Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mascarpone Pot au Creme

This version won the exclamation "you've out done yourself".  It was really quite tasty if I say so myself.  The addition of mascarpone to the mix really changed the texture, thicker and richer than the made from  milk and cream only version.  Of course I gilded the lily with fresh whipped sweetened cream, caramel sauce and some mini chocolate chips for added texture and flavor.  I was quite pleased.

How this came about was a simple brain storm and text message convo with my cousin Jill.  I asked what we could bring to a wine and cheese evening they were planning.  She said dessert and I asked, "chocolatey, fruity, or ooey gooey.  She suggested "chocolatey or gooey".  I thought for a second and decided to do both.

This does need to be cooked in a water bath or "bain marie" as they say en francais.  Simple procedure.  Place the filled ramekins in large roasting pan and fill the pan with hot tap water until the water goes up halfway the sides of the ramekins.  The only caution is you do need to pour slowly so you don't accidentally get some water into the batter and ruin it.

I'm a fan of the Cointreau.  That orangey liqueur plays well with chocolate and adds a wonderful layer of flavor in the background that just makes the chocolate more intense.  I always have on hand as its simply a key ingredient to a kick ass margarita.  If you don't have it,  any other orange flavored liqueurs would work.

Mascarpone Pot au Creme

  • 4 oz bitter chocolate - 60% plus cocoa 
  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • 8 oz mascarpone, room temperature
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 T Cointreau
  • 2/3 c chilled whipping cream
  • 3 T confectioners sugar.
  • 1/4 t vanilla
  • mini chocolate chips
  • 6 T Salted Caramel Sauce

Preheat oven to 325F

Coarse chop the bitter chocolate and put into a microwave safe bowl.  Pour heavy cream over the chocolate.  Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.  Check temp, if warm to touch stir chocolate until smooth.  If not warm, microwave additional  15 seconds and test again.  Let smooth chocolate mixture cool to room temperature.

In stand mixer place sugar, 1 t vanilla extract, Cointreau and room temperature mascarpone.  Whip until smooth and fluffy, about 5-6 minutes.  Whisk in eggs one at a time until well incorporated.  Reduce speed and slowly whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture.

Divide batter between 6 ramekins (about 2/3 c each).  Place filled ramekins in a roasting pan.  Fill with hot tap water until it is about half way up the sides of the ramekins.  Pour slowly so you don't splash water into the batter filled ramekins.  Cover roaster with foil.  Bake in the preheated oven 40-45 minutes until set.

Remove from oven and take ramekins out of the water bath.  Cool  on wire racks until room temperature.  Cover cooled ramekins with plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours or over night.

When ready to serve whip chilled cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla.   Divide among the ramekins.  Spoon drizzle 1 T salted caramel sauce over each dollop of whipped cream.  Sprinkle scant Tablespoon mini chocolate chips over the salted caramel sauce. 
The pot au creme will be soft out of the oven but set firm on chilling.
Chilled pot au creme all garnished and ready to serve.

Monday, February 10, 2014

I did it...Chocolate Souffle'

This was a trial and error.  First was a fail, total mess, never rose, soupy even though the top got a nice "crust".  Probem...narrowed it down to the chocolate chips.  Never use them even though they are easier to measure.

I caught on Food Network yesterday a chef extolling the virutes of using a 60% or better cocoa chocolate for the souffle as they have less fats that prevent a souffle from rising.  I tried it with a Valrhona Caribe which is 66% chocolate solids and it was heavenly success.  Seriously great chocolate taste, it rose just the right crust on the top and sides and full of ooey gooey deliciousness you expect in the center of a souffle.  Moral of the story is don't skimp on ingredients.  EVER.

Chocolate Souffle for 4

2/3 C butter 
1/2c sugar 
4 egg whites 
pinch cream of tartar 
 1 1/3 c 60%+ chocolate 
4 egg yolks 

Preheat oven to 375f 

Butter and sugar 4, 8oz ramekins. Set ramekins on baking sheet. 

Using a hand mixer, start whisking the egg whites in a copper bowl on low speed. Slowly add 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar and the cream of tartar. Continue to whisk until medium peaks form. 

Melt chocolate and butter over double boiler. Stirring continuously until melted and smooth. Remove from double boiler and beat in egg yolks until smooth. Cool slightly. 

