Sunday, December 17, 2006

Long Overdue- "Comfort Me With Apples"

At last! It's been a while, I know, and I apologize. After the killer cold finally sauntered out of my system, it was time for finals. But now the quarter is over, and although I still have work, I now have a bit more free time to dedicate to Petit Chou.

Chronologically speaking, I should put my turkey pictures up. Right now, however, I am interested only in the comforting things in life. Why dig for turkey photos when I can take nice new ones of pretty orchard-fresh apples?

My landlord brought these to me a week or so ago, as his brother in law owns an apple orchard. It was a bag full of these amazingly juicy, tart-yet-sweet apples. They perfectly fit the California winter feel: cold gusts of wind and kisses of sun. It was difficult not to eat them all in my favourite fashion, held in one hand and chomping away. Visions of an apple pie or tart faded as I kept grabbing one on my way out the door to work, or as I studied. On one particular evening however, I wanted my apple to be hot, spicy, and sweet. I wanted to spoon it from the bowl, and let it melt in my mouth. Baked apples can be done a variety of ways, but I stuck to the basics.

Baked Apple

Quarter an apple, and remove the core. Arrange the quarters in a bakeproof dish, and top with butter and brown sugar. Bake in a 350 degree oven for twenty minutes, or until the apple is soft. Spoon brown sugar-butter liquid over the apple, and turn on the broiler for ten minutes to roast the tops. Top with ice cream, heavy cream, nuts, or eat as is!

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bread Pudding

A couple days ago I made a post referencing a loaf of French bread. It was odd having a deliciously new loaf of crusty bread lying around specifically waiting for it to go stale, but that's exactly what I was doing. In mind I had visions of a custardy bread pudding, replete with raisins, swirled with cinnamon and nutmeg. The day came when I finally had the time to make it, only to find out I was completely shot of raisins! I still had dried cranberries from the quiche I had made, but really didn't want cranberry taste in my bread pudding. Time was tight, the raisins would have to be missed.

I used a recipe found from Simply Recipes, changing a few things around. Instead of allspice I used simply cinnamon and nutmeg, and of course there were the absent raisins. I baked two versions: one in a mini bundt pan that came in a set of 4 that I ad just picked up, and 1 in a cake pan to share with my coworkers. The single loaf I used was more than enough, even with a few pieces taken from the end for the French Toast. I loved how the mini version turned out, and enjoyed it when it was barely cool!

French Bread Pudding

1 loaf French bread torn into pieces
4 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F.Soak the bread in milk in a large mixing bowl. Crush with hands until well mixed and all the milk is absorbed. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla, and spices together. Gently stir into the bread mixture. Gently stir the raisins into the mixture.

Pour butter into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan. Coat the bottom and the sides of the pan well with the butter. Pour in the bread mix and bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, until set. The pudding is done when the edges start getting a bit brown and pull away from the edge of the pan.

I topped mine with a little homemade glaze: 1/4 cup sugar with just enough water to give it a thick consistency, then drizzled over the pudding.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sweet Potato Flop

For a whole week I had been craving sweet potato fries. I don't eat fries very often, but when the craving hits, it hits terribly hard. California is one of the few places I've lived that actually serves sweet potato (yam, more appropriately) fries, chips, whatever you want to call them. In may, in fact, be the only place I've lived to do so.

That said, my own kitchen attempts to recreate the crispy-skinned gooey-centered goodness that is a sweet potato fry failed miserably this evening. There is a good possibility that my oil was not hot enough, as I do not yet have a kitchen thermometer. It stands to reason that the fries simply sucked up excess oil as they were limp, flavourless, and simply soggy.

I've never actually made fries before, but the instructions sounded easy: slice up potatoes, fry in batches in hot shortening. Bourdain drooling over horse kidney fat aside, I worked with what I had. I wished for kosher sea salt, but even that wouldn't have saved these fries. I'm not sure if perhaps yams need a different frying method than regular potatoes, or if there is more to the "perfect temperature" than I bargained for. Let's just say it's good I only bought one potato, as the majority ended up in the bin.

