Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Poach to Perfection

Once again, and it's funny more than sad, there are items on the to-do list that at least one of us really don't want anything to do with - that would be the poached eggs.  We survived!

We've poached before.  Certainly eggs, and on occasion fish.  Nothing to be scared of here, right?  We thought we'd give all 3 suggestions a go...

Oeufs en Meurette

We saw an Iron Chef battle where eggs were poached in some sort of red wine concoction.  We didn't for one second think that it was (or strongly based) on a fairly fancy and traditional dish.  Although poached eggs would mostly be thought of as a breakfast item, this dish sounded (and looked based on the pictures provided) to be hearty enough for a Dinner.  So dinner it was.

Nothing complicated in what is required from the recipe - if you don't count peeling those pesky pearl onions.  Trying to get all the steps to work together in a sensible time line was a bit harder.  No disasters by any stretch of the imagination, but the benefit of hindsight would ensure that next time around it would all run a bit smoother.

Can we get an egg to poach?  Sure!  Can we get the white cooked up nicely and the yolk just the right amount of runny?  Sure!  Can we get it to look pretty?  Absolutely not!  Poaching of eggs in our house happens often enough so that we can't call it a foreign process, but it's only ever been for us because they never quite look right.  It was hoped that the notes / thoughts / tips / results and general good karma from this month's post would help change that.  Alas, these eggs didn't look any better (and perhaps worse) than just about every previous attempt.  The red wine poaching did give them a fun color, and experience has taught us not to stress over the appearance so no tossing in the garbage and starting again here.

We like our wine and we're happy cooking with it but it's unlikely we've ever started by emptying a whole bottle (well, whole bottle less the glass for the chef) into the pan to get things started.  Now we can cross that off our bucket list...

The reducing part is where we found it a bit hard to get the timing right.  Nothing much happens for awhile, but as soon as you get distracted it's like all the reducing happened in those 2 minutes.  Also, the pot seemed a little crowded with the veggies added, but it thickened up and strained out just fine.  It is definitely a sauce worth the effort - rich, purple, thick, purple, tasty, purple...  We almost could have skipped the egg and just had a kind of 'biscuits and gravy' type dish, but it's a good thing we didn't because bringing the runny yolk into the mix made it even better.

It felt kind of odd to cook the eggs up, then have them hanging around on the counter waiting for the sauce to appear.  No harm done, just odd having always cooked an egg and sent it straight to the plate and then tummy...


Looked pretty good, but only after the eggs were covered up with the very yummy sauce and tasted oh so good.  We'll give a lot of the taste credit to the Pinot Noir used as the base of the sauce, but the crunch of the Toasty Bread helped too.

The decision to go as a Dinner Dish was definitely the right one.  It would have been just too much as a breakfast dish, but pretty cool looking if you were brave enough to serve it up for friends as a brunch, perhaps.

Eggs Benedict

Poached Eggs on Bread comes up at home about once a month, but nothing fancy and certainly not turning them into Eggs Benedict.  To be honest, if we didn't have to make our own Hollandaise we wouldn't have gone through this until the next time Poached Eggs felt like the right thing for breakfast.

Hollandaise is easy enough to put together, but all the Cooking Shows suggest it's also easy to 'break' if you try to rush it.  Therefore, it's a process that involves standing at the counter for awhile, patiently whisking away.  It's not hard work, but there was a brief consideration (and internal debate as to whether it would help or hinder) of grabbing our recently purchased stand mixer to help along.

The same Poaching problem as noted above for the Oeufs - correct amount of runny, incorrect amount of prettiness.  Again, no do over going on here!


It didn't break!  The Sauce that is...  Actually, the Eggs didn't break either (well, until cut into...), but even with all the tips, still a moderately ugly (from a visual point of view only) result.

Regardless of looks, it is fun to 'stab' into the egg and let the yolk spread it's goodness all over the place.

The Hollandaise tasted just like all the times we've had some form of Eggs Benedict at a breakfast joint.  Is it worth the time it takes to make?  Yeah, probably.  Do we want to take the time to add this to our Poached Egg breakfast every time?  Probably not.  If we're really up for a breakfast extravaganza we'll go out and have the professionals take care of us (and maybe cramp up their whisking arm?).

Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages

Well, this was something new.  Thanks to TV we seen cheese cloth being used many times but never had to add it to our shopping cart before.  We actually had no idea which section of the store to find it in - turns out it didn't have a section, just a random hanging aisle addition.  And Vital Wheat Gluten?  Huh?  Thanks to the Amazon link provided the picture gave us the clue of what to look for (and yes, we went to the baking section!).  We weren't confident our regular store would have it, but very certain our not-so-regular store would.  As it turned out, only one store required.

Easy enough to put together, and pleasant to the nose as the pine nuts toast, the garlic gets crushed and the tomatoes, onion and chili come together. 

When it's time to add the flour, it really does feel like you're making a bread.  Well, maybe not a bread but it absolutely is a dough. 

We didn't have any twine and didn't realize this until we had the 'dough' mixed up and the cheese cloth cut.  Our fix was to use thread which ultimately worked, but was very fiddly to get everything tied up nicely.  We have no doubt that the correct equipment would have made this part so much easier...


Technically, they tasted pretty good.  But, the texture was really hard to get past, quite chewy and almost bubble gum like in the stretchiness.  Technically, perhaps what it should be?  But just not what we think of when we think of sausage.  Perhaps something as simple as not calling them sausages may have been enough for us to be able to enjoy them a bit more?

We're kind of curious as to what we would have gotten had we baked rather than poached?  Without any yeast, probably a brick?  But something to ponder...

No idea what to do with our left over Vital Wheat Gluten...

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



Well, perfection is of course subjective, but it's pretty clear we didn't quite get perfect when evaluating the poaching of the eggs.  We're happy we actually made our own Hollandaise (although it's going to take a special occasion to get us to make it again) and very excited we got to poach Eggs in Wine.

It's quite possible we got the sausages perfect, but they're not something we'll be lining up to do again - emphasizing that taste wise, no dramas, but the texture didn't do it for us at all.


Jenn from Jenn Cuisine and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rise and Shine

An interesting challenge.  One of us, just doesn't want anything to do with Soufflé, whether it be sweet, savory or something in between.  It's certainly a texture thing in the mouth, but also the appearance doesn't help - all wiggly and squiggly and floppy.  We said we'd be Daring and at least give everything ago.  So we did.

As this is typed up on November 15 we've only had one attempt and the jury is still out as to whether we get to the second.  If we do, it will be done this week, and we'll update this post.

We've mumbled about getting a stand mixer for awhile.  This challenge got us to pull that trigger.  Thank you for getting this valuable piece of kitchen equipment into our kitchen.  Thank you for the lower balance in our Checking Account.  Thank you for adding to our already too big 'stack' of kitchen equipment we don't really have a home for.

Chocolate Soufflé

The Instructions are straightforward enough.  The Chocolate Custard comes together easily enough with a spoon, a bowl and a small dash of elbow grease.  The step where you add in the cocoa looks for a bit like you've done something wrong, but patience and the aforementioned elbow grease sorts that out.  Adding in the ganache makes a very rich looking (and hard to keep your fingers out of) custard that we believe looked exactly as it should.

It's a good thing we caved on getting the Stand Mixer, because we definitely would not have been in possession of enough elbow grease to get the egg whites where they need to be.  With our machine doing the mixing, no dramas there and we believe (but wouldn't fight to the death over) that we stopped at the right time.

Joining the Custard and Egg Whites may have proved to be our weakest step.  Really not sure (and still not) when folding becomes too much volume losing activity.  We erred on the side of not enough.

Getting everything into the dishes (easy process to grease) and then into the oven was easy enough.  We left the kitchen and put our trust in the timer to minimize any inclination to peek.  We didn't.

Looking through the window at the behest of our timer we definitely had rising, but not of the even straight up sides that you would expect to see in a restaurant - but certainly nothing to cry about.


Knowing we probably would only do this once we opted to take the chance and add it into a scheduled fancy dinner.  If you discount that part about one of us barely being able to look at the inside, it worked out quite well. 