Fold a little egg white mixture into the chocolate, then fold that into the remaining whites until smooth. Divide among ramekins. Bake 15 minutes in hot oven. Serve immediately with a dusting of powdered sugar.
fresh from the oven and waiting a dusting of powdered sugar.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sausage and Spinach Frittata

I'm totally digging the Frittata.  Its a baked Italian omelet that is really more of a quiche without a crust.  With no crust this ventures into the realm of the stupid easy.  Can you brown of sausage and whisk eggs?  That's about the extent of the work needed to make this wonderful brunch dish.

The spinach will overwhelm the pan.  Have no fear it will wilt to about one quarter its original volume.

Sausage and Spinach Frittata

  • 1 lb spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 red onion - thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 12 oz fresh spinach
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/3 c half and half
  • 1 c grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/2 c grated asiago 

Preheat over to 350F.

Remove sausage from casing and crumble into a large non-stick oven proof skillet.  Brown sausage well over medium high heat.  When well browned reduce heat to medium, and pour of all but 2 T of the fat.

Add thinly sliced onion to the sausage and cook until translucent.  Add minced garlic and cook 1 minute longer.

Add spinach, salt and pepper.  Toss until wilted.  Reduce heat to low.

Whisk eggs and half and half until well blended.  fold in 1/2 c Parmesan and 1/2 c Asiago cheeses.  Fold in.  Pour egg mixture over the sausage spinach mixture.  Cook 2-3 minutes until bottom is set.  Sprinkle 1/4 c Parmesan cheese over the top of the egg mixture.

 Place skillet in the oven and bake 30 minutes.  When done remove from oven and slide onto a large platter.  Sprinkle remaining 1/4 c Parmesan over the top of the finished frittata.  Serve hot.
Brown sausage well to develop maximum flavor.
The spinach will initially overwhelm the pan...have no fear it wilts WAY down.
Sausage and wilted spinach ready for the egg mixture.
Frittata baking in the oven...test with toothpick to make sure center is set before removing.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Langoustine Chowder

First up what the hell is a langoustine?  Its a sea critter too big to be a shrimp and way too small to be a lobster.  It is its own critter, not quite as sweet as lobster, but very close.  I first had them several years ago and fell in love with them. They aren't native to my local waters so I need to keep an eye out for them in their frozen state.  Luckily both Trader Joe's and Costco have them from time to time.  When they show up, I grab a bag as they are too good to pass up.

I use a lot of sweet corn, the white variety as its much sweeter than the darker yellow stuff.  Its easy to find in the frozen aisle.  Certainly those 3 weeks is peak of freshness in August I'll use the real deal, but then why limit oneself to so few weeks when the frozen stuff is quite a good substitute.

I use a russet potato,aka Idaho baking as they hold their shape and texture better than the waxy varieties like a Yukon gold in a chowder.  Important to know your spuds and when to use which.

Shhh...big secret here, I don't use flour and make a roux with my chowder which prolly will land me on a 10 most wanted list in New England...but I'm a California guy and I'll do it my way for speed and ease of prep. Corn starch works wonders and doesn't have to cook out to get rid of a "flour" taste.

Lastly, this recipe doesn't call for a specific amount of salt.  The reason being is that salt pork and broth both contain a fair amount of salt in them.  Its best to test for seasoning after the half and half has been added and thickened and add a quarter or half teaspoon as needed at the end.  Its much easier and safer to do it this way rather than piling on the salt early and then have too much in your chowder.

Langoustine Chowder

  • 1 lb langoustines
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 T fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 lb salt pork or pancetta
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 3 c sweet corn
  • 2 large russet potato
  • salt
  • 1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 T corn starch
  • 4 c half and half

Cube salt pork and brown in heavy stock pot over medium heat.

Finely mince onion, carrot, celery and garlic.  Add to salt pork and cook 2-3 minutes until soft and translucent.  Add thyme leaves and cook 1 minute longer. 

Add chicken broth, sweet corn, finely diced potato and bring to boil then reduce heat to slow simmer.  Cook 15 minutes.  Whisk together cornstarch and half and half.  Stir into your veggie mix and bring to boil and simmer 5 minutes until starting to thicken.  Test for seasoning and add salt if needed.

Add langoustines and cook until opaque, about 5 minutes. (If using frozen cook 1-2 minutes until just heated through).

Serve hot with a big slice of crusty cheesy garlic bread.