Monday, June 20, 2011

beef wellington with red wine mushroom sauce

last week Kim, Kris and i threw a lunch for a couple of friends. we wanted to make it semi-pretentious yet still be considered comfort food. somehow we came up with the idea of making individual beef wellingtons. now of course we had no business making a pate or using pate considering we were feeding fifteen guests and didn't feel like breaking the bank to feed others for free. filet mignon? nope! same thinking. howzabout some form of steak and a mushroom layer? oh and the thought of making flaky layered puff pastry from scratch was out of question also. Pillsbury to the rescue! nonetheless it came out pretty decent. we are in no way, shape or from "chefs" or even "cooks" so the meat itself came out a bit overdone for my liking but it still tasted pretty good. but what brought the dish all together was the red wine mushroom sauce!! it was quite rich and tasty, thankyouverymuch!!

unfortunately i didn't take pictures of the process of making the red wine mushroom sauce so instead i'll show you pictures from the easy process of putting together the wellingtons.

lay out some puff pastry and throw on some cooked mushrooms and onions

add a giant hunk of seared meat to that

wrap puff pastries around meat and brush with egg whites and you have sacks of soon-to-be-deliciousness

 bake at 400 degrees F for approx 15 min. crispy golden blurry goodness

dark photo, but you get the gist, right?

simple red wine and mushroom sauce
these directions make enough gravy for about five servings.

-2 tbs butter
-1/4 c onion, minced
-6 large mushrooms sliced (i used nearly a pack of button mushrooms)
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-3 tbs flour
-1/2 c red wine
-1 10.5oz can beef broth
-1 bay leaf
-1 tsp Worcestershire
-salt and pepper to taste

1. over medium heat melt 2 tbs butter in a saucepan
2. add mushrooms and onion and cook until onions are just about transparent
3. add garlic to saucepan and cook for another minute
4. stir in flour and mix so that the flour does not clump
5. add in wine, broth and bay leaf
6. stir until sauce bubbles and simmers
7. simmer until it reduces by about 1/2 the amount of liquid (this will take a while)
8. add salt, pepper and Worcestershire to taste 

cheesecake in a jar

last week for Trina and Justin's surprise lunch i made little jars of cheesecake with blackberry curd for take home favors. they came out pretty awesome if i do say so myself. i would eat blackberry curd by the spoonful in front of the tv if it wasn't considered gluttonous. if you don't make this cheesecake, at the least make the blackberry curd! it would go well on toast or over ice cream, in between layers of cake or with a yogurt parfait! so good!!!

i got the recipe from this site and followed the directions to a T (except for the cook time).

cheesecake in a jar 
i portioned this in to 10 medium sized jars with the base a little bit smaller than the size of my palm

ingredients for crust:
-2 c graham cracker crumbs
-6 tbs sugar
-6 tbs melted butter

directions for crust:
1. combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a large bowl until all crumbs are moist. 
2. portion evenly in to jars
3. push down on crumb mixture with something flat so that they form a solid base for the cheesecake

i used a mini jam jar as my utensil 

ingredients for the cheesecake:
-40 oz cream cheese at room temp
-12 oz sugar
-5 large eggs plus 2 yolks
-2 oz milk
-3 tbs flour
-grated lemon peel from 1 lemon

directions for cheesecake:
1. preheat oven to 325 degrees F
2. begin to boil a pot/kettle water
3. in a large bowl beat cream cheese until softened 
4. slowly beat in sugar
5. beat in eggs, milk, flour and lemon peel and mix until completely smooth and well blended
6. portion the cheesecake mix into the jars with the crust
7. place jars in to a roasting pan in the oven, evenly spaced out
8. pour boiling water into the roasting pan to surround the jars. water should come about 1" short from the top of the jars
9. bake for 30 minutes or until the edges are slightly firm and the middles are still slightly jiggly (i baked mine for quite a bit longer)
10. remove from oven and roasting pan
11. allow to cool completely
12. cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least an hour

ingredients for blackberry curd:
-4 cups blackberries
-1/2 c water
-1 tsp orange zest
-1 c sugar
-2 oz butter
-4 tbs cornstarch
-4 tbs cold water

