the next person. Maybe more. And I love French food. But I have a hard time equating the two concepts. The only French biscuit I know is pronounced bis-kwee and is a cake. But for the fun of having good biscuits I'm willing to play along.

Biscuits are fun to make as long as you remember to bring out the food processor instead of using forks or fingers to mix the dough. This is just one person's opinion, and if you think they're lighter, flakier, or more delicious if you make them the traditional way, good for you. But since I discovered the food processor method, there's no going back.

I love biscuits, and I thought these would be a terrific variation. They were a cinch to mix up and roll out, but I didn't think they had a lot of onion flavor. I was imagining how they'd taste with caramelized onions, and these onions, softened rather than browned, didn't measure up to my imaginary ones.