Tag Archives: #3 Chinese New Year

Special request…

23 Feb

Thanks again, everyone who has been participating in the FMC… I think it’s fair to say that the concept has exceeded everyone’s expectations.  We had another fabulous evening on the 19th with great food, awesome drinks, and fantastic company, as you can see from the photos.  What you can’t see, is the hilarious streaming 70’s music that we were listening to all night — Boston, Styx, Chicago, Peter Frampton… what a throwback — aack!

Anyway, if you cooked for the 70’s show (episode #4), or for Chinese New Year (episode #3), or for that matter, episodes #1 or 2… please, please when you have a few minutes, post a little description of your dish — either here at WordPress, or on the Facebook FMC page, or just email it to me — I’ll cut and paste it into the blog so we have an archive of the dishes cooked.  Describe why you chose the dish, the beverage, and anything special about the ingredients, technique, recipe, etc.  I know it’s a pain in the ass, but everyone else is actually really interested and appreciative of even a few sentences.  I’ll try to throw in some photos, links, and edits as appropriate, so don’t worry if it’s not polished or proof-read.

Also, there are still four spots open for the March 19th event — once that fills, we’ll post a poll to choose the theme.

PS: Someone left an earring here during episode #3, and Marc, you left your mirror.  Dude, don’t tell me you don’t want it back. 🙂

Xing Nian Kuai Le! 2011 is the year of the rabbit. And that is exactly what I cooked.

17 Feb

I have to echo everyones enthusiasm for our evening’s dinner on 2/5.    These dinners are a fantastic idea and like JDavid, I felt that I was getting a lot of great food (and company) for minimal cost & effort.

It was a pleasure to meet with Francine & David again after our sole, chance meeting on the lonely dempster highway.  Since I moved to the NYC area, I have been trying to duplicate dinners in my own home just like this one.  Only it is a bit rough when you are a one woman show.   Both for the pocket and the labor involved.  It ends up feeling a lot less fun and more like work.  This dinner was just the opposite.  Fun all around, just a little bit of effort and learning things along the way, as well as meeting new people.  Oh and eating!  A lot of it!  And drinking!  I couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect event. I can’t thank you enough for the invite and for keeping up with this blog and organizing it the way you do. I don’t think I have ever seen such an organized person!

I love the idea of themes for meals!  Initially, I was excited that this theme was chosen because I felt it kind of forced everyone to be a bit creative.  So it’s a bit ironic that I chose a very literal interpretation for my dish.  But with good reason.  I never cooked rabbit and have barely eaten it.  I tried my first rabbit recently in Portland, in sausage form.  It was surprisingly mild, not at all gamey as I was expecting it to be.  I have wondered since then how it would be to cook it.  So this was a perfect opportunity.  I had a small feeling of regret for cooking a poor bunny.  But I decided it would be best to stray away from this way of thinking!

I was worried that if I cooked it the day of, I would screw it up since I had no prior experience with the meat.  For dinner parties, I usually like to keep safe inside my repertoire of dishes.  Do what I do best.  So I was a bit hesitant going outside of that but that was part of the point of the FMC.   A few recipes I leafed through warned that it can be easily overcooked.  Not an enticing prospect for a nervous cook.  I figured I would take a practice shot, so I went off to the meat hook, (my highly recommended favorite nearby butcher) to see if I could score a fresh rabbit.  They had one left, so I asked the butcher to cut it up for me and went home to test my luck.  I only used half the rabbit in my test and figured if it bombed then I would just use the rest to try something else.

Many of the recipes I had come across were braises or ragu’s.  I often braise short ribs in a simple manner of red wine, aromatics & herbs.  I thought why not apply this to the rabbit?  But I didn’t want to just serve a plain braised rabbit or put a ragu over pasta.  It was too boring.  I eventually came across a recipe that called for putting the rabbit ragu in a buckwheat crepe.  It was on a website for gluten free living and the braise called for white wine.  I really wanted to use red wine for the dish, so I decided to make up my own recipe.

I followed a standard method for braising meat in liquid.  I browned the rabbit in hot oil, added in some onions, carrots, celery & garlic.  A touch of tomato paste, red wine & a handful of fresh herbs.  I finished it up by covering it in some chicken stock & braised it away for about 3 hours.  What I had left was tender, flavorful rabbit.  The braising liquid was delicious-I was very happy with the turnout.  The dish only lacked texturally.  It needed some bite.

