>The title of “slacker” would not even begin to describe my participation level of recent weeks with Whisk Wednesdays. Lately, whenever miscellaneous errands roll around, they seem to roll on a Wednesday. I should probably pick up on these less than subtle clues and complete my Whisk Wednesday assignment earlier in the week and post-date the entry, but all of my brilliant thinking seems to come after-the-fact.
My penance? I hosted a dinner party last Friday and the menu hailed from France; a country that produces exquisite cuisine while simultaneously scaring the merde out of me.
Jessica’s Wracked-With-Guilt-And-Need-To-Impress-New-Friends Dinner:
* Potage Ambassadeur
* Ratatouille Niçoise
* Willamette Valley Salad
* Chicken Cordon Bleu
* Gratin Dauphinois
* Crème Brûlée
The recipe for Potage Ambasadeur can be found on page 162 of Le Cordon Bleu at Home. When the group made this in August, I had cooked an extra batch for canning; making the prep for my soup course almost non-existent. The canned soup was simply poured into my trusty crock pot and I added some sour cream since the dairy was omitted from the “canned batch” (I prefer sour cream to heavy cream in this soup). I had also left out the meat in this soup, serving crumbled bacon on the side for people to add as they please.
The Vegetarian Dishes:
On page 247 of the book, one will find the recipe for Ratatouille Niçoise.
There is a restaurant on the corner of Štefánikova and Kabátníkova Streets in Brno, Czech Republic called Aura. I frequented this little gem once their large vegetarian menu was discovered; a rare find among this meat-loving community. It was here that I inhaled one of the best plates of food ever placed in front of me – ratatouille. I was also surprised to be offered a dinner menu in English…after nearly two months of my horrendous pronunciation and waitstaff chuckles. At least I tip well.
The ratatouille came together nicely and I think it is a wonderful recipe to experiment with; can cater to any taste. It was served over brown rice.
Now, I realize the Willamette (will-LAM-met) Valley Salad is not exactly French. This comes from one of my favorite places in Portland: Elephant’s Delicatessen. As the name indicates, most of the ingredients are grown in the Willamette Valley region of Oregon:
– Mixed Organic Greens
– Hood River Apples
– Oregon Hazelnuts
– Gorgonzola Cheese
– Vinaigrette Dressing
A few changes were made to the salad to “French it up” a bit:
– Mixed Organic Greens; I made about half of the greens arugula.
– I was not impressed with the apple selection, so I settled on some Anjou pears.
– Oregon Hazelnuts (little known fact: 99% of the hazelnuts grown in the United States come from Oregon).
– Gorgonzola Cheese; I probably could have gone with a French Roquefort, but I am not a fan of blue-veined cheeses. Gorgonzola is about the strongest one I can handle.
– For a little surprise, I added Champagne Grapes.
– I made my usual, and very simple vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic vinegar and black pepper) and added some spicy Dijon mustard.
The Non-Vegetarian Dishes
A recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu could not be located in the book, so I decided to wing it. While doing a bit of research, I was a little confused about what exactly Chicken Cordon Bleu is. Since Cordon Bleu translates to “Blue Ribbon” it does not reveal any indication of the “authentic” ingredients I was in search of. Most of what I read confirmed what I thought might be stuffed in the chicken breasts: ham and Swiss cheese. My variation:
– Chicken Breasts; pounded to 1/4 inch thickness.
– Season chicken with salt and pepper.
– Add a slice of prosciutto, shredded Gruyère and chopped spinach on the top of each breast.
– Roll up tightly; tuck in the sides and secure the end with toothpicks. This took a bit of time to get it just right. I brushed some melted butter on the seams and placed the breasts in the refrigerator. The butter then hardened and really helped keep everything together while cooking.
– When your ready to cook the chicken, pull the toothpicks out and place seam side down in a large skillet; brown slightly on all sides (cooking the seam first also helps keep the roll in tact).
– Roll the hot breasts in breadcrumbs and place in a baking dish; bake at 400°F for 30-ish minutes.
I prefer gratin dauphinois over mashed potatoes, especially around the holidays. Matt is known for his mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, but one of these years I will prevail and get my potatoes au gratin on the table.
The recipe I used can be found on page 498 of the book and I will admit I was kicking myself while reading it. Garlic! After the countless pounds of potatoes au gratin I have consumed, I cannot come up with a reason as to why I have never baked them with garlic. Stupide!
There were a few extra steps and ingredients that I do not normally do or use (ie: boiling potatoes in milk and using nutmeg), but they turned out delicious. In the future, I think I will stick to my norm: laying sliced potatoes with dots of butter, sprinkle the layers with flour and cheese, then pouring the cream over the top. However, I will always be using garlic.
You cannot go wrong with a classic dessert like crème brûlée. The recipe was chosen by Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake, please visit her blog for the recipe or it can be found on page 393 of this book. I find crème brûlée has the fabulous ability to please just about everyone and I do not care how cliché it is to say: cracking through the sugar makes me happy. It also makes me think of one of my favorite foreign films: Amélie.
Seems Shari of Whisk: A Food Blog thought the same; she included a great line of narration from the film in her post.
I split some vanilla beans and added them to the cream and milk mixture while they cooked on the stove top. The insides were then scraped; a perfect little vanilla boost. I also made a coffee flavor by adding some instant coffee.
My ramekins were a bit deeper than what Dorie called for and did not set as much as I would have liked them to. Didn’t seem to bother anyone as they were too distracted by my crème brûlée torch.
So, there you have it. My kinda-sorta-maybe-almost make-up courses for Whisk Wednesdays and my (made early, but posted late) Tuesdays With Dorie entry. If you are wondering where all of the photographic proof is, well, there is none. I resisted the urge to tell everyone to stop eating so I cold take photographs; deciding against advertising my food-porn lust right away; the crazy needs to be introduced slowly to the new people.
I do plan on making all of the wonderful dishes I’ve missed in Whisk Wednesdays. Since I don’t eat meat, I have to plan some of them around Matt’s travel schedule. I encourage everyone to check out Whisk: A Food Blog and if you would like more information about joining Whisk Wednesdays, please click here. Information on how to join Tuesdays With Dorie can be found here.
Despite my recent laziness, I am the very happy recipient of the “I Love You This Much” award bestowed upon me by Teanna of Spork or Foon? Teanna’s blog is full of great recipes, anecdotes and musings about life in DC and NYC. Thank you, Teanna – I am truly grateful.
This award was started by Emila of Emila’s Illustrated Blog. The rules of recieving this award are as follows:
1. Tell everyone about blogs you love.
2. Post this link, explaining the origins of the award.
Without further ado, I have to pass along this award to Kelly of Kelly in the Wild for the plain and simple fact that the woman makes me laugh. Take a gander, I guarantee a smile.