Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Indoor Grilling - Round 2: Flank Steak Marinade

Since I am on a roll with the grilling, tonight I decided to try the recipe for Flank Steak Marinade. This little gem was included in last week’s JLBR e-mail newsletter as a “Quick Cook” recipe. I heard great things about it at our last Cookbook meeting and thought I'd give it a try. Today was a busy workday and the recipe looked easy enough – but was it? It sounded delicious with soy sauce, ginger, chopped garlic cloves and honey. Marinate the flank steak for 2 hours or so…ok, I’m game. I had some beautiful, ripe tomatoes at home to serve with it so why not!
The marinade was a cinch to assemble with only the blender to clean – YES! Two hours later I heated up my trusty grill pan once again and opened a bottle of red wine. Tonight I picked a red from the Rapel Valley in Chile. It is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere and Petit Verdot and was made from organically grown grapes. This wine received a 90 point rating and retails for under $25. After grilling the steak about 6-7 minutes per side it was ready to go with beautiful grill marks, a nice char and a delicious aroma!

The Dish:
Flank Steak Marinade (pg. 153)

The Drink:
2005 Emiliana Coyam Colchagua Valley, Chile

After letting the steak rest for about 10 minutes I sliced it and served it with the gorgeous, ripe tomatoes. The steak was a perfectly cooked medium rare and the tomatoes were especially delicious when sprinkled generously with sea salt and cracked black pepper. With its black pepper, blackberry and cassis overtones, the wine went perfectly with the steak - WOW. A simple weeknight dinner – what’s not to like about that? An easy meal to go home and make tonight!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fall-Schmall! Citrus Chicken Carribean & Tropical Tomato Salad

Fall is finally upon us although you’d never know it if you stepped outside. Still 90+ degrees out and the humidity is enough to frizz even the most diligently straightened hair (trust me – I know!) In keeping with the aforementioned weather pattern, I’ve decided to do some grilling tonight. Not your standard go outside and crank up the grill, man-grilling – I mean the stand in your kitchen and avoid the frizzed hair grilling on your handy kitchen grill pan.
We received a grill pan as a wedding gift and I have to say it is one of my favorite and most used kitchen gifts (thanks, Milt & Diane!). It’s perfect for steaks, chicken, fish – you name it – especially for a quick, weeknight dinner when you don’t want to deal with cranking up the outside grill for whatever reason (like you don’t know how to turn it on?) The grill pan also creates those beautiful grill marks and cooks food in no time. If you don’t have one already I highly recommend getting one. Then you can grill any night of the year regardless of weather conditions or motivation level.
The Citrus Chicken Caribbean is another fabulous, user friendly chicken dish from “Savor the Moment”. I decided to go with the Tropical Tomato Salad to accompany it - I loved the sound of mangoes, tomatoes, curry powder and fresh basil... and I just happened to have a nice little Sauvignon Blanc chilling in the fridge to go with. This one is from the Marlborough region of New Zealand which is known for producing excellent Sauvignon Blancs. Like most Sauvignon Blancs this wine is fermented in stainless steel to help it retain its crisp, citrus and fruit flavors. It also received a 92 point rating and retails for under $20.

The Dishes:
Citrus Chicken Caribbean (pg. 171)
Tropical Tomato Salad (p. 128)