Not quite the rising we hoped for.  Perhaps a little undercooked in the middle (knowing that nothing much good can come of returning them to the oven, even before a bite or 3 had been enjoyed we elected to ignore this part), but the sides, top and bottom all had the texture we'd hope to find.  Definitely chocolaty and rich to taste.  Definitely light and fluffyish in the parts we think were cooked correctly.

Our decision to err on the not quite enough folding step, meant that there were a few good 'chunks' of lonely whites hanging around.  Not the end of the world, but obviously not quite technically right.

Next time, the only thing we'd change would be to opt for slightly smaller dishes in the hope that it cooks through and not spoil the good bits that we saw this time.

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



There's nothing complicated in the method, but it clearly takes a practiced eye (and hand) to interpret the correct amount of 'doneness' at various stages (egg white beating; flavor folding in; cooking) of preparation.  An eye it's probably not a bad thing to have tucked away, but without we're only a small step away from tears and nothing to eat.

It's hard to say if / when we'll try again, but one friend has already indicated that they'd be willing to let us try again on them.


Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

We are on a Roll

Something totally new to us.  Even when we've seen them on the menu we've never felt overly interested in giving them a try and certainly no thought to try cook with them.  Thank you Daring Kitchen for gently forcing us to give them a go.

For us they're easy enough to find, actually too easy.  We assumed they'd be a little difficult to find so we started at our local Market that has helped us out a couple of times with non-standard (We should emphasize non-standard for us!) items more commonly used in International Dishes.  Without too much effort we found two different sized jars.  When we headed over to the 'regular' Store for everything else we found them again quite easily.

It's a shame the leaves don't keep the vibrant green they have while on the vines.

Grape Leaves Stuffed with Ground Meat and Rice, with Apricot Tamarind Sauce

Step 1 - get the leaves out of the jar.  Man do they cram a lot of leaves in on jar?  We didn't completely believe the count indicated on the jar and almost got the larger jar - turns out the count is more or less right.

Step 2 - continue getting the leaves out of the jar...

Preparation of the filling is a straightforward enough process - everyone into the pool, basically.

Rolling the leaves is not hard, but it is time consuming when you're inexperienced.  We definitely improved as we progressed, but we're both still along way from being expert grape leave rollers.  No significant explosions, but a few pine nuts and random pieces of ground meat somehow managed to escape during the cooking part.

We had to trust the recipe's cooking time because we had no idea what visible changes we could expect.  As it turned out, nothing really changed.  We did get up and do the scooping the liquid over the top part a couple of times but we're not really sure that contributed much, if at all.


We really had no idea what to expect because there's not a lot to taste along the way - some nice smells as the cinnamon and allspice are introduced to everyone else, which only got stronger (pleasantly) through the house as the cooking process progressed.

We have no reason to doubt that the Tamarind Sauce adds to the dish, but on it's own we're not sure what to make of it and have no idea how it might work with anything else we just happen to be making - we'll have to do some research on that front.

It's a tough final product.  It tasted fine.  Actually, better than fine.  But, it took a long time to put together - we started the soaking the rice part just after 6pm and with no goofing around (well, comparatively...) we didn't sit down with our fancy new anniversary silver until 9pm was much closer than 8. 

Being our Saturday night dinner we figured we should open a bottle of something.  Based on the aromas we searched for red, not too heavy, fruitier more than not.   Our Cellar provided us with a Wine Guerilla Zinfandel (2008) which worked out just fine.

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



We have said that the point of playing this game is to try new stuff, but after our first batch we just didn't think we could eat a version that was cold.  If the process was a little quicker, perhaps we'd have given it a whirl? 

A combination of the texture of the leaves (just the leaves - we liked the filling so much we used the leftovers in a sandwich the next day) and the color lessened the enjoyment that so many other people seem to get from these dishes.

We're not sorry we tried this but we don't see any use for it in our future.  It's a too slow process to be whipping up after work even if we could get past the texture / color thing, and it's not something we'd put at the top of the list of things we might cook for friends.


Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Food Preservation -The Apple Butter of Knowledge

Well, we were very close to blowing this challenge off.  Very! 

We live in a condo with no garden, so don't have anything we get to pick ourselves to consume, let alone have to worry about storing.  We live in a condo with not enormous amounts of storage space, so don't go out of our way to prepare things to be stored (whether frozen, canned or otherwise) unless we have leftovers which may end up in the freezer, but usually for just a week or so.

Ultimately, the skills we learn here won't get used again until our living arrangements change.  But, we did give it a go, seeing it only cost a few bucks for a couple of jars and a box of gadgets to help with the process.  Although, had we not already been in possession of a crazy big soup pot we would not have purchased one for this challenge and therefore would have been stumped...

Apple Butter

The recipe itself is easy enough to follow.  We opted for the canning option for storing, seeing we're pretty good at jamming stuff in the freezer already.  Using the magnetic lid grabber was fun.  We'll have to work on our filling skills.  We got the jars nicely filled up with out any fuss, but did a poor job of getting the funnel thing out of the jar without making a mess.


No idea! 

We have two jars sitting in the pantry.  They appear to be sealed correctly and we followed all the steps as instructed so we believe them to be safe.  We'll pop one of the lids in 6 months or so and report back - unless we notice something odd going on inside them before then.  Licking the pot gave us something tasty so all being well, we'll have the same tastiness in March.

Although, it was so easy to make that if we really felt we needed some, we'd just make a smaller batch and enjoy it right then and there.  We do appreciate that if we had an apple tree going nuts this would limit the need to make so many apple pies.

Bruschetta in a Jar

Again, a simple enough recipe to follow. 

Reading through other people's efforts we learned that our steamer basket is a great option to a dish towel in the bottom of our canning pot.  Our towel did work for the Apple Butter, but the steamer basket worked much better.

We also did a better job of filling up the jars, so it looks like we did learn from our mistakes.


Again, no idea!

We have two more jars almost ready to go into the pantry (they're still in the do not touch stage as this is typed up).  Hopefully they're sealed up correctly.  We'll aim to open one up around March and report back.

Sticking our fingers in the left over 'sauce' we found it very tart.  We're hoping the magic of the canning process and time will settle it down a bit, but look forward to seeing what eventually comes out.

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



A bit more finicky and less wiggle room in the 'not quite following the directions' area than what we normally work with.  A skill it probably doesn't hurt to have, but currently won't be benefiting us much, if at all.

No regrets giving it a go, but as already mentioned, unlikely we'll give it another go until our living arrangements change.


The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John from Eat4Fun.  John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The World of Pierogi

So, it turns out that a Pierogi doesn't have to be Potato and Cheese. Who would have thought? Ok, just about everyone in the whole world except us it seems...  Sorry! 

We've had ok success with our own Raviolis in the past so weren't too daunted by the skills that are needed and the dough at first look seems just like what we used on our Raviolis.  We were ready to make non-Potato and Cheese Pierogis...

We thought it would be worth picking up one of those folder gadgets pictured in the instructions because we could probably get away with using it for our occasional bouts of Ravioli creating too.  However, couldn't find one for our first attempt.  We tried all the kitchen type stores close by.  We cast a slightly wider net before starting our second batch but still couldn't find one, so all our Pierogis were of the hand sealed variety.


We've made pastas and breads so we're quite ok watching the dough go through the various stages of ugliness it takes until it finally looks like dough.  We put in a little less than the recommended amount of water with just 2 cups of flour and found it very sticky so by the end we probably had the full 2½ cups suggested.


A nice easy dough to work with and roll out.  We just have to work on our consistency of thickness.  We found it much harder to roll out a second time after collecting all the off cuts - not super hard, just harder than the first time.

Russian Style Pierogi

The mixture is easy enough to put together.  The hardest part was probably deciding how much extra bacon we wanted to go with...

It's suggested to serve them with Creme Fraiche or fried.  We actually forgot to pick up some Creme Fraiche so we tried a couple from our first batch just plain and a couple fried.  Fried easily one this battle because we used the same pan with the left over drippings from cooking off the bacon.  Even without the bacon drippings it probably wasn't fair to compare with out the Creme Fraiche.  Because the bacon drippings worked out so well, for our second batch we used some of our left over duck fat from the Paté Challenge.

