French

beignets

At the beginning of summer, I’d cooked a special farewell lunch for my grad program friends: Cajun stuffed Cornish hens, dirty rice, and Brussels sprouts with candied bacon. For dessert, I kept with the Louisianan theme and served homemade beignets and Cafe du Monde New Orleans-style coffee with condensed milk, just the way Vietnamese people love to drink it.

While I grew up around Cafe du Monde’s ready-to-brew coffee grounds (which came in those notorious mustard yellow tin cans that afterwards became every Vietnamese family’s piggy bank/knickknack holder), I didn’t have my first beignet until college when I went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I visited the brick-and-mortar Cafe du Monde and did what all the other tourists did: sat in the open-air cafe and sipped on steaming chicory drip coffee with the powdered sugar from the three beignets snowing all over my mouth and lap. It was a heavenly combination of flavors, and boy, all I can say is those French sure know their fried desserts.

Beignet, which literally means “bump,” is the French version of the American fritter. I love to eat them with powdered sugar and honey. They should be pillowy on the inside with a very light crunch on the outside. Before “MasterChef,” I always got my beignets from local shops. But then I learned how to make them from scratch, and there ain’t nothin’ like a beignet fresh out of the fryer. My friends gobbled them all up, their faces and fingers covered in white. If it hadn’t been for food coma written all over their eyes, they would’ve been mistaken for a bunch of cokeheads. Try these out, and let me know what you think. If the Blind can Cook it, you know you can too.

 

Recipe: Beignets

Ingredients

  1. 196 g AP flour
  2. 98 g Sugar
  3. 4.5 g baking powder
  4. 3 g Salt
  5. 95 g Milk
  6. 8 g lemon juice
  7. 83 g butter, melted
  8. 1egg
  9. 1egg yolk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oil to 350° to 365°F.
  2. In a mixer bowl, combine less than half the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Whisk together the milk, lemon juice, melted butter, egg, and yolk.
  4. Add the wet to the dry and mix on med. Speed until smooth.
  5. Lower the speed and add the remaining flour. Mix until just combined.
  6. Turn out dough on to a floured surface. Roll out to 1/4- to 1/2-in. Thick. Cut with a ring cutter.
  7. Drop beignets carefully into fryer. Once they rise to the surface, fry until golden brown.
  8. Drain on paper towel lined pan or wire rack. Serve warm with a sprinkling of powdered sugar on top and a side of honey.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

croissant bread pudding



The third and final course from Jade and Uyen’s birthday dinner was a rich croissant bread pudding. Bread pudding is a warm, eggy dessert, so for all you egg lovers out there, this is the dessert for you. It is an easy dessert to make–it just takes a long time in the oven. I had some trouble separating the yolks from the whites but managed okay in the end. I think that the bread pudding could’ve tasted a little more yolky and sweet, but Jade liked that it wasn’t too sweet. This is because I used brown sugar instead of white. Next time, maybe I’ll double the amount of sugar if using brown. And if you’re wondering what to do with all those leftover egg whites, try putting it on your face for a healthy egg mask. (I’m not kidding–that’s exactly what I did.)

I got this recipe from my trustworthy Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I love Ina Garten’s recipes!” And remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

Recipe: Croissant Bread Pudding

Summary: Original recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Ingredients

    • 3 extra large whole eggs
    • 8 extra large egg yolks
    • 5 c. half & half
    • 1/4 c. sugar
    • 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
    • 6 croissants, preferabbly stale
    • 1 c. raisins

Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together whole eggs, yolks, half & half, sugar, and vanilla extract. Set aside custard mixture.
    3. Slice croissants in half horizontally. In a 10″ x 15″ x 2.5″ oval baking, distribute bottoms of sliced croissants. Then add the raisins, then the tops of the croissants brown side up, making sure raisins are in between the layers of croissants or else they will burn while baking.
    4. Pour the custard over the croissants and let stand for at least 10 minutes, pressing down gently so croissants soak up custard.
    5. Place the pan in a larger one filled with 1″ hot water. Cover the larger pan with foil, tenting it in the middle. Cut slits in foil to allow for steam to escape. Bake for 45 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes or until pudding puffs up and custard is set. Remove from oven to cool slightly before serving.

Quick Notes

Placing the pudding inside a larger pan with water is using the double boiler method. This prevents the pudding from burning where it touches the glass container. That way, you get more pudding and less charred mess. This double boiler method is also used for melting chocolate or preparing fine sauces over the stove.

I prepared the custard mixture the day before and refrigerated it covered overnight to minimize prep time on the day of the dinner. This left time to concentrate on other foods that could not be prepared ahead of time.

Variations

I substituted brown sugar in this recipe which made it less sweet. If you want it sweeter, either use white sugar or add more brown sugar. Also, I don’t normally add raisins when making this dish since John prefers no raisins.

The croissants can also be substituted with brioche or egg breads.

Cooking time (duration): 105

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dessert

Culinary tradition: French

Microformatting by hRecipe.


scallops gratineed with wine, garlic & herbs



In honor of Julia Child’s birthday (Aug. 15, 1912 – Aug. 13, 2004), here is a recipe from her classic cookbook. It also happens to be the second course for Jade and Uyen’s birthday dinner. (Yes, it’s another French dish.) I served it with a mushroom risotto on the side. Ever since our honeymoon, we have been obsessed with food, and especially French foods. This is why it’s no surprise that I have downloaded both volumes of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking from RFB&D and lie in bed at night listening to recipe after recipe until I fall asleep. Nuts? Just a little bit.