The Drink:
2008 Brancott Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand

First, I prepped the chicken and got that marinating (of course I knew this beforehand because I read through the entire recipe!) It has to marinate for 2 hours - definitely reasonable and allowed me to prep the salad with ample time to spare. The salad was pretty easy too, as long as you are familiar with how to slice a mango and deal with the pit. The pit is essentially flat so you need to cut alongside it, separating the flesh from the pit. For detailed instructions check out: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_cut_a_mango/ . Once everything is sliced, just alternate the tomato and mango on a platter and drizzle with that delicious dressing. The color combination makes a beautiful presentation and it definitely tastes as good as it looks.
Once I was ready to cook the chicken, I heated up the grill pan, drained the marinade and popped the boneless, skinless breasts in the pan. You don’t want to crowd the pan so if you are doing all 6 chicken breasts do them in 2 batches. Once done, the chicken had the beautiful grill marks and a nice light char on it from the marinade which had a wonderful flavor. You could really taste the delicious ginger, garlic and citrus. With its mouth watering crisp, citrus and mineral flavors, the wine paired very well with both dishes.
And there you have it, a nice “it’s-not-quite-fall-yet” summer dinner that you and your family will enjoy. And you don’t even have to step outside to make it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Get Well"/"Welcome Home" Meal: Classic Chicken Tetrazzini

I know I just wrote about my sister, Jennifer’s, birthday dinner a week ago. Well, now I’m writing about her “Get Well”/ "Welcome Home” meal. No need to worry, she’ll be just fine, but it’s nice to come home to some home-cooked meals after a stint in the hospital! I was flipping through “Savor the Moment” trying to pick out something that would fall into the “comfort food” category when I landed on the recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini. Hello, flashback moment. I remember growing up with Stouffer’s Turkey Tetrazzini. White meat turkey, pasta and cream sauce – what’s not to like about that? It was preeetty darn good, although I really don’t remember having it since. It seemed to meet the "comfort food" criteria, so I thought the chicken version of this comforting meal would be a great choice.
Because the recipe says it serves four, I doubled it. I had six people to feed and you just have to have some leftovers. Doubled, the recipe fit perfectly into a 13” x 9” glass baking dish. You don’t really need to double the liquid in the dish completely, maybe just 1.5 x’s – the same goes for the flour. For the chicken, I baked a few boneless, skinless, chicken breasts and chopped them up into 1” cubes. Also, this dish calls for vermouth which I have always associated with my grandparent’s favorite Happy Hour drink: The Martini. They would appreciate that I capitalized that. At every family event they would arrive, martini travel case in hand with all the requisite ingredients: gin (check), vermouth (check), shaker (check), olives (check). These people took their martini-making very seriously! They’d emerge from the kitchen after 15 minutes of a mixing and shaking ritual with the perfectly shaken, icy cold cocktail. Needless to say, as I added the vermouth I was wondering if it would be too overpowering, but then I realized this is the ingredient that gives the Chicken Tetrazzini its signature flavor. Don’t be afraid to also double the vermouth if you double the recipe and by no means omit it – it is very necessary!
Coincidentally (or is it?), when we arrived at my sister’s house, Tetrazzini in hand, my Brother-in-law was mixing up a batch of martinis to celebrate Jen’s return – or maybe because he had the kids for 72 hours straight. In any event, tonight they happened to be the perfect pairing for this dish! Alternately, I would definitely recommend a nice, buttery Chardonnay.

The Dish:
Classic Chicken Tetrazzini (pg. 207)

The Drink:
Chardonnay or, if you are so inclined, a Martini

I baked the dish for an hour at my house and then popped it under the broiler when I got to my sister's. This did beautiful things to the Parmesan cheese, turning it all brown and bubbly. After about 10 minutes the house smelled fantastic! By the time I pulled it out of the oven we could barely wait for it to cool off to eat it. I brought a salad to serve with the Tetrazzini but it never really made it to the table. I think we were all in agreement, this dish was very delicious – decadent, creamy, rich and fabulous. Definitely some serious comfort food at its best!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Look Out Superbowl Sunday!: White Chicken Chili