Not having the folder gadget was not a hindrance at all.  A hand fold and crimp with a fork (lightly floured helps) took just a second and worked quite well - only 2 'explosions' of the most minor type out of our complete batch.


Tasty!  And filling.

Our first roll out of the dough was almost perfect, apart from a corner where we hadn't floured the bench enough and we lost one to stickiness.  Oh well.  Our second roll we didn't do quite as well - no sticking, but as we started folding we noticed they were a bit thicker and seeing we'd already cut and 'stuffed' we just left them.  It's unlikely we'd have noticed the difference if we didn't know they were different...

We made a lot of stuffing.  The one batch of dough turned in to Pierogis was enough of a meal, but we could have easily made 2 batches and probably close to 3 if we were really really hungry.  Not a bad thing at all, but we didn't make up more Pierogis, just used it as a special lunch.

If you don't have duck fat, make sure you fry in your left over bacon drippings.  The duck fat was better to us, but it was a close vote.

Meat and Cabbage

Seeing that 'meat' leaves things wide open, we went with some ground turkey we had tucked away.  The only tweak to the recipe was adding some sage in which we always add in when making turkey burgers.  Putting it together was easy enough.

We still had some duck fat left over...  We liked the fried ones from our first batch so just went all fried, all the time.  We didn't even try look for Creme Fraiche. 


Again, too much filling.  Tasty, just lots of it.  We only lightly cooked off the cabbage so it still had a bit of crunch which we liked.

No dramas rolling out the dough this time.  Practice makes perfect?

Soy Bean

One of us really doesn't enjoy beans much at all.  'Tolerate in an emergency' is probably the best description.  Even though this wasn't an emergency we're here to try new things so Soy Beans it was. 

We weren't really sure what 'minced' beans meant so we tossed them in the mini food processor (you know, the one that you jam your stick blender into), hit go and stopped somewhere around half way to mush.  No idea if our interpretation was correct, but even the one of us who'd rather something else could deal with the texture as well as the flavor.

Yep, we still had some duck fat left...


Again, too much filling.  But not nearly as much as in our previous two efforts.  Surprisingly tasty - quite simple flavors really, but just fine for a meal.

Practice makes perfect?  Dough rolling was just fine.

Custom Locale

We didn't make one.  We're not particularly inventive and couldn't get past the thought of trying to stuff a Chicago Style Hot Dog or a Deep Dish Pizza (which for the record is collectively the worst pizza every invented!) into a Pierogi.  We'll leave the creating to those out there that are creative!  We enjoyed what we made and really could only go down hill from there...

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



It seems that Pierogis are quite filling because the amount of filling we created was mostly based off of portions we would use for a 'normal' meal.  With each batch we got a little bit better at filling and sealing them up (remember, couldn't find the handy dandy gadget?).

We ordered in the other night from the local Chinese.  Our order included Pot-stickers.  We believe that Pierogis (especially when fried) are related to Pot-stickers.  We acknowledge the fillings were vastly different, as was the dough, but the texture and goodness was just about equal.

We were just cooking for the two of us and it wasn't painful to put them together.  We're just not sure we'd be patient enough to be able to put together a batch big enough for a family or group meal.  Although if we didn't fry the cooking part would be much quicker.

One of us went with the Potato as the favorite (hopefully that's not because we thought all Pierogis were potato) with the other first place vote going to the Meat (Turkey).  But, we did enjoy all of our 3 batches.  We probably won't be rushing to whip up another batch (one day they'll appear on our weekly menu again, we just have no idea when that day might be), but it's definitely good to have a new understanding of what might live inside a Pierogi and how easy they are to make.


The August Challenge is brought to you by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Nut Butters

Picking up the challenge this month was not in the least bit traumatic - especially when compared to last month.  Nothing seemed complicated or out of our skill set, and not even out of our comfort zone - and we do own a food processor.  But we've never made our own Nut Butter, probably never even considered it.  Therefore, we decided to try all the suggested recipes through out the month and see if there's any reason to add Nut Butter to our regularly scheduled programming.

Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage

The first time we've ever turned nuts into 'butter'!

The hardest part was being patient enough waiting for the food processor to do it's magic.  As useful and correct as the instructions provided are, it was still unsettling to watch our nuts turn into a crumble and stay that way for what seemed like way too long.  But, they eventually stopped being crumbs and turned into the 'butter' we were looking for.  If we may quote Alton Brown, "our patience was rewarded" - although tried for just a little while...

Once we got passed the hurdle of understanding how long it takes to turn nuts into 'butter' the rest of the process was very easy.  The first pulse of having everything in the bowl together was perhaps a little unsettling, but it all comes together in seconds ready to be sampled.  We liked our sample and broke out some salted pita chips and crunchy toast pieces.


We can definitely put this one out for guests.  It looked like we expected.  It tasted great.  although designed as a grazing dish as your guests arrive for dinner, it turned out to be a great appetizer course and very hard to stop eating - we may have eaten too much...  Definitely got the rosemary, but the sage was very very subtle - perhaps just need to up the quantity if subtle wasn't the goal?

Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms

Second time turning nuts into 'butter'...

We were much more comfortable watching our nuts go through the crumb stage.  Our patience was again rewarded...  Turning the 'butter' into the sauce was a little frightening at first as it thinned down a lot once the water joined in.  The shallots made at least one of us cry - but are they ever not worth the tears?  The mushrooms sizzled and the sauce thickened up nicely once added to the pan.  Put it all together and our one pot dish (you can't count the noodle water pot!) came together nicely and quite quickly.


To be honest not our favorite food color.  But we do know that the tastiest stuff doesn't have to be the best colors.  This fell into that category nicely, although it was quite rich.  Too rich?  Probably not, but we had just eaten arguably (well, you wouldn't have to argue very hard...) too much yummy dip...  Definitely a dish we could whip up again, but we'd lean towards something a little more pretty when friends are over and keep this for the just got back from a workout evenings.

Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing

Third time's a charm!  We didn't panic at any stage over anything!

There's a lot of goodies to make the Dressing and when all hanging around in the Blender before getting whizzed up it looks kinda bleh.  But after a good whizzing it looks and tastes great.

Although we've eaten Rice Noodles before, we've never actually prepared (keeping in mind that prepared means opening the packet and following the directions on the back) our own.  Apparently there's a trick we're not yet privy too. We just couldn't get them to separate and although nicely coated in the dressing, the rest of the goodies sort of kind of just hung out in the bottom of the bowl after we attempted to toss it. 


A conundrum.  We liked this 'sauce' much more than the one above - we thought we got much more of the nuttiness coming through.  But, over all we liked the other dish more - probably due to our rice noodles issues.  Not the end of the world for us, but not a great way to serve it up to friends.  We'll almost certainly try this again, perhaps with 'normal' pasta or even a rice unless we discover the trick to Rice Noodles

Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce

We don't really do curries.  Not because of the flavors, but because of the heat - one of us doesn't do well with the hot spicy things.  But, we claimed this as us being daring and blasted away.

The hardest part of this recipe was figuring out which aisle in the store hosts garam masala.  Turns out it's the spice section which was the last place we looked, and we almost missed it after staring at the little bottles for about the same length of time it took to round up all the other ingredients...

It's a good thing we did this one last.  Of the four 'butters' we whipped up this one took the longest to come together by a long way.  We weren't prepared for this length of time, but we had enough confidence to keep on going.

The menu strongly suggested removing the onions from the sauce before finishing it.  We like the texture as well as the flavor of our onions and it just seemed like to much work to try get them out - no regrets and probably would always skip this suggestion no matter what we were preparing.


Not hot at all.  Something new and different spice wise in the sauce we didn't quite 'understand', but pleasant all the same.  We did not get any of the almond flavor come through in the sauce.  If some how it's the almonds that helps thicken the sauce that's great and it worked wonderfully, but by having the almond butter as the 'featured' ingredient we expected to at least get a hint of it come through.  Not a deal breaker, just unexpected.

