Saturday, February 21, 2009

Seville Orange Flan

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My annual obsession with seville oranges continues, this installment being a perfectly textured flan. Yeah, you heard me. Perfect.

It's heavy on the eggs, but doesn't taste too eggy... I personally like it to be a touch on the eggy side, though. Some people get all freaked out by the eggy flan thing, and they should just go eat some creme brulee and get over it.

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I don't use any cream in this one because it inhibits the sharp, clean flavor of the sevilles. Whole milk lends just enough richness, but still keeps the flan silky and light.
I cook my caramel for the bottom of the ramekins a hair darker than usual, for some bitter twang.
Lots of vanilla beans and a little drizzle of creme fraiche are the only other players in the dish, providing the equipment for a jooshed up creamsicle.
If you can get your hands on seville oranges, do two things with them. Make the cuban roast pork shoulder from the Dean and Deluca cookbook, and serve this flan for dessert.

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Seville Orange Flan
yield: 5 (or more if using smaller ramekins)

Caramel:
3 oz water
1 1/2 cups sugar

Custard:
3 cups whole milk
zest of 1 large (or 2 small) seville oranges
2 vanilla beans
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
4 eggs
7 egg yolks
1 Tb grand marnier

1. Infuse the milk: split open the vanilla beans and scrape the seeds into a sauce pot. Add the pods to the pot. Add the orange zest and milk. Bring to a full boil, then cover, remove from heat, and let steep on the counter for 2 full hours.

2. Make the caramel: Spray 5 ramekins with pan release. Place ramekins in a roasting pan lined with a tea towel (this keeps the ramekins from sliding around). Combine the sugar and water in a pot. Stir very gently with your finger until the sugar is absorbed. Place pot over high heat and cook, brushing down the sides of the pot with a pastry bag dipped in water (OR- this is what I do: Cover the pot with a lid and allow the condensation to wash down the sides of the pot for you. Just stay close so you can occasionally peek to see how your caramel is coming along)
Once the sugar is reaching an amber color, remove pot from the heat. Tilt pot around gently to encourage even caramelizing. Ladle the caramel into the ramekins. Set aside while you make the custard.
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3. Custard: In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar, and salt. Have a heatproof container and a fine sieve or chinois at the ready. Remove cover from pot of infused milk and bring to a full boil. Gradually whisk the hot milk into the eggs. Strain custard, then stir in the grand marnier. The custard base can be made ahead of time.

4. Bake: Pour custard base into the prepared ramekins. Fill the roasting pan with
very hot water so that the ramekins are about 3/4 of the way submerged. Cover pan with foil and bake in a 325 degree oven for 60-90 minutes, until flans are set but not wobbly. Once ramekins are cool enough to handle, remove from the water bath and let sit at room temp for about 10 minutes (putting hot flans right in the fridge causes the custard to crack). Refrigerate overnight for best results.

5. Serve: Run the tip of a knife around the edge of ramekin. Place a dessert plate on top of the ramekin. Invert flan onto the plate (you may need to shake it a little until you hear the flan separate from the ramekin). Drizzle with a little creme fraiche a la Jackson Pollack.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Hallmark Holiday

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Valentine's Day Dessert Plate For Two

Pardon my not visiting your blogs lately. Cupid has had me by the short and curlies.

Valentine's Day is not something I've ever given two shits about as a wife. But as a pastry chef, it's a different story. I am usually buried in my regular prep to prepare for the incursion of two-tops we'll be hit with that night, as well as the dessert special- usually chocolate, that is expected. Then, that evening, I come back to the restaurant to plate desserts.
I know I am making it sound pretty miserable, but it's actually a really fun, high energy event. I work my ass off in the kitchen, then change into my chef whites and plate- which is something I relish doing, but rarely have the chance.
Later, I have a shot or two with the cooks, and go home to eat pizza with Trevor (our Valentine's day late night pizza delivery/bottle of wine/movie rental is a much beloved tradition).

There were a few added kinks this year, mostly self-inflicted.
One is the fact that now I have two restaurants to worry about instead of one. Two dessert specials, and going back and forth between two restaurants to plate desserts.
Another hindrance- I decided to change the entire menu a few days before Valentine's day. This means that rather than spend the weeks leading up to the big day perfecting a kickass dessert special, I was working out recipes for the new menu.
Then, I convinced myself that I wanted to make truffles for the special.
Truffles.
??????

Yeah, I decided to mix tempering chocolate, with pms and a time crunch.
I don't recommend it.
But, I have said this before and I'll say it again. For some reason, I work best under pressure. Thanks to two awesome assistant bakers who rocked the shit out of the regular prep load, a nice 70 degree kitchen, and the energy giving powers of vitamin B 12 injected smoothies from the joint next door, all went off with out a hitch.