It’s been a little over a month since my first post and I feel like that's a small milestone - YAY! It has been alot of fun so far and, although I have been cooking for awhile, I have definitely learned a couple things...like how to section a grapefruit like a pro, how to make a killer coconut cake and how to make an amazing meatloaf. In the process of learning all these wonderful facts and techniques another very important point has come to light, one that may seem like a total no brainer: be sure to read through the entire recipe before you start it. Seemingly obvious I know, but I have been so used to making my own favorite, everyday recipes it’s been a little challenging getting used to making something new (almost) every day! So this crucial step, I have found, helps tremendously in avoiding any unwanted surprises. It will also help you select the appropriate cookware, utensils and ingredients to pick up at the store so you are not scrambling around at the last minute like a crazy person – which, coincidentally, has NEVER happened to me. For instance, tonight’s meal, the White Chicken Chili, was originally planned for last week. I bought all the ingredients, got them home and, to my dismay, the first step was: soak beans for 8 hours or longer. Well, it was 5pm and I’m no math expert but - it just wasn’t going to happen. Needless to say Plan B went into effect (hello, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza). So, again, I highly recommend giving that recipe a good read through before finalizing your dinner plans.
Now back to the White Chicken Chili. My second attempt at this recipe involved me soaking those beans for 10 hours. This time I was soo prepared! I put them in the water before I went to work and was looking forward to a great dinner when I got home. But, despite my best efforts and advance planning, those beans still weren’t soft (more like al dente!) But please don’t let this deter you from this recipe because it’s really a good one. The Chili itself was delicious and the addition of the beer (I used Corona) really gave it such a nice flavor. It had a little bit of heat from the chopped green chilies and cayenne pepper; if you like it spicier you could certainly add more. And, to circumvent the “bean” dilemma, the “Note” at the bottom of the recipe states you can substitute 2 cans of white beans for the dried ones. Definitely next time!

The Dish:
White Chicken Chili (pg. 120)

The Drink:
Corona with lime (or whatever beer you add to the Chili)

I served the Chili with sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro and lime wedges which really enhanced its flavor. I also loved the color contrast! The shredded Monterey Jack cheese added at the end also gave the Chili a nice creaminess without being too heavy. And, as an added bonus, the next morning this dish can be transformed into a delicious “white” variation of Huevos Rancheros: just top the chili with two fried eggs, cilantro and sour cream – dee-licious! I have to give Steve credit for that one. This will also be a great dish to have around once the weather starts to get a little "chillier" but really, why wait until then! Although, I must say, come Super Bowl Sunday, the White Chicken Chili will definitely be in attendance. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jennifer's Birthday Dinner/Triathlon

This may come as a surprise to some of you (no one who knows me of course) but I am not much of an athlete. Just wasn’t my thing. Not really a runner, biker or swimmer. However, after preparing dinner for my sister’s birthday on Sunday I felt like I had completed a full scale culinary triathlon. It started out simply enough, ok I’ll bring the cake and then ok, an hors d'oeuvre too and heck, why not the main course as well. I am not sure what possessed me (maybe that I was behind on my cooking that week?) but I rose at the crack of dawn on Sunday determined to establish a personal best.
First up, the Toasted Coconut Cake. Now I have endured “Battle Coconut Cake” before (with another recipe) and I’m sorry to say the cake kicked my butt. It was dry, didn’t look very pretty and was definitely not worth the effort that went into it. BUT knowing how much my sister likes Coconut Cake I decided this would be the appropriate time to tackle yet another one. Making the cake itself is a three part process involving the cake, coconut filling and the “fluffy” white frosting (no pressure there!). So after rising at the crack of dawn on Sunday, (did I already mention that?), like the true triathlete that I am, I dove right in. I have to admit, I was just waiting for disaster to strike, especially since there is special equipment involved (i.e. KitchenAid mixer, candy thermometer, etc). But with each step I gained more and more confidence. That frosting is really just spectacular: glossy, white and, I am happy to report, fluffy!
For the second leg, it was the Shrimp with Cajun Remoulade Sauce. I had had this dish before at our very first “Savor the Moment” Dinner Club a few years ago. My past Co-chair for Cookbook, Lynne Gayle, and her boyfriend (now husband) Jeff made it. The shrimp were amazing and I was so looking forward to having it again and what better occasion! The shrimp were easy enough to make (be sure to marinate them at least 3 hours) and the remoulade was absolutely delicious. It is an interesting mixture of shallots, cilantro, capers and chopped, hard-boiled egg. I have to admit I was a little wary of the chopped egg but it really worked out perfectly. I also doubled the amount and was very glad I did – it was a BIG hit!
For the third and final leg of the race, I tackled the Mustard Pork Chops with Brie. If you are a fan of pork chops, heck even if you’re not, find an excuse to make these for your family and/or friends sometime VERY soon! It is such a unique recipe with the pork chops (we used bone-in), Dijon mustard, brie cheese, bread crumbs, parsley and garlic. I am telling you when we pulled them out of the oven; the bread crumbs lightly browned and the Brie oozing down the sides - the aroma was pure heaven! To top it off they tasted even better than they looked.
To hydrate properly for the race, it was a group effort with family members pitching in some of the wines. We began with Champagne, because it is, after all, a birthday (or a Sunday, whichever works for you!) We then proceeded to the Caymus Conundrum to pair with the Shrimp. Because this white wine was 9 years old we were all curious to see how it held up over such a long time. Most white wines are meant to be drunk at a young age but, much to our delight, it had a wonderful sweetness to it that really went perfectly with the spicy shrimp. For the Pork Chops we enjoyed a couple nice and very different Chardonnays. The first being the Tapestry Chardonnay from South Australia, specifically, the McLaren Vale region. It was a lighter style wine with notes of pear and citrus – no heavy oak at all and a lovely, light finish. Next was the Hob Nob Chardonnay from Southern France which was a richer, fuller bodied wine. It had a nice buttery quality to it with notes of apple and almonds which went great with the Pork Chops and Brie. Needless to say Team Miskew was sufficiently hydrated for the remainder of the evening.

