Thursday, October 28, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie: Marie--Helene's Apple Cake

Ready for my tasters at the office
Apple cake, vanilla ice cream, and a drizzle of salted caramel sauce

I know what I want my house to smell like during the holidays...Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake!  For such a simple recipe, while baking, the aroma of this cake was potent enough to fill the entire house with a fragrance reminiscent of momma’s apple pie, delicious vanilla, hot-spiced cider, and just-out-of-the-oven sweet rolls.  Such comforting scents bring the holidays to mind even though today our part of Arizona was 94^ , not a traditional holiday setting.

The batter is folded over the apple chunks, placed into an 8" springform pan and ready for the oven.

Just out of the oven.  This cake could use a little more batter to make the lovely top "crust"

The making and baking process was simple; all the ingredients are “normal” items that I keep at home.  No shopping for this one.  A variety of apples  (I used Jonathan, Jona-gold, Gala, and another “unknown” baking variety...maybe a Pink Lady), a simple buttery batter, a few common spices, and this cake mixture was ready for baking in less than 10 minutes.  I used an 8" springform pan, and I added cinnamon, nutmeg, extra vanilla, apple cider, and I left out the rum.  After baking for 50 minutes the cake was perfectly ready to side with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of salted caramel sauce that I found on the “new items” shelf  last week at Trader Joe’s.

Delicious new discovery--Trader Joe's Salted Caramel Sauce

Apples from top to bottom in this delicious cake---Every bite is filled with different apple textures from 4 different varieties of apples

Because I needed to make a late afternoon run to the office, I decided to let the office crew be my tasters.  The cake is small but the flavor holds its own when paired with ice cream and a caramel drizzle topping.  Had I enjoyed the cake at home with my family,  I would have topped the caramel drizzle with some chopped toasted pecans.  At the office I un-formed the cake (by this time the cake had been out of the oven for a couple of hours), but I should have removed the pan sides earlier and they would have come away cleaner.  Also, my daughter, the Frolicking Night Owl, made the same cake earlier in the week, and she advised me that the cake, eaten while still warm, is best.  The photo of the cake in Dorie’s book shows a nice crust on top.  My cake may have had a little extra apple as the apple chunks covered the top and seemed to need a bit more batter.  I may choose smaller apples for the next baking of this cake.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Comments from the office:
Eric:    Tres delicieux!  Refreshing...not too sweet;  just right.
Bill:      Excellent!  This is really good!  (He is not only an attorney, but also an at-home chef)
Marc:   Very tasty!  This is dinner.  It will be worth it to eat this cake even though it will require extra time at   the gym.
Scott:    Oh yeah, this is good!  I like the addition of ice cream and caramel

Down at the office with all these goodies---keeps the employees very happy!
My hubby and I have an early morning meeting with the Town Counsel next week.  Hubby is chairman of a Town commission and his assignment for the meeting is: Provide breakfast.  Well, that sounds better that the usual business!  Actually, this means that I will provide the breakfast.   I have been collecting my ideas and ingredients, and after enjoying this week’s assigned apple cake, I plan to add it to my menu!

Monday, October 18, 2010


Just out of the oven and ready for MY TASTING PLATE
Almost All Gone!  Hachis Parmentier: Shepherd’s Pie
Pronounced:  ah-she-pahr-men-tee-ay
(My extra large 10 X 15 baking dish was filled with a substantial and scrumptious supper )
This Food "Set Up"  after being out of the oven for an hour...the juices were absorbed
Note:  the 1st photo, above, looks more juicy, not holding its shape

Today I tackled the boiled beef. I had to think about how I really wanted this recipe to turn out; something that would not only get eaten, but that would also be enjoyed by my family. I will have 10-12 at home during the dinner time hours, and I would like to share the Hachis Parmentier with everyone who stops by as they will give me honest feedback, and it will be fun to have them share this cooking project. We will eat on the patio where it will be close to 90^, making a heavy meat dish not quite the preferred choice. It is a beautiful AZ day with sunshine, blue skies, and not even a breeze. On the other hand, I have a daughter living in  the now cold northern Idaho where snow is in the extended forecast, so her lots-of-protein eating buff husband would probably dance for joy and eat the entire meaty casserole, and then he would look for more tomorrow!  This heavy food is a delicious Fall/Winter dinner and we, here in AZ, are still enjoying summer.

Beef and Seasonings Simmering in their own juices.  
Everyone loved the "bouillon" created by the entire cooking process!

I decided to cube the chuck roast beef I had purchased, trimmed the fat and other uneatables, browned it in a little olive oil, and then let it simmer in it’s own juices with the suggested seasonings for an hour while I chopped up extra veges and peeled the potatoes.  This was a deviation from Dorie's recipe, but I'm happy with the results.

