Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chocolate Pots de Crème

I think I have found my super easy, make ahead go to dessert!  I made these Friday night for a small dinner party and they were a huge hit.  If you have never had pots de crème it's kind of like a pudding but not really, more like the consistency of Crème Brule.  The recipe comes from my favorite cooking magazine, Cooks Illustrated.  It was the first time I ever made them and I will be making them again for sure. They are a little on the expensive side but totally worth it for a special occasion. I will also give 2 suggestions about where substitutions could be made to bring the price down a lot. I will also at the bottom advise how to use bittersweet chocolate if milk chocolate is too sweet for you.

Chocolate Pots de Crème:

-12 oz. milk chocolate chopped finely (I got mine from a gourmet chocolate store so it was expensive, just get the best quality you can as this will determine how awesome these come out).
-5 large egg yolks
-2 Tbsp. sugar
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1 1/2 cup heavy cream
-3/4 cup half and half
-1 tsp. coffee or espresso essence (this is also hard to find and expensive, if you want sub 1 Tbsp. of coffee liquor
-1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (*make sure it's the real stuff)

Whipped Topping

-1/2 cup heavy cream
-2 tsp. sugar (superfine if you have it)
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract*
-cocoa powder

Place chocolate in a medium bowl, place fine mesh strainer over the chocolate and set aside for the moment.

In another bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until combined. Whisk in the cream and half and half. Once combined transfer this mixture to a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat stirring constantly and scraping bottom with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  Cook until thickened and silky, will be around 175 to 180 degrees. Don't allow the custard to overcook, will burn so watch it carefully.  Will take about 8-10 minutes on the stove.

Take this mixture and immediately pour the fine mesh strainer over the chocolate so it covers all the chocolate. Don't touch it for about 3-5 minutes. When ready whisk to combine the now melted chocolate with the custard. Don't over whisk, just go till totally combined. Add in the coffee essence or your substitution and the vanilla extract and whisk until incorporated.

Divide the mixture between 8 small cups or ramekins (I lined the up on a cookie sheet for easy transport).  Let them cool on counter then cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge for 4 hours. Bring out and let sit on counter for about 20-25 minutes before serving. (Don't put on the topping until right about ready to serve.)

To make the whipped cream combine the  1/2 cup heavy cream, 2 tsp. sugar and the 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract with an electric mixes on medium/high speed until stiff peaks form. Immediately spoon on top of the pots de crème and then sprinkle with cocoa powder. Serve an enjoy!

Note: If you prefer bittersweet chocolate change to only 10 oz of chocolate and use 5 Tbsp. of sugar instead of 2.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Salmon Over Dressed Greens

I am especially excited about this post because I grew the mixed baby lettuce for my salad right on my patio!  One of the many things I love about working from a home office is that I can prepare a salad for lunch without having to do it the night before or morning of.  I did cook the salmon the night before which made for a super quick preparation.  These greens were the first of the season from my planter and picking it knowing I would be eating it in minutes made me really happy.  This post is not really much of a recipe, more like a celebration of my "garden" which gave me the best lunch I've had in a long time. This is a great option for an easy lunch or dinner when company is over.


4-6 oz. pc of fresh wild salmon 
baby lettuce
slice of tomato (mine was heirloom because I love them and think they are extra pretty)
balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Salt and pepper the fish and place the flesh side down in a medium hot non stick lightly oiled pan. Don't touch the fish for about 2-3 minutes. You want a sear on the flesh so a crust forms, if you move it to soon you will tear it.  Flip the fish so the skin side is down, cook another approx. 2 minutes so fish is slightly firm to the touch. I personally prefer the skin removed so I did it while fish was still hot as I find it comes off easier that way.  (What I did after this was let it cool and put in the fridge for use the next day but you can use right away if you like).  At lunch time heated up a dry pan to medium high and put the fish in and heated through on both side, maybe 1 minute max each side. Set aside to cool off a bit.

Take 2 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar and heat it in a small pan over medium heat for a few minutes until it reduces by about half. It will have a slightly syrupy consistency.  With flame off add 1-2 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil and whisk together to make the dressing. (You can add if tiny bit of Dijon if you want but I went very basic today). Toss the lettuce with slightly warm dressing, salt and pepper and plate with tomato slice and salmon. Enjoy!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Making Your Own Gravlax

Having been raised in the Borscht Belt of NY I have of course had my fair share of lox. Even as a kid I recognized this is good stuff. It wasn't until a few years ago I learned that I could make my own cured salmon at home with ease.  I prefer the Scandinavian preparation of the salmon called Gravlax.  From what I understand the term lox is a generic term. There are different ways to make lox, some include smoking, others don't. Traditional "Jewish" lox tend to come from a fattier fish then the type used in for Gravlax.  There are a million different twists on how to prepare this delish dish, below is the very simple version that I like.