The Dishes:
Shrimp with Cajun Remoulade Sauce (pg. 80)
Mustard Pork Chops with Brie (pg. 165)
Toasted Coconut Cake (pg. 251)

The Drink:
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne Réserve Particulière, NV
2000 Caymus Conundrum, California
2006 Tapestry Chardonnay McLaren Vale
2006 Hob Nob Chardonnay

All in all Jennifer’s birthday dinner was a big success and I finished my first triathlon very respectably: time 8 hours, 6 minutes and 34 seconds. All the dishes were relatively easy to make given the appropriate prep time, even the cake which turned out to be very delicious and not dry at all (whew!) – and what a beautiful presentation with that gorgeous frosting! Don’t I get some kind of medal for that?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tortellini alla Prosciutto and Designated Brownies

“A heady mix of sherry, cream, mushrooms and prosciutto” is the caption for this recipe and, let me just tell you, it is every bit as seductive as it sounds! I have Emily McMullin to thank (or blame!) for recommending this dish the other night after the GMM (fabulous meeting by the way). I have not even cooked for a few days due to the surplus stashed in the fridge and, much to my dismay (delight), it has just gotten better and better with each passing day! But finally, inevitably, thankfully it is gone. While the Tortellini alla Prosciutto made a perfectly, decadent midweek meal it would be a fabulous dish for a dinner party: not too many ingredients, minimal prep time and I defy your guests not to love it. I chose a Côtes du Rhône to drink which is a red wine from the Rhone wine region in France. These wines are generally the everyday wines of the Rhone Valley which is know for such distinctive and noteworthy wines as Châteauneuf du Pape and Côte Rôtie. This particular wine received a 91 point rating and retails for around $20 a bottle – gotta love that!
For dessert I decided to make the Designated Brownies, so named, due to their high alcohol content. The recipe calls for bourbon AND rum. “You don’t need a designated driver after eating these spirited brownies; they just taste like you do!” is the caption but I am not entirely sure you could pass a breathalyzer after eating one – buckle your seatbelts!