The final plate ended up being a chocolate sampler for two. Dark chocolate sorbet with vanilla bean crema and roasted coco nibs, fresh fruit (blood oranges, red currants), and assorted truffles and confections:
white chocolate-grapefruit truffle with hazelnuts, milk chocolate-Bailey's truffle with pecans, dark chocolate-single malt scotch truffle (which was heart shaped), dark chocolate-pistachio-sour cherry mendiants, and not pictured because it was still cooling at the time: marcona almond brittle

I did the same special at both restaurants to ease the feeling of panic- the dining public will never know.
The big star of the plate was the sorbet, which I promise to blog ASAP, as it's too easy and too delish not to share. The single malt scotch and dark chocolate truffle was my personal fave. But I wont blog it as I ripped it off from the Scharffenberger book, and grabbing the camera to snap a few shots while dipping truffles was completely out of the question.

I slept for 16 hours yesterday and I'm fully recovered. I'll be back to lurk on your blogs now.
Oh yeah- tomorrow is my 5 year wedding anniversary, so there is a possibility of a first ever restaurant review to come....
if I can remember the camera. And it probably wont be a review per se, as that is not my style (I never burn bridges)- but more of a "look at the pictures of this food I ate, it was yummy" type posting.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Winter Fruit Crisp with Cognac Ice Cream

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Before I even start this post, I need to publicly thank Matt (of the blog Wrightfood, and whose praises have been sung here in the past) and his beautiful wife Danika for the amazing meat party they threw for Seattle area bloggers two weeks ago. It was really cool to finally meet Matt in person, as we've been blog buddies for the last year or so. Those of you who are familiar with his blog know his photos totally smoke most cookbooks. I am pleased to announce that the food tastes even better than it looks. Matt, who is primarily a seafood guy- but I think he prefers the term "bloke", went all out with rillettes, game pate, and slow roasted pork shoulder- just to mention a few of the goodies. Each course was pared with wines lovingly selected by Catherine Reynolds of Queso y Vino. And I was humbled beyond words when Matt asked me to prepare the dessert (which was NOT the crisp you see above. With course after course of homemade charcuterie, fruit crisp just wouldn't cut the mustard). We left the party giddy from wine and with happy tummies. To read more about this meaty soiree (or to get really jealous) check out Matt's post.

Now, about this crisp...

While it may not be quite elegant enough to follow a 4 course carnivorous orgasm, it certainly stood up to the hoppin' john we had post superbowl yesterday. Nothing soothes the sting of watching the cardinals lose like a plate of beans, greens, and piggy.

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It's all about the topping with this one. The fruit and ice cream is irrelevant to me. The key is the temperature of your butter when mixing the strudel. You want it to be cool, set at room temperature for just long enough to take off the chill. Of course, it all depends on the environment you are working in- but I usually take the butter out of the fridge, cut it into cubes, and let it hang out on the counter while I gather the remaining ingredients. By the time I'm ready to mix, the butter is right where I want it.

You can use this topping for any fruit and it will be delicious. I had some poached quince, granny smith apples, and dried cranberries (plumped up by a soak in scalding hot water). I make this at work with a combination of pears and sour cherries, which will soon change to rhubarb, as I just heard it's now available from our produce vendor (!!!!!!!)
So use what you've got. Toss in a little sugar, spices if you want em (I usually don't), and a splash of melted butter. You're good to go. You can make make a big batch of the topping and freeze it for when you need to pull a dessert out of your ass.

The ice cream was a no brainer, as a healthy glug of V.S.O.P makes any fruity dessert happy. The excess amount of booze in the ice cream gives it a soft, velvety texture right out of the freezer. This ice cream is also really good with warm chocolate cake- the fuggy flourless kind. Though, I am sure I have failed to surprise anyone with that little nugget.

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Next post, I promise to refrain from using my little oval bowls and doilies. I am also realizing that I cannot remember the last time we saw chocolate here....hmmm.

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Crisp Topping
Yield....lots. I usually just scatter a few handfuls over my crips and freeze the remainder

1/2 # butter, cut into cubes and slightly softened*
3 oz. chopped pecans (just shy of 1 cup)
5 1/2 oz. rolled oats (about 1 1/2 cup)
8 oz. flour
5 oz. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Combine everything except the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer. Mix on low speed, using the paddle, until well combined. Add the butter and mix on low until all the dry ingredients have been moistened by the butter and the mixture is clumpy. Do not let the mixture turn into dough.


*see instructions in post

Winter Fruit Crisp
Yield- 4 individual crisps

3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 1/2 " chunks
4 oz. poached quince, strained
1/4 cup re hydrated cranberries**, strained
1 tsp lemon juice
3 T sugar
2 T melted butter
1 cup crisp topping

**Cover dried cranberries with boiling water and let sit for at least 45 minutes.

Toss together and divide amongst 4 ramekins or small bowls. Top each bowl with 1/4 cup crisp topping.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes- until topping is brown and fruit is bubbly.


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Thanks Norm!