"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Burnt Orange Panna Cotta

I've never made panna cotta before, so I was looking forward to trying this recipe out. I'm sorry to say I was a little disappointed in Burnt Orange Panna Cotta, but I haven't given up hope for ALL panna cottas.

I'm not sure what it was about this dessert that just didn't do it for me. Maybe it was that the caramel (yes, another dish with caramel) added a bitter note. Maybe it was that it wasn't quite sweet enough to offset that tiny hint of bitterness. Maybe it just wasn't the right time of year and would have gone over better in the summer when ANYTHING cool and creamy hits the spot.

Dr. and Mrs. S. didn't love it either, although the first time I served it I gussied it up with Grand Marnier and fresh orange slices. I mean, they ate it (and particularly loved the Grand Marnier) but every time I offered it as a dessert option afterwards, they always chose the other dessert, whatever that other dessert happened to be.

Oh well. There are a few other panna cottas in the book, along with some other creamy, eggy, pudding-y recipes, and I'll wait until the weather is warmer.

P.S. That's not my panna cotta, up there on top. Somebody's mum in Melbourne, Australia made it. Looks good, doesn't it?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Beef Stroganoff

I've actually made Beef Stroganoff three times in the past two weeks. My "side client", Catherine, wanted to have a dinner party, and in the endless conversation we had about what could be delivered early and heated up (since I worked that night) we hit on Beef Stroganoff. She wanted to sample it first, so I made it part of her plated food delivery. Then I made it at Sea Meadow when Dr. S. wanted "something creamy over toast" and Mrs. S. wanted "a nice steak". And then, of course, I made it for the dinner party, which was a grand success.

The link I've given you goes to Epicurious, but not to an archived Gourmet recipe--to a Bon Appetit one, but it's virtually identical to the one in the book. The only difference is that in the book they use sour cream instead of creme fraiche, and they also (online) add a little brandy, of which I approve--the version I made where I threw in some brandy was the best of the three.

What makes this dish different from the stroganoff of your childhood is the cut of beef. I'm betting pretty good money that your mom didn't use beef tenderloin, but you as an adult sure can, and it's worth it. You don't actually use THAT much meat, since the meal is well rounded out with lots of mushrooms and noodles. Catherine was a little thrown by the beef stew appearance of the stroganoff, but I think it's important to keep the meat in 1 inch chunks--otherwise I think it would dry out (being a low-fat cut of beef).

A word of caution--don't be tempted to jack up the sour cream quotient--it will make your sauce break. The proportions they give are perfect for nice creamy goodness, and if you really must have a little more dairy put it on the top as a garnish at the table. IF, however, your sauce starts to look kind of funny, whisk a little cold water or beef broth into it and get the darn stuff to the table pronto.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Duck Legs and Carrots

I have to confess that duck kind of intimidates me. My favorite way of serving duck is this: I go to The Fruitful Basket, buy pre-packaged duck confit, heat it under the broiler, and put it on a plate.

I don't think I've ever really learned how to handle duck, and the breast is so different from the legs! And there's all that fat!!

Reader, if you too are intimidated by duck, Duck Legs and Carrots is an easy, straightforward way to approach it. I'm providing the link to Epicurious even though the recipe in the cookbook is adapted, which is to say made much easier. Still, the basic technique is the same, and this is what it is:

1. Cut extra fat away from duck legs, and saute that fat in a pan until you get about a tablespoon. Throw fat away.

2. Brown duck legs in pan, about 3-4 minutes each side. Take out and put on plate.

3. Saute Your Favorite Vegetables in duck fat (pour all but 2 tablespoons out) like garlic, onions, leeks, carrots, etc. Good roasting vegetables.

4. Put vegetables and duck (skin side up) in a oven-safe casserole dish (I used a pie plate), add some bundled herbs (like rosemary and parsely) and pour in chicken broth just until it reaches the skin.

5. Roast in a 400 oven, uncovered, for almost 2 hours.

The skin turns a beautiful mahogany brown, and is crispy--a marvelous contrast to the juicy braised meat underneath.

It's a winner, folks. And Stop n Shop sells duck legs for about $3/lb.--less than you pay for chicken breast.