directions for blackberry curd:
1. put blackberries, orange zest and water in a pot and bring to a boil
2. reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally 
3. place the blackberry mixture in to a sieve over a large bowl and press through until most of the liquid has been strained through (this is an incredibly tedious process. if you have a food mill, use it! and if you blend the berry mixture before putting it in the sieve, this will decrease your straining time. i, unfortunately didn't do either and relied on a large spoon and my arm weakness strength to get by)
4. pour berry liquid back into pot over medium heat
5. add sugar and butter
6. combine cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl
7. once combined, add to pot to whisk in with berry mixture
8. stir until thick and bubbly or to your desired consistency  (i wanted it thick enough that if i put my finger in it it would stick)
9. remove from heat and pour in to a heat safe bowl or jar
10. cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool completely
11. after completely cooling, pour over chilled cheesecakes in their prepared jars

voila! cheesecake in a jar!! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

sunday funday: surprise lunch and grandpa's bday!!

this past sunday Kris, Kim and i threw a surprise lunch for a couple of friends of ours. long story short, they're getting married and along with planning a marriage comes a lot of adversity. whether it be opinions from the family, who to invite, finances and the stress of organizing and getting things done, a wedding can be a mess of a journey. what precedes what should be the best day of your life can sometimes be overwhelming and exhausting.

because we want no more than to see our friends happy, we wanted to throw them a surprise lunch with a closed guest list of only their closest friends. we know Trina very well and knew that cooking good food and having a chill afternoon with people she loves would put a smile on her face. sunday, we successfully pulled of said lunch.

very very early sunday morning Kim and i began cooking for the days festivities. we'd planned out a menu that was to Trina's liking. luckily we all have very similar tastes in food so the menu was easy. comfort food done up and somewhere in there should be bacon!

the spread



endive with fresh pear, creamy blue cheese, homemade candied pecan and champagne vinaigrette.

crab and four cheese mac n cheese. with parmesan crisps shaped like T's and J's. 

mini individual baked potatoes with chive creme fraiche and a sharp cheddar.

chicken and waffles

the most light crisp awesome waffle ever!! i'm so happy i found this recipe!! (will post later) i had to borrow Trina's waffle maker, so i told her i was making bacon waffles per my boyfriend's request a week ago. this is probably the first time i've lied in a long time. it's really really hard for me to lie!! i'm the worst liar in the world. 

beef wellington stuffed with mushrooms, served with a mushroom red wine sauce.

to drink:
gingerale with berries.

with berry ice cubes!! there was white sangria also, but i failed to take a picture because i don't really drink sangria. haha

for dessert:

mini cream puffs with nutella whipped cream and banana.

peach and almond galette!!! 

we also made little take away cheesecakes for everybody as a thank you for showing their love and support for Trina and Justin.

cheesecake in a jar with blackberry coulee. 

Kris, Trina, me (all tired), and Kim

Mike, Trina and Nina

my god! this is what i look like after not really sleeping for 72 hrs? i think i shall never do that again. what they say about beauty sleep must be true!!! (i had worked graveyard the past two nights and spent all light hours awake busy having an awesome weekend)

Justin, in his new favorite robe, trying to stare intellectually into the distance while holding his glass of scotch. (scotch??)

me and the man. look, i'm like half asleep!

Kim, Kris, Trina, me, Kim and Jess

somehow i failed to get a picture of Trina and Justin together. oops!! 

well i know that Trina appreciated our gesture and i hope that they had a good time just hanging out. we wanted to show them that sometimes celebrations can just be about them and that they have people supporting them who just want them to be happy. 

later that night my family on my dad's side went out to dinner to celebrate my grandpa's birthday. we went to All Season restaurant in SF. it's always nice to have a big family gathering. i always want my grandparents to feel loved. i know that as people become elderly they feel neglected. people don't talk to them as much because they're hard of hearing or less communicative themselves, they can't get around as easily so they don't get to go out as often, etc. so on occasions where we celebrate them, it makes me feel good that they feel good.

i love it when he smiles!!! it's infectious happiness!!  look at him all stylish!! yeah, he wears his sunglasses indoors and at night. so what! haha!! he wore kangols before the were cool! (and after too, apparently. haha!!) 

all of his children.

a good number of his grandchildren. we're missing a few.

i can't say i know why he's giving you all "the claw," but it was funny!!

my dad laughing hysterically. he nearly fell out of his chair. i think he just tried to throw up the deuces in the picture taken right before this one. backwards peace signs and dads don't mix. haha! funny guy!!