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



It's kind of sad that we've never thought to make Nut Butters before, especially since we use nuts a bit more than occasionally. They're so easy to make - what were we thinking?  Even if we never make one of these specific dishes again (although it's hard to think we won't have a use for the dip) we'll at least have the knowledge of how to make use of a Nut Butter to our benefit.

We're pretty much in consensus that of the 3 dinner dishes the Cashew Dressing was our favorite sauce, but the Curried Dish as a whole was our favorite.  All 3 dishes could easily appear on our weekly menu again and all could be shared with friends without reservation. 

The dip will reappear and definitely for friends.

All in all some a new skill was tried and enjoyed (and found to be very uncomplicated) and produced dishes that leave plenty of room for us to experiment with in the future.


The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pâtés and Bread

So, at first picking up the challenge panic of a sort set in.  Pâté isn't especially high on our favorite foods list, but we do partake in small quantities from time to time when it comes our way.  What we don't do particularly well is handling offal and when the first 2 Pâtés involve liver...  Fortunately, when reading through the whole challenge we were quite quite (repeated word on purpose!) relieved to discover we only have to do one.  Therefore, we of course had a go at the bread and although relieved that only 1 is required, decided to give 2 Pâtés a go.  Starting with the Trout and Shrimp, followed shortly thereafter by the Chicken Liver.

It took us a bit to round up the ingredients, but one reconnaissance trip and 4 small shopping trips later we were able to fill our pantry with everything required.  Fortunately the stores we've used before to round up 'odd' items had everything we were looking for, but we're also lucky enough to have a couple more that we heard would probably have what we needed but not used so far had we fallen short.  We also now have two nice shiny terrines (though more likely to be used as loaf pans for baking in the future).


It kind of felt like flying back to Australia reading the instructions - a 14 hour step.  But, away we go...  It only took a second to put step one together and then back to the TV we go.  2 hours later as we head off to bed we were a little disheartened in that we could discern no visible change to our little ball of dough.  Order was restored upon getting up and finding our little ball of dough was not so little anymore.

Step 2 easy enough.  But, for the record, we don't own a stand mixer so we huffed and puffed through the kneading part...  Lots of waiting... 

Shaping was actually pretty hard, well for us.  We got the shape in the right vicinity, but couldn't get them to the recommended 15" length without them turning into un-bread like shapes.  Probably closer to 10" and therefore a bit fatter.  Perhaps this is related to the hand kneading?

We didn't go for the extra extra crispy so whipped them out as soon as time was up skipping the cooling in the oven option.


Far more tasty than pretty - our first taste was within minutes of getting them out of the oven and was definitely the best bites.  We're not embarrassed by our result, and would happily share it with friends - but our loaves would probably be the last ones left in just about any bakery... Although the baking was to complement the Pâtés we could not resist and found the perfect use for our 'special occasion' Olive Oil - a good thing the recipe had us make 3 loaves.

Not a hard project, but this is probably too time committing to want to do this whole process again anytime soon.

Trout and Shrimp Pâté

We admit to picking this one first due to the no-offal-ingredients but the nice bonus was that it was an easy one for us to get our feet wet with.  If the shrimp were already shelled and cleaned, and the trout already removed from the skin this would have only taken but a few minutes to get it in the oven. 

We don't look for easy recipes specifically, but when they come our way like this one we rejoice just a little.  The hardest part was deciding if we'd gotten everything pulsed up to the right consistency.  It seems we got it right!

It did shrink down a bit during cooking but that just made it all the easier to get out of the mold.  And we're not sure if it was operator error, or just the way it is, but there was a lot of juice in the mold that we really didn't know what to do with other that tip out and discard.  But once out of the mold the Pâté sat there nice and comfortable and 'dry'.

Oh, and the flambeing was fun.  A tip for first time flambeyers (yeah, probably not a real word even if it's spelled correctly) - the flame will be bigger than expected, but fortunately it's not really that hot and only reaches to the ceiling for a second or two.  Actually, the real tip is don't pour your liqueur straight from the bottle because when it goes, it goes fast!