To gratinee something or cook it au gratin means to add a layer of an ingredient(s) (e.g. bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, butter) over the top and brown it lightly in a moderately heated broiler prior to serving. This is a common technique from the French and adds flavor and texture to the dish. When I was in Paris 9 years ago, my great aunt made numerous au gratin dishes, mostly in the form of some sort of vegetable in a casserole dish with tons of butter, cheese, and eggs–those French sure know how to eat.

I find that Costco usually has the tastiest looking scallops for a reasonable price–I think I got them for $9.99/lb. Costco has fresh seafood all around, so check out their kiosk next time you’re there on a weekend. They usually have everything from lobster to king crab.

As noted in the recipe below, I have this terrible habit of overcrowding my cookware. I always try to jam things into a small mixing bowl or crowd food into a pan. It comes from my laziness–I’m trying to minimize the time and effort needed for later dishwashing. This is why my food sometimes comes out half overcooked and the other half raw. I really need to break this cycle. Spacious cooking, here I come.

Recipe: Scallops Gratineed with Wine, Garlic & Herbs

Summary: Coquilles St. Jacques à la Provençale–original recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (vol. 1)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c. yellow onion, minced
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1.5 tbsp. shallots or green onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1.5 lbs. washed scallops
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2/3 c. dry white wine
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/8 tsp. thyme
  • 1/4 c. Swiss cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Cook onions slowly with 1 tbsp. butter in small saucepan for 5 minutes or until tender and translucent but not brown. Stir in shallots or green onion and garlic, and cook slowly for 1 minute more. Set aside.
  2. Dry the scallops and cut into 1/4 inch thick. Just before cooking, sprinkle with salt and pepper, roll in flour, and shake off excess flour.
  3. In a large skillet, saute the scallops quickly in 2 tbsp. very hot butter and olive oil for 2 minutes to brown them lightly.
  4. Pour the wine into skillet with scallops. Add herbs and cooked onion mixture. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Then uncover and, if necessary, rapidly boil down the sauce for a minute until it is lightly thickened. Correct seasoning and discard bay leaf.
  5. Cut 2 tbsp. butter into 6 pieces. Spoon scallops into a baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to gratinee.
  6. Just before serving, run under moderately hot broiler for 3 to 4 minutes to heat through and brown the cheese lightly.

Quick Notes

Since this recipe is a first course for 6, I doubled the recipe in order to serve it as the main course. I also have this bad habit of overcrowding food into cookware so some of the scallops soaked up all the sauce while others were undercooked. Don’t fall into my bad habits! Cook in batches or using more pots and pans if you have to. (I know it’s hard for us lazy folk.) After gratineeing the scallops, they turned out slightly overdone. Flavor was still great though. Serve with a chilled rose or dry white wine.

Cooking time (duration): 30

Diet type: Pescatarian

Meal type: supper

Culinary tradition: French

Microformatting by hRecipe.


And remember, if the Blind can Cook, then so can you.

roasted tomato basil soup


Since our wedding in May, our house has filled with nice things for cooking and dining. From now on, instead of agonizing over what gift to get, I’ve decided to utilize the new spiffy kitchenware and dinnerware and practice cooking at the same time by hosting dinner for friends in celebration of their birthdays.

The first two lucky friends were Jade and Uyen (and their husbands), who happened to make up 1/3 of my bridal party. I don’t really know what I got myself into because Jade and Patrick are both the biggest foodies I know, Uyen loves to eat, and her husband Brent is the chef in their kitchen. I was facing my most judgmental critics, and to make things worse, I woke up the night before from an anxiety dream in which I forgot to bake the dessert.

Nonetheless, I began preparing the food a day ahead by making the soup and mixing the custard for the dessert. On the day of the dinner, I planned to make the entree, bake the dessert, and reheat the soup right before guests arrive.

So here is the first of three courses. (Stay tuned for the others.) I got the recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. But because my culinary skills are intermediate, of course I botched things here and there. What I did to remedy the recipe and tweak it according to my taste buds are noted in the “variations” section of the recipe. (I won’t be afraid to admit my mistakes–after all, that’s why I’m the Blind Cook and not the Blind Chef. I will, however, note where I went wrong and offer what I tried in order to fix the recipe.)


Recipe: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Summary: Original recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. roma tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 c. & 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1.5 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups basil leaves, packed
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 (28 oz.) can roma tomatoes with juice
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 4 c. water

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss tomato halves with 1/4 c. olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place in a single layer on baking sheet, and roast for 45 minutes.
  2. In a 8-qt. stockpot, saute onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes in 2 tbsp. olive oil and 2 tbsp. butter over low heat for 10 minutes or until onion is browned.
  3. Add basil, thyme, canned tomatoes, chicken stock, and water. Add roasted tomatoes with all the juices from the baking sheet. Bring to boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.
  4. Pass through a food mill and adjust seasoning. Serve hot or cold.

Variations

Since it was hard to find all 32 oz. of basil at the store, I ended up cutting the recipe in half except I used the same amount of canned tomatoes. I also forgot to tear the leaves off the basil stems, and so the soup smelled super herbal. This called for some major readjustment. I ended up resimmering the soup after pushing it through a food processor and adding the following:

  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 1 & 1/2 sticks butter
  • more salt & pepper to taste
  • a splash of chicken stock

Cooking time (duration): 100

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: supper

Culinary tradition: French

Microformatting by hRecipe.


And remember that if the Blind can Cook it, then so can you.

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