The Dish:
Tortellini alla Prosciutto (pg. 205)
Designated Brownies (pg. 258)

The Drink:
2006 Jean-Louis Chave, Côtes du Rhône, Mon Coeur

As I mentioned before, the prep time for this dish is minimal - especially since you get to purchase pre-made, cheese-filled tortellini. Just be sure to get a high quality brand since it is really the star of the dish. Also, get a quality prosciutto such as Prosciutto di Parma and go with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. These items are very readily available and, again, with so few ingredients you really want them to shine. I used the cremini mushrooms, which are actually baby portobellos, because I love their color and I think they have better flavor than the white ones. I use a wet paper towel to wipe the dirt off of them rather than washing them and having them absorb any excess water. Also, I am usually a salt girl. I mean I would salt ice cream if I could but for some reason, in this dish, the pepper is key. And if you wanted to throw in some peas for color – I think they’d make a nice addition. The actual cook time is only about 15-20 minutes and you are left with a meal you will be happy to revisit for a few days - if you’re lucky! The wine also complemented the tortellini very nicely with its subtle fruit and notes of cocoa, fig and plum. It also really highlighted the pepper in the dish as well.
As for the brownies, I have to admit, I was loving them up until the addition of the bourbon. I was right there with it, mixing in the melted chocolate, sugar, vanilla and chocolate chips, sneaking a spoonful every chance I got but apparently I am not a bourbon fan. Otherwise, sans bourbon, I think I would have enjoyed them a lot more. They have a very intense, sweet, chocolate flavor and are definitely for the seriously chocolate-inclined. I loved the touch of drizzling the melted chocolate over the white icing – it really looked fantastic; however, you might want to slice them before you put them back in the fridge. Once the chocolate sets it can be difficult to cut without ruining your beautiful, chocolatey, drizzly design. And you don’t want THAT to happen! All in all it was a fabulous meal and now that it’s gone (sigh) back to the kitchen for me…..next up, birthday dinner for my sister, Jennifer – YAY!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bon Appétit! Shrimp Provençale and Rosé

Bon jour! My husband Steve and I took a trip to France in May of this year for our fifth wedding anniversary - it was amazing! We visited Paris and the Champagne region and proceeded to eat (and, yes, drink) our way through this fabulous country. Needless to say, ever since we returned I have been preoccupied with any and all types of French cooking. So while poring through “Savor the Moment” today in search of tonight’s dinner I was delighted to see the recipe for Shrimp Provençale. In addition to sounding delicious it also looked relatively easy to prepare with plenty of fresh ingredients including tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, lemon juice, and of course shrimp - YUM! And, with summer (technically) coming to a close, I decided to enjoy one of the few bottles of rosé we had left. Now, when I talk about rosé I am, of course, referring to that wonderfully pink, berry-scented, refreshing, dry wine which is, in my opinion, summer in a glass. No white zinfandel here! The one I chose for tonight’s meal is also, (not so) coincidentally, from the Provençal region and is made from Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah grapes. The juice from these red grapes is allowed to remain in contact with the skins just long enough to impart the wonderful pink hue we see in our glass.

The Dish:
Shrimp Provençale (pg. 185)

The Drink:
Les Domaniers Cotes de Provence Rosé 2007

This meal is a cinch to shop for; however, I highly recommend finding shrimp that are already peeled and deveined. The “peeling them yourself” situation will add a bit to the prep time. (Yes, I did get stuck doing the peeling on this one.) Otherwise just a little chopping and in 20 minutes you have a nice light, summer meal on your hands. While the meal is just fine “as is,” as someone who likes things a little spicy, I think a dash of red pepper flakes would certainly kick it up a notch and add some nice heat. If you were inclined to add some fresh herbs, some fresh thyme would be a great choice. Also, as a nice finishing touch, be sure to season with some Maldon sea salt or other “finishing” salt which looks great and adds a nice little salty “crunch” to the dish. The rosé was also a great pairing: fruity, light and refreshing – très magnifique!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Perfect for Everyday: Gingersnap Chicken and Vegetable Coucous