Cyrus/Flag Day 2011

three years ago a friend and i had a conversation about one day having the meal of our lives at The French Laundry. a couple days later upon curiosity, Helen looked up reservations for FL and lucky for us, someone must have canceled. she found an opening for the following saturday.  now, if you don't know the French Laundry, then just know that at one time it was known as the best restaurant in the US, they generally accept reservations two months before the date and it costs $270/person for a nine course meal. so we gathered a couple of other foodies and went to TFL. while dining on the meal of our lives, we somehow realized that it was also Flag Day 2009. from that day forth we decided to make it an annual thing to dine on pretentious food on Flag Day.

this year we wanted to go to Cyrus. this restaurant holds two Michelin stars and is located in the quaint town of Healdsburg. i have never heard a negative thing about Cyrus so it was the perfect option for Flag Day 2011. we made reservations months in advance, which lead to months of anticipation. as anticipation increases, so does the amount of hype i have for a place. this is concerning because i end up anticipating perfection and if the experience isn't perfection, then i am underwhelmed. i'm happy to say that Cyrus lived up to all of my made up hype.

Marjie and i all happy to start the experience.

Kim, Doris and Helen, equally excited.

the meal started off with a three tier platter with canapes. there were five tastings and each represented one of the different tastes, salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami.

bitter: radish with who knows what. i can't remember. 
salty: clam with a chorizo powder.

sweet: again, i can't remember. but this had a very thin containing layer and once you put it in your mouth it bursts with a sweet liquid of some sort. it was a pretty entertaining spoonful. 
sour: citrus tart. i dig. 

umami: broth that had a very mushroomy taste. 

next we were served the amuse bouche of compressed peaches and onion puree. i didn't think it would work but it definitely did. a refreshing start to our meal. it also helped the cleanse the palate between the canapes and the main event.

two types of salt, a cow butter and a goat butter. the goat butter was surprisingly awesome. and the cow butter was intensely rich in a good way.

an assortment of possibly the best breads i've had in my life. incredibly buttery brioche, the nuttiest multigrain, the most perfectly crisp and moist chive biscuit, cute little sourdoughs, the most amazingly garlicy bread there ever was, and my absolute favorite, a feta olive bread that was soooo flaky and buttery. heavenly.

as i've stated in this blog before, Kim and i share our food so that we can taste as much as possible. for every course where an option was offered, we each chose the opposite so that we could have it all. 

first course:

corn and bacon tomago dofu with pickled okra: the dehydrated corn and bacon added a nice texture to the sweet tofu. the okra was a tad slimy as okra always is, and the kale in the little pouch was biter in a good way. i can't say i loved this dish. lucky for me i got to taste a second first course...

sea scallop with watermelon and coriander broth: refreshing and light.

second course:

glazed gulf shrimp with banana blossoms and coconut milk froth: thoroughly enjoyed this dish. although it looks a bit phallic, don't you think? including the milk froth. haha!! 

seared foie gras with morels and fava beans: the texture of the foie gras was perfect matched with the fava beans and morels tortellini. i love morels. they are a funny looking awesome mushroom. the sauce that accompanied this dish was aaaaamazing with the brioche bread.

third course:

sea bass with artichokes in sake lees, pea sprouts and dashi: a very well cooked piece of fish. but what stood out was the broth. it had a super lightness to it but provided a perfect enhancement of flavor to the fish.

fourth course:

miso poached chicken with spring onions and maitake: the chicken must have been cooked sous vide because it was evenly cooked throughout and had an almost velvety texture, if that makes any sense. the maitake was roasted to perfection. the flavors were strong and the lightly crisp portions added a great texture. this mushroom made me do a little happy dance in my seat. no joke.

