Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Whitney, we did good!

I've been partnering with a friend to do the more complicated Daring Bakers challenges. Typically we'll make the basic part of the recipe together, in this case the puff pastry. Then we'll return to our own kitchens to personalize the recipe before we post. Sometimes we team up because it seems less daunting to have a teammate, but always because it makes the whole process infinitely more fun.

This time, I'm shouting out to her. Whitney, this is awesome. We rocked this one! Look at these layers.

Last night for dinner we had a version of Michel Richard's wild mushroom pot pie. I call it a version because I recreated it from memory after browsing Happy in the Kitchen at Whitney's while the puff pastry was chilling.

As predicted by the Daring Bakers', I had more than needed for one dinner. So I made parmesan straws for an accompaniment. Not necessary for nutrients sake, for sure. But oh, so good.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Puff the Magic Dragon

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Making my own puff pastry is one of those things that I would never attempt without Daring Bakers. I have never been less than satisfied with Dufour's. Frankly I'm lucky I live in a place I can get it whenever I want. However, it actually turns out to be a fairly easy thing to make. Techically speaking, it's just not that difficult. But if you're in a rush, I wouldn't reach for this recipe.

Here are a few pictures from the process - including one of my toddler helping with the butter flattening.

I had to take an unplanned trip to visit family, but I wanted to get this initial note done on the 27th so that I'm not officially late. Tomorrow I'll add the additional finished product pictures and text. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

tomah-to love

Not too many more days left of 2009 for which this can be lunch.

Local organic heirloom tomatoes on freshly baked Zingerman's bakehouse white.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mom, I found my special purpose!

A photo journal from last weekend's trip to Slow's BBQ in downtown De-troit.

So worth the trip.

Kudos to The Jerk.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dessert express: Key lime pie

The thing about a key lime pie is that it's so easy there's really no excuse not to make one. If you have a well stocked pantry, you might even have everything you need for it.

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups crushed graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
You can make this as complicated or simple as you're in the mood for. This morning, I was really looking for the simple version, so I bought graham cracker crumbs. If you want to get fancy, buy locally made Zingerman's graham crackers (which are seriously addictive) and crush them.

Press into the bottom and sides of a pie pan with the bottom of a measuring cup. Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

For a change, press the crumbs into lined muffin tins for individual sized pies.


Whisk 3 egg yolks with one 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk until combined. Add 2/3 cup of key lime juice and 2 tsp of zest. Carefully whisk together. Mixture will thicken slightly. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Bring to room temperature, then refrigerate before slicing.

Again if you want to fancy this up, please go to the trouble of zesting and juicing the golfball sized authentic key limes. But I think you'll only try this once. If I'm looking to streamline, I generally zest one persian/standard lime and simply purchase a bottle of key lime juice.

Some people will swear by topping it with a big dollop of freshly whipped cream; others like it straight up. Still others might just like to dip their fingers right in the filling of the completed pie because they just can't wait to taste it.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Top Chef Dexter

I admit I'm a little bit of poser, recording and watching every episode of Top Chef and Top Chef Masters. I love to visualize myself right in the thick of it all, pretending to be the sou-chef, mentally rising to every challenge. Look, everyone's got their daydreams.

Last night was my real life version of Top Chef. But first, let's go back a little. Since moving to Dexter a couple of years ago, I have made a few great girl friends, the kind of friends that you wait your whole life for. Real people who know how to laugh and love to eat and cook and, well, just love taking advantage of the fun in every day. Great people to be around. One of these great women happens to be Kelly, the wife of Chef Alex Young of Zingerman's Roadhouse. Another happens to be Charity, who is AWESOME (-props to the boss). Both seen below.

A 3:30 phone call presented me with my elimination challenge:
Host and partially prepare dinner for Chef Alex and his family, among other foodies.

I almost came unraveled at the mention of the idea. You know, if you've read this blog, that I'm a little bit obsessed with Alex and the Roadhouse. Not only because every single meal that I've had there is almost the best thing I've ever put in my mouth, but also because of the general attitude and passion for making food the honest and tasty way. Real food, local & seasonal ingredients clearly direct the menu.

But I also know that these are real people who live just on the other side of town. I was so excited and a little bit nervous, actually no, a lot nervous. My brother-in-law declared me the most nervous he has ever heard in 18 years. I wanted to be a good host, but not only that. I also wanted to be able to show Chef Alex that I wasn't a total plebeian, though I don't have any formal training.

(Alex and my youngest son)

At 4p.m. I declared that the kids HAD to watch TV (an almost unheard of call from this mom). After I got control of my bodily functions, I looked in my fridge and pantry which was full because I recently shopped at Plum market and the Ann Arbor farmer's market. I also called my husband and had him pick up about 4 lbs of the best salmon that he could find at whole foods, in addition to a few brats for the kids.

Alex then called (deep breath, self) and gave me as many options as I could want about what I'd like him to help with.

For a couple hours I prepped before he and his family arrived with the other guests. Here's what Alex and I ended up with:
  • cheese platter (mostly supplied by Alex from the restaurant-seriously people, how lucky am I?!?) accompanied with Zingerman's sourdough
  • tomato salad straight from Cornman Farms

  • A head of escarole chopped, topped with brown butter caramelized Tantre Farm onion and fennel. Alex later added pan-fried goat cheese medallions.

  • A salad of watermelon, mint, Gardenworks sunflower sprouts, and crumbled feta
  • Grilled eggplant drizzled with a caper Bagna CĂ uda
  • 10 shucked ears of corn prepared for Alex to make a corn pudding that was wonderfully light and airy, totally showcasing the sweetness of corn right now.
  • Perfectly grilled salmon with herbs

  • My piece de resistance was this recipe from gourmet, for slab bacon adobo . Yeah, grilled bacon. It was all that. Plus a few more. I've been wanting an excuse to do it for a while, and happened to have a slab bacon in my freezer from Sparrow meat market. We all picked at it as the salmon was in the final stages of grilling.
  • I had 1/4 of a bushel of fresh peaches which became a peach raspberry pie, brimming full with fresh Michigan fruit tossed with about 3/4 cup of crumbled almond paste. Honestly, we were all too full of wine and good food to even enjoy this until the next day.

Here I am, giddy at the end of the evening, caused partially by a bit too much red wine and a challenge well executed.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Are you like me? Do you love glossy close up shots of food? (otherwise known as food p*%n)

I feel like it's a great way to cheat on a diet. Staring, drooling at pictures of dishes created by others who love food. A wormhole into their lives and their own distinct passionate loves of food.

I can almost taste, smell, and feel these foods as I scroll down the page.