Easing out of decadence – Day 2. Savor the Moment is making it surprisingly easy! I never realized just how many great everyday recipes there were in this Cookbook. I mostly thought of it for special occasions like our annual Junior League Dinner Club or for great appetizer recipes. That is probably the biggest realization so far for me. And the everyday recipes are not only pretty quick and easy to make but they are also full of fresh fruits and veggies and, most importantly, flavor. Tonight is no exception with Gingersnap Chicken and Vegetable Couscous on the menu. When I first saw “Gingersnap” Chicken I thought it involved actual gingersnaps but don’t let the name fool you: it’s got “ginger” in it & it’s a “snap” to make! It also worked out nicely because I had some of the ingredients leftover from the previous meal – look at me "maximizing" my resources. Despite my carnivore status the Vegetable Coucous sounded really good tonight (and it used chicken stock!). I love the flavors of cumin, coriander and cayenne with the red pepper, plum tomatoes and dried currants. In keeping with the lighter fare I chose a Sauvignon Blanc to complement the meal. Chateau Ste. Michelle produces some great everyday wines from Columbia Valley in Washington state. This particular one is a light, white wine with flavors of citrus and pear and a nice minerality. Their wines are readily available at most grocery/retail stores and sell for around $10-14 – a great value. The Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling would also be a nice choice. A wine with some sweetness to it, like the Riesling, generally pairs well with Asian cuisine or food with a little spice to it.

The Dish:
Gingersnap Chicken (pg. 171)
Vegetable Coucous (pg. 226)

The Drink:
2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, WA

The only ingredient I had any trouble finding were the dried currants – you should have seen the reaction at Publix when I innocently inquired “where are the dried currants?” You would have though I was from Mars - anyway – instead I used dried cranberries and I am sure raisins would be great to. Anything that will give you that little burst of sweetness. The Gingersnap Chicken was just fantastic and had a nice spiciness to it. It’s one of those recipes that gives you a lot of "wow" for your effort – this dish will definitely be going into my everyday rotation. You could make it tonight if you don’t already have plans! The Vegetable Couscous was also great but was much more subtle in flavor. The Sauvignon Blanc is such an easygoing wine it went nicely with both dishes but I preferred it with the Chicken. The dishes also made a very nice presentation with the colors and textures involved. And, although I thoroughly enjoyed both of these dishes and they looked great together, I don’t think I would pair them together in the future – the flavors are just a little too diverse. The chicken would probably be better complemented by the Fragrant Oriental Rice (pg. 230) – I greatly look forward to trying that sometime soon.
I look forward to seeing most of you tonight at the Copper Canyon Grill Opening in Boca Raton. The restaurant is a hosting a pre-opening dinner with 100% of the proceeds going to the Junior League of Boca Raton. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at http://www.jlbr.org/. The restaurant officially opens Sept. 7th – see you there and have a great & safe Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Monday, August 31st, 2009 - Grilled Sirloin with Sunshine Citrus Salsa

After a weekend of indulgences, Mac & Cheese at the Falcon House Friday night, Brie in Puff Pastry with Berry Sauce and Birthday cake on Saturday, I was in the mood for something light, you know, something like red meat. No need to shock the system – better to ease out of decadence if you ask me! Surprisingly, I came across a recipe that satisfied both “light” and “red meat” requirements: The Grilled Sirloin with Sunshine Citrus Salsa.
At first, I was a little put off by the long list of ingredients in the salsa but then I realized I already had most of the ingredients at home (lemons, limes, rice vinegar, orange juice, sugar, salt). And I was already an expert on sectioning citrus after making the Fiesta Shrimp Salad - didn’t that just work out nicely! (If you need a refresher there is “How to Section Citrus” in the margin of “Savor the Moment” right next to this recipe.) The marinade for the steak also sounded delicious, soy sauce, green onions, fresh lime juice – YUM! As an added bonus Steve could do most of the work on the grill – the night was looking up. Although the grill pan (for indoor use) is one of my favorite kitchen utensils, if “The Man’s” around, he assumes all grilling responsibilities. Works for me! As for wine, I was thinking a hearty, fruity red Zinfandel would go well with the grilled steak. This particular wine received a 90 point rating from Wine Advocate and retails for around $17 a bottle.