This potato pealing is a biggie for me as we never peel potatoes...just scrub them and cook the potatoes with their skins. My family is used to mashed potatoes with the skins, and they will think I am getting ready for something special like Thanksgiving dinner when they see I have taken the extra time to do all the potato peeling.





With my family in mind, I did a refrigerator “sweep” (I read the “Next-day Beef Salad recipe on the following page) and found several of those “tidbits” Dorie was talking about. To me, all the veges are by far the best part. Therefore, I can’t “discard” these still flavorful additions to this recipe. Except for the carrots, the veges seemed to melt into the meat and broth during the simmering process. I wished I had added more.


While shopping, I found mild Italian sausage that I removed from the casings and browned in olive oil.

Sausage is ready to be added to the Beef mixture
Meanwhile, the simmering beef was becoming tender so I added my lovely chopped veges, simmered the stew for another hour, and then added the browned sausage with any remaining ingredients. I later regretted adding the cubed bouillon which gave the finished pie too much of a salty flavor. The beef “stew” was salted, the sausage was pre-seasoned and salty, the mashed potatoes were salted, and the “stew” became a little reduced or concentrated, and thus more salty as it cooked, and the bouillon cube was very salty and just took the salt over the top. However, everyone ate a large plate of the food and there were very few complaints.

I found all the ingredients in my pantry or fridge excepting the meats. Part of the fun of this recipe was the idea of using items I already had; some that needed to be used within the next day or two. I also chose to use a couple of varieties of cheeses already in my fridge. I kept the beef in about 1" cubes, otherwise I would have used ground beef for this dish. When un-cased, the sausage cooked down similar to how fresh ground beef would have cooked.

The two new things I tried for this recipe and enjoyed were: 1. The addition of tomato paste to the broth (since I tripled the recipe, making enough for everyone, I added a 6 oz can of paste. 2. I have not used both beef and sausage in a “stew” type recipe before, and we enjoyed these flavors together.

Son-In-Law's "TASTER VERSION"-- Before the potatoes were mashed and before the oven

As a side note, my son-in-law stopped by for lunch, just as the steamed potatoes were fork tender and the “stew” was finished...just before the potatoes were turned into mashed potatoes. To be my taster, he put some of the potatoes in the bottom of a bowl and then ladled the stew on top. He told me that I out-did myself; that on a scale from 1 to 10, this dish was at least a 9. What a great complement! He really enjoyed the sausage-beef combination. I actually think I would have enjoyed this dish more the way he ate it. For our hot day, the mashed potatoes, cheese, etc. made the dish a bit to heavy for me.



Also, three of my grandkids came over to be tasters. The are very young children and I wondered if they would like this type of food. They seemed to love it! Each one ate a very large, adult size portion of food, and my 3 year old grandson actually “wolfed” it down in no time at all! That made me feel great!

This would be a great meal for a cold day especially when there are items in the fridge to be used. This is also a meal that appeals to hungry men. I am sure I’ll make a similar dish again, but I will include many more veges in my adjusted recipe.

JUST OUT OF THE OVEN and ooooozing with juicy goodness!

We are enjoying the variety that Dorie’s assigned cooking projects brings to our family. We have looked forward to each week’s FFwD experience as they are anticipated and as they bring my family together. We enjoy shopping, cooking and tasting each assignment. We critique them and discuss ideas like the use of a “new” cheese, or what we would do to make it better the next time around.

We especially look forward to next week’s assigned apple cake. I already checked and the “normal” ingredients for the cake are already in the house, ready to be shopping necessary for this one. Thanks, Dorie, for this fun group experience. Glad I joined this fun group of cooks!

FYI: I just got a text from my daughter who stopped by to get a plate of this "pie" to take to her late working hubby for his dinner. She says, "I think J___ was in heaven with his dinner tonight...definitely his kind of food!"  Need I say any more?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

French Friday with Dorie; Spicy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup


This Friday's assigned cooking experience with Dorie is Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup. Beckbug and I went on a hunt to find a long list of unusual ingredients to make our soups...we will both cook tomorrow (Wednesday) and it will be fun to taste each creation (hers will be vegetarian, kinda., with chicken broth, but no chicken, and more veges). We found all the ingredients at Lee Lee Oriental Market in Chandler, AZ, except we decided to visit Whole Foods for organic, natural chicken broth and also to hunt for some good baking chocolate. We were disappointed with the chocolate selection, but all the other ingredients were found and some of them look.....well, kinda interesting for the most part.

