Monday, November 24, 2008

Cauliflower Gratin

This is part 2 of about 4 in my attempt to catch up writing about the dishes I've made. Trusty iPhoto says I downloaded the pictures in this post from the camera on October 5th. This dish was inspired by a mediocre-sized head of cauliflower we received in our CSA. You can see it below, hidden slightly behind the horseradish. Notice that it's not nearly as pretty looking as the store-bought head next to it, but hey, it also didn't travel 5,000 miles to get to my cutting board. It's probably a good thing we got it in the CSA. If we hadn't, this dish was in jeopardy of never getting made. See, cauliflower just doesn't do it for me. I'm not sure why, I just don't really like it. I think it smells weird, tastes weird, and feels funny. All that said, I promised to myself I'd keep an open mind throughout all of this.

The other ingredients in the picture are, kind of from left to right: butter, cream, parsley, nutmeg, bay leaf, vinegar, panko, curry powder, horseradish, Emmentaler cheese, and shallot.

The first step was to prepare the cauliflower. I did this by removing the leaves and cutting away the florets. The cores were set aside for use in this dish, and the florets were chopped into smallish pieces:

There is kind of an odd skin on the core, so I peeled that off and chopped the remaining core before placing it in the food processor:

I let the processor run for a solid minute to puree the core, only to find myself a little short of the required 1 cup. In went a few florets, and a few seconds later I was all set:

That's the end of the prep work associated with this dish. From this point on, it's pretty straightforward. I blanched the florets in a pot of water, salt, and vinegar (the vinegar keeps the florets white).

I added butter and shallot to a saucepan and let that cook for a minute or two to soften the shallot up:

I added to that some seasonings, the bay leaf, thyme and parsley. I added to that the cauliflower puree, and to that I added a little under a cup of water. That all turned into a milky white sauce that didn't really smell that good:

After that had cooked down a little bit, I added the cream and simmered the mixture for two minutes. I took the sauce off the heat and fished out all of the items that don't belong in a sauce.

The sauce made its way over to the blender and received a few gratings of curry powder. It looks kind of like egg nog, but trust me, it's not:

Once the mixture had cooled a little bit, I added the horseradish and blended everything until it was smooth as silk. Not really. I gave it about fifteen seconds and called it good. I tossed this sauce with the florets and seasoned the whole things with more salt, pepper, and some fresh nutmeg.

It all fit nicely into a medium-sized casserole dish, which I placed in the fridge for about an hour to let the flavors meld. This is a critical step, lest the cauliflower-flavored cauliflower puree not blend well with the cauliflower-flavored cauliflower florets.

While that was chilling in the fridge, I heated the oven to 450 degrees. I took the dish out, sprinkled it with the cheese and panko, and put that sucker in the oven for about 25 minutes. The tops were looking deliciously browned, so I broiled it for a minute or two as well. Out came this:

The lighting in these last two pictures doesn't really do the dish justice. It looked great. There was bubbling cheese, browned cauliflower florets, everything you would expect.

Unfortunately for me, the list of things I expected did not include great taste. I make absolutely no claims that this was the recipes fault. In fact, in an unofficial survey, 100% of the other taster's that enjoy cauliflower though the dish was really good. It's just not for me I guess. I'll eat broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beets, but you can keep the cauliflower.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sweet Crepes with Peaches and Pastry Cream

You may find it odd that I'm making dishes using peaches in the middle of November in Colorado, but I've just been incredibly delinquent in the writing of these posts. I actually made this dish a couple of months ago. It's a little more simple to do than it appears. I was all prepped for a crepe-tastrophy, but it wasn't meant to be.

The first task was to make the crepes. The ingredients are very simple: flour, salt, sugar, eggs, and milk. Some vanilla and butter add an extra kick.

I combined the flour, salt, and sugar in one bowl, and the eggs, milk, and vanilla in another. This looks exactly how you think it should look:

Next up was 'vigorously whisking' of half the wet mixture into the dry mixture until that was smooth. In went the rest of the wet mixture and I let the batter rest for about an hour. The guidelines here are anywhere from 30 minutes to a day.

After it's rest period I strained the batter through a fine mesh strainer to ensure there was no junk in there:

I added the melted butter to the bowl, and presto, the batter was ready. The next instruction was to 'Preheat a 12-inch crepe machine...' Uh, hmmm, I don't have one of those. '...or a large crepe pan...' Uh, hmmm, I don't have one of those either. '...or a 10-12 inch nonstick skillet.' Finally. Bring in the third string. I heated my trusty non-stick skillet over low heat, because the book says rookies should use low heat. Seriously. The more experienced crowd is allowed to work at a higher temperature. I sprayed the pan with non-stick spray because of some sort of accident-prone paranoia, so no sticking was to be had on this night.

I ladled the batter into the skillet in 1/2 cup increments and tilted the pan to spread it out. I turned the heat up to medium and cooked the crepe for a minute or so until it was lightly browned.

The next step was potential for disaster #2: flipping. This task was even tougher than it needed to be because of my third-string kitchenware, which had straight sides that were seeming 12" tall. The first one wasn't too pretty and a little under-cooked, but it's the only one I took pictures of in the cooking process:

I browned the crepe on the other side, and repeated this process for about half an hour. The yield was around a dozen crepes, which is quite a lot for two people to eat.

As for the assembly, that's a snap. I sliced the peaches into thin wedges and took the pastry cream out of the fridge. Oh wait, that's supposed to be at room temperature? Hmmm. Oh well, maybe next time. (Side note: When the next time came around, I did it correctly. I couldn't tell the difference. )

I reheated the skillet over medium heat and added a crepe. As that was reheating, I spread out a bunch of peach wedges across half of the crepe and sprinkled them with a teaspoon or so of sugar:

I added a couple of globs of pastry cream to the peach mixtures, thus completing the filling:

For the final assembly, I folded the crepe in half. And then in half again. I was positive the last fold was going to tear the crepe, but it didn't:

And that's that. I dusted each crepe with confectioner's sugar before serving on the most colorful plate I could find:

We each took a crepe and put it on a somewhat less fancy dish before quickly devouring it. I did manage to sneak this picture in:

These were really, really good. The pastry cream melted to add the perfect texture and some sweetness. The peaches were surprisingly good for the end of the season, and the crepes were a perfect little envelope. We made this again the next night, and then started messing around with the fillings after that. It's relatively easy once you have the pastry cream made and all the ingredients together, certainly something you could pull off in an hour. This goes in the keeper pile, probably just waiting for the perfect fruit filling to come along next summer.