But the night was not all a loss- I finally made the bread pudding I mentioned here, and a post on that is soon to follow. Last, but not least, I leave you with this enticing photo, with the promise of a mystery and post. Ooooh, tantalizing!

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Saturday, November 11, 2006


Sometimes it's the most simple dishes that are the most heartwarming. Lately I've found myself craving earthy dishes, vegetables, and the peppery flavours of home. Sushi is great, truly, but there's something about a fresh mushroom, soil still clinging to its spongy skin, that inspires a homecooked meal.

The other day whilst shopping, I saw the bin of mushrooms in the produce section, quietly ignored while shoppers bustled about selecting onions and potatoes and cabbages and lettuce and avocados and the like. So inconspicuous and silent, they seemed to doze as I walked over, suddenly wanting to pop one in my mouth right then, raw. I felt a hunger for the last bit of sleepy summer earth as I filled my bag with criminies.

Slowly piecing together a recipe in my mind I went on a mini scavenger hunt, gathering things I thought would work well together. I selected a bag of grated Monterey, but immediately placed it back and grabbed a container of crumbled feta cheese instead. I had breadcrumbs at home, fresh Italian parsley at home. My idea was beginning to solidify.

Once home, I whisked an egg and a little extra cream I had together, then added the chopped parsley that grows rampant in my garden. A little salt, pepper, cayenne, and then the breadcrumbs. Once I had a thick paste, I added the feta crumbles.

These I piled into the mushroom caps, topping with a little extra cheese, then stuck them in the oven until the tops turned golden. I gave the same treatment to a couple extra tomatoes I had as well, but the mushrooms were the spotlight on this evening. Despite a leetle overcooking by yours truly, I enjoyed the subtle contrast of the feta and fresh bright parsley with the earth-kissed mushrooms. I've found that I love weaving together meals as I walk through the market, relying on my personal whim and craving. In this case at any rate, it did not steer me wrong!

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Burst of Colour

I have been spoiled entirely too much lately. The company that I work for has done some dinners recently, and fortunately for me the rest of the team loves sushi just as much as I do. I usually don't got out for sushi much, even though I adore it, simply because the price can be a bit high. When someone else is paying however...

My favourite without a doubt is the unagi. Unagi anything really, unagi donburi (Or uyadon), unagi nigiri (pictured below), unagi maki... it's broiled eel with a sweet shoyu (soy) sauce. If I knew how to attempt this at home, I would, but since I fear my seemingly general inability to cook any form of a successful Asian dish; well I'll just leave it to the pros.

Here in the Silicon Valley, many sushi restaurants are Korean-owned. This usually means an appetizer of glass noodles, or jabchae. This chilled dish has a strong sesame oil flavour, but is fantastic with the kimchi and other pickles served with the main course. Although not a taste I'd associate with the subtle colour of sushi, I've come to look forward to the small plain dish of unassuming noodles and carrots.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

In Search of the Perfect Chocolate Cookie

Over the next week or so you will likely see several recipes for chocolate cookies. I'm on a quest, you see, of finding the perfect one. A combination of soft, chewy, fudgy, and gooey- all combined in one sinfully decadent circular dessert.

This batch ended up being a disappointment. Oh they look pretty enough, but the cookie was too thin, too flaky, and crumbled at the drop of a hat. The recipe I used came from an online search, and resembled more of a torte than a cookie. It originally called for a mere 1/4 cup of flour, and yet promised 36 cookies! I had added an additional 1/4 cup to the weak, sauce-like batter, and still only managed to eek out a little over a dozen.

"These will be like mini-torte cookies," I thought hopefully. "Torties. It'll be the start of something new, and innovative!"

Uhuh. Not so much.

The boys at work liked them well enough, which was gratifying since I had promised them chocolate cookies, and then showed up with the sad and sorry 9 or so flat cookies that hadn't crumbled to bits. The rest, by the way, smooshed together into lumps, so that they had to be pried apart in order to resemble any form of traditional cookie.

Unless you really want the recipe I won't bother including it here, as I count it a dismal failure. I have another recipe I'll be trying Thursday, and once again the boys at work will be my guinea pigs. This recipe promises "A molten gooey center", so I will be keeping my fingers crossed, my hopes high, and my chocolate fresh.

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