FRESH GINGER, DRIED CHILIS, & CILANTRO are as well as other interesting veges and flavorings for this soup

HERE IS THAT STINKY FISH SAUCE among other interesting ingredients

This soup will taste like licorice: star anise, coconut, ginger, fish from the fish sauce (an Asian man shopping in the same aisle as us asked if we like fish sauce...we answered that we don't know, we have not tried it..he laughed and said it is stinky sauce, but that we had chosen one with less we asked him which one would be better, and he answered that the ones that stink the most are the best. ..we told him we wanted the safest one...he just laughed at us!), cilantro, lime, chicken, hot sauce and hot peppers, mint leaves (I have them in my garden), chili oil, etc...oh my, such a variety of spices that I never use in Chicken Noodle Soup, and some ingredients that I have never used...that fish sauce!

For sure this soup will not be boring, and it just might be gross! Who dreams up putting all these powerful flavors together? It must have been an accident. But we will be brave. The reason we wanted to be a part of this group is to expand our cooking and eating horizons and also our culinary knowledge, and to get some new, fresh ideas...well, we are getting it! We will just have to trust Dorie on this one. Didn't the French occupy much of Viet Nam at one point...with large plantations and they controlled most of the wealth? So, Vietnamese foods would be common for many of the French.

THIS SOUP WITH THE CHEESECLOTH BUNDLE (bottom left) OF FLAVORINGS AND THE CHILIS is not too pretty, but it will get better

Actually, one of my daughters married a wonderful young man whose family is from Laos and Thailand, very close neighbors to Viet Nam. When Viet Nam fell in about 1975, his father who had been helping the American side, escaped Viet Nam by swimming the Mekong River, where he found refuge in Thailand. Along with his wife and infant son, he was transplanted in America where the family grew to have 3 sons...the youngest is my son-in-law. For their wedding reception, my daughter's mother-in-law and her friend cooked some very wonderful Thai food. This soup assignment reminds me of them and their delicious additions to our wedding feasts. I plan to email her letting her know we have cooked a food that she would enjoy. Her friend actually has a Thai restaurant in the Seattle area, so I will tell her what ingredients we are using and maybe she will give me some tips for future use.

THIS BROTH WAS A GREAT FIND! is the next day, Wednesday, and the soup is finished and was eaten for dinner. While cooking, I decided to add extra broth, using the entire container...and the broth, Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken Broth, was wonderful. It was not that clear, not-enough-flavor stuff I usually bring home, but it was like I had simmered a whole chicken for hours; with lots of wonderful flavor and aroma, it brought some depth to my soup. I used skinless, boneless chicken breast without losing any flavor from not simmering the skin and bones.

Being Arizonans and loving lots of cilantro in our Mexican foods, I doubled the amount of cilantro and used a good sized onion. I used four times the noodles (found some that had been freshly made at the Asian food market--they only take 10 seconds of boiling for the cooking time), and I added a couple of large handfulls of bean sprouts to my pot. (We are not brothy soup lovers...we like lots of substance in our bowl...we all go for more noodles.) I also added more fish sauce and a little extra lime juice. The soup needed more flavor (which might have been added with all the suggested optional garnishes), so I tried more fish sauce instead of salt. I tasted the fish sauce and it reminds me a little of salty soy sauce. (I'm sure the addition many more noodles created a need for more flavorings.) I thought it turned out to be quite tasty...yes, even with fish sauce, and hubby said, "I'm sure the Asian people would really love this!" He would know, he lived in Singapore for 2 years.

I phoned Beckbug to see if she had also finished her soup. Her family was eating the soup for their dinner. She commented that she wished she had added more veges, like carrots and celery, but that they were enjoying the recipe.

I am sure I would have never made this soup except for the assignment. The unusual ingredients would have thrown me off. So, I must admit that I am happy I participated and that I have a new soup recipe and new flavors to enjoy. In our family, we do love many Asian foods, and this soup will be added to our cooking repitoure. (And with the cilantro, onion, chicken, dried chilis, and lime, this could be a cousin to our much loved Mexican cuisine.) Thanks, Dorie, for this assignment. I enjoyed making and eating this soup. I look forward to boiling some beef for our next assignment?!?!?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gerard's MustartdTart

Kris' added veges mustard tart (we decided this tart is special enough to use to Christmas brunch!)

Beckbug's tart followed Dorie's recipe (page 154-156: Around my French Table, Dorie Greenspan)

Thank you Dorie for choosing the mustard tart for our baking experience! I would not have chosen to bake this tart without your “assignment” and I would have missed out on a real treasure. I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed baking the tart, smelling those wonderful steaming veges with the rosemary, and tasting a such a surprisingly delicious and savory treat. The crust was easy, flavorful, and flaky, yet it holds up well; the tart came out of the pan without flaw. And as my family was eating the mustard tart, we were all thinking of other tart ideas using this crust recipe. A fresh fruit tart would be gorgeous.

My daughter baked with me and we made two tarts; one exactly following Dorie’s recipe, and one with added veges. One was tried with heavy cream, and one with creme fraiche. The mustard flavor was dominant and there seemed to be no real noticeable difference in the flavors or texture of the creams used. Both were very good.

