July 15, 2007


This was the weekend of ratatouille: I spent most of Saturday preparing for dinner Sunday night. I made two French Laundry dishes, one of which was derived from the classic french ratatouille dish. On Saturday night, we had Dan and Carmen over for a simple dinner - various sausages from Fatted Calf, a good french mustard, and the leftover ratatouille vegetables sautéed in olive oil. After that, we went to see Ratatouille. The movie was a lot of fun and very well done. The attention to detail was amazing. I'd definitely recommend it.

orzo and cheese (and lobster)
"Macaroni and Cheese"
Butter-poached Maine Lobster with Creamy Lobster Broth and Mascarpone-Enriched Orzo

The first course was lobster poached in butter served with with orzo in a lobster cream broth and a Parmesan crisp. The parmesan crisp was very easy to make. They lobster was briefly boiled yesterday, the meat removed from the shell and refrigerated, and then I spent a few hours were spent making a lobster broth, reducing it, adding cream, and reducing again. I added a some cooked orzo the next morning. I left out the coral oil, as I didn't have any lobster coral.

On Sunday, I reheated the broth, made up a batch of buerre monté, briefly poached the lobster and put it on warmed plates.

Roasted Guinea Fowl en Crépenette de Byaldi with Pan Jus

Imam Byaldi is a turkish dish which is a more refined version of the classic Ratatouille. In the movie, the byaldi is removed from the pan and artfully arranged on the plate. (And, according the recipe in the New York Times, served with a vinagrette.) The byaldi itself takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours to cook, by the way.

On Saturday, I cut up a guinea fowl, reserved the breasts and boned-out thighs for the next day, and used the rest of the bird, along with some vegetables and chicken stock, to make a sauce. (Which also spent a good hour or so reducing.)

On Sunday, I placed a bit of the byaldi on each piece of breast and thigh, wrapped it in caul fat, seared it, and baked it. They were then sliced in half, and served on some of the remaining byaldi with some sauce on top.

The actual cooking on Sunday was a half hour at most, but I spent most of Saturday preparing. It was a lot of work, but a fun learning experience. Not something I'd do every weekend.

July 12, 2007

Catching up

It's been a while since my last post. I've been really busy at work and neglected to write up my parents visit. They were here for a month, helped us a lot with the house. Most of the plaster work is now done, and we have a completely finished bathroom and living room. I got to feed them almost every night, showing off what I've learned in the past year. (And skipping dishes that they might not like.)

For mother's day, I made short ribs and oxtail, vaguely following the zuni recipe. They were accompanied by parmesan mashed potatoes, carrots and parsnips (turned and glazed, if I remember right). Each plate contained both cuts of beef, removed from the bones. (I cooked the ribs for a little less time.)

From my repetoire, I made pasta norma, the chicken roulade, and zuni chicken. I also made the posole rojo recipe from Rancho Gordo.

And, of course, one night my mom made our traditional fish fry. She takes Michigan lake fish, breads them with flour, salt, and pepper and fries them in olive oil. I'm always thinking there is some way to tweak it to make it better - but I rarely have the opportunity to have it, and it invokes such memories from childhood, I don't mess with it. The best way to enjoy the fish, is sneaking a fillet off of the plate next to my grandfather's grill while he's cooking a batch. This year, I let my mom do her thing and just prepared some sides. For the first, I sweated down some onions and then sautéed some diced summer squash in olive oil, salt, and pepper. The second was swiss chard sautéed in olive oil with garlic, salt, and pepper. The squash was quite good, but the chard didn't work so well with the fish. (The fish is a bit too delicate for the chard.)

For an early father's day, I made a standing rib roast from Prather Ranch beef. It was my first standing rib roast and turned out perfect, even though I was aiming for a little more well done, because my parents aren't big on rare beef.

For sides, I reprieved myself by making green beans again but getting it right. (My mom liked them the previous time I made them, but I thought they were a little too raw.) And I made my parmesan mashed potatoes. (They're tasty - and the leftovers work well, Emily rarely lets me cook potatoes another way - but I like them roasted, too.)

One Sunday, I attempted to make Keller's grilled cheese sandwich recipe. I got some excellent English cheddar, but I managed to use twice as much butter as I should have when making the brioche. I was making a half recipe. It called for "10 oz (20 tbsp) butter" - I halved it and got 10 oz. In lieu of his fussy tomato soup, I served it simply with some sliced apples. It wasn't bad, but the bread was too crumbly, too buttery, and I didn't use enough cheese.

On a subsequent Sunday, I finally got around to making Osso Buco. I saw some wonderful Vitellone at Prather Ranch in the ferry building and picked it up for the freezer. (Vitellone is a bit older than Veal and free range.) I also added some saffron to the parmesan risotto that I usually make with the chicken roulade. It turned out really well, and I'll definitely try it again. I consulted a few recipes and ended up salting ahead (per the Zuni cookbook), using red wine (because I had it on hand), tomatoes, leeks, a little bit of celery and carrot, rosemary, thyme, onion, bay, and black peppercorns. Per Keller, I used a bit of cheesecloth to keep the veggies separate from the meat.

And tonight I made red-cooked fish again. This is the second time I've made this dish. This time I made it with a, err, red fish that I got at Sun Fat. (I don't remember what kind it was, but it looked like it was fresh and the right size for one person.) Emily hasn't been around either time I made this dish, so I decided to take a picture myself. I'll have her work her magic and replace this with an edited one.

The fish is fried in a wok, some aromatics (scallions and ginger) are fried, and then everything is braised in a soy, sugar, rice wine sauce. The fish and veggies are removed to a plate and the sauce is reduced. The resulting sauce is a savory, caramel sauce that is quite tasty.