So the day of the dinner, I got another rabbit, a whole one.  I used the other half I had practiced with.  I found some buckwheat flour at the meat hook & mixed it with some AP flour & a few eggs & milk.  Some melted butter finished it off. I didn’t follow a recipe for the crepes-I just made it up.  I know crepes should be made ahead of time so the batter can sit.   Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking, explains that this allows “the proteins and damaged starch to absorb water,” ensuring the crepes will be tender.  Crepes should be the consistency of heavy cream, so I added milk until it was just that.   I wanted to serve it with a sauce, so I thought since the braising liquid came out so flavorful, I would just reduce it over high heat & it would thicken up nicely.  As for the texture issue, I decided mushrooms & carrots would go nicely.  I found some lovely heirloom purple carrots at the meat hook, some crimini mushrooms & I sauteed them with some shallots that Laurent wasn’t using for his dish.  The mixture was tasty & I thought would add just the right texture (and flavor) to complement.  I packed up the mixture to take with me.

It was easier for me to brown the meat & braise the rabbit in my own kitchen.  So around noon that day, I did just that.  I braised it just like I did in my practice run & let it simmer for 3 hours or so.  Then I took the meat out of the pot & pulled it off the bone.  Returned it to the sauce & packed it up.  I packed up the crepe batter & the extra sauce too.

I already decided I would use a Malbec wine to pair the dish with, since that is what I used in the braising liquid.  It is not necessary to do this but I really thought a Malbec would go nicely with the bold flavor of the sauce.  Misterio is a Malbec I’ve had dozens of times & I love the flavor.  So I picked up a bottle of that on my way out.

When I arrived to the dinner, I heated up the rabbit and tried to reduce the sauce.  It wasn’t quite getting as thick as I wanted.  It could be that I was impatient.  So I made a quick roux with the help of Francine getting me the things I needed.  I added the roux to the sauce & it thickened perfectly.  Also, it added a nice depth of flavor.  Laurent did his dish before mine & he had used creme fraiche.  I saw it sitting there and thought a dollop would finish the sauce off nicely.  It added a nice silky flavor in your mouth, so I was glad I did it.   I made the crepes after Laurent took his turn with the scallops.  The slow pace of the dinner was perfect for allowing me to make the crepes fresh. The first few crepes were a disaster (I am not a very good crepe maker, I’m afraid).  But I got the hang of it & I ended up with 8 edible crepes.

Thanks to everyone for helping me plate it, even though I was a bit of a stickler about making sure the rabbit wasn’t too soupy before adding it to the crepe!  : )

I felt it was a successful dish.  The flavors worked nicely together, the wine a good pairing & the presentation even looked quite fancy-or not.   As Kelly pointed out, a rabbit burrito!!  It’s true, it kind of did look like a burrito.  Anyhow, thanks again for a fabulous evening, I can’t wait for the next time!

Metal. Kitchen alchemy and a magical evening.

14 Feb

“The Feed Me Collective is a great idea.. we had a blast! I had to come up with a metal inspired 7th course and started thinking in terms of molten and fluid. I like the idea of themes that can really stand up to some interpretation. I remembered seeing Giada De Laurentiis make a weird panini a few years ago that I always wanted to try… brie, chocolate and basil on sourdough bread brushed with olive oil. Sounds like a pretty unusual combination so then the word alchemy came to mind.

Alchemy

Besides turning metal into gold.. blah blah, one of the Merriam-Webster entries worked in my defense, “a power or process of transforming something common into something special.” With an example: “She practiced her alchemy in the kitchen, turning a pile of vegetables into a delicious salad.” Bingo! I didn’t try it out or practice ahead of time, all i did in preparation was research where to get the best sourdough bread.

Sourdough

As is the case with everything on the internet, people are pretty opinionated, some even saying that good sourdough can not be made in New York. I tried Le Pain Quotidien, Eli’s and ended up going with the sourdough baguette from Silver Moon Bakery.

Assembly

I meant to do some sort of metal garnish with wire I brought but I forgot being that I was 7th course and already had a lot to drink.

Getting molten

I decided to pair my sweet and savory course with a Riesling. John and I went to the wine store and looked at the Rieslings but nothing was jumping out at us (him), then the wine seller came over with a bottle of Washington State Riesling and John said “get that” so I did.

Gold

Everyone’s dishes were amazing! I wasn’t expecting so much on-site cooking and it ended up being way more interesting than a pot luck sort of dinner. It was fun prepping for others and observing their techniques and it also gave us plenty of time to get ready for the next round of eating and drinking. What a great way to spend time with friends and meet new ones. The next day John and I were stumbling around the MOMA and I laughed my ass off when I said, “what about David’s big production and then i just threw a sandwich on a plate?” Hahaha.. good times! I’m really looking foward to another FMC challenge.”

Kelamity

Inspiration: Water

9 Feb

Honestly, I didn’t mean for my dish to get so complicated… really.  I wanted it to be simple, I mean we’re talking water here.  But while drinking water is easy, eating water requires high concept.  In researching Chinese New Year food, I read that many of  the traditional dishes are “edible puns” where the name or shape or symbol of the food is a homonym for the holiday’s good wishes.  I tried to incorporate this concept in a number of ways — as bites that tasted of the sea (Blue Point oysters on the half shell), accompanied by foods that had the word “water” in them (watermelon and watercress), as well as water where it was unexpected (soup ravioli) and the Chinese symbol for water drawn on the plate with edible ink (squid).