we were given a little guava and gingerale popsicle as a palate cleanser.

fifth course:

lamb roulade with farro and pickled ramps: a nice dish. it didn't blow me away. the lamb was a little less tender than i thought it would be, but they wrapped it in a nice thin layer of crispy fat of some sort that was good!

beef short rib with mung bean sprouts and cherry tomato confit: SO good!! really tender and perfect. the little tomato confit bursts in your mouth with the most flavorful tomato i've ever had.

sixth course:

cheese course!! we got to choose three cheeses to try. Kim and i shared and got to try six!! all were very good.

along with the cheese came these things to pair them with.

two kinds of bread along with lavash.

hazelnut and date bread and an apricot (?) sauce.

some kind of gelee.

seventh course:

vanilla bean fontainbleau with rhubarb, hibiscus and lime, and yogurt streusel: surprisingly my favorite dish of the day! this was refreshing yet substantial. it was light, sweet, tart, creamy and texturally appealing. it was by far the best thing i ate that day. my heart stopped for a moment eating that.

eighth course:

milk chocolate peanut butter bar with honeycomb parfait: the peanut butter bar was rich and creamy. the chocolate ice cream and peanuts added texture. but the star of this dish was the honeycomb parfait. it had some form of whipped creamy stuff with pieces of honeycomb and chocolate ganache. 

plum wine cake with strawberry: cake with a bruleed top, shaved strawberry shortcake and plum wine. i didn't particularly like this dish because i don't like alcohol and i could definitely taste it in the dish.

after eight courses, you'd think it was the end and everybody could leave happy with their tummies smiling. but no, no. Cyrus won't have you end with just that. they brought out a cart with even more goodies. mignardises:

rum and coke lollipops, coconut and almond macaroons, chocolate with a salted caramel filling, toffee and chocolate with almonds on a saltine cracker, calamansi chews, rich truffles, meringue kisses, tangerine gelees and pudding.

we each took one of everything to go but we had to eat the pudding there.

chocolate pudding with coconut panna cotta and chocolate covered rice crisps. awesome.

my box of treats to-go. including a chocolate walnut brownie that was meant for the following day.

again, you would think that this was the end of Cyrus experience. but no!! they brought out one last little surprise for all of us! fresh fried doughnuts!!!

bourbon and maple glazed doughnuts!

 one tiny little warm last bite to send us off into the best food coma.

then they presented us with the menu for the day.

Doris, Kim, me, Marjie and Helen. 

 so that was our awesome Cyrus experience. it not only met all of my expectations, it blew my away! in fact quite honestly, it was almost as good as my experience at The French Laundry, only it was half the price! i would recommend Cyrus for anybody that appreciates quality food and the fine dining experience.

although Cyrus was the main event for the day, we couldn't make a trip out to Healdsburg without stopping for food finds elsewhere as well. early in the morning i called ahead to The Model Bakery in Napa to have them reserve some of their famous english muffins known to all by the show The Best Thing I Ever Ate, in which celebrity chef Michael Chiarello claimed them to be the best english muffins in the world. i had tried to get my hands on those enlgish muffins on three separate visits to Napa to no avail. this day i wanted to make sure that we were going to get them and we did!!

the next day i ate one toasted with a little bit of butter and it was absolutely the best english muffin i've ever had to date. some people say it's greasy but i say it's buttery. i want more now!!

then we headed to Bouchon Bakery to pick up some french macaroons.

the amazing strawberry rhubarb, espresso and pistachio. unfortunately they sat in my car while we were at Cyrus and the fillings melted a bit altering the texture of the middle. oh well, they still taste effing fantastic.

last, we went to The Downtown Bakery and Creamery to get the famous donut muffin seen on The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
donut muffin. NOT the best thing i ever ate. it was actually really dense and dry. a throwaway item in my opinion.

i love Flag Day!!! this annual day is almost better than any holiday in my eyes!!! we've already decided that next years Flag Day will be at Meadowood in Napa!!!! let the anticipation begin!!!