Monday, May 11, 2009

eggs benedict and a tea sampling

I finally attended my first Central Market cooking class this weekend- Mother's Day Tea. I went in with expectations to actually cook and was disappointed when I found it was demonstration and tasting only. Regardless, it was a nice change, our instructor Christine was extremely knowledgeable and the food was yummy.

In the swift two hours and a sampling of soothing hot teas, we were shown how to make vidalia onion tarts, quiche lorraine crepes, angel biscuits with smoked salmon and a dill mayo, crescenza (a soft cheese) with golden raisin bread, cream cheese brownies, bourbon balls and egg custard. Although my mom was digging the bourbon balls, my favorite was the crescenza and golden raisin bread.

After a day of excessive shopping, dinner was a late-night stop to Michaels Restaurant and Ancho Chile Bar. Eager to try a bit of everything, we split three appetizers:

Borracho nachos with pickled jalapeno, beans and cheese (simple bar food)

Three guys pizza with sirloin, red bell peppers, jalapenos, kalamata olives and tomatoes
(The pizza was ok. The ingredients didn't meld well for me and the sirloin was sparse.)

Beef teres with chile bourbon sauce, mashed potatoes and fried onions

(This was my favorite. The beef had a nice bitter bite from the pepper crust and was perfectly cooked. The appetizer portion is definitely enough for an entree.)

I liked Michael's but I think it will be more of a "bar food and cocktail" type of place for me.

Sunday morning, we headed to Taverna for Mother's Day Brunch. Amongst ice teas, coffee and bloody mary's, we started with the beignets with a cappuccino sauce. The beignets were warm, airy and had an unexpected lemony addition to them.

For the main course, my mom and I ordered the eggs benedict with lump crab meat, hollandaise and breakfast potatoes and my friend Megan ordered the eggs benedict with smoked salmon and grilled asparagus. My benedict was great- the eggs were runny, the lump crab was buttery and the english muffin was perfectly toasted. My only complaint was the undercooked and under seasoned breakfast potatoes.

Sunday night, I found some beautiful short ribs at Costco (they only had boneless) and went to work making dinner for that evening.

My menu was:

Red wine braised short ribs

3-4 boneless short ribs
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup fresh chopped rosemary, sage and thyme leaves

1 bottle red wine (I used a Spanish cab)
3/4 cup water
salt and pepper to crust short ribs

First, coat your short ribs with salt, pepper and olive oil then sear both sides in a Dutch oven until a brown crust has developed. Remove beef with tongs and set aside. Add vegetables to pot and saute for a few minutes. Add wine, water, herbs and a bit of salt to deglaze the pot. Return short ribs to pot and immerse in braising liquid. Cover pot and place in a 350 degree oven for at least 3 hours (mine were in for 3.5) until wine sauce has reduced and beef falls apart easily with a fork. Serve with sauce spooned atop short ribs.

Corn succotash with scallion butter, white cheddar and lime

4 ears of fresh corn, cut off the cob
1 stick butter at room temperature plus additional for sauteing
3 scallions, sliced thinly

1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
2 limes (one juiced and one cut into wedges for serving)
salt and pepper to taste

First, make your compound butter. Combine one stick of soft butter with scallions and a bit of salt. Spoon into plastic wrap and form butter into a cylinder shape. Refrigerate until butter hardens.

For the succotash, heat a few tablespoons of butter in your pan. Add corn, salt and pepper and saute. After a few minutes, add the juice of one lime, half of your cheese and half of your scallion butter. Serve succotash with a lime wedge, the reserved white cheddar sprinkled on top and a round pat of scallion butter.

Sauteed baby portabellos with thyme

2 cups of sliced baby portabellos
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
1/2 stick butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Saute all ingredients together until mushrooms absorb all ingredients and cook down.

Vanilla lime baked custards with a blackberry lime sauce
I used Central Market's basic egg custard recipe and added my own twist.

For custards:
4 eggs
1-2 cups sugar
1 Tbl vanilla bean paste
1 cup whole milk
zest of two limes and a squeeze of juice
few pinches of salt
3 tsp grated fresh nutmeg
In a sauce pan, whisk together all ingredients until just combined. Heat mixture until warm but not boiling. Pour into individual ramekins and top with fresh grated nutmeg and lime zest. Place ramekins on a baking sheet (no water bath required) for 40 minutes at 325 degrees.

After cooking and cooling, serve chilled or room temperature with a spoonful of blackberry sauce on top.

For blackberry sauce:
zest of one lime and a squeeze of juice
1 cup sliced blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
3 tsp vanilla bean paste

Combine all ingredients and let macerate while custards cook and cool. Spoon atop custards.

The next evening, I was introduced to some of the best coffee I've ever tasted from the owners of Aduro Bean Micro-Roasters. I sampled a cup of the coffee blend called Nutty Blonde- freshly roasted, cooled then ground. Coffee not masked with ounces of skim and packetfuls of splenda?! Wow...what a concept. The coffee was smooth, light and flavorful with not a hint of bitterness.

Later in the evening once at home, I took my own bark-making virginity and made a white chocolate bark with dried apricots, toasted walnuts and dried cherries compliments of my beloved Barefoot Contessa. This recipe is seriously pastry for idiots...even I didn't screw it up:)

You will need:

16 ounces of good white chocolate
(I used the CM bulk white and buttery)
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (toast them yourself)
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup dried cherries
(the recipe called for cranberries but I used cherries instead)

First, melt 3/4 of your white chocolate slowly over a double boiler until melted and shiny. Take off heat and add to remaining chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth then pour in an even layer over a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

While chocolate is still warm, sprinkle cherries, apricots and walnuts uniformly over chocolate. Cool in the fridge until hardened. When ready to serve, cut bark into large shards for munching.



Unknown said...

Callie, I have a question about your custard recipe. Do you hold off on the nutmeg and lime juice/zest until the custard mixture is in the ramekins, or do you mix some in while the custard is cooking on the stove?

I just recently found your blog and dig all the recipes.

Callie Salls said...

I added the lime zest in the custard while it was heating then grated fresh nutmeg on top before ramekins went into the oven.

Thanks for reading!

Unknown said...

I need more help now. I've tried making the custards twice and my custards keep curdling. Is there a secret to avoiding this? I have successfully made the blackberry sauce and its delicious. I'm saving that for ice cream or a successful batch of custards.

Thanks for any help.

Callie Salls said...

I'm so sorry I haven't responded! I just saw your comment. mixture defnitely did not curdle so I'm unsure what the problem might be. Try finding a simple baked custard recipe on-line, then add the lime zest and nutmeg as you would in my recipe. Maybe proportions in an alternate recipe will be more sucessful for you.

I hope this helps.