Chinese for water

The idea was that after the oysters and ravioli were eaten off the half shells, the liquid from the pickled watermelon rind and the salad would “deglaze” the Chinese symbol for water painted on the plate with squid ink which would contribute a briney richness to the dressing, and you’d be “eating water” literally, like this:

"deglazed" squid ink

Whew… way overthought, and completely unrealistic that I could have pulled it off without enlisting everyone’s help.  Thanks!

Regarding the pickling — I was concerned with traditional pickling methods that  I would basically have one shot at getting it right, and if it sucked, I wouldn’t have enough time for a do-over.  Poking around the interweb, I found a couple of examples of using vacuum to accelerate the pickling process.  Using a commercial-grade vacuum chamber, or a 60ml syringe, or a home vacuum food-saver.  I played around with the syringe technique at work, and ended up bringing home a (clean and unused) suction canister, and rigged up the hand vacuum pump that I normally use to bleed hydraulic brake lines on the motorcycles.  I separately pickled fresh watermelon dice in lemon juice, salt, sugar and cayenne for the oyster garnish,

flash vacuum pickling

and the thinly sliced watermelon rind (to keep the shells level) in white wine, raspberry vinegar, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar, coriander and star anise.

pickled watermelon rind

Regarding the soup ravioli:  These were a riff on Chinese soup dumplings (xiao long bao).  The traditional recipe uses pork and is way complicated; I was looking for something simpler.  I wanted a savory seafood broth, so I started with clam juice, and simmered it with fresh tarragon, fennel, anchovy, a drop of liquid smoke, a splash of white wine, and some cayenne.  After straining, I added unflavored gelatin, and chilled it solid.  I made fresh squid ink pasta (why? … well, we now have 500g of squid ink, what else do you suggest I do with it?) and used a cappelletti stamp which seemed like it would make nice little bite-sized black pearl pillows similar to these green ones.  I practiced a few times the day before, and realized that making the ravioli without spilling the broth would be the biggest challenge of my plate.

Soup ravioli

Regarding the pairing(s).  The easy choice would have been to pair with plain water.  The thought crossed my mind, and I even contacted ReidA to see if he had any of those ultra-pure Tasmanian Cape Grim bottles left.  He didn’t, so I decided to make my own watermelon seltzer water.  I have a rig set up sort of like this one, so that was easy.  But water?  C’mon, we’re drinking water?  So then I had the idea of ice wine, incorporating the water theme again.  My concern was that while conceptually it fit the water theme, it might be too sweet to pair with the dish.  So at the last minute, I picked up a bottle of Viña Godeval which uses the Godello grape, is comparable to Albariño, and was described as pairing very nicely with seafood and shellfish.

Blue Point oysters with pickled watermelon garnish, watercress & watermelon salad, squid ink soup cappelletti

Fire – What’s behind the flame…

8 Feb

First of all i would like to say thank you to our hosts Francine & JDavid for having invited Jo and me to that amazing evening.

I spent an exceptional evening, meeting very nice people, eating delicious meals and drinking very good wines.

When Joanna told me about the FMC and asked me if I wanted to come, I immediatly said Yes. Because I thought it would be nice to meet Francine & JDavid again and because i found the Idea of the FMC very good. The only problem was that I don’t really know how to cook, but anyway I was sure that with practice, I could do it.

When I saw my theme – The Fire -, the first picture I had in my mind was this waiter in an old Parisian Bistrot “La poule au pot” who flambéed a dish at the table next to mine for people who ordered one. So I looked for its menu and saw it was called “noix de Saint-Jacques flambée au cognac” (scallops flambéed with Cognac), so I googled it to find the recipe. I found a easy and quick meal to prepare and it sounded very delicious. The day after, I bought the scallops and the crème fraiche for training. We already had the other ingredients : shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, white wine and whiskey (this can be substituted for Cognac). This try was very good. I trained three other times, for being ready but also because I like to eat this meal.

Saturday evening, I had a choice between Cognac and Armagnac. After tasting both I decided to use the Armagnac. So the definitive recipe was “Scallops flambéed with Armagnac”. For the vegetable, we used snow peas and Joanna had the idea to put them like a star in the plate for having a beautiful presentation. Honestly, I was a little nervous about the flame because I had to use more alcohol than I used when I practiced. The flame was very big but by chance I didn’t burn the whole  kitchen.

flambée

I picked a Chablis for the wine because it’s better to eat the scallops with a dry or very dry white wine. You’re going to find soon the complete recipe in  Joanna’s Blog Parboiled.