The extra veges we added were Chinese eggplant that we first sauteed in butter, and fresh tomato slices added to the top. We also want to try mushrooms, asparagus, peppers, onions, and maybe some fresh basil with the tomatoes, or fresh chives.

Extra vege tart just out of the oven

For the extra veges tart we used a 10" tart pan giving more space for the sliced tomatoes and eggplant. (But we decided we would make more a little more filling next time we use this recipe in a 10" pan ...maybe an additional egg with a corresponding amount of cream) Both tarts were wonderful. I took pieces of the extra veges tart to our neighbors (who supplied the eggplant from their garden) so they could see what we had done with their produce, and to give them an idea for using their bountiful crop.

When I made the crust dough, I was worried that it was too wet...just before adding all the egg, the dough seemed about right. After adding all the egg it seemed way too wet, but after refrigerating the mixture it rolled out nicely, fit down into the pan, did not shrink, and was so light and was just perfect.

Beckbug's tart comes out of the baking pan perfectly

Living in Arizona might make some baked goods a little more soggy or moist. Butter and cheeses get soft quickly and it is hard to keep ice cold water and eggs really ice cold. Our air conditioned inside-the-house temperature stays at about 84 degrees, and with all the baking and cooking the kitchen probably warms up a couple of degrees. It all feels good to us...even though it is October, last week 2 days reached 108 degrees, so 84 is a 20+ degree drop from outside to inside, and that seems to be just about right. Anything colder brings out the goose bumps...I know, we are wimps when it comes to the cold, but that’s why we love to live in Arizona. But...I do wonder how our version of “room temperature” really affects our baking??? LW, on questions and answers for Dorie's blog, gave me a tip, saying, "I am sure it does make a difference. One thing I do when I need to chill butter is I cut it into pieces and flash freeze it. Stick it in the freezer for just 5-10 min. It makes all the difference for me since I am not always as quick in the kitchen as I should be. (and then encouragement:) I am glad it came out fine in the end! And...the response from LW was up within just a few hours...amazing, helpful, and so much fun! I had forgotten what a great cooking tool a freezer can be.

Part of the great experience of cooking with the group is the organization of the blog and those who service us from the blog. Great job! We appreciate Dorie's staff and friends and also all those we bake with...such a helpful, positive, and talented group!

My tasting plate...very yummy and quite rustically beautiful!

Anyway, the whole experience will be repeated many times. The tart was great. The mustards were wonderful. And baking with my daughter was such a pleasure I can’t wait to do it again.

The 2 mustards we used...we were pleasantly surprised at how delicious they are!

The mustards: I was so worried that these mustards would be like the nasty deli style mustard that so many restaurants use on sandwiches. I don’t know why it is so widely used; I don’t know anyone who likes it. But...the two mustards we used in the tarts were delightful...I would put them on my table for mustard uses regularly. (When she was young, my daughter’s favorite sandwich was a mustard sandwich...nothing but bread and mustard. She, too, was happy with the mustards. In fact, when she left my house the mustards went home with her.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Getting to know you

Name: Kris (Miss Kris Kitchen)

Current town: Gilbert, AZ

How you pay the bills: Having our own business, I pray every day to receive client payments and then I do all the bill paying...hubby has enough stress, so I take care of all the finances...and the current AZ economy, well, it's a piece of work!

How many in your household? There were 7 kids, now we are empty nesters, but have several here every day looking for food.

What is your favorite comfort food? Mexican food. Right now a fish taco with some hot salsa sounds really good.

Favorite dessert to whip up at midnight? COOKIES! I am the cookie monster at our house...and chocolate something is best...dark chocolate!

The best restaurant you have ever been to? (and what did you have?) Well, I'm usually disappointed at restaurants, even the really nice ones. We enjoy cooking around here, like to get great ingredients, and our patio dining is probably the best food around. But if I go out, I like something from Gecko Grill like a spinach enchilada plate with their delicious cheesy topping.

Worst habit or vice?Staying up too late, often just don't go to bed at all.

If you were a biscuit, which would you be? I'd have to sweeten and spice up and be a warm cinnamon roll with lots of cream cheese frosting

What is your mother’s best dish? She makes great apple pies; the best I've ever had!

What is your motto? Off the top, and I know it is trendy and overdone, but it works for me now, "Live, Laugh, Love!!!"

Which kitchen gadget do you use the most? I love silicone mats. What a great invention.

The soundtrack to your life is? Led Zeppelin...great music to keep me charged up with a "Whole Lotta Love"

Any last words? I am surprised at how much I am enjoying all this Friday's with Dorie stuff, including this get to know you activity. It is fun to read my fellow cooking buddies blogs and "hear" about their experiences, see their photos, etc., and to get to know all you just a little. This is a happy group and so much fun!

Have at it!!! :)