Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Roast Fillet of Beef Dinner

This fairly easy dinner served six of us last Saturday night. The only thing that took longer than an hour to prepare was the dessert which needs a day for the tart to chill to the right consistency (this I found out the hard way). Two of the recipes are from other food bloggers, both of which turned out very well. The risotto I made to accompany the beef, I omitted the spicy pangrattato called for in the recipe whose flavor I thought would not compliment the beef. The tart was excellent... the next day. Unfortunately, I served the tart too soon and the consistency and flavor was unable to develop properly. I strongly suggest making the tart a day before you are to serve it, it's well worth it.

My dinner guests were a mix of people half of whom did not know each other beforehand. Ages ranged from 25 to 40 and genders were mixed. It turned out pretty well. Although, the night ended with a set of different guests who came for drinks long after dinner ended.

I served George Duboeuf Beaujolais "Brouilly" to go with this meal. One of my favorite wines.

Sherried Mushroom Soup

Cauliflower Risotto
(from blog The Traveler's Lunchbox)

Roast Fillet of Beef with Blue Cheese Sauce

White Chocolate Tart with Strawberry Jam
(adapted from blog The Flying Apple)

Sherried Wild Mushroom Soup

150 grams butter
2 onions, chopped finely
approximately 300 grams fresh shitake mushrooms, remove stems and roughly chop
approximately 400 grams white mushrooms, remove stems and roughly chop
8 cups chicken stock
salt & pepper
4 oz Sherry

Saute the onions in butter. Add the mushrooms and saute a further 2-3 minutes. Add the stock and simmer until mushrooms are softened. Puree in a blender. Pour back into pan, add Sherry, season to taste, and reheat.

Roast Filet of Beef with Blue Cheese Sauce

2 kilos beef fillet, ends cut (reserve for another recipe) and beef tied
salt & pepper
extra-virgin olive oil

For the sauce:
about 300 grams Danish Blue Cheese
250 ml all-purpose cream

Pat meat dry. Sprinkle beef generously with salt & pepper. Cover lightly with olive oil, spreading evenly.

I used a turbo-broiler to roast the beef... Turn broiler temperature to highest its setting, preheating for 10 minutes. Place beef on rack at the bottom of the broiler and roast for 35 minutes for medium. Let meat rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

If using a conventional oven: Preheat oven to 525 degrees F. Arrange meat on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast meat for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 130 to 140 F. for medium-rare. Transfer meat to a cutting board and let rest, loosely covered, for 10 minutes before cutting.

To make the sauce: Place both ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth.

White Chocolate Tart with Strawberry Jam

For the shortcrust pastry:
1 cup flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon or more ice cold water

For the filling:
300 g plain (but good quality) white chocolate
3 tbsp of caster sugar
250 g mascarpone
480 - 500 g cottage cheese
approx. 4-5 tbsp of strawberry jam
approx. 750 g ripe strawberries, cut into segments (optional)

In a bain marie gently melt the white chocolate, the mascarpone and the sugar, stirring to prevent any sticking to the bottom of the pan. As soon as the mixture is smooth remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Add the cottage cheese and puree in a blender until smooth. Pour filling into a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour to chill and thicken slightly. Spread the pastry case with jam and cover with the white chocolate filling. If using strawberries, arrange the strawberry segments on top and sprinkle with icing sugar. Chill the cake for a day/overnight.

For the shortcrust pastry put all ingredients into the food processor and pulse for some seconds until a dough ball has formed, take it out, dust with flour, cover with cling foil and leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour.

Using your fingers, press the dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom, spreading it evenly at the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Mac & Cheese Dinner

Had some friends over for a very simple dinner. This recipe for Mac & Cheese will easily feed 10-12 people. Served my favorite sparkling wine, Freixenet Cava Cordon Negro (brut), to go with our meal...

Green Salad

Macaroni and Cheese
(adapted from Gourmet magazine, Dec. 1999)

Chocolate Pavlova with Strawberries


For bread crumbs:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs or Japanese panko breadcrumbs

For bechamel:

1 teaspoon powdered chipotle chili (or to taste)

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 lb macaroni

2 lb extra-sharp Cheddar (preferably white), grated

Make bread crumbs:

Heat butter and oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook garlic and bread crumbs, stirring, until crumbs are golden. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt.

Make macaroni:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over moderate heat, then add flour and cook, whisking, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, cream, chipotle chili and mustard and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Strain to remove any lumps. Add sauce to large bowl of cheese and stir until cheese has completely melted.

Cook macaroni in a 6- to 7-quart pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 11 minutes. Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in white sauce, cheese, and salt to taste.

Fill a large shallow casserole with half of macaroni mixture. Pour half of cheese bechamel on top of first layer. Repeat with another layer of macaroni and cheese bachamel. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs. Bake casseroles in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

Cook's note:

Macaroni and cheese may be made 2 days ahead, put into casserole, cooled completely, and chilled, covered. Do not add bread crumbs until ready to bake. (Baking may take longer than 30 minutes.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Casual Dinner for 5

I've been eating out more often than usual since H, my good friend and cousin, arrived from the States a month ago and I thought it would be nice to have dinner at home for a change. H was really showing his age and new lifestyle by falling asleep on my bed on the way to use the bathroom. He is a single father of two one-year-old twin boys and despite the two nannies still gets exhausted. I had a good laugh about that while he was sleeping because we had actually planned (his idea) to party all night (his words). Ah well, there's always another time.