Thanks again to everybody for their kindness and the amazing meals that they cooked.  I would really love  to come again when I’ll be back to NYC.

noix de Saint-Jacques flambée au Armagnac

Feb 5th, Chinese new year. Element:Air

8 Feb

Hi all.  I do indeed hope that everyone had as fabulous of a time as I.  What a great foodie experience. I am always amazed at the sense of creativity that all our friends seem to have.  I keep trying to discover mine…..read on…..

I must confess.  I stressed about this event exactly for one reason, my self proclaimed lack of creativity.  That side of my brain just doesn’t engage; subsequently, I was stumped from the beginning.  Then I took a few cues from J David and started the wheels turning.  I thought at first I would make miniature pizzas using yeast as the air element in creating the pizza dough.  Then I started tossing my idea around at work and a colleague who was a chef in another life piped up and suggested a souffle.  When I first started googling souffles and reading testimonies and recipes I thought to myself, I must be nuts taking this on. But after a trial run, yes I did practice, I was really sold on the idea of the souffle representing the element of air.  I wanted to keep it simple but have an element of savory hence the truffled goat cheese and truffled butter.  I figured if I failed with whipping the eggs into a perfect souffle at least the amazing flavor of the truffles would carry me through.

whipping eggs

From there I thought I would pair it with a sancere but David suggested I keep it simple. We both agreed that a bubbly champagne would be perfect. There you have it….

Now I’m looking forward to the next creative exploration.  I’ve decided I am going to challenge that side of my brain to work.   Let’s just call it a foodie adventure.   Thank you to everyone for making this a really special event.  I hope to see you all soon in the future.  Bon Appetite.

Goat cheese truffle soufflé

Feb 5: A favor to ask

7 Feb

I swear, this’ll be my last post for the day, but I have a favor to ask of those who participated in the Feb 5th dinner.  First off, a huge thanks to everyone for helping orchestrate an absolutely fantastic dinner.  Really, this is exactly what we envisioned the FMC could be… great food, drinks, company and fun.  While it’s intense at times when you’re at bat, or on deck, everyone was really helpful, and speaking personally, I feel like I’ve really gotten away with something — I ONLY had to prepare ONE dish… and I ate an EIGHT COURSE feast???? that just doesn’t seem fair!

Anyway, here’s the favor:  I would love to document here in the blog some of the details and back story to each of the dishes and pairings.  What exactly did you serve?  How did you choose what to cook based on the inspiration? Where did you find a recipe (if you used one)? Where did you source ingredients? What ideas did you reject? Did you practice? How did you choose your pairing? What would you do differently? There was a fair amount of conversation at the dinner along these lines, but honestly, I wasn’t party to it all, I didn’t take notes, and, well, I was drinking and don’t remember all the details 😉 .

When you have a moment, can you author a post to the FMC blog, or comment on this post, or even just send me an email, and I can cut & paste and post it for you.  I’ll keep the Feb 5th page updated with details (now moved from “Upcoming” to “Digested”).  I’m sure at least that I’ll get better descriptions of each course than what I wrote there.  By the way, also posted on that page is a link to the gallery with all the photos.  Special thanks to LaurentL and JoannaM for taking photos and sharing them freely with the Collective.  They’ve published two wonderful photography books available here. Their expertise is appreciated.  Check ’em out.

PS: Don’t forget to vote for the Feb. 19th theme!

re: Official FMC Chef’s towels

7 Feb

So… the cat is out of the bag.  If you hadn’t noticed in the photos from episode #3, we now have personalized, embroidered chef’s towels / napkins:

Official FMC chef's towels

I want to issue a special FMC thank-you to Debbie McLaughlin, owner of www.InitialitOnline.com.  We put the order in only a week ago, and she went above and beyond to get our order completed by Feb 5th, and the towels are fantastic.  I have towels for everyone who has already participated in a dinner, or who has signed up for one (DavidH’s will be ordered in the next batch).  We’ll keep Debbie on retainer 😉 as the official embroiderer of the FMC, and we’ll order more as needed, and if she ever comes up our way we’ll cook her a nice dinner.  I’ve posted a link to her company over in the “Friends of the Collective” links — check out her site, and if you have any reason to have anything personalized or embroidered, we highly recommend her!

The towels are meant to be used, don’t be afraid to dirty ’em up.  They come clean in the wash, and any permanent stains will be worn with pride.

bring it on

detail

Feb 5th: the fun

7 Feb

That hits the spot

Plating rabbit

Prepping soufflé

eating rabbit

painting plates

making cappelletti

whipping ricotta

tasting

clowning

enjoying

good conversation

helping

smiling

relaxing

see you soon

Feb 5th: the people

7 Feb

JohnW

LaurentL

JoannaM

FrancineO

JDavid

DavidH

Kelamity

VitoP

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