We're batting a thousand so far!  Something else we'd be happy sharing with friends.  We of course paired it with Baguette #2 (remember the Olive Oil on #1?).  It looked mostly like the pictures provided as examples.  It tasted like we expected, although we wonder if the chives (or something similar) might be useful on the inside rather than just as a garnish?  A risk we'll probably flirt with when we next feel the urge to Pâté...

A perfect recipe for the first time Pâté maker!

Chicken Liver Terrine

A few more steps and a longer time in the oven than the Trout & Shrimp, but nothing overly complicated.  Handling the livers being the least favorite part but ultimately not overly traumatic. 

Again we struggled with knowing what the correct consistency of the mixture coming out of the Food Processor should be.  Hindsight strongly suggests that we didn't go fine enough.

Flambeing wasn't as spectacular as our previous adventure, with almost no flame but we're pretty certain that's because the pan wasn't as hot as it should be - we cooked the shallots & livers over medium but probably should have blasted it for a bit before adding the cognac. 

The 2+ hour oven time surprised us a little and turns out is plenty of time for the pork fat to render down.  We don't think it was operator error at all this time, and again the liquid we 'created' was discarded.  We're not sure how it works, but once the liquid is discarded the terrine pops right out of the mold with no evidence of the liquid ever having been there.


As it was cooking it occurred to us that it smelled like we were cooking a meat loaf.  Once getting it out of the pan, it kind of looked like one too.  Probably a direct result of us not getting the right consistency during the processing part. 

The recipe recommended consuming at room temperature.  We couldn't do that so reheated it gently in the microwave.  This might be because we couldn't get the meat loaf idea out of our heads?  But perhaps had it been processed finer.  We don't know.  But we did partake with the assistance of Baguette #3.

So, we're not batting a thousand any more.  Not a terrible disaster and we were able to eat it and appreciate the flavors, but as it was we wouldn't serve it up to our friends.

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



All in all a useful learning experience.   None of the processes were difficult, we were able to locate all the ingredients, we handled the livers and we ended up with 3 things that although not perfect we could have a try of and appreciate what we were trying to do.  It's unlikely we'll be dashing out to try any of these again any time soon but they are definitely not on the 'never do again' list, and most importantly, we were daring for a weekend...

We got a favorite vote for each of the Pâtés, but it was a close vote over the baguette in both cases...


Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge!  They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hi there.

We're really not sure what to expect from this thing.  Really, no idea at all!  What this is all about stems from The Daring Kitchen but where it takes us and how long we might stick around is yet to be determined.  It's all about trying something new, getting a little out of our kitchen comfort zone and being just a little bit daring.

Basically once a month some nice people (no idea yet how you get to be one of the nice people!) over at the Daring Kitchen post a recipe (or a couple) for us to have a go at.  We have no idea what is coming until it arrives.  There's a whole bunch of secrecy and rules regarding publishing our results - which we're ok with.  The 17th of the month is when the recipe should appear and we get all the way until the 14th of the next month to give it a try.  The 14th is the date we're allowed to publish our findings results - late is ok, but never early!  Rinse and repeat...

They ask that we post some pictures.  We'll take some along the way, but we're not going to get wound up stopping what we're doing to take a few snaps.  And, we're not going to publish crappy pictures (people try so hard to show off their great meal experiences in blogs all over the place, but more often than not the pics do not do the experience justice) so our guts are saying we'll be posting very few, if any, pics.  EDIT Looking through the Blogs of people also completing what is our first challenge we see a lot of great food photos - far better than anything we're likely to take.  Apologies for grouping you within the general population of crappy food blog photographers that we had previously thought to be far more extensive (which would include ourselves...)./EDIT

It can't hurt to try this and maybe we'll come across a dish (or dishes) we just have to show off for friends, or maybe we won't...  All we're going to do at this stage is give it a go and report back how well it works out (or doesn't).

We try not to be quitters, so we promise that if for some reason we absolutely hate this after the first go around, we will stick around and try the second one too.



ps.  Here's a quick way to get back to the most recent entry.  CLICK