My other guest K, also a relative, was good to see after quite some time. Also a new mother, her lifestyle has changed as well (although she claims otherwise). The last time the three of us were together was in San Francisco painting the town red till five in the morning. Wow, things have changed!

Indonesian Fish with Sweet & Sour Sauce
(adapted from Cooking Around the World: Indonesian)

Chicken with 40 Cloves Garlic
(adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

2 Kinds of Rice

(from Australian Gourmet Traveller: Chocolate)

This was the menu for last night's very casual dinner for five. My sister baked, for the first time, the mini Eclairs, which had a Creme de Cassis cream filling. The fish looked really good in a turmeric almond sauce dotted with cherry tomatoes and green onions, it tasted good too. And if you're a garlic lover like I am then the chicken dish was perfectly seasoned with lots of garlic cloves, some rosemary and white wine. Everything was fairly easy to make and delicious.

I served two kinds of rice - a white and a purple rice from the mountains of Banaue. Purple rice happens to be my favorite and is quite rare. There's only one place I know that sells it in Baguio and even they have a limited supply. The purple rice is grown, harvested and packaged by a cooperative of indigenous Batad women farmers in Banaue's rice terraces. They also grow several other varieties of rice like red, brown and sticky white rice.

Fish with Sweet & Sour Sauce
I doubled the spice paste and sauce ingredients called for in the book and used 2 cups of water instead of 1.5 cups to make the sauce.

serves 4

2 fillets of red snapper (about 1 kilo)
cornstarch for coating
oil for frying
salt & pepper

for the spice paste:
6 garlic cloves
4 lemongrass stems
2-inch fresh langkawas (galangal)
2-inch fresh ginger
1 1/2-inch fresh turmeric or 1 teaspoon ground
1/4 cup ground almonds

for the sauce:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 cups water
4 lime leaves (optional)
1 bunch Tagalog onions, peeled and left whole or 8 shallots, quartered
2 cups cherry tomatoes or 6 tomatoes, quartered
6 scallions, sliced thinly at a diagonal
2 red chilies (optional)

Grind all the ingredients for the spice paste in food processor.

Season the fish fillets with salt & pepper. Lightly coat in cornstarch and fry in hot oil, about 8-9 minutes each side. Drain on paper towels. Place on serving platter.

Leave a little oil from frying in the pan, add the brown sugar, vinegar and water and bring to a boil. Add the lime leaves, Tagalog onions and spice paste, simmer for 1 minute. Add cherry tomatoes and simmer for 3-4 minutes until sauce has thickened. Add scallions and pour sauce over fried fish.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
adapted from Ina Garten's recipe on the Barefoot Contessa

1 whole chicken, cut into parts
40 or more cloves of garlic, unpeeled
fine sea salt
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups white wine
fresh thyme or rosemary leaves
1/4 cup cream - optional

Rub the chicken pieces with salt and set aside while you heat a Dutch oven or large pan on medium heat. Add the butter and oil. When the butter has completely melted, brown the chicken pieces. When all the chicken has been browned, set it aside on a plate. Saute the garlic cloves in the oil remaining in the fry pan until slightly caramelized. Add the chicken and any juices that have accumulated in the plate. Try to get most of the garlic on top of the chicken pieces. Add the wine and thyme. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken and garlic with a sloted spoon to a serving platter. Reduce the remaining sauce to a syrupy consistency, then add the cream. Season to taste. Pour over chicken and garlic.

Chocolate Eclairs with Creme de Cassis Cream
M didn't make the chocolate glaze and instead sprinkled the eclairs with confectioners sugar before serving.

Alternatively, the cream can be flavored with orange or coffee liqueur.

choux pastry:
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 stick butter
90 grams or 6.5 tablespoons flour
2 eggs

300 ml thickened or all-purpose cream
40 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon Creme de Cassis

100 grams dark couverture chocolate, chopped
30 grams liquid glucose
2.5 tablespoons thickened or all-purpose cream

Combine sugar, butter and 3/4 teaspoon salt with 185 ml of cold water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add all the flour at once and, using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until mixture is smooth, then return mixture to a low heat and stir for 1-2 minutes or until mixture comes away from side of pan. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 15 mm plain nozzle and pipe 4-inch lengths, about an inch apart, on a silicon sheet placed on top of a cookie sheet. Bake at 220 C for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 180 C and bake for another 10 minutes. Turn off oven and cool pastries in oven with door slightly ajar.

For filling: beat cream to soft peaks, add confectioner's sugar and Creme de Cassis and beat until well combined. Cut pastries lengthwise with a serrated knife and fill with cream mixture.

For glaze: combine all in ingredients in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until well combined. Cool for 5 minutes, then spread over top of each eclair.

Place eclairs on a tray and refrigerate for 1 hour or until glaze is set. Unfilled pastries can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container. Filled eclairs are best served fresh.