Sunday, November 26, 2006

End of the Fiesta de la Parrillita

I think I've done more cooking this last week and a half than I have all year.

Well, okay, that might be an exaggeration. But it sure feels like it.

When I was dancing I used to wake up with cramps in my legs and back. Now I wake up with cramps in my hands and arms, I suspect, from slicing and chopping and grabbing and plating.

But today I cleaned the stove, which signals the official end to La Fiesta de la Parrillita, our celebration of how much we can cook on the tiniest stove ever. Actually, I dis this kitchen a lot, but it produced this week. Yes it did.

Here's the update. Tuesday after the Wedding Frenzy, we picked up a turkey to brine. No we weren't done with producing food -- not by a long shot. But we did figure we'd go easy on ourselves and merely roast the turkey, instead of smoking it this year.

Thanksgiving was quieter -- well relatively -- this year, at the home of the Pajama Queen (so named for her penchant for a collection of loungewear) and her consort, Mr. Tarte Tatin (one of the few for whom we can be compelled to make the famed classic apple tart.) More on that later.

Mr. Tarte Tatin, gathering strength for the arduous eating that lies ahead.

To prepare, we made yet another pilgrimage with family members to the Ferry Building. Hey, I wasn't the one shopping, so it was fine with me.

Mushrooms and cheese were our targets, and it was a fine time to forage, since the Fungi Festival was scheduled for a couple of days later. Ms. Art Attack bought some scary good mushrooms for a scary big price. But oh man, did they cook up well.

A quick stop at the Cowgirl Creamery yielded some Montgomery Cheddar (more on that below) and a curiously intriguing Cumin Gouda from Winchester Cheese. Apparently Cumin Gouda is a centuries old tradition -- and it's also really really good!!

Me? I'm just here for the fish tacos from Mijita. And the guacamole. I started murmuring " tacos..." as soon as we entered the building, hoping that the subliminal suggestion would seep into everyone's brains. And it worked.

The jicama salad with pumpkin seeds, grapefruit and avocado.

We arrived at the scene of the crime bearing only a picnic basket's worth of food and a turkey, musing that this was a snap compared to the last Saturday.

Like a good Thanksgiving, this one was a joint effort, with the Pajama Queen supplying all kinds of nosh and nibbles, plus the Fig Walnut Dressing, Balsamic glazed cipollinis, Cranberry Relish and salad (not to mention allowing us to use her SPOTLESSLY clean kitchen.) Ms. Art Attack provided the aforementioned Mushroom Saute, along with the season's end of heirloom tomatoes with sea salt, plus a generous supply of cheese and wine from the wedding. Much wine. MUCH cheese.

And supplying the essential Southern Style Sweet potatoes was Mr. Tarte's partner in crime, Blue Ribbon Boy. Can't go without the lovely crunchy crusty marshmallow topping, plus the secret ingredient, which he declines to divulge....

On our side, the Orange-Brined turkey as mentioned and a medley of brussels sprouts, turnips, hazelnuts and golden beets, which had a lovely color. The recipe, which is pretty easy to throw together, comes out of Bon Appetit. Definitely serves more than the 8-10 that they suggest.

Medley of Beets, Brussels Sprouts and Turnips

4 medium-size golden beets, tops trimmed
1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
1 1/4 pounds turnips, peeled, each cut into 8 wedges
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup minced shallots
1/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
3 large garlic cloves, minced

Preheat oven to 375°F. Wrap beets in foil; bake until center is tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Cool. Peel; cut each beet into 8 wedges. Use golden beets, but if you can't find them, red beets can be substituted. Be sure to keep them separate from everything though, until you're ready for the final toss, or else it will look like a bloodbath took place over your veggies.

Cook brussels sprouts in pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Using large slotted spoon, transfer brussels sprouts to bowl of ice water; cool. Drain. Add turnips to pot; boil until crisp-tender, about 7 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water; cool. Drain. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

Melt butter in heavy large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and hazelnuts; sauté until nuts begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Add thyme and garlic; sauté until nuts are golden, about 2 minutes. Add all vegetables; cover and cook until heated through, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.