1 lb. super fresh wild Salmon with skin on (go to a good grocery store and get the best option you can afford, try to get a pc that is fairly thick and even. Prepare this same day you bring the fish home.)
1 1/2 cups Course Kosher Salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 bunch of dill rinsed and dried (stems cut off for most part)

Mix together the salt, sugar and pepper. Spread 1/2 of this mixture in the bottom of a small glass or ceramic baking dish. (Try to use something that is just a bit bigger then the fish, I suggest not using metal dish)

Wash and pat dry the fish. Place it skin side down on the salt mixture. Dump the rest of the salt mixture on top of the flesh side of the fish. Pile it on good, press some against the sides of the fish so it is complete covered. Take your dill and pile it on top of the salt mixture.
Cover your dish with plastic wrap and place a weight on the salmon, you can use a foil wrapped brick but I just used 2 cans of beans. Place in the fridge for about 18 hours.
Remove from fridge and flip the salmon, you will see that all the salt has dissolved and the fish is sitting in a curing liquid.
Cover and return fish with weights to the fridge for another 18 hours.
Once at least 36 hours has passed (don't leave it too much more then the 36 hours, one batch I left for 48 got really tough, on it's way to fish jerky) rinse the fish to get all the curing liquid and dill off and pat dry.  You now have Gravlax!!  Slice as thinly as possible or as thinly as you like! Serve at room temp and keep any leftovers in the fridge.
My favorite way to serve this is on a crostini with a small dollop of crème fraiche, a few capers and some dill as pictured at the top of this post. A sprinkling of finely chopped shallot or red onion would be a great addition as well.
Note: You are curing not cooking this fish so be sure to get fresh (not previously frozen) fish from a reputable source and prepare same day you bring the fish home. Once prepared this will easily last a few days in the fridge but use common sense :-)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Healthy-ish Cowboy Cookies

Healthy-ish Cowboy Cookies

Ok just to be clear we are talking about cookies so I use the term healthy-ish loosely....Compared to some of my other cookie recipes this one will provide some nutritional value. They are also some of the best cookies I have ever had. Enjoy.

3/4 cup flour (I use all purpose)
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (I have a super awesome Vietnamese cinnamon and it rocks, use the best one you can get)
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
6 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract (again use best one you can find, try and find the real stuff)
3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I just chop up whatever chocolate I have on hand, usually not chips)
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup un-sweetened flaked coconut (you can use sweetened but I don't)

Preheat oven to 350 and put rack close to top (not highest setting but one below that so away from heat source to avoid bottoms burning)

Combine first 5 ingredients in bowl and whisk together, set aside.

In a large bowl beat the butter with handheld mixer  until smooth.  Add in both the sugars and continue to beat until fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add in flour mixture and beat to form a dough (not long just until incorporated).  Stir in by hand the oats, chocolate, nuts, fruit and coconut. Don't overs stir,  just until even distributed.  Form dough into 20 balls and divide between 2 parchment lined cooked sheets. Bake for 14-16 minutes, watch closely towards end as they can but fast.

Once out of the oven, allow to sit for  2 minutes then transfer with spatula to wire rack to cool.

Note: I find the parchment paper or a silpat is key to not burning the bottoms of these cookies as is rack placement in the ovenAlso as far as the nuts and fruit go, feel free to substitute nuts and dried fruit if your choice if you don't like these.

Grilled Green Goddess Salad

Grilled Green Goddess Salad

Yesterday I made what I am calling Grilled Green Goddess Salad.  It is a version of chef Michael Chiarello’s so by no means did I invent this. It came out super good and is relatively healthy so wanted to share!

Dressing Ingredients:
1 ripe Hass avocado
1 Tbsp. chopped basil
1 Tbsp.  chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped oregano
1 tsp.chopped garlic
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1/3 cup good extra virgin olive oil

In a food processer (I used my mini one) blend the top 8 ingredients until combined and while blending slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube. Once full combined add ½ to 3/4" cup of room temp water through feed tube and pulse until pourable consistency. Cover and set in fridge while making the salad.
Note: if you don’t have all 3 herbs handy and don’t want to buy them all just pick 2 of them and eliminate the 3rd, don’t substitute dried herbs.

Salad Ingredients:
½ medium red onions sliced thinly
2 lemons cut in halves
¼ cup good extra virgin olive oil
2 ripe Hass avocados
2 hearts of romaine lettuce cut in half (leaving most of stem so doesn’t fall apart)
2 medium heirloom tomatoes cut about ¼” slices
¼ cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese

In a small bowl combine the red onion slices with juice of one lemon and 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Toss and set aside to marinate (they kind of pickle).  In a bowl combine 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil with juice of the other lemon and pinch of salt and pepper, add the 4 avocado halves and toss to coat (will keep them from browning and prepares them for grilling).  Place the avocado’s cut side down on a medium hot grill for about 1 minute; you should see nice grill marks at that point. Remove from grill and set aside. Brush the romaine halves with olive oil; add salt and pepper and place cut side down on the grill for about 60-90 seconds. Lettuce will wilt a bit and develop nice grill marks.

Arrange the lettuce, avocados, tomatoes and onions on a platter (I like white platter for aesthetic purposes). Drizzle as much dressing as desired and sprinkle with the cheese. Put remaining dressing in a small bowl for anyone who wants more.

Note: I didn’t do this but next time I would keep the lemon halves after I juiced them and put cut side down on the grill with the lettuce. They will look great on the platter and you can squeeze on a little juice if desired. Also any extra dressing makes a great veggie dip.