The Dish:
Grilled Sirloin with Sunshine Citrus Salsa (pg. 151)

The Drink:
2005 Edmeades Mendocino Zinfandel, Mendocino County, CA

The chopping for the salsa didn’t take nearly as long as I feared and was actually a little therapeutic – aaahhh kitchen meditation! Be sure to plan for the 2 hour marinating time for both the salsa and the steak. It gives you ample time to do the chopping, put the marinade together and a few random house chores too (bonus). Once the marinating is done dinner is literally 15 minutes away. I drained the steak, discarded the marinade and sent it outside with Steve. Just a note here - be sure to throw away the marinade after you remove the steak. I know this sounds like a no-brainer but I recently heard of a friend of a friend who poured used marinade over some cooked steaks – needless to say it did not end well for the guests! This marinade smells so good you won’t want to discard it but do it for your guest’s sake. Once Steve returned with the perfectly grilled steak we topped it with the citrus salsa, snapped some photos and dug in. Once again, this recipe was a big hit! The marinade on the steaks grills up to be just delicious – you can really taste the soy which chars a bit in places. The Zinfandel was a perfect accompaniment with its flavors of raspberry, cherry, black pepper, and spice. The citrus salsa complemented the steak beautifully too. It also makes a very nice presentation and would be a great meal for summer entertaining. Pair it with the Tropical Tomato Salad (p. 128) or even the Tuscan Bread Salad (pg. 129) to round out the meal. Trust me, you will look like the Hostess with the Mostess!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Saturday, August 29th, 2009 - Brie in Puff Pastry with Berry Sauce

I had received a special request for the Brie in Puff Pastry with Berry Sauce. The request came from my 14 year old neighbor, Dwight. The event was his Dad’s 50th birthday; I was lucky enough to assist him with the party planning. All guests were requested to bring an appetizer of their choosing and, knowing this crowd, we were in for a great evening!
I had made this dish for a family gathering a few years ago. I will never forget it because the reception was both alarming and complimentary at the same time. The minute I set down the beautiful, decorative platter with the golden brown brie surrounded by berry sauce so carefully spooned around the perimeter it was like a pack of wild dogs were unleashed on an unsuspecting woodland creature. There was a blur of silverware, flailing arms and before I knew it my brother-in-law had run off with the platter into the backyard to lick off the remaining drops of berry sauce. There was literally not a speck of it left. So, needless to say, I was very interested to see if it would elicit the same reaction.

The Dish:
Brie in Puff Pastry with Berry Sauce (pg. 58)

The Drink:
Champagne/Sparkling Wine, Chardonnay

The Berry Sauce is an easy no-cook sauce with raspberries, whole cranberry sauce and spiced rum that gives it a nice “kick.” The puff pastry is a little trickier. The first time I made this recipe I had no trouble with the pastry. This time; however, I let it thaw a little too long. The box said to leave it out for 40 minutes and I think I left it out a little over an hour. You’re supposed to be able to unfold the sheets and they had pretty much defrosted in a lump that couldn’t be unfolded. Eek! I stuck them back into the fridge for 15 minutes and was able to unstick one of them which I used for the brie. I got creative with the other one and cut strips to form the “bow.” The good thing about puff pastry, apparently, is that no matter what it looks like going into the oven - it looks incredible coming out! The pastry gods were definitely with me – the brie came out looking golden brown and delicious. Whew! Now, the big question, would it taste as good as the first time? The answer, I am happy to report, is yes! While no one ran outside with the platter, there was barely a scrap of it left on the plate. The brie was perfectly melty and oozed out of it’s buttery, pastry shell. The fruity, berry sauce is really a perfect complement to the decadently rich cheese. To top it all off, the party was a great success. My only regret: no leftovers!
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