The Pajama Queen and I used to dance together, so we jokingly assembled a little "Dancer Thanksgiving Plate" for her. For comparison, we offer the plate of Blue Ribbon Boy, who still dances with ODC.

TARTE TATIN with Montgomery Cheddar and Saint Andre

Eric jokes that I hate to make anything again, even if it's a success. I usually retort that, now that I've made it, I want to move on to other things. But he prevailed upon me to do the Tarte Tatin again this year, and we added the twist of turning it into a pseudo-cheese course. Instead of just the usual whipped sour cream topping we added some slices of Saint Andre and also the West Country's Montgomery Cheddar to the plate.

The Montgomery has just the right sharpness and a smooth finish to go with the sweetness of the apple.

Tarte Tatin

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups AP flour
2 Tbsp. Sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter (cubed)
4-6 tsp ice water

For apples:
1/2 cup (1stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2.5 lbs (4-5) Jonagold Apples
2.5 lbs (4-5) Braeburn Apples
(or use 8-9 Granny Smith apples)

For the whipped Sour cream:
1 cup Sour cream
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp sugar

Mix together the flour,sugar and salt for the crust, and then cut in 1/2 cup of butter til it looks like small crumbly bits in the flour. add a few tablespoons of ice water and blend in gently. Gather together dough into a ball and let rest 15 minutes. Then roll out to a 13" circle and set aside in cool place or refrigerate til needed.

Peel and core the apples and cut in half (or have someone do this while you're making the caramel.)

Melt the other 1/2 cup of butter in a 10" ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When it sizzles, add sugar, stirring constantly. set timer for 15 minutes, but stay alert and keep stirring. The alchemy of the sugar will change in intriguing ways:

At 3 minutes: The butter and sugar will seem thick, but liquidy. No caramelization yet
At 7 minutes: Mixture starts turning grainy and golden and looks a bit like wet sand
At 12 minutes: Sugar is still lumpy, but is liquifying and turning darker. Oil from the butter floats on top, but this is okay.
At 15 minutes: Caramel is smooth, peanut butter like, oil is on top.

Remove from heat and let cool a minute or two, but not long! Preheat the oven to 400°F Return pan to medium heat and pack the apples in, standing them on one end and setting tightly in the pan. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until browning and softening on the bottom. Turn each of the apples around so that the uncooked parts are now down. Cook another 6-8 minutes. Transfer the skillet to a baking sheet and cool 15 minutes.

Take the rolled pastry dough and lay it over the apples, tucking the edges into the pan. Bake at 400°F for 35-40 minutes, until golden and crisp.

Cool 20 minutes. Whisk together sour cream, heavy cream and sugar. Invert pan onto serving plate and serve warm with sweetened sour cream on top or slices of cheddar on the side.

Now after all that, how is it that we found ourselves on Saturday without much food in the house??? How? How, I ask you?

Okay, fine. I decided to make one last push. We made a lasagne and a Dungeness crab bisque (my menu-planning abilities have declined as the week has worn on, can you tell?) and because I felt like it, we created a cheese plate with slices of Persille du Beaujolais and a Comice pear poached in Beaujolais (C'est Arrive!!)

And then I cleaned the stove. No more cooking for this week.


Cynthia said...

I just caught up on this. I must say, I am exhausted just READING about what you two have been up to. Congratulations on finishing the wedding catering job!

This sounds like an article in itself: how to cook for 55 people in a teeny tiny kitchen. You should think about pitching it to somebody! Maybe not to Real Simple magazine, though. ;)

ME said...

LOL...we survived. heh. heh. heh. Seriously, thanks! I have thought about that, maybe writing it up as a feature in "Stop, You Guys Are Crazy" Magazine. ;)

AManInMotion said...

That Dutch cheese with the cumin (Komijnenkaas) is something I grew up on. It is delicious solo or with/on bread - not so great in an altered state. By the way, there's an aged, very old-fashioned variation on this cheese that also has cloves in it (Nagelkaas) and it is one of my absolute favorites...

ME said...

Thanks for the tip -- Nagelkaas sounds really intriguing, is it something you think I might be able to find in the US? I love cloves...